Friday, April 21, 2017

#51 - Friday, 21 April 2017 - Big Bend National Park, Texas

Roughin’ It
Jesse and I are finally without demon electricity and pressurized potable water. We arrived at Big Bend National Park to find the RV hookup area fully occupied, but I never intended to stay there. It is just a sun-exposed paved lot with a bunch of close together parking slots for those who wish to be tethered to electricity and water. I’m sure they’re enjoying their air conditioning as it is 3 pm and close to 100ºF, but I shoehorned my Wheelhouse into some decent shade in a quiet area off the main campground. It is a “no generator zone” so most RV campers don’t venture back here. In much of the campground generators may be run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those who need to recharge or cool down during the heat of the day. I don’t have a generator (at least not yet) and I planned to start going without electricity as much as possible. My site is $14 per night whereas the full hookups are $32. That difference adds up and savings can be had if you don’t mind sweating and smelling your own stink. I mentioned Mick in my last blog. He had his RV parked at a site without electricity and hadn’t even bothered to look where the water hookup was. I sort of felt guilty that I have umbilically attached to power during this entire trip. The only place I didn’t have a water hookup was Everglades National Park. It’s only April and the temperatures are still tolerable so I may as well save money when I can. Tonight it is supposed to become very windy and cooler temperatures are expected for the next several days. My timing is spot on.

Without an electrical hookup my Wheelhouse is powered by the dual deep cycle batteries I have, which are currently recharged when I am towing and eventually will also be recharged by solar panels. They will run the LED interior lights, the USB charging ports and radio, plus other DC appliances like water pump and jacks. However, DC power only means no coffee maker (or anything I plug into normal outlets) and no microwave. I’ll heat water for coffee or tea on my range, which always runs on propane. I have two water heaters so instead of the usual electric one I will switch on the secondary gas heater. My refrigerator runs off of electricity when I am hooked up, but now is being powered by propane. I have yet to purchase propane. The two 20 lb. tanks that came with the rig have lasted this long. I am sure I’ll need to exchange them during this stay though. Setting up the RV my tongue jack, stabilizers and slide outs all operated by battery, and since I was still connected to my running truck the batteries were being simultaneously recharged. When this laptop begins need charging I can use my backup USB power pack and, once that is spent, use the A/C outlet in my truck that runs off an inverter. Sadly, I have found that outlet doesn’t give enough juice to run a coffee maker. As far as not having a water hookup, I just use bottled water for drinking and cooking and have a 49 gallon tank that I filled when I arrived at the park that will supply water for showering, toilet and washing dishes when I switch on the DC-powered water pump. You don’t need electricity to hike or read or photograph wildlife, and the only water you need is drinking and that is 88 cents a gallon at War-Mart (I have a dozen gallons in the back of my truck) or only about 20-25 cents a gallon at the water filling stations that are common in store parking lots in the southwest.

I left Seminole Canyon State Park just after 8 a.m. and arrived at Big Bend National Park at about 12:30. It was a 215 mile drive. This park is expansive and it takes some time on Hwy. 385 South before you reach the entrance gate and then it’s 30+ miles to the Panther Junction Visitor’s Center and then another 20 miles east to Rio Grande Village where I am camped. Big Bends refers to the great southwest Texas U-turn the Rio Grande makes here–defining the park boundary for 118 miles. On the other side of the river are the Mexican states of Coahuila and Chihuahua. — I must interrupt this typing to report that a roadrunner has just invaded my outdoor office. I am typing this from just outside the Rio Grande Village store, which is my oasis for wifi, laundry and various provisions if needed. I am sipping a Tejas lager–“the beer from out here”–which is made in nearby Alpine, Texas by Big Bend Brewery.

I am here for six nights. My next destination will probably be north to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. We’ll see which way the wind blows. Tomorrow I will probably visit Boquillas, Mexico. You hike down a trail near the campground for a couple miles and then there is a tiny pedestrian only port of entry. They call it "pedestrian only", but really you pay a Mexican to row you across the river and you can opt to be carried into town on the back of a donkey. I pity the donkey that would have to carry me. They'd need to supply a destria or a draft horse methinks. I'll walk it. From what I've read, about 43 families live in the village now. They make most of their money on tourists (ferry, donkey ride, cantina, souvenirs), but after 9/11 the border was shut down (2002) and many were forced to move elsewhere to survive. Both the Mexican and American authorities arranged for the crossing to re-open in 2012, but a book I read said that in 2013 it was still closed. So, it is good news to know this is happening again. I have my passport ready to make the little journey into Mexico for a taco and margarita.

All the best, M

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