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The journey home has begun...

Having entered our 9th month of the trip, less than a hundred days separate us from our return home on Friday, June 7. Time flies when you're having fun!

 

Since our return from Mexico at the end of January, a little ahead of schedule, we've spent almost 25 days in Texas, a week in Arizona, another in California, one in Nevada and finally one in New Mexico. We made a loop that took us from the extreme south-west of Texas to Death Valley National Park in California, and finally back down to Texas at Mustang/Padre Islands in Corpus Christi on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.


The above itinerary gives an idea of the "Texan Loop" but misses a lot of stops.


The original itinerary was to take us to the Grand Canyon as well as Arches and Zion National Parks, but it gets cold at altitude in these areas in early February, especially the Grand Canyon where it can snow, and we decided to save that part of the country for another trip, next year? (which in fact would cover all the central States that we will have missed).

 

To date, we've covered almost 30,000 kms, and we anticipate driving another 10,000 kms before we "return" home. All in all, we'll have done a more ambitious itinerary than planned in terms of mileage, proving that we did not plan everything in advance!

 

Before going back over the highlights since our return from Mexico, I'd like to point out that mechanically and logistically, everything's going swimmingly. The Mercedes truck is devouring the kilometers at a brisk pace, and the RV part of the trip is running quite smoothly. For the curious, I'll mention a few glitches at the end of the blog!

 

First of all, we really enjoyed Texas (except for the gun-toting which we frequently saw...), with a special fondness for San Antonio which is charming, just the right size and very welcoming. Here, we visited the mythical Alamo sight, visited the mission in San Jose and savoured the low-calorie Texan cuisine...


Alamo Mission - a prelude to the American-Mexican war!


San Jose Mission- well preserved


So glad they included bread...


Afterwards, we headed up into Texas and crossed a series of state parks that were truly amazing.  There was Seminole State Park with its canyon and rock paintings and the Davis and Franklin mountains, where we were practically alone, before entering Arizona.

 

In Arizona, near Tucson, we discovered a pearl in the middle of the desert, Saguaro National Park. Saguaro (pronounced Sawaro) is the giant cactus of the Sonoran Desert, an icon of the American Southwest. To be able to camp among these enormous cacti as far as the eye could see was a unique opportunity. We adopted one (legally!) and named it Gilbert.  It sits prominently on the dashboard of our RV. It's quite small now, but in 50-60 years it should be fully grown...


Sunset in February at Saguaro National Park


Continuing our route, part of which was along the legendary Route 66, we were greeted by the Mojave Desert, at the gateway to California.


Picture taken by professionals, do not try this on the 401....


Perfect spot to be safe from the snakes, spiders and scorpions!


Heading north reminded us that the temperatures can plummet... and it was in the Mojave Desert that we "froze" with temperatures hovering around freezing at night and no higher than 15 degrees Celsius during the day. Snow dotted the surrounding hillsides and hilltops. We didn't see any mountain lions, but seeing their footprints in the snow was more than enough. The total silence of the Mohave Dessert was incredibly soothing.

 

Finally, we arrived at Death Valley National Park and it was well worth the effort. This national park was closed last summer due to flooding. This park park is quite grandiose and marked by extremes. In summer, temperatures oscillate between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius (with a record of 57 making it one of the hottest places on earth) but in February, it was a comfortable 20-25 degrees for us.


From dizzying canyons to majestic dunes (where sequences from Star Wars films were shot), salt ponds nearly 300 feet below sea level, borax mines and ghost towns, we were constantly bewildered and charmed by what we discovered in this park.


Golden Canyon, Jawas (Utinni!) waiting to grab my little R2D2...


Tatooine! National Park but where are C3P0 et R2D2?


View of Death Valley from Zabrinsky Point


Nevada was also surprising. Folks usually only think of Las Vegas (we did make that inevitable stop!), but there's so much more to see in this State. The Hoover Dam is a behemoth built in the 1930s - more for water management than power generation, and the creation of its basin (Lake Mead) is well worth a look.


Check the red arrow pointing at the ventilation tunnel...


Because we were there, right in the heart of the dam!


For Stephanie, New Mexico has a little "je ne sais quoi" that's hard to describe. Was it the light in February, the contrasting colors of mountains or the whistling wind? White Sands National Park certainly contributed our appreciation, projecting us into a psychedelic panorama. White Gypsum rock (yeah, the stuff that you find in good-old gyprock) is endlessly swept around by the wind which reduces it to fine sand particles that collect in endless sand dunes. Visiting Roswell and its International UFO Museum and descending on foot 750 feet underground to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park also added to the "mystique" of New Mexico.


When we say fine sand...


Close encounter of the third kind at Roswell!


Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the journey to the centre of the earth!


Then it was back to Texas, with three key stops: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Big Bend National Park as well as Mustang and Padre Islands on the Texas seashore. Big Bend National Park was special in that it follows the Rio Grande, which makes a big curve (hence the name Big Bend). When you swim there, you literally cross the border between the United States and Mexico time and again.


Taking a dip in the Rio Grande...


Padre and Mustang Islands, were most relaxing, allowing us to catch our breath before continuing on our journey.


Miles and miles of beach and a perfect sanctuary for sea turtles.


There's so much to see, and even though we have "time" on this trip, we are constantly making choices, so our last stop in Texas was Houston rather than Austin or Dallas. Here we indulged our passion for space exploration.


Still mearing my blue shirt...


On looking at the blog, I realize that everything may sound idyllic, because I'm trying not to overload the text too much, but there have been problems: We brought back a big spider from Mexico that made itself at home in the RV, hit a good sandstorm in New Mexico, smashed the roof storage box in Texas, annihilated a bicycle in Nevada, caused a temporary water heater strike in the middle of the desert, screwed up a stabilizer in Arizona and a few other little technical glitches. But at this stage, veterans that we are, we take it all in relative stride!

 

Finally, we have entered Louisiana and will stay for just over two weeks, with an incursion into Mississippi. We're very curious to meet the Cajun "French reality", so we'll get back to you on that...eventually! Like they say in Louisiana, “Let the good times roll!”

 

N.B. Here's a brief outline of the itinerary we have left between now and our return on June 7 (but the route doesn't show all the stops along the coast).





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