By Valerie C. Coffey
After spending the spring of 2016 RVing through the desert southwest, is it any surprise that I took at least 100 pictures of cactus? Doesn’t everyone take pictures of cactus? Maybe not, but perhaps it seems less nutty in light of the fact that Mitch and I were in several gorgeous state parks and national parks where cactus was in full bloom.
So with apologies to Sheldon Cooper (you know, the nerd on Big Bang Theory who does a “Fun With Flags” video series), allow me to present some amazing, informative and amusing facts about southwest cacti for the cause of cacti awareness. I bring you, Fun With Cactus.
I am by no means a cactus expert, I’m just an amateur nature enthusiast and a science writer. So I do know how to research things. And compared to Mitch, I’m a flora and fauna expert. So I’m just gonna go for it, but don’t quote me. And if you identify any mis-identifications, let me know!
By Valerie Coffey
We have not been posting as much to our blog as we’d like in 2016. I’ve only managed to write a blog post about once a month. Sorry! We’ve been so very busy! Let us fill you in!
Since I last posted about our travels, we’ve explored the entire southern border of the US with Mexico. We left from San Diego in mid-March, and have now gone all the way to South Padre Island at the tip of Texas!
Along the way we stopped in the Yuma area (near the border of AZ and CA) for a few days, where we visited with our friends Roger and Gail and I got the RV stuck in deep sand. (Yeah, I’m gonna cruise right past that embarrassing story and save it for another day.) Then we walked over the Mexican border at Los Algodones, a popular destination for retirees and RVers to get state-of-the art but inexpensive pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, and dental check-ups! We saved a lot of money and enjoyed some margaritas in the sunshine while we were there.
We stayed in Tucson for two weeks, visiting our friends Keith and Nicole Davis and seeing everything we missed last year, including Old Tucson Studios, Tombstone, and Bisbee. We saw Val’s cousins in Las Cruces, NM, and hiked nearby Dripping Springs Natural Area.
(By the way, if you’re wondering where we are, or you feel like you’re missing some of our adventures, be sure to “like” our public Facebook page, RVLuckyOrWhat. I post a pantload of stuff there, and only by “liking” our page will our posts come up in your newsfeed. You can also follow us on Instagram at RVLuckyOrWhat.)
All of this repeating of previous destinations from last year was mostly just to get to Big Bend National Park in the southwestern elbow of Texas – one of the biggest national parks left on our list to visit in the RV, and one of the hardest to get to! With over 800,000 acres of protected area, Big Bend is BIG, but only a fraction the size of Death Valley National Park in CA with its 3.4 million acres.
And much like Death Valley, Big Bend is the most amazing park most people have never heard of, much less been to (unless of course, you live nearby or have already discovered it). Mitch had never heard of Big Bend before we started our trip, and I’d only seen pictures of it online but didn’t know much about it. We set our sights on it for year two, scheduling it for early April. (Be sure to read my article, Ten Reasons Death Valley is to Die For, if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.)
My expectations of our first long-awaited visit to Big Bend National Park included sweeping mountain vistas and hiking adventures. I also expected April in Big Bend to involve flowering cactus and extreme heat countered with cool views of the Rio Grande (the river that defines the border between Texas and Mexico). We were not disappointed. What I didn’t expect was how many amazing deep canyons it holds. Nor did I understand that Big Bend is an animal bonanza in the middle of the one of the most remote spots in the U.S.
As we move along in nearly 9 months of full-time RV travel, Mitch and I are often asked whether we have made progress in one of our key missions of the trip: finding another place to live that is warmer and cheaper than New England. With palm trees. Within commuting distance of a major airport for Mitch’s work and our continued wanderlust. Big enough community to keep it entertaining and convenient. Far enough away from a big city so that we can afford a big backyard space with a pool. Proximity to skiing is a plus.
As a matter of fact, we have narrowed down our choices somewhat! Here’s a little recap of our favorite and not-so-favorites.
You get what you pay for.
Mitch and I agree: In the contest of the music festivals between Coachella in Southern California versus South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, Coachella wins hands down. Here’s why.
By Valerie Coffey
Austin is the capitol of Texas and its also the capitol of vintage neon. It’s a gas!
I have had a lot of work the past month, so didn’t get to see as much of Austin as I’d like. I’m a science writer and have certain seasons that are busier than others. I rarely left the RV by day the whole month we were in Texas, but I went for a walk at midnight on a Wednesday just outside our quirky-cool RV park, Pecan Grove, on the quirky-cool Barton Springs Road, which is full of restaurants and bars that ooze the weird-in-a-nonconformist-way essence of Austin: neon light, strings of Edison light bulbs, al fresco dining, food trucks, and a happening music scene.