We were together, we were alone together, we were free to direct the journey as we wished. There was no pilot, there was no check-in counter. There were no time limits, no alarm clocks, no rules. It was a private world we’d created for ourselves, on the open road, with our own schedule and leeway for detours and real life.
In our RV, driving across Texas, it was just us, no walls. Instead of being stifling, it made us grow closer as a family. We had only each other to rely on and we had the spirit of true explorers. We could go slow, we could talk and play and sleep and laugh without interruption from the outside world.
We saw sights we’d have missed flying from destination to destination. We met people who touched our hearts, people with fascinating stories and a kindness that let us bond almost immediately. Our curiosity was met with great lessons in history, geography and compassion as we moved from sight to sight.
We’ve never known a sweeter adventure and it’s the simplicity of van life that enabled it. Cutting out the frills and having fun figuring out where to get our next meal and where to find gas. The simple things brought us closer, to each other and ourselves. Sometimes, there can be no better way to explore than in your own four-wheels.
We’ve collated 20 of the greatest sights from our RV journey in Texas, to remember the trip better, to have something to call on when we need a reminder of how stress-free and relaxed travel can and should be, and for your own planning, should you intend on wheeling it through Texas too.
20 Highlights from RV Life in Texas
1. Houston Museum of Natural Science: Real life history lessons after learning all about Egypt in a classroom… And let’s not forget the mummies. Real mummies! And meeting T-Rex.
2. Nasa Space Centre: Houston, we do not have a problem. Visiting the actual Mission Control Center where the first moon landing, amongst many thereafter, was monitored. The first and last words were, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed…” And something along the lines of, “We are coming home, Houston. We are coming home.”
3. RV hair, don’t care.
4. Carlos Cassidy and Renzi the Kid: the boys becoming bonafide cowboys.
5. Lake Somerville: Birch Creek Park: Oh the freedom of #vanlife at Birch Creek, Somerville State Park.
6. Washington County Fair: Fun at the fair! Riding Rodeo Bill, snacking on Gator-on-a-sticks and corn dogs, and getting our portraits drawn by a local artist.
7. Natural Bridge Caverns: Oh, the things you see when you travel by road, when you take things slow and follow that curious nose…
8. Vlogging at Stonehenge II in Ingram.
9, Hiking the Quail Trail in the Davis Mountains… Those sweet mindful mountain moments in Montezuma.
10. Making friends: One of the most fascinating things about this trip was the friendliness of RV folk in camp! I get a lot of “nice rig” when I’m hooking up the water. This leads to lots of trail talk and as most RV folk in state parks are passionate wildlife people, we have learnt so much. Also, most RV folk are all retirees so they have nothing but time to tell you what they know. The boys have had so many lessons from so many interesting characters as a result. I took this snapshot on our night in the Davis Mountains, when an old navy veteran gave the boys a lesson in northern hemisphere astronomy! A complete and fascinating first.
11. Marfa – One night we went out to the middle of nowhere (the Marfa desert) to watch a phenomenon called the Marfa lights, which no one has been able to figure out to this day. No one knows what causes them. It was mind-blowing to see… All these lights turn on and off at various intervals in different places on the horizon and no one can explain it. Apaches used to think they were stars falling from the sky. Cowboys on the range used to think they were the campfires of the Apaches. Some say they are aliens and others think it is some sort of gas that lights up. It was so amazing to see and even more special because no one knows why this happens. To this day! It’s one of those few things in life that can’t be captured but only enjoyed and marveled at in person. So here’s a photo of the boys in the daytime – some days I believe they’re stars that have fallen from the sky too. Into my lucky lap. Some days it’s more aliens…
12. If you need me, I’ll be in my teepee. Taking a little break from van life at El Cosmico.
13. Prada Marfa – Wide open country bliss. Oh, and a Prada store. At least, an artist’s version of one.
14. Lessons in time-telling using the sun at MC Donald Observatory
15. Rio Grande River: Rafting the Rio Grande on the Texas/Mexico border
Depending on how you measure it, this is the fourth or fifth longest river in North America. Meaning “Big River”, it begins in south-central Colorado in the States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico, along the way forming part of the Mexico–United States border. A bit like our Zambezi back home, forming part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
16. Big Bend National Park: learning all about the plants and geology of the Chihuahuan Desert ~ including the lechuguilla. Agave lechuguilla can only be found in the Chihuahuan Desert. It flowers once in its life, and then it dies. Its flowers provide nutrients for insects, bats and some birds. (Short and sweet and still significant in the great circle of life…)
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Quad biking through the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend, the land of mountain lion, bobcat, wolf, coyote, mule deer, white-tailed deer, gemsbok and ring-tailed cat, was great fun – getting to explore what is the largest desert in North America, stretching all the way from the southwestern United States deep into the Central Mexican Highlands.
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17. A quick stop at the Pecos River ~ known as the world’s only river that crosses itself.
18. Exploring Seminole Canyon State Park: from day-old tadpoles in canyon rock pools to 4000 year old pictographs. The favourites were the fossilised shells in the rock ~ the boys couldn’t decide whether they were narwhal horns or unicorns. A long debate ensued.
19. Meeting Davy Crockett in the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
20. Writing in the Rotunda: Both Carlos and Renzi pulled out their journals and started writing and drawing in this magnificent spot. We had it almost entirely to ourselves.
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And other memories…