Texas Has Mountains

Nov 27, Monday

After leaving my friend’s house in Lubbock, TX on the 22nd, I retrace my route back to Carlsbad on 62. There is little public land to boondock on in Texas, and the locations near Carlsbad National Park are the first you hit headed west: a gateway to boondocker’s paradise.

I’m camped in the same location I was last month, a large dirt clearing off of Dark Canyon road, southwest of the town of Carlsbad on 180. A surprising number of rigs are here for Thanksgiving weekend, I make the sixth. Fortunately they’re all the quiet sort like me and I have no problems.

Today I’m getting antsy after several days behind a computer screen and a big blue sky beckons.

I take Dark Canyon road farther into the bush. There are a couple residences out here, a lot of cattle and a few oil related structures – similar to the ones at the end of the spur road I’m camping on which I took pictures of a couple days ago.

The road is paved, but without lines and it crosses a couple washes. Eventually, it also enters a canyon, and the bluffs provide a welcome change from the flat landscape near camp.

There are two little springs marked on Google Maps, but neither pans out. One is on private property, the other a dried up hollow. There is however more remote boondocking out here, surrounded by hills and flanked by a wash. No phone signal so it wouldn’t work well for me, but weekenders might enjoy it.

I take a short walk down one of the washes. Trees grow here where water is more readily available, and some of them have dried-up yellow leaves on them. The walls of the wash are steep in places and cactus and yucca cling to them. This is my first off-trail hike since getting back to the southwest and I’ve forgotten one of the key lessons of the desert: everything will stab you. I get too close to one of the trees and a thorn impales my leg, drawing a bit of blood. Okay, lesson re-learned for the season!

But otherwise it’s a good hike and I feel sufficiently recharged and ready to get back to work.

Nov 29, Wednesday

Moving day! Original plans had me moving yesterday, but yesterday was scheduled to be windy and I didn’t fancy driving through it, so I hung around camp. The morning dawned cold and gray and to warm my fingers up for typing I indulged in a cup of hot cocoa on my ‘patio’ before starting to write.

My patio is a bit lacking in the finer things, consisting of only my free folding chair from CamperForce. Five years into full-timing and I still don’t have a comfortable chair, a mat, or a table, but when you’re on a budget you make do. Someday!

Indeed the wind did pick up later in the morning and by 2 pm I had to put my solar panel away or risk it getting blown over. I’m glad I decided to stay put.

Today, wispy mare’s tails decorate the sky and the wind is calm: time to get moving.

I continue on 62 to Whites City, where the lone gas station is advertising regular unleaded at $2.89 a gallon, whew! Just past that a sign announces that there are no services for the next 130 miles, I guess that would explain the gas prices. Good thing I filled up in Carlsbad recently.

62 to El Paso is a very lonely stretch of road. Before long I’ve crossed back into Texas, and the road climbs. And climbs. Huh, Texas has mountains! I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the state on my travels and never knew this. I experience a particular kind of glee every time I learn something new about an area I’ve visited before, it keeps my travels fresh.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park sits right on the border with New Mexico, the norther end of this range is host to Carlsbad Caverns but the mountains there aren’t as rugged as this southern end, I considered them bluffs more than mountains. I would stop at the park to have a look, but my gas tank wasn’t that full and I don’t want to push it. Another time!

62 has multiple little picnic areas along it, some in the mountains themselves which feature great views. But I’m not hungry for lunch until I leave the mountains and enter the flats again. Here’s where I eat.

Not an hour later I close in on El Paso, and get gas (yay!). Coming from 62 instead of I10, my GPS sends me north around the city proper on 375 which crosses… another mountain range! Now I’m feeling rather sheepish, not knowing Texas had the Guadalupe Mountains is perhaps forgivable given its isolated location but missing this one when I’ve been through El Paso before? In my defense, the Franklin Mountains are a pretty small range running north-south, ending before the city. I noticed them in the distance before, but always just assumed they were across the border in New Mexico. Wrong.

The grade coming down the west side is slightly steeper than the Guadalupe Mountains at 8%, but it feels like an easy 8% if that makes sense, I don’t even need to be in 2nd gear for much of it. Easily traversed by any RV. And prettier than the drive through the city, I recommend it.

After coming down out of the mountains, 375 ends at I10 and I’m back on familiar ground. The drive to Deming, NM where I spend the night at a Walmart is uneventful.

Nov 30, Thursday

The hazy and overcast skies have me a bit worried in the morning that there will be wind, this stretch of I10 is notorious for dust storms. But no, it’s just a rare overcast day in the desert.

The miles fly by on this familiar (and rather boring) drive, and before long I’ve crossed into Arizona. My lunch stop today is at a TA truck stop in Willcox, AZ, where I also buy a shower (oooo, real shower!).

After lunch I continue to Benson, where I break off I10 onto 80 heading south towards Bisbee, which has, in my humble opinion, the best name ever. It’s just fun to say: Bisbee. Anyway…

What follows is one my more trying experiences getting settled into a boondocking spot, but that’ll have to wait until next post. I will give you a clue by way of a photo on my way out there, can you guess where I am? Hint: I’ve never camped here before, but it’s pretty well documented on boondocking websites.

Somewhere along I10 in AZ

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Tom & Kathy Corey on January 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Durn, you missed the Davis Mountains, Ft. Davis and Alpine, TX. You were close. These are wonderful places and for a sort of gateway to Big Bend Natl. Park.

  2. Virginia on December 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I just love reading about your travel as a full timer. I am about to retire and plan on getting on the road myself. Question: what do you use for power when boondocking? I think I read you might use solar, if so what make and how much power? I know I am not saying that right. I need to do some more research. I really don’t want to use a generator because of the noise. Thanks and keep writing I really enjoy reading about your journeys.

  3. Vince St Angelo on December 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    FYI. I follow your adventures and long for the day I can hit the road. Sigh.

    Anyway, go look at Marketwatch.com (Retirement Section). There is an article that has been written telling the sobering hell that full timers must endure because of the economy, etc, etc. The article is entitled “Many older Americans are living a desperate, nomadic life” published 11/24/17. I would love if you sent some choice words to the author. Talk about fake news. Most of the full timers (like you) that I follow post wonderful photos and are having the time of their lives.

    I personally believe that both government and big business are in collusion to work the middle class to the grave so these poor folks can (1) stay in debt, (2) pay taxes, and (3) buy useless junk they really don’t need.

    • Becky on December 8, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Yeah that article has made the rounds of the online RVing communities I’m a part of. It’s true some people live and work from an RV because they have to, but that article takes a very negative stance and exaggerates it.

  4. Mark R Watson on December 5, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I hope you enjoy your stay at Cochise Stronghold. At least I think that’s where you were headed in the photo. Lots of hiking there.

  5. Terry on December 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    That’s right it is referred to sometimes as the big thicket.

  6. Becky on December 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for commenting everyone. I’ll have to keep those areas in mind Majken next time I come through. 🙂

  7. Majken on December 4, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I find it interesting that nobody mentioned the Davis Mountains, also located in Texas. I lived in Texas (San Antonio) for 6 years before I bought my 5th wheel and started traveling full time (11 months now). I had only seen the Chisos Mtns in Big Bend National Park. On my way west I visited both the Davis Mountains and Guadalupe Mountains Nat’l Park. Dark Canyon Road was my first boondocking sight and my base for visiting Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains. If you do find yourself in the Davis Mountains near Ft. Davis, you have to go to a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory…they show you constellations and set up about 10 telescopes, well worth the money for the ticket.

    Oh, and I totally lost the trail (Permian Reef) hiking in Guadalupe Mountains Nat’l Park. I walked into so many cacti. One day I have to go back to finish that hike, but thats the only time I’ve ever been worried hiking alone.

  8. Michael on December 3, 2017 at 4:54 pm

  9. Jodee Gravel on December 3, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Given that there’s so much of Texas, it’s sad that so little of it is public land. I know what you mean about some 8% grades being easier than others, but couldn’t really explain it 🙂

    Southeastern Arizona is one of our favorite places – we love Bisbee and the surrounding area. Chiricahua National Monument is gorgeous with lots of formations and pretty hikes.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Family Gathers in FresnoMy Profile

  10. Terry on December 3, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Becky do you know Texas also has swamp land’s?

    • Becky on December 4, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      On the southeast side of the state, right? I’ve heard of them but haven’t visited.

      • Terry on December 4, 2017 at 6:28 pm

        That’s right it is referred to sometimes as the big thicket.

  11. Becky on December 3, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    There, I amended that first paragraph in my post a bit to be more specific. Texas does have free camping options, but not the public land boondocking opportunities that let you stay for 14 days like farther west. City parks and the like are great if you’re passing through an area and need to spend a night, or need a place to resupply. But for people like me who need to work, we can’t afford to move every 1-3 days, I’d get nothing done. There are a couple exceptions that let you stay longer like Rob mentioned (none of which are near Lubbock), but you can’t camp for free for months at a time in Texas like you can in states farther west.

    Thanks for commenting everyone!

  12. Michael on December 3, 2017 at 9:45 am

    As you know most free camping is on public land and Texas has very little public land. Here’s an interesting fact, 96% of Texas land is private, 96% of Alaska’s land is public.

  13. Liz Mcdonald on December 3, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Just 6 days until we head to TX— my husband is power washing our Casita as I write to get the road salt off the undercarriage. I’ve got the prelaunch jitters especially strong this year as it is the beginning of our new life in Arizona after living in the RI my whole life. Texas has mountains and then some. Just like so much of Texas, they are big and bad ass! BTW we nearly ran out of gas in the on that lonely stretch of road you mentioned leaving Guadalupe NP. Texas teaches you to carry extra, but it also teaches you that Texans are some of the nicest and most hospitable people (we have been on the receiving end of that a time or two) Anyway, thanks for getting me psyched to head out next weekend. I always feel amazing the minute we cross into TX and are safely in the west. Keep an eye out for a Tacoma with AZ plates, a Casita with RI plates and a spare tire cover that says “dos burnish huevos. Happy trails!

    • Becky on December 3, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Congrats Liz and have a good trip!

  14. JanisP on December 3, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Sometimes it’s really nice to have a mat. I use the Camco Handy Mats, under $10 at Amazon or around $12 at Camping World. They’re 5×6 and easy to fold, and take up virtually no space in the car or camper! And they’re cheap enough that you can toss it if it gets worn and shabby. And I agree with the others, there’s plenty of free camping in TX!

  15. Sharron on December 3, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Shame on you for not knowing of the many mountains in West Texas…..you have missed a lot as there is much more to see! And there are many FREE camping parks in Texas with hook-ups as well as boondocking.

  16. Philip Roll on December 3, 2017 at 5:31 am

    I love your Hemmingway style: “I take a short walk down one of the washes.” Keep up the good work, you are very appreciated.

  17. Terri on December 3, 2017 at 5:17 am

    That is great news about your Patreon account – I am not surprised with the following you’ve cultivated!

    Don’t feel bad about the folding chair – guess what we use for kitchen chairs at my place??! Yep, folding chairs! One I got for free and the other two, I think I bought on sale for something like $10/each!

    The great thing about your life is that if you don’t want to travel on some days (like when it was windy), you don’t have to (unless you’ve come to the end of your boondocking time and literally have to move on.)

    When you go hiking by yourself, do you ever get nervous about getting stuck somewhere? (I always felt a bit nervous, especially after watching part of that film, 137 hours.)
    Terri recently posted..Feeling Contentment (Without Spending a lot of Money)My Profile

    • Becky on December 3, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Enough that I’m careful not to take risks and let someone know where I’m going, but it doesn’t stop me from hiking alone, no. 🙂

  18. Pamela on December 2, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Becky, if you have a chance to visit Big Bend National Park, you will see beautiful hills, mountains, and mesas. It’s so vast and stunning.
    I’d like to find more boondocking sites in Texas, too. You’d think with the size of the state and all the open areas there would be more.
    Happy Travels. I could be traveling in you tire tracks in a few weeks.

  19. Jerry on December 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    I had to chuckle about your comment about being stabbed by a tree. My wife was once on a trail ride near Wickenburg, AZ and the wrangler told the group, “Remember, everything here will either stick you, pinch you or bite you.”

  20. Rob on December 2, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Bisbee was a good town, one of the few places that grabbed me, I liked it there! I stayed at the Whitewater Draw WMA (about 15 miles away), free & I enjoyed the birds. Worth the trip if you like to see lot’s of birds.

    Texas does have some boondocking, nothing like the west but it’s there.
    Magnolia beach (down by Port Lavaca) has free camping on the beach & I’ll bet there are other places.
    Padre Island, but you have to pay a fee to get into the national seashore so I guess that doesn’t count.

  21. Barney Ward on December 2, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I am sorry you missed all the free camping provided by many towns in Texas between Amarillo and Odessa. Most are at city parks and many have water and elec free for three days.
    Barney Ward recently posted..Morning WalkMy Profile

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