December 23, 2012
Dallas, TX to Ft. Stockton – 437 mi
As always this trip had a rocky start. It just wouldn’t be a Sutton holiday if it didn’t. The week before we decided that the wheel bearings should really be replaced. A noise had started. A grinding sound. A very, this is going to be expensive, grinding sound. After much research Andrew discover the problem deals with the wheel bearings. We thought about putting it off but the idea of being so far away and having to deal with an even worse situation was not at all appealing. Repairs would already dig deep into our empty pockets. We did not relish the idea of being 500 mi from home and finding competent mechanics that don’t bleed you dry. Hours scouring the internet, even more calling around for available parts, and then finally begging for a rush job without paying rush fees we finally made it out Sunday late afternoon with the reassurance that our wheel would not seize up while zipping down the freeway at 70mph. Our first day/night was strictly drive time. We put in most of the miles driving to a south Texas town off I-10 named Fort Stockton. Quality Inn arrival was late but was clean and fairly reasonably priced. We had a good night sleep in a comfortable bed which was the most important thing.
Next morning it seems that there was a little glitch in the plumbing system somewhere for the hotel. The journey from the room to breakfast area was standing in an inch of water. No worries for us but it is amazing that we just seem to always pick lodging facilities with “issues.” For those of you that follow our travels we could write a blog on just the stories about our lodging escapades.
December 24, 2012
Ft. Stockton, TX to Big Bend National Park – 130 mi
Today we will finish the last of the 100 or so miles to Big Bend National Park and then a 40 minute drive into the park to our campsite at Chisos Basin Campground. We have reserved 7 nights here to begin the first part of our 12 day trip. We were lucky to locate a site to reserve and it actually opened up very last minute, just 3 days before our planned departure. This camp area is very busy this time of the year. In the summer months the temperatures are just too hot with temps reaching way over 100 degrees in the lower regions to really enjoy the park fully. The forecast actually predicts that there is a possibility for snow in the region during our stay so we are hoping to enjoy some of the cooler weather.
The park does not have electrical hook-ups in the basin and so we have purchased a generator. There are a few limited sites that allows generators and so this will at least allow us the ability to cook, have lighting at night, and some heat if needed if it does snow.
Just prior to arriving at the entrance of the park we find a rest area with a magnificent cactus. It must of stood at least 15 ft in height. You would not want to fall back on this plant. Each spine was surely made of triple forged steel and would easily of pierced the flesh of any unfortunate that fell onto it. We took several photos of it but I thought the swirling motion in this shot was one of the best.
We finally arrive late in the afternoon. The campsite is located in a basin at the top of the mountain. I was a little concerned about the combined length of our truck and camper going up the mountain that is rated for vehicles less than 24 ft. Three-fourths of the trip up it became very apparent why there was a need for length restrictions. There were several tight corners but one in particular that made a complete 180 degree turn back with very little room in the actual turn. Tight but we made it okay. I could see navigation difficulties with larger campers.
We locate our site, set up camp, deal with swarming bees and prepare a small meal with the use of our generator and electric skillet. Many hikers are starting to wander back in from day hikes and I notice we are getting some funny stares. At first I think to myself that they are wondering why we decided to pitch our stakes in a bee infested site. But after cleaning up and deciding to take a stroll around the campsites we determine that the “Oh no you didn’t!” looks were probably for the generator. It seems that camping here now has new rules, which of course were not listed online, that prohibits the use of generators for most of the time. Generator use is only for early morning and early evening use and for this particular site is not allowed at all. Hmm that puts a glitch in our plans. Lady luck is on our side though and several sites have opened up today where we can use the generator during the limited plan hours. Sounds like an info commercial for one of the cellular companies. And wait… if you call now we will also include as a bonus…no bees. On the down side is that we now have to quickly pack up the now assembled camper and move to a new site before the park fills up for the night. I think we actually broke a record today for fastest break down!