Howdy y’all! Sorry, had to…we’ve been in Texas for a week now. Holy crap, this state is HUGE!
Last week, we had just arrived in Austin and were ready to take on the sites, sounds, and flavors of this great Texas city. But first…Bertha project day! Tuesday we woke up in a Lowe’s parking lot (they have amazing wifi, just in case you ever find yourself parked in their parking lot overnight) and started the day buying some supplies for our to-do list. We had some long overdue cosmetic items we wanted to get done, such as painting the ugly brass/gold handles that dimmed Bertha’s internal beauty, carpeting the stairs, installing our new black tank siphon (totally removes any smell when the tank is full, yay!), painting non-skid on the running boards, and putting up a new backsplash in the kitchen. Luckily, Lowe’s was really cool about it and didn’t mind the two derelicts working in their parking lot all day. The cold front continued today, making it a little challenging to get the spray painting done since nothing was drying quickly. Heather took the blow dryer outside to help it along and we eventually had enough coats on to reinstall the brass fixtures. The day was long but a huge success. We only broke for a quick Chipotle dinner, otherwise we worked all day on Bertha. Check out some of the before and after shots.
Wednesday we were scheduled to meet up with one of Jim’s old Marine Corps buddies, Mike, who’s lived in Austin for the past 10 years. We pulled up in our usual Griswold fashion and got the tour of his very Texas-themed home where he lives with his lady friend, Lacey. We then loaded up in his truck and headed toward downtown with a real local as a tour guide. First stop, barbeque. Duh. He took us to one of his favorite spots (Black’s BBQ) where we ordered brisket, ribs, sweet potatoes, and baked beans. There’s nothing like Texas BBQ – it was melt-in-your mouth good! From there we headed to a sweet bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s, to admire their bikes, grab an espresso (because all good bike shops have a talented barista), and discover their training center in the basement that was almost exactly what Jim has been envisioning for his future bike training center. Since we were already downtown, it only made sense that we would head to Sixth Street next – the hub of live music, bars, and shenanigans that Austin is known for. It was daytime and super cold (it was a high of about 40 degrees, so it really was cold by our standards) so our tour was somewhat limited. We did manage to brave the chilly weather long enough to stop into the historic Driskill Hotel (the oldest hotel in Austin) to admire their massive Christmas tree, and then into Voodoo Donuts, founded in Portland and only recently opened in Austin (the two cities have a lot of cross pollination, including their motto “Keep Austin/Portland Weird”). We then made a stop at Graffiti Park before heading back to Mike’s house for the evening. He and Jim had a great time catching up after not having seen each other in nearly 12 years. They swapped stories from boot camp and their deployment to Japan; it was amazing the things that Mike remembered about Jim that haven’t changed to this day. Lacey came home from work and they fed us a wonderful dinner of homemade potroast and broccoli paired with more than a couple bottles of red wine. It was a really nice evening and they were incredible hosts.
The next (late) morning, we stumbled back to Mike’s house, with slight wine hangovers, to meet up with Lacey during her lunch break. They took us to Hopdoddy’s, THE place in Austin to get fresh, grass-fed burgers will all the finest fixins’. We downed our burgers and truffle fries before braving the crisp wind-chill and cold temperatures as we wandered down South Congress. This is the place for eclectic shopping; if you need a hand-embroidered shirt with a cat riding a shark with laser beams coming out of its eyes, this is the place for you. We were able to get a little Christmas shopping done before heading back to Bertha and hitting the road once again. We drove about 100 miles to the town of Kerrville, TX. During the drive, we actually drove through the “wine country” of Texas and stopped for a quick tasting and to bring a bottle back to AZ for Christmas. Once in Kerrville, Heather got some laundry done while Jim made his way to AutoZone to search out a switch for his Bertha battery testing gizmo. It seems our electrical system is still acting up so he’s been trying to isolate the problem using a few different methods. Again, it was a crazy cold evening, so once the laundry was done, we found the nearest Walmart and settled in under our big, comfy duvet.
Friday morning we pulled out of the Walmart and headed to the local library for a day of work. Heather actually stayed in the RV to fold laundry and do a little cleaning, while Jim continued working on his recertifications. We spent most of the day there, closing down the library at 6pm and then heading across the street to the Thai place for a super delish dinner. Since it was still early after dinner, we decided to drive. A looooong way….we drove until about 2:00 in the morning, when we arrived in Fort Stockton – 250 miles from Kerrville. We rolled into a Walmart with about a dozen other RV’ers and hit the hay immediately.
Our plan was to wake up on Saturday and start the drive to El Paso. However, our electrical system put a delay on that plan. Jim spent a few hours in the Walmart parking lot troubleshooting with a nice stranger who came over to see if he could help, while Heather grocery shopped. We then took Bertha to the nearest AutoZone to have the batteries tested. They put them on the chargers for a few hours and came back with the verdict that all three of the new batteries we just bought were bad. We’re still not sure whether that’s really the case, but it certainly seems that at least one of them might be bad, affecting the others and the entirety of Bertha’s electric system. Amazingly, we spent most of the day working on this issue and as the sun set, we decided just to head back to the same Walmart as the previous evening and settle in. As we pulled back into the parking lot, Heather immediately recognized an RV from Instagram! Another newlywed couple we follow who also live in their RV full time and started almost the same time as us, were in the same parking lot, also doing their grocery shopping for the day. We hit our La Cucaracha horn and went over to say hello. We ended up chatting with them for a bit, giving each other tours of our homes on wheels and swapping stories about life on the road. After grabbing a selfie together, they got back on the road while we settled into Walmart and made some dinner. It’s so cool to meet other people who are doing what we’re doing, and it’s amazing how much we can relate to each other.
Sunday we were really El Paso-bound! We got up and headed straight to the road, another 240 miles away (seriously, Texas is so massive!). We pulled into El Paso and were surprised at how big of a city it is. We stopped at an Amazon Locker to grab another package, made another quick AutoZone stop, and found a parking spot where we could leave Bertha and go for a little run. We’ve definitely been slacking on the exercise lately with all the family time, road time, and work time. Plus, it’s triathlon’s off-season and the holidays are here so the excuses abound. We ran southbound, stopping to take a picture at the brand new “Greeting from El Paso” sign (made by a couple of fellow full-time RV’ers, who we also follow on Instagram). As we were about to hit the halfway mark on our run, we discovered just how close to New Mexico we were. So of course, we had to run across the border and take a picture of the New Mexico sign before heading back to Bertha. Once we were back home, we moved to a quiet spot where we could highjack wifi for the evening and cook some dinner. Home is definitely wherever we park it.
Monday we started our day searching out an RV park around El Paso. We wanted to have a last super productive day before we get to Phoenix and are busy with family and friends. There was an RV park about 15 miles away, so we packed up and got all checked in around 10am and got right to work. Heather knocked a bunch of stuff off our joint to do list while Jim finished up a few Bertha improvements, wrote his athlete’s training plans, and finished almost all of his final recertification work (only one module remains!). It was exactly the day we wanted, and shore power meant we got to have Christmas lights on alllll day! It’s been really nice here in west Texas the past couple of days, warming back up to the 70’s during the day and remaining delightfully chilly in the evening. Heather even snuck out for a bit of sunset/moonlight yoga this evening before making a healthy dinner for us (mmm roasted brussel sprouts, Jim’s fave).
What a fun week it’s been! Texas has been a blast but we’re excited to head into New Mexico tomorrow and then finally – Phoenix! Love to you all!
Total RV Trip Miles: 12,515