In early October of 2018 we were finally ready to head out on the first leg of our trip across the country. We had told other coworkers about our plans and most shared our excitement about what the possibilities could be once we actually got on the road. Our plan was to leave Houston, Texas and make it to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The day had arrived and we all brought our vehicles to work so that we could leave as soon as we got off.
All of our vehicles are really different and that makes it a lot of fun because some do better in different conditions. Abel Longoria’s 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon was definitely the most seasoned vehicle as he had already done numerous cross country trips in it during his time away from oil and gas. During that time he had been focused on building an app targeted at Vanagon owners to help put out stolen van alerts. The app called Van Alert features not only a way to quickly put out a sort of “Amber Alert” if your van gets stolen but also list campgrounds, driveway host and a particularly helped list of shops that work on Vanagons.
Eduardo’s 2002 Chevrolet Extended Cab with bed camper was the most basic buildout with a raised bed platform, sleeping bag and small Mr. Heater. What Eduardo’s truck lacked in luxuries was offset by his trucks ability to get to places in rough terrain with true ease. We would also learn early on in our trips that Eduardo made a good lead for our small caravan. His ability to find good solid routes and cool areas to camp would be key to making our short trips fun and efficient especially given our short 72 hour window.
My 2016 Mercedes 170 WB Sprinter was the largest of the group which is really nice because of all of the room inside, but with a 9’-6” height clearance requirement the cost of enclosed storage would be way higher than the other two vehicles. I built the Sprinter out myself and it currently has a king size bed, a twin size bed, portable toilet, ARB fridge freezer, dual Maxx fans, a Rinse Kit hot/cold shower, overhead soft storage and Goal Zero Solar power. It is closer to glamping than camping if you ask the other two guys. The downside we have seen is that it is limited on some places it can get to because of its longer wheelbase and ground clearance. This was something I had not had a problem with before since most of my trips with the family across the country were on paved roads and mostly campgrounds with all the nice features.
Day 1 – Work ended for the day and we were off to try to get as many miles as we could before stopping to sleep. As we drove through the night we ended up deciding to camp in the parking lot of a TA “Travel Centers of America” truck stop in Hillsboro, TX. We then purchased showers for $12 each, but I learned an important lesson. I made the mistake of purchasing the shower and then returning to my vehicle to tidy up a bit and grab my clothes for the shower. In doing so my number was called for my shower and I missed my place in line. When I returned to the counter I ended up having to wait for the guy next in line to finish his shower and for the TA to clean the next available shower. So when you purchase a shower make sure you are ready to go because they will not wait for you to come back later.
Day 2 – After a great nights sleep in the TA’s parking lot we were all eager to get back on the road but, we needed to find a nice breakfast spot, after all we want to find cool places so that always includes our never ending search for a great meal. Eduardo led us to 8th Street Coffee House in Wichita Falls, TX and we all order our breakfast. The coffee and breakfast hit the spot and we headed back onto the road with our vehicles pointed to Amarillo, Texas.
Amarillo, Texas happens to have one of the most beautiful state parks named Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Our plan was to check the park out during the day and camp there for the night. Our drive into the camp was amazing since it is located in a beautiful canyon. The steep grades make for a bit of lower gear work, but nothing too extreme. We found a camp spot where we could all set up our vehicles. We decided we could leave two vehicles at camp and go check out another Amarillo favorite for dinner.
You simply can not go through Amarillo, Texas without checking out the restaurant that boast the 72oz steak challenge named Big Texan.
The ranch features large steaks grilled to your liking, and if 72oz of steak is what you crave then be sure to let them know you are up for the challenge.
We headed back to our campsite and turned in for the night with full bellies and excitement to get back on the road in the morning.
Day 3 – When we woke up we took a few more looks around the canyon and headed off to find a breakfast spot I remembered from a previous trip.
My pick for a great breakfast was Ye Olde Pancake Station located just a bit up the road there in Amarillo, Tx. They truly know how to make you feel right at home with the great service and the even better breakfast items.
Our goal for the day would be to push on to New Mexico and find a spot neat Albuquerque, NM so that we would be in a good spot to get to the storage place we had arranged to store our vehicles on our 4th day Sunday before flying back to Houston, TX. Things went pretty smooth for the day and we even made sure to stop for a nap or two along the way.
After a full day of driving and a quick stop by the local Walmart for food we made it to Coyote Trailhead to camp for the night. The temps were pretty cold that night but hanging around the small portable campfire ring we had fixed us right up. Fajitas were on the menu for the night and Abel did a great job on the grilling.
Day 4 – Since we had not arrived at the trailhead during the day we had little chance to see what it looked like. We had breakfast, flew the drone and then went to take Eduardo’s 4×4 to some spots offroad.
The time had come that we needed to get to a storage place that had agreed to let us storage all 3 vehicles in one 20’ x 30’ enclosed space. Our plan was to carefully maneuver them all into the one spot and add Arlo cellular cameras to keep and eye on them from the Arlo app for just a bit of extra security. We arrived at RVUSA Storage in Albuquerque, NM and set up all the paperwork. We would do a month to month contract for our storage of the vehicles.
A quick Uber ride to the airport and we were headed home with a great relief that everything had worked out. We would now fly back to Albuquerque, NM which was a fairly decently priced United Airlines ticket each month to pick up the vehicles and explore New Mexico. We figured we would do at least 3 or 4 trips before moving on to another state to explore.