Galveston Island RV Resort: Campground Review

Address: 23700 Termini-San Luis Pass Rd, Galveston, TX 77554

Phone: 409-200-2745

Website: Info@GalvestonRV.com

Online Reservations? Yes.

Rate Per Night: Winter: $43-54 — Summer: $54-74

Monthly Rate: $599 only available during Winter

Discount: 10% with the Good Sam, TACO, Trailer Life and Armed Forces

Nights Stayed: 62

Galveston Island RV Resort is across the road from Beach Entrance 34 at the western end of Galveston Island— about twenty miles from the sea wall and all the attractions of Galveston— making this a nice quiet location. It was probably even quieter because we were here during the winter, and while the city got busy during the Christmas holidays, it never seemed to affect our end of the island. We enjoyed the constant sound of the waves and the wind and only the occasional road noise.

Finding the office upon arrival at the resort is easy because, like all the beach houses around it, the office is on stilts in the middle of the resort. It’s a long straight drive from the entrance to the office, then a right turn to a large check-in lane. The roads in the resort are wide enough for even large fifth wheels to navigate and there are a number of pull through sites for larger rigs, but some of the back-in sites can be tricky to maneuver in to. The well spaced sites throughout the resort are nice and level with concrete pads, full hook-ups with 30/50 amp electrical pedestals, a picnic table, and a grill.

The office is easily visible on stilts near the back of the campground.
Even if you don’t have an RV you can stay at Galveston Island in one of their well appointed tiny houses on the resort property.

The office building includes four shower rooms, a laundry room with six washers and six dryers.— It costs $2 per load to wash and $1.75 to dry— a community room and a small store. However, the community room and store were closed to visitors due to Covid. But, even with the store closed you could buy ice and a number of drinks and frozen treats from the office that would be charged to your site. Our favorite treat, by far, was the big frozen margarita that we could buy at anytime while the office was open.

Ready for happy hour!

The staff was always friendly and helpful and not just because they could deliver a frozen margarita on request! They would bring packages to our site except for the holiday week when the park was packed, then they sent an e-mail asking us to come pick up our packages at the office. The property was always well maintained by a busy crew.

The resort offers a number of amenities. Propane is available onsite. They have a pool and a lazy river, though we didn’t get to experience either because it was always too chilly. They also have a pickle ball court, a basketball net and horseshoes. In warmer weather they also have a food truck that makes pizza. And, most importantly, the beach is a short walk or bike ride to the nearest access point across the road from the campground.

We loved our stay at Galveston Island RV Resort. It’s not in the middle of the action. Instead, it offers a quiet place to relax on an island where it’s easy to stay busy with all the fun things to see and do.

Space Center Houston

I was born the day Gemini VII launched, so I grew up at a time when fascination with the space program was at its peak. I had Major Matt Mason toys and I watched every Apollo mission on TV. So, when we decided to spend the winter in Galveston, Texas— only about 40 miles from Space Center Houston— I knew there was one place we had to visit.

Space Center Houston is a large complex that has been the home of manned space flight mission control since the Gemini program. They offer a tour of the newly renovated Apollo Mission Control, a tour to see a Saturn V rocket up close and a very good museum devoted to manned spaceflight. Unfortunately, because of Covid 19, visitors are not allowed in the building to visit Mission Control. That’s because there are active missions underway and the ground crew need to be protected. It just means I’ll have to visit again in the future. I was disappointed not to see Mission Control, but there are still so many things to see and do that it was a full day.

The different Space Centers around the country reflect the different parts they played in the Space Program, which means they are unique and each is worth a visit. If you get hungry while visiting Space Center Houston, my recommendation is to skip the food at the Space Center and drive a short distance down the road to Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant to eat where the astronauts eat. The food is excellent and the walls are covered with Nasa memorabilia.

A Winter Stay in Galveston, Texas

At the end of November, as cold weather was beginning to take hold of Tennessee, we headed south to Galveston to take part in the Xscapers Winter Basecamp. Hoping to avoid cold weather and meet other full time travelers like us. We connected with a bunch of travelers and had a wonderful time getting to know them and while the weather wasn’t perfect, we had plenty of beautiful days to explore and learn that Galveston has a lot to offer.

Galveston Island has a long and colorful history that begins when pirates built the first permanent structures on the island. It was the capitol of the Republic of Texas, and a major port city. Then it was almost completely destroyed by a hurricane in 1900, only to be reborn as a paradise of drinking and gambling during Prohibition. All of these layers of history make Galveston Island, and the city of Galveston, on the island’s eastern end, an interesting place to visit even if it didn’t also have the long stretch of beach along the Gulf Coast.

You get to Galveston by driving across the causeway from Texas City, or you can arrive by ferry from the Bolivar Peninsula, a route on and off the island that avoids Houston traffic. Once on the island you’ll find the city is laid out in a grid with numbered streets running north to south and named streets running east to west which makes it very easy to navigate.

The downtown includes Galveston Seaport and The Strand Historic District. Named for Strand Street, the district includes a large swath of the city. There are lots of shops to explore and restaurants to try. Since we don’t have room for anything we avoided going into a lot of the shops, but, we were tempted in by The Kitchen Chick, on Market Street, which features a really well curated collection of gourmet kitchen gadgets, olive oils and vinegars. I had to exercise real self control but I did leave with a little something. The other place we were tempted to visit is La King’s Confectionery. The store began in Houston in 1927, then moved to Galveston in the 70’s to recreate an old fashioned confectionery. They make about fifty different candies from old time recipes from salt water taffy to hand dipped chocolates and the store features a 1920’s soda fountain as well. It was hard to choose, but we left with several chocolate candies including rum cordials and chocolate covered peanut butter caramel cups. These were not your typical peanut butter cups, either. They had a layer of peanut butter covered with a layer of buttery caramel surrounded by a layer of chocolate.

A few blocks away on Market Street is Maceo Spice and Import Company. The store features jars of just about every herb and spice, plus a number of spice blends to go with local seafood, barbecue or brisket (this IS Texas, after all). The rest of the store features Italian food staples from pasta and sauce (including their own excellent tomato gravy) to pannatone and good olive oil. At the back of the store is a deli counter where you can order lunch to go or to eat at one of the tables outside. If you want a good muffuletta, this is the place to go.

The historic district includes a neighborhood of gorgeous Victorian houses with lots of tropical flair, survivors of the 1900 Hurricane that devastated the island. Since it was Christmas time, many of the houses were dressed up for a Christmas decorating contest. It’s well worth your time to wander the tree-lined streets. Wandering the neighborhood is also a great way to spend your time as you wait for a table at one of the many restaurants.

It’s short walk from the Strand to the Seaport where you will find the Ocean Star Drilling Rig and Museum. If you’ve ever been curious how a drilling rig operates, this museum is worth a visit. There is an indoor museum to help orient you before you go outside to walk the decks and look at all the heavy equipment up close. Much of the museum, though, is an advertisement for the oil industry.

On the Gulf side of the island are the beaches and the famed Seawall built to better protect the city after the 1900 hurricane. Here you’ll find the beach town vibe with lots of gift shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. Standing amid the garish newcomers is the Hotel Galvez and Spa which has been facing the Gulf since 1911. Just a short walk down the Seawall is Pleasure Pier (pictured at the start of this article), an amusement park on a pier extending into the Gulf. The Seawall is worth a visit to stroll along or to ride your bike, though there is no guard rail to keep you from falling on to the beach. It’s great for an early morning stroll to watch sunrise over the gulf, or to watch lights come on on the piers as daylight fades into night at sunset.

The Hotel Galvez.

Driving west on San Luis Pass Road soon takes you out of the city and you find yourself surrounded by bright colored beach houses for several miles until you cross through the Galveston Island State Park which covers the island from the Gulf beach to Galveston Bay. Beyond the state park is the town of Jamaica Beach which has churches, a police and fire station and several stores. Beyond the town there are clusters of beach houses along both sides of the road all the way to the end of the island. On the bay side of the island there are some very nice residential communities with boat access to the bay.

Galveston island offers quite a few RV campgrounds. Sandpiper RV Resort at Stewart Beach is the closest to The Strand area, but is little more than a parking lot for RV’s. On the west end of the Seawall is Dellanera RV Park which is a small campground located right on the beach. If you want to see the ocean from your RV, this is the place to stay. Next is Stella Mare RV Resort a large campground across the road from the beach. Jamaica Beach RV Resort is a very busy campground that offers a lot of amenities including a mini golf course. The last one is Galveston Island RV Resort where we stayed. It’s the furthest west on the island which has the advantage of being far from the noise of town. I will have more to say about them in a future post. Spoiler alert: we loved it.

Galveston Island may not have tropical weather— most days were in the 60’s and there were a few cold and rainy days—but it still has a lot to offer for a winter stay. The city is home to UTMB hospital complex for any medical needs, there is a Home Depot, Target, Kroger and most other stores you might need. Anything you can’t find on the island is just across the causeway in the Houston area. After two months we only scratched the surface. We skipped many of the museums and the Moody Gardens because of Covid 19 activity in the area. But, we will be back to explore more.

All photos by Lee Rowe

Mingo RV Park: Campground Review

Address: 801 N. Mingo Rd. Tulsa, OK 74116

Phone: 918-832-8824

Online Reservations? No. You have to book your stay over the phone

Rate Per Night: $45

Discount: $40 per night with the Good Sam discount

Nights Stayed: 7

Mingo RV Park is east of downtown Tulsa — near the intersection of interstate 244 and State Highway 169 — and just north of the “Route 66 Rising’ sculpture which sits in the center of the roundabout at the intersection of Admiral Place and North Mingo Road. Tulsa is laid out in a grid that makes it very easy to navigate.

Route 66 Rising sculpture near the RV Park.

The entrance to the park is actually a block off of N. Mingo Road on E. Independence Street. Fortunately, the large neon gate is easy to see and our GPS took us right to it. Once you pull through the gate, keep driving straight ahead to the spot marked by the “Register Here” sign. The office is a log cabin that occupies a hill in the center of the campground. It also houses the laundry room and showers. There is a large bank of mail boxes across from the registration parking, letting you know that this park is mostly occupied by permanent residents.

The campground offers a few amenities in addition to a big laundry room and very clean showers. There is propane and a playground behind the office. There are picnic tables and outdoor seating placed in the grass around the office, and a dog walking area on top of the levy along Mingo Creek at the back of the campground. There are also several tree sculptures throughout the grounds which are very well maintained. The grass is trimmed, the laundry and showers were very clean, and sites are kept clean. You can tell they truly care. I saw maintenance staff at work every day. The RV park is also very quiet. Even on weekends there was no loud music, or loud talking late into the night.

This tree sculpture is there to remind you in case you didn’t know Route 66 is nearby.

The RV Park does have some negatives. First, it’s near the airport so there is occasional noise from jets flying over. Second, the gravel sites all have a low curb on streets that are crowned in the middle. The raised center of the street and the curb caused Belvedere to bottom out every time we entered or exited our spot and is probably the reason we lost one of our Snap Pads on our trip. The sites are also very tight so putting out chairs or the awning was impossible. Considering we were inside the city limits I guess that was to be expected, however, it made staying here feel more like staying in an open air apartment building than a campground.

Sites are gravel and some are partially concrete. Usually at the front where residents park their cars. All have a curb to drive over to get into the site.

One odd detail about all the sites is that the water hose connection is under a small cover about a foot below ground. A night of hard rain completely flooded the hole so I had to wait until a maintenance person came to pump it out before I could hook up my hose.

This brings me to the biggest positive of our stay. The staff. From my first phone call to reserve a spot until the day we checked out, every staff member we met was friendly and helpful. When I needed my water connection pumped out, the maintenance staff member was at my site ready to help within minutes of me letting the office know. The office staff was always ready to help and, of course there were two cats who would greet us outside the office.

This big boy was my favorite part of the friendly staff.

We have family in Tulsa, so we will be visiting the area again. Would we stay here when we come back? We now know to be very careful maneuvering into our site, but the positives of the campground— a clean, quiet, well kept place to stay with basic, but decent, amenities close to the city with a friendly helpful staff— outweigh the negatives. So, yes, we would stay here again.

Aztec Ruins and Chimney Rock: Two Ancestral Puebloan Sites You Need to Visit

Puebloan culture spread across the Four Corners region of the southwest. Ancestral Puebloan peoples built structures of stone and wood, studied the skies and left behind an incredible legacy. Though many of their structures were abandoned about the 1300 AD, they didn’t disappear, they migrated to other areas and blended into other puebloan groups who still claim them as ancestors. Though best known for the dramatic cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, there are many sites where you can see the remnants of this culture and some them don’t require any climbing at all! These are two that we visited.

Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec New Mexico

The tour of Aztec Ruins begins with this reconstructed kiva.

Along the banks of the Animas River in northern New Mexico, white settlers encountered stone ruins and mistakenly attributed them to the Aztecs so they named the town after them. Archaeologists now know the site is an ancient Pueblo built nearly a thousand years ago. What makes this site unique is that it sits on a river bank and several of the structures still retain their original wood beams and some have their original roofs in tact.

The tour begins in a reconstructed Great Kiva then you proceed on a trail through the ruins and finally inside a series of rooms with original, intact wooden roofs. But, tread carefully! Signs at the entrance let you know that the roof is home to bats and they encourage visitors to stay low and stay quiet so the bats don’t wake up.

Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed due to Covid. This made Aztec Ruins a short, but memorable, stop. We walked the trail through the ruins, took pictures and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings which almost make you forget that you are on the edge of a city neighborhood. I would, still, strongly recommend stopping to see it. I don’t know of any other ancient sites where you can see complete ancient puebloan structures.

Getting There: Aztec Ruins National Monument is located in the middle of Aztec, New Mexico; about forty-five minutes south of Durango, Colorado. Traveling South of US Highway 550, turn right on Ruins Road immediately after you cross the bridge over the Animas River. Watch out for prairie dogs running alongside the road as you get close to the ruins parking area.

Chimney Rock National Monument, near Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Chimney Rock catches the warm morning light.

Driving east on 160 from Durango, Colorado your first sight is the dramatic rock columns perched on a mountain top. Chimney Rock National Monument is the highest elevation Ancestral Puebloan site at a little over 7000 feet.

You begin your visit to the site at a parking area at the base of the mountain where you pay admission and get oriented for your visit. Then, you can either hike up the mountain or you can drive to the top on a winding dirt road. The parking area at the top is small and very tight to maneuver around in. From the parking area you can climb a short distance to the great house near the rock pillars or you can walk downhill to the remnants of an ancient village.

The great house at the end of the upper trail is perched on the ridge near the rock columns leading archaeologists to believe they were built for ceremonial purpose. Lending support to this idea, archeologists have found that periods of construction occurred at the same time as an event called the Major Lunar Standstill.

What is the Major Lunar Standstill? As the Earth wobbles through its orbit, the moon appears to rise at different points on the horizon through the years. Every 18.6 years it reaches its northernmost point and pauses before beginning to move south. That pause is called the Major Lunar Standstill. Seen from the Great House on the ridge, the moon rises directly between the rock pillars during the Standstill.

The mountain top also affords an incredible, unbroken, 360 degree view of the surroundings. To the south you can clearly see mesas in Northern New Mexico, which would have made Chimney Rock an excellent place to send signals via bonfires.

Getting There: The monument is open May 15th – September 30th. Chimney Rock is visible from US Highway 160 just west of Pagosa Springs. Turn south on CO 151 and drive for 3.2 miles. The entrance on the right. There is RV parking in the parking area at the base of the mountain. That’s also where you purchase your ticket and get oriented before you climb or drive up to the top.

All photos by Lee Rowe

Learning To Use My Convection/ Microwave Oven by Making Lasagna

For a long time the convection/ microwave oven had been mocking me from its perch above the refrigerator. Yes, we had used the microwave settings to reheat coffee and make popcorn, but that was pretty much it. I read the manual again and again, and I searched YouTube for a video on how to make sense of the thing. Then, I had an epiphany. JUST MAKE SOMETHING! It might be a failure, but it might not. Either way, it was time to stop being afraid of the oven.

I had a teacher in college who always used to say, “you go from what you know to what you don’t know.” Meaning you build on skills you already have to do something new and I finally decided to follow that advice. If I can cook in an oven at home, then I can cook in the RV. Every home cook knows is that every oven is different, and the same oven may act different from day to day. The manual and YouTube will only get you so far. You have to jump in and start cooking. So, I jumped in with both feet and decided to make a lasagna for the holidays in our RV’s convection/ microwave oven.

Lasagna recipes can be very long and they seemingly have a lot of steps. Add to that the fact that multiple cooking methods are required, and lasagna can seem very intimidating. However, I learned that it really wasn’t scary at all. I started by reading as many recipes as I could find and I quickly learned that there is an almost infinite variety of ingredients and everyone has a different oven temperature and cooking time. Also, all the recipes are for a 9×13 baking dish. Bigger than the 8×8 dish that I can fit in my oven. So, there was no single recipe I could follow. However, after reading through so many different recipes I realized that every lasagna breaks down into four big steps. Five, if you have to boil the pasta. So, this is how I structured my recipe. I broke it down into four major steps. Once you have made it you realize that these steps leave lots of room for experimentation. If you don’t like meat, use spinach and/or mushrooms instead. If you want a more flavorful cheese filling add goat cheese. The choices are endless!

So, how did my first attempt come out? It was great! It wasn’t perfect, but it was way better than the time I made a very effective tear gas with Cayenne Pepper and a pork chop in my home kitchen. I learned a lot and I have ideas for how to make it better next time. So, I encourage you to give it a try and stop being afraid of your convection/ microwave.

And, with that, here is the recipe I created.

Turkey Lasagna

Tools Needed

A knife to dice the onion

A 10″ skillet

A spatula

A large spoon for the tomato sauce

A bowl for the ricotta mixture

An 8″x 8″ baking dish

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce:

1 onion – diced

2 cloves of garlic – minced. OR, 1 heaping tablespoon if you use minced garlic from a jar

1 pound of 98% fat free ground turkey – Or whatever meat you would like to use. You can kinda go wild here.

2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning

1 jar of Marinara Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Ricotta Filling:

1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 egg white (I used the egg white because I have a limit on how many yolks I can eat. You can use one whole egg if you prefer. It works either way.)

1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Box of No Boil or Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

1 16 oz bag of grated Mozzarella cheese

1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil – To coat the inside of the baking dish

Step 1: Preheat Your Oven to 350°

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set your convection microwave to convection and preheat the oven. Leave the rack in the oven to elevate the baking dish and allow air to move around all sides of the dish.

Step 2: Make the Meat Sauce

Preheat the skillet over medium heat. If your stove is like mine, the knob has a big flame for high and a tiny flame for low. Turn the burner turned on then set the dial in somewhere the middle.

Add the diced onions and cook until translucent (about 2 to 3 minutes) If the onions start to cook too fast or start to brown turn the heat down.

Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Add the turkey and brown it while stirring and breaking it up into little pieces. Cook it until there is no pink left.

Add the Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper (if desired) and stir it into the turkey and onions.

Add the jar of sauce, stir it in then let it simmer until the excess liquid disappears and it just starts to thicken.

Turn off the stove.

While it’s simmering, move on to step two.

Step 3: Make the Ricotta Filling

Empty the container of ricotta cheese into a bowl.

Add the parmesan, egg white and Italian Seasoning.

Stir it all together until it’s well mixed.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Your tomato sauce should be ready now, so turn off the stove and make some room on your counter for the baking dish.

Step 4: Assembly

Open the box of noodles, take one and compare it to the size of the baking dish, if it’s longer that the dish then break off enough to make it fit. You will then use this noodle as a guide for breaking the others as you go. For an 8×8 dish you will need three noodles for each layer. I used larger broken pieces for the center noodle of each layer. Use the best looking noodles on top.

Coat the inside of the baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.

Add a thin layer meat sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.

Add the first layer of noodles.

Coat the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture.

Add 1/4 of the tomato sauce to cover the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle with the grated mozzarella.

Then add the next layer of noodles and repeat the ricotta filling, sauce, and mozzarella steps.

When you reach the top of the dish add the last layer tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Step 5: Bake The Lasagna

When the oven if up to temperature, open the door, transfer the filled baking dish to the oven and place it on the rack in the center of the oven.

Close the door and set the cooking time to 1 hour.

Use the time to start cleaning up the kitchen counter to make room for when the lasagna comes out of the oven.

After 30 minutes, hit stop, open the door and remove the aluminum foil. Pierce the center of the lasagna with a toothpick or a paring knife to see if the noodles are cooked through. If the knife hits solid resistance it’s not cooked and will need more time. Close the door and resume cooking.

From this point on, keep an eye on it and see if the sauce starts to bubble. When you see it bubble, open the door and pierce it again to see if your knife or toothpick go in without resistance. If it does, then hit stop to turn off the oven and remove the lasagna AND the rack.

Optional Step: Broil the Top

Turn on the grill function of the oven. Return the baking dish to the oven, close to the grill element at the top of the oven so that the lasagna sits directly underneath the it and set the time for 10 minutes. It may not take that long to brown, so keep a close watch on it and remove it as soon as the cheese just starts to brown.

You can totally skip this step if you wish, or you can do what some restaurants do and put the slices you are about to serve on a baking sheet under the broiler just before you serve them.

Important Safety Tip:

Plan ahead where you are going to put the hot pan before it comes out of the oven. If you are making this in your RV, don’t ever set the hot pan directly on the corian countertop. Also, don’t set it on the tempered glass cover of your propane stove or it could shatter the glass. If these are the only places you have available then use the rack from the oven and a thick towel or cutting board to minimize contact with the surface when you set the rack on it. I used my silicone drying mat on the counter then set the oven rack with the baking dish on it so the dish stayed elevated above the counter while it was hot and only the plastic covered feet of the rack actually touched the the silicone mat. In a small kitchen, a little planning is essential to prevent a horrible mess.

Ouray and Telluride

With winter weather out of the way, we travelled thirty-five miles south from Montrose to the very picturesque town of Ouray, named for the Ute Chief. The town, which calls itself the ‘Switzerland of America” sits in a bowl surrounded by rugged mountains. The main street through town is lined with nineteenth century buildings and at the opposite end of town the Main Street becomes a dramatic switchback road that climbs up the steep mountainside and marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Road to Silverton.

We parked on a side street and spent the afternoon walking around town and exploring the shops. After a while we got hungry and we decided to get lunch at Colorado Boy Pizza. We were greeted with a “Hi Darlin’” from the bartender as we walked in.

After lunch we found a hiking trail on the edge of town that led to Cascade Falls. Belvedere was too big to park at the trailhead so we parked on the street two blocks away. Carolyn turned off the engine and, as we were about to open the door, a small herd of deer passed by on both sides of the RV, leapt over the fence in front of us and proceeded to snack on the bushes in the yard. We enjoyed the scene for a while, then quietly got out and headed up the street to the trail where we saw more deer snacking in people’s yards. It ace for a wonderfully magical afternoon!

The trail to the waterfall is not long, but it is all up hill, a bit rugged and the high altitude definitely made it feel harder, as well. But it was totally worth the walk. The narrow waterfall plunges down the mountainside in several cascades, the trail ends at the foot of the bottom cascade.

Because of Covid, we skipped the hot springs but we were sorely tempted! They are on the main road into town and the pools looked wonderful. Maybe on our next trip. Even so, we enjoyed a day of wandering around town and I’m looking forward to coming back via the Million Dollar Highway.

After a full day in Ouray we didn’t want to make a long drive so we were glad we found a spot at the Ouray KOA just a couple miles outside of town. This turned out to be the biggest and busiest KOA’s we’ve ever seen! There was a constant line of vehicles checking in late into the evening. We know because our spot was on the entrance road just a few spots away from the office. We walked around after we got settled into our site. In addition to the the camp store they had a restaurant, hot tub and sauna. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful but I wouldn’t call it a quiet relaxing night. All of the campground announcements were made via text, so my phone was busy all night with messages about someone’s headlights left on, last call for firewood, etc.

Telluride

The next morning we packed up and made the drive to Telluride. It’s only nine miles away, as the crow flies, but it’s a fifty mile drive around the mountains to get there. I have wanted to visit Telluride since I first learned about their bluegrass festival. It’s like Ouray’s bigger, more famous brother. There were more shops, more restaurants, more houses, much better connectivity and a lot more people.

We were lucky to find a parking spot for Belvedere on a side street. From there we walked over to East Colorado Avenue, the main road into town and spent the rest of the morning exploring the shops and trying to decide where we wanted to eat. There are a lot of great choices in town and making a selection was difficult. After lunch we found the free gondola ride that takes you from Telluride up and over the mountain to Mountain Village. We stopped at San Sophia on top of the mountain to enjoy the views and take pictures. We didn’t go all the way to Mountain Village because it was getting late and our parking was about to expire in town. We rode back down to town and made our way back to Belvedere. But first, we had to stop at The Butcher and the Baker for some fresh baked cookies to eat on the way.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

It was getting late in the afternoon and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we reluctantly headed back through Montrose planning to drive east to Colorado Springs when we decided to give in to temptation one last time. We turned off and headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

The drive into the park gives you no clue about what you are going to see. It’s an uphill drive through open range that becomes more curvy as you get closer to the park. It doesn’t reveal itself until you get to the first overlook at Tomichi Point, then, BLAMMO! You get your first look at the canyon that got it’s name because it’s so deep and narrow that some spots on the river below only get sunlight for thirty minutes a day. We were simply not prepared for how massive and beautiful the canyon would be!

Tomichi Point.

After spending time taking in our first views of the canyon we continued driving along the South Rim to the Visitor Center which was closed due to Covid. There was a small table outside the entrance where we got a map and learned that we could drive the Rim Road as far as Sunset Point in our RV. After enjoying the views from the back of the Visitor Center, we drove toward Sunset Point, stopping at almost every view point. Once we got to the end, the sun was beginning to set and we needed to find a place to stay for the night.

The South Rim Campground has three loops and after Labor Day most of the sites are first come first serve, so we decided to try our luck because I was excited at the opportunity to stay in a dark sky park. Each of the loops are small and hard to maneuver through in an RV. I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate the campground in anything larger than our 25 footer. The roads were narrow and trees made them feel even narrower. It became so tight in one loop we scratched the entire side of Belvedere on the tree branches. Fortunately, I was able to buff them most of them out. In the last loop we finally found an open site and parked. Then we walked back to the kiosk to check in and pay our camping fee.

The campground was full and the sites are close together. We could hear our neighbors late into the night. I got out to try to take some pictures of the night sky, but people with flashlights and a near constant stream of cars made it nearly impossible. Instead we spent the night inside and decided to head out early after one last stop for pictures. I highly recommend visiting Black Canyon, it’s an incredible place. However, I would not recommend camping there. If we were to do it again I think we would stay in Montrose then visit Ouray, Telluride and Black Canyon.

Where We Ate

Colorado Boy Pizza: This is a chain with locations in Montrose, Ouray and Telluride. The pizza was great! Our server was delightful and the chips and salsa, were amazing.

Caravan: This Mediterranean food truck was one of our favorite discoveries on the whole trip! It’s tucked in beside La Cocina and it’s probably the least expensive place to eat in Telluride. However, the ingredients are mostly organic and the food is fresh and flavorful! We had a Mezze Sampler which allowed us to try a number of side dishes, creamy hummus, smoky Baba Gannouj, Incredibly crunchy and flavorful Falafel and a spinach pie that was crispy outside but soft in the middle. We sat in the courtyard near a bubbling fountain and felt like we were miles away from the bustling street.

RV Life Highs and Lows…and Highs

Full time RV life is a great adventure, but, adventure isn’t always fun. The highs are amazing but, unfortunately, so are the lows. You have to be ready to adapt and make the best of bad situations. We’ve had to learn this lesson, mostly the hard way.

Labor Day began bright and early at Great Sand Dunes Oasis, a store just outside the gates of Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we rented sand sleds for the day. A sand sled is made of plywood with an upturned front and a small cushion near the rear to sit on. Along with the sled you get a block of wax that you rub on the bottom of the sled then polish by rubbing the sled on sand before you make your run. After we got our sleds, we drove a couple miles to the parking area, gathered our sleds, sunscreen, and hats and headed for the dunes.

Walking on sand dunes is not easy, for every step forward you fall back at least a half step. Walking on sand dunes at 8000 feet of elevation quickly becomes a slog because there is less oxygen to breath. It felt like it took forever to walk the mile from the parking area up the first, and smallest, dune because we had to stop more than once to catch our breath.

But, everything changed once we were on our sand sleds. We had an absolute blast sledding down the dune! We both wiped out spectacularly and repeatedly but, once we got the hang of it, we wiped out even more spectacularly in between a few good runs. The downside, of course, is that each good run down was followed by a long slow walk back up the dune. After a few hours we were covered in sand and close to exhaustion. We each made one last run down a steeper slope. Carolyn wiped out, rolled a few feet then stood up, laughing, and got back on her sled to finish the run. My final run went through a patch of soft sand and I ate a lot of it. Completely exhausted now, we slowly made our way back to Belvedere and dumped the sand out of our shoes (and shorts). Then our luck began to change.

The weather forecast for the next day was a surprise early winter storm that would bring lots of snow and freezing temperatures across a large portion of Colorado. We made a decision to cancel our reservations at the campground inside the park and head somewhere that wasn’t expected to freeze. That led to some quick research to find a place that wouldn’t have sub freezing temperatures. We decided our best bet was to head to lower elevation about three hours away in Montrose, Colorado. Decision made, we headed out to fill up on diesel and start the 4 hour drive.

Thank Goodness For Our TPMS

There is absolutely nothing but open land for about fifteen miles between Great Sand Dunes and the town of Mosca. On a desolate county road about five miles from the gas station , the alarm on our tire pressure monitoring system went off. It showed us losing pressure in one of our rear tires at an alarming rate! With no room to pull off on the side of the road, we had no choice but to limp to the gas station in Mosca. Once there, I asked if there was anyone who could help us with our tire. The very nice lady pointed me to a truck and tire company just six miles down the road. I filled up our tire and we limped to the little town of Hooper and pulled into the tire place.

Did I mention it was Labor Day? The tire place was closed and our tire was now down to 14psi, so we called roadside assistance and they dispatched help. When they arrived and got the tire off we could see that the valve stem had cracked and broken off on the way to Hooper, taking the TPMS cap sensor with it. While I was unhappy about losing the sensor, I also realized we were VERY lucky that the tire did not blow out.

Belvedere waiting for her tire to come back.
The remains of the valve stem after it had been removed and replaced.

It had taken about an hour for help to arrive, and once they arrived and got the tire off, they decided to take the tire back to their shop, repair it there then bring it back. A process that ended up taking another three hours. That’s when we learned that being broken down is a very different experience in an RV. We were parked in an empty parking lot, not on the side of the road. So, while we waited, we made lunch and settled down to watch tv while eating ice cream. Carolyn even took a nap. Except for the road noise it was kinda nice to have a quiet afternoon after such an active morning.

Finally, we were able to get back on the road. But, it was now five o’clock and we still had a three and a half hour drive ahead of us on winding roads and the smoky sky meant darkness would fall earlier than normal. We decided not to stop for anything else and get as far as we could before dark. In fact, we were so intent on getting over the mountains that we barely noticed the sign when we drove over the Continental Divide for the first time ever. There was simply no time to stop for pictures.

After all the twists and turns on dark roads we finally pulled into Centennial RV Park outside of Montrose. I’m very grateful to the campground owners for meeting us at the office when we rolled in. We were also both thankful for the long hot showers to wash all the sand off before we climbed into bed. It’s not a large park, but it’s very nice. In different circumstances we would definitely stay there again.

The next morning, Tuesday, was the day the storm would be rolling in and, while no snow was predicted for Montrose, there would be plenty of rain. Since we had booked at the last minute, we only got to stay at Centennial for one night. We unhooked and moved to a another campground that had a spot for the next three nights. The rain was just beginning to fall as we got hooked up. I opted to not hook up the water hose in case it got down below freezing. Fortunately, it never did.

Exploring Montrose

Until the storm forced us to change our plans we had not intended to come to the western side of Colorado on this trip. But, I’m so glad we did! Our new campground, Riverbend RV Park and Cabins became one of our favorite places we stayed on our trip. It sits on the banks of the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, Colorado. The sites are gravel, but they are very level and the office is a brand new building with a new laundry room and nice showers. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. We could not have asked for a warmer welcome and even though we had to move sites after our first two nights we couldn’t complain because our new site was right beside the river. We truly were lucky to have found them.

When there was a break in the rain, we walked to the Ute Indian Museum and spent some time exploring their exhibits. It’s a small, but very well done, museum with a great story to tell and some beautiful artifacts. Ute are the only Native American Tribe that doesn’t have a relocation story. Though they lost most of their land, the Ute reservations are on a very small portion of their ancestral land. The museum sits on land that had once belonged to Chief Ouray a chief who was chosen by the US government to be the spokes person for the tribe and for whom the town of Ouray, Colorado is named.

Just outside the museum, we discovered the city trail that went right past our campground and continued all the way to the city center. A short walk down the trail brought us to a bridge that led to a shopping area with a Target, a Natural Grocer, and other stores.

Since we were settled at Riverbend for a few days I contacted Borg, the valve stem manufacturer, to see about getting a replacement. They were incredibly nice about it! I sent them a photo of the valve stem stump and they FedExed me two replacements, one for the missing stem and one just in case it happened again (spoiler alert; it did!). The replacement stems arrived Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we had the new stem installed and with the return of warm sunny weather it was time to hit the road again. This time toward the San Juan Mountains newly covered in snow.

Neither of us can believe how fast things changed from a fun day of sand sledding to being broken down and fleeing a winter storm to discovering wonderful new people and places. But, we’re learning that this is what full time RV life is. It will test you and reward you and test you again. The only thing you can do is keep your sense of humor and in the darkest moments and celebrate the good times. Like the first sight of beautiful snow covered mountains.


Where We Ate:

Since we were on vacation the week after Labor Day and the weather was fairly bleak we decided to find a different restaurant for lunch each day. These are the places we tried.

Camp Robber: This very nice casual restaurant has been in business since 1994. It’s unusual name is the name given to the Canadian Gray Jay because the birds have a habit of swooping in and stealing food from campsites. The staff was friendly and the food was very good. We started with Green Chile Chicken Potato soup, then I had Green Chile Pistachio Crusted Pork Medallions. A favorite dish that has stayed on their menu since they opened. It was a nice treat on a cold rainy day.

Himalayan Pun Hill Kitchen: This unassuming restaurant occupies a small building tucked between a liquor store and an auto parts store north of downtown. But, inside you are a world away. There is an extensive menu of Nepali and Indian dishes so we took time to study it before making our choices. Portions were generous so we ended up taking home half of what we ordered.

Passing Up A Million Dollars in Durango, Colorado

You can see the San Juan mountains in southern Colorado from Aztec, New Mexico and they are breathtaking even as a mere shadow on the horizon. As we got closer and could see them clearly they only became more imposing as they surround the little town of Durango.

The town sits in the southwest corner of the state not far from Mesa Verde National Park. It was founded as a railroad town in the 19th century, a place to carry supplies to mines deeper into the mountains. The main road through town, U.S. 550 roughly parallels the train tracks to Silverton then over high mountain passes to Ouray. The stretch of 550 from Silverton to Ouray is called the Million Dollar Highway and it’s one of the most beautiful roads in the U.S., also one of the scariest to drive because of the tight turns and the sheer drop offs. We passed up this route to Ouray and instead took a longer route. Maybe we’ll do it when we have more practice driving our house.

The downtown area is compact and easily walkable, and there are so many great little shops and restaurants you can stay busy for a couple days checking them out. But, if you are just arriving, you might want to give yourself a day or two to get used to the 6500 foot elevation before you try to go exploring. In our case, we had already spent a week in Santa Fe at 7000 feet, so we were pretty well acclimated. But, we still made sure to use sunscreen, wear a hat outside and drink plenty of water.

Our first day of exploring began with lunch at a brew pub. After a flight of beers and an excellent meal we walked the length of downtown, ducking into shops that caught our eye. Not surprisingly, many of the shops sell outdoor clothing and gear, but, there are many shops to appeal to almost any interest. If you like chocolate, then don’t miss Animas Chocolate and Coffee on Main Avenue. Their truffles are incredible!

After walking through the main shopping area we found our way onto the Animas River Trail. This seven mile paved path connects to many of the city’s parks and serves as an important part of the city’s transit system. It follows alongside the Animas River and connects neighborhoods to the downtown area and shopping areas further out. It’s a great place to walk, but watch out for the many bicycles that use the path to commute to and from work!

Our last full day in Durango was Carolyn’s birthday so we booked a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Because of Covid 19 the train isn’t doing its usual run to Silverton, instead passengers embark at Rockwood Station about 18 miles north of Durango for a two hour scenic ride to Cascade Canyon and back.

To insure social distancing the train cars were only half filled, and the day we rode, our car only had five other groups so we had lots of space to move around during the two hour ride. Even though we were getting a shorter ride, it was still well worth going. And, if you go, I highly encourage you to book your seat in one of the gondolas which are open air train cars. The cars are open from about waist high and you seat faces the open sides so there is nothing to obstruct the scenery as you travel. Believe me you will want to see everything!

The two hour ride took us through breath taking scenery, past rivers and mountains with the train seemingly clinging to the mountainside past steep drops into the river valley below. Since the car had so few people in it we were able to get up and change sides in the car to get the best view as the train made its way to Cascade Canyon.

Where We Ate

Steamworks Brewing Company: Located on the corner of E 2nd Avenue and W 8th Street, this place offers great food along with some very good beers. We got a flight along with lunch and followed it up with a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Panna Cotta for dessert. Their IPA called Sultan of Stoke was perfect for a hot day with its tropical flavor. But, our favorite was the Red Eye, the first taste made me melt and it was the first glass emptied in our flight.

Seasons of Durango: We went here to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday after we spent the morning on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The dining room is beautiful, but we opted to sit on their rear patio because it was a beautiful day. Carolyn had the roasted chicken and I had the Fennel Pollen Dusted Salmon Filet. Our waitress was friendly and very helpful in navigating the menu.

We packed a lot into three days in Durango and we both fell in love with the town. But, there is still so much to do and see. When we return we want to get out of town and on to one of the many hiking trails that surround the city. And, maybe, tackle the Million Dollar Highway. After a quick bite, of course, and maybe something from Animas Chocolate and Coffee!

Our First Harvest Host Experiences

If you aren’t familiar with Harvest Hosts, let me tell you a little bit about them. Harvest Hosts is a membership organization for RVer’s. Members get access to a network of thousands of farms, wineries, breweries, distilleries, museums and most recently, golf courses across the country that let fully self contained RV’s park overnight. In exchange, members make a purchase or otherwise participate in the host’s business. Thanks to our membership we had the opportunity to stay at two incredible wineries in New Mexico and a brewery in Southern Colorado with great beer and a unique backstory. All three experiences were unique and absolutely magical.

Black Mesa Winery

Our first stop was Black Mesa Winery in Velarde, New Mexico; about halfway between Santa Fe and Taos. The winery sits at the base of a sandy, rock strewn hill just across the road from the Rio Grande River. The river valley is green and full of life in contrast to the dry rocky hills on both sides.

The winery is a set of adobe buildings with the vineyard out front beside the parking area and a green lawn with shade trees and tables where you can enjoy your wine tasting while watching the many hummingbirds stopping at feeders hung in the trees. Alex, the person working behind the counter was charming and accommodating and the owner chatted with us briefly. We were even greeted by one of the winery’s cats as we went to take a seat.

The wines were wonderful and we spent time chatting with some other guests from a safe distance. We bought bottles of our favorites and as the sun set, we returned to the RV parked beside the vineyard. After a quiet night, despite being close to the road, we finished our visit by following the trail behind the winery to see ancient petroglyphs.

Wines of the San Juan

After a day of visiting Taos and driving west across New Mexico we came to Wines of the San Juan in Blanco, New Mexico. The drive in makes this place all the more surprising. We drove through desert landscapes, then turned off the main road toward a stand of trees. Once we reached the trees everything changed. The winery sits on the banks of the San Juan River. Huge shade trees covered us from the sun and we were greeted like friends at the outdoor tasting bar. After talking through the menu we each got a glass (or two) and were invited to go sit by the pond.

The pond had tables with umbrellas and the grounds were populated by a menagerie of animals. Two geese weren’t happy that we sat at the table closest to them and they yelled at us for a bit before wandering away in a huff. Then, a family of peacocks walked up to greet us. Finally one of the cats came to say hello.

We sat in the shade enjoying our wine until they closed then we wandered back to Belvedere to make dinner. They were unusual in that they had electric and water hookups and we were the only guests there so we had a very quiet night. In the morning we were stopped on the road by a young cow that had escaped and was standing in the middle of the one lane road. We weren’t stopped for very long and we called the winery to let them know they had an escapee.

Colorado Farm Brewery

A week later, on our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park, we stopped for a night at Colorado Farm Brewery outside Alamosa, Colorado. We thought our GPS was taking us completely the wrong way when we left paved road behind and proceeded down a dirt road for a couple miles, however, we eventually came to another paved road and subsequently learned that we didn’t have to take the dirt road to get there. Anyhoo! We finally made it to their incredibly beautiful location.

The brewery is on the grounds of a family farm. The parking area was alongside a huge field of golden barley that was being harvested the day we visited. We received a very warm, friendly welcome and once we were set up for the night we wandered over to try the beer and get dinner from the food truck they had onsite for the night.

While our beers were being poured we chatted with the owners and learned that the farm has been in the family for four generations. With debt piling up and the barley business dwindling they turned to making barley into malt and became the largest international producer of craft malt. The brewery was founded on the property in 2018. Of course, we had to try the Wheatverly, their estate beer. Every ingredient of which; water, yeast, hops and malt all come from their property. It didn’t disappoint, it tasted fresh and slightly fruity.

The tap room, a former storage shed, was busy and the atmosphere was friendly and casual. The owners told us a lot of the customers are their neighbors from surrounding farms as well as people from town and other Harvest Host guests. Tables are all on a patio, under awnings, looking out over the fields. There was also a large children’s play area with things to climb. We ordered tacos filled with chicken and chorizo and enjoyed the food and the friendly atmosphere until the sunset.

Once the sun started to go down it was time for me to grab my camera and capture one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The night was quiet and the skies were so dark I was able to do some astrophotography. We were both a little sad when morning came it was time to pack up and leave. But, we may find ourselves making excuses to travel through Alamosa so we can visit them again and again.

The skies were dark and the stars were bright.

So, those were our first experiences. When we became Harvest Host members we were excited to visit these places. Covid got in the way but we finally got to make use of our membership and have been absolutely blown away by how wonderful our first experiences were. We’re looking forward to many more experiences on our travels. If you have a self-contained RV, check out Harvest Hosts and you can have these experiences, too.


Minor Mini Rant – Staying at a Harvest Host is not about a free place to stay; there are Walmarts and Cracker Barrels aplenty if all one needs is a patch of reasonably level ground upon which to park. Harvest Hosts stays are experiences; a chance to see and participate in someone else‘s dream for a little while. There have been reports of RVers abusing this experience which frustrates us, as we get a lot out of and actively seek these kinds of experiences. We want hosts to be glad they are hosts so that we can keep staying with them. The expectation, clearly communicated by the Harvest Host organization, is that guests should follow rules set by the host and expect to support the Host with a purchase. Our rule of thumb is to spend as much as we would on a night of camping at an RV park (okay, sometimes it’s the same as a REALLY NICE RV Park!) If what they have on offer does not appeal to us— which is rarely the case because we are the ones choosing where we stay— it becomes a gift for others. Additionally, we show our appreciation during our visit by trying to be easy guests and afterwards by liking them on social media and writing about our experience in our blog. The hosts get nothing from Harvest Host in payment, and especially in these COVID times, success is a struggle, so we feel it is important to do our part to support these organizations as best we can.


Disclaimer: We are not sponsored by Harvest Hosts. We purchased our membership not long after we took delivery of our RV.