Or, Why We Aren’t Buying an RV
With the pandemic, our opportunities for travel have been rather limited. Which is why last fall we decided to try out RV’ing. We’d been talking about the possibility of buying an RV for awhile, and had even started to shop a bit online. With my decision to retire we thought it would be good to rent one and test it out before we took the plunge. I’m glad we did.
We rented a 25 foot long class C through CruiseAmerica. Our rental experience was great, and we were quickly on our way to Adventureland!
Day 1 – From Dallas to Lake Bob Sandlin
While we’ve lived in Texas for 4 years, we haven’t seen much of the eastern part of our state, so we pointed the RV toward Louisiana and started to drive. Well, my husband Dennis drove, I wasn’t about to get behind the wheel of a vehicle that large. Dennis has ample experience driving big trucks, being a former FedEx driver and having driven 40 footers for Aidslifecycle for many years. Yet even with all of his experience, Dennis was not happy driving the RV out of town through Dallas traffic. His discomfort was compounded by inclement weather, the rain beating down made it clear that we hadn’t chosen the best weekend for our adventure. Moving slowly down I30, other vehicles angrily passed by, fists shaking. We finally made it to our first stop at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park.
I had chosen full service RV sites, not knowing how difficult boondocking would be our first time out. We also had fully stocked the small refrigerator with plenty of food, snacks and most importantly adult beverages so we were all set when we stopped for the night. After a nice happy hour complete with snacky cheese, then dinner, we were ready to settle in and relax. But no, no, no, there was no wifi so we were out of luck for my planned Netflix and chill evening. Instead, we both settled in to read some books we had downloaded. And as we tried to get into comfortable positions, the first realization that we weren’t sitting in the lap of luxury set in. There was no place to really sit comfortably for any long amount of time except in the driver and passenger chairs. So that’s where we ended up for the evening, in full recline aglow in the lights of our iPads. The rain keeping us company by drumming down relentlessly onto the RV roof.
Day 2 – Bob Sandlin to Caddo Lake State Park
Lake Bob Sandlin was beautiful and I wish we had gotten to experience it in better weather. In the morning we packed up the RV and continued our eastward journey. We stopped to stretch our legs along the way at Daingerfield State Park and have some lunch. At last the rain had abated and we could hike a bit. We really enjoyed our short time at Daingerfield, it felt more like somewhere in the Pacific Northwest than a spot in Texas. Of course, the grey skies and damp weather likely contributed to that feeling! We finished up admiring the scenery and continued our way along state highway 11.
Our second stop that day was Jefferson, a pretty little town with a lot of history. Jefferson used to be a center for bootlegging during the prohibition so it sounded like my kinda place. I wanted to take one of the river boat tours that ply the routes while telling bootlegger stories, but alas they were closed due to COVID restrictions. Jefferson was still worth the short detour to see the historic downtown.
We finally made it to Caddo Lake State Park with enough sunlight left to take a nice, long walk. It felt liberating to leave our little home on wheels for a bit. The bald cypress with their roots eating into the lake bed give the park a wonderfully dark and gloomy atmosphere. This is the picture conjured up in my mind when I hear the word “bayou”. We found our spot and set our RV up for the night.
Similar story to the first night, after drinks and dinner we both found it hard to get comfortable. And again no wifi. Yes I can hear you all yelling at me that the idea is to put away the screens and commune with nature, but the rain had started up again so the idea of sitting on the camp chairs we’d brought, trying to nurse a campfire to life in the wet didn’t appeal to me. So instead of kindling I made do with Kindle and continued to enjoy my book.
For the second night in a row we also had a very hard time sleeping in the RV. We’re two big guys and the full size bed in the back, while ample enough for any normal sized straight couple, wasn’t going to cut it for us. I got to scamper up the back of the dinette seat into the bed over the cab. Settling into the coffin-like space, I’d just dozed off when I was woken up by the most unsettling shaking. Were there hoodlums outside trying to tip us over, or was Texas experiencing a very rare earthquake? Nope, neither of those, it was just my husband rolling over in the bed below. He would then fall comfortably asleep and I, careful so as to not hit a body part on the ceiling, would rollover. My movement caused the same richter-scale level shaking, waking him up. This went on pretty much throughout the night, with each of us waking the other every time we changed positions.
The next day we had time to explore the area, taking a long walk along the bayou and spending a little time in the small town of Uncertain (one of the best town names ever). About midday we packed up and started our westward trip toward home along I20.
Day 3 – Caddo Lake to Tyler
It was a quick drive to Tyler so we arrived early afternoon. I had planned it that way because I wanted to visit the Tyler Rose Garden, billed as one of the best rose gardens in the US. Sadly the rain had gone from drizzle to small torrent so we decided walking around an outdoor garden wouldn’t be the best of fun. Dennis of course was relieved since he wasn’t crazy about the rose garden idea to begin with. We went straight to our spot in Tyler State Park. While Lake Caddo had the mysterious beauty of its bald cypress swamp, Tyler State Park was my favorite of the four parks we visited. Our site was very close to a beautiful lake and I took advantage of a break in the rain for a short hike around. Slipping and sliding down the muddier parts, it had great views that I know I will return to see in better weather.
After another night of RV rock and roll we packed up in the morning to drive home. We saved the dreaded “black water” duty until the end, so I had the fun task of emptying the tanks before we returned the rental. It was a negotiated deal – Dennis drove so I dumped. It was much easier and much less icky than I’d imagined. In fact the whole job of setting up and breaking down the hookups each day was way easier than I thought it would be.
What wasn’t easy was navigating through Dallas traffic and highway construction on our way back in. Poor Dennis was white-knuckling it the whole time. His body sighed with relief when we finally got back to the rental site and returned the RV.
I know I shouldn’t write off ever taking another RV trip just because of this experience. In fact, it’s likely the rain was the real damper and if we had been able to relax in our comfy camp chairs outdoors we might have enjoyed it much more. The state parks we visited were fabulous, all four beautiful and worthy of more time. But maybe we’re more the “take a road trip in our comfortable SUV and stay in nice hotels” kinda people? Or maybe as our memory fades, we’ll simply forget the unpleasant parts and give RV’ing another try.