TEN days in a camper heading to southwest Texas, one sassy 2 year old, an adventurous 4 year old, and no real plan – it was going to be a family trip that would either make us or break us. My in-laws (whom we borrowed the camper from) provided us with plenty of advice – how to use the camper, clean the tank system (a job fully bequeathed to my husband), and even advice for when the inevitable mariatable fight arose. But advice for living in about 200 square feet with two small children (one who was in the midst of potty training)?? Besides their suggestion of plenty of libations (we took them up on that), they pretty much just shook their heads and planned on an early return. I’m not going to lie – somewhere around day 3 Guy (my husband) had his break down. I handed him a beer and a box of cookies and eventually he came out of it. Mine came the next day after realizing that my shower option that day was the public showers (due to hot water problems in the camper). PUBLIC. Somewhere between dodging a spider the size of my fist and several nasty hair balls clogging the drain, I started rethinking a lot of life choices. A whole lot. It took more than one beer for me to move past it. Anyhow, odds on making it through the “vacation” were against us.
But let me back up some. I should mention that our family loves to be on the go. We travel frequently (often just weekend trips to Oklahoma and around Texas) and enjoy adventures together. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a much better mother away from my house. Mind you, not that I’m a bad one in our home – but I’m way more interactive for long periods when I am away from the need to keep a clean home, maintain a business, and just keep up with life. When we are out of the house I can fully give my attention to the most important thing, my family. I wish I weren’t that way (hello, mom guilt) but I am and I know this about myself, so I make it a priority to take my kids somewhere most everyday (park, walks, zoo, etc) and plan plenty of family getaways.
Anyhow, at the beginning of the year our family made a 2016 Mayo Family Bucket list. We filled it with plans and experiences that we wanted to enjoy together. At the top of my list was to go to the Monahans Sand Dunes, Marfa, and Big Bend. An odd family vacation choice with such young children, but thankfully my husband subscribes to the “happy wife, happy life” theory. So Spring Break we decided to make it happen AND do it in a camper. Go big or go home, Mayo’s.
Our trip was epic. An adventure I will NEVER forget. At the risk of getting over the top cheesy, I would say it had fed each of our souls and given us exactly what we needed. My husband and I overcame tests of patience and teamwork and our children saw a whole other landscape, overcame their own fears and challenges, and were fed constant quality time and encouragement.
This is a long post and very pic heavy, but scroll through to read and see more about our big adventure:
*On a side note, these images were taken with a combination of my 5Dmark iii (my big DSLR), a GoPro Hero 4, iPhone, and a cheap point and shoot. I believe the best camera is the one you have with you!
Our first stop was the Monahans Sand Dunes. In college, Guy and I went to the Sand Dunes in Colorado and it was one of the most memorable experiences. I have always wanted to go back, and when I learned that Monahans was a mere 6 hours from Dallas, I knew we needed to get there. It did not disappoint. In fact, I believe it was our kids favorite part of the whole trip. They went bananas! From a photographer’s standpoint it was gorgeous. The wind had really picked up and I didn’t bring my DSLR case, so I didn’t take many pictures with my “big” camera. But the few I snapped I sure do treasure! Mostly I used a cheap point and shoot that I bought many years ago and it was perfect.
After one night in Monahans (we could have easily stayed two), we headed out to Marfa. It did not disappoint with its weirdness – starting with a random turkey in front of the elementary school.
So, Marfa was ok. We had a great time, but I think it would have been better if we had come on different days. A Monday and Tuesday in Marfa isn’t exactly hoppin’, ya know. It’s definitely an interesting community – a strange dichotomy of wealth and poverty, art appreciation and deterioration, etc. Business owners seem to run their restaurants and shops like a hobby – odd hours and days, so we were left with a pretty wide open schedule due to not much being open. One night we even went up to Dairy Queen just to get out of the trailer and entertain the kids a bit. And I will say, that D-Q was a pretty popular place! ha! Of course, we also saw the Marfa Lights and Prada Marfa – both interesting experiences. A highlight was going to the goat farm! The kids loved it and learned a little too.
On the road again….. our final stop was to stay the rest of our trip in Big Bend. We didn’t have any real idea what to expect from the National Park. We were blown away by it’s vast size and utter desolation. Thankfully we had our trailer in Terlingua (old ghost town) that wasn’t far from the park – otherwise we would have been without electricity. Camping without modern conveniences was for my 20’s – not my 30’s with two little kids!
The next set of images are from Terlingua. The Starlight Theatre is a must for dinner. And the sunsets there….. freaking insane.
So Big Bend Park. There was something there for each of us – photography (obviously) for me, bike riding for my husband (he’s a bad ass going up those mountains), and hiking/fishing/animal scouting for the kids. We did it all and could have easily stayed much longer. The hiking trails vary from very easy to quite rigorous and you can choose areas around the river, mountains or desert to go into. Our favorite hikes were to Balanced Rock (in the Chisos Mountains), through the stunning Santa Elena Canyon, and along the Mexican border at Boquillas Canyon Trail. It’s definitely legit hiking – plenty of water, an eye out for snakes/bears/panthers/mountain lions, and proper attire are needed. Cell phones don’t work so you have to be very prepared. Our kids did FANTASTIC and were pretty much rock stars.
So that’s our big trip. We are already planning another one and I am positively ITCHING to go. Next time I think the only thing we might do differently is stay at the Sand Dunes for two nights and do Marfa on a Friday or Saturday for one night. There were so many things we didn’t get to do and are wanting to try.
Despite meltdowns from each of us, long days and long nights, and a constant battle of dust and dirt – we made it and lived to tell about it. One more item off our family bucket list has been checked off!