I am not now currently on the road. This is my disclaimer, I am back in Santa Barbara, California so the weather and events you will read about have come and gone. My blog for this trip will be a recall, and as asked, will include where I camped, what I paid and what I saw. Comments welcome.

Oh boy, a camping trip! Mason and Jackson.

Jeana checks out “her spot”

I left town on the west coast knowing I wanted to take the southern route, touch the Atlantic sea and return through the Great Smokey’s either via Interstate 40 or back to I-10.  I left on Sunday April 21st, 2019, visited Mom and Dino in the SFV on the way to my first night at the free dry camp, Chiriaco Summit (GPS: 33.663864, -115.723976)  30 miles east of Indio (or 70 miles west of Blythe,) behind the General Patton Museum. There are no facilities but on the pull off below there is the museum, gift shop, post office, cafe, convenience store, gas station and truck parking.

There’s a camp host who will check with you, you can use any open designated site, fairly level, with a fire ring, a view of the desert and the I-10 below. Large gravel sites, some road noise. Lots of room, friendly, privately owned, be careful of snakes. I wouldn’t let dogs run free here, plenty of walking. I’ve stayed a few times and would absolutely stay again. Night skies, sunsets are beautiful, strong Verizon signal too.

My idea was to head east quickly so I was geared for long driving days,  didn’t want to get burned out getting across the country. Austin is 1,474 miles from Santa Barbara, that was my first point of interest.


As I approached Deming, New Mexico I noticed the sky ahead was lighting up, like you’d see for a festival. It was on the horizon off to the right in a circular bowl shape. The lights were so steady and continuous that it didn’t occur to me that it might be caused by natural means rather than technology. Darn ignorance of a California driver!!! I kept going without a care wanting to make time, the sky was clouding over. Ho-hum, I was fascinated by the light show, at least I can say that about my ignorance. And then I was in Deming. It was lightening! I’d never seen such a mass of continual and steady strikes, the thunder was reverberating as if I was in the center of a cresending symphony written by a madman. Well I could drive past I thought, it didn’t look so spooky…  did I mention I’m from California, land of earthquakes and fires, we don’t have the sky doing this kinda thing to us. There were other cars and lots of trucks on the Interstate. I was enjoying being able to drive in the dusk. The closer I got the more intense the storm became. Kind of like it was happy to see an old camper van stuffed full dogs and a solitary female driver and wanted to greet us. All of a sudden just as we entered town, someone turned Niagara Falls on top of us. The wind started battering us, and the thunder!!! The thunder was striking every moment and it was hitting the highway in a fantastic display. To my credit I took the van off the Interstate, I was shaking so hard I could barely hold the wheel against the wind. My dogs were terrified. I pulled into a parking lot and my terror intensified as I realized this was not going to stop and the likelihood of enduring the onslaught unscathed in this location was risky so I did the only thing I could think of, I got back on the Interstate and followed a big semi-truck. I had to settle the dogs who all wanted to be in my lap. They did not believe me that we would all be just fine, I wasn’t exactly reeking in confidence.  Pulled out at about 10 mph, remarkably my little LT Daisy pulled up the hill and out of this depression which was turning into a water park. As soon as we got up the hill the thunder stopped, the flooding stooped. I was amazed. Seems I had made the right choice.

Spent that night at Sunland Casino in El Paso, I was very tired, it was dark and the same as my last time through this area, the roadways were torn up with closed freeway exits and bizarre detours, roadblocks with quick unexpected turns into a dark unknown. This is were I discovered my headlights with their new housing were disgustedly insufficient, at least if I cared about where I might be going. I paid $15 for electric and water, neither of which I used or needed. Was not impressed with the bright overhead lights and all the noise; it’s a spot in the parking lot, there is security so depends on what you’re looking for.  Never saw my neighbors but made friends with the parking security guy, he loved the dogs, talked to me about the weather and gave me a ride a few times back and forth from parking to the casino. I was so shaken I had little strenght left for walking. I tried to buy a hot meal, that was hopeless, the workers at the casino didn’t know what they severed and they were about to close, the menu was flashing on and off overhead, couldn’t read it, they kept offering me a hamburger – I don’t eat red meat. I gave up and had something cold and snacky from my cupboard. Would not stay there again. A hot shower to calm my nerves would have been great. They also have a hotel and a racetrack.  The odd thing was how once in Texas the Deming storm seemed unreal.

Somewhere Texas, loving the wildflowers.

Checking out the caverns.

The night after I stayed at the Caverns of Sonora.  I did not tour the caverns, dogs and I walked all over, was a place to rest, exercise the dogs and as such was fine. Hardly anyone there, so nice and peaceful. The dogs of course attract attention even if there are only a few people. Can’t remember what I paid, am thinking it was about $20.

Checking out the geology!

It was late to be seeing my fellow Lagotto breeder friends in Georgetown (Austin, TX) so I headed to the nearby reservoir. Tons of traffic. Had already checked with my friends and they advised not camping in Georgetown due to the Red Poppy Festival which we went to during my visit.  Red poppies from Europe arrived in Georgetown after WWI and have established themselves with natural reseeding. When they bloom there is a street party.

I passed through Marble Falls with its lakes and wineries, took a stroll through Fredericksburg; tried to get a cappuccino. The coffee place was closed so I tried the natural food store next to it, they had coffee. Oh my, Virginia!!!  Or rather Texas!!! This shop actually wanted $6.50 for a cap!!!  I thought I’d seen expensive prices for coffee drinks, so I asked if it was special coffee, no the espresso wasn’t that expensive so I ordered 2 shots and had her top it off with some oat milk, the total price $1.50! Go figure?  It’s a German town, shopping, cuisine, art, theater, wine, history, film festivals, spas, music, peaches in season. I popped into a few galleries and took the dogs for a walk at their central park.

Run, did mom say RUN!!!

Camped that night at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area for $12.  Was almost alone there so I let the dogs run free. And run and run and run. I was at first thinking, I could let them run and they wouldn’t instantaneously race across the open fields and plunge with utter delight into the water!!!  Nah, what kind of Lagotto would do that! So for almost 2 hours my poor van fevered badly stressed Lagotti played and ran and swam, Mason took a nap. I wish I could give them a place like this all the time. There are almost 10 miles of trails.  I learned from the gardener the next day that normally this is one of the top places to see the Texas Bluebonnets; this year the masses of flowers were underwater, flooded. I still thought the flowers were stunning along with the butterflies, bees and the gorgeous birds. Life was bursting. I would stay here again in a heartbeat, of course I was spoiled  having the park almost to myself. It was a little piece of heaven in spite of two of my ever so sweet Lagotti rolling in sticky mud and thick layers of burs and stickers right after we’d finished our run and I’d given them baths, ah-huh, had to do that all over plus wrestle the nasty stuff out of their coats. No rest for the dog mom! They did not understand the look on my face but I could see Mason, my dry one, smirking!

At dusk, sill almost alone here.

Spent the morning loving the flooded lake, then when I left I tried to take a scenic route to Georgetown, somehow that failed, mostly I found traffic. I took a wrong turn and missed the falls. I arrived at the perfect time in Georgetown, I’d just settled into a parking lot when Judith texted me. We, Judith, John and their two Lagotti and me and my bunch, met at lovely park for a walk. Berry Springs Park and Reserves, laced with beauty pecan and oak trees, Judith wondered if there were truffles. We walked around the lake and found a spot for the dogs to get wet and cool before heading for their home.

Five Lagotto all sitting in a row, amazing!

I learned how much and vigorously it rains in Georgetown and how the heat does not diminish at night. I parked comfortably in their driveway after chatting and relaxing with all the dogs running around. They treated me to a natural delicious dinner, the restaurant was upstairs in an unmarked building, I don’t know how you’d find it if you didn’t know it was there. Of course I don’t like elevators but it was fine, took the stairs after eating going down, the food was really good, then we walked around the Red Poppy Festival, snagged some wine and kept walking and talking, looking around. We stopped at a hat shop, there’s far more to a good Western hat than I ever knew. Returned to their home for dog talk, one of my favorite subjects!  Judith treated me to a really cool healthy homemade pancake breakfast and we took off to learn about Pecan Truffles. Our dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo are bred to find truffles so it’s always exciting to find where they grow and potentially let them do what the breed is meant to do.

One very appreciated thing Judith shared with me was a new weather app:  actually I have two, Storm Radar and MyRadar, now I could receive real time alerts for severe weather.

They do things different in Texas, apparently a cactus and a cow are types of types of trucks! Not so RVs! 

Okay, am taking a break ….  Will be back with the next review soon. I was very excited having made it this far all the way out to Austin especially with what happened in Deming. I had an idea I could relax after this.