Heading west – Copper Breaks & Paulo Duro

We awoke to our third morning in a city car park, quite ready to get back on the road again and stay somewhere quieter. Ian had recommended we visit Copper Breaks State Park as we headed west and in Fort Worth we were around 3 hours away. We were also in need of showers, water and somewhere to charge our batteries, so a campsite definitely had its selling points at this stage. We arrived at the park and the friendly people inside set us up with a campsite for the night at $26, which is about standard. It also seems crazy when some places offer very similar facilities for free, but they are not normally as scenic I suppose, here you are paying for the location.

We were told that there was a Dutch oven cooking event going on a bit further into the campsite and that if were hungry we should head down and get some free samples. We thought we’d go check it out, although I can’t say I was optimistic about what the vegetarian selection would be.

Parking up, we let Aimee out for some exercise, as after three days of city life she was going a little crazy. She was also spoilt with some food.

There were several trestle tables full of food, including stews, meatballs and other meaty things. Lee, has the same relaxed attitude to being a vegetarian that I possess after a few too many, and went ahead with the meatballs and other bits and bobs. I, being sober, wasn’t left with many options, aside from puddings so I went ahead with enjoying some caramel apple crumble. The people there all showed the normal level of surprise at two random brits, especially ones walking a cat, and a lot of them came to chat to us while we munched on free samples. Lee went to move the van up to our spot to get the most out of having electric hook up by plugging in our new transformer, while I was walked around the nearby area by Aimee. By the time Lee returned there was a black forest gateau ready and also some hot apple juice, proper wintery food. We stayed a little while longer, before the three of us walked back up to Ruby.

Lee phoned his dad and by this time the sun was setting so I walked around the campsite to get some good photos of a rather good sunset.

It’s a shame this truck was here instead of Ruby, that would have been a great photo.

This was the best I could get instead.

The morning came and we were excited to go on a proper walk around the park. This was getting more and more deserty, and had the red rocks and cliffs we were looking forward too but on a smaller scale. We decided to make up a walk combined of several different trails, and started off walking out from our campsite. Aimee was coming with us again and spent the first half an hour trying to climb everything, smell everything and dig up everything. After that, she settled down a bit and began to actually start walking forward with us as supposed to doing anything but. I think she was so excited to be outside that initially she just had to investigate everything. We walked a fair way before she started lying down in the path and staring at us. Lee picked us her up for a bit but this apparently wasn’t satisfactory, she then tried to sit on his rucksack but kept sliding off. I was adamant that if she was going to be in a rucksack, it would be the one we bought her specially that we had spent months carting around in the back of the van. So, I took this as cue to put her in her bag, which until this point has been an unpopular choice. This time she actually settled down for while without complaining and we continued walking! It seems that she has actually realised that the bag is supposed to be a nice relaxing thing, and not a tiny Aimee prison.

We continued through some nice rocky bits.

Lots and lots of cactus and deadwood, feeling very wild west.

Aimee now had had enough of the bag and was out again, trotting alongside us. We came to a junction in the trails and decided that we should be getting back to camp. We needed to find somewhere else for tonight and still needed to pack away. Just before we headed back, we turned right away from the campsite to go to the overlook for Copper Breaks lake where we wanted to fly Steve out. I was cat babysitter as she isn’t a fan of the noise he makes, which sounds somewhat like a swarm of angry bees.

We then headed back to Ruby, sorted our water tanks, and got back on the road. As nice as it would have been to stop here another night, we are not only on a budget but also a bit of a deadline, we have to be in Las Vegas on Christmas Eve and there is so much we haven’t seen in the west.

 

The next place we wanted to stop was Amarillo, but we decided to stop a free campsite in Memphis on the way. By the time we had finished our walk we would be arriving towards the end of the afternoon, and I’m not a fan of arriving at camp in the dark. It was only an hour or so to reach the spot, which proclaimed to have free water, showers and hook up! Sounds perfect! The only snag was that you’re supposed to ring and get a permit from the police before you arrive, but as it was a Sunday the office was shut. We decided to go for it anyway and see what happened. When we arrived we found that the hook up was working but the water was turned off for the winter and all of the facilities locked. Still we had just had showers and filled up everything, so this isn’t a really a problem.

By this point I have decided I am definitely getting ill, which wasn’t great news. It looked this was a nice quiet spot though and we wouldn’t be dealing with someone else’s noisy RV heating system.  It was a pretty bleak park and this finally was starting to feel like winter was settling in; the temperature had dropped, trees were bare and the grass dead. As we started to settle in for the night a police car pulled up the other side of the car park, Lee was outside giving Aimee a walk and after hiding his beer can (alcohol is strictly prohibited!!), went over to check we were ok to stay. Better to be upfront I think than try and hide and hope no one spots you, our van is pretty distinctive. It turns out that the police didn’t care at all, just told us that if we were stopping more than one night to contact the city hall and get a permit. It was nice to have the peace of mind that no one would bother us.

In the end, despite its appearance this is not a quiet spot. While it’s not noisy people or cars as such, there are the inevitable trains and their ridiculous horns and on top of this something very industrial is going on nearby at night. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s pretty loud. This meant I awoke after a fairly crappy night’s sleep not feeling too great. In the end we had an easy day in the park. It’s was now quiet chilly and I was glad we’d done the warm clothes swap at Jeff’s. Lee had an idea (another one) about how we could try and make some money on our trip, he thought we should design some merchandise and sell it online. We’d already downloaded illustrator and made a logo, so we spent most of the day coming up with a few designs and uploading them online.

Click here to visit our shop.

We went for a short walk around the park, which really isn’t that nice and covered in a load of litter. Lee cycled to the shop as I had the urge for some hot cider and rum, good for a sore throat you see, and we both tried to pick the lock on the toilet block unsuccessfully. Lee phoned city hall and after a lot of questions, got us a permit to stay another night.

When morning came, it was now time to get to Amarillo. One the way out of Memphis we saw the possible cause of the industrial noise, it appears to have some kind of cotton factory with these massive bales of cotton outside.

As we drove, we looked for some parking spots for the night which seemed to be pretty scarce. We decided to try and get some Wi-Fi in a bar to upload our video, as I’d caught up a bit on our Youtube channel. The first place we stopped was Rumours Cocktail Bar, which looked suitably shabby. Inside had a few people who looked like they spent a lot of time sitting in those exact seats. Smoking was permitted inside, which is a bit of a novelty and they had a shuffleboard table (whatever that is) amongst pool tables and giant jenga which you can see in the background. The barmaid was incredibly friendly, and after trying a sample of a local beer we ordered two pints. She asked us if we would instead prefer a pitcher (4 pints) for $7, at that price it would be rude not too.

I set about uploading and downloading everything we needed to, but as is often the case in a lot of bars the internet was terrible. The barmaid offered us a cupcake as it was her birthday, which was nice and we sat and enjoyed our beers. We were half way through out pitcher with the video only 1% uploaded, at it looked like we would need to find a different bar!

We had decided that it was going to be a Walmart kind of night and we drove to another place called Whiskey River which is on the way there. It couldn’t have had a more different vibe, the bar maid wasn’t exactly hostile but she didn’t look overly impressed either. We ordered a bottle of beer and tried the internet again, it was probably worse than the first place and we soon packed up and headed to Walmart.

We parked up right beside the building around the back so that we could steal their Wi-Fi from inside the van. Walmart Wi-Fi is awesome, not only is it very fast but it has no blockers on content we could download any TV shows we wanted to watch, currently we’re on Masterchef and the Apprentice.

The morning was not the best of days and for one reason or another we ended up staying another night in the car park. We decided it was time for Christmas decorating and we went inside and bought some things to jazz up Ruby. We tried to make mulled wine, which ended up in taking a bottle of nice wine and making it slightly worse. We listened to Christmas music and covered everything in tinsel while everyone, including th cat, wore terrible Christmas jumpers, it was magnificent.

The next day, we were packing up when the manager from the autozone part of Walmart came over and asked us to move the van as we were in the customer parking. We told him we were heading off anyway, and he was quite pleasant about the whole thing. I asked him if he would be able to test our leisure batteries, as they didn’t seem to be doing very well and said that was fine. So, after packing away we reversed up to the shutter doors and got access to the batteries, unfortunately it didn’t really give us much information as the battery test wasn’t particularly sophisticated, but it was nice of them to check it for free anyway.

The canyon was only 15 minutes down the road and before long we were parked up in the car park after identifying a trail we wanted to walk. It was an 8 mile round trip out to a rock structure known as the ‘The Lighthouse’. This is the viewpoint over the canyon on the way down to the trail we walked. P1010450

The walk was interesting straight away, with red rocks and mountains in the distance.

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There were lovely scenic views of the mountains in the background.

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The beginning of the walk predominantly winds down one side of the canyon, through some interestingly shaped rock features.

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It’s mostly a flat path, apart from the last climb to the lighthouse itself.

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This point is aptly name ‘Buena Vista’

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The first view of the lighthouse itself, it’s clouded over a little by this point.

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The trail officially ends at the base of these, but you can then climb up as it is clear the majority of people do, to gain a view out over the canyon and take a seat while you catch your breath.

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Walking on behind this point, will take you to the lighthouse itself. As we walked that way, two very large and bouncy dogs appeared on the path in front and rushed towards us. I fielded them off while a terrified Aimee clawed her way up Lee. Once at the top though, we were the only ones for a period and had the view to ourselves.

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This was perfect timing for the sun to reappear and shine on the view we had.

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Aimee not looking too traumatised by the experience after all. This was also another time to get some great footage with Steve, which will be on our youtube channel soon(ish)!

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It was then time to start making our way on the 4 mile return to the van, the sun was low in the sky and throwing some great shadows onto the contours of the rocks as we started to walk back.

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P1010518We made it back to the car park just as the light was failing. Lee wanted to stay here and camp, I, the boring voice of reason said it was very expensive. In the end, he won and we drove back to the main gate to get a permit for the night. By the time we got there the office had just shut, so instead we went and found our own spot. If any rangers turned up, we could always pay in the morning. Most places seem to be happy to allow van in at night, but you are supposed to go and pay in the morning when the office opens. I made use of the showers which are always welcome, it felt like it was going to be a cold night.

We plugged into the hook up and settled down to watch a movie. All was going well until I knocked my water bottle over and it went all down the 240v plug sockets. Nothing happened for a moment, and then there was an ominously soft, yet slightly explosive noise and everything on the 240v circuit turned off. Looks like the water ran down the plug and into the socket. Still, everything is fused so the main board should have just tripped. It had indeed and we dried everything off and reset it. Then it turned out that the transformer was no longer working… we changed the fuse, still no joy. Starting to get pretty pissed off that I might have managed to inadvertently fry our new transformer, we tried another plug socket on the campsite and fortunately, for us and not them, it looks like we fried their hook up point instead.

While we are clearly destructive campers, we are still considerate. It appeared everyone around us had gone to bed so we didn’t want to start the van up and wake people up driving to another spot. We sneakily pushed it down the road to the next one and tried again, this time we had power back although the plug sockets still needed to dry out we could at least use our battery charger overnight. We decided to set an alarm and get up early as if we had gone before the office opened, we wouldn’t have to pay for our short time here.

In the end we sailed through the open gates at 8.30am, about $40 better off. Our next overnight stop would be en-route to Santa Fe with some sightseeing along the way.

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