Vanlife: Camper Conversion Weeks 1-2

It has been a month since I left VANgo with Wanderful Wheels for my camper van conversion.  I dropped it off sooner than my slotted arrival time on the contract.  But I wanted to take advantage of the nice window of weather in Colorado.  Additionally, I had tentative travel plans to go to Hawaii, that I ultimately cancelled.

Anyway, Wanderful Wheels nicely picked up VANgo at the Durango Airport just a few weeks before the holidays.  With the holidays, there was a slight delay to the start the camper conversion, but we added extra time for the build based on contending with the holiday season.


3 Days in Big Cypress National Preserve

About Big Cypress National Preserve

The Everglades encompass 4,000 square miles of Central and South Florida.  When a jetport was proposed to be built in the heart of them during the late 1960’s, conservationists, sportsmen, environmentalists, as well as the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian tribes fought to save the area.  As a result, the Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974.

Big Cypress was the first ever national preserve.  It was established in a compromise as advocates wanted to save the swamp but didn’t want it to be managed in as a restrictive manner as the National Parks.  Consequently, the preserve was formed to allow less restrictive activities such as hunting and to let Indian tribes keep their private land.

The Preserve is 729,000 acres, larger than Rhode Island.  It protects a freshwater swamp ecosystem which provides the largest intact acreage of habitat for the panthers of South Florida.  It hosts more than one million visitors a year, though I feel like most visitors to the Everglades spend their time on the 38-mile scenic drive in Everglades National Park. 

lily pads in big Cypress National Preserve

The History of Everglades City

Ten years ago, I visited the Everglades National Park for a day.  I really enjoyed it and wished to return.  Finally I did, only this time I explored the area near Everglades City and learned it has a very storied past.  I left with a wealth of historical knowledge.

The everglades region encompasses 4,300 square miles in Southern Florida.  The Everglades National Park protects the Southernmost 20% of the Florida Everglades while the Big Cypress National Preserve covers approximately 1,100 square miles.


Ways to Tour the Swamp in the Everglades

The Everglades is a subtropical wetland which makes up 4,000 square miles of Central and Southern Florida.  During the rainy season, Lake Okeechobee overflows, creating a shallow river through the sawgrass.

The river flows south through cypress swamps, wet prairie, and mangroves until it reaches Everglades National Park and the Florida Bay. 

While development has interfered with the ecosystem, there is still a diverse selection of wildlife including panthers, bears, alligators, crocodiles, snakes, manatees, and many species of plants and birds. 

Most visitors to the area follow the 38-mile scenic drive from Ernest F Coe Visitor Center near Miami to the Flamingo Visitor center in the southernmost portion of the park.  This area features many boardwalks, picnic areas, and canoe and kayak trails.  Ten years ago, I spent a day here.  After seeing all the wildlife, I wished to return.

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Travel Photo Challenge Day 3

I’ve been nominated by some fellow bloggers, Tony and Margie with Back Roads and Other Stories as well as Jyothi with Travel Explore Enjoy, to post one favorite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate.  That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations.  It is my understanding that the idea behind the challenge is to expose audiences to new bloggers and vice versa.  I’m always up for helping fellow bloggers, so I have accepted the challenge. 

That said, my rule following self is going to follow Tony and Margie’s lead and break a handful of them.  First, while a picture paints a 1,000 words, I’m incapable of posting a photo without some explanation.  Sometimes the story makes the image that much more special.  Second, though not specified, I think the intent is to post 10 days in a row.  I’ll be lucky if I post 10 weeks in a row.

windmill by sign to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

I broke up my road trip from Texas to Colorado into two days.  As a result, I had a chance to visit Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site which was sort of on the way.  The site is located 23 miles East of Eads.

Of all the times I’ve driven from Texas to Colorado and back, I’ve rarely even taken Highway 287, so the drive was relatively new to me.  I veered off the highway near Eads and followed many dirt roads as I made my way to the Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site.

As I weaved along the roads through the plains, I hoped my GPS was right, as I was in the middle of nowhere.  I had some degree of confidence since the Sand Creek Massacre site is a National Historic Site.


Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is located near Fritch, Texas on the windswept plains of the Texas Panhandle.  The dry grasslands have been cut by the Canadian River to create a canyon which is now a man-made reservoir.

The Sanford dam has created Lake Meredith which is the largest body of water in a 200-mile radius and supplies water to 750,000 nearby residents.  It attracts many migratory birds as well as recreationists who wish to boat, swim, fish, hunt, camp, hike, and bike ride.


Top Things to Do in Dalhart, Texas

About Dalhart

The City of Dalhart is located in the Northwestern portion of the Texas panhandle.  It sits on the border of Dallam and Hartley Counties for which it is named and is the county seat of Dallam County.  Located at the crossroads of  U.S. Highway 87385, and 54 and also home to the railroad, Dalhart is a small yet busy city in the Southern plains.

Dalhart relies on agribusiness such as farming, ranching, feedlot operations, pig farms, and dairy.  It is evident by the stench that wafts through air on windy days, of which there are many!  Despite the rural setting, the bricked street, historic downtown offers many things to do.


Lake Rita Blanca State Park

Lake Rita Blanca State Park, once the northernmost state park in Texas, is now owned and operated by the City of Dalhart.  Since it is now maintained by the city, “state” is removed from the name and it is now known as Lake Rita Blanca Park.  As suggested by its name, the park features Lake Rita Blanca along with many trails, parking and camping areas, and playground and pavilion. The park is located just 2.5 miles south of town.

barbed wire at xit museum

The XIT Museum

The XIT Museum is located in downtown Dalhart, Texas in the old courthouse.  The museum is free to enter, but graciously accepts donations.  It’s operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am-5pm, even during COVID.  Visitors just need to ring the doorbell to call a friendly volunteer to unlock the door.

The XIT Museum includes four show rooms.  The first, large room features the history of the XIT Ranch.  The XIT Ranch began as the largest fenced area in the world in 1880.  It was 3,000,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle set aside by the Texas constitution to be used to finance a new capitol building.