It was a week before Easter 2019, weather seemed to be pretty nice and we decided it was time to take a little shake down trip to work the bugs out of the RV before we headed out on our extended trip we had planned in a couple of months to the West.
We loaded up the pups (Maggie and Zöe), hitched up the truck and headed west to San Antonio and then south on I-35 to Laredo, Texas.
I had just installed an RDS 40 gallon auxiliary fuel tank in the bed of my truck that I could refill my truck tank with on extended trips. I like the fact that you cannot easily tell it is a fuel box, and the fuel filler is protected with in the locking lid, and also has a locking fuel cap. There is no pump or fill nozzle visible from the exterior.
The auxiliary tank supplemented my 26 gallon factory truck tank and extended my tow driving range from 250 miles to 650 miles. That would easily provide me with a full day of driving without having to stop at a busy fuel station and also allow me to choose where to stop for the cheapest diesel prices. I have easily seen diesel prices vary as much as 70 cents a gallon while on a trip. (We use a free phone app called Gasbuddy to find the cheapest fuel in the area or on our route).
Naturally, We cannot go 650 miles without a break, and I chose not to plumb my auxiliary tank directly into my truck for fear of voiding my expensive extended warranty I purchased. So for now, we pull into a roadside rest area or other parking spot and stretch our legs, let the pups do their business, maybe grab lunch or a snack from the RV and fuel up at the same time.
There is never a wait so our stops are short, sweet and efficient. I pump fuel into my truck using a portable fuel transfer kit that I modified specifically for my purpose. It will pump fuel into my truck at a rate of 10 gpm (gallons per minute) so my truck tank will fill in about 2 1/2 minutes. I am very pleased with that rate and actually think it is faster than most fuel station pumps.
On the way there we encountered some thunderstorms, and it was a good test for driving in inclement weather with the 37 foot 5th wheel. We had left a day early with plans to pull over at a rest area and dry camp overnight , so we pulled over in the early afternoon at a rest area South of San Antonio on I-35 in Medina, Texas. It was a single road rest area and we pulled into a designated RV space near the vending machines. The rest area had a good green space, covered picnic areas, Restroom facility and vending machines. There was also a dump station and water.
Normally, as a courtesy, you do not open your slides when you overnight park, but in our situation, I like to open the passenger slide about a foot as it provides protection to the extended aluminum entry stairs which may not be visible to a vehicle pulling along side of us.
We also like to open the slide a bit to allow access for the pups to get to their bed in rear of the RV. We prepared a simple dinner in the RV, and went to bed to spend our first overnight in a rest stop. There was Truck and vehicle traffic all night long as to be expected in a rest area, as well as the nearby traffic of the highway, but we still were able to get a decent night sleep with windows open for ventilation.
One of the great features of our 2013 37′ Heartland Sundance 3270RES 5th wheel is the ability to access the kitchen, bathroom and the bedroom without having to open the slides, which makes it very convenient for roadside overnight stops and breaks during travel. The following morning, we were in no hurry to leave early as we had a 2 pm check in time and we were only a few hours away, so we had a good breakfast in the RV and hit the highway before noon.
The drive to Laredo Texas was pleasant with an overcast sky and mild weather. Traffic was light and the GPS provided clear directions to reach the State Park. Even with our large Rig, there was plenty of space to maneuver. Check in was straight forward the ranger provided good information and instructions with directions to the campsite. While we were there, we purchased the Yearly State Park Pass for $70, which eliminates the $4 per person daily entrance fee, which would have been $24 for the planned 3 day reservation, which we extended another 3 days afterward, which would have been a total of $48 dollars without the purchase of the yearly pass. The campsite was $21 dollars per night with full hookups which included water, sewer and 50 amp service. The campsite was not lakeside, but only a short walk across the street to the lake access. There was plenty of wildlife to be experienced with deer and raccoons noted near our campsite on our visit. Each campsite also has a covered picnic area and BBQ grill. We felt the price of the campsite was an excellent value, especially with downtown Laredo and the International Bridge only a couple of miles away. You can even make arrangements to stay up to 90 days, which is great for Winter Texans.
The following day, we decided to take a day trip across the International Bridge into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico for some shopping and dinner. We did not want to take our vehicle across and preferred to walk. So we drove our vehicle to a shopping center parking lot, and took an Uber to the International bridge for a few dollars. There is a 50 cent toll to walk across the bridge into Mexico and change is available at the window near the gate. There is no ID required to go into Mexico and remain locally, but you will need a valid Passport and state issued identification to get back into the USA. I have used my credit card when making large purchases for medication at the pharmacies. Be aware if you charge on your card, there will be an additional charge for the exchange from pesos to dollars. This could be a substantial charge that you want to be aware of in advance. I try to estimate my expenditures and carry a little more cash than I think I will need for all other purchases in shops and restaurants to be on the safe side. There is really no need to worry about changing your dollars into pesos unless you wish to do so, as all of the shops will take dollars.
We decided to walk in several blocks while we did our shopping. We stopped off for some refreshments, and to hear a little live entertainment at our table from a Trio. That is one of my favorite things about being in Mexico, is the abundance of talented local entertainers that come to your table and perform. Tips for the musicians are very reasonable as well.
After an afternoon of shopping and walking, we had worked up an appetite. I was in the mood for cabrito (kid goat) and on recommendation of a local, we went to EL Rancho Restaurant on the main road.
It was a well established restaurant having been there any years, with beautiful statues near the front door, and detailed wood work on the spacious interior. There was also a talented Trio playing live on stage. Service was good, dinner and drinks did not disappoint, and the music was entertaining. After dinner we walked the several blocks back to the International bridge. I believe the Bridge toll was only 25 cents to go back across. The line was longer going back to the USA which is typical for pedestrians as well as driving traffic. The line seemed to move rather quickly and we were in line approximately 30 to 40 minutes. We had to show our passports and answer the typical questions of reason for visit, and now long we were there and we were on our way back in downtown Laredo where we called Uber to pick us up and take us to our vehicle awaiting us in the shopping center.
There was some bad weather with high winds and thunderstorms, and we decided to extend our trip for a few more days to avoid it. Lake Casa Blanca International State Park was a nice and peaceful park during our stay during the weekdays, which livens up on the weekends with families with children coming into camp and enjoy the facilities. There is Air traffic noise as the park is located across the road from the Laredo Airport, but it is not too disturbing, and no late night traffic.
We enjoyed our stay at Casa Blanca International State Park, and look forward to our next visit there.
You can click the photo to view a video of our trip to Lake Casa Blanca International State Park as well. There is a great South Texas Breakfast being made at the end of the video too!