How NOT to visit Texas. Part 2


2nd Amemdment Cowboy

Even the 2nd Amendment Cowboy can’t save me from my own stupidity…

So let’s set the scene back up.  It’s late; there’s a Texas-sized rainstorm; and we’ve just arrived at a seemingly abandoned Sea Rim State Park to find that we have a leaky window.  The leaky window was a drip at first, which quickly grew into a stream. I immediately knew what the problem was (when they installed the new windows on Das Bus, they didn’t seal the tops of the windows well enough), but I had no clue what to do about it during a driving rainstorm. Stef and I pulled out towels, and determined we’d plug the leak and wait out the storm.

30 minutes later, the rain showed no signs of slowing, and we were running out of towels. Something had to be done. Eventually, I realized that the leaky window was on the side of the RV underneath the awning. The wind had died down a bit, so the plan was to extend the awning a couple feet to protect the top of the window. This seemed pretty reasonable, but we have a manual awning, which meant someone had to go outside.   Valiantly, I offered to stay inside and continue mopping up while Stef went out to deploy the awning.

But Stef’s a modern, liberated woman, who was having none of my chivalry, and she abruptly decreed that I should be the one to head outside. Still searching for ANY reason not to go outside, I pointed out that since we have such a small RV, when I came back in with soaking wet clothes, I would only be compounding our rapidly growing moisture problem. Stef’s reply will undoubtedly go down in RVing history as some of the worst counsel ever given:

“There’s nobody else here. Just go outside naked.”

Now, I’m normally a pretty rational guy. Normally. But not that evening. I don’t know why, but I agreed, stripped down, grabbed the awning rod, and headed outside in the pitch black monsoon.

As I closed the door behind me, I learned something about mosquitoes.

Did you know that mosquitoes can fly in rain that is thick enough to ground airplanes? I never knew that, but it’s true. So add “covered in mosquitoes” to your mental picture of a naked guy, in the black of night, in a driving rainstorm, trying to deploy a manual awning. Good times. But, I eventually got the awning deployed.

What I decided to do next is so stupid, I can only blame it on blood loss from the mosquitoes. I decided we really needed the air conditioning, so I was going to hook up the power.

Thankfully, there was a power pedestal nearby that had circuit breakers. Thinking I was being smart, I made sure the breakers were off so I would not hook up “hot”.  (You know, because of the hurricane.)  I got everything ready to go, and was ready to flip the breaker on, when I realized I was standing in a shin-deep puddle in a driving rainstorm. I was smart enough to think I at least didn’t want to be grounded when I gave it the juice, but not smart enough to think much past that.

I decided that I would jump in the air as I flipped the breaker. Yeah.  THAT will keep me safe…

You’ll probably have occasional moments in your life where time passes very slowly. This was one of them. As I jumped, naked and covered in mosquitoes, I flipped the breaker. It was at the apex of the jump where I realized “I’m going to land back in the puddle.” I thought of Stef, trapped in the RV, having to watch my naked, lifeless, and bloodless body twitch with electricity through the night until the authorities came to rescue her. And I thought about what kind of story she might make up to explain the situation. But I also thought “Hey, Bug Zapper!  I’ll at least take some of these mosquitoes with me.”

In what seemed like an eternity, I landed back in the puddle. Miraculously, I did not electrocute myself and the AC kicked on. Success! I made my way back to the RV.

Imagine mosquitoes thick enough to change your skin color. Now imagine walking back into your RV like that and closing the door. That’s exactly what I did. This increased the population of our RV from 2 to 250,002. The awning deployment had worked to stop the leak, but the trip outside had let an insane number of mosquitoes in. This quickly became our new #1 issue.

As I tried to dry myself off and get dressed, Stef started to kill mosquitoes. When I was dressed, I joined her. For over an hour, we killed mosquitoes inside our RV. By the thousands. It was pretty intense, and at some point, the intensity got to be too much for Stef. In a moment of panic, she decided she needed to apply some of our aerosol insect repellent… Right now…  INSIDE THE RV.  Remember, we only have a 22 foot class B. In seconds, Stef’s foray into chemical warfare started to give us both DEET poisoning. We put wet rags over our mouths and went back to killing mosquitoes.

Into the second hour, we were still killing mosquitoes, and we realized we weren’t making any headway. We thought they were getting inside somehow.  I don’t know if that was actually true, because we were both woozy from the DEET fog.  But there was no way we would be able to sleep in the RV without waking up as shriveled, bloodless corpses. It was still raining, and we were pretty much out of options. We admitted defeat. We had lost the Great Mosquito Siege of 2014. We just wanted to leave.

We had to break camp, which meant disconnecting the power and retracting the awning. Once again, I was nominated to go outside. The rain had not abated, and the mosquitoes had not either. At least, this time, I had the sense to go outside with some clothes on. Long pants. Jacket. Hat. Gloves. Closed toed shoes. I was fairly well protected, but breaking camp meant opening the door two more times. This let another 500,000 mosquitoes into the RV, but we were finally able to retreat.

SONY DSC

We may have lost The Battle of Sea Rim State Park, but at least we took a bunch of the enemy out during our retreat.

As I fired up the RV and rolled away, the fan on the Sprinter chassis picked that exact moment to die. No defroster. No way to clear the windshield.  Awesome!  The remainder of that night is all a panicked blur.  I drove on, non-stop through the night while Stef killed mosquitoes.  Westward!  Dry-ward!  Find me a Sprinter dealer so they can fix the fan!  There’s one near Austin?  NO – We need to retreat farther!  Albuquerque?  Fine!

We still had about another two weeks of our trip to go, but it was so bad that we’d had enough.  Texas had beaten us.  We were going home.  Below is a little Google Maps depiction of that 24 hours.  16 hours of it was spent driving 1033 miles.

Highway to HellWhen we finally came to a stop in Fort Stockton, Texas, we were still too freaked out by the mosquitoes to sleep in the RV.  So, still in soggy shoes and underpants, we checked into the Hampton Inn.

And that, my friends, was how I took the best shower I ever had.



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    14 thoughts on “How NOT to visit Texas. Part 2

    1. Tom Cahill

      OMG. Too Funny. We went to AK once and asked the guy who was going to fly us somewhere what we might bring to AK that we didn’t use in the lower 48. He said we could leave our flashlights home and asked if we had bug head nets. We replied that we usually used bug spray to which he replied, that doesn’t work so well here…. We bought the head nets and although we only needed them once we NEEDED them. Mental note, TX in winter only. Thanks!

      Reply
    2. commenter

      As a resident of Texas, I can tell you that south Texas is the *worst* for mosquitos with square beaks. Right behind Louisianna, Mississippi, and Arkansas (I don’t know about Georgia, Florida, and North and South Carolina). Tennessee is slightly better. There is no way I would camp in any of the Southern states at any time but winter. Which is to say, late November, December, January, and early February. And I’d be concerned about November and February.

      In any event, this is quite possibly the funniest short camping memoir I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Consider writing a book, I bet it would be hilarious.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Point taken!
        If and when we make it back to Texas, you can bet it will be in December or January!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Horrible pretty much sums it up. Fortunately, it wasn’t so horrible that we can’t laugh about it now!

        Reply
    3. Michelle Ahlgren

      James (and Stef), This is the most well-written, comical camping adventure we’ve ever heard about and read. I was starting to chuckle as I read it; so I then started to read aloud to Fred. By the time I go thru to the ‘woozy from Deet’ part of the tale, we were both laughing so hard that tears were running down our faces! Way to go, Story Teller in Chief 🙂

      Reply
    4. Terry Lee

      “… but I agreed, stripped down, grabbed the awning rod, and headed outside in the pitch black monsoon.”

      In the unlikely event that this could ever happen again, you should probably try to improve your negotiating skills!

      Reply
    5. Michael Smith

      A well-told story of gallantry! Very funny telling of a series of unfortunate events. Bravo, James!

      I’m following your quest for Das Bus replacement; thanks for the reviews. I share your enthusiasm for small European motorhomes with garages for bicycles (e.g., Chausson 728eb, though I prefer twin beds). I hope a US manufacturer addresses that market.

      Looking forward to future posts and reviews.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Believe me… the first North American manufacturer who offers a small RV with a garage is going to have two huge fans in Stef and I.

        Glad you are all liking the story. It’s one of those things that’s funny now, but it sure wasn’t funny at the time.

        Reply
    6. Ingrid

      OMG…. these two posts on ‘how not to visit Texas’ had me in stiches. Last Feb. we drove straight from San Antonio to Las Cruces because we were fed up with the weather. Makes me wonder why we’re heading to Galveston in November 😉

      Reply

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