How NOT to visit Texas. Part 2

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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 after midnight; there’s a Texas-sized storm; and we’ve just arrived at a very remote and eerily 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.

Thirty minutes later, the rain showed no signs of slowing, we were losing the battle against the leaky window and everything was getting soaked. Something had to be done. Eventually, I realized that the leaky window was on the side of the RV underneath the awning. 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. Eventually, I 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 it was so unbearably hot and muggy, we really needed the air conditioning. So I was going back outside again 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, completely 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, there kept being more and more. They were getting inside somehow… BUT WHERE!?!?  We were both woozy from the DEET fog and not thinking clearly anyways from the trauma of it all. At this point, we were bitten up like crazy, and knew there was no way in hell we would be able to sleep in the RV that night 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.


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.

And the fates had one more trick to play on us that trip.

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.  Are you effing KIDDING me.

The remainder of that night is all a panicked blur.  I drove on all through the night, unable to see out the foggy windshield while Stef frantically killed mosquitoes non-stop; hours and hours rolled by of her swatting, me trying to see.  Both of us traumatized and desperate to get away. Westward!  Dry-ward!  Find me a Sprinter dealer that can fix the damn 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 we were so wrecked over that whole experience 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 Hell

When we were too exhausted to continue on, we finally came to a stop in Fort Stockton, Texas. With mosquitoes still thick in the van, there was no way in hell we were going to sleep in there.  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 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.

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

    1. Other Steph

      OMG, fantastic! You know, in that horrifying-glad-it-didn’t-happn-to-me kind of way. Schadenfreude, I think. Closest I’ve come is trying to camp in the Sierras in July. I was packing up my tent and breathing in mosquitos at the same time. And as bad as that was, it STILL doesn’t sounds as bad as your story. (Also, I was fully clothed and not in danger of electrocution.)

    2. Dave

      I am typing this reply on my phone while hidden completely under my sheets at Sea Rim SP. Like, right now I am a desperate refugee inside our own RV. It’s 4am and I’m reading your (hilarious) story because we’ve been invaded. We stuffed towels in cracks, Press-n-Sealed vents, did everything we could think of. I am leaving as soon as day breaks, this place is insane.

    3. Bill

      Well, it’s too bad we didn’t see this post 4 years ago in time to warn you about Sea Rim State Park. It may have been too dark to notice, but the “camp sites” are ten feet from a mosquito-infested bayou. My wife and I spent an evening at that park taping all the canvas joints in our 1999 Coleman popup with duct tape. After about two hours of this fun we’d manage to slow the invasion to a slightly more tolerable stream so we could sleep. Haven’t been back since.

      Otherwise, fall, winter, and spring camping in Texas state parks is awesome!

    4. Jennifer Harris

      Ya know, I’m not an engineer or a meteorologist, but I do have enough sense to come in out of the rain. But seriously, if the wind was driving the rain in a certain direction (which is what happens when a “norther” blows through) and you have a leaky window in the path of the driving rain, did it ever occur to you to turn your RV around to shield the leaky window from the driving rain? Obviously it didn’t, or you would have.

      1. James - Post author

        Things were pretty hectic, so nope – didn’t occur to turn the rig around.
        Besides, we were pulled into a designated camp site, so all the hookups were on the driver’s side of the rig.

    5. Ron J.

      I have only just started to consider the idea of RV’g across North America. The video reviews and all of your tips have really helped in providing me with a better understanding of what that would entail. Thank you !

      I recently read, with great amusement, your Texas story and had my son read it too. He pointed out how much the story reminded him of a great Canadian story teller we listen to on our road trips – Stuart McLean. Listening to these broadcasts, cds, and podcasts on our travels has become a tradition that has filled our trips with laughter and great memories.

      For you and any of your fellow readers who have not yet discovered the wonderful world of Dave, his family and friends – as told by Stuart McLean – a treat is in store for you (Google: The Vinyl Cafe) It will make the hours of driving fly by. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does – everyone deserves to laugh at stories that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Cheers !

    6. Yoshi

      James, NASA wants your ID card back! Stef, if you want to kill your husband for the insurance money, at least let him keep his pants!
      Great story, but I really wonder where you got your engineering degree? I guess it happens to the best of us? Glad you lived to tell the tale. Better luck next time Stef !

    7. 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!

    8. 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.

      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!

      1. James - Post author

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

    9. 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 🙂

    10. 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!

    11. 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.

      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.

    12. 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 😉


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