When we joined the Good Sam club through Camping World they mailed us the Trailer Life magazine. One of the 2013 issues had an article about Balloon Fiesta out in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The author honed in on how 200 Airstreams converge on the field and celebrate for a week long rally each year. I immediately added this trip to our bucket list and I was overjoyed when planning for it came to fruition.
In late September, early October 2014 we took 17 days to travel west for the main event – Balloon Fiesta – but to also stop and see the sights along the way.
Recently I had come across the website RoadTrippers which is map-based discovery site for planning travel and adventures. I planned the majority of our trip through this site mapping out destinations, length of travel, and sites along the way. I’m very visual and love maps so this site was perfect for me to discover places along our route. Coupled with the navigation of Roadtrippers I also used Evernote to detail out our very specific daily itinerary. To book the majority of the campsites I used ReserveAmerica.
When I was in elementary school my parents took us out west tent camping for two weeks. I now look back at that trip and can appreciate the amount of effort they went through to make it happen. Plus they had kids and were in tents!
Leaving for two weeks causes you to evaluate every aspect of your daily routine to figure out how it could be duplicated in the tiny space of our Bambi trailer. We took in to consideration clothing – for cold and hot, meal planning, tools, toys like bikes, and a whole host of other items. We knew that while at Fiesta Field we would be “dry camping” because there was no hook up to water and electric for four nights and five days. Frank bought a “quieter” generator and then ended up buying a hitch-mounted crane (!!) to hoist the thing in and out of the back of the truck. If we didn’t have to bring this life would have been a lot easier but we were newbies at dry camping so you live and learn.
Naturally we wanted to stop and see sites along our route so I booked campgrounds at state parks from Florida out to New Mexico. What we learned after four days was that 7+ hours of driving per day really killed our site-seeing abilities when we had to get to campgrounds before they closed for the day.
Here’s an overview of the places, dates, and memorable moments:
First stop: Cracker Barrel in Fort Pierce, FL on our way out of town. Fuel for the long road ahead!
Night 1: Silver River State Park – Ocala, FL | TripAdvisor Review
I had always wanted to stay at this park and we took it slow heading out of Florida and easing in to our long vacation. On Day 2 we went to the Silver Springs park with the famous glass bottom boats – this is Florida’s first tourist attraction!
Night 2: Blackwater River State Park – NW, FL | TripAdvisor Review
The attraction is swimming in their river but it was raining and chilly and better suited for a summertime activity. The park was well-maintained but quite a distance from I-10.
Night 3: Fairview Riverside State Park – Louisiana | TripAdvisor Review
This park attracted me in that it was on the water and I thought Frank would be able to do some fishing. Nope. It rained and was dreary when we got there but the next morning it was sunny and I took pictures of the water while Frank was emptying the black tanks.
Dreary weather followed us this entire time until we finally got to Texas.
Night 4: Krause Springs – Spicewood, TX | TripAdvisor Review
This was a park I found on Roadtrippers that looked ah-may-zing. It was privately owned and was another one where it has it’s heyday in the summertime because of the natural springs. When we were there it was deserted and we didn’t love that they locked you in at night.
Nights 5 & 6: Carlsbad, NM
We stayed at “White’s City RV Park” and arrived very late to find that all the sites were filled (they didn’t take reservations when I called weeks ago). Guess who took all the sites? Airstreamers headed to the same rally as we were! The next morning we woke up and moved off our tent site and to a regular site. This was a campground we stayed at when I was a kid and my family took us to to the caverns.
Day 6 we toured Carlsbad Caverns the full day and then went back at night for the bat flight program. (TripAdvisor Review) Because we had two nights at this park we felt a bit more relaxed and not like we were constantly having to pack and go, pack and go.
Night 7: Enchanted Trails RV Park – Albuquerque, NM
Just down the road from the Camping World where we would be staging the next morning to caravan over to Balloon Fiesta.
Nights 8-11: Fiesta Field RV Lot | TripAdvisor Review
Dry camping for four nights without water and electric. We were right next to the balloon museum and had a direct view of the field where the balloons would launch. Because our rig is so small they parked us very close to the field with a great view.
Words cannot describe living amongst so many Airstreams and watching balloons fly directly overhead each morning.
While in ABQ we also went to Petroglyph National Monument and took the Breaking Bad trolley tour.
Nights 12-14: United Campgrounds – Durango, CO | TripAdvisor Review
This was the part of the trip that I hadn’t planned. Our neighbor on the field was from Durango and really talked up the town. Because it was only about four hours north of ABQ we decided to head up and take a look. Ironically, Durango was another location of our out west adventure from when I was a kid. I found the campground that we had stayed at back in the 90’s but it was closed for the winter. United Campground was a fabulous choice and even had the Durango Silverton train run through the grounds twice a day!
Mesa Verde is not far from Durango so we took a day to visit this national park. Because we used an entire day to see Mesa Verde we felt we should extend our stay in Durango to spend some time in the downtown. (TripAdvisor Review for Mesa Verde). The leaves were starting to change in Colorado and I couldn’t refrain from taking photos!
We booked it on our way home knowing that we had used up all leisure time in Durango.
Night 15 was a quickie at a KOA in Burkburnett, TX.
Night 16 was another KOA in Mobile, AL.
Passing through Tallahassee on our last day we met my Aunt at Cracker Barrel for breakfast.
We bought a GoPro for this trip and it took me weeks to edit the footage but this is what I came up with: