Navajo Dam, NM to Quapaw, OK – June, 2015
We decided to spend the month of July in our home state of Missouri. We wanted to arrive at the end of June so we could catch one of our granddaughter’s t-ball games and enjoy Independence Day with our friends. We plan to stay through a family reunion at the end of July then resume our journey. Once we made that decision we thought of a ton of ways it would make life easier and save us money. We scheduled doctors’ appointments we’d intended to skip, maintenance on the truck and trailer with mechanics we know and trust, and work on a rental house we would have hired out. It cost us about $300 in fuel to make the trip and it will cost the same to get back on track but we’ll spend most of the month camped on the properties of our friends and family so the savings in campground fees alone will balance that out.
We had a little time before we wanted to start back and had decided on a southerly route through Albuquerque so we thought we’d spend a few days at Navajo Lake in New Mexico. Jim had hoped to do a lot of fishing in Colorado but many of the rivers on his must fish list were flooded during our visit. He heard the fishing at this lake was good and that the San Juan River was not flooding below the lake where its waters are controlled by the dam. We made a reservation at the Navajo Lake State Park through Reserve America. One of the few reservable sites still available was in the Juniper Loop. The description said it was large enough for a 40 foot rig, plenty big enough for our 35 foot 5th wheel. Because I had heard such great things about New Mexico State Parks and the only one we had visited had supported this praise, I never thought to check campground reviews. Lesson learned!
This was one of the worst campgrounds we have ever seen. The Juniper loop is quite a ways down a pretty poor dirt road but the loop itself was so tight we had no business taking our rig around it. It was a narrow road, the turns were too tight, and there were pylons lining it so there was little room for error. The site we had reserved was possibly 40 foot on one side but because of its angle I doubt it was even 30 foot on the other. It also had pylons lining its perimeter. If by some miracle we could have maneuvered in to it a corner of our rig would have stuck out in the already narrow road. We left, grateful to have only suffered some minor scratches from tree branches. We stopped at the first campground in the park, which was paved and had a campground host, to inquire if they had any first come first serve sites available that we could fit in but did not find any. This loop was also very badly laid out and the sites were small and crowded. Later we called Reserve America and did get a full refund.
We headed to the town of Navajo Dam where the next closest camping options were. After our frustrating morning we were happy to find a gravel parking lot with electric sites at Abe’s Motel & Fly Shop for $20. We paid for one night not certain what our next move was. After lunch we headed out in the truck to explore the river. The state park has another campground on the river called Cottonwood Loop that we were told is newer and well laid out. We headed that way but the road to it was horrendous. After a mile or so at 2 miles an hour we gave up and turned back. I can’t imagine they don’t have a better way to reach that campground but I sure couldn’t find any evidence of it. We decided we’d had enough of this place and we would start the trek to Missouri the next morning. We agreed that this was the worst experience we’ve had since our journey began and also that if this was the worst thing to happen to us that we have it pretty darn good.
The next day we drove a whole 5 hours and stopped in Santa Rosa, NM. We had a pleasant stay at the Santa Rosa RV Park for $30 and enjoyed a spectacular New Mexico sunset.
The following day we made the short 2 ½ hour hop to Amarillo, Texas and stayed at Amarillo Ranch RV Park for $35. As RVers we just had to visit The RV Museum. It is behind the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV store. There is limited parking and you walk in to the store wondering “what museum?”. But just ask and they will be happy to escort you out back to a large building with dozens of vintage RVs. It really is a great collection and there is no admission fee. We enjoyed about on hour of poking around all the cool exhibits.
Jim loved the Flxible Bus from the movie RV.
The next day we decided to drive as long as we could stand to. We could have made it all the way in under 10 hours but after 8 we were pretty road weary. So we set our sights on a place we were familiar with and only 90 miles from our final destination. Downstream Casino is in the very northeast corner of Oklahoma. In fact, most of their parking lot is in Kansas and their convenience store and RV park are in Missouri. They built an awesome RV park just a couple years ago. It’s all paved, the sites have water and electric, and we’ve never seen it crowded. I love their neon sign.
We are not much for gambling but we have come here several times to meet friends, to see concerts, and sometimes even to gamble. It is basically free. You have to get one of their player’s cards and then each card owner gets one free night. So a couple can stay for two nights free. If you gamble, you can earn points and get more free nights. The best thing about this place is they allow registered RV guests to use their pool. One of our favorite trips we stopped on the way back from a weekend camping in Arkansas and spent a whole day at the pool. We had so much fun we agreed to stay and do it again a second day. We never set foot on the casino floor but spent the money we would normally have budgeted for gambling on food and beverages at the pool bar. I don’t think we’ve ever gone to this pool that we didn’t meet someone interesting. After 8 hours on the road we had a light dinner and headed over. It was great to cool off, wind down with a couple adult beverages, and make another new friend.