I don’t know about you, but I hate cold weather. Even though Austin is known for it’s moderate winters, it still gets too cold for me. More importantly, the rain, cold, and occasional snow flakes make it impossible for me to swing the golf club with all those layers of clothing. I look and feel like the Michelin Man. And besides being cold, I get depressed, crabby, and cranky! That’s why I needed a winter escape.

To keep my wife from divorcing me, when Christmas is over, we plan a vacation to someplace with warmer weather.

Shortly after unwrapping Christmas presents with our family (which seemed like it took two days with 5 kids), we set off for a month-long escape with 70-degree weather. The first day was bright and sunny. We loaded the motorhome and Jeep with our gear. Inventory included bikes, golf clubs, shorts and sandals, hiking sticks, tennis racquets, and three cases of beer. We also took three bottles of Advil and lots of spare golf balls.

On this 25-day vacation, we planned to drive more than 2,800 miles, play golf on 14 different courses, and stay in 3 different golf resorts. We also spent a week with friends in Palm Springs, visited relatives in Los Angeles, and stayed with a high school buddy in Tucson. If that wasn’t enough, we hiked, took a hot air balloon trip, rode ATVs in the desert, dipped a toe in the Pacific Ocean, and took a Jeep off-road tour.

The first challenge was getting out of Texas. Of the 1,370 miles from Austin to Los Angeles, it’s 580 miles just to escape Texas. Rather than give you all the details, which would be a novel as long as War & Peace, I’ll just hit the highlights of our trip.

On Our Winter Escape, We Hit Snow in Texas

I carefully planned the trip so we wouldn’t have to drive much more than 250 to 300 miles a day on the way to Tucson. As it was, it snowed on us short of Ozona, Texas, which was our destination. As a result, we were forced to spend the night in Junction and wake up the next morning with snow on the camper. That’s not a good way to start an escape from cold weather!

We got off on a bad start, but here are the highlights and low lights from the first week:

  • The best time to look for a restaurant in Junction is not on a snowy and cold Sunday night. All the restaurants were closed, except one. And it wasn’t that great.
  • Golf at the Ozona Country Club and Butterfield Trail (see the picture below of what we could have played) in El Paso was cancelled thanks to 32-degree weather and light snow on the ground.
  • The scenery between Ozona and El Paso hadn’t changed much. It’s still flat and boring until you get to the string of mountains around Van Horn, which had snow-capped peaks.
Snow at the campground
Davis Mountains
Butterfield Trail Golf Course

But It Was Sunny In Arizona

Every winter escape needs some sunshine, and boy did we get it.

We had a great time in Tucson with good friends, 75-degree sunny weather, and excellent golf at Tucson National, The Gallery, and Gold Canyon. They were spectacular courses. The only downer was getting whipped by the girls whipped in a golf game called bingo-bango-bongo. We guys ended up doing the dishes for two days.

The Gallery Golf Course
Tucson National Sonoran Course
Gold Canyon

We left Tucson to stay a couple of nights at We-Ko-Pa Resort. Located just outside of Scottsdale, we enjoyed some good food, a comfy bed, and a superb golf course. We also spent a few hours on the craps and blackjack tables without losing too much money.

We Ko Pa Resort pool
Golf hole at We Ko Pa Golf Course

Need a Winter Escape? Head West, Young Man

We set off on another bright, sunny 75-degree day. This time, we hooked up with some Dallas friends who rented a place in Palm Springs for a month because they wanted to escape the cold weather. It was beautiful the day we arrived. After finding a place to park the motorhome, we walked a couple of blocks downtown for drinks, dinner, and music. That quickly became our routine for the next 5 days. In addition to the eating, drinking, and lots of dominos, we enjoyed a few other activities. These included:

  • Playing 18 holes of golf at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Course. We also played 36 holes on Westin’s Pete Dye and Gary Player golf courses, We followed that up with a long soak in the hot tub and lots of Advil.
  • Being sad when the rain came, which is extremely unusual for Palm Springs. We cancelled a hot air balloon ride, ATVs in the desert, and an off road Jeep tour. But it did dust the mountains with snow, which made for some beautiful scenery.
  • Hiking 4 miles uphill in the San Jacinto Mountains, where they had a great view of me relaxing in a hot tub and drinking beer. I also captured a good picture of my friends on a knob on the mountain. We also strolled through Palm Springs’ famous Thursday night street fair, which is alive with art, crafts, and music. Finally, we took a bike ride in the rain past lots of celebrity homes.
  • Eating at several good restaurants including Mexican, Italian, and Thai. Plus, we visited a British Pub, had lots of drinks, and enjoyed a variety of live music. On the other hand, the fellows lost to the wives at dominos. That meant we were back at the dishwasher.
Marriott Shadowridge
Hiking to the top of the mountain
Palm Springs street fair

California & Back Home

We hated to leave Palm Springs, but it was good seeing some relatives in Los Angeles for a couple of days. Then it was time to head back toward the Lone Star State. The end of the winter escape was looming.

  • The first stop was in Palm Springs to spend the night in the motor home in a casino’s parking lot. We saved some money by not having to pay for a campsite, but lost it all on the slots, blackjack table, cold beer, and food.
  • Next stop was Quartzsite, Arizona. It’s barely 18 miles east of the Colorado River and the California border. It must be the RV boondocking capital of the world. It’s simply amazing. The desert is filled with RVs of all shape and sizes, camping in the middle of nowhere, and they come to Quartzsite for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, fossils, gems, and RV shows. Of course, it seemed like at least 15 different flea markets selling everything you can imagine. We couldn’t find anything in the flea markets, nor did we scour the dessert for gems, but we did find a couple of fun bars and enjoyed the karaoke and cold beer.
  • After Quartzsite, we stayed in a huge RV park in the middle of Scottsdale where we played two spectacular golf courses: Talking Stick and Sun Ridge Canyon. We also hung out at a packed Country & Western bar with a good band and lots of folks two-stepping. It felt like we were back in Texas already.
Sun Ridge Canyon
Quartzite Camping
  • It was back to Tucson for a golf stay and play at The Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain and Casino Del Sol. Both resorts are fantastic, and the courses, Dove Mountain’s Wild Burro and Tortolita and Casino Del Sol’s Sewailo (about as close to a perfect 10 as you can get) were outstanding.
  • After those two experiences, and with sunburned faces, empty bottles of Advil, quite a few less golf balls, and lots of sand from the bunkers, we started the long boring journey home. We spent the first night in the El Paso Walmart and two nights in Ozona. Read our article about exploring Ozona where the highlight was the biggest and best chicken fried steak I’ve every had.
Casino Del Sol
Ritz Carlton and Dove Mountain
Chicken Fried chicken

And when we got home the weather was beautiful. It was in the low 70s! Still, it was a successful escape from the cold weather.

Mike Sharp
Author: Mike Sharp

I have a passion for travel and outdoor activities, and now I'm enjoying retired life. I will continue my traveling, golfing, boating, and enjoying life all across the great state of Texas.

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