Rocket Ranch

A big attraction near Brownsville is SpaceX, a half-hour from us near Boca Chica Beach. This huge facility—with the Starbase production site on one side of the road and the launch pad on the other—draws in gawkers of all types, some who want to be up close during launches.

Rocket Ranch is a campground that caters to those folks, and we got the scoop when Doug and Melanie stayed there.

(I took this picture right before they left our RV park for Rocket Ranch, in case they got recruited by the extreme enthusiasts and we never saw them again. Good news: they stayed for three nights and pulled out today, with their sanity in tact.)

Tracy and I drove out to meet them at their campsite, and even just the drive was a wild trip. You have to go through a border patrol checkpoint, which isn’t new to us but is always a crapshoot, and then you turn down an access road for all the ranches in the area.

“Rocket Ranch” isn’t exactly a ranch, is a small plot of land with no animals, but it’s got a locked entrance and a long driveway to the compound on the Rio Grande River.

The young guy who runs the place has populated it with a handful of vintage RVs (plus one new-looking Airstream Basecamp), which he rents out, plus he drives people out to SpaceX in his Mars-painted bus. What he can do for them there that they can’t do just by driving themselves, I don’t know. Maybe he has a spiel he gives over a loudspeaker?

Back on the property, he’s also got several outbuildings that look like party spaces, like this space-themed hangar with a couple of homemade bars inside and lights strung outside. Maybe Rocket Ranch truly rocks on launch nights. Can you imagine a bunch of conspiracy-minded space nuts all camped out together, riding a high after viewing a rocket launch so close to them?

The KK in Foul-weather Mode

There was no launch when Melanie and Doug were there, and they stayed in their own trailer/tent at a primitive camping spot right on the river.

This was the first time we’d seen the KK with the sides zipped into it: it forms an outside living area way bigger than what we have in the Airstream. They were protected by the wind and rain and could zip their windows to look through plastic or through screens.

I’m sitting with them inside here and can see and hear fish jumping in the river and can watch goats graze on the Mexican side. How cool is that?

When we are all in Alaska together and the weather is bad, we’re totally making their KK the hang-out spot.

Their campsite was pricy for not having hook-ups: You’re paying for proximity to SpaceX and nothing much else. Still, it was wild camping on the Rio Grande.

The Grateful Dead had a song called Mississippi Half Step with a chorus that goes, “Acro-ah-ah-oss the Rio Grand-eo, acro-ah-ah-oss the lazy river” over and over (I converted you with that rendition, didn’t I?) Melanie and Doug are only a drive away, and we’ll be traveling with them this spring, but after having them as neighbors for ten days, only a short walk away, I feel like they might as well be across some huge river or even on Mars. It’s hard to say goodbye to friends on the road! We’re getting to know our neighbors though, so maybe we’re adding to the friend stash.