@styyna: Here's what I do, like many people with mixed texture hair - I first remove excess water from my hair with wringing sections out and a light wrap in a terry towel, but no rubbing, until I get to my bathroom(I always wash my hair in the kitchen sink, since I take virtually all my showers after my workout at the gym). Then, I apply my gel, head-down, scrunching from the nape of the neck up to the front, working it through my hair. Then I use a microfiber towel, using that to scrunch. This removes a lot of water, and excess product. Those of us with mixed-texture often really do benefit from styling products and scrunching - otherwise we often have a poofy, undefined mess! I don't plop either - I think that really only works for long hair.
About the shampoo vs. conditioner-washing and all, I did the co-wash, curly-girl thing for 4 years and was OK with it, until my hair didn't seem to respond so well. So I've gone back and forth between using sulfate-free shampoos, and back and forth between silicone and non-silicone conditioners. No matter what though, I do do deep moisturizing treatments, and protein treatments too, since I color. Do you color? If so, you do need both. Actually, even WITHOUT coloring, with hair that is greying, or all white, one needs extra care because the hair at this stage is often dryer, and sometimes in need of protein. There's always that fine balance between just how much of each. I know what you mean about the co-washing weighing one's hair down after awhile, or even sooner, depending on what kind of waves and curls one has. I think co-washing works best for people who really do have a tighter curl pattern which is often accompanied by the hair being even drier by nature. I think since you only shampoo every 5 days or so(much like me) you're good. Basically it takes a little experimenting. As for myself, I never use heat on my hair, ever. I think this is why, as my hair cutter says, that my hair is in pretty good shape even with coloring. He says I'm "nice to my hair" meaning that I don't do lots to it, and that I condition lots!:)
As far as the gel, the LA Looks ones are available at any drugstore or Walmart - whatever is on your shopping route when you do get into town, as I know you live way out rurally. Best of luck!:) If I think of anything else I'll pipe up again!:)