3/31/06: Big Bend National Park, TX: After a week at Laughlin AFB campground, we moved 20 miles away to Laughlin AFB's marina and campground on Lake Amistad. Nothing exciting happened for those few days. We did see a bunch of wildlife in the campground. The deer didn't seem afraid of us and came to within feet of the motor homes. After leaving the Del Rio area, we arrived in Big Bend National Park a few days ago. We're dry-camping in the Rio Grande Village campground, and it's HOT! Without hookups, there's no Air Conditioning. This 90+ degree heat is slowly wearing us out. But it hasn't kept us sitting still. When we arrived, we were lucky to get a site. As usual, we didn't make reservations, and are glad we didn't. We originally planned to stay here 2 weeks and would have made reservations for 2 weeks. But the heat is getting over-whelming and we'll only stay 1 week. When we arrived on a Tuesday, this campground was full by 3:00pm. Came Thursday morning, 80% of the campground left.
Our first full day saw us taking a 100 mile driving tour of the west side of Big Bend. We made a few stops at scenic spots and overlooks. We also stopped for a 2 mile hike into the Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande river. A hot hike into a cool location. Yesterday we spent hiking into the Boquillas Canyon and soaking in the Hot Springs. The Hot Springs area was a small resort area active in the early 1900's. Many buildings still stand, including the hotel. But all that remains of the bath house was the foundation. But that didn't stop the 20,000 year old hot water from coming up from the ground into the "pool". Boquillas Canyon was another short hike along the Rio Grande river into a neat looking canyon. We were literally feet from Mexico, separated only by 20' of river. Friends recommended we hike the "Window Trail". The "Window" is a location in the mountains that form a view of the desert below. We started early on this 6 mile hike to avoid the heat. It was great to be out again and the "Window" presented a wonderful view.
Coming from Arizona, Big Bend is nice and pretty. But we must be missing something as we're not overly impressed. We've seen this rugged beauty of the desert all around Arizona. We think it's funny, as we've met people who got excited at seeing a Prickly Pear cactus with a flower bloom. Twice, people on the trails have made it a point to tell us "there's a cactus in bloom" on the trail. Yes, they're pretty, but nothing like we've seen in a full bloom in Arizona. Now we know how we must have sounded when we got excited seeing new things and places to us on our East Coast trip.
3/24/06: Laughlin AFB, TX: The last couple days have involved giving the motorhome and Jeep a good washing. They look like new again! We also took a day trip to visit nearby Brackettville, TX, to see the first Texas movie stage location. Known simply as Alamo Village, this sprawling complex was the stage for John Wayne's 1959 epic movie "The Alamo". The Alamo set took 2 years to build. Upon completion, the movie would be the most expensive movie then made in the U.S. with costs topping 12 million dollars. The Alamo, and the town, were built with a dedication to authentically replicating San Antonio during the early 1800's. More then a million and a quarter adobe bricks were made and used. It took 12 miles of water pipe, 30,000 square feet of imported Spanish roofing tile, and a million square feet of concrete flooring. The Alamo Village is a complete town with jails, saloons, general stores, hotels, stables, a church, bank and blacksmiths shop. Additional construction allows this facility to serve movie productions companies as a fort, hacienda, frontier town, or deserted Mexican village. Its many buildings store an assortment of props from stage coaches, wagons, buggies, surreys, guns and period clothing. Near the rear of the village is a two room adobe building which houses the John Wayne Museum. Here we found all the promotion stills taken during the filming of the movie along with a large assortment of candid shots taken during the production. Excluding the Alamo, the list of movies and other productions which have been filmed here goes on for a while. Many I had never heard of, but "Lonesome Dove" did catch my eye. The list runs from the Roy Roger show, to a video "Tougher then Leather" by Willie Nelson. During the season, the Village produces several performances and gun fights each day for the tourists' pleasure. Unfortunately, as this was the off season, we were not able to see any of the reenactments but a different experience was available. The strange, almost eerie feeling as I walked down the center of the street of a ghost town, and pictured Kenny Rogers in "Gambler V" riding toward me on a dusty horse as tumble weeds blew across the street, and the sun beat down on my face with its withering effects.
While in Brackettville, we also stopped at Fort Clark Springs to do some geocaching. Fort Clark Springs is a community built on the location of old Fort Clark, an Indian fort from the 1850's. The new community is a recreation community, mainly consisting of "Winter Texans", or "Snowbirds". People buy memberships and property. What we thought very interesting is that all housing construction near the old fort is strictly controlled. Even new construction must be made to look like the old fort. So the entire fort area looks the way it did in the late 1800's. The community boasts 1600 acres of wilderness and outdoor activities. We were impressed with what we saw. The geocache we hunted for required a 1/2 mile walk along the Las Moras Creek. This was one of the most beautiful 1/2 mile walks we've been on. We startled over 30 white-tail deer, saw a few dozen hummingbirds, many other birds, and came upon a large Indigo snake sunning himself in the creek. We recently learned Indigo snakes our our friends, as they eat Rattle snakes!
3/21/06: Laughlin AFB, TX: After leaving Weslaco, we stopped for the night in Laredo at the Lake Casa Blanca International Texas State Park. Other RV'ers had warned us of a high crime rate in Laredo, so we chose the state park for increased security. It was a large park on the lake. We then moved to Del Rio, TX and are currently staying at the Laughlin AFB campground. We had planned to only stay here a couple nights, but will stay for a week instead. The weekly rate is only $62.50 (about $9 a night) for full hookups. This is a small base and was very quiet over the weekend. They train new pilots here, so we now have planes flying all day. Our site is large and beautiful, looking over a playground. A nice touch is they have privacy fences partially between sites. Our site is also long enough to fit two 40' rigs in.
The main reason we decided to stay a week, instead of a couple days, was for medical care. We're lucky to have medical insurance provided by Larry's military retirement, but we still need to see private doctors. Since fulltiming, this has been a bit of a problem. We can see any doctor we want. The problem has been getting prompt appointments. This is what happened here. Connie has a prescription running out in a few weeks and needed a new prescription to get it refilled. We get prescriptions for 9 months, but they eventually need renewed. The earliest the local clinic could see her was a week out. So we're here for the week, then we'll move 15 miles down the road to Laughlin AFB's marina and other campground on Lake Amistad for a few nights.
3/16/06: Weslaco, TX: We spent our last day here in Weslaco at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Preserve. We thought our National Parks Pass would get us free admission, but wildlife preserves require an additional sticker on our pass. This $15 additional sticker includes free admission to US Forest Service, Fish & Game, BLM, and other US government operated sites that require an admission. The basic $50 pass only includes parks operated by the Dept of the Interior. Our other option was a simple $3 entrance fee, but we sprung for the additional sticker. Now lets hope we use it enough.
We enjoyed the preserve. Although not as much wildlife as we would have liked, we did enjoy seeing birds and had a nice 2 mile walk. Many of the birds in this preserve are only found here in the US, as they are more in Mexico and South America. We did get good views of the Green Jay, and the Oriole. We also took the optional 90 minute tram tour for $3 a person. We're glad it wasn't more money, as we were disappointed in it. They drove pretty quick, would stop and explain about a tree, show a picture of some wildlife, then speed to another tree. We wished we had bicycles to ride the 7 mile trail instead. We would have seen and enjoyed it much more that way. We've talked about getting a pair of bikes, but we need to work out how to carry them first.
3/15/06: Weslaco, TX: After leaving Corpus Christi, we continued our southern journey towards South Padre Island. We ended up at a Passport America (discount) park in Weslaco, TX. The park is okay and we finally have a spa pool to use! We've been here 4 days and yet have used the spa. We spent one day on Boca Chico beach with a nice picnic. I had read about a Mexican gun ship wreck on this beach. It was sunk in the mid 1800's during the war between Mexico and the Texas Republic. While we drove the entire beach, we didn't find the wreck. But it was high-tide. Another day, we met up with more workamper friends from Lake George. We've sure met a bunch of people around this nation. It was a great day and lunch with Kathy and John Boddy and Jim and Edna Hutchinson. Today, we finally got out to South Padre Island. Even though it's spring break, it wasn't as crowded as we feared. It also wasn't impressive after seeing the other beaches. Another nice picnic and finding a few more geocaches. We then stopped to visit with Boomer friends John and Cathy Robnik and Roy and Linda (?).
3/10/06: Corpus Christi, TX: After driving for a few hours through some VERY HIGH winds, we safely arrived at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. Without reservations, all we could get was dry-camping (again). But that's okay with us. Only 1/3 the price and we do just fine. We've never been here before and didn't know what to expect. There doesn't seem to be much here, other than it's a popular place for RV'ers to come for the winter. I guess it's because of the ocean, the beach, and usually nice weather. We thought we were going to be blown away on our first day here. We were originally parked only feet from the surf and the motorhome was getting covered in salt water spray. After a few hours, we moved over to the other side of a peninsula. We're now parked on an old runway just feet from the edge of the seawall. But there's less wind here and it's blowing OUT to sea on this side.
Yesterday, we did some geocaching and visited friends from our Lake George workamper jobs last summer. Evanne and Ray Schmarder came to Port Arnasas last October for a two month stay. They fell in love with their RV park (and the price of $300 a month) and have now been here for over 5 months. It is a real nice and relaxing park near the coast on Mustang Island. We enjoyed our visit and a good walk on the beach and surf. When we were walking up to our Jeep to leave, we got hit with the "It's a small world" syndrome again. Just that morning, Connie and I were working on our Boomers club monthly newsletter mailing. When we're placing mailing labels on the newsletters, we enjoy seeing the names of our friends. We came to the label for Wilmer and Nancy Swerdfeger and Connie said "I wonder what Wilmer and Nancy are up to"? What do you know! We're walking to our Jeep and there's Boomer friends Wilmer and Nancy in their utility trailer just 2 spaces down! They thought they recognized our yellow Jeep. What a surprise! We hadn't seen them for over a year and hadn't been keeping in touch. This has happened many times before and it still surprises us. To meet friends we haven't seen in over a year in some random place in some random state is astonishing. If it was 5 minutes later, we would have left the park and never met. Makes us wonder who we've missed by just minutes along our travels.
3/7/06: El Campo, TX: We enjoyed the past few days at the Escapee RV Club headquarters. Everyone is so friendly, it's like staying with family. During our brief stay, we visited the Big Thickett National Preserve. What makes this place unique is this is where many ecological systems from the east meet the west and vice-versa. Here, this is the farthest east you'll find many plants, but also the farthest west you'll find many plants together. We went for a two mile nature hike, but were pretty disappointed. The recent hurricanes have torn the place up, although the trails have been cleared. I'm sure it was the time of the year, but there was almost no wildlife and the forests looked very drab. Also during our stay, we found a couple geocaches and got the annual Texas vehicle safety inspections completed. Although our inspections had expired, we wouldn't have needed to get new ones until we entered Texas again. Well, we entered Texas again. We also met fellow Boomer friends Edward and Margie Strickler. We left Livingston this morning, heading for Corpus Christi. We've stopped at a quiet Elks club for the night in El Campo, TX.
3/3/06: Livingston, TX: We arrived at the Escapee park in Alabama too late for the Mardi Gras parade, but were there for Mardi Gras' Fat Tuesday. The park hosted a big dinner and party for the evening. We had a blast! It always amazes me how RV'ers in their golden years can act like little kids. After relaxing and reading for a couple days in Alabama, we continued our trek west towards Texas. We stopped at Tickfaw State Park near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was a beautiful state park among the bayou. We loved listening to a ton of different song birds, wood peckers, and owls. We enjoyed a couple nature hikes and their visitor's center. It was another couple days in the life of leisure, as we relaxed and read some more. That's the problem with reading novels. We get engrossed in them and don't want to stop reading. Today, we broke our 200 mile rule (travel less than 200 miles at a time). We drove almost 300 miles to the Escapee's RV Club national headquarters in Livingston, TX. We pulled into their "Rainbow's End" RV park this afternoon and got a full hookup site. We sort of planned to be here today (Friday) to pickup our mail before they closed for the weekend. We had 9 minutes to spare. By picking up the mail in person, we saved paying to have it forwarded to us. We were expecting a few packages. Besides, we like this park, the people, and the activities. We have a few plans for this weekend besides laying around and reading (although, we're 3/4 finished with our novels). One of the packages we received was our new zoom lens for our new digital camera. We'll test it out this weekend at a local nature preserve.