A Travellerspoint blog

October 2017

Oct 24, 25 - South Padre Island, Texas

Party Beach, Isla Blanca RV Park, South Padre Island, Sea Turtle, birds.

sunny 28 °C

The four of us decided to head over to South Padre, a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, for a couple of nights, to complete our south Texas experience. South Padre is the Texas version of Florida's Fort Lauderdale, and South Carolina's Myrtle Beach. A great beach and a great play area for young people in the right season. Every water sport imaginable can be done here and then you can boogie down at one of the many night spots on the 3 mile long strip.

It is also a great place for what are referred to here as Winter Texans. Isla Blanca RV Park has over 600 spaces and they are full from mid November though to April with seniors seeking warmth from the northern winters. All over this part of South Texas there are huge RV parks, right now sitting mostly empty but soon to swell with new arrivals.

Isla Blanca is a well worn RV park and the amenities are sorely in need of some improvements. The washrooms leave much to be desired. The park will close for much of 2018 for major renovations, and not a moment too soon. Our stay was fine, the place is mostly empty right now, so there is no pressure on the facilities, and even with that, the women's toilets were a mess by our departure.

Here is a shot of G&K's Airstream crossing the bridge to the Island.

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For posterity, here is George fueling us his new RAM pick-up for the first time...19.25 gallons, at $2,18 a gallon.

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After parking the trailers we drove up past the inhabited part of the island to the end of the road, about 10 miles. Here the wind is moving the dunes over the road and we came upon some horse back riders coming back from the beach.

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We stopped at the Visitor Center for Wi-Fi access. The town has many semi-permanent sand castles set up and hosts a huge sand castle building cost each year. These sand castles have been sprayed with a mixture of glue and water to preserve them for quite a few months before they have to be rebuilt.

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We also had lunch at Dirty Al's, a seafood joint right beside our campground. Jenny and I had a shrimp Po-boy and G&K shared a blackened fish Po-Boy...we all had a beer. Karmen also bought some fresh Gulf shrimp to add to a Gumbo for our supper that evening.

Oct 25 - I was up early to get in a power walk to work off all this excess food we have been eating and when I finished the sun was just beginning to come up our over the Gulf.

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You can see lots of oil rigs off on the horizon, and there is a new pipeline being built to carry local oil to Brownsville and Corpus Christi refineries. The oil economy is everywhere in Texas.

We spent the morning at the Birding Centre, where well over 200 species of birds pass through on their migrations north and south. The boardwalk provides opportunities galore to spot birds.

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This is just a sample of the birds we saw on our two plus hour walk along the boardwalk.

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We also spotted one turtle:

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After the birding centre we went to Sea Turtle Inc. the sea turtle rescue centre. They have been saving and rehabilitating sea turtles for 30+ years and have several turtles that have been so damaged they cannot be released back into the wild. They use these rescue turtles to educate the public about the dangers of humans to the turtles. A well spent 2 hours here.

Finally, a reward. We headed over to Padre Island Brewery for Happy Hour. $8 growler fills (George filled 2 of them) and oysters for $0.75 each. We downed 24 of the little guys and all had a pint of beer. A great way to end our exertions for the day.

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We finished the day with Pizza at Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzeria, one of the island's best light dining experiences. We shared a Soprano Pizza. Here they serve pizza with a salad and garlic bread...interesting. Most of us drank wine, but George stuck to beer. A great ending to our stay on the island.

We boogied back to Mission on the morning of October 26. Jenny and I will hang out here until Monday morning, enjoying the company of our good friends before beginning the 2,990 mile journey home on Monday.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 13:57 Archived in USA Tagged birds turtles south_texas south_padre_island Comments (1)

Oct 20 - 23 - Mission, TX, Part 1

Retama Village Resort, South Rio Grande River Boat Ride, Progresso Nuevo

sunny 32 °C

Oct 20 - We arrived late in the day at George and Karmen's (I'll refer to them throughout as G&K) in Mission, TX The drive south from Fredericksburg, to the very southern point of the state of Texas was pretty good, even though it became progressively hotter as we moved south. By the end of the day the temperature was in the mid 90's and the humidity high.

They live in Retama Village, a gated RV park where you own your lot. Even though G&K have a 500 sq ft tiny house, one of the requirements of the community is that you have an RV on your lot. Some owners have decent sized houses with carports for the motor home/trailer, others have just a storage building and you live in your RV and most recently, like G&K's you have a tiny house and the option of living in the house or the RV when you are here. Many of the owners are northerners who winter here in south Texas.

Our hosts are in the process of upgrading their travel gear. Last week they bought a new Airstream Flying Cloud, a 25 foot beauty. Tomorrow they will be getting a new tow vehicle, a 2017 Dodge Ram 1500 pick-up truck.

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We had a great first evening with George grilling lamb burgers for supper. We relaxed with a couple of beers and some good conversation before crashing for the night. It is cooling down to the mid-70's overnight and we feel comfortable enough to sleep in the un-airconditioned TaJ.

Oct 21 - After a fairly comfortable night, I am up at 6:00am, feeling the need to get some exercise. So I do a 30 minute power walk in the humid early morning air. It is still pitch black out, the sun does not rise until about 7:15am. Shortly after sunrise G&K are up and at it, getting their GMC Sierra emptied out prior to heading off to the Dodge dealer to get their new wheels.

We loaf about for the morning, with Karmen taking Jenny and I down to the Retama Village clubhouse, which houses the pool, exercise room and a multi-purpose clubhouse. Jenny gets some internet time and I browse their lending library.

Jenny and I are a bit at odds about our departure date for home. I want to set a date, as I don't like open-ended visits, and she wants to play it by ear and decide to leave on a moment's notice. We will get this worked out I am sure, as time progresses.

At Noon we make the vehicle swap and are soon headed off in search of a local bbq joint...Rudy's. Wow, was this place hopping at 1:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. Jenny and I split a 1/2 pound of brisket ($7.50) and we each had a beer a shared a coleslaw. Total bill $22.00 Delicious. G&K had smoked turkey which looked pretty good as well.

By late afternoon it was really hot, high 90's and very muggy. I caught a nap in TaJ and we decided this would be a good time for us to defrost the fridge in TaJ. It has been severely iced up over the last month. We hope to get to done by tomorrow, then turn it back on and give it a full day to re-cool before the 4 of us take off for South Padre Island on Tuesday.

Supper was pork in enchilada sauce, with a side of poblano peppers and rice. Delicious as usual. We killed off a margarita each, and then two bottles of wine before crashing for the night. A really hot evening in TaJ, but our super fan managed to create a breeze which allowed us to sleep.

Oct 22 - Back up for another power walk at 6:00am...Jenny not participating. It is going to be smoking hot today so I am glad to have gotten the exercise out of the way early.

WE lazed about for the morning, using the clubhouse for some internet time and planning our afternoon adventure. There is a River Club, right on the Rio Grande River that has an afternoon country and western dance from 2pm to 5pm. Now, none of us are dancers but it was fun to see mostly seniors enjoying a two-step dance out on the floor. The club also does a 1 hour cruise on the Rio Grande River. The river is the border between the two countries and there is no wall here...yet. The boat driver said there is a plan to build an 18 foot high wall on the levy next to the river, with gates for the businesses, like his, that would be outside the wall, but still in the US. At the end of his comments on the wall he noted that the Mexicans hadn't written the cheque yet, to pay for it.

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This is a watch station on the border...both manned and camera mounted versions of these are all along the shore of the riv er.

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We did get to finally wash TaJ. The R-pod was filthy after more than 60 days of dry weather. Lots of dead bugs, road tar and so on. It felt good to get here cleaned up once again.

Another great meal from Karmen, another couple of bottles of wine and another day.

Oct 23 - Our goal for today was to walk into Mexico at Progresso Nuevo. The border:

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George bought a new hat for $6.95:

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We had lunch on the street from a vendor. He got us beer for $1 a bottle and I got a real Coca Cola, made with cane sugar. Pretty good. Our lunch was $10 for a stuffed baked potato, and tacos and fajitas. Pretty darn good.

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The street in Progresso Nuevo is all about shopping, with the predominate stores being discount pharmacies. Some street shots.

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WE bought a litre of tequila for $11.95 and a litre of triple sec for $13.00, and had to pay duty of $7.50 when we crossed back into the US. Lots of fun for an afternoon.

When we got back to Retama Village, the Monarch butterflies were putting on a show. There were a dozen or so at G&K's place and Jenny got this shot:

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Tomorrow we head off for three days on South Padre Island. Blog to follow once we return.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 15:54 Archived in USA Tagged mission retama_village airstream mexico_visit south_texas Comments (3)

Oct 18, 19 - Fredericksburg

Brewery excellence, wineries, historical town. white pick-up trucks

overcast 26 °C

We've decided to forgo San Antonio and Austin, both large cities, and, while there are things we would like to see and do there, we can take a pass. Our trip is nearing an end and our eagerness for more time in the car is fading. Instead we will hang out here for two days before moving on to Mission TX and a visit with our friends George and Karmen.

Over the past week or so we have noticed that the many of the thousands of pick-up trucks we were seeing along the roads were white. Over a few days we became convinced that this was the predominant colour of trucks in Texas. So, the other day, when we were cruising along I-10 we decided to count all pick-up trucks for 50 miles and see what the percentage of white ones really was. We saw 160 pick-ups, and 57 of them were white, or 40% of all the trucks we spotted. The things we do to keep ourselves entertained while driving!

Fredericksburg is a lovely small city of about 11,000, roughly in the centre of Texas. We are staying at the KOA here and while the services, such as showers and so on are pretty good, the wi-fi sucks. So this morning I spend two hours in the town library using their wi-fi to get the blog up to date and do some surfing for a cover for TaJ.

Winter is coming back in Nova Scotia and TaJ does not fit in the garage so we will have to cover her. Camping World seems to think all R-pods are the same size and it is difficult to get any information from them on-line, so we will have to stop in and see if we can cut through the crap and get the right model cover for our R-pod. San Antonio has a Camping World and we will stop there on our way south to Mission. The price is right though, $185, with a further 20% discount for Good Sam members, so for around $150 US we should be able to get a custom fit cover.

A couple of weeks ago a propane dealer told me our 8 pound propane tank valve was not working properly and refused to fill it. I was looking for a second opinion and found it today at a local propane equipment dealer. Valve is fine, tank has been refilled and is back in use with our Coleman stove. We like using this instead of those throw-away 1 pound tanks.

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After getting these little chores out of the way, Jenny and I headed off to the oldest craft brewery in all of Texas...the Fredericksburg Brewery right in the centre of town. This place is excellent. We shared meatloaf for lunch; I had an Octoberfest Beer and Jenny a Red Ale. Very good and the meatloaf was pretty good as well.

We walked the very nice downtown streets for a couple of hours, avoiding the wine shops, as we planned on doing a winery tour out on Highway 290 after our in-town walkabout. We did buy a jalapeno jelly to go with an appetizer supper back at the trailer this evening.

The winery tour was a bust. We have a problem paying for a tasting if the winery won't then discount the price of wine purchased. The two wineries we stopped at wanted between $12 and $18 for a tasting, and that cost was not deducted from purchases unless you bought a minimum of 6 bottles. Wow! And the wine was way overpriced. We are not wine experts, although we do like wine and know quite a bit about it. Most of these wineries are changing way over $20 a bottle. Now, our drop dead price for a bottle of wine is $20 and we prefer to pay less than that. So, we passed on all wine tastings and can only conclude that Texas wine is either so very good that we can't afford it, or it is overpriced.

We did buy a bottle of wine for supper at the grocery store, a Pinot Grigio, from Italy, already chilled, for $13. So there, take that, you pretentious, over-priced Texas wines!

Oct 19 - With our propane tank now back in service, we made oatmeal for breakfast. The oatmeal we eat is the kind that takes 10 minutes to cook and we add extra oat bran and raisins to make it a real filing breakfast.

We then did a walking tour of Fredericksburg, where, in the Marketplatz (downtown open market) a volunteer crew was making potato salad for this weekends "BestFest" Today they were boiling 600 pounds of potatoes, and chopping 150 pounds of onions to make German potato salad tomorrow. What an industrious crew.

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The square around the Marketplatz also has a lovely statue of the 1846 signing of a peace treaty between the Germans who founded the town and the local Comanchee tribe. They are proud to announce that this is the only treaty with Indians in the United States that has never been broken.

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This is the second morning in a row where we have put our heater on to take the chill off. It was 48 F when we got up this morning. First time since we were up in the mountains of California that we have needed heat.

Pecans grow in this area, and we bought some shelled new crop pecans to try. Much better than the ones we get back home in Canada. Here is a look at them on the tree, and the husks when they fall.

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Our afternoon included getting the laundry up to date once again before heading off for a tour of the pioneer village in town. Fredericksburg was a targeted move for a group of Germans in the mid 1840's. The pioneer village has several buildings from the early days of the community with a self guided tour. Each building, when you enter, has a pre recorded message explaining the significance of the artifacts in the building as well as a history of each family.

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Fredericksburg is a really with-it town. They have festivals at all times of the year, and the downtown is very well done. For example they have the Best Fest this weekend, with food and drink in an Oktoberfest atmosphere. This ties in with a weekend swap and shop market that takes place on the third weekend of each month and to top it off they have a motorcycle rally here as well. All RV parks in the town are full this weekend.

Our supper tonight will be sushi and salad. We are already packed up and ready to move on to Mission TX tomorrow

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 09:05 Archived in USA Tagged fredericksburg Comments (2)

Oct 16, 17 - Carlsbad Caverns NP, on to Fredericksburg

Marvelous walk down into the Caverns, driving through oil exploration Texas, Walmart overnight, Fredericksburg

sunny 24 °C

Oct 16 - We booted out of El Paso about 9:00am with a planned very quick 1/2 day visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, before heading deep into the heart of Texas.

The 150 mile drive up to Carlsbad was through lovely west Texas desert, climbing up into the Guadalupe Mountains. Beautiful scenery along the way. We arrived at Carlsbad just after noon, which gave us almost exactly enough time to do the walk down into the Caverns through the Natural Gate.

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The entrance to the canyon warns of steep grades ahead. They were not kidding:

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You descend 750 feet in just over a mile of downhill walking. The early part of the trail is dimly lit, as a precaution against animals venturing into the caverns and becoming trapped. So, it is cautious walking for the first half mile, as you cannot see the trail at your feet, There are hand rails and they advise you to hold on. Good advice!

Eventually, as you get deeper the lighting improves and your eyes adjust to the minimum lighting. It is a good thing Jenny has a good camera as my little point and shoot was useless down here in the dim lighting. We did the full walk through of the caverns, a full three hours of walking through magnificent chamber after chamber. After the 750 foot descent you arrive at the service area, with an elevator to the surface.

In total we walked about 5 miles in our time here. Good exercise. Other than that, we'll let the photos give you an idea of the beauty to behold down here.

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This is our 4th cavern experience. We did Wind Cave NP in South Dakota, Mammoth Cave NP in Kentucky, as well as Mulu Cave in Sarawak, Borneo. All are spectacular, but none have the ease of access of Carlsbad. Here you can walk a paved path through miles of the caverns. This is well worth the visit. If you have more time, there are hikes on the surface and you can take the guided King's Palace Tour, which takes you even deeper into the caverns.

We left Carlsbad at 4:00pm expecting to spend the night at the Walmart in Pecos Texas. And here is where our day got a bit crazy!

We drove over to US Highway 285, which runs from Carlsbad, NM through to Pecos TX and on south. As soon as we hit this highway we knew we were into something. In every direction there was oil exploration and production facilities. Pipeline construction in every direction, small feeder pipelines, into bigger and bigger pipelines criss-crossing the area. Trucks carrying fluids for fracking in seemingly endless lines along the highway. Oil drill rigs to the left and the right, as far as the eye could see. Salt water treatment centers for used water and fresh water centers for those about to frack. Amazing! Crazy!

The speed limit along the road was 75 mph and everyone was going at that flat out pace. Several facilities were in shift change and cars and pick-up trucks were swarming onto the highway in both directions. Crazy traffic and we pretty well had to pull TaJ along at 70 mph just to keep from being a traffic impediment. Our gas mileage on this run was a terrible 12 mpg.

We got to Pecos at 7:00pm and it was obvious from the moment we turned into the Walmart parking lot that we would have to find somewhere else to stay for the night. Not a space in the entire parking lot, it was full to the brim with shoppers. No RV's at all.

We added another hour to our travels and drove on Fort Stockton, where we arrived at a much emptier parking lot. We grabbed a pizza from the Dominos next door and crashed for the night. Remarkably quiet for a 24 hour Walmart. We awoke refreshed.

Oct 17 - Our destination for the day...Fredicksburg TX, right in the center of the state, over by Austin. We plan a 3 night stop here to tour the town called the best small town in Texas. It was a 250 mile drive, mostly on I-10, through miles and miles of wind turbine farms, as well as the obligatory oil fields.

The KOA in Fredericksburg is just OK, a bit aged and the internet is crappy. We arrived mid afternoon, did some shopping and had a supper of fresh Gulf of Mexico shrimp and a salad. This place has wineries, breweries and lots of history. We will find plenty to do here for two days.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:48 Archived in USA Tagged oil carlsbad_caverns fredericksburg highway_285_traffic Comments (2)

Oct 14, 15 - El Paso, TX

Border Patrol, NM Highway 9, El Paso

sunny 34 °C

We headed out early from Bisbee. Our route took us into New Mexico, along Highway 9, which runs right along the border with Mexico. The Border Patrol presence was strong all along the route, with several stations and ominous looking installations that must be designed to watch for illegals crossing into the US. For much of this day we could see the border fence, not a wall just off to the side of the road.

There were two tethered balloons, which we understand carry high resolution cameras and other equipment to watch for illegals crossing the border. My hometown of Sarnia Ontario had an experience with one of these balloons hovering over the St. Clair River. Citizens were up in arms that the US government could see into their houses with the high tech cameras and eventually that balloon was removed. Perhaps it is one of the ones down here over the Mexico border.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant in Douglas NM, where we learned that the US government is beginning a construction project along the border...about $100 million for a 40 mile segment of wall. The restaurant owner says the project will make him rich, as there is very little other option to eat in Douglas. The food was pretty darn good in this place. As for the effectiveness of the wall, he has no idea if it will work at all.

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El Paso is huge, with a population of about 1 million, which when added to the 1.5 million population of Juarez Mexico, just across the border creates a mega sized city, with the Rio Grande River forming the border between them.

We plan a day of sight seeing here before moving on to Carlsbad Caverns, and perhaps a stop in Roswell, NM, where a flying saucer is purported to have crashed on July 8, 1947, just two weeks before my birth. Perhaps I am an alien implant and my return to Roswell will trigger a return to pick me up :)

Oct 15 - It had been oppressively hot last night, but a cold front passed through overnight and this morning was a very pleasant 56F. The projected high for the day is just 72F, a big drop from yesterday's 99F.

A low key day is what we have planned. We started our tour with a drive to some local missions. The Socorro Mission dates to the 1680's.

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On our drive across the city we came upon this building on the edge of a native housing project. A bit of a fixer-upper! :)

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The mission is on the east side of the city and our next destination was the Magoffin Home in central El Paso. Magoffin was the Mayor of El Paso for 4 terms beginning in 1881. The house was built in 1875 and is a state historical site.

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Courtyard Angel statue:

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While we were at the Magoffin Home we talked with the two volunteer guides about immigration and what it is like to live in El Paso and its sister city Ciudad Juarez. The Rio Grande River forms the border here and every year people drown trying to cross into the US illegally. They also said that people also perish in the deserts of New Mexico.

They did say that many people cross daily to work in both countries and there is a system in place to make it easy for these people to cross, much like the Nexus system that Canada/US crossings utilize. There is a border patrol station that we passed on our drive back to our RV park that must have had 200 white/green pickup trucks of the border patrol. The border is serious business here in west Texas.

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Our lunch was at the Ode Brewery in West El Paso. We each had a 12 oz beer and shared a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich. A good lunch.

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We had planned on going out to a Mexican restaurant for supper, but neither of us was hungry enough to justify the expense of a dinner out, so we settled for some prepared food from the local El Super. This is a grocery chain that caters to Mexicans. It is a full service grocery store, and has a cafeteria style prepared food area. where you can order and eat at tables. Jenny had a burrito and I had a couple of flat tacos. Really good food and we spent less than $11 for supper.

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We are on the downward end of our journey, and after Carlsbad intend to work our way over to Mission TX to visit with our travel buddies George and Karmen for a week or so until we begin our journey home to Nova Scotia.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:15 Archived in USA Tagged el_paso douglas_nm Comments (0)

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