Our winter ‘03-’04 adventure, started where Interstate
10 passes by the ‘border’ town of Anthony. Anthony,
located between the 10 and the Rio Grande, straddles the New Mexico/Texas
border. This community’s claim to fame is The 5th Quadrennial
World Wide Leap Year Festival. More about Leap Year in our Calendar
section this month.
As you may have guessed we aren’t technically ‘waltzing’ but
the song keeps running through our minds as we move along and explore
some of this great state.
Heading southeast from El Paso on Interstate 10 we crossed desert
interspersed with rolling hills ...referred to as ‘mountains’ on
the map. The hills were a beautiful relief from the desert, an
opinion apparently shared by wild deer, many of whom live there,
indicated by large numbers of them that were obviously unsuccessful
in their highway crossing attempts.
Arches that lined each side where the roadway was cut through
a hill were accidental works of art created by nature and the construction
crews. Earth layers, compressed horizontally over the years to
various thickness and color patterns were intersected by the evenly
spaced vertical marks made by construction cutting equipment forming
a beautiful parquet-type wall. Can’t help but wonder if the
workers were aware of the artful beauty they created.
Fort Stockton just
off the 10 is steeped in history and a great anchor point for day
trips to southwest Texas points of interest. It has several RV
parks and a WalMart which seemed to have a lenient policy toward
RVers ... one end of their parking lot was lined with rigs.
We learned that out there on the desert and mesas were oil wells
and, surprisingly, vineyards... Texas wine country!
Based out of Medina Lake Thousand Trails Preserve we spent many
days exploring Texas Hill Country ...Lake Hills, Pipe Creek, Bandera,
Helotes, and Boerne (pronounced ‘Burney’... honest!).
We went through Luckenbach and
Stonewall on the way to Fredericksburg and found all three to be
charming places. The three or four ancient buildings in Luckenbach
can draw out the ‘country’ in everyone and cause them
to want to return for jam sessions or rent the town for family
We could have spent many hours more in the Pacific
War Museum and the Admiral Nimitz Museum in downtown Fredericksburg.
The main streets of most small Texas towns reflect what life was
like a century, and more, ago. And everyone of them has a restaurant
that promises you ‘The Best Barbecue in Texas’!
We also visited San Antonio to
see the Alamo and go on the River Walk, by boat. It was beautiful!!
San Antonio’s famous River Walk, decorated for Christmas
On across the 10 to Lake Conroe Thousand Trails we went, to take
advantage of their wireless internet. Some new-found Texas friends
told us of a route to get there that would miss Houston traffic...
which they had no polite words to describe. By the time we realized
we had missed the turn off it was too far to go back. YIKES! We
found out what they meant.
The area north of Houston will always be one of our favorite places
in the U.S. The rolling hills are a beautiul change from flatlands,
the lakes are wonderful, the people are friendly, the towns are
quaint... what else do you need? We drove around and across Lake
Conroe and Lake Livingston and visited the Escapee park by Livingston.
We could live there happily when we get off the road... except
that our families are all in California.
Houston is a nice enough city with lots to do culturally, historically
and commercially. It is trying to deal with its traffic problems
with spaghetti-like freeways twisting over one another to take
you to other parts of town... sometimes parts you hadn’t
planned on visiting. We ventured into Houston only twice... once
to visit the Houston Fire Museum and the Apple Computer Store and
the second time on moving day when we passed right through the
city on our way.
Headed south out of Houston we were back in flatlands, but there
were still lots of woodlands with wonderfully different trees and
other plants. Lots of cotton is grown in this area and some rice.
When we got to Freeport we were so fascinated with looking at
all the piping used in the oil refineries that we did not find
an RV park. We crossed the bridge over to Galveston Island before
we realized it so we dropped the house off at Galveston
State Park right between the gulf coast and the bay. It was
early so we went into town to explore.
In Galveston we went along Seawall Boulevard and inadvertently
got into a lane of cars waiting to get on the ferry to Bolivar
Pennisula. In Port Bolivar we found a great little Mexican Restaurant
and had dinner. Then we got to ride the ferry back to Galveston
The driving tour of Galveston Island State Park was fun. We got
to see a Roseate Spoonbill (through binoculars). What a beautiful,
big, pink bird. Next we went to Seawolf Park on Pelican Island
to tour the WWII submarine USS
Cavalla, and the destroyer escort USS
Stewart, ... interesting and educational.
The offshore oil rig Ocean Star, in retirement in Galveston, TX
We accidentally came across the Ocean
Star, a retired offshore drilling rig, and museum. What a
find! We spent a couple hours touring the facility and learning
about the offshore oil industry. An interesting hand out we picked
up there has a time line from 2000 BC to 2001 AD so that the
oil industry’s progress can be tracked with other civilization
developments. For example, the first offshore well was drilled
in 1947 the same year Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. Or...
plastic was invented (1907) the year before the Model T Ford
was introduced and five years before the Titanic sank!
Eric Geswender, Ocean Star Museum staff host, by a photograph of the oil rig
before it’s retirement.
Our next stop, Mustang State Park on Mustang Island, is east of
Corpus Christi. A series of bridges had us hopping from one small
island to the next... shades of Florida Keys! Then the big thrill...
our house got to ride on a ferry!! And it didn’t sink! That
ferry ride was from Port Aransas to
Mustang Island. (Aransas is pronounced ‘ah RAN sas’ we
were told... not Awransaw, like Arkansas with a r instead of a
Waiting for a ferry to take us from Port Aransas to Mustang Island
We bought two days at the campground so we could explore North
Padre Island and Corpus Christi. The weather was not user friendly
and the outdoor seminar at North
Padre Island preserve headquarters was moved indoors but still
made interesting by the Ranger.
William Botts, Ranger
North Padre Island Preserve Headquarters, with Sea Turtle skull.
Our touring in Corpus Christi was cut short by the weather. We
headed home sadly, but knowing you just can’t see everything.
Highway 77 south took us to Harlingen. We located
a park with wireless internet in Harlingen ...Paradise Park and
RV Resort just off the freeway north of town. We planned to stay
just a week but the friendly management of the park had a special
going so we bought a month. Part of the freedom of fulltiming is
being able to change a schedule in a heart beat!
Glenda (left) and Hank Bullard (right), Park Managers, with with office volunteers.
One day, while we were touring, in a little town
called Alamo on Highway 83 we found a great jam session. There
were four groups of stringed instruments, each anchored by a bass,
in gazebos stretched along the highway. We stopped and listened
for a while until the groups were tired and began breaking up.
Saturday Jam Sessions in the park at Alamo, TX
Highway 83 goes through a series of small towns on its way from
Brownsville to the northwest. These towns are snowbird havens with
many, many RV parks and resorts.
Making winter Texans feel welcome and satisfying their every need
is the biggest industry in this part of the Rio Grande valley.
South Padre Island is
the most distant point of our winter’s explorations. A
long, low bridge (Queen Isabella Causeway) leads from Port Isabel
to South Padre Island (SPI). It arches at one point so that big
ships can pass under it to the intercoastal waterway, Laguna
Madre, that is along the west coast of the entire island and
east coast of the mainland from Port Isabel to Corpus Christi.
On the island we drove the length of the road in the center of
it, to where it ended in a sand dune. We stopped at one beach
access park to check it out and walk in the sand. It would be
a great place to spend a couple of months, and it didn’t
seem to be as crowded as might be expected in early February.
Huge hotels, condos and beautiful homes line both coasts of this
We’ve discovered that Texans are proud of their state, their
towns, their history, their attitudes and their families. And that’s
not a bad way to be, y’all. -- Go to
Part Two fo Waltz Accross Texas.
river rv travel