Posted by: glenswatman | November 17, 2008

200811-1-USA Texas



SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2008 – We begin the task
of cutting out the carpet to fit the van. 
Having made paper templates of the areas we want to fit we realise we
can also do the cab and the hall and bathroom with a join leaving just the
kitchen with lino.  Late morning Narlie
is heading out to the commissary grocery store and I join her.  It’s a typical American base supermarket but
with lower prices on most items however too busy for my liking.  Return to find Steve has almost finished the
initial laying of the carpet and it looks fantastic, the colour is perfect and
it feels so cosy.  We’ve done it in such
a way that if we are at the beach we can easily remove all or just sections of
it.  Narlie cooks a prawn gumbo soup for
our evening meal and it is very tasty. 
They have to pop out for a couple of hours but rejoin us in the
motorhome for a last drink and chat.



SUNDAY 2 NOVEMBER – The clocks went back 1
hour last night, now 6 hours behind GMT. 
Not really happy about this as it will be dark by around 6.30pm.  Frank has already left for work when we get
up and Narlie is getting ready to go to church.  We make the most of the quieter traffic to escape San
Antonio.  Begin to see lots of RV’s on
the road; almost all are 5th wheels down from Canada for the
winter.  In Corpus Christi we head for
the beach area and walk along to look at the impressive US Lexington aircraft
carrier with planes visible on the deck. 
Fill up with gas at just $1.89, that equates to 33p so 1/3 of the price
in England.  We planned to go out to
camp on Padre Island for up to a week but cannot find anywhere open selling
propane and only have enough for about 3 days. 
Settle onto Wal Mart for the night. 
Unfortunately this one has a tannoy system with speakers apparently
aimed towards the car park so we hear service announcements all through the



MONDAY 3 NOVEMBER – Head out over the bridge
to the National Seashore where our dated national parks pass saves us the $10
(£6.50) 1 month park entry fee.  Stop
off at the visitor centre to use the cold showers then drive onto the
beach.  It is almost deserted so we are
happy to park up just a short distance along. 
We are surprised by how clean it all is as following Gustav loads of debris
ended up here.  Apparently people were
allowed onto the beach to take whatever they wanted leaving less for the park
rangers to deal with.  I read on the
Internet that one couple salvaged a Coca Cola vending machine complete with the
drinks and the money already put into it. 
For the first time we get to use the windbreaks that we brought from
England and boy do they make a difference making it pleasant to sit out by the
van versus being sand blasted on the other side.



TUESDAY 4 NOVEMBER – We have a jobbing morning
and get the finishing touches done to the carpet amongst other things.  Late afternoon we walk north to the campsite
to make a phone call and use the showers. 
It’s Election Day here and the news seems to indicate that America is
about to have its first black president in Obama. 



WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER – We get up late, it’s
been a windy night and we need a lie in plus Steve has a bit of a sore
throat.  The storm has cast more debris
onto the shore so we take a walk south. 
Most of the trash is bottles and toiletries but there are a couple of
safety helmets, lots of barrels and bits of wood.  We try to sit out in the afternoon but the wind swirls the sand
around and I can only stand it for so long. 
After showering in the van I continue with my Central America tour



THURSDAY 6 NOVEMBER – Steve’s still not
feeling too good so lays on the bed reading whilst I do more planning.  As I now have my Lonely Planet and a map of
Central America I have enough to keep me occupied for many a day reading up on
the 7 new countries we hope to tour, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica,
Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador. Late afternoon a couple of small Mercedes
Sprinter type motorhomes pull up. 
Duncan has been living in Mexico but has come back to sell all the stuff
he stored in Austin because he now wants to travel more in his motorhome.  Frank and Diana are from Florida and have
been off on a big trip but met Duncan a few years ago and kept in touch because
they have the same vehicles.  They have
just come from their rendezvous on Boca Chica beach.  Duncan is planning a trip down to Argentina so we have lots to
chat about.  They invite us to join them
for a fish supper around their campfire and we add a stir-fry veg dish to the
menu.  Good company and a pleasant
change from being alone. 



FRIDAY 7 NOVEMBER – We’ve had a rainy and
windy night and it is not a pleasant morning. 
The wind has changed direction and blasts through our door when we open
up.  Duncan has lent me his book “99
days to Panama” an exploration of Central America by motorhome so I’m set up
for the day.  I’ve wanted to buy it but
never found anywhere that could deliver to a forwarding address at the right
time.  I’ve invited the others down for
a pasta lunch and this goes on until after 4pm.  Rejoin them in the evening and Duncan cooks up some Mexican food,
which really whets our appetite for the upcoming trip.  Duncan used to run a couple of large
restaurants but was in a bookstore one day and saw a boot titled something like
“You don’t need a million to retire”, realised this was true and got out.  



SATURDAY 8 NOVEMBER – Our new friends move
on.  Steve is not feeling too well, sore
throat and a hacking cough from time to time so unfortunately is not in the
best of spirits to enjoy the glorious day. 
The beach gets really busy and a few tents appear near us.  It’s quite amazing to see the headlight
procession along the beach as the day-trippers leave.



SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER – Steve slept in the front
of the van last night so we both had a better night.  It’s a blustery cloudy morning so Steve packs up and after lunch
we head towards the campground.  There
we make use of the free dump station and take a nice long shower.  Bird Island is the other free camping spot
on the opposite site of the barrier island and a bit more sheltered.  Few motorhomes of there but the windsurfers
are out in full force. 



MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER – After rain in the night
we are inspired to clean the sand off the van. 
Walk around the area in both directions but to the south the “beach”
becomes a bog and north is a dead end at the camping spit.  It’s still very windy but we have reasonable
shelter from the motorhome and no sand blasting us.



TUESDAY 11 NOVEMBER – It’s Veterans Day here
and we expected a lot of day visitor but this is not the case so maybe it isn’t
a public holiday.  Usual day reading,
trip planning and cleaning. 



WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER – The dull start to the
day makes it easier for us to leave.  In
Corpus Christi we shop at HEB, get the brakes checked in readiness for our big
trip south (all OK) and the tyres blown up. 
Heading south we are travelling roughly along the inland border of King
Ranch, the oldest and biggest cattle ranch in the United States.  Pull onto Wal-Mart in Kingsville.  The snowbirds (winter Texans) are definitely
here as there are 3 motorhomes from Quebec corralled at one side of us along
with other North American vehicles. As is often the case we are the smallest
and most simple one.



THURSDAY 13 NOVEMBER – It’s a cool and rainy
day and the rain gets worse.  By the
time we reach Harlingen we have to wait for a lull to get out to look at the
Iwo Jima memorial.  The tallest memorial
sculpture in USA it is the plaster cast over which the copper version was cast
for Arlington Cemetery.  The museum has
a most interesting 30-minute film explaining the importance of Iwo Jima
Island.  Late in the war the Americans
needed to capture it for a staging post. 
It should have taken 3 days but the Japanese had hidden themselves in a
catacomb of interconnecting tunnels on many levels covering the whole
island.  The final battle lasted over 3
weeks with huge loss of life but the victory was a major factor in the whole
war.  Nearby the Arts & Heritage
Museum is a small collection of original buildings grouped together.  You can enter them all to wander round at
will.  Amazing considering some of the
antiques just sitting there.  I like the
hospital building whilst the Stage Coach Inn impresses Steve.  After lunch we have a snooze in the
motorhome the move off once the rain has stopped.  Arrive at the Wal Mart to find our Canadian friends Kevin &
Ruth waiting for us.  It’s great to see
them again and we have lots of catching up to do and lots more planning.  Decide that we will let the motorhome
insurance situation dictate whether we proceed with our plan to try and drive
to Panama or not.  They join us for a
meal in our motorhome whilst we catch up on each other’s news.  It’s a stormy night with lots of rain,
thunder and lightening. 



FRIDAY 14 NOVEMBER – In Brownsville we visit
Sanborns who are famous for their Mexican insurance policies.  They told me on line they could offer cover
for Central America but only sent us the prices for cars.  They can offer us full cover for 4 or the 7
Central American countries but she can’t confirm the premium until we apply but
says it will be more than for a car and that is $1800 for 3 months.  The decision is made and we buy their
Mexican insurance for 6 months, $419 (£270) and receive lots of complementary
road logbooks.  With no time pressure
anymore we head out to Boca Chica beach. 
On the approach road we see lots of flooding that must have been from the
storm yesterday and last night.  As the
ocean comes into view we see the road completely flooded and grind to a
halt.  Steve & Kevin walk through
the water and eventually return to say we can just about get onto a small
entrance area to the beach without getting bogged.  It’s hard to tell where the high tide mark is as the beach is so
wet but the Border Patrol vehicle reckons we are above it.  Kevin backs in up the track behind us and we
will monitor the water up until the 5.30pm high tide.  Ignoring the wetness the beach is much like North Padre
Island.  It’s a lovely day and we spend
the afternoon sat out.  Steve goes for a
wander and returns with Coin.  Amazingly
he is from Queensbury just a few miles from where we lived but over here for 6
weeks to help with a wildlife refuge project. 
I brew him a proper cup of tea and substitute cinnamon cake for
parkin.  He’s here today with friends to
do some bird spotting and then watch the full moon rise over the ocean.   Join Kevin & Ruth for a meal in Sherman.  The moonrise is pretty impressive and begins
as a huge pink ball that turns white as it rises.  Enjoy our first game of euchre together, the first of very many
no doubt.  Return home around



SATURDAY 15 NOVEMBER – We are disturbed by
youths in a couple of vehicles attempting to do doughnuts in the sand
accompanied by loud bass boom boom music. 
We’ve not been asleep long after they leave before the motorhome shaking
wakes us.  It is really windy outside
and continues to get worse with sand blasting away at us.  With 2-hours to high tide there is also the
concern that the onshore wind is going to bring the sea up much higher.  Steve goes out and uses the headlights to
find and walk back on the beach road. 
He says it is less windy there and we should move.  Manhandling the windbreaks and groundsheet
is very difficult and I think we end up with half the beach sand in the
motorhome.  Steve tells Kevin & Ruth
we are pulling forward and they follow. 
In our “sheltered spot” the van is only swaying a little and we get a
bit of sleep.  By the time we get up we
are rocking as much as we were in the open last night.  Steve walks back to the beach to retrieve
our doormat and says it is terrible. 
Return to Brownsville with the intention of doing all the last minute
things needed before Mexico.  This also
seems to be doomed as Kevin & Ruth can’t find anywhere selling some dog
medication they need for Whiskey.  All
the propane dealers are shut or we can’t find them.  The upshot is that it takes us until 5pm to do a bit of grocery
shopping, fill up with really cheap gas at $1.69 (£1.10) gallon and get the
laundry done.  At times we think we have
inadvertently crossed into Mexico as almost everyone looks Mexican and speaks
Spanish, half the products in the grocery stores are Mexican and many road
surfaces potholed or have road works. 
We are all exhausted after our sleepless night so our final Wal Mart,
even though it is by the main road, will have to do.  We are in bed by 8.30pm and asleep soon after.



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