Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Trip Back Home Winter 2023

Our trip was a success, we had a good time escaping everyday things.  We enjoyed the cold at night with Buddy heater glowing and the electric blanket running with or without connection.  The solar worked extremely well as did all things rv related.  However, I was concerned over the two and a half weeks about the SUV.  With 500,000 km on the odometer, it still runs great but you can tell it's getting tired.  

On our way home we backtracked a bit.  We left Davis Mountains State Park and drove to Seminole Canyon State Park.  We have stayed there several times over the years but have never taken the tour to see the Pictographs.  That was a bust although we did it and what we saw we enjoyed.  We put it off for years because they charge to take the tour and you can't see them any other way.  Now with a senior discount, it wasn't so bad but the tour guide didn't have much to share other than his personal opinion and hearsay.  It was fun though to reminisce about our past stays there.  It's like your first date, car, or special experience, buying and using your RV is something special.  

We've always wanted to take this picture.  It's at the Pecos River Outlook where we stayed last year.  We drove up, took river pics and I dropped Juan off.   I drove down, went across the bridge, turned around and went back for him.  Lucky guy!

The walk down from the visitor's center to the caves where the pictographs are located.  

Each day we moved closer to home.  We left Seminole Canyon and headed for the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass.  It's located on the Kickapoo reservation and that spreads to both sides of the border.  There are plenty of border patrol but the Kickapoo move back and forth at will maintaining dual citizenship granted by both the U.S. and Mexico.  They own the largest casino in Texas.   Before the agreement that allows them to move back and forth, many lived under the international bridge between Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass.  A pretty interesting story.  

The casino is pretty large and has a nice hotel, RV park, and several good restaurants although expensive.  Being members, we both received a benefit when we arrived.  I got $5 to play with and Juan received a voucher worth 25% off all food and drinks.  We turned the $5 into $32 and that paid for our RV stay along with the 25% discount it also included dinner that we split after we played.  I'm not a gambler and we don't play cards but it was an hour's worth of fun.  The RV park is a small green park with pads and services.  It's a short walk from the casino entrance but far enough there is no noise at night.  In the past, we have parked in the south parking area and boondocked for free.  Too cold this time.

Coming back from the park office I started to open the door to the trailer and I about fell off the step.  Across the road was a cat watching me.  It was an almost identical match to Little Bit.  I followed him for a few minutes and he would stop and look back at me.  Little booger will haunt me for the rest of my life!

We left there with a good memory and headed to Falcon Lake again.  We used our Passport America and had a nice spot at a good price.  It was a short two-and-a-half-hour drive from the casino so we chatted with some of the winter group, actually two women in separate rvs that travel together from Minnesota each year.  The sunset was pretty amazing and we watched a movie before bedtime.

Our last stop was McAllen and again we used the Passport America at the RV park in Mission.  We used to stay there over 20 years ago.   It was winter Texans until about three years ago and now it is labeled a family community park.  Although the rigs are new, the place is filled with families with small kids.  They have a pool, playground, and all the amenities but at $350 a month, it's not going to stay in great shape for long.  There is a need for housing in the RVG and this fits the bill for many young families.  However, the rules are few and it is getting trashed.  For $20 a night with wifi, cable, pool, and jacuzzi (adults only) it was worth the money.  

So the final day takes us across the border via the Anzalduas Bridge.  I was holding my breath as we crossed to the Mexican side.  There have been many reports of the new Guardia Nacional asking rvers for $300 U.S. and up.  The paisanos have been taken to the cleaners so often that this year, with a sharp rise in cartel activity in Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, they formed a 400-car-long caravan escorted by state police and seven different mayors from municipalities from the state of San Luis Potosi.  What a mess.   

I was sure we were going to get a shakedown.  As we crossed the bridge we passed through the semaforo and we got a green light.  We still need to pull over and have the trailer inspected and show proof of importation and plates.  As you pass the semaforo, there are bays to pull into for inspection.  There were eight Guardia Nacionales stationed and ready for the attack.  As I headed their way,  low and behold, they waved us to keep moving.  I thought that there must be another checkpoint but we drove right out of the Aduana, onto Hwy 2 and five minutes later we were on Hwy 85 to Monterrey.  Not a hitch all the way home.  After not using the RV for so long, I had problems backing it into the driveway.  Flailing arms, an angry driver but after 15 minutes it was parked and we were home.  A good trip with nary an issue.  It was fun and I hope soon we have something to travel in for another adventure.  

Friday, December 22, 2023

Day Hike With Great Views Through Davis Mountains - Memories of A Past Hike

The desert mountain views are incredible.  Our first trip to Davis Mountains State Park was back in 2003 with our 1999 Trailmanor 3326.  It was a blast.

Christmas time, I baked and stuffed a chicken in the RV oven.

We had tortillas outside on the fire ring heating up.  Each time we went out to give them a turn, they were gone.  Then we discovered the culprits.

We took our first hike in the Davis Mountains back then.  The trails are great and wintertime is the best.  The winds are high and the skies are clear.  Summertime is too hot for good hiking as the temperatures can climb to over 40C.

This time around with Juan's knee issue we drove part way and walked the rest.  The climb isn't difficult at all and well worth it.

As I said, very cold and a lot of wind.  Below is a picture of our other little critter who left us after 15 years back in 2005.  He was a real traveler.  We headed back to the RV where it was warm.  After, a walk around the campground to look at the few rvs that were there.  We saw a Scamp, a Casita, and a couple of pickup truck popup tents.  These guys were freezing to death.  One couple with two kids had a great setup.  A Coleman popup camper with nice picture windows and Christmas lights.  They were up and out early every morning.  Dinner was a delicious bowl of chili I had made that morning.  

This picture of Gum (Gumersindo) was taken in 2003 in the same spot we stopped to take pictures on the trail.   He was a real character.  He started reading when he was 2 years old.  He ate the bindings off of the encyclopedias from A to K before he gave it up.  Semi-illiterate, he was one hell of a great mascot!  Protector, bed warmer and companion.  RIP 

Speaking of pets, in the next post I'll share a bit of reincarnation 😀  Overall, this was a good trip.  It's time to start looking for a new SUV.  With 500,000 km, the Durango has done its job.  It's a matter of deciding whether to sell the travel trailer and move on to class B of some kind.  

Saturday, December 16, 2023

A Hike In The Hills And A Visit To "The Desk"

A collage of murals painted by local artists.  They have created a walking tour of alleys and businesses.  It was great weather for a day out.   Still cool at 16C but the sun was shining.

We did a little Christmas decorating in the trailer.  A great indoor activity and made for a great happy hour!

Enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee while doing some Facebook and reading.

This is our site, number 45.  I think it is one of the best and the most secluded from other campsites.

We took a hike in the hills around Alpine.  An interesting marker sits on top of a mountain outside of the university.  It is called, "The Desk".  In 1981, three students tired of all the noise and commotion in the dorms decided to haul a desk up to the top creating a quiet and peaceful place to study.  It has remained there as a landmark ever since.  In the desk drawers are notebooks for visitors to sign.  The notebooks are replaced by someone when they are full.  One person wrote that they left their cell phone on the desk and five days later when they returned to look for it, it was still there.  

The Desk!

The Teacher!

The city of Alpine, Texas below.

The views are incredible, no smog, just fresh air.

Getting closer to the top.  The trail is rocky and a bit slippery.  A lot of flora to be found and it is fun to try and identify the plants and flowers.  

Agave Havardiana  (and an old pair of Flexi shoes)

Verbena and Bahiopsis

I don't know if I have ever mentioned it before, but one of my many nieces, Dr. Melissa Islam, is a botanist and is a biodiversity researcher at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  As she always says, "There's no such thing as a weed!"

Thursday, December 14, 2023

West Texas Mountains - Davis Mountains State Park

It’s been very cold this last week but we continue onward and westward.  Days are much warmer and the highs are around 15C.  Some nights have been down to 1C.  It’s fun to be inside at night reading and looking out at the night skies.  The night skies are truly amazing.  We’re not sure now if we will make it to Hueco Tanks State Park.  The further west we go and up towards El Paso the nights are in the -3C.  I think that’s too cold to have any fun but we will see. 

The drought is affecting everyone.  The levels here at Amistad are some of the lowest ever. 

It was a nice drive yesterday and we passed many memorable places along the highway; Seminole Canyon, Pecos River Bridge lookout, Sanderson, Marathon, and Alpine.  Nary a car to be seen on the road.  We did, however, see a major accident.  A road closer caused by a semi carrying a load of steel beams.  It was a mess and we are hoping the driver made it out safely.   Road crews, forklifts, and one-directional caravans took time.  I wonder who pays for all of this?

Crossing the Pecos River

An unbelievable mess.  I feel for the driver.   Clean-up must have taken all day.

We are now at Davis Mountains State Park.  Yep, we love to boondock but having electricity in the winter is a luxury we both like.  It’s 5:00 a.m. and I’m sitting here writing this blog with the heat on.  The jet engine Suburan furnace no longer works.  I disconnected it years ago.  Mr. Heater is doing a good job of keeping this end of the trailer warm while the bedroom door is closed and the ceramic heater is running in there.

The drive was about four hours.  Gas prices were great up to Del Rio around $2.49 a gallon.  As we passed through Alpine it was up to $3.38 a gallon.  We’ll never see good gas mileage with the trailer but we attempt to make the best of it staying around 55 to 60 mph.  There used to be an art display of a Strada women’s accessories store near Marathon.  Now, it’s the world’s smallest Buc Cee’s.  A little roadside entertainment.

Pulling into the ranger's station!

We pulled into the park around 1:30. The rangers at the station aren’t the friendliest.  State parks use Reserve America.  What POS website that is.  I gave up after an hour and a half making the reservation and decided they could figure it out when we got there and they did.  I booked a site way too small and one ranger, a very nice woman, gave us a huge site nestled away from everyone on a very small culdesac.  The minute we found the site at least eight deer were passing through.  After a good nap came a walk and happy hour.  Not a sound all afternoon but the birds and a slight breeze passing through the tree. 

Today we will go for a hike and a stop in Fort Davis or Alpine to upload the blog and Facebook pics.  We’ll be here until Saturday and after I’m not sure.  We may make our way slowly back to the RGV. 

I’ve been looking at motorhome rentals in France.  The company has hundreds of reviews and the majority are very good.  However, the bad reviews are very bad so we’re still up in the air about it.  Christmas holidays make it slow for real estate so we aren’t getting any showings this month on the house.  No rush, when it happens it happens.  As I said before, I think it is priced way too high but the broker says it’s a real deal and like everything else in Mexico, things take time. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

What A Week - McAllen, Falcon Lake, Carrizo Springs, And Now Lake Amistad

Here's how it went down.  As you know we haven't had an rv trip since April 2022.  Not a huge mistake but I have learned that just like the body, without exercise things start to fall apart.  i had uncovered the rv washed it, watched the solar do its duty and cleaned the inside as well.  There were some strange things going on with one of the rear taillights as well as the rear running lights on top.  I found that the inline fuse had a bad connection.  It is exposed to the elements although it is in a waterproof case.  I replaced it and things seem to work well.

Tuesday morning, we wer ready to roll.  I was concerned about getting outof the driveway now that the neighbor in front had dropped seven dump truck loadsof cement block on hte road.  He had it crushed and spread  We made it out fine and off we went down the road.  Someone, I don't know who reported it to the city and the neighbor was fined.  It's a mess.  Neighbors complained and someone had to do something about it.We made it to Reynosa and decided to take the Anzalduas Bridge.  Yes, we are headed to West Texas again but I refuse to go through Laredo.  Rvers are getting hit on by thugs and asked to pay large bribes and some have been able to out run them.  Many people have sent me messages but I'm not sure why they don't go public.  Maybe out of embarrassment or something.     

Exclusive lane for travel trailers.

Anzalduas was a breeze.  We took the long way around and avoided the problem altogether.  We left Hwy 40 and connected with Hwy 2 before entering Reynosa.  They even have a lane just for travel trailers.  In and out with inspection and Juan's visa permit in less than 15  minutes.  No waiting in line.

We spent the first night in an rv park.   What a trip.  Not only expensive but they only have 50 amp which we weren't told about. There was  no wifi because they could never seem to get it to work.  One good thing is that they only charge $200 a mnonth for six-month stayand you can leave your rv there in storage the rest of the year at no charge.  We were lucky and the manager had a 50/30 amp adapter.  We used to have one, loaned it out and never got it back.  

Cracker Barrel in McAllen

The next night we stayed at a Cracker Barrel in McAllen.  You're probably wondering why we were spending two nights in McAllen, well someone wanted to do some shopping and it wasn't me.  The 
place was okay, noisy at night with highway traffic andd trains but it was free and we slept fairly.

We moved on the next day to Falcon Lake on the southside of Laredo, Tx.   The rv park was close to the water and it is used by fishermen in the summer.  It was okay and inexpensive using Passport America pass.  The manager is worthless and the park is emmpty buty did have good wifi and electric so it served its purpose.  Electrical problems continued but I knew in the back of my head what the issue was.  I called in a shaman and he blew smoke around the batteries and waved feathers and said some things I didn't understand.  I burned incense and we both put on grass skirts and danced around the trailer.  It was to no avail and now I understand why there are so many disbelievers in the world of religion.  

Moving on I found a great spot via iOverlander outside of Carrizo Springs.  I'm not a big fan of iOverlander having never found anything usefull outside of gas stations.  It is a picnic area that is far back from the highway with lots of old mesquite trees and a river, pretty stagnant with the currentNot a car pulled inafter our arrival at 4 p.m.  It was so dark that night I was able to take a video of the starry sky.  Morning fog rolled in and that made for a great wake up and coffee.  We headed to the Autozone and found out that one battery was dead and the other limping.  They were five years old.  The shaman was a bust.  😀

No batteries there so we headed to Del Rio and were fixed up in less than 15 minutes and on our way to Lake Amistad.  It's cold as I write this but the radiant heater is keeping us warm and toasty and tonight the electric blanket will continue the process!  We really enjoy it here and will stay for a few days taking wlks and getting some good reading in.  

We're hoping our final destination is Hueco Tanks State Park.  It is a jewel in the state parks system requiring that campers wanting hike and explore the area take an orientation followed by a short test on how to preserve the area and the petroglyphs.  I had been there in 2004 on a trip to Colorado with our dog Gum.  Juan was teaching a summer course in Arkansas at the time.  It was a trip I'll never forget so I want to share this with him.

We will head west to the Pecos River outlook on Tuesday even though it is right around the corner.  We're not in any hurry to get anywhere.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023

You Never Know Who You'll Run Into

Very few people out before 8 a.m.  Much different than in the north of Mexico.

We made a dinner date with Les and Mike and Terri.  I told Croft we would be having dinner and he said to say hell to everyone.  I also told him I would take a picture but we were being kicked out before we knew it as we had spent over two hours chatting.  They closed up and we all said our goodbyes until January and headed home.

The funny part of it all was that we had finished dinner when a woman walked up to the table and said, "You probably don't remember me but my name is Wanda and you helped me out when I was in trouble".  Well, I do remember Wanda very well.  Back in 2011, she sent me an email saying she was on her way to SMA and her Westfalia had broken down by the municipal airport in Monterrey.  She was safe, her VW towed and she was staying in a hotel.  She wanted to know what would be a good gift to show appreciation to the gentlemen who helped get her towed and repaired her van.  

Such a small way of helping and she still visits the blog occasionally.  It does your heart good to know you have helped someone.  We always wanted to make that our vision for rving in Mexico.  We have considered several times over the years to offer a service of helping newcomers to rving in Mexico processing papers at the border leading them down around Monterrey to our area and giving them an orientation to rving here.  I guess we did find it in some way by belonging to Boondockers Welcome/Harvest Host.  We get a couple of rvers every year and most are new to all of this.  In the end, we get a kick out of showing people around and that there is a lot to see in northern Mexico apart from beating feet across the border.  

Coming back from my walk I passed the church and this mama was basking in the early morning sun.

The rains have come this week which is nice.  We have spent the last three days with estimates for painting the front of the house.  After all this, you sit back and say, "does it really need painting?" or is it something that just makes it more your own and puts a mark on your territory?

Our friends Christine and Robert are in SMA now and are doing a great job of getting around and seeing the sights.  They are going all over the place.  Good for them!  Christine will be prepared for her solo and Robert has taught her some essential Spanish.

Bitcoin machines are now popping up around San Miguel and most of Mexico!

A daily occurrence, these riders pass by the house every afternoon around 6 p.m. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Day Of The Dead - San Miguel de Allende

Having just arrived the night before, we were a bit discombobulated and still trying to get our morning coffee.  We had errands to run and pay the phone bill.  It was a holiday, and most businesses were closed.  We were hoping Telmex was open.  Traffic on the Ancha de San Antonio was busy with pilgrims and family going to the cemetery across the street from the office.  We parked in the Telmex lot with the pretext that we were paying our bill.  We did a quick walk through the cemetery.  Lines were formed outside and everyone carried paint, brushes, and flowers, and some even brought a mariachi or a musician.

On the road outside the cemetery (it runs parallel to Ancha San Antonio) vendors set up their flower stands.  Always willing to negotiate their prices, people find it easier to buy from them when they arrive at the cemetery.
Artificial flowers have become very popular.  Among those are some made from tin and painted.  You could see people leaving the cemetery and taking some home for decoration.

What good would a visit to the cemetery be without something to snack on in addition to the offering you have brought.  Vendors were selling churros, chips with salsa, cream, and cheese.  I've never eaten that and I don't think it is very healthy but it has become a big seller.  Slice open the bag of Tostitos or chips and lather on the toppings.  You then eat it with a spoon.  Similar to when you buy a cup of corn on the street.

Relatives and tourists alike file into the cemetery.  Long lines and so many people carrying buckets for watering, food, folding chairs, and music.  One woman reportedly fell into a grave as the cement covering gave way.  It happens several times around the country during Dia de Los Muertos.

Video Of The Cemetery

A man painting a decorative tombstone over the grave of a family member.  The large tombstone to the left says, "Señor!  Don't let us lose our hope of life!"