The 1st of February finds us in Phoenix, AZ visiting my Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Vicky Small. What a time we had. We arrived expecting to only spend a few hours and ended up staying overnight and we were sure glad we did. It was a great visit and way to short! We did manage to see their oldest daughter, Sharon, who I hadn't seen in over thirty-five years. For some reason I couldn't get Vicky to smile for the camera. She really did seem to enjoy our visit and when I didn't have the camera in my hands she would smile a lot. Oh well, here's her picture anyway.
Once we returned to Benson and a good night's sleep, we headed to Safford for one last visit with Ken. It was a nice drive over, we had a lovely time with him. Dinner at the Golden Corral and a trip to Wal-Mart then a little more visiting and we were on our way. We were pleased to see that he had gotten rid of a most of the cats that greeted us on our first visit.
Here it is, finally time to leave the friendly folks in Benson. We feel like we've been here for a couple of years but it's only been a couple of months. Getting R-Way ready to travel again was not a chore we minded at all. We are really ready to get "On the Road Again!"
We had to fill up with propane and gasoline before we left town. That took us a little longer than we had expected but finally about noon we were underway. We stopped in Deming, New Mexico and had lunch then on to El Paso. The rest area we stopped at for lunch had a sign posted. Almost makes a person not want to stop.
The trip was nice, the desert pretty and we arrived at Fort Bliss just before dark. We were to late to get a full hook-up spot at Fort Bliss so we just boon-docked overnight. We were far enough away from the highway that it was quite and we had a beautiful view of the night lights of El Paso.
On our way the next morning heading for Fort Stockton. We had quite a discussion about whether or not to drive R-Way into Big Bend National Park. Since neither of us had been there before we weren't sure of what to expect. One of the people we had met in Benson said for me to remember, when we drove down to Rio Grande Village that we had to drive back UP the hill as well. This little statement caused us a little concern. We didn't want to put any unnecessary strain on ole R-Way so our discussion centered around leaving R-Way safely in Fort Stockton or throwing caution to the wind and driving on to Big Bend and spending a few days there. You guessed it, Fort Stockton won out.
We parked in the Cochise RV Park, unloaded the SAAB and used it to drive down to Big Bend. It was about a three hour drive. It was quite unusual driving through Fort Stockton at the height of rush hour. At 8:30am we were driving down the main street. There were about 3 or 4 other cars on the street at that time. We'll have to be sure and avoid the rush hour on our way back.
It was an amazing drive down to Big Bend. Very nice two lane road. The speed limit was 70 and the road was mostly straight. We had been on the road about 15 minutes before we actually saw another vehicle coming towards us. Not a lot of traffic out here. Not much of anything out here. Just miles and miles of desert, cactus, mesquite and barbed wire. Every now and then we'd see some cattle.
During our discussion about leaving R-Way in Fort Stockton we talked about driving to Marathon instead of Fort Stockton. If the roads through the hills were too steep we'd just find a place to park R-Way in Marathon and take the SAAB off and use it. Well, when we arrived in Marathon we were glad we had stayed in Fort Stockton. There was not a car (or truck, everyone in Texas has at least one truck!) on the street in the lovely metropolis of Marathon. Except for the two ostrich we saw it looked as if it were deserted. We couldn't quite figure out why it was even on the map.
We finally arrived at Big Bend National Park and as proof here's Ginger.
What a great place. It is so vast that you have to drive 29 miles after arriving at the entrance until you get to park headquarters. It just seems to go on and on and on. After visiting the headquarters we decided to drive down to Rio Grande Village and take a look at the RV campground. Another 25 miles down the road for that. Along the way we saw several roadrunners and, a little way's away, a coyote. As usual the coyote was not about to catch the roadrunner.
It was really nice at the 'Village'. There was a beaver pond with a walkway over it, a nature trail and a small hill you could climb to see the mountains and the Rio Grande river. The beaver pond was full of fish and Ginger even saw a large turtle.
We had taken a picnic lunch with us, after eating we visited the village store and bought desert. It was really a nice day. We headed back and were pleased to discover that the trip 'back out' wasn't near as difficult as we were lead to believe it would be. We could have taken R-Way right down to the river without any problems. So, if any of you are thinking of driving your RV into Big Bend National Park, don't worry about driving 'down' to Rio Grande Village. On the way back to Fort Stockton we had to go through Marathon again. This time we did see one vehicle and two actual people. That place isn't deserted after all. We did arrive back in Fort Stockton in time for rush hour. The evening rush hour is much busier than the morning one. There were lot's of vehicles there.
The next morning we decided to head on down towards "The Valley" which is how people describe the lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. It seems that all RVer's know what you mean when you say you're going to "The Valley." I used the Delorme software programs to plot out our trip and we decided to make a stop at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas for a few days to just relax. We needed to restock our supplies and they have a commissary so we should save a little money that way. The weather is turning quite cool. We don't like that!
Just before arriving in Del Rio we crossed over the Amistad International Reservoir. It was quite low, they have been having a drought out this way for quite some time. Del Rio is quite a good sized city. Of course, after Marathon, anyplace would look big. We saw all kinds of stores and fast food places that we hadn't seen in awhile. Arriving at Laughlin AFB we were pleasantly surprised at how friendly the people on the gate were. The Air Force personnel do seem to be more customer oriented than folks at Army bases. When we got down to the family camp we discovered that there was 'no room at the inn' and we'd have to boon dock for about 3 days before we could get a spot. That was okay with us, we were ready for a little rest.
Laughlin AFB is a small base, used for training flight crews. Planes were taking off and landing all day long. The family camp area was right beside the runway. Did I mention there was a lot of noise? There was! Weather was still turning cool. We had to actually turn on the furnace for a couple of nights. After our second night there we awoke to something strange. I rushed to get the camera before it was gone. I made it just in time. I'm showing you the picture I took but you have to promise to keep it quite, wouldn't want anyone else to know we aren't having nice warm, pleasant weather this winter.
Yes, it's that dreaded white stuff. That stuff that I promised Ginger she'd not see again and I even made a promise to R-Way that nary a flake of that stuff would ever touch her. Well, so much for my promises.
While here I decided I should go ahead and sign up for Social Security. I am going to start drawing it just as soon as I'm eligible. I located the Social Security office in Del Rio (it was on the road to Wal-Mart) and decided to gather up the stuff I thought I'd need and drive there in the morning. I had to really dig through things to locate my birth certificate but eventually (with Ginger's help) I found it. Next morning at nine o'clock I arrived at the office and there was no one else waiting so I was able to go right to the window without even taking a number. I felt quite lucky. When I told the lady what I wanted, she asked me when I would turn 'of age', I answered June and she told me I had to wait until April. That there was nothing she could do for me until then. I was actually quite disappointed because I really wanted to get that part of it all behind me. However, as I'm sure many of you know, you can't argue with a bureaucrat. I wanted to, I really did, but (and here is where Ginger would be proud of me) I didn't and darn it, she wasn't even there to see me be nice!
We did enjoy our stay in Del Rio, it was a really nice little base. The people were friendly, the family camp host was retired Navy and an Escapee so we had some things in common. We met a retired Navy Chief from California and had a retired Air Force Sgt beside us while we were there. He cautioned me about riding my bicycle without the helmet. He said security would nab me for that. We thought we had seen the entire base but when we left (we left through a side gate, not the main one) we discovered a large golf course and lot's of very nice housing that we didn't even know was there. All in all, we enjoyed our stay at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas.
Underway again, heading south towards (hopefully) warmer weather. We drive through some small towns with names like Quemado, Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs and eventually arrive at a very nice travel information center at Laredo, Texas. This is one of the largest and prettiest travel information centers I've ever visited. They sure do it up big in Texas. I'm putting in a picture of R-Way at the travel info center just to show that we're out there running with the big boys.
We were surprised at just how BIG Laredo is. We drove right through the middle of town. We could see across the border into Mexico and, as luck would have it, they were working on the roads in Laredo. Still, we saw some very pretty homes and a lovely High School and Junior College. Nothing at all like I thought Laredo would be. In my mind I had pictured a dusty small town with dirt roads and even hitching posts for the horses. It's all grown up now. From Laredo we made it down to Rio Grande City and as we were driving through the downtown area, R-Way stalled out on us. Since we were in slow moving, city traffic I didn't think too much about it. I restarted her and continued on my way only to be surprised by another stall. This time the traffic was moving much faster and I was lucky enough to be at a place that had a large number of parking spaces empty right where I was. We coasted into the parking spaces and let traffic go on by us. Thinking I may have just had a vapor lock I just let R-Way sit for awhile. After 5 or 6 minutes I tried her again, she started right up and we continued on through town keeping our fingers crossed that it wouldn't stall again. We came upon a Wal-Mart and decided we probably should just stay there overnight and not push our luck. The next morning we drove on into "The Valley" and was amazed at the highway's, orange groves, and RV Parks. Saw several signs referring to "Winter Texans" and how welcome they were. Nothing like Summer Mainers or Summer New Englander's. We really felt welcome!
It wasn't difficult getting around, even with road construction (we've been quite lucky with road construction in that we haven't really be held up because of it at all) traffic moved right along. Once we got to Harlingen we knew we were almost there. The Delorme Street Atlas program routed us down to Brownsville and up to Port Isabel. We decided to abandon that route and head for Port Isabel just north of Brownsville. That was a wise decision as Texas route 100 took us right through Los Fresnos and into Port Isabel. From there it was just a matter of crossing the 2 mile causeway onto South Padre Island. At the end of the causeway we made a right and the Cameron County Isla Blanca Park awaited us a very short distance down the road.
We registered, drove through the gate (the Park has a guarded gate to get in, we liked that), found our spot, got the SAAB off the dolly, unhitched the dolly, backed R-Way into our spot, leveled her up and shut her down. South Padre Island, we had arrived! The temperature was in the lower 80's and a cooling breeze was blowing off the water. It was like heaven. After hooking up we headed for the beach. These pictures show, the cooling breeze (notice the wear and tear on the flag), the sunset the first day and the moon rise the first night. Isn't it lovely? You have to really be here to enjoy it, to smell the salt water, feel the breeze blowing your hair and the heat of the sun on your body. Ah, life is good.
I really am sorry it has taken me so long to update the site, I promise I'll try to do better in the future. Of course, if you've read this far you are probably saying to yourself, yeah, I know promises.