Texas '05

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Wednesday, February 2, 2005  - St. Clair Shores, MI to Florence, KY  (map)
Awoke at our regular time, 7:30 am, and attended to the unfinished business of packing for spending the remainder of the winter in Texas. Each year it's become harder to remember what not to forget. Check heat, check the locks, make sure we've packed the kitchen sink! 

Left the heat on low in the camper last night because it was going down to 7º.  So, at 8 am I went out to check. The camper was cold, house battery dead, no problem I thought, start the engine which uses the Ford battery. Turned the key--- nothing. To make a long episode short, after calling Jayco, after calling Ford representative, after calling Insurance company, and after trying to start/jump for 2 hours, the road service man came to the house climbed into the motor home and STARTED the motorhome up without a sputter. Go figure!!  I still drove to the repair for professional analysis. Results, no indications on any problems enjoy your vacation he said...

Departed at 1 pm and had snow on the ground all the way to Cincinnati, I had planned not to stop until we left the snow behind. In Florence Kentucky (just south of Covington) the ground was free of snow. We pulled into a rest area at 7 pm ate dinner and were in bed by 10 pm. Crawled out of the sack at 8 am to find snow cover had caught-up with us (picture). 

Thursday, February 3, 2005  Florence, KY to Meriwether Campground on the Natchez Trace.   (map)
The Natchez Trace is a pre-civil war Indian and trader route from Nashville to Natchez. It was use by the Confederates during the war and gain some prominence. It's now under the auspicious of the National Park system. We gained access to the Trace just west of Nashville off route I-40 after stopping at the visitor center for information. We had driven the Trace last year and thought we would take-in all 400 miles of this year. The Trace is a beautiful two lane blacktop of limited access, making for very little traffic. Speed limit is 50 mph and is a direct route to our first destination, Natchez.

We stopped at the first Campground on the Trace, Meriwether (Lewis - His remains are buried here). We drove to the campground to find we had our choice of any of the 31 sites. Yep, not a rig on the grounds. We pulled into the Camp Host spot figuring it must be the best site. As we walk that evening we seen every site had a stack of split logs near the fire pit. About half the sites were pull-through. No services at the sites but they have ceramic tiled heated rest rooms. The best part was the sign seen coming in "No Fees."

Friday, February 4, 2005 Meriwether Campground, TN to Tupelo, MS  (map)
We had planned to make Natchez today, after a foggy start (picture) the sun came out and warmed to over 60º making driving hard. With bright sun shine and warm weather, when we hit Tupelo, that was it for the day. We stayed at the Natchez Trace RV Park (full serv. $18), about 8 miles SW of Tupelo where I took advantage of the warmth and washed the filthy camper and car.  A perfect day. 

Saturday, February 5, 2005  Tupelo, MS
Sun was shining again this morning and it felt so good to lie about we decided to spend another night. Bummed around Tupelo a little and found free internet service in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn  located at the north end of town. Just happened to have the laptop in the car so we sent the e-mail. Planning on moving on tomorrow. Nick called this night checking our progress.

Sunday, February 6, 2005  Tupelo, MS to Vicksburg, MS -gas $1.85   (map)
On the road by 8:30 am without a hitch. Beautiful driving with a slight overcast and warm. Another great thing about driving the Natchez Trace is your basically always in the woods hence no winds. We stopped several times today with one memorable stop at Kosciusko, city of. Just off the Trace was the visitor center where we learned we were at the birth town of Oprah Winfrey. So after learning all the interesting facts of the area, Polish you know, we decided to whiz by Oprah's place.

We took the directions and a map from the volunteer and buzzed off for the short trip. After driving around in circles we took a harder look at the map, compared it to another map used some logic and finally ended up in front of a church where Oprah once attended services (Picture). Her home was gone and a sign stood where her home once had (picture). The neighborhood still reflects the POOR old south.

Snacking at the roadside table we decided to change our destination to Vicksburg MS. We had been to the National Cemetery some years ago when your Mom was a teenager and we want to reminisce a little. I took a picture of your Mon sitting in a covered seating area. We'll see if we can search it out and duplicate the photo.

Staying at The Battlefield RV Park for $18 full service. 

Got an email from Ron Reuter today who suggested putting a map on this page so it would be easier to follow along exactly where we're we are. So we'll give it a try. When you see the (map) link it will show our present position and progress, I hope.

This has been a two MGD day and I feel great!

Monday, February 7, 2005  Vicksburg, MS
Headed to Vicksburg National Military Park first thing this morning. At the visitors center we took in the movie bought all the necessary literature and an audio auto tour tape and we were off. The day is overcast with light rain forecast for the afternoon. We drove through the battlegrounds stopping at the various monuments and observation points taking pictures. I was thinking how much the Civil War buffs Chuck Berg and Uncle Mike would enjoy this tour. Your encouraged to walk the trenches and put yourself in the middle of the battle. Blue signs show were the Yanks where and the red signs show the Confederate lines. At some points the lines weren't a stones throw apart. Each state has gone through considerable expense to place monuments throughout the battlefield, Michigan's is very nice (picture). Near the end of the tour we drove through the cemetery and re-discovered a lookout we had visited some 43 years ago. I place your Mom in the same place I took her picture long ago (picture) and did it again today (picture).

Looked around for free internet this evening and am finding more connections BUT most are secure now. Last year all Hampton Inn's were free and easy connections. This year I haven't connected at a Hampton Inn period.  Times change.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005  Vicksburg, MS to Natchez, MS. (map5)
Broke camp early and headed toward the Natchez Trace Parkway. Once again on the Trace we fond it empty of traffic, so empty in fact that your mother was driving again. About 15 miles from the end of the Trace we stopped at the only remaining 'Stand' on the Trace. Stands (residence, store, and Inn) were located about every fifteen to twenty miles along the Trace. This structure is one of the oldest building in Mississippi (picture) (picture). We visited the  building and grounds (picture), the original owners (yr 1756)  farmed the land and maintained property with the help of numerous slaves. The property remained in the same family till about 1948 when the park service bought it. Some of the family still live near by. Some of the major traffic of the Trace were traders who sailed barges of product downriver to Natchez, unable to sail upriver sold the barge for wood and walked the trace back to Nashville (picture). 

Continue onto Natchez arriving about 11:30 am.

We stopped at the visitor center at the south-end of town, were we are permitted to stay in the parking lot at no charge (picture), we gathered the necessary literature to tour the town. We drove around on our self-guided tour and found a lot of mansions and a very appealing 'Old Town'.  We took in the Stanton Hall mansion (picture) and were the only people on the tour. Our guide said during season she will host as many as 60 people in a group. Needless to say we had a lot of time to ask a lot of questions.

Another fact we realized again as we head south is KUDZU. Kudzu is a fast growing vine that grows so fast it encapsulated everything. We've driven by acre upon acre where it appears as some great mass eating up the earth. How fast does it grow you ask? One foot a day! 
Fortunately it dyes off during the winter months but reappears every spring with a vengeance.  (picture)

Wednesday, February 9, 2005  Natchez, MS
You know every trip has it's memorable moments. It seems when traveling the states or the world for that matter there's always one day on any trip that stays with you forever. Well today, I'm sure, is that day. First thing this morning as we're readying ourselves to tour, with trips back and forth to the car, someone did not slam the screen door tight.  While we were both inside making ready Dieter bumped the screen and it open and closed. He paused for a second then pushed the screen door open and to his surprise it swung way open and boogied he did. Faster than greased lightning with  no map or particular direction he was gone heading directly for the expressway. I leaped to my feet grabbing a handful of treats in hot pursuit. Mom right behind me. I shouted back to her get the car. I was off and running toward the shoulder where Dieter was already flying down towards the Mississippi river and the bridge to Louisiana. I looked back, still no Carol and Dieter is now on direct course for the street. I jumped onto he street with arms a waving and pointing to STUPID dog weaving across the two lanes of traffic. Cars slowed and began stopping. Here comes an 18 wheeler a flying, I jumped almost in front of him with arms a whaling, he slowed. Here comes Carol, I direct here to the left lane as Dieter is some 300 feet ahead and on his way to Louisiana across the bridge. The cars and trucks are stopping and a man in small pickup has his door open. Nope Dieter turns and is heading back towards Mom, The Horizon's door flings open as Dieter flies by. Now Mon is stuck she has to cross the bridge and who knows how far before there is a turn around. Dieter heads towards me weaving from lane to lane, I run across the two lanes to the median and try to close the gap. Now the median is some two hundred feet wide and Dieter is heading for it. I raised my voice and call "Dieter!". He's not breaking stride. Fortunately at the point close to the bridge on the opposing side, there is a three foot high cement barrier. Dieter eyes the obstacle and turns towards me. With treats in hand as he's coming towards me at high speed I extend my handful of treats and shout Dieter TREATS!". He whizzed by me at 37 MPH only to slow and turn and look back at me. I immediately went to the familiar crouch with extended hand and said "Dieter COME!". Recognizing the  position and treats he came blazing back to me. I picked him up as I gave him the treat and said in a clam reassuring manner "You little son-of-bitch your going to be the death of me.."  Dog for sale cheap!!   (picture)

You know it's only 9:15 am, more later...

Well we finally settled down after we took in the Welcome to Natchez movie at the visitor center (picture), and took a little drive around. We kinda did your mother's thing (picture) for a while than some things I enjoy (picture).  Natchez is a neat place to visit with the Antebellum homes, Old Town antiques stores, and overall picture-risk-ness.  Now the Magnolias are in bloom as well as the Bougainvillea  and Hibiscus making for a warm reception. We were home early, by five, because we plan to leave early in the morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2005  Natchez, MS to Texas, exit 873 -gas $179  (map)
Early start this morning, 4,15 am. Drove west to Alexandria Louisiana then SW to I-10 and the Texas border. Pulled into Oak Leaf Park by noon. We have laundry, charge camera batteries, and sunshine on the agenda. And, one more MGD.

Friday, February 11, 2005  Texas, exit 873 to Port Aransas, Mustang Island, TX -gas $1.58  (map)
Wahoo! We're here! Only 10 days and so many hours but we're here. Temperature is 70 something at 6:00 in the evening. We'll camp on the beach tonight just for the pleasure of being here. We'll look for the convenience of a campground in a day or two. Outside Dieter went ballistic, birds all over the place. I took him on the beach and he ran in three directions at one time and doing flips at the end of the rope. Gypsy yawned.

It's hard to believe that after entering Texas we still had an eight hour day of driving to get here and we are still a 175 miles from Brownsville. Port Aransas is located at the northern tip of Parde Island. About midway on the Island the Island's name changes from Parde Island to Mustang Island (different county). The north end of the island is opposite Corpus Christi and the south end is outside of Brownsville.  

Maybe after spaghetti we'll walk the beach some but that will be it for today...

Saturday, February 12, 2005   Port Aransas, Mustang Island, TX 
A great nights sleep, with the surf splashing and soft breeze all night long (picture). Can't believe the amount of white Pelican in the channel this morning (picture). We'll stay another night on the beach maybe tomorrow move to the beaches campground, $18 a night with water and electric. It's located behind small sand dunes. If we book the week it drops to $16 per. Mom and I walked a mile down the beach this morning, that's after I ran Dieter around in circles for a while. We then drove over to Beeman's for coffee and guess what else they have, fresh cinnabuns ... We went over to the bird watching area were we took calls from Nick & Patti and Glenn (picture).

I don't know what's getting into me, we went out to our first Taqueria since leaving home. I know valentine day is near I guess I was feeling generous so we splurged, Mom had a taco salad and I had my usual enchiladas, total bill $12, and that was dinner two. Happy Valentine. Everything is not so reasonable around here, at Beeman's one coffee two donuts eight bucks!  

Sunday, February 13, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Walked the  beach this morning then spotted a nice campsite within the campground, we've decided to send a couple weeks here. We'll go back and register after 9 am. Guess what? We went back to Beeeman's a second time and it's only Sunday.

This is not a pretty area no trees and every morning it looks very threatening outside, cloudy, windy, waves pounding on the beach but there is something intriguing about it. Can spend hours watching the dolphin cavorting in the shipping channel, flocks of white Pelicans soaring about, and a beach load of birds of various types. When the sun comes out the temperature immediately soars and your taking off any outer garment. Typically you see the younger ones in shorts and tank tops and the older retires in jackets and long pants. Lots of fishing off the jetty along the shipping channel, a lot of activity here.

Move onto a campsite (Nueces County Campground) this afternoon for a week at a time,  $110. (picture)

Monday, February 14, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
This was a perfect morning I was told. Bright sunshine, clam, crystal clear blue sky. I couldn't get out of bed! Mom walked Dieter while I snoozed. Somewhere late in the afternoon we mounted our bikes and peddled the beach (picture) and some local streets. It was beautiful all day.  Just  doing  what retirees are suppose to....

Tuesday, February 15, 2005   Port Aransas, TX
A little work around the house, walk on the beach, sitting around (picture) and a movie at the Marine Center. Dinner at Sharkey's, good burger and good shrimp. 

Mom spotted Dieter doing some modern dance and investigated. Dieter was dancing on a small mound of fire ants and obviously being bitten. Mom put Dieter on the picnic table and started picking brushing out the tiny little invaders. Don't you know Mom ended up with several bites a few on her midriff and you know Mom's sensitivity to insect bites, so I think she suffered more than Dieter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005   Port Aransas, TX    gas $1.52 (picture)
Went for a drive today to the south. Drove on the beach for 8 miles then back to the road to the south end of Mustang Island. The south end is a National Park Seashore. (free for Golden Passport holders). The park visitor center near the entrance of the park is some 60 miles to from the end of the park and the end of Mustang island, that's all beach front. I learned that Mustang Island is separated from Padre Island by a cannel. So we do have two different islands. We walked the beach (picture)

This was an all day thing so only thing we did after dinner was to gas up the Horizon..

Thursday, February 17, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Talked with Craig today, he's doing the boat show. Mom is doing laundry today. Did a little straighten out of the basement and then went out to watch skiers or what ever you call this type of water sport. (picture) (picture)

UTMSI (University of Texas Marine Science Institute), which is located here, had a presentation about "Diving with Seals under Antarctica's  Frozen Ocean."   Dr. Lee Fuiman narrated the presentation about Weddell seals. He showed how they attached a video camera to a seal along with other sensors then plotted the results showing 3D graphic of the seals path under the ice. Vary fascinating and excellent evening. There were about 200 in attendance. They have some sort of free presentation almost every night during the week.

Friday, February 18, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Overcast and mild. Decided to take a ride to Ingleside on the Bay. Sleepy residential bay side area next to the area where they make Texas Towers. First on the way we couldn't get past Beeman's (picture). When we got to the towers we couldn't get close enough to get good pictures (picture) (picture). Thinking now, because of having to use full optical zoom and then digital zoom on top of that, I should of shot HIGH quality shots. If we get back there I'll try that just to see the difference. 

On the way home we stopped at Taqueria San Juan for early dinner. We over ate for $10.83. I asked the waitress how to pronounce Taqueria  and the meaning of the word.  Sounded to me like she said " Toe-kair-as"  translation, "Tacos"

Just heard on the radio this has been the wettest season in years, but our area has a 3" deficit as of today. They predicting rain for ALL next week along the coast. So far since we've been here we had overcast mornings till around noon then partial sun for the remainder of the day. No rain at all yet. Breezy of course.

Saturday, February 19, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Well according to the local weekly today is garage sale day. So with map in hand we mounted our bikes and off we went, 28  listed. Needless to say it was a long morning with over ten miles of peddling, a long  rest on the shipping channel, and ended with a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant (La Playa -Excellent). We ate on the patio. Mom bought two small items at the garage sales and I had to turn down a new electrical extension cord for $.50 because I just bought one yesterday for $3.50, groan!

We walked the beach in the evening, lots of people here this weekend, came home after dark.

Sunday, February 20, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Paid for another week today then washed the car and packed some snacks, none of which were Little Debby Snack as recommended by Mr. Reuter, and headed to Corpus Christy. We went to tour the USS Lexington aircraft carrier. A couple hour self guided tour concluded with an IMAX movie located in the hanger deck. They have done a nice job with numerous static displays and it made for an enjoyable day (picture). Yep a Tom Cat!

Monday, February 21, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Played around inside this morning before going for the beach walk. Changing some OEM stuff around to suit me better. Nick called this afternoon, he's happy because he's on the road south.. Biking around town then over to the bird viewing area and listen to the weirdest sounding birds we've ever heard. They sounded more like frogs than birds. Like a pot bellied beer drinker trying to bring up a guttural burp! 

Stopped for milk on the way back

Tuesday, February 22, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Fog. Fog like I never experienced (picture). Today low tide was at 8:10 am so at 7:s40 am we're out beachcombing. Soon I was telling Mom this fog is the thickest I've ever seen! She said clean your glasses. Dang my glass were all fogged up. Continued walking until I had water running down my brow. By the time we got back our hair was soaked as if we had just showered, yet out clothes were dry. Go figure.

Went to the Marine center for the evening movie. About DNA and the origin of man and how one man trace the genetics of all animals to their single parent, the sponge. Yep Eve was a sponge proven by DNA. Movie was very interesting but a little long for the message. Still foggy when leaving the movie.

Talked with Nick this night and found he is on the Natchez Trace traveling south and in good spirits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Fog upon awaking and WOW sun at 8:30am. Boy was that refreshing.. Although rain was in the general forecast we had a fantastic day with sunshine all day long and temperatures reaching 87º with a gentle breeze, perfect! After walking the beach and exercising Dieter for an hour or so we drove north to Rockport /Fulton to locate a square dance hall. We found the Paws & Taws (picture) which is a beautiful building located right on the Gulf waterfront! We had lunch at Charlotte Plumbers on the water, where we scoffed up blacken Amberjack sandwiches while over looking the marina. The meal was delicious! 

Mom decided we should continue on to investigate the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which was just down the road. Well after a never ending drive we ended up at the park entrance. This area is the winter resting place for the endangered Whooping Crane. After gathering all necessary information from the visitors center (Golden Passport in vogue) we embarked on the sixteen mile motor tour of the refuge. We observed loads of wild life (picture) so much so that we decide to go to a viewing platform (picture) and then take a trial-hike, we decided against the trial-hike (picture). This is a great park with walking trails and viewing towers and loads of wild life. We should have allocated more time for this adventure. Evening sunset was fast approaching as we headed home. A perfect day.

Dieter had his legs crossed when we arrived home and Gypsy didn't even know we were gone.. We didn't get back until after 7 pm which nixed the square dancing for this evening.

Thursday, February 24, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Awoke to the gentle pitter patter of rain on the roof. As predicted heavy rain on and off all day??.  Nope, to our pleasant surprise it lightened up about ten so we decided to do some shopping in Corpus Christi. About a 40 minute drive and a little shopping before the sun broke out. On the way back we visited a residential area at the edge on Port Aransas and seen some neat homes (picture) (picture). Quite evening when Nick called and said he is in Texas and expected to rendezvous tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, February 25, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
Windy and overcast (groan). Looks like this will be our coldest day. Only 59º no sun, feels like home. Took a long two hour walk this morning now just hanging out.

Company form home. Nick and Patti arrived early this evening, we talked some at dinner at the Trout Street Station. Later desert and coffee at our place (picture). 

Saturday, February 26, 2005   Port Aransas, TX 
RAIN - RAIN - RAIN!  What a day. Went with Nick & Pat for a ride to Corpus Christi where we took in a "Gibraltar Trade Center" type event, Had dinner and that was about it for the day. Nick and I did search out a free internet connection and found one at the Hamilton Motel. It rained for over 18 hours continuously, what a day!

Sunday, February 27, 2005 Port Aransas, TX  to San Banito, TX. 
SUN SUN SUN! Great day! What a relief to have such nice weather. Today the sun was out all day and the three hour drive down was a pleasure.  We'll be staying at Fun N Sun  RV Resort, with Pass Port America we'll pay $15 a night for everything. This is the same resort we stayed at last year. Upon arrival, with the office closed on Sunday, the gate man signed us in and selected a site for us. Don't you know with over a thousand sites at this location by chance we got the exact same site we had last year. We're parked next to a couple who live at 21 mile and Romeo Plank.

After we connected up and settled in a neighbor came by and told of an ice cream social at the hall where you can get all the ice cream you can eat for a buck. He let us know to sit in the back because the back rows go first. We arrived a little early and sat in the back. The hall was filled with chairs and I would guess several hundred people were there. Before ice cream the group participated in a sing-along of OLD songs. Few actually sang but Nick and I tried to hold up our end. 6:30 sharp the last row got up and paraded down the center isle, paid a buck, and was given a paper dish (the kind hamburger or popcorn comes in). At each side of the hall they had some ten tables setup with all different kind of ice cream. I loaded up on Butter Pecan (more than I needed).  After the ice cream a group sang gospel songs. Nick was feel poorly, having contracted Errol's cough (Nick said to say that) before leaving home, so we didn't stay for the music, but instead return to the camper where the show could be seen on the Park's TV channel. Tomorrow promises to be even a better day.

Monday, February 28, 2005    San Banito, TX. 
Sun and warm, a quiet day adjusting to our new surroundings (picture). Walked around the office complex an sat in on the computer club's meeting for a short time. Was impressed to see close to a hundred people participating in the club. In door shuffleboard, large pool hall, exercise room, are some of activities available. We then took a short drive to San Banito and Harlingen stopping at the visitor's center to pickup another large package of papers. Also was happy to find the same Ramada Inn I use for the internet last year still has it available, so that's nice.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 San Banito, TX.  (Map)
7:00 am. Looks like we may have a nice day today (picture). And we did. With a slight overcast we thought it would be a good day to walk the streets of Mexico. We were on the road by nine for the 25 mile trip to the border town of Progreso. Parking on the U.S. side for a buck we walked across the border (picture) and posed for pictures at the entrance to the city of Progreso Mexico (picture). Street sidewalks, which are barley wide enough to walk, are lined with street vendors and beggars. In the shops they have lots to chose from (picture) (picture). In addition to the hundreds of shops there appear to be as many dental offices with prices of cleaning ranging from $10 to $20. Mom went for the high priced cleaning (picture). After shopping and cleaning we had lunch in a restaurant above one of the stores where we enjoyed Mexican food (picture).

The trip to Mexico took the best part of the day and not that we didn't do enough shopping we had to stopped at a fruit stand and Wal Marts on the way back. For dinner this evening Nick cooked on the grill. You would think that we had a very busy day and it was time to put your feet up and relax. No that's not the way it goes. Let's see they're having advance square dance lessons tonight from 7:30 to 9:30, and with things gearing down for the winter season, let's see what's going on. So off we trot. The class was about to begin but they needed only one more MALE. Guess who was elected. It wasn't just for one tip but the whole evening. The worst part wasn't having to dance while being totally exhausted and not being a good advance dancer and having to perform with total strangers, no the hardest part is trying to figure out how to get even with those who volunteered me.... Pay backs! We introduced ourselves to caller Nasser Shukayr and found him very personable and enjoyable to dance to.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Little overcast today so we though we'd run over to Brownsville to the SAS shoe store. Mission accomplished we drove through downtown Brownsville for a short drive and not speaking any Spanish we then drove over to South Padre Island to judge the calm before the storm. Took a break for a nice fish lunch then on to the beach. Next week is spring break and thousands and thousands of kids will invade the beach here. Today one group of pre-break kids huddled together on the beach, temp was about 68°. All else was quite. Back at camp Mom made a few phone calls home and than we had an evening walk.

Thursday, March 3, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Today is dance day, 10 am till noon. Casual dress we headed to the hall to find a lot of dancers were attending a Borderfest where they square dance on the international bridge and then on in to Mexico. With only a few squares we had a good opportunity to meet and talk with other foreigners. My dance partner from the advance class was here. Come to find out she is the caller's lady, and she commutes from the UK. hmmm. Rating the caller we agreed that anyone who can call "Fishermen's Luck" faster than Cindy Whitaker (sp?) really has to have it all together. We found like most all National Callers he can take a simple call like square through four and turn you on your head, really making dancing enjoyable.

Leaving the dance hall we found the pool crowded again as we headed to lunch. Nick and I found they have free high speed internet connections available in one of the activity rooms. We took our computes down for mail etc. Called and talked with the Schlafs to see how things were in Florida. Cold and wet this day, all else fine. Mom went to bingo this evening while I just dummied down.

Friday, March 4, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Bright and sunny. A perfect day for retirees! The highlight of day was spent in the pool. Now for the non-snowbirds you may not be able to comprehend this but in Florida when you enter the pool you stand there with your sun glasses and hat in place, and you don't dare splash or move too vigorously and upset the scene. Now when I enter the pool here in Texas a large number of your winter Texans were all moving in unisonant in a counter-clock wise direction creating a whirlpool movement of water. This required movement and work on my part, felt like an exercise program. This action continued for the entire time we spent sitting pool side and you thought this life was easy!

Went to Harlingen for dinner, thank you Nick, and then toured the Encore RV Resort just to see how it was. Pleasant day in all ...

Saturday, March 5, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Pancake breakfast in the rec hall. Pancakes, sausage, and coffee for $2.50. For an additional  50¢ you can add juice or eggs or apple sauce. So that saved doing dishes. Next it's SAS shoe outlet again and than stopping at a flea market on the way back, bought nothing. Squared dance this evening "Hail Caesar" (picture). The caller really puts a lot in to his program. In addition to costume he apparently does some research on the web and than between the tip would recite some historical facts embellish with square dance humor. Example, (for the square dancers) he explained how squared dancing started in Caesar's day, but were not so advanced. Instead of having a square he placed the floor in two faced lines and said this was home. He then proceeded to call from this setup. It was fun..

He made it a point to visit with everyone (picture) during the course of the evening..

Sunday, March 6, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
This is a good retiree day. Toured old town Harlingen, one street. Next the antique district, Jackson street. Fortunately it's Sunday and everything is shut down tight. Made our way over to the Iwo Jima memorial (picture). We did this last year so no need to say more. Now for the best part, today is Sunday, ice cream social, song, and entertainment night. After pigging out on Butter Pecan and trying to join in the sing along we enjoyed a couple from Branson, Hearts & Harmony, who sang and played and just entertained. 

They have been married only six or seven years so one thing they ask of the 800 some people in audience, all between 60 and 90 years of age, is martial advice. First they ask how many have been married 50 plus years, than 60 plus, and finally  asked advice from a couple married 72 years. She says WOW! Then asking "What do you attribute to your long long marriage." The frail old great great grandmother nervously stood up, hesitates a few moments, then exclaims "The old goat won't die!"    Brought the house down.

Monday, March 7, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Hot and Sunny 87°.  So off to the beach we go. South Padre Island, where the kids go. We did see people under sixty for the first time, it felt real good. The kids played in the surf (picture) and laid on the beach (picture). The beach wasn't crowded but there were a lot of folks out there. We walked the beach for a couple of miles, laid in the sun and had a nice picnic lunch (picture). Upon returning it was Miller time, we enjoyed having a beer with our old friend Errol (picture).

Another free show at the rec hall  this evening "Jennifer in the morning!"  Nice singer from Branson, who put on a nice show..

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Square dancing this morning from 9:30 till noon at Sun Burst RV resort. We danced to Tom Roper, and had over 20 squares. I find it interesting to see how many folks have left for home already. Again at this park they mentioned that many left already. Seems to me it's still winter up north. 

For the dancers, we are amazed to see so many GOOD dancers. I can't imagine back home of going to a dance with twenty square and having the caller call "Red Hot" back to back with "Ice Cold" and not lose a square. Not that we don't break down on simple calls but that's due to anticipation. Take a simple call like "Sides LEFT square through four." Of course due to our brain washing of Sides LEAN left, we stood there dumbfounded. Naturally we could/did blame the caller for emphasis of LEFT, since there were many squares in our predicament. I guess that is what is the most fun, dancing with different callers for each has a little something different to share. At this dance they concluded the dance with the traditional circle thank you, but then he calls one Red Hot Hash tip (for the young). What goes on is the calls get progressively faster and faster and faster. We made it just about to the end when one person turned the wrong way, we died in the water. If a mistake is made there is absolutely no time for recovery.

Did a little shopping on the way home and than out for pizza for dinner. The rec hall showed  the movie "Ray" this evening, we took a pass.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Bright sunny morning good for washing the car and then a visit to the computer room till lunch. I had to take some pictures off our web page and put them on Snap Fish, ran out of space on the web site. After lunch we decided to go to Mexico again. The sidewalks were still filled with shoppers (picture), it appears it doesn't matter what day of the week or time of the day it is. You can find sidewalk music (picture) beggars (picture) and sidewalk sales (pictures) galore. Along with walking and shopping in the hot sun you must irrigate (picture). Of course there is always something you want to take home but packing is a problem (picture).

Thursday, March 10, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Another perfect day! Square danced till noon, Wal Marts for groceries, biked the near-by area, finishing up the day in the computer room while Mom went to the pool for an evening swim.

Friday, March 11, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Kind of a hang around day. Finally decided to driver over to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (about 30 miles away). They have a nice bird viewing area and some nice walking trails in addition to a 15 mile driving loop with stops. This refuge, on this day, didn't have as much wile life as the refuge in Port Aransas, BUT, they did have alligators (picture) and a nice viewing area for them (picture). Mom had the crock-pot going this day so dinner was ready when we got home.

Saturday, March 12, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Pancake breakfast day... I think they serve over thousand people breakfast in a very short time. They have three commercial flat grills two are dedicated to pan cakes and the third is scrambled eggs or sausage. Guest line up at the hot grills, both are filled with hotcakes. As the pancakes cooked we inline gabbed, it looks like they serve about twenty at a time so the line moves very quickly. As we ate we found that half of the hall was setup with a craft sale/flea market, so naturally we browsed breakfast away. Pool in afternoon were I finally took a couple pictures. Just off the pool is the dance hall (picture) with it's gorgeous dance floor (picture). Pool temperature 88° (picture) and the hot tub 104° (picture). And of course just way too much sun (picture).

This evening we danced to Doug Bennett who was filling in for Nasser this night. Doug has a very smooth voice and we had fun with his patterns but the floor didn't flow as smoothly as with the other callers, why??

For the Dancers: Doug did a neat thing with Spin chain and exchange the gears. As the lead lady crossed and all followed he called out "lead lady continue and all follow single file to a circle." Then I think it was men roll back to a right & left grand.

After the dance it we drove over to a Dairy Queen for a sweet ending to a great day.

Sunday, March 13, 2005 San Banito, TX. 
Hot hot hot.. In the 90's today. We've decided to move on a little farther west cause our rent is up at noon today. Spent some time in the pool, discussing our  biggest problem the "ice cream social" at 6:30 pm, so what to do... This park has an overflow area that you can use for final preparation before departing and spend the night so an early departure won't disturber the neighbors. So if we move to this overflow departure area we can stay for the ice cream social and gain a free night and leave at our leisure Monday morning. 

In the process of moving to the overflow area we stopped at the gate and the guard recorded our departure and also spotted waste dripping from the camper. I pulled onto the street to investigate. It smelled so you know what was leaking. After close inspection I found the waste gate was not shut all the way but I could not shut it tighter, something must be stuck. I drove into the over flow area where I re-dumped and this time flushed extensively and was able to close the gate tightly. During this fiasco and sometimes during the dumping process in the past we've had bad odor inside the camper. (Something I had plan to investigate.) I can't understand why a smell inside when doing stuff outside? I started my investigation at all points where pipes come from under the camper and through the floor. I found space around the pipes that I think should be filled but also found a 1½" directional valve cap under the cabinet drawers. Following the drain pipe upward I located an open drain pipe without a cap. Hence, the interior of the camper was open to the interior of the grey tank. I attached the cap and think that should be the end of stink problems while dumping. I still plan to pack around all the spaces that lead to the outside.

Monday, March 14, 2005 San Banito, TX. to Mission TX (map) Gas $1.76
We're ready to pullout by 9:00 am when fellow square dancer Larry Staffen came by to say hi. We met Larry and his wife Joyce at Poncho's Pond years past and it was a joy to talk with him.  The trip west was an easy 40 miles. We elected to stay at the Americana RV park for $11 a night till we find something with a pool or what ever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 Mission TX. 
Talked with Craig this morning everything at home is cool. Lay back day today nothing planned, except the Park is having a BBQ at 4 pm so no cooking today. Nick and Patti went over to the Peppermint Palace this morning to dance with Jerry Story. The dance started at 10 am and was continuous dancing till noon with only one seven minute break, wow. I wasn't up to dancing this morning so we just hung out. Replenished supplies at Wal Mart this evening. Cooling down this evening, suppose to drop down into the 60's tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 Mission TX. 
Moving day! Across the street and down a block to Mission West, $12 a day. Bigger park with dance hall and newly acquired caller Bob Ferguson. Yep same Ferguson that travels the Michigan Indiana area. We met and talked with Bob as we were checking in. He explained that he is their first caller for the park as they are just adding square dancing to their activities. They were only able to garner four squares a dance during there first season but he's hoping for a brighter future. This is a nice park with nice size sites. As with most parks at this time they're about half full. Bob said they are going to a bull fight in Reynosa this weekend an invited us to join the group. The highest rated bull fighter in the world is to perform so it looks like we're going to a bull fight..

Ride to the post office to mail Emma a package then lunch at Taco Express. Meals came one at time but the food was excellent! Nick is fast becoming an Mexican food aficionado. Already he can tell the difference between a enchilada an Fajita and he's loving it...

Walked around the park this evening and had stop to pick the pickers out of Dieter. Dieter is still full of energy and Gypsy is doing great still!

Thursday, March 17, 2005 Mission TX. 
St Patrick's day. Paid today for the bullfight scheduled for Sunday, $57 each. Beautiful morning so we decided to go biking. Peddled south to the state park to check out the birds. First thing we ran across were the elusive Javelina (Musk Hog) (picture) the only wild, native, pig like animal found in the U.S. Some what docile creature and in the park oblivious to humans (picture). We took in some of the bird blinds (picture) and watched some of the wild life. After a couple of hours we snacked along the paths (picture). We left the park and bike along the bike path (picture) and canals (picture). We came across and area of more Prickly Pear cactus then we ever seen (picture). It's a place you don't want to fall off your bike. After fifteen miles of biking we had cocktails on the patio (picture). Finished the day with dinner a "Pepe's on the river,"  Rio Grand don't you know. (picture) (picture

Friday, March 18, 2005 Mission TX. 
Perfect day for doing nothing. There was a small craft show in the rec hall this morning. I took Mom out for breakfast (at the craft show) creamed beef on home made buns. Washed and polished the car and just kind of hung out in the sun shine. Took a short ride and ended the day with a couple of games of Wizard with the Riesers.

Saturday, March 19, 2005 Mission TX. 
Big exciting day today. We got in the car for a ride and noise got louder and louder. Pulled over to discover the muffler went. Spent the rest of the afternoon locating a muffler shop and getting things repaired. Nick was nice enough to tag along so I had someone to speak English with.  During the repairs we went next door to Munchies for an ice cream. The shop was clean as a whistle and served fresh yogurt, only problem no one spoke English. She handed us a menu, we pointed and things worked out.  While this was going on Mom was home doing the laundry and baking another apple pie. The pie was delicious and great for the diet, I think I LOST a MINUS 8 lbs. so far this year!

Sunday, March 20, 2005 Mission TX. 
Happy birthday Robbie and Uncle Ed!  Sunny and hot today, a good day for a bullfight. The bus will pick us up at 1 pm so this morning Mom went over the the multi denominational service at the rec hall then caught up on the phone calls, walked the dogs and were ready to go.  There was a full bus and first stop was a fajita dinner for everyone then on to Reynosa  Mexico. A short trip through customs and on to the arena (picture). The arena is relatively small, maybe 100 yards across (picture). The stadium seating was steep and everyone has a good seat (picture) (picture). The sunny side remained relatively empty while the shady side was packed full. 

Trying to understand a bull fight I found extremely difficult. I'm going try to walk through it. As you enter the arena you are given some carnations and a white flag, no explanation. Inside we find the audience, the mariachi band, and the box seat of honor. Apparently the matadors play to the seats/guest of honor and then the crowd. The Herb Albert band plays and the Matadors parade around the arena in all the pomp and circumstance that their lavish costumes deserve (picture). Next the arena empties and a man enters carrying a sign to announce the bulls name and weight, as the girls do at a boxing match when they announce the round number. He leaves and next enters the bull. Now back stage someone has already stuck the bull once as he enters with tremendous exuberance (picture). You can see the small dart hanging from the nape of his neck. Because at this moment the bull is full of energy and angry, no one is in the ring. After he runs around a few laps and comes to a stop a few Matadors of lower ranking who were hiding behind wood protection walls enter waving their capes. I would suspect this is the most dangerous jobs, hence the reason for having the apprentice out there. They do some exciting moves as one at a time they dart across the arena to the protective wall on the other side. Now the bull is getting confused and maybe a little tired and it's at this time when the speediest of the runners comes out with two banderillas (spears), runs up to the bull and sticks them in his shoulders (picture). He does this two or three times to really agitate the bull. Now the bull is bleeding profusely running around in circles and losing energy fast. 

After a few more minutes the band strikes up the familiar horns and out comes the super star of the evening. We understand these Matadors are world class. He walks up to the bull shaking his red cape drawing the 450 kilo mound of muscle towards him (picture). As the bull digs in and charges he turn and evades the charge. I understand the objective is to draw the bull closer and closer each time whirling out of the way but staying close to the bull. The crowd cheers Olé each time the bull passes beneath the Matadors cape. The Matador gets the bull so tired and confused that he kneels in front of him and taps the bull on the head, (picture) this draws roars from the crowd . The Matador then pompously struts to the wall and draws a sword. He returns to the tired, weak, confused bull, does a few more cleaver moves and then delivers the familiar forward thrust over the bulls head between the shoulder blades deep in to his body. Two or three cape bearing apprentice come to the bull and entice him to turn in a tight circle until he drops dead (picture)!  At this time the Matador steps close to the bull and throws his hands in the air saluting the guest of honor and then the crowd (picture). Cheers abound and musical horns blare as the death of the bull is evident.

As the bull lies sprawled center ring the Matador approaches the guest of honor as the crowds cheers approvingly, wavy white flags. If there is no response from the seat of honor, the crowd cheers louder and wave the white flags more fiercely. Finally the guest honor stands and waves one or two flags. This rates the Matadors performance. If he got two white flags, two ears are cut off the bull and given to the Matador. Now the Matador parades the ring waving and accepting applause (picture). He selects a supporter and tosses him an ear (picture). Carnations are thrown at his feet from the crowd, he'll pick one up occasionally, nodding thanks. Some of the crowd will throw a hat or some personal thing in front of the parading Matador, he picks it up and throws it back. They say that is like getting an autograph from a star.

The rating is removal of one ear is good, two ears better, and two ears and a tail is the best performance. The bull is removed unceremoniously (picture). The whole process takes about fifteen to twenty minutes and then is repeated five more times. A total of six bulls were killed this day. 

Now in all fairness there were some variance in the performances.  In one instance eight apprentice line up in a back of each other some five feet apart in a long line (picture). The bull has been playing with the matador for a while already and is standing there glaring at this long line of apprentice. It's a staring down for a few moments then the Bull charges and to our amazement the line of apprentice charge the bull. They meet and the first man collapses on to the bulls head than the second and third till all eight men are on top of the bull (picture). The bull goes down  and then slowly the men peel of and dart off. That was a WOW.

There were also a couple of performances where they fought from atop a horse. A display of remarkable horsemanship (picture).

All in all would I go again? honestly after the first bull was killed I was ready to go for ice cream.

Monday, March 21, 2005 Mission TX. to Laredo, TX
Departure day. Only 150 miles so we're in no hurry to leave. In fact Mom wants Wal Mart again, so off we went. I bought a little brake fluid for the horizon, it was a tad low. We finally left about 11:00 am. we broke for lunch in Rio Grande City then broke again for Nick's broken CB, then broke again for Nick's broke right rear inter tire. Now don't you know we're in the middle of no where. Nick stopped at some remote, what appeared to be abandon, repair shop to find only a  Spanish speaking man. Nick now being fluid in Spanish states "flat" as he presses his hands together. The Spaniard shrugged his shoulders. Nick took the man to his buggy and shows him the flat tire. You could see the man light up as he said "Oh Whoosh." He replaced the flat with the spare for Nick and did not want any pay for it. Nick had to force some money on him..

Let me talk again about driving in southern Texas. As a slower moving vehicle I've become aware the slower movers mover over onto the shoulder to let other pass. This appear to be the way it's done down here. I've had a police car move over to let me pass. Granted the shoulders are paved and wider than I'm accustom, but it's still a shoulder. Now that being understood when a semi is fast approaching from the rear and here the shoulder is more narrow and I can only move off 3/4 of the way. Head on a semi is coming at us. He see what is happening and moves to his shoulder and the three of us make a tight pass. Oh boy! Now the semi has passed me but there are others in front of me and all are not aware of the 'get the hell out of the way law'. So the semi straddles the double yellow line as he passes the next car. Un-coming cars simply just get out of the way. Oh boy this is an experience.

I'll tell you one thing, you keep your eyes on the road..

We stopped at Lake Casa Blanca International state park outside of Laredo for $12 a night plus $3 per non resident person a night. I think Nick will buy a spear tire and maybe we'll visit downtown Laredo before leaving..

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 Laredo, TX
Went with Nick over to Sam's Club an bought a new tire this morning. We decided to drive around downtown Laredo this day. There was a lot of activity in town, lots of shops and a whole lot of Mexicans. They are celebrating Holy week here and it's evident by the many piñatas of the Easter bunny that are for sale all over. Listening to the radio they spoke of how much money is brought into the Laredo daily from the Mexican tourist that come over to shop. (Doesn't that sound funny). We parked and walked across the bridge (picture) over to Nuevu Laredo Mexico. I think this is one of the largest Mexican cities I've ever visited. Unlike Progreso where there are loads of American tourist, here I didn't see any other northern Americans, I'm sure there were some. We walked up several blocks passed numerous shops, so many so that they all started to look alike. We stopped for a picture at one of two city parks (picture)(picture) we've seen and that was it for Nuevu. There is a 50¢ toll to walk in and and a 30¢ toll to leave Mexico.

Back in Laredo we stopped a Danny's for a late lunch of enchiladas. After siesta Nick and I drove over to La Quinta motel for free internet connection.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 Laredo, TX to San Antonio TX  (map) gas $1.99
Loooong day of driving. Took a leisurely start after all we only plan to drive 150 miles. Texas does it right when it comes to visitor centers, they seem go a long way to make them beautiful (picture). Some where around 5 pm we finally pulled in a campground in San Antonio city. No real problems outside of CB radio. One of our is not operating properly, no range and lots of background static. We tighten up all the connections on nicks and sounded great for ten minutes. then a fuse blew on mind while wiggling wires. So we'll see next time we hit the road. 

After dinner tonight we took a familiarization ride around the Alamo and a short River Walk, since it was dark out we didn't want to do to much. We had a drink at a Jazz Bar on the River and listened to some music and people watched. There was a lot of pedestrian traffic so we felt very comfortable in a strange downtown. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 San Antonio TX 
Busy day. We went this morning to check out a different campgrounds that we'll move to tomorrow on our way back we decided to stop at the San José Mission (U.S. National Park Service) (picture). This is a beautifully restored Mission and grounds (picture). We took the guided tour (picture) and than walked the grounds for awhile. They have an operating  mill here (picture) which we found very interesting. This is a verticals shaft mill (picture) driven by water flow to the wheel at the bottom (picture). There was a movie about the mission that we also took in. We were surprise to find all this was free. Afterwards we jumped back into the car and took the short ride to the Alamo. Patti shot pictures as we walked the area. We dined at County Line Bar-B-Q. Last night as we walked by the ribs smelt soo good we returned for a rib lunch. After lunch we took the river boat for a ride around the River Walk. We concluded the day with a walk around a very large mall at one end of the River Walk.

Friday, March 25, 2005 San Antonio TX 
Good Friday and moving day. The park we were at, Travel World, cost $33 a night with the first night ½ price. They had us tucked in a couple of very small sites and no cable as other had, so we decided to move to Mission RV were the sites are larger and free internet is near by, all for $19 a night.. We hung around the park all day with Mom doing laundry and I changed the CB, appears the old one gave out. Nick and Patti  did some tourist-ing on their own.

Saturday, March 26, 2005 San Antonio TX 
Flea market day. Cooler this morning 65° suppose to get to 80° so I dressed accordingly, short sleeves, but stayed with long pants. Don't you know the sun stayed in all morning, clouds got heavier, few sprinkles and I needed a jacket. Fortunately for me the second market was all in doors so out of the breeze everything was OK. This second market called Flea Mart, was one long shelter and as we started walking from one end I noticed isles off this main isle. Peering down this adjacent isle it went on forever. Looking forward there appeared to be five more of these adjacent isles. Double groan! I paced off an isle, it was a little over 1,000 ft. A few quick calculations of 6X1,000 = 6,000 plus the main another 1,000 ft. totals to over 7,000 feet. now don't forget there are two sides to an isle which totals over 14,000 feet of fleas, that's almost three miles of tables. You don't think I wasn't tired before we started !

What did we buy, you ask. couple bars of Mexican soap and strawberries for a buck a qt. After this it was late lunch in the Market Square. We ate at "La Margarita" and had a very nice dinner. Did some more shopping in the Market Square after dinner, I guess to walk off dinner, hmmm. 

Drove over to Best Western and took advantage of the free internet then watched basketball for the remainder of the evening...

Sunday, March 27, 2005 San Antonio TX 
Happy Easter!  We were planning on leaving today but decided to stay one more night. Mom put a roast in the crock-pot and we invited the Riesers for Easter dinner. While the roast was cooking we went to the San Antonio Botanical Garden. It was real pleasing to see all the flowers in bloom (picture). They've done a super job which I guess can be seen at www.sabot.org. Leaving the botanical garden we drove through Brackebridge Park and we were all surprised to confirm how family orientated this culture is. This large park (Stony Creek size) was packed with families. Later this evening on the news they explained how big of a family event Easter is here. Family members arrive at the park Friday night to setup tents and spend the next couple nights to stake their place for the picnic on Sunday. Nick and I were talking late in the evening about the many picnics and family events we had growing up. New cloths for Easter and visiting with all the relatives. Nick was at Wal Mart Saturday evening and couldn't believe how many people were there, especially for last minute cloths.
    After touring we returned for afternoon cocktails and a snooze in the warm sun shine. Patti brought over some fixens and a homemade banana cream pie and we all enjoyed Easter dinner.
    Tomorrow we'll start the long ride towards home. With a few stops along the way we should be home in a dozen days or so...

Monday, March 28, 2005 San Antonio TX to Galveston TX (map)
By 9am we were on the road and rolling east. About 220 miles to Galveston so we rolled into a campground, outside Galveston around 6 pm.  At this rate of travel we'll be home in time to come back down here. What it is, as we travel along, Mom reads from the travel magazines of small town we are about to pass by. Inevitably she reads something neat to see so off we go three to five miles off the road to see an old railroad switch tower this time, one of the last to operate in Texas, preserved as a remembrance of days gone by. I think every small towns has something that has put it on the map to offer. And, it beats the stress of the interstate and the numerous trucks you have to deal with, but sure plays havoc with travel time.

We stayed at Dellanera RV Park ( www.dellanerarvpark.com ) just outside of Galveston and on the beach. I was pleasantly surprised to find free internet available at the campsite. No one was in the office when arrived so we picked a site and moved in.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 Galveston TX
Went to the office to pay this morning and found we chose one of the more expensive sites, $25 thank you.  We moved down the road to a Texas state park with larger sites also on the beach for $20 a night. Walked the beach then decided to go out for brunch. There are five miles of condo's motels and apartments, so I said there should be some nice restaurants near by. We ended up driving over five miles to just find one restaurant that was open let alone one that looked interesting. We settled for Denny's, groan. We then toured the historic district which has building built in the 1850's and a whole lot of unique shopping. Drove around the residential area taking a few picture as reminders of the area. After dinner went across the street to the bird watching area. Nothing seen worth mentioning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 Galveston TX
Walked the beach first thing then back to the historic district. More walking some shopping, and finally eating at Yaga's. A popular little restaurant with very good food. After words toured a railroad museum (picture) with full size trains (picture). They also had a model railroad display (picture). A nice day in town.  

Took wild man Dieter for run on the beach, Gypsy steps out side and once around the camper and she is ready to come in..

Thursday, March 31, 2005 Galveston TX
Happy Birthday Emily !!   Seeing there is so much to do around town we decided to stay another night. There is a offshore drilling platform museum at the dock in the historical district (picture).  This we found to be an excellent adventure. The charge was $4 and it was a self guided tour, I was tickled. They had a short movie detailing the operation of offshore drilling. After the movie we toured the three decks where there are numerous static displays (picture). Models of all the different types of drilling platforms (picture), cutaways of the piping and drill bits they use, and numerous short videos explaining various operations. We spent a good couple hours here. 

The harbor is very active. In view we could see three drilling platforms near by (picture), a whole lot of shrimp boats, and a Carnival Cruise ship Ecstasy at the dock. There are a whole bunch of restaurants dockside as well. We'll give Galveston a good rating as a fun place to visit (picture).

Friday, April 1, 2005 Galveston TX  to Vinton LA  (Map)
Cold front came through last night and we woke to chilling 58° with a high today of only 74° .  And don't you know that the breeze has been out of the south for the last month and today the day we plan to travel north the cold front changed the direction of the wind to a stiff 30 mph out of the north.  After  reviewing our travels we decided to head more east than north. We pulled out around 9 am and headed toward the ferry at the east end of the island. The ferry ride is across about three miles of open water and with the wind kicking up to a hefty 30 mph or better I thought we were in for a rough ride. Although a few waves washed over our windows the ride was surprisingly smooth. We drove to Port Arthur and old city where I thought we'd find some interesting history. We parked at the visitors center, had lunch, disconnected the car, and drove to the old town. Much to our dismay we found nothing to justify our stopping. Outside a very nice residential area, the old buildings of downtown we either abandoned or boarded up. We toured the town and even crossed the bridge to Pleasure Island before returning to the camper and continuing east. In the general area we found loads of refineries and lots of shipping docks.

We continued on to Interstate 10 and into Louisiana. Stopping at a Passport American campground RV Texan Pelican for $8.

Saturday, April 2, 2005   Vinton LA to Natchitoches LA  (Map)  gas $2.08
Short day, 150 miles Through Cajun country big time. Songs on the radio are in the language of the Cajuns, yes they have their own language. We stopped to eat at what appeared to be a steakhouse but it was very Cajun. Mom ordered Cajun Snapper. The southern waitress asked several times how Mom wanted her Snapper. One option was Etouffee. Well after asking her to repeat the pronunciation several times and still having no clue, like what is Etouffee? (sounded like 'A-toe-flay'). The waitress asks "Your not from here are you?"  She went on to explain that it's a sauce that has crawfish and spices in it.  Mon agree to have it, Etouffee  recipe.  Mom enjoyed it.. Then it was on to Natchitoches, the oldest city of the Louisiana purchase. This place is neat loads of azaleas, wisteria, dogwood and a great historical district with a lot of Spanish influence architecture. A collage town, home of Northwestern State University (picture). Located on the Crane Lake River, tonight their is some sort of riverside Jazz & RB concert. Some of the streets are closed off and there are people ever where. We plant to check it out more closely tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 3, 2005   Natchitoches LA  to Port Gibson MS   (Map)  
The day started as a great warm sunshiny morning. We got out early to catch some early morning flower shots. I think we missed it though I wasn't impressed with any of my pictures (picture). We got to the historical district so early that it looked like a ghost town (picture). No good shots there either. Got back to the coach and we were on the road by 9:30 am. I punched in the coordinates and the compute said take US 84 across the state of Louisiana, so we did. A beautiful drive no traffic and only a few small towns to contend with. Carol wanted to visit Port Gibson so this route took us back across the Mississippi on the famed Dieter bridge. We crossed without incident and proceed north to the Natchez Trace. Now this is when the day turned a little sour. Since I have all the elaborate navigation equipment  I thought we should put it to use. I connected the GPS to the lap-top and punched in our destination which painted a green line on the computer map. Next activate the GPS and a car pops up right on the map where we are located. So pilot's instructions to navigator were simple "keep us on the green line."  We only had some 50 miles to go and only on three different roads. So with the lap-top on Mom's lap we left downtown Natchez and followed the green line. Everything worked perfect we got to Port Gibson did our thing and were ready to camp. I said this route will take us back to the Trace, Mon said yes. We proceeded to the Trace entrance which is a circle, under the bridge then on to the entrance ramp. Pilot to navigator "right or left." Navigator with all the equipment "right." Pilot "I'm sensing left." Navigator "right." Ok, so motorhome with car I tow proceeded slowly right onto the Trace, one lane each direction, no shoulders, steep slopes on either side, no turning around.  Half way through the turn and past the point on no return, Navigator exclaims "The sign shows Natchez is this way" (we just left Natchez).

Now let me explain, it's getting on past 3 pm and a Trace campground is five mile to the left with only 25 sites and we're heading right with no turn around for who knows how far. So we're laughing about how the "equipment" failed us as we drove for a turn around. In the five miles to the turn around four campers passed us going the other direction. Well we finally got to the campground and drove around the camp circle.  As we came to the last two spots we found them taken by the campers that passed us while we were going the wrong way. Hence, driving error also cost us our camping plans. Back on the trace pausing at the side of road a to locate nearest Passport America campground. Hurray only ten miles away. Punched in co-ordinance and painted another green line. pilot as we are rolling "Tell me when we should turn." Navigator "How will I know." Pilot "When the little car on the computer leaves the green line."  Navigator "The car is not on the green line." Pilot "WHAT?" Brakes and sudden stop. Pilot "let's see that thing." looking at the computer, "Hmm looks like we past the exit (which we were in front of as we were looking for a campground and punching in co-ordinance.   GROAN, looking for another turn around. Fortunately not to far down the road we did a turn around. Now cautious Navigator states "When we exit we turn right." So as we reach the end of the exit having only two options right and left. Navigator states "We're suppose to turn right BUT the big sign in front of us shows Big Sand Campground to the left."  Pilot "Screw the GPS we'll go with the signs." We finally got here by 5 pm.  (PS.. All equipment work perfectly, interpolation was the problem and GPS coordinates in the book were wrong for actual campground location.)

Another neat campground (Big Sand $7.50), it has 30 sites of which only two are taken and there is absolutely no one around. Note on fence states "Pay before parking." We put money in an envelope and placed it in the slot in the door in the horse barn. After a short time a couple from the Air Stream came over and asked what part of Michigan we were from. That means they are from Michigan. Lansing don't you know. Short while later another couple pulled in and that was it for the night. Spent the last couple of hours of the evening helping the last party in dig out. He buried his class A in the mud. All's well as we head for the bed... This was definitely an MGD day....

Monday, April 4, 2005   Port Gibson MS  to Jeff Busby park on Trace  gas $2.15 (Map)  
Slow day today. We left around 11:00 am, stopped for gas and lunch, tourist stop at French Village and then an early stop for the day at Busby park (free). We noticed a lot of Canadians on our trip, seemed to be a lot in San Antonio, but nothing like we've seen traveling up the Trace. The campgrounds along the Trace are small but free. Here at Busby the sites were crowded with Canadians. There were two and three units per site. The picnic area was full of Canadian campers. I straddled a small culvert in the picnic area for the night.  Had dinner and a long walk to see only two other Americans in the park. What we learned is their monthly rate was up first of the month and it's too cold in Québec so they are taking a slow ride north using the free campgrounds. The couple Americans we talked to about it seemed to be very hostel about it..

Tuesday, April 5, 2005   Jeff Busby park on Trace to Meriwether Campground on the Natchez Trace   
Early start this morning on the road by 7:30 am. Straight up the Trace all day. Checked out one Core of Engineers park along the way but it was too early to stop, it's a beautiful park as are all COE parks. I had hoped to get to a COE park west of Nashville tonight but after spending over an hour talking to a couple from Alabama at a rest area we decided to call it a day back at "Meriwether Campground" near the end of the Trace. We found only two open sites so we took one. This park is also free and full of you know who... A campfire tonight, very pleasant weather..

Wednesday, April 6, 2005   Meriwether Campground on the Natchez Trace  gas $2.19  to  Flying J south of Covington KY gas $2.24
Another early start, 7:30 am. rolling with gas tank on less than ¼ tank and over 60 miles to a gas station. I know I should get at least 100 miles to a ¼ tank, but was still concerned and  watched it closely. Filled up just off the Trace without a hitch.

Boy, after a day of driving the interstate I really appreciate traveling the Trace. At one point in my rearview mirrors I could see 18 wheelers four abreast coming at me. Trucks have to out number cars 8 to 1, I'll bet. Being pushed to move 65-70 mph is stress full. Of course some of the roadway is in poor shape, rough. I-65 south of Louisville is like a washboard, I thought I had flat tires it was so bad.

We pulled into the truck stop about 5 pm local time, EST. Filled up again, went out to eat and now we're ready for the last leg. Next stop Saint Clair Shores MI. Where did the time go?









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