Saturday, March 12, 2011

From Port "A" to Winnie,TX

Last night we decided it was time to move on. Port "A" was a wonderful stop, but there are lots of places we've yet to see and we only have three weeks left on this trip. Should our travels bring us back this way, Port "A" will be on the list of places to stop.
As I looked south on the beach last night, I could see the red/blue flashing lights of the police. They must have been having a field day where all the kids are camped out.
We dumped our tanks & filled with water at the County RV Park in Port "A", $4.00, then we headed to the free TX State ferry that crosses the inlet. This is the shortest ferry ride we've ever been on. Couldn't have taken five minutes or so from loading to exit. As we drove East, there were lots of RV's heading West; probably to Port "A".
We stopped at the HEB grocery store and WalMart in Aransas Pass. Filled up with gas at $3.36/gallon. Decent as current gas prices go.
Lunch time found us in Palacios. We found a nice place to park near the city marina. Lots of shrimp boats. Reminded us of Cayo Weso.
As we were driving along TX 521, we crossed the Colorado River and noticed a sign saying "FM 521 River Park". In we went. Turns out this is a free camping park of Matagora County. What a great find. We're here for the night. It's us an one travel trailer full of children & parents on a weekend camping trip.
We've camped on the Colorado River several times over the years. It begins in the Rocky Mountain National Park then flows south to the Gulf of Mexico. By the time it gets this far south, the water is pretty disgusting. I wouldn't let Gopher to swimming.

We've stumbled onto some of the neatest camping areas over the years. Frequently when we set out, like today, we only have a general destination in mind. Quite often some real discovery just pops up. Like right now for instance.

We drove to Brazoria for the 11:00 mass. I've endured some miserable sermons over the years but this might have been the worst. The sermon was both disjointed and rambling. I thought it would never end. If the priest was trying to make a point, it eluded me.
The Garmin GPS identified a Krogers grocery store in Freeport so we headed there being a bit tired of WalMart. The Krogers simply wasn't there. That's not the first time that's happened to us.
We continued south to the Gulf Coast at Quintana Pass. The plan was to boondock on the jetty for the night. The place was just littered with trash. Some blowing around on the ground; some holding fishing poles. Instead I decided to take the coast road towards Galveston. North of Freeport/Surfside Beach, I spotted some beach access roads. After looking at two, I found one that looked nice and solid so we parked on the beach once again. There were lots of Spring Breakers but no other RV's in sight. I asked a patrolling sheriff deputy if it was OK to stay overnight. He said camping for up to 15 days is allowed. No fee. So here we are, all alone once again. I can see a car each way along the beach perhaps a mile from us. It just doesn't get much better. I sure wish Florida had some camping areas like this. We've driven the Lazy Daze on the beach near Daytona and again north of Jacksonville, but you're not allowed to camp overnight.

We drove to Galveston this morning. Did the laundry and stopped by WalMart. Again.
After Galveston, we continued north to the city campground in Winnie, TX. There is a free TX state ferry that takes you across the harbor from Galveston to the Bolivor Peninsula. The ferry goes right past the Seawolf park where there are two submarines and a Destroyer Escort. The USS Cavala is very similar to the submarines I served on many years ago.
Today, we got the heavy rain I was hoping for. Our beach camping days are over for this trip and I wanted a good rain to wash all the sand & salt spray off.
We spent the night at the Winnie-Stowell County Park in Winnie, TX. No one here but us.
Tomorrow we go on to Louisiana. We've really enjoyed the Texas part of our trip, especially all the beautiful beach camping.
We spent ten days camping in Texas. Our total "campground" cost was $12. That was for the annual beach parking permit at Port Aransas.
I didn't feel like cooking tonight so I used the internet to find a good Cajun restaurant just five minutes from the campground. The place was packed with locals; always a good sign.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Port Aransas aka Port "A"

We've become to like Port Aransas. Touristy, yes, but of a decent quality rather then endless cheap T-shirt joints, hot dog stands & such. Reminds us a lot of the nicer Cape Cod summer resort towns with the seasons reversed. Given that we have no special plans and don't need to be home until April 1st, we'll probably spend a few more days here.
This morning we filled up with propane then found a place with an Boat/RV wash. The camper got soaked with salt water the day we camped on the beach at Padre Island. There was a very strong wind right off the Gulf. We treated ourself to a nice lunch today then headed back to the beach. We parked along the jetty next to the Aransas Pass. It's fun watching the fisherman and boat traffic. This Pass leads to the port of Corpus Cristi. All the ships we saw carried a liquid cargo of some type. Oil, chemicals, etc.

Another warm & sunny day.

We started the day by treating ourself to breakfast. Carol had a vanilla chi tea and a wonderful blueberry cobbler. I had a strata and some fruit. After that we headed to the jetty for the day. I wanted to walk out to the end of the jetty so off I went with Gopher. We were doing fine until a big wave slapped into the jetty making a loud noise. She hates loud noises. On the 4th of July, we always go to a campground where fireworks are prohibited. I convinced her to continue on but then we came to a blow hole. You know, a place where water shoots up every time a big wave comes along. She heard the noise then up came the water. That was the end of her and the jetty. What a wimp. I took her back and walked to the end by myself.
We identified a few more birds today. A larus delawarensis, a sterna maxima and an ardea herodias that was bumming food on the jetty.
About 3:00 we too a ride south on the beach for perhaps five miles. We came across the area where all the kids were congregating. The first clue was all the police cars. There had to be a dozen or so. :-) A real bummer for the kids. The local rag said all sixteen officers of the Port "A" police department would be working this week. Turns out, we're in the quieter family area closer to town.
Port "A" is a very tourist, and RV, oriented community. We're recommend it if you're in the area.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A new view.

The Dumpster Emptier guys start early in Three Rivers and the campground must come first on their route. :-) Even if it wasn't Dumpster day, there is no sleeping in. The oil workers also get an early start. The standard issue truck is a Ford F-350 Diesel. Diesel truck owners all think the engine must he idled for at least thirty minutes before it's OK to drive. RV owners are no better in that respect. Consequently, we got an early start yesterday. I don't think Woodall's rates this campground, but if it did, I can't imagine it getting even a half star. We've been trying to think of a worse place we've stayed, but only Flying J comes quickly to mind. It does make for a memory.

We finished the long drive to the Gulf Coast arriving at the Padre Island National Seashore about mid-morning. I had been there before when Gopher & I made our Spring trip together back when Carol was still working, so we headed for the South Beach Primitive camping area. The lady at the park entry gate advised against beach camping. The beach driveability was rated as "poor" because of extensive areas of soft sand. That was an excellent recommendation.
Mostly it was just us on the beach. There were two RV's from Ontario and another few down the beach further. It was overcast & windy but what a change of view.

This morning, it was cool and very windy. We were getting sandblasted just stepping outside so we decided to take a ride around the park. There is a formal RV camping area called Malaquite Beach, For $8/day you get your own chunk of asphalt jammed next to your neighbors chunk of asphalt. There is a dune walkover so your feet don't get all sandy. The dune blocks your view of the Gulf and help keep the salt air from blowing on your RV. There were only two empty spaces. I glad most RV'ers are the KOA type campers. Saves the best places for us. There is a camping area called Bird Island Basin. Much like Malaquite but instead of getting asphalt, you only get crushed stone but it's only $4/night. Finally, there is another beach primitive camping area called North Beach. Very nice; much like the South Beach area.
After finishing our tour of the park, we decided to just poke around here & there. It's a very pretty area. Lots of beach access points. The County sells a beach parking permit for $12/year. That allows use, parking & camping on the beach. We bought the permit. We kept drifting north eventually arriving at Port Aransas. Port "A" as it's known, is a very touristy place. Lots of shops, vacation rentals, restaurants, fishing charter boats, and such. They do have a very nice beach camping area so here we are for the next day or so. Need to get our $12/permit's worth. Found a small bakery and bought a Texas sized cinnamon bun for me and a wonderful berry cobbler for Carol. We then got some Bar-B-Que takeout and went to the City marina for a picnic lunch.
The wind is still strong but I was able to park in such a way to minimize it's impact on us. Clear & sunny.

Yet another wonderful day.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Continuing to the Gulf Coast

It was a beautiful morning on Amistad Reservoir. The Border Patrol was out early today in their boats. The reservoir is part of the border with Mexico. I suspect some illegals try to swim across. Hence the very derogatory term "wet back".
Saw a very interesting solar power setup today. The panels were stacked three high and mounted on a lazy susan sort of platform. There were ropes hanging off the side of the RV that, I suspect, were used to rotate the panels to follow the sun. Very clever for the serious boondocker.

The drive today, was through West Texas oil country. Business is clearly booming. There are wells everywhere. The truck traffic on the two lane roads we were using was very heavy. Lots of oil service companies. There were RV "parks" here & there set up for the workers. I suppose some enterprising person put in a well, a septic system & power ( a generator perhaps?) then rented the sites for a princely sum. The trailers were stacked on top of each other. We saw this same routine in South Dakota last year. Given the bone chilling temperatures in SD, I'd move to TX if I was an oil service worker. Rather deal with the hot TX summers then the -20* SD winters.

Not everyone in Quemado prospers.

In Three Rivers, we stayed at the City campground. There were only two empty sites; the rest being rented to oil field workers. The campground is located on the shallow and muddy Frio River. On the other side of the river is a Valero oil refinery. :-) The smell is interesting, at best. Oh well, it's all part of our Great Adventure. What do you expect for $12/night with full hookups and five TV channels with three being in English? A bubbling stream in the mountains of CO? A cliff overlooking the Pacific? One more fun memory. Years from now, this is the sort of thing we'll recall and chuckle about.

We finished a healthy dinner of spaghetti squash and sauce so Gopher & I set out to explore the 'hood. As expected, most vehicles had either TX or LA plates. Two big oil producing states. There are two guys sitting out next to a horse trailer. Home I suspect.
I never realized how noisy refineries are. A lot of pumps & motors & such I guess. There is a good sized pipe dumping a fluid of some type into the river. Most likely distilled water you suppose? Not to fear. I hear the Teabags plan on coming down hard on the EPA because they are pressing the TX oil industry to reduce pollution. We're in good hands. I still remember "W" telling me that a little arsenic in my water was actually good for me. Up until then, I never knew that. I rarely get involved in political issues. Don't have the time. Having fun is very time consuming you know. Some days it just wears me out.
The environment does concern me because it directly impacts the things most important to Carol & I. The future health of our children, grandchildren, their kids, on & on depends heavily on decisions we make today. Air & water pollution must be dealt with aggressively. If it means higher taxes and prices, I'm willing to do my share plus some of me neighbors share if required.

And the beat goes on.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

On to Amistad National Recreation Area

We had a good night. No trains at all, at least none we heard. Between the double pane windows and form insulation, it's very quiet inside.
We entered Central Time yesterday so my internal clock is still off a bit. I was up & about by 6am. I noticed we had our own personal security guard last night. The Border Patrol is everywhere around here.

Our short term goal is the Padre Island National Seashore; hopefully before the herds of college kids get there. Today we drove to the Amistad National Recreation area near Del Rio. A 4+ hour drive through some very pretty country. At the Visitors Center a very nice lady directed us to a campground. As we drove there, I saw sign saying Road Closed Ahead. Sure enough, the campground was closed because of flooding. I would have thought she'd have known that. Oh well. The map we picked up at the Visitor Center showed another campground not that far away. It's called 277 North because it's on the north side of "old" 277.
Water!! We haven't seen *real* water for quite some time. Gopher had a nice swim. Some of the ground in dirt washed off. Cost per night with the Old Age Card? $2.00.
A basic, no frills campground but right on the lake. There is an area with a dump & water fill about 7 miles away off Hwy 90. Don't need it, but it's available. It's called Diablo East and isn't far from the Visitor Center.