Pharr, TX to Lakewood, NM

Thursday, April 3, 2008 - We are leaving our home of the past 4 months and heading west. The temperature has been in the 90's for the past few days and the wind has been blowing hard for days on end. We have enjoyed our stay here but it is time to move on and "see what's around the bend." After a short drive, we arrived at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, TX. The campground is on Corpus Christi Bay and a few choice sites have waterfront views. A nice pool is located about 200 yards away but does not open until Memorial Day.

We are here to take the grandkids to see the Blue Angels air show at nearby Kingsville, TX. My son, Doug, agreed to bring his family down to Corpus Christi from Houston. Doug and his wife, Angela, will enjoy a few days to themselves while the grandkids stay with us and see the air show.

Friday, April 4, 2008 - We went to Padre Island this morning just to check it out for a future visit. It reminds me of the undeveloped part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina betwee Nags Head and Cape Hatteras. One of the neat things about Padre Island is that you can drive on the beach. The sand appears to be packed hard enough to support large vehicles. I saw a few motorhomes on the beach but I would be too chicken to risk taking my RV out there.

Saturday, April 5, 2008 - After 2 days of fierce winds, the day dawned calm and sunny. We drove to the Naval Air Station at Kingsville, TX to watch the Blue Angels air show.The base did a superb job hosting this show. This is the first one I have seen since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, even though security was tight, traffic moved onto the base without delay. Security was posted along the route to direct traffic to a huge parking lot near the flight line. The only thing that ticked me off was the prohibition of backpacks and coolers which meant that we had to return to the parking lot for lunch and drinks. The reason given was security issues but I suspect it also had a lot to do with agreements with the concessionaires of which there were quite a few and they all charged outrageous prices (bottled water - $2.00, hamburger - $6.00). But the air show was superb.

Sunday, April 6, 2008 - We returned the grandkids to their parents and, after a nice lunch at a downtown restaurant, we said our goodbyes. We will see them again next November. I spent the rest of the day working on the toilet. The floor flange is made of a plastic material and it broke at one of the flange bolts. Naturally, this caused the toilet to sit loosely on its seal and it leaked when it was flushed. So, I ended up replacing the regular flange bolts with bolts that went through the plywood floor panel. Fortunately, I had easy access to the underside of the floor which was the large forward compartment of my fifthwheel. Now I know why plumbers make the big bucks.

Monday, April 7, 2008 - We were on the road by 9:30 AM and three hours later arrived at the FamCamp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. We were able to use one of our Frequent Camper coupons to get a free day of camping. For an initial investment of $25, we have now saved over $60 in campground fees at Air Force FamCamps. Lackland is a large base with all the services one would expect, such as a large commissary and Base Exchange.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - Today is our 20th wedding anniversary so we went to downtown San Antonio to take a boat ride on the San Antonio River and enjoy a nice evening meal. As soon as we arrived, while waiting at the stoplight, a city transit bus pulled alongside too close and broke my mirror. Can you imagine driving in unfamiliar traffic without one of your mirrors? I need to get this fixed right away. I definitely cannot tow my RV without that mirror.

The River Walk along the San Antonio River is beautiful. A level below the concrete, asphalt, and traffic of the street, the River Walk follows the river as it flows through downtown San Antonio. It is like walking through a lush tropical garden. Many nice restaurants and cafes are located along the River Walk and provide a romantic atmosphere to share an anniversary.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - I spent most of the morning talking to my insurance agent and getting an estimate at a local Chevrolet collision repair shop. The cost of the mirror is $650 - it is one of those extendable towing mirrors. I was hoping I would only have to replace the glass portion of the mirror but there was damage to other parts as well. To complicate matters, the bus company is "self-insured" so I hope they don't try to pull a fast one. Their driver was clearly at fault and I expect the police incident report to say so. These reports are not available until 5-7 business days after the accident and, by that time, repairs will have been made and I will be long gone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 - We returned to downtown San Antonio to continue sightseeing. Just as we arrived at The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, Carol realized that the tickets were in her other purse - which was back at the RV. I'm glad I don't do things like that. Thirty minutes later, we were back at the museum with tickets in hand. Neither of us was too impressed with either the museum or the saloon. But we did like the Tower of the Americas. From the top of the tower, Carol took this photo of the Alamo. The Alamo is the building surrounded by the trees which, in turn, are surrounded by downtown San Antonio. What would General Santa Anna think if he could see it now?

Good news! The folks at the Chevrolet Collision Center said that my truck mirror will be in tomorrow and I can have it installed at 9:00 AM. That means that I won't have to hang around here past my original departure date which is next Monday.

Friday, April 11, 2008 - I went to the Chevrolet Collision Center and departed 30 minutes later with a new mirror. I also departed with a new problem. There is an indicator on the inside of each door that shows whether the door is locked or not. The indicator on the passenger door, the door with the new mirror, shows the opposite of its actual status. I discovered this new problem too late to return today, and the Collision Center is closed on the weekend, so I have to return Monday morning to have this fixed. So we will be departing San Antonio a little later than expected Dang!

Saturday, April 12, 2008 - About 30 miles south of San Antonio is Poteet, Texas, home of the Strawberry Festival. This event resembles a state fair, although on a slightly smaller scale. We arrived in the morning when the traffic was light and the crowds were small. There were plenty of carnival rides and the usual array of vendors selling all manner of food and drink. But we went primarily for the rodeo and entertainment. The rodeo was a first-rate event with calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding, and bronc bustin'. The big-name entertainment for today was country singer Tracy Byrd,

Starting at noon, there was a long line of traffic leaving the festival but, for everyone that left, three more arrived, and by mid-afternoon, the place was a zoo. Large crowds seem to breed rude behavior. So, after watching another round of bull riding, we left around 7:30 PM and the traffic was stop-and-go for about the first mile or two and then it was clear sailing. It seems that the older I get, the more intolerant I am of large crowds and heavy traffic. But overall, we enjoyed the festival and I would definitely recommend the Strawberry Festival, an annual event, to anyone that can tolerate the crowds and traffic. The parking is free and admission was free for military (including retirees). That was real nice of the promoters to do that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 - Sunday is a day of rest and that is exactly what we did.

Monday, April 14, 2008 - I made a quick trip to the Chevrolet Collision Center to get the indicator on the passenger door working correctly and then we were underway by 9:15 AM and arrived 3 hours later at South Llano River State Park. This is a real nice place and it is crawling with wildlife because of the adjacent Wildlife Management Area. Deer and turkey are everywhere. An Armadillo was scratching around for lunch just behind the RV. The park is also hummingbird heaven. As soon as the RV was parked and set up, we hung our hummingbird feeder and, within minutes, we had a steady procession of feathered bumblebees stopping by to refuel.

The South Llano River flows through the park and is popular with fly fishermen and tube rafters. You can rent a tube (with handles) at the park office for $5.00 a day. The water is clear, cool, and inviting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - For a total of 15 days each year, the Wildlife Management Area is open to hunters (and closed to hikers and bikers). One of those periods started today and the turkeys seem to know where the safe areas are - a few just walked past our RV site.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - We debated whether to stop overnight at Fort Stockton, TX on our way to Lakewood, NM. We prefer to drive no more than 4 hours but when we arrived at Fort Stockton, we decided to push on and arrived at The Ranch, a Co-Op Park of the Escapees RV Club located in the middle of the desert near Lakewood, NM. The lot owners are real friendly in typical Escapees fashion and we joined a bunch of them at the social hour this afternoon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008 - Althought this is the desert, wildlife abounds. Just behind our RV, Mr. Rabbit and Ms. Quail shared a bit of shade. We are hoping to get our coyote fix before we leave here.

At check-in, we learned that the water had been turned off after having failed a health inspection (water test) by the county officials. So, daily trips are made to a local artesian well with a 500 gallon tank. If you need water, you put your name on the sheet and the tank is brought around to your site and you fill up your RV fresh water tank. So, I signed up and, at precisely 8:00 AM, there was a knock on the door and the water wagon had arrived. I was still in my pajamas! Don't these folks know that I am retired?

Friday, April 18, 2008 - Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns which is about 50 miles south of our campground. These photos show the natural entrance. When we were here in May 2000, we took the elevator down into the caverns. This time we had more time and we decided to enter via the natural entrance, a steep, winding pathway. Carlsbad Caverns is a pretty impressive place. Trips through the caverns are now self-guided rather than being in a group led by a ranger. We were a little early in the season to watch the bats emerge from the cave. We saw a few dozen rather than several hundred thousand that may appear in the summer.

I purchased my National Parks Senior Pass, the successor to the Golden Age Passport. For $10, this pass gives me entry to National Parks for life. Getting old does have its benefits. I should be getting my first Social Security check next month.

Lakewood, NM to Great Falls, MT