Our fifth wheel and the truck

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the season.

Hey y'all

We are still in Texas. Well at least for another 11 hours at which time we will be departing the warmer weather of Texas for the very much cooler temperatures of Connecticut! Once again it is put the shorts away and break out the winter woolies and thermal underwear!

We are spending Christmas with Bryce's host parents (from when he was at high school over here) and their family and of course, Bryce. The boy flew over earlier in December and has been catching up with old friends.

We will be returning to Texas on 28th so my post for the last week is going to have to wait till then and will include a blow by blow description of our first white Christmas (if it snows!!!)

Until then my dear family and friends Norm and I wish you a wonderful merry Christmas and may your holiday be warm, safe and full of the joys of the season.

To all, our love and best wishes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Break out the shorts!!!

Hi all and a warm welcome back.

Where is the time going? We have now been in America for nearly five months and at the moment I just can't contemplate going home. Not that I don't miss my wonderful family and friends, I do, it is just that I have really fallen in love with this country and there is still so much to see that another seven months doesn't seem long enough! But who knows. by the time seven months has come and gone I might be well and truly ready and have seen all I want to.

In the mean time let me tell you of the wonderful places that we see and the lovely people that we seem to meet everywhere we go. So stick around there is still so much to come!

The beginning of this week found us still in San Antonio, Tx. We went off to explore the Japanese Tea Garden and the Tower of the Americas in the Hemisfair Park.

The Japanese Tea Gardens were absolutely beautiful. The ponds, bridges, waterfall and gardens were lovely. It was a pity that the Jingu House was closed for repairs and renovations but the gardens more than made up for it. We really enjoyed our time and the peace and tranquility of the place as there weren't a lot of other people there.

On to the Tower of the Americas. The Tower has external lifts that take you to the top where there is an observation deck, bar and revolving restaurant. The view is gorgeous and in fact you can actually see the curve of the earth you are so high up.

A highlight of our visit to the Tower was the short 4D video that we watched about Texas. We wore 3D glasses for the show but it was the other effects that really made it so worthwhile. When the crocodile comes out of the water everyone gets sprayed in the face with a mist of water and when we were in the middle of a high school football match and we got bumped by the other players the seats jolted. We loved it and the only complaint was that it was far too short!

From the Tower we went back to the Riverwalk. While we were there before, Norm had lost his wedding ring in a restaurant so we went back just to see if it had turned up. No such luck. We stayed for lunch and it was just beautiful and while we enjoyed the visit on Saturday it was so much quieter and less frenetic. We sat and enjoyed a marguerita (I could really develop a taste for them) with our lunch without the crowds that were evident on Saturday.

After lunch we took a walk in La Villita, a very old part of San Antonio where the old houses and buildings have been retained and converted to artists' studios, craft outlets and art galleries. There is so much history to this country it is mind blowing!

From San Antonio we headed further south to San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley. We have heard so much of this area that we decided we needed to have a look. we arrived at the RV park on Friday afternoon - just in time for happy hour!! And it was a wonderful happy hour. The only problem - I need to change from my normal diet coke to margueritas!!!!

Saturday morning saw us up early to attend the breakfast in the club room. Wonderful people at this park and such a social group. We sat talking till about 10.30 when we decided we better head off for another day of exploring. Our destination was South Padre Island of which we have heard so many positive things. But.... before we headed off there was a need to change the outfit from jeans to shorts. The weather down here is just wonderful and I am going to thoroughly enjoy the warmer days.

It has been very rare that I have been disappointed by a destination since we started this odyssey but I have to be honest and say that S. Padre Island didn't do it for me.

Maybe it was because we visited in the winter (off season), but it seemed to me, that unless you wanted to be fishing, surfing, parasailing or other water related activity there really wasn't that much to do. The Gulf of Mexico side of the island is dominated by high rise hotels with very limited public access to the beach while the access to the water on the other side of the island is also restricted by the residential properties that have water front properties.

We went for a walk along the beach and both of us put our hands in the Gulf but that was about it for S. Padre Island.

We did stop at Port Isabel on the other side of the bridge to SPI and had lunch and a wander around.

One stop that we made was great. We stopped at some store that had all these amazing sea creatures and shells outside. Inside was just mind boggling. They must have had millions of shells, shell products and corals. I just loved it.

We stopped at Bobz Place on the way home and that was also pretty unique. The sculptures on the outside of the building were brilliant. It was also filled with shells, corals, knick knacks and clothes but the best part was outside. In the photos you can see that they are building a statue of King Kong which is still in the construction stage. The effort that has gone into making this attractive to the consumers is awesome!

Our last 'excursion' while in San Benito was to the Edinburgh Birdwatching Park. Bad luck that it was closed but we still got to walk around and see some beautiful birds. It is a truly gorgeous spot and we would have liked to visit when the visitor centre was open.

From Edinburgh we headed down to Hidalgo near the Mexican border however we didn't go across. There is a great deal of trouble in the border towns on the Mexican side because of the drug cartels and we just think we will stay well away from there.

From here we will be heading to Houston and then on to Livingston to get organised for our trip to Connecticut.

So... until next time a fond farewell to one and all. We hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. We will enjoy a marguerita (or two) and think of you all.

Take care our dear family and wonderful friends. Look out for each other and stay safe.

Love and hugs from both of us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Mexico into Texas - getting warmer

G'day All

I am back! We have had a great time during the last week and have been to some awe inspiring places.

When I left you last week we were in Deming, New Mexico and heading for warmer climes in Texas. Well, we didn't quite make it right away. We did have to drive into Texas, for a short while, and then back into NM as I really, really wanted to see the caverns in Carlsbad, NM, so we took a short detour to have a sticky beak.

The drive from Deming to Carlsbad was very interesting on a number of fronts.

Firstly, the Border Patrol. The drive took us by El Paso and, between Deming and El Paso we passed a border patrol station. The traffic on the other side of the road was banked up for miles as they went through the inspection. On our side of the road there was no station just cameras - about ten of them! After we travelled by El Paso we headed north to Carlsbad we came across another station. We were stopped at this one but then allowed to go straight through. Given we had the RV and could have had it full of illegals I was very surprised. It must have been the innocent faces!

Secondly, the drive through Mt Franklin Park was amazing. There were 'Wind Advisory' warnings particularly for high profile vehicles! Yep that is us, well we did reconsider our route but went ahead anyway as trucks were coming through the pass. It was really windy and when we stopped for morning tea we just about got blown away as we stepped from the truck!

The drive through the pass was interesting as you leave the flat area of El Paso behind and climb through the mountains and then out the other side to see more of El Paso laid out in front of you in another valley. I continue to be surprised by this country.

Anyway, we got to Carlsbad safely and the next day we went to the caverns. I have been to Mammoth Cave in Margaret River, Australia and that was just beautiful however I was certainly not prepared for the size of 'The Big Room'. It is humungous! In fact the size of 14 football fields! It was just amazing! The caverns were discovered by a 16 year old boy, Jim White, who thought he saw smoke and went to investigate. The smoke turned out to be thousands of bats exiting the bat cave. He went on to investigate the caverns over a long period of time using a kettle filled with lamp oil as his only light!

We spent a couple of hours exploring the 'Big Room' which was absolutely gorgeous. The formations in the cavern were so diverse. The only problem with caverns is that it is difficult to take good photos because of the lack of light and the restrictive length of the flash light on the camera. Anyway I hope you get the idea of how amazing these caverns were from the few photos I have included.

We would have liked to explore some of the other caverns but the need for safety hats with batteries was a little off-putting.

After the caverns we decided to take the 'Christmas on the Pecos' tour. The tour is at night by ferry up the Pecos River to see the Christmas lights by the folks living along the river's edge. And it was c-c-cold. So cold in fact that they provide blankets for everyone on the ferry. Norm and I had to break out the Alaska jackets, the beanies and the gloves as well as the blanket!

One thing that I found interesting was the river itself. The river has been dammed to provide a recreation area for the residents of Carlsbad. It is really lovely with beach areas, boats and fishing. I didn't quite understand it but apparently above the town there is no water in the river as it has been diverted to agriculture. I figure there still has to be some water flowing into the river otherwise it would evaporate or soak into the river bed.

Anyway, apart from that the lights were beautiful. The home owners had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to light their homes. One home had the lights sychronized to music! The reflections in the river certainly made it even lovelier. BUT COLD!!!

Our next destination was San Antonio, Texas with an overnight boondock in Sonora. We were so lucky in Sonora. We went to the Visitor Centre to ask about boondocking and they directed us to the Comfort Inn who were really helpful and allowed us to spend the night in their parking area.

On to San Antonio! You can't come to SA without visiting the Riverwalk and the Alamo so.... off we go to visit. We were with friends Christine and John who we had met at the Boot Camp in Indiana and who made a detour to come and visit us. W

We had an awesome time! We visited the Alamo which, surprisingly is in the heart of SA. I always imagine it would be in the desert somewhere. It was an amazing example of the architecture of the time and has been beautifully preserved . The history of Texas and in particular the Alamo is so interesting.

From the Alamo we wandered over to the Riverwalk. Not the sort of riverwalk I had imagined. You know the trees, playgrounds, seats for quietly contemplating the flowing river and grass and the meandering path along the edge of a river!

The Riverwalk in SA is in the heart of the city and is more like a moat with walkways around it. It was originally constructed to address concerns with the flooding of the San Antonio River.

There are restaurants all along the Riverwalk with hotels overlooking it and you can take a ride on a barge around the entire circle of the Riverwalk. It was really lovely as we sat and had lunch at one of the Mexican restaurants and watched the people walking by. We even got serenaded by a trio of Mexican singers/guitarists. We took the barge ride and explored the whole walk - although we only gave the mall a quick look. A shopping mall is a shopping mall wherever it is!!!!

We stayed long enough to see the lights at night and have dinner at an Irish pub - go figure!! We really had a wonderful day and returned home pretty tired.

Only downer of the day was that Norm has lost his wedding ring! He couldn't wear it when he was working and now I have got him to wear it at last and guess what ! he loses it!! Is this telling me something? LOL

We are just having such a wonderful time in America, and discovering some beautiful places but, the best part is the people we are meeting. The generosity and friendliness of the people is always the same wherever we have gone and we are enormously grateful for that. We have made friends with some really lovely people.

We are staying a week in San Antonio and then heading further south to the Rio Grande valley so our next post will also be from Texas and the warmer weather. Cold nights, lovely warm days - I just love it!

Until I am back, please take care of yourselves and your family and friends. Stay healthy and happy and please, please leave a comment when you visit next.

Our love and hugs to you all.

PS You note I didn't mention about when we lost Norm on the Riverwalk!!!!! LOL

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Change of Continent

Hey y'all

I put so many amazing, spectacular, beautiful photos on my blog from America that I thought I would show you another one in West Australia. I put one on of our son Bryce in Esperance some time ago.

This one is of a place called Turquoise Bay near Exmouth. Bryce and two of his friends from Connecticut went on a 'road trip' to Monkey Mia (there are no monkeys there) and Exmouth last week to celebrate the end of uni for the year.

Please ignore the long, hairy legs - they belong to Bryce!

Turquoise Bay is a beautiful spot. You get in the water with mask, snorkel and fins on the south side of the bay and just float and the current will take you to the north side with only minor adjustments with the fins. The fish and corals are spectacular. We were there some years ago.

Just a little piece of another amazing country!

Cheers till next week.