Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, March 30, 2014

San Antonio

At Admiralty RV Resort, San Antonio, Texas…

We had a trifecta here at San Antone!  Not only did Tyler, Mindy and the grandkids visit, but so did The Barkers and Ed and Marilyn, who joined us for lunch at Z Tejas Grill in the La Cantera Mall.  We appreciate so much their driving down from Keller and Kerrville.

LouAnn, Marilyn, Ed, Bubba, Poppy and Pryce at Z Tejas
The food at Z Tejas was very tasty, with a good deal of authentic Mexican influence.  We had a great conversation, but Sandy had to take Pryce out for a feeding. Seems he discovered that he was something less than stuffed and began to announce loudly his dissatisfaction with that condition.  In this case, he is much like his grandfather.

Tyler and Mindy had some free time on the Riverwalk, and we kept Mason with us.  On the next day, they took Mason to Sea World, where he was suitably enthralled with everything he saw. We kept Pryce in the RV; he was good as gold the whole time.

Everyone had a fine time, and we vowed to keep this on our agenda for next spring.

Sorry, but you will be required to say, "Awwwww!" after viewing the next photos of us with our grandkids.

Tomorrow we will be leaving for the Killeen area where we will be visiting friends and relatives.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Alamo Springs

At Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas…

We were a minute late picking up Ed and Marilyn this morning, a transgression that he recorded in today's post for all of blogdom to see. I have no problem with this, as my being only a minute late for anything is nothing short of a miracle.  I'm sure there are many positives for leading a life like Ed's in a planned and organized way where timeliness matters; I just can't think of any right now, being retired.

Fortunately, Ed doesn't mind my teasing him about his little obsessions, and I don't mind his characterizing me as someone upon whom daylight is largely wasted, simply because he thinks I don't make good use of the first few hours of it. Well, I can't think of a better use for the early morning than to enjoy the best sleep of the night and then awaken in God's good time.  Frankly, I think that if the good Lord had wished me to awaken at dawn, He would have made me a rooster.  

But I digress.  Our 10:15 a.m. departure, decreed by Ed the night before in one of his planning fits, was to allow for travel time from Buckhorn to the Alamo Springs Cafe near Comfort, Texas, so as to arrive at elevenish.  (I much prefer referring to the hours on the clock with an "ish" attached; the thought of having to abide by an exact time makes me wish I had an Alka-Seltzer even as I write this.) 

Even though I knew I would receive some kind of flak from Ed for showing up at 10:16 to pick him up, we had a nice ride to Comfort and then way out in the boondocks to the Alamo Springs Cafe. This joint defied the cardinal rule of starting a business--location, location, location.  In fact, this was apparently given no consideration at all, for only low-flying buzzards could ever find it.  The one rule the proprietor did follow, however, was building a better mousetrap.  The food--hamburgers and onion rings is the main attraction--was wonderful.  So wonderful, in fact, that their signature burger made the cover of Texas Monthly Magazine, a framed photo of which hangs proudly on the wall.  I wish I could tell you how to get there, but I'm not sure I remember.

Sandy, Ed and Marilyn at Alamo Springs Cafe

Yours Truly at the Front Gate

The Burger That Made the Cover of Texas Monthly and an Order of Onion Rings

As we dined ("dined" is actually too fancy a word for how Ed ate his burger; he would have done better if it had been served in a trough) and the noon hour approached, more and more patrons found their way into the restaurant.  Where they came from, I cannot imagine, but word-of-mouth advertising must be a powerful thing.

We certainly enjoyed our drive though the hill country as the cold and gloomy weather of the last few days gave way to a beautiful warm spring afternoon.  Tomorrow we will be leaving Kerrville for San Antonio and a weekend with our kids and family friends.  We have truly enjoyed our week and the good times with Ed and Marilyn and the other Misfits, and we will look forward to seeing them again soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lazy Days in the Hill Country

At Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas…

This RV park may be one of our favorites when it comes to finding nice places to, well, just hang out; we haven't exactly set the world on fire for the last couple of days. Always eager to try new restaurants, we chose the Hill Country Cafe downtown for lunch.  We each had a hamburger and fries, and we thought it was one of the better burgers served to us open-faced, you know--one bun with the meat on it and the other lying upside down nearby with the veggies on it.  I had to give them demerits for this, as open-faced burgers are another pet peeve of mine.  Since we had already specified the burger makings when we ordered, was it too much to ask for the cook to put it together?  I don't think so.  Otherwise, we think we would come back to this joint, as the special of the day was King Ranch chicken (a favorite), and they had homemade pies and cinnamon rolls.  A cafe that does this is worth a second visit.  The cafe has been around since 1942, and it is clearly a classic local diner where everyone knows everybody, and the waitresses call you 'hon.'

Late in the afternoon, Ed and Marilyn came by our site, and we sat around outside swapping stories and eating snacks.  Then they retired to their coach, and Sandy and I went into town to try a Korean barbecue place we had heard about. Reaching the location, we found the restaurant closed, a faux pas that usually is reserved for Ed.  I hope it isn't contagious.

Then we decided to try a Mexican restaurant, El Sombrero de Jalisco, which we found to be underwhelming for dinner fare.  In fact, we had officially dubbed it T. A. G. L.  (an informal rating just between us that says, Take A Good Look, because we won't be back). 

Imagine our surprise the next morning when Ed and Marilyn scooped us up to take us to breakfast at--you guessed it, El Sombrero de Jalisco.  Perhaps sensing my somewhat tepid reaction, Ed offered an alternative, but we insisted on giving it another try, since their breakfast experience at El Sombrero had been a good one.  I'm glad we did, because the breakfast was great--juevos rancheros, migas, fresh tortillas, and a killer salsa that I couldn't put down.  I have since withdrawn the dreaded T. A. G. L.

In the afternoon, we met Ed and Marilyn at the clubhouse to be instructed in a domino game new to us--Chicken Foot or Chicken Tracks, or something like that.  We picked it up pretty quickly, and I had soon far outdistanced the others in my winnings.  (We play with no more than $3 in change.) About this time, Ed decided that we had not been following the rules and abruptly changed them, proclaiming that he was honor-bound to correct this for the sake of truth, justice and the American way.  (I thought to myself that a few rounds of therapy might be in order to help with this Superman complex.)  Sandy and I went along with Ed, but we remarked at the time that a rule change in the middle of the game probably did not bode well for us.  Sure enough, from that point forward, we lost steadily to Ed and Marilyn, who gleefully raked in the coins from our rapidly dwindling supply. Adding insult to injury, they were unmoved when I told them they were taking money that I had planned to set aside for our grandkids' college fund. I don't think they believed me.

We had lots of laughs, of course, and that's what makes for good times with good friends.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fun and Games

At Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas…

Yesterday we had a nice visit with Sandy's sister, Brenda, who dropped by Buckhorn on her way from Phoenix to her home in Houston.  She had been taking care of her grandsons there and just welcomed twin granddaughters into her family.  Like her sister, Sandy, she hardly looks old enough to be a grandmother, does she?

We enjoyed good conversation over lunch after introducing her to the 'misfits' gathered here.  Our friends were on surprisingly good behavior at the time, so she probably got a more favorable impression of them than she should have.  

Today, we arose just after daylight (for us) at 9:00 a.m. and readied ourselves in a leisurely fashion for game-playing with the Misfits in the afternoon.  (You'll have to read Ed's blog to figure out how these folks acquired this 'Misfits' moniker.)  It took a while to check all of our electronic information sources, responding to phone calls, email and text messages and taking care of personal business online.  

(Off topic:  When I reflect on the paragraph above, I am awestruck by the technology that allows us to be connected literally to the world via a few electronic gadgets and a satellite dish on Phannie's roof. I have lived long enough to remember my grandparents' modest house in the country where neither electricity nor telephone had reached, and I wonder what they would have thought of the magic at my fingertips as I write this.)

After a quick lunch--rollovers made using Cajun sausage from one of our favorite purveyors of smoked meats--Tallent's in Riverside, Texas--we joined the Misfits for our initiation to the Mexican Train game.  It didn't take us too long to get the hang of it, and we had a great time with these nutty characters.  My emerging as a winner was a surprising plus, even though the experienced players claimed they allowed me to win out of pity.  (I can tell you for sure this is nothing but pure bunk, as these people show no pity to anyone; if you don't have a thick skin around this bunch, you will leave with tire tracks on your forehead.)

After my well-deserved victory lap, we met at Mamacita's, a large and ornate Mexican restaurant on Highway 27.  Sandy and I ordered fajitas for two and took away a doggie bag with enough food for another meal!  The dinner and company were very enjoyable, the evening made more so by the restaurant's management having the good sense to keep the background music volume at a low enough level to allow easy conversation.  (One of my greatest pet peeves is a restaurant where the background music is so deafening that guests must shout to be heard; I confess to having gotten in the face of more than a few restaurant managers about this.)

The Misfits (most of them) plus Sandy at Mamacita's.  From left: Ginger, Bob, Janet, Ed, Marilyn, Jesse and Sandy.

After dinner, Sandy and I watched some TV and probably napped a bit in our recliners. I still sometimes almost pinch myself when I realize at the end of a day like today that it had been a weekday-- when, just a few months ago, I would have been at the office, wishing desperately that tomorrow would be a Saturday again.  Ed and I talked briefly about this, and he said he really doesn't even think about his work life any longer.  I suppose I won't either one day, but I'm not sure I want to forget entirely the appreciation I have for the blessed difference between work and retirement.  As Ed always signs off in his blog, "Life is Good."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

To Kerrville

At Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas…

Our 273-mile trek to Kerrville was uneventful, except for my unfortunate choice of a route through Austin.  I knew the traffic there to be formidable, but surely not on Saturday, I thought.  WRONG!  The city has obviously outgrown its roads even more than I imagined, and I-35 was jammed.  I won't make that mistake again!

Upon our departure, I sent a text message to friend Ed who, along with Marilyn, were already in Kerrville.  I was so pleased when I received a couple of responses, one of which was an invitation to join them at a catfish joint when we arrived in Kerrville.  Why was I delighted to receive a response?  Well, Ed just got a new smart phone and is just now finding his way around this communications medium, and I was proud of his success.  That he was so late to the text messaging party is not entirely clear, as he is already an accomplished blogger and Facebook user.  It probably has to do with his reluctance to trade in his old steam-powered phone for a newer (read: expensive) model, or he wishes not to join the untold masses of people who seem to have face-melded with their smart phones, leaving no room for human contact or just plain getting away from it all.  I can certainly understand that, for smart phones can take over your life if you let them!

I had happily texted a response in the affirmative to Ed's invitation, but Sandy and I were somewhat dismayed upon our arrival at Buckhorn to learn that Ed and Marilyn had already eaten leftovers in their coach, thereby thwarting the dinner plans we had made.  It wasn't until well into our arrival visit that it became obvious that Ed had either misread my message or it was truncated at just the wrong spot, which he perceived as my declining the invitation! Ed swears the goof was either with the sender of the message--me--or with the technology and that it couldn't possibly be his error!  (I think you can go ahead and mark me as skeptical about this.)

Anyway, we had a good laugh over our miscommunication about dinner and vowed to try the catfish joint on Sunday.  Since we hadn't eaten dinner at arrival time due to the message mixup today, Ed recommended Billy Gene's in Kerrville, a nice restaurant serving home cooking, and we gave it a try.  Sandy and I shared a CFS dinner and thought it was quite good. Thanks, guys, for the recommendation.

We are so fortunate to name as friends these happy wanderers, these people who don't take themselves too seriously, finding humor in almost every situation.  They personify one of my favorite quotations that says (paraphrasing) that the measure of a happy man is in the things he does not allow to annoy him. (I would like to be better at this than I am.)

Here's a night photo of Buckhorn's entry gate; pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We All Go In for Maintenance

At home in Fort Worth...

One thing is for sure:  We become more like used cars when we get older.  Like old autos, we tend to need more and more maintenance in order to keep going as we pack on the miles. And so it is for this week; Sandy and I have a slew of medical and dental appointments. Yesterday involved a trip to our dermatologist, Dr. Crawford, who just happens to be Tony Romo's father-in-law.  So Sandy and I knew about the arrival of Tony's new baby, Rivers, before it became known via the local TV news.  That's about as close a brush with famous people we'll ever have, I guess.

We have several other appointments throughout the week which we've scheduled close together during our brief stay at home before we head to Kerrville on Saturday and then to San Antonio a week later.  

Phannie even got into the act by visiting Holt Caterpillar Tuesday morning for a first valve adjustment on her Cat C7 diesel engine. Caterpillar recommends this adjustment at around 30,000 miles and again at 100,000, so I made the appointment at their service center in west Fort Worth. I also asked them to check the radiator and intercooler to see if these were in need of cleaning.  The valve adjustment took a couple of hours, and the radiator and intercooler were checked and found to be clean, which I expected, as there had been no indication of a cooling problem, and I don't even drive Phannie on wet roads if I can help it.

Phannie Awaits Door Opening at Holt Cat

Phannie is the only motor home in Holt's shop on this day.

Phannie's engine with valve cover removed; I just know she feels so exposed!

The performance of this engine has been flawless so far, but I do baby it and make sure that it is maintained faithfully according to Caterpillar's service schedule.

When I returned home with Phannie, I extended the slides and Sandy came aboard to begin preparations for our departure to Kerrville. This mainly involved fresh bed and bath linens and the beginning of Sandy's usual teeth-gnashing ordeal in deciding what her wardrobe mix will be. She has the hardest time with this when we are between seasons as we are now. No matter what she selects, you can be sure she will have more than enough outfits for every change in the weather. She hates it when I point out that I, too, always have what I need in my measly one-third of the closet.

She has always been fastidious with bedmaking (thank God, as I hate it!), and we are both rather picky when it comes to the mattresses and pillows we like. We saw to it that we wouldn't have to endure a less comfortable bed in the coach by duplicating exactly the mattress and pillows we use in our house (Serta i-Comfort King with down pillows).  As a result, we cannot tell any difference between the two and sleep very comfortably in both places.

We also duplicate in Phannie all of our toiletries and all of our cooking basics and spices in order to lessen the need for extra trips out to the coach before launching. We also keep some basic canned goods in the pantry, knowing that we can buy whatever else we need when we reach our destination.  

On the day before departure, I will check the tire pressures, fill the fresh water tank, turn on the refrigerator and wash the windshield. All that is left then on departure day is to take any refrigerated items from the house and load a few odds and ends.

So, after Mae gets hooked up on Saturday morning, I will enter Buckhorn RV Resort into the GPS, and we will be on our way. Hope we see some bluebonnets!  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

We Meet Fellow Bloggers

At Gulf Waters RV Resort, Port Aransas, Texas…

It's always a bit magical to meet in person some of the folks whom we already know through reading their blogs.  In many cases, these meetings form lasting relationships that we will always cherish. For others, whose paths we may cross only infrequently, the personal meeting adds an element of humanity that comes only from a handshake or a hug that pierces the electronic barrier that is the Internet.  From that point forward, we will see differently their images on our computer screen: They are persons, they are real, and they are our friends.

And so it was when we met Mui and Erin of Two to Travel's Phaeton Journeys fame. We knew from their blog that they, too, were staying here in Gulf Waters, and we couldn't let the moment pass without saying hello.  They were kind enough to visit us in Phannie for a spirited conversation and lots of laughter. We complimented Erin on her expert blogging and photography, and I thanked Mui for all the ideas I stole from him as he has operated and upgraded their Phaeton coach that is similar to ours. These two are incredibly interesting and friendly world travelers, who soon will be embarking on an arctic circle trip.  We also spoke of mutual acquaintances, and I passed along a greeting from friends Richard and Patsy, who publish King's Highway.  There were hugs all around as we parted, ever richer for having had this moment together--as it has been with all of the cyber friends we have had the good fortune of meeting in person.

The following photo is just for my grandson, Mason, who hopefully will not be too upset that his Poppy is about to be a shark's lunch!

Hope this shark is taking Lipitor!
Here are our final restaurant reviews for this area, as we will be departing tomorrow for Houston:

Avery's Kitchen - This Port Aransas cafe is where the locals eat. I love little mom and pop places like this, where the food is simple, delicious and cheap.  On the day of our visit, they were serving a lunch buffet for $8.95 that included two meats, three vegetables, a nice salad bar and two kinds of desserts.  Can't beat that, and it was all very tasty.  Sandy opted for a shrimp po' boy that was made with some of the best fried shrimp we have had here.  The place has great reviews for its seafood, and I wish I had had room to order some after having laid waste to their lunch buffet offerings.  Highly recommend this place when you're slummin'. 

Crab-N - This restaurant is right on the water between Aransas Pass and Rockport on highway 35.  It's a nice enough place--with tablecloths, even--but, unfortunately, they bombed on the seafood.  The breading on anything fried was tough and formed a sarcophagus that quickly broke apart, allowing the pieces of seafood to fall out. This was evidence of a cook that didn't know what he or she was doing and/or seafood that was not fresh. They also served perhaps the worst crab cake ever.  The mushy mess inside the cake was so fishy tasting that I wouldn't feed it to my cat.  Don't stop at this place; you'll be sorry if you do.

Well, that's it for Port Aransas.  We're headed to Houston, then back home near Fort Worth.  Our next destination, in late March, will be Buckhorn RV Park in Kerrville.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Corpus for the Day

At Gulf Waters RV Resort, Port Aransas, Texas…

We drove over to Corpus today, not only to look around, but also because I needed to send some financial information to my accountant, Kent (can't remember his last name, but he does taxes in his spare time when he's not cleaning out septic tanks. His motto: "You dump, we pump.") Kent doesn't always smell too good, but he sure knows how to snag a refund. He makes filing easy for me, saying I don't need to bother looking at the return--just sign it, he says.  

(Note to readers: In case someone may have the IRS on speed dial, you should know that everything about Kent written above, except for his name, is pure fiction.) 

The financial information I needed was available online, but the security features of the site wouldn't let me download the document to an electronic file.  It had to be printed and scanned, but I don't have a printer/scanner in Phannie.  Or, at least I didn't until today.  I had stopped at a Fedex Office store to use one of their workstations and printers, and I got it done, but not without paying 50 cents a copy plus 30 cents a minute to use the computer.  By the time I had finished, I had burned through about nine bucks, which ticked me off because that was a goodly percentage of what a new basic printer/scanner would cost!

Now this is not the first time I could have used a printer or scanner in Phannie, so I was able thereby to convince myself that this was evidence of a pressing need. Besides, I would teach Fedex a lesson by depriving them of my nine bucks next tax season.  Never mind that what I spent for the printer would pay for Fedex's service for the next ten years or so.  (I wasn't very good at math in school.)

I found an appealing little wireless HP Deskjet 2540 on sale at Best Buy, and snapped it up. (It works great.)

Continuing yesterday's restaurant reviews, we were a bit hungry for asian food today, so we stopped at Thai Cottage, just off South Padre Island Freeway.  Big mistake! This was the worst Thai food  ever.  I won't say how bad it was, but I had to remind myself that arson is a felony, and I don't think I would like prison.  We took only a few bites before paying the tab and running for the door, noting with some degree of hopefulness that the building would probably not withstand a hurricane.
Thai Cottage (Please call in an air strike!)

Nearby was the Bamboo Garden, an old-school Chinese restaurant (no photo).  We stopped in and decided to share just one dish from the lunch menu, just in case we might have found another dud.  We did, and it was.  The wonton soup had a slight taste of dishwater, the egg roll was tough and tasteless, and the Hunan chicken was way overcooked with a too-sweet sauce.  We left most of this food on our plate, too, but between the two restaurants, we had enough bites, we thought, to hold us until dinner.

Dinner was at Texas Flame Steakhouse in Corpus.

We thought this deserved about two and a half stars out of a possible five.  Our steak (we generally share) was perfectly cooked over mesquite coals--so they say--and very flavorful.  We weren't impressed by the french fries, unfortunately, which were mushy.  Not sure how they could mess those up, but they did.  The prices were fair, and the place wasn't as frenetic as, say, Texas Roadhouse, where it is almost impossible to carry on a conversation because of the noise.  We may give Texas Flame another try sometime, but I couldn't give it a recommendation at this point.

After this, we toured around downtown and left via the bay bridge to Aransas Pass.  It was a good day, even though a bit cold and damp.  Tomorrow will be nicer, according to the weatherman.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We Brave the Cold Wind…to Review Restaurants for You!

At Gulf Waters RV Resort, Port Aransas, Texas…

The cold north wind began blasting late yesterday and didn't let up for about 24 hours; the temperature plunged about 30 degrees overnight.  Even so, it didn't reach freezing, and we were glad for that.  That's more than we can say for our home base near Forth Worth, where it was in the teens last night.

We decided this frigid bluster gave us a good excuse to stay in Phannie most of the day, and that's what we did, until late afternoon.  In the park, we noticed a TV satellite service truck performing work for another RVer, so we asked him to stop by.  We could not get our Direct TV remote to work in the RF mode. (This means we had to point the remote at the DVR to get it to work; in RF mode, you don't have to point the remote at all.)  He took a look at our remote and said it wasn't RF-capable; then he went to his truck and brought back a new one that worked perfectly.  Voila!

We needed to pick up a few things at Walmart, so we decided to go to the store in Rockport and have dinner at Bellino's, a little Italian restaurant on Fulton Beach Road. Boy, am I glad we did!  Sandy had pasta primavera with shrimp, and I had spaghetti and meat balls.  Both dishes were excellent, and the meat balls may be the best I've ever had.  The service was excellent, and the place was really crowded, a good sign on a Monday night.  Best of all, we arrived before six p.m., so we were able to order from the happy hour menu, a big saving over the dinner version.  
Bellino's in Fulton

This has inspired me to include in this post and the next one reviews of all the restaurants we've visited in the area on this trip.  Here, this will catch you up:

Fins (no photo) - A seafood restaurant recommended by Ed and worthy of my recommendation as well.  The fried fish and shrimp platter was enough for Sandy and me to share, and we ordered a side of onion rings, which they advertise as a signature dish.  The seafood was excellent and very fresh, but the onion rings, while good, had a little too much breading for my liking.  They had the A/C cranked down, and the dining room was a little cold.  It would definitely be worth another visit, though.  

Oceans of Seafood - This is a combination seafood market and restaurant that offers indoor and outdoor dining and the promise of the freshly-cooked seafood straight from the display cooler.  However, the guy manning the cash register, who I assume was the owner, had the personality of a boat anchor and gave us a bit of a surly greeting to boot. I feared this wouldn't go very well, and it didn't.  We had grilled red snapper and fried popcorn shrimp and a bowl of seafood gumbo.  The snapper was quite good and obviously fresh, but the popcorn shrimp turned out to be nothing but little pieces of fried breading around something gelatinous  that may or may not have been a shrimp; it was certainly not identifiable as such.  I suppose it's my fault for ordering popcorn shrimp, because I generally am disappointed, as I was this time.  (I think there is a lesson here somewhere.)  The gumbo was okay, but it was missing the richness that a good roux would have added.  The waitress completely ignored us during the entire meal (reflected in her tip) and, at one point, we were jolted a bit when a small dog came to our indoor table, sniffed at us and walked away.  Port Aransas is pretty laid back, but I'm pretty sure this was a health code violation.  Worst of all, the food was grossly overpriced.  Don't bother with this place.

Oceans of Seafood - Skip This Place; the Ocean Needs to Reclaim it.
Port of A Pizzeria (No photo) - This isn't a chain restaurant, which normally is a good thing in my experience as a foodie; however, this one disappointed.  They have a constant pizza buffet, which I suppose is a big draw.  But while the pizzas on the buffet were fairly fresh, they were not inspired at all, and I noticed a peculiar taste that may have been in the sauce or sausage--I'm not sure.  Sandy had a hot italian sub that was not at all memorable.  My suggestion, if you're pizza hungry, is to go down the street to the new Pizza Hut that just opened; don't bother with this place.

If you're wondering why I'm not posting about activities and sights other than restaurants, it's because this is not our first visit to the Corpus Christi area.  When we were here before, we did most of the touristy things and posted about them, so we're basically just relaxing at the seashore while avoiding the cold up north. We are enjoying this nice park and doing whatever we feel like doing--or not doing.  Am I getting the hang of this retirement stuff, or what!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gulf Waters--Our First Visit; Plus, Final Thoughts on Llano Grande and the RGV

At Gulf Waters RV Resort, Port Aransas, Texas…

We are quite impressed with this park, located just a stone's throw from the beach about eight miles south of Port Aransas.  It is very upscale with concrete roads and pads, many with intricate stonework.

We were led by and attendant to our site with head-in parking facing a pond.  This was the nice view from inside Phannie:

Yes, the windshield wiper is skewed a bit after a wash job; I straightened it after taking the photo.
Now that we have arrived at Gulf Waters, I'm going to leave you with one more photo of a typical street at Llano Grande RV Resort, from where we departed the Rio Grande Valley.  It was almost sunset when this photo was taken, and it is easy to see how this place is attractively maintained:

Now, a few impressions of our visit to Llano Grande: It would be hard to overstate how impressed we were with this place.  It is easy to see why so many folks spend their winters here year after year.  The facilities are first rate--the photos speak for themselves.  Owners have many options in the structures occupying their lots--there are many interesting examples, from minimalist to downright luxurious casitas and park models.  There is no shortage of activities either; residents could find a group involved in just about anything you can imagine.  The weather is great--even during this harsh winter, there were no freezing temperatures.  The beaches at South Padre are only an hour away, and Mexico is only 15 minutes to the south.  The park is situated in the small town of Mercedes, but McAllen, with large-city attractions, is only 20 minutes away. The area's cost of living is low--a good deal lower, for example, than Florida.  Here's an example:  A full wash and wax job for Phannie was only $135, and they did a great job.  Try to find that price anywhere else!  We also found that prices for real estate in Llano Grande are quite reasonable.  

Best of all, the people at Llano Grande are extraordinarily friendly.  I know, I know, RV folks are just that way, but the folks we met here were really special.  

Wait a minute; it has just occurred to me that I'm making this sound too attractive. Why, it's hard enough to get a reservation here already, so what am I doing promoting it like this?  Please ignore all the above; I'm sure you wouldn't like it down here.

I think that if our theme of traveling were more single-destination oriented now, we might very well purchase a site in Llano Grande. (By single-destination, I mean a return to the same place each winter and summer for the duration thereof.)  However, since I only recently retired, we're still in the "exploration" mode and wish to travel to many different locations.  This notion may subside a bit in the future but, for now, we want to see as much as we can while we're able. (I have a very long bucket list.)  In the meantime, we can always rent a spot when available.

Okay, back to Port Aransas:  We'll be doing some exploring in the area and recount that activity in the next few posts.  Hope everyone is staying warm--no freezing weather here on the Gulf Coast!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Getting an Early Start; But Why?

At Gulf Waters RV Resort, Port Aransas, Texas…

Today was departure day for Ed and Marilyn and us, along with Bob and Janet, who departed from another park in Mission, Texas.  While we were headed for Port Aransas, the others' next port of call would be Buckhorn RV Resort in Kerrville. 

As mentioned in my last post, we did indeed show up to bid Ed and Marilyn farewell at 8:00 a.m., along with Heinz and Irene and Ron and Verna. Sandy and I didn't look particularly elegant, but we were quite proud of ourselves for being able to give a personal goodbye to our hosts and friends and wish them all traveling mercies.  Marilyn took photos of us well wishers, but I think I was squinting due to the unexplained presence of some kind of giant fireball in the eastern sky, blinding me with its increasing brightness as it rose ever higher above the horizon.  No one else seemed particularly agitated by this phenomenon, which could have been some kind of alien death ray, for all they knew.  As soon as Ed and Marilyn departed, I retreated back to Phannie until the bright orb attained a height that appeared not to be directed at me. Oddly, I saw no news reports of UFO sightings, so the bright fireball remains a mystery.

The photo below captured our friends as they were pulling away from their parking spot.  I wish I had had the presence of mind to take a photo after Ed hooked up Marilyn's car to the fiver, which was hooked up to their pickup; you usually don't see that much rolling stock that's not on railroad tracks. I have to give Ed credit for good driving skills in handling safely this rolling wagon train. 

Sandy and I reverted to our usual calm completion of pre departure activities, and I nosed Phannie and Mae out of Llano Grande around elevenish, a time much more agreeable for people of leisure, don't you think?

Ed and Marilyn Rolling Out from Llano Grande
Our trip to Gulf Waters, a beautiful park in Port Aransas, was uneventful, and we arrived around mid-afternoon after stopping for a leisurely lunch near Kingsville.  After getting set up, we received a call from Ed, who wished to know if we had arrived without incident.  What a nice gesture!  He also suggested a local seafood restaurant named Fins, for us to try if we liked.  We did, and thought it was quite good; thanks, Ed.

In tomorrow's post, I'll have more photos and information about Gulf Waters and our adventures in the Corpus Chrisi area along with some reflections about our stay in the RGV.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye to the RGV

At Llano Grande RV Resort, Mercedes, Texas…

The first of March signals the beginning of a two-month long migration pattern of Snowbirds as they choose the optimum time to take flight from the Rio Grande Valley.  The warm breezes from  Mexico that have provided for them a tropic-like sanctuary from the brutal winter up north will soon become too warm and too humid for their liking.  The trickle of RVs plying the few routes northward will swell to thousands as the Valley disgorges its beloved nomads.  And yes, they are beloved here; the economy of this area and the towns along the Mexican border are heavily dependent on their return and the money they bring with them.

Ed and Marilyn will join us on March 1 to be among the first of our little group to depart Llano Grande.  Within a few days afterward, the remainder of our friends will be gone, all headed to different northern climes and away from the summer inferno that is Texas.  Since our home is near Fort Worth, we will not be able fully to escape; however, unlike previous summers before my retirement, we will certainly try to spend as much time as possible in more hospitable locations this summer. 

As a parting gesture, new friends Ron and Irene--two of the nicest people ever to draw a breath--hosted our small group at their site for some delicious pizza and blueberry cheesecake.  Joining us, besides these two and Ed and Marilyn, were Heinz and Irene, who are equally winsome Canadians. We feel so blessed to have met these folks, whom we now feel we have known always. 

Final Gathering Before Departure
Ed and Marilyn, who have been our beloved host-guides during our stay here, will be leaving early in the morning. This is because they inexplicably find it necessary to awaken each day in the dark and get up when the sun is probably still somewhere over the Azores! Since they have a relatively short drive to Kerrville, this makes no sense to me, but they have been unmoved by my counseling on the impropriety of getting up so early like, well...working people. Eew! It's just not done among civilized retirees.

Even though it may be dangerous (I read somewhere that lack of sleep contributes to a shorter lifespan), Sandy and I have determined that, out of respect and gratitude, we will make the ultimate sacrifice and arise in time to give them the traditional wave-off in the morning.  This depends entirely on whether I can navigate the 75 yards to their rig while sleepwalking.  It is even less certain that I will be able to give them a wave; I typically do not have full control of my fine motor skills in the early morning.

So, if I happen to miss you, good friends, Godspeed and thank you for a wonderful time.