Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?

From Mesa Verde, it was back to Texas. I’d been wanting to have the flooring replaced in the motorhome (it’s ten-year-old carpet and linoleum), and I figured a big, prosperous city like Dallas would be a good place to find someone to do the work.


We made better time getting to Texas than we expected, but found that most campgrounds were full. Finally, we found a campground in a rural area between Dallas and Fort Worth. The price was a bargain: $16 a night. The park itself was pretty rough, with only the barest vestiges of pavement and markings remaining on the sites. But the hook-ups worked fine, and beggars can’t be choosers.
The second day we were there, the owner’s wife, one of these skeletal 80-year-olds who tries to look 35 by trowelling on the makeup, came and knocked on the door to tell us our front door rug was over the line to the neighbor’s lot. She pointed to a patch of dirt with crumbled asphalt, one crumb of which was, on close inspection, painted white. “We did you a favor by letting you take this site, it’s a monthly site. Didn’t Marvin tell you that?” (No, Marvin didn’t.) Anyway, she didn’t make us move, which was good, because this is what was on the left side of our motorhome which made us park closer to the right border:

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The entire park was plastered with warning signs, like this:

These:

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Or my personal favorite:

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Damn government!

Anyway, we moved out after a few nights to a more expensive but much nicer campground, and the Bluebird of Happiness greeted us.

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The bluebird of happiness!

I called, messaged, and e-mailed numerous flooring places and RV places to try and get estimates. I found a consistent theme: RV places didn’t want to do flooring, and flooring places didn’t want to work on RVs. I finally found an RV place that would give me an estimate, but it turned out they were just wasting my time. They do their business billing insurance companies to repair damaged RVs, and their estimate (delivered 5 days late) for 230 square feet of flooring was a jaw-dropping $17,502! I finally found a man who would do the work at a fair price through word-of-mouth, but his first available slot was in December!

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In the meantime, we put the motorhome in storage and stayed at an AirBnB in McKinney pending our flight to Ireland. Now, I am normally an adherent of Jimmy Buffett’s advice: “If you ever get a chance to go to Dallas, don’t.” But McKinney is  an adorable little hipster burb with a walkable downtown, live music, shops and restaurants. We enjoyed our week there, walking or riding our bikes into town almost daily, except for the AirBnB. It turned out to be, let’s say, not exactly as specified. The listing described it as a “roomy one-bedroom suite,” but it was actually an enclosed porch with a rickety daybed. By the time we left for the airport, our poor backs were pretty rickety as well!

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“Roomy, one-bedroom suite”

We were definitely ready for something completely different…

 

Onwards to Tuscon, Arizona

One of the best things about life in the 21st century is the ease of making “Friends” whom you’ve never met. And one of the great things about living the peripatetic lifestyle is getting to finally meet them! 2017-04-09 12.46.07 HDRWhen I saw we were passing through El Paso, I had to stop to say hello to one of my favorite-people-whom-I’d-never-met, Jennapher.fullsizeoutput_b18

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Then it was on to Deming, New Mexico. My husband, Steve, inherited a small parcel of land from his grandfather. It is in a “development” known as Deming Ranchettes, a large tract of arid desert which someone, fifty years ago, was sure would be located in a booming tourist town. Deming has not turned out the way they’d hoped, and the Walmart whose parking lot we boondocked in and the IHOP where we ate dinner and breakfast, were two of the largest businesses in Deming. But we did find the road into Deming Ranchettes, and we managed to figure out which of the identical rectangles of sagebrush and prickly pear belonged to Steve. Just at that moment, my phone rang! It was my old friend, a childhood playmate I’d not seen in over forty years!  We were a few hours from his mother’s

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Seeing Roberta again was like finding lost family!

house in Tuscon, so off we went!

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Eric David Streicher

Soon we began to see the Saguaro cacti. These are the image in everyone’s mind when they think of North American deserts, but in reality they are found only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. We pulled into Tuscon and dropped our motorhome off for a new awning (way overdue). Then we descended on my “other mother,” who had picked up and moved to Tuscon with her son when I was a pre-teenager.

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The two of them were gracious hosts; we took a sunset drive among the saguaros,2017-04-11 18.53.12 and then the next day, a picnic drive up to Kitt’s Peak, where a veritable city of astronomical observatories is open for daytime tours. Signs around some nondescript dormitory buildings warn you to be quiet, as the astronomers are sleeping… The views of the surrounding plateau and buttes were breathtaking. How much more could the West have in store for our feasting eyes?

It’s such a joy to rediscover a link with  childhood friends! After a lovely evening of reminiscing and trying to solve the problems of the world, we sadly said our goodbyes and headed north towards the Grand Canyon. But first we had one more stop to make…

Messin’ With Texas: San Antonio and Gruene Dance Hall

Once we left the Texas Gulf Coast, we felt like we were really in Texas. Up until that point, the Gulf of Mexico had more or less blended seamlessly from Snowbird city to the Redneck Riviera to the Big Easy and the Bayou to Offshore Oil Central. But once the sea faded away in our rear-view mirrors, we began to see the big-hat, big-truck aloofness that gives the second-largest state its character.

 

San Antonio is famous for two main things: the Alamo, a fort where the Spanish-American War had one of its most famous sieges, and the Riverwalk. We found a quiet campground not far north of the city of San Antonio proper and set out to explore the Riverwalk first.

My general philosophy is that the best way to explore a river is by boat. And conveniently enough, there are riverboat tours available which take you all the way around the looping commercial canal known as San Antonio Riverwalk. Many cities have a downtown area which they have spruced up to cultivate tourism. But San Antonio is perhaps unique in that their tourist district is oriented around the San Antonio river.

We located the booth and bought our tickets, and rode around in the watercraft seeing restaurants, bars, hotels, and more restaurants, bars and hotels alongside the riverbanks. The history of the area was narrated by a college-age young woman who frequently mentioned that she was happy that the Riverwalk existed because otherwise she wouldn’t have a job. There were quite a few picturesque sights along the way. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants, an indifferent, overpriced affair, and then we sought out the Alamo.

Riverwalk

One thing I found surprising about the Alamo is that it is located right in the middle of what is now downtown San Antonio. We were there in early spring, and we expected it not to be too crowded, but we thought we were mistaken. We paid our $8 and stood in line to enter the big gaping former church, former barracks, former field hospital. Several places had a list of the soldiers who were killed in the battle with Santa Ana. Between the items of equipment shoved in front of the historical plaques and the poorly-managed crowds, it was not what I would describe as a peak educational experience.
The courtyard was nice, though. And one has to have a soft spot for a historical site which buries its cats with grave markers like these!

The Alamo Cats
The Alamo Cats (RIP)

But we were just as happy to make our way back to the motorhome for a quick dinner and change of clothing before our night’s outing.

 

Being in Texas, we had to take the opportunity to visit the oldest dance hall in the state. Located in the little village of Gruene, Gruene dance hall has been hosting country and western performers since XXXX. We found a spot on one of the crude wood benches and got a hard cider and enjoyed the show.

We really enjoyed the opening act, Hunter Hutchinson, an up-and-coming performer with a great sound and a great stage presence who performed covers and original songs with a flare that tells us he has what it takes to become a star one day. We actually liked him better than the headliner, Zane Williams, but judging by all the hootin’ and hollerin’ going on when Zane took the stage, ours was a minority opinion.

The crowd at Gruene
The crowd at Gruene

The wood dance floor was soon covered by couples waltzing and Texas two-stepping to the music. Attire varied from urban-cowboy redux with big hats and thousand-dollar boots for the men and sprayed-on denim miniskirts with cowgirl boots for the women, to simple cotton shirts (some with, yes, pearlescent snaps!) and jeans, to band T-shirts and nylon shorts with running shoes. After the show ended, we walked the streets of the quiet little town in the moonlight, listening to the crickets and holding hands as the traffic cleared out and we made our way back to our little RV snailshell.

Bolivar and Galveston

Down around the Gulf Coast we went, heading for Texas! After a one-night stay at the Cajun Corner campground, where we shared a hot tub with an obnoxious drunken Canadian woman and her entourage, we headed down to Bolivar.

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Leaving Cajun Country.

The Bolivar peninsula is a barrier island, not much more than a line of sand dunes, not far from Houston. It’s basically a single strip of road with beach homes and small businesses on either side. Bolivar’s beaches are open for cars to drive on (with a permit, purchasable at the bait shop; the government has to get its cut somehow!). The crowd on the beach varies from fishermen to surfers to families out for a picnic, and ranged from ebony-skinned to pallid folks like me, with the language overheard as likely to be Spanish as English.

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The Bolivar peninsula also appears to be one of the towns with the highest concentration of RVs of anywhere I’ve ever been! The peninsula is vulnerable to hurricanes, so all the houses built in the last 40 or 50 years are up on stilts. The area underneath the homes makes a perfect RV parking pad, and many homes have sewer and electric hookups at ground level included in their construction. Quite a few landowners have skipped the house part of the equation entirely, and they just have a sundeck on stilts with hookups underneath. (One local told me that lots of people couldn’t afford to insure a house, but they can afford to lose an RV in a hurricane). Some of them are single hookups for just the owner’s 5th-wheel or motorhome, but quite a few of them also have slots available for rent.
We had already reserved a space at an actual RV park, Paula’s Vineyard, with which we were delighted. It was gated and quiet and had excellent laundry facilities. Laundry facilities are one of the make-or-break items when you are traveling by motorhome, and good ones make the inevitable laundry day so much more pleasant. It also was home to this little cutie, a calico-point Siamese who trotted right up and made herself at home! We miss World Traveler Kitty Tapioca since she left for the sunny window in the sky last Fall, but we are planning to do more international travel soon, so we are not ready to take on another cat. We had a hard time convincing Dirt (that’s what they’d named her at the campground) of that!

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Dirt wanted to be our kitty!

Bolivar is connected to Galveston by a ferry, and we took our toad (towed car) across on Saturday night to look around and enjoy the nightlife.

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Galveston at Night.

We had a great Mexican dinner at Salsa’s on the beach and then enjoyed a local singer-songwriter performing at a little club called The Old Quarter, complete with an impromptu belly-dance performance by an audience member. 2017-03-25 23.51.03When we got back “home” to our snail shell, guess who was waiting for us on top of the front tire?

 

I was a little apprehensive about the trip across on the ferry in the motorhome the next day. As I’ve mentioned before, when you choose the snail’s life of full-time RV living, you put everything you can’t live without into a box hurtling through space. Putting that box on a big floating platform in the middle of the water was a whole new level of trust in the benevolence of the Universe!

But we made it across just fine, and then it was inland, to experience Texas proper!