Saturday, 28 February 2015
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Feb 26-28
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Marathon, TX

This is an interesting but struggling old town with a magnificent hotel, RV Park, grocery store and a couple of restaurants. It thrived in the days when the railroad made it a crew change point. That was moved to Alpine a few years ago. Other businesses followed such as one closed restaurant had a sign, "moved to Alpine". The Gage Hotel was built as a home, then expanded to accommodate the owners business.

 

Big Bend National Park

This park provided spectacular scenery at almost every turn. It is very large park about 40 miles E-W and 60 mile N-S. The Big Bend is the 118 miles of Rio Grande River that separates Mexico from the USA. The central area of the park is the Chisos Basin with a ring of mountains the tallest as 7,832 ft. The ring is broken by "The Window" a V between two mountains.  When there is rain the basin empties the water through the window creating a 200 ft water fall.  The Rio Grande is at about 2,500 ft. The park is only open from about October to May because of the summer heat. We found the nights were below freezing and the daytimes in the 60's.  

On Friday we drove south on the Old Maxwell Scenic Drive. It wasn't that scenic, was gravel, and pretty rough with a lot of wash board.  The road took us to the Santa Elena Canyon where the river has cut through a 1,500 ft high escarpment leaving a narrow canyon. Mexico is on the east side and the US on the west side of the canyon.  We walked down to the river access where canoe trips are launched.

It was foggy both mornings but by noon the fog lifted leaving only a few clouds in the mountains. Saturday we visited the Chisos Basin on a paved road with some sharp turn switchbacks. There are dire warnings against RV's longer than 24 ft and no trailers. We didn't have any trouble at all getting there or parking. We were the only RV. The view through the "Window" was spectacular.

 

 

Next we drove 23 miles to see the Border Crossing at Boquillas that opened in April 2013.  After 9/11 the boarded was closed. This crossing is a far cry from the one at Del Rio with a bridge and huge lines of traffic.  There is no bridge just a row boat (visible on right side of river) that takes travelers back and forth for a small fee. A hand full of people in Mexico were waiting to cross and a group of four Mexican men were carrying large bags on a hand cart. There is no problem walking down to the river but I had to show my passport to a scanning machine and talk via a telephone to an officer to get back in even though I had not left the USA. The one officer on duty at the office was very helpful in showing me what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we start the trip back to Nashville.

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Posted on 02/28/2015 8:56 PM by Bob Duthie
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Feb 22-25
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Saturday night we spent in Texana Park and Campground arriving after hours. The GPS took us a mile past the park entrance. We stopped and called the park and the Law Officer came out and escorted us right to our campsite. That was great service. 

Corpus Christi

Sunday we drove to friends (clients in another era) that have a beautiful home overlooking Nueces Bay and the bridge to Corpus Christi.  Mavis had a great time learning all about the plants, wild animals, and bugs found in such a rural area. Only the hurricane and tornado stories topped the strange bugs. They thought they had an eight inch long Giant Centipede saved in their freezer but it could not be found.  We had not seen Tom and Molly for 10 years back in Nashville, but we were treated like family.  With a sister, son and his new wife, we all went out for dinner in Corpus Christi and really enjoyed ourselves.

Mustang Island

On Monday we left for the Aransas Perry ferry to get to Mustang Island and the State Park where we had a reservation. It was very cold at 34 degrees with a 20 mph wind. I actually walked 0.7 mile in this to get the surf photo here. Needless to say I had the beach to myself.

 

 

San Antonio

Tuesday we drove to San Antonio, parked downtown to see the Alamo and River Walk. It was still very cold and the restaurant where we had lunch had a hard time heating the place. Mavis had seen the Alamo before so she spent her time in the gift shop where she found the Texas Bug Book with the photo of the giant centipede.  I took photos of all the interpretive signs rather than stand around in the cold reading them. I did learn that in the March 6, 1836 battle all but 3 American's were killed by the Mexicans. It was a battle with 1,500 on the Mexican side and and 257 or less on the American side. I counted more soldiers from Tennessee were lost than those from any other state.

 

Hondo

Hondo is one of the nicest small towns we have seen in our 90,000 miles. It's the center of a farming community and prospering. We stayed at the Quiet Texas RV Park which a real estate agent created out of a former sewage plant.  His home is now in an old water tank and he has his own windmill. It was really nice park.

 

 

Del Rio

On the drive to Del Rio I was amused by a road sign, "Driving in river beds is illegal".  You wouldn't see such a sign on the Tennessee River. However, here the rivers have dried up. The Border Patrol has created dirt roadways alongside the highway that cross the river beds so they can see if anyone is hiding under the bridges.  This town is a border crossing into Mexico. The parts we saw were all pretty run down including the campsite we stayed at tonight. The town is on the Rio Grande but you can't get close to seeing the river because of the massive fence that has been built. There was a long line of cars waiting to get back into the USA so we skipped trying to see the Rio Grande.

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Posted on 02/25/2015 11:34 PM by Bob Duthie
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Saturday, 21 February 2015
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Feb 20-21
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We covered about 600 miles in two days on a lot of rough I-10 pavement. Louisiana has the worst roads and Texas' roads are better. The high spots were the Louisiana and the Texas Welcome Centers.

Louisiana Welcome Center

Louisiana had a 10 year old multimedia exhibit that was interesting and a really great video showing life in the Atchafalaya Swamp

 

 

 

Texas Welcome Center

Texas was less impressive inside but more exciting outside with a long boardwalk overlooking two alligators and a tall egret in the Blue Elbow Swamp. This swamp is beside the Sabine River which marks the border between the two states.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

They also had a bronze sculptured alligator snapping turtle. This is the largest fresh water turtle in the world. It lives over 70 years, and in the USA its range extends to Kentucky Lake!  Kenlake Marina friends, please watch out for one of these. Tomorrow we head for Corpus Christi.

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Posted on 02/21/2015 9:22 PM by Bob Duthie
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Thursday, 19 February 2015
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Feb 13-19
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NIck's Seafood Restaurant

The Rally was over last Sunday and we had one final celebration by going out for dinner at Nick's Seafood Restaurant on Choctawhatchee Bay with three friends from Minnesota and Alaska. There was an interesting sunset we watched from Nick's. On Monday we headed east for a four day stay at St Andrews State Park with three other View/Navions. We had a fantastic dinner at Capt. Anderson's, a place we have eaten at many times since the 70's. It has always been great with fresh caught fish from the Gulf. This was the week of ice storms and snow in Nashville and at the boat. The temperature at St Andrews dropped into the 20s at night but warmed up into the 50's during the day. We decided to cut short the stay there by one day and take four days instead of three days to get to Corpus Christi. 

History of Gulf Bay Pass

The beach shelter at St Andrews was the most interesting site and the text below, taken from sign boards in the shelter, explains the photos.

From the time the first Spanish galleons ventured near these shores to elude privateers, entry into Saint Andrews Bay had been difficult and uncertain. Because of the prevailing tides and unpredictable storms the channel was constantly changing. Often large vessels would enter only at high tide.

In the 1930's the Army Corps of Engineers decided to solve this problem by dredging a new channel called Gull Bay Pass directly from the Gulf into the Bay.  This was accomplished by cutting through the peninsula known locally as "Land's End" at a point near the mouth of Grand Lagoon. The channel was completed in 1934 at a cost of $604,000.

The jetties were made of hand-cut marble blocks quarried near Sylacauga, Alabama and brought to the site by barge and railroad. When in place the blocks were covered by a blanket of asphalt.

In 1942, at the outset of World War II, the US Army established a Temporary Harbor Defense at this site overlooking the recently opened pass. The purpose was to protect the area from German submarines which were operating in the Gulf and Atlantic.  The installation consisted on two 155 millimeter guns mounted on concrete "Panama Mounts" and the floor of the pavilion.

The steel track around the outer rim allowed the gun to rotate 360 degrees. The site was activated in April 1943 and deactivated in January 1944 without a shot having been fired at an enemy.

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Posted on 02/19/2015 4:29 PM by Bob Duthie
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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Feb 9-12
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Freeport View/Navion Rally

We set out on the 10th for a 30 day trip to Florida and the Texas Coast hoping to make it to Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande. The first 5 days we will be at the annual rally of View/Navion Motorhomes. Many like ours date back to 2006-7.  This Rally began in 2006 at Grayton Beach but moved to Freeport 4 years ago to Live Oak Landing RV Park. The park is on the North side of Choctawhatchee Bay in a sheltered swamp. It has small boat access to the Bay and Gulf of Mexico at Destin. This is now the 8th year for this rally and we enjoy meeting new members of the group and renewing friendships with the old timers. My newest gadget is a Garmin Vivofit bracelet which actually motivates me to get more exercise. Today I walked 2 miles round trip to a convenience store and put on 7354 steps many of which were going back and forth from the pavilion which is a long way from our campsite.  What surprised me was the number of new View/Navions.  However, it is because people are now having auto custom paint shops painting their faded gel coast with all new graphics. You now can't tell a 2006 from a 2015 by looking at it. One 2006 had been stored outside and calculated that the cost of storing it inside for 7 years was the same cost of having it painted after that time. Our 2007 has been stored inside and has a finish close to looking like new but the 2007 graphics. 

Right-Left-Center

A new game was revealed tonight called Right-Left-Center. We played with 25 people on one long table. Each player puts down $3 on the table in front of them. You then roll 3 special dice which determine whether you give a dollar to the player on your right, left, or in the pot. Besides the 3 dots on the each dice there are 3 dots. When these come up you get to hang on to your money.  The game goes on until the last player with any money left wins to pot of $74. I was one player away from being the winner. It's alot of fun and doesn't take a long time to learn the rules.

Florida Home Bargain

On my hike to the convenience store I took this sad photo of a home that we saw 4 years ago and is still for sale by owner. You can still get cheap property in Florida.

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Posted on 02/12/2015 8:50 PM by Bob Duthie
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