Monthly Archives: November 2013

December 1, 2013 El Paso, Texas

We had heard that Interstate 10 through west Texas could be boring and tedious so we were prepared to be bored as we drove from San Antonio to El Paso. 4-IMG_20131204_205559 I never knew Texas was so huge!  We found the drive anything but boring.  Once we were outside of the San Antonio city limits the traffic thinned out and we had little traffic to contend with the rest of the way, which is always nice.  Perhaps it is because the terrain is so new and different, but we were fascinated with the changing terrain and the time passed quickly.  So much open land and we were entertained with the 80 mph speed limit signs, 1-IMG_20131130_125631the windmills in the middle of oil fields, the oil derricks, and the breathtaking mesas and scenery around us. 5-IMG_20131201_173313 03-P1030246 At points along Interstate 10 the road had been but through towering cliffs of limestone.

1-IMG_20131204_204901 2-IMG_20131204_205413


Mexico as it appears from the U.S. side






a dried up Rio Grande River
















After a one night stopover in Fort Stockton, we arrived in El Paso for a one night stay.  We had originally planned to stay several nights, but the cold weather changed our plans.  We arrived early enough to get in some quick sightseeing before dark.  Since our campground was a quick 5 minute drive from the Mexican border, we decided to drive down to the border.  We drove along the tall fence and river separating the two countries and noticed the border patrol vehicles.  We could see through the fence into Mexico with many many small houses crammed very close together dotting the hillsides.   We rode along a dried up Rio Grande River.  There was a very long line of cars on both sides of the border waiting to get into or out of the United States.  It wasn’t a surprise since it was the end of a holiday weekend.  We grabbed a quick geocache near the El Paso airport before heading home.

November 27, 2013 San Antonio, Texas

We spent Thanksgiving at Thousand Trails Medina Lake which is about an hour west of San Antonio.  The campground was nothing fancy with gravel sites, but it was quiet and peaceful and we enjoyed seeing the abundance of deer who had little fear of humans and would come very close.  1-IMG_20131201_174512

The campground provided a very nice Thanksgiving meal and it was fun to spend time with fellow RVers, exchanging stories, ideas and tips.  This time of year many of the RVers we meet are full time, or at least full time half of the year.  We met people who have been full timers for 7+ years and they are an inspiration to us as they describe their adventures and all the wonderful places they have been.  We have also been impressed with some of the solo RVers, including several women.

Friday we drove into San Antonio.  It seemed small and quaint after visiting Dallas and Houston, and I enjoyed the lack of traffic and the ease with which we were able to get around the city.  We visited the Alamo where we had to wait in line which wasn’t a surprise on this holiday weekend.  3-P1030208

While waiting we enjoyed a view of the city Christmas tree and live music. 4-P1030209 They do not allow any photography inside the Alamo Shrine which was just as well since the lighting inside is very dim and not conducive to good photography.  It was interesting to read about the history of the Alamo since that is not something covered extensively in American history.  We spent some time walking around the grounds of the Alamo compound.  We didn’t see a lot of flowers, but plenty of cactus!  5-P1030213

Next we walked along the famous Riverwalk.  Near one of the entrances we found a band of fireman called “Backdraft” and we spent a few minutes listening to them and watching people dance to the music, including Sparky.  The band was very good! 6-P1030216






The Riverwalk is a lovely area. 2-P1030207 1-P1030206 I am sure it is beautiful at night with the lights, but with the wind picking up, the temperature dropping, and the hour drive, we decided to head back home.  One thing we discovered early on in this adventure is that wherever the RV is parked is home to us.  We jokingly say if we don’t like the neighbors or the neighborhood, or we want to see something new or do something different, we just move!  Nice!

November 12, 2013 Day Trip to Galveston, Texas

Since Galveston was only a short drive from Houston, we decided to drive down for the day.  We chose not to visit the NASA Johnson Space Center because there is little to see with the Space Shuttle no longer in service. It was a cold and very windy day to drive to the beach.  Galveston, also known as Galveston Island, is very pretty and is was so good to see the water again.  We have missed it! 1-P1030190

We drove around the city where we saw many beautiful, old, historic homes and churches.  3-P1030189










Moody Mansion

Among them was the Moody mansion which was built in 1895 and once home to one of Texas’ most powerful families.  It has been restored and is open for tours.

We then drove down to the beach and drove along Seawall Boulevard, enjoying the Gulf of Mexico.  On this windy day there were many whitecaps and crashing surf.  One thing we noticed in Galveston is there are no hotels, condos. cottages built on the beach.  Everything is built across the seawall and on the other side of the street.  There are miles and miles of uninterrupted beachfront to enjoy.  We saw little beach access parking, so that could be a potential problem.

Next on the list was a tour of the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.  4-P1030205 Houston is known as the petroleum capital of the world, and we saw several working oil refineries on our way to Galveston.




The Ocean Star is a retired drilling rig which we were able to board and tour.  6-P1030195The rig had three floors of interactive displays and models that explained the story of offshore drilling and detailed explanations of the process.  We watched a very informative video on offshore drilling.  The outside exhibits on the third floor were a challenge in the wind and cold!7-P1030202








Some of the interesting facts from the museum brochure included:
–Today  it is estimated that 60% of the world’s recoverable petroleum and gas reserves are located under the oceans.
–In the United States approximately 70% of our petroleum reserves are offshore.
–Currently Texas and Louisiana produce 93% of all the USA offshore oil production.  8-P1030200

November 8, 2013 Houston, Texas

On the way to Houston we stayed one night in the Sam Houston National Forest at Cagle Campground.  What a nice campground!  We had a large site with a concrete pad and full hookup.  This is not what is usually available in a national forest campground!

We arrived in Houston 01-IMG_20131108_195417for a 5 night stay at a private campground about 13 miles outside of the city of Houston.  It was a nice site with a concrete pad and full hookup, but without the space, trees and privacy we found at the national forest campground.  It also had some traffic noise from the interstate close by.  It seemed more like a concrete jungle after the state parks we have grown accustomed to camping in.  After dealing with the mud and dirt from all the rain in Dallas earlier in the week, the concrete pad was nice, but we would have really liked some trees and grass!

On Sunday we drove into Houston to visit our friend Priscilla and her husband Roy.  We met Priscilla when we lived in Northern Virginia and she is now living in Houston.  It was SO good to spend time with them!  We had a great meal at a barbecue restaurant and after eating they gave us a nice tour of Houston and Rice University campus.  1-P1030167







02-P1030171Monday we drove 45 minutes to Brazos Bend State Park to do some geocaching and orienteering.  It is hard to find permanent orienteering courses and we were pleasantly surprised to see they had one in this park.  While driving in we noticed signs saying the area had alligators and venomous snakes.  We drove to one lake in the park and walked around and to our disappointment we didn’t see any alligators.  We pretty much decided we wouldn’t see any that day because the lakes were way down from the ongoing drought in Texas.  We decided to find two geocaches near an observatory in the park.  As we parked our car we encountered two elderly ladies who calmly and nonchalantly told us they had seen an alligator on the trail near a small bridge over the water.  We thanked them for telling us and thought they surely had seen an alligator in the distance sunning on a far bank.  To our astonishment as we walked down the path we came upon a huge alligator estimated to be 7 or 8 feet long five feet away from us.   04-P1030175We figured if those two ladies could get by him alive, so could we, so Bill told me to give him the camera in case we had to start running.  He took my hand and led the way as we slowly and carefully walked past the alligator.  If truth be told, he had to slightly pull me past the alligator because my feet were not so eager to walk past the creature.  We found our geocaches and then headed back down the trail thinking we would once again inch our way past Ally Alligator.  To our amazement, in the short time we were gone, the alligator stretched his body across the trail, blocking our way.  06-P1030182Since it didn’t look like he was in any hurry to get on his way, we had to find another trail back to the car.  Bill and I both agreed this was the closest we had ever been to an alligator of that size….a once in a lifetime experience when you least expect it!  Never thought we would leave Florida to have a close and personal encounter with an alligator in Texas!  On the way to the car we saw another huge alligator on a small island in the water and a little baby alligator sunning on a rock in the water.  We also saw many turtles, a bunny, and a lot of birds.  05-P1030179 09-P1030185 07-P1030183 10-P1030186 08-P1030184























While orienteering later in the day we saw another 7 foot alligator on a bank across the lake, but he dove into the water before we could get a picture so we had to be satisfied with one of him in the water as he swam away.  11-P1030188We came home tired and happy from our fun and exciting day in the park!

November 4, 2013 Dallas, Texas Part 3

On Monday we awoke to the sound of rain.  Since they were calling for rain for the next 3 days, we decided to go ahead with our plans to drive back into Dallas to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.







The Bush Library opened in May, 2013 and is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, where Laura Bush attended college.   They had over 300,000 visitors in the first 3 months.   02-P1030140

The library is very well done, with friendly guides eager to share what they know, and many interestingexhibits.  The library did not spend much time on Bush’s younger years or campaigns, but the majority of the exhibits talked about his time in the White House.  The exhibits included information on the tragedy of September 11, including two mangled beams from one of the World Trade Center towers;

Beams from World Trade Center

Beams from World Trade Center


Beams from World Trade Center

Beams from World Trade Center









defending freedom around the world,  09-P1030146 07-P1030145 08-P1030162

















Bush’s call to Americans to serve and help others,  03-P1030141 04-P1030142

An example of correspondence a president performs on a routine basis

An example of correspondence a president performs on a routine basis















Presidential Seal medallion on ceiling in Oval Office

life in the White House, and the Oval Office.  They had an exact replica of the Oval Office during Bush’s presidency and we were allowed to walk around the room and look at all the items.  There was a replica of the presidential desk that most presidents have chosen to use.  There is a plaque on the desk that explains the wood the desk was made from came from an English ship called the “Resolute” during the time of Queen Victoria.  Therefore the desk is called “The Resolute Desk”.  An interesting side note about the desk is that a front panel was added during Roosevelt’s time to hide his wheelchair.  The ceiling in the Oval Office has a medallion which is incorrect because an Italian artist made the stars with 8 points instead of 5.   Everywhere else the seal’s stars have 5 points.

They allowed Bill to have his picture taken sitting at the president’s desk.



The Bush family will continue their public service through the Bush Institute located next door to the library.  The Institute uses research to develop and implement policies that offer practical solutions to pressing national and global problems.  01-P1030138







Unfortunately we left the museum right at rush hour, complicated by rain and fog.  17-IMG_20131104_173330


No, this is not an accident. It is a machine that moves barricades from one lane to another to form HOV lanes during morning and afternoon rush hour.

The way they do their HOV lanes in Dallas is really strange.  They have machines that move the barriers from one side to the other to create extra lanes depending on which way the rush hour traffic is moving.


We never saw an entrance to the HOV lane and never found another entrance or exit the entire time we were on the interstate.  We could see the HOV lanes, which had very light traffic, while our lanes were bumper to bumper, but no way to get on.  Very strange indeed!

After a quick stop for dinner and grocery shopping at Walmart, we finally arrived home.  It was chilly and the rain had picked up to a steady rain, so we were glad to be home!