It sure is amazing just how fast the time flies especially when you have friends to share things with. Ken and Betty had arrived there a day before us and had been there before so they knew the area. So, a quick tour of Fulton and Rockport was in order. As you can see from the map above, there is plenty of water around us and hence plenty of birds. Ken and Betty are avid birders and are ready to show us the "birder ropes". We have to pick a date to head out with them.
Just to explain, we are known in Texas as "Winter Texans" and actually are warmly welcomed by the locals. The Texans have to be some of the most friendly, hospitable people we have met on our North American wanderings. Many of the local activities were set up so that Winter Texans can attend, and we are always acknowledged. It gives you a nice feeling ...
Our birding experience was neat! Ken and Betty have all the
equipment with cameras, binoculars and spotting scope so we knew that this would be something we'll not forget. We headed to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge a couple of miles outside Rockport. Even before we got to the Park, we had to stop and identify the birds on the electric power lines and in the farmer's fields. If you are "birding" you don't travel too quickly. Here is a list of the birds we identified on our two birding experiences:
December 1, 2007 Rockport TX on the water front
Great blue heron
December 4, 2007 Bay View RV Resort
Black bellied whistling duck
Pied billed Grebe
December 5, 2007 Aransas Wildlife Refuge near Rockport TX
Immature little Blue Heron
Great blue heron
Common moor hen
Black Bellied whistling duck
Ladder-backed Whooping crane
White faced ibis
Greater yellow legs
Pied billed grebe
Great northwestern sweating Joe
Suffice it to say, we had several good days and learnt a lot. Now, if Elsie will only let me buy that spotting scope that fits onto my
As you all know, food and the acquisition of same, occupies a big part of our day. No difference here ... the four of us went shrimp hunting -- the locals don't even know the name "prawn" -- and we found some fresh caught 16/25's for 4.99 per pound. (that means there are 16 to 25 shrimp to the pound) Nothing left to do but head home, enjoy happy hour, crank up the Barbie and pig out!!!! These shrimp/prawns were some of the best I have ever eaten. On another
occasion, the four of us were wandering around sightseeing, and it became lunch time. As we were in Aransas Pass and right on the water, I'll bet you thought that we would
find a quaint little fishing shack restaurant ... but no ... we stumbled upon a Welsh Restaurant of all things. As you walked in, you were immediately taken back to a Pub in Blighty complete with the
requisite smells -- cigarette smoke, beer and deep fried food. To remain true to the sea side location we ordered the fish and chips served, of course, on newspaper. It sounds
hokey but believe it or not, it was one of the best fish and chips I have had!
Continuing with our eclectic ways, we found a Renaissance Fair was happening in Aransas Pass just a few miles from us. I have always been a fan of the Society for Creative
Anachronism in Vancouver so this Fair was a must hit for us. I was situated in the
ubiquitous county fairgrounds that every small town has. There was a road that went around the grounds in a circle -- half mile walk in either direction. Along this small road were clearings that housed different little tents each selling things like candles, perfumes, food, jewelry etc. At one larger clearing, actual jousting on horse back was happening. This was neat as the "Knights" explained what they were going to do before each joust. Then, at full speed they charged at each other. I
was surprised that no one was actually hurt in this. At the end of the performance, they actually had the nerve/naivety to ask if there was anyone in the audience who would like to take this up as a sport. The silence was deafening!!!
Around one of the bends there were acrobats performing on a huge swing set. This was just like I always
imagined a true Renaissance Fair would look like in the 1300's. Many of the people attending dressed up in
Medieval costume and that added a lot to the setting. All in all, a great morning's fun!
More sightseeing ... Mustang Island (yes, that is Island and not Ranch), North Padre Island, Corpus Christi, and the free little ferry ride from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas. We are sure putting the miles on the Honda.
One pre-Christmas event that bears mentioning is the Family Country Music Show that was held in Fulton at the "Paws and Taws" auditorium. The name comes from Square Dancing so if anyone knows the significance of the name, please let us know. This was an interesting experience! The
auditorium held about 200 people and it was FULL, even to the 4 "very" middle aged women who must have had dinner in the local bar before
choosing seats just behind us. Yahoo's YEHAA's etc. and all the hokey Texan shouts they could think of echoed off the back of our heads. And the performers ... everyone in town had a crack at us, Fiddle players, yodelers, story tellers, singers ... all performed two songs and then it was some one else's turn. The fellow who was running for
Sheriff in the spring election even sang, after a plea for everyone's vote. The owner of the local RV Dealership and his salesman sang, but again, after inviting all the Winter Texans to visit his dealership. An hour and a half later, it was intermission and a quick look at the programme indicated that the second half would be the same performers ... we thought "horse kissin music" is all and good, but enough is enough! It was fun but we slipped out the back door.
All too soon, December 15th came and we headed to Mercedes Texas and Ken and Betty headed into Mexico. It was a hard decision to make, not accompanying them south, but maybe next year. This was our opportunity to investigate the Rio Grande Valley.
The whole Rio Grande Valley (RGV) fills up in January and February so we had a little problem finding a campground for a month. We were lucky and found a spot in the newer section of Llano Grande Lake Park Resort and County Club in Mercedes. (the double Ll is pronounced "y")
The main road in the RGV is highway 83. Just off this road are all the campgrounds and the stores necessary to support all these Winter Texans. If you go a mile off the road, you think that you are in Mexico. It is almost like visiting Mexico without crossing the border.
I don't think that I have mentioned the HEB chain of food stores. This is a huge chain that sure puts Safeway, Albertsons etc to shame. And, if you can find a HEB "Plus" store ..
you have died and gone to heaven.
These stores are huge! They are very much like an upscale Costco, but they carry all different types of products that we only see in specialty stores at home. And did I mention the meat???? Texan Steaks are incredible!!! Tender beyond belief! But, a little spendy. Our two favourite steaks are
Rib eye and Tenderloin. The Rib eyes go for 13.50 and the Tenderloin goes for 23.99 a pound.
Damm ... but we soon learned that the display meat only sits on the counter for one day and then the next day, it is packaged and sold for half price if you can get there ewarly enough. This also happens to the lamb chops. They
regularly sell for 9.99 a pound but the next morning ... there they are at 4.99. Can you think just how full our freezer is?????
However, there are HEBs and HEBs. In the area we are in, their cliental is mostly Spanish speaking so the local HEB caters to them. We spent one day "HEB
Hunting" until we found the HEB Plus in Mission about half an hour away from our Park. But, no sacrifice is too great for good food, so we make this run into Mission every second day for nourishment.
We have spent a few days wandering around different campgrounds in the area. Our friends Matt and Carol from Swan Lake Park in Vernon are down here at a different park. We have run into them twice this year so far: once in Tucson at the DataStorm Rally, and once in Kerrville. So, we decided to make it three times and wandered over to see their Park. They were in Mission area and therefore were a little closer to the main body of Winter Texans. Their Park was very impressive, and we thought we could make reservations there for 6 weeks next year. However, it turns out that the Park is a little heavy on the Rule's side of things to the extent that they were attempting to stop anyone from using a wireless connection in their RV. Now this is why we have the Satellite Dish on the roof. They thought that there was interference from the DataStormers that was hampering the Park Wifi. Do we need them???? No bloody way ... there must be another Park ...
We had a good chat with Matt and Carol and then continued our search.
The Park we are in is very nice, but not one of the most friendly places we have been. There is an older Park Model section and the newer RV section. The Park Model section was built in the late 80's and the people there tend to be a little on the older side.
Next year ... hmmm do we want to drive three extra days to get here, and then put up with the wind and
humidity??? Decisions Decisions...
Christmas dinner was interesting here. The meal was $11.00 each and was served in shifts from 1:00 in half hour shifts. We chose the 3:30 shift. The meal was to be roast ham plus
veggies. No Turkey .... Damn!!!
When we arrived early, of course, we picked a table, sat down and waited for more people to show up. There were a few tables with 10 to 20 people sitting there, obviously friends, and as new people arrived, they sat at empty tables. We went up and got our dinner and sat own. No one had
acknowledge our presence at that point. So, we thought what the heck ... we began to eat. Finally, a couple from Ontario sat down with us as they were early for their group. They turned out to be good company so the dinner was saved. We were back in Harvey in under 1 hour ... sigh ... and it was Christmas Dinner too ...
We were determined not to let this happen for New Years!!! Off to HEB in Mission and our food search was on. We settled for Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese
appetizers accompanied by a very nice J Lohr Chardonnay, Tenderloin and scallops for the main course accompanied by a Clos de Bois Briarcrest Cab. For dessert we had fresh strawberries and ice cream. We began to prepare food in the later afternoon and ended up finishing just before mid night just in time for the Champagne. Sadly, no one else was up in the Park so Elsie and I went outside, looked around, shrugged and went inside and went to bed. These Parks are
More wandering around in this area ... we headed to Port Isabel and South Padre Island about an hour from here. South Padre reminds us of Hawaii in that it is primarily composed of hotels and restaurants all catering to the tourist. The road does not stretch very far north on the Island, but on each side, there are beautiful beaches. Yes, we did walk out and got our feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico!
The road just ends and there is no place to turn around easily in a large vehicle.
Just at the end of the road a Class C RV was parked and as we walked out on the beach a large 5th Wheel trailer arrived. We were wondering how the poor 5th Wheel was gong to turn around so as we returned to the car, I offered to help spot him as he completed this very difficult
maneuver. He didn't need help, he explained. He was going to park here for a month or so. His truck was
resplendid with lots of extra water and fuel tanks, and his 5th wheel sparkled with the solar panels on the roof. He said that he would have no problem
existing. Curious, I asked him about the local police; would they allow it? His answer was amusing ... "it is always easier to say I'm sorry than to ask for permission". He went on to say that the Class C had been here for 4 months and he had no problems as long as he fixed a coffee for the cop who patrolled each morning. Free Camping in available in the US!!!!!
Anyway, we have enjoyed the "down time" here, up to New Years, and anticipate it continuing until the 15th of January when we head to San Antonio.
The RV World is fascinating and certainly never dull. We love this life style!!!!!
Joe and Elsie and the intrepid pair
Lord Stanley and Lord Thurston