Our Cross-Country Trip
Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!
Monday we went to the Texas State Aquarium. They had a great display of jellyfish and we got to pet Stingrays. Of course, there were also lots of fish, turtles, otters, etc. too. It wasn’t nearly as big as Moody Gardens, but still fun to see.
Afterward, we hit a few antique shops then returned to the motorhome since it was raining and just ugly out.
Tues-Wed, January 28-29: Brownsville, TX
We wanted to see the Columbus Fleet before we left Corpus Christie for Brownsville. They began building the ships in 1987 for the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage of 1492. We passed the smallest one, the Nina, on Ocean Drive on our way to the museum. You couldn’t board it, but we did get some pictures. The other two ships (the Pinta & Santa Maria) were dry-docked at the Texas Museum of Science and History because a barge ran into them while they were docked in the bay and they had to be repaired. Here we are in front of them:
We were able to tour them by going into the museum. They told us a little about the ships, the crew and living conditions aboard them. The museum was wonderful, with historical displays on everything from old ships to art, photography, pottery, a great exhibit on gems & minerals, and even dinosaurs (did you know “saur” means “lizard”?).
Heading south on 77, we went through many small Texas towns. We stopped at CB’s Barbeque in Kingsville, home of the King Ranch, one of the largest Ranch’s in the world, and found their post office there too so we could mail our first “care package” back home to our friends John and Mary Ellen Kyle who are keeping our mail for us. Then we stopped in Raymondville to check out a Boot company, but Jim decided he wasn’t going to be doing any cow rustling any time soon and didn’t need a pair after all. We arrived at Motel Wal*Mart in subtropical Brownsville around 6 p.m., unhitched, changed into tees (finally!) and took the dingy into Historic Brownsville. It was so cool at night to see the Int’l Gateway bridge that you cross to go into Mexico. After several suspicious looks from Border Police, I found out it was illegal to take pictures of it because it was Government property. Oh well…
Wed morning, we went to the Gladys Porter Zoo, reportedly one of the10 best zoos in America. It was a gorgeous day and all the animals were in a playful mood, especially this baby Gorilla that was sooo cute! Another Gorilla, Martha, was carrying her baby with her. There were African Elephants, Galapagos Tortoises, Dromedary Camels, Giraffe’s, exotic bird like this Roseate Spoonbill, Crocodiles (with big teeth), and bright pink Scarlet Ibids, and Kangaroos.
They also had rare Pygmy Hippopotami and, of course, Rhinoceros.
From Brownsville, we headed west toward Pharr and McAllen, two of the largest snow-birder square-dancing communities in the entire South. We drove along the Rio Grand River border on 281 until we hit Hidalgo, just south of McAllen. The discovery of the first Africanized bee in the U.S. was found here in 1990, so this fiberglass and steel “Killer Bee” now sits across from City Hall. We stayed at the Bentsen Grove RV Park in Mission, a couple of miles outside of McAllen. Just $19 a nite included CATV, 2 heated pools, fitness center and even tennis courts for Jim! We even parked next to our own orange tree! Their lounge was only 50 feet or so from our site, and it had a computer with Internet access and 2nd phone jack.
Thurs-Fri, January 30-31: Pharr & McAllen
Pharr is also the winter home of our Canadian friends Karen & Trevor Tripp. Bonnie met Karen while shopping for square-dance attire on eBay. Karen has been square dancing since she was 14 and sewing since she was 16. That’s one of her many amazing creations above; this one is actually a “maid’s outfit” for her newest clientele, cross-dressers! Both she and Trevor just happened to be the same size as us and she was selling most of her own square-dance outfits since they were dancing at advanced levels in more formal attire. After many emails (and purchases), we discovered that they spent several months each year in Pharr, where they danced everyday.
So we had to meet Karen and Trevor while moseyin’ though Pharr. They were exactly as we had expected they would be…a happy couple with a love for life and wonderful hospitality. They told us about a Plus-level dance at the Peppermint Place about a mile from where we were staying. So we followed them to the hall because they were going to an advanced square dance there that afternoon. Here they are, dancing and smiling!
The plus square dance later that evening was a lot of fun, and the caller, Jerry Story, was great. It was a huge hall with a nice hardwood floor. There were so many people (about 40 squares!) that they used a computer card system to tell you which square you’re supposed to dance in for each tip…square dance technology, pretty cool.
Friday morning, we went to a flea market in Las Milpas, south of Pharr near the border. Then we headed for Los Ebanos to ride on the last existing hand-drawn Ferry to Mexico. On the U.S. side was a little shop, and inside we saw taxidermy of what was supposedly a mouse with this sign under it. The “mouse” was about 25” in length and looked about the size of a beaver!
Here we are at the Los Ebanos International Ferry. In the picture on the left you can see how far it had to go to cross the Rio Grand River to Mexico (less than 100 feet we guessed). We watched it returning from the Mexican side carrying its maximum of 3 cars on it. There was about 8-10 of us waiting to take it over to Mexico and no cars, and the fare was a whopping .50 a person to ride. There were four men pulling the rope to move the ferry; actually five because Jim jumped in to help. J When we returned from our little excursion, the Customs Officer just asked us “Are you a U.S. citizen?” We said “yes” and he nodded OK to go. No ID check, no bag check (in case we were smuggling in plants, animals, drugs or arms), nothing. It was truly a trip.
Afterwards, we went further west to Rio Grand City and ate dinner at Caro’s, a family-owned Mexican restaurant for over 60 years. Their food was great and they even made their own corn tortillas fresh right there. On our trip back to the motorhome, we passed the La Puerta Cemetery… undoubtedly the brightest, most colorful, cemetery we’d ever seen!
That night we just relaxed in the hot tub, watched a little TV and got ready to mosey down the road again tomorrow.
Sat, February 1: Carrizo Springs, TX
Heading west past Rio Grande City again, we continued along 83 through the little towns of Roma (pop. 2,700), Zapata (pop. 27,000) and stopped in San Ygnacio (pop. 27?) because it was right on the Rio Grande River. San Ygnacio looked like a town that history had passed by, with buildings dating back to the mid 1800’s like this general store building. We drove down to the last road and got out to see the Rio Grande but there was too much brush to see anything. We talked to a guy (who was there for his grandmother’s 95th birthday!) who said they could sit on her roof at dusk and watch the Mexicans walking over to the U.S. A little further, we stopped at an overlook that had a great view.
On I-35, about 6 miles north of Laredo and 10 to 15 miles from any Mexican border, traffic was re-routed off the highway into a U.S. Customs area where Border Patrolmen had big doggies that we assumed were waiting for illegal aliens to jump out of any vehicles. J One asked us if we were U.S. citizens (duhhh) then nodded to go ahead. The whole time-consuming event was pretty amusing considering what the guy in San Ygnacio had just told us a few miles back. We continued thru nothing but brush, Mesquite trees and cacti to Carrizo Springs, appropriately called “Brush Country.” We stopped only once to pick some wild Bluebonnets (the Texas State flower) that were growing on the roadside for our scrapbook.
After unhitching at motel Wal*Mart for the night, we drove a little north to Crystal Springs, known as the Spinach Capital of the World. As you can tell by the picture, Jim’s has been eating his Spinach! Spinach is so important to the economy of this little town that they even have a Spinach Festival Office (can you believe?)
Next, we stopped at a colorful little antique shop on the way back to Carrizo Springs where we bought a Mexican Toucan on a brass swing (a rainbow-colored Fruit-Loops bird that Bonnie couldn’t resist of course). The shop owner recommended a Mexican place called Balia’s for dinner. Even though we aren’t wild about Mexican food, we went there and it really was good. Jim had to run into Wal*Mart when we returned (something about Valentine’s day approaching J), so when he returned we settled in and watched a video.
Sun, February 2: Eagle Pass, TX
We headed west on 277 through Eagle Pass to Del Rio. Passing many Pecan Groves, the Texas State tree, we stopped to get a twig for our scrapbook. Since we were only staying one day in Del Rio, we unhitched and drove into Mexico this time. Here, you can drive about 15 miles into Mexico without needing any special car insurance or anything. It was a gorgeous day, so we spent several hours browsing the shops, buying some pottery vases and eating dinner at Lando’s. Although it only took a minute to cross the bridge into Mexico, we were bumper-to-bumper and barely creeping across the bridge to return into the U.S. It turned out that the customs officer was a chatterduck who wanted to exchange war stories with Jim—no wonder it took over an hour for traffic to get across!