Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Traveling March 4th, 2009

Here I am on Sunday, waking up in the morning, with the parking lot at the border crossing to Progreso, TAM, Mexico all to myself:

I really, really enjoy the RV lifestyle. Sure, going from a multi-bedroom house with enough garage space for 5 cars and compressing your world into 320 sq. ft. has its trade offs, but I love the mobility and the adventure.  

FEMA (the US's much maligned Federal disaster relief organization, for those of you outside the USA) sent Deb and me to New Orleans for the Hurricane Gustav Party for what we anticipated would be a three-week stay. Now, almost 6 months later, I am returning "home" to Florida. Hurricane Ike kept us on the road longer than we anticipated. And Deb left Texas to take care of her parents in Tennessee several months ago and then continued on to Florida to take charge of some real estate matters that we had going on.  

I miss you Deb!  

Only ... I'm not sure that Florida is really my home any more. Deb and I had talked about moving to Texas or perhaps California well before this summer's events and our subsequent several months of meandering along the Texas coast.  

New Orleans was great. That city is a party every night, and the food and culture is unique. FEMA sent us on to Austin and finally Houston, Texas.  

Austin is very hip, but the surfing sucks.  

Houston is closer to the ocean (never mind that Galveston, the closest major beach location, was trashed by Hurricane Ike) and is a thriving, bustling metropolitan area with a strong Hispanic influence.  

Deb and I spent many weeks wandering down the coast of Texas, something that I have wanted to do for years. Angleton (where we had a resident alligator), Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, South Padre Island ... all wonderful experiences!

Here we are camped out in Corpus Christi, TX. Notice how close the salt water is:

We got down to the Mission and McAllen areas, roughly 60 miles inland from Brownsville and right on the Texas/Mexican border and wondered if we had found Paradise. There are over 500 RV parks in that area, and the term "Winter Texan" has come into being to denote those retirees that flock to south Texas during the cold winter months. Unlike the Snowbirds in Florida, which has practically become an insulting term meaning "cheap bastard", the Winter Texans are embraced by the community in South Texas. We expected to stay in the Rio Grande Valley for a week. Then we extended that for a month. Now, three months later, and following a bit of a delay due to chronic refrigerator issues, I am reluctantly on the road back to Florida. McAllen, Texas - such a neat, exciting area.  

The Rio Grande Valley has tons of history as the cities along the border were originally part of Mexico. Today you have neat, clean, prosperous communities throughout the area. Living costs are low, and industrial northern Mexico is just a few miles away.  

Were it not for having a garage full of motorcycles and other assorted junk in Florida that need to be organized and, in some cases, repaired, I would have happily stayed in the Rio Grande Valley. As things stand we need to get the workshop packed up and get some of our real estate affairs in order, and the next time that we get an opportunity to head back to Texas the bikes will follow.  

Back to RV'ing ... just like motorcyclists have a whole 'nuther culture (and sometimes you have subcultures within that culture) there is a huge underground culture among RV folks. Most are retirees. Plenty of us folks are decently well off, even if we do count our beer money every so often. Some folks give you the impression that they have moved into travel trailers or modest RVs for economic reasons. Whatever their story, by and large everyone gets along.  

Mission has several RV parks that cater to the over 55 set. I haven't quite passed that marker, but for whatever reason I was still welcomed in an over 55 RV park that had a pool, plenty of space, palms, and a recreation hall where events were held almost every night. That ain't a bad way to retire, let me tell you Brother!  

Life moves at a different pace in the RV parks of the Rio Grande Valley:

Buying, and restoring, our Bluebird Wanderlodge was one of the best decisions that we have ever made. Yours Truly had always wanted to have a bus conversion, but a few years of putting the Bluebird to use have impressed me with how well this vehicle - which was designed from the ground up to be a motorhome for full time living - works. Our 'bird is over 25 years old and like a lot of these things they literally don't make them like this any more. She's not flashy like the newer fiberglass RVs but being made out of solid steel, the classic Bluebird is literally tough like a military vehicle, a quality that you appreciate after several days of pounding along rough highways and towing a trailer that weights almost 5 tons.  

Here I am, sitting in the parking lot at a Petro Truck Stop in Hammond, Louisiana, writing to you. The generator (a 4 cylinder Perkins diesel) is cranking out enough wattage to run the computers, electric heaters (supplemented with LPG gas heat), and, most importantly ... my coffee maker. I've been up for an hour, watching television and writing, and by now there should be plenty of hot water for a shower. In the Great, Galactic Scheme of Things this ain't a bad way to start the morning!  

I need to drag myself over to Pensacola this morning in order to take care of some business. With any luck I will be having a beer in Jacksonville, FL Thursday afternoon.

Here's to more adventures!


NomadRip said...

I was just wondering the other day if my feed subscriber thingie was broken or if you were just having too much fun in Texas to write :-)

PyrateJohn said...

Mostly having too much fun and not focusing. I started to write about traveling to Monterrey and never finished it. And I started to write more about Mexico and never finished it. If you have a Facebook account do a search for "John Gilmer" - I have been telling tales and posting photos over there.

Sea52Jay said...

Hey John, Isn't it funny when you're traveling, oops adventuring, how space doesn't matter and as time goes on, seems the less things you need. I can say that after having lived 6 years on a very small sailboat---two adults, 2 cats and a dog and felt like the richest person in the world. I am glad to see you blogging in various forms as your adventures have always warmed my heart and reminded me that my land yacht days are only a few years down the road. Thanks for sharing your life and reminding us all what really is important. Love to you and Deb and the cats. CJ