Friday, June 1, 2018

Rio Grande and the Texas Gulf Coast

After finishing our jobs in Texoma we set off March 18, 2018, to see more of Texas. First stop was Monahans Sandhills State Park which is a mini White Sands in the middle of Texas oil country. Sonny and I explored the dunes but Mia and Rollie didn't like the feel of it, or the heat. Overnight the wind picked up and the sand drifted into our asphalt RV site. We thought we were going to have to shovel but the truck was on solid ground.

The second day we arrived at a small RV park and motel south of Alpine, Texas, just north of Big Bend National Park. We had our choice of sites with hookups in the desert, no one else there!

Blooming ocotillo

That afternoon we had time to visit Terlingua, Texas, on the Rio Grande, which had been recommended by several RV friends. The story goes that it was a ghost town after it's mining days were over and now has become an artist/tourist/resort area along with the neighboring communities of Lajitas and Study Butte. It is just outside one of the entrances of Big Bend NP. Don't miss the Starlight Theatre which is now a great restaurant  And the mayor of Lajitas is a goat!

There are good views of the Rio Grande in this area, it was clear, shallow and not very daunting. There was river access for canoers and rafters and we could hear goats or sheep with bells across the river in Mexico. It would be easy to cross here.

The next day we drove through Big Bend National Park.

We headed southeast and followed the Rio Grande as closely as possible. We spent one night at Seminole Canyon State Park then on to Laredo. On the way we were stopped at one of many border patrol inspection stations and there was a javelina near the road. Made the stop worthwhile!

Laredo was sort of culture shock for us as we had been seeing only wide open spaces and desert for a week. Not many campers. We stayed at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park which is in the city and quite busy with fishing, hiking, picnics and camping.

We wandered Old Laredo the next morning and learned a little history. This mission is San Augustin de Laredo,founded in 1755. 

 Laredo was the capital of The Republic of the Rio Grande for a short period.

Texas A&M International University was very near the state park and the first night we saw the lights of a sports stadium. So of course we had to check it out and caught a free afternoon college baseball game. Season opener!
On down the river to La Feria, Texas, which is in what RVers call the RGV (Rio Grande Valley). The area includes Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, Mission and Edenburg, Texas. There are many RV parks, resorts and businesses that cater to "Winter Texans". We had for dinner with friends we met online ( and decided we might come here for a winter in the future. The rates were lower than Florida or Arizona.
On to the Gulf! We kept in touch with RV friends we met last summer at Denali and they invited us to visit them in Port Isabel which is inland from South Padre Island. Their neighbors had an extra RV site and we rented it for 3 nights. All the sites were on the water and most of the sites were occupied by cottages/park models. This was a gated community with golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, pools, tennis courts and community center with workout rooms. We had a view of Port Isabel Channel. I was told to watch for dolphins and saw one or two in the distance. Unable to get a photo.

Our friends gave us a tour of South Padre Island and we had time to explore on our own. The Beaches were beautiful! We drove as far north as we could, to the end of the road. There was a stable with rides on the beach into the national seashore and you can drive on the beach with a permit.

On up the coast to Port Aransas to visit a college friend I haven't seen since the early 70s. More beautiful beaches! But this area was devastated by Hurricane Harvey last August, including my friend's condo. They are in the process of rebuilding. The damage was notable everywhere, for instance beach grass hanging from power lines along the main road. Our RV park was near the beach with a boardwalk over the beach grass. We walked the dogs there whenever we could, they loved it! Here we were able to drive on the beach without a permit so of course we did!

We took the ferry across Aransas Pass to meet up with another friend from my lab internship. It was a short ride, reminded me of the ferry from Ketchikan to the airport.

The next day my friend gave us a tour of the marine animal rescue where she volunteers. It was very interesting!

Our last stop in Texas was one night at Sea Rim State Park. We had to drive right through a refinery to get there, which I thought was ironic. Again we were right on the beach and also a large marshy area with boardwalks. Spotted a couple of alligators.

On to New Orleans! Another meet-up with RV friends from RVillage and they recommended their favorite RV park in the city which was where they were staying. They gave us a tour the first day then we explored the French Quarter on our own. We happened onto filming of NCIS New Orleans which is one of our favorite shows. We got to see most of the cast eating sandwiches for lunch. I was too interested to remember to take a photo.
Rollie's birthday wish was to go to a casino we had never been to so I found one in Atmore, Alabama that had a nice little RV park. After 2 rainy days there we were on to Dayton, TN, to visit a friend from Ketchikan. She offered us full hookup next to her barn which was too good to turn down. She showed us around the area including Chattanooga. The hills were just greening up and dogwoods and redbuds were blooming. Beautiful!

Next stop: Nashville! This was one of those times when a last minute change of plans turns out wonderfully. We had planned to stay at the Tennessee Fairgrounds but when we got there it was a dump. We called around and found a park in nearby Smyrna with a vacancy. Our reason for visiting Nashville (had been there before) was to meet my son's girlfriend's mother. She was curious about RV life so we took her to the park with us and she watched how we get set up. Then we learned the park was home to a family of musicians and they were to perform that evening. They were great! So happy we stayed at that park!

Rollie had requested checking out Dollywood since we were in the area so we were off to Pigeon Forge. The town reminded me of Branson, MO, which is way too touristy for our tastes. But we did enjoy our drive through nearby Great Smokey Mountain National Park and sampling moonshine at the Old Mill.

Up the road to West Virginia/Virginia to visit yet another online RV friend. He lives in Bluefield, WV, but the nearest RV park was 30 miles south in VA. The mountains were beautiful but rain plagued us. The creek running through our park almost flooded! 

We needed one overnight stop before reaching western Massachusetts and found a casino that allows RVs to park overnight. I had met a future co-worker online and our paths were crossing on I-91 in Pennsylvania. We both pulled into the casino parking lot at almost the same time! It was still raining and they were filling up with semis (we later found out that there had been a fatal accident on I-91 and the road was closed). The security guard directed us RVers to a different lot closer to the entrance of the casino which was great. We enjoyed the buffet and got to know someone we would be spending the summer with.

April 19rh we arrived at our last stop before Maine; Sunsetview Farm RV Campground in Monson, MA. We stayed at this park for a week Fall 2015 while visiting Alex and Laura who live in Springfield, MA. We were able to spend quality time with their 2 dogs, Patsy and Bonnie, as well as the humans.
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On to Maine for our summer workamping jobs! It was a beautiful drive to Trenton, ME, Narrows Too RV Resort, for our training weeks. The park has waterfront on Mt. Desert Narrows which divides Mt. Desert Island from the mainland. Big difference between low tide and high tide! The mountains in the background are on the island, in Acadia National Park.

Went in to Bar Harbor (also on Mt. Desert Island) to see what was open: not much! Hiked around downtown to find a restaurant that was open. Tourist season doesn't start until mid May.

After completing our training with all the workampers for the 3 parks managed by the same team, we moved to our park, Patten Pond RV Camping Resort on US 1 west of Ellsworth, ME. We are about 30 miles from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. But we are only 10 miles from Bucksport on Penobscot Bay and numerous small coastal towns we will be exploring all summer.