2/27/04
With some regret, we headed east from Niland, wondering when and if we’d ever find hot tubs to compare with Imperial Spa’s.  There’s always this sadness when we feel we’re turning around and heading back.  It’s not that we don’t want to go home, and with respect to time we are only halfway done.  However, there’s a little bit of melancholy.  The feeling was in keeping with the unexpectedly chilly wind.

We stayed one last night in Ehrenberg on the Colorado River.  The hopefully named Oasis RV is no more than a big graveled parking lot with halfhearted stabs at landscaping.  It had an unheated pool, a tiny lukewarm "spa", and a frightful odor whose source we never identified.  Was it sewage or manure?  These are questions we’d rather never have to ask.  In all fairness, this part of the country is loaded with cattle feedlots.  Lots of cows, lots of aroma.

2/28
Gas at $1.83 at the Flying J, 20¢ less in Casa Grande, AZ.  We should have known.

Three nights in Benson, cool and windy, but the hot tub was comforting.  Liz watched the Oscars (yawn) and Stan repaired the roof leak.

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3/2
Straight across New Mexico. At Exit 0 on the Texas border, Liz ate (most of) her first Burger King whopper.  First and last. In-n-out has spoiled us forever.

After a long day’s drive, we pulled into Van Horn, where it was cold and windy and starting to rain. Where was our sunshine?

3/3-4
Through Pecos to Midland-Odessa, where we had some activities in mind.  A movie for Liz and a nap for Stan.  

Severe weather, rain and wind, oops, we were in the heart of the tornado watch area.  In these wide open spaces of west Texas, the storms just wail through, this one at 50 mph.  When the wild weather stopped, we visited the Midland Fire Museum (note the dogs)

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the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum,

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and the Commemorative Air Force Museum.

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3/5
Our itchy feet yearned for the Gulf Coast, so we headed east.  First we stopped at the tiny town of Imperial, where shrimp are raised in waters from wells (remnants of the ancient Permian Sea) deep beneath the desert.  Liz enjoyed the Friday special of fried shrimp and bought a pound frozen for later (yes, they were delicious, but cannot compare with big gulf shrimp or small native New England shrimp).

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Our day ended at Caverns of Sonora.  It was just us, a flock of peacocks and a caving moose.

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We did the tour and found the caverns very interesting.  They’re just off of I-10 and worth stopping for.  The day had warmed up considerably, so they were also hot and damp.

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3/6-7
From Sonora south through Del Rio to Carrizo Springs.  Everything had gotten quite green, temps (finally!) hit the 80s, and we opted for a shorter day and a stay at Falcon State Park.

Falcon Reservoir, a widening of the Rio Grande, is jointly administered by the US and Mexico.  It’s enormous and beautiful.

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3/8
We saw roadrunners, lizards, butterflies. Liz enjoyed the well-labeled nature trails. The pervasive fragrance in the air was from whitebrush and blackbrush

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Whitebrush Blackbrush

3/9

We’d plan a longer stay here another year, and we’d come better prepared for it.

Next stop, Brownsville.  We shopped at a known chain store (HEB) just a block from the Mexican border.  The signs were all in Spanish, so it was a challenge.  

Paul’s RV, recommended to us by Connie and Cal, was all we had hoped for.  Brownsville is quite tropical.  Our site had a grapefruit tree in bloom (incredible fragrance), a hydrangea bush,  and this red flowered tree.

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We saw banana trees with their huge red flowers,

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hydrangeas,

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and orchids.

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Paul’s is a very well run RV. It’s not huge and fancy, but what it has is cared for down to the last detail.

Everywhere you looked there were trees and plants, etc., which the proprietress had labeled. Good facilities, a nice pool and large hot pool, but best of all was the friendly attitude.  We went out one night for a Mexican dinner with a couple from Minnesota.  Excellent food and even better company!

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Many social activities were offered.  We narrowly missed a ladies’ luncheon.

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One afternoon there was a beach party at Boca Chica, the southernmost beach on South Padre Island.

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Our week ended with an air show.

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B17 Flying Fortress Haircut anyone? B17 Flying B25 Mitchell B25 Flying
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A26 Invader A26 Invader Tora Tora Tora Wall of Fire Liz Cringing
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Only Helldiver Flying L16 Champ A10 Warthog Big Gun Cute Mini

3/15
Stan was eager to see the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, so we parked for a night at Malaquite (mala KEET) Beach on Padre Island.  It’s nicer than most in Texas, cleaner, whiter sand, and decent surf. There were spring breakers, but very subdued, not at all like what was to come. Stan toured the Lex, Liz napped.

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3/16-17
For a couple of days at Palacios, all was quiet since state regulations don’t allow shrimpers to start until May.

3/18-20
Quintana Beach was fuller than we’ve ever seen it. Spring break, families with little children and dogs.  We were at the quiet end of the park, next to the abandoned oil rig.

Stan installed a new cell phone antenna. Liz picked flowers and walked the mile long jetty.

Mosquitoes were fierce. Liz’s reaction was extreme.  Note no knuckles on right hand!

A couple from Rumney, NH, pulled in next to us.  We’d met her as were leaving Falcon SP, and they had followed roughly our own path ever since.

After a dinner at the local hangout (awesome hushpuppies, burger for Stan and shrimp for Liz), we were ready to leave our lovely spot.
Goodbye mosquitoes, we hope!

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3/21
Continuing up the coast, we kept to the barrier islands.  Took the bridge at San Luis Pass, and the ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar (rhyme it with "Oliver"). There was an incredible amount of roadkill: possums, skunks, armadillos, bunnies, birds.  

At Holly Beach, Stan bought a paddle-type electric bug-killer. It has already proven an invaluable addition.

3/22
Our route took us through fields of rice and crawfish to Abbeville, but Liz’s favorite restaurant was closed.  A stop in New Iberia was just as good: Duffy’s Diner, where Stan discovered Cajun cheese fries, Liz got her étouffée, and we shared a blooming onion.  When will we learn that this delicacy is more than two people can handle?

We headed toward Houma and a Passport RV.  We arrived just as a cranky lady was closing up the place, and we found her attitude so annoying that we drove off and parked at a Wal*Mart.

The day was not a total loss, as Liz found a perfect pair of new sandals at a Payless!

3/23-4
We snuck around New Orleans and took the big bridge across the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. This was a nice short day.  Our next stop made up for the doomed one in Houma.

Abita (ah BEE ta) Springs, near Covington, is a charming little town.  The campground was great, and we were right across one of the several ponds from the clubhouse and pools.

We met a couple in an identical Airstream van and compared notes. They had downsized and were on their first van trip.

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3/25
We had a schedule to keep (an unusual situation for us):  an air show in Panama City on the weekend.  So we hustled along the Gulf Coast, stopping only in Pascagoula at a KFC buffet.  Bad idea.  Then down to heavenly Dauphin Island for a night with Janice and Mickey Spencer.  It was wonderful to see them again and to enjoy the antics of their lively dog, Zeke. The four of us had a good walk on the beautiful beach.

3/26
In the morning we had a surprise when our trusty toilet broke (rusted wires underneath that make the foot pedals work).  Farewell and thanks to the Spencers, and off we went.  

A new toilet was bought and installed by Stan in Pensacola with little trouble.  At the toll booth for the Pensacola bridge, warnings were posted about red-flag surf conditions.

Then it was onward to Panama City Beach and heavy congestion of traffic from the spring break kids.  Little did we know how crazed this scene could be.  Most remarkable were the souped-up vehicles with those crazy backward-spinning hubcaps.  Most painful were the throbbing bass tones emanating from car/truck stereos.  

Our night at Wal*Mart was not restful.

3/27
At least we were perfectly poised for this day’s activities, the magnificent air show.

As with the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, this affair was free (our tax dollars).  Buses ferried the crowds from a parking area to Tyndall AFB.  The day was perfect, with some clouds high enough to allow aerial acrobatics. It was ALL wonderful, as the pictures will attest, but Liz’s highlights included the stealthy F-117 Nighthawk, Fat Albert the C-130 with its abrupt JATO ascent, the superb Blue Angels (F/A-18 Hornets), and the F/A-22 Raptors, whose pilots are being trained at Tyndall.

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F-117 Nighthawk F-117 Nighthawk Very Easy F/A-22 Raptor F/A-22 Raptor
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F/A-22 Raptor F/A-22 Raptors Flightline C-5 Galaxy C135 AWAC
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B-1 C-17 P-51 and F-15 C130 Fat Albert with JATO
One Blue Angel was sick

Southern fried chicken on a stick, curly sweet potato fries, fresh lemonade.  Perfection.

3/28-30
One night at an unmemorable RV in Mexico Beach.  The place is being sold for 5X its worth, said the manager.  All of Mexico Beach is "going condo" and it is a shame.  The beach is already very shallow, but beautiful and blindingly white and clean.  Still that bad undertow and rip, but the flags here were yellow instead of red.

We moved to a nicer spot for the next couple of nights, off the main drag and in tall pine trees.  

An early start got us to Perry by early afternoon.  On our way we inspected St. Joseph Peninsula SP.  It was full, but we will make a point of trying again.  Gorgeous deep beach.

They call this part of the panhandle "the big bend" of Florida.  Palmettos, wisteria, azaleas, sawgrass, palms, and pines.   Fishing villages, bayou areas, woodlands, and little traffic once east of Apalachicola.  A very pleasant drive.

3/31-4/1
Kind of a yucky night in Perry.  We stopped to eat at a Golden Corral that was barely worthy of the name.  Our RV was next door to a lumberyard and junkyard.  We even had "junkyard dogs" in some sad-looking shacks near the back of the RV property.  Liz managed a walk around the block, but it turned out to be a few miles and passed through some questionable neighborhoods.  We were glad to leave.

Our drive down to Crystal River restored us.  Parts of Route 19 are very pretty.  In Inglis we had a meal and Liz had the first grouper of this trip.  Encore Superpark in Crystal River is so nice that we signed on for two nights.  Our site is on a small lake.  The pool is beautiful.

Tomorrow we’ll head down to Tampa to see the Blue Angels at another air show.  Then on to Naples to see Stan’s sister.