Now in Elsa Texas

Now in Elsa Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

San Antonio TX Riverwalk Christmas Lights / 2017 Summery / Plans for 2018

December 19 -21, 2017:  

For those that don’t know, San Antonio has a great Riverwalk area; it is the best river walk we have seen anywhere.  The Riverwalk is 15 miles with 5 miles in downtown and comes very near the famous Alamo on one side.  The Riverwalk is located below street level and mostly along their flood canals on the San Antonio River.  The walk has too many to name restaurants/bars and shopping.  You can easily spend a couple of days just on the Riverwalk.

Some random pics at our winter place in south Texas.  We seem to have a few winter hummingbirds staying around for our feeder.

We have been to the Riverwalk now a few times so that wasn’t new or what brought us here in December.  We came for the decorative lighting they put up only for Christmas time.  We have heard about how nice these lights are for the past 5 years we have been wintering here in south Texas. This is our year to see them for ourselves.

A December rare snow here in south TX.  Hasn't snowed here in 13 years!

A neighbor made a snowman.  It took all of the snow in his little yard to make it!

These lights are only on during the month of December so there is just that small window of time to see them.  This week is also our 18th wedding anniversary!  We decided to go just before Christmas and spend 2 nights in a Hotel directly on the Riverwalk.  This should allow us to take our time celebrating our anniversary, do a little sightseeing, and see the lights.

We dressed up as packages for the Christmas parade in our park.

San Antonio is a little over 200 miles north of where we have the RV for the winter.  The trip up will take us about 4 hours, not too long.  Just before we were to leave I took our truck in to have a small problem diagnosed/fixed.  Usually, any problem we have with the truck turns into a large expensive multi-day problem.

So we decided to rent a car for our trip to San Antonio and leave the truck at Ford service while we are gone.  The cost for renting the vehicle plus gas was just $170 ($101 for the rental and $34 for the gas).  Our truck gets 12 mph so just the gas would have been $110.  And as we found out after we got to our hotel, the truck would not have fit in the hotel parking garage.  For $60 bucks we put miles on someone else’s vehicle and not on ours.  For us it was worth it.

We stayed at the Riverwalk Hotel right on the Riverwalk.  The Riverwalk Hotel is older but was very nicely renovated.  The only bitch I had, and it is really trivial, but they use their proximity door lock card for the elevator too.  That is a pain in the ass every time you get in the elevator you need to swipe your card to get the elevator to move.  This is very hard to do when you have a coffee in each hand!

Our hotel on the Riverwalk as seen from the Riverwalk.

The Christmas tree in the hotel lobby.

View from our hotel window of the Tower of the Americas that was built for the 1968 Worlds Fair.

We had dinner our first night at a close by place called Bigga on the Banks.  Food was great and was the wine selection.  Since the restaurant had chef’s specials with things we both liked, it really wasn’t too expensive either.  Mostly the prices for everything on and around the Riverwalk are expensive.  I would go back to this restaurant again!

Patty with a very interesting dessert that came with our meals

Our one whole day in San Antonio started out with great weather.  High near 75 and a clear sky, perfect!  Even better was that the weather was going to hold all night for us.  We were only going to need a light jacket for the Riverwalk boat ride after dark as the temperature was still going to be very close to 70.  This time of year you just don’t know what the weather will be.  San Antonio is just far enough north of us to possibly be much colder.  The weather back in our winter place 200 miles south was near 90 at the same time as we were having 75 in San Antonio.

We took advantage of the weather and did a lot of walking.  We walked about 2 miles to a Denny’s for breakfast and then to the large main post office downtown.  We still had gifts we needed to mail to grandkids in Indiana.  This post office is part of their government offices so we had to go through airport-style security to get into the post office.  As one then would imagine we were the only ones in the post office too!

After breakfast we headed out for some sightseeing.  We went to the La Villita Historic Arts Village.  La Villita is the oldest part of San Antonio.  It dated back to 1722 with mostly Mexican settlers in grass huts.  After a flood in the early 1800s the people there moved to the Alamo.  The Riverwalk was built during the depression as a make-work project and restoration of La Villita was part of that.  Now it houses many permanent B&B’s and art/craft shops.  Most of these businesses are housed in the original restored houses.  This was our first time to La Villita.  It was good time roaming around for a couple of hours here.

Entrance to the La Villita district of San Antonio 

A nice Christmas tree in one of the shops in La Villita

After some lunch we headed back to the hotel and changed out of shorts and got our jackets for the evening on the river.
We had dinner at Boudro’s near one of the riverboat ports.  Boudro’s was a nice place but very expensive.  Our food here was good but not up the $$$$ we spent on it.  It’s all good though!

Dinner spot on the Riverwalk

OK, now for the famous San Antonio Riverwalk Christmas lights!  The Riverwalk is very, very busy and this is a Wednesday night.  That is one of the reasons we came during the week because we had heard from others who have been here that they waited in line for over an hour to get on a boat. It was still 20 minutes but that isn’t really bad at all.  It’s just that it’s a Wednesday before Christmas though.  

One of the river boats

Pictures from the riverboat tour of the Riverwalk

This riverboat was rented out for a catered dinner!

Just a note about the truck and the problem it was in for.  The service department didn’t find anything wrong with the truck.  That is a first for us with this truck.  They didn’t charge us anything either!  That may be because we have spent enough there to put a couple kids through college by now.

We smell burnt oil inside the truck cabin sometimes when we stop. Also, one day after just starting the truck up and accelerating I noticed some blue smoke coming from the exhaust.  It did the smoke thing only once and didn’t do it again.  That is why I took it in for service.  Ford thinks that a small leak on the gear case may be dripping oil on the exhaust that causes the burnt oil smell.  It’s now a month later and the truck still has the burnt oil smell some, but no more exhaust smoke, so who knows.  I will just keep an eye on it.

That is it for travel in 2017!

Just thought it would be fun to list the events/highlights of our 2017 travel season (April – December).

- Met up friends Debbie and Steve McCormack near Beaumont TX
- Replaced our Fridge Cooling Unit near Beaumont TX
- Saw Jeff Dunham near Beaumont TX
- Visited Stone Mountain in Georgia
- Visited friends and family in New Jersey
- Visited friends in the Buffalo area
- Visited family in Indiana
- Flew back to New Jersey for a friend's (Bob Laughlin) birthday
- Replaced our RV suspension with MOR/ryde Independent suspension in Elkhart Indiana
- Changed our residence and Drivers licenses to Sioux Falls South Dakota
- Added South Dakota as a state we have stayed in
- Toured the black hills in South Dakota
- Visited Sturgis South Dakota
- Visited the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota (our first time in North Dakota)
- Added North Dakota as a state we have stayed in
- Spent a few unplanned days in Forsyth Montana due to truck breakdown (first time in Montana)
- Added Wyoming as a state we have stayed in
- Visited Cody Wyoming
- Visited the Big Horn Medicine Circle in Wyoming
- Visited Yellowstone National Park
- Visited Glacier National park
- Visited the Banff Canadian National Park 
- Visited the Jasper Canadian National Park
- Visited the Radium Hot Springs in Radium Hot Springs, Alberta Canada
- Saw the eclipse (80% for us) at the Valley View Campground in Salmon Arm BC Canada
- Visited with RV friends Steve and Dianne Colibaba at Tunkwa Lake Resort in Alberta Canada
- Visited with Patty’s nephew and his wife & Daughter (Brain, Ina & Joey Shoemacher) in Vancouver BC Canada
- Took a 15-day cruise/land tour of Alaska
- Added Washington State to our list of states stayed in with the RV
- Took a Dinner cruise on the Willamette River in Portland Oregon
- Added Nevada as a state we have stayed in
- Visited Reno NV and Lake Tahoe CA as well as Truckee CA
- Visited Bodie National Historic Site (Ghost Town) in CA
- Visited Death Valley National Park in CA
-       Visited Pattys nephew Brian Pellnat in Las Vegas NV
-       Saw Chris Angel the magician in Las Vegas at the Luxor
- Visited the Biosphere in Tucson AZ
- Visited the Saguaro National Park near Tucson AZ
- Visited Juarez Mexico
- Visited Acuna Mexico
- Visited the site of the Marfa lights in Marfa TX
- We now have stayed in all 50 states!

There really is only one way to do this sort of travel in the US and that is via RV.  To do this via car/hotel would cost a fortune!  We traveled 13,000 miles in 6 months through 29 states, 3 provinces of Canada, and visited 2 states in Mexico.  This was our most traveled season ever!

Next year, 2018 will be a turning point for us.  We are going to start our transition from full-time RV life to part-time RV life.  We are planning to purchase a house in the Tampa area of Florida this summer.  We are not planning to move into it until 2019.  Then our plan is to buy a smaller RV to travel a few weeks at a time.  We are also planning to add some travel outside the USA but still just a few weeks at a time.

There are a few reasons for this decision.  Patty needs better medical care than we can get here in south Texas and she needs more regular care.  And it is just time for us to make a change anyway.  We have been full-time now for 6 years and will have been 7 by the time we move into a house.  We have now been to all 50 states and many several times. So we really have had a good run and we now feel it’s time for a change.

This 2018 travel season we plan to first head west to Nevada for an RV-Dreams rally.  Then travel further west to visit friends in the LA and La Jolla areas.  We are also planning a trip up US 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, via car for a few days and visit Yosemite National Park before heading to Florida for house hunting in May/June.  From Florida we travel to Indiana, Buffalo NY, and New Jersey to visit family and friends before heading back to South Texas for our final winter there.

So that is it for now and Happy New Year!!

Stay tuned!

Marfa lights, Acuna Mexico, and Back to Natures Resort

October 26 – 31, 2017: 

Ever since we have been coming here to Texas we have heard about the Marfa Lights in Marfa Texas.  The lights are supposed to be visible just outside of the town as you look off into the distance.  They are unexplained lights that move around.  We (I mostly) wanted to check this phenomenon out! 

Balloons used to look for immigrants crossing the broader.

Marfa is located about 200 miles south-east of El Paso and about 40 miles south of I-10.   This made it the perfect place for us to stop on our way farther south for the winter.  We made the trip in just a few hours as the entire trip was on major highways.  We went through town and got on TX 67 heading east for about a mile to the Tumble Inn RV Park.

The Tumble Inn is a very old school type 60s RV Park from the 60s.  It still has the iconic neon sign and even the name says 60s.  As the name suggests, this is a place to just tumble in.  You are met by a vintage bumper pull trailer at the entrance that serves as the gate house.  A very friendly gatekeeper who is a work camper with a story it seems.  We told him we were here to see the lights and he said that, yes he has seen them and they scared him.  He told us the story that the lights actually went after him one night!  

I was trying to get the perfect picture of the neon park sign at dusk. 
It was hard to do with a phone camera.

That is the park office!
Texas has built a very nice rest/viewing park about 3 miles further east on 67 to view the lights.  Just before dark we headed out there to see what the lights were all about.  By the time we got there is was dark.  There are no human made lights here so it is very dark.  We had a hard time figuring out where to park.  

The viewing area is very nice!

The place has parking for quite a few cars and is lit with some sort of lights that is just enough light so you can find your way into the viewing platform.   The viewing area is around the back side of a circular restroom building.  The platform is aimed to the south with a 180 degree viewing area.

Looking south-west at dusk.  And no, those are not the mystery lights,
they are cars on a highway a few miles away.

Looking south-east.  

Looking south. This the direction people were telling us that the lights are usually seen from.  A few have tripods set up pointing here in the foreground.

We were surprised that there were as many people as there were there.  Even with it being so cold, there were still around 20-30 people milling around and some with very long lens cameras on tripods. We didn’t see any lights that were unusual.  The cold finally got to us at around 50f and we didn’t dress for it so we left after just an hour of looking for the lights.  

Our second day in Marfa we just hung out and waited to head back out to see the lights again.  We arrived a bit earlier this time, about hour before full dark.  It was a great clear night to see lights if there are any.  However, since it was clear it was even colder than the night before and it was windy too! We were more dressed for it this time but just standing around made us real cold.  So after 2 hours of watching and seeing nothing we were officially done with looking for Marfa lights.

This is the best I could do to get a picture close to dark where the
lights should be if there are lights to be seen.

These are just cool sunset pictures from our rig in Marfa.  We didn't have any mystery lights but we did have some good sunsets!

After Marfa we decided to head toward the Mexican Border and follow it down to our winter place in Elsa.  Our first stop was Del Rio Texas so we could cross over into the town of Acuna Mexico.  

Del Rio is about 230 miles and mostly east on TX route 90.  We like these sort of drives as it wasn’t on an interstate.  On 90 we went through small towns along the way.

We arrived in Del Rio TX at the American Campground on the 28th of November.  We are just staying here 2 nights as we want to get back to our winter place in Elsa TX by the end of the month and the Halloween party there.  We had not really planned when we would be done traveling for the year until just now.  As we approached our last stop in Elsa TX at our winter place, Natures Resort, we figured out we could arrive by the Halloween Party.  Knowing we were that close we sort of hurried through the last of our 6 months on the road.

Our site in Del Rio

On our one full day here in Del Rio TX we went to the Mexican Border town of Acuna.  Our internet research on Acuna said that the town was once a real all-night party town for Winter Texans (Snow Birds).  However, due to the drug wars going on between the US and Mexico, Acuna was no longer frequented by tourists.  But like Juarez, the drug crime has mostly ended in Acuna in the last year.  So we decided to go and explore Acuna a bit!

Acuna is about a mile from the border control gate in the US.  This means that to get to Acuna you either need to drive, take a taxi, or walk the mile in and out.  We didn’t want to drive in for loads of reasons but we did look at taking a taxi.  The other issue is that there is no real parking on the US side of the border.  Most park at the taxi place that is about a quarter of a mile from the border bridge.  This now makes it a mile and a quarter to just get to the edge of town.  

It was absolutely a beautiful day weather wise for our trip to Acuna.  It was an all-sun day with the temperature right at 75 degrees, perfect!  We decided to go ahead and park at the taxi area and decide if we wanted to walk or ride to Acuna.  We asked the price for a taxi and it was just $35 round trip or $20 one way either way.  We could walk in and taxi out or taxi in and walk out or taxi both ways.  It was such a nice day we decided to walk in and then decide if we wanted to taxi out.  If we wanted the taxi all we needed to do was to call them and they would come and get us.

I mainly took this picture to remember the number if we wanted a taxi back.
They spared no expenses for the sign!

We did have a slight issue walking into Acuna on the bridge.  Patty went low with her blood sugar and we didn’t have any sugar for her about halfway to Acuna.  Her insulin kit should have glucose tablets in it but there weren’t any in it.  We had some in the truck so we could try to walk back or continue to Acuna and get some food.  Patty felt like she wanted to try to make it to town so we continued on.  

We just made it the town border and she needed to sit and couldn’t go any farther.  I went ahead to find some food and bring it back.  Today is Sunday and the first places I came to were not open yet.  I found a guy cleaning the sidewalk so I asked him where I could get food for my wife as she was diabetic.  He didn’t speak very much English but he produced a bag of 10 donuts that he offered to sell.  I think we wanted $3 for the bag but I gave him $5 making him really happy!  I think the bag of donuts was for his family after he finished working.  I got back to Patty and we ate the donuts, yup the whole bag!  After a few minutes, Patty felt fine and off we went into town.

This place played Beatles music and had Beatles memorabilia

Note the lack of people on a beautiful street

The sign for what looked to be great club a few years ago.  It is closed now

A hotel that hasn't been used for a while

Acuna made us feel sad for the people there.  The town is made up for tourists and fun.  Dance halls, cool bars and restaurants that are either closed or just barely open now.  The town is extremely clean and well laid out.  It is in much better shape than the place we go to near us in Elsa; Nuevo Progreso.  It’s like the town is just sitting there waiting for people to come in.

We walked the town for about an hour and found a place for lunch.  We really didn’t want much now that we ate those donuts!  We were just going to have a small appetizer and a beer.  The first place we went to didn’t have any beer!  The place was out of beer and the stores don’t sell beer there on Sunday.

So off we went in search of a restaurant with beer.  We finally found a place of in a residential neighborhood that was full of locals.  It was fun walking through the neighborhood waving to the locals.  We looked so out of place but were not afraid at all.  Everyone was very friendly.

Views from around the neighborhood area on our way to the restaurant

Street vendors performing in stopped traffic

Inside the restaurant with beer

After lunch we did a little shopping and headed back to the US.  We decided to walk back as it was such a nice day.  We had no problem walking back to the truck on the US side.  We were glad to get back though as we had walked quite a bit by then.

After Del Rio TX and Acuna Mexico we headed further south-east following the border.  We went through Laredo TX and stopped for the night in San Ygnacio TX at the San Ygnacio RV Park.

This place was a dive really!

"Art" in front of the park office 

Our site in the San Ygnacio RV Park

This is a real TX/Mexico border town.  The border crossing is just a couple blocks from where we parked for the night. And since we were here just one night we didn’t cross the border.  I did manage to walk the town the morning we left though.  I read a placard in town that said that prior to the 60s people just walked across the border without being checked.  The towns were really one town separated by the Rio Grande River which is not but just a few feet wide here.  

We took a drive around town after we got fuel.
This was the worst example of a neglected dog we have ever seen in person!

Maybe the dog is not neglected but has some disease.  It looked to us like the dog has the worse case of mange ever!

Nice fall decorations in the town park

A museum of the area but it was closed
A little poverty here

A little poverty seems to go with a nice church

After our one night in San Ygnacio, we headed the last 130 miles to our winter site in Elsa Texas, Natures Resort.  We arrived back at around 3 in the afternoon just in time to get ready for the Halloween party at 7pm.

We have one more post the 2017 travel season, San Antonio to see the Christmas lights.

Stay Tuned!