Hot Fun in the Sun

It has been a week long on fun, and short on quality photos. There’s a lot to be said about having such a great time that you forget to record anything for future reference. What was all the fun about?

20180126_11331482552024.jpgT@bazona! An annual gathering in the Arizona desert of fun-minded folks who share a passion for camping in their T@Bs, T@Gs, and T@DAs, T@B and T@DA share a common heritage, as they were both manufactured by Dutchman – T@B from 2004-09, and T@DA from 2008-10. Dutchman then got out of the small trailer business, and the T@B line was picked up by Nucamp. It’s more of a traditional teardrop shape than ours is, but loaded with charm and features. A T@G is an even smaller version – about the size of a queen-sized bed, most (?) with a clamshell kitchen.

We registered to join T@bazona last summer, and were fortunate to snag a site in the Usery Park group campground (no electric/water), where we camped with 25 other campers adjacent to the main campground, home to another 30 or so nestled in gorgeous sites with electric/water, firepits, and picnic tables.20180124_1428551804002955.jpg There were probably 80 people in all. This gorgeous county park in Maricopa County (Phoenix) is a a treasure – a maze of hiking/biking/bridal trails encircle the campground.

It’s beautifully maintained – kudos to the folks here who support this wonderful park system with their tax dollars. We’ve stayed at other Parks in the County, and they are all places to which we would return.

T@bazona is socializing with like-minded campers, sharing food, campfires, and the occasional adult beverage, and (of course) camping stories, tips, and tricks.20180127_1816321517153322.jpgThat’s the #1 reason we enjoy these rallies so much – avid campers trick out their rigs, and are proud and happy to show off the results. It’s all about solar, storage, decorative tips, towing, WiFi, and awnings/shelters. We had campers from as far away as Maryland, two rigs from Michigan, and from all points inbetween – everyone has their own style.

We have an organized sort of Parade of Homes, where  we traipse from camper to camper looking at all the cool stuff everyone has done. Most of the attendees were in T@Bs, along with a handful of T@Gs. We were the sole T@DA this year. Here are a few things that I’d never seen before (remember, I warned you that I took very few photos)…

Solar oven. There were cookies baking inside. Not sure how great this would be in Michigan, but it seems tailor-made for Arizona.20180127_144242408289790.jpgHow about this nifty propane radiant heater? Never seen one of these before. This could heat up our little awning on a chilly night.20180131_1713591686625743.jpgWe’re not big on game playing, but who wouldn’t love T@B checkers?20180127_135748656221599.jpgOur next project may be to develop some kind of aerial pole thingy to boost our wifi cell service. In areas where we have a weak signal, we usually wind up putting one of our phones on the roof of the Campsh@ck to boost the signal for our hotspot. I’ve been campaigning for John to mount a flagpole holder on the camper, and put a fishing pole in the holder. We could put the cell phone in a baggie on a hook and raise it up above the roofline to boost signal. Not pretty or elegant, but hopefully effective. John took a bunch of photos of possible projects, but he’s being pretty secretive about sharing them (for now, anyway).

We did get in a hike to the wind cave at Usery, with camping pals Mickie and Kim. 20180126_1020002127100023.jpg20180126_095349926059056.jpgIt was a gorgeous morning for a hike, and we wound up and up along the trail to the cave, about 1000′ elevation over a two-mile hike. Perfect morning to hit the trail, and I’m happy we got our hike done by the time the afternoon furnace-like heat kicked in.

After four days, it was time to leave. We were excited to head to Catalina State Park for a rendezvous with our Vermont friends (and former T@DA owners) Cathie and Jay. They’ve since moved on to an Airstream, but retain a small-camper enthusiasm for the outdoor life. We hoped for a more sedate experience in Catalina than the last time we visited. 

Go for a hike? Sure? We wandered up the trail with Jay to Romero Pools, which we have visited a few times in the past. It was shocking to see how little water there was.20180129_110405959072727.jpg20180129_110647-11827750297.jpg Where’s the pool? Other times we have visited, we’ve been treated to the delightful sound of running water down the mountainside into the pools, and dozens of hikers cooling off hot feet in the cool flowing water. This was a very different experience. Nearly barren. It was hot on the trail – we suffered.20180129_115821-11850123116.jpgEverything here is so dry – we are one matchstick away from a catastrophe, it seems. In the seven or eight years I’ve been coming to this area, this is the first time where there has been ZERO snow in the upper elevations. Mount Lemmon has an elevation of about 9200′ – there should be some snow up there in January. Seems like this is a bad sign for the area in the coming months.

Ahhhh….we’re now in the comfort of our Madera Canyon cabin. If you are a reader of this blog from a year ago, you’ll recognize this view.20180131_170553-11329694649.jpg Yep. For the next month, we are stretching out. Hike. Bird-watching. Coatimundi. Time with my sisters (who are both in the area for this month). SuperBowl. Cycling. If you want to find me in the next month, I’d suggest you look on the porch swing on the right.

We began our first day here with the most incredible views from of the supermoon eclipse. Set our alarm for 4:30 am, and sat outside with coffee, watching the eclipse develop over the mountainside. For the second time in a year, I was very sad not to have photography equipment up to the challenge of a celestial event. It was magnificent.

Feeling very peaceful….wishing the same for you.

 

 

Keeping It Simple

After a week of nearly perfect camping in Prescott (AZ), we’ve had plenty of time to reflect on why camping makes us happy, and what it is about camping that we really like.

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We’re happiest when everything is simple.

Sounds easy, but it’s really something we’ve had to work at. Our T@DA camper is small – yet we have everything we need to keep us comfy in even the worst of environments (and believe me, we have somehow found them!). In our sixth year on the road, we are still discarding seldom-used items (the cribbage board didn’t make the trip this year), to make space for something we’ll use more. In this spirit, we’ve taken out the television, and replaced it with a basket screwed to the wall where we can accumulate maps and also charge our tablets and phones. Out is the microwave, in its place is a cabinet for food storage. Everything is a compromise.

Yavapai Campground, one of our very favorite sites in Prescott, AZ is a great example of how this works for us. It’s a small campground – 22 sites. There’s no electricity, and just one water pump. A huge benefit is the composting toilets, which use no water or chemicals, and are totally oderless. They are an enormous leap forward over the common pit toilets found in most rustic campgrounds. Sure wish there were more campgrounds using this technology. We love the crisp air (cold and crisp at 5800′ in January!), the large sites, and the quiet. John has rigged 220 watts of portable solar power to keep our lights on and the fridge running.

We love our quiet power source, and it works especially well in the sunny Southwest.

Thank goodness we’re not clothes hounds. Funny, but if you look back over five years of these posts, you’ll see that we wear the same clothes year after year, adding a favorite new t-shirt one year/retiring one. John has his favorite fleece pullovers – the pumpkin one and the red one. I bring the same pink fleece vest, blue hoodie, and cardigan sweater, which I wear every day. This year, I retired my old one, which was threadbare, and replaced it with a brand new one. Heaven! Heavy duty sandals, hiking boots, and cycling shoes account for our footwear (plus shower sandals for public showers). I’d rather go without something than frustrate myself everyday by carrying too much stuff. This certainly isn’t everyone’s system, but it works for us.

We have a small shower we use when there’s not one in the campground, as at Yavapai.20180115_100524.jpgOur 22 gallon water supply, and six gallon gray water tank don’t allow us the luxury of a long shower. In fact, we took four showers, plus used small amounts of water for other things, and still didn’t fill our 6 gallon tank. We have two one-gallon jugs we fill at the pump for drinking water, and water for dishwashing, which we usually do outside. John has rigged a system for shaving and haircuts using the truck mirrors, which is downright comical to watch.20180115_100205513767212.jpg Seems odd, but when there aren’t other mirrors around, it’s all we have.

But, we sure do eat well. We carry a Napoleon propane grill and a CampChef Everest stove along, and use either or both every day. Instead of using individual one-pound tanks, we have a three-pound aluminum tank with two connections. Saves us a ton of money, and we don’t have all empty cannisters to recycle. We often Dutch Oven large batches of stews and chilis, which are wonderful after hikes or bikes rides when we’re hungry and cold.20180117_1742081704686970.jpgWe do cheat a bit and put the Dutch Oven directly on a burner set with as low of a flame as possible. Then, we augment the heat to oven-style by putting heated charcoal briquettes on the lid. Sure, it’s cheating, but we like not using so much charcoal.

There are great hikes in Prescott. The first one on this trip was a new trail (for us) near the campground – about four miles, which meant we could take Jezzy along. There were still remains of a recent bit snow along the trail, which turned the surface into a thick sludge. So much collected in-between Jezzy’s toes that she eventually plunked herself down, and refused to walk any further until John pressed out some of the huge clods, relieving the pressure.20180113_1159431177451577.jpg Back at camp, she needed a footbath which she patiently endured, although it obviously is not something she enjoyed.20180113_1424061900364621.jpgWe drove a bit north to the Watson Lake Recreation Area, for a spectacular hike a day later. Massive granite boulders circle the lake, caused by wind and water erosion. 20180116_114142199644124.jpgRough and gritty, they are perfect for clambering around. We took the trail that circumnavigated the lake, and were treated to stunning views. It was really a fun hike.20180116_122853548826146.jpgImpossible for us to be in Prescott without climbing Granite Mountain, a 7600′ peak that looks over the campground. While not a difficult climb, it’s relentless. We were so happy to get to the top and eat peanut butter sandwiches and Starbucks Double-Shots. Oh yeah.20180118_141301301282709.jpg

On to Lost Dutchman State Park, where we met up with Vern and Ilene, friends from the Phoenix area.20180119_1739441326314844.jpg

20180119_173857.jpgThey were the very first people we met who who also owned a T@DA, and we’ve still maintained a close friendship, even though they’ve moved on in the camping world to a larger motor home. Before the rain and cold moved in, we had one perfect night for a grilled pizza and campfire. There’s lots to catch up with when we only have an annual visit.

The best part? Ilene and I went into Phoenix, where we joined 20,000 other men, women, and children for the Women’s March. 20180121_105917516606138.jpgIt was exhilarating.20180121_1101541533296170.jpg One of the best moments was when we came upon this group of 15 women, all wearing the red gowns and head gear of The Handmaid’s Tale. 20180124_104629-11288863792.jpgThere was a young father pulling his four-year old son in a wagon at about the same point. We heard his plaintive voice, “Who are these people? What is the point?” Ilene and I cracked up. I said to the father, “Good luck with the next 15 years.” He grinned ruefully and replied, “Oh, it’s going to be an interesting discussion at lunch”.

Today, were moving to Usery Mountain Park, where we’ll join about 70 other T@Bs and maybe a T@DA or two for a few days at an event called T@bazona. Some of these folks here we’ve met along the way somewhere, but most of them are unknown to us. We’re looking forward to picking up new tips and camping hacks, and discussing favorite campgrounds. T@B owners are always a lively bunch, and we’re happy to be included in any of the gatherings. Our best camping friendships have resulted from these types of gatherings.

 

Going Coastal

Usually, at the end of a six-week trip, I’m ready to head home. This time? Not so much. Traveling to so many brand new places has been a wonderful adventure. We’ve already made notations for places to visit next time. It’s been an extraordinary exploration.

At the end of the last post, we were about to get bounced out of our one-night stand at Santee State Park. Hope nobody lost any sleep worrying about us – we simply got a much better site the next morning, proving (to us, anyway) that sometimes it’s better to fly by the seat of your pants. There weren’t any ‘big’ things to do at Santee – it was a busy, chaotic park. The main attraction were a couple of sink holes locates a few miles from our campsite, so we jumped on our bikes to check them out.20171023_134924767348998.jpgMy first sink holes! I was excited. Perhaps there were visions of the famous Florida sinkholes with houses cascading into the depths. I was not prepared for the underwhelming sight of a ten foot  depression with a bunch of weeds and scruffy shrubs growing out of the bottom – with a fence around it, of course, to keep us all from harm. Needless to say, disappointment reigned. I couldn’t even get a decent photo.

Onward to Carolina Beach State Park, where we had a rustic campsite reserved for two nights. Score! This gorgeous park is perched alongside the Intercoastal Waterway on Snow’s Cut. Our site was within 100 yards of the waterway, lined by a three-mile trail.20171022_1430381275632085.jpg 20171023_1713261059568019.jpgCamping perfection. Have to admit that we got really lucky in reserving this site – there were plenty that were not so roomy, nor so scenic.

Carolina Beach is located just on the edge of Wilmington NC. Just down the road is Fort Fisher, one of the last coastal forts to fall in the Civil War. All that’s left of the Fort are some grassy embankments. 20171023_1346221468247690.jpg20171023_134723331651457.jpgThere are no buildings still standing, and the Visitor Center was closed the day we were there, so much of this remains a mystery. But, it’s a spectacularly beautiful site – home to five battles with Union forces. The first was a disaster, and the last resulted in the fall of the last big Confederate seaport.

The surrounding area is magnificent. Cypress trees lean shoreward from years of offshore winds.20171023_133958-11243828454.jpg A bike/walk path, void of any visitors with the exception of John and me was perfect for us to enjoy the wild and beautiful shoreline.20171023_121946-11738925648.jpg We stopped in to the delightful Good Hops Brewery – a wonderfully dog-friendly pub, where the owner’s pup came out to greet us. I’m sure there was much more in this area to explore, but we were content to hang out and enjoy our coastal camp.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was a spot on our radar for many years. Although the Michigan coast is magnificent, it’s just different than the ocean. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but we sure don’t have long lines of surf fishers in the Great Lakes. 20171026_1303512085939482.jpgThese guys (yes, they are almost exclusively men) drive out on to the beach in their trucks equipped with front mounted racks for fishing rods and coolers. The atmosphere is casual – it’s all about the fishing, not the actual catching of fish. Most seemed to be fishing for Black Drum, but most catches seemed to be tossed back into the sea – too big, too small, whatever….we saw fishermen lined up on every beach.

Reservations here (Frisco campground) are not site specific – we were allowed to choose our own space upon arrival. The wind was shrieking when we pulled in, and big rain was predicted, so we opted for a site in this magnificent campground that offered a bit of shelter. 20171027_1111291969407008.jpgThe dunes and stunted cypress provide plenty of little coves and hidey places for camping. Protected from the wind, but with a view of the ocean (if we peek around the corner), we grabbed a great spot, and hunkered down. Wow – it howled! We are about 500 yards from the ocean, and hearing it roar every day is wonderful. But, on sunny days, it’s been great for John to harvest from his solar farm (which we needed in a big way, after days of rustic camping).20171027_1110271001074699.jpgToday, our last day, it was not windy. The silence this morning was deafening. This big, yet vacant campground has one big drawback for us, however. The seemingly innocent, grassy areas everywhere are actually carpeted with sand burrs. Even in the middle of the road, the burrs attack and stick. Walking Jezzy is an ordeal (mainly for her) because every few hundred yards we have to stop and pull burrs out from between her toes. Check out this photo of my shoe after taking the trash down the road (about 100 yards).20171027_1122421154430523.jpg Camping here is challenging, but oh so beautiful.IMG_0959One of the main scenic attractions here is the magnificent 1870 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a towering 198.5 feet high (second highest in the world). I was unprepared for how majestic this would be – it is absolutely astounding.

IMG_0966We’re lighthouse veterans and nothing compares to this. How horrible was it to find out that it was closed to climbing as of October 14? Devastating. We could only lust from the outside. The crazy story of the lighthouse makes it even more appealing. In 1999, it was moved over 1/2 miles from its original site to the current location. 20171027_111844291983141.jpgWhat an engineering feat! Take a look at this photo from a beach poster.20171026_1322471980651941.jpg The lighthouse originally stood between the sign, and the water’s edge, not more than a few hundred yards from where I stood. If you look closely, you can see the changing shoreline, and how it endangered the lighthouse. All this great history made its closure even tougher to swallow – it is staffed with National Park Service volunteers, and their season runs from April to Columbus Day. Had we known that, we would have planned differently. Sigh. Move on.

We cycled south the next day, intending to hop the (free) ferry to Ocracoke Island for a bit of exploration. The sea was pretty flat, so I was kinda willing to attempt the ferry ride – I’m a notorious weak-stomached sailor. But, but the time we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, toured the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum, there didn’t seem to be enough time left to take the one hour trip over, cycle around a bit, and then ferry back. Plus, I have to admit, I was leery of a possible rocky boat ride. So, we passed…

For me, the highlight of the Museum was the portion dedicated to the USS Monitor, the ironclad which sank off the Hatteras coast on New Year’s Eve 1862. A few artifacts, and video of the raising of some of the pieces of the Monitor are thrilling to see. Sorry, no photos allowed.

We spent much of our time wandering the beach, enjoying magnificent views. Every day brought different sights – cloudy skies are much different than sunny ones.20171025_1330521434042014.jpg20171025_1328102080419288.jpg20171027_125853101484049.jpgTomorrow, we’re heading to camp in the driveway of T@DA pals Gail and Sid in Portsmouth, VA. They stayed with us for a few days a year ago, and we’re anxious to explore their hometown with them. It will be our first driveway camp, and we’re looking to the comforts of friends and a home for a few days.

Home in a week – hard to believe we’re winding this fantastic trip down already.

Camping Good, Bad, Ugly

Has it been forever since I last posted, or does it just seem like it? We’ve survived torrential rainfall, a resurgence of the Ohio stinkbug menace, and all the steamy heat that North Carolina and Georgia can inflict upon us. This is the first campground in about ten days where we’ve had any cell service or internet availability. Most have been remote enough that we can’t even pull in a radio station. We have no TV. Yes, this is camping. And we are still finding stinkbugs everywhere inside the camper. It’s creepy.

We wanted to visit Raleigh NC, primarily because it’s the State Capitol, and we do love to visit these places when we can. After a very frustrating, (missing keys!) but mercifully short drive, we arrived at William B. Umstead State Park. We were the only campers in the small (25 sites) campground. And it would have been peaceful perfection if not for the fact that the campground seems to be located adjacent to the Raleigh Airport. From 5:30am to 11:30pm, jets brushed the treetops. They say that you don’t hear these things after a while, but I guess we just weren’t there long enough for that to happen. Surprisingly, jet noise is less aggravating than all of the people-generated sounds of camping, so we got along just fine. I would camp here again in a minute – the Park is cris-crossed with hike, bike, and horse trails, and was immaculately maintained. We felt privileged to have it to ourselves.

With a bit of help from The Google, John plotted a bicycle route into Raleigh. Holy shit! We found ourselves on roads where no one with any sense would ride a bike. It was a hair-raising 15 mile ride to town. On the plus side, we passed by the Raleigh Arboretum, and stopped for a quick tour. This fleece-wrapped tree was my favorite sight.wp-image-183102475With a bit more aggravating effort, we finally rolled into Raleigh and located the Capitol building, where we freely wandered around. Stately would be the word I would apply here – not overly embellished or ornate, but very historical and governmental looking, if you can relate to that. wp-image-767911402wp-image-755679812wp-image-465779001Perhaps the most surprising thing we learned is that North Carolina claims George Washington as their own – I had always assumed that he was a Virginian. This startling sculpture of GW made us both smile – crafted by the leading Italian sculptor of the day, it definitely has a Roman ‘feel’ to it. I would have passed right by if the George Washington inscription hadn’t caught my eye.wp-image-1292580731And then, there was this other wacky George Washington….wp-image-398403310.jpgAll this history and cycling made us hungry and thirsty, so we wandered into one of the most interesting brewpubs we’ve ever visited. A combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, Bhavana Brewery was the perfect stop. Excellent beer paired well with seafood dumplings and bbq pork bao (steamed buns). If I lived near Raleigh, this would be a frequent stop – so many intriguing items on the menu.wp-image-1627542094We fortunately found a better route back to the campground, involving the Raleigh Greenbelt, and had a terrific ride home – touring through the sculpture park of the Raleigh Museum of Art. Why didn’t we find this in the morning?

Moving on, our next stop was a campground we have enjoyed in the past – Lake Powhatan in Asheville, NC. We grabbed a fantastic campsite, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the bear which had reportedly been stalking the campground. We never saw Charley (as he had been named by the camp hosts) in the three days we were there although our neighbors reported that he strolled right behind our camper shortly after we left on the first day. Bummer!

Our short list of necessary stops in Asheville included a visits to two of our favorite breweries, who have opened large-scale operations in Asheville – Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. These two breweries could not be more different in their style. I love Sierra Nevada beers. Their brewery sits outside of town in a spectacular setting. We self-toured, since all the guided tours were booked for the day. Brewing equipment is beautiful – all gleaming and sexy. It was interesting, even though we had no tour guide.wp-image-1334030335wp-image-2002578699Friends had told us that the onsite restaurant at Sierra Nevada was amazing, and they were correct. We enjoyed appetizer portions of scallops, Mongolian beef skewers, and  duck fat french fries. Happy campers rolled back home.

The vibe at New Belgium couldn’t be more different than at Sierra Nevada. It’s much smaller to begin with. Located near downtown in an old brownfield area, it’s now a very hip-looking spot, with a huge outdoor patio, filled with folks and their dogs enjoying a beer. They’re located directly alongside a bike path. wp-image-527196700Sustainability and employee-ownership are their big stories. Plus, they have a serious connection to cycling. Can you imagine getting a custom-made bicycle on your one-year anniversary? For a moment, going back to work, seemed like a good idea. I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for New Belgium, as they have contributed thousands of dollars to bicycling in Grand Rapids via their film festival which visited our town for four years. Proceeds from the festival have gone to the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. Although I don’t like their beer as much as Sierra Nevada, they sure have won my heart.

Wandering around town, and hiking took up most of the rest of our Asheville time. This is a very cool town, with a great bike culture. There are bikes (especially mountain bikes) everywhere. The only downside to our stay was that the heat was stifling. Our campsite did not have electric power, so we needed our solar panels to provide enough power to the battery to keep the lights on and the refrigerator running. Although there was lots of sunshine, our site was shady. After two days, we had to shut down our refrigerator and load everything into the cooler we always carry. Not a big problem, but an annoyance.

Hurricane Nate had blasted into Mississippi the day before, so we knew there would be rain problems on our next travel day, the 8th. We packed up and hit the road early, intending to be at our next stop, set up, and hunkered down by noon. Everything was fine until we arrived at Standing Indian Campground in the Nantahala National Forest. As we pulled into the immaculate campground, we were met by a ranger who informed us that the campground was being evacuated ahead of the storm. Looking back, I can see that it made sense, as the campground was located down a long winding road near the Appalachians, if not officially in them. Oh crap! Now where? Consulting our atlas, I see that there’s a Georgia State Park about 30 miles away that has a camping symbol on the map. We’ve no cell service, so we just head toward the park, hoping for the best.

What luck! We landed at Vogel Lake State Park and registered for two nights as the skies opened up. Bam! Never have we set up in such a downpour. We got the Campsh@ck leveled, and dived back into the truck for a consult about our next step. We were both drenched, soaking the interior of the truck. The decision was that we should set up our big yellow awning (you’ve seen the photos), so that we would have a spot to leave our wet clothes and towel off before going inside. If you’ve never been inside a T@DA, you might not be aware that we just a few feet of floor space, and absolutely nowhere to put wet clothes and towels. The Crankshaws rose to the occasion and put up our awning in a downpour in record time. We coaxed Jezzy out of the truck into the camper, and peeled our wet clothes off under the awning. It was ridiculous enough to be funny. (Next day, the Rangers told us we got over 7″ of rain). Once inside with dry clothes and some cold chicken we had grilled the previous day, we hunkered down with books and waited out the storm through a very long night.

Vogel is a gorgeous park. wp-image-596184130wp-image-1560159845The rain miraculously disappeared the next day, so we hiked out to view Trahlyta Falls. They were roaring! It was incredible to stand on the edge of the viewing platform so close to the foaming water.

We’re moving on to an urban adventure next as we visit Atlanta for the first time. It’s steamy hot here – with record temps of around 90, combined with a dew point in the mid 70s. More to come.

Border Town

This photo is of Nuevo Laredo, MX as seen from Laredo, TX. wp-1484531919174.jpg The Rio Grande River separates the two – no big wall (yet). So, John and I decided that we would scout locations for the Wall, in case civilian input is requested as some point in time. We didn’t know what to expect, but it was a surprise to see a wide-open river with a big park on the Mexico side, and the same on the Texas side. Seems like it would be pretty easy for a swimmer of reasonable skill to get across and enter the park on the Texas side. The Border doesn’t run down the middle of the River, as I figured, but zigzags from side to side. These guys were fishing – standing in the USA, but actually fishing in Mexican waters since the Border runs right up to the shoreline at this point.wp-1484531962725.jpg Perhaps any fish they catch are subject to some kind of international tariff – we didn’t ask.

It’s hard to pick a spot where the Wall should go. Too close to either shoreline would deprive those citizens of enjoying the beauty of a riverside park. Perhaps putting it right down the middle of the River would be fairest, although it would almost cause some ecology and navigation issues. From where we were standing, we could see the pedestrian bridge (foot traffic only going from US to Mexico, as much as we could see), a busy car crossing, and a railroad bridge. wp-1484531905990.jpgwp-1484531879806.jpgSince Mexico is going to ultimately pay for the Wall (right?), I guess it would only be fair to let them choose where it goes. The more you look, the dumber the idea gets.

Laredo is a hardscrabble town. There really wasn’t anything pretty here.wp-1484531818977.jpg20170115_195733.jpg John even passed up the only BBQ joint we saw. 20170115_195554.jpgWe bicycled around from our campground at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park. That’s a whole ‘nother story – this town will never win any “bike-friendly”awards! Mile after mile of aged, severely rundown houses. Most had not seen paint for at least fifty years. Plywood covered many windows, and sagging chain link fences held back menacing pitbulls, caged in rubbish-filled yards. We also saw many loose dogs – one young pitbull gave John a pretty good run for his money before John surprised him with a blast from his water bottle right between the eyes. He was confused enough that when he eyeballed me, and I hollered very roughly, he didn’t even bother. (I can sound very threatening when I need to be). But, we also passed one very run down house where an elderly man was sweeping dirt and leaves from the driveway. Grubby kids waved and hollered as we passed. Seems like folks are just trying to carve out a life with the cards they’ve been dealt.

So, how bad would your life have to be, that you would give it up to cross the Border to live in Laredo? I really can’t imagine. I’ve never walked a mile in those shoes. We just saw people trying to get along. The big old Cathedral was filling up with worshippers on a routine Sunday morning.20170115_200025.jpg An elderly woman approached me, as I was standing with our bikes while John peeked inside, and indicated (in Spanish + hand gestures) that there was a bike rack where we could lock up our bikes around the corner. Let’s give her the boot too, eh?

End of sermon.

This State Park is the most crowded of any we’ve found so far this trip. Since it’s on a lake, everyone has a fishing pole, and there are lots of families with small kids on bikes. Probably 80% of the conversations we’ve heard have been in Spanish. We’ve got a pretty good site,wp-1484532108350.jpg but our neighbors last night chained up their German Shepherd away from their tent and left him outside all night. He barked ALL night. Thankfully, they left today. If not, I would have complained – it was ridiculous.

Our big fear was the series of storms that swept through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas this weekend. Luckily, we were too far south for them to hit us, although we have had huge winds, accompanied by brief showers. But, the warmth is appreciated. I’m not complaining. Now, Laredo is under a flash flood warning, as all the rain dumped west of us is headed this way. We are rolling tomorrow morning, and really don’t anticipate that we’ll run into anything bad.