Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 December 2007

After three days of glorious weather, temps in the 80's, we feel like we've been plunged back into winter again. And here on the Mexican border in Del Rio, Texas, of all places. If La Gitana (the gypsy) didn't have a heater my hands would be too cold to write this. We came here because of the name, of course, and to get our insurance and vehicle permit for traveling in Mexico. Then we'll be on our way for a few days in Big Bend National Park, where it's even colder than it is here. The weather forecast does say it will warm up to the fifties, so we're hoping!

On our way down we took X-ways to St. Louis, where we planned to head off on blue highways through the Ozarks. But Angie had a yen to go to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to visit the studio of Michael and Shelley Buonaiuto. They are the artists who make the little figurines of people bursting with life that are so popular at the art fairs. Luckily this kept us on the X-way, because we ran into an ice storm that would have made the mountain roads treacherous. Though nothing like the ice storms that hit this region a few days later, it left an inch thick coating of ice on our van.

After a quick visit with Michael, who was up to his ears packing orders for Christmas (Shelley was in Florida), we headed straight south for the Texas-Louisiana border. We ran into dense fog in the mountains, and when it flattened and cleared, we drove through long stretches that reminded us of nothing more than the poorer regions of North Carolina or the UP.

Night caught up with us right after we crossed the Texas border (near Texarkana). We realized we couldn't make Padre Island in one easy day (and those are the only kind we like), we diverted to Austin, where we knew we could hear some good music. While we were listening to the Michael Malone quintet, a very progressive and hot group, we had one of the visual highlights of our trip so far. In the Elephant Room, the restrooms are in back of and on either side of the stage, and women have to cross between the stage and the audience to get to theirs. We noticed one tall, good looking young woman in tight jeans heading that way, and you can be sure that Jim was watching when when she came out. Soon, so was everyone else in the club, because she had an eight foot tail of TP trailing from the back of her jeans. Everyone tried to stifle their giggles, but she and her date were gone by the end of the set.

Our first night on Padre Island we pulled into Mustang Island State Park, scene of much craziness during spring break, but now practically empty. We'd been intrigued by the name and wondered if there were really wild horses there as there are on Okracoke, but the campground there was dismal, with the RV's stacked on top of each other, so we thought we might try camping on the beach. The beach is narrow, with barely enough room to drive along between the high water mark (it was high tide when we drove in) and the loose sand where the dunes begin. The wind was honking straight off the gulf, the salt spray was flying, and we were afraid we might get stuck in the sand if it rained, so we settled for boondocking in the main beach parking lot. We shared this part of the beach with only one other camper, a homeless man who was hauling his worldly goods in a makeshift trailer behind his bicycle. He set up his tent at one end of the beach, so we chose the other and spent a quiet evening looking at the Big Dipper and Orion and listening to to surf pounding the shore.

The next day we moved to the free (to us--our favorite kind!) Malequite Campground, and though we didn't find a lot that interested us photographically, we spent a quiet day resting up and meeting some great people. This campground has no amenities, and as a result seems to attract campers we have more in common with. Our nearest neighbors had all spent a lot of time sailing and/or living on boats, so we had lots of stories to tell.

Jim "taking it easy" on Padre Island. (In case you're wondering, he's cleaning bird doodoo off the picnic table.) The bus next to us isn't typical of our neighbors--but then we seldom saw him and never saw his partner, if he has one.

(Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.)

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