Sunday, October 31, 2010

Waking up in WalMart the parking lot, that is. Last night we slept comfortably on the backside of the San Marcos WalMart. Boondocking. In other words, we slept in our camper in a parking lot without hookups to electricity or water. No big deal. We have been living this way -- hauling our own water, generating our own energy -- for the past three weeks. Except for the one night we stayed at Americana in Mission, we have been almost entirely self-reliant for all our energy and resource needs...Plus, WalMart has bathrooms! And 24-hour-access to food...Day 2 of our northbound quest has begun. if you notice us on the highway, be sure to wave or shoot us an email. You can't miss us...and we would love to hear from you!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mission to Butterflies

There is nothing quite like listening to Willie Nelson as you drive across acres and acres of rustic Texas terrain.  And if you are sucking on a fresh-picked grapefruit or orange, only moments off the tree, then you must be travelling through the Rio Grande Valley.  Like many of you, I have visited South Padre Island and Brownsville -- even backpacked across the border into Matamoros, Mexico, and two months' worth of points beyond.  But I had never been to McAllen, Edinburg or Mission until yesterday.  I don't know the Valley, really.  The past 24 hours have been filled with the kind of experiences that make you wonder what wizard is behind the curtain orchestrating them.  Sometimes, when you stop forcing life to follow some arbitrary plan, stop trying to dictate or predict outcomes, you are treated to tiny treats.  You are treated to surprises that sweeten your journey more than any sugary delight wrapped in shiny paper.

Yesterday I hung up my bikini for the season.  We left Corpus Christi to take Sage to the 15th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission, and by the time we return to the beach in a few weeks, the water will be too cold to swim.  (Dang.)  We have been planning to attend this festival for months.  As I always do, I searched online to map the quickest route, to search for lodging, and information about the festival.  I called an RV park located next door to the state park.  Everything was arranged...but then life happened and we did not leave Corpus Christi until much later than anticipated.  Long story, but for some reason our phones would not connect to service ANYWHERE yesterday.  Not even in places in our old neighborhood where we have had a strong, reliable signal for two years!  This inexplicable technical mishap delayed the start of a design presentation, pushing back the rest of the morning's activities.  That meant we would not be able to stay in the park I had called because they close at 4pm and gates lock at 5pm.  We arrived in Mission around 5:30pm with no reservations and no clear idea of the layout of the town.  The plan had failed.

In another lifetime, this would make my head spin (and, yes, my mouth would spew pea soup.)  Yesterday, though, I saw this quandry as more of an opportunity than a 'failure'.  We could explore the city a bit, find the state park and feel our way around the place before deciding on a place to stay.  The drive south was spectacular.  I was blogging so I did not see as much of the changing plant palette as David, yet I picked up enough from quick glances that I knew I had been transported to a very different place.  Different in terms of flora and fauna, climate, culture -- so much.  I stopped typing and started observing.  I took my time...I breathed slowly and deeply.  Needed that.  Drove around the state park grounds briefly before setting out to find a place to park for the night.  We had decided to find WalMart and 'boondock' (google that).  On the way, we noticed an Anglo couple in their 50s, maybe early-60s, walking with several yellow bags from Dollar General.  I watched them turn into a cozy RV park.  Parks line both sides of this road for miles.  This park, Americana, is smaller, older, and seemed more...friendly, I guess, than the others.  In the other parks we passed, nobody was outside.  All the streets were wide and swept perfectly clean, but nobody mingled.  Apart from site-after-site filled with rigs, there were no signs of life anywhere.  Except at the Americana.  Curious.  That looks like a place we might stay, I told David.

Immediately after we pulled in we met the folks who run the place.  Residents waved as they walked toward the game room where the men were playing pool and the women were playing dominoes.  The roads are narrower but still very clean.  Most of the sites have natural-looking vegetation.  Whether or not it's native, most of the plants and decor appear to have always been part of the landscape.  Other places were too manicured and resort-like for us.  Americana has character, genuine style that must evolve naturally.  It can not be forced, taught or bought; it is are its residents.

We found a little site directly next to the bathrooms and showers, pool and sauna, and game room.  While we were unpacking and setting up, Mr. Jim (the man-in-charge) showed up to introduce himself.  He introduced us to his Boston Terrier, Ollie.  What a coincidence, I told him.  Our little girl is somewhat fixated on that name.  She names all our new toys, shells and imaginary friends 'Ollie.'  We put Ollie and Sage together; Folsom pouted and growled from inside the truck.  But now she has a real friend named Ollie!  Bliss!  We explained we were only staying one night because we had brought Sage to see the butterflies, but that we have to get back to Dallas by Sunday night.  Why, we have a butterfly expert right here in the park, he exclaimed.  She has written 6 books about butterflies and gives presentations about them.  Let's go!

Mr. Jim invited Sage and me to ride up front on his golf cart with him and Ollie, and David rode on the back.  We drove over to Miss Kim's house.  She was out for a walk so we tracked her down.  We chatted briefly and then David asked where we might buy her books.  She had some in her house!  So after we took care of a little shopping (Folsom needed food) we stopped by her house to buy Butterflies of Northeastern Mexico.  She even autographed it for Sage!  Although she was leaving this morning for a one-week trip to Oaxaca, Kim spent about an hour talking with us about travelling in Latin America, living simply, living thisclose to the U.S.-Mexico border.  Funny, we didn't talk much about butterflies.  We all leafed through the book together after we returned 'home'.  Dreamy, vivid photographs of skippers and swallowtails, hairstreaks and metalmarks, and more.  Instantly I knew I wanted to visit with Kim again.  Maybe we will be back soon, and maybe she will be interested and available to swap more travel stories.  THAT is my kind of girls' night out.

Today we rushed through breakfast, through getting ready, through packing up.  We were eager to get to the butterfly festival.  Sage painted butterflies made out of coffee filters and clothes pins.  She colored pictures of butterflies.  We walked the butterfly gardens, petted a sphinx caterpillar, toured exhibits about birds and their flight patterns.  We waited in a long line for a long time to get her face painted but left to see the other booths.  By the time we returned, the artist had stopped accepting face-canvasses.  No big deal.  Folsom was overheated and pooped out from walking all over the grounds.  Sage had had a great time, and even boogied in front of a roomful of folks watching their kids demonstrate zumba fitness.  I know I probably should have pulled her away, but she was having so much fun and the teachers and other kids seemed to enjoy watching la guerrita shake her groove thing and imitate their dance moves.  At least I could have encouraged her to move to the back or the side...not front and center!  What can I say, what can I say...

Sage and Folsom have been sleeping for hours.  David and I have been nibbling on fresh grapefruit and oranges and listening to Willie Nelson.  He's driving, I'm blogging.  Sage is awake now and smiling as she snacks on raisins and watches the scenery blur past her window "really fast."  We are almost to San Antonio and once again the plants and topography are changing dramatically.  Once again, we find ourselves reflecting on a meaningful day in this journey.  Sweet, sweet journey, it is.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Schroeder Park at Golden Age Home, Lockhart

Schroeder Park
When David and I were students at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, we met a lovely couple, Mr. and Mrs. B.  They hired David to design and implement a perennial border because they learned he had completed the Professional Gardener Training Program at Longwood Gardens.  Over time, they sort-of adopted him, and me, into their family.  Many afternoons I spent sipping mint tea with them in the sunroom and gazing out onto the profusion of blooms dancing in the last moments of the day's rays of sunshine.  I wore a straw hat that had been their daughter's, and did so with honor.  I never met her but she was apparently an always willing helper in the garden. 

Years went by, and we remained in contact with the B family.  We became acquainted with their son and daughter-in-law, and their first grandchild.  Then the second grandchild was born.  One is in high school now -- where has the time gone, really?  Mr. B passed away not long after we married.  When we announced our engagement he had said, "It's about time you marry that girl."  He was quite a character, and by all accounts a real stickler about keeping a neat appearance.

A few more years passed and the B family asked us to develop a one-acre native plant garden for a retirement home in Lockhart.  While we were completing the first round of installation in early spring 2005, then-director of Golden Age Home told a story about meeting David many years ago.  Mr. B had raved about David and his plant knowledge.  Apparently, he spoke about David often and she was really looking forward to meeting him.  One day she dropped off some paperwork at Mr. & Mrs. B's home and David answered the door.  She said she was shocked and probably stammered a was this man covered in soil and mulch...and LONG HAIR!  This could not be the same plant genius Mr. B had told her about...We all had a good laugh remembering Mr. B's frequent pleas for David to "get a haircut" and to "marry that girl."  There have been other phases and frequent volunteer workdays since then.  We check on the progress several times per year.  And always we stop at Smitty's, our favorite barbecue joint in the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

Lockhart is located in the southernmost area of the Blackland Prairie.  Grasses and perennials are the foundation of the Schroeder Park garden.  A few small trees which are found along the edge of prairielands are also included.  This vibrant and verdant color wheel garden requires minimal maintenance and watering; no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides; attracts plentiful species of butterflies and birds; and truly celebrates a small but vital portion of Texas' natural beauty.

This project is meaningful to us for many reasons.  It supports our mission to restore Texas.  It is a living memorial to our friendships with three generations of the B family.  And it brings us intimately close to the best barbecue, and authentic ambience, in Texas.

Lost Lockhart

Somehow I have not posted any of the gorgeous photos we took in Lockhart State Park.  Between lack of access to services due to "dead zones" inside that park and intermittent (at best) access to electricity because of blown laptop batteries, fried fuses, a deep cycle that is not recharging, and more, I have "somehow" not made uploading pretty plant pics a priority.  Shame on me.

I'll go round up some highlights of that part of our trip now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time to fly

Tomorrow, we will have been camping on the beach for 3 weeks. Astounding. Two weeks we lived gulf-front on Padre Island National Seashore, then we spent one night on the Nueces County beach. For the past week we have been perched on the sweetest spot of Bird Island Basin, a spot within the Seashore on Laguna Madre that is popular with windsurfers and fishermen. Our 'site is but a few feet from the water. Sunsets, moonrises and sunrises have inspired us daily as we continue creating landscape designs that help to restore Texas' natural beauty. Tomorrow we will leave this coastal paradise and start making the familiar trek toward another of Texas' gems: the Blackland Prairie. But first, we have an exciting detour...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Milk(y) Way

Sage likes to have a glass of milk every couple of days. Hands down, this has been one of our greatest challenges: keeping milk cold. Without access to electricity, our refrigerator will not work. Our cooler keeps things cold enough for a few days, but there are other issues. I started with a plastic half-gallon container. About half of it soured because I don't drink the stuff and David only does with cookies. We haven't been eating many of those, either. I scaled back to smaller packaging, but mostly they are paper-based, and become waterlogged as the ice melts and everything dives into the icy soup. Quickly the paper breaks down, creating a milky frothy mess in the cooler. Then I tried individual sizes in plastic containers. Worked great, except the caps are not water-tight. No matter what, the milk spills or spoils. Not green...or economical. Powdered milk, you're up. Dazzle me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good things come

A couple of days ago I read in Simple Abundance that by having a more positive emotional response to money, we can attract more money and thereby perpetuate positive sentiments about money. It's a Wall Street spin on the attracting-more-bees-with-honey adage, I presume. Although I seem to most an insufferable Pollyanna, I'm actually a skeptic turned believer of the power of positive thinking. Believe me, I've walked through some of life's dark corridors and wondered if I would ever make it out alive. I did, and since then I make a point to celebrate every moment of life. Fully. So for many years I've lived my life, my way. I dare to dream and expect -- no, command -- them to come true. "Failure is impossible", declared Susan B. Anthony. I agree, especially when you have the muscle of unflappable confidence and positive thought on your side. You don't need others' support when you believe in yourself and your dreams. But if you want bounteous good things to come your way, support a dreamer's dreams.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This is why...

Some days, like today, I look at Sage and worry I've missed something important. One of her developmental milestones, if you will. I find myself rapidly running through first tooth, first steps, first word, desperately clinging to every moment. Then I seem to regain logic and reason; I haven't missed a thing. I have been with her almost every second of her life. David, too. Maybe all mommies (and daddies) experience this memory-panic. Maybe it's because today she is exactly 2-and-3/4-yrs-old and subconsciously I am marking the anniversary. Each day there are new moments to commemorate, new milestones to celebrate. I want to witness every single one...and this is just one reason why we have chosen this lifestyle. There are other reasons -- some I have written or will write about, and others that are private. When I see all the things my 2-almost-3-yr-old is learning and seeing and doing, I do not question my choice. I know all the reasons why we are here, happily celebrating milestones...together.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Ilfreys have left the National Seashore

If you want to test your child's mettle (and your own), try living outdoors for two weeks. On the beaches near Corpus Christi, under a blazing sun and in the path of some pretty spectacular wind. These are harsh conditions, and that my almost-3-year-old endured them -- no, THRIVED despite them -- impresses me. She has not complained once about the sand or salt or wind...or anything, really. Except maybe naptime; she worries she might miss something exciting. The wind picked up today. Blustery. Tide is we had to move on. Still in Corpus but no longer on Padre Is Nat'l Seashore. Everybody is exhausted. Before now, David and I have never lasted more than 3 days camping on the seashore. This time, we survived a whopping 2 wks. I hear the wind snarling as it pushes and shoves our truck and camper around. I'm smiling, a proud green mommy. We did it. If we are still enthusiastic about our journey after today, and believe me are, we could live like this a long time. Dream realized.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Yesterday I donated 5 more bags of clothing. That makes around 20 small bags, or so, of clothing and household items in three separate visits. Every few days we assess a thing's usefulness and versatility. If it is being used, and can fulfill a few different roles, then it stays. Negligible or non-use, or single-purpose items go the way of my paint-splattered Crocs: Goodwill hunting. With more items gone, we are now able to put away all our clothing, shoes, dishes and towels. David and I each have one drawer and our shoes are combined in a space under Sage's bed. Sage has two drawers for clothing; one for dress-up clothes; one for art supplies: two for books and puzzles; and one for miscellaneous dolls and other toys. She also has a crate full of "bouncy balls"...and that's just the stuff in the trailer. Inside the camper, we each have a bin with small sliding doors. Books spill from all three. Toiletries are stored in a basket approximately 12" long x 12" wide x 12" tall in a cabinet under Sage

Step One Toward Full-Timing: Choosing Your 'Rig'

Last weekend I discovered an additional purpose for this blog: a how-to manual for would-be full-timers.  Several couples and families stopped to talk with us as they cruised the beach.  They wanted to know who we are, what we do and how we are able to live a mobile lifestyle.  Above all, they really wanted to understand how we made the transition...not 'why' but what it took to make it happen.  This got me thinking about the future of this blog and the other two.  Maybe I should streamline and organize this one more clearly?  That's a post for another day...

So today's post will be a brief discussion about planning a similar change in lifestyle.  In other posts I have already mentioned that our blood runs pure gypsy.  I've touched on our Mexico Adventures and teased about future posts about our Seattle Adventures, Florida Adventures and more.  We tried RVing once before, but really only went two places: a park in Destin, FL, for 6 months then another park a few miles away in Seagrove, FL, for another 6 months.  Hardly a mobile adventure.  But that year was truly an adventure and we learned much from real RVers.  Fast-forward a few years...we missed the beach and thought about RVing again.  We wondered if we could make online landscape design a marketable service and started planting the seeds (pun intended.  ;-)  Not long after our daughter was born we tested our remote online design idea by moving to Corpus Christi.  This allowed us to live at the beach and continue building on our DFW/Denton clientele, and start expanding our services into other areas of Texas.  But the gypsy blood never ran dry, and after 6 months I started feeling the "highway Jones." 

David, too.  But neither of us wants to leave the started thinking about RVing again.  I'll skip a lot of details now that can be found both here and on  I'll go directly to choosing the right vehicle...

A 5th-wheel would give us plenty of room, storage and creature comforts.  The downside is, the gooseneck hitch takes up the entire bed of the truck and during certain times of the year would be too heavy to drag through sand.  We hope to spend most of our time in sand...have I mentioned we belong at the beach???  Then we thought about a trailer.  Most are towed behind your truck so the bed is still available for storage.  In most cases, they are lighter than the 5th-wheels.  Unhitching them is much easier, and newer models can be as big as a small 5th-wheel.  Like 5th-wheels, many travel trailers have quite a bit of room, storage and creature comforts.  Still, hauling one through sand is not always possible.  Both 5th-wheels and travel trailers do have some impact on a truck's gas mileage.

We made a list of priorities and desired amenities.  Most importantly, our 'rig' had to be able to easily handle sandy conditions.  If it could shift into 4-wheel drive, even better.  4x4 conversion vans exist but are way out of our budget.

And that was another consideration...we wanted to be able to pay cash for our RV and not have to raise too much additional funds to modify or upgrade it.  For months and months...and many more months...we considered our options and checked classified ads.  Finally, we decided the best option for our prospective routes and budget would be a slide-in truck camper.  One of our trucks is a 4x4 and we had already traveled back-and-forth from Corpus Christi to Dallas comfortably.  It is almost 10 years old but has a durable and powerful 7.3L diesel engine; it is designed to last nearly forever and to be a heavy-duty workhorse.  I was adamant about having a bathroom because of my own preferences but also to make Sage comfortable.  Truck campers with baths are fairly pricey...and much smaller than travel trailers and 5th-wheels.   In the end, we settled on an older truck camper that pops up, does not have a bathroom, but is in near-perfect condition.  In total, this camper is 65 square feet.  There is a 3-burner stove and fridge.  The stove is powered by propane but the fridge is so old it only works on 110V electricity now.  That means, unless we are camping in a park with hookups, we do not have a refrigerator. 

We also do not have adequate storage for two adults, one toddler, one dog and a very busy business.  I take up the least amount of space.  David is larger so naturally his clothes are larger and require more room.  His shoes are size 13.  Yep, they fill up spaces much faster than mine.  He also has more toys -- fishing rods and tackle, for example.  Sage of course has toys overflowing...and books...and changes clothes several times per day.  All I need is my bikini, laptop, journal and I'm pretty much set.  Unless it's cold or we are away from the beach...ha.  Then I need more clothes and running shoes, but really not much else.

To handle our storage needs and to accommodate my wishes for a bathroom, we decided to also tow an "adventure trailer."  They, too, are pricey.  We got super lucky when we bought the camper, because the seller also had an old rusty utility trailer.  For about $100 we took it and cleaned it up, and decided to design and build our own adventure trailer using materials we had lying around our house.

My bathroom is still unfinished but, honestly, I have not missed it.  I'm surprised that I have lasted nearly two weeks on Padre Island National Seashore without one.  A few miles away at Malaquite Beach there are restrooms and showers; I've used them a couple of times when I was on my way to run errands.  Otherwise, I have become quite fond of my natural sanctuary.  Many years ago, I would not be caught dead in the dunes.  Now, I relax and listen to the waves and the birds and enjoy the vibrant scenery waking up for the day.  Rivers of Little Bluestem wish me good morning.  Monarchs leap and twirl from Dune Sunflower to Sea Oats to Railroad Vine to Evening Primrose.  Yes, the pesky mosquitoes and gnats are there, too.  But not always, and when they are I am too entranced with Nature's ballet to notice.

Sand is everywhere, all the time.  When we leave here the first thing we are going to do is CLEAN.  Clean the truck, the camper, the trailer and, above all, OURSELVES.  Our living spaces are indeed small, and we have had to adapt in some ways.  But I would not trade this litany of significant and meaningful experiences.  Not for the plushest bathroom in all the world...

PS I have not had to scrub a toilet or scour a shower in 5 weeks!  Totally worth it...ha ha ha.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

People of The Road -- Part One

Not too many stories unfurled the first week of our journey.  The first night we stayed with normal people, normal friends, in Austin.  Between kids and dogs and a few beers -- not to mention DELICIOUS FOOD -- we were treated to a relaxing night, a respite from packing, moving, garage-saling and preparing for a huge lifestyle change.  (Thank you, again, Mike and Cat.  :)  The next few nights were odd in that we were connected via extension cord to Dad's house and were set up in his driveway and his next-door neighbor's driveway.  (Thank you, again, Mike and Cass!)  Some curious neighbors came by during Dad's final garage sale and snooped around our "rig."  I have to admit to a twisted sense of satisfaction that I ruffled their snooty feathers.  Get over yourselves, people.  Ha ha!

The two weeks we spent at Cedar Hill State Park were for the most part uneventful, too, in the people-meeting department.  I mean, we met really nice folks -- some who are interested in hiring us.  None were what you would expect from traveling...The Road...My brother Mick toured with Aristaya/Ice Cold July for about five years.  He has some incredible stories!  David and I have our own from Mexico, Seattle, and Northwest Florida.  So by week three, having met only very nice and very normal people, I was beginning to feel like this lifestyle might not be so "alternative" anymore.

In Lockhart we met Mike and Peter.  Mike is an ex-Marine, a gun-wielder, and a liberal-hater.  He is an insurance adjuster and armed guard of oil companies' gated lands.  He is also a super-friendly guy who gets a little lonely after extended assignments, and will offer to help anyone adapt to the full-timer lifestyle.  Mike invited us over to barbecue, to watch movies, to swap stories.  He offered us his spare heater when temps dipped into the low-50s.  A heckuva guy.  He travels with his docile German Shepherd, Grace, and was on his way to deliver his mother for a visit with family near Fort Worth.  Most of our stay in Lockhart State Park was spent trying to get phone and internet signals -- remember, our business depends on these services!  Maybe next time we cross paths we will be able to spend more time with Mike.

One morning a park ranger pulled up to Mike's site.  Someone had complained about Grace not being on a leash.  After the ranger had left, Mike told me he knew one of the complainants.  He had met her in another park, when Grace had killed a goat.  Maybe a lamb?  I think it was a goat...anyway, Mike said Grace was playing with it and accidentally killed it.  He asked the owner if he could compensate him and the guy demanded $500.  Of course I didn't pay it, he that reputation had followed him (unfairly) from the other park.

Peter arrived in only his truck.  "I just had to get out of the city for one night!" he shouted across three campsites.  Was he talking to me?  Nobody else around, I decided he was and so I turned around and welcomed him to the park.  Peter is an ex-truck driver turned entrepreneur.  He owns a trucking company now and until recently also owned a limo service.  Apparently he rents an apartment in San Marcos and a storage room in Fort Worth, and conducts business by phone and email from anywhere.  He just couldn't get the dust of The Road out of his blood, so he escaped to a state park to camp in the bed of his truck.  I don't know how long he decided to stay because he was napping, his bare feet hanging off the edge of his tailgate, when we left.  Nice to meet you both, Mike and Peter.

Back in Corpus Christi, we met Mike and Tammy.  They are around our age.  Mike has adult children, ranging from 25 to 19.  Tammy has no biological children but raised her nephew for several years.  They have been full-timing for 5 years.  Like us, they also have a mobile business.  Their gig is remodeling, and they have been working on Andy's Kitchen for a while now.  Landscaping, too.  We joined them for a beer that turned into many more.  Their stories were the best!  I might confuse some of the details but this one was the most goes...

They were on their first trip as full-timers and were traveling on the ferry at Port Aransas.  They met another couple with a camper who were going toward Padre Island.  Mike and Tammy pulled over at Mustang Island, maybe JP Luby Park.  The couple -- who claimed they were going to Padre Island -- pulled alongside them and set up camp.  When they met on the ferry the wife kept mentioning "the kite" several times and Tammy -- a self-described naive farm girl from eastern Washington -- wondered what she meant.  She also wondered why any experienced campers like this couple claimed to be would set out toward primitive camping without flashlights or other lighting.  Mike offered to loan them a spare and took the husband inside their camper to look for it.  The wife asked Tammy if she liked swapping...and Tammy, Ms. Naive, thought she meant swap meets like those she remembered from small-town Washington.  Eventually the wife recognized that Tammy did not understand, so she said plainly, "My man is old but he'll do you good."  Tammy's jaw dropped (mine did too when she told me this story!) and she felt very uncomfortable.  Mike and the husband seemed to be gone for a very long time, and she was growing restless listening to this stranger and her interest in swapping.  Finally the men returned and through body language and arm-pinching Tammy communicated to Mike that they needed to get away from these people.  FAST. 

That night, she said, ALL NIGHT, the wife would flag down cars and lure people into their camper.  Tammy said she could not keep up with the number of visitors who stayed for about 20 minutes or so, then left.  The next day, livid and appauled, she stopped a park official and told him about the goings-on next door.  He said they (law enforcement) knew about this couple, and others, and were keeping an eye on them.  He also suggested to Tammy that she and Mike NOT camp next to anyone flying a rainbow kite.  I guess that's the rv equivalent to a red light?

They had other stories, and were well-stocked and generous with their beer.  But we do have a toddler and had to get to bed.  The next day we met them at Bird Island Basin inside Padre Island National Seashore.  They were intent on staying up all night drinking and fishing, even among the brutal mosquitoes.  We had to pass...can not keep up with that pace.  We found our own sanctuary among the dunes and coyotes and native plants in profusion.

After two days of busy traffic, we were treated to two days of near seclusion.  Then Richard and Barbara arrived, in a truck camper too.  Sage and I were running errands but David rode his bike over to say 'hello.'  Great people, retired couple who live west of San Antonio.  The next morning they gave David a batch of banana and walnut bread.  He left mid-morning to speak to Port Aransas Garden Club.  Sage, Folsom and I played all day on the beach.  I worked directly off the truck's battery -- and did not recharge it -- so it.was.dead.  The next day, Richard came over to see if he could help and to introduce himself to Sage and me.  He is a living file of stories about the relationship between ranchers and illegal immigrants from Mexico.  He told us about the drug cartels poisoning the water supply along the border to try to keep the illegals from leaving Mexico.  Before we began this journey, we met a couple of people who own land near the Rio Grande and both told about illegal immigrants damaging their property extensively and repetitively.  Richard corroborated these claims, adding that many ranchers along the border are tired of repairing again and again damage caused by people entering this country illegally.  I'm not taking either side, I'm just sharing their opinions here and hoping thoughtful conversation will emerge.

Richard and Barbara left yesterday.  New folks arrived then, too.  We will be leaving this area soon.  The beach does not care.  The birds, the fish, the insects, the coyotes...the waves and sand and sun...they pay no attention to us humans, really.  Their world continues, long after we are gone.

christy's writerlust: Even more raw

christy's writerlust: Even more raw: "My body was accustomed to mostly raw foods...or so I thought. When we were camping in parks with full hookups, not much had changed from li..."

christy's writerlust: Sweet, smart, silly...and strong

christy's writerlust: Sweet, smart, silly...and strong: "About a week ago I started teaching Sage what I call the 'winning combination.' To be truly successful in life, I explained, you must feel ..."

Friday, October 15, 2010

I have lost so many posts written (typed) on my phone because of an overly sensitive back button. And an overzealous thumb, most likely. Raising those lost treasures from Davy Jones' locker would be an impossible feat. That's right, I just invoked a pirate metaphor. Fitting for the current leg of our journey...Power is almost restored so I should be posting more regularly and coherently soon. Cross every available appendage. Please. We have a lot of designs to do...and intermittent "juice" is just not working out...Also, I have many posts ready to upload. Only 4 wks mobile and already there are wacky stories to share. They may be grouped as a) discoveries in Nature, b) bleep Sage says, c) mishaps, d) people of the road and e) answers to your questions. I'm not sure where to begin. Send me your suggestions; I'll let you guide the next several posts...All is quiet in El Valor except for the faint beeping of me texting and the slightly louder crashing of waves. High tide should peak within the hour..

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You're Wild...WILD!

Wild nature greets us every morning and tucks us in every evening.  Great Blue Heron stand majestically at water's edge, peering into the sunrise and the surf.  Around lunchtime -- or so it seems -- seagulls, pelicans, willets and oystercatchers line up for their turn at the fish feast.  In the evening, I think every bird on the island drops by.  Where there are birds diving there are fish running, so David grabs his rod and reel and sprints into the waves.  Tonight he hooked a Spanish Mackerel...but he jumped off.  Then he caught several Ladyfish -- not good for eating.  As he reeled in his line after one particular cast he saw a 5-foot Black-Tip Shark at the breaking point of a wave chasing his lure.  I was inside the camper with Sage, but watching him, and knew instantly from his body language what had happened.  He was almost to the second sandbar, and at first, he simply walked backward slowly.  Then he picked up his pace, and soon he was turned, mouth agape, and high-stepping to the shore.  All I could mutter was, "I know that look..."  And I was right.  That encounter -- unusal as it was -- is precisely what keeps me in the area between the shoreline and the first sandbar.  Period.

Last night I went outside around 11pm.  There was a light-colored shadow about 10 feet from our camper.  Instantly, or perhaps instinctively, I knew it was a coyote.  This morning we noticed coyote tracks around our truck/camper.  A section of a Crevalle Jack (aka Jack Crevalle, or simply Jack) that had washed up after being partially devoured by a shark was missing.  The area where the dead fish had lain was outlined with coyote tracks.  This morning Folsom was ballistic around the adventure trailer.  I let him off the leash momentarily to sniff around inside.  I never figured out what had interested him, but I did see a lizard scurrying across the sand drifts against the trailer's tires.

We have not observed many butterfly species.  One monarch yesterday, two yellow sulphurs today and something I have not yet identified.  It is mostly brown and white with long hindwings, similar to a swallowtail.  Perhaps a type of skipper?  A gigantic fly caught himself in the mesh room of our canopy.  We have named him "mega-fly."  Aside from the flies, beetles, and gnats (annoying creatures, really), the only real flying or crawling pest is the mosquito.  If you are familiar with the Texas Coast, you know their size and level of aggression are something to fear...and combat with only the most awful of products...Deep Woods Off!  I hate the stuff, but its stench and potential health hazards are nothing compared to malaria.  So, after many rounds of natural combatants, I eventually succumb to the evil that is Off!

A moment ago I peeked into El Valor to check on Sage and Folsom.  Both are sound asleep, while the generator sputters and whines.  Looking to the left (north), then to the right (south), I see nothing but deep black.  The deepest shade of black.  Wild.

Power to the(se) People...Please?

Since last Friday we have been camping on the beach in Corpus Christi.  A fishing tournament last weekend attracted enough ambitious anglers that even the primitive camping areas seemed filled.  By Sunday evening, however, we had miles of beach to ourselves.  The darkest skies, the tiniest twinkling stars, and the gentle whoosh-whoosh of waves gave way to a gentle breeze.  The water has been clearer than I ever  The wet sand is not sugary, the water not turquoise like that of Northwest Florida or the Yucatan Peninsula.  Wet sand here is sort-of tan, but the dry sand leading up to and enveloping the dunes is a bright off-white.  Water here has a sea-green, but not fungal green, hue with bands of deep blue beyond.  (Farther than I will venture, ha.)  Weather, water and vistas are pristine and primitive; despite constant access to phone and internet services we are completely immersed in nature.  This is where the real adventure begins.

In Lockhart we had accessibility issues to services we depend on for our livelihood.  Here, access is not the issue.  Rather, our current problem relates to energy.  Our generator provides enough energy to run the air conditioner, interior and exterior lights, blender or juicer, and both laptops simultaneously.  But it is a bit noisy, so that option is not reasonable during naptime or bedtime.  (Tonight, though, Sage is exhausted and sleeping peacefully while the generator chokes and coughs enough to keep our laptops whirring.)  Besides, this machine requires gasoline and the nearest pump is miles away.  We carry with us 10 gallons of gas (perhaps you have noticed the bright red cannisters perched on either side of the trailer?)  One gallon lasts approximately 3 hours.  The other option is to recharge our laptops via 12V adapter plugged into one of the outlets inside the cab of the truck, or the one outlet inside El Valor.  The cab connection is perfect when travelling but not ideal when parked.  Inside the camper we have one deep cycle battery that is connected to the 12V outlet there.  Even when parked, we can rely on the 12V for most things because the deep cycle battery is wired to the truck's battery.  Every time we start the engine, one of the truck batteries recharges our deep cycle.  Blogging, therefore, requires efficiency and economy of words (a challenge for me, ha). 

Energy is not an issue when we camp in parks.  Neither is water, but when we are off-grid both become quite valuable commodities.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

christy's writerlust: A brief visit to Central Texas

christy's writerlust: A brief visit to Central Texas: "The past few nights we stayed in Lockhart State Park. There are only about 20 camping sites, half with electricity/water/sewer, the other h..."