Trapped in Texas y’all

Extended winter travel often demands adjustable scheduling and flexible lodging arrangements due to unpredictable weather difficulties.

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Seems that once again winter has arrived as a blast of arctic air from the north… and is snuggling in all the way to our southern borders. Luckily we headed south from Colorado just in time to avoid being snowed in, but here we sit shivering in south Texas a month later.  Today there is a freeze and hazardous beach conditions warning … and while 42 degrees sounds warm… add a 30 mph wind and this storm system has us digging out our long johns to go birdwatching.

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Our 24′ RV is plenty big when our living quarters can stretch out into the landscape around us…. patio chairs and hours of hiking/biking in the sunshine are a comfortable arrangement.  But days of cold grey drizzle, blasts of wind that keep us off the road, and long stretches of time spent indoors can get old rather quickly… so we like to mix it up. While we normally prefer state and national park settings, during stretches of bad weather we are not adverse to paying a bit more for comforts like electricity, cable TV, wifi and a hot tub.  We are finding that an RV park with these amenities typically runs $25-30 per night… still lower than most lodging in desirable places.
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We also own a couple of timeshares that work for occasional changes of scenery.. so this week we grabbed a 2 bedroom getaway condo on South Padre Island… Splitting the cost with my sister and brother in law made it nearly the same price as last week’s stay in an RV park and we greatly expanded our living quarters with a 8th story view of the ocean and direct access to the beach. It was a great excuse to spend time with family and explore a new place. We’ve fixed fresh fish for dinner, watched movies and enjoyed short trips to local attractions.  Walking the beach in the winter became much more enjoyable… but as the end of the week is approaching the weather is getting worse instead of better 😦
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And so a new search of options began…. the RV parks on the island are meager and relatively expensive $30-35 for basic hookups in a parking lot style arrangement.  KOA offers a bit more… hot tub, wifi, TV.. but at over $50 a night it is beyond our budget.  No getaways available for another week in the area… so I checked local hotel rates and was surprised to find nights at the Ramada Inn just down the road for less than the cost of an RV spot.  $29 a night will get us a king sized bed, microwave, refrigerator, TV, wifi, hot tub, free breakfast and a place to park the motorhome. Cheaper than camping. What a deal!  We will spend the rest of the stormy weekend here on the beach and plan to head out on Monday in the RV.
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Flexible lodging options.  Mixing it up works for us….

Hoping that the weather will smooth out and let us enjoy some time in the desert next week… but for now, we are trapped on the Texas coast for a few more days.
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Bird watching? Beach combing?  Sure… Let’s go!

BTW… I tried to include clickable links in this post because I haven’t done much of that. Try them out and let me know if it adds to or detracts from the post? Thanks!

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Watch out!

Every environment has its own unique dangers, risks… challenges.

My mom was afraid to spend time in the desert because of the scorpions, snakes and spiders… even after decades of living there, she was reluctant to walk far from the pavement.  She was perfectly comfortable, however, traipsing through the Pennsylvania forests where she grew up, …. a place where I find myself distracted by the possibility of encountering a bear or cougar!

I know what to watch out for in the desert… and what to avoid.  Don’t stick your hands under rocks, watch where you put your feet, carry more water than you think you will need and protect against sunburn and the possibility of West Nile Virus from mosquito bites….

When we travel, I want to know what the most serious threats to our safety are before we head out on a trail.  It is often difficult to even know what questions to ask.  What plants are poisonous, what snakes or spiders or animals are most fearsome?  Are there ways to minimize the risks? Are there some not worth taking?

Quicksand, sink holes, prairie dog dens, poison ivy?  Mosquitoes, leeches, icy cold water, sharp coral, gators…. moose?

“Watch out for chiggers and ticks,” we were cautioned when we were spending time in Oklahoma during the summer.  We wanted to head across the field in search of a cache…. looked harmless enough.  I felt reluctant to venture into a new place and realized that it was mere ignorance holding me back.  I just needed to know the real danger, and all of the details.  Use DEET, wear long pants and sleeves and carry a lint roller were the most useful pieces of advice… informative and empowering.

What advice would you offer someone unfamiliar with the risks in your area??  How do you get this information when you are in new locations?

 

Forearmed with reliable information, it will be easier to say… A new place to explore?……. Sure, let’s go!

Lose the Crowds…

A sunny spring weekend is ripe for outdoor adventures, but unfortunately I find the throngs of fellow adventurers to be a deterrent.  Roads, campgrounds and many popular trails can become clogged with spontaneous weekend visitors. Luckily, our plans include a few strategies for losing the crowds and finding a bit of springtime solitude.

Five suggestions come to mind:

First, pack light… Today we’ll leave our pop-up trailer behind and opt instead for throwing sleeping gear, a small cooler and picnic basket in the back of the truck to allow for spending the night out somewhere if we choose to.  We are looking forward to making our tent trailer a home base  for summer adventures farther from home, but this weekend we don’t want to add finding a campsite to our frustrations. 2.  Hit the backroads… We make distance on the freeways but our destination will be down narrow scenic byways and the dirt roads that spider off from there.  Having a high clearance vehicle is a great advantage, and 4wd is even better. 3.  Get out of the vehicle…Take a walk! It’s always fun to explore some little used jeep trail to remote destinations but the best wilderness experience is multi-sensory and requires a bit of physical exertion. Losing the tire tracks and most of the footprints is one sure way to lose the crowds.  I like to follow my sense of curiosity… What IS over that next hill? Even on the most popular of weekends this strategy will thin crowds to a trickle… most people stick to the asphalt. . . even (maybe especially) in the big name national parks! The roads were full of ATV-laden trailers and RVs, but today we have the hiking trails all to ourselves!

4.  Load the GPS with geocaching adventures….. I consider this the best strategy of all… to seek out caches where I can pull off the side of the road, lace up my boots and head cross-country to follow fellow cacher’s recommendations to a “favorite hidden gem”.

This way, I am in for a physical and mental challenge that is generally not on the map.  I like to look for caches that give parking coordinates and describe the terrain.  A terrain difficulty of 3.5 or 4 often promises some of the most diverse and rewarding of views.

5.  Go prepared – hiking sticks, water bottles or camelbaks, snacks, camera, GPS, first aid kit, gazetteer maps, binoculars, bird and flower identification books, sketch pad, pencil and pen… these are a few of the things I typically throw in my bag as we head out.  Plan to spend some time, change plans on the fly, enjoy the day.

What would you add to the list? It’s another beautiful day out there… bet I can find a quiet spot!… Ready?

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