We arrived in San Antonio after a long drive from Carlsbad, New Mexico. We pulled into an RV park advertised as, "voted the best in Texas". Well, we haven't seen many RV parks in Texas, in fact, this is the only one, but, it would have been hard to find a nicer park. We're talking art work in the restrooms!
San Antonio is a big city, over one million population, but it looks like a very nice city. We spent an entire day on the River Walk and the Alamo. There are apparently large springs that are the source of this river, known as the Yanaguana River. It's only about 40 feet wide and, as a dependable source of water, is why the city was founded here. What makes this river so nice is the way part of the city has been created around it. A walk of about 5 miles circles the city, meandering past ancient cypress trees, boutiques, clubs, hotels and cafes. We stopped for lunch, sitting in the shade of trees, birds flittering about, listening to a Peruvian band. It sometimes gets better than this,,,, but not very often.
Texas is, of course, immensely proud of the Alamo. It is considered a shrine where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in 1836. These men, including William Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and nearly two hundred others, held off for thirteen days, a siege of General Santa Anna's army. Although a defeat, the Alamo held up Santa Anna's army long enough to allow for Sam Houston's ultimate victory and the creation of the independent Republic of Texas. Texas was then an independent republic for ten years before joining the United States.
The whole history of the Southwest is interesting. Spain's claim to this vast area, Mexico's 10 year struggle for independence and the Mexican-American war that added this land to the United States.
Texas is, as you may have heard, big. From top to bottom and side to side it is about 800 miles. The southern most part of Texas is about as far south in the United States as you can get and is referred to as the "Tropic of Texas". The area around Brownsville is largely agricultural. Lots of cotton, sugar cane and vegetables are grown here, although the fields are mostly fallow at this time of the year. The land is flat, very flat. The farms are big, very big. Sometimes you can't see the other side of a large field and you swear you can see the curvature of the earth.
It is also a great birding area with many species found nowhere else in the United States. We have added over sixty species to our Life List, including such ornithological delights as the Black Bellied Whistling Duck, Golden Fronted Woodpecker, Anhinga, Phainopepla, Chachalaca and a whole bunch more.
This part of Texas, along the Rio Grande, has a strong Mexican flavor. The Border Guard is very much in evidence here. We had a conversation with one of the guards at a birding site. He seemed to express sympathy to the Mexicans trying to illegally enter this country, explaining how smugglers charge these people $1000 each to smuggle them across the border, which is usually all they have saved, only to be caught and sent right back. He said there were actually many from Central and South American countries, known as OTMs, Other Than Mexicans. These we fly back to their own countries. We spoke of how many jobs they hold, jobs that most Americans won't do and the effect on the economy if they were completely stopped. He said that when they (the guards) become overzealous in their work, the local farmers let them know, the implication being that they then back off. Interesting.
We headed to this part of the country for the warm weather. Since leaving California, however, we have continued to experience this thing called "arctic air mass". It means cool, if not cold weather. The days are usually nice enough, around 60 to 70 degrees, but windy. Temperatures at night, though, are often close to freezing. This generally means we stay in RV parks where we hook up to 110V power and use our electric heater. Our plan had been to use primitive (read free) camp sites. Hopefully, this may still happen.
Corpus Christi is a nice city. It has a population of about 275 thousand and is situated around a large bay which is sprinkled with parks. One of the big attractions is the USS Lexington, a WWII aircraft carrier. We spent about three hours walking though this 980 foot ship. It's amazing that for a ship this large, the living quarters were so small, particularly when the the ship carried over three thousand men.
We will be spending our Christmas on Padre Island, a resort-type small town on a barrier island off the coast of Corpus Christi.
I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment."
Hilaire Belloc, French-born English writer, 1870-1953
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