(Dec 21st entry)

Old school sign under the overpass at our Mcallen stop. We didn't even hear the traffic after a little while.

Mcallen Texas is not for families- or at least families in RV’s. It’s a big city that seems to cater to bona-fide snowbirds. I know this, because our request to pay for overnight camping was denied by a couple of parks as they were “55+” parks only. One of the ladies was good enough to suggest that I get on the internet and search for “RV parks that take kids” in Mcallen. Thanks. We finally reached a nice lady at Holiday Village, billed as a retirement park, who herself had 8 kids, and felt sorry for us trying to find a park that would take kids- so she let us stay. That was a pretty good find. We took advantage of the security of a legal parking spot with utilities and took it easy inside, although their pool was dreamy. The water had to be 85 degrees or warmer, the smooth curvy lines of the pool edge were straight out of the Brady Bunch era of happy times and cool design- not to mention the fiberglass pool furniture that was so authentically retro I felt guilty that we got to see it and that it was hidden from the public, who would certainly appreciate it. The chaise lounge had a back leg that let you shift your weight once you sat down and it would tilt you back, holding you like in your fathers hand while you sunbathed. Neat-o.

First order of business is always to check out the beach, when arriving at a beach. The boys have already found something to dig up and Meila's looking for treasure. A beach is always good for some unexpected finds.

This was one of the larger unexpected finds we came across. The beach was flying the blue 'dangerous marine life' flag when we arrived, with choppy seas the Portugese Man-O-War was washing up all along the beach. Funny how the tide is though, each time it washed in there were new ones, and in a few hours there would be none at all. In the meantime, it was a chore to keep little feet from stepping on them inadvertently.

From Mcallen, we set out for the shores of South Padre Island- the land that time forgot (it’s off-season). We spent the day at the beach for a $4 park use fee each day- nice to have the ‘house’ beachside- then pulled into the Christmas shopping / parking lot (WM) for the night. We found a dump for $2 (jackpot) and had it made. First day there were rough 6’ seas with an ample supply of man-o-wars washed ashore. The ocean always has us at full attention- not knowing the full danger of currents, marine life etc- just being aware has served us well. At this stop, to be fully aware, Kelly researched the man-o-war and gave the proper warnings to the little ones, along with Trevor’s words of advice after his trip with Boy Scouts to the Florida Sea Base last year- no one was going to play with them. Kelly (our man-o-war safety officer) used our barbecue tongs and a plastic bag to relocate a dozen of the little stingers to a different part of the beach so the kids wouldn’t accidentally step on them as they moved mountains of sand.

At some point during the day, Ethan figured out what the seagulls would do for some bread- as the crowds were pretty sparse, so the birds were probably not eating their normal volume of lunch snacks. It started with their curiosity, then...

...their numbers increased as they discovered the little boy had some tasty treats, and then...

..they ended up having to work a little for their food, as Ethan led them down the beach as fast as he could with his tasty treats flying over his head and shoulders- wild birds flapping along behind him until the bread ran out.

Ethan gained another year (turning 12 on the 21st ) with a flight to celebrate over the bay aboard a parasail! Fortunately he picked his father to go along on this tandem ride (he needed some extra weight to meet the minimum); they weren’t kidding when they advertised 600’ !

Not nervous at all, Ethan's getting ready to fly above the open seawater. The man suggested keeping the harness low on the thigh to avoid a 600' high wedgie that we couldn't adjust.

The folks at Breakwater Cruises were able to get the boat started finally as we watched them charge the battery a few minutes before our departure time, then get birthday boy & his father aloft and back down without a scratch or drop of water in our hair.

600' above and behind the boat, nice view of the water and everything in it; not sure how I took this photo with 2 hands on the harness at all times.

That was actually the day before Ethan’s birthday, and marked the end of our stay at South Padre Island. We set out for Corpus Christi on Monday, excited about picking up our forwarded mail there, and the possibility of driving on a beach? The day at the beach was an interesting one, as our stops sometimes are. Today’s standout was a gentleman that offered us a sample of a cream that soothes muscle pain. Nice guy, but the more he talked, the stranger it became. He had a legitimate product in his hands, which he wanted to give us to try because of Kelly’s nursing background. He then contacted us no less than EIGHT times during the course of the day, including while we were sitting alongside the waterline watching kids play, while in our bus at the beach cooking dinner, and when we returned after dark 6 miles away to the WM to pick up the van we’d left behind, for hookup and tow to Corpus Christi. He was very available for our questions you could say. He also had some interesting commentary about the decline of American economy and how fortunate we were to own this bus, that we could be self sufficient if needed (and he said it would be needed in the next few years suggesting that society was about to fall apart).

At the end of the day on the beach, as Kelly was making dinner- everyone convened outside to wash the bus. Meila and I are just finishing up, but it was a great sight to have 7 people helping out at the back side of the beach parking lot. We can wash the bus self contained- using our own power, pressure washer and water supply- so a beach parking lot is a nice place to do it.

As the engine was running and we were about to set forth on the highway, a very kind lady approached with a pie, and a couple of sets of handmade washcloths. Talk about kind- washcloths! Linda said her husband was checking our blog out online right now, and she wanted to catch us before we left. Turns out they are visiting from Canada, where they are truck drivers for 3 months of the year. Thanks! I told you that lettering job helped us meet new friend.

At the end of one of our days on the island, we made the trip to the Northernmost reach of the paved road, and found a mad-maxian landscape that looked like the civilization was being swallowed by earth as the sand crept over the protective dunes. At least they warn you with signs.

When we had arrived on the island there were lots of people taking pictures, so we took ours after dark, on the way out. So long spring break party capital, and off season family beach.

It became late night all of a sudden, and we only drove about 1/3 of the way before the driver had to stop and crash onto the bed, dead tired. Back underway at 6am with everyone asleep we encountered an immigration station run by the Border Patrol- where all vehicles must stop to talk with the agent, answer a few questions, and allow the dog to sniff around the vehicle. At these check points we’ve been told that the intent is to reduce movement further inside the country by illegals. The checkpoints are intimidating, with a set of 6-8 cameras that are within a few feet when you enter the inspection lane (that I can only guess at what they are reading), as well as no less than 25 border patrol vehicles positioned for chase, and a collection of agents milling about with dogs and large guns etc. This morning the agent asked how many were aboard, “9” I replied as he raised his eyebrows and said he’d ‘need to speak to most of them’. Right! I thought- how much time do you have? They’re all asleep and in their underwear, so we might have to set up camp and hookup the water and sewer if you want to see them all- but I just replied that they were sleeping- ne nodded as if this wouldn’t inconvenience HIM too much… and then in an apparent change of mind (or his earpiece told him to wave us on) asked if they were all US citizens, then waved us through brusquely when I replied ‘yes’. Good news for the family.