Monday, March 11, 2013

4 days in Willis

We had big plans to hike around this area, but instead we both ate some Texan sausage that didn't agree with either one of us.    Other than a bit of shopping and a hair make over we didn't venture very far from Myrtle since Thursday.  

Gerry came down with a 3 day migraine on Saturday.   Sunday afternoon he pushed through it and we walked for 5.3 kilometers around the campground.  Sunday night and this morning Gerry's migraine was debilitating, but by this afternoon it had settled down enough that he could function again.   Did the walking worsen his migraine, or would it have been even worse if he hadn't walked?  He is determined to get into good enough shape for El Camino de Santiago, so he did another 5.6 kilometer walk around the campground before dinner.    This time it seems to have agreed with him and he is feeling pretty good right now.   It is hard to know what is going to help or hinder his recovery from a migraine.   The jury is still out as to whether going for a walk is helpful or harmful.   Over the next few weeks we will probably have enough data to jump to a conclusion.   

We bought a sports gps (Magellen eXplorist 500) several years ago, but since both our health went down hill we never ended up putting it to use.   We brought it with us on this trip, hoping to do some hiking, so I dug it out a couple of weeks ago and we are trying to figure out how to use it properly.  We are hoping we can figure out a way to upload waypoints from others who have experienced El Camino de Santiago, or at least figure out how to import a spreadsheet.    I am sure the coordinates are available somewhere if we want to key them in.   

 Gerry came back from his walk today quite proud of himself for figuring out a few aspects of the GPS (which to date has been unnamed).     I suspect it will become an important tool over the next few weeks. 

I didn't walk with him today.   Yesterday's walk was too hard on my knees and back and by the end of it my left leg was experiencing drop foot.    I crushed my sciatic nerve 11 years ago and did permanent damage.   I was unable to move my left foot at all for a long time, but unless you pay close attention you would never know it to watch me.  It is hard work to move my left ankle though, and once it tires you can not only see it, you can hear it because my left foot slaps down with every step.   Every so often I think that I would like to go to Spain with Gerry, but then I am reminded of my multiple health challenges. .           


 To combat boredom I decided to dye my hair a purplish shade of brown.   It is pretty weird when I see my reflection in the mirror out of the corner of my eye.....who the heck is that dark haired person in my motorhome!!!!   Lol

Tomorrow we are going to turtle on own the road.    We are going to spend one night near the mouth of the Natchez Trace, then store Myrtle there for 5 days while we take Albert down to New Orleans.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Walk on the Lonestar Trail

It finally warmed up today.   We are still having to wear long pants and sweaters, but at least there was no frost on the ground this morning.   There isn't a lot to do in this area, but there are several hiking trails in the Sam Houston National Forest, so today we headed to one of the shortest ones.   The Lonestar trail is 2.7 miles into the woods, and of course 2.7 miles back out again.    We didn't get to the end because we got a late start and were concerned it would get dark before we got back to the car.   

We could hear birds all around us, and saw a lot of them, but were only able to capture a few with the camera. 

Can you see the snake in the hawks claws? 

I love the way this tree grew.   We saw several dead trees that grew like this one, but we didn't see any live ones.  Odd.

  Robins were by far the most plentiful of birds on the trail.    I don't think I have ever seen so many in one place before.   

Gerry is hoping to be able to do the El Camino de Santiago this summer.   He has a lot of training to do first.    We hope to do some walking almost every day between now and then.   We only walked about 5 miles (8 kilometers) today and he was feeling a lot of pain.   It generally takes almost 5 weeks to walk the 800 kilometers at an average of 20 kilometers a day.    With Gerry's migraines and pain disorder I think it could take him closer to 12 weeks.   He would have to count on being unable to walk at all at least 3 days per week.      

The only way I could do the walk would be if we stayed in good hotel rooms every night, and we simply can't afford that, so I won't be going.    Most overnight stops along the way are in hostels and you have to sleep in cots, with up to 300 other people in the room with you.   My back, knees and sleeping issues aren't up to the challenge.    Spain is crazy hot in the summer which is very much to Gerry's liking.               

Monday, March 4, 2013

The road to Castaways RV Resorts - Willis, Texas

We've done a lot of driving since we left Palenque, and now it is time to rest up for a week.   On our way down the north/east coast of Mexico, the road were horrible.   When we mentioned that to others whom we had met in Mexico that had come down the east coast, we sometimes got strange looks and were told that they didn't think the roads were all that bad.   Well, we took a slightly different route coming north up the east coast, and the roads were not bad at all.   Thank you John Kobak for sharing your knowledge with us,  our backs thank you, and both Myrtle and Albert thank you!!!          


The highway going in the other direction was backed up for about a mile with this procession.  

Going through the toll booths on the Houston tollway, there is a lane for people without the exact change.   We highly recommend anyone in an RV take that lane.   The lane for cars with the exact change were not quite as wide as Myrtle.   Well, it was as wide as Myrtle if she didn't have an awning.

Grind, screech....oh we go forward or backward?   Hundreds of cars behind us...and only a few more  feet forward to get past the narrow tollbooth.    

I do believe the damage is reparable, but not today, probably not tomorrow.  It is time to rest.   

   We are in Willis, Texas at Castaways RV Resort.   I can't imagine what we were thinking, leaving a little town about 45 minutes south of Houston, heading north at 8:15 a.m.   Thankfully rush hour in Houston doesn't compare to rush hour in Toronto, so it only cost us about an extra 1/2 hour or so.

   We arrived this morning, set up Myrtle and have done nothing else but meet a few of our neighbours, two couples who are also from Ontario, Susie and Eric who lives here in his trailer alone and year round.

Until now, we had only met George and Susie online through our blogs.   They knew we were going to show up here from our last blog entry.   

Eric has special needs and was having a challenge with his heater/air conditioner and television.   Between George, Susie, Gerry and I we got him up and running with a television in his living room and bedroom, and taught him how to use his furnace and air conditioning unit.    He is indeed thankful, and very happy.   With that, we feel like today has been a good day.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Altamira to Donna Texas

We pulled into the Country Express Hotel in Altamira (just north of Tampico) and we were the only ones in the parking lot.   The price was right at 50 pesos and that included electricity and water.   We had dinner in their restaurants, two chicken dinners complete with salad and french fries, coffee and hot chocolate came to 160 pesos.      

I slept very well, even though a dozen or more transport trucks and tow trucks pulled in.   Almost all of them loading cars.   It was very strange.

There's Myrtle tucked in the corner among all the trucks.   We had pulled in thinking we could just swing right out without having to worry about Albert.   ha!!!   We did manage to get out without unhitching him, but I had to sit in the car and hold the steering wheel tight so Gerry could back Myrtle up.   It took a bit of maneuvering, but we did it.

We changed our plans first thing in the morning when we got the message from John Kobak that we had misunderstood which place to go to next.   We decided to go to La Pesca.    When we arrived at the crossroads where we could turn east to go to the coast and drive another 45 minutes to get to La Pesca, or we could continue north and be in Texas in 2 1/2 hours, we couldn't see the point of spending another night in Mexico.    3 hours later we were through the border and tucked into Myrtle in a Walmart parking lot.

The kicker is, we came full circle and here we are in the armpit of Texas 3 1/2 months after we were stuck here for 10 days.....Donna, Texas.    I never thought I'd ever see this place again.   lol

Tomorrow morning we head north and will try to get as close to Willis Texas as possible.    We will stop at a Flying J, Pilot, Walmart or Cracker Barrels for the night.   Our only challenge is finding somewhere to fill up our water tank.   We didn't take a full load when we left this morning because we were planning to stay at a campground where we could fill up again.    We are booked into a Resort of Distinction park, Castaway RV Campgrounds for the day after tomorrow.   We will likely stay a few days.   It looks very nice, and we are members so won't have to pay a thing.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Emerald Coast to Altamira

I woke up this morning fully expecting to spend at least one more day on the Emerald Coast.   Gerry woke up this morning fully expecting to turtle on down the road to Altamira.    Gerry turned out to be right.   As much as I like the ghost town known as Costa Esmeralda, the weather forecast promised cold and rain for the next few days, making hanging around the beach seem a little silly.   

We were the only people at Trailer Park Neptuno.

They continue to show pride in the campground, keeping it well groomed, well maintained and clean.   I can see why every time I have read a blog about the dozen or so trailer parks in this area, this one always gets the best reviews.

I would like to say the drive from point A to point B was uneventful, but alas, it was not.

We were driving through a small town near Cerro Azul, slowly because there were many topes.   I decided it was a good time to make my way to the little room at  the back of Myrtle best described as a WC.   We were going slow, Gerry was aware I'd be back there without a seatbelt...what could go wrong?

Well, just at that moment when you are getting ready to stand up and you are sort of bent forward, Gerry hit the brakes.   I flew off the toilet like a torpedo, head first into the wall which is only about 1 foot in front of the throne.   Holy ouch!!!   My head, my neck, my upper back, my arm.....feels like I've been hit by a motor home!    That on top of already being half crippled up from the long drives over the last couple of days has left me very very grumpy indeed.

The police officer that pulled us over in Tampico got the brunt of my bad mood.   Fortunately, that is good for us, bad for him because it could have gone either way.

Corruption among Mexican traffic police is rampant.  

Church's book warns us that Tampico traffic cops are an RVers nightmare, and stresses the importance of taking the bypass road.   We took that road coming down and it was horrible.  Potholes, bad signage, detours and very poor directions in Church's book.    Our friend John Kobak suggested to us that we drive right through Tampico.  He does, and if he gets pulled over he just says he is going to the airport.   You can't get to the airport by taking the access route.  Ok, that sounded good to we took his advice.

We drove past a traffic cop who was on foot and he waved us over.   Gerry ignored him, and kept on driving knowing full well he just wanted to see if he could get some money out of us.   I watched in the back up camera and saw him turn around and start running.  Oh oh, he was going to chase after us!

The next thing we knew, about 2 blocks down,  he was beside us in a car, lights flashing telling us to pull over.    He and his partner were yelling at Gerry and the only words we could make out were:  hospital, ticket and oficia policia.     Gerry gave him a photo copy of his drivers licence, but he also wanted the paperwork for Myrtle.  Gerry gave him the ownership.

The officer continued to yell and look very stern.   Finally he handed Gerry a telephone, there was a woman on the other end.   Gerry couldn't understand her, so he handed it to me.   The woman told me that the officers were going to write us two tickets, one for speeding in a hospital zone (we weren't speeding and there was no hospital zone) and one for resisting arrest.   I said that simply wouldn't do, we weren't speeding and we weren't resisting arrest.    She put me on hold and I handed the phone back to the officer.   After another ten minutes of him talking into the telephone he handed me a radio.   There was a man on the other end.   We went back and forth, back and forth, him saying we were going to get tickets that add up to 3500 pesos, me saying we didn't do anything wrong.   He kept saying things like, you are in Mexico, you can't just do whatever you want.  
 Gerry kept telling me to offer them  1000 pesos, but I adamantly refused.   I said that I would rather go to the police station and pay a ticket than pay a bribe.  
 Finally the man on the radio came out with it.  He told me that they were going to write me only one ticket which I would have to go to the police station to pay, but I could arrange to just pay the officer some money and he would agree to not write a ticket.
I very forcefully said oh well, so...what you are saying is you three are trying to shake me down!    Not a chance!  You aren't even a cop are you?   Tell them to take us to the police station.   He hung up on me.   I handed the radio back to the cop, they gave us back our paperwork and sent us on our way.   lol.

I wasn't very impressed with Gerry ignoring the cop in the first place, but lucky for him I turned the wrath of Brenda on the corrupt traffic cops.

The moral of the story.   NEVER give in and pay the corrupt traffic cops bribes.   They don't want to give you a ticket and will let you go.  

Myrtle is now tucked in snug as a bug in a rug in Altamiro, Tampico in the parking lot of a nice little hotel called Country Express Hotel.   Tomorrow we will turtle on down (or is that up?) to San Fernando de Presas and the next day we will be crossing the border into the U.S.