Soon after leaving New Mexico we turn off the main road, and head south on to the back roads that we so prefer. It’s pretty flat, rather as expected. There is even some wildlife. We spot a few pronghorn deer & a coyote eyeing us from the side of the road. And of course there is gold, black gold - lots of oil wells everywhere. The road is very quiet until we come to a pipeline in the process of being put across the State – truckload after truckload of huge pipes are rolling in. Finally it gets hillier & we stop at McDonald Observatory before we finally reach Fort Davis Historic Park. Stop and explore this old army outpost. Most is left in its original state, with only small parts restored – giving a great idea how it all worked. It was a hard life here defending the road & settlers from marauding Indians who were trying to hang on to their land.
Then it is on in to the desert. We are heading south on a back road that doesn’t show on our maps – but we have been assured that it is there. So it is – but pretty rough as it goes through private land. The hilly landscape is amazing. When we are nearly at Ruidosa (our destination) we see signs pointing to Chianti Hot Springs – and think “That sounds nice” and off we go. What are we asked – “Do you have a reservation!” Golly out here! It is rather exorbitant to camp here so we prepare to leave. Fortunately the owner decides to halve the price so we stay. And it is nice to soak in their 10,000 year old hot water (apparently!) in the evening and again the next morning.
Finally drag ourselves out of the hot tub & head on down to the Rio Grande that borders Mexico. It is a tad underwhelming – a sliver of muddy water that snakes around an awful lot. So narrow the Mexicans could walk across it easily!!! But the scenery starts to improve dramatically as we reach Big Bend Ranch State Park (not Big Bend National Park). Our paperwork touts it as the most beautiful road in USA – and it is amazing – but maybe not quite to that level. It certainly is a rollercoaster drive. We stop and do a few of the hikes. First to explore the Hoodoos on the river’s edge & then to walk through the closed canyon. More of a scramble really as I have to slither down rocky slopes – interesting getting back up. We turn back when 2 young guys tell us they couldn’t make it. How the heck could I!! Plus it is stinking hot – what crazy people come here in summer!! On past the resort town of Lajitas (nearly deserted) & the ghost town of Terlinger before stopping at Study Butte. We have decided to splash out literally and book a raft trip through the Elena Canyon. Sadly it is not to be – the water is too high & slow for the trip to be done in one day – so only half day slow trips are going. Oh well we head on in to Big Bend National Park. We have no bookings for camp spots so we will have to wing it.
But first we head to Elena Canyon to do the walk. Again it is a no go. We can only gaze at it from across the swirling muddy water. It looks amazing. Then off to Cottonwood campground for the night. Surprisingly it is nearly empty. A quiet, but very hot night. There is lots of bird spotting to be done & John even spies a very bright red snake.
Bright & early we head off to explore the Ross Maxwell Scenic Route through the park – stopping to do a few short walks. The heat would be a killer for the long ones. Particularly enjoy the one to a dry waterfall – John tries to climb it & gets stuck! “Help Lynda!” Finally head in to the Chiso Mountains. No big motorhomes are allowed – but the drive is a piece of cake for GR2. First thing we do is bag a camp spot as the previous night it was full. Then head off on more walks – by the time we return I am hot, hungry & grumpy. But John talks me in to the biggey about 8 km – to the Window. We set off late & it is all downhill. Fabulous at the window. Thank goodness it is cool by the time we come back & really it is a piece of cake. And bonus, bonus our dinner is cooked for us - great tacos on the BBQ courtesy of a Mexican guy on a motorbike who couldn’t find a campspot & John suggests that he share ours.
Another early start after a lovely cool night – up here in the mountains it is so much cooler. Sadly we see no bears or mountain lions – but someone reported a bear sighting last night. Well back down the mountain & off to explore more of the park. By the time we get to the Hot Springs that are right on the Rio Grande it is over 30deg & sitting in hot murky water doesn’t appeal at all. Because the river has been high the mud has got in to the pool. On a cold day this pool would be awesome.
John decides he fancies doing a few of the dirt roads, so after a short section of the river road we head along the Iron Ore Track – a 26 mile track that takes 3 hours. I don’t think it was worth it – it was pretty rough. And John’s face looked a bit grim a few times, but he said he enjoyed it. I beg to differ!
Finally out of the park and it is flat, flat, flat. And hot too. So we decide to drive on in to the sunset .Pull over at a free spot in a tiny town called Langtry. Thank you to our Free camps app. Again an early start. Lots of long flat roads & lots of Border Patrol cars. We have a few border checks to stop at too. Mexico is merely a stone’s throw away. We pass more oil rigs – 100’s of them. Then as we get closer to waterways, lots pecan trees, sorghum, corn & cotton. Finally we reach the city of Corpus Christi and cross the huge bridge out to Padre Island – our destination for the night. We carry on until the road reaches the sand and head on along the beach. It goes for miles & we can camp anywhere we want. Awesome! We find our own piece of beachside paradise.
The next day is perfect for swimming. We wear our togs all day. John is now as brown as a berry. We stay another night, but in the morning wake to storm clouds. It really is time to leave what has quickly become one of our favorite camp spots.
Track back along the beach and to Mustang Island, finally catching the ferry back to the mainland. It is pretty flat with huge waterways & then crops – mainly lots of rice. As we carry along the back roads we realize that there is actually a heck of a lot more water than there should be, and sure enough we get to the floods. Roads are closed & huge detours are in place. Oh well it all adds to the excitement. John manages to score a Border Control cap from the policeman who gives us directions.
Finally after the long route we reach the outskirts of Houston & our destination for the afternoon –The NASA Space Station. Fortunately it is open until 7pm as we have arrived much later than planned. What can I say? It is rather like a theme park, but we certainly enjoyed it (the ones we visited in French Guiana & Cape Canaveral were better) Anyway it is pretty late by the time we leave so we decide to head to the Island of Galveston & splurge out on dinner (our last chance in Texas). The waterfront is pretty touristy with even a pier amusement park. By the time we finish dinner it is late, so we cross over to Bolivar Island on the ferry in the dark & head straight to the beach where we can camp (free of course). In the morning we can see that it isn’t such a pretty beach – but can watch all the huge ships heading in to port.
On the road again. This time passing lots of interesting real estate. Heaps of houses built up high on stilts – probably the new building code after Katrina. Then back inland and on in to Louisiana. We are heading in to bayou country. Think hot and steamy. First stop is the old city of Lafayette. It is pretty tired and dead, but has some gorgeous old buildings. We even try out some freshly made boudin (hot spicy sausage.) A bit hot for John. Decide to follow the back roads, and what a great decision. There is town after town of old villages full of glorious old homes & heaps of plantation estates – magnificent stuff. All the trees are draped in Spanish moss. It is awesome.
It is also getting late so we scan our maps and decide to head towards a bayou. We luck out when we find the lovely Bayou Gauche and are told we can camp at the boat ramp. There is no room anywhere else as there are little cottages that have spread over to the waterside of the road with their own jetties or beach shacks. We are relieved to find room at the boat ramp. Boy but it is a hot steamy night. (the temperature) And those bugs! This is one place we will not be staying another night!