After 15 blogs about our life adventures down in Texas, it is so hard to sit here and summarize this amazing trip. There are so many great stories and life experiences that were had over the last 3.5 months, how does one just say “we did this and now we are done“. Neither of us had great expectations, but everything about Texas blew our minds for so many reasons. Throughout the duration of our travels we took notes about “things”, so here are our random notes…enjoy its a long read!
Things we noticed:
- Majority of the rivers we saw (maybe it was because it wasn’t rainy season) were milkshake brown or green – Guadalupe River was the first that wasn’t mucky that you could actually see through. We were glad that we live near the Canadian mountains for clear and clean running rivers!
- Highway signs… OMG so many (mostly we love signs!) In some areas there are hurricane symbols and signs on the road, which were unique to us Canadians! There are signs on highways for everything you can think of including a sign to obey the signs because “its the law”.
- Apparently a “mullet” is called a Texas waterfall
- So much garbage – in ditches, on highway shoulders and generally everywhere. Garbage included so much styrofoam, plastic shopping bags, glass bottles, aluminum cans and A LOT of blown out tires, broken glass and debris. We determined if we had a breakdown on the highway, the last place we would want to stop is on the shoulder or ditch due to excessive debris/glass/tires/metal pieces just laying in the shoulders. As time wore on, the worse place for garbage was the city of Laredo and on highways mostly along the Rio Grand. Eventually we saw garbage crews out – maybe it was timing / winter that there was more, but I would be embarrassed (as a Canadian) if my state / province had that much.
- Lack of recycling of anything – everything goes in the garbage – plastic, Styrofoam, glass, everything. I think at one state park we saw a small barrel at the exit for aluminum recycling, but other than that one bin, we never say anything else related to recycling; I guess hence the garbage in the ditches
- Firewood is very expensive also its VERY hard wood like oak, elm and hickory e.g 4-foot stack of 2 pieces is $25. Maybe because there is so much mesquite used for BBQ restaurants it makes all other hardwood also expensive? Not sure.
- All towns are called cities – we couldn’t figure this out, even if there were 100 people in the town, its still called a city.
- To save on our wifi plan, did ALL our Netflix/Prime video downloading at the libraries. Highly recommend this – libraries have a superfast net
- For the longest time through travels, it seemed like rural areas weren’t really “rural” – they were small pieces of land (<2 acres) with houses/trailers, stacked one after another kind of linking all the small towns together, outside of the cities. When we made it through more central Texas (between Laredo and Amarillo – not sure it this is considered central or not) we started to see large ranches (beef, sheep and goat – so many sheep and goat ranches).
- We also assumed that the majority of cattle in Texas were longhorns and we would see them everywhere but definitely not the case. Didn’t see a lot for cattle ranches until we headed to Amarillo area (at the end of the trip). Didn’t see many longhorns (outside of Dallas/Ft Worth) until we got to Amarillo area.
- The bible belt is beyond visible here – every major public event starts with a prayer, billboards throughout the entire state about faith, church, the Bible and God, the quantity of churches in this state is >800 (and i think we saw them all!). The state parks do not allow public consumption of alcohol (basically your drink needs to be in a Koozie), so the kids can’t see it and I don’t think we heard anyone publicly swear (as previously mentioned, we tamed our trucker mouths!).
- Texas slang: along with the general “y’all” when you’re finished paying for goods at restaurant, grocery store or other shop “I appreciate you” or “I appreciate your business”. Always get a “thanks for coming in or thanks for stopping by” even if you don’t buy anything. When passing someone on a pathway or sidewalk or anywhere “how y’all doin’?”
- Along with Amber alerts, they also have Silver Alerts in Texas – compromised elderly that are lost and these get posted on the Interstate highway electronic signs. We also had a “Clear” alert once – that is for abducted adults (comes on phone and on interstate highways)
- There are dry counties, wet counties and moist counties – moist is that they sell beer and wine but NOT hard alcohol. Some liquor stores aren’t even open on Sunday (plan ahead!)
- Birds are so loud – different types than we are used too, so many red cardinals everywhere! (this would have been helpful in grade 5 when I had to write a report on red cardinals.)
- The majority of deer we saw were very small; they look like babies. In parts of Texas (west of San Antonio) there were so many small dead ones on the highways, we lost count in a 10 mile stretch there were at least 11 and they just leave the carcass on the road/ditch. It wasn’t until we got to the canyons near Amarillo that the deer were slightly larger in size.
Things about driving, roads and vehicles:
- For the most part, drivers know how to drive if not, they get run over/pushed off (especially on freeways and interstates.). Highway speeds are always between 65 – 80 MPH. Driving through small cities is even 60 MPH (which is crazy, as in Canada the speeds are always reduced down to 50 km)
- There are no red-light cameras in Texas, so everyone runs red lights and its crazy how long the light is red and people run it. Every time we were stopped at a red and it turned green for us, we hesitated off the go because of the red-light runners that might T-bone us!
- Texting and driving is allowed almost everywhere; we constantly saw people texting. The only time texting and driving isn’t allowed is in a school zone or construction zone. (I guess the only people that are important are kids and construction workers?) We were touring for at least 3 months before we saw somewhere that texting wasn’t allowed (city of Sonora).
- Never seen so many Ford Trucks. EVER.
- A few times we saw truck tire rims with LED colored lights on inside of the rims (green, white or blue)
- Also saw some gold tire rims
- Everyone had a deer guard (maybe linked to small dead dears in the ditches…)
- Trucks with the worst tires (bare bandaids, tire jewelry (with 12” sparkley things sticking out from the hubcap), jacked trucks (basically anything to do with making a truck look stupid or ugly)
- U-turns at all major interstate and intersections were a left lane to a left lane. U-turns are allowed almost everywhere too. (if you are from Calgary – imagine the Glenmore U-turn at Chinook – this the concept everywhere, but they are way more functional and better made) I love a U-Turn, since Canada seems to hate them!
- Rural roads are called FM roads (ex FM3109 is farm to market road 3109). After the war, Roosevelt was putting people back to work by paving all the gravel farm roads so that farmers could get their product from “farm to market”. Some are called CO road (I assume country road). (In Canada we have Range roads and Township roads.)
Videos of things i didn’t previously post:
- Fire starter – YouTube
- Port Arthur – YouTube
- The Sage – YouTube
- Texas Rangers – YouTube
- Speedy and the Turtles – YouTube
- Our next purchase – YouTube
- Javelina’s at the campsite – YouTube
Other things we did, heard or saw:
- We went to the drive-in one night because we could. Neither of us had been to a drive-in since the late 80’s. It was cool out that night, so turning the car heat on also automatically turned on the daytime running lights (its an old car and they can’t be turned off). Thankfully we had an extra blanket, so we popped the hood, tucked the blanket in to cover the lights!
- Did a plantation tour near Brazoria, TX (this plantation eventually ended up in the famous Hogg family)
- Camped next to a family that brought a chicken coop and chickens out camping (why I didn’t take a picture of this, is beyond me!)
- Had some of the BEST Mexican food at a truck-stop at the Houston harbour
- Road our bikes through a Tunnel party in Houston
- Toured open houses in San Antonio just to see what they were worth (we told them we were wanting something small), and this company sells houses as small as 350 sq ft. I love the diversity of housing options in Texas. This company sold each house as you see it in the show home (no changes allowed) but it includes the lot, fencing, and grass – basically ALL in. A 750 sq ft house was $166, 000 check them out here: https://discover.lennar.com/l/sanlen-matterport-im
- At the Toby Keith concert (at the San Antonio Stock show) he told this story: his childhood hero was Clint Eastwood and 6 years ago, Clint invited him to his own golf tournament. They spent 2 days straight together driving around on golf cart where basically Toby interviewed Clint the entire time. At the end the weekend, Toby asked him what is he doing next week? Clint says, its my 88 birthday and I’m going to go shoot a movie called The Mule. Toby asked him, how do you keep doing this/working? He says “I get up everyday, do something productive and try my best not to let the old man in”. Toby went home, wrote a song and sent it to Clint for his birthday. A few weeks later, Clint sent Toby a video of his song in the movie and said every time you get up on stage and sing that song, you better play my video of it in the movie! So he did.
- While in the Rio Grand area, we found the immigrant “camp” where they house Mexican illegal immigrants until they figure out what to do with them. Part of Biden’s lack of immigration policy – located in Zapata – and there is another in Del Rio (we didn’t go there though).
- Went to top-golf more than once, I would like this in Canada – can someone make this happen?
- We sold Speedy (our fishing boat in Port Aransas), we decided she was a pain in the ass.
- Two convenience store chains with the oddest names:
- Toot’n Totum
- Kum and Go (i will leave this here…..)
Things we counted:
- Average # of times we ate out per week: started at 1, then after Feb we stopped eating out when we discovered Brisket by the lb at grocery or restaurants to make our own tacos.
- Total # of km we walked: 123 km / 76.43 miles
- Total # of km of bike riding: 558.7 km / 347 miles
- Total miles in Ruby: 8638.6 km / 5200 miles
- Total touring miles in Trixie (the Tracker): 9500 km / 5900 miles
- # of state parks: 12
- # of boondocking locations: 17
- # of days we were gone: 110
Things we wont miss:
- garbage in the ditches (basically all garbage everywhere)
- not recycling anything
- dogs barking in the front yard when you go for a bike ride / walk (everywhere along the Rio Grand / Laredo area)
- sweeping sand out of the bus twice a day
- the wind (next trip we have to find out where there are no windmills and go there!)
Places we missed (for various reasons):
- Lubbock, Midland and Odessa
- Big Bend National Park
- El Paso
- Best beach camping: hands down Port Aransas – beyond expectations with beach camping. Its best to be here off season to take advantage of the 6-day stay on the beach. The social aspect of the beach is also amazing – everyone wants to stop by and chat. You can play your music as loud as you want. The beach camping is over 18 km long, so there is no shortage of places to camp. You’re on a beach, hello!!!!
- Favourite grocery store: HEB – think Superstore combined with Sunterra market combined with Whole foods, then add everything Texas (like BBQ, fresh made corn and flour tortillas, the BEST freshly made corn chips, so many types of queso, etc) I miss this store and the smell of the store and the people of this store ….
- Favourite pedestrian friendly area: South Padre Island – so many miles of dedicated walk and bike lanes, super ped friendly
- Favourite State Park: Palo Duro Canyon – so much biking and hiking, scenery is amazing
- Favourite liquor store: we loved Goody Goody Liquor (2nd runner up) but then we discovered Total Wine and More – about 50,000 sq feet store with at least 2000 types of beer, they sorted wine by type instead of country (which is waaaaayyy better), there is just so much ….
- Favourite food: BBQ brisket…duh
- Favourite drink: Todd loved the variety of IPA beers and great selection of Cali wines. I loved that they had my Redbridge GF beer, new whiteclaw flavours (strawberry, pineapple and blackberry), and that they sorted wine according to type (not country). Todd has once again mastered the Margarita – we may have had one or two or three 60’s of tequila…(which is less than what we had in Baja, so that sounds good right?)
- Favourite thing about Texas: the people – their kindness, the way they treat strangers like family, the way they live with hearts on their sleeve and will drop anything in a second to help anyone
Overall, we loved everything about Texas and were surprised in so many ways! Thanks for having us, we appreciate the hospitality! Would we do it all over again? In a heartbeat, but we might do it in reverse…