Making such strides, but still so far behind!
Here’s how we fared in the Southern states along the Gulf Coast.
Texas – 4 days
We drove out of New Mexico and into Texas with plans on staying at some lake in Junction but after getting there we decided it wasn’t what we wanted so we drove around and scoured the net for a free spot. Up until now I had not found the apps and sites that I am using now to find free spots, on this day I was using a TX 4X4 site to no avail. After following a dead-end lead we finally retreated down a random dirt road that led to an off-road road (you know, it’s all grassy but there are two little tire paths that tell you someone has taken a vehicle here before, so why not you!). We drove past cows on our right, woods on our left, pushing down overgrowth which made us feel pretty good about the fact no one had driven down here is quite some time. We drove a couple of miles until we decided we were far enough off the ‘main’ road and we set up for the night, just as the sun and moon were changing shifts.
When the sun came up we awoke with the successful feeling of having camped for free 🙂 I almost get a rush from it! We drove into town and got our oil changed then met with a local 4X4 performance shop about fixing poor Gwen’s sagging butt. Mile by mile she seems to be losing the spring in her step so we knew it was time for some help. We made an appointment to get some heavy-duty, nitro shocks and ordered airbags to be delivered to my parents’ in Florida. Again we headed out to our planned camp and ended up turning away once we saw it. Sometimes plans don’t pan out for a reason, we went to the next camp (Lazy L&L) and it was pure awesomeness! We’ve been really spoiled with great camping as school was still in session, we were warned that this place can get a little rowdy during summer but we found nothing but peacefulness. We set up right on the banks of the Guadalupe River and had an amazing, private view of the cloudy but turquoise water. We went for a walk to check out “Devil’s Playground” where the water gets a little rapid and we knew instantly that we needed to reschedule our truck repairs and spend a day floating down that river! We did exactly that, 4 hours floating down a completely deserted river where we let the sun shine where it normally doesn’t 😉 I’m pretty sure Tom caught skin cancer but miraculously his burn did heal a few weeks later (yes, a few weeks).
Relaxed and tanned we headed back to the city for our shocks. An hour later we were leaving Maximum Altitude with much better support for our heavy load. Next stop, the beach!
It was rumored that Crystal Beach was the place to camp in Galveston so we loaded Gwen onto her first ferry and set sail. After stocking up on beer and rum we drove down the sand until we were all alone on the beach. What a beautiful spot!! The sun was just going down, the temperature was perfect, the drinks were cold, and the gulf was as warm as a fresh bath. We frolicked in the water and happily sipped our rum wondering how we could be so lucky, until the sand flies got the best of us and we started to pack it up. About 5 minutes into it we noticed the flies were increasing, swarming even! We’d never seen anything like it. We put the lantern a few yards away to try to deter them away from us, but when I put the lantern down on the sand it illuminated about a trillion gathering together – we were in some sort of breeding ground, no wonder no one else was here! We hurried and sought shelter in our tent. It felt so good to be cozy and safe from the pests … that is until we realized they were getting in and we were now covered in them once again! We did the only thing we could do, shut the light and went to bed. Well, sleep eluded both of us and we were pestered all night by the biting insects. Tom was up and out of the tent before sunrise. By the time I gave into the sunlight and focused my tired eyes on the roof of the tent I was greeted by a dozen mosquitos and at least 50 sand flies. I freaked out, realizing my sleepless mind games of feeling itchy all night were not my imagination, I went to work smashing the culprits. The first mosquito I squashed exploded blood all over my face and hand, I’d never seen such a sight! After a half hour of pure insanity, the bed sheet was covered in blood and dead bugs. I was in a real foul mood as I felt like our new [very expensive] tent failed us in the most basic of tent functions. If I couldn’t be at home and safe from bugs in my our tent, where could I? I cried to Tom who in his exhausted state didn’t want to hear it, frustrated and sad I went to cry at the edge of the water until the rain came, I laid down and let it cover me, each drop washing away a bit of sadness until my face was so wet I couldn’t tell the difference between my tears and the rain. I washed up in the gulf, changed into fresh clothes, and apologized to Tom for my breakdown. We headed for the first bar we saw and after our second drink we were able to laugh at the flies still flying around our heads.
Louisiana – 2 days
We drove into Sam Houston Jones SP and were greeted by a raccoon who was way too interested in us. I’d never seen a raccoon up close; where I come from if you see a raccoon in the daylight you’d better stay the hell away from it! We pulled up to our site and I was a little nervous to see that we were right on the bayou, I did not want a repeat of last night! We set up and I put new sheets on the bed which made me feel better instantly. Our neighbors came over to invite us for some pit BBQ – it was like they read my mind about wanting a hot meal and a cold beer, neither of which we had ourselves. Donnie and Renee served up some delicious chicken, sausage, beans, and beer; I don’t know who was happier, me for the food or them for the company of these strange wanders. We sat and chatted about everything under the sun, what a great time we had with them! The raccoons kept us busy with their garbage grabbing and the mosquitos were not taking a break either, but with good people like that, you take all the time you can enjoying their company. When it was finally time to retire to our tent I made sure it was sealed up tight and prayed for a good night’s sleep – which I got, slept like a baby! We awoke to Donnie calling us over for coffee and we sat and tied up loose conversations from the night before while sipping on a great cup’a joe (something that has been hard to find!). After some well-needed showers we said goodbye to our new friends (who sent us off with a bag full of BBQ!) and we hit the road to find an Apple store (the iPhone had just stopped charging and wouldn’t turn on). After getting our phone replaced (under warranty, thankfully!) we headed to camp. It was after hours when we pulled into Fontainebleau SP and as soon as the moon shone bright, the raccoons were back. I’ve never seen raccoons like the ones in Louisiana!
In the morning we found a park (Abita?) where Tom cooked up some kick-ass omelets with the sausage from Donnie & Renee. After I did the dishes I was overheated and uncomfortable when I saw the fountains start dancing in the playground next to us. I quickly changed into my bathing suit (Presto!) and ran around like a 5-year-old in the water until I was cooled and refreshed. We drove into New Orleans and walked around the French Quarters then out to the 9th ward to see what we could see from Katrina. We talked with an old man about the flood and he pointed us to the main levy that broke and we stood around trying to imagine the sight back then. It’s amazing how 8 years later it is not hard to see what happened. It’s not like Captiva Island after Charles, there was no rebuilding, just vacant lots.
Once again we abandoned our planned camp and continued on for an unknown ‘nother.
Alabama – 1 day
We drove out to Gulf Shores, Alabama and tried to get in line for the ferry only to discover the last trip was full. What a mess, we had to drive back 40 miles to start our way around to the other side of the peninsula. Luckily we found Felix’s Fish Camp and stopped to have some bomb fish tacos. We got into Gulf Shores SP after 9 and spent a ridiculous amount of money to camp for the night. We discovered the insulated bag that we were using as our booze cooler had leaked all over the back of the truck so we emptied out all of our gear before going to bed. In the morning thankfully everything was dry so we took our mildewy clothing and such to the laundromat where we were told about pretty promising boondocking for the night. We went to Lulu’s for lunch (which I can only recommend their drinks!). We set out to find camp but the place we were told about was a horrible place to camp! We drove around and took some dirt paths that lead to an area out of sight with a path leading to a beach. We sat on the beach for a while (the water was not fit for swimming) and contemplated staying. After the sun started to descend we made our decision to move on. Yet again, we found ourselves sizing up another failure of a campground and made the choice to push on through to Pensacola.