Boquillas, Mexico

Ever since the boys found out they could go to Mexico, they have made a big countdown. Initially there was some disappointment as we arrived on a Monday, and the Port of Entry was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We had to wait until today, Wednesday, to make our trek there. First though, we were going to take a dip in the natural hot springs that was on the way. (All of this was still inside Big Bend National Park) We had to go off-roading for about 2 miles before we came to a sign with a turnaround that said NO RV’s, trailers or trucks with duallys. Soon we found out why. We were on a quick but scary ½ mile drive that was pretty much the width of Jesse’s truck. On one side, it was a sharp craggy rock wall that I was worried would scrape the truck the whole time, and on the other side was an immediate drop off. No railing, no shoulder, just a drop off. The road winded around corner after corner as well. I’m pretty sure none of us were breathing! BUT in true Tischer fashion, Jesse knew exactly what he was doing and did fantastic! Go Jesse!

From the parking lot, we had about a ¼ mile hike to get to the hot springs. We passed a couple of ancient buildings, houses and stores. All with a limestone wall backdrop on one side, and the reeds protecting the Rio Grande on the other. It was pretty neat when we finally reached the hot springs! It’s just right there on the bank, the boys jumped into the Rio Grande and then hopped back into the hot spring. The base of the hot springs was a fine sandy bottom, and though they said the temp was about 105 degrees, it was very easy for all of us to be in it, and it felt good on our hiking legs from long hikes the day before. The outside temp was at least 75 as well, dry and well, for January 31, perfect!

At the Port of Entry, there were two Park Rangers happy to see the kids and who wanted to describe to us what we’d be encountering in Mexico. No bringing back rocks, vegetation or skulls/bones among other things. But Mexican candy would be ok (all Andy has been talking about!) We walked about a ¼ mile to the river, and waved the row boat over. The boys were told they could actually walk across if they wanted, it would be very shallow, even though it was wide. But we all wanted the row boat experience!

On the other side, we went right over where the burros were, excited to ride those into town. Everybody did great hopping on and with the ride trotting the ¾ mile into town. Our burro guide was also our guide for the day and he took us to the Mexican immigration office, to the restaurant, and for a little tour of the town. The food was amazing, but the “best margarita in Mexico” was so good I had 2! We bought a couple of souvenirs, I noticed that they do all their sewing by hand. There were many solar panels in the town and we were told that many of them were given in part by the UN. We also saw where their little school, church and clinic were. After inquiring about Mexican candy (we still hadn’t found any!) we were told to go to the blue house at the end of the curve. That’s where the kids hit the jackpot and found what they wanted. They both really like tamarind flavored candy!

Back at our camper, I cooked up a big bowl of chili. Terlingua, which was very close to us, is known for their World Chili Championships. I purchased some local chili seasonings and made the best pot of chili we’ve ever had. Woody also did a ton of science experiments on the picnic table outside of our camper. He has been learning a lot about erosion, and he had a lot of prime examples to see in Big Bend National Park. This was a great way to road-school with the boys!

Going to Mexico.

Today (January 31) we started the day off with a bath in the hot springs right by the Rio Grande. When I dipped my head into the cold water of the Rio Grande, I immediately hopped right out and into the hot spring. It felt like pins and needles. Here’s a link to a video of it:

We wanted to go to Mexico and so we drove to the Boquillas crossing. We then went to the border protection on the USA side. We took a boat across the river and after that we rode burros to the Boquillas village. My burro was a pretty one with white fur. For lunch we went to the Boquillas restaurant, one of the two restaurants in Boquilla. The menu was cheese enchiladas, tamales, and goat tacos. I got the enchiladas, my brother got the tamales, and my parents got the tacos. The enchiladas were the best I have ever had because of the sauce. I also made a video there: make sure to check my other ones out too.

Today was probably the best day I have had this year. (WT)

Chihuahua Desert to Chisos Mountains

Big Bend National Park is a remote and beautiful place to visit. The solitude becomes more and more apparent as you head down the highway from Alpine, TX and the vast and open highway leads to what appears to be no where! Our campsite is currently in the village of Terlingua. Terlingua appears to be home to drifters, raft guides and folks who don’t have much concern about the physical appearance of their homes or selves. Right next to our camper (in what appears to be a dirt parking lot) lies an old cemetery–shallow graves with rocks over the top and wood carved grave markers. A sign of respect, but also a sign of making due with what you’ve got.

If I were a betting guy, they are here because you can gaze out during the day and see some great views; mountains, desert and nature. At night, the stars as as clear as anything I’ve ever seen. The ghost town shanties allow for quick and easy access to something else!

Today we had a great adventure hiking the “Window Trail” and, after a little convincing, we also did part of the “Lost Mine Trail”. The views were well worth the work. Our MREs were sure tasty while looking out over the park! Those things sure taste a lot better when eaten while famished and with a view.

Our hike today was exactly why we were so excited to set off on this adventure with the boys. The abundant beauty our country has to offer along with the priceless time alone on the trail. Tomorrow brings travel to Mexico via a row boat and burro!

Big Bend National Park

We finally made it to this amazing place, though I thought we never would with Jesse constantly pulling over to take another picture of the beautiful terrain we were driving into! We seem to be the only ones on the newly paved road, it was a total trek to get here and we know now that they mean it when they say to get gas any chance you can. With a big F250 pulling a 35′ trailer we rolled into one town with 10 miles to spare! Yikes! Gunner went to a kennel for a couple days. Unfortunately, most Nat’l Parks are not very dog friendly, so this was the best thing for him.

We’re staying in an “RV park” in Study Butte, just outside the park. It’s more like 4 campers parking in some dudes hobby farm parking lot, but that also seems to be the norm for the sparsely populated area were in.

Our first actual official stop was the Big Bend National Park sign. That’s a must for Jesse! We drove to Santa Elena Canyon, right where the Rio Grande is. On the US side, it was flat-ish up to the river, but on the Mexico side, were tall towering 1500′ rock walls for miles! We were giggling in awe of how amazing God’s works are. These are exactly the spaces we are happy about the government protecting!

We took a quick 2 mile hike into the canyon to see a different bend in it. The water was so smooth, reflecting the canyon until a solo kayaker came through with their paddle and made ripples. Someone on the trail told us that the echoes sounded cool, so you could guess what we were doing for the next 20 min!

The Rio Grande isn’t all that big which was surprising to us. Of course, the boys thought it would be cool to swim over to the Mexican side and swim back. A park volunteer said they would have no problem swimming over, but if they tried swimming back, border patrol would come take them to an overnight stay in the klinker! Ok no thanks! We may have a chance to head to Mexico legally later this week though.

We found ourselves back at the camper with a bit of daylight left, so we thought we’d check out what was “in town” which is more like what’s spread across the desert highway. There was a sign for Terlingua Ghost Town that we followed, and it was here that we saw our first real signs of life believe it or not! The Starlight Theater, now a burger joint, was hopping! We later found out that it was locals night and that’s why there was so many gathered! While waiting for our table, we did a quick walking tour of the ghost town. Seems it was a mining community until the 1930’s that had about a population of 2000, now only about 20! Also, the purplish hazy sunset reflection on the mountains was dreamlike! Live music, Texas beer, prickly pear cactus soda pop(we saw lots of pp cactus today!) and a prickly pear margarita and a burger bigger then my head was on the menu; we were so happy we stumbled in after a great day in the park! (MT)

Fredericksburg, TX

Today we made a stop in Fredericksburg on our way to Big Bend National Park. In Fredericksburg we stopped at The National Museum of The Pacific War. It had a museum all about Admiral Nimitz and his family because Fredericksburg is his hometown.

There were many parts to the museum but we started at the biggest museum-like part first. It started out with information on many factors that led to war. Then, they had exhibits on almost everything that happened during the war. My favorite ones were the ones on the fight for the Aleutian Islands and the OSS officers that parachuted behind enemy lines in China to liberate POW camps.

After we were done there, we went to another museum building all about Nimitz and his career, including the time when he was court-martialed. After we were done there, we went to the Pacific Combat Zone. There, we saw a TBM torpedo bomber just like the one George H. W. Bush flew and a PT boat just like the one John F. Kennedy commanded. After that, we saw the combat zone which was a replica battlefield that was made to look like one of the islands during the war. Here, reenactments are carried out almost every month of the year for people to see.

(((Maureen here. While the boys found yet another amazing military museum, I found out Fredericksburg is nestled in the hill country with over 40 wineries! There were tons of cute stores downtown just next to the museum, so I took a “me day”, said goodbye to the boys, shopped, and even did a wine tasting while they were at the museum. Nobody missed me at all believe it or not!)

We also saw Lyndon B Johnson’s “Texas White House”. It is where he was born, lived, died and is buried. It was cool to see the runway they built adjacent to the house when he was senator, and it currently has on display “Air Force 1 1/2”, a JetStar that could land him on the shorter runway. We even saw the president’s grandson flying his helicopter around. We also got to see someone skydiving, landing just 100 feet from us in a field. I thought that was especially cool because going skydiving is definitely towards the top of my bucket list, so is being the President.(AT)

College Station, TX

Today we ventured to College Station, Texas, home of the Aggies to visit the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. At the library we learned all about Bush’s life. When he was a young pilot in the Navy, his TBM crashed after taking enemy anti-aircraft fire. He was the only one who survived bailing out in the water and he was stranded for a few hours. During that time, a few Japanese boats were trying to get to him but another plane was able to turn them away. Eventually, a US submarine emerged from the water to rescue him.

When he returned home from the war, he met his future wife and married her soon after. Later, he ran for senate and ended up serving in many political positions including CIA Director and Ambassador to China. During his race to presidency he was at the bottom but when Ronald Reagan won he made Bush his Vice President. After Reagan left the Whitehouse, Bush ran for the presidency and won.

Throughout his life he wanted to parachute again, this time for fun. He has been skydiving many times with the Army Black Knights skydiving team, most recently four years ago for his 90th birthday!

For lunch we went to Hullabaloo, a diner that was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives.” My dad and I had the Redneck Philly which was a Philly cheese steak with 1/2 of a pound of beef and bacon. My mom and my brother had the green chili burger which was a burger inside of 2 tortillas and smothered in green chili sauce. It was a great day trip in Texas.(AT)

The Capital of Texas

Today I started the day off with a good run with Gunner by rip-stick, he likes to pull me up and down the road. He gets good exercise and it makes him happy. When we got to Austin the first thing we did was the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The library was awesome. There was even an animatronic LBJ. It was right next to the University of Texas football stadium. The stadium could hold 110,000 people, it was HUGE!

Then we went to the other side of campus onto “the drag” and had some hot dogs at “Frank”, a DDD (Diners, Drive ins, and Dives). I have been doing research on where interesting DDD’s are and saw it out of the corner of my eye. I shouted at my dad to stop(we were looking for a quick lunch) and I think it was a good pick to eat. We then went to the Texas state capitol building. The rotunda is huge. The Senate and House of Representatives was just like the United States capital building.

Later we picked up a family friend, Tim Martin, from Fargo that was in Austin for work. For supper we went to Saltlick BBQ which was the best barbecue place I have ever been to. It was a couple of miles out of town, in the middle of nowhere. They had a huge smoker pit full of meat. The sausage was my favorite.

We have been going to a public library near our “house” to do our homework. It’s a good place to have a school working atmosphere, and they’ve let us check out books and movies. There have been a lot of movies filmed in the town that we are staying including Hope Floats, The Tree of Life, and Bernie. We watched Bernie, and realized that we sat in the exact same spot as Jack Black when he was having BBQ in the movie. That was pretty cool, and a neat memory of being in a small town in Texas. (WT)

Remember the Alamo!

Having a home base in Texas now, we took a day trip to San Antonio. Jesse and I had been here already, but it had been 17+ years. I wanted the kids to see the river walk and the Alamo, and Jesse wanted to take us to a medical museum at Fort Sam Houston, which happened to be where he did his AIT to be a Medic for the Army National Guard.

After researching and calling ahead last week to see if we could get on base as civilians and learning that we just have to check in at the visitors center, we were ready to do just that. And yes, last week they told us what days/hours they’d be open and today was one of them! We got a little lost on base looking for the museum, but that was just a little bit of fun exploring. After parking and walking to the museum front doors, we were approached by an employee telling us that because of the government shutdown, they were closed. Argh! Jesse and I were kicking ourselves, of course we should’ve known that! Jesse was so incredibly bummed not only because he wanted to see what the museum had, I know he really wanted to show the boys everything too. There were a couple of outdoor exhibits we could see through the fence (helicopters, trucks, an a medical train car!) and one good looking statue in front that would have to suffice for now. Tonight it looks like the government is reopen so I’m chalking it up to bad luck.

With tummies rumbling, we parked downtown and walked to El Mercado, an indoor/outdoor marketplace. It wasn’t very hopping at noon on a Monday but we found some tasty tacos at Viva Villa!

San Antonio is such an easy city to walk, and before you know it we were at the Alamo. I liked seeing the boy’s genuine reactions to it, perhaps a little underwhelmed until walking up to it and then marveling at how old and important it is. The only problem was that we couldn’t find the basement!

We had a sunny day and the temp was about 68 degrees for the river walk boat tour. The kids were very impressed at how beautiful everything was and how close to falling in you could be at any moment. Luckily we all stayed dry.

There is a National Park trail to see more Missions in SA, and we drove that to see 2 more. We weren’t allowed to go into them because of the government shutdown, but we could see them from the car/parking lot. 2 other ones had the roads to them closed so no luck with that.

We ended the night at a BBQ joint in middle-of-nowhere Lockhart, the “BBQ Capital of Texas”. It was everything and more. But I think we’ll have to do more experimenting with BBQ joints this week! We just don’t need to eat anything tomorrow.

Warm Texas thoughts go back to those at home who had a snow day today!

NAS Pensacola

Today we went to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola and it was a blast! It was probably the biggest air museum I have ever been to. My favorite plane was the OV-10 Bronco because of its range of uses. I thought it was super cool to see a captured Mig-15 because I have read a lot about that plane and its story . I could go on about every single aircraft in there, but I think my day would be better shown with pictures. (A.T.)

The Beautiful Beach

Today (Tuesday) we started the day off with a haircut that my mom gave me outside of our camper. I think it looks amazing. After that we played a game of shuffleboard before my Pappy Ron and Nana Marilee left. They had followed us here on a trip of their own. Me and Pappy were on a team and my dad and Nana were on a team. The final score was 75-73, my Pappy and I lost. Then they had to leave. It was already 11:00 by the time they left, so we went back to our camper and got ready to go to the beach.

We went to Rosemary Beach and almost no one was there. It was beautiful and it had white sand with an amazing view of the Gulf of Mexico. When we got to the beach we started playing catch with a football. My brother and I went swimming next. The water was FREEZING but I really wanted to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. I started making a little pool and canals from the ocean to it. I had Gunner help me dig and I think he had a lot of fun. Gunner also ran around hunting little birds. By near sundown, it was almost time to go but we got a little more football catch in.

On the way home we stopped at a cafe named Donut Hole with one of the 10 best key lime pies in Florida. My brother and dad got key lime pie, I got donut holes, and we shared all of our food with my mom because she did not get anything. We ended the day off with some warm New England clam chowder and garlic bread at our camper. (WT)