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Winnie-Stowell City Park, Texas

This morning dawned chilly with clear blue skies. The massive lawns here at Winnie-Stowell City Park are shining emerald green with diamond-dewdrops that soak my feet and flip-flops and pants bottoms on the long early morning hike over to the bathroom.

What a relief the cool air brought after we’d soaked our way through several days of blistering hundred-four-degree heat. At night we hung our sweat-soaked shirts and pants on the overhead net shelf in our tent, and by morning they were just as damp as when we took them off.

I see some product reviews in my near future for our Ex Officio shirts and Patagonia Rockguide pants. They are absolutely living up to our expectations of them. We’ve worn them four straight days now, they still don’t stink, and it’s actually okay pulling them on wet in the morning.

The city park is very lightly used, especially considering the huge expanse of lawns, parking, children’s playground, electrical and water hookup for trailers and campers, horse training facilities, and outdoor theater. It’s well maintained on the basics. Though toilet paper is provided in the bathrooms, there are no trashcans, no paper towels or air dryers for your hands, and the cubicles have no doors. There are no mirrors nor even stainless steel mirrors.

It’s the kind of place where the guys who daily open and lock the bathrooms do a cursory cleaning, but the whole place can be hosed down easily.

The bathrooms across the long trek of lawn from our site (if we need the bathroom from eight p.m. to eight a.m.), have stainless steel, no-lid commodes and a stainless steel wash sink. It’s a cement block structure with a metal roof facing east and west with no shade, so afternoon heat here in Texas brings the interior temperature up to impressive levels. The building has only a grated gate, left open and unlocked. The stalls have no doors, so hopefully the user has no privacy issues.

Our campsite is on a large cement slab under a metal pavilion. Oak trees shade the pavilion on three sides throughout the day. There are no squirrels here and we’re astonished by how bug free it is. We’ve only had a few ants, a few jumping spiders, and a few mosquitoes.

Our tent under the pavilion at the Winnie-Stowell Park

Of course the lack of mosquitoes may be attributable to the massive aerial spraying we got Thursday, our first night here. A small plane dropping mosquito spray crisscrossed the skies above us only a plane length apart on each run. By the third pass we could smell the chemical saturation and we had three more passes to our south after that.

I’m figuring that it’s okay, as it was only about eight-thirty at night and the park still had a sizeable number of equestrians and horses out, but I’d sure prefer to at least be inside and not be sprayed directly.
Healthy for us or not, it sure killed the mosquito population, leaving our lives far, far easier.

We’ve spent the time productively, as always. I dream of the time I can tell you, hey, we did nothing today but hang out. It was wonderful!

That isn’t an option quite yet as our plans changed so radically almost overnight. We‘d planned a car trip to Houston for our visas, then we’d continue on down to Brownsville to catch a bus to Lagos de Moreno where we’d hibernate and write for six months. Within a matter of two days our plans changed. We are now starting in Winnie, Texas, thirty miles or so from the Louisiana border, and riding our bikes to Brownsville.

The riding part is fine, but other parts aren’t so great. The heat is still very high, making riding extremely uncomfortable, if not downright dangerous by mid-day. We’ve already had more than our share of heat exhaustion experiences and aren’t interested in any more.

We’ve also been carrying a good-sized box with us holding thirty-five pounds of paperwork for the books I’m writing. Since February we’ve planned on getting some place to write, and even though we’ve made great progress, we still need four to six months of virtual hibernation.

In addition to the heat and paperwork distractions, we have several other projects that require a comfortable place to sit and type for many hours a day, so we’re carrying extra weight for those, and won’t be able to do them easily on the road.

We’ve also not had an opportunity yet to finalize our downsizing and get our packing system set up, though we’ve gotten much, much further.

So here we are, in a difficult situation, trying to figure it all out quickly. There’s nothing quite like having a-lot-of-what-you-don’t-want to focus the attention quickly and to facilitate decision-making.

I’m happy to report that we have been very successful. We have gone through everything with another fine tooth comb, and tackled the remaining let’s-decide-about-these bags. Yesterday morning we were debating the best way to move on a number of things when we’re strangers in a new town, staying at the city park.

To our great luck, a local guy, Paul, chatted us up on Thursday evening as he watched me set up our tent. I should tell you now that camping is not usual here. We attract a reasonable amount of stares, but everyone is polite and it’s very quiet. This guy came back yesterday while Chelsea was gone on an emergency run to the grocery store.

I explained our situation and told him what we had on offer, from pants, slippers, never-worn women’s ballet-style shoes, a folding keyboard, and a beautiful like-new hoodie sweatshirt, to binders and paper protectors and an old laptop. He’s taking it all, including the ice chest and chairs JoAnn left with us.

He was so thrilled with his gains that he disappeared for a short while and came back with a big bag of ice for our temporary cooler. We were thrilled. He gets our Hero of the Day for that!

Chelsea is over at another pavilion around the corner from our site. She’s got my old laptop plugged in and is making sure that all the data and programs are off my hard drive. She’s then clearing our Toshiba portable hard drive as it’s still funky despite a big improvement a month or so ago.

She managed to cook us some ramen noodles, too, with me ferrying over the supplies and stove.

After spending some time packing and organizing, I’m now getting used to using Chelsea’s laptop. I’ve already taken the SD card from the Nikon, downloaded all the photos, and culled and captioned an album in Picasa. Now I’m writing a travel journal. I’ve got to do all the same things I usually do so I can figure out if I can use Chelsea’s laptop easily.

I’ve had my laptop for over eight years and it has never failed me. It just keeps running, like the Energizer bunny. Letting it go only to share a laptop with Chelsea is traumatizing. But when we looked at the amount of bulk and weight my laptop has, it began looking less and less attractive to keep it.

It’s only got a bitty hard dive and minuscule memory. It can only run Windows XP which is no longer supported. It runs very slowly. It can’t handle new programs. It’s thick and weighs about five pounds. The power cord is bulky and heavy. I need a separate keyboard.

When we added everything up, realizing how much space and weight we’d save, we opted for a fond farewell for my laptop.

So cutting to the chase, Chelsea and I are headed off to the post office tomorrow morning to mail the box of paperwork back. We sorted and threw out what we could to lighten the weight. We’ll hand over our final giveaway items to our new park buddy.

After the post office we are on the road to the beach at High Island. It’s only about twenty miles, a reasonable length to get us moving and short enough to begin getting in shape to carry so much weight on our bikes. We’ll also get a chance to figure out how to strap on our portage bags effectively – that’s our biggest concern as we finish today.

So wish us luck. We are headed off into the mostly unknown, and as we know, it’ll be full of adventures. If nothing else we’ll be thrilled to get a shower in Galveston and launder our clothing. After all, it will have been only seven days since our last shower and hair wash!

A little postscript: our buddy Paul didn’t show up for the last round of giveaways, so we headed over to talk to two Mexican men we’d seen every day, just hangin’ out. They were thrilled with the giveaways, divvying things up between them.

The best part was that nearly the entire conversation was in Spanish! Okay, it was a bit slow and halting, but we got the points across and we got great compliments from the men on our Spanish. Mexico, here we come!

Signing off from Winnie-Stowell City Park, Texas.

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