About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Texas: South Padre Island

Saturday, August 27th Leaving my wonderful cousin Drea and her boyfriend Jeremy in San Antonio (after a quick stop to see the "World's Largest Pair of Cowboy Boots" at the North Star Mall), I headed to South Padre Island, "the Southernmost Tropical tip of Texas," stopping for an oyster picnic lunch at the awesome Kenedy County Rest Stop (complete with beautiful bathroom murals, lol!), south of Kingsville on highway 77 (the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail), on the way. 

I was totally reminded of Wildwood Crest, NJ as I entered beautiful South Padre Island, and I won't soon forget the terrible car accident I witnessed that flipped a boat and totalled a suburban, at the intersection at KOA, as I tried to find the Visitor's Center!  I couldn't stay and give a report to the police, because I was actually looking down at the point of impact, but quickly looked up when I heard the loud BOOM!  

At the Visitor's Center was a big, stunningly beautiful sand castle I couldn't help but stand and admire, before getting some area info and maps from the attendant at the front counter.  The next hour was was spent enjoying a drive up and down the main drag and having a nice chat with my mom over the phone.

Now THAT'S A Sand Castle!

Then I got a wonderful text from Kat, a couchsurfer who was kind enough to let me stay at her place!  I met her at her home, and she introduced me to her boyfriend Chris, and the 3 of us got acquainted as they finished baking their cakes for the pool party they took me to downstairs.  There was music, floaty rafts, beer and cake - I had a BLAST.  

Then we had a ball eating yummy shrimp quesadillas, singing karaoke and chatting at Jake's Bar & Grill.  I sang Baby Got Back and then Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy with Kat, which really got the crowd going (she's a natural performer with wonderful stage presence).  And Chris even sang Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA!"  Before we left I met Joe, a friendly/horny guy who came to our table and struck up a conversation with me, lol.  Kat & Chris and I took a cab home, and I had a master bedroom suite all to myself! 

Okay, If You Look REAL Close You Can See Fang Marks, lol

Oh, and I did I mention I got bitten by Kat's California King Snake?  Yep, I had the blood and fang marks to prove it (I think it was accidentally startled when Kat picked it up from me).  And I got along great with Waffles the kitten (who really grew to love me and follow me around), Kitty (grown cat), Stella (Chris' dog) and even Zuli - Kat's very protective and somewhat aggressive dog.

Sunday, August 28th 

I woke up around 8am, chatted with Chris and Kat a little before she went to work, then Chris took me paddleboarding for the first time!  It was great; we paddled to the Birding & Nature Center, saw big crabs, mullets jumping clear out of the water (as high as 2 feet!), snowy egrets, blue herons and pelicans up pretty close!  If only I had brought my camera!  On the way back, their friend Bill met us out on the water and the 3 of us went back to his place for a dip in his beautiful deck pool.  

One of Many Bright, Funky Buildings

Then Chris took me to Sea Turtle Inc whose wonderful 3-part mission is to "Rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles, Educate the public, and Assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species."  I saw several endangered sea turtles there for protection, treatment and recovery from humans' carelessness (missing limbs and cracked shells from boat propeller's, snagged fishing line, eating balloons, and other crap that people throw into the ocean with total disregard for equally important marine life).  I fed romaine lettuce to Jerry the sea turtle, saw the little one-year olds (only the size of my hand!) and attended Kat's presentation (about Sea Turtle Inc's mission, general info about sea turtles and what humans can do to prevent further harm to them) before Chris took me back to Kat's so I could grab a bite to eat and do some laundry.  While at Sea Turtle Inc, Kat asked me to stay through Tuesday to go with her and a friend to Mexico for a day!  Heck yes!

One of Many Turtles Rescued Turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc

Then I went to Schlitterbahn's Outdoor Water Park for some fun in the sun with Joe from last night and his friends Tom and Regina (but we had fun calling her Ragina, haha - it was only in jest).  The lazy Rio River was fantastic, but the best part of the park was not ever having to get out of the water while waiting for the chutes and slides, because they're all connected to the river, and there were no lines!!!  And they have a pool-side bar that we made good use of, lol.  Afterward, the four of us went to Daddy's Seafood & Cajun Kitchen for some really good seafood!  I had crawfish and regular fish and rice and fries and bacon wrapped shrimp - lots of leftovers :)

Then I met Kat and Chris back at their place and we watched a little South Park before bed.

Schlitterbahn Water Park!

Monday, August 29th
This morning I went with Kat to run errands and have ID tracker chips put in the dogs in Harlingen, about an hour or so away.  We stopped at Bob'z World to take a couple pictures with all the crazy fiberglass sea statues.  We didn't go in and support their business though (and never will), because they actually sell endangered sea shells!!!  Would you go to Alaska and buy a stuffed Polar Bear cub?  I would hope not.  Then Kat took me to the original, 130-ton
Iwo Jima Memorial statue at the Marine Military Academy.  It was used for the plaster model of the famous bronze sculpture in Washington, DC 

Before heading back, we stopped so I could get a highly-recommended "Q" burrito from the popular "Stripes" store (like a 7-Eleven and partnered with Valero Gas Stations; common in the region).  It's a heaven-stuffed, warm tortilla filled with eggs, cheese, potato and beans - YUM.  Upon arriving back at Kat's on South Padre Island, we started watching Jurassic Park (it never tires, heh heh), then Kat went to a meeting at work, while I went went to the beach and collected seashells (it's legal here if they're uninhabited :) and blogged a little bit at McDonald's.  After Kat and Chris were back from work we watched the rest of Jurassic Park.  "Dennis, our lives are in your hands, and you have butterfingers?!"  =)

Iwo Jima Memorial

Tuesday, August 30th
This morning I went with Kat and a c0-worker of hers to Mexico for a day, woo-hoo!  I had never been there before, and it was only about an hour away, so of course I said, heck yes!  We parked in a little lot on the U.S. side for only $2, deposited 25 cents in the turnstyle, and just like that we crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande into Nuevo Progreso (or just Progreso as most call it).  

"As soon as visitors cross the border, they know why Texans flock to the shops in Progreso. The scene is exactly as Hollywood might have drawn it up. The dusty streets are highlighted by a variety of brightly colored buildings that line a long stretch of Avenida Benito Juarez, the main street that bustles all day with shoppers and Mexican hawkers of all ages and selling styles. Dentists and pharmacies occupy many of the storefronts: Winter Texans living the cheap life in South Texas like to cross for affordable procedures and highly discounted drugs.  Shoppers cruise the sidewalks with a cold beer in hand while Mexican children offer shoe shines and wind chimes, young men sell pirated DVDs, women stand at the front of their salons offering haircuts and the infamous hair braiding, while the older men sell everything in between, including jewelry, glassware, lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) masks." 

Supposed to be Running Errands, lol

Kat and I each got our teeth cleaned at Mustre Dental Clinic (it's only $20!), then the 3 of us went to "Jessica's" for lunch.  After everyone was nearly done with their food, my order of mixed seafood finally came, which holds the record as the blandest seafood I've ever had in my life (apart from the delicious complimentary chips & salsa). I felt so bad, because Kat's friend was treating me (because I drove), but I just couldn't eat it, and the service was horrible (only for me - our male server treated my friends like royalty; I wonder why...heh heh).  According to Kat's friend, the place had really taken a dive.  So word to the wise - eat elsewhere :)  The atmosphere was lively and festive though, and I didn't let our server or food sour the experience.  There was a guy playing live music on the keyboards and singing, and people started dancing - our server danced with Kat!  We had a great time.

First Ever Meal in Mexico!

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon walking down the busy, dusty street, poking our heads into several of the stores - Kat especially loved all the souvenir shops, and she tried on colorful sundresses - she bought a beautiful yellow, orange and purple one, picked out by yours truly (and she managed to negotiate the price down a little).  A couple of the souvenir shops were HUGE, and by the time we done in Progreso, Kat and I were carrying several bags, a big, mock terra-cotta planter in the shape of a turtle, two bottles of beer, and I bought myself a cowboy hat for $9 :)

The Quiet Side of Town - Progreso, Mexico

As we neared the bridge to the U.S., we came upon a very friendly, malnourished mixed-breed dog, all skin and bones, with no family.  Kat asked the Mexican army officers about it, and they said it showed up a couple of days ago.  They chuckled as Kat immediately returned with a couple of tacos and a bottle of water to feed it.  It took him a couple of moments, then he began to scarf it down.  She asked the officers if it would be impossible to take it across the border, without papers or anything, and they said she could certainly try.  Kat asked what we should name him, and I replied with "Lucky" because he was lucky that Kat, with her heart of gold and insistence of helping however she can, stumbled upon his path.  Kat agreed, so she named him "Suerte," the Spanish word for "Lucky."  We approached the turn-styles at the entrance to the bridge, we looked around and none of the border officials said anything; they let us pass without a question.  Kat then called Suerte into the inspection building everyone is required to pass through.  Here, the guard asked if Suerte was hers, his name and his sex.  Satisfied, he let us pass, with no further questions or concerns.  And just like that, Suerte hopped into my car, indeed a lucky dog, with a new home and loving family, where he'd be happy and healthy the rest of his days :)

Here's to Good Friends :)

On the way to South Padre Island, Kat's friend mentioned her vet that is open to walk-ins, since Kat has other animals that must be considered, before bringing in Suerte, who might have infections and such.  Well, the kind people at the Veterinarian Center checked him for all sorts of things, of which he had nothing - he was indeed a lucky dog!  He was very well-behaved and just kept smiling and licking us, so happy to share his love with us.  They sent us off with quality dog food for a healthy diet, and some medicine, and we were off!


After dropping Kat's friend off, we gave Suerte the ultimate test - checking how adaptive he'd be to his new surroundings in Kat's home, with two dogs and two cats, all of which had established alpha and non-alpha roles.  Suerte was obviously nervous, tucking his tail in between his legs, and coming over to me and Kat several times to regain comfort-ability, while the other animals curiously sniffed, played and tested.  Surprisingly, he really had no problems, other than minor difficulty with the oldest cat, which would be worked out with time.  Suerte got a bath, which was a fun challenge, lol, as he kept him leaping out at any chance he got.

Home at Last w/ Suerte

I picked up some dinner from Dirty Al's (fantastic blackened catfish!), and we watched Jurassic Park 2, then I said my heartfelt goodbye to Chris, since I wouldn't be seeing him again before I left.  And the next morning was even more difficult, as I said goodbye to Kat's family of sweet pets and Suerte, a dog who does nothing but smile and love, and then to Kat.  It's never easy saying goodbye and I couldn't help but get a little teary eyed and choked up when leaving.  Usually I can at least hold it 'til I get to the car!


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