Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iron Horse

For Texans, my reporting about our travels may be boring but for those not familiar with traveling in Texas, you may read a few interesting things.  I wrote all of what's below last week but did not get it posted.   We have now completed our week in San Antonio so my next segment will be after  we leave here on March 11th.  I have some pictures to post about this part also as soon as we are in a location where I have sufficient internet.
We left Alice, TX right after Sunday morning service on March 3rd and arrived in San Antonio, TX about 3:30 p.m.   Ron didn’t think we had time to eat lunch with the preacher and his wife.  Ron does not drive the speed limit with the RV pulling a car so it takes us longer than it would just to drive a car.  We had to park, unhook the car, and be at a church on the west side of the city by 5:30 p.m.   Instead of going to Chili’s for lunch, we split the small loaf of banana nut bread given to visitors that morning at the congregation in Alice.  Our lunch consisted of some nuts, banana nut bread and juice.   Usually, we only eat a granola bar when traveling through lunch so the banana nut bread was a treat. 
It was desolate country driving from Alice with miles and miles without towns or people.  As we drove through George West (yes, that’s a town), it looked like a western movie could have been made there.  Along the road, I saw a for-sale sign offering 2000 acres for sale.   I heard that a ranch in Texas must have a minimum of 100 acres to be called a “ranch”.  Otherwise, it’s just a farm.  We see gates along the roadway identifying ranches with a winding road back into the landscape with nothing to see from the road.  Perhaps, they have a mansion like “Southfork” from the TV show Dallas somewhere but we cannot see it from the road.  Even with a house like that, you could not give it to me.   I need to be closer to some neighbor or at least to a Wal-Mart!    Most of the land we saw yesterday was not farm land and did not look like it had ever been cleared (at least not along the roadside).  

We saw a billboard advertising a Wildlife Safari (it said “African Safari, Texas Style” but I have no idea what they mean.   We have not so much as seen an armadillo (even dead on the roadway).  We do suspect that there are thousands of rattlesnakes in the wild areas.  It’s so dry that nothing grows but scrub trees and cactus.
Oil has been discovered in stretches along this highway so we saw many new oil wells pumping away.  A convoy of trucks and digging equipment on vehicles passed us and turned off heading to a new location.  It made me think of a story about a man that lived on desolate land in Texas and has experienced drought for a number of years and got so fed up that he sold his land cheap and moved to California.  Within a short time, the new owner discovered oil on the property and became a millionaire.  Sometimes, we think the grass is greener somewhere else when we are sitting on a goldmine and do not realize it.

We passed a big oil refinery along the way that is owned by Valero (many Valero gas stations exist in Texas but their gas is never cheap).   At night, the refineries are beautiful with so many lights it looks like a huge city many miles away.    The oil industry keeps many people employed in Texas and we see “Hiring” or “Help Wanted” signs in many cities.    The State of Texas actually has a surplus of money so there’s little poverty in Texas except for the illegal immigrants that do not have jobs and many of them are unskilled.   We see large orange and grapefruit groves in these southern cities so I know there is one area many of them can work.
Between McAllen and Alice, we crossed a border check.  It’s probably 50 miles or more inland from the valley cities but it is at a point where roads from many of those areas would meet before reaching this check point.  I looked at the map and expected us to find a check point at that location.   They looked at our driver’s licenses, asked if only two people were aboard and then waved us on through.  Another RV just ahead of us went through easily but the car right in front of us was inspected by a dog, and then pulled over to the side for a thorough search. 

The preacher in Alice told us they have a sign up at this checkpoint listing the number of illegal immigrants they have caught at this check point and it is over 5,000.  They also list the weight of drugs confiscated.  I don’t know what period of time their totals cover. 
Last week, we heard on the news that they found a small house in Brownsville with 90 illegal immigrants inside.  Some of them had been there over a week.  They had enough food brought to them but there was not even sitting room for all of them.  I think someone in the neighborhood tipped off the police.  This is common in the valley cities.  How so many get across the border, I don’t know.  I suspect we have the same problem as China – bribe some border patrol officers and they turn a blind eye and let them through.  There are smugglers that professionally get them across at certain points and help them get inland.  Many mix in with relatives in these cities and stay but others are caught. 

When we arrived in San Antonio, we parked our RV at Iron Horse RV so we can get the RV serviced while we are in San Antonio.  Ron thinks Iron Horse is the best service we have found - dependable and thorough.  They are expensive at $125 per hour for labor.  An RV service man makes as much as some professionals but he gets much of his experience with on-the-job training.  The workers here do seem to know what they are doing and we trust them.  They have a good reputation and a good business.
Iron Horse is a great name because that’s what I’d like to call this vehicle.   Ron saw in the lobby that there are estimated to be 20 million RV’s in America.   I guessed 1 million and thought that was a high figure.  But, they always have quite a few RV’s lined up for service every time we have arrived at Iron Horse.  Some of these RV’s are worth as much as $300,000 (some are almost new) but with anything mechanical, there will always be things that need servicing or repair.  They may look luxurious inside but I can assure you that the lifestyle is anything buy luxurious.   I’d take Holiday Inn for trips any day if we did not have to travel full-time and be in so many cities.   

We connected to one of their power outlets yesterday afternoon with RV’s parked on both sides of us awaiting service.  We save a little money on the parking but not enough to pay for the things they have to do.  We can’t connect to internet here.  They gave us the code for their wireless.  Ron was able to connect but I never could get my computer to connect.  For a short time, I connected to Lowe’s customer service wireless but after I lost that connection, I could not get it again.  I’ve worked on things off-line all day today.
The RV’s on each side of us have blocked our TV signal as well.   We do not take satellite TV because it’s just too expensive and it’s still a lot of trouble.  We see people trying to set up their satellite dishes in front of their RV and tinker with it for hours to get it set right.  Ron claims to hate TV so I won’t put him through that just for me to have TV.   He watches news and some programs on PBS but complains about a lot of stuff.  I agree that there are some horrible sitcoms and other stuff, but I don’t watch them anyway.   Like anything else, you can select the good things and leave off the bad.  Usually, with the antennae on top of the RV, we are able to pick up three or four networks in big cities and maybe one or two in smaller cities.   If I can get a major network and a few programs, it’s enough.  We work all day and have only a short time for TV at night.   In the Rio Grande Valley most all the channels are in Spanish.   If I can get one English station, it’s lucky.

Today, it was 85 degrees.  I think we had a low of about 40 this morning and it will be 40 again tonight.  About 4 a.m. in the morning, a cold front is coming in (no rain expected) with strong winds with gusts up to 40-50 mph.  It will be in the 60’s tomorrow.  These drastic temperatures change like this almost weekly in these southern parts of Texas.
We had a good time meeting some new folks last night and look forward to three other congregational meetings while we are in San Antonio.   Dr. Fred and Peggy Massey always have dinner with us when we come through here.  We will meet them Thursday night at a restaurant.  Ron wants to talk to Dr. Massey about the new hospital in China and get his idea about equipment and tools we will need.  We have three Chinese sponsors from one of Lily’s visits to San Antonio with a heart patient last year.  Ron is going to meet one of them for lunch tomorrow.  They have been very helpful when we bring children from China for surgery at Christa Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio.  Some of these families have served as host families for the poor children.  We know other people who live in San Antonio but may not have time to see everyone.

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