Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cooling off in Laredo

Site 308 Lake Casa Blanca International State Park campground

We are at the Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, in Laredo, Texas (map). We're only a few feet from where we stayed three years ago, when last we were here.

Frankly, neither one of us had recollected staying here in Laredo as we were rolling in to town, and when I suggested to Louise that we should spend a night or two at a park with power and water available (our fresh tank was empty, and our fuel level is bordering on too low to run the generator) before crossing the border, she turned this option up in her vast array of guidebooks.

We rolled in, paid for two nights, and trundled the mile or so down to the campground, thinking in blissful ignorance that it was all new to us. It wasn't until the last few feet before our assigned space that I recognized the very campsite we had occupied back then, and it all started to come back. I think Louise did not believe me, but the blog doesn't lie. Or, as we're fond of saying around here, we drink to forget; we blog to remember.

As I've said here before, one of our dirty little secrets is that the map links and location descriptions here in the blog are as much or more for our own reference as they are for our readers. Think of it almost as a ship's log. We've gone back many times to remind ourselves about places we either did or did not like enough to revisit. In this case, we just didn't think about it hard enough before heading down here to go back and check the blog about our first visit.

Unlike the last time we came through, when we were on a more limited schedule and were itching to move on towards Big Bend, this time we decided to spend at least two nights here, and yesterday we took the scooters out to explore this enormous park. We were a little surprised, honestly, at how run down it is.

For example, there are two huge swimming pool and bathhouse complexes in the park, but both are defunct. One was closed so long ago that the pool itself has since been filled in with earth, and the bathhouse serves as the shower facilities for the campgrounds. The other pool is still intact, but clearly has not been used for many years (the 2002-dated map we were handed on the way in lists it as "not in use").

Likewise, there are hundreds if not thousands of day-use parking spaces here, on acres and acres of parking lots. I counted over a dozen distinct day-use areas. But the parking lots are literally disintegrating, with the macadam slowly turning back into pea gravel. Several of the interesting day-use pavilions are similarly crumbling -- one building appeared to have a tree growing up through its middle.

By contrast, the campgrounds appear to be routinely maintained. Most sites have new-looking steel ramadas, lantern hooks, fire rings, and the like, and the water and power hookups are in excellent condition.

It's a shame to see such an extensive and well-designed facility deteriorating like this. We can't help but wonder if the more restrictive border policies post-9/11 have contributed to the decline, as they have to so many businesses and facilities along the Rio Grande.

It's been nice having full power for the air conditioning here in the heat and humidity, and we've already taken advantage of our water spigot to tank up on both fresh and drinking water. The air conditioners also drowned out the noise from the nearby racetrack last night, which was hosting an event with loud music, louder car engines, and louder still P.A. announcements. Tomorrow we will cross the border at the big-rig crossing west of here, which will bypass most of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, and head northwest on Mexico 2 in search of fuel.

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