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Hello all. For those of you who "know" me, you know I have been scouring the internet trying to find out where I wanted to retire to in Texas. Initially, I started out thinking Canyon Lake and then ventured west, to Camp Wood. At the time that I flew out, early morning 11/3, I still had no idea where I would settle. I figured I would know it when I saw it. Here is a report of my travels and findings:
Well, I arrived at San Antonio airport at 2:50pm, rented my car and proceeded to my resort...San Antonio to Canyon Lake, mind you...a 27 minute drive. I didn't understand the road signs. I didn't know what FM 46 meant. I'm thinking "Does that mean 46 miles per hour?" Duh. All I wanted to do was to take 281N and get onto 306, which would have taken me where I needed to go. That didn't happen. After traveling 281 for quite a while, I thought I missed my 306 turnoff, which I didn't. I turned around and headed back. Not finding 306, I stopped in a couple of places and asked how to get to Canyon Lake. "Oh, just go down the road and make a turn at the second light." So I go down the road and twenty minutes later, I'm still looking for the second light. Thought I passed it up somehow...turned back around. This went on and on. What should have been a 27 minute drive, took me four hours. It got dark out and I didn't have a clue. Called the resort and the directions they gave didn't get me there, either. At night, those country roads are so dark. Deer jump out of everywhere. All of this and I was lost. I FINALLY make it to the resort and check in. I have a full kitchen, so I need food. I ask the girl where the nearest grocery store is. I get directions. Well, what should have taken me 6 minutes, took me over three hours. For some reason, I was making the wrong turns. Then I would drive FOREVER on dark, lonely roads. Finally, I would find a place I could turn around...of which there were few, and then go back to the resort. I would get back there, get mad and set out again to find that store. When I finally found it, I could not believe how close it was and how far I was driving. The entire evening was so traumatizing to me. I wondered just what I was doing there. Female and alone.
I purchased a street map at the grocery store, the night before and mapped out my route for the next day. I had my atlas with me, too. That street map was a godsend. Lost no more. The first place I wanted to visit was Camp Wood. Prior to flying in, I had made a touring appointment with an agent. The property was 23.84 acres. I left at 8:33am and arrived after 11, I think. I had no idea it was so far out, until the day I left to fly in to Texas. On my route, I passed through some really nice lands, though I couldn't tell you exactly where I was...but they had nice hills. Part of the route I took included I 10, FM 41, 377, 55, etc. When I got to the smaller, country roads, it was scary. This time I was seeing them in the daylight, but I was in the middle of nowhere for very, very long periods of time. These are narrow roads with no place to turn around. No hint of society or anything. The thing I absolutely hated the most were the signs that I approached..."Warning- watch for water over bridge". Well, I am scared to death of water, because I can't swim. I like looking at it, for peacefulness. I don't mind standing it thigh deep...but that's it. Whenever I would see the warning sign, I would be praying, "Please don't let the bridge be under water." I was just scared to death. I wouldn't have had a way to turn around and I have no idea what I would have done, because I would have been too afraid to cross over. There were tons of those signs on my journey. I learned that Texas is FULL of rivers, lakes, streams and creeks. Anyway, I passed through Rocksprings and didn't like it at all. Continued on and drove through some large mountains. This was on a cloudy dark, rainy, drizzly day and that made them scary looking. I guess it was because I was on the road alone, as well. Where were all of the people???? Got to my destination in Camp Wood. I was dissapointed. I was expecting a quaint little charming town and I saw a little town that has potential, but has not been kept up...has no zoning laws. I took a look at the land and I liked it, but the agent told me the owner probably was not going to budge on the price, which I thought was odd because all land prices have room for negotiation built in. There was also a piece of commercial property right next to it that I was going to take as well, but when I heard that, I figured I wasn't going to make the purchase. I really enjoyed the tour, though, and the agent and her husband were very nice. I liked them right off. See page two...
I left Camp Wood and continued on my journey. Drove through 337, which was really nice. Got to Leakey and really liked the town. Nice, quiet, small, clean and open. I stopped in the realtor's office. I had sent an email that I would be there; however, when I arrived, the receptionist told me the agents had a late showing and had just gone to lunch. This was just after one. I waited for a while but decided to leave, stating I would return during the week. I had a long ways to go yet. Took 83 south through to Rio Frio, Concan, to Uvalde. That was a nice drive. Really nice areas. Everything so isolated though. People have to drive far, far away just to get to a grocery store. I arrived in Uvalde. I wasn't impressed at all, though I was really happy to see people, cars and stores. Took Hwy 90 into Knippa, Sabinal and Hondo. Not impressed at all. Decided to head back as it was getting dark. Yep...ended up on those dark narrow roads all over again. Didn't like it. Went to my place and mapped out my route for the next day.
The day before, I had wanted to get down into Del Rio, as I didn't want to have to make that long drive again...but time didn't allow it, so I had to start all over again. This time I started out crossing 473E on my way over to 10. What a lovely, scenic drive. Still cloudy and drizzly, but beautiful. Those darn creek warning signs again...but I got through it. Sisterdale is a nice little country town. Well, I continued on. I won't go into details of the little towns I passed, but my destination was Del Rio. Got to Del Rio. It is a scruffy town, but I found some nice homes in some nice areas. Decided it wasn't for me and continued on my journey, down FM277. Sun starts coming out and I'm really enjoying my drive...now use to the country roads. Somewhere along the line I have to go through a border check point. I pull up to the stop sign and sit. Agent motions for me to roll down my window. I do. He says, "Why didn't you roll your window down til I told you to?" I look at him and tell him that I didn't know I was suppose to. "I'm not from around here." He says, "Yeah, I see you have Florida plates." I open my big mouth and say, "Well, I'm from California, actually. This is a rented car." He asked me what I was doing in Texas. I told him I was driving the cities looking for retirement land...wrong answer. I start getting the third degree..."You born in the United States?" "Yes." Where in California do you live? Where are you staying in Texas? You going back to the resort TONIGHT? (I was so far away from it)...on and on. I had to produce my rental agreement for the car. Thank goodness I had it. They searched my trunk. Geeze. Finally let me go. Anyway, I continue on and take FM131 up thorugh Spofford and Bracketville. Those were nice areas. Cut over to 90W and back through Uvalde...again. Cut over to 187 up through Utopia and Vanderpool, which was a really nice drive. Take 337W through Medina, which town I did not like at all. The 337 drive was most beautiful, though. Got lots of pics as I drove. I then cut over to 16 south into Bandera and Pipe Creek. Bandera looks like a town right out of the westerns. I really liked the town, but I don't think I would want to live there. Pipe Creek was just okay. Nothing, so far, that would make me want to settle. It's dark once again and I'm stuck on these dark roads, trying to get back to my place. I'm telling myself that I can't keep doing this. So far I've nearly wiped out 6 deer and have been lucky enough not to crash the rental car. I'll tell you this, if you plan to drive a rental car through Texas, be sure to get the libility insurance for the extra $12/day. All I could think of, was "I should have gotten that insurance." I didn't get it because I figure I had my own...but it has a $500 deductible. It is easier just to get the liablility coverage, when you rent the car, and not have to worry about running over deer and denting the car or having a flooded bridge carry you down the creek or river. One deer ran out in front of me and stopped in the middle of the street. I put on my brakes, it looked and me and then took off. I get my camera and I'm driving along side it snapping photos of it running. I get back to my place, exhausted. Took a shower and then route out my journey for the next day. The next days plan would still take me far out, but closer than the previous two days.
On my way to numerous cities. I'm heading west on 306 and pass by the subdivision I was saving for last. I passed by it yesterday, too. Well, I think..."I'll just take a drive through. I've got a half hour to spare and I'm not traveling so far out, today." I drive into the subdivision and...wham! This was the place I had been searching for though my previous days journeys. It was down the street. This was the place I was saving to visit last and it was right there. I drive all through and actually see a two worded street name that has the second word the same as the street I live on now. Fate? Anyway, I like what I see. Beautiful homes being built that would cost one and two million dollars if built in California. Some of them even more. Everything open and clean and peaceful. I go over to the office and the agent remembered me from my numerous emails. We set out to look for land and guess what? I find my acreage on the street that had the same second name as my present street. Nearly five acres, with, believe it or not, a natural creek that runs through it. How lucky can I get? Now I can put up my own warning sign. Hah! I reserved the lot and got loan approval. So, folks...I found my property. I didn't have to come home sad and empty handed, which is what I thought was going to happen. I was able to spend the next days relaxing and revisiting the property and taking photos. It is full of trees and thick brush. I went back alone and took my hiking boots to try to get through it. The agent and I didn't go through the whole thing. I busted though a lot of it, the next day, but not all the way. Came out a little scratched up. I kept thinking about our conversations on this board about snakes and bugs and scorpions...not to mention bears, which I saw a dead one on the side of the road. I think a car hit it. This was when I was far out on my journey. Anyway, as I stepped over fallen trees, I kept thinking, "Snake, don't you come out of there." It was a nice trek through the forest. My own piece of land. I enjoyed it. It's a wonderful feeling.
Fate again? Driving back through the subdivision and saw a home that said "model home". I thought it was one that a contractor had build and put furniture it it and up for sale. I had seen "model" home signs on quite a few homes but for some reason, I needed to stop at this one. I see a man toward the rear and I ask him if this was a model home that I could I just walk into. He said yes. I go to open the door and it's locked. He then comes from the rear interior and opens it. I'm looking in the house and it's beautiful. Come to find out it is his own private residence. I told him I didn't know that this was his own home. I thought it was a model for sale. He told me that it was and that he had built it himself. Said his wife wanted to have a home on the lakefront, so they are building another home on the lakefront. He goes on to tell me how he does all of his own framing, etc. I hadn't told him that I bought land there. I'm looking at his house and seeing all of this beautiful stone in the interior...JUST WHAT I WANTED. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Even the colors of the enterior were MY colors. He went on to tell me that he builds some of the homes in the subdivision and only builds 5 or 6 per year. He then showed me these gorgeous decorative ceilings. I don't know what you call them but they are like elevated in some areas of the ceiling with crown molding around the elevated indented section of it. He told me that he hates flat ceilings, so when he builds a house, he puts those in and doesn't even charge extra to do it. He told me his wife loves to help him with the houses and she picks out the floring and the counters and does the faux painting. He says she doesn't even charge for it. She works with the property owner because she loves doing it. She has absolutely great artistic abilities and taste. I couldn't believe all of this. He told me that he also clears land but that the doesn't do it as a business. He states he just loves doing this stuff and he clears the land for some of the owners in the subdivision but doesn't charge them much because he lives there. I then told him I had bought some acreage and would love to use his services. He asked me who sold me my lot and I told him. He told me he had built the agent's house. I figured if the agent used him, he must be pretty good. So, I found my land, my homebuilder and my land clearer in two days. I think it was just meant for me to have that property. I believe in fate.
Weather: I loved it. It's November and I could go out at night in sleeveless clothing. When I left, yesterday, it was 90 degrees. Came back to California and it was 52. Today is cold and drizzly and Texas is sunny and warm. I miss Texas already. I really did not want to leave and was sad to make the journey home. Oh...NO MOSQUITOS. I asked the agent about that because I had not seen even one. He said they don't have a mosquito problem around there. My two biggest concerns, aside from the property taxes, were mosquitos and heat. I'll tell ya...for the beautiful, mild winters there, I would have no problem putting up with a few months of intense heat. There's always air conditioning. The rest of the warm months are well worth it. The first night I was there, I could hear thunder in my sleep and it sounded so good. You rarely hear thunder in California. All in all, I just loved Texas. The only thing I didn't find were the greatly friendly people. They didn't seem any different there than they are here.
Thanks, Neddy. It will be a while before I can start building the house. I have to retire first, and that won't be for a while, yet. I'll probably have the land cleared next year and then sit on it for a while. It's located in Spring Branch. I said "Hi" to Y'all when I passed through SA. Something I noticed...where have all the southern drawls gone? I only heard a few deep ones and some that were oh so mild and then others that just weren't there. I love that southern drawl. Don't want it to disappear. Have you noticed anything like that?
Oh, oh. Didn't know there were seasons. I thought they bred and came out as long as the weather was warm. We barely have them where I live, but when you do see them, they are HUGE and can be around any time of the year, if the weather is nice.
Talking about big-- All along my journeys I saw lots of dead deer in the road...just all over the place, where someone had hit them. Broke my heart. Sometimes I would just see huge spots of blood where you could see that the deer had been hit, but the body was gone. I'm assuming that whoever hit it, carted it off??? Anyway, I was on this narrow country road and I see all of these huge, huge "crows" in the middle of the street. I'm thinking, "Dang, I thought California crows were huge." Ours are about 2-3 times the size of the ones in the Midwest. Anyway, as I got closer, the "crows" looked at me, teed that I was disturbing their lunch. They were in the middle of the road munching on a deer that had been wiped out. There must have been 25 of them. They got out of my way, but as I passed, I saw that the "crows" were actually hawks or buzzards or something. Huge birds. I also got the chance to see wild turkeys just mozying along. I had a great journey. Scary at times, but great.
You see a lot of road kills, especially this time of year when deer season opens up. If at all possible, do not hit a skunk, or run over a dead skunk as it will definitely leave a bad smell (also, close your air vents before the smell gets inside your car!).
Here is a picture of the Turkey Buzzard (vulture family):
Spring Branch is a fantastic place. You picked a good one. That entire area of Bulverde/Canyon Lake/Spring Branch is great.
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