Say 'yes' if it isn't illegal

I swam across the Rio Grande River to within yards of Mexican soil at Big Bend National Park in Texas, but I almost didn’t take the plunge.

My husband Tom and I hiked to the hot springs on the most southern side of the park, which is bordered by the Rio Grande, and we slid into the remains of a health spa with several other hikers. J.O. Langford built a bathhouse resort upon this hot spring in 1909 to soothe the pain from malaria and other illnesses. Long past its former glory, the hot spring is now an algae-filled, stone and rock constructed “tub,” sized about 20 feet by 20 feet, which is built into the river bank.

Reluctant and a little fearful to get in the river – there was a visibly swift current and, well, the river water was much colder than that of the hot spring – I built up my nerve as the other spring-soakers (including my lounging husband) encouraged me to jump in. It was cold but exhilarating. Mexico was only a tantalizing 30-yard swim away, a distance I could eclipse with ease. I thought about actually touching the bank so that I could say I had been to Mexico, but rumor in the hot tub was that such an action would constitute an illegal border crossing. Border security is serious business in southern Texas, for which there is no dispensation given to traveling newspaper publishers.

I scurried out of the cold river water and slid back into the hot spring. As I relaxed and listened to the travel stories of the other bathers – most retired, several young newlyweds, two foreign couples, a motorcycle duo who didn’t want to be referred to as bikers, and a pair escaping the record sub-zero temperatures of Wisconsin – I contemplated getting older. As I progress deeper into my 50s, I feel time slipping away and I want to experience as much as I can.

Similar to my initial reluctance to jump into the Rio Grande River, I remembered other instances where I turned down an experience because of fear, fatigue, laziness, or the dreaded, “What will people think?” What life adventures or experiences have I missed out on because of my own self-imposed limitations?

I hiked out of the hot springs with a new life motto, “Say ‘yes’ if it isn’t illegal.” I’m not advocating irresponsibility. Well, maybe just a little. I’m promoting it to myself to encourage adventure. I’m advocating living life to its fullest. Kind of cliché, but once you hit 50 (or perhaps sooner or later), you might embrace the cliché, too.

We spent four days exploring Big Bend National Park. My impression is that this under-visited national park located on the Mexico-Texas border, on the Rio Grande River and in the Chihuahuan Desert, is a jewel. In accordance with the motto, we pushed ourselves to learn the history of the area and to explore the desert, mountains, river, and canyon trails that this unique landscape has to offer.

“Dispatches from the RV” documents the traveling adventures of Daniel Island News Publisher Suzanne Detar and her husband, Tom Werner, who are currently exploring the country in a motorhome. Last fall, they hit the road to take in an inner loop of the USA, and this year they are focusing on an outer loop, including America’s national parks and all the concurrent and surprising sites along the way.

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