Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas Again!

Jerry had said that he wanted to leave by 8:00 so I got up and attem’ early and by golly we were on the road at 8:08! It was a miracle! Boy, we are on a roll. Up and on our way out of Holiday Park COE at Benbrook by 8:08!

It was an easy drive although some of the highway was a little rough and we did run into road construction which slowed us down a bit. We stopped in Lampasas for gas and pulled up beside an Allegro. As the gas was pumping I chatted with the lady and she told me she was full time and just traveled around Texas due to a heart condition. Apparently her husband had died and she was alone She said someone had advised her to sell her coach after 5 years if she full timed in it and buy a new one. She didn’t listen and this past year had been a repair year. She drove that rig out of the gas station like a pro. I’ve got a lot to learn!

We arrived at 1:00, got checked in quickly and then got set up. Since we had been without septic for three days Jerry went on and emptied all of the tanks so set up took a bit longer than usual.

After a quick lunch we left for a bit a touring. Our first stop was at Becker Wines where they not only make wine but also grow lavender. We were only there a few minutes as we weren’t interested in doing a tasting. Our next stop was a metal design business. We have been looking for a sun to put on the outside of the river house and Jerry was hoping that he might find one there. He didn’t. Actually we have seen one we like in Johnson City but they haven’t been opened either time we went!

img_3871Moving on down the highway we stopped at Wildseed Farms. What a fascinating gift shop full of seeds for many different flowers plus many little items that would make wonderful keepsakes and gifts. They even had a little clothes section and yes, I did see something I liked but no, I didn’t buy it.

Our next stop was at Circle E Candles. After circling the store twice and smelling many different candles we finally decided to get a Eucalyptus. It does smell good.

Interesting building in Fredericksburg
Interesting building in Fredericksburg
We discussed going to Luckenburg but decided to wait to do that tomorrow. We went into Fredericksburg, parked and ambled up and down the streets and in and out of various shops finally ending up at the Candy Store where we finally got some ice cream!

We ended the afternoon by finding the restaurant that we were planning to eat at later tonight and then went on back to the coach for a little rest! Yep, we never made it to the restaurant deciding instead of just have a sandwich for dinner. Maybe tomorrow evening.

Advertisements
Texas

Fort Worth Cattle Drive

img_4709
We got up and out early this morning because we were headed down to the Fort Worth Stockyards to see what would be going on there. On a Monday, not as much was going on as the shows and rodeo were all on the week-end but the cattle drive was still going on, once at 11:30 and again at 4:00. We decided we wanted to watch the 11:00 so we left early not knowing how difficult finding a parking place would be.

As we pulled onto Exchange Street we were greeted by a big banner proclaiming Fort Worth Stockyards and we rode down the brick paved street. We immediately found a public parking lot and pulled in there. No difficult at all to find parking on a Monday but figuring out how to pay for it was a new deal for us. It was $5 for the day (a lot cheaper than the $50 we paid in New Orleans) but we had to insert one dollar bills into a large parking meter. The slots were numbered to match the parking spaces. One by one Jerry inserted 5 bills with the “1” up. I have no idea how they know who paid what as it surely did not look computerized.

The Stockyard
The Stockyard
Our first visit was the Visitor’s Center right across the street. We got a map and some suggestions of what to see and where to have lunch. Since it was nearing 11:30 we didn’t have much time before the drive so we walked across the street to the stockyard where the 19 cattle that would be in the drive were penned. Seventeen of them looked fully grown. In fact the oldest is 18 but there were two young cattle, about 1 ½ years old. Their horns grow 40% their first year and 80% by their fourth year but they keep growing all of their lives.

As we walked down the street before the drive we saw several horses and I chatted with one of the riders. She turned out to be the lead rider who periodically called the cows during the walk. She said they were dressed as they were so they could be as authentic as possible recreating the 1800’s. There were six horseback riders on the drive.

We also saw longhorns along the sidewalk that you could have your picture taken with, beside or atop. For $5 – I was having a bad hair day so not for me and Jerry surely was not going to get on one!

Before the drive began there was a gentleman in the cleared street that acted as the MC and shared a lot of interesting facts about the cattle. In 1928 there was only a small number of longhorns but then the government stepped in (he didn’t explain that) and now there ¾ million. In the early days the cattle drive were 800 miles down the Chisolm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. Jokingly he said that was why they had a walking of the cows, not a running of the bulls!

img_3834Right next door to the Visitor’s Center is the Cowboy Museum of the West so we headed on over there. Upon entering the museum the first display was dedicated to John Justin, creator of the famous Justin boots. Then there were rows of pictures and bios of Hall of Famers. Jerry and I used to watch the rodeos on TV a lot and we recognized some of the names we saw. The museum is also filled with old wagons and buggies plus has a nice display of bits. The question was asked, “why bits” and then you realize the important role that bits have played in controlling horses for years.

Now, that's some fine eating!
Now, that’s some fine eating!
We left on the trail of something good to eat. As we wandered the streets we saw some restaurants recommended by the lady in the Visitor’s Center and we finally narrowed it down to Cattleman’s Steak House and Hummer Brothers or H3 and for some reason Jerry chose H3. We both had a half rack of pork barbequed ribs, French fries and corn on the cob. Not the healthiest meal I’ve ever had but boy was it good. I did leave a few fries on my plate but it was only because I just couldn’t eat anymore because they were delicious. I don’t think they came out of a bag and if they did I surely would like to know the label!

After a delicious lunch we just wandered up and down Exchange Street looking in all of the stores. If you can’t find a Fort Worth t-shirt or a cowboy hat on Exchange Street then you’re aren’t looking. They were in nearly every store. We ended up at the “mall” which is just a strip of small stores. Again we wandered in and out of them and I finally bought a magnet (surprise) and a Christmas gift for next year. Now let’s hope I remember that I bought it and remember where I put it! I finally bought a sweatshirt and then we went on a hunt for a cone of ice cream. There was a little store in the mall that had ice cream but they were cleaning out the freezers plus there was no kind I was interested in. I just like plain old chocolate so we went back on the street in search of ice cream. You can buy wine and beer but there’s no ice cream to be found.

By this time it was nearly 4:00 and time for the second cattle drive of the day so we decided to stay and watch that. Then we started back to the campground but wait – we don’t have an address. We only have coordinates and the Garmin won’t take those coordinates. Guess it’s too old. It took us nearly an hour to get back to the Holiday Park no thanks to Garmin. We used Waze on my phone to get us there. We found out later that there is an address on the map we received upon registration but of course that was in the RV. From what I have seen most state and federal parks plus CO parks use coordinates as their address so guess I need to find an app that will let me input those.

A quiet night – I didn’t even have dinner as I was still full from our scrumptious lunch. As I stated earlier this campground is so very quiet and dark plus no one seems to be out and about. We saw no one!

Texas

Travel Day to Benbrook, Texas

Since we had about 300 miles to drive today we wanted to get an early start – yeah, I know what is early for us? As soon as I got up I open the shades hoping I’d get a last look at some bison but nope, there were none around. We were able to put the car on the dolly at the campsite so that made leaving easier. As we pulled out I saw a group of bison at a water trough at a distance and then a lot of prairie dogs. I think they may be a real problem!

Our drive was very uneventful and for once both the Garmin and the Clarion were on the same page. As we drove along we saw numerous clusters of wind mills and in all of that twirling we actually saw one not turning. Texas has more wind turbines than any other state with over 17,000. We could also see oil rigs pumping, a very different view from our North Carolina travels. We stopped for about 30 minutes while we gassed up both the car and the motor home. Yikes! Also we had our sandwiches in the parking lot.

On to Benbrook where we are staying. We stopped at a Walmart on the way in so we wouldn’t have to leave again. It was the biggest and busiest Walmart we’ve ever been in but check out was quick.

On to the campground, Holiday COE Park. It was easy to find and Clarion sent us straight there. When Jerry went to check in they told him to find a spot and then come back and tell them where we were and then they’d charge us. It is a very large park but initially neither Jerry nor I could understand the map they gave him. We aimed for site 38, never found it and eventually ended up at site 90 which is right on the edge of the lake. The site is 90 feet long! You could put two RV’s there. There are only three other Class A’s around us and I never saw any people except for cyclists and walkers, no one belonging to the coaches.

Like other Corps of Engineer parks it’s located on a lake and offers electric and water and 50 amp at some sites, no septic though. When we checked in they gave us a map with the 50 amp sites marked. Since we won’t be using the AC we really could have stayed in a 30 amp. Using the America the Beautiful pass our charge for two nights was only $28. Pretty good!

img_4695It felt so good to step outside and not be windblown and freezing. Although it’s only about 55 it feels like a heat wave. Jerry saw some deer at a distance so he went outside to photograph them. I walked with him for a while but it was just a bit chilly since I didn’t have a coat on so I went back inside.

Like Caprock Canyons State Park, this campground is quiet and dark! Other than hearing a dog barking in the distance one time I never heard another sound.

Jerry worked on getting the sleep number mattress level and we found out we were doing it backwards. We finally have a comfortable level mattress and it’s almost time to head home!

Texas

Caprock Canyon State Park

Caprock Canyon
Caprock Canyon

Talk about worse for the wear – when I looked at Jerry this morning and looked in the mirror we both looked like we had been run over by a truck, a big truck. Yesterday’s hike, the last part nearly did us in. I asked Jerry how far it was thinking it was about .5 and was stunned when he told me he was more like .1 or .2. Like he said he wasn’t so much a hike as it was an ascent as we climbed nearly straight up. It was by far the hardest, most treacherous, most arduous segment of any hike we’ve taken on this trip but we did it! Don’t count us out yet. We may getting on up there in years but we’re still on the move and as much as we enjoy state and national parks hopefully it won’t end anytime soon.

As we were preparing to leave Amarillo Ranch RV Park and head to Caprock Canyon State Park Jerry was outside emptying the tanks, etc. I was inside putting everything in its traveling place. When I got the damprid from the front of the coach – it was behind the front window shade – there was ice in it! Apparently it got cold enough last night for the moisture from the front window to freeze. Amazing but we slept warm and cozy.

We’re were on the road by 9:30, not in a big rush since we only had 100 miles to go and check-in time was 2:00. As we rode along I was again amazed by how very flat Texas is. I thought Louisiana was flat but it’s flat and low. Texas is just flat and you can see for miles. The road ahead looks like the road that never ends. Until suddenly there is a canyon! Wow, it’s a long way down. Kind of used to “falling rock” signs in North Carolina but riding along and seeing an “earth slide” sign is a bit unnerving. Garmin sent us one way and Clarion sent us another. Jerry elected to go with Clarion – probably not a good decision as we went through several canyon roads. Garmin doesn’t do a very good job in cities, at least for us, but does seem to do better on the open road. In fact, I’m pretty sure Clarion got lost on this trip. She kept telling us to turn right and there was no road right. Some roads would have been difficult for a four wheeler and some of the “roads” even had locked gates. Yep, she was lost. I was just hoping the Garmin wasn’t!

We only went through a few towns but I noticed that they all had big water tanks and not like the water towers at home. You can tell that these are so important to the community and life or death for stock. I never quite grasped the scarcity of water until visiting this great state.

What a fun afternoon. We got to Caprock Canyon State Park right at noon and the office like other Texas parks was closed for lunch from 12:00 – 1:00 so we just stopped in the parking lot and had lunch and waited until 1:00 when we easily checked in. I asked if we would see bison and she said we probably would as they liked the campgrounds. She also suggested that we take the car off of the dolly in the parking lot so as soon as I got back to the coach I told Jerry and he took the car off. He took off in the RV and I followed in the car and by golly, there were bison. I was driving (slowly) and trying to take pictures when I realized that there were two cars behind me. Dang! On I went with only one good picture.

img_1871As soon as we got set up we got in the car and rode around and boy did we see signs of bison and then bison, lots of bison. They wander through the park freely. I had mistakenly told Jerry that we were to stay 50 FEET away from them. Duh, it’s 50 YARDS! No worry, I only saw them from the car and they seem to be quite used to cars. We rode on through the park and saw the walls of the canyon and they are beautiful with vivid colors. We actually spent the afternoon riding through the park and often spotting bison. There were some hikes we could have taken but after yesterday we wisely decided to pass today plus it got too late to start a long hike and they were all at least 4-6 miles.

Jerry checked in the office and found out that there are about 150 bison here now with a capacity of 300. They have a round up each year and if they exceed 300 they are shipped to other parks. Gestation for a bison is 9 ½ months and we saw several little bison. There are few fences but there are cattle guards in strategic places so I guess bison won’t cross a cattle guard either. The only other animal we saw today was a bunny in the yard.

img_4667I saw a sign about braking for prairie dogs and I had never seen one but suddenly there they were, lots of them running around, jumping up on two legs. When they were startled they started burying into the ground. It was amazing just watching them running around.

This is a great park but for some reason it doesn’t get the publicity that Palo Duro does and I can only guess that it’s because it’s kind off of the beaten path. I would surely recommend it to anyone who gets anywhere close to the area.

Also it is so very quiet, not a sound to be heard and the nights are so very dark! I would hate to have to walk outside without some kind of light.

Texas

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon

When you wake up and it is 19 degrees you know it’s going to be a slow start to the day because it’s a bit cold for outdoor activities and that was our plan for the day. Finally a bit after 11:00 we took off for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I had heard so much about it and everything I heard was right on target. It is a beautiful park. Unfortunately, like other state parks in Texas in January they close part of the park for hunting. We were unable to go to the very bottom of the canyon due to that.

We first stopped at the El Coronado Lodge Visitor’s Center where they have a very nice museum and a gift shop. One of the rooms in the museum was dedicated to the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who helped with the construction of the center. In early August 1933 several hundred men began the task of constructing a one and a half mile road from the canyon rim to the floor. While some difficult areas were blasted, the vast majority of the construction was accomplished with hand tools such as picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The astonishing thing is that it took less than six months to give the first vehicle access to the canyon floor. The road is still in use today. After the tour of the museum and buying the ubiquitous magnet we drove through the canyon as far as we could go. Both Jerry and I remarked that the color and formation of the canyon walls reminded us of the Pictured Rocks in Michigan.

It was cold and windy!
It was cold and windy!
A sign in the museum had informed us that it was 40 degrees at the top of the canyon but felt like 34 and 43 at the bottom of the canyon but felt like 36. In fact, we saw ice in the puddles – that’s cold! We were somewhere in between. We found a picnic area and just sat in the car and ate our lunch since it was so cold. As we were approaching the area we saw several mule deer in the woods. There are a lot of deer around and they don’t seem to be very afraid of people. They don’t spook and flee like our deer at home.

After our lunch we decided to go on a hike so off we went to the Lighthouse. It’s nearly 3 miles to the “End of the Trail” (2.7) but of course we scrambled up to the base of the Lighthouse. That was the most difficult and arduous part of the hike. There is no definite trail, just one that apparently people have made through the years. It was pretty dangerous too! A young couple made the hike with us although they reached the top before we did. Once we got to the top the view was incredible and well worth the climb.

We made it to the top!
We made it to the top!
I was a bit worried though about the descent because it was so very treacherous. We slowly made our way back to the “End of the Trail” and then had nearly 3 more miles to go. While we were sitting on a bench at the end suddenly the most beautiful blue bird flew up and then just hopped around on the path and then through the trees. How beautiful is God’s creation?

A steep, treacherous trail
A steep, treacherous trail

I had heard about the beautiful sunset in Palo Duro but we weren’t able to see it because of the canyon walls but the reflection on the walls was beautiful. As we walked back we periodically stopped just to take a look around. So often when we hike we have to look at where we’re walking and we fail to see the beauty all around us so on this trip we have made a conscious effort to be aware of our surroundings.

We drug our tired bodies back to the car and headed “for the house” realizing along the way that we’d have to put the car on the dolly in the dark. Fortunately there was enough light in the park so that Jerry didn’t have any problem. While he did that I went in and got dinner started, Cowboy Casserole leftovers. Boy did that hit the spot. It was warm and filling and Jerry for sure needed that after coming in from putting the car on. He just stood at the sink and ran hot water over his cold hands. Don’t know what the temperature was by then but well below freezing, maybe somewhere around 27. Mighty cold to have to lie on a cold ground.

We ate dinner, washed a load of clothes as we knew we’d be unable to use the washer for the next few days and that was it for the night!

Texas

Trail Ride at Los Cedros Ranch

Since we were had to be at Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West at 1:00 for our trail ride we just hung around the RV this morning. We had lunch before we left on this very cold day. In fact the temperature while I was riding was a cool 37 degrees with a little wind!

We rode out to Los Cedros Ranch and when we got there we missed the turn. I called and the owner told us to where to go – we had just passed it – and that there was a gate there. I asked how we were supposed to get in and she said to open the gate and then ended with “This is the real deal Girl”! We got to the entrance and I got out and opened the gate. This gate was to keep the bulls from getting out! We went down the lane only to discover another gate which I got out and opened. Don’t know what this was keeping in – or out.

Upon arrival we were greeted by two young ladies who were to be our trail leaders today. They couldn’t have been friendlier, more courteous, more caring or more concerned about our safety. After we signed the waivers they took us out to meet our horses. I got lucky because I got Lucky! There was one other person on the ride and she had never ridden before. I mounted first – yep, used the mounting block just like at home – and my stirrups were adjusted. As I mounted and everything was being adjusted Kendra, the cowgirl kept a running commentary on how we should be doing things, e.g. posture, legs, heels, etc. and emphasized safety. She showed us how to keep a light rein on the horse. Riding a quarter horse western style is quite different from what I am used to and the instruction was great. Unlike other trail rides I have been on I had a very comfortable saddle and at the end of two hours could hardly tell I’d been in one. On other trail rides I was a bit uncomfortable after 15 minutes!

This is a real working ranch and the cowgirls are real wranglers. In fact our ride included two chores that they had to accomplish. One was closing another gate on a fenced in area where there were bulls. This ranch is the first in a line of steps to get cattle to the feedlot as this is where the breeding is done.

My wild ride!
My wild ride!
We rode posse style. In other words we rode abreast from each other rather than head to tail and were encouraged to ride where we wanted to as long as we stayed just behind the lead wrangler. Lucky likes to be in the lead but we were able to stay where we should. We rode up to the side of Palo Duro Canyon and what a sight! Can’t wait to get there to hike tomorrow.

It was a cold, cold day but what a fantastic ride. Just before the ride I decided to wear my heavy down coat – good decision so I was never really cold although my hands were a bit and I was not sure my feet would work when I dismounted. Fortunately they did and I didn’t fall on my butt when I got off!

If you are ever in the Amarillo area and want an authentic ranch trail ride with ranch horses be sure to check out Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West. You won’t be sorry!

Our next stop was of course to Walmart where we finally got all of Jerry’s meds. What a fiasco! We left there to go to the iconic Cadillac Ranch. I am so glad it was just a short distance and not a main part of our day. What a disappointment. We saw 10 cars, possibly Cadillacs, upended with spray paint all over them. In fact, there were people painting while we were there. The area was littered with cans of spray paint and other trash. Although it’s supposed to be one of the top things to do in Amarillo I would certainly say miss it if you can!

Back to the coach and another cold night. It’s supposed to get down to 19 degrees tonight but fortunately our propane kicks in and we stay nice and warm. With the heat pad going we don’t have to worry about anything in the coach freezing. I think it’s supposed to start warming up Saturday, the day we are leaving!

Texas

American Quarter Horse Museum

Well, we came south for the winter but obviously not south enough. It was so cold last night that we had to disconnect the water after dinner due to freezing conditions. Although we have a heated hose we were told that the water would freeze at the pipe and if it did there was a $95 charge so we remembered to disconnect! I think it got down to about 23 last night.

Although we’re traveling when the 25th comes around bills at home have to be paid and bank accounts reconciled so I spent a long time working on that this morning delaying our departure until nearly 11:00.

Our first stop – Walmart! We knew that Jerry’s medicine would run out before we get home and were told that we could get them refilled at a local Walmart. We’ve been waiting until we got to Amarillo to do that because we were afraid that it might take some time. We were right! The first time we went to Walmart Jerry gave them all the information and then we left for a while. The second time we went he realized that he had given them an expired insurance card by accident. (When we received our new insurance cards we put them in our wallets but also kept the old ones because it was not January 1st and we might have needed them thus having two.) Once that was settled we left, got some lunch, went back to Walmart only to find out that they were out of the most important medication so we get to go back tomorrow after 2:00 to pick them up. Fortunately Walmart is close to the RV park and the places we visited today.

img_1811Our first stop was the American Quarter Horse Museum. What a nice facility with two floors full of interesting information and memorabilia. We entered the Grand Hall through massive beautiful doors and realized the hall is lined with tributes on both sides listing the members of the ASH Hall of Fame. On the floor in that room is a diagram of the sires beginning when the American Quarter Horse Association began to keep records. You can follow the bloodlines of several horses but there was one that stood out – Traveler. He had no descendants so we began to question that. It turns out that Traveler was traded for another horse and no one knows what his bloodline is but he sired many great horses.

The only way I'll ever get him on a horse!
The only way I’ll ever get him on a horse!
We watched a video in the Kenneth Banks Theater which also housed absolutely stunning original oil paintings by Oklahoma artist Orren Mixer. The video centered on the importance of horses in our lives featuring a young girl and her best friend, her horse. As a previous horse owner I know the connection one feels with your horse and there’s nothing like it.

Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson
Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson
There are several larger than life bronze sculptures outside and at least one horse is interred there. Inside there was one particularly outstanding sculpture of an Early Morning Disagreement by Mehl Lawson. The detail was incredible down to the spurs on the cowboy.

In between Walmart trips we had lunch at Whataburger. I had told Jerry that I had heard of Whataburger but I couldn’t remember if it was really good or really bad but it was one or the other. We decided we’d find out for ourselves since it was located right next to Walmart. The burgers were good and not typical fast food. They were certainly big. In fact I couldn’t even eat all of mine.

Our next trip was to Jack Sizemore RV Traveland Museum. That place is amazing with RV’s from long ago. One RV was one that was used in the filming of the movie RV. It was amazing to watch the progression from pop-ups to small pull behinds, some with bathrooms and some not. Also, Jerry looked at one of the showers and commented that you couldn’t drop the soap in that one because there was no way you could pick it up. When we went back into the store we actually met Jack Sizemore, a very nice gentleman and we had a nice chat with him.

Back to Walmart, then back to the coach for a brief rest before it was time for our chauffeured dinner at Big Texas.

Our ride for the evening
Our ride for the evening
We finished the evening by going to the Big Texan Steakhouse for dinner. We were chauffeured by a horned limo to the restaurant and along the way the driver explained the procedure telling us that it was a very busy place with something going on in every corner. It is indeed quite a production and I guess one every Amarillo visitor should do. As we walked in the blue double doors our senses were assaulted by action everywhere. To the left was the gift shop filled with all kinds of memorabilia. While I was in there a buffalo head on the wall spoke to me. I don’t remember what he said and we could never get it to speak again. After that we walked across the hall to the dining room. The area is set up with long tables family style. We sat at the end of one but no one else was seated at that table while we were there. All around the top of the room are mounted heads of various animals plus a wild turkey. All of the waiters and waitresses were dressed Texas style with cowboy boots, sheriff badges and cowboy hats. I even noticed the chef in the back wearing a cowboy hat. I ordered a filet and Jerry got a T-bone and we both got the usual baked potato and salad and dinner rolls – ah – thank goodness we don’t have access to those rolls at home because I’d be big as a barn. As it was I ate both of my rolls slathered in butter for each bite! As we were finishing dinner a trio of singers with instruments came up and serenaded us. It was a good harmony song and I sang right along.

After dinner we walked by the fudge area and the ice cream area but we were way to full to take advantage of that although we did sample a bite of fudge. Towards the back where the bathrooms are is a hall filled with haunted pictures. When you look at them one way you see an attractive person but as you move they turn into awful looking scary folks. They are for sale in the gift shop but I don’t think I’d care to have one. We also sat in the huge rocking chair and had our picture taken.

We decided that it was time to return to the campground so we went outside and sat on the porch and immediately one of the horned limos drove up and took us right back. Needless to say it was an interesting evening.

We came in, got ready for bed and soon after Jerry went out to disconnect the water. I think it’s supposed to get down in the teens tonight. So much for coming south for warmer weather! Of course Amarillo is in the panhandle so it’s north Texas, not really south!

Texas

On the Way to Amarillo

Well, here it is a little after 6:00 mountain time and we’re nearly ready to go. We’ve prepared the food to go in the crockpot mid-morning (well, actually Jerry did it). I am dressed and ready to go and we can have the coach ready to go in 15 minutes. The problem is (not to mention the infernal wind) it is completely dark outside and we’ve got to put the car on the dolly plus drive out of these strange roads. Think we’ll be sitting for a while. This may be one of those rare mornings when I see the sun rise! (Written first thing Tuesday morning)

(A little later) On the way to Amarillo via Roswell – that’s the way the GPS took us – we saw a sign stating not to pick up hitchhikers as there was a prison nearby. Then we saw a sign indicating a rest stop ahead. Don’t think we’ll use that one.

As we passed through Roswell which is a fairy large town we saw various references to aliens, e.g. Third Rock from the Sun Alien Spacecraft store, UFO museum, lots of alien statues but though we went right through the heart of Roswell we saw no mention of Area 51. There were lots of statues of little and big green men though.

Even though Carlsbad is on the edge of New Mexico we drove nearly 200 miles through New Mexico before we got to the Texas border and then we knew we were in cow country. There were literally hundreds of cattle plus a very active railroad that followed the highway. As we neared Amarillo the winds picked up reaffirming our decision to stay in Fort Davis Sunday. It was a very stressful drive for Jerry with sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 55. We stopped in Hertford, the Beef Capital of the World and got gas. When I went to open the door to go out to help Jerry align the coach to the gas tank I nearly lost control of the door and when I tried to go back in I could hardly get in.

We finally got the gas and got back on the road and arrived at Amarillo Ranch RV Park about 1:00 – we think. Going from Central to Mountain time has kept us very confused! It was so windy that we decided not to put the living room or bedroom slides out although I noticed others had their slides out. By the time we had lunch and got everything settled it was 3:30 and we couldn’t decide what to do. We had had a pretty long day already and I knew Jerry was tired from fighting that wind so we just elected to spend the afternoon inside. We did walk over to the office at one point but other than that it was a quiet afternoon except for hearing the wind blow.

Before we left Carlsbad we got everything ready to go in the crockpot for Crockpot Cowboy Casserole intending to put it on around 10:00. Quite frankly I forgot all about it until we stopped for gas. Then while Jerry was gassing up I was inside frantically throwing ingredients in the crockpot, opening cans, etc. I got it done but we had to wait until after 7:00 to eat. It’s a good recipe for traveling and also a good recipe if you need to feed several people. We’ll be having leftovers one night soon.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns

We had a restful and quiet weekend – kind of! Being in a motor home in a high wind advisory is not quiet! In fact we had to pull in two of the slides Saturday night and we were rocking all night. It was not a particularly restful night to say the least.

Jerry had said that he wanted to get an early start to Carlsbad on Sunday morning so I got on up around 7:00. The wind was still blowing, the wind advisory was still in effect and we were still rocking. I was never afraid of turning over but I was worried about the toppers on our slides plus I didn’t know if the wind could knock our slides out of alignment. Jerry did not get up so I began to think he might have alternate plans. He did. When he finally got up he said that he just didn’t think it was safe to be on the road in an RV with 35+ mile winds. I had already told him that RVer’s often changed their plans due to wind. We decided to stay an extra day in Fort Davis. Jerry saw the owner of the park and paid for an extra night as had some others in the park.

In the meantime we decided it was a good time to wash the linens and do some cleaning in the coach. Also I began the process of trying to change our reservations at Brantley Lake State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. This is the first time that I have dealt with Reserve America and it will probably be my last. In fact, I’m about to the point of not making reservations anymore! I called the park and left a message. By early afternoon no one had returned my call so I called again. The gentleman who answered the phone said he was new and really didn’t know but he’d check it out and get back to me. He did and just told me that I had to go through Reserve America. I went on the web site and because it was the day of arrival my only choice was to cancel the reservation. I couldn’t change it and there were a couple of fees involved with my getting a total refund of $13. We finally decided to heck with it. We’d just lose the Sunday night reservation and get up early Monday and stay there Monday night. That meant changing our reservation in Amarillo and Caprock so finally I just said let’s get up real early, be on the road no later than 8:00 and get to Carlsbad, see the caverns, spend one night and be on our way so that is what we decided to do.

With that settled we spent the rest of day watching football and updating the blog. Around mid-afternoon the wind finally died down but it was too late to leave plus we had paid for the night. I took a short walk around the park just to get out a bit. Although it’s a small park I saw rigs from as far away as Alaska. I thought we were a long way from home!

We got up early Monday morning and were pulling out of the park by 7:55. Probably a record for us.

On the way we saw several oil rigs and noticed that there was a burn ban in effect. Everywhere we looked was brown grass and we saw a lot of irrigation systems. There were also more cows than we’ve seen anywhere else.

We stopped at a Stripes station outside of Pecos for gas. I have never been to a more congested station. Lots of big trucks, small trucks, a few cars, truck with trailers. We saw that we could get in easily so decided to try it. Probably should have done off route 3 miles to the Flying J as several empty cars indicated that you had to go inside the station – pretty much of a mess!

We got to Brantley Lake State Park around noon but had a little trouble finding our site. Since we were supposed to come in yesterday the park ranger did not have our information and I couldn’t get the confirmation e-mail to download. We finally got it straight and quickly set up, ate a sandwich then off to Carlsbad Caverns we went. Somewhere I heard that the caverns were 24 miles away but it was more like 40. Had I known that I probably would not have chosen to stay at the park but in riding to the caverns we both decided that I had probably made a good choice despite the distance involved.

img_1791What can I say about Carlsbad Caverns that hasn’t already been said thousands of times? Simply put they are spectacular. We took the self-guided tour which has its advantages and disadvantages. On a guided tour there are usually a lot of people and you have to move at a certain pace. On a self-guided tour you go at your own pace often alone but if you have a question there is no one to answer it so it’s a toss-up! We enjoyed the self-guided tour and took our time walking the mile through the Great Room which is the largest known natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere. Floor space is estimated to be more than 600,000 square feet which is comparable to 14 football fields. It is so massive with stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other speleotherms, (a term that encompasses the stalactites, stalagmites and other cave deposits made chiefly of calcite), everywhere. During the very middle of the tour it turned to more massive borders and huge rocks rather than the stalactites and stalagmites but then reverted to them nearer the end.

ladderThere is an undeveloped section of the cavern called the Lower Cave consisting of more than one mile of surveyed passages. The Lower Cave and other undeveloped passages are being preserved in their natural state for scientific study. In fact, they are still discovering new passages and rooms! In 1924 there was a six month exploration and a cave guide built a wire ladder that descended 90 feet into the Lower Cave but explorers felt uneasy dangling in the dark pit on that ladder. Can you just imagine?

img_1805After the tour we stopped at a local group of stores at the entrance and just wandered around. Jerry got his picture taken with the aliens!

Our next stop was the local Walmart to pick up some groceries. We couldn’t decide what we wanted for dinner so we decided that we’d go out and get the pizza we tried to get on Saturday but first we had to take the groceries back to the RV. On the way back into the park Jerry suddenly slammed on brakes and there on the side of the road was a long horned cow contentedly grazing. There were two cows on the other side of the road as well. Jerry had seen them earlier and realized that there was no fence to be seen although there are a couple of cattle guards. Do the cows just roam free?

We got to the campground, put the groceries up and turned around and headed back to Carlsbad for pizza. On the way out we were going very slowly looking for cows! I thought we had passed the area where we had seen them but nope, suddenly again, there he was. We stopped so I could get a picture. The cow started to walk off and then he just turned around and looked at us. We made note of where he was so we could be more careful there when we returned. Of course we knew there was no guarantee that he’d still be in that area later. We’ve seen more animals here than anywhere else including Big Bend. The park is hopping with jackrabbits plus as we were leaving Carlsbad Caverns we saw a herd of deer. I thought they looked a bit different and realized that they are long eared deer, quite different from the deer we see in North Carolina.

We went to the Pizza Inn and got the buffet, nothing fancy or regional but good and filling. We drove very carefully on the way in to Brantley Lake but saw no cows! Whew! Now what to do? It’s 7:15 mountain time, 8:15 central time and 9:15 eastern time. We want to get up and be out of here by 8:00 mountain time but what time do we go to bed? Needless to say we’re confused!

Texas

Fort Davis, Texas

We awoke to a forecast of rain and high winds so we knew if we were going to do anything outside we had to get moving quickly. Our first stop was Fort Davis. It wasn’t raining yet so we decided to go on in. There is a museum plus a video but we wisely decided that we needed to view the restored buildings at the fort first because the rain was surely coming.

The Fort has been wonderfully restored with several buildings full of memorabilia. From the National Park website “A key post in the defense system of western Texas, Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest. From 1854 until 1891, troops stationed at the post protected emigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road hoping to reach the gold fields of California. Today, Fort Davis is considered one of the best remaining examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest.”

Commisary
Commisary
We gamely trooped around from building to building in the drizzling cold rain. The first building we went to was the commissary. We got to read entries from a diary belonging to a young lady and it was filled with daily activities and shed quite a light on the times.

The building that housed the information regarding the health and welfare of the residents was grim reminder of how difficult life was during that time. Contrary to popular belief most deaths were caused by disease or illness rather than wounds from battle. One family lost seven children within two weeks from diphtheria. It was not unusual for children to die at a young age or for women to die in childbirth. The average age of a man was only 48.

In the museum
In the museum
Families sometimes filled the voids in their families by adopting other children. A former Hospital Steward adopted two Indian children who were found by the Rangers after a battle with the Apache. The buildings emphasized how very difficult life was during that time, not at all like it’s sometimes romanticized in Hollywood. We ended the tour with a video and a tour of the museum itself.

After touring the fort we headed for the town of Marfa. I wanted to see the town and we were hoping there might be a grocery store there. By the time we got there it was raining steadily so wandering around the town was out. We were able to get gas at $2.29 which was the cheapest we’ve seen it recently. Of course after we got it and rode another block we found it even cheaper!

Someone had recommended that we eat pizza at the Pizza Foundation so we made an effort to find it. They had also given us the phone number and said we would probably want to call ahead – we didn’t. We couldn’t find it so we instead looked for a grocery store and found one and were able to get most of the things on our list. Afterward we made another effort to find the pizza restaurant and we found it – in a renovated garage. Gee, what is it with us and renovated buildings? We went in and finally realized that we had to order at the counter. Jerry went up to order and then headed out calling me. It was going to take an hour to fix our pizza and there was hardly anyone there. Apparently a lot of people had already called in. We heard later that if you went in to order there might be 30-40 call-ins ahead of you! Must be some good pizza and I’m sorry that we didn’t get to try it.

We decided to return to the coach to eat lunch and have a lazy afternoon. The weather was awful, rainy, cold plus a wind advisory so a good afternoon to catch a nap.

Later in the afternoon we realized that it was not only raining but also sleeting and snowing, not much but enough to see it falling. The wind was terrible and the coach was rocking so badly that we pulled in two of the slides. Looks like it’s going to be a rocky night!