Florida, Georgia, Home Away From Home, Texas

Planning, Calulating Mileage, Planning Some More

Ah, the planning of a trip. January is our travel month because we have no commitments during the month however planning a trip in January limits our destinations. Yes, we want to go to the Northeast and we yes, we want to take that long ago planned trip to South Dakota but in January – nope, not possible. After some discussion we finally decided on Texas and New Mexico traveling through Hot Springs, Arkansas for a brief stop after leaving around January 2nd or 3rd. That quickly changed when NC State was offered a bid to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. Hot Springs is not on that route! Back to the Roadtrippers I went revamping the entire trip and guess what – we’re leaving December 28th.

We don’t generally make reservations for our January trip as we like to be flexible but I knew we had to have reservations for the first leg. My hope was Clinche State Park near Amelia Island, Ga about an hour away from the game site but there were no vacancies. I then quickly began to realize that Florida in January even as far north as Jacksonville is snow bird country and things possibly have been reserved for quite some time. Do we stay in St. Mary’s, Georgia, Jacksonville proper, St. Augustine, an hour away in the other direction? Quite the quandary. My guess – we’ll stay where we can get a reservation although $70 a night on the front of our trip is a little more than I want to spend!

I’ve pretty much routed the trip noting the various places we want to see after leaving Jacksonville on New Year’s Day. Will that be an easy day of travel with little traffic or will there be many returning home after the holidays? We’ll see!

We visited Texas a few years ago and loved it but there was just so much to see and we couldn’t possibly see it all so Jerry suggested going back. We missed Dallas, Houston and Austin but we don’t really enjoy cities so even though these cities made the original route, Dallas made the cut early. Houston and Austin are still in but we shall see.

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Home Away From Home, Texas

Goodbye Arizona

Bless Pat, we pulled out before 8:00 this morning! As Jerry and I both agreed, it’s Austin. Let me explain. Last year at the end of our Texas visit we returned to Fredericksburg to visit the Enchanted Rock. The next day we headed for home with a planned stop in College Station at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. As we drove toward College Station I realized that we were going to be close to Austin. I had heard many good things about Austin so was thinking we probably needed to explore the town. As we got closer I realized that no, we were not going to be close to Austin but were going right through it. I asked Jerry if he wanted to stop and after a few seconds he said no and we both agreed that it was time to head home. We were like homing pigeons and we were ready to travel east. Apparently we felt the same way yesterday as we were discussing whether to leave for home today or tomorrow. Today! We may stop in Tuscaloosa to visit family but other than that we are on the way home!

As we pulled out of Benson I began to see signs of “Brush Fire Danger – Extreme” bringing to mind the fears I expressed earlier. It is so very dry in Arizona. Nearly two hours later as we entered New Mexico we saw signs warning of dust areas and saw places for pull offs. I had read about the dust storms but fortunately we didn’t have any trouble this morning.

I spent the first two hours trying to plot out our route and find possible places to stay. I used the Harvest Host directory and found a possibility for tomorrow night. The RV park I settled on in Van Horn, Texas didn’t open until 2:00 so couldn’t make a definite plan with them at that time. It’s a Passport park and at $14 a deal for full hookup.

As we continued to travel through New Mexico I was periodically getting fire alert warnings for each area we passed. At times I felt as though we were running from potential fires. Of course the warnings were for the next day but I couldn’t help but think that we left North Carolina hours ahead of a huge weather event for the East Coast and now we are leaving Arizona ahead of the fire threats. To hear that an area is dry and has the potential for fire and to see the area and realize how very dry it is, well, that’s two different things.

We took a short break at the Visitor’s Center at Anthony, Texas just across the New Mexico border and had a quick lunch. Jerry was feeling good so he suggested that we drive further than Van Horn so after we got back on the road I started looking for a place to spend the night. Between Van Horn and Odessa which was further than we wanted to drive there were not many options. I finally located a Walmart in Pecos and called to see if they allowed overnight parking for RV’s. Yes, they did so we headed on there. In the back of my mind I kept thinking about that hour we were going to lose.

About 100 miles into Texas we had to go through a Border Patrol inspection center. They just asked if anyone was in the back, then on to Pecos we went. Pecos had both a Flying J where we could fill up and a Walmart to overnight at. No problem. Right? Wrong! First, there was a lot of traffic and very long stop lights. It probably took us over five minutes to get off of I20. Then the Flying J was not easily accessible and the Garmin took us around Pecos. We had a nice little tour. Then back through Pecos to the Walmart. When I called they neglected to tell me that the parking lot was the size of a postage stamp and every available parking slot had been captured by cars. There was absolutely nowhere to park so back on the road we went. I began frantically looking for something but I20 doesn’t have much to offer. There was a Walmart in Odessa so I called them. Nope, they didn’t allow overnight parking. Our next hope was in Midland, eighty miles further. I called and they very nicely said sure. The 330 rule followed by many RVer’s is drive 330 miles or be off the road by 3:30. Boy, we broke that rule today. Jerry was feeling good so we decided to go on sure we’d be off the road before dark. Well, that didn’t work so well. There we were on I20 with trucks, work trucks, semi’s and a few cars flying by at 75+ mpg. Jerry competently drove and I prayed.

We pulled in the Walmart in Midland about 8:30 along with several other RVer’s and truckers and we were tired and hungry. I had dinner planned but Jerry saw a McDonald’s so we just walked over there and had dinner. When we got back to the RV Jerry pulled the steps in and we settled in for the night. I never heard a sound! Thank you to the Midland Walmart for being so kind and generous to some tired travelers.

Home Away From Home, Texas

A Week-end on the Road Heading Home

About 6:45 Jerry got up and turned the generator on so we could turn on the heat and the hot water tank. The back warmed up quickly but it was taking the hot water tank a little longer so we just dressed, brushed out teeth and took off knowing we could shower later. It was 7:22. I don’t think we’ve ever left that early.

We had another uneventful day of driving which we really needed after the fiasco going around Houston last night. Jerry figured that he wanted to drive 450 miles yesterday and today and then it would be an easy and shorter drive home on Sunday. I had recommended that we stop around 4:00 so as not to be driving in and locating a place in the dark. Fortunately both of those plans coincided. We decided to stop again in Saraland as the next Walmart was 133 miles away, too far to drive that late in the day. We stayed at the same Walmart that we had stayed in at the beginning of our trip. After we parked and Jerry asked for and got permission to stay we rested for a while. Jerry turned on the generator so we could turn on the water heater and take showers before dinner. It was taking too long for the water heater to heat up so we decided to go on to dinner. There were several restaurants along the way – the only catch – they were on the other side of the highway and despite a sign indicating pedestrians it looked like getting to the other side would be an extremely dangerous mission to accomplished. In addition it was dark. After walking a bit we wisely decided to turn around and go back to Walmart and find something there to eat.

That done, we got our warm navy showers and got ready for bed. Turned the generator off and read for a while. With our kindle and iPad it’s possible to read without light. It’s supposed to get pretty cool tonight so we won’t need air condition and we can do without heat.

Saturday morning dawned early and cold. Jerry jumped up and turned on the generator and the propane heat. Since we both had showers last night we hurriedly dressed. I had planned to wash my hair but didn’t want to wait for the water to heat up so we were able to quickly leave. Pulled out at 7:22 – now I’m sure that’s a record.

As we traveled down the highway I suggested that we stay at a campground tonight. It’s our last night on the road and two nights of boondocking is about my limit! Plus, we needed to empty the tanks before we got home. Jerry agreed and I got busy trying to locate a campground that fit his parameter of 450 miles. My desire of 4:00 probably wasn’t going to happen since we crossed back over into Eastern Time thus losing an hour. I finally found a campground with good reviews, a pull-through and good Wi-Fi! I asked if there were restaurants within walking distance and he said it depended on whether I wanted to walk a mile and a half! After that conversation I got out stuffed peppers for dinner!

We arrived at Heritage RV Park in Augusta, Georgia just before 5:00 which was really 4:00 on Alabama time. We pulled in Gate 1 as we had been directed and there was the pull-through site right there on our right. We pulled in and were setup within minutes. The easiest setup ever and since the gentleman had taken my credit card information on the phone we didn’t even have to go to the office. Everything had been handled over the phone. I liked that!

We took a short walk around the park just to exercise our legs and then came in and had a late dinner. It felt so good to be in a safe and warm environment in an RV park. Walmarts are fine for a couple of nights but after that I’m about done.

We didn’t particularly hurry Sunday morning so we left about 9:00. There was a little misting rain when we left but we quickly ran out of that and had a nice drive the rest of the way home. Traveling on a Sunday is really easier as there is less traffic. We had a couple of stops, one at Flying J for gas and one at the NC Welcome Center for lunch and then we were home by 3:22. We both so love traveling but the best part is always arriving home safe and sound. It was good to get home but that stack of mail waiting me – oh my! Time to get busy on that before I can start planning another trip!

Home Away From Home, Texas

George H.W. Bush Museum

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Up and out early this morning because we were on a mission! Go through Johnson City to stop at the Black Spur to see if they had a sun we could use at the river and then get to the George H.W. Bush Museum. We were saying goodbye to Fredericksburg. As we rode along I continued to be amazed at the number of wineries that such a small area has. Between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, a small town between Fredericksburg and Johnson City there are probably 20 wineries some of them right next door to each other. The ground must be perfect for growing grapes! By the way, Stonewall is the town where LBJ’s ranch is located. There are also numerous peach stands along the way although none were opened at this time of year.

As we traveled along I reminisced about our trip as our days were slowly coming to an end. We have seen such different terrain throughout the state and many animals that are not indigenous to North Carolina such as mule deer, jackrabbits, coyote, blue bird, road runner, bison, several different kinds of deer, sheep, and goats – Jerry saw an ostrich or emu in Fredericksburg. He couldn’t tell which it was but he knew it was tall!

As we rode along I suddenly realized that we were pretty close to Austin so we began the discussion of “do we want to stop in Austin”. Jerry didn’t want to but would if I wanted to. My feeling was I really didn’t want to but it seemed a shame to be that close and not go but we were getting to be sort of like homing pigeons – it was nearly time to head back to North Carolina. We might have been more prone to stop if it had been a nice sun shiny day but instead a cloudy, windy cool 51 degrees did not encourage sightseeing plus – we know we’re more national and state park people than city people and we were just getting a bit tired! We didn’t get just close to Austin though – we went right smack dab through it, traffic and all but everything moved smoothly. Next time Austin! As we left Austin we were on a toll highway but apparently they will bill us because there are no toll booths.

We arrived at the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum at 12:20 making good time. After a quick lunch in the motor home we made our way into the museum. With typical Texan politeness we were greeted by several people – after going through the metal detector of course. We paid our senior admission and then with perfect timing went in to watch a short introductory video and then we began our exploration of the museum. When we presented our tickets we were given the option of having an audio tour and we both accepted that. After that I rarely saw Jerry as we both just wandered on our own and saw what interested each of us.

img_3950The museum is amazing and shows a man and a woman of such character and compassion. I learned a lot about both President Bush and Mrs. Bush. They met at a dance and that was that for both of them. They later married when he was home on leave. Not knowing when he was going to be home they set a wedding date for December but he didn’t get home until Christmas Eve so the wedding invitation date was marked though and a January date was inked in!

As soon as President Bush graduated from high school he entered the military and trained as a pilot. He flew many successful missions but on one flight was hit by the Japanese and lost two of his men. He had to parachute out of the plane and was lost at seas in a raft for a short while. That incident certainly was a life changing event for the president.

The most important things to both of the Bushes were faith, family and country. Even after his one year term as president neither he nor his wife settled into an easy life. They both were and are very active volunteers always trying to help someone in need. Mrs. Bush’s Reading initiative has helped countless people through the years. She worked on this initiative when President Bush was vice-president under President Regan and continued it when she was First Lady. She wondered why she was saying the same things as First Lady that she said as the vice president’s wife but what she was saying was getting a lot more attention. She said it didn’t matter what she said as wife of the Vice President.

It seems that both President and Mrs. Bush have quite a sense of humor and love to laugh and smile. On the first night in the White House they invited their family in to spend the night!

The Day the Wall Came Down
The Day the Wall Came Down
After viewing most of the museum – I could have stayed a lot longer but knew we needed to get on the road – I wandered around the grounds a bit. There is a beautiful sculpture called “The Day the Wall Came Down”, a monument to freedom referencing the Berlin Wall. The sculptor Veryl Goodnight said he used horses to represent the freedom of the human spirit. The graffiti painted on the rubble beneath the horses was replicated by the Mr. Goodnight from actual graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall. President Bush requested that the names of 15 people who were killed at the Wall be written on the “Dove of Peace” to represent the over 900 people who were killed trying to escape to the West. I also visited the place where the Bushes will be buried and where their young daughter Robin is now buried. I was also able to view President Bush’s engraved words on the building “Let future generations understand the burden and blessings of freedom. Let tem say we stood where duty required us to stand”.

Words of Wisdom
Words of Wisdom

We left College Station about 4:30 headed on down the road hopefully driving until about 5:30 and stopping at a Walmart. Instead we hit Houston during the 5:00 traffic and a few days before the Super Bowl plus missed a turn so that plan went out of the window. And then the GPS lost the signal!

We spent the night in the Walmart parking lot in Baymont, Texas a suburb on Houston – I think. We were pretty lost last night in a lot of traffic and unknown to me running low on gas. Jerry hastily pulled into a Spur station and filled up with gas. While he was doing that I was trying to figure out how to get to the Flying J which had been our intended target for gas and spending the night there. I really was not looking forward to spending the night at a truck stop as I hear it’s pretty loud plus the spaces need to be used by the truckers rather than RVers. As I searched I realized we were only about a mile and half from a Walmart that allowed overnight parking and it was on the way to I-10 where we needed to be.

We headed to that way and were able to stay and parked in the lot along with another Class A and a Fifth Wheel. Although we realized it was ok to park there Jerry still went in and asked permission. The manager said it was fine as long as we pulled out of the way. While he was gone I realized that we could pull over to the side curbing and open up the bedroom slide for the night so when he got back that’s what we did. We discussed trying to find somewhere within walking distance to eat but decided to warm up the hamburgers instead. As soon as we finished with dinner I got ready for bed, got my iPad and kindle and got in the bed. Trucks and cars kept loudly zooming by and since this was a 24 hour Walmart I was afraid that we’d have a night of that but at 10:00 everything got quiet and it stayed that way all night.

Home Away From Home, Texas

Enchanted Rock

All dressed up and ready to go!
All dressed up and ready to go!
So far on our January journey we have done six hikes (but who’s counting – us!) and we thought a trip to Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg, Texas would be another great hike. It was great but it wasn’t a hike, it was a climb! Up 425 feet in .67 miles. Whew. There was hardly any flat area and we literally climbed all the way to the top. Of course we had a couple of rest stops, ok, maybe one or two more but the climb was so worth it. We had heard that the park could get really crowded on the week-ends so we decided to go during the week and in the early morning. Well, we made it by about 10:30, early for us but I was amazed during the climb at how many people were there. I can’t imagine how crowded it must get on the week-end. Someone told me Fredericksburg and the Enchanted Rock was the number one tourist spot in Texas. Don’t know if that is true but it was busy today. We chatted with a couple who only live 2 hours away but had never been before. We also chatted with a RV full timer plus a couple from Minnesota. There were all ages and sizes and I didn’t see anyone turn around.

Enchanted Rock is a small part of a large underground rock called a batholith. More than 50 million years ago erosion uncovered part of the rock and weathering and erosion of that bedrock made the rock that we climbed today. It is a small speck compared to the huge underground rock that spans over 100 square miles. Now, that’s big! This is an exfoliation dome in that Enchanted Rock continuously “sheds” its outer layers of rock as it contracts and expands. The result is large curved sheets of rock that break up and can eventually slide down the rock. I guess that’s what makes it so difficult to climb.

flagPerhaps the most poignant moment of the entire trip occurred to day. I didn’t know it but today is Freedom Day and I suddenly saw an American Flag being carried up to the top of the rock. There was a young lady dressed in uniform and proudly carrying our flag up. There were many people who had their picture taken with her and offered their sincere thanks for her contribution.

As we left Enchanted Rock we decided to stop in Fredericksburg for lunch. I had seen a restaurant that advertised the best burgers in Fredericksburg and also quiche. Sounded like a win-win to me so we headed to Wheelers Restaurant. Ham and cheese is not my favorite quiche but it was the quiche of the day so that’s what I got. Jerry of course got a burger. We topped our meal off with sweetbread pudding draped in almond sauce. It was tasty!

Our plan was to go on back to the RV but somewhere along the way we decided to ride to Luckenbach, the town where everybody is somebody. Jerry was a bit skeptical thinking it was going to be another Cadillac ranch site but it really was interesting. Members of the Luckenbach family along with some other immigrants moved to Luckenbach from Fredericksburg in the 1850’s and settled along Grape Creek. They soon established a school and a post office. The town has a general store full of most any tourist memorabilia you might want. At the back of the store is a bar selling beer. There are a couple of very still cats there and I heard one couple arguing about whether or not the cat was alive. He was but he was super still even with all of the activity around. Outside at the back of the store they have continuous music. Today was a singer with his guitar. While he was singing an older man in shorts and spindly legs hobbled up with his guitar and joined him. Wow – when he started playing and singing he looked like a young man. He didn’t play long, sang a couple of songs he had written and then one about Luckenbach. Both of the singers sang songs that told stories.

Exhausted, we headed back to Fredericksburg with a quick stop at Walmart for our last run on groceries. When we got back we both hit the sofa for a little nap!

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.

Texas

Fort Worth Cattle Drive

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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!