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Showing posts from March, 2010

OK, a Bit Breezy

I have a suspicion that the "Oklahoma" is an old Indian word that means "strong wind that blows horses away". Since we've been here strong southerly winds have been relentless. Steady winds of 20 to 30 or more, gusts to 40 or more... it's kinda hard to eat outside and keep your peas on your paper plate.

After listening to locals and the weather reporters on TV I've come to understanding that this is normal. "It's always windy in Oklahoma." "Normal Spring weather." "Windy? I hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary."

This morning we're camped on top a windy knob just a couple miles west of Guthrie Oklahoma. Yesterday, Tuesday, we made the decision to move from our free campsite along  Elk Lake and make a run to the Oklahoma City area, where we'll be through this coming weekend. The drive over was all non-I-roads, most of which were in very good condition. The route was north on OK-34 our of Elk City to OK-…

#33 Oklahoma

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Tonight will be our first night in Oklahoma since the start of our fulltiming project. In case you've forgotten, we have some pretty strict rules about what qualifies as a visit. But the requirements have been met and we can now put that 33rd notch in the bus-house's steering wheel.

We'll never get the bus-house to Hawaii, so that means there's 49 States that we can visit during our sabbatical. If I subtract 33 from 49, hmmm, let's see... that'd be 16 States still to go. And there's much more to explore in most of the States we've already visited. And then there's Canada. So much to do... so little time!

Today we left Palo Duro State Park. As I drove the bus-house out of the Canyon, Dar stayed behind to take pictures of the climb. The morning light was good and we have several candidates that may work as a header photo here on the RV Sabbatical Journal Blog in the near future.

Our route today took us out of the Park on SR-217 to I-27 North to Amaril…

Up and Down Sunday

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Sunday we explored the Canyon from top to bottom. There's a trail in the Park called the CCC Trail -- named after the Civilian Conservation Corps that was responsible for turning Palo Duro into a State Park back in the early 1930's. It roughly follows the route of the first trail into the canyon used by Indians and early settlers to the area.

But rather than starting at the top, we started at the bottom. In fact, the lower trailhead was just a short walk from our camp.

After the sun warmed things up (the low temps have been hitting the freezing mark the past couple days), the hiking boots were snugged up, and ample supplies of water and nourishment were tucked and attached, we headed for the trail.

Rated as moderately difficult, the first portion of the trail is a series of switchbacks up the side of the Canyon wall. It's not all that steep and was certainly less difficult than the last few hundred yards of our hike to Lighthouse Peak the other day. But the quick rise in e…

Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

Friday, Dar and I found internet access at the City of Canyon Texas Public Library. It's probably the most comfortable and quiet place to work online in town. My Verizon Aircard would work just fine here too, buy why not take advantage of the free wifi?

For lunch we tried Feldman's Wrong Way Diner [http://www.feldmansdiner.com/] which is...
"dedicated to anyone who has gone the wrong way, taken a wrong turn, made a wrong decision or in some way wandered off the beaten path....in other words: all of us at one time or another. Often, things just don't turn out the way you thought they would; but that's not always a bad thing." I really liked this slogan and might steal it for my front page. It can apply to most of us at one time or another, and on a number of different levels. This quirky but lovable place was perfect for our needs. A friendly waitress, good food, and model trains running around on tracks up near the ceiling kept the enjoyment level up. We'…

Hike to Lighthouse Peak

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We gave the sun a couple hours to warm things up before heading up to the Palo Duro State Park visitors center at the top of the Canyon on Thursday. The building in which it's housed was built by the CCC in 1934. It's a one-story stone structure built from local materials and wedged into the side of the canyon wall just a short way from the front entrance to the Park. Spectacular views of the Canyon from this viewpoint are even more colorful when illuminated by the low morning sun.

Inside, there's a video of the history of the Canyon and the surrounding land known as the Llano Estacado, a large elevated arid plain that makes up most of the Panhandles of Texas, Oklahoma, as well as parts of New Mexico. A series of interesting displays describe the processes that created the Canyon and the various geologic layers exposed on its walls. Also notable is that the last skirmish with the plains Indians took place in the Canyon in 1874.

Palo Duro is Spanish for "hard wood&quo…

Snow Bust

The weather in the Texas Panhandle on Wednesday left a lot to be desired. Another storm system and cold front swept through bringing wind, periods of rain, and cold temps which kept everyone wrapped up and close to a heat source all day. And there were predictions of snow overnight Wednesday night.

There's only one road down into the canyon in the State Park -- the one we took to get from the front gate (up-top) down to our campsite in Sagebrush Campground (at the bottom). I think I mentioned the other day that it's an old 1930's road, steep (10% grade), narrow, with no guard-rails at all. ("You pays you money and you takes you chances.") At the top and at the bottom of the steepest part I noticed some big orange traffic baricades, which I learned were employed when it becomes necessary to close the road, which happens during snow and ice storms -- like what we were expecting on Wednesday. If your camper is down in the canyon and you've dashed off for a day o…

1,000 Nights

If my addition and subtraction is correct, and my long-term memory is still sort-of reliable, tonight will mark the 1,000th night I've slept in the bus-house. Dar is 9 days behind me because of a couple trips she made back to Wisconsin.

A couple points come to mind at this milepost. First, (and I know this is an over-used phrase) time passes so quickly. Both of us are just ecstatic about the turn of events, the guts, and the little bit of luck that made this lifestyle possible for us. We can't think of anything we'd rather be doing right now. And while 1,000 nights sounds like a long time, it feels like we just began a few months ago. And neither of us feel like we've even scratched the surface of things to see and places to explore in the USA and North America.

One of these years we're going to spend the summer in Alaska. We haven't been to New England or the Northeast at all. Utah and Colorado are calling, as is the vast Midwest full of friendly small towns …

Double Birthday

Today, March 24th, is a big birthday day in our family. Both my Dad and our youngest Grandson, Evan, were born on March 24th. Curiously, these two represent the oldest and the youngest members of both of our families. Wow!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Evan!

We wish we were there to help you celebrate and hope you both have a great day.

Thom & Dar

"Happiness is Lubbock Texas....

...in your rear-view mirror." With a nod to Mac Davis, this was the song stuck in my head today. And about noon, as we rolled north on I-27, we actually had Lubbock in our rear-view mirror for a while. I wasn't as happy about it as Mac was... to have written a song about it and all... but we did have an agreeable day for travel and the miles melted away as that tune played, over and over again, up in my head somewhere.

Today, Tuesday, our move was from Post Texas to Canyon Texas, a distance of some 160 miles. We were rolling a little after 9am. The route was easy -- US-84 to the 289 Loop around the east side of Lubbock to I-27 north. I haven't looked this up, but I-27 has to be right up there as one of the shortest Interstate Highways in the USA. It's total distance is only a little more than 100 miles, from Lubbock to Amarillo... that's it. And it never crosses a state line, so it's an "Interstate" in name only. Lightly traveled and smooth, we were …

Amarillo by Morning...

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... but only if we had kept driving all night... which we didn't. Songs like this one from 1973 by Terry Stafford stick in my head and I was singing it all day as we drove into the Texas panhandle. It's fun to use old song titles as titles for journal entries and besides, it may be a while before I get back up here again. So use it while I can, right?

We actually made it as far as Post Texas, just 30 miles or so from the Lubbock Texas metroplex. Tonight's camp is at the Post View RV Park and we're only staying overnight. Tomorrow's drive will be considerably shorter than the 330 miles we did today. Our "early" start this morning was a few minutes before 9am, but hey, that IS early for us. Great Texas roads and light traffic on the route we took, plus cooperative weather, made the drive an easy one.

Tomorrow we'll make it to the Amarillo area, but not by morning... maybe early afternoon. Not sure where we'll camp yet, but we'll be early enough …

Sunday Blow-Out

Man, I'm glad we decided to stay at Miller Creek another day. As the recent storm and cold front pulled away from Texas last night and this morning, the skies cleared but the wind picked up to near gale force -- gusts well into the upper 30's mph. The bus-house was rockin' & rollin' all day today, but a lot less than if we'd have been on the road. I know some RV'ers say they don't let wind and weather hamper their travel plans, and they'll be on the road regardless. But this kid enjoys driving so much more when not battling wind and weather in addition to the normal traffic crazies. Besides, where do I have to be by a specific date or time? We're truly wandering and value the flexibility of going whenever and wherever we decide... and another reason we usually don't bother with reservations.

As I sit here writing about 5pm we're pretty much ready to go. Earlier today we pulled in the slides and moved to another site, one with a sewer co…

The Last Winter Blast...

At least that's our hope. Most of the country is going to be affected by this one. It came blasting out of the North this morning about 5am... shaking the bus-house, thunderstorms, wind, and cold. It's not supposed to get out of the 40's here today.

We're heading toward Amarillo when we leave Miller Creek... had planned on leaving tomorrow, Sunday. I checked the temps around the country this morning -- Beaver Dam, our hometown in Wisconsin was 35f, the upper peninsula of Michigan was 32f, Willow Alaska was 34f... and Amarillo Texas was 21f.  Hmmm, maybe we should have gone to Alaska this Spring.

At any rate, we've decided to hang around here in the Texas Hill Country until Monday, which looks like a good travel day with light winds and blue skies. The next couple days we'll stick close to home.

Our campsite at Miller Creek doesn't have a sewer hookup. Most sites here are full hookup, but as busy as they are with rallys and lingering Winter Texans, the overf…

What the 'Ale...

A trip to the grocery store turned into an enjoyable lunch with Dar on the deck at River City Grille in Marble Falls Friday. This eatery is a local favorite, especially on warm sunny afternoons when their two-level deck overlooking Lake Marble Falls can be packed. Live music keeps things lively a few nights each week too. We lingered a while and just soaked in the warm sunny day.

Because things can get dreadfully dry around here during parts of the year, a series of dams were built along the Colorado River to create lakes that provide a drinking water source, especially for the nearby towns of Austin and San Antonio. The dam that created Lake Marble Falls, Max Startke Dam, was built around 1950. Unfortunately, as the lake rose it submerged the falls for which the town of Marble Falls was named. According to our waitperson at the Grille, the water level was lowered recently and the old falls emerged just upstream from where we were sitting -- proving to everyone that it's still the…

Looking Ahead

We had been planning to leave Miller Creek RV Resort on Sunday. Here's the weather forecast:
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 64. Northwest wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. 

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 75. West northwest wind around 10 mph becoming south.  Maybe the lighter winds of Monday would be a better day?

Not-So Enchanted Search

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Yesterday, Thursday, we came up so dry in our search for two different things, that we had to stop at Hondo's on Main in Fredericksburg to wet our whistle before it was possible to continue on home. What in the world could I be talking about?

First, we had a plan to see the famous Enchanted Rock. And not just to see it... but to climb it, all the way to the top... to lay on it... listen to it "sing"... feel the temperature change... become one with it. If you remember, we drove up to experience it last Saturday only to be confronted with a long line of traffic waiting to gain entry to the small park. Since we don't do lines well, we quickly decided to "bag it" for the day, and try again during a weekday. Well, yesterday was to be that weekday. Furthermore, we figured most people are going to rush to be there in the morning and we'll likely be able to drive right in, park, and hustle our way right up the side of the rock if  we hold off our arrival until…

Benini Sculpture Ranch

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Yesterday we drove over to the Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch. We'd heard from others in the park that it's a good nearby place to explore, so off we went.

Just a short distance west of Johnson City we took CR-204 south from US-290. CR-204 is macadam, but increasingly narrow and minimalist the further south we went. The Sculpture Ranch is about 5 miles down this road.

It's common in these parts to build tertiary roads right down and through creek beds with no bridge or culvert to carry water under the roadway. When heavy rains fill the creek, it flows right over the road through the dip created for this purpose. Often, a flood gauge is provided (1 ft., 2 ft., 3 ft., etc.) so drivers have some idea how deep the water is. But this is Texas and most Texans don't bother with the flood gauge, I'm told, and just blast their big pick-up trucks right through any amount of water that happens to be covering the road -- no dang creek is going to stop a Texan. There are …

Rainy Day Tuesday

The predicted rain came down most of Monday night and almost all day Tuesday... about an inch according to the parks rain gauge. So we stayed in the camper and enjoyed accomplishing some of those indoor things that often get put off when the weather is nicer.

Dar became immersed in her family tree research and I only saw her face in the reflection on the computer screen most of the day. I researched future travels and camping possibilities, and made a couple updates to our website and online presence.

There's a website [http://hitchitch.com/links.html] that lists the blogs and websites of dozens of other explorers like us... people living in one way or another on the road while they see the big old USA. If you've got the time it can be interesting to see what others think about the lifestyle and their travels. We've been listed here for most of our almost three years on the road.

Wondering what to do on Wednesday...
Thom

The Story of Texas

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It was back to Austin on Tuesday. The main objective was to see "The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum -- The Story of Texas". How's that for a title?... BIG, like just about everything else in Texas. When the name of a place becomes so big that it's necessary for some people to stop and take a breath in the middle, well, it might be a little too big. But people in Texas revel in their BIG-ness, from their cars (actually very few cars... mostly BIG pickup trucks), to their traffic (Austin is very BIG on traffic and congestion), to the size of their collective ego. (Hey, easy there, don't get so riled up... just pokin' a little fun.)

Texas is big, there's no doubt about it. But it's not number one in all categories. In population, it's number 2 -- behind California. In square mile area, it's number 2 -- behind Alaska. If you want to rile a Texan a little, tell 'em that we could split Alaska into two states and make Texas number 3!

Ther…

Missed Daylight Saving Time

Just a short note to say we had a very relaxing Sunday in the Texas Hill Country. We went nowhere; we did little other than enjoy the great weather, read, and work on photos and some writing.

We did find out, a little late, that Daylight Saving Time kicked in this weekend. Dar called her sister at what she thought was a reasonable hour only to discover that it was after 10pm in Michigan!! -- an hour when phones just shouldn't ring. We have a few clocks in the bus-house that are set automatically by the "atomic" clock under some mountain in Colorado -- but we don't look at clocks much on days we're not doing much... isn't that a great way to live? In reality, when we're traveling and exploring we live with the sun, not clocks. The actual time doesn't matter much.

Monday morning we're heading back to Austin. You'll have to wait to find out what adventure awaits.

Checking at my watch... what time is it???
T

Gettin' Down in the Hill Country

Saturday, yesterday, we ventured into the Hill Country, making a loop from Johnson City to Fredericksburg to Llano to Buchanan Dam to Marble Falls and back to Johnson City. There were a number of things on the "hit list" to explore, and we had a perfect day to get 'em done.

About 15 miles north of Fredericksburg is Enchanted Rock, a large bulge of pink granite that rises 425 feet above the surrounding land and covers about 640 acres. People come in droves, from miles around, to climb to the top and enjoy the Hill Country views from this elevated position. Unfortunately, we didn't. Due to the agreeable weather, the weekend, spring break, and who knows what else, the line to get into the place was backed up at least a quarter mile onto the highway. There's limited parking and when it's full no one can enter until someone else leaves. We don't do lines very well and it didn't take long to decide that we'll come back during a weekday.

The next stop w…

R&R Along Miller Creek

Friday we decided to sleep in and just hang out at the bus-house. I needed to get a few chores done (clean bugs off the front end, write some journal entries, take a walk) and it felt good to ease off on the exploration for a day.

We do want to get over to Austin for another day during our stay here, but after our experience with the traffic on Thursday and the anticipated congestion relating to a festival of some kind this weekend we decided to re-think our plans. We're now planning to extend our stay here by one day and return to Austin on Monday to see the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and, perhaps a pub-crawl along 6th Street, and who knows what else we may find to do. With the preferred open day prior to a move, we'll be heading toward the panhandle again on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. It looks like the weather will be better on Wednesday too.

In the interim, we have a couple closer explorations to do here in the Hill Country of Texas during the coming weekend.

Austin City Limits

After our Thursday in Austin seeing the Capitol and the LBJ Library we headed bravely into the rush-hour traffic about 5pm. Having already been made aware of the legendary Austin traffic we weren't totally surprised it took us almost an hour and a half just to make it to the edge of town... crawling along at 2, then 5 miles per hour... then a complete stop. Wait for the light. Deal with people cutting in line ahead of us. Inch along on three lane wide "expressways".

Even Chicago traffic, in my long years of experience, isn't as bad as what we experienced that day. In most busy towns, there are areas of slow traffic and there are areas of fast traffic. But not in Austin... it was full slow the whole time. The same distance we covered coming in during the morning in less than an hour took more than two hours in the evening.

I guess this is the price you pay for living in a trendy and very nice city. But it's also the reason I'm not enthralled with big towns and…

LBJ Library and Museum

After our morning at the Capitol and a great lunch on Congress Street, we drove about a mile northeast to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum. Built on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, the 10 story building houses all the papers and documents associated with LBJ's time in congress and the presidency. Only two and a half floors are open to the general public and comprise the museum portion of the place.

Like other Presidential Libraries and Museums we've been to, the main exhibit is a time-line walk through the years of the President's life. There are exhibits relating to his childhood, his first real job as a teacher, meeting and marrying his love, Lady Bird, his various campaigns for congress and the senate, his children, his accomplishments and difficulties as a legislator, and his 5 years as President.

Whatever a person may think of LBJ, (and there are some that still believe he had something to do with JFK's assassination -- we'll pro…

Texas State Capitol

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Among the various "themes" we have to direct our explorations are the State Capitol Buildings and the Presidential Libraries and Museums. But, despite having wintered in Texas the past three years, we never quite managed to get to Austin, which has both the Texas State Capitol and the LBJ Library and Museum.

We took care of that omission yesterday, Thursday. It's literally 4 lane highway all the way from Miller Creek RV Resort to Austin so the 45 mile drive was accomplished in less than an hour by the time we parked in the visitors parking area near the Capitol.

The Capitol grounds are comprised of more than 20 acres right in the middle of Austin. Like so many other states, Texas lost it's first Capitol to fire -- in 1881. The replacement, this building, was started in 1882 and finished 6 years later. It was designed by Elijah E. Myers, a famous Detroit architect who also did the Capitol buildings of Michigan and Colorado.


The building is large... 566 by 288 feet and…

Austin

Thursday morning, after a quick breakfast, we finally made the 45 mile trek over to Austin. Our objective was to see the Texas State Capitol and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.

We accomplished what we set out to do and had a great day doing it. Since we got home late tonight, and still had to make dinner, my mind is too pooped to put words together in any literate order. I did get a couple photos from today uploaded to our front page, but the the Journal entry from today will have to wait until Friday morning. Check in later in the day if you're interested.

Noddin' off near Johnson City...
Thom

Pedernales Falls State Park

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Wednesday morning, our Intrepid Explorers emerged from hibernation and decided that "this" would be the day to resume their explorations. But only after a good hot breakfast at a favorite diner in Johnson City -- The Hill Country Cupboard. Our previous experience at this local institution was in January, I think, of 2008, when we came up here to see the various LBJ historic sites in the area. The restaurant advertises that they have the "Worlds Best" Chicken Fried Steak... and the tag line boasts "nearly 3 dozen sold" (huh??). I wasn't looking for chicken fried steak but that ham and cheese omelet sure tasted good.

After breakfast and a quick drive around Johnson City to make sure it was still pretty much as remembered, we headed east a few miles to Pedernales Falls State Park. Part of a working ranch until 1970, the more than 5,000 acres of land that make up the Park was purchased by the State of Texas (apparently in better days when the State had mo…

Moving Again!

As much as we enjoyed our 3 month stay at Sandollar, it felt tremendous to be moving again... out exploring the big old USA. But the roots had grown deep in Rockport and I'd apparently forgotten how long the list of chores can be after spending this much time camped in one place. When moving every few days we keep the bus-house in travel-mode at all times. But when we're in one place for weeks and weeks (or months and months) we get lax and travel-mode is a couple hours of work away. It would have been smart to stow more of the outdoor stuff during the previous afternoon, when it was sunny and dry, instead of in the morning when a thick coat of dew made it necessary to dry everything prior to stowing. Oh well... never to old to learn.

We said many good-byes and pulled out onto Highway 35 a little after 11am... more than an hour later than plan. It was a good day for driving with little traffic and great roads along our route. We mostly stayed on smaller State Highways which in…

Do Oysters have Ears?

During the first weekend of every March the Fulton Volunteer Fire Department has their big fund-raiser festival. This is the 31st annual Oysterfest and it's grown into a significant event for the surrounding Coastal Bend folks -- one that really signals the arrival of Spring. Years ago, oysters were thick in the shallow bays all along the gulf coast and oyster boats filled every slip in every harbor around here. Oyster processing was a big part of the economy. But today the industry is almost non-existent, at most a mere "shell" of what it was at the peak. Over-fishing and other factors are supposedly to blame. But Oysterfest continues and attracts thousands of people from around South Texas who enjoy the music, beer, arts and crafts, and the carnival amusements.

Since it's within walking distance from Sandollar, we've gone Oysterfest-ing twice in the last couple days. Not a big fan of lines and crowds, that was more than enough for this kid.

My cold virus is gon…

Virus Tales

Dar is recovering nicely from her bout with the Sandollar cold virus. Probably due to the unusually cold and damp winter down here, almost everyone in the park has had it... and some have had some trouble getting rid of it. 

But while Dar is much improved it's now my turn. This past Saturday I could tell I wasn't feeling quite right and by Sunday I was slipping downhill fast. The low-point was about Tuesday, when I made sure Dar knew all the passwords and I started going through the yellow pages for discount funeral homes.

Feeling poorly like this presents a dilemma... at least for me. On the one hand I don't like to feel lousy from the effects of the cold. But on the other hand, I don't like to feel lousy from the effects of the cold medication, which makes me feel "spacey" and "weird" and "stupid". So I usually prefer to under-medicate and just let nature take it's course. Either way, it's about a week before the whole mess has …