Posts

Showing posts from January, 2013

Jan 31 - Alpine to Deming

Image
Got the rig running and on the road by 10am... which today is really 9am as we'll cross into the Mountain Time Zone before we get to El Paso. It's an agreeable day for driving, and the plan is to make it through the El Paso metro area, into New Mexico, and to one of our usual stops in Deming.

From Alpine US-90 (our favorite through this part of the world) took us to Van Horn and I-10. Instead of our usual white-knuckled run through the middle of downtown El Paso we tried a different route around the east and north side of the city (TX-375/Joe Battle Blvd and the Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive). This route takes us through the middle of Fort Bliss and then up and over the Franklin Mountains before connecting back up to I-10. A good portion of this route is being improved and reconstructed, but I still preferred it to the downtown alternative. It probably added 20 minutes to our day but was more relaxing and we saw a portion of the El Paso area we hadn't seen before.

On…

Jan 30 - Around Alpine

Image
The wind kept blowing during the night last night, but not nearly as robustly as during the day yesterday. During part of the afternoon it blew hard enough to liberate dust and dirt from gravity's grip, loft it airborne, and totally obscure the mountains 10 or so miles from our camp... mountains that had been crystal clear just a few hours earlier. A nearby weather station recorded sustained winds of well over 30mph, with gusts over 50mph. But higher in the mountains to the west and north, the wind speeds were reportedly much higher. It certainly rocked our world for a few hours.

This morning we got going early (for us). First stop was a local restaurant and bakery for breakfast. Every so often I have a craving for a hot midwest style breakfast... eggs, hash browns, bacon or sausage links, and toast... and we found just that at a local joint called Bread and Breakfast on the main drag. My craving was satisfied for another week or so.

After that we ran a few errands and then drov…

Jan 29 - Terlingua Texas

Image
How does one describe Terlingua Texas?

Terlingua is actually the name for a mining district in West Texas. Located between the villages of Study Butte and Lajitas, about 14 miles north of the Mexican border and 80 miles south of Alpine, the entire area has an official population of about 300 people. I think a few more probably live here but have no interest in being counted or having their names on any government list of any kind.

The original "draw" to the area was mining. In the late 1800s the mineral cinnabar, from which the metal mercury is extracted, was discovered and a small rush into the area resulted in a number of mining operations and a population of about 2,000 people. The ruins and remains that exist today as the historic Terlingua Ghost Town was owned by the Chisos Mining Company and was populated by the mine workers and some of their families. Like most mining ventures, this one played out and by the end of WWII the people left, leaving the old company town …

Jan 29 - That Old Time Rock and Roll

We're hunkered down today waiting out a weather thing. I think it's safe to say we're happy we're not on the road today.

This, from the National Weather Service for West Texas, including Alpine...
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS OF EDDY COUNTY-
VAN HORN AND HIGHWAY 54 CORRIDOR-DAVIS/APACHE MOUNTAINS AREA-
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...QUEEN...VAN HORN...ALPINE...
FORT DAVIS...GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NP...PINE SPRINGS
433 AM CST TUE JAN 29 2013 /333 AM MST TUE JAN 29 2013/

...HIGH WIND WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL MIDNIGHT CST /11 PM
MST/ TONIGHT...
...BLOWING DUST ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON CST /11 AM MST/
TODAY TO 6 PM CST /5 PM MST/ THIS EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIDLAND/ODESSA HAS ISSUED A
BLOWING DUST ADVISORY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON CST /11 AM
MST/ TODAY TO 6 PM CST /5 PM MST/ THIS EVENING.

* EVENT...HIGH WINDS.

* TIMING...THIS AFTERNOON.

* WINDS...WEST WINDS 45 TO 60 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 80 MPH.

* IMPACTS...TRAVEL THROUGH GUADALUPE PASS…

Jan 25 - Castalon and Santa Elena Canyon

Image
Today we drove down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive from the Castalon/Santa Elena Junction in Big Bend National Park to explore it's southwest corner. Our first stop was at the ruins of the Sam Nail Ranch, where one can walk a short trail around and through the remains of the early ranch. Old Sam started ranching here in 1909 and finally gave up in 1946... over-grazing, they say. The land and native grasses could not recover from the ravenous appetite of thousands of cattle and sheep. The desert may appear rugged and adaptable, but when it comes to life, things are very tenuous. Today, there's not a lot to see at the old ranch-stead, but what is here stands as a monument to hopes and perseverance of those early settlers.

Down the road a few miles is a trailhead to the Homer Wilson Ranch... or at least what's left of it. We walked the half mile or so down to the old ranch house. The structure is still in relatively good repair... surprising as it was abandoned in the early 1…

Jan 25 - Our Big Bend Campsites

Image
We were in Big Bend National Park a total of 5 nights. With the assistance of a very helpful Ranger at the Persimmon Gap Visitors Center, and with some side information from Barney the Old Fat Man, we decided to push the limits a little and stay in one of the many primitive backcountry roadside campsites sprinkled throughout the Park. Most of these (over 50 of them) are alongside dirt roads and rough jeep trails that are neither appropriate nor accessible for a wallowing tubby bus-house. But there are two that would work... Government Springs and Hannold Draw.

In order to use any of these it's necessary to have a backcountry permit ($10 for up to two weeks). The Park Service keeps a record of who has a permit for where so there shouldn't be conflicts with other campers. A quick inquiry by our Ranger when we entered the Park on January 22nd snagged us the Hannold Draw (HD1) site for 4 nights, Wednesday night (23rd) through Saturday night (26th). That meant we'd have to fi…

Jan 24 - Chisos Basin

Image
Some nearby wildlife was responsible for the only sounds heard last night through the open windows of our bedroom... accompanied by a light cool desert breeze. In the desert, wildlife prefer the cooler nights to hotter days, apparently true even in January when daytime temps have been in the upper 70s. The big waxing gibbous moon softly lit-up the surrounding Chihuahuan desert, giving it the appearance more of a dream state than reality. It was a night conducive to deep long sleep... a fact confirmed by the 9am start-time for the first pot of coffee this morning.

The complete solitude of a campsite is something we look forward to. Not all the time, mind you... but on a regular basis it's nice to get away from the close quarters, the barking dogs, the "security" lights, and the social activity of the developed campground or RV park. This is about as close to nature as you'll get without backpacking in to remote primitive spots in wilderness areas.

I was happy to see…

Jan 23 - Screwed

Image
I'm writing this the evening of January 23 (Wednesday) from a very quiet and secluded campspot in Big Bend National Park. In fact, this may be the most secluded place we've ever been, even including our past experiences in the desert near Quartzsite. Other than a brief update from my Android tablet on Monday, we've been pretty much on the fringe of cell service... or with no service at all. Here's a more complete recap of the past few days.

We left the SKP park near Hondo on Monday morning, heading west on US-90. Since we got a late start and because we're really becoming slower travelers, we decided to throw out the anchor at a recommended NPS campground on Lake Amistad, near Del Rio. Mileage for the day was just over a hundred miles. It was perfect for an overnight... drycamping not far from the highway but quiet and cheap at just $4.

The highlight of the evening was a visit from the Old Fat Man, Barney, from Old Fat Man Adventures. Yes sir, there he was in the…

Jan 21 - Hondo to Del Rio

Got going a little later this morning than planned. Besides sleeping in late, had to bid adieu to some new friends made during the past two weeks... and that usually involves a nice chat. So, it was about 11am by the time we were pulling out of the driveway and making progress westward on US90.
Having traveled this portion of  US90 many times before, we were looking for a new, untried campspot... something besides our usual stop at Seminole Canyon SP a few miles west of Del Rio Texas. Scratching that itch has us camped tonight near the shore of Lake Amistad, a dammed up portion of the Rio Grande River just north of Del Rio. We'll continue the journey tomorrow.
Besides not being able to see the lake from our site (the lake is more than 40 feet below the full mark and dropping at the rate of a foot every 3 days), we have very slow internet which will hamper my ability to post anything more here than this brief update from our Android tablet. But it's just for one night and it&…

Jan 18 - Blue Skies, Smiling at Me...

The weather is now on a positive up-swing and the forecast for the next week or so is generally warmer and clearer. Maybe, just maybe, the recent persistent pattern of Pacific moisture blowing across Mexico and into the middle part of the country bringing wet and chilly weather is finally changing. It's a change we've been waiting for.

At this point in time we're tentatively planning to leave the Hondo area on Monday. There's a music jam and potluck dinner on Saturday that might be neat... and that we're going to stick around for. Then Sunday we'll get all our prepping chores done so we can blow outa' here on Monday. No destination in mind but we know it won't be far.

We've been exercising our atrophying muscles by walking and biking the past few days, and today I'm going to expose my whitening legs to the sun for the first time in weeks??? months??? That's right, shorts on today... signaling the start of an early Spring.

Jan 16 - More on Blogs

Looks like I stirred up a minor ruckus with a couple folks out there in bloggerville with my January 2 post entitled Thoughts on the Journal... specifically my comment that "those doing what we're doing (living in a giant RV, going north in the summer, escaping south in the winter, staying at RV parks for long periods of time, etc) have universally boring blogs".  Considering how few people read this blog, it actually felt good to be the agent of some controversy for a change. And it caused a nice little bump in readership too.

But about all this I have two or three brief things to add. First, I was including myself in that comment and consider my blog to be a real bore too. Perhaps that wasn't clear enough. Second, my comment is my opinion, which, last I checked, I'm still entitled to. Just as I don't expect to agree with everything others have to say, I don't expect others to always agree with me.

And lastly... whatever happened to the free exchange of…

Jan 15 - Waiting on Winter

Image
We're still parked just outside Hondo Texas... have been here for a week yesterday, Monday. This was a planned stop for mail and such, as mentioned in an earlier post, but it also turned out to be a good place to pause and wait out the wintery weather in the high country west of here, that is... between here and the Pacific Ocean. That deep trough of cold Canadian air covered most of the western 2/3s of the continental USA for the past few days... providing grumble-fodder for folks in normally warmish places like Tucson, Yuma, and San Diego. What would we do if we didn't have something to whine about?

There is hope, though, on the western horizon. Things are changing. Cold bubbles, like any bubbles (heat, soap, tulip, or housing) don't last long. Nature is nothing if not the great equalizer. And that means moderation... relative warming... and getting the bus-house moving once again. Soon.

Jan 11 - Cold, Kindle, Ubuntu, and Cookies

Image
It's Friday morning and we've already received all 4 packages we've been waiting for: a mail package from our super-efficient mail service in Wisconsin, a surprise gift package from a very special person, a big box of fresh home-made cookies from a best friend, and an Amazon order... a new Kindle for Dar.  As screwed up as we sometimes think our country is, and all the problems that seem to be in our way to the future, the system that's developed to move small packages around the country, deliver them to the right people 99.9% of the time, and do it all within just a few days is nothing short of astonishing.

I'm in the process of loading Ubuntu Linux on an old Dell laptop of mine. Why? Well, why not? How does one learn about these things unless one tries? My biggest problem has been the slow download speeds of the Parks wifi system. The installation file is almost 600 MB which I believe could be downloaded in less than an hour with almost any reasonable broadband …

Jan 8 - Added Posts from the Past

Supposed to rain the next two days so I'm getting a few things knocked off my to-do list.  One of these is to get caught up on posts to The RV Sabbatical Journal.  Here's a list of what I just put up... in case you might be interested:

Jan 5 - The Texas White House

Dec 25 - Christmas with Friends

Dec 29 - Vicksburg to Shreveport; Dinner with Ben and Sarah

Dec 30 - Shreveport to College Station


Jan 7 - Johnson City to Hondo

Image
Miller Creek RV Park offers a weekly deal... pay for 6 days and get the 7th for free. We took advantage of that deal and were "paid-up" through Tues morning. But, alas, the weather is moving us along a day early. Rain and heavy storms are predicted for most of central and eastern Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday. So, we made the 120 mile drive to Hondo today.

The route was US-290 to Fredericksburg where we picked up TX-16 to Kerrville. There's a loop road TX-534 that avoids Kerrville's downtown district and hooks up with TX-173 on the west bank of the Guadalupe River for the drive south through Bandera (the cowboy capital of the world... according to them) and to Hondo.

We're planning to stay a week or two at the Lone Star Corral SKP Park just west of Hondo in order to be in one spot long enough to get mail and a few packages. It's also a good spot to catch our breath and get caught up on other chores that I've been putting off for a while.

From here we…

Jan 5 - The Texas White House

Image
The normal morning routine around here can be variously described as slow, uncomplicated, laid back, very non-urgent. There's almost never any rush to get anywhere or do anything. Read, catch up on news, grab a little something for breakfast, do a sudoku puzzle, and, if the mood is right, write. It can be intensely boring. But it can also be calm and peaceful... good for the soul as some would say.

Yesterday morning, when we did get going, we headed over to LBJ's Texas White House. The facility is managed jointly by the National Parks Service and the Texas State Parks Commission.

This Ranch is the place where LBJ was born, lived, died, and is buried. The original portion of the house was a very small two story limestone block structure built by an early settler to the area in 1894. One of Lyndon's uncles bought the house and surrounding property in 1909, and then Lyndon and Lady Bird bought it in 1951. Over the years the house was added onto 8 times by the various owners.

Jan 3 - Progress

On the off chance that you haven't noticed... Dar has actually completed her first post. <click here>  It's about our Dec. 31 visit to the Bush Presidential Library (George the 41st Pres.) on the grounds of Texas A&M University in College Station Texas. I think she did a marvelous job and hope she will do more in the upcoming months.

In addition to her post, I wrote two others yesterday... so now my deficit is down to 5.  Hmmm... now if I could just talk Dar in to doing one or two more, I'd be even closer to even.

Today, after a chilly start near freezing, we ran a few errands that took us over to the community of Dripping Springs, about 24 miles east of camp.  Dripping Springs sounds like a medical condition or a negative side-effect of some medication... so I usually break into a smirk when I hear someone mention the town. We did enjoy a relaxed breakfast at a small cafe and got our chores done in short order.

Since it was only Noon, we made the 30 mile drive to …

Jan 2 - Thoughts on the Journal

This morning I looked at my task list in my blog editor and found that I'm behind by 8 posts now. 8! OMG! I think I'll be "heads down" on the computer for the next couple days.

Dar and I talked about our journal and blogging over breakfast and recalled why we keep this blog... this journal... in the first place: It's the record, our record, of our travels and adventures during the time we live in our RV and explore North America. Secondarily, it's an easy way for family, friends, and curious others to "follow along"... to see where we're at and what we're up to.

As of today I've done 937 posts to The RV Sabbatical Journal over the past 6 years. While I love writing, I think it's become routine, like a job. After 29 State Capitol buildings, many of which look alike, describing them becomes repetitive. Presidential Libraries are similarly laid out in timeline fashion and the task becomes finding the unusual so as to keep humdrum and re…

Jan 1 - College Station to Johnson City

2013
First morning of 2013... woke to the pattering of rain again. The weather service had prepared us for this but I was hoping they were wrong. You see, as long time readers will remember, we hate pulling the toad along wet grimy roads. It's like tailgating a semi truck at just 3 feet back -- the water and road grime mixture is blasted into every crevasse and crack of the car, into the engine compartment, and who knows where else. Even though it's just a little Ford Focus, it's a disrespectful thing to do to a car... not to mention the bikes that are hooked to the back of the car.

Despite all this we did leave the Lazy G RV Park south of College Station. On balance we decided the shabby little park had to be left behind, especially when we knew what was waiting for us at the end of today's drive.

As we plied west the rain eased. Little towns along TX-21 brightened, then dimmed... Caldwell, Dime Box (home of the famous Black Bridge Festival), Old Dime Box, Paige. A bri…