Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Texas - three more stops

Del Rio

January 11, 2017 we moved to Del Rio, TX. We stayed at the Broke Mill RV Park. It is a mixture of permanent/long-term and overnighters. The sites are gravel with a strip of grass. Most are a little wider than normal and the ends of the rows give you a nice grassy area. We were fortunate enough to get one of those. 

The park is well maintained and pretty quiet with just a little road noise. They have a pool and a community room that is right off of the laundry room and an exercise room. The WiFi was good and our Verizon signal was strong. Every Thursday night they host a dinner and music show. The food was good and the music was fun, a mix of folk, country and pop. We paid $28.46 with our Good Sam discount. 

The Judge Roy Bean Museum is in Langtry about an hour west of town. There are two buildings left, the Jersey Lilly Bar named after the English actress Lily Langtry who Bean was infatuated with.

 The sign painter, paid in food and drink misspelled her name adding an extra "L". There was a side room that was the Billiard Hall, which is where Bean died. 

Bean never met Lily but he hung a sign on his home, the second building left on site, that said "Opera House - Town Hall - Seat of Justice" in hopes she would come and perform there. He wrote her several letters inviting her, none of which she replied to until he wrote and told her he named the town after her. She did visit in 1904 but sadly after Bean passed away.  
The Visitor Center is a mix of general Texas info and Judge Bean info. There is a small section that has vignettes you can see through glass windows and old phone receivers that you listen to a story through. 
 There is a cactus garden which was interesting to walk through. The windmill is a rare 10-foot Model P Eclipse. It sold around 1900 and played an important part in the development of west Texas. The cactus come in all sizes from small heart shaped to giant aloe as tall as the buildings. The entire place is handicap accessible and free. 
There is not much else in Langtry but we drove to the edge of the canyon. These places always amaze us and makes us wonder what it was like back when people were traveling by horse and wagon. Can you imagine coming upon this large gaping hole? The sides have eroded in spots leaving large cave like openings. 

This spot does hold some strange history. In 1896, Bean arranged a prizefight between Robert Fitzsimmons and James Corbett the current heavyweight champion at the time. Texas outlawed boxing and while a new location was being found Corbett retired handing the title to Peter Maher who agreed to fight Fitzsimmons. Bean arranged for everyone, spectators, press and Texas Rangers to travel by train to Langtry, where he held the fight on a sandbar on the Mexican side of the Del Rio. Fitzsimmons knocked Maher out in 95 seconds. Had to chuckle at the Bud Light 
bottle next to the sign - wonder if our nephew Chuck was here.
There was lots of sage and cactus to maneuver around and it seems someone had a meal here at one time. 

As you travel on Hwy 90 you cross over the Painted Canyon as well as the Pecos River, where you can stop at an over look for better views.

There are two boat ramps, one on either side of the river and lots of small cave openings can be seen. The overlook is very rocky but as usual there were wildflowers popping up where ever they could and even caught a moth enjoying some nectar. 
Rough Canyon

Del Rio sits along side of the Lake Amistad National Recreation Area. We spent a couple of days exploring the lake. Amistad means friendship in Spanish. The reservoir was created in 1969 when the dam was built that connects the US and Mexico. Both countries built and manage the dam. 
The lake has many "fingers" as it weaves in and out of the canyons. Access to the different areas is off of many different roads. 
San Pedro
Diablo East
The area is geared mostly to boating and fishing with a few hiking trails. Most of our exploration was from the car as it was raining. 

We went to as many canyons as we could get to, some of the roads are a little rough and some are flooded over at this time of the year. 

Spur 406

Dam off in the distance

You can't actually get to the dam as it is the border crossing. While our phones thought we were in Mexico we never did cross the border. There is a marina and campground that is run by Laughlin Air Force Base. We took a road past the campground and thank goodness we parked and walked the rest of the way - it was rather tilted and rocky!

The Val Verde Winery established in 1883 is the oldest winery in the area. It was started by Frank Qualia, an Italian immigrant. Today it is run by his grandson, Thomas who has expanded the business to include olive oil with an orchard of 500 olive trees. 

After enjoying a sampling of their wine we brought a few bottles along with us. This sign made us chuckle, and we had to wonder how many people have backed into this tree and did the wine have something to do with it? 


Freer, TX was home for eight nights staring on January 18, 2017. We stayed at the Double M RV Park

The entire park is gravel and all the sites are back-in. With that said we were able to pull through into our site and keep our tow-dolly attached as there was no one in the site behind us. Most of the people in the park are permanent or long-term but the park is very well kept. 

The sites are very level and the park is pretty quite except for some road noise. They have a nice community room that is open 24 hours that has a large screen TV as well as a full kitchen to use. The laundry room is right off of this room and is very clean. We paid $15.63 with no discounts offered. We did see a number of incredible Texas sunsets. 

There is not a whole lot to do in this area but as always we found ways to entertain ourselves. Laredo was actually where we had originally planned to stay this week but couldn't find an RV park with full hook-ups. 

Lots of  fancy one
way streets
We did make a trip there and drove through the old part of town. We were a little disappointed with the town, and actually glad we didn't stay there.  We had planned to tour San Agustin Cathedral but it was closed.
We of course took the long way home through Hebbronville and lots of sage brush.

Alice is the closet town for shopping, about a half hour away so we decided to find a few Roadside Oddities on the way. 
The statue of St Michael, in Baquete, is a little different than others we have seen, St. Michael has Satan in chains. The Stuffed Longhorn is in George West. The last statue is in Alice and is Jose de Escando, the Father of South Texas.  

The Rattle Snake is in Freer, where they hold the Rattle Snake Roundup every year. So sorry we missed that! Bonnie Palacios, the Baton Twirling Champion in Benavides made us think of our friend Becki Bayley's daughter Maggie who not only shares a birthday with Nancy but is also a pretty talented twirler herself. 

While driving in any direction all you really ever see is mile after mile of sagebrush. It is never ending and we wonder what it looks like here in the spring or summer. 

We arrived at the Natures Own RV Park on January 26, 2017. It is a fairly large park, all the sites are cement with a grass or rock strip. Most are about average width unless you are in an end site, which we were. We had site 21 which gave us a large grassy area next to us. The park has two clubhouses, both have laundry and shower facilities which are very clean. They also have exercise rooms and a TV room. 

This is one of the more pet friendly parks we have been to. They have three fenced dog parks, one of which is very large with obstacle course items. There is also a former dog park that now is home to two goats.
The pet spa with a raised tub for dog washing was a welcome sight, no sore back this time! Mielikki didn't enjoy bath time any more than usual though. 
The park is very well maintained and there is access to the Dick Kielberg City Park right next door through a gate in the back of the park. 

There is some road noise from I-70. We paid $31.43 a night with no discount offered.  

Corpus Christi is only a half hour away, the last time we were in this area we went to Padre Islands. 
This time we headed north on the peninsula to the Mustang State Park and Port Aransas.

You can drive on the beach for miles which is pretty cool. 

The WWII naval aircraft carrier, USS Lexington is in Corpus Christi and you can tour it. Seeing smoke off in the distance over the water can't be a good thing!

Brownsville is the southern most part of Texas and where you get to South Padre Island from. As we crossed the bay we were amazed at how developed the island is, after being at the Padre Islands that has no development at all it was quite the change. 
We drove out to the end of the road, which is covered in sand in spots, and found a beautiful beach and spent a few hours relaxing in the sun and collecting seashells.  

You can rent horses to ride along the beach. You could tell the local from the tourists. He was in jeans and a jacket, the tourists were in tank tops and shorts. 

Mielikki had a blast running and rolling in the sand, that is until she got sand in her eyes. Of course a dog will rub their face on the ground to get something out of their eyes, well that doesn't work so well on sand. Les put his hat on her to cover her eyes for a bit and then she was back to surveying her domain!

On our way off of the island we came across kite fliers. Nancy loves kites so we of course stopped for photos! The four guys working the rectangular kites were so good. It was fun watching them manuevor the kites around. 

 Unfortunately the guy with the blue triangle kites wasn't so lucky, his got a little tangled.

Next stop is San Antonio and a visit with Katrina and Steve!!!

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You! 

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ You have an iron with you? 
Yes, we brought an iron with us but it never gets used for clothes. Nancy uses it when working on sewing projects. 
While an iron is fairly small and easy to store an ironing board is a whole different subject. The solution for that is an ironing cloth. It is made to fit over the top of a table but can be used on any hard surface. A counter, the floor or a table, and yes Nancy has used them all. It folds or rolls up and is easily stored. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Mexico and the start of Texas

Las Cruces

We left Arizona on January 3, 2017 and headed into New Mexico. We made a one night stop at the Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruses, NM
We stayed here for a week in February 2016. The majority of the park is snowbirds. The park is well maintained and the overnight sites are all pull through with full hook-ups. The sites are gravel with a strip of grass, they are a little narrow but there are bushes for some privacy. Our site was plenty long enough for our rig and tow-dolly with the car still attached. 
They have a nice fenced dog park where Mielikki made a new friend and the laundry room is very clean. We paid $36.00 a night with our Good Sam discount.

Van Horn
We entered the Lone Star state on January 4, 2017. We stayed at the Desert Willow RV Park in Van Horn, TX. The park is split in two with a section on both sides of the road. Both are all gravel and the majority of sites are pull through.
Sites are long and about average width. This is a pretty basic park, the laundry room was clean. They have a dog run, but it is not kept up and is full of goat head weeds, as is most of the property so walking the dog was a challenge. The worst part was the very loud train right across the street, 
A frosty morning
in fact we left a day early because of it. We paid $13.50 a night with our Passport America discount. 
The weather was pretty cold, we had planned to go to the Guadalupe Mountains but there was snow and some of the roads were closed. 

Van Horn is on the Texas Mountain Trail so we explored it some. You can follow the 1960's driving route that takes you to state and national parks. 
It reminded us a little of some of the places on Route 66, not much left to see in the small towns but the scenery was pretty.

As you know we love to explore old cemeteries, so when we read about the history of the Van Horn Cemetery we had to check it out.  
It is always interesting to see the different types of headstones and how people of different faiths and heritage confront and celebrate death. 

The first grave in this cemetery is that of "Baby Beach", infant child of James and Nancy Beach, who died on October 7, 1882. 
The first adult to be buried was Augustus Sanders Goynes who was shot by his brother-in-law over a watering hole dispute on June 30, 1892, his 52nd birthday. Which is rather ironic as Augustus was the person who suggested that the town's motto should be "This town is so healthy we have to shoot a man to start a cemetery". This motto hung in the lobby of the local hotels. 

The El Capitan Hotel was built in 1930 and operated until the late '60's when it closed down. In the early 70's it reopened as the Van Horn State Bank. In 2007 Lanna and Joe Duncan purchased the building and converted it back into a hotel. 

We hope they serve better food than the diesel fried chicken place! 

Arriving in Marathon a day earlier proved to be a good idea as it gave us an extra day to explore Big Bend National Park.
The drive in once again offered up some cool scenery. We stayed at the Marathon Motel and RV Park. It has 10 motel rooms and 19 RV sites, some that are permanent or long term but all are kept up well. 

Sites are pull through and plenty long enough and very wide as well as level. The laundry room was out of order which was a drag, but the park was nice.

The roof on the building
slides open
It is also a destination for star gazers as this area is considered to have some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. They have a section called the SkyPark that has cement pads for setting up telescopes for star gazing. There is a building on site that is filed with equipment for star gazing and tracking planets. The owner has a great deal of equipment as well and you can even arrange to rent some. The SkyPark link has a webcam on it. 

There is a section that has a labyrinth type walk, a deck over looking a pond and a garden area with hanging swings to sit and relax and watch the sunset. 

Marathon is a small town with a hotel, a small cafe, a tiny grocery store and the coolest B & B we have seen in long time. It, like so many others was developed when the railroad came through. 

We did find two Roadside Oddities, The Chicken House and The Target Building, we would spend a lot less money if all Targets were this size! They weren't kidding when they said they have amazing sunsets.


As mentioned we went to Big Bend National Park and this one is on the list of favorites. We spent two days exploring this amazing park. 
The first day we came in from the north at the Persimmon Gap entrance with a stop at the Visitor Center. They have some great displays of animal information. We loved the casts of the foot prints.

The park lies in the northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is comprised of two types of land, one is sedimentary and formed from the oceans and the other is volcanic, formed when volcanoes erupted millions of years ago. You find mountains, valleys, canyons, lush vegetation, arid deserts and hot springs here.

A trip down the Auto Tour Road was fun, we do find some interesting roads to travel. It took us to the Dagger Flats
The views of the surrounding mountains and the cactus and scrub were amazing. 
The Fossil Exhibit didn't officially open until January 14, but we were able to get into it anyways. You wandered through an open air building that has photos and information on the development of this area
There are also a number of fossils and representations of fossils that were found here.  

One section has metal pipes for you to look through that focus in on the spots the fossils were found. Really neat.
There is a walkway to the top of a mound that offers up some nice views. 
Just off the parking lot is a covered pavilion that during the summer months will offer much needed shade. Surrounding the pavilion they have information boards with a question or statement on one side and the answer and facts on the other, plus there are large plastic "fossils" to explore. 
Panther Junction was the next Visitor Center, and this one has a post office in it. There is also a self-guided walk through a desert garden. 

Rio Grande Village was a final destination for the first day. You cross over the Ernst Basin and then through a tunnel.  

L: Sierra del Carmen, US ~~ C: Sierra del Carmen, Mexico ~~ R: Maderas del Carmen
Just past the tunnel is the Rio Grande Overlook. You can not see the river from here but you do get a beautiful view of the mountains, Boquillas, Mexico, and the Rio Grande Village
While driving through Rio Grande Village, we met a few birds and of course saw more cactus. 

There are a few places to gain access to the river and Nancy took advantage of that by dipping her toes in. 

As you drive north, heading to the Persimmon Gap entrance/exit the road stretches out before you. 

Driving back home with the sun going down and the moon coming up was priceless. 

Our next visit was through the west entrance at the Maverick Junction.

We hiked a little at the Croton Springs. It was a bit warm so Mielikki dug herself a cool spot to lay in while we found some interesting rocks, including a "Michigan" one.

The drive down to Castolon took us a few hours. 
We stopped at the Sotol Vista Overlook. 
L: Goat Mtn ~~ C: Kit Mtn ~~ R: Xmas Mtn

Then the Burro Mesa and the Burro Ears.

The stop at Tuffs Canyon was cool. It never ceases to amaze us the power that water has. You can hike down into the canyon.

Every turn in the road gives you something different to see. One section reminded us of the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 
Picture on right is the Castolon Cerro Castellan

We also saw a very large "Michigan" rock. 

At the Santa Elena Canyon there is a boat ramp for the rafts for white water rafting, we didn't do that but Nancy and Mielikki posed for a picture. 

While at the Canyon we met a group of guys from the Houston area who were on a guys weekend adventure. Roger and Nancy got to talking about life on the road as he and his wife want to do this, and Nancy was able to help them out by taking their picture. We love meeting new people and exchanging stories and contact info. So, Roger if you are reading this we hope you and Joan can hit the road soon. 
This canyon is amazing, it has been created by the water rushing through and eroding the limestone base. There is a 1.7 mile hike that takes you to a very narrow part of the river, where you can cross and hike to an observation deck to see down the canyon. The day was getting away from us and it was time to head back home so we didn't do the hike. 
While driving out of the canyon you get a great side view of the Castolon Cerro Castellan.

This time as we watched the moon come up we also got to chase our shadow.
Next up is Del Rio, Freer and Kingsville.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way
~ Don't get locked out
Many of the RV parks that we stay in are gated, and/or the bathrooms, laundry and clubhouse have keypad locks on them. 
When you check in you are given a map or brochure that has the key code info on it. Nancy takes a picture with her phone and that way we don't have to rely on our memory, which isn't always the best! We've blocked out the numbers for safety reasons.