Saturday, January 31, 2015

Guadalupe Mountains National Park


It rained all night, I like it when it rains and I am in the RV. Pitter patter on the roof and all that. Makes for good sleeping. It also helps drown out the semis on the freeway and the trains whizzing by. When we woke up, it was cold and blowing. We had planned on heading up into the mountains to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park but we were sort of debating whether or not to go.

I have to go. In my quest to get to all 401 National Parks, Memorials, Historic Sites, etc. I can't let one pass by. Lou calls me obsessive/compulsive. I call me focused and thorough. Maybe a completist. The park is only an hour drive away, I'm driving. We're going.

The drive is interesting. There is a gradual incline, so gradual that you can hardly tell you are gaining altitude. You know that you are climbing when you realize that you are not driving through fog but through clouds. Seriously, the clouds were so think you could only see maybe 100 feet in front of you. It was a little eerie.

When we got to the park, there were only a few cars at the visitor center. Guess what, there were several there from Minnesota. Minnesotans are everywhere.

When we went into the visitor center there was a family with a small boy looking at the exhibits which were mostly stuff animals, birds and lizards from the area. When they finished looking at the exhibits, the family went up to the ranger. The ranger very solemnly told the little boy (he was four years old) to raise his right hand and repeat after him. It was several paragraphs long but the gist of it was that the little boy swore that he would do all that he could to protect our national parks and be a conservator of nature. At the end, the ranger shook the little boy's hand and congratulated him on becoming a junior ranger. He gave the little boy a couple of badges to commemorate the occasion. You should have seen this little boy's face. He was so thrilled and proud of himself.

I asked the ranger why the Guadalupe Mountains were a National Park. He said it was because the mountains were among the best examples of an ancient marine fossil reef from back when this area was covered by a huge tropical ocean. I asked if we could see these fossils but evidently they are way back in the mountains and not accessible to the general public.

We did a short mile nature walk outside of the visitor center, it was just too cold to do much more. The trail was marked with a lot of signs identifying different types of vegetation which was helpful because I had been wondering what some of it was as I drove through Texas. Beyond tumbleweeds, I'm pretty clueless about Texas flora and fauna.

At the end of the trail, there were some ruins of a mid 1800s Butterfield Stage Coach stop. The Butterfield stagecoaches were the first transcontinental mail route predating the Pony Express.

Coming down the mountain, we saw parts of El Capitan, which people would use to navigate their way west. I say parts of El Capitan because it was in the clouds. They also say that Guadalupe Peak, the highest mountain in Texas was right there. Couldn't tell because of the clouds.

Rain for the rest of the day and wine and cheese for the evening.







Friday, January 30, 2015

Flights and Flights


Lou and I head out to walk Miko. We decide to take the Montezuma Quail Trail – a short one mile trail near the campground. What they fail to mention is that it is up the side of a mountain – a rise of some 200 feet which doesn't sound like all that much but according to my FitBit which tracks flights of stairs I've taken, it was 26 flights of stairs. 26 flights up and 26 flights down, all on a narrow rock strewn trail where the rocks slide under your feet. It was a great sense of accomplishment that we did this.

When we got toward the top, Miko flushed out three mule deer. All of a sudden, on this narrow path, I have a dog lunging on the end of the leash trying to get at those deer. Thank God, she didn't see the two Javelinas that were going in the other direction from the deer. It was a little hard trying to keep my balance and hold on to the dog.

When we finally got down the hill (mountain in my world), Miko picked up some cacti in her paw. We got them out and got back to the RV.

Today is a travel day. We drove to Van Horn Texas, a nice 90 mile drive. I finally got to see tumbleweeds in motion. They were flying across the road. If you look at the fence line in this picture, that is not grass, those are piles of tumbleweeds are smashed up against the fence. The picture was taken with my iPhone as I was driving since I still haven't found my camera.

 
I also saw a herd of antelope on the side of the road. Add another species to my checklist. Passed a lot of signs saying “Loose Livestock” and some of the biggest steers I've ever seen. There were many many cattle guards across the road.
We are staying in Van Horn, Texas at the Southern Star RV Park. We have a major highway on one side and train tracks with high speed freight trains on the other. After spending three days at Davis Mountains State Park where it was incredibly quiet, this is a bit of a culture shock. The best part of it is that I have phone service, cable tv, I have wicked fast internet and there is a laundry room. Tonight I am vegging out, surfing the net and doing laundry. Ahhh, life is good.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Just How Many Times Do I Have to Go To The Store


Today was the day to knock off another National Historic Site off of my list. Fort Davis National Historic Site to be precise. This was a fort built in the mid 1800s to protect civilians on their way out west. It was laid out a little strangely in that there were no walls. It was just basically an army base. They had enlisted barracks, officer quarters and the commandant’s house all furnished with period pieces. A nice little movie about the history of the place. They spent a little bit of time talking about the Buffalo Soldiers who were stationed here. Buffalo Soldiers were black cavalry soldiers.

Tonight I was entertaining Lou and Davey at my house. That meant I had to go shopping. I was making Jamaican Chicken with black beans. Overall, in the course of prepping this meal, I had to go to the store three friggin' times. I even had a list for two of those times. Dinner turned out pretty good although because of the amount of curry used in the dish, my house smelled like an Indian restaurant. I guess it was a good way to test out my exhaust fan on the microwave.

I can't find my camera.  RVs aren't all that big - you would think that things wouldn't get lost in there. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Journey To The Sun


Today we head back up to the McDonald Observatory to catch the third program that we have signed up for – Daytime Tour and Solar Viewing. There are only five of us on the tour which made for a very informal but informative session. If you want to know more about the program, check out http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/visitors/programs/tours We started out in a classroom where Kelly, our guide, talked about the sun, with lots of fun facts. We then went outside where they had two filtered telescopes set up where we could actually look at the sun. I got a little confused with the telescope that was focused on sun spots. You look in the telescope and it is all white with some little black dots on the screen. They looked like little specks of dirt. Evidently these little dirt specks were the sun spots. I guess I was a little under impressed with the sun spots. 

The second telescope was focused on the edge of the sun. We could actually see solar flares happening.  Well, they actually were happening in the past cause the speed of light can be a little slow sometimes. This was interesting and rather pretty to see. 

We then moved on to the Big Telescopes. There were two telescopes, each housed in their own dome on top of their very own mountain top. The view from these mountain tops were stupendous – you could see mountain peaks that were over 80 miles away.

The first telescope was what you think of when you think telescopes – a big 107” diameter metal tube. I'm not sure how long it was, but this sucker was big. I actually got to play with the joystick that moved the telescope. It was great fun until Kelly had to step in and take it away from me. Bummer. Lots of interesting facts such as how they clean the mirrors – no Windex, they use CO2 sprayed on the mirrors from a distance. It is vey important that these mirrors do not get scratched – this big boy cost many millions of dollars to create (did I mention how I got to push it around?).

The second telescope was of a totally different design. Instead of one mirror, there were many smaller mirrors. It was huge also. This telescope was being fitted to try to figure out where and/or what dark energy was. I don't understand the concept of dark energy (well, I don't understand beyond the Darth Vadar type of dark energy), so I couldn't explain it to you.

The McDonald Observatory made a huge impression on me. Besides being a well run program, it was just mind-boggling to see the science and the universe through their eyes.

We came back home and Lou made some Frito Pies for dinner. I think these might be my new favorite food.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friends, Travel and the Stars

Several people have wondered if I am still traveling with Lou and Davey. I am. I am finding that I am really enjoying the camaraderie. Originally when I started this trip, it was supposed to be about finding out if I could handle being totally by myself for three months. This was not going to happen exactly as I thought since the internet made it possible for me to be in contact with all my peeps back home. But, it was still going to be a trip of self-sufficiency – a trip to see if I could be self reliant.

The cool thing about this RV travel is that every day is a new opportunity to explore different things, different opportunities. Yes, I am not all on my own, but I am finding out more about my sociability, my ability to work with others, my being part of a team. It is interesting. I am finding that I don't mind being with others. Maybe I really can play nice with others. Who knew.

I am still traveling with Lou and Davey. From my viewpoint, it is working out well. They are such easy going people, they feed me, and even though I am the one with the “plan”, just because they are there, it makes me follow through, makes me much more active than I might be left to my own devices. Eventually we will part company, but as of now I am enjoying being with them and it seems to be a mutual feeling.

Today, we got up early and hit the road by 8:30. We took a different road out of Big Bend than we came into Big Bend on. Again, we passed the Chisos Mountains and then traveled through some hilly country. When we got to the west end of the park, all of a sudden it seemed to turn into more of a Bad Lands type of terrain. Round weathered hills, lots of sand color hills.

There was no official end of the park, it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere and then we started going through little towns. Everything is so dusty looking. The word that comes to mind is hardscrabble. It makes me feel very fortunate in the way life has treated me. While I have had struggles and occasionally gone hungry, things have pretty much worked out for me. My impression is that these people have to struggle a lot more for the basics than I have ever had to.

At one point we had to pass through a border inspection point. You pull off the road a little bit and there is one guy with a big black German Shepard type dog who circles around behind your rig – the dog is sniffing all over (looking for drugs?). There is a guy that stands up in front of your rig just watching and then there is the chatty guy who talks to you and asks you questions.

“From Minnesota? “

“Yup. I'm trying to escape the cold.”

“Well watch out – it is going to snow here Friday.”

“No way. That is depressing”

“You a US citizen”

“Yup”

“Ok – have a good day.”

Part of me was a little disappointed they did not think I might have some nefarious plan and could be a “person of interest”. Oh well, maybe it was the gray hair that threw them off.

It took us about four hours to get to Davis Mountains State Park in Texas. Got to my site and it took me a long time to get the rig level. It is very hilly here. The good thing is that there is pretty good internet here – I can actually be in the coach and be online. Heaven. Of course I had to park super close to the bathrooms because that is where the wifi antenna is, but I'm so overjoyed at finally being able to be online. Still no Verizon phone service, I have to go up the mountain several thousand feet or go down the road into Fort Davis which is about three miles away to get phone service. But...I have internet.

The big draw here is the McDonald Observatory - . There is very little light pollution here in this area( because there are not many people) which makes it a perfect place to study the heavens. We had signed up for three tours at the observatory but after driving that long, we rescheduled the afternoon tour. The observatory is on top of several different mountain peaks – long windy roads with long ways down on the edge of the road.

First up was the Twilight tour which was titled Earth's Companion: The Moon. This is about an hour and a half talk. It was fascinating. First they talked about the phases of the moon, eclipses, and lunar surface features. There were some live demos and it was entertaining.

We had a half hour between the Twilight Program and the Star Party so we decided to eat in the little restaurant. I had Frito Pie. It is very similar to the Taco In a Bag that we have up north. There is a big layer of Fritos, topped by chili, cheese and salsa. It is one of those dishes where you think you are in heaven all the while knowing that this was probably going to hasten your future heart attack.

The Star Party. You start off in an outdoor amphitheater where there is a guy with a super powerful laser. Using the laser, he points out the different constellations and stars. It was the first time that I could really tell different stars/constellations (besides my favorite constellation Orion which everybody knows). The leader was very informative and also funny. He handled an audience of about a hundred people very well, making all of us interested and wanting to know more. It was pretty cold on the mountain and we were sitting on granite seats, but nobody seemed to mind.

After the talk, we had the opportunity to look through about six different telescopes. We saw
  1. a closeup of some craters on the moon which we had just learned about in the Twilight program
  2. a large vision of the moon where we could see a bunch of the Seas (Tranquility, Fertility)
  3. a comet that was very near to the moon
  4. Orion's Nebulus
  5. Pleiades
  6. One of the Gemini twins – can't remember if it was Pollux or Castor

This was such an exciting night. Although the universe has always made me feel rather small, this was such a mind-blowing experience – it really fuels the imagination and makes you want to know more about what is out there.

When we got back to the Rvs, we took Miko for a night walk and looked at all the stars and planets that we had learned about. While we were walking, Miko went on alert. On the side of the road, there were four Javalinas – collared peccaries, wild pigs. Miko started barking (she never barks) and trying to get at them. Evidently she irritated one of them because he started coming after Miko. I reeled her in and we headed back to the RV. Pig did not follow.

The skies here are so dark, it is easy to see maybe about a billion or so stars. Both Davey and I got out our binoculars and lay on our backs and checked out the moon. With binoculars, you can see an awful lot of the different features of the moon.






Monday, January 26, 2015

Santa Elena Canyons (GOT)


Today is our last day at Big Bend. We decided to drive all the way over to the other side, the western side of the park to the Santa Elena Canyon. It is about an hour drive. We passed our old friends the Chisos Mountains, we actually circled right around them and arrived at the Canyon. All I can say is WOW!!!. The canyon walls are 1500 feet tall. It is awe inspiring.
 
The trail crossed a dry stream bed and then climbs part way up the wall.  It is a bunch of switch backs so it is not too bad.  The Rio Grande is right there and it is very green.  You can't see very far down in to the water, it is not very clear.  It is very cool in the canyon and peaceful.  I think this was my best day in Big Bend. 

If you ever watch the show Game of Thrones, the Wall in the North is made of ice and I think I read that it was supposed to be 1500 feet tall. I had no idea how tall that actually is until I saw Santa Elena.

I am just going to show pictures of the day.

 



 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chisos Mountains


In the center of Big Bend is a mountain range called the Chisos Mountains. Rough, rugged mountains just popping up out of the desert.

We drive to a place called Chisos Basin, right dab in the middle of the mountains. Nothing much there – a small store, a lodge where you can rent rooms and the visitor center. There are two hikes we want to do – one is the .4 mile Windows View trail (love the mileage on this one) and the Chisos Basin Loop Trail. As I said, the Chisos Basin is surrounded by the mountains, sort of like a volcanic crater. The Windows View trail takes you to an overlook where you can see a big opening in the wall of mountains. Evidently when it rains, all the water rushes down to this portal and then pours out of the basin. They even call it a pour off, imagine that.

Well, you can see the pour off in the background:
 
 
After we finished the Window View Trail, we set off on the Chisos Basin Loop Trail. I think it was 1.6 miles. It wandered through some woods, not the northern type woods, but sort of a desert type woods. I found this tree with really strange bark. I have no idea what type of tree it is.
 
After we returned back to the Rvs, we hung around for a bit and then headed out to the Rio Grande Nature Trail Walk. We wanted to time it right around sunset and we timed it perfectly. First you go through an area with a boardwalk over a pond. You are surrounded by tall grasses and it is a bird haven. Then you start climbing a hill until you get to the top where you have a great view. There is Boquillas Mexico on one side
 
More Mexico


You can see the boardwalk over the pond and then the RV park. Notice how close to the Rio Grande we are:
 

 
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grapevines


Grapevines


After walking the dog with Lou and complaining about my freezing night, I go back to my coach. Within a few minutes, there is a knock on the door and it is Davey with his ever present tool kit. He disconnected my CO2 alarm. I will buy a portable one next time I get to a big town. Until then, I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to a non-alarm evening – a warm, full night sleep.

Todays plan is to hike the Grapevine Hills Trail. It is listed as an Easy 2.2 mile trail. The description is: Follows a sandy wash through a boulder field. A short but steep climb near the end takes you to a large balanced rock. No shade.

In National Parks, dogs are not allowed on trails. They are only allowed in places that cars can drive which means Miko has to stay home.

We drive to the Panther Junction Visitor Center to get sort of an overview of the park and also to check out the gift shop. I really like park gift shops – I don't usually buy anything, but I like seeing all the site-specific things that they sell. T-shirts, post cards, books on birds or books on identifying animal scat. I just get a kick out of them.

To get to Grapevine Hills Trail, you have to drive down a gravel road for six miles. I think it would have been a lot more comfortable if we had been in a 4X4 type vehicle. I was really surprised that I had cell service out there. I mean, there was nothing out there but brush. I got a quick call to Tony which was so nice. I've been gone for two weeks now, which is the longest we have been apart ever. It was just so wonderful to hear his voice.

Grapevine Hills Trail was so much fun. You are walking along a sand trail between these huge piles of boulders and hills. The hills were created when molten lava expanded and just sort of pushed the ground up. Lots of cacti and strange forbidden looking plants along the way.
 
 
That is Lou – that tiny little piece of pink backpack up there in them darn hills:

 
 
Very Cool Rock:
 
Then we got to the “steep” part of the climb. They weren't kidding about that. It was scrambling over huge boulders. I was so impressed that the three of us made it to the top. It seemed like something that should be done when you are twenty years younger. I felt very righteous about being up on top. It was so worth it making it up there. The view back over the way we had come was like something out of a postcard. We got to the top and there was a huge balanced rock that we all stood under. We were on top of the world.
 
Notice my cool forest ranger hat:
 
 
And then we had to come down. Going down is much more scary than going up. I spent part of the time on my butt, trying to crab walk back down. Thinking to myself, where are the guard rails? If I go off the edge here, it is a long, long way down. Guard rails would really ruin the whole experience, but at certain times, I did miss them.
 
We made it all down safely and got back to the car. We had met a few people on the trail but most of the way we had it all to ourselves. It was a glorious day and a perfect hike.
Coming back home, we all scurried over to the little store where we could get internet access. It is shameful how much we rely on our electronics. That said, I certainly don't want to give up mine. I downloaded a star gazing app to help me identify the stars. The stars here are so brilliant.
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Big Bend Here We Come


Going to be a long travel day today. Google Maps say 4 hours which mean 5 hours in real time.

The caravan takes off – Davey driving in the lead as normal. We have a little game we play where we try to one-up each other about our respective motor coaches. Davey and Lou have a Monaco Diplomat which is quite a fancy diesel coach whereas mine is more of a Middle-Class gas coach. I love to find things to needle Davey about and I finally found one thing to boast about – mine is better on hills. Of course, the fact that Davey has his coach in economy mode, well, we just won't mention that.

The country is rather pretty – pretty flat but hills off in the distance. Occasionally we have to go over them but they are rather mild. We stop for gas in Sanderson, TX because we were thinking that it would get more and more expensive the closer we got to Big Bend. I paid $2.09 a gallon which considering how much I was paying last year was a bargain. All the towns here sort of have a dusty hardscrabble feel to them. No big box malls around here at all.

Me trying to keep up with the Joneses:

 
 


We headed south from Marathon and drove about thirty miles to the Big Bend National Park entrance. It was another sixty miles, traveling in the park to get to our campground which is on the Rio Grande. As we drove through those sixty miles, I was just amazed at the scenery – sparse, but rather majestic. At one point, we came across mountains. I don't know what I was expecting – I guess I always think of Texas as flat, flat, flat and it continually surprises me with all the hills here. But directly ahead were mountains. Real live mountains! With snow on them. Come on now – I'm in Texas – what is this snow stuff? These are the type of rough craggy mountains – the harsh looking ones.



The Joneses Trying To Keep Up With Me:

 
We pull into the campground – we were hoping to get into the full hookup side of the campground but they were full. We ended up in the National Park campground which has no water or electricity. This is going to be my first dry camping experience. I'm a little worried because I think I have a malfunctioning CO2 alarm. It seems as soon as the coach batteries get to the point of not being fully charged, the alarm starts going off. But, we will see how it goes.
Lou and Davey and I are starting to get a few rituals going. It seems that at the end of travel days such as today, we tend to congregate at one of our coaches and indulge in lots of cheese, crackers and wine. Lots of wine. I'm not sure I brought enough wine for the trip. Either I'm going to have to buy some more wine or quit traveling so much. We sat in my coach in the dark with just a small candle glowing because I was afraid to use any electricity and run down my house batteries. Finally they got tired of sitting in the dark and also being cold (I had turned the furnace down really low – again, didn't want to use electricity) so they left and went home.
I was tired so I was asleep by 9:00. At 10:30, the CO2 alarm went off – my batteries were just a little less than full so of course it goes off. I hit the reset button which shut the alarm off and went back to bed. Fifteen minutes later the alarm is going off again. I shut off the main battery switch which finally shut the alarm off but shutting off that switch means no lights (ok, no problem – I'm sleeping) and no heat. I put another blanket on the bed and got some socks on and decided to tough it out. By 5:00, it was 32 degrees in the coach. The campground rules say that there should be no generators run before 8:00 in the morning so I would have to wait to start that up to recharge the batteries and get heat.
All I can say is Miko and I survived.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Where Have They All Gone and What Does It All Mean


Seminole Canyon is a slit in the earth which contains Pecos River rock art dated 4000 years and is considered to be some of North America's oldest pictographs. This is why we are at this park. You can only hike into the canyon if you are on an official guided tour. They will not run the tour if it is raining because the rock you walk on can become super slick and you could slide right off the edge.

We didn't think that there was going to be a tour because it had been raining all night. Let's not also mention that the wind was blowing and it was cold, cold, cold. The tour was at 10, so we decided we would just go down to the Visitor's Center and see if they were going to run the tour.

I dug out my long underwear, my winter coat and my winter gloves which I had packed away a couple of days ago when the temperature was 82. I am down south, why in the world do I have to wear all these clothes. Urggg.

The tour is on and Lou, Davey and I are the only ones on the tour. The tour cost $5. They said that it was a rugged hike, I was a little worried that us geezers would have a hard time, but it helped that we were the only ones on the tour. Laurie was our guide. Laurie and her husband were volunteers at the park. They had been there since Thanksgiving. In exchange for their volunteering, they got a free place to stay in the RV park.

We walked into the canyon, there were about 100 steps down into the canyon, which means we have to come back up those same 100 steps. The pictures don't do it justice to let you know the scale of things. There were these giant shelves on the side of the canyon that prehistory people would stop by and live for a couple of weeks. While they were there, they would do these paintings. We don't know who they were or what the paintings mean. These paintings are of a style not found anywhere else. This is one of the few sites where no cultural group claims that it was their ancestral site. Most of the current day thought is that these pictures are of the shamanistic tradition. Beyond that, we have no idea what they represented. Our guide was excellent and showed us how they made the paint out of rocks, how they boiled prickly pear cactus to make food and 'handbags'. She explained how people used the land to survive.

There was a mescal? tree that Laurie pointed out and she said that early people used it for it's hallucinogen properties. I said – wait, Mescaline? She said – yes. Then she said she was going to keep an eye on me and there better not be any seed pods missing. What can I say? I'm a child of the sixties.

After getting back to the Rvs, it was lunch time and nap time. Lou, Miko and I met at two and we decided we were going to hike some of the trails in the park. We decided to do the Canyon Rim Trail because we thought it would be the most scenic. Of course both Lou and I are scared of heights and I was a little worried because it was still drizzly and I was thinking that rock on the top of the canyon would be slick. It wasn't too bad and the view was almost primal. Especially when you think about how many years ago these Pecos people were walking the land. They were doing their rock art at the same time the pyramids were being built in Egypt.

Today we walked about 5.5 miles and according to my FitBit there were 26 flights of stairs.

Standing overlooking the canyon was a sculpture called Maker of Peace which added to the spirituality of the place.












 

 
 
 



 
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Travel Day


Today we head out from San Antonio. We planned to leave at the ungodly hour of 9:00 which means that I need to get up at 6. For the first time in many days, I saw the sunrise. It was one of those really pretty sunrises – the sun reflecting off of the clouds giving them a red glow. Maybe I will have to start getting up early to see more of these sunrises. Who knew they were so pretty. Nah – ain't gonna happen.

I wanted to get gas and propane and I wanted to do it before I hooked up the car. It just makes it easier to maneuver around parking lots and gas stations if I don't have the car hooked up. I also wanted to give the dog a good walk since most of the day she was going to have to spend in the RV, something she really dislikes.

Gas was $1.72 a gal. I'm loving the gas prices especially since I needed 60 gallons. Propane was a lot cheaper also. $2.48 a gallon. Amazing when I think that I paid $4.78 in Minnesota before I left.

We hit the road and decided to take the scenic route rather than the freeway. It is much more interesting and this part of Texas, the hill country, is really pretty. Lots of hills, curves, trees – it was pleasurable. Dave and Lou were leading our convoy which was nice because I got to sight see a little bit more than if I was leading. After we got through the hills, it started to get more like what you would think West Texas was like – sagebrush and sand.

We cut across over to the Rio Grande Valley. Not the Rio Grande where all the snowbirds go which I understand is green, but the Rio Grande Valley where it is much more desolate. We passed a border inspection point on the other side of the highway which reminded me of where I was. On the right side of the road, there was another dirt road paralleling the road we were on. In three different places, I saw Border Patrol trucks driving down the road, each of them dragging three truck tires behind them down this dirt road. When I asked somebody later about them, they said that the Border Patrol go down this dirt road looking for human foot prints crossing this road. Then , after they have down the check, they smooth out the road with these tires. I wonder why we don't do this with the Canadian border? :-)

We arrived at Amistad National Reservoir which is the third largest man made lake in the world. This area is known for it's bass fishing and hunting. Since we didn't have a boat or a hunting license, we watched movies instead. We watched one on the creation of Amistad, another on the Big Bend National Park where we are heading and one on Rock Art which was also relevant. Davey nodded off during the first movie, I nodded off during the second movie and I think Lou nodded off during the third movie.

We continued another half hour up the road to Seminole Canyon State Park. We have sites across from one another. Water and Electricity. They said that they have WiFi throughout the park but I have been unable to get online.

The land outside my windows is crazy desolate. It reminds me of western North Dakota. It feels like North Dakota also. We are on a hilltop and the wind is rather brisk. Good thing I got my propane filled up so I can run my furnace.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lazy Daze


Tomorrow we head out into the Wild West so today was supposed to be a get-ready-to-go day.

Walked the dog, told my fellow travelers what the on-the-road plans were. Lou and Davey do not like to plan to much. I love to plan. It is a heavenly relationship. Side note: Just cause I like to plan does not in any shape, way or form mean that I will follow through with said developed plan.

Davey came over and looked at my non-functioning front steps and then I followed them to H-E-B, the monster grocery chain down here. What a fantastic store. Lou and Davey did their shopping but I think I was in the store for a couple of hours. Didn't want to miss anything that I might need for my trip into the boonies in the next couple of weeks.

Saw these ladies shopping in H-E-B




I was supposed to come back to the RV and get all ready to go for tomorrow. So far, hasn't happened. I have to get up super early, need to get gas and propane and hook the car up so we can rock and roll.

So, really a wonderful, sunny, 84 degrees, do nothing type of day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Light At The End Of The Tunnel - Well Maybe Not


Called Jayco to see if there was some way to get my microwave fixed. Jayco told me that Frigidaire(the maker of the microwave) will be the one to get the microwave fixed and not only that but they have mobile repair people. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. I called Frigidaire and got the name of two service centers in the area. I called the first one and the very first appointment they could possibly fit me in is in two weeks. They would not budge on that date and since I'm leaving town in a couple of days, it would not work out. I called the second service center and they just told me flat out that I was outside of their service area. So that little light at the end of the tunnel was quickly snuffed out. I think that I am going to have to bite the bullet and try to figure out where I am going to be in a couple of weeks and try to make an appointment in that area. I hate the idea of having to plan.

Walked the dog, met all of our new doggie friends from the RV park and then Lou and Davey picked me up. We were heading to San Antonio Shoe Makers, a shoe shop on the south side of town. San Antonio ShoeMakers (SAS) is more than a shoe shop. Outside they had quite a few perfectly restored vintage automobiles. My favorites were the cars from the late thirties and also the early fifties. Perfectly restored might not be the correct word as these cars had some beautiful paint jobs on them – I don't think the original paint jobs were even close to the rich hues these cars were painted.

SAS, besides shoes had five cent popcorn, soaps/lotions/marinades from the Texas area. They also had some clothes and little tchotchkes. I picked up one of those road trip games, License Plate Bingo which I thought would be an appropriate toy to play with on the trip.

We then headed up to the northwest part of town to see the San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABOT). In honor of MLK holiday weekend, they had opened the park up to dogs. Somebody had even made some pumpkin doggie treats. I felt bad that Miko wasn't with me, so I quickly stuffed a pumpkin treat in my pocket when nobody was looking.

The first part of the park was really peaceful and it was refreshing to see so much green. SABOT has a small little Japanese garden but the part that I really liked was the Sensory Garden. They had built this garden for blind people. There were all sorts of fragrant plants for the nose and they also had wind chimes for the ears. There were also some trees whose leaves would really rustle when the wind blew. What a wonderful idea.

SABOT also had a conservatory which housed different Eco-systems. One area was tropical ferns, another was an Orangerie and another was different types of cactus. We were there for a couple of hours and it was getting warm and we were getting thirsty. We decided to bail out before we hit the East Texas section or the Hill Country section, since we had been living in the hill country for a week and we were going to be spending a lot more time in the Texas countryside.





Lou and Davey went out to dinner with their relatives and I stayed home and did laundry, walked the dog and just sort of hung out. I did watch a new show for me – Jane the Virgin. I think I am going to have to find the first season. It seems quirky and a little sarcastic. Traits I find very amusing and appealing.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Social Butterflies


When Lou and Davey left last night, Lou said – let's walk in the morning. I set my alarm, it rang, I shut it off and fell back asleep. Lou shows up at my door at 9:00 raring to go and I am groggy as hell and tell her that I had some rowdy company last night and it was taking me a while to recover.

Did our morning walk and then we headed over to see Lou and Davey's friends: Pat and Witt. They live about 15 minutes away from the RV park. It was fun to drive the back roads there, the roads and neighborhoods that you don't get to see just hanging out on the freeways. Pat and Witt have a lovely front yard, gated as all proper Texans should. They were going to drive us into town in their Tesla. This car was pretty amazing. It is super quiet and there is a great attention to detail. When Witt got out of the car and started walking away, the door handles melted into the car doors leaving a totally smooth surface. Beautiful car.



We went to the San Antonio Museum of Art – SAMA. I'm not sure what the buildings were before they were an art museum, but they looked like they could possibly have been an old brewery. The special exhibit was Picasso's Tapestries which I thought would probably be pretty boring. Wrong....

I've always thought Picasso was interesting, but he never really spoke to me. Listening to a docent speak helped change my attitude. It is a case of when you start to understand more about something, it can become more like a dear friend. Well, dear friend is still probably a stretch, but the docent made the art much more interesting. Picasso had painted quite a few paintings. The Rockefeller commissioned him to create tapestries based on these paintings. Not only did the docent talk about the paintings, she also talked about the process. Once they decided on a painting, Picasso and a weaver would spend a great deal of time in picking out yarns and working to do a reproduction of the painting.

There were several other exhibits that I found fascinating. One was Japanese ceramics and pottery. It was amazing the types of finishes that these Japanese could come up with. A lot of depth and vibrant colors. The other exhibit I enjoyed was Mexican Folk Art. Worth the price just for the colors.

It was lunch time and the museum staff recommended a place just down the street from SAMA. It was called the Luxury CafĂ©. It was right on the river and it was outside What more did you need? It was very dog friendly, lot of different shapes and sizes of dogs. You stood in line for a half hour and then placed your order. They had large plastic animals that you would place on your table so the waitress could find you when your food was ready. It took about another half hour for the food to reach us. That was ok – the company was good. The five of us commandeered a table that had a lone young man sitting at it. Poor guy, having to sit with all of us geezers. He was a charming guy, in San Antonio for a business conference. He worked for the VA developing some computer system for the VA.


 
Witt, Pat, Me and Davey:

After lunch, we headed back to Pat and Witt's place. They have this water tower type thing that hold corn and they feed the deer twice a day. The corn sprays out of this tower thing in a circular way and the deer come and eat. When we drove up their driveway, there must have been about fifteen deer all sitting there wondering why dinner was so late. They were pretty tame, did not spook, probably they are all used to seeing Witt and Pat around.
It was so nice meeting Witt and Pat – they are lovely people and great fun. I'd go out and play with them again anytime.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

McNay Art Museum and the Japanese Tea Gardens


Stopped by Lou's house this morning and picked her up to go walk Miko around the park. According to my Fitbit, which counts the number of steps I've taken, it was about 3800 steps. I'm thinking that is about a mile walk. Beautiful day – lots of blue sky and sun.

Lou and Davey had plans to meet some friends. I had plans to head into San Antonio. I decided to take Miko with me because my second stop was dog friendly.

First up was the McNay Art Museum. When I was in San Antonio 10-15 years ago I had visited the McNay and loved it. Mrs. McNay started collecting art in the early 1900s and when she died in the fifties, she donated her house and her art collection. I think the museum started out with 700 art pieces. They now own 16,000 pieces. The house is a wonderful house – a two story mansion that is built around a central courtyard that houses a koi pond surrounded by greenery of all sorts. Since I was at the museum last they have added on several different wings.

The special exhibit was World War II photographs. Some of the photographs were ones we all know – the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima and that picture of the sailor kissing the nurse on VJ day. I found the exhibit to be so very touching – all of these people were so young and to have to go through all that they did – it seems like every time period has it's tragic moving moments, but to have so many people go through this same experience at the same time adds a certain amount of resoluteness and bitter sweetness.

Here is a picture for Heidi who loves(as we all do) Georgia O'Keefe


 

And then there was a picture for Tony who is a Modigliani fan

 

I could not stay very long in the museum because Miko was in the car and I was worried that it would get too warm for her so I headed outside. Let me tell you about my car – it is a Ford Focus which according to my service guys has a manual transmission encased in an automatic transmission. Ok, whatever. I'm not too sure exactly what that means. When you open the driver's side door, there is all this clicking as the transmission adjusts itself. It is fairly subtle – click, click. Ford did a recall on this transmissionand I brought my car in to get this transmission fixed. Well, after the museum, I opened my driver's side door and all of a sudden there is this boom, boom, boom – the car is shaking – I seriously thought it was going to blow up or something. I grabbed Miko's leash and got her out of the car and ran over to the other side of the parking lot. It was probably 30-60 seconds before the shaking stopped. I wasn't too sure what to do. I have a remote start on the car, so I thought that I would start the car from across the parking lot ad see if it blew up. Started the car and it started just the way it was supposed to, no fireworks. Everything seemed to be working just fine so I put Miko back in the car and we started driving. When I get back up north, my first stop will be the Ford dealer who supposedly fixed the transmission.

On to the Japanese Tea Gardens which is located right next to the San Antonio zoo. Keep in mind, this is a Saturday and it is a beautiful day. I think most of San Antonio thought it would be a great day to go to the zoo. Crowds and crowd – hardly any parking. After we got situated, Miko and I started walking through the gardens. They were setting a private event in the pagoda – I think it might have been a wedding. The koi ponds had either been emptied or they were very shallow, probably because of the cold weather that Texas has been having the last few weeks. It was still a delightful way to spend a warm sunny afternoon.

Pagoda:



Bamboo:



More Garden:




 
 

 
As I was leaving, a young girl named Esther wanted to have her picture taken with  Miko.  She was downright insistent.   She was really pleased that she got her picture taken.
Esther and her mom:
 
 
 

We walked around for a bit and then headed home where I put the mat out and spent the rest of the afternoon putzing around and brushing Miko.

Lou called and said they were on the way home from their friends house. They picked up a pizza and stopped by to offer me some. I graciously declined (for about five minutes) and then we ate and drank for the rest of the night.

A lovely day.