Thursday, October 2, 2008

Onward and Westward

9/27/08 - DEL RIO - We spent the night at the American RV Park west of Del Rio, just opposite Amistad National Recreation Area - right on the Rio Grande River. Very deserty here with lots of scrub brush, hot and dry and not a whole lot of trees for shade. The RV Park is pretty empty, but clean and the camp hosts are very nice. In fact, most campgrounds we have stayed in are fairly empty this time of year and we have had the pick of sights so far. Lake Amistad is filling up about 20 ft per week due to an abundance of water in the Rio Grande. The River is backed up even past the Pecos River.

We discovered the winter vacation land of the butterflies. It’s located between San Antonio and Del Rio. It’s like driving down a parade with confetti in the air. They look like the sulfurs and white butterflies - different colors from yellows to whites to blacks and in between. They are big ones and little ones. I asked a clerk at a convenience store if they were migrating or was this there spawning ground and she just said that they do this every year at this time. I forgot to bring my butterfly book that I bought on the last trip. We got stopped by a train sitting across the road and got to watch all the butterflies. It was pretty cool. I had never seen such a sight before.

Think we’ll stop over at the Amistad information office and learn more about the place after leaving here, then head to Langtry for some more history, over the Pecos River, then up to Fort Davis. I am hoping we can stay at the Old Prude Guest Ranch Campground . Today is son’s birthday. Happy Birthday Son.

We’ve learned a little bit more about the butterflies - the locals are tired of them and want them to go away. They, apparently, have been around for 3 weeks. They are of the snout-nose variety. We left most of them back before Sanderson and haven’t run across too many since then. A lot of them are on the front of the truck.

On the way, we stopped at Seminole Canyon and where the Pecos River joins the Rio Grande. I didn’t see near as many Border Patrol vehicles as I did on the trip through here in April of ‘07. We visited the Judge Roy Bean park in Langtry.

Currently, we are at the Prude Guest Ranch, using their RV park. We have full hookups (no cable or WiFi). I use to be a working ranch back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1921, the Prude’s starting taking in guests and that has been their primary purpose since then. There are a number of cabin rooms, a guest lodge and the ranch bunkhouses. It’s in a very pretty canyon nestled among some hills. Would be a nice place to spend summers as the average high is 88 degrees and average low is 30 degrees. The humidity is low and there is a nice breeze right now.

Lots of things to explore in this part of the country - Historic Fort Davis,
the cute little town of Fort Davis and it’s interesting shops, the McDonald Observatory, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Garden and have a dinner or lunch at the Indian Lodge. And then there is just doing nothing. We’ll be here for a few days.

We got up this morning a bit on the late side for us - almost 8 a.m.! Fixed our coffees - although I had to try this mesquite roasted coffee I bought in Langtry. It was pretty darn good, but it would come second to my kona coffee I get from Hawaii (and it’s not really that expensive either) We sat outside, did some coffee sipping and watched the vultures/buzzards perching on fence posts or railings in the sun, drying themselves out from the nights dew. Speaking of the vultures/buzzards, we have seen a lot of them since the first day. Must be the “international” bird of Oklahoma and Texas!

Around 11 a.m. we stopped at the Fort Davis State Park office to find out the hours of the Indian Lodge and learned that the Sunday buffet they served would start in an hour. I drove Jim through the campground - which was quite full - and we wound ourselves up at the Lodge. We took the time to walk around the place, read some history on it (built by the C.C.C. in the mid-30’s), looked at the old pictures of the place. While we were sitting outside, a couple told us there was a BIGGGGGG tarantula on the wall. WOW, he was big - between 5-6 inches across with his body being around 1 to 1-1/2 wide! I measured him using the knuckles on my fingers. I attempted to get pictures of him, but alas, the batteries in the camera chose to expire on me, even my spare ones weren’t up to par.

We had a delicious buffet lunch, enjoyed watching many locals some in, greet each other and visit for a few minutes before getting in line. After lunch, we went down to Fort Davis to learn about the history. Because the place is so large, we used the electric golf cart they provide. They only do this for those who would have trouble getting around - so I used Jim as an excuse. (Still going to do that in a Walmart sometime!) We went around the whole place, read all the signs, went inside the restored buildings and looked at how life must have been, watched a 10 minute video and went through the museum. Jim likes western history, so seeing these places brings the history more to life.

After touring there, we needed to stop off at the local grocery store; but first, a stop for some ice cream was necessary. As were driving up to the Caboose Ice Cream Parlor I saw the word FUDGE at the Fort Davis Country store next door. I am a sucker for a good fudge. This is good fudge, a nice buttery creamy stuff. I didn’t get much but it’s going to take me awhile to eat it.

After getting the few groceries we needed, we came back to the trailer, I took a nap, Jim read. Then we got to the duty of emptying the holding tanks and as usual, it was an uphill job. With the two of us, it doesn’t take long to fill up the tank. Had a light supper of a couple slices of bread with my special butter (half butter and half canola oil whipped together - lasts longer and the oil sort of offsets the bad stuff of the butter - at least in my mind it does). Going to get comfortable and read some more in my book by Lisa Scottoline “Mistaken Identity”.

More tomorrow.

“Tomorrow - 9/29/08”

This morning, once again, we didn’t get up until 8 a.m. Must be this mountain air! We had breakfast at the Indian Lodge and because the bigger meal than Jim is use to, he wanted to come back and take a nap. While he was napping, I watched the turkey vultures drying them selves out - counted over 34 this morning. Did some reading and watched one of the prettiest flycatchers I have seen. It is a Vermillion Flycatcher and is only in this part of the country. It was the most beautiful red color. Have to see if I can get a picture. This afternoon, we’ll probably go into the town of Fort Davis and look around, browse thru some of the shops then come back to start getting ready to leave tomorrow heading westward - not sure of the direction yet but have a general idea.

I can see the Fort Davis Radio Antenna from our campsite. Just the top part of it is showing. The lady at the desk said they call it the “radio shack”. This radio antenna is just one of many large array antennas that look into outer space for radio waves. It is the system that our son works for at the VLBA (most people are more familiar with the VLA) in Socorro NM.

In the afternoon, we strolled around town and I did some browsing while Jim sat outside. I picked up a Christmas gift for Jim and a couple of other things. I always find these shops interesting and somethings something I can use or as gifts. Back to the trailer and some more reading and getting things ready to leave Tuesday morning. Will be heading west on Texas 118 towards I-10 and then westward.

Tuesday - 9/30/08

After getting our stay squared away, and loaded up we headed to I-10 via Texas 118. The road takes you up to the McDonald Observatory and since the road is not used much after that, it becomes a narrow two-lane road that must have been built when vehicles were slimmer. We only saw a pickup and a jogger on the next 25 miles or so heading down the other side of the mountain. When we got to the junction of TX 118 and TX 166, the road vastly improved - with lots of turnouts that had been landscaped with local plants and large boulders, fancy drainage areas with flagstone. Guess Texas had some extra highway money they needed to spend so they wouldn’t lose any in the next budget year! It was a road to die for out in the middle of nowhere and the only vehicle we saw on this road was the one that had passed us earlier.

The country is high desert, with lots of arid country plants and animals. Saw three tarantulas crossing the road and I tried to not run over them. We hit I-10 and headed west. Not very interesting although I am glad to see that some of the bad segments I remembered from ‘07 had been redone and were much better. We passed through El Paso without any trouble and hit it before the rush hour traffic started. I found the turnoff to take NM 9 to Columbus, NM by accident again, when I needed to fill up with gas before trekking across the desert. I don’t have a good city map of El Paso and I had to guess to take TX 178 to get to NM 9. Jim was getting a little bit uncomfortable at how close we were getting to the border when we turned off - just 2 miles. We saw a lot of Border Patrol vehicles on the highway and alongside the highway on a dirt track. I have been told one of they things they are looking for are footprints crossing the dirt road made from the last check. There is a volcanic rock area where one can see many piles of rocks obviously made by man. These, I was told are marker signs for folks crossing the border illegally and marking the way for them.

We got into Pancho Villa State Park around 4:30 p.m. and set up camp. Noting from our literature from the office, the local cafes closed around 6 p.m. and the grocery store at 7 p.m.. It was 6 p.m. when we read the closing hours, so we fixed a supper of sandwiches.

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