Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Van Horn, Texas; Mesilla, Rockhound State Park, New Mexico, Willcox, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, Arizona

The picture above is from a mural inside the Fredericksburg,Texas RV Park meeting hall.  We love seeing the murals that are not only indoors , but often on the entire side of a building as you travel through the western towns.

Probably most people do not even give a second thought to Van Horn, Texas. It is a gas stop on Route 10 that always seems to be in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  But in 1930, it was at the crossroads for travelers to Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe, and Carlsbad National Caverns.
The El Capitan Hotel was an instant landmark, designed by architect Henry Trost, influenced by architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

We stayed in town at a Passport America campground(Desert Willows at $13.50 cash).  But if we were looking for a hotel stopover, this was very welcoming. A comfortable bar area and a likewise inviting restaurant.

A humorous sign from the 1930's. Any coffee you want--for 5 cents.

The lounge was also welcoming with the fireplace and Christmas tree.  This link takes you to the webpage. Check out the historical pictures too.
Coming into El Paso, Texas area, the views south off Route 10 show farms and the border for Mexico.  The Rio Grande River, which forms the border between  the U.S. and Mexico runs along the foot of the mountains you see.

This is a very different kind of rest stop along Route 10.  New Mexico puts some time and thought into the stops.

Of course, you should probably pay attention to the signs before  you walk your dog off in the bushes.

By the time you see this sign you are already in New Mexico. At this time, there was a lot of construction coming out of El Paso to this spot.

One of our favorite spots to stop is at Hacienda RV Resort off Route 10. Just west past the intersection of Route 10 Route 25, it is within walking distance of the historic town of Mesilla. The view is of the Organ Mountains from our back window.  We were going to toss this picture because of the lack of focus on the mountains, but it caught our attention with the outline. This view of the Organ Mountains is often used for many paintings.

Many unique homes and yards in Mesilla

One of Jan's favorite stops for olive oil and vinegar.  
At the Rustic Olive this year Jan picked up Lime Olive Oil and Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar and Grapefruit Balsamic Vinegar.

The video above was taken in the historic square, La Plaza de Mesilla. Being a Sunday , close to Christmas, there were a number of vendors present.  Like many squares in the U.S. , one end is dominated by a church, the Basilica San Albino Catholic Church.

We never realized that this area was the largest pecan producing county in the world.  Also worth noting, world famous Hatch chiles are not far from here.

Walking back to the campground, we have to stop at St. Clair Winery.  We had stopped here a few years ago for an appetizer and a glass of wine. This year we were impressed by the menu. Since it was later in the afternoon, the early crowd had thinned out and we had our choice of tables.  Jan had Pesto Pasta with Sauteed Shrimp and Bruce had Steak BĂ©arnaise.  Both were large servings. The steak was filet mignon , a hearty serving, with wonderful purple and white potato fingerlings, and very slender, tender , shoots of asparagus.  The best filet ever!  The price is amazingly low for the quality and portion that we experienced.
Check out the video and menu.
And yes we did purchase some wine to bring back to Lady Blue.

Heading out to Deming, New Mexico. This pecan orchard was just outside town.

This state park was pictured in the Escapees magazine(see the previous blog posting).

In Deming, New Mexico
We love the design for New Mexico State Parks
Looking at the Florida Mountains just past the Visitors Center in Rockhound State Park

The view from our campsite in Rockhound

A perfect location for the full moon.

A good occasion to try the telephoto lens.
A little fuzzy, but fun.

A selfie of the old folks
A little video from our hike 

Jan  is queen of all she surveys

So-----we did not know any stores in Deming, New Mexico, but we wanted to roast a prime rib in our little Lady Blue oven.  Using Yelp, we saw this picture above and said --"Yeah. that should do it."  The place is El Rey Market and is not a place you might notice if you are new in town.  Bottom line is we chose a 5.6 pound rib roast. We roasted it to a rare-medium rare on Christmas Eve. Had to be the best we ever had!!!  Thanks El  Rey.
We move into Arizona and are greeted with a fabulous sunset in Willcox.

Jan and I are always happy to visit one of our favorites.
Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson, Arizona
Kartchner Caverns website

A rocky and sometimes difficult hike.
Some great views
This was our route around on the Foothills Loop Trail

The view from the trail includes cars on Route 90 , Tombstone, Arizona and mountains in Mexico

A small ground flower along the trail.
This was the view from Lady Blue's back window on Christmas morning.
The day after Christmas we see snow up in the hills, hail showers, and temperatures in the 30's.

And---at the end of our stay. In between snow flurries, hail and rain showers, we are blessed with a wonderful rainbow against the contrasting clouds and valley and distant mountains.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sandy Creek COE, Livingston State Park, Fredericksburg,South Llano River State Park ,Texas

Thought we would start with one more sunset picture from Rayburn COE during our Thanksgiving stay; north of Jasper, East Texas.

We head down Route 96 to Jasper and then east on Route 190 to Sandy Creek COE on BA Steinhagen Lake.  This is late November and there is still some nice color. This tree is a Sweetgum.

Along our walk in the park is this house. Recently remodeled, the original house dates back to 1858.
This is what it looked like in 2013 when we were here.  At that time we thought it might be demolished. Quite a bit of work involved in remodeling. There was also added a large addition on the back and far end. Also what looks like a new chimney.

Lady Blue loves her spot on the lake. We have this whole section to ourselves right after Thanksgiving.

The next stop is west on Route 190 to Livingston, Texas . We stop at our base at Rainbows End Escapee Park to pick up mail(we usually have it forwarded from the wonderful mail building here to wherever we may be--campground or general delivery at a local post office)
Since we have a few other errands to do, we then move over to Lake Livingston State Park.  The video above is from the cabin section of the park.

Ok.  So we received a call from Escapees asking to use a picture they found on our blog. Escapees is one of the largest and oldest RV clubs in the world. Below is a summary of how the club was started.

Community has always been at the heart of the Club.

Back in 1978, Joe and Kay Peterson were traveling with their children full-time in an RV and wanted to keep in touch with others like them. Postal mail and landline telephones–the primary means of communication at the time–were difficult to navigate for full-timers. To fill this need, Joe and Kay founded Escapees and created the Club’s first official publication: a five-page newsletter, hand-cranked from a portable printer, and distributed to 164 members. Founding members of Escapees RV Club gathered for the first Escapade in Bakersfield, CA in 1978, to celebrate their newfound sense of community.
The membership is around 60,000 now and the mail service is top rated and extremely user friendly.

The picture above is one we took of Lady Blue in 2013 while at our first stay at Rockhound State Park in Deming, New Mexico.  

The page it was used for is Day's End, which is a great resource for free and low cost overnight camping stays all across the U.S. We use the directory mostly from Texas west. But have checked it now and then in the east as well, even in New England.  We also have made a few small contributions to the listings. We don't know how this came about, but Jan and I are quite happy to see one of our pictures in the magazine.

Lake Livingston State Park is a great place for us to stay. Besides great views of the lake, we can take a good hike or walk . This one above is about 4 miles.

From Livingston we head south on Route 59 to Conroe and then west on Route 105 to head up towards Fredericksburg. Part of the route was rainy and we passed through Navasota, Texas the day before President Bush's funeral train came through on the way to College Station. The store above used to be The Fredericksburg Bank Building. And yes, now you can find all sizes and kinds of Stetson hats .
The city has a great history with a heavy German influence when it was settled.  The locals were quite smart to preserve the old buildings making it a great tourist stop with many festivals, parades, specialty shops, vineyards, farms, and restaurants.

Maybe you have to know a little about farm machinery. 
Instead of a bench on the sidewalk, these are old 1800's metal seats from farm equipment. 

How about these. Not only the natural wood and wagon wheels, but a rocking chair bench besides.

This year we stopped for a late lunch at Altdorf Biergarten. And what else but an excellent Ruben sandwich with a Warsteiner Pilsener Beer.
For the above beer site you will have to accept the cookie and confirm you are over 21 years of age and then you can scan the website. The day we were there was wet and cold, so inside only.

Luckenbach, Texas is only a few miles out of Fredericksburg. They also have this store along main street.  Among the information listed for this small town is the schedule for the bands that perform there every day.
Note that sometimes an ad will start the video(short) and sometimes an ad will pop up(just hit (x) to delete. 
The following is an article that lists the performers at this concert celebrating the life of Waylon Jennings

Thought we would add this video of the super sized German Christmas pyramid in the town square. We used to have a small one that sat on top of our radiator in the kitchen. The heat from the radiator would make it work as well as the candles.
Below is a link to pictures on Pinterest. This worked for us, not sure if you need a membership in Pinterest to see.

After Fredericksburg, we head west on Route 290 to join up with Route 10 west.  Jan liked the driving(80 miles per hour). No worries though---the speed limit is 80 miles per hour. After a stop at our favorite Coopers Barbeque in Junction, Texas, we head a few miles out of town to South Llano River State park.

The campsites are extremely well spaced. The wildlife includes Axis deer, white tail deer, the whole park is a turkey roost, and many varied birds.  Oh--and also a number of armadillos.
Many of the trails are closed from 3pm to 10am, so as not to disturb the roosting turkeys.
We did walk the river trail(before 3pm) which connected with other trails.   The area seems to be mostly a dry , semi desert almost environment. Yet , there is evidence of the recent floodings with branches and more collected against larger trees more than 15 or 20 feet above the full river level.

A good 3 mile walk along the river and through the campground(small loop)

We are only here in December usually. But the ranger indicated that the Painted Bunting(male) above is quite common in the park in the spring. Maybe we have to plan that sometime.
The above is borrowed from an internet site.

Don't panic---all is well----Now.
This happened at Big Meadows Campground on the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia in October. Jan and I had parked in a parking space and were at the registration booth getting our campsite when we heard this crashing noise. We looked back the vehicles(ours was first in line) and we see another Class C in front of Lady Blue and our mirror above.  Needless to say we were quite upset. The mirror seemed to be destroyed and hanging by the cords only-completely broken.  The driver was very apologetic. The road there was quite wide and we were well within the parking lines. But evidently the RV was still new and the idea was to park in front of us, but the driver misjudged a door handle on their vehicle.

First we had to secure the mirror, which we did with Rescue tape which was absolutely fantastic. It held the mirror on without the slightest vibration. Since the wires were not severed , the mirror was still able to be, adjusted and was mostly correct to see everything behind us. Then we had to find a Ford dealership--finally found Berglund Ford in Salem, Virginia. When I explained the problem they said come on in and they would fix it .  We stopped in on our way to Claytor Lake State Park about 44 miles south. Luckily we were able to find a site there for about a week so we could take care of the mirror. At Berglund, the parts department gave me the correct number of the mirror and the name of the distributer , Velvac Parts, in Wisconsin. I ordered the part ($738) sent quickly to  Berglund and they installed it that day for $120.  Amazing! Velvac was so great; the receptionist tracked the package for me and called me when it arrived at Berglund.  Berglund is a fairly large dealership in the area, but even so, they took time to be very helpful. They  squeezed us right in for the replacement.  And, if you were surprised at the cost (about $860), remember that it is a very large mirror  with remote adjusting(electric) and is heated as well.  
Now, the most amazing part of this is that when I contacted the driver and sent along the pictures of the bills, we were then paid--------------------Wait For It---------------
within a few hours, the very same day.  That's right , the driver quickly forwarded us the money via Paypal the same day.
There are still many, many very good people in this world!!!