We have had glorious weather over the last day or so. It has been sunny and 70 during the day, dropping into the 40’s at night. Yesterday we spent the day in Fort Worth which is a very clean, beautiful city. We went to Sundance Square and there were hardly any people around which was strange for such a glorious, sunny Saturday. Barbara figured out that all of Texas was probably indoors watching the Houston Texans play in the afternoon and the Cowboys play in the evening- Wild Card Weekend.
A clean city – Ft Worth ‘Sundance Square’ with Bank of America bldg. and County Courthouse/Clock Tower (built with pink Texas Granite)
After Sundance Square, we headed over to the famous Stockyard District which is a very happening place. I guess that’s where all the people were hanging out, We enjoyed some drinks at Billy Bob’s and did a little browsing in the “western” shops. I wish I had the courage to ride a mechanical bull- it would have been good fodder for this blog.
Ft Worth (particularly the ‘Stockyard District) is ‘Cowtown’ – with real bull riding inside Billy Bob’s, the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk”. They also like statues.
We have extended our stay here to enjoy some more warm weather and family fun with the Johnson’s, but we also extended our stay out of necessity. John confessed that he had been experiencing pain and tightening in his right shoulder/clavicle area for a second straight day following our most recent visit to Planet Fitness – disturbingly similar to the symptoms he had (which we also at first assumed was a muscular problem) before his stent and subsequent surgery. Barbara is a medical professional and has worked for years at the Glen Rose Hospital. She knows all the staff there and now works for their family clinic here in Granbury. With that in mind, we all drove to the ER in Glen Rose and John had an EKG and lab work. Luckily things looked good enough that he was released and advised to follow up with the cardiologist….so here we are, sticking around at the Pecan Plantation’s RV park, which happens to be a great place to be – spacious, beautiful, and not crowded this time of year. John has an appointment for an echo on 1/10 and a cardiology follow up on 1/11. We are reserved here until 1/13 so we are all set.
Since John was told to take it easy until he sees the doc, he has been going a little stir crazy. We decided to take an overnight trip and head south to Austin, Texas. There is an open mic jazz jam in downtown Austin at the Elephant Room every Monday night so off we go. It is 3 hours away so we are going to stay in a hotel and tour around all day Tuesday as well.
Austin at night is a musically happening place.–‘Austin City Limits!’
We checked into the hotel in the late afternoon, rested a bit and then headed out for a fabulous dinner at the Roaring Fork, followed by the jam session at the underground Elephant Room. It was a terrific jam session. The guy leading it was a great emcee and a very accomplished jazz trumpet player. The musicians were top notch and players came from all over the country including NYC, Minnesota, Illinois and even San Juan, PR. John sat in on two tunes and was amazing. He hasn’t lost his touch.
Sittin in at Austin’s jazz jam at the Elephant Room
We toured all around Austin attempting to see the top rated must see sites according to US News and World Reports. Several of the top attractions are located on the sprawling campus of the University of Texas, Austin. The weather was perfect. even a little too warm in the mid-afternoon. It actually climbed up into the 80’s- not bad for January. We walked many miles across campus to see the LBJ Library and lo and behold, it was closed due to the government shutdown.
University of Texas at Austin, including Susan hobnobbing with LBJ outside his gigantic library (closed for Govt. shutdown), and what I thought might be a sculpture tribute to ‘LBJ’s balls’ outside the clock tower — but was just a regular sculpture. Also the football stadium for the famous ‘Texas Longhorns’, Governor James Hogg (1895), and MLK.
Then we walked even further across campus to the clock tower hoping to get a tour up to the observation deck. We got to the tower lobby and there was a sign indicating that tours are by appointment. I called the number and was told that the tower is closed for winter break. We walked all the way back across and just outside the campus and finally had success seeing the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Of course the 45 minute IMAX film we were hoping to see was only shown in the early afternoon but we did spend a very fascinating couple of hours learning about Texas’ unique history. I imagine this is the only state that can celebrate 2 separate independence days.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum is big and interesting. Texas has a long and complicated history – it was first Native American, then a Spanish territory, then part of Mexico, and then its own country. Finally TX became a US state – just before joining the Confederacy, after which it was a US state again. So far, Texas and New York are tied for the most self-referencing states. The ‘Lone Star’ is ubiquitous – these are particularly large ones.
After the museum, we headed over to the gorgeous state capital building made entirely of pink Texas granite. It is huge, – bigger than the US capital, but everything is bigger in Texas they say. Our final stop was Zilker Park across the river. Unfortunately, it was already dark and there is tons of traffic in Austin during rush hour so we didn’t stay too long. We did get to see the city skyline from the river’s edge in the park and then we headed into the insane traffic to return to Granbury.
More Austin – the TX state capitol bldg (also made from famous pink Texas granite) and its rotunda and dome – with figures from Texas’ drive for independence: Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett
trying to get out of Austin through major traffic: Its skyline at night
Well, we are still on our extended stay here in Granbury. John had his echo cardiogram and met with his Texas cardiologist Dr. Patel . He also has a New York Dr. Patel- no joke. The results showed some overall capacity loss and of course, we were concerned until the doctor explained that it was really very close to normal. He also ordered an additional stress test and arterial ultrasound causing an additional extension here in Granbury through this weekend. Happily, everything looks OK and the doctor recommended only that John get a checkup every six months. He gave us the green light to get back on the road and even joked that we could find another Dr. Patel anywhere we go. So we are back on track, and this time his symptoms actually were likely due to a muscle strain.
It’s truly been a blessing to be in the loving care of my sister-in-law and her wonderful adult children, Jessie and Richie, (and dogs everywhere). We’ve shared some great meals together, visited many local sites, and were made to feel at home with family in the middle of the lone star state.
from New Years thru most of January with family in TX
A few more pix of Jessie’s tiny house ( featured on TV on ‘Tiny House Hunters”) and Richie at the archery range near the campground (with plastic targets)
Dog daze – Baker, Duece and Penny
the Acton Nature Center & Dinosaur Valley St Park – Dinosaurs courtesy of 1964 NY Worlds Fair – and actual real preserved & submerged dino tracks
Down the road from the park is the Creation Evidence Museum. I kid you not. John went to see what it was all about and they claimed to have evidence of human life existing with the dinosaurs, as well as other exhibits related to creationism supporting a literal view of the Bible’s book of Genesis.
Spent our last evening in Granbury at Barbara’s house watching football with the family. We ended our wonderful 3 week stay by viewing the Super Blood Wolf Moon in Barbara’s backyard. It was a totally clear night so we had an excellent view of the entire eclipse event. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, the pictures didn’t reflect what we were actually seeing. We saw a red moon with a red glow as it encased in shadow during the eclipse.
The campground and Lake Granbury at sunset, the Brazos River which surrounds the Pecan Plantation development, and Super Blood Wolf Moon in eclipse. (Native Americans called it Wolf Moon for the hungry & howling wolves at this point in the season. Blood for the hue in eclipse – it was actually much darker and redder in person), and horses take to the field across from us.
Lake Medina RV Resort, Lakehills, Texas
Moved southwest and on to Lake Medina RV Resort in Lakehills, Texas around 45 miles west of San Antonio. This place is truly a hidden gem and I mean hidden. We arrived after dark and the ride up to the campground was quite hairy with a 5th wheel. It is so far off the beaten path but so gorgeous–it’s worth the death defying drive (that really is an exaggeration). The campground is on a large, beautiful lake and the occupants are mostly seasonal residents who come back every year. Everyone has been super nice and it is a very active community with lots of planned activities in the clubhouse. We got the last spot and the only reason we got in is due to a death in the family of the people who usually rent for the winter. The people all seem to know each other but they are not at all intrusive or annoying. The only downside to the campground is the fact that it is so remote. You can’t run out to do much shopping without driving down several “farm to market” Texas roads, all of which have signs warning that the roads can flood. Thank goodness it hasn’t rained.
Lake Medina TX
1/22/19 San Antonio
Spent a lovely day in San Antonio. John had never been there so we had to take a stroll on the Riverwalk, visit the Alamo and then eat dinner and listen to a jazz quartet in the Pearl Brewery District.
At the center of the Pearl district stands the Hotel Emma which began as a brewery founded by Otto Koehler in 1883. The hotel is named after Otto’s wife Emma who ran the brewery after Otto’s untimely death. There is a very interesting backstory about this family. In 1910, Emma was hurt in an accident and Otto hired a nurse to care for her, It just so happened that the nurse’s name was Emma. Emma, the nurse would sometimes invite her friend, Emma #3 (nicknamed Emmi) to the Koehler home. Both Emma’s ended up having an affair with Otto. The story doesn’t end well for poor Otto. Emma #2 ended up shooting and killing him in 1914. She admitted to the murder but was acquitted by an all male jury.
The beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk, with ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue and the Briscoe Western Art Museum (with more dynamic cowboys/horses/cattle rusting statues)
The Alamo – Originally a Spanish Mission in San Antonio turned fort for the original Texians in their drive toward independence. ‘The Shrine of Texas Liberty’ was a complete defeat for the Texians to the Mexican army (15 years after the Mexicans ousted the Spanish from Mexico and its territories). However, ‘Remember the Alamo’ quickly became a rallying cry for, and was soon followed by Texas independence later in 1836. Texas was its own country until 1845 when it joined the union. In 1861 it joined the confederacy but rejoined the union at the end of the Civil War. Like we said it’s complicated.
San Antonio ‘Pearl District’ with Pearl Brewery and Emma Hotel and live jazz that night.
Today we drove a little over an hour to a really nice town in Texas’ hill country called Fredericksburg, Interesting that we have visited 2 different Fredericksburgs (both very nice) and a Frederick. Fredericksburg TX is a historic town with many original buildings from the 1800’s. There is a bustling main street with lots of great shops and restaurants and many storefront wineries. Apparently this is the heart of Texas wine country. The city was settled by Germans and their heritage is definitely evident in the town with the town square called Market Platz.
Fredericksburg TX was founded in 1846 by German pioneers and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. The Vereins Kirche was built soon after in what became the ‘Market Platz’ and was first public building in the town. It served as a town hall, school, fort, and a church for all denominations. This was also the original site of the Pioneer Museum.
There is an amazing museum at the corner of main street – National Museum of the Pacific War.
The National Museum of the Pacific War has vast walls of plaques dedicated to the men, women, and ships that served in the Pacific during WW II and includes the ‘Plaza of the Presidents’.
Fredericksburg is the birthplace of the Navy’s most famous commander during the war – Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz, and the beautiful Admiral Nimitz museum is nearby
In 1976, Japan gifted the museum with ‘the Japanese Garden of Peace’. It was modeled after the private garden of a Japanese Naval Commander from the 30’s that Nimitz had admired.
We took a short hike up Cross Mountain featuring a large cross at the peak. In the mid 1800s, a German immigrant named John Durst was given a plot of land that included this hilltop. He found the remains of the original timber cross, thought to be left by Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s. Another cross was erected on the same hilltop. A hundred years later, the local Catholic Church erected a new cross that still stands today- a steel cross with lights to celebrate the beautiful city of Fredericksburg.
Cross Mountain near Fredericksburg TX
After our short hike, we dined at one of the city’s famous German restaurants. I had chicken jaeger schnitzel which brought back fond memories of the Mountain Brauhaus back home in Gardner/New Paltz.
Fort Stockton RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas
Today we left the hilly, green, pretty hill country in Texas and headed west on the famous (or infamous) I-10 into West Texas. The topography in this part of the state is totally different. As we were driving down the highway, it occurred to me that we could be in Egypt. Some of the rock shapes looked like pyramids and everything was very brown. The speed limit on the highway in West Texas is 80 mph which is simply too fast for us but we were going 73-75 mph and it caused us to get lousy gas mileage. We used up a full 36 gallon tank of diesel fuel way faster than usual and had to find an exit to get more gas in a very desolate part of the state. Luckily, there was an exit with 2 gas stations so we stopped. It was incredibly weird and desolate. It could have been a scene in a horror movie. The gas was super expensive but we had to get some anyway. We were desperate. The gas station building had bars on every window and there were at least 10-15 cats hanging around the building. As I was heading out of the car to enter the building (to use the restroom), lo and behold, there appeared a wild boar. It was so freaking weird- just hanging out with all the cats. The ladies inside the gas station cautioned me to stay away from it- no problem there. Yikes- where am I? Our apologies for failing to snap a pic of the boar.
The Fort Stockton RV Park was actually very pleasant even though it was basically a large brown parking lot with desert like vegetation and weird wildlife sounds. When we pulled in, we heard owls hooting and coyotes howling. It was a perfect stopover for a 1 night stay and we didn’t even unhitch. They have a very nice little BYOB restaurant right on site and the food was actually excellent.
Last stop in TX – West Texas’ Ft Stockton. Texas is a big state.
Hacienda RV Resort and Rally, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Off again to our next destination in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Very nice campground with well manicured sites and a lovely office and clubhouse. I really like Las Cruces with its southwestern architecture and rocky, craggy mountains on the horizon. The weather is sunny and pleasant, though we will have below freezing temps both nights we are here. There is a very old Mexican village very close by and great trails around.
We hiked up Turtugas Mountain which is a sacred Pueblo site and a very challenging hike. The climb was steep with views of Las Cruces and the neighboring Organ Mountain range.
Hiking Turtugas Mountain in Las Cruces NM
For dinner, we went to the original La Posta which is one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the US. It is a very interesting adobe building and one of the rooms in the restaurant houses multiple tropical birds.
The once upon a time roaring old west & Mexican town of Mesilla. The church and famous La Posta Restaurant de Mesilla – located where Billy the kid, Pancho Villa and the stagecoach line all met back in the day.
The restaurant has been operating in some capacity since the 1840’s. Back in the day, Billy the Kid was jailed right across the street and Ulysses S. Grant & Kit Carson are examples of two famous folks who stopped in at La Posta. The food was marvelous.
Desert Diamond Casino, Tucson, AZ
Tonight we are parked for free at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson. They are very welcoming to RVs and it feels very safe and secure. Of course, we had to do a bit of gambling. Luckily John tends to compensate for my slot machine losses with his blackjack wins.
Desert Diamond Casino in Tuscon AZ. They welcome RV’s to stay and park overnight. – There’s always something to do.
Mission View RV Resort, Tucson, AZ
We have been staying at this over 55 mobile home/RV resort community since 1/28/19 and have been busy exploring this beautiful Tucson area. We both really like it here due to the perfect weather (in these winter months) and gorgeous 360 degree mountain views.
Tucson is beautiful in the Winter and Spring. Mountains are visible from everywhere and sunsets can be gorgeous.
This RV park is literally right around the corner from the casino on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. We have driven all around, particularly interested in the developments around the foothills of the various mountain ranges. You just can’t beat the scenery. This is definitely a possible place for an annual winter stay.
Downtown Tucson with churches and Scottish Masonic Temple
We haven’t taken any long hikes because many of them aren’t dog friendly but we did walk in a very lovely park called Agua Caliente. We also played some golf and relaxed outdoors in beautiful 70 degree weather while the rest of the country was suffering through a polar vortex.
Tucson’s craft district with restaurants and pubs. The statue is a ‘Soldado de Cuera’ – the original Spanish guards when they called the area ‘New Spain’. Their thick leather vests ‘cuera’ could repel arrows. Hummingbirds like this area. Next to El Charro Cafe was a big black and silver metal box with a yellow book beneath it – maybe something from the last century.
3rd Boondocker’s Welcome Site in Surprise, Arizona
We arrived at this lovely home at the foothills of the White Tank Mountains northwest of Phoenix. Our hosts, John and Darla have a 2.5 acre property in a very rural and peaceful location. It is a bit further from downtown Phoenix than I expected but very pleasant. One would expect it to be very warm and dry but we are actually experiencing heavy rain on and off and rather cool conditions. John and I drove away from the mountains into downtown Surprise and Sun City for a quick bite and a game of pool and the weather was much more temperate. When we arrived back to the trailer, it was pouring. Never expected this in a so-called desert.
the desert suburbs become just desert northwest of Phoenix
Drove 50 minutes into downtown Phoenix to meet an old friend, Jill for dinner. Jill and I were co-workers and co-directors of the HR department at Darby Group Companies back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Jill still leads the HR function in what is now Darby Dental and they have a branch office here in Chandler, AZ. It has been around 13-14 years since we last saw each other but it felt like it was just yesterday. We had a great time catching up and reminiscing over a fabulous meal at The Arrogant Butcher.
Phoenix is another clean city that’s beautiful in the winter. We visited Susan’s friend & co-worker Jill, who happened to have business in AZ (shown with family: Graham and kids – Olivia, Owen and Finn) The Talking Stick Arena (and resort) is where the Phoenix Suns basketball team plays.
Since we are “boondocking”, we rely on battery power at night. Well, even though we are in the so called desert, it has gone down into the 30’s at night causing the furnace to kick on frequently, causing the coach battery to discharge, causing the CO2 detector to go off (due to low battery power), causing us to jump out of bed at 4:00am. Well, this just won’t do so we spent a day and a half hunting for better battery power. Our host, John suggested that we switch from hybrid RV/Marine batteries to a true deep cycle battery. We drove all over suburban Phoenix to several stores including one called “Batteries and Bulbs”. We ended up purchasing 2- 6 volt golf cart batteries because they are true deep cycle batteries and can be connected to run in series, providing much more in terms of amp hours. Don’t I sound knowledgeable?
After spending the day shopping for the battery, we had to spend another half day shopping for accessories that will enable John to work his McGyver magic and find a way to vent the batteries since our old 12V vented case won’t work.
Enough of this technical jargon. We spent the second half of our last day in Surprise at the Great Eagle Golf Course on the grounds of the “Happy Trails” community. I kid you not. We were paired with a lovely older couple (yes- older than us), Ruben and Kay from Minnesota. The golf course is a green oasis in the desert and really quite beautiful.
Desert Pueblo RV Park, Bouse, AZ
Moving on to our stopover in western Arizona on the border of California. We are staying 2 nights in a tiny town, Bouse, AZ with a population of just under 900 people, most of whom are from other places staying at various RV parks. This campground is basically a series of long straight dirt roads with roomy spots for large RVs. Our neighbors are from places like Idaho, California, Washington, Minnesota, Alberta Canada and Alaska. John and I drove 30 minutes north to check out a larger town called Parker on the Colorado Ri