Monthly Archives: October 2013
It’s not a blue ribbon day on the road
A healthy groundhog chews on a piece of okra on the patio of a home on Lake Oologah, near Tulsa, OK.
Each day of traveling this country in an RV is not a blue ribbon day.
There’s always a little something to fix and usually, I’m all thumbs trying to follow the Monaco instruction book to make even a minor repair. Just about as often, there’s an expensive repair to keep us on the road. A couple years ago we were stuck in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada for nine days waiting for a part to get us back on the road.
It helps if the owner of an RV is handy with tools. I have often quoted the long ago Canadian comedian named Red Green, who said “If you can’t be handsome, at least be handy.” Most RV owners are handy. Many more think they are handsome.
Today it’s two broken sun visors. I hate the sun as bad as my traveling partner but have delayed fixing the two visors–one for the driver and one for the passenger. They are electrically operated and have blown a fuse. I confess to having zero electrical mechanical fixing abilities, hence, the reason for the delay.
We are in a Wichita Falls, Tx., campground just across the border from Oklahoma and will be driving mostly south today, en route to Fredricksburg, TX., on flat and rolling hill terrain. Regardless the direction we’re traveling the big front windshield is like a sun magnet. On hot days, the RV engine dashboard air conditioning can’t keep pace with the heat. We are forced to turn on the 8,000 watt diesel generator and one or both of the roof air conditioners. The generator saps about a gallon of fuel per hour from the RV’s 100 gallon fuel tank. What difference does a gallon an hour make when driving the highway in a rig that barely gets nine miles to the gallon.
“Turn on the generator and roof air conditioners. I’m burning up!” says my traveling partner.
The Green Knight has blown fuses before so at least I know which of three on-board electrical panels harbors the irritant. There must be 50 fuses in the panel. I follow the electrical schematics, locate the offender and replace it from a toolbox stocked with every size and shape electrical fuse known to man. It took about five minutes to fix.
“Just call me Handy,” I told my traveling partner as she returned from a three-mile walk while I slaved repairing a “very serious electrical problem with the sun visors. I had to replace a faulty sensor, splice some feral wires together then replace a dozen fuses. Not an easy task,” I said.
Handy plans to invent a windshield with embedded solar panels to capture enough electricity to power the RV house air-conditioners and save that diesel fuel. Hey. I thought of it first.
We are traveling U. S. 81, the highway that follows parts of the old Chisholm Trail, for 300 miles for some good German food in Fredricksburg, TX.
The landscape is rough, rugged and dry. Texas is in the midst of a serious multi-year drought. There is little green grass. Cows and goats are surely struggling to find anything green to eat. Nearly waist high pods of cactus are plentiful, begging the question, how can wildlife maneuver the thorny plants without injury.
This part of Texas has an abundance of deer. We see them grazing along sides of the highway where some green grass has managed to survive. We see many more as road kills.
We passed through Mineral Wells, a town known for its mysterious healing mineral waters. Let’s all have a drink. We’ll feel better.
Meandering across Texas
Yard decorations, including bright colored roosters, were popular at Fredricksburg’s Trade Days event.
It’s our last day in Fredricksburg, TX., before moving down the road to Kerrville, home to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny “Football” Manzell. We’re meandering across Texas, working out way to San Antonio and finally Austin for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Being honest, we’re really killing some time in a very neat part of Texas waiting for the festival. In the meantime and high on the agenda and marked “very important” is finding new barbecue joints while we wait. Can’t think of a better way to kill time.
While today’s agenda is not really that exciting, here’s what happened:
A small travel trailer painted pink becomes a quiet place to rest for its owner, a vendor at Fredricksburg’s Trade Days event.
We drove the six miles into downtown Fredricksburg and Martha purchased a half dozen Texas themed post cards to mail to four of our grand kids. They use the postcards to follow our route on maps, a tradition she started four years ago when our travels commenced after retirement. Their moms use the postcards as a geography mapping lesson.
On the recommendation of a Visito
Every inch of space is used by this vendor to sell Texas themed gifts and decorations.
rs Center worker, we drove a picturesque 12-mile loop road on Highway 16 to see more Texas canyon country and wildlife. The trip was successful. We spotted more than a dozen deer alongside the highway. It was on this loop that we were introduced to the Texas custom of hanging boots on fence posts. (Read “Boots on the Fence Posts) blog.
Back in town we drove six miles to nearby Luckenbach, the town immortalized in song by country music star Waylon Jennings in the late 1970’s. Located off U.S. 290 on the south side of Farm to Market Road 1376 and midway between San Antonio and Austin. ” Another well-known Texan Hondo Crouch bought the town, population 3, for $30,000 in 1970 and a few years later, Texas legendary singer/song writer Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band recorded a live album in the Dance Hall which became a country classic.
Luckenbach today consists of a dance hall, an old post office converted to a souvenir store and bar featuring merchandise tied to the featuring the town’s motto: “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.”
Finding the town is sometimes difficult since souvenir hunters often steal the highway signs.
We closed out our visit to Fredricksburg with a nice dinner at a local well-known German restaurant.
The county courthouse in Fredricksburg is now the
city’s public library.(Below)
Texans are proud; climbing Enchanted Rock
With Enchanted Rock in the background, a visitor heads for the upward climb
A neighbor back in our hometown in St. Augustine, Fl., and a former Texas resident is responsible for sending us to a great new visual experience today called Enchanted Rock. It is located about a dozen miles from Fredricksburg in an undeveloped area surrounded by ranches. The Florida neighbor also recommended a visit to Cooper’s Barbecue, a real gastronomical experience in nearby Llano. She jotted down a half dozen other places that were special to her when she lived in Austin area many years ago and we plan to visit every one of them.
Texans, as we have learned, are really proud of their state, and that feeling of pride seems to grow when they move away. I lived in Alaska only four years but left the state as a one person Chamber of Commerce flag waving booster. Maybe Alaskans are just as moved to extol the virtues of their state as Texans.
Driving across Texas from one end of the state to the other, it’s common to see people flying the Texas flag in their yards. Frequently, they are flying singly without the U. S. flag who, knowing a few Texans, are probably making a statement. Between Mexico and the United States ownership, Texas was once a republic–it’s own country and Texas don’t want us to forget. They mean it when they say “don’t mess with Texas.”
Climbing to the top of Enchanted Rock near Fredricksburg, TX.
The climb to the top of Enchanted Rock becomes a family hike.
Enchanted Rock is a pink granite rounded rock that spans 640 acres and stands 1,825 feet high over the spartan Texas countryside. The granite dome, visible from miles away, is the single focal point in a valley void of other landmarks and sits atop the Llano Uplift basin. It’s visual impact can be compared to the first view of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Enchanted Rock is a State Natural Area operated by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.
There are no marked trails to the top of Enchanted Rock, just an occasional directional arrow sign. Making my own path, I bent slightly at the waist and reached the top in about 20 minutes, stopping occasionally to soak up the view and take a drink of bottled water. From atop the dome rock, one can see for many miles across Texas hill country.
Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche Indian tribes believed the rock had magical and spiritual powers. They reportedly heard unexplained creaking and groaning from the rock which scientists now attribute to the rock’s night-time contraction after being heated by the sun during the day.
A family take a breather near the top of Enchanted Rock.
From Enchanted Rock we drove north about 20 miles to Llano to Cooper’s Ole Time Pit Bar-b-Que for an early afternoon lunch. The ordering line cues customers outside the restaurant who file past the smoking pit where the chef is waiting to fill your order. On the smoker and in plain view were slabs of rib roast, port ribs, pork chops, sausage, brisket, lamb ribs (cabrito) and chicken. I wanted to order one of each but knew better.
The grill master places our order on a flat tray and directed us inside the restaurant where the meat was weighed and wrapped in butcher paper and returned to the tray. Another stop yields drinks, potato salad or slaw and several varieties of cobbler. Before joining other diners at long picnic-style tables, we helped ourselves to sides of pinto beans and sliced onions. The butcher paper becomes the place mat.
Wildflowers get a closer look near the top of Enchanted Rock.
We feasted on the best barbecue meal we’ve had in years.
After lunch, we drove to nearby Buchanan Dam and Ink’s State Park, a huge recreation area complete with hundreds of camping sites.
We made a brief stop at the LBJ Ranch near Fredricksburg on our way home. There were several large herds of deer, including bucks with large racks of horns, grazing in the pastures.
CLICK ON PHOTO BELOW FOR MORE GALLERY PHOTOS OF ENCHANTED ROCK:
Boots on the fence posts
Driving a loop road out of Fredricksburg, TX., and enjoying the scenery, we took this picture of inverted cowboy boots atop fence posts near a ranch main entrance gate. There are no official reasons for this practice but there are some theories.
The practice dates back to the early days of the cowboys who worked the ranches and drove cattle north on several well known routes from Texas to Kansas railroad hubs.
The most popular explanation is that they started as a way for ranchers to let people know if they were at home. If the boot pointed toward the ranch gate, then the rancher was home. If it was pointed the other way, then the rancher was out. But this answer does not explain why some ranches might harbor two miles of fence post boots.
Wood used for fence posts were originally untreated, causing some ranchers to put tin cans on top of the posts for preservation purposes. Some have theorized that worn-out cowboy boots were used for this purpose. Considering some of these Texas ranches cover thousands of acres, this reason might also be full of holes.
The tradition may be a type of memorial in respect of the cowboy industry when ranchers or cowboy ranch hands passed away. Others say it could have been started to mark the employees who had worked and left the ranch.
Others have said it is just a tradition that may have no meaning other than it just looks good.
As the song says, “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas.”
A whitetail deer pauses alongside an open range road near Fredricksburg, Tx.
We are traveling south from Wichita Falls, TX., on U. S. 81, the highway that follows part of the old Chisholm Trail, for 300 miles and some good German food and sightseeing in Fredricksburg, TX. Locals enjoy saying the town is really a suburb of the well-known Luckenbach which is only six miles away and sports a population of 25 people.,
The landscape is rough, rugged and extremely dry. Texas is in the midst of a serious multi-year drought. There is little green grass. Cows and goats are surely struggling to find anything green to eat. Nearly waist high pods of cactus, however, are plentiful, begging the question, how can wildlife maneuver the thorny plants without injury.
This part of Texas has an abundance of white tail deer. We see them casually grazing along sides of the highway where some green grass has managed to survive. We see many more as road kills. Each town we pass through has at least one deer meat processing business on the main highway. Hunting is big business in Texas, both public and private.
We passed through Mineral Wells, a small town west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and popular in the late 1800’s for its mysterious healing mineral waters. The water is also known locally as crazy water and lots of businesses here use “crazy” as part of their names. Adding to the growth fever was a huge, elaborate and luxurious Baker Hotel built here in 1929 that included a spa. It opened just as the depression hit but managed to survive as WWII brought a new military base to town then suffered again when the base closed after the war. The military later opened the base again and the hotel continued to operate until the early 60’s when it was closed permanently. The vacant 14-story building and its 400 rooms, dominates Mineral Wells’ skyline. It is back in the news again as a group of investors seek financing to restore the old hotel.
Martha has a chicken cooking in the crock pot. Dinner or supper as they call it in Texas, will be ready when we arrive in Fredricksburg.
We checked into a campground east of Fredricksburg at an intersection leading to Luckenbach and were entertained by dozens of motorcycles roaring past until late in the evening, heading to the small town made popular by a country song.
The campground has a bunch of free range chickens that roamed the campground. That was fine until about an hour before daylight when one of the four also free ranging roosters started crowing. Time to get up.
We will catch up on some housekeeping today because a tropical depression in the gulf has brought some much needed rain.