January 20

Trains and Rains

Before I left Brownwood, I discovered a railroad museum just down the block from the library.

I think I’ve said before, I’m the son and grandson of railroad men. My grandfather worked for  Pullman Corp. which made sleeper cars, and my father worked for the Santa Fe RR. Railroads are in our blood.

It turns out that right down the block was an old passenger station that also had a Harvey House. Harvey Houses were restaurants attached to station for passengers to take a meal. These restaurants pre-dated dining cars. They were the first chain restaurant. Harvey Houses employed all women servers called Harvey Girls and there is a movie called “The Harvey Girls” staring Judy Garland made in 1946. My sister owns a recipe book of the fare served at the Harvey Houses.

Plaque on the station

This station no longer is in service and was altered into an events hall and the Harvey House now holds the Chamber Visitor Center. Upstairs is a small exhibit of the dorm room Harvey Girls lived in.

The museum across from the station is made up from a collection of a former Santa Fe welder. The Lehnis’ collection was then given to the city for a museum. They had a farm and the collection filled a barn and also included a Santa Fe Pullman Car along with a caboose sitting on the property.

Pullman Car

I discovered the museum without my camera in tow, so my cell phone came out. I didn’t take many photos, unfortunately.

That Santa Fe logo is imbedded in my soul

The collection was extensive. Uniforms and badges, a collection of dishes from many different railroads. Playing cards, a station clock, plus the local model railroading group set up layouts.

I was impressed that this man collected such a huge amount of railroading history. It was nice to see many of the things I remembered from my train trips with my family.

This same type of station clock was given to my father. I now own that clock.

I’ve moved on to just east of Waco, Tx. Once again I have internet and am near an old fort site. Fort Parker SP has a really nice lake that I hope to canoe, if the weather holds for a few days.

You may have seen the rain from the national weather reports. I learned there were even tornados, one in the town to the north of the state park. The area east of Waco received an inch or more of rain.

Today we should have a warm and sunny day, but I think that may be the only day for the next few days. I’m discovering that Texas winters have grey overcast skies much of the time, much like the Midwest. I’m beginning to miss the sunny skies of Arizona and their warmer days. I’ll be back next winter.

Thanks for joining my tracks,

Rob

January 12

Weather for the Birds

Sunrise

First a correction on last week’s post. I found out that Lake Brownwood is actually a reservoir. Had I looked at the map carefully, I would have seen the small dam on the East side of the ‘lake.’

Second, there is Wi-fi in the park, you just have to drive up to the entry station. The other spot is the Council Bluffs camping loop not far from the entry. While I could get onto websites, I couldn’t receive any emails, so in most regards it’s useless. So, a few trips of 20 miles to town and the library was needed for sending off my post here and learning when my mail is due in town.

A bit of work by the CCC boys of the 1930’s

Today is an early post on account of rain. Rain is due this weekend and it looks to be multiple days starting tomorrow. Geordie is going to hate being cooped up.

See me?

Last week I mentioned the 22º low on Thursday night, well it was a precursor to Friday nights low of 11º. Saturday morning I found my water pump frozen. It sits under the drawer under the refrigerator. I had the heat on all night but in a closed cabinet it froze. Next time I’ll know to open that drawer so that the heat can warm that area. It finally thawed about two in the afternoon.

To switch things up, on Wednesday it reached a high of 72º. Winter to summer in just 5 days!

I wanted to jump in the canoe but the winds kept me on shore. I was really looking forward to getting into the back bays. Hopefully I’ll have better luck at the next state park.

With the waves rolling in with the wind and the temperatures warm, Geordie got his share of swims and retrieving his float. A happy and tired pup!

Cabin #6

While I was in town one day I explored the town park, Riverside Park. I found there was an RV park there. It was a little odd though. Imagine a driveway with another eight feet away and so on. Your back window looks on to the street just five feet away. The upside was the park and all the hiking trails, and I did see on the sign free Wi-fi. I wonder if I could get my email there? I think I’d rather be here at the state park. It’s less crowded, a lake with waves to lull you to sleep, if it’s warm enough to allow you windows to be open. Also, no road noise from the road and no city lights.

“Ouch Kitty”

The bird life has been fun to watch. Growing up in the Midwest, Cardinals were in every backyard. Living in the West for 30 plus years I hadn’t seen a one. The color of a Cardinal is as bright as the pictures in books. I’ve also identified three new birds here in the park.

Native to Texas is the Black-crested Titmouse

I’m an amateur or casual “birder.” Watching birds at a feeder is calming.

The rain should clear just in time for me to move on.

Fingers crossed I can receive a cell and internet signal from there!

Sunrise colors

Until next week,

Rob

January 6

Brownwood Lake

Good morning,

I write to you from Lake Brownwood State Park, after staying a couple of extra days at San Angelo State Park. I added days so I could watch the Winter Classic Hockey Game on TV. Unfortunately, my Chicago Blackhawks lost.

Before I left San Angelo I attempted to wander the Santa Fe Station and museum. Unfortunately, it was closed on New Years Eve day. I wasn’t the only one that had the thought of visiting. Two families also came to visit while I was there.

The history of the station begins with a Texas owned line called the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient. Santa Fe Railroad bought out the line in 1928. The museum is open on Saturdays, but maybe not all Saturdays. Call ahead!

I arrived at Lake Brownwood on Wednesday and had my choice of sites in the Comanche Trails section. After I moved from the original site I was given, I attempted to search for a Verizon internet connection but found none including with a signal booster. I also found there isn’t a park Wi-Fi available. I took a drive around to see if I could get a signal in the other loops but nothing changed. I noticed that other than the camp hosts I was the only one in the park. I wonder if the lack of internet could be the reason other “Winter Texans” are missing.

Those buildings are picnic huts

This park, in my opinion, is beautiful. The lake is completely full which is a change from the many other “lakes” or reservoirs around the West. I haven’t researched yet if Lake Brownwood is a natural lake, but it sure looks like it to me. I see none of the signs it’s a reservoir. The lake has trees right at the waterline and I can’t see a dam from the state park. It looks like it could be a Minnesota or Wisconsin lake if you swapped the oak trees to pines. There are many homes on the lake with docks with boat lifts. I imagine in summer this is quite a hopping spot in the Texas heat. The park has nearly 90 sites in four loops and there are many cabins available. A beach and boat ramp, volleyball, baseball diamond, and eight trails for hiking and one large loop trail for hiking and biking.

CCC built benches. I think the round pillar was a fire pit, now concreted shut.
The park is mine

Cold weather has dropped down from the North which will bring high temps to the high 30’s for a few days. This morning the low was a toasty 22º! When the temps rise next week I’ll get the canoe in the water for a few paddles. The lake is just a 50 foot walk from my site to launch the canoe.

Visitor- I must clean my back window!

I had a few moments where I thought I might leave early from this park with the lack of internet, but I decided to stay for the quiet. I’ll just head down to the town of Brownwood and find the library or a coffee shop and connect down there.

I asked the librarian about Verizon and she mentioned they used to have Verizon. Now internet for me, just the library wi-fi.

Thank you for following my travels,

Rob

December 30

2016 End

Howdy!

It’s reflection time again, and I’ve found it’s been a fun year. I’ve found new boondocking camps in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. I’ve seen some new country as well this year. I’ve discovered some new spots in the New Mexico State Parks too.

Texas Fog

Texas State Parks has new interest to me. I found out, when I came to San Angelo SP, there is a weekly rate of $100, which knocks down the daily cost just over $14 a night. The regular nightly bill for electric and water is $20.

I’ve also learned that RVers that come to Texas over the winter are not “Snowbirds” but “Winter Texans.” It adds a bit of welcome to being a winter resident.

The highlight of the year was picking up my new trailer. As I’ve said in my review, I’m glad I sized up.

I have a lot to look forward to in 2017. I’ll start here in Texas and head north and east to visit cousins in Louisville, Ky. Then I’ll head east to meet my first great-niece in the Washington D.C. area. I’ll head up to Maine for my first time ever. I’m looking forward to seeing the coastline and eating lots of lobster!

More lobster and scallops will be consumed with my return to Nova Scotia, Canada in more than 20 years.

New territory will also include time in Quebec and Ontario.

Its up in the air where I’ll re-enter the US next fall. It’ll either be near Detroit, Michigan, Sault St Marie, Michigan, or possibly up in Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Minneapolis, Minnesota will be a destination, so I can visit with old friends.

From that point, I have no idea other than westward.

I hope you’ll continue to join me in my travels in the coming new year.

Have a safe and Happy New Year to you all, thats a mistake, Happy New Year y’all.

Rob

December 17

Bonus Post

It’s a day off on account of winds. I thought I’d add some bonus photos of the area.

Whatch’ looking at?

Looks like Little Monument Valley
For those of you that have been to Hawaii this looks like Diamond Head
I think I found the Necromancer from Lord of the Rings. It’s call ‘Mule Ears’ here.

Hope your day is more enjoyable than mine.

Rob

December 16

Forts, Telescopes, and a Park

I took a wander around Fort Davis last week before leaving. I have to tell you, it felt as if John Wayne should have stepped out of one of the barracks or houses.

Fort Davis Officer Houses and Parade Grounds
Old Trade Route and Barracks

This was the second fort I’ve seen this fall/winter. Fort Selden, north of Las Cruces, NM was to protect the trade route from El Paso, Tx to Albuquerque, NM. Fort Davis protected the trade route from San Antonio, TX to El Paso.

Where is John Wayne?

While I have a bit of romance, as many do, over the old west, (some politics are about to slip out here) the new settlers wanted a trade route through the Native American tribal lands. Move to present day, and here we are in a battle for a pipeline. Once it was proposed to go north of Bismarck, ND, but the city didn’t want to jeopardize their water supply. Now its slotted to go through  the tip of reservation land and threatening their water source. Nothing has changed since the old west. (Ok I’m done)

Hobby-Eberly Telescope. One of the McDonald Observatories

I also went up to McDonald Observatory for a daytime tour. The day tours start in the theater. They have a video feed from a telescope that observes the sun. Later the tour takes you on a ride up to two of the observatories. I was impressed with the tour. They have their own community there with internet, service employees, computers techs, and everything involved with a town. They have daily solar tours and they also host star parties on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I would recommend  a stop if you’re in the area.

Harlan Smith Telescope, a 107 inch telescope.

I’ve made my way down to Big Bend National Park. If you’ve followed along for some time, you’ve noticed I’ve never gone to a national park. My reason for not visiting national parks is they don’t allow dogs on trails. I decided to visit Big Bend because I was so close, and doubt I’ll be this way again in the future. Dogs are allowed here “only where cars can go.” We did walk a bit on some gravel roads just to get out.

Chisos Mountains of Big Bend.

The first thing I’ll note about Big Bend is there is a lot of driving involved to see this park. The speed limit, like most parks, is 45mph, and since I’m outside near the Persimmon Gap entrance it is a long 26 miles at 45mph to get to the main headquarters. From the HQ you can go west or east to get to the campgrounds and there is also a road up to the Chisos Basin for camping and the lodge. There is also camping in primitive sites. You have book those in-person at HQ. A permit is $12 for a site and has a 14 day limit. Backcountry camping is also available for backpackers. Some of the areas in the Basin were closed off because of bear activity. I was shocked there were bears this far south and in a desert environment.

I’d already paid for five days at the Stillwell RV park and thought about going back for a primitive site, but decided I’ve seen what there is to see in the park. Also, one of the staff said it was going to get real busy with the holidays next week. The kids are on holiday!

Chisos Basin and the “Window.”
The main lodge hotel in Chisos Basin

As for Stillwell RV Park, it’s just in the ‘ok’ category. They have full and partial hook-ups and it’s really just an acre of land somewhat cleared with power boxes and water spigots.

I’ll head north and east next week. I’ve even emailed an RV park requesting a site for a month long stay. Yeah, what a change for me to book a month. One reason is, this is a destination state for snowbirds and there aren’t any boondocking possibilities in the state. No BLM lands to park on for a few weeks, like there are in Arizona.

I also found out that some state parks close for hunting season. Go figure?

Well, this is a longer post than most so I’ll sign off.

I appreciate you following my exploration of this amazing country.

Rob

December 9

No Yellow Rose of Texas

Sunset over Tularosa Valley

The day before leaving Oliver Lee SP, I took a drive over to White Sands. I meant to do it last Friday but there was too much cloud cover for good shots. When I got there, the register was down and I got in free. It was amazing. I felt like I was surrounded by snow. Even the roads felt like they were snow packed. Afterwards, I did chores before leaving.

Snow white sands

For the third and last time, I drove through El Paso on my way south. I stopped overnight in Van Horn, Tx. I had one of those mix ups happen. Having looked at a few campground pages I thought I’d picked the Passport America RV park when I drove into Van Horn RV Park. Nope, it’s a Sam’s Club park. I’m no longer a Sam’s member. I paid full price since I’d already set up. It wasn’t so bad though, I learned that the park has its own café. I had a pretty decent cheeseburger for dinner.

Snow-like drifts with snowcapped peak

It was a short drive to get to Davis Mountains State Park. When I went to check-in on my reservation, the clerk said I was a day early.

It happens once in a while, as a full-timer. You forget what day it is and when you are due at a campground. I mark my calendar to remind myself of what and when, but I it wrote down wrong. I left on the right day from Oliver Lee, I just wrote down the wrong stays in Van Horn and Davis Mountains SP. The clerk said I was fine as there were lots of spots.

Real snow

I left knowing I wanted to get here before the arctic wave Wednesday night.  The Thursday highs were due to be 33º. They’ll jumped back to the low 50’s today. No roses are blooming in this weather.

And so, for my second night in Texas, it snowed! For the first time, the Nash Grey Goose had snow on the roof.

Snow goose

I was a cold and blustery day yesterday, with a fog or low lying cloud cover. We haven’t seen snow since we’d started this full-time life. It wasn’t inches but a dusting of the ground and oak branches. It felt like Christmas was coming. It was one of those indoor days, with a few outside jaunts for Geordie. I decided to read and kick-back. I watched the temperature drop from 29º at 6:30 down to 24 by 10AM. It stuck around 25º most of the day.

It was a day for a good hot porridge for lunch. I even put on the Christmas channel on my SiriusXM

radio.

Frosty

I’ll note here that cell service in the park is zip, nada, no-go. They do have wi-fi but it isn’t very fast and I can’t get e-mail.

We finally moved into the Central Time Zone. Being at the western edge, the sun doesn’t come up at 6AM like I’m used to. I can’t wait for the sun to be on the other side of the Solstice.

I’ll head over to the old Fort Davis Historic Site today and over the weekend up to McDonald Observatory. I’ll report on that next week.

Thanks for joining my travels.

Rob

December 2

A Dog Up Dog Canyon

I mentioned last week that I’d be leaving a day early from Brantley Lake. I’m so glad I did. Snow and ice were due on Sunday night, with up to four inches of snow expected.

It was a long drive over the mountains. I’d filled my tank in Carlsbad and found the only gas station on the road was in Cloudcroft, NM. It was packed with cars for the homeward trip from Thanksgiving. By my GPS I had about 20 miles to Alamogordo. On my truck “mileage to empty” readout I had 48 miles left. When I drove into the first gas station, I had 26 miles worth of gas left. Close call!

The sun slips under the clouds for a spectacular sunset into Dog Canyon
The sun slips under the clouds for a spectacular sunset into Dog Canyon

I have to say I’m finding Oliver Lee Memorial State Park really nice. It sits right on the slope of the Sacramento Mountains looking down on the Tularosa Valley. Farther west sits the San Andres and Organ Mountains. One thing I was worried about being so close to the mountains was the sunrises. Being on the West slope I thought it might be late in the morning for sun, but it hits the trailer just before eight. As for the sunsets, they are great as the sun sinks past the western mountain ranges.

Old residence of "Frenchy" an original owner of property at the mouth of Dog Canyon
Old residence of “Frenchy”, an original owner of property at the mouth of Dog Canyon

On Tuesday I drove back down to El Paso, Tx for Geordie’s check-up for his eyes. The docs gave him an “improved” assessment. I was glad to hear that. He’ll need to have another check-up in April. Thankfully, Eye Care For Animals has a nationwide network. I think I’ll be close to the Springfield, Mo office when Geordie needs his eyes checked again.

If you need a map of the campground!
If you need a map of the campground!

It’s gotten colder this week. Overnights have begun dipping into the 20’s. There was also a lot of wind the first few days. The dust softened the lines of the mountains.

On Wednesday I took Geordie 3/4’s of a mile up the Dog Canyon Trail. It’s a tough hike with a 600’ elevation gain in just 0.6 of a mile. The whole trail is 5.5 miles with a 3,100’ elevation gain. Not a one day, roundtrip hike. The views from the hike were amazing. I could see the White Sands area as a line in the valley.

Looking out at the White Sands
Looking out at the White Sands

It’s been awhile since I’ve climbed a mountain. I thought this would be a good prep hike for a hike to a cabin up 2.9 miles for a roundtrip hike. I thought about going up today but rain is due tonight and tomorrow. Today I’ll head over to White Sands Monument and leave the hike for Sunday or Monday.

Alpen glow
Alpen glow

I joined the RV club Passport America. For $44.00 a year, I’ll receive a 50% discount at their network of RV parks. With my eastward trip this next year, it should help with expenses. I’ll use Passport America and Harvest Hosts on my trip towards and into Canada.

I’ll be heading down to Texas next week. I should be reporting from the Davis Mountains next Friday.

Thanks for following.

Rob

November 25

Weather Changes

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

We had rain a surprise rain on Monday. Exactly 107 drops fell on the Nash. It’s also been dropping in overnight temps, one night in the mid 20’s.

Tuesday I attempted to go to the Living Desert Zoo but found the parking lot packed. I guess the local school kids are off for the week. I decided I’d skip the crowds.

I came back and went down to the lake and launched the canoe. Wouldn’t it be my luck, as I got out the wind came up and kept Geordie and I from the main lake. I paddled a little way in the branch of the lake then came back in. The decision was a good one. The wind picked up to big, trailer shaking, winds.

Brantley Dam.
Brantley Dam.

I’ve noticed in my drive to town, the Pecos River below the dam as a possible place to paddle. I might give that a try this afternoon.

Water Diamonds
Water Diamonds

I’ve been looking at the weather for next week and it looks like rain is due on Monday. I’m heading over the Sacramento Mountains to get to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and I’ll be topping out at 8600’ at Cloudcroft, NM. Snow is due with temps below 30 up there, so I decided to leave a day early on Sunday and get over the mountains before the rain and snow hits. My only other alternative is adding about two to three more hours, to my already three hour trip, and still I have to go over the Sacramentos. Most of my worry are the roads being icy. I’ve never driven on icy roads with a trailer. Safer is the best bet.

Rabbit Run
Rabbit Run

Next week will be my last week of New Mexico State Parks. I’ve used my camping pass a lot this year. I’ve been from Navajo Lake, Heron Lake, City of Rocks and more. I’d say I got my money’s worth.

"Wabbits" Actually "Texas Jack Rabbit." I don't think Elmer Fudd would care either way.
“Wabbit” Actually “Texas Jack Rabbit.” I don’t think Elmer Fudd would care.

I’ll be back to boondocking soon, with some Texas state parks thrown in. I’m glad that I’ll be out there again. I’ve been feeling cramped the last few weeks and ready to feel some space around me again.

Thanks, as always, for reading.
Rob