Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure
Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares
The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #20
Thursday, March 11, 2010: Left the Flying J Truck Stop, El Paso, Texas at 0830. Traveled US-62 East, which is also called The Texas Mountain Trail, toward the Guadalupe Mountains. Weather is sunny, cool and very windy with sand blowing across the roadway. The truck and trailer are being buffeted around a bit.
After a few hours on the road we reached Guadalupe Mountains National Park and stopped at the visitors’ center.
This little known national park is on the Texas-New Mexico border and, other than the visitor’s center with a small campground, is mostly undeveloped. The big draw is that The Guadalupe Mountains at some 8,700 feet are the highest thing for miles around. Pioneers used to use these mountains as a landmark during their western migration. The trail up Guadalupe Peak is 5 miles long and reportedly from the summit one can detect the curvature of the earth along the horizon.
Decided not to stay at the campground so we headed down the backside of the mountains staying on US-62 and then moved over to US-285 heading toward Pecos, Texas.
This part of Texas is desolate, and very boring. The only thing of interest is the occasional tumbleweed that blows across the highway. Here’s what it looks like out the windshield…..mile after mile.
And here is what it looks like out the trucks left window…..mile after mile.
And here is what it looks like out the trucks right window…..mile after mile.
But wait! Occasionally you do come to a town!
Ghosts don’t even live in these towns. I thought Kansas was long, flat and boring. West Texas has them beat.
After driving through mile after mile of sand and scrub brush we decided to stay at a campground that celebrates sand and scrub brush. Sand Hills State Park in Monahan, Texas was just such a place.
So you think that “Loose Sand” sign is necessary? If it wasn’t loose sand wouldn’t it be called concrete?
After dinner I decided to enjoy my adult beverage on the beach but about went crazy looking for the perfect spot. The place, although a bit sparse has a unique charm. The setting sun caused the sand particles to glisten. And the stars were brilliant in the night sky. I guess what they say is true: “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder”.
Turned out that other folks enjoyed the sand and dunes…..there were one or two others camping as well.
That windmill in the background is still in use for pumping water into an elevated holding tank for use in the park.
Friday, March 12, 2010: Woke to clear, windy weather with temperatures in the 60’s. Broke camp and was on the road by mid-morning.
Decided to take I-20 toward Odessa, Texas then drop down to Farm Road 1053 through Fort Stockton, Crane and Mertzon. If you want to see what this area of Texas looks like see the photos above…..booooooring. We named these roads “pointy roads” because they were so long and straight that they appear to end in a point on the horizon. However there always seemed to be water on the road up ahead but it kept flowing away from us…..we never were able to catch up with it. There were a bunch of oil wells to break up the monotony but even they eventually blended into the blandness. I guess the State of Texas being so big features one of the most diverse environmental bodies in the nation. If so, then this area is likely the armpit.
Eventually we came to the beginnings of “Texas Hill Country” and the scenery became more interesting. We pulled into a very nice Air Force Recreation Facility located on a nice lake sponsored by Goodfellow AFB. Decided to stay at their campground for the next two evenings.
We learned early on last years trip that we needed to take a “down day” every week or so. No traveling and no sightseeing…..just goofing off around the campsite. That is what we did here. The facility is incredible with large athletic fields (suitable for kite flying), a swimming pool, and motor boat, sail boat and jet ski rentals. In addition we chatted with many of the fellow campers and met some interesting folks. A nice spot to unwind and prepare for the next weeks activities…..whatever they turn out to be.
March 14, 2010: Headed east on US-7. It is clear, calm and near 80 degrees. Passing through the town of Brady, Texas we noticed a banner advertising next weekends Goat Barbeque…..now I’ve attended, and participated, in many a Goat Cluster while serving in the Navy but looks like I’ll have to pass on this event as we will be long gone.
Hopped over to US-29 then US-71 through Llano and Dripping Springs, Texas and then took Ranch Road 150 on into Kyle for a return visit with Kit’s sister and her husband Donald.
We also visited with Rey and Darlene, seasoned RV travelers from Maine who settled in the area a few years ago. They shared with us the exciting news that they are selling their home, buying an upscale fifth wheel trailer and hitting the road full time.
Kyle is a nice town south of Austin and we once again accepted their kind offer to dooryard surf spending an enjoyable four days visiting, eating, drinking and relaxing. Great time with great folks.
Thursday, March 18, 2010: Departed Kyle and headed east on The Texas Brazos Trail (US-21) under clear skies and temperatures in the 60’s. There has been a bit of traffic the past few days then it occurred to us…..Spring Break. Well another reason not to head south toward Padre Island as we had originally considered.
Leaving the Texas Hill Country we entered the Piney Woods Region and soon came to the small town of Dime Box, Texas. We just had to stop and investigate. The unusual town name came about when the small farming and ranching village located here in the early 1900’s did not have mail delivery. So the folks built a central mail deposit box and whenever any of the town folks would ride their mule into the big city of Lincoln they would take the mail. In addition some folks would leave note and a few dimes in the box requesting the next traveling citizen to pick up items they couldn’t grow or make…..such as chewing tobacco. The town mail box became know as “The Dime Box” and years later when the State of Texas needed a name for the rapidly growing community the locals submitted Dime Box. And a tourist hook was born.
There is a museum but it was open by appointment only. Actually the whole town looked like a museum so we just poked around for a while.
Back on the main highway we started noticing signs that said: “Hysterical Marker 1 Mile Ahead”. There where dozens of them…..mile after mile. So we took the bait and stopped at one. What a disappointment…..the marker wasn’t funny at all. Just a bunch of dumb history stuff.
We soon entered the Davy Crockett National Forest. This was especially meaningful to me as Davy Crocket was my hero while growing up in the 1950’s. I even wore a “Coonskin Cap” every day and usually to bed as well…..which irritated Kit on our wedding night however. Since it was getting late we stopped at Crockett Campground for the night.
It was a very nice facility right on Houston County Lake which is known for prime bass fishing. On the walls of the office there are many trophy photos of grinning angler’s holding huge bass by their lower lip.
That evening after dinner and our customary walk I signed onto the internet to check e-mail, the news and stock reports. It was then that I heard the sad news of Fess Parkers passing. What a profound moment. Sitting in the middle of the Davy Crockett National forest on the day the greatest actor ever to portray the legend passes on. Toasting my hero I proclaimed: “To the king of the wild frontier, may you rest in peace”. Other campers seemed to understand my pain as they looked my way and just shook their heads.
Friday, March 19, 2010: On the road by 1000 heading south on US-7. As we were enjoying our drive through the Davy Crockett National Forest we came upon this horrifying sight:
How could they…..Davy’s trees should be sacred and protected from such wanton vandalism. As I pulled abreast of the offending truck I shook my fist at the driver…..he wagged his finger back at me. I think that meant he understood and that he was trying to convey that I was indeed Davy Crockett’s number one fan. So I backed off and let him motor on in peace.
Passing into Louisiana we noticed a large shadow envelope the truck and heard a loud roar. As a B-52 Bomber passed over I noticed a number of other B-52’s circling the skies above Barksdale Air Force base. I was able to snap this photo of the huge plane through the windshield.
The rest of the trip through the short part of Louisiana was fairly uneventful. We stopped for fuel, lunch and a break but otherwise kept trucking.
As we passed over the Mississippi River it was getting late so we looked for a safe, flat place to RON (remember what that means?) Soon we saw two motor homes in a Wal*Mart parking lot…..so we pulled in as well.
This Wal*Mart located in Vicksburg, Mississippi is open 24 hours and has a roving security truck who passed by every half hour or so. Perfectly safe and the price was certainly right.
Saturday, March 20, 2010: Woke to overcast skies and temperatures in the mid 50’s. Walked into The Wal*Mart for coffee and a couple of breakfast sandwiches. Who would a thought that The Wal*Mart store would feature a Bed and Breakfast option?
Hit the road early heading out on I-20 toward Jackson, Mississippi. Soon we came to The Natchez Trace National Parkway and stopped at the visitors’ center. This guy was parked along the entrance road which had a sign that said “No Parking” but I doubt that anyone would argue with him.
While at the visitors center I ran into this fella:
He may be an old shipmate of mine from my Navy days. Or somewhere lies a box of Cracker Jacks missing its logo picture. Either way he was interesting to talk to.
The Natchez Trace started as a heavily traveled wilderness road used by Indians and early pioneers. The trace eventually extended 444 miles connecting Natchez, Mississippi with Nashville, Tennessee. It was used to ferry trade goods until the advent of steamboats on the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers rendered it obsolete. The National Parkway generally lays north and south so wasn’t really along the direction we were heading….but we took it anyway.
After about an hour of enjoying Natchez Trace we came to the Ross Barnett Reservoir and decided to head east once again and crossed the causeway that bisects the lake. Entering into the little town of Canton we noticed a banner advertising an upcoming “Catfish Rodeo”. Now that would be a sight to see! I bet it’s really hard to stay in the saddle for the required time on those slippery suckers. Also I bet those little Rodeo Clownfish in their bib overalls would be a hoot. Too bad we can’t stick around.
Now we generally listen to NPR while on road trips and such was the case this afternoon as we headed toward Montgomery, Alabama. Fully engrossed in the show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” we soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Birmingham…..yep passed right by Montgomery an hour ago. Oh well…..our basic philosophy on these trips has been; sometimes on the way to a destination you get lost and discover a better one. This 60 mile detour gave us a chance to drive through Selma, Alabama an important city during the civil rights struggle. There where a few museums that would have been interesting to explore but we decided to leave them for another trip. Selma still has the look and feel of the old south but also has pockets of a modern city.
Finally getting to Montgomery, Alabama we pulled into Maxwell Air Force Base and located their campground. Since it was late the office was closed but the manager was kind enough to leave a note on the door listing the three open campsites. First one we came to was full, as was the next. Finally locating the third available campsite and discovered, much to our pleasure, it was open! Road Magic surfaces its beautiful head once again. While setting up for the night I saw the lights of another rig pulling in. Great timing on our part.
Kit’s Corner: After spending quite a bit of time in Texas and seeing the many areas of the state it indeed is quite diverse. Of course, some parts are much nicer than others. We look forward to exploring more of the state in the future. They have wonderful state parks and we also want to spend some time in Austin and San Antonio.
Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit
Wow – enough room in Texas for even my imagination! I have particularly enjoyed the “ground view” of what you are/have been seeing. The contrasts of the areas, the individuals you are meeting, the oral history of areas we may not have the opportunity to vist and especially the unique way of life in remote/rural areas of the U.S. are all in the mix of our country and the people we call Americans. I’m definitely inspired by it all.
Cannot believe you are heading home (perhaps even back in Maine by now). Thank you both again and again for taking us along with you. We have been introduced to so much and it’s so obvious how much we don’t know about so many regions of the USA. It’s all like living history!
Safe travels and, if appropriate, WELCOME HOME!
Kris & Walt
Little trick photography on the “right window, left window” photos–no wonder everything looked the same–you just have to watch out for those big, circular beltways in Texas where you get turned around without knowing it!
I’m curious. It seems most campgrounds you’ve stayed in are located at mililtary bases. Are these available to everyone or only retired or former military folks?
We’re looking forward to seeing you soon and catching up with other events from your adventures–with all the rain we’ve had, you may need your kayak when you get here!
WOW…..your good! Yep, I could have taken one shot on day one in Texas, duplicated it on day two and no one would know the difference. It’s all the same…..mile after mile.
We *have* been staying at a lot of military campgrounds, unlike our trip last winter. I guess it is because they are just convenient as we need them. We usually don’t plan our days intended course on where the next base might be. Just kinda works out that way…..at least on this trip.
The authorized folks that can use the military base campgrounds are US active duty military, Reserve and national guard, retired military and DOD folks. At some bases active duty and retired Canadian travelers can stay as well.
Bet with the warm weather folks are clamoring for the water to be turned on?
See you guys soon,
Bill and Kit