Bill and Kit’s 2011 Excellent Adventure-Journal #7
Monday, January 31, 2011: Up and on the road by 0910 under cloudy skies, high humidity and a temperature of 66 degrees. Feels like a bit of weather could be brewing.
Stopped at a little bait shop in town that also sold propane for a fill up of our depleted bottle (propane not bait).
We merged onto I-37 heading north to quickly clear the Corpus Christi traffic. On the road only a short time I noticed a large piece of poly plastic sheeting in my travel lane. Sandwiched between a semi and an auto I had no alternative but to drive over the thing. As luck would have it the plastic got hung up underneath the truck and made a god awful noise. So off the Interstate to clear the offending liter.
Back on I-37 we were passed by a brightly decorated motorhome. The driver honked and the passenger waved as they slowly moved past.
They must have noticed our Veterans license plate. Not sure if that rig belonged to an Army Academy scout or one of the Academy baseball coaches. Note the highway sign…..I couldn’t have planned that any better if I had tried!
Around noon we tired of the Interstate and moved onto TX-281 heading north. Near Pleasanton, Texas we dropped down to TX-97 then shifting onto TX-140 we, once again, headed west. Soon we came across this unusual site a short distance outside Charlotte, Texas.
It was actually a cattle ranch but it appears the farmer was an avid windmill collector…..there had to be 20 of the things on his property and most were revolving slowly in the breeze. It was an interesting sight and an amazing sound from all that antique machinery. However I bet the place would have driven Don Quixote crazy!
Soon we were on TX-85, and headed northerly. This particular stretch of road had to be the Road Kill Capital of the United States. Mile after mile we passed the remains of various hapless wildlife that tried to cross the road. Not sure why here but we were glad to get to TX-117 where the carnage abated.
On TX-117 near Uvalde, Texas we rejoined our old friend US-90 and continued our westward trek. Nearing the town of Del Rio, we encountered our first Border Patrol checkpoint of the trip. The Border Patrol Officer was very pleasant but looked to be about 15 years old. We were quickly identified as Native American Gringos and allowed to continue on.
Now, one might surmise that there has to be a faster and more direct route from Corpus Christi, to Del Rio, Texas and they would be right. However what fun would that be? Part of our road trip philosophy is to meander about as we pinball our way to California. We have accumulated 3,169 miles on this trip so far. A quick MapQuest check shows that a direct route from Brunswick, Maine to San Diego, California would only be 3,173 miles. Now that explains why we have owned our little camper for only two and a half years and already have put 34,000 miles on her. We must be nuts!
Speaking of our little camper, there is an austerity move afoot in the US to downsize homes. The Tiny Home movement is espousing the simplified lifestyle of living in a 400 square foot or less home. Unfamiliar with this latest fad? Check it out at http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/. We figure with our 176 square foot camper we are real trendsetters!
Nearing Del Rio, Texas we had considered staying at the RV Park on Laughlin Air Force Base. However, we learned from a fellow RV Warrior that there was a little known and utterly intriguing place to camp in the small burg of Brackettville, Texas by the name of Fort Clark Springs. We pulled in for an overnight and stayed four days. What a Gem!
Tuesday, February 1st through Friday, February 4th, 2011–Fort Clark Springs, Brackettville, Texas: You know how fisherman hate to divulge that perfect stream or pond for fear that others will descend upon it? That’s the way we feel about Fort Clark Springs. However this place is too perfect not to share with our RV friends…..just keep it a secret.
First a little history, Fort Clark was first recognized as a great location for an Army Fort in 1852. Situated alongside the spring fed Las Moras River it provided access to Mexico and Indian Settlements which gave the location strategic importance. During its long history, Fort Clark was home to the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts, The famed Buffalo Soldiers and The 9th and 10th mounted cavalry of the US Army. Following World War II the horse cavalry became obsolete so the fort was deactivated and sold as salvage to a local developer. As an interesting side note, the developer tore down some of the older wooden structures and sold the reclaimed lumber to folks in this tree sparse area. He made enough money form this simple act to recoup his initial investment.
Today it is a thriving 2,700 acre residential community enjoyed mostly by “Winter Texans” who own homes, RV lots or stay in the hotels and condos on the property. But this isn’t your typical retirement community. Many of the former forts administration, residential, and working buildings are now restored and turned into private homes. The place has a very rustic and authentic feel to it but with some modern touches. There are two golf courses, a large spring fed swimming pool that maintains a year round temperature of 68 degrees, and 21 miles of trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.
There are even some RV lots for sale. They are very reasonable and come with large RV canopies and built in storage areas. Each of these privately owned RV lots have been individually personalized and landscaped by the owner. The attached storage structures alone are as big as some mobile homes.
There just might be one of these RV lots in our future. After all, this place is centrally located to the areas we like to explore, generally the weather is agreeable and the facility provides most everything we enjoy.
Fort Clark spawned a resupply town outside the post that was settled by a Mr. Brackett. Brackettville, as it was known, grew and thrived as most small towns located near military bases do. However when the post was closed the town slowly dried up so about one half, literally, of the main drag is a ghost town.
Sharing the opposite side of the street from the buildings shown above were the town office, a post office and some retail shops, including a really neat old time hardware store. It must be interesting for the Town Clerk to conduct the towns current business while looking across the street at the towns past.
Here is an interior shot of the building on the right.
The little town had a lot of character and demanded more exploration than we gave it which we will rectify on our next visit.
The RV Park features 85 full hookup sites and the fees are very reasonable. The park is managed by Shirley, a Texas gal with a big heart and boundless energy. We picked a nice site on the edge of the park that gave us a great view of the wildlife that finds sanctuary in the surrounding brush.
Our next door neighbors, Mitch and Henrietta (Hank), who we met as soon as we arrived were a delightful couple from Mahnomen, Minnesota. Mitch is a retired Navy Hospital Corpsman so he and I wasted no time comparing careers and swapping sea stories. They kind of took us under their wing and showed us around Fort Clark. They even treated us at their favorite ice cream joint.
There is a lot of wildlife, both the animal and the human kind, which abound in the RV Park. Most days, there were visits to our site by a bunch of Turkeys, the animal kind-not the human kind.
Some white tail deer came by to visit as well. Here, dad and son explore the field outside our camper window.
I guess they figured that we were OK as they soon called the rest of the family in.
We were in the park less than an hour when two couples stopped by to welcome us and invite us to that evening’s pot luck supper which we gladly accepted. Most of the folks in the RV Park are from the US northern Midwest or central Canada; however there was an interesting fellow from Jackman, Maine.
Salty lived for many years on Spenser Road, a stone’s throw from Spenser Rips on the Moose River. A waterway I and many others know well from frequent canoe and kayak trips. Salty sold his place a while back, bought a motorhome and spends the winter in the southwest. When he returns to Maine he sets up camp at Caratunk. His work background is in automotive mechanics where he worked as a car builder and mechanic for a sponsored WRC Pro Rally team.
I mentioned the 21 miles of multi-use trails and took advantage of exploring about 25% of them. Most were old jeep trails (double track) with a few game trails (single track) to add interest. The area was fairly flat with some small hills and a few woops. The tread was mostly hard pack with some loose pebbles and sandy areas to keep you paying attention. Great riding!!!!!
Some of the trails paralleled the Las Moras River.
As a traffic speed control device, the Fort Clark Springs Association utilizes these mobile speed bumps on the fastest trails.
This little fellow was sunning himself right in the middle of the trail until I stopped to dig out my camera…..then he waddled off into the underbrush, turned around and gave me an irritated look.
Boy, that’s a face only a mother could love……I guess Armadillos (pronounced armordillers) are put on this earth to prove that God (or insert deity of choice) has a sense of humor.
Stopped for a rest and snack by a nice little pond where there were more deer frolicking about.
This place feels like living in a Bambi movie. I bet it is even prettier in the spring.
Riding the trail to the fence that surrounds the 2,700 acres I took a perimeter road for a ways. Soon I came to a neighboring goat farm. As I stopped to investigate, all the animals stopped their busy activity, walked over to the fence, and stared right back at me. This Mexican standoff went on for a few minutes until the goats got bored and returned to their goatly duties, whatever that was.
I had the uncanny feeling that I was the unique one out here in the middle of nowhere and the goats were interested in observing me as an exotic animal might be observed in a zoo. What a weird feeling that was. I expected some of them to throw some peanuts over the fence to watch me scramble to eat them.
All in all a great day of riding in a fabulous natural area…..all only a few miles from the Mexican border.
Fort Clark Springs is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the current management works tirelessly to preserve the past history while accommodating the association’s homeowners and guests. In addition many of the remaining structures that once comprised the fort are open and available for private use. Check it all out at: http://www.fortclark.com/.
While at Fort Clark Springs, the weather kept getting progressively colder. One day it was 83 degrees…..and 24 hours later it was 41 degrees. Out came the long pants and jackets. We did think of moving on but our next destination was Big Bend National Park which is at much higher altitude and was predicting snow and ice…..so we stayed put. Fort Clark Springs turned out to be a pretty nice place to be pinned down by the weather.
One evening the temperature dropped to 18 degrees, what the…..! It’s warmer in Maine for God sake!!! Many folks experienced frozen and busted pipes. We never even hooked our water hose up, relying instead on the onboard water source which is stored in a heated compartment. As cold as it was at least it stayed dry. Back home it has been snowing…..a lot. Our daughter sent us the following picture of the two feet of snow she encountered this morning.
On one of the colder days we drove the thirty miles into Del Rio to poke around and re-supply. We received a tip from a local on a great Mexican restaurant where we enjoyed an incredible meal. Manuel’s began as a restaurant in neighboring Acuna, Mexico and many folks from Del Rio would head across the border to enjoy their food. However after 9/11 it was more difficult to travel freely so the family opened a satellite restaurant in Del Rio. We knew we were in a locally favorite spot as all the conversations surrounding us were in Spanish. We felt very welcome and didn’t once hear the word “gringo” mentioned.
Before we left Covington, Louisiana last week, Johnny and Eileen presented us with some homemade crab cakes and some fig jam made from fruit grown on their property. We enjoyed both while here and want to thank them again for their hospitably and kindness.
We reluctantly decided to move on. However the morning we left was the weekly all you can eat breakfast…..so we enjoyed a nice home cooked meal prepared by fellow RV Park residents.
The fellow on the left is a Winter Texan from northern Minnesota and the fry cook is from Saskatchewan, Canada. The park was called to breakfast at 0700 by the ringing of a bell which stood in front of the chow hall. The food was excellent…..and cheap!
On to Big Bend National Park!
Kit’s Corner: Fort Clark Springs has turned out to be one of our most delightful stops during this trip. During our short time there, we met lots of nice people and explored quite a bit of the area. We met at least 3 couples from Minnesota (my home state) and enjoyed hearing about things to do and see up that way. Seeing all the deer and turkeys each day was fun, too. Our stay there was during a cold spell so we were indoors more than we would have liked but, it warmed up before we left to more seasonable temps.
Love, Dad/Bill/Poppy and Mom/Kit/Guma