“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
Friday, January 13, 2012: Since it is Friday the 13th……we ain’t going anywhere! Besides after 4 long days of travel covering 1800 miles we need a break!! Barksdale Air Force Base is located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, just outside of Shreveport. Their campground is located on the opposite side of the airstrip from the base proper and appears to contain mainly Air Force personnel on temporary assignment.
Shortly after setting up camp one of these BFA’s flew over.
BFA…..that’s military jargon for Big Friggin Airplane. That monster is a B-52 bomber that first went operational in 1955 (when I was only two and Kit a mere twenty-seven). They feature 8 engines, can travel at over 600 MPH and can carry 70,000 pounds of whup-ass. Big is an understatement as two of these suckers will barely fit on a football field, depending on the skill of the pilot. Oh, and by the way, provide a whole different dynamic to the game. There were 744 built with 85 still flying today. A number have crashed…..apparently the tail likes to fall off for no apparent reason. There is a B-52 crash site on a mountainside near Moosehead Lake, Maine. A lot of folks have taken the dirt road and short hike to see the wreckage and pay respect to the 7 patriots that perished there in 1963. However there have been cases where after such an “unplanned in-flight incident” the aircraft kept flying and landed safely proving the airworthiness of design. Here is what one looks like on the ground.
We spent two days at Barksdale AFB looking around, stocking the trailer with food, and generally relaxing. We also experienced our first trailer component failure after three years and many miles of travel. The hot water heater stopped heating hot water. You know, it should be called a cold water heater…..why would you want to heat hot water? Anyway, it’s not an emergency as most RV water heaters are dual sourced…..electric and propane. In our case the electric side is what malfunctioned. Figured out we would just rely on the propane side until I could locate parts and attempt repairs. In one of our walks about the campground I noticed a fellow doing some work on a nice mountain bike, so we stopped to talk. We learned that Ray and Rosa have mutual acquaintances in common with us. Last year we camped next to a nice couple by the name of Mike and Angela at San Onofre Beach, California. Well as it turns out they camped next to the same couple last year as well. Another one of unending “small world” occurrences we seem to encounter on these trips. Ray did tell of some nice bike trails down the road, but since we were pulling out in the morning those will have to wait for exploration on another day. Sunday, January 15, 2012: Left Barksdale AFB at 0852 under clear skies and temperatures in the 30’s. Hopped on I-20 where we soon crossed the Texas line and stopped at the Welcome Center to pick up a current Texas State Park guide. Of all the state parks in the US we have stayed at over the years, we believe Texas has the nicest, many constructed by the CCC. Back on the road, we turned on the radio and found a number of Mexican language stations and at one point couldn’t find any that were being transmitted in English…..kinda weird. We generally prefer to travel the back roads, so tiring of the Interstate we pulled off on TX-155 heading toward Waco. Seeing a small gas station in the middle of nowhere advertising fuel for $3.18 a gallon we stopped to top off. The temperature had quickly risen to the mid 60’s and the bright sun promised a warm afternoon. Enjoying the leisurely travel through Texas Hill Country, we stopped for a picnic at a small town park and enjoyed a bit of walking around to work out the kinks. Back on the road, Kit tried the radio again and came upon a station that advertised “All Polka-All the Time”. Gotta believe there aren’t more than about 7 Polka songs in the world but we listened to that station for the next few hours as we passed cattle farms, small dusty towns and oil fields. The thing about listening to Polka music while driving is that one has a hard time controlling the speed…..for some reason you want to go faster and faster. Nearing Waco, of Branch Davidian fame, we moved over to TX-35 toward Belton and the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA) managed by Fort Hood. Checking into the park we were greeted by this old fellow.
Apparently folks feed this guy as he repeatedly tried to get close enough to sniff my camera…..however I kept my distance which really got its goat. BLORA is a very large lakeside recreation park located about 60 miles north of Austin. There are three campgrounds to choose from as well as rental units spread about. With our Golden Age Passport the full hookup sites were seasonally priced at $11.25 per night…..an incredible bargain for all that is offered. We choose to camp in the woods at the Deer Park campground and true to its name, when we arrived we were greeted by this young buck.
The campground was only about half full so we selected a nice secluded spot in the woods.
Texas, as well as the rest of the south is enduring a rather severe drought…..the lake was so low that floats and piers were high and dry, sitting on parched soil hundreds of feet from the water’s edge.
After a nice walk around the area we settled in for the night listening to the silence of the wilderness. Monday, January 16, 2012-Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, Texas (BLORA): We decided to stay another night so we could enjoy some of what this area has to offer. The weather is clear and cool but the forecast is for a warm afternoon. One BLORA feature that I was anxious to checkout was the Mountain Bike Trails.
The trail system was very well maintained and thoroughly enjoyable. Within the 20 mile network there were beginner, intermediate and advanced trails, the latter featuring a number of technical sections, some of which I ended up walking…..still fun, however. There are unique trail hazards in the south that make it prudent to bring a spare tube and an inflator. In addition these hazards make falling a rather prickly situation.
Now Texas is undergoing a severe drought, but somehow I was able to locate the only muddy spot in the state and the goop was like cement, sticking instantly to tires and bike.
This place is a keeper and will be added to our ever expanding list of prime camping opportunities. Tuesday, January 17, 2012: Up and on the road by 1100 for the short two hour trip south to Kyle, Texas and an anxiously anticipated stay with Kit’s sister Char and her husband Don. The sky was clear, temperatures in the 60’s and traffic light. Since there are no convenient back roads we stayed on I-35 until we got past Austin. After making a brief stop at the huge Cabela’s store in Buda we pulled into their neighborhood at 1410 and our first dooryard camping opportunity.
After a warm welcome and an excellent home cooked meal we settled in for the night in our trailer. Some folks we stop to see are a bit put out that we prefer staying in or trailer while visiting. We are often encouraged to take advantage of their guest room but we actually prefer our own bed. Besides it gives our host a bit of privacy and since we make our own coffee and breakfast it partially lifts the burden of having guests visit. Folks that RV about the country understand instantly and others that we visit frequently have learned to appreciate the simplicity of our preference. Wednesday, January 18, 2012 through Sunday, January 22, 2012-Kyle, Texas: Spent a very nice six days visiting with Char and Don. In addition to enjoying the nice weather we spent time experiencing this unique part of Texas. On a nice warm day, we traveled to Austin’s Zilker Park. The wind was perfect for kite flying so out with kite #2.
We also enjoyed all the various botanicals at the Botanical Garden:
And stopped for lunch at the world famous Trailer Park Eatery:
Trailer Park cuisine at its finest. I enjoyed a Dirty Sanchez and a Green Chile pork taco. Too hard to describe but feel free to look them up at http://torchystacos.com/food/tacos/ Axle grease provided at no extra charge!
On another day, I worked on getting the trailer and truck ready for the westward ho migration. An historical note…..Westward Ho is when the eastern “feature ladies” migrated west to more fertile grazing grounds. We tend to follow their well-worn wagon trails. As noted earlier, our Cold Water Heater does not heat up on the electric side. So doing a little poking around on the Internet I discovered a $43.00 RV element is the same as the $9.00 Lowes element. Speaking of Lowes…..they have a very nice selection of Texas brand Chain Saws. Don’t work as well as the Maine brand, but a heck of a lot quieter.
Also on the Internet I discovered that the gas line has a service loop to allow unbolting the burner tube and bending it out of the way. Other than locating a 1 ½ inch socket, the replacement was pretty straight forward.
Out of curiosity, I did inquire at the local RV shop for an estimate to do this repair…..approximately $200.00 the guys said with a straight face. I’m providing all this info for my benefit as well as that of our fellow RV friends. Bottom line…..it was an easy repair and now Bill can once again get himself into hot water! On yet another beautiful 80 degree day, we headed south to New Braunfels and the famous Gruene Dance Hall (pronounced “Green Dans Hal”), the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas.
This venue has seen all the major country and western stars on her stage and has launched the careers of Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum and George Strait. But before the foot stompin starts we needed some vittles so off to The Gristmill Restaurant we moseyed.
Before heading back to the dance hall, we walked the historic district where I was able to try on some cowboy hats in order to give a western flair to my Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals. I think this one will allow me to be accepted by the cow pokes and sod busters.
Not sure what a “cow poke” is…..not sure I wanna know either. Back at the hall, the music started the cowboys and cowgirls were on the floor, and some of them were even upright and dancing. I tried my darnedest to get my two left feet to do the two step…..not gonna happen.
I did get a shiner……no, not what you think, regardless of my attire…..a Shiner Bock beer, an incredible local brew. The girls enjoyed a drink as well.
Actually…..I think those were their third or fourth…..notice the silly grins. Also note the chicken wire covering the windows. I think that was a safety precaution to prevent beer bottles from flying out into the street. Don and Char are considering joining the RV brotherhood so on one day the girls went to the local RV dealer to poke around. They discovered that the owner was an avid old car collector, having more than thirty antiques and classics in an attached garage. Upon discovering this, I had to pay a visit. There, amongst the Model A’s, Cadillac’s, Corvettes and a very rare Plymouth Super Bird was a little Isetta.
My mother had a 1956 BMW Isetta when I was a kid and I marveled at its simplicity with its front opening door. The 13 horsepower motorcycle engine and chain drive power train would scoot this lightweight microcar to a max speed of 47 MPH in a very long 58 seconds. It would, however get over 50 miles per gallon from its 4 gallon fuel tank. The thing was a real “chick magnet”…..chickens would sit on the roof for hours hoping it would hatch.
Well….let’s see, what else did we do. Oh yea, we ate some more…..had a really nice Tex-Mex meal at Luviano’s in Kyle.
Where if you leave hungry…..it’s your own darn fault.
And after the Margaritas were consumed, we all enjoyed listening to Char telling funny family secrets.
Back at their home we endured the Republican debates where Newt and John King traded jabs and the electorate became more confused than ever. The CNN comedy was interrupted when the neighborhood owl lit on the roof and started calling to its mate. Wanting a photo, Char with flashlight and I with my camera snuck into the backyard. Trying to get the huge bird to face me I called “me…..me”. I barely made it back into the house! Yikes…..that was a close call!! Kit’s Corner: As in past years, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Char & Don. We were able to do a bit more sightseeing than we’ve done during previous visits, which was nice. We also met up with some friends from Maine, Ray & Darlene. They have relocated to Kyle, TX and we try and catch up with them while we are in the area. They, in turn, try to catch up with us when they come to Maine during the summer. Now, it’s REALLY time to head West….