Sitting in Falcon State Park

On our way here we took a diversion through Fredericksburg, TX. This diversion took longer than planned due to an extended shopping trip. Last year our stop in Fredericksburg took longer than planned because of an extended visit to the Museum of the War in the Pacific. On our way into town we stopped at a KOA on the outskirts to top off the propane tank. Several cold nights had reduced the tank to just over half. As we drove away we considered whether we should have checked in and just used the tow’d to go into town, but we proceeded with the entire rig and found parking at the curb for all 60+ feet of us with room to maneuver. We actually parked across the street from tow other motorhomes with their tow’ds.

After a lot of time traversing both sides of the main street and visiting many of the lovely shops we returned to Gee 2 and decided that it was too late to go on to the next likely camping area, about 90 minutes away. Instead we drove to Opa’s Sausage Shop where after some difficulty parking (we used the parking lot of a closed restaurant across the street) I managed to buy a supply of excellent Turkey and all beef sausages. I had sampled them last year and regretted not buying more. We then decided to retrace our steps to the KOA which had seemed so pleasant. It is. There was a further surprise I learned as I was out taking a walk. The immediate neighbor is a game farm. I was really surprised to see these characters across the fence.




I was less thrilled to learn that many of these animals are sold to game ranches where they become the paid for targets of “big game hunters” in the confines of a Texas Ranch.

The next day, Thursday, was a road day. We followed TX 87 south to I 10 east to FM 1604 (that’s Farm to Market and in this case is a major outer loop around San Antonio) to I 35 south to ultimately Texas 83 south by east arriving at Falcon SP late afternoon and 350 miles from our start. We have registered here for a week and are settling in to relax a bit and do some things around the coach. Carol is writing and working on her seminar and I am trying to get my thoughts together on more formal writing than this journal. Friday I ended up in touch with my office and various clients and it felt rather like being at work, but staring out at very different scenery.

Today we got on our bicycles for the first time this trip and Carol’s first time since her hip surgery. The weather was conducive and we road out on to the Falcon Dam about 5 miles each way. There was one little issue, we had set off with out any identification and the middle of the Dam is beyond the frontier. Before we left US territory we stopped and spoke to the customs official and Border Patrol person and they did not have a problem with readmitting us after a trip to no place. The middle of the dam and the actual border are just that, no place.


There is another mile before one reaches the Mexican Frontier and everything is in plain view. However, I understand that this crossing is still pretty informal as there is no place to go once you cross on a bicycle and no commercial traffic is permitted at this crossing in any event. On our return they smiled and asked us for our drivers’ licenses knowing full well that we had nothing with us, they waved us through.

We did very little the rest of the day, well I guess that doesn’t count driving through Roma to Rio Grande City and picking up some essentials, food. In the process we passed two more bridges to Mexico. We will cross one of the bridges when we come to it again. Vanilla is on our agenda, we understand that it may be in short supply in these parts, hope we can find some to cart back with us.

All day Saturday the sky was grey and the wind blew steadily. It even rained, although this is the kind of rain you can walk in without getting more than damp. It is desert rain. We were promised great weather for Sunday and was it ever. The sky was clear blue and there was almost no wind and the temperatures rose into the low 80’s by early afternoon. We used the morning to get some work done and to get the motorhome clean again. I went over the entire exterior for the third time in ten days. It glistens. It does need a wax job, but I will find someone to pay to take that on. After lunch we decided it was time to get the boat out and see some of this park and reservoir from the water for the first time. It was great fun and we had a wonderful hour or so paddling around on Falcon Reservoir.


We have the boat stored in the back of the car for now so we can take advantage of any water we see that looks interesting. With the bikes and the boat we are definitely getting too many toys.

The coyotes are quieter tonight than they have been, The evening chorus and the dawn chorus have been something else. Last night I heard them in the middle of the night too. The first time we heard them I was prepared to call the ranger to quiet the rowdy party, I finally figured that any party making that much noise would have attracted the ranger themselves. Haven’t seen the creatures yet, I understand I may not see them. Did have a Javelina in our campsite this evening, they are not the sweetest looking animal and they make a skunk seem sweet smelling. Fortunately this one was alone not in the usual pack of six or more.


Another visit in Austin

We stopped in Bryan/College Station for two nights on our way to Austin. The Marino Rd RV Park was very welcoming even if it is a flat field across the street from the airport and has little going for it in the way of amenities. It is Passport America which endears it to us – 50% off always makes me happy – and the staff people were quite nice and very accommodating. We settled in and Carol got to do the laundry and make dinner on board.

On Thursday the 19th we set out to see the George H. W. Bush Library. His mother couldn’t choose among the family names so he got them all. This is the first Republican presidential library we gave visited. It has not really been intentional, it has just happened to work out that way ever since our family visit to the JFK library sometime back in the 70’s. This library is definitely worth a stop if you are anywhere near Aggie Town. If you didn’t know, College Station is the home of Texas A & M, known in these parts as the Aggies. A & M stands for Agriculture and Mechanical. I had surmised this but did not know and had to ask as everything in the area refers to A & M and we never did see it spelled out anyplace.

On Friday morning, with the coach and car freshly hand washed we set out through the drought stricken East Texas plains for Austin. Washing the coach did it, sort of. We had enough rain along the road to require a thorough wipe down upon arrival. We pulled into Austin Lone Star RV for our second time and were greeted at the gate and welcomed and guided to our site. We were also informed we had a package waiting, thank you Kathy. The weather was delightful, sun shining and temperature of about 80! I got out my clothes and cleaned up Gee 2 again, tempting fate. Then we showered and sat in lawn chairs and read until time to drive to Leigh and Pat’s new home. We had lovely conversation and dinner at a neighborhood spot that featured a longish wait and good food together with pleasant ambience, once past the noise of the waiting area.

As always Leigh had researched a wide range of options for Saturday and after Study Group and services at Temple Beth Israel we joined them for lunch at Ruby’s, famous for there barbecue. The chicken and brisket were wonderful; we wondered how we would ever eat dinner. We went on to the Umlauf Gardens, home of a collection of sculpture by George Umlauf. It was a wonderful stop.


Afterwards we toured several areas of Austin we had not seen and returned to their wonderful house in the city where Leigh prepared a wonderful meal the featured Soufflés and a Gratin Salad. Here is Leigh preparing to serve the soufflés.


On Sunday for something entirely different, we picked Pat and Leigh up at their house in Gee 2 in full travel mode. We had learned of a US Army Corp of Engineers campground not too far to the north on Lake Georgetown. The reputation of these parks is very good and this seemed like an ideal time to do some research. We found the campground with no trouble and there was plenty of room, it is winter here too. We drove around the loop twice looking for the ideal view and a relatively level site. The view is great, the slope is a bit much, both front tires are off the ground. We had lunch on board and then set off for the town of Salado, another 20 miles up the road. This little strip of a town has more shops per person than seems proper. We shopped until we dropped and then drove south to Georgetown where we had dinner at Wildfire Grill. It was very nice and then we took them back home in Austin and returned to Gee2 for the night.

Monday we hung around the campground most of the morning doing various things and at about noon we drove into Georgetown for lunch at the Monument Diner which was highly recommended. The recommendation was well deserved. The meatloaf was wonderful and the accompanying vegetables were excellent as were the rolls, Yum!

For the afternoon we went back to Salado to retrieve a gift we had bought that was being gift wrapped. We spent a lot more time wandering the shops and we had sent home a Mexican style dinner set for our own casual use, made in China. Saw a lot of other stuff we didn’t need to buy, but might have in another time. We returned to Gee2 for a fancy dinner prepared by Carol using our convection oven, still learning how to use that item. Today was another day spent in the campground through lunch. My practice was calling and I had to “go to work” for a bit. We also began to project the next phase of our wandering. Tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th we will set out for Falcon State Park, not too far from Zapata, TX. If you actually have a map out, look to the south and east from Laredo directly on the border, just north of Zapata. We will pass through Fredericksburg, not on the most direct route, but more interesting and it takes through Johnson City. I expect it to take at least two days to cover the 350 to 400 miles to Falcon SP. The Verizon Wireless coverage map seems to project that we will have full internet service there. It remains to be seen.

Camino Reale

As we have crossed and recrossed this country we have retraced many different routes from the Chisolm Trail to Route 66 to the route of the rout of the Texians as they ran from the Mexicans after declaring Texas Independence at Washington on the Brazos. As we crossed from Mississippi into Louisiana on L 6 we noticed signs bearing the shape of both Texas and Louisiana and the word Camino, Spanish for trail. This was the route of the Mexican forces as they explored this land from Mexico to Florida. It took us back to Nachitoches in western Louisiana, south of Shreveport where we had enjoyed ourselves a couple of years ago. We stayed in a different campground, Dogwood Camping, to avoid the truck stop noise that had kept us awake in the Nakatosh Campground which bordered the truckstop. Dogwood had two inescapable features. We saw the first immediately as, with Carol at the wheel, we had to surmount an enormous and steep hill on broken pavement just to get into the place. There was no alternative for her but to gun the engine and go for it to hesitate would have meant disconnecting the car on the hill and backing off for another try. She made it easily, but not without some hard breathing.

The second was a bit more interesting. As I entered the office to pay for the night my eye was immediately drawn to a small table with a crossed flag stand bearing two flags, the US and Israel. I worked real hard to avoid the obvious thought that I had found a Jewish campground, in Nachatoches, LA. I cannot come up with as unlikely a scenario to compare it too. Once I disclosed my name the answer became clear. I was in the presence of an Evangelical Christian who has a love affair with Israel. As the conversation progressed and she asked if I was a Messianic Jew, I knew where we were going. We did. I assured her in no uncertain terms that there was no way I could/would consider Jesus as other than a prophet and left to go about my business.

The next morning Carol went to the office to pay for a second night and the conversation was repeated. It is nice to find people who care about Israel as much as we do. It is difficult when they want to change what we believe and do not accept no for an answer. Having had a Caatholic friend when I was 5 whose priest told him it would be good for me if he converted me, I have had plenty of experience at warding off most approaches, I do get bored with the subject.

In the campground we met Norm and Wilma. Norm is a minister, Orthodox Presbyterian as it turned out. We invited them in for happy hour and had a wonderful time. I learned more about the Presbyterians, and their schisms than I remember from any comparative religion course I ever took. We even had a chance to look at different ways of viewing a passage in the Torah, Exodus 34:14 if anyone is interested. We only had two translations to work with, but I know there are others. There was no overt attempt at conversion and there was lots of talk about grandkids and interesting travel.

The next morning, that must have been today (1/18/06) we continued across the Camino through Nacodgoches, TX and Crockett (last time through here we stopped at the spring where Davy and company stopped to refresh themselves – it’s still there and there is now a sign saying “Future Site of Park.” And on to Bryan where we will spend two nights and the most likely conversion attempt will be to Texas A&M loyalists, but we will be joining Leigh and Pat in Austin on Friday and will have to maintain our loyalty to #1 –

BROWN University, #1 in the Ivy League!

Beefeater Martini Up with an Olive

This is not quite a nonsequitor, well maybe it is, but I’ll go with it as you will see how it fits.

It was cool and threatening when we started up in the Wal Mart Parking lot. We moved back out on to US 278/MS 6 westbound from Oxford to reach the river. At Clarksdale we worked our way over to the Great River Road, MS 1 and turned south. It you pull out a map of the region you will see that the Mississippi snakes its way south like a plate of linguini. There are many threads of water, none of them connected to the main stem. They are remainders (or is that reminders?) of where the river once was and is no longer, for the time being. Actually this paragraph is very much like the area, meandering around the subject without really reaching it. The valley floor is a wide flat plain of very fertile soil and it is mostly agricultural, we saw cotton, rice and wheat fields and I am sure other crops as well that I would have no way of recognizing at this time of year. We did not ever see the river! We saw water that was old ox bows and we saw tributary streams, but the river was always just over the next levee or meandering west as the road went east.

We were intrigued with the name Yazoo City and when we saw a sign for the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) we had to explore, in Gee 2 with the car still in tow. We turned off into the entry road fully expecting to find a visitor center parking lot that would provide a place to stop for lunch and a place turn the rig around. As we got further in we saw hunters heading off into the woods with portable tree stands on their backs. We saw plenty of turnoffs into the woods, but place to stop comfortably and certainly no place to turn. We came to an intersection, deep in the reserve, where all our choices were unpaved. I hailed a passing truck and the driver, in hunting camouflage, assured me that the road ahead had no low hanging or encroaching trees and would, as my mapping software told me, return us to MS 1. We proceeded a short distance and found a spot where we could get off the road for a lunch break, but not reverse our course. There were some trucks in the area and as we were ready to get lunch out a hunter appeared. I engaged him in conversation about hunting in the NWR and he explained that bow hunting only was permitted and only in certain areas. He said that hunting was allowed to the right of the entry trail (from his perspective) and to the left was a closed area. All the really large deer stay in the protected area and don’t venture into the hunting area during the season, that is why they are large, they are, for deer, intelligent.. After eating we continued down the road with no incident and returned to the highway and continued on down to Vicksburg.

We had stayed near Vicksburg a couple of years ago, the year of the snow storm on the Natchez Trace Parkway. At that time we drove into Vicksburg and had dinner at Borellos, an experience that we both remembered fondly. That being the case we left the Magnolia RV Park in the car after cleaning up and drove into town and after wandering around in the gathering dark for an hour we parked in front of Borellos and went in for dinner. The waiter approached and asked for drink orders and I ordered a Beefeater Martini, up with an olive. He looked startled and asked me to repeat which I did. As he left I looked at Carol and realized what I had done. I have not had Beefeater in a martini in over twenty years. Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray for sure, but I had heard the words fall out of my mouth and decided to go with it. It was the best part of the meal. We will not seek out this place again. It wasn’t bad, just not worth coming out for.

As I write we are not sure where we are going today. We could spend the day here, but it is rainy and it being MLK day much is closed. We are thinking of moving on through Natchez and then into LA and across to Natchitoches (pronounced Nakotish). Still no word on the volunteer connection so it appears we will just keep moving and visit the Rainwaters in Austin late in the week.

Stay tuned!

Travels on Gee 2: Cross Country #5 Moving South

We left Hungrytown Hollow fairly early and had an uneventful drive up and over the Blue Ridge and down the Shenandoah Valley on I 81. We remembered this time that the first Flying J we come to at exit 80 has propane but no dump facilities and is sized for mini RVs. Therefore we continued down the road to exit 77 where there is a Flying J with room and propane and dump facilities. Dump facilities are to RVers like bathrooms in Manhattan, sometimes hard to find and critical when you really need them. Lest I bore the non RVers I will leave that subject for now, but you may be assured it will reoccur and the most inopportune moments. We went looking for a Wal Mart in Bristol, TN that showed in all our guides. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, it must have grown legs and moved. We gave up and continued to a campground we remember well. Baileyton RV is maybe 20 miles over the line into TN. We stopped there two years ago and had a pleasant enough stay – until we awoke in the morning to several inches of snow. The new owners remembered the storm; they have pictures of the campground that day. It has not happened again, yet. After a good night’s rest we continued down I 81 to I 40.

On one of our first trips down this way in 1988 (tent camping and staying in Inns and B & B’s) I had decided I wanted to take a tour of Oak Ridge, TN. As we got tangled in traffic coming through Knoxville I decided it was a bad idea and we continued back up into the mountains. The idea has stayed with me, but we never got within range of Oak Ridge again until this trip. We located a campground Volunteer Family Park outside Knoxville and twenty minutes from Oak Ridge, TN, it was open, well, sort of open. A quarter of the sites were torn up for upgrading water and electric and the place was a bit of a mess, but they had water, electric and sewer and more to the point WiFi (not free – $2). After setting up and having lunch, this was a really early stop, we drove over to Oak Ridge and found the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) which has a huge exhibit of photos and memorabilia from the days it was the “Secret City” one of the homes of the Manhattan Project. There are still vast tracts of land that are off limits to anyone without appropriate clearances. This is one of those stops that is not worth going way out of your way for, unless you are fascinated with the history of this country through WW II. It is definitely worth a stop if you are passing this way.

Hmm, Tennessee, what else is in Tennessee that I want to see but would not get on a plane or make a special trip to visit? Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN population 361! Just look at a map, it is in the same state and only moderately out of the way from any place one might want to go. So off we went, going cross lots on roads that were lightly traveled and not another RV to be seen. Eventually there was the Distillery right on route 55, the main road to no place in particular. The tour covers then entire plant, even in the rain and cold, from the preparation of the charcoal for mellowing to the mashing and distilling and barrel aging warehouses. Moor County, the home of the Distillery, is a dry county. By special state legislation they are permitted to sell commemorative bottles of the product in one room of the visitor’s center. After the hour and a half tour and a walk into the heart of Historic Lynchburg, we got on the road to Mill Creek RV in no place Alabama. This place is off a back road, off a back road (I am not stuttering) in the boonies. It is about an hour north of Huntsville which is to say it is barely south of the TN line. Nice place, nice people, cold weather! The site was level and roomy and if I were into hunting or fishing this is a place I might come back to many times. I am not likely to be back there again myself.

As I am writing I am sitting in a Wal Mart parking lot. They may mistreat their employees, but they are mighty nice to us RVers. Free parking with all the security you could ask for. This particular Wal Mart happens to be located in Oxford, MS. When you remember what/who Oxford is famous for, let me know. To get here we had to drive past the birth place of Helen Keller and make a stop at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscmbia just outside of Muscle Shoals. There will be a quiz on who and what these places are famous for when I see you next. The rest of the day included a piece of the Natchez Trace Parkway and sundry roads also not well traveled by our fellows in the big boxes.

Our current plan is to continue across Mississippi to the eponymous river and proceed along its east bank on MS 1 at least to Vicksburg. I’ll provide a report on reality after the fact.

Travels on Gee 2: Cross Country #5 begins

Everything old is new and everything new is old. Setting up Gee 2 in the driveway in the cold of the New Year is becoming part of our normal life. As we park in the slot behind our townhouse the neighbors recognize we are getting ready for our winter travel and stop by to wish us well, offer to keep the keys and plants, look out for our unit and in general be good neighbors. Everyone wants to know where we are going this year. Our answer is, as usual, a bit vague. We will visit the kids in Virginia and the ones in Los Angeles. Somehow there is an awful lot of country between those places and a lot of time available this year. We too are fascinated to know where we will have gone by the time I am ready to close this section of the journal in early April. For now open roads and a sense of adventure lie ahead.

Other knowns about this year’’s trip are a visit with Leigh and Pat in Austin, TX; we hope to meet up with the Hoggs in AZ; as of today we will be at the FMCA Convention in Pomona, CA in late March where Carol will do her seminar again. I assume there will be a group from Chai there for us to meet with. After that, we will cross the entire continent (well, most of it) to Rochester by the end of the first week in April or so.

The drive from Rochester to Covesville, VA was uneventful. The weather was various shades of gray with an occasional splatter of rain. We stopped at the Flying J in Carlisle, PA for Gas, Propane and a nights rest. Unfortunately, people far less considerate then us, pulled in behind where we were parked and blocked access to the fueling islands, propane tank and dump station. At 9:00 PM a peremptory knock on the door informed us they we had to move on because no one could move until those who were first in had left. We rolled 6 miles down the road to a Wal Mart along with a dozen others and were left alone in blessed quiet for the rest of the night. I won’’t even try to stay at that Flying J next year. This intersection of I 81 and I 76 (PA Turnpike) is a madhouse with hordes of Canadian Rvers coming down 81 from the 1000 Island border crossing where they pick up it up and many others from northeastern US who are not headed for Florida (or are and are just avoiding the traffic and large cities on I 95). Each year when we reach this point coming down US 15 we haven’’t seen any RVs at all until we get to this intersection.

The kids, large and small and the dogs are wonderful to visit. We were able to be here for Josh’’s 14th birthday and what a party it was. He had his entire class -– 7 in all -– at the house for active play in the yard and individual pizzas that each got to dress for themselves and a gluten free birthday cake that did not seem to be missing anything. Malena is a miracle worker putting the whole thing together in a day while also driving the older children into school and doing all kinds of shopping.

Dan and I are working to develop a more appropriate site for the motorhome on his property where I will be able to have some more amenities to extend our stay. We are currently limited by the size of our holding tanks to less than a week. Also using a 15 amp circuit from his house really limits what we can use on board. The microwave pulls the circuit way down. Our 1500 watt heater leaves us almost no ability to use any other appliance while it is on. Also, as I may have mentioned in the past, positioning Gee 2 in the driveway is more of an art than a science. It takes 5 or 6 very small maneuvers to essentially turn it around in 10 feet more than its length, without hitting the house, fence or tree and once we are in the space is not very level and requires a lot of blocking to get the refrigerator sufficiently level to work well. In the next year or so we hope to improve the parking, get in a 30 amp service and most importantly get access to his septic system. Now that the specs are in place we can start looking for what it will take to make it happen.

Carol and I had dinner with the Gretchen and Ed Robb last night. We went to the Mill Street Grill in Staunton as we did last year and had a delightful evening chatting about all kinds of subjects. We even got on to politics, amazing that that would come up. Ed has two years left on his current term and I guess politics are never too far from the top of his mind. We read “Friend of the Family” since the last time we saw him and I must admit it casts a different light on this gregarious friendly guy to know how much time he spent undercover in the Mafia for the FBI. Gretchen is still managing their menagerie and has added another quarter horse from the King Ranch to the stable. She is going off to a hunt this weekend.

The weather was in the 60’s today (Monday the 9th as I write) and Carol and I took a wonderful hike further up the Hollow to a hunting lodge (a fancy name for a derelict cabin in the woods). WE hiked with the dogs for over an hour and returned to the house tired and ready for showers. We were disappointed to find the power out, which meant no shower for the time being. Power was restored in time for dinner. Tomorrow Carol will join Dan at an open jam in town, I may go along as audience. We plan to be on the move Wednesday, the 11th.