My How the Time Flies Part II

We parted company with the Bob and Pat and set out for Falcon State Park on the Rio Grand River where the Falcon Dam creates a large reservoir. It is midway between Laredo and MaCallen, if that helps at all. The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) extends from Brownsville on the gulf to McCallen. It is called the Texas Tropics. It is the home of who knows how many winter Texans. Sort of Florida for the Midwest. The tropics dry out north of McCallen and so do the number of people. The nearest towns to us are Zappata and Roma with fewer than 10,000 each. The BIG city is Rio Grande with 11,000 and a Wal Mart and a HEB (not quite Wegmans). We have been here two weeks, reading, birding and schmoozing. If you are interested in the birding et me know and I will provide more information, we have seen many interesting birds, many of which you woujld have to go into Mexico to see if you were not here. They include Brown Jays, Green Jays and Kiskadees among others.

Tomorrow, Sunday February 25, we are finally moving out. It seems a shame as the weather has been marvelous this past week with day time temperatures in the high 70’s to low 90’s and the evenings cooling off to the mid 60’s. Other than deep into Florida we don’t see those kinds of temperatures, especially with the low humidity here. We will be descending into the LRGV and then following the gulf coast north to Port Aransas. Port Aransas has very little to say for itself, especially as we are not fisherman, but there is a county park on the beach and it will be a pleasant couple of days and then the plan is onward to Gulf Shores, AL where I can catch a flight out of Pensacola to Rochester and we may be able to visit family in Fairhope.

All plans are always subject to change. We actually got to Mustang Island (north of Padre Island and where Port Aransas is) but we stopped at the Mustang Island State Park because we had been talking with the Topfs and this is where they had decided to head. We are not directly on the beach. We are sheltered the frontal dunes from the wind and sand that is part of the beach experience. We still think we want to spend a couple of nights directly on the beach. Another year!

Today we took the car to Padre Island National Seashore and after a stop at the visitor center we drove on down the beach to find a place to enjoy our lunch and do some birding. We got to make a couple of new entries in the book and saw two Great Blue Herons sitting on the dune looking over the beach and out to sea. (Out to gulf just doesn’t scan). The day was clear and bright and the temperatures in the 70s, not to rub it in to much.

We hope the Topfs and Ploessers will be joining us tomorrow. Shelley had a painful experience injuring the shoulder she recently had surgery on and they had to delay coming north a couple of days. We are still playing with our schedule. I do not want to arrive in Gulf Shores on a Saturday as they may well be full, but by Sunday we ought to be able to get in. So we play around with the schedule each day.

Here is the route from Falcon to Mustang Island and beyond: just click on it.

My How the Time Flies

The last posting had us preparing to leave behind the Anza Borrego Desert and head towards New Mexico and beyond. We are beyond already. To get here, “here” being Falcon State Park, Texas, we drove through Arizona stopping in Benson for an overnight. While sitting in Benson I checked into the Hogg’s itinerary and realized that they were in Karchner Caverns, just 30 miles from us and both of us were headed to RV Doc’s Campground in Las Cruces. My reason for going there was two fold. We wanted to visit Leora Zeitlin and Stuart if possible and RV Doc’s can provide service such as the Lube, Oil, Filter change we needed.

We spoke to Bob and Pat and agreed to meet at RV Doc’s and get together for dinner. We already knew that Leora and Stuart had crazy schedules for Monday night it didn’t seem likely we could get together with them. At noon on Monday we pulled into a New Mexico Rest Area for a driver change. As we pulled in we realized they had free wireless internet access so we logged in to receive and send email. While Carol was waiting for her email to send we heard a beep and looked over to see the Hogg’s ’03 Southwind pull up alongside us. As that moment the email went out. Had it gone 30 seconds earlier we would have missed them. During our greetings we discovered that we had a 2 PM appointment and they had the 3 PM for the same service at RV Doc’s so we skedaddled after a very quick lunch while they took their time.

Carol got on the phone with Leora and we learned that there was a faculty concert with percussion and tuba at the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces that she was planning to attend. The program was avant guard and the Hoggs came along with us. The second piece on the program was written by and Eastman faculty member, Sydney Hodkinson, performed by two Eastman graduates, James Shearer, Tuba and Fred Bugbee, Percussion. The piece “Omaggio” is an homage to Rayburn Wright. We went with Leora to the green room after the concert to meet Fred Bugbee and congratulate him on a wonderful concert. His performance of Marimba Fantasy Suite, Keiko Abe, in three parts, gave a new meaning to the instrument. We had never heard it played that way and I would love to hear it again.

We decided to stay on Wednesday night as we only needed two days to cross Texas and the Hoggs were staying on as well. We offered to take them to White Sands National Monument since they had never been there. It was cool and sunny and the last four miles of the eight mile road in the monument were closed because of excess moisture from the past summer’s and fall’s rains. We did go in to the nature trail and had a grand hike in the dunes. We also participated in a small rescue as a German tourist couple had locked their keys into their rental van along with their 6 month old infant. Fortunately, it was not hot and the baby seemd fine with all the attention. I had phone service (thank you Verizon Wireless) and got a call to 911 which brought out the Park Rangers with tools for opening locked cars.

Dinner that night was at the Paisano Café, a real treat if you are in Las Cruces. They do not have a license to serve wine. After dinner Stuart and Leora joined us for dessert and Bob and Pat left. We brought Leora and Stuart back to the coach since they had never seen it.

The only bad news from this stay is that RV Doc’s is closing, the land has become too valuable for development into condos to stay as a campground. We have stopped their almost every year and will miss it.

The next day (Thursday, February 8) we set out in a two coach convoy for Fredricksburg, TX with a planned stop in Ft Stockton giving us two 4-5 hour days on the road plus gas and food stops. Mid afternoon on the 9th we rolled into the Fredricksburg KOA

Into the Desert and Beyond

Friday February 2 we awoke to bright sun and warming temperatures as we bagan preparations to leave the LA region having said goodbye to the kids the night before. We took our time preparing for the road as we did not plan to travel more than 4 hours and hence did not need to commit to fighting rush hours traffic on the 405. Finally by 9:30 we had full freshwater and a full propane tank and the holding tanks were empty and clean(?) well flushed with clean water any how. With HAL reporting our route we set out for the Anza Borrego (I have been misspelling this until now) down the 405 to the 5 to 78 through Julian, CA and on to the desert.

As we rolled I remembered back to the last time we did this route and HAL had misguided us to the wrong exit for 78. I thought I had caused the problem by how I set the waypoint for the exit. This time I was extra careful about letting the software pick the exit. Aaaargh, same wrong exit, I knew it as soon as I got to the top of the ramp. HAL said go right so I went left. Still wrong. We wandered through some residential roads until I spotted a delivery vehicle and flagged him down for directions. He said “follow me” easier said than done I could not make the 180 in the intersection so had to go around the block to find him, there he was just before the overpass waiting for us. He lead us back on to the freeway and then off at the next, clearly marked, exit. Without even waiting for a thank you, he got back on going back north and we continued.

The misdirection was not over. We were headed into the desert expecting to dry camp so I wanted enough gasoline to be able to run the generator for several hours. We got off the 78 to get into a Shell station we had spotted from the road. Could not make a left turn into the station so we took the left just past the station only to find we still could not make a left into the station. We drove a mile or so up the street looking for a place to reverse course. Finally I saw a parking lot on the left and prepared to pull in to swing around. Darn, the entrance was chained, I changed the left turn into a U turn and with an inch to spare completed the turn and returned to the Shell station and then back on to 78 with a full tank (and empty bank account $2.67/gallon).

We drove on through Julian with out stopping as there was no place to park our 55 foot rig. After one wrong turn we started down the Banner Grade on 78. The last time we drove this 10 mile 8% descent, with more turns than a snake with a stomach ache, Carol was at the wheel, this was my turn. We made the turn on to County S2, one of the main highways through the Anza Borrego, and began looking for a place to spend the night. Agua Caliente County Park looked promising so we pulled into this desert paradise. AguaCalienteCG I hesitate to publish this as I want to be able to find room here the next time we traverse the area. We are perched on a bluff overlooking mountains and desert. As we are at the edge of the campground, wild life is continually crossing next to us. We are in what is called the Hollwood Area and the row we are on is The Strip. We took a glorious 1.75 mile hike into Moonlight Canyon right from the campground. After returning from a four wheeling drive on the Overland and Butterfield Stage Road to the Canyon Sin Nombre dirt track we returned to Agua Caliente and went to the mineral water spa located there – true to the name the water is at 104 F – and soaked our bones and made some friends.

The next day we returned to the Canyon Sin Nombre and parked at the base of the slot canyon we had noted the previous day. theslot We hiked up the slot carolintheslot
and following footprints and guidance from people we met we continued up onto the ridge and followed the trail to an overlook that gave us a vista of the S2, the Canyon Sin Nombre road and the Carrizo Creek area. carolonthe ridge The return to the car got a bit exciting as we did not want to retrace our steps and had been told about a wash we could descend to the road. After several false starts that led us down washes that ended in long drops into the unknown we found the trail that led into another slot canyon that did indeed bring us back to the road and our car. Along this descent we encountered a passage that we could only negotiate after removing our back packs and our hiking sticks. I left mine with Carol and descended first through a twisty slot with a vertical drop of 4 or 5 feet. There was footing and hand grips so it was not a fall, just a vertical descent with no idea where the next such descent would be. This turned out to be the last difficult passage. Carol handed me the bags and sticks, mine and hers, and made the descent easily. There are no pictures as we had other things on our minds. We returned to the campground after a stop at Palm Spring (an oasis, note the singular Palm), Further note keep all the way left on the road in and look for the left turn.

The hot mineral water and shower were even more welcome this day and after we cleaned up I turned on the TV to catch the last 9 minutes of the Super Bowl. At least our friends David and Bobbi in Indianapolis are happy!

I will catch up with our meeting with the Hoggs and Leora and Stuart in my next writing.