Looking for WARM

Enough of freezing nights and chilly days.  We have had a lovely time in Kartchner Caverns and this is certainly the most carefully preserved cavern we have ever seen.  Following thier discovery in 1974 the two spelunkers who found it kept it a secret with a small expanding circle for fourteen years.  It was 24 years, 1999, before the caves were ready for tours by the public.  The wait was worth it.  I have no pictures because they permit no cameras, cell phones, or anything else that might harm the cave.  For the best information Click on http://www.pr.state.az.us/parks/KACA/index.html

It has not gotten over 45 degrees here and it is forecast to stay cool through the week.  We planned to go to Patagonia State Park for birding, but is it only 60 miles away and will also be cool.  The Yuma area looks to be our best bet for warm within a day’s drive.  By tomorrow afternoon we expect to be situated at or near Senator Wash on the CA side of the river, but still operating on AZ time, sort of.  Time has limited meaning there.  Phone service will be less than ideal, but if past experience is any guide, we will be able to on line and although we cannot have a lengthy conversation at the coach, it is five minute walk to better reception. 

I could rant on about Arizona’s destruction of its tourist infrastructure.  They have closed most of the highway rest areas and the most recent announcement on the state parks web site says that by June there will only be nine state parks left operational in the state.  The state has stripped the Parks of almost all their funding.  New York looks good, only by comparison.

On the Road Falcon SP to Las Cruces

We set out from Falcon on what appeared to be the nicest day of the entire week.  The GPS (Germaine) was set to take us to the Wal Mart in Del Rio, TX.  This is an easy six hour drive and the Wal Mart may be one of the most RV friendly Wal Marts in the system with eight reserved RV only slots near the Auto/Tire area.  After an uneventful drive with a disappointing stop at an HEB in Eagle Pass to buy groceries (the store had a very limited selection clearly aimed at a lower income Latino population) we arrived at the Del Rio Wal Mart and chose our parking spot.  With the temperature around 75 I was in a T shirt as we walked into the store.  An hour later we walked out through the chill of the entrance to be greeted by 54 degrees and high winds.  The coach was rocking and I pulled in the bedroom slide to save the topper awning from the beating.  Other than trucks coming and going we had a good nights sleep and enjoyed the luxury of showering in a Wal Mart parking lot again.

By now our propane supply was below half and with long stretches of travel ahead where we have no idea where to find propane, the last Flying J we had stopped at couldn’t pump it, I was getting nervous.  This was especially true because the temperature forecast for the immediate future was cold enough to require a lot of propane to stay warm.  I found a campground on our route that claimed to have propane, but when I put the name into our GPS, it wanted us to retrace east several miles.  This not seeming right we called the campground and determined that “RV Directions” had the location wrong yet again.  We have learned that it will get us close, but not there and we call ahead to be sure.  As we motored out of the Wal Mart we spotted a propane pumping station on the side of the road and circled back. This required two U-turns on a moderately busy four lane divided highway with car in tow.  While we were being filled I watched another motorhome do the same routine. 

By now we were talking about where to go.  I know this should be decided before starting the engine,  and we had decided to go to Davis Mountain State Park, but Big Bend National Park beckoned as we neared Marathon, the best turn to get to the park.  From that turn it is 40 miles to the entrance, then 20 miles inside the park at 35 to 45 MPH to the park headquarters and the turn to the Rio Grande Village Campground which is another slow 29 miles and we had no assurance of a place to camp.  So we were thinking about at least 180 mile detour – 90 each way – for only three nights.  We would have just two days to play in this huge area and Davis Mountain SP has such great birding and wonderful trails and mountains and so here we are.  Our site is shadowed from satellite 119, our Dish source of news and limited entertainment, phone service is almost nil and thus internet is not available either.   Marfa Public Radio is loud and clear so we have NPR and local news, weather and music.  We were hear several years ago when they “turned on” Marfa Public Radio and even attended a Willy Nelson concert in Alpine to celebrate and fund raise for the event. 

We froze our first night, the temperature got down to 22!  We are at 5200 feet so cool is to be expected, but . . .  Water line and sewer line were frozen when we awoke, I expect them to thaw soon as the sun finds its way down to us in our valley.

While waiting we decided to drive the Marfa, Alpine, Ft Davis triangle.  First stop was Marfa where we returned to The Chinati Foundation to see the restored Donald Judd Concrete Boxes stretched out over the field. When we viewed them last year there was a a major restoration underway and they reopened to much fanfare in October.  This was followed by lunch at Food Shark – a lunch truck set up under a farm market pavilion next to the tracks in Marfa. It has been written up by Martha Stewart and featured recently on NPR.  We first ate there last year.  Great middle eastern food in the far west.  A stop at the Marfa Bookstore cost me the purchase of a recent edition of Moby Dick!  I am reading Ahab’s Wife or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund and realize that the last time I read Moby Dick was the summer after my 10th grade at a summer reading camp (my mother thought I did not read well enough – I was the only one in the camp who had the freedom to read wherever I chose since it was clear to the staff that I needed no supervision to be sure I was reading.  In any event i shall pick up Moby Dick as soon as I finish Ahab’s Wife which could be another week.  It appears to be longer than Moby Dick – at least it has many more pages.

On our return to the state park we walked up to the Quail Viewing area where there are feeders to attract Quail and other birds.  We found the area taken over by a mule deer which had no desire to leave. However the birds were not intimidated and eventually we saw the Montezuma Quail that are famous for being in this park – they were totally absent the last time we were here.  We also saw many other birds, several that I had not noted as being seen by us in the past.  These are called Life Listers as we maintain a list of all the birds we have ever seen, known to avid birders as a Life List.  Some also maintain annual lists, regional lists and day lists.  We are not that obsessive, yet.  A single life list is kept in the margins of our old National Geographic Guide to the Birds, Second Edition.  Of course our Scutch and Stiles – Birds of Costa Rica – has a separate list of the birds we have seen in Costa Rica and other parts of Latin America.

Dinner at home and prepare for another night in the low 20’s.

As we left Davis Mountain we had one unsatisfied goal.  There is a work of art along side the road that we had seen before bit not stopped to photograph and had seen written up in a NY Times Travel article about Marfa.  We thought it was along the stretch of US 90 between Alpine and Marfa and were disappointed to have not seen it when we drove the triangle.  We determined to continue west on 90 from Marfa just in case.  Sure enough, some 17 miles west of Marfa after passing through Valentine we saw this box along side the road.  I will let the picture speak for itself.

There are more pictures if you click through here.

We stopped in Las Cruces and had Shabbat dinner with Stewart and Leora and Amanda and their friends from Boston.  They had just been to Kartchner Cavern State Park in Arizona and we had driven by it many time and not stopped.  So here we are with two tours tomorrow and then on to  . . . ?

Falcon State Park Texas

We got in here on Wednesday February 3 and we were booked through the 10th.  On Sunday we decided to stay on as the weather didn’t look any better anyplace west of here – or most anyplace in the country.  We extended to the 14th.  We will move out on Valentine Day regardless of the weather, unless we change our mind again.

We have been birding endlessly.  As I was sitting here writing a Black-crested Titmouse was foraging on the ground outside my window.  We have gone on a couple of organized bird walks with Wendy, a retired biologist who is a Texas Parks Volunteer offering three guided walks a week and working at the Roma Birding Center as well.  We went on a canoe trip on the Rio Grand with volunteers with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Merle and Lois, who are camped across the street from us.                                    Ringed Jay 

We also got out our bicycles and road around the park and eventually to Salineno where the DeWinds no longer feed the birds, but there is a new person keeping the birds and birders happy.  That is a great birding spot and it is wonderful that the Texas Ornithological Society has continued to maintain the feeding there.

On our first Saturday birding walk one of the men showed a picture he had taken of a hawk in the park.  A couple of very experienced birders identified it as a Roadside Hawk rarely seen north of the border (and here I thought roadside hawk was the generic name for any unidentified hawk seen along the road).  The uproar among birders within 200 miles has been phenomenal.  It took us six days, but yesterday we finally got to see the hawk.  Traffic in the park has been quite high, with people coming from Harlingen and Mission to see the hawk and stopping at Salineno as well.  The hawk is very cooperative.  We watched it sit on its roost for almost an hour as it left a couple of time to hunt and then returned. We were told it had been there for over four hours that day.  There are other rare bird sightings in the area as well, but we have contented ourselves with the hawk.  The others require us to get in the car and drive many miles and we are not yet that obsessive.

Thursday night was a potluck dinner followed by a gift exchange in advance of Valentine’s Day.  This turned out to be a lot of fun and laughs.  The idea was to bring a gift of something found or purchased for $5.  Each gift received a raffle ticket.  When your number was drawn you could choose a wrapped gift from the table or you could take a gift from someone else who had chosen before you.  The third “owner” of a gift is the final owner.  The laughs got more and more extended as the rounds of drawing proceeded and some people had three and four choices taken from them and they played up to the game.  Remember, nothing was really valuable and most of the “stuff” was going back into someone’s regifting pile.  Carol had her first choice plucked away, but got to keep an LED flashlight, as if we need another one.

For more pictures Click Here

We are indeed pulling out on Sunday – tomorrow as I write.  We have talked with Leora Zeitlin in Las Cruces and they will be around next weekend so we will take our time crossing the rest of Texas, depending on the route 750 to 800 miles and not less than 18 hours of driving.  We will take three days at least. 

Goose Island SP – Texas to Falcon SP

We chose Goose Island SP, just north of Rockport, TX as a slightly out of the way destination on our way to Austin.  We wanted to be in Austin over the weekend so we could have time with Leigh and Pat.  We had not been to Goose Island State Park before and when I called I was offered the choice of “Bayside” or “Wooded Area.” since we had no idea we chose Bayside because it is always (?) good to be on the water.  As we set up I was not so sure, the wind was blowing from the north at 25 mph and there was nothing to block it or reduce its force.  We had to hang onto the door when opening it and closing it required a strong pull.  As the sun set so did the wind. 

The next day, that would be Monday, we drove into Rockport to see what there is to see.  We had lunch at Hemingway’s, which we would strongly recommend if you are in the area.  Nice atmosphere, tasty food at a reasonable price.   On the way we stopped at a Nature Trail – see Carol’s Message in a Minute for much more about this.  We stopped to see the Big Tree on the way back to Gee 2. On Tuesday we packed lunch and headed for Aransas National Wildlife Reserve (NWR) to see the Whooping Cranes among other critters.  We did see the Whooping Cranes at a great distance, a bit disappointing although clear enough to enter them on my Life List.  Back to the coach for dinner and reading.

Wednesday we joined a bird walk with Jim and Sally Lockwood leading to see shore birds and we saw plenty.  The group list was over 40 species and my personal list was 26 species that I could identify.  At the talk we heard that Whooping Cranes could be seen in the park so we went to see them. That afternoon we went to the recreation center for a talk by the raptor lady, an 87 year old woman who travels the country in a van with a Great Horned Owl, a Caracara and a Screech Owl and an American Kestrel.  She has state and federal permits to have these birds and she gives a very educational talk about them.  After dinner we came back for a preview talk on the small birds we were likely to see on the next morning’s bird walk.  It’s a good thing we went because the birds were not in evidence the next morning.  We could hear them, but spotting them was very difficult.  We left our new found friends and packed up Gee 2 for the trip to Austin and more rain.

For more of the pictures Click Here.

Back in Austin Lone Star RV Park for probably the 6 or 7th time we settled in to wait out the rain, do some writing and reading.  As usual there was nothing to watch on TV.  On Saturday we joined Leigh and Pat at their home and set off for lunch and the Austin Modern House Tour.  That link will take you to photos taken by a photographer we saw at several of the homes.  Most of the houses were for sale and the realtors were very active at each location.  The house with the lap pool cantilevered over the gorge was extreme.  Priced at over $3 million it was not at all ordinary.  Others were also extreme in different ways.  It was a lot of fun.  We went to dinner at Fabi And Rosi an intimate dining room with an excellent menu, fine service and great food.  Sunday we went to the Blanton Gallery on the UT campus and went to the Austin Playhouse for a matinee performance of Misalliance, Shaw at his most Shavian.  It was well done.  I would go back to the Playhouse.  Leigh had prepared a wonderful meal back at the house and we enjoyed it and the time with them immensely. 

Monday we packed up and set out for Falcon State Park.  Oops! I called from the road to find that there was no room for us.  While Carol drove I called Texas Parks and Wildlife Reservations and got us booked in to the Water and Electric section for four days.  That is about the comfortable limit for us with no sewer hookup.  I found a Passport America RV Park in  Zapata, TX.  Just follow 16 across 83 and down to the water. 

Posting from Site 202 – full hook up in Falcon SP.