Saturday, November 06, 2010

Texas Hill Country Camping in Motor Home

Just returned from a 1,600 mile (2,575km) Texas trip, This is a recap. Left Albuquerque New Mexico one afternoon early in October. First thing to prep is the coach and tow Jeep. Load for duration, not really sure about coming weather. It changes often in Hill Country due to elevation variance and Gulf pressures systems.

Only a few items of food in refrigerator and freezer. We figure to 'overnight' at Walmart parking lots on way to the numerous great Texas State Parks (over 100, majority with recreational water). Note: Only one other National Park in Texas, except for the North Padre Island Natural Wildlife Refuge.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge had no facilities for us to camp overnight when we were there to see the Whooping Cranes. 'Big Bend' on the Rio Grande River border with Mexico was the real camping and hiking friendly National park, the last time we visited in 2007.
With the latest DC admin's unofficial 'open border' policy, not sure how safe it is.

Walmart Superstores are an easy parking (very important), great source of groceries. We usually stop in at little restaurants along the highway, and even some fast food if a long parking spot is handy close by. The I-40 highway east out of ABQ has some gradual and sporadic climbs toward 7,200ft altitude Cline's Corners, after which there is a general slope downgrade over the last 100 of Roswell's 200 miles total distance from ABQ. Wind is unpredictable and has effects.

Cline's Corners intersection hosts the 'oversize load' by-pass highway from the north. We often witness the passage of long, and I do mean long, escorted trucks carrying the blades of the massive wind turbines. They are being installed across the western states. Clines Corners is nearly 100 miles east of ABQ on I-40, and is where we turn South to Roswell this time. There are quite a few different variations of routes to Texas on the map, this one being our quickest to the Hill Country. We left late in the day, so chose this route. The mountainous route through Historic Lincoln NM (Billy the Kid) is more interesting, but takes a little longer. Arrived at Walmart in Roswell NM just before dark.

  • with it's 1947 'Alien' Flying Saucer history fame, is still growing in spurts and stalls. It's favorable weather makes it a secret retirement community for those getting away from the harsh winters, stress pressures and extremely high taxation of the northern states. Mellow traffic and generally low costs of housing including heating, attract many wise retirees.

    Solar energy is abundant and the US taxpayers heavily subsidize it's use in order to make it practical (like wind turbines). The NM Military Institute is there. The young men and women in small groups, were enjoying the Friday evening in the Sam's Club and nearby Walmart. Pretty sharp looking and well behaved group of young people. Quite a contrast to the local kids hanging out.

    After Walmart McDonald's sausage biscuits and coffee, we left early for Big Spring Texas. Passing through Tatum NM and into Plains Texas, the highway is sparsely occupied. Nice to escape the traffic of the citys. Oil wells with pumpjacks rocking, and ranching are one and the same throughout west Texas. Cotton crop looked a little thinner this trip. Some fields were much better than others but not close to production seen in several past years trips. Endlessly changing weather patterns have their effect.

    The harvest was starting. The Cotton Pickers
  • were busy and the huge truck sized, compressed loaves were scattered about in the fields. On return, the 'Gins'
  • were busy, as the harvest was brought in. The ginned out Cotton Seed was starting to accumulate. Trucks were busy loading and unloading the harvest and cotton seed for processing.

    Brownfield Texas is our turning intersection heading southerly to Big Spring. Normally we refill the fuel and spend the evening in the Walmart parking lot in Big Spring. This time we figured we could still have enough daylight to make it to San Angelo. Climbing the highway south and upward out of Big Spring, the hundreds of Wind Turbines become visible on the high mesa.

    Sizes range from the huge 200 ft pilons supporting the 300 foot blades and generator housings the size of vans, down to the smaller faster models. The wind is unpredictable but will often times blow too hard. Turbines automatically 'feather' their blades at times, due to excess wind speed or a disaster can occur.

    The blade tip speed is just slightly under 'Sonic' or they loose efficiency. West Texas has thousands of Wind Turbines and more being built all of the time. Problem is the transmission lines to the remote windy hilltops. Investment money is limited so the turbines are as well.

    San Angelo
  • for the evening, worked out better. Fuel was cheaper at Walmart in SA. The Spring Creek RV, Marina... 'City Park' section
  • on Lake Nasworthy, is our goal for the evening. Turn off Knickerbocker at the big 'golfball' (military radar at Goodfellow Air Force Base). Quiet place during the week. Varieties of Squirrels, many Whitetail Deer, Turkey Vultures and Turkeys with other critters, make the evening and morning interesting.

    Numerous Wild Hogs were fun to watch years ago. Also gone now from the other side of the lagoon, a white Peacock with several hens and Llamas, including a donkey, added to our evening interest in the past. Twelve dollars a night for 'dry camp' is good as well.

    Weekends during summer months are a little noiser due to the children. Few years ago the City offered different styles of boats for rent. City Lawyers predicted 'deep pockets' predatory lawsuits, so no longer is family fun available. Times they are 'a changing' for sure.

    Fire Ants
  • are becoming more prolific throughout Texas and their 'stings' (they actually hyper sting) will leave red welts and blisters recurring for weeks. Topical Anti-Bacteria meds work to maintain the size of the infected welt, if used often. Ammonia, if applied immediately and often, works well, as does Bleach. 'After Bite' is a Walmart sold product, to carry in it's little tube. Highly recommended for your pocket if any outdoor adventures are planned. Tent camping could be disasterous if Fire Ants are under or near the tent.

    I heard about the effect that Fire Ants are having on the 'ground dwelling' species of birds and animals. They have a very devastating effect on the young, blinding and causing great distress to the newborn and helpless. These attacks blind calves as well. The absense of wild hogs in the Spring Creek city park in these later years, could very well be the result of the Fire Ant infestations. Cotton farmers appreciate their control of Boll Weavils. No mixed emotions on the imported Fire Ants. Prognosis negative.

    Morning was preparing for our real tour of the Texas Hill Country
  • We always check out the Goodwill, Salvation Army Thrift Stores where we stop. Never know what treasures one may find. We hit some on this, as well as the last trip.

    The next destination of the day, was Ink's Lake State Park
  • near Kingsland
  • As our practice, we missed getting a reservation for the weekend. No more spaces available for the night. Ink's Lake State Park is very popular. The rental canoes and all of the amenities attract familys for the weekends and all through the summer.

    Buchanon Lake Reservoir, Black Rock RV Park (really on top of a massive surface of 'black rock') is our only choice nearby. Operated by a company out of Colorado, it is pretty basic. Water and Electric are in several sites. We were fortunate to find one open. I like to hike along the lake during the evening stays at this park. There are also cabins available for families.

    Co-pilot enjoys reading books due to her limited physical abilities on varied terrain. That is the one major reason we travel by motor coach. She has everything comfortably at hand, and cabin fever is not an issue in the larger coach. Buchanon is a flood control and recreation reservoir. This year was plentiful in the level of water held back by the impressive Buchanon Dam. Last time we stayed, the lake was much lower.

    Drove to Ink's and set up reservation for later afternoon, As we drove away from Ink's Lake toward Kingsville, we heard some racket in the tree lined passage highway. Due to a detction switch failure, our antenna was left in the upright position. A climb up on the roof revealed a bent up wing and a broken elevation gear. Bending it back down with no elevation, held it for the next opportunity to find parts.

    The site we desired at Ink's, was right on the shoreline of the lake. Temporarily we camped in another site near the tent folks. The next night we were fortunatly able to acquire the shoreline site. Number 43 puts the lake right outside the coaches door at close level. Co-pilot enjoys fishing at that site. She can sit on the steps of the coach, hold her rod and watch her bobber. Fish are an optional treat.

    After a few enjoyable nights and days there, while exploring some attractions in the area, including nearby Burnett and Marble Falls, we moved on down the highway toward our other Hill Country goal.

  • is another prosperous Texas city and the historic capitol of the Republic of Texas. Traffic is daunting without a competant Co-pilot and her trusty Garmin GPS. They are always building something around Austin, including highways, new big ones. Our one evening was spent at the McKinney Falls State Park
  • just out of town. The main attraction is the series of limestone falls with lots of running water. Fishing was atractive for those with a little mobility.

    I passed on fishing it this stay, due to the fact it left out my mobility impaired Co-pilot. Interesting hike around the old Ranch structures though. Nice little museum with info on it's history. Great historic camping place, donated to the State of Texas by it's prominent owner the Smith family. wireless is available.... within 50 feet of the office. Sitting outside at the office camp table, we covered the screen, hunkered under the cover and viewed a few emails on the little laptop.

    Along the I-35 highway leaving Austin, we saw a massive parallel highway project SH 130
  • . Never saw such width in a parallel highway. The state condemnation procedure must have been a total war of devastation on landowners. It is a state owned Toll Road, being built and operated under a 50 year contract by Cinco out of Spain. Australia is involved as well.

    The project almost ran over little Lockhart. Public outcry, legalities and political intervention saved the little community. Hay pastures are within a few blocks of downtown Lockhart. It would have been a shame to destroy this small community in the name of a fast NAFTA
  • corridor between Austin and San Antonio ending near I-10. Completion date is tentatively 2012. Toll Roads all over the USA including the world are managed and maintained by this group of investors.

    San Marcos destination is one more fun day tour during our overnight at Lockhart State Park. Staying the evenings at Lockhart State Park
  • is one of our favorite quiet nesting camps. The Civilian Conservation Corps built this small park, including a golf course, back in the late 1930's. An accessable stream flows through it, and has fish. Of course we caught many, but all were very small. They were released to enjoy their childhood.

    Never saw so many large interesting garden spiders. They were everywhere this time of year. Big beautiful 'Orb' webs were nice to see, but disconcerting to have wrapped over your face during a hike. Many more were high in the branches of the trees. Nearby tent campers were retreating the camp with concern. A fear of running into the webs, drove the kids and parents to leave before check out time. Nature has many wonders, not all are appreciated. :>) Lone Star Gun Range near Lockhart is cheaper for polishing up on your marksmanship, if you are so inclined.

    The Prime and Tanger Outlet Malls not far away, are fun for a day side trip. Co-pilot finds a few new pieces for her wardrobe there. Interesting in it's very lengthy side by side layout.

    Sea Island Restaurant (chain) along the corridoor leading out of Austin, was another absolutely great place to stop and have an excellent fish and chips dinner. Being casual sports fishers, we don't catch enough 'keepers', so have to eat them at resataurants.

  • near Buda Texas, with their logo on the big water tank visible for miles, is a fairly recent addition to the 'corridor' along the highway out of Austin. A must see if you enjoy 'outdoors gear' attractions. Figure to spend more time than you planned.

    After two nights stay at Lockhart State Park, eventually we turned toward San Antonio and our planned KOA campground. We enjoy the wild ducks, birds and squirrels that always roam the grounds. A new 25 mile hiking/biking corridor is being constructed near the stream. Due to the higher camping fees and amenities we do not use, we only stay at KOA for the side trips to the downtown area.

    The city bus, stops just outside the KOA gate. The fare is $1.10 each way, correct change only. Great driver suggested buying a prepaid transfer, and remembered us on our trip back. Downtown parking is expensive and sparse on many occasions, so be prepared for some possible traffic problems if you choose to drive your own car.

    The historic Alamo, and everything else for the walking class, including The River Walk and it's narrated float trips, with many intersting cafe's, is along the easy access bus routes. Remotely located on the highways, Shlitterbahn Waterparks are great attractions for the younger crowd, as is the famous Seaworld and Zoo. Lots of time required to see everything in busy and prosperous San Antonio. You may end up staying longer than you anticipated.

    Alamo KOA campground has many ducks to visit some campsites, and a stream with fish and turtles. A new bike and walking path is being constructed. It runs along the stream for about 25 miles. Enjoy the hike. Alamo KOA also offers strong wireless for the computer crowd. We spent some hours catching up with home locked friends.

    On the way out of the San Antonio suburbs, heading back north, is the big and very impressive Bass Pro Outdoors
  • shop. They have a super restaurant attached, as well as a flowing natural water attraction. Bass Outdoor is a destination in itself for the hard core outdoor enthusiasts. Certain time of year and weather conditions, the famous Blue Bonnet flowers attract tourists and all nature lovers.

    Weddings and special family photo sessions are held in the Blue Bonnets. Goats and Longhorn cattle are a Texas staple as are prolific Deer. The Texas Game Ranches
  • are easily found on the internet. There are exotic animals behind many fences, and many of the more agile are beginning to be seen outside those fences.

    Axis Deer are one of our favorites to see. The Greater Kudu
  • is a magnificent twist horned, imported exotic animal found in Texas, as well as in New Mexico, including many other exotic game species imported, protected, bred and proliferating on private ranches.

    Fredricksburg Texas
  • along our northward passage, is one fine little town. The many sidewalk cafes and large restaurants are an interesting pastime in themselves. Unique German architecture is in everey direction. Our overnight stay is at the friendly Walmart for one more quiet evening near the grassy edge of the parking lot. Items needed by campers, are available within a brisk walk..or several. Tourists from Austin and San Antonio come here at every chance. It epitomizes the Texas Hill Country with it's old Germanic atmosphere. The cycling crowd finds this route to be a spectacular way to spend some time on two wheels.

    Kerville with it's RV welcome River Park, is just a short drive through the scenic hills. Do Not do the shortcut 'scenic drive' to Lost Maples State Park in a large motor coach. It is brutal for the elevation and tight twisty turns over the pass. We unknowingly did it once, to our dread, as well as perverse enjoyment. A circuit of great scenery includes the Lost Maples (left over from the last ice age) State Park. Cycle riders of every type, run this loop as well.

    Leaving Fredricksburg on our return to home was bittersweet. We may not come this way again due to increasing costs associated with travel these past years. The future is undependable lately. We now worked our way back through the same route we took down from Albuquerque New Mexico. San Angelo Spring Creek Park was still an interesting evening again. Deer were more plentiful than last stayover.

    The Walmart in San Angelo, with it's really cheap fuel, was our last fuel stop. Texas does not consider progressivly staged Fuel taxes, to be it's primary source of state funding. Figured we could make it to ABQ 500 miles away. Retracing our highway now was routine. Roswell Walmart was our next overnight. A couple of hours of driving through the darkness of night, was a little different.

    The oncoming traffic on the lonesome highway, does not give any clearance to the wider coach, because they cannot see it. The clearance lights only are visible within a few yards. Added to the night driving is the cataract that is soon to be removed from my left eye. The oncoming headlights are basically snowflakes or eskimos. Fortunately I stayed to the right of them.

    Roswell is a pleasant glow on the horizon as we descend into the valley from the High plains and Mid-Cretaceous Limestone Caprock. Night camp is silent, due to a slight fatigue and very few night riders prowling the store lot. Actually we stayed at the Sam's side on this night. Morning has a breakfast treat of McDonald's sausage muffins and coffee from the Walmart.

    Leaving our pleasant overnight at Walmart, we began the 200 mile route, and slow climb up in altitude toward the Sandia Mountains of ABQ. Clines Corners, 100 miles north of Roswell, is at 7,200 feet in altitude and really consumes fuel. Fuel costs are always higher at remote Cline's Corners, plan accordingly. Stop in the gift shop for a treat. Subway sandwiches are good as well. The slope down into the east mountain town of Moriarty, gives us some repreive on fuel consumption.

    We are vigilant of the fuel guage now. One more climb is over the Sedillo Hill section of the Tjeras Pass. Each drop is measured and calculated. We descend the Sedillo Hill into ABQ with drops to spare, guage on empty, warning light lit.

    The welcome fillup at Costco in ABQ, reveals we only had less than one gallon left in the tank. Too close for us, but happy it was accomplished. Climbing in altitude and forcing the coach into headwinds, takes it's toll on fuel. Normally a 6 to 7 hundred mile distance per tank is feasible, 8 hundred is remotely possible..... if the terrain has no mountains and the wind complys with our travel plans.

    Pulling up into the home yard, rigging the holding tank dump system, draining the fresh water system for the often freezing winter, and then moving the coach to the back yard storage, and unloading the supplies from the storage closets, takes up the entire next day.

    We had so much fun on this Texas trip, that a tentative plan suggested by my highly competant Navigator Co-pilot, involves a spring trip through the Southern Heartland of America. If the financial window lasts for one more season. Hopefully the coming inflation predicted, will be accompanied by an equal inflation of active investments? That is the way it is historically supposed to work. These days, logic is thrown out the window by new and extremely dangerous politics.

    Travel and see first hand, the real America. The 'One Nation Under God' United States of America.

    Blogger Blogengeezer said...

    Comment received from Michelle:
    This blog was very enjoyable to read! It sounds like you saw many wonderful things on your journey! I hope to catch your next trip blog to see it all through your eyes!
    Happy Trails!

    6:21 AM  

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