Sunday, November 02, 2014

Texas Hill Country by RV

10-14-14 prep Holiday Rambler for departure:
Oil and filter, I changed immediately after last trip. Grease fittings are juicy, water tank is filled, fuel filled, Marvel Mystery Oil added for 500+ miles, refrigerator is on 120 VAC shore power for pre-cool before LP system maintains while on highway. We finish load up tomorrow, for one last brief trip this year. Texas, with over 100 state parks, one of our favorite states.

Wed 10-15-14:
Final loading done, head out of ABQ 2:30pm after brief stop at Costco for minor provisions. We buy food locally as we travel, periodically dine in/carry out, sharing meals cuts cost and keeps calories down during travels. Our home is left in minimal idle mode, with caring neighbors and family to oversee. The addition of security cameras, cloud storage enabled, allows us to monitor while traveling.

This motor home lifestyle was primarily necessitated by Navigator's mobility, linked to physical sensitivities which accelerate muscle/nerve degrading over time. Travels in the past caused problems, due to hotel/motel cleaning products, odors, smokers, and steps, distance to navigate while on any daily incursions, to say nothing of periodic rest stops chemical vapors while on the highways. 

With her numerous books to read, her view of the scenery from her comfortable reclining chair, her easy access to restroom as need arises, TV programs to watch, the ability to prepare food and eat in our own dining area whenever we desire, are all satisfying.

 The fact that we can wander unhindered by limitations imposed by travel and timed reservations, all make motor coach travel to see 'Our' USA from the comfort of our own mobile environment, a blessing. When parked, she enjoys reading and observing the natural world, including park wildlife around her 'home' on wheels.

 I can leave her alone (with small bird companion) in her comfortable ambiance, while I am free to hike the trails and be assured of her safety and well being. We, as countless travelers historically, travel armed at all times against aggressive motivations. 

This chosen lifestyle, which is admittedly not for most, far outweighs the costs and associated labor involved. Navigator's expertise in financial management, assures that the bills are paid. As long as our health allows us to function safely, visit places we enjoy, as well as new adventures, this style, which is far cheaper than a care home, works best for us and apparently many others.

I-40 (Rt 66) East through Tjeras Canyon, Edgewood and Moriarty to Cline's Corners, intersection (NM 285 under reconstruction) where a turn south heads to little Encino, now a veritable ghost town. Vaughn to the east, not much better economically, with 487 residents, 86% Hispanic, where we turn south across the high prairie toward Roswell NM, home of N.M. Military Academy. 

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway is building an extensive 9.3 mile, new parallel rail line through this area, to alleviate the single line bottleneck. Only 25 miles of single line remain on the BNSF transcon rail from LA to Chicago. A 70 million dollar project, to be completed in 2015. On our periodic trips, we often note several long trains waiting for the lines to clear along this section.

Wind is off our starboard stern, so fuel reserves are a go, for a 600 mile voyage if required. Roswell begins to 'green up' 8 miles north, where irrigation from the aquifer enables hay production for the horse farms ('Mine That Bird' was Roswell's Kentucky Derby fame) A 200 mile day and a 'camp' in the Sam's Club parking lot near Walmart, is welcome after this busy day. 

10-16 Thursday:
Pecan trees in their well manicured farms, line the highway as we head for the high limestone caprock uplift on the eastern horizon. The slow climb up out of the green irrigation, onto the high arid land to Tatum, where steel silhouettes seem to keep the local shops busy. Texas border, at one house Bronco, is only a line across the pavement.

On approach to Plains Texas and more steel silhouettes, the cotton business, Beef and the oil pump jacks are busy. Prosperity of working the natural resources, keeps Plains Texas growing enough to add a substantial piece of new construction to the local High School. 'Dairy Queens' are the favorite gathering places across all of rural Texas and Plains is no exception. Near the High School gives it an additional advantage.

The same formula for steady employment, keeps being visible through Brownfield where we make a jog in the highway toward La Mesa then turn toward Big Spring. Cotton, Cotton and more Cotton. Short cotton and of course Tall cotton. 

All are labor intensive cash crops, requiring expensive equipment, keeping dealers, gins and their personnel busy. Most farms are in process of prepping for a great harvest, which will be evident on our return. Irrigation is the key element, along with cooperation from the weather. Crop dusters are often visible flying, climbing out in big figure eights and coming in low over these large fields.

On approach to Big Spring Texas, cotton diminishes into the mesquite and cactus that describes west Texas. Stopping for lunch, 'carry out' from one of the many food establishments, marks our brief rest stop in Big Spring. 

We have been caught by fierce wind storms and spent major time hunkered down in the Walmart lot, with numerous highway trucks as company on occasion. Amarillo to the north, also has been our periodic refuge from seasonal winds.

South of town, on the high  mesas, the large, beautiful white wind turbines by the hundreds, Panther Creek Wind Farm, spin lazily on the horizon. With the fact that it takes five turbines to produce enough energy to create one wind turbine, (efficiency 20%) they  are going to be turning for years. The countries that build and export them to the USA are very happy with the arrrangement.

It would take one turbine many years, far exceeding it's life expectancy, just to replenish the energy consumed in it's production. The 'law of diminishing returns' fails to impress those well meaning people that have been convinced that they actually 'produce' energy. The contrary is true, but folks are being made wealthy and feel proud in the process. Reportedly, 135,000 homes are now powered by this array of over 300 turbines, one of the ten largest in the USA.

San Angelo is on the schedule for the end of this 300 mile+ travel day. Take Knickerbocker a few miles west, to the 'radar golf ball' of the airport. Turn north on Fisherman rd and follow the pavement to the park entrance. Lots of Deer. Once through the entrance past the gate house, turn left, rather than to the Spring Creek RV Marina.

 The city system manages this beautiful park, off Lake Nasworthy. Before the problematic threat of bankrupting legalities shut it down, this family oriented park even offered boat rentals from the marina near the little store.

 It is our target 'camp' for the evening. Deer and wild Turkeys, along with Squirrels antics, keep Nav's camera busy. 'Black' and 'Turkey' vultures circle the last thermals of the afternoon, in a group of over 100, as they head for their evening roost.

Across the channel from where we always park, Horses, Llamas, a Donkey, Sheep, goats (they climb trees) and for some period a beautiful White Peacock entertained us during past years.

Sam's Club refuel for $3.84, was .60 higher than ABQ. Apparently they have not gotten the word that fuel is falling in price. 62 gallons to cover over 520 miles, two days in our rig, was not all that bad...considering.

A few local charity thrift stores to browse, then begin our drive south toward I-10, 'Junction' of 'Birder's delight at the state park on the migratory flyway, as we passed through this trip. Texas has so many birds passing through on their way from South America to the northern part of the continent, it garners attention for the shear Numbers. 

I-10 at Junction, near South Llano River State Park, where we sometimes camp to enjoy the migratory birds. Turn east toward San Antonio and begin several climbs over the fascinating broken terrain that encompasses several altitude checks, reminiscent of the western Range and Basin states of last trip. 

Building rail systems such as was accomplished by Jay Gould, across these limestone uplifts and deep canyons, took the engineers of the 19th century, some indulgence. Modern highways are great, in comparison to the earlier paths that were basically only paved trails in early times of the automobile. We bypassed Fredricksburg Texas this trip. Having spent several days/nights, over the past years, prowling this charming Germanic themed town, we opted out this time.

Kerville Texas:
Wendy's chicken and brief tour around town, reveals a great little city to camp for the night. Shriener City Park, was formerly a CCC constructed state park. We made a turn by GPS which led us on a circuitous route, before finding our camp across the river from the hospital and treesy site for the evening. Squirrels are the camp routine, due to the Pecan trees that form a canopy over our roof. Dropped Pecans were a steady rhythm of the busy Squirrels. 

I climbed onto the roof with a broom before leaving, to check if the slide outs would come back in without Pecans jamming the roller mechanism. An evening bike ride along the river and talk with campers, passed some time before darkness and a welcome bed. Nightfall brought relief from nearby traffic sounds. Pecans fell as a light rain kept the trees dropping their fall crop as we slept. 

Morning departure from Kerville, along with a local charity thrift store where treasures were found, set us up for travel on to San Antonio. Great highways across Texas. The only problem was on approach to San Antonio. ...
 Afternoon 1.5 hour slow-mo traffic jam, where only five miles was affected, as highway crews attempt to modernize an overpass.  Directing fast, heavy interstate, combined with local traffic, one at a time to the exit, stop and re-enter ramp, did not go well. Heavily traveled I-10 no less, on western approach to SA, definetly was a problem.

Thousands of SUVs, pickups, cars and 18 wheelers, countless were going off-road in desperation, spinning tires throwing dirt, down through the bar ditches to get around the mismanaged, unplanned mess.

10-18 San Antonio evening:
Arrival to our favorite Alamo KOA, just off I-10, with lots of upgrades in past years. WIFI slow due to a full park, but works enough to record our travels, contact family and friends. 

Travelers (def not the oldies like us) do their business inventory and watch live action interactive horror vids from the comfort of their RV's. The practice sucks bandwidth, so other people can not look at emails, without long delays.. 

This older established RV park has been undergoing many improvements, new paving, new swimming pool, being noticeable. As nomadic travelers, we drop in without reservation. The very helpful, extremely friendly office staff, always find a site to our liking. Fresh Pizza made to order, is offered as an added convenience and welcome attraction.

We go 'out and about' tomorrow. Fish and Chips at 'Sea Island', within the outlet malls between SA and Austin. We love Fish and Chips. Not common in NM. :>)

 My tall young attractive friend Ashley, in the Alamo KOA office, informed me of the fate of the Egyptian Geese we recalled from our last spring trip. She is always very informative, especially while preparing aromatic fresh, Hunt Bros pizzas to order. Tempted to partake of the excellent looking pizza before the office closed, I had to pass on the, late in the evening offer, as it probably would have kept me awake.

According to Ashley, the exotic geese were adopted out, on Craig's List, due to some finicky residents not enjoying their company. Ashley told of working around secluded cabin four, when one of the larger resident ducks (Muscovy) took surprise notice of her intruding on it's chosen habitat.

The little family of Egyptian Geese, who normally mate for life, was also broken by a larger male goose that drove off the smaller male that had fathered the babies. Ashley said it then was also mean to the babies. A story of life? 

We decided it was 'Drama of the Geese'. Ashley informed that they were all escapees, along with other exotic wildlife from the nearby Red Berry (a colorful Texas legislator, gambler, murderer) estate, after the city took control. Apparently the Famous Mansion and it's private lake were no longer paradise under govt management. The geese were only seeking a better life and found temporary utopia in the secluded KOA pond.

Highways are All under construction (Anyone want to be an Engineer?), widening with sweeping multi-tiered modern overpasses, as San Antonio grows north, east and west in seemingly erratic wide circles. The long corridor between AUSTIN Texas and SAN ANTONIO is almost all filled in now and expanding in width, as each Texas intercity connected highway property is becoming more populated.

A long, ever widening span of business growth (No state income tax in Texas) that is causing a building boom like none other in the nation.
Twelve years ago there were all cows and ranch land along these highways.

 San Antonio Texas 10-19
Had our fish and chips (with Oysters and Shrimp), did some shoe shopping at Forum Mall DSW. Both of us found some new shoes... sale priced. Do you have DSW? Great deals on shoes. Style is everything in the designer world, latest styles cause last years, seasons to be sold cheap.
New shopping centers and outlets are all in suburbs of San Antonio, Austin.
'Tex' our NetJet pilot Friend that lives in HOU, said that Austin has high taxes. New businesses locate outside the city, which suits the control libs fine. They don't like development, unless it suits their 'boutique' lifestyle, doesn't interfere with their personal ambiance.

San Antonio welcomes new development, but their city taxes are still higher than surrounding communities. Expansion continues. New highways deal with it.

Weather is great. Temps in 80's. Humidity not too high. Mild breeze. Somewhat of a drought cycle is in effect. The floods of 1998 devastated large sections and following floods have had their effect, placing this KOA in an official flood plain. Noting the high bridges (rail and traffic) over the creek, shows the high water possibilities.

Wild Ducks that we enjoy and photograph in this campground, are not as plentiful as former times. The creek is low and their KOA pond (flood basin) behind the office, is getting pitiful during this cyclical drought period. Salado (Salad) Creek, along side the, over four mile 'Greenway' trail, is flowing, but slowly. The site of two battles with Mexico 'after' Texas was declared a Republic, it is kept flowing by recycled city water.

Rode my bike each afternoon, exploring in both directions, the nicely maintained, over 4 mile long city trail, that runs through the KOA RV Park. Alligator Gar, huge fish which have been seen in this Salado Creek, lay low under deep mud during dry spells, must be really low. They can grow to over eight feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. They also can live to over 95 years.

Caught only turtles last time I fished the stream on a previous trip. They are long necked soft shell water turtles with flippers more than feet. Not the hard shell desert tortoise that we have in our yard, these can stretch back and bite your hand. 

Tomorrow is in another direction to hunt additional charity thrift stores for unique items. Leaving on Tuesday. Not completely sure which direction, just a pair of drifters until reserve funds run low, then dash for home :>)

10-21-14 Tuesday:
Leave San Antonio and continue en route to Lockhart Texas.

 20 miles south of Austin, our secret Lockhart State Park for two nights, was built by the CCC, to keep unemployed young males busy, providing them with a paycheck to send home, training them for a trade and to follow orders in a nice military fashion, which came in handy for WWII. A perfectly timed event, that finally broke the govt mandated 'Chicken in every pot' (but nothing else) Great Depression of the 1930's.  

Many of the original stone and concrete installations are still in use today at the numerous CCC and Corps of Engineers facilities across the USA. Dams along this stream, form small ponds behind them, to allow stocking of Perch and Catfish. Free fishing without a license is offered at all Texas State Parks. If staying for several days a year, it pays to buy the annual Texas state park pass that waves vehicle entrance fees as well as offers several free camping nights. This family/group friendly facility also has a big swimming pool in season.

The golf course of 9 holes has it's first tee set for a hundred yard shot downhill through a 30 yard wide opening in trees lining the little stream. Many countless hundreds of balls yearly, shot by the brave and confidant, fall short, hook or slice and are lost in the trees and stream ponds. Periodic spring flooding piles them up behind the dams, to be scooped out with the mud by backhoes... by the thousands.
Cleaned balls, collected by staff on the course, are sold $1 for three at the office.

 I hike out the course after it has quieted down for the evening. Deer family  herds enjoy browsing the nice meadow fairways after the golfers leave for the day. Our camp site is on the edge of the course which brags of having the 'highest altitude hole' in Texas. Squirrels feeding on acorns from different types of Oak trees, 'Live Oak' and those that have the Oak Leaf of tradition, have differing sizes of acorns and leaves of varying shape. 
'Live' Oak , an Evergreen that stays alive during winter, can also look stone cold dead, during consecutive drought years and then come back vibrant alive, after a bit of rainfall. All hours, random pops of acorns falling on our roof, lets us know we are camping beneath an oak tree. Last night a roaming skunk was startled by Nav as she slammed the coach door for the night. We were treated to the 'surprise' spray for a portion of the evening. :>)

On our way into Austin Texas,

 we drove along side the controversial, but beautiful International Tollway, built on officially 'condemned' land, to last 100 years, by a Spanish consortium of changing international interests. Part of NAFTA, it runs from the Mexican border to Canada when completed. Many duty free 'ports' are designed into the very wide and high speed (85mph), Internationally owned tollway, cutting America in half after it is complete.
We prowled our favorites in Austin, such as the TSA resale store inside the Austin City, State warehouse, housing the Railway Commission. As usual they had the various confiscated 'weapons' such as pictures of toy guns and toy soldiers with ''guns', belts and accessories including clothing depicting weaponry. Old 'Cowboy 'stuff' with pics of guns? Fugedaboutit, they are instantly confiscated.. We found nice airline booster seats for the grand kids. Apparently people leave them after one flight.

The seats we have been using are pink, naturally detested by the grandsons, in spite of mandatory PC training of total diversity acceptance in the elementary schools. 

In the warehouse section with loads of other govt discards, a sleek modern power stapler loaded with the wrong stapes by the affirmative action bureaucracy, then discarded by the affirmative action bureaucracy when it jammed, was purchased single digit cheap, though the intricately engineered repetitive labor saver cost the tax Payers days pay.

Industrial grade fire extinguishers from govt buildings are routinely discarded by the thousands as their 6 yr 'time in service' date is reached. Though in beautiful condition and checked monthly on contract recorded visits, they are discarded en-masse by the pallet load. We bought two for $10. Govt contracts are lucrative indeed.

 We always enjoy the TSA items, they always give us moments to wonder why the item, innocent in formerly sane times, was deemed 'dangerous' to the people of today. What in the world has happened to our country? One day the govt will catch on and destroy all confiscated items as dangerous evidence, as the public awareness and curiosity increases.

 Left Lockhart State Park,

 for transit through Austin Texas and fuel at Sam's Club for $2.61. After maneuvering the rig around miles of wrong turns due to Sam's old location permanently programmed into the 'new' Garmin GPS (we are rebels, we don't own 'smart' handhelds), Navigator eventually found the newest location off of Slaughter Lane by asking a passerby. Not that we care, but Slaughter Lane? Really? Must have a story.

Two Sam's hotdogs with sauerkraut and sodas, at $3 made up for the wasted fuel. More driving, with miles rolling on the unmanned, intensely camera recorded tollway. A modern state of the art transportation system that fails to charge out of state motorists, due to the complexity of computer programs able to account for every one of the thousands of different license plates across the USA, being unavailable... at the present. An intricately programmed US International license plate in 'your' future? We relished the nice International highway miles to reach Burnett Texas and on to our favorite Texas State Park campground.

 Ink's Lake State Park.
 Nav called ahead as we were driving, and arranged one night loosely confirmed, firmed on arrival. Pedaled the bike around some of the park (it's big and covered with intertwining miles of trails) and visited the little store where canoes, kayaks and colorfully decorated pedal boats are rented. Ducks and Canadian Geese are in abundance on our lakeside site this evening. Nav sometimes enjoys casting out a line and sitting on the coach steps to watch her bobber.

Many Canadian's (Geese and people) enjoy weather in Texas year around. From what Canadians have informed me, the total costs of heating/maintaining a home in winter wonderland Canada are saved and pay for their mild sunny winters in coastal Texas. 

Coots (black ducks more like water chickens with white beaks) were in migration on one past trip. Ever present vultures (Blacks as well as Turkey vultures) circle everywhere over Texas. 

 Tomorrow I must go to the office before 8 am and be first in line to get on a list for the 9 am drawing (I must be there) for another site. Cancellations of reservations (common due to the practice of  online 'booking'?) are the only way to sporadically get a weekend site at this popular campground on the waters of a beautiful fishing reservoir.

Ink's Lake is on a chain of lakes behind dams constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding across Texas. In this case, many small towns and San Antonio, which historically flooded away before (hated by environmentalists) dams. Often we are forced to stay at somewhat nearby, Black Rock Park. Colorado River Authority (Buchanon Dam, during high water years generates hydro-electricity, also hated by environmentalists) controls Black Rock RV camp on Lake Buchanon above Ink's Lake. 

One fellow Ink's Lake shore camper, lives on the drought depleted, mostly dry shoreline of the Buchanon reservoir. Tax of $800? per frontage foot, does not care that the water during drought is hundreds of yards away. 

One upscale home that sold during high water years for over $1.5 million, is now listed for a small fraction of that figure. It has over 800 feet of what was once 'shoreline'.

Black Rock is a nice RV park and tent/cabin campground on a tree covered hill, but not as beautiful as tree covered, Deer friendly Ink's Lake and it's regulated water level. Buchanon is the main feeder dam and it's lake levels are volatile and erratic to say the least. I have hiked nearly all of the way across the dry bottom of Buchanon Reservoir in drought times. Belatedly begun in 1931, by mass electrification, energy industrialist Samuel Insull, it is intertwined in my family history.

Ink's Lake 10-24:
Today Ink's Lake State Park renewed our RV site stay for the next two nights. Took about 1/2 hr. Strange that the sites they said were All reserved, magically open after no occupiers show. Dog in the manger? Remember us being taught that rule as little kids?

Drove into Burnett today and browsed antique shops. What is plentiful in Texas,  is more rare in NM. We found a few interesting items such as antique tools.
A starter pistol, rarely seen today in the 'gun free' environment of competitive events. Deer antlers 'drops' that are often found by hunters in singles rather than matched sets suitable for display. My intent is to cut them into 'scales', handles for knives.
Nav also found a big, precision wood boring auger used during the 1800's. Not common in NM, where most everything involved crudely fabricated tools, due to the transportation costs involved during those times.

Lunch Cod shared at a little local 'Crazy Gals' cafe was lunch. A burger later, shared at our campsite. Chris Landing at Ink's Lake State Park makes good burgers at the campground commons. He apparently also does the big telescope 'Star Parties' when the night sky cooperates.

Ink's Lake State Park 10-25:

Camp Kids :>)
Fun watching the kids around these campgrounds. As the evening approaches, fewer of them are playing ball, chasing around the campsite, fishing, swimming, riding pedal boats and riding bikes around the extensive park. They enjoy the attentive time with parents. While camping away from life's routine, attention is not diverted by the official business and rules of daily life.

Mothers and dads join into the games of whatevers, playing as the goalies or cheering bystanders. It mattered not that the moms and dads were not fully active, though some were. What did matter is the kids finally had their parent's full focus.

One little girl about 6 years old, was in a rental canoe as her parents brought it to their campsite shore. They pulled it into the reeds, leaving it unattended and walking up slope to their tents, while they attended to other camp chores of their large gathering.

The little girl came back alone to the canoe and wading alongside, began carefully arranging it out a distance away from the reeds. The water is shallow in this little inlet where we are camped, so she was able to wade around while dragging the large craft behind her.

I watched as she tried several times to climb aboard. Each time the canoe floated out away from her while she had one foot still in the water. Finally her dad noticed what she was trying to accomplish, paddle the large canoe out to open water by herself. He trotted down and brought the canoe back to shore, as the little girl told him she was just innocently gathering a few things from inside the canoe.

Nav noted that memories were being constructed inside the little kids lifetime storage, as they were camping away from home, in far different, exciting surroundings, with much more freedom to seek out adventure. 

Ducks in this small lake inlet outside our coach door, have discovered that I toss bits of tortilla on occasion. The little brown females come up to me and take bites from my hand held tortilla. Colorful males (Mallards) are a bit more twitchy and stand back quacking for a bite.

Cautious Canadian Geese stand way back and wait for tossed bits the ducks miss. Noted that ducks can tell the difference between young boys and girls. They stay way back from the young boys. They know full well what danger lurks in the minds and actions of young males. 

Kids are everywhere today. Laughing and having fun around the water. The weekends at this popular park are really crowded. Tent groups are large encampments of their own, with one end of the long park packed like a continuous village through the trees. Smokey fires insure that we seal up and run the air conditioning and ionizers to keep the air breathable for Nav and her sensitive respiratory system.

 Afternoon, I rode my bike to the pier, where many kids and their parents were trying to fish for the mysterious creatures lurking below the surface. One young man with a little boy, a darkly tanned man in his later 20's, that appeared as though he had been stationed in the middle east recently, asked what I was trying for. 

I replied honestly, 'I don't know'. He smiled, nodded and said 'Fish' in agreement.  After casting the $2 lure hundreds of times out from the pier, my line invisible in the dark, eventually became ensnared in the treble hook, unable to clear in the darkness. My casting for whatever was ended. One saving grace, I was able to retrieve my shiny new $2 lure.

 As the dark of night enveloped the campground, the fishing pier became silent. I was alone with the bugs flitting around the timer controlled lights.
The lights and small campfires around the park kept up the camp ambiance for hours, as the campers enjoyed their night under the stars.

We were in bed listening to the surrounding sounds of the laughing children in their camps. Quieter and quieter the sounds diminished and lights began going out, as the campers tucked into their sleeping bags for the night. Finally silence and darkness, belying the fact that this fascinating place was occupied by thousands of people, a virtual city among the trees.
Ink's Lake 10-26 Sunday morning:  

There are quite a few folks leaving camp for church.
We pack up Sunday 10-26:
 Head for San Angelo (fuel for $2.65). We will only stop at Roswell NM for the last night camp at Sam's Club, not fuel this trip at their higher prices (Nav checked 'Gas Buddy'). ABQ NM is $2.65, at 520 miles, we will make it.

We have been getting close to 600 miles each tank this trip. Nice weather, no major wind. Wireless is good at this site with Nav's new antenna she ordered from ebay before we left home. Plugs into her laptop and boosts the reception/transmission.... a lot.

After leaving our favorite campsites at Ink's Lake, we drove across vast miles of Texas ranch land, where exotic game animals are frequently preserved, raised and bred, onward toward San Angelo Texas, where we refuel for the trip home. Cotton is visible all along the highway until the New Mexico state line, where it forgets how to grow. Great year for Cotton. Great year for Oil, Great year for crops (hay and Milo this year, this area) and herds of beef. All in all,  great years for Texas and it's ever expanding development. 

We 'camp' in the large San Angelo city park. After hours.... and Sunday, leaves no attendant at the gate. No one other than a flock of wild Turkeys that had Nav and her camera busy (they disappear into the mesquite like illusory magicians), and no one else camping in the park. No one except us. Two men were packing up to leave their weekend tent site near our favorite site alongside the Spring Creek channel. Now it is all ours.

We always enjoy this quiet site, as it has several forms of wildlife that like this remote area near the back gate. This time, as mentioned earlier, the magnificent Caracara (Mexican Eagle) 

was swooping into a tall tree across the channel. Nav took pics, but too far away to identify. We set up a spotting telescope and at least got to watch the big black and white bird for a while. 

Lockhart State Park Texas, we also see the opportunistic big birds on occasion. Besides seeking fish discards along the gulf, where we often watch them, the resourceful Caracara walks around pastures and catches mice and grasshoppers, along with it's fare of whatever else is convenient to eat.

The other side of this Lake Nasworthy channel is private property and has always had unique animals and birds. One time a rare white Peacock with the huge tail fan spread. Another time, a donkey and horses with Llamas add to the intrigue. Always ducks and geese. This time a lonesome black Coot paddled around until dark. The Coot was there in the morning as well. The first time we camped here, feral hogs were roaming the area. No more hogs, but Squirrels, Turkeys and Deer are still plentiful.

Always the big Vultures of both types, 'Black and Turkey' circle on thermals, sometimes by the hundreds. They are expanding their range across the USA. One can smell anything dead for many miles, the other can see everything for miles. The bigger Caracara takes advantage of both birds abilities and circles with them, riding the thermals until the Vultures locate something tasty. The Caracara then swoops in and takes over, not allowing the Vultures to eat until the Caracara is finished.

Silent evenings are common in this large city park. Stopped in nearby Goodwill upon leaving and found a basically beautiful, but dirty, neglected Schwinn bicycle... with flat tires. After cleanup, tuneup and adjusting shift mechanism, Slime and air in the tires, it, like the last Schwinn sold before we left on our trip, should sell to a happy rider on Craig's List.

Left ever expanding San Angelo, after fuel fill for $2.65 per gal Sam's Club. Drove northwest in direction of Roswell NM for the long leg of our journey home. Over 300 miles on this day, with some wind against us. Cotton, Cotton, Cotton is growing and now being harvested, all of the way on both sides of the road, interspersed with pumping jacks slurping out crude for the Texas gulf refineries.

Pipelines underground carry a great portion of the oil from the countless thousands of jacks to the refineries. Relatively few trucks or tank RR cars are involved across the high production areas. Drilling, maintenance servicing is in progress everywhere, due to the new methods of extraction giving new life to the old oil basins. RV parks filled with late model rigs are home to the shift crews, the hard working, well paid rig hands that frequently move from location to location with their busy companies.

Beef graze, and hay fields fill in the spaces where mesquite and cactus has been cleared. New businesses and accompanying home developments are spreading everywhere. Gotta love Texas, nothing wasted, everything works, including the innovative people. No state income taxes work marvels for development. Texans learned long ago that being 'taxed into prosperity' is a proven loosing game fallacy.

Nav wanted a Cotton plant or two, but the trucks were everywhere with people that could take issue with me pulling up a cotton plant :>) It is illegal to pick flowers along side the highways in Texas, the Bluebonnet State where the state flower grows in abundance at a certain time of year.

With Big Spring Texas and the huge white wind turbines that add/subtract (they can't 'start' themselves without electrical power after wind stops, so they motor idle during light winds) energy to/from the grid. Nav complains about the horizon to horizon turbines blocking the view as she takes pictures. Being a tech guy all of my life, I still admire the technology and the gutsy skill required to install and keep them operating.

Not withstanding that it takes the energy production of Five turbines to supply enough energy to manufacture One wind turbine every twenty years, they are pretty interesting. Some politically connected people are earning big bucks off of these 'imported' (USA, with it's prohibitive wage and environmentally restrictive plans, does not even manufacture them) marvels that drastically increase the costs of energy.

Roswell in our 200 mile day sights, Texas and it's cotton soon gave way to NM and it's open range land. Nav said 'Look' and pointed out a big animal. It had long black horns, large and dark, with white. She had seen a 'Trophy' Antlope. The world record Trophy antelope was recently taken in New Mexico.

 Ibex (Long curved horns) and Oryx (Long straight horns) are now breeding (since 1970's), becoming relatively more common in the southern part of NM, due to their introduction from Africa. The big wild animals, the offspring of those introduced into the USA, roam ever more northward as conditions support them and poachers do not shoot them. Hunting permits in N.M. control the numbers of animals, as they have few natural predators.

 Roswell sits in the lower elevation southern portion of the state, where the porous limestone aquifer perpetually fed from Canada, supplies the water for irrigation. Horses are business in Roswell. Derby contenders and winners (Mine that Bird) seem to periodically originate from this area. Hay is the big business near mild climate, retiree friendly Roswell NM. Descending from the eastern high mesa caprock, down the long slope to town, is always pleasant and scenic.

As the Sam's Club 'camp' approached, we noted few campers this evening. I hiked over to Walmart to purchase a roasted chicken for supper. After the fine dining in our coach, I hiked  back again to Walmart, to walk off the days driving. Bedding down is noisey at first, but Sam's quiets down after closing time. Fuel was high this time, so we passed. ABQ has the best price.... if we can make it.

Leaving Roswell Tuesday 10-27 :

This moisture laden year promotes green grass across the range land. Lots of cattle, but no antelope visible (except for wife's 'Trophy') for some reason. Usually we see Antelope by the hundreds.

Vaughn, 100 miles north of Roswell, a one time vibrant, crew change RR station from the steam train days of limited travel options, into the days of caboose and unionized heavily crewed trains, is gradually decaying, it's old restaurants, stores, a long gone car dealership with service facilities and motels closing, due to modern efficient BNSF freight management and faster travel, with passenger trains a bygone era. 

Vaughn, population now 437, where I often stayed overnight while traveling on my former job circuit, eventually (after this short term prosperity) will be literally gone from the maps, except for the intersect highways and a small dot depicting motel, diner and a truck stop fuel station.

 A Chief of Police that was barely over 21 and had been a felon that could not legally possess a fire arm nor a badge, garnered attention last year. His white police cruiser now sits near the highway, locked behind a fence at the city yards, a forlorn reminder of the 'pellet gun' carrying 'Chief' of past 'news' fame. Maybe he now is the Mayor?

In contrast, as mentioned near the start of our trip, the BNSF railroad section at a cost of $70 million, is building more track, lots of it. Apparently the container traffic from the west coast gets bottle necked on five sections totaling 25 miles, including these plains near Vaughn. Crews are laying new roadbed and track for 9.3 miles alongside the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) that hauls containers 24-7 from China, to a 'buyer hungry' nation of the east coast and middle USA.

Empty containers are easy to haul back westward, the return with fewer engines. The east bound trains (consists) can have multiple engines pulling and even more 'pushing' the heavy loads of hundreds of  'well cars' that containers sit in, and are double stacked. With long curves and few grades, the trains are very long day and night. Today there was one train sidelined, idling near Vaughn while waiting for a clear line, loaded with approximately 400 containers.

Often we see five or more long trains in transit at one time across this vast, horizon to horizon range land. That can equate to thousands of containers passing within a two hour period. That is only one BNSF line across the southern USA. 

Count the other lines over a 24 hour period and you can estimate the volume of goods being sold around the clock to buyers in the USA. With empty containers returning to China, it bodes not well for the future generation who must somehow pay the overseas debt. Oil exports, food and grain are the debt 'paying' exception. Pray that they continue, unhindered by self serving politics. 

Little Encino is another intersection, a lost village from the past. Most is gone now, with little remaining of the former service and tourist stop along the desolate highway when vehicles were less reliable and slower. Remnants of the decayed motels, restaurants and service stations are gradually dissolving into the earth.

From Roswell over 170 miles to the south, we approach busy I-40 (Rt 66) at touristy 'Clines Corners', where a new NM 285 intersection overpass is being constructed. Highway Engineers are in demand across the USA everywhere we travel. Know anyone looking for a great future?
The familiar silhouette of the Sandia Mountains frames the western horizon. A long, down grade of  I-40 toward Moriarty, Edgewood, then up over Sedillo Hill and downgrade through the Tjeras Canyon, we race alongside the highway trucks to ABQ. Our destination to fill the tank last time this season, with $2.65 fuel at Costco.

Over 500 miles from San Angelo Texas and still had several gallons in the tank. Good mileage for a loaded coach :>)

Home driveway, after an additional 7 miles and unload our treasures and necessities. Drain all water plumbing for the long months of winter storage. Tomorrow will finish with a blowing out of the water lines with compressed air, winterize with automotive ethylene glycol anti-freeze in traps and over the drain valves, to protect against sticking, freezing and oxidation.

Change oil and filter in preparation for our next season, just to be sure of a fresh start after this 1,800+ mile jaunt. It takes about two days driving, just to leave the state of NM ...... and get to somewhere else. Then it takes another two days just to get back home. :>)

'Albuquerque Brake and Alignment', Pete had an opening for appointment to rotate tires, remove the broken 'Steer Safe' assy and balance the front wheels. They aligned the front end steering last year and the coach has driven beautifully ever since. Now it is ready for the spring travels.

Marvel Mystery oil will keep the fuel in the tank in condition for easy start in the spring. Generator, change oil and filter should be done as well. Gen shares the Marvel Mystery Oil from the fuel tank mixture. 

Work is cut out for my grease gun and creeper :>)  Wash and wax (Nano Wax by Eagle One) on the front lawn as the days roll by, then maneuver the coach into back yard for the winter.... under protective cover this time, as we become winter frugal mini consumers and save funds for our 2015 trips.

Enjoy a vibrant life, travel with Freedom as a US Citizen in the greatest nation ever known, The United States of America. One Nation Under God.

DO NOT Ever let Anyone 'CHANGE' it! Vote like Your Life depends on does.





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