Friday, January 5, 2018

Wandering Once Again

Get out while the getting is good

Security Camera View less than 24 hours after our departure

As evidenced by the date of my last post on this blog it has been much too long. The lapse in adding to the blog was not for lack of travels and adventures because there has been plenty of that. Mostly, attending to medical issues and completing necessary home maintenance kept me away from the keyboard. But we are happy to be back on the road once again.

Together with our friends, Liz and Jack, we left New England at the end of the first week of December just before the first snow arrived. In fact, we left a day early to avoid driving during the first snow of the season. Nevertheless, we were forced to change our route south and finally got stopped by an early storm that swept across the southern states. Early in the afternoon of our second day on the road we encountered snow squalls near Columbus, Ohio that became steady snow with accumulation by the time we were about fifty miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. The highway quickly became very slick  such that just a light application of the brakes caused the trailer to begin to slide sideways. Fortunately, there was a rest area less than a quarter mile ahead so we joined the many truckers and other RVs and stayed the night. It was a good decision because the next day we saw several cars in the ditch, two of which were flipped over.

Gulpha Gorge Campground, Hot Springs National Park

We put in three more long days stopping at TO Fuller State Park on the outskirts of Memphis, Hot Springs National Park, where we relaxed for two days, then pressed on to Tyler and Mother Neff State Parks in succession before resting in New Braunfels, Texas where Liz and Jack rejoined us after they made a detour to the factory where their Casita camper was made so they could affect repairs to their furnace. We stayed at the Landa RV park in New Braunfels where we were happy to find inexpensive camping with full hookups within walking distance of the many shops, restaurants and cafes in town. In the neighboring community of Gruene (pronounced "Green"), we spent an evening listening to Ray Wiley Hubbard perform at the venerable Gruene Hall where many famous musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Townes VanZandt and so many others have performed to enthusiastic audiences.
. We returned the next day to browse the shops and have lunch in Gruene. If you enjoy good coffee, the Gruene Coffee Haus sells freshly roasted coffee at grocery store prices. We bought a pound each of their Sumatran and Costa Rican beans.
Sarah buying bread and sweets at Naegelin's Bakery, the oldest in Texas

Enjoying the band at the Pour Haus with Jack and Liz

From New Braunfels we made a short trip further west into the beautiful Texas Hill Country to Guadalupe River State Park which we used as a base camp to explore the towns of Sisterdale, Luckenbach and the beautiful town of Frederickburg. Our friends went off to explore the town of Bandera where we joined them in order to enjoy yet another night out at an old Hill Country Dance Hall to see Steve Earles play at John T Floores in his home town of Helotes on the outskirts of San Antonio. Floores dance hall has hosted nearly every well known American country and musical roots musician. One would never have known we were in, arguably,  one of the reddest states in the Union when Steve Earle sang some of his newest songs with stridently liberal political content.

Bandera, Texas

Steve Earle with the Mastersons at Floores

We could have spent a lot more time in the Hill Country, but we felt we had pressed our luck about as far as we should with the weather and therefore made tracks for West Texas. Two more long days with an overnight stop in the community center parking lot at Langtry, Texas brought us to Big Bend National Park's Rio Grande Village Campground. Even though we only had one night at Rio Grande Village we managed two beautiful hikes. The afternoon of our arrival we hiked from the campground about three miles to the hot spring on the Rio Grande River and the next morning before departing we hiked a couple miles south of the campground to a small hill overlooking the river.
Sarah with Liz and Jack in Lantry

On December 23rd we pulled into Retro Rents RV park in Terlinqua Ghost Town just west of Big Bend National Park. As of this writing Retro Rents only has two sites available for transient campers, the other sites are occupied by vintage Airstreams and Argosy trailers that they rent out. Together with Jack and Liz we celebrated Christmas making a southwest Christmas feast, exchanging presents, sitting around a campfire, listening to live music at the Starlight Theatre and playing board games until late into the night. Jack is the master of the game Blokus. We took a couple more day trips to hike some trails on the western edge of the park that we hadn't done before. Then Sarah and I drove north to Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area while Liz and Jack returned to the Cottonwood Campground inside Big Bend NP for the couple days we had before our reservations in Marfa for our New Year's reservations at the Tumble In RV Park where Sarah first met Jack and Liz five years ago.
Looking over Rio Grande from above Rio Grande Village Camp Ground, Big Bend National Park

Near the Western end of the Chimney's Trail, Big Bend National Park

Christmas at Terlinqua Ghost Town
The Dorgan House, an early farmhouse on the floodplane of the Rio Grande in the western
part of Big Bend National Park

Looking north from St. Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

The Tumble In is an easy walk to the small town of Marfa. In addition to its appeal to artists and those strolling through the art galleries, the town is known for the phenomenon known as "The Marfa Lights". Over the course of many years people have reported seeing strange and inexplicable lights east of the town. The reported sightings have drawn so many visitors that there is a designated rest area where people can safely park at night in hopes of getting a glimpse of the ghost lights.
Christmas Sunrise at Terlinqua Ghost Town
Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area, South of Alpine Texas (Rt/118)
Chalk House in Elephant Ear Wildlife Management Area

Because Marfa and the nearby town of Alpine have elevations well above 4,000 feet the weather can be extremely variable from day to day and minute to minute. We arrived on the 30th of December and was greeted by sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60s. The next morning the sun rose bright and the day promised to be a repeat of the day before. But, in less than an hour the temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees and the wind howled out of the north sending tumbleweeds as big as small cars careening across the open fields and the highway. Our plans of New Year's eve around a campfire were dashed. But, while Sarah was walking in town the afernoon of New Year's eve she spied a billboard advertising a celebration in town we had somehow missed. The Hotel St. George was holding a party at the St. George Hall with live music highlighted by Texas singer/songwriter Jimmy Dale Gilmore along with three other acts. Tickets were available and thus we enjoyed a New Year's Eve that we all agreed was the best we ever had.
New Year's Eve Moonrise over Marpha, Texas

Jimmy Dale & Colin Gilmore, Butch & Rory Hancock with the Masteron's
Cold Front arriving at Marpha, Texas

Since the weather forecast predicted more cold and potential freezing precipitation, we four decided to leave a day early and find warmer weather further to the southwest and at a lower elevation. Stay tuned.


  1. Nice way to way to document your travels. Pix give a pretty good feel of the locations and running dialogue strings it all together. Glad you had a good holiday season. Enjoy the rest of your trip and Happy New Year! -- Sam

  2. Thanks, so happy you enjoyed it.


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