Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Winter Texan adventures come to an end

Jan. 17 to 30, 2008

Most outdoors activities came to a screeching halt – the weather has been miserably wet, foggy and cold. We haven’t seen the sun in days. Yes I know that it is MUCH colder in other parts of the country, but I just didn’t expect it here. Bicycles have been parked and umbrellas and long underwear are out along with turtleneck knit sweaters and scarves.

The words below from Pastor Chuck Swindoll became my mantra during these days:

One of the beautiful things about the right attitude is that, with it, every day has sunshine. You don't have to have cloudless days for there to be sunshine days.

Dreary days or not, activities continued: Line dance class three days a week, our daily happy hour, and such.

January 19 was Carol Rayburn’s birthday. And regardless of her hoping to ignore it, she opened some gifts at Happy Hour that day. Roberta had collected various items (including a chocolate bar) from their recent 4-month Alaska Adventure. They were individually wrapped and surprised Carol greatly.

Thanks to Roberta, we met another single gal traveler, Carole Davis. Carole was camping with a group called Open Road Singles. This group was having a Texas Get-Together at a nearby RV park. Carole joined us one evening at a pizza place. Ten of us enjoyed pizza and conversation.

There are plenty nice people at Driftwood, but I do have some favorites – Lin and Bertha Gillam. This traveling duo has homes in the Doe Run, Missouri, and Sheridan Wyoming. He is retired from FAA and her from the US Forest Service. Both have had amazing adventures in their past careers. During her 26-year career, Bertha was a trailblazer for the Forest Service, becoming the first woman to rise to a high position.

The end of January was fast approaching and time for me to leave and head west – looking for the sun! My experiences in the Rockport/Fulton area have been interesting and the weather not as warm as I had expected in this gulf-coastal area, but all in all I’m glad I came. I’ve had a great time with my Winnie friends – they all contributed to this being an outstanding three-month trip. I take a variety of memories with me, including new friends and acquaintances. Here’s what country/western singer Tim McGraw has to say about this:

We all take different paths in life,

but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.

Saturday, January 26, my day to leave.

I will travel four days, stopping each night, to get me to Pancho Villa State Park.

But first a stop at the tire shop to have my tire pressure checked and to replace my dead battery. Yep, contrary to advice and the example of others, I neglected to run my engine. When I was ready to leave, no go! Carol R. brought her car and jumper cables over and it eventually started long enough to get to a service shop.

Fortunately I was not driving far my first day out – just 112 miles to Choke Canyon State Park. My route zig-zagged – Highways and numbered roads: 1069, 35, 188, 181, 59, 281 and 72. (Yes, I could have taken 35 to 37 to 72, but as you know, Jeremiah and I prefer the back roads. Today’s drive took me through Beeville, George West and Three Rivers (home to a huge power plant).

Choke Canyon State Park. Ahhh, the sun! Temperature this afternoon was 70 degrees. The 385-acre park is on land that extends into the Choke Canyon Reservoir created by a dam on the Frio (cold) River. Wildlife is abundant. Being on a bird migration route – and still early in the migration season – I saw plenty of birds, including Vermillion flycatchers, cardinals, green jays, a woodpecker and grackles. And I wasn't even really looking for birds. This evening a small herd of deer - I'm guessing white tailed - just wandered through.

I can see water to the west, north and south of where I'm parked. Sites are well spaced out - blacktop parking area with mowed grass elsewhere, covered shelter with picnic table, 30 and 50 amp. The roads throughout the park are blacktop and flat - would be great for biking.

Finally I could bask in the sun! This first evening back on the road rewarded me with a gorgeous sunset over the lake.

Sunday, Jan. 27

After a good night sleep, this morning I awoke to a fogged-in park. Since I would be driving less than 200 miles today, I had a leisurely morning. My priority each day is to enjoy coffee and spend time with Cat, my Bible study and then breakfast.

When I left, it was still foggy for about 10 miles of Highway 72 and Highway 97 was mostly under construction. So the first 50 miles were very slow-going. Only one car passed me from the other direction – it felt like my private highway. Then I was on I-35 for 16 miles, at the town of Dilley my roads wee 117 and then 83 to Garner State Park.

One of the most interesting stretches of road was from Dilley to Batesville. There were huge agricultural fields, field crops, cattle, cotton. The entire area was groomed and well-kept. Cattle were grazing in some of the fields – and there was an interesting feeder. I figured out that the top piece made the feeder’s wind shield move as the wind changed. NOTE added after original posting: thanks to friend Larry, he said the "feeder" was actually a place where the cattle salt/mineral blocks are. They are off the ground and protected from wind and rain.

Then came Batesville – from the outskirts of this small town to the interior it was one junk and trash heap. Small run-down houses, yards of cars – some working and some obviously not – people milling about appeared to be all Hispanic – probably field workers and their families, basically a town with no pride. The intersection of two highways was a flea market.

Uvalde sounded like an interesting town and I was due for a break from driving, so after a stop for gas and groceries I drove around. This would be a good town to spend several days. It was a Wild West town on the San Antonio to El Paso Trail. Infamous Pat Garret moved here after shooting Billy the Kid in New Mexico. Another Western legend, cowgirl Dale Evans (Roy Roger’s gal) is an Uvalde native. It also was the hometown of John Nance Garner, who served as a US congressman, Speaker of the House and FDR’s first and second-term vice president. His former home has been turned into a museum bearing his wife’s name.

After 178 miles I arrived at Garner State Park. The Frio River runs through it. It’s huge and is Texas’ most popular summertime park. It features a miniature golf course, paddleboat rentals and a massive stone structure with a large outdoors dance pavilion. This pavilion, built in the 30s as a CCC project, is the social center for summer visitors because it has a free jukebox stocked with Johnny Cash, George Strait and Jimmie Rodgers records.

The park has several hundred camping sites, located in spread-out areas, for RVs. It may be wall-to-wall campers – RVs and tents – in the summer, but I was the only camper in the 66-site area in the Oakmont portion.

Monday, Jan. 28

When I set out on Monday morning, I was not sure just where I would end up for the night. I had three places in mind, but along the way I decided just to have a long driving day and get to Van Horn, Texas. This was our first Texas stop in early November.

Tuesday, Jan. 29

This morning I completed the last 200 miles to Pancho Villa State Park. Well, since I took a wrong exit in El Paso, I probably added another 15 miles, and had an unplanned tour. Eventually I got on Highway 9 that took me right to the front entrance of the park.

January 30 – Pancho Villa State Park

The sun is out and the temperature is in the low 70s. Cat is out exploring her favorite park, Jeremiah is content to content to be parked and is hoping that all the dampness that has crept in her innards during the last month will evaporate. My heart is singing and memories of my life as a Winter Texas are added to my “adventure bank.” Life is good.

On to adventures in 2008!