Right Back Where We Started From…

California Here We Come…

Two more long days on the road as we head west from Austin back to Thousand Palms, California…

These are sunset pictures from our 1st day.

We spend the night in Deming, New Mexico  at a Comfort Inn. What a difference from the Super and Motel 8s, and within the same price range!


After a warm complimentary breakfast of eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast we enjoy our last day on the highway recounting memories of all the fun moments we shared with John, Olivia, and Hugo.

And of course, I have pictures from the passenger seat to share with you as well. Since we are driving in the car and not the RV, my viewpoint  is not as spectacular as sitting up high in a motorhome and gazing out at a scenic panorama.

I am not disappointed though and I hope you aren’t either. The United States is a beautiful country even from the interstate highways.

Rocks and hills…

Saguaro cacti…

Quartzsite, Arizona…

This means we are about 20 miles away from the state line of California.  You’ve got to see this place to believe it. Dubbed the “Desert Phenomenon” on the city’s website, Quartzsite just may be the RV boondocking capital of the world. Millions of adventure seekers visit each year to enjoy its scenic environment known for its pristine Sonoran Desert views, surrounding mountains, and spectacular sunsets. Every year during January and February the town hosts its famous two-month-long gem show and swap meet where exhibitors and vendors display and sell rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils. (ci.quartzsite.az.us)

southwestrockhounding.com

quartzsitetourism.com

tripsavvy.com

We’ll be coming around the mountain…

The Colorado River…

In Blythe we leave Arizona and enter California as we cross a stretch of the Colorado River on Interstate 10.

This famous river, originally known as the Grand, stretches for 1,450 miles from its genesis on the Continental Divide in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park to just shy of the Gulf of California in Mexico. (americanrivers.org)

The yellow shaded area shows how the Colorado River basin extends through 7 states and 2 countries.

pt.slideshare.net, courtesy of Paula Rodriguez Andres

John Wesley Powell, a veteran of the Civil War, who lost his right arm at the elbow in the Battle of Shiloh, led the Powell Geographic Expedition down the Colorado River into uncharted territory in 1869. After 99 days of one of the most daring journeys in American history, he emerged a hero for leading the first official U.S. government-sponsored passage through the Grand Canyon.

He eventually became the second Director (1881-1894) of the U.S. Geological Survey establishing the tradition of mapping the nation. (usgs.gov)


(This is not the same Colorado River that flows through Austin, Texas forming the Highland Lakes as I mentioned in my previous post about Mount Bonnell.) At over 800 miles long, the Texas Colorado River is one of the longest rivers to start and end in the same state. (coloradoriver.org)


Familiar Sights…

San Jacinto and San Gorgonzola Mountains loom over the Coachella Valley…

We pass by the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park…

The mountains grow taller…

The Indio Hills…

Native California Fan Palms…

Home, Sweet Home…

Thank you, John and Olivia for a beautiful time in Austin. We love you!

Meet Me Down In Austin…

Where the Good Times Never End…

It’s our last day to spend with John and Olivia…


We start out at Mueller Lake Park, 30 acres off Airport Blvd. and Aldrich St., home to  6.5-acre lake, open air amphitheater and stage, interactive playscape, picnic peninsula, loop trail, jogger stretching area, and public art. (austintexas.org)

muelleraustin.com

The Sunday Farmers’ Market is just winding down.

We head to the food trucks.

While we wait for our tacos, Olivia and I munch on chips, salsa, and guac with Hugo. Next to us, 2 ladies choose organic salads from a different food truck. Their salads look delicious and so healthy but we opt for decadence and calories today. And we are not disappointed!

After devouring the deliciousness of our tasty tacos, we saunter back to our car, parked in the garage.


As we walk back to the parking garage, this cow makes me smile…


Next we head to Mount Bonnell. At 775 feet, it is the highest point within the Austin City Limits, offering scenic views of the city skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding hills.

We climb the 106 flagstone steps to reach the shade arbor and historical monument at the top of the promontory.

austinot.com

austinot.com

This area was once referred to as Covert Park because Frank M. Covert Sr., an Austin businessman, donated the land Mount Bonnell sits on to Travis County in the early 1900s. Some years later the county gave the land to the city of Austin. A stone monument was placed at the summit in honor of Frank Covert. In 2015 the historical monument underwent repair and conservation. (austinot.com)

austinot.com, courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department

This is what the summit and shade arbor look like from down below on Lake Austin.

austinot.com, courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department

According to info from a kiosk on the trail…

The first documented mention of this high ground was made by Albert Sydney Johnston on April 21, 1839. At that time Johnston was the Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas. He wrote to George Hancock of Louisville, Kentucky stating, “My agent will set off in a few days to commence the building of the City of Austin at the foot of the mountain on the Colorado  (River). His escorts will be sufficient to protect the workmen and materials.”

Mount Bonnell was an integral military defense of Austin for about a year until the city’s population increased and the threat of invasions by Indians and the Mexican Army decreased.

After the Civil War, General George Armstrong Custer established his Sixth United States Cavalry Regiment in Austin. He and his wife Libby enjoyed picnics atop Mount Bonnell, climbing on foot as the trail was too steep for horses.

information kiosk on trail

Mount Bonnell overlooks Lake Austin, one of the 7 man-made lakes formed by area dams along the Colorado River. Collectively these 7 reservoirs are referred to as the Highland Lakes. Lake Austin stretches for 22 miles between the Tom Miller Dam, named after the mayor of Austin in 1940, and the Mansfield Dam, completed in 1941 and named after a congressman of the time, J. J. Mansfield. (austin.culturemap.com and texasescapes.com)

The arch spanning the banks of Lake Austin is the Pennybacker Bridge, known locally as the “Loop 360 Bridge.” This rust-colored, curved, through-arch steel bridge stretches 1,150 feet across Lake Austin/the Colorado River without ever touching the water. Dedicated and opened to traffic at the end of 1982, the bridge was named for its architect, Percy V. Pennybacker, a pioneer in the technology of welded bridges. (austin.culturemap.com)

Texas Dept. of Transportation, courtesy of Stan A. Williams

From atop Mount Bonnell you get a beautiful view of the Texas hills and the upscale private waterfront properties along Lake Austin.

But who or what is the Bonnell in Mount Bonnell?

According to austinot.com, “historical records show the first recorded thoughts about Mount Bonnell were written by soldier George W. Bonnell, who climbed to the top and wrote about his ecological findings.” (Kim McKnight from City of Austin Parks and Recreation)

But according to an abstract from a thesis or dissertation written by John Melton Wallace in 1966 (repositories.lib.utexas.edu), George W. Bonnell was a frontier journalist in the Republic of Texas, yet so much more. He was also an Indian fighter, an author, a public official, an adventurer, and a participant. Though not a native Texan, he gained notoriety for becoming an enthusiastic spokesperson for the Republic.

The Texas State Historical Association refers to Bonnell as a journalist and soldier from New York who later moved to Texas and became Commissioner of Indian Affairs under Sam Houston’s first term as President of the Republic of Texas. Advocating a harsh policy against the Indians, he campaigned against them. In 1839 he moved to Austin and began publishing the Austin Texas Sentinel in January of 1840. In December of 1840 he sold the Sentinel and printed his Topographical Description of Texas which also included an account of the Indian Tribes.
Some sources credit George Bonnell as the namesake for Mount Bonnell on the Colorado River. However, other historians have speculated that the Travis County landmark may have been named for the army officer Joseph Bonnell. (tshaonline.org)

Instead of pursuing this info further by going down a rabbit hole of research, I leave you with this picture framed by a “hole” in the trees that says it all… Is nature nurtured by prosperity?


We stop at Draught House Pub & Brewery to enjoy our late afternoon partaking ritual of imbibing on adult beverages.

The inside resembles a cozy English pub while the outside can best be described as a German beer garden. An on-site food truck, Little House, is owned by Draught House and offers classic pub food such as buffalo wings, double-fried fries, homemade hummus and falafel.

austin360.com, photo courtesy of Nick Wagner

theinfatuation.com, photo courtesy of Jordan Haro 

austin360.com, photo courtesy of Nick Wagner

According to draughthouse.com, Wayne and Gay Overton built the existing Tudor/Bavarian structure by demolishing a house and digging a beer cellar. A hand-built bar, tables and chairs, exposed cedar beams, and wainscoting completed the rustic “Texas meets the Old Country” pub. Wayne placed 18 beer towers on top of the bar and opened the establishment on June 30, 1969. For 25 years the Overtons ran what was likely the best place in Texas to drink draught beer.

In 1995 Dr. Glenda Smith purchased the building, opened a dental practice on the second floor, and renamed the pub Draught Horse because the name Draught House still belonged to Gay Overton upon Wayne’s passing. A slightly different version, however,  is told on another website:

According to communityimpact.com, Josh Wilson came on board as part of an ownership group in 1995 but when the partnership dissolved in 1999, Dr. Glenda Smith bought the bar and retained him as brewer and manager, overseeing  its  day-to-day operations.

draughthouse.com

Whatever the story, Josh Wilson, pictured above, continues to operate Draught House, personally brewing hundreds of barrels of beer per year. He describes his philosophy toward brewing beer with one word, “unprocessed”. All of his beers are unfiltered and no clarifying agents are used ensuring that the beers are all fresh, clean, and hoppy. (draughthouse.com)

This background shot from the website summarizes the pub and brewery perfectly:

I am not much of a beer drinker, but give me a pint of hoppy beer in a pub-like setting and I am a happy beer drinker. Hoppy makes me happy.

So, you can fill in the blanks. We share a happy hoppy hour, or two…

Buck, buck chickens…

A book and a brewski…

John and Olivia…

An enterprising Girl Scout and her Dad come around with cookies to sell. I am so impressed. I ask permission from her father to take this pic…

We all buy boxes of cookies!


Finally, we end our fabulous weekend with a last supper at Titaya’s Thai Cuisine on North Lamar Boulevard…

Simply delicious!

Did I forget to mention we are having a great time?


Thank you, John and Olivia for an absolutely perfect weekend visiting you in Austin! You are loved and you will be missed.

What I Like About Austin

I Could Tell You… But It Would Take All Night Long

So, let me just tell you about today…

We get a late start this morning and as usual we begin another great day at Olivia and John’s place. This is the only pic I have of their house, the daffodils blooming under the front yard tree…


First order of the day is food, of course, so we hit the NeWorlDeli on Guadalupe Street in downtown Hyde Park.

google.com

This family business started with a couple who wanted to create a restaurant where their 2 young daughters could come to work with them and they would not have to rely on day care.

In the early days you would often see little Abigail taking a nap on the bread shelf while Claire glided around visiting customers on her red scooter.

When you enter NeWorlDeli you are greeted by the aromas of simmering sauces, homemade soups, and roasting meats wafting from the kitchen. This casual cafe caters to those who crave an old-fashioned  sandwich piled high with fresh deli meat, cheese, and all the trimmings. (neworldeli.com)

courtesy of Matt Guthrie

courtesy of Robert Malka

courtesy of Seth Johnson

courtesy of Madie Leon Riley

I don’t remember what everyone else orders, but Olivia and I have the tomato basil bisque soup… Sensationally sumptuous!


After picking up Hugo we hike along Shoal Creek, a stream and urban watershed flowing through the heart of the city. According to shoalcreekconservancy.org, a watershed is a geographic area within which all water drains to a common source. Any water that falls to the ground in the Shoal Creek Watershed eventually reaches Shoal Creek (if it doesn’t evaporate first)!

austintexas.gov

Shoal Creek is an 11-mile natural waterway in a 13 square mile watershed. The creek meanders through neighborhoods, skirts the campuses of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and Seton Hospital near 38th Street, borders the western edge of the University of Texas, travels through Pease Park, and ribbons through downtown Austin. The mouth of Shoal Creek, and the southern terminus of the trail, is located at Lady Bird Lake. Nearly 10 miles of trails and bikeways follow the creek from Highway 183 to Lady Bird Lake, providing a pathway for  cyclists, walkers, and runners. (shoalcreekconservancy.org)

Old oak trees line the trail and provide the perfect setting for photo ops…

And an occasional riparian plant with yellow berries…

Ball moss on oak trees…

Olivia, John, and Hugo check out this oak tree literally growing sideways…

Ah… Laurel Cherries pop with color…

This part of the trail is closed due to a landslide. Unfortunately people still hike through here, ignoring and disrespecting the closed trail signs.

Horse Tail plants?

A perfect spot for a picture of Jeff and me…

I think these trees are actually Live Oaks…

Hugo makes a friend…

Prickly Pear Cactus…

Spanish moss hangs like tinsel on oak trees…

Spanish moss and tangles of ball moss…

Mexican Buckeyes…

A memorial bench with a dedication plaque that will freak you out…

After food and a hike, you got it! It’s time for a short siesta before we start the evening.


First stop is BookPeople because, well our whole family is book people!

courtesy of Chih-Horng Kuo

Located in the heart of downtown at the corner of 6th and Lamar, this independent bookstore has been catering to the cravings of the bibliophiles of Austin since 1970. In 2005 BookPeople was voted Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly. (bookpeople.com)

courtesy of Sateesh Peddini

The children’s and young adult section of BookPeople is enormous, vibrant, and playful. Kids of all ages attend story times and book clubs. The bookstore also sponsors book fairs and author visits at local schools and hosts over 300 literary and author events a year.

courtesy of J LaCour

courtesy of Sateesh Peddini

And of course there’s a cafe called CoffeePeople serving warm and cold beverages, sandwiches, tamales, empanadas, breakfast tacos, pastries, and healthy snacks. It’s open 9AM-9PM 364 days a year, every day the store is open. BookPeople is closed Thanksgiving Day and may close early on some holidays. (bookpeople.com)

We all leave with some books we purchased! Book stores are so addictive!

Later, Olivia surprises me with a book she bought for me, one of her favorites…

It’s about Tara Westover, a girl born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho, so isolated from mainstream society that the first time she ever sets foot in a classroom is when she is 17 years-old. I look forward to reading this, Olivia, thank you! We’ll have a mini book club session and I will post more after I finish this memoir…


Happy Hour takes place at the Whole Foods Bar, a hop, skip, and a jump away from BookPeople.

wholefoodsmarket.com

We sit on high stools around a high circular table and sip on several glasses of:

We’re in the middle of a grocery store enjoying delicious selections of fermented grapes!

Before we leave, John and Olivia select 2 bottles of wine to take home with them. (Hmmmmm… just saying… for future reference and special occasions… worth remembering?)


Dinner tonight is at Black’s Barbecue on Guadalupe Street, located just north of the campus of the University of Texas, familiarly known as The Drag.

blacksbbq.com

I have to confess that I took these photos the next day…

But here’s the nighttime ambiance…

blacksbbq.com

blacksbbq.com

blacksbbq.com

According to the website, the Black family has been actively serving the barbecue community for over three generations, originally making a name for themselves at the Black’s BBQ family-owned restaurant in Lockhart, Texas.

The Guadalupe Street “Outpost” of the Original Black’s BBQ serves barbecue cooked fresh on the old Lockhart pits and hand delivered to the Austin location hot and fresh everyday.

Number of miles Austin is from Lockhart: 30

Number of hours Brisket is cooked: 14

Number of Sausage Rings made per week: 6,000

I don’t remember what we all eat, but it was delicious and we all leave with full and happy tummies.


What I like about Austin?

This is what I like most about Austin:

Beautiful, Beautiful Texas

And Delicious Too!

We survive the night without blankets and a lampshade. Shady characters come and go, more cigarette butts accumulate outside the room 2 doors down, and we discover the lock to our room is loosely attached to the door frame. But, we’ve got leftover Via 313 pizza squares in our mini freezer-fridge!


Our day begins at the Omlettry on Airport Blvd., an old-fashioned place that’s often equated with the old Austin where gingerbread pancakes, huevos rancheros, and hot coffee is served 7am-5pm daily. Kenny, the owner, insists on serving real food with natural ingredients. Everything is cooked to order and everything stays on the menu. (theomelettry.com)

…primal comfort food!

photo courtesy of Ron Mader


After picking up Hugo, we head to Zilker Park… 350 acres of hiking, biking, field sports, and scenic views. The Great Lawn is home to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, held annually since 2005 on 2 weekends in October.

We take a pleasant walk along part of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

austintexas.gov

Here are some highlights of our 3 mile out-and-back hike along Barton Creek and the section of the Colorado River known as Lady Bird Lake:

Scenic views of downtown Austin…

Aquatic wildlife…

A Cherry Laurel evergreen…

Heading to the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge along Lady Bird Lake…

The Pfluger Bridge, aka Lamar Pedestrian Bridge… Or as John named it for me, the “Hugh Jass Bridge”. Say that out loud.

The City of Austin Power Plant…

This building is the former Seaholm Power Plant commissioned in 1948 to meet the growing need for electricity in Austin. Originally called Power Plant No. 2, in 1960 it was renamed posthumously for Walter C. Seaholm, a prominent administrative figure of the city’s municipal facilities.

Seaholm served as Austin’s sole source of electric power from 1950-1959 until demand outpaced the 120 megawatts the plant could produce with all 5 boilers running. In 1989 the plant stopped providing power to the city and was used as a training facility until it closed entirely in 1996.

Today the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

According to an article written by David Weible in 2016 for savingplaces.org, the power plant was shut down for good in 1992.  The site sat nearly untouched for almost a decade becoming overgrown, disheveled, and forgotten. In 1997 the city of Austin decided to demolish the structure until a local group sprang into action to save it.

In 2005 a team was selected to redevelop the 7.8 acre site including the power plant itself.  Recognizing the historic significance of the building, the team saved as much of the old infrastructure as it could.

Redevelopment began in 2013 and was completed in late 2016. Today the old power plant site consists of residential spaces, commercial spaces, office spaces, green spaces, retail shops, and restaurants. (The History Behind One of Austin, Texas’ Hottest Development Properties)

savingplaces.org

After a coffee/water break, we head back…

A glimpse of the University of Texas Tower where Charles J. Whitman took control of the observation deck on August 1, 1966, and mass murdered 17 innocent people including his mother and his wife…


It’s cocktail hour and we are on our way to Hotel San Jose, a South Congress Avenue gathering place for locals and visitors alike, per its website.

google.com

Built in 1936 as a motor court, the property reopened in 2000 as a transformed 40-room urban bungalow-style hotel tucked behind stucco walls and set amidst lush garden courtyards. (sanjosehotel.com)

According to the hotel website, Liz Lambert left her job as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 1994 and returned home to Texas. While working in the Attorney General’s office in Austin, she used to hang out at the Continental Club on South Congress Avenue and fantasize about doing something with the old rundown 1930’s hotel across the street.

bunkhousegroup.com

At that time South Congress was a haven of drugs, crime and cyclical poverty. On a whim, Liz approached the owners of the San Jose motor court and found out they had just put the property up for sale!

Liz bought the hotel with the intention of renovating it one room at a time, but she ended up running the place in its existing state as a low rent residence for 3 years as she gathered funding for what was eventually a $3 million project. She chronicled her experiences with her residents on video camera creating a 90-minute documentary entitled The Last Days of the San Jose.

photo captured from trailer on You Tube

photo captured from trailer on You Tube

An article by Anne S. Lewis in the Austin Chronicle 2005 entitled, Anybody’s Home?, describes the documentary as “on the surface, a seemingly straightforward tale, but oh, the wash of contradictory emotions this doc sets in play and the layers of knotty unanswerable questions – moral, ethical, sociological – and city planning issues it raises.”

You can view a 3-minute trailer on YouTube.

The outdoor bar is the perfect venue for its signature drink, a charcoal margarita. Of course I have to have one!

The frozen rose is another delicious favorite. Olivia and I say cheers!

As I approach our table with another round, I am carrying my charcoal concoction…

Can you tell we’re having a really good time together?

And Hugo too…


We regroup and refresh at our own residences for a bit, and grab dinner at Taco Flats on Burnet Road. Yum!

tacoflats.com

tacoflats.com

tacoflats.com


We end our gloriously beautiful and delicious day just down the street at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, one of Austin’s honky-tonk country music venues.

Oh, and before I forget, you need to know that The Little Longhorn Saloon is home to Chicken Shit Bingo. I’m not making this up.

do512.com, courtesy of Carrie Kuenzi 

According to theculturetrip.com, all ages are welcome to participate in this unique version of bingo which involves chickens and chicken feed. For a few dollars donation, participants purchase tickets in line. Each ticket corresponds to a number on the bingo table. If the chicken poops on your number, you win a cash prize.

austinchronicle.com

And that’s the rest of the story!


So, it’s a wrap! Laughed out, tummies full, tired… we all go home to a good night’s sleep. No doubt about it, we are having a wonderful time in Austin with John and Olivia! Thank you for being such wonderful hosts.

One last pic… the Capitol Building as seen from Burnet Road…

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Van Horn to Austin… Ki-yip-pee-yi!

google maps

Fortunately, today’s drive is easy peasy compared to yesterday’s. Unfortunately, as we pack the car and hit the highway, I discover shards of red plastic on the ground next to our car. I specifically remember only seeing tangerine peels lying on the ground in the parking space last night, so the red pieces of plastic were new. Fortunately, the shards are not from our car. Unfortunately, however, someone with a white vehicle backed into us while we were parked here overnight.

Really?

The Motel 6 where we stayed didn’t look too sketchy until we went inside to register, park the car, and open the door to our room.

 google.com

Fortunately, we only needed a bed and bathroom.


The stretch through central Texas on I-10 to US-290 is rather desolate and uninteresting but every mile brings us closer to John and Olivia.

About 80 miles from Austin, we reach Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. The town was founded in 1846 when the first German immigrants arrived in Texas and settled here. Nicknamed Fritztown and The Burg, the town of some 10,500 residents was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia and is home to Texas German, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who refused to learn English.

Fredericksburg is the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet in World War II.

worldwar2facts.org

When Lyndon B. Johnson became President of the United States on November 22, 1963, the world focused attention on the Texas White House at nearby Stonewall, LBJ’s birthplace. Stonewall, just 20 minutes away from Fredericksburg, is also where he is buried on his beloved ranch that has become the Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks. During his presidency the Johnsons attended church in Fredericksburg and personally escorted dignitaries around the German town, thus attracting tourists to the area and placing it on the map as a destination to visit.

tpwd.texas.go 

Today Fredericksburg is described as “the quaint town… comfortably nestled between… San Antonio and Austin. It is dripping with old world customs and traditions and authentic German roots… from the city square to the sprawling vineyards and beirgartens.” Climb Enchanted Rock, visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, stay in fancy, German-style digs, tour LBJ’s ranch, sip your way along wine trails, pluck wildflowers at Wildseed Farms, stroll through Main Street, indulge in German cuisine. (southernliving.com)


At last! We arrive in Austin around 3:30.

Fortunately, the Super 8 Motel, where we are spending the next 4 nights, is less than 2 miles from Olivia and John’s place. Unfortunately, the clientele is questionable, to say the least… as in: a lot of heavy-set girls with bare midriffs in high heels carrying overnight bags are constantly coming and going, the walkway outside the rooms are littered with cigarette butts, a bare- chested man with long gray hair sits outside his room, facing his door… you get the picture, right?

google.com

Fortunately, we are only sleeping here. Unfortunately, our room has 2 lamps but only one has a lamp shade. Fortunately, the nightly fee is $60. Unfortunately, we discover we have no blankets, only a sheet and bedspread. Fortunately, the management is friendly and courteous. Unfortunately, they do not do anything about it. Fortunately, the nights are not cool enough that we need a blanket. Unfortunately, the mini-fridge needs defrosting.

Fortunately, we have a mini-fridge.


We drive to Genard Street where John and Hugo are waiting for us. Olivia is at UT and will join us later. Their house is adorable, but I now realize that I didn’t take one picture, neither inside or out, of their place! Eat-in kitchen, living room, 2 bedrooms, and 2 baths… So great to be here!

Off we go with Hugo to Spider House, a dog friendly patio bar and ballroom blanketed in Christmas lights.

Olivia walks over from the University of Texas, which is about a half mile away, and joins us. Did I already mention how great it is to be here?

I keep looking around and Jeff and I are absolutely the oldest people here! So cool!


John pops in to a local food mart to pick up some wine and snacks before we return home and relax. We end the evening with a takeout order of Detroit-style pizza from Via 313.

According to their website:

“This is why Via 313 exists: to ENJOY the pizza we grew up with. It’s called square, but it’s really rectangular, and baked in metal trays, just like the ones used on the automotive assembly lines at the Big Three. But instead of being filled with metal parts, ours are filled with the finest pizza ingredients we could source.” (via313.com)

All I can say is wow! What deliciously decadent pieces of pizza! John ordered 3 different kinds…

The Cadillac

austinchronicle.com

The Rocket

yelp.com, courtesy of Sarath P.

The 500

zmenu.com

Are you sure I already mentioned how great it is to be here?

Like a Band of Gypsies… Wandering to Weatherford, Texas

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MARCH 21, 2016

First of all, I would like to address my use of the word “gypsy” on my website and blog. I do not use this term derogatorily. For me a gypsy reflects my free spirit and sense of adventure. My Eastern-European roots are planted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where my ancestors probably lived the life of peasants and most likely were from the Roma class. So, I use this word with endearment as it so appropriately fits my nomadic lifestyle of today.

Secondly, yes, that is an oil well in yesterday’s sunset photo, an active one no less, right outside the front of the RV!

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Our destination today has no twists or turns, well almost. We leave Odessa’s Mesquite Oasis RV Park and hit the road, I-20 East, for Weatherford, TX.

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And, yes, we have strayed from our original plans a bit as we are learning that the scenic route does not always live up to its name.

The oil fields and desert unfold into a greener landscape of trees and grass.

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Our off-highway adventure begins as we take the exit for Mineral Wells, Texas en route to West End RV Park, our resting place for the evening. We head north for 14 miles following the Garmin’s directions. We pass several RV parks along the way and are already calculating a Plan B and a Plan C. Garmin has us turning east again for another 5 miles and finally we head north for 5 more before we turn into the driveway of West End RV Park in Weatherford. (I don’t know what it is west of!)

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We keep driving.

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And finally we are greeted by several dogs running loose and a man who looks like he stepped out of a Larry McMurtry novel. This whole place looks like a scene from one of his novels!

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The owner guides us into our spot and offers to help us hook up to 30 amps and water. Jeff pays him the $10 Passport America fee and asks him if he wants to see our membership card. He just smiles and says, “If you found us on Passport America and traveled all the way out here and still want to stay, that’s enough for me.” Then he adds, “I’ve never seen a gas motorhome that big.”

So here we are for the evening in another remote place. Roosters crow, dogs run loose, pickup trucks come and go. It’s wonderful!

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The sun goes down.

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The moon and Jupiter wink at us. (Look closely for the tiny white dot to the left of the moon.) We settle in for the night.

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What’s What With Weatherford:

  • The area grew up around the coming of the railroad in 1880.
  • In 1908 the Santa Fe Depot  was built under the specifications of the Jim Crow laws. The waiting rooms were separated by the ticket office.
  • Larry McMurtry based his novel, Lonesome Dove, on cattle driver Oliver Loving’s dying wish that he be buried in Parker County. Charles Goodnight brought his body back by wagon traveling 600 miles from New Mexico to bury him in the Weatherford Cemetery.
  • Goodnight created the first chuck wagon that catered to cowboys on cattle drives.
  • Mary Martin, noted for her portrayal of Peter Pan on Broadway and for being the mother of actor, Larry Hagman of the TV show, Dallas, was born and lived in Weatherford.
  • Her statue is outside of the library. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

image waymarking.com

Goin’ Places That I’ve Never Been… Odessa, Texas

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MARCH 20, 2016

We leave Edgington RV Park with a friendly reminder:

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Today we drive the scenic route, 82, through the Lincoln National Forest passing through the village of Cloudcroft and the town of Artesia.  We gain over 4,600 feet in elevation in the first 17 miles of this stretch. And up we go!

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(Yesterday I tried my best to remove the bird poop from the window, but today I have streaks…)

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Cloudcroft Curiosities:

  • With its elevation of 8,600 feet, it is one of the highest locations in the United States.
  • The Lodge at Cloudcroft hosted famous guests including Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Pancho Villa.
  • Conrad Hilton managed this resort lodge in the 1930s. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

We head to Artesia.

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About Artesia:

  • In 1903 an artesian aquifer was discovered in the area, hence the name.
  • The artesian wells were depleted in the 1920s.
  • The former Abo Elementary School was completely underground so it could also function as a fallout shelter in the 1960s.
  • The city has a residential training program for the United States Border Patrol, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the US Air Marshals. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

image flickr.com

image rightspeak.net

After passing through Artesia we head toward Hobbs which borders Texas. Again we defy the Garmin’s suggested route as we continue on Highway 82.

Lots of oil wells pumping! I mean lots! We can smell the oil from inside the RV.

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We arrive at Hobbs with no place to pull over for the night. Our 2 memberships, Passport America and Good Sam’s Club offer no help so I consult the Garmin and Google. I call 2 promising places in Hobbs but Jeff and I decide we can get a better price if we continue driving into Texas. And sure enough, the first place I call in Seminole, TX, Avery RV Park, is priced just right! It’s about 15 miles south of our route. “So what,” Jeff pipes in, “We are on an adventure!” And then we turn down a paved-over gravel road and travel for another 5 miles. Jeff starts looking upset as we arrive, per the Garmin’s directions, in the middle of nowhere. “It’s an adventure,” I remind him. Jeff stops and calls Avery RV Park but the line is busy. Frustrated, we decide to abandon our search for the RV Park and continue driving until we end up on Highway 385 heading south toward Odessa, TX. By now I am pouring wine to drink and eating tortilla chips in the back of the RV.

We pull off the road and I call an RV Park in Odessa. The woman and I become instant friends on the phone as she is an older and wiser gal who picks up on the tension between Jeff and myself. She has story after story and gives me detailed directions to the Mesquite Oasis RV Park. At last we pull into Site 98 for the evening.

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And we bite the dusk for the night…

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Odessa Odds and Ends:

  • In 1881 the area was a water stop for cattle and a shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railroad.
  • In 1927 oil was discovered and sustained the economy.
  • As the cycle of booms and busts, however, affected its economic growth and stability, Odessa has focused its efforts to attract new business opportunities.
  • H.G. Bissinger’s book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, is based on the 1988 football season of Permian High School.
  • Author James Michener describes Odessa as a city where “you are more likely to be murdered… than in any other city in the nation,” in his book, Texas.
  • In 2013 Odessa had the highest crime rate of any city in Texas. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

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