Tag Archive: Texas


Why not visit the Southeast.

I was excited to see the Southeast. I met a senior gentleman the other day at a local coffee shop who told me he’d rather visit West Africa than the Southeastern US and as far as driving with dogs, he said, well, I want to have someone to talk to. He then started in on his list of the counties, I tuned out, I couldn’t imagine him being better company than my canines so I left him to his writing. He’s not alone in his dislike of the South. Me, I want to see it all, if I haven’t been there I’m ready to go which is most of the world. There are ecosystems to discover, natural forces, wildlife, history, the people, the built environment, local food; bring it on!

I headed to Austin with the warning that it might not be doable given I was driving an RV. I wound up on a paid expressway as I’d approached Georgetown and was determined to remain off of these. I still don’t know what driving on them costs. Billing is by mail, no signs are posted as to rates. Congestion wasn’t bad until I arrived in Austin. I took a driving tour of the city. It was filled with co-ed pedestrians, motorists, pickups and SUVs, heavy gridlock, cyclists, segways, scooters. It was Saturday everyone intent on getting somewhere other than where they were by whatever means they could.  I had an image of no one staying at home in preference of covering ground even if there was nowhere in particular to go.  Growing too fast? It was true, not an easy place for an RV, even a little one so I aborted an idea to hang out, expecting fun in San Antonio. Well, really I was, seemed I picked their Fiesta and if I thought Austin had a lot of gridlock, oh my!

Fiesta® San Antonio started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. That historic commemoration still takes place, but for more than a century, Fiesta® has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures. Fiesta® has evolved into one of this nation’s premier festivals with an economic impact of more than $340 million for the Alamo City. Funds raised by official Fiesta® events provide services to San Antonio citizens throughout the year.

I was jammed in roadblocks, not having a good idea where I was going I could not get away from the congestion.  I finally learned that most of the city was shut down for the Fiesta. Would up driving back and forth, trying to see stuff, trying to find my way while avoiding the entire central district.  The Alamo and River Walk would have to wait for another time.

Drove to Braunig Lake Park but did not stay, likely would have been a an okay place to drycamp with all the fishing people. Spent the night at a TA Travel Center near San Antonio. when I woke in the morning there were several cars with towels stuffed in their windows, snuggled next to my van, Made me feel like mamma van.

In the morning I manged to avoid the Fiesta, went to the Koffee Kup for breakfast, interesting chat about sustainable agriculture with the young woman serving me, she telling me and filling my heart with talk of how important it is to care for the land. Took a morning walk at Woodlawn Lake Park including a short distance on the the city trail across the street.

There was a nature trail here with native Texas plants. Dogs and I stopped and looked at each tree and flower.

I did not stop in Houston. It was a strange feeling, sad and moody as I thought about my friend and ex-dance partner, Steve Laib. He’d wanted to reconnect and hoped that when I passed near Cypress we could meet again. His wife did not agree and forced him to silence; she did not let me know of his passing. He and his bride stopped to visit a long time ago in Santa Barbara not long after their wedding I’d wished them happiness. I had feelings of anger, loss and confusion and a good bit of amazement at how long it took to cross Houston. By the time I was out of the city I felt I’d let go of my resentment. I would have loved to have seen Steve, I hope he was happy. This was an unexpected catharsis, driving alone one has time to think, to process feelings, to dream.

I was rewarded by a lovely night on the Gulf at Fort Anahuac County Park. Yeah for Texas! I had this recreation area almost completely to myself overnight, one other RVer on the other side.  Folks were fishing here, I asked the sheriff if I could spend the night and he said, sure no problem but you might want to park up on the hill, I was down on the spit by the water when I asked him. He explained about the mosquitoes. I asked him who to pay or to register with, his answer, it’s Sunday don’t worry about it. Beautiful spot, ran around with the dogs. I wound up here as the upper areas with power had burrs in the grass. I drycamped and it was perfect, a bit windy.  Didn’t let the dogs swim as there were potential of alligators or sharks. Some said, nah, their dogs swam all the time others said they’d seen them. Chatted with local folks down with their families fishing for the day, then they all went home. Later in the season I image this park gets crowded. I was in heaven being on my own with the birds and the gulf. Couldn’t help but laugh at the the RV Parks I’d passed all crammed in with no view. Let the dogs run, play ball and ramble about in the morning. Bathroom was a bit trashed but I didn’t care.

 

 

Sentimental view of the battlefield, 19th Century. Samuel Chamberlain. “on the battlefield the Night After the Battle” watercolor and gouache.

The rest stop facilitates in Texas double as storm shelters. They tend to have delightful mosaics. Yeah for Texas!

 

I am not now currently on the road. This is my disclaimer, I am back in Santa Barbara, California so the weather and events you will read about have come and gone. My blog for this trip will be a recall, and as asked, will include where I camped, what I paid and what I saw. Comments welcome.

Oh boy, a camping trip! Mason and Jackson.

Jeana checks out “her spot”

I left town on the west coast knowing I wanted to take the southern route, touch the Atlantic sea and return through the Great Smokey’s either via Interstate 40 or back to I-10.  I left on Sunday April 21st, 2019, visited Mom and Dino in the SFV on the way to my first night at the free dry camp, Chiriaco Summit (GPS: 33.663864, -115.723976)  30 miles east of Indio (or 70 miles west of Blythe,) behind the General Patton Museum. There are no facilities but on the pull off below there is the museum, gift shop, post office, cafe, convenience store, gas station and truck parking.

There’s a camp host who will check with you, you can use any open designated site, fairly level, with a fire ring, a view of the desert and the I-10 below. Large gravel sites, some road noise. Lots of room, friendly, privately owned, be careful of snakes. I wouldn’t let dogs run free here, plenty of walking. I’ve stayed a few times and would absolutely stay again. Night skies, sunsets are beautiful, strong Verizon signal too.

My idea was to head east quickly so I was geared for long driving days,  didn’t want to get burned out getting across the country. Austin is 1,474 miles from Santa Barbara, that was my first point of interest.

 

As I approached Deming, New Mexico I noticed the sky ahead was lighting up, like you’d see for a festival. It was on the horizon off to the right in a circular bowl shape. The lights were so steady and continuous that it didn’t occur to me that it might be caused by natural means rather than technology. Darn ignorance of a California driver!!! I kept going without a care wanting to make time, the sky was clouding over. Ho-hum, I was fascinated by the light show, at least I can say that about my ignorance. And then I was in Deming. It was lightening! I’d never seen such a mass of continual and steady strikes, the thunder was reverberating as if I was in the center of a cresending symphony written by a madman. Well I could drive past I thought, it didn’t look so spooky…  did I mention I’m from California, land of earthquakes and fires, we don’t have the sky doing this kinda thing to us. There were other cars and lots of trucks on the Interstate. I was enjoying being able to drive in the dusk. The closer I got the more intense the storm became. Kind of like it was happy to see an old camper van stuffed full dogs and a solitary female driver and wanted to greet us. All of a sudden just as we entered town, someone turned Niagara Falls on top of us. The wind started battering us, and the thunder!!! The thunder was striking every moment and it was hitting the highway in a fantastic display. To my credit I took the van off the Interstate, I was shaking so hard I could barely hold the wheel against the wind. My dogs were terrified. I pulled into a parking lot and my terror intensified as I realized this was not going to stop and the likelihood of enduring the onslaught unscathed in this location was risky so I did the only thing I could think of, I got back on the Interstate and followed a big semi-truck. I had to settle the dogs who all wanted to be in my lap. They did not believe me that we would all be just fine, I wasn’t exactly reeking in confidence.  Pulled out at about 10 mph, remarkably my little LT Daisy pulled up the hill and out of this depression which was turning into a water park. As soon as we got up the hill the thunder stopped, the flooding stooped. I was amazed. Seems I had made the right choice.

Spent that night at Sunland Casino in El Paso, I was very tired, it was dark and the same as my last time through this area, the roadways were torn up with closed freeway exits and bizarre detours, roadblocks with quick unexpected turns into a dark unknown. This is were I discovered my headlights with their new housing were disgustedly insufficient, at least if I cared about where I might be going. I paid $15 for electric and water, neither of which I used or needed. Was not impressed with the bright overhead lights and all the noise; it’s a spot in the parking lot, there is security so depends on what you’re looking for.  Never saw my neighbors but made friends with the parking security guy, he loved the dogs, talked to me about the weather and gave me a ride a few times back and forth from parking to the casino. I was so shaken I had little strenght left for walking. I tried to buy a hot meal, that was hopeless, the workers at the casino didn’t know what they severed and they were about to close, the menu was flashing on and off overhead, couldn’t read it, they kept offering me a hamburger – I don’t eat red meat. I gave up and had something cold and snacky from my cupboard. Would not stay there again. A hot shower to calm my nerves would have been great. They also have a hotel and a racetrack.  The odd thing was how once in Texas the Deming storm seemed unreal.

Somewhere Texas, loving the wildflowers.

Checking out the caverns.

The night after I stayed at the Caverns of Sonora.  I did not tour the caverns, dogs and I walked all over, was a place to rest, exercise the dogs and as such was fine. Hardly anyone there, so nice and peaceful. The dogs of course attract attention even if there are only a few people. Can’t remember what I paid, am thinking it was about $20.

Checking out the geology!

It was late to be seeing my fellow Lagotto breeder friends in Georgetown (Austin, TX) so I headed to the nearby reservoir. Tons of traffic. Had already checked with my friends and they advised not camping in Georgetown due to the Red Poppy Festival which we went to during my visit.  Red poppies from Europe arrived in Georgetown after WWI and have established themselves with natural reseeding. When they bloom there is a street party.

I passed through Marble Falls with its lakes and wineries, took a stroll through Fredericksburg; tried to get a cappuccino. The coffee place was closed so I tried the natural food store next to it, they had coffee. Oh my, Virginia!!!  Or rather Texas!!! This shop actually wanted $6.50 for a cap!!!  I thought I’d seen expensive prices for coffee drinks, so I asked if it was special coffee, no the espresso wasn’t that expensive so I ordered 2 shots and had her top it off with some oat milk, the total price $1.50! Go figure?  It’s a German town, shopping, cuisine, art, theater, wine, history, film festivals, spas, music, peaches in season. I popped into a few galleries and took the dogs for a walk at their central park.

Run, did mom say RUN!!!

Camped that night at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area for $12.  Was almost alone there so I let the dogs run free. And run and run and run. I was at first thinking, I could let them run and they wouldn’t instantaneously race across the open fields and plunge with utter delight into the water!!!  Nah, what kind of Lagotto would do that! So for almost 2 hours my poor van fevered badly stressed Lagotti played and ran and swam, Mason took a nap. I wish I could give them a place like this all the time. There are almost 10 miles of trails.  I learned from the gardener the next day that normally this is one of the top places to see the Texas Bluebonnets; this year the masses of flowers were underwater, flooded. I still thought the flowers were stunning along with the butterflies, bees and the gorgeous birds. Life was bursting. I would stay here again in a heartbeat, of course I was spoiled  having the park almost to myself. It was a little piece of heaven in spite of two of my ever so sweet Lagotti rolling in sticky mud and thick layers of burs and stickers right after we’d finished our run and I’d given them baths, ah-huh, had to do that all over plus wrestle the nasty stuff out of their coats. No rest for the dog mom! They did not understand the look on my face but I could see Mason, my dry one, smirking!

At dusk, sill almost alone here.

Spent the morning loving the flooded lake, then when I left I tried to take a scenic route to Georgetown, somehow that failed, mostly I found traffic. I took a wrong turn and missed the falls. I arrived at the perfect time in Georgetown, I’d just settled into a parking lot when Judith texted me. We, Judith, John and their two Lagotti and me and my bunch, met at lovely park for a walk. Berry Springs Park and Reserves, laced with beauty pecan and oak trees, Judith wondered if there were truffles. We walked around the lake and found a spot for the dogs to get wet and cool before heading for their home.

Five Lagotto all sitting in a row, amazing!

I learned how much and vigorously it rains in Georgetown and how the heat does not diminish at night. I parked comfortably in their driveway after chatting and relaxing with all the dogs running around. They treated me to a natural delicious dinner, the restaurant was upstairs in an unmarked building, I don’t know how you’d find it if you didn’t know it was there. Of course I don’t like elevators but it was fine, took the stairs after eating going down, the food was really good, then we walked around the Red Poppy Festival, snagged some wine and kept walking and talking, looking around. We stopped at a hat shop, there’s far more to a good Western hat than I ever knew. Returned to their home for dog talk, one of my favorite subjects!  Judith treated me to a really cool healthy homemade pancake breakfast and we took off to learn about Pecan Truffles. Our dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo are bred to find truffles so it’s always exciting to find where they grow and potentially let them do what the breed is meant to do.

One very appreciated thing Judith shared with me was a new weather app:  actually I have two, Storm Radar and MyRadar, now I could receive real time alerts for severe weather.

They do things different in Texas, apparently a cactus and a cow are types of types of trucks! Not so RVs! 

Okay, am taking a break ….  Will be back with the next review soon. I was very excited having made it this far all the way out to Austin especially with what happened in Deming. I had an idea I could relax after this.

Pulling into Texas

John and Judith Martin along with their Lagotto crew and I decided to camp together in El Paso. They have a Rialta, which they claim drives just like a car!  That must be great! I’d already passed the KOA they’d found and drove back getting somewhat lost in the process. We both lamented the KOA we landed at. It could have doubled as a landing field for mini UFOs, all dust and gravel, tons of round lights on sticks all lined up in massive rows, few amenities.

El Paso KOA next to John and Judith.

The small dog park was too muddy to use so we used the kids play area, definitely not what comes to mind as a KOA. Windy out there and barren. Nice to spend the time together chatting with Judith about the Club.  John told me about teaching “Art Materials and Techniques,” will absolutely look into this. I was very touched that they’d spent time thinking about ideas for me, how I can survive and even prosper. I gave them one of my Mom’s lemons. I felt a bit blessed that night with my rig parked next to theirs. I woke early and found a nearby off leash dog park.

My plan was to head south to San Antonio and Austin; didn’t look too far on the map, then shoot back up to Ft Worth. The manager at the KOA suggested I take 375 Trans Mountain loop and to be sure and look down and see the view as a more interesting route. He told me the KOA had once been part of the Camping World next to it but had been a KOA for the last 2 years.  The winds and dust storms could be brutal, he said it was near impossible to get grass to grow. They had an entire second lot, bigger than the one we camped on studded out with RV power boxes and those lights on lollipop sticks. Was not a fun place but since we weren’t blown to smithereens it was okay.

Time was confusing as I crossed time zones, all though Texas and beyond I’d go to sleep on local time and wake on California time. That put me short of sleep every night. The other thing about Texas is the distances. On the map somehow it doesn’t look bad; in real-time there is the wind and not being able to keep up with the 80 mph speed limit amid plethora of semi’s (I’d say trucks outnumbered cars 8 to 1.)  Needing to do a little in-town shopping I bypassed the scenic loop for speed and worry about the forces of nature, figuring the “touring section” would begin after the dog show. Was a lot of construction on I-10 slowing things down as it was.

Along somewhat of the same thinking, mostly it was the wind making driving extra tiring I took the turn northeast on I-20, I was still thinking if the wind let up I might have time to buzz down south, that’s where the wildflower blue spring blooms were happening. Along my route I saw dust and oil drilling. Okay somewhere about this time I was wondering why the Specialty had to be in Ft Worth, over 1,500 miles one way. The battering wind would only be a warm up for the real thing. After innumerable full RV Parks that been turned into oil worker camps and fully booked hotels I landed at Monahans Sandhills State Park west of Odessa. Plugged in and banged on the air conditioner, it was hot! Sand dunes with no ocean was not making sense to me. The sand is soft, blowy, powdery; once it cooled off we hiked around but not too far off the road. That sticky sand would only further mat my dog’s coats, I wondered about them breathing it.  Was a peaceful evening being far enough off the hwy to see stars.

Two other single camper women came by to chat. The two of them were each driving an older Born Free Class B van, one had a dog with her. Conversation centered on projects to keep our rigs running and pretty, dogs and places to go.  They told me about a Dinosaur Board for the Dometic Refrigerator, mine had quit running on AC or 12Volt and was limited to only propane. It’s a replacement control board and now on my list for repairs. The new carbon monoxide alarm I installed went haywire that night necessitating a disconnect. Jackson was up and therefore me, most of the night. Taking him out in the quite stars, with the other few distant campers asleep was kinda dreamy. In the morning Mason was starting to get sick as well.

 

 

Notes from the women I met: Someday check out Davis Bayou Campground and Seminal Lake Corp of Engineers.  Also Ft Davis Mountain State Park Texas…  2nd scenic loop near the observatory.