Lone Star State

Getting Away

My first day towing the new rig was designed to be a short drive. As I was headed toward Austin to visit the state capitol (turns out, I didn’t) I mapped out a state park that was sorta en-route. Mother Neff, west of Temple, is an understated but nice park and I landed a superb campsite—one of the nicest in a state park. After a short hike in the morning to kick a tree stump and try to break my toe, I headed down the road to McKinney Falls State Park.

This campsite was less inviting and my apprehension about unhooking the fiver from the truck was discernible. But all went well and the rig stayed where I parked her. The auto-leveling system even handled the grade. Very pleased.

I headed into town to grab lunch at Lazarus Brewing where the carnitas tacos were good and my flight of tasters was fair—and then hit REI for a new pair of boots because hiking in athletic shoes is apparently stupid. Got some good boots.

New flash: Austin traffic sucks! I decided that if I was gonna visit the state capitol it’d be another time. For this trip, I’d hang at the park, check out the hiking trails and lay low before heading west. After Friday’s hike I scouted out St Elmo Brewing, whose Merle is an excellent oaked Czech Pilsner. Highly recommend!

After some tax return work (yuck) in the morning I headed out on another couple-hour drive to Fredericksburg and a free overnight at Messina Hof Winery.

Saturday brought a 385 mile, 7-hour drive from Fredericksburg to the Stillwell Store campground, 8 miles outside Big Bend National Park. Lots of good border patrol activity going on as I neared Del Rio; cleared a couple checkpoints. And now I’ve got enough miles with the new rig to get a feel for its fuel economy versus my previous, 5,000 pound lighter and less-tall trailer. The numbers did not go the direction I had optimistically hoped, lol.

Big Bend

Unable to join church online because there was no internet in the campground, I spent all day Sunday checking out the national park. I’ve wanted to come here for 30 years but it’s so dang far from anywhere! But it is worth it! Despite being spring break and the park being fairly crowded (no in-park campsites available), the place is so big you feel like it’s yours alone. And given that it’s spring, the desert was in full bloom! I know a blue bonnet when I see one but that’s about the extent of my flora knowledge. Suffice to say, the desert floor was painted in reds, yellows, whites and blues. Simply spectacular. A few of the images in the slideshow fail to capture the incredible blue bonnet field I came across. And the smells were amazing. God does an incredible job!

Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park

The 30-mile Ross Maxwell  Scenic Drive is aptly named. This road winds throughout the park and offers great views and side trips. It eventually ends at Santa Elena Canyon where the Rio Grande spills out into the valley floor. I chose to not backtrack but take Old Maverick road toward Terlingua. The speed limit on this dirt road is posted 25 MPH but the severe washboard surface kept me to about 15. Nevertheless it’s another pretty road and led me straight to Terlingua.

Quickly viewed the iconic Terlinqua cemetery and stopped in for some (appropriately) very good chili at the El Dorado hotel.

Texas Mountains!

Monday’s drive was through the Davis Mountains of West Texas and Guadalupe National Park. Who knew Texas had real mountains? Reminded me of the San Gabriels in Southern California. Made for a really enjoyable drive (except for 30 miles of I-10 blahs). Wrapped up the day with a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. More on that in the New Mexico post…


Texas Woods

Day one is in the books. I got away from G’Vine about 11am and headed south. Good trip. Tons of beautiful wildflowers along Interstate 45—yellows, pinks, reds, whites, blues. Really pretty stuff.

The trailer (she still needs a name I suppose) followed along pretty well. But I did coax her with a loving “c’mon B” a couple times when road conditions on the smaller state highway caused some unexpected sway action. I’ve moved my heavy tool boxes from the front storage bin to my truck bed to unload trailer tongue weight; we’ll see if that straightens B out some.

Martin Dies is a cool state park. Lotsa trees, lotsa water, lotsa lotsa lotsa skeeters. Grilled up some Trader Joe’s marinated chicken & zucchini and paired that with a Franciscan Merlot. And with that, the day is a wrap! Headed to the Big Easy tomorrow.