Saturday, May 31, 2008

Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ

We are camped on the north side of Tucson in Catalina State Park. Beautiful mountain vistas. Amazing how different the same mountains can look depending on the time of day. The only problem with this park is, like the rest of this area, a lack of shade.
Other than that, the scenery is spectacular and it is fun to watch the rabbits, ground squirrels, road runners, lizards, and other critters that inhabit the park. Just don't want to run into any bobcats or javelinas or rattlesnakes. For that matter, no tarantulas or scorpions either.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ft. Davis to Tucson

En route to Tucson, we had an overnight stop in Las Cruces, NM. Not much to report from there. Walked through La Mesilla - the old town part of Las Cruces. It was a hangout for Billy the Kid and at one time in the La Mesilla courthouse he was sentenced to hang for killing the Sheriff. However, he escaped and lived to kill another day.

Casey is not too fond of riding in the motorhome. As much as she likes riding in a car, apparently the motorhome is too much noise or bouncing around for her. So, Monte fashioned a 'dog cave' out of one of the dinette bench storage compartments. Casey seems to really like it but, can only use it when Chief vacates...

We arrived in Tucson on Friday, May 30, 2008, 2 hours before we thought we got to Tucson. The confusion was caused by Shelley. Actually, Arizona caused the confusion. When we drove across the Texas state line into New Mexico on Thursday, Shelley announced that she was going to stay on Central Time rather than moving to Mountain time because the next day they would be in Arizona and Arizona does not observe daylight savings time so they would be back on Central time one day later (confused yet?).

HOWEVER, when we arrived in Tucson Shelley called Bill and Sandi Lake, who we would be visiting on Saturday, she found out that Arizona is on Pacific time during the summer. So much for not changing the clocks – now we had to jump 2 hours ahead. The 2 hour gain is nice, until bedtime. When our bodies said 9pm the clock now said 7pm. The dogs were not thrilled either as they wanted to be fed at 5 Central time, which is 3 Pacific. They had to wait until 5 Pacific and they thought that they were going to actually starve to death – happily, they did not.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Del Rio, TX to Ft. Davis, TX

We headed out of San Antonio on Tuesday with the intent of spending 2 nights at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX. After arriving in Del Rio and doing a quick tour of the area we determined that 1 night was plenty. Nice campground on the base but we could not see that there was any 'tourist' stuff to do in Del Rio. So, Wednesday morning – Westward Ho.

About an hour west of Del Rio is Langtry, TX. Home of the Judge Roy Bean Museum. Monte was sure that this was going to be a 'Walnut Moment Stop' (if you don't know what that is, you don't watch enough TV commercials). However, it turned out to be a very well done museum and adjacent cactus garden. Please see following blog post for more on Judge Roy Bean.

After leaving Langtry we continued on through southwest Texas on US 90. The altitude went from 1,400' to almost 5,000' (Somehow it does not seem right that we are at the same altitude as Denver). A very gradual climb, as we traversed the Del Norte Mountains and then the Davis Mountains. It was nice to be off of and away from the hustle of the Interstate.

One of the more interesting sights along the road were the Border Patrol vehicles. We never saw any Border Patrolmen, except at a checkpoint, but they were obviously out doing their job as evidenced by the vehicles parked at the edge of the desert in several locations and the helicopters flying in the same general vicinity.

We have been amazed at the lack of RVs on the roads. Apparently the gas and diesel prices are taking their toll on early summer travel plans. Will just have to wait and see as our trip progresses and we get more into the summer travel season if we start seeing more RVs. Today we saw diesel for $5 per gallon.

As I write this, we are camped at the city of Ft. Davis, TX. After reading about this area, this is where we should have planned to spend a couple of days. Lots to do here and lots of history. However, you will not be subjected to reading about it since we are not doing it.

Nothing planned for the next couple of days. Just travel on to Tucson where we should arrive on Friday. But you never know – we might just have a Roy Bean Moment between now and then.

Judge Roy Bean "the Law West of the Pecos"

This is entirely plagiarized from an article on the Internet. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Of the many colorful characters who have become legends of the Old West. "Hanging Judge Roy Bean," who held court sessions in his saloon along the Rio Grande River in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, remains one of the more fascinating.

According to the myth, Roy Bean named his saloon and town after the love of his life, Lily Langtry, a British actress he'd never met. Calling himself the "Law West of the Pecos," he is reputed to have kept a pet bear in his courtroom and sentenced dozens to the gallows, saying "Hang 'em first, try 'em later." (at the most, one horse thief was hanged). Like most such legends, separating fact from fiction is not always so easy.

In 1882, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad hired crews to link San Antonio with El Paso, Texas across 530 miles of scorching Chihuahuan Desert, infested with bobcats, rattlesnakes and scorpions (locally called vinegaroons by local Texans). Fleeing his marriage and illegal businesses in San Antonio, Roy headed to Vinegaroon to become a saloonkeeper, serving railroad workers whiskey from a tent. As his own best customer, he was often drunk and disorderly.

But with the nearest courtroom a week's ride away, and County Commissioners eager to establish some sort of local law enforcement. They appointed Roy Bean Justice of the Peace for Precinct No. 6, Pecos County, Texas. Roy was just crazy, or drunk enough to accept. He packed up and moved north from Vinegaroon to a small tent city on a bluff above the Rio Grande named Langtry in honor of a railroad boss who had run the Southern Pacific's tracks through it.
The name also happened to belong to a beautiful British actress, Lillie Langtry Roy had read about and become enchanted with. Roy built a small saloon, he named the Jersey Lilly (Lillie's moniker) which also served as his home. He hung a tattered picture of Miss Lillie behind the bar, and above the door, posted signs proclaiming "ICE COLD BEER" and "LAW WEST OF THE PECOS." From here Roy Bean began dispensing liquor, justice and various tall tales, including that he himself had named the town for actress Lillie Langtry.

Roy Bean's justice was not complicated by legalities; it was characterized by greed, prejudice, a little common sense and lots of colorful language. "It is the judgment of this court that you are hereby tried and convicted of illegally and unlawfully committing certain grave offenses against the peace and dignity of the State of Texas, particularly in my bailiwick," was a typical Bean ruling. "I fine you two dollars; then get the hell out of here and never show yourself in this court again. That's my rulin'."

For years, Roy boasted of his "acquaintance with Miss Langtry," and promised locals she would one day arrive and sing in Langtry.

In March 1903, Roy went on a drinking binge in Del Rio and simply died peacefully in his bed the following morning.

Ten months later, the Southern Pacific stopped at Langtry and finally disgorged Lillie herself on the way from New Orleans to San Francisco. She had decided to take the judge up on his invitation. She visited the saloon and listened as locals told her how Roy Bean had fined a corpse, freed a murderer and lined his pockets by shortchanging train passengers. "It was a short visit," Lillie later wrote in her autobiography, "but an unforgettable one."

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Braunfels, TX and Surrounding Areas

A visit to New Braunfels was something that Shelley had been looking forward to. New Braunfels was settled in 1845 by German immigrants – get out your magnifying glass and read the history in the picture below. The impression that we had was that the city still contained many of the original buildings. Not so – at least not that we saw. Just another small town. However, there are several very nice murals on buildings that were worth seeing. It was difficult to take pictures of them. For instance, one had a dumpster right in the middle of the mural.

After leaving New Braunfels we did some wandering through part of 'Texas Hill Country'. Just a nice drive. Nothing extra special. I think that had we gone through the part of hill country that is east of Austin that we would have been more impressed.

We ended up in Lockhart, TX. The courthouse square there is very picturesque and the courthouse itself was pretty darn photogenic. The best part of Lockhart was the BBQ. The self proclaimed Texas BBQ trail runs from Austin through Lockhart and on to Luling, TX. This same trail is part of the famous Chisholm Trail. During the heyday of the herds, from 1870-1890, 10 million head of cattle traveled up the Chisholm trail. We at at Black's BBQ. Black's was started in 1932 and is still owned and operated by the founding family. It was outstanding. The kind of BBQ that is so flavorful that it needs no sauce. Lunch at Black's made the day a resounding success.

Nothing else of interest/disinterest to report. Nothing on the agenda for tomorrow. So you probably get to take a break from the blog for a couple of days.
See you down the road...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

San Antonio

This is not the first time we have been to San Antonio. It is the 4th or 5th time. I doubt if we will ever be back. At least not for Memorial Day weekend.

It is unbelievably hot and humid and windy. We live in Florida. We have lived in the Republic of Panama. We thought we knew what hot and humid is like. Well, we did not. This is suck the air out of your lungs and suffocate you hot and humid. And while that is happening, the wind makes you think you are in a blast furnace. It is not even June yet, don't want to find out what August is like here. To top it off, the crowds are not like anything we have ever seen here before. The Riverwalk is shoulder to shoulder and the lines at the Alamo were very long. For a big city, San Antonio is a really nice city – just not this weekend.

We did a walk through of El Mercado – The Market. Fun place, lots of junk to buy from Mexico (probably make in China). Did not buy anything. Just window shopped.

Walked the many blocks to the Riverwalk. Initially had a very nice stroll at the Riverwalk and then caught one of the tour boats and did the Riverwalk by cruise ship (actually a slow barge like thing). The San Antonio River flows through the heart of San Antonio and the Riverwalk area is beautifully done. The boat tour is well worth it to see the entire area. Or you can walk the 3.5 mile loop (yea right). After we got off the boat is when we met the hoards of people. In the 30 minutes we had been on the boat, the crowds had grown exponentially.

Our next fiasco was lunch. Now, we are in San Antonio, home of Tex-Mex food. Let me tell you right now – not all of it is good. Went to Rio Rio Cantina for lunch (put this place on your 'to avoid' list). We had taco salad. How can you mess up a taco salad? They did. Worst taco salad ever. On the bright side, we opted to sit inside and the air conditioning was great – very cold.

We did not go to the Alamo. We have 'been there done that' a couple of times and we did not want to wait in line in the sun. We did get a couple of pictures from a distance. That was enough. If you don't know the story of the Alamo, it is a great story – Google it. We did see something that we had not seen before, in San Fernando Cathedral off to one side, is an alcove where the remains of the 'heros of the Alamo' have been laid to rest. The heroes were Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis. Could not get into the cathedral itself – baptism going on.

Don't let this diatribe put you off from visiting San Antonio. It is a city that we both like and think is worth visiting. Just be picky about when you visit.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Antonio Mission Tour

San Antonio is home to the largest concentration of Catholic missions in North America.
The most well known of these mission is the Alamo. However, this tour does not include the Alamo (maybe on another day).
I have always thought of a mission as being a church. Today, I found out that this incorrect. Each mission contained a mission church but, the mission itself was a walled, self contained community. The missions were founded by Franciscan Friars from Spain and to this day, although the missions themselves are no longer inhabited, the mission churches remain open and functional and Franciscans continue to hold Mass in the churches and live on the mission grounds.
We toured 4 missions today. At the first and largest remaining mission, San Jose, we did a tour with a National Park Service guide, Dora. What a fantastic tour guide she is and how glad we are that we did the tour rather than spend time just wandering around on our own. Dora is a descendant of the original mission inhabitants and most knowledgeable about the history of the missions.

The American Indians who lived in the missions came from a number of hunting and gathering bands. These Indians numbers were being decimated by both disease introduced by Europeans and by increasing numbers of raiding Apache and Comanche Tribes moving into the area. This made the local Indians relatively willing recruits for the missionaries. The objective of the friars was to convert the Indians into Catholic, tax-paying citizens of New Spain (present day Mexico). For those that chose to live in the missions, everything changed for them: diet, clothing, religion, culture, even their names. They were required to learn Latin and Spanish and to learn new vocations. They learned to be tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, and all of the other trades needed for a community to thrive. In addition, many worked the land as farmers (hundreds of acres outside the missions were used for raising crops) while others tended the livestock. The missions thrived from 1718 (founding of the Alamo) until 1824 when the mission lands were distributed among the mission inhabitants and the churches turned over to the secular clergy (the Franciscans returned in the 1930s).

Back to Dora, we did have the sense of mind to ask her where we should eat lunch. Of the 2 places she recommended, we chose Tex-Mex food at Judy's (sounds Mexican doesn't it?). Great choice for lunch, one of those places where we were the only non-locals. Excellent food cheap. Does not get any better than that.

Another blog entry follows this one for pictures only.

More pictures can be seen at:
just click on the San Antonio Mission Album and then click on slideshow.

Tomorrow? We'll just have to wait and see (maybe it will involve more air conditioning than today did).

San Antonio Mission Tour Continued

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tour of Hurricane Katrina Damage

We did an extensive tour of the 9th Ward, St. Bernard's Parish, and the 17th Street Canal area in New Orleans thinking that even thought it has been 2 years since the hurricane that there would still be lots of damage evident. That was not the case at all, especially in the 9th Ward and St. Bernard's Parish. Not once did we have an “OH MY GOSH” moment when we saw something so devastating that it took our breath away. Actually, just the opposite was true. We saw very little damage considering that the entire area was under 8-12 feet of water.

There are still many FEMA trailers in use in people's yards and some houses have been condemned and others abandoned. But the lack of visible damage was amazing. Every street that we drove on had construction crews at work repairing homes and numerous homes had obviously been repaired. We came to the conclusion that because the damage was caused by flood waters not wind that the damage to most homes was on the inside and therefore not visible.

The 17th Street Canal area was flooded when Lake Ponchartrain broke through a levee. Some of this area was under as much as 18 feet of water. This is where we saw the most damage. It is an area of very nice homes and where the most abandoned homes seemed to be. Again, construction going on everywhere you looked.

More pictures of our time on the road can be found at:

That's enough of this blog stuff for now.
Time to go get a Po' Boy or Muffeletta sandwich. We gotta get out of here!!!!!

New Orleans


Land of Creole Cuisine, Zydeco Music and the Mighty Mississippi River.

I am in pain, serious pain. Not pain from walking in to a parking meter in front of Mother's restaurant (which Shelley did) or pain from tripping and falling up the stairs in front of St. Louis Cathedral (which Shelley also did). No, the pain is real and caused by New Orleans cuisine. Not bad food – just lots and lots of good food. Food and more food. From the Cafe Au Lait and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde to the Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice and Shrimp Etouffee and Bread Pudding at the Gumbo Shop.

Jackson Square, the old military parade ground, was established in 1721. The statue of Andrew Jackson was erected in 1856 and the square was renamed at that time. The statue is the world's first equestrian statue with more than one hoof unsupported. Artists, street performers, palm/tarot card readers and general scam artists surround the square and are happy to take money from tourists. St. Louis Cathedral, built in 1794, is the oldest active cathedral in the country.

New Orleans does have other things to offer other than the food. We toured the French Quarter, the Garden District, and the now infamous 9th Ward and other Katrina affected areas.

Due to limits on number of pictures that can be put in one blog post – this post will be continued in next entry.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On The Road Again

On the road, for 50 minutes and 37 miles, before we had to stop at a repair shop. Okay, I have to admit it was a planned stop, planned at the 11th hour but planned none the less. Two days before leaving, Monte found out that the RV fridge was under a recall notice. The notice was written in terms of “do not operate your refrigerator under threat of death or at the very least serious injury.” Well, maybe it was not quite that extreme but pretty close. We got lucky and found a repair shop that would do the repair at 8 A.M. Friday on our way out of town. So we show up at 7:45, get out in the pouring rain (has not rained in a month, why now?), and unhook the car from the motor home. They open on time at 8 and “we'll get you in right away.” At 8:20 the service manager gives us some line about the mechanics' schedules were changed and they will not be in until 8:30. So we wait... About 8:45 they take our rig back to do the repair, only to say that it did not need the repair. To the contrary we say, we had checked the model/serial numbers and it was included in the recall. We showed them the recall order and the repair shop (major chain) had never even heard of this recall... So now we wait for them to call the manufacturer, who is not open yet. 9:30 manufacturer says the fridge is under recall and fix it. So they do. Quick fix (what happened to life threatening) and at 10:00 – on the road – for real – 3 hours and 37 miles after leaving home.

Thankfully (boringly for you dear readers) the rest of the day was totally uneventful. Just a day driving through rain. Next stop, first real stop, Laurel, MS to visit Shelley's Aunt and Cousins. Spent 2 nights in Laurel. Thanks Aunt Lou, Suzy, Marilyn and Ron for letting us hog your driveway - sure makes visiting convenient. While in Laurel, other than getting caught up with each other, we went into training for our next stop – New Orleans. By being in training I mean we ate, and ate some more. Great food and way too much of it. I thought I was good at grilling but, found out that I need to take lessons from Ron. Best chops ever... Thanks.

Monte's idea of "making oneself at home"

Chief - has the right idea.

Sunday morning – down the road.