Today we got us very late and were quite sluggish until after noon. We eventually became bored with watching TV and decided to take a trip into Bandera, a small community about 20 miles from Thousand Trails Lake Medina where we are currently set up.
Along the way to Bandera, there are many strange sights like cars on posts, camels in a pasture, little limestone Texas houses and metal sculptures of hogs. As we drove along, we passed over some Texas creeks which were absolutely clear. One can see the limestone streambed bottoms. The limestone seems to resist algae unless the water stops moving.
In Bandera, we cruised through the residential neighborhoods and spotted more limestone ashlar masonry houses and shacks and some are quite attractive. We also stopped at a Texas vaporizer store, something we did not expect to see in a state where smoking marijuana or any derivatives is punishable by a million years in jail. A nice elderly lady was working behind the counter and answered all our questions.
This part of Texas seems to have an abrupt dichotomy between the rich and the poor. The rich live in enormous mansions with big fences and gates and the poor live in trailer houses with wrecked cars and broken toys in the yard. There does not seem to be much of a middle class here. They all have covered their cars with Trump stickers, now pointless since he has been elected.
Out at Lake Medina, where we are camped, there are no houses but an abundance of wildlife. There must be 100 nearly tame deer that come by to visit us twice a day. There are meadowlarks that have the most amazing yellow breasts, cormorants, Egyptian geese (despite Texas being a long ways from Egypt) and a myriad of other varieties of birds we have yet to identify. The weather today was nice but the Weather Channel says we are about to get thunderstorms that should last through the weekend. We think we are located high enough above the lake to avoid being flooded. We’ll see in the next few days.
There are some Bandera photos available if you click here
We jumped up again this morning after another one night stay and hopped back on I-10 eastbound. After about 90 minutes, we pulled off I-10 at Kerr and took back roads for about 50 miles to a Thousand Trails preserve named Lake Medina in Lakehills, TX.
It is nice to be off the interstate for the first time in the last 925 miles. State and county roads are much more relaxing to drive than the interstates with their abundant construction projects, demented metropolitan drivers and high-speed travelers zipping by, in no particular lane.
The roads from Kerr to Lakehills offer great scenery along the way. We saw deer, burros, buffalo, camels, pronghorn antelope and an amazing variety of birds, along with the usual rural cattle and horses. We have found that we like Texas, even if they vote and talk differently than us. We saw a commercial for a Texas car lot last night and could not decipher a single word the salesman said. Even with our difficulty communicating with the locals, they are very friendly, fuel is cheap, the food is tasty and reasonably priced and the scenery is great.
Lake Medina has hundreds of spaces with full hookups but we chose a spot next to the lake where there is no sewer. We have a magnificent view of the abundant deer, a tremendous variety of birds and a panorama of Lake Medina. Last time we were here, in the drought in 2015, we had to drive 8 miles just to see water. The lake is full now and it is stunning. I suppose all the trees that were growing on the lake floor last time we were here drowned.
There’s some photos if you click here
We jumped back onto Interstate 10 from Fort Stockton and continued our eastward progress toward Junction, TX, our scheduled stop for the night. Although the road between these places did not go over any passes, like the road between El Paso and Fort Stockton, there are about 400 up and down sections running between about 2000′ and 2700′ elevation. To keep things interesting, there were substantial gusting winds up to about 30 mph which kept me constantly correcting for the effect on the Barbarian Invader, our trailer. We got much worse fuel mileage today than yesterday.
After 200 miles of climbing and descending and correcting, we pulled off the interstate in Junction and found our way to the Junction North Llano RV Park where we have stayed before. The park has full hookups, a pool, laundry facilities, automatic gates to keep intruders out and great staff but, currently, no viable wifi and Junction has very spotty phone and data service. The operators run a very nice park and it is always very tidy. They even grade the gravel roads daily. We booked today’s RV spot through Good Sam.
We are old so we like to limit any day’s drive to no more than about 3 hours a day and never staying less than three nights anywhere but crossing from Sierra Vista to Junction confounds our policy. There are massive sections of open, uninhabited land with few places to stay between southern Arizona and western Texas so for the last three days we have far exceeded our preferred distance each day and we have stayed only one night in each place. We are getting ready for a break with an extended stay, laundry and some shopping somewhere.
We were up pretty early in order to depart El Paso as quickly as possible. We jumped back onto I-10 headed east across a big section (maybe 250 miles) of West Texas. The flat lands along the road are pretty unremarkable but the mountain ranges in the distance are pretty. From El Paso the interstate runs southeast along the Rio Grande for a while before turning due east. The ground climbs steadily and crosses a small range near Van Horn, crossing over a few passes between 4000′ and 4700′ elevation before starting a long downgrade into Fort Stockton. Near Van Horn, we crossed into the Central Time Zone. The road surface along I-10 is almost fair – I’d give it a C-.
In Fort Stockton, we pulled off onto I-10 Business for the trip down the main drag. Although there hasn’t been any rain here for a while, about four spots along the main street were flooded. We soon pulled into Park View RV Park which is a large gravel lot with a strange characteristic. All of the power is overhead instead of underground, a first in parks for us. There are full hookups and wifi and, best of all, it costs $12 a night with Passport America. The sunsets here are magnificent displays.
We will be departing tomorrow for another couple hundred miles before stopping for the night in Junction.
There’s some pix if you click here
Today, we left Deming and continued eastbound on I-10. A little over an hour later, we passed through Las Cruces, NM. I-10 turns south at Las Cruces and passes into Texas. Not too far into Texas, the road crosses the city limits of El Paso although the center of the city is still about 25 miles away.
I mostly try to see the beauty and unique qualities of things we see along our trip but I am at a loss to describe El Paso in glowing terms. We are sure there are possibly many attractive sights and fun things to do in this city but we didn’t pass any of them along the interstate highway. Interstate 10 through the sprawling city is a hellish arrangement of tight curves, confusing road signage, erupted paving and a 60 mph speed limit. The air, at least today, was like mud created by mixing some air, agricultural smoke, refinery emissions and whirlwinds of vehicle exhaust from the border crossing to Mexico . Directly on the right of southbound drivers as they drive on I-10 is the longtime murder capital of the world, Juarez, MX. We could tell from the U.S. side that we would prefer to live here and not there, even if we had to live in El Paso. We drove through town for about 30 miles until we reached and entered the maze that needed to be negotiated to find our RV park for the night. The Mission RV Park turned out to be located on property that was probably quite cheap because it located almost directly under an interchange between I-10 and a big beltway road called Loop 375. However, along I-10 the freeway ramps, bridge columns and abutments, deck spans and sound walls are visually attractive, having been designed in various Texas and Southwestern art motifs.
Mission RV park is a gravel area with full hookups, cable TV, a pool in a greenhouse thing, a laundry, an on-site high-bay RV repair facility, wifi and very little space between sites. It only costs $21 with Passport America and, since we are moving again tomorrow, it will do.
Some pix can be seen by clicking here
It was below freezing again last night in Deming. This is not a good place to have wonky heaters.
Today we made phone and internet reservations for our next few RV parks. We leave the Deming area tomorrow for a long, incremental drive east on I-10 through West Texas. RV park reservations are sort of a pain in the neck since every park takes and confirms reservations differently.
We do this exercise because finding out at the end of a 300 mile highway drive and a 15 mile trip down a side road that the park does not have a space is disappointing. Then, we can look forward to a random search of nearby (or maybe distant) parks, most that do not answer their phones, before being able to quit for the day. We try to avoid staying in casino or WalMart parking lots or highway rest stops.
We did not explore anything today. We can be quite boring.
After a pretty cold night, we got up this morning to perform our primary function – exploring and enjoying the unique attributes of the communities and parks of the U.S.A. Today it was Deming, NM. We started the day in the very good Deming Luna Mimbres Museum.
This museum has an extraordinary array of displays including Native American ceramics and baskets, a military section, large and exotic geode displays from both the local area and other western states, some old motor vehicles in great shape, over 1000 bells, a big “Old West” section, stunning Oriental ceramic stuff, paintings, musical instruments, motion picture and still cameras, some beautiful late 19th and early 20th century furniture and a gift shop with some great stuff. There is no entry fee but we always leave a pretty good donation in the bucket because the volunteers and donors do such a good job of maintaining a stunning museum.
After a few hours, we left the museum and decided to take a spin, this time going south. We drove down NM-11 toward Columbus, NM, where there is a border crossing into Mexico. Along the road, in the middle of nowhere, we came across the Hacienda de Luna residential airpark. Here we found a long line of low residential buildings with Spanish architecture that are each supplied with a backyard aircraft hanger. Cars are pretty scarce here; everybody flies directly from their house to wherever they need to go.
We pulled off to get a few pictures and promptly ran into an elderly guy named Ed Glover who seemed to be one of the few residents. He gave us the full rundown on the place, eventually opening the gate so we could drive onto the taxiway. We trundled him into the back seat of Charlotte and he took us on a guided tour of the airpark. It was pretty neat.
We continued south on NM-11 until we got to Columbus where we found Pancho Villa State Park. I’m not sure why they named the park after a Mexican revolutionary. Possibly, it was because back in the early 20th century, Germans were fooling around in Mexico trying to get the Mexicans to attack our southern border and keep us preoccupied enough to stay out of WW1. Pancho and his irregular army crossed the border into Columbus and a few Americans were killed.
Woodrow Wilson sent General “Black Jack” Pershing to Columbus along with 10,000 troops in order to cross into Mexico and capture or kill Villa. It was a thoroughly ineffective operation that ultimately failed. Villa was finally assassinated by a pumpkin seed vendor and seven associates as he drove from Paral, Chihuahua, back to his nearby ranch in his Dodge.
On the way home, Peggy remembered that we had not had a reward for a few days so we decided to go to a very strange place called Adobe Deli. This place is located near the middle of nowhere where you turn off on a dirt road to cover the last mile or so. There is nothing else around the joint. Even after you arrive, it is a bit difficult to determine if you have actually arrived at anything. We eventually found a small sign directing us into the front door.
Inside, we found a restaurant decorated with bizarre stuff like a windmill, big exterior flame heaters, a woodstove with the most non-code-compliant chimney extant, walls of corrugated steel panels, many stuffed animals, a full suit of medieval armor and a gorgeous full bar. The tables are made durable by being covered with copper sheets.
The steaks we ordered were good and the French Onion soup they serve with dinner was fabulous. Dinners came with a baked potato and cost around $25. Still inside the building but out of the dining room is more strange stuff like stuffed animals (they even have a yak), hats, old-style game and pinball machines, stained glass panels and a myriad of pictures. Outside there are cast bronze elk and buffalo statues, an abandoned water tower and some canopy framing without covers. A very weird place but they have good food.
When we departed we thought we had about a 15 mile drive back to Rancho Lobo RV Park but Peggy found a dirt road on Google maps and we took it and saved covering 12 of the miles. We got home just after dark but the temperature had already dropped to 39 degrees so we fired up all our heaters and settled in for some digesting.
Some pix of the Deming museum exhibits can be seen by clicking here
Pulling stakes in Sierra Vista / Huachuca area, we merged back onto I-10 to continue our progress going east. All of this highway passes through terrain at about 4000 foot elevation, but the road does go up and down over some minor ridges. The biggest ridge is the Continental Divide in western New Mexico at about 4600′.
The road passes through sagebrush and grass plains with small, spectacular mountain ranges strewn about the horizons. The BNSF train tracks run parallel to the interstate for most of the way and are well-utilized by numerous long trains running about every 15 minutes, both ways. The eastbound slow lane paving of I-10 is pretty bumpy and, when we could, we drove in the fast lane to avoid our expensive dental work falling out from vibration.
After a couple hundred miles, we passed through Deming, NM, and about 10 miles further on we pulled up at Rancho Lobo RV Park. We stayed at this same park in 2015 on our east coast tour. The park does not suffer from the nighttime racket of parks in town which are located a block or two from I-10. Rancho Lobo is a bit further from the freeway (maybe 800 yards) and the busy adjacent train tracks so it is pretty quiet at night. It is also bitterly cold for us west coasters with nighttime temperatures below freezing. The park has a surcharge (14 cents per kwh) for electricity but that is probably because everyone runs small electric heaters in addition to their propane furnaces at night. They now have wi-fi which works very well, in addition to full hookups, a laundry and a restroom/shower facility. Check Passport America for their listing.
There are some locomotive pix available if you click here
Today is our last full day in the Sierra Vista area. Initially, we were going to take a trip into the Dragoon Mountains east of us but we looked at our Arizona Gazetteer and found out there are no roads going into that part of the state and there is no danger I’m walking there.
We loaded into Charlotte the truck and took off going east. After about 15 miles on AZ-82, we turned south on AZ-80 and drove a few miles into Tombstone. Legend has it that the Earp brothers killed some people they didn’t like called Clanton and McLowrie at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone back in the late 19th century. In Tombstone, you can go to a tourist attraction called the O.K. Corral and see staged gunfights with guys in period costume shooting blanks at each other. In reality, the gunfight was not at the O.K. Corral but actually on Fremont Street a few blocks away.
We stopped to see the gorgeous old courthouse and spotted some stagecoaches filled with tourists wearing Gore-Tex parkas and stiff new cowboy hats. We also noted there are dozens of small mines around Tombstone. We did not know Tombstone’s claim to fame was not aggressive lawmen but silver mining. Some 25 million dollars worth of silver came from the ground here during the heydays in the late 1800’s.
We continued about 15 miles south on AZ-80 until we turned west on AZ-90 back toward Sierra Vista. Just a few miles east of town, we pulled into the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The riparian area extend more than 30 miles along the banks of the San Pedro River and is filled with massive cottonwoods and thousands of birds. We took our binoculars and cameras in with us and were able to add a few more species to our list of birds we have catalogued since the beginning of our journey in 2014.
As the sun dropped behind the Huachuca Mountains, we fueled Charlotte and did some grocery shopping since we are going into the relative wilderness of Southern New Mexico and West Texas for the next week or so. Shopping opportunities are pretty scarce in this part of the U.S. and being fully stocked gives us lots of meal options. We even picked up some DVDs for our viewing pleasure.
See some pix by clicking here
Today we returned to a lady’s backyard where the owner feeds the birds in a canyon southwest of Sierra Vista. We were here in 2015 and this place, actually called Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast, is run by a lady called Mary Jo Balllator. She has organized the area behind her house with chairs in shade, chairs in the sun and numerous sources of food for the abundant variety of birds indigenous to this area.
There is a plastic jug on her gate where guests that have come to see the birds can deposit the $5 entry fee. We give a bit more but just because this place stands out in my mind as one of the best places in the U.S. to spend the afternoon wild bird watching. There are probably 20 varieties that Peggy and I spotted in a few hours and we are very lowbrow bird watchers. The only person around us was an elderly deaf guy who came over and asked if I had seen a white breasted hornswoggle or something and I indicated I had not. I would be unable to identify most of the birds here if we had not taken our Peterson’s Bird Guide with us.
This is a great place to spend the afternoon, particularly if you are the type that can refrain from making sudden movements and loud noises. Since I am as big as a tent and clumsier than Gerald Ford, I have to creep into and out of this great spot to avoid there being a big exodus of songbirds that won’t return until I sit and shut up for a while or leave. The sounds the birds make are fascinating. Each species has its own call and, after a while, you can hear who is close, even when you can’t see them.
Pix can be seen by clicking here