Friday, February 25, 2011

More Sights in Texas

We went on another day trip from Alpine Texas.  This time we saw Terlingua, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Fort Leaton Historic Site and Marfa.  It was another fairly long day but one we wanted to make while we were in the area.
It was about 100 miles to Terligua which is a touristy ghost town.  There is a lot of legend and history in the area centered around the mining of cinnabar which is the common ore of mercury.  Mercury was used in explosives and was mined in this area in the 1880s.

First we stopped at the old Terlingua cemetery.  It is still an 'active' one but has lots of old and interesting grave sites.
From there, we drove on to Lajitas which is a small tourist and resort community.  It has a golf course and airport nearby.  Some movies have been made here.
General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing established Lajitas as a U.S. Calvary outpost here in 1916 to protect the settlers from bandits and Indians.

We continued on and drove along the Rio Grande.  The views were spectacular.
We stopped for lunch at an overlook near the river.
Below we could see an outfitter leading a group of canoers down the river.

Next, we stopped at Fort Leaton which is located between Redmond and Presido.  It was one of the earliest trading posts on the Chihuahua Trail.  It stretches from Chihuahua, Mexico to Santa Fe.
We saw an early version of an ox cart used to carry supplies to the frontier post.
This state historic was impressive and definitely worth the stop.  It was in excellent shape and had been restored in a realistic way.   Sometimes I think historical sites get 'restored' to a better condition than the residents ever experienced while they lived in them.  I think life was hard back then and people didn't have the resources to make their homes much more than basically adequate.  Now they are show cases and while quite interesting, I wonder how close it is now to how it was then.

Our last stop for the day was in Marfa which is another historical town about 24 miles from Alpine, Texas.  
Driving into town, we saw the majestic Presido County Courthouse.  Then we saw the 'Ride of a Lifetime' parked along the street.  Then on the outskirts of Marfa, we saw the viewing area for the famous 'Marfa Lights' which are an unexplained phenomenon.  

We returned to our campsite at Alpine after another great day trip.  Though it was a long distance between the items of interest, it is a beautiful and interesting part of the country.  We are glad we got to see the Big Bend Ranch State Park and surrounding areas.

Thanks for viewing the Roadrunner Chronicles!  And thanks to all of you that leave comments, take time to ask questions and engage with us.  We really love that and appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Bend

We made a day trip out of our time at Big Bend National Park.  We left the Roadrunner at the RV park in Alpine, drove in a counter clockwise direction through Study Butte/Terlinqua (stopped for gas), then to Santa Elena Canyon, Panther Junction and down to Boquillas Canyon, back to Panther Junction, to Marathon and back to Alpine.
It was an ambitious day and we would have preferred to spend more time and take some hikes, but our reservations only lasted until Wednesday morning.  The Cowboy Poets Gathering is coming to Sul Ross State University for the 25th annual event and reservations are hard to come by.

So we started out and saw the spectacular high desert and mountains south of Alpine.
 This part of Texas is really three distinct environments:  The desert, the mountains and the river. The Chihuahua desert landscape reminded me of the Tucson area at times.  The high mountains rise to over 7800 feet in the distance and are quite scenic.  Then the Rio Grande river serves as the border between Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico.
 Once at the entrance to Big Bend, we used our America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.  It was $80 and entrance into the park would have been $20 for us so we are going to get our monies worth pretty quickly.
Along the way, we stopped at a number of overlooks on the way toward Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon.
 In the distance we could see Mule Ears and we stopped near Tuff Canyon.  It had a short trail down into the bottom but we decided to keep moving.  The canyon is has a distinct look with the 'consolidated or cemented volcanic ash'.  Reminded us a little bit of the Badlands of South Dakota.
The Visitor Center at Castolon was a little sparse but adequate and we only stopped for a few minutes on our way over to Santa Elena Canyon.
Near the canyon, we saw the dramatic cliffs bordering the Rio Grande.  It didn't really seem like Mexico could be so close but there it was.  We stopped for lunch at an overlook and had a picnic.
 The canyon is spectacular.
 After time on the west side of the park we made our way over the Rio Grande Village and the visitor center on the east side.  We thought the scenery on the west side was much more interesting.  We wanted to see Boquillas Canyon and stopped at another overlook along the river.
At a rest stop we could see some trinkets for sale.  Purchases were on the honor system.  Everything was $6.  Across the river, we could see some Mexicans who were anxiously hoping tourists would buy their wares.  It looked like they cross the river on the horse, set up their modest displays, then watch all day for people to buy something.

The economy has severely affected the nearby town.  The folks live in a village of about 20-30 people but a couple of years ago the village had about 200.

After that, we drove back up to Panther Junction, then on to Marathon and Alpine to complete our driving tour of Big Bend.  It was a long day of driving but with our limited time here, we wanted to see as much as we could.  We are glad we came and got to see it.  It was worth the trip.

Thanks for checking in on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pecos Fort Davis

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We said our goodbyes to Frances and Joe early and got on our way about 7:30 AM.  It was foggy for quite a while.
We drove slowly and the sun started to finally came through about 90 miles down the road.  By then we were near where the Pecos River joins the Rio Grande.
The lookout sneaks up on you but we were forewarned and were looking for it so we able to pull off and take a few pictures.  I didn't realize there were mountains and some elevation down south in Texas.
By the time we got to our destination of Alpine, Texas we were up to 4514 feet.

We found the Lost Alaskan RV Park easily and got set up.
It was in the high 70's and turned into a beautiful day.  We left for a visit to the historic Fort Davis.  Along the way we saw some beautiful country.
26 miles up the road we found Fort Davis.

Fort Davis is currently run by the National Park Service.  In the 1850's the location was an important stop for travelers and wagon trains making their way out to California and the Gold Rush along the San Antonio - El Paso Road on the Chihuahua Trail.
The Indians were not too happy about it and subjected travelers to attack and many died.
The U.S. government was charged with protecting the trail and fought off the Kiowas, Comanche and Apache.  From 1854 until 1891 about 250 troops were station here.

The Visitor Center was set up in the   barracks which had been restored.  We watched a short video that was narrated by Kareem Abdul Jabar.
He did a good job and it was the first time I'd seen in western attire...

A lot of buildings at Fort Davis have been restored although many on the grounds just have the foundations showing.
We were able to see the commissary, enlisted quarters, officers houses, commander's quarters and the hospital.
The grounds really stretch out over a large area so we had a good hike getting around to see all the buildings.

Fort Davis was named for Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and was closed in 1891 when the government consolidated its frontier forts.  It was authorized as a National Historic Site in 1961 and restoration has been ongoing ever since.  If you get the chance to see it, you may agree Fort Davis is "one of the best examples of an Indian wars frontier military posts".  Having just been at Fort Clark, we think it gives you a very good glimpse into the past.

That is it for this edition.  Thanks for viewing the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Busy Days near Del Rio

We have been pretty busy during our six days here at Fort Clark.  The other night we went over to the RV park building for a presentation by a resident who spent the summer as a volunteer workamper.  Here is a shot of the rowdy crowd before the presenter started.
Our presenter and her husband spent time at Pipe Spring National Monument and did a very good job of keeping us interested and entertained for 45 minutes.
She spoke of the importance of the Paiute, Kaibab and Mormons in the history of the area.  Pipe Springs is located in the northern part of Arizona just south of Utah.  It is not far from the Grand Canyon.
The Winsor family, who were Mormons, built a tithing ranch in the area which originally belonged to the Indians.  I had never heard of a tithing ranch.  Most people in the 1870's didn't have a lot of money so they tithed with animals.  An official in the church saw the area and decided it was a good place to keep the animals and the 'tithing ranch' was built in the 1870's.

It was an interesting time and it fired some more interest in going to Utah.  Utah has quite a number of famous National Parks including Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Arches and Mesa Verde.  Our presenter well prepared and well spoken.  It was as if we were at the visitor center at Pipe Springs hearing the volunteer interpretation of the history and importance of the area.  Fun evening!

The next day we decided to go see Del Rio.  It is a fairly good size border town of about 36,000 and 30 miles to the west of Brackettville.  Pam and I have friends who lived in Del Rio during the 1970's while going through pilot training at Laughlin AFB which is outside of town.  We needed to get finger prints for our gate guard application so we drove to the base and then had lunch in town at Manuel's.

Manuel's was well know for its great food in Cuidad Acuna, Mexico across the border from Del Rio.  We were thinking of going across the border if it was safe, but sad to say it is not.  Violence erupted last summer with shootings and drug cartel activity which makes the crossing unsafe.  Many businesses which had catered to the American tourists are now virtually closed.  One of those affected was Manuel's.

Because of the trouble Manuel's opened a restaurant in Del Rio in addition to the original in Acuna.  Joe, Fran and I had a great lunch and it lived up to its reputation for good Mexican food!

After we got our fingerprints done at the base, we drove by the golf course.  It looked like it was in very good shape, so we returned yesterday to play.  They have a deal going on Fridays:  $20 for 2 people for 18 holes with the golf cart included.   Now that is a great deal!  
Before we teed off we met Liz who runs the pro shop.  She and her husband live in town and he also works at the base.  After we talked for a minute, she indicated they have a 5th wheel, are retiring in 2014 and will be traveling.   Who knows, maybe we will see them down the road...
It was nice to meet her and we had a good time on the course.  The rain never materialized although it was cloudy for most of the day.  It was warm and a great day for golf.

After we returned to Fort Clark, I emptied the car and rearranged a lot of items in the basement.  Our time here is coming to a close and we will be leaving later this morning for Alpine, Texas, not far from Big Bend National Park.

Frances fixed a terrific dinner of fried chicken, green beans and homemade potato salad.  It was fantastic!
We got to spend some time relaxing at their place before we had dinner.  We enjoy their company and they made our stay at Fort Clark wonderful!  We had a really good time and loved being with them.

I wish we'd have gotten to see Jerry and Kit more, but we are grateful to have been able to go to their gate guard location and see them earlier in the week.  They have been more than generous to let us park in their driveway and use their golf cart.  Jerry also let me borrow his router to get back online.

It will be time to raise the jacks and head out later this morning.  That is it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thank you for joining us!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

South Texas - Fort Clark Springs

We have a couple of friends here in Bracketville, Texas that live in Unit 37 at Fort Clark Springs.  The town and nearby Fort Clark were established in the early 1850s.  Later, the town became a stop on the San Antonio - El Paso stagecoach route.

The first day we arrived we took a tour of the museum on post.
Some famous people were stationed here at one time including boxers Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis.
General Wainwright of Corregidor and Bataan fame was here.  Lt Col George Patton was also stationed here at one time.

Fort Clark was a major calvary base of the U.S. Army and the last active calvary base in the Army.  It ceased training here in 1944.  The base today is on the U.S. National Register of Historic places and a large part of the buildings are intact.  A civilian community of approximately 2,000 people currently live here with a town council and full city facilities.  On the base are a number of permanent RV homesteads that each have an RV pad, RV shelter, full hookups and attached RV buildings/storage facilities.

Our friends Joe and Frances live here three driveways away from Jerry and Kit.  There are RV loops/streets (called 'units' here) and it is a very unique place.  People live here full-time in their rigs while others live here during the colder months of the year and travel during the summer.

Jerry and Kit currently are 90 minutes away working as gateguards for a drilling company and invited us to use their place while we are at Fort Clark.
They put in an extra set of full hookups for visitors which is a pretty sweet deal.

We are here seeing Joe and Frances who gave us a golf cart tour of the Fort.  It took us along the river, down some back roads and we saw some of the older buildings, different neighborhoods and an armadillo.
We joined a large group of about 30 at lunch on Monday.  In addition to it being Valentine's day, the wood carving club at Fort Clark wanted to have a surprise birthday party for Wallace who teaches and leads the group.
We traveled up the road to Bill and Rosa's Steakhouse and Saloon.  It is one of those one-of-a-kind places with excellent food and a lot of atmosphere.  The chicken friend steak was great!

One of the highlights at lunch was meeting long-time blogger reader and new friend Darlene. She was nice enough to come over and introduce herself and we chatted for a bit.
She and her sister live at the Fort with their husbands who are brothers.  -- Talk about a close family!  All are RVers and have their places in Unit 37 near where we are staying.  Meeting readers of the Roadrunner is a big thrill and it was nice to meet them!

The weather here has been great (high 70's, low 80's) and we played golf on the base course.
It started out overcast but by noon it was bright and sunny.  We had a good time and will try to play again later in the week.

Folks here get together a lot and did so on Tuesday night to say goodbye to a couple that is returning north.  They had a cookout-social for them and we all brought some food to share.  William and Mary hosted the event for about 10 couples.  They are on unit 14? (I think) and have a very nice place.   Their property backs up to the desert with a great view.   They have all kinds of animals that come by every day to check out the bird seed.
We had a great time watching the birds, deer and turkeys wander by.  The cardinal kept his distance in a tree about 30 yards away.

Yesterday we made the 90 minute trip to the spot where Kit and Jerry have their gate guard gig.
We got there in time for lunch.  We had stopped in Eagle Pass to pick up some fried chicken and McDonald's large diet cokes for the occasion.  It was great to see them and visit.  The last time we saw them was in Galveston at a NOMADS project last spring almost a year ago.

We are may be interested in getting a position with this company so we asked a lot of questions.  Jerry and Kit are working a lot to put aside extra money so they can build and add to their RV property at Fort Clark.  The position requires one of them to be at the gate 24 x 7 and the pay is $125/ day.  The job is not hard but they have to deal with the weather and being fairly isolated.
We chatted and got caught up and learned a lot about their job.  We also learned about the drilling that is going on nearby.  We had a fun time in the great weather and had more fun chatting with them.  They are such nice and generous people.  They have told about their experience on their blog at

That is it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for viewing!