Sunday, April 29, 2012

Balmorhea TX and the Davis Mountains…

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Davis MountainsWe arrived in Balmorhea State Park on Friday afternoon and even though the beautiful desert spring fed pool is closed we decided we will enjoy our stay here anyway. Why is it closed? Because a few tourists complained to the park staff that they were bitten by something unknown and it caused their skin to itch… You have to be kidding!!!

Chihuahuan desert belowWith the hot daytime temperatures we hoped to enjoy swimming in the pool but instead it can now only be seen behind a large locked chain link fence. There seems no real reason to close this beautiful spring fed pool so perhaps they should have simply posted a warning sign to all tourists that they may encounter nature at the pool and nature may bite them… Afterall they haven't closed the nearby Chihuahuan desert because of some Fort Davis National Historic Siteunknown biting creatures there – and there are plenty of them I can assure you… Well, enough ranting and on to what else this area has to offer.

The Chihuahuan desert is a special place to me since it was in this desert that I made many backpacking excursions during the Christmas break in many of my working years. Our first night here was no exception as I breathed in the crisp dry and relatively uncontaminated desert air… while listening to the sounds of the vermillion flycatcher and the the house finches nearby.

Fort Davis National Historic SiteWe took in the desert landscape where the cacti meets the mountain and wins… The gnarly desert mountains rise up from the Chihuahuan desert and provide the perfect backdrop for the impending sunsets to come. Our first sunset here was grand albeit not as spectacular as some that remain to be seen but the lengthening shadows on the craggy mountaintops provided some dramatic compositions on the vast landscape south of us.

scenic 75 mile loopSaturday’s journey was a 130 plus mile drive including a scenic 75 mile loop encompassing much of what the Davis Mountains has to offer. Leaving Balmorhea and heading south we drove to Fort Davis, a small western town with little to offer other than an interesting court house and a historic jail house. Next we stopped at Fort Davis National Historic Site where we saw a movie and took a self guided tour where we learned the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and visited buildings they left behind… More scenic driving through the foothills of the Aoudad SheepDavis Mountains where we saw an introduced species, Aoudad Sheep, also known as Barbary sheep or Aoudad Goat, which are native to the Desert Mountains of the Sahara region,


McDonald Observatory.

As we ascended the mountains the desert grasslands began to give way to Sharon in the Davis Mountains TX junipers and piñon pines. Then the sporadic ponderosa pine started to appear as we neared the 8,378' Mt. Livermore, which is the second highest mountain in Texas and home to the McDonald Observatory. We drove up to the top and took a free self guided tour of one of the telescopes and watched a brief movie about its development.

Then it was time to begin descending the Davis Mountains until we spotted the Davis Mountains State Park. This would be a nice stop for an  Indian Lodge RV as there are a couple of highlights: the Indian Lodge and skyline drive. The Indian Lodge was built by the (CCC) during the early 1930s and if you have ever seen anything they built you would be impressed. They also built a rode called skyline drive which provides a stunning panorama of miles and miles of Texas…

Great Day…  Great Drive… Sunday we will move over to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a while to take in a couple of nice hikes…

fires in the MTsNote: There has been several fires in the Davis Mountains that have not been contained. With the dry air and winds they have had to evacuate some residents of the Davis Mountains. The picture at left shows the smoke from the fires as seen from our campsite. Sad to see such a site and we hope no one gets injured in these fires.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Luckenbach TX and moving on…

Axis deer

 Johnson Creek RV ParkOur last day at Johnson Creek RV Park was relaxing and it included a day trip over to Fredricksburg and then a side trip over to Luckenbach. We attempted to take some back roads over to Fredricksburg but the GPS didn’t warn us that some of the roads she wanted to take us on were private and thus we couldn’t take them… Sigh! So after cussing out Alice (our GPS) I did a u-turn in front of an elaborate ranch and backtracked till we hit a main road.

sea of yellow Coreopsis

hill country driveThe rest of the trip was uneventful but the scenery of the Texas hill country splashed in the yellows, purples and whites of the wildflowers made for an Fredricksburg TXenjoyable trip. When we got to Fredricksburg we parked and took a walk around the town. The town is primarily a tourist town now and even my favorite bakery (Dietz bakery) had shut down. They made the best pumpernickel bread….

We passed a lot of souvenir shops, a small microbrewery (they have a nice pale ale) and lots of other eateries and shops. The restored architecture is interesting to look at while strolling the streets but we eventually got thirsty and knew it was time to move on down the road to Luckenbach!

Luckenback TXLuckenbach was first established as a community trading post in the 1840’s – so they say. It is well know for the musicians that play there and has its own friendly atmosphere. As they say “Everybody is somebody in Luckenbach” and so were we as we sat listening to a fellow picking on his guitar. Sitting there listening to the lyrics of  songs he sang while sipping on a cold Shiner Bach took me back a bit to day past…..

Luckenback TXAll good things must come to an end so we made our way back to the RV park to enjoy our backyard view of the axis deer feeding in the working pecan orchard and to tidy up for our departure Friday morning. We left the outskirts of Kerrville, Texas pretty early Friday morning as we had to make a long 300 mile trek across Texas on Interstate 10. Our target was Balmorhea State Park. We arrived about 3:30 pm and set up and are ready for our site at  Balmorhea State Parkour next adventure…

We will be here at Balmorhea State Park a few days to explore the mountains south of us and then we will move on to boondock a few days at Guadalupe Mountains National Park and then over to Las Cruces, new Mexico, a new state for Abbey...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moving Westward in Texas…

Gruene Hall

Greune TxOur last day at Canyon Lake we decided it was past time to make a road trip to  Gruene, Texas (pronounced Green).Gruene is a small town adjacent to New Braunfels and only about 16 miles from Lake Pointe RV Park.  Gruene, established in the mid-1840’s, is now a touristy spot with many shops, restaurants, boutiques but the biggest attraction is Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.

Gruene Hall is the oldest continually running dance hall in the entire state of Texas!!! Built in 1878 it has had the likes of many great singers and songwriters such as Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen.. The bar itself is nothing to write home about but the nostalgia and the photos of prior musicians on the wall make it a very interesting place.

Greune TxNearby is the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar which was converted from a cotton gin and it is located just beneath the water tower bearing the Gruene name.

Just down the road from Gruene Hall you can cross the Guadalupe River and on your right is a small biker bar called Bubba’s Big Deck. A great place to stop and have a few cold ones ($2.50 per can) and walk behind the deck and dip your toes in the chilly waters of the Guadalupe River…

2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 079Hard to beat a nice day in Gruene… but the next morning it was time for us to leave Lake Pointe RV Park so we packed up and headed out on some narrow Texas roads. We headed west of Texas 306 until we hit highway 281. North a few miles and then west on even a narrower and windy, but very scenic, road. Texas road 473 was not really designed for large class A motorhomes but it was really worth the drive as the spring wildflowers were still in full display. Along with the backdrop of the rolling Texas hill country nothing could have been finer on this morning.

Bubba’s Big DeckThe end of our drive took us through Kerrville, Texas and ultimately to a very quaint RV park in the middle of a working pecan orchard. Johnson Creek RV Park , nice park tacky web site, is indeed a hidden gem… Voted the number one small RV park in Texas it has well earned its name. We are staying here for a Passport America rate of $21.00 per night for two nights. More expensive than our Passport America rate of $12.00plus electricity at our last park but well worth it…

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lake Pointe RV Resort, Canyon Lake TX…

2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 001

ED. Another blog written by Sharon…

2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 051Prior to picking up the grandkids for the weekend stay at Lake Pointe RV resort we asked them what they especially wanted to do at their first ever camping trip in our RV. They quickly provided a list of must-haves for the trip. First on the list was riding in the bus and seeing how we set up camp. Next they wanted to “drive” the bus and sleep in it overnight. And most certainly we had to roast marshmallows. Armed with our list and a full complement of kid supplies freshly purchased from HEB (our favorite grocery store), we felt fully prepared for our stay at Lake Pointe RV Resort in Canyon Lake Texas. The smiles on their faces during the drive were priceless.


2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 006Upon arrival at Lake Pointe RV Resort, we were all in awe of the scenic lake views and the kid friendliness of the park. The kids especially liked seeing the playground and pool areas. We set up camp then let them pretend to drive the bus and headed out to explore the park. The trail to the Lake offered many delights for the kids: butterflies, deer, caterpillars, blackberries to pick and rocks to toss in the lake. Dinners ended with roasted marshmallow smores for dessert one night and homemade cupcakes the next night.

This park was ideal for entertaining our grandkids. The playground had two swing sets, a play house for toddlers and a 2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 036larger climbable playhouse for older kids. Scattered through the playground were riding toys and a large rock to climb on. Thankfully there were also benches and bench swings for the adults to sit on while watching the children play. There were lots of deer in and around the park which always provided additional entertainment.

2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 011The clubhouse offered a huge library of books and movies to borrow as well as a pool table and fitness room. The office building also housed a full kitchen for group entertaining as well as a beautiful deck and garden overlooking the two pools and the beautiful blue Canyon Lake. We spent time at the family pool one afternoon (even though the water was a little chilly). Along with trips to the pool and playground, we enjoyed playing kickball, blowing bubbles with bubble stuff, etc. at our campsite.

2012-04-24 Lake Pointe RV Resort 057On the last day we had a wonderful surprise visit from dear friends and their kids making for a great afternoon of play for the kids and fun filled conversation for the adults. It was definitely an action packed weekend. Having checked off all items on the list the kids provided, we felt our first camping trip with them was a smashing success. Not once did the kids seem homesick at all. They were precious and fun to be around but their energy level far exceeded ours, so taking them back home was a bit of a relief too.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Canyon Lake, Texas…

Canyon Lake with the Gkids 051

2012-03-20 Canyon Lake with the Gkids 041Our last day in Bryan/College Station Texas had us taking care of a few last chores. We visited the dental hygiene school in Bryan when we first arrived to have our teeth cleaned and full mouth x-rays taken for all of $15.00 each. Takes a lot longer but with nothing but time on our hands we got our teeth cleaned without our wallets getting cleaned too. However, when we took our x-rays to the dentist  that Sharon spent her career with ( for 30+ years) he found some decay under one of my really old fillings.  This required a little removal and replacement of said filling and Dr B generously extended full courtesy for the filling.

2012-03-20 Canyon Lake with the Gkids 054Also our Honda CRV which is less than one and a half years old required new tires since the ones they put on at the factory were piece of junk in my opinion and were nearly bald after only a little more than 22,000 miles. A quick trip to Sam’s Discount Store and $612.00 later we have new tires that should hopefully last a whole lot longer.

2012-03-20 Canyon Lake with the Gkids 084The morning of departure we had the owner of Aggieland RV Park go ahead and fill our propane tank as well as my little one for the grill. Another $55.00 and we figured we had stimulated the local economy enough as we pulled out of the RV park by about 9:30 am. The last stop before leaving was to get the Texas inspection sticker for the RV as it had expired about a year ago…

The drive into Austin was as expected with a lot of local city traffic clogging the lights. We made it through the city and turned south down Interstate 35 for a while. We made a brief stop at Cabela’s in Buda, Texas where Sharon unhitched the car to go fetch the grandkids whom we will take with us Cabelas exhibitfor one last outing before we move further west. Cabela’s has some amazing wildlife exhibits and a neat aquarium as well as nice a nice overnight parking spot for RV’s…

With the grandkids in tow we headed south again on I35 for a bit before finally heading west on a much smaller, and more enjoyable drive, on state road 12. The wildflowers are still in full force in this part of Texas where the bluebonnets and the Indian paintbrush have started giving in to the evening primrose and the Mexican blanket where fields of Mexican blankets made for really enjoyable drive.

looking out our window at Canyon LakeAfter a brief rain shower we found our way to our park of choice, Lake Pointe RV Resort where we will stay for about three days before we take the grandkids back home. The park is nice as we are in a site facing the beautiful turquois waters of Canyon Lake. Our site is in a typical Texas hill country setting with small live oaks and cedar trees dotting the hillsides. The gravel lots are level and the cell and TV signals are strong so we should be able to entertain the kids for a few days here. Throw in the fact that the beautiful white tailed deer are everywhere in this park, many of which appear to be hand fed, I think we will enjoy our stay here…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Planning to head west…

Sharon feeding the longhorns with Carol

downtown Bryan TX

It is hard to believe that we have been in the Bryan/College Station Texas area for a month now but it is true! Tomorrow is our last day here and today we will begin our preparations for our move westward. We have really enjoyed our stay as visitors instead of residents to this area. Becoming reacquainted with the town, its restaurants, and our friends has been truly enjoyable.
downtown Bryan TXI am still struggling in determining our future route out west since I would like to stay south as long as the heat isn’t too unbearable. But this time of the year is dicey at best with regard to temperatures that fluctuate wildly in the desert southwest. So we will most likely play it ear quite a lot as we slowly crawl west.

What I hope to do is leave here in the morning and go to the Colorado River RV Park just west of Bastrop, Texas. Then we will make a drive into Austin, Texas where we will be picking up the grandkids to take them on a last campout before we leave. From Bastrop I am not sure where we will go as much of it will be determined by the 5-10 day weather forecast in west Texas.

Texas A&M former student centerThe hope is that the weather cooperates and allows us to visit the Big Bend region or if not,fate we may end up at Guadeloupe Mountains National Park in the northern part of the trans-pecos region of Texas. We hope to be able to visit a friend in Albuquerque, New Mexico but where we go from there remains unknown. The only knowns are that we will spend late summer in Oregon and we will spend the winter in either the Palm Springs, CA or Tucson, AZ area. We shall wait and see what fate has to offer us at that time…

Sharon feeding the longhorns with Carol

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bob Tiffin and Tiffin Motorhomes…


532812_10150665025306139_550561138_9381219_319083696_nAs I stated in an earlier blog I had heard and read many stories about Bob Tiffin going way above and beyond necessary to make his customers happy.I assumed most of these stories were maybe a bit exaggerated.  As you may recall last month, after we paid to have three of our four fogged up windows replaced in Red Bay, Alabama Bob Tiffin instructed the service manager to give us a call to tell us we were going to get a refund for the cost of the windows they just had installed thus saving  us $690! Mr. Tiffin extended this courtesy despite the fact the warranty had expired.  He did so because the windows did fail while under warranty but the previous owner was unable to have the repairs due to unexpected ill health.

We were very grateful for the generosity of Bob Tiffin who has built Tiffin Motorhomes into the best RV manufacturer in the USA – in my opinion. And we left Red Bay as very satisfied customers.  When we got to Mississippi we had time to reflect upon our experience.

528575_10150665028571139_550561138_9381237_609832477_nWe originally really wanted to replace all four of our faulty windows but when we got an estimate for the total cost of replacement it was financially prudent to only replace the three worst windows.  We decide this especially since the least fogged window was the most expensive window at $405.00 not including installation labor. We decided to write a letter to Bob tiffin to thank him for his generosity and exemplary customer service. We also asked that since he authorized Tiffin Motorhomes to replace all of fogged windows if there was any way we could have them ship the fourth window to us here in Texas at our cost.

552899_10150665027241139_550561138_9381232_2141367008_nAbout 10 days passed so we thought that maybe this was the end of our hope for obtaining that.fourth a warranty replacement. Then one night I got a phone call from Mr. Bob Tiffin himself!!! He asked me where I wanted to have this window sent!!! After some small talk and a cordial goodbye he agreed to have our fourth window sent to us and astoundingly he wanted to absorb the shipping cost!.

Once the window arrived, I contacted Ricky Johnson in the service shop and he sent me directions on how to replace the window myself. So with a bit of assistance from Sharon and a friend I replaced our last fogged window as per the instructions below:

Unscrew all the screws but one inside the window
Have someone score the caulk outside then hold the window as the last screw is undone inside.
Clean the old caulk off and clean the area for attachment of the window seal
Apply the window seal to the inside of the frame
Insert all screws and tighten down sequentially
Re-caulk top half of window

530935_10150665026041139_550561138_9381226_1744509985_n Actually this really was a simple do-it-yourself task but there is definitely a ill need for assistance in making sure the bulky window doesn’t fall.

Now we have no fogged windows and we can thank Bob Tiffin and Tiffin Motorhomes… A company that truly does put the customer first!!! So all those stories that many of us have heard about the “magic” of the customer service of Mr. Tiffin are true… Afterall how many of you have heard of Mr. Newmar or Mr. Winnebago?

Thanks Mr. Bob Tiffin,  for all that you do…

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning…

cleaning curtains

ED. Ms. Heyduke pens today’s blog!

our clean carpets

Just as in our sticks and bricks home, Springtime gives me the urge to clean. As careful as we are with the carpet by protecting it with rugs, taking off shoes before entering and regular thorough vacuuming, the carpet still was looking dingy to me. I also really wanted all the throw rugs, cleaned as well as the RV valances, curtains and upholstery. While we were at it, we could also do the interior of the car. I was on a roll…

I suggested buying a brand new portable steam cleaner, but with our rule about acquisitions being that to get something we’d have to get rid of our clean curtins dryingsomething; I found I just could not part with anything. This left the dilemma of what to use. John researched the various rental options as well as inquiring about a professional coming to our site and doing it all for us. The bids we got for the carpet alone ranged from $99 and up! Therefore, economically, it proved better to put in the work and do it ourselves. We decided on the Rug Doctor that we could rent from our local grocery store. With a coupon, the machine and the upholstery attachments came to $27.50 plus tax. We were allowed 24 hours from 11am to 11am the following day.

even the pile fluffed upSince my bout with cancer, I am all about green cleaning so I read about using white vinegar and water in the machine. Vinegar loosens the dirt without the use of chemicals and doesn’t leave a soapy residue behind. Man, did it work like a charm! It was alarming to see the color of the water in the holding tank after completing the living area. We decided to do the living area many times and the bedroom area three times. Next were the couch, the throw rugs and car mats.

rug doctor - glad to return itThe next morning before returning the machine we did the car seats and the drapes. I wouldn’t say the drapes came out totally clean (those pesky condensation stains on the inside lining), but the drapes did look better. John said to consider them as “refreshed”. I liked that! I must say John really did most of the work so I need not have any bright ideas for projects for a while, I think (smile).

It’s great to get these things done during our month-long stay in Texas. Now we can devote ourselves to planning our adventure out west……