Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Luckenbach Texas and Pedernales Falls State Park…

Every time we come to central Texas we have to stop at Luckenbach. There really isn’t much to see at Luckenbach but it is a wonderful place to listen to some good old guitar pickin’ as well as hearing Texas folk and country music. Since “Everybody is somebody in Luckenbach” we decided we should check out Luckenbach on a weekend since we have only experienced it on weekdays. Yes it is much more crowded but with the crowds come more musicians.

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We had a blast listening to the music and meeting new friends. We even met a group of people from Mamou Louisiana and they were surprised to find out that we had been to Fred’s Lounge. We had to explain that all RV’ers who visit Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville, La. knows about Fred’s. Anyway, Jim from the Mamou group had it on his bucket list to visit Luckenbach and have the chance to play and sing.  After some liquid courage he approached the group of musicians jamming who of course welcomed him to play. It was fun seeing him live out this dream and he was pretty darn good, too!

Fredericksburg and E Rock 073 

The next day we headed out for a hill country drive with our target being Pedernales Falls State Park. It has been more than 30 years since we have visited this park which lies just about 10 miles east of Johnson City. With about 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails it is a great place to spend a day. When we were younger we went to tube and swim in this park. Nowadays they have restricted swimming and tubing to the eastern reaches of the park and left the more scenic “falls” area as a place with a ban on swimming, wading and tubing. This makes this stretch of the Pedernales River a great place for hiking, birding and photography.


We parked at the falls parking lot and brought along a lunch that we planned to eat at the falls. It is really nice to see a lot of water in the Pedernales River as I wasn’t sure what to expect with all the drought that Texas has endured the last four years. But once we got to the Pedernales Falls (or as we knew it, P-falls) it was just as I remembered it! What a great place for lunch as we sat at the base of the falls on a shelf of limestone enjoying our lunch with the sound of falling water in the background…

After lunch we boulder hopped our way upstream about a mile or more to take in the beauty of P-falls and the surrounding hill country landscape. There were a lot of people there but a big as P-falls State Park it was easy not to notice the crowd. We really enjoyed the day wandering around the P-falls watershed and reminiscing about days gone by…

Fredericksburg and E Rock 089Fredericksburg and E Rock 091

After hiking back to our car and leaving the falls we stopped at Pecan Brewing Company in Johnson City, Texas and enjoyed a couple of their wonderfully crafted beers. It was a great way to end a special day!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Day in Fredericksburg, Texas…

We didn’t have far to go when we left Llano, Texas as our next stop was in Fredericksburg, Texas only a 42 mile drive south. The bluebonnets on this stretch of road were just beginning to emerge and the trees were also starting to bud as spring has found the hill country of Texas. We will be staying at Hill Country RV Park for four nights.

This park is a no frills park but it is in a prime location and rather inexpensive at $25 per night. We are close to both Fredericksburg and Luckenbach so we plan to enjoy both. We spent our first day visiting the town of Fredericksburg. An interesting factoid about the town is that the first letters of streets intersecting Fredericksburg’s Main Street heading southeast from the center of town spell out "ALL WELCOME" (Adams, Llano, Lincoln, Washington, Elk, Lee, Columbus, Olive, Mesquite, and Eagle). The first letters of streets intersecting Main Street heading the opposite direction spell "COME BACK"(Crockett, Orange, Milam, Edison, Bowie, Acorn, Cherry, and Kay). Now I think that is some pretty clever city planning, something not seen in many places in the USA…

We parked on the edge of town to walk uptown and then back on the opposite side to see it all.With it being spring in the hill country tourist towns like Fredericksburg are abuzz with activity. The many Bed and Breakfasts in town combined with all the restaurants, gift shops, and eating/drinking establishments this German influenced town stays pretty crowded, especially on the weekends.


I loved walking along the streets and looking at all the neat historical buildings. Sharon  enjoyed looking at all the shops in town and we even discovered one shop selling jams, jellies, pickles, olives and other jarred preserves that allowed tasting of all their products. We sampled all kinds of goodies but I most enjoyed the hot sauce room where Sharon and I sampled one sauce that had some major heat with a lingering effect which sent us scurrying on out the door…

We had planned to hike Enchanted Rock State Natural Area but apparently if you aren’t there early enough this time of year the park closes to public to ensure that the congestion doesn’t consume all the parking spots and to allow visitors a better park experience. We may try again on Monday when all the tourists are back at work. We did stretch our legs at nearby Cross Mountain Park just outside of town. The short hike to the top offers great views of the surrounding area much like the small “Q” hill at Quartzite Arizona. 

One of the reasons we stopped here in Fredericksburg again was to experience Luckenbach, Texas at night and on a weekend… but that will have to wait till the next blog…

Friday, March 27, 2015

Llano, Texas and we found a cool little RV park here…

We left San Angelo State Park driving west on state highway 87 to highway 71 heading to our destination, the small town of Llano, Texas, population 3200. Man that road to Llano was seriously beat up… There has been lot of oil activity in this area and the road has paid the price. Nonetheless, we pulled into Riverway RV Park unscathed.


We changed our original plan from going to the more remote South Llano River State Park to stay in Llano for three nights to see if we could find parts for our broken Thetford toilet. As full timers we really must have a working toilet on board!

Llano Texas and wildflowers 036Llano Texas and wildflowers 040

Getting the toilet fixed hasn’t turn out to be an easy task. Once I had taken it out of the RV and disassembled it I discovered that two plastic pieces called the waste ball and the waste ball drive arm were broken. Of course no one had both of these parts but I was able to find them on Amazon and have ordered them to meet us at our next park in Fredericksburg. We move there today so hopefully by the end of the day we will have a working toilet again.

In the meantime we are more than glad we chose Riverway RV Park.  It is a cool little park I found while perusing RV Park Reviews and was amazed at their score of 9.7. I was even more amazed when I discovered that they accept Passport America so this 9.7 park is only $15 per night with full hookups! To top it off the park is on the Llano River and has a small trail that we have enjoyed alongside the river. The owners (Texas Aggies) are so friendly as have been all our neighbors.  Our view of the Llano River in our "front yard" along with the exceptionally nice,clean facilities have made our stay wonderful despite our toilet woes. This park lives up to its ratings for sure and we recommend it to anyone planning a stay in this area.

We did have some time to check out the small historic town of Llano, Texas. Our first discovery was a small place along the Llano River where some impromptu creativity had resulted in  the creation of about a 100 artistic cairns.  We noticed remnants of melted candles where some had apparently stayed during the night to meticulously construct their cairn. There were even other artistic displays scattered about making this spot rather interesting. It even inspired me to build a cairn. However, we found out later that these artistic creations were the remnants of the Llano Earth Art Festival that was held in here earlier in March.


We spent some time walking around the small town and soaking in the history of the old buildings remaining. Like many small rural towns in Texas this one shows the presence of decline and the beginnings of revitalization as some of the old boarded up buildings are being reborn into antique shops and small eateries. Most of the older part of town surrounds the stately courthouse building built in 1893.

Of course the Courthouse in Llano is really cool as so many of the courthouses are in Texas. Each county has a county seat where the courthouses were located and in Llano the original one had burned down but was rebuilt years later. We decided to check out the interior and were greeted by a friendly law enforcement officer who after chatting with us decided to give us a personal tour of the courthouse. He even showed us an old bank vault that was built to house the entire collection of legal records. Seeing the locking metal shutters around the windows indicated that it was built to withstand any future fires to protect the important documents. What a fun chat we had with this rather friendly fellow…


Llano has been a really nice stop especially since Spring is arriving as evidenced by warmer weather and the sighting of beautiful Texas wildflowers beginning to show their vibrant colors…

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

San Angelo State Park and San Angelo murals…

Our last  last day in Monahans Sandhills State Park was mostly spent inside as the weather remained chilly, cloudy and rainy off and on all day. I was able to venture out to stretch my legs in the sand dunes every now and then but mostly spent time planning our route to College Station, Texas with a stopover to visit the grandkids. Looks like we will now go to San Angelo State Park and then on to Llano to Riverway RV park. Next will be a short stay in Fredericksburg, Texas, then Blanco State Park which will be followed by a longer stay at Lake Pointe Campground at Canyon Lake. From Canyon Lake we will go to Lockhart State Park and then on to College Station for a month.


The 162 mile drive from Monahans to San Angelo State Park was a bit rough as most of the road we traveled on was under construction and the rest, in my opinion, should be. At least some of the early spring flowers are starting to show up! We pulled in, set up and enjoyed the rest of the day in the solitude. While I was watching a little March Madness Sharon set off for a walk and when she came back we went for another walk together. The lake is still nearly dry but this park is a nice place to spend some quiet time (kind of like boondocking with hookups). Later in the evening I checked out one of the wildlife viewing stations where I saw some deer and as many as 7 javalina at one time. The diversity of the birds were nice but the beauty of the male Pyrrhuloxias was the most striking.

The next day we took off for an urban stroll around the town of San Angelo. Our mission was to walk around the town to seek out the 14 murals painted throughout the downtown area. One cool things about these murals is that they have a phone number we dialed into to hear the history behind each mural. Some of these narratives were quite interesting especially the ones that were narrated by the artists themselves.


We very much enjoyed the tour as a walk and not as a drive as we had the added bonus of seeing many of the sheep that have been artistically decorated to honor the town's Wool Queen history. Apparently San Angelo was once the country's largest wool producer so annually women would compete wearing their finest wool outfits and a Wool Queen was crowned.  Sadly the tradition ended when cotton became king for clothing manufacturing until a local woman renewed the contest by inviting artists to submit renderings of painted sheep every year and the one judged best becomes the newest addition to the painted sheep in town. We saw ten sheep (they say there are around 35) during our more than four mile journey in the downtown area.


Another added bonus on this urban stroll was we discovered a newly operating brewery called Zone One which had been opened only three weeks. They were serving their first large batch beers and surprisingly to us the stout and pale ale were pretty tasty. We only had one since we also wanted to visit another brewery we discovered last time called Joe’s Brewhouse.

Well we found out Joe’s had been bought out and the new owner Mark told us he had been open only one week and would be called SoCo to commemorate his roots in southern Colorado. He is not making his own beer yet as he is awaiting the appropriate licensing but he is serving a long list of Texas craft beers on tap. Since he had tap beer from the Rowena Texas brewery called Horny Toad (one I wanted to visit but it was just a tad too far away) we sampled their beers. They have a very nice Pale Ale but Sharon thought after a taste of their stout, it was a bit weak, so she opted for one made in Grapevine Texas instead.


We met a really nice couple at SoCo that recommended a Mexican restaurant, Fernandez, so we drove over to it only to find it closed on Monday… sigh… We headed home to make our own dinner and then walked over to the blind hoping to see the javelina again since Sharon missed them the night before. We were fortunate to see one, but only one, and saw some different birds out feeding such as the pretty Rufous Sided Towhee. 


Our next stop (where we are now) is at Riverway RV park in Llano where we must address an unexpected, unpleasant toilet issue...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Van Horn Texas and a stay at Monahans State Park…

We enjoyed our first visit to the city of El Paso, the Gateway to Juarez., and will surely return someday. We actually left a few days ago and drove about 130 miles to spend one night at the Desert Willow RV Park in Van Horn, Texas. It is the westernmost town in the U.S. Central Time Zone so it was time to change the clocks.

Back in Texas 052Back in Texas 056

Since every town, no matter how small or remote, has a story we headed into town and discovered the recently renovated historic hotel called the Hotel El Capitan which was built in the 1930's and designed by famed architect Henry Trost. What a cool place it was with its southwestern decor and charm.  It is a hotel I would love to stay at (if we didn’t have a RV). We walked around the small town and took in the rest of the sights. Van Horn has seen better days but we had a good time there.  The elderly lady who manages the park was a hoot and recommended Papa's Pantry for lunch.  I had a red chili smothered ground beef burrito whereas Sharon had shredded beef and grilled chili, onion and tomato burrito.  Sharon's was better once again (sigh).  Other than a cranky waitress at the restaurant, the townspeople were very friendly and welcoming so we see no reason to pass it by next time we are driving through on Interstate 10.


Our next stop was about 160 miles east where we pulled into a pull thru site (number 5) at Monahans State Park, a place we have been to before but simply had to revisit. The weather was about to become stormy and wet so we booked two days to let it all pass through. Our first day at the park the weather was perfect and we thankfully were able to do a lot of hiking in the dunes. The trek over the dunes was lots of work but well  worth the effort for the amazing vistas… Friday the rains came along with some thunder and lightening so we were only able to do short excursions between rain events. This morning it is still raining (with more to come) so we will extend our stay another day before moving on to San Angelo, Texas.

We feel the beauty of this place, come rain or shine, is a perfect place to wait for the weather to clear… I will let the photos speak for themselves…