Texas to Minnesota, April 2018. The road home.

Sooner or later it is time to head back to the barn. We delayed almost a week in Fredericksburg because Minnesota was getting slammed with a snow storm. 16 inches at the airport! 14 inches or so at Hastings. So we enjoyed our last few days in Fredericksburg with a final lunch at Nury’s right next to the RV Park.

Mike and Jackie. Dave, John and Stacey, Norm and Shirl joined us. What a wonderful bunch of folks we got to share our time with while we were there.

Our first stop on the way home was a free city park in Haskell, TX. We drove all day into a headwind through Abilene and then sort of northeast and still didn’t get out of Texas. Haskell is a small town past its prime but they had an adequate overnight stop with electric hookups. The small city park next to the campground had a first class ball park and what seemed like a semipro ball team. They were out practicing soon after we arrived and set out on a walk. Pretty scruffy place, no pictures.

Then next day we set off for Oklahoma. Very windy. North to Wichita Falls and into Oklahoma. Then on to Oklahoma City and further on to Tulsa and just a bit further to Claremore and the Hawthorn Bluff COE Campground an Lake Oologah. This was a long day.

An hour or two after we left Haskell the wind was very strong and our patio awning came loose. We pulled off to the side of the road and did our best to get it wound back up. A nice young fellow stopped and gave us a hand. With his help we got it rolled back up. We tied it up so it could not come loose again. Two parts are broken and new parts have been ordered.

We went this way partly to see what it would be like to go this way in the winter on the way to Arizona compared to going south from Minnesota to east Texas and then west. The east Texas route gets us to moderate weather quicker but it is longer. Going the Oklahoma route has more two lane roads but can get us down to Georgetown or Fredericksburg. Lots of trade offs. Maybe we should just leave right after Thanksgiving.

The weather for the next couple days looked like rain and nothing but rain. More than an inch was in the forecast. Driving in the rain is OK but it is more tiring. Lots more things that need your attention. So we stayed for two nights.

There was quite a few people here. It rained almost all day, we got out for a couple short walks in between the downpours. The coach was nice and warm which makes sitting still in the rain easier. Our site was not very level but the coach levels itself by adjusting the airbags. Works well.

Some people have to make do with things at hand.

Oklahoma has tolls on all of the interstates we drove on. Five or six toll booths took about $40 for the privilege of driving on OK roads. One might have expected them to be perfect for that amount but they were not, not even close. It makes us wonder if it is worth it.

The next day we had a more normal driving day to the Crow’s Creek Campground at Clay County Park on Smithville Lake just north of Kansas City. It is a big campground with 415 sites. Another county campground also on the lake had 365 sites. This is one of the biggest county park campgrounds we have seen.

It was a damp day until just south of KC. Not enough to have the wipers on all the time. Just enough to arrive virtually bug free and pretty clean. Most days when we stop for the day one of the first tasks is to debug the front end of the coach. Once those splattered bugs have a chance to petrify they are harder to get off.

Nice level camp sites. This one had electric, some also had water and some had a sewer connection. The campsites were mostly on small peninsulas in the dammed up lake.

There was a 7 mile long great bike path the circled the entire campground. We got in a bunch of riding in before dinner. No leaves on the trees here!

The next day we drove to Cherry Glen COE Campground on Saylorville Lake just north of Des Moines. We have been to this park before, quite nice. Last time it was out in the country, today it seems like the housing development is right up to the edge of the park.

A great spot to stop to make the last day towards home a fairly short one.

It was very clear as we headed north that we were way ahead of spring.

The next morning we left for Hastings. About 200 miles. We were stopped to unhook the Jeep by 3. Backed the coach into the driveway and stopped to unload. There were piles of snow still on the side of the driveway.

By 5:30 we had most everything out of the coach that we had to get out. There was still some more to do but it could wait. The thermostats were set up to the mid 60’s. The water heater was back on. There were piles of mail on the dining room table.

Like most times after being gone we were back where there was lots to do, lots to catch up on. Things seem to be moving faster.

It is OK. Nice to be back with some elbow room. It takes a couple days to feel warm in this larger space, to remember where all the stuff in the kitchen is, to quit reaching for the water pump switch when you turn on the water and to find each other when we are in different rooms.

And to start talking about not where we are going next, or the time after that but three or four adventures out. We are lucky to be able to share this together.

And thanks for coming along with us,

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg TX. April 2018. LBJ Ranch

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born near Fredericksburg at a small homestead on the Pedernales River.

He and Lady Bird Johnson bought the adjacent ranch from LBJ’s aunt and created the LBJ Ranch where they lived out their lives and are buried there in a small family cemetery.

Most of the buildings were renovated to make guest houses. But not all.

The ranch land along the river has majestic oak trees.

The ranch house was small at first but many additions later it was quite large. It has been restored to the way it was during LBJ’s presidency, late 60’s for the most part.

The property is now a National Park but it is still a working ranch complete with the breeding herd of registered Hereford cows, a few lucky bulls and lots of calves.

Each had their horns engraved with LBJ on one and a number on the other.

They all seemed to know when and where lunch was being served.

Their eye lashes were pretty amazing. This one must have been pretty young, no horns yet.

After driving though the ranch the house tours started at the airplane hanger.

This is the mini Airforce One. Sometimes they called it Airforce One Half. It was way bigger than the hanger but must have been a tight squeeze for the 6′-4″ tall president.

Here is my First Lady coming down the stairs doing the Queen wave.

While LBJ was in congress they added an airstrip so that they could fly in and out of the ranch. When he became President the airstrip was lengthened to accommodate bigger aircraft but the ground underneath was not strong enough for full sized jets. So they used a smaller jet or helicopters to ferry the president and his staff and visitors to the ranch from Austin or San Antonio.

While LBJ was president he spent about 20% of his time at the ranch. His barbecues were famous for entertaining guests and setting the stage for getting things done. LBJ’s presidency was one of the most productive administrations.

Small groups were led through the house, no pictures, please. It was back to the 60’s. Many small rooms and lots of doors, mostly part of the many additions. Many rooms had three TV sets, one for each network of those days. PBS came about because of legislation passed during the LBJ administration.

The kitchen was surprisingly small and old looking. There was a separate room just for beer. And walk in coolers in a separate building. Lady Bird’s bedroom was huge. LBJ’s closet was filled with hats and boots, his bedroom had three TV sets and dozens of ceiling mounted lights and almost as many switches. And phones in every room, even a princess phone mounted to the dining room table leg next to where LBJ sat and many more in his bedroom. They all had dials.

We forget what the world was like not too long ago. Miraculous compared to what our grandparents experienced. Very outdated compared to what we know today.

Both LBJ and Lady Bird lived their final days at the ranch. LBJ died in his bedroom. Both are buried in the family cemetery at the ranch.

There are lots of places to see. Sometimes these kind of places are important to see. They put into perspective what life was like for some at different times and the environment our leaders found themselves in at the time. We have been to Mount Vernon and to Monticello and a recreation of Lincoln’s log cabin birthplace. Probably lots more to see, we just have to stop.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX. April 2018. Enchanted Rock.

There is a big rock about 20 miles north of Fredericksburg. A big granite rock that just sticks up out of the ground more than 400 feet and covers more than a square mile. There are a few small lakes nearby and trails all around the rock. You can hike to the top, the trail is pretty much however you manage to get up. Some go straight up, most zig-zag back and forth to the top.

This is a TX state Park photo. The rock has evidence of humans being here as long ago as 10-12,000 years, just visiting for most of that time as do so many people today that the park is often closed because it is at capacity. Legends of the local Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche tribes give magic and spiritual powers to the rock. The first European to visit the rock was in 1536. The Tonkawa believed ghost fires flickered on the top at night and that they heard creaking and groaning sounds. The theories for these are that the sounds were likely from the granite cooling off after a day in the sun. The ghost fires were late day sun distorted by the heat of the rock. There are a whole list of other legends too, how many of them just to increase tourism we will never know.

It is a very popular destination. There are bragging rights if you make it to the top.

After the fee station and the parking lot hike to the trail head you get to go down about 40 steps to the trail. This doesn’t seem to bad at first but then you realize that you have to go back up the same steps at the end when you are pooped out.

We took one each of our hiking poles. There were plenty of places where two would have been OK.

And there were conveniently located rocks for a sit down break.

Someone told us there used to be footprints painted on the rock to guide the way. They are all worn away. But cracks in the ancient rock filled in with other lava flows gave us a line to follow.

Up and up, one step at a time. We were there in the morning, it was maybe 70° with some breeze. This would be very hard in the mid-summer.

Quite a view from the top.

There were dished out areas in the rock from freeze/thaw cycles where water would collect and then dust and dirt and then plants.

The cactus were just about to bloom.

These two youngsters were enjoying the view.

And Susan confirmed that cell phone signal was excellent.

The way down was just like the way up. But we took a straighter path.

Sun and wind and rain and temperatures cause erosion that results in interesting rock formations.

This one has a hole through it. One of the old legends has Native Americans hiding up here to avoid the Europeans. This would have been a good spot to hide and spy at the same time.

Finally down we had a small picnic. Our muscles and knees felt OK. It was the next morning before reports of more work than normal arrived.

Is it the Ayers Rock of Texas? It is much smaller but still a big rock and for no other reason than to say you climbed to the top you should go. But we did notice that all of our other FT friends (who have been here before) passed on the opportunity to do it again.

When we got to the top of the rock we felt like Rocky at the top of the Museum Steps, and did a little dance. We were probably just a bit light-headed. Glad we did the climb and the dance.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, April 2018. National Museum of the Pacific War. Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Fredericksburg was the boyhood home to Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who led the American Naval forces in the Pacific during World War II. He was strongly influenced by his grandfather who gave him his hard work ethic, his fairness and compassion and the ability to make the choices needed to lead the Pacific naval efforts.

He studied hard and passed an early test so that he could take the entrance exam to the Naval Academy. He qualified and entered the Naval Acadamy when he was still a teenager.

The Admiral Nimitz Museum is in the hotel owned by Nimitz’s Grandfather.

There is a statue of Nimitz in a small courtyard. Susan thought it was life sized at first glance but I barely came up to his shoulders. I don’t think he was that tall.

The National Museum of the Pacific War is in another large building right next door and in another site where there are aircraft and a PT boat on display as well as a living history reenactment theater.

The museum is organized in a timeline fashion as well as the island by island struggle.

I like this kind of museum where a story unfolds as you move through the displays. There were many levels of detail to see, hear and watch. There were displays, videos projected on the walls, computer screen desks like the one above, audio listening devices that you could select several stories to listen and more. The level of detail was very good. An entrance ticket was good for two days. We came back a second day because there was so much more to see.

In another facility a few blocks away there was a living history center where combat is simulated for an audience watching from the grandstands. It is hard to imagine the horror of these combat situations from the bleacher seats.

Another building held an aircraft carrier airplane and a recreation of the aircraft control center on the carrier. It was all about carrier operations.

The other building had a real PT boat that had been restored.

There were several versions of PT boats. They had a short life expectancy driving very close to enemy ships while under fire to let loose their torpedos. Many remember the PT109 story of John F Kennedy. It was probably a bit over dramatized in the movie but the reality was very difficult.

Not at all like McHale’s Navy.

In the courtyard next to the Museum was an area honoring men, ships, squadrons, crews and many other individuals and groups from the Pacific War.

And to bring it all back to today there is a Japanese Peace Garden.

It is a beautiful and peaceful place with a small stream along one side, very carefully maintained plantings, a large center section of white gravel raked to perhaps represent the waves on the ocean and small garden areas in the sea of white gravel representing all of the islands in the Pacific.

We are always surprised and delighted to find all of the things that seem to make each place we visit special. And this happens because we are taking more and more time to be in each place as we are there. It takes some time to begin to discover all that a town like Fredericksburg has to offer. As we have discovered over many years with an RV you don’t have time to see very much just driving by.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, April 2018. Camp Verde

Did you know there were camels in Texas? There were and they were at Camp Verde about an hour south of Fredericksburg.

Camp Verde was the headquarters for the U.S. Camel Corps. Leave it to the Army to try using dromedaries as pack animals. All of this started in 1856. But the camels and the Army horses and mules didn’t get along at all. The horses, mules and soldiers hated the surly and smelly camels.

The Texas Rangers were in charge of the camels during the Civil War. (Texas was part of the Confederacy) Some of the camels escaped and headed to Arkansa. They were later captured and sent to Iowa! Iowa! After the Civil War some of the 66 remaining camels were sold off to a few circuses and the remainder sent to Arizona to get old.

This really happened.

And now Camp Verde lives as a General Store, a Post Office and a Restaurant.

The general store part is about half western themed gifts and the rest is a first class kitchen store. We really like kitchen stores and this one was one of the better ones. Lots of stuff at $7. Kitchen store fans will buy almost anything for $7. We bought a couple clever gifts items, a paper dish cloth (we have a couple of these and they are amazing) and a new set of measuring spoons for the coach.

And then we had lunch in the restaurant. It was wonderful and followed by a peach cobbler with ice cream.

After lunch we wandered around the grounds.

There was an attractive outdoor dining area with a big fireplace.

It was green and comfortable.

And the back corner of the restaurant. The building was very attractive.

And the camels were remembered. I am not sure if there were ever baby camels but the thought was nice.

And like some of our favorite sculptures in Santa Fe, these were kinetic. Play the video to see. (Hope it works, this is our first video)

One more great spot in the Texas Hill Country not too far from Federicksburg.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, April 2018 Wine, Olive Ranch, Wild Seed Farm

The area around Fredericksburg has a wide variety of agricultural products. Maybe it is the elevation (1,700 ft) or the climate. Maybe it is because the tourist traffic is high here and will support it. There is a lot more than cattle here today.

Wine

There are wineries, distilleries and breweries up and down the highways leading into Fredericksburg. There are companies whose entire business is carting people from one winery to the next to taste wine. Better than intoxicated tasters driving down the highways.

Most of the wineries have a vineyard next to the usually large recently built buildings meant to look like something from Italy. These vineyards are mostly for show. There is no way they grow enough grapes to make enough wine to support the facilities. Most of the grapes (more likely grape juice) comes from somewhere else, maybe California, maybe Texas … they don’t say. There is just enough grapes from the Fredericksburg area to call it Fredericksburg wine.

We have been to the wineries big and small in Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California. Way back then you drove from one spot to the next and tried a bit of their recent wine, maybe bought some or not. In the Fredericksburg area there are tasting rooms downtown on main street, nowhere near a winery but where the tourists are. Wine tour busses haul most of the rest of the folks around for a significant fee.

At the downtown tasting room and many of the wineries you have to pay to taste. $18 gets you six little samples. You can buy a glass of wine in a plastic cup and head down Main Street, glass in hand. And wine isn’t cheap. The old Two Buck Chuck wine at Trader Joes (now six or more) seems to be a thing of the past and $20 or $30 for a bottle seemed more like the starting point. We don’t drink wine any more so it is a nevermind to us.


Olive Ranch

Who would have expected to find a world class olive ranch in Texas. Well there is one down near Wimberley. And a place for lunch too. So the willing piled into cars and trucks and off we went. Susan and I rode with Bill Blackmon. He has one of those four door, four wheel drive, short box Ford pickups that are the truck of choice it seems in Texas. It was actually a very comfortable ride and a nice time to chat with Bill on the way.

The Olive Ranch was started about 20 years ago when a local guy planted more than 40,000 olive trees. The first crop came in 2009 and the trees have been producing about 25,000 gallons of very high quality olive oil ever since.

It is a ranch but there is a Tasting Room, just like at the wineries but it is free along with an oral history of olive oil. It seemed weird to be tasting olive oil but it was a good way to “see” the differences.

We got the full story about how olives are pressed to make different kinds of olive oil, when and how to use what kinds of oil and what it tastes like. Fruitly with a distinct pepper after taste for newer oils. Less peppery as it ages. And every imaginable flavor of infused oil you could think of. And vinaigrettes too. We bought some.

Lots of trees, lots of maintenance.

Lots of olives to pick by hand. Billions and billions as Carl Sagan said a while back.

A pretty amazing place to visit with friends.


Wild Seed Farm

The Wild Seed Farm is not hard to miss. When I first saw it I thought there was a lake in the distance but it was a hundred acres or so of Blue Bonnets.

There are two hundred acres of different kinds of wild flowers being grown to harvest their seeds.

Poppies

That’s Karen.

And more.

And us on a warm sunny day in Texas.

The Yellow Rose of Texas.

And Ted and Susan.

Of course there was a seed shop, gift shop, garden store, wine room and ice cream.

We bought red poppies, Yellow Black Eyed Susans, a northern wild flower mix and some more blue bonnets to try at home. An an ice cream to share.

Another wonderful and surprising central Texas spot. Right here near Fredericksburg.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, April 2018. Alamo Springs Cafe

Alamo Springs is about 25 miles south of Fredericksburg as the car goes. Crows have a much straighter path. It is mostly narrow twisty state and county roads that lead towards the Old Tunnel State Park which is right next to the Alamo Springs Ranch wherein lies the Alamo Springs Cafe.

Old Tunnel State Park is an abandoned (1942) railroad tunnel of the Fredericksburg and Northern Railway. It was made into a state park in 2012. Most of the visitors to the park are bats who come and go each evening.

The Alamo Springs Cafe is famous for hamburgers and onion rings. Those seem to be Texas favorites along with chicken fried steak.

An unassuming spot. But a popular destination.

Big burgers of almost any variety.

And onion rings.

And the “See If You Can Eat It All” burger. It is probably close to four pounds of ground beef.

Rudy and Carolyn drove up from San Antonio to join us the first time we went.

Chuck and Jeanie from Midland TX joined us the second time.

As did Max and Mary from Houston. All Foretravel owners who stopped in at Fredericksburg.

Free advice on the wall.

So my advice is when you are in the area, find the Alamo Springs Cafe and have lunch. Good!

More later,

Roger and Susan