12/14/03 Update

Friends,

1-2 Dec 03, Mon-Tue: Yegua Creek P, Brenham, TX

After a delightful visit with our friends at Lake Conroe, we headed west, mostly on Rt 105, to Brenham where we turned north on Rt. 36 to Lake Somerville. When we read that the Corps of Engineers (COE) has three parks on the lake, our next stop was an easy decision. We've mentioned before that the COE parks are always superb, and this one is no exception. We selected Yegua Creek, and after parting with $16 for two nights (the duffer rate), we backed into a site where we were on a bluff with a 180-degree view of the lake.

Today we left the Piney Woods Region of Texas and entered Prairies and Plains near Plantersville.

During our afternoon walk without jackets, we counted 20 deer that had come out for their evening meal. As we sit here at the dinette writing this, there are six just a few yards away.

Tuesday: Downtown Brenham is about 10 miles from this park, but a very easy drive as most of it is a four-lane highway with no one on it. Amazing! First stop was the PO, and then Purelli's Country Buffet. Guess you know by now that we brake for buffets.

Since we're also very enthusiastic about ice cream, we decided to tour the Blue Bell Creamery. Beginning with production of only two gallons a day in 1911, the popular creamery is now home of what many believe to be the 'best ice cream in the country'. Don't try to tell folks in Brenham otherwise! We wound up the tour with our selection of one of their 44 flavor, a new one: pineapple-upside-down cake - scrumptious.

At the Fireman's Park in town there's a 16-sided building (the only one in Texas) housing an antique carousel with Hershell-Spillman horses manufactured prior to 1910. There was no one home; however, so we had only a suboptimal peek through frosted windows.

That pretty much wrapped up our touring for this day and another beautiful, sunny day it was. Back to our great spot on Somerville Lake.

03-05 Dec 03, Wed-Fri: The Oaks RV Park, Cedar Creek, TX

We left the deer and the super park on Somerville Lake via back roads and then ambled west over Rt. 290 until we reached Rt. 21 where we turned south. Soon we were driving through the strange 'lost pines' in Bastrop. This area of stately pines is referred to as 'lost pines' as there are no pine trees between here and the Piney Woods Region which we left back in Plantersville on Monday.

The Oaks is a new park and honors Rec. USA so $10 for full hookups. It looks to be quite fine for a one-night stop that includes laundry. It's 70 degrees this afternoon-have seen that only a few times thus far.

Thurday: Yes, we did check in for one night, but as frequently happens, we're finding more to do here. Cal decided this cement pad we're parked on would be a perfect place to rotate the Honda tires. Connie made blue berry muffins, and then we headed for Bastrop proper in search of water hose clamps. It was too late to do the other things on our list so we'll be here Friday also. Cal was quite delighted to find that this park, opened in 2001, has a high-speed Internet connection. Another sunny day in Texas.

Friday still at the Oaks: We're in for a day of high wind so decided to stay put until the elements calm down. This day's diversion was a short ride over back roads to find the Cedar Creek Post Office.

6-7 Dec 03, Sat-Sun: Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, TX

Sat.:We left the Prairies and Lakes Region and entered Hill Country west of Austin - love the change: hills and woods instantly replaced the open expanses.

We had an incentive for an early start this morning as Stan and Liz are at Pedernales. As we entered the Park and made radio contact, Stan advised the site across the road from them was open. It's the first time we've seen our friends since back home in Strafford. After lunch we walked to Pedernales Falls which surprised us; they're a very broad expanse of mostly flat rocks with water cascading down in a couple of places - enough water now to be quite lovely. We sprawled out on the rocks, visiting in the sun for a while before our return trek.

Sunday: The four of us took another delightful walk this morning - down to the river, then back up to higher ground and a nature trail above it which led to a platform overlook.

Stan and Liz then departed. We drove into Johnson City eight miles west of the Park to visit the boyhood home of LB Johnson. After a tour of his home (which is very small and plain), we walked four tenths of a mile in the 60-degree sunshine to the Johnson Settlement where his grandfather and great grandfather lived.

After gathering some groceries, we returned to our Park where we were quite surprised to find that Caryn Maus had left a note on our motorhome. She's the gal who sold us our McKenzie Motorhome two years ago. That was in New Braunfels, near Johnson City. As Caryn and her mother were driving through the park scouting for a camping event for Evergreen RV, she spotted our 24-foot rig, saw the NH plates and knew it was us.

This park sure is quiet. It's practically deserted and we're out in the boonies far enough so we don't even hear a train or 18 wheeler. There are 69 water and electric sites here and there is a lot of space between sites, complete with trees and shrubs. There are deer all over the place. It's pretty nifty here in the Texas Hill country.

8 Dec 03, Mon: South Llano River State Park, Junction, TX

We've had a first-hand view of Pecan harvesting. The South Llano State Park is loaded with pecan trees, wild turkeys and deer.

The park has contracted Pecan harvesting in an effort to raise funds to help support park maintenance. The weevils aren't controlled and the surface under the trees isn't well maintained so it's a bit labor intensive, but here's how it works.

They have this shaker mounted on the back of a substantial tractor. It grabs the tree via hydraulic gripper, then a short burst of power is applied to the shaker via PTO and down come the nuts and dead branches. The branches get raked and piled to one side by hand, and then a machine pulled by another tractor picks up the nuts and lots of other stuff. Some of the undesirable material is winnowed out and discarded by the machine and the rest goes into a hopper.

The hopper gets dumped into another machine that is parked nearby. That machine does some more winnowing, and what's left goes onto an open conveyor. The rest of the operation is hand picking with the balance of the good stuff going into a bag at the end.

Considering all the overhead and labor involved in bagging a few nuts, it's amazing to us that the park ends up with any financial gain. We have a new appreciation for the price of a bag of nuts in the supermarket.

We think they would do better if they sold some of the deer in that place. :-) They're all over the place and we counted 22 from one spot.

The Rio Grande turkeys range from Mexico to Kansas and winter along the Llano River. They roost in the trees near the river at night and feed within one and a half miles of the river. The turkeys' area here in the Park is off limits to people during the winter months so we're glad the big fellas came to feed all around the motorhomes in clumps of one to two dozen.

9 Dec 03, Tue: Seminole Canyon State Park, Langry, TX

We were winding and climbing south on Rt. 377 till we reached Rt 277 where we left the Hill Country Region and the terrain flattened out instaantly in Big Bend Country. Then it was west on Rt 90 to Seminole Canyon Park. The country was beautiful, and we enjoyed this day of hills and woods. It was a real tough day of driving for Cal, though, as strong winds tossed us around all day.

When we contacted Liz and Stan in Del Rio, they said they'd join us at Seminole Canyon west of where they were camped. The wind was still fierce so we continued to rock until the wind abated when the sun went down - THANK GOODNESS. More good visiting with our friends.

10 Dec 03, Wed: Vashti Skiles Community Center, Langtry, TX

This morning the four of us joined the guided tour at the Seminole Canyon Park. The Fate Bell Shelter, a short hike from the Visitor Center, is a 450-foot long cave where 4000-year old rock art, pictographs, are visible. Although the reds and yellows of the art have faded, it is remarkable that it is evident at all considering its age.

About a half hour after leaving the Seminole Canyon Park, we parked our rigs side by side for a night of dry camping ($2.00 donation) at this Community Center across the road from the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center. After stretching out in the warm sun for a little while, we walked over to the Visitor Center which features Judge Bean's rustic saloon, courtroom, billard hall and opera house.

Tonight we were in for a real treat as Liz had made spaghetti sauce; we had fresh/frozen peas from our son Gary's garden, a salad, and finished off with pie and ice cream.

11 Dec 03, Thu: Lost Alaskan RVPark, Alpine, TX

After a brief morning hike, it was westward ho! Stan and Liz set their sights on Balmorhea State Park. Cal and Connie enjoyed the beautiful mountains and scenery on Rt. 90 and then Rt 118 to Alpine. Our mail was waiting for us; we replenished the groceries, and then checked into this very spiffy park in Alpine.

As we were signing in, our hostess called our attention to 'meals on wheels'! We could place an order with her for dinner from the local Long Horn Restaurant, and it would be delivered to our site. Since laundry was on our agenda, it sounded like the best of all deals. As Connie was returning to the motorhome a little later, the clothes happily whirling in the dryers, our piping hot, delicious dinners arrived at our door. That's a first!

12-13 Dec 03, Fri, Sat: Prude Ranch RV, Fort Davis, TX

Fri: We continued north from Alpine on Rt 118 through beautiful mountains which eventually opened out onto a prairie and then the town of Fort Davis lay before us. "Nestling comfortably at 5,000 feet in the Davis Mountains, Fort Davis has the distinction of being the highest town in the state. This mountain desert setting not only surrounds Fort Davis with a unique mixture of Chihuahuan Desert and alphine flora and fauna, but also provides moderate temperatures year round, an average sumnmer high of 88 degrees and average winter low of 30 degrees."

Prude Ranch is perfectly delightful, and since this is a very quiet time of year for their activities, we're the only ones here - just a few horses and deer besides us. There are special programs including horseback riding, swimming in heated pool, hiking, court games, etc. but we're between seasons.

We went back downtown for a quick but informative and interesting tour of the Fort Davis Historic Site.

Sat: It was 20 degrees this morning, windy, but clear and just perfect for our visit to the McDonald Observatory at an elevation of 6791 feet. Stan and Liz joined us at 9:30 and what a gorgeous ride it was up to the visitor center.

The extensive exhibits explained what astronomers do at the Observatory. Our very knowledgeable guide described the telescopes, histories, and operations and research. Then he drove us to the top of Mt. Locke to view the original telescope with a 82-inch reflector. The Hobby-Eberly Telescope, the third largest in the world, is housed in another dome and has the largest telescope mirror in the world.

The one hundred mile vistas of area mountains on this very clear day were spectacular.

Stan and Liz are continuing on to Van Horn this afternoon, but we're happy to stay here at 'our' lovely ranch for a quiet, productive afternoon. It's about time we sent this update on its way.

Our best wishes for peace and happiness - Cal and Connie