Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Basin

The most unique and beautiful spot in Big Bend, at least for my money, is the Basin. Now, true desert rats will probably disagree and argue that the lower elevations of the area offer the greatest beauty if you know how and where to look for it. And Donna and I both love the desert and understand their sentiments. You have to love the desert to have lived in West Texas as long as we have.

But the Basin is special and offers an environment unlike almost anything else in Texas. Besides the Basin, you can probably only find this type of environment in selected areas of the Davis Mountains and Guadalupe Mountains.

To reach the Basin, turn south off the main park road just 3 miles west of Panther Junction, the headquarters for Big Bend National Park. At first, the road is like other park roads, but you soon notice that you are climbing steadily. Lower peaks begin to close on both sides of the road, and after a few miles, real trees begin to appear. There are 2 or 3 places where you can stop for photo opportunities along this route.

There aren't many places in Texas where you will see a sign like this. This is the approach road to the Basin. Notice there are no trees near the road.
Casa Grande looming ahead. Note tree growth along roadside. The farther up we go, the more numerous and taller the trees. Compare this picture to the previous one. This one is just a mile or so farther along than the previous one.
The ascent gets a bit steeper and the curves sharper the farther you go. After the first switchback, you crest over the rim  and begin to descend into the Basin. The Basin is formed by a series of mountains that ring a depression. I'm not a geologist, but my understanding is that the area had volcanic activity between 17 and 38 million years ago. Regardless, the Basin is actually a depression in the center of this ring of mountains, all part of the Chisos Mountain range. Some of the taller peaks in this ring are:
  • Emory Peak -- 7,825 feet
  • Toll Mountain -- 7,415 feet
  • Casa Grande -- 7,325 feet
  • Ward Mountain -- 6,890 feet
The elevation of the Basin proper is 5,401 feet.

Emory Peak at 7825 ft is the tallest point in the Chisos Mountains and Big Bend
In my mind, there are 2 great photo ops in the Basin. The first is the Window. The Window is a V notch in the ring of mountains surrounding the Basin, and it is the only outlet for runoff water from the Basin. The V notch does form a window with spectacular views towards the west. It has the lowest elevation in the Basin at 4,600 feet.

Donna and the Window

The second photo op is Casa Grande, an imposing mountain that looms above the Basin. It is the most recognizable of the mountains in the area.

Casa Grande looms over the Basin at 7325 ft.
Numerous facilities and amenities are available in the Basin. The Chisos Mountain Lodge offers various types of motel rooms and cottages. I don't know if things have changed, but when I worked this area several years ago, there were no TVs or phones in the rooms.

There is also a convenience store offering basic items. The Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant serves up some very good food. It also offers one of the most spectacular views from the dining room of any place in Texas.

The Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant at the Basin

View of the Window from our table in the Chisos Mountains Dining Room
There is also a campground in the Basin. However, because of the challenging road, longer trailers and RVs are discouraged from using this campground. Even so, we did see a couple of longer rigs in the campground. I would not care to pull a trailer up that road. Numerous trailheads also originate in the Basin, offering hikers a variety of opportunities to explore this high country. Take animal warnings seriously as bears and mountain lions do make this area home.

If you plan to visit the Basin, be forewarned that it is a different environment and climate from the lower elevations of the park. During warmer months, it provides a welcome relief; during cooler months, it can be colder. On our trip, temps in the Basin were about 15 degrees lower than along the main park road. I've been in the Basin before during spring when the lower elevations had 90 degree temps with sunny skies, but the Basin was misty with temps in the lower 50s or upper 40s. Dress appropriately.

From left to right, motel rooms, convenience store, and ranger station.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dugout Wells

About 6 miles southeast of Panther Junction (headquarters for Big Bend National Park), just north of the main east/west park road, lies Dugout Wells. This oasis is visible for several miles as several tall cottonwoods and a single windmill stick out on the horizon like a city skyline on a treeless plain.

Aside from the markers present at Dugout Wells, I can find limited information about this little oasis. At one time, it was considered a cultural center of this vast region. Travelers would stop here for water, catching up on both local and other news as they did so. There were a few houses here at one time, and even a little school.

The seep at Dugout Wells where live-giving water merges from the desert floor

Today, not much remains of that little community. A well-maintained dirt road of about half a mile brings visitors from the main road. The road then loops the growth of trees. There is a primitive toilet, two picnic tables, a windmill, and a half-mile nature trail.

Donna and I walked the nature trail. It is well-maintained and easy to follow. Markers are spaced along the trail, and provide a glimpse of life in the desert. One marker indicates where a dugout was once located, while others provide information about plants and animals.

View of Dugout Wells from the nature trail. The Sierra del Carmen mountains of Mexico are in the right background.

From what little I have been able to dig up, it seems that William Green bought the land around what is known today as Dugout Wells in 1915. A school was already established in the area, and had been since at least 1911. In fact, during the mid-1920s, there was a sufficient number of pupils to allow for 2 full-time teachers. The school eventually closed in 1933, and the land was eventually sold to the park service.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Boquillas Canyon

There are 3 great canyons carved by the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park: Santa Elena on the west, Mariscal in the south central, and Boquillas in the east. Today, we visited Boquillas Canyon.

Boquillas Canyon is in the extreme east end of the park. Just across the river is the sun-washed Mexican village of Boquillas. The little village is located on a dusty, treeless bluff several hundred feet above the Rio Grande.

Boquillas, Mexico

Craftsmen from Boquillas cross the river daily with their wares, placing them at strategic locations on the American side of the border so that tourists will find -- and hopefully -- buy them. This practice is discouraged by American authorities, but it is almost impossible to stop.

Mexican trinkets placed on a rock on a bluff on the American side of the river.
The river is slow and lazy in this part of the park. It gently sweeps along a sandy delta, lined by low growing shrubs and trees. It then turns and begins carving a narrow canyon in the Sierra del Carmen mountains.

Angled slit where the river enters the canyon. Parking area for trail is at left at base of hill. Trail leads from there over a small bluff and into the canyon.
There is a parking area with primitive restroom at the end of the road. A .7 mile trail leads up and over a small bluff and down into the mouth of the canyon.

Donna on the trail leading up from the parking lot. Top of bluff is in background behind Donna's right shoulder. River is in center turning for flow into the canyon.
As the trail descends the bluff, it leads into a rock-strewn delta with patches of grass. We encountered several Mexican merchants here. One was on our side of the river, while two others were on the Mexican side. One was offering to sing for a price. As we were descending the trail, I heard him singing, and his strong voice was echoing off the canyon walls.

River in lower right as it heads into the canyon

Vertical walls of Boquillas Canyon

Signs along the road warned of recent thefts from parked vehicles. However, we felt that with the large number of visitors, things were safe. I was a bit hesitant approaching the area where the Mexican merchants were on the river, but other tourists were in the area, so we felt safe. However, I would not venture into these canyons if the parking lot was empty.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hot Springs

We covered the eastern side of Big Bend National Park today. Among the many places we visited was Hot Springs.

I've long been interested in this place. Years ago, I came across a small book in my local library called Big Bend: A Homesteader's Story by J. O. Langford. Mr. Langford suffered numerous health problems from a childhood bout with malaria. While visiting in West Texas, he heard of some springs on Tornillo Creek in the Big Bend country that reputedly had curative powers. In 1909, he filed the paperwork to homestead the land and moved his wife and infant daughter to the property. He spent the next several years developing the springs, and his book covers the life he made for himself in this isolated corner of the country.

Today, a few of the structures from that time remain. There are 2 ways to access the area. You can do a 6 mile round-trip hike from Rio Grande Village, or drive down a short but interesting road to the ruins. We decided to drive. The first section of the road is is good shape, though much of it has the washboard surface many natural surface roads do. About a mile or so into the drive, though, the road splits into 2 one-way sections on either side of a ravine. Each section of the road is very narrow, and large vehicles can not negotiate this section of road.

Very narrow alternate sections of roadway

The first structure visible upon arriving is a small house built of native stone on a rise west of the parking lot. A small foot bridge leads east to a series of trails splitting in front of the old store and post office.

Hot Springs store and post office

We followed the trail past the store in search of the actual hot springs that Langford claimed restored his health. Along the way, we passed the motel rooms built to accommodate those who came seeking health from the storied hot springs.

Motel rooms at Hot Springs

Just past the rooms are cliffs that rise above the river trail. Old Indian pictographs can be found on the bare rocks of these cliffs.

Numerous pictographs are visible, as well as some bird nests at top left

We finally came to the hot springs themselves. In Langford's day, he built bath houses to provide himself and his guests a bit of privacy. Flooding eventually destroyed these structures, but the foundations are still clearly visible. When we came to the springs, we discovered a young family enjoying the warm waters, even though we where there on December 27. Steam was clearly visible coming off the 105 degree temperature water of the springs.

Notice foundation from bathhouses still evident in spring. Rio Grande is running beside spring. At top center of picture is a tent with a small campfire. This camp is in Mexico.
Having read Langford's book really brought this trek to life for me. If you enjoy reading, I highly recommend reading the book. I'm sure you can find it on interlibrary loan. Amazon also carries a copy. The book provides a real slice of life on the vanishing American frontier at a time when most travel in the area was still done on horseback. I really enjoyed seeing how Langford immersed himself in the culture of the area and interacted with the natives.

We visited other places today, but I'll cover these individually so that I can cover each area a bit more fully than I could were I to put everything in one long entry.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the Road: Big Spring, Texas, to Terlingua, Texas

We traveled from Big Spring to the Terlingua/Study Butte area today, our home for the next week or so. These roads are familiar to me. I traveled them quite a bit when I worked for Region 18 Education Service Center in Midland from 1997 to 2002. There have been lots of changes since the last time I was here, though. Still, it's good to be back to a place so familiar to me.

285 miles from Big Spring to Terlingua
The first part of the trip was rather normal as we cruised down Interstate 20 from Big Spring to Monahans. This is oil field country, and oil industry businesses line the interstate almost the entire way, especially from just east of Midland to several miles west of Odessa. In fact, Monahans is the home of the Million Barrel Museum, which is actually a colossal whole used to store oil during the 1920s oil boom.

At Monahans we left the interstate on Highway 18 for a few miles to the southern edge of town where we turned off on the little used FM 1776. This is a rather lonely stretch of highway. From here to Alpine, a distance of just over 100 miles, there are no towns of note, just the little farming community of Coyanosa with fewer than 150 residents. A few miles after turning onto this highway, we crossed the fabled Pecos River, which is little more than an irrigation ditch at this point. Like the Rio Grande, which it empties into near Langtry, the Pecos is drained by farmers in New Mexico.

As we approached Interstate 10, the mountains came into view. At Interstate 10, FM 1776 becomes US 67, a section of road we traveled on in August 2011 during our trip to the Davis Mountains. We visited lots of places in the area at that time, and I invite you to flip back in the blog to that time to visit those places with us. For now, we continued down the highway to Alpine, where we made our last stop for gas before jumping off into the "Last Frontier", as locals refer to this part of Texas.

At Alpine, we turned due south onto Texas 118 for the final 80 miles. This was the most scenic section of the trip. There are so many landmarks of note we passed along the way: Cathedral Peak, Elephant Mountain, Santiago Peak, Christmas Mountains, and Nine-Point Mesa, to name a few. These may not be household names to most people, but the folks of the Big Bend know these landmarks.

The first 20 miles or so south of Alpine is composed of mild ups and downs as the highway climbs onto a high plateau. Near Elephant Mountain, the highway becomes level and stretch for most of the remainder of the trip.

You won't see houses along this drive. You'll see very few ranches, very few roads. This is empty country in the sense of settlement -- and I like that. When you do come across a community, like Study Butte (pronounced "Stew-dee"), you appreciate it, even though there is only a scattering of businesses here. But for the next 8 nights, Study Butte is our home. We'll be surrounded by this desert terrain and these quiet mountains.

It should be fun.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Back to Big Spring

We're back in Big Spring now so that we can spend Christmas with Courtney and her family.We arrived yesterday. Last night, after supper, we all drove around and looked at Christmas lights in Big Spring. The city sponsors a Christmas lighting known as Comanche Trail Festival of Lights.  It really is an impressive display, located in the scenic city park on the south side of the city.

We will remain in Big Spring until the day after Christmas, when we will leave for a journey to the Big Bend country. I'm excited about that. When we lived in Midland and I worked for Region 18 Education Service Center, I would travel to the Big Bend country frequently to serve the schools in that area, including Terlingua CSD just outside the park entrance in nearby Terlingua/Study Butte, and San Vicente ISD, a small K-8 school actually located within Big Bend National Park at Panther Junction.

I always enjoyed my visits to this unique corner of Texas. There is truly no other place like it in Texas. It will be interesting to see how it has changed over the past 12 or so years since I was last there. Most of our activities will be focused within the national park itself. We will enjoy a few short hikes, visit the Basin, and visit J. O. Langsford's old Hot Springs home.

Outside the park, we will visit Terlingua and nearby Lajitas. We may even follow the River Road all the way to Fort Leaton and neighboring Presidio. I'll take lots of pictures and post them when I have connectivity.

From Big Bend, we will then journey east for a while, visiting some places that have been on my "to visit" list for a while.

I'll see you down the road.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Good Eats: Hidalgo's, San Angelo, Texas

I've been on the hunt for some good Tex-Mex enchiladas for quite a while now. During our trip through the Southwest, I sampled enchiladas in New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. Personally, I just don't care for the red sauce that part of the country uses on enchiladas. I realize this is a personal preference, as that red sauce seems to be very popular out there. I keep looking for the style of enchilada I had as a child. From time to time, I stumble across such an enchilada. I did so recently on a visit to Hidalgo's in San Angelo.

There are, I believe, 3 Hidalgo's in San Angelo. We tried the location at 3108 Sherwood Way since it is the nearest to our current location. Donna had eaten here years ago when we lived in Ozona, but I do not believe I've ever been in the place.

Not many customers were in the place, probably no more than 20 other diners. We asked for a booth in the back. Our drink orders were taken, and we were promptly served our drinks, chips, and salsa. We took a while to look over the menu before ordering. Donna opted for chalupas, which is a favorite of hers, and I decided on the Combination Dinner, which consists of 2 enchiladas and 2 tacos.

The salsa was tasty and had a good bite. Chips were solid and did not crumble as they do at many places. I like a thicker chip, but some folks don't. Donna ordered a guacamole salsa which was quite spicey. I thoroughly enjoyed my cheese enchilada covered with chile sauce. The beef tacos were fine, but next time I'll probably go completely with enchiladas. Donna also enjoyed her beef chalupas, but said next time she would probably order bean chalupas.

The restaurant is old, and this may turn off fussy diners. Yeah, the place could use an upgrade with new carpet, but the place as is has a sort of rustic charm. My main complaint would be the level of service. Everyone we dealt with was friendly and helpful. When our food was delivered, though, I asked for a refill of salsa and chips. The waiter forgot my request. By the time I finally got his attention, we had eaten half our meal. My tea was never refilled. The waiter was friendly and pleasant, just not very attentive.

When we reached the cash register to pay our bill, we had to wait several minutes as well. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of staff working the place, just a lack of efficiency in customer service. Some training would probably improve this.

The main thing, though, is that the food was good, so we are already looking forward to returning to this location as well as trying other locations of Hidalgo's.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Lights in Angelo

Each year, Donna and I look forward to viewing Christmas lights. We were happy to be in San Angelo at this time of year so that we could view the lights around town, but specifically along the Concho River near downtown.

There is a website -- the Concho Christmas Celebration -- devoted to Christmas activities around the area. Be sure to check out the Gallery page for the Tour of Lights photos.

The tour of lights begins on River Drive at West 1st Street just west of the downtown area. It continues along River Drive, which parallels the Concho River downstream, to South Irving Street. The tour then turns north on South Irving for a block, then east along Concho Street for 2 blocks through the historic downtown section, then turns south on South Oakes to finish in the Farmers' Market pavilion across from historic Ft. Concho.

There are numerous lights along the river, but the focus is on lighted images taken from the "12 Days of Christmas" song. The lighted reflections shimmering off the river are lovely. A donation of $5 per car is requested to help continue funding the project.

Below are a few pictures we took last night, but much better pictures reside at the site linked above.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a new year filled with peace and joy.

Note the reflection in the river

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Concho River

San Angelo is unique among other West Texas its size. It's not flat, it has some trees that grow naturally, and it has rivers and creeks.

San Angelo owes its settlement to the rivers that converge here. Fort Concho is located a stone's throw from the North Concho. The fort brought settlers to the area. Today, San Angelo is a thriving community approaching 100,000 folks, with excellent hospitals, a progressive university, Goodfellow AFB, and excellent shopping.

There are actually 3 rivers coursing their way through the city. The North Concho begins to the northwest, near Big Spring. As it approaches the city, it forms O. C. Fisher Lake. The Middle Concho, which has the lowest water flow of the 3 Conchos, begins due west. Along with Spring Creek and Dove Creek, it forms the north pool of Twin Buttes Reservoir. The South Concho begins south of San Angelo, south of the small community of Christoval. As it nears Angelo, it creates the south pool of Twin Buttes Reservoir.

On the southwest side of San Angelo, the Middle Concho and the South Concho merge to form Lake Nasworthy. The two rivers then become one. Known now as the South Concho, they continue their flow past the old community of Ben Ficklin into the southern part of Angelo. The North Concho and South Concho then merge to form the Concho River on the east side of the city, where the river then continues its flow eastward before joining the Colorado River to form Lake O. H. Ivie.

Fort Concho and downtown San Angelo are located along the banks of the North Concho River. The city has developed the area over the years. Now, this is not the San Antonio Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio, and I'm glad of that. There is still a natural setting to this river. It is more like a park. In fact, a small golf course is located along the north bank. The downtown area is on the north bank as well, and the river separates the area from the old fort. A children's play ground is near the golf course.

Along the south short are the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, the Visitors' Center, and numerous beautiful homes. During Christmas, decorations and lights are placed along the south bank, visible from River Drive which weaves along the tree-lined river.

Donna and I recently strolled along the river on a sunny day, and I snapped the pictures below. Work is still progressing on an upgrade to the landscaping, so walkways sometimes may look rough. Also, you may see seasonal decorations in some of the pictures.

Pedestrian bridge crossing the Concho below northbound Highway 87.
The beautiful Visitors' Center located along the south bank of the Concho River is a great place to begin your tour of San Angelo.
One of the beautiful homes on the south bank of the Concho River.

Another beautiful residence on the south bank of the river. Note the Christmas decorations located for viewing from River Drive on the opposite bank.

Residential landscaping along the south bank. Again, note the seasonal decorations.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

San Angelo KOA

On this trip to San Angelo, we decided to stay at the local KOA. This is our second time to stay at this campground.

San Angelo lacks a really good RV park. The ones that are here are merely adequate. We've paid the same fees -- or even less-- to stay at some really good campgrounds, like Fernbrook and Sundance. I'm not sure how campgrounds such as the ones here in San Angelo and nearby Big Spring justify charging the fees they do.

Now, that's not to say that San Angelo KOA is a bad campground. It certainly provides all the necessary amenities RVers have come to expect. In fact, the wireless connection I enjoy here is probably the best I've experienced at any RV park. And cable TV provides more than 60 channels. The laundromat in the back of the office is clean and comfortable, and a television is provided for viewing while waiting. However, the dryers do not provide sufficient heat, so it does take longer to dry a load than normal. Propane is available. There is also a pool located next to the office.

Office. Restrooms located behind tree on right. Laundry is in back. Pool is to the left of office.
Sites are very close together. During our stay, we had several different overnight neighbors. We were able to hear furnaces fire up and water pumps in use. That's just a bit too close for us. RVs park back to back with only utilities separating them.

Our site -- # 52 -- to the left. Each site has own utilities.
The main interior road is paved, but the remainder of the park is pea gravel. Numerous mature mesquite trees dot the park, but they provide scant shade in the summer. Sites with tend pads and cabins are also available.

Sites with tent pads


The folks running the park are friendly and helpful, like most folks in West Texas. They will guide you to your site and pick up your garbage from your site each day. One of the unique features of the park is that a subscription to the local paper is included in your fee. 

The park is located in the Lake Nasworthy area on Knickerbocker Road. The location provides easy access to the lake and major highways. In addition, there is a 2 mile loop next to the KOA where locals walk. It is not an official walking path, just a nice paved road along the bluffs overlooking Lake Nasworthy that locals have adopted as a favorite place to walk and jog.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Geese in Lubbock

While in Lubbock, Donna and I were entertained daily by the geese that make the area their home in the winter. According to my research, they like the Lubbock area because of the weather, the availability of water, and the stray grain in the fields following harvest. There are a number of playa lakes in the area. These shallow lakes are ideal for the geese, who sleep on the water and then venture out in search of food and water during the day.

Sky over Lubbock filled with geese
We really enjoyed hearing the geese "talk" as they flew above us, heading first this way then that. Some experts believe that as many as 100,000 geese make the area home during the winter; it just depends on the resources that are available for that particular year. According to my research, the species usually represented are Canada, Snow, Ross, and Specklebellies.

A closer shot of some low-flying geese

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Running from the Cold

It's 22 degrees as I write this on an early Tuesday morning, and the temperature should drop a few degrees more. And tomorrow night, the low is expected to be 24.

We are in San Angelo now. We left Lubbock Sunday morning. A heavy north wind pushed us down here. We were trying to get away from the cold front that pushed through the South Plains Sunday night, which brought temps in the low teens and a dusting of snow to that area.

It's actually warmer in San Angelo, but not much. It will warm up today, freeze again tonight, and then a warming trend will arrive on Wednesday and temps will be much more tolerable.

Donna and I don't like cold weather, and cold weather is worse in a travel trailer.

Our heater works great, thank goodness. But as soon as it turns off, you can feel the cold creeping in again. There just isn't much you can do to insulate an RV. Our furnace runs off propane, and we are using quite a bit of that fuel these days. We are probably going through a 20 pound tank every 4 or 5 days. For the 10 days we were in Lubbock, we bought 3 tanks at $16 a tank. Now, 1 tank was empty when we arrived, so we didn't actually use 3 tanks while there, but we used a lot.

Our trailer is equipped with two 20 pound propane tanks. I keep both of them turned on. I can designate which tank is my primary tank. Once it empties, the system will automatically begin pulling from the other tank IF that tank is open. I also carry a spare tank, and I refill any tank as soon as it empties. We should be in good shape there.

Living in an RV in this type of cold weather is a bit challenging, and I really don't know if I'm doing everything I need to. My biggest concern is freezing pipes and hoses. We get our water via a hose that runs from a spigot of some sort to a connection on the side of our trailer. I have wrapped that hose in insulation, but I don't think that is enough for temps below 25 degrees. So yesterday, I disconnected that hose and drained all the water out of it to prevent it from freezing. I added about 15 gallons of water to our fresh water tank. Since our fresh water tank is within the exterior walls of the trailer, I expect it to benefit from the heat of our trailer and not freeze. To use this water, we have to activate our pump.

My holding tanks also have heat pads to prevent them from freezing, and I turned those on last night. I closed all the valves to my holding tanks last night so that no liquid will be in the drain hose causing it to freeze.

I'm not sure what else to do except find a warmer place to stay.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Maharaja Indian Restaurant

From the first time Donna and I were introduced to Indian food at Indian Gardens in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, way back in 1983, it has been one of our top 3 favorite international cuisines. Since then, we've sampled Indian food anytime we've had the opportunity. We've had Indian food in Houston, Dallas, Shreveport, Austin, Santa Fe, Ft. Worth, Midland, and anywhere else we've come across it. Recently, we tried Maharaja Indian Restaurant in Lubbock.

We've had better. Having said that, though, I might say that bad Indian food is better than no Indian food because we do enjoy it that much.

The first clue that the food might not be that good was the small number of diners in the restaurant. We dropped in just before 12:00 noon, a busy dining time in any city, large or small. The lunch hour is normally a time of hustle and bustle at any restaurant, but things were pretty quiet at the Maharaja. As evidence of how slow business was, I saw only 3 employees. A young lady seated us, served us our drinks, and took care of our pricey bill of $23.71. A young man wrapped silverware and cleared tables. Occasionally, an older woman would step out of the kitchen to check items on the buffet.

After being seated and ordering water to drink, we stepped up to the buffet hoping for the best. The food was okay. I can't say it was bad. There were even some good dishes, such as the chicken tikka. But most of the food was uninspired. The rice pudding was extremely soupy and lacked the strong cardamom taste that Indian rice pudding is normally noted for. I do not believe any heavy cream was used, and there was no evidence of raisins or pistachios. The raita had a strong cooked onion flavor. Normally, I enjoy this condiment, but not this time.

There were limited dishes available, with only 2 chicken dishes on the buffet. There were no beef or lamb choices that I saw. Choices were not replenished until completely gone, so you might have to request that a certain option be refilled.

The building is nice and modern, and the location is excellent, being located on a side street off of Slide and 82nd Street. However, this is not enough to make us return. We were very disappointed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lubbock, Texas

We're in Lubbock right now; we've been here for almost a week. It's almost like a homecoming for me. I'm not sure that Donna feels exactly as I do, but she does like the town.

We moved out to this area in the late 1970s after I completed my MA degree. I landed my first full-time teaching job at Olton High School, about 50 miles or so northwest of Lubbock. We fell in love with West Texas from that experience, and we've come back to this part of the world again and again over the years. Our daughter was born about 30 miles north of here in Plainview, Texas, and I did another teaching stint about 50 miles southwest in the small community of Wellman. We do have some roots here.

Lubbock has grown dramatically over the years. The population now is over a quarter million. Now, that's not Dallas or Houston, but it's big enough for us. It has a sprawling university (Texas Tech) as well as the smaller Lubbock Christian University. Dining options are great, including options for some of our favorite international cuisines, including Indian, Greek, and Thai. Shopping opportunities abound, medical facilities are superb, and there's just a lot to do here, at least for folks like us.

I've always been impressed by the music scene in Lubbock. It is the hometown of Buddy Holly, for example, and his influence is still felt in the music industry. Others who have grown up in Lubbock and the surrounding area include Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Roy Orbison, and the Maines family. The Depot District near downtown is an outgrowth of this musical heritage.

I don't know how long we will stay in Lubbock. So far, the weather has been nice. The days have been warm (70s or so) while we've not had a freeze during our stay. I do not know how much longer the weather will hold, though. We've had a lot of that West Texas wind while here, but not a drop of rain.

But we'll hang around here a bit longer and enjoy ourselves while the weather is good.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mesa Verde RV Park

We're in Lubbock, Texas, right now, enjoying a stay at Mesa Verde RV Park, located along US 62/82, locally known as the Brownfield Highway. Technically, the park is located in Wolfforth, a small but growing community on the southwest outskirts of Lubbock.

This is a nice little RV park. My only complaint is the location. There is a bit of noise from the highway, but not nearly as much as we've experienced at some other parks located next to busy highways. But the noise is rather constant, though not overwhelming. Also, the frontage road along this freeway style section of the highway is one-way, so you have to go past the park then back whenever you return from Lubbock, so it is a bit inconvenient.

Interior roads are paved while sites are gravel. There is grass between the sites, and a few trees have been planted around the park. During the summer, there will be very little -- if any -- shade, though during cooler weather the sunshine is welcome. We did have to level our trailer, so our site is not level. We were assigned site 16, which is a pull-through site. By parking to the extreme side of the site, we were able to park our truck in the site. Not all sites are as roomy.

Site 16, near the front of the park

A rather unique feature of the park is the utility hookups at each site. They kind of remind me of the hookups at Sam's Town RV Park in Las Vegas. There is a utility box at each site where you hookup to electrical and cable.

Utility box
In addition to the hookups, the utility box also has a light and hooks for neatly hanging cables and hoses. Near the utility box is the sewer hookup and the water hookup. In the photo above, note the blue-handled water hookup. I had not seen any water hookups like this until I began traveling in the west, but they are rather common in this part of the country. For people with arthritis, they certainly are easier to turn on and off than the old twist handles.

WiFi is available in the park, as is cable TV. However, fewer than 30 channels are provided, and PBS was not available in the lineup. We enjoy PBS, especially numerous British comedies and dramas that usually run on the weekends. So, we simply raised our antennae and then switched back and forth between cable and antennae as desired. Several channels are available via antennae in the Lubbock area.

Restrooms/bathrooms were very well-maintained. They are located in the rear of the main building where the office is located. The laundry is also located in this building. The laundry, though neat and in good order, contained only 3 washers and 3 dryers. There is also a small exercise room with 3 pieces of equipment located in the main building.

Main building with bathrooms facing the camera. Laundry room and exercise room on left. There is a pool inside the fenced area on left. Managers live in house behind building. Office is on opposite side of this building.
The park has about 14 pull thru sites and roughly 35 or so back in sites. Long-term residents occupy many of the back-in sites, while pull-thru sites appear to be saved for overnight and short term visitors, like us. There is a dog-run at the front of the park and another along the north perimeter, and dumpsters are located throughout the park. Propane is  not available in the park, though tanks can be refilled at a business located next door.

Row of pull-thru sites. Note utility boxes, grassy areas, and small trees.
One word of warning. As you approach the RV park, there is no large sign indicating the park, so it can sneak up on you.