Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On the Road: San Angelo, TX, to Mother Neff State Park

We recently took our trailer to Mother Neff State Park (see map below) for a short trip. We intended the trip to be longer and include other state parks, but because of mechanical problems, we had to cut the trip short and return home. I'll discuss this in another entry.

But for now, let me tell you about the trip we did get to make.

200 miles from San Angelo to Mother Neff State Park
Note: When I write these types of "On the Road" entries, I do so from the perspective of an RVer. I discuss the roads, for example, as well as convenient stopping places.

The first part of the trip -- from Angelo to Ballinger -- was easy enough. That 36 miles on US 67 is relatively level, straight, and 4 lanes. There was little wind the entire trip, so I was getting good gas mileage. On 4 lanes, I normally cruise along about 55 - 58 mph when pulling the trailer. During this portion of the trip, I was able to get 12.4 mpg. This stretch of the trip passes through farm land and only 2 small towns: Miles, which has a wonderful meat market -- Sklenarik's --should you ever pass through (try their jalapeno cheese sausage) and then Rowena, the birthplace of the infamous Bonnie Parker of "Bonnie and Clyde" fame.

The land along US 67 from Ballinger to Santa Anna is almost completely devoted to ranching. The terrain is hilly and covered with mesquite, prickly pear, and native grasses. The roadway is 2 lanes, but with a few passing lanes. Actually, there are more passing lanes heading west than east, but any passing lanes help. On highways like this, I normally continue driving about 55-58 mph, but when I first see a car in my rear view mirror, I kick it up to 60. Once the car gets close, I then move up to 65, but that is as fast as I will go when pulling a trailer. Most trailer tires are rated for 65 mph, and I don't want to push my luck. I increase my speed because I don't want to slow traffic down any more than I have to. If I can, I will pull on the shoulder and allow them to pass, but this particular roadway does not have good shoulders for that.

Near the end of this stretch, the roadway tops out on a high hill and the 3 hills north of Santa Anna are clearly visible. Actually, they first appear miles farther west. These familiar hills are landmarks to travelers in this region, both modern and earlier travelers, such as Indians and pioneers. At Santa Anna, the roadway once again becomes 4 lanes as it passes through Bangs and then enters Brownwood, the largest town on the trip other than San Angelo.

We stopped for fuel in Brownwood, then turned south on highway 84/183 and headed to Goldthwaite. We kept the 4 lanes to Zephyr, about 15 miles southeast of Brownwood. From Zephyr to Goldthwaite, the roadway is 2 lanes with good shoulders and regular passing lanes from time to time. Most of the traffic on this highway turns at Goldthwaite and continues south towards Austin on US 183, but we turned due east and stayed on US 84. The next 50 miles was more ranch land. The road surface, still 2 lanes, has good shoulders and periodic passing lanes.

At Gatesville, there are 2 good places for RVers to gas up. There is a Shell station on the extreme west side of town -- where the 2 lanes expand to 4 lanes for town. On the east side is a station at the intersection of Texas 36 and US 84. Both have competitive prices. When we were there, both stations had regular for $2.03, while the best price in town was at $2.01; however, it was at a station I could not manipulate with my rig.

From Gatesville, we took highway 107 for the remaining 20 miles to our turnoff to the park. A word of warning for those that might want to visit this park is in order. The park has undergone massive renovations in the last year or so. A new park entrance is in place on the north end of the park. All RVs must enter here. The old entrance just north of the Leon River is still open, but you can't get to the campground from there with a big rig. To make matters worse, there is no park sign indicating the entrance to the park, though the name of the park is on the entrance walls along the park road. The trouble is, you will be passing the park when you see the entrance. Yep, we missed the entrance and went a mile farther down the road to the old entrance, where you can drive in and make a circle and then head back.

It was a good trip. Our overall mileage was 11.6. There was little traffic most of the trip, so I was able to keep my speed to that 55-58 range for the most part, thereby ensuring pretty good mileage.

In the next 2 entries, I'll described the park and take you on a hike with us.

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