Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Creek Critters

As I've indicated in a previous post, we're currently staying at Spring Creek Marina and RV Park on the shores of Lake Nasworthy in San Angelo, Texas. I posted entries on this park back in 2011 and 2012, so I've not posted any this time. Below are links to my previous entries if you care to read them:
With the new management, the park is much better run than when we stayed here in 2011 and 2012. From Monday through Thursday, it is really a pleasant place to stay, but once the weekend arrives, things get a bit wild. This is, after all, the "Oasis of West Texas." People from all over West Texas come here to enjoy the lake, the shade, and the grass, things relatively rare in West Texas.

I really enjoy watching the animals at Spring Creek, and you can see some almost every day. Below are some pictures I recently snapped.

During one of my walks, I spotted this cactus growing about 8 or 10 feet above the ground in the fork of a tree.

I spotted these deer early one morning near the park's entrance.

This confused deer thinks it is a turkey.

Black squirrels are not that common, but they are along Spring Creek. I've seen them along the creek all the way from Mertzon and Sherwood (about 25 to 30 miles west of Angelo). They seem to be as numerous as regular squirrels in the park.

We leave here tomorrow. Our home for the next week will be an RV park in Junction, Texas, one of our favorite small towns in Texas.

I'll see you down the road.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Catching Up in San Angelo

We've been in San Angelo for a week now, and we've been pretty busy. Let me catch you up.

We always have the regular chores to do, such as grocery shopping, laundry, and such. We also spent a morning getting our taxes done with our local tax preparer. Uncle Sam always wants his cut, you know.

But most of our time has been spent on acquiring a house. We've now moved up the list at Rio Concho West sufficiently that we spent a day looking at available houses there. We are meeting with the reps there again tomorrow to discuss 2 possible houses. We also spent one morning with our former builder, who has a new development near our former home. We like his houses and could see ourselves living in one of his homes again, so we are giving that option some consideration.

We had planned to stay only a week, then head to the Hill Country for a while. But because of the housing situation, we've extended our stay in Angelo for 3 more nights. We hope to leave on Thursday, but if we make a deal on a home, we may have to stay longer to select carpeting, tile, and other house options.

We've had a pretty good stay at Spring Creek. The RV park itself seems to be under new management since the last time we stayed here about 3 years ago, and it appears to be run much better. WiFi has been reliable this time, for example, and they do a good job of keeping the grass cut and the trash picked up. But it still gets wild on weekends and holidays out here. This past weekend was Easter weekend. Folks started pouring in Thursday afternoon, and most did not leave until late Sunday. I can't believe how many people from all around West Texas come here. There were throngs, and they left behind lots of trash. But they weren't too unruly. A solid police presence really helps keep folks in line. Still, I prefer not to be here when it is busy. We'll have to look at other options when we return.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good Eats: Owl Drug Fountain and Grill, Coleman, Texas

One of the things Donna and I like to do during our travels is discover those local eateries, especially in small towns, that really serve some good grub. We found such a place during our recent stay at Hord's Creek Lake.

We had noticed a billboard while driving through Coleman advertising the grill and fountain at the Owl Drug Store in downtown Coleman. So when we went in to town on Saturday to do laundry, we stopped off at the drug store for lunch. We were glad we did.

The fountain and grill is located at the back right of the store. It's not hard to find -- just follow the steady stream of people that fill the booths and counter surrounding the fountain and grill. It was about 12:30 when we arrived, and we felt lucky to find an empty booth. The place stayed busy our entire stay.

The grill closes about 1:00 or 1:30, and cooking starts early for breakfast. The popular item at the grill, though, seems to be an old fashioned hamburger. Donna and I ordered the lunch special, which was a cheeseburger, chips, and drink for $7.50. After our first bite, we looked at each other, nodded, and smiled. Yep, these were hamburgers like we used to get years ago. It's hard to find a burger like this anymore. There's nothing fancy about it, no piling on of extra ingredients. This is just a solid, well-made old fashioned burger.

From the vantage point of our booth near the grill, we were able to watch the orders being prepared. When we saw the onion rings, we both wished we had ordered some. They looked like the real deal. Fries and tater tots were also being dished up. And since the place is a soda fountain, there are also malts and other ice cream treats available.

I know that on our next trip to Hord's Creek Lake, we'll be returning to downtown Coleman to have another good meal at the Owl Drug Store.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Back in San Angelo

After over 3 months of roaming and wandering, we're back in San Angelo, but we're still homeless.

We're in town for a week to take care of some things. We are staying at Spring Creek marina and RV Park, located on Lake Nasworthy on the city's west side. We stayed here quite a bit back in 2011, but there is a different manager now and the place seems to be run better overall.

We have an appointment with Rio Concho West to check the progress of our movement up the waiting list for a home there. We are also meeting with our previous home builder just as a backup. We'll also spend a lot of time just eating at all the places we've missed these past 3 months.

For the past 10 days or so, we've been without both Internet and television, so we have a lot of catching up to do. We've missed a lot of news, especially on the political front. And I've fallen behind on the blog. We seem to have both good television and good Internet here at Spring Creek, so I have some work to do.

I'm not sure yet where we go after this week. We've suffered through some cool weather the past few days, so we definitely want some place warm. But I suspect we will stay in Texas. If we are nearing the top of the wait list at CW, then we'll also be staying close to Angelo.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hord's Creek Lake, March 2016

Donna and I are currently spending 6 nights at Hord's Creek Lake near Coleman, Texas. We spent several days here in April 2015. Since I wrote about the park at that time, I won't add too much at this time.

This is a very nice Army Corp of Engineers park. We especially enjoy the oak trees. This is basically the tree line in this part of Texas, so West Texans almost feel like they are in the jungle here.

Unfortunately, the lake is at a very low level, but that seems to be part for the course for West Texas lakes these days.

We arrived yesterday when temps reached 80 degrees. Today is almost a carbon copy of yesterday. Last night we had a fire -- our first on this entire trip -- and this morning Donna cooked a big breakfast outside after we returned from a long walk. We've seen deer and plenty of squirrels.

But tomorrow a cool front is expected to push through, dropping daytime temps as much as 20 degrees and bringing some rain. It's been nice to spend time outside, but we'll have to move back inside tomorrow. It's  been great watching kids on spring break ride their bicycles and play around the campground. It's just great to see kids playing outside like kids, without smart phones or computer games. If more kids would just try it, I think they'd like it.

We have no WiFi nor any TV reception. I probably won't post any more entries until we get to San Angelo early next week.

It's great to be back in Texas.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lake Colorado City State Park

We are now in Lake Colorado City State Park, just southwest of the city of Lake Colorado City, which is on Interstate 20 between Midland and Abilene. The 500 acre park, which is leased from a local utility company, was acquired in 1972 and opened the next year. The lake is formed by Morgan Creek, and was built by Texas Electric Service Company to provide cooling water for the power plant. The landscape is typical West Texas country. It is gently rolling with mesquite trees. White tailed deer, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, rabbits, and prairie dogs are the most common mammals. Crappie, perch, catfish, bass, and red drum can be found in the lake.

There are no full hookup sites in the park.78 sites have water and electric, many with 50 amp. There are a handful of pull-thru sites. RV sites can be found in the Mesquite Circle Camping Area and the Rolling Hills Camping Area, where we stayed in site 71. Each of these camping areas has a restroom facility complete with showers. There are no curtains in the showers, though, so privacy is lacking. Our site was pretty level. I was able to park my truck in front of the trailer, but longer rigs will have trouble fitting in the assigned area on many sites. There are also 34 sites with water only in the Lakeview Camping Area. In addition, there are 11 "limited use" cabins. These sturdy buildings have A/C, heat, microwave, refrigerator, and bunks. They do not have bathroom facilities, but public restrooms/showers are located nearby.

The Rolling Hills Camping Area. Our truck and trailer in center, with restrooms/showers directly behind.

Restrooms/showers in our camping area. Note access point at peak of roof.

Our rig in site #71. Sites were nice, with covered picnic table.


Close up of one of the well built cabins.

Lakeside camping area. Only water is available here.

Entrance to the Mesquite Circle Camping Area.

WiFi was available but not reliable. We were next to the restroom facility in our area and I noticed the access point mounted on its roof. However, the signal was never strong and it was in and out. We were not able to pick up any television reception on our aerial. The best thing was radio. We picked up one FM station out of nearby Colorado City (107.1) and I loved it. It played mainly older country music by artists such as Conway Twitty, George Strait, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and others. It even played Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans." What a treat! I don't care for the country music produced today, so I really enjoyed this station.

There is really no hiking to speak of, although the map indicates a short trail along the shore.

The lake was way, way down. I had hoped it would be higher because of the rain the area received last year and so far this year. Instead, we found fishing piers closed and the water line very low. It's pretty depressing.

This pier was closed due to low water. Note the pier across the cove.

Close-Up of the pier across the cove in the above picture. I don't know what tore it from its foundation and dumped it in the water.

Fishing pier resting on a sloping bank due to low water.

The park is very quiet. It is well away from any major highway, so there is no highway noise. I was surprised at how empty the park was. Spring break for most schools in West Texas started this week, so I expected the park to be lively. However, there were no more than 6 or 8 sites occupied in our camping area during our stay.
Boat ramp near North end of park. Note water line is below concrete.

Playground equipment in day use area at north end of park. North end of lake is visible in background.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

We've Been Making Miles

Let me catch you up on our last few days.

We left Brantley Lake State Park in the Carlsbad, New Mexico, area last Wednesday. We were finally heading home. As we neared Lamesa, Texas, the sky began to darken, and we knew we were in for some rain. We stopped for lunch at K-Bob's Steakhouse in Lamesa and had a very good steak and sides for a very decent price. We've eaten at that K-Bob's for over 30 years and we've always enjoyed our meals there.

As we stepped outside after lunch, we were met with a light rain. We were running low on gas, but I didn't want to stop at a gas station, so I just emptied one of my 5 gallon cans into the tank and we hit the road. When traveling in the west, I always care spare gas cans. The rain picked up almost immediately. When we got to Big Spring, where we would be spending the next 4 nights, the skies really opened. We checked into our RV park and I slipped on my rain gear so that I could set up the trailer. It's not fun working in the rain, but it didn't look like it was going to slow. But I have good rain gear, so it really wasn't too unpleasant.

We spent the next 4 nights in Big Spring, seeing our daughter and grandsons almost every day. We also caught up on our laundry and grocery shopping. We finally pulled out this morning and headed east to Lake Colorado City State Park; I'll report on this park in another entry.

I've not had WiFi for the past 4 nights, so I've fallen behind some in my reporting. I currently have connectivity, though, so I'll try to catch up some. I'll jump ahead a bit here and tell you we are about to move to another park and I do not expect connectivity there. We will spend 6 nights there, so it may be a while before I report after we leave Lake Colorado City SP.

Regardless, I hope to see you down the road.

Carlsbad Museum and Art Center, Carlsbad, New Mexico

On our last day in Carlsbad, we visited the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center, which was established in 1931. It is the oldest municipal museum in the state of New Mexico. It provides exhibits on local and regional history, Native American art and artifacts, and modern, contemporary and Western art. It's really an impressive small museum. Anyone visiting Carlsbad should stop in for a visit. Best of all, there is no admission.

In my mind, I divide the museum into three parts. Upon entering, turn right and you will see historic items, including a very large Native American arrowhead collection and an impressive gun collection. To the left are 3 small art galleries. Finally, there is a very large and detailed diorama or early Carlsbad.

Below are some pictures I took of the museum and its exhibits.

The museum is located on the western edge of the downtown district. It shares grounds with the library. This is the entrance.
We were fortunate to catch these redbuds in bloom on the eastern side of the museum building. Note the mural along the top of the building.

Nice arrowhead collection. In the case at back is a painting of Geronimo. In that same case are various items the old warrior once sold on the reservation in his older days.

An old mudwagon stagecoach.

Gallery containing paintings by the "Taos Ten".

Very detailed diorama of early day Carlsbad.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hike Report: Brantly Lake State Park (New Mexico)

During our stay at Brantley Lake State Park outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico, we hiked the short trail there that goes from the campground to the Visitor Center and back. The trail is 1.6 miles long, so it is 3.2 miles round trip.

We found the trailhead at the east end of the campground. The trail is very level and an easy trail. Just over a quarter of a mile, the trail crosses the park road just west of the trailer dump station. It then continues over a typical Chihuahuan Desert landscape to the Visitor Center. The section of Brantley Lake next to the dam is visible throughout the hike, as is the long earthen dam. There are several information kiosks along the trail as well as roughly two dozen numbered markers that identify animal prints. I would guess that there may be a pamphlet at the Visitor Center that details the markers and provides information about the tracks. Unfortunately, the Visitor Center was not open at any time we visited it, so I can't say for sure.

We watched storm clouds to the west and north as they gathered, especially on the return leg of the hike. Just after getting back to the trailer, we did get a few drops of rain. The lake, by the way, appears to me to be very low, as are many lakes in the American West. However, since I've never been to the lake before, I can't say for sure.

Below are some pictures I took of the hike.

Trailhead for the trail in the east section of the campground.

This little cottontail was along the trail and posed for this picture. We saw numerous rabbits, road runners, and other small critters during our stay in the park.

This picture near the trailhead shows several things. First, notice the earthen dam in the distance. Also, you can see the trail in the foreground, but look near the left center of the picture just below the dam to see more of the trail in the distance. The three poles are some of the numbered markers I mentioned in the text above.

Dam and low water of the lake.

Look closely to the left of the end of the dam and you'll see a cluster of trees. This is the Visitor Center and our destination.

This is where the trail crosses the park road just west of the dump station.

One of the information kiosks along the trail.

The Visitor Center was never open during our stay.

The trailhead at the Visitor Center, with storm clouds dancing in the distance.

One of the numerous numbered trail markers. At the base of each marker is a set of animal tracks.

The campground as we approached it at the end of the hike.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Brantley Lake State Park, Carlsbad, New Mexico

The next stop on our winding way home was Carlsbad, New Mexico. We decided to stay at Brantley Lake State Park during our time here.

The park is just northwest of Carlsbad, on US 285. It is located on Lake Brantley, the southernmost lake in New Mexico. The lake is fed by the Pecos River. It offers various water sports (boating, swimming, fishing, etc.) as well as hiking, bird watching, and camping. The park has 48 developed camping sites with water and electricity. 38 sites have 30 amp service while 10 have 50 amp.

When we made our reservations at the park, we were billed the full amount. We thought this was odd. When we arrived, we sort of figured it out. There was no one at the headquarters when we arrived, so we drove on through the open gate. We knew our site number, so once at the campground, we drove to our site. Sure enough, on the little sign with the site number, our name and the dates of our stay were attached. So, we set up. During our entire stay there, we had no contact with anyone representing the park. The official host site was vacant, and we saw no host on duty. I did see a park truck on the road once, but other than that, I felt that all the guests, including us, were mostly on our own. Also, we noticed signs pertaining to the first 15 sites in the camping loop. It indicated that electricity in these sites was not working. Three of these sites also had sewer hookups, so that was a real shame.

Our site was level for the most part from side to side, but from front to back there was nothing level about it. We did like the covered picnic table at our site. We also enjoyed the little visitors we had, which included rabbits, road runners, and prairie dogs. The campground was at least half full, so there were quite a few campers. A short distance away is a day use area, but when we went down there, no one else was there. There is a playground for youngsters next to the restroom area, which included 3 showers. All park roads are paved, as are the sites.

We were unable to pick up any signal on our TV antennae, but we did pick up 3 or 4 radio stations out of Carlsbad.

I didn't take many pictures of the park, but below are a few.

Our site, #27. Note the slope from the back of the trailer to the front. Nice covered picnic table. Nice trees.

The back side of our trailer in site #27. We had water and 30 amp service.

Looking west along the campground road from in front of our site.

Looking east along the campground road from in front of our site. Notice the vacant site at extreme left.

View of Lake Brantley from the campground.

Playground area near restroom. A portion of the lake near the dam in barely visible in background.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

We're in Carlsbad

Donna and I left Alamogordo yesterday morning. We enjoyed a beautiful drive through the mountains around Ruidoso before emerging onto the Plains west of Roswell. We're getting closer to home all the time.

We are now at Brantley Lake State Park just to the north of Carlsbad. We will spend 3 nights here and play tourist in the area. We do not have WiFi here, though, so I'll not post any entries for several days.

On Thursday, we return to Texas. I'm excited. I simply do not enjoy traveling as much as I once did, and I'm ready to be someplace where I feel I belong.

But, we have no home to return to, so we will continue traveling for awhile. We'll spend nearly a week in the area near our daughter and her family. We have to see those grandsons, whom my daughter is now calling "hardened criminals." Yeah, they are giving her fits; they are my heroes! We'll then spend nearly a week at Hord's Creek Lake near Coleman before heading to San Angelo. We have business to take care of in Angelo, so we'll spend a good week there. We have made no concrete plans beyond then.

So, travel along with us on the blog. We may even show up at a park near you.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamogordo, New Mexico

A visit to Alamogordo, New Mexico, is not complete without a visit to the New Mexico Museum of Space History. You might ask why locate such a museum in Almogordo, New Mexico. But what state is more associated with space age activities than New Mexico? Think of Los Alamos, Trinity Site, Roswell, and all the other places around the state associated with the space age.

The museum complex sits on a slope of the Sacremento Mountains. The tall building in the center is the main museum, and the building with the torquise top is the Imax Theater.
The museum is actually a complex on the western slopes of the Sacremento Mountains on the eastern edge of Alamogordo. Views in all directions are really impressive. The main building is the place to start your tour. Just outside the main building is the John P. Stapp Air and Space Park, which displays larger exhibits. Inside the main building is the Museum of Space History and the International Space Hall of Fame. The Museum of Space History contains exhibits such as Robert Goddard's early rocket experiments near Roswell. The International Space Hall of Fame honors those men and women who have been instrumental in our attempts to conquer space.

The John P. Stapp Air Park sits just outside the main building. It contains larger exhibits.

This is Little Joe 2. It was used to test the Apollo launch escape system.

This is the Vengeance Weapon 2, the world's first long-range ballistic missile. The "V-2" was used by Germany near the end of World War II as a weapon of terror against Allied targets. After the war, German scientists helped the US military develop this technology. This particular exhibit was used in testing in nearby White Sands and was recovered from there.
The main museum is a 4 story building. I enjoyed its uniqueness. After paying our admission fee, we were directed to use the elevator to go up to the 4th floor to begin the tour. When the elevator opened, we were delighted to see that it looked like a control center, complete with sound effects. At the top floor, you pass through numerous smaller exhibits. Once you finish viewing all the exhibits on a floor, you take a ramp down to the next level and the next set of exhibits.

This is actually the inside of the elevator.

This moon rock was collected by Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Technically, it is mare basalt. It is believed to be 3.7 billion years old. 
This is a space suttle simulator. You can sit at the controls and, by using the throttle and the monitors, attempt to land the space shuttle. I failed miserably and crashed the space shuttle. Security escorted me out. They told me I was better suited to use the exhibit pictured below.

Skylab toilet
Down the hill from the main museum is the Imax Theater. At the time of our visit, the theater was showing 3 movies: Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure, Digital Star Show, and Tornado Alley. We opted for Tornado Alley, and I really enjoyed this informational film, especially since our home is not that far from Tornado Alley. It followed the attempts of two separate teams to chase down developing tornadoes to collect data and footage.

Overall, the museum is a good way to spend half a day or so. It is a one-of-a-kind museum, and it has some unique items.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Heart of the Desert Pistachio Farm, Alamogordo, New Mexico

When in Yuma, Arizona, you visit a date farm; when in Alamogordo, New Mexico, you visit a pistachio farm. And that's exactly what we did. I don't know how many pistachio farms there are in the Alamogordo area, but there were 2 within half a mile of our RV park. We decided to visit only one, Heart of the Desert. It was interesting.

Visitor Center and Gift Shop
One of the things that attracted us to Heart of the Desert is that they offered a free tour of their farm. I like free. Heart of the Desert claims to be both the oldest and the largest pistachio farm in New Mexico. The climate around Alamogordo is similar to that in Iraan, where pistachios have been grown for centuries.

Our tour began in the Visitor Center, where we watched a short video about the farm. A tour guide then gave us a brief introduction before leading us outside to view the actual trees. There is roughly 1 male tree for every 10 trees. The males are generally a bit taller and a bit wider than the females. The season runs from early spring to early fall. During our trip, the trees were leafless, as they are decidious.

Part of the large orchard. The tree in center is male; it is taller. It gets to pollinate all those beautiful females around it. Lucky tree.
We next donned hairnets and toured the building where the pistachios are sorted. Machines do most of the original sorting by size before being passed on to real humans to finish up. Next stop was the building where the nuts are roasted. Next step is packaging the nuts, and then they are stored in a refrigerated area.

Employees sorting nuts by hand. Our tour guide is on the left.

This large machine sorts nuts by size.

Roasting oven
The Visitor Center is also a gift shop, and you can, of course, purchase various pistachio related items. Heart of the Desert also produces wine, and you can pick up a bottle or two of good wine. There are numerous pistachio products. Some are simply roasted, while some are spiced. I opted for a 1 lb bag of unsalted and roasted pistachios. I sampled the chocolate pistachio bark products, and they were also delicious.

Road goes down the center of the orchard. The San Andres Mountains are in the western background, and if you look carefully, you can see the line of white gypsum sand from White Sands National Monument at the base of the mountains.
One of the things about traveling, especially in retirement, is you have time to visit places like this and learn something. This was a good outing, and one we really enjoyed.