Monday, November 20, 2017

New Braunfels

As I said in my previous post, Donna and I spent a couple of nights in New Braunfels after visiting her aunt in Crockett. I've always liked New Braunfels. For one, I've always been intrigued by the German experience in Texas. I can't imagine the culture shock these intrepid souls must have experienced when they arrived here in the mid-19th century. Not only did they persevere, they created some wonderful frontier settlements. They had a true eye for land, too, as they settled some of the more beautiful country in the state. New Braunfels straddles not only the Guadalupe River but also the Comal River. It is truly a beautiful natural setting.

There are numerous old buildings throughout the historic town, many reflecting the craftsmanship of the Germans who settled here. The downtown area is very vibrant, with many shops, restaurants, and pubs/biergartens that attract visitors. Our favorite watering holes are the Phoenix Saloon and Krause's Café and Biergarten. We sampled many brews at both places, and enjoyed a bowl of Texas chile at the Phoenix. All was quite good.

The Phoenix Saloon in downtown New Braunfels. This is the main stage.

This is a medium bowl of the "double shot" chile at the Phoenix. Those are habanero peppers on top. There are several nice chunks of sirloin tucked away in the bowl. 

The biergarten at Krause's. The bottom row behind the bar are beer taps. Yep, they have quite a selection. I think Donna sampled them all.

Donna working on her first brew at Krause's. I won't show the picture of her taken later.
We spent one morning at the outlet malls in nearby San Marcos. I enjoy the outlet malls because they usually have a clothing shop where I can buy pants in odd sizes. I find the best length for me is 31, and few retail clothing stores stock pants in odd number sizes. So when I'm near an outlet mall, I stop at a Haggar store to purchase a few pairs. I got lucky this time and found a good sale with slacks at $24.99 each. Donna has her items she always looks for at outlet malls as well, so we both came home with some goodies.

The Main Plaza in downtown New Braunfels at night.

Seguin Avenue, just off the Main Plaza. There is an oyster bar, a Mexican restaurant, and some other eateries along here.
We stopped in at Rudy's Bar-B-Q for lunch one day. We had never eaten at a Rudy's before, so we were anxious to try their meats. We sampled their brisket, sausage, and baby back ribs. We found the sausage to be too dry. The ribs were fine, but nothing special. We did enjoy the brisket, though. Next time we visit a Rudy's, we'll stick with the brisket; it was quite good.

We enjoyed our time in New Braunfels. To be honest, though, the place is just too busy. It's an ant bed of activity. That whole country is like that, though. Too many people live in that area. The natural beauty of the area is being overtaxed and destroyed. We left early Friday morning to come home. We headed west on Texas 46 to Boerne. It was heavy traffic the entire way. Why are so many cars on the road? Doesn't anyone work where they live or live where they work anymore?

From Boerne, we continued west on Texas 46 towards Lost Maples State Park, which I'll write about in my next entry. For now, I just want to say that the heavy traffic continued to Bandera. West of Bandera, traffic began to ease. The entire distance from New Braunfels to Bandera, I always had at least one car in front of me and at least one car behind me -- usually many, many more. This old West Texas boy is not used to that kind of traffic. I'm used to open spaces.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Putting on the Miles

We continue to put the miles on our worn out old bodies.

I took the RAV4 in for its 10,000 mile service this past Monday. We bought the car in April. So we're putting about 1,400 miles a month on it. That's not bad considering we've made 2 trips to Colorado, 1 to Shreveport, and several to East Texas. I think the long trips are over now; at least, I hope they are. I prefer shorter trips and shorter stays. I hope we begin concentrating on trips closer to home to interesting places.

On Tuesday, we loaded up and headed to East Texas once again. The purpose of our trip this time was to visit the only surviving sibling of Donna's birth-mother. She resides in an assisted living facility in Crockett.

On Tuesday, we took our time. Our plan was to spend the night in Fairfield (my home town), then make the short drive to Crockett the next morning. Along the way to Fairfield, we stopped at Shanks Cemetery near where my mother was born and raised. My great grandfather rests in that cemetery. I wanted to get a picture of his marker. Next to him lies one of his 3 sons. It's a nice, quiet little cemetery away from towns and major highways, the kind of place to spend eternity.

We rose early Wednesday and made our way to Crockett. We spent nearly 3 hours with Donna's aunt, looking at old family pictures and discussing family. It was nearly noon when Donna and I left. We had decided to return by way of New Braunfels, where we would spend 2 nights. I'll tell more about that part of the trip in another post.

I continue to work in genealogy fields. I related previously about my failed attempt to locate some graves in Fairmont Cemetery. I wasn't ready to give up. I went to Find a Grave and got a list of requests from people looking for pictures of grave markers for Belvedere Memorial Park Cemetery, which is only 3 or 4 miles from our home. 6 requests were listed, and Donna and I were able to locate 4 of the markers. We felt pretty good about our efforts. We'll continue to do this. I find this to be a pretty rewarding undertaking. Not only does it help someone, it gives Donna and me the chance to get some fresh air and exercise. And we find cemeteries to be interesting places.

The weather has continued to be warm in San Angelo and over much of Texas. I believe the our local weatherman said that we have set 7 new high temperature readings in the last 17 days. That's not good. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to take walks in my shorts during November, but I worry about our local water situation. Warm weather means greater evaporation from area lakes. Combined with the fact that we are just not getting the rain we need, we could be seeing some difficult times next summer.

It's nice to be home again. Donna has started her preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. The kids are all coming down, so this will be a lively place. I may have to leave. And Donna doesn't do anything half way. We'll have way more food than an army could devour. I always try to get Donna to do less, but she just doesn't have the ability. I won't complain, though, cause the old girl can cook. I love her dressing; I've never had better. I look forward to my chess pie. No one else is allowed to eat any of my chess pie. It's my chess pie, and I don't share food. Those little monsters better stay away from my chess pie.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Night at the Theater: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Donna and I attended a performance at Angelo Civic Theater Friday night. I was a bit cautious about this particular play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. Not everyone likes Shakespeare. I enjoy reading the tragedies and histories of Shakespeare, but watching a performance is yet another thing.

But we truly enjoyed the play. It parodies 37 plays by Shakespeare in 97 minutes, and uses only 3 actors, who play themselves rather than single characters in the plays. They often talk directly to the audience, and there is some audience participation as well. Numerous references to modern culture appear throughout the play, and the characters often discuss how to best present a play. For example, they stumble at first as to how to deal with Othello, whose central character is a Moor. Since all three actors are Caucasian, they finally decide to rap the play.

The performance begins with a lengthy presentation of Romeo and Juliet. They then quickly rush through numerous plays and end the performance with an equally lengthy presentation of Hamlet. They close the play by repeating their interpretation of Hamlet much more quickly. To top things off, they close by repeating their quick interpretation of Hamlet in reverse.

All three actors did a very good job. This is a physically challenging play for an actor. I'm sure all three of them were exhausted by the end of their performance. I thought the play itself was clever and witty. It's as if the actors were making the play up as they progressed through the evening.

The only flaw of the night was the loud-mouthed audience member behind us who had exceedingly loud, exaggerated laughs. I recognized the "gentleman" as one of the regular performers in many Civic Theater plays. At first I thought he might be a "plant" in the audience to help along any audience participation. After a while, I realized that he was simply obnoxious.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Unusual Pictures for San Angelo

It's been an unusual day for San Angelo. We have had more than an inch of rain at our house. Some areas in the north part of the city have received as much as 1.5 inches of rain. That is so great.

To go along with the rain, we've had another unusual event -- cold weather. After setting high temps the past 3 out of 4 days, it was nice to get a change. The temp has dropped throughout the day, and as I write this at sundown, the temp is 41 and still dropping. We expect it to get down to the mid to low 30s tonight.

I snapped this just a short time before writing this entry. You can see that there is just over 1 inch.
Here's a sight we haven't seen in a while -- water coming out of the rain spout.

Most of the rain today was just slow and steady, though we did have two brief, rather heavy downpours. Regardless, right now any rain is good rain.

This is taken from our front patio looking north. The system moved from the west to the east. The light drizzle at this time put a light veil over the hill at the center of the picture, making it barely visible.

The entire day looked more or less like this. This picture looks southeast. The deer we see nightly usually come out of the tall light-colored grass just to the right of the stop sign and move left through our back lawn.

This picture looks almost due south. When the deer get this far, they usually cross the street and work their way down the draw in the center of the picture, then move around the club house, which is the large building in the center-left of the picture.

Overall, it was a dreary day, as this picture of the side entrance to the club house shows. But we loved it!
Any time I start thinking I'd like to full-time in an RV again, I remember what it is like when you have weather like this. Now, most of the time, you try to travel to places where the weather is good, but you are always going to run into cold, wet days like this. And that is when I'm so glad I have a nice, dry, warm house with a garage.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hot Time in the Old Town

What an unusual autumn we are having here in San Angelo. In the past week, we have set several new records for high temperatures. Each day, we seem to creep over that 90 degree mark, and our nights are only getting down to the upper 60s. But a cool front will start working its way through tomorrow, and we should enjoy more seasonal weather soon.

I've mentioned before that I'm something of a genealogist. Back in June 2013, I wrote an entry called "Digging Up Bones" in which I detailed some of my favorite online tools. I recently submitted a DNA test, which led to my making contact with a before-unknown cousin on my mother's side of the family. This lady has even written a wonderful book on our families. I've been reading through it lately.

I've used Family Search and Find a Grave extensively over the years, so I've been trying to give back lately. In recent months, I've volunteered for transcription projects with Family Search, and this week I've started trying to help folks who have requested pictures of tombstones of family members through Find a Grave. I printed a list of photo requests for our largest local cemetery -- Fairmont -- and then printed a map showing the blocks of the large cemetery. Donna and I went out this afternoon and could not find a single grave listed on the requests. I guess the locations on Find a Grave did not match the map. Well, perhaps I need to start with something smaller. I'm looking at some of the smaller cemeteries in the area, and I'll try one of those later this week or in the near future.

We have really enjoyed the wildlife in our neighborhood lately. We see turkeys everyday that we drive through the neighborhood. Each night, we set out just before dark and watch a parade of deer wander through our back yard. When I woke this morning, 2 does were bedded down just beyond our back patio. On my walk this morning, I encountered deer on at least 3 occasions. We do enjoy watching the wildlife out here.

We have a new H.E.B. store less than a mile from our home. We really like H.E.B. We had hoped this would be one of their super stores, but it isn't. It is a very nice store, but not that much different from the old store that has been here for years. Still, it's nice to have an H.E.B. so close. In an age when there are very few locally owned grocery stores, we try to shop as much as possible at H.E.B. since it is at least a Texas-owned company.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chicken Farm Art Center

On the first Saturday of each month, the Chicken Farm Art Center is an interesting place to visit. Vendors set up around the grounds, musicians play throughout the day, and there is usually a place to get a good burger or some other interesting food. Donna and I do not go out here often simply because we don't need to buy the things that are on sale our there, but we still think it is a pretty neat place to visit from time to time.

I won't attempt to tell you what the Chicken Farm is -- the website does a much better job of that. But I will share some pictures I snapped on our visit earlier today. And I need to make clear that the Chicken Farm is open throughout the year, not just on first Saturdays of each month. If you get a chance, stop by this little community of free spirits.

Here's Donna standing just inside the entrance. You can see a few of the vendor tents located direction ahead. To the left is a row of shops where local artists make pottery and other goods. 
Here are a couple of ladies doing a bit of weaving.
This is a fun place, as evidenced by the potter above.
A couple of musicians were playing some old folk songs for the crowd.
The Chicken Farm has grown over the years. Since there doesn't appear to be any master plan, walkways and new shops just pop up where there is room. The open door on the right leads to a soap shop. 
Here's Donna again. She's always trying to get in the pictures. 
Interesting corner of the Chicken Farm.
Since this is the Chicken Farm, I expected to see chickens.
Interior of a stone ware shop.
Another section of the Chicken Farm near the front. I'm not sure what the lady on the right of the picture is dressed for.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lake Levels

We're about halfway through autumn, and we've not had the good rains we sometimes get this time of year. I look forward to such rains to help replenish our lakes, but that just isn't happening this year. As a result, our lake levels are on the decline.

Below is a snapshot from our local paper, the San Angelo Standard Times. On the last page of the first section of the paper, they publish these and other stats daily. I watch them religiously. The first half of the picture shows lake levels of area lakes. San Angelo gets most of its water from Lake O. H. Ivie, which is about 60 miles east of here. It also uses water in some way from Nasworthy, O.C. Fisher, and Twin Buttes, all on the west side of the city. Spence is north of here and does not contribute to San Angelo, and Amistad is on the Rio Grande near Del Rio. It also does not contribute to our local water supply.

When O. H. Ivie's level reaches 20%, I start getting concerned, especially this time of year. The lake level will continue to decline into the spring, for our chances of getting sustained rains now are diminishing until then. If we do not get the good rains in the spring, then the high temperatures and not winds next summer will quickly cause our lake levels to lower. The "Month to date" precipitation above is for the moth of October. No, we did not get much rain at all this past month.

Below is a map showing our lakes. The serpent-shaped lake on the far right is O. H. Ivie. I wrote about this lake in August in "Back Roads Tour: Lake O. H. Ivie". O. H. Ivie is formed by the Colorado River, fed largely by Elm Creek just south of Ballinger, and the Concho River, which comes in from the west.

The lake on the upper-left side of San Angelo is O. C. Fisher, which is part of San Angle State Park. The larger lake to the lower-left of San Angelo is Twin Buttes, while the smaller one just to its right is Nasworthy. O. C. Fisher is formed by the North Concho River, while Twin Buttes is formed by the Middle Concho, Spring Creek, Dove Creek, and the South Concho River. All of these streams come together to form Nasworthy. In fact, water is pumped from Twin Buttes to maintain a steady level in Nasworthy, where boat races and other activities are regularly held. The Middle Concho and South Concho Rivers merge in Nasworthy, and then this combined stream merges with the North Concho just east of downtown San Angelo.

Hopefully, we'll get some good rains this winter or in the spring. If not, we'll be looking at a long, hot summer in 2018.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Movie, A Parade, and a Few Other Things

Life has been good for us this week. We continue to feel fortunate with our lives and where we live.

Earlier in the week, we went to the movies. There are quite a few playing right now we'd like to see, so I hope to make a couple next week as well. This week, we saw American Made starring Tom Cruise. This movie was loosely based on the events leading up to the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. Of course, Hollywood made loose and free with the facts to make the movie more entertaining and dramatic. I can't say this is a movie I would recommend, but I think it does demonstrate fairly accurately how our government often bungles its support for foreign entities and then ends up regretting its actions.

After the movie, we went to What Da Pho for lunch. This little place is quickly becoming one of our favorite eateries in San Angelo. It is located at 3315 Sherwood Way behind the old H.E.B. What Da Pho is one of those places that does not maintain a true website; instead, it relies on a Facebook presence. It is places like this that caused me to join Facebook. But I won't hold that against What Da Pho. If you don't use Facebook, you can view a copy of their menu at Menu Runners. We've been to What Da Pho several times now, and I've ordered something different each time. The first trip, I tried the Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) with chicken breast. We ordered the monstrous regular size and really enjoyed it. In fact, that is all that Donna has ever ordered there. On our next trip, I tried the Spicy Lemongrass Chicken. This was fine, but I probably won't order it again. On our last trip, I ordered the regular shrimp pho, and this will probably become my standard order. We also always order spring rolls; I love that peanut dipping sauce.

This morning, we decided to venture out into the cold to watch the Angelo State University (ASU) homecoming parade. It's not a big parade, featuring mainly organizations from ASU. It began with the marching band, following by the cheerleaders, fraternity/sorority floats, and other organizations. After the parade, we walked down to where the Brews, Ewes, and BBQ competition was going on. This is the second year for this event, and it seems to be popular, so it will probably grow over the years.

We finished our day with a late lunch at Olive Garden, where I ordered my favorite ravioli de portabella, while Donna enjoyed the salad. It was a pleasant way to end our day.

Below are some pictures I snapped of the parade and area.

The parade announcers from a local radio station perched themselves on the balcony of an older building overlooking Chadbourne Street.

Here comes the ASU marching band.
The ASU cheerleaders showed good sense by not wearing skimpy outfits in the cold.
I believe these lovely young ladies represent a local dance troupe called San Angelo Ballet Folklorico Azteca.

There was a petting zoo near the Brews, Ewes, and BBQ competition. That is the historic old Cactus Hotel in the background.
One of the beautiful murals that decorate our downtown area. We really have a beautiful city.
There are numerous old historic buildings downtown. We passed this one on our way to our car, so I decided to snap a photo. I love the balconies on these old buildings.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No Rest for the Wicked

It's been busy for us lately.

Last Thursday, we attended an appreciation hamburger supper at the clubhouse. There's nothing like hamburgers cooked fresh on an open grill. We were able to visit old friends here at RCW and make a few new ones. They even treated us to a few games of free bingo with cash prizes. You can't beat that!

We rose early Friday morning and hit the road once again for East Texas. This was not a pleasure trip. Donna suffered a loss in her family, so we made the long trek to the piney woods to pay our respects. Family is important, and I always enjoy seeing family, whether it's Donna's family or mine. I just hate when the event is a sad one.

We always try to make the best of a bad situation, so we spent our first night in Fairfield, my hometown. And when we are in Fairfield, we usually eat at Sam's BBQ, and we did this time as well. I really love that BBQ, the potato salad, the homemade bread, and everything else they serve. I grew up on that stuff, so it is more or less my standard. Now, I understand true BBQ aficionados might find some things to nitpick about the BBQ at Sam's, but I like it.

On our way home Sunday, we stopped in Brownwood for lunch at Prima Pasta. That has become one of our favorite Italian places, and we stop for lunch there when we pass through. The facility is nice, the service good, the prices reasonable, and the food quite good. We've yet to have a bad meal or experience there.

Seems like every time we go to East Texas, we end up driving in the rain. And not just any rain, mind you, but pouring down drown a cat rain. When we left Conroe Sunday morning, the sky opened and just dumped all its water on us. It was pretty bad until we got north of Madisonville. We were glad to get back west of I-35.

I hope we are home for a while now. I need to get back into my walking routine. It's been sort of hit and miss the past month with our trip to Colorado and our 2 trips to East Texas. I feel better when I'm able to walk on a regular basis.

Last night, I stepped out back to look around, as is my normal habit around dark. I always see something, usually deer. Last night, a buck scampered through our yard as I watched. Then a few moments later, I saw a pair of wings glide in low from my right and then light on the corner of the neighbor's house. At first, I thought it was a hawk. But then I looked more closely and saw that it was an owl. I called Donna outside for a look, and we got a kick watching it twist its head around. Pretty soon, it flew off low across the neighbor's yard, then down the street toward a clump of trees 4 or 5 houses down. In all my years of working outside, living outside, camping, hiking, and such, this was my first sighting of an owl in the wild. Pretty neat!

I love autumn!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jury Duty

About 2 months ago, I received a summons for jury duty. Well, no one likes serving on a jury. Heck, I resent this intrusion on my busy schedule of doing nothing. But it is our duty to serve. I've been on 3 juries before, 2 criminal and 1 civil. I really don't mind. I find them interesting. In fact, Donna and I have even been thinking about attending a trial just for something to do.

Anyway, I showed up on the appointed day. We were to be there at 9:00, and by 9:05 everyone seemed to be in place. All in all, I roughly counted about 45 or more potential jurors. I also saw court staff in their places, as well as what I thought were 2 attorneys, but very friendly with each other. I figured they must work together.

Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

I was surprised by this, as in all my previous experiences, things run pretty well according to daily schedules in the courts. Yeah, I know about the back logs and stuff, but the daily schedule always seems to work well in my experience.

Finally, about 9:35 or so, the judge appeared. It appears the 2 attorneys I saw represented the state. There was a young man, the defendant, sitting all alone at the defense table. It seems his lawyer did not appear for today's session. The judge was none too happy. He apologized to all of us for wasting our time and thanked us for our service. He then went on to explain that in his long career, something like this had never happened before. He informed the court of actions to take regarding the missing lawyer, then dismissed the jury. I wouldn't want to be that lawyer. Heck, I wouldn't want to be any lawyer -- I have morals!

That was the easiest $6 I ever made.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Member of the Zoo

We meet folks in our subdivision through various methods. Some we meet at the monthly dinners we attend. Some we meet on the trips over to the Manor where we often go for lunch. And some we meet on our walks. In the last couple of months, we've met a friendly gentleman named David. David and I roughly walk about the same time of morning, though lately we've been walking at other times of the day as the weather has started to change some. However, David seems to walk only about 1 or 2 miles, while I normally try to get 4 or 5 miles in each session.

David lives on the northern edge of our subdivision. To his north and west is some open land, so he sees quite a few animals there. When we stop to visit, our conversations often turn to the animals we encounter. Deer and turkeys, of course, are regular sightings for both of us. And I often see skunks. I've noted in this column before that I have even spotted some foxes. But something David said a week or two ago has caused me to reconsider this. All of my fox sightings have been in the dark, so I've really only seen their silhouettes and their bushy tails. I've not seen them very close. But I feel sure they were foxes as we have spotted grey foxes just down the road at the state park on numerous occasions during daylight.

Recently David mentioned that he has been seeing ring tail cats. On our last visit, I asked him about these critters, and he provided some information. Then I came home and did a bit of research.

Last night, I was on the patio with my daughter and son-in-law. We had been watching the deer move along the edge of the mesquites down the street in their regular evening meanderings. We thought the show was over and were getting ready to go inside when I saw something loping along the curb on the street opposite us. At first, I thought it was a cat, as we do have some feral cats out here. Then it entered the light from the street lamp, and I saw the coloring and long tail and recognized it as a ring tail cat.

I won't go through a description of this little critter, as you can find out more on Wikipedia or other online sources: see I will add that the tail makes this nocturnal animal pretty obvious, so I feel confident that it was a ring tail cat I saw. Here are a couple of pictures I downloaded from the internet. Hopefully, I'll be able to snap my own pictures soon.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Night at the Theater: The Boys Next Door

Donna and I returned from our East Texas trip just in time to catch a performance of The Boys Next Door at the Angelo Civic Theater.

The play, written by Tom Griffin, was first produced in the late 1980s. It is set in Boston, where a group of 4 men with varying degrees of mental disabilities live together in a house. The men are cared for by Jack Palmer, a social worker who checks in on the men regularly.

The play focuses on a series of vignettes over a period of about two months. The vignettes are usually comical, yet they reveal the challenges the men encounter as well as their occasional successes. The vignettes also show the emotional toll the job takes on Jack as he increasingly becomes burned out with his job and seeks employment elsewhere.

For the most part, the play is humorous, but it takes a dramatic turn when the abusive father of Barry Klemper, a schizophrenic, comes to visit.

The play does a good job, I think, of providing insight into the struggles of people with various disabilities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fall Has Arrived . . . For the Moment

Ahh, fall has come to West Texas, at least for a day or two. This morning, it is in the low 50s. With the lively breeze, it probably feels like 45 or so out there. There is a light mist, so the sidewalks are wet.

Hopefully, I'll get out later in the day and take a good walk. Now that the nights and early mornings are chilly, I'll shift my walk routine to later in the morning or mid-afternoon. I rather like walking in mid-afternoon instead of early morning. I enjoy getting a slow start to the day. When I walk early, I jump out of bed and hit the road first thing. When I postpone the walk, I'm able to enjoy my coffee, read the paper, and start the day slowly. I like that.

I really enjoy driving the short 2 miles or so to our state park for afternoon walks. Life is slow at San Angelo State Park. We can walk along the park roads out there with very little automobile traffic. If we are really lucky, we can even see some good wildlife, anything from squirrels and deer to fox and bison.

Speaking of wildlife, I sat on our patio last night about 7:30. It starts getting dark about then. I had not been sitting long when 5 deer came trotting along the road across from me. I doubt they even saw me. Just to our south is a vacant area leading to undeveloped land owned by our subdivision. Deer like to browse there among the mesquites and tall grass. Sometimes they come down the street, as this group did, to a small draw behind our community center. A few moments later, another group of 4 deer browsed along the edge of the mesquites along the undeveloped land. A single deer followed behind them, and 4 more followed along a few minutes later. And our turkeys are back. I don't know where they go during the warm months, but now that cooler temperatures have returned, so have the turkeys.

We got our flu shots yesterday. If you haven't done so, I hope you do soon.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Quick and Busy East Texas Trip

Donna and I just returned home from another trip. We've put about 2,500 miles on our worn out old bodies the past 2 weeks. We used to think nothing of crisscrossing the state, but these days, anything over 8 hours really wears us out. I'm looking forward to some stay-at-home time now.

We needed to visit Donna's home town of Conroe. There were some folks in the area we felt the need to visit. We left on Monday and returned on Thursday. We stayed pretty busy the entire time.

After our 8 hour trip on Monday, we met Donna's brother Bill and his wife Jody for supper at Olive Garden in Conroe. We enjoyed a good meal with them. I always get the Ravioli de Portobello at Olive Garden. I really like that sun-dried tomato sauce in that dish.

We were up early Tuesday to drive over to Lake Livingston for a long visit with Donna's half-sister Anita and her husband Keith. It rained on us from the time we left until we returned to the hotel later that day. After visiting Anita and Keith, we drove west to the small town of Montgomery and visited Donna's cousin Pam. We finished the day with a good salad at Panera Bread. I always get the Thai salad there; that dressing is so good.

On Thursday, we started by visiting the cemetery where Donna's mother and father and other family members rest. You can tell you are getting old when visiting cemeteries becomes a part of your itinerary. We did the same back in May when we visited my hometown. We then visited Donna's Uncle Carl, who lives in an assisted living center. At 93 or so, he is still alert and sharp; in fact, he recently wrote a book about his life. I'll download a copy from Amazon soon. We then visited another cemetery where family members rest. We finished the day with a late lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant with Donna's brother David and his wife Sharon.

We were pretty worn after 3 long, busy days. We went to bed early Wednesday night and awoke early the next day, ate a light breakfast at the hotel, then took off west. We routed our trip through Killeen so that we could stop at the In and Out Burger restaurant there for lunch. We really enjoy those little burgers.

It's always nice to see family and old places from our past. But for us, it is always so comforting to cross I-35 and head west. The eastern part of the state is just too congested. It is reaching the point where there is no country left there, just house after house and business after business. We start feeling comfortable when we get about 75 or so miles west of I-35. The farther west we go, the better we feel.

It was good to get home. We sat on our patio that evening, enjoying the dry cool of the evening, thankful we were not in the sticky, wet humid area we had just left. So many in our families have never been able to understand why we enjoy living in the west. As we sat on our patio that evening in our quite neighborhood with a nice breeze drifting over us, there was no question in our minds why we have chosen the west to be our home.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Return from Cripple Creek

For our return trip from Cripple Creek, we backtracked to Dalhart, TX, to spend the night. It rained on us most of the day, starting shortly after we left Cripple Creek. We took our time descending through the mountains on those narrow roads, and were glad to reach Canon City and a 4 lane highway.

Canon City is an interesting town. It is located near the Royal Gorge, among other things. I wouldn't mind spending some time there. Should we ever buy another trailer and full-time, I intend to go there. In fact, there are numerous points of interest from the Raton area to Canon City, including several state parks. All beg for a visit.

But today, we just skirted through Canon City. 35 or so miles later, we were in Pueblo, site of our first stop of the day. We always go around on Highway 45 on the west side of Pueblo. There is a nice McDonalds there where we always stop for drinks. We picked up coffee this cold, rainy day. A mile or two farther down the road, I pulled into a Walmart Neighborhood Market for fuel.

We continued around the loop and hopped on I-25 heading south. The rain continued. It would rain heavy at times, then slack off and just drizzle, but it continued non-stop. As we passed through Trinidad, we began climbing Raton Pass. I was glad to descend on the other side. We made another McDonalds stop in Raton, then headed east on US 87. We had hoped to stop at Capulin Volcano National Monument, but the weather was not cooperating, so we drove on past.

We finally drove out of the rain around Des Moines. For fellow travelers, please note that there is a nice rest area with restrooms located on the north side of the highway about 6 miles east of Des Moines. At Dalhart, we stopped for the night. Early the next morning, while it was still dark, we pulled out. The morning was clear until about Boys Ranch, then the fog moved in. We continued south on US 385. Just south of Vega on I-40, the fog was replaced by drizzle. It would rain on us the rest of the day.

I chose this different route home because Donna and I wanted to do a "memory tour." We were able to detour off this route to drive through towns we formerly lived in. First, we detoured through Olton, where I enjoyed my first full-time teaching job way back in the late 1970s. Courtney, our daughter, was born while we were living there. We drove by our old house, which was old when we lived there and is even older now. The school still looks good. The town itself seems smaller. It appears to have fewer businesses. Olton is a farm town, and life has not been good for our farmers in recent years.

Farther down the road, we detoured through the small community of Wellman, where I taught from 1984 to 1987. Since my time there, the school has consolidated with another country school -- Union -- to become Wellman-Union. It was in Olton and Wellman that I had my best public school teaching experiences, I believe. Those were some good kids. Most of them came from hard working farm families. It was a pleasure and privilege to teach them.

From Wellman, we worked our way home, stopping in Big Spring briefly for a late lunch.

It was good to get back home. I discovered 2.25 inches of rain in my gauge upon our return. Boy, we could use the rain. It continued to rain off and on following our return home.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

On our last full day in Cripple Creek, the skies cleared. We decided to head down the street for a train ride.

The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a short ride on a narrow gauge railroad. The trip is short, lasting only 45 minutes or so. But it does provide a good look at some beautiful mountain country. Please visit the link above for details concerning rates and schedules.

Ticket office and gift shop

Ticket office and loading platform. Since this is a narrow gauge railroad, the rails are only 2 feet apart.

Donna in the gift shop

The depot is at the east end of Bennett Avenue. The small engine pulls two cars, one enclosed in glass and the other open. Donna and I opted for the open car. The ride was quite breezy and cold, but I wanted the open car to provide clearer pictures.

Car nearest is enclosed in glass. Donna and I road at the back of the second car, which is open.
Coal fired engine gives off a unique smell that reminded me of tar.

Before leaving the station, the engineer provided some background information on the train as well as Cripple Creek itself. The track winds south a few miles. At the end, it comes to a complete stop, allowing the engineer to provide more information. We then backed up a short distance so the train could reverse direction on a side track. Near the station, the train then pulled into another side track, which allowed us to back into the station.

We made 3 full stops on the journey, and at other times the train slowed to a crawl while the engineer provided information. He pointed out various old mines located along the route, for example. Below are pictures of the tour.

This is the inside of the car we rode in. We sat at the very back, but were able to move around freely to snap pictures. The engineer is at front center speaking into the handset. Speakers are located on both cars.

Leaving Cripple Creek

We passed through some beautiful mountain country on this short trip. That is the highway heading to Victor, another old mining town south of Cripple Creek.
Along the route, the engineer would point out items of interest, such as this old chute from an old mine.
The track winds through the trees.
More beautiful mountain scenery. Note some of the trees turning color.
I believe the engineer called this the World's Fair mine; I'm not sure. It's a pity to see this beautiful country raped.
Aspens along the track.

Nice color near the end of the ride.

All bundled up for the ride. I'm not good at taking selfies. I can't pose and snap the photo at the same time. No good at multi-tasking these days.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cripple Creek, Second Time Around

We recently spent 4 nights in Cripple Creek. We really like this mountain town, and we wish it was closer so that we could go more often. But it is a 1500 mile round trip, so this may be our last visit for a long time, especially with winter already appearing in those mountains.

In my last post, I recorded the first leg of our trip to Cripple Creek, which took us from San Angelo to Raton, NM. From Raton, we followed the route we took on our return trip back in May (see "On the Road: Cripple Creek to Santa Rosa, NM"). In other words, we went from Raton up I-25 to Pueblo, then US 50 west just past Canon City, then on 3 mountain roads the remainder of the trip to Cripple Creek. As we left Raton, the rain pounded us all the way through Raton Pass. I was glad when it finally let up and we made it through the pass.

The approach drive to Cripple Creek is really pretty. The aspens were turning at the higher elevations, and Donna tried to snap some shots as we drove along. Unfortunately, the glare on the windows is obvious in some of the pictures.

Donna took this photo just a few miles outside Cripple Creek. No picture can really do justice to the beauty of the aspens as they turn.

Cripple Creek has an elevation of 9494 feet. Let's just round that off to 9500 feet. It is way up there. The weather was pretty cool during our entire stay. The nights dipped to around freezing each night while the highs never got out of the 40s. A couple of days were rainy and overcast, but on our last full day, we were able to get out for exploring.

Cripple Creek is an old mining town, the site of the last great Colorado gold rush. Gold was discovered there in 1890, and the population soon exploded from about 500 people to 10,000. Two separate fires in 1896 essentially destroyed the town, but it was rebuilt in that same year. Most of the historic buildings you see in town today date back to that rebuilding period.

Today, the population of Cripple Creek hovers around the 1200 mark, and most of the residents are employed in the new gold rush, casinos and tourism. We go there mainly for the casinos. On our two trips there, we have stayed and played mostly at Bronco Billy's, though we also spend a lot of time at the Double Eagle a couple of blocks down the street.

Below are some other photos of Cripple Creek.

Looking south. The highway you see goes to Victor, another old mining town.

Looking west along Bennett Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Cripple Creek.

Looking east along Bennett Ave. Notice the clusters of aspens as well as the clouds shrouding the mountain.

This is the Double Eagle Casino.
It was early when I snapped this photo of Donna as we were walking east towards the Double Eagle. You can see the sun just beginning to peep over the mountain. It was probably about 35 or 40 degrees, cold but invigorating.