Saturday, December 30, 2017

The After-Christmas Lull

Christmas 2017 has come and gone. And what did Donna and I do for Christmas? Basically, the same thing we've done for most of the last 20 years or so.

After Courtney graduated high school and Donna and I found ourselves in an empty nest, we started a new Christmas Day tradition -- going to the movies. For most of the past almost-20 years or so, we've continued this. This year, we saw Father Figures, starring Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, with supporting roles by Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw, J.K. Simmons, and Christopher Walken. We enjoyed it for the most part, except for all the gutter language. Why does Hollywood feel they have to include such language when there is absolutely no reason for it? I'll try to be more careful in future about the movies I watch; such language does not impress me at all.

Normally, we find a place to eat after watching a show on Christmas Day, but we couldn't find anything we wanted this year so we just headed home and put something together there. And I was surprised by the crowds at the few places that were open. I saw several families going in and out of these restaurants, and they didn't look like travelers to me. I guess the traditional holiday meals are fading away for some folks.

A very cold front moved in on Wednesday. Never did the temp rise above freezing on that day. We had an early appointment and had to get out. Because of moisture the previous day, there were several icy patches around town, especially on the bridges on the loop. We left early, choose a low-traffic and safe route, and safely arrived at our destination. There were numerous wrecks around town that morning.

The cold continued the next day, when the temp just barely rose above freezing. Daughter Courtney and her band of mercenaries arrived close to noon for a belated Christmas celebration. Donna cooked ham, baked beans, and white potato salad -- yum yum! We opened presents, watched the little guys play with their new things, and had a good visit. They spent the night, then returned home the next day.

After they left, Donna put away all the indoor Christmas decorations -- tree, stockings, etc. I went outside and removed the lights there. So, Christmas is officially over for us for 2017.

The cold has continued. Every day is a wintry day, with low temps and overcast skies. We've had light moisture almost every day; not enough to add water to our reservoirs, but enough to make driving tricky with the overnight freezes. As I write this at just after 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon, the temp is 38, and that is probably the highest it will be for the next several days. The high tomorrow (Sunday) is 32 with an wintry mix. It dips to 17 Sunday night, and climbs to a mere 25 on Monday, New Years Day. Monday night gets to 16, rising to 28 on Tuesday. We finally get back above freezing on Wednesday.

Donna and I had planned a trip next week, but with the bad weather, we decided to stay home, so we canceled and rescheduled for another time. Now, for all you mountain folks and northerners out there, this weather doesn't sound that bad. But for the folks in my neck of the woods, this is quite cold. It seems that we haven't seen the sun for a week or more.

To end the week, we will attend a New Year's Eve party out here at Rio Concho West on Sunday night. Lock up the women and children, as the old folks are cutting loose! I'll tell you about this wild affair in another entry.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas, 2017

I wish you a merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20 King James Version (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
I quoted the King James version above, as I've always felt the language used in that version is the most beautiful. 
I wish you peace and love for the coming year. May we all strive to live by the example set by Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Meanwhile, Back at RCW

Christmas is sneaking up on us. I hope all of you are ready. We are. Daughter Courtney and her merry band of terrorists will come barreling down to see us a few days after Christmas. That means Donna and I spend Christmas alone. It also means I have more time to ponder the impending invasion. It's kind of like when you get sent to the principal's office and s/he makes you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Just makes the torture worse, doesn't it?

We've had some rain, followed by some beautiful weather. Early in the week, we had about three-quarters inch of rain. A couple of days later, we had temps in upper 70's and even the lower 80's. Wow! It was really nice, so I made sure to get some walking in. We went to the park one day for a short walk of almost 4 miles, then the next day I walked just over 4 miles in our neighborhood.

Sunrise at Rio Concho West
Same direction, but zoomed in a bit and a few seconds later.
In the previous post, I mentioned our annual outing to see Christmas lights. After the drive around town, we stopped in for a light supper at Chile's. Back in the 1990's, we frequently ate at this Chile's on our shopping trips to San Angelo when we lived in nearby Ozona. But we don't eat there much anymore, and I'm not sure why. Donna enjoyed her tortilla soup while I really liked my Quesadilla Explosion Salad.

Turkeys came through our yard shortly after the sunrise.
On Friday, a cold front moved through. Temperatures hovered around 40 for most of the day. What do you do on a cold day? You go to the movies. Donna and I drove to our local theater and caught Downsizing, the new Matt Damon film. The movie let out about 3:30, and we headed over to our local Olive Garden for a late afternoon lunch. Nice day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Light Tour, 2017

Since retiring to San Angelo in 2011, it has become a tradition for Donna and me to follow the Tour of Lights each Christmas.

The Tour of Lights is a unique Christmas celebration whereby a 1 mile stretch of West River Drive -- sometimes referred to as Park Drive -- is ablaze in Christmas lights. This stretch of roadway follows the North Concho River as it meanders through downtown San Angelo. Most of the decorations are set up on the opposite side of the river from the road. For much of the stretch, the land rises from the river, creating a bluff to serve as a backdrop for the lights, with homes gracing the land behind the lights. The reflection of the lights in the waters of the North Concho River certainly adds to the beauty of the scene.

This is the 24th year for the event, and the number of lights grows each year. It runs for the entire month of December, roughly from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Currently, a $5 per car donation is suggested.

If you go to the website linked in the first paragraph above, you will see mention of a 2.5 mile route. The actual route along the river is only 1 mile. At the end of this section, the route then leaves the river, travels along historic Concho Avenue in downtown San Angelo, then turns south on South Oakes Street where it then detours for its finale through the area across from old Fort Concho where the Farmers' Market is currently held. At certain times during the month-long event, there is a live nativity at this location.

I encourage you to visit the website linked above to view the gallery there, as their pictures are far superior to my unworthy efforts. But, if you are a glutton for punishment, then you can view a few of my pictures below. We got there just a little before it was fully dark.

The tunnel near the beginning of the route. The lights rotate across the top.

Notice the bit of reflection at the bottom of picture, as well as the house in the background farther up the slope.
Some of the displays bring the old 12 Days of Christmas song to life. This one shows the 8 maids a milking.
I love the reflections in the river.

A close up of one of the displays to demonstrate the detail that goes in to this.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Some of My Favorite Roads in Texas

It's been a while since my last posting. To be honest, we've just not done anything worth writing about. So, I thought I would dig into my bag of material to see what I could find.

Donna and I have been fortunate to travel all over Texas. It is such a vast state, a land of contrasts, with each corner of the state offering something different.

Below are some of my favorite drives in Texas. These are drives that we have made at least twice; some we have made many, many times.

  • I love Texas 21 between Alto and Crockett in East Texas. I wrote about this road over 4 years ago in "Favorite Drives: Old San Antonio Road from Crockett to Alto" so I'll not repeat myself here.
  • Texas 207 from Silverton north to Claude passes through Tule Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon. I wrote about this road earlier this year in "On the Road: San Angelo to Amarillo." 
  • Ranch Road 337 from Leakey to Vanderpool is a beautiful drive as it crosses the divide between the Frio and Sabinal Rivers. Highway 1050 from Garner State Park east to Utopia is also a beautiful drive linking those two river valleys.
  • Texas 17 from Balmorhea to Ft. Davis provides some unique mountain scenery for Texas. The best part of the drive, at least for me, is on the south side of Wild Rose Pass, where the road begins to follow Limpia Creek and the mountains begin to close in more.
  • Texas 118 from Alpine through Ft. Davis all the way its intersection with Interstate 10 is another great mountain drive. My favorite stretches are those just south of Ft. Davis, and the drive north from Ft. Davis past McDonald Observatory to the intersection with Highway 166.
  • US 67 from Marfa to Presidio is interesting. It starts with some high plateau country where you can often see pronghorns in large herds. As you near Shafter, the country gets a bit rougher, and the old mining town of Shafter is an interesting detour for those who enjoy history and this rugged country. From Shafter south, the road is rather straight and in a long, downward slope as it heads for the Rio Grande.
  • Another interesting drive involving Presidio is the River Road (Highway 170) that follows the Rio Grande from Presidio to Terlingua, Study Butte, Lajitas, and the Big Bend area. Near Presidio, the road has gentle rolls as it hugs the river. About midway, there is a steep climb (known locally as "the Big Hill") where the highway veers away from the river temporarily. From there, it is a short way to the park (Big Bend National Park).
  • Back in the Hill Country, Texas 16 from Kerrville south to Medina defines Hill Country drives. There are some pretty sharp turns on this road and some gorgeous country. As you near Medina, you pick up Wallace Creek, which later feeds into the North Prong of the Medina River. Both streams provide some pretty ranch settings.
  • If you like something less remote, take Texas 27 west from Kerrville along the beautiful Guadalupe River. For the first several miles, there are quite a few resorts and other developments. At Ingram, be sure to veer left onto Highway 39. Eventually, the resorts give away, as does the river.
  • Years ago, I always enjoyed the drive along US 290 from Johnson City west to Fredericksburg. However, that stretch -- especially from Stonewall west -- has gotten so developed that it has lost its allure for me. Still, you can detour off US 290 just west of Hye and follow Highway 1 as it winds along the south bank of the Pedernales River, offering views of the river as well as the former "Texas White House" occupied by President and Lady Bird Johnson. It will eventually rejoin US 290 on the western edge of Stonewall.
There are countless other drives worth making, especially along the many back roads of Texas, but those above are some of my favorites.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Walk in the Park

After 3 days of cold temperatures and overcast skies, I was itching to get outside. The outdoors is my medicine; it is what makes me feel good. When I'm sick, the sun heals me. When I feel depressed, the wind lifts my spirits.

To celebrate improving weather, Donna and I drove the 2 miles or so down the road to our local state park, San Angelo State Park, on Friday. We are so fortunate to have this park. As I've stated in previous posts, it has more than 50 miles of trails for hikers, bicycle riders, and equestrians, and we've walked every mile of them.

Normally when we walk in the park, we just stay on the paved park roads. Our main objective when doing this is exercise, but we like to walk in the park because we don't have to worry about traffic and we usually get to see some critters. It's nice to be away from the usual city noises. I wrote about some of our paved road routes in the park back in April 2015; you can read that entry at "Walking at San Angelo State Park".

On our walk Friday, though, a cold wind was blowing quite steadily out of the west. So, even though the sun was shining brightly, it was still chilly. To block some of that wind, we opted to walk on the loop trail near the south entrance to the park. Basically, this trail parallels park roads, rarely venturing more than 20 yards or more from them. The trail is level and well maintained. It is an easy walk except for the numerous rocks that populate the trail. But there are quite a few mesquites, junipers, and other brush, and they helped block the wind that was blowing that day.

Aside from the steady wind, it was a pleasant walk, and we saw quite a few critters. Almost immediately after getting on the trail, a red-headed woodpecker came squawking over us and lit in a nearby tree. We then spotted a good herd of white tail deer scampering away, perhaps as many as a dozen strung out to our left. Next, we spotted part of the bison herd in the distance. I tried to get a picture, but I only had my phone camera and it did not come out well. It is hard to see that screen in full sun, so I more or less guessed at getting an image, even when zoomed in.

The bison are a good quarter mile away in this photo, on the other side of the park road that parallels our trail.
The trail takes us near one of the RV camp grounds, and we always enjoy taking a look at the campers. We still have that itch to take off in a travel trailer.

Following our walk, we drove around the campgrounds a bit, looking at the campers again. We then drove to Pulliam Point, which is as far north as you can drive on park roads from the south entrance. The point is actually a ridge jutting north, and it provides good views in almost all directions. I took the following pictures from that ridge.

This image looks southwest. I love the fish scale clouds and the distant hills. If you click the image to enlarge, you should be able to see the ridge drop away.

I love the wide open spaces out here. This image looks west. You can see the ridge drop away about halfway up the picture. Notice the top of the juniper bush towards right.
This picture looks north/northwest. On the left in the distance is a rather new housing development called Buffalo Heights. Click to enlarge and you should see the trail slanting from lower left just above the juniper tree towards the right. That trail is one of the trails that leads to the north section of the park
This image is just to the left of the picture above, and I have zoomed in some. You will see the trails below, which basically turn into the trail mentioned in the picture above. 
This is the northern tip of Pulliam Point. A dry creek, Potts Creek, runs from left to right, towards the lake, which is difficult to make out. There is also a water tower on horizon mid-right, as well as the lake dam. All are hard to see unless you enlarge.
This picture looks almost due east, towards the mass of the dam. You can also see Burkett Trailhead on right. The building is a restroom. The trailhead is the jumping off place for hiking/riding to the north section of the park. At one time, all the low lying areas in the picture were under water, but that was a long time ago.
Dry pond in park. This once was a very popular fishing place. Note the sign. 
And once back home in Rio Concho West, one of the first things we see is this rafter of turkeys.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Weird Texas Weather

Well, my great autumn weather of my previous post has disappeared. On Monday, we reached 81 degrees. It was a beautiful day, though a bit warm for December. On Tuesday, a front moved through and we reached a high only in the 50's. On Wednesday, I awoke to a cold drizzle, which lasted most of the day, resulting in nearly a half-inch of rain. We can use that moisture. The high that day was only in the 40's.

Yesterday, the north wind blew and the cold and overcast skies hung around. I saw only a very brief flurry of snow, so light you could barely see it. After a few minutes, it was gone, so most of my neighbors probably never saw it. But other areas nearby saw snow.

The mountains to the west got a pretty good dusting, and areas to our south (Ozona and Junction, for example) saw about an inch of snow. Even the country around Eagle Pass along the border saw a bit of snow, a rarity for that area. A friend in the Rockport area posted a picture on his blog this morning showing a very light dusting of snow there.

This morning, it is dry but cold, below freezing. What a change from our 81 degrees just a few days ago. But the sun should come out today and reach the mid-50's. Tomorrow will see temps in the 60's, followed by a day or so reaching the 70's.

We normally have a few cold waves like this throughout the winter. They don't last long. One of the nice things of being retired is that we can stay in our warm home and just ride them out.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Great Autumn Weather

This has truly been a great autumn. I can't remember one I've enjoyed more.

The temperature has been just about ideal. Nights often dip down into the 30's, but they usually only get to the upper 40's or lower 50's. The highs each day are usually in the 70's. We've even set several records this fall for high temperatures, and we may do that again today as the high is expected to inch above 80. We've been able to walk at all times of the day, and we've sat outside at all times.

One of the things we've enjoyed most is sitting out just past dark and watching the deer parade. We do this almost every night. You can almost set your watch by the deer. We normally try to get outside about 15 or 30 minutes after dark. The deer slowly start emerging from the brush and high grass to the south and walking north along the street or through our yard, often stopping to graze a bit. They then head off into a draw across the street and disappear.

We've really been surprised at the inability of the deer to detect us. We have sat in our chairs on our patio with the deer not more than 10 or 15 feet from us. They seem to sense we are there. The other night, one doe in particular strained her neck and twisted it about trying to get a better look. She appeared to look straight at us, but we remained motionless. Eventually, she resumed grazing. One night, our 8 point buck stood just out of Donna's reach and never saw her. You would think they could smell us at least, but they don't. If we remain perfectly still, they never know we are there.

My only regret about the weather this fall is that we just haven't had much rain. We are a few inches below our average rainfall amount now, and we will undoubtedly finish the year in a deficit. Perhaps next year will be better, but I'm afraid we are entering another drought cycle. And since we had some pretty good rain in the spring, there was a lot of plant growth in the rural areas. Now, with the lack of rain, that growth has turned into tinder, so we could see some wild fires in the coming spring and summer. Gosh, I hope not.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recycle Day

Boy, did we have fun today. It was recycling day.

Donna and I have been recycling for years and years. We've always checked out the recycling possibilities where we live and have done our best to recycle everything we could. We are fortunate that San Angelo has a wonderful recycling center called S.A.F.E. (San Angelo Friends of the Environment). We began using S.A.F.E. when we lived in nearby Ozona in the 1990s.

Today, much of the city has curbside service for recycling. In our last home here, we were able to use that service. However, our current home is not served by city trash collection; that service is provided by Rio Concho West, and they do not recycle. So, about once each month, we load up the car and haul a load of recyclable goods to S.A.F.E.

There is no telling how much of our trash has been kept out of landfills over the years as a result of our recycling efforts, but I think it is considerable. We no longer produce much garbage. Our crew picks up garbage on Mondays and Thursdays, and we usually have only a very small bag, and sometimes not even that because of our recycling efforts. Most of our waste goes to our recycling bins.

Right now, most of our recyclable waste is probably newspaper or cardboard. It's really amazing how much cardboard is used in packaging out there. Consider all the things you use in your house that contains cardboard in some way: toothpaste boxes, bath soap boxes, rolls from toilet paper and paper towels, cereal boxes, waffle boxes, cracker boxes, and the list goes on and on.

Below are some pictures from our recycling effort today.

We keep these 4 bins in our garage. From left to right, they contain tin cans, aluminum cans, #1 plastic, and #2 plastic. We use very little aluminum, but the plastic bins fill up usually. We also accumulate quite a bit of tin.

These are the recyclable items we keep inside. They are newspapers, cardboard, glass items and egg cartons in the same bin, and numerous plastic wraps or bags in white bag.

And here are all our recyclable goods for about one month. They fairly fill up the entire back end of our SUV, and the back seat is in down position. So each month, this is how much space we save in our landfill. Now, if everyone did this . . . 

No, these are not all of Donna's wine and beer bottles. Seriously, this is the glass bin at S.A.F.E. Quite a load, isn't it.
This is the part of S.A.F.E. where plastics, tin, and aluminum are collected. The tall blue machines under the cover compress plastic into bales.
These are the bins where newspapers, glass, and similar items are collected. The bin at front left is the glass bin shown two pictures above.

These are some of the old appliances and other items that will be taken away.

Oil and similar items are collected in the dome structures at left center in picture.

I think we are very fortunate to have a facility like S.A.F.E. here in San Angelo.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Come . . . Take a Walk with Me

I love walking. Anyone who has read my blog much knows that. I thought you might like to join me. Here is a photo essay from a recent walk on a mostly overcast fall day. I was able to catch some pictures with trees changing color, and I caught a bit of wildlife. Right now, I can almost guarantee I'll see turkeys on any walk I take in our neighborhood. And I've been fortunate to see quite a few deer lately, even in the middle of the day.

So, sit back and join me for a walk around my neighborhood.

This picture is a bit grainy. I caught this doe just a few houses from home, and I really didn't expect to see her. 
Here's some pretty good color about half a mile down the street from our house.
This is James. He takes care of all our landscaping needs. He's busy trimming and taking care of fallen leaves this time of year.
I love our wide, clean streets. This is the newer section of our community, so the trees are not yet mature.

Here's an older section of Rio Concho. The trees are more mature here and provide greater shade. The street is a bit narrower, and the houses are a bit smaller.
And here are some of those turkeys I guaranteed you. They don't come down in our area; they prefer to stay in the older sections where there are more trees and more acorns.
Here's another flock of turkeys I caught as the sun was trying to break out of the clouds. These guys really make themselves at home, don't they? They're fun to watch.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

I love Thanksgiving. I love that it comes in autumn, when leaves are falling and the weather is changing. From Halloween to Christmas is really my favorite time of the year.

But most of all -- especially as the years continue to pile on -- I love Thanksgiving for what it is, a time to be thankful. I think we tend to forget that these days.

My father had a simple prayer he would say to bless our meals. I've used it time and time over the years. Sometimes I recite it as Dad said it, and sometimes I incorporate it into longer prayers. But in its simplicity is the beauty of it.

"Father give us thankful hearts for these and all our many blessings."

All of us need to be more thankful, mainly for just the little things in life. And we are blessed in this country, despite the divergent views and political climate that has permeated our land for the past 20 years or more. Yes, we have problems, but we have so much more that is good.

So, I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Image result for cornucopia

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lost Maples State Natural Area

When we left New Braunfels, we decided to detour through Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of our favorite parks in the Texas state park system. We've hiked all the trails in this park over the years, and we've camped there in our RV. It's a beautiful park. If you time it just right, you can see some wonderful color, a result of the maple trees for which the park is named. Unfortunately, we've never been able to time it just right, and we missed again this year. The color probably peaked about 2 weeks before our trip.

Still, it was a beautiful drive through some wonderful country.

We left New Braunfels early, probably about 6:00 AM. We stopped for a light breakfast on the western edge of town at McDonald's. We then hopped on Texas 46, which I detailed to some degree in my previous post. For the next 65 miles or so -- through Bulverde and Boerne and finally Bandera -- the traffic was heavy on a 2-lane highway. At Bandera, though, we finally lost most of the traffic as we continued west on Texas 16 to Medina before turning west on FM 337. This stretch was probably the most scenic of the day. There are some beautiful ranches along the West Prong of the Medina River. However, the fog was heavy this day, so views from the higher elevations were severely limited.

We stopped at a pull-out near the highest point on Highway 337 for this picture. The fog was pretty heavy, so visibility is very restricted.

The route we took from New Braunfels to San Angelo, with a detour through Lost Maples.
At Vanderpool, we turned north on Highway 187 for the remaining 5 miles to the park entrance. I inquired about color at the ranger station, and was told that most color was gone. Well, we'll just have to try again next year, I suppose.

We did venture down to the picnic area for the following pictures. There were quite a few people in the park on this cool, damp day. Most were setting off for hikes into the back country. Donna and I have done every inch of the trails, so we decided to just forego another hike unless we had a reward of some good color. We made a quick drive through the camping area. It was probably about 75% or so full, but this was early on a Friday morning. I'm sure it would fill up later in the day for the weekend.

Although there is very little color remaining, the parking lot in the day use area was about half full. By noon, it would probably be about maxed out. The fog was still hanging around.

Here's a small tree with some color. Notice the canyon wall in the background.

A little more color set against the backdrop of the limestone canyon wall.

Scattered color, but very little. We'll get the timing down one of these days.

Here are a couple of trees in the campground with a bit of color.

We then left the park and continued north on Highway 187 for 14 miles to Texas 39, which we followed west for 9 miles to US 83. From there, we headed north 46 miles to I-10, which we stayed on for just a mile or so before exiting for Junction. On the east side of Junction, we stopped at a scenic overlook for the pictures below.

Donna overlooking the city of Junction and the Llano River Valley. Junction has long been a favorite place of ours.

Here's a zoomed in shot of Junction. The bridge crosses the South Llano River, which joins -- or junctions (hence the name of the town) -- with the North Llano River just to the right. The tall signs along top of picture are along Interstate 10, which roughly follows the course of the North Llano River west to the area around the small community of Roosevelt and beyond.
From Junction to San Angelo is a fairly short drive. From the southern Concho County line south of Eden to San Angelo is 4-lane highway, so it was a relaxed way to end our trip.

If you are interested in Lost Maples State Natural Area, below are links to other blog entries I've written over the past few years.

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.