Twister Weather

Twister weather.  That is what my beloved grandmother called it, and it is that time of year here once again.

We have been twister watching and twister dodging all of our 50+ years of life.  I have many harrowing stories to share, but I won’t bother with those today, with one exception.

My most recent experience in twister dodging was in 2013.  I even wrote about that terrifying experience here a few days later.  My nephew and I made a quick road trip to Oklahoma City on the very day of the El Reno tornado that was so deadly and devastating, and if not for checking the NWS Norman Twitter feed as we sat down for a late lunch there that day, we likely would have been right on that very interstate west of town when the twister crossed the road and killed so many people, including some storm chasers.  We got out only an hour before it hit that area, and it gives me chills every time I sit and think about it.

The lesson I learned from that experience in Oklahoma is that Twitter is your friend in severe weather when following the local NWS office in the area.  They know before anyone else what the story is, and it is a wise decision to follow their Twitter feeds closely during severe weather, if possible.

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The first Tornado Watch of the year was just issued for my area about an hour ago.  Time to review tornado preparedness steps again.  I really wish we had a storm cellar, too.

Tornado Safety Tips

In more recent years, my mother was the “weather-bird” of the family and never failed to keep me informed of the weather, both here at home, and at our travel destination if we were headed out-of-town.  Now that twister weather is back, I’m finding that I’m missing the concern she had for our welfare, too.  I miss my Mom calling me to make sure I’m aware of the weather update.  She would already have called me by now.

Nobody loves you like your mom.

Isn’t it strange the things we miss when our loved ones are gone?  It just hit me big time.

Tis the season.

Update:  My immediate area missed out on yesterday’s storms, but counties to the north and east of us got clobbered with large hail (baseball size) and two tornado touchdowns.  My PYKL3 Radar app on my phone showed it all and even rotations that never touched down, and I saw it there even before it was reported on the news.  That is a truly great app to have.  Only $10 for Android phones.

D
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Heading West

West Texas Route

I just put this suggested itinerary together for a fellow RVer who was interested in a possible alternate route as they are planning to leave south Texas soon, but thought I would also share it here for others as well.

I have nothing against I-10 once you leave Kerrville headed west, but there is really nothing all that special to see on the way either.   If taking I-10, though, I recommend a stop at South Llano River State Park for a night or two.  It is a small but very scenic state park on the Llano River and is quite popular for RVers.  If you have the time and take I-10, stopping in Fredericksburg would be nice.  The Nimitz Museum and Becker Vineyards are great places to visit.  Becker is a few miles outside of town.  Fredericksburg is just a neat place.

Here is the route I would personally take, though.  (Additional information: If you plug the route in from Harlingen to El Paso, Google Maps will show about a five hour time savings by taking I-10 vs the route I shared.  However, there is a good stretch of I-10 leaving the hill country and into far West Texas that is 80 mph on I-10.  No RVer is going to drive that fast, I hope, so there really is not that much time savings by taking I-10.  It’s great if you’re driving a car, though, and as far as interstates go, it is pretty nice, although remote.)

Garner State Park – one of the oldest and most scenic state parks we have visited in Texas, on the beautiful Frio River.  Just avoid it on the weekends, if possible, especially in the summer months.  It is extremely popular on weekends but very nice any other time.  We camped right on the river, and I am more than ready to go back there again.  Lost Maples State Natural Area is nearby, but I don’t recommend driving a large rig there from Garner.  It is akin to driving over a steep mountain pass on a two lane road with no shoulder.  Just take your car over from Garner instead, if you have time to drive over there.  Garner is one of the few state parks that allows winter Texans in the winter months because it is a huge park as far as RV sites, and visitation is much lower in the winter.

Amistad Reservoir and National Recreation Site – this is still on our “to visit” list, but since it is on the way to the mountains of far West Texas, it would be a nice stop.  There are boon-docking sites in the national recreation area or RV parks in town nearby.

Late addition: Seminole Canyon State Park –  Mona Lisa of The Lowe’s RV Adventures also recommends a stop at Seminole Canyon State Park on this route, too.  I have not yet visited this unique park, which is located west of Amistad Reservoir, but she highly recommends it and enjoyed their visit there recently.  She recommends camping here instead of Amistad, too.  Thanks for that recommendation!

Alpine – The Museum of the Big Bend – yet another place on our “to visit” list after we visited Alpine on our most recent trip to the area.  There are also several RV parks in town, but I recommend heading on to the state park in Fort Davis to camp, if possible.  This is a good place to refresh groceries, gas, etc., too.  Far West Texas is a remote place.

Mostly, I want to encourage you to just drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea, as it is some of the prettiest and most unique scenery in the state.  You will be just fine in a large rig, as it is good two-lane road the entire way.  Please don’t drive this as night and miss this pretty scenery.  Watch out for “suicide pigs” – javelina that sometimes can be found on the road in morning and evening hours.

Note: While not on this route, the eclectic little town of Marfa is a very popular tourist destination these days, and the official Marfa Lights viewing platform is located on this same highway between Alpine and Marfa.  Marfa may or may not be for you, though, so before traveling there, just do a little research ahead of time.  Prada Marfa is also much further out past Valentine and probably not worth the long drive there and back.  But, if you should continue directly on this highway to Van Horn and El Paso, you will see these sights.  I highly recommend taking the scenic drive listed above from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea instead.  The drive between Marfa and Fort Davis is just not as scenic.

Davis Mountains State Park – obviously one of our favorite places to visit each year in any season!  50 amp sites are highly coveted but the 30 amp sites are also nice and are often available when the 50 amp sites are booked.  We have stayed in both.  Fort Davis National Historic Site, 75 Mile Scenic Loop, McDonald Observatory, the neat little town of Fort Davis, the historic Indian Lodge (built by the CCC), and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center are just some of the things to see here.  The 75 miles scenic loop is especially impressive.  Bird watching and hiking are big activities here, but it is also just a beautiful place, even in the RV sites.  In town, there is a decent grocery store where you can also buy gas.

Balmorhea State Park – a nice place to camp or to just make a quick stopover to see the world’s largest (and very historic) spring-fed pool, built by the CCC.  Only 45 minutes from Fort Davis.  There is one nice convenience store for gas.  Recommend having a full tank when you leave Fort Davis or Balmorhea headed west.

Cattleman’s Restaurant – on the way to El Paso, one of the most memorable places we have ever dined.  I remember the views are just extraordinary at sunset.  It is about 30-45 minutes east of El Paso, just off of I-10.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve dined here, but I believe it is still as good as ever.

White Sands National Monument – if you’ve never been here, it is a must see at least once!  I can’t help with a recommendation as to where to park the RV, though, since we have not RV camped in this area.

We have spent a lot of time in the Ruidoso – Cloudcroft – Alamogordo area (especially Ruidoso) and have RV camped in the national forest at Cloudcroft.  If you have more time in this area, it’s a great area to visit and spend some time.  You cannot drive the RV directly between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, unfortunately.  There is another way to get there that circles up closer to Ruidoso, then cuts back into Cloudcroft.  You can drive a car directly between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, though, and it is a great drive as long as your brakes are in good shape.

Of course, diverting down into Big Bend National Park is certainly another possible addition, if time permits.  Driving Big Bend is a great road trip in the car, and you could leave the RV in Marathon, Alpine or Fort Davis for the day and take a picnic lunch along.  We’ve considered doing that many times while in Fort Davis and will probably do it at some point ourselves again, hopefully soon.  Big Bend is just an amazing place.

Hope this helps, if you’re interested in possibly taking a more scenic route west and seeing some great sights!

D
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A Weekend in Point Reyes

I made a solo trip to see our California kids last weekend, since my hubby had to make a long trip to Europe, and it was a good weekend for me to visit them.  My daughter mentioned the possibility of us visiting the Point Reyes area together for the weekend, so after spending a little time exploring options for lodging on the internet, I found a great place for us to stay on Saturday night.  It was also one of the few hotels that did not require a two-night minimum on that weekend.  Lodging is quite limited in this entire area, so an advance reservation is definitely required on a weekend, or a least a spring weekend when so many people seem to be in this area for wildflowers and whale watching at the point.

On Wednesday, I shared some of the many beautiful flowers I saw on this trip, both at the hotel and inside the national park, Wordless Wednesday – The Flowers of Point Reyes National Seashore.  We saw some gorgeous flowers, to be sure.

I included details of the entire weekend in this post, making it a bit longer than what I normally share.  I haven’t been on much of a writing roll lately, so I felt it better to share the entire trip here while I had the time to do so, rather than possibly dragging it out.

This was my first time to fly out of a different airport in my part of the state.  I saved over $200 to simply drive two hours to this airport, and I was able to get better connections as well, even though it is a smaller airport.  On my second flight on Friday evening, I flew into the Norman Y. Mineta International Airport in San Jose, and it was a beautiful sunset flight across some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.  I always love the flight from Denver to the bay area, but it is especially scenic from the air with snow still on the Rocky Mountains.  Seeing this sight just before sunset on this trip was extra special, too.

Flying Over Denver at Sunset

Flying over Denver at sunset

Flying Over the Rockies at Sunset

The Rocky Mountains at sunset

Daughter picked me up at the airport, and we enjoyed a few hours together before her hubby got home from a late meeting.  We also discovered that my airbed had a small leak in it, so after debating some options, we found ourselves at Target just before midnight buying another airbed.  It was actually a delightful and fun time, and we “made some memories.”  They are now the proud owners of a brand spanking new Coleman airbed that has a built-in electric pump for added convenience.  I have to say it was very comfortable, too.

On Saturday morning, we all dropped by a local Starbucks for a quick breakfast and coffee before hitting the road to Point Reyes, and I always enjoy visiting some of the stores that they frequent.  That may sound odd, but it’s just interesting to see these places that are a regular part of their daily lives now.  The drive to Point Reyes took about 1.5 hours, and many people were out on their bicycles as we arrived in the area on a perfect weather day.

The Point Reyes Seashore Lodge was a nice place for us to stay.  It is only a few miles from Point Reyes Station, and it is one of very few lodging options in the area with close proximity to the main areas of the national seashore.  We found it to be a delightful little place with a good restaurant on the property where we dined on Saturday evening.  The grounds were immaculate with a beautiful stream on property, and we were able to just hike to the Bear Valley Visitor Center in the national park, which was only about a half mile away on a nice trail.  We also enjoyed a good complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning, too.  The rooms are heated and cooled through radiant heating and cooling in the floor.  Yes, the floor.  If this might not be for you, think twice prior to staying here.  I only got a bit warm late in the afternoon when we had full sun on the windows, and I slept with one window cracked open just a bit for some fresh air.

Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

My room with a view

My room with a view

Grounds at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

Beautiful garden at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

Stream at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

Pretty stream on property

We also dined twice at the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station.  We ate lunch there when we first arrived in the area on Saturday, and we also ate appetizers and dinner there on Sunday evening.  That proved to be an especially fun experience, too.  We arrived at the restaurant too early for dinner on Sunday, so we started with appetizers in the bar, then decided to just stay for dinner when we saw a band setting up to play live music.  The group was a fabulous blue-grass band, and the longer they played, the more the locals and visitors started streaming in to hear them.  By the time we left, our table was quite coveted and was quickly grabbed by another group.

There are so many great hiking trails in the national park, and we made three nice hikes in the short time we were in the area.

Our first hike on Saturday afternoon took us on an informal trail from our hotel to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which was a .6 mile hike with only a small incline.

A short hike to the visitor center from our hotel

A short hike to the visitor center from our hotel

Bear Valley Visitor Center

Bear Valley Visitor Center

We looked around the visitor center for a few minutes, then we opted to hike the Arch Rock Trail for a while.  It is a long trail, and it is also now closed further down the trail after a tragic collapse that killed one person about a month ago.  We hiked to beautiful Divide Meadow, and it was a steady uphill climb most of the way to that point.  Restrooms were available at Divide Meadow, and it would be a great place for a picnic while on this hike.  From this point, the trail starts to go back down toward the ocean, but we opted to turn around and head back to our hotel and get ready for dinner that evening.

Hiking the Arch Rock Trail

Hiking the Arch Rock Trail

Divide Meadow on the Arch Rock Trail

Divide Meadow on the Arch Rock Trail

After dining at the hotel that evening, we decided to play pool in the game room at the hotel.  Daughter beat her hubby in the first match, then I took her on in the second match.  She was amazed that I knew how to play pool, and I regaled her with the story of how I met her dad and smacked him good in a game of pool on that first meeting, long before we ever started dating.  She was pretty fascinated by it all, and I will need to brush up on my pool game for future matches, as she beat me quite soundly.

On Sunday morning, we ate a quick breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the Ken Patrick Visitor Center in the national park.  This is where we were required to catch a park shuttle bus to the drop areas for the two trails that we planned to hike that day.  The shuttle is also $7 per person and exact change was required – good to know if you plan to go at some point and plan to pay with cash.

Unlike the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which was located in a more wooded area, this one sat on a beautiful beach.

Ken Patrick Visitor Center

Ken Patrick Visitor Center

Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center

Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center

Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center

Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center with Chimney Rock in the distance

Pathways on the beach

Pathways and flowers on the beach

Shuttle bus

Shuttle bus to the Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock trails

Our first hike on Sunday morning took us to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse.  No doubt, this is the primary sight to see in the national park, too.  While I’m not sure this is technically a hike per se, the trek to the lighthouse is certainly a hike unto itself, since it is a half-mile hike uphill from the shuttle bus stop area to the lighthouse visitor center, as well as an additional walk via 308 steps down and back to the lighthouse, covering a 365 foot vertical drop/climb each way.  A sign nearby shows this to be the equivalent of descending and ascending a 30-story building.  Fortunately, this was our first hike on Sunday morning.  My legs definitely felt that climb back up, but I made it just fine with a few rest stops along the way.  It was worth the effort, too.  The historic lighthouse was a special sight to see, especially for me as I love lighthouses and seldom get to see them in person like this.  I will always remember and treasure seeing this special historic lighthouse, for sure.

The lighthouse area here on the point is also one of the foggiest and windiest places on the west coast, but we were fortunate to have a calm and beautiful day.  This is likely the exception rather than the norm here, too.  I’m not sure how I would have made the steep climb down to and up from the lighthouse if the wind had been blowing hard.  If the wind is blowing 40 mph or higher, the steps to the lighthouse are closed for safety reasons, and I totally understand why.  Whale watching is a big activity here in the spring months, but unfortunately, we did not see any while we were here, even though several had been spotted earlier that day.

Wind and fog at the lighthouse

Wind and fog at the lighthouse

One point of interesting trivia about the Point Reyes Lighthouse is the fact that the movie, The Fog (1979), was filmed here.  That movie is one that my family enjoyed and my hubby still likes to watch on occasion even today.  For more information on those filming locations, check out Film Location for The Fog.  I’m not much for scary movies, but The Fog was a good one.

Point Reyes National Seashore at the lighthouse

Point Reyes National Seashore at the lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse Hours

Point Reyes Lighthouse Hours

Hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse

Hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse National Register of Historic Places

Point Reyes Lighthouse National Register of Historic Places

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes LIghthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Fresnel Lens - Point Reyes Lighthouse

Fresnel Lens dates back to 1867 – Paris, France – Point Reyes Lighthouse

308 Steps - Point Reyes Lighthouse

308 Steps at Point Reyes Lighthouse – a challenging climb

After hiking to the lighthouse, we then caught the shuttle bus to the trailhead for the Chimney Rock trail.  It was the easiest trail of our trip with only a slight incline on part of the trail.  While the Arch Rock Trail was wooded with quite a bit of shade, the Chimney Rock Trail was wide open on a peninsula with ocean on both sides of us, and it was so neat to see a large group of elephant seals sunning on one of the beaches along the way.

Hiking is such a great activity for the body and soul, especially when you have the opportunity to hike in such beautiful places as this.  Hikes like these inspire me to stay in good shape so that I can try to keep up with my kids on such fun adventures in the future, too.

Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals sunning on a beach near Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

At Chimney Rock

Near Chimney Rock

Beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore

Beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore

After our hiking was done, we took the shuttle bus back to the visitor center, ate dinner in Point Reyes Station and started our drive back to San Francisco via a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.  My hotel for the night was near SFO, so it made sense to take this route on the way.  Garmin also surprised us by taking us on a new little road that was populated with some beautiful redwoods, which was quite a surprise for us.

Redwoods

Surprised by a patch of Redwoods on our drive

I always enjoy seeing the Golden Gate Bridge again.  It is such an awesome sight.

Golden Gate Bridge, driving into San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, driving into San Francisco

While my quick little weekend trip was too short, as always, I’m glad to have spent some quality time with the kids again, seeing some of God’s fabulous handiwork and enjoying their company, especially right now.  We had some really deep conversations, such as why some eggs are white and some are brown, and what exactly the distinction is between a brook, a creek and a stream.  We coined a new word to just make it easy and cover them all – a brook-creek-stream!  You heard it here first.

Sadly, my times with them are few and far between, for sure, but this quick visit definitely helped to brighten my spirits as I continue to maneuver my way through this first hard year after losing my mother, our last living parent, back in January.  I found myself fighting back tears on a couple of occasions on the trip, especially as I recalled bringing Mom along on our first trip to the bay area a few years ago.  I’m so glad we took her with us on that memorable trip now, too.  While memories can be a little hard at times like this, they are still bright lights that make our lives better if we look for them and treasure them.  They are kind of like lighthouses, I guess.  That is one reason I like to photograph and write about times like this now.  I want to hang onto these special, beautiful memories that are such blessings in my life.

In a post just a few weeks ago, I lamented on how I needed Spring to get here.  I got a great big dose of it on this trip, not just in the sights I saw but especially the company I had with me.  I also got a beautiful dose of it a couple of weeks ago in the Texas bluebonnets, too.  I am blessed – so blessed indeed.  Life goes on.

I highly recommend visiting Point Reyes National Seashore, but keep in mind that the lighthouse is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.   Just be sure to keep that in mind and visit on a day that it is open, since it is the primary sight to see here.  Visiting on a good weather day with calm winds would be a bonus, too.

D
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Wordless Wednesday – Flowers of Point Reyes National Seashore

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California Poppies

California Poppies

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Wildflowers of Chimney Rock

D
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Easter Weekend Camping

Our long Easter weekend trip once again proved to be a fabulous break for us, just as it was last year.  This trip was mostly a repeat experience from last year, with the exception of adding one additional night upfront at a new campground to check it out for the first time.

Some time back, I started looking for other places to camp in our area besides our beloved state parks, not because we are dissatisfied with them, but rather to just have some options when we want to go camping and cannot get a reservation at a state park.  We believe that more and more people in our area are purchasing RVs and going camping these days, as it seems to be a bit harder to get reservations than even three years ago when we first started traveling by RV ourselves.  We cannot always plan a quick weekend getaway too far in advance, since we are still limited by Hubby’s work schedule and his business travels, so we are very interested to check out some new places that can still provide us some options to get out-of-town in some last-minute situations.  Corps of Engineer campgrounds are another option, even though we do not have any in our immediate area, and the closest one is about four hours away.  That is still an option for us at times, so we decided to check out one of these campgrounds for a night.

Hords Creek Lake has two COE campgrounds, Lakeside and Flatrock, although Flatrock is shut down for the forseeable future, probably due to lack of demand.  We camped at Hords Creek Lake – Lakeside Campground on the Wednesday night before Easter, and it was a good experience for us, even though it was a bit confusing, too.  I reserved a full-hookup site online at reservation.gov for that night, and I’m glad I did, not because the campground was full, but apparently that is the only way to secure a site there, other than calling a toll-free number when arriving at the gatehouse.  Perhaps this is not the case in later weeks and months when occupancy probably increases, and we noted that the gatehouses were to open for the season a couple of days later, too.  We also wondered if it was even possible to camp overnight here if we didn’t have an advance reservation ahead of time.  We can do that in the state parks by just registering and paying in the drop box if the park office is closed.  And oddly enough, we never saw a single park person the entire time we were there.  We left around noon the following morning and even stopped by the park headquarters to make sure we didn’t owe a daily fee of some kind before we left the park.  The door was open and there were signs that someone was on duty, but after five minutes and asking if anyone was there, no one ever appeared at the desk.  It was just a strange experience for us, as we are accustomed to the state parks being well staffed and having security patrols come by regularly.  It left me with some mixed feelings about camping here in the future, even though the campground is actually quite nice.  We just like to have security around when in a remote place like this.  I am wondering if this is pretty much how all of the COE campgrounds operate, too.

I would recommend the campground as long as you don’t mind pretty much being on your own here.  We will definitely consider returning sometime, since we did have a bit of cell and data signal in case of an emergency, probably from the small town of Coleman which is about seven miles away.  I wouldn’t rely on having park personnel nearby to help in such a situation, based on our experience.  Lakeside is a huge campground, and I doubt it ever completely fills up these days, since the lake is still down 14 feet.  The lake is quite nice, though, and it is a beautiful and peaceful area with many wonderful birds.  There was also nice spacing between sites, more than the state parks, and there are some nice trees, even though it is not as densely covered as Abilene State Park and Lake Brownwood State Park, both of which are in this same general area for the most part.  This campground would definitely be a great place for a family reunion or other large gathering, especially if most everyone has RVs.  As we drove around the campground before we left, we saw many great group facilities, including one that probably had about twenty RV hookups.

For us, this campground would be a place to just getaway for a couple of days, and we would enjoy riding our bicycles here in the future.  We pretty much had the park to ourselves on this particular day, too.  There are no hiking trails, but since the park is so large, we would enjoy just walking the dogs on the roads and walking down by the lake which is easily accessible.  The restrooms were quite nice, and we noticed that the showers only have one water temperature.

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Hords Creek Lake

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Our campsite with nice trees and covered dining area

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An a nearby campsite at the end of the road

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Another view of our campsite

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Nearby campsites with restroom/shower building in the distance

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Nearby campsites

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All hookups are in one spot, including water on the ground

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Nice group area

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Nice group area

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Shelter for groups

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Restroom and shower building

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Restrooms were nice and clean

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Handicap shower with automatic sensor to turn on the water – one temp only

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Beautiful oak trees near our campsite

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The lake is down, but it is still there and quite nice

Given that this park and Lake Brownwood State Park are the same driving distance for us, we will likely opt for the state park, when it is available.  Lake Brownwood State Park is one of the iconic state parks of Texas and is 80 years old.  It has nice facilities and great hiking and biking trails for us, as well as full hookups in Council Bluff Campground.  It is a beautiful place and more prominently located in the hill country than Hords Creek Lake.  Brownwood is a nice town just 20 miles away and has good food and other services available, including dining at Underwoods BBQ, a favorite of ours and many others.  There is also a small grocery store and a convenience store available about 8 or 9 miles from the park entrance.  We adore Lake Brownwood State Park in the springtime and will likely continue to make a yearly visit there, but we know that there is another option available in this general area for camping now, too.

D
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Brighter Days

Spring has finally arrived!  Warmer and brighter days are hopefully here to stay for a while.  Of course, in a few short weeks, I will most likely be lamenting the heat, so I will definitely enjoy these more temperate days while we have them.  This past weekend, we scalped our yard, pulled weeds and unwanted grasses and got the back porch area ready for outdoor dining once again.  We are also breathing a little sigh of relief that the new tree we put in the back yard last year is blooming heartily this year.  Thankfully, we will not be using the warranty on it, but I’m still glad we had the one-year warranty for it, just in case.  However, my ten beautiful crape myrtles are looking a bit suspicious, and I’m going to be devastated if we lost them over the winter months.  I have babied them so much over the past few years since we planted them to try to keep them alive.  Right now, though, it’s not looking good for them and will probably cost $500 or more to replace them.  Honestly, I’m not sure we will do that if they die off, due to landscape water restrictions in place now, which were not in place when we planted them years ago.  Keeping a decent yard these days is tough, tough, tough.  I so hope to see this beautiful sight in a few weeks once again.

2014-06-20 15.26.27

Storm season has also begun just to the north of us, it seems.  I followed the storm chasers online in Oklahoma a few days ago, and I was sad to see that Moore got clobbered once again.  I have a cousin that lives just north of Moore, and we tease him that Moore is a magnet for tornadoes.  Sadly, I think that is a true statement, for some reason.  Thankfully, he and his family are fine.  It is a beautiful place to live, and I see why people want to live there, for sure.  I’m just not sure I could handle living right in the worst part of tornado alley.  Tornadoes are bad enough where we live at times, and don’t think I would make it too well in an area with even more of them.

Our new vacation year began again on March 1 when Hubby’s yearly allowance renewed, and we will be headed out of town on Wednesday evening for a long holiday weekend.  We will be traveling to the northern tip of the hill country once again, just as we did last year when we discovered what a wonderful time of year it is to camp there with wildflowers blooming all around and nice temperatures.  We are traveling about two weeks earlier than we did last year, but hopefully we will still see some great flowers and just enjoy a relaxing time together with the dogs.  We are also going to check out our first COE campground, even though we will just spend one night there.  I’ve looked at this particular campground before, but this is really the first trip that it has made sense for us to make a quick stop there.  Hopefully I will have a good report to share about it later, as I have not yet read about it on any other sites by RV travelers or other campers.  We know the lake is down 14 feet, but at least there is still a lake there to see.

I wish you all a blessed holy week and a Happy Easter!  We hope to attend a sunrise service at the park early on Sunday morning and are looking forward to that special time once again.

D
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Come On Spring!

I’m going to attempt to play catch up here a bit on the blog today, covering several things, including weather, travels, Christmas and where I’m at today in dealing with Mom’s passing.

I think this has been the longest and hardest winter I’ve ever endured.  The weather here has been quite a challenge ever since Christmas, with repeat bouts of ice and snow and slippery roads, more than we are accustomed to having, at least in more recent years during the drought.  The good thing that came of the nasty weather, though, was several inches of precipitation that has apparently lifted our immediate area out of the drought, at least for now.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that our lakes are once again full, not even close, but at least the moisture in the soil for the farmers and ranchers is back to a level where they can hopefully get by a little better.

For me personally, the icy roads were the biggest weather challenge, especially while Mom was sick.

What it looked like at home for much of this winter

What it looked like at home for much of this winter

Snow in December

The snowy view from the hospital for most of the last week of December and early January

I, or another gracious driver who offered to drive me, had to make the treacherous drive back and forth to help care for Mom daily while she was hospitalized, and on one morning, my car slid terribly on the ice.  It was the worst sliding episode I’ve ever experienced, and I was barely creeping along.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit anyone, and no one hit me.  I am so very grateful for that good outcome because many other people were not so fortunate.  About two weeks ago after several inches of snow fell in a short time, there were about 200 wrecks here in our immediate area in just a few hours, and that was just one day this season.  There were many more days just like that one.  The problem is that our roads are seldom treated properly, if they are treated at all, when ice and snow hits, and that makes driving here a real challenge in such conditions.  That is also why we have to be careful about planning our RV travel days in winter months.  Driving an RV on roads like this is just not a good plan… at all.

I need spring.  I need it for more tolerable weather and also for my spirit.  I am ready for brighter days, milder temperatures, green grass and trees, planting tomatoes, walking the dogs at the park, and hopefully an end to some of the things that have taken most of my time since late January when my mother passed away.  I am still dealing with estate matters and most likely will be for most of March, if not longer.  It is boring and sometimes tedious stuff, complicated a bit by one particular in-law that I must deal with in this process, and I am just so ready to just be done with it all.  I need to start moving on from this, but the estate business just keeps dragging me back to this hard and sad time in my life and spending more and more money with the attorney.  The latest bill was almost $2k.  Yikes!

I want to set aside the present for a bit, though, and finally backtrack to Christmas with Mom and also to two trips we made in the RV this winter.  Both trips were to Davis Mountains State Park in far West Texas, which has definitely become one of our “go to” places to visit.

We had an early Christmas celebration with my mother on the Sunday before Christmas, and we had a great time with her while her health was still good.  Let’s just say that I will always remember the Christmas of 2014, for sure.  The last time I saw my mother in good health was that special evening at our house, celebrating Christmas with her.  We kept dinner simple with a tasty chicken pot pie and lots of homemade cookies.  We then opened our gifts with her, visited together and played with the dogs.  She was still getting used to big ole puppy Red, who just wanted to be her pal, but she adored Girly Girl who is older and more settled around people.  Mom loved all of her gifts, which consisted mostly clothes and a new watch, as well as some good teas which she loved.  I took some nice pictures of her, and my last picture of her before she got sick was a cute photo of her opening her new watch that I picked out especially for her.  It was a snap-on style without a clasp, similar to the one she always wore that had seen better days, and she was so happy to receive it.  After our nice evening together was done, I took her back to her apartment nearby, carried her things to her room for her, gave her a hug and a kiss, thanked her for our gifts, told her I loved her, and went back home.

At least Mom got to wear the watch for a few days, even though she never got to wear the new clothes.  They still had the tags on them when I cleaned out her apartment.  But honestly, who could ask for a more memorable last visit while her health was good?  I definitely believe that was a God-thing, and I will always be so grateful that we had such a good last visit with her at Christmastime.  After she went to the hospital, the seizures and strokes had taken a big toll on her, and things were just not the same after that.

Davis Mountains in the Snow

Davis Mountains in the snow on Christmas Eve morning between Balmorhea and Fort Davis

We had two days at Davis Mountains State Park with all of our kids over Christmas for the very first time before we had to return home earlier than planned to care for Mom, and I have some pictures to share from both trips.  We reserved one hotel room in the historic section at the Indian Lodge in the park for our California kids, in addition to our RV accommodations, and it all worked out great.  The kids loved their room at the lodge, with the only exception being the noise of people walking around in the room above them at times early in the morning.  We opened gifts in the RV on Christmas morning as usual, and we also enjoyed our traditional sausage toasts for breakfast.  We even had a little decorated tree that was a mini version of our big tree at home, and we also had a “fire roaring in the fireplace,” which was actually just a DVD playing on the television.  The weather was crisp and beautiful while we were there, and we enjoyed some outdoor time together in the warmer afternoons, including a hike from the state park to the national historic site at the fort.  We also enjoyed an epic game night at the Indian Lodge on our last night there.  If we return here on future Christmas trips, we hope to actually make it to a Christmas Eve service in town, too.

FYI… the restaurant at the Indian Lodge is going to close in September and will be closed for about a year for expansion.  It is a sorely needed update, but food options are a bit limited in the area, too.  I hope that guests at the lodge are aware of this before they book their travel plans, and I hope that area restaurants will keep this in mind to try to help accommodate guests, too.

We all had a good time on our Christmas camping trip in the boondocks, and I hope we can have a do-over sometime and enjoy this time together as we originally planned because it was a truly great plan for our little family.  This trip was just too short, but I’m still grateful for the brief time we had together as a family once again.  Those times are scarce these days, for sure.

Christmas tree at Indian Lodge

Christmas tree at the Indian Lodge

Davis Mountains State Park Christmas Sunset

Sunset at Davis Mountains State Park at Christmas

Fireplace at Indian Lodge

Fireplace at the Indian Lodge

First Camping Christmas

Our first RV camping Christmas!

On our trip back to Davis Mountains State Park a couple of weeks ago, we had a combination of freezing weather, followed by a couple of gorgeous days, typical West Texas weather.  :-D  It never snowed while we were there, but the dense fog froze and created an absolutely stunning sight, which we later learned was called a “hoarfrost.”  The entire area was just stunningly beautiful, but the sight was especially impressive at the top of Skyline Drive, which experienced more fog than the lower areas in the park and in town.  The entire Fort Davis area remained below freezing for about forty hours, which gave us a full day to enjoy this unique beauty that I called “Elsa Land.”  It was also a quiet day in the campground, since most everyone stayed indoors or took off in their cars like we did for much of the day that never got above 25 degrees, according to the temp readout in our car.

I just had to share these photos, as I doubt we will ever see such an impressive sight in this area again.  We had no clue when we went on this trip that we would see such a sight, and we will always remember this surreal and beautiful day that we spent just trying to stay warm while seeing some of the most beautiful and unique sights ever.

The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.

The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.

Fort Hoarfrost a

Historic old trees at Fort Davis National Historic Site

Fort Hoarfrost b

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Indian Lodge Hoarfrost b

Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park

Indian Lodge Hoarfrost

Valley view from Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park

RV Campground Hoarfrost b

A gorgeous ice-covered tree in the campground at Davis Mountains State Park

RV Campground Hoarfrost

The RV campground was very quiet on a 25 degree day with everything covered in ice, but it was a gorgeous sight!

Skyline Drive Hoarfrost c

The road seemed to disappear into the thick fog on Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive Hoarfrost d

What a gorgeous sight at the top of Skyline Drive at the overlook, where the fog still hung quite heavy.

Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 a

Up close view of the hoarfrost on the tree at the overlook – so impressive to see

Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 b

“Elsa Land” at the top of Skyline Drive – what a sight!

We did quite a bit of driving in the area on this trip, and we checked out the town of Alpine a bit more.  On a return trip sometime, we want to tour the Museum of the Big Bend, which in located on the Sul Ross campus there.  We like Alpine and will probably spend more time there on future trips.  There is also an Amtrak station there, right in the middle of town.  We also attempted to find Prada Marfa on another day, but after driving all the way to Valentine and not finding it, we gave up and returned to Fort Davis via the scenic route instead of driving back through Marfa.  I’ve since learned that Prada Marfa is located just past Valentine, too.  We drove all that way and only needed to drive another couple of miles to see it.  Oh well, we enjoyed the drive anyway.  I should have done my homework better on that one.

I should also mention that the drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea is a must-see, as the scenery is truly beautiful, even in the winter months.  We also drove the 75-mile scenic loop at Fort Davis again, and that is always a beautiful sight as well.  Also, on this trip, we visited the library for the first time and enjoyed seeing it and looking at some interesting books on the area.

And speaking of books, I found this wonderful book in my mother’s things after she passed away.  It was given to my grandfather (my father’s father) by one of his cousins who lived in Fort Davis on a beautiful ranch with her husband for many years.  I will treasure it always now.

Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee

Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee, a book I will treasure always now

The trip back to the area was good for both of us.  This has been a very stressful winter, and we both needed this break.  We were blessed to have good driving weather and road conditions on the two days that we were on the road in the RV, even though our return trip was pushing it just a bit.  A big winter storm moved through our home area while we were gone and dropped several inches of snow.  The temperature did not get back to 32 degrees until the Sunday afternoon that we drove home, but thankfully, the main roads were all clear by the time we got back, and we had no issues getting home at all.  We had a backup plan in place to leave the RV at an RV park about an hour from home and just drive back with the dogs in the car, if needed, though.

Hubby and I finally sat down together and did a tentative travel plan for the rest of this year, and we are hopefully going to have a re-do of last year’s trips for the most part.  So many travel plans were upended for us in the early months of 2014, and we want the opportunity to have a re-do on pretty much the entire year, especially the trips that were impacted in some way by Mom’s various illnesses and in other ways, too.  We will decide later on what to do about Christmas, too.  Right now, staying home with all the years of Christmas memories here with Mom is not something I want to do.  It may be time for new traditions.  We’ll see.

I’m doing ok these days, I guess.  Life is just different since there is a big, gaping hole in it now, and I’m doing my best to just learn to live with that void at this point, having both good and not-as-good days.  Tears come on go on a fairly regular basis, although less often each week.  I still regularly have thoughts of taking Mom to new restaurants and stores when they open here, and I wonder if those will ever go away.  Eventually, the void will be filled with other people and activities, I’m sure.  The best thing for me seems to just continue to make progress in the tasks that need to still be done, stay in God’s word, and also take some time to do some things that I enjoy regularly.

I have enjoyed reading updates from those of you on my list over the past few weeks.  Slowly but surely, I hope to find the time to get back to posting more regularly here, but I’m just going to take things one day at a time for a while.

Right now, the sun is shining and I’m listening to birds singing outside.  I think they are ready for spring, too!  :-)

D
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