Friday, January 27, 2012

Traveling to Canyon Lake, Texas

Another grand adventure begins.....

We left home on the 22nd and had very high winds all the way through Colorado.  We managed to get as far as Raton Pass before disaster struck - a flat tire.  In fact, the tire was not only flat, but completely shredded and missing!

Luckily, we are members of the Good Sam Club.  Our rescue took an hour, but we were on the side of the road and Sid didn't have to change the tire.

Because we didn't get off as early as planned, then the flat, we got only as far as Albuquerque the first day.  We decided to stay at the Kirtland Air Force base FamCamp.  (See my RV Parks page for a review.)  We, AND the puppies,

were very tired after our eventful day.

First thing the next morning, we called the tire store on base and they had the tire we needed.  It was mounted and balanced in a jiffy and off we went for another day of travel.

I-25, by the way, is very BORING all the way through Las Cruces, NM. 
I was glad to see this sign!

Things picked up a little when we hit El Paso.  I didn't realize that El Paso was so big, plus the fact that the city seems even bigger because Juarez, Mexico just continues across the river.   Outside El Paso, on I-10, we were surprised to have to go through a border check.

The border patrol agent asked if we were both US citizens and that was it.  Somehow, it doesn't seem very cost effective to try to control illegal immigration this way.  If you were illegal, would you try to come in on an interstate highway?  Oh, well, our government at work!

Another surprise came outside El Paso, as we discovered we were on the Texas Mountain Trail!  I think the highest altitude we travelled was 2500 feet, but they do call them "mountains!"  I took pictures, so you won't think I'm making this up.
Cutting through the "mountains"

And that the speed limit in West Texas is 80!

Balmorhea State Parkwas the destination for our next night (all the place we stay will be detailed on the RV Parks page).  It is home to the San Solomon Springs which has provided water for travelers for thousands of years. Artifacts indicate Indians used the spring extensively before white men came to the area. In 1849, the springs were called Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache Indians who watered their horses along its banks. The present name was given by the first settlers, Mexican farmers who used the water for their crops and hand-dug the first irrigation canals. The park didn't have any trees, but all the sites were drive through, so it was perfect - we didn't have to unhook or anything to just spend the night.

On our way out the next morning, we went through the town of Balmorhea - a wide spot in the road, really.  But we did see wild turkey roaming through town and a very interesting storefront.

Got an early start and headed to Fort Stockton to see an historical fort and a large roadrunner.  The fort was a bust, but Paisano Pete (the largest roadrunner in the WORLD) was cool!

Time to get on the road again.  Five miles outside of Fort Stockton, can you believe it, we had ANOTHER tire blow out!  Grrrrr!  We had to wait 2 hours this time.  Sid had nice conversations with a rancher and the state patrol who stopped to see if we needed help.  Our plan was to get to Canyon Lake by the end of the day, which looked unlikely at this point.  But we traveled on...

Ozona, TX was our next stop.  Ozona is the only town in the county of Crockett (yes, named for that famous person) which is 3215 square miles! 

 I'll tell ya - West Texas I-10 is pretty darn boring itself.  Anyway, we saw the Davy Crockett monument in the town park,

saw a beautiful sculpture called "The Tie that Binds",

let the dogs get some exercise and got back on the highway.   We were pretty tired by now, so decided that Llano, TX would be our last stop for the night.

In Llano, we had some really good barbeque at Cooper's

Cooper's wood pile behind the restaurant

and headed to South Llano River State Park.  This park is GREAT!  We debated staying for a few days, but decided to push on in the morning.  There were bird blinds with movie theater seating where you could sit, unseen, for hours and watch the birds, deer and turkey.  The sites were all back in, but with plenty of space and lots of trees and trails.

After a good sleep and a long walk in the morning, we headed to Comfort, TX where I was going to see "my people."  Comfort is known for a tragic event that took place during the Civil War.  The Treue der Union Monument ("Loyalty to the Union") was dedicated in honor of 35 men who died at the Battle of the Nueces, which took place because they opposed the state's secession from the Union. The German settlers were killed on their way to Mexico during the Civil War. They were attacked by Confederate forces near Brackettville on August 10, 1862. The bodies were not buried and the bones were retrieved and placed here in 1865. The monument was erected in 1866.   Thus, "my people" - you know, the damn Yankees!

Sid and the dogs leaning on a live oak tree

We took our time getting going in the morning, because we had only a short drive to our destination - Potter's Creek Park on Canyon Lake.

That brings y'all (see how quickly I can turn into a Texan?) up to date.  I don't have wireless capability at the campground, but found a coffee shop nearby (7 miles) where I can go to post the blog.  By the way, it's seventy degrees today, so until next time - enjoy and STAY WARM!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to Colorado We Go

Our time in Los Angeles done, we headed back to Tucson.  A day of rest, then the 13 hour drive back to Colorado.  What can I say!  It's a mind-numbing drive up I-25, particularly when we're going to be making the same drive again in a couple of weeks.

There wasn't much to photgraph, but we did see a couple of things in Hatch, New Mexico that were interesting.  On the west side of Hatch was a huge solar farm, with panels bigger than any I had ever seen.
Solar panels, Hatch, NM

This turned out to be Amonix, the largest CPV power plant in North America.  The only one that is larger in the world is located in Navarra, Spain.  It powers approximately 1300 homes per year.

Also in Hatch, we saw part of the chili harvest, as well as the method by which they dry the famous Hatch chilies.
Hatch chili harvest
Drying chilies on the roof

I guess chili processing doesn't have to follow the same FDA guidelines as other food processing!

And the final adventure I have to tell you about on this trip ocurred along I-10 after we left Tucson.  We began seeing a plethora of signs:
The Thing sign

After passing these signs many, many times on trips to Arizona, I'm proud to say that YES, we DID stop, pay our money and took a gander at.......THE THING!!!!

I can't tell you what it was. You'll just have to stop and see for yourself the next time you're in the area.

That's it for this adventure.  Next up, the Texas coast for a couple of months.  Happy trails!

The Best Ever Thai Restaurant

I forgot, in yesterday's post, to mention one of the highlights of our day after the Rose Parade.  After we got back from the beach, we had dinner in Pasadena at Saladang Song, a Thai restaurant.  Since we didn't recognize and thing on the menu, we sat back and let Kurt order for us.  He did an OUTSTANDING job!  We ate:

Sweet corn fritter, served with cucumber salad

Yum Asparagus
Spicy Asparagus Salad: asparagus, shredded chicken, onion, garlic, peanut

Fried Calamari
Calamari deep fried in tempura batter

Mee Krob
Thai crispy noodles in sweet and sour sauce

Pad Thai
Shrimp, chicken, noodles, bean sprouts, peanut, onion, egg

Spicy Yellow Curry
with scallops

Saladang Song Wraps
Chicken in yellow curry sauce, green leaf, bean sprouts, mushroom and carrot wrapped in a flour tortilla

YUM-O!  Let me tell you, this Thai food is NOTHING like what we get in Colorado Springs!

We were full, fat and happy and THEN we went to bed!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beach (s)

After viewing the Rose Parade floats, we headed to the beach.  We couldn't hit them all, but first on the list was the Santa Monica Pier, a large double-jointed pier located at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, California and is a prominent, 100-year-old landmark.  It's mostly made of wood and is lined with vendors, eating places, fishermen and has an amusement park for kiddies.
The entrance to the pier

Sid, Cyndi at the pier

Looking down the pier

This is where Rt 66 ended

Sid, Cyndi


The Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier

Looking at the end of the pier
One of the footings that has been eaten away, little by little

And, finally........drum roll.......

Toes in the ocean!

We had a late lunch at one of the tourist establishments and then headed to Venice Beach.  Venice (often referred to as Venice Beach) is a beachfront district on the westside of Los Angeles. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune tellers, artists, and vendors. Venice was home to some of Los Angeles' early beat poets and artists and has served as an important cultural center of the city.  It is really a very dirty, hippie (think 1960's San Francisco) place where a lot of people congregate to do bike tricks, sell drugs and buy all kinds of junky goods.  We only spent a half an hour or so, but I'm glad that I've seen and experienced it.
The entrance to the beach

An interesting character

View of the promenade

Another view of the park on the promenade
Sid outside one of the vendor's shop

The one (and only) medical marijuana place that we saw in California

Since Venice was originally modeled on Venice, Italy, there are actually canals in the city.  The pictures don't show this, but some of the canals were full of boats docked and we saw a woman loading her dog in her boat in preparation for going somewhere, so they are actually used for transportation.  The houses along the canals are very high dollar and individual.

A view of the canals of Venice

Another canal view

That wrapped up another day in LA.  The weather during our whole trip could not have been any better.  We enjoyed warm temperature, clear skies, very little traffic and, most importantly, relatively little smog. Our many thanks go to Lillie and Kurt who acted as our travel guides and gave us so much information and insight about the things we saw and did.

Parade Floats Up Close

Today we got to see the parade floats up close and personal.  We drove to Pasadena City College, where we boarded a shuttle to take us to the float viewing area.  The floats were lined up on city streets near Pasadena High School and there were food and souvenir vendors all along the sides.  We got to go early, ahead of the crowds and before it started to get hot.  Here are some of the images:

We also learned that the Roy Rogers float held the actual stuffed horse and dog that he owned.
Trigger and Bullit

Some other interesting views:
A Mushroom, up close

Showing how close the flowers are attached

The "cobblestone" walk on the HGTV float

A letter made of lentils

Kidney beans covering a car

Where the driver sits

The chassis of a float
How one driver sees the road

One thing that surprised me about the parade itself was how small everything seemed compared to watching it on television.  Then I realized that Colorado Blvd is a 6 lane street and there are thousands of people along the way.  Once we went to see the floats up close, there was no question that they are very large.  Here's a little perspective, showing me against one of the flowers on the Kaiser Permanente float:

As we finished walking both sides of each float on display and the crowds started getting larger, we hopped back on the shuttle, returned to our car and went to pick up Lillie at Kurt's house for the next part of our day - the BEACH!!!