On Monday, April 18, we planned to head out about 8 AM. Thankfully, our slide plan for getting it back in worked, although we did have to jack around with it a bit more than the first time. Going forward, it stays in until we replace the motor. (The part is being delivered to an Amazon locker on Wednesday. Yay!) We hit the road on time, and caught our first glimpse of mammals (except for a squirrel) since we came to Terlingua…a small herd of deer. We knew that they lived in the area, because we saw tracks, and the campground we stayed at is a big hunting retreat. They were just pretty elusive. We turned north on TX-118, retracing our path back up to Alpine, where we made a quick post office stop. Then we took US-67 and a quick side jog on I-10 to Fort Stockton. We were looking for a lunch spot when Mr. Wonderful (MW) spotted K-Bob’s Steakhouse, a small, Texas chain. I had their grilled chicken sandwich. The piece of chicken was so good on its own, that I just got rid of the bun and had that with the amazing green beans. MW had the Hatch Green Chili Cheeseburger and fries – messy, but excellent. Back in the truck, we took TX-18 north. By that time, the land was already flat, open scrub land, but about Grandfalls we started seeing LOTS of oil. You can certainly tell you have entered the Permian Basin. We continued north to Monahans and were amazed as we approached our destination. In the middle of all of the flat scrub brush with a few oil rigs scattered around, great sand dunes rise up. It’s like you are at the beach! We got ourselves set up at Monahans Sandhills State Park. It is amazing what a difference the slide’s extra three feet make in how Petunia feels inside. Can’t wait to get that new motor in! Although the outside temp wasn’t terribly high when we arrived, the wind howled all afternoon and into the night with sustained 25 mph and 45 mph gusts. We stayed indoors and watched a little TV.
Tuesday I was still playing catch-up on both taxes and blog work, but the AT&T phone that showed coverage would not let me bring up my WordPress site. Frustrated, I headed off to McDonald’s to bum some wifi. (Thank God their dining rooms are open again! I don’t particularly care for their food, but their wifi is reliable.) I ended up working for the better part of 6 hours, then headed back to pick up MW. He had been hanging out at the RV relaxing, reading, and enjoying the quiet. Well, except for the still-howling wind, which was by then accompanied by temps in the mid-90s! Ugh! There were only a few options for supper in Monahans, and we chose the Main Street Cafe. Their website said they were home cooking, but it turned out that the menu had changed. We talked to owner/chef Mike Noelke, who said that Covid just about killed his business, and the former buffet was just costing him too much in waste. Although I really wasn’t wanting fried food, we ended up with baskets…MW’s was fish and mine was shrimp. Holy smokes!!! That was the first time I think I’ve EVER been to a restaurant and had absolutely EVERYTHING be amazing. Mike makes it all from scratch using his own recipes. In fact, while we were eating a lady asked for one of his recipes. He said he just couldn’t give it out, because it is a small town and his recipes are what make his place unique. He wasn’t kidding! Both the fish and shrimp were cooked to perfection with coatings that were light and added to the flavor. The baskets also came with fries, coleslaw, and hush puppies…all fantastic! So, if you are in Monahans, Texas, and want some REALLY good food, check out Mike’s place. On the way back to Petunia, we did a laundry drive-by in preparation for that chore.
Wednesday morning started with me setting up the Crockpot with Jennifer’s Pot Roast. (MW says “Thank You” for that one, too, Jennifer!) Then I headed out to take care of the laundry at the Texas Wash Tub, which was a really clean, spacious place with plenty of seating. After that, there were a couple of errands to tend to, then I looked for someplace to get some more work done. It was looking like McDonalds was the only option when I found Roma 2 Pasta and Pizza. I had a personal-sized, veggie pizza, which was very good. After a couple of hours, I headed back to the park. On my way in I passed the maintenance guy we met on Monday. He asked me if we had slid the dunes. What??? Apparently, they rent waxed discs for sliding down the sand dunes. Well dang!! Wish I’d known that a couple of days before. Late in the afternoon, MW and I drove around to take pics of the park. We climbed one of the dunes, which is very loose sand and pretty awesome. The weather was still blistering hot, though, so we didn’t stay long. Plus, our roast beef supper was waiting for us.
Monahans Sandhills State Park is pretty darned cool, but you have to like sand…A LOT. Located just outside of Monahans, Texas, and slap in the middle of miles and miles of scrub brush oil fields, huge sand dunes rise up as if the ocean is just on the other side. It covers about 800 square miles west and north into New Mexico, and the state park is about 3,840 acres of it. This place really is crazy and totally unexpected. They call it a “Texas-sized sandbox”, which is fitting. There are no marked trails at the park, and visitors are free to explore on foot or horseback, being careful of wildlife. Amenities include a park store, picnic areas, a very clean bathhouse, a picnic pavilion, and a group hall. As I said above, they rent sand disks, so you can slide down the dunes, which really would have been awesome. Lodging includes 3 equestrian campsites with water (no corrals), a group facility, and 25 electric and water campsites, several of which are pull-through. (Be sure to check lengths carefully, because most sites would not accommodate the longer rigs.) All sites have grills, shaded picnic tables, and fire rings. The bathhouse was very clean., too. This is a great location for exploring the Odessa/Midland area, but we would not choose it as a destination park. It is very convenient to I-20, and you do hear the traffic a bit when the wind calms down. There was no cell service for Verizon or AT&T. For this stay in April 2022 we paid $37.50 for 3 nights, which includes discounts associated with the annual Texas parks pass.
Thursday we were up and out about 8 AM. In an effort to stay off of the interstate, we zig-zagged east across the flat, oil country on FM-1233, FM-1787, and TX-158. The drive was filled with oil pumps, drilling rigs, and storage tanks, plus a few cows, but no gas stations, houses, or anything else. After Garden City, we started seeing the beginnings of thousands of wind turbines mixed in with the oil wells, certainly a contradictory sight. At Sterling City we found Rangel’s for lunch. A tiny little hole in the wall, their menu had breakfast, burgers, some American entrees, and TexMex, and there was a pretty good stream of locals. I had nachos (delicious), while MW had a taco plate (very good). Everything tasted very fresh, including the chips. Back on the road, we finished the final leg on TX-158, then turned north on US-277 up to Abilene State Park. We got Petunia set up, then headed up to Abilene to pick up the slide motor from an Amazon Locker. That’s the first time we’ve tried those, and it worked great. You just scan a code they send to your phone, and a door pops open to reveal your package. The only negative is that you must pick it up within 3 days of arrival, or it gets sent back to Amazon. That can be a little tricky for us sometimes. While in town we ran a couple of errands that I couldn’t take care of in Monahans and picked up sandwiches from Firehouse Subs to take back with us. By the time we got back, I was so exhausted that I crawled into bed at 8:15 PM and was asleep before 9! Slept like a LOG, too.
Friday started with MW installing the new motor in the slide. He had a bit of trouble wrestling it into the small opening, but in the end said it was easy except for that. We ran the slide out and in a couple of times, and all was great! Happy to be done with that, we headed over to Blackwell, Texas to check out a little hole-in-the-wall called the Blackwell City Cafe. The sign out front says “ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS DOROTHYS ONION RINGS”, so we had to share an order of those along with our brisket plates. They weren’t wrong about the rings, and the brisket just melted in your mouth. Yum! Talked for a while with the owner’s step-dad, Ron Tackett, who was really nice and gave us the low-down on the place. It’s been in business forever. The original owner, Dorothy, has passed away, but she left the place in the capable hands of Michelle Rivera, who runs it with the help of her mom, step-dad, and husband, who also works in the oil fields. She certainly didn’t move slowly the entire time we were there! It’s well worth a visit if you pass through this little hamlet.
Our next stop was for a little history lesson at Fort Chadbourne. Established in 1852, this fort was tasked with protecting frontier settlers and the Butterfield Overland Mail route. During its 15 years in service, as few as 50 and as many as 450 men were stationed there including, in their early years, Generals Lee, Longstreet, Johnston, Pickett, and Hood. During the Civil War, the fort was turned over to the Texas Regimental Forces. Following that it was decommissioned in 1867 when Fort Concho was established in San Angelo. The land was eventually purchased by Thomas Lawson Odom and has been home to seven generations of his descendants. As the wife of a Marine, I have been to a LOT of forts. This one, though, is quite amazing for reasons in addition to its military history. The current owner and great great great grandson of Thomas Odom, Garland Richards, decided many years back that it was time to restore the fort he had been around for his entire life. Despite being told that he was not qualified or capable of doing so, he began the slow process. To date, his crew has resurrected six buildings, and the restorations are amazing. Their first building, the enlisted men’s barracks, was crumbling, leaning walls. They were told by a restoration “expert” that they should just take them down and reassemble from scratch. Their response…”No Way!” They used braces and turnbuckles to slowly align the walls. That was just the beginning and there was a lot more to it after that, but the restoration is amazing. For their efforts, they were awarded the 2003 Preservation Texas Award. In addition to the fort itself, the museum houses thousands of artifacts gathered from the area, including military, civilian, and Native American, and the best gun collection we’ve ever seen. They also show a video of the fort’s history that is a portion of an Emmy-winning documentary called The Lost Fort narrated by Barry Corbin. We were taken on a really nice tour by Brent Bryan, who has been there for years and was part of the restoration team, and also got to meet the man himself, Garland Richards. Honestly, after checking everything out, we talked to Brent and Garland for at least 25 minutes or so. While MW was off looking at the displays with Brent, Garland and I were talking guns. He said, “well let me show you something that’s not on display yet.” He disappeared into the back and returned and handed me a Colt. It was beautiful, heavy, and pretty darned awesome. Then he tells me that it was found on the battlefield at Little Big Horn!!! I gently laid it back on the counter. There were initials carved in the handle, and apparently there were only two possibilities. One of the men was ordered to stay back with the cannon and other ordinance, so they know who the actual soldier was who began the battle holding that gun. Wow! This visit was just amazing, and we recommend it to anyone who likes forts, guns, the military, Indian artifacts, etc.
After a great time taking it all in, we headed back over to the park
Saturday we hung around in the morning, then headed over to Buffalo Gap to grab a bite at The Gap Cafe. I had the Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with a really nice side salad and MW went for the Buffalo Gap Patty Melt. They were both delicious, but the best part was MW’s Pomme Frites (French fries)…twice fried and tossed with fried jalapeño chips, as they say, because we are in Texas. They also had free wifi, so after lunch MW left me there for a bit to take care of some writing. when he returned, we checked out the Perini Ranch Country Market across the street, then headed back to relax for the evening..
Sunday was a rainy, slow day except for some writing. In the afternoon we headed to Abilene to check out Heff’s Burgers, reportedly the best in Texas. Yes, they were pretty darned good. Back at the park, we drove around and took the last couple of pictures, then headed back to Petunia.
Abilene State Park is large, wooded, and very nice. After being in the desert for the last couple of weeks, we enjoyed our shaded site. Located about 15 miles south of Abilene, Texas, you can access all types of shopping and dining easily. Nearby Buffalo Gap has a nice cafe and a couple of cutesy shops. The park is two sections divided by FM-89. On the west side, there is fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming in Lake Abilene, and a hiking/biking/horseback riding trail. There are several picnic sites, and you can rent some boating equipment at the park headquarters. The east side offers fishing in the small Buffalo Wallow pond, an interpretive and other hiking trails, picnic areas, screened shelters, baseball field, a sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a group picnic area, two group recreation halls, a playground, and a swimming pool (seasonal). Some of the buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. There is also a bird blind area, where you can watch a variety of birds coming to feeders. (There were about 6 hummingbirds fighting over food when we were there.) Lodging includes 7 yurts with all of the amenities of a cabin except the bathroom; 8 screened shelters with picnic tables, fire rings, water, and electricity; 17 50-amp electric and water sites at the group area; 38 electric and water RV sites, some full-hookup; and 14 tent sites with water, 2 of which have electricity. All campsites include picnic tables, lantern posts, and fire rings and are near a bathhouse. MW startled a couple of deer and got snorted at several times by javelinas while walking to the bathhouse in the predawn light. We would definitely stay here again. For this stay in April 2022 we paid $70.00 for four nights, which includes the discount from the Texas annual parks pass.
That’s it for now. Next up…Navy Dudes, Nimitz, and Colorado City. See you on the path!
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