On Monday, April 11, we headed out at a leisurely pace. While we were at the dump station, a few deer were grazing nearby. We had been seeing a couple of small herds during our stay, so it was nice of them to say goodbye. We struck out west on TX-46 through Boerne, then on to Bandera, where we got out to stretch our legs. The courthouse there is beautiful, and the town, called the “Cowboy Capital of the World“, has a monument dedicated to their famous ones. They keep with the cowboy theme on the lampposts, too. We continued west through Utopia, which was a typical Texas town, but didn’t really look like what you’d imagine Sir Thomas More was talking about. Hmmmm…are the residents called Utopians? Maybe they are perfect. At US-83, we turned south and were ready for lunch by the time we hit Uvalde, Texas. We found Billy Bob’s Hamburgers, a little hole in the wall burger joint, with darned good fish sandwiches…not your normal, frozen fare. After lunch, we walked around at Burke’s Outlet for a good stretch, then continued west on US-90 through Del Rio, where we ran up on a Border Patrol checkpoint. They asked if we were both citizens and whether there was anyone else with us, then motioned us on through. Just a little further down the road we found our home for the next few days, Seminole Canyon State Historic Park. We had driven this route before on a long ago road trip, but any time you get to pass through the Texas Hill Country and into the flats and desert is worth it. After setting up, I did a little blog work, and we enjoyed the evening outside.
We had plans for Wednesday, so I switched up laundry day this week and headed out on Tuesday. In rural Texas, the hardest part of me driving only occasionally is that it is hard to keep up with the speed limit. The two lane road here is 75 mph (love it), but I end up having to set the cruise control to keep up. Near town, there is a “Reduced Speed Ahead” sign where you actually have to slow down to 70! There is not much in the closest little town, Comstock (10 minutes), but the Park Ranger told me about a possibility in Lake View (15 more minutes). I popped in at the Dollar General there to get some fabric softener, then crossed the street to the laundromat. It was already in the high 80s and headed for almost 100, so I was a bit concerned when the door was wide open. Yup…NO air conditioning. Aw hell no! Back in the truck and on down the road to Del Rio (20 more minutes) I went, where I found Southside Laundromat, which was clean, empty, and AIR CONDITIONED, plus bonus, had a table for me to sit at and work. Once the chore was done, I headed over to Panda Express for a bite to eat and to work for a couple of hours. A quick run through H-E-B for a few groceries and a stop for gas finished up my chores. On the way back, I stopped at the lake to get a couple of good pics. I was talking to my Mom on the phone when I got out of the truck in a little gravel parking area. Almost instantly a Deputy Sheriff pulled off behind me to ask if I was okay…so nice! I headed out towards the edge of the lake for pics and happened to see something very odd by the guard rail. You’ve seen pics above of the landscape here…desert, cactus, and scrub. There, in the dirt and gravel, was a little cotton plant with bolls! How did that little thing get there? Back on the road, I passed through the Border Patrol checkpoint again and this time was pretty much just waved through. Finally back home, we kicked back to watch a movie in the evening.
Wednesday started with some blog work, then a guided hike in the park. This area, near where the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers meet, is a hotbed for archeological activity. Nearby is the earliest known site, dating back 10,000 years, of large scale bison kills, where they were run off of a cliff. Our interest for this day, though, was paintings…very old paintings. Seminole Canyon is a deep gulch that looks like it was made by a raging river. However, there has never been a full-time river was there. Instead, it was created by flood waters over a very long period of time. Erosion caused the gulch’s softer layers to wear away and large overhang areas developed. These spots were used over time by a variety of natives, who left their artwork beginning about 5,000 years ago. Today some of those drawings can still be seen in the protected caves. When we started the hike down to the canyon, it was already in the 80s and was getting hotter by the minute. It is quite a ways down a lot of steps, and by the time we came back, I was just a sweat bucket! The tour was very interesting, and we needed the exercise, but I was sure ready for a shower when we got back!
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is beautiful and remote. The nearest place with food, extensive groceries, etc, is Del Rio, about 45 minutes away. There is a Dollar General and fuel in Lake View about 25 minutes away, though. The park is mostly here for the canyon and historic pictographs, and they have a nice museum at park headquarters explaining the history. You cannot get to the pictographs without going on a guided tour, which costs $8 and is only given Wednesday thru Sunday. (They were quick to say that the canyon has sensors that pick up anyone at night or after hours, and Border Patrol and/or the Sheriff’s Department WILL arrive quickly.) Other amenities include a store, hiking/biking trails, and picnic shelters. One of the trails is designated as particularly nice for birders, and a good hike will get you out to an overlook at the intersection of Seminole Canyon and the Rio Grande/Amistad Reservoir. Camping is your only lodging option, and you can choose from twenty-three 50-amp electric and water with shade shelters, 8 water-nearby sites with shade shelters, and 15 primitive, drive-up sites. The latter look like they are currently being fitted with utilities, so there may be a lot more water and electric sites soon. All sites include picnic tables, fire rings with grills, lantern posts, and a nearby restroom with showers. It really is a beautiful park. You do get a little road noise from the highway, but not too bad. Cell signal for AT&T was good, but minimal for Verizon. We would visit again. It was already getting HOT, though, so I would plan for cooler weather. LOL. For this stay in April 2022, we paid $62.00 for 3 nights.
Thursday started with a bit of bad luck, followed by a bit of good luck. We planned to head out at 7:30 AM and were working on our pre-flight when the slide would not come in. Ours has two motors, one at each top corner. Rods run down to the bottom corners to pull them in. The motor on the inside left made a noise that could only be described as bad, and that was it…done. Thankfully, I realized it before it torqued the other one enough to tear anything up. Whew! I’m not always that quick. We assessed, discussed, and decided to call Coach-Net, our roadside assistance company. We got an agent fairly quickly, who put us in the troubleshooting queue for a call back. In a pretty remote part of Texas, we were more than a little concerned. In the mean time, I did a little searching on the RV forums and YouTube, and we decided to give it a shove. With MW pushing out the affected side, I put it out all the way to square everything up, then switched to the outside and pushed in. After it came in about a foot, the motor started pulling on its own. Cool! A few minutes later the Coach-Net troubleshooting guy called back and said we figured out the right thing to do to get on the road. There is a way to disconnect the motors and manually push it in, but in a slide with a refrigerator and couch, that is going to take more than two old people to accomplish! So we hit the road about 30 minutes later than planned. Not too darned bad for that type of failure. We headed northwest on US-90, one of the main routes through this part of Texas. It is empty, open scrub land, and towns are few and far between. Past Langtry, a man on the side of the road was waving his hat for us to stop. He was right at a small hill cut, so we couldn’t see the whole side of the road and opted not to stop. As we got closer, we could tell he was hispanic and barefoot. I HATE that we live in a time where fear wins, but that is just the fact of modern life. A few miles later in Dryden, Texas, it was time to get out of the truck for a bit, so we stopped at a little building that had a sign advertising drinks and snacks. Honestly, there isn’t much to choose from along this stretch of road. In fact, we stop for gas every time we see a station, because they are few and far between, too. We were pleasantly surprised with this shop, though. It turned out to be a little store where they sell snack items, including jerky that they make there. (We bought some jerky, and MW gave it two thumbs up.) The owners also do taxidermy and deer processing and sell items created by their daughter. (Check out Wild Lil’ Darlin VIP. She makes custom door mats and other items. I might get one of the former.) We continued west, passing through Sanderson where there were several random dinosaurs hanging out. (Caught one with the camera.) At Marathon, we found the Main Street Oasis for lunch. This was a small town cafe where they served a little bit of TexMex, plus burgers, breakfast fare, etc. I had the taco plate (yum!). Quite a few locals passed through while we were eating, including actual cowboys who spent their lunch discussing fences that needed mending and cow issues. After lunch, we headed over to the French Co Grocer for a few things. We had already paid for our stuff and were on the way out the door when we saw the refrigerated case with homemade hummus and chicken salad that looked delicious. Of course, we went back for that. We continued west to Alpine, then turned south on TX-118. Just before the town of Terlingua, we turned off of the main road onto Terlingua Ranch Road and finished the VERY ROUGH final leg to Terlingua Ranch Lodge. The paved part of the road is full of dips and holes, but the last 3 miles is dirt that is full of rocks and severely washboarded. We felt like we had been beat up by the time we arrived, and it was the first time the chairs came all the way out of the slide. In all fairness, though, we were warned when we made the reservation, at least about the dirt portion. We set up, then decided to go ahead and take a chance by putting the slide out. While this place is MUCH MORE remote than the last, we felt that we would be able to get it back in ourselves. MW also left a message for a mobile RV tech in the Odessa/Midland (near our next stop), so we hope that is a final solution to the problem. It went out easily with very little help from MW, which was a relief.
SIDE NOTE: Imagine that you own a business and a home. You have worked hard for both, and continue that work to grow your business and keep your property up. Now imagine that, due to circumstances beyond your control, your property is not safe. There is a constant threat of theft and vandalism. You have to be on your guard every minute. You can’t run out to your car to grab something or walk your dog at night without being armed. You can’t just close up your business and go home at night, because someone has to protect your livelihood. Above I mentioned stopping at the little store in Dryden, Stuard’s Taxidermy and Processing. We ended up hanging out there for a bit talking to owners Mike and Tanna Stuard. I’ve never lived in a border town, so the entirety of my experience is a couple of trips through southwestern Texas and southern Arizona and New Mexico and crossing into Canada from Michigan. On this trip, we had noticed a sharp increase in Border Patrol and local authority vehicles since before Del Rio, and when we were touring Seminole Canyon, the guide said there were sensors and Border Patrol or the Sheriff’s department would definitely show up if we went down into the canyon after hours. This was the first time I had talked at length to anyone who deals with border issues on a regular basis. Folks, it is BAD. There is just no other way to put it. I related the story of the guy trying to flag us down, and they said it was a real good thing we didn’t stop as there are typically several more hiding nearby. The Stuards own a house and a store/shop. They do not spend their nights together and haven’t for AGES, because someone has to be at both of their places at night to prevent theft and vandalism. They take turns staying at the store and have a couple of very large guard dogs. Almost daily, there is evidence of people having been around the properties. The night before we met them, Tanna let her puppy out at the store after dark. She said she stepped out into the fenced area and someone said something she couldn’t make out from nearby. The big dogs reacted, and she quickly got back inside and bolted the door. She said she had foolishly left her gun on the counter inside, but that wasn’t going to happen again. They related stories of break-ins and destruction of property all across the area. Cattle fences are cut almost nightly, and ranchers in the area have had to hire extra hands to ride them full-time just to keep the cattle in. One guy is paying THREE extra, full-time cowboys just for fence duty! I’ve seen a few movies in recent years that show illegal aliens coming across the border and stealing because they are starving. That, we can all maybe understand, but it isn’t the case, or at least not the whole story. There are quite a few folks who have small, 20-acre plots in the area with hunting cabins. After repeated break-ins with windows and doors smashed, the owners got together and decided it would be easier to leave them unlocked and let the illegals in for shelter than to repair the damage from the break-ins. It hasn’t worked out that way, though. Now they walk in and take any food left behind, which the owners expected. Then they break all of the windows anyway, sh*t in the floor, tear up anything that isn’t nailed down, and leave the place open for the animals to get in. Just recently parts were stripped from one neighbor’s 4-wheeler in an attempt to repair another one down the road at another house. None of that is the work of people who are just looking for food and shelter. About once a week, Mike, who is a hunting guide, takes a helicopter flight looking for game. He said he ALWAYS sees at least 7-10 backpacks in the brush (left there by helpers on this side of the border) and often sees groups of illegals, too. The State of Texas and county and city governments are doing what they can to combat the issue. Border Patrol does pick people up, too, but then releases them. Back in Tennessee, the most we have to worry about is a potential break-in by a meth head looking for something to sell for drug money or someone hunting on our property without permission. I can’t imagine having to guard it EVERY NIGHT. These are AMERICAN CITIZENS fighting a constant battle to protect their property and sources of income from outside invaders. It is just totally ridiculous to allow a situation to continue that forces them to live that way. We should absolutely allow good, hard-working immigrants who want to come to America the opportunity to do so. However, we need to STOP thugs who sneak in the back door, steal, destroy property, and sh*t on other people’s stuff. The only logical way to do that is to greet them all on the front porch and sort the wheat from the chaff before they cross the threshold through the front door. As if to underscore the gravity of the issue, just a few miles down the road we passed three men walking far off the road in the open desert with no vehicles, horses, or other forms of transportation. Maybe they were locals out for some exercise, but in that mid-day heat, it’s doubtful.
Friday began with tax work in the morning. The tax deadline is coming up on Monday, and as every year, several people send me returns the last week. Later in the morning we headed over to check out Big Bend National Park, about an hour drive from our campground. Despite the hazy start to the day, the park was spectacular, and it did clear up quite a bit before we headed back to the campground. Being in the southwest, I expected mountain lions, deer, coyotes, and javelinas, to be among the park’s mammals. I was surprised to find out that black bears, bighorn sheep, and ringtails also inhabit the park, and a herd of about 30-40 elk lives in the northern grasslands. The biggest surprise, though, was an animal native to North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia…the aoudad or Barbary sheep. Originally brought to Texas for big game hunting ranches, populations grew and spread from there. During our visit, though, we didn’t see any animals. They are smarter than to be roaming around in the 98-degree heat! We entered the park through the Study Butte/Terlingua entrance and drove over to the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Then we went to the Chisos Basin and the Castolon Visitor Center. Finally, we went to the Santa Elena Canyon area. On the way out of the park, we drove the Old Maverick Road. Although it is marked as “unpaved” on the map, it should be “primitive, 4-wheel drive, high clearance”. Brutus is all of that, but I still don’t recommend that road unless you like getting beat to death for 13 miles. We both felt like we’d run a marathon by the time we made it back to the gate. Except for that, I whole-heartedly recommend checking out this beautiful place.
Back at the campground, we relaxed for a bit and I did some more tax work in the afternoon. For supper, we headed to Bad Rabbit, the onsite restaurant. It was really good, and the waitress was amazing. The best part of dinner was a special french fry appetizer that had a bunch of stuff on it. We both had the chicken fried steak special, which came with some pretty amazing broccoli, too. It was surprising to find such good food at a place out in the middle of nowhere.
Saturday we opted for breakfast at Bad Rabbit. I mean, supper was so good, why not? They had free wifi, so I ended up staying there until mid-afternoon getting some tax work and writing done. Honestly, I’m GOING to get caught up and relax soon!! Back at Petunia, we watched a couple of DVDs before bedtime.
Sunday was Easter…praise God for the BLESSING of his Son! We could not stream our church service, so we went to the tiny Terlingua Ranch Community Church just down the road. The dozen or so people were very nice and welcoming. They are in the middle of a preacher search and initially thought that MW might be checking them out for the job, so there was a little bit of disappointment when we said we were just visiting. The congregants have been sharing preaching duties, and the guy handling it today was very nervous. He is also running for a seat on the county commission, so it was probably good practice on speaking in front of a small crowd. They did something at the end that I really liked: One of the congregants had apparently been ill and in the hospital or away for quite a while. This was his first time back, and they all welcomed him enthusiastically. He requested that they do the Lord’s Prayer “like they used to do”. We all got in a circle in the middle of the church and held hands. Then anyone who wanted to spoke their prayer requests before we recited the Lord’s Prayer. The returning gentleman’s request, which he prefaced by saying it might sound silly, was for “touch”. He said that he had been so lonely during his recent trials for someone to just hold his hand or give him a hug…just the simple touch of another human being. I felt so honored to be the one holding his hand in the circle and could not keep my eyes from leaking. Afterwards, everyone in this tiny little church made a point of hugging and uplifting this man, who was clearly going through so much. What an Easter service! If you pray, throw a little one in there for that sweet man, please.
Terlingua Ranch Lodge is a pretty cool place. Part of the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve, it would be amazing for star gazing during no moon. For our stay, the moon was almost full, so we didn’t get the full benefit of that. About 16 miles off of the main road (the last three dirt that we’ve already talked about), it isn’t the place to stay if you want to go shopping or eat at different places every day. They do have quite a few things to do on-site, though. In addition to the restaurant, Bad Rabbit, that we’ve already discussed, they have a camp store, pool, laundry, wi-fi, dump station, and bathhouse. Some unusual additions are an air hose, which would be very convenient in the event of a flat, and cold meat storage for hunters. The coolest amenity, though, is their own air strip! (There is a comment on their website from a guy who flew his Cessna in for a hamburger. Love it!) Accommodations include 32 heated and cooled cabin guest rooms, 7 private tent sites, 2 open campgrounds, a horse camp, and RV sites (8 pull-through, full-hookup and 12 back-in, electric and water). There is ZERO cell coverage for any carrier, but they do have two wifi systems that cover most of the park. (Up on the hillside, I couldn’t pick it up too well, but there is seating down at the restaurant or office to get stuff done.) It is a very peaceful place, and we really enjoyed it. Some of the sites are stacked in side-by-side, but the pull-throughs run along a road on the hillside. We felt our site was the best in the park and would prefer that if we went back. The views are just spectacular in every direction no matter where you are. For this stay in April 2022, we paid $160.00 for 4 nights.
That’s it for now. Next up…LOTS of SAND and other stuff, too! See you on the path.
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