Before I get started on the latest adventures, I ran across a couple of notes about random things: 1) Earlier in this trip we were passing through Gilbert, Louisiana, where we noticed a sign for a research center (part of Louisiana State University, I believe). There were lots of large fields in the area labeled as sweet potatoes. That’s not unusual at all, but what was definitely odd was that the fields were surrounded by high fences with barbed wire. Now I’m just curious…what exactly are they doing to those sweet potatoes that makes that kind of security necessary?! 2) Also in Gilbert, we saw a vending machine unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It dispensed ears of corn. No kidding. Apparently there are corn emergencies in Gilbert that necessitate machines that can dispense 24 hours a day! 3) In Huntsville, Texas, we came across a sign for “Speed Cushions”. They just want that violent slamming up against the roof of your vehicle to sound more pleasant, I guess. 4) Last year we stayed at Kiowa Park near Hastings, Oklahoma. Every park has a checkin/checkout time, and it is typically between 11 AM and 2 PM. Kiowa’s is 6 PM. Yes, you read that right. Someone could wait until 6 PM to vacate the site you are coming into. We thought that was a bit crazy. By 6 PM everyone is eating supper or winding down, not just getting set up. 5) There was a guy in front of us in line at a fast food place recently who ordered a regular cup of coffee. He additionally asked for 25 sugars and 2 creams. Sugar coma, anyone? 6) Greenwood, Mississippi, claims to be the cotton Capitol of the world. Interestingly, we didn’t see a lot of cotton fields when we passed through there. 7) The sign for Bruce, Mississippi, says “Welcome to Bruce Where Money Grows in Trees”. They grow a LOT of pine in Bruce.
On Monday, April 25, we planned to hit the road about 8 AM, but once again, RV issues intervened. Working our way through our pack-it-in routine, I hit the retract button for the slide. Nothing. I hit extend. Nothing. “Honey, you need to come in here.” We removed the chairs to lighten the weight in the slide. Retract…Nothing. Extend…Nothing. Okay, now what. Out come the RV books and the iPad. We checked the codes on the controller, which indicated a short. Then, we followed the instructions to manually override the system and tried to push it in. No way that was happening. Well fudge! Next was the call to Coach-Net who quickly began trying to find us help. Knowing this was going to be a LONG process, I suggested that we head to the Gap Cafe for a little breakfast while we waited. No sense in sitting there ticked off. On the way out of the park, we apprised the office of the situation. Thankfully, no one was scheduled to come into our site. They shared the cards of two RV mobile techs that service the Abilene, Texas, area, too. (Camper Tech Mobile RV Service, Curtis Craig, 325-518-7068 and Smiley’s Mobile RV Service, Michael “Smiley” Cloud, 325-627-6623.) We got a call from Coach-Net that they were still looking and waiting on call backs, and we gave them the two names we had. (They already had Camper Tech on their list.) A little while later they called to say that the soonest Camper Tech could get to us was Wednesday. While waiting, I had texted both of the numbers on the cards, and Curtis got back and said he actually might be able to make it over later that afternoon based on where we were located. Great! A few minutes later Coach-Net called back to say that Smiley’s was working on an RV…THREE. SITES. DOWN. FROM. US. He would get to us in an hour. Wow!!! The first thing I did was let Curtis know the situation and thank him for trying to work us in. A little while later, Smiley was knocking on our door. After about an hour, he had us all fixed up. Apparently a wire on the motor that MW installed last week got crimped behind it and shorted. But once that was fixed, the motor itself had some kind of internal issue that may or may not have been caused by the short, so he replaced our replacement. The BEST part, though, was the Smiley had his 3-year-old son, Dustin, with him. He was so cute, following Daddy up and down the steps. I remembered the Go Fish cards in the drawer from when our Boogers were little, and asked if he would like to play. He was shy and sweet and just stinkin’ adorable when he said “yeth” in a little whisper. He and I played against MW. It took several hands to get him to actually speak out loud to MW, but he was grinning the whole time. What a little blessing! When they headed out, I handed the cards to Smiley, and Dustin was pretty excited about playing with Daddy later. Lessons learned: 1) Be an optimist. 2) Ask the RV park if they know a tech. 3) The manual disconnect information in our RV book is wrong. 4) If you buy a replacement motor for your slide, go with the name brand. 5) Blessings can come any time and any where, even when you are frustrated and want to hit something.
We finally headed out about 2:30 PM. The park was very nice about our delayed departure and wished us well. We went south on US-83 down to Eden, then east on US-87 to Brady, Texas. There we found a Chicken Express (pretty darned good) for early supper, then took TX-71 over to Llano and the scenic drive on TX-16 on the last leg to Fredericksburg, Texas, and the Oakwood RV Resort. During the day we passed lots of farmland and sheep ranches, with some cows and oil thrown in for good measure. The drive had taken us, once again, out of the flats and back into hill country. There are so many beautiful parts to Texas, but I think I enjoy the hills the best. After setting up, we headed over to say hello to our fellow United States Naval Academy Alumni Association RV Chapter members. (MW is the class of 1985.) We didn’t visit for long, though, as we were both exhausted.
Tuesday started out with my new walking program. I read a post from another full-timer the other day talking about how the experience had made her healthier, gotten her outside more, etc. In some ways, that has been the case for me, too, but the whole truth is that, while we get out and see stuff, we don’t do a lot of good, heart-healthy moving. Then there is the issue of intake. We are both foodies. We LOVE trying new restaurants and local dishes in new places. (How can you visit Texas and not eat a kolache or TexMex? Or try quahog clams or lobster rolls in New England?) As you well know, we eat out almost every day, and that has been tough on the size of my backside. So it’s time to get on the move and make some adjustments. My biggest concern is mobility. Well, that’s not really true…my biggest concern is Alzheimer’s, which my grandmother had, but being able to get around is a close second. So to start with, I’m going to focus there. I actually already do pretty well, considering I have two fake knees (one for almost 17 years). The plan is a three on, one off, walking deal. Distances increase gradually from a mile the first week to three miles. We’ll see how that goes. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking at other possibilities to add in, as well as figuring out improvements on intake. I will say right now, there will be no concrete rules…I’m a southern girl, and fried food is an occasional must. Plus, Blue Bell isn’t going away completely, either. I’m thinking moderation. Stay tuned. Oh, almost forgot…adjacent to the RV park is a huge goat pasture. They were very excited to see someone walking down the fence line. I also scared off a deer along the way.
When we were in Texas last year we checked out the LBJ Ranch, which is where the rest of the USNA crew was headed this morning. So, after getting cleaned up, I took care of some bookkeeping work before we headed out to explore in Fredericksburg. We started out at Sozial Haus for lunch, where MW had a reuben and I had the Italian panini, both delicious. After lunch we walked around downtown, checking out the shops. I was able to find a Mother’s Day gift, too…bonus! Next we ran a few errands including finding me some new sneakers. Back at Petunia, I whipped up some Cowboy Queso, a staple in our house for crowd appetizers. (Hope these folks like it as much as my baseball guys used to.) Then our USNA festivities began with happy hour at the RV park, followed by a great dinner at Das Auslander, a terrific German restaurant downtown. Fredericksburg, originally named Friedrichsburg, was founded in 1846 by German immigrants under the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. That heritage is still very evident in the surnames of the locals and the abundance of German food available.
On Wednesday morning some of the USNA crew were going for a long bike ride, which would have been fun if we had bikes. (I’ve been looking for some, but haven’t found the right ones yet.) I took a good walk and visited with the goats. One of them, a little Billie, really wanted his head scratched, but he also really wanted to head-butt my hand. He was conflicted. So funny! After that, I took care of a bit of blog work, then we headed over to the nearby Airport Diner for lunch. As we were walking in, someone walking out said they were closed. Denied! On the way we had passed Backwoods BBQ, so we headed back there. OMGosh!! Brisket that melts in your mouth, delicious vegetables, it’s an awesome place. The locals must think so, too, because the parking lot was full and there was a constant stream coming in. Back at the campground we caught up with the USNA gang and headed out for our afternoon tour.
One of our Texas alumnus, Michael Weiner (’87), arranged for us to have a guided tour at the National Museum of the Pacific War. You may recall that MW checked this place out on our trip through in 2020. (I wasn’t feeling the best that day, so I found a shady spot and relaxed.) At the time, he said a person could spend a couple of days there, so he was more than happy to go back. We had a good crowd, and our guide was very nice and informative. He gave us a lot of the back stories and interesting tidbits that you might not pick up on your own going through. Some interesting factoids: 1) Many Americans think that WWII began when we were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. (Unfortunately, after Inglourious Basterds came out, many also believe that Hitler died in a bombing at a theater. Seriously?!) WWII actually began 2 years earlier when Germany invaded Poland. Although assisting the United Kingdom from afar, we didn’t actually jump in the deep end until Pearl. 2) The entire attack lasted less than 2 hours. Check out the casualty report below. I can’t imagine that much destruction in such a short timeframe. 3) Coincidentally, General Douglas MacArthur was on the cover of Life Magazine on December 8, 1941. 4) Many of our favorite stars stepped up. Jimmy Stewart joined the US Air Force and helped with recruitment and later commanded bombing missions over Germany and occupied Europe. After the war, he stayed in the reserves and achieved the rank of brigadier general. Clark Gable enlisted at 43 and created a recruiting film and flew combat missions as an observer-gunner. Josephine Baker, who was a naturalized citizen of France born in America, was active in the French Resistance, sheltering refugees and delivering secret messages. The tour lasted a couple of hours, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. 5) The famous “Tokyo Rose” was on The Zero Hour, which was broadcast over Japanese radio to demoralize American troops. “She” was actually “they”…all of the women broadcasters who worked at the station. The most famous of the bunch was a Japanese American named Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino who was visiting relatives in Japan when the U.S. joined the war. She never renounced her U.S. citizenship, and returned in 1948. After a publicity campaign led by Walter Wenches, she was tried and convicted of treason. The punishment was a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison. She was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford. 6) WWII torpedoes were notoriously unreliable. 7) Cool Nimitz quote about Iwo Jima: “Among the Americans who served on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” 8) When I hear the term “island hopping”, I think of hopping on a puddle jumper (small prop plane) and flying from one island to another. It is made more fun by having a nice, islandy drink along the way. However, it was actually a Nimitz/MacArthur strategy in the Pacific during WWII that put the allies in position to hit the Japanese on their own turf and ultimately, along with a little strategic bomb help, led to their unconditional surrender. There are thousands of other tidbits, and you could probably spend a couple of days truly immersed in this place. If you are at all interested in WWII or the military, make the trek to this place.
Back at the campground we hung out for a little bit “batting the trash”, as my Dad would say, then the whole gang headed out for supper at Mamacita’s. Yum! I had shrimp enchiladas that were totally delicious, along with a margarita, of course.
Thursday was day three of the walking plan. I’ll just tell you that, after two days of morning walks plus walking around downtown for a good while and standing at the museum for a couple of hours, my calves were a bit sore! I put some clothes on to wash at the campground’s laundromat, then headed out. After that, I set up a work station in the laundromat and multi-tasked while MW went to a chapter meeting. For lunch, we headed back over to the Airport Diner at Gillespie County Airport, which thankfully, was open. There were a couple of cool planes parked outside, which always makes us happy. Back at the campground, we met with some of the guys about hosting a come around, good information for down the road, then gathered for happy hour featuring delicious margaritas made by Tom Wolfe (’70). Then we had a terrific potluck dinner and enjoyed our last evening with the group. (We were heading out in the morning, but most of the group would be leaving on Saturday.) Dale Gange (’70) took our gathering pics, then we thanked our “firsties”, Dale and Su Gange, and said our goodbyes. It was a great come around with a terrific group of people. Can’t wait for the next one! Go Navy, Beat Army!!
The Oakwood RV Resort in Fredericksburg, Texas, is a very nice option for checking out the area. A private park just off of TX-16 south of downtown, it gives easy access to everything, plus has quite a few amenities if you just want to hang out. Dan and Malinda, the General Managers, did a great job of making our group feel welcome, ensuring that we were all parked together and providing a meeting room when the weather turned bad. Amenities include meeting halls with kitchens, a laundry facility with 4 washers and 4 dryers, a putting green, shuffleboard court, playground, picnic area, large swimming pool, adults-only hot tub, fenced dog area, and free wifi. Two bathhouses were older, but well-cleaned. There are a total of 135 full-hookup sites, with either 30- or 50-amp. Some are in wooded areas, while others are more open, and there are pull-throughs and back-ins. All sites have cable tv, concrete patios, and picnic tables, and some have gliders, too. There are plenty of over-the-air TV stations available, and both Verizon and AT&T worked fine. We would stay again. For this visit in April 2022, we paid $223.20 for 4 nights in a large, pull-through, 50-amp site.
Friday I was a little nervous about hitting the “slide retract” button, but it worked like a charm, and we got underway about 8 AM. Our route was mostly stale road, back-tracking a bit on US-87, so I was able to get some work done on the ride. (I don’t like to work too much when we are on fresh road, because there is so much to see.) Not too far down the road, we made a quick stop in Mason, Texas, to see a Roadside America statue of Travis Coates and Old Yeller. What has been called the saddest dog story of all time, Old Yeller was written by Mason County native Fred Gipson. The statue is in front of the county library, which also houses a display about the author. Further down the road, we stopped to make a birthday call to MW’s step-mother, Peg Bagwell, in Huntsville, Alabama. Later in San Angelo, we stopped to take care of MW’s Whataburger craving…if we don’t do that every once in a while when in their territory, he gets grumpy. (I get Blue Bell cravings when in Texas, so I understand.) After lunch, we continued northwest on US-87 through Sterling City, then turned north on TX-163 to Lake Colorado City State Park. Our drive today took us through farm and ranch flats and rolling country with plateaus in the distance. All beautiful, of course. After setup, I finished the last blog post, and we watched a little TV.
Saturday morning, after a nice walk, we headed out a little after 8 AM to check out a museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas and…bonus…catch an air show!! You will never find two people more in hog heaven than MW and me around a bunch of old airplanes. Aviation is our “thang”! The National WASP WWII Museum celebrates the history of some unsung at the time heroes of WWII. After that awful day in December of 1941, the United States leapt into the war at a fast and furious pace. Every qualified military pilot, and those who weren’t already in the military volunteered, was heading overseas or already there. That left no one here to take care of the mundane pilot chores. In the late summer of 1942, twenty-eight experienced civilian pilots volunteered to do the job and formed the first female squadron. Over the next 2 years, 1074 more women were trained to fly at the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron in Houston and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment in Sweetwater. Those two programs later became the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). While these talented and dedicated ladies did not fly overseas, they did deliver aircraft from the assembly lines to the bases where they were needed, transported equipment and non-flying personnel, simulated strafing, provided basic and instrument instruction, and flight-tested repaired aircraft before they were sent back to the war, working at over 120 bases around the country. One of the more interesting of their jobs, though, was towing gunnery targets. Think about that. These ladies would fly a plane towing a target so that servicemen shooting ground-based, anti-aircraft guns could practice. That just takes some guts. Over the course of the program, thirty-eight would die in the line of duty, three of those at Avenger Field. While visiting the museum in Fredericksburg last week, our guide told a story about the WASPs helping in another way. When the B-29 first started arriving at bases, the military pilots DID NOT like them. Among the complaints, the engines caught on fire frequently, and the pilots said it handled like a bus. In the midst of the controversy, some B29s were delivered to a base by the WASPs. The Commanding Officer pointed that out to the complaining pilots, who then questioned the ladies: “What do you do when the engine catches fire?” “Follow the checklist.” “How about when (insert problem here) happens?” “Follow the checklist.” In the end, the macho male pilots could not be bested by a bunch of ladies, so they parked their butts in the planes and got on with it. By December of 1944, the war was winding down. Army Air Forces Commanding General “Hap” Arnold tried to officially designate the WASPs as members of the military, but Congress shut it down. These ladies, just like the Rosie’s of that time, were displaced by the returning men and sent home. It wasn’t until 1977 that President Carter signed a law granting them military status. The air show was part of the WASP Homecoming celebrating 80 years since their inception. There were LOTS of beautiful planes, mostly WWII vintage. Both the museum and the show were pretty awesome. The other exciting thing for the day…I met an Apache! No kidding…he was a member of the Lipan Apache tribe and a proud Navy veteran who served on several different ships as an electronics technician. We talked for quite a while, both fascinated with airplanes and the military in general, and not so much with some of our current world situations. Alas, I did not write down his name, so that bit of information is lost in the vast, black hole of Talisa’s brain. (Trust me, it’s a dark and scary place!) Sure did enjoy visiting with him, though.
After spending a couple of hours checking everything out, we headed back to Colorado City, had lunch at Biggs Pizza (pretty darned good), and stopped for a few groceries. The town of Colorado City seems to be mostly dried up. Although downtown there are quite a few nice, old buildings, most of the businesses seem to have closed or moved on. We did see one of the arrow markers for the Quanah Parker Trail.
Sunday morning MW took care of some truck maintenance while I was fighting off a migraine. After it ebbed a bit, we headed out to conquer the Roadrunner Loop Trail in the park. Well, conquer is a bit strong…it is only about 2 miles total. It was a nice walk, though, and we startled a deer and saw lots of birds and plenty of scat, mostly of coyote and possibly raccoon. (I’m working on an animal poo identification badge. LOL) Later we listened to our church service and spent a nice, relaxing afternoon. For supper, we headed back into Colorado City to check out the second restaurant we’ve eaten in that is built in a former elementary school, the Kelley Cafe. Set up in either the gym or the old cafeteria, they offer a fairly large menu and the food is very good. We both had their chicken fried steak, which the girl said was very popular. There is a good reason for that.
I almost forgot, on the way we saw something I’ve never seen before…a fairly large wild boar. This particular one was dead on the side of the road. We noticed a coyote scurrying away from its vicinity on Saturday, but didn’t know what was there. Today we slowed down because the thing was so big. Man, he had some long, curved teeth, and I sure wouldn’t want to come up on a live one! Speaking of coyotes, they must be abundant in this part of Texas. We’ve heard them every night since we got here. Oddly, they are howling and yipping a lot just before dawn. We usually hear them in the middle of the night, not when it is getting light. It has also been common to see them dead on the side of the road. Also, this is a really bad pic, but we saw this little Mexican ground squirrel near the dump station. We thought it was a chipmunk at first.
Lake Colorado City State Park is a great place for peace and quiet. Located on the 1,618 acre Lake Colorado City (I know, sounds confusing) and about 15 minutes from Colorado City, it offers swimming, fishing, boating, and other water activities. There are also around 3 miles of trails for hiking. Amenities include kayak rentals, picnic areas, a group pavilion, swimming area, boat ramp, fishing pier, and playground. Lodging consists of 11 cabins and 112 campsites. Of the latter, 78 have 50-amp electric and water, and 34 are water only. Nine of the electric sites are pull-through. Sites are well-spaced and easy to get into. Despite it being a weekend, it was not full, which is not typical right now. We really enjoyed the open space and wind off of the lake, and would definitely stay again. For this visit in April 2022 we paid $50 for 3 nights. Our Texas parks annual pass took care of the entry fees and discounted our nightly rate.
That’s another post in the bag. Next up…after more than a month in Texas…New Mexico! See you on the path.
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