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Day 18 – Wed. Apr. 29th: Power Wagons & Pecans

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<– Day 17 –Tue. Apr. 28th: Dr. Peppers & Texas Rangers  | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 19 – Thu. Apr. 30th: Texas Justice, Pacific War, & a Comfy Bed –>


Talking about jeeps and life with Lee (left) and his father Sam (right).

Great day yesterday that started with a question mark … Would Paul Cook respond to my request to see his Power Wagons before we passed Kempner on our way to San Saba. I had contacted him at the last minute, so I wasn’t assured he was available. Since we had nothing else planned, we just went with the flow and hoped Texas would surprise us with something.


Around 11am we were driving south toward Temple, Texas, when I saw a sign for Buc-ee’s. Then I looked across the freeway and saw a giant beaver head with lots of triangle flags, which I believe is the international symbol for ‘Hey, we’ve just opened so come over and take a look!’. I asked Ann if she knew what a Buc-ee’s was. She didn’t. I didn’t either, but told her we were going to find out! So, we took the exit and drove across the freeway for our first ever Buc-ee’s experience.


You really have to see a Buc-ee’s to believe it. HUGE!

Our jaws dropped as we pulled into the massive parking lot. This was supposed to be a gas station/convenience store, but it was enormous. It was so big it seemed like it took an hour just to circle all 112 fuel pumps (yes, we counted them). As many of you know, Ann and I have been through many states in the last few years, but this Texas-sized gas stop was the biggest one, by far, that we’d ever seen. We were even more surprised to learn this was the 35th store.


I’m just one of the many nuts in the store.


That’s a LOT Of picked eggs. I picked up a jar.


Ann w/ Buc-ee


Yeah, it’s a mail jeep front end, but it’s better than nothing.


This photo still doesn’t do justice to the size of this convenience store.

After Buc-ee’s, we still hadn’t heard back from Paul at the Power Wagon Museum, so we headed in his general direction, while attempting to find something to do. I suggested heading to downtown Killeen, since it was on our way. Ann shrugged her shoulders, so downtown we went. I can safely report that there was nothing to report from downtown Killeen, Texas. With all due respect to Killeen, we’ve seen busier ghost towns.

Next we decided to venture onto Fort Hood to see if the 1st or 3rd Cavalry Museums on base had any jeeps at them. Though we both have military IDs, we were still going to have to get the jeep tagged and that just seemed an obstacle we didn’t want to tackle today. So, we jumped back on the Interestate toward Kempner. Just when we were out of ideas about what to do, Paul Cook phoned us. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.


We standing next to Paul, who is also Kempner’s mayor (at least for a few more weeks).

Twenty minutes later we were standing in Paul’s Power Wagon Museum shaking his hand. Well, calling it a museum is a stretch. It’s really Paul’s shop; The true heart of the museum, with all it’s history, is Paul himself.

Paul fell into a few Power Wagons a couple decades ago. Eventually he began focusing on them, hauling them from as far away as Puyallup, Washington. When he retired, Paul recognized right away that he wasn’t any good at retiring, so he began to get more involved in the Power Wagon scene by turning his hobby into his new ‘job’. Calling his shop a museum has has led him to become a spokesman and historian for Power Wagons. He’s posted a great amount of information to his website in the hope that it will help other people. When readers of his site have questions, he goes to great lengths to answer them. He does it all for free as a way to teach people about Power Wagons specifically, and about mechanics and history in general.


1947 WDX  All the Power Wagons in his shop run, including the W300M just outside his shop.




Non-running Dodge projects ‘grazing on the grass’.


A parts wagon

I know very little about the Dodge Power Wagons, so Paul was a patient teacher. Of course, there were plenty of common ground betrween wagons and jeeps, including similar restoration issues, purchase hazards, and more.

If you are ever in the Kempner area, stop in and visit with Paul. He loves to share his history and has plenty of stories. That’s his job, so help him do it 🙂


Paul and I leaning on a W300M.

Our last stop of the day was in the Pecan capital of the world, San Saba, Texas. We were there to meet with Lee Murray, whose family first settled at San Saba in 1853. Though he works days as a banker, he and his family have a passion for ranching.



The center square of San Saba.

After a quick introduction, we followed Lee out to his new home south of San Saba. He and his wife are still in the process of finishing it, but their personal touches are all over the house. They’ve reused old timber for shelves, old tin as a kitchen ceiling, and used vintage doors throughout the house to save money. The result is a beautiful and unique ranch house perfect for their growing family. Ann was so caught up in the cool features, she forgot to take additional photos. What a treat it was to see it all!


It’s a beautiful, new house that contains plenty of history from parts salvaged from around the farm.


This is the view from the second story. What a wonderfully relaxing southern vista.

Next we drove over to Lee’s parent’s house to meet his parents and see Lee’s M-38. Lee found his M-38 on eWillys, while his father Sam found his CJ-5 on eWillys. Lee’s parents told Ann and I that Lee had wanted a flat fender since he was a kid. Finally, he found one to buy. What’s interesting is that Lee and Sam have enjoyed their jeeps so much, the vehicles have replaced their side-by-sides. They much prefer to tour and work their ranch with their jeeps than they do with the newer 4x4s.

2015-04-29-lee-m38-1 2015-04-29-lee-m38-2 2015-04-29-lee-m38-3 2015-04-29-lee-m38-4

Though Lee’s M-38 was fairly stock, there were still some items he wanted to change (such as the 12 volt back to 24 volt) so he could return it to as stock as possible. He’s collected some parts in anticipation of a full restore. Yet, his jeep won’t be any trailer queen. He still plans to use his jeep as a working vehicle.

Sam’s CJ-5 is out having it’s transfercase and transmission rebuilt. Some of you might remember it as the one listed in Mineral Wells. It’s one of those cases where the jeep was even more sold than it appeared in the photos. As soon as the Murray’s saw it, they knew they had to have it.

Ann and I want to thank Lee for the Pecan Pie and Texas BBQ flavoring he gave us as gifts and for sharing his family and their jeep stories with us. And, to top it off, we left their place via a remote (seemed remote to us, especially without cell service) dirt road that added additional flavor to our evening. In fact, even when we got to the next town, Cherokee, there was still no service. While that’s not very conducive to locating a motel room for the night, it was great to find places still untouched by the long tentacles of cell reception. I thought that only happened in the canyons of the West.


Somewhere in the middle of Texas. Not a bad place to be lost at all!

When we finally reached civilization (read Llano, Texas) we were thrilled to find a delicious Barbeque surprise in the form of Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar•B•Que. To order food, you walk up to the barbeque and pick the type of meat and the amount. The bbq master dips your meat into bbq sauce and drops the meat onto a plastic tray. (There’s no plate or paper on the plastic tray, which seems to freak out several of the Cooper’s reviewers on Yelp)

After handing us the tray, we wondered what to do next. He directed us through a door. There the tray was taken from us and the meat cut into sections and weighed. Meanwhile, we grabbed some drinks, coleslaw and potato salad. At the register we were reunited with our meat after trading it for some green cash. We ordered some pork ribs and sausage and it was the best meat we’d had since entering Texas. YUM!!


At Coopers you choose your meat. The master bbqer drops it on the tray in the far back, then hands you the tray to take inside for weighing and payment.


Yes, it was as good as it looks. Those are also the largest pork ribs I’ve ever had. They were more like beef ribs in size.

On Thursday we meet with a local Llano judge, not because we are in trouble, but because he reads the site. Then we’ll be heading south to Fredericksburg for an overnight stay at James and Tish’s new Bed and Breakfast.

<– Day 17 –Tue. Apr. 28th: Dr. Peppers & Texas Rangers  | TRIP OVERVIEW | Day 19 – Thu. Apr. 30th: Texas Justice, Pacific War, & a Comfy Bed –>


9 Comments on “Day 18 – Wed. Apr. 29th: Power Wagons & Pecans

  1. Idaho Todd

    That buc-ees is huge! Mail jeeps get no respect, jeep for cheap! Paul’s Power Wagon’s… has a nice ring to it. His place looks awesome. That farm house looks cool, the view is strange, not seeing any mountains. I like how Lee and his father use their jeeps instead of side by sides for ranch duty.Lunch at Coopers looked delicious! That sausage link must have been the bomb! (Can I type bomb on ewillys? Great, now I’m on a watch list…)Thanks Dave!

  2. Minnesota Chris

    Holy pickles… that store is huge. Some nice jeeps in your travels. The bbq looks amazing…yum!

  3. mmdeilers Post author

    Oh, the life of an editor-less rogue writer. There were more mistakes than usual! I just went through and re-edited the post.
    The BBQ was amazing. Somehow we stumbled upon the best bbq in the state (of course, there are varying opinions there). The Yelp comments were kind of funny to read. Some people just could’t handle having their meat plopped onto a plastic tray. But yes, the food was ‘da bomb’ (I’ll deflect the NSA my direction).

  4. Mark S.

    I have had several Power Wagons, but that is a very serious mutation of the Jeep affliction. It is much harder to find places to store Power Wagons than jeeps, but they are sure fun to drive!

  5. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    Don’t worry, Dave. No English majors are critiquing your posts. If you make mistakes we still know what you want to say. Keep on typing!

  6. alphamav

    You’ll find another of those Super-Buc-ees and another Cooper’s BBQ in New Braunfels between San Antonio and Austin.

    I spent about a year working at Fort Hood. Killeen is creepy. Almost as bad as getting lost in one of the creepy areas of Dallas looking for a gas station. I didn’t know about the Powerwagon museum/shop in Kempner.

    I like that you are meeting interesting readers.

  7. Scott R.

    Grew up in between Llano and Fredericksburg. Don’t miss out on the Admiral Nimitz Museum. There should be some Jeeps on display there. Also, on your way from Llano is the Willow City Loop. It’s a popular scenic drive, flowers are nice this year. I was up that way last weekend driving my 1965 Land Rover around. Similar sickness to owning a Willys, but having the added bonus of being an international disease. Have fun.

  8. mmdeilers Post author

    Thanks Scott. The flowers were beautiful on the drive down to Fredericksburg. I hope the weather was as perfect last weekend as it was for us this weekend. We saw the National Museum of the Pacific War this afternoon. We’ll be going back to do the last museum on Friday. We did see one jeep, but it wasn’t an accurate restoration. Overall a neat museum though.

    – Dave

  9. Mom

    I’ll take some ribs and potato salad, please. Oh yea, and maybe some sweet tea if they have some. Would also like a piece of pecan pie to top off dinner. Would love to see that house too. Sounds very interesting and unique. BTW, mountains just get in the way of big sky. Love all your updates.

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