2015-Texas-Trip Research Archives

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Messin’ w/ Texas in April & May

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Getting this Texas Trip going proved to be a challenge. Multiple issues kept us from leaving for weeks. However, we’ve cleared everything up and Ann’s at peace with her grandfather’s situation.

We hope to visit some must see-places, friendly faces, and amazing natural spaces. Of course, we’ll scout some odd ball things as well, such as the toilet seat art museum and dog museum.

On our way back we’ll be heading through Colorado towns including Pueblo, Cripple Creek, Monarch, St. John, Colorado Springs, Golden, and FairPlay.

Below is a rough sketch of the Texas part of our trip. Google won’t allow me to input more stops, so I could only make a rough outline.

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Not an exact map at all.

 
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Sunday 12th — On the Road Again, Finally

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Shoshone Falls Park near Twin Falls, Idaho. When the falls are gushing the water thunders over the areas to the right and left of Ann.

It took most of the morning, but I finally wrangled Ann into the jeep so we could get the heck out of Pasco. Our goal was to make it to Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s not much of a stretch (only 6+ hours), but we did have a specific place to visit: Shoshone Falls, a place I’ve been promising we’d see.

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Since we’ve covered much of the Pasco to Idaho trip in past photos, we won’t bore you with them here — in fact, we didn’t take any of the drive. However, we did have some excitement, which happens whenever my wife drives. Once she is behind the wheel she just goes …. she doesn’t really pay too much attention to signs (though she does follow the speed limit). On more than one occasion she’s driven happily past an exit. This time, we came close to missing the exit, but fortunately I looked up from my eWillys updates just in time to avoid an unplanned detour. She add’s endless unpredictability to our adventures 🙂

We reached the city of Twin Falls just in time to get to Shoshone Falls State Park with some sun left. We’d never visited the park and found it a literal oasis in the desert. We snapped a few photos before quickly realizing our selfie tactics were rusty. We shall work to improve those, so don’t pan us too loudly for our narcissistic desire to self-photograph . . . we are just practicing! Here are a few practice shots at the falls:

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The park had surprisingly beautiful kept and clean grassy landscapes.

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Monday April 13th – Rocks, Tracks & Dusty Roads

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City of Rocks National Reserve

Today’s goal was to drive from Twin Falls to Salt Lake City, which normally takes about 3 hours. I’ve traveled this route so many times that I mark my progress by familiar cracks in the road. And, every time I pass by a sign that announces the exit for City of Rocks, I tell myself I’m going to take that some day. Well, that ‘some’ day was today.

Knowing that at least some of the roads would be unpaved (turns out most were), I calculated the drive would be much longer than three hours. In fact, the drive took 9 hours, some of which included map checks, photo ops, and very short walks. I don’t advise doing this trip unless you have good maps. We lacked cell coverage for most of the day and there are very few helpful signs (not many roads either).

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We took off about 8 AM and drove east, then south on state highway 77. We quickly found ourselves following the old California Trail, a spur taken by wagon trains that left the Oregon Trail for California.

The first interesting town we discovered was Albion. The old and abandoned Normal School loomed spookily over the road. We weren’t a bit surprised the a nearby sign boasted how spooky the place was. However, if this is your thing, you should check out this website.

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Haunted? Easy to believe.

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Normal? She’s trying awfully hard to make me believe that!

When we got to the City of Rocks area, we stopped by the visitor’s center.

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The ranger was friendly and helpful. She explained that travelers heading west on the California Trail found the City of Rocks a unique diversion from the long travels. Wagon trains would camp among the lower rocks. Several of the large rocks have carvings dating as far back as the 1840s.

As for rocks inside the inside the visitors center, we didn’t find many. However, we did find this unexpected gem:

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Tuesday April 14th — Winds and more Winds

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Those arrows barely missed us!

Today we drove from Salt Lake City to Durango. Our entire route included constantly brisk, dusty winds. At one point as we approached Moab a huge dust devil stacked with tumbleweeds blew across the road in front of us. It was pretty spectacular. I’m really glad it didn’t blow into us!!

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Needless to say, the winds squashed any desire we had to jump out and take photos. Besides, we’ve capture the look and feel of this area, as well as the jeeps, during our 2013 trip when we photographed the CJ-2A on Ivan’s sign just south of Moab and the jeep that sits atop Hole in the Rock.

I’d pretty much given up on photos, but then we spotted two jeeps and a bunch of arrows. The winds had subsided, so we got some pics while the shooting was good.

The first jeep I spotted was this CJ-2A, which appeared to be a VEC. It sits off the highway 160 just east of Mesa Verde National Park (which we decided not to visit due to the winds and the fact that we’d both been there).

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The next jeep we spotted was this CJ-2A in Manco. It’s on the east side of town along the main street.

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Wednesday April 15 — Salmon and Subway

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I now have an additional reason to eat Subway sandwiches! This truck was in Albuquerque off of Wyoming Blvd.

Today was a breather day. Our simple goal was to make the four hour drive from Durango south to Albuquerque. Without anything planned, we let chance be our guide.

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It turned out ‘chance’ liked jeeps on this day. On our way out of Durango we saw a flat fender, a cj-5, and a beautifully rusted truck (orange-red patina). Unfortunately, we were on a two-lane busy road with no pull-offs. All we could do is shout to one another, ‘there’s another jeep!”

After taking a wrong turn in Cortez, we found ourselves in Farmington, New Mexico, where we spotted two unusual vehicles. The first reminded me of a Tour FC with it’s white and red top.

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The second was a limoseum parked out front of Farmington’s museum.

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Despite the cool car, we didn’t go inside the museum. Instead, we got back on track and headed east for Bloomfield. That’s where we saw the strangest sign: SALMON RUINS. As you can imagine, we didn’t expect to find any salmon bones, carcasses or ruins in New Mexico. So, naturally, we had to investigate.

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Thursday April 16 — Meth and Science

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Ann in front of ‘her’ plane, a B-52 (though technically not this model). Back in her Air Force Days before Bin Laden blew her up, she used to load it with weapons. @ the National Museum of Nuclear Science and Technology.

For years I”d read and heard about the television series Breaking Bad. This past summer, lacking any good TV, Ann and I decided to watch the episode’s pilot to see if we’d enjoy it. We were hooked from the very beginning. Within a couple weeks we watched the entire six-year series. In case you don’t, it is about an Albuquerue science teacher named Walter White who feels forced to produce meth to save his family’s finances. If you haven’t watched the show and don’t want to know the ending, leave the post now!

With that background in mind, our first item of business was to find the real gravestone marker for the mythical Walter White. The headstone was initially put into a real cemetary, but some reasonable complaints caused it to be moved to a small strip mall. When we arrived at the mall, the location of the headstone wasn’t obvious. We had to look around before spotting it in an outdoor alcove. Ann was particularly pleased, because this was her idea.

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There are both guide-tours and self-guided tours of Breaking Bad film sites. You can learn all kinds of things here.

Following that quick stop we headed to the touristy area of old town Albuquerque. Anchored by a church established in 1702, the area is typical of New Mexican town squares. In the center is a square, a road surrounds the square, and shops/restaurants border the road. I was surprised to see that the square was much quieter and subdued than the square in Santa Fe (or it was on this day).

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Perhaps the most striking difference between the Santa Fe and Albuquerque shops are the proliferation of Break Bad memorabilia. There were also some Better Caul Saul shirts as well, the prequel to Breaking Bad.

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Believe it or not, there are some confederate soldiers buried in Albuquerque.

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Friday April 17th — Art Fair in Alamagordo, NM

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Thursday night I came down with a light cold (or something), so I took it easy yesterday. By the evening I felt good enough to jjoin Ann and her uncle Fred for a visit Alamagordo’s art fair. Fred is president of Otero County’s STEM program. He and his wife are also deeply involved in First Robotics and judge robotic competitions all over the country. As leader of Otero Stem, he organized a demonstration at the art fair. It gave the kids a chance to show off the their robots to the public and Fred and the other leaders introduced STEM to many parents who attended the fair.

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Fred and I loading the high school kids’ robot.

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The Junior High School aged kids robot is on the left.

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Fred’s always in trouble with the police :-)

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There are as many girls as boys involved in the Otero program. Both Fred and Cindy are Mechanical Engineers and worked for Boeing. So, they believe in Engineering as a career.

While we were at the fair, Smokey Bear stopped by for a visit. Why would Smoke Bear be attending the event? I’ll save that for Monday’s update.

On Saturday I’ll probably just spend the day in bed recuperating and more clearly sketching out our Texas travels.

 
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Saturday April 18 — No Scum Allowed

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Ann and her aunt Cindy with Smokey Bear in the background

I was feeling better Saturday morning, so rather than rest, Uncle Fred and Aunt Cindy joined Ann and I for a short road trip into New Mexico’s mountains to hunt down a former gold town called White Oaks.

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The first hour of the trip consisted of flat New Mexican landscape and an even less interesting highway. However, the company kept that part of the journey interesting.

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Sign in Carrizozo.

We stopped in the tiny town of Carrizozo to grab some Advil, as Fred has suffered a serious and life-threatening elbow injury at the hands of his grandchildren, whom Fred has discovered are now big enough to mob him and take him down. And by life-threatening elbow injury I mean the injury effects his dominant arm, thus it seriously curtails the ability for him to eat or drink with it (hence, threatens his way of life).

It turned out that the arm injury was a blessing for the rest of us, because as Cindy and I sat in the Jeep waiting for Ann and Fred to return, we spotted a donkey (or ass??) on top of a building a block away that was off the well-traveled highway. When Ann and Fred returned, we decided to investigate.

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Donkeys on the roofs of both buildings in Carrizozo. There were also donkeys on the sidewalks. You might also recognize this area from the movie “The Book of Eli” which was filmed along this street, though there were facades added in certain areas.

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More donkeys and other sculptures in a hidden alcove.

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Sunday April 19 — Resting and Recovery

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I stuck to the bed on Sunday. I’m not terribly sick by any means, just semi-tortured by a continuous cough that won’t let me sleep or talk much without coughing. Hopefully with a day of rest, we’ll be ready to go by Tuesday.

On the positive side, I’ve had time to read a couple books. I’m particularly enjoying a book called Great Stagecoach Robberies of the Old West. As the title indicates, it is a history of major stagecoach robberies!

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(Want to see more of the 2015 Texas Trip? View the posts from the beginning)

 
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Monday April 20 — Recovering from the Plague

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I felt better today, but still sneezing and coughing quite a bit. However, Ann spent some time wandering around Alamagordo taking photos (good for her!). She even managed to wiggle her way onto private grounds to photograph building used in several meetings (Fred and Cindy tells us that usually NO ONE is allowed to go inside the gates). I hope to publish some of her photos on Wednesday.  We will most likely leave Tularosa on Wednesday.

I got a bit of good news. Ann and I will be the inaugural guests at Red River’s Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, Texas (once the plague leaves me and we can make it there). Tomorrow I will nail down a date with James.

James runs the Red River Jeep Tours in Red River, NM, along with the Uncorked Wine Tour and now a bed and breakfast in Fredericksburg.

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How about those bed lights!

 
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Tuesday April 21 — Another One Bites the Dust

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To whom should credit be given for that all-too-accurate phrase, no good deed goes unpunished? One need look no further than our bedroom to comprehend its accuracy. To wit, my wonderful wife who cared for me during my darkest hours with the plague has now succumbed to its wretched claws. Now she suffers the coughs, the chills, and all manner of inhumane indignities brought on by the horrid influenza. Tissues (with aloe) shall become her solace as she extricates the worst of dregs, nasally, from her being.

On a sunnier note, as of this evening I have shaken the devil from me. No chills, no fever, no sweating, and no more tissues!! It is no less a miracle than Jesus with Lazarus. I am reborn!

So, yes dear readers, we remain in quarantine for a couple more days. We are now a month behind my initial schedule. Fortunately, schedules matter naught to us!

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Sunset in Tularosa

 

 
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Thursday April 23 — Road to Recovery

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On Wednesday I had a slight relapse, mostly from lack of sleep. So, Wednesday night I finally got some good sleep (10 hours worth) with the help of Tylenol PM. That’s exactly what I needed. All Thursday I felt like myself. Ann felt good all day too (even got herself a pedicure). Feeling confident, we will hit the road again today (Friday) and we will FINALLY be in Texas by Friday evening! It’s only taken a week and a half to get there. Our first stop in El Paso is to see a museum about some jeeps.

And so we bid adeiu to Fred and Cindy, the Stong Hospital and Recovery Compound, and the panoramic backyard view we enjoyed through sickness and in health. Not much happens in their backyard, but it was enough to entertain us for a week whether day or night.

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Friday April 24 — We Made it to Texas

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When you are in Tularosa, it is easy to go nuts for pistachios.

Finally, we made it to Texas. Now our trip can start, right? It wasn’t a long day, but if felt good to be back on the road again. Here was our rather short drive:

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Before we left Tularosa, we made sure to stop by and ham it up in front of the world’s largest pistachio.

From there, we drove south on highway 54 until we saw the magic sign:

2015-04-24-texas-borderOur first and only real stop of the day was at the National Border Patrol Museum. Surprisingly it is entirely donor based. No federal funding is used to support the museum.

2015-04-24-national-border-patrol-museumInside, the museum is divided into small sections. One area was devoted to Border Patrol vehicles. Another honored those agents that had died. On section explained the history of the Patrol, how it originated and evolved over time. It’s a nice little museum that doesn’t take long to peruse.

Of course, I was there to see the jeeps. In fact, their 1947 CJ-2A is one of the center-pieces of the vehicle exhibit. The jeep was assembled by volunteers. The front frame rails have more patches than a leftovers quilt. And, the floors aren’t particularly pretty. But, it’s doing the job!

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Sunday April 26 — Parks and Wind

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An overlook at Big Bend National Park (looking west)

Today we drove and drove.

2015-04-26-alpine-odessaThe first part of the trip took us south toward the Mexico border at Presidio, Texas. Along the way we encountered ‘Elephant Rock’, which we felt lived up to its name.

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Called Elephant Rock for an obvious reason.

Eventually we reached Presidio, a dusty dry border town, I am not entirely sure what the appeal is for living in that area. Looks like plenty of shops and stores were out of business.

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Ruins of an old house in Presidio

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Ruins of old building in Presidio

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Ruins of old truck in Presidio

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Monday April 27th — Frontier Texas

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That’s us sitting on a giant metal skull at the Frontier Museum. Above us are Buffalo that pivot like weather vanes.

On Monday morning we awoke planning to reach Waco, but we got side tracked by an errant attempt to locate a Best Buy so Ann could buy a lens cap. I won’t go into the machinations of locating one, even when trying to use both of our ‘smart’ phones, or how we eventually (and accidentally) stumbled upon one and how we were so surprised that my wife did an all-too-quick u-turn in the street, dumping a rather sizable container of ice-cold water into my lap. No, you don’t want to hear all that! And, I’m really sure that after you read this sad tale, and after you learn what it took to get the lens cap, and when you understand just how wet my underwear and shorts were, you’ll acknowledge the personal sacrifice I made in the cause of the lens cap, and only then can you appreciate that three hours after we bought the lens cap I accidentally dropped it onto the ground — it broke, into several pieces … uggghh!!!

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Instead of that long, sad tale, I will give my impressions of Monday morning in Odessa. There were many men around our motel dressed in heavy one-piece work outfits. They all worked for energy companies with bland sounding names. All drove white trucks packed with tools in the back and with catchers on the front that could move an entire herd of cows. On Sunday evening they had all looked tired from a long day; most were gone by Monday morning, but not before eating up all the available breakfast that our motel served that morning. They did manage to save me a piece of sausage.

We were out of the motel room by 9am. As we drove through Odessa, my view was industrial buildings, piping equipment and oil rigs everywhere. The equipment suggested people here worked hard. My other impression was that land is cheap, or at least was cheap. All the endless industrial companies we passed on Monday morning on our way to nearby Midland seemed unconcerned with how they organized their stuff. Stacking didn’t seem to be a concern, as everything was horizontal. Space was cheap, stacking wasn’t necessary. Those were the thoughts that bounced around my head as we drove to the Petroleum Museum.

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Near the entrance to the Petroleum Museum.

We arrived at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum just after it opened. When we entered the building we were told that the entire history portion of the museum was undergoing an $18 million dollar remodel. Obviously that wouldn’t do us any good, but they did have a few exhibits — gems, paintings, and race cars, that we could view. Since were were there, we wandered around and looked at those for a short time. However, I really wished we could have see the main oil history exhibit.

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Me pretending to drive one of the race cars. I didn’t fit very well, especially not on the driver’s side! I hope they didn’t mind me removing the steering wheel . . . .

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The mineral exhibit was interesting, but shamefully I know very little about them (where are my ancestors when I need them??).

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Tuesday April 28 — Dr. Peppers & Texas Rangers

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Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Tx, and a happy Dr. Pepper fan eagerly waiting to venture inside.

We had big plans for Tuesday morning. Our first stop was going to be the outdoor historic village of Buffalo Gap. So, when I hopped out of bed at 7:30am and saw that it was raining, we quickly changed that plan. Without feeling rushed, we somehow didn’t get out of the room until 10:30am.

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The rain was gently falling as we got onto eastbound Interstate 20. Soon we turned southeast on highway 6. If there’s one thing I like about these Texas state highways it is the speed limit: 75mph. That’s faster than any of the speeds on Oregon’s inter estates. You can get places in Texas, however the places are so spread apart, that even at 75 it doesn’t seem fast enough.

Eventually we reached Dublin, Texas. I spotted a cool Dr. Pepper sign and asked Ann if she’d like a photo of it. She agreed, so I did a loop around the block, We weren’t halfway around when we ran into several more Dr. Pepper signs. Then we spotted a Dr. Pepper museum reference. That’s when the light clicked for both us. We both remembered reading that besides the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, there was a second one in a small Texas town. This was it.

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This is the billboard I spotted while driving through Dublin.

Feeling lucky, we jumped out of the jeep to see what this was all about. We learned that Dublin was home to the first Dr. Pepper bottling plant. The Dublin plant used cane sugar in all their soda pop products, including Dr. Pepper, even when the rest of Dr. Pepper world switched to high fructose corn syrup. This fact angered the Dr. Pepper company, so the company revoked Dublin’s right to bottle and sell it. Now, the Dublin Bottling Works bottles and sells a variety of custom flavors and sells them all over the country.

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Wednesday April 29 — Power Wagons & Pecans

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

Great day today 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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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

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That’s a LOT Of picked eggs. I might still pick up a jar of those.

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Thursday April 30 — Texas Justice, Pacific War, & a Comfy Bed

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Our welcome to Uncorked’s Bed and Breakfast

We didn’t have much driving to do today, but we still managed to use up the time we had.

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Thursday morning we met with Texas Justice, or more accurately the Justice of the Peace in Llano County (the name is pronounced ‘lah-no’). Normally, we get hauled into court, but this time we went of our own volition to meet with Brian Alexander. Brian’s been interested in jeeps since he was a kid working at his uncle’s camp, a long stone’s throw from downtown Llano. He remembered the camp owning an early column shift CJ-2A, but then they switched over to floor-shift models.

Eventually Brian moved to Odessa, where he enjoyed a career in law enforcement, before moving back to Llano and winning election and re-elections as Justice of the Peace. Along the way Brian, always a military buff, got involved in reenactments and WWII history. For years Brian was interested in owning a jeep, but the stars didn’t align until a 1951 CJ-3A fell into his lap. It needed some work, so he’s been rebuilding it. The project is nearly done. When finished, he plans on selling it and getting what he’d really like, an MB or GPW (well, and a M-38, and a M-38a1 — why just have one, right?). Brian seems to have a good knack for details, so I suspect that once he buys an MB or GPW, he’ll end up restoring it, because not having the correct steering wheel or some other detail will gnaw on him until he does have it right (Brian, that’s my prediction 🙂 ).

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We had a real nice time talking with Brian about jeeps and about his interests beyond four-wheel-drive, so we thank him for his time. Also, Ann and I need to apologize to the people of Llano County for bringing the wheels of justice to a halt at least for a couple hours Thursday morning.

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Downtown square in Llano

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Another shot of the square.

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The deer sign represents the fact that Llano County is the deer hunting capital of Texas,

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Friday May 1 — Luckenbach, Texas

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Ann and I checking out Luckenbach, Texas. We didn’t see Waylon, Willie, or any of their boys.

After a good night’s sleep at James’ B&B, we took a few photos and hit the road. Our first stop was downtown to meet up with James. We both got so busy that we hadn’t had a chance to meet in person.

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James strongly recommended that on our way to Kerrville, where we planned to hold up for a couple days, that we stop by Luckenbach, Texas. Of course, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson made the town famous in their song. That was all Ann or I knew of the town, so we were all in for that adventure.

We made a quick stop in Fredericksburg at the Nimitz portion of the National Museum of the Pacific and learned about Nimitz’s early life. However it was too dark to get any photos inside. We settled for some photos of us operating artillery.

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Luckenbach is only six miles or so south of Fredericksburg, It didn’t take us long to get there. After some confusion about where Luckenbach was, we finally figured out (with some help) that the main loop into the town was closed for a bike rally, so we had to park nearby and walk to the town.

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Saturday May 2 — Ingram Rocks, but Kerrville Robots

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Kerrville, a pretty neat town.

Today was a ‘day’ off. It was supposed to be an easy, fun day. Yet, we still found ourselves at a few cool places in the otherwise semi-sleepy town of Kerrville.

We arrived at Kerrville on Friday out of sheer fate.  Well, fate and careful motel hunting. Our plan was to land in Austin Friday night, but the weekend rates were pretty unfriendly for an otherwise friendly state. Fredericksburg rates were much better. So, using Priceline I found myself veering over to Kerrsville. Someplace called the YO Ranch was serving up some rooms at $62 for Friday and Saturday. That was a bargain for a weekend rate, so I went for it. I figured since we’d never been to Kerrville that maybe there’d be something interesting there.

It turned out that this YO Hotel place was really cool! Check out the interior and exterior shots.

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Outside of the Y O Hotel

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Lobby of the Y O Hotel. Dangling off the chandeliers are all the brands of ranches that sent cattle from southern Texas to the panhandle (or so they say).

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We even have balcony attached to our room.

On Saturday morning we awoke and went hunting for a laundromat. I normally travel with a week of clothes. I can always tell when the week is up, because my the rear of the jeep smells like a gym locker. I don’t know how my wife stands it. I guess it is true love after all?

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Sunday May 3 — Buc’s, Boats, Bats & a Batmobile

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Any day I see a Tucker is a good day. It was an unexpected pleasure. So, yeah, Sunday was a very good day.

We started the day driving south toward San Antonio. We need not follow any signs to locate the city. All we had to do was listen for the anguished moans of NBA basketball fans. Those poor fans are still sad about their team’s loss.  Wow, was that a great game

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Our first stop of the day was to visit the largest Buc-ee’s (and largest convenience store) in the world. It’s located in New Braunfels. Once again we counted the pumps. There were 120, which is 8 more than the Temple Buc-ees. The New Braunfels store is 67,000 square feet. You could fit two average sized Whole Foods stores or 11 7-11 convenience stores under Buc-ee’s roof. There are 83 bathroom stalls, 250 employees, and 1,000 parking spaces, We didn’t take any photos, because  it isn’t that much bigger than the new Temple store.

Following our Buc-ee’s fix we motored northward on I-35 until we reached Texas State University’s Meadow Center, home to glass bottom boat tours at the headwaters of the San Marcos River. When Spanish explorers first found the area they thought it was the fountain of youth due to the bubbling fresh water. In some cases the water spurted out like small geysers. In 1849 the lake was dammed. For decades the lake was known for the Aquarena performances and theme park attractions. Eventually, the theme park was shuttered, but glass bottom boats still explore the crystal clear lake sharing its history and educating visitors about the unique environment. Through Groupon we got a buy-one-get-one free deal, so if you decided to go, check them out for the discount. The boat operator was full of information and we enjoyed the tour. One tip, on weekends parking is free.

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Entry way to glass bottom boat tours

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The dammed lake is long and narrow. The water is very clear. It appears they have four boats that operate every half hour.

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We photographed the lake bed through the glass bottom, but all perspective was lost. This demonstrates how visitors look down through the glass. I’m not looking down. I am posing for a photo, but it seems I should be posing by looking down?

After our boat ride we decided to check off another to-do item. We visited Dicks Classic Garage Car Museum. I’d decided to visit the museum, because it was one of the few car museum in Texas I could find.

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Monday May 04 — Keeping Austin Weird

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Ann riding a Jackalope with a drink in her hand.

Our only plans today were to explore Austin and test out some of the best BBQ Austin had to offer. We started by by heading downtown to get some photos of the Texas capitol building.

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A whole street blocked off at the capitol for motorcycle parking.

That plan didn’t quite work out. Apparently, the city was memorializing police officers who died while serving. The capitol grounds were full of officers and people and there were no open parking spaces to be found. One side street was packed with motorcycles. We decided to abandon that plan and head for another option: Museum of Weird.

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Austin has built a reputation from the city’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird“. As ‘weird’ as that slogan is, it seems it was not an organic marketing effort, but rather formed and promoted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance. Whatever its beginnings, the city seems to have embraced that mentality, proudly. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Austin ought to be very flattered by Santa Cruz and Portland‘s ‘borrowing’ of the concept.

Of the weirder things in Austin is the Museum of Weird. A tribute to the time honored freak shows of yesteryear, the owner of the museum has assembled some odd items. I couldn’t say for sure if they are real or not, but the whole thing was pretty humorous. After paying our money, we walked through a couple short halls full of memorabilia, objects, and assorted freakish things. We were alone, as we usually seem to be whenever visiting museums. This part we expected.

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The fur bearing trout

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Tuesday May 5 — San Antonio’s Riverwalk

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Ann and I at the Alamo

We left Austin today bound for San Antonio. We tried a detour into the historic old town of Gruene, but found it more tourist trap that historic, so we continued on to San Antonio.

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We arrived so early that we had plenty of time to head down to the Alamo and play tourist. The last time Ann was in town she was during her basic training. She didn’t remember the Alamo grounds as being so lush nor could she remember seeing so many tourist -based entertainment (wax museums, Ripleys, etc). I was expecting the Alamo to have a much more sacred feel, but it’s set up to run LOTS of people through it.

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As you can see there were no lines while we were there, but it is clear they are ready to handle large crowds.

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The back side of the Alamo.

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The surprisingly lush gardens within walls. I was expecting a more desert-like area.

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Wednesday May 6 — Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk

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Guinness Book of World Records deems this the largest wooden nickel in the world.

Yesterday we spent time in downtown San Antonio. Today we explored areas outside that central area.

First, we walked a couple blocks to Market Square, a three-block area that has been home to the city’s open market roots since the 1890s. At that time San Antonio was Texas’ largest city.  The area was a multi-cultural area due to Mexican, European, and Asian immigrants. However, these days the area has primarily a Mexican flavor.

In fact, we walked to the market specifically to taste the flavors of Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The restaurant was first opened in 1941. It now seats up to 500 people and, according to their own marketing, “Never closes”. It’s a twenty-four hour a day, every day, restaurant. There’s a party atmosphere inside with christmas lights wound around posts, colorful Mexican banners hanging from the ceiling, and reflective pinatas hanging overhead in the lobby.

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The lobby of the Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The baked looks looked really good!

I chose to go there, not just because of its history, but because they serve a roasted goat dish, something I don’t get often enough. When it arrived, I was very pleased; plenty of goat, along with a tasty cheese enchilada, made for a good meal. The rice and beans were pretty standard tex mex, but I was not surprised.

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Yum. Goat is good!

After our lunch (we had a late start on Wednesday), we wandered Market Square. We even found a couple gifts for our mothers, though said gifts shall remain unmentioned since my mother peeks in on my trip reports from time to time.

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Market Square’s ‘Produce Street’, though hard to find much produce here any more. Just minutes later bus loads of people flooded this area.

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Thursday May 7 — Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns

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Oh NO! Attack of the killer bee!!

Today was a long day of driving, our longest day in a month. We drove 400 miles, which isn’t that far in terms of distance. However, our need to document the trip and take photos can turn quick stops into hour-long affairs. So, we tend to need lots of time, which we had because we both woke up at 7am on Thursday wondering why we were awake (we are late risers). It was in part due to the air conditioner’s inability to cool our room. So, rather than fight the air conditioner, we decided to pack and get going.

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Our first stop of the morning was Lackland Air Force Base (aka new name: Joint Base San Antonio), the home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility. It was there that Ann went through basic training. Apparently, she had some fond memories of her time there. Unlike other recruits, she found her experience much less stressful than growing up with her mother. Even better, she got to eat to each three times a day as much as she wanted! The only downfall, besides the marching, was a set of golden arches she’d see everyday just outside the training grounds. She yearned, but never got a chance to eat there.

Well, today was her lucky day, but first we had to find the training ground. Having ditched Siri’s navigation, I’ve turned to Google Maps. That app took us to the main base. Of course, I didn’t know any different, but as we drove around, Ann said she didn’t recognize anything, because the Air Force ‘never let us mingle with real military people’. It took us a while to realize that the training grounds were on the other side of the highway. So, over the highway we went. That’s when things started to look familiar to her. She pointed out the airmen dressed in their blues marching on the parade grounds. Then she pointed to some newer recruits having to go through inspections. Finally she giggled at the sight of the Rainbow Flight, the newbies who had not been issued their military clothes, so they had to dress i their street clothes (which were a myriad of colors).

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Airmen in their blues close to graduation.

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Ann’s basic barracks. In the morning she and her co-airmen had to go down the stairs with both hands on the rails chanting. At the bottom the had to line up under the covered area as shown.

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The Rainbow Group. They are the newbies. The don’t receive their equipment until their entire group arrives. Ann had to stay in her street clothes for two weeks before all of her group arrived.

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