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Rockport Beach, Texas

8/31/10

The Old Fool

Alpine, Texas

It has been a long day of rest. That late night migraine set me back a full day today. That is ok since there is another day tomorrow.

For those that like to read about innovative folks, especially old bicycles, please run on over to www.oldfool.org and tell him TheOFM sent you. The man has some special opinions but he is as good at making things out of left over stuff as my life used to be. It is usually a fun read.

Last night during all the illness and blindness, we had a major lightning storm in the mountains next to the campground. From the flash of light until the thunder was often less than a one count. An old habit of mine left over from a lot of days on the water or in the open country is to count the seconds from the flash to the sound. Divide by five and you have a reasonable approximation of how many miles away the lightning was. That can be very important when you run for shelter.

By remembering the times you can approximate the time left until the storm gets to you. A couple of times small caves or large rocks have been nice to have. Other times my boat has kept me decently safe under a bridge on the lake or bay. On a few occasions you just hunker down to be lower than the rest of the area and get wet, sometimes cold too.

With a little luck my new mattress and coffee pot will make it in tomorrow as promised by UPS tracking. As of right now it is listed as in Mesquite, TX. That will a nice trick to get it here for the morning delivery to the campground.

In between horizontal times today, research has been going on about the next location for the Castle. Some locations that were considered are still ten or more degrees too hot. Just for fun Rockport was checked. They had 96 with a 109 heat index to compare with Alpine’s 83 with a heat index of 82. Yep this is a better location for comfort. The A/C was not used AGAIN today.

Tomorrow is supposed to get into the upper 80’s to warm us up. That is ok since there is an indoor adventure waiting for me to help in trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/30/10

Storms and Migraines

Alpine, Texas

The Truck bed got a good clean out today. Miscellaneous junk flopping around inside was either eliminated or given a spot to be in. The Sightseer is getting a try out of laying in the bed on a blanket totally assembled instead of the old way with the front wheel off and the frame strapped in an upright position. With this way it takes about thirty seconds to be ready to ride instead of five minutes to get the frame and front wheel out then assembled and the brakes hooked up. We will see.

My new neighbors, Paul and Nelda, have proven to be very nice folks. They have a house in San Antonio but do multi week trips in their travel trailer. Paul has some neat stories that he has told me. It will be nice to have plesant folks to visit for a while.

By the time the Truck was assembled again and the cleaning tools put away it was getting a bit warm. Sightseer was taken for a short four mile spin along hwy 118. The shoulder is four feet wide and that seems very narrow with vehicles passing me at 55 or 70. That will not get much travel by me.

There are severe storms tonight to accompany my latest migraine attack. So it is sign off time in anticipation of tomorrow being a great day of trying to have too much fun. TheOFM.

8/29/10

Bark Bark Scream

Alpine, Texas

More of saturday edition

It was later in the afternoon and time to get out and about. So the Team took off for Fort Davis and the south area from there. After a very ugly rain storm started, the Truck pulled off into a somewhat famous roadside rest area known as Point of Rocks. This has been covered in a previous blog entry months ago. Anyway the water was streaming down the parking area like a hurricane was here. The whole storm lasted about thirty minutes and then it was blue skies again.

The Truck got rolling and not too far down the road was a dirt road into a subdivision called DMR. We rolled slowly and gently down the potholed and washboard road until we got way back off the highway. As you enter the subdivision a sign recommends that for some of the “roads” you will need 4x4 and high clearance. After looking around a little the decision was made to get out of there.

At least one large pickup passed us at the right time to put a large wave of re mud water over the hood and windshield of the Truck. The road was a sloppy mess to say the least. After returning to the Castle another rain storm washed a lot of slop off the Truck before this picture was taken.


This is excellent road biking in the Davis Mountains. Rumor has it some guy named Lance used to train out here. Since the college in town has started classes, there have been a number of roadies running the highways. From Alpine it is a good road for about 26 miles to Fort Davis or about 80 miles to Study Butte or go east or west for all you want. These are not flat roads like on the coast so you better have gears. Goat heads are in great abundance so you better have tube patching capabilities also.

Sightseer has not been out of the Truck because every time there was time to ride, the lightning and rain storms closed in to scare me off. One of the tie downs broke on the DMR road so the back of the Truck needs to be emptied and the broken tie down repaired. Having things flying around in the back of the Truck is not a good idea.

Early morning edition Sunday
When the sounds of screaming children and fighting dogs close to your bed wakes you up in the morning, it is not a good way to start the day. By the time my body could function enough to slide into minimum clothing and get outside with equipment to handle the situation, it was over. The scene was two large dogs and one small dog all on leashes. One beagle in arms, one hysterical teenage girl and about five other adults including a park representative standing around getting things cooled down. Dogs have no concept of size. Which dog started it is not known. Smaller dogs start as much trouble as large dogs. No human blood was visible and the dogs were all calmed, so this body headed back to mind my own business. Time for my OJ.

It was hot in Alpine. My hurting ankle of this morning seemed to be doing better so a walk in the hills sounded good. Off to Davis Mountains State Park where it must be cooler we went. Yep it was a whole two degrees cooler. So a walk was started anyway. It turned out to be short since the ankle did not like what was going on. After parking at the amphitheater, the body and other parts started up the canyon on the trail. There are a couple of bridges where the trail crosses the wet weather creek that might make interesting pictures for my readers were my thoughts.

The first bridge is where the trail comes in from the rest of the park to start up the canyon. It is actually a neat bridge done up in natural rock. It is too bad my shakiness ruined that picture. However this one looking back into the park while balanced on the hand rail did come out ok.



On down the trail a ways is the next bridge. My ankle was demanding to turn around. So before long the only way to make progress was to crawl. Here we have the bridge from a snake’s point of view.

As soon as the turn around was made, my ankle let me stand up and walk again. At least it made for an interesting angle on the picture.

Back at the Truck it was decided to head on back to the Castle. This had been a good day of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/28/10

Terlingua Ranch

Alpine, Texas

Since the plan is to hit Bibe in the cool of winter, it seemed reasonable to run down to Study Butte and Terlingua to check out the options that might be available for RV parks. It is about 80 miles one way but the terrain is not boring at all. On the way back it was noticed that the change from low level desert to the greener higher elevation near Alpine occurs in about three miles.

The route is due south from Alpine and past Elephant Mountain covered in the last two blog entries. The road undulates and curves around enough to keep you wide awake the whole trip coming and going. About half way down there, you start to see the barren style of Big Bend Mountains appear in the far distance.

Part of the trips purpose was to look closely at the Terlingua Ranch properties for possible purchase for a home base. Over thirty years ago when the development started the choice for me as a family man was no. Now there are no family hindrances to my options and choices. A couple of hours of touring the area looking at it with home eyes instead of hiking eyes gave me the same answer, NO. It is a great area to hike and explore and visit, but owning property there is a no thanks for my style. It is very remote.

Here is a picture of one of the nicer sections just as you are getting into the area.
The plan to return in cooler weather is intact. It is still one of the more wondrous areas for hiking in the world. Thus this winter it will provide multiple opportunities for trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/27/10

Was Not Meant To Be

Alpine, Texas

Fixing my air pump for bike tires was the first on my list of business today. Two screws fell out somewhere along my travels. They held the housing up of the gage needle. The local stores had no replacements for the small screws. After returning to the Castle and putting my mind to finding another solution, several options came forth. The one chosen was to cut a piece of hose the correct length to prop the cover up and away from the needle. Now the pump is ready for serious use again.


A comment from BillyBob on my blog led me to assume he meant that he was camping tonight at Balmorhea. “Barney...I'm gonna be in Balmorhea this afternoon.”
He hoped we could cross paths. As you will see my understanding of the message was incorrect. So plans were changed to drive the fifty plus miles up there to cross paths with him. My arrival was timed so that maybe we could have supper at the Bears Den. When the Team arrived at the state park, we got our day pass and went to look for BillyBob.


No BB in the park. Ok maybe he went to the other rv park near the freeway. No BB in the park. Now it is 6 pm and time to wonder if his propane leak made his motorhome a torch. Hopefully not. So it was into the Bears Den for a wonderful supper. After supper one more pass through the rv parks was tried with not a sign of BB. When the Team returned to the Castle, it was found out from BB’s blog http://billybobsplace.blogspot.com/ that he went to Van Horn for the night. No wonder he was not found in Balmorhea. This shows the value in making sure everyone understands what is being said. BB has emailed me with an apology for his part of the communication gap. Communication is a two way street so don't think it is all his fault because I did not mean it that way. Only to point out the importance of good communication.

At least on my late evening trip home this nice picture of the cliffs north of Alpine was available. There was still a lot of moisture in the air from the rains. It did make a nice finish to a great day of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/26/10

EMWMA Driving Tour

Alpine, Texas

The driving tour of the Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area is about seven miles one way. For some reason it thought to be a loop drive when the Team started out on it. WRONG AGAIN AS USUAL. Most of the “road” is a one lane road with brush very close to the sides of your vehicle. The Truck got itself a good tickling several times as his sides slid carefully through the vegetation. A couple of the cattle guards are humped enough that a Camry would need to go slow aver them.

The driving tour circles Elephant Mountain while staying on the flat plain. In the distance are other mountains to see as you drive along.

At a few places you get very close to the foot of Elephant Mountain but never up on it. People are prohibited on Elephant Mountain. What you are driving toward was unknown to me at the start of the tour. Here is what you get to at the end of the road.

This is the viewing area with information signs under the roof. One of the signs informs you that you will most likely not see any sheep no matter how hard you look.

This sign explains about the invisible sheep on the mountain. Clicky to enlarge the picture.

Another sign explains more about the viewing area specifics.


The water catch tank sat at the corner of the roof with its catch pipe bringing water into the tank. Apparently there is an underground pipe over to the watering hole.

The water hole in this case is very small but apparently sufficient for the critters that can survive on the small amount of food in the area. The area around the watering station did not show much in the way of critter footprints.

Now that you have been watching for the sheep for a while and the flies and other bugs have had a good meal on your body, it is time to head back out the way you came in. Be careful and not get too anxious to get on out of here and damage you vehicle going too fast. That brush will scratch your vehicle if you go too fast.

All told this adventure will take two and a half to three hours from Alpine for the average folks. Wheel chairs and crutches etc should be able to carefully move around in most of the areas. The only “rest room” is the pit toilet in the campground and it is ADA in style. There are no other services here of any kind.

It is highly recommended that this is a cooler weather location for trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/25/10

South Of Alpine

Alpine, Texas

The eyes came open to a light breeze, sprinkles and 59 degrees. Everything is wet and cold outside. This sounds like a good morning for some hot tea again. It will not last for long but it is a nice break. Onward to tooooo much fun.

Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area is where the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides a mountain for some sheep to live without humans being close around. It finally got a viewing by me and my impression was less than excited. This is one of those un-natural situations where the people have to foot the bill for critters to stay in an area they cannot normally live in. But here we go with the description anyway.

The EMWMA is a few miles south of Alpine on 118 on the way to Bibe. On the left of the highway you will find this unimposing entrance to the WMA.
Head on in along the gravel road. It was in very good shape. On the left ahead is the registration station.
Inside this little building you will find out you do not have the proper permit to run around in this area. It is available all the way back at Alpine at the hardware store. As your hopes are falling into the dirt, if you are lucky, you see another sign that says you can do the driving tour without the permit. That is what was done.

There are some designated campsites in the WMA. Apparently the campsites are maintained only during the harvesting (hunting) season. There is a pit toilet and no other utilities. Bring it all in with you and take it all out with you. For a rig like Comfort Castle the campsites are way plenty for a few days. A camper could have a very alone experience out here.
This is a fairly remote location so be careful if you come in here to look around.

The driving tour starts right after the turn off to the campsites. However you will need to take your time and be careful when you first start. The bridge is out!

However they have “smoothed” out the ravine so you can drive into the ravine and back out to the normal road. With care even a regular car could make the whole drive.

Here is an example of the heroic measures that are taken to maintain the critters that cannot live here normally.

From the looks of the long runs of plastic pipe going through the brush, this water must be piped in from a long ways away.

Tomorrow we will have details of the auto tour and more interesting things to feast your eyes upon when you come out here trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM

8/24/10

Marfa Lights Viewing Station

Alpine, Texas

The Marfa Lights viewing station has improved your night time visit there by quite a lot. My first visit there was by parking at the side of the road and standing in the ditch to watch for the lights. That was over thirty years ago. Now you have this nice facility with restrooms, telescopes and sitting areas.



Here is the sign that tells you how this nice facility came about.


This bench sign has some information on the geology of the area.


This view is toward the south west. In it you can see a couple of the seating positions for night time viewing. Actually they work well for daytime viewing also. One of them made a good lunch table for me.

For the view to the southeast a walk over to the corner braces on the fence was taken. Climb up the braces and snap a picture, then step down into a sticker bush that left a present in my shoe.




At the first bench was this sign to talk about the Marfa Lights.

The original sign is still out by the highway for more information.

And something that my brain did not remember knowing about is the airfield that was out there.


When the Team returned to the Castle we looked the area up on Google Earth and sure enough there are the remains of a large airfield out there. The viewing station is apparently right at what used to be the entrance to the air station. This was a very interesting stop to me.

Today was spent looking around at some locations from my past trips here. Sometimes old memories can be good. About an hour was spent at the bottom of Madera Canyon at the roadside rest area. Relaxing and doing my shoulder exercises was great. See the dumb bells on the table.

If you ever come out this way, it is a highly recommended peaceful place. It is on hwy 118 a few miles north of McDonald Observatory.

The storms and cooler temperatures are due in tonight. They are right on schedule. When the Team came back through Fort Davis it was raining and 63 degrees. And now it is time to rest from trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/23/10

Shafter And The Ghosts

Alpine, Texas

The migraine effects are on the normal course of recovery. That means that sometime tomorrow afternoon the head should be all well. For today the Truck decided the diesel fuel was getting too old in the tank. After all it has been almost a week since this fuel was put in the Truck. So the Truck insisted on this old fat sicko around and looking at the scenery.

We headed west because there were some cars to the east. The first road that turned off hwy. 90 into the wilderness sort of was taken. As long as there was al least graded road in front of us we kept on going. Where we ended up is a fabulous subdivision called Sunny Acres. It was tending to be remote before long. It is one of several ranches that have been cut into subdivisions of plots of a few acres each. Some are as little as one to two acres and others have plots around two hundred acres each.

This one is in some very rugged hills. No photos were taken in here because it was two hands on the wheel driving unless stopped. Some of the neighbors did not look like they would take kindly to a fool stopping and taking pictures of their place. However their dogs would have liked the fresh meat it seems. It was very rugged and quite an experience. One fellow had a rocking chair up on a cliff about thirty feet high on a ledge overlooking his home place. That was neat.

From there the Team headed on out toward Marfa and then south to Shafter. Here we go with the scenery. It is not normally near this green in August but the rains have been frequent. These first two pictures are on hwy 90 on the way west from Alpine.

This is not flat country. That subdivision spoken about before is some where out in behind some of these hills. The road carried us past the Marfa lights roadside park and a stop was made there but that story will have to wait until another entry. In Marfa the Team checked out the Marfa golf course then headed south to Shafter. That is a short by Texas standards run of forty miles through nowhere.

It has been thirty one years since my body has traveled this road. Today the goal was the ghost town of Shafter. You can read some more about Shafter here http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasGhostTowns/ShafterTexas/ShafterTexas.htm
There were several very live “ghosts” in the town. My guess is that at least thirty folks live there. However the story will have to wait. As the Team was sitting in the shade by the little creek in town, the temperature was ONE HUNDRED THREE DEGREES. See for yourself.

There is no way this wimp Team will be out playing in that much heat.

All was not lost because a historic marker reeducated me on some western Texas history that had escaped my head. This historical sign explains it fairly well.



Here we have a picture of the western view of this ranch of his. Behind me the view is a carbon copy. Man those ranches were huge.

After the Truck climbed out of the rocks and rubble we headed back for Alpine. At the Border Patrol station they had three trucks lined up at a special inspection point. They passed me through with no trouble. One of the trucks getting the special effort was on a lift like some Wal-Mart oil change places use. Another was in the process of getting the huge tool chest in the bed of the truck unpacked and removed. This BP station had about fifteen of their folks working at it. Since the road comes from Presidio, my guess is they get plenty of experiences in protecting our highways.

Paisano Pass is a historic pass in the history of our nation. There is a roadside marker there that tells about two early Spaniards meeting at the pass. This pass was known in the early 1700’s at least. This next reference can give you some information also.
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/PP/rkp2.html

These next three pictures are of the pass area and the east side of the pass. The pass is not as well defined as Wild Rose Pass up near Fort Davis, so the peak of the pass was indeterminate at sixty miles per hour. Relax and enjoy the views as the Team headed home to the Castle.
Hill east into pp pic




And now the entry is well into three pages without pictures. The Marfa Lights entry will have to come later with all its pictures.

WOW all this taking it easy can wear you out when you are out trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/22/10

Murals And Migraines

Alpine, Texas

Since my somewhat recovery from this mornings migraine attack has waited until nearly dark and the usual mosquito invasion, tonight we cover the murals in the park. They were painted by Stylle Read son of Sleepy Read. Yes really.

The first one is in the office and shows a nice layout of the area.


On the outside of the clubhouse are several other murals. There is a roadrunner keeping a close eye on you as you come up the walkway.
Down on the end is the donkey keeping an eye out for a free carrot.

Over at the other entrance is a coyote waiting for a chance to grab some food ant run.

And when you leave the walkway be sure to stay out of the prickly pear cactus. .
And far from least but the last is the mural inside the main room of the hall. This is the scene at the end of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive down in Big Bend NP. This trip is worth way more than it costs in time and effort.


Late in the evening some gentle walking was done until the mosquitoes attacked. Then it was back inside to write this blog entry about another way of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.

8/21/10

No A/C Required

Alpine, Texas

Some more touring of the park where the Castle is calling home for now is in order. The cloud formations around here are really dramatic. The new one in the header was taken about ten minutes before the lightning storms hit us and cooled things even more than they were.



No AC was needed today. The 12” pedestal fan, Mr. Blowhard, was all the cooling needed.

At one entrance to the clubhouse is this cactus that never needs trimming or watering. It is pretty cute in person.


At the back and to the right of the park is a residence for some one affiliated with the park or has an access easement through the park. Who it is, is still not known. In their front flower bed is two sculptures that look nice. The one to the left is a javelina and the one to the right is a couple of horses. They are both of the low maintenance variety.
On the other end of the clubhouse from the cactus above is some special signage for safety of the guests. The first one is so you do not get run down and damaged by the natural speed demons in the area.

The other one is to remind you that you should always watch were you stand and sit in the desert environment or an excruciating price might be paid for several hours.

Up near the front of the park, over the septic fields, is the Paw Paw Park. It is a fenced area to allow your friendly pups run around unleashed. The park owners had been considerate enough to provide facilities for two kinds of dogs.


For the pampered pooches is this facility.

For the dogs allowed to be dogs, there is this facility.

Some times the pampered pooches will not go near that fake owl. Some just stand around, bark at it and look back for their owners to come save them from the varmint. That canine action borders on the ridiculous to me.

However it all comes together to make a great day of trying to have tooooo much fun. TheOFM.