Friday, 20 February 2015

To Texas and New Mexico

From Louisiana into Texas, 
Entering Texas The Lone Star State
then we drove along the Gulf Coast section of Texas to Houston. We decided not to take a ring road, but to stay on I-10 through the centre of the city.
Entering the city
Leaving the city- the last overpass The Star of Texas is on each bridge support
It was a breeze- traffic, but it was moving quickly and much better than the 401 through Toronto.. We passed several huge oil refineries,
One of the refineries

wide open fields and a crop that looked like rice. The weather was beautiful, sunny, clear blue sky and temperatures in the mid 20’sC. We drove to Palmetto State Park in Texas. We had stayed here last year and loved this unique little gem. There are only 18 RV sites in one loop and perhaps 25 tent sites on the opposite side of the San Marcos River. Each has a paved pad cut into the trees, and a grill or a smoker

our smoker...

(this is Texas after all). The next morning was a non-travel-day! Yea, no alarm and breakfast outside. We renewed our acquaintance with Luling

Luling main street

The centre of town

Luling water tower- we are not sure why it is a watermelon in BBQ country....

and Gonzales.
Main Street

You could buy this unique copper smoker for about $700 -special price
We found a McDonald’s to use the internet, did some shopping, and went to get our BBQ ribs and brisket. BUT the BBQ restaurants closed at 6! We had to settle for smoked chicken from H.E.B.. As we left the park, we noticed, many of the trees had balls of moss on the branches. Ball moss is quite common in this area, but no Spanish Moss.
Ball Moss in clumps on the trees

The beautiful drive out the road from the Park
Off again, travelling westward. As we drove along I-10, we noticed fire trucks and EMO fire vehicles on every overpass and beside the road going through San Antonio. We never did hear, nor could we figure out why. It was similar to the tribute paid to the military travelling on the “Highway of Heroes” section of the 401. Past San Antonio we were really into Hill Country, with huge rock cuts of interesting colours.

Rock cut near South LLano River

Rock cut near South LLano River
Our stop that night was South Llano River State Park in Texas. This is a birders paradise, with blinds offering excellent bird and wildlife viewing opportunities. You can also enjoy swimming, tubing, canoeing or kayaking and fishing in the two miles of the river bordering the park or hiking on the 18 miles of trails. There is even a fenced off wild turkey roosting area. It is a lovely park, wide sites with electric and water, and a sheltered picnic table.

A beautiful site

However, there was no TV or cell reception and only one western radio station. John saw several small white-tailed deer on his morning walk. We had seen mistletoe on the trees as we travelled, but couldn’t get a picture. But here, there was lots on many trees.

Next day, it was a chilly 9C when we left, mainly cloudy, but with sun periodically peeking through. We continued through Texas on beautiful wide highways
Texas- even the roads are big
- it is a really big State to travel through- 880 miles. As we drove out, we noticed the homes in the area used local brick. It was mainly a creamy yellow-beige with some orange, green and pink in it. This section of Texas is Big Bend Country, with mesas,
-many with wind farms-, mountains and some oil donkeys.
Donkey and wind farm side by side
After Fort Stockton, we were into new country for us. [Last year we entered the I-10 at Fort Stockton to drive east.] Going west, it was flat, with creosote bushes, scrub bush-like trees and a few agave cacti. As we neared our destination, Balmorhea State Park south of Saragosa, we saw plowed fields, herds of cattle, mountains to the south

and seeded fields of green and plains to the north.

The Chihuahuan Desert cuts across south west Texas. Balmorhea SP, in these desert flatlands, is a manicured park with RV sites,
Our pull-through site
Davis Mountain to the south
motel camping and day-use areas
pool outlet into a picnic area
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s, it’s not as wild as most state parks are. It is a popular destination in the late spring and summer with cars lined up the road, waiting to get in. The ‘draw’ is the magnificent, huge “U”-shaped swimming pool fed by the Solomon Springs.
One arm of the huge pool- 20" here
Soloman Springs is an artesian spring flowing at a rate of about 15 million gallons per day at a near constant temperature of 72 to 76 degrees F.  One end of the “U” is 20ft deep, the other is 5ft deep.  The water is so clear you can see the tiny fish and catfish swimming near the bottom. Two people were scuba diving with the coots and fish, between the arms of the pool, as we walked around. There is also a unique replicated desert wetland (cienega) with a viewing deck.
Cienga with motel in background
There was a pair of roadrunners wandering around near the trailer, who didn’t seem bothered by us at all as we crept close and took pictures.
Roadrunners rarely fly, but can run really fast!
 When we finally left, and headed toward El Paso,
The highway goes under the cross streets
we changed time zones again, to Mountain Time. We drove through a plain between mountains and foothills to the south,
More mountains to the south
and plains and a few foothills to the north. As I-10 turns to head north-west, there are more mountains on each side. We dodged a storm to the south and moments later one to the north.
Texas border mountains
We were just driving a short distance inside the New Mexican border,
Welcome Centre at New Mexico
because we wanted to see the Super Bowl. So we chose a Passport America park which had WiFi and was close to El Paso and Las Cruces, so we could get NBC. Western Sky was under new management, so we weren’t sure what to expect. If this was new management, I would hate to see what the old management was like.  It was grubby with washrooms definitely need updating, lights and a coat of paint. The sites were sandy, with a concrete pad.
Our site
Most pads were in good shape and had a picnic table. Ours was cracked and broken up with no table. The washers and dryers (the few that worked) were OK and reasonable, $1.25 each. Wifi was excellent, as was TV reception. The mountains were beautiful in the sunset.
Unfortunately though, it is also across the highway from several large dairy companies with huge pens of cows. When the wind was in the wrong direction,….
One of the dairy lots

The Sky Mountains to the north were beautiful in the morning sun as we hitched up to leave.
The ride along I-10 on a sunny warm day, passed vineyards and pecan orchards

Pecan trees
to the north. We crossed the Rio Grande, but it wasn’t very grand, just a small trickle.

The Rio Grande????

Then the landscape turned bleak but beautiful, as we drove past mountains
with many colours, fields of reddish brown soil, a few green creosote bushes with many leafless bushes, and tumbleweeds along the fences. We left I-10 at Deming to travel south towards the Florida Mountains


and Rockhound State Park. The park is nestled at the foot of the mountains.

Rockhound State Park

There are only 5 reservable sites, but many first-come sites and some boondocking sites. We reserved the last site.
Our site in the early morning light
It was amazing, one side looked over the plain, the other looked up to the mountains. Since it was a short drive, we got there in time to take the hike part way up the mountain.
A beautiful Yucca

looking over to the next mountain

Looking down on Rockhound Campsites
When we got back, we sat in front of a fire, and watched the sunset, before we made dinner.
Promise of another beautiful day...

The next morning, John got up early to take pictures in the morning light.
The ibex were on the steep rock face near the top
While he was scanning the cliffs, he saw three ibexes jumping along the cliff face. I got to see one when he called me outside.

We left New Mexico to head through Cochise country
Cochise country...
and into Arizona.


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