Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fiesta San Antonio!

Every few years we stop in San Antonio Texas en route to or from visiting my son.  It's a nice town and we like it.  The River Walk is nice and we have a favorite restaurant we like there.  This year we stumbled into their Fiesta San Antonio! What craziness!  We had no idea.  When we arrived at the campground we were given a Fiesta Book that was an inch thick that showed all the events of "when, where, & what!.  Oh my!!  ;-)  Something was going on everyday, somewhere, from April 20 through April 30th - all day and all night.

Well...we were in for some fun!  ...or a part of it anyway.  Our first outing was to the Fiesta Arts Fair at Southwest School of Art.  We had actually gone to this several years before and really liked it.  You have to pay to go into it, but it has some of the best arts and crafts we've ever seen.  Really unusual pieces here.  Really upscale artisans doing some very imaginative work.  I love to see their creativity!  I always sneak a few pictures...

Afterward we just to a nice walk around town and enjoyed the River Walk.  The following day we found out that evening was going to be their big Texas Cavaliers River Parade at 7:30 p.m.  We thought if we went down around 4 p.m. we would be fine...get a bite to eat along the river then enjoy the parade.  Ha!  We didn't realize what a "big deal" this parade was to the locals!  Ticketed chairs were all lined up all around the River Walk and most of the restaurants were either closed or all their tables were "reserved" or they had "pre-set menus of $65"!  After a long search, we lucked out at O'Malley's Irish Pub, right on the river.  We got good seats and got to watch the parade from there!  It didn't pass by there until almost 8:30 p.m. but we didn't care.  They even passed out a complimentary whiskey drink to us!  Fun crazy evening...

 Besides all the crazy Fiesta happenings, the city streets are all torn up with being widened, so 90% of the street parking is gone, which makes things difficult.  All the public parking people have taken advantage of the situation and have jacked their prices skyrocket.  Such greed, it was sad to see.  It took some time on our part, and we were able to find street parking, but most places were charging upwards of $20+ each time.  Such a shame.

We skipped the crowds the next day and chose to go out to see two of the Missions we hadn't seen in our previous visits.  Mission Espada (c1740), and Mission San Juan (1731).  Both beautiful sites, and not far from the downtown area.  I love the old Missions and the ruins surrounding them.  With all the festivities going on downtown, there was almost no one visiting them, so it was nice and peaceful there.   ;-)

Afterward, we decided to go see the small little shops I like in La Villita.  Well, once again, we wandered into "A Night in Old San Antonio" - a HUGE event taking place in the little village area of La Villita!  So much for our simple browsing!  A nice gentleman saw us wandering around (looking bewildered, I'm sure) and explained what was about to take place in a few hours, and offered us some free tickets to attend.   ;-)  We decided to head on over to the River Walk (once again), grab a snack, then return to "see what it's all about".  

We did.  After our snack, we did something we've never done before...we took a boat ride!  What fun!  The tour guide shared so much information and was a delight.  After all these years of walking along different sections, it was nice to see areas we'd not been to, and to learn about it all.  It was a lovely way to spend 40 min.  

Afterward, we headed back to La Villita, and sat and listened to a nice band play some popular music, then ventured into the crowd.  And CROWD it was!  Oh my!!  Wow!  Body to body...we had been warned (by that nice gentleman who gave us the tickets) and he was right.  Tons of people with lots of food and drinks, and music groups, each in a different section, each themed (Cowboy, American, German, Clown, etc) some shops stayed open, but mostly it was food vendors everywhere.  

We wandered for a while, then left.  I'm getting to old for that kind of crowds anymore.  Been there, done that.  As we left, they were pouring in like crazy and it was only about 7 p.m.  and this was a three day event!  I think they were going to be a success!  

Our last day, we decided to "leave the festivities behind" a bit and check out a small town not to far away, called Boerne.  It sounded quaint.  A nice town, less than an hour drive away.  It had some sweet shops, some antiques a few restaurants and a cute town square.  The boutiques were nice, albeit a little over priced, but nice to browse.  We had a nice quiet lunch and  peaceful way to end our stay.   

...on the road in Texas, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beautil Big Bend!

When Texans tell you that everything in Texas is BIG, they really do mean it!  We've visited this state quite a number of times (it's hard not to, traveling across the country the way we do!), and you would think that nothing would surprise us anymore, especially when the word "big" is in the name! 

Big Bend National Park had been on my "to visit list" for quite some time, so this was the year we were able to cross it off!  April is usually a good time to visit.  If you can time it just right, the rains will have gone and the wildflowers will be blooming, and the weather won't be to hot yet.  The trick is all in the timing... Have you ever tried to "time" Texas weather?  Good luck with that!  ;-)

Well, we didn't do to bad... According to a birder (and there are a lot of them there!) the week before we got there, it had rained (a lot!)...but according to one of the Rangers, we did miss most of the wildflowers as they "came early this year".  The heat, however started getting up there.  You certainly needed to do your hiking early in the day, because by mid-day it was getting way to hot to do much walking in the sun, and that lasted until sunset which came around 8:30pm. and then it didn't really cool down much below 75 degrees.

Once we got settled into our campsite (which wasn't much more than a slot at a parking lot) we quickly set out for our first drive to see what we could, only having 3 days to explore this HUGE park (over 1200 miles of it!).  We decided to check out the Eastside and visit Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village area.  There were a couple of "easy" trails in this area that we thought we could do before it got to late in the day.

Even though the Ranger told me that most the flowers had left already, the park was still full of cactus blooms.  Almost all the Prickly Pear's had bright yellow or salmon blooms, and every now and then I'd even see a red one.  More than half the Ocotillo's were still in bloom and the same for the Tree Cholla.  I only found a few of the Yucca's still fresh though.  All in all, still lots of pretty color to see...making Jack stop every little bit while I snapped away!   ;-)

When we returned to our campground that night, we were greeted with a band of (at least 18) friendly Javelinas enjoying their evening meal of grass under the trees!  It was quite the sight to see.  On the other side of the lot were a couple of Turkey Vultures doing the same.  Must have been dinner time for everyone!

The following day we started out early so that we could take the full day and make the long loop all around the Westside, called the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.  This was going to encompass several trails and some dirt roads, so a long day ahead.  We loaded up on water, a picnic lunch, our sun hats and hiking shoes and headed out.

First stop was at the Sam Nail Ranch. Sam R. Nail and his brother, Jim, moved to the area just east of Burro Mesa, in 1916.  The two brothers, with little outside assistance, constructed a one-story adobe house following the building techniques of the native Mexican-Americans along the river.  The two brothers lived there alone for two years, or until June of 1918 when Sam married Miss Nena Burnam.  Here the Nails lived, reared a family, and ranched seventeen sections which they owned, plus about an equal number of leased or otherwise used sections which were within their fence. 

Although life on the ranch was difficult at times, on the whole they loved the place, and while they were in sympathy with the  movement for the establishment of the park, they gave up their ranch with considerable amount of regret. 

What is left now are ruins of one of the houses showing the adobe walls, two windmills (one still working) and a beautiful desert oasis that is a great spot for birding and wildlife viewing.

There were a number of "farmers" who, for a few years made their living here in this area, with no one around them for miles, it seems.  One such person was Wayne Cartledge, a businessman, who, back in 1922 decided to grow cotton here.  It all ended by 1942.  A few of his machines are left and a couple old buildings as a reminder of his adventure.  That's where we stopped for lunch.

Further down the road were some more ruins left by the Sublett settlers, who first came to Castolon in 1914.  They built a stone farmhouse and introduced mechanized farming into the Big Bend area.  By 1918 they had 2560 acres of sorghum, corn and alfalfa and other livestock feed crops.  They called it The Grand Canyon Farms.

From there we drove down into the Santa Elena Canyon where limestone cliffs rise 1,500' above the Rio Grande.  That was quite a site to see.  One fellow traveler remarked at looking at the canyon wall "well, that's an area Trump won't have to build the wall, Mother Nature already has done it for him!"  It separates Mexico & the US with just enough space to allow the Rio Grande to flow through quite nicely.

When we were down at the river's edge, we met a couple that were just coming out of it with their kayak and asked them how the trip went.  They shared that it had been very enjoyable!  They had gone earlier that morning for about two hours and saw wonderful things like caves and outcroppings and such beautiful rock formations.  It sure made me wish we had our own kayak...

That evening we decided to treat ourselves and have dinner at the Chisos Basin Lodge Restaurant.  So we drove the 40 minutes from the campground to there and was lucky to get a wonderful window seat.  Dinner was pretty good considering the location and as we left, the sun was just about to set.  As we started our drive back down towards the campground, we caught a really nice sunset.  It made for a nice ending to a perfect day.

Our last day in the park we decided to go check out the Hot Springs.  Now, with the temperatures being in the high 80's I had no desire to actually go into them, but I wanted to see them and the surrounding area.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but boy, I sure was glad we made the effort!  The trail, like so much of the park itself, changes from moment to moment.

As you drive down the dirt road to get to it, you pass these odd looking hills (?) that look like wavy stacks of shale.  Then when you arrive at the parking area, there are a couple of abandoned buildings that once was the home, store and small motor court back in the early 1920's when people used to come here for the "Hot Springs".  Then you continue on and you pass by a hillside that has several petroglyphs on one side and the Rio Grande running on the other side.  At the end of the path, you come to the spring.  It's odd looking too.  It's a cement square about 10 X 12 built on the edge of the Rio Grande River.  That's it.  Several people were there.  A couple submerged, a couple sitting on the edge, a couple sitting outside of it, and us.  We stayed awhile, chatted with everyone for a bit, took some pictures, then left.  Interesting.

Back at the campground we just relaxed for the rest of the day and tried to stay as cool as we could.  I was glad for the air conditioning and iced tea.  Being in the desert in mid April turned out to be a bit hotter than I expected.  This was a unique park and very diversified...I'm glad we took the time to come!

...on the road in Texas,  Marie

For additional information on this great place, you might want to check this guide: 

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Relaxing by the River

We've been spending the last week just being lazy!  Sitting back, enjoying the sun, the cool breezes off the Colorado River, watching the boaters zoom by while we camped right on the river's edge...nice.

We've belonged to the Colorado River Adventures club for five years and haven't hardly used it, so while we were in Arizona, and not in to much of a hurry to get to Texas (trying to avoid tornadoes), we decided that it was "high time" we took advantage of our membership!  We'd stayed in Lake Havasu a number of times, but never out at their campground in Earp down by Parker Dam, so decided that we would this time, for a week.  We lucked out and got a site right along the river, and with 85-90+ degree weather, I was glad we did!  The cool river breezes really helped make the days enjoyable.

I ventured into the river as far as my feet, but decided it was way to cold for this "California girl", so no swimming for me!  Others enjoyed it, but they must be hardier souls than I!  ;-)  We went over to the pool area a few times, but being spring break time, it was busy with very active children having lots and lots of noisy fun.  Not my style either...

So, with good books in hand, both of us just sat back in our comfy chairs and read to our heart's delight!  Our week had a nice break with our friends John & Doloris driving in from Surprise to spend the day with us and go out to lunch together one last time before we head out for Texas.

We met nice neighbors and enjoyed chatting and sharing our adventures over ice cream, but otherwise, it was a pretty quiet week for us before the trek to Texas.  Sometimes it's just nice to do that!

...on the road in Arizona,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Good times with friends...

As I've shared before...we did something different this year, we "settled in" at one place for 3 months.  If you've followed my blog at all, you know that's not something we do!  Staying anywhere longer than a week is rare for us.

We have one set of long-time friends who live at Happy Trails Resort in Surprise, Arizona full time and another set who live there part time.  Last year we stayed there for a month visiting with them while we waited for the rest of the country to "warm up".  This year we were talked into doing it for 3 months. With the crazy weather the way it's was a good idea!

When we planned this trip, I had all kinds of things I wanted to do during our stay, knowing that Happy Trails has lots of shops (sewing, crafts, wood, etc) and classes (dance, computer, photography, etc).  With all the wonderful sunshine I envisioned I would get all this great exorcise in riding my bike everywhere, swimming in the pool and (re) learning line dancing!  Then at the end of the the 3 months I would be 20 pounds lighter!  Wouldn't that be a fun way to loose the weight?   ;-) 

Well...of course we all know that didn't happen!  One broken wrist later, and I spent the next 3 months going to doctors and physical therapists!  So, no sewing, crafts, dancing, swimming or (more) biking for me!  ;-(

What I did do though (besides all those "appointments"), is read a lot and meet a lot of nice people!  Being in one place for that long of time affords you the time to get to know the people around you. 

Our friends like to have people over, and several nights a week John & Dolores "were cooking" and/or "having drinks" at their site.  It was not uncommon for there to be 8 to 10 of us there several nights a week.  They loved it, and we all loved being there! 

I might not have been able to do much, but Jack kept busy.  Besides taking care of me, which at the beginning of my injury was pretty "full time", he got involved in the wood shop.  We have a game board called Aggravation that we enjoy playing that we learned from my family in Washington.  I thought it would be nice for him to make my two sisters each a board for Christmas this year.  We found some great wood on sale and he had fun creating some nice designs for them.  They turned out wonderful!  I'm glad someone got something done here! 

Just before we left, I was (finally) able to hold my heavy camera a bit, and went around the resort and took a few pictures.  The cactus are starting to bloom and many are just about bursting with flowers!  I could hardly contain myself!  Here are a couple of snaps of a few of them.  In another week or two this place will be a blaze of color tho...

We also got our RV washed and polished.  It's quite a job, since she's 10 years old and gets oxidized pretty badly.  It took 3 guys all day long, but they made her shine like new again!  Yea!  ;-) 

The last week of March seems to be the "end of the season" for many as well, because the parties were hopping!  Several nightly!  Some even had block parties with a live band!  Food, fun, lots of laughter and camaraderie was everywhere!  We almost hated to leave...

But leave we that's what we do!  Places to see, adventures to experience...and onward to new roads!

...on the road in Arizona,  Marie