Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 Expedition West Part 1

26 days; 4 parks; 3 museums; 1 observatory; 1 fantastic dinner out!; 3200 miles later :-)

Our trip from Florida to Wyoming was a little shorter time period this year due to Easter being later in April and the Scootaround job that we had signed up for. But we still managed to pack in a fairly good amount of activities, plus I was able to read about 1200 pages of legal transcripts that my clients had sent me :-).

We left Florida on April 17 and spent five days traveling across the Southeast, arriving at our first destination, Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.
We had a bayfront site, and I don't think we could have gotten closer to the water if we tried.
In fact, standing at the front of our living area looking back, I would have thought that we were actually on a boat, not in an RV :-).
We had beautiful sunsets each night, though. The downside was the wind. It was actually so windy the last two days we were there that I kept checking outside to make sure the water wasn't coming up high enough to cause us to float away! 

A primary objective for us in coming here was to visit Padre Island National Seashore. It was about an hour's drive south of Rockport.

This park is best enjoyed by people who have jeeps or other high-clearance vehicles, but we did enjoy going down to the shore.

Honey especially enjoys the waves at the beach. She must have been taken to the beach a lot before we adopted her.

It sure was pretty there, although we suffered through an invasion of lovebugs, which are some of the nastiest bugs I've ever encountered :-(. We had to clean them off all our vehicles several times during the drive across the Southeast. Nasty!

Closer to Goose Island, we explored the town of Rockport. We really liked it. It bills itself the same way that our home fishing port of Montauk, NY, does: a cute little drinking town with a fishing problem!

Notable local attractions included the aptly named "Big Tree."


There was a nice selection of wildflowers around the Big Tree. In fact, there was a profusion of wildflowers blooming throughout Texas during our travels.

We had an enjoyable morning driving through Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, we were about two weeks too late to see any of the resident whooping cranes that winter there, but we saw other local wildlife.
Javelinas
Gators

We also spent an enjoyable morning touring the historic Fulton Mansion State Historic Site. It was an interesting view into the life of a wealthy family living here on the coast in the late 1800s. We then rounded out our stay here in Rockport with a sampling from a local donut shop (what is it with Texas and donut shops?) and a lazy afternoon by the seashore. 

From Rockport, we packed up and headed further west, back up to San Antonio and a brief, two-night stay in Fredericksburg, Texas. We so enjoyed our visit here a few years ago and the Pacific War Museum that we decided to stop and see the exhibits we had missed last time. I do not have much of an interest in war memorabilia, but I do enjoy learning more about our history, and this museum is an excellent venue for learning more about World War II, particularly the Pacific venue. It is quite sobering, and I pray the world never becomes embroiled in such a conflict again.

From Fredericksburg, we drove some back roads through stunningly beautiful wildflower fields. I finally saw the famous Texas bluebonnets :-). Then it was on to the never-ending I-10 interstate as we headed to our next destination, southwest to Alpine, Texas. 

We stayed in Alpine for three nights, which ended up being two nights longer than I had originally anticipated, not because of problems but because we found there were enough sights for us to see to keep us busy! 

We stayed at the Lost Alaskan RV Park just outside of town. It was a nice campground, and the pictures showing a generous sprinkling of trees throughout the campground was a prime draw for me! One does tire of the sun constantly beating down on you, especially when it was so hot. 

Our first day there, we visited a very nice museum, the Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of the Sul Ross State University. I am always amazed at the great little museums we find in some of these small towns that are even free! It was a great exhibit that showcased the natural and cultural history of the entire Big Bend area. 

Looking through TripAdvisor for Alpine, we saw the top-rated restaurant in town, the Reata, was known for its excellent chicken-fried steak. We couldn't resist and had a real treat for dinner. It was the best chicken-fried steak we've ever had, with a chocolate chunk bread pudding for dessert to die for. 

Fort Davis National Historic Site was in the area, and we spent a few hours on a self-guided tour of the site. Fort Davis was an Indian Wars' frontier military outpost from 1854-1891. Fort Davis is unique among frontier forts in that it became the Regimental Headquarters for all four Buffalo Soldier regiments that served during the last decades of the 19th century. Buffalo Soldiers were commissioned by Congress 1866 and were composed of six post-Civil War regiments of black enlisted men. This act marked the first inclusion of black men in the regular army. It was very interesting and informative as we toured the reconstructed buildings. It is a work in progress, with many other buildings awaiting work. 

While in Alpine, we also attended a "star party" at the McDonald Observatory. Located on the top of Mount Locke, it's a prime viewing area for the cosmos due to the lack of lighting in the area and the clear air. This means that it is quite a ride through uninhabited land! There are two events, the Twilight Program and the Star Party. I wasn't able to get tickets to the Twilight Program, but we went early and put our names on a waiting list, and we were fortunate enough to get the last two seats :-). The Twilight Program was an hour and a half long, and that night's subject was the moon. The lecture speaker was very interesting, and we were glad to be able to attend. After that, we bundled up -- it happened to be a record cold night, of course -- and headed outside to the amphitheater for the Star Party. The first hour consisted of a discussion about the constellations, with the speaker using a laser pointer to pick out the different stars. We even saw two satellites cruising across the sky. After that, there were about a dozen telescopes set up around the area, pointing at different star groupings, galaxies, and planets. It was amazing, and we highly recommend doing this if you are in the area.

We did have a slight glitch in Alpine. Upon returning to the rig after touring Fort Davis, we found that our converter had died. What we initially noticed was that everything electrical was pretty much off, and by tracing back different scenarios, Al determined the converter was not working. It must have been down for a while because our batteries were extremely low as well. Of course, we are nowhere near any RV supply place, but we did find one over in the town of Marathon. Being Sunday, of course, there was no one there, so Al got up the next morning early and headed over there to be there at open. We were supposed to be leaving for Terlingua, but I was hesitant about going even further away from civilization without replacing it. In the meantime, we had looked on Amazon, and they did have what we needed. That was a fortunate thing because the shop in Marathon did not have the right size for our rig. So I ordered the converter from Amazon Prime and had it sent to general delivery to the post office in Terlingua. The battery charger had charged up the batteries sufficiently, so as long as we were careful with our usage, we would be fine until it arrived and Al could replace it. And we were! It's a good thing to have a handy person around :-).

So this is getting pretty long. I will stop at this point and resume with our adventures in Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the next installment. In the meantime, we are doing fine here on the ranch. I'm just very busy with working here on the ranch and doing my proofreading as well as enjoying my time here in the Tetons! My friend Jonell has been doing much better at keeping her blog updated, and we have spent several days off together, so if you want to see what we've been doing, hop on over to Liv2RV and check out her last few blogs! We have a great crew working this year, which is a good thing as we are very busy. We also have the great solar eclipse to look forward to next month. Oh, boy!