Back in the Lone Star State

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Sep 22, 2009

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Where I stayed
Ft. Bliss

Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 14, 2009 (Monday) – Willcox, AZ (235 miles)

As the sun rises over the desert, it doesn't take long for the inside of the trailer to feel the effects, and the air conditioner having been set to a reasonable temperature for comfortable sleep, can no longer keep up. Hence, it’s time to get out of bed!  That happened about 6:15 AM and we both laughed when we got in the truck to leave and noticed it was only 8:30 AM… least an hour before our normal departure time.  Coupled with steady interstate traffic, we arrived at our next destination by 1 PM.  Our travels today took us into the high desert, about 4,000 ft. and slightly cooler temperatures.  The rock formations in Texas Canyon, east of Tucson, are always an interesting sight and I’m sure it was hard for Wendell to keep his eyes on the road

We’re definitely in Indian Territory now; you can tell by the names….Cochise, Chiricahua, Apache Pass.  As you look out over the green of the desert floor, you can conjure up images of Indians riding bareback with their long hair flowing behind them.  Why, I do believe I heard a little war hoop!  If I was ever inclined to live in the desert, this is where I would want to be.  Besides, there is plenty to do and see.  We’re only a few exits away for "The THING" and if you’ve never seen it, you should definitely get off at exit 322 and pay your dollar.  Of course, it’s a gift shop and convenience store….but with a gimmick.  Want to know more?

Also nearby is the Chiricahua National Monument; a “wonderland of rocks”.  This forest of rock spires was eroded from layers of ash deposited by the Turkey Creek Volcano eruption 27 million years ago.  You might call it the Arizona version of Bryce Canyon.  There are numerous trails ranging from short and paved to all day adventures, but the first thing that comes to my mind is…..SNAKES, and I’m not at all sure I want to be tromping around in the sagebrush while Mr. Rattler snoozes under its shade.  You can also camp in the area….but without AC…no way!

As you approach Willcox from the west, south of I-10 you’ll notice a stretch of white sand in the distance with shimmering heat waves rising in the air.  It’s called the Willcox Playa but is also known as the Willcox Dry Lake Bombing Range. At one time, the military flew over with 50 caliber machine guns and tracers streaming down on targets to sharpen their skills. It’s reported there are still lots of bullets out there that have not exploded.  Of course, the area is restricted so you can’t actually drive out to the playa but there is a county road at the north end that gives the curious a closer look.  In the summer, the rains leave patches of standing water in the lake bed that attract a plethora of insect life.  Every winter, the playa becomes home to tens of thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes.  They feast on stubble from nearby harvested cornfields during the day and spend their nights on the playa.  The area is home to a couple of species of tiny shrimp that lie dormant and come to life after a rain.  Even in this seemingly inhospitable area where the wind often blows at 60 mph for hours on end, we find God’s handiwork ever present.  Wouldn’t you love to be here on a cold, clear winter morning when thousands upon thousands of those Sandhill Cranes, with their seven foot wingspans, ascend to the sky?  What a sight to behold!

This is definitely a good winter playground and I want to come back to explore it further.  But alas, we must leave tomorrow.  On the upside, we’ll once again be back in our treasured home state of Texas.  What is it that makes you feel like you’re in a foreign country when you’re not on Texas soil?  Guess it has to do with “our roots”. 

Our park in Willcox appears to be a converted KOA.  It’s close to Business 10 so there is truck traffic but with the AC running, you barely hear them.  The owner is friendly; Wendell says he resembles Cliff on “Cheers”.  The place is not crowded and each site has a protected shelter over the picnic table to block the wind and sun.  Nitchie didn’t understand why she has to go to the pet area when there are miles and miles of desert right under the barbed wire fence.  Since we arrived early, we were able to spend the afternoon relaxing.  Dinner was simple:  I heated one of the stuffed peppers the Kellners had given us, opened a package of instant potatoes and made a salad for Wendell.  The home-grown tomatoes they also provided were excellent drizzled with a little Kraft poppyseed dressing.  Thanks for dinner, Gene and Irene!  We’re looking forward to the cabbage rolls, too.

September 15, 2009 (Tuesday) – Ft. Bliss, TX (245 miles)

Wendell loves El Paso; I guess he should have joined the Army instead of the Air Force.  He claims it’s the climate he really likes.  At 4,000 ft above sea level, it isn’t as hot as most of west Texas, and there always seems to be a breeze.  However, seems I recall they do get some snow out there and I’ve been through in the summer and found it a bit warmer than I like.  Of course, you know what they say……”it’s a dry heat”.  I think if I hear that any more, I’ll scream.  Humid, dry…it just doesn’t matter; hot is hot!  However, I must admit that it is quite pleasant today.  We checked into the FamCamp at Ft. Bliss and the the temperature inside the trailer wasn’t even uncomfortable.  Wendell immediately set up his lawn chair, grabbed a book and camped outside with the dog.  I visited the camps Family Room with the laptop and attempted to get on the internet.  I had forgotten to look at the key code for the door, so my first attempt was made sitting at a picnic table outside.  I got frustrated and went back to the trailer telling Wendell I’d try again later….inside. 

Ft. Bliss RV Park is a very popular military FamCamp.  When we were about 10 miles from the turnoff, I called the office to find out if they had spaces available.  Yes, but only two!  Thank goodness we got one of them because the other offerings in the El Paso area were not the most desirable.  The camp, while not exactly on base, does have a shopette (convenience store, for you non-military types) and gas station.  Most of the base is located on the opposite side of Hwy 54. 

Many, many years ago, we were traveling to/from California (can’t remember which) and pulled into the base to stay at the VOQ (Visiting Officer’s Quarters).  Jessica was very young….probably 5 or under.  We arrived after dark and were assigned to a cabin-type structure.  However, when we drove up, our headlights caught a skunk running under the cabin. We went back to the office and were given another unit but all night long I kept wondering if we’d be doused in skunk oil.  The next morning, when we went to return the key, a platoon of soldiers was forming up on the nearby field.  Jessica, being accustomed to Air Force uniforms, noticed the difference and asked Wendell what they were.  He replied, “Grunts!”  She looked at him, and in a very quiet, demure voice said, “Are the grunts gonna get us?”  I never think of Ft. Bliss without remembering that story.

After dinner, I returned to the Family Room….with code…and was finally able to get on to the Internet.  The room is large with both a wall-mounted big screen TV and four cubicles for computer users.  There was also a fitness area at the back of the room.  The only thing missing was a pool.  I have to admit that Bliss does have one of the nicest RV areas I’ve seen in our several years of travel.  The worst drawback is they, like most other military parks, do not accept advance reservations…..even when you’re only ten miles away. 
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