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Flag of United States  , Texas
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday, 6/1/11

Short Version:

- El Paso just ahead.

- We visit an old friend.

- Jill gets us on the wrong path.

-  Davis Mountains State Park is toast.

Long Version:

Today, we awoke to a bright new morning in the mid 50's and glad that yesterday was behind us; when we are on the road like this, we’re usually ok with the idea that we could stick around and explore the local area for another day or so. Not this morning, we are ready to move on down the road and put Las Cruces in the rear view mirror.

After our normal routine for getting underway, we stop at the KOA office to inquire about their propane prices and decide that $5.34 a gallon is out of control. We already purchased gasoline on the way back to the park last night, but it was too late to get propane so that task still remains before leaving town this morning. It is interesting, we have purchased nearly 400 gallons of gasoline for this trip, but this will be our first propane refill. We find a propane retail supplier on the way to the interstate and purchase only eight gallons at $3 a gallon; sure do wish this gasoline engine got that good of mileage.

Soon, we are on I-10 headed to El Paso which is only about 45 miles down the road; crossing back into Texas we feel glad to be home and it conjures up the lyrics from a real upbeat, snappy western swing song by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, Boogie Back to Texas. It talks about returning to Texas with lines like:

"Been gone so long I can’t wait
to get back home to that Lone Star State,
Hold on tight I got a license to fly;
with the pedal to the metal watch me roll on by"

While we match the sentiment, however, with our “pedal to the metal”, we don’t exactly need that license to fly but eventually we get there.

Several years back when we were making (that should be losing) our fortunes in the retail clothing business in Austin, we would come to El Paso to shop for merchandise for our store; it has been a long time since we were last here so we decided to stop in and visit one of our old suppliers, the El Paso Saddle Blanket Company. Now we were never personal friends of the owners, the Hensons, and the meager purchases for our store would have never registered on their revenue radar, but we always enjoyed visiting their store/warehouse here in El Paso.

The first thing we noticed was their new store location which is on the feeder for I-10 east not downtown; this turned out to be great for us since they now have parking for larger vehicles. Their new store is just like the old one only more stuff; they continue to sell both wholesale and retail so everyone is welcome and greeted by a sales staff that is there to help you find something or to let you wander the isles. Whether you are a new customer or a veteran shopper, every time you enter their store, it is like walking into a kaleidoscope of color, texture, ideas and the unusual. Of course they have the namesake saddles and blankets, but there is so much more to the eclectic array of merchandise that you could spend hours in the store. As if the main store is not enough, they have added an outbuilding that contains unique pottery and arrangements of large furniture that is made for the ubiquitous hacienda or veranda.

This stop was fun to revisit and it was good to see that the owners have not only been successful in expanding their business, but they have also been able to keep the feel of the store the same. Their store and story (a new book titled: Rugs to Riches) is interesting and unique.

Well, daylight is burning and we need to get down the road another 220 miles to Davis Mountain State Park by this evening. We stop at a good old west Texas I-10 rest stop for lunch and can’t help but notice the prairie is unusually “baked to a crisp”; we had heard on a radio station in El Paso that there was a slight chance of rain today and that was causing real excitement. It seems that this was the first chance for any moisture in the area since February 2nd and that was from snow melt; for an area that only gets about 10” of annual rainfall, anything would help, but the much hoped for rain never developed today.

After lunch, Karen takes the wheel and I plug in the laptop to catch up on some blog writing; an hour or so later we are following Jill’s directions (our GPS) and we exit at Van Horn headed south to the state park. We get a few miles down the road and Karen is talking about how close we must be getting to the Mexican border because she is seeing a lot of Border Patrol vehicles; while I continue to pound away on the laptop, my comment was that this doesn’t surprise me but I start thinking we should be moving away from the border so why is there a larger Border Patrol presence here?

I pull myself out of the computer and check the old National Geographic Atlas to find that Jill has been smoking some of that stuff these Border Patrol Agents are trying to capture; why the GPS has routed us down this road is beyond me and we are so far that it makes no sense to turn around and go back to the interstate. In any event, we get to see the “days gone by” leftovers of the community of Lobo, TX and the two buildings (twice the size of Lobo) in Valentine, TX. I feel reasonably sure these are two Texas towns that will never be featured on Texas Country Reporter with Bob Phillips so I guess this is our opportunity to see them. Jill makes one more grievous error and turns us down state road 505 which I check on the Atlas and it is a cut across to Hwy 160 that goes to the town of Ft. Davis. While this general direction is great, it irritates us that this route has taken us probably 35 miles out of our way on some less than favorable roads; I have seen driveways to homes larger than this state road 505.

While we had no serious difficulties eventually getting to the state park, we both know better than to blindly follow the GPS directions but I guess we have to be reminded of this fact every now and then. To make myself feel better, I unplug and stuff Jill in the glovebox; I know the way home from here anyway.

As we close in on Ft. Davis and the state park, we begin to notice the black in the hills and in places this extends down to the road and we realize that this is the result of the forest fires that had been raging through this part of the state several weeks ago. Driving on in to the town of Ft. Davis, we see where the last stand was made to save the community and where those efforts fell short. The majority of the town was saved and is up and running but for a community that depends heavily on tourism, this is going to be a devastated area for a long time. We pass through town and drive four miles to the state park entrance. We knew that this state park had limited sites for RV’s and we had made an advanced reservation; as it turned out, that was not necessary because the majority of the park was vacant due to the word about the fires.

As we checked in at the entrance, the park ranger told us they had assigned us to site 43 and that it was so close to closing time just go spend the night and come back in the morning to register. We drove around the park to check out the fire damage and the camp sites and realized that the park had been lucky; the fire definitely made it into the park, but the majority of the facilities had been successfully defended and was spared. We found site 43 and decided it was excellent; it was shady, level and didn’t have any of the immediate surrounding landscape burned; we dropped anchor and declared we were home for the night.

Somewhere on our way home when we were looking for any additional sights we wanted to take in, I decided I wanted to stop off at Davis Mountain State Park. I had been through here years ago with the boys when we took one of our infamous father/son spring break camping trips. We officially called it our Big Bend trip which we did do for several days, but on our way back to Houston, we detoured up to this state park and squeezed in a visit to the McDonald Observatory. I think I was more impressed with the observatory than the boys and since I have minor interest in the night sky, I wanted to come back while we were on this trip. Karen had been able to check the observatory website and found that we could get two tickets to a viewing through the 36” telescope on Friday night so this sealed the deal.

After parking, we got the RV all hooked up (the park has full hookups) and took a short walk around the campgrounds and discovered there were perhaps six other RV’s in the 60 sites; it is going to take a while before people start returning to this area for vacation. Even though the fire was kept at bay, there was enough brush burned in the area that there is still an odor and ash that is unpleasant; it will take a couple of good rains to clean this out.

We had started one of Karen’s infamous pot roast suppers in the crock pot at the beginning of the day and it was ready by the time we arrived so after our walk, we enjoyed a great hassle free meal at the RV. I decided to take advantage of the showers in the park restrooms and found them clean and virtually unused. On the way back to the RV, I was surprised to see a group of Javelinas stroll through the campground; I wanted no part of disrupting their evening or mine so I patiently (and quietly) waited for them to move on.

The evening was still hot so we decided to read a while and then watch a movie (The King’s Speech) before calling it a day. I guess we will decide tomorrow what we want to do about staying or heading on home since the park is in such bad shape from the fires.
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