2011 Vacation-- *Tour de Texas*

This year's trip is planned as a clockwise circle thru east Texas, along the Gulf Coast, the Hill Country, SW Texas and Big Bend, and southern New Mexico

Day 1, 332 miles....332 total miles--Well....before even leaving the house we decided to change our route. Severe storms were forecast for SE Oklahoma and East Texas....remembering the day we left for Key West 2 years ago, we decided to dive more straight south heading for the Hill Country and Waco, Tx first. It worked well and we stayed DRY and behind some large hail and severe storms in Dallas and East Texas. We landed the Wing in Weatherford, Texas in time to get a good campsite.

Giving final instructions to Sabaka before leaving

Stopped for a short break and had to rescue Kathleen from the 'locals'

Arrived in Weatherford, Tx in time to get a good campsite.

Day 2, 272 miles....604 total miles--Quite cool when we headed out this morning actually had to put on coats. We also got to wear RAIN SUITS today!!....just a mist, no real rain. Traveled to the quaint town of Grandbury and walked around the famous square and enjoyed looking at all the antiques and neat stuff for sale. That's one good thing about motorcycle traveling.....no room to buy and haul stuff !!! We then headed for our lunch destination of Homestead Heritage. This is a neat place introduced to us by our neighbors. All the Amish crafts were fun to see and the meal was wonderful. Some fun sights seen along the trip there were: ( now listen up Bill ) In Meridian, Tx a drive thru Beer Barn....where you can drive thru the barn and purchase your beer without getting out of your vehicle (is that really a good idea??). In Meridian we also saw a perfect example of what to do with Kathleen's VW once it wears out it's usefulness. There was the Big Rock Park in Glen Rose, Tx. Then while going thru Waco...seeing all the bars on the windows of the businesses, etc...it all made sense when we passed the little boutique called "In the Hood Fashions". We did not stop and I kept my hand on my sidearm. We landed the Wing at the 'head' of the Texas Hill Country in Llano, Tx. We plan to spend the next several days in the Hill Country area.

Rain Gear !!!

The VW planter we liked

Big Rock Park---there were a lot of big rocks !!

Day 3, 184 miles....788 total miles--Not a lot of miles today. We took some scenic roads around the Hill Country. We visited the Longhorn Caverns State Park then on to Johnson City for lunch. Passed one of those "we gotta eat there" places. Laceys Feedmill Restaurant. The onion rings were to die for. We traveled west out of Johnson City and came to LBJ Ranch and took a tour of the "Texas Whitehouse". It was a very nice tour and very nostalgic. Loaded up and made our way to our destination for the night, Fredericksburg, Tx.

Entrance to the Longhorn Cavern

The stairway to the obervation tower at the Longhorn Cavern State Park

Lacey's Feedmill Restaurant

Day 4, 242 miles....1030 total miles--Started the day by visiting the VERY nice "Museum of the War in the Pacific". This is a very large museum in Fredricksburg, also the home of Admiral Nimitz. We then drove to Luckenbach, Tx which is known as the Best Dance hall in Texas and made famous by the Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson song. We then headed to some of the best motorcycle roads in Texas. Drove thru some great 'twisties'. I tried out my new video camera that hangs from the motorcycle right side mirror. I may be able to upload some short videos so you can 'ride' with us thru some of these great roads. We arrived in Del Rio, Texas for the night....our Hampton is 3 short miles from the Mexico border. We are keeping an eye on the fires here in Texas. We will be getting very close to them tomorrow on our way to Big Bend National Park where we have reservations at the Chisos Mountain Lodge there.

Luckenbach, Tx

Luckenbach, Tx

Day 5, 400 miles....1430 total miles--What a wonderfully surprising day. We are in an area where we were expecting some heat...but today, most of the day temps were in the upper 70's to upper 80's. A really beautiful stop was the overlook where the Pecos River joins the Rio Grande. We also saw a wonderful Cactus garden at a visitor center along with a Judge Roy Bean museum. It did not get in to the mid 90's until we actually arrived at Big Bend National Park. We opted to come in from the west because of the recommended more scenic drive. And it was. Our reservations inside the park fizzled but we managed to get booked at the Lajitas Resort and Spa (darn) just west of the park on the Rio Grande River. Today's drive was very enlightening........we went thru several checkpoints (checking our citizenship) and it seemed every other vehicle passed was a Border Patrol. It really looks like Texas is doing a good job keeping our border secure. Big Bend is much what I expected...hot...dry..but very beautiful in it's own way...very rugged. The sunset and cool evening were magnificently intoxicating......

The Pecos River Overlook

Part of the Judge Roy Bean Museum

Kathleen thinking about wading the Rio Grand to Mexico

entering Big Bend National Park

Day 6, 286 miles....1716 total miles--Today we drove all the way back thru Big Bend to see the east side then back out the north entrance and ended up in Alpine, Tx for the night. Big Bend has some beautiful sights and roads to drive. At one vista overlook there were a bunch of walking sticks leaning against some rocks....Kathleen was wondering where all the hikers went....then we noticed a number of other 'trinkets'...then a price list...then we noticed the Mexican man across the Rio Grande with his horse. Kathleen waves and he hollers "Hola". He then got on his horse crossed the river and joined us where we were picking out some 'treasures'. We didn't haggle...just paid his asking price plus a little. We arrived in Alpine fairly early....took showers...ate dinner....watched "The Amazing Race" ( one of our favorite TV shows)....then headed out to Marfa, Tx to have look see at the famous "Marfa Lights". I'm am writing this just before we leave....if no more updates, aliens got us.

The Hotel front at Lajitas Resort

The "Window" seen from the Chisos Mountain Lodge

the Boquillas Canyon in the SE corner of Big Bend

One of the "Trinket" rocks

Day 7, 144 miles....1860 total miles--HELP !!! We can't find our way out of Alpine, Tx. We are staying a 2nd and 3rd night here. The Marfa mystery lights were really a mystery....but what was even more amazing was the beautiful sky full of stars. They say this is the darkest place in the US....the sky was amazing. I haven't seen stars like that since my Boy Scout days. So...today our plan anyway was to visit the McDonald Observatory on our way to the Guadalupe Mountains. We had such a marvelous tour of the observatory and found out that on Tuesday nights they have a "Star Party" so we opted to stay another 2 nights here so we can attend the Star Party tomorrow night. During our tour of McDonald Observatory Kathleen got to take the controls and move and aim the Telescope. I got to take the controls of the huge dome and rotate it. The 107-inch telescope was the 3rd largest in the world when it was built, in the 60's. Their newest one there is now the 3rd largest @ 433 inches. So then Wednesday morning ( if we make that 50-mile trip after midnight back to the motel from the Star Party) we'll make a U-turn and head back to the Hill Country and on down to the Gulf Coast.

The 107" Harlan J. Smith Telescope

Kathleen controlling the 107" (mirror diameter) telescope

Day 8, 80 miles....1940 total miles--This was a "relax at the Hampton" day....until the dust storm hit. The only traveling was the 80 mile round trip to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Party and to the Museum of the Big Bend on the Sul Ross State University campus. It was a very good museum...well worth the free visit. The winds got to 30mph gusting to 50 or more. We made it within a few miles of the Observatory when we hit the road block...informing us the Observatory canceled and the roads were closed... due to the winds, dust, and fires.....very disappointed we did the side-ways (leaning into the wind) trip back to Alpine. We also noticed today that most all the tread has again worn off the brand new tire on the right side of the trailer.....with only 2000 miles on it (left side has plenty of tread and nearly 8000 miles)....So I have looked ahead and found an Escapade Trailer dealer in Bandera, Tx...that will be our target for tomorrow, where we will purchase some new trailer tires just to be sure we don't have an issue with that. I could get a new tire otherwise but I would like to discuss with a dealer what is going on with this trailer and it's tires.

One of the many displays at the Museum of the Big Bend

The Mother of all dust storms....those hills are less than a mile away

Day 9, 419 miles....2359 total miles--Oh wow....what a day. Decided to avoid the fires/smoke and U-turned back down Hwy 90, a wonderful road..very little traffic...75mph speed limit. All was well the first 200 or so miles...to Del Rio. We turned north to go back thru the Hill Country a couple of roads we missed previously and to end up at the aformentioned "tire appointment" in Bandera. Well....we didn't make it. The trailer tire blew out just as we entered the twisty, isolated Hill Country road. Did I mention ISOLATED? Luckily I had cell phone coverage and called "Rescue Plus" the service that I had paid for ...for just this type of emergency. However it really didn't work out too well. Took me about an hour to explain to the lady where we were. She wanted a "mile marker" and I told her, "It's just me, Kathleen and trees out here". I have the ability to repair and inflate a tire with a nail, etc...but not a blow-out. This occurred at 3pm....after 6 1/2 hours ( yes 9:30pm ) alone...in the dark...in No Where, Tx ( felt a little less vulnerable with my sidearm nearby ) we got a new tire mounted and STARTED the 100-mile twisty....VERY dark trek thru the Hill Country to Bandera. SO ! instead of the "star party" we missed the night before....we had a "Texas Wildlife Party". Either on or near the road we saw raccoon, porcupine, rabbit, javelina, fox, ferral cat and at least 200 deer ( a couple of beautiful bucks with huge racks). Luckily, none of which decided to stop on the road in front of the motorcycle. So to say the least someone was watching over us and we pulled into Bandera about midnight.....to one of the crudiest motels of the trip.

Finally found our way out of and said 'goodbye' to Alpine

Just sittin under a tree......waitin' for a rescue

Day 10, 324 miles....2680 total miles--This was a wonderful day....we were due. The dude helping fix the tire said the problem was probably bad shocks. The trailer is equipped with air shocks and I never thought to check them. I did...they were "0" and should have been around 40# of pressure. I pumped them up and all is well now ( I think ), so we did not go to the trailer dealer. Instead we stopped a the first Walmart and purchased a spare tire/wheel which now resides in the spare tire wheel well in the trailer that had been previously used to store "important stuff". I know....what's more important than a spare tire? I also purchased a chain and lock so I can abandon the trailer with some degree of confidence in the future. We have made our way to Padre Island----the Hampton, of course. We went beach combing for a bit and had an absolutely wonderful Italian dinner. While at the restaurant Kathleen noticed a sign on the wall that we have spent the rest of the evening comtemplating, "What if the Hokey Pokey is really what it's all about?"

Arrived Padre Island

Kathleen didn't roll her pants up high enough....blamed ME !!

Beautiful View

Day 11, 50 miles....2730 total miles--We are still in Corpus Christi...for a 2nd night. Moved to another Hampton on the other side of the bay. On our way around we stopped and made reservations to go fishing tomorrow morning at Port Aransas. The winds are too high to go deep sea fishing ( 16' waves ) so we are going to stay in the bay for a guided 1/2 day fishing trip. We proceeded with our plans for the day...to see the USS Lexington aircraft carrier museum. We spent most of the late morning/afternoon there for a really fun time touring the ship and planes. We then headed for an early dinner at Joe's Crab Shack on the bay. Really tasty dinner then, turning in early tonight as we have to be at the fishing dock at 7am in the morning ( 30 minute drive or so to get there )

USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier

Some of the planes on the deck

Some 40mm cannons on the Lexington

Mmmmm good

Day 12, 77 miles....2807 total miles--Made it to our fishing adventure. Sure glad we did not do the Deep Sea thing...in fact...the Gulf was so rough they were canceling deep sea trips for others. We stayed in the bay and caught a few. I caught 2 nice size Spanish Mackrels and Kathleen caught a nice Gafftop ( like a catfish ). We gave them to a couple from Ft. Worth that we met on the boat. We then went to the Texas State Aquarium for the afternoon.....bushed and headed for the Hampton.

Really big waves on the Gulf

Kathleen trying her luck on the boat

Day 13, 254 miles....3061 total miles--Headed towards Galveston.....the crosswinds were ferocious all day....it was a difficult ride but we enjoyed the scenery and made a stop on Matagorda Island Beach. This is where the Colorado River joins the gulf (didn't realize there is more than 1 Colorado River). There is a nice campground there and great beach. Less people than the Galveston beach area. We also crossed where the Guadalupe and Brazos Rivers emptied into the Gulf. Came across a lot of rice patties and saw a lot of air boats to navigate the bayou there. Also noted that when someone says there's a 'gator on the road' it does not mean the same as in Oklahoma. Saw a gator or 2 near the road. Glad we were not having trailer issues here!! Looks like we are going to try and do some rain dodging the next couple of days.

Matagorda Bay

the surf at Matagorda

Day 14, 173 miles....3234 total miles--Not many miles today....but it was a good ride. We road to Kemah and visited the boardwalk there....but we got there too early and not a lot going on. Then we took the ferry from Galveston and road along the coast for quite a while. Got into some heavy rain and decided to stop for the evening in Orange, Tx., just short of the Tex-Lou border. We will turn north tomorrow thru the Pineywoods if the weather will let us.

ridin' the ferry across Galveston Bay

Day 15, 225 miles....3459 total miles--Found a neat place in Orange, Tx.... the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. This is a first class botanical garden with even a boat tour thru the bayou. A large rookery for a lot of the native birds such as Spoonbill, Heron, Egret, and Cormorant. The gardens were spectacular. There is some neat history about this place along with the 1200 year old Pond Cypress, Survivor Tree. We stayed about 4 hours before hitting the road.....up thru the Pineywoods area of east Texas. This was one of our 'target' motorcycle roads. It did not disappoint us......just had to watch out for all the logging trucks. Stopped in Marshall, Tx for the night and plan on making a dash for home tomorrow.

The Cypress swamp near the bayou

the rookery

Day 16, 356 miles....3815 total miles--Ok....got a little home sick I guess....I turned the wing north....and made a bee line for OKC. We did make a wonderful lunch stop in Paris, Tx....Ta Molly's Mexican restaurant. Again....we were driving by and there had to be 50 or 60 cars in the parking lot....it was about 12:30 so I made a U-turn for lunch. We were not disappointed. Reflecting on this trip....We saw a lot of neat stuff and wonderful places, however, we didn't see anything that wanted us to sell the farm and move there. On the other hand....we did not fear for our safety ever on the trip until we crossed back into Oklahoma. We had been spoiled by the wonderful Texas roads, no matter how small, the past 2 weeks. As well, after crossing the Red River the intelligence or at least civility of the drivers seem to diminish considerably. We are glad to be home....the welcoming committee here was almost overwhelming ( Gretchen and Sabaka in particular )

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