Monthly Archives: February 2013

White Sands, New Mexico

We are staying at a RV resort on the south side of Las Cruces, New Mexico. A couple of days ago we took a drive to the White Sands National Monument which is about 50 miles northeast from us. The first part of the drive is over a small mountain range right next to Organ Mountain.

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Organ Mountains from our campground

We rose over two thousand feet in a few miles and on the other side of the pass there was an equally fast drop of about 3000 feet. After the road straightened out it was as if a civil engineer had taken a ruler and drawn a line on the map and said “put the road here”. The road was perfectly straight for the next 30 miles and if it hadn’t been for cross-winds I wouldn’t have needed to touch the steering wheel the entire time. The road passed through the White Sands Missile Range and we passed several side roads with sentry posts along the way.

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Big Bend National Park

Wow! That has been our overall response to visiting Big Bend National Park. Absolutely spectacular vistas. It is definitely desert territory but despite getting only 10 inches of rain a year there was surprisingly diverse and abundant vegetation.

Big Bend Dagger Flats Yucca Forest 

We caught a PBS show several months ago about Big Bend and decided that when we were in Texas we needed to visit. It is a bit out of the way but we are very glad we did. It is supposed to be the least-visited national park in the lower 48 and that is mostly because it is so far off the beaten track. It is a 35 mile drive from where we are camped just outside the park boundaries to the park headquarters and there are stretches where you can see several miles in both directions and we were often the only ones on the road. We came at the right time of the year. It’s been in the 60’s and 70’s during the day and the 30’s at night. In the summer it is routinely over 100 degrees and they close most of the park down.

Big Bend View from Motor Home 

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Wind Farm near Fort Stockton, Texas

 We traveled from San Antonio to Fort Stockton on Interstate 10 last Tuesday. We started seeing windmills behind the hills around thirty miles east of Fort Stockton. This opened up into a full vista of windmills on our right and a bit later, windmills on our left. There were too many to count, but the number has to be over a hundred. This is a un-populated section of Texas so there’s hardly anybody around to complain that they are blocking the view or making too much noise. Texas has more wind farms than any other state in the USA and in our travels around the state we’ve seen the evidence of this.

Wind farm on the horizon off of I-10 near Fort Stockton, Texas

Wind farm on the horizon off of I-10 near Fort Stockton, Texas

Windmills around Corpus Christi

There is a very large wind farm near Corpus Christi. There were places where it stretched to the horizon. We were unable to count all of them, but there were probably a couple hundred windmills. It was hard to tell how tall they were since they were all quite a distance from the highway. We’ve been by a couple wind farms in Nova Scotia and were able to get close to individual windmills and some of them were very tall. These seemed a bit shorter but that just may be the distance. I really don’t what the people on Cape Cod are complaining about. They were actually picturesque and when we’ve been close to them in the past they were relatively quiet. Cars on the street make more noise.

Corpus Christi Windmills 2b

 

Corpus Christi Windmills 1

 

Corpus Christi Windmills 3

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport, TX

The Texas Maritime Museum is located on Rockport’s harbor only a couple miles away from our campground. It was not a large museum, but it was thoughtfully laid out and had good displays. Its biggest claim to fame is that it has a number of artifacts from La Salle’s ship La Belle. The French explorer La Salle came to the area in the 1680’s to start a colony. It’s not clear why he landed in Texas. The French lands in Louisiana are several hundred miles to the east but maps were inaccurate at that time and the mouth of the Mississippi is misplaced into Texas on a lot of them. La Salle lost most of his ships and ended up being killed by one of the colonists. La Belle ran aground nearby and was covered up by mud and sand relatively quickly which caused it to be exceptionally well preserved. There was a large model of La Belle displayed as well as a number of artifacts from it and a video documentary about the La Belle.

Model of La Belle
Model of La Belle

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Galveston Island

Galveston Island is a mostly touristy place with a working deep water sea port. Winter is the off-season for Galveston so it was fairly quiet while we were there. Mardi Gras brings a couple hundred thousand people and Spring Break is in March. By May Galveston is packed and stay that way until September. Almost everything on the Gulf side and the southern end of the island was hotels, restaurants, tee-shirt shops, amusements, souvenir shops and vacation homes. If we had children this would probably be a good place to bring them. Depending on how you count them there were at least three different amusement parks and a lot of beach.

The northeastern corner of the island on the other hand is a big seaport with large ships coming in and out all the time and a lot of oil rig construction. We went down to Pier 21, which has a sailing museum and oil rig museum and several restaurants. The Galveston Historical Society has a theater there where they regularly show a movie of the 1900 hurricane that flattened Galveston and killed over 5000 people. We saw the movie and had a late lunch at one of the restaurants that had a view of the harbor. The harbor looked busy and was more interesting than the tourist part of Galveston. They were building several oil rigs and there was at least one ship in dry-dock. There were a couple of small tugs cruising around that looked very ungainly and top-heavy, but I never saw them pushing anything so I am not sure what their purpose was. Galveston harbor is a hub for the cruise lines and there was cruise ship from Carnival Cruises docked a short distance away from where we ate lunch.

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Oil rig under construction in Galveston harbor

Dry dock in Galveston Harbor
Dry dock in Galveston Harbor

Tug in Galveston harbor
Tug in Galveston harbor

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Corpus Christi Aquarium

The aquarium in Corpus Christi is located on the north side of the city and was about a 25 mile drive away from where we were camped in Rockport. It was smaller than the aquariums we’ve seen in Charleston SC or Monterey CA but it was nicely put together and well managed.  The aquarium showed mainly local fish in local habitats; salt marsh, near shore and off-shore. Since oil rigs have developed their own ecology they showed that as well. There was a special exhibit of Amazonian fish, frogs, birds and snakes.

Corpus Christi Aquarium 4

Corpus Christi Aquarium 2 

Corpus Christi Aquarium 1 

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Change in Allegiance

Lots of RV-ers have signs on their motor homes or trailers as a way of introducing yourself to your neighbors. I made the first sign for us about six years ago with a Dremel tool. We took it with us on our travels across New England and Canada and used up until the time we sold our house, a bit over a year ago.  

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We officially became Texans last April and during our stay in Livingston over December and January I finally had time to make a new sign for us. It’s about twice the size of the old sign. I think its pretty classy, if I do say so myself. I designed both signs using Printmaster and transferred the designs from paper to the boards using carbon paper. I had gotten a small router a while back and used it to do the roughing out and the bigger letters, and then the Dremel to get in between the smaller letters. We’ve been putting it on the front dashboard of the motor home where you can see it through the windshield.

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Southern Texas Oaks

This area of the Texas coast has a lot of oak trees. We stayed at the Ancient Oaks RV part and a lot of the RV parks around here have ‘oak’ in their name; Southern Oaks, Coastal Oaks, Enchanted Oaks, Hidden Oaks. They (the oaks not the RV parks) are low and gnarled with small leaves. I don’t know if that is because of the soil which is very sandy or the constant wind or just the species. There is a bird that seems to like the oaks (boat-tailed grackle?) that makes an odd call that sounds like plastic crumpling as well as a screech. This must be mating season because a lot of these birds have staked out a branch near the top of a tree and call back and forth.

Oaks 1 Oaks 2