Monday, November 29, 2010

Wandering Around Texas

Leaving Texarkana, we decided to take the long route to our winter home in the San Antonio area, heading West between Austin and Dallas towards the West Texas town of Fort Davis.  Our trip took us through some interesting and very pretty areas; at this time of year the trees still had multi-colored leaves and the weather was cool at night but pleasant during the day.  Ezekial Airship1We stopped at Pittsburg, a small town of less than 5000  with an interesting museum that we found on the Roadside America web site.  While the museum houses a lot of interesting displays of the area’s history, our interest wEzekial Airship3as in seeing the Ezekiel Airship, which area residents claim flew two years before the Wright brothers airplane.  It’s an extremely well-done exhibit, with a recreation of the airship and a professional video that documents how the Reverend Cannon, a Baptist minister, somehow interpreted the biblical book of Ezekiel into a method of building an airplane.  Although it’s possible that it actually flew, we’ll never really know, which is just as well, since we don’t need another state arguing with Ohio (“Birthplace of Aviation”) and North Carolina (“First in Flight”).
From Pittsburg, we traveled to Gun Barrel City, where we spent the night purely because of the really cool name, which was a good thing, because there wasn’t anything really interesting here.  Although some references say that the name comes from Gun Barrel Lane, a place where gangsters hung out, it’s more likely that it was named because Gun Barrel Lane was a straight road that acted as a shortcut between the two major towns in the area.  Some day we’ll have to visit Cut and Shoot, a town which has a more colorful explanation for it’s name. 
Our next stop was San Angelo, where we stayed at the Goodfellow AFB recreation area.  Goodfellow is a strange Air Force Base; there’s no runway or aircraft, just a training center.  But the recreation area had a great campground, and San Angelo is a nice town, although it’s fairly isolated and far from any other large population center.
Fort Davis View Our next stop was a five-day stay at Davis Mountains State Park, outside Fort Davis.  We’ve visited here before, and this summer, after telling a neighboring RVer how much we enjoyed the area, we decided to make another visit.  Davis Mountains SP is one of our favorites, set in a rocky canyon with beautiful Hotel Limpiascenery, wildlife, and great facilities.  We enjoyed watching the deer wander through the campground, the coyotes howling in the distance, and were even treated to a javelina meandering around.   Fort Davis is a small, intriguing town with an historic hotel, the Limpia, built in 1912 and beautifully restored.  We enjoyed revisiting Nel’s Coffee  Shop, a local gathering place with great food that we Nel's Signhighlighted on our last visit in March 2009, and which now has this amusing sign out front. 

Fort Davis NPFort Davis NP2The Fort Davis National Historic Site is always worth a visit; it’s an extensive restoration of a frontier Calvary post and always has something new to see.  

Davis MountainsDavis Mountains2The mountains here remind us of New Mexico or Arizona, and there’s a loop drive that takes you through the mountains and past the McDonald Observatory, a great place to visit or just have lunch at the StarDate CafĂ©  and enjoy the view.   There are self-guided tours, formal tours, and evening “star parties”, all of which are fun and educational; but wear a sweater, the observatory is at 6000’ and it gets very cool at night.

Alpine Street Scene We always make a visit to Alpine, the shopping and dining hub of the area.  During our visit, the town was hosting the annual “Art Walk”, with all of the 20+ galleries open and vendors set up on the street corners.  It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed strolling the sidewalks and window shopping.  

No visit to the area would be complete without a visit to Marfa and an attempt to view the “Mystery Lights”.  The town has Marfa Lights Viewing Center built a nice viewing area, and Brenda and I settled in after sunset with our lawn chairs and binoculars in hope of seeing these mysterious lights, first reported in the 1800s.  We gave it a couple of hours, but alas, the mystery lights remain a mystery to us, but we enjoyed the night sky and listening to people excitedly identifying distant car lights as they appeared over the far horizon as the “mystery” lights.  El Cheapo Marfa is also home to a truly great liquor store – the “El Cheapo” store.  There’s a certain kind of Texas sophistication about accompanying a dinner of chicken fried steak with a bottle of fine wine purchased at “El Cheapo”.
We decided on this trip to take a drive to Presidio, a small town on the border.  When we thought of the name “Presidio”, our minds conjured up the image of white-stucco houses, palm trees, green grass….kind of like the California Presidio.  Whoops.  Think instead of a tired looking, dusty town and a Dollar General store, with a gravel parking lot filled with decades old cars and pickup trucks.  Sadly, Presidio turned out to be rather, well, sad.  Ft Leaton But, down the road a bit we discovered Fort Leaton, a restored fort that was actually a fortified home, complete with an interesting history of violence, murderBrenda with Giant Cart, betrayal, and other interesting stuff.   It’s an impressive place, with restored rooms, large courtyards, and this huge cart (Brenda wants one for her shopping trips to Kohls).  The drive along river road is interesting; you can literally throw a rock across the border at many points, and the bright green vegetation along the river is stark contrast to the dry hills surrounding the area.  On the way back to Fort Davis, we stopped at the ghost town of Shafter, once a thriving silver mining town but now an area of ruins, a few homes, and an interesting cemetery.    Shafter Cemetary
P1040505Back at Fort Davis, we were reminded to be careful when hiking the area’s trails when we came across this good-sized rattlesnake in the overlook parking lot.  Kind of spooky just how well he blends into the parking lot surface, which is similar to the color of the surrounding rocks.  It was neat seeing this large snake, although as a result I’m getting a bit weary having to carry Brenda from the car to the coach now that she refuses to walk on the ground. 
We’ll be in New Braunfels, our winter home, for the next few months, but stay tuned, we plan on visiting new places and we’ll let you know what we find.  We hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving and are meeting all of your shopping goals for Christmas!


  1. Hi from a new reader! I'm happy to find your blog as I'm always on the look out for new places to visit in the Hill Country.

  2. Now that's the scenic route from Texarkana to New Braunfels!

    New reader here also. We're working on transitioning from stix and brix to full-timing. Johnny's working a project just a bit north of Texarkana for the next 18 months and I'm working on emptying the house in Austin and running back and forth!

  3. I love that trip! I highly recommend the Limpia hotel, star parties, and art scene in Alpine. If you're going to see the doctor be sure and tell the male nurse (my husband) who you are. I keep him up to date on what you two are doing.