Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country


Roger here...  Well it is time to wrap things up.  Our summer travels have come to an end.  

Our first stop after the travails of Abilene was Fredericksburg, Texas, one of our favorite places. We stayed five nights and decided not to cram too much into every day.  There is so much to do.


The Campground....  

We parked our Airstream at the Bending Oaks RV Resort (formerly the KOA).  The park is still very much the same as before, except that it is now a 21-plus park (no kids).  The new owners are making some very nice improvements.  We always reserve a nice, quiet, shady spot in the back near the goats, sheep and donkeys who live on the farm just across the fence from our site.

Bending Oaks is set among the wineries, about 5 miles from town.  It has a rural feel that includes three enormous longhorns.  We will probably always choose this park when we stay in Fredericksburg.

A quick trip into town...

Dogologie is Dianne's favorite store.  Poquita usually gets new stuff --- a new red harness this year. (And a couple of what Roger terms "frilly" scarves to match her harnesses.  At least I didn't buy her a dress this time  -- D).   

 Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery, and Deli is a must-stop visit.  So many flavors of delicious ice cream.

Hmmm?  What to get?  What to get?  What looks good to you?

Grape Creek Winery...

We are members of the wine club at Grape Creek.  We get a free glass of wine every day that we visit.  We stopped on two different days.  The outdoor areas remind us of Italy.  So do the wines.

We ordered fondue to accompany the wine one day --- a blast from the past.

However, it did not arrive in an orange pot.

The seating areas all seem to be in the middle of the vineyards.  

We picked up our October wine club bottles during our second visit.  The wine would normally be delivered to our casita in the Rio Grande Valley, but we were not there.

Signor Winery...

A new favorite winery for us is the pricey Signor Winery.  The wine is delicious.  Dianne's favorite is the Sangiovese.  

The atmosphere is soothing.

Alamo Springs Cafe....

This unique venue requires weaving along winding and hilly roads for 10 or so miles.  It is truly out in the country (not far from Luckenbach).  Sometimes you need to get away from all the wine and have a cold beer.

You could sit inside, but most of the seating in this eclectic place is outside.  You do have to walk inside to get your beer of choice out of the cooler.

Alamo Springs is known for having the best burgers in Texas.  I can attest to that.  However, this time I opted for a pork sandwich.  Oh my, it was so good!

Singing Waters Winery...

After filling our stomachs with the great food at Alamo Springs, we decided to drive to the small town of Comfort to find the Singing Hills Winery.  A friend of ours recommended it.  What a cool place.

We ordered a glass of wine at the outdoor bar then claimed a spot at the treehouse table.  Someone had an active imagination.  

Please bear in mind that all these winery visits took place over five days --- a good thing.


A trip to Austin was necessary for the annual warranty inspection of our Airstream.  McKinney Falls State Park is located between downtown Austin and the Airport, a short (but hectic) drive to the Airstream dealership.  We spent three nights at this great park, and quite a bit of time moving things from the Airstream to the SUV, in case the inspection and minor repairs lasted more than a day.

We ended up leaving the Airstream with the mechanics so that they could do some minor nuts and bolts repairs and double check to ensure that our problems in Abilene did not cause other problems.

So, we drove the SUV home (5 1/2 hours).  We will have to drive back to Austin to get it when it is finished, but that trip will certainly not be blogworthy.

This summer has been quite a ride.  We saw so many new and gorgeous areas.  We saw our daughter and son-in-law twice.  We connected with old friends.  We had countless new experiences.  

Highlights of the last four months included:

Cave paintings at Hueco Tanks State Historic Park

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Two days of fun with Greg and Barb

Fun with Robyn and Atul at Morro Bay, CA

Redwoods National Park on the northern CA coast

Dry camping  in a grove of redwoods at Jedediah Smith State Park

Days on an Oregon beach at Newhalem State Park

An unforgettable month in Anacortes WA --- too many adventures to mention.

A day trip to North Cascades National Park

A week in the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth WA where Robyn and Atul met us

Museum time in Cody WY

Total relaxation near the Little Big Horn near Garryowen, Montana

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Capulin Volcanic National Park, NM

Caprock Canyon State Park - wow!

Fredericksburg, TX

Till next year!


The Bending Oaks RV Resort outside of Fredericksburg is evidently a dumping ground for unwanted cats.  The park owners get them vaccinated and spayed or neutered.  They also try to find them homes.  Dianne and I did not mind the curious felines.  They were fun to watch.  They also provided excitement for our dogs :-).

The orange guy below flaked out underneath Poquita's table one day without a care in the world.  

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Caprock Canyon State Park (should be a national park ) + treacherous and harrowing times.


Roger here.... We had heard wonderful reports about Caprock Canyon State Park, near Lubbock,  Texas.  We expected good things.  Our five-night visit exceeded all expectations.  What an amazing place!


The water/electric campsites were spacious and private.  The shade shelter over the picnic table was a plus for the sunny days that blessed us.

The short walk to the restroom/showers provided our first clue of the wonders to come.

Prairie dogs kept track of us, verbalizing our invasion, along the trail to the facilities.

Evening walks with the dogs around the campground provided expansive views of the Texas sky.

Watch your step!  Bison poop dotted the roadways and sidewalks in the campground.


Speaking of Bison, the official Texas herd roams freely through the park  --- no fences.  The rule of thumb was to stay 50 feet away unless protected by a motorized vehicle.  We told Bandido and Poquita about this.  They kept a careful watch from the Airstream.  

We were disappointed to see nothing but bison poop on the first day.  On the second day, I saw the herd near the main entrance while running an errand.  I took lots of pictures that I deleted because the best was yet to come.  During the next days the bison herd was a constant and welcome presence.  It was so much fun seeing them roam all areas of the state park.

On our way to a hike in the SUV the herd blocked the roadway.  We were not in a hurry.  We turned off the engine and just watched for the longest time.

These two conducted a stare-down with us.  The message was, "thou shalt not pass!"

We followed the 50-yard rule when we were out of the car ---- except for one time:  We were hiking with the dogs when Dianne noticed bison up ahead.  She alerted me.  As I looked around, I quietly told Dianne that a huge bison was resting in the grass, just a few feet from us.  We made a hasty, but quiet, retreat and found another trail.

Dianne was able to get a couple of videos of the bison in action.  

One afternoon we were thrilled to see several bison walking along the road in front of our campsite:


On the way to a trailhead, two bison ambled right next to our SUV while Dianne and I gawked and the dogs became strangely silent.  


As I mentioned before, the pathway to the restrooms passed directly through a prairie dog colony.  However, they did not stay within the boundaries of their colony.  The little fellow in the photo below popped up out of a hole in the roadway.

Look at the size of that hole in the park road.

The prairie dogs provided continual entertainment.

(They sound like our dogs' squeaky toys -- D.)


Every new day included a spectacular hike.  The geological features were amazing, as was the quiet isolation of the hiking trails.

Rim Hike...

This hike was walking distance from our campsite.  It was the only hike that did not involve elevation changes.  The views were amazing.

Dianne here, with a quick story about this large cactus covered with fruit:   I wanted so much for Poquita to pose next to the cactus to give perspective on just how huge it was.   No matter how I coaxed her, she acted terrified and would not approach the cactus.  I was puzzled, because prickly pear cacti like this are ubiquitous where we live and she is used to them.  I was irritated at her until I realized it was because she could smell the coyotes who had recently feasted on the cactus fruit (as evidenced by their scat nearby).   Poor Poquita; I felt badly about it, but she did forgive me.

Eagle Point Hike (5 miles round-trip)

Geologically, this was an awe-inspiring trek.  We followed the trail into the canyon.  

In the distance we could see the inspiration for the caprock name.  The white tops of the formations below are Calcium Phosphate.  

The calcium phosphate crystals soon surrounded us.  

They appeared as lines in the surrounding rock face.

The domed arches of calcium phosphate were both fascinating and the source of many questions.

The floor of the trail was filled with these amazing formations.

This wall of mineral webbing was so unique.

We met another couple on the trail.  They encouraged us to explore a smaller creek bed that intersected the main trail.  I wish we could thank them.  The eroded formations in the creek bed were awesome.  Something new around every bend.

We turned around at this lion head formation and headed back to the trailhead.  The day was getting warm and we were concerned about the dogs.

North Prong Hike....

Another day we drove a few miles to the North Prong Trailhead.

The jaw-dropping views explain themselves.

Natural Bridge Hike....

The Natural Bridge was located along the final stretch of the Eagle Point Trail.  We stopped at the north trail head to explore the short portion of the hike that we had not finished the day before.  Bandido wore his cooling vest that a friend gave him (Thanks Carol!)

The walk to the natural bridge was a short one.  I stayed with the dogs.  Dianne scrambled down to the tunnel first, while I stayed on the top of the bridge.

Then it was my turn.  Dianne is standing on the top of the arch with the dogs.


It was a nice morning.  We did all the usual tasks required for packing up and leaving (including a tire pressure check).  We left Caprock Canyon State Park with a full tank of gas at 9:30 a.m. for what should have been a 3-hour drive to Abilene State Park.  "A Three Hour Drive!"  

The first part of the trip along state roads was uneventful until we reached road construction near the small town of Hamlin.  It started raining while we waited for our turn to cross a one-lane bridge.  As we exited the one-lane portion, I felt a tug.  I thought the SUV engine was failing, but it soon corrected.   As I was contemplating a quick stop to check on things, people in an RV (Airstream) that were following us, flagged us over to the berm.  

Barney and Kelly, who we did not know, ran back to us as I exited the car.  Barney said that our trailer tires were both smoking.  They were!  The wheels were scalding hot to the touch.  The trailer brakes had locked.  We waited a bit for them to cool, and then disconnected the seven-point connection that controls the trailer brakes, as well as all the trailer safety lights.  Since we had no brake or taillights, Barney and Kelly followed us to a picnic area at the side of town to contemplate our next move.  

I called Coachnet, but it was obvious that help would be a long time coming, and a severe thunderstorm was headed our way.  Barney found a local mechanic who agreed to look at our system.  The mechanic raised one tire.  It was not locked; he indicated he thought that our trailer brakes were gone.  Thinking that it didn't matter -- since he thought we had no trailer brakes left anyway -- we plugged in the 7-point connection and prepared to slowly continue on our way, to attempt to get parked at Abilene State Park (about a 40-minute drive) before the storm arrived.  All seemed well.  Barney and Kelly agreed to follow us to Abilene State Park.  We were relieved to have the support.

After several miles the systems were working well.  When we drew nearer to the city of Abilene (not the state park campground), Kelly called and said that since things were going well, they were leaving us to get to their own camping spot at a different state park.

Ten miles north of Abilene the major storm hit us.  We watched a lightning bolt hit the ground and start a grass fire.  Several inches of water fell all at once.  Then.... our problem returned.  Something was getting wet and short-circuiting the brake controller lines.  (Turns out we still had trailer brakes after all.) The only way for us to drive the remaining 15 miles was to disconnect the 7-point connection ---  no trailer brakes, no trailer brake lights, no trailer turn signals. I turned on the SUV emergency blinkers and crept on.  They were visible from the front, but from the back they were hidden by the trailer.   We needed to get to the state park office before it closed at 5:00 p.m., so we could sleep and call for help the next morning.  The rain got worse.  Then, the small hail started.  As we skirted the edge of Abilene the weather was so bad that I could not see the edge of the road.  (Dianne again:  I tried to help, but it was dark as night and raining so hard that neither of us could see well enough to find a safe place to pull off the road.  It was difficult enough just to stay on the road and in our lane.  Stopping in the road was not an option, with no tail lights).   We were driving in traffic through lanes of deepening water.  We were terrified that without trailer lights we would be rear-ended.  We crept along, fearing for our safety.

After several gps directed turns, we found ourselves driving through water in the small town of Buffalo Gap.  We could not see a place to pull over.  I should have looked closer.  The new fear: floating away in a flood.

Miraculously,  the sky lightened and the rain abated somewhat so that our vision was better.  We made it to the state park before the 5:00 p.m. closing;  however, the office had closed early due to the impending storm.  Ugh!!!!!

We knew our site number, so we sloshed through the park, only to find that the main park road was under repair and CLOSED.  Dianne was able to find a series of detour signs (on yellow poster board).  Several of them had blown down, so we did a lot of guessing.

We found our site.  We were safe.  However, we were still stranded.

Dianne found a mobile RV tech from Abilene who was willing to check out our problem the next day.  After a sleepless night we discussed what our next steps would be if the mobile tech could not help.  We considered cancelling the rest of the trip and limping to the Airstream dealership in Austin.  That would mean driving in Austin traffic without trailer brakes, turn signals or brake lights on the trailer.

The next morning the tech called to say that he could not make it, but that he was sending one of his competitors, Curtis.  I called Curtis (the magnificent).  He arrived around mid-day.  (Our savior)

Curtis began troubleshooting and, after several methodical inspections, discovered that the problem was related to the wiring under our Toyota leading to the trailer brake controller.  During the initial installation of the controller, two lines from the brake controller to the 7-point connection were tied together and not properly insulated.  One of those lines controlled the trailer brakes.  The other charged the trailer battery while we were driving.  The trailer battery line had frayed.  There was about a foot of exposed wiring that was short-circuiting the trailer brake line once it became wet.  Curtis separated, re-routed, repaired and insulated the wiring.  Then he reset the brake controller and checked to ensure that the brakes were indeed working.

Dianne again:  If you are ever in need of rv service near Abilene, Texas, we highly recommend:

We spent three nights at Abilene State Park.  It was actually pretty nice after it dried out.  

We were so stressed, that we did not do much exploring.  We did walk along an easy trail for about an hour on our last day in the park.

Our travels since Abilene have been uneventful.  Our final post for this four-month trip will cover one of our favorite places - Fredericksburg, Texas in the Hill Country near Austin.


Poquita said, "Hey mom!  We're gonna need a bigger poop bag.  Who is gonna pick this up?"