Saturday morning April 25th we drove back west on Hwy 29 to return to Fort McKavett. On the way we drove through the small town of Menard and let the “kids” see the Historic Ditch walk where there are many properties that still access the water that runs through this stone aqueduct used for irrigation since 1876. Then out to the Presidio de San Saba which was originally built in 1757 by the Spanish to protect them next to the San Saba River from the Comanche. Some of the stone remains are still here and a nice archeological site has been completed showing some of the old walls and buildings. The old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad station built in 1911 was donated to the city in 1972 and is used as a county museum now.
After we left there we drove out west 3 miles to the Fort where they were having a special demonstration day. There were people in historic costumes showing how to build wooden trunks, a blacksmith, a tailor making frock coats, and a group of Boy Scouts who were there to stay in one of the old barracks and do projects to earn some badges. This fort is a well preserved example of the Texas Forts built around 1852 to protect settlers from the Indians. It was actually occupied by residents for many years after the fort was decommissioned in June 1883. One of the docents there actually attended school in the little schoolhouse still standing. This is probably one of the finest restorations of a frontier fort available today. The kids were impressed!
Leaving there we returned to Llano where the Annual Crawfish Festival and Golf Tournament was in full swing with thousands there to golf, listen to the many western bands and eat lots of “bugs” (as they are called in Louisiana).
On Friday, April 24th we drove on Hwy. 29 west into Mason for a good lunch at the Willow Creek Café. Great burgers and homemade pie for all then a quick look around the square to see what is know as one of the prettiest small towns in the Hill Country. Also the only place in North America where you can pick up Texas Topaz off the ground. Took them up the hill to see the only building left of Fort Mason which was on the Texas Historic Forts trail. Robert E. Lee was actually stationed here before the Civil War.
Then we drove south to cross the James River and see some of the historic sites such as the marker that relates the kidnapping of settlers told in John Wayne’s movie “The Searchers” and then some of the sites where Mason County Wars were fought over cattle and sheepherding rights back in the 1800s. We drove on dirt roads to cross the James River. The “kids” had never seen a low water crossing so the Leader decided to get out and walk about 70 feet across to show them it was safe. Water only came to his ankles and almost made it across then his feet found a slippery place and down he went – on his butt in the river. So we drove out to rescue him and onto the other side. Had to strip off the wet clothes and hang them on a barbed wire fence to dry! Luck would have it as we were at the gate of the Star S Exotic Game Ranch. They have trophy whitetail deer and African species such as zebra, sable, gemsbok, kudu and Oryx. And this is a large, fancy ranch. About then two guys come along in a pickup and offer help and tell us to go up to their ranch called the Bar None and use their dryer for his clothes. The “kids” couldn’t believe we went and actually used the dryer. One of the other guys there was nice enough to let us look around and actually squeezed fresh oranges for screwdrivers to sip on the big front porch. Then they drove around to show a spring that supplies their water and the area where they host “survival” camps. They’d even had a wedding there two weeks before. Neat people and great afternoon!
April 23, 2014 the Traveling Basenjis were ready to roll. They watched every move as we loaded for the first trip of the year. The trip will be a bit different as we are retracing some of our steps to allow some of our grown kids to see what RVing is all about. So we planned a trip to see the famous Texas Hill Country wildflowers. We drove back to Riverway RV Park in Llano for our base camp. A long, cold winter without much rain has left flowers few and far between. But we have plans! Our first night is off to Cooper’s for their famous Texas BBQ. Pick your meat, take inside to get weighed, get some beans and a drink and find a seat, if you can, at a long picnic table to enjoy a real tradition. This place is always packed! Then back to camp and relaxing after a long drive!
Our trip toward home continued on Saturday as we headed out of Gunnison and over Monarch Pass at over 11,000 feet. That was an experience with our big rig. We could not believe all the bicycle riders up there getting ready to ride down the mountain. It is the Continental Divide and I guess a real feat for them. But they sure make it a scary ride and hard on big rig drivers as there is no shoulder and no guard rail in many places. We proceeded carefully down towards Pueblo and I-25. Once on I-25 we could drive safely south and took a short pull-off break to change drivers and let the Leader rest up. Our destination for Saturday night was the Whittington NRA Campground just south of Raton, NM.
Whittington Center NRA campground
Now you don’t have to be an NRA member to stay here but it is a great place with 13,000 acres of wide open country and several large RV campgrounds, cabins, lodges and a small restaurant. There are many types of ranges here for all skills of shooters, both rifle and pistol, and they are located away from the lodging. We parked, unhooked then drove around to see the entire facility before getting a nice chicken fried steak dinner. A good night’s sleep then we would make the last push towards home with a stop on Sunday night , August 17th back at Old Town Cotton Gin RV Resort in Goodlett, TX. That makes our last day of driving shorter and gets us back home through the big city before rush hour. Another great trip for the Traveling Basenjis.
On Thursday August 15, we loaded up and headed through Montrose towards Gunnison, Co. We have a granddaughter in college there and wanted to visit her before heading home. The drive is scenic and passes through several small towns. As you near Gunnison, you go past the Blue Mesa Reservoir which is a prime fishing lake with over 96 miles of shoreline. It is the largest lake located entirely within Colorado borders and is at over 7500 ft. elevation in a high desert area. The dam was completed in 1965 and was the first one on the Gunnison River. The largest lake trout and Kokanee Salmon fishery in the country is here. We enjoyed the drive and stopped for a lunch break overlooking this beautiful body of water. We booked into the Mesa RV Park just west of town for two nights. That gave us a chance to see the town and visit family. When you drive into Gunnison it is apparent they have a lot of outdoor activities. We had to visit this store to see the hundreds of items for sportsmen available. Even picked up a fly rod and reel for our active girl here. She loved it! After that we looked for an ice cream store since this is a college town and kids eat ice cream! But to our surprise the only one was located inside the front of the True Value Hardware store and they served Blue Bell from the creamery in Texas down by Texas A&M. You can buy your PVC pipe, paint, and a vanilla cone all at one time!
The next day we went to the park to see the woodcarving show with the artists using chain saws. This man with one leg was doing a great job and enjoying the crowd. They were to have a judging later that day. Across the street there was an antique car crowd gathering and the next day was their show off on Main Street. A fun town with lots to see and do. And enjoyed the visit with our college kid!
On Monday August 12, we drove just inside the Colorado border and near Colorado State Monument to the small town of Fruita. Here is where we found our next great place to stay for a few days. James Robb Park is part of the Colorado River State Park system and the latest addition. It has 22 full service sites which are located in 1/2 circles off the main road. Each site has it’s own covered pavilion with picnic table and a nice graveled sitting area. The sites are also separated by native plantings. There is a great service building with laundry and bathrooms. We liked it so well we booked 3 nights there.
This stop gave us a chance to drive 9 miles into Grand Junction and see what a busy place it is. We were able to go to the grocery store, get diesel, and even get an ice cream cone. Nice to find some familiar stores and was the largest city we had been in over a week.
On Monday August 12, since we had stayed hooked up all we had to do was eat a quick breakfast then fold up and go. So we were headed north up Hwy 128 by 7 AM. What jaw dropping views all around us as we drove this route! As good as Arches, Zion and Bryce National Parks, just shorter! There are two first class resorts along this road, Sorrel River Ranch www.sorrelriver.com and Red Cliffs Lodge and Winery www.redcliffslodge.com. Both seemed to have big crowds as we passed and we could see why as the views are wonderful and access to the Colorado River adds to the ambiance. Horseback riding, great cabins and good food are some of the perks. This would be a nice return trip but in cooler weather since there are no hookups in BLM camps. We drove past the small town of Cisco heading onto I-70 then east into Colorado. Cisco is a modern ghost town since it barely survived into the 20th century but originally served as a saloon and water refueling stop for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The town died with the demise of the steam locomotive. There are a few ruins and old buildings here and nearby are recent oil and gas wells. Some of the scenes for Thelma and Louise were filmed here in 1991. I thought it looked like a place where they would drive off! We then headed on into Colorado for our next stop!
We were heading east past Price and Helper in the canyons then southeast toward Moab. Before we got to Moab we turned off Hwy 191 onto Hwy 128 into BLM land looking for our campsite for the night. We arrived early around noon and luckily were able to get into Goose Island Campground which is the closest to Moab and one of two that will accommodate big rigs.
Goose Island Campground
We carefully backed into #15 which was a big site next to the Colorado River and an awesome view of the red rock canyon walls all around us. It was hotter than we hoped and with NO hookups we had to adjust our thinking about boon docking! Took a nap waiting for the sun to set behind the canyon wall and hopefully cool off. We grilled one of our big trout from Idaho for dinner and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Bad thing about this location is the canyon is narrow and the road is close so you have traffic noise until dark. It did drop down to about 90 degrees by dark so we went to bed with all windows open and finally got some relief about 2 AM.
On Saturday August 10 we pulled back onto I-84 heading down into Utah. This has to be one of the most boring drives as it is miles of nothing but dry desert or irrigated fields of corn or hay. As you drive south past the Utah border, there are more irrigated fields and orchards. The Leader skillfully guided the big rig through Salt Lake City which is still in a state of road repair since last year’s trip through here going north. We did find a Cracker Barrel for dinner and enjoyed a meal with no dishes to wash before turning east for our night’s destination. Another pleasant surprise in Spanish Fork! We went to the RV park at Canyon View which is actually a city park sitting on top of the hill next to a big wind farm. The location is on Powerhouse Road so that tells it all. You park in a paved parking lot backed up to each power and water pedestal. But it was clean, with nice, grassy areas for the girls, and a short walk down the hill and you have the entire beautiful park to yourself early in the morning. Only problem is the wind blows steady which is why they built the wind farm here. Since it was still warm we used the AC for awhile that night. Best part is the price – $12.00 for the night. Next day we were up and on the road early.
Tie Fork Rest Area
Thankfully we were able to make a short stop at Tie Fork Rest Area. They were awarded for the design and construction of this park with it resembling a 1800s rail station including the steam engine and track.
They even have a fenced grassy dog area, that the Basenji girls had to smell all over then promptly go outside to tend to their business!