Monday, April 25, 2022

Road Trip–Spring 2022

Tee Shirts – Souvenirs From this Trip

MapI originally planned on taking a trip to Big Bend National Park, but I was unable to get a campsite there.  Instead, my destination was Big Bend Ranch State Park which is also right on the Rio Grande, but about 50 miles west.  The overall trip included spending a day in the French Quarter in New Orleans, visiting the Alamo and spending some time on the River Walk in San Antonio, almost a week at Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas, a day in Marfa Texas, then a day each at Palmetto State Park and Village Creek State Park (also in Texas).  My final stop was just an overnight stay in Milton Florida before heading home.

Since most of this trip was going to be spent camping, I did something that I haven’t done in the past.  First, I filled a 5 gallon water container and froze it solid for the cooler.  This was to be my refrigerator and a solid block of ice lasts a lot longer than a bag of ice.  I also froze a bunch of water bottles – these were for my portable refrigerator/freezer, and filled the space that was left after putting my frozen foods in there.  This was to keep the frozen stuff frozen for as long as possible for the times I might not be able to plug in the freezer.  This worked out pretty well – at about the midway point on the trip I started buying bags of ice as the 5 gallon block defrosted, and I had a good refrigerator the  entire trip.

St Louis Cathedral-2Day 1:  With The Beast loaded up with all of my gear the day before, I was able to hit the road just before sunrise.  This was my longest single-day drive of the trip (about nine hours driving time) in order to get to Slidell LA.  I stayed here for two nights at a Holiday Inn & Suites.  It was an easy drive

Day 2:  Being a morning-person, and with the change in the time zone, I was up well before the sun.  I held off on leaving the hotel until around 8a, and already had a parking spot paid for.  I parked at Premium Parking P407 which was just a stone throw from CafĂ© Du Monde.where I started my Walking tour around the French Quarter.

Day 3:  I got an early start, and was on the road a little before 7a.  My destination for today was San Antonio, TX and was my second longest leg of the trip at just under nine hours of driving time.  Nothing really special about the trip to get there, but when I arrived in San Antonio the roads and drivers have marked this as a place that I want to drive around in the future.  When I was here twenty some-odd years ago, the drive through town was nothing like it is today. 

Alamo - Church-1To top it off, when I got to my hotel I realized that I left my portable battery/power packs at the hotel in Slidell.  I called them and they said that they did have it and would hold it for me until I returned.

Day 4:  There is a Walmart Supercenter near the hotel that I was staying at, so first thing in the morning I went there to buy some provisions for my next stop.  I also picked up a couple of power packs so I could keep my things (phone, etc.) charged while I was camping. 

After my experience driving through town yesterday, I decided to have an Uber drop me off to tour the Alamo and Riverwalk.  I’m glad I did – it made the trip there and back much easier; the only downside was that I wasn’t able to bring my bike with me.  That limited how much of the Riverwalk that I was able to explore – next time I’m in town, I’ll have to bite the bullet and wrestle the traffic patterns to get into downtown.

Scenic Overlook-2Day 5 through 8:  The next stage of this journey was to drive from San Antonio to Big Bend Ranch State Park.  I took I-10 west, and shortly after getting out of the San Antonio area, the speed limit raised to 80 MPH… I’ve never seen a speed limit that high, but a Google search showed me that Texas also has some roads with 85 and even 90 MPH posted speed limits. 

I stayed on I-10 until I got to Fort Stockton, and then turned south from there. It was a windy day (very windy), so one of the things I did when I got to the Barton Warnock Visitor Center to check into my campsite was to check the weather; luckily I did have a cell signal here.  The weather was showing high winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour, and dust storms.  My first day of camping at the Lower Madera Campground was going to be interesting!  There was nothing to do at this point other than to buckle down an make the best of it until the winds passed.

Presidio County CourthouseDay 9 & 10:  I broke camp at about 10a and headed west towards Presidio TX where loaded up on provisions to last a couple of days before heading to Marfa TX.  Marfa is a small town, but there were a couple of things that I wanted to see while I was in the area.  It’s known for its art installments and galleries; it’s a unique city out in the middle of the desert.

When I got checked in at El Cosmico the first thing I did was head for the showers; I had four days of dust to wash off.  The showers at El Cosmico were similar to a changing room at a clothing store, but outdoors and open air.  It’s surprising how cold a breeze in 80 degree weather can feel when one is wet and there is no humidity to speak of!

San Marcos RIver by Trail-2Day 11 & 12:  I made it to Palmetto State Park just before the ranger station closed.  After checking in, I made trip to a nearby grocery store for provisions.  Not much more than dinner and a movie before the sun set; it was good to have electricity and water after the past week of primitive and semi-primitive camping.  Also – the shower at this campground was great.  Plenty of water pressure and plenty of hot water – it was at least as nice as a shower at home!

On my second day at this park, I explored some of the hiking trails; this park is right on the San Marcos River.  The  forest here is a big change in scenery than the other laces that I just left.  I was also able to get my kitchen stuff cleaned up – fresh water at the campsite meant that I no longer had to conserve what I had in the five gallon jug.  I also talked to the park host and got an inside look at how he volunteers and what he’s expected to do at different sites.

View of Village Creek

 Day 13:  My drive to Village Creek State Park was expected to be a short one, however there was a long stretch of I-10 under construction. At one point, presumably in an attempt to detour me around the slow area, Google maps directed me off of I-10 and on a big circular path that ended up pretty much where I started.  Luckily there was a tourist information building next to the I-10 on-ramp, so I was able to stop and look a little closer at the map.  I was only about 15 minutes away from my destination, so I can only assume that the AI that runs the map just got lost.

I made it to my destination at about 3:30 in the afternoon, and got my campsite set up.  I struck up a conversation with the guy in the campsite next to me and we ended up talking for quite awhile.  Not really about anything, but he was also solo camping so we had that much in common.

Campsite at Village Creek SPDay 14:  It was a cool breezy day, and this would be my last night in a tent, so I decided that I didn’t have to do anything other than just relax around the campsite.  I did take a walk down to Village Creek, but other than that I just kicked back and did mostly nothing.  The current cold front that was passing through was looking like another cold night, so later in the day I took down my campsite and planned to spend the night in the cab of the truck.

Day 15 & 16: I started my trip home today; two days on the road and I would be back. On the first part of my drive, I stopped at the hotel that I stayed in in Slidell to pick up my battery case, and then headed on to Milton Florida where I stopped for the night before finishing up the the last leg of my journey.

This trip was fantastic.  I saw a bunch of things that I’ll probably never have the opportunity to see again, and even more importantly I had the time that I needed to simply think about things.  I hope to be able to do another trip like this one soon.

Posts Related to this Trip:

  1. Walking Tour of the French Quarter
  2. Touring the Alamo and San Antonio Riverwalk
  3. Big Bend Ranch SP – Lower Madera Campground – Terlingua TX
  4.    Visiting Lajitas and the Contrabando Film Site
  5.    Hiking the Closed Canyon Trail – Big Bend Ranch SP
  6.    Hiking the Hoodoos Trail – Big Bend Ranch SP
  7.    Visiting the Terlingua Ghost Town and Roadside Attractions
  8. El Cosmico – Marfa TX
  9.    Visiting the Chinati Foundation
  10.    Visiting Fort Davis National Historic Site
  11. Hiking Many Trails – Palmetto SP, Texas

Key Stats:

Miles Driven:  3,757
Trip MPG:: 18.3
Nights in a hotel: 5
Nights camping: 10

Hiking Many Trails–Palmetto SP, Texas

CCC Pavilion
Civilian Conservation Core Pavilion

Trail MapSeveral trails at this State Park are connected to each other along the way, so this hike covered a bunch of them in the same trip.  I think my favorite area of the park was along the Mesquite Flats Trail.  There are a lot of bridges, I think I counted fifteen of them, that span areas that would be marshy in the wet season.

Trailview-10Along the way, there is sign that identifies the Mud Boils which went extinct about fifty years ago.  It struck me as odd that an active geological feature could have stopped relatively suddenly so soon ago.  I could only speculate that the amount of rainfall that fed the aquifer must have dropped off, which had the effect of drying up the spring that fed the boil.  My favorite spot along this trail though was a bridge at the southernmost part of the park.  The bridge spanned a dry creek, and was right on the border of the forest and an open field (farmland, I believe).  This was one of the quietest spots around with a gentle breeze blowing and the only sound being that a few birds in the trees.  I stayed here for a at least ten or fifteen minutes just enjoying the solitude.

Another point of interest along these trails is the Artesian Well pump that was built by the Civilian Conservation Core and is still operating today.  Originally this well delivered drinking water up to the pavilion, while today it is used to maintain water levels throughout the wetlands/marsh.

Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was the mood, but this was one of my favorite hikes.  I seemed to have all of the trails to myself, and it is just a beautiful area.

Campsite at Plametto SP Ranger Station CCC Placard
Trail to the San Marcos River San Marcos River-Downstream Trailview-1
Mud boils - recently extinct Bench along the way Field Flowers
Blue Flowers CCC Artesian Well Artesian well description
San Marcos RIver by Trail-1 San Marcos RIver by Trail-2 Trailview-16

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Saturday, April 23, 2022

El Cosmico–Marfa, TX

Campsite at El Cosmico-1
Campsite at El Cosmico

Entrance SignDay 9:  I got cleaned up after four days of primitive camping and jumped on my bike to tour the area.  I wanted to stop by the Chinati Foundation before they closed today.  The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum based on the ideas of its founder, artist Donald Judd.

Andy in Marfa TXAfter visiting the Chinati Foundation, I road my bike into town to have a look around.  It was pretty late in the day, and there wasn’t much to see but it did feel good to spend an little while pushing my cycling muscles.

Entrance SignDay 10:  The plan for today was to spend the morning at Fort Davis National Historic Site, which is about 20 miles or so north of Marfa.  Fort Davis is a partially restored military post that protected emigrants, freighters, mail coaches and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road.

After Fort Davis, I had to get some photos of this campground and some other local sites.  This is one of the most unique camping areas that I think I’ve ever seen.


Around Marfa Texas

Actual Contact-1Actual Contact 2022-04-02_15-59-59
Ride Into Marfa
Actual Contact-2Actual Contact
Marfa Lights Viewing Site
Marfa Lights Viewing Area
Marfa Lights PlaqueMarfa Lights Plaque Presidio PlaquePresidio Landmark

Around El Cosmico Campground

Campground MapCampground Map Tent Camping
Tent Camping
Shared Cooking Area
Shared Cooking Area
Jupe and Cosmic Kasita
Jupe (right) & El Cosmico
49 Mansion
‘49 Mansion
Safari Tents
Safari Tents

Visiting Fort Davis National Historic Site

Partially restored building

This site, run by the National Park Service, is just north of the town of Fort Davis.  At its peak, Fort Davis was a major installation with over 100 buildings and more than 400 soldiers.  The main mission of the fort was to safeguard travelers against the Comanches and Apaches, especially along the San Antonio – El Paso road.

BarracksI started my visit with a stop at the ranger station which is located in a building that used to one of the enlisted barracks.  The next building is also one of the old enlisted barracks.

The barracks have several exhibits that show how the soldiers lived, as well as some of the equipment and weapons that were used at the site.

Inside Commissary-1Further down the path, is the commissary, which is also furnished.  There is a good description of the logistics that the officer in charge of the commissary had to consider to keep the commissary running.  While many of the issues that he had to deal with are similar to supply chain factors that we have to consider today, their remote location made the job of planning, shopping, and shipping to keep the commissary full challenging.

Gatling Gun Cannon-1 Covered Wagon

Restored KitchenThe next building that has been restored is the Officer’s Kitchen and Servant’s Quarters.  As was common back then, the kitchen was separated from the living quarters for safety from fire.  Also of consideration was the heat during summer months and any unpleasant cooking odors.

MedicinesAfter the kitchen, the Post Hospital is the next building that I visited.  This one has also been restored, and has many interpretive exhibits to show how the base personnel (and travelers) were treated for illnesses or injuries.  Every time I see displays like this, it makes me really appreciate the improvements in health care that have happened over the past couple of hundred years.

Doctors Office-1There are a couple of more restored buildings at the historic site, and each has interpretive exhibits to illustrate how the soldiers and officers lived on this base when it was active.

At the end of the tour, I went back to the ranger station and talked for a little while to the ranger.  I was curious, because of the size of the fort, if they had a palisade wall or something similar.  He said that they did not, and for two reasons.  The first is that the Comanches and Apaches didn’t attack the fort (they would have been significantly out manned).  The tribes in the area did make raids, but there were no battles at the fort.  Another reason is simply because their isn’t very much wood nearby.  He pointed out that a lot of old west movies show forts with palisades, and said next time to notice the countryside around the fort and ask the question “where did they get the wood”?

Commissary Servant quarters Hospital Beds-2
Motars and Pestles Inside The Grierson's Home-2 Inside The Grierson's Home-3
Inside the shared house-1 Inside the shared house-3 Wickiup

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