Texas

So, Texas is a really big state. Looking back through my log I see that I’ve spent 12 days circling around the state. I’m trying to avoid driving on the major interstate highways so I stay on the two lane roads towards Lubbock and stop for the first night at Buffalo Springs Lake. It’s an odd place, you are driving across west Texas with desert scrub and cotton fields, suddenly there is a sort of canyon with a lake and tons of wildlife. IMG_20160907_192414.jpg

In Abilene I visited the 12th Armored Division museum, small but lots of great exhibits. The 12th AD trained here before shipping off to Europe at the end of WWII. They were involved in some battles in late 1944 after the Battle of the Bulge, some of the first into Germany, liberated concentration camps. and were the American troops who captured Dr. Werner von Braun who would become one of the fathers of the American space program.

I’m talking to the guy who maintains the vehicles, I remark on how simple the Jeep engine seems and he tells me yes, with a screwdriver and a couple of wrenches you can tear down and rebuild the whole thing. The story behind the ‘Cooked Rat’ is that he was rebuilding it for a parade, had pulled out the radiator to flush it then reinstalled the radiator but left the hoses disconnected. A couple of weeks later he plugged in the hoses, added coolant, fired it up and it immediately started overheating. Suspecting a blockage in the hoses, he disconnected them and soon pulled out a fully boiled rat with a pair of pliers.

On the two lane highways you go through a lot of small towns. Here is one, I don’t remember the name but they are all similar. The county building and the square around it. Many of the smaller towns are mostly dead, all of the old mom and pop businesses are closed and boarded up. This town is doing pretty well.

Oil wells everywhere, still pumping.

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Every town has its claim to fame

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Spent a night at Possum Kingdom Lake State Park. At the entrance. the ranger said “Just go on down and pick out a campsite, leave a cooler or something to save it, then come back up and register with me.”  Chicago people will know there’s only one way to save your spot.

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It’s very nice, right on the lake. I can hear the tiny waves lapping at the shore all night.

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From Possum Kingdom I drive to Allen TX north of Dallas. I’m visiting my friend Jim, recently of IBM.  It’s strange as we have worked together probably 15 years but have only met maybe once in person. Jim immediately makes me feel at home, and we make an attempt at installing some 30mm spacers on the Land Cruiser rear springs. After loading all of my gear the truck sits mostly level, I would like to get an extra inch of clearance in the rear. I’m having trouble getting the rear up high enough to drop out the springs so in the interest of safety we call it a day and go inside to the AC and cold beer and watch some baseball. Jim and his lovely wife Liz make me feel right at home and it’s great to relax in their home as Jim cooks some excellent steaks on the grill. Next day, after a great omelet for breakfast, I am off to Waco.

There are a ton of Monarch butterflies around, it must be the winter migration

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Morning on the Brazos River outside Waco

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I mentioned to Kelsey I was on Waco, she said I had to visit Magnolia Farms, the store of the HGTV Fixer Upper people (and buy her something). This place is crazy, on a Monday morning I have to park three blocks away. It’s filled with women looking for knickknacks, the few men in attendance have the same look as guys accompanying their wives/girlfriends to a big sale at the shoe store. The place is huge and they are adding on to it even as we speak. There is also conveniently a cupcake/muffin bakery in the complex.

I went with a blueberry crumble muffin, it was very good.

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The other thing that Waco is famous for is Dr Pepper, it was invented here in the early 1900s and now hosts the Dr Pepper museum.  They have uncovered the original well which supplied the water to make Dr Pepper as well as all the bottle washing (they switched to city water in the 1930s)

On my way out of Waco, I’m going around a corner and see a huge smoky barbecue with a tiny old man tending it. The smell is incredible so I whip right into the 1.5 car parking lot of Ma and Pa’s BBQ Shack and go inside for the lunch special. Chopped beef with a cold Dr Pepper, it doesn’t get much better than this. My only complaint is the bread, they serve it up with a plain slice of white bread. I’m missing  Sheffield’s jalapeno corn bread.

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Visited Austin and the state capitol. Very nice with a big park all around with statues and monuments.

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On to San Antonio. I visit a couple of the famous missions, Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion.

I stay a few days at an AirBnB place in the NW burbs, a relaxing break from driving and camping.

I really liked the San Antonio river walk, here on a Friday afternoon but I bet it is jumping on the weekend nights.

Visited the Alamo

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Then east to Spring TX to spend the weekend with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Another relaxing weekend, they take me out to a Brazilian steakhouse (one more thing off the bucket list) and Old Spring which is packed with quirky little stores. It looks like the Pirate/Steampunk store is having some kind of event and there are a bunch of people walking around in interesting outfits.

Heading west I jump on I-10 for the long haul west to LA. Stopped in Balmorhea TX, nice campground with roadrunners everywhere and a giant  pool fed by natural springs

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They are hard to catch on camera. here is one jumping up on my tailgate

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Caught a baby roadrunner perched on the dumpster

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