Friday, March 16, 2018

We made it!

We bought Colectiva in 2008. For the first 2-3 years we hardly used her at all. That ended up being a big piece of the timing for my formal retirement from RSM, in order to put some real miles on her. Since then, we’ve been to Alaska, all over Canada, and now we’ve managed to visit all 49 of the North American States in the Union.  So, while we knew it was inevitable, we didn’t know where it was going to be that we turned 100,000 miles. We now know it’s between Comstock Texas and Las Cruces New Mexico!

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Seminole Canyon

While in Del Rio we learned about Seminole Canyon State Park, about 30 miles North outside of Comstock Texas, that allegedly had fantastic droves of ancient rock art. Sadly we arrived in Del Rio late on Sunday and learned that the only way to see the rock art was on a Ranger guided tour, and those only ran twice a day on every day except Monday and Tuesday.  As a result, we couldn’t stop in on our way to Marfa.

Because we can, we decided to backtrack after Marfa and take in the Canyon. It was a 4-hour one-way trek but turned out to be well worthwhile. Seminole Canyon is a deep crevice created from water erosion resulting from heavy rains that frequent West Texas. The rock art has been dated back some 4,000 years. However, it is interesting that no current indigenous culture has claimed that those residents of Seminole Canyon are their predecessors. That doesn’t mean that those residents didn’t continue on to current times, however, apparently no current culture has history stories that include those early inhabitants.
We hiked the length of the Canyon taking in all the easily visible art. Scientists have concluded that the art is of the Pecos style, which is prominent in Western Texas centering around El Paso. So, despite no claim to these residents, from the style of their art, they would appear to at least be similar to the other residents in the area. We saw the panther above from across the waters of the Rio Grande. The meaning of this winged human figure is not clear – there was no written dictionary left behind of what the symbols mean – but it and the other art in all these protected shelter areas are awesome.
Seminole Canyon, after heavy rains, drains into the Rio Grande. When we hiked the Canyon rim, we ended up at the Rio Grande once again. We thought that we had left the Rio Grande until our next Texas romp when we left Del Rio. But we managed to find our way back here again. Apparently, the river is one of those vortex areas that draw you in.
We also managed a couple of Lifers that we didn’t expect. While on the Ranger tour into the Canyon, our guide told us that the lovely bird calls were that of a Cactus Wren. She said they were highly elusive and weren’t prone to show themselves, so we might just have to settle for the sound of their beautiful voice. But on our Canyon rim hike, we were graced with an appearance.
We also spotted a White Crowned Sparrow. As with other birds, it is entirely possible that we have seen this guy before, but we never got a good look, or was able to actually determine what it was.  But again, our Canyon rim hike was the charm. I got a really good image, and we were able to locate it in our Audubon birding book. Nuther Lifer – yippee!
Talk to you soon!

Monday, March 12, 2018

More Marfa Texas

We headed toward the Rio Grande to take in more of the Big Bend country. We found the ghost town of Shafter. Once a bustling silver mining town, it boasted a population as high as 4,000 at its peak. The official census in 2000 had the population at 11. Between the lead and silver mined here, over $20 M (in currency of that time) of ore was extracted before the mines played out, and the town was abandoned.

On our drive we passed the exclusive Cibolo Ranch, off base to anyone not a current guest. Were told in town that big names such as Mick Jagger fly their private jets into this high-end place, complete with landing strip. They never see Mick in town, but they do occasionally see his son James. Back in Marfa we had lunch at Marfa Burrito, but pretty much only because Matthew McConaughey and Mark Ruffalo are both big fans.
The quirkiness of Marfa apparently attracts the rich and famous. This building on the town’s main drag is owned by Lance Armstrong. Apparently, Lance rents the lower floor out to artists who have galleries to quirk it up a little bit more. The second-floor lance rents out for events or shows, and part of it he will even rent out as an extremely high-end Air BnB.
Built in 1930, the El Paisano Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is best known for being the location HQ for the 1956 film Giant, the last film in which James Dean acted prior to his untimely death. We made sure to snoop around the beautiful grounds, but nobody would tell us which room James Dean stayed in.
Finally, we visited the Chinati Foundation, a modern art campus envisioned by Donald Judd, and containing collections of his work as well as works of other modern artists. We walked the grounds which displayed 15 untitled concrete works by Mr. Judd. Each concrete “box” used in the works is 2.5X2.5X5 meters. As you can see, there are more than 70 “boxes” making up the 15 works, and they cover a space that is longer than two football fields.
Talk to you soon!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Marfa Texas

We headed to Marfa because for years I had heard of the strange, unexplained lights that appear each night. In 1883, resting on a bluff 8 miles East of town and looking toward the Chinati Mountains, a cowboy reported seeing visible lights in the valley that came and went, and danced up and down, left and right. Over the decades such reports continued, and apparently nobody has been able to explain their cause. Watching after the sky went dark we saw lights, sometimes only a couple, and other times 6 to 12. The lights would appear for a while, then disappear, reappear, and then jump around. We could tell that they weren’t car headlights, and their movement meant they weren’t lit structures.

The town of just under 2,000 people is very quirky. The lights attract some tourism, but also its remoteness is an attraction as well. It is the Presidio County Seat, and its courthouse which was built in 1886 is the tallest building in town by a long shot. There is a total of 183 hotel rooms in town, not counting Air BnB accommodations, and enough small independently owned restaurants to feed about that many people.
Marfa is just North of the Big Bend, that section of the Southeast meandering Rio Grande that suddenly jogs back Northeast and makes a big bend to head back Southeast. This creates the thumb in Western Texas that seems to jab down into Mexico carving out just a bit more land for the US. We drove all around the Big Bend area taking in the expansive views.
We looked for wildlife in the Big Bend. I had caught a glimpse of the end of a tail of some mammal that was ringed. While I can’t be certain, I believe it was a Ring-Tailed Cat that resides in Northern Mexico and Southern Texas. We saw not just one, but an entire herd of Javelina eating the succulent shrubs along the side of the road. We also got a good look at 8-10 Big Horn Sheep also grazing on the rich prairie grasses of the area. We hadn’t seen this much wildlife in one outing in quite a while.
As we are inclined to do, we hit some of the more historically significant cemeteries in the area. When we saw the Disney film Coco, it reinforced to us how the Mexican folk revere those that came before them, and believe the dead even can visit the living, especially on the Day of the Dead. For that reason, any cemetery that has Mexican residents are always ornately and colorfully decorated, a sign of respect for one’s elders.
Even though she lived in the late 1800’s, I know that the term was in use back then just as it is now. So, for the life of me, I just can’t imagine why the young Minnie Brown would willingly step into this last name by marrying this guy. I understand she would have been beyond the schoolroom taunts she would have been subject to had she earned this illustrious name at birth. But imagine introducing yourself as Minnie Outhouse, or worse yet, Minnie Brown Outhouse – go figure!
Talk to you soon!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Del Rio Texas

We headed to Del Rio as it was a day’s drive for us from Laredo. We had hoped for a town of more interest, but we found just another small town with a devastated down town area along the Mexican border. But we did find that our President didn’t need to focus any money in this area. The border “wall”, or formidable fencing, already spans the entire span of Del Rio.

We did manage to find a gem in the area. The Amistad National Recreation Area, jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, is made possible by a dam built jointly by the US and Mexico in 1968 to both tame the Rio Grande and control annual flooding and provide water both for drinking and recreation.
Amistad Dam was built at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Pecos rivers. Lake Amistad that developed behind the dam, is the 3rd largest manmade international border lake in the world (they had to reach a bit in their definition to come up with number 3). We hiked our way out onto the dam in order to find the border dedication monument, which was quite impressive. Note that Richard Milhouse Nixon presided over the dedication ceremonies on behalf of the US.
We did learn that folk in Del Rio are extremely precise. In Del Rio, you don’t see signs that generally say “Brown Plaza 2 miles”, which is obviously just a rough estimate, or a rounded measurement. That just won’t do in Del Rio. Even Brenda, our GPS, is not nearly this precise!
Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


We read online that there would be good birding in Laredo. On the Mexican border, straddling the Rio Grande along with Nuevo Laredo, apparently the migratory flight patterns of many North American summer birds are right through here. Also, there are a number of resident birds that are different from those we had seen along the Gulf Coast. The big chatter was about the local White Collared Seedeater, but we got skunked on that one.

We spent both our days here looking for birds in the local city, county and state parks. We managed to find this Eurasian Collared Dove in Lake Casa Blanca State Park. That is another Lifer for us – yeah! The very crisp black collar on this guy is very distinctive. There were a ton of birds in the park, but nearly all of them we had seen several times before.
On our stroll with Kona in North Central park we spotted more birds we were familiar with. We heard chatter that a few years ago someone had spotted an Amazon Kingfisher, never before seen in Laredo. We spotted a Kingfisher in the park and held our breath. It turned out to be a Belted Kingfisher which we had seen in SPI, but it was still fun. The we spotted another Lifer – for real! This juvenile Northern Goshawk has a Southern range that just encompasses Laredo – not as far South as SPI. Bonus!
Talk to you soon!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Time to move on

We're going to miss being right next door to the Coast Guard base. Every morning at sunup, a bugle sounds Revile, regardless of whether anyone is really up and about. Again, at sundown, the bugle blurts out Taps, just before the bright orange ball dips below the horizon. Unfortunately, the bugle also blasts out Taps at 10 PM as well, regardless of whether the Woman hit the sack at 8 or 7 or whatever hour. Thankfully, the powers that be decided to reward us with a goodbye sunset, not the best we've seen while in SPI, but still well above average. It will give us something to hang onto as we head inland.

We began making our way back toward Vegas by breaking camp at the South Padre Island KOA and hitting the pavement. We started making our way Westward along the Rio Grande, sticking to the US highways the rim the Texas border to the South. On the way we happened to pass through the official hometown of Freddy Fender. Born in San Benito in 1937, he spent his life in South Texas, dying in Corpus Christi in 2006.

Fender was never a huge success, but everyone knows his name. He managed to create many country favorites that eventually became top 10 songs. He even a handful of chart topers, as well as a number one country album. Fender acted in a small number of films, including The Milagro Beanfield War, directed by Robert Redford. While I don’t know for sure, I imagine that one had something with Fender getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Love stumbling on roadside Americana!
Talk to you soon!