Thursday, January 29, 2015

Moving Day to Lake Casa Blanca and Sunset Pictures Galore

Location: Lake Casa Blanca State Park; Laredo, Texas

(click pictures to enlarge)

I pulled out of Falcon State Park around 11:00 for a 85 mile move to Lake Casa Blanca State Park. For the readers of this blog, you will remember I stayed at Blanco State Park back around Christmas time. Well, I got to wondering about the difference between Blanco and Blanca. I remember asking at Blanco what the translation was and the park people told me it meant "white". Come to find out, when describing something masculine, you use "blanco" for feminine you use "blanca". It's the same with "latino" (masculine) and "latina" (feminine). Dang, I should have taken Spanish in high school instead of French.

The park is surrounded by Laredo but when you get inside the park you don't feel the city. It surprised me to find out that Laredo is the 10th largest city in Texas with a population near 250,000. For the Louisianians out there, that puts it about the size of Shreveport and half of Bossier City.They assigned me a nice pull-thru site about 100 feet or so from the bank of the lake. The site is level and after a little jockeying, I was able to get to a point where the slide had room to open. I did run into a temporary problem when setting up. I couldn't connect my water hose to the water spigot. Every Texas state park has an anti-backflow device installed on their fresh water spigots to prevent their water source from getting contaminated by someone backflushing into their system. Well, it hasn't been a problem until this park. I tried all of my hoses and none would connect. The diameter of the anti-backflow device was just too large. Lucky for me I carry a "water-thief" with me. It is a short piece of rubber tubing with male hose threads on one end. It is mainly used for spigots without threads so you can slide the rubber end on the thread-less spigot and then connect your hose. Due to the large size of the anti-flow device, the thief was hard to get on. Once on, I could only open the valve a half turn or it would blow the thief off the spigot. What usually took about 10 minutes to fill my tank ended up taking 30 to 40 minutes. That is a long time when you're hungry and Taco Bell is ringing in your head. I will be here for 3 days with "explorations" planned for Best Buy, Wal-mart, Home Depot and H-E-B.  

There was a great sunset and I took a lot of pictures. I had a hard time deciding which ones to post on here, so there is a dozen or so. They are in order of the sunset and some are only a minute apart. The sky was changing quickly. The caption for the sunset pictures will only be a number so you can refer to a particular picture. 
You can see the "water-thief" I had to use on the water spigot.

Nice and level pull-thru site

Gives an idea how far the lake is from the campsite

Looking back up at Liberty through the cactus

About 100 feet or some from the campsite.
















It was a good day :)

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Last Day at Falcon State Park

Location: Falcon State Park; Falcon Heights, Texas

(click picture to enlarge)

I got a nice surprise this morning as I was walking by my small window. The window is located at the junction of the bathroom, bedroom and top of the stairs. Ever since I moved into Liberty, I glance out that window every time I pass by it. But it was only recently, back when I was in Choke Canyon State Park, that I realized the screen slid open, just like the window. That allowed me to point the camera out the window and get some good shots without having to shoot through glass or screen. That is where I took the picture of the Crested Caracara and the javelinas. This morning, it was the sunrise. 

This is what I saw out the window right at sunrise.

Same vantage point, just an hour later (after coffee).

I emptied my waste tanks today and took on enough fresh water to last me until I get to the next campground. Without any extraordinary conservation efforts, my tanks lasted 9 days before emptying. Moving as fast as I have in the past, I never needed to know that information. However, since I plan to do a little boondocking (staying in places without services at the campsite), I need to know how long I could go without having to hitch up and move. From what I have figured out, there are three controlling factors when boondocking, not counting any camping time restrictions like a 14 day limit in some National Parks. The three factors that I'm concerned with are power, waste tank capacity and fresh water capacity. I now know that I can easily go 7 to 9 days without having to empty my waste tanks. Fresh water is not a problem, because once I use up all the fresh water in the tank, I can replenish it without having to hitch and move by using the 2 1/2 gallon collapsible water jugs that bought at Thanksgiving. There are several options for power when not connected to an electrical service point. They are solar panels, generator(s) and batteries. I don't think I'll be doing enough boondocking to warrant getting solar panels and I don't want the extra weight and trouble of a generator with the gas can that is needed. With that in mind, I'll be replacing the one battery that came in Liberty with two larger batteries. I'll be getting them in El Paso as I pass through there on my way west. I am shooting for enough power to last 4 to 5 days. If two batteries won't give me that time, then I'll get a third one. After boondocking for 4 or 5 days, I'll hitch up and move to a regular campground with electricity so as to charge up the batteries for the next time I boondock. I don't know how often I'll boondock, but I will have the option to do it. It will be a learning curve, but a fun learning curve. And the beauty of it all is if it doesn't work out, I just hitch up and go somewhere else, just like that,,,,,Freedom and Liberty. 

Taking a break after emptying the waste tanks, adding some fresh water, lubricating the big slide and stabilizing jacks. I was sitting at the picnic table on a pretty day drinking a bottle of water and looking at Freedom and Liberty, knowing that tomorrow will be filled with new surroundings that I haven't seen before. It's a heck of a lifestyle I've chosen. I hope it lasts a while.   

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading north to a state park near Laredo, Texas. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rio Grande River, Butterflies and Javelinas

Location: Falcon State Park; Falcon Heights, Texas

(click pictures to enlarge)

I saw the Rio Grande River in two different places yesterday. One was in a little town just down the road for the campground named, Salineno. You drive through the little town to get to the river. A small piece of land by the river has been set aside as a bird sanctuary and volunteers take care of bird feeders to entice lots of different birds. It is a popular place for "birders". I saw a lot of birds, most of which I didn't know the name. I thought I saw a bald eagle but a more experienced birding couple told me it was an Osprey. I was more excited when I thought it was an eagle (they busted my bubble). One of the main reason I went, besides to see the birds, was it is one of the few places to get to the Rio Grande in a semi-safe location. There are lots of roads, mostly dirt, that lead to the river but I don't think I'll wander down them like I would in other parts of the country. The river at this location is narrow enough that you could throw a rock across.
I took this picture because of the sign on the right side. Any guesses as to what it means? I found out on down the road.

The Rio Grande River at Salineno, Texas. This spot is about 5 miles downstream of the Falcon Lake Dam. 

I was the only one at the banks of the river until the welcoming committee of one, the dog, showed up. You could tell he was an older dog and that he belonged to someone by the collar he wore. He didn't bark at all. I assume he had been trained not to bark so as to not scare the birds. 

The river was smooth enough to provide this mirror image of the Mexican shoreline. That is the Osprey sitting on the bare limb in the middle of the picture. I got a good look at him through my binoculars but the pictures taken by the fancy camera were not as crisp as I had hoped. I guess I need to read the owners manual to find out the secrets. 

After I left Salineno, I drove on to Roma about 25 miles south. My plan was to check out a place that I saw a sign of the last time I was there. It said, Bird Watching from the Bluffs of Roma. I could take or leave the birds, but I was interested in seeing the bluffs. Sure enough, the bluff was a good 200 feet high, above the river. It is a good place to stand and look down on the Rio Grande and also to see the bridge that crosses into Mexico. When I parked, there were two cops, one a state trooper and the other a border patrol agent standing on the bluff. As I walked up to them, I made a hand gesture to indicate if it was OK for me to come take a picture. They waved me on. I took a few pictures and struck up a conversation with them. They were standing there scouring the river for any illegal activities. Both said it should start around noon, as soon as church let out. Apparently, there are people here that illegally cross the border to attend church and visit with relatives on Sunday. This happens in both directions. The cops are not interested in those people, but the ones they are interested in are the smugglers that use the church crossing activity to cover their bad activity. I mentioned I was staying in the Falcon State Park. They both offered me some words of wisdom about this location that got me to thinking. For several reasons, I won't mention them here. As I was about to leave, their radios started crackling and both ran to their cars and laid rubber leaving the place. I looked around a little bit and noticed I was the only one there so I left too (I didn't lay rubber when I left :)).
That is the International Bridge leading to Old Mexico. 

This is looking north from the bluffs. The river is narrow and shallow enough to walk across at this point. This is the place where many cross the river, some good people and some bad people.
I got back to the campground around 2:00 pm and the weather was great for a walk. The temperature was warm enough for shorts but I wore blue jeans since I was going to be on one of the trails. I took the fancy camera along and attached it to the mono-pole. I figured I could use it as a walking stick or to beat wild animals off. It would probably do better at either of those instead of taking pictures. I really need to read the manual, but it has so many pages. 
This is what the fancy camera and mono-pole looks like. I took this picture with a good camera (Nokia Lumia 929 Cell Phone)

This trail leds in and out of the picnic areas. Set-ups like this with a table, shade shelter, grill and water are scattered everywhere. You have to park several hundred feet away but it is a semi-private location and good to spend a lazy summer day. They aren't used much this time of year.

I decided to snap another selfie so Olivia and Tucker will know what I looked like back in 2015 when they read this blog in the future. I figure they may read it when they are in the late 20's or early 30's so that will be about 2040. 

My earlier concerns about backing down such a long and steep boat ramp were answered when this truck and boat drove headfirst down it, then U-turned before hitting the water. They made it look easy but the truck struggled a little coming out even with an empty trailer. 

A pre-sunset picture. Too cloudy for a good one. Maybe another day.

I liked the combination of the sky, lake and land in this one.

There is a Butterfly Garden in the campground. The park people have taken great pains to put in the plants that will attract the most butterflies of different species. Texas holds the record for the largest number of butterfly species in the U.S. with more than 300 located in the Rio Grande Valley alone. There were no butterflies when I visited, due to the season, but my imagination saw hundreds. :)

This picture is for Mrs Mc's 3rd grade class. This is the healthy late lunch I made and ate at my picnic table. You can see a bite is gone. It is bologna, cheese and lettuce. Class,,,,do you approve?

I snapped this one as I went in for the evening. It was darker than this picture represents. It was a good day.
I wrote this blog post this morning which was the day after the exploring. As I was writing, I paused to take a sip of coffee and glanced out the window. Javelinas were coming out of the brush by my picnic table. I grabbed the best camera (cell phone) and started taking pictures from the small window at the top of my stairs. I can open it quietly and slide the screen to take an unobstructed picture. The window is so small, animals don't notice me when I take their picture through it. The javelinas came out and turned along the brush-line. The first to come out was the biggest one followed by several slightly smaller ones (females ?) and a few babies. The last ones were big ones again. All in all, I would guess there were maybe a dozen or so. I was lucky they choice my "backyard" to come out of the brush and that I was sipping coffee and saw them. 

The one on the left above the picnic table seemed to stare at me as the others came out and wandered off. They are suppose to have bad eyesight so I'm not sure he saw me or heard me. 

A broadside view of two of them with another one just coming out of the brush. The beginning of hopefully a good day.  
My plan is to drive into the town of Zapata about 25 miles north of here. I'll hit the car wash again in hopes of getting the last of the Three Rivers grime off of Freedom. I'll also stop at the grocery store to see if they have any decent fruit before fueling up for my moving day on Wednesday. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mexico Border, Car Wash and another Walk on a Trail

Location: Falcon State Park; Falcon Heights, Texas

(click pictures to enlarge)

The weather cleared around 10:00 am but the wind continued to howl with gusts in the 20+ mph range. The sky was partly cloudy with patches of blue shining through. 

I drove around the park before heading to Zapata, which is the town located about 25 miles north of here. I was looking for a car wash. Even though I washed Freedom in one of those self-service spraying wand things, some of the dirty grime I picked up at Three Rivers was still hanging on. I found a drive through car wash and for $8.00 it did a pretty good job. There are still places where this is some faint grime still sticking, but it is 90% better than before. I may hit the car wash again when I go to town to fill up with gas before moving day next week. 

On my way back to the park, I drove over to the dam in hopes of getting a better view of the gates and spillway. The border crossing point is located on the U.S. end of the dam so I wasn't able to get a good view. I slowly turned around before getting up to the border guards. I guess if I hadn't been so lazy last Thanksgiving and had gotten my passport like I planned, I could have driven into Mexico. I could have seen the dam at the same time, since the road going to Mexico is on top of the dam. I didn't take any pictures of the border guards because I didn't want to draw any attention to myself. 

I took a walk on another one of the trails in the park. On my way I saw a family of Javelinas on the side of the road. I walked up slowly and took some pictures, but did not get the clarity that I wanted. I didn't have the big camera because it is a pain to carry sometimes. I know someone is going to disagree, but of course, she will be wrong (notice I didn't say a name). I will get a good picture of some javelinas in the future, I'm sure of that. They live in the area I will be passing through for the next month or two. 

There isn't a lot to explore around this area so I'm mainly just kicking back and taking it easy. The evening walks are great with the weather cooperating. I haven't seen any other campers on the trails yet. Some are walking only on the roads. Maybe they know something I don't, but I enjoy seeing the different plants, tracks and stuff along the trail. I did find the other two Geocaches that are in the park. I took a picture of one from a little distance away so you can see how easy they made them at this park. It is still fun to find them and see what stuff is in the box. I signed the log books and left a business card in the box. 

On to some pictures:

This is the boat ramp in the park. You better have enough power under the hood to get you back up that thing. I don't know why they made it so steep since there is plenty of room to lay it down to a more gentle slope. There were only two boat trailers in the parking lot.

There are several places where you can drive right up the edge of the lake. The lake, like so many in this area, is way low due to the drought. 

Looked like some people made their own boat ramps.

That's the border crossing ahead. I put the camera down and was on my best behavior as I slowly turned around and skedaddled. For my Yankee friends, that means I drove away. :)

That is a family of Javelinas on the side of the road. There were at least 3 or 4 little ones and about 5 big ones. After one of the females saw me, she rounded up the little ones and hit the brush. The biggest one stared at me while the others hit the silk, then he went in the brush.

I thought the show was over but then the big one came trotting back out of the brush, went about 200 feet and entered the brush at a different spot. I can only assume the females kicked him out of their hiding place. Shame, shame.

Entrance to the hiking  walking trail. Looks like a nice one, uh?

Not far down the trail you come to a fork. This picture, with the "caution" sign was to the right. I thought long and hard for about 2 seconds and decided to take the left fork.

Along the way, I found the third and final Geocache. I took of picture of it from the trail so you could see how easy they placed them here. They said they did so because it was unsafe to wander too far away from the trail. 

Another "thinking bench". I sat down for a while and it was very quiet. The wind had died down and would gust just every now and then. You could close your eyes and listen for every sound. I could hear several different type of birds singing, something small in brush, probably a jack rabbit. It was nice.

I took this picture of the OLD and YOUNG. It is a gnarly old twisted tree which looks more dead than alive, BUT, you can see new young growth,,,, shoots of life coming out of the old limbs. The continuation of life.

I didn't see any young growth shoots on this tree so I don't think it will be coming back, but it sure had a pretty view when it was alive. 
One Random Thought:
The country of Yemen is being taken over by Iranian backed terrorists. The King of Saudi Arabia died and is being succeeded by his half brother that is 79 years old. ISIS is gobbling up territory in Syria and Iraq while killing everybody who doesn't agree with them. Iran is about to become a nuclear power. The Taliban will be back in power in Afghanistan in a year. Iraq will become a puppet of Iran. Russia still has Crimea and is looking at other places in the Ukraine to take over. This is just a few of the things going on in the world and our president is giving an interview to three people who are popular on YouTube. They asked him questions like, "if you were a superhero, what power would you want". At the same time, he is refusing to meet with the Prime Minister of our biggest ally in the Middle East because he is pissed that the PM was invited by Congress. 
May God help us. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.