Friday, June 13, 2014

Escape! is happening now

On Sunday morning, Kathy looked at her phone and saw this message, "Escape! is happening now." It was generated from the countdown reminder app she had set up a year ago so we would know, to the second how long we had until this great adventure began.  Well this morning it was beginning.

We woke up anxious but rested at Union Grove Park and slowed ourselves down to enjoy a glorious cup of coffee while bird watching over looking the lake.  It was the first night in a month that we didn't fall asleep to traffic noise.  The site was across from our Thanksgiving site at Dana Peak Park.  It was a cloudy morning and a hard and steady rain began as we departed.

A few months ago we had purchased two dog harnesses in order to be able to seat belt the pups in while driving, especially in the Jeep.  We put Keila in her kennel and Frances in her harness connected to the seat belt loop under the couch.  Frances, whose nickname is "Houdini," was out of her harness in less than a minute.  We tried her walking harness and she escaped from it, too, so Frances ended up in the kennel and Keila was allowed to enjoy her freedom.

Once settled in we continued northwest towards Lampasas, where we encountered major gravel that was supposed to have lasted 15 miles.  NOT!!  We drove a ways at 35 mph as cars/trucks blew past us, showering us and the Jeep with rocks.  We thought for sure we were going to have to replace two windshields and a pair of Jeep headlights.  Joy quickly looked at the map and found a less rocky alternate route.  Somehow, no chips or cracks presented themselves.  We had literally dodged several bullets.  We've been told that these are the types of roads we may encounter along the Alaska highway and that I makes us a bit anxious.

Continuing on toward the San Saba cutoff we were flagged down by a passing pick up truck.  We pulled over and found our clothesline rope that we had wrapped around the bicycles and their cover had come loose and was dragging behind us.  A quick re-wrap and we were back on the road.  We stopped for lunch and to pick up a couple of groceries and continued heading to Abilene State Park.

Kathy checked us in and was excited about the fish listed on the park map so we made plans to fish. The campsite was well wooded and a cardinal family nested right outside our door.  We took our usual "check-out-the-park" walk and found a small group of yurts, a first for us.

We hopped in the Jeep and drove to the entrance for Abilene Lake to check out our fishing spot for later that evening.  We were disappointed to find that the drought had diminished the lake to a muddy pond - no fishing for us unless we wanted to take up noodling.

We drove around the rest of the park and discovered a dry pool.  We assumed that there was no water to fill it due to the drought but later learned it was simply being repaired.  A historic water tower and observation deck constructed by the Civilian Conversation Corps with rust-colored sandstone overlooked the pool.  The tower was locked but created a great climbing opportunity for Joy, who also enjoyed the playground monkey bars.

It stormed overnight but nothing too scary. The next morning we enjoyed coffee outside while watching Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal keeping their nest safe and feeding their babies.

We departed for our next stop, Caprock Canyons State Park, in separate vehicles where we would be spending two nights.  We had things to do in Abilene and decided to divide and conquer.  The drive through eclectic Buffalo Gap, TX was fun and we wished we had more time to stop and hang out for a bit. It has a historic area as well as tourist shops and artist boutiques that looked like fun.  We drove through farmland - corn, winter wheat, and sorghum. The soil became a bright orange red, the color of clay that reminded Kathy of living in Georgia.  Water lay atop it from the previous days of rain, showing how dry the land has become.

In Abilene, Kathy stopped at the U-Haul to fill the LP tank and Joy headed to the credit union to deposit a check.  When she arrived at the credit union, she needed to use the restroom but was told it was being painted. She was told to use the restroom in the Grandy's restaurant next door.  When she walked into the door she was greeted with a, "I know you" from a woman sitting at a table with four men.  "You're Joy, Joy Nyberg!"  Joy looked at the woman and recognized her as a co-worker from Del Valle High School, where Joy taught 12 years ago.  What a small world!  A quick exchange of contact information and Joy met Kathy to hook up and continue on.

When we arrived at the park we were greeted at the gate by the Texas Buffalo herd, three dozen or so of these great beasts roam freely throughout the park.  We had no idea about the buffalo and were ecstatic to find them.  We checked in and set up quickly. The views in the park were beyond awesome and Kathy announced that it was her new favorite Texas state park.  Joy's cousin, who lives in nearby Childress, arrived with her daughter for dinner.  It was a teary reunion after not seeing each other for 30 years.  Dinner and sharing stories closed a fabulous day in new territory.

Overnight, the winds shifted and we watched and waited for storms that didn't come.  Cooler temps meant sleeping with a window open and no air conditioner.  We awoke to another perfect day for an early morning drive around the park, a short hike, and a bike ride to the visitor center - all before lunch!  Our excursions allowed us to see more buffalo, mule deer, prairie dogs and a tarantula.  A quick drive to Quitaque, TX for lunch and snooping in the tourist store completed our outing.   We had an evening campfire after learning that the recent burn ban had been lifted.  Coyotes howling in the distance didn't phase the dogs, but we do think they prompted Keila to dig a hole in the ground to lay in, very "wild" activity for her!

The drive to Dalhart was flat and presented an opportunity to see court houses of counties most Texans can't name.  We got to the Xit Rodeo fairgrounds and camped for $15.00 for a full hookup.  After parking and leveling we discovered that our steps were not working.  We tried everything - including checking fuses. A call to our favorite master RV tech had Kathy crawling under the RV and making plans to buy a 12-volt tester the next morning.  Luckily, our little step stool provided the perfect step down so we didn't miss the steps too much.

After our failures to calm Keila with non-prescription remedies, we called our vet who prescribed something for her.  We went into Dalhart and picked them up at Bowers Pharmacy. We also found a hole-in-the-wall laundry mat, washed all of our clothes, and had dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall grill (everything in Dalhart was a hole-in-the-wall.)  We went to bed during a wind storm of 38-mph winds gusting to 50 mph.  Luckily we were parked facing the right direction so they weren't cross winds.  Kathy got up to walk around the RV several times to ensure everything was intact.  Although the stove vent cover was lifting almost completely off the roof, it held on and we didn't lose anything.

The morning breakdown was easy and we had a feeling that once we pulled out of the site our steps would magically start working.  We were right.  A quick drive to the post office to mail legal documents to Mom and we were back on the road, Pueblo bound.  After five days of traveling we were finally going to get out of Texas - maybe for guuuud!

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