Celebrating Red, White, & Blue

The 4th of July came while I was in Texas visiting grandkids. We went to the parade in Wimberly. Here are some small-town-parade scenes.

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And here is who I was with while I was watching:

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The give-aways from parade participants included flags,

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and as much candy as at Halloween.

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Road Trip to Texas – Day 10 (part 1)

It may seem silly to go back three weeks to finish up my Road Trip blogs, but I don’t want to leave it unfinished. This blog has become my scrapbook that I would never do on paper.  And I have had a lot of feedback that you who read the blog like the Road Trip series. I left off on Day 9, so here is Day 10, split into two parts because that’s how the day seemed. I’ll warn you now; there are a lot of photos.DSC_7386We were packing the truck. I wondered if Kirby would miss us for a little while because we’d been there for four days. Probably not, but I hope that she will remember me next time I see her.DSC_7404Saying goodbye was hard for Dan and me.DSC_7395

KirbyTime to leave. I needed to be home by Friday.

Blanco? Now that it’s been so long until I sorted this batch of photos I forget where some of them were taken. I think this is the town of Blanco, the closest town to where we were visiting.

This is peach season in the Hill Country and wanted to make a stop and maybe pick up a few more gifts for farm-sitters.peach stand


peach stand (1)Here is where they sort the peaches.peach stand (2)And here is where they bake pies and other delectables. It smelled wonderful inside. I was so tempted to buy a pie, but instead I bought fresh peaches and jam and…peach ice cream…this for the road…trying to ease the sadness of leaving our family behind.DSC_7444I amused myself by taking photos on the road (thinking that I would remember where they were taken).  I have not cropped or edited these photos. They include the squashbugs (as my brother and I used to call them) and glare on the windshield.

Texas is a big place. The country is not all what I had envisioned. DSC_7458There are more mountains than I expected.DSC_7469And more greenery. Even towards West Texas there is agriculture anywhere there is consistent water.DSC_7454


Hwy 10, TXAt this gas stop I walked out back…Davis Mountains, TX…and took photos of the gorgeous Davis Mountains to the south.

DSC_7467 DSC_7471 DSC_7473 DSC_7487 The simple descriptor I kept thinking was Big.

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Rio Grande ValleyDropping into the Rio Grande valley.El Paso, TXEl Paso, on the U.S./Mexico border.

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US-Mexico fenceThe border fence.

DSC_7530 The end of this blog post but not the day. More in the next post.

Road Trip to Texas – Day 8

After our visit to the Alamo two days before we were ready for another trip into Texas history. We headed a couple of hours southeast to Goliad State Park, the location we knew as the site of the the 1836 Goliad Massacre, when General Santa Ana ordered the murder of Texas soldiers who had surrendered. But there is much more history than that.Goliad State Park-Mission E.S. (1)Our first stop was at the Mission Espiritu Santo, built in 1722, moved in 1749 to it’s current location, and restored in the 1930’s by the CCC, where the Spanish began “civilizing and Christianizing” the native people with the intention of making them Spanish citizens and, in doing so, destroyed the traditional cultures of the three tribes. Eventually ranching became the main occupation and there were thousand of cattle and horses on the mission lands.Goliad State Park-Mission E.S.Some of the original limestone walls exist and are left unplastered here.Door of Death at Mission Espiritu SantoWe entered the church through the Door of Life and left it through the Door of Death.

Dan-conquistador helmet Dan tried on a replica of a Conquistador helmet.

DSC_7340 Kirby seemed unimpressed.Horse lubber grasshopperThere was a short nature trail outside the mission. I later identified this huge insect as a Horse Lubber grasshopper. Yikes!Goliad State Park-PresidioThe next stop was just across the San Antonio River, at the Presidio La Bahia,”the only Spanish fortress for the entire Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Mississippi River” (Wikipedia)IMG_5310Nine flags indicate the changes in control of the region.DSC_7374Kirby and Kurtis outside the Presidio.Goliad State Park-Presidio (1) There was a 15 minute film about the historical events at Goliad but Kirby wasn’t ready to sit through that. So I took Kirby through the Presidio building where you can walk through a timeline of the history. Mescalbean, Mtn laurelAfter our tour of the Presidio Dan and I sat in the shade while Katie fed Kirby lunch in the air-conditioned car. Look at what I saw on the ground under this tree:Mescalbean, Mtn laurel (1)First I noticed the red beans. Then I saw that they came out of these pods that, honestly, look like something I’d clean up in my yard full of dogs. Later I googled “red beans from tree in southern Texas” or something like that and found that this tree is the Mescalbean or Mountain Laurel, not related to the alchoholic drink, but still with psychoactive properties.

IMG_5320  Tired girl after a long drive and a lot of sight-seeing.

Road Trip to Texas – Day 7

On our first morning in Texas I took a walk up the road, a familiar route from my time spent here a year ago while waiting for Kirby to be born.Katie's road Just as we had seen in northern Arizona and New Mexico everything was green. Summer monsoons are the norm, but there have been several dry years so this particularly wet year is a welcome change. However there can be too much of a good thing. We saw the signs on the Blanco River of the recent high water and were amazed at just how high it was. Katie's road (1)Katie and Kurtis live on high ground between Blanco and Wimberly (where the horrific May flooding swept houses and people away) so they were in no danger. This wash just down from their driveway has running water now but during the flooding was many feet higher and impassable. Hard to imagine.Western Horse-Nettle, Solanum dimidiatumWestern Horse Nettle

All this rain has caused crop damage and postponed harvesting to the detriment (or loss) of crops in some areas. However, it sure brings out the wildflowers. I took photos of 20 different species on this short mile and a half walk and identified some of them.Green thread, Thelesperma filifoliumGreen thread, Thelesperma filifolium ButtonbushButtonbush, a memorable flower that I first saw last year.

Our plan for the day was to visit a sheep farm that I found on-line. I was looking for “local wool” and this farm, only about 45 minutes from Katie’s house, popped up. Dan and Annette of  Stonewall Fine Wool and Lambs were gracious enough to allow us to visit, although they usually don’t have on-site customers.

Most of the flock of Delaine Merino x Corriedale x Ramboulillet sheep, descendants of the original flock owned by Annette’s family, were somewhere else on the 129 acres but …Ram at Stonewall Farm…the rams…DSC_7231…and some lambs for sale were near the barn.DSC_7261Dan had fleeces ready for me to see and we spread them out on the table. He shears the sheep himself, although he has to fit shearing in around another full-time job.  DSC_7258DSC_7243He showed me these boxes of fleece–sorted, but unscoured staples on the left and washed wool on the right. What a transformation!DSC_7251The washed wool is very, very soft. I think it passed the “soft as a baby’s skin” test.DSC_7255I was also impressed that Dan had made himself a drop spindle and taught himself how to spin.DSC_7267You know that I don’t really NEED any more wool, but some of it followed me right into the car. I plan to share with my farm-sitting friends. Thanks very much to Dan and Annette for taking a couple of hours on their weekend to entertain us.

Next stop only a few miles up the road was the Wildseed Farm,  a  working farm that grows and sells wildflower seed to wholesale and retail customers.DSC_7274We were planning to go to this farm two days ago after a brief tour of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, but as I explained in this post, the Museum requires a several hour visit to do it justice.

We missed the true wildflower season when all 217 acres are blooming, but there was still plenty to see.steel cactusThose saguaro, barrel cactus, and beavertail cactus  and are all metal! butterfly garden (1) We walked through the Butterfly Garden.butterfly gardenMore plants from the butterfly garden.DSC_7283

butterfly garden (2) More of the butterfly Garden.

DSC_7323Last we admired the fields of red and white zinnias and sunspot sunflower…

DSC_7328 …and then piled back into the car. Kirby was a real trooper.

One more place to stop on the tour of points of interest near Fredericksburg and Stonewall, since it was on the way.

LBJ State Park (1) There is a visitor’s center and a tour through the LBJ home but, due to one of our party being under a year old and it had already been a busy day, we opted for the 8-mile driving tour of the ranch where LBJ was born, died (1973), and is buried. Someday we’ll return for the whole experience.

LBJ State Park (2) This is a beautiful estate, a portion of which was donated to the National Park Service (by prior arrangement) after the death of Mrs. Johnson in 2007.

LBJ State Park A stipulation of Johnson was that this remain a working cattle ranch rather than become “a sterile relic of the past”. The cattle on the ranch descend from the horned Herefords that he raised and he kept a close watch on management even during his tenure in the White House.

Road Trip to Texas – Day 5

I’m getting behind on these posts. We’re seeing so much country and driving so much that I’m starting to get confused.

At the end of the last post we found a motel in San Angelo which, by the way, is where I send my wool samples for micron testing. When driving into town late that night we passed the Texas Agrilife Research Center and that’s when I realized why the name San Angelo seemed familiar. Had we had a plan I might have called ahead to see if I could come see their facility.

The map showed that it was only about 3-1/2 hours to our destination between Wimberly and Blanco. The landscape changed from the oil fields of West Texas to ag land.DSC_7072 DSC_7078 DSC_7082 DSC_7100 We drove through a lot of small towns, some of which were essentially ghost towns and some of which seemed to be keeping up.DSC_7089 There are lots of beautiful old buildings in the downtown areas. In many of those towns that are thriving the downtowns center squares are more touristy than they would have been originally, But the cute shops and diners entice one to stop and spend some money…however we didn’t. We’re usually not that kind of tourists.DSC_7091I don’t have many photos. I snapped several from the moving truck, but although some of the scenery ones are passable, it was hard to get much in town when driving through.Mason, TXI must say that the iPhone has given me a new way to travel. We like our big map books with one book for each state. I kept that open on my lap but I continued to look up towns we passed or things listed on the map that weren’t there anymore. We garnered a lot of history that way. IMG_5222Here is one place at which we stopped. It turned out to be a small supply and feed store that has some wool items (sheepskins, blankets, socks), but they are not locally grown with the exception of some socks–sort of. The mohair in the socks is from Texas but the manufacturing is done in South Africa. The business also serve as a depot for area ranchers to drop off wool to be picked up by a commercial buyer. 

We got to Fredericksburg, about an hour from my daughter and son-in-law’s house and planned to spend a couple of hours there so that she could finish her work day. We stopped at the National Museum of the Pacific War, a place I was aware of from a visit to the area a year ago . Why a museum about World War II and the Pacific in Texas? Fredericksburg is the birthplace of Admiral Nimitz who played a major role in the naval history of World War II. IMG_5226If you find yourself in this part of Texas I highly recommend this museum but you really need to allow a whole day to see it. Let me tell you up front that I am not a war buff and I am not a history buff. My eyes glaze over when I hear too many dates and places and although I get the general idea I am sorely lacking in detailed knowledge about World War II. I was fascinated and very moved by this exhibit. It is incredibly thorough, beginning with the Chinese/Japanese tensions in the 1930’s and ending with, well the end of the war and the aftermath. You go through a maze of displays that include not just artifacts, but lots of  interactive exhibits, film, first-hand accounts, and photos in order of the action in the Pacific. I can do it justice in this brief description. It is very moving and a powerful presentation. We were totally immersed for over three hours and barely got through this one museum. There are five others as well as the outside area in the complex. Part way through I saw a sign above that showed concurrent events in Europe and I realized that we were seeing only the action in the Pacific and of course there was just as much going on in Europe. The depth of the horror and misery on both fronts is unimaginable. This is just another reminder (as if just driving through our fabulous country isn’t enough) of how lucky we are to live where we do and with the freedom we have. Although World War II ended long ago and most of us aren’t directly affected by war the horror is still going on for so many people in this world.

DSC_7110 These plaques are some of the memorials to those who served or commemorating ships or crews.

We had planned to get to Katie’s house earlier in the afternoon but were so overwhelmed by this exhibit that we were there until it closed. We were in Texas Hill Country at this point and, as we’ve seen on our whole trip, the land was lush and green from the unusual amount of rain this summer.round balesThis photo doesn’t look especially green because the field has just been baled but there is a bumper crop of hay.

We got to our destination about 5 p.m. and this is why we came:FullSizeRender

Road Trip to Texas – Day 4

We woke up in Roswell and left town fairly early so that we would have plenty time to explore Carlsbad Caverns National Park.Roswell, NMYou can’t miss the main attraction as you drive through town. Winslow has The Corner. Roswell has Aliens.Carlsbad caverns NPWe made it to the park by mid-morning.

Carlsbad caverns NP (1) Most people enter the cave at this entrance where you can also watch the flight of 400,000 Mexican bats leaving each evening. (Fact: A bat eats half it’s body weight of insects every night.) 

These photos don’t begin to show the enormity or the depth of this cave. The main room and caverns are over 750 feet (75 stories) below the surface.IMG_5202The main entrance is a series of switchbacks–those squiggles on the far left of this diagram.IMG_5183The bats roost inside the cave in an area closed to the public. Cave swallows roost in the entrance.IMG_5185

IMG_5190This is still on the descent where there is just barely enough natural light for a photo. The rest of the cave is illuminated enough so that flashlights aren’t necessary but I had the thought that it is good that the trail is asphalt and well maintained because you really can’t see where your feet are stepping. (It is also necessary because of the number of visitors to the cave. There were one million by 1937.)

Carlsbad caverns NP (2) This is how people explored in the early days. Yikes! I think the sign said that this ladder drops down 90 feet.IMG_5206I have very few photos from inside because you just can’t do it justice without a tripod. We walked both main loops of the trail which covers about two miles. The Big Room is the largest known natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere and floor space is estimated at more than 600,000 square feet. There are other portions to explore if you go on a guided tour and there is another level that extends for a mile 90 feet below where we were. In addition they said there are over 100 miles of passages  beyond.

Carlsbad caverns NP (3) This model in the visitor center shows the visitor center at the top and the extent of the cave that is open to visitors below. The entrance is that upper portion at the back of the photo and the trail descends the switchbacks along the wall. When you finish walking the trail you return to the visitor center via an elevator (the tube in the photo) that takes you the 75 stories up.

Not only is the cave impressive, but it is amazing to think of the first explorers and later the engineering and construction feat to develop the cave for visitor access. The first elevators were constructed in the early 1930’s.

After touring the cave and the visitor center we drove the 9-mile Walnut Canyon loop which gives a look at a bit of the above-ground part of the park.Pano of Walnut CanyonAs during the first part of our trip the desert was green from the recent rains. This is the Chihuahuan desert, the last of the four desert landscapes (Mojave, Sonoran, and high desert) we drove through on this trip. prickly pear


We left the National Park in mid-afternoon and headed tor Texas.TXI was all ready with my camera for the Welcome to Texas sign but there was none on the road we were on, however the landscape changed.

TX (1) TX Oil well (1) West Texas is known for it’s oil fields…TX Oil well …and that was the predominant feature over most of the landscape. I passed the time looking up towns and features on the iPhone. That gave insight to the history and settlement of the area.

We drove as far as San Angelo where we spent the night.