While reading Google News this morning, my eye caught an interesting headline, “Ripple Effect After Fiery Crash Takes Out Only Place To Get Gas…”, so I clicked on it.
Wait a minute. That name sounds familiar. Chugwater, WY. I’ve been there! It was our first geocache find in Wyoming back in 2009 when we took a vacation out west.
Chugwater, WY — Stopped in this small town to grab a geocache. Most of all the small towns we would encounter out here had both their elevation and population listed on the “Welcome To” sign. (04/11/09)
The next closest town that the article mentions, Wheatland, where residents go to get gas was geocache #2.
Wheatland, WY — Another cache, another “Welcome To” sign (04/11/09)
We decided that it would be a big treat to stay at a hotel right at the airport. I mean right at a terminal. We’ve done this before in Hartford/Springfield and it was cool to check out and then wheel your luggage right over to airline check-in.
The only one like that at Dallas/Ft. Worth is the Grand Hyatt and it is a step up from the one at Bradley International. A BIG step up. The cost is quite a bit more and, well, everything is a bit more. Donna and I are fighting out of our weight class on this one. Like most first class hotels you have to pay for internet, this place has 3 levels of internet, $10, $15 & $25 a night; speedy to blazing fast with a Netflix log-in. There is a refrigerator in the room, but it the hotel’s robotic mini bar, pull something out and it is scanned and added to your bill. This means we can’t put anything of our own in it for fear of being charged when we take it back out.
The 3 restaurants in the hotel were too nice for us to go in dressed in jeans and hiking boots, so we ordered room service. Soup and quesadilla for Donna and a grilled chicken caesar salad for me for the equivalent of a tank of gas for the Purple Whale. Tomorrow for breakfast we will be grabbing something in the terminal…maybe even from a DD.
But, we are in a room that is very spiffy, literally leaps and bounds above the usual HIE places we stay. All the switches are thin membrane and there is a control panel on each nightstand (which is really too plebeian a word for this piece of furniture) to control all the lights, the room temperature and the shades for the floor to ceiling window. The TV is a this year’s model 42″ Samsung. There is a tub or a glass walled shower to choose for your bathing needs. We both choose shower and it has one of those rain type heads that doesn’t have a water saver restrictor plate in it. Niiice. The king bed is awesome, I bet it is worth as much as Donna and I have spent on mattresses in our lifetime. And hey, no cheap shrink-wrapped plastic cups, we have real fine glassware to drive our ice water from. I could get used to this, if I could only afford it all the time.
Beth was feeling a little under the weather, so she and baby Susan stayed in the room, while the rest of us went for a hike this morning. A 6 mile drive on paved roads leads to a 6 mile drive on a dirt road to the trail head of the Grapevine Hills Trail. Described in the brochure as a 1 mile one way easy trail following a sandy wash through massive granite-like boulders to a low pass and at the end is an optional 100 yard walk along a ridge to see a picturesque window of boulders.
In reality, the 1 mile part was right, but that 100 yard thing turned into a 1/4 mile hands and knees scramble up the side of the valley wall. The view from the top was worth it (see photo above), but the picturesque window of boulders was literally crawling with 8th graders, about 80 of them. They were there on a field trip that the students of a private school in Austin take every year to learn geology along with math and stuff.
After lunch we were going to drive a couple miles down the road and do part of the Lost Mine Trail to get a 2 mile hike. Everyone wanted to go this time and that meant taking two cars, which Donna and I really didn’t want to do. I looked through the trail book and found a 1.6 mile loop that started right here in the lodge parking lot. The first half or so was all uphill, gaining a couple hundred feet of elevation and at this point I think there were a couple wishing that they hadn’t come. The last part was all downhill and the group stayed pretty much together for that.
After dinner plans included a 1/2 mile walk downhill to see a ranger demonstration and then maybe a walk back up.
Tomorrow we have a dawn launch for the drive to Dallas where we’ll spend the night before flying home. Scott, Beth and the kids start their drive back to Washington State via Golden, NM and Steve heads up the road a couple hundred miles to home.
This morning we all went for a couple of short walks near the lodge as we were marking time until Donna’s oldest brother Jim arrived. Jim was taking a day off from work in Dallas to come down and see everyone.
When he arrived we all piled into two cars and drove the 20 miles to the Rio Grande Village in the southeast part of the park. We had a picnic lunch and then took a short walk over to the boat ramp to actually stare off at another country, Mexico. Jim, myself, James and Madilyn tried to incite an international incident by throwing rocks at the other side. The river is only about 25 yards wide here and though several of our group landed rocks in the Mexican half of the river and I managed to strike land twice, no Federales returned fire.
While we were eating a roadrunner made a brief appearance near us, but accurately judging our maximum firing distance, or he was watching us throw stones at Mexico earlier, came no closer than 25 yards.
After our picnic we drove over to the Boquillas Canyon Overlook to gaze again at the Rio Grande and from this height some of its flood plain. At the parking area there were a half dozen or so large rocks covered in trinkets made from beads, pieces of Fool’s Gold and painted walking sticks in a sort of self-service Mexican souvenir stand. When we looked across the river, there were the artists and their horses sitting in the shade.
Prior to 9/11 there was an unofficial border crossing here. The Mexicans from the small isolated village of Boquillas, not too far from the overlook, would row American park visitors to the other side to sell them these same type of items, before bringing them back across. Since then the crossing has been closed and Americans are not allowed to cross the border except via the official crossings a hundred miles east or west of here. I’m guessing there is a sort of understanding between the park rangers and the villagers that as long as they are not actually on American soil actively selling these items it is OK. And they let the Mexicans ride across the river in the morning to set up “shop” and then back to collect their unsold wares and proceeds each evening.
We had big plans this morning to do the 2 mile walking tour of Fort Stockton and grab a half dozen caches around town before heading down to Big Bend National Park, but twenty mile an hour winds and the low 40’s temperatures dissuaded us from it. We also had big plans to eat breakfast at a local joint, but they’re not being open prevented that, so opted instead to eat breakfast at McDonalds and shop for provisions at Wal-Mart.
For the hundred and something mile drive to Big Bend I had mapped out a few more caches, after two failures we gave up on that. The first was an interesting two stage earthcache. Stage one was right on US385, but stage was 3.84 miles into what the GPSr showed to be nothing, with no roads to it. The second was at a roadside picnic shelter. After stopping and the direction it indicated seemed not be appropriate, so I read all the cache instructions and noted it said, “Hop the fence and 100 yards in it will be under a dead cactus.” The fence in question was a 5 foot high, 4 strand barbed wire one that we weren’t even thinking of attempting.
I know it seems like I have been writing about nothing but negative things that have been happening to us, but we are having a great time (except for that drive from DFW to the hotel on the first day.) The roads uncrowded, the people are friendly the weather good and the scenery sublime.
The photo above is from the balcony of the room we are in for the next three days and it is probably the worst view for miles.
This breakfast waffle at the Microtel Inn wasn’t the usual round shape…
After eating we spent the rest of the morning over at San Angelo State park doing some geocaching. There were a total of 56 caches in the park, but there was no way we would try and get nearly that many. Ended up grabbing 8 and DNFing one. The park was touted as having a large lake, but because of the lack of rain in these parts it is bone dry. Maybe someone should tell the state of Texas to amend their description of the park. Also the geocache’s descriptions could be made more truthful. It was still worth the 4 bucks a head to get in as we got to see some prairie dogs (got a photo) and bison (no photo) to go with a couple small hikes in some very different terrain than we can see in SC.
The afternoon was spent driving to Fort Stockton where we are spending the night. Along the way we stopped and briefly visited the Santa Rita #1 which turned the University of Texas into a very rich school when it became the first major discovery of oil in West Texas. A couple things we found out today, Texas isn’t big on postcards, can’t seem to find them anywhere and you can legally go 75 MPH on some of the 2 lane roads here.
While in the Atlanta airport awaiting our flight, Donna decided to call brother Scott to see how they were doing. He, his wife and the three kids piled into the family vehicle and left Seattle on Friday afternoon. Scott and Beth were going to take turns at the wheel so they could get to Albuquerque virtually non-stop. She called and there was no answer, so she left a message.
Just before we were getting to board our flight she flipped open the phone to give him a call and noticed we had two missed calls and a text message from Scott. She tried to call him back, but got no answer again. I suggested replying to his text. She had never done it before, so I talked her through the process and watched in amazement as it took 5 minutes to compose a couple of four word sentences. She wanted to know where the question mark and other punctuation marks were on our simple cell phone. We don’t have any, so she sent it off. I told her it was texting, you don’t need no punctuation. You don’t need all the letters in the words. Heck you don’t even need verbs.
When we landed in Dallas, she sent him another text, “We in TEXAS.”