The Texas Road Runners !!!!!
Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......
West Texas Road Trip 2003
The sights include : Abilene State Park, Ft. McKavett, Sonora Caverns, Del Rio, Lake Amistad, Seminole Canyon State Historic Park, Alamo Village, Judge Roy Bean, The Big Bend Area, the Marfa Lights, Ft. Lancaster, Monahans Sandhills State Park, the Odessa Meteor Crater, the Confederate Air Force, and Big Springs State Park.
Prelude : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for other photos and surprises.)
Forgive the length of this page, but it was quite a road trip for this Texas Road Runner. It involved about 3 months of planning and research off and on. Also, due to the length of the trip, it took me longer than anticipated to put all this together. I had a heavy agenda, so let me put on my Texas Country Reporter hat and we will also stop by a few Dairy Queens along the way.
Star Date : 4/12/03 – Saturday
I had an early start out. I had already packed the night before, so I just loaded up the truck and set off to my first destination, Mineral Wells State Park. Of coarse once again, the road through Weatherford past right through the town square. As it turns out, Weatherford is the county seat of Parker county. So, I had to stop for a court house shot. I finally arrived a little after 7:00 AM, paid my fees, grabbed a map and headed for my first site of the park, the rock climbing cliffs. I found Penitentiary Hollow and there were already some guys climbing the cliffs. I will be out there next month for my first rock climbing class. There were a few trails that I ventured on around the cliffs which provided a great view of Lake Mineral Wells. I sure would hate to fall down there.
I then headed for the other side of the park to check out the Cross Timbers Trail. It started out rough from walking on the sand. The trail also passed by an Army National Guard facility. I bet ammo or bombs were stored in there. The trail then got better and then turned to rocky switchbacks. It Kind of of reminded me of the trails at Cleburne State Park. By the time I got back to the truck, it was time to shed the jacket. I crossed backed over the spillway again and stopped by the concession shop for the normal souvenir stuff.
I left the park and on my way out I noticed a group of bison penned up across the highway. Cars were backed up behind me, so no photo op. I finally got to Mineral Wells and checked out the health spa which provided the health benefits of their spring water. It sure did need a lot of restoration.
I finally found my way back to I-20 and headed West to Abilene. That was such a boring stretch of highway, but managed to find the Abilene Rock show at their Civic Center. Although it was Saturday, the downtown area looked dead.
I didn’t do too bad at the rock show and only spent around $100.00. I had the best luck at the silent auction and of coarse the geode cracking man was there. I did procure some nice slabs of Texas Petrified Wood, another good chunk of Mookite, and a good size slab of Mahogany Obsidian. At the silent auction, I scored big by winning (2) nice sized Calcite Geodes, a Quartz Geode, some nice agate slabs and nodules, some Picture Rock slabs, a nice hunk of Rhodochrosite and a nice slab of Howlite (Careful ladies, this is the stuff they make fake Turquoise out of.). I won so many of the silent auction bids that this lady and her daughter punch me in the arm and a security officer who was nearby didn’t do anything about it. I told them I was through for the day so bid without all you want without me.
I left and checked into my Best Western motel. The venders at the rock show did a terrible job of packing my rocks. Thank God there was an Office Depot behind my motel room. So I did like I did at the Tucson show and bought some more boxes, packing material and tape. At least this time I did not buy so much that I needed UPS to ship my treasure back home.
I rested a little and then headed down South to check out the Abilene State Park. On the way, I stopped by Buffalo Gap to check out the historical village. I was unimpressed, so I continued to the park. I found the Park which was a little tricky to get to, paid my fees and grabbed a map. The gift store didn’t have anything I was interested in, so I hit the trails. The park trails were very much like those at Meridian State Park.
After the hike, I returned to Abilene and had dinner. I returned to my room and packed up my new acquisitions of rocks and reviewed my route to San Angelo and finally to Del Rio. It would have been nice to visit Dyess Air Force base to see their outdoor museum of B-1 bombers and planes from the past wars of WWII, Korean, Vietnam and the Desert Storm wars. Unfortunately, there just is not enough time.
Star Date : 4/13/03 – Sunday
I again got up early, loaded up the truck and headed to San Angelo in the bleak darkness. My first destination was San Angelo State Park. Unfortunately, the park did not open till 8:00 AM, so I had breakfast in town at a local Grandy’s. I finally got back to the park 10 minutes early, but they let me in anyways and gave me a map.
I was able to hike around a little and checked out the Highland Range Scenic Outlook. I was disappointed with the trails. They were near a city suburb and you really did not feel like you escaped the city. Then I just drove around the park and checked out the lake area. Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow me to see any of the ancient Indian pictographs. However, When I left the park, I finally saw another small heard of bison penned up. This made up for the hike.
I headed further south on Hwy 277 until I hit 2084 to hook up with Hwy 190. Then I went east towards Menard until I found 864. I headed southwest on 864 till I found Fort McKavett. Outside the small city were the ruins of the old Fort McKavett. It was fairly well preserved due to civilians who moved in and maintained it much like the civilians who moved into Fort Davis. Sights to see were the enlisted men's quarters, the old guard house, the hospital and the officer quarters. After I toured the fort, I headed further south on 864 which took me to Sonora where I had lunch. After lunch, I noticed I was making good time. I then decided to check out Sonora Caverns before moving on to Del Rio.
I made it to the caverns which were about 16 miles west of Sonora off of I-10. Unfortunately, I had to wait an hour before the next tour. So I shopped and wondered around the gift store. Outside, I even found an old dentist chair just like the one my dentist used with me last month when I had all my filling replaced. Then it was time to go in. Since there were just a few of us, they gave us the grand tour. It is really a great cave due to all the calcium carbonate formations : (Ok, use your imagination)
A Green Pool
They Finally Meet
And Meet Again
A Water Fall?
Once the tour ended, I headed back to Sonora, found 277 again and after a little over an hour I arrived at Del Rio. Gee, things sure have changed here. I could barely recognize the north side of town after being away for 24-26 years. They now have a Wal-Mart, a Chili’s and all of the other amenities of a modern up to date city. I checked into my Best Western motel and the first thing I tried to do was to look up the old rock shop. I hit the yellow pages and there were no rock shops to be found. While there was still light, I decided to check out our old running grounds.
Ok, mom. This next piece is for you and the rest of our family. I parked at the funeral home next to your old house. Grandmother’s house is still there along with the Cox’s house. But, the two houses across the street are gone. The old fire house is now a gift store. I also found the old Roswell Hotel where you and dad got married at. Down town is really dead now. Kress department store, where you used to work before college has closed down. The toy store is gone now too. The old Mexican porno theater is now a gift store. I also found the old train depot where your father took me to see the trains come rolling in as a kid. They now have a new modern facility. On the way back to the truck, I met the latest residence of your house. The woman didn’t mind talking to me but, her husband was not too sociable. Apparently the Cox’s have moved. I also found your old school, the church hall and the church we all used to go to. I also found San Felipe Plaza, but it is now called Brown plaza. You are right, You feel like you are in Mexico when in that area.
Star Date : 4/14/03 – Monday
After getting ready for the day, I headed out to Brackettville on Hwy 90 east bound. As it turns out, Brackettville is the county seat of Kinney county. My first stop in Brackettville was Fort Clark Springs. Fort Clark Springs was actually another old arm fort that was abandoned in the late 1800’s. It has now been reconstructed into a western style resort including a golf course. The new lodges look old, but were built with modern building materials. Unfortunately, evenly the restored structures were repaired with modern building materials. It would be a good place for a family reunion or for corporate outings. However, it has lost its value as a historic treasure.
I then headed North to check out the Alamo Village, the outdoor movie studio where the movie "The Alamo" was filmed. I was warned ahead of time that it would be cheesy and it was. However, the western village a little further down is still used in movie production.
I then headed back to Del Rio and had lunch. I wanted to check out the Whitehead museum, but it was closed till Tuesday. So, I checked out the Val Verde Winery. It looked very Italian from the outside. They of coarse used oak barrels for aging the wine, but modern facilities to produce it. Although they claim to be the oldest Texas winery, their inventory room was quite small. However, they did grow their own grapes. Someone will receive a Christmas present from there.
I came back to my room and studied my maps and decided to check out the Amistad National Recreation area. I first stopped at their headquarters for additional information and went to the dam. The two eagles were separated by a line which was the border between Mexico and the United States. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, but one could still have some good views of Mexico and the United States. Well, the photo op. was over and I then I took a few primitive roads to areas around the lake where my grandfather took my dad and I fishing.
It was still early enough so I headed further out west on Hwy 90 to Seminole Canyon State Park. It wasn't too far down from the dam and they did have a nice visitors center where I stocked up on more souvenirs. As luck would have it, they were about to conduct a tour into the canyon to view the ancient Indian pertoglyphs. The canyon hike was not bad and it was a great photo op.
It was then getting late, so I headed back to Del Rio and planned for tomorrow’s adventures.
Star Date : 4/15/03 – Tuesday
I got up real early! In fact, at 5:30 AM. I had to get the clerk at the office to start the continental breakfast 30 minutes early. She was surprised, but I told her I get up this early every day. I ate and then headed on out to Langtry to see Mr. Judge Roy Bean’s place. On the way to Langtry, I stopped at the Pecos river bridge to try to shoot some good sun rise pictures. Unfortunately, the clouds and the canyons negated my pursuit. So I waited for more light to get a few shoots of this massive river canyon.
Once I got my photo shots, I was on the road again. I finally arrived at Judge Roy Bean’s place a little before they opened. Oh nooo !!! The batteries in my camera are on the fritz again. Well, once they opened up, I was able to take a few shots. This place sure has changed since I was a kid. It used to be pretty bleak. Now, they have fixed it up as a really nice tourist center including a nature trail. So I checked out the inside of his court house or a bar? It was quite small and they built a reproduction of his home. After this visit, I was able to pick up some more batteries and headed out again.
I stayed on Hwy 90 till I hit Dryden and then headed north on Hwy 349. Hwy 349 reminded me a lot like Hwy 118 from Alpine to the Big Bend area. Lots of ups and downs, curves and great Chihuahuan desert scenery. I even found myself in another Sotol forest. Again, this is one road where you keep both hands on the wheel and not only watch the road ahead of you, but also ahead of that.
I finally made it to Sheffield and then took Hwy 290 to Fort Lancaster. I finally found the old fort. Although they had a nice visitor center, the old fort ruins were not well preserved nor were there any restorations in planned. According to the park ranger, many years ago, the people in Sheffield stole much of the old forts building material and used them to help build their little town. So, this is what is left :
The Drill Grounds
The Enlisted Men's Quarters
The Mess hall
The Officer's Quarters
After the Fort Lancaster visit, I continued on Hwy 290 until I hit Interstate I-10. I then headed east to the Davy Crocket Memorial in Ozona. I arrived in Ozona, but first lunch at the local Dairy Queen. I found the memorial in front of the county courthouse. I was rather disappointed for driving this far for this. But I guess it is here due to the county being named after Davy Crocket.
I then made my way back to Del Rio via Hwy 163. At first it was a great highway, but suddenly turned into a county road with all the up’s and downs, curves and switch backs. I couldn’t go more than 45 miles an hour in certain places. So I just slowed down and enjoyed the Chihuahuan desert environment. Once I hit Hwy 90, I turned east and headed back to Del Rio.
I finally made it back to Del Rio and my motel room. Then in comes a Mexican cleaning lady. Since Boquillas was now closed to tourists and I could no longer buy any rocks there, I asked her if there were any shops in Ciudad Acuna, the little Mexican town across the border from Del Rio. I didn’t remember any when I was a kid, but she said yes so I decided to check it out. But first, the Whitehead Memorial Museum.
As I headed toward the museum, I passed by the Villa Del Rio B&B. I stopped to check it out and told them the next time I am in town, I will try them out. I arrived at the Whitehead Memorial Museum and found it basically another recreation of another old village depicting things as they were way back then. However, they did use many artifacts from the past. They reproduced Judge Roy Bean's court house. It is also Judge Roy Bean’s final resting place. Other exhibits included a plaza, an old train car, some stables and don't ask me? Even an old Spanish marker from the explorer days.
I was warned not to drive into Mexico, so I took a cab and went on in. I walked the streets and visited various shops. I only found one shop that had a few rocks and geodes, but they were specimens that I already had. Disappointed, I headed back to Del Rio in another cab. Thank God I was back in America. The border guard asked too many questions from me, but finally let me back in. At least I can say I made it into Mexico. That little town of Ciudad Acuna was as pitiful as I remember it as a kid.
Star Date : 4/16/03 – Wednesday
I had another early start and headed out to Alpine, TX for another rock show by heading west again on Hwy 90. This was quite a drive, but almost half of it was familiar due to yesterday’s road trip. I finally arrived at my Best Western motel, but could not check in until 12:00 noon. I wanted to see the Marfa Lights again tonight, but remembered having problems finding them from last year’s trip. Aubrey Price, a co-worker, told me you could even see them during the early day. I headed west on Hwy 67 and easily found the Observatory center. The last time I was here was in the middle of the night. But this time I had time to explore a little. Now that I knew how to get there again, I headed back taking in some of the desert road sights.
When I returned to Alpine, I did some exploring and noted that Alpine was the county seat of Brewster county. I also did some shopping at this Book and Rock store which was closed the last time I was here. After picking up a few items, (Such as a really cool Hematite/Quartz/Selenite mineral specimen), my stomach told me it was time to eat again. Although Alpine does have a Dairy Queen, I choose a TexMex place instead this time. After I finished my grazing, I checked in my motel and unloaded. The rock show isn’t going to start until tomorrow, so I relaxed a while. I then decided that if I am this far west, then I should go ahead and hit the Big Bend area once more. So I grabbed my cameras and my telescope to see the Marfa Lights on my way back.
The drive was slow at first due to road construction on Hwy 118. Once I past all the construction and got through the mountain pass, I was then able to put the petal to the metal for a while. The route is just as I remembered it, very scenic. I gassed up again in Study Butte and then the first thing I did was to check out the rock store there. After one year of getting back into collecting rocks and fossils, I learned this guy had over inflated prices and would not discount until your purchases were up to $ 100.00 in cash. But, I did pick up a nice polished quartz crystal with a lighted stand. But this was not just any lighted stand.
I then headed further west on Hwy 170 to Terlingua. It is an interesting place. I just had to hit the dangerous gift store there. They only got $50.00 out of me this time. On my way out of the ghost town, I checked out the old cemetery again. I still think I want to be buried like this.
I then kept going west to Lajitas. Lajitas is still there. I even visited their graveyard.
I then kept going west on 170 till I got to the old Contrabando movie set. I checked out the old church and other places again. The Rio Grand river was still very low at this point. Mexico provided a good view. I turned this place into another photo op.
My stomach was telling me again that it was time to eat. So I turned around and ate at the La Kiva restaurant. La Kiva is an interesting place. I like their chairs. They even have found an ancient dinosaur there when being built, NOT!! It was open mike night, but I did not have time to stay.
After dinner I headed back north again to Marfa. I was able to catch a semi good sunset. There were already quite a few people there at the observatory. I saw the lights again and cannot not explain what I saw. At least this time it was not too cold and rainy. The lights were really dancing this time. I even saw some purple ones this time. Unfortunately both my cameras were not cooperating again. It was getting late, so I headed back to my room.
Star Date : 4/17/03 – Thursday
As usual, I woke up early. I knew the rock show would not really be open till around 10:00 AM, so I headed off for breakfast and then made a few phone calls. It was then finally time to hit the show. According to the rock show schedule from my Rock and Gem magazine, the show was suppose to be at the civic center, but all I found was a biker get together. Instead the rock show was at the recreation center next door. The show was much smaller this year compared to last year’s show. I heard that comment several times from the venders and the patrons.
I first came across the same guy I have seen many times before who has an exhibit of rocks that looks like food. He does not sell, but just shows them off. You can hardly tell they are rocks. I then saw the owner of the rock shop in Study Butt the day before. He just came to look for items to and then sell and did not have a booth of his own. But he did recognize my and said hello. I also ran across the flint/knapping man again who sold me some mahogany obsidian and Mookite slabs in from the Abilene rock show. I also ran across the sphere man again. They did have a silent auction, but it sucked. It was being run by the guy who owns the book and rock shop in town. Well, I bought a book from him anyway. I did meet a woman who owns some land around the Terlingua Creek area who sold me some agates and petrified wood that she found. That same lady also had a very interesting cow skull decorated with quartz, amethyst and smoky quartz. I also bought some more tumbled/polished Texas Petrified wood to wire sculpture with. My other acquisitions include a nice big chunk of iron pyrite crystals, bismuth, and a nice cave formation. Yes, the Mexicans were there again. They were not as cheap this time and they had some new items to sell. I really had to haggle with them. I finally bought two nice pieces of calcite cave crystal formations and three unsliced geodes. I almost bought some touquise but, just too expensive. There were tons of amethyst, both blue and gold goldstone and I did pick up a polished chunk of Labradorite. There was one gentleman selling beads and wire wrapped jewelry from Mexico. Overall, it was still a good show if you knew what you were looking for and knew how to deal.
It was lunch time. I bought some food at the local Dairy Queen and brought it back to my room. I was getting tired of all the driving, so I decided to head home the next day and check out what is to be seen along the way.
Star Date : 4/18/03 – Friday
I finally got back on the road again a little before 7:00 AM and headed north on Hwy 67 until I hit I-10. I stopped at Fort Stockton to check out their old fort ruins. I was rather disappointed due to the only thing left was just their old guard house, but they did have a big map that should how it was once laid out. Also, I was able to check out Paisano Pete, their great big road runner.
I headed out again on Hwy 18 to Monahans and then northeast on I-20. I then found and visited the Monahans Sandhills State Park. This was a big surprise. It was a sandy desert park. I grabbed a map and set on out. I really do not know what animal made these tracks but this was an eerie park. It reminded me of being in the middle of the Sahara desert. I explored it some and found my way out by retracing my tracks. The hiking was pretty tuff in the sand and it looked like the sand was taking over the park roads.
I left the park and continued northeast on I-20 towards Odessa. Just west of Odessa was a meteor crater. At least this park was free. I checked into the visitor’s center in which was displayed was the meteor and then made my way into the crater. They had signs around the trail explaining various aspects of the crater. They dug some trench looking for more pieces but only found an ancient elephant. They also dug a well looking for more evidence. There was even a second crater. They believe the meteor impacted here 35 million years ago. Back at the visitor center, I bought some fragments, but they were from China. Time to hit the road again.
I continued northeast on my way to Midland. All along the way one could see the oil wells all around. Once I hit Midland, I first stopped at the Vietnam War Memorial for those who gave their lives in the war from the west Texas area. The next stop was the Confederate Air Force headquarters. It was another excellent photo op of old war planes. I even saw an F-111 that my brother-in-law once flew. They also had an excellent indoor exhibit which reminded me of the pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg. Other exhibits included :
An Anti Aircraft Gun
A B-24 Bomber
A B-29 Bomber
A F4 Phantom Fighter Jet
A MASH Chopper
An Old Mustang
Don't Know, But it Looked Cool
A Super Saber Jet Fighter
After visiting the museum, I continued east on I-20 to Big Springs which also had a state park. There was no one manning the entrance, so another park freebie and I was able to grab a map. Big Springs State Park had an interesting exhibit of their prairie dogs. Although I watch their dens for a while. I never saw any come out. So I hit their trail and only saw this critter. It was a good trail. I found some remains of an old cellar and half way up the mountain provided a good view of the city below. But the top of the mountain provided the best view.
I hiked back down to my truck and left the park. To get back to I-20, I had to go through town. It appears that Big Springs is the county seat of Howard county. I finally headed east on I-20 again. Just passed Colorado City, there was a huge windmill farm just like the one between I-10 and Hwy 190 around Irran, TX.
I continued east until I got back to the DFW area and headed back home to Waxahachie. It had been a great trip, but an exhausting one. I visited a lot of new places and revisited places from the past. Well, time to unpack, recuperate and get ready for work tomorrow. Bummer!!!
So, until next time, take care and I'll See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!
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Copyright © 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.