West continued…

July 5, 2017.

Interesting drive today; Texas has lots of giant wide shoulders (think of the state’s profile, if you will). No. The roads have wide shoulders and thank goodness, I’ve lived in Texas, so we know the reason. When zooming along and someone comes up behind you (they’re always zooming in Texas) one is expected to move to the shoulder. So, in this wide bodied gal, we smoothly move to the side and the Zoomer passes us with two wheels over the center line. If there’s an oncoming vehicle, they kindly scoot over to the shoulder as well. It’s a good way to go, keeps us from backing up traffic.

Somewhere in Louisiana as we approached Texas, we began to notice little black and white roadkills. Yup, skunks. They’re a smelly presence as we drive along today. Not seeing many dead ones, but we know a skunk has been there and had an unsettling experience… Some people like the scent. Reminds me of coffee roasting in Emeryville, CA or of walking into a 6 X 6’ room where about 30 people have been smoking whacky weed, not that I would know how that smells.

Well, we’re approaching the geographic center of TX. Lake Brownwood State Park is said to sit about dead center in the state. Now, how they determine that is something I’d have to study considering the aforementioned wide shoulders and that little tippy toe foot the state stands on…

We’re going to Lake Brownwood State Park. The lake is a reservoir that was created to keep the Brownwood river from flooding out the towns along it’s banks. Must have been some compromise though! Lose your town to the reservoir or endure continuous flooding. I guess folks decided to relocate. The park was constructed by the CCC – our favorite park builders and favorite federal program (that saved millions of lives and the pride of the nation’s men and their families). They built the dam and cabins at the park. This all took place in the 1930’s.

Campsites are set around circles and are widely spaced – easy to get into and kinda level-ish – we had to go up on blocks in front to manage it. Grassy lawn is the norm with Pepper Trees making up shade and everybody is walking distance to the lake. Lovely sandy bottom without all the usual lake debris made this a tempting spot to swim.

Pulling in, our bow was crossed several times by Scissor Tailed Fly Catchers (see one here)– so we hopped right out (in the heat, yes, it’s still HOT) to go hunt birds. Scissor Tails   (an adult in full flight)are ubiquitous here! Imagine getting to hang out in a place where these gorgeous birds congregate! We also found White Winged Doves, Mockingbirds, Cardinals and hold on to your sox: Lark Sparrows! These little guys hop through the grasses and pop up to grab grains and little bugs. They’re so cute popping up and down through the grass. Really amazing markings (check out this view) (see the black spot on it’s chest?)..

This evening we drove around the park looking for CCC buildings. We ended up standing on the tower of an old stone and wood building (built by the CCC or to commemorate them, I’m not sure). Sunset happened to us. It was a glorious fete of everything one might imagine when thinking about heaven or nirvana. Lovelishous!

July 6

A Short Drive Day, yaaay! 111 miles, supposedly – we’ve found that the GPS and our own calculations are often WAY, WAY off the mark in terms of miles and time. We’re heading for San Angelo State Park near San Angelo TX.

It was indeed a ‘short’ drive to a nice park! Just couple miles outside of town. There are two sections to this giant State Park. Campers and day users check in at the South entrance – that part of the park is on O.C.Fisher Lake. The North entrance leads to a small campground that’s RV ready with 50 amp service. No sewer hookups but there is a dump station in the South Park. We are up at Bald Eagle Camping Area. There are 23 sites here and three were occupied by the end of the day.

We opened up the RV because it’s fairly windy and pretty cool for this time of year – usually 104* – it’s in the low 90*s. Rudy, the stealth cat also known as Smudge (because he looks like a soft smudge of gray against most landscapes) got out right away and that’s where he spent the day. Barb and I spent most of our time walking around the campground with binoculars in hand oogling amazing birds!

A quick list: Scissor Tailed Flycatchers both adult, with those rosy glowing underwings and long tails and juvenile who have a shorter V shaped tail that makes them look like a different bird. Weirdly, the Florida form of the Bobwhite is here and greeted us as soon as we left the coach – bob-WHITE, bob-WHITE! Mourning Doves, Barn Swallows, Black-Capped Titmouse, Phyrruloxia (Cardinal’s more interesting, though not as colorful, cousin), Cactus Wren, Vermillion Flycatcher, Mississippi Kite and the Curve-Billed Thrasher – isn’t that a great list for one afternoon?

Salmon Burgers for dinner. They are pretty easy and super delicious.  Cooking Light’s The Big Omega Sandwich recipe.

July 7

Tripped back down the road to San Angelo, Texas (SA) for the day; beginning with the SA Visitors Center (information here).. A big, open beamed building, whose roof looks a bit like Elvis’ pompadour, on the Concho River with rock waterfalls and gardens of native plants that welcomed us to this completely surprising ‘little’ city.

There is so much to tell you that I almost have to recommend you make your way to this art and garden oasis!

There are 15 huge murals painted on walls around town and each has a number, dial up 325-201-9037 and hit the number of the mural, for instance 9# and a narrator tells you all about it! Go ahead, try it – I added a photo of it to the gallery, to help you out. Murals of San Angelo.

There are over 60 sheep – just bigger than life sized, fiberglass ewes – strategically placed all over town. They are decorated according to their sponsor. We included a photo of one from M. L. Leddy’s, a fourth generation boot maker, who’s name is Custom Made b-EWE-ts (more on that shop later). How about these names? Welcoming EWE (guess where that one was?), EWE-nique (gift shop), EWE’ve Got Mail (pack & shop store), Faith in EWE (church), Freedom for EWE and Me (Goodfellow Air Force Base), Sheep Justice EWEnice (lawyers), and Happy Trails to EWE (business unknown). Now. Sheep? Why, you ask? In 1943 over 10 million sheep were sheared here to plop SA right into the Wool Capital of the USA category – second only to Australia in wool production! One of the 36 pieces of Public Art in San Angelo is a ewe with two lambs, very famous because that is the desire of every shepherd – two lambs from every ewe.

M. L. Leddy’s: A Handmade Texas Legend; custom boot maker and a place I wouldn’t pass up. I had to go in and inhale. The place is a wonderland of custom crafted cowboy hats, saddles, belts, buckles and boots. But you can’t buy the boots – there’s no ‘rack’ here! The boots in this place are all bespoke. Along the interior wall of the showroom are picture windows so folks can look in as the craftsmen and women make the boots. Each foot is measured twelve ways to Sunday and a set of lasts is created for each foot. We talked to Beverly Franklin Allen, Liz Treadwell and Elice Cauley, all part of the fourth generation about the process. A pair of boots takes about 12 months to make and prices start at $1300. The ladies invited us to walk through to the workshop and take some photos if we wanted; we did and talked to a fella working on a pair of boots. To get a pair, book yourself a flight to San Angelo – they don’t make them if they don’t meet your feet first. Leddy’s online.

Food: We tried out the Twisted Root Burgers and Fries joint. There are about 20 of these shops here in Texas and each one is EWE-nique (sorry, couldn’t help it). They feature Veggie Burgers, Turkey burgers, Goat, Angus beef, range fed Buffalo and one “Exotic” meat each day. They also have spiked milkshakes (and virgin one’s, no worries). You choose the burger frame – what’s it’s on and what’s on it – and the meat. Today’s exotic was Camel. Nope. I had buffalo and Barb had turkey – we both got goat cheese and both burgers were entirely different and completely memorable. We will ride right back in if we see another of these restaurants. Their watermelon iced tea was sure good, just a tiny bit sweet and plenty strong. Check out their menu and locations here.

Tours: Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum. We made our way to Legend Jewelers, the home of ticket sales and our tour guide Nichole. While we were at Legend, we learned all about Concho Pearls. WOW! The pamphlet on this (non-cultured) freshwater pearl is 3 pages in 8 pt. type, I won’t even go there. The pearls range from pale pink to dark purple. The shells of the Pearlymussel are nondescript but the insides of them are creamy pearlescent colors. The pearls are not round, usually they’re spherical and flat on one side. Pearls can be found in many Texas rivers from the Llano and Sabine Rivers to the Pecos. The Llano River is famous for pale pink pearls. Anymore, the rivers are diminishing and the Concha’s (the mussels) are becoming rare. They have even been known to grow in stream fed stock tanks. Testimony: the pearls are splendid! Tickets purchased, we followed Nichole next door to Miss Hattie’s. Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum online.

Miss Hattie’s place is up a wide flight of stairs in an 1896 building that she and her husband owned. Unfortunately, Miss Hattie discovered that she did not like alcohol or alcoholics and so divorced her husband. She got the upstairs and he the down (now Legend’s). Miss H was Baptist. Miss H was a business woman. In 1902, Miss Hattie opened her bordello. She had seven girls working for her and she considered that she was helping each one of them. She took them to church on Sundays and did not tolerate any drinking of alcohol at all – in fact, Miss Evie liked her gin so much she got the boot and had to find work elsewhere. How Miss H reconciled her business and her religion shows what a complex woman she was, I guess. The bordello was closed down in 1952 after a raid by the Texas Rangers. Miss Hattie was in her 70’s by then and continued to live in San Angelo, going to church every Sunday until she died in her 90’s. With 11 rooms including a tiny kitchen and big bathroom (tub big enough for two with a peep hole cut in the door of the adjacent room), the bordello is decorated as it was when it was a going concern. Many items are from Miss Hattie so the place is very authentic.

Walks: The International Water Lily Collection. Ken Landon’s Obsession. Mr. Landon has created and continues to maintain (on his own dime) a world class Water Lily collection. In fact, we were told that he supplied a root stock to Egypt when their Nile Lily had become extinct there. Wonder how many folks in Egypt know that the precious water lily they are viewing came from East Texas?

That’s all the attention I’m giving San Angelo. You really have to visit here to get a full taste. Hum, taste, that reminds me… we did make one more stop. At an ice cream shop; The Latest Scoop! Handmade ice cream and sorbet with scoops sized to satisfy the most voracious ice cream aficionado (moi). I got a two scooper: Lavender Blueberry and Roasted Strawberry. Barb got a scoop of Lemon Cream. I had to take a nap in the car going back to the park, it was so good it put me right out. Zzzzzz, ice cream dreams…

Barb just came back in from birding and let me know she watched a bobcat walk along the creek here, stop and have a good scratch and move on through the not-chaparral (since this isn’t California or the Baja Peninsula, that’s what I’d call it though).

What AM I doing in this RV?