Frontier! Texas

As we make our way back towards Florida for the holidays, we stopped in Abilene, TX.  This morning, we headed into downtown and stopped at Frontier! Texas, a 14,000 square foot museum that tells the story of the settling of Texas.  We got there early and so were the only ones there.  The admission prices were pretty reasonable.  For adults, it is $10, seniors are $7, students and teachers are $6, children between the ages of 3-12 are $5 and the under 3 set are free.

You start off in a small theater, where you’re introduced to some of the individuals you’ll meet in the interactive displays they have.  It tells a brief history of the area of Texas, starting with the Native Americans before moving to the settlers from the US of many different races.  Then, you enter into the exhibits.

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This is not a Disney-fied version of history.  They show you both the good and the bad.  Above is the inside of what one of the Native tribes’ teepees would have looked like, followed by another tribe’s buffalo hide dwelling.

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The buffalo were very important to the Native people and their destruction by the buffalo hunters was one of the many sources of ill will during the time of settlement.  Hundreds of thousands of buffalo were slaughtered for both financial gain and sport.

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This was also the time of the rise of the cowboys.  The men who had to move the cattle that were brought in after the buffalo were gone and get them to up the trail to Kansas City so they could be sold.

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The cattle drive was a serious and often dangerous trip, between the wild plains and droughts and Native American attacks and cattle rustlers…the list goes on and on.

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It would take almost a month just to get across Texas by horse, though a stage coach was known to be a bit faster.

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It is from the stagecoach that the term ‘riding shotgun’ came about, because there used to be a guard who sat next to the driver, with a shotgun, to protect them from outlaws or Indian attacks.

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The museum is beautifully laid out and has something for every age to interact with.  Even the final 360 degree movie is well planned out, with twisting seats so you can follow the action.  With a gift shop that has just about anything Texas you could want, Frontier! Texas was a great place to visit.

 

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U.S. Border Patrol Museum

On the outskirts of El Paso, just off Hwy 54 headed north towards Alamogordo, lies the U.S. Border Patrol Museum.  This free museum is not sponsored by the government, but it does give a good insight to what the Border Patrol does on all our borders.

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There were mounted watchmen on the borders as early as 1904, though it wasn’t made official until 1924.  It originally began in El Paso in light of the 1882 National Orders Act and stretched as far as the California coast to keep out illegal immigrants from across the ocean.  The official first Border Patrol station was in Detroit, MI, but was soon followed with one in El Paso.

The Border Patrol agents have to use multiple methods of transportation.  Starting first with horses, then moving up to other vehicles through the years.

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They used whatever they could get their hands on.

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Both major borders are patrolled and there are often weapons that have to be confiscated.

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Though, during Prohibition, they also had to patrol Niagara Falls if it froze to keep bootleggers from Canada from carrying over the forbidden liquor.

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Those trying to get in via our southern border often have to trek across great, sandy locations that easily show foot prints.  The BP often goes out and drags heavy tires behind their vehicles to flatten out such areas so that they can spot foot prints.  Some people have tried to get around this by trying to disguise their foot prints.

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It isn’t just human traffic trying to cross the borders.  Often, there are drugs involved as well.  Here are a couple home made backpacks that were being used to smuggle marijuana.

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Humans aren’t the only ones working to keep our borders safe.  Many times, dogs are used to sniff for any type of illegal substance or for people trying to enter illegally.

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The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays and runs on donations.  A great place to learn about the history of our US Border Patrol and to get a glimpse of what it takes to keep all our borders secure.

 

The Floridians’ Blizzard

One of the problems of planning as far in advance as we do is that Mother Nature doesn’t give a flying squirrel about our planning.  This was demonstrated to us very visibly this morning when we arose in El Paso.

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Our poor Floridian car was wearing a white blanket of snow.

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Last time I saw snow accumulation, we lived in Virginia Beach.  That would have been the winter of 2002.  So, 15 years since snow.  I’m not counting the time Walt Disney World set up a temporary attraction after Frozen came out and they made ‘snow’ for kids to play in.  This was actual snow.

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Our plans for tomorrow were to head North to Roswell, NM for a couple days.  But there was no way we were going to head north after seeing this.  So, we contacted our host and have made arrangements to stay in El Paso for 2 more nights.

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Why, you ask?  Because it is supposed to drop well below freezing tonight and we don’t want to take a chance of black ice or any other weather conditions.  That’s the thing about living this road tripping lifestyle.  You have to be able to be flexible when it comes to traveling.  We did it when hurricanes were battering the Gulf coast.  So, this time we’ll work around a different kind of weather pattern.  Still, we’re working our way back to Florida and its lack of snow.

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We realize that to those who live in more northern climates this sounds really wimpy. But after living in Florida for 15 years, our blood is thin and our snow driving capacity is nil. So, we accept our wimpiness and will get to enjoy El Paso for a couple more days.

Sun City Delight

Normally, we wait until the last day to do a review of our AirBnB, but between the cuteness of the house and the fact that this Florida girl doesn’t do well in the cold and wet, we figured today would be a good day to tell you all about Sun City Delight.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our hostess, Genie, who lives on the other side of the duplex.  Parking is right by the front door and since it is a single story, it is easy to get everything in and out.  It is a two bedroom/two bath residence with tile flooring.  The living area is well situated with plenty of seating (and area for our crocheting).

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Genie had the place already decorated for Christmas.  In the corner of the living space is a desk with information about the area and space for a laptop.

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Just after the entryway, there is a dining area, that had snacks waiting for us.  Yes, most of the snacks are gone.  Yum.

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The kitchen is well equipped with stove, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher and all the dishware and cookware you could need.  Genie even had everything we could need for coffee and full size coffeemaker.

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The master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and lots of room with a queen bed and walk in closet.  The second bedroom is right next to the second bathroom and has two twin beds and plenty of room.  Mom keeps saying she could live here.

There is a private patio with solar lights and seating under a permanent awning out the back.

There is lots of space and the location is near I-10, which means its easy to get everywhere.  If you’re looking for a clean, well-stocked, well-placed location in El Paso, Sun City Delight is the place to stay.  If we are ever in El Paso again, we’d stay here.

Murchison Rogers Park

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In El Paso, there is a drive, known as Scenic Drive, that takes you up to a small park where you can see the city and all the way to Mexico.  That park is named Murchison Rogers Park, but if you ask the locals, they only know it as Scenic Drive Park.  A bit off I-10, which cuts through the center of town, you wind up a mountain road at 25 mph.  We happened to come into El Paso during a cold front, so the clouds were pretty thick.

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The drive reminded us of winding up to Mesa Verde or through the Hot Springs mountains.  Luckily, Red Rover is so used to these kinds of drives, he didn’t balk once.

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An interesting, uninterrupted view of our neighbor to the south, the drive is fun and the view unequaled.  I wish my pictures did it justice, but I’ll admit I didn’t take many because it was 50 degrees and the wind was blowing.  What?  I lived in Florida for nearly 15 years.  My blood is thin and 50 degrees is way too cold for little ole me!  Still, a beautiful sight.

Why We Travel

People have asked if we have a reason behind our travels.  Normally we just call it an ultimate bucket list trip, but there’s a bit more behind it.

Growing up, my parents made sure we went ‘somewhere’ during our summer breaks.  Even if it was just a drive up to the Shenandoah Parkway or a trip to Virginia Beach, they made certain we didn’t just sit in Richmond (Virginia) all the time.  I think it is in our genes, as Mom lived in Minnesota most of her life, then moved to California with her parents, then Oregon then after my older brother and I were born, moved once again to Virginia.  Dad went even farther, being from Los Angeles, but living all over the place after he got out of the Army, before settling in Virginia.  And having done our family tree, the rest of our ancestors were travelers too.  When we were all adults, my folks moved to Florida, so we followed them.  For some of us, Florida felt like home.  Others moved back to Virginia.

During the last 15 or so years, medical problems began to pop up.  I got breast cancer for the first time the year before we moved to Florida.  Finished treatment with Mom and Dad by my side the entire time, then Mom and Dad went back to traveling, including a 80 day cruise around Europe and RVing around the country.  Then, after several years in Florida, Dad got diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease.  Fast forward a few months and he and I were back in the hospital, him for complications from the auto-immune disease, me with breast cancer again.  We both got better, though Dad continued his fight with his chronic disease.  Then, in August of 2015, we lost my dad.  This hit Mom hard.

Six months later (April 2016), I was back in the hospital.  Come to find out, all those treatments for breast cancer did a number on my heart.  I now have congestive heart failure along with a few other issues.  But, after 3 months of treatment, we got my heart back up to the low end of normal and my cardiologist said I was good to travel.  This is when we did our prequel trip.  We figured out we really enjoyed traveling together.  Oh, sure we have our spats.  I mean, you’re traveling with someone who knows you better than any one else.  And I don’t care how old you are, if your Mom uses your middle name, you know you’re in trouble, whether you’re 4 or 41.

Mom is getting up in age, close to the age when her mother passed.  Of course, sometimes she’s able to do more than I can, so I can’t see the aging affecting her.  Sure, she can’t drive due to some vision issues and if we were ever pulled over and she was asked to walk a straight line, she’d be hauled off to the drunk tank even if she were stone cold sober, but she’s the driving force behind our travels.  She also is keeping me out of working in some office where every day would be pushing me closer and closer to the end of my physical abilities at a break-neck speed.

We poke and tease each other (yes, I do still yell out ‘DINNER’ when we drive by broken tire pieces on the side of the road while she still uses the dreaded middle name) and basically drive each other crazy, but there isn’t anything or anywhere else I’d want to be.  So, we will pack up Red Rover once again and hit the road while we still can.  Because life is too short not to travel.  Or, to quote that sage philosopher Jimmy Buffet, “I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead”.

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Saguaro National Park

On either side of Tucson (east and west) lies the Saguaro National Park.  Consisting of a total of 92,000 acres, to the west lies the Tucson Mountain District and to the east the Rincon Mountain District.  The Rincon Mountain District of the park was originally created as a national monument, by President Hoover, in 1933.  It was transferred over to the National Parks Service later that same year by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.   In 1961, President John F. Kennedy added the western (Tuscon Mountain District) to the park.  The park is named for the Saguaro Cactus, one of the residents of the park.  It is part of the Sonoran Desert.

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We opted for the 8 mile driving loop in the Rincon Mountain District.  It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1936 and 1939.  It is pretty well maintained, though it isn’t a fast drive.  The highest speed limit in the park is a whopping 25 mph.  I wouldn’t suggest going over that because there are some steep hills and sharp turns through this arid forest.

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Mom was excited to learn that if she had been a Saguaro cactus, she would be approximately 16 feet tall by now.

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This is not the kind of forest where you’re going to want to touch the flora.

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Mom decided to do her impression of a cactus.

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I think she was a little sad that there weren’t any trees to hug.

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The buds on this cactus remind me of little pineapples.

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Today, the drive was low on traffic, though there were bicyclists and even a runner or two, moving along the road.  There are signs to watch out for desert tortoises and rabbits, but the only wildlife we saw were birds and an occasional chipmunk making a mad dash across the pavement.  There were plenty of hiking trails, for all skill levels, available as well as a couple picnic places.  The scenery felt otherworldly to us.  Definitely amazing to see that no matter the landscape, nature will survive and flourish.

The price for entrance is $15 per vehicle (for a week) or if you’re walking or biking in, $5 per person.  There is a visitor’s center with a gift shop and small museum, as well as park rangers on hand to give you more information about the hiking trails.

Gunfight at the OK Corral

About an hour and a half outside of Tuscon, down a lonely Highway 80 off I-10, lies the Old West town of Tombstone, AZ.  Tombstone is known as the sight of the gunfight between The Cowboys, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury, versus the Law, made of the Earps (Marshall Virgil and Special Policemen Morgan and Wyatt) and their temporary Deputy Doc Holliday at the O K Corral.

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Admission to the OK corral museum and gun battle is $10 for adults and $8 for children. You also get admission to the Historama, a short movie shown at the top of the hour, and a special copy of the Tombstone Epitaph, the local paper at the time of the gunfight.  We were mainly interested in the gunfight, though there is a lot more to see in town.

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After purchasing your ticket, on the other side of the gift shop, there are some museum pieces inside.  Then, you mosey on out into the rear of the Corral, where you can check out other transportation items that were used in towns like this across the Old West.

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As you near the theater where the battle will take place, you are able to enter a small building that represents a business that’s as old as time.  The license calls it a House of Ill Fame.  IMG_5847

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But then it was time for the battle.  So, into the bleachers we went.

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The bad guys, or The Cowboys, were dressed in dirty, ill fitting clothes.

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The Good Guys wore proper suits with ties.

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Pretty soon, after Ike Clanton’s multiple drunken threats to murder the Earps and Doc Holliday and just as many warnings, the shooting began.  Three out of four of the Cowboys died there.  The other Cowboy ran away (Ike Clanton), though he later died when attempting to rustle some cattle in 1887.

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Mom, of course, sided with the Good Guys.

In town, up and down the sidewalks are restaurants and shopping.  There are also buggy rides and trolleys to take if you want a narrated tour of the town.  Even the air carried a hint of Old West with the scent of roasting meat over a fire wafting down the streets.  A full day’s adventure for those who want to get a taste of the Old West.

The Long Road Home

So, once again, we have packed up Red Rover and hit the road.  This time, we’re taking the next 3 weeks to make our way back to Florida to celebrate Christmas and New Years with my younger brother and his family.

After leaving Las Vegas, we stopped last night in Kingman, AZ and stayed in a hotel on Route 66.  Then, it was time to drive to Tuscon, AZ, where we’re spending the next 4 nights.

Obviously, Mom didn’t get her usual 8+ hours of sleep.  How do I know this?  As we were driving along Hwy 93, we were commenting on the scenery (desert and cactus) when she suddenly yelled out “DINNER!,” and pointed at the road.  There was a huge chunk of semi truck tire in the middle of our lane.  Neither one of us is certain why she yelled “DINNER” at the top of her lungs when seeing a tire in the road.  She claims she was tired.  I’ll go along with it (though I did take time during our drive to point to pieces of tire on the side of the road and yell DINNER).

If that doesn’t read as a sign that we need to get back on the road (Mom mistaking road garbage as a meal), then I don’t know what would.

 

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Thanksgiving

Here in the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  A celebration of the first ‘Thanksgiving’, when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims with their first harvest in 1621.  It didn’t become a federal holiday until during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln signed it into effect for the 4th Thursday in November in 1863.  For many, it is a time to gather with your family and friends and celebrate all that you have to be thankful for (before trying to be the first in the door at whichever shopping venue you chose for Black Friday shopping).

There are many things that I’m thankful for.  I’m thankful to be able to take this epic journey with my mother.  I’m thankful for having a (changable) roof over my head and food to eat.  I’m thankful for my family, even though we’re all spread out across this country.  I’m thankful for all the adventures Mom and I have been able to experience and (health willing) will continue to experience on this trip.

We’re thankful for all the wonderful friends we have made along the way.  We’ve made some great new friends, notably Chris and Anita in West Virginia, and Todd and Beth in New Mexico, and look forward to making more.  We’re both thankful for everyone who reads this blog and travels along with us this way.

We’re thankful for open roads and people who open their homes and share their experiences with us and help us find new wonders to enjoy.

Thank you!