Monday, December 10, 2012

Journey West Part 2

We decided that rather than fool around with Mother Nature we would head west to better weather and spend some time in One of our favorite places, New Orleans. So we drove from Panama City along the gulf coast to the Crescent City and set up at the Pontchartrain Landing RV park. This is a nice RV park that is within the New Orleans city limits and on a canal which accesses Lake Pontchartrain. We spent the weekend touring the city, trying different restaurants, and catching some live music. Our favorite restaurant was Coop's Place, which is in the French Quarter, towards Frenchmen street. Great food and a really friendly atmosphere.

Pontchartrain Landing RV Park

There's always live music going on in New Orleans and we happened upon a band playing in the street called the Drunken Catfish Ramblers. The Bird immediately recognized the guitarist as Scottie Swears (aka Stalebread Scottie) who had a recurring role on the HBO series Treme. The Ramblers were quite good and we listened to them while soaking in the sun on the sidewalk.

Stalebread Scottie and the Drunken Catfish Ramblers

While in New Orleans also we took a bus tour of the city, which was educational, and we went to the Po'Boy Festival over near Tulane. There was some great food and drink at the festival but it was too crowded for the narrow streets.

Next, we drove from New Orleans to the Stephen F. Austin State Park, which is just outside Katy, Texas where my cousin lives. Woottie and Janet came to visit and we went out to dinner. The next day Woottie and I played golf on the course which is right there in the state park.

Brazos River in Stephen F. Austin State Park

Golfers are part of the wildlife in Stephen F. Austin State Park

Our next stop was Austin, Texas where we settled in an RV park on Lake Travis, just outside of town. The Boy flew in from school and joined us for Thanksgiving. We had a traditional turkey dinner at the Cool River Cafe, a very nice restaurant in Austin, we went to see the Lincoln movie, and we visited the Cathedral of Junk. The Cathedral of Junk is an ongoing artistic creation that Vince Hannemann has created in his back yard. This multistory accumulation of discarded bicycles, tires, televisions, and everything else you could throw away is put together in a whimsical way that invites you to crawl through it and see what you can find. We enjoyed talking to Mr. Hannemann and he seems to enjoy his role as a local who is doing his part to "Keep Austin Weird".

The Cathedral of Junk in Austin

After the Boy went back to school we stayed for a couple of more days in Austin so the Bird could get some work done and I took a nice bike ride around Lake Travis. The lake water level is very low due to the ongoing drought in Texas, but there was still some nice scenery in the Texas hill country.
From Austin we headed out across west Texas, which is a long trip without much to see. We overnighted in San Angelo at the state park there, which is on the shores of the O. C. Fisher Reservoir. The reservoir levels were low due to the ongoing drought, and the next day there was a scheduled "wildlife management activity" which I learned meant they were going to let a bunch of hunters loose to cull the deer population. I decided to leave the bike packed up and keep on traveling.

Our site at the San Angelo State Park

The next day we made it to New Mexico and the Brantley Lake State Park, which is just outside of Carlsbad. This is a vast expanse of New Mexico desert with a man made lake which looks like it would be popular with the locals during the summer. Of course the lake water level was very low due to the ongoing drought (do you notice a theme here?) but the camping facilities had everything we needed and we met a very nice couple there, Bob and Fran from Illinois. They have been touring the country in their RV off and on for some time, but they had just gone "full time", which means they had rented their house and moved into the RV. Bob had a huge Meade telescope that he set up, and despite the fact that it was a full moon, we were still able to clearly see Jupiter and four of its moons, the Andromeda galaxy and the "dumbbell nebula".
We spent the better part of the next day touring Carlsbad Caverns, which is an amazing spectacle of natural beauty, unlike anything we have ever seen.We opted for the self-guided walk-in tour over the elevator ride-n-guide and were glad we did. The caverns are so big and it was so unusual to be exploring around that far underground on our own. In this 24 hour period we had seen natural wonders thousands of feet below the earth's surface and millions of light years away. Only in the Southwest!

It's hard to see, but the Pinnacle is set up under the 4th tree from the left on the horizon.

Brantley Lake in New Mexico

The switchback trail that leads you down into Carlsbad Caverns

The Bird next to a stalagmite and stalactite that in a few hundred more years will connect to form a column.

For our next stop we needed a reliable Internet connection so we stayed at the Sunny Acres RV park in Las Cruces, NM. The drive though Cloudcroft and Alamagordo in the Lincoln National Forest provided us with some fabulous views of the mountains.
From Las Cruces we headed to Arizona and stopped at the Lake Roper State Park near Safford. What a great find this was! The lake was at normal levels and full of all kinds of migratory shore birds that had stopped there on their way to Mexico. The mountain views were spectacular, and there was even a natural hot mineral springs spa that we were able to enjoy as the sun went down.

That's Roper Lake, with the Pinnacle on the left and the Pinaleno mountains in the distance.

From Safford we drove through the mountains around Globe and Superior AZ, that gave us some breathtaking scenic views. Then we descended out of the mountains to Phoenix, or more specifically Tempe, where we're going to stay for a few weeks.

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