When we left Florida, we had no clue exactly what route we would take heading west, except for Hot Springs. We decided we'd like to head down into Texas to see some nice folks. Our first stop was Tyler, Texas, to visit with our friend, Don Chandler, and his fiancee Magali, who is from Peru.
Rob contacted a friend he'd worked with at Intertek (his last and final career), who he thought moved to Tyler, in hopes of getting together with Russell and his new wife. Russell responded that, no, he and his wife live in Dallas and so sorry he wouldn't be able to see us. Then shortly after, he responded again. He and Leslie would be in Tyler for a family birthday on the day of our arrival and would come see us after, which they did. It was the first time I'd met Russell, even though Rob had told each of us much about the other. Russell is also a photographer and, in my opinion, much better than I. If you're interested, you can see a sampling of his work at www.russellperkins.com. We had a wonderful visit and enjoyed meeting Russell's wife, Leslie, for whom he moved to and began a new life in Texas. We wish them much joy and prosperity for their future together.
Don and Magali got back from a week long vacation in Destin, Florida, the day after our arrival. They came out to The Beast to see where we now live and then we went out to Chuy's for a Tex-Mex dinner. I had stuffed avocado with an amazing sauce. Oh, yum! Kudos to the chef who came up with that one! What's interesting, though, is I just checked their menu online and it's not there. I can't remember if it was offered as a special.
We enjoyed getting to know Magali, too. She is a sweetheart and Don is quite smitten. We also wish much joy and prosperity for their future as well.
The following day, we took Don out to lunch and he took us on a drive around Tyler. Although raised in Dallas, his parents bought a ranch out in Tyler and Don spent many weekends and summers of his youth there hefting hay onto trucks, riding horses and rounding up cattle. He showed us the property, pointing out the house his father had built, the house where his grandparents had lived for a time and what had once been their property lines, which bordered land his uncle had owned and worked.
There were cows grazing on part of the property and I asked Don to stop the car so I could get out and photograph them. As I'd move closer to these beautiful cows and heifers, they'd shy away causing me to beg them not to go too far. I tried to avoid too much eye contact and gave them a little more space which, to my delight, served to stimulate their natural curiosity. They lined up to see what I was up to and treated me to a square-on view of their sweet faces. I've learned since then that this particular breed is called Blonde d'Aquitaine.
We finished up the afternoon with a tour of a big cat sanctuary called Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. They take good care of the animals there, but it makes me sad that these majestic creatures aren't free to roam where they belong—in the wild.
It was fascinating to learn about Don's background, of which we'd had no clue, given our relationship's dubious beginnings. Both Rob and Don are ex-husbands of the same woman. And given Don's influence on our daughters' lives since childhood, and that he is father to their half-brother, we are pleased we've developed a caring relationship and are proud to call him our friend.
After Tyler, we traveled down to the Austin area to visit with our daughters' great aunt Jean. We enjoyed hours of conversation with a very kind, thoughtful and charming lady. We had the pleasure of meeting her partner/boyfriend/fiance, Bob. They once worked together for IBM and socialized together with their spouses. They each were transferred here and there by the company over the years and I suppose you could say the relationship ebbed and flowed according their locales. Bob lost his wife and Jean her husband some years back. They made contact about two years ago and, as they say, the rest is history. Bob is a great guy with a great sense of humor. We also wish them joy, along with peace and good health for the rest of their days.
I drove cross country with our friend, Judy, when she relocated to Florida a couple of years ago. We drove through Fredericksburg, Texas, and since then I've wanted to return just to wander in and out of the shops along the old Main Street. Given that we needed a couple of stops somewhere between Georgetown and Las Cruces, I decided we'd break it up with Fredericksburg (even though its just a couple hours from Georgetown), and Balmorhea State Park after.
Rob and I considered taking a tour of the National Museum of the Pacific War, which my dad would have loved, but it promised hours and hours to see the whole of it and we only had one day in Fredericksburg. So on to the shops that were mostly colorful, many unique, and a few touristy. We stopped in a candle shop and watched Sheila Suggs first dip her soon-to-be creation into several vats of colored and melted wax, building upon a basic shape, then sculpt a decorative candle right in front of us. If you need a gift for a person who already has it all, you can find them at www.handcarvedcandlesfbg.com. If you follow the directions, these candles can be enjoyed for years.
I can't remember how I found Balmorhea, but I'm glad I did. It is home to the largest spring fed pool in the world, they say, and if we'd stayed a few more days, we would've taken a dip in that pool. I think we'll try to come back sometime later in the springtime when the weather is warmer and enjoy it—and the little fishies nibbling on our toes! Yes, really. And we met a great couple, Dean and Diane, who are also full-time RVers. They have a Winnebago Suncruiser a year younger than our Horizon. They have the same countertops as us, the same wood cabinetry, but a different layout. Theirs is also gas where ours is diesel. For a gas model, it has a fantastic layout and I envy their kitchen. So much more counter space than ours. But, still, ours suits our needs better than any rigs we've ever seen. We hope to see Dean and Diane again.
On to Las Cruces. We spent an afternoon wandering the old town of Mesilla just down the street from the RV park. They have lots of touristy shops with southwestern goods, clothes and jewelry; and a beautiful, old, catholic church called 'Basilica of San Albino.' Rob and I decided to check out the church so I stopped at the car and brought in my tripod. It looked just like a catholic church to me, but what was most outstanding were the stained glass windows. Stunning—richly colorful and unfaded.
Now we are in Tucson. We planned to stay only two nights, but we've extended it to a total of six. Not only did it make sense financially, but my mom told me about a town a couple hours away where a beloved great aunt of hers, Daisy, had lived and died. The town of Bisbee has quite a history as a copper mining town and still looks like an old western town. We'll be visiting there tomorrow, March 31st. We were going to go today, but we had to have our satellite dish checked out and repaired. It has worked out well as today is overcast and tomorrow will be bright and sunny. We'll stop in Tombstone and watch a shoot-out at the OK Corral before heading down to Bisbee. Should be fun. You'll see the pictures in the next blog. Until then…
|Leslie and Russell Perkins|
|Don and Magali|
|I love the one in the back (ear tag #70) trying to see over the others.|
|There's #70 again.|
|Snoozing in the warm sun.|
|What a beauty. This fellow had just had his ears scratched by a caretaker.|
|This Tiger is currently kept in the older, smaller spaces. They are working on the new, larger ones.|
|Aunt Jean and Rob.|
|Rob with Admiral Nimitz, who hailed from Fredericksburg.|
|Dipping in the wax.|
|Starting to sculpt.|
|The final product.|
|A display of brightly colored candles.|
|How about sunflowers.|
|A little Texas whimsy.|
|A canal directing spring water at Balmorhea State Park.|
|Just a few fish to swim with.|
|From the deep end.|
|Scuba divers come here. The near area is 25 feet deep.|
|Fish swimming around the steps in the shallow end.|
|The history of Balmorhea State Park. Double click for a larger view.|
|Our camp at Balmorhea.|
|Loved this door in Mesilla, New Mexico.|
|Love the southwestern colors.|
|The alter at Basilica of San Albino, Mesilla, New Mexico.|
|The stained glass windows of Basilica of San Albino.|
|"The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin"|
|"Saint Isidore the Farmer"|
|"Saint Raphael the Archangel"|
|Love the woodwork.|
|The current structure of the Basilica was finished in 1908.|