March, 2020 – Idabel, Oklahoma

The trip west from Arkansas was along US highways back to the Broken Bow and Idabel area, just north of Texarkana where we were just a week ago.  We were taking our time moving north to give spring a chance to catch up with us.  Pine Creek Cove Campground is another Corps of Engineers campground on the shores of Pine Creek Lake.  Once again we did not have any reservation, however, there were plenty of sites available.  The campground is small with less than 50 sites and it is laid out in three small loops.  We got a site on the newest loop which meant all of them were paved.  I was able to back the RV easily into the site and we quickly got set up.  The only draw back to the campground was the absence of trees as they had all been removed after a storm and the bathroom was a single pit toilet.  There was a modern bathroom at the dump station near the entrance, however, we just used the pit toilet, which was at least cleaned regularly.  With no trees we were once again exposed to the wind which rocked the trailer during the storms later in the week.

Campsite

However, Tuesday was a nice day so we went out in search of a hike.  We began our search at the Little River National Wildlife Refuge.  Our GPS took us to a dirt road that was closed with no buildings in sight.  There was suppose to be a Visitor Center/Headquarters on the property so we drove around the edges of the refuge looking for another location.  We never found anything and without at least a map of the refuge we were concerned about trusting the roads after all the rain the past few weeks.  So instead we headed on north to Beavers Bend State Park.  This turned out to be a major state park with multiple facilities and opportunities for outdoor recreation.  It is advertised as one of the more popular state parks in Oklahoma and that is certainly true.  There were a lot of families with young children in the park making it difficult to find a parking space for our huge truck.  And this was during the middle of the week.  We guessed that Texas must be having its spring break since most of the car tags were from Texas.  In any case, we found a parking spot we could get in across the road from the Forest Heritage Center Museum.  It was also fairly crowded but still an interesting place to visit.  They had a number of exhibits about the history of forests in the region beginning with prehistoric times and up through commercial forestry practices of today.  Especially since I am already very knowledgeable about Oklahoma forestry since I got my undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State, it was fun refreshing my memory.  After spending about an hour in the museum we walked back to the truck and ate some lunch.  Then we went to explore the Forest Heritage Trail alongside Beaver Creek.  There was so much foot traffic along the trail and creek that the path itself was difficult to see, however, it did not really matters.  There were quite a few families enjoying wading in the creek as it was a nice warm March day.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll only the creek ourselves.

Wednesday was again a nice day with rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, so we headed out to explore Fort Towson State Historic Site.  Fort Towson was established in 1824, before the Trail of Tears, to quell problems between the Indians and settlers moving in from the Arkansas Territory.  It also served as an outpost between the US and Mexico, which at that time controlled Texas.  During the 1830s it served as the gateway for settlers going to Texas as the Mexican government was encouraging them.  However, after the Texas Revolution in 1836 it became an outpost between the US and the Republic of Texas.  This was also the period that the Choctaw Indians were forced to migrate from Mississippi and Fort Towson was the point of dispersal.  The fort was also an important staging area during the Mexican War in 1846.  Finally, as the frontier moved west the fort was abandoned in 1856.  Today, there is not much left of the fort except for the foundations of the buildings.  There has been numerous archeological digs in the fort over the years and all the buildings have been located.  There is a very nice museum at the site with a detailed history of the area and fort.  I was very surprised to learn that while most of the Choctaw Indians choose to live on small farms in a life style similar to where they came from, some established large plantations with anti-bellum homes and slaves, both African-American and Indians.  After exploring the museum it is a short walk to the ruins of the fort where there are interpretive signs about each building.

Since it only took a couple of hours to explore the museum and fort, we took advantage of a suggestion from the volunteer at the museum.  He suggested we explore the ruins of the town of Doaksville, which was just north of the town of Fort Towson.  Doaksville was the Choctaw village that grew up near Fort Towson.  From 1831 until the railroads came in the 1879s, Doaksville was a major town in Indian Territory.  In fact, in 1850, it was the largest town in the territory and from 1860 to 1863 it was the capital of the Choctaw Nation.  However, the Civil War ruined agriculture and commerce in the area and when the railroad bypassed Doaksville for the town of Fort Towson to the south, it spelled the end to the town.  Today, little is left of Doaksville except for some photographs and building foundations.  The state historical society has erected a nice walkway through the ruins and interpretive signs about them.  It was very interesting addition to our exploration of Fort Towson, although it would have been difficult to find without directions from the volunteer at the historic site.  There are no signs on the highway for it and we even had trouble finding the pathway as it begins on the backside of Fort Towson cemetery.  However, it was well worth the effort and earns a spot in our list of hidden jewels.

As predicted the weather turned wet on Thursday so we stayed in the campground and on Friday travel back to the casino in Broken Bow.  Whereas, we came out slightly ahead the last time we were at this casino two weeks ago, our luck ran more to normal and we came out with about half of our stake.

The weather on Saturday was marginally better so we headed to Idabel and the Museum of the Red River.  This was another suggestion from the volunteer at Fort Towson and we expected to be treated to some detailed history of the Red River.  However, this museum was not about the history of the region.  Instead it is a cultural center and repository of art and cultural items from all over the world.  Originally it was focused on the southwest Indian culture, however, it soon expanded to all of the Americas and eventually around the world.  They have artwork, pottery, baskets, and other items that are thousands of years old to modern day objects.  It is also the home of the Oklahoma dinosaur which was a large predator, similar to a T-Rex.  Although the original fossils were found locally, they were not constructed of crystals and turned out to be very fragile.  Therefore a cast of the dinosaur is on display.  While it was not what we expected we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around and admiring the art work.  I would certainly recommend it for anyone interested in Indian art and pottery.

Sunday was again spent in the campground watching the growing concern over the pandemic.  For those of you reading this blog be aware that this will be the last post for a while that will be focused on our journeys.  As the concern and disruption of society caused by the virus grows, it will become our entire focus.  By the end of the week we were getting concerned about being allowed to travel and were close to deciding it was time to find a place to hunker down for a couple of months and it was certainly not going to be in a isolated campground!

March, 2020 – Murfreesboro, Arkansas

The trip northeast into Arkansas was an easy trip along I-30 and then north on US and state highways to Lake Greeson and our next location at Cowhide Cove Campground.  The road down into the campground was 10 miles into the wilderness of the Ozarks winding down to the lake that even included a hairpin turn.  Since the COE campground had just opened up for the season, we were hopeful that it was actually open.  For the next month the sites were all first-come-first-served, so we did not have any reservations.  If it was not open, then I was not sure how we were going to get turned around on this winding mountain road.  We pulled up to the campground host that were just outside the entrance to the campground and thankfully they were at home and the campground was open.  At the time there was just one other RV in the campground so we had our choice of campsites.  We found out from the campground host that the water was to be turned on the next day, which would not be too much of a problem as long it was not more than a couple of days since we did not have any water in our fresh tank.  We choose a site on the top of the ridge with views of the lake on both sides of the RV since the campground was along a peninsula into the lake.  The site we choose had a wide entrance so we were able to back the RV in with no problem and got set up for the week.

Campsite

By Monday evening the weather had turned wet with light rain that continued through Tuesday.  So we spent the day in the campground while I worked on this blog and watched the contractors chase down all the water valves and get our water going.  Wednesday was still wet during periods throughout the day so we decided to combine two activities: laundry and a trip to a casino.  We drove nearly an hour to Hot Springs and found a nice laundry right across the road from the casino.  Cleaning the clothes took only a couple of hours and after walking next door to Arby’s for lunch, we crossed the street into the casino.  Oaklawn Racing and Gaming was currently undergoing some major additions of an additional hotel and parking garage.  Therefore we had to park a considerable distance from the entrance, however, they provided shuttle buses that took us under the construction to the casino entrance.  This casino is huge with hundreds of slot machines, gaming tables, and poker venues.  We found plenty to keep us playing for a couple of hours.  Unlike the previous casino experience, I did horribly losing nearly all the money I brought in.  Fortunately, Kal did marginally better so we did not lose our entire stake.  While this was not nearly as much fun as winning, it was still an enjoyable afternoon.

Since I “helped” Kal do the laundry, which entailed about 5 minutes of helping her fold clothes, she returned the favor on Thursday and watched me clean the RV.  After spending the day in the campground we headed back to Hot Springs on Friday to the National Park which was the main reason we came to the area.  We have both been to Hot Springs National Park in the past, but it had been decades and it had changed a lot.  The National Park has an interesting history that dates back to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  The springs had been known about well before that including Hernando de Soto in 1541 and Father Marquette and Jolliet in 1673.  In fact, President Jefferson sent William Dunbar and George Hunter to explore the region in 1804.  After Arkansas became a territory in 1819, the Legislature requested the site be protected by the federal government.  It took them 12 years, but in 1832 Congress designated the area as Hot Springs Reservation as the first to be protected for public use.  Since then the area has been under to protection of the Federal Government and was transferred to the National Park System in 1921.  The Federal Government has protected the springs making certain that the water remains unpolluted and free to the public.  They have leased land at the base of the springs to private ownerships to establish public baths with a flow of over half a million gallons a year.  The stream was covered with stone arches and most of the 43 springs have been capped with the water from the hot springs collected and distributed by the park. It is the geology of the area that make the hot springs possible.  The hot springs are in a gap between Hot Springs Mountain and West Mountain in the Ouachita Mountains.  The same forces that created the mountains tilted the shale creating channels upwards from the depths.  Rainwater percolates down through the rocks to 4,500 to 7,000 feet deep, moving at a rate of about a foot a year.  The water is heated due to pressure and natural radioactive decay.  Due to artesian pressure the water is forced back to the surface between two thrust faults in the rock.  Since the water is not heated by volcanic sources, it does not have the sulfur smell commonly associated with hot springs.  In fact, it is very clean and is some of the only water that is safe and pleasant to drink in the United States.  Therapeutic baths were all the rage at the turn of the century and reached its peak in the 1940s. The bathhouses have come and gone over the years, but at one time there were over two dozen operating in Hot Springs.  They ranged from very ornate bathhouses to simple public facilities and even included a couple for the black servants.  The nine remaining bathhouses make up “Bathhouse Row” which is the centerpiece of the National Park.  Two of them, Quapaw and Buckstaff still operate as bathhouses.  The others have been transformed into other businesses.  The Fordyce is the Visitor Center and Museum, the Lamar is the gift shop, the Ozark is an art cultural center, and the Superior and Hale are a brewery and restaurant, respectively.  Th Maurice has been upgraded and is currently accepting proposals for a future business.  Each of the bathhouses have a distinctive style and interesting history.

When we arrived at the National Park our first challenge was to find a parking spot for our monstrous truck.  Most National Parks have parking lots associated with them, but since the Fordyce is in the middle of Bathhouse Row, there was no parking.  Kal made a turn down Fountain Street checking for a spot along the road and we were caught making the one way trip up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  The road up the mountain is the old carriage road and winds back and forth with one hairpin turn after another all the way to the top.  At the top is the Hot Springs Mountain Tower which towers 1000 feet above the trees.  We finally found a parking spot and got out to enjoy the view before heading back down to town.  Not knowing how long it was going to take in town, we decided not to go up the tower itself.  We did get information about parking in town and headed to the free parking garage just a block from Bathhouse Row.  Kal hates parking garages and we certainly felt that we would hit the cement roof in a number of places.  There was no way we would be able to park into any of the single spots as this truck has to have at least two places in order to get it parked.  Thankfully, the top of the parking garage was still fairly empty so we were able to get parked easily.  Now it was a simple walk to Bathhouse Row.  When we were here decades ago, I remember a simple tour of the first floor of a bathhouse which gave you some idea of the heyday of bathing, however, a lot has changed since then.  They have put a lot of work and money into renovating the Fordyce into its glory of the 1940s.  The entire building, all three floors and the basement, have been redone.  You can either take a guided tour, however, we decided to just do a personal tour of the facilities.  With all the interpretive signs it was as good as a guided tour.  In the basement you can view one of the actual hot springs under the building.  The first floor is the bathing rooms, separate for females and males.  While the female area was simple tubs and showers, the male area was ornate with fountains, statues, and stained glass ceilings.  The second floor was the changing rooms, message rooms, and other therapeutic treatments.  There was even sunbathing areas out on the roof where men and women could relax in the sun, although the women areas was on the shady side of the building so they would not get too much sun.  The third floor was the real prize.  The front is an ornate parlor for the women and game room for the men.  The back was an amazing gymnasium, which was also considered essential for health.  We spent a couple of hours just touring the building which is well worth seeing.  After our personal tour we walked down to the Superior Bathhouse, which is now a brewery, for lunch.  We sampled their beers and had a nice lunch of sandwiches.  After lunch we walked up to the Grand Promenade which is a brick walkway up and behind Bathhouse Row.  Along our pleasant stroll we saw a lot of their capped wells and even the location of the old bandstand that would play music to waft over the visitors to the bathhouses.  At the end of the Grand Promenade is a drinking fountain where you can sample the water, which is very good, and fill up jugs to take home.  This is an amazing place and a must see if you enjoy history in an ornate setting.

We stayed in the campground over the weekend, catching Auburn’s basketball game on Saturday as they got ready for the upcoming SEC tournament.

February, 2020 – Texarkana, Texas

The trip northeast from Dallas to Texarkana was mostly along I-30 so the trip itself went very quickly and easily.  We arrived at our next Corps of Engineers campground, just shy of Texarkana, by early afternoon.  We had originally intended to stay just a week, heading into Arkansas the following week.  However, once we determined that the COE and state parks in Arkansas and Oklahoma did not open for the season until March, we decided to extend our stay for two weeks.  Since the site we were on had a sewer hookup, this was possible.  For the first week, the campground was mostly empty, although it began to pick up during the second week and when we left the campground was still about 20% full.  We also found out why the parks further north do not open until March and the weather the first week was cold and wet.  In fact for the first three days it rained at least part of the day and it was a cold rain.  Consequently we did not do anything but stay in the campground until the weather improved on Friday.  The only notable thing that happened was a mother dog who was obviously nursing puppies showed up at our neighbors camper.  They attempted to find the pups with no luck and it was assumed she had lost them from the heavy rains.  They took the dog with them when they left, which was very good of them as she had likely been abandoned in the first place.  There was also a white cat in the park that they left food for when they left.  Consequently, we got adopted by the cat after they left, even though we never fed it.  However, every night and morning for the next week there was this cat living under our truck that would come out for Kal to pet and to rub on my legs.  I am not a cat person since I am allergic to them, and refused to give it any attention.  This did not stop it from rubbing on my legs and following me around anytime I stepped out doors.  We did find out that it was a long time resident of the park, so we did not feel too bad leaving it behind.

The weather on Friday was not great, but certainly much better than the preceding three days, so we headed to Hope, Arkansas to check out the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site (what a name!).  President Clinton only actually lived in Hope, Arkansas for the first four years of his life before his mother and new step-father moved to Hot Springs.  However, he continued to have family in Hope and would return for summer vacations and holidays and considers Hope to be his hometown.  He was born William Jefferson Blythe in 1946, however, his father was killed in a car accident three months before his birth.  Consequently, his mother, Virginia moved to Hope where he was raised by his grandparents while she went to nursing school in New Orleans.  He spent his first four years of life living in a modest sized two story house with his grandparents, who instilled in him a love of learning and true equality between the races.  Even though Hope, Arkansas was a typical segregated southern town in the 1940s, his grandfather would extend credit to anyone in town at his grocery store, regardless of race,  The only drawback to his life there, as far as I could tell, was the proximity of a VERY busy railroad track just across the road.  Hope is the crossroads of seven railroad lines and is still a very busy and noisy place to live.  The NPS Rangers conduct tours of the house and we had our own private tour.  They have put a lot of money into renovating the house which was in sad shape and refurnishing it with 1940 period pieces.  It was a nice tour, however, it does not take very long to look into a six room house.  We were done in less than two hours and heading back to the campsite for the afternoon.

Saturday started out to be a very nice day with lots of sunshine so we headed into downtown Texarkana to watch their Mardi Gras parade.  We parked the truck well in advance of the parade along the street and walked a couple of blocks to the parade route.  As it turned out, the parade actually circled around and ended up on the other side of our truck.  So we were now stuck inside the parade route and would have to wait until it was over to get out.  At our location they had some music playing and kids were out in the grassy area playing football and other games.  It was fun to watch as we waited for the parade to start.  This parade reminded me more of other small town parades, as most of the “floats” were nothing more than cars and trucks with people throwing out beads and candy.  We weren’t interested in collecting any of this, so we pitched in and provided candy and necklaces for the little kids around us that were too young to be up front.  It was a lot of fun, even though by the time of the parade the weather had clouded over and became chilly.  Once the parade passed our location we had to wait until it circled all the way around so we could leave.  Thankfully there was a very nice Mexican restaurant close to where we had parked the truck, so we had a nice meal while the parade ended and the crowd cleared out.

By Sunday, it was absolutely essential that we got some laundry done, so we found a laundramat in Texarkana and got this chore taken care of.  Monday was another reasonably nice day so we drove back into Arkansas on the hunt for a nice hike.  Our first attempt was Historic Washington State Park, but once we got there we found it was just an old historic town that was completely closed up for the week!  So we decided to drive back to the west to check out Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  While we did find a hiking trail on the Refuge, we had already spent most of the morning driving around southwestern Arkansas.  So we ate lunch in the truck before heading out on the trail.  The trail wound along the side of Bridge Creek, until it looped around to the road.  However, as we approached the road the trail became a shallow creek due to all the rain the previous week!!  We thought about it since it was not far to the road, however, finally decided not to risk it and turned around to hike back to the truck.  Thus we turned a 1 mile loop trail into a 1.5 mile hike along the creek.  Not too bad, especially with the many interpretive signs along the trail.  However, once we got back to the truck the coming cold front had begun to move in and by evening the rain had returned.

We spent the next day in the campground as we returned to intermittent showers all day, so on Wednesday we headed north into Oklahoma to check out the Choctaw Casino in Broken Bow.  Unlike the Choctaw Casino in Durant, this casino is of modest size right along the highway.  Still it was nice venue to spend a couple of hours playing the slot machines.  The only problem with the casino was a power problem whenever they had high winds, which I would guess if fairly often.  After spending nearly a half hour waiting for a slot machine to reboot twice before I could cash out, our day turned around.  The very next machine gave me a major jackpot banking nearly $80, which is a lot when I am only betting $0.20-$0.30 at a time!  I continued to do well putting away $20 a couple of more times and $4 to $5 multiple times.  Kal even did alright managing to lose only about $20.  Consequently, for once we came out with just under $50 ahead for the afternoon.  After a nice congratulatory lunch at a local Pizza Hut, we headed back to the campground a winner.

Since the combination of the weather and the fact that it was over an hour to any other venue or park we were interested in, we spent the rest of the time relaxing in the campground.  As the weather finally got nice and warm on the weekend, we did get out for a two mile hike on a trail in the COE park.  While the first part of the hike was along paved roads searching for the trailhead, once we found the beginning point out by the entrance station, it was a nice easy walk winding through the forest back to our campsite.

February, 2020 – Dallas, Texas

As we continued to travel north in Texas our next stop was once again the Dallas area, so we decided to stay again in Lavonia Park on Lake Lavon where we spent most of November.  We even stayed in the same exact site as we knew we could reach the sewer hookup.  The only difference is the bathroom within walking distance was now closed undergoing repairs.  Although we had to drive to other bathroom every day, it was now open and brand new.  Consequently, it was very nice and clean even though the road to it needs to be repaved.  Especially since we had already spent nearly a month, we did not have anything to do in the area.  This was good since the weather most of the week was cold and rainy.  All I accomplished all week was a little work on this blog and making reservations.  I discovered that the COE and state parks in Oklahoma and Arkansas were all closed until March, so I extended our next stay at Texarkana to two weeks and we will plan on taking our chances without reservations for a few weeks after that.  As long as the parks are open we should have no problem with finding a first-come-first-served site.  In fact, next year I intend to spend more time in southern Texas as there is no reason to be traveling north this quickly.  The weather in northern Texas during February is still too cold and wet.  We may as well wait until March to begin moving north.  On Friday, we spent they day visiting with Mark, Pam, Michelle, and their family.

Campsite

Saturday was different as we packed an overnight bag and headed to Owasso, Oklahoma which is just north of Tulsa.  A close second cousin of Kal’s had passed away so we surprised everyone by showing up at the memorial service on Saturday.  After the service, they invited us to stay for the church dinner for the family.  It was a nice meal and Kal had the opportunity to swap family stories of growing up together.  We stayed the night in a motel and headed back to Dallas on Sunday.  On the way back we stopped at the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma for a few hours of gambling.  As usual, we did all right losing around $20 in total.  It made for a nice break in the 4.5 hour drive back to Dallas.

February, 2020 – Waco, Texas

The trip north on Monday was an easy drive along mostly US highways to Waco where we got set up at another COE campground right on the edge of Waco, Midway Park.  As with most COE campgrounds, this was another very nice campground.  I had a bit of trouble getting the RV backed into the site due to the trees, but on my second attempt was able to get it lined up and backed into the site.  We had a nice view of Waco Lake from our site and a great covered picnic table that was nice when it rained.  The main advantage to this campground was the location.  It was right on the edge of Waco, so we had all the amenities of a large town, yet it was far enough from the main highway that it was quiet and you felt like you were in the country.  We had great TV reception and internet access all week, so Kal was happy.  The downside was that the fan on our propane heater had quit on Friday.  The weather was mild all weekend, so not having a heater was not too bad.  The fireplace heater was sufficient and it was not uncomfortable at night.  However, the weather forecast had a cold front on the way with cold rain and the possibility of snow or even ice!  We did some searching over the weekend and I found an RV repairman in Waco that would come out and take a look once we got in on Monday.  He even called while we were on the road to see when we could get in.  However, when I called him once we got set up, he would not be able to get to us until Tuesday.  While the weather was now getting colder, it was not too bad Monday night in the RV.

Campsite

I called the repairman the first thing Tuesday morning and found out that he was busy with the fixing some breaks and along with other issues was not likely to be able to get to us that day.  With the weather turning colder and predictions for near freezing temperatures Tuesday night I decided we had to call someone else.  The volunteers at the park gave us a recommendation of an RV repair service at the local RV park in Waco.  So I gave them a call and they were not sure they would be able to get to us on Tuesday.  We waited in the RV all day with the hope they could fit us in.  By 5:00 we had given up and made reservations for a motel room for the night.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, a repairman showed up.  It didn’t take him too long to access the unit and determine that it was not the fan, but the control board.  When he got the board out it was obvious that a connection on the board had shorted out.  By bypassing the board he was able to get the fan to run, so it looked like it was just the board.  He thought they had a replacement in stock and left for the night.  We also left and had a nice night in a warm motel room.

As predicted the temperatures dropped to near freezing, so the RV was very cold when we got there Wednesday morning.  We turned on the fireplace heater, but it was obvious it was going to be a long time warming up the RV to a liveable condition.  So we headed to the local Walmart and bought a small ceramic heater that we hoped would not overload the 30 amp service.  Thankfully, there was no problem running both heaters and by mid-afternoon the RV had warmed up to be somewhat comfortable so long as we kept our coats on.  By late afternoon we got concerned that the repairman had not shown up, so we decided to spend another night in the motel.  Weather prediction was for cold rain with the possibility of snow or ice overnight with temperatures well below freezing.  By 6, there was still no repairman so I unhooked the water from the RV and we headed back to the motel for another warm night inside.

As predicted we did get a dusting of snow overnight and it was very cold.  We got breakfast and headed to the RV to start warming it up again.  Once we got to the campsite I called the RV shop to find out what was going on.  It turned out that they had to order to control board, which had just got in.  Around 10, the repairman showed up and soon had our new control board installed.  With all the heaters now in operation, it was just a couple of hours before the RV was once again warm enough to live in.

SnowInCampground

Now that we did not have to wait around for a repairman and the weather was warming up again, we decided to get out on Friday.  We still wanted to be indoors so we headed to Baylor University in Waco to the official Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.  This museum turned out to be a great idea as it had extensive exhibits with details about the entire history of the Texas Rangers.  We started off with a great show made for the History Channel about the Texas Rangers and then spent the next couple of hours in the museum.  If you are like me, you know the Texas Rangers from shows like The Lone Ranger or Walker, Texas Ranger or one of the many movies about the Texas Rangers.  The true history is much more interesting with periods of success and failures.  The Texas Rangers were formalized in 1835 by Stephen F. Austin after he returned from imprisonment in Mexico.  There job was to protect the settlers from the many bandits and Indians raiding the frontier.  They served with distinction in the Texas Revolution and were expanded once Texas became a Republic.  There job continued to be protection of the frontier from bandits and Indians.  In 1846, Texas joined the US and the Mexican-American War broke out.  With their experience on the frontier the Rangers were instrumental in the success of the US Army against the Mexicans acting as scouts, spies, and guerilla warfare.  Their success in the war made them famous, but since now it was the job of the US Army to protect the frontier it would appear they would be out of business in the new state.  By the 1850s this was obviously not the case as the US Army was spread to then to adequately protect the settlers on the frontier.  So the Rangers were expanded again and had great success against the Indian raiding parties, expanding the frontier into western Texas.  However, the Civil War put an end to this as the individuals in the Rangers joined the Confederate Army and the Rangers became a collection of individuals that could not be drafted due to age or disabilites.  Thus the area they could protect greatly diminished during the Civil War pushing east to the area around Waco.  The period of Reconstruction following the Civil War was even worse on the Rangers as they were disbanded in favor of a Union controlled force known as the Texas State Police.  After a couple of years of trying to enforce some very unpopular laws, the Texas State Police was disbanded after Reconstruction came to an end.  Once again the US Army was not very successful in dealing with lawlessness on the frontier and the Texas Rangers were reconstituted with a special force known as the Frontier Battalion.  With adequate funding this Frontier Battalion was successful in once again taming the frontier and pushing their influence westward.  By the 20th Century, the Texas frontiers had become much more settled, however, the Mexican Revolution in 1910 allowed the border to explode in violence.  For a decade there was violence along the bordertowns and thousands were killed.  There were atrocities on both sides and the Texas Rangers suffered, since their new recruits were untrained and little better than criminals themselves.  In 1919, the Texas legislature launched a full investigation into the situation and the Rangers were purged and reorganized.  All special Ranger organizations were disbanded and better oversight was put in place.  Once again the Rangers benefited and acquitted themselves as a strictly law enforcement agency.  They dealt with a number of lawless communities that sprung up during the oil boom in the 1920s through the 1950s.  The Great Depression caused the downsizing of law enforcement all across the US and the Rangers were no different.  In fact, Texas became a safe harbor for Depression era gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde and Machine Gun Kelly.  It was the job of the Rangers to deal with them which included the killing of Bonnie and Clyde.  In 1935, the Texas Rangers were again overhauled with new guidelines on training and promotions that have made them a premier law enforcement agency in the world.

We greatly enjoyed exploring this history of the Texas Rangers, although the number of firearms in the exhibits was overpowering.  There are over 2500 guns, rifles, etc in the museum.  This is also the location of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, where each inductee has an exhibit that includes their firearm and often their saddle.  I have to admit that by the time I made it to the Hall of Fame, I was burned out and did not spend much time on all the famous Texas Rangers.  However, the exhibit they had devoted to “The Lone Ranger” was interesting.  I do think it was one of Kal’s favorite place in the museum.

Saturday was another nice day, so we headed back out to spend some of the day outside.  Just north of Waco is the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  As the name implies, this is the site of a large collection of mammoths that date back 65,000 years.  The bones were first discovered in 1978 and since then they have discovered at least 19 mammoths, a camel, alligator, antelope, and even a tooth from a saber tooth tiger.  These are not the wooly mammoths from the ice age.  Instead they are the Columbian mammoth which were adapted to warmer climates and savannas in the southern US and Central America.  Along with a large male, they have also found a nursery herd with young mammoths that they believed were trapped in a single flooding event.  From my standpoint, the best aspect of the site is that many of these bones are still in place.  The first bones they found were encased in plaster and taken to be studied at Baylor University.  However, the later discoveries are still right where they were found.  They have covered the site with a metal building to protect the bones by maintaining a constant temperature and humidity.  From the bridge over the dig you can see the bones in situ, just as they were found.  You can see the rib cage, backbone of the mammoths along with skulls and tusks, which are still ivory!  This is great place to visit, especially since you have to take a tour to see the bones, where you learn a lot more about the history of the dig and what is known about the mammoths from the tour guide.  The tour only lasts 45 minutes, so Kal and I also hiked a short nature trail on the 100 acre site before heading back to the campground.

Sunday we spent doing laundry and cleaning the RV before heading north again towards Dallas.

January, 2020 – College Station, Texas

The most challenging part of the trip north from Houston was getting around Houston.  As long as there is no traffic jams on the interstates, the trip around the city is not too bad, although the traffic itself is more than we want to deal with.  After getting around Houston the trip to Brenham and on to Summerville Lake and Yequa Creek Park was a nice drive.  It was early afternoon when we pulled into our campsite and got settled in.  The first thing we noticed was the large deer herd that frequented the park in the evenings and mornings every day.  They were obviously used to humans camping in the park as they would wander within 10 feet foraging for grass in the open areas.  This was a very nice park on the shores of Summerville Lake and we were looking forward to spending a week away from Houston.

Tuesday was a cool day with rain in the forecast late in the day, so we drove north to College Station to explore the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  As we had been to College Station multiple times in the past while William was attending Texas A&M, we were most interested in visiting the Presidential Museum for the second time.  Our impression of the museum was the same as the previous time we had visited the museum.  This is one of the best Presidential Museums we have seen with great exhibits covering the life and career of President Bush.  They even handed us a personal audio system that we carried around in the museum.  This system added a lot to the experience as it gave additional information about many of the exhibits, often presented by President Bush himself.  I learned a lot about his experiences as a Navy pilot during World War II where he was shot down and rescued.  I finally learned about why he moved to Texas as a young man to make his fortune in the oil business.  His early life took up about half of the museum, with the remainder focused on his public life.  I learned about his contributions as a Congressman, the UN Ambassador, the Chief Liaison to China, and as Director of the CIA.  I already knew a good bit about his career as the Vice-President to President Reagan and as our 41st President.  Still the exhibits were interesting and informative.  After spending over 2 hours in the museum we went outside to walk around a nice fishing pond to the gravesite of President Bush and First-Lady Barbara Bush.  It was a great day and we talked about what we had learned all the way back to the campsite.

As forecasted the weather on Wednesday turned nasty with rain, wind, and plummeting temperatures.  I began to wonder if we had made a mistake moving north this quickly as we saw our first subfreezing temperatures.  The weather did not improve until the weekend, so on Saturday we headed east to the Washington-on-the-Brazos.  This small town, which is now a ghost town, was the location of the Convention of 1836 where delegates from every town in Texas met to declare independence from Mexico and draft a constitution to establish the Republic of Texas.  They met on March 1, 1836 and on March 2 approved a Declaration of Independence.  At the same time General Santa Anna was besieging the Alamo which would fall on March 6.  The delegates knew they were in danger since the Alamo is only a two day ride from Washington-on-the-Brazos.  They continued to work day and night to draft a Constitution which General Santa Anna slowly moved there way destroying everything in his path.  On March 17 they finished the Constitution, just in time to escape south ahead of the Mexican Army to Galveston Island.  Trying to finally crush the revolution, Santa Anna split his forces and took a small force north to cut off Sam Houston from escaping as well.  They met on April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto where the Mexicans were surprised and destroyed including the capture of Santa Anna himself.  This effectively ended the war and the delegates returned to Washington-on-the-Brazos to ratify the Constitution.  The town leaders lobbied to make it the new capital of the Republic, however, the leaders of the revolution decided on Waterloo, which was renamed Austin.  In 1842, President Sam Houston moved the capital to Washington-on-the-Brazos until 1845 to protect the government from an attempt by Mexico to reclaim Texas.  Even with this influx of commerce to the town, Washington-on-the-Brazos was doomed to their decision to continue their focus on river commerce instead of embracing the railroads that soon took over commerce.  The town quickly died and disappeared.  Today it is just a ghost town.

The Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site now protects the original location of this historic town.  They have even rebuilt the frame building known as Independence Hall and there is a short walking trail through the center of town down to the ferry crossing of the Brazos River.  While there is only a small museum about the town, there is also the much larger museum called “The Star of the Republic Museum.”  This is a very nice museum with some great exhibits about the entire history of Texas from prehistoric times to the present.  By itself, it is well worth the visit.  In the park is also the Barrington Living Farm where interpreters demonstrate the daily chores of large farms in the mid-1800s.  They have heritage chickens, pigs, cows, and oxen at the farm as well.  While interesting, all the time we had spent walking around the town and exploring the history museum, did not give us much time at the Living Farm.  We missed out on their cooking demonstration although we had a nice chat with the interpreter about life on the farm.  It was a end of a very good day and our week in central Texas.