Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Feliz Navidad desde San Antonio

      As is our custom, each year we celebrate the Christmas Holiday in a new location.  The past 3 years it has been Big Bend NP, Natchitoches, LA, and San Felipe, BC, Mexico.  This year we enjoy the culture, heritage, and festivities that are San Antonio, TX.  Of course this includes the Riverwalk area.  We booked our camping area months in advance for the Fort Sam Houston Fam Camp.  Another one of our veteran retiree perks that we use whenever we can.  Full hookups within 5 miles of all the festivities for $120 weekly.  This is the nicest Military Fam Camp we have stayed at to date.   Large, paved, level sites with full hookups, laundry, showers, bbq pits, playgrounds, fenced dog run, and propane service.  Fort Sam Houston is a very large facility located very close to downtown on the NE part of the city.  They have several gas stations, an incredible BX and Commissary as well as other services including veterinary service, golf course, thrift shop, SPA, and a huge VA hospital.  That's right, I said a SPA.  
      We had 2 weeks here so our itinerary was pretty much 'whatever strikes us' on any given day.  This became contingent on the weather as well.   The staff at camp was very helpful in showing us routes for the easiest trips into any part of the city.  We did spend a day exploring the Market District, but that adventure is detailed in the blog review of Mi Tierra Café and Bakery.
      One day we toured the Alamo, Buckhorn Museum and the Texas Ranger Museum downtown.  An important note here.  There is no cheap parking in this part of town.  We paid $15 for 5 hours with 3 blocks of the Alamo and downtown district.
The Alamo (main chapel)
Alamo Grounds & Gardens
The Buckhorn Saloon
Bonny & Clyde's original car in the Texas Ranger Museum

      Several other times we walked and boated the Riverwalk, toured the shops having some lunch, and later took in the nighttime decorations.  I did screw up the times for getting downtown and watching the Opening Night for Riverwalk Lights and the parade.  So we got there late and got a few shots off the bridges, but nothing anywhere near what we had hoped for.  It was a beautiful night.

      We also took a day trip north to Gruene, TX to pick up some Pecan Roca.  If you're familiar with Almond Roca.......this is even better.  In fact it is sinfully delicious.  It is all I wanted for Christmas.  Afterwards we stopped near New Braunfels at Coopers so many Texas BBQs it is delicious, but their brisket is the BEST I have ever tasted.  Flavorful, crunchy, peppery crust with delicious interior.  Add some beans tater salad, pickle and onions, and voila.........paper towels, no BBQ sauce, or utensils, heaven can wait.
Pecan Roca
Coopers BBQ
      Of course, let's not forget Christmas Dinner:  Maple Crockpot Ham, Mashed Taters, Peas, Chutney, King's Hawaiian Rolls, Deviled Eggs, and Apple Cobbler for dessert.

Christmas Dinner
      This is our last stop before our annual pig hunt so we have been trying to whittle down the freezers.  There was a lot of rockfish and clams on our menu this past two weeks.  We did vary the menu with Monster Cheeseburgers, Finger Food, Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, as well as Cajun Rockfish, Fried Clam Steaks, and Rockfish Frittata.  Yeah, what I said.
      It was a very nice stay in the area.  The wealth of culture and festivities fits the holiday season perfectly.  We're not crazy about the San Antonio metroplex as with most large cities navigation around, over, under, and through traffic pretty much defines stress.  Although they do their best with digital bulletin boards that update conditions, this area is a MONSTER.  Thankfully our camp at Fort Sam Houston was within 5 miles of downtown so our commutes weren't bad.  We toured downtown from the Alamo to the Market District to the Riverwalk to the numerous Catholic Missions, exploring the other aspects and culture of the surrounding communities.

      After one more day of relaxation, we depart with hearts full of memories and hopes for the future.  A wonderful Christmas.  From here we have a short jaunt of 77 miles to the east to Gonzales, TX.  It is nearly time once again for "Hogapallooza".  

"Life is a daring adventure or nothing" 
Helen Keller 
WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery

     Our holidays in San Antonio offered us a number of alternatives for dining.  Mi Tierra Café & Bakery was recommended by several friends from a culinary club to which I am a member.  Located downtown in the Market District on Produce Row, they offer a virtual myriad of selections from breakfast thru dinner.  Better yet, they are open 24 hours daily.
      In 1941, Pedro and Cruz Cortez opened a little three-table cafe for early-rising farmers and workers at San Antonio’s Mercado. Sixty years later Mi Tierra Cafe is a world-famous landmark - the place hometown regulars and hungry tourists go for authentic Mexican food and a warm Texas welcome.  Pedro’s and Cruz’s children and grandchildren continue the family tradition of good food and big-hearted hospitality at Mi Tierra, which now seats over 500 and is still located in Market Square, El Mercado.  The rich culture of San Antonio abounds throughout the plazas of Market Square. A three-block outdoor plaza lined with restaurants, shops and produce stands near San Antonio's city center, Market Square is tenth largest Mexican market in the world.
      So, of course visiting this café became part of a much larger tour of the entire Market Square district.  We did have to plan our visit around the weather as our visit coincided with an abundance of intermittent rainfall.  We got lucky.  First of all through some inventive persuasion and hard work I convinced Barb she owed herself a couple of hours at the local spa for a complete deep tissue massage.  It did take some convincing, but she finally relented.  After I picked up my relaxed lady we headed downtown.  Barb was in her element. 
      A day filled with exploration ended with a meal to be remembered.  We arrived late afternoon to escape the evening crowd, but still were able to enjoy the dinner menu.  Walking and shopping......and more walking and even more shopping creates quite the appetite.
      After perusing their extensive menu Barb decided on the Mexican Dinner with Crispy Beef Taco, Cheese Enchilda, Tamale, Spanish Rice, and Refried Beans.  Always looking for something different, I selected the Monterey Special with Cabrito - tender young Goat baked to perfection w/au jus, Guacamole, Cheese Enchilada, Spanish Rice, tortillas, and Refried Beans.
Mexican Dinner
Monterey Special
      Barb enjoyed her dinner while I loved the Cabrito (goat).  I found it to be a bit sweeter meat, somewhat like lamb.  The tamales, beans, rice, and guacamole were absolutely delicious.  Afterwards Barb found the temptation irresistible and visited the bakery on the way out.  She picked up a couple of apple pastries and a larger than normal cinnamon bun for breakfast I'm assuming.  
      Our dinner total with desserts came to $51 and was delicious.  The menu is varied and is sure to have something to satisfy anyone.  The food is delicious, the service excellent.  Our waiter was very kind to explain of the menu choices to Barb and recommend something for me as well.  Mi Tierra is located right at the east end of the Market Place and fits right into a day of exploration and fun.  Traveling south on I-35/I-10 into San Antonio take the upper level road when divided and then exit on Commerce Street.  The cheapest parking in town are any of the city lots immediately below the freeway overpasses.  Flat rate:  $3/all day, $5/weekends.   

"Mexican food is one of the best culinary experiences that people 
can have"
Karla Souza

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Palo Duro

     We left the fields and birds of NW Oklahoma behind and headed just south of Amarillo, TX to Palo Duro State Park.  Suggested to us by a good friend, we wanted to check out the "Grand Canyon of Texas".  We booked our reservations online via the Texas State Park system for a week in the Sagebrush Camping area.   This is a large park with several areas available depending on your activities.  For us this was a week of rest for Roux, exploration, photography, and campfires with good food.

      We used some of the discount available on our Texas State Parks card so the total for our 8 days was $164.  We camped at the Sagebrush Camping area as you enter the canyon.  There weren’t that many units throughout the park, so we had our choice.  We chose a beautiful back-in spot that was bordered on each side by cedars offering decent privacy.  There is NO cell signal or internet capability down in the canyon, but you can get online on top at the Visitors Center or once you travel to town.  There are heated bathroom/free showers and covered picnic tables for each site.  There are fire pits, but there was a burn ban during our visit.  There are 3 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs with elec/water hookups.  There are several others for tent campers, and youth groups as well.  The park also offers a very good Visitors Center with museum, horseback riding stables, and a Trading Post featuring gifts and a full service snack bar. 

Palo Duro Sagebrush Camp
      We spent the first few days on our own heated tank water supply as the night time temps dipped well into the low 20s.  We did not have a heated hose so we did not hook up to their water spigots till temps warmed.  Being in a deep canyon, the temperatures are noticeably cooler than at the top.  It is 16 miles into the nearest town of Canyon, TX for any type of supplies or laundry.  Unfortunately, Barb and I both had whopper colds the first day or two our stay which also pretty much occupied our time.
Fortress Wall
      This is one of the more popular parks in Texas, famous for it’s beauty.  There are miles of trails for both hikers and mountain bikers to explore.  The area abounds with deer, Aoudad Sheep, coyote, cougar, bobcats, turkey, rabbits, feral pigs, as well as a variety of snakes and raptors.  Thankfully, no rattlesnakes this time of year.  We even managed to get in a day or two of Geocaching as the park contains nearly 2 dozen caches. 
     Although Barb never really got well, we explored the park for the better part of 5 days taking in as much beauty as we could.  I even got some B & W work done.  It was cool to cold during our stay, but we have no complaints; they had several inches of snow south of us.  Our progressively aging bodies walked several trails, but made sure to eat well every night.  We dined on Rockfish w/Chutney and Salad, Skillet Spaghetti & Garlic Bread, Spicy Chorizo Egg Cheese Sandwiches, and Clam Strips & FF to name a few. 
Clam Strips FF & Coleslaw
Spicy Chorizo Egg Cheese Sandwich
Skillet Spaghetti w/Cudighi and Garlic Bread

      It is a beautiful park, well maintained and pristine.  The various colors and shades of limestone cliffs, walls, hoodoos, and erosions were pretty as any we have seen throughout the southwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  It didn’t hurt that there weren’t that many people visiting when we did.  Although much cooler, we love the off season.  Off to San Antonio from here.  Two days drive with an overnight boondock in Abilene to begin our Christmas vacation on the Riverwalk this year.  
"To awaken alone in a strange town is one 
of the pleasantest sensations in the world"
Freya Start

WiFi courtesy of Texas State Parks

Monday, December 4, 2017

Lord of the Ringnecks.....Return of Roux

Photo courtesy of Oklahoma DWC
   Once again we visit the vast fields and high plains that is the Oklahoma Panhandle. This year rather than camping at the Optima WMA we set up camp at the Optima NWR which is only a couple of miles SE sitting much higher than the surrounding countryside.  Also FREE CAMPING.  Although still Federal Land, this area has been abandoned due to lack of funding for 25+ years now.  The paved camping areas are still there, but a bit overgrown in places.  Due to the dryness this time of year there are no open fires allowed.  
      We watered up at the Balko Truckstop enroute and set up the portable solar panels as well as jumpered to the battery bank while in camp. Generator was gassed up should we need a battery bank top off at night.  We also had the 5.56mm Coyote Deterrent in case we got uninvited company.  There had also been reports of large bobcats in the area lately.  Boondocking 5 days for bird hunting........PERFECT!

      This put us in range of our hunting the fields around Hooker, Adams, Hardesty, and Guymon.  The nearest propane fill is Guymon, 20 miles to the west, although diesel was available 5 miles away at Hardesty at a fair $2.55.   Much like last year we planned on hunting with our friend, Darryl.  We were in for a surprise as Darryl and his wife had been transferred by Phillips Conoco Petroleum to Carlsbad, NM.  We did meet his son, Seth and he was very happy to once again show us around.  They really appreciated our Thank You card from last year and the Christmas cards, but LOVED the Reindeer Sausage we sent the family.  His primary focus was on deer, but there were plenty of pheasant to be had as well, and if the quail population is anything like last year.........WOW.  Hoping for similar results for all of us this year.  This year we were treated to downright balmy weather with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s.  

Really Roux, this is where you give the bird to Daddy

      Once again Barb played 'handler' for Roux keeping a leash handy if she tried to chase birds.  I had my trusty Browning Citori O/U outfitted with modified over full chokes and loaded with #6 for ringnecks.  We decided to hunt ONLY pheasant this trip so quail would not be a factor.  Most days we hunted just early mornings and late afternoons.  The birds were always enroute to or from feeding then.    
      The first two days resulted in a single bird.  We did see about 33 birds, but Roux wasn't scenting them and the distant flushes didn't help.  Roux was so very much better on Day 2.  I think the bird I shot on Day 1 really clued her nose in finally.  She worked hard and found the birds twice, but was unable to get 'locked up' due to them flushing at 30+ yards.  That didn't stop me from shooting anyways.  Over the first 2 days I was a sad 1 for 5.  But, Roux was showing improvement.  Day 3 turned the tables for us.  We had talked to a few local farmers and the game biologist on Day 2 and they said the bird population was slim due to heavy spring storms and hail damage.  Still, we had been finding enough to try and shoot.  We had been finding birds in cover fields and fence rows of thick tumbleweeds next to cut Milo fields.  We also had been lucky enough to be able to work a section of CRP land relatively undisturbed by other hunters.  It was a pretty windy day and Roux did her job and even though we still get a solid point, the birds held better.  I think I finally got somewhat dialed in.  We picked up 3 birds in the morning and decided to take the afternoon off.  I was 2 for 5 on day 3.  On day 4 Roux worked very well again and I managed to pick up one more bird close to camp in the morning.  Our afternoon was spent refilling propane and a Wal Mart run in Guymon.  Seth now returns to finish the packing of the house prior to his and grandma's departure to SE New Mexico.  I made sure to get their new address as we plan on visiting them again one day.  Good folks.

Day 3 was our best day with Seth and I nearly limiting out 
     We hunted hard for 4 days to fill our freezer with possession limits before heading out.  Possession limits are the amount of birds you are allowed to have in your possession (even in the freezer) which is twice the daily limit.  That equates to 4 pheasant or 20 quail total.  My shooting hasn't improved, but I managed to carry my part of the load given time.  We had no unwelcome coyote or bobcat visitors in camp.  
      It was another wonderful experience and good time spent with friends.  Unlike other types of hunting, bird hunting is more about comradery, the performance and loyalty of the dog, and the satisfaction of a job well done regardless.  Enjoying some warm camping in good weather ain't bad either.  We dined on a couple days of ham n bean soup and a couple more on clam chowder.
      We had plenty of sun for solar use, but keeping the bank topped off proved more difficult than usual.  I made sure the cells were filled and ran the generator our entire last night in order to top them off.  The suitcase panels worked just fine with the RV onboard battery.  
      Once again we'll be dining on some fine game later this winter and spring.  We point the compass South now, heading to Texas' version of the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro.  Cuddle up and get some rest, Roux.  You've earned it.     

"A hunt based only on the trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be"
                                                                                       Fred Bear
WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Sunday, November 26, 2017


        Leaving Missouri 4 days early we boondocked enroute at the Cherokee Casino at Sallisaw, OK, price $0.  They have a very nice large lot designated just for RV overnights.  After a nights rest and Barb's $51 winnings we headed west, deciding to stop in Oklahoma City for some shopping, etc.  We camped again at the Little Axe CG at Lake Thunderbird State Park. 
     Great sites under the oaks right on the water; with our discounts $80 for 4 nights.  This park does have all the amenities and we could have a fire for the first time since April!  14.5 mpg towing on the way here.  We also got to visit with our son Chad and his new wife for a bit and eat some great Chicken Fried Steak out on Old Highway 66.  
      The one scheduling item we can always count on this time of year is visiting with our grandson in SW Oklahoma.  We try to spend a week or two here each year.  We have always enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of our in-laws during this holiday.  They have always been very gracious during our visits as well as putting out quite the spread during 'Turkey Day'.   Grandpa Ricky can sure roast a turkey as well as a Cook's Ham to perfection and Grandma Frankie is as gracious as any Southern Lady you'll ever meet.
'Downtown' Marlow, OK
     Arriving in Marlow we once again we set up camp at Town n Country RV Park about 2 miles out of town with full hookups at the price of $180/week.  A very nice park with all the amenities to include laundry, WiFi, and trash pickup.  We have stayed here 3 times.  Marlow is a small town, but has a very nice butcher shop and several nice home cookin' cafes.  Even the Marlow Market has some very fine meats.  10 miles down the road is Duncan with all the other amenities anyone could want including my fav Chicken Express I can get my gizzard fix here, although admittedly they have other delicious chicken dishes as well as tasty catfish.  Marlow offers the best of small town living.   This came in handy as we arrived with a slow leak in one of our tires.  
      Our oldest grandson, Brock is 16 now and we consider ourselves pretty lucky as he loves to visit with us and his passion for old movies, especially SciFi, is very mutual.  Many of our visiting days when he is not shackled with such slavery such as high school include watching movies, comparing criticisms, and just snacking on whatever Grandpa Rich prepares.  This year we brought him the movie 'Shin Godzilla' to kick off our visit.  Brock called it a 'Classic'.  I considered it time well spent.
      We also took Brock to see Bladerunner 2049.  SENSATIONAL FILM!  I was able to find the original 1984 version of Bladerunner on DVD at Vintage Stock, a shop in Oklahoma City that specializes in anything you need to find.  He watched the original first so he could appreciate the strides I story and technology that this movie has accomplished.  I think I finally found something to impress him.
      Thanksgiving this year however was at Brock's other relatives in nearby Chickasha.  Although we were a bit hesitant to intrude, we were once again greeted with open arms;  Southern Hospitality.  What a spread!   Time spent here helps me to realize that the world is still a pretty friendly place with love and fellowship considered normal family values.
What a Thanksgiving spread!
      I did find some time to (finally) get back out with the camera and got a couple more good BW shots.  We also took an afternoon to cruise the country looking for wild hogs which are supposed to be prevalent in the area.  Alas on a 78 degree day none where to be seen.  We spent the last couple of days just visiting and relaxing with folks.  Being here is always a good visit.  In between we dined on Cudighi Cheeseburger Casserole, Fried Rockfish, Greek Shrimp Salad, and a Low Country Boil to name a few.
Yooper Cudighi Cheeseburger Casserole

Low Country Boil
      Not that we didn't dine out.  Rib Crib, Chicken Express, and Smokin' Joes Rib Ranch got a bit of our business as always.  All have excellent food. 
Smokin' Joes Sausage, Hot Links, Okra, and Beans
     We don't get to visit our grandchildren as often as we would like, but who ever does?  We always enjoy these visits and as I said, so does Brock.  We are fortunate to have such warm and friendly in laws.  Of course time always goes too fast, but we makes sure our visits contain as much quality time and love as possible.  From here we head NW towards the Oklahoma Panhandle and the tiny community of Hardesty.  We'll boondock for the first 4 days or so of pheasant season as well as hopefully enjoy Roux's good work.  

"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends"
Shirley MacLaine

WiFi courtesy of Town and Country RV Park