Friday, April 19, 2019

The Silos and Magnolia Market
April 2019 - WACO, TX 
The Magnolia store.
Stunning displays and decorating.
Owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines, best known for the HGTV show Fixer Uppers.

A very relaxed family atmosphere out back.
Kids playing games, bean bags chairs, picnic tables, flowers and music.

Picnic tables await.
Unique food trucks surround the perimeter. We ordered lunch from the Cheddar Box. We had a gourmet grilled cheese and the most delicious Mac & Cheese EVER.
(The white building on the right is the marketplace.) 

Of course I enjoyed the gardens and beautiful raised beds.
A quick trip to CT.... and a spring walk....

While in TX, we took a quick trip to CT to visit our kids and grandson. Quick trip means flying (out of San Antonio), not driving the motor home. 

CT is a very beautiful state, although crowded along the coast, there are many rural areas filled with huge trees, old farms, old rock walls, lakes and rivers. The coast is beautiful as well with many quaint little towns filled with Victorian houses. It's an expensive state but very beautiful.  

Fredericksburg, TX...

We made 2 stops (stays) in Fredericksburg, a fun filled tourist town, famous for it's German roots. Great German food, old stone buildings, wineries and music. Will include more on Fredericksburg in a later post. We made a return visit specifically to attend the Vintage motorcycle show and flat track races. It was such a fun weekend, especially since we were able to camp next to the event and were joined by friends (Judie & Mark) who camped next to us.
My dream bike, an old little Honda to putt around on.
I remember when these were cheap and easy to come by, not so much anymore. 
Flat track racing...all vintage motorcycles dating from the 1970's back to almost 100 years old. 
It was amazing to watch.

Getting ready for a drag race. 
This was more of a fun event for bragging rights than a highly competitive event. Remarkable that these guys keep their bikes in such fine working condition. Very Impressive. 

Friday, March 15, 2019


a memorable Valentine's Day...
U. S. Port of Entry at Boquillas Crossing. Great Bend National Park.

The crossing is open during daytime hours and only certain days of the week. You must be back by 5:00 when this border officially closes. It is staffed by an armed Park Ranger. He was very helpful with our first time crossing and in getting our passports checked when returning, another interesting process. When returning, you place your passport under a scanner which is viewed by a border patrol agent in El Paso. You’re instructed to pick up the phone handset next to the scanner which connects you with the agent viewing at your passport. A camera allows the agent is see you. It seemed to work well. 

 The River Crossing "ferry". 
A small rowboat takes tourists back and forth during the hours the border is officially open. 

Reaching the American Side.
After getting off the boat, it's a short hike up a dirt path to the U.S. Port of Entry building. 

Once in Mexico, it's about a mile into town. You can pay to ride a burro, a horse, ride in a truck or walk. Men from Boquillas offer to take visitors around town, a tour guide of sorts, they work for tips. The people were very welcoming and low key. We opted to walk, we thoroughly enjoyed the walking and being able to take our time. Next time (and I hope there is) it would be fun to have a guide, I'm sure we'd learn more and have somebody answer our many questions. Some residents we talked to were semi fluent in English, others not so much. 

While walking into town we met burros heading back to the river crossing, 
nobody leading them, apparently they knew the routine. (I think the driver in the white truck was keeping an eye on them).

We went with another couple that were camping next to us. Really fun people, we had a great day.

Boquillas in site. 
The village was originally founded as a mining town in the early 1900’s, mining ceased in 1919 at which time the population greatly declined. It’s incredible to me that this village even survived, the nearest town is 160 miles away over a dirt road, these people are isolated, living in their own world. Approximately 300 residents still make Boquillas their home. They have a school and a medical clinic where a doctor makes scheduled visits. 

A solar power station was installed in 2015, up until that time there was no electricity in the village. 

On the edge of town.

We had lunch at one of only two restaurants. Food, service, cleanliness...all wonderful, totally surpassed expectations. The Boquillas people are very happy to have the tourists visit, it's their main source of income. They are very friendly and welcoming all in a good way. It didn't feel at all like a remember my visit to Nogales years ago. 
Informaiton sign in English and Spanish when entering the town. 
Needlework, can cozzies, woven braclets and trinkets made of wire and beads were the
main items for sale. 

Items for sale are displayed outside villagers homes. This is the only store we saw, it also serves as a home. The needlework is beautifully stitched with colorful threads and beads. I'm not sure what is sold in this store, I think it was more for villiagers. 

This was such an interesting day for us. We couldn't help but think how fortunate we are to be born in the U.S. We have so much, so much of, gadgets, clothes, do-dads, toys, stores, choices of medical care, schools, recreation. Sometimes it's the luck of the draw where you were born that defines your life. 

In Big Bend Park...

A few villagers cross the river (illegally) and place trinkets on rocks along hiking trails close to the river. A plastic bottle next to the souvenirs asks tourists to leave money for whatever souvenirs they take. It’s an honor system, although many times you’re being watched from vantage points across the river. It is technically an illegal crossing, they only stay long enough to put out their trinkets and collect the money. We watched them make quick trips across the river, by canoe or horses. The Park Rangers don’t do much about it unless it gets to be a problem. However, the park newspaper states not to buy these items because they’re illegal and considered contraband that can be confiscated by officials. It’s best to support the people in Boquillas by buying items in their village from people who are following the rules. 

Boquillas villager keeping an eye on his trinket stash. I shot this photo with a telephoto lens, the river is below me, the horse is on the Mexican side of the river.

Great Bend National Park has been a great visit, the Blue Bonnets were blooming, the roadsides filled with fragrant flowers. There's high enough mountains here that on a couple hikes we were in pine trees, we even came across deer and a black bear, who would've thought??? Not us. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Black Hills, South Dakota, September 2018

Visiting the Black Hills required a stop in Mitchell to check out the famed Corn Palace.
This has to be one of our best campsites, right on the edge of the Bad Lands, the view was spectacular.

Early morning....Big Horn Sheep in front of our RV. 

One of our hikes... a steep shear drop off ends the trail at this point. 

We were so fortunate to be in Sturgis the day the Cannonball Run came to town. A 2 week ride from Portland Maine to Portland Oregon. Approximately 100 motorcycles built before 1930 set out on the journey. The ride takes place every other year with a different route. We'd love to meet their route again in 2020. 

So impressive to see these old motorcycles in such good condition.

The day in Sturgis was their only rest day...the riders used the time to wrench on their bikes and relax a bit. A perfect day for us to walk around and look at the bikes and talk with the riders and crew. This man is the proud owner of his great grandfather's old Harley. If the riders weren't busy fixing something, they were happy to answer questions and talk of their adventure. 

Patience and mechanical skill keep these motorcycles running. 
BEAUTIFUL SUNRISE. Lining up before the chilly early morning start. 
We got up early and drove an hour from Custer to Sturgis just to see their 7am start. 
And they're off. 

The Buffalo Roundup. 

The roundup takes place every Sept. in Custer State Park. Here buffalo are nearing corrals at the end of the roundup. (Approximately 1,000 buffalo). We had a good view from a hill above. 

The roundup attracts many photographers, news reporters and spectators. The trucks in the roundup area are a safety provision for cowboys, if charged by a buffalo the truck can be used as a diversion or block. 
This guy looks so sweet. 
They don't look like it but a buffalo can run as fast as 35 mph (comparable to a horse), they can turn quickly and even jump a fence, very agile.  

The roundup is part of Custer Park's management plan to maintain a healthy balance between number of bison and available grassland for grazing. The park can only sustain a certain number based on current conditions. Once in the corrals the buffalo are sorted out, some sent to a pasture for sale, cows are checked for pregnancy, vaccinations administered and new calves branded. A very interesting process to watch. It takes about 4 days to complete the herd. 

Cowboys after the roundup. 
Such a beautiful sight with the mountains and fall colors in the background.  
Volunteer cowboys (experienced riders only) are selected each year through an application process, several park rangers also ride. 

Black Hills fog moving in.

The end of September, we woke up to a covering of snow. Time to move further south. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 2018

Every October balloon enthusiasts from around the world converge in Albuquerque, NM. This year 600+ balloons from 16 different countries were in attendance. Spectators in the thousands, traffic backed up for miles every morning beginning at 4:30am. Fortunately for us, we were in an RV parking area, only 1/2 mile walk to the launch field. The RV parking area had over 1,000 sites, lots of people walking, plus bus and golf cart shuttles. We usually walked, although some mornings we lucked out...a nice golf cart driver would pull up to us and ask if we wanted a lift. At 5:30 in the morning, dark and chilly out, and rushing to the field, we eagerly jumped in. Those devoted shuttle drivers (volunteers) start at 4am in the morning. The festival was very well organized and supported by many many volunteers. As part of a balloon crew, we too were volunteers. Volunteers receive a weekly pass into the event. It's such an exciting place to be. 

Morning Dawn Patrol
We were at the launch field every morning by 6:00am. Pilot briefing was at 6:15, sometimes we went to the briefing, other times got a cup of Pinon coffee and went to our chase vehicle loaded with balloon and gear. Dawn Patrol launched about 6:30; a small number of selected balloons launch before sunrise, it's a beautiful sight when they glow. Dawn patrol is a scouting flight of sorts, it helps watchful pilots determine wind aloft conditions and plan for their flight. 

Vincent Van Gogh from the Netherlands was one of my favorite balloons. 
So artistic and creative.  

This evening was too windy to fly or inflate. With so many people being at the field, the pilots set up their baskets and fire up their burners. At least the people get to see something and talk to the pilots. The pilots all have balloon cards much the same as football cards, the kids are so excited about the balloons and have a good time collecting cards. Handing out cards was another of our crew duties. 

Airabelle. Another favorite. She's ginormous! 
The basket is under her belly, can't see it in this photo. 
All the balloons have creative names, this old gal is Airabelle, the CreamLand Cow, she's from British Columbia. Balloons of this sort are in a category appropriately called Special Shapes. Although all air worthy, we only saw Airabelle fly one day, usually she was inflated and tethered. After working on our balloon with our crew of 5, I can't imagine having to pack up and lug her around. Some of the special shapes balloons have a crew of 25 or more. I also noticed the larger balloons used wheeled carts, where as our balloon was moved by crew power. Our pilot did have a lift tailgate on the back of her truck, was nice.

Our pilot brought 2 balloons. Here we're laying out the balloon, "MyAir FlyAir" getting ready to inflate. She also had a little smaller balloon, a racer, that she used in competition flying, it was easier to inflate and pack up. We liked it better.

Our pilot Myia checking things over before the inflating.  

Our pilot's balloon, Rik Rak, a racer balloon, the envelope size being 65,000 cubic feet, or 65,000 basketballs would fit in the envelope (balloon). It's a little smaller than her other balloon and more maneuverable, she uses Rik Rak for competetion flying. It's also the balloon Tom and I got to fly in. 
The highlight of our week was getting to fly, it was unexpected, just before lift off pilot Myia shouted "jump in now!" time for second thoughts, I jumped in. Tom got to fly the next day.

My flight with Myia took us over the Rio Grande River...never knew the Rio Grande went through Albuquerque. Our flight lasted over an hour, it went by all too fast. IT WAS TOTALLY AMAZING, JUST FLOATING, SO QUIET AWAY FROM THE NOISE AND TRAFFIC BELOW. Tom got to fly the next day. We've been bragging about our flights ever since, ha ha. 

Pilots have fun dipping down and touching the water, known as a "splash and dash", sometimes getting their feet wet inside the basket, the balloon Hearts of Fire is getting ready to Splash.

Too windy. Once the meteorologist fly the green flag, pilots have the ok to fly, however, it's still up to pilot's discretion. This day was iffy, already a delayed start, the green flag finally went up. Our pilot decided not to fly or even unpack, I think a good choice. This pilot started to set up, the wind was whipping the envelope around, others join in holding down the basket. After this wind gust, the pilot decided not to fly. 

Night Glow. The Special shape balloons are creative and amazing.

Sunset at the launch field. 

Night glow. Balloons inflate for static display. 

Morning launch.
Mass Ascension, balloons launch in 2 waves. It's well organized, there are trained launch directors on the field, each responsible for a group of balloons. They're dressed like referees and referred to as Zebras, some of the ladies are very creative with their outfits.  

Christ the Redeemer from South America.
My favorite balloon. Very huge, was quite the sight in the air. 

Another special shape balloon.

More special shapes that got a lot of attention.

One of our landing spots. I took this shot as we finished packing up. The white sheet on the field indicated it was an balloon friendly field to land in. Some of the locals mark their property to be seen from the air. Always fun riding back to the launch field, everything piled in the back of the truck, with a few of us piled on top or in the basket. Spectators, other crews and traffic directors all waving to each other, fly day is a festive day. During the festival it's permissible to have balloon crews riding in truck beds.
It was a tiring week but oh so great.