Sunday, June 10, 2012

A 3 Hour Tour!

     Bummer! We were supposed to go to Balmorhea this past weekend. We were going to spend two nights there and one night in the Davis Mountains. But as the weekend crept up so did the temperatures! The forecast called for 102 and 103 degrees. I know that is West Texas dry heat but it just sounded too hot. SO we switched plans and decided to spend a few nights at Inks Lake State Park...hence our 3 hour tour.
     We departed mid morning and we decided to take the boats. Ruby is not outfitted yet to haul the boats. She is getting her roof resurfaced and painted later this summer so the racks are on our other car, Ole Red. Ole Red was our camping car before Ruby and she has not been feeling the love so we decided to go old style and car camp. Man she was packed. I forgot how much more crap you need when you sleep in tents. It takes a lot more time to pack up too.
     The drive was scenic and we arrived early afternoon. The main parks office was crowded which should have been our first clue. We had reservations but still there were only a handful of sites left. Paco requested one in the shade and there was one left. Fingers crossed we went to check it out.
     Inks Lake State Park is Big..There were at least 300 camping sites. But there are literally on top of each other. When we pulled into our camping spot deep down we all were feeling the same thing, No Way In H-E-double hockey stick are we staying here! But we dutifully got out walked around and even thought about where we would set up the tent. Then we glanced around at the other campers that were less then a living room (a small Allandale sized living room) away. I mean we would have been able to hear them fart, they were that close! Our eyes all met at the same time and we nodded our heads, no!
     But we had driven almost 2 hours to get there we would at least take advantage of the lake and get some time in our canoe and kayak. Back in Ole Red we circled the park to find a place to park close to the lake. There was NONE to be had. I was bummed all that for nothing. We decided to head home.
     The journey home was quiet. The boy and I nodded off. Around Spicewood we started perking up a bit and even saw the humor in our 3 Hour Tour. We at least know that Inks Lake State Park is not the park for us, maybe in the winter? We are experts at strapping down the boats. And we were getting to sleep in an air conditioned house. I texted my girlfriend and told not to worry about the girls (our dogs, Juno and Sassafrass).
     In the end I knew it was the right decision but I so wanted to camp. Instead I got some tree time (our code for drinking outside under the trees) with my girlfriend, a nice steak dinner and we watched the NBA playoff game. Ruby is taking some time off for a while her next adventure is not until July when we head north..Peace and love, Aunt Rosa :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ruby's Been Busy!

     It's the first week of summer and already Ruby has been to 4 state parks! She escorted myself, the boy and five new friends around to give them a taste of Ruby's awesomeness and hopefully inspire some future explorers, campers and who knows eurovan owners. :) These were of course just day trips.
     The first adventure was close by and not new to Ruby, McKinney Falls. A perfect introduction to newbies. They all looked so cute in Ruby! I knew somehow I would get my 5 kids I had always dreamed of, including one little girl who kept me in stitches the entire trip!
      We arrived early and quickly set off exploring. I did not pick up a park map, I felt pretty confident in my navigation skills to lead the troops..I know better than that. I was not born with an internal navigation system of any kind in fact I think that part of my brain is missing entirely! We started off on the Homestead Trail, they had to see the Homestead. Well it ended up being a 3 mile or so jaunt. Luckily I was carrying all the water bottles. They were amazing though and noone complained. When we finished everyone was hot and hungry. So we shoveled in some grub and went to splash in the falls and river.
     Now the sign at the park entrance said the e-coli levels were relatively low and the water was moving but nonetheless I instructed everyone to swim with their mouths closed and if possible don't go under. I had also carted some tubes which they all demanded at once. So I blew up 5 inner tubes in record time and got a little light headed! They had a blast and I reminisced about the college days of floating the river with a few cold ones.
     Afterwards it was time to get back so we loaded up. It was the shortest of our trips. We had time leftover for snow cones from Snow Beach. The crew innocently asked if they could get extra larges and I absentmindedly agreed. Holy cow they were huge! We got a few stares and dirty looks from other moms who's kids asked if they could get the big ones too, oops..I don't care we were making memories and I was about to drop them off anyways. :)
     Day 2 was supposed to be Blanco State Park but with a slight chance of rain the rest of the week I wanted to get our farthest destination covered so we were off to Enchanted Rock. It was a smooth and easy drive no traffic at all and the gang had invented some interesting car games. Ruby's seating system is one of my favorite features! They all face each other and there is a table for games (although on the way back I wanted to toss their dice out the window!) It really the optimal car for family road trips. Maybe I could get a side gig for Volkswagen?
      These kids are part mountain goat so we were up to the top in no time at all. It was hot but breezy. The boy found the caves and we all ate lunch inside. Then the posse explored the caves and I relaxed in the shade and had horrible flahsbacks to that movie with the cute guy who had to cut off his arm to get out from underneath the boulder, yeh we didn't explore the caves too long. Plus I really wanted to get some peach ice cream and see LBJ's ranch on the way back.
     I have never been to Lyndon Baines Johnson's ranch, his library yes but not his ranch. It is between Fredricksburg and Johnson City. I turned in and must have taken a wrong turn and missed the visitors center? We ended up touring the ranch for free, oops! We saw his birth house, airplane, school house and lots of cows.The best part was the school house and the crew was amazed that it was all grades in one room. Never found the visitors center so we left and went to get peach ice cream! Yum..and a ginormous jar of pickled okra for me..This summer time stuff is pretty sweet.
     Day 3 Blanco State Park I forgot the ask the kiddos which state park was their favorite but I am pretty sure it was this one. It was my favorite drive! I love little two lane windy, hilly roads and everything was still green and filled with wildflowers. There is one hill or bluff that overlooks a huge valley that brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. I always hear my dad saying in his West Texas twang, "Now this is God's country!" It really is a lovely drive. :) It is also close to where Paco and I got hitched so I love it for sentimental reasons as well..
     Did you know that Blanco is the smallest of the state parks? It is smack dab in the middle of town. There are also lots of cute antique shops, not to self.  The river was filled and ready for half a dozen or so rowdy ones to splash away. I thought I was being smart by driving around and picking the least populated spot to set up our day camp. I had the quilt spread out, the cooler on the table, the bunch sunscreened up and I heard a fisherman remark that he had just seen a giant water moccasin! YUK! I quickly called Paco and asked for advice. He advised that we move back to where the masses were. SOOooo we packed up quickly and set up camp again.
     It wasn't that crowded and it had a concreted area that was fish free. The peeps loved it and swam for hours! The river was beautiful. After lunch we hiked up a bit with our tubes and all jumped in (we didn't want to be near the sides where the snakes like it) and floated peacefully down. Everyone was content and free. I will definitely be back to Blanco State Park.
     And lastly day 4 Bastrop State Park  I picked this park for purely selfish reasons. I knew it had recently reopened and wanted to check it out and support it. What a beautiful park this must have once been! It was heartbreaking but at the same time beautiful. Among the charred ruins of tall pines was green, lots of green sprouts thriving so it gave me hope.
     The kids were tired and rightly so we had been going non stop. I talked them into a small hike and I think they enjoyed it. The boy had a lot of fun pointing out different birds to them. The only problem was that there wasn't much shade and it got steamy fast. Luckily it was only about 2 and half miles and I had carted the water along.
     The park had these historic old cabins created by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps back in 1934! And a nice size fishing pond. Ruby will definitely be back.
     The park also had a swimming pool which motivated the kiddos to finish the hike. The pool was very retro and reminded me of the country club pool I swam in as a child in Plano. It was a refreshing reward.
     Sadly it was time to head back. On the way we made a total touristy stop at the pecan place, you know that giant billboard with the scrolling list advertising that they have pecans. It has a giant squirrel! They were all over it and we took some silly photos.

     This camp was one of my visions when I first wanted a Eurovan. I imagined a car full of young uns just driving around our big state exploring. This week fulfilled one of my greatest life desires. I loved it and it filled me up in more ways then one. I think besides teaching my life calling is to get kids out there exploring..Ain't life great!