Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Stars At Night Are Big and Bright...Especially in West Texas!

     I love Spring Break and true to fashion we used the week to get out of town while our great city plays host to music lovers from around the world. We broke the drive into 2 legs stopping for the night in Fort Stockton. An interesting little town with a few motels and a Walmart. Which was nice considering we forgot a few things. We actually made 3 trips to Wally-World, so many that the guys outside selling hand carved crosses knew us by name. And what is the deal with RV's camping for the night in the Walmart parking lot? Seriously there were a dozen or so all set up like it was an RV park? Strange indeed..Ate dinner at the local K-Bobs had not eaten there since I was 7 and they had a salad bar in an old bath tub. It was ok, at least they had pickled beets! And that night Caleb got to watch his first SNL, the first of many firsts in a cheap motel (bad joke I know but funny.)
     The next morning we were off! Not 20 minutes into our drive we saw Ruby's doppleganger! It was the exact model and color of Ruby. We screamed and waved. I got to drive the 2nd day which is a rarity since Paco always drives. It was the best part of the trip. Seeing the mountains looming in the background and watching them get closer was a beautiful sight. We first passed thru the town of Balmorhea where we would stay our last night. Such a cute, old West Texas town with a lovely canal flowing thru the middle of it. I made a mental note of a mexican dive for later in the trip.
     Then it was up and up and up to the Davis Mountains. We stepped out at the park entrance and were almost blown over by the chilly wind. No fires, burn ban and for good reason. Hmmm...this would be our first trip with no campfire, glad we packed the stove. Ruby got popped up in no time. Along the road was a bird viewing area and within minutes the boys were rattling off names while I basked in the sun. Then we took a short 5 mile hike up the Montezuma trail, named after the Montezuma quail which had not made an appearance yet this season. The trail was straight up for a while and we took our time. Billy goat Caleb was at the top in no time. The trail curved and came back around the old Indian Lodge which was quaint.
     The time change worked out great and gave us more time to be outside but it got cold very quickly the first night. Paco whipped us up some pasta with Gran Rosie's homemade marinara sauce and we were quickly inside Ruby for the night. This was a first for us because we usually only use Ruby to sleep in and I was hoping we wouldn't feel trapped. The evenings spent inside Ruby were probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. We had plenty of room with the couch, chairs and table. Paco was teaching the boy poker and I was playing DJ on the Ipad. Things got silly and we laughed so much that Ruby was a rocking. I love how we as a family make the best of any situation and always have a good time together. Later that night after the boy had gone to sleep Paco and I went outside and marveled at the night sky. So bright it felt like the stars could be hand plucked from the sky.
     I packed extra blankets thinking it might be a bit chilly and am so glad I did because it got REALLY cold that first night. So cold that when I went to boil some water for my coffee the water in our jugs was frozen solid, even the water in Ruby was frozen! But luckily it warmed up fast. I grabbed my mug and the boy and I took off for the bird blind where I listened to his vast knowledge of birds and marveled at what an amazing and brilliant kid he is (hey I can say that I am his mom.) His knowledge of birds is immense, thanks to Paco and it is fun to hear him rattle off facts. *All birds to be listed later in the comments section.
     Later after some oatmeal we took off for our big hike, the 9 mile trek to the overlook. The boy led the way and the hours and miles flew. The views were breathtaking! I got inspired to resume work on our cactus garden at home. Hiking with my boys makes my heart happy and grateful. We crossed paths with a troop of boy scouts who were litter bugs! I wish I could have made their trash stick to their butts like a children's book I read once. Fueled with cliff bars we headed down the old CCC trail and we back to the camp by afternoon.
     Our legs were weary and we lazed the afternoon away. We did manage to make one more trip to the bird blind where Paco ran into an old birding friend who now lives in California. The cottonwood trees along the creek were immense! The wind began to die down and temperatures began to dip quickly. Another night of pasta, although we caught hints of someone barbecuing and wanted their dinner instead! We hunkered down quickly for the night again in Ruby. It was a little more tame but still a fun time was had by all. Thankfully the temperature did not drop as low.
     Not sure if it was the time change or the long hike but we all slept in a little more than usual. No frozen water this time. The boy and I hit the bird blind one last time with high hopes of seeing the Montezuma quail but no luck. I made some pretty perfect camp cakes, the boy's term for pancakes and we packed up quickly.
     We saw Fort Davis from a distance on our hike and the boy and Paco really wanted to check it out. I requested multiple times that I wanted to go to Marfa but they ignored me. The Fort was crowded with tourists so we did the drive by. Then it was off to Balmorhea for the night.
     Along the two lane road were some smaller hills. I was staring off into the hills daydreaming when I  spotted some desert big horn sheep. They were splendid, just leaping up the rocky hillside. Balmorhea is a quaint, tiny town with a stream or canal running the length of the entire main street. Just outside the town Paco spotted some rare lark buntings, apparently these were a big deal. We stopped at the only convenience store and the boy spotted some kids from my school. I didn't believe him but sure enough there were indeed some kiddos. I was amazed, way out in a tiny West Texas town!
      The boy was anxious to get to the pool, the largest spring fed pool in the world! We were also camping here for our last night. After checking in and pulling into our spot for the it was changing time. My good mood was slowly dissipating as I pulled out the swimsuit. Why, oh why had I said that it would be so cool for us all to jump in the water together. I despise cold water and have been known to go days without bathing if there is no hot water. It would have been tolerable if the outside temperature was warm but it was maybe 60 degrees with a strong north wind. I was grouchy but determined to keep my word so we lined up on the side and handed a stranger my phone to take a picture. 1,2,3, Jump! It was not that bad at all, in fact the water temperature stays between 70 and 75 degrees year round. I was pleasantly surprised. AND there were fish everywhere! The boy swam with goggles and dove down to get a closer look. Some parts of the spring reached 25 feet in depth. It was very beautiful but I got cold and exited the water. In addition to the pool there was also a ginormous cottonwood tree that was home to a great horned owl who was just hanging out watching everyone. 
     After swimming we wandered around the campground exploring the various canal walkways and cienegas. The boy spotted some soft shelled turtles hanging out on the bank that were as big as Luling thumpers! We also observed some ring billed duck, hooded mergansers and scaup. By then our stomachs were growling so we headed back into Balmorhea for dinner.
     There was only one restaurant in town besides the convenience store, a mexican place that was in a large pink house. We have the best luck with local dives and our streak continues. This place was delicious and we left with full bellies.
     Our last night in Ruby was uneventful but we still played cards. I was finally beating Paco in gin. We were wind blown and a little sunburned so we crashed early. The next morning we decided to skip breakfast and hit the road. The journey home was quick and Paco drove the entire way. I finished a book and climbed into the back to harass the boy. In Fort Stockton we met the driver of a Vanaru, a converted Volkswagon with a Subaru engine. It was impressive and we spent a few minutes marveling at each others vw...
     Ruby you have filled us with such memories! You have been the best financial decision our family has ever made. The boy recently turned 12 and reminded us nonchalantly that he only had 6 more years at home with us. I foresee many more trips and many more miles to go before you sleep..xo mama rosa