LBJ Ranch & State Park

This was an unplanned stop along our route from Sonora to Austin.

We needed to eat lunch anyway, we have both a Texas State park pass and a National Park pass, so we figured it’s free, let’s check it out. I’m sooo glad we did! I really did not enjoy history growing up. I was not good at picturing it in my head and keeping the timelines straight. But I am enjoying history much more as an adult and these living museums make it so fun and fascinating.

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We started on the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, a living history farm, presented as it was in 1918,¬†where a gentleman whose family has farmed the area for generations and another lady were there to show and tell us about life back at the turn of the century. She actually cooks the lunch dinner for all the workers there everyday on the wood burning stove! And she made cookies that morning – in the wood burning oven! They had just slaughtered a 750lb pig days before and they showed us the sausages that were being cured. They showed us the lard that would preserved the sausages for the next year. She showed us how to prepare and spin the sheep’s wool. They talked about the history of the area – the gentleman had some relatives that were part of the child kidnappings! The Indians used to kidnap the kids in the area.

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We loved seeing the LBJ Ranch and learning about his Presidency. It is still a working ranch with Hereford cattle descended from his/his families’ cattle. He loved attending the legislature with his dad.

He was a school teacher (explains his passion for education!) He believed “the only true passport our of poverty was education.” We saw the one room school house he attended as a child.

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There were cars (he owned an Amphibious car and loved to scare people that didn’t know it was amphibious!) and his Air Force One airplane. He was the first VP to have a plane dedicated to him.

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There was a sweet phone call recorded where he insisted former President Truman? use his plane at anytime – not a commercial airplane. And of course the house – The Texas Whitehouse. We chose not to tour it since we still had a ways to drive and set up camp! But we got to walk around and I can see why he loved the area. They are right on the Pedernales River and it’s gorgeous there!

It was quite a wonderful unplanned stop – and hey it counts as school!! ūüôā

LBJ on the way

Steph already posted on this but here is my take on it.

Between Sonora and Austin we noticed that we’d be passing the LBJ National Historic site (and its also a Texas State Park). ¬†It looked like it would align well with our lunch stop so we put it in our sites and before long we were at the beautiful park. ¬†We thought this was going to be a quick look through a museum or something and then we’d be on our way again. ¬†But when the ranger showed me the map there was a LOT to see.

First stop was the historic homestead site that was loosely tied to LBJ (I think the midwife that delivered him maybe lived in that house….I can’t remember). ¬†But there was a couple dressed in period clothing there that were so great with the kids. ¬†They told all about how they cooked and cleaned, how they preserved food and they gave lots of Texas history. ¬†The coolest part was they still actively operate the homestead. ¬†Everyday they cook lunch for the volunteers in that kitchen. ¬†They had chili and chocolate cookies….so the oven still had hot coals in it. ¬†They had just butchered a pig and turned it into sausage which were hanging out in a shed. ¬†Last year’s sausages were still being eaten and were stored in a vat of lard for preservative (which was also hand cream). ¬†Past years lard was then converted to lye soap. ¬†They spun wool, made candles….the whole enchilada! ¬†I love that kind of stuff.

Next was a brief stop at the one room school house that LBJ attended as a youngin’ before we went on the scenic drive around his ranch which ended at the hangar and Texas white house. ¬†The hangar had his airplane (he was the first VP to have his own plane and the first president to use a jet plane rather than prop plane). ¬†There was a small but interesting museum part of which had a collection of his cars including the amphicar! ¬†The kids got their Jr Ranger badges (no patches here….argh) and then we took a look around the outside of the Texas white house. ¬†Tours of the house were actually free for the day (because they were doing some work inside)…but we needed to get back on the road or we’d be setting up in the dark….again!

Its definitely worth a stop if you have the chance.

Some-more-a caverns at Sonora Caverns

Say the title in your best Lawrence Welk voice. ¬†We decided to only go as far as Sonora Caverns on our way east. ¬†The caverns has camping for $25 a night which is a bargain compared to their ticket prices. ¬†All the reviews said it was well worth the money. ¬†But I looked at the reviews for my old stompin’ grounds of Cave of the Winds and it said the same thing. ¬†I never understood why people would pay THAT much money to see the cave. ¬†Mostly I’m sure it was due to the fact that I was making less than minimum wage and that I got to see all the much cooler non commercial parts of the cave whenever I wanted. ¬†So, was Sonora Caverns worth it? ¬†For a day and a half at minimum wage it might be a bit much…but, it was quite spectacular! ¬†Besides the 5 of us there was an older couple on the tour who reminded Caden of Baba and Zedo. ¬†They were super nice and really fun to have on the tour with us. ¬†The cave has small passageways and rooms like Cave of the Winds but warmer and MUCH wetter. ¬†And as we got away from the entrance the formations became more and more unbelievable. ¬†It really felt like we were inside a giant geode. ¬†And there was a room with some of the longest soda straw stalactites I’ve ever seen…and they looked so frail next to the regular stalactites.

I might be part troll…I love the dampness and darkness of caves…the stillness of the air…the silence…the drips…and then the blast of blinding light and dry, hot wind as you exit. ¬†Almost feels like being born again (not that I remember the 1st time). All in all we give it 5 thumbs up.

It was a beautiful evening so the kids played outside till dinner time. ¬†After dinner we finished our audio book “Because of Mr Terupt” and then went to bed.

How to lift a 14.5k lb trailer by hand

After several days at Fort Davis we decided to head east. ¬†So we got around in the morning (takes us forever) but were on schedule to hit the road at 10:00. ¬†One of the last steps is raising the front end of the fifth wheel using the powered landing gear so we can hitch up. ¬†All was going fine until I heard the motor start struggling and then the clutch started clicking and we weren’t going higher. ¬†We were still a few inches from being high enough to hitch up. ¬†So I started investigating and realized that I had sheered a pin off the shaft of the front left landing gear. ¬†So the right leg was trying to do all the work and started getting the trailer cattywompus and bind up the landing gear. ¬†I started thinking “well, at least this is a nice place to stay a few more days”…but at the same time I got into McGyver mode.

I started looking for something I could use as a pin. ¬†Stubby screwdriver? ¬†Nope, didn’t fit. ¬†Some wire? ¬†Doesn’t seem strong enough. ¬†I had some wood screws so I stuck one in and it fid dit!! ¬†I wrapped some electrical tape around it to hold in in place and hit the motor button. ¬†Click click click click. ¬†Crud!! ¬†Then I remembered the guy we bought the trailer from said “don’t loose this bar/crank…its for manually operating the landing gear. ¬†But I sure hope you never have to use it!” ¬†Well, it was my day to use it. ¬†I started cranking…it was HAAAAARD. ¬†And its geared so low you can’t even tell its moving. ¬†But after awhile it started getting easier…”maybe I’d gotten past the binding point!” I thought. ¬†So I hit the button and the sweet sound of a happy motor hummed along as it lifted the trailer. ¬†WHEW!! ¬†By the time the gear was up my screw had been completely chewed up and spit out in 3 pieces. So much for leaving at 10:00…but, we don’t have any schedule or reservations so we just go with the flow! ¬†Glenn came over to say goodbye and wish us well.

We swung by an Ace hardware on the way out of town and I got a couple bolts to use for a more permanent solution.  I installed the new bolt while we filled our guts with lunch at a rest stop on I-10. I think the landing gear is back in business.

Ft Davis

Honestly I didn’t expect our first stop to be all that exciting. I figured I would like Austin and San Antonio and really enjoy it once we got to the coast.

It turned out I LOVED Ft. Davis! There is so much to do around this small town out in the “middle of nowhere.”

First experience: Unexpectedly in the laundry room at the RV park just on the edge of town. I was trying my best to rush around and multitask – get kids started on homework, run over and do some laundry. Repeat. First a permanent resident told me to use up the remaining time on her dryer money. Then Melinda came in and introduced herself. She and Glenn were volunteering up at the Star Party we were going to on Friday night! That was really nice to have some people to look forward to seeing up there. But I apologized as I needed to get back and make sure the kids hadn’t been lured onto their screens. The permanent resident told us about some local sites to see and told me she would get me the papers she created for the library.

Second experience: Ft. Davis Historical Site. I like museums, but I usually have a short attention span. The Fort was so great! It still had a lot of the original buildings and also a lot of remnants so you could see what time and the elements do to the structures. They did a great job presenting information in a fun way. The Jr Ranger booklets helped too and were well done. Overall our favorite was the Hospital (oddly no pics – too busy having fun!). But I was excited to learn about Buffalo Soldiers! Another song where I knew the words, but not the meaning. Then the Ranger was so kind and fun to talk to. She was an elementary science teacher in the mornings, so she was great with the kids. I loved her!

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Third: All the people are so kind and friendly. It is a small town. At the RV Park and in town, the people all wanted to talk and share information about the area.

Fourth: The Library. Cool because it looks Old West but otherwise unassuming on the outside. Then we walked in. Thank goodness my kids LOVE books and libraries because I would hate to miss this one! Immediately we were all struck by the quaintness and quirkiness. It had a lot of old things mixed in with the books. Even a plinky old piano with a little sitting area. Everywhere we looked there was something interesting. Then one of the ladies said the kids could check out a book on her card if we returned it tomorrow. I was floored! She didn’t know us. She knew we were only passing through. But she wants kids to read and she was willing to take the chance that we were good people. Huck had a call and told us to go on, but the kids really wanted to sit and read, so they did.

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Fifth: The Courthouse. One of the first stops on the tour was the courthouse. A lady had told us to ask to go to the top. They don’t let people up there because it is high up and doesn’t have proper safety guards. Ding dongs dangling legs over the edge, etc. have made it so people can’t go up there except during certain times. We asked but they said no. So instead we asked a couple ladies to tell us why Texans have so much pride in their courthouses. Turns out the 2nd set of ladies – one was the Justice of the Peace – and she was more than willing to give the kids a LOT of information. Did you know the Texas flag is the only one allowed to fly at the same height as the USA flag? It’s because Texas was it’s own country before joining the Union. Both the ladies told us about sites in the surrounding area we should visit. And they mentioned we should go to Sonora Caverns as a halfway point to our next destination.

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On the walking tour I LOVED walking into the Presbyterian church. My Grandpa Robbins was a Presbyterian minister and the early part of my childhood was spent attending a Presbyterian church. The stain glass windows are so beautiful. This one had a reed organ, and the familiar dark red pew pads. It felt so comforting. Caden said he loved that church too.

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Sixth: The Drug Store. The description on the tour said it had long been a hang out for the locals. Walk in and there is an old fashioned soda fountain and counter. The one thing that would have made it better would be homemade ice cream. Blue Bell was fine. This was the end of the tour, so between the 5 of us, we had some malts, ice cream and a vanilla coke. As weird as it sounds I even loved the bathroom! The toilets were all 2 steps up and for some reason it seemed so Old Saloon like. The dividers were old doors. The sink was even old looking, yet not gross old.
Upstairs are some hotel rooms, each a little different and the layout of the hallway and rooms reminded me of the hotel I stayed at with my MIL and sister in laws in Fairplay. Memories.

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Seventh: The Star Party. We really enjoyed it! We learned so much. I wanted to take notes as I knew I wouldn’t remember half of it, but that would ruin everyone’s night vision. I do remember learning about the Zodiacal line (and corresponding glow). It was of course fun to see so many constellations and nebulae in the various telescopes. The volunteers usually had lots of information to teach while we were waiting in line. We learned about Messier and various others. And it was fun to see/talk to both Melinda and Glenn. The best part though was the magnificent shooting star that lasted a long time and followed the outline of a nearby hill. Brielle was soooo excited and the lady manning the telescope we were at said how excited she was to be a part of Brielle’s first shooting star!

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We also enjoyed a short drive into the Davis Mountain State Park. We found a geocache and enjoyed the beautiful views.

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I would highly recommend visiting this small town in Texas. There were so many other sites nearby that we didn’t have time to explore: The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Marfa and the unexplained Marfa lights. Alpine (a bigger town nearby that probably had a decent grocery store), Balmorhea (it has a hot springs pool that we stopped and looked at, but it was very cold that day, so no swimming for us!) I know there are more I’m forgetting, but put this on your list as a good resting stop if you are heading through Texas.

There’s diamonds in them thar hills

Today we took a little drive up to Davis Mountains State Park just outside of town.  We really wanted to camp here but heard that Verizon data was hard to pull in without a booster and that campground wifi was spotty.  It would be an awesome place to camp though.  We drove out Skyline Dr which had some nice views and an itty bitty geocache.  After snagging a few pics we went back to the trailer for an early dinner.

There was a very nice couple at the same RV park as us that came over and introduced themselves to us. ¬†Glenn and Melinda. ¬†Steph had met Melinda earlier in the day at the laundry room. ¬†Glenn and Melinda volunteer at McDonald observatory where we had reservations for a Star Party. ¬†So after dinner we headed back up into the Davis Mountains to check out the millions of twinkling diamonds in the sky. ¬† We were given a constellation tour by a very well informed dude with this awesome laser pointer he could use to point out stars and constellations. ¬†Then they had 7 telescopes set up looking at different things: Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy, M1, the Pliadese and some other star clusters. ¬†The volunteers manning the telescopes were super nice, knew their stuff and they loved having kids interested in astronomy. ¬†Melinda and Glenn each were stationed at one of the telescopes and it was cool to “know someone”, our “neighbor”, there at the star party. ¬†It was a perfectly clear night and really not that cold for January.

I am always totally amazed by the vastness of space and how insignificant it makes me feel…but I find great comfort in knowing that the same One who placed every single star, planned every supernova and stirred up every nebula also created me uniquely and purposefully from scratch!

Blessings in the Delays

Being in limbo was so hard and mentally and emotionally draining. We were delayed by about 3 weeks and we didn’t know when we could leave. As hard and frustrating as it was, there were so many blessings in the delay!

The kids got to see their friends and catch up after Christmas Break! For 9 extra days they got to go to school and be with their friends and their teachers! Some kids would not be excited about going to school, but our kids were thrilled! They love their teachers and they were so happy to be with their friends. It was also good to get them back into school mode. We’ve never home schooled and I think it would have been harder for all of us to get into the school mode after the flurry of Christmas and packing.
Another blessing – during Christmas so many people are traveling or busy with family. I was soooo blessed to see and spend time with friends from church, school, and our community during our delay! So many people I was glad to have one more conversation with, one more hug, one more laugh. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends that I love and adore – thank you for being you! We also got one (sometimes 2!) more dinners with parents, siblings, nieces and nephews!
We were able to meet and find the right renters. I truly believe God had a hand in the timing. I had prayed for the right people to come our way and I believe they did. Whether it was to help us, or to help them, I might never know.
I believe too that we will never know some of the blessings in our delay. It might be bad weather we avoid, an accident we would have been in, or some other disappointing event. We probably will never know, but I trust the timing was for a reason.
And in the end I was finally ready to go. It’s not a secret that I was a little reluctant to be gone from my wonderful home, family, friends and community. I love to travel, but the length of time and the small space was a bit much. But I was finally ready to hit the road and take on this adventure!
So delays can be disappointing and frustrating, but they are often lined with many many wonderful blessings!

99 cent cookies

Okay, so Carlsbad was pretty cool! The lame part was Dacen speeding to get out and Brielle dragging her feet. At least we got to drop them in the bottomless pit thats really only 140 feet deep. Alright… We didn’t really get to drop them. That would’ve been against the rule no touching the formations. We saw a whole lot of formations! Here’s a list: stalagmites, stalactites, stalagpipes, and stalaclights. They were all really cool. I learned that it is very important that the national parks are protected, because God forbid, if they weren’t, there would be bathrooms and drinking fountains in the heart of the cave as well as a snack bar that sold sandwiches and 99 cent cookies. Man THAT would be horrible. People are weird sometimes.

People are crazy,
Caden: a.k.a lieutenant Ellsworth Bertholf<– inside joke.

Carlsbad Caverns

In Carlsbad Caverns I saw a soda straw (formation). I saw A lot of things. It was a long way to hike. We went to the big room. We saw columns and stalactites. In the big room we saw Fairyland. At fairyland my Papa teased me that fairies live there. I laughed and laughed. It was so cool !!!!!!!!!!!! I loved it !!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow I am using these !s’ seriously !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love Carlsbad caverns !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At the gift shop I got a stuft¬†animal bat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!¬†Rocks are a solid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You make crystals out of liqids!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!¬†It was dark in there but there where lights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Before we went in the cave we ate lunch. My papa forgot my lunch. so I had to eat my papas’ chicken & carits.I saw a few crystals.

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Steph’s Pre-launch Thoughts

Some people have verbalized my own feelings about this adventure – you are crazy! However, a LOT of people have said this is their dream and they want to travel around the USA in an RV someday and they are going to live vicariously through us. Well let me give you a view into reality. It’s not all whimsy and dreaming. This is HARD! Especially if you are frugal and you don’t want to go into debt. If you have kids that are in school and LOVE their school, teachers and friends, that adds a level of difficulty you have to navigate.
To Do list:
– Finding the 5th wheel was easier than expected.
– Huck had clients that he could work for while on the road.
– Given the tight market and our desirable location, we thought finding a renter would be the easiest part. Wrong! Whether it was time of year, the 6 month lease, or no pets were allowed, we could not find renters. This added a long list of to-do and stresses.
– Figure out the school/home school situation and curriculum
– “Do” all the holiday stuff
– Figure out what we HAD to take, what we COULD take, WHEN it could be packed and moved, and how to fit it all in 300sqft, staying within the truck and 5th wheel weight limits. Remember 5 of us will live, work, play and do school.together.in a small space.for 6 months.
– Support Huck and kids through all of the difficulties, worries, and transitions
– The worst part: Clean the house again and again and again to show potential renters.
– My to do list never got shorter, more and more things kept coming up
– Then there was the truck. Huck’s posts covered all of that. Let’s just say that created many problems. And much limbo.
LIMBO is hard. Really hard.
Being caught in Limbo was mentally and emotionally difficult. We thought we would leave right after the New Year. Get the house packed up, get the rig loaded and off we would go! Or not. The truck problems left us in limbo…for weeks! I felt paralyzed. What could I pack and when? We had no idea when we could/would leave. It was the question everyone asked and we couldn’t answer. It was all dependent on the truck. When would it be fixed and would that stinkin Check Engine light go on again? Mentally and emotionally it was hard to be in limbo. Was this the last time I would see this friend? Would we be gone in a few days or a few weeks? Should the kids stay in school or start home schooling?
Finally, saying goodbye for now to our friends, family, and our house. We are so fortunate that we live near family we love, we have amazing, wonderful friends and we have been in our house for 16 1/2 years. It was very weird leaving the house knowing that someone else would live there for the next few months.
Now to figure out how to cook in the very small space. I’ve heard the oven is hard to bake in – even though it’s small nothing cooks evenly. There is almost no counter space for prep. I hope I can do this home school thing. We kind of have to figure out a new way of doing most of our normal daily activities.
Off we go!