Pictures can be found here
In previous years, we have used the Pirates & Poets event in Port Aransas as our jumping off point for the yearís travels. Since we didnít do that this year, we used a new Pirates & Poets event for the same purpose. An event was announced near Austin that conveniently fit our schedule for leaving Kemah and heading to the annual Alfa rally in Fredericksburg. So, we booked three nights at an RV park in Elgin, TX, about ten miles from the event in Pflugerville. This weekend also conveniently coincided with New York friends Linda & Denny visiting some friends of theirs in Elgin. So, we met up with Linda & Denny at their friendís house for dinner on a Friday night, and then they joined us on Saturday for the show. The show was three singer/songwriters in the round. The venue was a backyard, and it was cool but not too cold. The next morning as we were getting ready to leave the RV park, our car wouldnít start. Since Linda & Denny were just up the road at their friendís house, I called them and they took me to the store to get a new battery. This got us started and loaded on the dolly, but turned out not to be the problem.
From Pflugerville, east of Austin, we travelled a short way to Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country where the annual Alfa rally is being held this year. This is a departure from the last four years that we have been involved, in that the rally has been in the southwest each year. The park we are having the rally at is different too. The rallies in the southwest have all been held at large snowbird parks where our hundred Alfas were just a small group amongst the thousand spaces in the park. This park is probably no more than 150 spots, so our hundred Alfas pretty much took over the whole place. We arrived several days before the rally officially started, although there were quite a few of other early arrivals. When we got to the park, the car once again wouldnít start. We unloaded it from the dolly by hand and started looking for a local repair shop. We found a shop and called Good Sam to have it towed to them. Turned out the place Good Sam called for the tow was the same shop, so that was convenient. The problem turned out to be the starter and a bad cable between the alternator and the battery. Two days later we picked it up good as new. For the next ten days we enjoyed the Alfa rally. By this point in our Alfa experience, the rallies are less about learning about our coach or RVing, and more about just enjoying catching up with friends. The only upgrade to the bus this year was swapping our original modified-sinewave inverter for a pure-sinewave model that I bought from a friend who was upgrading to a fancier model. What this means to the electrical layman is no more worries of frying an electronic device when running off battery power.
Fredericksburg is only about ten miles from Stonewall, where our friends Karen & Henry (whoís Christmas party we attended) are working on their renovation and B&B. They have gotten into a deal with a new TV show called Cash Pad. The concept of the show is to renovate an unused space people have and turn it into a money making rental. So at Karen & Henryís they are building out the separate cottage building to be the first unit of the B&B. The actual work and filming took place while we were at our rally, so we took an afternoon and went to their place for the filming of the reveal. (Karen & Henry had not been allowed to be there during the week of the build.) We got there while they were still filming portions of the reveal show. We stayed out of the way while they finished, and it was very interesting to see how a show like this is filmed. It will be really interesting to see the finished product after all the editing that goes on. The show will be airing on CNBC starting this summer (2019).
Also during our stay in Fredericksburg, we did a little sightseeing. This spring has been one of the best wildflower blooms in recent memory in the Texas Hill Country. There was so much rain over the winter that the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are blooming everywhere and staying longer than usual. We took a drive one day along the Willow City Loop which is considered one of the best rides to see the flowers. We were not disappointed. We also worked in a stop at Cooperís BBQ in Llano, TX. Cooperís is a landmark in the Hill Country. While it actually wasnít my favorite BBQ (it was still quite good) the style of serving was something I hadnít seen before. You select your meat right from the BBQ pits and pay by the pound. You then step inside and select your sides and drinks. Seating is all communal at large picnic tables. Interestingly, while I had never seen that style of serving before, we saw it at several other places up in the Dallas area over the next month.
When the rally ended, we headed up to my sonís new house in Josephine, TX. Josephine is a crossroads between Dallas and Greenville, TX. My son and his wife used to live in Arizona, but have spent the last three years living in corporate housing in Minnesota and South Carolina while he worked his way up the ladder in his company. The reward for this is now he will be the site director for a new facility the company is building in Plano. His new house is on six acres, and has a place for us to park the bus. We took back roads most of the way from Fredericksburg to south of Dallas before hitting a freeway around Dallas and northeast to his house. Our Alfa friends Jim & Becky joined us two days later and we squeezed them in too. My son moving here sort of closes a loop in his life, as we lived outside Greenville, almost forty years ago when he was about ten. It also was a small world connection with friend Jim and I Ė I lived in Greenville because I worked for E-Systems, a defense contractor. Back in nearly the same era, Jim visited E-Systems as part of his military job.
We only spent a few days at my sonís, and then traveled on with Jim & Becky to Hot Springs Village, AR. Hot Springs Village is a gated community just north of Hot Springs. There is an RV park with about twenty spaces in Hot Springs Village that is exclusively for property owners and their friends. Jim & Becky have old friends that they havenít seen in many years who live there and they are our sponsors. Our trip between Greenville and Hot Springs was intentionally off-interstate. We took a little detour when we missed a turn, but it was still a pretty drive. Along the way we stopped in a small town called Mineral Springs so Jim & Becky could walk their dogs. We just pulled to the side in the old downtown, and happened to stop right next to a box on poll. I thought at first it was a tiny library which I had seen before, but instead, it was a ďBlessing BoxĒ. A blessing box is a box where you leave a non-perishable food item you can spare, or take one you need. Since we feel pretty blessed in our lives, we added a can to the box while we were there. We continued on towards Hot Springs Village with Jim in the lead. As we were getting close, we found ourselves on a pretty little road, and both of our navigation systems were taking us to the same place. We came to a junction where the navigation said to turn, but the road was even skinnier and had low trees. There was a church with a good sized parking lot at this intersection, and there were two guys pulled over there talking. We stopped and got out to ask them if we were on the right track. We got the ďYou donít want to take them big things down that roadĒ answer. Turns out that road was the shortest way to the RV park address, but in addition to the little road, there was a card-access-only gate down there. The locals gave us directions back to the main entrance to the community where visitors are supposed to enter. It would have been nice if we had been given this address when we made the reservations. We found our way around to the main gate and got our visitor passes and directions to the park. When we found the park, we were the only two RVs in a nice two-row, twenty-two space park right along a small river. We could have been in pull-through spots, but elected to use back-in spots that put us right on the water. The second day we were there we had quite a rain storm, and the tame little stream turned into a raging river. Just upstream from us was a place where the stream trickled through a rocky area. This became a very cool waterfall when the water level rose. We were never in any danger, but it was pretty eye opening to see the difference in a mountain stream after a rain. After we got settled, Jim & Beckyís friends, Reg & Susan stopped by to greet us. We visited for a little while, and then the next day went to their house and spent a pleasant afternoon. While we were here we took a couple trips into Hot Springs proper. We visited the National Park and toured the restored bath house that is the focus of the park. We had lunch at Superior Brewery which is housed in one of the other original bath houses. We did not actually avail ourselves of the healing powers of the hot springs, although there are still a couple of bath houses operating. The whole town is interesting with its old hotels that were popular because of the springs. Since the springs are no longer as popular in modern culture, several of the big properties are closed or long in the tooth, but still stand as a monument to days gone by. Another piece of the park is a tower that overlooks the village. We drove up to it and paid the few bucks to go to the top and see the view. It was pretty cool and quite windy at the top, so we didnít spend long. While we were in the area, we learned that former Alfa owners Sam & Christine were staying at the National Park campground just north of town. So, we spent an evening catching up with them, since we last saw them almost two years ago.
After five nights in Hot Springs, we all ventured a little further north to a Corp of Engineers park at Havana, AR. This park is at the dam of the Petit Jean River that forms Blue Mountain Lake. The attendant at the park booth wasnít very helpful in telling us which way we should go down the road to our spots, so we both ended up having to turn around in tight quarters in order to back into our adjacent spots. Once settled, we enjoyed the spots in tall trees with a view through the trees of the lake a bit below us. The lake is very high, flooding the boat ramps and trailer parking, the picnic area, and the first row of campsites. It is springtime, and the pollen here is incredible. Everything is coated with a layer of green. We had a lot of pollen in Houston and Austin this year, but nothing like this. We had some rain while here, and the road was a river of green as the pollen got washed away. Shortly after we had gotten parked, we got treated to a good example of rural Arkansas. An old couple pulled up across from us with a small dump truck full of firewood. The people across from us were there for two weeks and had ordered it. After the truck dumped the wood, he realized he had a flat front tire. This left him waiting for his granddaughter to show up with a patch kit and compressor while we all chatted. Letís just say this guy could have had a starring role in Deliverance. We discovered too late that Arkansas still has wet and dry areas. So, we made about a thirty-mile trip to the closest place to get beer on our second day. We also took a day trip up Mt. Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. On that trip we stopped in Booneville for lunch at Rockiní Robinís Cafe. We were there at the end of lunchtime, and there was only one other table of local guys having lunch. They all could have been costars in Deliverance also. What made this even funnier was that they were quizzing the waitress about her new boyfriend. They wanted to know if he had all his teeth. Not that any of them did. Jim & Becky stayed with us for three nights before heading back to Colorado, and then we stayed two more past that. After we were by ourselves, we took a day trip to Mt. Nebo, a little further east. Barb had camped here years ago when her son was little, so it was fun for her to revisit. We went as far east as Russellville where we had lunch at a sports bar. The bartender was a very friendly young man from Bentonville and he gave us tips on what to do there when we visit later in the summer. Our last couple of days here were rainy, so I took the opportunity to do some reading while enjoying the rain through the trees.
We left Arkansas and went back to my sonís house again. We took different back roads on the way back and had a nice trip. We stayed at my sonís for a month this time. He is traveling a lot back to the other company plants while the one in Plano is being built. While we were there we tried to help get things sorted out for them. The property is already setup to be what I would call a hobby farm. The land that isnít yard is fully fenced into four different pastures and a large pond (tank if you are from Texas). They have four chickens that came with the house, and acquired four goats while we were there. The chicken coop had a solar panel, but the previous owner took the rest of whatever was there. So, I got a battery and hooked up the solar to the battery and installed a 12v light that had come out of the bus. I also installed my old inverter from the bus that I couldnít give away and an 110v plug so he can have a heat lamp out there on cold nights for the chickens. We took a few rides while there including one past E-Systems where I used to work and one past our old house. E-Systems is now part of Raytheon, and is much larger, with many more buildings. Our old house looks like crap and is quite run down. There is a newer house on what was our property, and I wasnít sure if they subdivided or simply built a newer house. It wasnít clear if our old house was lived in or not. It was only a couple years old when we bought it, but that makes it 41 years old. We took a ride into Dallas one day and drove past the office building I worked in when I first moved to Dallas in 1975. It is still there and looked pretty much the same. We went up to The Colony and found my first house. This one is pretty well maintained and the whole neighborhood looks good. What is amazing is that The Colony was about three blocks of homes in the middle of unincorporated county land when I moved there. It is a huge city now.
We stayed at my sonís through Memorial Day weekend. Friends of theirs from AZ came to visit for the weekend and we enjoyed visiting with them all.