"Please tell me I'm going!"
Davis Mountains State Park. Driving south from I-20 in Pecos, you can see mountains ahead. Dark hazy shapes. We left on Friday night after work. If you leave on Saturday, it makes the weekend seem quite short. So you gotta leave on Friday. It's much easier to camp with the pop-up camper versus a tent; much of the stuff we need stays in the camper. Extra dishes, towels, basic foodstuffs. Toss in perishable food, pillows, sleeping bags, R/C helicopters and we're ready to go. My friend Ben moved here from Houston and is staying in Odessa in company housing. He left before us and was 15 miles ahead in his white Ford Ranger 3.0. He said he was going 55 mph so we would catch up going 70-75. I had just installed the "Snapshot" device on my Tacoma. It's from Progressive and it keeps track of how far you drive, when, how fast, and how often you do "hard braking".
Driving to the Davis Mountains with "On-ya"
It's around 2-1/2 hours to the state park, maybe 3, from Midland... pulling a camper. During the day you can drive faster, 80 mph on I-20 once you're well past Odessa... soon to be 85. At night it drops to 65 mph. Boo! I finally got a durable case for my iPad so Mary was able to play around on that. Need to download more games and movies for her to watch. Amazing to me how quickly old technology is rendered obsolete... just a year ago we were looking to buy Mary a portable DVD player for use in the car but we were put off by the three-hour battery life and limited usefulness outside the car. Now for twice the price you get a multi-functional tablet computer with 10-11 hours battery life, a goofy photo-booth camera, and forget about DVDs.
It was quite dark of course when rolled into the state park. We proceeded to our assigned, really nice camping spot with electricity, at the end of a campground cul-de-sac. The pop-up went up with the turn of a crank and I pulled out the tent and sleeping bag I was loaning Ben, and tossed them in his general direction. Debi has a bunch of strings of Christmas lights she drapes around camp. She really got into the "RV" camping spirit when they lived in Houston, and she's brought that along with her to west Texas. After setting up camp, it felt chilly and we all donned jackets and did normal camp stuff, sat in collapsible camp chairs, drank some tea or beer or something. It was late and pretty soon we all turned in.
El Campo en Montanas Davis
During the night our camp experienced Animal Encounter One, when a pack of ravenous raccoons lept into the back of my truck (or swung down from the trees; not sure) and ate most of Anna's dog food (this was Anna's first camping trip with us--Ed.). The 'coons also scratched at, and sat on, Ben's bunch of bananas which were on the picnic table in the campsite.
The night was cold. I'm sure Ben was freezing in my old "+20 F" sleeping bag. It's finally getting to the point that I've had many of my things for 10+ years. I've had my EMS 4-season tent for over 12 years, and have probably spent close to 200 nights in it. The sleeping bag I've had a few years longer. I'm a cold sleeper, so I figure a new +20F bag is really good down to +40F. Add 20 degrees. And then add, say, 10F for every five years of the bag's life, because washing it reduces the loft factor of the insulation. 20+20+10+10.... so the bag is really only good down to +60F. Sorry Ben.
Meanwhile, in the pop-up, we were not laying on the cold ground and we had an electric space heater going. I think I was sweating all night in my "+0F" down sleeping bag. Which is good to about +50F. Guess I should've loaned that one to Ben...
Brought us right back to our post-Turkey morning in Frankfurt...
On Saturday morning we were treated to an English camping breakfast: a pound of bacon (precooked weight... one gram after cooking), "Ready-brek" porridge, Tetley tea in round bags, eggs. It was deelish. Soon I got out my new toys -- R/C electric helicopters and an R/C truck. The first helicopter I bought from Toys "R" Us (for Mary) is a beat-up wreck. It lost its tail rotor in one of the first horrific crashes. The tail rotor allows the 'copter to move forward and backward. After this loss the helicopter was far less maneuverable and far more fun. As pieces of the machine have snapped off from dozens of brutal, gut-wrenching crashes from 30+ feet, usually onto the hood of my car, the 'copter has become progressively lighter. Every bit that snaps off increases the power-to-weight ratio, until this beat-up wreck is a pretty powerful flying machine. Sure, I bought it for Mary, but like most toys with an on and off switch, the "boys" play with it much more. Ben and I spent about half an hour flying it as high as possible outdoors and crashing, usually onto the hood of my convertible. Never mind that this hood represents only 1% of possible crash surface space. Also never mind the 10 minute battery life. More like 30 minutes once you hack off all the unnecessary parts. Anyway, I bought two more helicopters from Amazon.com for about half the price, and they are much better-built and fly better, too. But not outdoors. Sunlight messes up the IR beam used to control the 'copters. Still, we had lots of fun playing "catch the copter" with Mary. Her favorite trick is to wait until you catch the falling machine and then go to full power in an attempt to chop off fingers.
Flight of the Finger Chopper
Starting off on the Three Mile Hike
Indian Lodge from afar
The day was warming up quickly so we decided to take a hike right as the hottest part of the day arrived. Up the hill we went, with nice views of the little valley where the campgrounds are situated, and of the surrounding hills and mountains to the south. Maybe not as gorgeous, deserted, breathtaking and soul-wrenching as some of the vistas in Arizona or other points west, but a really pretty place. We hiked about three miles up the hill, down the ridge and eventually to Indian Lodge. Along the way we discovered that while Sabkha liked to chase deer and rabbits, Anna prefers to chase butterflies. She inherited Sab's shock collar and we got to use it a little to get her to come back after an extended butterfly-chase episode.
The Golden Hills of Texas
Debi poses with Anna
At Indian Lodge we lounged around a bit. I sat outside with Anna (aka On-ya, because she always is) while everyone else took a look at this very cool structure. Back to camp and then into the truck to drive to the ridgetop that overlooks Fort Davis, fort and town. On the ridge we got cell signal so Ben and I checked work messages. Then we drove into town to get ice cream. For the first time ever, the restaurant/ice cream store across from the Limpia Hotel dining room was open. Sweet tooths satisfied, we went back to camp to gather our things for the McDonald Observatory Star Party. Pulling into camp, we could see that a Garbage Bomb had been exploded near the popup. It took only milliseconds to realize we had been visited by a pack of javalina, and someone (me) had left a box of food out.
They're gooey s'mores on the inside!
Wide open spaces
Mary, rock collector, future geologist/animal scientist/dog groomer
The Star Party was cool. We got a brief description of some of the constellations and then an hour and a half to line up to look through some telescopes.
Sunday morning, after another cool night (freezing for Ben), Ben headed home for various Sunday obligations. We stayed on, flying the R/C helicopters, riding bikes a little, playing Uno. As departure time approached, Mary and I took Anna for a walk to tire her out for the ride home. It worked -- Anna can run in circles in the backyard at full speed all day, but a one-mile walk has her pretty tuckered out. She slept most of the way back home.
And to think, we did it all with zero hard brakes!