Texas is the 2nd largest state (Alaska easily takes the #1 spot) and we are feeling it! Despite long drives the last couple of weekends, we’re still in this diverse state. Apparently last week, Dallas got 6” of snow while we were enjoying temperatures in the low 70’s – crazy.
We managed to get a good start out of the park, however it took us quite a while to get out as the views at every turn were too amazing not to take photos, I should say MORE photos! We have been constantly downloading pics from the camera all week; taken quite a few in the last seven days and they’re all amazing!
Once out of the park, along the road towards Marathon, we were required to stop at Border Patrol and were questioned with 3 guards present – didn’t have to get out the truck, just had to roll all the windows down. They were really only interested in whether or not we’d seen any Mexicans crossing over the river or if we’d seen any people on the road as we’d driven along. I guess they have quite a lot of problems with illegal immigrants in this area.
We arrived in Fort Davis (Overland Campground: not a great campground but good enough for our one night stay, fairly cheap and full hook-ups) by lunchtime; the kid’s response: “We’re here, already?” Jake and I went grocery shopping, no big supermarkets here, just a general store, which was well-stocked, and bizarrely, an organic market, which had quorn and other veggie products that I’d been hard-pushed to find recently. Unfortunately nothing was especially cheap but we needed food, the cupboards were bare!
After lunch, we drove to a little town about an hour away called VALENTINE. We knew the town looked small on the map but in person, we realized it really was! The sign stated population: 229, we felt that may have been generous. We drove around, there was a library, school and church, we saw one family outside, playing. Railway tracks cut straight through the middle of the town and we imagined that it had once been bigger. There was an old abandoned saloon by the tracks: something straight out of the Wild West movies, it was strange.
On our return to Fort Davis – highest town in Texas – we spotted a couple of Texan longhorns. Dave managed to get a couple of great photos, he went a lot closer than I would’ve liked….
After dinner, we headed up the winding roads to McDonald Observatory, part of the University of Texas. Rachel, the astronomer leading the first part of the program, lead an interesting talk about the constellations we know as horoscopes – who knew, there are actually 13, not 12! She had volunteers acting out the movement of various planets, naturally plenty of Valentine kiddy volunteers….. Jake was the earth and had to orbit the sun once, Caitlin was mars, so had to orbit the sun in the same amount of time, about half the distance. Becca was mercury and orbited 4 times in the time it took Jake to go around once. They had to act all of that out, Jake went a little too fast on his one orbit, not allowing Becca to make it 4 times around the sun – anyone surprised?!
After a computerized presentation of the night sky in the present day, going back 1,000’s of years and forward a few hundred (so fascinating how much things move around), we headed outside to the telescopes. Unfortunately having enjoyed a cloudless, beautiful day, as the night sky rolled in, so did the clouds. The Observatory had 5 enormous telescopes set up and we were able to see Mars, Orion, star clusters and Sirius fairly clearly until cloud cover took away all possible viewing options.
We left after some time in the education center, following directions out of the parking lot which ensured headlights would never face the direction of the telescope viewing area. All around were only red lights to aid with the eyes adjustment to the night sky. They really thought things out well when they designed this Observatory.
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)