Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

Merry Christmas everyone. The end of our trip has arrived, and yes, there is much still to post. I'm still 2 1/2 states behind along with the end of our trip. Keep watching - I'm determined to get it all posted by the first of the year. Today, yes Christmas Day, was spent trying to figure out how to get 10,000+ photos backed up & one computer & restored to my desktop. Some of them actually made it - whew!

Since Christmas is all about families, this is a very short post with pictures of our family. None of the labels transferred over, so I had to use the hunt & peck method. They aren't great photos, but hey, they're here!

With blessings to all,

Honey, Bob, Pangor, Daphne & Tiazzi

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tucson, AZ

From Tucson AZ

Meet Maggie MacDonald, not the greatest picture, but still, cute as a bug, or in this case, a Yorkie. Her "Parents", Ron & Sandi drove down from the Phoenix area to meet with us in Tucson. I'll introduce Maggie's parents a little later.

So how did we get from San Antonio to Tucson? Well, if you've ever driven on I-10 through Texas, you will know there isn't much reason to stop. It's pretty barren out there. After 7 months on the road, a little R&R sounded pretty good. We drove from San Antonio in one day to El Paso.

The Welcome Center on the Texas side of the New Mexico border in Anthony, allow RVer's to park for 24 hours, has excellent lighting and even an armed guard. Of course, the prison located not far away (incidentally it is the most picturesque prison you will ever see!) may be the reason for the armed guard. In any event, there are lots of trucks that park overnight as well as other RVer's so we don't feel at all "at risk."

From Tucson AZ

From El Paso, it's an easy drive into Tucson. Of course this time of year is the beginning of high season. So rather than pay outrageous prices in cramped campgrounds for a few days, we opt for the Desert Diamond Casino, pictured above.

Although there are no hookups, if you enter off Highway 19, which goes to Nogales, and then take exit 80, you can easily pull into the drive for delivery trucks and go around the back of the casino coming around far enough to park along the edge of I-19.

From Tucson AZ

It is my practice to go into the casino to the security desk and ask for permission. They are very accomodating, asking only for the license on the RV and signing a statement which is pretty basic about not littering, and making noise, etc. They allow us to stay for an entire week!

As you can see from the picture, there is plenty of room, we are in no one's way, and this was taken at the height of the "crowds." I might add the buffet in the casino is slightly above average, and the ventilation system is good. I hate coming out of a casino smelling like an ash tray.

From Tucson AZ

We are blessed to have many friends in this area. Here we are with the Mac Donalds, (Maggie had to stay in the car) Ron on the left rear, and Sandi on the right rear, and friends Gloria, on the left, and Jack on the right, also RVers who live in Green Valley. The red hatted guy on the right is, of course, Bob.

We met at the La Placita in Green Valley for what was an outstanding lunch. As we all have RVing and many other things in common, it was a great get-together. The next time you happen to visit Green Valley, check out the La Placita. Your stomach will be happy!

And speaking of restaurants, those of you unfamaliar with Tucson will be blown away. Tucson, a destination city for resorts, ranches, and spas, has many killer restaurants.

From Tucson AZ

The one place we miss the most, both while in San Marcos and in our travels, is Beyond Bread. This photo shows the exterior at the Speedway & Wilmot location in east Tucson. The original location is on Campbell on the west side. The Speedway location is where all the baking takes place. Several years ago I asked just how much bread they bake on a daily basis. The answer? 1,800 loaves on weekdays, and about 2,500 on weekends. There are no preservatives, colors, or artificial leavening in any of their breads. The crusts are really crunchy and the inside is simply, well, divine. Open early for breakfast, they close around 8:00 PM at night. In addition to breads, they have soups, salads, the best sandwiches on the planet, and I won't even go into the desserts!

To avoid lines that literally can go out the front door, it's a good idea to arrive by 11:30 AM or after 2:00 PM for lunch. They also have free WIFI during the off-rush hours.

From Tucson AZ

And just in case you're wondering, no I don't get paid for anything I say or write about. These are just our findings about the places we visit and stay. There are other really great places to eat in Tucson, but since I don't have pictures from this trip, I'll pass for now. I am, however, thinking of adding campgrounds we stay at and restaurants that are outstanding at the end of each blog for our upcoming trip. I should add that when it comes to eating, Bob & I strive for fresh, organic, and minimally processed foods. A vegetarian restaurant is always a bonus. If you've come across some good ones, please leave your comments below. I've also added a gadget poll to the right. Please let us know if you're interested in my adding campgrounds & restaurants with the above criteria!

From Tucson AZ

Arizona sunsets are world famous. All that dust in the air! As we were sitting inside Popeye one night, I noticed the sky turning red. I grabbed our camera, crouched down in front of Popeye, and took this photo, right where we parked along the freeway. In dim light & without a tripod, & especially with no great vantage point, it turned out fairly well.

From Tucson AZ

Then I turned around 180 degrees, and took this picture of the casino. And lastly, I snapped this last picture. Hope you enjoy it. Our trip to Tucson was for 5 short days. Mostly we rested and were able to meet with really good friends. We are so fortunate to be able to Go RVing, see interesting places, meet good friends we've found along the way, and stay in touch. That's what life is all about.

From Tucson AZ
Coming up next: Catching up in North Carolina.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spanish Governor’s Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

This palace, what we today would call the Governor’s Mansion, is one of the earliest buildings in the Presidio de Bejar. It was the capitol building of the Spanish province of New Spain in 1772 until 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain.

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

The National Geographic Society considered it “the most beautiful building in San Antonio.” Bob and I find the architecture nothing short of serene. It may be the sole remaining example of an aristocratic early Spanish house, at least in Texas.

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

Consisting of 10 rooms with a grand courtyard and fountain, today you can rent out the courtyard for receptions. The 10 rooms consist of a Chapel, Entrance, Ballroom, the Governor’s main quarters, Chamber Law Room, Family Room, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and terrace.

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

The elaborate keystone above the front entrance is marked with the coat-of-arms of Spanish King Ferdinand VI and the phrase “ano 1749 se acabo” suggest the construction was completed in 1749. The seashells represent la Niña, la Piñta, and la Santa Maria sailing for the new world, and the dragons represent the dangers encountered by the first settlers. Finally, the baby face suggests the new country, America. Of course, the picture I took vanished!

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

The Spanish Governor’s Palace fell into private hands after Spain lost control of Texas. In 1929 the Palace was acquired by the City of San Antonio and restored. It is now maintained by the Downtown Operations Department and is open to the public as a museum. A very small entrance fee is charged. It is located between Market Square and the San Antonio River Walk near City Hall.

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

From The Spanish Governor's Palace

Several more pictures follow in this slide show. As flash photography is not allowed inside the palace, the low light conditions made some of the pictures a little grainy. I think you will enjoy them anyway.

For further information: (210) 224-0601

Spanish Governor's Mansion

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The River Walk, San Antonio, Texas

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

Mention San Antonio, and most people will think of the famous River Walk. We have been fortunate to visit 3 times now, always during the month of December. Although a great place to visit at any time of the year (except perhaps when it's drained for cleaning in January) the River Walk becomes magical during the holidays.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

The first thing we do is park at St. John's Lutheran Church. Parking runs either $ 3 or $5 a day, depending on the day of the week. It's very secure and within walking distance to all the sights in downtown San Antonio.

It is directly across the street from La Vallita, home to many interesting shops and art galleries, and just a block or so from the River Walk.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

We also pass right along the park with the Cathedral and stop in for a visit. Some of the men who so bravely fought at the Alamo are entombed here.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

Leaving the cathedral, we walk along the streets to see the wonderful architecture, sculpture, and gardens which make up this city.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

This year we did not take the water taxis to view the sites, but chose to walk. Truthfully, it's getting harder and harder to stay up late (when it's really pitch black) and enjoy all the sites along the water. These pictures were taken just after sun down; and without a tripod for a longer exposure, holiday lights were hard to get. I did my best!

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

We love the water features, the colorful tables, and all that make up this interesting place.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

This next picture of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is in front of a very famous landmark - the Alamo. Since we've seen it twice before, we didn't visit again this year, but certainly urge you to visit along with the many missions in the area. We enjoyed them all on previous visits.

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

At a jog in the river, there is a beautifully decorated shopping mall. In front, they also have a Christmas tree; but I think you'll agree, that Santa steals the show!

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

From San Antonio at the Holidays 2008

As we return to our car at St. John's Lutheran Church, I catch one last glimpse of the Tower of the America's which is just across the street from the church. See, I told you this parking lot at the church is centrally located! Here are the rest of the pictures:

Coming next: The Spanish Governor's Mansion.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mi Tierra, San Antonio Texas

Here we are on our 31st wedding anniversary - would you believe it! I think we blend in pretty well with the mural behind us. Daughter Julie suggested the Mi Tierra bakery & restaurant. Located in Market Square, it's where the locals eat. With a bakery in front and open 24/7, it's hard to beat.

The sign shown above is posted all over downtown San Antonio, making it pretty easy to find most landmarks. We park at the Lutheran Church and walk from there.

Arriving at Market Square, we come across this sign which gives the historical significance of the area.

Turning down the street (pardon Bob's back side) we find wonderful colors and designs everywhere.

What a terrific entrance! You just know the food will be wonderful. With a bakery right in front, it's hard to resist temptation.

Look at these goodies! No wonder this place is popular. We can hardly wait to see what the menu offerings are.

This is the room our booth is in. Now this is my idea of how to decorate for the holidays!

This tree is on the ledge right above our heads. Trees like this are everywhere in the restaurant.

This mural is in the adjacent room. Without a wide angle lens, I can only take a picture of a small portion of this magnificent mural. One of the waiters came over and pointed on the pictures of the restaurant's founders & owners as well as all the people who have been a part of this establishment since it's inception. What a wonderful heritage!

As we depart, I take this photo of their neon sign. It pretty much says it all. Be sure to stop by when you are next in San Antonio and let us know if you agree this is a very special place with terrific food. Now it's off to the River Walk!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lockhart TX - Following the BBQ Trail

A furry friend waves
Goodbye as we leave Lake Lavon

Monday arrives and we need to head south. Our first stop is the parking lot of Walmart in Georgetown to meet Bob & Peggy Pfluger, fellow RVer's who we meet each year. Bob takes a picture before we depart, but I decide not to use it because they blinked when the shutter went off. Closed eyes = no good! We'll try again next year.
At the Texas welcome center when entering the state, Bob picked up a brochure on the Texas BBQ Trail. Since Lockhart is pretty much on our path to Austin, we decide to give it a try.

Caldwell County Courthouse, Lockhart, TX

Downtown Lockhart, TX

Another view of downtown Lockhart, TX

Plaque in front of Courthouse

Typical Texas small town

Front view of Courthouse

The brochure lists 3 BBQ houses in Lockhart: (1) Black's BBQ, (2) Chisholm Trail BBQ, and (3) Smitty's Market. Black's claim to be the oldest, Chisholm Trail claims to have the most side dishes, and Smitty's Market claims to have the best brisket, pork chops and sausage. You can be the judge!

Interior of Smitty's Market

Bob decides on Smitty's

Chisholm Trail is right on Highway 183

Since Bob really wanted to try the Brisket, we went to Smitty's. Unfortunately for me, all the smoked meats are prepared inside, leaving me with watery eyes, a stuffy nose, and anxious to get out!

Exterior of Black's BBQ

After lunch, we drive south to Austin for a one night stay. We have been here before and are anxious to go to San Antonio, as tomorrow we celebrate 31 years of marriage.

For further information: Blacks BBQ

Chisholm Trail BBQ website not listed. Phone 512.398.6027

Smitty's Market

The Texas BBQ Trail