February 22, 2013

West Texas Driving

Last Friday we checked out of the Midtown RV Park in Austin and headed west into the Hill Country of Texas. We were retracing the same route we’d taken just under a year ago, heading to the little town of Fredericksburg. We passed exotic animal ranches, where antelope and reindeer grazed under the warm sun. We passed sprawling pecan and peach farms, and big grass fields with long horned steer, lambs and sheep.  After spending a full month in the busy metropolitan Austin, we were more than ready to get back into the rural side of Texas; to step into a slower pace of life.

Our route
Our route
Fredericksburg proved to be just as quaint as we’d remembered it. We took a stroll up and down Main Street, poking into some of our favorite stores. There is a large gourmet foods store, Rustlin’ Rob’s, on the main drag that has the best samples. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has a sample that you can try. The samples range from dipping sauces to fudge to salsa to hot sauce, and if you go in there hungry, there is a good chance you will come out feeling quite full. In the evening we had intended to go out for a drink, but instead we took the pups on a long walk, the same walk we got used to taking them on during our long stay in Fredericksburg last year.

Walking around Fredericksburg, TX
Walking around Fredericksburg
The selection at Rustlin' Rob's in Fredericksburg, TX
The selection at Rustlin' Rob's in Fredericksburg
The selection at Rustlin' Rob's in Fredericksburg, TX
Honey butter samples!
No trailers through the drive-thru...only in Texas..
No trailers through the drive-thru...only in Texas..
In the morning we woke early and drove out on to interstate 10 to head further west. We tuned the radio to the local country music station and enjoyed the scenery. Why does it feel so right to listen to country music while we’re in Texas? I had tried listening to the country music channel while driving in Arkansas one day and it just wasn’t quite right. For some reason, in Texas, the music just makes so much sense with the landscape. Speaking of landscape, West Texas, between I-10 and Mexico, is gorgeous. There are surprisingly tall mountains there and the country roads that wind between them would rival the roads we’d seen in Wyoming and Montana. We’d been out this way last year, when we’d visited Marfa and Big Bend National Park, and we were happy to be back in such beautiful country.

Driving in West Texas
Driving in West Texas
Our destination that evening was the McDonald Observatory, just north of the town of Ft. Davis. The observatory is part of the University of Texas. This facility produces the famous StarDate, the NPR program about stars, and currently operates four massive research telescopes. It’s tucked in the Texan mountains, far from any light pollution, and on several nights during the week there are Star Parties! Star Parties are when ordinary people like you and I get to come to the observatory and look through these amazing telescopes to see astounding galactic views up close. That night we sat under the night sky as an astronomer walked us through the visible constellations using a green laser pointer that seemed to almost touch the stars. Afterwards we peeked through the telescopes to see the moon, Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, and a collection of newborn stars.

The McDonald Observatory in west Texas.
Thats the McDonald Observatory at the top of the hill
The McDonald Observatory in west Texas.
One of the domes at the McDonald Observatory,
 housing a massive telescope! 
We had planned to stay the night at the Prude Ranch, an RV Park with full hook-ups just south of the observatory, but we found out that overnight camping was allowed at the roadside picnic areas along highway 118. So that night, well after dark after the Star Party, we turned right out of the McDonald Observatory parking lot, heading north back towards I-10, and found a perfect spot at a nearby picnic area, less than two miles away.

Our boondocking spot on the side of highway 118 in Texas
Our boondocking spot on the side of highway 118
Black Angus cows in west Texas
The welcoming committee
We spent the night there, cloaked in the complete darkness that can only be found when you’re deep in the countryside. In the morning we were greeted by a herd of Black Angus cows that had all wondered over to investigate their visitors. For future reference, there is an even better boondocking area just a few more miles down the road at the Lawrence E Wood picnic area. We passed it on our way out the following morning, as we headed back out to I-10 to El Paso, our next destination.

Here is a little video that Sky and I put together of our drive through West Texas. Enjoy!

To see more pictures of Fredericksburg, click here or here (last year's pictures). More pictures of West Texas and the observatory can be found here.

Happy Texan Mountain Drivin’,


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1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm looking at family resorts in Texas for the end of this fall and Fredericksburg is actually one of the places we were thinking about stopping and after seeing your pictures I really want to now. Hope you had a great trip!