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March 2019

2019-03-27 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Baton Rouge, LA – Governor’s Mansion and Old State Capitol

Airstreamers enjoy driving all over the country on their adventures, but one thing they don’t ever want to do:  Drive into a “big” city!

So we take a bus…

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Today we are going into the “big” city – the heart of Baton Rouge, the State capitol, population 240,000 – smaller than Irvine…!  To get there we drive along this 18 mile long causeway:  Almost all east-west highways in the state are on these causeways because there is water everywhere…

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Out first stop is the governor’s mansion…

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The mansion was built way back in 1963, after the “old” mansion was deemed to be inadequate.

As we waited to enter the grounds we saw this helicopter land…

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A bit later a second helicopter landed…

I started looking around as we waited for the garden tour.  This lake was adjacent to the mansion property…

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This house is directly next door to the Governor’s Mansion, right on the lake.

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According to the Redfin app on my phone, this house is worth about $275,000.  We’re not in California anymore…

We soon started the garden tour.  Sorry, not my thing…

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However, when I looked the other direction I could see the State Capitol Building.  We will tour it tomorrow…

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Garden tour over, we were allowed to approach the mansion.  As we walked, the Governor and 3-4 other men walked out of the mansion and down to the helicopter; it took off and left the property… (PS:  maybe this is why he doesn’t seem to care about the horrible condition of the roads… he never drives or rides on them…)

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As we were learning a little bit of the history of the mansion the First Lady and her people came out onto the veranda… After a short talk she and the other women walked away and left in the second helicopter…

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The house is modeled after a classic plantation mansion, but it is a bit bigger – about 25,000 square feet.  We were only allowed to see a few public rooms.  I hate tours like this – I want to see the kitchens and the basement mechanical rooms and the servants’ stairs, and things like that…

The entry foyer or reception room contains the requisite center round table and beautiful flowers; it also has a four sided mural painted by Auseklis Ozols of New Orleans… It depicts scenes and symbols of all areas of Louisiana as well as all the governors who have lived here…

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I couldn’t help but notice that the chandelier in the foyer was terribly lopsided…

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Beyond the foyer is the stair rotunda:

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The seal of Louisiana on the floor of the rotunda…

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The drawing room…

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The dining room seats 20 – even more than my Airstream…!

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So we returned to the bus and we drove a short distance.  We stopped for lunch, then we walked along the Mississippi River, enjoying the scenery…

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Our walk ended at the USS Kidd, a WWII era Fletcher-class Destroyer.  Not being a military guy I never knew the difference between destroyers, cruisers, tenders, and the like.  Here I found out that a destroyer is basically a weapon destroyer, a defensive ship, designed to intercept and destroy torpedo boats…

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After the Kitt we walked through downtown Baton Rouge.  It is basically full of government office buildings and a few (very few) restaurants and hotels.

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Out next stop was the Old State Capitol Building; it is a very forgettable building.  They called it neo-Gothic, but it was just a fake castle with Gothic shaped windows.  I didn’t even take a picture of it.  It looked like something a winery in Temecula would build if they wanted to have their tasting room in a castle… It was built just before the War of Northern Aggression or the Civil War or the War between the States – no wonder we fought with each other – we couldn’t even agree on the name of our war!

It was occupied and looted by northern troops during the war and damaged by fire.  It was rebuilt after the war.  The only good thing about the new building was this lovely skylight above the center stair hall…

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We did learn about Huey Long and his assasination in the New State Capitol Building – more on that tomorrow when we visit the New State Capitol Building…

By now we were exhausted!  The bus brought us back to the campground.  Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-26 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Breaux Bridges, LA

The Cajun Country Caravan  officially begins today!

We are in Butte La Rose, LA, but the address of the RV Park is Breaux Bridge, so that is what we will call it…

Cajuns were French folk who had settled in eastern Canada, around Nova Scotia, as we learned on our Nor’ by Nor’East Caravan in 2017.  The were called Acadians, but the English kicked them out of Nova Scotia two or three times, so finally they got the hint and they resettled here in Louisiana, and “Acadian” was corrupted to become “Cajun”…

Our leaders are parked near the entrance to the park.  They have a very unique Airstream, called The Skydeck:

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Airstream produced only 12 of these motorhomes from 2003 to 2006.  It is a fairly typical interior layout, except that instead of a dinette they have an internal stair that accesses a hatch to the roof.  The roof contains a “skydeck”, with built-in seating , umbrellas, ice chests – everything you need to hang out and party on your “deck”

There were no activities planned for the day, other than watching the Airstreams roll in.  It turns out there are five other couples that we have met on our previous two caravans.  It was great to see old friends.

We did walk about one mile down the road (actually we walked on the levee, because Louisiana streets have no accommodation for pedestrians…) to the Atchafalaya Visitors Center

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The houses across the levee were interesting… It was hard to tell if the levee was protecting us from water on their side or protecting them from water on our side.  Water is everywhere!

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Houses were traditionally built up, leaving open space below to allow water to pass through and to allow cooling breezes to go by… and to keep termites away from the wood structures…

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We arrived at the Visitors Center, where we learned a bit about the geography and history of the area…

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We walked back along the levee; at 3:00 pm we had our initial meeting.  Information books were handed out, lots of information was discussed, and a generally convivial atmosphere prevailed.  Following the meeting was a gumbo dinner, provided by the staff of the RV park.  This was followed by some door prizes, dessert, and brief introductions all around.

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And we added our 31st state sticker to our map…

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Tomorrow we board the bus for Baton Rouge!

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

2019-03-25 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 13 – Plantersville, TX to Breaux Bridge, LA

We pulled out of the vineyard at about 8:30 am.  We stopped at the local Kroger for a few groceries and our Starbucks.  We passed through Conroe, and continued east along Texas Hwy 105.  The road meandered through the countryside all the way to Beaumont, TX, where we joined up again with the 10.

The highway offered typical roadside scenes, but there were some very nice stretches…

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After passing through Beaumont  we finally reached the Louisiana border…

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There were water views everywhere…

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As we traveled east on the 10 the roads got worse and worse.  This stretch is notorious for being the worst interstate in the nation.  There would be a newly repaired road for 2 miles, then junk road for 1/4 mile, then 3 miles of good, then 5 miles of bad, 2 miles of good, 1/4 mile of bad.  Why they can’t fix it all at one time is a mystery… Finally we reached a causeway over a bayou that went for 18 miles.  It wasn’t horrible.

We reached the Frenchman’s Wilderness RV Park, the meet-up location of the caravan.  We are officially here!

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We met several of the caravaners who were also arriving a day early.  The caravan officially begins tomorrow.

We walked the park, enjoyed seeing the accumulating Airstreams.

This is a really nice park – lots of space, lots of grass, too many trees (at least as far as my satellite TV is concerned…).  The weather was warm (high 70s) and a little humid, although I don’t think anyone besides us desert dwellers noticed…

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The entrance and the office/store…

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Happy hours ensued…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-24 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 12 – Fredericksburg to Plantersville, TX

Sunday morning we went to the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church.  Having been founded by German immigrants, it is not surprising that Fredericksburg is full of Lutheran churches.  We selected this one for two good reasons: we could walk there, and it had an 8:00 am service…

Apparently Lutherans enjoy 8:00 am services much more than Methodists; this service was very well attended.

After church the mens group was having a fundraiser:  drive-thru BBQ, smoked right here on the church property…

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We walked back to the Villa and headed out for our drive to Plantersville, TX, located just west of Conroe, TX; along the way we stopped at the LBJ Ranch, both the State Park and the National Park…

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The visitor center wasn’t very impressive; they were showing a movie in their theater; it was an NBC TV show that I recall watching in 1966.  It showed mostly idyllic scenes around the ranch with narration by LBJ while driving in his white Lincoln Continental convertible…

We did the driving tour around the ranch, a beautiful place…

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Lynda was able to capture a photo of a Cardinal…

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Some areas of the ranch were awash with colored weeds…

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Free range cattle were everywhere…

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The “Texas White House” is closed for renovations…

We drove on.  In Johnson City we drove by the Johnson family home, but there is not much else to see.

Our destination for the day is Bernhardt Winery…

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This a Harvest Host site, so we parked the Villa alongside the vineyards; we will spend the night here.

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The winery is a lovely place.  Local wine club members come for a picnic and enjoy the grounds.  We did a wine tasting.

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They only grow two types of grapes here on the property.  The clay soil and the humidity do not provide a good environment for growing grapes.  The two grapes they grow are made into white wines – nice nose, but not much flavor after that…

The rest of their wines are made from California grapes.  We enjoyed their port and their “Sarah”, a red blend, but we bought their Pinot Noir made from grapes grown north of Lodi, CA.

We returned to the Villa, and we enjoyed a bottle of their Pinot Noir with our happy hour…

There was a lovely sunset our our door over the vineyard…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-23 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 11 – Fredericksburg, TX

We spent the day in Fredericksburg.  After a leisurely morning we again walked to town and strolled the main street, checking out all the trinket shops, wine tasting rooms, and restaurants.  Other than the National Museum of the Pacific War, this is all there is in downtown Fredericksburg.  Apparently the town died in the early 1970s after the Walmart opened just out of town… Luckily, the town was able to reinvent themselves as a tourist attraction,  and now it is a thriving place, with many B&Bs, motels, hotels, and guesthouses all around the town…

We are terrible tourists, so we skipped the National Museum of the Pacific War; however,  we did note that Admiral Nimitz was born and raised right here in Fredericksburg…

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We enjoyed lunch in a Bistro in the basement of a home furnishing store…

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After lunch we returned to the Villa, noting the Saturday crowds in town:

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This evening we went to the highest rated BBQ place in town.  It was terrible…

Back at the Villa we enjoyed a beautiful sunset…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-22 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 10 – Traveling to Fredericksburg, TX

We left Carlsbad KOA in the dark, at about 5:30 am.  The road south into Carlsbad was very busy, with a continuous line of pickup trucks, people going to work in the oil fields.  We stopped in Carlsbad at the local Starbucks for our morning coffee (Vente Flat White, Decaf, Extra Shot, Breve…) and we continued south on Hwy 285 out of town.  This is where the drive got interesting.

Hwy 285 goes through thousands of acres of oil and gas fields.  It is barely paved – maybe semi-paved.  It is under construction all the way to Texas.  It was raining and the road is dirty, with loose sand, gravel, and asphalt being thrown up everywhere.  And there was a solid line of trucks in both directions: large trucks carrying gravel, sand, water, and fracking chemicals; medium size trucks, outfitted with welders, generators, pumps, cranes, and the like; and pickup trucks, carrying the happy merry workers to their jobs.

It was still dark.  Looking off to the horizon on all sides were fires, burning off the excess natural gas from the oil wells; it is not economically feasible to capture the gas because we have such a glut of natural gas in the country, and until recently the export of natural gas was prohibited.

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After about 100 miles of this most unusual landscape and traffic and dirt and rain we arrived at Pecos, TX.  The town is totally dead.  Apparently all these busy, well-paid workers don’t live here – they stay in trailers and motels during the week and go home (wherever that may be) on weekends.  It is always sad to see these dead towns (they are everywhere…) but it is the natural cycle…

There were a few interesting things to see in the dead town…

Public art:

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Historic buildings:

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Gunfighter’s grave:

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Abandoned train station:

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Main Street; we never found out why these cars were here – perhaps this is a carpool parking area…

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I went into the only active store on Main Street, a hardware store, and asked if there was a local diner we could go to for breakfast.  They recommended a delightful little place, located in an abandoned Sonic building.  It has only been open for about two months, and was a purely local place.  I mentioned that they were not on Yelp.  I don’t think they knew what Yelp was… The food was real and quite good.  However the parking lot was so empty that people just parked free-style…

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After our late breakfast we continued into Texas – due to the road construction there was no sign welcoming us…  This is Texas:

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The first thing to happen to us in Texas is that we took a rock to the Airstream, which blew a hole in the rock guard.  Maybe we need to put a protective cover over the rock guard.

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About 10 minutes later we took a rock to the truck windshield – another big ding.

We traveled east on the 10, and after a few hours we turned off the 10 and headed into Texas Hill Country…

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We arrived in Fredericksburg in mid afternoon and set up at Fredericksburg RV park – a very nice place… As you can see, the Airstream is filthy!

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We walked into town (about 3/4 mile) for an early dinner.  Along the way we passed this hotel, with these flags; we always enjoy the Texas State flag, bragging of Texas’ one star Yelp rating…

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The History of Fredericksburg, Texas, dates back to its founding in 1846.  It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of “Texas German”, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English.  The emigration was in part the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political and economic conditions that later resulted in the Revolution of 1848, and in part lots of working-class Germans.  

The town was laid out by surveyor Herman Wilke.  On April 23, 1846, the first wagon train of settlers left New Braunfels, encountering friendly Delaware Indians en route, and arrived at the Fredericksburg site on May 8, 1846.  The first colonists immediately set about to plant a garden and build a storehouse out of logs, and a stockade and a blockhouse.  The town continued to thrive for over 100 years as a center of this German farming community.

Fredericksburg in the 21st Century is in a state of flux. As each generation of descendants of the original settlers dies away, or moves to new horizons, the authenticity of the rural German farm culture of the Texas Hill Country communities also dies away.  It is gradually blending with the customs of newcomers and being replaced by tourist-oriented concepts of both German heritage and the Texas cowboy culture. 

Downtown Fredericksburg today is one giant restaurant, wine-tasting and tourist trinket store district.  It was great!  We had a lovely dinner and bottle of wine at Cultures…

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We returned to the Villa and turned in early – it had been a long day…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-21 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 9 – Carlsbad Caverns

Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and, in particular, the Carlsbad Caverns…

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico.   Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.  The primary attraction of the park are the Carlsbad Caverns.

We arrived at about 10:00 am and checked out the visitor center.  Then we headed to the “natural entrance” of the caverns… Along the way we saw these buildings; the stone buildings were built by park employees in the 1920s, and the stucco buildings were built by the CCC in 1940…

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Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.  The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  There are other rooms and chambers which require special ranger-guided tours.  We chose the self-guided tour, since we didn’t want to crawl through small tunnels…  Visitors to the Big  Room can hike down on their own via the “natural entrance” or take an elevator from the visitor center.  We, of course, walked in – about 1 1/2 miles long of winding, steep paths descending about 750′ underground.

The entrance today is quite impressive, but easy to use…

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But in the olden days things were different.  The original explorers who discovered the cave had to climb down rude home-made rope ladders.  The first visitors to the new National Park in 1923 were lowered in a mine bucket down 700 feet into the ground.  Finally, by the late 1920s, park employees had built wooden stairways.  You walked down to get in, you walked up to get out… Finally, in the 1930s, the stairs were replaced by paved ramps, and the first elevators were added…

At this “natural entrance” there is a small amphitheater.  Starting in April and continuing through the summer people come at sundown to sit and watch the thousands or millions of bats ascend up out of the bat cave via the natural entrance in search of airborne bugs and insects.  Apparently it is quite a sight, although, it being March and all, we didn’t see the bats.  We could smell the bat quano, though…

So we walked through the natural entrance, walked the 1 1/2 miles down to The Big Room, and around the Big Room, seeing the sights.  Photos don’t show the scale or the depth of these spaces, but they are very impressive.  We mostly saw “decorations”, what the parks people call the stalactites, the stalagmites, columns, draperies, straw tubes, and on and on…

Pictures don’t capture the size of the space, but this diagram shows one area – the Liberty Dome above and the “Bottomless Pit” below…

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The caverns are dramatically lit, and the “decorations” are stunning…

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After 3 1/2 hours underground we were quite done in.  So we opted to take the elevator back to the surface…

We drove back through the town of Carlsbad, fueled up the truck, and returned to the Villa.  We snacked and had Happy Hours and a light supper.  Tomorrow we leave early for our travel into Texas to Fredericksburg…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-20 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 8 – Las Cruces to Carlsbad, NM

We headed east today; the destination is Carlsbad, NM, in the far southwest corner of the State.  The mountains east of Las Cruces have one section with these amazing crags…

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Just over the mountain we stopped at White Sands Missile Range.  This is where all the testing of missiles and rockets has been done since WWII.  We started at the museum… They have lots of exhibits, like you would expect.  The history of the area was interesting, as was the story of how the US Government temporarily “borrowed” the land (3,200 square miles – almost three times the area of Rhode Island…) from the owners during WWII; after the war they didn’t give it back, buying it via eminent domain.  The owners were not pleased…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (stuffed) on exhibit…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (wood) in my living room, hand-carved by my father about 30 years ago…

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Across from the museum is a small building containing a restored V-2 missile…

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The Germans developed the V-2 as a terrorizing weapon during WWII and used it against England.  They spent more on these weapons than the US spent on the Manhattan Project.  After the war the US brought back all the V-2 rockets and various rocket parts to the US (mainly so the Russians couldn’t get them).   They sent it all here, filling 300 railroad cars.  The US also brought back all the German rocket scientists they could.  The V-2 formed the basis of the early days of space research, setting the stage for our manned and unmanned voyages into space.  This rocket in this building was used for research many times and has now been restored…

In the missile yard are MANY rockets of all sizes and shapes…

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Amazingly, rockets are a lot like trees – seen one, seen them all…

So we rolled out east again.  Soon we entered the Lincoln National Forest and ascended over 4,600 feet to a summit of 8,600 feet…  In this photo we are looking back west towards the white sands…

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Tunnels are always fun…

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Once we descended the mountain we were in a desolate plain that went on for miles and miles.  As is our custom, we stopped to stretch our legs and to keep our Apple watches happy…

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We checked into the KOA about 20 miles north of the city of Carlsbad.  The trees in the park are full of noisy birds…

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The park was basic but good.  They even prepared BBQ dinners on-site and delivered them to the Villa at the appointed hour.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

And, as is our custom, we present the some of the McAnoy children (and one neighbor…)

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2019-03-19 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 7 – Mesilla and Las Cruces, NM

Another easy day.  We did some chores around the Villa, then at 10:15 we walked the 1/3 mile to the Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

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It was a simple, low key, and fun place.  Lots of history, from when the first train came to town in 1881 until the last train stopped here in 1988.  Also we learned the interesting story about how Las Cruces won the Railroaid stop over the much bigger (then) town of Mesilla… It seems the railroad wrote to both towns asking about the possibility of locating the train station in their town.  Las Cruces boosters got on board, secretly bought up all the land they could, then offered the railroad the land for everything they needed.  Mesilla never responded, and seemed surprised when the railroad went to Las Cruces.  Today Mesilla is a tiny suburb, absorbed into the city limits of Las Cruces, which became a major crossroads in Southern New Mexico.  So, now: Have you ever heard of Mesilla?

Adjacent to the railroad station/museum is a caboose:

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The caboose was put in service in the 1890s, and retired in 1960.  In 1969 a local Las Cruces family purchased it for $50 as one of 300 cabooses offered for sale.  They cleaned it up, added a kitchen and a shower, and lived in it while they were building their ranch house just outside of town.  It stayed in the family until 2010 when it was donated to the Railroad Museum… And here it sits…

We walked back to the Villa, then we drove to Mesilla.  Remember Mesilla?  They have a very nice original town plaza surrounded by shoppes and restaurants.  The town church is relatively new, replacing the original church built in 1852.

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One of the shoppes is in the old courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging…

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Of course, while en route to his hanging Billy the Kid escaped, killing his two guards.  After running for two months, he was finally shot to death in Fort Sumner, NM, by Pat Garrett.  (Fun fact:  In my early days as an architect, I worked in an office with another architect who claimed he was a descendant of Pat Garrett…)

The plaza and surrounding shoppes are nice…

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The above building claims to be the oldest brick building in New Mexico, built in 1860 from bricks manufactured on site…  The building didn’t have an auspicious start – one by one the first three owners were murdered right here…

We decided on Josephine’s Cafe for lunch… lighter fare than generally available around here… And EXCELLENT Sangria!

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After lunch we fueled up the truck and returned to the Villa.  More chores were done and a leisurely evening ensured…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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