Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Tree Trimming...

We called Joel Hernandez out this week to come and give our trees a good trimming.  It had been almost four years for some of them.  We really try to keep up with them, and I am always out cutting the things I can reach.  But with the drought comes dead branches up high, and then when we get rain, the weight causes them to fall.  Just for safety purposes alone, we needed to spend the money to get them trimmed.
They brought in a cherry picker that allows the guys to get up into the tops of the trees.  It isn't like we have 100 foot tall California redwoods, but our oaks do get up higher than my pole saw will reach.
We had planned on about a day and a half to trim the trees, then get the branches and such piled and on fire.  And the first morning, things were looking good.  But the first day of work got cut short when we experienced the first round of torrential rain.  The workers had to stow their saws under a truck and sit in the cab waiting for it to pass.  When the rain let up, they left for the day.
 It eventually took closer to three days to cut everything and honestly, the continued rain was creating havoc for the big bon fire.
  I took advantage of the slowdown to pull out a good number of limbs to save for firewood. But as luck would have it, my Husqavarna crapped out on me and I had to make a quick run to the repair guy.  Thank goodness the guy (who calls me "The chainsaw killer", not because I use a chainsaw to kill people, but because I kill chainsaws) was willing to fix it while I stood there and took his disgusted facial expressions.  
Thankfully, $20 later, I was back in business.  I actually stacked wood in four different places around the yard.
These pictures really don't do justice, especially since I haven't shown any "before" versions, but take my word for it, these guys did a wonderful job.
The bad news is, three days of rain really put a damper on my burn pile, and even though deep under the top layer wood is smoldering, it is going to take some time for this little mound to level off.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekend Road Trip: Part Four...

We started our final day of the trip fairly early, partly because I was just eager to get out of San Angelo and partly because we knew we wanted to get to Kerrville and look around before getting back into San Antonio to pick up Gracie who was spending time with our daughter.
The drive took us from San Angelo, down to Eldorado and Sonora before jumping on to I-10 and heading east to Kerrville and finally home.

It was like magic.  Within minutes of leaving San Angelo on Highway 277, the view was suddenly wonderful.  Yes, it is pretty much nothing but wide open land with occasional hills or small buttes, but it was a clean, nice drive.
Just as we were getting into the small town of Eldorado, we could see the remains of the old Pave Paws radar off in the distance. It's a shame it was so foggy, but then again, that photo was taken from miles away.

When you drive through this part of Texas (hell, most of Texas outside major cities and towns) you realize that there is just so much wide open space.  I often imagine how many dead bodies are just 100 feet from the highway.  It is no surprise to me that cults take up residence out in the middle of nowhere.
Driving through town we saw a small little radio station, KLDE, so I switched over and we listened to it for as long as the signal lasted.  I'm not sure if the guy we heard was the regular host, but he played just random tunes with no real format.  Oldies, show tunes, country, whatever.  I loved it.
 Post Office in Sonora
It wasn't much further down the road before we hit the small town of Sonora. Not far from the road are the Caverns of Sonora, probably a cool place to visit, but just not our thing, at least not that morning.
After a brief spin around the town, we were on I-10 and headed to Kerrville.  That part of I-10 is really beautiful and the road is well maintained.

We started to get a little rain as we rolled into Kerrville, but that wasn't enough to put a damper on our stop.  Just in town we saw a Visitor's Center, and decided to stop in.  There was an older gentleman inside who gave us quite a tutorial on what was where.  Holding a small town guide, he used pointing motions and inflection to give us a speech he has probably delivered a thousand times.  If you stop in Kerrville, stop and see this man.
 A young lady in the Visitor Center gave us a recommendation for a place to eat.  We  had mentioned wanting to get some Bar-B-Q, and she made a few suggestions, including Buzzie's.  We must have hit it just as the lunch rush was starting because by the time we ordered, the line was starting out the door. 

The potato salad was really good.  We did our usual thing of one getting brisket, the other getting chicken and then splitting.  I can see why people like the place, but I've had better.

We drove down the main street of Kerrville and headed west toward a small town called Hunt.  
We had heard about this place for years but just never made the trip, and since we were just minutes away, why not take a quick look.  I have a passing interest in Stonehenge.  When I was stationed in England and my parents visited, my Dad was really interested in seeing Stonehenge as he had done some sort of report on it in college. 
Seeing this version in Hunt was actually kind of cool given that the pieces are put together they way it was supposed to be.  The real one in England has many of the pieces fallen, so you have to use your imagination to build it in your mind.  Oh, another thing.  This version in Hunt is actually larger than the original.
In addition to the Stonehenge II pieces, the same artists recreated the statues from Easter Island.  They are pretty cool.  This entire set-up is in a small park off the road and there are other art features inside.  Certainly a place to see if you happen to be in the area.

We tracked by through Kerrville and made the trip back home without further incident.  In all, this was a really nice little road trip with lots to see.  We definitely want to go back to Kerrville and perhaps spend a day checking out the shops and such.   In truth, we could have spent two days in Fredericksburg and two days in Kerrville and been happy, but it was nice to see Abilene and San Angelo and the small little towns in between. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekend Road Trip: Part Three...

See, I told you it would take me longer to tell you about our trip than it actually took to do the trip.

On day three of our little Texas road trip, we got up and had an enjoyable breakfast of waffles, eggs, sausage, yogurt and I'm pretty sure, I had at least four or five of those small cups of coffee.  I've often wondered, what prevents some random person from walking into the hotel lobby off the street and just enjoying a nice free breakfast?  I'm sure it happens.

Anyway, we filled up at the Alon, I guess that is the local chain of convenience stores, and got ourselves onto I-20 for the trip over to Sweetwater, Colorado City and down to San Angelo.
 Not a whole lot to tell about this portion of the trip.  What we did find interesting along the drive on I-20 was the miles and miles of windmill energy things.  They are massive.  Around San Antonio, we often see the large propellers being hauled on really long trailers.  When you see one of these things up close and personal, you get an understanding of how massive they are with three blades on a huge mast.  
The one potential stop in Sweetwater was the museum of the WASPs, the Women Air Force Service Pilots that were so important during WWII.  We didn't stop there but instead went into Walmart looking for some Sweetwater themed souvenirs.  No luck.
Colorado City did not prove anymore interesting.  I'm pretty sure the name Hillbilly Depot is offensive to someone, but we got a chuckle out of it.  We turned south on a state highway through miles and miles of nowhere and enjoyed the views.  
At in the middle of nowhere, we drove through the small town of Robert Lee.  I learned later that a colleague of mine from work was from there.  Of course, he told me that his momma got him out of there as quickly as she could!  Seemed like a nice little place, but nothing warranting a stop.

So here is the deal about San Angelo; I've never wanted to go back to that place after spending half a year there thirty years ago.  It has nothing to do with the fine people of the Concho Valley, it has everything to do with the hot, blast furnace  style wind that would make walking from school to my dorm every afternoon.  People think of our part of south central Texas as a blow torch during the summer months, but I promise you, 100 degrees in San Antonio is nothing like the hot wind scorching your face in San Angelo.
Nevertheless, Eva has wanted to go to San Angelo for years, just because so many other people have been there, and it seemed like a place she needed to see.  Our first stop was Goodfellow AFB, and I can tell you, thirty years makes a big difference.  I knew immediately that we were not entering the gate I was familiar with, and in spite of the fact that the base is very small, it took me driving around in circles a few times to get my sense of direction.
 The base has not grown in size, per se, but the number of buildings cram packed into there is unbelievable.   Maybe now, the wind is blocked somewhat by all the buildings.
We took our little tour of the base and then stopped into the BX for a minute.  Eva took a picture that was posted in the restroom and thought it was helpful.  They had the same poster above the men's urinal and I thought to myself, "Oh, this is one of those kinds of Men's rooms."  I know, it is no laughing matter. 
We left the base and immediately headed downtown to explore.  My son had recommended a restaurant called Fuentes Cafe.  That was enough for us to give it a shot, and we made our way in for some quick vittles.
 San Angelo is or at least was the center of all things sheep and mohair, so instead of a bunch of painted cattle downtown, they have artists come in and hand paint sheep.  This is the one sponsored by Fuentes.
I can understand why people like this cafe.  Service was quick, our food was good, and though the chips were stale (we are so spoiled with our regular place) the salsa was good.
We had a quick lunch and continued on our sightseeing of the downtown area.  Oh yea, my crispy taco was no bueno, but the enchiladas were delicious and they were more than generous with the guacamole.
Like any city with a river, San Angelo is making an effort to make the space usable for people to enjoy and perhaps generate business.  The Concho River in the downtown area seems to be the heart of the arts scene and in addition to the aforementioned painted sheep, the city is doing their best to make the place where residents and visitors alike can enjoy visiting.  Kudos to them.  This little tiled truck/picnic bench was just one example of the public art we saw.
Another thing I found interesting was the murals at many locations in the historic arts district.  I recall seeing similar things our our visit to Alpine last year.
We also stopped into a place called Eggmeyer's General Store.  Lots of interesting things in there.  They had some of the nicest large scale model airplanes I've seen.  Such fantastic detail.  I think we spent nearly an hour in that place, but in the end didn't buy a thing.  I should have taken some pictures inside.
After seeing what we could see downtown, and to be honest, deciding it was just too hot to walk around anymore, we checked into our hotel (more on that in a bit) then headed over to the mall to see if there was anything worth looking at.  I recalled Sunset Mall from when I was there back in 1982 and I think it may have still had the same carpet.  You can see both me and the most interesting man in the world standing on it.  Jesus, I'm fat.

So we felt really good about the Hampton Inn as a choice for a hotel.  When we planned our trip and called the one in Fredericksburg for reservations, it just made sense to go ahead and make reservations for Abilene and San Angelo.  I've always been pleased with Hampton Inn's around the country; you get fairly consistent rates, quality of rooms and the whole breakfast thing. 

I don't intend to bore you with our less than stellar stay at the San Angelo Hampton, but let's just say that of the three, it was not the best, it was the most expensive, and it was the only one that caused Eva to vomit into the sink. 

And then I'm just stupid.

After she tells me that the smell from the little overflow thing on the sink caused her to throw-up when she was brushing her teeth, what do I do?  I commence to brush my teeth and like an idiot, I bend over and get a whiff of the same thing.  Oh, and this is after she used Clorox wipes to sanitize everything.  There was this obnoxious sewer gas smell.  I did not throw- up though, I quickly turned toward the shower stall and commenced to dry-heave for a minute or so.  Good times.

Look, we could have made a big deal out of it, but honestly, every single person we encountered at that hotel was nicer than the next.  I have never seen a staff so hell bent on being friendly, no matter what.  You'd think these people work for Oprah.  We did leave a polite note about the smell and still left a tip in our room for the maid.

The breakfast there was not nearly as impressive as the other Hampton Inn's but now I feel like I'm just piling on.  Feel free to just read my review on TripAdvisor.

Coming up, the final day of our trip.  When I can get to it.