Back Home in Texas (May 9 – June 18, 2016)

After being out West for two months, it felt kind of strange to cross the border back into Texas and to reset our clocks to Central time.  We had not originally planned to return to Texas so soon (especially in the heat of the summer) but our HMO insurance made it necessary.  We had already scheduled a slew of doctor, dentist, and vision checkups for our return to Kerrville.

Canyon / Amarillo, TX

On May 9th we survived an extremely windy drive to Canyon, TX where we had reserved a site at the Palo Duro RV Park for three nights.  We had a very nice site but most of our neighbors appeared to be permanent residents and the campground felt like a ghost town during the day.

On May 10th the wind had subsided a lot but the forecast called for a high of nearly 90 degrees so we decided to take it easy.  There really wasn’t much to see in Canyon or Amarillo but we went out to see some of the attractions.  Our first stop was at the Cadillac Ranch where a number of old Cadillacs were partially buried in the middle of a large pasture.  We watched several people spray painting messages on the cars.

Next we visited the 2nd Amendment Cowboy.  In addition to the large cowboy statue, there were vintage Cadillacs once owned by John Wayne, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley. IMG_5707

Our next stop was at the Big Texas Steak Ranch where they offer a free dinner if you can eat a 72 oz. steak dinner in an hour.  Not only do you have to finish the 72 oz. steak but you also have to eat a shrimp cocktail, dinner salad and a baked potato.  We passed up the challenge.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

On May 11th we visited the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, surpassed only by the Grand Canyon.  It is approximately 120 miles long and 600 to 800 deep.  We hiked the 6-mile Lighthouse Trail. The ascent to see the Lighthouse rock formation was quite steep.

After the hike we visited the Pioneer Amphitheater in one of the canyons where musicals are performed in the summer.

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Lubbock, TX

On May 12th we drove to Lubbock, TX, a two-hour drive that was mostly on I-27.  We stayed for two nights at Camelot Village, a large RV community that is populated predominantly by long-term residents.

We spent May 13th sightseeing in Lubbock.  Our first stop was at the National Ranching Heritage Center on the campus of Texas Tech University.  The 27.5-acre facility was established to preserve the history of ranching, pioneer life and the development of the livestock industry in North America. We walked along a 1.5-mile trail that took us to over 40 structures representing the history of ranching from the 1780s to 1950s. It was very interesting and illustrated how difficult ranching life was in the early years.

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Next we went to the Buddy Holly Center. The Buddy Holly Gallery is shaped like a guitar and contains exhibit cases that follow his youth and early career in Lubbock to his last concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. Buddy Holly’s Fender Stratocaster and his famed horn-rimmed glasses were some of the artifacts displayed. We also toured the home of J. I. Allison who, with Buddy Holly, were the original founding members of the Crickets. It was in this house that Holly and Allison wrote the hit songs “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue.” Finally we watched a video covering Buddy Holly’s life and the influence his short musical career had on other musicians such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

For lunch we headed to The Shack, a BBQ restaurant that was unimpressive from the outside but served delicious food. Phil had pork ribs and beef brisket. Jan had a beef brisket sandwich. The portions were huge and the BBQ was some of the best we’d ever had.

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Abilene, TX

On May 14th we drove 173 miles to Buck Creek RV Park, about 6 miles east of Abilene. The manager was not on site but he had left a map showing how to find our campsite. The site was somewhat rutted but was about 100’ in length so we had no trouble finding a level spot. Phil drove the truck back into Abilene for refueling but, other than that, we didn’t do anything in Abilene.

Kerrville, TX

On May 15th we drove 197 miles to Buckhorn Lake Resort where we will stay for a month. Since we had spent January and February at Buckhorn, it felt like coming home again. The campground was not as full as it had been in the winter but there were more campers than we had expected.

The first site we were assigned was under some large trees. After unhooking and starting to set up, we realized the rooftop satellite dish would possibly have a problem with the tree branches. After trying unsuccessfully to get a signal for about 20 minutes, we decided to move. Fortunately the woman in the office was able to rearrange the schedule and find us a more open campsite at the end of a row. The new site had the additional advantage of overlooking the pickleball courts so we were able to see when people were playing.

 On May 17th our quiet evening was rudely interrupted when something hit our living room slide with a large bang around 10 pm. It didn’t take long before the initial bang was followed by a torrential hail and lightning storm with many hailstones as large as tennis balls and golf balls. The sound inside our rig was almost deafening and the onslaught continued nonstop for 20 minutes. This was followed by strong winds that had our rig shaking. We would have liked to have taken shelter somewhere safer but the combination of hail and lightning discouraged us from any thoughts of going out into the storm. We finally went to bed around midnight although it was still raining hard and we were still seeing occasional lightning.

The next morning we got our first opportunity to survey the damage. The most obvious damage was to our Nissan Altima which had the entire back window broken out and the front windshield, although still intact, was smashed in numerous places. The car had dents all over. Our Ram 3500 (although less apparent in the photos) sustained even more severe denting and the windshield was cracked in several places, although all the glass was still in place. Phil called USAA immediately to report the damage and their response was fantastic. They had a wrecker on site within 20 minutes to haul the Altima away. They arranged for us to get a rental car from Enterprise. Unfortunately, since Enterprise had also sustained heavy hail damage, it took a couple of days before we could get the rental car. By the second day, USAA let us know they had determined the Altima was totaled since the damage was over $11,000. The estimate to repair the Ram was over $12,000 since virtually every panel on the truck needed to be replaced. The estimated time for repairing the Ram was 28 days, although the person at the collision center hoped it would be slightly less. Fortunately we were scheduled to be in Kerrville until June 15th. USAA definitely lived up to their good reputation as they were very responsive and kept us informed through every step. Surprisingly, despite $23,000 in damage to our two vehicles, our RV which was parked between the two vehicles appears to have sustained almost no damage. We reported the claim anyway and have requested an adjuster to take a look at our rig just to see if they spot any damage we may have missed.  The adjuster ultimately only identified damage to the satellite dish and the damages were estimated to be about $1,800.

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On May 26th we visited the Kerrville Visitors Center to get information on local events during the balance of our stay.  We timed this well as we were offered two free tickets to the opening night of the Kerrville Folk Festival.  We were already aware of the Folk Festival but had decided we didn’t want to spend $30 a ticket to attend. Free tickets definitely changed our decision.  The Kerrville Folk Festival lasts for 18 days and is held on Quiet Valley Ranch, about 9 miles south of town.  The festival has run annually since 1972 and is the longest running folk festival in the U.S.  We stayed for almost three hours but left early when the lightning in the distance became more frequent.  We made it to within 5 miles of our campsite when the storm hit with a fury.  We managed to make it home but got soaked getting from the car to our rig.  The storm was similar in strength to the one on May 17th but the hailstones were much smaller.  Fortunately there was no damage to our rental car.

We picked up the Nissan from the collision center on May 27th. Although USAA has assessed the car to be a total loss, we had decided to hold onto it anyway since it only had 46,000 miles on it and was mechanically sound. Appearance-wise, it’s hard to overlook the hail damage which Jan is trying to describe as giving the car “character.” When we got the car home, we discovered that there was still an inch of water in the spare tire well and the rear mats were still damp. Fortunately we had a sunny day which enabled us to dry out the interior of the car. The collision center had vacuumed out most of the broken glass but we are still finding plenty of pieces they missed. While we were at the collision center, Phil got to see the progress of the repairs to our Ram 3500. There were so many panels removed from the truck that it looked like it was still on the assembly line.

Due to the hot weather and damage to our vehicles, we didn’t do as much sightseeing this trip as we did when we were in Kerrville during the winter. However, we did venture out on a drive to Hunt, TX to see the famous “boot fence.” The fence runs about ¼ mile along the road in front of a ranch. Over time people have stuck old boots on each of the fence posts.

On June 7th, we had a free day with no doctor or dentist appointments so we drove in to San Antonio. We did some necessary shopping at Kohl’s, Sam’s Club and REI and then headed to the Riverwalk for lunch. We surveyed our options for lunch but finally ended up at the same BBQ restaurant we had visited in December. It was quite hot so we  chose to sit inside with the A/C rather than outside along the Riverwalk. After lunch we visited the Witte Museum, partially in an effort to avoid the rush hour traffic. The museum had an array of offerings but we spent most of our time in the air-conditioned Texas heritage building.

Phil continued to play pickleball almost every morning before the temperature got too hot. We also took advantage of the campground’s two pools to escape the afternoon heat.

On June 10th we returned to Tonya’s Our House food truck in Ingram for the fried catfish plate. We hadn’t been there since the winter. The popularity of the open mic night seems to have grown greatly since then. The seating area was much larger and, despite the heat, the crowd was twice as large as when we were last there. As usual, the performers were mostly good old country boys from the local area. It is scheduled from 6 – 8 pm but we were there until almost 9 pm and they still had quite a few performers on the sign-up list.

Although we had originally planned to leave Kerrville on June 15th, there were delays in getting our truck back from the collision center. After they put the truck back together again, one of the headlights did not work. After a couple of days of trying to find the source of the issue, the truck was sent to the local Dodge dealer. Ultimately the problem was identified as a faulty Body Control Module (BCM) which controls many of the vehicle’s electrical functions. A new BCM was overnighted to the Dodge dealer and the problem was resolved. The total repair job cost over $13,000 but fortunately we only had to pay the $250 deductible. The truck looked brand new when we got it back.

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We decided to extend our stay in Kerrville for an extra three days to give Phil a chance to drive the truck around town and make sure everything was working as expected. We finally left Kerrville on June 18th and began our trip to the Chicago area.

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