The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Harley takes his role as navigator seriously!

Grape Creek Vineyards....Fredricksburg, TX

Late Saturday morning, Steve, Helen, Angus, and I headed towards Fredricksburg TX. Steve took us cross-country on several back country roads. It was really a nice drive and we saw a surprising number of trees changing their colors. Our first stop was Grape Creek Vineyards on the Hwy 290 Wine Trail. I was amazed at how many vineyards and wineries there are now around Fredricsburg especially along Hwy 290 between Fredricksburg and Johnson City.

My DIL joined the Grape Creek Vineyard after an earlier visit with friends. She gets special deals on wine packages as well as free wine tastings for two when she visits. Steve was the designated driver as he isn't a big wine drinker. The vineyard and winery are very nice.

They have outdoor patios for both members and nonmembers.

They also have a Trattoria where you can order pizza or cheese/cracker trays. We had three different kinds of pizza (personal size) although neither Helen or I could finish ours so we had take homes.

We went to one of the member's patios to do our wine sampling.

We both like the same kind of wines.......definitely not dry.

It was nice enough to be outside for lunch and tastings but they do have an indoor area in the gift shop as well.

It was a really nice way to enjoy several hours.

We only visited the one vineyard on this trip because we also wanted to visit Fredricksburg. We walked around to see the sights and people-watch. Angus wasn't really sure about these fish moving around right under his nose.

Fredricksburg was definitely a busy place.

It was great to be back in Fredricksburg but it was way too short so another trip will have to made in the near future. You can't visit here too often....there is always something to see.

Teenager In The House...Cam's Birthday

It's hard to believe but it's true.....our grandson is a teenager. Cameron hit the big 13. So far he hasn't grown any horns and continues to be his same loveable self. This is the family birthday hat in case you were wondering. My DIL found it and it became a tradition.

They took the kids and a friend ice skating in the afternoon. Then we did the traditional family dinner (birthday boy's choice) and then the birthday cake. Helen moves so fast she blurs.

They got a cake with a Capt America and Ironman picture. Cam thought it looked great and it was delicious.

I found out that Cameron has been playing disc golf with his friends so I found a set of discs for different purposes and a special bag for them.

Dad and Helen got tickets for an Indoor Car Racing adventure. Cameron was really excited about that. They went the next day and had a ball driving the miniature race cars....Cameron got to drive the adult cars so he was extra thrilled.
This was the second birthday celebration as he already had one up in Brownwood with his mom and friends there. All in all, I think he had a really great birthday.

Old Mesilla NM

Friday morning we headed over to check out Old Town Mesilla which was only a couple of miles from our RV park. We had no idea what to expect. Prior to 1800, Mesilla was simply a camping or stopping place for Indians and Spaniards. Permanent settlers came to Mesilla after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Constant attacks by Apaches were a huge problem until they formed their own militia and retaliated. In 1851 Fort Fillmore was established to provide some protection. As a result of the Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mesilla ended up within a strip of land claimed by both Mexico and the U.S. basically a "no-man's" land. Due to the closeness to Fort Fillmore, Mesilla became the supply center. In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase declared Mesilla officially part of the U.S. Along came the Civil War. In 1861, Colonel Baylor and 220 Texas Mounted Rifles arrived in Mesilla and the Union troops abandoned Fort Fillmore. Baylor raised the Confederate flag and established the short-lived territory of Arizona with Mesilla as it's capitol. In 1862, the Confederates ran short of food and retreated to Texas. Billy the Kid and other notorious figures frequented Mesilla. Billy was even tried there and sentenced to hang; however, that didn't happen. In the 1880's, Mesilla was a lively social scene but by 1881, the railroad by-passed Mesilla in favor of Las Cruces and it was downhill from there. With little growth, there was little change which resulted in what you see there today.

Interesting bed and breakfast.

The Plaza is a pretty place and, no doubt, much livelier on weekends and during the summer. It was very quiet while we were ther.

There are signs with information about the history of Mesilla.

Note the "M" and "54" noted in the sign above.

This building is the oldest documented brick building in the state of New Mexico. Construction began in 1860.

There are a lot of restaurants located in the old town area.

If you have read many of my posts from New Mexico, you will remember that Billy the Kid really got around this whole area.

The Fountain Theater dates back to 1905 and is still in use. It is now the home of the Mesilla Valley Film Society which features foreign and alternative films nightly. 

This restaurant was absolutely huge. On another side, a worker was reapplying adobe in an effort to restore crumbling areas.

The Saint Albino Catholic Church has been a parish since 1852. We had hoped to view the beautiful stained glass windows and interior but the church was locked......very surprising for a Catholic Church.

We enjoyed our visit to Mesilla but it would have been much better with some activity going on. On a side note, we stopped at the Visitor's Center which was in the lobby of the local government offices. They had absolutely no information on Mesilla at all although they had lots of pamphlets and brochures on other places in New Mexico. We tried to ask some questions about what we might be missing. One gentleman sitting behind the desk apologized and said he didn't work there and didn't know. He said the man next to him was the employee.....and then commented about how helpful it would be if the man quit playing on his phone and helped us.  Not a good way to treat visitors to your town who are actually interested in seeing thing.

White Sands National Monument

One of the reasons we planned a couple of nights in Las Cruses New Mexico was because we wanted to take advantage of the proximity of White Sands National Monument. It's about a 50 mile drive that takes over an hour. Because you pass through the White Sands Missile Range which covers 3200 square miles over 5 counties, there are times when the road is closed down due to rocket testing. Locals are used to this but we, luckily, did not experience it. We weren't sure what the weather was going to do but you take what you get when you travel.

The Visitor's Center is a typical Southwest style that I really like. They have plenty of parking and even have lane parking for RVs which is nice if you have your rig with you. Our rigs were back at the RV park.

It is always good to read all the information available at the park before you begin sightseeing. Sometimes there are lots of surprises. I should mention that the park is located at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert in a mountain-ringed valley knows as the Tularosa Basin. The desert sand is your typical beige color until you get to the park where the sand is glistening white gypsum which covers 275 square miles and has created the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

There are special ranger led events at various times and days of the year and you may need reservations for them so be sure to check the White Sands National Monument website before you visit. We just wanted to see this unique area and there is a drive which provides a good view of the northeast section of the park.

Once you get inside the Visitor's Center, there is lots more information. 275 million years ago, west Texas, southern New Mexico, and southern Arizona were covered by a shallow sea. Over millions of years, the sea rose and fell repeatedly leaving gypsum deposits behind as the water evaporated. The Tularosa Basin began forming 30 million years ago as the Earth's crust broke into multiple low-lying areas surrounded by mountains. Only 2 to 3 million years ago, the ancient Rio Grande River began flowing through a pass and depositing sand across the lower Tularosa Basin. Things began drying out.

Lake Lucero is located in the southwest section of the park far from any roads so you won't be seeing that. Rain and snow in the mountains dissolve gypsum from the rocks and carry it into the Tularosa Basin. Normally, the dissolved gypsum would flow through rivers to the sea but there are no rivers in the basin so it is trapped. Flat beds of selenite crystals form. Freezing, thawing, wetting, and drying eventually break down the crystals into sand-size particles light enough to be moved by the wind.

Animals and birds adapt to their surroundings to survive so they are much lighter colored in this area.

Plants also adapt to survive as the dunes move through. Some develop much longer roots while some grow taller rapidly. Once the sand moves on, the plants often collapse.

There is also a short movie you should take advantage of in the Visitor's Center.

One thing you should know is that the first four miles of the road are considered a Safety Zone. Unfortunately, there is no explanation as to why this is so and it certainly doesn't equate to the other Safety Corridors in New Mexico. It is not due to the missile testing as the park closes if that is an issue. The lack of information leaves you wondering if you will actually be able to get any pictures or take in the uniqueness of the area. The park could really do a better job with this by providing explanations and the knowledge that there will be many photo opportunities down the road than just having a ranger swoop down on motorists leaving them with the feeling they are dangerous criminals. We experienced it and saw it happen repeatedly while we were driving this section of the road. Don't slow down even the slightest bit.

The plants began to decrease exposing more of the pristine sand.

Sand has to be plowed off the road occasionally.

There is a boardwalk area where you can park and walk out over the sand.

There are signs with information about things you might see.

There are footprints all over in the sand around the boardwalk where people should obviously not be walking. Some ranger patrolling in this area would make a lot more sense. There are plenty of areas ahead where you are encouraged to get out and experience the sand. Again, more information on this fact would be helpful and beneficial to the park and the visitors.

After we left the boardwalk area, we saw sand that looked like it was at the bottom of a shallow lake but it is the wind that creates these waves.

Further along the road, playing in the dunes is encouraged. The Visitor's Center actually sells what we used to call "flying saucers" up north. They work as well in the sand as they do on snowhills. There are lots of picnic tables out here as well with suncovers/windblocks to make your picnic more enjoyable. There are also porta-potties and parking lots to make life easier. All in all, we enjoyed this very unique park.