Trey Ratcliff/Flickr Creative Commons
San Antonio sits just south of Right In The Middle Of, Texas on I-10 and it is a sprawling modern city surrounded by Air Force bases and home to a pretty well known Professional Basketball Team. What some of y’all may not know is that is also home to 5 surviving Missions from Texas’ days as a Spanish then Mexican colony. One of those Missions is world famous through story, myth, legend, and of course film.
The Alamo’s real name is San Antonio de Valero and was founded in the early 1700’s as a. Of course it is best known as the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 where the Texian defenders lost a 13 day siege to Mexican President and General Santa Anna. After Texas became a republic and then joined the United States, the US Army as well as the Confederate Army briefly, used the Alamo as a storehouse until the 1870’s. But it wasn’t until the 1890’s that any thoughts of preservation as a historical monument arose. It was preserved by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas preserved the Alamo and continue after 100 years to be the stewards of that Mission.
The next oldest surviving San Antonio Mission is San Jose. Built in the 1720’s, San Juan was restored in the 1930’s by the WPA and is now part of the National Park Service. Like the other Missions in the area, San Juan’s primary focus was on converting local Native Americans to Catholicism as well as creating a marketplace for trade. It was the largest Mission in the area and because of that had the nickname “Queen of Missions”.
San Juan Capistrano was built later than the Missions de Valero and San Jose, and was never quite finished. San Juan started out life in east Texas, but was moved to the banks of the San Antonio River at the end of the 1720’s. It was an agricultural center with a granary included as part of the complex. Due to it’s agricultural as well as economic importance, it survived longer than some other Missions in the state because it was able to trade surplus goods as far east as Louisiana, and as far south as Mexico.
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuña, better known as simply “Concepcion” is considered by many to be the most beautiful of the 5 surviving San Antonio Missions. Ironically enough, she is also the oldest unrestored stone church in North America. Built in the early 1730’s Concepcion was painted in colorful patterns and some of the original frescos are still visible inside.
Mission San Fransisco de la Espada, now known as “Espada” was another east Texas Mission moved to the San Antonio area in the early 1730’s. The church was finished in 1756, and is considered one of the most beautiful chapels of the remaining Missions surviving throughout Texas.
San Antonio is on I-10 is you’re traveling east/west, or I-35 if you’re traveling south, and I-37 if you’re coming up from the south. Before you hit the road, please come say howdy to us at PPL Motorhomes.com for all your parts and accessories!
That Other Paper/Flickr Creative Commons
Bob Wills is still the king!! No less an authority than the likes of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, or Willie Nelson Himself have proclaimed the everlasting influence of Texas’ own Bob Wills’ impact on country music in general, and Texas music specifically. Good news is, Bob Wills’ hometown of Turkey, TX up in the panhandle plays host to Bob Will’s Days the last Saturday of every April. This years festivities kick off on the weekend of April 24-26.
Over the years the festival has been a reunion of sorts of the last remaining Texas Playboys who backed Bob Wills from the 30’s through to the very early 70’s before Bob’s stroke. Now it is a celebration of one of the most fun-loving music forms native to Texas: Western Swing. You can eat BBQ, drink beer, and kick up dust to some of the most talented old-timers and next generation musicians this Fine State has produced. Back in the day if you got unruly, they wouldn’t throw you in jail…they’d toss you in a stock trailer until you got your wits about you then let you back out to enjoy the weekend, no harm done. This year they are having their 4th annual BBQ Cookoff, there’s a dance every night, the Lions Club offers suppers, and the high school cheerleaders are running the concessions. If you like small town, out-in-the-country fun, this fest is for you.
Turkey, TX is in that part of the state that is so flat, you could stand on a beer can and see the North Pole! You can get there from I-40 by heading south on Hwy 70 through Clarendon, or if you’re heading out from the Dallas area, take 287 through Wichita Falls and Childress until it intersects 86. Head west on 86 until you’ve got Turkey in your sights. What’s your favorite Bob Wills tune? “Faded Love”? “San Antonio Rose”? Leave a comment in the section below and tell us all about it, and remember to visit PPL Motorhomes.com before you hit the trail!
jeffreyw/Flickr Creative Commons
You’ll probably remember that we’ve talked in previous blogs about how to make pure southern style cornbread, as well as covering quite a few Southwest style and Tex-Mex dishes? Well how about combining the two ideas? How does making some Southwest Style Cornbread strike you? Well whip out the skillet and some butter and let’s get started!
Here’s what you’re going to need: Some regular old cornbread mix of your favorite variety (preferably the kind you have to add butter to), some frozen corn, a can of Hatch green chiles, and some fresh green onions. Before we get started, dice up the green onions and melt some butter in the skillet.
While the butter is melting rapidly, grab a bowl and add the cornbread mix, pour the butter from the skillet into the mix and follow the directions on the package for mixing. Add in a half cup of the frozen corn, and half the can of Hatch green chiles and mix them in. Pour the batter into the already warm buttered skillet (doesn’t that phrase just make you hungry by itself?) and sprinkle a half cup of diced green onions onto the top of the batter, as well as a pinch or three of shredded cheddar if you like that green chile cheeseburger flavor…without the burger of course. Bake at the temp and time noted on your particular package of cornbread mix. Then all you’ll have to do it let it cool and eat it! Of course, if you have a large skillet and need to add another package of cornbread mix, don’t forget to increase the corn and green onions to a full cup, and use the full can of the Hatch chiles.
If the mix of Hatch chiles and corn flavors don’t take you on a brief tasty trip straight to New Mexico on a warm summer day, even if it’s colder than an igloo’s toilet seat outside, well then…you just need to travel more! And before you hit the road come springtime, please be sure and swing by PPL Motorhomes.com for all your parts and accessories!
daveynin/Flickr Creative Commons
Most folks know about the Big Bend area of Texas, either because of the gigantic National Park, and the equally big State Park, or because of it’s use as the setting for “Giant”, the film starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Dean died during filming, but Giant earned Dean his second Oscar Nomination and also contributed to the world’s assumptions of Texas and how we Texans should be. But there is so much more to this area than the usual haunts, film sets, and the I-10 corridor. Today we’re going to take the old trail through Big Bend Country, today we’re gonna ride on Alt 90 through some beautiful empty sections filled with gorgeous scenery, ghost towns, and history.
Today we’ll start on Route 90 from I-10 in Van Horn. 90 head south initially and goes through pecan orchards and semi-ghost towns left mostly abandoned with the decline of the railroads as an employment source. You’ll pass through “towns” like Valentine, you’ll pass the fake Prada Store, and finally you’ll arrive in Marfa which we’ve discussed at length in previous blogs. After Marfa, 90 will pass the Marfa Lights Viewing Area before winding it’s way through the mesas en route to Alpine, TX which has also been dealt with at length in previous blogs. 90 continues on to the east and south before passing through the picturesque town of Marathon.
Marathon, TX is a neat little west Texas town of about 500 souls. It also has been used as a filming location for the Kevin Costner movie Fandango as well as Paris, TX which starred Harry Dean Stanton. There is also the luxurious Gage Hotel in town. Built in the 1920’s the Gage is an oasis of comfort surrounded by rugged country. Don’t forget to fuel up!
The next town to the east of Marathon is Sanderson. Sanderson is another small west Texas town of less than 400 folks, as well as being a former hub of the railroad. Be sure to fuel up in Sanderson because it’s a long way to Del Rio!
Remember, before you hit the road on a long trip through the empty quarters, be sure to visit us at PPL Motorhomes to stock up on all the necessities!
Mr.TinDC/Flickr Creative Commons
There’s something about ghost towns; something about standing on a street of a deserted town dating from who knows how many years ago, and wondering where everybody went. That’s usually the first question that pops into my head, “Where did everybody go? And why?” Can you imagine being the last resident in town, how lonely that must feel? Most of the ghost towns in New Mexico became that way because of the death of whatever industry supported the town. The mines closed, the rail road went somewhere else, cattle or wool prices dropped too far, the Army left, things as simple as that.
Lake Valley, NM was a silver town in southwest New Mexico. You can reach it from I-10 in Deming by taking Hwy 26 northeast until it intersects 27. Or if you’re headed north from Las Cruces on I-25, head southwest on Hwy 26 until it intersects 27. Lake Valley is now nothing more than a cluster of old buildings, derelict cars, and bottles The Bella Hotel still stands, sort of. Walking tours are available in daylight hours and the town is jointly privately owned as well as owned by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s off the beaten path, but it is a fascinating time capsule of what if’s.
Golden, NM was a gold town in north central New Mexico. You can reach it by taking Hwy 14 north from I-40 just east of Albuquerque. Golden has become somewhat re-inhabited as the 2010 census showed a population of 35-40. There is a beautiful old pueblo style church built in the 1830’s , and Golden is the site of the first gold rush west of the Mississippi, back in the late 1820’s.
These are but two suggestions located near interstates because that’s how the majority of us seem to travel these days, but there are literally hundreds of ghost towns speckled across New Mexico. Before you head out on the trail this driving season, please swing by PPL Motorhomes for any parts or accessories you might need on the road!
Harry Pherson/Flickr Creative Commons
Spring and summer will be here before you know it, so wouldn’t it be nice to have a good idea of a few more interesting places to take the RV? I got to thinking about some of the older roads and thought that a trip down Route 66 might be nice. Route 66 was one of the original highways in America once it became obvious that cars were here to stay and they were multiplying like rabbits. The route ran from Chicago on the eastern side, ended at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, CA and went through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. A lot of the old route was used for I-40 but there are still twists, turns and pockets of the original road scattered about the southwest. Today we’ll talk about some of the Arizona portions, and specifically the ghost towns!
With a name like “Two Guns” you know this town has an interesting past. Oddly enough, it’s kinda a fake. It was built after Route 66 was constructed! I mean the town does have a past, it was the site of a major battle between Apaches and Navajos and there is a cave near the town that it’s claimed was the site of the death of 40+ Apaches who were burned out by the Navajos, but the structures were all built int he early 20th century as a straight-up Old West style tourist trap for early motorists heading “out west”. The town has burned to the ground completely at least twice with the last fire occurring in 1977. Rumor has it that Russell Crowe has purchased this ghost town for use as a movie set for an upcoming project. It is 30 or so miles east of Flagstaff and has it’s own exit.
Who wouldn’t want to go to a town called Chloride? Sounds awesome right? Probably smells like sweet ambrosia too. Chloride is an old mining town, founded in the 1860’s, with a legitimate past. It’s heyday was in the early 20th century when there were over 75 mines operating in the area. Currently there are only a handful of folks living in Chloride, but they are working very hard to elevate Chloride from “Ghost Town” to “Tourist Trap” as the folks in Tombstone have managed to do.
These are only two of the many interesting places to visit on the old Mother Highway in Arizona, but don’t forget to visit us at PPL Motorhomes before you head west!
Terry Ross/Flickr Creative Commons
Fingers crossed, spring will arrive soon and the water in the Gulf of Mexico will begin to warm up because when it does, we’re headed to Corpus Christi! Corpus is in that magical spot on the Texas Gulf Coast where the water changes from the silty brown of further east to the clear greens and blues of further south. It’s also just by a world-renowned vacation spot: South Padre Island. So with all the wishful thinking of warm sun, warm water, cool breeze, and soft humidity, let’s take a pretend trip down to Corpus and see what there is to do.
Easiest way to get to Corpus is to take I-37 south from I-10 in San Antonio. It’s a decent sized city, so expect all the usual amenities, as well as being on the coast so expect all the usual water-borne activities. Two things Corpus has that no other Texas coastal town has are the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium
The USS Lexington is the oldest surviving aircraft carrier in the world. Originally built during WWII it was nicknamed “The Blue Ghost” because of the Japanese reporting it sunk so many times. She served until 1991 making her the last Essex class carrier in service. She was used in the movies “Midway” starring Charlton Heston and “Pearl Harbor” starring Ben Affleck. Now she is a museum ship moored at 2914 North Shoreline Boulevard.
The Texas State Aquarium is located right next to the Lexington that features many exhibits. One thing you can do there at the Texas State Aquarium that you can’t do just anywhere is touch a shark, or stingray! They have a few displays where you can actually reach into the water and touch a the animals. Who would have thought there would ever be an underwater petting zoo?
What are some of your favorite places in Corpus? Drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us about it! And don’t be shy, come on by PPL Motorhomes and say hi!
Infrogmation of New Orleans/Flickr Creative Commons
America is blessed with so many towns and cities that are world famous for music. Jazz, Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Gospel, Hip-Hop, and Rock N Roll were all born and bread right here in the United States. Whatever your musical taste, there is a destination city to accommodate you.
New Orleans is home to it’s own unique style of jazz as well as being a performing home to other indigenous Louisiana musical styles such as Cajun and Zydeco. The New Orleans brass bands perform on the street in the French Quarter such as Bourbon St., or Frenchman St. They are lively, spontaneous, funky, full of fun and cheeky lyrics. Nothing quite like a New Orleans street party y’all! Add to this the fact that the bars are open 24 hours a day, there’s a good chance the party will last as long as you do and probably longer! New Orleans is also home to two of the most respected music festivals in the world: New Orleans Jazzfest, and Voodoo Fest.
Austin has been famous in the past for being the unofficial home of Outlaw Country and Texas Blues, now it’s moniker is “Live Music Capitol Of The World”. 6th St might be it’s most famous entertainment district, but South Congress is quickly gaining especially for the “already out of college” crowd. Austin features honky-tonks, discoteques, raves, pool halls, juke joints, as well as some of the world’s most famous music festivals: SXSW, and ACL.
The official home of Country music as well as the state capitol, Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Several wonderful, famous old theaters are located there as well: Ryman Auditorium – home of The Grand Ole Opry until 1974, the Belcourt Theatre, and Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Nashville also hosts the Country Music Awards every year.
No matter where you travel, music is always nearby, and is a fun way to spend an evening, much better than hunkering in the camper clicking through the channels! Before you travel, don’t forget to come say hi to us at PPL Motorhomes for all your parts and accessories!
Aaron Headly/Flickr Creative Commons
I thought I would write about a somewhat unusual RV destination today, Battleship museums! They’re great for physical exercise because they’re very large ships with lots of climbing involved, they’re covered in big guns so the kids will love making bang noises, and you have a chance to appreciate what the previous generations have gone through to ensure our freedoms are preserved. Needless to say these museums and memorials are out on the coast, or on major rivers, so if you’re headed to the seaside for fishing, boating, or beaching, why not swing by one of these steel behemoths and pay respects?
Luckily these floating memorials are scattered out across the country, so regardless of which part of the nation you are traveling through there should be one or two in the region. Here is a list of the surviving Big Boys on display:
- Mobile, AL – USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park
- San Pedro, CA – USS Iowa at Pacific Battleship Center
- Pearl Harbor, HI – USS Missouri at Battleship Missouri Memorial
- Fall River, MA – USS Massachusetts at Battleship Cove
- Wilmington, NC USS North Carolina
- Camden, NJ – USS New Jersey at Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial
- Norfolk, VA – USS Wisconsin at Nauticus Maritime Center
- LaPorte, TX – USS Texas at San Jacinto State Park
Needless to say, the USS Texas is our favorite here at PPL Motorhomes. She is the oldest museum battleship in the country and was the first to be commemorated back in 1947. She served with distinction in operations during World War 1 and World War 2 where she fought in all major theaters of operation and earned 5 battle stars and only lost one man. Ironically she is a member of the New York class of ship, but we won’t hold that against her because she’s a beautiful old Lady who was commissioned 100 years ago this March!
Lee Ruk/Flickr Creative Common
It strikes me that Texas is pretty hot come July, and even worse when August rolls around, and that’s got me to thinking about summer travels already. Thinking about dusting off the RV and heading for the mountains where the air is clear… and the temperature about 65 degrees. What’s great about Texas, though, is that we’re only one drive away from the mountains in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Admittedly, it’s quite the drive if you’re in the eastern half!
One very out-of-the-ordinary activity you can enjoy in that area is riding behind an old steam engine through the mountains. There are two famous steam train operations in that area: the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad based out of Chama, NM and the Durango and Silverton based in Durango, CO.
The Cumbres and Toltec is based in Chama, NM and runs through Cumbres Pass and Toltec Gorge through to Antonito, CO. It was built by the Denver and Rio Grande railroad back in the 1880’s mainly in support of mining operations in the San Juan mountains and is a narrow gauge railway. It was finally abandoned in the 1960’s until the Antonito-Chama line was purchased by both states of Colorado and New Mexico to be operated as a scenic railway for tourists. Now you can enjoy a ride through some beautiful scenery as the train pulls you through the 10,000 plus foot Cumbres Pass up to Osier where you can get out, stretch your legs, have lunch and either continue on to Antonito or return to Chama. It’s a wonderful way of seeing the beautiful San Juan mountains as well as introducing the younger generations to the historic style of travel.
Meanwhile in Durango, CO there is another narrow gauge railroad available for rides between Durango and Silverton, CO. It too was originally built by the Denver and Rio Grande back in the 1880’s to support silver and gold mining in the San Juans, and the stretch of track between Durango and Silverton has been in continuous use since 1881. Think about that for a minute. It’s 2015 now, which means this stretch of track might be the only place in the United States where steam locomotives have been working for 134 straight years!! The ride is 45 miles through beautiful country, very reminiscent of the Old West, because frankly, it IS the Old West.
This would make a wonderful summer get away, and if you do decide to head that way, tell them PPL Motorhomes says howdy!