Nick/Flickr Creative Commons
There’s something simultaneously fascinating and eerie about entering a true ghost town. The feeling of being surrounded by symbols of human civilization, and stability, yet all the people are gone is a strange one but it’s also very educational. Seeing how different groups of people came together for whatever reason, and what they did to solve the problems of water, food, sanitation, education, and survival against the elements is very enlightening. Before the days of every town looking the same with the same McDonald’s, the same Walmarts, the same Valero Stations — towns were very very individualistic and we’re going to talk about a few towns you can visit today where everyone has disappeared.
Bodie, CA, is one of those ghost towns that is actually maintained. Maintained in a state of “arrested decay” as I believe the quote goes. The State of California has made Bodie a State Park back in the ’60’s to preserve the town as an example of California’s gold rush era town, being founded somewhere around 1859. The town sprang up to a population of almost 5-7000 people and 2000 buildings after a mine cave-in exposed a rich vein of pay dirt. Folks started drifting away by the late 1880’s and the mine company starting to shut things down just prior to WWI. By the 1940’s less than ten folks lived in Bodie, acting as caretakers of the town for the family that owned the land.
NAParish/Flickr Creative Commons
Rhyolite, NV, is another gold rush town, being founded in the early 1900’s when gold was discovered on nearby Bullfrog Mountain. The legend goes, Rhyolite was a 2 man mining camp in January 1905. Two weeks later it had a population of 1200, and a mere six months later in June 1905 it had a population of 2500 souls, over 50 saloons, 16 hotels, a couple of those after hours establishments, and a weekly newspaper. By 1911, a mere six years later, the mine was closed. In 1922 only one inhabitant was left…a 92 year old man, who passed away two years later. The townsite is now maintained by the BLM and it has been used in several movies as well.
Remember though y’all, before you head out into the desert chasing ghosts, visit us at PPLmotorhomes.com for all those parts and accessories that keep your wheels turning!
Adam Baker/Flickr Creative Commons
Ah, beer. Is there nothing it cannot do? I realize Shiner, TX, has more going on than just the Spoetzl Brewery, but let’s face it, when you say Shiner, I’m going to say Bock. It’s almost a Pavlovian response. So let’s talk Shiner, TX, and a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery shall we?
Firstly, Shiner is easily accessed from I-10 by driving south on Highway 95 in Flatonia. You’ll drive through Moulton, and then on into Shiner and the Spoetzl Brewey will be on your right as you enter town on 95. But since this is a brewery tour, let’s take some precautions. The Boggy Creek RV Park is located at 550 Country Road 350. Take 16th St from the brewery, turn right on County Road 351, and a left onto County Road 350 and you’re there.
Here’s why precautions must be taken: When you come into the gift shop at the Spoetzl Brewery, they’ll hand you four wooden nickels. Those wooden nickels are good for four very tiny little cups of incredibly fresh Shiner beers. Those tiny little cups will actually have a pretty noticeable affect! Better drink your beers… uh, I mean enjoy the tasting room, before you head out on the tour of the brewery so you can walk if off so to speak! They’re expanding at the moment and have some ongoing construction, so the tours are a little more limited at the moments than in months past, but the construction has not affected the tasting room. Which is air conditioned. And the beer is free.
After your tour, be sure to head downtown and grab some lunch. Shiner, TX, is home to some very good “mom ‘n pop” style eateries: Antiques Art and Beer for the best beer, art, and antiques in town, El Vaquero or La Terraza de Jalisco if you’re in the mood for Mexican, Werner’s if you’re looking for slow service but good home cooking, or Friday’s Fried Chicken if you want a greasy small town Texas meal to help cope with all that beer you just drank.
Shiner, TX, is meant for a slow-paced, lazy visit with no stress about being someplace or doing something at any given moment. Scenery is beautiful even when everything is dead during August (it just rained pretty good over there, go visit!). Remember, before you hit the road, hit us up at the website. We’ll get you sorted!
Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr Creative Commons
America is blessed with numerous cavern systems that are of such immense size The Average Joe doesn’t need to put on the helmet and light and go crawling through the claustrophobic cracks and passages to be able to enjoy them Since we’re about mid-point in the summer traveling season, I thought we could talk about a couple of these spots. The very fact that you’re transitioning from an above-ground perspective to a subterranean one makes these caves wonderful places to take the kids and grandkids. I love seeing the look of wonder and awe on the kiddos faces when they get to experience something so magnificent for the first time.
Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky is the longest known cave system in the world, which means there are a variety of ways to see this amazing place. There’s the Historic Entrance tour, there is the Domes and Dripstones Tour, the Grand Avenue, the Frozen Niagara, etc etc etc all visiting and viewing separate parts of the cave. Outside the National Park is Lost River Cave where you can actually take an UNDERGROUND BOAT TOUR THROUGH THE CAVE! Real Indiana Jones type stuff that the kids would love! If you’re interested in heading to this part of the world, the cave system can be accessed easily from I-65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown, KY.
Another famous and wonderful cave to visit is Carlsbad Caverns in White City, NM. White City and the caverns are southwest of Carlsbad, NM on Hwy 62. Carlsbad Caverns offered self-guided tours throughout the cave, as well as guided tours off the path and deeper down, where you’ll need your helmet and lights, and some nasty old blue jeans because you’ll be crawling and climbing and thoroughly enjoying yourself. During the summer months, the caves are home to millions of Mexican free tailed bats which swirl up and out of the cave every evening to go eat mosquitoes and other insects. Watching the bast come out reminds me of the bats under the Congress bridge in Austin, it’s an amazing sight!
If you’ve been to either of these caves, drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us about your favorite parts! And as always, before you hit that trail, hit our website for any parts you may require.
Jim Legans Jr/Flickr Creative Commons
Hatch, New Mexico, is a tiny village of slightly more than 1500 souls located on the Rio Grande in south central New Mexico 40 miles north of Las Cruces, NM on I-25. It had been settled since the 1850’s when it was originally named Santa Barbara, but was re-named Hatch in the 1870’s after a famous Indian fighter who happened to command the Military District. Now it is a sleepy village famous world-wide for it’s chiles, specifically it’s green chiles. Hatch Green Chiles have become almost a fad over the last couple years with even Whataburger offering Green Chile Cheeseburgers. A few years ago if you wanted a Green Chile Cheeseburger, you had to go to Sparky’s BBQ in Hatch! And if you find yourself in the area, make sure to swing through Hatch on Labor Day Weekend for the Chile Festival. But more to the point today we’re going to discuss a very New Mexico flavored bowl full of happiness called “Chicken Posole with Hatch Green Chiles”
What you need to do is cube up some chicken thighs (use however much you reckon will feed the folks you’re cooking for) and put them in a bowl. Salt the chicken cubes, sprinkle with cumin (to taste), dried chile flakes, and black pepper and let the chicken sit while you’re preparing everything else. As a side note, there is no right or wrong on the seasoning, just season to your taste… or your guests’ taste!
While the chicken is soaking up the pepper and cumin, drain a can or two of Hatch green chiles and throw them into a blender with some cilantro and a chopped clove of garlic and puree.
Next put a quart or so of veggie broth in a stew pot and set to low-medium heat. Add hominy, pour in the blended Hatch green chile mix, chop up a couple of green onions and add them to the pot as well.
In a separate sauce pan, cook the chicken cubes as you would fajitas: i.e. throw em in the pan with the burner on med-high and keep the chicken pieces moving while they cook in their own juices. The chicken will cook fairly quickly so keep your eyes open and keep turning the chicken so it cooks on all sides.
Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, pour the chicken bits and the juice into the stew pot and stir together. Serve with chips and salsa, and some sort of wonderful beer from Mexico, preferably on a hot day. Or a cold one. Or those regular ones we seem to have too few of!
www.pplmotorhomes.com – We love you.
Kevin Dooley/Flickr Creative Commons
In a lot of these blogs we talk about great destinations in terms of natural wonders, or super fun activities for the whole family. Today I thought we could talk about a couple places where you can visit some truly fine art. Art is in the eye of the beholder, true, but the two places we’re going to talk about today are both off the beaten path yet at the forefront of Contemporary and Classic art. So if you’re in the mood for something a little different, join me on a quick trip to two amazing art museums.
First we’ll start with the museum that’s closest to Texas! The Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart’s founder Sam Walton. It opened on 11/11/11 and is credited as being the first major museum of art to open in the United States since the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC back in 1974. Crystal Bridges is becoming famous for it’s partnership and collaboration with other major museums; for example it has a 4 year collaboration deal with the Louvre in Paris, bringing pieces of art to Arkansas that you would otherwise have to fly to France to see. Aside from visiting pieces from all over the world, Crystal Bridges boast a major permanent collection running the gamut from Colonial to Contemporary and all of them works by American artists ranging from Andy Warhol to Norman Rockwell.
The second museum we’ll be visiting today is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art located in the far northwest Massachusetts town of North Adams, MA. The building the museum is housed in was a factory built in the 1880’s that built everything from textiles and cabinetry to atomic bomb parts and parts for space exploration. Ever since it’s founding in 1999 it has been developed into one of the largest collections of Contemporary art in the US. But art isn’t the only thing featured within it’s walls, it is also a performance space and hosts music festivals, provides a home for composers to create, as well as a venue for visual arts.
If you are fortunate enough to visit either of these museums, drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us about it! And remember to hit our website before you hit the road for any parts or accessories you may need down the trail!
Larry Lamsa/Flickr Creative Commons
Well folks, it’s definitely starting to feel like a Texas summer here in mid-July! That oppressive heat and humidity that we all secretly started missing back in January or February has arrived with a vengeance after a super wet spring and early summer. When that hot, wet blanket settles over the Gulf Coast and you know it’s not gonna move along until October, my mind starts to drifting to the closest place I can go where it’s 65-70 degrees: New Mexico. So today we’re going to take a little trip to way north New Mexico, and a little tiny town called Chama.
Chama, NM is home to the narrow gauge mountain scenic railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec. If you’ve never been on a working steam train, you’ve gotta try it…it’s like stepping back in time 100 years. The Cumbres and Toltec was a working railroad called the Denver & Rio Grande originally constructed in 1880 and operating supporting mining and oil operations until it finally closed down in the late 1960’s. The States of Colorado and New Mexico purchased the portion of line between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM in 1970 for use as a tourist railway and tourist trips began the following year, 1971.
The trip from north our of Chama on the train is a long hard grind up over 10,000 feet through the Cumbres Pass and to a midday stopping point at Osier and the Toltec Gorge. Riders have the option to continue on to Antonito and return to Chama by bus, or catch a ride back to Chama on the train that departed Antonito and arrived in Osier about the same time. Pack a sack lunch and have a picnic by the gorge and wait for the train whistle that signals departure. The views are in credible, the experience of riding in the open top car at the back of the train is wonderful, but remember to not wear your best clothes because coal dust and soot end up all over you! As always, before you hit the trail, please hit us on the website for all your parts and accessories!
faungg’s photos/Flickr Creative Commons
A lot of folks forget about Wyoming when they’re making summer plans, unless their summer plans include Yellowstone National Park. There is so much more to that rectangular state than Yellowstone though.
If you like getting away from all the hustle and bustle, enjoy the outdoors and being active, Wyoming is the place for you. It’s the least populated state in the nation, there are less folks in the entire state of Wyoming than live in Washington, DC! Cheyenne is the biggest town in the state and it only boasts just over 59,000 people. So suffice to say, if you’re tired of traffic and long lines everywhere, head to the non-Yellowstone portion of Wyoming!
One of the most distinctive landmarks in Wyoming is Devil’s Tower National Monument. Some of y’all may remember Devil’s Tower from Steven Spielberg’s film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” where Richard Dreyfuss’s character builds a scale model of Devil’s Tower in his living room much to his wife’s dismay.
The real Devil’s Tower was the first ever National Monument in US history. It’s a part of the Bear Lodge Mountains, themselves part of the famous Black Hills that come out of South Dakota. The easiest way to get there would be off of I-90 in northern WY. If you’re heading east on I-90, turn left on Hwy 14 in Moorcroft and follow 14 until you find Hwy 24 and turn left again for Devils Tower If you’re headed west on I-90, then turn right on Hwy 14 in Sundance and follow that until you make another right onto 24. There is a KOA campground located right there as well offering park cabins that sleep 6, 11 one room cabins that are right on the Belle Fourche River, as well as RV Hookups (up to 50 amp) and pull throughs situated among the shade trees.
Remember though, before you hit the road for somewhere as remote as Wyoming, to hit our website first for all those parts and accessories you might need!
Bureau of Land Management Oregon, Flickr Creative Commons
According to Webster’s Dictionary:
Island – a tract of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent.
I love the “surrounded by water” portion of that definition. I also love the Pacific Northwest portion of the US. Compared to the usual drought stricken Texas we’ve gotten used to these last eight years or so, the Pacific Northwest is so cool, and so green and lush, Lord have mercy. So I started thinking about that region and thought about how far north and west you could get, and the San Juans are just about the last stop before you hit Vancouver Island, Canada. The great thing about the San Juans is you CAN GET THERE IN YOUR RV!
Here’s how you do it. You drive north out of Seattle on I-5 until you get to Burlington, where you turn west onto Hwy 20 which you follow all the way to Anacortes and the ferry landing. Now there are several of the San Juans you can reach via ferry: Shaw Island, Lopez Island, Orcas Island, and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Now, San Juan Island and Orcas Island are the biggest of the ferriable islands and both offer RV destinations. West Beach Resort is on Orcas Island and Lakedale Resort is on San Juan.
If you’d prefer to see the San Juans independent of the RV, there are several places available in and around Anacortes near the ferry landings. Fidalgo Bay Resort, Lighthouse RV Park, Pioneer Trails, and even one just south on Whidbey Island which is reachable by bridge. The ferries of course will let you take you car, so basing the RV on the mainland and making day trips out to the islands is a delightful alternative.
If you plan on taking the ferry, PLEASE make a ferry reservation. During the summer months the ferries get very crowded and if you haven’t secured a spot on one, there is a good chance you’ll miss your arrival time, and then all the trouble that brings down the line with late fees or parking spaces given to someone else start raining down upon you. So, make those ferry reservations, and before you go come say howdy to us over at PPLMotorhomes.com and let us see if there is anything we can do for you!
Vince Smith/Flickr Creative Commons
Port Isabel, TX is so far south on South Padre Island…..(how south is it?)…..that if you went any further south, you’d be in Mexico! It’s the coastal town just to the east of Brownsville, kind of the Galveston if Brownsville was Houston, know what I mean? And of course it’s a fairly historic little southern port town too. As a matter of fact it used to be a major center for cotton exports and actually was fought over during the Civil War. Pt Isabel also has one of those iconic old light houses, as well as the old town square around it. These days though, it’s a vacation destination offering seafood, beaches, and all the aquatic activities. Port Isabel is also home to the World Championship Shrimp Cookoff, so in that spirit we’re going to talk Port Isabel style Shrimp!
You’ll need a skillet, a pound and a half of peeled and deveined shrimp, a white onion, green onions, limes, and spices. First lets rub a little butter all over the skillet to make it non-stick, and then chop the white onion (about a cup and a half’s worth), finely chop the green onions (about a quarter cup’s worth), and mince two garlic cloves. Get the skillet up to medium-high heat and start sautéing the white onion for about 3 minutes or so and add a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of chili powder, the minced garlic, and the shrimp! Sauteé for another 4 minutes or so and remove from heat, immediately after removing from heat add two tablespoons of butter, half a teaspoon of salt, and your favorite hot sauce (amount and style determined by your own personal tastes but let’s keep it subtle) and stir and stir until the butter is all melted. While you’re stirring add about a quarter cup of lime juice and that quarter cup of green onions. If you feel like adding some lime wedges, go right ahead, but serve on a bed of Mexican Rice. If you feel like drinking a delicious Mexican beer like a Victoria, Leon, or El Indio while you’re cooking, that is actually encouraged! We hope you enjoy this dish and if you have any favorite south Texas dishes, please tell us about it in the comment section below, and remember to come to the website and say howdy before you hit the road!
Mike Fisher/Flickr Creative Commons
Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty State!
Today we’re going to drive from one end of Texas Independence all the way to the other! Who knew that the concept of Texan Independence had geographical boundaries? Used to be that 7th Grade was Texas History in school, I wonder if it still is? Remember those school field trips to the Alamo and the San Jacinto Monument? If y’all are recent arrivals to Our Fine State, then you’ve probably figured out by now that we native Texans are mighty proud of our history… sometimes to the point of obnoxiousness, true, but if you were from a place as colorful and awesome as Texas, you might have stayed there, eh? Ha!
OK, so we’re going to drive from south to north and east in order to drive from one side of texas Independence to another. The events won’t be chronological, but they will be in a more efficient driving order. We start in Brownsville. Back in 1835-36 a Texian (that’s what we called ourselves back then) Expedition attacked Matatmoros on the other side of the Rio Grande from Brownsville. Some say it was an attempt by folks who wanted to push a reluctant Texas into full rebellion against Santa Anna, some say is was unbridled greed and land speculation that was behind this attack. But either way, Brownsville and Matamoros helped light the fuse that led to war.
Next we head north to San Antonio. Back then it was San Antonio de Bexar and was at the center of the debate about whether to fight to force Santa Anna to reinstate the Constitution of 1824 or declare Independence from Mexico. Needless to say, everybody has heard of the Alamo and what happened there so be sure to visit while you’re in town. Also, since you’re here, swing by the other four preserved Spanish Missions in San Antonio for a little more of that Spanish colonial flavor.
On to Gonzales! East of San Antonio and just a little ways south of I-10 is the town of Gonzales, forever famous for the phrase “Come and Take It!”. This was the site of the first open rebellion against Mexico. Depending on which side you’re on, the Mexican army either loaned a tiny cannon to the town of Gonzales, or GAVE it to the town. Either way the Mexican army wanted it back and Gonzales said “Come and Take It!” then fired it at them thus concluding the “Battle of Gonzales” and sparking an amazing T-shirt and bumper sticker industry better than a hundred years later.
Further east on I-10 we finally reach the end of Texas Independence: The San Jacinto Battleground. It’s kind of small, kind of humid, the skeeters are TERRIBLE so spray up with Deet, but this little spot of swampy bayou country was the spot where Texas as a nation was born! There’s a giant obelisk that is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument (naturally), the battleship USS Texas is berthed nearby, and it is on this spot that Sam Houston accepted the surrender of Santa Anna, securing Texas as it’s own sovereign nation. Hope you enjoyed the trip!