AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE IN DEL RIO TEXAS

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Texas is a big place, it requires a “whole lotta” miles of driving just to get anywhere. It’s going to take us two more stops along the Rio Grande to reach the coast. The first stop is in Del Rio, Texas. I wasn’t expecting much. Boy was I wrong! 

We’re staying at Broke Mill RV Park in Del Rio. From the first, it’s evident that the owner takes great pride in this park. A beautiful piece of “wood art” in the shape of a  “Broke Mill” decorates the office door and all the structures are hand built with care. Cabinets and other pieces were created using the old wood from a cattle barn that used to stand on the property. When the owner was working on the park he found a broken windmill on the ground. He raised it back up and put it out front, hence the name Broke Mill.

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There is a freeway behind but we only heard traffic noise once in a while and it wasn’t very bad.

Texas, even a place as remote as Big Bend is also full of people, one of which gave me a little, one-day head cold. No big deal, but I passed it on to Jeff and it evolved into the worst cough either one of us has ever had! We felt ok, just COULD NOT STOP coughing. I feel bad for anyone camping near us, I’m surprised no one beat down the door to ask if we were dying!

All this coughing required us to make a cough drop, supply run to Wal Mart. 

Wal Mart has really upped it’s game in the customer service department.

They now have a “cart selection” concierge.

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He recommended the second cart as opposed to the first and would not be deterred.  Attempting to remove any other cart resulted in a perfect mimicry of a car alarm!

Cough drops secured, it’s time to explore.

Unbeknownst to me, Del Rio, Texas is home to a National Recreation Area, a stop worthy of a stamp for our National Park Passport Book. 

Amistad National Recreation Area is a surprisingly interesting place.

The visitor center has exhibits showing the fish and wildlife who inhabit the region and also a wonderful collection of Prehistoric Native American artifacts.

Over 325 pictograph sites have been documented in the area and guided tours are available. The most notable pictograph site is Panther Cave. It can be reached only by boat. The rear wall of the cave is covered floor to ceiling with hundreds of motifs which collectively form an uninterrupted panel more than 100 feet in length. A life sized photographic rendering of the panel can be viewed in the visitor center for those unable to visit the cave. It’s pretty incredible.

Nearby Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site offers rock art connoisseurs an interpretive center and guided hiking tours of the pictographs in the region.

Unfortunately we had planned this to be a short stop and didn’t even know all this was available. It’s difficult sometimes to do enough research when planning for a trip around the entire country!  Next time we’ll know what’s here. For now our only option is to drive to a day use picnic area and look at the lake.

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The bridge in the picture above is Highway 90, it crosses Lake Amistad and was our road into Del Rio. The Amistad reservoir was created by the Amistad Dam which was completed in 1969. The Dam is located nearby on the Rio Grande River at the U.S. Mexico border across from the city of Ciudad Acuna. Amistad is Spanish for friendship and it refers to the close relationship and shared history between Ciudad Acuna and Del Rio, Texas. The dam was a bi-national effort to establish flood control on the Rio Grande and provide sources of water. A bridge over the dam is a Port Of Entry to Mexico and buoys on the river mark Mexican waters.

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Boating and fishing are popular activities, bass fishing in particular. Bass fishing competitions are held here and if the size of the fish in the visitor center is an example I can understand why!

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It’s a beautiful lake even on an overcast day like today.

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Surprisingly, Lake Amistad is a popular scuba diving location. When the reservoir was filled, several structures remained below, a powerhouse, a ranch and an old dam. The water is very clear.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing of all though is Goodenough Spring.

Originally, Goodenough Spring was a welcome source of water in this arid land. it discharged an impressive 100-200 cubic feet of water per second under artesian pressure making it Texas’ third largest spring. When the lake was filled, the spring was submerged. It now lies 165 feet below the water’s surface.

During the 1980’s, scuba divers began adopting advanced diving techniques using gas mixtures which enabled them to dive to deeper depths. By the 1990’s, experienced divers began exploring Goodenough Spring. The cave’s main passage shoots out a raging torrent of water they dubbed the Fire Hydrant. Using climbing pitons, the divers rigged a rope enabling them to traverse the 90 feet of the hydrant and deeper into the cave. To date, divers have reached 515 feet into the spring’s cave system. They’ve conducted important research into the origins of the spring’s water and other scientific pursuits. Lest any novice divers attempt to enter the cave, warning signs surround the opening below the water it states, “There is nothing in this cave that is worth your life.”

It’s a fascinating story that I encourage everyone to read.  

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The buoys mark a swimming beach.

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Despite the dryness of the region, pretty flowers still bloom.

That’s all the exploring we have time for today, there are chores we’ve neglected and it’s time to get to it. One thing that never stops just because we travel, is the need to do laundry.

I’d like to pause here a moment to reflect on being cooped up with one person, all day, every day. From the beginning of our relationship, Jeff and I have taken road trips together. A lot of road trips, sometimes with kids, sometimes not. During all that time there was only one time that he almost left me in New Mexico.

Our very first trip.

We were arguing about where to eat, Arby’s versus KFC.

Why do we get along so well? I think we compliment each other, where I am weak, he is strong and vice-a-versa.

Case in point. Laundry.

His folding: perfectly structured, all facing the same way, all the same size, lines straight. My folding: bend it in half, stack it up, shove it in the bag and refold when I put it away in the RV. A marriage made in heaven!

We very rarely take part in dinners, potlucks and other activities in RV parks. Not because we’re antisocial, (maybe) but mostly because we’re out so late exploring. When we arrived at Broke Mill though, they invited us to a bar-b-que dinner with all the fixins’ Friday night. Meat to be cooked by Mike, the owner and live music played by his band. The meat choice was filet mignon for $20 or chicken.

We didn’t have any other plans and it is Texas, and it was originally a cattle ranch so, yes, filet mignon please!

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 Fiddler’s hall was built by Mike. He hosts square dances, plays, dinners and the like, not only for the park but the community as well.

The employees from the local bank were in attendance tonight.

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What a fantastic space! The kitchen/buffet area is behind me in a separate room and a raised platform in the back is for lights and sound controls.

The buffet was opened and we helped ourselves to the filet, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and raspberry cobbler. I have to say that the filet was easily the best piece of meat I’ve ever tasted. It literally melted in my mouth.

We had a wonderful time visiting with two other “camper” couples at our table. They regaled us with stories of home and told of hiking Seminole Canyon. They said it was well worth the hike though it was little tough hiking back up.

After dinner, the music started. The band played and sang many old western and specifically Texas songs while Mike played the fiddle.

They were pretty darn good too!

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What a great time and what a surprise from a stop I thought would be a dud!

I was a little sad to learn from our dinner companions that there is a special, small, local museum, Judge Roy Bean historical sites and a lot more that we missed out on.  I guess we can’t catch it all in one trip. The good news is, we can do it all over again if we want!

Leaving Del Rio for Laredo was bittersweet. We’re glad to get a few more miles under us but wouldn’t mind more time in Del Rio. 

Laredo, Texas was just an overnight stop. We’re anxious to get to the coast. 

Vaquero Village RV Park is our site in Laredo for the night.

When I research places to stay I use RV Park Reviews to read the opinions of others to help me  decide if it’s a good spot or not. I also look at the park using Google Maps. It’s very difficult to tell what a park is like from the sky. I didn’t hold out much hope for this one. The reviews said it was fine but the overhead view looked like dirt and not much else. 

During the drive from Del Rio we were pelted with thousands of butterflies. I felt bad for them, there were so many! When we arrived, they were in the bushes around the park. The lovely Mexican gentleman who owns the place told us the butterflies were migrating from Mexico.

The park was nothing special but it looked like he had put a lot of work into making it nice. He had built a little western village and it was pretty cute. The area around the park is filled with oil drilling rigs. You can’t see the oil wells but many of the RV’s in the park seemed to be for full time workers. All in all the owner was a very nice man, the park was clean and quiet and well kept. Perfect for an overnight stay.

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Tomorrow we are finally going to make it to the coast!

Yippee!

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