Thursday, November 23, 2017

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas: Thanksgiving Break 2017

During our Thanksgiving break, the family campers decided to take a trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park here in Texas. We've been discussing a long road trip to either Yellowstone or Mesa Verde in the upcoming spring and wanted to build our RV road trip stamina by taking a fairly long road trip this fall.  From my house to Leslie's home in Ft. Worth, then to the canyon and home it was 1,020 miles. Miss Lippy didn't go quite that far because Ron and Scott went up earlier than the girls and I and bypassed Ft. Worth. But, it was a pleasant drive for both vehicles. That gives us some confidence in the old girl's ability to make it out of state. 
Ron and Scott took Miss Lippy up on Tuesday and took care of some general maintenance and put the flooring down in the bunk room. By the time Leslie, the girls and I were there, camp was set up. It's really easy to tear down camp but setting up seems to take a long time. I'm kinda glad we missed that part.
We spent our time at the park hiking different trails, building our evening camp fires, and looking at the amazing night sky. That was simply breathtaking! Maggie actually squealed with delight when she looked up the first night. She was astounded that she could see the Milky Way's band across the sky and so many constellations. We were wishing Uncle Ryan was there because he is the family astronomer and would have brought his telescope. Maybe next time!
The canyon seemed to have so much more vegetation in it than I remember from our last visit. We have had an unusually mild summer and even in central Texas things are more lush and green than normal. Texas has summers like that from time to time. I think I like the park scenery when it is more rugged and harsh.
The condition of the park was a little disappointing. There is a lack of camp hosts so the bathrooms weren't as clean as I would like for them to have been.  I assume that's why. Ron had talked to one of the rangers about the condition of the park and he explained that all of their funds for maintenance had to be diverted to the gulf coast because of the hurricane. That made sense so we just overlooked things and hope for an increase in funds next year.

Here are the pictures I took while we were there.
One of the most fascinating sights in Texas is the extensive field of windmills. 

Leslie gave Maggie my camera and she managed to get some really good pictures of them.

The girls were laughing at the tumble weeds that rolled across the highway as we drove to the canyon. They found a dried twig blowing around in our campsite and had to take a picture of the "tumbleweed."

When you arrive at the canyon, it's pretty surprising. You drive for about 30 minutes after you see the first sign for the park. Then after you pass through the gates, there it is! It's a pretty steep drive down into the actual park.

Like I said earlier, Ron and Scott had the camp set up when we got there so we just had to cook dinner then turned in for the night. Tico didn't like being inside. His favorite thing to do was sit at the door and whine to go out.

Leslie and Maggie spent some time reading the book that the movie Wonder is based on. It will hopefully be the last trip we take with that nasty couch and carpet! They guys are planning on ripping it out tomorrow. Can't wait!

Leslie, the girls, Scott, and the dogs did a lot more hiking than Ron and I.  Ron has been having trouble with his hip so he staggered along with his cane. Rather than leave him straggling behind, we just strolled portions of the trails. Hopefully, he will be better our next trip.

The trails are rated from easy to difficult and are marked at intervals with these blue stakes. There are numerous side trails that you can take if your adventurous. We played it safe and stayed on the main trail.

When we came to a section that intersected with side trails, there were white arrows painted on the ground so you wouldn't lose you way.

The Lighthouse Hoodoo is the signature rock formation for Palo Duro. The kids and grands hiked all the way out but Ron and I only went half the way. They said the last part of the trail was pretty tough.

Another shot of the Lighthouse.

Ron at the trail head.

One view of the canyon from the Lighthouse trail.

Another time when we were wishing Ryan was with us. I know the layers have a story to tell about the history of the canyon. Ryan could have told us all about it.

My obligatory picture of me.

and a selfie of the two old people.

The second trail we hiked went along the river. Ron had a lot of trouble with this one so we back tracked and then drove to the trail end to meet the kids. 

map of the park trails

Crazy Tico has got to have some Rat Terrier in him. He stuck his snout in every hole he passed. I think Leslie was pretty thankful he didn't pull anything out of any of them!

This was on another trail that went along the river. Can't for the life of me remember the name; Rojo or Rio something???

This was a very overgrown trail. We only went a short distance because there was a lot of cactus along the sides. Dingbat Tico kept walking in them. 

There are turkeys and coyotes all over the park. This small flock walked right by the RV our last evening at the park.

Thor was our chase car for this trip. This car is the most comfortable ride with very roomy seating for 7. I was hesitant to buy him; but, I sure am glad I did.

Home away from home... Miss Lippy. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Putting Life Back Together: Mom's Quilting Legacy Will Continue

This, and many posts to come, will be out of chronological order. Why? Because the family is working our way through another refiner's fire and I simply haven't had the heart to blog. What refiner's fire? The loss of my sweet mother to that horrid disease, cancer. While the feelings are still very tender, retelling the journey will be an important process, which I hope will be a form of therapy.

When Mom passed away, we had the task of packing up and clearing out the house to prepare it for sale. The contents of Mom's sewing room were some of the hardest things to pack up.  I knew it wasn't something I was emotionally prepared to deal with right away; so, several family members pitched in and helped me toss everything into boxes, tape them up, and move it all to our house. I figured once we got the funeral and my parents' house taken care of I would be ready to take on the challenge of sorting through her sewing things and finding a new home for everything.

The boxes, at least 10 LARGE packing boxes, were shoved under the long arm and along the walls of my sewing room. There was so much plunder in there that I felt like a hoarder; only a path to the ironing board was clear. It was a crazy mess.

This isn't even all of it! These pictures were taken after I had already sorted through all of her quilting books, magazines, and patterns.  Included in the books were manuals, CDs, and file folders with individual projects. It was an extensive library.  I knew I would never use the books that were for applique because it just isn't something I enjoy. (Mom was gifted at needle turned, hand applique!) My sister-in-law, Kathy, took some of the books. Another sister-in-law, Deb, does stained glass so she took several things to use as patterns.  Unfortunately, it was only a drop in the bucket. 

just a few of the books and magazines

After the books and patterns were sorted, I tackled the fabric boxes. I knew my little sewing room wouldn't hold even a fraction of the things in Mom's inventory. I had to be deliberate and methodical about the purging process. One of the fabric lines that Mom was passionate about was the 30's Reproduction fabrics. I knew those were keepers. She also was pretty smart when it came to keeping a stash of background and backing fabric on hand. Those things were easy to place in the keep pile. But, among her stash were COUNTLESS fabrics that were used as landscape pieces in her applique. Trees, stones, water, sky, leaves, plants, fur, scales... any fabric that could be cut into tiny pieces and used in a picture on a quilt filled several plastic tubs. I put all of that into one box and will donate it to the local quilt guild.  Other fabrics that could be used to make donation quilts for the cancer unit or pregnancy shelter were also placed in donation boxes.  Still, as I continued to "eat the elephant one bite at a time," I knew I needed more storage space. Luckily, my sweet husband consolidated all of his things in his office closet and the one where he stored his sports officiating gear. That freed up an entire closet!

The whole process of unpacking, sorting, repacking labeling boxes, and organizing took from June 2nd until June 7th. I worked from the time I got up, until well after midnight on some days. There were times when it was overwhelming and I would worry about the stupidest things. What if I died before I ever got it all sorted?? What would poor Ron do with all of this stuff?? What if I throw something out that should be kept?? What if I regret getting rid of that little tin or that cute basket Mom used to store things in?? Lots of worry and tears went into the task. 

But, as I worked through the things Mom left behind, I came to appreciate her talent more than ever. She was a simple and humble woman who shared her skills and knowledge with those she knew and loved. Her quilts are cherished gifts that will become family heirlooms and will serve as a link between her and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she left behind. It is a motivating force for me to continue her legacy and create those links with my own children and grandchildren.  Through the art of quilting, I will carry on her legacy. 

So, I finally have a "finished" product. My sewing room isn't trendy, color coordinated, cute, or state of the art. But it is filled with objects that connect me to Mom. I miss her more than words can say; but, each time I am in my sewing room, I feel her spirit with me. 

This is inside the closet that Ron gave up. Each tub or box is labeled with the project or type of fabric it contains.

As you walk into the sewing room, there is a white shelf on the left side. That's where I stored part of my original stash. I had to purge my own stash to make room for some of Mom's. 

The craft table was a gift from another quilting mentor and fellow teacher, Juanita Benoit. Luckily, it is a good sturdy table and folds up when I don't need the work space. The sewing machine and cabinet were Mom's. I packed up my Janome and am storing it just in case I never figure out how to use Mom's Viking. The white cabinet was built by Dad especially for Mom's sewing room. She painted the cute quilt blocks on the doors. It is yet another reminder of the many talents my parents had. 

Mom's sewing machine and Dad's cabinet
inside the white cabinet

When Ron and I looked at this house, one of the selling points was a room long enough for my long arm quilting machine. Mom and I split the price of the machine because she had accumulate so many unfinished tops! She has a lot of stitching miles on her.  Millie fits perfectly along one wall of the room. The boxes underneath are filled with a combination of my fabric stash and Mom's. Luckily, they slide easily on the carpet so I can work from both sides of the quilting machine.  

Millie and fabric storage

The closet straight ahead is the second place I stored my fabric stash. It has shelves built on one side and I had a plastic shelving unit left over from my classroom that added additional storage space.  

craft table, storage shelf

inside sewing room closet

Now that everything is sorted, packed, labeled, and organized, one challenge will be to NOT buy any more fabric... for a very long time!! And, the second challenge will be to use up what I have on hand.  As for what is going to the quilt guild... well, let's just say that the charity coordinator better have a big truck with her when she comes to pick it up!

donations for the guild

The boxes are emptied, but my heart is not. 
Love you, Mom.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fort Parker RV Trip Preview

During the Christmas Break, Ron and I had hoped to get a trip to Mother Neff scheduled. Unfortunately, the crazy Texas weather decided to take a turn for the worse and we backed out.  I told Ron that I really couldn't see going out to camp if it would be too cold to get out and hike. So, we decided to postpone, hoping for nicer weather.  In the meantime, the family had a discussion about where to camp next. We decided we need to expand our travel distance to get prepared for the next massive road trip in 2018. We figured maybe a trip about 2 hours from home would be good for January; and, then we will plan an even longer trip to either Palo Duro or Big Bend during Spring Break. I did some research and found a state park near Mexia, Texas, which is about 2 hours from home. It is called Fort Parker State Park. Ron and I decided to take a drive out there today and see what the facilities are like. I always feel better about going someplace if I can preview it.  It took us almost 2 hours to get there, driving between 60-70 mph. We figure that will be a little over 2 hours in the RV, which is what we wanted. We also found a route that doesn't hit I-35!! Thank goodness!! We will head east from Temple, then travel state highways up to the park. The highways are in good condition, have few hills, and wide shoulders to pull over. There are also a couple of historical markers along the way with adequate space to pull over if the dogs or kids need to get out for a bit.

When we got to the park, I took some pictures of the facilities to give everyone that's going an idea of what it's like. The state park is located near Fort Parker Historical site. Ron and I drove by there first. There is a minimal entry fee; $2 per adult, $1 per children over ten. We didn't get to go in because the gate to the visitor's center was closed. Of course, today is New Year's Monday so I wasn't surprised.
The fort has an interesting history connected to it so I hope to get inside when we go back later this month. Family, if you aren't familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker or Quanah Parker, read up before we go:

entrance to Fort Parker

one corner of the fort

exterior wall of the fort

open common area with faux shop/store fronts

another view of the exterior of the fort

Fort Parker State Park is about 3 miles from the historical site. It is located next to Lake Parker between Grossbeck and Mexia. The camp is small but offers primitive camping, RV sites with water and electric, a dump station, a day use area that includes picnic tables and a pavilion, several hiking and biking trails, a canoe trail, and a boat dock with a fish cleaning station.  There are also restrooms that are very clean and shower facilities. I got pictures of most things but NOT THE RV SITES!!! Ron and I were so busy looking at them and discussing which ones were the most level, had the best lake access/view, had the tables and fire pits on the side best for our RV awning, etc. I COMPLETELY spaced out on taking pictures of the sites. They are a positioned little close to one another, but we are hoping the camp won't be that busy mid January.
pavilion in the day use area

lake view from the day use area

visitor's center

picnic area for day use

another section of day use

playground part 1

playground part 2

a nature center

the boat dock

picture of the hiking trails description found on the back of the map

section of the map showing the RV sites and the screened shelters

another picture of the trails map
My next post about Fort Parker State Park will be after we've actually stayed there. Our reservations are made!! Fingers crossed that we like it as much as Mother Neff!