Sunset over Tucson Mountain Park.

     As the weather in Arizona kept getting warmer we decided to take advantage and head to the lake. Although lakes are not that common here, Patagonia Lake State Park certainly filled the bill. Patagonia Lake is a man-made lake near the Mexico border and as luck would have it, the lake is in the town of Patagonia.  The lake was beautiful and rewarded us with daily kayak trips.  Also, this is a major location for migrating birds so the whole area featured a wonderful variety of interesting birds as well as lots of wildlife.  One evening when we were returning from dinner a small herd of javelinas crossed the road right in front of us.  These guys are pretty large and I had to slam on the brakes or I would have destroyed the car.
Nancy enjoying her morning on Patagonia Lake State Park.
A hiking bridge connecting an island in
Patagonia Lake State Park.

     While at the park we discovered a large group of women camping all around us called "Sisters on the Fly."  This is a national organization for women who enjoy camping with other women and when they gather they have a blast.  Fortunately for Nancy, they also like to buy jewelry, so Nancy was very popular and made a lot of sales.
The sign I saw before staring a hike.
Gross!!!  This is what I found on a bush-whacking hike.
I can only guess that this may have something to do with the sign above.
It was very creepy and I kept looking over my shoulder for the rest of the hike.

      Patagonia is located on the Sonoran Desert and is full of beautiful desert mountains.  This afforded me several hiking opportunities.  However, with the exception of the Arizona Trail, many of the nearby trails sort of petered out after a few miles so there was a lot of bush-whacking on my hikes. Although the rattlesnakes were out, I was lucky and did not have any encounters.  What I did encounter were herds of cattle along all the trail.  I was quite startled at first to be walking along a trail only to discover a large bull standing in the middle of the trail staring at me.  It was kind of weird.
One of the many cattle to contend with on my
hikes near Patagonia Lake State Park.

     We are trying to get east for the summer so we finally had to abandon Arizona.  Since we spent so much time in the southwest we needed to get moving and spend some long hard days on-the-road. We usually try to stay off the interstates, but since we were falling so far behind our eastern visitation plans, we decided to treat our eastward journey as a "repositioning cruise" and haul butt across the southern states.

Spring blooms on the Sonoran Desert.

     Our escape from the southwest involved some long days on the road as well as dodging dangerous weather conditions.  In fact, Arizona did not want to let us go as it greeted our 1st day on-the-road with super high winds which forced us to abandon the highway short of the New Mexico border and hunker down for the night in the town of Wilcox.

Fort Davis National Historic Park.
Fort Davis was established  to protect travelers and supplies
on the journey to the gold fields during the California gold rush.

     The next day involved a 9 hour drive but we made it to Fort Davis, Texas.  Fort Davis has an amazing scenic drive through volcanic formations on the desert and through desert mountains, but more importantly, it is the home of the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory.  We were able to get an intimate tour of the facility and were treated to close up views of the sun in real time which revealed all sorts of solar features including sunspots.  Then it was on to take a look at some of the largest telescopes in the world.  Since it was daytime we could not use the telescopes, but we were able to watch the observatory dome in motion as well as watch a massive telescope rotate on its axis. Our final stop on the tour was to take a gander at the 2nd largest telescope in the world (actually it is tied for 2nd with 9 or 10 other telescopes).  This thing was so state-of-the-art that it didn't even have a housing.  It was simply a giant mirror inside a huge dome and it was only able to rotate either east or west, but not up or down.  If a celestial object was directly overhead, it would not be observable until the object rotated lower in the horizon.  But once an object came into view--wow! The telescope has been assigned a 5 year mission to aim through Ursa Major (the "Big Dipper") toward the center of the Milky Way and study the galaxies discovered along the way.  The science and technology behind this stuff is stunning.
McDonald Observatory.
This telescope is approximately the 40th largest in the world.
This building houses the 2nd largest telescope in the world.

      Next on our journey, at the end of another 8 hour day, was to Dripping Springs, Texas and good friends Linda and Taylor Dueker.  Linda, formerly Linda Kyte, was Nancy's neighbor and best friend while growing up in Stratford, CT.  Nancy and Linda have recently reconnected and act like they never had a 45-year hiatus.  They even sang there favorite childhoods songs with each other.
Cowgirls Nancy & Linda.

     Taylor is a fantastic fine artist and is on the verge of being "discovered" by the art world.  In fact, he was recently juried into a huge show in Houston and the "jury" was the head curator for The Art Institute of Chicago.  This is impressive stuff!  We were able to see several of his creations at a local art show and an impressive local art gallery in Wemberley, Texas.  On our last night with Linda and Taylor, he presented us with 2 of his smaller creations which were perfectly sized for our rig.  We felt very honored and will treasure these masterpieces forever!
Linda & Taylor Dueker.

     Speaking of Wemberley...This town is one of our favorites in Texas.  It is a thriving art community with a Texas look and feel.  We were there for a Barbecue Festival.  When we arrived we were greeted by music playing at several venues around town and FREE samples of Texas Barbecue prepared by the culinary competitors--They even had a pie social, yummmm!!!
Wemberley, Texas.

     Although we planned to visit Linda and Taylor for 4 days, we noticed that violent thunderstorms were predicted for our last day, so we decided to get the heck out of!  And its a good thing we did as we heard that our route out Texas experienced hail, high winds, and flooding the next day. We were disappointed that we couldn't stay 1 more day, but we were glad we hightailed it out of there before the action started.
Taylor, Linda & Nancy in Wemberley, Texas.

Wemberley, Texas.

      We are now continuing our march east with the hope of getting to the northeast around the second week of June.

All above photos were taken in Pedernales Falls State Park
in Dripping Springs, Texas.

While looking up to read this sign I peed in my shoe.