Saturday, November 19, 2011

McKelligon Canyon and Scenic Drive

We played tourist for a few hours this afternoon in El Paso, Texas. Although I grew up here and have returned many times in the years since I left at age 18, it’s been many years since I visited these two spots.

Just the name McKelligon Canyon brings back fond memories from my childhood of picnicking and hiking here. The canyon is now part of the Franklin Mountains State Park. The web site reports that developers were encroaching on pristine areas of Mount Franklin, so in 1979 the Texas Legislature passed a bill to protect the mountains. I was very glad to see the canyon pretty much the same as I remember it from my youth.

The picnic areas have been updated and enlarged. Note the cave in the background.


The Ron Coleman Trail leads to the cave and beyond, for those who want to hike the entire 3.5 miles along the top of the mountains.


Some hikers explored the shallow cave.


The Visitor Center was constructed in typical rock-wall style.


However, it’s closed on Sat-Sun so we weren’t able to visit. Too bad they don’t open on weekends when people usually have time off from work, and close on other days of the week.


An amphitheatre has been built, with a full schedule of performances. It was closed, too.


The old Pavilion is still there and is used for performances, too.


There are some nice vistas from the canyon. The large building on the left is William Beaumont Army Hospital, where one of my nieces was born 52 years ago. (Cloud cover made the rest of my pictures a bit hazy.)


The next part of our tour was Scenic Drive.


The drive snakes around the south end of Mt. Franklin and offers lots of scenic views of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico further to the south.


The Border Highway and the (currently) dry Rio Grande can be seen here, with Juarez on the other side. I grew up in the lower valley, not far from the US-Mexico border in a community called Lakeside.


With a population of about 800,000, El Paso stretches far and wide.


Downtown El Paso with Juarez in the background.


The city’s Police Academy is nestled in the side of the mountain.


Mt. Cristo Rey can be seen in the distance to the northwest, with its characteristic cross on top.


This mountain has a very interesting history, and is in Sunland Park, New Mexico, best known for the horse racing track, established in 1959 when I still lived in El Paso. In early 1964 my parents moved to the upper valley north of the park, and I continued attending high school in the lower valley for a few months to finish my senior year, commuting past the heavy traffic on Friday afternoons. There was no freeway then! The casino was added in 1999. It’s debatable whether Sunland Park, NM is actually within the geographical city limits of El Paso, TX, since there’s a shared zip code. The mountain, race track and casino are on the border of two countries and three states.

Driving through a historic district back to our motorhome at the Ft. Bliss FamCamp, I caught a quick picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, with a cornerstone date of July 7, 1929. Before I was born, my parents and older siblings lived not far from this area.


This was a pleasant visit that brought back some good memories for me, and showed Don some parts of El Paso that he hadn’t seen. Still, I don’t regret leaving El Paso to live in various other places, that now allow me to see and appreciate the area from a different perspective.

Friday, November 18, 2011


We had a nice, although brief visit in Livingston, Texas, with Dennis and Carol Hill. Dennis was in Nappanee, Indiana getting service on their motorhome but he drove over 1,000 miles in a day and a half and got to Livingston in time for all of us to go to Florida’s Kitchen for dinner on Wednesday night.

I don’t know why Dennis is reading the menu – he’s got it memorized!


Valerie and George Mayleben are the new owners of RV Driving School, effective January 1, 2012. We enjoyed getting to know them, and I’m sure they’ll do a great job as Carol and Dennis have for the past 5 years.


Too soon our visit was over as we are headed for our RV lot at Cochise Terrace in Benson, Arizona. Don’s son Craig and his wife Liz are meeting us there for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Check Engine! Warning Fixed and Belated Birthday Dinner

We got the coach into the Shreveport Freightliner service center this morning around 9:30 and waited for them to fit us in. They discovered the sensor on the water separator wasn’t plugged in all the way, thus causing the Check Engine! warning status. We can only guess that it vibrated loose somehow. We’re not sure just when it happened, but it was before we reached Red Bay when we remember seeing the warning intermittently.

We’re happy that it wasn’t anything more serious, but when the bill for almost $400 arrived, we gasped. They charged us for 2 hours’ labor, but we knew the coach was still in the parking lot at 11:00 am when Don returned for something he’d forgotten. They finished before 12:25 pm when we returned from lunch. So they reduced the bill to one hour labor, so it was just over $200. Said they are a flat price shop, so they charge what the book says they should charge, not for the actual time spent. It was good of them to reduce the charge. Still, it’s an expensive service for something we should have been able to do ourselves. Oh, well, live and learn.

We decided to stay another night in the Shreveport area, at Tall Pines RV Park in Greenwood. It’s a really nice park that used to be a KOA. The couple that manage it are really wonderful folks – they surprised us by picking up the bill for our lunch at a nearby Chinese buffet when we happened to run into them. How nice is that? We’ve never had an RV park manager buy us lunch before!

Tonight Don made up for my less-than-wonderful birthday dinner at the Belmont CafĂ© in Belmont, MS while we were waiting for service in Red Bay. He told me to choose a restaurant and make it a nice one. I consulted and found Bella Fresca in Shreveport. Dinner was lovely – I had blackened sea scallops and he had veal – and the service was great. They even had linen tablecloths and napkins!

Sorry no pictures for this blog. We’ll drive to Livingston, TX tomorrow and spend a few days with friends Carol & Dennis Hill (although he’s currently in Indiana getting their MH fixed) and meet the new owners of the RV Driving School.