Wednesday, May 16, 2012

San Angelo to Monehans Sandhills

Saturday May 12, 2012

On our way to Fort Concho by 8:45 to be there when they opened at 9:00.  We had what might be a long day ahead of us and we wanted to get started.  Jane got up at 7:00 and was able to finish posting the 3rd day of the blog.  Three to post in one evening is too much…the photo processing is what takes the time!
In review of the dates on our tentative travel schedule I believe we will have a few more days to play with than earlier thought.  Working until 2 days before we left did not give me the time I usually take for research…I had one day with us driving only 50 miles!  Now we can build in taking a day off every 8-10 days and do nothing.  

Barracks at Ft. Concho
Fort Concho was probably the best restored of all the forts we have visited so far on this trip. The Robert Wood Johnson Frontier Medicine museum  was closed due to the pipes in the ceiling bursting this winter and flooding the exhibits.  That was a disappointment but the barracks, officer’s quarters, headquarters and administration building, school, and hospital were very well done.  Of particular interest were the headquarters building which included a court martial room!  The fort is right in the middle of the city of San Angelo. There is a school right beside the fort school. They spend a day going to school in the fort school – bet that is something for the children!  There was also a “telephony” museum in one of the officer’s quarter buildings.  They had several of the wooden wall phones that you had to crank – I remember one at my grandmother’s years ago.  There was also an early pay phone of that same vintage.
Pay Phone

We left Fort Concho about 10:30 and took at least 30-45 minutes getting out of town. The GPS would not take any of the intersections we entered and we could not find streets on the map – finally we found our way and were on the right road west.  We were searching for a road noted to be one of the most beautiful on the Butterfield. It would take us peacefully west along the middle fork of the Concho River.  We found the ghost town of Aiden and then our road 411 – it was not paved but a wide well graded dirt road. Off we started on what we thought would be a lonely 20+ miles. Well within 3-4 miles we met a huge tanker truck and began to see oil wells pumping. We continued on and the wells became more frequent – often we would see 4-5 pumping and 1-2 drill rigs drilling new wells.  There were more trucks and frequent cement pads which came before the drill riggings. Since sometime yesterday we had been seeing frequent pumping wells but nothing like this! Another unusual thing to us was the 2-3 black plastic pipes running beside the road. Diameters ranged from 1-2 inches.  The scene continued with rolling hills to flat lands covered with scrub and low mesquite trees. I was counting the trucks but gave up – we must have met or been passed by 20 or more…remember this is a Saturday.  
In beginning this was paved but no bridges
One of many oil wells we saw

After about 15 miles of this rough road Jane was getting very tired  – when we got to the end of the 20+ miles and were back on a paved road – she knew taking a stage to San Francisco was out of the question!
When we arrived at the paved road we pulled off to check things in the back and to eat lunch.  Our dirty clothes bag had come loose from its storage spot and knocked the TV down. It had not fallen to the floor but was hanging by a cord. This was the only real damage. In fact the only other thing out of place was the coffee holder from the Mr. Coffee in the floor with the glass container still in place.  (so that you are not wondering until the end of today’s blog – the TV works fine. One cable that connects the TV to the computer for the hard drive movies is damaged so we will need to pick up a new cable next time we are near an appropriate store.)

Our lunch stop - one of many trucks we saw
After lunch we headed south and then west – no towns of note.  One interesting highlight was the Santa Rita 1 oil well just west of Big Lake TX.  This well was the first to hit a gusher in this part of the country – southern part of the Permian Basin. Located on land owned by the University of Texas, when it hit – made that university one of the richest in the country. This well produced oil until the 1990’s. The rig there marking the location is of the variety that would have been used in 1923. Hard to imagine a town of thousands where there is nothing today.
Santa Rita #1
 There are small towns every 20 – 30 miles and they all seem to be busy. You see small motels with numerous trucks in the lots. There are oil wells being drilled everywhere and there are numerous huge trucks on the road and they OWN the road. Remind me of the coal trucks in some areas of VA and West VA.
We were watching closely for a crossing of the Pecos River. When we crossed it we were to go for 10 to 12 miles and watch for a sign for Horse Head Crossing. This was a famous crossing of the Pecos River where numerous crossing of Indians, livestock, and those traveling several trails like the Butterfield crossed the Pecos.  The Pecos and most of the other rivers are much smaller today than they were 100+ years ago.  This crossing was the best for miles so well used.  We drove out the 4 miles on another dirt road to the river and found a monument dated 1936. It was disappointing to me that the emblem had been stolen and obviously a number of holes from bullets.
Ben at Horsehead Crossing - hand full of bullet casings

Pecos at Horsehead Crossing - note the easy slope on west bank

After this monument we headed north to Monahans where we planned to spend the night at Monahan Sandhills State Park.  Now, Ben had only read Monahan State Park so when we drove in he could not believe the sand dunes.  They rise as high as 70 feet. We are only seeing a small portion of the dunes that stretch to the north several miles. Children (or adults) can rent “sand saucers” which are like snow saucers to ride down the dunes. It is really quite odd here – we feel like we are at Kitty Hawk or one of the other Carolina Outer Banks beaches and the ocean will be just right over the next dune!

Our Campsite at Monehans Sandhills State Park

Creeping Sands Cover Grill

Our campsite is right among the dunes. The grill at the site nearby is nearly buried in drifting sand.  We spoke at length with our neighbor – a pipe fitter from Missouri. He goes wherever his union sends him. He had been in Pennsylvania for several months and arrived here yesterday. He says they want him to work as many hours as he can for as long as he can – he says he could be here from 2 months to 2 years. Says he hated the northeast and he is delighted to be here.  We asked about the numbers of wells we had seen – he says where he is working north of here about 20 miles in Kermit- that there are even more. He says in all his years of working he has never seen anything like the boom that is going on here now. The black plastic pipe we had seen this morning is most likely water pipe – they use the water underground for “fracking”.  He says anyone who wants to work can get work here. 

Before we set up camp we drove back in to Monahans to find Pappy’s BBQ – one of the top 100 BBQ places in TX.  We had beef briskit and pork ribs along with pinto beans, slaw, and cornbread.  It was not nearly as good as the BBQ we had at Cooper’s two years ago but it was very good briskit – so tender you could cut it with a fork.      

Back at camp we watched a little TV – a soccer game in Spanish and NCIS out of Midland about 60 miles east.  These on the homemade antenna Ben crafted. 

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