Monday, August 27, 2007

(11) Ft Davis Texas, Mc Donald Observator

Ft Davis, Texas
McDonald Observatory
Davis Mountains State Park

Whew, After a really full week this past week, I’ve settled Into Davis Mt State Park. It’s located in the highest elevation within Texas, so the temperatures are much cooler than back at Big Bend. The drive was through drier ranch lands and mountains off in the distance, until the gradual rise in land, bringing me through the small town of Alpine and then to Ft Davis.

Now just a quick note, I didn’t really stop in Alpine, but it looks like some retirees or folks with some $$ have begun to discover this little Alpine region. New homes, many on the tops of the lower rounded hills/mountains were taking advantage of some pretty awesome views. A couple of country singers either live in the area or are frequent visitors.

Along the way I’m seen pronghorn antelope, sheep, cows, mule deer (lots and lots of them) and even elk! One antelope was caught along the roadway, unable to find his way around the many miles of barbed wire fences. Many areas I’ve been traveling have cow guards over the main roads creating open ranges, as the ranches in many areas are on both sides of the road, completely open to the cattle with no barriers to stop them from going where they want too.

About 17 miles from the state park is the McDonald Observatory, obviously on the highest mountain in Texas at about 6,500 ft. I did the day tour which is a pretty extensive tour with a live shot of the sun and it’s solar flares being projected on a large screen from one of the smaller telescopes. Kind of cool. Interesting to find out that most of the big telescopes and the ones at McDonald (there are about 4 or 5 really big ones here), collect images of light broken into the various light spectrums and are viewed via computer monitors. It’s called spectrometer viewing. Where the images are broken down into microwaves, the color spectrum, x-rays, and many other forms of light waves. At the end of the tour, the guide mentioned that many of the astronomers who schedule time on the telescopes don’t even have to come to the site anymore, they can have the data sent to them via computer.
The guide said that’s why he prefers to go out and actually look up at the stars many nights.

Windy. Now you’ve got to know, this area has wind. It can come up just about any time, but usually in the afternoon into the evening.
I talked to a young man working in a pizzeria and he was telling me that he loves to play baseball, but it gets really hard with the heavy winds. Sometimes as high as 70 mph. But, like he said if the wind is with you, it can certainly help your fast ball and it’s really great for throwing a curve ball. Makes me wonder how my buddy Andy Anderson is doing with his baseball league?
Oh, I went to Fort Davis. One of the best preserved forts along the western route to tame the wild west. Many of the 50 plus adobe structures, with stone foundations tucked in a box canyon. It was home to the first two all black troops. The buffalo soldiers. Formed after the end of the civil war, the now freed slaves were mostly recruited by a white officer. It was still a very divided life. The black soldiers being ridiculed and treated poorly. But after talking to one of the interpreters at the fort I got it. Sometimes I’m a bit slow. But I got it.

It was a beginning. A beginning for the blacks to show their worth and live free. And the officer who recruited them, was the first of the white men to realize they were of value and gave them a chance to begin that long journey to equality. Do you know why they were called buffalo soldiers?

It’s because the first time the Indians saw them, they associated their kinky hair with the buffalo.

I’m getting lots of compliments on my Titanium 5th wheel camper. I keep telling people thanks, but they have to realize it is my only home as well. Not just a weekend get away. But what a way to travel. Imagine, living in a chateau on wheels with all the comforts of home. Ikea lounge chairs, a comfy couch, flat panel TV’s, oak paneled cabinets in a fully equipped kitchen. Satellite TV, radio, computer with 24/7 internet access and cell phone coverage in most of the country. And it’s all available in the toniest city setting or far out in the remotest country setting.

Back on the road, heading toward El Paso, I again saw lots of mule deer along the miles of grazing lands. Many running and jumping like kids. Checking out the cars as they run across the road and over the next hill. Traveling through a valley that was fed by some natural springs. Farmers were taking advantage by planting lots of peach trees. Possibly other fruit trees as well. This is expansive land. Like when you see a sign indicating the next town is 10 miles away, and you can see it off in the distance, up against a mountain range. When was the last time you were able to look out and see 10 miles ahead of you?

I’ve arrived in El Paso Tx. A border town 500,000 people. A new city in many ways. Lots of warehouse operations along the border, new housing subdivisions sprawling off into the distance. Clean new highways and loop roads around the city. They use swamp coolers in their homes. You know, those boxy looking units on the top of the houses with water running down the insides of them to create cool air. It only works if there’s no humidity though. But that’s not usually a problem out here. Today’s paper said that Fort Bliss will expand with the most recent BRAC closings. They estimate it will create 40,000 new jobs and add 21.7 billion dollars to the local economy.

Have a great day,

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