Does anybody really know what time it is? (Does anybody really care??)

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One of the strangest things about this full-time RVing lifestyle is the way time works. There are moments (almost daily) when we have no idea what day or month it is, and we have to check our phones for the answer. This just happened a few days ago, and we were both amazed that it’s November already. It’s almost as if time stands still …  but, not quite because I’ll look at photos that I took at Al’s house in St. Michael’s, Maryland (September 21) or think about when we visited Janet outside of Asheville (first week of October), it seems so long ago! It isn’t possible that time stands still AND moves at warp speed at the same time!

We also have no idea what time of day it is. We sleep until we wake up. Sometimes it’s 6 am, sometimes it’s 8:30. Likewise, we go to bed when we’re tired … sometimes one of us will start yawning and the other will check the clock and say, “It’s only 7:30!” Other nights, one of us will be up until midnight because we just aren’t tired … or we are on a mission to find and kill the one solitary mosquito that has infiltrated the motorhome. (Someone needs to explain to RV manufacturers that decorating the interior with nothing but muted brown tones is making it impossible for us to find the mosquito.)

People have asked (often) if we are afraid to be traveling during COVID, and the answer is no. We actually feel very safe … perhaps safer than when we lived in our house. That’s not a knock on Connecticut’s safety measures, but on our lifestyle at home. We’d walk the dog around our neighborhood and come across 3 or 4 friendly neighbors along the way. Or, a trip to the grocery store becomes a reunion of people you haven’t seen in years. On the road, we don’t know anyone. We stick to ourselves or have well-distanced conversations with our neighbors. Grocery stores in Texas are just like the stores back home, masks are required, plexiglass separates you and the cashier. What is different here is that we find maybe 10-20% of customers aren’t wearing masks. If I see them coming, I move away.

Other than grocery stores, we hardly come in contact with anyone. Check-ins at campgrounds have changed in lots of places where the camp host will come out to the driveway to ask your name and site number, hand up a map and information. If I do have to step inside to check-in, they are masked with plexiglass between us. We’ve even been to a couple of campgrounds where they don’t want you to check in at all, just go to your site and a host will drive by, ask your name and drop off information. Community buildings and pools are closed, laundry rooms are open to one person at a time, and we’ve been finding lots of trails for solitary hiking!

Right now, we are at a Harvest Host location in Brenham, Texas – Brazos Valley Brewing Company. We arrived to find most people enjoying the outdoor picnic tables while the few inside were masked unless they were sitting at a table and drinking. The overhead doors were open bringing fresh air in, and the dartboards hung next to a door. While the brewery opened in town four years ago, they had just moved into this building and expanded their operation last March. Like so many other businesses, they had to almost reinvent themselves in order to survive the pandemic, and they have done a booming take-out and outdoor business. They had a number of really delicious beers on tap here and have six-packs also available in local stores. We had such a good time here that the gracious owners invited us to stay a second night. That’ll give us an opportunity to investigate Brenham, which seems like a vibrant little town.

Brazos Valley Brewing Company. We met “Bama,” lower right, who told us all about the Brenham area and Texas barbecue.

Before coming here, we spent a week at Stephen F. Austin State Park in San Felipe, Texas. There’s an interesting story here: In 1824, this site was designated by Stephen Austin to be the first American colony on the Texas frontier. Thirty buildings were constructed including log cabins and a tavern. By 1825, there were about 600 residents, the first post office and newspaper in Texas, and the Texas Rangers were founded and stationed here. San Felipe was the first capital of Texas. But, in 1836, during the Texas revolutionary war, the residents of San Felipe burned the town to the ground so Mexico would not capture it. After Texas gained its independence, residents rebuilt, but the town never recaptured it’s place as the capital. Today, there is no downtown area to speak of and a population of just over 800 people. But, there is a beautiful state park here paying tribute to Stephen Austin. 

We really enjoyed this campground. There are separate areas for tent camping, cabin camping, and RVs. In the RV loop, every site is a very spacious pull-through with a manicured lawn, table and very clean fire ring. We arrived at around 3pm, and within an hour of arriving we had our first visit by the local deer herd. It became a night light event, we’d sit outside with the camera and wait for the deer. Turns out the tree right in front of our rig was one of their favorite oaks. The squirrels ran through it during the day knocking down acorns and the deer came in for dinner to clean them up. We took daily hikes on the many trails and saw deer almost every time. And butterflies! The trails were full of a plant called Rose Mallow which the butterflies just loved. There were probably 8 different kind of butterfly feeding there, but the most prominent was the cloudless sulfur butterfly. I loved seeing them startle and flutter up from the bushes as we approached.

Scenes from Stephen Austin State Park. Deer, deer and more deer. Cloudless Sulphur butterfly enjoying the rose mallow.

After five awesome days, we left Stephen Austin State Park and headed for Brenham and the brewery. The original plan had been to spend one night at the brewery and a second night at an olive farm (also a Harvest Host location). But, when Kerri, our hostess at the brewery, invited us to stay a second night, we said … why not? We found a laundromat, then we headed to a town that’s always fascinated me … La Grange. Any ZZTop fans reading? Or Dolly Parton fans? (I know at least one Dolly fan!) Yes, La Grange was the home of a famous brothel called The Chicken Ranch … better known as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. ZZTop made it famous in their song La Grange in 1973, and about a decade later Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds starred in the movie.

For the unfamiliar folks: The Chicken Ranch was a brothel started by a widow, Miss Jessie Williams, in 1905. She had a few women working for her, and she maintained a good relationship with local law enforcement by excluding drunkards and admitting politicians and lawmen. Her girls stayed out of downtown allowing the place to keep a low profile and allowing townspeople to pretend it wasn’t there. In 1917, the brothel began advertising. Under the direction of two sisters who worked in the house, the prostitutes sent packages and letters to local men fighting in WWI. The advertising, and an increase in automobile ownership, increased the traffic flow to the brothel and new rooms were subsequently added to meet the increased demand. Every evening, the local sheriff would visit to learn the latest gossip and if patrons had boasted of crimes. Many local crimes were solved with information gained from these visits. When a new sheriff took office in 1946, he immediately had a direct telephone line installed at the brothel so that he could continue his predecessor’s tradition of gaining information without having to actually visit each evening.

During the Great Depression, Miss Williams was forced to lower the prices charged. As the Depression lingered, the number of customers dwindled and Williams had difficulty making ends meet for her employees. She implemented the “poultry standard”, and charged one live chicken per customer. Business increased, the number of chickens at the brothel exploded, and soon the place became known as the Chicken Ranch. The ladies at the ranch always had food, thanks to the chickens, and Williams supplemented her income by selling surplus chickens and eggs.

Time passed, Miss Williams was succeeded by one of her girls who continued to run a tight ship, with no drinking, drugs or tattoos and weekly doctor’s check-ups for all the girls. But, time also got the best of the Chicken Ranch … by the 1970’s, the state attorney general was on a mission to shut it down. News media got involved, and by 1973 the brothel was closed. 

We drove to the site of the Chicken Ranch expecting to see a historic plaque or something … but there was nothing. There’s a house set back on the property and a bunch of run down, dilapidated buildings. There is zero evidence that the Chicken Ranch ever existed. 

The drive to La Grange was not for naught as it allowed us to visit the Texas Quilt Museum. I love quilts and have made a few small, simple quilts myself but nothing like the quilts we saw here. One of the exhibits was of quilts by Cynthia English who invented a new method of piecing fabric to recreate pictures. Her quilts are stunning, to say the least, each using thousands of pieces of fabric. I’d have to say that her quilts are priceless because I was unable to find any information online about how much her quilts sell for. Here are a couple of her quilts that we saw at the museum (photography was not allowed, so I got these pictures from the internet).

Texas Quilt Museum and two Cynthia English quilts.

We don’t mind traveling a fair distance to see other towns like La Grange, because it gives us a chance to get off the highways and travel the back roads. This area of Texas is fairly flat with wide open ranch land. It’s easy to see how a tornado can travel for miles with nothing to stop it. What’s hard to imagine is owning thousands of acres with hundreds of cattle, never mind maintaining it. I wonder how they tell people where they live? Is it, “go 8.3 miles down Farm Road 2160 to the gate with the double R logo on it?” Or are all the ranches so known to each other that you only have to say, “we’re at the double R ranch?” 

That’s all for now … next stop, Austin, Texas.

2 thoughts on “Does anybody really know what time it is? (Does anybody really care??)

  1. Sounds like it doesn’t matter what time it is because this is such a great country with so much to see and you have all the time in the world. We enjoy reading your travelog.

  2. love your stories of your travel….liked the la grange story of the chicken farm !!!…enjoy, be safe and keep in touch !!!…jp

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