Posted in: Costco, Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

This Blog Post Made in Texas

When I told my sister about our trip she had a lot of great things to say about Texas. She has made a few visits to Austin to visit friends over the years. One of her observations was that Texas is very proud. From our experience, she was right on. This pride is neat to see and can turn into some crazy stuff sometimes.

Texas Pride marketing is used heavily in the grocery store for things that were not made in Texas. My favorite was Louisville Kentucky Bottled Bourbon and Gin labeled as Texas Spirit Gin:

Costco

Obviously the Texas slogan “Don’t Mess with Texas,” is prominently displayed.

Other than Colorado, we have not seen a state with more pride in their flag. The Texas flag is everywhere and on literally everything.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, from the 3L soda to the size of the flags, to the display of political opinions, (Not clear on the backstory for this front yard political display, but they are not pulling any punches here) it is a larger than life state.

Large Object Series: Boots, Wooden Nickle, Beavers
Large Object Series: Belt, Cow, Spur

The only stereotype we missed seeing was anyone open carrying firearms (that wasn’t a cowboy actor). Maybe the news exaggerates this aspect of Texas or everyone here has gone to conceal carry or we just missed it entirely.

We had a great time in Texas and wouldn’t change a thing. Their pride seems to pull them together. I may never understand the draw of a HEB grocery store or wear a state flag based shirt, but I hope to visit again soon.

~Ben

Posted in: Exploring Texas, Food

Houston: Black Walnut Cafe Brunch

Nick found this cute breakfast place while in Houston, the Black Walnut Cafe. It was located in Conroe (north of Houston) by the local airport. The cafe was located on the top floor, so it was a great place to sit and watch the planes coming and going.

The pancakes were very fluffy and had a nice flavor. The breakfast sandwich had eggs, bacon cheese. It had a nice crisp to the croissant.

Tables were spaced apart for social distancing. When you get there, you went to the counter to order/pay. You received a buzzer and you were able to pick where you wanted to sit. There was also an outdoor balcony to sit at.

If you are in the Houston area, we would definitely recommend eating here.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

Weird Ducks in Texas

I have loved Texas so far. However, I have to say they have some unique looking animals. We did not get to see any armadillos while exploring Texas. 🙁

Longhorns are just neat to look at and their horns can be huge.

The ducks though, man, the ducks are weird looking. I’ve seen mallards and Canadian geese. But there were a few that I hadn’t seen before.

Muscovy Ducks have bumpy faces.

Black bellied whistling-ducks have long legs.

Egyptian Geese were at the KOA San Antonio/Alamo. They were pretty weird looking with the orange circles around their eyes. They are not native to the US.

Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Texas, Holidays, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Lake Conroe Thousand Trails (Houston/Willis, Texas) Campground Review

This Thousand Trails location is located in Willis, Texas near Houston. There were RV spots (mix of pull through and back-in) and cabin rentals. The map lists tent sites, although I did not see anyone tent camping. There was also a section for long term stays. The cabins and the front RV spots looked very nice. The front RV spots were back-ins with concrete pads.

Those were not what we got. We went to check in and the Ranger (not wearing a mask) at the gate told me how full they were and was just not very welcoming. I told him we had a reservation and he pointed me to the back of the lot saying only one lane had openings. Spots back here were gravel, the roads in the back of the park were rougher (not the nice paved lanes like the front of the park), and sites were tight together. We picked our site from the few open in the lane. Driving around later, we saw other open spots that were not given to us as an option. I am not sure if it is because we are Thousand Trails members and we just get assigned the worst spots in the park and the non-members who are paying per night get assigned better spots.

Ice was sold at the Ranger station at the gate for $2.25. The campground had bathrooms and a laundry room. Washers were $1.75/load and dryers $1.50. The campground did not offer change or a coin machine. Half of the washing machines were also out of service when we were there.

There was also a single station car wash for $1 and a vacuum for $0.50. The car wash did not have any soap in it, but we could at least get some of the dust and dirt off of the truck. There was also a tire air station there.

Gate codes changed on Tuesdays, which we were not told until our code did not work.

The pool was open Tuesday-Sunday and was not heated. It was a nice sized pool with tables and chairs. The spa/hot tub was not working while we were there. It wasn’t closed off, just told it wasn’t working. There were bathrooms and two outdoor showers at the pool area.

There was a playground, a putt-putt course, tennis courts, and small basketball hoops. Across from the office/laundry/pavilion area was a small field which was nice for the boys to play ball in. Fishing was mentioned on their brochure, although the office did not sell bait. You could walk to a small beach area on Lake Conroe. The beach area also had a volleyball court and picnic tables. It was too cold to go in while we were there, but I can see it being nice in the summer.

The office was technically open, but they kept the doors locked during open hours, so you had to get their attention to get any assistance. We had some problems in the laundry room (a washer broke mid cycle) and had to get someone to help with the water that was leaking and refund the coins. The younger woman in the office was helpful with the laundry problem, but the rest of the staff seemed grumpy and not interested in interacting with anyone. The staff at the gate never had masks on, even when talking to people checking in. There was another building at the office/Pavilion that was closed for Covid.

Video: Campground Walk Through/Tour

We had decent reception with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The water pressure did drop one day, but came back to normal in a couple of hours.

It was close to a Kroger, some fast food restaurants, and a park. Houston was about an hour away, Galveston 1.75-2 hours, Waco 2.5 hours from the campground.

I don’t think we would stay here again. Houston was not our favorite town in Texas to visit, so I don’t see us coming back to the area. Even if we did, the park wasn’t very welcoming. I think if you were in a cabin or in one of the nice front RV concrete pad spots, it would probably have a completely different feel.

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 2-2.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull through, Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Technically no, but we did see a few people put up outdoor tents.

Amenities: picnic table, fire pit/grill, cable, playground, putting area, tennis courts, basketball, dog park 

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook Ups: Yes. 30 or 50 Amp sites

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: No

WiFi: No

Accepts Mail: No USPS, $5/package from FedEx or UPS

Food On-Site: No

Fishing: Yes, no bait sold on site

Posted in: Exploring Texas, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Waco Mammoth National Monument

I dragged Ben to see more dinosaur bones. He was thrilled. Well, not exactly since he isn’t into dinosaurs, but at least this time we could see actual bones easily.

While looking up things to see in Waco, I saw the Waco Mammoth National Monument listed. It is a relatively new part of the National Park Service, having been inducted in 2015. It was less than 10 minutes from downtown Waco, so after exploring Magnolia, we drove over. On our way to the park, we passed the suspension bridge, which we also wanted to walk across, but was currently closed.

We have the National Park pass, but you still have to pay admission to see the bones. The flyer at the desk says it is for access to the bones with a guided tour. However, there was not a guided tour, just someone monitoring the amount of people in the building. We basically paid another $20 to the city of Waco to see the site. It is a really small park with only one real walking trail and a short loop off of the main trail through the woods. Since there had been rain this week, parts of the trail were covered in water, so we didn’t get to go on the whole trail.

Ben said the molars looked like boot prints.

It was interesting, but I would not go back again, especially since we would have to pay again.

Posted in: Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

Waco, Texas and Magnolia

After so many people had asked us if we had gone to Waco, we decided to drive the 2.5 hours to see it. We, like many others, watched Fixer Upper, back when we had cable.

The Gaines’ have done a great job in their shopping area. There were food trucks, covered outdoor eating areas, water stations (closed for Covid), and the whole area was laid out very nicely.

I got a Southern Sweet Tea from the Alabama Sweet Tea food truck and a Mac Daddy mac and cheese from the Cheddar Box food truck. Both were really good! The sweet tea came in a mason jar with a reusable lid and straw–very cute.

We didn’t get to try the Magnolia bakery, as the line was very long and moved slowly. The store also had a line to get in, but this one moved pretty quickly. It had a bags, T-shirts, hats, and Christmas decorations. There were some cute items, but since Christmas had already passed and we need to travel light, we didn’t get anything.

After exploring the Magnolia area, we walked around Waco for a little bit. There were other stores on the main street, but it seemed like all the people were over at Magnolia! We only saw a few other people.

Other than seeing Magnolia and a few small touristy things, Waco was like any other small town we have driven through.

Random Historical Signs we saw walking around Waco.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

Houston, Texas: Hermann Park

We were in the mood to explore outside. After some online searching, Hermann Park came up on several lists of things to see in Houston.

It was a cloudy day, but the park was very busy.

We walked around the park checking out what was available. There was a small train to ride, a lake with paddle boats, walking trails, picnic areas, and a Japanese Garden.

We walked through the Japanese Garden, but after San Antonio’s amazing Japanese Tea Garden, it was a bit of a let down. Maybe in the spring when it is more green and things are blooming it would be better.

Hermann Park Japanese Garden

We walked a path down towards the lake and found some trees for the boys to try their new hammocks. We sat and watched the birds/ducks/geese while the kids hung out.

Texas is the first place I could see living in besides Ohio; however, not in Houston. Houston just doesn’t have the same nice feel as the other cities, and is by far the worst at mask wearing and compliance. Even in stores where it is “required”, a lot of people do not wear them and there is no enforcement of the rule.

Posted in: Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

Sam Houston Home Historical Site

It was raining the last two days and we wanted to go out even if we got wet. We didn’t really have a destination in mind, we were just exploring the local area. We ended up driving by the Sam Houston University and passed the Sam Houston Home historic area. The rain had slowed down to a mist, so we stopped to explore. The buildings were really neat, some were original to the home and some were dismantled and brought in later.

Houston had a couple of homes in the area, the home at the University that we saw was called Woodland.

All the ducks in a row, garden on site, Houston’s office, outbuildings

If you would like more information on Houston’s homes: Sam Houston State University and Texas State Historical Association.

Posted in: Exploring Texas, Sightseeing

Checking Out Galveston, Texas and The Gulf of Mexico

Galveston was only about an hour and a half from our campground and we wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a nice day out, sunny and about 70 degrees. Parking close to the main area was a little challenging. However, if you don’t mind walking a little bit and playing frogger to cross the street, there was some free “beach access” parking on the street (on the non-water side). All parking on the water side of the street was paid from what we saw.

Cool benches on the sidewalks, water side

There were several fishing piers jutting out into the gulf. They looked like rocky outcroppings. There was one huge pier with rides called Pleasure Pier. Crazy name. We walked to see it, however unlike other piers we have been to, there was a general admission. You could not just walk on it to check it out, even if you were not riding any of the rides.

Nick found a few shells and we watched the waves for a little bit. We saw several cargo ships in the distance.

The Gulf’s water was a little chilly, so we did not wade in it. Because it is fed from rivers, it often has a muddy look from sediment coming in from the rivers, so you don’t have the clear waters of the ocean.

Posted in: Exploring Texas, Hiking, Injuries, National Parks, Sightseeing

Pointy Things Hurt

After years of poking ourselves with sewing needles, bamboo skewers for kebobs, or even sharp corners of the cabinets, you would think that we would learn.

Nope.

In Arizona, Nick touched the red fruit of a cactus. The fruit were smaller than a dime and looked soft, but there were still sharp needles on there! You just couldn’t see them as easily. We had just been researching about the prickly pear cactus fruit and how you have to remove the fine needles from it before eating. However, because they were smaller, I guess he thought he could poke at them.

In Texas, near the Japanese Tea Garden, Ben had a run in with a yucca plant. There were not any sidewalks from the Garden to the neighboring parking lot, so we we trying to walk in the grass area to avoid the incoming car/truck traffic. Ben got too close to a yucca plant and got stabbed by its pointy tip. We did some quick research and found that yucca’s have a toxin in them that create swelling. We keep a stocked first aid kit in the truck, so we cleaned it, put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on and gave him a Benadryl. It bled quite a bit for such a small hole. We changed the bandage that night and used Benadryl cream. It still had quite a bump for a few days and was sore.

We have definitely learned new things on this trip. For example, I had no idea yucca had a toxin and that the ends got harder as the plant got older.