Posted in: 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: Christmas, Food

Cooking In The RV: Hanky Pankies

We normally make these delicious (although not exactly visually appealing) appetizers at Christmas. However, this year we didn’t make them. We were kind of missing them, as I usually only make them for parties and Christmas. We made them in the RV oven! It took a little bit longer, as my baking sheet is much smaller than the one I had at home. If you’ve never made them, they are really easy! You can find the recipe here (link to my other blog).

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things

We Finally Have A Couch! (RV Renovations)

The RV came with a loveseat couch, which could turn into a bed. However, we really missed having a couch that we could lay down in, that could fit more than 2 people, and was comfortable.

The RV couch started off as ok. Livable but not enjoyable. Then a spring broke somewhere in the left seat cushion and we had a spring poking us in the butt. It was not something we could fix either. We lived with it for a while.

We kept putting off taking the couch out because it was a scary proposition. We didn’t know how hard it would be, where things were bolted down, etc. Finally, we took on the adventure of making the living room work better for us. At one campground in Texas, we dismantled the loveseat to make room for a futon or couch. It was pretty easy to take apart once we knew it was really just held together with some screws. No need for a saw or hammer to break it apart.

We also removed the couch side part of the dinette. We bought new foldable chairs at Costco. We had bought similar ones when we had the house and used them for extra seating when people came over. The new chairs were in a darker color, which actually worked well with the existing color scheme for the RV.

We ended up keeping the base of the loveseat, even with the broken spring so we would have something to sit on in the meantime. We moved the bench seat so it was against the window. We then fit one of the camping chairs next to it for extra seating. It wasn’t perfect but it worked ok. We also kept the seat cushion from the dinette that we removed so the kids could use it as a floor cushion.

It took us a while to find something that would fit in the space that also wasn’t very heavy. We leaned towards futons since they were usually lighter in weight and would still give us the extra bed option if we would ever need it. We also didn’t want something with arms, so that when Ben laid down, he wasn’t bunched up and we could fit more of us on the couch.

Costco had a futon that we almost bought, but it was really close on the dimensions, so we didn’t get it. We finally found a cheap futon at Walmart and decided to give it a try. We pulled everything out of the living area and brought the futon box inside in between rain showers. It was easy to put together and fit perfectly.

We’ll see how long it lasts, but right now we are really enjoying the layout and being able to spread out somewhere other than on our bed.

Top Row: Before, Middle Row: Taking it apart. Bottom Row left: After loveseat before couch. Bottom Row middle and right: with new futon.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, 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, 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: 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: 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, 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: 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: 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.