Waking up in Kansas

11 04 2011

Beymer Water Recreation Park

Departing Palo Duro Canyon we headed north through the Texas Panhandle, through the Oklahoma Panhandle and about 70 miles into Kansas. Following the tradition of RVer’s everywhere we wanted to apply at least one more sticker to our “been there” map. Last night about 5pm we poured a celebratory Margarita and applied the Kansas sticker to our map.

Beymer Park Lakes

We’re parked at the Beymer Water Recreation Park, just a few miles south of Lakin, Kansas. So far off the beaten path, we’re the only ones using one of the 8 sites that provide water and 15/30 amp electric, covered picnic tables and freestanding charcoal grills. At one end of the row of RV sites is a large group pavilion and at the other end is the bath house. Between the main highway and the park are several small sand lakes that attracted a few fishermen while we were there.

Kearny County Wind Gage

Behind the sites are a tall row of trees that provide a good wind block. Unique in character and location, the only downside to this park is the bath house facility. Older and without any kind of privacy between toilets and the one non-working shower, these really need a fix-up. But, to the county’s defense – these facilities probably haven’t been used much during the winter months – so the fact that the water is turned on and the doors are unlocked was somewhat of a surprise. And, for a $5 overnight fee, this was by far the least expensive, and certainly the most private park we’ve been in.

Ready to Roll

Today we’ll head west out of Lakin on Highway 50 which follows the Arkansas river into Colorado. We’re only about 6 hours from home, so assuming all goes according to plan, this will be the last blog post for the Texas Road Trip 2011. In May we’re headed to Moab – so more from Utah.

A Gaggle of Gobblers?

10 04 2011

Palo Duro Canyon

What do you call a bunch of wild turkeys? Whatever it is, we were awakened by a group of 5 clucking and scratching as they wandered through our campsite this morning. We made the long trek to the Texas Panhandle yesterday all the way from Lake Travis to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. Located at the end of a 2 lane county road about 10 miles off of I-27, you approach through the grass and wheat fields that stretch as far as can be seen. Seemingly out of nowhere, a huge canyon begins to open along the road. Entering through the state park gateway you drive a bit further along the rim and then head down into the canyon. All facilities, day use picnic areas, rustic as well as electric/water sites, stables and miles of hiking/biking trails are located on the floor of the canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon

We’re in site #32 in the Hackberry Camp Area. The site is one of the first as you enter the loop, fairly private and close enough to the showers – but it’s not level. Even with all of our leveling blocks we can’t get the front of the truck high enough. A better site would be #30. Roughly in the center of the campsite loop is a shower house with two clean showers, sinks and toilets. There are dumpsters scattered along the loop road and an RV dump station nearby on the main road. There are 3 camp areas that cater to RV’s with power and water connections. The first as you drive into the canyon is Sagebrush, the largest with about 40 sites, then Hackberry with about 30 sites and finally Mesquite with about 20 sites. Each of these areas provide 30/50 amp electric & water service, a shower house and a nearby dump station.

Hackberry Site #30

When we arrived about 6:30 last night, the wind was howling out of the south with gusts to nearly 50 mph. But, down in the canyon the winds were a bit more mild and it became calm after sunset. We fired up the grill and enjoyed a good dinner. There is no TV or cell service in the canyon, we’re completely “unattached” here. This morning the winds stay fairly calm until about 9am. Once the red dust of the canyon starts blowing, we pack up and head out. Today we’ll continue north, finally leaving Texas, passing through the narrow panhandle of Oklahoma and into Kansas. More later.

The Dry Plains and Wind

9 04 2011

The grass is brown, it’s nearly 100 degrees and the wind is rotating the endless fields of huge white electric wind turbines – it must be West Texas. The trip through the hill country was pleasant with a few sightings of roadside blue bonnets and Indian paint brush. However, in general the wildflowers are nearly non-existent this year. The dry conditions being blamed on La Nina and the unusually hot temperatures have ended the wildflower growing season. In this western area and into the panhandle, there are wildfires blazing. Sounds like a long summer for this area of Texas.

We’re about an hour south of Lubbock, and about 3 hours south of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It’s going to be a long day, but it looks like we’ll be back on schedule this afternoon. More from the “Grand Canyon of Texas”

Good Morning from Lake Travis

9 04 2011

La Hacienda Office

We’re about an hour further west than planned, after arriving at McKinney Falls State Park and finding the RV sites fully booked. A few calls to nearby State Parks confirm that this is a very busy weekend in the Austin area with most RV sites booked through the weekend. So, it’s back to a “commercial” RV Park for the night. We opt for La Hacienda RV Resort near Lake Travis.

La Hacienda & Lake Travis

On the eastern border of the Texas Hill Country, the Austin area is carved out of beautiful rolling hills covered in mesquite, pecan, oak other hardwoods and scrub brush. Dramatic views abound within the city limits as well as further west around Lake Travis. La Hacienda is a large RV park (around 200 RV spaces) with plenty of amenities and services including full hookups, WiFi, 50 or so cable TV channels, large pristinely clean laundry and shower facilities. It’s conveniently located high on a bluff between two of the largest Lake Travis bays and not far from the famous Carlos n’ Charles on the lake. But, like nearly every other park like this, it feels very tight. If it wasn’t for the constant drone of air conditioners, you’d be able to listen to your neighbors conversation or TV. And, air conditioning was necessary yesterday – the Austin area broke high temperate records with 95 degrees – and, of course these temps are accompanied with the sticky humidity that this area of Texas is known for. It’s beautiful, but it sure can get muggy.

Fortunately temperatures dropped fairly quickly after sunset. We enjoyed a quick dinner, caught up on some email and the TV news before calling it a day. This morning after breakfast we packed up and were on the road by 10am. Today we’ll cut diagonally across the hill country into the plains of west Texas. The goal is to reach Palo Duro Canyon State Park tonight – but that’s a long haul, nearly 500 miles from Austin. More later from West Texas.

Farewell to South Texas

8 04 2011

We packed up and headed out of the south Rio Grande Valley about 10:30 this morning. We’ve had a great time enjoying the warm weather and exploring our favorite places from Mission, TX to South Padre Island. As has become tradition, we spent an afternoon across the border in Mexico, doing a bit of Tequila shopping and having an authentic Mexican lunch along with $1 Mexican cervazas. The recent drug wars have undoubtedly deterred some, but Progresso was still fairly busy with Winter Texans. And, as in past years, we experienced nothing but welcoming shop owners and street vendors. There was certainly no sense of the violence that has disrupted other larger border cities.

Earlier in the week we spent an afternoon on South Padre Island. The beaches were unusually busy even though Spring Break officially ended last weekend. Occupying the very southern tip of the Island is Isla Blanca Park with nearly 600 RV spaces. Some day we’d like to stay here in one of the largest RV campgrounds in the state. Within walking distance are beautiful beaches, fishing piers and several bars and restaurants.

Last night we celebrated my birthday and had a farewell dinner with a friends and family at a local Harlingen Mexican food restaurant. Thanks to everyone that has made this yet another unforgettable winter get-away. We really enjoy spending the time with each of you every year.

In yet another change of route, today we’re headed toward Austin instead of Kerrville as originally planned. After our good experience at South Llano River State Park, we have opted to explore one more Texas park, McKinney Falls State Park near Austin. This routing will place us a bit further east making the drive toward the Texas panhandle longer tomorrow. More from McKinney Falls.

Pepe’s is No More

4 04 2011

Pepe's Flooding, July 2010

One of our favorite diversions while in South Texas is Pepe’s Riverside Bar & Grill located along the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission, TX. With water from the river literally lapping at the patio, the huge unenclosed palapa covered a large dance floor with a stage and surrounding tables. Winter Texans came from miles around to enjoy the music, burgers and cold beers at Pepe’s. Unfortunately the floods of July, 2010 may have seen this landmark begin to fade away. With water nearly up to the thatching of the palapa, all electrical, plumbing and appliances stood in flood waters for over 30 days. Today when we visited, the gates are locked, there’s a small For Sale sign nearby and the weeds have been allowed to take over the parking lot.

The Riverside Club

Just upstream from Pepe’s is the Riverside Club. Formerly an events center for special occasions and private parties, the Riverside Club appears to have adjusted their operating hours for more frequent openings to former Pepe’s customers. The main dance hall is similar in size to Pepe’s, but built from a modern, clean metal structure with huge garage doors on two sides that can be opened up to the river breezes. Replaced wood paneling about 3 feet from the floor remind of the flood waters here. Today when we were there, with temperatures over 90, the doors were closed and the air conditioning was keeping the dance floor and table area comfortably cool. Outside, closer to the river is a large grassy area and several covered picnic tables for those that prefer the river experience. While not quite as rustic as Pepe’s, the Riverside Club is a great facility with friendly staff, good bar food and the most important, cold beers. Hopefully they will be around for a long, long time.

Mission, TX - 14 Jul 2010 - Margaret Jackson, left, and Cindy Frey walk out from the Riverside Club as water from the Rio Grande River flooded the area Wednesday morning in Mission. Photo by Gabe Hernandez/gabrielh@themonitor.com

Mission, TX - 14 Jul 2010 - A sign is displayed as water from the Rio Grande River rises near the office from Chimney Park RV Resort Wednesday morning in Mission. Photo by Gabe Hernandez/gabrielh@themonitor.com

Mission, TX - 14 Jul 2010 - Gordon Rudd helps move a friends golf cart from flooded water Wednesday morning at Chimney Park RV Resort in Mission. Photo by Gabe Hernandez/gabrielh@themonitor.com

Good Evening from South Texas

29 03 2011

Choke Canyon State Park

We’re now finally closer to the Gulf of Mexico than the Rocky Mountains!  Today we drove through San Antonio, turned south and are about 200 miles from the lower Rio Grande Valley.  We’re camping overnight at the Choke Canyon State Park, just outside Three Rivers, TX.  The 40 electric/water hookup sites are situation alongside the 26,000 acre Choke Canyon Reservoir, part of the water supply system for Corpus Christi.  The sites are spread out across two large loop areas with natural trees and grass.  This is an older park and not maintained nearly as well as South Llano river.  But still, it’s quite comfortable and very nice to be camping near water again – quite a change from the arid desert around Elephant Butte. 

Choke Canyon #133

The internet service is barely hanging in there – the Verizon Broadband comes and goes as does the T-Mobile cell phone coverage.  But for just a quick overnight, this will work fine.  However, the TV signals from San Antonio are strong, so we’ve been able to catch up on some of the news and weather.  This will be the last night in the camper for awhile – tomorrow we’ll arrive in Harlingen where we’ll spend about 10 days relaxing and enjoying the warm weather along the golf coast.  More later…