Good Morning from South Padre Island!

2 04 2018

After spending 2 nights in Harlingen, we arrived to Isla Blanca RV Park on Sunday.  With winds continuing to be forecast in the 20-25 MPH range, a fairly early start from Harlingen insures we’ve crossed the Queen Isabelle causeway to the island before noon.  Major beach and RV park refurbishment plans announced last year make it a bit uncertain what we’ll find.  But, other than some road closures, sites are abundant and we’re parked at C406 and C405, prime sites that back-up to the south fence with great views overlooking the Brownsville Ship Channel.

Isla Blanca RV Park, C405 & C406


On this far south end, the former rec hall, life guard building and old beachfront bar have been demolished and are being replaced with a 4000 person amphitheater.  This location will provide prime viewing opportunities across the channel to Boca Chica where the new SpaceX facility is being built.

SpaceX Launch Facility coming to South Texas

Following a Sunday tradition, our first outing is to pick up a pizza at D’Pizza Joint.  Formerly available for delivery, apparently Isla Blanca Park no longer allows food deliveries through the gate. During the week we enjoy lunch at the Padre Island Brewing and our first Friday night dinner at our favorite waterside grill, the Palm Street Pier.  Under new ownership, the former Pier is now called Lobo del Mar Cafe – but other than a few deleted menu items, not much has changed yet.

Friday Night sunset at Lobo del Mar

Things are still quite busy on the Island.  Spring Breakers are still hanging out and the big Easter weekend has been ramping up since Good Friday.  This year we’re scheduled to be on South Padre Island for 3 weeks – so more from here as we enjoy living on Island Time.

Easter Sunday on South Padre Island

The ‘Padre” of South Padre Island – Padre Jose Nicolas Balli


Choke Canyon & SeaWind RV Resort

22 03 2018

Choke Canyon State Park

From Kerrville, the lower Rio Grande Valley is about 300 miles to the southeast and much too far (for us) to travel in a single day.  Plus, we need to circumnavigate San Antonio via a route that takes us through Bandera, Hondo, Devine and Jourdanton.  In hindsight, this was the wrong routing. Turning south at Jourdanton, both highway 16 and eastbound 72 are rough bumpy examples of what too much heavy truck traffic will do to a secondary roadway.  Next time we’ll detour over to I-37 somewhere south of San Antonio and on to Three Rivers via highway 281.

With cabinet contents slightly askew, we arrive at Choke Canyon State Park, on the shores of the first of several impounds that provide water for Corpus Christi.  In a strange twist of fate, we’re assigned site #133, the same site that we occupied 7 years ago during our last visit to the park.  The site provides water and 30/50A electric.  A dump station is near the park entrance.  OTA TV from San Antonio is good and the wildlife is abundant through out the campground.  We especially enjoyed watching the deer as they made their way down to the water and the wild turkeys as they strutted through the campsite.  While the campground offers WiFi near the entrance station, we didn’t try the booster to see if it would work – and instead used the very good 4G LTE T-Mobile service.

Choke Canyon Site #133, March, 2011

Choke Canyon State Park, Three Rivers, TX

Choke Canyon State Park, Three Rivers, TX

Choke Canyon State Park, Three Rivers, TX

Over the past years, we’re heard good reviews for an RV Resort at Riviera, TX – about 2 hours SE of Choke Canyon.  Instead of fighting the seemingly relentless south winds that are blowing out of the Valley, we opt for an overnight at the SeaWind RV Resort.  SeaWind RV is on the shores of Baffin Bay, a large bay south of Corpus Christi Bay.  Here sites are laid out along the water, in 4 spacious row and around Kaufer Lake.  Many of the sites are beautifully landscaped with shrubs, flowers, cactus and palm trees.  We select site #279, a back-in site along the bay.  The full hookup site provides electric, water, and a sewer port.  The Passport America rate here (for up to 7 days) is $20 – a great value!  OTA TV is good from Corpus Christi and the campgrounds WiFi works fine.  This park is somewhat out of the way, but offers some great privacy and quiet sites.

SeaWind RV Resort, Riviera, TX

From Riviera we’ll head to Harlingen, our home for a few nights before moving out to South Padre Island.  More from there…

Kerrville/Ingram, TX

21 03 2018

Along I-10, Texas Hill Country

Ah…the Texas Hill Country!

Like no where else in the state, with wooded hillsides, beautiful limestone formations, deep caverns, and valleys of wandering creeks, this is one of our favorite spots in the US.  Starting at the Llano River valley at Junction, the hill country extends south to Uvalde, and east all the way to northern sections San Antonio and western areas of Austin.  Centered nearly in the middle of the region is Kerrville, a city of about 25,000 established along the Guadalupe River.  We’re parked in Ingram, TX just west of Kerrville at Johnson Creek RV Park.  We last visited this park in 2010, PARK REVIEW and this year have joined friends from Montrose, CO as they spend time in Kerrville before heading back to Colorado.

Johnson Creek RV Resort, Ingram, TX

Surrounded by an active pecan orchard, Johnson Creek has expanded from 50 to about 70 sites and with another 10 or so planned, this is still a relatively small park.  On the banks of Johnson Creek, a small tributary of the Guadalupe, this RV park offers a quiet retreat for winter Texans, full-time residents and a few overnighters.  Initially arriving without a site available, we’re assigned the “overflow” site at the far south side of the campground.  Equipped with water and electric service, this site is quiet and very private.  Later in the week we move to site #34 that provides additional services of sewer and cable TV.  Currently site #33 serves at the “exit” for the last row until it’s extended to the main road.  Initially this seemed like it might be annoying – but in fact the extra space afforded by this “drive-by” site improves the view and privacy of #34.

“Overflow” Site, Johnson Creek RV Resort

With virtually no OTA TV and only 12 channels of cable, the satellite comes in handy and despite having an orchard all around, is fairly easy to set-up.  There are a handful of WiFi access point around the campground.  Our WiFi booster helps select the best and overall the service isn’t too bad.  Nothing close to video streaming quality, but workable. During our stay we joined friends for several outings.  On Friday night we all enjoy huge portions of fried catfish at a bar/restaurant next to By The River RV Park PARK REVIEW where we stayed in 2010.  Over the weekend we explored Bourne with a stop at the creekside Dodging Duck Brewhaus for hand crafted brews and snacks of fried green tomatoes.  Later in the week we enjoyed Mamacita’s Mexican restaurant in Kerrville – perhaps the closest we’ve found to Uncle Julio’s – one of our all-time favorites in the Dallas area.

Johnson Creek RV Resort, Ingram, TX

After a very quick 5 nights in Kerrville, we’re back on the road headed for the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  More from two overnights enroute to the valley…

I-10 across West Texas

15 03 2018

The Roadrunner of Ft. Stockton, TX

Traveling I-10 through west Texas can be an endurance test of winds, rough roadway and constant semi-truck traffic.  After a bit of a reprieve on the scenic Trans-Mountain highway that leads to the north around El Paso, we’re back on I-10 just east of town.  It’s been a number of years since we’ve traveled much of I-10, generally we divert south for Ft. Davis and/or the Big Bend area.  This year we’re headed nearly all the way to San Antonio – over 500 miles to the east.

With few options for overnight stops here in West Texas, our first night will be at Van Horn, a former KOA that works well for a quick overnight stay.  PARK REVIEW  Arriving around 1PM (after moving into the Central Time Zone) we watch as the nearly empty park fills with overnight rigs.  But, by 11AM the next morning, nearly every site is once again empty.

Our plan was to check out one of the city parks in Iraan, TX.  However a call this morning indicates that the no-reservation park is full – so change of plans, tonight we’re parked at another former KOA, the Ft. Stockton RV Park.  Just east of town, this is a fairly nice park and once again nearly full overnight and empty by 11AM.  On a bit smaller scale than the Las Cruces roadrunner, here in Ft. Stockton, “Paisano Pete” greets visitors and poses for pictures in a small park near downtown.

Ft. Stockton RV Park

Ft. Stockton RV Park

After quick overnights at Van Horn and Ft. Stockton, we’re bound for 5 nights near the Kerrville area in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  More from there…

Las Cruces, New Mexico

13 03 2018

Las Cruces, KOA Site #19

We’re parked in Site #19 at one of our all-time favorite KOA’s – the KOA of Las Cruces, NM.  We spent time here last year and really enjoyed the “view-sites” with their gorgeous views across Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains in the background.  And, Las Cruces is a good resupply stop, the KOA has great laundry facilities, and friends here always make our stay a good time.  This is an nice, oversized site even more spacious than #13 where we were parked last year.

OTA TV includes 20 or so locals in the Las Cruces/El Paso market.  The park’s WiFi system works well and T-Mobile provides full 4G LTE service.  The Post Office is 5 minutes away, Walmart is 15 and there’s even a Camping World about 50 miles away in Anthony, TX – just outside the El Paso metro area.  All in all, very convenient.

While in town we enjoyed dinner out in several of the charming Old Mesilla Village restaurants. Sunday we’re at La Posta de Mesilla, a huge old sprawling complex just off the historic Plaza.  La Posta offers what is some of the best Mexican food and beverages we’ve ever had.  Next time, we need to try brunch!  On Tuesday we’re back to Mesilla to find a patio for after-work beers and snacks. Starting at The Dog House, this is a patio, take-out, brewery extension of the Andele! Restaurant, a long time establishment in Old Mesilla.  From the Dog House we explore the Double Eagle, “the crown jewel of Historic Old Mesilla”.

While nearly every building in Mesilla probably has some interesting history, the Double Eagle is perhaps the most unique.  First constructed in the late 1840’s, the building has witnessed many events including the Mexican-American War of 1846, the declaration of Mesilla as the Capital of the Arizona Territory in 1861 and the jailing and subsequent trial of Billy the Kid in 1881.  The Imperial Bar, where we belly-up, is 30 feet of exquisitely hand carved oak and walnut. Behind, the mirrored back bar is lighted by two 5 foot high Imperial French floral Corones, each with 23 lighted brass flowers, 10 of which have blue crystal rosette shades.  Overhead hang two classic French Baccarat chandeliers that are 7 feet tall and 3 feet around.  Above, the ceiling is highly decorated pressed tin, accented with 18 karat gold.  A bit over the top?  For sure – but amazing none the less!

And, what old building wouldn’t be complete without stories of love, murder and ghosts?  Here is the story of lovers Inez and Armando!

Roper Lake State Park, Arizona

8 03 2018

Roper Lake State Park, Site #5

Good Morning from Cactus Flat, AZ.

We’re parked in Site #5 at Roper Lake State Park, about 6 miles south of Safford, AZ.  The 45 electric and water sites are organized around two loops set on the banks of 30 acre Roper Lake which is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish and rainbow trout.  The Hacienda loop sites provide 20/30A electric, water, fire rings and picnic tables.  The Cottonwood loop provides 20/30/50A service, water, fire rings and covered picnic tables.  Each loop also has a shower house providing hot showers.  There is a dump station near the park entrance.

Roper Lake State Park and Mount Graham

The drive across from Gold Canyon into the Gila River Valley along Highway 60 was impressive, both the beautiful landscapes as well as the immense copper mines around Globe.  A note for high profile rigs:  The Arizona Department of Transportation lists the Queen Creek Tunnel at 22 feet.  Recent lighting improvements have reduced the headroom to 13’6”.  This low clearance is not currently noted by RV navigation software.

Set at the base of snow covered 10,720 foot Mount Graham, this area of the Gila River Valley has long been known for substantial artesian waters.  Within the park the state has constructed a large concrete and stone hot tub that is constantly refilled by 100 degree water.

Satellite reception is good, but only 2 PBS channels are on the OTA lineup.  The park offers free WiFi and actually works quite well.  And the T-Mobile network offers full 4G LTE cellular service.

We’ll be here at Roper Lake two nights, and then onto Las Cruces.  More from there…

Superstition Views at Canyon Vistas, Gold Canyon, AZ

5 03 2018

Superstition Views at Canyon Vistas

Located adjacent to Canyon Vistas RV Resort is Superstition Views, a 55+ luxury casita community that steps up the traditional park model into beautiful stucco homes with carports, RV ports and rooftop entertainment spaces.  Most of these casitas are small, around 700 square feet and typically feature a great room and a bedroom.  The RV port is optional, but with full hookups your RV can act as your master bedroom or a second bedroom when guests arrive.  These are prebuilt park models with added custom garage, carport, rooftop patio, RV carport and/or a combination of all built to your specifications. Then they stucco over the park model & the custom build so that they appear to be a single permanent structure on the lot. The lots are larger than the typical park model lots, allowing space for an RV in addition to the park model. The larger lots combined with the stucco finish give the neighborhood a much more upscale look than your typical park model community. It’s unclear if you own or lease the site, but “lifestyle fees” run around $500 per month which include many resort amenities, but no utilities.

Superstition Views at Canyon Vistas

Superstition Views at Canyon Vistas