Welcome to the Cowboy Capital of the World

20 04 2018

Frederic Remington’s Bronco Buster statue

We’re parked alongside friends in sites #111 and #113 at the Pioneer RV Park, next to the Medina River as it flows through Bandera, TX.  We’ve often driven through Bandera, but have never actually stayed here.  But, we’re here for 3 nights on our way north so we’ll have an opportunity to check out the antique stores, honky-tonk bars and cafes.

Sites in the upper section (1-70) are pull through, back-to-back shared utility sites which means you end up sharing your “patio” and front door area with another RV.  These upper terrace sites are the only ones with cable TV, and there’s nearly nothing OTA here in Bandera. On the lower terrace all sites are back-in; sites 75-88 are very near the highway and bridge but have the most back-in maneuvering space.  Sites 89-118 provide river viewing to the front and sites 121-154 provide river viewing to the rear.  End site #121 would be very private and quiet with a great rear window view toward the river.  Sites 105, 107 and 109 have good late afternoon shade.  Any sites between 103 and 138 are furthest from the highway and probably most quiet.

Pioneer RV Park, Bandera, TX Site #113

Pioneer RV Park, Bandera, TX, Site #121

With temps pushing into the 80’s, we enjoyed the convenience of walking down to the cool shade along the river with our lawn chairs.  We also appreciated the short walk into town from the RV park.  The well advertised OST (Old Spanish Trail) restaurant is within 3 blocks and the antique stores are even closer!  Just around the corner at the intersection of highway 16 and Main Street is the visitors center, well worth a stop for maps, live music schedules and other great information.

While in Bandera we checked out two other RV parks, Riverside RV less than a mile east of Pioneer.  And, Skyline Ranch RV, about 1 mile west of town along highway 16.  Riverside is laid out much like Pioneer, right along the river, closer to highway 16 and with fewer trees.  Some of the Riverside sites have concrete pads – we didn’t see any sites at Pioneer with anything besides grass or gravel.  Skyline Ranch is about 140 sites sprawling through nicely wooded meadows.  Right next door is the Wildhorse Saloon bar and grill, a nice walk-able destination for those not wanting to drive (and park) in Bandera.  Overall Skyline reminds a lot of On The River Campground in Kerrville.  Both would be great destinations – the slightly rowdy honky-tonks of Bandera or the more laid back and bigger town of Kerrville.

Riverside RV, Bandera, TX

Skyline Ranch RV Park, Bandera, TX

Skyline Ranch RV Park, Bandera, TX

We’re here in Bandera for 3 nights, then off to Del Rio – more from there…


Leaving the Texas Gulf Coast

18 04 2018

Lake Corpus Christi from Site #23

After leaving South Padre Island and spending 3 nights in Harlingen we’re parked on the shores of Lake Corpus Christi at the State Park.  This beautiful city park-like setting includes 3 camping areas, the Opossum Bend Camping loop with about 24 electric/water sites, Javelina Camping loop with 24 full hookups and Catfish Cove Camping area with about 30 sites with water only. We’re still close enough to the gulf coast to experience some windy conditions.  But, hopefully those will diminish as we travel inland toward San Antonio tomorrow.  We’re only planning a quick overnight at Corpus Christi.  Tomorrow we’ll continue northwest, skirting to the south of San Antonio and meeting friends at Bandera, TX – back in the scenic Texas Hill Country!

More from South Padre Island

3 04 2018

Nightly Sunset Bagpipes at Lobo del Mar

After watching the beach crowds grow over Easter weekend, today the beach and the RV park looks nearly abandon.  A cold front has slid down across far south Texas, bringing overnight temperatures into the 50’s and a refreshing north breeze and lack of humidity.  But, these northerners never last long, we’re headed back to the mid-80’s by mid week.

After the crowds left, we’ve enjoyed breakfast/brunch at the favorite Café on the Beach in the Palms Resort and a new discovery, Manuel’s in Port Isabelle.  We’ve returned to the Painted Marlin for dinner – where the food is great and the service is hit or miss.  We’ve also tried the new Meatball Restaurant for birthday dinner – the pasta was awesome, the lasagna only so-so.  But, overall, a nice restaurant with good service, we’d try it again. On Friday we’re back for the music of Chuck and Earl at Lobo del Mar.  On Sunday our pizza came from Russo New York Pizzeria, a new restaurant in South Padre. Good pizza, and a nice restaurant that would be a great dinner choice.

Sunset at the Painted Marlin, South Padre Island

Winds are always a factor in this area – but this year with gusts topping out near 50MPH, it seems more crazy than “normal”.  And, with nearly constant construction work around us – the dirt piles thick on everything outdoors.  We’ve scheduled Sierra Mobile RV Wash for Saturday while the construction project pauses for the weekend and we can hopefully depart with clean vehicles.  As usual, the guys at Sierra do an excellent job – starting with a complete roof cleaning, RV wash and hand wax and finishing with a wash and wax of the trucks.  Everything looks great – one again, great job guys, thanks!  And, their parts department even special orders parts for us during our stay – thanks!

Hand Washed and Waxed by Sierra Mobile RV Wash


Next stop, back to Harlingen for a few days and we’ll start the northbound trip.  More from there…

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…