The Greatest Road Trip USA? - Our Round USA Road Tour.
The State of Texas, USA
Texas - Round Trip USA
We spent a lot of time in the state of Texas, USA as there was plenty on our must see list of places to visit.
There are thirteen National Wildlife Refuges, eleven National Parks and ---- State Parks in the state of Texas.
The State Tourist Office for the state of Texas, USA is: Texas Dept of Tourism Division - Box 12008, Austin, Texas TX 78711
Texas is a big state. Around 800 miles from west to east and just under 1000 miles north to south. Texans are living in the past – they still think they are an independent country! (It is big enough and diverse enough.)
There are areas like: the plains of the pan handle, the mountain area in the far west, hill country in the middle, the tropical area in the south, the lakes area in the north east and the forest area in the far east of the state. There are tourist trails in all of these areas plus: the Independence Trail around the south east costal area, the Forts Trail and Brazos in the centre, the Pecos Trail in the south west.
We were in Texas twice. Once when we were setting up and setting out. The second time was in December when we came back through Texas to spend Christmas with the people who had helped us to get started.
We set off today, Friday, 30th September 1994. If our plans were to work out we would be traveling virtually right round the USA. Leaving from Suncountry, RV, Resort, Whitney, Texas (Which is on the south west section of the lakes trail). We were heading north to Dallas, on I-35E and then east towards Arkansas (pronounced ark-an-saw)
The weather for the day was great, 85º. First real stop though was going to be Fort Worth, on Saturday just to the west of Dallas, where we visited the renowned Cattleman’s Museum on 7th Street, Downtown, Fort Worth. We felt like we were now seeing what we had come to see - America! The museum was jam packed with great stuff to do with the history of ranching in Texas. With great examples of branding irons, guns, equipment and believe it or not a massive collection of different barbed wires. Some of the diorama displays have 'talking mannequins', talking you through the displays.
There is also a Memorial Hall that honours individual cattlemen and women whose enriched the growth and development of the cattle industry.
We followed the trip to the Cattleman's Museum with a trip to Fort Worth Museum of Science & History just around the corner. The museum had sections about Rocks and Fossils, Your Body, Man and his possessions, and the History of Medicine. The most interesting exhibit was the Texas dinosaur, a 20 foot long Tenontosaurus who roamed the shores of an ancient sea near Fort Worth!
First night camping out on the road was at Camping World, Denton. We were after more RV stuff. There is free overnight parking for ‘customers’, so it is worth arriving after the store has closed! We did and got our free night camping, waiting for the shop to open on the Saturday morning. We had hoped to have a ‘Top box’ fitted but the workshop was fully booked for the Saturday. We learned a lesson here – to book ahead for important work. We joined the ‘Presidents Club’ which gave us a 10% discount on anything we were to buy at Camping World for the next year. As the store is closed on Sundays you could stop overnight Saturday and Sunday-nights and visit the surrounding area.
We headed off towards Texarkana, on the border between Texas and Arkansas. Texarkana is the largest city and the county seat of Miller County, Arkansas. It effectively functions as one half of a city which crosses a state line — the other half, the city of Texarkana, Texas, lies on the other side of State Line Avenue.
We traveled on the interstate highway through Greenville and Sulphur Springs. We planned to stay overnight at a free Corps of Engineers camp site at Wright Patman Lake, Part of the red River complex in eastern Texas. We found the campsite OK and were greeted there by a party of rednecks who invited us to their campfire – which we declined – as we weren't too sure of ourselves yet. We were woken around 3.30 in the morning by the sound of heavy traffic and we could see blue flashing lights through the curtains. Upon investigation we saw that a largish fire was raging about 400 meters away. It would seem that a trailer (caravan) had caught fire. We didn't venture out. In the morning we were told there had been an electrical fault with the 12v system. All that was left was a burned out chassis. No one hurt fortunately. Our first bit of excitement!
Sunday, after sleeping in late, having been awake half the night we set off towards Arkansas > .
Re-entered Texas from Louisiana on 23 November 1994 after going through Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington DC, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, since the beginning of October. Camped at Bay Oaks Resort –
24th Did absolutely nothing! Today is ‘Thanksgiving’ – Nowhere open.
25th Busy day today. On our way to Houston, Texas, visited the (570 foot) high San Jacinto Battleground memorial, a tribute to the defeat of Santa Anna's army, a memorial to an 18 minute battle in 1836 that was a complete rout of the Mexican forces of Santa Anna by greatly outnumbered Texans, and the associated museum of artifacts
Also visited the Battleship ‘Texas’ and heeded the Alligator Warning signs!
In the afternoon we went to the NASA - LBJ Space Centre, 'The Closest Thing To Space On Earth', just outside Houston, Texas. We thought this venue was much more interesting than the JFK Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. More technical stuff to play with, theatre shows, computer games and we saw the training centre facilities which were being used by actual astronauts on a space programme. The NASA Tram Tour took us 'behind the scenes' on a trip that took us to the Space Station Control, training and test areas. We visited the Rocket Park and saw many of the types of rocket that have gone into space. We spent about four hours at the centre. An excellent day.
Camped (and shopped) at Wal-Mart, Houston, Texas.
The following day traveled from Houston, Texas to Galveston beach and spent most of the day on the beach, we saw some people using metal detectors on the beach and not being ones to be left out when we left the beach we went to an out of town shopping mall at Port Lavaca and guess what? We bought a couple of metal detectors from Radio Shack, for a more active beach (desert) life.
Camped at Wal-Mart, Port Lavaca.
27th Traveled to Rockport coast road, Camped at American Adventure.
28th Was a very special day. We left American Adventure at 11.00 and went to find a dog! We called in at an animal shelter in Rockport but they were unable to accommodate us that day. We were advised to try PAWS in Corpus Christie, on Navigation Blvd. We were pretty useless finding it, a wrong turn here and there. At 1.00pm we found the unit and were allowed in to look at the dogs. There were some sorry sights but one stood out as pleasant natured, and lovable dog – “Mickey”. As soon as we held her she licked us both and played about. We had found a dog to love. Next stop was the vet – another 20 minutes and we arrived at one on Padre Island. It was 3.30pm. Fortunately they could see us right away – very nice people throughout the practice. We changed ‘Mickey’ to a more feminine ‘Miki’ on her documentation. She was jabbed and prodded for half an hour and eventually came away with all the right lotions and potions. It was too late to do anything else by the time we had finished so it was off to Wal-Mart, Padre Island to overnight and do some doggy shopping. We had to leave Miki in the house while we both went – we weren't sure what we would find when we got back! She had been a good girl and seemed to have slept to time away on the passenger’s seat.
We bought a ‘Redwood’ name plaque for on site use, so other RV’ers passing would know who we were. The day was not over for Miki, she had to have a bath to get rid of the pound puppy smell! This she did not like, but afterwards she looked and smelled great! We thought she would be happy with us.
29th Traveled from Wal-Mart to North Padre Island, South Texas. We all had a great time. Miki could dig all she wanted but couldn't get the fetch a ball bit! Moved on towards Brownsville, the southernmost point in South Texas and the USA mainland. Passed through Kennedy County on the only public road in the county. THe road is also part of the 'Texas Tropical Trail'. Arriving at River Bend Resort around 4 pm. Another chance to do some laundry and have a relaxing evening.
30th Left Brownsville via South Padre Island, the weather was warm and windy but we still stayed until 3.30pm and headed for ‘Camping World’ Mission, South Texas. (Mission is the self proclaimed 'Home of the Grapefruit' - The Texas 'Ruby Red' is delicious!) When we arrived there were 4 other RV’s ‘camping’. We managed to get an electric hook-up (free). Spent a peaceful evening watching TV and cuddling Miki.
The following day, 1st December, our stay at Camping World was several hours to 12.30pm Work was done on the Suburban central heating unit again and they looked at my ongoing battery charging problems. Collected mail from Mission post office. Our Vehicle deeds had finally got to us.
Traveled to Laredo , stopping at the dam at Falcon, saw the restoration and saw the tell tale signs of conflict. Camped at Wal-Mart, Laredo TX. We should have complained to the managemental team, as the state of the car park, it was not as clean as most others we had stayed at! Drove up to the border - just to have a look - We couldn't cross as we had Miki.
02.Dec 218 miles. From: Laredo via Uvalde, Knippa, Concan, Utopia, and Tarpley to Bandera TX
On the ‘Hill Country Trail’, crossing the Frio river and drove through some beautiful hill country. Between Utopia and Tarpley we stopped at the historic marker of the place where a deputy sheriff was killed by Indians in 1876. A couple of miles down the road we turned off the trail and spent some time looking for the dinosaur footprints in the solid limestone bed of Hondo Creek. We still don’t know if the dents and hollows were the footprints or not? On the journey today we saw 3 white hart deer, 2 wilds turkeys and at least 50 vultures feeding on a road kill deer.
Camped at Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Resort, Bandera arriving around tea time. The town were having their Christmas tree illumination ceremony. Bandera’s title, “cowboy capital of the world” originated when it became a staging area for the great cattle drives in the past. Dude ranches operate throughout Bandera County . A bronze monument honouring the many National Rodeo Champions, who call Bandera ‘home’, stands on the courthouse lawn.
Visited the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera - The collection included artifacts from prehistoric Texas, cultural exhibits, clothes, weapons and household items from the 19th and 20th centuries. The life of the cowboy is depicted. The authentic totem pole outside was one donation. Picture: left.
We spent a wonderful Saturday evening in a honkey tonk – dance hall, watching real cowboys and their families doing the Texas two-step and Cotton-eyed-Joe. Jody Jenkins sang live – great! The Sheriff showed his face a few times during the evening to check the under 21’s for alcohol consumption. He was carrying his gun in holster – This is the (wild) west. Stayed a second night at Jellystone Park .
04 12 94 Followed part of the hill country trail from Bandera to San Antonio, Texas. Went straight to Dixie Campground in order to meet a couple that we had met at Suncountry, in September. Once we had booked in we were taken downtown to see the Christmas lights. There had been a pageant earlier in the day, unfortunately we missed it. Spent the evening with our friends.
05 12 94. We got up early to see our friends before he went to work. She volunteered to look after Miki while we went back down town on the bus. We arrived at the Alamo about 8.50am.
The Alamo was made famous in late February and early March 1836, by the 189 patriotic defenders of Texas, led by Colonel William Barret Travis, against the overwhelming odds of the 4,000 strong army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The patriots who faced certain death included, Colonel James Bowie (of Bowie knife fame) and David (Davy) Crockett along with his Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, the 'Tennessee Boys' and the revered James Butler Bonham who returned to the Alamo whilst it was under siege. The battle cry for Texas became 'Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!' The former is still used today as a rallying cry.
(Goliad was another massacre by Santa Anna when James Fannin and around 350 of his men fighting the Mexican forces, surrendered with the understanding that they would be treated as prisoners of war, and then under orders from Santa Anna were massacred. Like the men who had died for Texas independence at the Alamo, Goliad also became a rallying cry.)
The Alamo is maintained by an organisation called The Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Did the tour of the Alamo and followed the trail to The Riverside Mall, followed by some window shopping and then took a riverboat ride on the San Antonio River and canal branch. We ended up having a full blown Mexican meal at the oldest restaurant in town – Casa Rio. Another great day. Went back to Dixie , picked up Miki and said farewell. Drove for a few hours to Temple TX, camped at Outdoor America
06 12 94 Spent all day relaxing and doing things around the house. In the evening went shopping and ended up camping at Sam’s Club, Temple TX.
07 12 94 Traveled from Temple to Austin, Texas. via Salado. Had a domestic day, laundry. Camped at Wal-Mart, Austin, Texas.
08 12 94 We shopped for material to recover the settee. Upholstery material seems to be an 'order only' item from in store catalogues, taking 14 – 21 days for delivery. In the late afternoon we were directed to a ‘Cloth World’ shop. They stock cut lengths of what appeared to be commercial upholsterers’ remnants. We found a piece that we liked, but there was only enough to cover the cushions. We were going to look again the next day. Camped on the Park and Ride car park on Research Blvd. Nobody seems to park and ride – we spent a very quiet night.
09 12 94 Spent another day looking for cloth – no joy. We did find some bits and pieces for Dippy. Camped at Coliseum Park – Where the free urban transit trams (Dillo’s) run from to town.
10 12 94 Gave up looking for material and decided to do some sight seeing. Took the Dillo (a largely free tram system) and visited the State Capitol, (See left) a pink granite building, which was very interesting. In the main hall there were statues of all the governors of Texas since the State was an independent republic. We also visited The LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) Museum. A national institution located on the campus of the University of Texas. There was everything from the limo’s he used to his desk with his pen and other personal items. Loads of photos and exhibits. An interesting audio visual presentation made our tour more meaningful. On the eighth floor there was a replica of the Oval Office. (The one we didn't see in Washington DC!)
11 12 94 Traveled from Austin, Texas to Johnson City and booked in at the Coast to Coast, Pernadales Hill Resort. Booked in for 3 nights (12-13 12 94) to enable us to sort our settee upholstery. Graham installed an outside light on the drivers’ side, so we could see to refuel, fill up the water or dump our tanks if it was dark at the time. We put up some Christmas decorations (ready for our return to Suncountry soon). Dippy was beginning to look like home to us now.
14 12 94 After seeing the LBJ Boyhood Home at Johnson Settlement in town traveled from Johnson City to see the second area of The Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks at LBJ Ranch on the north side of Hwy 20 about 14 miles from Johnson City. The park straddled the Pedernales River and had a visitors centre, reconstructed LBJ birthplace house. There was an informative conducted bus tour. A very interesting couple of hours.
Then we continued on to Fredricksburg TX . Visited the town Christmas fair and headed back to Austin, Texas. Camped at the Park and Ride again.
15th Left Austin, Texas and picked up the Brazos trail headed towards College Station. This was one of the wettest, coldest days we had known so far. We camped at Wal-Mart, College Station, TX .
16th Still following the Brazos trail we drove as far as Marlin, TX. Passing through Navasota , Anderson , Roans Prairie, Singleton, Lola, Cross, North Zulch , Normangee, Wheelock, Franklin, Calvert and Reagan. We camped at out favourite kind of place, Wal-Mart, Marlin, TX.
17th Marlin to Whitney, TX. via Mexia and Waco - where we searched out the location of the Waco siege. (The US government thought David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians was a gun-hoarding criminal who physically and sexually abused the several children he fathered with his followers. He died with almost 80 of his followers in a fire during an FBI assault on their compound in Waco, Texas in April 1993. There are still ongoing questions about the raid having given the "charismatic" religious leader immortality in the press.) All that we could see remaining was the base pad of the building that the AFT assault team attacked. Nothing to see really! We then headed straight back to our Coast to Coast home park, Suncountry, for the Christmas period.
18th - 25th Spent a lot of time with people we knew from our set up period earlier in September. We met another couple from the UK who were doing the same as us, only with a Chevy Suburban and Trailer (Caravan). Generally did a lot of partying all week!
Boxing Day said our lengthy farewells again to the home park and the kind folk we had been associating with and started to head out west – Yee ha! Traveled from Whitney to Brownwood, TX . getting there about tea time. Did a little bit of shopping in Wal-Mart and having partied the night before, went to bed early, camping care of Wal-Mart yet again! The best free RV camping around.
27th Traveled from Brownwood to Fort McKavett, TX via Brady, where we checked out the old Jailhouse and the Gothic style churches. They were closed for the Christmas holidays? The main features were their external structure anyway. Camped at Fort McKavett.
28th Visited the ruins of Fort McKavett and the museum housed in the old hospital. The fort became a settlement after it was abandoned as a military post. Overlooking the headwaters of the San Saba River Valley Bottom. There are fifteen restored buildings, including barracks, officers quarters, hospital, school, bakery etc and the ruins of many others this is a great insight into the latter half of the 1800's.
We spent the rest of the day traveling to Del Rio, TX. Camped at Wal-Mart.
29th Spent the day driving around Del Rio. Sight seeing. Did a part of the walking tour, from the courthouse to the old Methodist Church and back – Visited the Whitehead Museum, the old 1876 'Perry Store'. In the grounds the last resting place of Judge Roy Bean's remains. Other interesting items of Native American origin – artifacts etc and a Southern Pacific Railroad, Caboose. There was a Chapel dedicated to the memory of the Spaniards who brought Christianity to the region over 300 years ago.
Then drove up to Amistad National Recreation Area on Hwy 90. Saw our first live armadillo and some deer at the National Park. Spent some time talking to a 70 year old retired surveyor and WWII conscript called Harley Watts. Another free campsite available within the park. Stopped over night at Diablo East camping area. The area is around a reservoir created by the US and Mexican Governments. The reservoir is fed by the Rio Grande and is dammed on the south end of a series of canyons that are now flooded.
30th Left Amistad and drove to Langtry, TX on Hwy 90, crossing the famous Pecos (Pacos) River . Visited the Judge Roy Bean Visitors Centre at Langtry – Judge Roy Bean was famous as ‘the law west of the Pecos (Pacos)’ noted for holding court in his saloon bar. The site now houses the original building and a cactus garden. Langtry is thought to have been named after an actress - Lilly Langtry, "The Jersey Lilly" who Judge Roy Bean admired from afar, but never actually met. Visitors step back into history in the Jersey Lilly saloon, billiard hall and courtroom. The historic ramshackle structure is complimented by a modern visitors centre. Judge Roy Bean was a colourful character - he had a pet bear Bruno. Justice was swift in his court - When an accused was brought in, Judge Roy Bean would call a jury from his customers. Occasionally he would base his legal ruling on his one law book! More often than not he would just meter out his own justice! Judge Roy was cited as a 'hanging judge' but there are no records of him actually condemning anyone to death!
Camped at Dyers RV Park, Langtry.
New year's eve drove to Alpine, Texas. Booked in at Pecan Grove RV Park, Alpine. We would have to stay a day or so until the LPG station opened after New Year. We were heading off soon into the Big Bend National Park and didn't know how long we would be before we could get cooking gas again! Spent time in Alpine – saw wild deer in the town park.
Saw a dead javelina, a kind of wild pig like creature, at the side of the road – would have liked to seen a live one.
New Year over and full of LPG we moved out of Alpine on the 3rd. A clear, frosty morning! Drove down into Big Bend National Park entering at Maverick Junction. Took our time as there were fantastic views. Some really great overlooks and roadside markers giving details of the view. It is said that when God finished making Texas this is where she dumped all the remaining rocks and stuff she couldn't use elsewhere!
Visited the Visitor Centre at Panther Junction. Ended up at Rio Grande Village for the night – inside Big Bend NP. We didn't mind paying the $10 campground fees.
4th Took the Boquillas Canyon Trail, about a mile and a half round trip on foot. An amazing place where the Rio Grande cuts through a gorge. Also a historic crossing place where the Mexican army of Santa Anna crossed into the Republic of Texas. In the afternoon we hiked up hill and down dale on a primitive trail to find the renowned hot springs next to the Rio Grande. The hike was a serious effort! We spent a full hour in the hot springs. It was seriously cold out of the water. We managed to cadge a lift back to Rio Grande Village from an unsuspecting camper! That night we saw our first live javelinas, a coyote and some bobtail rabbits which being in Texas were the biggest wild bunnies we’d ever seen!
5th Traveled from Rio Grande Village to Castolon Campground along the main highway. The route was steep in places with some sharp bends. There were exhibit areas and overlooks along the way, describing the terrain, which we visited. Some of the views were overwhelmingly awesome! When we arrived at the Campground we had lunch before heading off to Santa Elena Canyon – moving through the canyon on the trail above the Rio Grande was a fabulous and exhilarating experience. On our return we met a couple of university professors who had taken a sabbatical and were touring and living in a small camper.
THe name 'Big Bend' refers to the great U turn that the Rio Grande makes here in south west Texas. Where the river goes it is like an oasis running through the desert.
The Rio Grande is not the huge river it used to be as most of its water is extracted for irrigation by the US and Mexico before it even gets to the western edge of the park.
6th Putting Big Bend NP behind us we traveled to Marfa, Texas via Presidio, Texas.
On Hwy 170 you drive along side the Rio Grande, the border between Mexico and the USA. At about ten miles outside Redford there is a cable stretched across the river with a bogey on it - used by the International Boundary and Water Commission to take measurements in the centre of the river. Based on their findings water is allocated to both countries for irrigation.
In Marfa we were looking for our next experience ‘The Marfa Lights’. We arrived in Marfa in the late afternoon and visited the Chamber of Commerce offices to get details of the ‘lights’. We were directed to a viewing area a few miles up the road towards Alpine, TX. on Hwy 90. This is where we spent the whole night. Sad to say we didn't see any unusual lights. They were usually seen between May and October. A pleasant night nevertheless! The mysterious 'ghost' lights are supposed to appear in an area of the Chinati Mountains east of Marfa. The source of the Marfa lights turns out to be a rather interesting atmospheric phenomena. The effect is exactly opposite to that which produces a mirage.
7th Left the viewing area late morning and headed off towards historic Fort Davis. Picture of Fort Davis, Texas.
Pictures of Fort Davis, Texas
The two pictures above side by side show the parade ground an extent of the surrounding buildings. In 1854 a brand new Fort Davis was commissioned. The fort formed a link in the chain of frontier forts maintaining protection for pioneers and gold seekers traveling the 'Butterfield's Overland Mail Route and the Austin, Texas to El Paso Road. Defending against the Comanche and Apache raiding parties. When the railroad replaced the stagecoach and military needs came to an end the fort closed in 1891.
A little further up the road we arrived at the McDonald Observatory. If you weren't interested in the stars and planets before you arrived – you were when you left. The visit was amazing. We visited the 107 inch telescope – a large contraption, the huge dome doors were opened and they moved the dome around to view the moon. We also had a solar viewing through a specially filtered telescope that blocks out about 99% of the sunlight, allowing us to see features on the sun - out nearest star.
After the day visit we were invited back to a ‘Star Party’. The constellations were identified and pointed out to us along with some of the planets – we saw Saturn and a real close-up of the moon! / The nebulae of Orion’s dagger were terrific too. We camped on the Observatory car park, with their permission. The observatory is on the top of Mount Locke, 6,800 feet above sea level. The evening was cold but the whole experience was worth this minor discomfort.
8th Moved out of The Observatory and headed off towards the Guadalupe Mountains National Park a remote and wild area just south of the Texas/New Mexico border. When we arrived at the visitor centre we found that there were no park trails suitable for us to follow in our motorhome 'Dippy' - 4x4 vehicles only. So ended our Guadalupe Mountains National Park experience - then on to New Mexico.
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