Spring Festivals in Texas

When I’m planning a trip in my Airstream, two of my favorite places to search for upcoming events are Texas Highways, and Texas Co-op Power magazines. Both have great lists of upcoming festivals, as well as a library of articles on cities and events around Texas.

Just out of curiosity, I checked to see what’s coming up in the next few weeks, and here are three that caught my eye.

tomato festThe first was Jacksonville, which is the “Tomato Capital of the World,” and is home of the “World’s Largest Bowl of Salsa.” That alone is enough to make me want to run and hitch the Airstream to the truck. This year’s Tomato Fest is scheduled for June 8 in downtown Jacksonville. With a car show, tractor show, and salsa contest, there’s something for everyone.

If music is your thing, head out to the Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics April 25-28. More than 150 fiddlers will soon descend upon Hallettsville to compete for $25,000 in prize money. They’ve got camping with hookups at the Knights of Columbus hall and a dump station on site. Call 361-798-2311for reservations. 2009_fiddlers_frolics_001

V8_loFinally, just down the road from Camper Clinic II in Buda, you might check out the Circuit of the Americas V8 Supercar event scheduled for May 17, 18, and 19. That weekend, 28 V8 Supercars will hit the track at speeds of up to 185 miles per hour – just a little faster than your average Texas RV!

Wherever you go this spring, be sure to send us photos of you and your rig on the road! We’d love to know what our Texas RV fans are up to, and share it with our Facebook friends!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Muleshoe, Texas

Last week, while one of my favorite road-trip friends, Lucy, and I were driving through West Texas, I was reminded just how many endearing (and amusing!) landmarks are out there to entertain those of us who do lots of RV travel in Texas.

MuleMuleshoeTXDOT

Photo from TXDOT archives.

The whole conversation started because Lucy grew up in West Texas, and we were approaching Muleshoe.

Suddenly, we were on a quest to find the World’s Largest Muleshoe and the mule statue itself that she remembered from childhood, as well as other West Texas roadside attractions.

Lucy spent some time browsing on her iPad as we rolled between freshly plowed cotton fields.  There are a couple of websites that mention the mule and the giant muleshoe, but… apparently times change.

250px-Muleshoe_sign_IMG_0421What we did find was the Muleshoe Heritage Center on Highway 84. The complex of buildings includes an old railroad depot, a ranch house(which was purchased as a kit in 1915 for $2,763 and shipped Muleshoe on a train), a log cabin, and much more. There’s also a large, 15-ton muleshoe at the front entrance, so it’s easy to find, and there’s a huge parking lot, so it’s an easy stop even when you’re pulling your travel trailer.

Today, I found the vintage photo from TXDOT of the mule statue. I tried to call the Chamber of Commerce, but, no answer. If anyone knows exactly where to find the statue or what the heck happened to the original, famous muleshoe, do tell!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

Texas Wildflowers 2013

1-Bluebonnets2While folks in the northeast are still struggling with record snowfall, our Texas RV campers are already enjoying their first glimpses of spring as wildflowers begin to bloom.

Before you go…
In Texas, more than 5,000 species of wildflowers line the highways, and April is usually considered the prime month for the ever-popular bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. But this year, the flowers seem to be popping up early. If you’re planning a Texas RV tour to see the wildflowers in Central Texas this year, you may want to visit the Texas Department of Transportation’s website or call the wildflower hotline at 800-452-9292 in advance of your trip to get the most current information on the best viewing spots.

1-PaintbrushPhoto tips…
As many of you know, my hubby, Bill Reaves, spent the better part of three decades photographing Texas for Texas Parks and Wildlife and for Texas Highways. One of his all-time favorite drives is the 13-mile long Willow City Loop near Fredericksburg. If you go, you can set up camp at one of Fredericksburg’s top-notch RV parks, and if you want to take photos, Bill shared four tips for photographing wildflowers:

  1. You’ll get your best photos on a cloudy day.
  2. Experiment with using your flash and decide which photos you like best.
  3. Don’t be afraid to move in close on your subject.
  4. Photograph early or late in the day to avoid harsh shadows.

1-BluebonnetsWatch your step…
And, here are a few more things you may want to think about before you pack up the travel trailer and take to the roadsides:

  • Watch for traffic. It’s easy to get distracted by the vibrant flowers and forget to watch for oncoming traffic when you’re crossing the road or opening your vehicle door.
  • Before you plop your child or grandchild into the flowers for photos, check the area for fire ants and rattlesnakes and copperheads. The snakes have been known to rest in the shade of the flowers.
  • Be aware that Willow City Loop roadsides are privately owned. Do not trespass to get the shot. Make sure you’re on public right-of-ways or consider visiting cultivated fields such as those found at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center http://www.wildflower.org/ or Wildseed Farms http://www.wildseedfarms.com/.
  • Don’t trample the flowers. While it’s not illegal to pick them, it’s important step lightly and not to damage flowers. They need to go to seed and create a whole new crop for next year.

Be sure to share your wildflower photos on our Facebook page! We’d love to see your smiling faces!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Happy Texas Independence Day: March 2

Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. ~John Steinbeck

This Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo portrays the Battle of San Jacinto where Texian troops defeated the Mexican Army and won Texas's independence from Mexico.

This Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo portrays the Battle of San Jacinto where Texian troops defeated the Mexican Army and won Texas’s independence from Mexico.

March 2, 2013, marks the 177th anniversary of Texas’s declaration of independence from Mexico.

March and April,1836, were busy months in Texas. The Alamo was under siege, and early settlers were fleeing San Felipe de Austin where Stephen F. Austin had established a colony and began planning the Texas Revolution. Austin’s fellow revolutionaries were making their way to Washington, Texas (now Washington-on-the-Brazos) to formally declare their independence, and General Sam Houston was soundly defeating Mexican General Santa Anna at San Jacinto.

If you’re looking for a reason to hook up the travel trailer this weekend, try celebrating Texas Independence Day by visiting the San Jacinto Battleground, or maybe Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site near Brenham.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is hosting a two-day festival at Washington-on-the-Brazos with music, historic demonstrations and re-enactments, and all admission fees will be waived during the celebration weekend.

While you’re out and about in your RV, you can also check out the Washington-on-the-Brazos Loop, one of the Great Texas Wildlife Trails. And don’t forget, Brenham is one of the best spots in the state for wildflowers!

For more ideas on RV camping, check out the Brenham website.

However, and wherever, you celebrate, Happy Texas Independence Day!

~ G. Elaine Acker

How to start Geocaching

I’ve mentioned geocaching a couple of times in posts, but I’ve never really explained it in detail. Because it’s lots of fun and a good RV road trip activity, I thought I’d give you a few more details about how to get started.

The simplest definition of “geocaching” is “treasure hunt.” Using a GPS device (which can be your smart phone), you navigate to a specific set of coordinates and then search for the hidden geocache, a container hidden at that location.

Here’s a 30-second intro from Geocache,com.

A traditional geocache is a container with a a logbook for you to sign, and often, small items inside. You can take an item as a souvenir provided you leave another goodie for the next person. It would be fun if we all started traveling with little mini RV models and adding them to the caches we find! And there are nearly 2 million geocaches worldwide, so that could keep us busy for awhile. Here’s a quick video highlighting all the places you can find geocaches around the globe.

Another type of geocache – one of my favorites because I like rocks, and we often see interesting formations along the roadside and on hikes –  is an EarthCache. It’s a special place that people can visit to learn about geological features of our planet. The EarthCache pages include a set of educational science notes along with cache coordinates, which make it a great way for families to explore together and learn about nature at the same time.

If all this sounds fun, this spring, in Port Aransas, you can participate in the Texas Challenge 2013. This is the 11th annual event, which attracted 500 visitors last year. You don’t even have to participate in the challenge to attend, you can just go and be part of the fun! (It’s a great excuse to get away to Port Aransas… hint hint…)

So grab the kids or grandkids, hook up the travel trailer and go stay at one of several RV parks. The kids will love the treasure hunt, and you’ll drive away with lots of great memories.

~ G. Elaine Acker

Happy Valentine’s Day!

ABC_ChocolateToday we’re celebrating Chocolate Month! Do you pack chocolate on your RV trips? The good news is that chocolate has health benefits! Don’t believe me? Check out all the latest info from the American Botanical Council.

And next time you hook up your camper and hit the road, you can even make discovering America’s chocolate hot spots part of the journey.

From March 29 through April 14, you can visit “the sweetest place on earth,” Hershey, Pennsylvania, for “Hershey in the Spring.” They’ll have rides, entertainment, and of course, plenty of chocolate!

There’s camping close by at the Hershey Highmeadow Campground.

Or check out San Francisco’s Chocolate Festival, September 14-15, 2013. The festival is a two-day Ghirardelli chocolate celebration that has transformed into a true San Francisco tradition.

Here are the highlights from 2012!

If you go to San Francisco, check out the RV park reviews before making your reservations. There are several luxury resorts with gorgeous views, as well as more economical options.

Happy Valentine’s Day! And I vote we celebrate chocolate all year ’round!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Mardi Gras 2013: Texas Style

Mardi Gras may be the biggest party of the year, but it isn’t just for New Orleans, anymore. If you fancy a road trip in your camper this weekend, you’ll find Mardi Gras done Texas style in Galveston, Dallas, and Port Arthur.

Momus float courtesy Galveston.com

Momus float courtesy Galveston.com

In Galveston, you’ll find the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation. It’s grown a lot since I was last there, and now offers 38 concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and five elegant masked balls. If you’re taking the RV, there’s a lovely KOA overlooking Galveston Bay in nearby Baytown, or, visit Galveston.com for six more options!

In Dallas, you’ll find 28 bands and lots of benefit events, ranging from a mask auction benefiting young artists to Mardi Growl, which benefits Operation Kindness. There are plenty of Dallas-Fort Worth RV parks to choose from, including several featured in USA Today. Or, you may have seen my recent post about the Vineyards Campground, in Grapevine, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Photo courtesy Galveston.com

Photo courtesy Galveston.com

Finally, you can head to Port Arthur, which is celebrating its 20th Mardi Gras anniversary with parades, motorcycle events, and concerts for the whole family. Don’t miss the snake encounters and performances by “Sonny the Bird Man” Carlin! Their spaces for RVs and travel trailers inside the festival grounds are all booked (sorry!) but the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau lists several other parks in the area.

Wherever you go, enjoy a great Mardi Gras celebration – Texas style!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

 

 

Plan your Valentine’s Day RV Trip Now!

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Newsflash: Valentine’s Day is exactly 10 days away. It’s on a Thursday this year, which makes this the perfect time to plan a long weekend for two in your travel trailer.

Texas is a romantic place, with plenty of hideaways for picnics, stargazing, sunsets, and long hikes. I could go on and on, but here are three ideas to jumpstart your imagination as you plan the perfect Valentine’s Day RV road trip.

1. Spend the weekend in Fredericksburg. There are several terrific RV parks to choose from, and Enchanted Rock is nearby.  You can hike to the top and have a picnic for two with sweeping vistas of the Texas Hill Country. To make life easier, just stop by the Clear River Pecan Company on Main Street and ask them to make sandwiches and pack a few sweets for your for that picnic.

2. If the beach is more your style, spend some time on South Padre Island. You can make memories watching dolphins in the wild on a Dolphin Watch tour, or meeting a sea turtle in person at Sea Turtles, Inc. You can also stroll hand in hand along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a boardwalk that crosses four acres of marshland that’s home to many species of coastal birds. For camping, check out the South Padre KOA!

3. One more option is paddling trip through East Texas, exploring the sloughs along Spring Creek near Martin Dies Jr. State Park on the edge of the Big Thicket. Texas Parks and Wildlife has three, well-marked paddling trails that lead you through the old growth, river bottom hardwood forest. They also offer guided tours. You can camp right there at the park, and canoes and shuttle services are available.

What do you have planned for Valentine’s Day? If you’ve got other ideas about some of Texas’s most romantic spots for Valentine’s weekend, let us know! We’d love to add them to our list!

Discovering Grapevine, Texas

AirstreamToday, my Airstream is perched on a little peninsula at The Vineyards Campground overlooking Scott’s Landing Marina on Lake Grapevine. The last couple of days have been chilly, but the setting sun still makes it look warm and inviting.

Bass Pro ShopAs it turns out, Grapevine is a great little winter getaway. I spent some quality time this morning at Texas’s largest Bass Pro Shop, before wandering down the streets of the historic downtown area where there are antiques, gourmet foods, galleries and gifts.

Wine is also big here in Grapevine. There are eight winery tasting rooms, wine trails, and wine trains. There’s even a Sweetheart Wine Trail if you’re looking for a special something to do for Valentine’s Day next month.

And, when your RV road trip includes the kiddos, you can add the Legoland Discovery Center to your itinerary, along with a trip to the Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium.

Vineyards signBut tonight, I’m going to enjoy the RV campground. I have my very own little deck here at the campsite, overlooking the lake, and a floating dock where the ducks and geese gather for an evening meal. There’s a fire pit waiting for a pile of wood, and a bag of marshmallows in the pantry. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the stars to appear.

 

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

Martin Luther King Day

Rediscover America’s History over the 3-day MLK Weekend

National holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, coming up on Monday, January 21, are great for two reasons. First, we get a long weekend to spend in the camper with our families, and second, we’re reminded about our rich American history.

If you’d like a refresher on the impact Dr. King had on civil rights, you can check out this video on YouTube of his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

Celebrations across Texas include parades, marches and special events in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

And for many, MLK Day has become synonymous with a Day of Service, honoring Dr. King’s legacy of service to others. If you’d like to get involved with a project near you, visit the MLK Day website and click, “find a project,” to locate a volunteer opportunity in your home community, or perhaps one along the route of your next RV road trip.

If a road trip across the south is in your future, you’ll need more than three days, but it’ll be worth it to visit the Martin Luther King National Historic Site and Park in Atlanta, Georgia, or to retrace Dr. King’s footsteps on the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, National Historic Trail.

Whatever you decide to do with your three-day weekend, hitch up that travel trailer and enjoy! And don’t forget to send us notes and photos from your journeys!

~ G. Elaine Acker