RV Camping at your Favorite Swimming Hole

Take your RV to your favorite Swimming Hole!

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

With temperatures around the state hitting the 90’s and 100’s, our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife just reminded us that there are lots of great swimming opportunities while you’re RV camping in Texas State Parks.

From spring-fed rivers, to Hill Country lakes (near our Camper Clinic II store in Buda), to the Gulf (don’t forget to visit Camper Clinic RV Super Center in Rockport!), you can play in the water and keep cool while getting back to nature.

In the Austin area, state parks such as McKinney Falls, Inks Lake and Pedernales Falls offer an array of rivers and lakes in the heart of the Hill Country.

Swimming at Garner State Park

Fun times at Garner State Park! (Photo: TPWD)

In East Texas near Houston, Huntsville State Park and Lake Livingston State Park are ideal destinations for river and lake swimming. If wading close to shore on the open ocean seems more ideal, Galveston Island State Park offers beach access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Near Dallas, Eisenhower State Park, Fairfield Lake State Park and Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway offer park visitors a chance to swim in the soothing waters of those lakes, cool off and enjoy a break from the bustle of the city.

In the San Antonio area, Guadalupe River State Park and Palmetto State Park give park visitors a chance to go for a dip and beat the south Texas heat.

In West Texas, Balmorhea State Park is the home of one of the world’s largest spring-fed pools, with water so clear that many people bring their snorkel gear to experience the underwater world first hand.

For a whole list of State Park RV camping facilities, swimming holes and swimming safety tips, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Happy splashing!

Tour Texas Chili Cookoffs in your RV

Experience Texas’s chili cookoffs from the comfort of your RV.

Judging Chili Cookoff

Who knew judging chili could be such hard work?

Last Saturday, my hubby and I served as judges for the Lone Star Resort‘s annual chili cookoff.

Held in Austin, it was a Chili Appreciation Society sanctioned event that allows participants to earn points that will enable them to compete in the International Chili Championship in Terlingua.

I never fully appreciated the complexities of chili judging before last weekend! My hat’s off to our host and event organizer, Ken Rodd. I learned a lot, and thought you might enjoy a few fun facts about chili cooking and judging, and the drama of chili cookoffs.

Frank Tolbert, who published the book, A Bowl of Red, in 1953, was one of the founders of the Terlingua cookoff.  Click on the photo for Frank's recipe.

Frank Tolbert, who published the book, A Bowl of Red, in 1953, was one of the founders of the Terlingua cookoff. Click on the photo for Frank’s recipe.

Rules for the Chili Cooks

CHILI MUST BE COOKED FROM SCRATCH – “Scratch” is defined as starting with raw meat. No marinating is allowed. Commercial chili powder is permissible, but complete commercial chili mixes (“just add meat” mixes that contain pre-measured spices) are NOT permitted. (Right. If I’m at a chili cookoff, I’m expecting something far more exotic than I can whip up at home with the help of my friend Wick. No offense, R.I.P. Wick.)

NO FILLERS – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted. (I guess there really is a rule about NO beans in Texas chili!)

PYROTECHNICS – No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics or explosives at a chili cookoff. Contestants discharging firearms and/or using explosives or other pyrotechnics will be disqualified from the chili cookoff. (I don’t even want to know what happened that resulted in this written rule!)

Rules for the Judges

JUDGING CRITERIA AND SCORING – A single score takes into consideration the five criteria for scoring chili: Aroma, Consistency, Red Color, Taste, Aftertaste.

TABLE MONITORS – Each judging table will have a knowledgeable table monitor to instruct judges, control table talk, answer questions, and enforce CASI judging rules. Discussion of the chili will not be permitted at judging tables. (And as we learned, spouses are not allowed to sit together.)

INSPECTION OF CUPS – It is the responsibility of table monitors – especially on the preliminary tables – to remove each lid, look at the chili, and check each cup for interior marks and fillers before placing the chili on the table for judging. (Chili judging IS an exact science. If you want to read even more rules and try to understand how the chili cups are assigned to judges and distributed, good luck! Here’s the link to the rules!)

The Drama

It took three years, from 1967 to 1969, to crown the first cookoff winner. Held in Terlingua, the first cookoff was declared a draw, and the results of the second were never known, since after a secret ballot vote, the ballot box was stolen at gunpoint and thrown into a mine shaft. In 1969, C.V. Wood, Jr., the man who built Disneyland for Walt Disney, entered and was crowned champ.

As is usually the case with human nature, chili politics eventually split the cookoff into bickering groups. Today, the two main groups that have evolved are: The Chili Appreciation Society, and the International Chili Society, which is based in California.

From the Texas RV traveler’s perspective, I think I’d rather leave the politics at home. I just want to enjoy the road trip, have fun camping, watch the showmanship, and taste some awesome chili. If you agree, you can check out the upcoming chili cookoffs on both societies’ websites above and start planning!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Lone Star Resort Front BuildingP.S. If you’re planning a trip to the Austin area, be sure to make a reservation with our friends at Austin Lone Star Resort. They did a fantastic job with this year’s chili cookoff – as always! The park is conveniently located right off I-35 in South Austin, and once you’re under the shade of those gorgeous oaks, you’ll forget the freeway is even there.

 

 

 

 

RV Camping at Goose Island State Park

Enjoy RV Camping in Texas at Goose Island State Park

Deer at entrance at Goose Island State ParkFor the past four days, I’ve spent my evenings enjoying Gulf breezes in the shade of oaks, and waking up to the sounds of cicadas in Goose Island State Park.

Located on Aransas Bay just 15 minutes east of Rockport, the park offers hiking trails that wind through oak groves, RV camping in woodland or bayside campsites, fishing from the park’s piers (or even from your campsite!), and extraordinary bird watching opportunities in the marsh areas.

Pelicans at Goose Island state park

Goose Island State Park Fishing Pier

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing from RV campsite at Goose Island State Park

 

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit Rockport. You’ll find great places to eat, like Charlotte Plummers, Moondog Seaside Eatery, or  The Daily Grind, which is the best place for a coffee or lunch break when you’re exploring the art galleries in the Historic District. (Hint: the quiches get rave reviews!) For more ideas on places to go and things to do, visit the Rockport-Fulton website!

Rockport may be best known for its annual HummerBird Celebration. This year, the event celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and is scheduled for September 12-15.

Here are a few tips for RV camping at Goose Island State Park:

1. The oaks grow close to the road and close tightly around many of the campsites. (You’ll see lots of reflectors marking the branches that are likely to nip your RV.) Call the park in advance and make sure you’re comfortable that your rig will fit.

The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park2. Take a bicycle. Goose Island State Park is large, and it’s fun to cycle along Lantana Loop, Warbler Way, or Redfish Road.

3. Don’t miss the “Big Tree.” It’s located about a mile east of Goose Island State Park. It’s the State Champion Coastal Live Oak, and it’s more than 1,000 years old.

Whatever your favorite coastal activity may be, Goose Island State Park is a great home base for RV camping. Be sure to stop by and say hello to to the team at Camper Clinic if you need any supplies for your trip!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

Go Paddling on your Next RV Camping Trip

Load the canoe in your toy hauler RV

Take your toy hauler to a Texas State park, and don’t forget the canoe! (Photo by Chase Fountain/TPWD)

Our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife suggest beating the summer heat with a canoe or kayak outing – the perfect activity for your next RV camping trip to a Texas State Park.

Paddling gets you close to nature and Texas has more than 50 marked and well-mapped Texas paddling trails offering everything from bayou, river and lake routes to adventures through salt-sprayed coastal bays. Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife site for trail maps, photos, and a list of parks with boats for rent.

Families looking to take the RV out for a little summer fun can readily access a number of nearby paddling trails. There are seven Texas PaddlingTrails within an hour of Camper Clinic II in Buda, and at least seven inland and coastal trails near Camper Clinic‘s original store in Rockport.

“Texas communities love this program, which has experienced huge growth in the past five months,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We’ve gone from 38 trails to 55 since February and have another two dozen proposed trails in various stages of the certification process.”

Pack a kayak in your toy hauler RV

Photo by Earl Nottingham/TPWD

Just this past May, Plante says seven new trails – three on Belton Lake south of Waco and four along the Brazos River — were added to the Texas Paddling Trails roster. The 35.4 miles of Brazos River trails, known as the Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail, represents the longest continuous stretch of river trails launched to date.

Because many parts of Texas are experiencing drought conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult online specific river flow information in advance and to contact the Texas State Park you’re planning to visit for current lake levels and other water conditions. Keep in mind that water levels at some state parks, such as Inks Lake and South Llano River, remain fairly constant despite ongoing drought.

Paddling novices looking for helpful tips before heading out might enjoy this video.

Wear your lifejacket, stay safe, and start planning your next Texas RV trip with a paddle in your hand!

~G. Elaine Acker

Sunset Resort RV Park Review, Lake Tawakoni, TX

Lakefront RV sites at Sunset Resort.

Lakefront RV sites at Sunset Resort.

Sunset Resort opened in 2012 and is situated on 15 acres on the southwestern side of Lake Tawakoni in East Texas (about 50 miles east of Dallas near Quinlan). RV sites here range from shady, interior sites in a woodland setting, to waterfront sites that offer expansive lake views.

Cabins are available for those not traveling in RVs.

Cabins are available for those not traveling in RVs.

The resort is located adjacent to a public boat ramp, and its facilities include gated access, laundry facilities, bath houses, and wi-fi. There are also nice cabins for any non-camping family members or friends.

Pavilion at Sunset ResortTheir brand new Pavilion (below) is perfect for family reunions or other events. The Acker family was lucky enough to be the first guests at the Pavilion, which offers a combination of fully air-conditioned as well as outdoor spaces. The kitchen is well organized, and although we spent a lot of time under the shade at picnic tables outside, it was great to be able to sit down together inside and have a meal without sweating and swatting flies.

Sunset view at Sunset Resort

Although you probably can’t tell from the sunset photo, the drought has left the lake about 8-10 feet low. But, there’s still plenty of deep water for fishing and water sports. Just make sure you stay in the deeper water and avoid the sandbars near shore.

My family and I loved the park and would definitely visit again. It’s peaceful, the people are friendly, and you get to enjoy gorgeous sunrises as well as sunsets.

~ G. Elaine Acker

Sunset Resort is just one of the many RV parks you can enjoy when you buy a travel trailer from Camper Clinic in Rockport, Texas, or Camper Clinic 2 in Buda, Texas. Go see what’s on the lot, and the friendly sales staff will help you find the right travel trailer, toy hauler, or fifth wheel for you!

 

Father’s Day Gifts for RV Dads

XLR Hyper Lite RVLast weekend, we took a brand new Forest River XLR Hyper Lite and an Aspen Trail 2710 Bunk model over to Cabela’s Family Day in Buda. All day long, the kids fished for catfish, tried kayaking with a group of Texas Parks and Wildlife volunteers from Ink’s Lake State Park, and visited with the local K9 Unit’s feisty German shepherd.

K9 Officer at Cabela'sIt was great to see kids grinning and families thinking about ways to spend more time together outdoors. And I can’t imagine anything the RV Dad would love more than family time outdoors.

So, with that in mind, here are three Father’s Day gift ideas for the RV dad.

Texas State Parks Pass1. How about a Texas State Parks Pass? You’ll get unlimited access to more than 90 state parks and never pay an entrance fee! It’s $70.

Zero Gravity Recliner2. A recliner is always a favorite gift, but this year, you can choose this large, Zero Gravity recliner that lets Dad rest in comfort in the shade! Whether you’re on enjoying the Gulf breeze in Rockport, lounging beside the river in San Marcos, or resting in the high desert in Big Bend, this chair will be Dad’s favorite. It’s only $99.

Cadac Grill3. Finally, you can’t miss with a new Cadac Carri Chef Deluxe grill. This 5-in-1 portable gas grill weighs less than 10 pounds and is versatile with interchangeable cooking surfaces: camping stove, BBQ, non-stick reversible griddle, and a wok/dome. It’s $250. (Don’t forget to buy the gas cartridge – it’s sold separately.)

Remember, whatever gift you choose, it’s the gift of good times together that matter most!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. If you’re in the mood to look at new RVs for Dad, we’ve got a huge selection at both the original Camper Clinic RV Super Store in Rockport, or Camper Clinic II in Buda. Come see us!

 

 

 

2014 Palomino Puma 32DBKS

The past few days, in between rain showers, I’ve been trying to catch up on photographing all the new 2014 travel trailers  that have been arriving on the lot. The one that really caught my eye this week was the 2014 Palomino Puma 32DBKS.

2014 Palomino Puma Many families who have come through Camper Clinic II recently have been looking for a Texas RV dealer who can recommend the right model for their family. After all, they’re looking at traveling with a passel of kids and their friends. So it struck me that this 2014 Puma, with the double bunks, seems to have that perfect balance of practical and stylish features for the whole family.

2014 Palomino Puma Sidepaw KitchenFor example, it sleeps 10 (TEN!) but there’s still a comfy queen bed in one end that offers a private place to relax for mom and dad. It’s got a fully decked out kitchen inside, but also has the Sidepaw Kitchen outside with easy access to a fridge, sink, and microwave. The slide-outs give everyone extra elbow room at the end of the day, and all the finishes, from the flooring to the upholstery, are tastefully done and easy to clean.

2014 Palomino Puma 32DBKS FloorplanHere’s a peek at the floorplan! See what you think. The 2014 Palomino Puma Travel Trailer is made by Forest River, which is known for its quality products. Come visit the lot and you can check out the Palomino’s as well as 17 other brands. Camper Clinic II will show you how to choose the the right RV for your family!

~G. Elaine Acker

Sloppy Joes and Creamy Potato Salad for Memorial Day

RV camping this weekend? Here are a couple of recipes for your cookout menu!

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and that means it’s time to try out a few new dishes that are easy to prepare in your Texas RV!

As always, The Food Network provided lots of inspiration. For instance, there’s a Creamy Potato Salad that can easily be made ahead of time, and the horseradish gives it a new kick.

CREAMY_POTATO_SALAD_009.tifInstructions:

Boil, peel and cube 1 pound potatoes. Toss with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix 1/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream and 2 tablespoons each horseradish and chopped chives. Toss with the potatoes, 1 chopped celery stalk, and salt and pepper.

Sloppy Joes can be a great main dish with your potato salad, and whether you’re cooking outside on the camp stove or inside your travel trailer in the comfort of your air conditioning, it can be fixed in less than 30 minutes. This video from Rachel Ray demonstrates the fresh, easy recipe.

Where will you take your camper this weekend? The beach? The Piney Woods? We’d love to see photos from your road trips, so come join the conversation on Facebook and feel free to share!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. Is your RV trailer ready to go for Memorial Day weekend? Or are you still shopping for the perfect Fifth Wheel, Toy Hauler, or Airstream? There’s still time to visit our Rockport or Buda locations, buy your new or used travel trailer and go RV camping this weekend!

How to Choose the Right RV

Answer these 7 questions to help choose the right RV for you!

Ever_Green_tt_cover_10_07_10With 18 different brands of RV trailers in all shapes and sizes on the Camper Clinic II lot, how in the world do you decide which one is best for your family?

In my family, I’m traveling in my Texas Airstream, my sister is in her Fifth Wheel, and my cousin is in her Motorhome. So that alone tells you that RV choices are as different as the personalities towing (or driving) them.

To choose the right RV, you might want to start thinking about the following questions:

  1. How big is your family? Whether you’re traveling solo or taking a big family with you, you’ll need a trailer with enough space for everyone to sleep comfortably.
  2. Where do you want to go? There are places that just aren’t suited for a large motorhome or trailer. For example, to camp at the Basin in Big Bend National Park, you’ll need a rig that’s less than 24 feet to make it up the tight curves. Of course, if your heart isn’t set on camping right there at the Basin, there are campgrounds in Terlingua or at Rio Grande Village that can accommodate campers of all sizes.
  3. Are you going for a weekend? Or extended trips? Or RVing full time? For simple weekend trips, you’ll find basic models that will suit you just fine. But, if you’re taking long RV trips (trust me), you’ll start to wish for creature comforts before you’ve logged very many miles. It’s better to begin with a slightly larger, more comfortable rig from the beginning.
  4. What are you going to do when you get there? If you’re planning to spend lots of time in and around your RV, then that’s yet another reason to choose a more luxurious model. If you’re spending most of your time on the hiking trail or paddling on the rivers and in the bays, maybe you just need a comfortable place to rest your weary but happy bones at the end of the day.
  5. Do you need to take your toys with you? As one of the sales folks once told me, when you go on an RV road trip, you’re taking everything you need, and nothing you don’t. It’s great to stock the trailer with everything you’ll need on the road, and if that “must have” list includes canoes, kayaks, four-wheelers, mountain bikes, or other toys, then the toy hauler is no doubt right for you. There are lots of new and used toy haulers on the Camper Clinic II lot.
  6. Do you like to buy new, or used vehicles? If you like the idea of a brand new travel trailer that no one’s ever used before, then go with a new one that fits your budget. If you don’t mind buying one that has been down the road a time or two, then you’re in luck. Camper Clinic II takes in clean used RVs in great condition every week.
  7. What’s your budget? You can get a brand new travel trailer, such as an Aspen Trail, for as little as $11,000, or you can spend $130,000+ on an Airstream Interstate Van. And there are plenty of travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheels waiting in between.

So even though the choices might seem a little overwhelming at first, the good news is that there’s something for every lifestyle and every budget. And if you need help thinking things through, the Camper Clinic II staff are always here to help.

See you on the road!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. If you’re looking for the best deal on RVs, Camper Clinic II has an amazing variety of travel trailers, campers, fifth wheels, and motor homes in its clearance inventory. You can check it out online!

 

Mother’s Day Picnic

1-KabobsSome of my favorite family memories are simple picnics in Texas State Parks. When I was little, any time we made a road trip, my mom would pack a basket of fried chicken and potato salad.

Since then, our family has celebrated almost every holiday with a picnic, and even though I still love fried chicken, I’m pleased to say our menus have gotten a lot more exciting.

Food blogger Lisa Rawlinson write the blog "Full and Content," and created a perfect picnic dish:  Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

Food blogger Lisa Rawlinson writes the blog “Full and Content,” and created a perfect picnic dish: Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, why not take mom outdoors? Whether you’re RV camping for the whole weekend, or just spending Sunday outside, a yummy picnic will make the day even more fun.

This month, Texas Parks and Wildlife, which is ever-popular with the Texas RV crowd,  is celebrating the art of the picnic; and yesterday, I had a chance to reconnect with some of our TPWD friends at McKinney Falls State Park. Chef Kevin Quinn, a lead instructor with Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, grilled luscious kabobs, and several popular food bloggers brought side dishes ranging from a slaw made with Ramen noodles to sugar snap peas with basil. These and lots more intriguing recipes are posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Lisa Rawlinson, who writes the blog Full and Content, brought her famous Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps, and even the kids give this one a thumbs up! Lisa recently wrote a nice blog post about Picnics, Parks and Mamas, and it included not only recipes, but photos and artwork showcasing several state parks. Be sure to check it out.

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James Seppi and Taylor Cook (left) write the blog, Coseppi Kitchen: kitchen.coseppi.com, and Bill Leamons collaborates with TPWD to showcase outdoor activities on KEYE TV. As they say, “Life’s Better Outside!”

Maybe you were thinking about flowers for Mother’s Day? Instead of bringing the flowers to Mom, you can take Mom to the flowers. Brilliant bouquets of wildflowers line the roadsides at almost every state park. And, KEYE has posted Texas Parks and Wildlife’s video offering several suggestions for creating sweet, Mother’s Day memories in the parks. All that’s missing, is YOU!

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The wildflowers are in brilliant bloom at McKinney Falls State Park.

~G. Elaine Acker

Camper Clinic II is the #1 Airstream Dealer in Texas, and has an RV to fit every budget. If you’re thinking about an RV for your family, come by and see what’s right for you!