Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Fort Richardson State Park…

Leaving Waco Texas we drove the back roads avoiding Interstate 35, until we pulled into Fort Richardson State Park. We have never been to this park before so we had no expectations about it one way or another. We checked in at the main office and proceeded over to our site. Our stay is for two nights but we will have to move to a different site after our first night since we waited to late too make Memorial Day reservations and the campground is filled to capacity.

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Wow, what a beautiful park this is… It of course has a preserved historical fort but there is also nice creek which meanders through the campground. It has over the years cut into the rim rock making for a nice shaded smallish canyon. The campsite themselves are only water and electricity. We will be in 30 amp the first night and 50 amp the second which is good since the temperatures are climbing into the mid to upper nineties which is abnormally hot for this time of year. Both of our sites were quite spacious and private.

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We toured Fort Richardson which was built is the mid to late 1800’s as a frontier fort to protect settlers from the Indians. It didn’t remain as an active fort very long though because settlers moved west further into Texas. The remaining buildings of the abandoned fort have been restored and the old hospital is the best restoration of them all. We enjoyed looking into a slice of the past as they even staged the dining hall with meals set up for the soldiers. The hospital was state of the art when built in the 1860’s. Man how times have changed!

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There are several small hiking trails we also enjoyed which go alongside the creek and into the uplands. We noticed there are still a lot of wildflowers in bloom but with the hot temperatures forecasted for the area I am sure they will all dry up soon leaving that dreaded brownness to the vegetation I so dislike about summers in Texas.

We enjoyed our short two night Memorial Day stay at Fort Richardson but moved on to Wichita Falls for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

NOTE: We have actually already left Wichita Falls, Texas and are now in Caprock Canyons State Park in the panhandle of Texas…

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Magnolia Market and Snake Porn in Waco Texas…

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One of the main attractions for many who visit Waco Texas is the Magnolia Market at the Silos, a creation of Chip and Joanna Gaines of the TV show Fixer Upper. As I mentioned before they have really put Waco on the map. At a cost of 1.4 million dollars they opened the Magnolia complex in October of 2015.

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The Magnolia complex is basically a large area with a few stores which surround a large courtyard/playground. There are several food trucks parked along the perimeter of the complex offering an assortment of eats. Home decorating and tourist items can be found in the stores but there is also a seed shop selling plants and a fabulous little bakery selling goodies. One tip we can offer is don’t pay for parking. There are signs everywhere offering parking spaces for $5 to $10 yet there is free parking adjacent to the property right off of 8th Street. Another tip is go early during the weekdays as it will be packed with people…

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Sharon enjoyed browsing but did not purchase anything since we don’t own a sticks and bricks house. However we could not resist the Silos Baking Co. bakery filled with Joanna's personal recipes and hand-picked favorites. Some of those favorites were "The Prize Pig" bacon and cheddar biscuit and the "Nuts & Bolts" cupcake  which both sounded delightful but it was the large pecan and walnut topped cinnamon roll that won our stomachs over. All I can say it it was very DELISH!!!!

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A nice feature at the complex is a free city trolley which takes visitors on a loop of the downtown area. It has a pre-recorded infomercial about Waco playing while driving around and we soon knew all there is to know about what to see or do in Waco. It isn’t a very long tour but the fact that you can hop on and off allows for visitors to easily enjoy other shopping, eating and drinking establishments in downtown Waco.

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Since it didn’t take us too long to explore the Magnolia Market at the Silos we found the Lake Waco Wetlands. It is a haven for wetlands critters but also has some hiking trails and boardwalks which gave us an up-close and personal look into the interior of a fresh water marsh. The highlight on this trip was some snakes and crawfish we saw doing some interesting things.

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Alongside one of the open water ponds there was a culvert which had water gushing into it as the water source of the pond. Interestingly there were crawfish that appeared to be climbing up a small bank alongside the culvert and then “jumping” off the edge into the swirling waters inside the culvert. It was a mystery we puzzled over and finally figured there could only be two plausible explanations for their behavior.


One is that they were simply having fun – like a water themed park ride and they were riding the wave! A more likely explanation was that there were lots of small fish inside the culvert and this behavior was more likely an elaborate hunting technique with the crawfish hoping to snag a fish as it swirled around the current. Either way it was absolute fun watching them…

Even cooler than seeing the crawfish was the fact that there were also about three to five Water Snakes who were there also hunting the schooling fish. We saw several small fish meet their demise as a Yellow Bellied Water Snake would spear one in its mouth and then swim off so it could secure it better to finish swallowing it. Very cool!

What could top these fun sightings? Well while watching the snakes hunt fish two of them started coiling up together and before we knew it, they were doing the dirty. Yep that's right – snake porn before our very eyes. Check out videos I linked here to see them doing the dirty as well as one that shows one of the snakes spearing a small fish. Sharon caught the fish spearing on video and if you watch it you will hear her excitement at capturing it on film… 

NOTE: We left Waco Texas and went to Jacksboro Texas to hide out for part of the Memorial Day weekend but are now in Wichita Falls, Texas…

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lots to See and Do in Waco Texas…

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The time came to finally leave the hill country so three hours later we pulled into a Corps of Engineer Park on Lake Waco near Waco Texas. The park is called Airport Park as it is near a local small airport. There actually was no airplane noise and the sites were huge with nearly every one of them having a water view. We settled into our site and enjoyed the park and lake views our first day. 

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Surprisingly after that day, we found lots of things to do in Waco! The town has recently seen an increase in tourism mostly due to the TV show Fixer Upper hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They have really put Waco on the map and even built a few businesses in town we visited as well. More on that in a later blog..

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There are some exceptionally nice parks in Waco for walking and biking. We enjoyed  William Cameron Park, for a riverside walk along the Brazos River. The walk extends through the large park to downtown and to Baylor University. Within the park are several trails providing a forested canopy and steep limestone bluffs which act as a backdrop to visitors walking in the park. We drove the park road above the bluffs and were treated to a panoramic view of the area. Another day we visited Brazos Park East where we played disc golf. We found the course to be very challenging and I even lost a disc in one of the water hazards. Despite the loss we had a blast playing this extra long course.

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Another day walking along the Brazos River we crossed a cool suspension bridge and near the bridge was a neat sculpture. The longhorn cattle sculpture depicts the western cowboys herding their cattle on the Chisolm Trail. Beyond the sculpture near the downtown area we enjoyed sights such as the county courthouse and the tallest building in town. the Alico building.

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We found several fun taverns in town and grabbed a bite at a few spots as well. For a cold beer we really enjoyed Crickets and the Dancing Bear Pub. A regional chain we tried out called the Twisted Burger was not as good as we hoped but it certainly had a fun, quirky ambiance. One rainy day we headed north to West Texas and visited the Czech Stop Bakery for some of their very delicious Kolaches, a delightful Czech pastry and a real Road Treat. We also stopped in at Slovacek’s  for some of their great Texas sausage!

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That same day we drove over to Lake Whitney State Park and were treated to a roadrunner right after we entered the park. It is always fun to see the roadrunners buzzing across the roads and as most , it had us thinking, “beep, beep.” Sharon and I also stopped in a wooded area because I heard some painted buntings singing in their territories. I was able to call some of them up and we were thrilled to see the males in their full spring plumage of brilliant colors. One was so close I was able to get a great picture which is the header pic of this blog.

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There were even more fun things we found in Waco but I will include them in the next blog…

NOTE: We were in Waco Texas but are now at our next park in Jacksboro Texas…

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fun Things We Did Around Blanco Texas…

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Our family time came to an end so we headed back out on the open road to travel a short distance north to Blanco State Park. We have stayed at this park many times in the past but always look forward to staying there along the Blanco River. We pulled into our site, set up and set out for a walkabout in the park. We will only stay three nights before moving on to  Waco.

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Blanco State Park only has a limited number of sites that are full hookup and after being at the COE park in Canyon Lake without sewer hookups it was sure nice to have them again. We can conserve water with the best of them but it is also great to not have to worry about that for a while. Also by mixing in camping at non-full hookup sites with those that do have full hookups it means I don’t have to visit a dump station after leaving the parks without full hookups.

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Blanco State Park is a long thin park on the banks of the Blanco River. This makes for great scenic walks. We also enjoy walking along the river into the old downtown square as there is a gate out of the park into a city park behind the square. There is a small assortment of shops and restaurants in town but nothing noteworthy. However the old courthouse is now the town visitor center and had walls lined with lots of old pictures which entertained us one afternoon.

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Before leaving the hill country we took one more drive through the countryside. The spring wildflowers are starting to disappear and are being replaced by the early summer wild flowers. They too will be gone soon as should we be since it signals the hot summer temperatures are just around the corner. We have experienced a few days in the 90’s already but that hasn’t deterred the Indian Blanket flowers from carpeting fields in the hill country.

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Our last day we drove over to Guadalupe State Park since the temperature was going to be in the mid 90’s. We felt this would be the perfect time to relax along the banks of the Guadalupe River. While walking down river we enjoyed the scenery until discovering a delightfully shady spot where we could sit, soak in the view and cool down in the waters of the river.

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Spending the day in Guadalupe State Park was a great way to end our stay in the Texas Hill Country. Next up for us is a stop in Waco Texas…

NOTE: We left Blanco State Park for a weeks stay in Waco Texas with our next stop to be in Jacksboro Texas…

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Final Days of Fun With the Grandkids in Texas…

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With our time winding down in the Texas Hill Country we tried to squeeze in a few more tasks along with a bit more fun. The last of our spring cleaning goals was to clean the front window’s drapes, steam clean the couch and clean our throw rug which our steamer trunk/coffee table rests upon. Since our son Jason has a steam cleaner we asked him bring it when he came to spend the night with us at the RV.

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While it certainly isn’t a lot of fun cleaning, it sure was a relief to be done knowing we are now good to go for another season. The steam cleaner made short work on all the items we wanted to clean and it was really nice not to have to rent one.

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Before leaving the area, we wanted to take one last drive along the River Road to New Braunfels. This is definitely one of the most scenic drives in the area. We took Jason along for the ride and as is typical fashion we all  '”oohed and ahhhed” at each of the river crossings we made. Our final destination was to the Aquabrew Brewery (one of our favorite Texas breweries) for a cold craft beer. Back at home we made Jason some panko fried shrimp for dinner as a treat he rarely has since his wife is allergic to shellfish.  He seemed to really enjoy it so it was fun for us to see his delight.

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Our last weekend at Canyon Lake had arrived so we dove back down to San Antonio to have one last weekend with the grandkids. Of course we also took advantage of Jason’s BBQ grill to smoke a large pork butt which we feasted on the entire weekend. Also since it was mothers day weekend we planned in a family hike as our last hurrah before we heading back to the lake.

The hike was at Government Canyon State Rec Area where we found a nice three mile loop winding up one of the hills in the hill country. The hike was enjoyable as there were still wildflowers all over the place. The Mexican Hats and Indian Blankets have replaced the Bluebonnets and Paintbrushes but the color is always welcome on a hike.

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We were also lucky that i was able to call up a Painted Bunting so we all got a good look at one of the most colorful birds in the state. There are no pictures of it though as I was busy showing it off to the grandkids. The main feature of this hike was a bluff offering a vista of the surrounding Texas hill country. The return trip was easier as it was down hill and once we got back we feasted on our leftover BBQ pulled pork sandwiches made with Sharon’s homemade ciabatta rolls. Yum!

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With some final playing with the grandkids the time had come for us to head back to Canyon Lake and pack up for our move the next day over to Blanco State Park. It is always fun to enjoy some family time and we look forward to seeing them all again at Katie’s wedding in October…

NOTE: Next up was a drive of just about 35 miles north to Blanco State Park for three nights but we are now in Waco Texas…