Monthly Archives: February 2017

Austin, TX: Feb 19 – 24, 2017

After a short visit in Houston we headed off to Austin. We left mid-morning for the 3.5 hr drive. Since we were on the road during lunchtime I started looking at Google Maps for an interesting place to stop at for a bite to eat. I discovered that just up ahead was a place called Hruska’s: http://www.hruskas-bakery.com/ . This Deli / Restaurant / General Store was established back in 1912. I figured that any such place that has lasted over 100 years in a very small town must be good. Their specialty is a dessert called Kolache. Essentially, it was a divine sweet tasting roll with fruit filling in the middle; a donut-want-a-be? They also have rolls stuffed with sausages, cheeses, and other such things. They are known for their burgers, so not knowing much about their other specialties we went with that. They were very good. Before we left though we stocked up on a few of the sweets and stuffed rolls for future meals. Everything was good, but not something we could eat very often.

Once we arrived in Austin, at the McKinney Falls State Park, we set up the RV and headed out for a bike ride around the campground. They have a 2.8 mile loop which travels along a creek. The campground is a wonderful resort just 15 minutes from downtown Austin. We had a very large and private lot, surrounded by nature. After our bike ride we hunkered down in the RV, as a storm was expected before to long.

The storm did not arrive until midnight and it came with a vengeance. We woke up to the RV swaying, which is saying a lot for a 20-ton vehicle! The phone was hollering with Severe Weather and Tornado Warnings. The rain was pounding the RV and the skies appeared bright with so much lightening going on. It was our first, and I hope our last, such storm in the RV. I actually got up and got dressed in case we got blown away. I wanted to look decent in such an event. The storm raged for nearly 4 hours. In the morning we learned that a couple tornadoes did touch down less than 5-10 miles from us. We felt fortunate to have gotten through it unscathed.

Since we had been up nearly all night with the storm we were pretty lazy in the morning. In the afternoon we went to a hip coffee shop to enjoy some Java and Wi-Fi.

On the way back we checked out the SoCo (South Congress) district. This is an area of trendy shops, artisan crafts, art galleries and local restaurants. We enjoyed a stroll up and down the streets window-shopping. Charlie enjoyed some Nitrogen Ice Cream.

The Continental in SoCo is a retro bar featuring a variety of bands. We stopped by to check out the music. We loved the environment and vibe, but the music was far too loud and not quite the type we enjoy.

The next day, back at the campground, we were hoping to hike a few more trails. However, in order to access the trails you have to cross the river and with all of the recent rainfall the river was raging. There was no way to cross it. So we went golfing instead. It was a beautiful day and the course was just down the street.

We had read about a couple of interesting towns an hour and a half away so we took a day trip. As we drove towards Luckenbach and Fredericksburg we passed the Lyndon B Johnson Estate. We  took a tour of the “Texas White House.” I recommend it if you are ever in the area.

We also passed a large number of wineries along Rt 290. Little did we know that we were on the Texas Hill Country Trail, touted as the #2 wine destination in America. Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy them since we had a lot of driving to do. Maybe next time.

We stopped in Luckenbach, a ghost-town like community with a population of 3. In 1970 a rancher and Texas folklorist bought Luckenbach for $30,000. This enabled him to govern the dance hall as he saw fit. There are only 2 buildings in the town. One is the dance hall. The other, remnants of an old post office, serves as a working saloon and general store. After a 10-minute walk around the area we got back in the car and continued our journey to Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg is on the National Register of Historic Places in Texas. It was founded in 1846 and populated primarily by German descendants. We didn’t have a lot of time for our visit. If we had more time we would have visited the National Museum of the Pacific War. It is located in Fredericksburg in honor of Admiral Nimitz’s birthplace.

For our last day in Austin we toured the downtown area. We found a brand new YETI corporate store. We just had to stop by and check it out. It’s a very hip store. They have a bar, with YETI coolers for seats, a stage where bands play on weekends and an area where you can customize your new YETI cooler.

After drooling over YETI products, and playing with bears, we crossed the river into the city. We took a tour of the State’s Capitol building. It is a beautiful castle like building. There is an interesting story about the exterior. The designers had planned to clad it with limestone. They procured the necessary quantities only to discover that the high iron content of the limestone led it to rapidly discolor with rust stains when exposed to the elements. Fortunately, the owners of a nearby granite mountain offered to donate, free of charge, the necessary amount of sunset red granite as an alternative. The original limestone was used for much of the interior structure.

In the early 90s they expanded the capitol building by adding 4 extra stories. Since they did not want to change the way the building looked they added all of the extra stories below ground. It is pretty phenomenal. This being Texas, they had to have the largest US capitol building.

We indulged at Frank’s for lunch. They offer very unique, and fabulous tasting, hot dogs. I enjoyed a FICO ANATRA: custom-made duck and pork sausage dressed with fig Mostarda, crispy shallots and goat cheese. It was divine!   http://www.hotdogscoldbeer.com/austin/eats/

Here are a few more pictures from the McKinney Falls State Park. As you can see, the bluebonnets were starting to bloom and the deer were excited to graze around them.

Our next destination is San Antonio.

 

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Houston, TX: Feb 16-19, 2017

We left New Orleans early in the morning Feb. 16th. After stopping at the Houmas House Plantation for a tour we arrived on the outskirts of Houston just before sunset. We decided to drycamp at a 24 hr Walmart just off of I-10, on HWY 146, in Baytown. In the morning, before heading down HWY 146 towards the NASA Johnson Space Center, we checked the radiator coolant level and noted that we had lost about a gallon of coolant since leaving New Orleans. We still couldn’t see where it was leaking from though so we decided to continue on our journey and keep an eye on it.

The drive to the Space Center from Walmart was only about 40 minutes. As soon as we parked the RV we checked the coolant level again and we finally saw where the leak was. The fluid was coming out quite quickly and the issue needed immediate attention. Therefore, instead of visiting the Space Center we headed up to Cummings Southern Plains, about a 30 minute drive away. Their service center was phenomenal. Within 30 minutes they had repaired the leak and hosed down the entire engine compartment with a cleaning solution for us.

We left the Service Center and decided to head over to the Marina Bay RV Resort, where we would be spending the next 2 nights. We chose this resort due to its location. It is 10 minutes from the NASA Space Center and 5 minutes from Lakewood Marina, where we were visiting friends. The Resort is very cramped, more so than any campground we have stayed at. If we had planned on spending any time at all hanging out around the resort we would have chosen a different place to stay. But for us, it worked fine.

The first two pictures below were taken the first evening we were there, just following a significant storm. Very pretty sky.

The next morning we took a nice walk just across the street from the RV Resort. It was a foggy morning, but still pretty.

After our walk we headed over to the Space Center and actually made it inside for a visit. We really enjoyed it.

In the evening we had a great visit with friends at the nearby Marina. The following morning we headed out to Austin. More on that later….

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New Orleans, LA: Feb 12 – 16, 2017

We left Guntersville, AL mid-morning on Feb. 12th and drove 410 miles to New Orleans. It was a long day on the road in the RV but it was a beautiful day and since it was Sunday, there was not much traffic on the road.

We arrived at Pontchartrain Landing RV Resort & Marina shortly before sunset. We chose this resort due to its location on the outskirts of New Orleans, as we were planning on heading out in the morning to visit a couple of Plantations. The resort was very nice and quiet, except for when planes were departing from the nearby municipal airport.

Below are a couple of pictures from the resort. It is a Marina as well as a campground. The views across the water are nothing to write home about, as they are of industrialized businesses. Overall though, it is nice to be on the water.

In the morning we drove over to the Whitney Plantation. Our plan was to park the RV there, take a tour and then move down the road to another plantation. However, after we parked at the Whitney we discovered that we had a radiator coolant leak. We couldn’t find where it was originating from but the fluid level was quite low. We took the plantation tour and then addressed the leak.

The Whitney Plantation pays homage to slaves who lived in the South. They do a great job of gathering historic truths and presenting them to the visitors.

The plantation house itself is pretty basic. The owners had homes in New Orleans where they socialized.

The slave quarters were very basic, as expected. It is hard to comprehend the life they had to live.

The statues of children in the chapel make a strong impact.

Below is a structure which was used throughout the south to hold the slaves which were available for sale. They were crammed into the cells. Very sad.

Zoom into the pictures below to read stories which the Whitney has accumulated. They are very touching.

I found it interesting that the kitchen was located outside of the master’s house. It made sense, as it was done due to the risk of fire. However, I’m sure it made it difficult for the food to be transported between the building below and the main house.

The monument below was created to show the tragedy of sick and/or dead slaves being thrown off the transport ships and/or those who simply jumped to their death. The hands in the monument break through the water’s surface. Very tragic history.

After the tour we added 2 gallons of coolant to the radiator tank and then drove the RV down the road to a repair shop. Neither the mechanic nor us could see a leak at that time so we continued onward to the French Quarter, where we had reservations at the French Quarter RV Resort.

The resort is located just a couple blocks from the French Quarter. We loved the convenience of having the RV so close to the area we were touring. It allowed us to walk back during the day for a rest, lunch, nap, etc. They have a pool, hot tub and work out room but we were too busy to enjoy any of them.

A block away from the resort is the visitor’s center. It is a pretty neat building, with a train and music theme throughout.

One highlight of our stay for me was a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It was a hands-on course with a menu of Gumbo, Shrimp & Grits, Bananas Foster Crepes and Pralines. It was a lot of fun, especially since it included an open bar.

One evening we visited Preservation Hall for some great Jazz music.

We enjoyed beignets at Cafe du Monde on a few occasions.

After eating beignets we had to take a city tour to walk off the calories.

We enjoyed the unique architecture throughout the city. The town is preparing for Mardi Gras.

We enjoyed music in the streets, along with artisans and a few unique bums.

After 4 days in New Orleans we headed off to Houston. On the way there we stopped at the Houmas House Plantation for a tour and lunch. We really enjoyed a tour of the house and grounds.

We ended the day just outside Houston. Details on that visit coming shortly……..

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On the road again – Feb 6, 2017

After storing the RV for the last 3 months we are excited about beginning another journey. We’ve got a lot planned for the next few months. We’ll be visiting place in AL, LA, TX, NM and AZ. We’ll also take the opportunity to spend some time with friends and family members that we don’t often get to see.

We left Atlanta last Monday (February 6th). Our first stop was at the Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay, AL for annual service and a few warranty repairs. Upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Service Campground was only half full. By Friday afternoon our service work was complete and we were free to begin the fun part of our Winter/Spring 2017 trip.

We headed up to Guntersville, AL to visit with some great friends. It was my first time to Guntersville. It is an absolutely beautiful area with no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty dreary and we only had 1 day to explore. We took a scenic drive up to Lake Guntersville State Park with our friends. It is a sprawling park located on the Tennessee River. If you are ever in the area I’d suggest checking it out.

http://www.alapark.com/lake-guntersville-state-park

Here is a group shot of us on the Lodge’s upper back patio.

We were able to Camp right on our friend’s street. Very convenient!

 

We are now off to New Orleans, LA. Stay tuned………

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