"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Friends, Friends, Food, More Friends & a Hike - TX & LA

Austin, TX
McKinney Falls State Park

Texas is a BIG state.  It's 880 miles from the far west side to the eastern side.  We have 2 more stops before we get to Louisiana.  Austin is where my high school friend, Perry, and his wife Kristin live.  It's been 3 years so we're glad to be stopping by again.  We decided to stay at McKinney Falls State Park as we have not been here yet.  It's a very nice park just outside of Austin.

Nice swimming hole and natural rock bridge.

Our site#73.
The park has some spots that are large enough for our 40 footer, but not that many.  You have to be careful of a lot of low branches in many of the spots.  $20 for W/E make this a nice place to stay.

There are lots of hiking/biking paths and a nice river to fish from.  Fishing is free within the park as long as you fish from shore.

Before we met Perry & Kristin we had some time to drive back and do some tasting at the Deep Eddy Distillery which is in nearby Dripping Springs.  It came recommended from our friends Greg & Cori of The Restless Youngs.  One night at Happy Hour she made some drinks with their Grapefruit Vodka.  Very tasty.  They have several flavored vodkas such as peach, lemon, orange and red grapefruit.
Before you knew it, it was time to head back to Austin for dinner.  We met up at The Roaring Fork and had a great dinner.  Hard to believe I've known Perry around 40 years!  Where does the time go?  Fortunately for us, we seem to still be able to meet up every once in a while.  And since they're moving to Oregon next year we'll be able to see them again as that is where we will be spending most of next year.
Kristin, me, Steve & Perry

Our final stop in Texas will be Beaumont.  What's in Beaumont you ask?  More friends of course!  First we have to get through the crazy traffic in Houston!

 They do have a nice skyline though.
While we sat in traffic on I-10, these sculptures caught my eye on the side of the freeway.  Turns out they are Giant busts of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston, and Stephen Austin to give commuters something to look at as they creep into downtown.  They were made by David Adickes.  If we were buzzing along at the speed limit, I might not have even noticed them.

Mark & Patty
I could not get us a spot in Tomball which has a favorite City Park, so Patty found us a nice spot in Beaumont called Robbins RV Park.  It was a small private park nicely located for a couple of nights.  $25 for FHUs.  Not too much going on in Beaumont but we kept busy.  This is another time where we got to meet up for the first time with another RVer whose blog I follow.  Mark and Patty of Mark & Patty's RV Adventures have been on the road fulltime starting in 2012 from New Jersey.  The very nice owner of the RV park suggested we have dinner at Floyds Cajun Seafood & Texan Steakhouse.  He was right on the money!  It was close to 8pm when we arrived and the place was packed.  It's a big place too.  The food was outstanding  I had catfish, the others had various other Cajun seafood and we all were happy with our meals.  The prices were reasonable too.  Thanks Gary for the suggestion!
 The four of us decided to go check out the oil museum and an arboretum in town.  The Spindletop Oil Museum had a small recreated town and a lot of history of Beaumont's oil boom.  The Spindletop Oilfield, discovered on a salt dome formation south of Beaumont in eastern Jefferson County on January 10, 1901, marked the birth of the modern petroleum industry. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil over 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later and flowed an estimated 100,000 barrels a day.  It is a fascinating history that you can read more about HERE.  Admission was only $5 for adults, $3 for seniors.

Hair Oil was used by men in the 1920s to slick back their hair as you may have guessed, but we had no idea what Hair Singe was.
The Bar.

Ice Cream Parlor.

The blacksmith.

On the way out we looked through the gift shop.  We found these funny mustaches and decided to get a few and have fun with them.

After lunch at a local Mexican Place that wasn't too great, we drove to the Beaumont Botanical Gardens.  Admission was free.  It had a small indoor arboretum and some outside gardens and Koi pond.
Nice ambiance, but the food was just meh.
This sign was at the entrance.




Spanish Moss hanging from various trees on the grounds.

Giant Magnolia blossoms.                                    Colorful Bromeliads.

This lovely lady was dressed up for her 60th birthday.

There was a special 9/11 Memorial.
Time to say goodbye to friends in Texas and head over to Louisiana.
BUT, just as we were ready to roll out, we made a lasts minute inspection of the trailer and Steve discovered that one of the leaf spring shackle bolts was missing.  Uh-oh.  Lucky for us the owner of the park, Gary, had an extra bolt that would fit.  He helped Steve get it back in without too much trouble.  He refused any money for his time so next time we are in Beaumont, we owe you dinner at Floyds!

Abbeville, Louisiana is a beautiful, quaint Cajun town.  It's also where Palmetto Island State Park is located and where we will be for the next few days.  It's also home to some of the best Cajun seafood in Louisiana as well as some family members from a good friend of ours.

Pretty neat overpass.

Palmetto Island is a great state park.  It's newer and thoughtfully laid out.  The sites are spacious, private and very level.  Louisiana's state parks also have free laundryrooms.  Bonus!  There are nice hiking/biking trails, ponds and rivers to kayak in.  No swimming though - there's gators in these waters.  There are many armadillos, possum, wild pigs and bear here.
We took a bike ride around the park and did a little hiking.  The alligators were all around.

Next up our mission is stocking our freezer with as much Cajun goodness as we can fit in there!  A trip to Herbert's Specialty Meats (pronounced: A-bears, think French) and $100 later, we have several stuffed chickens (with alligator sausage and rice and my favorite jalapeno cheddar cheese stuffing), all kinds of sausage, steaks and boudin balls.  Read about the "Turducken" and the stuffed/deboned meats.
Boudin Balls.  Oh, I usually eat way too many of these when we're here.  Breaded and fried balls of boudin sausage, rice and cheese.
We met up with our friend Mike's, mom and chatted with her a bit while we waited for Mike's sister, Angie and her husband, Bobby to arrive.

Cute, little Cooper.

Dinner at Richards (pronounced: REE-shards).  Best place to get crawfish!

And frog legs.
I didn't get a picture of Angie and Bobby though :-(

In the morning we see we had some visitors to Hurley's rug.  See the raccoon tracks?  At least they left his favorite toy alone.
The ponds and river are a nice place to kayak.  You'll usually see many birds and alligators.  There were some jumping fish but we only saw one bird.  It was a very windy day.  The alligators didn't mind and we saw several while paddling.  They don't seem to care much as long as you don't get too close.  And we don't.

Another visit with Mike's cousin Randy and his wife June.  Tonight it's dinner at Shucks. (pronounced: shucks ;-)  They just bought a new motorhome so perhaps we'll see them a bit more.
June & Randy

We had about 4 dozen oysters between the four of us.  A dozen fresh and the others various char broiled ways.  Always delicious!  I had shrimp for dinner, Steve had crabcakes.  We all split the famous Bread Pudding topped with Hot White Chocolate Buttered Rum Sauce!  Sinful!  To see the other amazing items you can order, check out the MENU.

Ok, one last meal out with all of us.  This time it was something different.  A nice sushi place that Randy loves.  It was great food and the owners were super friendly.  This time I got a picture!

Steve, Me, Angie, Bobby, June & Randy.
We LOVE Abbeville too!  Time to go or else we'll need bigger clothes!
After a 4 hour drive or so we are in northern Louisiana at Claiborne State Park.  It's located on the lake with many spots waterside.
Site #70, W/E $25.
This campground is not so RV friendly when you're 40 feet though.  The campground roads are very narrow and some of them as well as the campsite spurs are not only narrow, but have sharp drop-offs.  This limited our choices as it would've been impossible to back into many of them.  You may not be able to tell, but there is a good 1 1/2 foot drop from our bottom step on the trailer.  We found better spots in loop 1: 13, 12, 15, 24 & 25.  All deeper, flatter and closer to the water.

Our own dock.

We met the nicest people camped next to us.  Debbie & Rich who live about 2 hours away.  They had us over for a fire and coffee after we got all set up.  We talked until midnight!  Real nice people!

We may have bombed out on hiking our first peak in Texas, but all worked out for conquering Driskill Mountain.  The peak is a whopping 535 feet in elevation.  It would have been a piece of cake except it was 88 degrees with heavy humidity.  We're still trying to adjust to the humid temps here.

It was a short drive and a very short hike.  Easy enough to follow those blue lines.  We also geocached along the way.

Just a little obstacle.

Made it to the top!

Since we were only an hours drive to West Monroe, I knew Steve would like to visit the Duck Dynasty Store.  He used to watch this show before we left for the road.  We picked up a couple of things and were surprised to find there was no geocache hidden here.  So we left one called "The Duck Pond".  After caching today, we wrapped up our 365 Day Challenge.  Finally!  We have cached at least once, every day for the past year.  It was fun but glad that pressure is off.

Boy this ended up being a long post!  Time to bid Adieu to Louisiana and cross over the border to Arkansas.  Land of the apple blossoms, mocking birds and hot springs.  This will be a new state for us so we are excited about that!