BBQ Capital of the World

CAMPGROUND: Longhorn RV Resort. Deluxe. Full-hookups. Paved sites. Picnic table and firepit. Not much shade. Very nice clubhouse and swimming pool. About 80% of the sites are for full-timers. $45/night. 4 out of 5. (Would have given it a 5 except for the price)

LOCATION: Outskirts of Austin, Texas

WEATHER: Sunny and hot

We decided not to spend a second night at the Lockhart State Park campground. There wasn’t that much to do, and we felt a bit isolated.

We headed into the town of Lockhart, self-proclaimed “BBQ Capital of the World”. Indeed, there are a lot of BBQ joints, and a BBQ/Swing Festival just was ending. We went to Blacks BBQ, the oldest BBQ restaurant in Texas…. Black’s BBQ.

Like most BBQ places, you go through a line to order sides, then select your meat.

We were probably the smallest order ever filled. We each had one small rib plus George had a cornbread muffin and charro beans.

Most people were gorging on huge platters of food. Alas, many of the customers were super huge, too.

We watched some of the cowboy dancers – always so amazing to me.

After lunch, we drove only about 10 minutes to this RV park that we had spotted yesterday. We will be a bit closer here to the Airstream dealership for tomorrow’s appointment, and it is much nicer than the state park.

We enjoyed a decadent afternoon – Bloody Marys and snacks while watching football (George) and reading (me). Then, we swam a bit in the pool. Very nice. We met a couple in the pool who live here year-round.

DINNER: George said it was the best Asian stir-fried rice I have ever made. I think it was because I used more diced ginger than usual. Along with the ginger, I sauted garlic, green pepper, onion, and chicken. Then, I added rice and peas. When it was almost finished, I scrambled an egg and stirred that in. Seasoned with Japanese soy sauce (not Chinese) and sesame seeds. The chicken came from a can. I keep a few cans in my back-up pantry box and they often come in handy.

Driving through the Texas Hill Country

CAMPGROUND: Lockhart State Park. Tiny spaces. Deep drop-off. Nice shade. OK bathrooms. Firepit and picnic table. Water and electricity. $23/night. 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Lockhart, Texas, about 1/2 hour south of Austin
WEATHER: Hot and humid

We hung out at the Airstream community all morning, taking advantage of phone and internet service. Then, we went in to town to buy some Texas/Cajun food for lunch. We had seen these food trucks before, and heard that the food was very good. Unfortunately, it is not crawfish season, so we bought some peel & eat shrimp. It came with a baked potato and an ear of corn. Quite tasty! Interesting story at Tejun the Texas CajunWe thought we only had a few hours to drive today, but it turned into five hours on the road. We took the backroads to avoid Waco and the worst of Austin. It was interesting to pass through towns with Czech and German roots. A lot of Czechs settled here in Hill Country of Texas. You see a lot of Czech bakeries advertising kolaches, a fruit-filled pastry. Donuts are also big in Texas, with almost every little town sporting a donut shop. There is also the trifecta – little restaurants advertising the big 3 – kolaches, donuts……and tacos!

We stopped in this area (south of Austin) as we have an appointment early Monday morning for the Airstream’s annual check-up and to get some minor warranty work done. It will be at the Airstream dealership in south Austin where we bought the Airstream two years ago.

As we neared Austin (guess who was driving…), at a stop sign, a man in the car next to us motioned for me to roll down my window. He yelled that one of our tail lights was out on the back of the trailer. Great……having to negotiate around the freeways of Austin without being able to signal our moves.

We managed ok, and arrived at our campground. The site is pretty tight, among the trees. George had a challenge maneuvering it between the trees and the steep drop-off.One of the reasons I chose this state park campground is that it has a swimming pool. I was dreaming of diving into the cool water all day during the ride here. Alas, when we arrived, it was closed for the season. Come on — it is 97 degrees!!!!

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP We have a nice shower in the trailer that we use for storage, and not for taking showers. Some people think we are crazy, but the storage comes in very handy, and we are almost always somewhere with halfway decent showers. The shower is multi-purpose storage: liquor cabinet, wine cellar, dirty clothes basket, broom closet, and clothes-drying area. My Nova Scotia friend Jenny gave me this great Command strip broom holder which works perfectly in this space. We also use a soft-sided insulated cooler in which we store beer when the refrigerator is too full. It fits in this shower storage, too. It works for us!DINNER: Pasta with a thick tomato sauce. I used up the last of my orzo. Now that the trip is coming to an end, I want to use up as much food as possible, so we don’t leave a lot of food in the house while we go to Africa. I sauted onions, garlic, bell pepper, and spicy peppers up with a lot of Italian seasonings. I added some Italian sausage George had grilled weeks ago that I had kept frozen. Then, I added tomato sauce, red wine, and chopped tomatoes to simmer for awhile. I served it with slivers of fresh basil (yes, my plant is still kicking) and parmesan. Salad on the side with avocados and Iowa tomatoes.

Day trip to Waco

CAMPGROUND: Second night at the North Texas Airstream Community.
LOCATION: Hillsboro, Texas – about 1.5 hours south of Dallas
WEATHER: Another hot one. Unseasonably hot

The wifi here is superb, so I have been doing a lot of work on our Africa trip. We may have a second housesitting assignment, and if so, I can lock in on a safari. Unfortunately, I think our timing is not great….It is not one of the best times, weather-wise, to visit some of the safari areas. We will see.

When we got in the truck for our day’s trip, the outside thermometer was reading 109! And it is still morning!

Then, off to Waco, about an hour south of here. We had to go on Interstate 35 which was crazy with traffic. Three lanes, all barrelling along at about 80 mph. Then, when we hit Waco, it was a parking lot, due to construction.

We checked out one of Waco’s breweries, of course, then to downtown for lunch in an old Irish pub. We saw a sign for a Dr. Pepper Museum, so stopped by. George loves Dr. Pepper, so he went on the tour. Dr. Pepper originated here in the mid-1800s.

It seems everybody walking around downtown Waco is carrying a shopping bag from Magnolia, so we had to see what the buzz is there. It is the home-decor store created by Chris and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the popular HDTV Fixer Upper show. The shop is like a Williams Sonoma store with a Southern bent.

I think the Gaines couple owns the town….Waco Heart of Texas

People were lined up in the hot sun to buy one of the Gaines’ cupcakes from their shop. What a business!

We took a free city trolley back to our car. A nice outing!

DINNER: Grilled ahi tuna steak. Sides were green peas, and rice.

Surrounded by Airstreams!

CAMPGROUND: North Texas Airstream Community. A village just for Airstreamers. We are staying in their terraport – where overnight guests stay. The rest of the community are homes and garages that people own. $25/night. Nice clubhouse with restrooms. No showers. Friendly people. 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Hillsboro – In North Central Texas. Between Dallas/Fort Worth and Waco
WEATHER: Hot. 99 degrees with 100+ heat index

We enjoyed the early morning cool temps at the Harvest Host winery where we stayed last night. This is the view from our Airstream up to the winery.

We left fairly early as it looked like it might rain, and we would be stuck in the mud where we were parked. We had only about 80 miles to go to this destination.

We passed by lots of cotton fields.

The farmers were in their fields harvesting and baling the cotton

We also drove through lots of very poor-looking small towns. Kind of depressing.

Our destination is this Airstream park, similar to the one we stayed at in Minnesota. There are about 8 of these across the USA. There are about 150 lots. Only Airstreams are allowed.
https://ntaci.com

After getting set up, we went in to the town of Hillsboro. Not much there. We found a pub with a good beer selection and super friendly staff. We split a tasty hamburger and chatted with the owners. When asked what brings us here, we told them we were staying at the Airstream park. They said that a bunch of the Airstreamers come to their pub, The Plaid Turtle, every Thursday evening, and that we should return with them.

We drove around the Airtream park, looking at the different set-ups. Some of the lots have regular houses with a big garage for the Airstreams

Most have this type of metal structure, some one-story and some two-story where the residents park their Airstream under or next to the living area.

Others just have Airstreams in a garage-type shelter and live in a house. We met the owner of these vintage Airstreams. The guy likes tinkering around and restoring them

We did indeed return to The Plaid Turtle – http://www.plaidturtle.com for the Airstream get-together, and enjoyed chatting with the residents. Some live here year-round; others are here just for the winter.

On our way home, we stopped at Walmart to look for some camping supplies we need. Our car thermometer registered 99 degrees outside as I took this photo of Christmas decorations. Unbelievable!

We have 50-amp electricity hook-up here so we can run both our air-conditioners. Yay! This is the first time we have needed both on this year’s trip. With the A/C on, I felt like I could cook indoors without worrying about heating things up.

DINNER: Salad with some of the Iowa tomatoes along with avocados, purchased today, back in the land of cheap fruit and vegetables. Main course was chicken breast sauteed with Greek seasonings and a combo of peppers and onions, served with the tzatziki that I am trying to use up, and stuffed with diced cucumbers in pita pockets.

Just like “Gone with the Wind!”

CAMPGROUND: Tara Winery through Harvest Hosts. We are in a pasture next to their inn. Water and electricity hook-ups, which is rare. We don’t mind paying, but $30 for the hook-ups seems steep. Very unlevel – George spent a lot of time getting us level using boards and levelers. 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Athens, Texas – in NE part of state. About 1 hour south of Dallas
WEATHER: HOT, HOT. 97 with 100+ heat index

We only had about 3 hours to drive today, so we took our time. We went out of our way a bit in order to miss Dallas. We watched the thermometer with the outside temp going up and up. The drive was pretty unremarkable except for one town which proclaims to be the world’s largest flea market. Apparently once a month hundreds of thousands of shoppers come to this town. We saw miles of flea market stands and parking areas. Glad it wasn’t today!

Our GPS took us on some backroads as we neared the winery. Really curvy. We passed by several exotic game parks – you can identify them by the high fences surrounding them. We saw something in the road ahead of us and slowed down. It turned out to be a rancher trying to get his wayward cow back into the field. Here is the rancher coaxing the cow with a feed bag.

The cow didn’t seem interested in being captured.

Finally, the cow followed the rancher back to his field.

The winery has a beautiful inn on the property which we spotted from a distance. We later learned that the house was moved from the town of Athens, about 5 miles away. It was the home of the Dallas Cowboy owner. Now it is used as an inn, especially for weddings and other events at the winery. Check it out at https://tarawinery.com

At the winery, we were instructed to park next to the inn, which meant backing up about 1/4 mile on their driveway. The parking area is just a field, and George worked hard to get us level…..in the 100 degree weather. 😦

The Airstream thermostat showed 94 degrees inside. It would take a while for the A/C to get it cooled down. Hot, sweaty, and thirsty, we walked up to the winery for some refreshments, air-conditioning, and wifi. This is the view from the winery. You can almost see the Airstream in the lower left-hand side of the photo. It is really a lovely location, nestled among the vineyard.

DINNER: Leftovers from my high school reunion dinner – brisket and cheesy potatoes. Side was a stir-fry of onion, various peppers, and tomatoes.

Checking out Denison

CAMPGROUND: Second night at Denison Dam
LOCATION: Denison, Texas- in northeastern tip of state
WEATHER: HOT. High 93. AM sunny; PM rain

The campground looks much better when it is sunny and not under water.

After a lazy morning, we drove around the lake and dam, then in to Denison. We stopped at the Texas Welcome Center on our way.

I had read in a travel magazine that Denison is a cute town. I am always on the lookout for the best town to live in one day. My requirements are: 1) a vibrant downtown, 2) walkable – to shops, library, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.3) good bus system, 4) lofts/condos for downtown living, and 5) access to a big airport. I had great hopes for Denison, but it misses the mark. (If any reader has a suggestion- send it my way please!)

The town does have a lot of cute shops-mostly antiques. We found a very authentic BBQ joint for lunch. Afterall – we are in Texas!

Then, of course, George found a microbrewery. This one is in the downtown’s old movie theater building. It is nice that it has been refurbished

While George chatted endlessly with the owner/brewer, I used their wifi to look at options for our upcoming trip to South Africa. I keep looking for additional housesitting assignments to fill in the gaps.

Back at the Airstream, we sat outside to watch the incoming thunderstorm with a magnificent lightning show.

DINNER: Salad with home-grown cucumbers and tomatoes. Main dish was leftover beans & rice with chicken. George had banana bread for dessert……While we were at the brewery, a guy came in peddling the banana bread on a tray. Regardless of my pleas to ignore the guy, George bought a loaf. He said it tasted terrible. :-=(

Back to Texas

CAMPGROUND: Denison Dam Army Corps of Engineers. Not as nice as most ACOE campgrounds. Very old. Unpleasant pit toilets. Beyond horrible showers – someone deposited something supper gross (use your imagination) on the shower floor that I stepped in! Firepit and picnic table. Electricity and water at sites. But – only $11/night. 2 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Denison, Texas, in far northeast corner of state. Across the river from Oklahoma
WEATHER: Rain, then torrential rain. Hot. High 89

I walked along the gravel roads around the Arkansas brewery where we stayed last night through Harvest Hosts.. The owner was at the brewery working on a construction project. He encouraged me to hike down to a cottage he rents as an AirB&B, on the lake. It was quite nice, but I had to wade through the tall, wet grass.

Then, on the road again. We took a scenic route through part of the Ozark Mountains. We passed showcase houses, then real hillbilly shacks. Most of the day was light rain.

Crossing in to Oklahoma, we stopped at the Visitors’ Center for a picnic lunch. Then, the clouds rolled in and we were hit by torrential rains, again the kind that you cannot see through. We saw several cars in the ditch. Very nerve-wracking kind of driving.

We went all across Oklahoma, from the NE to the SW, and over to Texas. Our destination was a state park near Denison, Texas, but we saw this ACOE campground and decided to stay here instead (cheaper). It was raining so hard that most of the sites were under water. We could not read the signs through the rain, so we weren’t sure where we were.

We just sat in the truck for awhile, gazing at all the water. Finally, between downpours, we unhooked and got settled in. The rain soaked in enough so that we could back into our gravel site. We are here because I read somewhere that Denison is a cute town. We will explore it tomorrow, even though more of these thunderstorms are predicted.

Our site is right on Lake Texoma (border of Texas and Oklahoma) and next to the ACOE dam. It is pretty (when it stops raining).

We have electricity, so we turned on the A/C to dry things out, and to try to watch a bit of PBS.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: I use this dish pad when I dry the dishes. I hang it up while we are traveling, so that it can dry out. The Airstream’s color scheme is light beige, aluminum, and brown countertops. To liven things up, I am using aqua (teal) highlights as accessories, like the drying pad.

The same color combo is on the couch, with these pillowcases I bought in Thailand as a souvenir. (The elephant is a teal color, too)

The teal theme continues with my dishcloths – hanging on oven door….

More teal on the napkins I bought in Mexico and matching dishes.

And, my latest purchase – a rug that ties in the beige and teal colors.

That is about it with my decorating! I am not too creative

DINNER: Leftover frozen summer squash. To it, I added tomatoes, onions, green peppers, red spicy peppers, and garlic. I topped it off with Parmesan.

Our friends in Iowa gave us a bunch of vegetables from their garden that we are happily eating up.

Hello and Good-bye, Missouri

CAMPGROUND: Saddlebock Brewery, another Harvest Host site. Parking is in field in back. Level. Free!
LOCATION: In NW corner of Arkansas
WEATHER: Rain, rain, rain! High 74

For about the 6th night in a row, we awoke during the night to a thunderstorm. As per the routine, George got up and closed up the windows, just in case the rain would blow in.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Alan and Peggy Downs, high school classmates whose driveway we were camping on. Between downpours, George hooked us up, and away we went.

The rain was constant. At one point, we went through a “wall of water” where we couldn’t see an inch in front of us. Kind of scary. We passed a semi-trailer that had jack-knifed minutes before and was lying on its side with all of its cargo spilling out. Throughout the day, it would start to clear up, then cloud up again. Rain, rain, rain.

Since we didn’t have anything better to do, we just kept on driving. We crossed the Iowa line, then Kansas City came and went. Southern Missouri along the Intertate didn’t have much to offer, so we kept on. I found a Harvest Host site (this one) in northern Arkansas, so we thought we would aim for that.

After an 8-hour, 400-mile drive (much longer than our usual driving days), which took us from southern Iowa, through Missouri, and to NW Arkansas, we arrived at Saddlebock Brewery. As we pulled in, we said simultaneously, “We have been here before!”. We remembered the beer to be pretty good, and the brewery welcoming, so we parked and went in to introduce ourselves.

We relaxed with a drink, and quickly became the topic of conversation of the other customers. They had seen us pull in and wanted to know about life in an Airstream, and about Harvest Hosts. Info at https://harvesthosts.com

Over beer and an appetizer, we watched one of our favorite TV shows – “Sixty Minutes” (which is not normally on in bars). If you are in the area, we would recommend Saddlebock Brewery…https://saddlebock.com

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: I travel with two plastic bins. The bigger one holds our coffee-making supplies and cups, and is stored in the oven.

I use the smaller one (picked up at one of George’s hospital stays) for washing dishes. I find that I use less water using a bin, rather than the entire sink. When the dishes are done, I dump the water into the toilet, to fill up the black water tank. This one travels in the sink. Both bins are sometimes used (one for soaping and one for rinsing) if we stay in a camground with a common-area dishwashing area.

DINNER: We bought a lettuce salad to go in the brewery, and added fresh tomatoes from our friends’s garden. Needing to use up smoked salmon (which we sometimes have for breakfast with cream cheese on toast), I made a pasta dish that was really good: I made pasta, then added cream cheese for a sauce, capers, boiled shrimp,, and lots of pepper. Upon serving, I topped with bacon bits and the smoked salmon slices. Super good and easy.

High School Reunion

CAMPGROUND: In the driveway on a farm owned by two former high school classmates
LOCATION: St. Charles, Iowa – 35 miles south of Des Moines
WEATHER: Overcast and muggy. Some rain

Today is the big day …..my 50th high school class reunion. I RSVPd to the invitation months ago, and we planned our summer route so that we would be here now.

This morning, we drove about 20 miles to my friends’ house, where they had kindly invited us to park the Airstream.

Then, we met up with other friends in the town of St. Mary’s, to have lunch at the “Northside Tavern and Grill”. For a town of about 100 people, it was surprisingly crowded. We had their famous tenderloin sandwich and got caught up a little. Interesting, how locals stopped by the bar for a drink and we all knew each other. One was a former neighbor of ours.

The reunion organizers had planned a tour of the new high school for us. When I went to school there, it was an old 3-story brick building, the same building that my father had attended. It has now been torn down and has been replaced by a huge education campus. It was amazing – a theatre just like at a university, a fitness center with the latest equipment, a huge shop area where kids learn skills like welding, music rooms, and gyms and more gyms and baseball, softball, football, etc fields. …….Sports are big here.

When I was in elementary school, the interstate highway was built. It went by 3 little towns, each with a population of about 300, on to Des Moines. The good thing was that it made traveling easier. The unfortunate effect, however, was to kill the livelihood of the 3 towns. For example, people stopped going to my father’s grocery store, now that they could zip to Des Moines to the larger, facier supermarkets. Now the 3 towns each have a population of about 100, and the businesses are all sadly boarded up.

The three towns consolidated their schools, and cleverly named the school lnterstate 35.

With a name like Interstate 35, our mascot just had to be the Roadrunner

When I attended school, the elementary kids were bussed to one town, middle school to another, and high school to the third. Now all the children are sent to Truro, where this new school complex has been built.

After the tour, my friend Nancy drove around Truro. The house where I lived is still looking good…

Then, the reunion. This nice classmate organnized the event. (Unfortunately, a picture hid the CL of CLASS – so that it looks like we are the Ass of 1969!

There were 78 in our graduating class. About 40 attended, plus some spouses. Three teachers also came. It was a very nice event.

Here I am with my two best buddies from high school

Thank goodness, they provided name tags. Otherwise I would not have recognized a lot of people.. The tags were made from our high school senior pictures. (Big hair was the fashion)….

After a nice buffet dinner and speeches, we called it a night. Maybe I will come back to #55.

Hot, muggy Iowa

CAMPGROUND: Lake Aquabi State Park. Big – 100 sites, about half with electricity. Central water and dump station. Decent bathrooms. $16/night. Ours is a lake-view site. Picnic tables and fire ring. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Indianola, Iowa – just south of Des Moines
WEATHER: Yuck! Hot – 91 with about 150% humidity (or so it seems)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at Rock Creek Lake, taking a hike through the woods. The weather forecast spelled out heat and humidity, so I started worrying about boondocking (with electricity = A/C) tonight. So, I suggested that we change our plans from staying at a Harvest Host winery without services to a state park, with electricity.

This hot, muggy weather is what I remember about summers in Iowa. But it is the end of September!

We had a short drive, crossing Red Rock Dam, which brought back memories from when I was young. We went there almost every Sunday to boat and waterski..

Lake Aquabi had a spot open so we decided to stay here. We are in this area so I can attend my 50th (yikes, 50!!!) high school reunion. We were lucky to get a site with a nice view. I contacted my friend Nancy who is also here for the reunion, and she joined us for drinks and dinner here at the lake.

DINNER: Appetizers were some good cheese and some pate’ with crackers. I made pita sandwiches with a hamburger and chicken mix, adding some Greek spices. I topped the pitas with tzatsiki sauce and diced cucumbers. Side was steamed peas.

BOOK: “At Risk”/ by Patricia Cornwell. I have read many of her Kay Scarpetta books, but I think this one was written before that series. Detective story. Pretty good. 8 stars out of 10