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1/19 thru 1/24/2014 - Lockhart State Park

Monday, 1/20/14

As we were hitching up to leave Mustang Island S.P. one of our neighbors noticed our Illinois license plates and stopped to talk.   He was from Oswego, IL and during the course of our conversation I found out he grew up in Maywood and went to Proviso East High School (that's where me and four of my siblings went).   He was older than us and graduated the year before I started but then he mentioned that his dad was a history teacher at Proviso.   I didn't remember him but it turns out that  my sister, Sue, had him for American History - what a small world!

After that little bit of weirdness we hit the road with a destination of Lockhart State Park in Lockhart, Texas.  It's just under 200 miles so a relatively light day of driving.   As we were driving, the GPS  confused us (Ok, it was me that was confused) and we had to make a u-turn!!   Rather than finding a empty parking lot Marty decided that he could just do the turn on the road and it worked!   And I didn't even freak out (too much).  It's amazing how much more comfortable he is driving this big rig.

Our new home at Lockhart State Park
When we got to Lockhart Park the office directed us to pick a site and then come back and let them know which one we chose.    This is a very small park with only 10 full hook-up sites and 10 with just water and electric.  We chose #5 and were backing in  when another rig came and told us they had just chosen that one and were already checked in at the office.  We drove the circle one more time and chose site #3 and are quite happy with it (it's better than #5 anyway).

We did have one issue when were backing in to the original spot, got too close to a branch and we now have a small tear in our rig's rubber roof.   It should be an easy fix once we find a rv store for a patch kit.

Once we were all settled in it was time for dinner and time to go explore the town of Lockhart which just happens to be the Texas capital of BBQ - who knew??  There are four bbq restaurants in town and we tried Black's.   It was ok but we didn't feel it was anything special and it was very pricey.  We have a whole week here so we'll definitely be trying the other places to see which is the best.

After dinner we drove to Best Buy in the nearby town of San Marcos.   The park has very weak WiFi and we decided to buy an antenna to boost whatever signal we could find.   It works but it's still a weak signal - 3 bars which is better than the 1 bar we started out with.   We have to have WiFi, can't live without our technology.

The telephone wires next to the highway were loaded with birds - very freaky!

Tuesday, 1/21/14

We found a Crestview RV Sales and Service Store in Buda, TX which is only about a 1/2 hour from us.  We headed over there to pick up a patch kit for the roof and also found some lubricant for the slide-outs.  It's a nice store with good prices so we picked up a catalog for future shopping.

Texas State Capital
When we got back in the car we decided to drive another 1/2 hour north into the state capital of Austin.    When we got there we parked on 6th street, the heart of the music district and walked over to the Tourist Center.  We picked up lots of brochures (probably too many) and then drove over to the State Capital Building.   We went into their visitor center and then walked into the Capital Building.  It's quite something to see but all we saw was the rotunda, the next tour wasn't for another 25 minutes and we didn't have that much time on our parking meter.   If we go back to Austin it would definitely be worth taking the tour.   Here's a trivia question for you--
Can you name the 6 different country's flags that have flown over the State Capital building?  I'll put the answer down below.


Looking up at the dome in the Rotunda

The Texas Capital Building has had six different country's flag flying over it.  The countries are:  France, Spain, Mexico, The Confederacy, The Republic of Texas, and the U.S.A.    I knew this before we visited here and thought it was an interesting fact - my brain has way too much of this useless information in it.

Smitty's BBQ
We left Austin around 4:00 and since we didn't have lunch decided to try another bbq place in Lockhart - this time it was Smitty's and the experience was much nicer and half the price.   When you walk in you go straight to the back and tell them what kind of meat you want.  They give you the meat on butcher paper and then you go into the seating area where you can choose what you want to drink and any sides that you'd like.    It was like that at Black's too but there were so many sides there that we went overboard - we're still bbq newbies.   After two days of bbq I need a break so I'm not sure when (or if) we'll try the other two places.

When we got back to the park we decided to check out one of the trails.  We walked for about 45 minutes and saw these scary looking birds.
Black Vultures

Wednesday, 1/22/14

Whenever you visit a state park in Texas you must pay a daily admission fee (this includes campers) which adds about 21.00 per week on to your camping fees.  The State of Texas does offer a State Parks Pass for $70.00 which is good for one year from the date of purchase.  We bought the pass at Galveston State Park and so far have used it for three weeks of camping.  This was an easy decision, it's already paid for itself.    It's really nice to have if you just want to spend a little bit of time in a park which is what we did on Wednesday at Pedernales Falls State Park.   We arrived there around 11:00 and checked in at the Park Office and showed them our pass, the daily admission here is $6.00 each so we saved $12.00.

Pedernales Falls "Beach"
This park is in the Hill Country of Texas and has over 20 miles of hiking trails.   We did about two miles of hiking with lots of ups and downs.  The Pedernales River runs through the park and once you get about 2.5 miles below the falls they allow swimming and tubing.   We walked down to see the "swimming area".   Since the river is so low right now you could see all the large rocks in the water and I don't think anyone would want to swim (or go tubing) in it.  

Relaxing on the "beach"

After hiking back up to the road we got in the car and looked for the trail to take us to Pedernales Falls.   We hiked down to the falls and could actually walk out to the middle of the river because the water is so low.   It was incredibly relaxing - I sunned myself on the rocks while Marty was taking photos.   This is a beautiful park and hopefully we will be able to camp here at some point.   It is interesting to read the signs about flash floods and how quickly the water turns dangerous.  Hard to believe on such a beautiful day.
Standing in the middle of the river
Sitting in the middle of the river
Playing in the middle of the river
After leaving the park we went looking for a winery.  This is easy in the Hill Country, they are everywhere!   We ended up at Duchman Family Winery and did a tasting and picked up a couple of bottles of white wine.

Enjoying a little vino

After leaving the winery around 3:30 we started looking for a place to stop for lunch.  We found a delightful cafe - The Texas Pie Company.   Marty had soup and a sandwich and I had the lunch special - Beef Strogranoff.  We both had pie (of course) for dessert.   Pecan for Marty and Lemon for me - Yum!  
Thursday - 1/23/14

Happy 5th Birthday to my great-nephew, Danny Burke!

We had a quiet day on Thursday, it was cold and blustery so we stayed inside until it was time to go visit Marty's friends Bill and Claudia who moved down to Dripping Springs, TX about 3 years ago.    They invited us to come over for dinner and we had a wonderful time visiting with them (and ate a delicious pasta meal!).   The pasta was home-made as was the bread - wow!    They came to Texas to retire but as so often happens with retirees they seem busier now.    Bill has a radio show out of Austin that broadcasts 4 hours Monday - Friday.      Claudia is a master gardener, felts, knits, and volunteers in Austin.   They have a cow named Chloe, many chickens, and a few sheep to keep them even busier. 

Bill and "friend"

We enjoyed spending the evening with them but when we left we found our truck covered in ice!!   It's a good thing we didn't give away our scraper.    What should have been a 45 minute drive back to the park ended up taking 1 1/2 hours - at one point we were at a standstill on the highway for about 15 minutes.   Many ramps were closed and it was kind of scary knowing that the other drivers probably didn't know how to drive in this kind of weather.   We were very happy when we finally got back to the rig where the inside temperature was a balmy 51.  :)

Friday, 1/24/14

We woke up to temperatures in the high 20's and frost on the ground.   We have no plans for today so it looks like a "catching up and cleaning" day.   Our water spigot is frozen so we only have the water that's left in the tank.   It is supposed to get up to the 40's this afternoon so we should be able to hook the hose back up for a little while.  

Skating at the Golf Course, a whole new sport.

Ice is pretty when you know it's going to melt soon.

1/12 thru 1/18/14 - Mustang Island State Park

Saying goodbye to Galveston Island State Park

Quiet week here at Mustang Island State Park, near Corpus Christi, TX.  The weather was beautiful  - highs were in the 60's and low 70's and it was sunny every day! 

Sunday, 1/12/14
We left Galveston on Sunday around 11:00 (later than we planned)  and drove south along the coast about 250 miles to Mustang Island State Park. We got there at 4:30 so the office was still open and we checked in.  We were assigned site #9 but they told us we could take anything that was open.   There is no real differences in any of the sites - we are all lined up on a wide concrete lane.  There are 24 sites on each side and #9 is right next to the dumpster which is fine with us since there's no rig right next to us on that side.
and hello to Mustang Island State Park

This campground is very "bare-bones".   No campfires allowed so no roasted marshmallows :(.   The beach is about a two block walk and when you get there you can walk (or drive) for miles, it's totally unrestricted.   The bathrooms and showers are clean but small and we are taking "navy" showers in the rig so that we don't have to use them.   For those who don't know, a navy shower is when you turn on the water to soak yourself, turn it off, soap up and then turn the water back on to rinse off.  We are doing this so that our grey water tanks won't fill up before we leave next Sunday.

Monday, 1/13/14
Marty has taken a lot of photos with his stereo camera and we needed to go the post office and get the film in the mail so that we can get it back before we leave.  We've got our fingers crossed that it gets here - if not we'll stay an extra day or two and wait for it.

We took a ride to the town closest to us,  Port Aransas, it's about 9 miles down the road going north.  It has lots of RV parks and souvenir shops and definitely caters to the "Winter Texans" (people from the north who come to Texas for the winter).

Tuesday, 1/14/14
Our slide-outs are squeaking so we need to buy some RV lubricant to make them stop.  We found some on Amazon and placed the order and then found out expected delivery wasn't for two weeks!  We promptly cancelled that order and drove to our neighborhood Walmart where we found some RV lubricant spray which should work just fine.

After leaving Walmart we went exploring and drove along the bay where Marty spotted some pelicans perched on pilings so we stopped for a photo op - unfortunately the pelicans didn't get the memo and flew off.   However, when we looked to our right, there was an ice cream shop - how serendiptitious!

Wednesday, 1/15/14
We had a quiet day, checked out the Goodwill store in Corpus Christi and then just hung out at the rig and went for a long walk on the beach.
Maddie enjoying the beach
Maddie and Marty enjoying the surf
Beautiful day for a walk
A little "sand" script
Thursday, 1/16/14
Today was our tourist day.  We drove into Corpus Christi and visited the USS Lexington.
The History of the USS Lexington
The USS Lexington

On the Bridge - Full Steam Ahead!!

This was on the side of a a helicopter - that's always been my motto!

Imagine sleeping in these tiny beds - that's 3 people, hope they don't snore!

On the flight deck, how skilled the pilots need to be to land in this small area

From the Bridge to the Brig :(

There was a full moon on Thursday so we walked down to the beach for some pictures.
Moonlight Magic

Friday, 1/17/14
On our way home from the USS Lexington on Thursday we stopped at CVS and noticed the RedBox outside the store.  We've never used it before but decided to give it a try.   We have now watched 1 movie (Fruitvale Station) and 1 whole season (13 episodes) of House of Cards - that's a whole lot of TV viewing.  Our TV watching on the road has been sporadic, when we get to a new campground we are never sure what stations we'll get.   We've been lucky the past two weeks, we've had PBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC so I haven't missed any Downton Abbey.

Saturday, 1/18/14
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This morning we drove to Rockport, about 35 miles north of us for their monthly "Market Days".   The shortest way to get there is on the ferry from Port Aransas.  It's a free ferry and a very short ride, only about 10 minutes.  You spend more time in line waiting to get on than you do on the ferry. 

Market Days is a craft show along with a few food vendors.   There were girl scouts selling cookies so we now have some Thin Mints in our freezer :).    There was also a woman selling homemade tamales, a dozen for 9.00 - such a deal!   We bought a dozen but I'm wishing we had bought more, they're really good.   
On the Ferry going back to Mustang Island S.P.

On our ride back to the ferry we saw a small outdoor flea market so, of course, we stopped.   Marty bought a pair of work gloves for $2.00 to replace the ones that blew out from the back of the truck and I bought a pair of jeans for only $3.00.  We also bought 5 avocados for $2.00 (to go with the tamales) and a small bucket of apples for $3.00 - a very productive stop.

When we got back to the ferry the line to get on was four blocks long!  Luckily, there are 4 boats and the turn-around was fairly quick.   The wait seemed like nothing to me because I was talking to my sister, Sue,  the whole time.

We were supposed to leave here on Sunday but we still hadn't figured out where our next stop will be.  We plan to stay at state parks while in Texas, there are a lot of choices and it's hard to tell on the internet which ones we'd like.   We want to go somewhere that's between Austin and San Antonio.  When we got back to the rig I got on my computer and went to the Texas State Park Website to check availability at a few while Marty was on his computer looking at our possibilities via Google Earth.  We finally decided that our next stop will be at Lockhart State Park which is a little bit south of Austin.   They had no sites available until Monday so we are here, at Mustang State Park, for an extra night.  

1/10/14 - VIP's at NASA

40' deep pool where astronauts in training learn to work in a gravity free environment
Orion Capsule, which will be used for Mars Exploration

Since we are so close to Houston and since Marty is a bit of a space geek we decided to take the VIP tour at NASA.   They only take 12 people on each of these tours and they only have one of these tours a day except for Friday when they do two.  We signed up for the 11:45 tour on Friday.  I wasn't crazy about going on this tour, I am not much of a space person and have already toured the Kennedy Space Center but we'll probably never have this opportunity again so with some trepidation I decided to go.  We took lots of pictures and
I did try to put the photos in chronological order but it wasn't working out so well as you can tell.

It was amazing!!   We were able to go places at the Johnson Space Center that the regular tourist is not allowed to see.    We got to sit in the cockpit of the space shuttle!!   We got to see current mission control for the space station and watch the workers at their desks and THEN, my very favorite thing, we went in to the old mission control for the Apollo program and I got to sit at the Flight Director's desk, that's where the speaker is that transmitted some of the most famous words from outer space:   "Houston, we have a problem" and "The eagle has landed".    It gave me the chills (and made me want to watch Apollo 13 again, I have a whole new appreciation of the Space Program).   If you ever have the opportunity to do this we would highly recommend it.

Sitting in the old Mission Control Center, note the speaker under the left monitor where the historic words were transmitted 

 This man, David Cisco is one of only two people who worked on the Apollo missions and is still working at the Johnson Space Center.  The mirror, which was flown on Aquarius LM-7 to the moon in April of 1970  was returned by a grateful Apollo 13 crew to "reflect the image" of the people in Mission Control who got us back.   They had it hung over the water fountain so that every time they got a drink of water they would remember the gratitude of the Apollo Crew -  Lovell, Swigert, and Haise.

Sitting in the cockpit of the Space Shuttle   

Two Nasa space suits, note the gold face shields

"Selfie" taken in the reflection of the gold face shield

Next generation robot explorers

Space Shuttle Training Center