Well we’re getting to that time of year again where the leaves will be turning brown and the the wild grasses start losing some of their moisture and that means an increased chance for wildfires. Now, I generally write about the dangers of wildfires at least twice a year, because, let’s face it, this is Texas and seeing a repeat of what happened in Bastrop a few years back scares the bejeezus out of me.
The speed at which fire can spread when it is fueled by dry conditions and wind is faster than you could actually imagine. In the case of the fire that consumed Bastrop, not only was the fire moving quickly, but it also jumped a waterway that you’d think would have been a great defense. Nope. All it takes is one ember to make it across the river and it will likely continue on its destructive path. Take a look at the video below for proof.
So what can you do? First, you MUST heed all burn warnings and out right bans. A burn ban is just a suggestion, it is law and can likely result in a significant fine. But really, the money that you will be fined is minuscule to the danger that you are putting people, property and livestock in. That burger you are about to throw on top of the grill is going to taste really awful with that side of regret you’ll be eating it with.
If there is no burn ban and you do grill out, or have a campfire you still have to be extremely careful. Please, please, please extinguish your fires when camping with a generous amount of water. If you think you’ve put enough on to flood a small village, put on more. It’s also a VERY WISE idea to keep fire extinguishers at arms reach. You really can never be too safe. Once a fire catches it will be virtually impossible to contain it. At that point you’ll need to call the fire dept. and probably your lawyer, as I suspect you are going to be met with a few lawsuits. If that isn’t enough to scare you into fire prevention, then you probably ought not to be around matches.
In today’s world getting kids away from video games, iPads, smartphones and a whole host of other things designed to essentially keep them sedentary is a very difficult thing to do. When we were kids if you wanted entertainment, you had to make it up yourself. You had to go outside and explore. You had to create your own adventure and that was usually done outdoors. We went outside when it was sunny, when it was cold and even when it was raining. Today there simply is no “app” that will substitute for actually going outdoors.
When I try to light a fire under my grandchildren and get them off of the computer or away from the TV, it’s usually met with disgruntled moans and groans. “Aw, Nana, can’t we just finish this game?” My answer is usually “No”. I want them to get outside and explore the things that a virtual world could never replicate. So that got me thinking. If we are in a battle with our kids to leave the technology behind, we might lose that battle. Why not bring a little technology outside with them in the form of a digital camera and win the war!
A camera is, essentially a gateway between technology and environment. I’ve heard the term “hybrid learning”, which is where technology and nature work together to create a new way of thinking. By using the digital camera, or even the camera of their phones it allows your kids to both engage with nature and “play” with the electronics and technology at the same time.
Next time you go RVing with the kids, or grandkids try getting them to explore the outdoors more by challenging them to a photo scavenger hunt. For example, make a list of things that are commonly found in a campsite, or RV park, like flowers, insects, rocks, colors, shapes, people, animals, etc…and have them take a photo of each of the “hunted” items. The the photo possibilities are endless.
Now the camera doesn’t have to be a $2,000 SLR, or anything professional. That’s obvious. A simple point and shoot with automatic focus is good enough. They can still get great pictures without having to be concerned about anything else other than taking the picture. Children will spend a good amount of time composing their pictures in order to get “just the right shot”. The time the spend looking through the viewfinder and the concentration it requires are the special moments that allow kids to experience the minute details of nature in an up-close and personal way.
After they take their pictures, you can sit down with them and help them make a scrapbook of their photos that they can then share with friends and family. Before you they know it, they will have all of their trips and adventures documented and can always revisit those memories by looking at their pictures. Don’t forget to have them put captions of “when, where and what” on them so they can always remember.
Digital photography is a great tool to get our increasingly technologically oriented kids outside to not only discover nature, but also preserve and share those discoveries with their family and friends. If your kids have taken any pictures your like to share, just head over to PPL Motorhomes Facebook page and post them! I know all of our fans would love to see the outdoors through a child’s eyes.
Everybody knows about Inks Lake, Garner State Park. Lost Maples when it comes to fall foliage, but Texas has some breathtaking spots off the beaten path that do not get the kind of traffic that those other “calendar page” parks receive. So today I thought we could talk about some of these other places and what they have to offer.
Hueco Tanks State Park
Hueco Tanks is a truly awe inspiring place. Located just outside El Paso, Hueco Tanks is an amazing rock formation that did one truly amazing thing…they trapped rainwater. People for millennia have traveled to these rock basins to collect the rainwater stored inside. These days you can clamber over the rocks, hike, ride you bicycle, and marvel at the more than 200 petroglyphs that have survived.
Copper Breaks State Park
Located in far north Texas within a couple hours drive from Caprock Canyon and Palo Duro, Copper Breaks State Park is home to rugged scenery, a portion of the Official Longhorn Herd of Texas as well as being an internationally designated Dark Sky Park…which means they take light pollution seriously. RVs are welcome and there are campsites aplenty!
Palmetto State Park
Palmetto is one of those places it’s kind of hard to believe are in Texas. If you hike through the park on a misty morning you’d swear you were in dinosaur country. I mean it looks ancient in there with all the ferns, the dwarf palm trees which give Palmetto its name. They have a small spring fed Ox Bow lake available for boating, fishing and kayaking, and of course there are numerous campsites.
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re in the Houston area, the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to get away from it all closer to home. Located down near Freeport and Lake Jackson, the refuge is a fairly large (44,000+ acre) allotment that is home to most of the coastal species of birds located here in Texas. Hike, camp, and wander to your heart’s content!
I love fall. I mean, I really love fall. When fall arrives here in Texas, it’s the surest sign I know that the heat wave is over. Although…Texas has pulled a fast one from time to time where we’ve gotten those gorgeous colors on the trees, and it jumped back into the 90’s. That’s just so wrong, on so many levels. But the fortunate thing about us folks in this RV lifestyle is that we are mobile. I remember a trip once where we decided that our destination was 65. Folks would ask us, “65? Where’s that?” I’d smile and say, “65 F. And it’s probably around 7000′ elevation!” But I digress. Fall is coming and all the Norman Rockwell colors that go with it, so today let’s talk locations where fall is on best display here in Texas.
Lost Maples State Natural Area
This little park gets kind of busy on the weekend during the fall foliage season, so play your trip accordingly. Weekdays during business hours are quieter, and the trails uncrowded. Located on FM 187 in Vanderpool, TX Lost Maples is a kaleidoscope of natural beauty. And their website even has a Fall Foliage Report (click on it) from October through to November so you can play your trip accordingly.
Garner State Park
This is another of those breath taking natural areas in the Texas Hill Country. Located on Hwy 83 in between Leakey (pronounced Lake-ee, thank you) and Uvalde, this beautiful spot has the Frio River running straight through it. Fall colors are on their best violently bright behavior during our cruelly short Fall, so get out and enjoy them while you can! This park doesn’t have a fall foliage report but it’s fairly close (in Texas miles) to Lost Maples to at least get a hint or two off of the Lost Maples Foliage report.
And remember, before you hit that trail this fall be sure an hit our website for all your parts and accessories!
There is something fantastic I love seeing every year in Texas, and that’s the remarkable migration of the Monarch butterflies. However in the Rio Grande Valley, their numbers are in steady decline because their natural habitat is disappearing due to the economic growth of the area, increased corporate farming and the use of pesticides and defoliants like Roundup. However, there is one RV park in the Rio Grande Valley that has done something to help promote and stimulate the success of these winged beauties. Oleander Acres RV Park, with the help of funding support from the Rio Grande Valley Garden Club and the Native Plant Society of Texas has planted 200 milkweed plants of 7 different varieties during the past 6 months.
Monarchs will actual drink nectar from almost all flowering plants that produce nectar, so why is milkweed important? Because milkweed is actually the only plant that Monarchs will lay their eggs on. Even though they don’t really provide a direct commercial value like honey bees do, seeing clouds of of migrating butterflies every year is worth quite a bit in human experience. It was Oleander Acres RV Park that decided that they would be able to provide a great spot for them to rest on their long journey.
Visitors are welcome to come out to Oleander Acres to see the butterfly gardens which in turn will help the butterfly population in Texas just in time for the next Butterfly Festival. For more information, check out Oleander Acres website and plan a trip out to the Rio Grande Valley for a really unique an beautiful experience.
Lordy it’s hot. It’s so darn hot the fire hydrants are praying for dogs. Which naturally leads one to the question, “How in heck do I beat this heat!?” Used to be a trip to the ol’ swimming hole was the best cure so let’s do just that! Pack up your RV with a couple towels, a watermelon or two, a cooler full of ice and everything you like to drink that’s cold, and let’s hit the road for some good ol’ fashioned Texas Swimming Holes!
Now if you’ve ever been to the San Marcos River, the Comal, or the Guadalupe why then you know what a shock it is to your posterior when it hits that chilly water. But with that said, once you realize that it ain’t cold…it’s just relaxing, then a leisurely float down one of these rivers is just what the Dr ordered for a bad case of August. All these rivers have tubes for rent, and rides from down river back upriver so don’t worry about that, just pack your sunscreen and don’t worry about getting anywhere fast. Head for San Marcos, New Braunfels, Martindale, or just about any other town these rivers pass through and enjoy your float.
Just outside of Austin is a wonderful spot, and no we’re not talking about Hamilton Pool this time…that place has just gotten too crowded. We’re talking about Krause Springs there in Spicewood, TX. Beautiful clear 65 degree water, towering cypress trees, and way less crowded than your usual Austin area water spots. Plan on about a 40 minute drive with all that traffic, but also plan on relaxing at an absolute OASIS when you arrive.
Another neat spot in Central Texas is Jacob’s Well there near Wimberly, TX. Like the others mentioned today it’s spring fed, crystal clear, and cool. You can swim right there in the artesian spring and it is one beautiful bit of nature.
As always, before you hit the road, hit us up at the website…we’ll be only to glad to help y’all out!
It’s not everyday you discover a pretty cool water park that is ALSO an RV park! Now how perfect is that for a Texas summer? Well Splashway is just such a place. Splashway is not your regular water park either, this place is dedicated to family. Located in Sheridan TX, which is on 90 just south of Schulenburg (so you can get there easily via I-10), this is the perfect place to bring the kids or grandkids. The campground features everything from cabins to primitive camping for you tent folks, as well as pull-ins and pull-throughs, 30 amp or 50 amp.
Having had most of my water park experience at the old Water World in Houston, the first thing that struck me when I walked in to Splashway was that this place is not covered in groups of obnoxious, noisy teenagers. What I saw was families enjoying the water slides, splash pads, lazy river, and wave pool. It was a refreshing experience, pun intended. If you have kids who are less than confident in the water, they even offer swimming lessons.
Aside from the water activities, there are snack bars for taking the edge off your hunger…and you’re even allowed to bring in your own cooler in case you want your own snacks and drinks. Scattered throughout the park are tables and chairs covered by awnings so you parents and grandparents can have a nice shady spot to sit and watch your kids if you’re done playing in the water. Not only that, but when the whole family is done with the water, they have an entire zip line course throughout the complex so the adventure can continue even after you get all pruney.
I’ve been to most of the big name water parks in Texas, but I’ve never seen a place like this. So if you get hot and want to entertain the kiddos this summer, plunk ’em down in the RV and head to Sheridan, TX!
Roanoke Island in North Carolina is, believe it or not, one of the oldest continually occupied settlements in North America. Originally settled in 1585 under the organization of Sir Walter Raleigh, Roanoke saw the first birth of an American settler named Virginia Dare. Oddly enough that first colony soon gave rise to one of America’s oldest unsolved mysteries as well when the colony and everyone in it vanished by 1590 leaving no trace of what happened to them. Archaeologists and historians are still working to solve that mystery.
Fast forward 450 years or so and it’s 2016 and Roanoke Island is a charming destination between mainland North Carolina and the famous Outer Banks. To get there simply take Highway 64 off of I-95 towards the Atlantic and you’ll cross Croatan Sound from Mann’s Harbor over to Roanoke Island where the main towns are Fort Raleigh City on the north end, and Manteo and Wanchese just south of there.
There is a beautiful campground in Wanchese called The Refuge which is on 345. They have almost 60 sites, 44 of which are available for year long leases, the rest are day use and are located right on the water. From here you can easily visit Nag’s Head, Cape Hatteras, or the birthplace of aviation…Kill Devil Hills.
This is a beautiful part of the United States, and very unique as well. If you like history, there are the light houses, Fort Raleigh, and all the old houses. If you like outdoor activities, well…this area is slopping over with just that! From all the water-borne stuff like boating, skiing, canoeing, swimming, and fishing, to the land-based stuff like hiking, photography, horseback riding, and just plain old sitting…Roanoke Island has you covered. Just outside the campground at The Refuge is the Roanoke Island Nature Reserve where you can wander to your heart’s content.
Remember folks, please come visit us at the website before you hit the road…we’re glad to help get you squared away!
If you have traveled around, or have lived in Texas this past month then you know you need some high water boots, or a boat to get around. The floods in Texas are some of the worst in history with the Brazos and Trinity rivers rising to record levels. The devastation has been horrible. People and animals stranded and trying to escape rising water and property destroyed.
The rain in the Houston area has stopped for a few days, but the news media tells us the worst is yet to come for many in the path of the rising waters. How can we help? What can we do? Count your blessings if you were not affected by this natural disaster then take time to reach out and help others. So many organizations have opened their doors to those left stranded and are accepting your donations of supplies and funds. Take time to give your time if you can. From handing out supplies to helping clean up these disaster areas, there is something for everyone to do to help.
Of course you all know that the RV lifestyle is near and dear to my heart. I have seen pictures of flooded RVs and trucks that simply did not have time to get out before the waters started rising. Many of these were more than a recreational vehicle for their owners. They were their homes. In the Rio Grande Valley storms ripped apart several RV parks and residents sought shelter at local churches and community centers. Many of my park friends have suffered great losses and are working to help their guests restore some normal signs of life. The RV community is a giving community. RVers help each other and are there for their fellow campers.
I am heading down to the Brazoria area to pitch in and help because people have always been there to help me. I urge all of you to look around and see what you can do to help, too, and thank your lucky starts that you are a part of this great RV lifestyle!
My daughter Jennifer and I had a fun day at Leisure Resort in Fentress, Texas a week ago Saturday at their Benefit BBQ cook-off. All of you know that I have a special place in my heart for Leisure Resort because this park has been a huge part of our life for several years. We have watched the grandkids go from wearing their floaties in the river to being daredevils and they have shared so many memories in our big book of life. So, needless to say, when we heard they were having a benefit BBQ to help rebuild the infrastructure of the park, we were ready willing and able to do whatever they needed to make this a success.
For those of you who are not aware of the crazy central Texas weather of 2015, Leisure was one of the many parks destroyed on Memorial Day weekend. Of course, if you knew the owners, Kathy & T.J., you would not be surprised at all to know that within a week the park was open for business. It may not have had all the amenities that soon, but it was open and families were having fun. They spent the busy summer months making the park better than ever and then the unthinkable happened…it was hit be a second raging flood and this one was worse than the first. The workkampers, employees, friends and family, once again, jumped into high gear to save whatever they could save. Now, 6 months later, on the service it’s hard to imagine the park was under several feet of water. It looks terrific! We all know that devastation like this means costly repairs and expenses no one ever planned for or could even imagine.
As we chatted with RVers, young and old, there was a common thread running throughout all the conversations. They all have made and will continue to make great memories at Leisure Resort. Everyone wanted to help the park and wants to keep this piece of their RV lifestyle in good condition to share with generations to come. We all enjoyed the BBQ, the music, the conversation, the raffle and fun! And, thanks to the generosity of so many friends of this park, repairs and improvements will continue, a little faster than planned.
If you have never visited Leisure Resort, make plans now to enjoy this beautiful San Marcos River park with family and friends soon. Tell them RV Nana sent you!!
I have been with PPL Motor Homes since 1980 and have been fortunate enough to grow up with the company. A native Houstonian, I have been blessed with years of wonderful experiences and memories of RVing with family and friends. With 3 children, 8 grandchildren and a ton of friends who I refer to as my adopted family, I was a Nana long before I became RV Nana. I was blessed to have shared this lifestyle with my late husband, a Cajun from Lafayette, and his spirit will live on in all of us as we continue down the road of life.
My life with PPL has given me so many wonderful chapters, from sharing my RV experiences as RV Nana to working with the Texas Campground Owners Association and holding the position of President of the Texas RV Association from 2011-2013, so it’s easy to see that the RV lifestyle is my style. Watch for me on the road …I’m the one with the RV Nana license plates on my car and RV, and share your RV experiences with me. See you soon!