Texas, Our Texas!

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Joe Diaz/Flickr Creative Commons

Q: You have 20 people in a room, how can you tell which one is the Texan?

A: You won’t need to, they’ll tell you themselves!

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faungg’s photos/Flickr Creative Commons

Ain’t that the truth? I’m so proud to have been lucky enough to be born here, lucky enough to stay here, and lucky enough to have a great business here too! So I thought today IU could do a little Texas-centric bragging in hopes that those of y’all from outside the state will come and visit, and those of y’all already here would hit the trail and see what all the fuss has been about for the last couple hundred years!

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Rennet Stowe/Flickr Creative Commons

Now, Texas is an 800 mile long by 800 mile wide wonderland with the towns of Texoma, Brownsville, Orange, and Anthony being the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost and westernmost towns in the state. In between those towns you have almost every possible ecosystem you could want to visit…high plateau country, black dirt farmland, coastal prairies, piney woods, the limestone hill country, beaches, mountains, etc etc etc. Now since Texas is the biggest state in the continental US, would it surprise you that Texas has the most inland water of any state? We have more rivers and lakes in Texas than any other state but Alaska. And if we were our own country (again) we’d have the 12th largest economy in the ENTIRE WORLD!

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John Fowler/Flickr Creative Commons

We have our problems like everyone else, the highway system for example is straining to handle the increased traffic of all the folks moving here, but there is still a lot of elbow room here and True Born-Here Texans will still pull over onto the shoulder to let you pass…and wave while they’re doing it. If outdoor activities are your thing, we have all of those covered. If adventure is your thing…ditto. We also don’t have a state income tax.

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Texas Wildflower Tour

Photo: Diana Leblanc

Photo: Diana Leblanc

Did you know that there are 5,000 different species of wildflowers in Texas? Neither did I. Did you know that of those 5,000, there are 5 different species of Bluebonnets? I didn’t know that either!

If I had to boil down the things that I love in Texas the most, the yearly wildflower bloom would be number 1, or 2. I get so giddy when I see the first blooms of the season. This year, because of the rains, they came a little bit early; of course you won’t hear any complaints from me. Nothing gets my motor running like seeing the season’s first bluebonnets.

Photo Credit: Diana Leblanc

Photo Credit: Diana Leblanc

The bloom season usually progresses in a wave:  early March in Big Bend to mid-March in coastal cities, late March in Houston, early to mid-April in Central Texas and late April in the Panhandle. But, as I mentioned before, they are just a touch early because of the rain.
If there is one piece of advice I can give to all of you, it’s to take the time to stop and smell the flowers. I’m a big advocate of living life and not letting things get in the way and that means stopping along the highway (please be careful) to take family photos in the fresh blooms. You can never have too many bluebonnet pictures!
Let me be the first to say however, watch where you’re stepping. There are two things that can make your wildflower picture excursion less than fantastic. First, you really need to be aware of the land that you choose to take pictures on. You obviously want to stay off of private property. More so, you need to look for hazardous wildlife, rattlesnakes in particular. A nice bouquet of flowers can also mean nice shade for rattlers. Just shuffle your feet and let them know you are coming. If they are there, they’ll let you know. Keep your ears open. And finally, don’t trample the flowers; save some of the beauty for other folks. It doesn’t take much to crush a roadside bloom.
Texas has some of the most amazing wildflowers in United States. Take some time to embrace your inner Texan and appreciate the amazing blooms along our highways.

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Texas Aircraft Museums

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Stuart Seeger/Flickr Creative Commons

Y’all may not realize it, but the Lone Star State has been a major figure in the history of aviation. Sure, North Carolina has Kittyhawk, the sight of the first powered flight, and sure Ohio has the home of the Wright Brothers, but Texas was the home of the fledgling Army Air Corps with landing fields initially at Fort Sam Houston and in El Paso when the Army was chasing Pancho Villa prior to our entry into WWI. During the 40s, Texas blossomed into the main area for flight training all those fighter and bomber pilots to fight the Germans and the Japanese. A combination of good weather, flat terrain, and available land turned Texas into America’s classroom for pilots.

After the war, a group of cropdusters down in the Rio Grande Valley became some of the first Americans to see the value in all the derelict WWII bombers and fighters sitting abandoned at airfields all over the country. They began to restore and re-launch those warbirds into the skies as The Confederate Air Force Following their example, over the next 40 years groups sprung up all over the state to restore and maintain these fighting machines so that now, there re aircraft museums scattered all over the state. It doesn’t matter which interstate you travel on, a museum is nearby, so let’s take a quick trip around Texas and hit some of the highlights.

If you’re traveling in the Houston/Galveston area Lone Star Flight Museum is a must-see stop. Devastated by Hurricane Ike, Lone Star is in the process of moving from Scholes Field on Galveston Island to new facilities at Ellington Field just off I-45 in between Houston and Galveston. They are proud owners of “Thunderbird” a restored and flying Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, as well as airworthy B-25 Mitchell, F-4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, P-47 Thunderbolt, and one of the last flying SBD Dauntless dive bombers left in existence.

Other exceptional museums include: Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, TX and The Commemorative Air Force headquarters in Midland, TX. For WWII aircraft these three museums can’t be beat. And remember before you head out, head to our website PPL Motorhomes for all your parts and accessories!

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RV Lesser Known State Parks

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Tom Bennet, Flickr Creative Commons

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!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

Fall Colors: Coming Soon To A Tree Near You

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Jon Lebkowsky, Flickr Creative Commons

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!

RV to NM for BBQ!

Now you may not think that “New Mexico” and “BBQ” would be a natural fit. When one thinks of New Mexico and food, you naturally think of chiles and spicy, flavorful, and….different…Mexican Food. Well if there’s one thing you’ll find a bunch of in New Mexico, it’s ex-pats from Texas! And since Texans like their BBQ and since New Mexico has a long, storied history with cattle dating all the way back to the Spaniards, you can be assured that the BBQ in their fine state is Top Notch. So if you’re headed through NM on I-10 or I-40 on that Great Winter Migration, I have a couple suggestions for you.

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Sunshine Girl AZ, Flickr Creative Commons

Sparky’s BBQ, Hatch NM

Sparky’s. Man there just isn’t any place like it. Hatch is a quick jaunt north of I-10 on I-27 north of Las Cruces and Sparky’s is well worth the side trip! The entire place is a trip for that matter. I have no idea what is on top of the building now but statues of roosters, dinosaurs, Uncle Sam, a Kip’s Big Boy, a Bull from Sizzler’s have all graced the roof at one point or another. The place has such an eclectic collection of…just…stuff, that it features regularly on the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, or the Food Network. The food is fantastic as well. The brisket is to die for. And the Sliced beef sandwiches. And the green chile cheeseburgers. And the chopped beef.

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Steve Terrell, Flickr Creative Commons

Mr Powdrell’s BBQ House, Albuquerque NM

Now up on the north side, there in Albuquerque on I-40 is Mr Powdrell’s. Mr Powdrell’s isn’t as flamboyant as Sparky’s, but is a top notch feed. Founded by Pete Powdrell (a displaced Texan), this place boasts the most tender brisket I have ever eaten outside Texas. Holy Mackerel this place is good!

So you see, no matter how you travel through NM you’re covered in good BBQ!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

RV To Langtry, TX!

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Mike Fisher/Flickr Creative Commons

Some of y’all may remember a wonderful Paul Newman movie from 1972 called The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean. It was about this rough around the edges semi-rascal huckster named Roy Bean who left San Antonio to sell whiskey to the railroad workers who were building the Southern Pacific. Through a series of events usually involving his own hubris and willingness to never let an opportunity pass, Newman/Bean declares himself judge and “Law West Of The Pecos”. He names his town Langtry after a famous actress of the 1890’s he’d never met named Lilly Langtry. Bean also names his courthouse/saloon after the actress as well; The Jersey Lilly.

Langtry, TX today swelters in the Rio Grande border region heat. Located on Hwy 90 in Val Verde County about 50 miles upriver from Del Rio, Langtry is the site where the Silver Spike was driven completing the railroad and apparently Judge Bean was among several folks who fought to steal that spike out of the ground as soon as the railroad folks were out of sight! The Jersey Lilly still exists today, and is right next to the Judge Roy Bean Visitor’s Center, a small museum commemorating the colorful past of the region. Langtry is a virtual ghost town now with perhaps 30-40 residents in the town and immediate surroundings, so plan accordingly when it comes to fuel, food, and water.

Also the area has some spectacular views especially at dawn and dusk. There’s nothing quite like a west Texas sun at the horizon and the beautiful golden light it casts. Outside of town on 90 there is a beautiful bridge over the Pecos River, and Seminole Canyon State Historical Park over near Comstock TX. It’s a great place to go and see the petroglyphs on the canyon walls from an earlier Texas civilization. This little visited part of Texas is well worth the trip!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

Let’s Take the RV and Hit a Swimming Hole!

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Nan Palmero/Flickr Creative Commons

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!

RV to a Family-Style Water Park

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Mark Gstohl/Flickr Creative Commons

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!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

It’s So Hot, Let’s Go To Oregon!

We will seamlessly be moving from July into August next week and the oven that is Texas will subtly be set from Bake to Broil. It’s times like these when the going gets tough, the tough go to……Oregon! So let’s hit the trail and talk all things green, and lush, and cool!

Oregon is a beautiful, highly natural, and mostly uncluttered state. And they’re hilarious too. I remember being in south central Oregon in their “outback” portion of the state, it was maybe 83 degrees and everyone was talking about how hot it was. I smiled quietly to myself until I was out of ear shot and then just belly laughed. 83 degrees with no humidity and it was killing them! I felt like Superwoman! So, I’m going to name two incredibly beautiful places that have nothing in common with anything you can see in Texas and that are both worth the trip:

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Jonathan Miske/Flickr Creative Commons

Crater Lake National Park

Oh my God y’all, this place is amazing. It’s a crystal clear, giant lake in a volcanic caldera and it is incredible. There is camping, a cool old lodge, and hiking aplenty. What’s more, there is Wizard Island down on the lake and you can take the ferry boat out there and stay on the island all day…but be sure you don’t miss that last boat! Plus it’s pretty hard to get lost when you hike around a round(ish) lake…just keep the water on that same side and eventually you’ll be right back where you started.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/62005704@N00/5060613043/in/photolist-8HbXX2-8Hf6Ss-5TAFgF-6QVXwp-8Hc5b8-5e8YKJ-5TF1mY-8Hc4Ra-epsmv-epsoh-epshJ-epsw6-epsu8-owPacL-es7Foj-es7Dww-es7C9m-uYzsC-brxQSf-abvKqB-o8Mojv-4a1Ddu-4YZ9RH-49WAoV-abvq2i-giDxxj-es7APW-es7zah-es7zLN-JFXKMv-es7yZQ-6ejxJg-es7A1C-pZFXuU-giDzrQ-oqhbUP-8hxCxv-abvmnZ-abvour-os351x-5eyk6B-o8MhQW-oqfuDC-oqh5tx-os2Uvv-acXeRK-acXdoK-6Nxnxu-6Nqd5A-8bDyLk

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Astoria

What a beautiful coastal town! It is quintessential Oregon coast. It has those amazing pyramid shaped rocks, the Columbia River, the house where they filmed Goonies back in the 80’s, a gigantic bridge over the river….it’s like a poster advertising the Pacific Northwest. Needless to say, there are plenty of great places to eat and things to do as well. Head across the river to Washington State and check out the old Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment for example, you won’t be disappointed!

Don’t forget to come say howdy to us at the website, we’re standing by to help you with whatever parts or accessories you need to stay on the trail!