daveynin/Flickr Creative Commons
Most folks know about the Big Bend area of Texas, either because of the gigantic National Park, and the equally big State Park, or because of it’s use as the setting for “Giant”, the film starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Dean died during filming, but Giant earned Dean his second Oscar Nomination and also contributed to the world’s assumptions of Texas and how we Texans should be. But there is so much more to this area than the usual haunts, film sets, and the I-10 corridor. Today we’re going to take the old trail through Big Bend Country, today we’re gonna ride on Alt 90 through some beautiful empty sections filled with gorgeous scenery, ghost towns, and history.
Today we’ll start on Route 90 from I-10 in Van Horn. 90 head south initially and goes through pecan orchards and semi-ghost towns left mostly abandoned with the decline of the railroads as an employment source. You’ll pass through “towns” like Valentine, you’ll pass the fake Prada Store, and finally you’ll arrive in Marfa which we’ve discussed at length in previous blogs. After Marfa, 90 will pass the Marfa Lights Viewing Area before winding it’s way through the mesas en route to Alpine, TX which has also been dealt with at length in previous blogs. 90 continues on to the east and south before passing through the picturesque town of Marathon.
Marathon, TX is a neat little west Texas town of about 500 souls. It also has been used as a filming location for the Kevin Costner movie Fandango as well as Paris, TX which starred Harry Dean Stanton. There is also the luxurious Gage Hotel in town. Built in the 1920’s the Gage is an oasis of comfort surrounded by rugged country. Don’t forget to fuel up!
The next town to the east of Marathon is Sanderson. Sanderson is another small west Texas town of less than 400 folks, as well as being a former hub of the railroad. Be sure to fuel up in Sanderson because it’s a long way to Del Rio!
Remember, before you hit the road on a long trip through the empty quarters, be sure to visit us at PPL Motorhomes to stock up on all the necessities!
Lee Ruk/Flickr Creative Common
It strikes me that Texas is pretty hot come July, and even worse when August rolls around, and that’s got me to thinking about summer travels already. Thinking about dusting off the RV and heading for the mountains where the air is clear… and the temperature about 65 degrees. What’s great about Texas, though, is that we’re only one drive away from the mountains in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Admittedly, it’s quite the drive if you’re in the eastern half!
One very out-of-the-ordinary activity you can enjoy in that area is riding behind an old steam engine through the mountains. There are two famous steam train operations in that area: the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad based out of Chama, NM and the Durango and Silverton based in Durango, CO.
The Cumbres and Toltec is based in Chama, NM and runs through Cumbres Pass and Toltec Gorge through to Antonito, CO. It was built by the Denver and Rio Grande railroad back in the 1880’s mainly in support of mining operations in the San Juan mountains and is a narrow gauge railway. It was finally abandoned in the 1960’s until the Antonito-Chama line was purchased by both states of Colorado and New Mexico to be operated as a scenic railway for tourists. Now you can enjoy a ride through some beautiful scenery as the train pulls you through the 10,000 plus foot Cumbres Pass up to Osier where you can get out, stretch your legs, have lunch and either continue on to Antonito or return to Chama. It’s a wonderful way of seeing the beautiful San Juan mountains as well as introducing the younger generations to the historic style of travel.
Meanwhile in Durango, CO there is another narrow gauge railroad available for rides between Durango and Silverton, CO. It too was originally built by the Denver and Rio Grande back in the 1880’s to support silver and gold mining in the San Juans, and the stretch of track between Durango and Silverton has been in continuous use since 1881. Think about that for a minute. It’s 2015 now, which means this stretch of track might be the only place in the United States where steam locomotives have been working for 134 straight years!! The ride is 45 miles through beautiful country, very reminiscent of the Old West, because frankly, it IS the Old West.
This would make a wonderful summer get away, and if you do decide to head that way, tell them PPL Motorhomes says howdy!
Maybe it’s this cold, wet winter weather we’ve had this season. Maybe it’s being tired of being cooped up in the house. Maybe it’s the fact that despite the infinite channels on TV, there’s nothing good to watch. Maybe I just can’t wait for Spring because I want to hit the road! Yep, that’s gotta be it. I’ve been diagnosed with more than a touch of cabin fever and it’s highly contagious. I got to thinking the other day about all the odd stuff you see out on the highway. You know, the World’s Biggest Strawberry, or The THING in Arizona that’s advertised for hundreds and hundreds of miles on I-10. Anyhow, I thought I list some of these goofy roadside attractions here in Texas and tell you a little bit about them.
Here in Texas, the most famous one we have of course is Cadillac Ranch up near Amarillo. It was put together back in 1974 with every year model Cadillac from 1949-1963, and was moved to it’s current location along I-40 from it’s original spot back in the late 90’s to keep it from being endangered by the growing outskirts of Amarillo.
Waxhawian/Flickr Creative Commons
Another oddity here in Texas is down closer to the border in Crystal City, TX county seat of Zavala County. Crystal City claims as it’s raison d’etre that it is the “Spinach Capitol Of The World”. They even host a spinach festival every year. So with all things spinach in town, what sort of giant statue do you think they’d have right there in front of the courthouse? Yep. A statue of legendary cartoon character Popeye!
And, heading back up to north Texas, Decatur TX to be exact, we have: duh duh DAAAH! The Petrified Wood Gas Station! It was built in 1927 with a cafe and several motor court style casitas. Legend has it that famous motor bandits Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow rented one of the cabins during there never-ending-til-they-were-shot run from the law. The cafe shut down in the 60’s the cabins in the 70’s and the station in the 80’s, but the cafe has since re-opened so stop on by! Stop on by PPL Motorhomes.com before you head out on the highway!
Some folks travel by interstate, some folks travel by destinations, some folks travel by BBQ joints, and that’s what we’re going to do today. If you have a GPS, we’re going to add some waypoints today that are guaranteed to expand that waistline a ‘lil bit, possibly stain a shirt, or two, as well as make a trip across Texas that much more enjoyable. If you’re vegetarian, well, some of these places have pickles.
We’re going to do this shotgun style, and by that I don’t mean we’re going to force you to marry one of these places, what I mean is we’re going to talk about BBQ all over the state because let’s face it, this is a big ‘ol’ place and who knows where you might find yourself? We will hit all points of the compass though, so you should be near enough to one of these places someday.
So many to choose from, so we’ll do urban area BBQ’s first, then rural.
Urban BBQ Joints
Houston, TX – Goode Co. (sorta West U meets Hwy 59 area), Rays BBQ Shack (Alt 90/Old Spanish Trail and Calhoun area), and Triple J Smokehouse (Homestead Rd N of 610) are three of ’em!
San Antonio – Smoke Shack in Alamo Heights, 2 Bros BBQ (on West Ave north of Nakoma Dr), and Big Bib BBQ (Austin Hwy and Lanark Dr) are three of em!
El Paso – Stateline BBQ (Sunland Park Dr s of I-10 on the TX/NM state line), Tony’s Pit BBQ (Myrtle Dr, S of I-10 off Cotton), and Famous Dave’s (3 locations, E, W, and Central) are three of em!
DFW Metroplex – Cousin’s (Fort Worth), Hard 8 BBQ (Roanoke, Stephenville, Coppel), and Mac’s Bar-B-Que (Dallas) are three of em!
Rural BBQ Joints
And now for a few off the beaten path:
Dieter Brothers, Lindsay TX – Hwy 82, W of Gainesville, TX
Louie Mueller, Taylor, TX – HWy 79 E of Round Rock, TX
McBee’s, Pleasanton, TX – Hwy 281, S of San Antonio, TX
Church BBQ, Huntsville, TX – I-45 N of Houston
Dyer’s BBQ, Pampa, TX – Hwy 207 N of I-40
Ace’s BBQ, Mission, TX – Hwy 495 N or I-2
Duncan’s Smokehouse, Vernon, TX – Bus 287 near junction of Hwy 283 and 287
Thompson’s BBQ, Crockett, TX – Hwy 21 just about equal distance between I-45 and Hwy 59
Cooper’s BBQ, Junction, TX – on I-10
… and so many more it’s unreal. Visit any one of these places on a trek across Texas and you’ll be happy, and a little tired. And please remember to come visit us at PPLMotorhomes.com for anything you need RV related, we’ll take care of y’all!
Who doesn’t love bringing their kids, or grandchildren along for an RV trip? I know I certainly do, but let’s face it — at some point on a trip, the miles add up and those kids would rather be anywhere than cruising down the road watching the same truck stop/fast food joint go by at every exit. I’m sure to them it feels like the same view is over the next hill that was over the last hill and it is getting very boring. Remember those road trips with your family when you were a kid? Remember playing road sign bingo or spotting all the out of state license plates? Well here are a few road games both children and grown ups alike can play that will help pass the time between stops.
Who’s in that car?
Pick a car that’s traveling alongside, and see who can make up the best story about who’s traveling in that car. Who are they? Where are they going? Why are they going there? What’s in the trunk? What pets did they leave at home? What crimes have they committed? Have they ever been on Family Feud? You get the idea. This can be an endless source of entertainment because let’s face it, there are only going to be more and more cars on the road!
License Plate Figure-Outer
Imagine every license plate you see is actually a vanity plate, and it’s your job to figure out what they’re trying to brag about. For example: “PWI 035” could mean “Professional Wrestler Inside, 0-wins, 35-losses”. Well that record is hardly “professional” but you understand what I mean. Another example: “PSR 632” could be “Plastic Surgery Rich-guy, 6 hours a day, 3 days a week, 2 months a year”. Options are limitless.
One Word Answer
At the beginning of the day, pick a word at random in conversation. That word is now the One Word Answer and must be used to answer any question posed. Say you decide that today’s word is “Buster”, whoever is It must use that word to answer all questions until the other person laughs, then you switch words and switch the person who’s It. For example:
Asker: “I sure can’t wait until we get to Des Moines and see your family again. What are you going to do when you see your Mother?”
What’s your favorite road game, please leave a comment below and let us know. We all need new ways to kill time on the road! And remember, before you hit the highway, remember to hit our website!
The July 4th weekend is right around the corner! Luckily enough, it falls on a Friday this year. You know what that means? It means a 3 day weekend of fun and fireworks! Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays because it’s a perfect time of year to take my RV out and enjoy a few days with my family. But let’s not forget what exactly it is we’re celebrating.
Independence Day is a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and serves as the United States’ independence from Britain. It’s hard to believe that was done 238 years ago!
As with any holiday, you can expect there to be plenty of holiday vacationers out and about. I can guarantee your normal RV camp will be packed with families looking to get away for the long weekend. Since you know that there’s going to be a glut of RVers, you should take that into consideration when traveling and shopping for your trip. You can always expect delays with traffic during major holidays like this one. To beat traffic, you may leave a few hours early, or even a day early, if you can swing it. That’ll get you there in plenty of time to enjoy the lake before everyone else gets in. The same theory goes for grocery shopping, as soon as you realize that you’re going to need a few items for your trip, don’t put it off until the day before, you could be stuck in the store for way longer than you intended.
Don’t forget the fireworks, but by all means, be careful when using them. Safety first! I don’t want to hear any horror stories about people losing fingers. Most RV parks don’t allow you to shoot them off within the park, so double check the city regulations regarding fireworks.
Most of all, fly your American flag high and enjoy your July 4th weekend!
We spend a crazy amount of time preparing to go RVing. For some of us, we spend as much time at our jobs as we do our hobbies. There’s a lot of preparation in taking our house on wheels across the state (or country) for a small amount of time. To people who don’
t understand the appeal of it, it can be hard to describe. For me, I enjoy getting out into nature, exploring places I’ve never been, and especially, the time with my family.
Getting away from the daily grind recharges all of my batteries and gives me something to look forward to. Think about it. When you know you’re going on vacation in a couple of days, doesn’t that affect your mood? The people I work with know when I’m gearing up for a big trip, because they can see it in my face and in my attitude. It’s a way for me to step back, enjoy some peace and quiet, away from the hectic day-to-day of life.
There are so many places, not only in Texas, but in the entire United States, that are wonderful places to go and unwind. The Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Mt. Rushmore, Moab, and those are some of the most popular ones. There are, literally, thousands of amazing parks, destinations and sights to see. Sure, I can make a trip up to Fredericksburg again, but I’ve already been there, a few times. I enjoy getting out on the road, going places I’ve never been and experiencing the unexpected sights and sounds of a new spot. That’s what life is all about! Get out and go exploring!
Of course, you can’t forget about the time spent with family. How often can you get your whole crew together for a weekend? Between opposing schedules at work, soccer practice, and teenagers who want nothing more than to be somewhere else, it’s good to create memories with your loved ones. Who knows when you won’t have that chance anymore? Make it a point to get everyone together as often as possible and enjoy each other’s company.
Why do you RV? What drives you to pack up clothes, food, family and fill up your gas tank for a trip in a house on wheels? Find us on Facebook and tell us!
Photo Courtesy of TheCampingCentral.com
It’s a dream for most RVers. Giving up everything we own, except our RVs, and living out on the road. No house payments, less bills, no house to keep clean, having the ability to change scenery with the drop of a hat, all of these sound like a perfect opportunity for us to change it up a little bit. Well, if you’ve made the decision to become a full-time RVer, then you’ve got to make money somehow. That’s where workamping comes into play. Workamping is having a job with an RV campground or resort, where part of their compensation includes a campsite to park your RV for free!
There are plenty of people who live out of their RVs and make a living working for campgrounds, casinos and retail stores. Best of all, they support your lifestyle of being on the road and traveling from city to city. Some are long-term commitments, some are just a couple of weeks. If you’re a maintenance man (or woman), you can surely be hired by one of the many RV campgrounds in need of a handyman to keep things running smoothly.
For example, in Mission, Texas, they are looking for an individual or a couple to do landscaping, light carpentry, repairs, and lawn care for the exchange of a free campground site. For just 10 hours a week, you could save the money it takes to reserve your campsite. Some campgrounds will even pay you an hourly rate to go with the free campground. So not only are you getting free rent, but you’ll be making some money on top of that too! If you’re seriously thinking about quitting that office job and heading out in your RV, definitely keep Workamper.com and WorkampingJobs.com in your bookmarks so you can see where you can travel to and save yourself the money in exchange for a few hours of work. It’s worth it, especially when some of the higher-end RV parks charge anywhere from $75-$100 per night.
Do you know of anyone who has workamped?
Photo Courtesy of Alaska-In-Pictures.com
RVs are huge. I realize that’s an obvious statement, but let’s be serious here. RV’s can weigh a few thousand pounds and and if they aren’t driven by an expert, you can very easily lose control of them and severely damage your vehicle and RV, not to mention the other people on the road. Driving your RV on the interstate seems like it would be a pretty easy endeavor, but I assure you, it’s more dangerous than you think. Sure, the idea of getting on the highway and just driving a straight line sounds like a perfect trip. When you factor in traffic, construction, other drivers, and road conditions, driving on that highway just became a dangerous idea. Here are a few tips I’ve compiled that may make you a better RV driver on the highways.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Stay In The Right Lane
The right lane on an interstate is designed for slower moving vehicles, like your RV. If you get in a hurry, you tend to change out of the right lane and then you’re causing more traffic back-ups than you solved by getting around the person in front of you.
2. Get Your Rest
Getting enough rest the night before a big trip is one of the easiest ways to avoid accidents and cause delays. If you feel sleepy, don’t hesitate to find a rest-stop to catch some ZZZs, or let someone else drive. Studies have shown that we make irrational decision when we are tired, we tend to drive too fast and make boneheaded moves, like cutting off that big rig.
3. Stay Off The Road If The Weather Is Bad
I realize that sometimes this can’t be avoided, but if you have the time to wait out a bad rainstorm or the possibility of ice, then stay where you are. The last thing anyone needs is to have their RV sliding across a lane of traffic.
4. Know Where You’re Going
Getting lost is always a nightmare. If you take the time to plot your course and use your GPS or smartphone to guide you where you are going, you reduce the risk of making a wrong turn and having to make some decisions you’d really rather not have to, like making a u-turn on a 2 lane road. Not an easy task for anyone, let alone you AND the RV behind you. Most GPS and smartphone apps will redirect and plot a new course you if you happen to make a wrong turn, follow their instructions and let the technology get you where you need to go.
Any RVer would agree with me that the open road is what we live for. We take pride in our planning and preparing for the weekends and extended vacations with our families and friends. The hours of plotting and figuring the miles between each destination is actually fun for us when, for most people, it seems boring.
One thing I’ve learned after being on the RV kick for many years now, is that getting off the beaten path and exploring some place that other people would drive by has made some of the best traveling memories that I can recall. Sure, going to the Grand Canyon is nice, but what about that time you just decided to drive and go where the road took you? You may end up nowhere, but you also may end up somewhere wonderful! Either way, you’ve got a story to tell.
When you decide to strike out on your own, without a plan, be sure and carry the Rand McNally Tripmaker. It’ll make sure you can find your way home. It’s also a great tool for travelers because it’ll tell you of weather events, notify you of routes that your RV can and cannot make due to height and weight restrictions, and give you the lowdown on campsites in your path (propane, RVs allowed). It’ll even tell you where the nearest RV service location is, just in case you have an issue that can’t wait until you get home. One of my favorite features is the real-time traffic monitoring. It’s good to know when you’re approaching a traffic jam so you can take another route to get out of it.
If you don’t do all the fancy GPS stuff, then maybe the Rand McNally Road Atlas is what you need. Come to think of it, you need one anyways. All of these technological advancements are nice and all, but what happens when something goes wrong with it and it can’t pick up a signal? That’s when an old-fashioned map in book form comes in handy. As cost-effective as they are, there’s really no reason NOT to have one.