Why did we take this detour to FL on our way back to our usual summer spot in RI? Primarily because we hadn’t been to Riverbend since the wrath of Hurricane Irma which hit in September of 2017 (actually our last visit here was in March, 2016), so we wanted/needed to check the condition of our site.
Although we had been assured damage to our lot was minimal with the loss of only two Queen palms (which we had to have cut down and removed) and some other shrubs and plants, we wanted to see it for ourselves. Another reason for our visit here was that our landscaper was no longer servicing sites at Riverbend so we needed to find another. Much easier interviewing potential candidates in person rather than over the phone. And we have friends here whom we haven’t seen in a few years. We found the resort and our site were actually in really great shape, but more about that in a future post.
As we headed east we thought we might have time to explore Texas Hill Country along the way, but since it was Spring Break forget that idea – there was no availability anywhere near there. So instead, our journey would be a series of one night hops, skips and jumps across New Mexico and Texas. Yep, at least four days of staring at the boring (yawn) prairie lands of Texas. Not much to tell about these over-nighters but here are a few highlights.
There are 8 water and 30/50A electric “sites” in their parking lot with a daily rate of only $15! Be aware that it is first come, first serve so best to get there early in the day. We arrived early enough to nab a spot right next to their racetrack so we were able to watch a few races during our brief stay there. Check out this YouTube video! It was very cool!
The next night, despite the fact that quite a few RV’s were arriving at the same time, it was a very quick, efficient and impressive check in process at Fort Stockton RV Park in Fort Stockton, TX. Employees in a couple of golf carts were monitoring the entrance, ready to escort the new arrivals immediately to their sites, later we walked to the office to check in.
While hooking up, Rob started talking to Tim, the owner of the Tiffin next to us who was from NH. It turned out that his wife, Carol, grew up in my home town (Westwood, MA), graduating from the same high school a few years after me. Talk about a small world! Never would have imagined meeting a fellow Westwood-ian in the middle of nowhere in Texas! Great, fun couple – we met up with them at several other campgrounds along the way and still keep in touch. Before our departure the next morning we had a decent breakfast at the Road Runner Cafe right in the RV Park, very convenient!
Not much to say about our next two stops – South Llano River RV Park & Resort in Llano, TX, a park (definitely not a “resort”) we had liked during a previous visit in January, 2017 but this time not so much, it seemed to have degraded substantially, doubt that we will return here in the future. Whispering Oaks RV Park in Weimar, TX was a decent park, close to US-90 with super easy access to/from the highway. The friendly couple that run the place were very accommodating and gave us a choice of sites to pick from.
Gulf Coast RV Resort in Beaumont, TX was decent place to stay, even offering a free breakfast each morning. When I learned via Roadside America that Beaumont was the home of the world’s largest fully operational Dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant, we had to go see it (actually there are two other hydrants that are taller but this is the only working one). Located in front of the Fire Museum of Texas, Beaumont was chosen from over 300 museums across the country by Disney as the promotional site for the re-release of the animated movie “101 Dalmatians in 1999”. According to this website, “the hydrant weighs a whopping 4,500 lbs and can blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute.” The 24 foot tall fire hydrant “is constructed of fiber glass and re-enforced with 1,000 feet of steel”. Another fun fact: the Dalmatian spots on the hydrant are copyrighted by Walt Disney. Hmm, wonder if there is also a giant dog that uses it?
Leaving the giant hydrant behind, after four days, we finally crossed the Texas border into LA. What, four days to cross Texas? Yep, it’s 880 miles from border to border on I-10, but remember we are not fond of long, tiring, marathon style driving runs and enjoy arriving early afternoon and having some time to relax and see the local sights.
In LA we stayed north of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain at Reunion Lake RV Resort in Ponchatoula, LA for two nights. With all the kid friendly amenities here, this is definitely a destination for families. Although it was a nice enough park, for some reason it just didn’t impress us, perhaps because it was too kid friendly or because our fire ring hadn’t been cleaned. There it sat with an empty cardboard beer case, other garbage and even dog poop in it! Good thing we had no plans to use it. With the high $45 price tag, we expected better. After sending an email to the park manager, surprisingly to their credit, we did receive an immediate response apologizing for the oversight. It was cleaned within minutes! Still I don’t think we would return here, it’s just not our kind of place.
During our two night stay here, we went to downtown historic Ponchatoula, once known as the “Strawberry Capital of the World”, where we had an okay breakfast at Paul’s Cafe. Nearby and nestled among the many antique shops and restaurants is a huge cage enclosed with chain link fencing with a small pool, home to the town’s mascot – a 9 foot long alligator named Ole Hardhide. How many alligators do you know that write a column for the local newspaper? Well, this one does – for the Ponchatoula Times! Felt sorry for the poor critter lying on cement with only a small pool to paddle around in.
That afternoon, we had an early supper at Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant. Built in 1934, this historic restaurant is famous for their Thin Fried Catfish. At the recommendation of our waitress, for an appetizer we had an order of Spicy Crawfish Poppers ($9.45). For our entrees, we both ordered a combo platter ($17.50) of Fried Oysters (6) and Thin Catfish (2 – 3 pieces). Not sure how they manage to slice the catfish so thin and still have it remain moist and flaky but they do. Everything was delicious! And better yet, leftovers the next day!
When we left Reunion Lake the next morning, it was raining. Usually not a big deal, right? Not so on this day for us. Shortly after we left and as we got out on the highway, we heard a loud bang. What the heck????
Lo and behold the passenger side windshield wiper arm had let go and was flipped sideways to the right, resting between the coach and the side mirror. Oh great! Luckily we were near an exit so Rob immediately shut off the wipers, exited the highway and found a side road where we could stop. After fiddling with it, he discovered a bolt had let go. To be on the safe side, he checked the bolt on the driver’s side and tightened that one which was also starting to loosen up.
When Rob called Entegra, he learned that it wasn’t a simple fix – a complete new wiper kit with the pivot shaft, arm and blade would be required. To keep the arm from damaging the windshield, Rob was able to wrap the wiper arm in a piece of pipe insulation and zip tie it to the mirror just to keep it in place until we reached our next stop in Gulf Shores, AL. Needless to say, my scenic view was reduced to raindrops, lots of them! But that’s okay, it didn’t matter if I could see or not, the important thing was the captain could!
The good news was that we arrived at our next destination, Gulf Shores, AL safely. Of course being in a situation like this on a tight schedule is never easy. These quick overnight stops made us a moving target and very difficult for Entegra to ship the necessary parts to us. The wiper breakdown happened on March 16th – it wasn’t until March 26th that Rob finally had all the parts necessary for him to fix it. The good news was that except for one more day of brief showers, the weather remained dry.
Next we spent a few days in Gulf Shores, six days at Topsail Hill State Park and time at a few of our other favorite Florida parks. Our journey continues…