Finding Friendship.. Deep in the Heart of Texas!

In June, in Knoxville, TN, we spent the day walking, hanging out, and eating the best burger any of us have had in current memory. We did this with some friends we met in Texas, and it just reminded me I had not written this post…. Maybe this will be my last retrospective post maybe not… Regardless, I should not neglect to write about the 2 months we spend in Texas which was the beginning of our 2019 trip to the east. We found some great friends, old and new… deep in the heart of Texas! And yet, they still like us enough to look us up in Tennessee… Don’t I feel special?

Amarillo, Texas

Leaving Albuquerque just after Thanksgiving, heading to Texas, not to return this far west for 12 months felt like a long time away. I know with technology I will not be lonely, still it felt rather alone. But heading South for the winter is part of the RV gig. 2019 we decided to hit Texas (Austin & Galveston), travel the gulf coast, and finish out the winter in Florida.

As usual, our plan is to stop every 4-6 hours or so to not exhaust ourselves on the journey. 4 hours from Albuquerque is Amarillo. We stayed the night in the Tourist Information Center right there off the highway on the East side of town. You may wonder why this stop is even worth mentioning, but aside from a very nice tourist information center that allows overnighting, and has a separate side for trucks from RV’s (very nice), it is a couple miles from the “Big Texan Steakhouse

The Big Texan

If you have ever been to Amarillo, you have see the signage for miles either side of town for the Big Texan that say if you can eat the 72-ounce steak completely within an hour you get it free. Always intrigued, but never went there. It turns out the Big Texan provides, for free, limousine service to and from anywhere in Amarillo! Amazing! So we could park, go to dinner, and stay the night, and we didn’t even have to take our car off. Nice.

AND, while I cannot imagine that it would be enjoyable to eat a 72-ounce steak, the waitress told us about 5 people try per day, and someone was there doing it when we got there. We got to watch him at the special table in the center of the restaurant, and he was successful. The restaurant was a buzz with support. Fun. And they picked us up in a Limo with cowhorns on the grill… THIS is why one night in Amarillo rates a section in the blog.

AND.. While we are talking about BIG and TEXAS we would be remiss to leave out an OMG about Bucky’s gas stations! Amazing places, with the cheapest gas, fantastic store with everything from BBQ to lampshades, and oh, did I mention 512 pumps!!! Crazy cool!.

Sanger, Texas

Stuart and Robbie Self

We spent a week in Sanger, just north of Dallas. We stayed at an alpaca ranch/RV Park. Very peaceful. We stayed there a week so that we could visit Stuart Self and his wife Robbie. Stuart was a friend from High School. We did get out for BBQ with them one evening. It was fun to visit with them.

ICE! – Martha Casad

Somehow (I think it was that tourist Info center again) I got the idea that we needed to go see this Carved Ice Holiday Attraction at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine. A Texas Tradition! I do love great Ice Carving as I have seen in Breckenridge Colorado, Cripple Creek Colorado, and McCall Idaho…. This does not fit in that caliber.

The Gaylord, by contrast, was Lovely!

THIS by contrast was very expensive and consisted of a 45 minute traffic jam to get to an hour wait just to catch the shuttle bus, to stand in an hour line to get in and be filed around in front of amateurish figures for 20 minutes…. I was not impressed.

The only thing that saved the day was we met up with Martha Casad, an IBM buddy in the area who went through the ICE fiasco with us and then had dinner with us at a nice restaurant in the neighborhood.

Dale, Texas – Falling Star RV Park

Our next stop was for a month in Dale Texas, just outside of Austin, at Lake Falling Star RV Park. The park we stayed at there was really great. The people warm and welcoming. I was a little worried about being gone for Christmas, but they had a Christmas eve potluck, Christmas Day potluck and New Year’s Eve Party, with a live band sponsored by a local high fence ranch. We celebrated hearty!

Had to get a little creative, but our little home felt festive for the season!
Games, games, and more Games!

The residents sang my tune when before we were done checking in they asked if we like games…. There was a dozen or so game players that gathered almost every night and willing to play any game you wanted to bring. That was fun. The park was a little remote, but I’m sure that just made us all closer, and the stars shone brighter (deep in the heart of Texas). Loved this park, complete with it’s own fishing lake.


Mary and Jim Stovall

Austin was about an hour away and we actually didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked there, but we did get into town to visit Mary and Jim Stovall for an evening… The Stovall’s were close family friends growing up in Los Alamos. They skied with us, traveled with us, and spent holidays with us. Jim worked for my Dad, and Mary (an Artist) taught me how to express the world in a sketch book. Definitely part of the family, and I loved the opportunity to see their new house and visit.

Mary and Jim Stovall

San Antonio

San Antonio was about an hour in the other direction. Therefore of course we spent a day down there too seeing the usual sights, the Alamo, the Riverwalk. But our highlight was the SAS Shoe Factory. It never occurred that SAS stood for San Antonio Shoes, I just knew them as a quality shoe. Turns out they are a family owned company since 1976 and all of their shoes are made and stitched by hand.. I would definitely recommend the tour. Amazing and free!

RV Show – Marnie Parker

On a different day we headed down to San Antonio for a huge RV show. We had really never been to a big RV show before so that was fun, and exhausting. We keep fantasizing about a new RV, but that is a story for a different time… Maybe I already wrote about that.. Here…. (AARGH.. nope still behind in my blogging!) Well I WILL write about it. Anyway, it was fun to see the new big RV’s and dream a little.

Later that evening we went to the home of a girl I had only met online. Marnie Parker, her husband Kevin, and their gang of kids! They just moved to San Antonio from Seattle area and she and I had tried to meet up in person many other times, but missed. She was and is an accountability partner of mine assigned in one of my self improvement programs, and it was great to finally meet her in person.

OK, So we didn’t take a picture, but I snagged this one.. You get it.

Galveston, Texas – Jamaica Beach

Following the Austin area we spent the month of January at Jamaica Beach RV Park in Galveston Texas. Each RV park has its’ own personality. Jamaica Beach was great.

Kitty and Stan

A main reason I came to the Houston area was to visit a friend from College (Texas A&M) Kitty Blackburn and her boyfriend, Stan. I’ve had the chance to stop into see here every few years and enjoyed that relationship. We managed to see them a few times while in the area.

Watched the Superbowl with Kitty and Stan. Snuck out before the game to see the neighborhood battleship at San Jacinto Monument and battleground. Foggy but interesting.
William and Stephanie Christopher

Similarly, my Cousin William and his wife Stephanie also live in the area and they came out to Jamaica Beach one day, and we made it up to their place one day. On the day we went up to their house, we ended up staying the night and we all went to an even bigger RV show in Houston together the next day! Wow fun, and fun to see him again… I also have had the chance to stop in to see him periodically over the years which is nice.

William & Stephanie Christopher.. in the RV!
Sherry and Gary Gates

During the month there some friends Sherry and Gary Gates whom we met on the ferry in Alaska. They Came round to spend a week with us and we saw all that Galveston had to offer it seems! On the Saturday of their visit we took part in the museum day where all the museums were free or half price, we drove the island top to bottom and share many meals together and played a bunch of new games together… Busy busy, but fun.

Jamaica beach was across the street from a beach on the Gulf with great access, but the weather in January did not encourage us to visit the beach often. Still the sunrises were beautiful and the ocean nice to watch, but we did not spend much time on the beach even with it so close.

John and Brenda Nelson

The second night we were at Jamaica Beach, we met John and Brenda Nelson at the evening social. They were at the time new to full timing (6 months) and John still works full time (like me!). Brenda, recently “retired”, was taking on the social organization of the park. They were actively involved in everything, and knew everyone. We felt an immediate connection and spent a little time getting to know them. Now, as always, the challenge is to stay connected.

John and Brenda were sort of self appointed Social coordinators of the Park, and they came up with having a Jam session night, for Karaoke or instruments or whatever… Well John opened the night and everyone was so impressed with his singing that they immediately became intimidated…
and so it became a private John Nelson Concert night!
Johnson Space Center

While in Galveston we also had the opportunity to spend a day at the Johnson Space Center… Very Interesting.

Mike in front of the Space Shuttle, Phyllis in front of the Saturn V Rocket.
(Mike makes the Space Shuttle look small, the Saturn V makes me look small!)

It was also appropriate that we had an Lunar Eclipse while in Galveston. I took the opportunity to play with my big lens that night.

In Conclusion…

But hey, Sherry and Gary met up with us again after Alaska.. And in June we got to spend the day with John and Brenda in Knoxville. Perhaps it’s a learning curve to figure out the social aspects of living in the RV, but I feeling like we are finally making it.

John and Brenda visit us in Knoxville

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