Livingston, TX (Dec. 2-16, 2015)

On December 2nd we arrived at Rainbow’s End, the flagship campground for Escapees, an organization that supports the needs of fulltime and part-time RVers.  We had a nice long pull-through site and had no trouble getting set up.


Our primary reason for coming to Livingston was to get established as Texas residents.  The first step was to register our vehicles.  Since we hadn’t paid any sales tax when we purchased the fifth wheel in TN, we had to write a big check to TX.  The only big surprise with registering our vehicles came when the clerk at the county office noticed that the truck’s VIN number on the IL registration didn’t match the VIN number on the inspection certificate we had gotten in Texarkana.  It turned out that Phil had used the wrong vehicle’s VIN number when he applied for insurance on the RAM and the vehicle inspector in Texarkana had copied this incorrect VIN number onto his inspection report.  This necessitated calling the insurance company and correcting the VIN number, then getting the truck re-inspected, then returning to the county tax office to get the truck registered.  But, by the end of day one, we had all three vehicles registered.


The following day we attempted to get our drivers licenses.  We had to make two trips since we had neglected to bring our passports with us the first time.  Fortunately the lines weren’t too long and the Department of Public Safety employees were unusually friendly and helpful.  Since the truck and fifth wheel have a combined gross weight of over 26,000 lbs., Phil needs a Class A classification on his driver’s license and that requires both written and road tests.  Although Phil was able to pass the written test, he wasn’t able to get his license since the next available road test for a Class A license wasn’t until January 22nd and we would be gone from Livingston by then.

The Rainbow’s End campground had a full slate of activities scheduled.  We attended movies at the Clubhouse on Wednesday and Friday nights and a social hour on Sunday evening with cake and ice cream.

Livingston is a fairly small town with a population of just over 5,000.  While it does have a Super Walmart and a Lowes, it doesn’t have much of a business district.  Phil called the insurance company to file a claim for the broken windshield in Jan’s car and the claims person set him up with a “local” glass company to do the repair.  After Phil called to schedule the repair, he figured out that the glass shop was in Conroe, TX, an hour away.  Fortunately, being semi-retired means that we have lots of free time and we killed nearly a full day with our trip to Conroe (with a couple of stops in Cleveland, TX in route).  In addition to getting the windshield replaced (where the repairman was running 2 hours behind schedule), we had some great barbeque for lunch and had time to hit Walgreens, Sam’s Club and Lowes.  We stopped at the TxDPS offices in Cleveland and Conroe to ask about scheduling Phil’s Class A road test but had no success.

One day we made a trip to Lake Livingston State Park.  We walked along the shoreline and spotted a number of turtles and water moccasins enjoying the sunny day.  Since we hadn’t brought a picnic lunch, we visited the camp store and loaded up on junk food which we enjoyed at one of the picnic tables.  We were visited by a somewhat aggressive squirrel who was obviously used to receiving handouts.  After lunch we went for a 1-mile hike through the piney woods and saw a number of birds and butterflies but fortunately no more snakes.

On our final day at Rainbow’s End we utilized the SmartWeigh facility to get our rig weighed.  Unlike regular truck scales, we were able to get the weight loads on each wheel, both with and without the trailer hitched.  Other than the need to rebalance our load a little bit, we did pretty well.  However we did find that the trailer was somewhat overloaded and we will need to address this before we travel again.  Some of the load can be moved into the car and truck but we will also need to reassess some of the things we brought with us and determine if we really need them.

The Road to Livingston (November 29 – December 2, 2015)

The trip from Poplar Bluff, MO to Livingston, TX covered over 560 miles and included stops in Little Rock, AR and Texarkana, TX.  We’ve committed to limiting our daily drive to a maximum of 250 miles.  Even with that, we were pretty well worn out at the each day of driving.

We spent two nights at the Downtown Riverside RV Park in North Little Rock which sits on the banks of the Arkansas River.  We had previously enrolled in Passport America which provides for discounted campground fees.  The Downtown Riverside RV Park provided our first opportunity to take advantage of the discounts.  Unfortunately the discounts were limited to blind side back-in sites, which we were able to get for $11 per night rather than the $26 per night for the pull-through sites.  On first glance, backing into our site didn’t appear that difficult since the sites was quite wide.  However, it took several attempts and the assistance of a neighboring camper to get the job done.  Although we parked as close to the water source as possible, our 25’ drinking water hose was not long enough to connect.  Fortunately Phil was able to get a longer hose at the Wal-Mart a few miles away.


Monday was Jan’s birthday.  Although we had hoped to do a lot of walking on the riverfront trail, we awoke to a steady drizzle.  The rain finally stopped around 11 am but the weather remained cold and damp all day.  Plan B involved mostly indoor activities.

Our first stop was the Little Rock Central High School, a historical site that is now managed by the National Park Service but which is still an active high school.  In September 1957, nine black high school students (referred to as the Little Rock Nine) became the first blacks to attend the previously all-white high school.  The governor of Arkansas called out the National Guard to keep them out.  President Eisenhower intervened and sent in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army (without it’s black soldiers) who stood with bayonets drawn against the angry white mob.  Eisenhower also federalized the entire Arkansas National Guard.  The black students, although accompanied by soldiers in the hallways, were subjected to verbal and physical attacks throughout the year.  The governor of Arkansas closed the Little Rock high schools the following year (referred to as the “Lost Year”) to block further segregation.  The museum had a very good collection of film footage from the events as they occurred as well as recorded interviews with many of the participants looking back at what they went through.  It did an excellent job of capturing the racism that was prevalent at the time and power of a mob mentality to intimidate those who wanted to do the right thing.  Although racism still exists in America, this visit helped to point out how far we’ve come in our lifetimes.

Our next stop was the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.  The library sits next to a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Arkansas River and connects to our campground.  The library, although unflatteringly referred to by some as looking like a double-wide trailer, had some nice exhibits.  There was a replica of the Oval Office and Jan and Phil took turns sitting behind the President’s desk.

Since we had skipped lunch, we went to an early dinner at the Flying Fish restaurant in the River Market district.  We both had catfish fillets that were outstanding.  Then we headed to Cracker Barrel so Jan could have a slice of birthday cake.

The next day we drove to Texarkana, TX.  This was our shortest drive and most of the drive was on interstate I-30.  We arrived at the Shady Pines RV Park around 1 pm.  The park, although lacking in frills, was perfect for our overnight needs   The site was a pull-through and was flat and paved.  The RV park was next door to the Shady Pines RV center so we were able to get our fifth wheel inspected.  All vehicles, including the fifth wheel, must be inspected annually as part of the Texas registration process.  While Jan caught up on the laundry, Phil took the car and the truck up the road to be inspected.


On Wednesday we made the drive to Livingston, TX.  This was our longest day of driving, mostly on state roads. Including a couple of stops along the way, it took us about 5 ½ hours to reach our destination.  The drive was largely uneventful.  However, Phil turned too soon in response to an instruction from the GPS and ended up driving the rig down a small back road.  Fortunately the GPS found a way back to our route that did not involve backing up.  We were glad to be finished driving and to be in one place for two weeks.