Ringing in the New Year in San Antonio (December 30, 2015 – January 3, 2016)

The drive from Willis to San Antonio took longer than expected.  We intentionally took a back roads route rather than have to contend with the Houston beltway.  However, as soon as we reached Interstate 10, we ran into a massive traffic jam.  We sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for nearly an hour until we passed the point where the interstate narrowed down to one lane.   This was not good for our fuel consumption and the Ram ended up consuming 28 gallons of diesel just to cover the 245 mile trip.  As usual, we were quite tired at the end of the drive and were very glad to find that our site was easy to pull into and set up.

We had selected the Travelers World RV Park due to its proximity to downtown San Antonio.  Rather than having to pay the high cost of parking lots near the downtown attraction, we were able to catch a bus right across the street from the RV park.  We bought all-day passes for $4 each on December 31st and headed downtown in the morning to do our initial exploring.  The temperature was in the low 50s but the wind made it feel colder.


Our first stop was at the Alamo.  Although there was a long line to enter the Shrine, the line moved quickly and we were glad we had waited.  As we had read previously, the Alamo is not very big but they did have a number of very interesting displays, including one of Davy Crockett’s rifles.


After the Alamo, we went to the Riverwalk to find a place to have lunch.  The place was quite busy.  In addition to being New Year’s Eve day, the Alamo bowl was scheduled for January 2nd and there were lots of Oregon and TCU fans on the Riverwalk.  We strolled for a while checking out our options and finally decided on a barbeque restaurant where we had lunch outdoors right by the river.  After lunch we strolled the Riverwalk some more before returning to the RV park.


That evening we hopped back on the bus and headed back downtown.  We headed to Howl at the Moon, a highly-recommended piano bar.  We got there about 7:45 pm and, although the line was fairly short, they were asking for people with reservations.  We had not anticipated the need for reservations for so early in the evening but, in hindsight, that was a big mistake.  We were charged a non-refundable cover charge but were not told that it was standing room only.  Needless to say, we were not happy campers when we ended up having to stand with our coats in our hands.  We watched the show for about 1 ½ hours before deciding to go find someplace to eat.  That also turned out to be a challenge as every restaurant either had long lines or had stopped taking names.  We finally got into Joe’s Crab Shack around 10:30 pm and, after dinner, beat the rush by catching the 11:30 pm bus back to the park.  We got to see lots of fireworks all around us as we walked back to our rig and watched the ball drop in San Antonio on TV.



The next two days were quite rainy.  We spent all of New Year’s Day at home, mostly watching bowl games.  We were glad to see the Vols win their game in a rout.  On Saturday, we ventured out and saw more of the city by car.  Our GPS had a mind of its own and we ended up making numerous wrong turns.  We shopped at Lowes and a local produce market before heading to the North Star Mall.  The mall was packed and looked like pre-Christmas shopping season, probably due to the lousy weather.

On Sunday, it was time to move on.  We were both glad the drive to Kerrville was a short one, however not as short as our GPS indicated.  We’ve discovered that the GPS and online maps base all their times on highway speeds which are frequently 75 mph in Texas.  We don’t drive faster than 65 mph.  The GPS also seems to ignore the time spent at traffic lights which was significant.  Anyway, we were glad to only have a 65 mile trip and we arrived in Kerrville around 1 pm.  We got a sense for why Kerrville is considered part of the Texas “hit country” when the truck struggled somewhat to get the 19,000 lb. fifth wheel up the steep grades.  Although our time in San Antonio was short, we will only be about an hour away during our month in Kerrville so we might be back.

Christmas 2015 (December 16-30, 2015)

One of the freebies we got when we purchased our rig from RV’s for Less was a one year membership in Thousand Trails, owners of a lot of campgrounds throughout the United States.  We had to select one region for the year and we selected the southeastern United States region, which includes Texas.  We can stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds for free ($3 per day for 50 amp service), for up to 14 days at a time.  After 14 days we would have to leave for at least 7 days before returning to the same campground.

Although the reviews of the various Thousand Trails campgrounds are mostly so-so, there is a Thousand Trails campground at Lake Conroe in Willis, TX that is generally believed to be the best of the Thousand Trails facilities in TX.  It’s only about an hour’s drive from Livingston.  We decided to give it a try for 14 days over Christmas.  Since we were going to head to Tennessee for Christmas, we really only planned to be at Lake Conroe for seven of the days.  Although this didn’t allow us time to fully explore the campground, we found it to be a pretty nice place (definitely worth the $3 per night we paid) and one we will likely visit again during our one-year membership.  The roads and the campsites were rather rutted and the sites were not as level as we would hope.  The layout of the campsites allowed for two rigs to be parked rather close together but fortunately no one moved in next to us.


We spent much of the first five days getting ready for Christmas.  We drove to Montgomery, TX for Jan to get her hair done while Phil used the local library’s free Wi-Fi, then did some last minute Christmas shopping.

We left Willis on December 21st to head north.  For reasons we still don’t understand our Rand McNally GPS took us the long way though Louisiana and Mississippi.  We dealt with rain (occasionally torrential) most of the first day but made it as far as Jackson, TN.  We traveled to Nashville on the 22nd to get our bicycles that we had left with Jason and to celebrate Christmas with Lizzi and Jess before they left town for Christmas.

We had reserved a cabin at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Eva, TN for December 23-27.  This was our 12th consecutive Christmas stay in a cabin at the park.  We had the cabin to ourselves on the 23rd and had catfish for dinner at Country and Western.  Jan had hoped to host a get-together with the girlfriends but a severe storm and tornado warning ended those plans.  Jason and Jarrod arrived on the 24th.  The weather was unbelievably warm with a high of 71 degrees.  After dinner we played numerous competitive games of Marbles.


After opening presents in the morning of Christmas Day, we hosted the Christmas dinner with 10 family members.  During dinner we played a game in which each person had to assume the identity of another person (either real or fictitious) and the others had to guess who it was.  Caleb won the award for identifying the most role players, although he also had the least identified role as Foghorn Leghorn.  Jason won the award for the most outstanding role play as Muhammed Ali.


On December 26th, we hosted the annual Madden family reunion with 20 attendees and lots of great food.  We played the Measles game in which each person was assigned a name other than their own and players were required to wear measles (stick-on stars) on their faces if they called an attendee by their real name rather than the assumed name.


Cody, Liz and Claire Patton stopped by that evening for some more competitive Marbles games.


After breakfast with Jason and Jarrod at the Downhome family restaurant on December 27th, we headed back to Texas.  It was a great Christmas season, although we missed seeing Alison and Bill this year.

We dealt with rain most of the drive on the 27th but it got seriously bad as we got close to Texarkana, TX.  We had stopped at a rest stop on I-30 at about 4 pm and wondered why so many people were there.  After driving on a few miles farther, our phones started going wild and we were notified twice for tornado warnings with “take cover” alerts and then flash flood warnings.  We stopped for dinner to wait out the storm.  Unfortunately the storm started up again with a fury after we got back on the road.  As we approached Texarkana, the rain was coming down hard and the wind was intense.  Phil struggled to see the lane markers and keep the car on the road, so we started looking for a hotel room.  We finally called it a day and checked into the Wyndham Gardens in Texarkana about 6pm.  We were glad we stopped, especially after seeing the news of 11 fatalities in north Texas from the storm (most of the fatalities had been in their cars).  We finished the drive back to Willis on the 28th.  Although the weather was rainy and windy, it was nowhere near as bad as the day before.  We were glad to get back to our campsite and find that everything was still there.

We spent two more days at Lake Conroe but most of our time was spent preparing for our trip to San Antonio.