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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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