Tag Archives: TP&W

Parking It, Part 2: Make way for the flames

AMARILLO, Texas — We had every intention this morning of parking our fifth wheel RV at Copper Breaks State Park just south of Quanah, in Hardeman County.

Then something got in the way.

Fire, man! Flames! Lots of ’em.

We knew about the fire that had broken out. We called the state park office to inquire about any fire danger. That was four days ago. The ranger said the park was open “at this moment.” There was no imminent fire danger, she said, “right now. But you would do well to call us as you get closer to your departure date.”

Deal. Then I forgot to call ahead before we set out from Collin County.

About an hour or so on the road, the phone rang in the truck. Texas Parks & Wildlife headquarters in Austin was on the other end of the call. “I’m so sorry to tell you but Copper Breaks is not accepting any arrivals today” because of the fire danger. She asked if we had any alternate preferences. I mentioned Lake Arrowhead State Park near Jolly. “Hold on, I’ll get back to you,” she said.

Lake Arrowhead had limited availability; only water sites were left. We decided to come all the way to Amarillo.

The point of this blog, though, is to say a good word about TP&W’s alertness, that the agency was able to get in touch with us and inform us of the danger in plenty of time.

You might know already that I am a giant fan of the Texas state park system. We do all we can to support it financially. We enjoy the amenities. The parks are well-groomed. They are customer friendly.

TP&W also is willing to keep a sharp eye out for those of us who forget to do their due diligence before hitting the road.

Parking It, Part 1: The journey continues

I want to introduce to a new series of blog posts I intend to write on High Plains Blogger.

You know already about the series I write about the joys and occasional challenges of our “retirement journey along those “Happy Trails”; I also chronicle our life with Toby the Puppy and the “Puppy Tales” series; I like sharing the good times and the struggles of my journalism career, which truly gave me the “Time of My Life.”

I now have a new series to inaugurate. “Parking It” chronicles our journeys through the massive Texas state parks system, which my wife and I are glad to support with our tax money and with our annual purchase of Texas State Park Passes.

The state has 51 state parks. We have managed to visit 16 of them in our fifth wheel recreational vehicle. I am reluctant to declare my goal would be visit the rest of the state parks in the Texas Parks & Wildlife network. I’ll just declare our intention to get to as many as we can … and leave it at that. We just intend to stay at state parks whenever we travel in-state. Given the vast size of Texas, there remains a lot of this huge state to see.

When we do I’ll seek to offer a brief view into what we see and experience at the parks we visit.

Do I have a favorite so far among those sites we’ve visited? Not really. We have managed over the years to haul our RV to some state parks more than others mostly because of their convenient location.

San Angelo State Park is one site we’ve visited several times. We used to park our RV in Amarillo, even for a time after we moved from the Panhandle to the Metroplex. Now, though, we have moved our RV closer to us. However, when it was parked in Amarillo and we planned an in-state sojourn we found that San Angelo was a nice first-night stop en route to points in any direction from the South Plains location.

We returned today from two nights at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, which is about a two-hour drive east of us. We had been there before, so we know the lay of the land.

Here is a cool thing to share: We have moved to a region of the state — in Collin County — that is within an easy drive to many, many parks.

TP&W does a wonderful job maintaining its park system. The staff at any of the parks is helpful. They personify the best in customer service, at least that has been our experience. I would be inclined to report something different if it occurs; so far, so good.

So, as our retirement journey continues and we continue to enjoy the Texas state parks system, I plan to take you on that journey with us. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

Happy Trails, Part 154: Why didn’t we come here before?

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am kicking myself in the backside.

My wife and I lived in the Golden Triangle for nearly 11 years before we relocated way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle. That 24 years ago.

Today we arrived at a Texas state park jewel about 40 miles from where we used to live. Sea Rim State Park is a marvelous place to sit, relax, listen to the sounds of the surf and to just veg out.

That’s what we’re doing this evening as we settle in for a couple of nights on the Texas Gulf Coast.

I am not much of a beach guy. But we did visit the coast a few times during the Gulf Coast segment of our long journey through life together. We would drive to Galveston, entering the island community from the ferry that left the other side of Boliver Pass. Or . . . we would head the other direction from Sabine Pass, toward Holly Beach, La., which I used to consider was one of the coast’s hidden treasures.

Sea Rim is a wonderful state park, and part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife network of parks. We have spent a number of nights at many of those parks as we’ve continued on our retirement journey.

Sea Rim is a small-ish park, as far as Texas state parks go. I understand it has sustained considerable hurricane damage in recent years. Monstrous storms named Rita, Ike and Harvey all inflicted serious damage to Sea Rim, in that order.

But the park is clean. It’s tidy. This weekend it’s busy. I heard that the state’s Beach Clean-Up Day will occur Saturday. I’ll have more on that later.

I regret not coming here before now. Better late than never.

Gator alert: Stay away from this site

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — We have just been advised that we are living for a couple of days among one of God’s more fearsome creatures.

A Texas Parks & Wildlife ranger informs us that this state park, right on the Gulf of Mexico, is home to at least one alligator.

She described him as a 5-footer — with three legs. “Do you suppose he lost his leg in a fight with another gator?” I asked. She didn’t know.

It doesn’t matter. I am going to presume the gator still gets around just fine. He inhabits a certain RV campsite, No. 10. “He’s there sometimes,” said the TP&W ranger.

Good to know.

So, with that I’ll inform you — and we’ve already told Toby the Puppy — that we ain’t going anywhere near the site. We’ll stay close to our fifth wheel for the time we’re here.

The gimpy gator — and those who park their RV there — can have it all to themselves.

Happy Trails, Part 133: Free room and board?

LAMESA, Texas — I am about to let you in on a little secret, although it’s likely not a secret to veteran RV travelers.

If you want to park your recreational vehicle free of charge, just look for those “public parks” in your RV directory.

We rolled into this West Texas town with a population of about 9,400 residents. We had called ahead when we saw a listing in our RV directory that caught our attention. It was a “public park.” So I called. It turns out the RV park is part of the municipal park system.

The lady at City Hall told me we could stay here for free for a maximum of four nights. It has water and electric hookups; no sewer, but . . . we can take our waste water with us to the next location.

We have found some of these public parks on our travels over the past three or four years. We stayed at one of them in Sayre, Okla.; if memory serves, the nightly rate there was $10, which we considered a heck of a bargain.

While traveling in Texas, we prefer to stay at state-run RV parks. Given that we’re big fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we like supporting the state park system. The parks where we’ve stayed over the years have been well-manicured, well-appointed and generally quite gorgeous.

We buy a state park entrance pass once a year to waive our entrance fees. Since we’ve made ample use of the state parks, the pass is worth the investment.

But tonight we’re getting some free room and board at a city park. Keep this kind of thing in mind if you’re like my wife and me and enjoy the open road in your RV.

If you venture to Lamesa, here’s a tip: The locals pronounce the town name La-MEE-sa, not La-MAY-sa.

It must be a Texas thing.

Happy Trails, Part 125: Great RV neighbors

COPPER BREAKS STATE PARK, Texas — I had intended for this blog post to be a high-minded tribute to the Texas Parks & Wildlife department’s state park system.

Specifically, I intended to write about how easy it is to back into TP&W park sites. I would pull our 28-foot fifth wheel up to the site, straighten the truck/RV assembly out and back it all in. Slick, man! No sweat!

For some reason I don’t yet know, it didn’t work out that way.

I want instead to devote most of this post to the neighborliness of RVers. I’ve experienced their friendliness and willingness to offer a hand. This time an angel named Jim stepped up and said, “Hey, do y’all need help backing in?”

We answered simultaneously, “Yes!”

We offered him the keys to the truck. He took ‘em and back the rig into our spot.

We learned that Jim and wife, Brenda, have been traveling for two years full time in their RV. They’re originally from Hereford, Texas, just about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. They’ve been just about everywhere in this country, Jim said.

He also told us he began backing up semi trucks when he was 13 years of age. His father hauled cattle in these big rigs, Jim said, so he got indoctrinated early. “Yep, that’s Hereford, all right,” I said with a weary chuckle.

I do not intend to speak ill of TP&W and its system of state parks. Indeed, the agency does make its back-in RV sites quite accessible – even more for brain-dead RVers such as yours truly. My wife and I are huge fans of the Texas parks system and we visit them whenever we can when we’re traveling in-state. Copper Breaks is a lovely site just south of Quanah in Hardeman County.

Maybe I’ll do better the next time I have to back our RV into a site. Not this time. I’ll chalk it up to, oh, a long day on the road. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I was tired. That works as an excuse.

Now that we’re here, we intend to relax for a few days. We can do that now that we’re retired.

Happy Trails, Part 82

I have to credit a fellow recreational vehicle camper for this term, but I have come down with a case of the “hitch itch.”

It strikes me whenever we’ve been parked for a length of time, yet the open road beckons us. It is beckoning my wife and me. Thus, I get the “hitch itch,” or the “itch” to hook our fifth wheel RV to the bed of our pickup and hit the road.

The cure for the itch will come quite soon as we head out on another road trip. It will be an intrastate journey, keeping us inside Texas for its length.

It will be a lengthy trip.

Our plans are to make ample use of three state parks, which is our RV campsite of choice. We have a Texas Parks & Wildlife park pass, which waives our entrance fees into any state-run park in Texas. There happens to be a lot of ’em. They’re everywhere! They’re all well-run, well-maintained and well-groomed.

They’re also inexpensive!

We’ll be heading to San Angelo State Park to start off. A couple of days later we’ll shove off for Lockhart State Park south of Austin for several days. Then we drive to Village Creek State Park just north of Beaumont for a brief visit before winding our way back to Amarillo — with a stop in the Metroplex to visit our precious granddaughter and her parents.

This “hitch itch” strikes periodically. Frankly, we suffer from it more than we don’t. We have enjoyed this lifestyle so much that we want keep enjoying it for as long as humanly possible — health permitting.

To date, we both enjoy good health. We both have our wits. We enjoy the open road. Toby the Puppy is a serious road warrior as well.

The only nagging “health problem” we cannot eradicate — nor do we want to get rid of it — is that hitch itch.

It will disappear the moment we hook it all up and hit the road.

State parks are the way to go

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

GARNER STATE PARK, Texas — The picture attached to this blog post tells the story: this place is as tranquil and quiet as it appears.

This park is nestled in the gorgeous Hill Country of Texas, just north of Uvalde, which is the hometown of the person after whom the park is named.

I refer to the late John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, the former vice president of the United States during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It was Garner who once famously declared that “the vice presidency ain’t worth a bucket of warm piss.”

They didn’t call him Cactus Jack for nothin’, you know.

My wife and I have decided that state parks are the way to travel through this vast state of ours.

We have purchased a state park pass, which for a year allows us access to any state park in the state without paying an entrance fee. The nightly fee for camping there in an RV varies: $15 to $20.

I’ve complained for decades now about Texas state government. It spends too little on this, too much on that. It devalues public education and seeks on occasion to legislate morality.

Blah, blah, blah.

I am a big fan of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the agency that runs our state park system.

Our state parks are second to none. Well, perhaps that’s just my opinion, given that I haven’t been to state parks in every state in the Union. I’ll just settle on declaring that Texas’s state parks are inviting.

They’re well-appointed, clean, well-groomed. Park staffers are full of that legendary Texas hospitality.

There’s a decent chance my wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — will visit most if not all of them as we continue to enjoy this new lifestyle called “retirement.”