Sapphire Island Camping and RV Resort: DeFuniak Springs, FL

Sapphire Island Camping and RV Resort has a misleading name. There are no islands anywhere nearby. There are no sapphires nor anything sapphire colored. And it is definitely not a resort. It is a very small, unremarkable RV park and campground in the woods near the highway.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $88 ($44/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 5687 US Hwy. 331 South  DeFuniak Springs, Florida 32435
GPS: 30.641602, -86.113134
Website: www.sapphire-island.com

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Full Hookups
  • Decent Wireless
  • Convenient location

Cons

  • Few amenities
  • Somewhat expensive

The restrooms here are small but private and clean. There is even some firewood you can use.

The Details

Aside from its grandiose name, this is a very simple and basic RV park. The lots are fairly primitive, some nothing more than a worn spot on the lawn, others a gravel strip. They are however by and large level and dry which is all you really need. It is surrounded by large trees and a berm separates it from the highway making it a relatively quiet park.

Amenities are limited to the basics: Toilet, Shower, Laundry, and Hookups. They have a couple playground items and a fenced in dog run. It is a small park so the amenities are on the small side as well. Everything is in good order and the bathrooms are nice, private, and include a shower. There is also wire internet which worked nicely except for peak usage times around 7pm when it got a bit iffy. Still, that is far better than most larger parks.

Most of the pads are gravel strips, but for some reason, this hookup is just out on the lawn.

While it is not located near any major attraction, there is decent shopping a very short distance away on the highway making it very convenient for grabbing gas and other necessities. Florida has some pretty serious sales tax which inflates the price of the stay somewhat. You also have to pay an on-line booking fee as they don’t take payment at the park. The result is a higher per night price than I’d like to pay for a basic RV park. None the less, it is fairly cheap by Florida standards.

All in all, I’d give Sapphire Island a tepid recommendation as a decent place to stay but nothing special.

 

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Within the northern boundaries of the Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas resides an underrated gem of the National Park System: Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Do you long for a desert hike? Then head to the bright-white Salt Basin Dunes on the west side or the creosote deserts to the east. Looking for breath-taking autumn colors? Then head to the canyon interiors of McKittrick, Bear, and Pine Springs Canyon where maples, ash, chinquapin oaks seem to dance with color as the wind blows. Do you need a challenging mountain hike? Climb the alpine uplands known as ‘The Bowl’ where elevations exceed 7,000 feet. Through dense forests of ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir you’ll reach the famed Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, with an elevation of 8,751 feet.

Western Escarpment

Western Escarpment

Devil’s Hall Trail

For our first excursion, we hit the Devil’s Hall Trail, which departs from the Pine Springs Trailhead. Total round trip is a moderate 4 miles, with the first mile taking us through a desert lowland setting. After the first mile, the trail enters a rocky wash surrounding us with those famed trees. We were lucky enough to visit the Guadalupe Mountains in November when the trees really start to show their stuff. Leaves of bright blood reds, sunset oranges, lemony yellows sway and flutter against a bright white rock of the dry riverbed.

We scramble to about the rocks and boulders within the wash of Pine Springs Canyon. Eventually, we reach an impressive natural rock staircase. As we scramble up the staircase, find a dark pool of water held within a tinaja, or pocket carved from rock by turbulent flowing water. We push on, scrambling over boulders and finally reach “hallway” formed by steep canyon walls. The wave-textured 50-foot cliffs give us a cool and shady escape from the afternoon sun. The trail officially ends at a small sign on the north side of the hallway, but adventurous souls could continue the route and explore the winding canyon for a few hundred feet before needing to turning back.

The Devil's Hall

The Devil’s Hall

Salt Basin Dunes

There are two gypsum dunes in North America. The first and largest is the famed White Sands National Monument. The second is the Salt Basin Dunes of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The hike to the Salt Basin Dunes is located 2 miles from the parking lot, so be prepared for a hike in the desert complete with extra water and sun protection.

The Salt Basin itself is a graben or a down-dropped block of the earth’s crustal rock. This area’s faulting of the earth’s crust began 26 million years ago and simultaneously shifted Guadalupe Peak upward for more than two miles to its current position. Water runoff from the mountains flowed down into streams and into the graben. Since the basin has no outlet for water, it just sat there until it completely evaporated, leaving gypsum and salt.

Salt Basin Sand Dunes

Salt Basin Sand Dunes

During the Last Ice Age, the Salt Basin received so much water, that it became a lake, providing water to megafaunas such as mammoths, dire wolves, and giant sloths. The lake was also visited by paleo-Indians some 10,000 years ago.

Today the sediment continues to collect within the basin every time the Guadalupe Mountains gets its annual rainfall. The lake bed is dry most of the year and it would take a huge amount of rains to form an actual lake of a few inches deep. Gypsum deposits are increasing in the Salt Basin minor by a third of an inch per year. Steady westerly winds shift the grains of sand from the dry salt lake, then drop them near the western edge of the park before sweeping up the ledge of the Guadalupe Mountains.

As I shuffle my feet through the sandy trail, I notice a dark black and brown crust covering the sand on either side of the trail. This black crusty carpet is actually a colony of lichen and fungus known as a Cryptogam. Without it, there would be no soil nitrogen, and nothing to prevent wind from eroding away at the land scape. Just above the bio-curst other plants take hold growing in symbiotic relation to the cryptogamic colony. According to the signs the cryptogamic crust is fragile and simply walking across it can open the soil to erosion. I respect and honor this precious land, and watch for the black crust of cryptogams and avoid walking on it. I focus on staying on established roadways, trails, and baren dunes.

Salt Basin Sand Dunes - 2nd largest gypsum sand dunes in the United States

Salt Basin Sand Dunes – 2nd largest gypsum sand dunes in the United States

Oh The Trails!

There are a total of 80 trails within Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Far more than I have time for in my short visit. But here are are my picks:

Guadalupe Peak Trail

The trail to reach the Top of Texas a robust adventurer must traverse steep paths. Hikers gain over 3,000 feet within 4.2 miles, so thus the hike is rated as strenuous. Start early when investing the sweat equity and be reward with the most stunning view Texas has to offer.

Guadalupe Peak

Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

El Capitan & Salt Basin Overlook Trails

This hike leads through the Chihuahuan desert to the base of El Capitan at the southern end of the Guadalupe mountain range, so bring extra water, extra food, and lots of sun protection. Follow the El Capitan Trail and the Salt Basin Overlook Trail. Within a day a hiker can view the massive El Capitan formation from its base and the Salt Basin from above. Total trail length is over 11 miles, but its mostly flat and rates as moderate.

El Capitan from the Road

El Capitan from the Road

Permian Reef Trail

Serious geology buffs will want to pick up a geology guide at the visitor center before heading to this hike. The Permian Reef Trail comes complete with markers which the guide high lights. The strenuous trip is an in-and-out trail totaling over 8 miles and a gain of 2,000 feet. So be sure to start early and bring plenty of water, a lunch, and sun protection. Your hard work will be rewarded with excellent views into McKittrick Canyon from the top of Wilderness Ridge.

Permian reef fossil

Permian reef fossil

Along Pine Springs Trail

Along Pine Springs Trail

Fall Colors of Guadalupe

Fall Colors of Guadalupe

Granite Steps on Devil's Hall Trail

Granite Steps on Devil’s Hall Trail

Hitch in the Hallway

Hitch in the Hallway

Williams Ranch

Williams Ranch

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Indian Point RV Resort: Gautier, Mississippi

There are typical RV parks and resorts, and then there is Indian Point RV Resort which takes eclectic to new heights. It is an RV park brimming with “personality” both the kind that is endearing and the kind that is a bit scary.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $58 ($29/night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 1600 Indian Point Parkway  Gautier, Mississippi 39553
GPS: 30.406437, -88.634818
Website: www.indianpt.com

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Wilderness setting
  • Boat dock and launch
  • Wide range of amenities

Cons

  • Dirty facilities
  • Wildly uneven quality of parking spaces

Our parking spot at Indian Point was just about the best in the park in terms of its condition.

The Details

Indian Point is an RV park that is clearly a bit past it’s prime. It is clear a lot of love and personality went into creating and expanding the park, but less has been lavished on keeping it up and keeping it clean over the years. I took more pictures here than any other park I’ve visited because there was so much to look at. It is a large park and everywhere you turn there is something curious and surprising.

The parking pads here have clearly been installed in stages over the years. As a result, they vary wildly. We had a nice individual concrete pad that was up on a little hill with a relatively new 50amp hookup. In other areas, folks were parked on large shared concrete pads. In yet others, they were on gravel pads. And way in the pack of the park, they seem to have foregone pads altogether and campers are parked willy nilly on lawns and embankments. Some spots are large, some are small and utilities range from full hookups to none.

There is a large mini-golf course here. It has outdoor lighting (some of which works), this native themed statue, and an odd fountain.

It was clear that in the back portions of the park there were many long term residents who had set up elaborate campgrounds around their RV. These were the older and less developed areas of the park and the roads were partly washed out and very narrow. Up front, the roadways were larger and in better shape and the equipment newer. Here you would find newer RVs and likely shorter term tenants such as ourselves. Likewise, the cabins here ranged from new and shiny to old and grungy. It wasn’t clear which ones were still in use and which were simply abandoned to the Bayou forest.

Indian point is located directly on the Mississippi Bayou. Swampy woodland surrounds most of the park, but the back half runs down into the reedy wetlands where they have a full dock as well as multiple boat launches. Because of its setting, there was a bounty of wildlife in and around the park. Fishing is allowed in the Bayou both by boat and from the docks. Wandering around I found a nice Gazeebo to sit in and watch for birds including egrets, ducks, and woodpeckers. Squirrels were also abundant and fun to watch.

This was a cool spot to watch the wildlife of the Bayou from. Bring some insect repellent, they have biting gnats here.

The park has many amenities, but often they are not well kept. The bathrooms are pretty funky with the women’s having cracks in the walls. The laundry appears to have been dusted sometime last century. While we waited for the laundry I discovered a family of silverfish living inside one of the Laundry Rules signs. We had to clean out the machines before using them as they were full of lint and other nastiness. There are two pools, one of which appeared to be maintained, the other had a lot of debris in it. There is a large meeting hall, a lodge, the boat docks, a mini golf course, an RV storage lot, a restaurant that serves breakfast, and various oddities like the Jimmy Shack. The wireless internet was too weak to use at our parking station.

No doubt there is a story about Jimmy’s Shack, but we were not here long enough to find out. Inside I found a couch and an old TV playing NBC News.

I can see how folks could really like Indian Point for its natural setting, personality, and low price. I can also see many people who like clean and orderly RV parks hating it. For my part, I was glad to have had the chance to explore it but was happy to be moving on after a short stay. The price is quite decent, but a little elbow grease on the part of the owners would go a long way to improving the experience. If you travel with a boat of some kind, then this park could be a real gem for exploring the coastal Bayou.

If you have a boat, Indian point can be the gateway to all kinds of aquatic adventures.

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Carlsbad Caverns: Left Hand Tunnel

Crisis in the Caves, 1979

On a hot July day in 1979, four men entered the elevator leading down into the Big Room of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Park Technician Linda Phillips also boarded the elevator heading down to work in the caverns. Elevator operator Celia Valdez noticed that the four men wore long trench coats. She upon commenting about the hot weather, and their unusual dressing choice, two of the men pulled out their guns and took the two women hostage. When the elevator doors opened Valdez escaped at her first opportunity by running into a crowd, but for poor Phillips, her time as a hostage lasted over four hours.

Upon reaching the Lunchroom area, one of the armed men demanded the rangers evacuate the 200 civilians out of the cave. Holed up in the underground lunchroom, with hostage Phillips, their weapons, and a bottle of whiskey, they then demanded to talk to a reporter, to receive a million dollars, and to be flown to Brazil. They then proceeded on a shooting spree that only damaged park property, until reporter Ned Cantwell allowed himself to be taken as a hostage.

Meanwhile, an out of uniform ranger quietly lead a group of 100 visitors out of the cave via the Natural Entrance.

After a lengthy negotiation, and after they had run out whiskey, the men released their hostages and traded their demands for a million dollars and a plane ride to Brazil for reduced criminal charges against them. The four gunmen surrendered late in the evening, and thankfully without any innocents physically harmed.

The Lunch Room in 1967

The Lunch Room in 1967 – Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Left-Hand Cave

This was the story that Ranger Donna told us as we gathered in the Lunchroom before we entered the Left-Hand Tunnel. Her husband was the out of uniform rangers that led the 100 visitors out to safety. With the squeal of metal, Ranger Donna opened the gate that would lead us to an ebony darkness. With lanterns, I felt like we’re tracing the cave the way the first explorers did. As we slowly traveled upon a well-worn dirt path, our ranger would stop and tell us a fact or story about the cave.

Lanterns

Lanterns – Candles are lit before the tour of Left-Hand Tunnel

Gargoyles, 1972

It’s not very long before we reach a section of cave with walls that look like they’ve been plastered over with concrete. This is where our Ranger Donna begins to describe that this was a set for the made-for-tv 1972 movie Gargoyles were filmed right there in Left-Hand Tunnel. Not surprisingly, Hitch as seen this “classic” horror TV movie of a bygone age. He described the movie as comically cheap, complete with a scantily clad 70s girl and rubbery Gargoyle prosthetics. After the tour, I went online and found a few clips of the movie. Amusingly enough, the film has a young Scott Glenn (Stick, from Netflix’s Dare Devil). Yes, the movie was as awful as I thought it would be.

Fabulous Fossils

One thing Left-Hand Tunnel has going for it is a fine collection of fossils. Looking carefully in the dim light I found the remains of creatures from 240 million years ago. For the avid geologist, there are ammonites, crinoids, snails, nautiloids, bivalves, brachiopods, and the occasional trilobite. Such things are super hard to spot for the untrained eye and especially in the dim light, but our ranger guide was kind to point them out to us.

Near the Left-Hand Tunnel Gate

Left-Hand Tunnel Gate

Cave Pools

Another unique feature in Left-Hand Tunnel are the cave pools. In the pools such as the ones found here, researchers discovered unusual microbes able to create metabolic energy from sulfur, manganese, and iron. Through the examination of multiple caves, more than 1,200 strains of microbes from pools, soils, corrosive residues, and sulfur deposits were isolated. There are even studies which indicate that some these microbes may have medicinal qualities that are beneficial to humans.

"I lift my lantern higher"

“I lift my lantern higher and get a better look.”

How to See Left-Hand Tunnel

The Left-Hand Tunnel tour was short but provided a unique background into history thanks to our Ranger. The tour is perfect for families with kids or the history buff looking for an easy time in the caves. Keep in mind that this tour is by candle light only and they don’t allow headlamps or flashlights while on the tour. So if you don’t like the dark and not seeing for long distances, you’ll probably want to skip this tour. But if you like history, stories, and a chance to roam a cave as the first explorers did, then book your spot early.

Left-Hand Tunnel Map

Left-Hand Tunnel Map

What to Bring:

  • Closed Toe Shoes or Hiking Boots
  • A Light Jacket or Sweater, it can get cold.
  • Lots of questions for your ranger.

Provided Gear:

  • Candle Lamp

Restrictions:

  • No food or water inside the cave
  • No artificial light sources
  • No bathrooms on the trail
  • Minimum age is 6 years old
  • Anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost:

  • Adult: $7.00
  • Youth (Ages 6-15): $3.50
  • Discounts for Senior and Access Pass holders.

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Lakeside RV, Park: Livingston, Louisiana

We parked at Lakeside RV on our way east to Florida, staying 3 nights so we could spend at least one full day in New Orleans which is about a 45-minute drive from the park. I’ve got almost nothing but good things to say about Lakeside RV, it is a lovely RV park.

Nights: 3
RV Park Cost: $139  ($46 /night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 28370 S. Frost Road Livingston, LA 70754
GPS: 30.454579, -90.743081
Website: lakeside-rvpark.com

Pros

  • Beautiful Grounds
  • Nice Amenities
  • Pet Adoptions
  • Great pads and hookups

Cons

  • Expensive

Lakeside really is picture perfect in some places. This is a covered patio near the game room and lounge.

The Details

Lakeside RV follows the proud tradition of actually living up to its name. The park is stretched around the shore of a small lake, surrounded by forested areas. It makes for a fantastic and peaceful setting. You can boat or fish in the lake, and there were Canadian geese, egrets, and ducks puttering about during our stay. Not everyone gets a spot next to the lake, but nearly any spot can see at least a bit of it from their site.

Lakeside has all the usual amenities as well as some of the more upper-end ones. There is a small pool, a game room, and a comfy lounge in addition to the usual bathrooms (quite clean), laundry and camp store. None of these were especially grand, but all were in good order and clearly paid attention to. The pads are all cement and very level, especially considering the instability of soil in Louisiana. The hookups appeared to have been recently installed or upgraded and were top notch.

They even have some nice touches here such as working to find homes for pets that were abandoned at the park. Sadly this is not all that uncommon. We found a stray at a park we stayed at in texas and took it to the nearest no-kill shelter in the area. It’s nice to see the park make an effort to help these animals. They also are pretty strict about their in park speed limit which is a mere 5mph. The park is laid out in a long thin line around the lake so if you are at the back, it can feel a bit tedious. But it shows their commitment to the safety of their guests so I applaud it.

The only downside is the price. Rates are not cheap and Louisiana has some heavy taxes on hotels and RV parks. Even with our 10% Good Sam discount, we were paying a fair bit more than we like to. None the less, they clearly invest in the quality of the park so the rate’s don’t feel unreasonable even if they are on the high side.

The game room is small, but all the games are clean and in good working order, more than I can say for many park game rooms.

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Fernbrook RV Park: Longview, TX

We only stayed a brief time at this clean and modern RV park in north-east Texas on our way east. Grim weather dogged us while we were here, but Fernbrook RV is a very nice park and has some of the best wireless internet we have yet encountered.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $72 ($36/night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 2073 Farm Road 2011  Longview, Texas 75603
GPS: 32.415815, -94.765807
Website: www.fernbrookpark.com

Pros

  • Nice pads and utilities
  • Excellent Facilities
  • Unusually good wireless internet

Cons

  • None found

Despite the overcast day, the park looked fairly nice.

The Details

Fernbrook RV was our last stop in Texas and the weather was turning on us as we made our way east. It is not quite a resort park but for a relatively small RV park, they have a good selection of amenities. We were parked right next to their small pool (closed due to weather) and some really great private bathrooms with built in showers. They also had a spartan but sizable club room there as well.

All the pads and hookups looked to be top notch. They even had free cable TV. Perhaps best of all, the wireless internet in this park is honest to goodness actually good. I had a strong clear signal at all times of day and night. Wireless in parks is so universally bad that I stopped making it a regular feature of these reviews. Typically it is sluggish but functional by day, and useless as the sun sets and everyone starts trying to use it in earnest. At Fernbrook it was good and fast all the time without a single interruption or failure. Like a good RV camper, I didn’t hog the bandwidth for movies or the like but I did download some file updates from Steam and it worked like a charm.

The grounds are not spectacular, but they took pains to make them nice with decorative grasses and some lovely trees. At the pack of the park is a wedding venue that is quite lovely. When the grounds are not in use, park goers are welcome to take a stroll in the garden there. The price is here is right in line with the quality of the park, neither exorbitant nor a great bargain. That’s good enough to get a solid thumbs up from me. I’d gladly stay here again.

You could get married here while staying at the park!

 

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River Cities RV Park

This is was our first stop in Louisiana and things did not get off to a great start. While there is nothing wrong with River Cities RV, but at the price, you get less than I’ve come to expect.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $83.50 ($41.75/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 7213 Highway 1 North – Boyce, LA 71409
GPS: 31.365931,-92.602620
Website: rivercitiesrvpark.com

Pros

  • Very Level Pads
  • Clean
  • Modern Hook Ups

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Self Service
  • Poor Wireless
  • Limited Facilities / Amenities

I always feel a bit bad when I have to take pictures in overcast weather, at one park and sunny weather at another.

The Details

What makes this part unique among those we have visited so far is that it is self-service. There is not camp host or manager on the grounds at River Cities RV. You register and pay online and receive a code to open the gates. It is clear that someone comes to maintain the restrooms and the grounds, but other than that you are on your own. While we don’t normally need much from the camp hosts, especially on a short stay, I’d expect at least some of the savings to be passed on in the form of lower rates.

The upside or River City RV is that it is a new park so the hookups are in great shape and the pads are level and in good order. The driving paths are also pristine and the size of the lots are decently sized. While there is nothing pretty about the park, it is kept clean. It borders a highway on one side but the road noise was not an issue for us. The rest is farmland, a strange but unused building, and an RV dealership. There are no trees int the park and thus no shade.

This is what a really good RV Pad looks like. Totally Flat, and including a patio .

There are amenities, but not many. The bathrooms are pretty nice and are the private and include a very decent shower. There are only two, but it is a smallish park so no issues there. The laundry is also small and a little expensive, but also new. There is wireless internet but it was poor and intermittent at pretty much all times of day and night. That is everything you get here.

To be fair, Louisiana has both a sales tax and a hotel tax that is applied to the bill here and included in the price above. The actual rate is a bit over $35 a night. Considering the limited amenities and lack of staff, I’d expect a base rate between $25 and $30 or some type of discount available to get it into that zone. As it stands, it’s a decent place to park, but not a great value choice.

 

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The Vineyard Campground and Cabins: Grapevine, Texas

We chose to stay at Vineyard Campground because of its location. We wanted to visit family in Dallas and this campground was close to everyone we wanted to see. The price fairly high, but it is a very nice campground in a wonderful location. When examining price, it’s good to take into account driving costs for the places you want to visit frequently during your stay. Sometimes the more expensive but closer park is ultimately less expensive.

Nights: 9
RV Park Cost: $457 ($51/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 1501 N Dooley St  Grapevine, TX 76051
GPS32.955527, -97.072860
Website: www.vineyardscampground.com

Pros

  • Beautiful Grounds
  • Good location for Dallas, TX
  • Tour Bus

Cons

  • Expensive

This is the view from our site. We spent more than a few evenings watching the lake as the sun went down.

The Details

Vineyard Campground and Cabins is run by the city of Grapevine. It sits on lake Grapevine and while it is close to the city, it is surrounded by a dense grove of beautiful oak trees. Trail and I were lucky enough to score a spot on a grassy slope leading down to the lake. Not only is it a nice view, but there are always lots of birds to watch and so far the weather has been fantastic for sitting outside both to dine and write.

Not too long ago the park was badly flooded leaving all the campsites 20′ under water. As a result, nearly everything in the park is brand new, and thus very nice. The pads are level and the utilities in great shape. The only down-side is they are still building a new clubhouse so there is not an indoor gathering place in the park. The bathrooms and showers were also new and thus in great working order and very clean.

One nice feature is that the park has its own shuttle bus which takes folks to the shopping and dining destinations in the city of Grapevine and into Dallas. There is a fee to use it but having paid it you can make as much use of the Shuttle as you like. You can also rent watercraft to take out on the lake and fishing is allowed on the docs.

There are lots of oaks on the property, summer and fall must be gorgeous.

The only inconveniences we had were that the facilities and trash were a fair distance from our site due to the long and winding layout of the park and cell reception was on the weak side for our Verison hot spot. Then there is the price, which is definitely on the high end. The park doesn’t have enough amenities to make it a resort class park so it feels a little on the high side despite its convenient location near Dallas and lovely setting. If it wasn’t so close to everywhere we wanted to go on this stop, we would have gone with a cheaper park further out of town.

If you are looking for a bargain, this probably isn’t it, but if you want a really nice location to park and don’t mind the premium price, we give it a hearty recommendation.

 

 

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Traveling the US, Politics, and Safety

2016 / 2017 has been an interesting year for politics in the US. Trail and I tend to run in liberal circles. We come from Seattle, a very liberal part of the country, and our views aren’t much out of sync with that city’s demographics. When Trump won the election in 2016 many folks were surprised, ourselves included. And some were also frightened. I started to see folks who aspired to full-time travel shy away, afraid that as they traveled the country, they would find themselves in hostile territory. Some Canadians expressed that they were concerned about crossing the border due to the “dangerous mood” of America. Even before these recent elections, I’ve seen liberal friends express concern about going to “red states” for vacations and the like, concerned they would encounter hostility and possibly danger.

I wanted to write this article to say that there is no need for this concern. Whatever the politics of a traveler, and the places in the US they travel to, the chances of there being any kind of conflict based on political views is incredibly slim.

Today’s picture theme are flowers we have seen in our travels. Nearly everyone likes flowers after all.

5 Reasons not to worry

Firstly, when you travel, a good number of the people you meet are either fellow travelers or people who cater to travelers. Fellow travelers come from all walks of life and are going to be asking about your travels rather than your politics. The most common topics are “Where are you from” and “Where are you headed.” The people who cater to travelers tend to be eager to avoid any controversial topics of all sorts. They would like your business so they are not eager to get into any kind of conflict.

The second reason why it should not be a worry is that most Americans don’t discuss politics in public, in person, on any kind of regular basis. Where are you from, what do you do for a living, sports teams, and the weather are pretty much the de-facto conversation topics for strangers in America. Unless you wear your politics emblazoned on a T-Shirt no one is going to even know what your political affiliations are. Even if you did, chances are good folks are likely to avoid the subject anyway.

Thirdly, it is important to understand that the news media and people’s reactions to it provide a pretty distorted view of what day to day life is like. The news reports on only the most sensational and most outrageous things it can find, and it plays them up for as much drama as it can muster. Most of life in America is on the whole, quiet, peaceful, and mundane. People go to work, they go to school, they go home, they go out for meals and so on. Drama is the exception, not the rule.

You can focus on the thorns or you can focus on the flowers. If you are respectful of the former, you can enjoy the latter without danger.

Fourth, most of America still practices the ancient arts of hospitality. By and large, when a local person meets someone from out of town, they try to put their best foot forward and make their home seem like a nice and welcoming place. Ask folks about the best things to do and the best places to eat and you are sure to get some good tips and engender that hospitality instinct in them. In traveling more than a year and a half, the worst we’ve met with is indifference, and that is rare. We’ve been through deeply liberal parts of the country and deeply conservative parts. The difference in the day to day interactions with people we meet is non-existent. By and large, they are all very nice to strangers.

Finally a word of advice. Don’t make assumptions about people’s attitudes based only on where they live. You will never really know what people think unless you ask. Too often we make assumptions based on appearance or circumstance but everyone all around the world is their own person. Everyone has a unique background and views. If you approach people with warmth and kindness you are most likely to get the same in return. If you come at people with fear and judgment you are likely to get that in return. If you want to learn about someone, just ask, never assume you know the answer unless it came from their own mouth.

Seek beauty in the world and you will surely find it.

Final Words

When adventure calls and you yearn to see the world, try not to let fear of the people you will meet stay your wanderlust. Travelers are generally welcomed with open arms wherever you go, and strangers are often kinder than you might expect. Just because folks are not the same as you, doesn’t mean they won’t be kind and welcoming. Be respectful of your differences, look for common ground, and you can make friends wherever you roam.

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I-35 RV Park and Resort: Waco, Texas

On our way to Dallas, we stopped over at the aptly named I-35 RV Park and Resort in Waco Texas. Wako didn’t exactly have a bumper crop of promising RV parks and our attempts to make reservations at others gave us some “bad vibes” so we settled on I-35. It’s a bit expensive and not especially exciting but it met our needs and has some nice perks.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $77 ($39/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 15131 Interstate 35 Frontage Rd, Elm Mott, TX 76640
GPS: 31.704537, -97.103517
Website: www.i35rvpark.com

Pros

  • Free Breakfast
  • Full Hookups
  • Fishing Ponds

Cons

  • Sparse grounds
  • Limited/Small Facilitiesities

I imagine that summer time and clearer skies make for a prettier landscape.

The Details

While the park is surrounded on three sides by trees and small ponds, the actual park itself is almost devoid of greenery. There are hardly any plants to be seen other than sparse lawns. RVs are packed in pretty close so the overall effect is more parking lot than park. Fortunately, the boundaries of the park are nice and we took advantage of it to do some fishing when the weather turned nice.

One of the first things they tell you about here is the free breakfast. Each morning from 7 to 9 they have a little diner/kitchen that will feed you a selection of classic American breakfasts at no charge. It is expected that you leave a tip for the cook/waitress and if there are a lot of folks, you may have to wait a bit for your food to be prepared. We took advantage of the offer and I’m happy to say my breakfast was very nice. Most remarkable was that my eggs over medium were cooked to perfection, something rare in my experience.

This pond is in the back of the park and is lovely. We didn’t catch any fish but we saw some in there.

While the park claims to be a resort, it does not have a resort feel. It has a pool, and it has food service as well as the other usual amenities, but all of them feel less than resort-like. The pool affords a not so tranquil view of the highway. The laundry room is more like a laundry closet, and for a park with a lot of spots, it has tiny bathrooms in which a second toilet has been awkwardly installed. That said, I must admit the single shower they had was actually one of the best I’ve used in a park. It was fully tiled, had great temperature control, was roomy, and very clean. In all other respects, it reminded me of a gas station restroom.

The utilities worked just fine and the staff was friendly if a bit over-taxed when we arrived. All in all, it is a decent park, but the lack of discounts available and the somewhat higher price limit my recommendation to a mildly positive one.

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