I’ll admit — I have opinions and expectations about “the south,” particularly Texas. Texas is HUGE and we hadn’t actually planned on spending TOO much time there, but it so happened that some weather changed our plans and we ended up there for nearly two weeks, hitting up several of the major cities (and some of the remote areas too).
There’s something about Texas that made it originally feel like a different country to me. You hear that a lot, and I do have to say, it did feel that way in some respects. Everything really is big in Texas. But, I think I did underestimate it before visiting.
We 100% did not anticipate visiting Waco AT ALL. But when campgrounds in Austin were full and we needed to shift our route, Waco is where we found ourselves. We stayed at a campground just south of the city (with one of the nicest bathrooms to date), where we were able to doing light hiking and enjoy a campfire.
We spent a half day exploring Magnolia and the downtown Waco area. Clearly Magnolia’s success is changing the downtown there, but if you’re expecting to see Fixer Upper houses dotting the streets, you’ll be disappointed. The area is decently large and suburban, but we didn’t see the houses from HGTV everywhere. In fact, we saw more homes that were falling apart.
It made me wonder a lot about how the people in this town feel about all of the tourists flocking to the mecca that is Magnolia. Don’t get me wrong, Magnolia was wonderful and smaller than I imagined. But if someone in my town got famous and people started flocking to my area, I feel like I’d be slightly annoyed unless my business was situated to serve them.
The nice part was Nora was welcome everywhere at Magnolia and she got lots of attention from other tourists. Involving her has been a struggle at times, but we try to do things she can do too…after all she is a high-energy pup!
Due to our spontaneous planning, we stayed almost an hour south of Austin in Lockhart, the capital of Texas BBQ. We had to try two of the most famous places there. They were cool and different, but nothing beat the brisket we had in Charleston. Sorry Texas!
We decided to go into Austin for the day, taking Nora with us to explore the streets. We treated the city like any we visited — mostly exploring without a huge plan in place.
Of course we visited many of the famous murals, talked to some ACLU canvassers, window shopped on South Congress St. and walked up to the Capitol Building. We didn’t take in any museums or any cultural things, mostly because Nora was along, but we felt like the city was clearly changing, with new buildings going up, with still a slightly residential vibe.
On our way to the next stop, we stopped in San Antonio to see The Alamo. Nora wasn’t allowed in, but we found parking so far away (not RV friendly in the city), and did a quick tour. We were glad we did it, but it wasn’t as exciting as we had hoped.
Now approaching my birthday, February 12, we headed to Padre Island, where you can drive and camp right on the beach. This is something I had heard about in the R-Pod group on Facebook and wanted to do if we had time. Padre is a little out of the way down in Corpus Christie, but my one hope was that I could spend this birthday on a beach. I got my wish!
We spent three nights without electricity or a shower or cell phone service and just enjoyed the beach. It. was. fabulous.
For my birthday, Josh grilled steaks, I made mashed potatoes, and we had a store-bought pineapple upside down cake for dessert. I read a book most of the day and enjoyed sunny warm weather and some cocktails. It truly was one of the best stops thus far in our trip. Nora roamed around the beach (she loves sand) and we enjoyed just hearing the ocean all day long.
Big Bend National Park
For a long time when planning our route, we debated whether to swoop down to Big Bend, which is on the border of Mexico in southern Texas. It’s an out of the way national park that isn’t super popular. After researching and eventually finding that the national parks indeed will be open for us (thanks gov shutdown!) we decided we wanted to see it and made a longgggg 10 hour drive one day to get there.
The campground we stayed at was nothing to write home about, but no matter. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, instead opting to do the scenic drive and hiking around the park.
Big Bend is HUGE. Like takes an hour to drive from end to end huge. We explored most of the park and caught some sunsets as well. Nora wasn’t allowed to hike, so she stayed at the pod while we went out for half days. She did do some off-roading with us (super fun) and scenic driving.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves here regarding the beauty of the park, but I will say what was weird is that we were feet away from Mexico and visiting at a turbulent time in our national political scene, having number 45 declaring a national emergency and talk of a border wall. To report back on this, there were several signs here about supporting Beto O’Rourke, and anti-border wall. This is just how the people in this remote part of Texas, with limited cell reception and limited means (we saw lots of mobile homes and RVs dotting the landscape), feel as far as we could tell.
We didn’t go to Mexico while we were there (there is a border crossing here to a small town), but we could see how easy it would be to wade in the river and be in another country. We spent a morning in a hot spring overlooking the Rio Grande with the Mexican shore literally 15 feet in front of us. I don’t need to go on about how I feel about a wall, but clearly it would spoil this beautiful part of our country.
Next up…New Mexico and Arizona! Stay tuned!