Category Archives: Texas

The Falls on the Brazos State Park

Marlin is a tiny town just south of Waco. There’s really not much to it. But there is a state park that is just south of town on the Brazos river. It has 15 campsites that are not big rig friendly. Anything over 30’ will probably not be able to pull it off, and that’s for the single premium site. Also, while there is electricity, there’s only 30 amp available. This park had been run down and new managers are updating it. Last we were there, the city had lent out some generators because not every site had electric. This was for a grand reopening.

The campground is set up in a loop with one half campsites and the other bordered by the river. The premium site is the only one on the water. Inside the loop is a playground and a few covered pavilions with some BBQ pits. When entering the park, there is also a small store/café. The new managers offer simple lunch items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. They also have chips, pies, and drinks.

The rate is at $25 for all sites, except the premium site which is $30.

The Falls themselves are pretty. Lots of locals come to fish. You can walk out into the river which is really shallow for quite some distance. Obviously, very slippery as algae has grown over the rock bed. So don’t wear your glasses. Ask me how I know.

The park is free to hang out in. Nice spot during the hot summer to cook out and go for a quick dip in the water.

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Shiner Brewery

603 E. Brewery St, Shiner, Tx

361-594-3383

Tour is free, as is four samples of beer.  They have about 7 types of beer, including Bock, Blonde, Blonde Light, Holiday Cheer, Hefeweizen, Black Lager, and Pale Ale, and I think that is all they had.  They also have strawberry lemonade for those who do not consume beer, for whatever reason.  I tried most of them.  You’re not supposed to share, as they want to make sure no one gets into their cars and is drunk.  But I was only really taking a sip.  I’m not a beer drinker, don’t care for it at all.  But I figured, when in Rome.  Also, I’m a firm believer in being able to change your palette.  The Blondes we both felt tasted closer to a Budweiser.  Yuck.  Holiday cheer has hints of peach, which I LOVE in wine, but felt it was out of place with beer.  Bock was OK, but I doubt my husband needs to be concerned that I’ll be drinking his any time soon.  Black and Pale Ale were gross for me, Gabe thought they were OK.  Hefeweizen,  Gabe thought it was OK, and this was the one I liked the most.  However, since I don’t like beer, it’s not really saying much.  HAHAHA

Our tour group must have been at least 50 people!  Which is HUGE for any tour, let alone one midday on a Monday!  The people who worked there also commented that it was a large group.  I wonder if the local German festivals going on brought in more people who are traveling than typical.  Either way, the tour guide grew weary.  There is a five minute part at the start in the downstairs gallery where she describes a bit of the history of Shiner.  Then you go upstairs.  We enter into a room with HUGE copper vats, and the tour guide describes the processes.  We were towards the back because Corbin was confused as to how to “pass off the door” to the person behind him, and ended up just holding the door for everything.  SIGH.  After that we moved into a room that overlooks the main part of the factory.  She got up on a bench and told everyone that they needed to stop talking and that she would not speak until everyone was quiet.  HAHAHA  People immediately began talking louder!  I happened to be standing somewhat close to her and said sort of low “What did you JUST say?!” And she gave me a bit of a wink and then said “How many teachers do we have here?”  I raised my hand with two others who had been standing quietly waiting for everyone else to settle down as well and the tour guide nodded and smiled at each of us in turn.  HAHAHA  There was one more time people as a whole started talking and the tour guide stopped mid sentence until they got the hint and shut up.  And then a second time, there was a small group of people chatting in a corner as they looked down at the factory floor.  Someone else had raised their hand to ask why production seemed to have stopped.  The guide spoke loudly and pointed out the people standing and talking in the corner and said something to the effect of “Well….what I”m SURE you were all just talking about is the fact that the bottle caps jammed and so production has stopped”.  They looked at her, looked at each other, looked back, and all nodded enthusiastically.  HAHAHAHA  Caught!

So, if you’re reading this tour guide…..Good for YOU!  You’re great at crowd control!

I thought it was pretty interesting in all.  Very informative, including her talking to us about if you’re at the store and you pick up a box that has one broken, not to re-shelve it, but to bring it to the front and tell the store employees about it so it doesn’t get purchased by someone else.  Another cool thing was the fact that they started making beer during Prohibition.  So they actually make Near-Beer.  Now, I guess there were two steps to making this, the second being the removal of alcohol.  Apparently, sometimes the owner would “forget” that second step and provide some good friends with something a bit closer to actual beer.  Wink, Wink.  Moral of the story……have good friends!

If you’re thinking about going to Shiner and look on the map and see it’s “so out of the way of I-10”, it’s only 30 minutes each way.  It’s not that far.  And it’s a cool experience.  Make the time, go drink some beer, see how it’s all made, and spend a bit too much in the gift shop.  You won’t regret it.

BLazing Star Rv Park

Blazing Star RV Park

1120 W Loop 1604 North, San Antonio, TX

$345/week for a premium site

 

We stayed here during out week trip to San Antonio.  It was a decent park, with maintained grounds, and some nice facilities.  The laundry room was very big, with about 20 washers and 20 dryers, plus four folding tables and a few rolling laundry baskets.  It was $1.50 per load for either washer or dryer, with both having the option to have more time added for another quarter.

There was a nice pool with a kiddie pool.  No spa, and we came during a time when the pool wasn’t available because we’re getting into winter.  There is one playground, with two shown on the map, but the other one was recently taken out.  The playground was OK, but the kids still had fun meeting other kids there.

The main clubhouse building houses the reception area with offices, a small store, a pool hall/arcade room and a large rec room that could be used for putting together puzzles or having breakfast or meetings.  In the rec room, there is a projector set up, but we didn’t look too closely as we were busy site seeing and not too interested in watching a movie in the rec room.

They also have a large BBQ with a few smaller BBQs that are available for use, but I don’t believe you can take the smaller ones to your site.

Trash pickup “if trash is out by 9”, but we found they didn’t typically come to collect until closer to noon.  So there’s some leeway there.

WiFi is NOT included!  It’s $5/day or $25/week, per computer!  This would’ve been fine, albeit annoying, if it would’ve actually worked.  But it didn’t.  So I really should’ve just recharged our MiFi for $40 and been able to access it better.  As it stood, we were out so much it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’ve barely been able to upload anything onto my blog as far as pictures go.  So I’ll be doing that as we head home and stop for breakfast and lunch in places that have free WiFi.

Cable is included, but we didn’t use it, so I have no clue if it was decent or not.  All hookups were in working order and we had no trouble with blackouts or anything.

We were approximately 20-30 minutes to everything we saw in San Antonio, with the exception of wine tasting and the caverns, which both took closer to 45 minutes.

Sites are mostly level and concrete.  Ours was low in the front enough over the length of 40 feet of our rig that we ended up needed to get some blocks.

I think we’d both stay here again.  It wasn’t the best park ever, but it was pretty good.  I think they are under new management, and so that might account for certain things being in an apparent “interim” stage.  If they could put in a better park, a spa, a change machine, and better WiFi, it would make this park about perfect for us.

Natural Bridge Caverns

The Natural Land Bridge Caverns

26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio, TX 78266

$28/ages 12 and up, $16/ages 3-11 (Prices for combo ticket.)

We did the combo tours.  It took about 3 ½ hours to do both.  The first one was a bit longer as we had more questions and a larger group going through it.  By the second one, there weren’t as many questions, and I think there were only about 10 of us total.  So it went pretty quick.

The first tour takes you 180’ below the surface, it’s ¾ of a mile long, and you don’t climb back out the same place. You go down one way and come up another.  There were only a few steps at the beginning to take you down the first 50’ or so.  The rest of it was just graded walkways.  You are not allowed to touch anything in the cave system, with the very small exception of the hand rails they’ve put in.  The tour guide was very good.  The only problem I had was that there was another family on the tour with two preschoolers, and the parents seemed to be delighted with all of their children’s sounds.  So every time we stopped for a few minutes so the guide could explain some new formations and share a bit more of the history of the caverns, the little tots would get bored and start singing or talking, etc.  The problem with two-fold.  1.  The parents didn’t ONCE tell their kids to shut up.  Not to sound rude, but we all know kids make noises.  It’s your job as a parent when you’re in a place where you’re supposed to be quiet, to tell you kids to hush.  In fact, I saw the father playing a pat-a-cake type game with his son like they were just hanging out on the couch at home, not trying to listen to the guide.  2.  Every time the tots started making noise, the guide raised her voice.  It’s not a bad habit to have as a tour guide, so that everyone can hear you.  Unfortunately, she was already loud enough, the formation of the cave makes it so that sound is louder than it would be in the open, and ever time she raised her voice, it came across as borderline scream, which made her normally nice tour guide voice grate on my nerves.

Other than that, I really enjoyed her.  We ended up being in the back of the group at the end and because she had to be the last one out, she took her time and showed us some other cool things that weren’t part of the tour, like a few fossils that remained, or how limestone vs calcium deposits react under light from her flashlight.

The other tour guide was pretty good as well, but I preferred the first lady.  The second tour took us down 185 steps, and then back up again.  It was about ½ mile in length, so ¼ mile each way.  When you got to the bottom, there was a small set of seats that she had us sit in and then she turned off all the lights and we got to experience the cave as it is naturally.  Of course Gabe couldn’t resist making scary noises.  Him and my boys were louder than another couple who’d come with a 2 year old.  That little boy was quiet through the whole black out.  And during speaking portions, if he started talking, his mother of father would bend down and encourage him to whisper.  Which I appreciated after the first tour.  (And I’m not being self-righteous here.  On a few occasions I had to hush up my own kids in the caves, and during other site seeing attractions as well….it’s part of being a parent, as well as being respectful to others who may not think your kid’s itsy-bitsy spider is the cutest thing in the world.)

Another thing to note about the second cave was a “diamond river”.  It was formed out of very slow moving deposits and crystals had time to grow larger than in most other formations.  So the effect was gorgeous.  A smooth “river” of calcium deposits that was almost white and sparkled with crystals.  There was also another formation that looked like a pin-cushion.  The stalagmites came out from it from all angles.  This is formed because there are capillaries inside the formation and it’s pressurized, so little by little, the deposits are push outward in all different directions, regardless of gravity.  Finally, there were a lot of the straw formations, which are very long and thin, and they are hollow.  So, obviously, they call them straws, because that’s what they look like.  Three to four foot long straws.

We all really enjoyed it.  I was having trouble that week with my hips and legs and had a hard time of getting back up.  But with the hand rails, I was able to lift myself up and out.  My pat on the back was the younger couple who had come on both tours with us who was stopping to catch their breath while I moved on.  Yes, I was tired at the top.  But I was ABLE to get to the top, even with not being able to use my left leg hardly at all.  Thank God I work out so when one part is acting up, I can compensate with other parts!    There were benches set every few flights or so, so if you needed to stop and sit, you could.  But it was relatively easy to get back up top.

 

San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo

Membership for a family, which includes 2 adults and up to 8 children or grandchildren is $70.  Because we also did Zoo Boo, and got a break on the cost for being members, the price for just going in the one time VS getting the membership was within $2 of each other.  This is the membership of many zoos and aquariums throughout the US, and so we could, within the next week, head down to the Houston Zoo and get in for free.

The zoo itself isn’t very large.  It is a bit hilly, but not too bad.  It has adequate shade trees.  I had read a review that stated there were NO trees or shade.  Well, there were plenty of mature trees and we didn’t spend that much time in the sun at all.  Even though the zoo wasn’t very large, they managed to put quite a bit in it, and I felt they were very smart about creating spaces in a way to let you get very close to the animals.  For example, we were only a few inches worth of glass away from hippos being fed from a trainer that was standing directly above us on a ledge.  So we got to see them very close and see how they act and eat and what their mouths look like.  There was a komodo dragon that was within inches of us as well.  There were some flightless bird exhibits where the birds came very close.  They had some bird feed stands where you could put in a quarter and get some food.  So when we went to check out the ducks or swans, they came up really close.  In fact, Corbin reached out to see if he could touch a swan and the swan jumped up and bit his hand because they are so used to being hand fed.  Unfortunately I was checking my camera settings and didn’t get a pic.  I begged him to stick his hand out again but for some reason, he was opposed to being bitten by a swan again.  Go figure.

Also, when we went during the day, the animals were VERY active!  This made the zoo trip take longer than it would’ve normally just because we stayed to watch each animal for so long.  The bear came out and posed for awhile, up close, the snakes came to the front of their exhibits and danced for us, the lizards were climbing over each other at the front of the cage, the monkeys were either swinging, or checking us out by standing or hanging right in front of the glass that we were looking through, and they seemed to really get energized whenever we’d show up.  They’d be sitting around and we’d come up and within a few seconds, they were all jumping all over the place.  Even the alligators and the anteaters came to check us out!

We went home at about 5 and came back at 8 for Zoo Boo, which is trick or treating at the zoo.  I was a bit frustrated that we were “so late” because it started at 6:30.  But we’d spent more time at the zoo during the day than I thought we would.  You go in and there’s a map that shows all the locations of different games and trick or treat stations.  All games are meant to just give you a prize.  And the trick or treat stations are tables set up with a local business who’s handing out candy, and often times, a business card/coupon/etc.  Needless to say, we have TONS of Imperial Sugar hard candies!  When we first got there, the stations were giving out one or two pieces of candy a person.  However, as it got closer to closing at 9:30, they started giving out more and more candy.  The last few stations we hit at 9 gave each of our kids at least 2 handfuls of candy!  They also had some that gave our stickers and temporary tattoos.  I think all in all, we ended up leaving with about 20# of candy between the four kids!  And that was our SECOND time trick or treating!

 

 

 

Ripley’s San Antonio

301 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio

Price for all six attractions for 3 adults and 3 children was $285.  It took us the better part of 6 hours to do everything.  Seeing as how it came out to just under $8/an attraction/person/average, I think it’s a fair enough price.  Doing it again, I wouldn’t want to do everything, though.

1.  Waxworks.   This is a typical wax museum.  There are some pop culture, influential persons, and even some fictional characters such as snow white.  I thought some of them were better than others.  Some of them were off just a bit and it ruined the effect.  There was also a scary section in the wax museum where they had ones like Freddie and a few no name monsters just for fun.  All in all, entertaining.  Although I don’t know that I’d go through it again, personally.  But it makes me want to go to other more famous wax museums and check them out.

2. 4D Ride.  This was SOOOO much fun!  We were all laughing the whole time! It’s two short “films” that are more like a video game race/level in nature.  The seats move, the seat in front of you blows air on your face occasionally, there’s a little tail like whip that brushes against the back of your legs, and fake, but cold, snow is blasted at you.  Lots of fun!  This I would do again.

3.  Oddatorium.  This really was a weird place.  Lots of fascinating things to look at and learn about.  There was everything from head shrinking to egg shell paintings.  A man who’d grown a mustache every year and then cut it off annually and kept the hair together so you could see the progression of his mustaches.  Chinese foot binding and the shoes they wore.  A man from Mexico who painted Mexico’s history on butterflies.  A 15′ tall replica of the Eiffel Tower made with toothpicks and only weighs 5 pounds.  I’d like to visit again and only do this as doing everything else that day, I felt a bit tired and rushed.

4.  Guiness records.  This was sort of interesting, but a bit of a bore for me personally.  The kids seemed to enjoy this a lot.  I guess some people are really into records.  But to be honest, I could care less how many hula hoops one woman was able to hula hoop at one time.  I don’t know that I’d go again.

5.  Haunted House.  So you get into an elevator and go up this very rickety and very loud ascension to the second floor.  Once there, there’s a 3 minute intro with your “guide”, who then leaves you to fend for yourself.  The rules.  You can’t go back, you must go forward.  There’s no backing out.  Do not touch any of the actors, they are not allowed to touch you.

It lasts about 15 minutes.  You walk through alternating rooms and hallways of strobe lights to total blackness.  Actors pound on walls, open doors and scream at you, and run down the hallway looking like an escapee from the local mental ward.  The props were good, with some body bags that moved on their own, various torture chambers, etc.  Corbin and Tristan had a HUGE problem and Gabe had to at times literally push them through it.  Caelan and Gavin seemed to enjoy it.  This surprised both Gabe and I because we would’ve guessed the opposite of all our kids.  Gabe didn’t get to enjoy it as much because he was busy with two who weren’t enjoying it.  I liked it just fine, although the strobe lights bothered me so two whole rooms I saw nothing and just went through them with my eyes closed.  As far as cheap scares……I think they did a good job.  But I think that I’ve had to have very good hearing for far too long as a mother and I was always able to guess where the actor would come out of a second before he did due to little noises and movements on the other side of the wall.  The people ahead of us seemed quite surprised, so I’m guessing the non-surprise for me was just because I’m so used to hearing when a child is coming up to my room, or about to open the door.  I’d do this again, and I’d prefer to do it only with Gabe so that we can enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed, without kids who are laughing loudly or kids that are crying loudly.  lol

6.  Tomb Rider.  Short theme park type ride.  You car seats two, it takes you through on a track.  You each have a toy gun and are supposed to shoot the blue lights.  It lasted all of 3 minutes and was pretty lame.  I would not do this again.

Houston Area Restaurants

 

Zach’s BBQ

200 Powell St, Willis, TX

This is a small BBQ place right next to the train tracks in Willis, TX (just north of Conroe).  They have peanuts to munch on while you wait.  Their food is much the same as most BBQ places in Texas, with the prices pretty average as well.  The only thing of note is that when a train passes, if you run up to the counter and say “beer train” you can get a beer for $1.  But since I don’t drink beer and they don’t serve what Gabe likes, it’s not a perk for us personally.  The location is good for us, and the food isn’t too bad.  So we’ve been there a few times.

 

Azuma Downtown Sushi Restaurant

909 Texas Avenue, Houston, TX

We stayed at the Hotel Icon in downtown Houston a few weeks back and went to eat at this place for dinner one night.  Gabe and I got three rolls all together, plus some sashimi.  It was fantastic!  Possibly the best sushi we’ve ever eaten!  The prices were about average for sushi, at around $13/roll.  The restaurant is somewhat small, being downtown, but it does have a sushi bar where you can sit and watch the chefs make your food.  I highly recommend the Thai Salmon, which has salmon, mango, green onion, avocado and a thai sauce drizzled on it.

 

Harris County Smokehouse

14239 FM 2920, Tomball, TX (located near 249)

About $10 after tax and tip.

Set up cafeteria style, you can be dished up as you go down the line, or you can order something that will be cooked to order, like a HUGE baked potato covered with just about every thing even loosely related to BBQ!  We typically get our food from the line.  There are servers set up down the line to assist you, asking which type of meat you want and if you want sauce on it, then cutting it up for you and handing it to you on a plate.  You move down for side dishes, and then finally desserts like banana pudding.  At the end, there’s a cash register and you can get your cups for drinks there.  (They do serve beer at it’s located in the front of the line on ice in buckets.)  Next to the drink stations, there’s also a condiment bar with everything from salsa to pickles on it.  And then next to that there’s also a bread bar with muffins, biscuits, and yeast rolls.  Their yeast rolls are the best I’ve ever had and I crave them from time to time!  After you’re all set with your food, it’s seat yourself.  Completely down to earth and unpretentious, but super yummy.  THis is my favorite Texas BBQ place, although my husband has been let down by their sausage frequently.  I typically get the ribs and I love them, along with their sauce which is a bit on the sweet side, and it goes well with the smokiness of the ribs.