Monday, December 29, 2014

Back in the Land of Endless Sunsets


  There’s something about the sky in the southwest that makes gorgeous sunsets – brilliant reds and yellows like a blaze of fire on the horizon. This is the view from one of our favorite Texas picnic table rest stops. We love staying at these rest stops because they’re located on the back roads where we prefer to travel and they’re usually very quiet. Texas has more picnic table stops than any other state and they all allow a stay of 24 hours. Some states have similar setups -New Mexico if instance- but none has as many picnic tables as Texas and many do not allow overnight parking. Thank you Texas! 

  As far as I know there aren’t any guides or websites that list all of the picnic tables but my Rand McNally map has them. It’s fun to pick one out on the map and see what we find. Keep in mind that some are not suitable for overnighting because they’re very small and close to the road. 


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

   Seminole Canyon gets it’s name from the Black Seminole scouts who fought in the US army during the Texas-Indian wars. The Black Seminole were escaped slaves who had been living in Florida with the Seminole Indian tribes. Both the Seminole and Black Seminole were forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Many of the Black Seminole went across the border to Mexico to escape becoming enslaved again. In 1870 the Black Seminole were invited back to the US and promised food and provisions, as well as reimbursement for traveling costs if they agreed to join the army. Unfortunately none of the promises were met but decedents of the scouts still live in the area.

The canyon has been a home for people for 12,000 years. Grasslands and forests supported elephants, camels, bison, and horses but by 7,000 years ago the drier climate meant small game hunting and gathering of desert plants. Early people had always used the rock shelters carved by the Rio Grande, Pecos, and Devils Rivers and later inhabitants left their mark by making huge, intricate paintings on the shelter walls which have survived for 4,000 years due to the dry climate. 028
  The park was established in 1980 to protect the canyon and rock shelters. It features a visitor center with a very nice little museum, guided tours of two shelters, trails, picnic areas, and a campground.
The trails are not accessible but the museum has displays of the shelter paintings along with a brief history of the Native Americans, Black Seminoles, ranching and sheep herding.  We did not check the campground for accessibility.
  The visitor center lot has long RV spaces.  Park
29.70037, -101.31347

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Amistad NRA Governors Landing Campground

  There are five small campgrounds in Amistad National Recreation Area. We chose Governors Landing because of the easy access from US 90 but the close proximity to the road and the railroad tracks makes it a bit noisy. The sites at Governors Landing are small and some are sloped so if you have a large RV one of the other campgrounds might be better. All of the campgrounds have vault toilets, picnic tables with shelters, and grills. Governors Landing is the only one with water. A dump station is located on the road to Diablo East boat ramp.

  The main activities are boating and fishing but the water level in the lake is very low. At one time the campgrounds were on the lake shore but now they’re all a good distance away. Some of the campsites still have nice lake views.

  Although none of the campsites at Governors Landing are marked as accessible all of the picnic table shelters have concrete floors with level access paths and tables with extended tops. Some of the parking pads are completely paved. Part of the 1.3 mile Green and Blue loop trail at Diablo East is supposed to be hard surfaced and accessible but it has some steep slopes and rough patches. With help it’s possible to complete the loop. We did not try any of the other trails or stop at the visitor center.  Amistad
29.47901, -101.02705

Friday, December 26, 2014

Green-Dickson Municipal Park

  The campsites in this city park are a little unusual. Very large, paved, parking pads are shared by two sites but they’re big enough that you shouldn’t feel crowded, something we didn’t have to consider because we were the only campers. The sites have water and electricity. A dump station is located close by.  RVs only.

  The tables are at the ends of the sites and are reached by steps so accessibility is poor.

   Payment is made at city hall. Late arrivals can call and a police officer will be sent to collect the fee.   Park
29.44878, -97.18433

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fort Bend Museum

   In 1825 Stephen Austin, acting as an agent for the Mexican government to encourage immigration to Texas, settled three hundred families from the US along rich river bottomland between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers. Each head of household received 4,605 acres at 12 1/2 cents per acre. Fort Bend, rename Richmond in 1837, was one of the first towns established by the settlers.

  The museum is part of a complex that includes two houses. The Long Smith Cottage, built between 1838 and 1840, on land owned by Jane Long one of the first settlers, was moved onto the property in 1987. The Moore Home, constructed of mortise and pegged heart of pine lumber, was built on the property in 1883 by John M. Moore, a local rancher and politician. The Moore Home was remodeled in 1905 in the neo-classical style and updated again in 1940 so the d├ęcor spans 60 years. The museum is small but nicely done and covers the early history of Richmond. The museum is free and a tour of both houses is $5.00.
  The museum is accessible. Both houses have ramps and the paths on the property are all paved. Some of the rooms in the Moore Home have a step up or down.

RVs can parallel park along 6th Street. Museum
29.58027, -95.76205

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Houston Zoo

Many interconnecting paths wind through the zoo so the map, provided with admission, is very helpful and necessary. The zoo has a large variety of animals, a small aquarium, and a children's zoo. Most of the enclosures are roomy but some could use improvement.
The paths are flat and in good condition. An unobstructed view of the animals is difficult because of the fencing and materials used to construct the enclosures but all of them can be seen from a seated position.
  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Zoo
29.71336, -95.39201

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Japanese Garden & Hermann Park

  The Japanese Garden incorporates Japanese elements into a landscape that is mostly just a nicely treed area. It’s fairly small but it’s located on the edge of 445-acres of a great city park, Hermann Park, which has a golf course, zoo, museum of natural science, playground, little lake, and mini-train.

  The garden paths are hard packed dirt and crushed stone – fairly easy to push along. A wide, smooth, paved trail circles the lake. Other trails in the park are hard packed dirt and although they are easy to push along they have obstacles such as train tracks, barriers, and curbs. We did not check either the train or the playground but both are supposed to be wheelchair accessible.
RVs will fit in the zoo lot. Park in the northern most lot for easy access to the paved trail.  Park
29.7189, -95.39144

Thursday, December 18, 2014

San Jacinto Museum of History & Battlefield

  In 1821 after years of Spanish rule, Mexico, which included the land that is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Utah, became an independent country.  Few Mexicans wanted to settle in the northern territories so the Mexican government encouraged immigration from the US. Thousands of people settled in Texas but by 1836 they were in open rebellion against the dictatorial government of Mexican president Santa Anna.

  To put down the rebellion Santa Anna led a force of about 6,000 Mexican troops into Texas, winning battles at the Alamo and Goliad and executing all prisoners. Meanwhile Sam Houston’s 1st Regiment Volunteer Army of Texas was retreating towards the Gulf coast. The two armies met at San Jacinto. Houston’s army caught the Mexicans off guard during siesta. Eighteen minutes later the battle was over with a victory for Texas and the capture of Santa Anna, paving the way for the formation of the independent Republic of Texas.
  The site includes the monument with a small museum and a theater in the base, and an elevator to an observation floor at the top. A boardwalk and dirt trail travels through wetlands and loops back along the roads to the battleground. Parts of it may be closed. Access to the battleground and the museum is free. The movie, the elevator ride to the observation floor, and an additional room of displays all have separate fees. The movie, which gives a short account of the early history of Texas and the revolution, is worth seeing. We peeked into the additional museum room but didn’t see much of interest. The free part has a lot of artifacts and information.
  A long ramp accesses the museum. The entry door is heavy. The museum and theater are accessible. We didn’t go up to the observation level but the website indicates that viewing is not good for people in wheelchairs. The boardwalk portion of the trail is accessible. The dirt portion is rough, narrow, and muddy at spots – not very accessible.

  RVs can parallel be parked along the monument circle road. The easiest way to get to the battlefield is to take the free Lynchburg Ferry across the Houston Ship Channel. There’s a 20,000 lb per vehicle weight limit.  Museum
29.74979, -95.08051

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant

  The fire hydrant, built for the 1999 re-release of the movie 101 Dalmatians, was originally displayed at Disney Land in Anaheim, CA. It’s 24 feet tall and stands in a little memorial park dedicated to fallen fire fighters. The free Fire Museum of Texas ( which we didn’t visit) is located across the street.

  A paved path leads to the hydrant.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV.
30.08625, -94.09941

Art Museum of Southeast Texas

   This tiny museum has a couple of changing exhibit galleries and a permanent exhibit of metal towers by folk artist Felix “Fox” Harris who used discarded pieces of machinery and scrap metal to build his creations. Harris installed 120 pieces in his yard. When he died the sculptures were donated to the museum.

  The museum is accessible.

   RVs will fit in the lot on the opposite side of Main Street. Watch for low hanging branches.  Museum
30.08283, -94.09666



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Texas Energy Museum

  As should be expected this is actually a Texas OIL museum. The museum does a good job of explaining (with a bit of a pro-business slant) the origin of all that oil buried under Texas, the discovery of it, the ways to find more of it, and the methods of processing it.

 The entrance doors are very heavy. The interior of the museum is accessible.

  RVs will fit in the lot on the opposite side of Main Street. Watch for low hanging branches.  Museum
30.08259, -94.09643

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stark Museum of Art

   H.J. Lutcher Stark began collecting art  by Texas artists when he was in college. After he married Nita Hill the couple added American Indian objects from New Mexico to the collection. Nelda Childers, his third wife, was also an avid art lover and the collection expanded to include Santa Fe and Taos artists, porcelain birds and flowers by Dorothy Doughty and Edward M. Boehm, Steuben Glass, and rare manuscripts and books. What is shown in the museum is just a small part of an impressive collection. When H.J. died Nelda inherited his vast fortune and all of the artwork causing a bit of a scandal because H.J.’s adopted twin sons received nothing. Everything was transferred to the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation when Nelda died.
  The museum is accessible. A few of the display cases are a little too high to easily view the contents from a seated position.

  The parking lot located on the opposite side of 7th Street is large enough for any RV.   Museum
  30.09384, -93.73706

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shangri La Gardens

  Shangri La Gardens was a personal retreat for H. J. Lutcher Stark, a wealthy lumber, oil, and real estate businessman from Orange, Texas. After collecting and planting azaleas and camellias for four years he opened gardens to the public in 1946. Unfortunately neither Stark or the public got to enjoy the gardens for long. A hard freeze in the 1950s killed many of the plants and the gardens were closed until 2008. The reopened gardens focus on nature and environmental awareness.
  Admission to the gardens includes a small visitor center and film, a children's’ garden, six themed gardens, greenhouses, and a bird blind. An addition fee is charged for the boat tour through the wetlands.

  The visitor center and film are accessible. The main garden path is paved and level – very accessible. Other paths are hard packed dirt, covered with a layer of small stones, and are fairly easy to push along. The visitor center and movie are accessible. The bird blind has hinged boards which can be moved out of the way to get a better view but many of them are too high to use from a seated position. We didn’t go on the boat tour but we were told that it is wheelchair accessible.
  RVs will fit in the lot parked lengthwise across the spaces. It’s a bit of a walk to the gardens from the main lot but if you have a car or van there are a few accessible parking spaces close to the entrance.  Garden
30.10392, -93.7523

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Brimstone Museum

  The history of sulfur mining and the city of Sulphur  is told in this tiny museum located in a renovated train depot. This is the first place in the world where sulfur was extracted by pumping super heated water through pipes, a method developed by Herman Frasch

The museum is accessible but the door at the ramped entrance may be locked so you might want to call ahead of time.

The parking lot is large enough for RVs.  Museum
30.23109, -93.37715