Monday, May 29, 2017

Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma

We left Bonham Sate Park on Sunday, May 21. We have heard about Beavers Bend from a number of people over the years, but have never visited this unique park. We made the drive on mostly 2 lane rural roads through Paris, Texas and on to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. It was a reasonable 120 mile drive. We left Highway 59 just north of Broken Bow and turned on Highway 259A. 259A leading through the park is very twisty and overgrown. I was having to dodge tree limbs constantly with our 13+ foot height. The park has many campgrounds. Some are right along the river and are considered premium sites. They also have a large number of tent only sites. They have a large FCFS campground that is a short walk from the river that is very wooded called Cypress loop. We just pulled into one of the many back in sites that were available. The roads are all very narrow and you have to pay attention to get through this old campground without hitting something. The cost per night is $22 with water and electric. We have been told that this campground fills up fast every weekend. We had zero cell signal and no OTA TV. There is also no WiFi in this park, so you are cut off from the outside world. Not always a bad thing.

Here is a shot of our site #C20 in the woods.

The park also has some nice cabins. This is a shot of one of the ADA approved cabins.

Beavers Bend is built around Mountain Fork river that comes out of the bottom of  the dam of Broken Bow Reservoir. The water is cold, so they stock it with trout. This is the only place in Oklahoma that you can fly fish. We decided to pass on the fishing and took a short river trip instead. You can pay $5 for a short shuttle from one side of the bend to the other. This give you about a 2.5 mile paddle on slow moving water. The water is crystal clear and the surrounding rock cliffs make it a nice trip. We did this on a Monday, so we only saw 4 other people on the river. I am sure on the weekends it is a much different experience.

We saw lots of birds and turtles. It was a nice quiet ride on the river until the sirens started going off. The sirens indicate they are letting water out of the dam and warning fisherman that the water may rise quickly. We heard the sirens, but did not see any change in the river.

Near the end of the float we entered a area with cypress trees. We had fun paddling around the trees and knees.

Our overall impression of this park was good. The staff was friendly and helpful. They have a nice museum at the park headquarters showing the logging industry in the area. It is free to walk through the exhibits and we found the information interesting. The one thing to know about this park is that it has a large number of visitors. It is an older park and it is showing its age. I do not think I would want to be there when it is full. I am sure it is a zoo. One of the best things about our lifestyle is we get to visit these places without the crowds.

We only stayed 2 nights and then headed further north. I will write about our final stop of our trip in my next entry. I will tell you now, it was a very surprising experience.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bonham State Park

It has been 7 days since I have written in this blog. We have been moving north. We are currently at a beautiful State Park in NE Oklahoma. It seems a bit strange that tomorrow will be the last travel day on this trip. We have been traveling for 5 days more than 7 months on this trip. We think about our travel in terms of trips away from Missouri. We have been traveling about 31 months of the 43 since I retired. That seems about right to us. We are not sure what we will do next. Our plan is to get back to the ranch and wait for the hitch itch to kick in. OK, now to catch up...

We left Holiday Park at Lake Benbrook in Texas on May 16. We did something that we have never done before. We had paid for 3 more days, but decided that we had done all that we wanted to do and were tired of the DFW area. We also had plans to spend some more time with Kim's parents up along the Red River.

We had no issue getting a refund at the COE park. The people that worked in the office were very friendly and helpful. We headed north trying to skirt the heavy traffic around the DFW Metroplex. We went north on I 35 out of Fort Worth and then turned East on 380 out of Denton. I was expecting a two lane country highway, but I was wrong. Even though we were about 50 miles from the center of the massive city, we were in stop light to stop light driving. It is all new construction and it further reminded me of why I have come to dislike large population centers.

We finally got on a fairly rural road as we left Highway 75, but we were still in construction. We then hit a rural road, just outside of the city of Bonham. This is our second visit to Bonham State Park. We stayed here once before in the year before I retired. I remember working from the park and wishing I could just go out and hike in the park. This time I did just that.

It was very windy the first few days we were there, so paddling in the lake was not a good plan. I just hit the trails that go around the pretty lake. Here is a shot of the campground from the far side of the lake. You can see our trailer in site #7, backed right up to the lake. It was just us and two other rigs in this 14 RV site park. We had decent Verizon signal and 6 OTA TV channels. The cost was $20 for Water and 50 amp Electric. It is really a nice park with virtually no road noise.

The trails are a bit overgrown, but still very easy to follow.

This park was originally built by the CCC back in the 1930's. You can see some of their rock work all over the park including the administration building. What I did not expect was there are picnic areas in remote areas of the park that were built back in the 30's that are just sitting there waiting for someone to hike in and enjoy the place.

I walked about 3/4 of the trails in the park and ended up with a great 3.5 mile walk. The next day, I did a 5 mile bike ride on the roads around the park. I am still trying to get in better shape for both water skiing and riding when we get back to Missouri.

Kim's parents have a beautiful piece of property just a few miles north of Bonham. They were making a trip up to the property to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few days. On their way up, they stopped by to visit us in the park. We decided to take the 1.3 mile walk on the lake loop trail. I think they enjoyed it. Here they are with their oldest daughter.

The next 2 days we headed up to see them at the property. They have built some structures around their trailer to reduce the impact of the Southern Oklahoma weather.

Kim's brother likes to spend time here and has done a fair amount of work around the place. He has a vintage trailer that is very cool. He has refurbished it and it now is nice. I just loved the aqua blue range and refrigerator.

We really enjoyed our time. We played some games of Farkle and Pegs and Jokers and then went to the Senior Center in a near buy town for a fund raiser cake and pie auction. We scored a pecan pie that was pretty good. I really enjoyed hearing the auctioneer. He was like a comedy act. 

We said our good byes and then headed back to our site at Bonham. We spent 5 enjoyable days there and were now ready to make the move back north. We did have a few places we wanted to see along the way. Come back to read my next entry and see what beauty exists in the state of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Family Time in Fort Worth, Texas

We have had a date circled on the calendar since the beginning of this trip back in October. That date is May 13. That is the day that my niece Alisha is getting married to Mark. We were very excited to attend the wedding, but even more excited to see all of our family that was making the trip to Granbury, Texas for the occasion.

We left Possum Kingdom on May 9 and made the 100 mile drive to our site at the Holiday COE park on Lake Benbrook. We chose this place because it is half way between the wedding site and Kim's parents house in Bedford. The location worked perfectly.

The cost of this COE park is a bit high at $28 per night with 50 amp and water, but this is all about location. We had great cell and OTA reception. We chose site #1 when I made the reservation, but I would have done something different if we could have chosen our site when we arrived. I hate making reservations, but we knew we needed to on the weekend. The one strange thing about this campground is that the gates close at 10 PM. You have to park outside the park and walk to your site. We were out late visiting on a number of nights, so we did that a few times.

Here is site #1:

I did a fair amount of walking and bike riding in the mornings while we were there. There are roads that make a 10 mile ride easy to do. There are some walking trails, but they are poorly maintained and over grown. I found much of the park in need of mowing and poorly maintained. The sites are huge and have excellent spacing. A little work and this would be a great park.

Benbrook lake is not attractive like Possum Kingdom. Brown water and plenty of dead trees.

While out riding my bike, I had to stop and take a shot of this 4 foot + bull snake:

We were visiting with someone just about every day. We marvel at their busy lives and wonder how we did it all of those years. We much prefer our quiet, peaceful life on the road. We helped set up the reception venue and then were invited to the rehearsal dinner. We got to spend some time with the latest addition to the family. Our other niece Erin and husband Tim just had their first son, which is also my brothers first grandchild.

Kim getting some cuddle time with Colby.
My mother and father had the opportunity to meet three of their great grand children at this family gathering. Here they are with Colby:

You can see the bride and groom and their fathers in the background of this shot. 
They took the opportunity to hand out gifts from the parents to the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner. Mark's mom made this beautiful quilt for them:

On Saturday morning we got up at 6 AM to head to Bedford to get some time with our daughter Shannon and son Michael's families. We had not see our grandchildren since October, so the early start time was no problem. We had breakfast at MaMa's (a family tradition) and then went to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens to celebrate Mother's Day and just spend some time together. Our son Mark came along also.

Granddaughter Amelia is growing up so fast. 

On the far end of the table are our son Mark, daughter Shannon and son Michael. I guess the spouses were just not aware of the tradition. We have many pictures of our children at that table over the years.

Mark and Michael
Mark is now working for Cerner in Kansas City and Michael is a Nuclear Engineer at ANO in Russellville, Arkansas.

Jake, Isabella, Amelia, Connor, Will and Cameron
We had to leave quickly and go get ready for the wedding. I won't try to document the wedding and reception except a few of my favorite shots:

My beautiful Niece Erin (New Mom to Colby)
My Brother Alan and the beautiful bride Alisha
Mark and Alisha (Love the smile)
We had to take the opportunity to take a family shot or two. Yes, I am actually wearing a tie. First time in 3 and a half years.

Just missing my son Scott
My brother Brian, Wife Julie and son Matthew and daughter Katherine
The reception was held in an old brick barn. It was a very cool venue.

I really liked this shot of my brother and Dad:

The interesting thing is that my father and brother are both Nuclear Engineers like my son Michael. Three generations with the same profession.

Funny Story: At the end of the wedding the Bride and Groom were ready to leave and decided to have someone drive them to the hotel. They had a few drinks but were not drunk by any means. I did not drink, so I offered to drive them. When we are leaving, Mark goes to get in the front seat with me. I said, "No, get in the back seat with your bride!" We all laughed.  They are a great couple and we wish them all the best for their lives together.

So much more went on in the days around the wedding that I have not written about. We went to my brother Brian's place in Dallas and he showed us his new office. He is a lawyer and just started his own practice. All I can say is WOW!

We really missed my other brother Bob. He was not able to make it from Denver.

There are times like this when I wonder what my family thinks of me. They are all so successful and here I am living in a trailer. Maybe some day they will figure out my little secret.

In my next entry I will write about leaving the mass of human population they call the DFW Metroplex. We have a few more stops before we get to Missouri.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Possum Kingdom State Park

We left Haskell, Texas on Sunday, May 7. We had reservations in the DFW area on Tuesday, May 9, so we needed some place to stay for two nights. About half way in between is Possum Kingdom lake. Kim and I had been to the lake before, but it had been many years. Neither one of us remember being to the State Park. We still have some time left on our Texas State Park Pass, so it made sense to make a stop for a couple of nights.

We had our pick of the premium sites that sit right on the lake. We took site #8. We chose a premium site because the person in the office told us the W/E sites are all very tight and had many branches over hanging. I walked that loop the next day and am glad we chose to stay in one of these sites. We had great Verizon cell signal and no OTA TV.

I have had some family members ask why I take so many pictures of our rig. This is not a picture of our rig, it is the campsite and our view. We also love to see our home in so many different places.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset that first night.

The water is crystal clear. I tried to do some fishing from the bank and did not have any catches on a spinner, but a number of good hits and misses. This lake is known for trophy stripped bass and black bass. It was windy most of the time we were there, so I did not get the Sea Eagle out to do some fishing out on the lake. I did get in the lake, but it was a little cold to stay in very long. I would estimate the water temp at about 70 degrees.

On Monday, I took a long walk around the campground. I ended up with about 4 miles. It is a beautiful area with nice rock formations and views of the lake.

There was a large Prickly Pear Cactus near our site that was in full bloom. It was beautiful.

This was just a quick entry to keep up the blog. We left Possum Kingdom on May 9 and drove the last 100 miles to Benbrook, Texas. My next entries will be all about seeing the grandkids after almost 7 months on the road and a family wedding. I think by niece Alisha was the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. I took a ton of pictures.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Haskell, Texas

I am writing this on May 10 from Fort Worth, Texas. We will stay here for a week or more to participate in a family gathering to celebrate our Niece's wedding. We are really looking forward to seeing everyone.

Back on Friday May 5, we left Bottomless Lakes SP near Roswell, NM. As I wrote in my previous entry, we drove over 250 miles to arrive at Haskell, TX. The city RV park is a common thing in the central part of the country. Many of the spaces are used by people that follow the farm work. Many of them have beautiful rigs that they live in while they migrate north and south. Farm work in the central part of the country is not unskilled labor. These folks drive large farm machinery and make a good living doing so. The area around Haskell is planted with both wheat and cotton. Right now they are harvesting the winter wheat and preparing to plant cotton and other grains.

The park is a normal city park with baseball fields and playground equipment. There is a paved trail that winds through the park past a small lake. The cost to stay here with 50 amp electric, water and sewer is free for the first night and $16 for each night after that. We had good cell signal and even some OTA TV from Abilene, TX. The park is fairly quiet except for a highway about a quarter mile away.

One thing we have to do when we come to Texas is eat at a country Texas DQ. If you are not aware, Texas DQ is unlike any other in the country. None of the food is good for you, but we love it. There was a very old store within walking distance of the park. We had lunch/dinner/dessert and then went for a walk around the traditional town square.

Kim in the gazebo with her take home box.
Haskell is the county seat of Haskell county. The courthouse was built in 1931.

The square is paved with red bricks. Many of the buildings are empty, but a few nice shops remain. This is a typical small west Texas town.

The next day, I took a 10 mile bike ride all around the town. I have found that a bike is a great way to see all the sites and get some exercise also. I saw a few classic cars sitting out in barn yards, but that was about it. I did find the church and verified the 7 PM mass time, so we went there that evening.

Not much else to say about Haskell, so on Sunday we headed out. We drove about 100 miles to Possum Kingdom State Park. In my next entry, I will write about PK.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bottomless Lakes State Park

We stayed at the Fort Stanton area for 5 days. The snow from the storm on Saturday, April 29 melted quickly. Here are two shots one day apart:

April 29

May 1
The snow on the distant mountains was beautiful.

On May 1, we were ready for our next move. We looked at many options, but opted to only move about 90 miles to Bottomless Lakes SP, just about 10 miles to the east of Roswell, NM. We had stayed at Bottomless in 2015. We were there in March and it was cold. It would be much different this time.

We made the drive into Roswell and stopped at the Walmart for groceries and then stopped to top off the fuel tank. Diesel is running around $2.47 per gallon in New Mexico at this point. It should drop a bit when we hit Texas.

We decided to stop in New Mexico for a few reasons. First, we like NM State Parks. They have a $14 rate for water and electric sites. They also have some non-reservation sites, so we were sure we could get in on a Monday and then stay as long as we wanted. Second, there were not any great options to stay for a few days anywhere to the east for a long ways. We were not disappointed. We arrived and hit the dump station first - we decided not to pay the $15 fee at Fort Stanton. Then got into one of the FCFS sites. We had excellent 4G signal, but did not have to use it much because the park WiFi was great! We also got all of the major networks on OTA TV. This park is a great stopping point for working full timers, not that I would know what that is.

It was close to 90 degrees, so we turned on the AC and relaxed. I took a walk to Lea Lake, which is right by the campground. These lakes are created by natural sink holes. They are about 90 feet deep and the water is crystal clear.

My feet in about a foot and a half of water. Very cool and clear. 

The park has a nice picnic and swimming area. I am sure it gets busy in the summer. I went for a walk the next morning and took this shot:

I walked on a hiking trail to the tent campground and checked out a few of the other small ponds.

I have been trying to maintain my exercise level and Bottomless Lakes SP made that easy. I either hiked or biked each day we were there.

I saw one of my neighbors changing a tire on their 5th Wheel, so I went over and checked to make sure they had everything they needed. Scott had it all and we had a great conversation. I also met his wife Debi. They are full timers out of Ohio. I invited them over to our rig after dinner. They came over and we had a blast getting to know each other. I noticed on their truck a license plate that read: "Step 2". I had to ask... They told me that when they decided to go full time they had a 5 step plan:

Step 1 - Get out of debt
Step 2 - Buy the truck, hence the plate
Step 3 - Buy the trailer
Step 4 - Sell the house
Step 5 - Put Cleveland in the rear view mirror

I loved it, and will remember it for a long time. Great plan!

We looked at the weather and decided to move on May 5. We headed east on Highway 380 into Texas. The weather was perfect for driving. We even had a decent tail wind. We were averaging around 12 MPG. We thought about the PA park in Post, TX, but it did not look great, so we kept going to Haskell, TX. That was a little over 250 miles. They have a city park here that is free for the first night with full hook ups and 50 amp. The second night is $16. I will write about our stay in this little West Texas town in my next entry.