We had a chance to see the El Galeón today. The ship is an authentic replica of a 16th century galleon that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet. At 170-foot and 495 ton – it is pretty impressive!
In honor of Veterans Day the entrance fees to Florida State Parks (except the Skyway Fishing Pier SP) will be free on November 11, 2015.
The last of the U.S. National Park’s fee-free dates for 2015 is almost here! On November 11, 2015 entrance fees to the parks will be waived. So grab a picnic basket, field guide, some hiking poles and head to your nearest national park this Veterans Day.
On this date seven years ago…
We were exploring scenic Highway 391 in the Eastern Sierras (California). Our first stop had us camping just outside Bridgeport, where we were fortunate to visit Bodie State Historical Park. That morning we woke up to a rather chilly 19 degrees. In fact, in all our travels it was the first time our water hose had ever frozen!
Later that day we were on the road again, traveling from the chilly ghost town to the hellish landscape of Death Valley National Park, where the temperature was near 100 degrees. It was certainly one of the most memorable trips we have had to date.
A few days ago, while driving along the back-roads of Louisiana we came across several of these “Warning: Speed Trap Area” signs. Not sure if someone just wanted to slow down traffic for a few miles or if they were warning drivers of a potential speed trap. Whatever the case, it certainly kept traffic under the speed limit!
It also reminded us of the signs we saw while traveling through Pennsylvania a few years ago. They warned that you were traveling through an “Aggressive Driver High Crash Area”. In addition to the warning signs, some areas had dots painted on the road so that drivers would stay the proper distance from other vehicles.
Regardless of where you’re traveling, remember to slow down – you never know what you’re going to miss driving in the fast lane!
We had an interesting “visit” to the USS Orleck in Lake Charles (LA). You can read more about it in the Our Travels section.
If you haven’t visited your local U.S. National Park recently, don’t forget that September 26, 2015 is a fee-free day! In celebration of National Public Lands Day, most parks will be free. To find a park near you, visit NPS’s website and click on “Find a Park” in the top left corner.
National Public Lands Day is the largest volunteer event to help clean up public lands. Want to lend a hand on that day and earn another free day (coupon)? More information about NPLD can be found at the Public Lands Day website.
Don’t forget to visit your local U.S. National Park on August 25th in honor of Founders’ Day (the National Park Service Birthday). To celebrate entrance fees to all the parks will be waived. Already have plans? Well, stop by the National Park Foundation’s website and sign the birthday card.
August 25, 2015
National Park Service Birthday
Fulton Mansion State Historical Site is located in Rockport (Texas). At the time of our visit the mansion was closed for renovation, but we enjoyed a walk through the gardens and around the grounds. The visitor center located behind the mansion consists of a small museum, gift shop and film area regarding the history of the mansion. During the renovation, admission to the site is free. Parking is limited so only take a tow vehicle.
If you find yourself in Corpus Christi (TX) and have already toured the USS Lexington, make sure to plan a trip to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. The museum is situated on the scenic waterfront and offers visitors a glimpse of everything from dinosaurs to coastal ecology.
The museum has several great exhibits. One worth noting is the mudéjar-style dome ceiling in the Cultural Encounters exhibit. It was originally in a building in Spain – around 1535. So don’t forget to look up! ;)
Parking in front of the museum is limited as well as the parking area across the street. So make sure you leave the rig parked in a local campground and just take the tow vehicle. Current admission is $9 for adults and $7 for seniors/children.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!
If you are camping this holiday, please be mindful of the campground rules. Many campgrounds have zero tolerance regarding fireworks on their property. And with dry conditions in many parts of the country right now, there is a high fire risk. Consider visiting the local community fireworks show(s) and have a “fire-free” Fourth with your family.
In the summer of 2013 we planned a day-trip to Mansfield (MO) in search of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homestead. The drive itself was rather memorable as we found ourselves alongside Amish buggies.
The farmhouse that Laura and Almanzo built still stands – frozen in time. A calendar on the wall from the 1950s is a reminder that although times have changed, somethings should remain the same for posterity. Learning about their life and struggles makes you appreciate American willpower. They crossed the country in a wagon with a hundred dollars stashed in a box and made a new life for themselves in Missouri. That very box can be viewed at the museum located on the property.
Most people have heard of the “Little House” series, either through the books and later TV show. Yet most do not realize that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not begin writing down her stories until her daughter Rose encouraged her to. A little corner nook by their bedroom contains a small writing desk where she wrote her stories on paper tablets.
Now, a few generations later, we are reading her stories on electronic tablets. :)
If you find yourself in Rockport (TX) make time to visit the Texas Maritime Museum. The museum’s permanent exhibits focus on maritime history, boat and ship building, commercial and sports fishing, as well as modern-day oil and gas exploration. The second floor also has an incredible display of artwork devoted to Texas lighthouses. And the third floor is actually an observation tower with a great view of historic Rockport and Rockport Beach. There are a few larger exhibits outside. The museum also has a small library and gift shop.
Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors. Parking is limited, so take your tow vehicle. And while you are there, don’t forget to visit the Rockport Aquarium (free) and Bay Education Center (free) – all within walking distance.
Memorial Day Weekend is… HERE! That means it is officially camping season. So if you haven’t already dusted off the camping gear, packed the RV or made cabin reservations at your favorite park… you are a little late.
But don’t fret! Some parks still have openings for the holiday – just call ahead and check on their availability. And don’t forget to take along and proudly display The Flag!
No matter where you are spending this holiday, please have a safe one and remember those who have fought (and still are!) for our freedom.
If you are in Corpus Christi (Texas), plan on visiting the USS Lexington. The Lexington, an Essex Class aircraft carrier, was commissioned in 1943. She was nicknamed the “Blue Ghost” by Tokyo Rose because of several reports of being sunk. At the time of her decommission in 1991, she was the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy.
There are five self-guided tours, each beginning and ending on the hangar deck. From aircraft, exhibits, movie theater, cafe and gift shop, be prepared to spend a day on board. One of the hidden gems we found was a ball cap (of the Lexington) worn by Commander Jerry Linenger on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994.
Admission is $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. Gated parking across the street is $3.50 and requires a token at exit (which you pay for at Admissions). There is no RV parking, so only take your tow vehicle. There is free shuttle service from the pier to the hangar deck. The tour consists of a great deal of walking and climbing – sturdy shoes are recommended. And don’t forget your camera!
If you find yourself near Corpus Christi (TX), plan to visit Padre Island National Seashore. The park consists of 70 miles of coastline, sand dunes and tidal flats. In addition to being the nesting grounds for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the park also boasts over 300 species of birds.
At the park you’ll find the Malaquite Visitor Center (consisting of small museum, gift shop, camp store, restrooms and pavilion), campgrounds, boat ramp, picnic shelters, nature trails and windsurfing/kayaking rentals. There is plenty to do – from beach-combing and birdwatching to bicycling and fishing.
It can be windy along the beach and can be buggy at times near the marshes. And don’t forget to watch out for Portuguese Man-O-War and jellyfish!
Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle (7 day pass) and an additional $5 if you want to use the Bird Island Basin area. Be forewarned, the park is not all paved. A short drive after the visitor center you will find yourself driving on the beach! And four-wheel drive is recommended for travel beyond the first couple of miles. However, we did see a handful of folks with their RVs along the first section. You might ask at the entrance gate about current road conditions before taking your own Big Rig beach driving though!
Finding new roads in Texas… although this one leads straight into the Gulf of Mexico!
If you find yourself traveling I-10 near the Louisiana/Texas State Line, make sure to stop at the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange (TX) to see Blue Elbow Swamp. The Center has a boardwalk that extends into Blue Elbow Swamp and you can view a variety of plants, trees and wildlife.
Blue Elbow Swamp is part of Tony Housman State Park and Wildlife Management Area. The area has a fascinating history that even includes cannibals. Yep! So take some time to forget about highway traffic and take a relaxing walk in the swamp. ;)
To kick off U.S. National Park week, the National Park Service is waving entrance fees. In addition, some other special offers may apply this free-weekend.
April 18-19, 2015 (opening weekend of National Park Week)
For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website.
Need something to do this holiday weekend? U.S. National Parks will waive entrance fees February 14th – 16th in honor of Presidents’ Day. From Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace to LBJ National Historical Park, there are some great presidential parks and historic sites to visit.
If you want to spend a little more money on your Valentine, consider visiting a site like George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And don’t forget to look in your own backyard. Many museums offer presidential “surprises” like the photo above of Marine One at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
And don’t forget to mark the opening of National Park Week (April 18th-19th, 2015) on your calendar as the next fee-free days for U.S. National Parks.
If you enjoy state parks and find yourself traveling in the Florida Panhandle, don’t forget to check out Big Lagoon State Park. The park consists of over 600 acres of land located near beautiful Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. There are five miles of nature trails to enjoy the birds and other wildlife. And if hiking isn’t your thing, they have a wooden boardwalk and observation deck a short distance from a parking area. In addition to hiking and birding, the park is a great place for photography, bicycling, fishing or beach-combing.
Big Lagoon State Park also offers a boat ramp, canoe launch, picnic pavilions, amphitheater and campground. The campground will accommodate rigs up to 4o’; however, be wary if you have a Big Rig as some sites may require some effort to back-in.
Entrance to the park is $6 per vehicle (up to 8 people) and use of the boat launch is $12 (up to 8 people). The park is open every day from 8AM to sunset.
Lately, I have been busy uploading more photos to TMN and came across this photo taken at the one campground that really surprised us.
We were southbound on I-77 and decided to call it a night in Fancy Gap (VA). Daylight was fading and when we pulled into the campground we immediately thought this was not the place for a Big Rig. All I can remember from the entrance is trees – lots and lots of trees – and no RVs in sight. The friendly gal at check-in assured us they were Big Rig friendly and we found ourselves being escorted around a curve to a row of pull-thru sites in the woods. The sites in the row were tiered to conform to the mountain, yet they were spacious, level and private. We were actually camping in the woods without the hassles that comes from having a Big Rig! Considering all the ill-designed and obstacle-cluttered campgrounds we have visited over the years, this was a genuine surprise.
Now as we are prepping the rig for the next long haul, I wonder what summer adventures we will get ourselves into. After all, you never know what surprise is waiting for you just around the corner. ;)
We haven’t seen a UFO since our stay in Roswell (NM)… so imagine our delight to see this cool UFO house in Gulf Breeze (FL). And if you look closely you can see the current occupants are peering out a window!
In the first months of 2008, we found ourselves camping in Port Angeles (WA) between Olympic National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We could see the mountains of British Columbia (Canada) in the distance. Behind us was Olympic National Park. It was an amazing location with gorgeous views.
During the day the beach was active with surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers. Yes, surfers in Washington! They surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the colder months and aren’t afraid to don their wet suits and brave the cold for a few seconds on their boards.
As winter progressed we were very fortunate with snowfall. Just a few times and not too heavy, although the cold winds remind you that winter can be unforgiving. I did love seeing the snow fall on the beach. Close to shore it stops – about two feet above the sand/water.
It was amazing what we saw at the beach in winter. One day we saw a small octopus had washed up and three bald eagles were tearing into it! If only I had my camera at the time – what a sight! And in addition to periodic whale sightings, we also saw submarines heading out to the Pacific Ocean.
So where ever we end up each winter, I try not to complain too much about the cold weather – knowing that somewhere along the Strait there are surfers eagerly awaiting to head out into the icy water. ;)