Saturday 14th March
Time to move on and the sun was shining - hurray! The RV was packed up and the car loaded onto the dolly. We wanted to stay in a state park called McKinney Falls just outside Austin the state Capital. On the I-37 we pulled over into a rest area to check the trailer straps, it was then we discovered that the door was not latched properly and the steps had been down whilst we were travelling -.Oops. Lesson for the furure ensure the door is locked and steps (automatic) have retracted. We took the opportunity to call McKinney Falls to book a space, however we had not reckoned on it being Spring break and schools and Universities were on holiday. We were really keen to stay in a state park but every state park between Corpus Christi and Austin was full, no RV sites available. We belonged to four RV organisations and proceeded to call around. We eventually found a spot at the River Bend RV Park In Luling, about 50 miles south of Austin. We came off the I 37 and picked up the 181 at Beeville and headed north across the South Texas plains country. At Karnes City we picked up the 80 for the last leg of our journey. As we approached our destination we noticed small old fashioned oil pumps appearing around the countryside. Then small clusters of what looked like oil storage tanks some with long thin chimneys at the side with flames spouting out the top. This looked like oil country. The last part of the road into Luling was very uneven and bumpy and the poor RV was being shaken and rattled all the place. The River Bend RV Park was just outside town on a bend of the San Marcos River. It was a very pretty rural spot with a fishing pond and a shallow gravel bar into the river for paddling or fishing. The park was family owned by the Moore family, Mother, Father and daughter. Sheri (the daughter) gave us a warm welcome in the park office and we were soon joined by Dad John whilst we booked in. With our Passport America discount the price worked out to15 dollars per night, excellent value. The other good news was we could let Sandy off the leash in one of the fields near the river. As the weather was good we decided to christen our new barbecue at last.
Sunday 15th March
Luling is a small town with neat streets of well kept single story houses and the occasional plantation type fine house here and there. There is plenty of greenery and a couple of small parks with bandstands. We were on our way into town looking for lunch when we came to the rail track that runs through the town and headed for Davis Street which ran parallel with the track. This looked like the old main street of the town with boutique type shops and cafe's. We walked along and came across Blake's Cafe with country and western music sounding out into the street. The large room had simple seats and tables no clothes and was full of people having Sunday lunch, many looked as if they had come straight from church. Chicken fried steak seemed to be the favourite and that's what we had.
After lunch we wandered down the street looking into the shops. There was a saddle shop with row after row of fine looking saddles and an outdoor shop with clothes, knives, ammo etc. Unfortunately, being Sunday all the shops were closed. Got back to the park and spoke to Cerys and Steve on FaceTime and caught up with all the news.
Tony had a good chat with John the owner of the park. He was born in the area and has had an interesting but at times difficult life. His father was quite wealthy but lost everything after a difficult divorce settlement. After a troubled time travelling around for work and living in a tent he got himself back on his feet. John was quite ill as a child and didn't go to school until he was eleven. However, he overcame and had a career as a salesman and eventually owned a garage and indulged his passion for fast cars and has written off many of them. Now the family will not let him drive because of his eye sight. He does manage to drive a golf buggy around the site every day to check all is in order.
Monday 16th March
Today we met Kate the RV park manager. She has been in the US for about twenty years and is originally from Felixstowe. Until recently she had worked in San Antonio with homeless and under privileged children and would come to Luling to fish and relax with her husband. Eventually the family persuaded her to stay permanently and manage the site. We headed into town to a restaurant Kate recommended for lunch. In the afternoon we visited the Oil Patch Museum in Davis Street. Here we learnt about the history and economy of the town.
Originally Luling was a railroad town established in 1874 at the far western stop of a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad and was once known as the toughest town in Texas. In the early twenties oil was discovered in the area and it became an oil town. The museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in town and was originally the Walker Bros store. We watched a film about the growth of the oil industry and the person who brought in the first oil well, Edgar B Davis - hence Davis Street. Originally from Massachusetts he died in the town in 1951. We spoke to the curator of the museum who was born in Luling and she talked to us about the legacy Edgar Davis had left behind. We were. shown a map of all the oil finds in the area, it was absolutely splattered with black dots denoting each claim. Around the town and in the surrounding area there are a lot of pump jacks (what I call nodding donkeys) still working on small wells.
We followed this by a visit to Zedler Mill and Cotton Gin on the San Marcos River. The mill was built in 1874 as a gristmill, cotton gin and saw mill.Eventually it also supplied the town with electric power and remained the only power and water supplier for Luling until the 1920's Closing in the late 1950's the mill buildings were recently restored and a city park established across the river.
Tuesday 17th March
Next door to the RV Park is the Webb Racing Stables. Our RV is parked right opposite the training track and we watched the horses being put through their paces this morning. The owner of the stables is married to Sheri.
Today we stayed around the park and did chores. All the RV parks we have been to have had very good laundry facilities. For about €3 dollars you can wash and tumble dry a load of washing. On this particular site there are Rest Rooms with shower, kitchen and laundry positioned centrally and where the strongest wifi signal can be found. Today is Luis's 6th birthday and we went to the kitchen to get our best signal so that we could FaceTime him. It was lovely to see him and catch up with John and Charlotte. We told them about the birds of prey we had seen along the highways on our travels, some we think are buzzards and some we think were vultures. Charlotte told what she thought they were. Earlier today Tony had spotted a turtle on a rock in the river and mentioned it to Charlotte, she said it was a Snapper turtle. I didn't even know turtles went in rivers!
Outside the kitchen we met up with Bill who was sitting on the porch waiting for his washing to finish in the laundry. We had chat and it turned that he had just started travelling full-time in his RV and was making his way to the Escapees HQ in Livingston.
Wednesday 18th March
Today we paid a visit to a town called Shiner where Tony's favourite beer of the trip is brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery. The brewery was started in 1909 by Czech and German immigrants and has been in operation ever since including through prohibition. We had a tour of the factory and of course a few samples. The obligatory gift shop was there and of course we had to make a purchase or two. A BBQ apron complete with retractable bottle opener, oven glove with cloth and insulated drink holder pocket, wall mounted bottle opener and place mats - what more could any man want.
Sandy is loving her stay on this park. Running in and out of the river and working up and down the field. One of the people on the site was very impressed with Sandy's flushing action and invited us to Minnesota to flush woodcock. We have now had to stop her going down to the river bank, apparently there are some rattle snakes down there just coming out of hibernation and they are bit grumpy.
Thursday 19th March
The town is famous for being on the Texas BBQ Trail. This consists of several family run places in the local towns selling BBQ. In Luling we went to City Market. Its nothing fancy, no forks or plates and food is served on paper. There is a room at the back of the dining area where the barbecue pit is located where you go to make your choice of food. We had brisket, ribs and sausage. All perfectly cooked and so tasty but you need to be a meat eater here, it's usually served with pickles, beans, coleslaw or potato salad but that's about it. We had some heavy rain overnight and woke up to a lake outside the RV. Having decided to stay until Saturday morning, Kate advised us to move our pitch to higher ground, which we did.
Went into Lockhart a town about fifteen miles north and on the BBQ trail and also the Chisholm Trail. The entry to the town was a strip of all sorts of businesses and restaurants, a lot of messy bits and pieces. We got to the town square and found that interesting after the tacky mall we had just come along. There was a gothic style court house in the middle of the square and lots of older buildings surrounding it. We could imagine how it would have been back in the day. On the way back we called in at Walmart for supplies.
Friday 20th March
Tony went back to Lockhart and Walmart. We had left a bag full of food at check out. Here after the items are scanned the staff at check out fill carrier bags that are on a carousel set up and then pushed around to be packed in the trolley. Obviously one of the bags had not been pushed around and we had not noticed.