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1 - 31 October 2018 Texas (Tom's Water Ski National Collegiate Championship & US F1 Grand Pr

Monday 1st October


Yee-haw, we're back in Texas, feels like coming home. The place of wide-open plains and roads in the sky. Where we first came in the early 80’s to visit friends Chris and David in Mansfield, situated between Fort Worth and Dallas. It was at the height of the TV series Dallas and indeed the city was quite a sight with its skyline rising-up out of the prairies and the towering glass façade of the Hyatt Hotel.

We’re staying at Plantation Place RV Park in Sunnyvale, Mustique, just east of Dallas.

Our campground is at the back of a large plantation style house with extensive grounds. The whole winding road has some impressive properties.

We are taking the opportunity to visit the extensive shopping opportunities while here in the Dallas area.

Bass Pro Shop overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard.

After shopping we called into the Flying Saucer bar which also overlooks the lake. Here we met Cassy and Kelly, a very nice local couple who were very friendly and sociable and we had a jolly evening with them. They left before us and when it came to pay our bill, the waitress advised that Cassy and Kelly had also paid our bar bill. Such generous, kind, lovely people. It is so easy here to make instant friends.

Tuesday 2nd October


Onward to Waco and the Flat Creek Farms RV Resort, for a quick overnight stay.

Wednesday 3rd October

We are fans of HGTV’s show “Fixer Upper” where locals Chip and Joanna Gaines work marvels with old properties by turning them into beautiful homes. In Waco they also own Magnolia Market at the Silos in downtown Waco. It is quite the tourist attraction and fun to visit.

Silos Baking Co – we had coffee and blueberry muffin crumble.

Outside there is a large artificial lawn in front of the silos for the kids to play.

This was one of the couple’s biggest refurb projects, transforming two huge derelict silos and a large barn.

On arrival we were greeted by the very friendly, and mostly young staff before starting our visit. First, we looked around the Magnolia Store. Lots of home design goods in Jo’s particular style, plus gifts and tee shirts, and Chip’s Corner.

The Willys Jeep.

Lovely visit to a very happy place.

On to Austin East KOA.

Thursday 4th October


Austin is the state capital of Texas. The city is known for its live music, pink marble capitol building , University of Texas and LBJ Presidential Library among other things.

Texas Longhorn in the field next to the RV Park.

Monday 8th October

Simon and Ninette arrived into Austin Bergstrom Int Airport, just 7 miles from the RV Park. It had been six months since their last visit and it was great to see them and catch up on all the family news. We’re looking forward to a busy three weeks of fun in the Austin and San Antonio area of mid Texas. Firstly, this weekend coming is the National Collegiate Water Ski Championships in San Marco, where nephew Tom is competing. The following weekend we go to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

Tuesday 9th October

Into Austin for a look around the state capital. Dinner at the Lonesome Dove, Western Bistro, a very smart modern Texan restaurant with an interesting menu, including Rabbit-Rattlesnake Sausage.

Wednesday 10th October

Moved to the Pecan Park RV Riverside Park, San Marcos. We had lunch at the Craft House in San Marcos with Tom. The University of Monroe (ULM) water ski team have arrived to get ready for the three-day event.

Before we left Austin KOA East we took a few more photos of the magnificent Texas Longhorns in the adjacent field.

Thursday 11th October

San Marcos

2018 National Collegiate Water Ski Championships

Day 1

The championships were held on two large lakes at San Marcos River Ranch in Martindale, just a short distance from our campsite. University colleges from across the country were competing in the championships. Tom was one of the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM, known as the Warhawks) team captains and was competing in the three disciplines, tricks, slalom and jump.

Tom was not competing today, but we stayed to watch some of the other competitors.

Into San Marcos for drinks at the Crafthouse and then the Root Cellar for dinner. Great pasta dishes.

Friday 12th October

Day 2

Back to the lakes with very mixed weather today, heavy rain, some lightening and wind, eventually clearing to sunshine.

Tom was skiing slalom in the afternoon, his best discipline. There was continuing cross wind over the lake affecting performance. Tom was skiing brilliantly but he fell foul of the effects of weather and did not get the personal best he was hoping for, but still plenty of points towards the team score.

We had some Warhawks war paint applied while we watched the skiing.

Palmers Restaurant and Bar. Nice restaurant in a large house with a beautiful garden.

Saturday 13th October

Day 3

Last day of the competition.

All the teams were in good spirits, singing team songs and chants to encourage the last day competitors.

Tensions rose during the afternoon when the scores between the two University of Louisiana college teams, Monroe and Lafayette were very close. The men’s jump competition was the decider and Taylor Garcia of Monroe pulled it out the bag with a magnificent 186 feet long jump.

The Warhawks got 12,175 points, winning their third consecutive and 29th overall national team title since the beginning of the tournament in 1979. It was so close, with Louisiana- Lafayette who finished second on 12,115 points.

Awards Ceremony Dinner

Presentation for the winning team ULM - University of Louisiana Monroe. Yee-haw!

The winning team Trophy.

We were so pleased for Tom that the team had succeeded in taking home the winner’s trophy once again because this is his last year with ULM.

A great night of celebration and dancing.

Sunday 14th October

Had a quiet day around camp and went into San Marcos late afternoon.

The old City Hall building.

Dinner at the Root Cellar again.

Monday 15th October

San Antonio

Heavy rain and windy all night. Moved south to San Antonio KOA campsite, still heavy rain and cold! It is incredible how the weather has changed in a week, from hot, muggy high 80’s F to mid-50’s. Autumn has come in with a vengeance.

San Antonio River Walk is a walkway through downtown along the San Antonio River. The walk is lined with hotels, restaurants and shops in a park like setting with trees, plants and artwork and is quite the tourist attraction. We met up with Val and Rob who were also here for the water-skiing competition (their son is also on a waterski scholarship at University of Louisiana) and had dinner at Ostra Restaurant on the Riverwalk. Very nice food and wine, I had Ahi Tuna – delish. Afterwards to Howl at the Moon, a lively music bar. Really good entertainment with a couple of dueling pianos and three singers playing well know party and dance music. We were soon up on the dance floor. A good night was had by all and we arrived home at 1am!!

Tuesday 16th October

A cold night, temperatures down to mid-40’s F! Spent the day around the campground, did the laundry.

Back to the River Walk early evening.

Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub

Tony and I first came to the River Walk in 1980 with our friends Chris and David who, at the time, lived near Dallas. We remember Durty Nelly’s very well, and it doesn’t seem to have changed at all from memory. Someone playing the piano and lots of peanut shells on the floor. We spent a jolly hour or so singing along to the music, sipping Irish coffee to help warm up.

Wednesday 17th October

The Alamo

San Antonio is home to The Alamo. Originally a Spanish mission, in the 19th Century the mission was replaced by a military garrison and named El Alamo. In the 1820’s Mexico had gained independence from Spain and settlers began occupying Texas.

By the 1830’s fighting for independence from Mexico had begun between Texans and Mexicans. Things came to a head in 1836 when a large Mexican force led by Gen. Santa Ana came to take the fort back from the Texans. The Mexican troops numbered in their thousands, while the Texan defenders were never more than 200. People came to help defend the fort from other states and included some famous names, such as, James Bowie, William Travis and David Crockett. The siege lasted 12 days before the Texans were beaten by Santa Ana and all were slaughtered, except for some women and children who were hiding in the fort.

Lee, our guide, took us all through the history of the mission/fort and gave a detailed description of the battle. The Alamo is now in downtown San Antonio but in the 1830’s a large compound covered a wide area. Lee showed us the boundaries of the compound and how difficult it was for just 200 men to defend this area. Lee was excellent in his presentation and knowledge and brought the whole era from Spanish mission to modern day Texas to life for us.

Back to the Riverwalk

We followed our foray into Texas history by lunch at The English Pub on the Riverwalk.

Thursday 18th October

Travelled north to Bastrop, heading for Circuit of the Americas near Austin ready for the Formula 1 weekend. On the way we stopped off in Luling for lunch.

Luling is an old oil town. It is small town America with some good small town Texas charm. We have stayed here twice before and kind of like the place. It is on the Texas BBQ route and it has some good BBQ smoked meat restaurants. Also known for the Luling Watermelon Thump, a four day festival celebrating all things water melon.

We lunched at Blakes, an old-fashioned dining room with good hearty food and very nice staff, full of Texas hospitality.

After lunch we visited the Luling Oil Museum showcasing the towns oil heritage.

Around the town there are numerous oil well pump jacks, that still work but have now been made into art installations depicting all sorts of characters. For instance, the First Baptist Church parking lot has a quarterback poised to make a pass.


After lunch we made our way to the Bastrop KOA RV Park. A nice camp with good sites at the side of the ‘Texas’ Colorado River. However, due to all the rain the river has burst its banks, the children’s playground and the dog park are under water. It has been arranged that we will evacuate to the nearby Walmart car park if the dams up river need to be opened again and the river rises.

The local deer came to visit.

Friday 19th October

Formula 1 US Grand Prix. Circuit of the Americas, Austin

Practice Day. We had good seats near bend 9 with great views over this purpose-built track. There has been heavy rain and the car parks and grass areas are very muddy.

Tom, Michael, Lea and Lieke arrived this evening and set up their tents on the campsite for the Grand Prix weekend.

In the evening we went to the 602 Restaurant on Main Street, Bastrop.

After dinner outside the restaurant they had live music.

Saturday 20th October

Back to the track for Qualifying Day.

The car park, or should I say the mud park.

Grey skies but we were excited to get to the track and watch the action.

The final positions 1. Lewis Hamilton 2. Sebastian Vettel 3. Kimi Raikkonen. All set for an exciting race tomorrow.

In the evening Bruno Mars concert on the Super Stage. From our seats at bend 9 we had a good view of the stage.

Sunday 21st October

Grand Prix day and at last the sun has come out.

Of course we were all rooting for Lewis Hamilton.

There was some British support around besides us.

View of Austin from our seats.

They're off!

Tom, Lea, Lieke and Michael

Fan invasion of the track.

It was disappointing that Lewis only made third place but it was an exciting race.

On the grid.

On Poll position

What an exciting weekend.

Monday 22nd October


Back to Austin and Simon and Ninette move into the Hilton Hotel in Austin for their last week in Texas. We moved to Pecan Grove RV Park, not far from Austin city centre. The amount of rain that has fallen over the past few weeks has meant that the water purification systems have been unable to cope, therefore the city has issued a ‘boil water notice’. All drinking water must be boiled for at least three minutes.

Tuesday 23rd October

Simon, Nin and Austin Capitol Building

6th Street, Austin, the centre of the live music scene, has a similar essence to Beale Street, Mississippi and Bourbon Street, New Orleans. Many of the bars have live music.

Sitting in the court yard at Maggie Mae's

Just out of downtown near the RV Park is Juliet Italian Kitchen. A cosy restaurant where we had dinner.

Thursday 25th October


South of Austin is the historic small town of Gruene. The area was first settled by German farmers in the 1840’s. Ernst Gruene and family established a large cotton farming operation here in the 1870’s at the side of the Guadalupe River. Other families joined them and Gruene built a cotton gin, dance hall, houses and mercantile stores. The town thrived until Boll Weevil infestation destroyed the cotton crop in the 1920’s. The town continued to decline until restoration efforts started in the 1970’s. What a good job has been done, the town is charming.

Simon and Tony waiting while Nin and I go looking in the shops and galleries. Tony's green jumper (sweater), seen here, was was left behind on the swing bench when we moved on. Tony went back but the jumper was gone, gone forever, his favourite jumper.

Lunch at the Gristmill Restaurant near the river.

Gruene Antique Company

This fascinating ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ set in a large dry goods store built in 1903, is packed full of collectibles, memorabilia, antiques and gifts. So many nooks and crannies of discovery, days could be lost in this place.

Gruene General Store

As with most businesses in town the store was built to supply goods to the sharecroppers who lived on the nearby land. Today the shop stocks many Texas made products and still has an old general store feel.

Gruene Hall

Built in 1878 the hall is known as the oldest dance hall in Texas and has had many famous acts perform there. The hall is still the centre of the local entertainment scene for the area.

Friday 26th October

Moved back to KOA Austin East.

Saturday 27th October

Enjoying the RV Park pool and then dinner outside.

Sunday October 28th

Last night in Austin. Dinner at Fogo de Chao Brazilian Restaurant. We had a goodbye message on our pudding plate with an interesting spelling.

29th October

Tony booked into the Bastrop RV Park for the next month.

I (Cathy) flew back to the UK with Simon and Ninette to see my dear friend Chris. She has been fighting cancer since the summer of 2017. After a successful course of chemo therapy Chris was told that the cancer was in remission. However, during the summer this year, a secondary growth was found in her liver and there was nothing more that could be done.

30th October

At Heathrow I had a big surprise. On walking out of arrivals, there was Cerys and our new great nephew Freddie, I couldn't believe my eyes, then Rich came walking up. There were a few tears shed, and it wasn't just by the baby.

We all went back to Birmingham to Simon and Nin's house where Vicki, Kelly and all the children arrived. What a great reunion to see everyone after so long.

It was also lovely to see Kira again, but she was fairly nonchalant with me. I don't think she has forgiven me for putting her in a crate and shipping her off. She has settled in well here with Simon and Ninette and is very much their dog now.

Tuesday 30th October

Meanwhile, back in Bastrop. Halloween was approaching.

Wednesday 31st October

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