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Van-Tramp adventures 2017
Riverwalk, Alamo, McKinney Falls

We arrived in Austin, Texas – specifically McKinney Falls State Park – on a Sunday, and could only get reservations through Friday night of the following weekend.  This gave us only one full day to get out and do something in the area. Nit knowing the area all that well, and with Kerri not bringing up ideas, I threw the San Antonio Riverwalk into the pool of ideas.

Back in November of 2012, with my Mother in tow behind me on the trip into Texas, it was here only item on her must-do list; the River Walk. I wasn’t sure of it, but liked it well enough to recommend it to Kerri. We arrived in the late afternoon and were able to walk a good portion of the Riverwalk before the sun dropped low enough for all the decorative lights to start turning on. By the time we sat down for dinner – at the exact same place I ate in 2012 – the entire Riverwalk was packed with other diners. Surely a touristy place to eat, but the food was good and the ambience was even better. I’d still recommend the Riverwalk for anyone on the area. Somehow we made it the entire evening without snapping a single photo among us. Hmmm…

On the way into the Riverwalk we stopped in at the Alamo. Unfortunately, we left within just a few short minutes of arrival as we found out that the place is being used as nothing more than a way to suck a few extra dollars from anyone nearby. It seemed the only thing they (those running the Alamo grounds) were interested in was nickel-n-diming people at every corner, not educating us on what the history was of the Alamo. The “Museum” was nothing more than a half-assed gift shop full of cheap trinkets with the Alamo or “don’t mess with Texas” printed on everything. It was pretty sad if you ask me.

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Back at camp we settled in for the work wee, but not before getting out two two other destinations Kerri brought up; The Salt Lick BBQ, which turned out to be a very different experience then I first figured. A large barn-style restaurant, chock full of picnic tables where people sit shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers and attempt to take down huge portions of all varieties of Texas meat. I must say, Kerri has been bringing me to a lot of barn-type places lately. I wonder what that is all about?

With some time to relax on one of the off-days, Kerri brought up the idea of going to see a movie, something we rarely get around to doing. Not only does the thought of a packed theater turn us off, most movies are not worth the ticket price anyway. We figured, the last time we went to a theater was in late 2015 in Port Townsend, Oregon. We would end that streak, but not by going to just any theater. Enter the Alamo Draufthouse; a mix of a theater, a cocktail lounge, and a full restaurant. Here we sat in large plush chairs in a theater, with a small table in front of us and ample leg room. A waitress comes by and takes our order, delivers our food, and checks in on us over the course of the 2 hour movie (Rogue One for us that night). Not only do they do it, they do it very well. The service was better than most full-service restaurants I have been too, and the food is as you would expect from a casual dining establishment. Less than $40 for two meals, a cocktail, and two movie tickets. Not bad at all!

With the much warmer morning temperatures of this part of Texas, we could get out for morning activities again. Kerri was outside doing her yoga on some mornings, and on other mornings the waterfalls awaited our admiration. With the dogs on tow, we walked out too the Upper Falls and back from our camp site. Nothing in the range of a long hike or anything, but the muggy air – even at 8am – sure added a level of complexity to the day. The dogs enjoyed it nonetheless. Another morning brought us out to the Lower Falls, which would make the most ideal summer swimming hole. The woods around the campground beckoned for some exploration so the dogs and I did do a little poking around on our own. As it turns out, it wasn’t such a great idea thanks to all the thorny vines out there. I also got a tick for the first time in my life. Kerri was quick to remedy that situation with her precise – and sharp – fingernails. I somehow survived.

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That is is for us and Texas, we move on to Louisiana, where I have not been before. I am very much looking forward to the next five weeks, three of which are dedicated to New Orleans and hanging out with a much-loved couple.

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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AbuelaLoca (02-17-2017), Gunny (02-12-2017)
The Alamo used to be maintained by The Daughters of Texas or some such named group, they gave really nice, informative tours, then some concessionaire came in and made it a tourist trap and as you said, no history provided. Sad because there actually is an enormous amount of history there. Money wins again.

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Van-Tramp (02-12-2017)
yep like National Parks. they should boot all the concessionaires out, imo. highdesertranger
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Thanks,Van-Tramp!  I now have a lot of new places to add to my bucket list! 

Great journal.

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Penetrating Louisiana

We arrived in Louisiana last weekend, but only just. We barely made it 20 miles inside the state before exiting the Interstate and setup camp at the Intracoastal Park. This unscheduled stop came thanks to a meetup with Tricia & Cody of @OurWanderingRythm who refereed us to the place. A few nights of watching the barges be slowly pushed past in a non stop train, testing out a new BBQ, and just plain relaxing ensued.

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For a whole $12 a night we had we pretty much had the place to ourselves, other than the mosquitoes that appeared… with leather jackets and brass knuckles I might add. Definitely not as mean as Arizona mosquitoes, but so far Louisiana mosquitoes are pretty mean, and well organized. We tried to have a camp fire, but we were chased back into the Airstream after only a few minutes. We spent then next half hour squashing all the little buggers that made it in the door with us; a few dozen in the few seconds the door was open. Kerri is mosquito-crack. They go after her blood with a frenzy. It is because she is so sweet :-)

On our one full day we had in the area we set out to tackle the Creole Nature Trail – All American Road. When I hear of a “nature trail” I tend to think of the small half-mile, paved, hiking trail nearest the main Visitor’s Center in a National Park. So, when Kerri says, “we are going to do the Creole Nature Trail” I packed pretty light. It didn’t take long for me to realize this trail was different. We would be driving for half the day, all while being educated – thanks to a cool phone app – about the communities, swamp lands, oil rigs, oil pipelines, and many of the birds and critters that live here. We tried to hike out some of the boardwalks and trails but were once again attacked by the biker-mosquitoes. Instead we kept the A/C running and stayed in the truck, taking it all in from behind glass. This also meant that not a whole lot of photography happened along the way.

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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AbuelaLoca (02-17-2017)
Oh man, what a Dumbass I am! I forgot all about MxKinney Falls for my maiden camping trip, D'oh!
It's just down the road from me near Bastrop
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Kayaking Bayou La Rose, Barbara tries to kill again

We pulled in too, and camped at, Bayou La Rose for our first full work-week in Louisiana. Kerri found this small campground and decided to stay out here, as opposed to closer to Lafayette-proper, so we can more easily kayak on any day we want. The campground (Uncle Dick Davis Campground) is positioned right along the water of the bayou, so launching our ‘yaks was as easy as stepping out the front door.

So, after a few days of morning rains and cold temperatures, we finally got out in the early morning to kayak up the bayou to scout out the pontoon bridge a few miles up-river.A nice peaceful paddle along a well populated shoreline didn’t make for the best trip we have taken, but it was nice to get the kayaks in the water nonetheless.

By the way; that pontoon bridge had a 9.5 foot clearance and a 5 ton weight limit, both of which we would not have met with the Airstream in tow and wouldn’t you know it, our GPS “Barbara” tried to route us over that very bridge the day we arrived. That is the fourth time on a year Barbara has attempted to kill us!

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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Looking good Smile. We came real close to crossing paths in San Antonio. Great pictures and write up. Safe travels.
2016 Ford Transit 2500, 130" WB, Mid roof
Full time since Aug 2016
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Van-Tramp (02-20-2017)
Kayaking in my first Louisiana swamp

I did not know it at the time we were driving up to the lake that morning, but soon after I would experience one of the most enjoyable kayaking I have ever done. Although we had the day planned for a bit of kayaking, we both were not really feeling it when we pulled up to Lake Martin. I was only going to do it because Kerri wanted too, since she planned the location and all. When I looked at the lake on Google Maps, I was not all that impressed. But, I was willing to make the sacrifice for love.

The boat launch was crowded with fisherman and a swamp-tour crowd. I didn’t feel that peaceful kayaking was going to be taking place. To avoid the crowd, we drove down a muddy dirt road that leads to the north tip of the lake. Here we could put in under much less duress.

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Lake Martin is not a large lake; only 4 miles or so of shoreline to navigate around the entire thing. Lucky for us, only the very center of it is lake-like, with the outer ring being typical Louisiana swamp so easily found in any picture of this area. It wasn’t super early, but the sun had not broken through the morning cloudiness. The temperature was perfect as we pushed off into the green water. Immediately we were engulfed by the swamp. Birds called out from all directions. Turtles splashed into the water as we approached. It was akin to a Disney ride… just so surreal.

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The vegetation was so thick just under the water that my rudder had to be raised. That didn’t keep me from exploring, as best I could, into and between the large swamp trees, under mossy limbs, and into some of the hunting blinds positioned around the lake. We paddled the entire circumference of the lake, and no real speed at all. Just a slow methodical paddle so we could take in all the sights and sounds; of which consisted of countless birds including three Blue Heron, two Great Egret, six alligators (all were quite friendly), two red-headed woodpeckers, dozens of cormorants, and turtles, and even a few good sized snakes basking in the sun once it eventually popped out.

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The only real down side of the day was that I did not bring my DSLR camera. With only the iPhone camera to snap images, anything further away then just a few feet become invisible to the super-wide-angle-lens. While I snapped many a photo of the turtle, gators, and birds, 90% turned out to be just a speck in a sea of swamp in the photo. The zoom lens on my DSLR would have gone a long way on this day.

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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BobBski (02-22-2017)
Avoiding Mardi Gras

We have been hanging around Lafayette, Louisiana these past few weeks. Not only to see the sights in the area, but also to avoid New Orleans and the major event (and crowds) of Mardi Gras. We have not been hiding, as much as my lack of blog-posts may have given that impression. Quite the opposite actually…

Kerri brought my to see Vermilionville, a Living History Museum and Park showcasing the life of the Acadian and Creole people of the 1700 and 1800’s. It was a cute little town of a dozen buildings or so, each with their own exhibits, and some with volunteers to show just how it was done back then – washing clothes, spinning cotton, metal working, etc. We nearly put the kayaks in the water here as well, but chose not too after seeing the bayou. Unfortunately, the swamp kayaking has raised the bar to the point that normal bayous just do not excite as they may have two weeks back.

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In the previous week, while camped not far out of Beaux Bridge (crayfish capital of the world, or so they say), we drove the few miles up the road to tour the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. Here we found a couple of nice little nature trails to hike and a few free camping spots (rare this far east of the Rockies). We thought we may drop in to one of these locations for the following week, but the humidity is keeping the Airstream’s A/C running most days and I’ve gotten a bit spoiled already. This entire year was originally planned to be done in the van. The only (well, maybe not ‘only’) reason we are in the trailer is for the A/C, so we damn well better use it.

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Leave it to Kerri to find the one place you must go in any given area, especially if it is quirky. You should have seen her when she told me about Whiskey River. A Bar, not far from our camp at the time, open only a single day each week – for 5 hours – with real Zydeco music and dancing like you would not believe. I am no dancer, as Kerri found out, but even I enjoy good music and people having a good time. Watching was enough for me, and since I was the designated driver, staying sober was the plan as well. We ended up going to Whiskey River twice over two weekends with the second time happening on Mardi Gras weekend so the place was twice as crowded. Not only am I a non-dancer, I am also not good with crowds at all. Even a crowd the size you might find in a grocery store on a weekend is enough to unsettle me, but hundreds of people packed into this tiny room was wreaking havoc on my nerves. I lasted only two hours before we had to leave, but it was fun.

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The following 1 user says Thank You to Van-Tramp for this post:
AbuelaLoca (03-14-2017)

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