Day Tripping

Striking a balance between work and play is something everyone strives for. And when it’s time to play, lots of things factor into how that time should be spent. I know I’ve repeatedly said how much I like free things to do. We’ve found, if you plan it right, you can get LOTS of fun for free. Our last 3 day trips are great examples of frugal fun!

DAY TRIP #1 – The Salt Palace – Grand Saline, Texas

Grand Saline, Texas is home to one of the largest salt mines in the US. The underground salt dome is 1 1/2 miles wide and over 4 miles deep, yes, I said MILES. In the late 1890’s, there were several salt producing companies. Around 1920 The Grand Saline Salt Company acquired them all and later became known as Morton Salt. By 1930, they were mining over 500 tons of salt daily. The building which houses the salt museum has the distinction of being the only building in the world built entirely of salt blocks…

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Inside is a neat collection of Morton Salt memorabilia…

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Morton stopped doing mine tours in the 1960’s. but there was a 20 minute movie showing some of the history and the mining operation. The cost to visit – nada! But donations are accepted.

DAY TRIP #2 – Grapefest, Grapevine, Texas

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We chose to head over to Grapevine on Thursday because…wait for it…it was free admission day!  Score!! There was free parking and a free shuttle. Every year Grapefest highlights different regions. This year it was wines from the Finger Lakes Region of New York and Canadian ice wines. Several years ago, Steve and I did the Seneca Lake wine tour, so we were already familiar with a few of the wineries. Of course that didn’t prevent me from sampling their goods.

Historic downtown Grapevine would have been worth the visit even without Grapefest, from the train depot…

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To the arts…

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But, it really was about the wine…

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DAY TRIP #3 – The Eiffel Tower – Paris, Texas

You don’t have to travel to France to see the Eiffel Tower. You do, however, have to go to Paris. In our case, Paris, Texas. This was another cool Atlas Obscura find.

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Right next to the tower is the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial…

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The memorial is only partially completed, but it is really well done.

So, what are we gong to do with all the money we saved by finding free day trips? Well, you’ll find out next week!

How do you find free things to do?

Critter Control

When we lived in New Hampshire, we had lots of wildlife on our property. It was always neat to look out the window and see the deer, turkeys and the occasional bear. I never had the urge to trap and relocate them. (Well, there was that time I trapped a chipmunk inside the bird feeder)

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Here in Texas, I take a different view. And, believe it or not, but it all started with kittens. Yep, kittens. Steve came home one evening and found 3 kittens eating out of Diesel’s food dish. While they were cute, they were wild. It seemed simple enough to discourage them – stop leaving dog food out at night. But there was one kitten who just wouldn’t give up. I started catching glimpses of it during the day and would hear muted meows from under Waldo. Driven by hunger and the thought of a free meal, the kitten started becoming bolder…

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And bolder…

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As you can see, Diesel didn’t seem to have any problem sharing his meal. But then, the kitten thought it would just move in… Um….NO!

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I don’t mind cats, but I have no interest in having any more pets. Nor do I have the ambition to tame a feral kitten. It had to go! There was an animal trap in the maintenance garage. Since dog food was obviously kitty’s favorite free lunch, I baited the trap. I stepped into Waldo, for all of about 3 minutes, and heard the trap spring. Resulting in one very unhappy kitty…

Since Steve had said he saw 3 kittens, I decided to reset the trap overnight. With my morning coffee in hand, I checked the trap. What I wasn’t expecting was this…

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An equally unhappy possum! With both kitty and Mr. Possum relocated (still within the park, just away from us) I thought we were critter free, and returned the trap. But alas…

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“Where’s lunch, meow” Really?!?!?! Back the the maintenance garage! This time kitty went for a long ride! Now it resides on a farm about 5 miles down the road.

With all of the critters re-homed, I think we are in the clear. But, you never know! There are lots of interesting things living in the park. I walked out of the office one day and found this…

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Another day, I found a wolf spider, carrying all her babies…

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I almost missed the katydid…

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Sometimes I just ride around the park looking for critters…

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I definitely think the snapping turtle was “barking up the wrong tree”. You truly never know what you are going to come across. Yesterday, I was out kayaking with a friend and spotted this…

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This billy goat watched us until we rounded the point, as if daring us to try and dock on HIS ground. And he was waiting for us when we came back…

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No critters were harmed in the writing of this post, with one exception. My final critter encounter ended in the untimely demise of a black widow spider…

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I just can’t have her living in the wood pile. Since she seemed very protective of her egg sac, I felt it was unlike she would move on of her own accord.

What kinds of critters have you encountered?

Out and about

As I mentioned in my last post, we are always looking for cheap (or, even better – free) things to do. One of my co-workcampers suggested we check out a website, www.Atlasobscura.com. According to their site, “Atlas Obscura catalogues the most unusual, surprising, and amazing places around the world, thanks to the discoveries shared by our intrepid community of travelers and explorers. There are now more than 11,000 incredible hidden wonders listed in the Atlas, …” We checked out the interactive map and found lots of places nearby. We plan to visit all of them, but we started in Royse City where we found this…

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Arriving at the vacant field, my first thought was the aliens had landed, then I thought maybe it was a piece of  abandoned playground equipment But having read the description, I knew it was a Futuro House. You can read all about it here. Walking through the field, I happened to notice some rather prickly looking plants…

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I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t want to brush against it! Having seen what we came to see, we decided to just drive around. You never know what you might come across.

If you followed my Touring NH blog, you know I love barns and farms. Most of the “farms” here are called ranches and they all seem to have one thing in common, huge front gates, announcing the name of the ranch…

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And the barns are different. Back in NH, they are usually wooden structures. Here they are mostly made of corrugated tin…

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But one thing is universal, an abandoned barn will fall eventually. I think the only thing holding up this barn is the tree in front of it…

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Fields go along with barns & farms/ranches and Texas has some lovely fields, full of beautiful flowers. The flowers seem to dominate the land, filling it with color…

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We stopped at another field and what I thought was a sea of white flowers turned out to be a tall-ish plant with bi-colored top leaves and tiny white flowers…

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I think it is called Snow-on-the-mountain.

Roadside flowers are sometimes planted to “beautify” or “naturalize” an area and Texas boasts of 19 different types of sunflowers. Regardless of the reason, stands of sunflowers have to make you smile…

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Last week, a storm moved through the area, dumping several inches of rain on us. A few days later, the newly drenched ground pushed up a surprise for me – rain lilies

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Another byproduct of the rain was mushrooms galore…

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The final gift from the storm was a sunset worth waiting for…

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Thank you for coming by!

A Day in Sulphur Springs

Steve spent the morning glued to his tablet. He’d been researching free or cheap things to do in the area and had found a couple possibilities. We packed a cooler with waters and a few snacks and headed out. I didn’t ask where we were going, I was just happy to “go along for the ride”. We took the now familiar route to Sulphur Springs and it didn’t take long to find our first stop, Coleman Park . The 186 acre city park has an 18 hole disc golf course. It wasn’t too surprising no one was playing, considering the fact it was nearly 100 degrees. Despite the heat, we set out on the 2 1/2 mile paved loop around the lake.

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There were plenty of wildflowers to keep my camera busy…

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And lots of winged wonders…

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This tree was loaded with seed/nut clusters. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but I’ll bet the squirrels with be happy when the sees/nuts ripen.

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Sumacs lined part of the trail. I love the flower heads…

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We walked past an unused fishing pier…

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Another pier…

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Crossed bridges…

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We were nearing the end of the loop when we came around the bend to find this…

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As we walked through the tunnel, I stopped to check out the mud dauber’s handiwork…

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Emerging from the tunnel, I could hear the unmistakable sounds of a waterfall…

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The next section of the loop was definitely designed with little explorers in mind…

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I know when my boys were little, they would have loved climbing through the mountain!

It was early afternoon by the time we got back to the jeep, but Steve had one more place in mind to visit. We had a hard time finding the address, but, then again, the little blurb he had read online could have told us what we were looking for was in the city library!

The library showcases the St. Clair music box collection, reportedly, the world’s largest collection…

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Apparently, you can make anything a music box…

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It was time to head back to Waldo and have some dinner, but what a great day of “free fun”!

 

Getting to Work

Friday and Saturday nights, you will find Steve “patrolling” Wind Point Park in his golf cart. He escorts new arrivals to their site, sprays around their rig for ants (more about them later), picks up trash, cleans the public restrooms and enforces the rules. Overall, it is a pretty easy gig. One night, he came across a couple guys with an axe. They were trying to chop down a tree for firewood. Um, NO! Other than that, it’s pretty quiet here. Peaceful.

Spraying for ants could be a full time job by itself. Argentine ants are a huge problem here. Just look at Diesel’s food container…

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It was in the storage compartment under Waldo (with the lid on!) The ants are everywhere. I took this short video clip along the water’s edge…

The only up side about these ants is they have displaced the fire ants. Other than that, they are a real pest!

I’ve been getting my training in the office, learning campground management software and all the specifics of this park. The park is in the middle of a management shift. The current manager has been here 2 years and will be leaving in November. I love the fact several of the workampers have been here long term. I think it really speaks to the overall happiness of the work environment. Here I am, hard at work manning the desk…

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The second week we were here, the owner (Ryan), threw a hello/goodbye barbecue for all the park employees. Most of us had already met, but it was a fun way of formally being introduced.  One of the lawn maintenance guys brought his smoker and all I can say is mmmmmmmmm…

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There was enough food to feed a small army…

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Nobody went hungry, that’s for sure…

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After the meal, we all went out and played corn hole…

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We are enjoying our new lifestyle! Meeting great people, learning new skills and getting to explore our new “home for now”.

Thanks for coming by. My next post will be about our recent return visit to Sulphur Springs.

Settling In – Part 2

We were given a couple days to settle in before we had to report to work. We spent most of the first day getting Waldo rearranged. I’m sure we’ll be rearranging again and again until we find “just the place” for everything. What seems like the perfect place for something frequently becomes “Why the hell did I put that there!” We’ll figure it out…

The weather has been mostly sunny and hot – just the way I like it, so naturally we stripped Trouble of all those unnecessary things like doors and the soft top. We did put the bikini top on to keep a little shade over the seats. I wouldn’t want Steve’s head to get sunburned! We needed a few things at the store and I was anxious to get out and explore the area. The GPS told us the nearest Walmart was about 30 minutes away. Off we go.  With the shopping out of the way, we headed to Sulphur Springs. There was something I had read about and had to see for myself. In the old town square, there is a lovely park with public restrooms and it was the restrooms I wanted to see. Yes, you read that right…I wanted to see restrooms. These aren’t your run of the mill relief stations…they are made with one way mirrors – no, I’m not kidding…

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From the outside, it looks like a mirrored box
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This is the view from the inside
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You feel a little conspicuous while you are relieving yourself. Note the guy in the background taking a picture…

Once I was done giggling about the restroom (Steve wouldn’t use it), we walked around the park taking in the sights…

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We decided to stop for lunch at the Corner Grub House

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We both had burgers and they were pretty good. With full bellies, we decided it was time to head back “home”.

The next day, we grabbed our cameras and set out to explore. We stopped at a farm stand and I was so excited to see fresh figs…

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We splurged on some figs, plums, tomatoes and summer squash. A little expensive but oh so tasty! I got to see my first Texas longhorns…

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And an oil pump…

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I couldn’t resist getting a picture with my MOV bottle to send back to the store with a tag line about “Big Oil”.

We made one more stop before heading back…

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How’s that for a hay field?!?

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Diesel says “Life is good here!”

Thanks for coming by!

Settling In

We left my dad’s around noon on Monday, July 3rd. According to the GPS, it would take us about 15 hours to reach our destination in Lone Oak, Texas. We were hoping for an uneventful trip, after all, Waldo had a nice new roof and Steve had replaced the surge tank and both thermostats. We thought our overheating problems were behind us. We didn’t even make it out of Florida before Waldo’s engine temp began to climb…ugh! My aunt and granny live about 40 minutes north of the route we were taking, so we spent our first night “on the road” at their house. It should have only taken us about 5 1/2 hours to get there, but, thanks to Waldo’s overheating, it took us nearly 7 hours. My aunt had a wonderful dinner waiting for us, fall off the bone ribs, fried corn bread cakes, peas & beans, roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes. After stuffing ourselves and catching up a bit, we called it a night. The next morning, breakfast was waiting for us! Bacon, sausage, fresh eggs (she has her own chickens), straight out of the oven biscuits and homemade preserves. Thank you Aunt Frances! My cousin came over to see us before we continued on our way. And he came bearing gifts…probably one of the biggest watermelons I had ever seen. We gathered on the back porch, while he cut it into mouth watering chunks. Between the 5 of us, we managed to eat almost 1/2 of it. Then he cut a huge chunk to take with us. Bonus!

With hugs and a promise to visit longer next time, we headed west. Waldo only overheated a little, so we made pretty good time. Aound 4 pm, Steve asked me to start looking for a place to spend the night. Armed with my Allstays phone app, I chose a park in Monroe, LA called Ouachita RV Park. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to find a spot because of the holiday. Even though the office was closed, they answered the phone. Yes, they had sites available. We were told which ones to pick from and to just come into the office in the morning to pay. Despite being so close to I-20, the park was quiet and peaceful. I took Diesel for a nice long walk after his day riding and came across a strange sight. Dozens of what I’m going to call mud chimneys. They ranged in size from 2-3 inches tall to over 10 inches tall. Thanks to Google, I learned they were crawfish mounds. Who knew…

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I awoke Wednesday morning happy in the knowledge, we would reach our destination by early afternoon. I was excited and ready to be there! It was a little after 1 pm when we pulled into Wind Point Park, our new “home for now”. We were warmly welcomed and shown to site B2, a beautiful shady spot to call home.

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As we were setting up, one of the park’s herd of deer came through as though welcoming us…

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The park manager and her husband stopped by later that evening and offered us a tour of the park. We climbed onto the back of their golf cart and off we went. What a slice of heaven!! Beautiful scenery, friendly faces and lots of wildlife.

We’re gonna love it here~