Travel

Southcentral USA Roadtrip-Part 1

 

The day had arrived for me to depart Corpus Christi, Texas and embark on my road trip/move back to Florida. But before I could leave the middle of the country, I needed to spend some time exploring. Texas is a mammoth of a state. It’s larger than a number of countries. To break up the drive I decided to travel halfway through the state to Waco, Texas.IMG_5041

Waco has become a bit famous because of the home makeover show Fixer Upper. TV personalities/house flippers (I guess now they’re really business moguls) Chip and Joanna Gaines have established quite the establishment in Waco that I really wanted to see. Between this and a Mammoth National Monument I found, I wasn’t sure what else Waco had to offer, but there was only one way to find out. Go there and see!

5 Things to Love About Waco

 

  1. The Silos

I arrived in Waco right around lunchtime. As I drove towards the Silos the sidewalks were packed with people all heading to the same destination. It was Mother’s Day weekend here in the states, so I think that played a role on the busyness.

The Silos were quite a sight to be seen. I’ve seen silos before, but they’re still quite impressive close up. Of course upon arrival you must take photos of these galant giants and appreciate everything laid out before you. There’s a bakery, food trucks, shop, large area for yard games, tables for eating, areas for taking photos. A lot of thought and planning has been put in to develop a place for community.

The line for the bakery literally wrapped around the building and down the street, so I took that as a sign to stick to my diet.

The shop has tons of home decor items and also merchandise such as shirts, hats, books, and more for the Fixer/Upper fan.

The food trucks offered a variety of choices from pizza, tacos, sweet tea, crepes, juices, Mac and cheese, the list goes on and on and is making my stomach grumble just writing about it. All that uppity talk in my mind about sticking to my diet didn’t last long and I splurged for some very delicious mac and cheese.

So after a long morning of driving, I explored the Silos for about an hour, ate lunch, bought a souvenir for my sister, and headed out to meet some mammoths.

2. Mammoth National Monument

I loved this! It may be the teacher in me, but I loved learning about the mammoths that roamed Texas once upon a time. And also being able to see actual fossils and the archaeological dig site still in place where they were found. It cost me $4 and it was worth every cent and more. The tour guide was very humorous and informed. 4/5 dentists would recommend.

3. Downtown Waco

I love some street art. Waco unexpectedly has some!

It makes me want to go back to find more!

4. Shopping, Restaurants, and Views

I went to Waco with the expectation of only finding the Silos and the Mammoth Monument. It has so much more to offer. I could’ve easily spent another day there exploring. There were many more shops and restaurants within walking distance downtown and there’s even a trolley you can take around. I wish I had been more prepared! I suppose I’ll have to venture back one day to see and do more!

5. Lake Whitney

Alas, it was time to set up camp and rest my head. A short drive from Waco is Lake Whitney. This Lake has multiple camping options that range from paid to free! Sign me up for the free! It’s first come, first serve so I didn’t want to arrive too late and have to pay for a campsite. The first nook I looked down was all taken, but I lucked out at the next section and scored a spot right across from a boat dock, portapotty, and on the lake.

This was a great start to my road trip and I couldn’t wait to see what Oklahoma would hold for me next.

Travel

USA- One Roadtrip at a Time.

I love a good road trip. I don’t mind endless hours in a car. Stopped still traffic. Detours. Give me it all if it means getting to adventure somewhere new, eat all the food, and scratch off places to visit on my list.

For the last decade that I’ve been traveling, I’ve taken 3 multi-state roadtrips. The first was of ten states mostly on the east coast and the south. I wrote a bit about it when I first started my blog which you can read about here, Travels with Carlie-Planning a Road Trip. My next multi-state road trip was Fall 2017 of the New England states which I have not written about quite yet. Stay tuned for details on that adventure! New England speaks to my soul unlike any other place I’ve been to yet.

Now for road trip numero tres. Allow me to tell you how this trip was planned, then rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then almost didn’t happen.USA One Roadtrip at a Time Roadtrip Itinerary

If you are familiar with me, then you know I work in education. Well I planned this fabulous road trip of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas for my husband and I to take over spring break. I spent a great deal of time perusing pinterest, tripadvisor, and roadtrippers planning out a well balanced itinerary of city experiences, nature adventures, and food- food is always a priority to my plans. I had everything set and then the Navy happened. My husband got orders to relocate EXACTLY when I had our roadtrip planned. It’s as if they knew it would but a damper on my day. Since we would be moving him, but then I would go back to Texas, I simply rescheduled the roadtrip to do solo at the end of the school year. With this change to the plan, I also did some reorganizing of the trip since I would no longer need to return to Texas at the end and would simply keep driving to Florida instead. So I started counting down the days to June 1. My last day of work. Fortunately enough, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. My school was able to find a replacement for me to finish out the last two weeks of school, which meant rescheduling the trip again, but being able to see my cats, I mean husband, even sooner than originally planned!

So the trip was on! Allow me to introduce you to the itinerary: Road trip itinerary

As the date of departure approached, I must honestly say I considered canceling the trip altogether and just driving straight to Florida to be reunited. I really missed my cats. But I told myself I had to take this opportunity to explore multiple states I may never have the convenience of being relatively close to again. So I loaded up my Rav4 and embarked on what was a truly memorable solo experience.

To be continued…..

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Travel

Texas Car Camping Part 3

I’ve fallen in love… and not with my husband.

I have found a new love in car camping and hiking. The simplicity of the experience and freedom it allows me is everything I didn’t know I was missing.

I told you how I prepared for my trip in my post Solo Car Camping. I told you about the first night in my post Texas Car Camping and my second day in my post Texas Car Camping Part Two. Now I’ll detail my third and final day of my weekend away.

As the sun began to rise Saturday morning I was feeling all sorts of things.

  1. I felt a stiffness in my shoulder that I wasn’t sure if it came from sleeping on it wrong or if it was from climbing in and out of the cave the previous day.
  2. I felt the four blisters on my right foot and the one on my left from hiking 13 miles in new shoes.
  3. I felt excited to move on to Enchanted Rock State Nature Area where I would hike to the summit of a massive pink granite dome.
  4. I felt a little gross and dirty from not showering for a few days. Thank goodness for dry shampoo and baby wipes.
  5. I felt disappointed this would be my last day of my adventure and I would have to return to work on Monday.

All of these feelings energized me for the day ahead. I hit the road by 7:45am to drive the 1.25 hours to my destination. I arrived 30 minutes after their opening time of 8:30 to this sight: About 50 cars lined up on the side of the road trying to enter the park. I underestimated the number of people who would be interested in hiking and this fantastic natural location so early in the morning. Watching every car briefly stop to talk to the park rangers lined up at the entrance only to either continue on down the road or u-turn and head in the opposite direction, I finally got to the front of the line. They already reached their max capacity for the morning, but I was offered a voucher that guaranteed admittance at 1pm when they reopened.

With a little over 3 hours to kill, I fortunately had many options to occupy my time before I would be able to return to the park. I decided to travel the 17 miles to Fredericksburg, TX. What a fantastic town! This destination is known for its German immigrant culture mixed with Texas pride. There are tons of shops, restaurants, wineries and entertainment to keep you occupied for days! The town was bursting with activity and tourists participating in egg hunts, shopping and sight seeing since it was Easter weekend.

I’m not really much for large crowds or spending money so I did some quick research and found a nearby wildflower farm that was free to visit. Sign me up! Wildseed Farms was perfect! You can’t help but admire all the Texas Bluebonnets lining the roads as you travel through Texas, and to have a location with acres of them growing in on place was absolutely gorgeous. They have a shop, winery, an event venue, cafe, and of course the fields. If you’re in the area, you really need to make it a priority to stop.

As the time drew closer to 1pm, it was time to head back to Enchanted Rock.

It was worth the wait.

My intentions were to hike to the top of the dome and then complete a loop around the base of the mountain as well. You can see the trail map here. The climb to the top was tough, but doable. My shoes gripped the granite easily and even a simple tennis shoe would probably do the trick. The views were breathtaking. Nature truly is amazing.

My feet and blisters were not happy though. I laid down and smiled through the pain.

After basking in the sun at the top, I finally decided to make my descent, skipping the longer hike I had planned and headed home.

I don’t think I could have had a better time on this trip. Everything exceeded my expectations. I know there were a few people concerned for my safety, but not once did I feel unsafe. Cold? Yes. But never, unsafe. I really need to get that sleeping bag for next time.

Travel

Texas Car Camping Part Two

My first night in the car fell somewhere between enjoyable and a learning experience. In case you didn’t catch on in my first post, it was a little chilly in the car that night. Despite the cold, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise! vjWcOlpAQE+aCuTMUsrcuA

I had intentions of departing by 6:30 am, but I ended up leaving later than that since it wasn’t even sunrise yet, and I didn’t really feel like packing up in the dark. When I did finally roll out of “bed”, I was able to pack up my supplies in under 15 minutes, including eating my breakfast of pre-made hard boiled eggs and set out to my next location, Colorado Bend State Park. IMG_3943

Today’s itinerary included hiking Gorman Falls and Tie Slide Trail, and a cave adventure tour I booked through their website here. And here is a map of the state park, and all their trails.

I headed straight for the park headquarters upon arrival at the state park. I had my fingers and toes crossed to reserve a campsite for the night and I was super lucky that there was one site left! With my accomodations taken care of, I was behind schedule and didn’t have time to hike to Gorman Falls before my cave adventure, but I did have time to complete the Tie Slide Trail. This trail has lots of trees for cover from the sun and leads to a beautiful overlook of the Colorado River.

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Following this hike, I snacked on some grapes and headed back to the headquarters to meet my tour guide for the cave adventure. I’ve been in a cave before. I’ve toured the Natural Bridge Caverns outside San Antonio, TX and I’ve toured Diamond Caverns in Kentucky. Both of these tours were spent on your two feet the whole time and the most strenuous part might be going up and down stairs. The cave adventure I was about to participate in boasted a majority of crawling and a more raw experience than I had any history with. And an adventure it was!! The guide provided helmets and knee pads, which came in handy again and again as we spent the entire tour on our hands and knees and I bumped my head numerous times as I crawled around this primitive cave. It was AMAZING! I’m still not sure how I fit down this tiny hole and then climbed up through a different, but equally tiny hole. Yjh1g8i+SkOsVal8Qv9V7w

I cannot recommend this experience enough! It was well worth the $25 price tag, if anything, it was a bargain! J3Z1Zy2wTRCGKxele0tvfg

Our tour left from a different part of the park than I was expecting, so instead of going back to the trailhead for Gorman Falls, I decided to just hike from where I was at Cedar Chopper Loop. This added many, many miles to the amount of hiking I had originally planned, but I was feeling ambitious. I took Cedar Chopper Loop to Dogleg Canyon Trail and peeped this awesome canyon. naH1mcANQRuCeTuSyq4i8w

Dogleg Canyon Trail to River Trail and got to see a closed to the public cave entrance while using chains to traverse this tricky spot:IMG_4031

River Trail to Gorman Falls which got very slippery at the end as you descend down to the base of the waterfall. Ur15jHixSpC6TUs2djATAkXN+okRlqiPbYdz2YwUg

Definitely worth the struggle though.

I reached Gorman Falls and according to my Fitbit I traveled 10 miles by foot so far. My feet were preaching every step of that data. I still had to hike back to my car. Who’s idea was it to not drive to the trailhead? Mine. It was mine. No one to blame but myself.

Old Gorman Road to Cedar Chopper Loop got me back to my car the fastest. Once I was back in the RAV4 I headed to my campsite for the night where I quickly got my bed together, made my dinner and then did some stretching next to a curious armadillo.

Even with the cold that night, I slept very fitfully out of exhaustion. But I found a new love in hiking.

What do you or don’t you love about hiking?

Travel

Solo Car Camping

I’ve been camping many many times in my life. I’ve camped in a ground tent. I’ve “glamped” in a camper. I’ve camped in a rooftop tent. And now I’ve camped in my car.

I decided to go car camping because I’m spending the next two months separated from my husband and I wanted to go camping, but I didn’t want to buy a tent since we have an awesome roof top tent already, it would just be 600+ miles away from me so not exactly useable for my camping trips.

So I spent some time making lists, while perusing Pinterest and Amazon to strategize what I would need to make these trips a success.Solo Car Camping

To prevent this post from being ridiculously long, I’m going to let it focus on getting ready for my trip and write another post on my experience while camping

Anywho, this is what I came up with:

  1. Needs:Camping Needs
  2. Destination: The next step was to determine where I wanted to go. I only have a couple more months in Texas so I wanted to be sure to adventure into some gorgeous places. I found Colorado Bend State Park and Enchanted Rock on some blog in the obscure vastness of the internet that I can no longer find to link to. Whoever you were, thank you!Camping Destinations
  3. Itinerary. Once I had my list of needs down, and my list of places to go, I then focused on creating an itinerary for my trip. I decided I would leave right after work to get a bulk of the drive under my belt before dark, and so I could hopefully score a campsite at a free camping location, Cedar Point Reserve. The next day would focus on the Colorado State Park, camping that night at the state park and then head to Enchanted Rock the next day. After spending the day there, it would be time to head home so I’d have a day of rest before having to go back to work on Monday.Camping Itinerary-2
  4. Menu. Food is a priority. I wanted to only bring things I didn’t need to heat up, so I didn’t have to start a fire or buy a campstove. Here’s the food I came up with:Camping Menu
  5. Car Organization: I hate clutter. So I wanted to be sure I could fit everything on the back of my car so I could pull privacy cover over and hopefully prevent theft and maintain my happiness. It was a rousing success.fullsizeoutput_12a8.jpeg

I can’t wait to write about how the trip went! Spoiler: despite my greatest efforts, not everything went according to plan!