Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fernbrook RV Park, Longview, Texas

Fernbrook RV Park is possibly the best RV park we have ever visited. I highly recommend it.

Fernbrook RV Park is located in the middle of a triangle made up of Longview, Kilgore, and Lakeport. It is about 2 miles south of Interstate 20 on FM 2011, near the old community of Peatown.

I could tell I was going to like this place from the moment we pulled into the park. The entrance makes a great first appearance. A white rail fence fronts the road, and the office sits just inside the fence. There is plenty of room to pull in and park at the office.

Entrance to Fernbrook. Notice wide entrance and paced roads.
All interior roads are paved, and all sites have cement pads. The pad is roomy enough to allow parking the trailer and to still have room for walking, sitting, etc.

Roomy concrete pads easily accommodate rigs of all sizes.
All utilities are grouped together. I like this, but many parks spread their utilities over a broad area, making hookups difficult and messy. If you've followed my blog, you've seen my comments on this topic in other reviews.

From left to right: water, sewer, and electric/cable. Very convenient setup.
All sites are located in a sea of grass. Although there are few mature trees in the park -- except along the south boundary -- trees have been planted around the park. In a few years as the trees mature, these trees will offer plenty of shade.

One of 4 streets in the park. Nice paved streets, paved sites, grass, and trees. Playground is on the left.
The park offers various amenities, including a pool and playground. The laundry room is great, with plenty of machines in great working order and plenty of room for folding clothes. There is even a change machine in the laundry. Restroom and shower facilities are roomy and clean.

Office on left and laundry/restrooms on right
The park provides 32 Direct TV channels. WiFi is included in the price with two access points in the park. We had good connectivity during our stay.

There are 3 hosts who live in the park, and they stay busy and are very visible. We needed propane during our stay. We were told to leave our tank at the edge of our site and they would fill it up and deliver it. What a great service! A tank of propane cost $17.50, one of the best prices I've had on our trip.

Probably half the residents are long-term residents; they are located mostly along the southern sites where the mature trees are. We also saw a daily stream of travelers in many sites around us. Since the park is only 2 miles off the interstate, it is a convenient overnight stop for east/west travelers.

The park is highly rated, and their prices are very fair. About the only thing I didn't like about the park is that it is located about a mile from a gun club. Occasionally -- especially on Saturdays -- I could hear shots in the distance, but the sounds are so far away they are not a problem at all.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tyler State Park: October 2012

We recently spent 3 nights at Tyler State Park (October 15 - 18). It was just about a perfect time to be there. We arrived on a Monday and left on Thursday, so we avoided the weekend hordes that descend on the park this time of year. One of the great advantages of retirement is visiting places when everyone else is either in school or working.

We visited this park for a few days last spring when the dogwoods were first appearing. It was nice to be here in autumn for a different look. We were too early for real fall color in this part of the state, but the temps were perfect. Below is a link to my previous report on this park.

We were able to get the same spot this trip that we previously had, site 54 in the Big Pine Camping area (see map). This camping area is restricted to recreational vehicles, no tents. While we were there, probably only 6 to 8 sites were occupied. The nights were quiet and dark. Firewood was available near the restroom; cost is 3 logs for $1 with proceeds going to the park. There has been quite a bit of clearing lately, so there was an ample supply of firewood available. You can also purchase firewood from the store across from the entrance to the park, but you will pay considerably more. I'd rather give my money to the park. By the way, the Pilot gas station at the Interstate has some of the lowest priced gas around.

Big Pine Campground. Some trees have been cleared, but I don't know why.
Donna enjoying a late afternoon fire

We were busy with personal business during our stay there, so we didn't do any of our usual park activities, such as hiking. However, we did enjoy a good fire each night. The first night, 2 racoons approached our camp. Last year, we watched as a couple of coons raided our neighbor's campsite. Squirrels were also numerous, and various birds, including cranes and ducks, visited the lake.

The lake at Tyler State Park
This is really a good park, and it is well-known among mountain bikers for its bike trails. Cyclists from all over visit the park, especially on weekends and Spring Break, to ride the trails. As a result, if you enjoy hiking, visit the park during other times, like during the week. There are at least 3 fishing piers if you're an angler. A variety of camping is available, including tent camping and shelters in addition to RV camping. There is also a very good group camping area.

Perhaps when the colors of fall are richer, Donna and I will return to the park for a short visit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where in the World Are Donna and Keith?

Just a quick trip update on October 18, 2012 . . . .

We left Big Spring early Monday morning (October 15) and made it to beautiful Tyler State Park just north of Tyler, Texas, for 3 nights. This morning, we moved to Fernbrook RV Park just north of beautiful Peatown, Texas. This is a nice little park, and I think we will enjoy our stay here.

WiFi service here appears to be very reliable, so I'll be working on catching up on this blog. I'll post a trip report for Tyler State Park, then provide a review of Fernbrook.

It's good to be back in East Texas at this time of year. There is a hint of color in the woodlands, and the temps are almost ideal. After being in so may desert areas, it's good to see lush landscapes again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the Road: Santa Rosa, NM, to Big Spring, TX

We awoke early on Friday, October 12, to the sound of rain. We wanted an early start so that we could get to Big Spring at a decent hour, but we didn't want the rain.

We secured everything in the trailer, then waited hoping that the rain would stop. It didn't. I donned my rain gear and went outside to prepare the trailer for the trip while Donna brought in our slide and finished securing the inside. In a few minutes, we were ready to pull out.

We drove down the street to the local McDonald's for breakfast, then stopped for gas. We headed south on US 84 towards Fort Sumner, a favorite haunt and burial site of Billy the Kid. It continued raining on us for the first few miles, then we were able to break out of the rain and leave it behind us, though we watched lightning to our west and southeast for a while.

At Fort Sumner, we turned east towards Clovis, New Mexico, near the Texas border. We soon passed through Clovis and had Texas in our sites. The state line separates the communities of Texico, New Mexico, and Farwell, Texas. After 2 months, we were back in Texas.

We stopped in Sudan for gas, then turned south on US 385 at Littlefield, hometown of Waylon Jennings. This is familiar country to us, as we lived in nearby Olton in the late 1970s. In fact, our daughter was born while we were in Olton.

We passed through Levelland, home of South Plains College, on our way south. I was reminded of a song by one of my favorite artists, "Levelland" by Robert Earl Keen. Despite the lyrics of the song, Levelland is really a nice, progressive community.

From Levelland, we passed through Brownfield, which was our shopping town when we lived in nearby Wellman in the mid 1980s. While passing through, Donna suggested we detour through the small community of Wellman, which is 12 miles southwest of Brownfield. Our daughter began her school career in this town, and I have very good memories of teaching there. So, we took the extra time to pull our trailer through the narrow streets of Wellman, looking at our former home and other sites.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We stopped in Lamesa for gasoline, then crawled into Big Spring and secured a site at Texas RV Park, where we stayed about 2 months ago. We set up the trailer, then cleaned up and went out for a meal. We would spend the next few days visiting our daughter and her family before heading to East Texas.

On the Road: Laughlin, Nevada, to Santa Rosa, New Mexico

We left Laughlin in the dark on Thursday, October 11, heading for Texas. We hoped to make it to Albuquerque, New Mexico, by the end of the day. That is a distance of 502 miles, which is a long day when you are pulling a trailer.

Our 617 mile route

From Laughlin, we climbed up and away from the Colorado River towards Kingman, Arizona. At Kingman, we stopped for gas, then hopped on I-40, which we would follow east the rest of the day. The area around Kingman is mountainous.

As we headed east, the terrain gradually grew more mountainous, and the mountain slopes became dotted more and more with pine and other trees. As we neared Williams, Arizona -- the gateway to the south rim of the Grand Canyon -- rain set in. Clouds settled around the mountain tops as the rain came down. At Flagstaff, we stopped again for gasoline.

The skies cleared as we headed east from Flagstaff. At Winslow, we detoured onto old Historic Route 66 for a look at the "corner in Winslow, Arizona".

Donna standing next to a flat bed Ford on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
From Winslow, we passed through Holcomb, Arizona, then crossed into New Mexico, where we soon crossed the Continental Divide. We passed by the small towns of Gallup and Grants, then set our sites on Albuquerque. I had found a couple of RV parks on the west side of Albuquerque, and I planned to stop at one of them for the night. However, when we pulled into the first one, we discovered that the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was underway. RV sites were outrageously priced, if you could find one at all, so we quickly decided to continue heading east. On the eastern outskirts of Albuquerque, we stopped again for gas, then hopped back onto I-40 for another 100 mile stretch to Santa Rosa, where we stayed about 6 weeks ago.

After stopping at the local McDonald's in Santa Rosa for a couple of salads to eat once we were settled for the night, we headed to the RV park and secured a site. It was dark as we pulled into the site. We left the trailer hooked up to the truck, and only hooked up electricity and water for the night. After getting settled for the night, we enjoyed our salads.

It had been a long 600+ mile day

Riverside RV Park

We spent a week at Riverside RV Park in Laughlin from October 4 - 11.

The park was amazingly similar to the park at Sam's Town in Las Vegas. Streets are paved. Concrete pads are available at each site, but the rest of the site is crushed gravel. As you move away from the river in Laughlin, the ground slopes up, so there are terraced levels in the park. Trees have been planted in many areas, and some shade is provided.

This is a large park and extends way back from Casino Drive. The casino provides a shuttle bus to transport guests back and forth from the park to the casino. Restrooms and showers are located throughout the park, and they are beginning to show their age. They are locked and require a pass key. There are only 2 laundry rooms for this large park. We visited the one near the entrance. It had only a few machines, and some of those were not working. The room was poorly maintained.

Standard amenities are provided, including full hookups and cable TV. WiFi is available for a fee. I hate to pay for WiFi, and most parks today provide it free of charge. However, since I had not had Internet for the past 10 days, I decided to purchase the service. This was a mistake; speed was frustratingly slow. We also found the water pressure to be very low.

The sewer connection at many of the sites, including ours, was actually located a bit up the terraced slope at the back of our site. This meant that our drainage actually had to go up hill a bit. It took me some time engineering a way to get my system to drain more efficiently. I ended up using one of my leveling boards under my hose carriage as well as several rocks. I noticed other residents had done something similar.

We did enjoy sitting out at night. We had a good view of Casino Drive, and we enjoyed the numerous casino signs flashing along the road. However, I would not want to stay in this park again. The problem is, though, that there are very few RV parks in the area, so options are extremely limited.

Laughlin, Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada, is an interesting town, and it is probably our favorite gaming town. I would consider living there if it didn't get so hot during the summer. It is normally a few degrees hotter there than in Las Vegas. When we left Vegas on October 1, the daily highs there were in the low 90s; our first few days in Laughlin, we had highs over 100 degrees.

Our first three days in Laughlin, we had a comped room at the Aquarius. It was nice to get out of the trailer for a few days. After three days, we then took our trailer to Riverside RV Park and spent another 7 days in Laughlin. We spent most of our time playing video poker at the Aquarius, though we did spend some time at the Riverside and one day at Harrah's.

Laughlin actually has two faces. There is Casino Drive along the Colorado River, where the casinos are located. Up the hill from the river is the residential section. There are nice homes, apartment complexes, a few businesses, schools, and a public library in this area. The two areas of Laughlin are about 4 or 5 miles apart, and the elevation difference is probably at least 500 feet.

The city operates a local bus service connecting the casinos to the residential area, and it is heavily used. There are also water taxis that run up and down the river. The Riverwalk extends from the Riverside on the north to the River Palms on the south; it does not extend to Harrah's, the southernmost casino.

Getting around on foot among the casinos -- with the exception of Harrah's -- is easy enough. All of the casinos are located along the river except for the Tropicana, which is located on the west side of Casino Drive. Each casino has a number of eateries, from local restaurants to chains such as McDonald's, the Outback, and other well known names.

There is always some type of activity on the river, whether it be cruise boats taking tourists up and down the river, water taxis plying their routes, or jet skis zipping up and down. Riverside also operates a taxi bringing people over from a dock on the Bullhead City side of the river.

Aside from gaming and related services such as restaurants, Laughlin has very few businesses. Bullhead City, just across the river, provides most services from groceries to medical to anything else needed by Laughlin residents. Although Laughlin has a few gas stations, gas prices are about $.15 to $.20 higher than in Bullhead City. From the Laughlin residential area, it is about a 30 mile round trip to the Walmart in Bullhead City.

This was our third trip to Laughlin. I reported on our previous trips last year. You can find these reports, both with pictures, using the following links:

There are other entries related to our November/December trip as well, but I have not linked to them as they do not pertain directly to Laughlin.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On the Road: Las Vegas to Laughlin, Nevada

We pulled out of the Sam's Town RV park on Monday, October 1, to go to Laughlin.

96 miles from Vegas to Laughlin

From the park, we journeyed down the Boulder Highway past casinos, fast food joints, and other businesses. Just outside town, we turned south on Highway 95. This is the true desert. We saw a few Joshua trees and other stunted plant growth, but for the most part there is nothing out there but rocks and dirt.  There was a large body of water beside the highway just a few miles south of our turn off. Vegas had considerable rain early in September, and this could be a result of that. On the plains of Texas, there are playa lakes, which form in depressions after rains. This body reminded me of a playa lake. Nearby was a large solar farm, the largest I have ever seen.

About halfway to Laughlin, we passed through the small town of Searchlight, Nevada. Not much there except a gas station or two, a McDonald's, and a casino or two. Then back into the desert.

Just before our turnoff, we passed by the uniquely named community of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada. Not much there, but it does have the required casino as any good Nevada community does.

Just before reaching the California line, we turned east onto highway 163 for the most scenic part of the drive. The road here winds through the southern part of the Newberry mountains, a range that climbs to just over 2,600 feet. After reaching the crest, the final 10 or so miles then winds down to Laughlin at an elevation of 558 feet, our lowest point since leaving East Texas 2 months earlier.

Sam's Town RV Park

We stayed at Sam's Town RV Park from September 24 through October 1. The park is located on the Boulder Highway in Las Vegas next door to Sam's Town Casino.

The RV park is a decent place to stay, and it is convenient to the casino. It has all the regular facilities -- restrooms with showers, pool, laundry room, cable TV, and full hookups. WiFi is provided at the park for a fee of $6.95 per day or $19.99 per week, so we did not use it.

The park is set up on a circular pattern with the pool and laundry room at the center. All streets are paved and all sites are solid crushed gravel.

All utilities for sites are contained within a single housing unit shared by 2 rigs. Motorhomes can either back in or pull in straight. All trailers back in. The sewer connection is rather unusual. You pull up a sliding door and fit your hose in a groove there, then slide the door down to secure the hose.

There are very few trees in the park so shade is at a premium. We were there when daily temperatures were in the low 90s and nightly lows were in the 60s, so we were alright, but I could not see us staying there in the heat of the summer.

The first day we were there, a motorhome came in and parked next door to us, sharing our utility box. We threw a breaker once that day. The motorhome left the the next day, and we had no more breaker problems until our last full day at the park, when another motorhome came in to share the box. That evening, we threw a breaker several times. It seems that by sharing a box, the motorhome was pulling power from us. I turned our fridge and water heater on to gas, thereby reducing our electric pull, for I wanted to ensure we had enough electricity for our air conditioner. We had no more problems after that.

Although the park is right on the Boulder Highway, which is a very busy city artery, the road traffic was not overly loud. However, sirens sounded at all hours of the day and night. We did feel safe in the park. The park is surrounded by a wall, and a security patrol made rounds at all hours throughout the day and night.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hoover Dam

While in Las Vegas the last week of September, Donna and I decided to drive out to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. This is a busy place, and we didn't see as much as we would have liked.

The drive from Vegas is rather nondescript until you approach Boulder City. We were impressed with this small community. It is a tidy, attractive desert town which obviously does a healthy tourist trade.

As we left Boulder City, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Mead.

Lake Mead as we leave Boulder City

The highway from Kingman, Arizona, to Las Vegas once took all traffic across the Hoover Dam. However, there is a new highway and a new bridge -- the Mike O-Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge -- which crosses the Colorado River below the Hoover Dam. We exited onto the old road, though, and, after much searching and a great deal of patience, we were able to find a parking place in the area for the pedestrian bridge which crosses the river.

Hoover Dam taken from the pedestrian bridge
 From the parking area of the pedestrian bridge, which is on the Nevada side of the river, you climb a series of steps (handicap access is available) to reach a pedestrian walkway alongside the new bridge. This pedestrian bridge is not for the feint of heart, though; I was able to get out on the bridge to snap some pictures, but then I froze. After much crying and other hysterics, 2 little old ladies helped me back to the Nevada side. The dam, by the way, can not be seen from the new highway.

Donna at a scenic overlook of Lake Mead

Back in Texas

For the past 17 days or so, I've either not been connected to the Internet or my connection was not good at all. As a result, I've not been able to post much to the blog. I hope that will change now.

Donna and I arrived in Big Spring, Texas, this afternoon after a 900 mile journey from Laughlin that began yesterday morning. We saw some wonderful country, and I will post something about the trip as soon as I can catch up.

We will stay in Big Spring for a few days visiting our daughter and her family. We will leave here next week and travel to East Texas to take care of some business there. We have no plans at this time beyond East Texas. It will be good to see the colors of fall there.

Please bear with me as I try to catch up. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Las Vegas, Nevada

We spent the week of September 24 through October 1 at Sam's Town RV Park on the Boulder Highway in East Las Vegas, Nevada. We had been to Las Vegas twice before about ten years ago. The first trip we stayed at the Excalibur on the South Strip, and the second time we stayed downtown at the Golden Nugget.  Of the two locations, I think we like the downtown experience better. You can still see glimpses of the old Vegas downtown, and there are much better gaming and eating opportunities there.

Las Vegas is a big town, and it's a busy place. Sirens sounded around the clock all up and down the Boulder Highway. I don't know if they were ambulances, fire trucks, or police calls -- probably a mix of all of these -- but we heard them at every hour of the day and night.

We spent our time gambling at Sam's Town and the nearby Boulder Station. We enjoyed both casinos. We were lucky enough to hit a jackpot while at Sam's Town playing the full pay deuces wild machines there. We scored enough comps that we were able to eat free for the last several days we were there. Getting around on the Boulder Highway was easy enough, and there were various dining and shopping opportunities in the area. In fact, there is a Super Walmart right across the street from Sam's Town. Other RV parks are located nearby as well.

The weather was fairly mild by Vegas standards while we were there. The temperatures were basically in the lower 90s during the day while dipping to the lower 70s or higher 60s at night.

One aspect of gambling in Vegas I don't like is the presence of children in the casinos. Dining options and hotel access are usually located off the main casino floor at local casinos, so children have to pass through the casino to get to these places. I hate seeing these children on casino floors, exposed to smoke and drinking. And because casinos like Sam's Town offer arcades, bowling, movies, and other child-oriented entertainment, there are lots of families here.

But we liked Sam's Town and would consider returning here if ever in Vegas again. It has plenty of eating options, including chains like McDonald's, Subway, and TGIF, as well as the usual assortment of casino options like buffets and delis. There is something happening almost everyday at Sam's Town. While there, we participated in a slot tournament as well as several drawings for various prizes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Road: Beaver, Utah, to Las Vegas, Nevada

Monday, September 24, 2012

We awoke while it was still dark out this morning; we wanted to get an early start. Since we did not unhook yesterday, it didn't take us long to pull out of the RV park in Beaver. We drove over to the nearby McDonald's and had a light breakfast.

Our route today is 227 miles
After breakfast, we drove through Beaver. Like most other Utah towns we have seen, this one was neat and orderly and very attractive. The residents of the state have done a wonderful job of making the desert bloom.

After hopping on Interstate 15, we headed south. The first part of the trip was through a rich agricultural valley dominated mostly by hay fields. The valley was probably 3 - 5 miles wide in most places, though I've discovered I have trouble estimating distances accurately in this big country. The drive through this section was easy and over fairly level terrain.

As we approached Cedar City, UT, we climbed out of the valley into more rugged country, but nothing like what we experienced the previous day. From Cedar City on to the Arizona state line, we remained in an urban setting, dominated by St. George, UT, the major city in this part of Utah with a population of over 70,000 citizens. Because of its mild winter climate, Brigham Young selected the area for his winter home.

We crossed the Arizona state line as we left St. George, and soon entered the most scenic stretch of our trip today -- the Virgin River Gorge. The Virgin River has sliced through the mountains of Arizona that separate Utah from Nevada, and the road follows the river as it winds its way through this rough country. Below are some pictures Donna snapped as we wound through this scenic setting.

Approaching the Virgin River Gorge; at this point, it really does not look that impressive, but appearances can be deceiving.
As we get farther into the gorge, the hills become steeper and closer to the road.
We are really feeling closed in about now.
Those are some steep canyon walls

The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

And suddenly, we emerge from the gorge to see a hazy horizon of mountains lying in the distant west

The Nevada state line is just a few miles west of the gorge, and the growing town of Mesquite is right on the border. You know you are in Nevada because the casinos begin at the first exit. We detoured through Mesquite for a closer look at this community, which is attracting growing numbers of retirees with its casinos and golf resorts. It is a tidy place with a good variety of businesses.

Back on I-15, we set our sites on Las Vegas. We are plainly in the desert now. It is sunny and hot. For the first time since we left Big Spring, Texas, in mid-August, we have temperatures in the high 90s. The land is baked, and very little grows here.

We enter Vegas on the northeast side. After exiting the interstate, we pass Nellis AFB and turn south on Nellis Boulevard. Our destination is Sam's Town RV Park on the Boulder Highway. We will spend 1 week here.

Connected Again

After about 10 days with no Internet service, I'm connected again. It will take me a while to get caught up on everything I need to do, but I'll be posting new entries soon, picking up with where we left off in Beaver, Utah.

We are now in Laughlin, Nevada, after spending a week in Las Vegas. We spent our first three nights here at the Aquarius Hotel and Casino, where we had free rooms. Yesterday, we moved over to Riverside RV Park.

Please bear with me as I catch up on email and other business. As soon as I have time, I'll post new entries.