Monday, October 31, 2016

Blanco State Park: November 2016

Donna and I are at Blanco State Park, on the banks of the Blanco River in the city of Blanco in the county of Blanco, Texas. Yep, everything is blanco here.

We're in site #9 on this trip. Lots of trees with autumn leaves all over the ground.
Blanco SP has been one of our "go to" parks over the years. To be honest, I think I like it more than Donna does. This little park has a lot going for it.

First and foremost, it has full hookups, which is always a plus in my book. The WiFi has always worked for me as well, and that is another plus. There are good trees for shade in the summer, and the entire setting along the river is very attractive. The park isn't large; in fact, there are only 17 full hookup sites (a mix of 30 and 50 amp) and an additional 12 water and electric sites. During peak times, it can be difficult to find a vacancy. One of the perks of retirement is that we can travel at off times.

I've always found the park to be well maintained. The hosts/volunteers here really do a fine job of keeping the restrooms/showers clean and the grass mowed, among other things.

During summer months, the park can get busy, especially around the swimming area, the low-water crossing, and the north side of the river. It is a favorite place for families to swim and fish when that Texas heat bears down. The area on the south side of the river usually remains calmer, as this is the camping area.

Donna often fishes while she is here, but she has never had much luck.

One thing I really like about the park is that it is actually in the city limits of Blanco. Gasoline, groceries, and eateries are just outside the park entrance. In fact, there is a walking trail that connects the park to the downtown area, so it is an easy walk to the town square.

The park also serves as a good jumping off place to a number of nearby areas. Over the years, we have enjoyed a number of daytrips from this little park: all the LBJ sites in Johnson City and Stonewall, hikes at nearby state parks, shopping trips to the outlet malls in San Marcos, visits to the unique little village of Wimberly, and various dining trips to area eateries, to name a few.

Below are links to past stays in the park:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cleaning Holding Tanks

Probably one of the least pleasurable aspects of RVing is cleaning out holding tanks. Most RVs are equipped with 3 holding tanks: black water, grey water, and fresh water. The black water is waste from the toilet, grey water is waste from sinks and shower, and fresh water is your fresh water supply for those times when you may not have access to water. Of these 3 tanks, the least pleasant to deal with is, of course, the black water. Of the 3, it is also the one you need to deal with in order to prevent odors.

On our previous trailer, the Rockwood 2604, we had a built-in black water flush, so cleaning the black water tank was pretty painless. Our current trailer has no such luxury, and I really miss that feature. For the past year or so, I've been using a wand to clean the tank, but I recently learned of a new product that really does a pretty effective job. So, on our last outing, we stopped at Camping World in Denton and I picked up a Flush King Reverse RV Flush by Valterra. Click here to watch a promo video of this device.

Now, if this is a topic that interests you -- and if you are an RVer it SHOULD interest you -- there is a wonderful YouTube video of a man performing a series of tank rinsing solutions using various products. One of the products he tests is the Flush King. The video simulates quite well just what happens in a holding tank.

So far, I've only used my Flush King twice, but I've been impressed. When we are preparing to leave a site, I'll empty my black water tank. Now, I don't mean to be graphic here, but one of the features of the Flush King is the clear valve that allows you to watch your waste travel out of the tank. When I first emptied our tank, the waste was, of course, very dirty. Then I closed the valve between the Flush King and the sewer hose, and turned on the water, allowing it to run for several minutes in order to refill the tank. I then turned off the water, opened the valve, and watched the waste pass through the clear valve. This time, the waste was obviously cleaner, but still dirty. So, I repeated this process until the water ran clear. I also used this same process for my grey water tank.

On the last day of our trip, I followed the same procedure above but finished by closing the Flush King valve and then using my tank wand through the toilet. I gave the tank a good rinsing this way, then turned off the water and went back outside. I opened the valve and once again saw a good bit of dirty waste through the clear valve, waste that had obviously been washed down from the upper walls. Yep, I miss that black water flush I had on my previous trailer.

Notice clear section of valve. This allows you to watch the waste as it empties. Also notice that the cut off is below the water inlet. This allows you to add water to the tank and hold it, and this is important.

Still, without going through the expense of installing such a black water flush, the process I'm currently using is probably about as effective as I can be.

There are a number of good YouTube videos on this topic. One of the better ones I've found is "How To Dump and Clean an RV Black Tank." This particular video deals with an RV that has a built-in black water flush.

On a related note, one problem I've encountered numerous times is that my tank sensors begin to give false readings, obviously because of debris that blocks them in some way. The process described above helps to eliminate that problem. When we were at Copper Breaks on our recent trip, I noticed that our sensors were not reading accurately. So, after we emptied our tanks, I then refilled the black water tank about two-thirds full with fresh water. We then drove to our next destination almost 200 miles away. During the trip, the water sloshed around in the tank. When we arrived at Winstar, I emptied the tank, and the sensors were working properly.

RVing is not always about fun, and keeping your tanks clean and working efficiently is one of those things you just have to knuckle down and do.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Life of Leisure

I've really enjoyed being home following our trip. But this is a great time of year to be out in our state parks and visiting other places, so we are planning another trip very soon. Until then, we'll enjoy our time at Rio Concho West.

On Thursday night, the staff at Rio Concho West hosted their annual hamburger supper. Each year, the entire staff -- administrative personnel, office staff, and maintenance crew -- treat the residents of the community to hamburgers and all the fixings. It's their way of saying "thank you" to residents. We really had a good turn out this year, and the assembly hall where we hold our dinners was almost full. The burgers were really tasty, and fellowship with our fellow inmates was enjoyable as always. After supper, we enjoyed several games of Bingo, with a cash prize available for each game. We had a good time.

With each event we attend, we meet more and more of our fellow residents. This place really is a community, and its great to get to know our neighbors. Now when we attend an event -- or ride the bus to eat out somewhere or take a trip -- we always see familiar faces. Not every resident attends the events we have, so there are some folks I guess we'll never meet. Some of the folks, on the other hand, attend just about everything offered out here. Donna and I are somewhere in the middle. Since we travel often, we miss lots of events, but when we are home, we attend as many as possible.

On Friday, Donna and I attended the latest Tom Cruise movie, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. If you enjoy other movies Cruise has made, you'll probably enjoy this one. It is pretty typical of work he has done the last 20 or so years, such as the Mission Impossible series of movies and the previous Jack Reacher movie. The current film co-stars Cobie Smulders, who had a lead role in the long-running TV series, How I Met Your Mother. I must admit I struggled to accept her in this role.

Following the movie, we had a late lunch at Rosa's, then took a drive around Lake Nasworthy. We saw close to 20 deer in the parks around the lake, and as well as a sizeable gaggle of turkeys.

Life is good out here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trip Summary

I thought it might be interesting to give a summary of our recent trip.
  • Total distance: 764 miles. Note: this does not include side trips.
  • Total nights: 11 nights
  • Total gasoline cost: $167.39. We averaged more than 10 mpg. This cost DOES include side trips.
  • Total camping fees: $237
Where we stayed:
  • Copper Breaks SP: 2 nights
  • Winstar Casino RV Park: 4 nights
  • Ft. Richardson SP: 2 nights
  • Lake Brownwood SP: 3 nights
Of the 4 places we stayed, all were new to us except for Lake Brownwood SP. We like going to new places in general.

In all honesty, I really did not enjoy this trip, and I'm not sure why. I really wasn't comfortable at Copper Breaks. I did not care for the layout of the camp sites, but normally that doesn't concern me too much. Also, Copper Breaks does not have full hookups. I know that as I get older, I really avoid parks that do not have full hookups. And I know I don't like being without television. On this trip, we had no television at all. It's not that I'm a television junkie, but I do like to keep up with news and current events. And at the end of the day, it's nice to sit back and watch a good show or two.

I also do not really care for the part of the state where we were. I'm uncomfortable if we get too close to metropolitan areas, and that was the case with Winstar and, to a lesser degree, Ft. Richardson. I certainly don't care for towing on two-lane highways.

I think I'm just getting too used to creature comforts. I was so glad to get back home to my roomy shower, my comfortable bed, and my cozy chair in front of the television. If I want, I can step out on my back patio, sit in my rocking chair, and enjoy watching the happenings in my neighborhood. I think I just hate giving up all this comfort when we hop in that trailer.

But we have another trip planned and we'll be heading out soon. We'll see if a different atmosphere produces a different result. I certainly hope so.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hike Report: Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway

The Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway is a linear trail about 9 or so miles long, depending on your source. One trail head is located in Fort Richardson State Park while the other is located off Highway 59 a few miles north of Jacksboro on the shores of Lake Jacksboro (the lake is also called Lost Creek Reservoir).
There are 3 maps which reference this trail. The park map is probably the best of the three for locating the trail head in the park, but once you leave the park it is of no help. The trails map is a contoured map that has some information about interesting spots along the trail. The multi-use/location map does the best job of showing the location of the trail in relation to highways and the city of Jacksboro.
Hike Stats:
  • Distance Hiked: 6.05 miles
  • Time: 02:13:17
  • Elevation Range: 909 ft. to 1048 ft.
Donna and I decided to start at the trailhead in the park and hike 3 miles out and then back for a total distance of 6 miles. The trail is about 10 feet wide, mostly on a gravel base. During our hike, we encountered two paved sections: one by the city swimming pool and a second up a long slope just to the south of the old airstrip.
Trail Head in Ft. Richardson State Park. This is how most of the trail looks except for the paved sections mentioned in text.
For the 3-mile length of our hike, there were relatively few ups and downs. The exceptions would be once we crossed Lost Creek a second time at the southern tip of the lake. Just past this crossing were 2 small rises, reach offering some nice views of that portion of the lake.
The building on the left was the fort commissary, while the building on the right was the depot. The depot was built in 1898, about 20 years or so after the post closed.

View of the fort from the trail. Building on right is the post hospital, while the other buildings are barracks. Note wind turbines in distances.
The first mile or so was either in the park or along the border of the park. We then passed through a small residential area near the city pool that was a bit questionable. Once we passed under the highway bridge, we were not close to any other houses, though they were visible through the brush. The area under the bridge appears to be a favorite hangout, for there was quite a bit of garbage accumulated there.
Markers appear along the trail indicating points of historical interest, and there are quite a few, especially for the first mile or so. In the early days of Jacksboro’s development, this must have been the “industrial” section of the town, as the old depot is located across from the fort, as well as the remains of an old flour mill. Much of the rock used for the buildings in town was quarried from the area along the route, including from what is now called Quarry Lake behind the state park office.
These are the remains of an old flour mill. This area was Jacksboro's industrial section in the early 1900s, and included an electricity generating plant, a creamery, an ice house, a cotton gin, and a cotton seed mill, to name a few. The laundresses' quarters for old Fort Richardson were also located near here in an area called "Sudsville".

Supports for an old wagon bridge over Lost Creek. This is across from the city pool. The trail in this area is paved.

The old mixes with the new. This is the city pool, located next to where the modern highway crosses Lost Creek.
The first low-water crossing over Lost Creek.
This is the second -- and last -- low-water crossing over Lost Creek. The lake begins to sprawl downstream (left in picture). The area just a bit upstream (right) was popular with swimmers and with churches for baptisms. Just beyond this crossing there are 2 hills, the only real elevation changes we encountered on the trail.

The southern end of Lost Creek Reservoir (Lake Jacksboro)
We ended our hike at 3 miles out, near the north end of the old airstrip. During the course of our hike, we encountered only 6 people: 1 jogger, a man and woman out for a morning walk, and 2 young women pushing a little tyke in a stroller. We met all of these within a mile of the trailhead. We had originally considered walking the northern end of the trail, as I thought it might be more scenic as it wound its way around the lake and across the dam. However, I’m glad we didn’t. After our hike, we drove up to that trailhead to take a look and found the gate locked.

South end of the old air strip. Notice the lights.
I zoomed in for this shot of the airstrip, the lake, and the park area on the other side of the lake.
This tattered old wind sock more or less marked the end of our 3 miles out. Now we turn around and trudge back the same 3 miles. It always seems longer going back over trail you've been over before.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wandering Around Fort Richardson State Park

Donna and I are home now, so I'll go back and post some entries I didn't have time to do while we were traveling.

Donna and I arrived at Fort Richardson fairly early on Tuesday, October 11, so we had a beautiful sunny afternoon with enough time to do some exploring. Donna had been wanting to do some fishing, so she headed off to Quarry Lake behind the park office to feed the fish while I decided to just wander around the park. You can use the park map to follow along with me.
I began by walking the park road from our site -- #3 – to site #13. The park map showed a trail branching off here and crossing Lost Creek and then working its way up to a spot near the old fort. After ducking into the brush, I crossed the creek on some stepping stones and soon worked my up to Rumbling Spring, which was gurgling from the earth at the base of a large rock. This whole country has a lot of rock, and this makes for some pretty good exploring.
Stepping stones across Lost Creek

The spring is at the base of this rock in the very center of the photo. Water runs off and pours into the creek.
Here is another view of the spring showing the run-off.
I then worked my way downstream along the creek. The trail here is a bit rough as you have to traverse rocks and roots all along the way. The area along the creek is also heavily wooded. There are no trail signs, but the trail itself is pretty well worn. I did take a wrong turn once, but almost immediately came back to the trail on the other side of some desk-sized boulders. Along the way, I stumbled upon a second spring. It’s easy to see why the old fort was established here, as the water supply must have always been reliable. I also spotted a deer in the brush; she was mighty interested in what I was doing on her turf.
You can see some of the creek through the trees, which are fairly thick along the stream. The trail roughly parallels the stream.

It's rather difficult to see, but this is the second spring I happened across. This is pretty rocky country.
After half a mile or more, the trail climbs away from the creek and hits the main park road near the fort. I then wandered around the old fort for an hour or so. I was too late for the tour, so everything was locked, but I was able to peer in the windows. The buildings seem to be furnished nicely, and I’d like to return and do the tour sometime.

The Lost Creek Trailway cuts along the northeast boundary of the post, so I followed it back to its start. From there, I walked back to the main park road, which I followed to just past the low-water crossing, where the half-mile long Lost Creek Nature Trail ducked into the woods to follow the west side of Lost Creek. This trail for the most part is well-maintained, with the exception of a short section in the middle. Once again, the rock formations resembled those on the opposite bank of the creek.
Trail head for Lost Creek Nature Trail. This has an improved surface for much of the half mile trail.
Near the center section of the trail, the improved surface disappears and the trail becomes a well-worn dirt path. The improved surface returns near the end of the trail. Notice how thick the brush and trees are through this area.
View of the creek from the trail.

Rocks and boulders everywhere. It's really quite scenic.

Interesting rocks.
I emerged from this trail between camp sites 22 and 23, then picked up another trail by site 21, which led back to the road near my campsite.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Taking Things Easy

Not every day that you spend in an RV can be exciting. You don’t visit a casino every day (even though Donna would like to), and you don’t go on an interesting hike every day. And when you’re at a place like Lake Brownwood SP where we’ve been many times before, you’ve just about done everything there that you can do, and probably several times over. Sometimes you just have to kick back and relax a bit.

Today was one of those days.

Since we sat out enjoying the fire last night, it was late when we got to bed. As a result, we slept in a bit later this morning than we normally do. When we finally got dressed and ready to roll, it was mid-morning. We decided we’d drive over to Coleman to the Owl Drug Store and have one of their good hamburgers. We visited this place for the first time back in March of this year, and I wrote about it then. If you’re interested, you can look it up.

Since we had no real plans today, we decided to drive to Coleman on some back roads. We had a nice leisurely drive both going and coming and enjoyed seeing the ranches in the area. The region has been blessed with good rain all year long, and the countryside shows it. We saw several pastures that had recently cut hay, and the large bales were lying in the fields, waiting to be moved. Stock tanks were full to the brim, and grass was tall and thick in the pastures. It really is great to see this country looking healthy for a change.

As we entered Coleman, we stopped for gas, then headed to the drug store. We ordered 2 cheese burgers, a side of onion rings to split, and a couple of drinks. They brought the onion rings first, along with a dip that tasted basically like tartar sauce. The onion rings were cut into thick slices, and the batter held to the onions quite well for the most part. I tried the dip they brought, but personally, I’m old fashioned and soon reverted to ketchup. The burgers were great. I love a hand-formed patty that is a bit crustyou on the ourside, and that is exactly what I got. We looked the menu over while there, and decided that next time we’d try something different, but it may be hard to pass up those burgers.

We took a different set of back roads on our return trip to the park. It was nice driving down these rural farm/ranch to market roads. I grew up in a rural area, and I love the chance to get in the back country any time I can. I just enjoy seeing cattle, fields being tended, and homesteads being worked. We were able to drive along at a leisurely pace of 50 mph or so; I truly enjoyed the outing.

Once back in camp, I crawled in bed to sleep off that burger while Donna grabbed her fishing gear and headed to the pier. Later in the day, we began packing up, as we leave for home in the morning.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Rain, the Park, and Other Things

We’re at Lake Brownwood State Park now. I’ve reported on this park before, so I’ll not do that again. If you are interested, you can simply search my blog for those previous entries.

We arrived yesterday and got everything set up. We then drove around the park and were delighted to see the lake way up from our last visit. It really looks good. And the grass is still green.

We turned in early last night. About 10:30, it began to rain. It was one of those nice, gentle rains that make you enjoy being in an RV. The drops pittered-pattered on the roof, lulling us to sleep. There was no thunder or lightning, just a nice easy rain. Now, as dawn approached, it was still raining, and there was some thunder then, but it was not loud or threatening. The rain finally stopped about 8 or 9. I looked out and saw that the slab our picnic table sits on was under water.

We are in site 72. By this time, most of the water had drained off the slab. With the natural slope, it seemed that all the water just settled in our site.
But the sun came out by 11 and the rest of the day was really nice. After lunch, Donna grabbed her fishing gear and headed to her favorite pier while I just took it easy at the trailer. I cleaned off the picnic table area, then read a book.

Since today is Friday, the weekend crowd soon began arriving. Our campground is now full, I believe. Donna and I built a small fire as the evening settled into darkness, then watched the full moon rise in the east.
The fire felt good as darkness fell and temps began to drop.

It was a good day at Lake Brownwood SP.
This centipede shot out from under my chair while I was reading.

This tree was about 20 feet away. From that distance, it looked like a growth on the tree. When I got closer, I saw that it was a lizard. It blends well, doesn't it.

This dillo turned and ran when he saw my ugly face.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

On the Road: Fort Richardson SP to Lake Brownwood SP

We pulled out of Fort Richardson State Park about an hour after daylight this morning. I had several deer supervising as I got the trailer ready for travel. I don’t think they were too impressed with how I worked.

For the first hour or so, we stayed on US 281. For the first few miles out of Jacksboro, the shared highway is 4-lane, but once Texas 199 splits east towards Ft. Worth, the highway narrows to 2 lanes. As we drove through Mineral Wells, we were impressed by the downtown area and made a mental note to investigate this community as a future destination on one of our trips. After all, Lake Mineral Wells State Park is just east of the city, and that would be a good place to park the trailer. As a side note, I was surprised to find that US 281 through Mineral Wells is only 2-lane, so traffic piled up behind us unable to pass.

About 15 or so miles south of Mineral Wells, we hopped on Interstate 20 and headed west. Traffic on the interstate was light, so it was a pleasant drive. Just before we reached Ranger Hill, we took Texas 16 and headed south. The first 45 or so miles of this highway was a very pleasant stretch with very little traffic. The region has seen good rain this year, and it was nice to see stock tanks full and the grass in the pastures tall and thick. It has been a long time since it has looked so good at this time of the year.

At DeLeon, we intersected with Texas 6 for about a mile or so. We’ve passed through DeLeon several times over the years, but always on Texas 6. There are a couple of gas stations and a few other businesses along this stretch, but not a great deal. However, once we turned south on Texas 16, we passed through the downtown area, and it was rather nice.

The next town was Comanche. Donna and I looked at some small acreage here several years ago just before we retired. We really liked the land and the town, and have often wondered if we made the right decision by not buying that acreage. If we had, I’d probably be mowing several acres of grass, harvesting the last of the summer garden, and Donna would be canning and putting up. That’s a lot of work. We probably made the right choice. But Comanche is a nice little town with some beautiful land around it, and we always enjoy passing through.

At Comanche, we took US 67 south to Brownwood. This is a 4-lane stretch of highway and a very easy drive. At Brownwood, we stopped at Walmart and picked up some groceries before heading out to Lake Brownwood State Park, our home for the next 4 nights.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site, October 2016

We arrived at Ft. Richardson State Park and Historic Site yesterday, and we’ll leave in the morning. We’ve been pretty busy since we’ve been here. This is a nice little park, and I hope we can make it back one day as there is quite a bit to do.

One of the more unusual designs I've seen for a park headquarters.
Low water crossing over Lost Creek.
First and foremost for me, the park is a historic site, the home of Fort Richardson. The northernmost of a line of frontier forts from the Red River in the north to the Rio Grande in the south, Fort Richardson was established in the fall of 1867 on the banks of Lost Creek. The post played a major role in the activities which led to the Indians of the region, mostly Comanches and Kiowas, to be forced onto reservations in Oklahoma Territory, thus opening the frontier to settlement. Probably the most notable of all post commanders at Fort Richardson was Ranald S. Mackenzie, who was stationed there from April 1871 to December 1872. He played perhaps the single most important role in subduing the Native Americans.

Today, only a few buildings remain on the post grounds. The most prominent of these is the post hospital. The post was abandoned in 1878, but it roared back to life briefly in 1940, just prior to World War II, when it served as the mobilization area for the group that later came to be known as the “Lost Battalion.” The story of these brave soldiers is another story, and I leave you to Google this on your own. The marker below will help get you started.

Historic marker about the Lost Battalion. Theirs is a great story.

Post hospital

Officer's quarters

Activities at the park include camping, hiking, fishing, and swimming, among others. For RVers, there are only 4 full-hookup sites (sites 1 - 4); however, cabins C1-C8 have full hookups for those who want this type of camping experience. All other RV sites have electric and water only. The sites on the east side of Lost Creek tend, in general, to have shade on the west side, while the sites on the west side of Lost Creek tend to have shade on the east side. The exception to this would be sites 13 – 23 which tend to have full shade.

Quarry Lake near the entrance to the park. That is the HQ at right center in background.

This is site 22, which has full shade. Note the solid rock behind the site. We were assigned site 3, which is basically behind this site, but 15 or so feet above it.

This is one of the cabins. Click to enlarge the picture, and you will see the sewer connection as well as other utilities so that RVS can connect.

We stayed in site 3. Most sites are long enough to accommodate both trailer and tow vehicle.

The table and fire ring were a bit away from the site, but that really did not bother us.

One of the nice things about this park is that it sits on the southern edge of Jacksboro. It is easy to venture into town for groceries, sight-seeing, or dining. We enjoyed a good lunch during our stay at Casa Grande on the east side of the square. It’s not the best Mexican food we’ve ever had, but quality was quite good, service very good, and the prices were reasonable. We'd certainly go back.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is another travel day. I have at least two other entries for this park, though. It may be several days before I am able to post these, so hang in there and I'll see you down the road.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On the Road: Winstar Casino RV Park to Ft. Richardson State Park

Today was moving day for us. We moved from Winstar Casino RV Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, to Fort Richardson State Park in Jacksboro, Texas. I don’t have a map for the trip as I normally do, but the route we followed is I-35 from Thackerville to Denton, Texas, then west on US 380 to Jacksboro. Total distance for this trip is right at 100 miles. Now, there are a couple of shorter routes, but we had a stop along this route to make.

We left Winstar about 10:30 this morning. We pulled onto Interstate 35, crossed the Red River into Texas, then promptly exited almost immediately at the Texas Travel Center. We spent a while browsing the brochures, booklets, maps, and other literature planning future Texas adventures. We made a pretty good haul, so we’ll pore over all of these items the next several nights, or weeks, and plan future treks. There’s always a new adventure waiting just around the bend.

After that short break, we hopped back on I-35, passed through Gainesville, then gladly hopped off about half an hour later at exit 471 so that we could stop in at Camping World. I really don’t care much for I-35; I’ve said that before. Traffic is always heavy, the trucks drive way too fast, and the cars drive even faster. In fact, just before our exit, a fifth wheel flew by us. I was driving 65, my limit when towing, but this guy made me feel like I was standing still. Wouldn’t you know it, he pulled into Camping World just ahead of us. And as he circled around to park his big rig, he clipped a pickup, doing damage to both his trailer as well as the innocent pickup. Some folks just don’t take driving these big rigs seriously enough.
Anyway, we had a shopping list of parts to pick up at Camping World, and we always enjoy browsing the aisles of these places. We were able to find what we needed, then ambled back to our rig. We noticed the crazed fifth wheel driver and the pickup owner were inspecting the damage done.

We stayed on the service road for the short distance to US 380, which was the next intersection. We turned west. This is a 4-lane highway, and there was some construction under way for the first few miles. There were a lot of trucks on this stretch hauling dirt, gravel, sand or something. They were going in both directions, and continued all the way until Bridgeport.

At Bridgeport, the road narrows to 2 lanes. Just west of Bridgeport, we crossed an arm of Lake Bridgeport, which is a rather pretty lake. Traffic began to die out here. As we neared Jacksboro, we enjoyed a couple of passing lanes, but the traffic wasn’t too bad along this stretch.

Once in Jacksboro, we pulled into the park, our home for the next 2 nights.

Winstar RV Park

While visiting Winstar Casino, we spent 4 nights at the adjacent RV park.

This is a fairly new RV park. When you enter the property, you are greeted by an overall neat picture. Interior roads are paved, all spots are paved, the office is modern and efficient in appearance, the pavilion and adjacent swimming pool are nice, and the grass is green and neatly trimmed. From this appearance, you would think you were really staying in a great park; and you really are, for it does receive some very good ratings.

Entrance street to the park. The office is the rwo-story building on right. Winstar Hotel is the tall building in the distance.


Swimming pool

Now, I can’t complain about a park that is this seemingly nice. But I was disappointed by the lack of attention to certain things. For example, the sewer is not threaded. Well, you know what is going to happen if that thing isn’t threaded or weighted down; get ready for blast off. Officially, the park does list “Wireless Internet” as one of its amenities; however, upon asking I was told that it didn’t work very well. How many times have you heard this at an RV park? Well, it didn’t work at all for me, and I had a site very close to the office. If you list an amenity, then ensure that it works! And there also is no cable TV connection at the park, and OTA reception is not good at all. I was also surprised that my site was not level. You can walk around the park and visually see that some sites are, indeed, very uneven.

We were assigned one of the 80 foot pull-through sites. Now, these look nice, and they truly are, but I was a bit frustrated by the arrangement of utilities and the picnic table/slab. As I said, all sites are concrete, and a picnic table is secured on an adjoining slab. Ideally, you would like your door to open onto the slab with easy access to the table. I could not make mine work without using extensions for water, power, and/or sewer. It just isn’t arranged to work well for my rig. Others may find it perfect, though. Most travel trailers have their doors near the rear, while fifth wheels and motor homes tend to have doors farther towards the center or front of their respective rigs. These sites should work better for them. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. And the space between sites is truly generous for a commercial RV park.

One of the many 80 foot pull through sites. There are back-in sites located around the perimeter of the property and a few other places.

Our site. We have 2 picnic tables: the one at near left and the one at right. Utilities are available on both sides, so you can pull through in either direction.

There are 2 laundry centers/showers in the park. The laundry rooms are clean and bright. The restrooms, though clean, kind of remind me of the restrooms/showers at Texas state parks, but much cleaner. There is even a “primitive camping” area in the park. These sites are also paved and are close to the facilities, so they aren’t really primitive at all. There is also a paved walking path that borders the park on the north and west sides. Trees have been planted throughout the park, but since the park is so new, they are still rather small and do not yet provide much shade. Your AC will get a workout here in the summer.

I was amazed at how peaceful the park is. It is only half a mile from Interstate 35 and the casino, yet it was a sea of calm and peace. Noise from the interstate is constant, but the park is far enough away that it is just a distant hum. It didn’t keep either of us awake at night.
The casino does provide 24-hour shuttle service between the casino and RV park as well as a few other places along the route. We found it to be reliable.

Laundry center with showers in western part of the park.

Interior of laundry center. There are additional machines behind where I took this picture.

Primitive camping area

Walking trail that borders the north and west sides of the park.

But most people are here for the casino and don’t care about the setup. And the rates for such a place are pretty reasonable, so it is hard to complain.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Winstar Casino, Thackerville, Oklahoma

We’ve spent the past few days doing a bit of playing at Winstar Casino, just north of the Red River in Oklahoma. This is a huge casino, and quite a bit has built up around it. A lot of money goes through this place. Although I did not measure it, I would say that it is about half a mile from one end to the other, so you can really get your exercise wandering through this place.

Donna and I have visited a number of casinos over the years. We really prefer casinos in Nevada as we feel they provide the best bang for your buck. I can even tolerate the casinos in Shreveport, which no longer have any good games for the serious gambler. But Winstar takes greed to the next level. There are no good games at this casino, and even those venturing above 95% or so return have reduced points. I did find some quarter and above 9/5 Jacks or Better, but as I indicated, points accumulate dreadfully slow on these machines. On one machine I played, I calculated that it took $30 coin-in to get a single point.

But the casino itself is nice and well maintained. There are some really lovely architectural features throughout the place, such as statues, ceiling reliefs, and so on. There are plenty of eateries, some offering a good deal here or there, but most with inflated prices. We did find a good happy hour at Toby Keith’s, so we spent quite a bit of time there drinking 25-ounce draft beer.

The entire casino seems to be well maintained. I found the restrooms, for example, to be pretty clean. Hand sanitizers are located throughout the building. Interactive displays, including maps, are also available at strategic locations throughout the property. One of the things I really like about this place is the self-service beverage stations located roughly in each city section, where you can serve yourself soft drinks, tea, and coffee (including decaf).

The casino is divided into city sections. For example, you have Madrid, New York, Paris, London, Rome, Beijing, and perhaps one or two others. The place seems to be a popular stop on the entertainment circuit, and a number of big name acts were set to appear about the time we were there, such as Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Tom Jones, Toni Braxton, and the Temptations. Crowds from the Metroplex are certainly drawn to this place.

Start of the Madrid section of the cadino.

I doubt I’ll return. This is not my kind of casino. Besides, I’m a desert rat, and there’s just too many trees and too much grass here for me. I’ll continue to wend my way west to Nevada whenever I can. A gambler can still get an even break out there if he knows where to look. 

Below are some of the ceiling reliefs I found quite attractive.


Close up of Rome