After running kids to sporting events all summer, my wife and I finally managed to squeeze in a getaway for the two of us. Having stayed in dozens of nice, but cookie-cutter-like hotels in recent months, we wanted something “grown up” and different that didn’t have “casino” in the name (this is Shreveport, remember). The Remington is exactly what we wanted!
The staff is very friendly and accommodating, the hotel is very quiet (only 22 suites!), and the polished, beautiful look that begins in the lobby extends all the way to the rooms, too. Fellas, if you’re a romantic Neanderthal like me, you can pick up some serious romance points by taking your gal to this place. Spacious rooms, beautifully decorated, marbled bathrooms, jetted tub — the works! We stayed in a Deluxe Suite which has a King bed in the bedroom and two love seats with fold-out beds in the living area. (This room would’ve easily accommodated our family of five.) Nice refrigerator for storing the leftovers from the restaurant down the street, good microwave for re-heating them for that late-night snack, and they even have an in-room Keurig for you coffee-drinkers!
The Remington is just across the bridge from the Louisiana Boardwalk where you can take in movies, shopping, more restaurants, etc. And here’s where you can prove you’ve scored some romance points with your wife — if she likes The Remington, she’ll let you visit the Bass Pro Shop at the Boardwalk. Mine did!
Tyler State Park is one of the most popular state parks in all of Texas. Since Texas is a fair-weather state for most of the year, it is sometimes difficult to secure a camping spot for your RV. But, if you’re persistent and work the Texas Parks & Wildlife website frequently you can eventually land a comfortable camping experience.
We took our 2018 Heartland Mallard to Tyler State Park to celebrate our son’s birthday. The Park has several types of campsites from which to choose. We prefer full hookups and a good view, whenever possible, so we chose a spot at the Lakeview camp which not only offers the full hookups but also a beautiful view of the lake.
Sometimes, if Internet luck is on your side, you can secure a location that is lakeside. For this trip, however, we were parked across the street, so-to-speak.
Regardless, we had plenty of space and privacy. Here’s a look at our campsite facing away from the street.
As you can see, there’s plenty of space for a tent. My son and his wife brought their tent and set it up near the picnic table. There was still plenty of room for fun. In fact, in the evening, they started a fire and made the best dutch oven cobbler ever!
Sidenote: we camped here during the park’s annual Christmas light celebration. My son brought his projector and we watched movies on the back of our Mallard!
There’s plenty to do at Tyler State Park including kayaking and canoes, fishing, hiking, geocaching, birdwatching or, as we like to do, just relaxing. If you’re the kind that needs access to WiFi, Tyler State Park has it but it is pretty limited. Likewise for television reception even though the city of Tyler is nearby. But that’s OK. Tyler State Park is meant to be enjoyed for its beauty and wide open spaces. It’s really a great place to unplug from the daily grind.
My wife and I managed a weekend getaway to Shreveport and chose to eat at the Blind Tiger our first night in town because it was within walking distance of our hotel.
My mission was clear — Cajun food or bust! We started off with an order of Crab Cakes. They came three to an order, each the size of a hamburger patty, with a creamy rue and some small crawfish. The flavor was absolutely outstanding! Crispy on the outside with warm, sweet crab on the inside and not the least hint of a fishy taste. WAHOO WARNING: This appetizer (or “appe-Tiger” as they call it) could easily serve four adults or maybe a family of five…so don’t overdo it right out of the chute.
For supper, I went with the Red Beans and Rice. It took up the entire plate and was served with an enormous wedge of cornbread. My wife had the Chicken Bacon Swiss sandwich, served with battered french fries. It, too, covered the plate. In both cases, we ended up eating only half at the restaurant and taking the other half back to the hotel. WAHOO WARNING: Seriously, each of these entrees could easily feed two people.
At this point, we were soundly stuffed. Yet, I still hadn’t learned my lesson. So I ordered not one, but TWO slices of cheesecake and had them boxed up for the walk back to the hotel. We didn’t even peek at the cheesecake until we got back to the room. And, as the Wahoo could’ve told you, WE SHOULD HAVE SHARED A SINGLE SLICE! This wasn’t your Sam’s Club cheesecake, either. Each huge slice of traditional cheesecake came with a container of chocolate drizzle, caramel drizzle, and a dollop of whipped cream. It took us two nights to polish those off, too.
So, in short, we had an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts for $44 (including tip) and could have easily fed 4 or 5 people. If you leave this place hungry, it’s your own fault. But chances are, you’ll leave saying “Wahoo!” Oh, and be sure to tell the Wahoo howdy on your way out.
Take in over 200 years of American history at the American Freedom Museum in Bullard, TX, just a few miles outside of Tyler. On the campus of the Brook Hill School, visitors to the American Freedom Museum are greeted by an 1861 Parrot Rifle Cannon and an 1857 Congressional Desk and Chair in the museum lobby. There’s even a photo of then-Senator Abraham Lincoln sitting in a similar chair.
From there, visitors can take in the Hall of Presidents which features signed documents from every President from George Washington to Barack Obama.
The largest exhibit is the museum’s Hall of Freedom featuring artifacts pre-dating the Revolutionary War up to Operation Enduring Freedom including a moving tribute to 9/11.
The museum recommends 90 minutes to tour the facility. I highly recommend a good 2 or 3 hours if you’re a history buff. And the American Freedom Museum appeals to all ages. My party of six ranged in age from 8 years old to 75!
This relatively-new museum has so much to offer and is one of the best U.S. history museums west of Washington, D.C., and certainly within 100 miles of Tyler. Recommendation: have lunch at the new Jucy’s location on Old Jacksonville Road. The American Freedom Museum is just down the street from there.
Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary has a Tyler, Texas, address but is tucked away in the piney woods just north of Tyler near the towns of Red Springs and Lindale.
Tiger Creek is home to dozens of rescued “big cats” and other endangered species and the organization is dedicated to providing a natural habitat for each animal while still making them accessible to the viewing public.
Our Deep East Texas adventure took us to the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin. For a mere 7$ per person, we were treated to a pleasant walk through some of the most beautiful animals our world has to offer. For the most part, the zoo is arranged in “continents” so that you have immediate context as to the region these creatures have in common in the wild. Many of the enclosures have a big, glass window so you have a nearly-unobstructed view of the residents within.
The zoo is heavily treed so there’s plenty of shade and there’s even a “stop spot” every few exhibits with tables, seating and, in some cases, ceiling fans to help young families (and older folks!) take a load off.
Admission for four adults was $28 total, or $7.00 a person. Rates are cheaper for kids 2-11 and seniors over 60.
Unaffiliated with the zoo, but located across the street, is the Z&OO Railroad operated by the Lufkin chapter of the Lions Club International. It’s a miniature excursion train very similar to the Forest Park train that has been in operation at the Fort Worth Zoo for many years. We didn’t ride the train but the engine livery was beautiful and plenty of smiling faces, young and old, were enjoying the shiney locomotive.
Inexpensive and fun for the entire family, check out the sites and sounds of the Ellen Trout Zoo!
Summer’s here and that means RV season is in full swing!
If you’re new to the whole glamping scene like we are, you’re probably figuring things out as you go. That’s certainly the case for us.
We got our RV late last summer and didn’t do much camping until the fall. As a result, we were not exposed to the tendency of an RV to get rather warm during transit and to take a really long time to cool down once you arrive at your destination.
After setting up camp, all we wanted to do was to chill out — literally — in our RV. But it was early afternoon, the sun was still blazing, and a cooled-down RV seemed like a long way off.
We surfed the web a bit to see how other RV enthusiasts handle this issue and it became pretty clear that we needed to shade our windows. We started by extending our awning because that covers nearly the entire length of the trailer. But, of course, that covers only one side. So we decided to go for recommendation number two, window shades.
Now, to be clear, our RV came equipped with the standard cloth shades but they do little more than offer privacy. They’re certainly not designed to keep out the heat. So our next step was to find the nearest Walmart as we usually do when we hit the road.
Disclaimer: For the purposes of explaining how we cooled down our RV on a budget, I will be referencing products at Walmart and Amazon. Should you click on one of these links, I may receive compensation. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra should you choose to purchase any of these items after clicking on them from this webpage. And, for that matter, I really just want y’all to have a chance to make your RV more comfortable like we did!
Another web search revealed a number of custom-fit window shades out there that are pretty inexpensive as well. Top of the search engines are products such as the Camco SunShield Reflective Window Cover. Most RV windows are standard sizes these days so they’re pretty easy to fit. However, the Walmart near our recent campsite did not carry these in-stock.
Since we were looking for an immediate solution to beat the heat, we opted for the Auto Drive Universal Reflective Accordion Auto Shade, 63 inches X 28.5 inches. This is not available for online ordering from Walmart but it is available in-store. At $3.47 a piece, they proved to be a quick and easy solution. When we returned to the campsite, we noticed just about every other RV was using the same material to cover their windows including the big, beautiful Class A rigs with multiple air conditioner units.
We ended up buying five of the auto shades. One was immediately installed in the tow vehicle with hopes it would be a bit cooler the next time we got in. Using a pair of scissors, we used the other three to cut custom-fit shades for our RV. The material is thin enough to cut easily and the reflective nature paid immediate dividends. Not only did the shades minimize the incoming light, they gave us the desired result — a much cooler RV in a short amount of time!
As it turns out, we didn’t need the fifth shade. But now our camping home was getting more comfortable and we were able to enjoy the added benefit of a fully-darkened room at night.
But I would be remiss not to mention how we attached these shades to the windows. My wife, a schoolteacher, knows her way around Command Strips. For this application, we used the Command Strips Damage-Free Hanging solution which consists of a sticky backside with velcro on the front. As a result, we can easily remove the shades later this year when the temperatures fall and the daylight is shorter. And for those of you who would prefer to remove the shade AND the hanging mechanism, Command Strips are the way to go! They are easily removed and they leave no sticky residue.
So if you are new to the RV lifestyle and flummoxed by the amount of heat your travel trailer can store up in the summer, don’t sweat it! (See what I did there?) A few cheap-o car shades and some Command Strips can make a huge difference.
If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been to The Great State Fair of Texas. Or, if you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve received that hearty greeting from one of the locals.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in the Lone Star State all of your life or that you’ve just gotten here; there’s a better-than-zero chance that you’ve not yet seen, heard, nor tasted it all.
I’d spent most of my life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area until moving to East Texas back in 2010. Over the years, business trips and vacations have taken me to every corner of our great country. But there truly is “no place like home.”
When I was a kid, my siblings and I and my cousins all attended school in the Dallas Independent School District. As a result, we all had the same Spring Break. Each year, our grandparents gathered up all of these grandkids (into one, giant Oldsmobile) and took us on adventures throughout the Great Southwest.
Sometimes, those adventures would take us out of state such as the time we visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico or when we visited New Orleans complete with a visit to Cafe Du Monde for some tasty beignets and a ride on the Cotton Queen riverboat.(Beyond that, I don’t remember much about The Crescent City because my older cousin spent pretty much the entire week covering my eyes as we walked through certain parts of the French Quarter.) While I can’t seem to find the Cotton Queen, the Natchez is still there some 40 years later.
But the trips I remember the most are those that took place within the borders of Texas. We went as far west as El Paso (and into Juarez, Mexico) on a trip that included a stop at the McDonald Observatory. On the far-east side of the state, we took in the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston. Then there was the time we visited Houston which included a visit to the beaches in Galveston, a stop at NASA, and, of course, the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. (No wonder the Texans won the war! They had a battleship! Just kidding, kids.) And then there was the time our Spring Break took us through the Hill Country with stops in Austin for sightseeing at the Texas State Capitol, The University of Texas (Hook’em Horns!), and Longhorn Caverns.
Of course, the grand prize for any Texas adventurer is a visit to the Alamo in San Antonio. My first Alamo experience was with the grandparents on one of those Spring Break getaways. As a native Texan, the Alamo has special meaning and its value is taught at an early age. Over the years, I’ve visited the Alamo many times. Seems that it doesn’t hold quite the same reverence among the visitors as in years past. I can remember a time when the men would remove their hats and the inside of the old church would be library-silent even when filled with people. There are efforts to restore the importance and sanctity of Alamo and I hope they will be successful. According to some, there are more people visiting Magnolia Silos in Waco than the Alamo these days. Some beg to differ. (Not a knock on Chip and Joanna Gaines and the “Fixer Upper” empire. They’ve done wonders for the City of Waco and I’m a big fan!)
These fond memories carried on into married life where my wife and I have been spending much of our parenthood recreating great family trips from our youth. Texas is a great state for traveling with children of all ages and families of any size. As the song says, “there are miles and miles of Texas” and much of it is paved so there’s no problem getting around from one part to another. And if the idea of driving more than a dozen hours to get to El Paso doesn’t appeal to you then we have facilities called “airports” that’ll help you get to those far-reaching destinations.
But I would argue that the very best part of Texas is all the stuff you can see, do, and taste along the way. Roll into any community and ask them about their favorite mom-and-pop restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. See a flying saucer near the Interstate outside of Italy, Texas? Pull over and take a selfie. By the way, it’s pronounced “IT-lee” ’round these parts. And, I’m afraid you missed out on that selfie. Into reptiles? Texas has plenty of them. Consider the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels or the alligators, and more, at the East Texas Zoo in Grand Saline. How about an event known as the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater? Yep, it’s a real thing.
Texas is much more than oddities, however. The food is amazing everywhere you go! If you like chain restaurants, I can promise you that the Tyler-Longview area, a noted test market for the food industry, has something appealing to those that prefer something familiar. It’s been said there are more restaurants per capita in that region than anywhere in Texas. Of course, the best culinary experience anywhere in the state takes place in that gas station that’s been converted into a restaurant or in that soul food kitchen in the heart of downtown (fill-in-the-blank), Texas. Lesson to be learned here — familiar is good, but local is best! Try it, you’ll like it!
Most out-of-staters think Texans are all big talkers. Well, we are. But we think you’re “all hat, no cattle” most of the time, too. (Look it up.) But you really can do it all in Texas. From anywhere in the state, you’re hours away from the beach, the mountains, the prairies, the forest, large metropolitan areas, or small-town remote outposts. Hey, we were all New Texans once upon a time. Just check your birth certificate for confirmation. Join us by creating your own Texas adventure today and please be sure to share your adventure with us!