Planned Trips: Padre Island: December 2014 Finalized

I’ve completed my research and made our reservations for our December trip to Padre Island.

We actually will be going to Goose Island, but we’ll be in Padre Island area.

We have camping reservations at Goose Island State Park for December 10th through the 14.

In an earlier post (http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=155) I had more questions than I had answers about when and where to go.

Those questions and our decisions are discussed below:

How Many Days Should We Schedule?

We decided leave on a Wednesday, which gives us all day on Tuesday to prepare after volunteering on Monday.

By staying four nights, we will be returning on Sunday.

This means we could theoretically volunteer on the following Monday.

We are thinking that what we will probably do is check to see if there is another day on that following week when we can volunteer.

This would mean we wouldn’t miss a week but we would still have Monday for “getting caught up.”

Where Should We Stay

We’ve always been big fans of the Texas State Park System and as I mentioned in that earlier post, we prefer the state parks to commercial campgrounds.

Goose Island SP did have a couple of negatives, which we had to consider.

First, they do not have full hookups, so we would have to bring our portable waste tank and/or use the public showers.

I also read that the Bayfront sites can be very windy with blowing sand and spray.

The wooded area sites can be somewhat tight for larger rigs and only have 30-amp electric service.

I really thought that we cold probably get by on 30-amp service since we won’t be running the air conditioners.

On the other hand from its description this park could our perfect park.

Wildlife observations and photography opportunities are said to abound.

It is also close to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which are the wintering grounds for whooping cranes.

It is also close to Copano Bay fishing pier, Mustang Island State Park, Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, Texas Maritime Museum, and the Texas State Aquarium.

Before I made our reservation, I actually called the park and asked about the space in the wooded area for a large rig.

The person I spoke to verified that some people have difficulty maneuvering into the spaces with all the trees.

She also said that in the hot season it could actually feel hotter in the wooded area because the trees block the wind.

Based on that conversation, I made our reservations in the Bayfront area.

After we made our reservations, our decision was confirmed when I went back and re-read the reviews on www.rvparkreviews.com.

I have never before seen so many “10” ratings for a state park.

They also recommended the scheduled activities including a morning shore bird walk.

I’m hoping after our stay, I’ll be adding to those “10” ratings.

Planned Trip: Padre Island: December, 2014 (Updated)

As I mentioned previously (http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=47) we are hoping to make a trip to Padre Island in December.

Right now I have more questions than answers about the trip.

How Many Days Should We Schedule?

First of all, I’m not sure how long we should schedule for the trip.

Since we are volunteering at Christine and Christopher’s school on Mondays, I would like to schedule the trip so that we don’t miss any Mondays.

After our “Victory Tour” earlier this month, I have decided that I’d like to limit our daily drives to eight hours or less.

The trip to Padre Island would be very close to that self-imposed limit.

I’m thinking that we would want to take two days for the trip to Padre Island since it typically takes a couple of hours to get the trailer from storage and load it.

I might consider making the trip home in one day but if I do I would probably not take the trailer back to storage until the next day.

Taking an extra day or two for the drive and limiting our trip to Tuesday through Sunday would mean we would only have two days at Padre Island.

Where Should We Stay?

Last year when had originally planned this trip I was thinking we would stay at one of the two state parks (Mustang Island SP or Goose Island SP.)

We have a definite preference for staying at the state parks over a commercial campground.

Neither of those parks, however, have full hookups.

Also, if we try to make the trip to Padre Island in one day, that means we would arrive after dark.

Setting up after dark might be quite a challenge.

(The commercial campgrounds are more likely to have pull through sites and may also provide assistance in getting situated in the site.)

So this year, I am considering staying at a nearby commercial campground such as KOA.

Time For More Research

It sounds like I have research to do before we finalize our plans.

 

 

Camping Diary: “Victory Tour” Oklahoma and Missouri

We spent the first 14 days of October on our “Victory Tour.”

This was our first extended trip since our retirement.

We made four stops along the way:

  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Kansas City area (Platte City), Missouri
  3. Columbia, Missouri
  4. Branson, Missouri

OKMOMap

The primary purpose of this tour was to visit with relatives.

I won’t bore you with that portion of our trip, so this diary will be much shorter than you would expect for a 14-day trip.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We only spent one night in Oklahoma City.

The purpose of the stop was two fold.

First we wanted to break our drive from Fort Worth to Kansas City into two parts.

Secondly, we wanted to visit with a second cousin whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.

We stayed at the Twin Fountains RV Resort, which was quite nice.

You can find my review of Twin Fountains at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=131

We had dinner at a very nice Mexican Restaurant.

Ted’s Café Escondido is located at 2836 NW 68th St in Oklahoma City.

The food was great and all dinners included unlimited free chips, salsa, four tortillas, and queso.

Dinners also include complimentary Sopapillas for dessert.

Kansas City Area

We spent six nights in the Kansas City area.

We camped at Basswood Resort in Platte City.

Platte City is just north of the Kansas City International Airport.

My review of this park can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=133

Most our time in K.C. was spent visiting relatives.

We did have lunch with one of my high school classmates at a Mexican restaurant on the Country Club Plaza.

If you like shopping, I would suggest a trip to the Plaza.

Some things to note the Plaza:

  1. The Plaza is an outdoor shopping area so dress for the weather.
  2. If you are driving truck, as I was, parking can be difficult. There are quite a few parking garages but they have low clearances and may be difficult to maneuver. I was able to park on the streets but I had to walk a distance.
  3. Some streets in Kansas City are designated as Boulevards, which prohibit trucks. Many streets around the Plaza are Boulevards. When I lived in K.C. over 20 years ago, the police were very strict in their enforcement and would ticket even half-ton pickups.

I highly recommend the World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial, which we visited.

There has been a museum here since the Liberty Memorial was built but in recent years they have greatly enhanced the museum.

From the Liberty Memorial you can get a great view of Union Station and the Kansas City skyline.

I usually try to get updated pictures of the skyline from there when I’m in town, there were low clouds and drizzle they day we were there.

Weather permitting you can also go up to the top of the Liberty Memorial tower which provides a great view on nice days.

We also visited Weston, Missouri, which is a pre-civil war town along the banks of the Missouri River.

For a list of things to do in Weston see the Weston home page at http://westonmo.com/?page=todo

If you have kids, I recommend Worlds of Fun which is an amusement park similar to the Six Flags franchise.

Worlds of Fun was built by Lamar Hunt shortly after he moved the Kansas City Chiefs (formerly the Dallas Texans) to Kansas City .

When we lived in K.C. we had season tickets to Worlds of Fun for several years and our entire family loved it.

Columbia, Missouri

We spent two nights in Columbia at the Cottonwoods RV Park.

My review of Cottonwoods can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=136

Once again most of our time was spent with relatives but we did drive around the Missouri University campus.

MU is the oldest university west of the Mississippi.

Branson, Missouri

We spent four nights in Branson at the Branson KOA and Convention Center.

My review of the Branson KOA can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=143

While we didn’t visit any relatives in Branson we did join Mandy’s college roommate and her boyfriend for a lunch cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle.

The meal was excellent and the show was also very good.

The show was very family oriented with a dose of patriotism and “bible belt religion.”

We had hoped to spend one day at Silver Dollar City, but the weather did not cooperate.

We last visited Silver Dollar City about 15 months ago.

During that visit, we didn’t ride many of the “adult” rides because our six year old grandson was with us.

Overall, I think Silver Dollar City has fewer rides than Worlds of Fun or Six Flags.

It has more crafts and shows.

We visited the Toy Museum and the Celebrity Car Museum while in Branson.

I wouldn’t recommend the Toy Museum.

They had thousands of toys, but I think they actually had too many for the space they had.

Parts of the museum were quite musty.

I would recommend the Celebrity Car Museum.

As their name implies, celebrities had owned many of the cars.

They also had many cars used in movies.

This included the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future movies and a Batmobile.

They also had very interesting background information on most of the cars.

Other places I would recommend based on past visits include “Ride the Ducks” and Branson’s Wild World.

I would recommend the Branson Scenic Railway only if you can get a low numbered ticket and ride in one of the observation cars.

When we ran this train, we bought our ticket too late to get in one of the observation cars and the view from the passenger cars is not that great.

Overview of Trip

On this trip we put 2,053 miles on our truck. This includes our trip to the dealer after the trip.

We spent $757 on fuel and $637 on camping fees.

After spending September in Fort Worth where the official rainfall was .06” we experienced rain, heavy at times at all four stops on this trip.

Unfortunately we found we had a leak in our Travel trailer, so we were drying out the carpet virtually every day.

The weather was warm when we left and we ran the air conditioner the first couple days.

It then turned cooler and we had to run the heater at night.

During our second night in Branson, the heater quit working and I thought that we had run out of propane.

After switching tanks, the heater still would not start.

I actually used Google to research the issue.

I found several sites with troubleshooting steps.

One thing that I should have thought of was checking the fuses and circuit breakers.

I found that the heater had blown a fuse.

I replaced the fuse and turned the heater back on.

It turned on but almost immediately turned back off and the new fuse was also blown.

I did try one more fuse with the same result.

Fortunately we have a fake fireplace, which includes an electric heater.

So for the next two days we ran the fireplace heater and used some extra blankets.

We also ran into a few other minor problems during the trip which is why we took the rig to the dealer the day after our return.

The other issues included some windows which we could not open or close, more problems with our inverter sustaining the refrigerator while driving, and a broken door on the sewer hose tube.

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Review: Branson KOA and Convention Center: Branson, MO

The following has been submitted to http://www.rvparkreviews.com/  where I gave the campground a rating of 10.

We stayed here for four nights as the last stop of a two week / four stop trip.

Upon arrival we were met at the campsite entrance.

The polite host walked in the office with me and checked us in.

The entire staff was very friendly.

He also provided maps of the campsite, the Branson area, and information on activities and shows in the area.

Once we had paid for our stay and gathered all the info, he escorted us to our site (# 177.)

This is a premium pull through site.

Once at the site, he not only guided into the site but also assisted us in getting positioned on the concrete tire paths.

(My wife said that alone was enough to give them a rating of 10.)

The site is gravel with two concrete tire paths (similar to old style driveways.)

Our site was the next to last on a row of sites on a hill.

Each site has been terraced so that each site was level making the row resemble a staircase.

As with most commercial campgrounds the sites are fairly close to together.

They are separated with a white wood fence.

There was sufficient room for our four slide outs.

The driveways between the sites were wider than a lot of parks.

(We really appreciated this since the narrow drives at our last park provided us with some challenges.)

There also was plenty of parking areas.

Our site did not have a tree, but here were several young trees on our row.

It looked like we were in a newer section.

Other parts of the park had more trees, which were more mature.

The cable worked fine most of the time and they had more channels than the other parks we stayed out during this trip.

During some near severe storms the local stations froze up a couple of times.

(This trip was during the baseball playoffs and the games were only on cable. The American league games were on TBS, which was available at all the parks. The National League games were on MLB Network and Fox Sports 1, which were only available here. Fortunately we are American League fans.)

The restrooms and laundry room were very clean.

They also have a fitness center which we didn’t use but it looked very clean.

Their store had quite a few camping supplies like sewer connections and TV cable.

They also had a few souvenirs along with ice cream and fudge that looked very tempting.

(I resisted the fudge for the first two days but finally gave in and it was VERY good.)

The WIFI had a very good signal but at times it seemed slow.

I also learned that the access code they give you is only good for one device.

After connecting my tablet to the WIFI I was not able to connect my laptop.

They told me they weren’t supposed to give out a second code but they did.

Since we usually only use the tablet to read our local paper, if I had known the code was only good for one device I would have used my wireless WIFI for my tablet.

They had a very nice playground, which I’m sure our grandson would love.

They also serve free pancakes until the end of October. (Sausage, biscuits, cereal, and drinks cost.)

We would definitely stay here again.

Our rate of $47.61 reflects the Value Kard Rewards price for a Premium pull through site excluding tax.

 

 

Campground Review: Cottonwoods RV Park: Columbia, Missouri

he following review was also submitted to http://www.rvparkreviews.com/

We stayed here for two nights while visiting relatives in Columbia.

The location was convenient from both I-70 and US-63.

The restrooms, showers, and laundry room were very clean.

Like many commercial campgrounds the sites are close together.

Each site has a young tree.

The position of these trees can make maneuvering into and out of a site a challenge.

Such was the case when we tried to pull in to our first site (#67.)

I think we could have backed in from the other end but since there were plenty of empty sites, after two attempts we asked if we could change sites.

The staff was very friendly and helpful in changing our site.

Our second site was number 40.

This site was on the opposite side of the drive so the tree was toward the end of the site.

We wouldn’t have had any trouble with this site except that there was a small SUV parked across the drive from our site, which prevented us from making the wide turn we required to get in the site.

Fortunately our neighbor was in and he was able to move his SUV.

After parking our 39’ Fiver, there was just enough room to park our truck parallel to the drive.

Our site had a small bush that was actually a little too close to our rig.

One of our slideouts was actually up against it.

The sites are gravel but very level.

Each site has a picnic table on a concrete pad.

Between visiting relatives and the rains, we really weren’t able to explore the campgrounds but the playground looked nice.

Just a note: This campground fills up on Mizzou football weekends.

We left on the Friday before a game and we were told it was sold out for the weekend.

As we were leaving we once again had to ask a neighbor to move a car so we could manage the turn.

Due to the closeness of the sites and the position of the trees I would call this campground “big rig tolerant.”

It would have been more friendly if the roads were wider and the trees were positioned differently.

Our rate was $39 which reflects a Good Sam discount plus $2 surcharge for using a credit card.

The park also gives the same discount to AAA members.

 

 

 

Campground Review: Basswood Resort: Platte City, Missouri

The following review was also submitted to http://www.rvparkreviews.com/

Our stay did not start well.

I had made a reservation on September 23rd for a six-night stay starting on October 2nd.

On October 1st (the day before our stay was to begin) I received a phone call from the campground.

They said that when I made my reservation they “forgot” to tell me that it was NASCAR weekend, which is considered a holiday weekend.
Not only were the rates higher for that weekend but also I had to pay the full amount in advance.

In actuality, I had made my reservations through Book Your Site, so I suspect the rate mistake was due to them.

The day before we arrived the Kansas City area had some bad storms.

There were flood warnings out for downstream on the Missouri River.

We also saw quite a few limbs down as we approached the campsite.

There was quite a line waiting to check in and there were three rigs in front us who for whatever reason were not ready to drive to their sites.

We were assigned site number 223, which is to the right after you enter.

According to the brochure these are considered “deluxe RV sites.”

We were given an escort to our site.

Our escort had us use had to use the exit lane to get past the waiting rigs.

The road into the area is gravel and the sites are also gravel with a lot of mud.

As we approached our site, we found a pickup truck parked in it.

It took some time to figure out that the pickup belonged to the trailer two sites down.

Unfortunately there was no answer when our guide knocked on the door.

He tried radioing the office but there was no answer, so he returned to the office.

When he returned to our site he told us the truck owner was on his way.

After about a half-hour wait, the owner showed up and was apologetic as he moved the truck.

As we were waiting our neighbors from both sides had come out and they were nice enough to help me back into the space.

Due to the narrow road, it was quite an adventure.

Even with the help it took quite a while to get positioned.

The mud was so bad that our jack pads were sinking.

I think we would have been in real trouble if we didn’t have the pads.

There was quite a drop-off behind our site and there was nothing (like a railroad tie or concrete blocks) to block us from the drop-off.

As we were exploring the campground, we saw several nice concrete sites that were empty.

While in the office I told them that we were quite disappointed with our site and asked about the empty sites we saw.

They said they would not accommodate our rig.

I paced them off and they seemed to be long enough for both our truck and trailer.

I later went back to the office to see which sites would accommodate our rig so I could request those sites on future visits.

They indicated that sites 75 through 120 were reserved for short-term stays.

She said that most of those were 75 feet.

All those sites are gravel.

So I’m not sure to whom they assign the concrete sites.

I still believe those concrete sites are long enough for our rig.

The campground did have an abundance of trees and shade.

The bathrooms, showers and laundry room were very clean.

Both the WIFI and cable worked well.

We didn’t have any kids with us but the playgrounds looked nice.

There were also basketball courts, tetherball, shuffleboard, and horseshoes.

We actually saw some in the ponds but we didn’t have time for any fishing.

The country store had snacks, a limited selection of canned goods, and beer and liquor.

They also had some camping supplies and souvenirs.

There were only two trash bins. The one closest to our site was by the office, which was quite a walk.

The second was close to sites 75 through 120.

There were some “street lights” throughout the campground but several were not working.

I’m not sure I will stay there again.

Since there aren’t too many campsites in the Kansas City area I may but if I do, I want to make sure I get one of the better sites.

Our rates were $51 for the NASCAR rate and $42 for the Good Sam Rate.

 

Campground Review Twin Fountains RV Resort: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The following review was also posted to http://www.rvparkreviews.com/

We just stayed here one night as we were driving through OKC and wanted to meet briefly with two of my cousins who we haven’t seen in several years.

The park was beautiful and well maintained.

We were assigned site W10 which is a pull through just inside the entrance.

The overall site was sloped but the center of it was level.

I’m not sure how long the level portion was, but it was at least 40 feet since our 39 foot fiver fit well within it.

There were two sewer connections.

We had our rig set up in record time due to the “sweet spot” being level and the proximity of the hookups.

In retrospect, I would have positioned the trailer a little further back so that I could park my truck in front.

There was room to park a long bed crew cab on one end or the other but not both.

The rest rooms were very clean.

Both the laundry room and fitness center looked very clean but I just looked in and didn’t actually go in.

We didn’t try the WIFI.

The location was very convenient just off I-44 and less than a mile from I-35.

I did notice some highway noise from I-44 at night.

Now for the negatives:

The sites were very close together.

The picnic table was less than one foot from one of our slide-outs.

(We probably could have repositioned the trailer or rotated the table so that the slide-out was not so close.)

The fire ring was right next to the wooden picnic table and if we had rotated the table it would have even closer.

We would have not have been comfortable with a fire that close to the table.

The fire ring was also so close to the camper that it was a tripping hazard after dark.

The rules were very restrictive for children.

Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult in the restroom.

It’s been awhile since our kids were 15 but I don’t think they would be very happy if we told them they couldn’t go to the restroom by themselves.

We would definitely stay there again.