Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

This posting has been removed as the article has been purchased by an outstanding RV’er periodical. More info to come!

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Weather aside, the quick answer to this ponderance is two-fold – midweek/midday and if you have a stroller or wheelchair.  I’ll explain.

The San Antonio River Walk is a city park in San Antonio, Texas, winding along sections of the San Antonio River, below street level, in and around the downtown area of the city. The River Walk curves and loops under downtown bridges with sidewalks on both sides of the river, much of it lined with restaurants and shops, while connecting the various tourist attractions in the center of the city.  You can reach the River Walk from street level entrances along the sidewalks of dozens of city blocks, as well as from San Antonio’s five Spanish historical missions and from some of the popular museums and galleries in the area.

San Antonio’s River Walk, created as part of a floodwater control plan after a disastrous flood in 1921, is open 24/7/365 and has inspired projects like it in other cities, such as the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, Denver’s Cherry Creek Greenway, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Canal, which we have visited, and Santa Lucía Riverwalk in Monterrey, Mexico.

We first descended upon the City Walk in the first months of the pandemic, but San Antonio’s downtown was mostly locked down and tourist stops weren’t open.  We were very much looking forward to returning post-pandemic to enjoy the many food and beverage venues along the Walk, especially the brewpubs that have popped up recently.  With the pandemic waning at the beginning of winter and restrictions being relaxed, plus the fact we are both fully vaccinated with boosters, we decided to visit downtown when we had a free Wednesday.  We brought our two small dogs with us, along with their doggie stroller.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

Tip number two is that if you plan to use a stroller or wheelchair, you’ll need to scope out the available ramps or elevators to enter or exit from the city street, even to enjoy a just few blocks of the river.  Like I mentioned, we had the doggie stroller and had to carry it up and down stairs several times over the mile-and-a-half we walked the river’s sidewalks. 

At one point, there were so many steps up and down over a river arch that we had to take the dogs out and walk them across the bridge.  This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it begged the question, what if one of us had been confined to a wheelchair?

During our walk we found a QR code on a sign that directed our phone browsers to an ADA-supported map of the River Walk, but those maps were very difficult to follow, and it highlighted even further that the Walk doesn’t seem to be very handicapped-friendly.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that we dislike the River Walk.  On the contrary, the tourist walk along the river is usually beautiful, clean and an enjoyable experience for able-bodied pedestrians.  The next time, however, we’ll leave the dogs at home and make sure we time the visit for a weekend evening.

Here’s a nice guide for planning your trip there:

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Mile after mile, nearly every parcel of land in Texas is fenced off to the public. With the exception of the many open Gulf beaches, almost all waterways and lakefronts are privately owned and unavailable. A fisherman or photographer, and I am both, on foot is going to have a difficult time anywhere except when paying for State Park access, and much of that is crowded and very limited.

In addition, nearly all rural acreage is owned and fenced farmland or portions of vast ranches. If you want to bird watch or photograph a sunset without a road in the scene, you are often forced to trespass or be limited to state parks.

According to Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute, “Texas has a long history of private land ownership where 95 percent of the state is privately owned.” That means that 255,166 of its 268,596 square miles is private property. The state has leased a little over 1,500 square miles from landowners to allow, for a fee, hunting, fishing, photography and equestrian activities. That equates to about 1/2 of 1% of all Texas land, and can necessitate a guide to bring you to, and through, the proper acreage.

Fenced ranches in Texas are HUGE. According to wideopencountry.com, “the combined square footage of the 10 biggest Texas ranches reaches over four million acres or nearly 7,000 square miles.” That’s an average size of 700 square miles EACH. The majority of ranches in Texas range between small ranches of 2,000 acres to those of 20,000+ acres.

Alas, Texas is not unique in citizens successfully blocking public access to desirable land. In two hundred miles of New England coastline, we found only a dozen or so state beaches, all expensive and tourist-packed, and little other public access. If you want an iconic photo of waves crashing on a Maine cliff or of an eagle nesting in a seaside strand of trees, you need a boat. Trying to find public beach or shore access on almost any lake in New York State is a fool’s errand. In Florida, beach access proponents have sharply criticized a new state law as “privatizing the state’s most valuable resource and undermining the tourism-based economy.”

This is not the case, at least not to the same extent, on the west coast. There are hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline where you can literally park on a shoulder or other parking area and walk down to the beach or over to a clifftop view of the Pacific. Almost all freshwater lakes are accessible, though some require local or state fees to enter, without private lot upon lot of lakeshore. There are many Texas- and New-York-like exceptions, however.

Thus far, in more restricted states on the East Coast or in the South, including Texas, when not in a lakeside or coastal campground, I’ve had to park near bridges or overpasses and walk a considerable distance to take photos of lake or ocean views. In the West and much of the Northern States, these opportunities are everywhere.

We have stayed in a campground on Texas’ Lake Tawakoni on numerous occasions. This lake boasts 200 miles of shoreline covering 37,879-acres, but, in exploring all the roads around the lake multiple times, the only other access to the water we could find is in the State Park.

So, what’s the answer? There isn’t one, at least without a grass-roots outcry. Sadly, as long as the wealthy want to own the most desirable views and have unlimited access to water, there isn’t much hope for change. States could begin purchasing some of this scenic lands within their borders and convert them to public resources, but that has yet to happen in any meaningful way.

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You may be aware that we purchased an RV site at an Escapees Co-Op in Texas in order winter in place. But, why winter in one place?

You may have read my article, My Top 9 Trepidations of Full-Time RVing, in which I describe several anxieties upon moving to and setting up in an RV park. Some of these trepidations are the availability and status of full hookup sites, cell and Internet access, parking and setup difficulties, weather on the road, satellite reception, road hazards, pet friendliness, and others. Consider the fact that we commonly change campgrounds every two weeks or so, meaning that I experience these emotions more than two dozen times a year.

But, it’s more than these apprehensions. Driving takes a toll, especially as we get older, and fuel is a big expense when you are constantly on the move. The cold of winter leaves little of the country available for visiting in anything other than frigid climates. The usual RV snowbird regions, i.e. Florida, Texas, Arizona and Southern California, are rife with more large rigs than small, leaving space, convenience, solitude and privacy all wanting.

Even with RVillage, a virtual RV community with over 500,000 members nationwide, telling us which other members are camping in a specific park we arrive to, RVers in a park are often strangers, even more so during the pandemic. RVers are people, meaning that they include all types of personalities, social acumen and political persuasions, and not everyone is open to meeting newcomers.

I guess I’m saying that we miss friends and social circles in which to gather to share moments, stories and laughs. A two-week stay in an RV resort may afford us an acquaintance or two, but the process of our getting to know each other typically starts from scratch each time. Sure, there are stories from the RV lifestyle all RVers can relate to, such as many of the anecdotes I share in my book, “RV Life Happens,” but there are only so many black tank tales or RV park complaints you can regale. By spending four of five months in one community, we can begin building some real, longer-term relationships.

One quick mention: We have made several valuable personal connections in RVillage and on the road, and some will become lifelong friendships. We don’t diminish this possibility and always leave ourselves open to making new friends wherever we go.

Then there is the convenience of staying in a place long enough to see doctors and dentists, and to get RV repairs or make sure maintenance is performed. Although we had been returning to Denver each year for a couple of weeks to get medical and dental treatment, two weeks isn’t always long enough. After our first year on the road, I had to forgo one medical appointment when they couldn’t make space within our travel window in Colorado. RV upgrades and repairs can be especially difficult when moving around the country, with parts and materials taking longer to arrive than we are camping in any particular area.

One of the reasons we decided not to spend considerable time in any one park when we started this adventure is that we both had many, many items on our must-visit list and we were anxious to experience them all. We circumnavigated the country three times in our first three years and will embark on another grand circle as soon as the pandemic lets up, perhaps checking Yellowstone and Nova Scotia off our destinations lists. We have camped in 36 states and driven in 44, with more in our future itineraries.

Now that we have seen so much of the country, we can afford to take time to relax in a single community for the winter. The Escapees Co-Ops make this affordable but some have waiting lists with hundreds of names on them. The sites have space and hookups for an RV of nearly any size and for one or more sheds or casitas. Fortunately, in our Texas choice, we started at #42 on the waiting list and, in less than two years, we will were awarded a property last spring. We quickly moved our stored stuff from Denver to the new site and moved in, just in time for a tornado and major hail storm, but that’s another story.

Lastly, it would has been nice this year during the pandemic to have had a permanent spot to hunker down in rather than having to worry about whether any or all of the RV parks we had booked would decline our reservations when we arrived. During national emergencies, it’s comforting to have a home base to go to.

So, why Texas? Several reasons:

  • No state income tax
  • Milder and longer winter and spring seasons than most winter locales
  • Friends and relatives living in Texas
  • Availability of affordable sites
  • Driving distance from Mexico (for drugs and medical treatment)
  • Driving distance to the Gulf (for recreation)
  • Lots of DQ’s (Nadyne’s favorite) and several In ‘n’ Outs (Jack’s favorite)

All told, we have many reasons for being stationary in the winter, but that doesn’t mean we plan to give up traveling the country. We’ll still have eight months a year to continue our adventures.

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