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The Road to Houston

October 13, 2012

Monday, September 24

To Swinging Bridge RV Park, Byram, Mississippi

After almost six months on the road, it was time to start working our way South.  Following our visit with Dot and Jackie Courson, we left Pontotoc, MS and pointed the motorhome toward Texas.  Not necessarily in any big hurry, we spread the trip over four days.  Sadly, we got off to a rough start on that Monday morning.

When we pulled out of Trace State Park, we weren’t on level ground, and apparently didn’t get the 4WD completely into Neutral.  4WD jumped into gear.  Bad things happen when that occurs, especially when the manual transmission is in first gear, per Jeep instructions.  By the time we were able to get off the highway and onto the shoulder, the damage was done.  We were able to get the Jeep realigned and set up for towing again, but the engine wouldn’t crank.  We did a short test to make sure towing was okay, and got back on the road.  As we travelled, we phoned ahead to our various overnight stops to make sure we could get pull-through sites.  The Jeep would have to stay attached all the way to Houston.  Ultimately, we had to replace the engine once we got there.

Out of Tupelo, we headed due west and tied into I-55.  Other than driving in rain for about an hour, the four hour drive to Jackson, MS wasn’t bad. We spent Monday night at Swinging Bridge RV Park in Byram, just south of Jackson. This is another case of reality not quite matching the website photos.  The Swinging Bridge RV Park is pretty rough, with mostly long-term folks living there.  Strictly a one-nighter kind of place.  We weren’t interested in exploring, so we didn’t see the swinging bridge.

We weren’t the only overnighters.  There were some Texans in a motorhome next door to us, staying overnight, on the way home to Beaumont, Texas.  And on the other side, a couple in another motorhome from Minnesota pulled in.  Turned out they were Packers fans, and were eager to get set up to watch the game that night.  They left quietly the next morning.  That was the game that ended in the infamous terrible touchdown call by replacement referees.

El Sombrero Restaurant

We weren’t unhooking the Jeep, so it was a good thing there were a couple of places to eat within walking distance.  We had skipped lunch, so we stuffed ourselves with an early Mexican dinner at El Sombrero Restaurant about two blocks away.  The chile rellenos dinner was more than I could eat.  There is also a barbeque place within walking distance.

We had started the day in the low 50s and by evening, we settled into air conditioning, watched cable TV and caught up on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 25

To Tall Pines RV Park, Shreveport, Louisiana

The next day, we got on I-20 and drove to Shreveport, Louisiana, arriving at Tall Pines RV Park about 2:30 in the afternoon.

 

Temperature at 4:30 was 96 degrees, and we were thinking we may have headed south way too soon.  This is a really nice RV Park with all pull-thru sites with full hookups including cable and wifi. And yes, every site has a little concrete patio with a cafe table and chairs.

If you’re planning to spend some time in the Shreveport area, enjoying the local attractions like, oh I don’t know… gambling, maybe? this would  be a very comfortable place to stay.  In stark contrast to the last place, this one was full of fifth wheels and large, expensive coaches.

Wednesday, September 26

To Shady Pines RV Park, Nacogdoches, Texas

Even though the day’s drive was only going to be about 2 hours, we decided to start early.  After a bowl of cereal, we quietly unhooked the land lines, and started the engine.  We could have made it all the way to Houston, but it would have meant driving through Houston in afternoon traffic. Since we weren’t on any real timetable, we decided to make it easy on ourselves.  We took US-79 to Carthage, where we got onto US-59 for the remainder of the trip.

The view at Shady Pines

Okay, so they’re not all paved roads, manicured grass, and little cafe tables on concrete slabs. Actually, Garmin and Google Maps both conspired to take us around Nacogdoches on the by-pass rather than going straight through town.  Unable to find our original destination, we just looked for signs for other parks.  We stopped at one, which was just an open field with a little office structure, but we didn’t even get out.  It just didn’t appeal to us.  We drove on and finally stopped at the Shady Pines RV Park.

We found a sign saying “Check in at the restaurant next door.”  We walked over, but the place appeared to be closed.  We were about to drive away when a neatly dressed man in shorts and a golf shirt came out of the back of the restaurant, tossed some things in a dumpster, then came walking over toward us.

Heath Clement owns the Shady Pines RV Park, as well as CC’s Smokehouse, a barbeque restaurant next door.  He welcomed us to stay for $25 per night.  He said a lot of people stop for the night, picking out a spot on their own, then come over an pay at the restaurant the next day.  Our rationale in these cases is “well, it’s only for one night”. This place is rough, but okay for an overnight stay. We had water, electric and wifi, and with the AC on, the highway traffic wasn’t too bad.  We got set up, then walked over to the restaurant.

Photo courtesy of CC’s Smokehouse

We had a great lunch and paid for our RV site along with our food.  We had the chance to talk with Heath Clement while we ate.  He has owned the place for about 5 years, and he’s obviously doing it right. This is a nice, clean place with great food and service, and there was a pretty large lunch crowd. He’s owned the RV Park next door for about a year, and he’s still learning.  He seemed willing to listen to travelling RVers like us about how he might make some cosmetic improvements on the park, and market the park and the restaurant together.  I suspect a lot of RVers are like us.  After travelling, fixing dinner is not an exciting prospect, but neither is unhooking the “toad” and driving to a restaurant.  Being able to walk next door to eat something other than fast food is kind of a nice thing.  And there’s live music every Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to close.

Now get this:  I had asked Heath where the nearest Walmart was, and it wasn’t far.  But we couldn’t unhook the Jeep, which meant driving the whole rig.  He offered us the use of one of the pickup trucks he uses to tow his catering trailers.  As we were finishing our lunch, he went out, started the truck and turned on the air conditioning for us.

We made our Walmart run, returned the truck keys, and took it easy the rest of the afternoon.  And… we went back and had dinner at the Smokehouse that evening.

Photo courtesy of CC’s Smokehouse

If you pass through Nacogdoches around lunch or dinner time, stop in, eat, ask for Heath, and tell him Ralph Parker, the Artist, recommended it.  Nice guy. Nice place. Great food!

Thursday, September 27

To Advanced RV Park, Pearland, Texas

Our site at Advanced RV Park, Pearland, Texas

After a three hour drive, we arrived safely and without incident at Advanced RV Park in Pearland, Texas, on the south side of Houston.  We got checked in, dropped the Jeep in the front parking lot, and, after getting the motorhome parked and hooked up, we called AAA.  Our friend, jeweler Steve Sellers, lives in Pearland and arrived just ahead of the AAA tow truck. Steve had already alerted the mechanic that the Jeep was on its way. After we delivered the Jeep, Steve took us to the nearest Enterprise car rental office. They didn’t have anything available, so Steve dropped us back at the RV park and Enterprise did indeed come pick us up when they had a car ready for us.  We hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so we found a Luby’s Cafeteria, ate way too much, and then we called it a day.  Everything else could wait.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2012 2:06 pm

    I have really enjoyed your travels Ralph. You are living the life many of us would like.

    Hope the Jeep isn’t too expensive.

    • Ralph Parker permalink*
      October 13, 2012 11:07 pm

      Thanks Doug. The Jeep work means we’ll have to do some things ourselves that we might have paid someone else to do. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed following along. I’ll try to keep things interesting even though we’ll be sitting still for longer periods of time during the winter.

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