Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Texas RV Trip - The Hill Country

Remember the leftover shrimp from Mamacita's the other day, it was now time to put them to use.  We've been trying to minimize cooking and the resulting clean-up and two days later, Bev advised she could whip me up a shrimp/egg dish in the microwave just as good as from a pan and I said "go for it." She chopped up the leftover shrimp, onions, and chiles, nuked them a little at a time and fluffed and put them on a thick flour tortilla.

She was right, I couldn't tell it wasn't pan cooked , but it needed some move flavor so I added some chipotle hot sauce, which did the trick.

After our oil disaster the other day, we had a crankcase full of nice, new oil, but an old, dirty filter which I wanted to have changed.  I checked a couple of places about doing it and swapped emails from the previous owner about doing it myself, which he said was pretty easy.  I had the filter, went and bought a filter wrench and in 30 minutes it was done and hopefully okay - I'm no longer taking anything for granted on this trip.

After I cleaned up, we headed off for a drive through hill country and supper in Johnson City - birthplace of Lyndon Johnson.  The hill country is a very hilly area that runs from Austin, down to San Antonio then about 200 miles to the West.  It's mostly ranch land but from what I've seen of it, it would take a lot of acres per animal to provide enough food, unless they ate cactus, cedar looking bushes and scrubbly trees - it is sandy and rocky.

When we were here before we ate at the Hill Country Cupboard and had memorable chicken fried steak, so I wanted to try it again.  It's about 40 miles from the campground to Johnson City which is a short hop by Texas standards - it's farther than that just to drive across the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  This is it from the outside and the menu pasted on a brown paper bag.

We decided to try their onion rings which have the same batter as the chicken fried steak and they were very crispy and pretty good.

The special for the day was the steak with mashed potatoes and green beans, which we both ordered.

As is too often the case, it wasn't nearly as good as I remembered (Chris from Nibble Me This called this"nostalgia inflation" on his blog the other day) or it has changed since the last time - it was too bland.  Oh well, at least we can whip up a pretty good version at home and season it the way we like it.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  A Day To Be Thankful – The Day After

Two years ago:  Hot Tamales For Dinner


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Granddaughters At The Barn

We woke today to drizzly skies, but since we missed the horse show on Saturday, we headed down to San Antonio for our private showing at the barn where they keep their horse - you know Katelyn is a Texan when she got a horse for her birthday, even though she lives in a sub division.  The barn (riding stable) boards and trains horses and gives riding lessons, which include doing everything for yourself including shoveling out your stall - good life lessons I think - you must pay to play. 

At the horse show the other day, Katelynn won Grand Champion in one division and Reserve Grand (2nd) in the other for the under 13 age group and Lauren who is only 8 but in the same group did very well and beat her 12 year old sister in a couple of events.

Here's a shot of their arena, which is surrounded by stalls and pasture.

For the exibition, I set the camera on sports and it took shots in quick succession.  This is Lauren and for some reason she changed horses:

This is Katelynn on her horse Mac:

And again.

They often have the jumps higher but due to the rain and softer, slicker conditions, they had everything low.

Later on we met them for supper at one of their favorite local dives called Herberts Taco Hut for Tex-Mex supper.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:   More Outside Fall Activities

Two years ago:  None


Monday, November 28, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Supper With The Roden Girls

One of the reasons for coming to this part of the world for our RV trip is that daughter, Kathy, and grandkids Katelynn, Jennafer, and Lauren (named for me - Lawrence), live about an hour away in Shertz, Tx.  This location gives us easy access to them, San Antonio, Texas Hill Country, BBQ country, and the German communities.  After our trip to Lockhart and a late BBQ breakfast, we skipped lunch and met up the Kathy and the girls for supper.

When we were down this way a few years ago, we had stopped in Nacogdoches and ate at the Clear Springs Restaurant, where Bev proclaimed she had the best chicken fried steak ever.  We again stopped over in Nacogdoches with plans for a repeat performace, but learned the original of the five restaurants was near San Marcos so we ate at a different un-memorable place.

Our second day in San Marcos, we met up with Kathy and the girls at the original Clear Springs, Tx. location which was between the campground and their home.  We were about 15 minutes ahead of them and the nice young girl doing the seating said to just let her know when everyone was there and I told her if she would go ahead and seat us we'd order alcohol, to which she replied "follow me."  I've never done that before will not forget it and we followed thru with a couple of margaritas.  This is the inside of the place with all of it's old signs and other memorabelia.

The happy crowd ready for a good meal.

One of their specialities is onion rings, which we had a order of for an appetizer, and another is catfish.  Since I had chicken fried steak on the agenda for later on, I opted for the catfish, which I ate several pieces of before remembering the photo.

Bev ordered the fried fish taco and as you can see, they didn't skrimp on the fish.

It was all good but not outstanding, but they served plenty of it, so most of my sides stayed on the plate - I would go back.  After dinner we all came back to the RV for a visit and the girls hit the playground which we were right beside - it was a really nice day.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Thanksgiving Day Breakfast

Two years ago:  Chez Inspired Lunch & Smoked Turkey


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Thanksgiving Dinner

We were originally planning to start home from Texas on Wednesday morning but after all of our trials to get here I wanted a few more days to get mentally prepared so we were able to extend our stay in the campground until Monday.  This meant we would be here, rather than on the road, on Thanksgiving Day and we decided to participate in the campgrounds dinner, where they provide the meat and everyone brings a side dish or dessert. 

To match up previous resertvations, in order for us to extend our stay, we had to move three doors down to new digs - still close to the bathhouse and laundry, but right beside the main entrance.

This is the campground office where the pool is on the bottom and upstairs devoted to the office and activities room, which was set up for the dinner.

As is often the case, the day we decided to do this and bring a side dish up pops a recipe from my favorite recipe book - your blogs.  We are fans of brussel sprouts and when I showed Bev the recipe she was quick to remind me we were in the land of meat and potatoes, but I offered that many of the folks here were likely from somewhere else.  We decided to go with the sprouts, realizing that we would enjoy the leftovers if no one else ate them, so we used Ashley's recipe for Brussels Sprouts with White Beans and Pecorino from over at Big Flavors From A Tiny Kitchen.  We made one modification to suit our taste, with the addition of bacon, but I basically cut and pasted Ashley's recipe below:

About 1/2 pounds of crisp fried bacon - our addition
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup (about 4 ounces) coarsely grated young pecorino (such as a young
Pecorino Toscano)

Fry the bacon to a crispiness to allow it to be crumbled - I did it the day before on the campgrounds grill using a pan made from foil.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. When just about to smoke, add half of brussels sprouts. Cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add remaining brussels sprouts, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer brussels sprouts to same bowl.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet; increase heat to high. Add garlic; sauté until brown, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add broth and brussels sprouts. Cook until brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add beans and butter; stir until butter melts and broth is reduced to glaze, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese.

We failed to get a shot, so please visit Ashley's site and imagine crumbled bacon in it.

Most of the dishes brought by the campers were pretty much what you'd expect for a thanksgiving meal with a couple of unique ones.

In addition to the meat, the campground furnished some dressing and gravy and this is them serving it up - didn't realize I had Bev in the shot until I downloaded them - definitely the hottest chick there.

Let's get down to some serious eating - that vacant chair is mine.

We sat across from a young couple and their two small children from Austin, except as soon as they spoke, it was obvious they weren't native Texans unless it was Texas, England - they had come here 11 years ago for a short term work contract and loved it.

We did had a few sprouts left but the mashed potato bowl looked like it had been licked clean, so I guess Bev was right and in walking around the campground most have Texas plates and most may be permanent residents. 

As is typical with pot lucks, the food was all delicious and I enjoyed finishing up the sprouts for a bedtime snack - thanks Ashley for posting the recipe.

Friend Kathy posted these on her Facebook page and I couldn't pass them up.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the United States' Capital this Christmas season. This isn't for any religious reason. They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capitol. A search for a Virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable."

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Lockhart - Black's BBQ

For our stay in San Marcos, I had laid out this plan where we would go somewhere nearby for a BBQ brunch nearly everyday then do something else for supper, so on our second morning, we headed for Lockhart, Tx.  Lockhart bills itself as the BBQ capital of Texas and with three famous places (plus an upstart) it would be difficult to argue with them.  Lockhart is a nice looking little town of about 12,000 and is built with this super looking courthouse in the middle and a square around it.

On our last visit to the area, we had eaten at Kreutz's in Lockhart and thought the beef was very good, but not their pork and since Smitty's and Kruetz's are the same family that split over a squabble, we opted for Black's this time.  We were there shortly after they opened so there were few customers, but we should be getting the freshest food.

Upon entering, you come to a nice looking buffet of sides and Bev got a little slaw and potato salad, but since I was there for BBQ, I passed.  After going thru the buffet, you come to the meat station where everything is cut to order and you pay by the pound.  Bev got some brisket flat and I got a beef rib, some fattier brisket point, and a link of jalapeno cheddar sausage, all of which we shared - I was surprised to get a plate rather than butcher paper.

Bev's brisket flat was dry and required some sauce, but all of mine was very good.  As much as it pains me to say it, Bev and I both liked my BBQ better, except for the ribs, which we might if I could get them with an inch of meat vs. the almost none I have available.  I pretty much thought everything was a little over cooked and can understand it since it's assembly line BBQ.

Assuming we would have a similar experience whereever we went, we cancelled our plans for an everyday BBQ brunch and began thinking about other things.  Counting previous trips here, I've now eaten at Kreutz’s in Lockhart, Salt Like in Driftwood, Mt Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, Texas Pride BBQ in San Antonio, and County Line at Lake Austin and SA River Walk - I liked the church's best.

The header is from the campground managers on-site home across the street from us here at Pecan Park.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Pizza From Leftovers – Mostly

Two years ago:  More Homemade Mustard


Thursday, November 24, 2011

San Marcos Day 1

We finally got to San Marcos, Tx (San Marcus to the locals) and this is the campground entrance (we're at the left of the picture) at Pecan Park Campground and it seems they have many sites devoted to permanent or winter residents.

We changed our plans to get into San Marcos a day early so we could attend a horse show that two of the grand daughters were in, but after getting in late and tired and with an oil soaked car, we just could not make it happen. We offered our appologies and made plans for a private showing later in the visit, which I'm sure we'll enjoy more, since we just want to watch them.

After sleeping in, setting up the RV, and getting cleaned up, we finally headed off to the car wash around 1pm, where it got off most of the oil - we could see out the windows then. This is the yet to be cleaned white tow dolly and most the car looked just the same.

We were driving down the road looking for a car wash that had brushes to run it through again, but instead we stumbled upon Mamacita's, which is a local Mexican restaurant chain of five places, advertising authentic Mexican food and it had been recommended at the campground. We'd planned to have a light lunch and supper latter, but decided to make this our dinner instead - we got the only open table for less than 8 people. The menu did seem more like what would be found south of the border with many seafood and traditional Mexican dishes, rather than just the usual Tex-Mex we get at home.

We started with very good chips and two kinds of delicious dip for them, then Bev ordered a fairly traditional chille relleno with rice and refried beans. I forgot the camera, so these are courtesy of her do everything cell phone.

I ordered the shrimp special (not on the menu) which was 12 jumbo shrimp which had been skewered, spiced, and grilled, then served on a bed of onions and green chiles. I sided it with rice and Frijoles A La Charra (pinto bean soup) - pinto's with bacon, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and spices - very good and will be tried at home.

They also had burgers, steaks, fried seafood, and chicken fried steak - remember we're in Texas. Both meals were very good and while I thought I was hungry, I only ate half the shrimp and the beans - I may feel an shrimp omeltte or scramble coming on.

Since we were pretty busy each day and having other travel issues, I didn't bother putting up the TV antenna on our way down here and our site here in San Marcos has a large tree in the way. Therefore I have been without TV or newspaper, two staples of my morning routine, since about 7am on Nov 14 and I'm actually survivng just fine - no withdraw symptoms, the earth is still rotating, I'm not frustrated hearing about the clowns in DC - I may make this permanent, but probably not.

After yesterdays post, son, Rhett, called early to check on us - laughing as the conversation began.  In all fairness to the RV, the two major problems were road related.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago: Breakfast Burrito Ala Beverly

Two years ago: Good Deal On Shrimp Too


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Days 4 & 5 - The Griswold's

We drove from Hot Springs, Ark. down to Nacogdoches, Tx. on day 4 and noticed we were losing power as we went up hills and sometimes pretty badly, so I was pretty sure we had a clogged fuel filter. Since I knew we could run this way ok, but at a lower speed, we limped on south and began calling RV places in Nacogdoches and found one right along our route who said bring it on in. Within an hour, we were fixed up and on our way to the campground called Paradise Lake. Forty years ago it may have lived up to its name, but by modern standards, it’s barely adequate and pretty well matches up to its sign.

Here’s a shot of it and the lake that has been reduced to a pond by the drought – but if you enlarge the third picture you can see the otter that was frolicking in it just before we pulled out – first one I’d ever seen in the wild and the day had started out very well.

We decided to go back up the road to a convenient truck stop and fill up with fuel and we heard a scrape as we pulled in thinking it was the tow dolly so I didn’t even bother to look. Bev commented she thought the RV may have also scrapped. We headed on down the road and about an hour and fifteen minutes later, the oil light came on and we pulled over, as I wanted to re-tighten the car on the dolly anyway.

The car, the dolly, and the rear of the coach were covered in oil which had apparently been coming out in a slow leak since the fuel stop. We put a jug under it to catch what we could and once again called CoachNet, but went on line to see what we could find ourselves. The guy we bought the RV from had installed a valve on the oil pan to make it easier to change the oil and our little scrape broke it. So far, two of the systems he installed for convenience have stranded us on the side of the road.

Back in August, Bev decided she had to buy an Ipad and after the tire issue, she subscribed to a months-worth of internet service via Verizon (I won’t leave home without it again). We were 8 miles north of Livingston, Tx and found a diesel shop that would come see if could fix us up – I'd had such high hopes for today.

Can you believe that after an hour, I called the guy back and he was still in the shop– said he got half way here and his vehicle had trouble so he had to go back. I’m now just hoping a semi doesn’t plow into us or we get struck by lightning out of the clear blue sky.

After trying some other places to negative responses, I called the guy back and siad I'd come get him if necessary, but one of his guys finally agreed to drive his personal car out and handle it.  The job took less than 30 minutes to put in a new plug and add the oil, but we were there for 3 1/2 hours.

So for the third day we had vehicle troubles and for the second time, we rolled into the campground well after dark, totally bushed, and frustrated - so we opened a bottle of wine (the good stuff) and sat on the patio until we were wound down enough to go to bed.  Things will have to be a lot better going back for the RV not to go on the market when we get home, assuming we do.  Does the name Griswold ring a bell?

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. 

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Thanksgiving Preparation

Two years Ago: Good Deal On Strip Steak


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Texas RV Trip - Hot Springs, Ark Again

I've began calling Coco, Coco Rita and we Bev likes it as well and we decided it was her turn on the header.
The story of the town and National Park here is very interesting and it’s often difficult to know when you’re in the park or in the town.  I didn’t realize the hot springs and resulting bathhouses were such a home of the rich-and-famous and ill back at the turn of the century (the previous one). This is the entrance to the third version Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa (fires you know) and it has been in business since 1875, but this one opened in 1924.
It’s another story worth reading if you’re a history or geology buff, but here’s one tidbit – the hot water coming from the springs today fell on the earth 4000 years ago and it takes it that long to percolate to the 8000 foot depth before making it’s quick return to the surface where it’s 143F. 

Here’s a shot of the cascade at the top of Bathhouse Row and across the street from The Arlington, where it flows into a basin and on into the creek.  In the early days the creek flowed just in front of the bath houses but it has been covered and is now flowing under their front lawns.  Note the vapors rising from the water.

The bathhouses draw their water from a man-made reservoir below ground up on the mountain so it is never contaminated, but still hot enough to require cooling prior to use.  I believe there are nine buildings in Bathhouse Row but only five operating and one as the National Park Museum.  Some have private bath tubs while others have larger, multi-person pools.  A private whirlpool mineral bath is now $30, time in the pool is $18. Back in their day, they were really jumping and people came from all over in hopes the hot mineral water would cure their ails.  Bev decided she'd pass on the fairly expensive bath.

The national park has a four story bathhouse preserved as a museum from about 1915 and this spring is in the basement - click on the description to read about it.
After the bath, massage, facial and other indulgences, the guests relaxed in the 3rd floor parlor, with a very nice stained glass ceiling, before heading back to the Arlington or other upscale hotel.
This is the Hubbard Tub used for hydrotherapy and they are still for sale, at least in a stainless steel version.
There is also a tap where anyone can fill up a jug of the famous elixir and a guy earlier had car full of 5 gallon jugs to take home, advising that his family loves to drink it and it’s supposed to make great coffee.   After a trip to Walmart, here I am getting a few jugs to take home and it was indeed hot water.
Sometimes Bev is so funny because when I suggested we go to Walmart for jugs, she ask - "Is there a Walmart here." I replied "think Arkansas, think Walmart, think Sam Walton, think Arkansas, what do you think now." Not surprisingly, there are three in the area.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. 
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South. 

One year ago:  Chicken Pepperoni Ala Dennis

Two years ago:  Brisket Hash - Oh My