Winter Escape to the Gulf – 2020

After the busy Christmas and New Years time of year, we usually get the itch to escape to somewhere warm. And each year it seems that January is full of doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and other commitments. By the time February gets here, we are very ready to load up the RV and go almost anywhere, just to get away.

This time, we decided to visit Galveston, TX, since we couldn’t get two full weeks in Port Aransas. We planned to stay in Galveston for one week and then head to Port Aransas for one week.

Before it was time to load up the RV, I noticed that there was a lot of battery acid around the base of the house batteries. As it turned out, I was supposed to be watering the batteries when they are being charged over the last three years. Whoops! $650 later, we have four new house batteries! Lesson learned.

I also bought a Hydrolink battery watering system that makes it really easy to keep them topped off. I’m planning to install that once we get to warmer weather. 

Day 1

We headed to Van Buren the first night, which saved an hour off of our trip the next day. We stayed at the Overland RV park, and every time we go there we talk about how it would be neat to buy the RV park, expand it, and make it a really nice place. It’ll probably never happen. 

We celebrated my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary that night! Congratulations!!

Day 2

Before we headed out of Van Buren, we decided to lose the refrigerator lock…that was nice and inconvenient! I grabbed a bungee cord from the Jeep and lashed the fridge handles to one another for now.

It turned out to be a good thing that we lost the fridge lock because we ended up buying a baby lock for cabinet doors that works a lot faster and easier than the old fridge lock.

On the road we go!

Little bit of fog for the first couple of miles.

The best part of driving earlier in the mornings are the wake up hugs when the kids finally get out of bed!

We drove to Waco, TX the first day. we were at a Texas rest stop and Tripp wanted to go in and get a snack from a vending machine (he loves to do that at rest stops). I didn’t have my wallet with me and didn’t want to walk all the way back to the RV, so I told him just to eat something in the RV. I should have just ran and grabbed my wallet. It was lunchtime and he was getting pretty hungry and he wasn’t happy.

I managed to get this photo before all that happened. 

He then decided he wanted a cheeseburger, which you can’t get a rest stop. None of the upcoming truckstops had cheeseburger options. He was pretty upset by this point! The one kid who usually never throws a fit about food and who needs to eat, won’t settle for what we had in the RV! 

It reminded me of the “donut junction meltdown” at Animal Kingdom years ago when Tripp wanted a whole doughnut and not a half of one. Funny kid!

He finally broke down and ate a sandwich and life was good again.

New good ornament! We put Lily up there and she now likes to ride up there. 

We arrived at the I-35 RV park, just north of Waco. It’s a nice clean park with all the essentials, including two dog parks. We would definitely stay here again!

We were in site 30, which is on the end of a row. As you can see in the photo above, there is a really big bunch of cedar trees and there is a big hollow area on the inside that Tripp liked to play in. He was having fun climbing on the trees.

We headed to the Magnolia Market.

The food disasters continued… Tripp got an incredible cupcake that we all fought over (literally…there were tears). Tripp let Avin have a bite, but he bit off more of the frosting then Tripp was OK with. That caused the first argument. Crying, Tripp ate the last bit of frosting off the cupcake and gave the rest of the cake part to Carla. Carla asked Avin if he wanted part of the cake part, and he did, and that made Tripp mad that Avin was getting even MORE of the cupcake! In Carla’s defense, she was the new owner of the remaining cake portion, so it was up to her to give it away if she wanted. I managed to get a bite of it as well, but it needed frosting in my opinion.

By the way, you’re probably wondering why we didn’t just buy a second cupcake. It’s because we were already in the car headed back to the RV by that point, and the Magnolia café had already closed.

And the infamous cupcake…..

Rudy’s BBQ!!

On our way back to the RV, we looked up the address of one of Chip and Joanna’s Fixer Upper houses and drove by it. So cool!!

 I installed new headlights in the Jeep tonight. Can’t wait to try them out!

Day 3

We drove through the neat old western town of Calvert, TX:

Lily is still enjoying the dashboard. She was entertained by me cleaning the windshield at a truckstop. 

Houston, we have some Habs!

Always awesome to start seeing palm trees!

Galveston Island! Woohoo!!

We arrived at Stella Mare RV Resort. It’s a really nice resort, and probably one of the top three we’ve ever stayed at in the past 40,000 miles of RVing!

We drove up the coastline to try to catch a dolphin cruise. There wasn’t enough time to get there before they left, so we decided to drive around and see what was farther north toward the tip of the island. It ends at an area where a lot of families were fishing and you can watch ships headed into the channel.

Back near town, there is a neat pier with lots of rides, which would be fun to do if the kids would ride some of them. Probably skip it this time around, though.

Love the palms!

We drove to a Walmart so I could use a flat parking area near a wall to adjust my new headlights. They work great!

The dogs like the dog park at the RV resort:

They had fun racing from end to end with the boys (and me!).

Day 4

Just a typical Monday. Work and school…but we did grill burgers outside!. The weather has been gorgeous!

Day 5

Another school and work day. At lunch, we went down to the beach briefly before eating at Miller’s Seawall Grill. It is the neat house-looking building behind Avin.

Day 6

It turned cold and foggy last night. Everything is damp…too cold to do much outside. It’s just another school and workday anyway. The rest of the week should be sunny and nice, so we are looking forward to that.

Also, since the forecast shows rain everyday next week in Port Aransas, we looked to see where else we could go for a few days that would be sunny. Well, most of the west side of the gulf and most of Texas will be wet next week. Sooooo, we decided we will head to……Disney World instead! It will only be for 4 nights, but better than sitting in rain or going home already! Last night we booked some FastPasses, but some of the bigger rides were all booked up as we expected.

They mowed the grass at all the RV sites today, and Lily has to go potty afterward. She turned green!

Day 7

We decided to go ahead and leave today and head toward Florida! Carla drove us all the way to Louisiana, where we stayed in a glorious Walmart parking lot.

Day 8

We continued on toward Florida.

We were able to book a spot at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground tonight, so we went ahead and pushed all the way there. Very long day!

Like we usually do when we arrive late at night the first night, we went to Disney Springs to walk around since it’s the only thing open after the parks close.

When we came back to the campground, Avin and I went into the check-in building to pick up our magic bands. The guy told me you can now pick your Magic band colors. They have close colors in the rainbow, and gray. Not thinking, I told him I would like a black one (I guess I thought that would look cool). He gave me this odd look and Avin started laughing and told me, “Dad, black is not a color in the rainbow!”. Hey, give me a break! We just got done driving 1000 miles and I am exhausted! I settled for a blue magic band. 

Day 9

We were in site 511 this time. Pretty easy spot to get into compared to some of the other ones we have been in.

We ate breakfast at Kona Café, and thankfully they still serve the Big Kahuna! Yummmmm!!! We then headed to Magic Kingdom, which is the first park we always visit when we come to Disney World.

It was super busy this weekend! Tons of people!

We rented a golf cart for a few days, which was a lot of fun! The kids really liked riding around the campground in it, and it was sure nice whenever we went to the boat dock to go to Magic Kingdom.

Yes, Tripp is wearing a jacket! It was super nice out! We all ended up wearing jackets by the end of the night.

Day 10

Day 11

We got to ride on the new Skyliner, which is a lot of fun! It’s almost as good as a ride at one of the parks. It’s really freaky when you’re coming to a stop in the station. The car stops at the last second and swings out really far, almost running into the next car!

Thanks to Avin’s research, we found out there is a whole show at the America pavilion in Epcot. We were all really impressed by the animatronics and the whole show! Can’t believe we’ve never seen this in all our previous visits to Epcot!!

These living statues were really cool!

Day 12

Today was a half day of work/school. Tripp is using a neat wooden stick pencil from our trip to Maine last Fall, which he loves to sharpen with a knife.

Uh oh…looks like some funny business goin on!

Day 13

We went to the 360 degree Canada show in Epcot, which was so cool! They even featured a video clip of Lunenberg, where we stayed last Falll! That was exciting to see!

We took the Skyliner from Epcot to the new Riviera hotel to eat lunch. Good food that was different from other food at the parks, which is a nice change!

Day 14

Work and school day. On my lunch break, I installed new LED headlight bulbs in the RV. I can’t wait to see what they look like!

Went to Epcot to ride Soarin, Nemo, and Spaceship Earth this evening.

When we got back to the RV I tried out the new headlight bulbs and they look great!!

It’s funny that I installed new Jeep headlights in Waco, TX and new RV headlights in Disney World!

We had to run to Walmart, which is never fun in Orlando. Every store is super crowded with tourists all the time, day or night. Here is a photo from 11pm:

We saw a few Tomorrowland cast members….not…so…magical when seen at Walmart!

Also, yesterday we found a 7-11 near the Disney University (not far from the Grand Floridian) where apparently tons of employees get gas. It was funny to see various cast members dressed up for a particular park fueling up their cars, getting snacks, etc. It was like that a second time we went there as well.

Day 15

Happy Valentines Day!! And what an odd one it was! It was a cool, cloudy day and we started off by moving to the KOA in Kissimmee, since Disney didn’t have any sites available for our last night in Orlando. Carla is driving in front as we make our way there:

We then headed to Animal Kingdom!

Lots of crowds in Africa:

We noticed a train in Africa we hadn’t seen before (or so we thought…). We decided to hop on and see where it went.

Well, it took us to an animal conservation area we then remembered (boring…) and had to ride the train back to where we started. Oh well, something to do.

Everest all lit up at night:

We started to watch the Rivers of Light show, but it started to rain and we were getting cold (hard to imagine in FL), so we headed back to the Jeep.

We had to return a defective lightsaber blade at Hollywood Studios, and we were able to get on the Millennium Falcon ride just before park closing with only a 35 min wait!

We got lucky and got a cockpit all to ourselves, and the kids got to be pilots (the coolest job to have on the ride)! Carla and I were gunners (no engineers).

When we were off the ride, the park was closed (the kids thought that was neat to walk through the park when it was closed). It was a good way to end our last evening in the parks this trip.

I took some time to adjust the headlights upward and they are even better now! Can’t wait to drive at night!

Tomorrow, we head toward home!

Day 16

Today we headed toward Arkansas. Goodbye, Florida!

We tried to find an available RV park near the Gulf so we could play on the beach tonight, but there was nothing available that was close enough that we would get in before sunset. Instead, we headed north toward Atlanta.

As it got dark, I got to try out the new headlight bulbs. I found right away that they needed to be adjusted upward even more than I had before. We pulled over on an off / on ramp and I got under the RV to adjust them real quick.

Low beams:

High beams:

I’m happy with the new bulbs, but I still wonder what real projector bulbs would look like. Maybe I will try them out someday. For now, my next project will be to replace the rear camera with one that has its infrared lights located outside the camera lens protective glass so that all of the dirt and water doesn’t reflect back like below:

We spent the night at the Gander RV campground. It’s a good overnight place with restaurants near by. We ate at Los Mexicanos just down the road about a mile from the RV park, which was really good! It compares to Mojito’s. We then stopped by Walmart for a few things and headed back to get to sleep. It’s going to get down to 39° tonight, so we have to start using the heater again! strange! I feel like we are bouncing between seasons. 

Day 17

We left around 8:30 AM and should get home around 7 PM tonight. We will be wiped out, but it will be good to be home and not have to drive on a weekday.

Lily still likes to ride by the windshield!

It’s been a fun trip! It’s funny to think we intended to stay in Texas the whole time, and ended up at Disney World! It’s those unexpected changes of plans that make it a lot more fun to travel.

Some of the interesting people we met during this trip:

  • While washing the RV windshield at a truck stop, a nice man came up who only had one tooth. He was driving an older semi truck (no trailer) and asked me how long our RV was and how much horsepower it had. He told me he and his wife have lived in their semi truck for 14 years. He said they have an old school bus they are going to turn into their new home on wheels and thought that was a better idea than spending money on a house that wasn’t able to travel to where their kids lived in different states.
  • A couple staying next to us at the KOA in Kissimmee was polishing their motorcycles while I was disconnecting our utilities. I noticed they were speaking French. The guy told me he liked our RV’s paint job. We got to talking and they are from Montreal, Quebec, and he said something about them leaving their RV in Florida while they travel to their second home in Cancun. Must be nice!
  • While fueling up at a truck stop, a guy in a passenger car from the regular gas stationwalked over and asked me “What are those things on the side of your jeep?”. I told him the top one was a water container for camping and the lower things were traction plates for off-road driving. He gave me a strange look and said “well they look cool” and walked away. Funny!
  • At Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, almost every time we came home in the evening, one of the security guards would say something about the Jeep.  The first time, one of them asked me “What are those things on the side of the Jeep?”, just like the guy from the gas station. I told him the same thing I told the guy at the gas station and he just stared at me like I was speaking another language. From then on, whenever we came to the security gate he would say “Hey, I remember you guys”. Another security guard also asked me “What are those things on the side of your Jeep?”. When I told him, he said that’s what he thought they were and just wanted to see if he was right. Finally, someone knew what “those things are on the side of the jeep”!
  • Our neighbors at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground introduce themselves while we were disconnecting on our last day there. The lady said she was actually from Conway, AR! Her husband was in the Navy for 35 years and they now live in West Virginia.
  • In Galveston, TX, Carla met a girl who has lived in that RV resort for the past six years with her husband. She’s a hair stylist from Boston and the people who stay in that RV resort for a long time have have her do their hair. Her husband is in the military. 

See you next time!

3 thoughts on “Winter Escape to the Gulf – 2020

  1. Looks like you’re having a great time. That house you got to see that Fixer-Upper one was one of my favorite ones they ever did. I think that’s the one the owners were trying to sell for an absolutely outrageous price

  2. Love the new hood ornament! And another doughnut story….I still remember the one when we were at Disney. Funny kid. Glad you’re off to a great start but we’ll be glad to see you all when you get back.
    Love you all.
    Gramma and Grampa

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