To See or Not to See: Touristing in Big Cities

She said…

 Our route this year is taking us close to some big cities, and the question has come up for us. . . how hard do we need to try to see everything there is to offer in these major metropolitan areas?

One of the things we did when we planned our route last year was to purchase a two-zone Thousand Trails membership. The cost was $565, and the price included the first thirty nights in the Thousand Trail system. Any nights after the first thirty are $4.00. We stayed in the Thousand Trail system extensively while in the Pacific Northwest and California, and with only one exception, the parks have been beautiful, clean, quiet, well-maintained. When we were planning this year’s route, Shannon called Thousand Trails and asked if we could change one of our zones to Southeast, which includes Texas, and they graciously allowed us to do that. So, until our year runs out in April, we are spending as many nights as we can at Thousand Trail parks at the ridiculously low, low rate of $4.00/night.

Our first Thousand Trail experience this year was at Medina Lake RV Resort outside of San Antonio. This is a huge park, with 387 campsites. It is heavily wooded, so the spaces seem isolated. There is a large herd of deer that roams the park and you can purchase deer corn at the park headquarters. I’m sure this place fills up in the summer, but it was not crowded in February. I’d have to come back at peak season with full humidity to be sure, but I found myself saying over and over, “I could live here.” I saw The Alamo on a previous visit and Shannon graduated from high school in San Antonio, so we took a day trip into the city to visit old haunts, do the River Walk and have a Valentine’s date, but the rest of our stay there was spent at home. Great Park.

Our second Thousand Trails Park was about 1½ hours west of Houston at Colorado River RV Resort in Columbus, Texas. One of the things we wanted to do in Houston was visit the Johnson Space Flight Center and Museum, but the drive is almost two hours each way and the admission is $30 each, no price breaks for being old. We are willing to go this distance and bend the budget if things are high up on one of our bucket lists, but Shannon said that it wasn’t important enough to do the drive and the traffic, so we passed. Instead, we stayed in Columbus and did the two top things in their Trip Advisor list, the biggest live oak in Texas and the Industrial (Quirky) Country Store.

The ”biggest” anything holds a certain draw for us, so we went in search of The Texas Big Tree Registry and the biggest live oak. We actually passed it twice while we were trying to follow the Garmin instructions, but only because we were looking on the other side of the street. The tree occupies a whole lot by itself and is truly magnificent. There’s something really humbling about being in the presence of something that has seen so much in its life.

The Industrial (Quirky) Country Store was also quite an experience. The whole place is powered by solar panels and battery banks. There is a large retail space, sort of like Oriental Trading in the flesh. You have to go up and down every aisle because there is no order to any of it. There are composting toilets, they collect and store all of their water, and all of their food is grown on site in hydroponic greenhouses. Everything, with the exception of the owner’s residence, is open to the public. Truly off the grid, even though they are right on the highway. They have giant speakers blasting 70’s rock out over the site, gotta love it! My favorite part was the sculpture garden, which was an ongoing exercise in hording with flair.

We had a fun day and were able to see some things that are off the beaten tourist track. And it was free (except for the few things we couldn’t live without in the store. Less than $10.) It is important for us to remember, we are not tourists, we are traveling in our home, and just because we are in an area for the first time, we don’t have to see everything. Johnson Space Flight Center will still be there the next time we are through.

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