Sunday, July 25, 2021

Our Vacation to Dallas, Houston, and Texarkana in the Summer of July 2021

Carrie and I Before Taste of Texas Dinner
Carrie and I went on vacation from July 9 through July 20 to Texas. We stopped in Dallas to visit our friend Javier and then on to Houston to visit our friend Corrie and her family. This update will highlight some of the places we visited and some of our trip. No, it will not be a day-by-day account of what we did, so hopefully it will not be too boring and you will read all of what I have to say and comment.

Winery in Texas
Our first night in Dallas, Javier took us to Fortunata Winery. Wow! What an amazing environment. The wines were fantastic. Carrie and I did a tasting it was one of those instances where I could easily have purchased a bottle of each of the four that I tasted. I started off with a Chardonnay, Red Blend, Painted Lady, and finished off with The Colonel (see full menu). Fantastic spot where they host parties and have a huge outside area to enjoy your selected wine. After our tasting, we each got a glass to enjoy plus two pizzas. 

I did not record which pizzas we got, although Carrie likely remembers, but they were both very good. We bought a bottle of wine that Javier and I split and Carrie got a watermelon drink which she liked. It was a fun first night and the place is very close (5 minutes) from where Javier lives. Javi said he takes people here any chance he gets and this was our first visit, so he recently discovered this place that is less than five minutes from where he lives. Worth checking out Fortunata Winery if you are in the area. Sitting outside in July with a cool breeze was amazing while enjoying delicious food and wine.

Truck Yard Dallas with our Puppies and Friends
We spent a few days in the Dallas area with Javier visiting various places. He took us to Truck Yard and we decided to take Oliver with us. The Truck Yard is an outside area with various vendors and a lot of beer. We were a little concerned taking Oliver as he can sometimes be aggressive towards other dogs; however, on this adventure, he was a perfect little gentleman. Interacting with other dogs and being rather friendly. One particular dog he went up to three or four times, tail wagging, and generally friendly. It was rather odd to see after seeing Oliver try and take out other dogs his size or larger. It was a nice surprise.

We had a great time at Truck Yard where we ate from the food trucks and drank a lot of great beer. We were able to meet up with friends of Javier. While it was around 95 degrees when we went out to the Truck Yard, it was really not bad at all. We had a wonderful time and good to meet new friends of Javier and some that we had met in the past. It was a fun time!

Following our time in Dallas, we headed to Houston on July 11. We had a great time in Houston spent with our friend Corrie and her children. We ate and drank a number of wonderful spots in Houston. Pluckers Wing Bar, Snooze Eatery which is a breakfast spot we first found in Colorado years ago and continue to seek out, Floyds Cajun Seafood which is another place we always try to visit when Houston, and Taste of Texas where we had dinner one evening.

Gulf Coast Distillers Enjoying Drinks and Company
We had good drinks at all the locations listed previously and I would now like to call out some of the places where we had fantastic drinks. Gulf Coast Distillers in Houston was a fun spot. The presentation of the spirits were good and the taste of the drinks was even better. We spent a few hours at Gulf Coast Distillers and we ate dinner there too. I highly recommend visiting Gulf Coast Distillers if you are in the area as it was well worth the visit the time spent.

Another favorite when in the Houston area is to visit Cyclone Anaya's where we spent a few hours enjoying margaritas. The chips and salsas are delicious and the variety of good strong margaritas makes the afternoon fly by. 

Oliver, TBo, Carrie, and I Enjoying the Pool
As our week concluded in Houston, we spent our final day at Uncle Tommy's house for a pool day. It was a day to remember as we all had fun and the drinks were flowing easily. I was the bartender and had fun making drinks for everyone. Oliver was being good and we were surprised he wanted to get on a raft and float around the water. Of course, we were pushing him around the water, but he was enjoying his time around the pool. We had a great time and it was good to finally be able to enjoy being outside after it rained everyday since we had been in Houston.

We left for Dallas on July 18 where we stopped at another favorite spot which is eatZi's Market & Backery. Picked up some food to take back to Javi's house to wind down and enjoy the evening. Monday would have Carrie and I leaving Dallas to head to Texarkana to see Carrie's uncle. We had a nice visit and met is girlfriend, Audra, and her little dog JoJo. We had a wonderful visit and went out to eat that evening meeting up with a cousin of Carrie. A short visit as Carrie and I left early the following morning to get back to Topeka.

Oliver Very Sleepy on Way Home and After Arriving Home
Oliver slept the whole way home and most of the days following returning home. I think Oliver had just as much fun as us on the trip even though he was taken out of his normal routines. I went back to work on Wednesday and recall when I came home for lunch on Wednesday, Oliver had been sleeping all morning and was a bit grumpy where he growled when I went to pet him as to say he needed more rest.

It was a great trip and look forward to a doing it again in a year. Thanks to the hospitality of Javier, Corrie, Tommy, Robert, and Audra, it made for a wonderful trip.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Different Kind of July 4 Celebration and Driving Around Kansas Camp Sites

Driving on July 4 Holiday Across Damn
July 4 celebration was a little different for Carrie and I this year than previous years. We decided a few weeks ahead of the holiday that we would drive around Kansas to look at camp sites. This was really more to help our our dog, Oliver, who is afraid of thunder, loud noises, and especially fireworks. We thought it would be a good way for us to check out various camp sites and also get Oliver out of the house and away from our neighborhood where fireworks can go off into the late hours of the night.

We started off visiting Cross Timbers State Park located on Toronto Lake in Woodson County. We drove around looking at various locations and found a few good spots. The first camp site we visited, Manns Cove Camp Site, was not ideal as we could not see the lake from the camp site, but we found other locations that would work. Good views of the lake and tree coverage to keep us cool tent camping. 

As we reviewed the spaces, we thought about making a trip to Cross Timbers State Park in the fall to see the lake and tree coverage. Toronto Lake is in the woods with heavy tree foliage, so we thought a fall visit would be fun to see the area, hike, and camp in cool temperatures. We noticed a few different spots to hike while we were driving around, so that was interesting to see and something to look forward to check out in the future.

Fall River Lake Spillway
The next camp site we checked was located at Fall River Lake and included the Fall River State Park. Traveling to Fall River State Park from Cross Timbers State Park took us deep into Kansas countryside. Cell signal completely stopped working, but luckily, our GPS continued to work and had us going through fields, gravel roads, and single lane dirt roads as we passed by fields and country houses. 

We really liked this camp site and had fun looking around the spillway that was partially open as every lake we looked at during the day was way above their normal lake levels. Some areas were completely covered with water or could not access the area we wanted to check, but we were able to see all of the spots we wanted.

We found Fall River State Park various sites that we would love to check out in the future. The camp sites at this location, as well as the first site, were not nearly as crowded as we thought they would be on a holiday. They were busy, but not overrun with campers. Both sites included many RVs but the primitive sites were not busy at all. It was nice though as we were doing the whole day to get Oliver out of the house so he would not have to hear fireworks that all State camp sites prohibit fireworks, so that was nice we did not have to worry about loud booms while we were in the various camp sites.

Fall River Lake Flooded Area We Visited

We found a nice little trail to follow down to the water and the state had done a lot of work to make the trail accessible by all. A path where a wheel chair could get down to the water although it was still being worked on and washed out from the flooding, it appeared as though they were going to pour cement and make it accessible all the way to the dock. With flooding, the path to the dock was underwater (picture to the left), but we could see how they were making progress and going to have it be a nice set up with wheel chair paths all the way to the dock. 

We will be back to visit the Fall River State Park site in the future. We enjoyed the area, the camp sites, and views from the sites we visited.

Our final site to visit for the day was located at El Dorado Lake. El Dorado State Park is the largest State Park in Kansas. We had about a 40 minute drive from Fall River State Park to El Dorado State Park.  Carrie drove while Oliver and I snoozed. Of the three lakes we reviewed through the day, I was excited to be at El Dorado Lake. I had driven over it for years when going to Wichita to visit my sister over the years and always liked how the highway went over the lake. It was fun seeing the camp sites. Again, we found that on this holiday, RV sites were crowded, but primitive camp sites were mostly open. 

Carrie and I Doing a Picnic at El Dorado State Park
Carrie and I stopped at an open camp site to have a picnic. Like the other two lakes, the area was flooded and so the camp site we found in primitive camping was not reserved or we thought was not an option to reserve. The grill for the site was partially in the water, so it was a perfect spot for us to spend a while enjoying the cool July 4 weather at the lake.

We had cheese, crackers, and grapes. It was perfect! I could have spent a longer time at the lake, but we wanted to try and see my sister in Andover. We had not given them any heads up as we were not sure of our schedule from going from lake-to-lake, so we ended up not being able to connect with them. We headed on home after finishing the site review at El Dorado State Park as we were unable to meet up with Jen and her family.

We had a great time on our July 4 camp site visits. We left the house later than we had expected as we left about 1. We got back to Topeka around 10:30 that evening. It was a wonderful drive back as we could see fireworks being fired from El Dorado, Emporia, and Topeka. 

El Dorado Lake Camp Site Looking Out at Lake

What a wonderful time spent driving around the state of Kansas. We enjoyed our time together as we searched out future camp sites. I think we found some good options for next fall/spring and look forward to being able to visit them in the future. Carrie and I talked about our camping at El Dorado State Park that we would be able to invite Jen and Kent out to our camp site to eat with us. I think it sounds like a fun time and look forward to being able to do so in the near future.

What Kansas camp sites have you visited? Which ones do you like? Any recommendations for us to check out in our future camping adventures?

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Happy 4th of July


United States Flag on Our House
July 4 will always bring back memories for me from when I was a kid. I recall becoming excited as the July 4 date approached, bothering my parents for going to get fireworks, and eventually having the fireworks purchased to fire off in our driveway. I remember not only my parents taking me to get fireworks… usually my mom… but I remember my sisters and brother taking me to get fireworks too. 

Preparing for Fireworks Show off the Dock at the Cabin
I recall shooting fireworks at my parents in the driveway. I remember shooting fireworks at friends houses. Some of my favorite memories are firing fireworks off at Lone Star Lake. Off of the dock. I remember one time when we were not he dock doing a fireworks “show” and everyone was up top on the deck. Some how a rocket found its way all the way to the deck and blew up by my sister Dina. It blew up and made a hole in her shirt. To this day, she is not a fan of fireworks.

Other memories of the 4th of July include going to Wichita to celebrate the holiday. Again, fond memories of going to my sisters house in Wichita to do fireworks. Kent and I spent a lot of time doing a fireworks show which included mortar and seemed to last into the midnight hour. Of course we did not go to midnight as that would be too late, but the memory has expanded in my mind. I think this was back in the 90s but I am not sure. The whole family went to Wichita a few summers to celebrate the fourth and still have good memories from those trips.

Another good memory was celebrating the 4 in Houston a few years ago. We bought fireworks and then TBo bought even more fireworks. We spent the evening shooting off fireworks and again it felt as though it was late into the night.

We no longer buy fireworks but we both enjoy a good fireworks show and the holiday certainly brings back nostalgia for times past and good memories. 

Have a happy and safe 4th of July.