Fortunately, the drive from Houston to San Marcos was pretty easy and not too long, about a hundred and seventy miles, give or take. We chose to stay there rather than in Austin or, to the southwest, San Antonio, because we planned to take a day trip to each city and didn’t want to have to move our rig each time.
The RV park we chose was the Pecan Park Campground, which is on the San Marcos River. The campground itself is nice enough with accommodations that should handle most any camper or big rig. It has a recreation area inside the two story building that houses the office, and an indoor heated (as if you’d need that in the summer here – ha!) swimming pool. But the big attraction for many people will be the San Marcos River, which was maybe two hundred feet from our camp site. I’m not sure about the fishing there, but a lot of folks brought kayaks, tubes, giant rubber duckies, and anything else that floats to toss in the river and chill out for a while. We didn’t happen to do that (we’ll be hopping into the Verde River in Arizona), but it looked like a nice place for a family outing and there were a heck of a lot of folks armed with fishing poles, although I think they must be going somewhere nearby to fish. One caution I’d make is that there are lots — and I mean lots! — of ants, particularly near the river. We couldn’t stand anywhere for more than a few seconds before a dozen of the little swine were marching up our legs. We didn’t get bitten (I don’t think they were fire ants), but if you don’t like buggies crawling on you, be careful.
The only downside we experienced was that our campsite was a pull-in (not a pull-through or back-in), which was fine, except that the folks in the cabin next to ours had all their stuff spread out across the gravel where we had to park our RV. Nobody was home in the cabin, so we just moved it over so we could get in. Later on, the family (or families?) appeared — it seemed like there were about twenty of ‘em — and didn’t seem very happy that their stuff had been moved. The reason why I mention this is that when I went out a little while later to get something out of the bins on the side of the RV facing the cabin, I found that they’d parked their pickup truck maybe six inches from us. It was so close that the driver had folded back the passenger side mirror. And there was no other vehicle there, just a huge empty space between their pickup and the cabin, which I suspect may be reflected between their collective ears. I know, that was catty, but I couldn’t resist.
Okay, whatever, lobster people. Fortunately, they were replaced the next day with a group of very nice fishermen who must all be deaf, as they’ve been chattering up a storm in sign language while laying out a very impressive spread of food on their picnic tables. If they were a couple feet closer I might nab one of their beers when they’re not looking…
Oh, and speaking of storms, we experienced what I assume must be a typical Texas brew-up. We had just finished setting up the RV after arriving from Houston when we got hit by a wall of wind that shook our 17 ton RV. Still air, then boom! We were rattling and rolling. There was some thunder and lightning and a bit of rain, but the wind was the real kicker (literally speaking). No damage or anything, but that’s the first time I can remember being totally surprised by the arrival of a storm.
Anyway, on to our first day trip: Austin! While it may come as a surprise, Austin is the state capital, and their seat of government was built in a similar style to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. But — yes, here it is — it’s a bit bigger. This is Texas, after all.
And the Texas Capitol building was right next door (or near enough) to where we started our visit to Austin: at Segway Nation (Austin) for a Segway tour. Neither Jan nor I had ever been on a Segway, one of those two-wheel contraptions that people stand on and somehow don’t seem to fall on their butts while zipping down the sidewalk. I will now hereby confess that they’re just freakin’ cool. They’re a little counterintuitive in some ways, but once you’re used to riding one, which only took us a few minutes, they’re a blast. They’re also very practical for touring the attractions in an area. You can cover a lot more ground than by walking, they’re more maneuverable than bikes, and you don’t get nearly as tired as doing either over the course of a couple hours. The only negative, which our tour guide warned us about, was that your feet will probably be hurting a bit by the end. I was wearing my Vibram FiveFinger shoes, but next time we do one of these (and we’ll definitely be doing more), I’ll wear something with a little bit of cushion so my toes can flex a bit more.
But that’s a mere quibble. My advice? If you haven’t ever tried a Segway tour, do it. It was a ton of fun!
As for our two and a half our tour of Austin, we got a good look at the Texas Capitol building, as I mentioned, as that’s where the Segway Nation folks train the noobs to ride the Segways, zipping around the street that encircles the building. Then we were off, heading down (if I recall correctly) Congress Avenue toward the Colorado River (note: I don’t consider myself a geographic nincompoop, but I had no idea the Colorado flowed through this part of the country). Similar to what we experienced on our bus tour in New Orleans, our tour guide, who was awesome, provided a lot of interesting information on the city, and there were tons of cool-looking places that would have been great to check out in more detail if we’d had the time. But that’s what’s nice about this sort of tour: if you don’t have the time to do more, it’s a great overview that gives you a taste of the city before you have to leave. If you do have more time, you’ll know right where to come back later.
The river area was basically a big park, and we zipped across the bridge and over to the arts center just off of 1st Street. There we took the Segways through an impromptu slalom challenge and just generally went a little crazy, being careful where there were people about, of course. Then we worked our way back toward the capitol building, where we took a final victory lap and headed back to the barn.
Again, if you’ve never tried one of these things, plop down some cash and take one for a ride. You’ll be glad you did!
From there, we went to meet with some of Jan’s friends at a restaurant called Threadgills. It wasn’t anything outlandish, but had good down home food. I had a hickory burger, which was quite good, with a side of sweet potato fries that were absolutely fantastic. I also had a local Texas beer which was quite good, although I’ll be darned if I can remember now what it was called (and yes, I only had one!).
We were planning to head back to the capitol after lunch to do a bit of walking around, along with hitting at least one of the local wineries, but at this point Jan and I were both pooped and we decided to head back to the RV. That was probably a good idea, as the traffic both into and out of Austin on I-35 to San Marcos was pretty heavy and was only going to get worse as we moved toward rush hour. So, discretion being the better part of valor, we headed back and took a well-deserved nap!
On the docket for tomorrow: San Antonio, where I’ll be giving a seminar on self-publishing at the Forest Hills Branch of the public library…
Pecan Park Campground Rating: four out of five stars. I’d certainly stay here again, but not so much because of the campground itself (which is quite nice but not necessarily exceptional). Rather, I’d consider returning because it’s right next to the Three Dudes and a Dog Winery! Also, keep in mind that this campground is in San Marcos, right in between Austin and San Antonio. That suited our purposes, but if you’re going to be spending more than a day or so in either city, you might want to consider getting a campground closer to cut down on the time you’ll be spending in traffic.