We have an unspoken rule about eating out. Since we are watching our budget we don't eat out often and when we do its a very calculated and researched decision. We want to capitalize on the best of the best and go to places that are recommended to us by locals. We also need to plan ahead because Ashley is vegetarian, gluten free and has ton of allergies so it's always a challenge to find a place with decent choices which fit her dietary restrictions. Me on the other hand, will eat everything and anything. I come from a family of good eaters. Growing up in my house my Mom always preached. “Don't knock it till you try it" and "You don’t know you don’t like it until you've tasted it". I live by those rules and will try anything you offer me.
One of the best parts about RVing is getting to try out the local cuisine. We try to avoid big chain restaurants and tourist traps and seek out places where locals eat. Each state has their own specialties and dishes that they are known for. When we are in a new place, I always like to ask the server to pick the best meal for me. Servers know which is food tastes the best and is popular.
While there were so many memorable meals and dishes, here is a list of top 5 things Kevin ate and Top 5 things Ashley ate (so far)
Kevin’s Top 5 Things I Ate (In Order of When I Ate Them)
910 S Alamo St.
San Antonio, TX 782205
This restaurant is a short walk from the Tower of Americas in Downtown San Antonio. This Mexican Restaurant lives up to all their accolades. Their fresh guacamole, salsa, and endless chips can surely fill you up before your meals even arrive but take my advice and save some room for dinner. Our waiter explained to us that the way you judge a Mexican Restaurant is by their Chile Relleno and that their version was simply the best. How can you not order it? This poblano pepper stuffed with spiced beef, potato & raisin topped with their ranchero sauce and white cheese was extremely hearty and flavorful. I wasn’t disappointed and would highly recommend.
Ashley's Top 5 Things I Ate (In Order of When I Ate Them)
185 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Magnolias was our favorite meal in Charleston. Our waiter suggested we start with the boiled peanut hummus which sounds pretty weird but was delicious. I eat any kind of hummus, its a fave snack of mine. Boiled peanuts are so popular down here that I guess it makes sense to substitute them for chickpeas. It comes with an okra, corn, and hot pepper relish and chips and it really works. I also twisted Kevin's arm into ordering a grilled cornbread side which I tasted and then tasted again. It was one of those really depressing moments when being gluten free makes me want to cry. It was so cakey and warm and perfect and I could have eaten 10 pieces. Sigh, at least i got to try it.
Alligator Soul Restaurant
114 Barnard Street
Savannah, GA 31401
I have to say I was a little reserved about going to this restaurant for dinner considering their somewhat exotic options on the menu. But they also do a great job offering vegan/vegetarian/gluten free options. The choice depends on whats in season as they use market fresh ingredients but when we were there I had Sweet Potato Pasta with mushrooms in a pesto sauce which was delicious. I don't know how they made the noodles, but I really could not tell they were gluten free (and they weren't zoodles). It was a really interesting and unique dish in comparison to what I normally end up eating at restaurants that are not so veg/glutie friendly a/k/a a side salad and french fries.
By Kevin and Ashley Quiambao
We have been in Texas for a month and it is really just so big. There are so many places to visit and so many state parks (over 90) to stay in. Recently we have visited and/or stayed in 6 state parks as part of our "Hill County Tour". Before I review these parks though, I have to recommend getting the Texas State Park Pass to anyone who is planning to camp or spend time traveling through Texas. All of the parks have daily use fees from around $5-$10 per person (which you have to pay even if you have a reservation to camp in the park). With the pass, all of your day use fees are waived PLUS the second consecutive night camping in any state park is discounted 50% (Nightly rates are $20 so the 2nd night is $10). The pass is only $70 dollars a year and it more than paid for itself within the first week using it and it just continues to save us money.
Based on our experience, reservations need to be made for all the parks and you are better off making them a little ahead of time. We did not really plan ahead (shocking I know) and two weeks of spring break in March made it very difficult to get into some of the parks we wanted to overnight in. Spring break is over now but since the weather is beautiful and flowers are blooming, people are out on the weekends so for more popular parks (like Mckinney Falls in Austin) getting a weekend reservation is still difficult.
1. Colorado Bend State Park
This was our first park in the Hill Country and we weren't able to get a reservation here but still wanted to go so we ended up at an RV park about 10 miles away. And so began the saga of the horrible RV park and breaking Wanda's slide.
WORD OF WARNING: Do NOT stay in Sulphur Springs RV park. Especially if you have a class A Motorhome. The roads getting into the park are treacherous: hilly, steep, full of potholes, completely unlevel dirt roads with loose rocks...it was terrible, we were both so stressed out, the dogs were so scared, the cabinets were flying open, dishes were breaking (you get the picture). Not to mention while it has pretty view the campground has zero amenities. No garbages, no showers, the "bathroom" is a shack with toilets but no stalls...yes just open toilets. The owner was nasty. All in all (putting aside it was the reason Wanda broke) it was just a terrible place to stay. While we try not to be too negative about places, we feel we have to warn you about this one.
Anyhow, back to Colorado Bend. This park tends to get crowded and they often close when it gets to capacity. So even for a day pass, you generally should make a reservation ($5 pp or free with the park pass day use is free). We headed there in the late morning but the park had reached capacity so we were told to make a reservation and come back for the afternoon entrance. I think they limit this due to parking, a smaller campground and to prevent overcrowding of the day use areas. While it's annoying if you don't plan ahead, it's nice that they don't let the parks get too crowded so you can still enjoy your time there.
We only did one hike, the most popular, to Gorman Falls. It was our first hike in real Texas terrain, rocky, arid with plenty of cacti (Sophie learned her lesson quick to stay away from these). It's about a 3 mile round trip hike and right before the falls it gets pretty steep and slippery. It's a bit of a rock scramble. While we knew Hayley could handle this no problem, it was Sophie's first time on a hike like this, but we're happy to report she did great too. Despite being pretty clumsy and goofy she pulls it together on a hike! The falls were very pretty, kinda almost looks like spanish moss in the pictures. There was a decent amount of traffic on the trail but since its a popular spot, that was to be expected.
We did drive around the campground area which made us sad that we weren't staying. Not too many sites but most of them are backed up to the Colorado River, so if you can get a spot take it.
2. Longhorn Caverns State Park
Longhorn Caverns is a day use only park which is right near Inks Lake State Park. Entry to the park is free but you have to pay for the walking tour. They do guided tours of the cavern through out the day which cost $18.00 for an adult and are about 90 minutes long. There are a few different areas or rooms that are highlighted along the tour, we liked Crystal City, the Hall of Marble and the Hall of Diamonds. We actually really like doing cave tours and really enjoyed this one. Pretty cool formations and the marble and crystal were unique elements which we haven't seen before.
3. Inks Lake State Park
Inks Lake is down the road from Longhorn Caverns and has campsites so if you are in that area make this your home base. There is a fishing pier, a huge lake, hiking trails and the RV sites are nice and big, it's seems like a great campground. Unfortunately we couldn't get a site because of spring break, so we just spent the day there. We took the longer trail to Devil's Waterhole, which is along the river and has no clear trail. There are tons of boulders and rocks to traverse so you have to kind of pick your own route, which was a fun challenge.
4. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Several people recommended that we visit this park and we can see why. It was another day trip for us because while the park has tent camping, it doesn't have RV sites. We had to make a reservation and we had a two hour window in the morning from 1030 a.m.-1230 p.m. to enter ($7 pp day use or parks pass). I think this may be because it was spring break but reservations are really never a bad idea. We hiked the loop trail which is about 4.25 miles around the centerpiece of the park, the Enchanted Rock. It was a nice hike, not very challenging but pretty landscapes and views, it is also the only hike that dogs are allowed on. Kevin also did the Summit Trail which was a pretty steep .67 mile up trail, me and the dogs opted to head back to Wanda.
5. Mckinney Falls State Park
Mckinney Falls is a perfect location to stay while exploring Austin. Not far from the cities main attractions like SoCo, Congress Avenue Bridge or Barton Springs pool yet you are in nature, in a quiet park with plenty of hikes and big sites to relax in. We spent 5 nights here (one of our longer stays) and really enjoyed it. The wildflowers are blooming like crazy now so between the blue bonnets and the waterfalls it was beautiful.
What was not so beautiful however was the mosquitoes which are legitimately the size of dinosaurs. Biggest things I've ever seen and they are ALL over. They don't really bite but they are really pretty gross.
We did a couple of hikes while we were here and saw both the upper and lower falls. We thought the lower falls were prettier. There are about 5 hiking trails throughout the park to keep you occupied when you are not exploring the city.
6. South Llano River State Park
This was a quick overnight stop for us on our way from Austin to Big Bend and we were pleasantly surprised. It a nice smaller campground and has several hiking trails and meadows of wildflowers all around. We hiked the west canyon loop and the overlook trail. There are turkey roost areas (although we didn't see any) and it is a popular birding park. There is also plenty of river to tube down. I wouldn't have minded staying there a bit longer.
While we are done with Texas hill country, I think we'll be staying in some more state parks before we leave Texas. With the locations, awesome hiking trails and the parks pass, you really can't beat it.
What is your favorite Texas State Park?
By: Ashley Quiambao
For most of our trip so far, we have stuck mostly to the coast, some of it due to weather, some of it convenience and I think in a way it’s just more familiar to us. Growing up on Long Island the beaches and water feels a little more like home. We have never seen the Gulf so Kevin was really excited to explore the Gulf Coast beaches so we stayed at a bunch of different sites along the coast in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Camp Gulf- Miramar Beach, Florida
This resort was very nice but silly expensive. It cost $118 a night (full h/u) and you are packed in like sardines. There are a lot of amenities, 2 pools, a recreation center, laundry, modern individual private bathrooms and showers. The biggest attraction though is that they are right on the beach. They do have one row of RV sites on the sand for a beachfront view. BUT they do not allow dogs on these sites, so our site was a few rows back.
The sand was white and sugary and it was a beautiful and clean beach which made for some good walks. It was close to a ton of stores, Destin and a lot of shopping. While the location, bathrooms/facilities were nice and it was steps to the beach, I personally don’t feel that the cost was worth it since we we didn’t have a beach view and could not park on the sand.
Topsail State Park- Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
This was about 10 minutes away from Camp Gulf. Since my brother was visiting we wanted to give him the experience of moving sites, staying in an rv resort and our preferred state parks. The sites were large, paved and you had plenty of space between you and your neighbor. While they do have a beach, it is a long walk so they offer trams to take you to and from. We chose to just ride our bikes. The beach here was so pretty and quiet...much less commercial and no huge buildings or developments around.
There are several hiking and biking trails to keep you occupied, a couple of lakes and a community fire pit. The only downside was the bathroom/showers. They were very run down, pretty gross and a far walk from our site.
This cost $50 a night (full h/u), so definitely a more expensive state park but around the Destin area, it’s one of your best options.
Gulf State Park - Gulf Shores, Alabama
I think this was our favorite state park we have stayed at. It is HUGE….there are over 500 campsites in all different directions. The actual sites are big and very spaced out. There are so many hiking and biking trails. Everyone bikes there, we took a long ride and really enjoyed the views. There’s also a fishing pier, beach passes are included, and they even have restaurants on site (like I said the place is huge).
It also cost $50 a night (full h/u). What we noticed about Gulf Shores in general which was nicer than in Florida, there are huge areas of the coastline that are undeveloped so even driving along you have a nice unobstructed view of the water.
Davis Bayou Campground Gulf Islands National Seashore- Ocean Springs, Mississippi
We really liked our stay at Assateague so we were happy to visit another National Seashore. The cost was very reasonable, $22 a night (w/e). It was a smaller campground but nicely maintained and the park host was very friendly. Kevin got in some good fishing by the boat launch and docks and even managed to get his grand slam (speckled trout, flounder and red drum in one day). There are a couple of short hiking trails and you can catch a couple of alligators in the marshy areas.
Rutherford Beach- Creole, Louisiana
This was our first boondocking experience on the beach. We found the site on Campendium (awesome resource to find campsites, read reviews etc). There were a lot of other rvs/vans/buses boondocking near us. It’s a pretty remote spot but we did have cell service.
There is a parking lot with dumpsters and porta potties which some RV’s parked in, there is also a beach road behind the dunes which is where we set up. Sand is hard packed so we had no issue. It was quiet and peaceful. We had pretty lousy weather (what else is new??) when we were there but still enjoyed it. And best of all IT’S FREE!
Bolivar Flats- Bolivar Peninsula Texas
This beach was amazing. We were able to drive right out onto the sand with no problem. We didn’t even unhook the Jeep before going out, the sand is so hard packed. We went down a way watching the high tide water line and parked with a perfect view of the water. Relaxing with the door open and just soaking in the salty air. The dogs had a blast here and as you can see, they were partial to the view too. While the beach did get a lot of visitors in the afternoon on the weekend, at night it was just us with one or two other RVers, so it was like having the place to ourselves. Listening to the waves made for an awesome nights sleep. We loved beach camping although the amount of sand that got tracked into Wanda was enough to make us crazy!
To stay on this beach you do need to purchase a permit which is $10 for the year (although since we went off season it was only $5). We picked up the permit at the Big Store on the way in. And we did take the Cameron Ferry for $1 to get there. I was a little concerned about how Wanda would handle that but it was so simple just drive on and drive straight off.
I think we have officially had our fill of beaches for a little while and are looking forward to a change of scenery to mountains and deserts.
What are your favorite Gulf Beaches to camp at?
By Ashley Quiambao