Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Cadillac Ranch

We are sorry, but we have removed this post because it is a part of our new book entitled Napkin Dreams.

The Great White Buffalo

We are sorry, but we have removed this post because it is a part of our new book entitled Napkin Dreams.

The Big Texan - Amarillo



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Palo Duro - Amarillo, Texas

A view of our campsite at Palo Duro

Campground review - Palo Duro State Park

Palo Duro State Park is more than a campground, it is a destination. We highly recommend making this a priority stop if you are visiting or going through the panhandle of Texas. One if the greatest moments of our trip so far was the first night at this state park, our oldest son the teenager Blake, said this place is awesome dad! The boys really were able to be boys here.
Another highlight was looking up at the stars with Patsy and Tanner (there were soo many of them) and pointing out the Milky Way to him.

Cleanliness - 9 - Very well-kept. Even the trails were free of debris.
Bathrooms - 7 - They were typical state park bathrooms. Heated - nice in the cooler evenings. Showers were hot.
Facility fun - 10 - Besides the amazing views, hiking and biking trails, a playground, weekend ranger activities, there is also a show here during the summer about Texas. For our boys the best thing about this park was they could make forts and play games in the rocks, hills and canyons.
Facility usefulness - 8 - Dump station, no full hook-ups or laundry, They do have a nice store for supplies if you don't want to drive the 12 miles to the town of Canyon.

Nearby attractions - 6 - Canyon is 15 minutes away and Amarillo 30 minutes.

Staff - 8 - I really enjoyed talking to our camp host. The Rangers were also nice.

Natural surroundings - 10 - You are camping in a canyon with tons of beautiful views. We also saw wildlife such as mule deer, wild turkey and lizards, plus some cool insect life. My wife was a little freaked out by the steep drive in and the wind that howls from about 1-3 am every night.
Roominess 9 - Big spots, no pull-throughs though. Each spot also has a small shelter with a picnic table and fire-pit. Plenty of room to carve a pumpkin!

Value - 9 - Using our Texas State Park Card we paid $25 for the first two nights and half-price the third night.

Overall - 9

There were too many pictures to choose from so enjoy the show.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First birthday on the Road - Patsy's

Enjoy some pictures of our first birthday celebration on the road!! We enjoyed a nice time and cake for Patsy's number ???? birthday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fort Worth Water Garden

This Family Friendly Free-bee is one that I was pretty sure was NOT going to rate a 5 thumbs up before we went, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the boys rated it. It is a little park located right off a busy street in downtown Fort Worth. The fact that it had fountains made us think that maybe it would be interesting enough for the boys to enjoy seeing.

It’s actually a park about the size of a city block that has several huge fountains sprinkled throughout. And when I say “fountain” please don’t mistake this for a pretty little spitting angel kind of fountain. These are more closely related to swimming pools with sky-rocketing water shooting from their centers and sides. Each area has it’s own special sound, feel and look. And I really can’t say which was my favorite. Possibly the one you can walk down into the center of and feel like you are surrounded by a waterfall. But I do know one thing…if I worked anywhere near this garden, I would definitely be spending my lunch hours there every day.

Though I really thought this would be the kind of place that a mom would like, the boys have decided that the water fountains and cool ledges all around make it a thumbs up for boys too. It’s not the place for small children to be able to run and touch, since there is no swimming or wading. I will also tell you, it doesn’t take a long time to walk through, so don’t go there planning to spend hours. But do take your camera because the pictures opportunities are great! It’s another 5 thumbs up from the Martin boys, but then again, I wouldn’t recommend any place that doesn’t get the 5 thumb approval rating.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

We had a nice quiet day today and took a little time to visit the Fort Worth Water Gardens in downtown Fort Worth. You can walk into these and be surrounded by the falls.

Campground review - Treetops RV Resort

We stayed the past couple of days in a Passport America RV park in Arlington, Texas called Treetops RV Park. Fun to be in a city so pumped about the Rangers going to the World Series. Definitely cheering for them over the Giants.

Cleanliness - 7 - It seemed even the sites that were monthly or yearly were tidy and well-kept.

Bathrooms - 7 - Key-coded security. Only one stall and shower per bathroom. Clean and smell like my Grandmother's house used to (comfort smell for me).

Facility fun - 3 - No playground, pool closed, typical library with Harlequin style things.

Facility usefulness - 8 - Dump station, a lots of full hook-ups, showers. They have two laundry facilities at $1 each, cheapest we have found. They also have propane for sale.

Nearby attractions - 9 - Arlington is a part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, but it has quite a few activities on it's own including The Cowboys, Rangers and Six Flags. We found a Krispy
Kreme less than a mile away, so this was a big bonus for us!!

Staff - 8 - Nice - retired set. Work Campers I'm guessing.

Natural surroundings - 7 - Treetops has plenty of treetops.

Roominess 7 - Not bad, we had plenty of room for our rig and van, plus it had a picnic table. the park was very quiet.

Value - 9 - Using our Passport America card we paid $16.50 a night for two nights.

Overall - 8

Monday, October 25, 2010

Campground review - Eisenhower State Park

We just finished up a stay at Eisenhower State Park on the border of Texas and Oklahoma.

Cleanliness - 8 - We even saw a volunteer going around picking up trash. None at our site! :)

Bathrooms - 6 - Very nice hot showers, but no soap for washing your hands and no doors on the shower stalls or toilet stalls.

Facility fun - 6 - Small playground, Lake Texoma is here with amazing views and a nice little beach.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Dump station, a few full hook-ups, showers. No laundry or propane. Ranger Station. Boat dock.

Nearby attractions - 5 - Denison 5 minutes away, Dallas 90 minutes.

Staff - 7 - Typical State Park Rangers. Professional.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Very shady and the lake is amazing.
Roominess 8 - crowded on Saturday, but we still felt we had plenty of room. Sunday night was very quiet.

Value - 8 - Using our Texas State Parks card we had no entrance fees and the 2nd night was free, so we paid $35 for two nights. Not bad!

Overall - 7

Eisenhower birthplace - Denison, Texas

As a fan of WW II history and a political conservative, I have always been interested in Dwight Eisenhower. While he hails from Abilene, Kansas, he was actually born in Denison, Texas. This made him the first President with ties to Texas.

His birthplace was a modest place, but we got our own personal tour guide who helped us learn not only about Eisenhower but also about what life was like during the turn of the last century (he was born in 1890). The boys especially liked the chickens, while Patsy liked the old Singer sewing machine like her grandma used to have.

We learned a few interesting things about Ike, like how he purposely stood with his arms bent and hands on his waist when addressing the troops and how he had his jacket tailored made to fit differently than the standard issue military jackets, which caused the fashion craze in both the military and eventually the civilian circles. Ike was the third of seven boys, so our family readily identified with him.

It is still to be determined if we go to his home in Abilene where both he and Mamie are buried. However I have been to seven president's graves, so it only makes sense to add an eighth.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I never would have guessed that this Family Friendly Free-bee existed. I thought that anything to do with US currency would be under such tight security, that the public would never be able to get this close. Boy was I wrong! Our trip to the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing building outside of Fort Worth, TX was an amazing one. Now, I do have to give you a little heads up on this one, they give free tours of the printing floor, but only if you get there before 2 p.m. We got there a little after 2 o’clock and wondered if it would be worthwhile to stay and walk through the lobby area without getting to go out onto the printing floor. We decided to stay and check it out, thinking that maybe we would try to make it back through there another time. We were not disappointed.
The first thing that thrilled the boys was the high tech metal detectors that we each had to go through at the main entrance. Just going through the revolving doors into the detector brought smiles to the faces of boys who live for gadgets and anything that suggests “spy” technology. After that, you get the free bus ride to the main building. These, in themselves were cool, but the printing plant was no slouch either.
The main building has two floors of hands on exhibits that not only educate in the printing of money and the art of engraving, but also have some pretty neat interactive displays. In our family, we each had to take a turn using the giant magnifying glass to look at regular money up close. Did you know that on the $100 bill, the numbers 100 are not filled in with green ink? They are actually filled in with tiny green “US 100” symbols. That’s one of the many things that we learned from looking at money under a magnifying glass. The complex images on money are pretty amazing.
We also got to see a short movie that takes you onto the printing floor in the main plant. Every step of engraving and printing money is explained in detail with lots of video. We came away with the conclusion that if we had gotten there a little earlier, we would have probably enjoyed the tour through the actual plant, but by going through the exhibits and the video tour, we really hadn’t missed much. This one is a 5 thumbs up from the Martin Boys with one exception; Brendan was a little disappointed that they didn’t give us any free samples of money as we were leaving. Come to think of it, I was a little disappointed too.

Campground review - Beaumont Ranch

I had been searching for a ranch with RV hook-ups in Texas. Mostly what I was finding was RV Parks with the word ranch in their name. Not what we were looking for. After several weeks oninternet searching I came upon a gem of a place called the Beaumont Ranch. We had a blast and give it whole hearted recommendation.

Cleanliness - 9 - Keep in mind this is a ranch so there was a horse pile here and there. They get them cleaned up pretty fast though. Nothing near the RV park.

Bathrooms - 9 - The only reason this is not a 10 is because the bathrooms were pretty far away. We were given access to the bathrooms at the ranch guest rooms. They were awesome. Stone walls, huge showers, and one had a bath surrounded in stone with a waterfall coming into it. Tanner took advantage of the bath.

Facility fun - 10 - Fishing, paddle boats, an old western town and a great playground were all free with the stay. Also for a price you can go horse back riding (Patsy and I took turns on a trail ride with Blake and Tanner), on a cattle drive, on the zip line, learn how to rope a calf and some other fun cowboy stuff. There is also a restaurant on site that serves food on Thursday - Sunday nights. There is also a full service spa at the ranch.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Dump station, no full hook-ups, showers. No laundry.

Nearby attractions - 7 - Fort Worth and Waco are 60 minutes away, Dallas 90 minutes.

Staff - 8 - We got to meet a few of the staff including our quiet Cowboy Trail guide Raul. Everyone was very nice.

Natural surroundings - 9 - You can see for so far into the horizon, yet there are hills too. We loved watching the sky at night, so big.

Roominess 10 - There was only one other RV there. The sites are fairly decent in size, but no picnic tables or anything. The RV park is either an afterthought or a new addition. This is a ranch

Value - 8 - we paid $20 a night, plus more for the trail ride.

Overall - 9

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Creation Evidence Museum

Sorry, but this post has been deleted because it is a part of our new book called Napkin Dreams!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Campground review - Dinosaur Valley State Park

I have been looking forward to our stay at Dinosaur Valley State Park for months. I was not disappointed! How amazing to walk in a stream and put your foot in a dinosaur track!

Cleanliness - 8 - State Parks are usually clean. No exception here.

Bathrooms - 8 - Hot, spacious showers and clean bathrooms.

Facility fun - 8 - Small playground. Dinosaur tracks throughout park near river bed. Hiking trails. Two giant fiberglass dinosaurs. There is also a small visitor center that has some displays and info on the tracks, the types of dinosaurs they think made them and the excavation of the tracks themselves.

Facility usefulness - 6 - Dump station, no full hook-ups, showers, dinosaur novelty store. No laundry.
Nearby attractions - 7 - Dino World (didn't go too expensive), Creation Evidence Museum and Fossil Rim Safari (did not go here either) are all very close. Fort Worth is 90 minutes away.

Staff - 6 - Rangers were helpful, not so much for the camp hosts.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Lots of great nature including the river running through the park.

Roominess 8 - Can't beat state parks for roominess. Of course they rarely have pull-through sites.

Value - 5 - we paid $25 a night. We also purchased a Texas State Park card for $60. This saved us $45 in entry fees, plus 1/2 price on the third night, for a total savings of $62. This card will also get us savings and wave all entry fees at future Texas State Parks.

Overall - 8

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunset's First Report

This my first report from the road. I know you may be thinking how am I writing this report when snakes don't have arms and hands to write with. Well of course I am having one of those humans that feed me write. So next you are asking yourself how can I tell the human what I am thinking when I do not speak the human language. Let's just say I have ways to make my thoughts known that the humans are finally catching on to.

Life on the road has been pretty good for me so far. My home has been conveniently located next to a window so I get plenty of sunlight during the day and I can see the sites as they go by. I also get a nice view of the lovely wildlife around such as squirrels, chipmunks, sparrows, moles, baby armadillos, and well you get the idea. The humans still feed me the sleeping rats, but you can't blame a snake for dreaming.

I also sleep close the human boy who calls me his pet. This is nice for him, and nice for me because he always remembers to shut my light off at night this way. It is nice for another reason, I am high enough so that the youngest humans cannot reach up and bang on my glass walls.

I am still getting held a lot and we have been visiting some more of the humans recently and their young ones have wanted to hold me a lot. I have had a few baths in the RV bathtub, but the humans we are visiting have a big bath they offered to let me swim in their giant tub. I liked this so much I left them some surprises in their tub. This caused quite a stir for the humans. I do what I can to add excitement to their boring lives!


Well that's all for now from the road. Stay tuned for more Sunset Reports as we travel the US!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


At the moment we are staying in the driveway of our good friends Dave and Kandace Raymond in Abilene, Texas. We know the Raymonds from when we both lived in Roanoke. The Raymonds are one family that we know that have adopted more kids than us! We are at three (and holding) and the Raymonds have adopted all four of their children.

Today we went with some of the family to the Abilene Zoo. This zoo is on our reciprocal membership so we got in for free We saved at least $40 this time with our membership. This was a great little zoo. We got some crackers at the entrance and got to feed some of the animals. The giraffes were the highlight of the feeding trip. Check out the video below of the giraffes and the other highlights. We also loved feeding the Colobus monkeys leaves and special grass they wanted. Brendan enjoyed being the prey for the mountain lions who were thinking he looked like a yummy snack. Thank goodness for the bars! Another great highlight was getting to see the five baby lions! All the kids and parents were cooing over them.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dublin Dr Pepper

If anyone knows me I am a man of simple and well-known tastes. Among those tastes I have is a strong affection for pop. And two pops stand out head and shoulders above the rest, Coke Classic and Dr. Pepper. These days I mostly drink Coke Zero or Diet Dr. Pepper, but they are simply a cut below the big two.

So when I heard about the Dublin Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant in Dublin, Texas, my curiosity was naturally piqued. You see in the early 1970s the Dr. Pepper bottling company, along with most other major soda companies, switched from using pure sugar cane in their soda to the cheaper corn syrup. The Dublin plant's owner didn't like the new taste. Since her owner had an original franchise dating back to the turn of the century, she had the right to keep using the first recipe.

Today the Dublin plant is the only plant to use real sugar in their Dr. Pepper, and you can tell the difference!

So not only do they give you a tour of the factory and the adjoining mini-museum, you get a free Dublin Dr. Pepper with each ticket, for our family that totaled $10. Then I bought a six pack for the road. Oh, and before I forget, they come in glass bottles. Pure American heaven!

Campground review - Austin Lone Star RV Resort

After our last bad experience in Dallas the Austin Lone Star RV Resort was like an oasis of relief! We would go back if we are ever back in Austin!

Cleanliness - 9 - Good crew working hard to maintain this park

Bathrooms - 8 - Lots of them and all were very clean. almost all of them worked great, a couple of the shower faucets had issues, but that was no big deal, just move to one that worked

Facility fun - 7 - A very nice pool, warm because they used a heating pad, and it had a nice kiddie area at 1 1/2 feet deep. Very small playground.We didn't visit the game room area. On weekends they have all you can eat pancakes for $2 each.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Dump station, full hook-ups, showers, laundry and a decent store. We had to get a new hose and they had several to choose from. Huge speed bumps and narrow roads make it hard to drive a bigger rig.

Nearby attractions - 7 - Austin nearby. San Antonio farther down the road.

Staff - 7 - Nice folks.

Natural surroundings - 7 - A ton of bushes, trees and and other green things separate the sites.

Roominess 6 - Not a ton of room, but after the last place we felt like it was acreage.

Value - 7 - we paid a little $21 a night. We used our Passport America membership card.

Overall - 7

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eating large in Texas

Today we tried to be adventurous with food and set off as culinary tourists to some moderately well known places. First we hit the Lone Star Bakery in Round Rock, Texas where they have donuts as big as your head , or bigger depending on the size of your actual melon! We were not disappointed! For $6 you can buy one big donut, which was as good as buying a dozen regular sized ones! It was pretty tasty too. Not that I had much because of the five ravenous wolves in my pack. You can get either glazed or chocolate covered. We got one of each and saved one for tomorrow's breakfast!!

Then we went to Louie Mueller's Barbecue in Taylor, Texas. This little hole in the wall restaurant has been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Dives and Drive-ins. When you drive into this dusty little town you can scarcely believe that some pretty famous people have come from all over to eat at this place. But we smelled some good BBQ as we walked up the sidewalk to the diner. We arrived to an empty restaurant and very apologetic manager who said they had to evacuate the building because they had just called 911 due to a fire in one of "their pits!"

Next thing we know a fire truck and police car are pulling up and are dreams of good Texas barbecue were up in smokes! So we punched in barbecue on the GPS and saw a place called Salt Lick back in Round Rock. We went there, but it was too nice, too pricey and not enough meat or BBQ! Maybe when we are back in the area in December we can come back! My mouth is already watering.

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