We had booked a Harvest Host near Falfurrias Texas called Boykin Farms which was a Pecan farm. When we arrived Larry, the host led us a back way into the pecan farm orchard where we camped for the night. The next day we spent about an hour with Larry as he described how the pecan farm business operates. He was also the President of a local coop which was trying to promote the pecan business with area farmers versus growing citrus trees.
They had just finished their harvest about a week earlier. They have a device that grabs the base of the tree and shakes it so the pecans fall off. If the harvest is very large on the tree, they put netting around the base to gather the pecans but otherwise they let them fall to the ground and collect them. He sells to the local HEB grocery store (a grocery chain only in Texas and Mexico) as well as a large distributor, but they have to grade the pecans first by hand. He was selling 2 lb bags of shelled pecans and he kept them in the freezer to stay fresh. We bought a bag and it was amazing how fresh they are! We’re keeping them in our freezer and just taking out a handful each day. When we left we stopped at the local HEB and saw Larry’s products for sale. We were shocked in this store because the majority of people were wearing masks, just like we do, which is rare so far on this trip.
We needed some R&R so Sharon could rest, so we went to a small RV park called Rivera Beach where there was nothing to do but relax for 6 nights. The weather was nice so we could sit outside and enjoy the peace and quiet and watch our daily sunset. At the end of our stay, we went to the local (very popular) Baffin Bay Seafood Restaurant. We had the crab bites as an appetizer, and they were home made (as was everything) and absolutely amazing!! You may think we eat a lot of fried food but when you’re given the options of sides and you eat salad all the time in the RV, you don’t pick salad as your side 😊. This time we tried fried okra and hush puppies, both very good but way too much. However, leftovers are always good. Amazingly enough they had grilled veggies as an option so Joel got that with his blackened shrimp and drum fish and also really good onion rings. Sharon went for the grilled shrimp, no surprise there. Even though we were full, when Sharon heard they had chocolate molten cake she found room in her big toe!! We’d come back to this area just to check out other menu items.
We also did a few infrastructure chores at this park. The biggest task was cleaning the dead wasps out of our vents. We had to take the vents apart and clean the blades, the screens, and the inside edges. And of course, Murphy’s law happened when one of the blade sets broke taking it out so we had to glue it back together.
Since the state parks have no laundry, we decided to take advantage of good laundry facilities. We had 3 washers filling with water when the water stopped flowing!! We were told they were putting in fibre optic cables in the area and keep hitting the water line. This was the third time and unfortunately, we had ½ done very wet laundry. When the water came back on, we had to restart the machines (the park gave us our money back because they knew we’d need to restart). Anyway, a task that should have taken us about 1 ½ hours ended up taking 4 hours!!! Oh well, everything is clean now.
We had good connections at Riviera Beach so one afternoon we planned out and booked eleven state parks. We headed north to Palmetto SP (a recommendation from Donna & Jim). We had done a full circle as we passed through Goliad where we stayed after Christmas.
On our way to Palmetto SP, we got stopped at one point because a wind turbine blade was going down the road. Palmetto SP is a small one with only 37 campsites and we weren’t able to get an electric site (they have 19) which really wasn’t an issue except for the last of our 3 nights when the overnight temperature got a bit cool so we had to use our propane furnace. On our first day in the park we walked over the low crossing point of the San Marcos River and visited the 1935 CCC built Refectory (a communal place for meals). It was cool how they had the built the walls up like it was coming straight out of the ground. Originally the roof was thatched with 35,000 Palmetto leaves from the park.
This park is unique due to the dwarf Palmetto plants that aren’t found anywhere else in central Texas. We did the Palmetto Interpretative trail, and another unique feature was the 1936 ram jet pump system used to fill the water tower. It doesn’t use any electricity and instead uses the force of the rising column of water from the artesian well to send the water to the cistern on the top of the water tower and it’s still operating today! On the rest of the trail we saw a turtle and a deer.
This park was in a valley so we didn’t have any cell phone service, so in the afternoon we decided to walk the Oxbow Lake Trail and the Park Headquarters trail so we could get Wi-Fi at the park office. We met Bill at the park office and had a small world interaction. Bill was from New Brunswick but grew up in Alliston. Turns out Bill knew Sharon’s relatives, his mother was a good friend of Sharon’s Aunt Lois who is now 103!!
Near the Oxbow Lake we also saw one of the spring ponds. That evening when I was BBQing, an opossum came out of the forest looking for some food (no photo).
The following day we decided to do a Mountain Bike ride and covered the San Marcos River, Canebrake Spur, Mossycup Spur, and Mesquite Flats trails in the morning and then in the afternoon we rode the Oxbow Lake and Park Headquarters trails and in turn went up to the historic Ottine cemetery where Sharon did get cell phone service to call her mom😉
The next three days were our Harvest Host stays as the state parks were all full on the weekend, so we went to a distillery Friday, a Winery Saturday, and a Brewery on Sunday. Since we couldn’t arrive too early at the Harvest Host we decided to go to Luling for lunch at the City Market BBQ. Luling is also famous for its Watermelon Thump celebration and for it’s painted oil pumpjacks. They have a small oil museum on the main street near City Market. It was a very good museum housed in an old hardware store. The building itself was very interesting and we learned all about Edgar B Davis who basically founded the oil business in Luling on August 9th 1922 with the Rafael Rios #1 well. The well was 2161’ deep and produced 150 barrels per day! The well was finally plugged in 2004. They had tried 6 wells prior to this one, starting in 1919, with no luck but then they struck it rich in 1922. From 1922-1923 the town grew from 1500 people to over 10,000. Mr. Davis was a very wise businessman because in 1926 he sold his oil wells to the Magnolia Oil Company for $12 M, and he held a massive party for the town. After we finished going through the museum, we asked the lady running the museum about the light panels into the basement, so she actually took us down there and we saw the amethyst type crystals in the main entrance that let light into the basement, very cool.
City Market BBQ is one of the historic BBQ places to visit. You go into the back smoke room and order your meat, we decided to try a ½ lb of beef brisket, ½ lb of ribs, and the sausage, and they wrap the meat and a few slices of white bread with the pickle in butcher paper. You go out to the dining room and go to another counter for any sides you want, we got pinto beans and potato salad. The brisket and ribs were excellent, but the sausage seemed too fatty to us. Needless to say, we were stuffed after this great meal!
After our big lunch we headed to the Austrian Farms of Texas Distillery (Link to AFT Distillery website ) our Harvest Host for that evening. We had called ahead so KC opened the gate for us and he and the dogs met us and directed us to park up on top of the hill. It was a little difficult to find a level spot so we used our levelling blocks to make it better. Once we were setup we walked back down to the distillery and met KC there for what turned out to be our 3 hour tour! KC’s wife Alexandra was originally from Austria and KC gave us all the background on how she was able to become North America’s only Edelbrand distiller. Edelbrand is an Austrian label for premium fruit brandy and is made in a small village in the Austrian alps. It is also called Noble Brandy as it is the purest brandy in the world with only whole fruit, yeast, and water. AFT makes Apple, Pear and Cherry brandy but then they added a Texas twist to it and used spiraled oak inserts to infuse the brandy with some oak flavouring. As an example of the process in one 375 ml bottle of the cherry brandy they use 24 lbs of cherries per bottle! In 2022 AFT entered 6 products in the American Craft Spirits Competition and they took 6 medals out of the 21 that given out! After KC walked us through how the products were made we sat down for a tasting of the 8 different products they sell, apple, pear and cherry brandy, then the oak infused apple, pear and cherry brandy, the 93 proof oak aged cherry brandy and lastly the Alpengold Cream Royale. It was a good thing we just had to walk up the hill to the RV for the night and what a night it turned out to be😉
We had a beautiful sunset from our high vantage point and settled in for the cold night ahead (it got down to 32 F). We had turned on our propane furnace since we were boondocking. At 3:30 in the morning Sharon woke me up and said something was wrong with our furnace as she could smell gas. I checked for any leaks but everything seemed fine and our detectors had not gone off. We tried to go back to sleep but then we started to wonder if the exhaust gases from the furnace were coming back into the RV from the small openings we had left in a few of the windows so we closed everything up. In the meantime we had been hearing coyotes howling all around the RV, as it turned out it was mating season. Sharon Google searched and apparently coyote pee is quite smelly so we wondered if that was what we had been smelling. The next morning, I went out of the RV and I could still smell something so I checked the fridge (which was running on propane) and again couldn’t find any leaks. I google searched and found a propane repair place in Luling so we might be able to get them to check things out. When we arrived in Luling Sharon continued to smell the “gas”, she happened to find an article that said when there was very cold conditions and a south wind that the whole town of Luling smelled like natural gas from all of the oil refineries!!! Well at least it was good that there was nothing wrong with the RV and we didn’t have to feel silly having the propane shop check things over😉
On Saturday we were booked into Windmill Farm Winery (Link to Windmill Farm Winery ) which opened at 3pm. We decided to go into the town of Seguin to see the “Original World’s Largest Pecan”. I guess “original” is a key word here as we were a bit surprised by the size of the pecan! We learned later that the really big one was in another area of the town so we’ll have to see it the next time we’re in Seguin. It was by the town square where they had a very unique historic fountain in the park. There was a BBQ place in town that had a huge line-up, people must wait hours to get into the place. I guess it’s part of the BBQ culture, you plan to wait, maybe you bring a chair, a book or just meet some new people. We weren’t about to wait hours in line since we’d just had BBQ so we headed to the brew pub for pizza and beer before heading to the winery. The winery was a gathering place run by a school principal and his accountant wife. Everyone was very friendly, it seemed like a lot of people were coming for an afternoon drive to hang out and have a glass of wine. The owner told us he thinks he’ll retire as he’s having trouble keeping up with the wine making. We sampled their 9 reds before deciding on the two we purchased. A few of them tasted like home made wine we used to make, we passed on those 😊. It was nice sitting outside people watching. There was lots of action as there was a baby reveal happening in a small barn on the property. Sharon was talking to the future Grandma who let her in on the secret and how they were going to do the reveal. It’s going to be a girl. It was a nice location to spend the afternoon.
On Sunday we headed into Lockhart to do a bit of shopping before heading to the Wild-Bunch Brewing ( Link to Wild Bunch Brewery). This must be the most memorable eclectic Harvest Host place we’ve been to so far. We were in the middle of nowhere with the brewery in an old barn and sales were done out of an old run-down house. Come into my living room and buy some beer!! Jarle had told us where to park so after getting set up we headed into the house. We had the most entertaining visit. We said it was like the show Cheers but on steroids. Definitely everyone knew your name, they were mostly locals. We talked to two couples who were RV’ers, one from the area who gave us some tips, and the young couple who had been here before as a harvest host but were working at a KOA in San Antonio. They’d just come for a day trip. We talked to an ex-Dell employee who went back to school and is now a math teacher. He’s trying to make some extra money serving some food at the brewery. The brew master had a PHD in biochemistry and loves to make beer. Once people knew we were from Canada we talked to the guy who was fishing in Manitoba, the guy who worked the carnivals across Canada during the summers and one guy who wanted to know if we liked the band Rush, but of course😉 The bar had good music, however when one guy left suddenly the music stopped. Turns out it was his phone’s playlist! I sampled 4 of the beers (done with old style brewing process where the wort is boiled over a fire) and Sharon had the Hibiscus Seltzer. For food we tried Frito pie (which was Frito corn chips on the bottom and a meaty chili on top with cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream) and a deluxe pizza. An interesting time, if it hadn’t been a harvest host, we certainly would have never gone there. The place closed about 8:30 pm and then it was just us and the cows next door. A very quiet place in the evening.
We hope you found this section of our journey as entertaining as we did😉 Our next blog will cover another set of new to us State Parks in Texas.