The drive to our campsite outside of Dallas was disheartening; there had been extensive flooding through the area and the water was still high and very evident. One of the smaller roads was flanked with flooded forests as far as we could see.
Lake Whitney Thousand Trails
We stayed at a Thousand Trails site and really enjoyed the peace and quiet - the sites at the Lake Whitney TT were spacious and tree-lined (but short trees so I didn't have to worry about one falling on our trailer!). Sadly the pool and jacuzzi were closed (this will become a recurring theme . . . one which would soon make me doubt the validity of 'the heater just broke') but there was a fun little hike down to the Army Corp of Engineer-maintained Lake Whitney itself. The rains and subsequent flooding had raised the lake level enough so the trail was submerged about halfway through the hike, but it was still a beautiful walk.
Though we didn't explore very much due to the 5 days of torrential rain while we were near Dallas, the places we did visit were lots of fun.
The Dallas Art District was a fun, funky place with plenty of boutique shopping (I don't shop but I'm sure those who do would appreciate the eccentric spread), bars, a cidery, and even a renowned pie-shop. Camille and I spent the day in the Art District, snapping pictures & eating delicious pie, while the men of the family visited the Kennedy Museum.
After reaching Houston, Valentin and I sat down to examine our finances. Unfortunately, we had under-estimated our costs (gas, lodging, maintenance, and extracurricular activities) and needed to buckle down and trim down. With (mostly) no income (Valentin is working some) we are on a relatively set income; we only have that which we had saved over the past 4 years for this year on the road. Our current spending was simply 'put it on the card then pay it off', and this was no longer sustainable. We therefore decided to switch to cash only a la Dave Ramsey for food & extracurriculars, withdrawing $65/night for each stop. Though this sounds like it should be plenty, things add up quickly - museums, groceries, tours, eating out . . . for our family of 5 it was time to stop the bleeding. First thing to go was eating out. We now eat out only once a week - and only if we aren't planning on doing lots of activities at that stop. This includes lunch on the road - switching to cold cuts or PB&J sandwiches saves so much!!!
I now also start all my planning with a search on Trip Advisor for any places or activities that include 'free'. Houston did not disappoint.
Houston is awash with fabulous free fun! We were able to get on a free, educational boat tour aboard the Sam Houston; they even offered free coffee & soft drinks! We all had a great time learning about the Port & its history and the kids got the boat ride they had been asking for!
This small gem of a garden is free to enter! I spent the time snapping away happily with my Cannon while the kids ran around like crazy people. One of the workers was power washing a gazebo. He not only stopped washing so the kids could explore the small area, but he took the time to point out a live owl roosting quietly in the roof of the gazebo! We have met so many kind people on our travels - it gives me hope for our kids' future.
Houston Children's Museum
That's right . . . . you CAN get in to Houston's Children's Museum for FREE! Not only that, but for the month of October they even do FREE trick-or-treating! Make sure you go early though; we were in line 45 minutes before they opened the doors (5pm free entry) and when we left at 7pm people were STILL waiting in line to get in. I really felt for those poor parents with disappointed, bored kids waiting so long in line. The boys had a great time - especially with the outdoor water play area and the crafts. They also loved the free candy (of course).
Again, totally free fun. This fabulous nature preserve has a boardwalk among water plants, as well as a dry trail & a nature center. The whole family had a great time hiking the trails and learning, playing, and reading at the nature center.
We spent more time in Texas than we had any other state, and for good reason. Texas is the 2nd largest state and has such a wide variety of landscape. Next stop, West Texas!