500 miles to Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, TX

Last night as we walked through the Monahans Sand Hills State Park we found that after we arrived somebody had clipped one of the campsite utility pedestals and broken open the water line. Water was gushing from the ground. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to compute that soon the park staff would show up and turn off the water to the entire park. This turned out to be true, a couple of hours later, but fortunately Eleanor had already filled the fresh water tank, so we weren’t inconvenienced.

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The folks who clipped the pedestal, on the other hand, had a large headache. Not only would the state parks department be communicating with their insurance company, but their motorhome had a nasty gash along the front driver’s side storage compartment and slide-out. That bit of inaccurate driving is going to cost a chunk. But at least they were responsible about it: they called the park staff to report the accident.

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Despite working against time zones every day (causing us to lose an hour on Thursday from Mountain Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time, and then another hour on Friday to Central Time), we got an early enough start to log some serious miles across Texas. It ended up being a rather dull 500-mile day all the way through the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex and out the other side, with little to speak of other than a few interestingly misspelled or inappropriate signs. My favorites:

(an enormous banner seen on the side of a warehouse) CARPET OULET

(a sign tacked to a tree in rural Texas, seen on a 95 degree day) HELL IS HOT

Our original thought was to just drive 420 miles and crash for the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, but when we got there I was still feeling OK to drive further, and it was still 92 degrees. We decided we’d rather spend the night in a pleasant Texas state park with power to run the air conditioner, than boondocking in a parking lot by the highway. Lake Bob Sandlin State Park was 80 miles further down the road, and we made that our destination.

This turned out to be a great move. The state park is forested and green, with widely spaced campsites in three loops, and it feels very pleasant. I definitely can’t complain about the 30-amp power either, as it has already turned the Airstream from an Easy-Bake Oven into a comfortable hotel room.

But the big win was Vaughan’s. As we were driving in here I was thinking about another trip through East Texas along I-20, where we discovered a great catfish place. I was thinking, “This is catfish country,” and (note that here I’m giving you a fresh insight into my personal foibles) I really like catfish. As we pulled off I-30 and began the 12 mile drive to Lake Bob Sandlin, I mentioned to Eleanor that the one thing that could make the day end perfectly would be discovering a nice little catfish restaurant.

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And just 0.2 miles from the entrance to the state park, there it was. If there was ever a sign from the heavens that I’ve done something right in my life, this was it. After nine hours of drive time, nothing could look better to me that that sign. We found a site in the campground quickly, unhitched in record time, and zipped over to Vaughan’s for what turned out to be a fun meal.

This place is one of those little “finds” that we like. Local, unique, and good. The restaurant is almost devoid of interior decor (think college cafeteria with two big screens showing Major League Baseball) but that just shows that the management knows they have good food. No pretense, just solid meals served family-style, friendly service, and a spectacular view of the sunset over Lake Bob Sandlin. We liked it. The catfish definitely hit the spot for me, with sides of beans, hush puppies, coleslaw, pickled green tomatoes, and a slice of coconut meringue pie for dessert. Now I don’t feel like I just towed a trailer 500 miles.

Our plan for tomorrow is pretty much the same as the plan for today. This is a slog right now. We’ll probably try to cover another 400 miles and get into Tennessee somewhere along I-40, then hit the Smokies by Monday afternoon. At that point we can slow down for a few days, to chill out a bit (and get some work done) before we launch into Ohio for the pre-Alumapalooza prep work.

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