Jersey Girl in a Texas WorldJersey | Writing Rants

Jersey Girl in a Texas World

This past weekend I learned that not everything is bigger in Texas. Yes, I am aware that this statement may create a controversy, but this is my opinion and I have a few facts to back it up…so read on for my funny adventures in the Texas World.

I traveled to the biggest (the only big thing in Texas I saw this weekend) Toilet Museum on my way to camping on Mustang Island to Port Aranas Sandfest 2016. I stood side by side fighting the elements and critters with about a dozen of my friends and laughed — a lot.

Sandfest 2016

Sandfest 2016

Our journey to the beach south started out on Friday morning with a side trip to the Toilet Museum in San Antonio. No I am not joking. To be precise it is Barney Smith’s Toilet Museum.

Barney Smith's Toilet Musem

Barney Smith’s Toilet Musem

It is a must see and earned me a smiley (geocaching of course) and a TB Racer some bonus points, so it was worth the side trip. Barney Smith has been collecting and decorating toilet seats for over 50 years. At the time of our visit he had 1,226 seats and was working on 1,227. His art covers everything from colleges, to birthdays, to anniversaries to military to geocaching and I could go on.

I bet if it pops into your head, he’s got a seat for you.I never knew there were so many ways to decorate seat covers. If you are ever in the area you should call and schedule a tour of this museum, it is well worth the side trip. So much so that Montel Williams and the View have come visiting.

After we left we fought the wind for a couple of hours to Mustang Island. It’s a small island (not the smallest State Park, but the smallest I’ve visited so far) with a spit of grass for RV and tent camping (this is a loose term of camping — I grew up in the Pine Barrens and my family camped every year so my idea of camping involves trees and mountains and hiking paths).

Beyond the dunes I could hear the waves of the Gulf, but despite the seagulls indicating there was a beach around there somewhere, it did not have the same smell or feel of a coastal shore.

We wandered down the road about a quarter mile to find another small strip of something the Texans call a beach. This Jersey girl quickly realized not everything is bigger in Texas.

Feet in Gulf of Mexico in Texas World

Feet in Gulf of Mexico

The beach is little more than a strip of hard packed sand made smaller by high tide and the incoming storm system. The sand is not soft and silky white, so it was hard to mush your toes into warm soft silk, but I could let the waves cover my scantily clad feet as they mingled in the cool dark Gulf waters.

The island did have your typical red fire ants, mosquitoes, ground hogs, pelicans, seas gulls, and sand pipers so you could technically claim you were camping on the beach.

On Saturday we ventured — in wave style — to Port Aranas where once again I can say: not everything is bigger in Texas.

There was sand and there were sand sculptures. They were ornate and ranged from small to medium in size. It took about an hour to stop at each one and wander around the designs. I think two stood out as the best (based on my informal group poll). The official judging occurred after we left and you can see the winners here.

iSee Sandfest

iCastle Sandfest

I am and always will be amazed by the skill and patience these artists have creating their temporary works of art. They are amazing to watch and talk to. If you’ve never been to a sandfest, I highly recommend going — most beaches (big and small have one).

Some of us burned — some did not — some of us melted — some did not, but what we all did: we had a darn good time.

I have learned not everything is bigger in Texas, but I had fun none-the-less hanging with friends, admiring another part of Texas I had not been too, and in the end that was big.

Thanks to my friends who laughed with me and enjoyed my first journey into the south eastern part of Texas.


The Year of the Park – 109 Texas State Parks

Late last year one of my friends announced that 2016 was the Year of the Parks. So Santa, ever knowing, bestowed on her a Texas State Park pass. Unlimited access to all the Texas State Parks and up to 15 people per vehicle (now if we can get that many in her jeep, we are definitely going to look like the clown car when we unload).

Her lofty goal (weather permitting) is 2 state parks every month. That would be a total of 24 parks which mean there are 85 Texas State parks that won’t make the cut.

Please join us for the ride as we discover what Texas State Parks are all about without the blisters. Well, I already have a couple, but for you — you’re safe. Unless my awesome posts inspire you to leave the computer behind and visit the awesome parks near you; better yet, make it a road trip with friends, and visit parks far far away.

Pedernales Falls

Pedernales Falls

UPDATE: My reviews of the Texas State Parks we visited/hiked, and kinda got lost in (except I’m a geocacher so my GPS bailed us out) are being published on the Tex Hill Country Blog so pop over there and share away and comment on what you like or don’t like. This list will grow as I visit them, so check back once in a while or subscribe to my post and you’ll be notified whenever a Park review goes up.

  1. Pedernales Falls
  2. Government Canyon State Natural Area
  3. Mother Neff
  4. McKinney Falls
  5. Colorado Bend
  6. Mustang Island

Texas State Park Facts

Here are some very interesting facts that you may or may not know about the state parks in Texas. Alternatively you can check out the parks from the main source Texas State Parks with maps and up to date information on camping and hiking and all that jazz.

GeoCaching Challenge

This is a fun challenge for all us geocachers out there. The main goal is to find a particular cache all the 90+ Texas State Parks, historic sites and natural areas all over Texas. During this challenge you discover hidden items, learn exciting facts and stories about Texas State Parks, and win prizes! (Direct quote from The TSP site).

I just happen to love caching. It gives me a goal while I work to put blisters on my heels. Kind of takes the sting out of the long hikes — though some of the caches are not that far off the main path or in some cases, the visitor center.

Dark Skies

It has been rumored off and on over the years that
t due to unnecessary glare. I personally think it’s like GPS. We rely so heavily on it that we are losing our natural ability to figure out the lay of the land and how to get from point A to point B. Sometimes technology is not a good thing.


Incredibly, only 4 of the state parks have waterfalls. Considering there are over 90 state parks and natural preserves in this huge state. I recommend that you see them before the high heat shrinks them or after the fall rains have come in. Just be careful if you are hiking out to see them as any amount of rain increases the risk of flash flooding.

  1. Big Bend Ranch State Park has three waterfalls you can reach by trail. If it’s been raining there may be other “pour-offs.”
  2. McKinney Falls State Park has two falls (McKinney Falls and the Upper Falls).
  3. Pedernales Falls State Park has a gradual, cascading fall of about 300 feet on the Pedernales River.
  4. Colorado Bend State Park has Gorman Falls. This one you can hike to on your own or you can go on a guided tour.

Accidental 6 Mile Hike

I’ve been working to move in the best direction for me. It’s been full of ups and downs and yesterday threatened to be a down which is how I ended up accidentally hiking 6 miles.

I have tried several things, but now that spring is here I find it easier to do one great thing: Get outside and move.

It’s so easy to sit there and end up rambling through your head. Head rambling is never good — inevitably it is always negative. So I decided my legs needed a biking break and the cool windy day provided me with a great excuse to do something other than biking.

In no short order I found myself at one of my favorite spots in the area: Purgatory.

I was just trying to redirect my focus from the dark side, I didn’t want anything too stressful or overwhelming. So I set off with no water, just a sweatshirt, hiking shoes (thankfully my new ones are coming in this week), and a phone (how else does one cache on the fly?) The normal route was closed due to clean up in the area from the floods last year so I was left with only one ingress by the dam.

Some trails are closed from March to May to protect the rare Golden Cheek Warbler.

GOLDEN CHEEKED WARBLER photo from City of San Marcos

GOLDEN CHEEKED WARBLER photo from City of San Marcos

It was a little rocky and eventually led up to the top. Nothing too significant and there were a couple of caches in that direction. At the top I took in the lay of the land: the top of the dam, the ravine one side and the red rooftops peaking out of the green trees on the other where Texas State University lay.

The day was a little cooler than it had been, but the breeze felt nice and the sun was out which is always a plus. I plugged in my ears and set Spotify to some upbeat music. Before too long I found myself clipping along to the first cache and letting my mind wander where it wanted.

Today I started out with the flaws in my current short story (come back April 1st to read all about it) and even more distressing — no ending. As I wandered in what I thought would be a circle (it was not) the story flushed out in my head. I was almost four miles into Purgatory when the details were solidified enough that I could put pen to paper; however, that was when I discovered (via handy mobile) that I had been walking in pretty much a semi circle. There was no way to really complete the other half.

I was no where near where I needed to be. In this case, my car. As I scrolled along the map to find paths in the trees I realized I was going to be walking more than I intended. I really was not big on just turning around, nor was I anxious to complete 8 miles since I had not brought water with me — not that that made a difference at this point.

Sucking it up, I found a slight diagonal overgrownish path that cut a couple mile off my return route. There were some muddy patches here and there — the only indication that it had rained recently.

It was during the grumbling return trip that I realized that I had forgotten about my funk. In fact, I was eager to get back home so I could finish my short story. Ideas percolating away threatening to drift off into the ether the longer I was away from my computer.

One consistent way to get out of a funk: DO something. Maybe it’s not always the same thing. Clean the house, go to the gym, walk (maybe not 6 miles), kayak, something — just move your body and the mind will follow.

The activity of doing allows you to focus on something external away from the potential negative internal dialog. It’s not a perfect cure, but it does allow one to become more fit and healthy which may just end up on the happy shiny path.

If nothing else, you can enjoy the smell of spring, the dapple or warmth on your arms from the sun, and a lightness in you step.

What do you do to bring yourself out from a funk?