Monday, November 24, 2014

Best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever!

 Note:  (This post was actually added to the blog last Thanksgiving) There are quite a few new readers of this blog so I wanted to repost this guide to cooking my family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert which I'll be making at my sister's in Austin this Thanksgiving.

One of my family's Holiday traditions is Eggnog Pie.  The typical response I get whenever I ask fellow RV'ers if they have ever had it is "What is that?".  Then after I describe it the almost unanimous response is "Mmmmmm....that sounds good!"  So, instead of the usual life on the road/ campground review stuff I thought I'd list the recipe that's been handed down within my family for generations and take some photos of my progress making it (somehow I am the only person in my immediate family who can manage to make this recipe...go figure!)


2 cups eggnog                                                          1 cup whipped cream
1 envelope plain gelatin                                             1 1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1/4 cup sugar                                                           1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt                                                              1 - 9 inch graham cracker pie shell
1 can fruit cocktail, well drained

Ingredients in  my sister's kitchen in Austin.  Pie shell not pictured.


1) In a pan mix together the gelatin, sugar and salt.  Slowly stir in the eggnog.  Warm the eggnog mixture over LOW heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved occasionally stirring.  You will initially see little bubbles of gelatin in the mixture, then, as the temperature slowly rises there will be  fewer and fewer gelatin bubbles till they are dissolved.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it will "mound" slightly when dropped from a spoon.

No boiling and no gelatin bubbles!
2) After removing the now "mounding" eggnog mixture from the refrigerator fold in the almond and vanilla flavorings along with the fruit cocktail.  Then carefully fold in the whipped whip cream being careful to maintain the "fluffiness" of the whipped cream.  (I always add 1/4 cup of sugar to the whip cream while whipping it but this is up to you). 

3) Pour the final eggnog / whipped cream mixture into a 9 inch pie shell and chill in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 hours prior to serving.

I'm lazy, I buy the shell but you can make it if you want.
4)  Enjoy!

Not long for this world!
 One year I think I got some expired gelatin and the pie never "hardened".  Rather than trying to serve soupy pie I placed the pie in the freezer overnight and served it as kind of like an ice cream was non-traditional but still delicious!

Good luck with your pie and Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Campground Review: FM 521 River Park Wadsworth, TX

FM 521 River Park is located just off of FM 521 on the Colorado River near the town of Wadsworth, TX.  The small 13 acre park is administered by Matagorda County and the county allows up to three free days of overnight camping.

Three days then you have to scoot.
Part of the Colorado River Trail series of parks that stretch along the Colorado River's banks the River Park was finished in 1996.  I traveled to the park in early November 2014 and stayed a few nights.

Commemorative plaque at the park.
There are two port-a-johns at the park but no fresh water or electrical hookups of any type.  Here's the FM 521 River Park data sheet:

Hookups:                     None  
Fire ring:                      No
Water Access:             Yes
Fresh Water:                No
Trash Service:              Yes
Toilets:                        Port-a-john
Showers:                     No
Dump station:              No
WiFi:                           No
Level sites:                  Yes
Laundry:                      No
Store:                           No
Pool:                            No
Shade:                         Yes
Verizon reception:        3G, 1 bar
Internet reception:        1 Bar with a booster
Cost:                            Free for up to 3 nights

The park has a boat ramp that allows fishing boats to be launched onto the Colorado and also has 2 fishing piers that allow shore fishing in the Colorado.

One of two shore fishing piers at the park.
 One of the nicer features in the River Park is a very large grassy field adjacent to the parking area.

The park's huge grass field.
If I had to choose one thing at the park that is a little less than desirable is that it's located adjacent to the FM 521 bridge over the Colorado and there's a lot of traffic noise during drive time in the morning and evening.

The (somewhat) noisy FM 521 bridge taken from the park. 
The park has a covered picnic pavilion with multiple tables and there are also outdoor picnic tables spaced along the river.

The park's picnic pavilion.
There aren't individual RV sites at the River Park.  I just staked out a convenient spot in the lit parking lot.

The Tank's site.  Note the light pole that lit the park at night.
Surprisingly, the Colorado is navigable by barges and tugboats even past the park and you occasionally see river traffic moving past.

The beautiful (and navigable) Colorado River from the other pier.
I would definitely camp at FM 521 River Park again.  For the most part it was a very quiet relaxing stay and the county does a good job maintaining the park.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Campground review: Brazoria County Free Beach

Texas has 367 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, much of which you can camp and drive on.  (Texas treats it's beaches as two way roads).  I traveled to the town of Surfside, TX which is just to the east of Freeport, TX to camp on the Brazoria County Free Beach where you are allowed to camp for up to 14 days ----for FREE!  Thus the "Free" in Brazoria County Free Beach.

The Tank's campsite at high tide.
While driving a road vehicle on sand might conjure up need for oversize tires and 4-wheel drive that's not the case on the Free Beach, the sand is hard packed and discernible "roads" that vehicular travel have created make that portion of the beach as solid as asphalt roads.  The "hard pack" also almost eliminates blowing sand which is welcome in the steady wind that's always present.

Here's the Free Beach data sheet:

Hookups:                                 None
Fire ring:                                  No (you could dig a hole in the sand)
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            No
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Port-a-Johns in some places
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                         No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                 No
Store:                                      No
Pool:                                       No
Shade:                                    No
Verizon reception:                   4G, 2 out of 5
Internet reception:                   2 out of 4
Cost:                                      Free for up to 14 days
That's a shrimp boat out on the horizon.
If you decide to camp at the Brazoria County Free Beach you need to insure you're on THAT beach and not the Surfside Beach where camping is prohibited (and the sheriff patrols daily).  The GPS data for the site in the top picture is:  28.990895, -95.235838.  Anywhere east of that is the Free Beach and you shouldn't have a hard time finding a great campsite.

Did I mention the great sunrises?

Being an early riser has some benefits!
In the late spring and early summer the Gulf had experienced a massive seaweed die off that resulted in tons of dead seaweed clogging up the beaches and, with the accompanying smell, left most of the beach around Surfside unusable.  I'm very glad to say that problem is no longer a worry and you can see from my pictures that the sand is relatively clean.

The strong steady winds make kite flying a widely embraced pastime on the beach.  One of the days of my stay the local kite club had an outing.  Here's some pics:

Kites and seashore just go together some how.
If you're by the Gulf you have to have a pink shark kite.
The round rainbow one was like a parachute with a hole in it.
The weather was just perfect during my six day stay, 80 in the day with nice breezes and 50's at night.  The windy conditions have the added benefit of eliminating most annoying bugs from the equation too.  Although I just waded around a bit the water temperature was warm enough to be swimable and many families near me were doing that.  You have to camp on the beach by the Gulf at least once in your life and if you do you'll find it relaxing and fun....and the price at the Brazoria County FREE Beach can't be beat!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Campground Review: Spring Creek Park Tomball, TX

Every now and again I'm tempted to keep a really great campground to myself and not review it so as to keep camp traffic down.  There is a city park in Tomball, Spring Creek Park, that tempted me to not review it it's such an uncommon value.

A few miles west of 249 in Tomball, TX.
Once every 30 days campers are allowed to reserve one of the 8 RV camping sites for up to 7 days.  There is NO CHARGE for the 7 days camping and the RV sites come with full hookups....that's right, FREE electric hookups, and water and sewer.  Now if Spring Creek was a run of the mill city park you might think "Meh!" but the park is meticulously cared for by a large staff and boasts a shower house that is also cleaned daily.  It is hands down the nicest park I've been in in Texas.

The park is spread over 114 acres.
Here's the Spring Creek Park data sheet:

Hookups:                                 15, 30 & 50 amp.  Water and sewer.
Fire ring:                                  No
Water Access:                          Yes (Spring Creek)
Fresh Water:                            Yes
Trash Service:                         Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes
Showers:                                 Yes
Dump station:                         No (sewer hookups instead)
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                             Yes
Laundry:                                 No
Store:                                      No
Pool:                                       No
Shade:                                    Yes
Verizon reception:                   4G, 3 of 4 bars
Internet reception:                   3 of 5 bars
Cost:                                      Free for 7 days

Tent camping is also allowed although the tent sites are "primitive camping" (no hookups).  Additional park features are:  one unlighted softball field, one lighted basketball pavilion, two lighted tennis courts, a small barbecue pavilion, a large barbecue pavilion, three tent camping sites, one primitive camping area, a playground, trails, picnic tables, barbecue grills, a sand volleyball court, and a rest room/shower pavilion.

There are several miles of hiking/biking trails.

Spring Creek runs along the northern edge of the park and I saw several people fishing from it's banks during my stay there.  The RV sites are in the southern portion of the park across from the rest room/shower building.  The community DOES actively use the park -- there were 3 high school cross-country meets in the park during my stay, and the teams practice there each afternoon after school.

Part of the north section of the park was once a cemetery.
On another topic, I took the camper off the pickup during my stay and found this in the bed of the truck:

Thankfully, the mice were long gone!

 I was really grateful to the City of Tomball for making such a great park camping experience available for free.  If you plan on checking it out look at the park's website and be sure to call to make reservations as 8 sites get booked up fairly quickly.  

Thanks for reading!