Monday, October 31, 2011

Plan an unforgettable RV adventure in Texas

Guest post by Joe Laing, Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals.

RV campers travel to Texas year-round because they know the Lone Star State is home to so many exciting destinations. Here are ideas for every kind of RV traveler's unforgettable Texan adventure.

Outdoor Adventures

Maple leaves turn colors in late
October and November.
Like to hike? Most Texas state parks are home to miles of hiking trails just waiting to be explored.  Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool offers beautiful hiking trails that lead through maple forests and follow the Sabinal River. Enjoy gorgeous red, orange, and yellow colors in fall.
Looking for great golf near a first-class RV campground? Veteran "RV golfers" can attest there are golf courses (and comfortable RV campgrounds) in every part of Texas. Private RV parks with their own golf courses or privileges at a local course can be found from Danbury to Terlingua. Just search for "Texas RV golf" online to find plenty of camping and golfing destinations.Get the ball rolling at Lockhart State Park, which offers both a 9-hole golf course and modern campsites with full hook-ups.

Both freshwater and saltwater fishing are huge in the Lone Star State, so try your hand at bass fishing on the Brazos River, catching trophy catfish on Lake Conroe, or striper fishing at Toledo Bend.

Go tubing on the Guadalupe River, kayak the lower Colorado River near Fredericksburg, or jog the beach at Padre Island National Seashore; active RV camping fans will discover plenty to do outdoors in Texas.

Discovering Texas History

When you think of Texas history, you may think of cowboys, the Alamo and LBJ, but do you also think of three-hundred year old Spanish missions, ancient pictographs and Washington-on-the-Brazos? If you don't, it's time to visit the dozens of historic sites in Texas. A great place to start planning is the Texas State Parks & Wildlife Department's list of historic sites.

Top picks from RV camping history buffs: CaddoMounds State Historic Site for a look into ancient Native American customs; the 25-mile ride on the historic Texas State Railroad through the "pineywoods" of East Texas; and Battleship Texas in LaPorte (while you're there, also visit the San JacintoBattlefield State Historic Park). By all means, visit the Alamo, other missions, and the venerable El Mercado district of San Antonio.

South Padre Island National Seashore
Exploring nature

In a state as big as Texas, there's always something beautiful just down the road. Here are some favorite spots that will provide great vacation memories:
·       Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - a four-story, pink granite dome on Big Sandy Creek.

 ·       Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - a San Antonio Bay oasis where one trip along the scenic drive can net a whole vacation's worth of wildlife photos.

 ·       Caprock Canyons State Park - located in the Panhandle region, this park is filled with redrock canyons, lush forests and a 64-mile Trailway accessible by hikers, bikers and horseback riders.

 ·       Padre Island National Seashore - a Gulf Coast gem offering beaches, marine life viewing, fishing, camping and the chance to simply soak up the sun in a beautiful place.

 Photos courtesy of El Monte RV Rentals.

Read stories by Beverly Burmeier and other professional travel writers at Striped Pot.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Celebrate the Holidays at historic Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Score holiday deals at a luxury hotel when you book a stay at Arlingston Resort & Spa in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As Arkansas’ largest hotel, the Arlington is an historic resort with all the ambiance and hospitality of a traditional, grand old Southern hotel. Established in 1875, it features outstanding restaurants, unique outdoor heated pools and hot tub as well as its own bath house utilizing the famous healing hot springs of the city.

 “Holiday festivities are a tradition that span more than a century at the Arlington,” said Bob Martorana, hotel general manager. “We celebrate the season with a many exciting events, dazzling parties, receptions, and  entertainment including our famous New Year’s Eve dances.”

November festivities:

·       Start with a Thanksgiving Day Feast Thursday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

·       Saturday, Nov. 26 offers an evening of laughter with the Murder Mystery Comedy entitled “Bullets in the Bathtub.” The event begins with a reception to mingle and learn characters. Then dinner is served while the crime is solved. Tickets are $45 per person.

December events:

  Gingerbread House Celebration, Tree Lighting and Caroling and complimentary refreshments  in the hotel lobby on Friday, Dec. 2 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

  Hot Springs Flute Ensemble –hotel lobby on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.

  Christmas Day Feast –Sunday, Dec. 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Venetian Dining Room and the Fountain Room Grill.

  International Feast –festive buffet featuring cuisine from around the world will be served on Saturday, Dec. 31 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Venetian Dining Room.

New Year’s Eve

·       Welcome in the New Year in style at the Gala Dinner Dance in the Crystal Ballroom on Saturday, Dec. 31. 7:30 p.m. $175 per person includes a five-course gourmet dinner, two before- or after-dinner drinks, wines with dinner, champagne toast at midnight, party favors, tax and gratuity.

·       Gala Dinner Dance guests can also visit the Festival Party next door (8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.). Tickets are $45 per person, plus a Black-Eyed Pea Reception at midnight in the Magnolia Room.

·       New Year’s Eve Packages are available for one- or two-night stays for couples. The Celebration Package includes a wine and fruit basket upon arrival, special Arlington memento, two tickets to the New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner Dance, plus breakfast each morning. Enjoy the festivities for one night for $500 or only $95 more for two nights.

·       The Festival Package includes two tickets to the International Feast, the Festival Party and Dance, plus breakfast each morning. Stay one night for $323, or two nights for only $395.

Seasonal specials:

·       Enjoy the Spa Package from Nov. 27 through Dec. 29 and Jan. 1-12 for $335 per couple. It includes two nights, one thermal mineral water bath and massage for each adult, plus breakfast for two each day in the dining room.

·       The Arlington Hotel is partnering with Garvan Woodland Gardens to offer a Festival of Lights Package from Nov. 19 through Dec. 30. For $135, a couple can spend the night at the historic hotel, visit the “Lights on the Landscape” at the gardens and enjoy breakfast the next morning in the hotel dining room.

·       Other special rates are available Nov. 21 through Jan. 12. To reserve a room or package, call 501-609-2533 or 1-800-643-1502.

 For details about special events visit

Information courtesy of Gaye Hardin, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. Photos by Larry Burmeier.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get national park passes by mail

Grand Tetons reflect on Jackson Lake
Lifetime passes to America’s national parks for senior citizens and Americans with disabilities are now available through the mail. If you qualify, don't miss out on the best bargain you'll ever encounter. Our national parks rival any destinations in the world for natural beauty, historic importance, and outdoor activities. The admonition to "See America First" is still a good guiding principle for people of all ages who love to travel, explore, and discover the richness of our country.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said the Senior Pass and the Access Pass will still be available at national parks, but the option of receiving a pass by mail may better suit some people  “Any change that makes it more convenient to come to the parks is a change for the better,” Jarvis says.

"National parks are places to share with children, grandchildren, and other family members. They facilitate recreation and healthy living. Many parks, including Yellowstone, Shenandoah, and Denali, have trails that are accessible to people with limited mobility and to wheelchair users. We also have many accessible camping and picnic areas," Jarvis adds.

Steam rises from hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
Senior passes are available for $10.00 to citizens age 62 or older. Access passes are free for people who have permanent disabilities regardless of age. Both provide admission to, and use of, federal recreation sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees. Pass users also receive a 50% discount on some amenity fees for activities like camping and launching a boat. There is a $10 processing fee to receive a pass by mail.

You can print out an application for either pass at Once the application package is received and the documentation verified, the pass will be mailed to you.

For more information, visit or

Information courtesy of the National Park Service.  Learn more at

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival in Austin

Torchy's Tacos attracts large crowds in Austin
Street food has gone mainstream in Austin. So it’s no surprise that the proliferation of tantalizing trailer options has spawned a funky festival. If you’d like to sample a uniquely Austin event, head to Auditorium Shores for the second annual Gypsy Picnic on Saturday, October 22, from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Around 40 local vendors will provide samples of their delish dishes for $3 (admission to the Picnic is free). Participants include trailer staples such as Torchy’s Tacos (unexpected fillings like green chili pork, fried avocado, brisket, and fried chicken), Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts (no need to say more!), Short Bus Subs, Mamo Berry, Kebabalicious, Spartan Pizza, and Hey Cupcake (yummy flavors with plenty of gooey icing).

Classic Southern comfort food
Love a little competition? The Gypsy Picnic Cook-off promises to be a rousing event with winners in categories including Best Taco, Best on a Bun, Best Vegetarian, Best Ethnic, Best Deinks, and Best Desserts.

Payment for the food nomads is strictly cash and carry. If you only have plastic, use the ATMs conveniently located on the grounds. Once your appetite is sated, stay for the music. Stage areas are set up where a variety of local musical groups will entertain festival goers.

Colorful trailers catch hungry diners' attention
The Official Gypsy Picnic Map can help you plan your gastronomical strategy as well as figure out the best way to get to Auditorium Shores. Located in central downtown, Auditorium Shores is easy to access. However, there is no on-site parking at the Gypsy Picnic, but there are multiple parking garages available within walking distance for fees of $5-$8. Check the website for specific locations. Even better, ride your bike or walk from the trail around Lady Bird Lake.

Dogs and kids are welcome. Be sure to keep pooches on a leash and scoop the poop. Kiddos will enjoy story time, face painting, an interactive chalkboard, and sideshow acts throughout the park. Mom and dad can watch cooking demonstrations and learn tricks for sustainable living from the picnic’s partner, Sustainable Food Center. Come and enjoy the plethora of portable fare offered by dozens of Austin entrepreneurs.
Read more about Austin's food trailers at  Use area code 73102 to access the story.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tyler, Texas promises you a rose garden

Over 100,000 people from around the world visit the Municipal Rose Garden in Tyler, Texas annually, and many of them will be there this weekend, October 14-15, for the annual Texas Rose Festival. Nationally recognized, the Tyler Rose Garden is the largest municipal rose garden in the country.  The 14-acre park is full of spectacular blooms, especially during spring and fall, although flowers in every hue decorate the park year round.

Started in 1933 by members of the Tyler Garden Club, the Rose Festival now attracts thousands of visitors for a parade, arts and crafts fair, floral shows, and queen coronation, in addition to enjoying rose blooms at their peak. Special activities this year include a ladies lunch with Jenna Bush Hagar and a men’s lunch with Ken Storm on Friday, queen’s coronation Friday evening, parade on Saturday, and the Queen’s Tea, free to the public Saturday from 1-3 p.m. For a complete schedule of events click
More than 40,000 rose bushes displaying at least 500 different varieties turn this city-maintained site into an elegantly beautiful landscape, earning Tyler the title of "Rose Capital of the Nation." Paths meander through the Garden, past sculptures, benches, and water features that add interest. Specimens range from tall grafted rose trees to tiny miniature roses.  In between are dozens of varieties of hybrid teas, grandifloras, shrub roses, climbing roses, and much more providing an amazing panorama of color.

A section of 300 David Austin rose bushes, traditional English garden roses with multiple petal formations, was added to the garden in 2003. Nestled in the southwestern corner of the garden is the Heritage Rose and Sensory Garden. Here more than 50 varieties of hardy and colorful antique or heritage roses are showcased in an informal setting, along with many perennials that bloom all summer.

The Garden is one of 24 All American Rose Selection (AARS) test gardens in the country where the newest varieties are evaluated over a two-year period. Avid gardeners can be seen taking notes on fragrance, color and form of their favorite varieties.  Approximately one-fifth of all commercial rose bushes produced in the United States are grown in this county, while over one-half of the nation's rose bushes are packaged and shipped from this region.

Learn background of the Rose Festival and history of the rose industry at the Tyler Rose Museum, which features interactive exhibits, music of marching bands, and recorded voices of former Rose Queens. Beautiful hand-sewn gowns dating from 1935 are displayed along with jeweled crowns and scepters and other memorabilia that relate to the Rose Festival.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
Read more travel stories at Striped Pot and Austin Adventure Travel

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall has arrived at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin

Fall is finally in the air, and if you’re like me, you’re anxious to move beyond the hottest, driest summer in Austin’s history. I’m ready to dig in the dirt—and revive my scraggly yard and flower beds.  For gardening advice and a great selection of plants, there’s no better place to be this weekend than the Lady Bird JohnsonWildflower Center. Plan to attend the annual fall plant sale and gardening festival, October 15-16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can choose from nearly 300 species of hardy Texas natives bred to deal with our Central Texas climate. If possible, bring your own wagon to haul your purchases, but feel free to leave purchases at the Holding Area while you finish enjoying your visit, or up until the Plant Sale closes on Sunday. For a list of plants available for sale, go to

On both Saturday and Sunday, an hour-long walk and talk about native trees for fall planting will be held at 10 a.m., while another walk and talk about drought tolerant plants is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Book signings, kids’ story time, and lawn replacement advice are also on tap during the festival.  

If you have reusable 4-inch and one gallon plastic pots, you may bring those for recycling and leave them at the collection bin available at the front entrance. Free cold filtered water is available for filling your reusable water bottle while perusing the planted areas and sale.

Wildflower Center members may shop on Friday, Oct. 14 from 1-7 p.m. On Friday at 11:30 a.m., author Amy Stewart speaks about her book, "Wicked Plants," in the auditorium, followed by a book signing until 2 p.m.

Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors and students, $4 UT faculty, staff or students with identification, $3 children 5 through 12, members and children under 5 free.
Also scheduled at the Wildflower Center is Goblins in the Garden, Sunday, October 30, 4-7 p.m. 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, 512-232-0100,

Read more travel stories by Beverly at Striped Pot

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vaccinations and medications when you travel

For a recent trip to Peru and Argentina, I checked the Centers for Disease Control website to see what immunizations, if any, were required. CDC divides vaccines for travel into three categories: routine, recommended, and required.

If you’ve never traveled to remote or third-world regions, it’s best to schedule a visit with a doctor who specializes in travel vaccinations at least a month prior to your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective and some must be given in a series over a period of days or weeks.

Even if it is less than four weeks before you leave, you might still benefit from shots or medications and other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Routine Vaccinations
Be sure that you and your family are up to date on routine vaccinations, which can protect you from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world even though they rarely occur in the United States. If you are not sure which vaccinations are routine, look at the schedules below.

Recommended Vaccinations
These vaccines are recommended to protect travelers from illnesses present in other parts of the world and to prevent the importation of infectious diseases across international borders. Which vaccinations you need depends on a number of factors including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you are traveling, your age, health status, and previous immunizations. See the CDC destinations page and look up vaccinations recommended for the country or countries you will visit.

Because we were traveling to the Amazon, we requested medication for malaria, even though it wasn’t required. We also requested medication to help prevent altitude sickness because our travels would take us up to 18,000 feet.

Required Vaccinations
The only vaccine required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Since we had been vaccinated four years prior for a trip to Africa (the vaccine is good for 10 years), we did not have to repeat. (Keep good records and take them with you on your trip). Meningococcal meningitis vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj.

Special situations

Travelers with diabetes, HIV, or other immune-suppressed diseases, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may have special requirements, which you can check at the CDC site. If you’re traveling with infants or children read the Vaccine Recommendations for Infants and Children section in Health Information for International Travel or take a copy to your doctor. Don't forget to read about general health information for travel with infants and young children.

On your trip

Whether you’re traveling to a remote region or the next state, lost medications can be difficult to replace. Take medications in your carry-on luggage (compartments for checked luggage could damage medicines) in original containers so that airport security personnel know that you're carrying a prescription from your doctor. Keep a list of current medications you take, as well as any that you’re allergic to and should avoid, in a purse or wallet in the event of an emergency.

For further protection, consider purchasing travel insurance. Many policies cover emergency evacuation if you are ill or injured. Or you can join a membership organization such as Medjet Assist, which provides air transportation to the hospital of your choice (but doesn’t cover medical expenses).