Texas is BIG—Beautiful & Diverse

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse

With 267,000 square miles of amazing opportunities and unforgettable destinations, an RV visit to Texas is always exciting.

Enchanted Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a state as diverse as Texas, there’s always an adventure around every corner and unique attractions at every turn. From West Texas to the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, El Paso to Texarkana to Brownsville, from outdoor enthusiasts to foodies to culture buffs, there’s always something to see and do in Texas.

Even those of us who visit Texas frequently and spend a big chunk of our time traversing it leave most of the state untouched. We’ve driven through Texas numerous times over the years. But yet, it always amazes us just how big Texas really is.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charting any RV trip through the state can be a daunting task. So many miles, so many routes, and even after all our years on the road we’ve still not seen large portions of the Lone Star State. Every trip through, we explore new areas—and revisit favorite haunts. The state overflows with awesomeness at every turn, places we find completely captivating.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usually, we just follow I-10 from the west. Yes, it can be boring but it is the most direct route. We take our time and schedule varied side excursions along the way and make the journey—and not the destination—the highlight of the trip. It is the journey that is the joy of RVing.

We’ve explored the Big Bend area including Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Alpine, Marfa, and Davis Mountain Observatory. If it’s solitude you seek, you’ll find it here. However you see it, Big Bend is not soon forgotten: It’s a place of mystery and timeless beauty.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wind-swept, dynamic rippling sandscapes in Monahans Sandhills State Park are one-of-a-kind. A half-hour’s drive west of Odessa it is well worth a visit. The park consists of 3,840 acres of wind-sculpted living sand dunes some up to 70 feet high. The Park is set in one of the areas where the dunes are still active and constantly being shaped by the wind and rain. The dunes grow and change shape due to seasonal prevailing winds and you can watch them change whenever the wind is blowing.

Blue Bell Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream. For us aficionados, ice cream is one of the four food groups. Blue Bell has become the best tasting and certainly the most successful ice cream in Texas (and that means the best in the world). Would my taste buds lie? To learn what makes an exceptionally good thing good, we visited “the little creamery” in Brenham: I think we found out but every few years we require a refresher course.

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market. Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage links are served each day. Aside from the barbecue, Lockhart is a wonderful old town to visit. This small Texas town exudes a rustic, slow-paced charm arising from its Western heritage rooted in cattle and cotton.

City Market, Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth. City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town. Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer, as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, we headed to Spoetzl Brewery and joined a tour. The tour gave us a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from flagstaff Shiner Bock to the Extra Pale Ale, Haymaker. A day trip to Shiner goes down as smooth as the namesake beverage. As they say when toasting in Shiner, “Prosit!”

Bishop’s Palace, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s more—much more—an adventure in Texas. Space does not permit us to detail our numerous other unforgettable adventures and experiences from The Alamo, River Walk, and San Antonio Missions National Historic Park in San Antonio to Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park in the Hill Country. Galveston, Johnson Space Center, Big Thicket National Preserve, Caddo Lake, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Goliad, Rio Grande Valley, and Austin.

San Antonio Missions National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Mess with Texas, Y’all!

And, of course, because we haven’t yet been quite everywhere, we’ll keep exploring Texas. 

What’s Next?

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

Why I Love Blue Bell Ice Cream

Blue Bell ice cream seriously is the best ice cream

I grew up in the good old days when you milked the cows and separated the wonderful fresh cream from the delicious whole milk. You bought your salt and ice and sat out in the shed all afternoon cranking away on the arm of the ice cream keg. It was usually a family affair that required many hours of hard labor but the end result was well worth all the effort. Perfectly crafted handmade ice cream with just the right texture and flavor! In fact, if you wanted wholesome ice cream back then it was about the only way you got it.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around the early 70’s that old past time came to an abrupt end for many as word got around that the little creamery in Brenham, Texas had started expanding and would soon begin selling to new markets. There was some skepticism, at first, followed by years of unbridled gluttony as many discovered the joy and convenience of being able to shop at a local grocer for a whole half gallon of incredible ice cream, something that took hours of hard labor before then.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, other brands have come along and Blue Bell has continued to increase its markets across the South. I’ve given the competitors a try including the big names and have come to the simple conclusion that, just as their ads proclaim, Blue Bell really is the best ice cream in the country. The main reasons? Fresh ingredients and tasty rich flavors! To quote Blue Bell, “The milk we use is so fresh it was grass only yesterday.” That commitment to quality is why Blue Bell has been slow to expand in spite of strong demand. 

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps it’s the country music inspired commercials or the many cherished flavors but one thing is for sure: I love Blue Bell ice cream! Below the Mason-Dixon line, the brand is known as the go-to ice cream company simply because it “tastes just like the good ole’ days.”

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It all started back in 1907 when a group of local farmers in Brenham, Texas, decided to work together and founded the Brenham Creamery Company. They pooled their resources and the output of their Jersey cows and started making butter from the excess cream that the area farmers dropped off. A few years later, the creamery realized what else they could do with all that excess cream. Soon they started churning out the best ice cream around—albeit just two gallons of ice cream at a time—selling it under the Brenham Creamery Company name and delivering it to neighbors by horse and wagon.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About twenty years later, the company switched its name to Blue Bell Creameries with the charming Texas bluebell wildflower in mind. The rest is history! Blue Bell ice cream flavors are often the exciting grand finale to any celebration. The products are now sold in 22 states according to its website.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s quite a change for a company that still promotes itself as a small town business selling a locally produced product. “We eat all we can and sell the rest,” one of the company’s favorite marketing slogans says. So, if you’re searching for where to buy Blue Bell ice cream, you should know that the tasty treat is a bit of a delicacy ‘round these parts.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My favorites change from time to time but they’re all good even the stranger ones (remember Blueberry Cheesecake?)  Currently I am hooked on both the moo-llenium crunch and the pecan pralines ‘n cream but as new flavors arise and seasonal reappear I never know what I’ll come home with next. Their original homemade vanilla and Dutch chocolate are classic favorites and if you can’t make up your mind then the ultimate Neapolitan (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry evenly divided under one lid) is an easy choice.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pour a little light cream over a big bowl full of the original homemade vanilla and think back to all those days on the farm spent cranking away at that bucket out in the shed. The old days are never really that far away, after all. They just got better when Blue Bell came to town.  

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream is like a good friend. Sweet, nostalgic, ready on the freezer shelf whenever you need it! And it will never abandon you and when it’s the only dessert that will satisfy a cool, creamy craving, the frozen aisle is pretty close to paradise.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The century-old, Brenham-born brand offers a wide variety of ice creams, sherbets, and frozen snacks. Ice cream flavors include 25 classic year-round options like rocky roads, strawberries & homemade vanilla, and cookies ’n cream. As well as rotational limited-time flavors like fudge brownie decadence, spiced pumpkin pecan, and confetti cake. And yes, I’ve tried them all!

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

My love for ice cream emerged at an early age – and has never left!

—Ginger Rogers

Getting in our Licks on National Ice Cream Day: Sunday, July 21, 2019

What’s the scoop on National Ice Cream Day?

Everyone’s familiar with it—the classic, delectable treat that’s such a staple of summertime that any hot July day might feel like National Ice Cream Day. 

We all scream for ice cream, especially when the frozen treat is free or cheap. Today is National Ice Cream Day and restaurants across the U.S. are celebrating with discounted ice cream desserts. It’s a perfect time to appreciate the sweet treat and its fascinating history.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the summer reaches peak temperatures in July, Americans celebrate National Ice Cream Month as a way to cool off and enjoy the nation’s favorite frozen treat with friends and family. Ice cream has historically been a key feature of American communities.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream dates back thousands of years. It’s long been beloved by Americans and people around the world. Modern statistics show just how much people adore the dessert today. 

In celebration of National Ice Cream Day, here’s a look at 12 things you probably didn’t know about the creamy summertime favorite. 

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream is older than you think. Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed snow and ice flavored with nectar and honey while the Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains for snow which was flavored with juice. In the 1300s, Marco Polo brought an early version of ice cream—resembling a modern-day sherbet—back to Europe after his global travels. By the late 1700s, American high society enjoyed ice cream as a delicacy. And in 1776, America’s first ice cream parlor opened in New York.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even ice cream cones are more than a century old. During the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, a vendor ran out of ice cream cups to serve visitors. He quickly enlisted the help of a neighboring vendor who provided rolled-up waffle cones in which to serve the sweet treat—and the ice cream cone was born!

Ben & Jerry’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The day became official 35 years ago when President Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day and the month of July as National Ice Cream Month.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a considerable amount of science behind ice cream. Ice cream contains microscopic air bubbles that keep it nice and fluffy. When it melts, the air bubbles collapse. So, if you refreeze melted ice cream, it’ll be less soft.

Ben & Jerry’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ice cream is adored around the world. Americans consume a whopping 23 gallons of ice cream per person every year on average, making Americans the No. 1 ice cream consumers worldwide. New Zealand is second, followed by Australia, Finland, and Sweden.

Americans really, really, love ice cream. Eighty-seven percent of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given time. 

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The top five ice cream flavors enjoyed by Americans? That would be vanilla at 27.8 percent, followed by chocolate (14.3 percent), strawberry (3.3 percent), chocolate chip (3.3 percent), and butter pecan (2.8 percent).

American presidential history and ice cream are closely intertwined. Thomas Jefferson, while not responsible for introducing ice cream to the United States, did help popularize it. He’s credited with the first known recipe recorded by an American, and there are six references to ice cream being served at the President’s House during the Jefferson administration. In 1813, Dolley Madison served a famous strawberry ice cream dish at her husband’s second inaugural banquet. 

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A cow provides enough milk to make two gallons of ice cream per day—or 730 gallons per year. In fact, about 9 percent of milk produced in the U.S. is used to make ice cream.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) ice cream companies help support the U.S. economy, contributing more than $11 billion directly to the national economy and supporting more than 26,000 direct jobs that generate $1.6 billion in direct wages. In 2017, about 1.4 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts were produced in the United States.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas takes pride in its ice cream. And we’re not just talking about Blue Bell—though the Brenham-based brand is brag-worthy. Blue Bell fans travel from all over to see the making of their favorite ice cream. At The Little Creamery in Brenham, visitors can watch the manufacturing process from an observation deck while attendants narrate and provide fun facts and then check out the Visitors Center to read up on the company’s history and see artifacts. The self-guided tours conclude with $1 scoops from the parlor.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In honor of National Ice Cream Month, Blue Bell introduced a new flavor. Key Lime Mango Tart is a combination of key lime ice cream, a mango sauce swirl, and graham cracker crust pieces.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We like to think of our new Key Lime Mango Tart as sunshine in a carton,” said Joe Robertson, executive director of advertising and marketing for Blue Bell. “You can taste the key lime flavor in the first bite of ice cream, but with a hint of sweetness from the mango sauce. The graham cracker pieces will remind you of eating a Key lime pie.”

The new flavor is available in half gallons and pints for a limited time in stores NOW!

Worth Pondering…

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

—Howard Johnson