In our 7 days at Lewisville Lake we had a neighbor who is a senior, his name is Earl – yes, just like the Dixie Chicks song – but you don’t want this Earl to die, he was a wise Earl. We had more than one great conversation and campfires with this fine man – at one point in campfire time, he said “you know, of all the people I have met over the years doing this, you guys are definitely a 9/10. You scored an 8 ½ when you backed into your camp spot and you didn’t fight over the backing in process”. Well – there you have it folks – we have made it, officially a 9/10!
We had been in the Dallas area for about 5 days and had only explored in an around Dallas, we still had to go to Fort Worth which we decided had to be a total separate day, since there was so much to see. After a 45 minute absolutely crazy interstate drive, we made it to Fort Worth Stockyards! Folks, if you have never been here, I highly recommend it! Let me tell you what we learned / saw!
After the civil war, there was a shortage of beef in the US and at that time, there were 5,000,000 head of cattle in Texas. As a result of excess cattle in Texas, they were worth nothing, but if they could get them to market in other states/areas of the country, they were worth $40/head. To get them to market, they had to herd them in as many as 3000 head at a time. They needed a bunch of cowboys to move them along the Chisolm trail (The Chisholm Trail – Herding the Cattle – Legends of America) This is basically where “cowboying” started; however, back then they were called “drovers” and not cowboys. The average age of drover was anywhere between 9-17 years old and originated from Czech, Mexico or African heritage – the main languages of drovers were Spanish and German – there were few women, but the most famous women drover was Marg Borland – her history is amazing and someone needs to make a movie about her – checkout her history here (Margaret Borland – Wikipedia). Most drovers earned $1/day and their biggest hazards of the job were drowning, lighting strikes and stampedes! None of the drovers owned their own horse, they were provided a horse for herding (Spring to Fall) and to get back home, they had to buy themselves a horse. The average weight of each longhorn cow was 1500 lbs and the horn rack was about 6’ across. There was so much history in Fort Worth, original buildings that have been maintained, it’s really amazing. There is a cattle drive twice a day, down the main street of the stockyards with longhorn cattle. This was cool, checkout this video: Longhorns
Over time stockyards (like Fort Worth) diminished, as stockyards moved away from centralization.
The downtown area of Ft worth was also rich with history, resonating from the stockyard days and many of the buildings and towers are still the original structures as well. After a walking tour, we hopped on our bikes and road through a great downtown park, along the river – bike paths are everywhere here!
Finished off our week at the Hickory Creek Campground (Lewisville Lake)– this one was run by the Army Corp of Engineers. These parks are really well run, in great locations (usually on water) and relatively cheap considering all the amenities (50 AMP, water, boat ramp/dock, free showers, stainless BBQ’s, fire pits, covered picnic tables). We will most likely visit another one of these parks in our travels.
We were looking forward to not being in the city and checking out east Texas. It was only a short drive, less than 3 hours, and we landed just south of Longview, at Martin Creek Lake State Park. We pulled into site 45 and then had to go check it all out. The campground was located on this reservoir lake. This lake is used to accommodate the biggest coal fired power plant ever, which we had no idea it was there, until we went walking around. Overall, the state park campgrounds are another great value – for $20 there is a boat ramp, 3 campsite loops with water and 30 AMP power at each site, free showers, fire pits with BBQ grills, and tall stainless poles with 2 hooks (that we thought were for hanging outdoor lamps, turns out they are for hanging garbage, as the possums are bad). There is also a fishing pier and a bridge to an island where you can camp and hike/bike and a handful of nature hikes. It’s all quite cool! Once we scouted all this out, realized there was no cell service here, which isn’t a crisis, but we are usually planning and googling at night so we can figure out what and where we are going next.
Decided to head into Longview and see what there was to do. Turns out, there’s not a lot in January that is open, but we did manage to utilize their bike trail (which was #1 on the top 10 things to do). One of our biggest goals was to really get active on this trip. We have walked and/or biked daily since we arrived in Texas. Even went to Costco and bought a set of hand weights for using while walking – its time to shed this ridiculous Covid 20!
After an amazing Friday night beef rib BBQ (Todd has seriously outdone himself on this!), we grabbed a drink and went socializing around the loop. Only to find one active campsite, we walked in to introduce ourselves and spent the next 3 hours meeting some really great east Texans – thanks Dan, Marissa, Johnny and Bridgette, we had a great time!
Todd booked tickets on Saturday nite to a Sam Cook tribute band at the Belcher Theatre. Had no idea who Sam Cook was – apparently, he was instrumental in bringing R&B/soul music to mainstream TV and radio. He was the first black singer to appear on Ed Sullivan. (Attending a concert at this theatre was #2 on the top 10 things to do).
On a semi-spontaneous note, we spent our last full day in this area of east Texas, not in east Texas but in Shreveport, LA. It was only an hour away, and based on the map, we didn’t think this was a highway that we would end up again, so we decided to go and check it out! Here’s what we did:
- walked on the downtown river walk to see all the steamboat casino’s and checked out a steamboat casino (casino is only legal if its floating in a river, but I would use this term loosely as none of the steamboats really looked like they were floating)
- toured the Shreveport Water works museum (this was a very cool museum, this was Todd’s pick as he previously worked in water instrumentation)
- went for crayfish boil at Crawdaddys Kitchen
We are heading to the Davy Crockett National Forest next!