– Denton, Texas to Beaumont, Texas –
Well, Christmas is over. And Mark and I had our birthday, too (yes, it is the same day). You know what that means. It’s road trip time. Winter road trips are a lot of fun when the weather holds, and to continue our trend of traveling east in the U.S. this year, we are heading to the southeast coast to pick up some of the smaller national parks and cruise along the beach.
The more clever will note that… national parks are mostly closed when the government shuts down. Which… is what is going on right now. I wish we’d known that would be the case a few weeks ago, when we booked our trip out to get a bunch of national parks, but we didn’t, so off we go, regardless. I’m dreaming that they will get it fixed before the end of our trip, so we can at least get some of our stamps, but who knows what will happen.
All we can do is go on to the places where we’ve booked our hotels and see what we can see at the parks that we’d planned to visit. All of the visitor centers will be closed, I think, but many of the parks don’t have gates, so they are likely still at least partially open to the public. This trip may be a little weird, but we will do what we can to salvage our fun.
Today was planned to be a light day, so we were able to get up and go for a run at home in Denton without any trouble. We finished our packing and loaded the truck before 10am, when we finally hit the road. We didn’t get home from Christmas in Oklahoma until last night, so we really wanted a little extra time to get back on the road. We are out for 9 days on this trip, then we are both off of work and school for a week after that back at home. It’s a pretty awesome holiday vacation this year, with time for traveling and time to unwind. We really deserved it after the fall semester we had.
We stopped for gas and our first and last Quiktrip of the trip today on the way out of Denton, then stopped again in Kaufman for lunch at a Panda Express. Most of the day wasn’t terribly exciting, but we had fun on the road. We are reading Thunderhead, by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston, which is a bit like reading discount Tony Hillerman, but it is a decent book. If you like Tony Hillerman and miss his style, give it a try.
Unfortunately we didn’t take many pictures until we reached Big Thicket National Preserve, which is only an hour from our hotel for the night in Beaumont. It’s really a very light day. It only took a little under 5 hours to get to Big Thicket, and we arrived about 3:30, which is very good time for having left at 10am. Of course, as we expected, the visitor center was closed.
Luckily, other portions of the park were open, and we were able to see a little of the park, even if we couldn’t get our stamp. Just down the road from the visitor center’s locked gate, we took some time to meander down the Kirby Nature Trail. It was chilly and sprinkling a little on occasion, but the trees are lovely, and Ripley had an absolute blast wandering through the forest. The trail was nice, too.
Big Thicket is a 112,501 acre nature preserve full of forest, bayou, and unique plant and animal species. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics. I had no idea. We have skipped several of the parks in Texas at least a time or two, simply because we were trying to get out of Texas to get somewhere else, but some of our parks are pretty cool themselves. We will have to come back there someday when the park isn’t half closed.
From Big Thicket, it wasn’t too long before we made it into Beaumont for the night. It was only about 4:30pm when we checked into our hotel. Luckily, we had a few things to do, so we drove back into the main part of town to visit the grocery store and the pet store for some trip essentials. It’s cool enough this time of year to leave Ripley in the car while we shop, though of course she went into the pet store with us.
We stopped at Petsmart first to pick her up some training treats. How else can we get our little model to look at the camera, right? She was really excited in the store, though I was less than impressed with the guy at the checkout stand, as he was trying in the worst way possible to get Ripley to let him pet her, and she was clearly just not having it. Don’t they teach you not to try to pet dogs over the head for the first time when you are training to work at Petsmart? Geez. He couldn’t even win her over with a treat after that.
After Petsmart, we drove to HEB, which is decidedly not as cool as Central Market. I know lots of people down here love HEB, and Mark and I get all of our groceries at Central Market in Southlake back at home, which is essentially the fancy version of HEB, but the HEB Plus! we visited was hardly better than any other grocery store. We could’ve gone to Kroger and had it be about the same. I was a little disappointed.
We bought our trip essentials while there, despite the fact that it wasn’t as awesome as I’d been led to believe. I think we’ve visited one or two before, but they had clearly been so underwhelming that I’ve forgotten when. In any event, we picked up our hummus and guacamole cups, some yogurt, some pretzels, and a few other trip foods. We even managed a bubbly juice for Near Year’s Eve. We still haven’t picked up any of the little plastic champagne glasses for toasting, though. It’s kind of a tradition.
After our shopping trip, we grabbed sandwiches at Sertino’s Cafe, which turned out to be pretty good. We made it back to the hotel around 6:30pm to call it a night. We’re a little tired from Christmas still. Even Ripley is sleepy after everything, even though she spent all afternoon in the car.
Tomorrow is a long driving day over to Florida, so we will probably get up pretty early for our run. It can’t be too early, as it will be dark, but we will see what we can work out. It might be raining some, but I’m hoping the weather will hold. I’m also hoping for the government to start working again so we can visit our national parks like we want.
– Trip Total : miles – 348