Leaving Corpus Christi For Home

But we pay a visit to HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gains’ Magnolia Epicenter on the way

As is always the case when visiting beautiful locations, time to leave comes much too soon. Wakeup time on travel days always comes too early.

But we wanted to get through the freeway congestion of Corpus Christi and make tracks north towards home before it got too late in the day.

We had packed up the van the night before. It was still dark when we quietly pulled out of our camp site at the Corpus Christi KOA Journey, made a last visit to the restrooms, got some coffee in our travel mugs, and started our long return towards home.

Besides a ton of driving, our planned route on that sunny, mild day would take us through a small Texas town made famous by a Classic Rock hit song and also to a town made famous most recently by a hit HGTV show.

Feeling blessed for the opportunity to see the Gulf Coast of Texas, we were amazed how different this section of the Gulf of Mexico – from Galveston to Corpus Christi – was when compared to the turquoise-colored Gulf waters we experienced a few months back when we visited the Florida Emerald Coast.

Which do we prefer? Let’s just say each region of the Gulf has its own unique and beautiful aspects. We love the beach and the crashing waves, and we were in heaven down there no matter where we were!

Once we cleared the city limits of bustling Corpus Christi, the Texas scenery turned from urban industrial to rural wide-open spaces.

As we always try to do, we tend to stay off the major interstates as much as possible favoring instead secondary highways. This time we connected onto Highway 77 which would bypass the larger cities of San Antonio and Austin.

So, there would be no remembering the Alamo in San Antonio and no walk along the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake in Austin this time.

The small towns, such as Hallettsville, TX. that we drove through were very reminiscent of small farming towns we have here in the Midwest.

A couple traffic lights, a local gas station convenience store, a car dealership or two, and a national fast-food restaurant if the town is big enough.

The trade off for missing the big cities on this leg of our journey was to see if the “Rumor spreadin’ ’round in that Texas town” was true. After all, it’s all “about that shack outside La Grange. And you know what I’m talkin’ about. A hah hah hah hah.”

We’re sure a lot has changed since the early 1970s. La Grange may be best known for being the home of the Chicken Ranch, the inspiration for the Classic Rock song, a hit movie, and the long-running Broadway musical called “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Remember Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds who starred in that 1982 movie? Other than that, La Grange seemed to be a pretty typical small town.

Highway 77 dropped down to a bridge crossing the Colorado River, and right into the town of LaGrange made famous thanks to the 1973 hit song by that little old band from Texas, ZZ Top.

Of course, we both had to sing the La Grange song as we passed the city limits sign!

From LaGrange we made a beeline to another famous town, Waco, Texas.

Waco is the birthplace of the soft drink Dr. Pepper, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Waco was thrust into the international spotlight in 1993 because of the “Waco Siege,” a 51-day standoff between Branch Davidians and federal agents.

The siege ended on April 19, 1993, when the religious group’s compound near Waco was destroyed in a fire. Nearly 80 people were killed. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno gave permission for the FBI to raid the compound. The government’s handling of the situation drew sharp criticism, and Reno later expressed regret for authorizing the raid. 

A couple of young Waco entrepreneurs named Chip and Joanna Gaines once again put the city in the national spotlight, this time in a more positive light.

In 2013, their Magnolia remodeling and design business in Waco was turned into a HGTV show called “Fixer Upper.” Chip managed the construction and realty side of Magnolia and Joanna was the lead designer. The stars of the hit show now have their own television network!  

The couple’s Midas touch and powerful influence can certainly be seen nearly everywhere in Waco’s downtown area. Magnolia Market and its famous landmark silos, owned by the couple, occupy two full city blocks in downtown Waco.

Tourists and fans of the show continue to flock to Waco to shop, eat and hope to catch a glimpse of the famous home design trend setters who live on a farm just outside of town.

The Silos are free to visit but parking in the lot across from the complex was $10 when we visited. There is limited street parking in the area.

In addition to the famous Magnolia Market, the Gaines’ own and operate Silos Baking Co., Magnolia Seed & Supply, Magnolia Press coffee house, Magnolia Home, the Katy Ballpark, The Old Church, and The Shops at the Silos, all located at the Silos complex.

Other Magnolia and related businesses include Magnolia Table, The Little Shop on Bosque, Harp Design Co. and JDH Iron Designs.

Parking was hard to find, and we didn’t want to pay the $10 just to park for a few minutes while we did a quick zoom around on foot. Doing a visit justice would definitely take the better part of a day, enjoying a walk around.

Add to that shopping at all the different stores and eating at one of the several restaurants, especially if you are willing to stand in line (which was out the door and around the block when we visited) to get a cupcake or baked goodie at the Silos Baking Co. would fill up a full day.

We made a few loops around the Silos District and then drove through the downtown area, which seemed very busy.

Knowing that we still had a big drive ahead of us, we said goodbye to Waco and got on Interstate 35W towards Fort Worth.

Happily, we cruised past Fort Worth without any major traffic jams! Being an old school NASCAR fan, Kim’s attention perked up when we drove past the Texas Motor Speedway located along the Interstate north of town.

Texas was finally in our van’s rearview mirrors as we crossed the Red River into Thackerville, Oklahoma. The first thing we saw crossing the state line was the massive WinStar World Casino and Resort, featuring a mini-Las Vegas version of famous landmarks, including British Parliament and Big Ben.

The sun was setting as we pulled off at the Oklahoma Welcome Center rest stop to stretch our legs and get the dogs out for some exercise.

Back in the van we continued to Oklahoma City and stopped for dinner at a Chick-Fil-A.

It was our first time eating their famous chicken sandwiches. Watch our video on our YouTube channel and read about our Chick-Fil-A experience on our blog. Here are the links:


Tummies full, we drove on into the night until we pulled off the highway at a Flying J Travel Center Truck Stop in Edmond, OK, north of Oklahoma City.

We always do a “gut check” before committing to an overnight parking spot, whether it’s a freeway rest stop or a truck stop travel center. After filling up the van’s gas tank so we would be ready to get back on the road in the morning without much delay, we decided to stay in the well-lit overnight parking area.

We were one of five other vans parked there (most of them commercial haulers) so we felt like there was safety in numbers. And if professional van drivers spend the night here, it couldn’t be too bad of a place.

About 2:30 a.m. we were awoken by the sound of sirens and flashing lights shining through the cracks in our van’s night shade window coverings.

Now what is going on?

JK scoped out the situation from the van and determined the lights were coming from a fire truck and an ambulance rig parked in front of the truck stop store. Just a medical call. No police cars or frantic activity that may have made the situation sketchy.

Seeing that it wasn’t a “crime scene” the both of us used the middle of the night wake-up to go to the restrooms. We managed to get back to sleep but woke up early with the sunrise to get started with the drive ahead.

We were determined to make the push through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa and get back home to cold and snowy Southern Minnesota by the end of the day, which we did!

All in all, we had a great van road trip journey.

We accomplished several goals with this recent trip.

We proved that we could quickly gather everything needed for an impromptu extended trip into the van. We took advantage of an open weather window to head south towards no snow and warmer temperatures in late winter. (The trip took place in mid-February.)

Until this trip, neither one of us had made the long trek to the southern Gulf Coast of Texas, although we have driven through and stayed in the Texas Panhandle region before.

It was our first trip to the cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi, and our first experience at the Padre Island National Seashore.

To watch our Texas journey, please click on this link and watch the videos on our YouTube Channel. While there, be sure to subscribe to our channel!


Thank you for following along with our travels through this blog, social media, and our YouTube channel!

NEXT TIME: During a recent trip to Blue Mounds State Park in western Minnesota, we visited an awesome military veterans museum and famous National Geographic wildlife photographer’s gallery in Luverne, MN.

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