Thursday, December 30, 2021

We Now Are In......Lake Conroe, TX

Lake Conroe, TX.   High: 81  Low: 68.  Site: G-57. FAST AT & T, FAST T-Mobile Hotspot

The Pinnacle has landed...In Lake Conroe, TX at the Thousand Trails Park Lake Conroe location. We love this park because: 1) It's a nice semi-wooded, shady park in the middle of civilization! (She means EVERY SINGLE STORE YOU WOULD WANT TO SHOP AT IS HERE NEARBY, within 10-30 minutes. Every single chain restaurant, specialty restaurants and every single craft store, it's all here, laughs Eldo.) Sparky is going to blow her food and discretionary spending budget within a very short period of time. (BUDGET???? She has a budget????? wonders an incredulous Eldo.) Uh, no comment. 2.) It's VERY close to Sparky's family, one daughter and grandson, who is growing up so fast. 3.) Sparky can still get some nice bike rides in on very wide residential sidewalks that run for miles near the TT park and go for a nice walk/short hike inside a small city park just down the road.

Now, the park itself has not the greatest interior roads...rutted gravel, with lots of potholes USUALLY, and the gravel sites for the RV's are not very level in a lot of sites, but we managed to get a decent one this time on the second try. The first try was in the new section which on first inspection looked terrific! Cement pads, wide lots, and highly desirable AFTER the summer months. (The concrete is HOT in the summer and you bake your rig and you on those sites in the summer.) The problem with some of the sites in there is that there is a pretty big concrete "ramp" up onto the concrete level pad. We started to back the fifth wheel up and very quickly Sparky realized the RV was going to bottom out on the inclined ramp, so she hollered at Eldy, "STOP! It's not going to work!" We pulled out of that section and started driving around the park. Thousand Trails doesn't assign you a spot, but sometimes they will name some spots that they think MIGHT be open. So you drive around towing your RV looking for a good site. And off we went. Thousand Trails has quite a few pull through sites, but they are the type that pair two sites together ("buddy" sites) so that when two units pull into their respective pull throughs,  their living areas are facing each other. So your front door faces their front door and the common area between the rigs has two picnic tables and the living area in the same "corridor" or space. 

It's a much tighter use of space and hopefully, you get nice neighbors because you'll be seeing a LOT of each other if you like to be outside. Normally, pull thru sites have the outdoor living areas all on the same side going all the way down the row, so you don't normally see your neighbor (unless you go over and talk to them) because they are using their living space on the opposite side of their rig just as you are using yours.  Hope that makes sense!

We found a decent site, a back in, and got leveled pretty quickly. (Your rig has to be level for the fridge/coolant to work properly). It has 4 landing jacks that come down and adjust up or down or from one side to the other side and from front to back to level the rig by pushing a button. If you've placed wooden blocks properly under the landing jacks, then two additional central stabilizing jacks come down to act as additional supports so you don't feel movement inside the rig when walking around. That's Sparky's job to place several wooden blocks in different combinations or the same number under each jack depending on how the rig is sitting on the site and if the site is level or unlevel.  If she has eyeballed it correctly, then ALL the jacks, all six of them come down. If she doesn't view the site and how the rig is sitting on it correctly, then the stabilizer jacks don't come down and we live with more movement inside than we like. And Eldy is one unhappy camper. That doesn't happen too often, thank goodness!

Thousand Trails Lake Conroe has a    beautiful big pool, (unheated, though), a nice laundry room,  nice showers/bathrooms and lots of great space to roam and play for families, nice cabins AND the beach down at the lake! It's a nice place!

What have we been doing for the weeks we have been here? A little bit of maintenance, among other things. We had our two air conditioners cleaned by 4 Girls Ranch maintenance service (next door to the park) and recommend them if you are in the park and need help with a problem in your rig. To no surprise to us, they told us that we had lots of Asian lady beetles up on top with quite a few stink bugs as well hiding out under the shroud cover of the AC. Yep, we are still vacuuming those little buggers every day and until now, have not wanted to use chemicals. BUT--the time has come! Those little buggers stink, and Sparky is tired of craning her neck and sucking them off the ceiling and screens with the heavy vacuum hose. We'll see if the spray works or not! Note: yes and no. The spray has a pleasant odor but you are not supposed to breathe it in. It took all afternoon with the fans blowing to air the rig out, and the ladybugs are still coming in, although not as many.  But the main thing is only SOME are dying, so Sparky is going to spray again, and we need try and get up on the roof to spray around the AC's to try and diminish the entry point interest they seem to have!

Grandson took this photo!

On another note...Christmas came and went. The park had some fun activities like a snowball fight with big fuzzy pom pom balls....Sparky and grandson had a great time!

Gotta love those special decorated cookies....

Gotta love a card game called Exploding Kittens......
Grandma sucks at Connect 4. Grandson won 5-1.
Sparky and Grandson are tied at Spiderman Monopoly, which is a cool game by the way.....
Eldo (Eldy) had a great time, too!
Eldy and his daughter Kristi
Eldo loves his pizza burgers, a family recipe that has LOTS of cheese in it and on it....
Eldo got to see his grandson's new car, too! Pretty snazzy!

The three weeks went by very quickly. It's almost time to go....We start planning in the next day or two for about an 1100 mile drive spread out over a few days to get to Tucson, Arizona, our next destination. We hope you have a blessed New Year and safe travels and visits wherever you are....

See you on the road again......

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Asian Lady Beetle Battle

Well-l-l-l-l....Texas sure is an interesting state, and we are not even talking politics, that's for sure! Sparky says it's interesting because we've seen some exotic wildlife ranches in the area and she wondered a little more about them--are they for hunters? Are they refuges? Can you go visit them?.... So here's what she found out.....

First, there's the Hatari Wildlife Park...You can go visit this one. It's a little on the pricey side, (28.00 for one senior) but it sure looks interesting! There are four unique ranges--dunes, lower grasslands, lowlands forest, and the sahel. It's a drive thru tour that minimizes contact between you and the park personnel and the park takes great precautions during this COVID time to safely allow the public to come and visit. There are places where you can get out and walk...In the lowland forest, there's a 3,000 foot boardwalk. In the Sahel range, you can feed a giraffe on an elevated platform! The park is in Weimar, TX which is 21 min. or 18.3 miles from the Thousand Trails Colorado River RV park. There are species there at the park that we have never heard of, (and Sparky was a teacher! laughs Eldo). Here are some of the more exotic ones that you might see at the park: Bongo, Addax, Roan, Eland, Barbary sheep, Nile Lechwe, Scimitar Oryx, Sika, Sitatunga and the Sable. They are only open Thursdays thru Sundays from 9:00-4:00. Sparky thinks she might just have to check this out!

We saw some other exotic wildlife ranches in the area, and some in Texas are for sport hunting. The exotic animal industry is big in Texas. (Isn't EVERYTHING bigger in Texas?) Without going into the ethics of balancing conservation by raising the animals and then hunting them, we'll just say it's a BIG business.

And on to other things...There's not a lot to do in Columbus, TX, but several day trip ideas would be San Antonio and their Riverwalk, (2 hour drive), a trip to Katy (57 min.) for Camping World supplies and necessities and Hobby Lobby and Joann's, haha...(HA! We don't need anything at this point from Camping World OR Hobby Lobby OR Joann's, says E. Sparky has already thought of everything!) But--but--she ALWAYS needs craft supplies.

We like Beckey's Cafe for a very reasonable breakfast (but small portions), Schobel's for a nice breakfast but more expensive, and Los Cabos for decent Mexican food. AND--Nick's Italian Restaurant for very good pizza. Do you like brisket? Peter's BBQ in the next town of Ellinger, TX.

Asian lady beetle
In the meantime, we continue to battle the ASIAN LADY BEETLES. They look JUST LIKE ladybugs but they range in color from red to orange and have varying spot patterns. They eat other ladybugs and they infest some fruits. They are an invasive species. THAT'S THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. They CAN bite, and they emit a stinky odorous yellow fluid when they are dying, like if you squish them. Ask Sparky how she knows that!

The beetles are currently winning. Apparently, they swarm every year about this time, in November, and they are only going to be a nuisance for a short while, the office says. How long is a short while? Inquiring minds want to know. Probably as long as we are here in the park, three weeks? Sigh.....OK....We have tried or are going to try, 1.) vinegar spray on the screens, (the jury is still out on that one but WE hate the odor, so we're not going to do that. Internet gurus say spray it all over your walls and windows! Uh, nope. 2.) bay leaves--we tried that (not enough smell), 3) vacuuming them up (works great but Sparky is vacuuming several times a day....Enough already!) AND---it will make your vacuum hose stink because when the beetles are stressed, they emit stink and little poopy trails behind so the vacuum hose is probably contaminated by now.  Eldo held out some popcorn for Sparky to suck thru the hose to push those little boogers through the L-O-O-N-N-G hose to the vacuum bag canister in the bay, the logic being the beetles will stick to the popcorn and get pushed through to the very end. Hmmmm...maybe. 4.) Blast 'em with the AC. That has really helped! If it's warmer inside than outside, the beetles want in. If it's colder inside than outside, the little varmints will want out. That's the logic. So far, the AC method is working pretty well. We're freezing, but that's ok. We are down from more than fifty a day to about half that.

You CAN buy this spray from Amazon and so it will be #5 if we continue to be harassed by them almost flying up our noses in the house or creeping down Sparky's neck.

Sparky is still crafting up a storm and is currently working on a set of three fabric wine bottle carriers to put in her Etsy shop, JeanBeanGifts.

(She really hops around from project to project, explains E. Very short attention span means lots of projects going at once.) Yep, and a cabled headband is in the works, too. And a knitting stitch row counter, and....

So, here we are, still in Columbus, TX for another two weeks, providing the lady beetles don't run us out of town. Nah, they won't. They aren't as bad a big ole stink bugs. Wel-ll-ll-llll....the beetles DO stink! Time for the scented pine candle wax. Isn't this cute? Sparky's daughter gifted us this little Scentsy Christmas camper wax burner last year...Maybe the beetles won't like that scent! One can only hope.....

And with that...We will see you on the road....or in town, we're not sure where we will be next. Oh! Eldy says, Sparky forgot we were going to be in Lake Conroe, TX for a nice visit with Sparky's daughter and grandson. How could she forget THAT! She didn't, she just wasn't sure if we were going to make any day trips out of Columbus, TX. Lake Conroe....Where the shopping is terrific, there are restaurants galore, and oh, man....There goes the food budget! 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thousand Trails Colorado River

Columbus, TX.  High: 66  Low: 40. Site: D-25
AT&T 5G   T-Mobile hotspot slow

We landed our Pinnacle 5th wheel in Columbus, Texas, and this will be our home for the next three weeks. There's not a lot to do in Columbus, TX, it's a small town, BUT--the painted churches tour is a must see. Since we have already done that, Sparky is posting a link (click on the blue) to our blog about the churches she saw the last time she was here, and a teaser photo at the left for anyone who missed that blog.  Sparky would love to go see them again and might do that just because they are so beautiful. Here is another link, too, to tell you more about them.

Thanksgiving Day was a blessing for us. Sparky is currently about 2 hours from one of her daughters and grandson, so we drove to her area and met for a beautiful buffet dinner at a local golf club. It was delicious! Especially so when Sparky doesn't have to cook a big dinner in a tiny kitchen in an RV!

It will be a quiet 3 weeks here. Sparky is going to babysit her grandson a little bit, we are going to do basic maintenance ourselves on our rig, (interesting stuff like lubricating the slides and jacks, washing windows, trapping Asian lady beetles, etc. haha) and Sparky is going to craft like crazy for the last little push for her shop on Etsy, JeanBeanGifts for the holidays. Yes, we have an invasion of Asian lady beetles. And they stink with their own little whiff just like stink bugs, only not as bad, when you catch them and squish them.  Ugh. Sparky is over the cuteness factor of ladybugs. They are still coming out of the woodwork even though we are in a different location now. Guess they came along for the ride!

We really like Colorado River RV park in the Thousand Trails system. It's in the boonies, true, but it's peaceful and quiet. The park is putting in over 100 brand new RV sites that are supposed to be finished early in January. That will help the park tremendously, to be able to have more 50 amp full hookup sites. They are currently limited in how many sites they have that are 50 amp full hookup. We are in a 30 amp site, which means we have to really be careful what appliances we run at the same time, or we will trip the breaker. The park gives you a sheet of what amps different appliances use, so that is really helpful for any newbies out there. It's surprising how fast amps add up! Here is a quick short list of amp usage on a typical RV:

ONE AC-15,000 BTU:  12.5.   Electric water heater: 12.5   Microwave: 12.8   

electric coffee pot 9.0    toaster: 10   Hair dryer: 10.  TV: 2.    Electric frying pan: 10.  Iron: 10.    

Food processor: 6.      Crockpot: 1.5    Dirt Devil hand vac: 2

If you need to know how many amps something takes, usually the watts are listed on the appliance. Divide the watts by 120 (volts) and that gives you the amps. To get the watts, multiply the amps by 120 (volts).

There are nice walking trails here, one runs all around the edges of the park, and then some that crisscross inside the park. You can ride your bike around on the trails if you have hybrid tires, the trails are a little like dual track mountain bike trails, rough with occasional rocks, so sometimes Sparky walks, and sometimes she rides. 

The deer come into the park every night almost...They feed in the fields in-between the different campground levels and wander around the campground sites sometimes. There are farmlands/ranches around the park, so we have a beautiful view out our back window of the deer grazing at dusk in the hay fields. There are also Texas native pecan trees and you are welcome to gather the nuts if they are falling while you are here!

The Colorado River runs beside the campground, but it's at extremely low levels right now, and there's no danger of any flooding, which has been known to happen in the past. It's not right close to the campsites, you have to walk down below the last campground level down to the boat ramp to see it. Sites are roomy down in the "D" level, but there are no 50 amp sites in this section. We have water, electric and sewer, just our electric is reduced. No problem, it's chilly here. We would definitely need 50 amp if it was summer time, with two AC's in our fifth wheel.

There is an H-E-B grocery store in town and a couple of good local restaurants for a break from cooking. (Sparky likes to take LOTS of cooking breaks, laughs Eldo.)

And with that, we will see you later....Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving and got to see their families.....take care!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Buc-ees Experience!

Huntsville, TX.    High: 70.  Low: 56.   Sunny Ridge RV Park.   Site: 9

5G AT&T very fast. T-Mobile: 50 download, upload 4.8 

Today was a travel day. We usually have planned out in the day or two before leaving about how many miles we are going to travel, and Eldo has done his usual heavy researching into campgrounds along the way. How do we find them? Eldo loves to use the RV Parky app. It's great. You put in a city about where you'd like to spot the campgrounds and they pop up on the map. Then you click the little campground icon, and a whole bunch of quick info comes up--amenities, type of sites, rate, reviews, etc. The website link for the campground is also there.

We also use Trip Wizard, which is a whole lot more complicated and not very user friendly, in our opinion. Some RVers love it. It has a ton more features for the RVer, and if you are patient and don't mind a steep learning curve, again, in our opinion, it's an excellent resource as well. We just have a lot of trouble navigating and using the maps and tech involved with that program. For example, pinching and expanding the map portion. It jumps all over the place! It's not an app but a program you pay for and install on your computer. So RV Parky is our first go to for campground location and info.

But this time we were a little more loosey goosey. Eldo decided that there were two possible travel/distance scenarios and that we would just start out and drive, and depending on how he was feeling today (fatigue, traffic congestion, and any other surprise factors) we would pick a destination between the two, and Sparky would call ahead on the road to the campground to confirm they had spots available. So off we went. 

Our route was on highway 377 out of Gordonville, TX, and GPS rerouted the normal route (82) because a portion of 75 was closed. We had to drive through Dallas no matter what. We were impressed with the beautiful infrastructure of the city's bridges and underpasses. They must be pretty new! Beautiful colors in the concrete, salmon and sage green, and Texas stars as well.

While we were driving, Sparky called the first campground destination and they did not have sites for a big rig our size for tonight. We called the second campground, Sunny Ridge RV Park near Huntsville, TX. Room to spare, he says! So we drove 268 miles today total to the park which is a nice driving distance instead of the usual 350+ we do often and it will give us another short drive tomorrow to our destination Thousand Trails Park in Columbus, TX, called Colorado River.

Sunny Ridge RV site #9

Sunny Ridge RV Park is a beautiful little park outside of Huntsville, TX between Huntsville and Madisonville. They have about 30 sites, and pull thrus are available. Sites are finely crushed limestone (?) gravel and some slope more than others so leveling could be a little tricky depending on the site you get. The owner is super friendly and super helpful. We had a little troubling leveling as the middle stabilizer jacks would not come down. But the main ones did, so we are level and stable as we can be on this site.

The bathroom and laundry facilities are new and beautiful, rivaling the amenities of much higher priced RV resorts. Those are the nicest shower doors Sparky has EVER seen in a campground. (see photo at right).We are only here one night on our way to Columbus, TX, or we'd definitely think about staying longer. 35.00 a night is a VERY reasonable price. Very close to I-45 so easy to get to. We highly recommend this park.

Since we got to our park at a great hour in the middle of the afternoon, we wanted to go check out Buc-ees--THE biggest travel station/rest stop/fueling station chain in Texas. It has a reputation for the cleanest bathrooms (Sparky did not check that out, we'll take their word for it), 

and the world's largest convenience store, the Buc-ees in New Braunfels, TX, is 66,355 square feet! BUT--They are going to open an even bigger one in Sevierville, TN, which will be 74,000 square feet, have 120 fueling stations, electric car charging, and a 250 ft. car wash. HA! Not everything is bigger in Texas!

That's all jerky!
They are famous for their HUGE numbers of gas pumps, the biggest jerky bar in the US, (well, it sure looked like it!) the unique gifts, home decor, and unique foods at each of their stores. Buc-ees is an experience that you have to check out. 

Want to brand your own steak when you cook on the grill? Buc-ees has got you covered. With your own branding iron.

Sparky saw jammies she wanted, tee shirts, snacks and all kinds of things. There were really nice gift ideas there from cookware to clothing. They even sold Columbia sportswear there. But because it was so crowded, she just looked and checked it out and didn't buy a thing! (WHOA! THAT is unheard of! laughs Eldo.) What a store! Don't you just love these Beaver nuggets? There were a bazillion flavors to choose from. So appetizing! Ugh. That's all we have to say....
Are we having fun yet?

And we are back out on the road tomorrow to Columbus, Texas...See you on the road!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

HOWDY, Y'all!

Gordonville, Tx.  Lake Texoma Thousand Trails RV park

Wifi: AT&T is ok, 5G.  T-Mobile, so-so

High: mid 60's      Low: 40's-50's.  Site: Q16 Back in, full hookup

Howdy! You know you are in northern Texas when you see Texas longhorn cattle, dry dusty prairies, brown landscapes, and big bugs. Everything is bigger in Texas, right?

We have arrived in northern Texas and have been here for a week and a half. Only a few more days, and we move to the next Thousand Trails park in Columbus, TX.
  We've been busy! To start off, here's our park....Lake Texoma...300 acres about a mile from the very large Lake Texoma, which is the "Striped Bass Capital of the World". We'd get excited about that, but neither of us fish. The park is about three miles from the Oklahoma border, so we are just inside Texas at the moment. There is a terrific hiking trail right near the bridge after you cross the lake into Texas, called the Cross Timbers hiking trail...more about that in just a bit.

There are boat ramps, fishing docks, a LOT of two tired track trails (old campground trails? ATV trails?) to explore, lots of trees but they are not a problem at the park when parking and situating your rig. 

It's just nice to have shade when it's hot. There are two swimming pools-one of which is being renovated, and candy bars and ice cream at the office (we are regulars, haha). We believe the campground is situated next to Corps of Engineer land and that the park shares some of this land, is Sparky's understanding. There is a Corps of Engineer park right at the bridge crossing on the Texas side called Juniper Point, which is about 3 miles from our park and there are multiple RV parks near completion or in development near Lake Texoma. It must be a hot spot in the summertime! There are at least three marinas in the area as well. At one of the marinas, the closest one to the park, is a decent restaurant called Pelican's Landing. As far as any other shopping/dining, you have to drive about 25 miles, so stock up before coming in. We've been using the Dollar Tree for basic needs, it's a nice little store about a mile from the park. Gordonville is a super small town. The post office is about a two car parking spot with a cool antique gas station across the street.

Nearest big town is probably Sherman, about 25 miles away. HOBBY LOBBY? YES! JOANN FABRICS--YES! (Yep, Sparky has been to see them several times since we've been here, explains Eldo.) Sparky ALWAYS has a craft project that needs SOMETHING! Here's a couple of the latest she has completed this week....A wool table topper....

Ornaments....Hand stamped copper with little ornament symbols on the edges and holiday words inside the ornament....
A table runner for Sparky's daughter....Sparky LOVES the red truck decor theme that is so currently popular. Guess boomers are loving the nostalgia theme....

Back to the park..The park has gravel sites, most are fairly level. Interior roads are bad, lots of potholes and patch jobs, and if you ride a bike, be careful, you'll be dodging them constantly. For people who know the TT system and parks, the roads remind us of the conditions at Lake Conroe. Bathrooms and showers are showing their age, but they are clean. They do seem to be having electrical problems as the whole row behind us in the park is out of commission due to electrical problems They are updating electric in the park and recently put in a lot of new 50 amp boxes. Unfortunately, quite a few of those sites do NOT have sewer so they are just water and electric.

The lake is not very developed as far as houses or vacation homes. It looks very bare around its shores. Guess it's a boaters' lake for fisherman and sailors.

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge is 17 miles from the park. It's worth a trip there to take the auto tour (very informative!) around the refuge as the visitor's center is currently closed. (November 2021) It consists of 11,320 acres and five hiking trails and is open sunrise to sunset. The longest trail is Meadow Pond Trail and is 5.7 miles round trip. What's interesting about this refuge is that cover 300 acres of crops are grown to actively manage and support the wildlife and birds there. In other words, farming there is for the birds! We saw THOUSANDS  of white geese on our one visit there and some northern shoveler ducks. The refuge is a stopping grounds for migrating birds south in November and many species have been spotted there. 

A zoo is 25 miles away, the Red River Historical Museum 30 miles, and the Cross Timbers hiking trail about three miles from the campground. (Sparky, you said that, reminds E. She must really like it). Yes, she did!

Back to the hiking trail---Cross Timbers Lake Texoma Trail....accessed at the Juniper Point Corps of Engineer Park at Lake Texoma. It's a FOURTEEN mile trail. Sparky did 4.5 miles total and the first part was VERY strenuous, even more so with sciatica constantly reminding her --YOU SHOULDN'T DO THIS! so she took it easy. Constant ups and downs, narrow rocky, root filled paths and slippery leaves covering everything. You are climbing up and down through the forest around the lake. There are some great views so check out the reviews on the All Trails app. Sparky loved this bench that somehow made it up through a very narrow, steep trail section and planted itself under the rock shelf.

Sparky spotted the ideal resting place for turtles, but as far away as she was, they either heard her or saw her? and one by one, plopped into the water as she hiked way above them. Maybe something else spooked them! (You have to look VERY closely at the dots on the log to see all of them, haha. Sorry about that!)

At another clearing, there was a stone fire pit, logs conveniently chopped and ready to use for the fire, AND---hot dog forks hung on the tree trunk! But this is a public trail, so that was kinda weird. Who's going to be carrying hot dogs on the trail, unless you know about this ahead of time, or that's one of your quickie meals while back packing!

Sparky highly recommends this hike if you want a workout, haha. Can't speak to the rest of the trail except you pass views of three marinas around Lake Texoma, they say, with more nice views of the lake. The trail is well marked with white circle trail markers and notice that they place markers high and low, awwww...Thats nice,
as Sparky is looking at her feet most of the time so that lower one is perfect!

With that, my friends, we say goodbye for now, and see you down the road....

sculptures outside a cattle/horse ranch