Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bye, Bye Colorado River, Hello Lake Conroe and Leveling Problems

Weather--high 70, sunny, low 48                        Site G-71

After three weeks at Colorado River Thousand Trails Park, here's our take on it.... 

1. It's very peaceful and quiet...it seems to attract more retirees than families, probably because the amenities are very limited and more dated than many RV parks. There's not as much to do for families in the area. It's distant from any major town/shopping centers as well. But--we still enjoyed it very much.

2. There are herds of deer that wander the fields every day in the early morning and at dusk. They don't bother campers or intrude on the visitors, and they aren't fed by the campers, so they do their thing and you can just enjoy them when you encounter them. They are wary, but not afraid of you. We saw a couple of 8 pointer bucks while we were there!

3. The painted churches in the area are a must see. So beautiful and one friend said they reminded her of churches in Europe. They should as the Czech and German immigrants are the designers of these beautiful churches. (See January 19, 2021 post)

4. There is a shooting club nearby that practices on the weekends. Don't worry about that...you can safely hike the nature trail. It's a bunch of dudes who are interested in historical guns before 1916 (?), guy from the office explained, so the firepower is not to be nervous about. Sparky thought they were hunting very close by, but nope! Just target shooting on state inspected premises. Sparky walked the nature trail twice a day. You can get almost three miles in if you walk the entire perimeter and then in and out of the roads in the different sections. LOTS of bluebirds and warblers on the back side of the trail.

5. There are other interests in the area. There's the Stanzel Model Aircraft museum, the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange, the Texas Polka Museum, and the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center.

6. Eating places? Not too many that we tried while we were here. Whataburger (in Columbus) has good burgers, Schobel's Restaurant (in Columbus) has good home cooked food, and we also tried Becky's in Columbus once. We didn't go back because staff was not wearing masks. Nice breakfast, though. Here are a couple more places that the locals recommend: Oakridge Smokehouse (how come we didn't try THAT one? wonders Eldo), the Red Vault Bistro (how come we didn't try THAT one, wonders Sparky). We did not discover these names until we came across a local brochure and we were at the end of our stay. NEXT time, says Sparky. OH! And there are THREE wineries here in the area. (Next time for SURE! says Sparky.) 

And off we went, back to Lake Conroe, TX, to the Thousand Trails park there, our second stay for the winter season. Our old site was open, but we found one closer to the pickle ball courts and laundry, so here we are for another three weeks. Sparky's grandson and daughter are 40 minutes away, so a chance to visit once again. AND--there's a new laundry house close by our site--TWENTY washing machines. When you don't have a washer/dryer onboard, that's great news!

So we drive in and check in at the gate house. They weren't able to tell us which sites were open, so we had to drive around looking for an open site with the big rig in tow. We chose G-71 and THOUGHT it looked level. Here's the site right next to us as an example. Looks pretty level, right? uh, NOPE! 

Not only was there a slope downhill, but a slope from side to side. You couldn't really tell by looking at it, but the automatic levelers knew it from attempt #1. On the first try, the center stabilizers would not engage and the red light came on, telling us there was a fault in the leveling system, meaning, try again, folks! We have a system of using nice thick wood blocks under the jacks and varying how many we put under the front jacks and then the center and rear jacks, and usually it works very well with one or two blocks under each jack. 

You have to access how far the jacks will be extending to decide how many blocks to set under each jack. There are no set numbers here, you just eyeball it and with each site experience, you learn what works and what doesn't.

Attempt #2, retract all the jacks and try again. This time we moved some blocks around and BOTH tires on the left side of the coach were raised off the ground. That is not something you want. You want as much ground contact as possible with chocked wheels and tire contact. It's dangerous to have any tires off the ground, certainly not two of them, so we had two options at this point: 1. find another site, or 2. move the rig on the site one way or another, side to side or forward or backwards so it's sitting on a more level part of the site. So we retract the jacks again, hook up the fifth wheel, back in and out a couple of times, and Eldy maneuvers the rig closer to the other side of the site.

Attempt #3, third time's the charm! It worked. By moving the rig just a little bit more side to side and hugging the site a little further away from the electric pedestal and water hookups, we took out the variable of the sloping lean on one side, and were able to level ourselves with just one tire slightly off the ground. Not perfect, but we wedged wood and lodged the tire so it was secure in place. The leveling test is --open the bathroom door (which is in the middle of the rig) and see if it swings open all the way (you're not as level as you wanted to be) or it opens and stays right where you opened it (You did it! You're level!) Whew! that only took about an hour. 

What was comforting to us is a big class A motorhome came in after us this afternoon right next door and had the very same problem with a tire off the ground despite trying their leveling system twice. Lake Conroe has a lot of sites that appear level, but fool you when you get situated into the site. 

We are happy to be back here and near civilization and shopping. (That means Sparky will be heading to Hobby Lobby or Michaels or Joanns soon, explains Eldo.) "Uh, honey, could you drive me to Hobby Lobby this afternoon?" sweetly asks Sparky.... (See, I told you!) Sparky is crafting for Valentine's Day and Easter now....a sample...tea origami pouches with honey crystals and tea. 

And some cute felt Easter egg ornaments.

That's it for now....settling in and ready for whatever comes our way...                                      
                                            See you later!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Jaw Droppingly Beautiful Painted Churches of Hill Country in Texas

 Columbus, Texas might be in the middle of nowhere, and you might think there is very little to do here, but you'd be wrong!

Sparky had heard about the "painted churches being on every Texan's bucket list", so she just had to find out what that was all about.

There are NINE (?) churches to be seen on a drivable tour that can easily be done in a half day's drive, depending on how much time you want to spend at each location, and how good a navigator you are. And no....Sparky did not get lost even though she drove herself today! (THAT'S a first, Eldo chimes in.) Hey, now... Sparky is getting better at getting around with a decent map and decent GPS. But she did have to call Eldo and ask did she want to get on I-10 east coming back? Or I-10 west to get back to the campground? (It's east-She just wanted to confirm with Eldo as the GPS does make mistakes sometimes!).This was an easy driving tour.  The map is $5.00 from the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce, you can drive yourself around or have a guided tour when they offer them. It's a good map. (VERY IMPORTANT for Sparky to have, haha.) Mileages are on the map so you can watch for landmarks and turning points from stop to stop. Sparky chose four to visit today, or run the risk of getting lost out in the boonies on a limited tank of gas. (oopsie...forgot to fill up before heading out!)

A little background...The Germans and Czechs settled this central area of Texas back in the mid 19th century. They brought their foods, their clothing styles, their language, and their heritage with them. One of the unique ways to celebrate their faith, was to paint the insides of their churches in the most beautiful and amazing designs, as the outsides look like ordinary countryside churches. The church on the left is St. Mary's Catholic Church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Praha, stop #1 from the Chamber of Commerce center in Schulenburg, where Sparky picked up her map. Sparky didn't encounter a single soul today while driving around, so it was wonderful to take her time, say a few prayers of thanks, and take in the beauty of each church. WOW! was all she could say, over and over. Lots of gold leaf, bright colors, and beautifully hand painted designs.

The churches are all open during the week from 9:00 AM to 4:00PM and the best days to visit are Monday thru Thursday.

Church #2--St. Mary's Catholic Church, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, High Hill. (outside shown on the left).This church is known as the "Queen of the Painted Churches" and you can see why. Sparky was in awe of the intricate paintings and trim work...WOW! The colors were so vibrant! Sparky doesn't know the age of the interiors, but thinks they are originally from the 1800's? A guided tour would have been wonderful, but during this difficult time, it was not possible to get one scheduled.
Here is a detailed close up of the arch above the sanctuary.

And here is a view from the side.....

Church #3--St. John, The Baptist--Ammannsville--built in 1917 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is in the Gothic Revival style...

The interior was just as breathtakingly beautiful as the previous church.

This church was in the palette of pinks and greens... 

You could sit there and take photo after photo after photo. It was hard to pick the best ones for the blog!

 A view from the side of the church.....

Church #4--Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church,
Dubina. There was something going on at the church today, so it was locked. Sparky got to look inside the locked gates and saw this:

Now, to get back home...Right next to the church was a questionable gravel road called Piano Bridge Road. The map showed if Sparky went that way, she'd be on her way to getting back to I-10 and back to the campground. Just one problem...there was a sign shortly after getting on the road that said, "WEAK BRIDGE".  "NO TURNAROUND". Hm-m-m-m-m...Does that mean big honkin' trucks like a Dodge Ram 3500 dually shouldn't be going on the bridge? Does it mean semis? Sparky nervously started down the road after seeing a pickup truck head that way. And here comes the bridge....a one-lane...rickety, creaking, groaning trestle style bridge from 1880's. Only Sparky didn't know that until later.

Sparky made it back without difficulties! Whew! The church tour was cool, she highly recommends it, especially with a guide. You would get so much more history that way...Hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of the churches today....Bye for now.....

Thursday, January 7, 2021

You Never Know Who or What You Will Meet on a Trail....

Colorado River Thousand Trails   High: 63   Low: 42   Site: A24

We've been here four days at Thousand Trails Colorado River, and we love it! 

The park is one of the smaller ones in the Thousand Trails system, 138 sites, located in the small town of Columbus, TX. It is located midway between Houston and San Antonio and is open year round. It also lies along the Colorado River. We like it for a number of reasons....

It is very quiet, it doesn't have the atmosphere of larger Thousand Trails parks that have tons of sites close together, activities, noise, and bad interior roads. Many of the Thousand Trails parks cater to the annual or seasonal rentals, leaving less sites available to people who just want to stay two to three weeks. This park seems to have enough room for people passing through, and the sites are spacious enough that you aren't right on top of your neighbor. There are lots of big oaks and pecan trees, but they are around the sites, not in them and do not cause a problem. We are here for three weeks and plan to let you know what there is to do for activities in this area in the days to come. So stay tuned to the blog if you are interested! Columbus is a VERY small town but there are some cool things in the area...a painted churches tour, for one, that Sparky plans on checking out.

There is a herd of deer that come in the mornings and the evenings, and people leave them alone and haven't fed them so they are not an annoyance but a beautiful reminder of nature to enjoy. People walk by or drive by the herd, and the deer are aware and watching, but they continue to feed. We've seen a big six point buck out our back window just passing through.

We have a wonderful site that was assigned to us. It has a nice large concrete patio. We think it's for an annual or seasonal rental, as the other sites in other parts of the park are just gravel and grass. But no complaints here!

There is a small outdoor pool, laundry, one pickle ball court (yay!) mini golf and an indoor hot tub. The facilities are dated, but kept clean and functional. The literature says they have a golf cart theater (!), but that's gone by the wayside for now. Sparky's favorite part of the park? The beautiful nature trail that winds all around the park with some extensions and loops that can easily give you a nice two miles plus walk if you like to do that. Sparky was out walking yesterday, and rounded the bend, and saw this:
BISON POOP! Well, there IS a ranch across the park that has a herd of bison. Maybe one of them got loose????  Sparky continued on with her walk. More poop, bigger piles...Can it be?????  All of a sudden, Sparky rounds the bend and comes across......Four bovine...COWS! She let out a little OMG as she was so startled, and they took off running like a bat out of hell. (They are bogeying bovine in this photo...BIG time!) haha...
Sorry for the bad photo, she didn't have time to raise to raise her phone camera up and then get TWO MORE, running across in front of her that were late to the party! Off they ran into the brush. Sparky thinks the neighboring ranch property might not have a fence that is intact as there have been MULTIPLE footprints and big poop the last two days on this section of the trail. OR, these are free range cattle and they go wherever the fancy strikes them. You just never expect to see cattle on a walking trail, that's for sure!

Well, that's it for today...it's a wrap....and it's time to say good nite to the deer and you guys, too....Bye for now....