Saturday, February 27, 2021

More Things to do in Harlingen, Texas Area

We were driving around town one day running errands and saw a HUGE flock of birds/ducks at a local park, Pendleton Park in Harlingen. Sparky got all excited..."ELDY!! We have to stop at this park! Look at all those birds/ducks/wildlife!" He gamely pulls over into the park and prepares to sit for awhile so Sparky can capture some photos.

Black bellied whistling ducks
 It was one of the largest flocks of  black bellied whistling ducks Sparky had ever seen. This is their hangout here in Harlingen. (How'd you like all that alliteration?! The teacher in me can't help myself) There must have been almost a hundred, and they were whistling to beat the band, haha! It sounds just like a whole bunch of bad whistlers, lol....Not sure if they were looking for a mate, taking a migratory break, or if they are here all the time, but they were all around the pond in droves at Pendleton Park. They are a cool looking species. They rest on one leg. These each have a leg tucked up under their feathers. You'd think they'd get really tired just standing on one leg!

Another cool species we saw at the same park was the Muscovy duck. It's the only domestic duck not descended from mallards. These strange, warty faced male ducks are the largest duck in North America. When they are young, they are considered good eating! They've been around for a very long time. The Aztec rulers wore cloaks made from their feathers. You can see why in the photo below.

A mother's got to love this face, right?

On another day, we headed out to Bentsen Palms State Park, in Mission, TX. It was about an hour's drive. We just wanted to check it out and as we got there later in the afternoon, we saw that there was a
lot more to explore than in just a day. There are nice trails there of short duration, anywhere from under a mile to a couple of miles. There are bird blinds and trails that seem to attract certain species. We saw a green jay just a few minutes after paying our 5.00 entry fee! What a gorgeous SW Texas bird! Sparky is having all kinds of problems with the focus on her Nikon Coolpix point and shoot 950 camera. It won't focus despite lots of different efforts to fix the problem and beyond the obvious ones like make sure it's on autofocus, or do a factory reset and try all kinds of different settings. It's still under warranty, so it's going back to the factory. The first five months, it worked great! Sparky managed to catch the cardinal before we headed over to another part of the park.

We are going to head back with our bikes soon. There's a butterfly center just down the road from the park as well. We will report back on that soon. We'd like to say we have all our ducks in a row, but when you are RVing, there's always something else that is going to pop up to change your plans.

One of those things was we got to get our vaccinations so now we will be spending an extra week added onto our three week stay here in Harlingen. 

Eldy had been watching and registering us everywhere he could think of, and we were beginning to think we were in RV No Man's Land for a vaccination--not a Texas resident but here for the winter in Texas, Florida resident but not in Florida. UNTIL---he got a news article on his phone saying that a pop up clinic was opening up in Harlingen yesterday. It started at 8:00 AM. You had to come in and get a wristband. There were 1,000 allotted. You get a wristband, you get to get vaccinated THE NEXT DAY. It was about 2:30 when he saw the news article. No way, there's probably not going to be any left. BUT--Eldo doesn't give up that easily. He called the city health department THREE times to find out if they had any left. He got through on the third try. They had a few left, they said. We boogied over there, got in line, and they shut down the line RIGHT AFTER US. Sparky was #999, Eldo was #1,000. We were able to be vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. Four weeks from now, we go back. So-o-o-o...with all this extra time in the valley, we should know the area pretty well by the time we get ready to leave in late March...Stick around, there'll be more to share! We love having you along for the ride, wherever we go....Thank you for reading!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 2

Sunshine RV Park     Site: 749      High: 87  Low: 67

After spending hours trying to disassemble a recalcitrant motor, Tim Fairchild, of Fair RV Inspection, finally broke it loose yesterday after a long afternoon. He wanted to take it to his shop to see if he could get it to work, recheck schematics and talk to the company who makes the slide modules, Lippert. He had checked all the wiring to the batteries, all the connections to the motor, but the motor was still not working when it was hooked up to our rig.  Looked like we would be here for another day.

The next day he was back bright and early to try again. He reported he got the first motor working. This time he took off the second motor and tested it. It worked just fine. Then he tested trying to get the slide closed manually. It was interesting to see how the guys ratcheted the big heavy slide open and closed with their tools. If we couldn't get the motors to work, we at least knew we could get the slide in if we had to order another motor.

The cost of a new motor? About a thousand dollars from Lippert. Tim was shocked at the price. He said, "Lippert must think a lot of their motors!" We were shocked at the price, too. Tim said he thought he might be able to find one cheaper than direct from Lippert. At any rate, they reassembled both motors, and his assistant said he thought one of the connections seemed to seat itself better as they pieced everything back together. Lo and behold, when they pushed the button to retract the slide, it came in. And went out. And came back in.

"Woo hoo!" Sparky shouted. "You're the man!" We were so happy! We were going to be able to leave the park that same afternoon, headed for our next destination, Sunshine RV Park, also in Harlingen. Why didn't we just stay put? Because the park we were in, only allows a two week stay with our Thousand Trails membership, you go out for a week, then you can come back in again if you wish. It's just how it works. They try to cycle people in and out so more people can visit the parks in the system. At the next park, we can stay for THREE weeks for free before we have to move out and change parks.

We HIGHLY recommend Fair RV Inspection for any repairs in the Harlingen, TX area. Tim is highly qualified and has additional training in slides and is a licensed Lippert dealer. He is out of Mercedes, TX and is a full time RVer so he understands the needs of his traveling customers. He is also very patient and VERY fair with his prices. He could have told us we needed a new motor, and we could have been stuck for weeks in the area, but he persisted and problem solved until he got it fixed. He was on the phone with Lippert each day, making sure he was accurate and efficient with his repair efforts. RVs with all their hidden wiring, and inaccessible places where manufacturers place important components and wiring is very complex. Every RV is different, even among the same manufacturer models. It can be a very challenging fix when things go wrong. Thank you, Tim and Terry!

We headed over to Sunshine RV Park yesterday afternoon. This park is just a couple of miles down the road from Tropic Winds RV Park, where we just left. It has over a thousand sites, many are older trailers and park models. Both parks are located in the heart of the Rio Grand Valley. It is VERY windy here most of the time. Fishing and bird watching are supposed to be outstanding here. Sparky will say, it's not a pretty area, after coming from SW Florida, where landscaping is THE artwork of the changed out for each season in all the subdivisions (of Bradenton and Sarasota). Not here, it's dry, it's dusty, and it's much more desert like. Everything is gray and brown, kind of like winter up north without the snow. You don't see flowers in people's yards, or even shrubs. Maybe it's just the area where we are, it's a little on the dreary side. But we like the park. The people who work the front office are super friendly and helpful.

Here are some of the activities pre-Covid with a few going on now:

There are two sections to this park. If you are a Thousand Trails member, you will probably be assigned to the "Lakeside" area of the park, it has newer facilities in that section. Sites have reasonable room between them, there is a small pool, spa, and a classroom/kitchen area. The bigger section, the main park, has the same--a pool, a spa, a library, activities buildings and individual rooms for specific activities like cards, billiards, and the activities mentioned above plus they have the biggest laundry room Sparky has ever seen!

There are three pickle ball courts, one outside and two inside. 

We are in a very nice part of the park. Someone was in our spot when we got here, so we had to be moved to a different site. We have a picnic table--YAY!

Sites are laid out like a parking lot in the newer the older one we are in, they vary in their positioning. We are in a pull through, we love that as well.
We are looking forward to checking out more than one wildlife refuge and a couple of birding centers in the area very soon....And, a trip over the border, too....Does Sparky know any Spanish? No habla Espanol, seƱor....See you later!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Houston, We Have a Problem....Part 1

 Well, OK, technically, it's Harlingen, TX. Wrong city, but right state. Sparky always liked that tag line....

Today was moving day....Key word, "WAS"...we went to pull in the slides, and the BIG one, the big wall slide with the heavy residential fridge didn't budge. No sound, no power, nada, nothing. It's an RVer's worst nightmare. Slide problems are notoriously difficult to solve. The other slides work fine, so that says something about power not making it to the big one. First, we tried unhooking the power cord from the power pedestal, flipping the battery disconnect switch to shut off all power from the batteries to the rig, then reversing the steps and turning everything back on. Nope, nada, nothing.

Next step--get on the phone to Jayco. They tell us there is a power module in the main bathroom that has a reset button and you push that button six times, then on the seventh time you hold it and the other person tries to bring in the slide by pushing the button. We thought the main bathroom meant the big bathroom upstairs. An hour later, after Sparky had removed every single thing from every single cabinet, (And that included all her craft stuff, explains Eldo), there was no switch box to be found. Well, maybe it was outside. Another call to the RV place that is a Jayco dealer in Indiana. They said it should be on the driver's side in the bay, behind an access panel, (maybe).

For the next hour, we removed stuff from the bay, moved it around and looked for the switch box. FOUND IT!

Wrong switch module...that was for the bedroom slide. It works great. Keep looking. Another call back to Jayco. They sent a schematic diagram to Eldy. We look at it. Ever tried to read one of those? Jayco says it's 56" from the floor and they insist it's in the main bathroom. They keep saying it's "above the shelf". Sparky says, "You mean the bathroom with the double sinks and double vanity cabinets, right?" No, it's the bathroom that is in front of the front door. OOOOOOHHHHHHH...that's not the main bathroom, that's the HALF bathroom. Sparky goes looking again. She swears there is no module box and shines a flashlight in the cabinet. The schematic says there is one.

THEN......she got WAY down, almost upside down herself and peered UP into the dark cabinet corner. AHA! There it was. Thirty-one inches from the floor. It was
installed UPSIDE DOWN, jammed into the right corner of the lower cabinet and with bifocals, impossible to see the entire box, to locate a teeny weensie reset button that takes a paper clip or pencil point to push it. Sparky took a photo to email the techs. The manufacturer put it in a narrow, 5.75" shelf corner, so narrow you can't stick your head in there to get a good look at it. They COULD have put it in the lower bottom cabinet which is 16" tall and Sparky COULD have had a fighting chance to find the reset switch. 
NOW WHAT????? 

We call in reinforcements. There are NOT a lot of RV repair places in Harlingen that work with slide problems, but we got a guy who seems to know his stuff, and is a Lippert dealer (the company that makes our slide motors/modules.) The company is Fair Mobile RV Repair and Inspection. He started at 12:30 and 4.5 hours later, he had tested the batteries thoroughly, was able to read the error codes on the upside down slide module in the bathroom (he said that's how they are all installed for the big living room slides on our Jayco model!) and said that it was probably a bad motor. (There are two motors for the big living room side). If he gets the one motor off, then we can use the power from the second motor to move one side of the slide and with the guys pushing in on the other side, (the one with the motor out), and that way we will get the slide in. 

The motor was THE WORST to try and get it removed from the slide. Someone who doesn't RV asked for clarification about what a slide is. It's the extensions of the rig that slide out when you push a button to extend your living space. Here are two of our 3 slides, the other one is on the other side:

We were frustrated, he was frustrated, and on the phone a lot to Lippert. Finally, it was free and clear after several hours of ominous banging, pounding and sawing. We were nervous wrecks. That should have taken care of the error codes because there was a second motor that operates the slide and it should be ok. Right? WRONG! The error code was still there and exhibiting the same errors. Sigh....By the way....Sparky was not seeing things or missing things when she tried to read the slide module upside down in the 5" deep shelf space. There was NO RESET button as Jayco had said there would be. Apparently, Jayco's customer support reps are not aware that the particular slide mechanism model we have for the living room slide is NOT the same slide model they have specs for at the help center. So no reset button. Geez, Louise...hope they get THAT straightened out soon. Sparky is going to read them the riot act tomorrow. (Now, Sparky, simmer down, cautions Eldo.)

At this point, we all called it a day....The repair guy is coming back tomorrow with fresh information from Lippert (the slide/jacks mechanism company), he's going to study the diagrams and schematics again, talk to Lippert and see if there is anything else we can do to get that slide in. We may be looking at TWO new motors for the slide. Stay tuned for part 2......

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Things to do in Harlingen, TX

We always stop at a the visitor's center to get info wherever we go. We talk to others at our park and find out local eating places, places of interest, and then make a list of things we'd like to do. We stopped at the visitors' center in Harlingen, and Sparky scooped up bags of info on different areas in Texas. (Eldo heaves a big sigh's a lot of brochures and heavy paper!) Here's the first stop on our list, lots more things to do coming soon in the blog. 

Hugh Ramsey Nature Park. A fellow park resident told us he saw javelinas (have-a-leen-as) and there are bird blinds and feeders there. We hit the jackpot within two minutes of arriving there and starting down the first path...a bird blind right away, a half a dozen javelinas, AND tons of birds flitting and flying around. 

A javelina is similar to a wild boar, and NOT a pig, although they resemble one. They are also known as a collard peccary, you can see why! They weigh 40-60 pounds and stand about 20" tall. They have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell. They have scent glands on their backs and rub against each other resulting in a "herd" smell, so they can identify their social group. They are usually in groups of 6-12. People say you can often smell them before you see them as they have a strong musky smell. (We didn't smell anything!) They can be aggressive if babies are near, so be careful if you see them! 

The bird feeders were exceptionally active the day we visited.
"Harry, is that you?"

We saw cardinals, hummingbirds, sparrows, and we think warblers....This little guy landed on the hummingbird feeder, but didn't partake.

We also saw a large bird that we found out was a chachalaca. It's a tropical, long tailed chicken-like bird. They are common in this area, love thickets and brush, and walk along the branches of trees. They are a tree loving bird rather than a ground bird. They can make quite the ruckus, too! They are kind of a weather predictor, they kick up a fuss when the weather is going to change or a storm is approaching.

(The name of this bird makes Sparky think of the "Scoop, there it is! Scoop, there it is, shakalaka, shakalaka" chocolate chip cookie dough/insurance commercial. What the heck does ice cream have to do with insurance? Sparky doesn't get it.

Sparky went back a day later, and NADA. NOTHING. No birds at the. feeders, no javelinas. But it IS a really nice park to explore with uneven paths and LOTS of different kinds of cactus that got hit hard by the three day freeze. Dang, those spines are hard and SHARP!

Sparky is in explorer mode. For those of you who read the blog the first time around when we traveled in a motorhome, when Sparky would see something that would catch her eye while traveling, she would yell out, "Eldy--STOP THE CAR! I want to take a photo of__________". Eldo always stops if it's safe to do so, so today, Sparky saw some different ducks in a pond on South Padre Island while we were driving around today. "ELDY! YOU GOTTA STOP THE TRUCK. I SEE SOME COOL DUCKS!" Eldy just rolls his eyes, (No, I don't! he says) but he finds the quickest, safe place to pull over. Isn't he sweet? Sparky had to get a photo of this duck....It's a redheaded duck--that's it. That's the name of it.

The Rio Grand Valley is world renown for birding, we hope to see many more species of birds as we spend more time in the area. It's almost the time of year for spring migration for birds to be returning to the north.  There are several really cool wildlife refuges in the area, we will check them out and get back to you. See you later!

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Texas Vortex-Traffic and Weather!

 We thought we had it rough, being without power for 36 hours....

The areas north of us are much much worse...Until you are in the middle of it, you don't realize how bad it really is...we only have seen the edges of it down here in Harlingen, TX. Gas stations running out of gas, people lined up trying to get gas for generators and their cars 20-50 cars deep, blocking local streets as they try to jockey their way into the station.  Restaurants are running out of ingredients and menu items. Stores are running out of food, because supplies aren't making it to them. People are trying to find hotel rooms for their elderly parents and maybe themselves and their families, there aren't any for miles and miles. ATM machines are not working, so you can't get cash. (Sparky went to the grocery store and got a few items with cash back). Water station pipes and valves are freezing and bursting down here and all over Houston. Sixty percent of the homes are electric. Texas has been hit harder because of some lack of preparation by the power people, according to the governor. The Texas power grid is privatized and not subject to federal regulation and that's how they wanted it! It's complicated but right now, the blame game is in full force. But you probably already knew that, since it's all over the national news.

Dallas has been colder than Anchorage, Alaska! Whoa!

OK, so now that we have power, let's talk about the park! Tropic Winds RV Park in Harlingen, TX.

This is an Encore park, (they are a big player in the RV campground system), a gated community, and we can stay here two weeks for free with our Thousand Trails membership. The park is laid out in a grid, we like that..It makes it easier to get in and out of sites. It does have the look of a parking lot, however. 
There are palm trees scattered throughout but no trees at the sites. Bet it's hot in the summers! Sites are grass/concrete. They are all 40' X 50' for the RV sites. The concrete pads are 10' X 40'.You have to park your rig on the grass, and your vehicle on the concrete pad, so no picnic tables, and no fire pits--because it's so windy all the time here? (Uh, Sparky, it's called Tropic WINDS RV Park, patiently explains E.)
AHEM! They have a full service laundry, heated pool and spa, an ADA pool lift, 

lighted shuffleboard courts, lighted pickle ball courts, a free wifi hotspot, a bocce ball court, a fitness center, free Warner cable, and tons of activities when COVID lifts. Some of them include: concerts, dances and shows, yoga, aerobics and water classes, SPANISH lessons, organized tours, organized golf at nearby courses, woodshop club, kite flying club, Spanish classes, Silver Sneakers Club, AND remote control racing. Check out this RC course!

They have a beautiful little birding park nestled in at one end of the park. Unfortunately, the multiple day freeze damaged most of the plants and flowers. The cacti were just getting ready to bloom, too.

There is a little dog park and it's right in the same area as the bird park. Sparky wonders if the birdies will show up with dogs around, but it's been too cold to tell.

People have been wondering why we didn't just get up and move to where it was warmer before all these problems with the cold hit? But where were we going to go? Look where we are...Can't get much further south! The weather was just as bad east, west and north of us. So we just decided to tough out the weather and we made it through.

What are some of the cons of this park/area? Not very many!

1. No picnic table --Sparky really misses a picnic table...she likes to do crafts sitting at the table, and of course, eat outside! Not sure why they don't provide them here. It's the first campground we've been in since July that hasn't had them.

2. Harlingen streets in the business district/shopping areas are hard to navigate. They seem to be laid out willy nilly with highways and interstates intertwining, rapid lane changes and confusing lane decisions to be made at stoplights. It's laid out a lot like the Houston metro area which does a really great job of traffic direction and flow. But here, it's more tangled. It's very confusing the first few days you are here, at least we think so. 

We will be in the area three more weeks, and the weather is going to turn wonderful, soon. Sparky is looking forward to exploring South Padre Islands, some birding refuges, and butterflies, if they are still around! 

We plan on visiting a little town, Nuevo Progreso, just past the border bridge, in Mexico soon. We will tell you all about the experience of crossing the border and what lays just beyond! Apparently, this is a little town that is a mecca for RVers to get dental work and vision care at VERY reasonable prices for competent, excellent care. We will also be visiting the local interests and tourist attractions. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

If You Don't Like the Weather....Part 2

Harlingen, TX.     High: 26, low: 12!!!!     Site: 437 

WE-L-L-L...Last time Sparky said if you don't like the weather, you can just move. So we did, from Lake Conroe, TX, to Harlingen, TX, less than 30 miles to the Mexican border, where we thought it would be warmer and where the arctic vortex wouldn't find us.

WRONG! The arctic vortex is here in Harlingen. Here are the temps for a few days this week....We wouldn't have sweated these temperatures as we have a 4 season rig. It's supposed to handle temperatures down to 15 degrees.  We weren't too worried about Monday night until....The power started going off and on on Sunday.

It went off Monday morning at 3:00 AM. After 1:00 Monday afternoon, the power stayed off. O-o-o-k-a-a-ay....We do have two house batteries and they can run heat and lights, the water pump, the residential fridge, etc. for about 12-16 hours (?) before running down and getting low. In severe temperatures, you have to pick and choose very carefully what you are going to run and whether it uses 12 Volt battery or 110 electric. On battery power, we can't use a toaster or the microwave, for example. (Which is not a big problem, because Sparky doesn't cook as much as I thought she would, laughs E). A residential fridge which is entirely electric (instead of another type of fridge that is capable of using propane OR electric)

uses a LOT of battery power. We spent our first arctic night with the heat set to come on at 50 degrees. We didn't use lights, we used flashlights. By 4:00 in the morning, the batteries were down considerably and the house was 48 degrees inside. 

You are not supposed to let your house batteries (if you have deep cycle batteries) get below 50% power. If they do, they are damaged and will have to be replaced sooner rather than later. We don't know if that happened or not, we just know that some protective action occurred during the wee hours of the morning which alerted Eldy that the batteries were getting low. He heard a beep and got up at 4:00 AM and noticed some of our notification lights were out. We are thinking that the system went into a lower power mode of some sort so we shut the furnace off to protect the remaining battery power. (Sparky is not scientific or knowledgable enough to know how much amperage is needed for a residential fridge but you can look that up.) We are still learning how to manage our batteries and read the codes on the displays! They are NOT very user friendly!

We don't have a generator....many class A motorhomes (the ones that look like a deluxe bus going down the road towing a car behind) have one, but fifth wheels (a rig towed by a truck) that seems to be more of an option. Eldo has been researching them for a long time. They are kind of expensive and heavy, so we thought, nah, we won't be needing one. (Sparky has some large heavy craft supplies, so she MAY have give some more up, thinks Eldo). NO-O-O-O-O-o-o, say it isn't so! Sigh.....

We aren't going to be boon docking (camping without power/sewer hookup) and we are going to be chasing the warmer temperatures all year, so we haven't gotten a generator. (Yeah,'s that worked out for us? fusses Eldo.) Not too well. Sparky has gotten a TON of cooler weather, some snow, and sub freezing temperatures and Eldo, not so much of the warmth and sun.

So we are freezing our butts off here at the Tropic Winds RV Resort in Harlingen, TX, just a few miles north of the Mexican border, WA-A-A-Y down in the SE corner of Texas. It's nice park. It has lots of amenities, but none available at this time, both due to the weather and COVID. We'll show you more of the park next blog...but here's the rest of the saga.

After running our batteries dangerously low, and the power being out for over 20 hours, we had to figure out a way to charge up the batteries without park power. Possibility #1. buy a gas cans, figure out a way to keep the generator secure (people steal them), and add more weight to the already heavy rig. Decided the troubles of finding one and securing it were not necessary for 1-2 days of cold weather. We kept thinking the power would come back on before we did all that. NOPE! 

Possibility #2. Use the truck to charge up the batteries as if we were towing the rig down the road. Just hook up the electric cord to the second truck plug in the tailgate. Keep the truck running or you'll run the truck battery down. So we did that for an hour or so each day, which brought the temperature up in the rig, and kept the bays heated during the coldest part of the day.

Possibility #3..Encounter a wonderful neighbor--he loaned us his generator for couple of hours while he ran errands. That gave us some warmth during the second coldest day in the cold spell.

Possibility #4...Go get a hotel room. O-o-o-oh, YES! A real tub bath! Woo-hoo! Yeah, right. Everybody and their brother were trying to get one. We tried for two nights in a row...All hotels in the area for up to 25 miles were booked solid. Eldy booked the first night thru It said he got the last room. We arrived at the hotel, and they said, "Sorry, no rooms available." Sparky booked the second night for a hotel thru Expedia, they took her money immediately from her bank account, we arrived at the motel, and it was closed due to power outages. Back to the rig we went. On the way, we saw panic buying of gasoline, as quite a few stations were closed due to pumps not working because no electricity. Cars were lined up 25-30 cars in a row, blocking city streets, trying to get gas at the few stations open. We were glad we purchased gas before the arctic freeze hit. Maybe people were having to sleep in their cars, as 60% of the homes down here are all electric. It reminded us of the time we drove back thru the remnants of a hurricane and people were stranded on the highways because there was no gas to be had anywhere. Tonight's temperatures are supposed to be high thirties.

Ice crystals on our street sign

Life is an adventure for us on the road, that's for sure! See you later!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

If You Don't Like the Weather...You Can Just....

 MOVE!!!! That's the nice thing about RVing...Well, we don't like the weather. Nope, not even Sparky. (WHA-A-A-T???? She's ready to move??? But Sparky, you LOVE LOVE LOVE the cold weather, and it might SN_ _ _. Sh-h-h-h-h..don't say the "S" word, Sparky might change her mind, says Eldo.)

Nah, she won't change her mind...It's cold and getting colder. Yes, Sparky has her winter coat, ear warmers and gloves and lots of cold weather clothes, but hey--her man has been suffering for months with far below normal temperatures and rain everywhere we've been--Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, S. Dakota (snow!), etc. etc. ENOUGH! says E. Let's move--SOUTH...After Sparky saw this week's arctic vortex heading towards Texas, she's ready to move further south. 

We thought temperatures would be reasonably around the fifties to sixties, even seventies, and yes, they have been, BUT NOT THIS WEEK and not for days in a row. TWELVE DEGREES AT NIGHT??? We are OUTTA here, three days early.

So, Sparky had her last grandson fix today. She helped with a one day home schooling break from regular school and thoroughly enjoyed working with her little grandson again for a few hours today. It's always hard to say goodbye to family, but we've had LOTS of time over the past couple of months in the Texas area where Sparky's daughter and grandson live, so it's been wonderful to be able to visit.

A few odds and ends and a bit of randomness...Sparky found a nice little park down the street from the Thousand Trails Lake Conroe Park for walking, if you don't want to walk on uneven, potholed gravel roads in the park. It's a little roadside rest area with one picnic table and a .5 walking trail that winds around a woods in the middle of a subdivision on both sides. Sparky walked almost daily once she found it, for three miles at a time. Music helps the monotony of doing the circle roundy/loop at the little park. Or talking to friends and family on the phone.

Check out the ranch gate entrances as you travel around Texas. We think it's sort of a status thing or just a matter of pride in their homes and ranches. Some are simple and elegant, others are ornate and FANCY. The gates are AMAZING and interesting! Most of them we are driving by too quickly to get a photo, but it would be very cool to assemble a bunch of photos of all the elaborate gates on ranches that can be seen in Texas and that mark the owner's property.

And on to pizza! (Sparky said this post was going to be random! laughs E.) Most of the pizza places deliver to your park site. Good luck to the poor drivers who come after dark. Even though the ranger station hands them a map, the site numbers are not illuminated, and it's super difficult to be found. (Ask us how we know, laughs E.) We ordered pizza one night and the pizza guy forgot to ask, and Sparky forgot to say, what number site we were at. The ranger station tells them about where to go in the park and Sparky gave him the site number after the fact, but the delivery guy was told the wrong section. An hour and a half later, Sparky and a wonderful neighbor next door, Nancy, were out in in the traffic lane, masked, waving our arms like crazy to the Papa John's driver, driving around lost, yelling, "OVER HERE, OVER HERE!" Bet that would make a driver nervous, seeing two masked women trying to wave him down. Well, maybe not now, during Covid. By the way, Nancy and Grif...hope you might be reading! (By the way, watch out when you get two retired school teachers RVing next to each other. They talk a mile a minute and could go forever! explains Eldo.) 

There's a First Watch at the Woodlands, a little bit of a drive-20 min., but great for a nice breakfast.   Sparky loves that place. Everybody masked up, spaced out and lots of hand sanitizer. And, we go very early. There are TONS of restaurants to choose from that aren't too far to drive if you hop on I-45. We just didn't enjoy all the traffic, which is for the most part, very well managed north of Houston. Watch out for the frontage road loop dee loops and U-turn lanes at the lights as you negotiate around the Houston area. They can be tricky for newbies to the area and to be in the right lane. (Ask spatially challenged Sparky how she knows, kids Eldo.)

There's an Amazon Hub Locker right next door at 4 Girls Ranch RV place, right next door to the park. If you want to order something on the smaller side, (Amazon has size restrictions on their website for hub lockers), you can pick the Amazon "Bicycle" Hub Locker in Conroe, TX and it arrives right next door to the Thousand Trails Park! (All their lockers have names). Easy to use, and fun! Contactless, you just have the locker scanner/reader scan your bar code on your phone, which comes in an announcement to you, and BAM! the locker door automatically swings open. (Sparky said BAM because the first time she used it, it almost hit her in the face, she was standing too close to the door. The doors open randomly so you don't know which one is going to open until it does.

When you are on I-45, check out the beautiful concrete detail on the bridges and overpasses north of Houston in the Conroe area. Beautiful concrete? Isn't that an oxymoron? Yes! Celery green inlays, pieced buttress supports, it's pretty, Sparky thinks. Couldn't get good photos, but they are definitely a step up from the usual boring all gray supports and bridges. 

We had ONE was VERY windy the entire time we were here. Color flames courtesy of "sticks" or "cakes" that are sold at Camping World or Amazon. (Sparky is like a little kid with those things and would throw 2-3 sticks or packets on the fire if I let her, explains E.)

Now, where are we headed? Tomorrow, we are headed to the Rio Grande Valley for some Thousand Trails membership parks where the weather looks DECENTLY warm where we can stay for free again for three weeks at a time. Woo-hoo! More money in the budget for craft supplies....JUST KIDDING, Eldo! (No, she's not, retorts E. Good thing we have a mail forwarding service, she has to pay for shipping twice if she wants anything, besides the difficulty of timing a shipping delivery to the park directly depending on how long we are staying. That definitely helps cut down the flow of craft supplies..) Insert sad face emoji here, says Sparky. (Sparky is definitely ADHD, can you tell? laughs E.)

Bye, bye, Lake Conroe....Hello......Tropical Winds RV Park. We'll let you know how we like it in a few days... A new park/stop/area for us.