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

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Eldo's a Travelin' Man....

We left Indiana on Monday this week....There are several ways to get to Texas, obviously, and some are better than others. With a total of over 990 miles of driving, we decided to split it roughly into thirds. Which route we take depends on lots of factors--the price of diesel fuel (3.99 was the highest we saw during our trip this week), mileage--do we want to take the shortest or avoid some big city traffic? Are there decent campgrounds along the route? Eldo decided he didn't want to drive through the Chicago area even with bypasses but we would drive straight south from Elkhart, cross over into Illinois further south, and make our way through Missouri, Oklahoma, then Texas. We took 31 South out of South Bend, and continued down through Indy, picked up 465 around Indy and then 70 West to Illinois. Last night we stayed at Okaw Valley RV park, a tiny little well kept park off I-70, for a 335 mile drive. 

It's not easy finding parks with decent reviews as you head west towards Texas on this particular highway. But Eldo does a great job of researching thoroughly and manages to keep us out of trashy parks that get one or two stars. Those parks with those kind of ratings are usually 1) not big rig friendly, 2) have lots of trees and low hanging branches, outdated electrical or 3) are overrun with decrepit RV's that need to be towed and the park looks sketchy and run down. One of the apps we use is RV Parky to find our campgrounds. It tells you just about everything you want to know about the campground and some rates people have paid.

Okaw Valley in Brownsville, IL, was a great park, we were just a little big (41 ft) for the gravel site to fit both car and truck so we parked in the extra parking area very close by to our site. The park is quiet although you can hear some road noise. Lots of beautiful trees in fall color, but none in the way of parking. The road noise is not bad at all when running the furnace or if you have ear plugs. (Somebody in the house snores, haha) Be sure you do NOT park sideways or on the grass. Some parks are trying to maintain what little grass they have between sites. Can't imagine how difficult it must be to maintain landscaping in a public RV park!

There's a pretty little fishing lake there and they have a laundry room, too. We would definitely stay there again on our way from Indiana to Texas.

Tuesday we were off again and did a shorter drive of 260 miles. Eldo is having back problems, (aren't we a pair, Sparky with sciatica and Eldo with back trouble!) so we are going long drive, short drive, long drive. This time we stayed at RV Express RV Park in Marshfield, Missouri. The key word is EXPRESS as in you are at the bottom of the hill, directly above you is highway/expressway 44. LOTS of road noise, but again, earplugs, furnace running and it ain't too bad. Cement pull through sites, concrete pads, long enough to fit both the truck and the rig easily. It's clean, 50/30 amp electric, water and sewer, that's the full hookup. However, it's like being in a Walmart parking lot. There is a motel directly behind us, the highway in front of us, and lots of retail stuff all around.

While we were driving, we got to talking about Route 66 and how interesting it would be to take an RV and travel the entire route. The only problem is, it's a decommissioned highway and portions of it are no longer in use. However, you STILL can drive many sections of it and there are some really cool stops along the way. Stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, anybody? Sparky found a really cool attraction that she REALLY wants to go see. (UH OH! She's going to bug me for an unscheduled, extremely out-of-the-way stop now for days, laments Eldo). It's outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it's a portion of route 66 that has not your usual highway driving speed of 55 (speed limit varies from 35-55 along the route), but 45 mph. The speed limit was so unpopular, they had to do something innovative to appease the public. So they put in a buried musical rumble strip that if you go exactly 45 mph, you can hear "America the Beautiful" played under your rolling tires! SERIOUSLY! Google "Musical Highway", then click on New Mexico "Musical Highway plays America the Beautiful" on YouTube. And you know what? There are MORE musical highways out there! Who knew!? 

Which got Sparky thinking about some of the cool, silly, roadside attractions that are still out there. We used to try and research them using the Roadside Attractions Guide or the Roadside America app which costs 2.99. If you are just starting out traveling, these are fun apps to have. Never miss another giant dinosaur, ball of twine, 25 foot muffler man or quirky museum ever again. There's even a special Route 66 section. We made an effort to stop and see some of these wonderfully quirky, silly slices of Americana when we first traveled in our class A motorhome 11 years ago, but we just might get back to some more silly stuff in our current travels with our fifth wheel, you never know! (SIGH.....) That's Eldo worrying about excessive out of the way mileage and fuel costs. He's such a great planner, it's one reason our travels have been kept so affordable because he's always looking for the best price, and the most expeditious way of getting from point A to point B. Sparky, on the other hand, is always looking for the nearest 1. hike, 2. bike trail, 3. craft store or fabric shop, 4. national park, forest preserve or 5. the Appalachian Trail, which gets further down the list, the farther west we go, haha.

So here we go again tomorrow...on the road again. (Cue Willy Nelson). We will be stopping one more night in Eufaula, Oklahoma, and then--TEXAS for two weeks at one of our membership parks, Lake Texoma. See you later!

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Notre Dame Experience and Bye Bye Pumpkinvine

For our last weekend in Elkhart before leaving for Texas, we made it a fun filled busy one! Sparky mowed grass for Brian and Lori. One of her favorite things to do when visiting them. (She has learned how the darn thing works, laughs E. See previous post a couple weeks back  about maniacal Sparky's first time on the mower.)

Eldo and Sparky attended a Notre Dame football game between Notre Dame and Navy (a spur of the moment decision because affordable tickets were available) and attended many fun pregame activities beforehand. Notre Dame really seems to have the whole parking/bus shuttle thing down pat. It only took minutes to get from our parking spot at White Field North to the stadium. There were band performances-- the entire band played a preview of the halftime music on the steps of Bond Hall. It was Military Appreciation Day at Notre Dame, so the music was very inspirational and traditional.
ND Marching Band

Eldy's family
We didn't know it, but the Notre Dame marching band was the first college band in the nation, so it has a long storied history. The bagpipers were playing at the same time as the marching band so we missed that one. We sat very high up in the stands, almost in the last row from the top (that's what made it affordable!) but it was still a great view of the entire field and the JUMBOTRON. Whew! That sucker was loud, but interesting, and really added to the game with music and special facts about Notre Dame and distinguished alumni.

The water polo players were standing on a corner of the square near the Golden Dome doing their thing...Advertising? We weren't quite sure what the agenda was there, other than to get attention...and they did! Hubba Hubba! It was only in the mid fifties! Br-r-r-r!

We saw the players come through the "tunnel" of people lining both sides of the street and cheering as the home team walked from church to the stadium. That is a very long time tradition. 

We saw a drummer's circle performance that was really cool. The drummers had the crowd bouncing to the beat as they performed cool movements. It was interesting to see the players narrowly miss hitting each other with their cymbals with the drummers as they bowed and moved into different positions in a very tightly controlled formation.

We visited the Sacred Heart Basilica was so beautiful!

sunset at the wall
Of course, you have to stand in front of the wall that is affectionately known as "Touchdown Jesus" by all Notre Dame alumni and fans and assume the photo op pose. Put your arms straight up? Or at the goalpost angle? Sparky opted for straight up.

AND---Notre Dame won, which made the game even more fun.

Viet Nam Memorial
The campus is one of the most beautiful in the nation in our opinion, and it truly is amazing to see how much it has grown over the years and all the beautiful artwork and stonework. It's like a city in itself, it has gotten so big. We walked by the Viet Nam Memorial on campus and stopped for awhile to take it all in.....

It was definitely exciting and fun to see the many traditions that Notre Dame has.

Sparky rode the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail for the last time on a beautiful Sunday---30 miles from Abshire Park in Goshen, to Shipshewanna and back. It was a fantastic fall weekend with temperatures in the high fifties and not a cloud in the sky. 

Sparky saw many Amish out and about walking or biking on the trail and on the county roads near the trail. On the county roads, they were all dressed in their black and white Sunday finest with their children dressed the same. The little girls had the same black scarves, long dresses and black shoes as their mamas--little mini versions. Some were walking long distances to their meeting places but it was such a beautiful day, everyone was happy to be out enjoying the weather. 

There is a part of the trail that jumps from the paved trail to a short 1.5 mile county road spur, then picks back up on the safer paved trail back on the Pumpkinvine. On this part, on a country lane leading back to an Amish farmhouse, Sparky saw horse and wagon "races". Three Amish girls in the back of a cart were squealing with delight, yelling, "Faster, faster!" as the driver urged the horse on. Another harness racer style open buggy with a young man driving was racing back the opposite way, almost as if they were trying to see who could get to the opposite end of the lane first. You are not supposed to take photos of the Amish, but Sparky wished she could have captured the spirit of the Amish that day as they enjoyed their very special lifestyle, uncomplicated by all the stuff we have in our lives. There's something to be envied about working hard the old fashioned way, yet enjoying the simpler times, a much healthier way to live. Sparky and Eldo admire the Amish lifestyle. We could never go back to that, but having grown up in simpler times, and being the age that we are, it wasn't so far removed from our own growing up experiences that we can appreciate how good life was back then. And sometimes we miss those times.....So we are truly blessed that we feel we can travel and enjoy the many different cultures and experiences our country has to offer and hope to be able to continue for some time to come. We thank you for your encouraging words and comments, we thank you for reading and following along with us. We hope we can bring a little enjoyment to your life reading about our travels and making memories as we journey.

And with that, we say, bye for now...See you on the TEXAS!