Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Traveling from Columbus, TX to Tucson....

We left beautiful Colorado River Thousand Trails Sunday...Eldy wanted to avoid some major city traffic through San Antonio and by leaving on a Sunday, we certainly had a great, easy, less stressful drive of 260 miles, just enough to make a dent in the long journey across Texas, which will take us four days. We traveled I-10 all the way except for a small portion of roadway that was the 1604 Loop around San Antonio. There was a TON of construction going on all around the interstate and the highway itself in that area. We have never seen so much building and major projects going on all over the town and its outskirts. But there were NO slowdowns today and we had a great drive all the way here. Interstates are definitely improving across the US. I-10 was quite smooth. 

Pecan Valley RV and Farm Park Site #20

For our first night's destination, we picked Pecan Valley RV and Farm Park. It's a very small park (20 sites?) in Junction, TX, on the river banks of the North Llano River, very close to I-10. Call when you arrive and the owners will guide you to your site and settle up payment with you after you are settled in. It's a beautiful setting and not only is it an RV park, but a little farm as well right by a pecan grove and it's on the North Llano River. They sell pecan goodies at the store and even give you a little free bag of sweetened pecans when you check in. There are goats and chickens on site, and a roaming herd of deer that the owner feeds twice a day at 8:00 and 4:00 with automatic feeders. Sparky feels like we are back at Colorado River! But we're not.

You can swim in the river if you want to, but right now, it's a chilly 53 degrees here. The park is quite empty, so we had no difficulty coming in without a reservation. It gets busy after the holidays so we imagine that it would be a popular destination with a lot of people and you would probably need a reservation. 
Pecan grove on the property but off limits to guests

Sites are limestone gravel combination and because it's an older park (recently acquired by a younger couple who have made lots of improvements) the sites may be a little uneven, but they provide leveling blocks for you! Definitely big rig friendly and the sites are spread out, facing a large grassy area. Some sites have shade and some are close to the river. Each site has 30/50 amp full hookups. Daily rate is 47.00.

There is a very cute little general store (based on the honor system!), where you can buy little specialty food items or some swag. 
inside store

There is a chicken coop, a goat pen, and chickens free roaming all over the park. The park sells fresh eggs (5.00 a dozen) if you would like some. You can feed the chickens if you want as well.

park decorations

North Llano River
It's beautiful down by the river, and when it's hot, you definitely can swim in the river or fish if you want. There is a nearby state park called South Llano River State Park with nice trails.

In the nearby town of Junction, there is a great BBQ place called Lum's. We didn't check it out this time, but we will return to check it out and be sure to see what else is there.

People who come here thinking they are only going to be spending one night (like us) end up saying, "Gee, we should have booked more nights here!" It gets excellent reviews....We can see why, we highly recommend this little park.

Eldy has been watching the weather and the temps. The arctic cold front is extending down into Texas. Look at these temps coming in the next few days to the very area we stopped at this evening!

Our plan is to head about the same number of miles continuing on I-10 towards another Texas stop, yet to be named depending on how many miles we drive. (AHEM! How many miles I drive, laughs E.) Right! Actually, we will probably stop in Balmorhea, TX, a distance of 243 miles. Look at the weather coming in the next couple of days THERE! 

Monday....We had a second excellent driving day today....That is, ELDY had a great driving day. Two hundred forty-five miles, another pleasant drive with very good weather and decent road conditions on I-10 but some significant wind which dampened our fuel mileage. We took a little rest stop break to stretch our legs. The restrooms were open air restrooms, kind of surprising, considering that occasionally  temperatures can get pretty chilly at night. Nice tile mural on the wall!

And we did end up in Balmorhea, TX. Our final stop was at Saddleback Mountain RV Park, in Balmorhea.  The RV park is a no frills park and a great price for 20.00 a night. It's basically a gravel parking lot behind a Valero gas station (diesel 4.89 per gallon). It has a nice view of mountains behind it, and the sites are generously laid out to be long enough for a big rig and tow car. They are also attractively lined with stones and cactus plants in about half of the sites. It's a very informal process for checking in. Drive in, pick your site, deposit 20.00 in an envelope in a drop box by a little yellow cabin/house and that's it.
Sparky walked around a little bit checking out all the cactus. She likes the name of these cactus plants, below. They remind her of Mickey Mouse ears, but they are called "bunny ears" cactus, informally. They are all over the park along with the common prickly pear cactus.
Bunny Ears Cactus

It was a beautiful evening and a lovely way to end the day....

Tuesday....Driving day 3. We are headed for Lordsburg, New Mexico, a distance of 350 miles. At that point, temps will be right around 27 degrees for a low at night. Although we are a four season coach and can handle temperatures below freezing, Eldo still worries about SOMETHING freezing. There are obvious things you do like unhook your water hose from the rig to the outdoor spigot, and put some water in your inboard tank so you do have a water supply run by a pump motor if it's too cold to hook up to local water. So that's what we did. Sometimes we open up indoor cabinets that have plumbing fixtures so the warm indoor air can flow through those spaces. Most importantly, we make sure we have full propane tanks!

It was another beautiful day to drive...No snow, sleet or rain to worry about this time of year in the southwest. Sparky's favorite portion of the trip today was thru El Paso, TX, because of the amazing architectural features of the city's bridges and underpasses. Truly beautiful and amazing! (Note from Eldy: It was still a LOT of traffic for a Tuesday and it WAS stressful but not my worst driving scenario.)

This underpass was so pretty! Why can't the northern states think about making something beautiful out of something rather ugly like cement bridges and underpasses?
Here is one more of Sparky's favorites on the drive today.....

We picked the Lordsburg KOA park for the distance we needed to travel today. It's another gravel parking lot right off I-10 but in a very poor neighborhood. It's a small park (about 63 sites). There are picnic tables at each site, and sites are mostly level. There are some trees (short in stature so no shade) so the small park is mostly wide open. A little bit of road noise and train noise as tracks run nearby. Wifi is not very good here. AT &T is ok. T-Mobile was terrible. There is a decent family restaurant called Kranberry's within two blocks of the park. We ate supper there as we couldn't put out our kitchen slide and get into the fridge last night. Good home cooked food.

This is the park where we stayed last year when we had a major tire blowout within 2 miles of the park. When we got to the park, we had a LOT of trouble with our jacks coming down. Some negative juju going on here in this location! Haha. The auto level system was not functioning as it should. It wouldn't level the coach. We kept getting "fault" errors, and message errors. The jacks were coming down unevenly and then not at all. We tried retracting them manually and got them back up, but the same problem happened again. We called Lippert's tech support, the manufacturing giant of all things slides and jacks on our rig, and the tech guy tried to talk us through some solutions. He sent us a link to where once we opened it, Sparky used her camera phone to show him where things were and what was going on. He could see what we could see! Kinda like a FaceTime with RV tech support. We were very impressed with the technology and help. There were things we needed that we didn't have, like a voltmeter, jumper cables, and knowledge of where the control module was for the front jacks. We couldn't find it! The tech guy suspects that there is not enough amperage getting to the left front jack, since we tried recalibrating the whole leveling system and were not able to do that with the left front jack still problematic. We don't have a battery charger to check the batteries, (AHEM! We DID have one but Sparky thought it was an air compressor and left it behind back in Elkhart!) but we did get them tested in Elkhart and the charge was A-OK, the mobile tech said. apparently, he did not test them WITH A LOAD on them. Down the road, (haha) we would find out that made a big difference. (We are making a list for Santa at this point for some basics we should have on board and some of which we accidentally left behind--oopsie.) We never did get the problem solved this evening, but we have one slide out in the living room and our bedroom slide out in the back so we're good for the 27 degree night tonight. Another beautiful sunset at the Lordsburg, KOA. The sky was on fire tonight!

If all goes well in the morning, we are hoping the inverter has given the batteries enough charge so we can get our hitch up high enough to back the truck under it so we can leave! There is a way to hand crank the jacks with a drill bit but the space inside the bay is tight to try and do that. Once we get to Tucson, there will be lots of assistance available with mobile techs and hopefully, we will be able to get our leveling system up (and down, haha) and running smoothly again. If you are not level, you really shouldn't put all your slides out because  other problems may occur. Life is not always smooth going down the road, that's for sure!

Wednesday morning....last leg of the trip to Tucson and will we be able to get the front of the rig to go up so the hitch is in the right place so we can leave? The suspense is killing us. We had to wait for the temperatures to warm up a bit outside and here we go......YESSSSS! The front of the rig came up, barely, just a little at a time. It sounded like the battery was going bad fast and going to quit on us at any second, but we got the nose up high enough to hook up to the truck and off we went.  Today was a 167 mile drive to the Voyager RV Resort and we made it. BUT--when we got there, we couldn't put the jacks down to get our slides out until we got a mobile RV tech to come out. 

We managed to find an excellent recommendation from the park--Cameron's Reliable Maintenance Services and he was great! He happened to be in the park on his way out when we called and so he came right over. He knew we couldn't live the next few days without getting the jacks down manually because no jacks down? No slides out. He definitely knew his electronics and systems. He has over 20 years in the maintenance industry. He tested our batteries WITH A LOAD on them and we found out as we had suspected, that our batteries were just about shot and that was some of our problems were the result of that and it could have gotten much worse in a short period of time, leaving us stranded. Also,
the bad boy, Jack
according to him, our left front jack has failed, (there are two in the front--one on the left, one on the right, and they hold up the front end of the RV. The left jack won't even show up on the electronics panel when we try to use the leveling system. To get a new one is going to be super expensive. We can make do for awhile with manual leveling, as it will be difficult to get a jack during the holidays. Tomorrow, we are off to buy new batteries.  Note: Having had to consult mobile techs several times over the past couple of years traveling, an average service call for a mobile tech is 50-100.00 and labor charged on top of that....We love mobile techs. It's wonderful when you don't have to take your "house" to the repair shop, but they come to you. They are usually in most RV parks or nearby, and if they are certified by NRTVA (National RV Training Academy) , that is an even better designation to have. And everyone we have met, has been super delightful and helpful. 

We are settled in site 3-163 in the Voyager RV park in Tucson on S. Kolb Rd. It's a BIG beautiful park, and a true resort. Decent wifi, cell service great. Sparky has reviewed this park before, last year, but will try to find some new things to report about it in the next couple of weeks. We will be here for two weeks. Whew! Glad we made it! And the weather is awesome for the next two weeks--NO below freezing temperatures! 

Our next assignment will be to change out our batteries ourselves. WHOA! Not difficult, right, readers? Red to red, black to black, don't let the red touch any metal, those are the HOT ones. At least we don't think it will be difficult....We shall see....See you later!

Monday, December 12, 2022

What to Do in Colorado River Thousand Trails RV Park?

Columbus, TX.   Highs: mid to high seventies   Lows: 40's to 60's

 Site: E-78 new section    AT&T: download 363 (!) upload 48.1.  T-Mobile: download 262, upload 25.2

Colorado River is located in Columbus, TX, population around 3,000 people, so not a lot to do there. Small HEB grocery store, next to a small Walmart neighborhood shopping store. There are a couple of decent restaurants for dining, a decent Mexican restaurant, a Whataburger, and even a steakhouse, which we've never tried. Colorado River is a nice stop to rest, catch your breath, and just chill for a few days. If you like lots to do, then you might find this location a little on the boring side. You could always watch the vultures. With a lot of game in the area, they seem to hang around here a lot! (There are several exotic game ranches in the area.)

Colorado River has a new section of level gravel sites and two other older sections, one up on a hill...with trees for some shade....

and the other down by the Colorado River bank.  

The river is almost dried up in this section by the campground, and the riverbank is super steep, so not a very good view even if you are down by the river. You can't see the river from your site except for a couple of sites further down. So much for a river site, lol. The handicap sites are concrete pads, which is nice. Staff is friendly and helpful....the pool is very small and so is the laundry room. 

There are walking trails, although some uneven, all around the park. Since the new section has been paved, you can ride a bike all around on the newly paved parts and get about 5 miles in for a daily ride if you go around a couple of times. 

new section viewed from up on the hill above

This is the start of a hiking trail, it gets narrower, rockier, but the deer like to mosey around in the woods around it.

Sparky saw several different deer riding the hiking trail today. (It's like a mountain bike trail so you can go through it on a bike.) The deer are quite used to people so they don't immediately take off. This one's ribs are showing quite a bit, hope he or she is not sick!

Another one further into the woods on the hiking trail.....

You can get mail at the park, but they charge you 5.00 per package, so that will put the kibosh on Sparky getting more craft supplies...haha. (Whew! says Eldo. That's a good thing! We are running out of space in the rig!)

One thing you CAN do at this park, while staying here in Columbus, TX, is go see the beautiful painted churches tour. Sparky did this tour on her own a couple of years ago, when Covid was much more prevalent, but the churches were still open at that time for viewing. There are TWENTY painted churches scattered throughout central Texas, but there are about 4-6 of them within an hour's drive from Colorado River TT campground near Schulenberg, TX. They are all inscribed in the National Register of Historic Places and are of European German and Czech influence from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. The immigrants who built these churches didn't have the money of their forebears, so they used paint and plaster and tromp l'oeil ("fool the eye") decorations to mimic marble and gold and other fancy architectural features such as cornices.

St. John the Baptist Church

Here is a link to some of the churches Sparky visited last year. tour if you choose to have a guided one, which is now available after Covid, costs a 50.00 deposit which becomes the guide's fee once you show up. The way Sparky understands it, there is an additional charge depending on how many churches you want to go see with the guide. One of the options was the guide would travel with you in your car. The price was too expensive for the budget, so Sparky decided to forego the tour this time. If you want to go explore on your own, you can do that and there are maps online to guide you. You can buy a map of the churches for 5.00 from the Schulenberg Chamber of Commerce. To see these churches is truly something not to be missed whether you go with a guide or go on your own.
St. Mary's in High Hill, TX
Here is another fantastically beautiful one, another St. Mary's, only this one is in Praha, TX.

Here is St Mary's of the Assumption, in Flatonia, TX.

See? You really do need to take a tour of these amazing churches while you are at Colorado River in Columbus, TX....And as the week draws to a close, we are planning our journey north and west thru Texas to head towards Tucson. (You mean I'M planning the journey! exclaims E.) Yes sir, that's Eldy's job because he's the travel logistician in the family. He does a great job of planning how far to travel each day and where we are going to stop. He researches the parks using the RV Parky app. It's a great app and covers almost all the different types of campgrounds from KOA, to state parks, to Corps of Engineer, to Thousand Trails....Lots of good stuff in the app, check it out! 
It's getting more and more expensive to stay outside our membership parks when we travel, and the average cost is now over 50.00-70.00 a night as opposed to $25-30 when we were traveling full time the last time, over 13 years ago. We look for bargains but decent parks, and that's very difficult to find these days. Since we don't have a generator and we do have a residential fridge that runs down our batteries if we were to try and stay somewhere all night without electrical power, we can't boondock (stay for free overnight) at Walmart or Cracker Barrel-- for now. We are thinking about getting a generator which would enable us to do that. At any rate, it's going to take us three days at least to drive through Texas. Yep, it is truly a HUGE state!  

And with that, we will see you down the road!

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Cataract Surgery Update and Lots More

Lake Conroe, TX.  Highs: 70's to low 80's, Lows: 40's-60's

Well-l-l-l...Sparky finally got her glasses after 6 weeks from the second eye surgery date. The far vision has improved somewhat with the glasses, but it's still an effort to try and focus on cars on the road. Sparky's vision has improved from total separate double vision of cars in front of her to sort of a ghosting image of cars, still sometimes double. Her eyes still struggle to make things clearer. Near vision prescription is incorrect, darn it, but because we are long gone from Indiana where the surgery was done, Sparky will have to get into an optometrist for another eye exam to get her bifocal glasses RX fine tuned. We are guessing that Sparky's vision continued to change after the prescription was set up at the one month surgery date so the glasses finalization is not quite right. To top it off, the doctor spotted the beginning of a "capsule" behind the lens of her right eye which will cause vision to gradually "cloud" until it can be lasered off, but that's a very simple and quick office visit. She hopes! Capsule formations are very common after cataract surgery, so Sparky is not too worried about that. We will have to wait till spring till we are back in the Elkhart area to have it done. It's just discouraging to continue to have visual acuity problems! On a more positive note, Eldy's eyes and prescription glasses are just fine! Yay! And he's the one who's blind in one eye!

Here's a little info about Thousand Trails Lake Conroe..It's very close to shopping , breweries, great restaurants, etc. in Conroe and the Woodlands. Easy exit off I-45 to get there. Its a BIG park, gated, with security, and getting bigger. The staff is super nice and very friendly and helpful. The park is currently under construction for new sites for both park models and RV sites. At present there are over 300 sites that vary in suitability for rigs of varying sizes. It is definitely big rig friendly. Many sites are shaded, many are not. The new section up front has fairly level concrete pads, yet some of the back in sites have a steep short ramp up to get into the site, making it difficult to get a longer rig level with all 4 wheels (or more) on the ground and/or bottoming out the rear end of the RV. The older sites towards the middle and back of the park are very unlevel so it can be difficult to level your rig. There is a big section in the middle near the tennis courts that are pull thru, but they are the kind where you are so close to your neighbor that both you and your neighbor's living areas face each other, so very little privacy. The interior roads are TERRIBLE, but we were told that all the roads will be improved once all the construction is well underway to being completed. We sure hope so!

Shower houses and bathrooms are very nice, above average for a campground.

You are charged 3.00 a day for 50 amp electric. Most people prefer 50 amp if you have two air conditioner units on an RV. We do, so we pay the extra so we don't have to worry about tripping a breaker. Many parks say if you are a 50 amp coach, you have to hook up to 50 amp service. They do NOT allow doggone converters. Those converters allow you to "downsize" your electric needs from 50 amps to 30 amps. What makes it worse is they allow smaller rigs that use 30 amp to stay in 50 amp sites, giving you fewer choices when you come in if you are a big rig. There is a beautiful pool (unheated) with really pretty seating areas around it.

There's a relatively new large laundry room. It's definitely a family friendly park, as there are LOTS of families who choose this park for a weekend destination or seasonal camping because of the pool, lots of activities for kids at the activity center, a nice basketball court, tennis courts, pickle ball courts and a small beach fronting Lake Conroe. 
new sections being added near the lake

There are  "tiny home" park model sections of the park and they are building another new park model section as well. A completion date has not been mentioned. Did we mention there is mini golf, a very nice playground, and a dog park there, too?

Near the Lyric Center, Houston
One of the activities that happened while we were here, was a visit to the Nutcracker Ballet in Houston, a Christmas present from Sparky's daughter. The ballet was held at the Wortham Center in downtown Houston. No photos allowed of the ballet performance, but the center itself was amazingly beautiful. There are several fine arts/theaters in the area all within blocks of each other.

The outside of the center has several photo op possibilities, so naturally we had to take advantage of that!

Sparky had never been to the ballet before, so it was quite a treat! The inside of the theater was gorgeous as well as the outside. Here we are ready to go inside the Wortham Center. Impressive door handles!

The entire outside of the building is very impressive as well.....

We went inside and there were wonderful treats awaiting you if you wanted to get a bite to eat, visit the popup souvenir shop, or just sit awhile and enjoy the sights and people around you before the performance. It was great to see most everyone very dressed up for the special occasion. Sparky had to try a bulgogi bowl which was absolutely delicious! (Beef, rice, seasonings, and veggies with cilantro. Yum!) They had cook while you wait pasta buffet, too, along with sandwiches and all kinds of drinks, but no food or beverages inside the theater itself. 

A beautiful holiday tree was on display and the crowds lined up to have a photo taken in front of it.....

We checked out the curtain just before the performance was about to start. Incredibly beautiful, is it not?

After spending 12 days here in Lake Conroe, TX and visiting Sparky's family, we are headed to Colorado River in Columbus, TX for about ten days. This is an on-the-way destination, making our way towards Tucson where we will be spending the Christmas holiday. We will see you down the road!

Monday, November 28, 2022

A Pinterest Epic Fail but Still Fun

So Sparky got to spend a little time with her grandson while we were in Texas. She decided to use her crafty skills and spend some quality time with her grandson to make these adorable marshmallow snowmen. Easy, peasy, right? Here are the ingredients:

1. Regular sized marshmallows
2.M&M minis in red and green holiday colors
3. Twizzlers 
4. A tube of black icing
5. Some white frosting (canned is fine, the recipe said
6. Hershey's kisses
7. Pick out a few Reese's Pieces in orange
8. Sterilize a Phillips screwdriver shaft with boiling water. You're gonna poke holes in your marshmallows
9. Candy canes.

OK, here we go.....Break the curved part off the candy cane so you have a straight piece, save the leftovers for eating later. Dip the screwdriver in very hot water and then poke a hole through 3 marshmallows. Stick the candy cane through the three marshmallows but not all the way through the third one (the head). Take your white frosting (Sparky's was buttercream and it was yellow, wrong choice-- and dab it on the marshmallow so you can stick on your red and green M&M's for buttons, and dab a spot on the top of his head to stick on a Hershey's kiss for a hat. Take the black tube icing and dot two eyes. Cut an orange Reese's piece in half and use one half of it for a nose by dabbing some more icing to hold it on the snowman's face. Pull apart your Twizzlers and use single strands to wrap his scarf and tie a knot. Tada!

WHOA! Abrupt halt. STOP! Problem #1. After breaking the candy cane curves off, (Sparky should have bought straight candy canes. They do make those, right?) Our hands were very sticky. Then we started working with the marshmallows. They stuck to our hands like crazy.The hot screwdriver worked like a charm, but Sparky had to keep running over to the stove to dip it in the hot water. A screwdriver? Geez, why not a wooden skewer or something a little easier?...Don't ask...Sparky just follows directions. (SHE DOES?????? asks an incredulous Eldo.) Very funny, haha.

OK, we get the HUGE marshmallows skewered. Problem #2. They barely fit onto the candy cane stick. Sparky bought the biggest, most voluminous marshmallows because there were NO middle, regular sized ones, only the minis, and she knew that wouldn't work, but she thought the giant ones would. Nope. The little Hershey's kiss hat looked ridiculous. So then we decided to cut the whopper marshmallows in half. HA! That was ok, they just got a little squished but onward we went. (Did she mention she HATES to cook? asks Eldo.) Well, this is a CRAFT, not cooking, but times, right?

Time to add the buttons. Dab a little frosting onto the middle marshmallow and stick an M&M button on it. Problem #3. Ever try to use a table knife to dab just a LITTLE frosting? It just smeared. Sparky was not in her own kitchen doing this, so she didn't think about toothpicks to apply frosting till much later.

Next, the
 scarf. Problem #4. Twizzlers are supposed to just pull apart into strings so you can wrap around the marshmallows neck and TIE A KNOT. Sparky thought Twizzlers were Twizzlers. Well, they are not all the same. You have to buy the PULL APART kind, which is the CHERRY kind, not the strawberry kind and although Sparky had strawberry Twizzlers that looked like pull apart ropes, they were not. So she had to sit and cut the Twizzlers lengthwise with a knife which was really slow going. Problem #5. Then we tried to glue the thick ropey piece of Twizzler to the neck, but it promptly fell off.

OK, now add the eyes. Problem #6. The icing in the little tube had some kind of reaction to the marshmallow and it immediately became a big,
 melty blob. It looked like the snowmen had mascara and eyeliner that ran badly and made them look like they had black eyes. Sigh....but grandson was having fun.
At that point, we abandoned trying to make them look like snowmen and went to town creating something a little different.....

All in all, we had fun. We nibbled candy along the way, Sparky got to enjoy doing something with her grandson, and it was quality time spent together. Daughter said, "Mom, why didn't you make those roll out cookies you used to make instead?" You mean, the spice cookie ones where it takes 4 cups of flour you have to work in the dough till your arms fall off, chill the dough, then roll out to a certain thickness, then cut them out with the cookie cutters and the dough sticks to the cutters unless you remember to flour them, and then you bunch up the scraps and re-roll the dough again?...and then you make the homemade buttercream icing? You mean those? Oh, right...Another time, sweetie.... Grandma got tired today.......But there sure are a lot of cute food crafts out there....maybe Rice Krispie reindeer treats for next time.....????
See you next time! But probably not at the crafting table, haha.....Bye for now......