Saturday, February 17, 2018

Starting Out

Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Lake Corpus Christi State Park

It took me a surprising amount of time this morning to locate a place who would repair the RV under warranty.

I learned that Texas is the only state in the Union to have a law designating exactly which RV dealers can make repairs on RVs. In essence, I have to either go back to the dealer where I bought it or I can go to one of the few repair places that Thor (the manufacturer) has a repair contract with.

What finally made the choice for me was timing and logistics. A place in Buda was able to take it if I’d leave it there for 4-6 weeks. Because I’m living in it, they weren’t really an option. The dealer, MHSRV, could do it but I had to get special dispensation from somebody because I’m living in it, which meant revamping the schedules of their repair folks. But they’ve worked me in beginning this coming Saturday, and for however many days it takes after that (remembering they’re closed on Sunday) to get the job done. A nuisance because I want to get on the road, but that faucet is a much greater nuisance.

It rained off and on today but was otherwise pleasant. I got some organizing done and some relaxing done.

I hope you can enlarge these photos.  The one on the left tries to show two clumps of palm trees that I'm guessing planted themselves.  I keep forgetting how nearly tropical this area is.  Lots of little yellow flowers.  Very pretty.

The second is 5 wading birds that my best guess says are immature Little Blue Herons.  That's based on the dark tips to their wings I saw when they flew.  I tried to get a picture of that but missed.  The very foreground is the picnic table at my site.  This looks out to the main lake in the background.  

Very nice campground except for the MASSIVE number of ant beds.  I also saw what I'm pretty sure was a cormorant and a dowitcher, but I didn't have my binoculars with me so can't be sure.  The bird book says they're likely here, so I may be right.

Monday, 19 February 2018, Presidents’ Day, my sister’s birthday
Lake Corpus Christi State Park, Mathis TX (near Corpus)

I wish I’d remembered when I was at the grocery store that today was the birthday of my sister Louise.  In her memory, I like to have her favorite dinner – pork chops with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and peas.  Of course, since I have a small dishwashing problem it’s probably just as well I forgot.   I’ll postpone the dinner until I can get the kitchen faucet fixed.

Thank goodness for making reservations.  This campground had a “full” sign on it and I wouldn’t have gotten in without the reservation.   I got here just barely early enough to snag the last good site, next to a small inlet of water off the main lake: I’m watching an egret feeding on the other side as are several scaup. I haven’t seen scaup in 20 years but I was so incessantly drilled in the duckies by my birdwatcher husband that I knew them instantly.  Hey – we take our accomplishments where we can find them. I’ll try to get photos of them tomorrow to post.

So, another day of experiences.

I got the propane tank filled for the first time.   The guy who did it was very conscientious and insisted I get all living beings out of the RV before he would fill the tank.  That went over real well with the cats.   I took their crate outside and set it up and then took them out one at a time and stuck them in it.  The wind was blowing pretty seriously by then, so they turned their backs to it and hunched over and endured.  Stoically.   I mean, they didn’t holler at me.  I took the dogs for a walk, which made them happy.

The drive from last night’s campground was interesting.  Signs of the hurricane everywhere.  New fences in every other yard.  Debris piled by the road near houses.  Shredded highway department signs.   Signs on businesses saying “still open.”   At one point traffic was routed into one lane only because heavy equipment was filling the median with debris.   And this was no ordinary median.  I don’t know why it was built this way - it must have been several hundred feet wide, and the debris stretched for almost a mile (I clocked it) and it covered 2/3 of the median.  And that was by no means all of it.  I wonder what will happen with it.  I wanted to stop and get a photo but because we were all scrunched up together, there was no shoulder to stop on.

There was also a high wind warning today, and the crosswinds were a force to be reckoned with.  Certainly by me, the novice RV driver.  (I learned from the weather report tonight that they'd gusted up to 40 mph.)  The posted speed limit of 75 mph was utterly irrelevant – I went no higher than 55 mph because even at that speed it was hard to hold it in my lane.   And mine isn’t even particularly large.  In fact, one of the park rangers commented the other day on how mine would be fine in a park area marked “low clearance” but said some of the RVs she saw were higher than her building.

Dexter, my 2½ year old lab mix, has decided to adjust to RV living by being as exuberant as he can.   Exhibit A: he completely shredded my screen door this morning.  Since I’m now near the coast and the weather is substantially warmer than back up in the Austin area, it was so warm today I finally dredged out the bag of my summer clothes to find some shorts and tank tops.  The weather guy said it was up to 85° here. Trust me, I ain’t complaining.

Among the wonderful things I’ve discovered so far have been the stars. The lights of Austin have made all but Orion nearly invisible there.   Most nights I’ve been out this week have been overcast, but there’ve been several where I could see all of them.  I haven’t seen the Big Dipper in 10 years. It was so nice – like meeting an old friend. I could see all the stars in Orion  - not just his belt - and so many many others. Tonight looks like it’ll be clear, so I’m looking forward to a show again.

I just watched a heron fly across the lake and land near my off-shoot. So peaceful. I’m starting to sleep much better.

Sunday, 18 February 2018
Hidden Oaks RV Resort, near Rockport TX

I learned several valuable lessons today.  First, do a walk around the RV before driving off.  Had I done that, though, I wouldn't have learned lesson #2: if I drive off without remembering to unplug the electric cord, no irretrievable damage is done.  This time.  I may not be so lucky if there's a second time.

Lesson #3: when they told me at the RV dealership that I'd need to get a longer sewage hose than came with the RV, they were right.  It was only just b-a-r-e-l-y long enough to stretch to the dump spot.  But it worked.  Yea!  My first time to empty the tanks.  Let's also hear it for vinyl gloves left over from when I was taking care of my mom!

And lumped in with that lesson is the subsidiary lesson that I also need to get a short hose: the owner's manual says I'm supposed to use a water hose to run water through the sewage hose after dumping and to leave some water in the bottom of the sewage tank.  The only hose they gave me originally is a drinking water hose, and the spigot by the dump site says clearly the water there is not for drinking.  I don't need a lesson to know not to mix my hoses.

Lesson #4: if I know about where I want to go, it's a really good idea to make a reservation.  I'd focused my attention and energy on getting the 5 of us to Goose Island State Park near Rockport.  And we made it just fine.  Except the ranger told me that all their campsites are still closed from hurricane damage.  Ditto for Mustang Island State Park by Corpus Christi.  The ranger suggested Hidden Oaks just a couple miles down the road.

Lesson #5: try not to get so tired before stopping for the day that I can't adapt to surprises.  I'd only driven for 3 hours or so, but I'm still not used to driving the RV and it's wearing.  By the time the ranger gave me the bad news, I was too tired to want to hunt for anything else.  

This place is very pleasant with many who appear to be permanent residents.  Their monthly rates are quite reasonable, but their daily rate ($35) is half again the $20 I paid at Buescher.  I just can't afford that

Speaking of which, I realize I haven't done justice to Buescher State Park.  In the woods on a small lake they keep stocked with fish, not too much obvious damage from the terrible fire a few years ago.  Very comfortable, well maintained, pleasant and helpful staff.  

Lots and lots of  birds - the woods are full of their singing.  I'm guessing it was a Red-shouldered Hawk that sat on the ground where we got a good look until we got closer than he wanted.

I stopped at the ranger station to ask what I was seeing: some things that looked like vines climbing the trees when they were thin but grew to be as huge as tree trunks.  They said it was grapevine.  I grew up with grapevine and don't remember ever seeing anything like this.

Grapevine and oak trees

Having learned Lesson #4, I've made a reservation for Lake Corpus Christi State Park for tomorrow.  I still need to get my kitchen faucet fixed, and now I know I need some RV supplies, so I don't want to go too far down the road without doing some regrouping.  If it's a nice place, I'll stay till I leave for Austin.

Saturday, 17 February 2018
Buescher State Park, Smithville, TX

I had intended to leave today and go to the coast, but when I got up this morning, I realized I was still pooped from the day before.  I decided another night here in Smithville was just the ticket and it has been.  I did almost nothing all day – read a book, watched a video. It certainly pares down my options when there’s no wi-fi signal.  All of these will get posted at once, when I get somewhere else.  Wait – news flash – I now have a signal on my little hot spot! I’ll try to get these posted before I lose it.

In the meantime, and continuing my chronicle, we come to the dish saga. Not wanting to live through another flood like yesterday’s but still needing to wash the dishes – actually, needing it more since I'd added to the pile – I had a sudden flash of inspiration when I realized I also needed a shower. Nearly ran the park out of hot water, which I wouldn’t have thought I would, since they must be geared for several people to shower at the same time – there are 2 stalls in the women’s room, surely 2 in the men’s room. Oh well, a lukewarm finish didn’t hurt my feelings and everything got clean.

I've decided to skip Galveston and go to Rockport instead.  I want to be back in Austin on Wednesday to clean the house before the Thursday closing, so I only have 3 more nights and I'd rather stay in one place for that time.  I'm afraid to push myself too much so early in this experiment - especially when there's no need.  I decided on Rockport because it was one of the places that was hit hard by the hurricane, and they're asking for tourists to come and spend money.  So I'm saving up my grocery shopping for whatever's available in Rockport.

Friday, 16 February 2018
Buescher State Park, Smithville, TX

I started pretty early to try to wrest some kind of order out of the chaos I’d wrought when I just crammed stuff in yesterday. By 9:00 AM I was well underway with the organizing, which is when a park ranger stopped off to remind me to go pay for my previous night’s lodging. I think I looked and sounded a little frazzled, because he offered to drive me down to the office to register and then drive me back. Very sweet of him and very much appreciated.

By the time the ranger stopped by, I'd already figured out I needed another night here, just to have more time to organize.  I ended up spending at least 4 hours unpacking, stowing, sorting, trying to figure out what I had and where I’d put stuff I need right now, and so on. I stopped to walk the dogs and again to eat lunch, but by early afternoon I was pooped. That’s when the fun started.

I decided I’d actually wash the dishes – reasonable concept but not one I’d tried before. I learned fairly quickly that there’s an extremely loose connection between the incoming water hose and the kitchen faucet, and that when I turn on the faucet, I flood the 3 drawers underneath the sink. And all the contents of those drawers. And the floor. All over the floor.

While I was playing these games, the weather changed from really quite warm and sunny and pleasant to definitely cooler and windy and suggesting rain to come. The change meant I had a much harder time drying out the underneath-the-sink area. I couldn’t reach much of what had to be dried out, for starters. I set up a small fan in the bottom drawer, aimed at the cabinet interior, but the cooler, damper atmosphere slowed things way down.

And this being a Friday afternoon, any place I could go for repairs – the Camping World in Buda, for instance – would probably not have mechanics working on weekends.  The dishwashing plan came to a screeching halt.

So after walking the dogs, I took the evening off to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What a happy movie – and all about the problems of starting over and taking a chance on the future. Definitely the encouragement I needed about then.

Thursday, 15 February 2018
Buescher State Park, Smithville, TX

I spent the day moving out of the house and into the RV, and there was much more to do than I thought there’d be. I had underestimated all the piles of things I’d set aside to decide about later – and “later” came today. Except I didn’t decide. I just boxed or bagged up everything and stuffed it into the RV somewhere to be decided about "later."  

And after I did that, I still had to move in all the things I use every day – the coffee-making stuff and salt and pepper and knives and forks, the bathroom stuff and pajamas, and so forth. “And so forth” included a lot of stuff. I realized as I was packing some of this stuff up that I wouldn’t want to keep it but didn’t want to take the time to figure it out today. The result is that the poor RV is just crammed with things I actually intend to donate to Goodwill and such. But I wanted to get out and get on the road.

I’m not really on the road because I have to go back to Austin next week to close on the house, but I wanted a second dry run and this seems to be it. So today was awkward and a lot of work that was probably unnecessary. And when I got to the state park, I couldn’t find anything because everything was jumbled together in separate bags and boxes. But I got at least some consolidating done, and called it good for one day. The critters were hungry and so was I.

I’d intended to take them all to the vet for a final checkup before we left but abandoned that idea when I remembered we’ll be coming back through town next week and decided to factor in the time for a visit then. And then I saved a little more time by remembering I was coming back through town and I could just plan to factor in time to do a final cleanup of the house then. Without those two decisions, I’d never have left town today.

It’s too bad there’s a cold front coming through tomorrow because it can be somewhat colder here in Smithville than in Austin, and Austin is predicted to be a bit chilly. My dogs seem to want to put down some roots somewhere so I’d be inclined to stay here at least another night, except for the predicted temperature.

I’m planning to go down to Galveston State Park after this, for slightly warmer weather and for the beach. I don’t have a cell phone signal at this campsite, but I have to go to the ranger station in the morning to pay for staying tonight so I can likely pick up a signal there.

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