More from Texas

Riley and I spent exactly 5 months back at my folks’ place in Texas, arriving on November 14th and leaving on April 14th.  I had lots of time to spend with the folks, which was nice, and got some projects done.  This will wrap up the visit and then I will do a few posts about the major projects my dad and I did – new TV setup, upgraded solar system and adding a pantry closet.

In February my Lazy Daze friend Kathy came through Austin.  I had met her and some other LD women in Bluewater Lake State Park in October 2012, when they were heading home from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta that year.  Then we got to visit a bit more at Balloon Fiesta this past year.  When she posted to the Lazy Daze group site that she would be visiting Austin on the way to New Orleans, I sent a note offering a meet-up.  She spent some time at Pecan Grove RV Park near downtown Austin, then drove out to Inks Lake State Park where we met up.  We got a couple of nice sites on the lake.  The weather started nice, then got cold and rainy for a day, then was cold and nice after.  Inks is such a pretty park, on a constant-level lake.  It’s always good, no matter the weather.

Inks Lake1

At Inks Lake, my rig on the left, Kathy’s in the shady site on the right.

Inks Lake2

Riley likes to be outside, watching for birds and squirrels

Inks Lake3

Sudden cold spell caused a heavy mist to rise from the lake.

After 4 days at Inks Lake Kathy and I came back to my folks’ place and she enjoyed a bit of driveway camping for a couple of weeks.  My dad was able to answer some questions she had and helped with some projects.  Kathy wanted to learn to knit hats and I helped her to knit a couple, including the cutest baby hat.

Kathy

Farmer's Market

We drove in to Austin to run errands and visited the Lakeline farmer’s market.

One night there was a pig roast at the neighbors’ place.  There are wild hogs that run around the deer lease they have nearby, and Texas allows year-round feral pig hunting to try to help with the problem.  They barbequed/smoked 3 small pigs and we had a feast.

Wild Hog

Don, Donnie, and Alan cut up the meat, with my dad supervising.

On March 18th, we drove in to Austin to Pecan Grove RV Park on Barton Springs Road.  The place was full during South by Southwest, but we were able to get in when it ended. I wanted to camp in Austin, as I hadn’t done that with my RV.  Kathy had really enjoyed her prior Pecan Grove visit, and planned to spend a week or 2 back there before heading on from Austin.  I just wanted to have a few days in town as a tourist.  I got to ride the scooter around downtown Austin and to Trader Joe’s, which was such fun!  We checked out P. Terry’s burgers for lunch one day.  I had heard of the place, but hadn’t eaten there.  They have a location just a couple of blocks away.  Good burgers.  And Chuy’s is just a block or so away, too.  So I got to have my Chuychanga fix.  It was nice to have a little mini-trip while mostly stationary for 5 months.  On the way back to the lake I stopped to get my generator serviced at Gen-Tech in Leander.

Pecan Grove is densly packed and surrounded by condos, but there is no better place to stay in Austin.

Pecan Grove is densely packed and surrounded by condos, but there is no better place to stay in Austin.

One thing I was glad to get done was shampooing my carpet.  I borrowed my brother’s shampoo machine and it made a big difference. I did the section between the couches first and got a before and after shot before starting on the near section.  What a difference!  I didn’t realize it was that dirty.

Carpet cleaningFYI – this is how you remove mistletoe from your trees in Texas:

Mistletoe

Alan works the bulldozer and dad uses a saw on a pole

I got to have lunch with some Dell Credit team coworkers while back in the area.  Lori, our Dun and Bradstreet Account Executive, took my ex-boss Mike, co-worker Lynne and I to lunch at Louisiana Longhorn Cafe in beautiful downtown Round Rock.  I had not had Etouffee before.  Yummy.  Always good to see them.

Lori, Mike, Lynne

Lori, Mike, Lynne and me.  (Caught Mike in a blink and I look like I’m in pain.  Oh well, it’s the only pic I got.)

On another trip to town I got to have an Olive Garden lunch with the Marketing friends I worked with before leaving Dell.  So great to be able to visit with them and catch up on what they are doing, and how Dell is doing now.

Sanjukta, Chris, Remi

Sanjukta, Chris and Remi

We had another camper visit, my friend CB.  He was relatively close, visiting his sister in Eddy, near Waco, TX.  He brought his Airstream and set up a nice little spot for a couple of weeks.

IMG_0125 We helped my dad a little with the log splitter.  He had taken down a dying tree in the spot where my RV sits and stacked the logs until it was time to chop them up.  The log splitting machine makes short work of the job, but is easier with a helper.  We had a good visit before CB headed back to Eddy.

Log Splitting

Once the big logs are split they are carried to the other side of the house with the bulldozer-type machine.  Better than a wheelbarrow!

Riley got some stuff done, too.  He had his annual exam, 3 visits to the groomer, and a dental cleaning.  Not his favorite things, but he is in good shape for a while.

Just before leaving I completed one big item – I finally sold my car (2009 Nissan Altima).  I loved that car and didn’t want to sell it.  I didn’t have time to sell it when I was back for a visit Nov./Dec. 2012, so it sat in the garage for another year.  My dad drove it once a month for exercise, but it’s not efficient to pay insurance, registration and depreciation just to have it to drive during the winter.  My sister-in-law Bev was possibly interested when we talked about it at Christmas, but they weren’t really looking to buy at that time.  I ended up putting it on Craigslist at the end of March and posted a note to my friends on Facebook.  Bev saw it and the timing was right.  Ken and Bev decided to buy it, picking it up on the the weekend before I left to go traveling. I got a picture of Bev on Friday night, when we went out to the garage to go over the bells and whistles on the car.

Bev and her new car

I think she will enjoy the car as much as I did.

It was nice to have a car when I came back for the winter.  Not sure what I will do this winter.  Probably hitch a ride to town when my folks go, borrow my dad’s truck on occasion, and rent a car for the weekend when I need to get a bunch of stuff done in Austin.  Maybe in a couple of years I will trade the scooter for a towed vehicle.  I’m not ready for that yet, but maybe later.

It was sure nice to spend time with the folks.  It’s not often that adult children get to spend extended time with their parents.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that.  And it’s always great to have a nice (and free) spot to park.  By April it was getting warm, and I was ready to hit the road.  Riley, too.  More soon…

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Back in Texas For a Few Months

It’s nice to be at my folks’ place on Lake Buchanan.  We are about 75 miles northwest of Austin.  I have a nice parking spot with a 30-amp hookup and water, and access to the benefits of a house (nice washer/dryer, long/hot showers, big kitchen, etc.).  And mostly it’s nice to be with my family.  I decided last year that I would stay around for a while this time and skip Quartzsite.  At least until it gets warm, when I will head back to the higher elevations of New Mexico.  Probably be here until about April or so.  While here I’m working on several projects.  Big projects include – installing new solar panels and controller/monitor, redoing the TV cabinet and installing a pantry.  Also, there are always small things to do.

My spot at Lake Buchanan

My spot at Lake Buchanan.  The lake is so low.  Normally you could see water just past my RV.

Riley and I got back in mid-November.  We got to have a nice Thanksgiving with family.  Then, in December, we did several shifts with Austin Sheltie Rescue at Barnes and Noble.  We have done this for the past few years at Christmas, wrapping gifts for customers for donations.  Riley hangs out in the pen looking handsome and getting some lovin’ from the customers, while I wrap gifts and visit with the other volunteers.  We raised some good funds, which help to pay down our vet bill.

Riley is in the ex-pen while Lucas (with Sunne) sniffs around.  Fran wrapped and brought Oreo, in the pen with Riley.

Riley is in the ex-pen while Lucas (with Sunne) checks things out.  Fran wrapped with me and brought Oreo, who is in the pen with Riley.

Back in Las Cruces, at the Farmer’s Market, I bought a small triangle loom and started weaving on it.  It’s OK, but got me thinking about taking up weaving on a traditional loom.  I went by Hill Country Weavers when in Austin to check it out.  It’s one of my favorite local yarn stores, but had never noticed any weaving items when there.  I talked to one of the saleswomen and turns out you can weave on a small loom, called a rigid-heddle loom.  They had a class coming up in mid-December, so I signed up.  You learn to weave and start a project in the 3-hour class, then are allowed to take the loom home for 2 weeks to see if you like it.  I did, I loved it!  In that 2 weeks I made about 10 scarves.  I ended up getting a Flip loom that folds.  It will be easy to use and store in the RV.

We had the whole family up at the lake for Christmas, like always.  My brother and S-I-L (George and Marie) flew in from Seattle, where they had moved last year after George took a job at Microsoft.  It was nice to be able to see them.  I didn’t think they’d get back to TX this year.  Marie is crafty like me, so we had fun going through my yarn stash (and my mom’s, too) and working with the loom together.  I got busy and made a couple of scarves for them to take back for the cold Washington winters.  Marie picked out a nice combination of burgundy and grey, and George asked for shades of black and grey.

Scarves for George and Marie

Scarves for  Marie and George

I learned a dominoes game called 42 from my nephew, Kevin, and there was a game going on a lot of the time.  Kevin and George are really expert at it.

Playing 42 - nephew Kevin, my Dad, nephew Tyler and George

Playing 42 – nephew Kevin, my Dad, nephew Tyler and George

By mid-December my dad and I had decided on the equipment we needed for the solar project.  Having done one system on my prior rig last December, we had some ideas of what to do the same or different this time.  I ordered the panels, charge controller and monitor online and got regular parts locally.  By the end of the month, we had removed the existing 85-watt panel, the controller, and wiring.  It took some thinking, but we finally decided on the new wiring route and where to mount the new controller and monitor.  We did most of the installation in January.  I’ll write a separate post with pics about all that soon.  I’ll do a post about the new TV/entertainment setup, too.  That took a lot of work, but turned out really nice.

I’ve been keeping busy with other things too.  I spent some time switching the expensive, catastrophic-only insurance that I’ve had for the past 1.5 years for a good Obamacare plan. I was able to get my coverage set up in mid-December and able to get an annual checkup with my regular doctor in January.   Also, I spent some time going through the stuff I had stored with my folks.  I had some clothes and yarn in a closet inside and some boxes in a 4’x4′ corner of my dad’s garage.  It’s been mostly too cold to work in the garage, but I did some work on a nice day recently, and we’re in a warm spell, so can do more these days.  I would like to get to a point where everything I own is with me in the RV, but I can’t seem to make myself get rid of my books, and some kitchen and craft items.  Last month I opened an Etsy shop online to sell scarves that I have woven.  I call it “A Wandering Weaver“.  Currently I’m working on a table runner.  Scarf season is almost over.

In January I had a birthday and my folks had a cake made with my Lazy Daze on it!  This is hand decorated with a pastry bag, and is such a close replica I almost couldn’t believe it.  What a fantastic cake!

Birthday cake

And it tasted as good as it looks

Next, I will write about the solar system we did.  Lot’s of RV’ers are interested in how others set up their systems, so I want to document it a bit.

One more picture.  We saw a little baby goat at the farmer’s market in Austin.  Riley could not be any less interested.

Baby goat at the farmer's market

“Booorrrrring!  Where are the snacks?”

In Texas for the holidays

I got back to my folks place on Lake Buchanan on November 17th, and had about 7 weeks to get a bunch of stuff done before heading out the next trip.  The biggest things were to do some improvements on my RV (like adding solar) and to get rid of the stuff I had kept after selling my house.  Also, I wanted to volunteer with Austin Sheltie Rescue and see my friends.  And, of course I wanted to spend time with my family.

First, I needed to figure out the equipment needed for the solar and get it ordered.  My dad is an Electrical Engineer, but had not worked with solar systems before.  I had some websites saved from my research (like solarrvpanels.com) that we looked at, and my dad figured out what equipment we needed and how to put it together.  [ For RVers looking to do solar – the system we decided on includes: 2 100 Watt panels from AM Solar (includes mounting hardware and wiring harness), 2 tilt bars from AM Solar, Blue Sky 2000E Charge Controller (MPPT type) from Infinigi, Trimetric 2025 Battery Monitor from Infinigi, Xantrex Prowatt 2000 watt inverter from Marine Parts Source, and various wires, mounting boxes, fuses, shunt, etc. ]  Also, we removed the non-working Onan generator and added 2 additional 6-volt batteries from Interstate Batteries in Marble Falls in that compartment.

The neighbors were more than happy to help.  Don has the “Garage Mahal”, with lots of great tools/equipment and we did some of the work over there.  He and Alan came over to the house to help on the day we installed the panels on the roof of the RV:

Installing solar panels with (L-R) Don, Riley, Alan and my dad

Installing solar panels with (L-R) Don, Riley, Alan and my dad

We also spent time replacing the drippy kitchen faucet, and adding a new TV antenna, which was problematic due to an apparent break in the cable wire which runs from the roof antenna to the wall socket.  We had to run a new coaxial line from the roof, behind the microwave and through the compartment above the couch.  Not fun. Dad also rewired my backup camera.  And we put in 2 new outlets in front and back to work off of the inverter.

In the mean time, I was making runs into Austin (3 hours round-trip from Bluffton) to clear out my 10×10 storage space, where I had put some furniture and stuff in case I might need to set up an apartment or house again.  Also, I signed up for 3 shifts doing gift wrapping with Austin Sheltie Rescue.  Barnes & Noble has groups come in and do complimentary wrapping for customers and we (hopefully) get donations for our efforts.  Riley was a good ambassador for the group.  He liked the attention, but wasn’t crazy about being cooped up in the x-pen for 3-4 hours while I wrapped.  Leann tried to get him to smile for the camera:

Leann and Riley

Leann and Riley

While in Austin I got to have lunch after the gift wrapping with some friends.  First was with Lori, who is with Dun & Bradstreet and is the Account Executive for the Dell account.  We always enjoyed working together, and I was so glad to be able to meet her for lunch and catch up.

Lunch with Lori

Lunch with Lori

On another day I got to have lunch at Chipolte with Sanjukta.  We worked together in Marketing, in my last year with Dell. I also got to meet her husband and new baby.

Lunch with Sanjukta, Srini and Suraj

Lunch with Sanjukta, Srini and new baby Suraj

I had lunch with friend and former co-worker Lynne at Chuy’s (I LOVE Chuy’s)  but forgot to take a picture.  Darn it!!

After wrapping with the Shelties, and lunch with friends, I would go to the storage space and pick up as many boxes and stuff as would fit in my car and take back to the house.  I’d sort the stuff out on tables to figure out what to do with it all.   For the furniture, I didn’t really want to post for sale on Craigslist and then be running in to Austin every other day, so arranged to have Next to New come pick it up and put it all on consignment.  And I made a few trips to goodwill.  Eventually I got it down to a small stack in the garage and a few boxes in the spare bedroom closet inside.

I also took the RV in to Georgetown to Mike’s Automotive.  Mike’s a family friend and a great mechanic, so I always trust him to check things over before heading out on the road.

I wish I had time to do more while I was there, like seeing more of my friends and having time to sell my car, but I completed most of my list before heading off.  On Friday, January 4th, I took off across west Texas, heading for Quartzsite, AZ.

New Mexico – Rockhound to Bottomless Lakes State Parks

Riley and I left City of Rocks State Park on Nov. 1st and headed to Rockhound State Park, outside of Deming.  It’s set among the Florida Mountains, and there are some really interesting rocks to be found.  There are areas of ash and lava deposits where people have found geodes and ‘thundereggs’, which are like geodes, but with a solid center.  You can take up to 15 pounds of rocks per person.  There are also quartz, jasper and other common, but pretty rocks.

We got settled into a site at the top of the hill, right under the mountain.  The TV towers of the local channels are all there, the highest point in the area.  So I got GREAT reception on my little rabbit-ear type antenna.  On Saturday I got to watch UT play (and win) against Texas Tech.  On Sunday was a full NFL day!

All the TV towers for the area were on the mountain right above my site

All the TV towers for the area were on the mountain right above my site

Riley and I also hiked the trail that runs above the campground, partway up the mountain.  On Monday, I did some rockhounding, leaving Riley in the RV and climbing most of the way up the mountain to see if I could find any thundereggs or geodes.  I think  I found a couple of small ones, but haven’t broken them open yet.

View from high on the mountain

View from high on the mountain above Rockhound

I really liked Rockhound.  Being so high up it gets a good breeze during the day and the views/sunsets are great.  But, I had more I wanted to see before getting back to TX by Thanksgiving.  So we were off on Tuesday, the 6th.  I was heading next to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but stopped in Las Cruces for an overnight.  I wanted to watch the election results and do laundry.  Stayed at Sunny Acres RV Park, which is an Escapees affiliated park with a 50% discount (usually the Escapee parks have 15% discounts).  It was a good park with a clean laundry room.  The next morning I hit the Las Cruces Farmer’s Market, Tandy in El Paso for bookbinding leather, and got to Guadalupe Mountain just before dark.  The campground is just a parking lot with site numbers marked, but at least it was right in the park.  Riley and I hiked the one trail that allows dogs.

Can you see the deer in the brush?  Almost dead center of the picture.

Along the hiking trail.  Can you see the deer in the brush? Almost dead center of the picture.

Guadalupe NP Sunrise

Guadalupe NP Sunrise

The next day we went to Carlsbad, NM.  I thought about going to the caverns. I had been there as a kid, but supposedly they have made some upgrades to the lighting and may be worth going again.  It was too hot to leave Riley in the RV and I didn’t want to kennel him, so passed.  Besides, the bats had all gone to Mexico for the winter, so no evening flight program.  I stopped at the Walmart and then went a few miles up the road to Brantley Lake State Park.  The lake is really low, like pretty much all the lakes at the parks we visited.  It was a decent park. I bet it would be great when the lake is up closer to the sites.  It had no Verizon coverage and no park wi-fi.  That’s OK for a day or two, but by the third day I was ready to seek greener pastures. Chris had moved to Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell, which had no Verizon, but did have wi-fi in the park.  It wasn’t far, so I decided to check out that park.  The lakes are a series of sinkholes, and the campground is by a nice, big lake with a beach.  I found a site in the area with electric/water hookups, but there are nice no-hookup sites across the lake that are along the water’s edge.  Generally the best sites at the NM parks have no hookups.

Bottomless Sunset

Bottomless Lakes Sunset

Chris was in an area nearby with no hookups (where the 2 trucks are in the picture above), but it was about to get super cold so she moved to a electric site further up the hill to be able to run her electric heater.  I moved from a site further over to the one above, where I could have a view of the lake and was closer to the wi-fi antenna.  Again, we hiked, walked dogs together, and I picked her brain about full-timing in an RV.

On Friday the 16th, I left to head back to my folks place northwest of Austin for the holidays.  We made it to San Angelo that night and just stayed at the Walmart.  On Saturday I planned to get in by about noon.  We stopped in Brady for a break and dog walk, but when I tried to start the engine up it was dead.  Oh, no.  Luckily I had signed up for Coachnet service and they got a local auto repair shop over to me right away.  Keith from K&T Automotive got me charged up enough to follow him to his shop down the road.  While there he diagnosed that a wire from the alternator to the battery had blown and I wasn’t getting a charge.  He fixed me up and for $70 I was on my way.  Funny – I did about 6,000 miles on the trip, but couldn’t make it the final 70!  Oh well, at least it was easily and quickly fixable.  I think I made it home by 3:00 or so.

In for repairs in Brady, TX

In for repairs in Brady, TX

It was a great trip.  So great that I decided to do another trip for 2013, starting in Quartzsite in January.  Then, when the weather warms will go into California where I will (hopefully) visit Yosemite, Sequoias, and the Redwoods.  Also, will visit the Oregon coast and Crater Lake, Washington state, Seattle and Vancouver, and Glacier National Park.

Over the holidays I had a lot of stuff to do.  I will do one post about all that, then start up writing about the new trip.  Thanks to everyone that have been reading my travel log.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and got a tip or two of places to go on your own travels.

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