Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Water Softener

April 30, 2011 Cottonwood Creek RV Park, Dripping Springs, Tx.
A few days ago, I helped the park owners, Sheri and Les cut down and remove some dead cedar trees in the park. That took most of the day. Afterwards, they took Joyce and I out for dinner at Romeo's a popular Italian restaurant in Austin. We had a wonderful meal outside on the patio where we watched folks walking by and cycling. I love seeing folks out on their bicycles!
The water here in Texas and perhaps the West in general is very hard. I mean there is so much limestone around and in the ground that it is common for homes to be decorated with beautiful white and brown lime rockwork. Sometimes the water is so hard you feel like you need to wear a helmet in the shower. More importantly, I was concerned about the mineral lime and scale haze developing on the water fixtures. Yesterday the RV water softener that I ordered arrived. It's a Flow Pur Mark 8000.  I hooked it up to our existing sediment filter.
I hadn't really considered a water softener until some of our friends purchased them. Our friends had larger more expensive water softener models that use rock salt for regeneration. The Flow Pur Mark 8000 only needs a box of common table salt for regeneration. That was a selling point for me. I didn't want to have to mess with keeping a 40 pound bag of rock salt around. Time and testing with hard water test strips will tell how often I need to regenerate it. 
With the new water softener in place and after running several gallons through the RV it was time to take a shower! Yep, we can now lather up...we have suds!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Austin Bike Shops, Trails and More!

April 26, 2011 Cottonwood Creek RV Park.
About a week ago we moved from site 7 to site 11.
Our new friends Paul and Paula had occupied this site but they moved on.  We had stayed in this site last year.
This site has much more shade and protection from the wind. Like all the sites in this park, we don't have anything behind us but trees and the dry creek bed. We don't have any other sites on our door side, just more trees. So, we are very happy in our new/ old site and enjoy the visits from the many birds that frequent the green areas.
We both have a bad case of "hitch itch" and we are anxious to move on. It's especially hard when we hear from friends out on the road and headed for cooler climes! However, we still need to attend our son-in-law's "Winging Ceremony" in Corpus Christi on June 10th. So, we are happy to stay here in Cottonwood Creek RV Park until it's time to move back to Corpus. Once that's over we will quickly move north!
The park isn't very busy during the week and the temperatures have been in the upper 90's. It does get busier over the weekends. The few residents that are here are more reluctant to hang around outside now that it's considerably warmer. I've taken to keeping the truck and Jeep covered to protect them from the hot sun and the junk that falls out of the trees.
A few days ago we took a trip to Austin. We wanted to do some sightseeing and check out the bike trails along Lady Bird Lake and Zilker Park. We parked under the S. Mopac Express Hwy. to get a quick look at the trails.
From what I learned the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail is over 10 miles long with several bridge crossings over Lady Bird Lake just like the one below.
There are several other trails to include The Lance Armstrong Bike Way that connect to the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail and traverse the city. We plan to come back with our all terrain bicycles and explore as many trails as possible. When we left Zilker Park, we stayed on Barton Springs Road and came across a number of bicycle shops. We had to stop at a couple of them and look around. I've never seen so many bicycle shops within blocks or a couple miles of each other. Obviously, Austin is a very bicycle friendly city.
Along the way we came across Pecan Grove RV Park. What a perfect location for exploring Austin. I had read reviews on this park in the past and many thought it was "eclectic", "funky" and "charming". We took a quick look and noted that many of the RVs had not moved in perhaps years and probably would never move safely down the highways again. Most of the sites were very tight, certainly not our type of park. However, you couldn't beat the location for exploring Austin, provided you could even get a site!
We continued exploring on the south side of Lady Bird Lake on Barton Springs Rd. and decided to stop for lunch at Threadgills an Austin restaurant with lots of history. We had a good lunch that kept us full the whole day!
Threadgill's, South Austin
"Threadgill's World Headquarters"

Whether you come in for our renowned feel good southern food, to soak in the history of the Armadillo and its salad days of the 1970’s or to have a beverage and enjoy live music under the stars in the family and fun friendly Beer garden, you'll be glad you did! Come back often.

Before leaving we wanted to stop and check out yet another bike shop, Mellow Johnny's owned by Lance Armstrong. It is a beautiful shop with lots of inventory and memorabilia from Lance's racing career. There's even a small coffee shop. Definitely worth the visit when you are in town. We made a couple of small purchases. I tried to stay away from the road bikes as I sure miss not having one.
We couldn't head back home without stopping at the REI store, so we killed some more time there before heading back home. We had asked the park owner Sheri to check on Maggie and Rico if she could. As you may recall we had a problem a couple weeks ago with the air conditioner tripping its breaker. However, it's only happened the one time. Still it makes us nervous about leaving Maggie and Rico home alone. Sheri was nice enough to give us a call in the afternoon letting us know that everything was fine and that she had walked Maggie and Rico for us. You can't ask for better service.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Friends, Testing our New Generators

April 17, 2011 Cottonwood Creek RV Park.
We are still enjoying the Hill Country. The pollen seems to have subsided to the point where the vehicles aren't yellow every morning. The temps are still on a roller coaster with warm days mixed with cool nights and few cool days. Just a few days ago we had an issue with our main air conditioner when Joyce turned it on in the middle of a warm afternoon. I had been mowing in the park when I got home Joyce told me the air conditioner made a rattling noise that startled Maggie and then quit. 
I noticed the lights on the ceiling unit were still on and thus I suspected it still had power. I tried to get it to start but nothing happened. I climbed on the roof, pulled off the cover and looked for anything obvious without success. Later I discovered that the 20 amp circuit breaker had tripped and the lights on the ceiling unit were dc powered. It concerned me that the breaker tripped even though the ac worked after resetting it. With two dogs we depend on the ac to work when we are away.
Our two year warranty is up in a few weeks, so I called Carriage RV and was told to contact Carrier Air Conditioning directly for warranty information. Carrier told me to contact a technician. I wanted to have it checked out while still under warranty.  So, I called around for a mobile technician. The only one to call me back immediately wanted me to consider replacing the whole unit as Carrier doesn't make RV air conditioners anymore (True) and this was without even looking at our unit! Anyway that technician wasn't available to look at it till mid May! He suggested someone else for me to call. I called and spoke to another mobile tech that wanted me to bring it to his shop. I balked at doing that and he asked me to get the part numbers off the unit. He then told me he would call me back that evening.'s been a few days and he hasn't called. It sure makes you wonder about the quality of their work and service! So far the air conditioner is continuing to operate. I got up on the roof and cleaned the condenser and evaporator coils as well as the barrel fan. So keep your fingers crossed!
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our new friends and fellow Cameo owners, Paul and Paula. We got up to say goodbye and watch them pull out. We all suggested that we meet up again, perhaps in Colorado this year.  We shall see!
After months of self debate and procrastination, I decided to purchase a couple of portable Honda generators. When we ordered our Carriage RV fifth wheel, we did not order the Onan propane generator that was optional. Primarily because it was a $5K plus option! I knew at the time there were other much less expensive options. However, over the last couple years, I often wished that we had a generator as it would have given us some other camping options, i.e. national parks and state parks without electric. 
I narrowed down my choices between a Yamaha EF3000ISEB or the Honda EU2000I and Honda EU2000 Companion. I liked the simplicity and electric start of the Yamaha but was concerned with the 150lb weight. This unit had a boost capability providing a momentary 3500watts to help start a heavy load such as an air conditioner. It's rated load is actually only 2800 watts. I would have to keep it chained in the bed of the truck which would require finding and making room for it. I ultimately decided on the two Hondas and the parallel operation kit which would give me a total of 4000 watts or 33 amps for up to 30 mins or the rated load of 3200 watts or 26 amps when combined with the parallel cables. Moreover, they weigh less than 50 lbs each. I'm able to store them and move them much easier. I paid $1944 for both with the parallel kit and free shipping from Wise Equipment Sales.
Today, I put less than half a quart of oil in each of them, added gas and fired them up. I then tested them on the rig. First I tried running the rig with just the one Companion Honda (on the right) which has a 30 amp receptacle. It ran everything in eco-mode except the air conditioner to include the fridge, water heater, ice maker, microwave, television and fans. I was happily surprised that it ran all of it. Thus an overnighter in cool temps would only require one of the two generators.
Later I fired up both units after connecting the parallel kit. I had only put in about a cup of gas in each unit and I wanted them to run dry. Before long the Companion (on the right) ran out of gas but the EU2000I continued to run and provide power through the Companion. Good to know! Just because they are paralleled together they don't both have to run when the extra power isn't needed. I did neglect to try them with the air conditioner but I'm sure they will power our 15K main ac.
I mentioned in a previous post, that I had made a low profile stand for our satellite dish out of PVC.
I wanted to post some pictures. It's made with inch and a quarter PVC. The orange piece is a post bubble level. It's staked to the ground with a stake at each end. The set up works so well, I'm going to get rid of the cumbersome heavy tripod that came with the satellite antennae.

It's getting lonely here in the park. Most of our friends have moved on and we had perhaps our last happy hour last night. The winter Texans are on the move as we sit and wait to return to Corpus Christi on June 10th. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Birthday Celebration, Friends, Pedernales Falls State Park

April 13, 2011 Cottonwood Creek RV Park.
Well...I've crept up on the half century mark! Joyce wanted to do something special for me and wanted to have a party in the park.  I'm not big on being the center of attention, so we agreed we would just have a "Mexican Potluck Fiesta".  So with Joyce and our friend Betty organizing the fiesta, it all came together and we had a great time with our friends here at the park.
 Joyce bought a cake for me that we were able to share with everyone. 
Actually, the fiesta was held a few days after my birthday. On my birthday, we went with a group of friends to The Shade Tree Saloon and Grill for lunch. 

 It's a local "biker" bar with live music in the evenings.
Our neighbors and good friends, Dale and Betty said goodbye and headed home on April 11. Dale was eager to get back to his farm in Nebraska. Maybe someday we will pay them a visit on the farm.

Yesterday, we took a trip out to Pedernales Falls State Park. We had been to the park last year and enjoyed the falls. Unfortunately the drought has affected the flow in the Pedernales River.
Our new friends from the campground, Paul and Paula traveled with us to the park. They also have a Carriage RV, a new 2011 Cameo that they purchased just a few weeks ago to begin their full time RV adventure.
 After paying the $5 per person entrance fee, we hiked on down to the Twin Falls.  The hike for the Twin Falls is located in the park's campground between sites 19 and 21.
It was a nice hike through the trees with some rocky steep areas.
 It was a bit disappointing as we could only located one of the "Twin Falls". No doubt due to the dry conditions.
 After the short hike to Twin Falls we got back to the Jeep and drove to the main attraction in the park, the Pedernales Falls.
 Again, evidence of the drought was everywhere.  You really need to compare the pictures from last year.
Even though it wasn't as pretty or dramatic as last year, we still enjoyed visiting the park and enjoying the company of our friends, Paul and Paula.
After we left the park, we went for a late lunch at The Nutty Brown Cafe outside of Dripping Springs. We got home after 5:00 full and tired from being out in the sun. We sat with some neighbors and enjoyed the rest of the evening till the cool evening temps forced us inside.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Wow, time does fly when you are having fun! We've continued to do a lot of visiting and hanging out with folks here in the park. We've also had some excursions here and there to include a trip to Cabelas in Buda, Texas. 
This past Sunday, we met a nice couple, Steve and Erin from Austin.  They are blog readers and drove out to our campsite to visit  with us and our neighbors. We really enjoyed meeting them and listening to their plans to full time in the near future. We shared a tasty grilled early dinner and enjoyed their company.
A few days ago we took our friends Dale and Betty to Hamilton Pool, a Travis County park. Joyce and I had been to the park last year and had decided it was a "must see" for this area.

It seemed that the county had made some improvement to part of the path along the stream to the pool.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a water fall this year in comparison to last year. The Hill Country in the Austin area hasn't received the normal amount of rainfall this year and it shows in the dry creek beds and smaller streams.

During our visit, there was a crew working to clean the natural pool and filter the water as the e-coli bacteria level was high. Another symptom of a lack of adequate rainfall and water flow.

Take a look at the pictures from last year for a comparison of the water fall with this year's flow.

We walked back towards the trailhead and decided to keep going for the short hike to the Pedernales River.

Below is the Pedernales River, clear but shallow.

Back at the trail head, we had to ascend another 1/4 mile to the parking lot. It was a beautiful hike and we couldn't have asked for better weather. It was actually very cool on this date. 

While on the topic of the weather, the weather has been generally mild. We've had some near misses with the rain. It will cloud up and spit, but no measurable rainfall. There doesn't seem to be a consistent weather pattern, some days are warm in the mid 80's with a few in the mid 90's. Low's are usually in the 60's. However, last night we had a cold front and the low's were in the upper 30's overnight!  The pollen is thick making everything outside yellow. Every morning I wake to a mess from the pollen on the vehicles. Somedays, it is dry enough to use my car duster to dust the pollen off of the truck and Jeep.
Yet another venture we took last year and did again yesterday, was a group trip to Llano, Texas and Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbeque.
 Click here for a good description of last year's adventure and more pics of the Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbeque experience. Once again the meal was fantastic, and the best we've had.
The Pit Barbeque and the short line of guests 
Below is the group from the park that all caravaned to Llano and Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbeque. The other major part of the trip was with the purpose of looking at the wild flowers and in particular the Blue Bonnets on Willow City Loop. What a disappointment this year! The dry conditions have been detrimental to the flowers and they were few and far between on the dry land. Click here for pics of last year's wild flowers. I was driving this year and didn't take any pictures.

We all had a great time and enjoyed the company. Once again we thank the owner's of Cottonwood Creek RV Park, Les and Sheri for putting together this excursion. This is also the same group that has been getting together almost every afternoon for "happy hour"!