Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Austin Capital, Friends, Cooper's BBQ, Wild Flowers and catching up...

Cottonwood Creek RV Park, Dripping Springs, TX.

We've been having an excellent time here at Cottonwood Creek RV Park in the Texas Hill Country. The overall friendly nature of the guests and the almost daily "Happy Hour" (snack times) in the park really make it easy to get to know the guests. Often we end up caravanning to group outings at local restaurants. Last week we took a trip out to Salt Lick, a local restaurant known for their BBQ. This was only a few days after having the smoked brisket that Les and Sherry cooked for everyone in the park!
We made some new friends, Jeff and Joann. Jeff is a Lt. Col. in the U.S.A.F. and B-1 pilot, call sign "Hoof". Joann is a former deputy sheriff in Montana. But aside from that, together they are a wonderful and generous couple. We plan to stay in touch with them.

Unfortunately Jeff had to get back to work after having extended their vacation for a few more days!
We took Paul and Paula on a walking tour of the Texas State Capital and the beautiful grounds.
 Of course no visit to Austin is complete without a walk along the 6th Street district.
Back at the RV park, several of us volunteered to assist Les and Sherry in grinding up cut cedar trees into mulch to use on the paths. We spent about 8 hrs. over the weekend helping out. We were rewarded with a meal and outing at a local Mexican Restaurant, Flores.
It wasn't long before it was time for our scheduled trip with nearly everyone in the park to Cooper's BBQ in Llano Tx.  I gotta tell ya we weren't feeling like eating anymore BBQ before we got to Cooper's but, after smelling and seeing the was game on! 
Paul and Paula selecting their meat from the BBQ pit.
The Happy Hour gang at Cooper's
After eating at Cooper's, we took a scenic ride home via the Willow City Loop. The wild flowers were better than we had seen the previous two years.

Along the Willow City Loop we came across this Llama(?) greeting visitors along the narrow road.

Llano River
Mix of Blue Bonnets and other wild flowers.
We have/had a lot planned to do while here in the hill country, it remains to be seen if we can do everything on our list. Time has really gone by quickly and some of our dear friends, old and new are already moving on. Soon we will be joining them on the road as we head to Florida in about 10 days.
Today, Paul and I took my truck to the Dodge dealer in Austin and killed the day getting it serviced and taking care of a recall. Not a bad day to go as it has rained repeatedly today. Speaking of rain, it has been refreshing to see and feel some real rain since leaving the desert. I hope we don't see and feel too much!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cottonwood Creek RV Park, Dripping Springs, TX

Well we made it to Cottonwood Creek RV Park outside of Dripping Springs, TX on March 16.  Our travel day from Ozona Tx. was cloudy with some spotty precipitation. We only had about 200 miles to travel that day because we had done the bulk of the miles the day before. So, it was a comfortable ride through the Hill County.
This is our 3rd stay here at Cottonwood Creek RV Park and we just love the park and the location. We paid $325 for a month plus electric. We will probably only stay for about 3 weeks. This puts us about halfway on our trip to Florida.
Since we no longer own a home, coming here every year kinda feels like home. The owners, Les and Sheri are very hospitable and they always spend time with us catching up.
Front sites 1-7
Laundry and back patio building
Paul and Paula got set up in site 16 and we took site 17. There's only about 32 sites in the park. Our sites back up to the woods which contain some beautiful walking trails. The park was full on our arrival due to the weekend.
Sites 17 and 16
We quickly got caught up with several of our friends and guests that we had met last year or even three years ago. The park doesn't have permanent residents, but it does have may guests that return every year during the winter and spring months. One cool thing about this park is that because it is small and so many folks return, we almost always have a happy hour (snack time) gathering at someone's site in the late afternoon.
The weather had been overcast and last night, March 19, we had some good rain. Cottonwood Creek began flowing from all the rain!
Lower end of Cottonwood Creek
We really like taking advantage of the walking trails in the back and get an opportunity to stretch Maggie and Rico's legs a bit!
Maggie on the walking trail looking for Rico!
This afternoon Les and Sheri are smoking brisket for the entire park. Everyone is invited and asked to bring a side dish or dessert. Les and Sheri frequently have these little BBQ gatherings and it's always tasty and fun! Les smokes the brisket for about 12-14 hours!
Les's brisket smoker doing it's thing!
It should be a good Blue Bonnet season this year as we noticed lots of the flowers on the sides of the roads ready to bloom.  We look forward to re-visiting the Hill Country and perhaps seeing some things we didn't see on the previous visits. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stop over in Ozona TX

We enjoyed our week in Las Cruces and Hacienda RV Park. We re-visited La Mesilla and the two weekend markets.  However, mostly we just relaxed yet stayed busy. 
A funny thing happened yesterday. In preparation for our travel, I decided to put some more water in the rig's 80 gallon water tank. I usually keep it at about 30 gallons. As you may recall we boon docked in a parking lot overnight last week because of a dust storm. So, I needed to replenish the water in the tank. So as the tank is filling, I'm doing some other things and eventually get distracted and end up over at Paul and Paula's RV. Not long after Joyce comes running over yelling water is pouring out of the rig. Sure enough, I overfilled the tank. Thankfully nothing was damaged or got wet. I drained the tank to the level I wanted and all was fine. 
Today we hit the road about 8:30 headed for Fort Stockton 300 miles away. We made good time and the weather was cooperating with a cool overcast (temps 70-80's). So after reaching Fort Stockton, I filled up at $4.05 a gallon for diesel and Joyce filled the Jeep. 
Paul and Paula were willing to keep going so we pushed on for another 100 plus miles to the Circle Bar RV Park in Ozona Tx.

I don't believe there is a website for the park but, it's at exit 372 in Texas. It's not much more than a dirt parking lot. Cost was $27 for the night including cable TV, 50 amp and Sewer. It's first come first serve and it seems to be common practice to park your tow vehicle in the adjacent site if it doesn't fit in the site with your rig. We were told to pick our own site and the office didn't care to know which ones we took. Very relaxed. 
We made a quick meal watched American Idol and are now preparing for some shut eye after driving 400 miles today. Tomorrow we should make it to Cottonwood Creek RV Park in Dripping Springs, Tx.
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dust Storms, Generators and Dirt Lots on our way to Las Cruces

March 7 and 8th 2012, Travel Day to Las Cruces.

Well, we finally made it to Las Cruces today, staying at Hacienda RV Park. We’ve stayed here in the past.
The journey was interesting. When we left Usery Mountain Regional Park, our goal was to travel 200 plus miles to Willcox, Az. The night before had been very windy and I didn’t get much sleep as I was worrying about the weather. However the next day it was calm in the morning and we made good time after departing around 8:30 pushed by a tailwind. We made it to a fuel stop at 12:30 about 30 miles from Willcox with Paul and Paula. It was cold and windy. We collectively decided that since we were making very good time, we should push on to Las Cruces which would put another 200 miles behind us for a total of approximately 400 miles. We usually don't tow much over 300 miles in one day!

Some Flowers in bloom under the foreboding skies.
So, off we went, again making good time but beginning to notice that the wind was becoming more of a crosswind instead of just pushing us and the dust was picking up as we passed into New Mexico. As we continued we saw the usual signs warning of potential dust storms. However, we soon passed two electronic signs that read “I-10 closed at Lordsburg to Las Cruces take alternate route”. Now come on...what alternate route is there for this portion of I-10 when in fact, as we later found out, the few highways in the area were being closed due to a dust storm! Paul and I discussed the matter on our walkies but with no alternatives, decided to press on noting that the NM D.O.T. radio channel was not reporting a closure. Unfortunately as we were leaving Lordsburg, we were routed off the interstate near a Pilot Truck Stop about 116 miles from our destination. Probably 50 or more 18 wheelers were crowded into the truck stop. We drove past and Paul lead us into a dirt lot with several RVs.
Our overnight parking lot among fellow RVers
We huddled for awhile and I turned on my handheld CB radio and for the first time since buying it a year ago, used it to try and get some information from the chatty foul mouthed truckers. But all they had to share was vulgar entertainment and misinformation.
As you can imagine, it was still windy and getting cooler. We had already opened up two of our slides and by 5:30 with no word on when the interstate would re-open, Paul and I both took out our Honda generators and fired them up, confident that we would be spending the night. Of course after getting situated around 6 p.m. we noticed that the interstate was again open. Well too late for us, we had already cancelled our reservation and were resigned to staying the night in the dirt lot.
We shut the generators off before going to bed. I only have one battery for my rig and thus decided not to run my furnace overnight without the generator running. I woke up around 5:30 comfortable under the covers but astonished that it was 46 degrees inside the rig and 32 outside! Maggie and Rico must have been freezing! I got up and turned on both generators, ours and Paul and Paula’s. After turning on the furnace we warmed up and after an hour or so were able to get ready to move on.

Rico bundled up for the night!
We got back on the road by 8:30 with temps still in the low 40’s. Two hours later we were pulling into Las Cruces. Too early to check in at Hacienda RV Park, we decided to get a late breakfast at the big rig friendly, Cracker Barrel. We got checked in around 11 a.m. and spent the rest of the chilly afternoon setting up and then turning in early! It only warmed to 56 degrees but it should be in the mid 70’s later in the week.
We each paid the $267 weekly rate which includes cable, WiFi and full hook-ups. Joyce and I really like Las Cruces and Paul and Paula had only spent a day or so in the area last year and wanted to spend more time.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Usery Mountain Regional Park

March 4, 2012 Travel Day to Usery Mountain Regional Park Mesa, AZ.
I'm always a little uneasy when we start traveling especially after sitting in the same spot for the past 4 months. But this was a good travel day. We got rolling around 8:30 after saying goodbyes to fellow volunteers and campers in our cozy little volunteer campground.  Dara and her husband Marc had come over the night before with their son Noah to say their goodbyes. 
After about hundred miles, I again began to feel comfortable. Paul and Paula were leading us down AZ Hwy 93 and Joyce was bringing up the rear. We made one stop on the 300 plus mile trip at a roadside picnic table. Although it was a long day we thankfully arrived at our campsites in Usery Mountain Regional Park without incident. This has always been one of our favorite parks and its very close to my father's home. The park is full to capacity with some campers staying in the over-flow lot. We had reserved site 67 and Paul and Paula site 66.

We paid $75 for the site for three nights plus a $8 online registration fee. We wanted to stay longer but the time frame just wasn't available at this very popular winter park.
Site 67

Karen and my father prepared a late dinner for all of us at their place. We were happy and surprised to see my Cousin Teri and her husband Rick join us for dinner. After catching up we finally got home and into bed about 9 pm. We were all exhausted from our first travel day in months! Tomorrow is expected to be exceptionally warm at 87 degrees. Glad we have a new air conditioner!
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Last days at Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

We’ve been very busy over the last few days and of course I’ve fallen behind on the blog which I’ll blame on our poor internet reception via our MiFi at our campground.
To begin with, we finally saw a show on the Las Vegas Strip. Joyce had wanted to see a show so she made plans for the four of us to see the Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. Paul and Paula joined us for the evening performance. Before the show started we toured the Venetian Casino including the indoor mall and floating gondolas. Then we had a fantastic dinner before the show. The show itself was dramatic and colorful, but to be honest, it’s just not my kinda thing. Joyce and Paula really enjoyed it.
A few days ago, Paul and I planned a hike for the four of us on the West side of of the Las Vegas valley at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. So we drove out there, paid the $7 entrance fee at the gate and proceeded to our first stop, the visitor center.
Inside the visitor Center at Red Rock Canyon
After touring the well apportioned visitor center we set out on a trip along the 17 mile one-way scenic drive to our trailhead. The drive was beautiful taking us up to 4K feet and obviously featuring the beautiful red rocks.
View of the scenic 17 mile loop.
Beautiful red rock (sandstone)
From the trailhead that we had selected we took off on our 6 or 7 mile hike on the White Rock Loop Trail gaining altitude to over 5K feet. It was a beautiful trail in the small pines and junipers. However several sections were very rocky creating some unsure footing. The trail was rated difficult, probably due to the altitude changes and the aforementioned rocks. 
Trailhead for White Rock Loop Trail
We stopped for lunch before making our way back to the Jeep on the loop trail. It was a good hike and had been a beautiful day. If you are in search of hiking trails in the Las Vegas valley I would highly recommend this website: Bird and Hike.
Okay, now on to our Air Conditioner story. As you may recall, we ordered a new Coleman Mach 15 heat pump/ air conditioner from a local mobile repair company, Affordable RV here in Las Vegas. The appointment for the installation at our campsite was set for Monday between 10-11 a.m.  We had been scheduled to work our volunteer job on Monday so we re-arranged our schedule working on Sunday instead. So, Monday comes and I call at 9:00 leaving a message to make sure they are still on schedule. I didn’t get a call back and called several more times always getting the answer machine. Finally I call with Joyce’s phone (different number) sometime after noon and they answer. I’m told they called me and left a message that the wrong thermostat had arrived and they would have to postpone till Tuesday.  Of course, I never got the call or message! Needless to say I’m a bit annoyed as we were also scheduled to work on Tuesday. 
Our friend and boss, Dara stopped by to see us around 3:30 and shortly thereafter, the installer arrived unannounced by himself. He quickly began working and removed and replaced the main A/C unit on the roof. Of course this disrupted or visit with Dara. Then he reported that he didn’t have the wiring on his truck to finish the job and install the thermostat and would have to run back to town. After he left, I got a phone call from Affordable RV reporting that the installer wasn’t able to find the wiring and would have to return tomorrow (Tuesday) between 10-11. It was close to 5 p.m. and getting dark so I was agreeable.
Thermostat on wall
As you can probably imagine, 10 and 11 a.m. passed on Tuesday and I didn’t see or hear from Affordable RV.  I had the installers tools so I knew he had to come back. Again my calls to the company went unanswered and again the installer showed up unannounced around 1 p.m., this time with another worker. Of course they apologized for being late..... Anyway, the installation was completed and a thermostat controlling the a/c, heat pump and furnace was installed. The wiring for the thermostat was run through the ceiling vents and ducts to the wall where the wireless remote/ thermostat for the old Carrier unit had been. It is all working as advertised at a cost of just over $1500 and some aggravation. Having said all that, I would be hesitant to recommend Affordable RV. On the other hand, we are thankful that we were able to get the job done at our campsite.
On Wednesday, we worked our last day as volunteers for Lake Mead N.R.A.  We worked some back country roads down by the Davis Dam and Katherine Landing some of which we would have done on Tuesday. It made for a long day but we wanted to fulfill our (perceived) obligation. Actually Dara had told us we didn’t need to worry about the day of work we missed but, since the roads were all in the same area we did our best to get them all done. As you may know, Davis Dam creates Lake Mohave on the Colorado River near Laughlin Nevada and Bullhead City Arizona.
We really enjoyed working for the park's resource management team and in particular Dara. She's been very good to us allowing us to work independently and tour most of what Lake Mead National Recreation Area had to offer in the process.
Davis Dam
Approved Road 2 ends on a peninsula in Lake Mohave.
As I write this we have only two nights left and we’ve been busy packing up and making preparations. We’ve been sitting here for nearly 4 mos. so packing and preparations are a bit more involved! The weather today has taken a turn for the worse with a high of only 56 and strong gusty winds. However, folks in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys are experiencing severe tornadic activity and our thoughts and prayers are with those folks.
Tomorrow, Saturday looks to be a better day at which time I’ll air up all of our vehicle tires, put the TST Tire Monitor sensors back on the trailer tires and make final preparations for departure on Sunday for Usery Regional Mountain Park in Mesa, Az.

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