Sunday, May 27, 2007

San Antonio to Lewisville (Dallas) May 16-19, 2007

Wednesday, May 16th, was the 1st anniversary of our full-timing adventure!!!  It has been a good year of seeing beautiful parts of the country and having the freedom to stay in our own home (the 5th wheel trailer) while we visit with family in Texas.
(Just the cutest kid in the universe! That from his Grammy) :) :) :)

Wednesday, May 16th we left Admiralty RV Park in San Antonio for a beautiful 111 mile drive with fields of wild flowers bordering the highway.
Indian Paintbrush and cattle:

Blue Bonnets & yellow flowers:

We arrived at Fort Mason City Park, in Mason, Texas about 1:15 pm. This is the kind of day we like when we travel. Leave about 10am and stopping after no more than three or four hours of driving.
Fort Mason City Park is a pretty little park with about 25 sites nestled under a grove of pecan trees. Adjacent to the park is an 18 hole golf course. The fairways and greens don’t look like they get a lot of tender loving care. We don’t golf so we aren’t able to provide more info about the course.
Beautiful campsite under the mature pecan trees at the city park:

Mason is a very pretty town & county with a population of about 2200 & 3800 respectively. We dropped into the Chamber of Commerce office and picked up magazines, maps, and brochures with excellent visitor information about the area.
Mason is the county seat for Mason County, so in the center of the town is the county courthouse & square. Surrounding the square are two or three restaurants, several shops, a bank, antique store, etc. Mason, Texas web site:
As we usually do in these small towns we look for interesting restaurants to eat lunch at, and we were not disappointed in Mason. After we arrived Wednesday, we ate a late lunch/early dinner (about 2pm) at Cooper’s Bar-B-Q. The way they serve the Bar-B-Q is different. When you walk up to the restaurant entrance, there is a sign saying stop here at the large iron smoking pit and select the meat you want to eat. The pit master then carries your selections in the restaurant where you select your side orders, beverage, etc and pay. I don’t know if this is a new trend, or just how they have always served Bar-B-Q in Central Texas. We also experienced this kind of service at a Bar-B-Q in Brady, Tx. There is usually quite a selection of meats available. Of course the usual smoked brisket, sausage & chicken, but also pork chops, prime rib & goat.

On Thursday we had a great lunch at the Willow Creek Café. The lunch special was chicken fried steak, baked potato, vegetable, desert, ice tea or coffee for $7. Needless to say we left stuffed and had to take a nap. I have no idea why it is hard to lose weight, or keep from gaining weight!! :)

One of the brochures gave detailed driving directions to three tours in Mason County to view the wild flowers, beautiful ranch land and old ranch homes, some of which were built in the late 1800’s. Many of these old homes are still occupied by descendants of the original settlers. Some of these county roads are gravel, and in places a little rough where the roads drop into low water crossings.

Green Heron at Beaver Creek:

A rock ranch house built in late 1800’s:

Moving on toward Lewisville Friday:

We spent two nights in Mason and left (very early for us) at 7am. We left early so we could stop at Dan’s Machine & Welding shop in Brady, Texas.

A sidebar about why the stop at Dan’s Machine & Welding Shop:

In late March this year while spending the night in Brady we discovered we had a broken leaf spring on our 5th wheel axel. Due to errors in information from NuWa (the manufacturer of our HitchHiker) and lack of diligence from the owner & worker at Dan’s Machine, the incorrect length leaf springs were ordered and installed on the trailer. (OOPS)
While in San Antonio in April, Al realized the wrong springs were on the trailer.

The thing (equalizer) in the middle should be level instead of one side higher than the other. This is caused by one spring being longer than the other.

Close up view of the equalizer:

In San Antonio we took the trailer to Southwest Wheel and they installed the correct length springs and adjusted the trailer brakes. My hat is off to Southwest Wheel. They did a superb job of replacing the springs, aligning the axels and adjusting the brakes. All the work was done with a friendly smile, a helpful attitude AND at a reasonable price! :) :) :)

We arrived at Dan’s about 10 minutes before they opened at 8am. We spent about 1 ½ hours discussing the problem with Dan and getting a refund of half of the cost of replacing the springs. Dan is really a very nice and seemingly honest person. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances which caused the incorrect springs to be installed. A lesson learned by Al is to inspect all work done before leaving. Then we could have corrected the problem then and there. Of course we would have cooled our heels for another several days in Brady waiting for parts and the work to be completed. The camping facilities available in Brady don’t appeal to us to spend more than over night.

Then it was on to Copperas Creek Corps of Engineers CG on Proctor Lake a few miles outside of Comanche, Texas. We arrived shortly before noon and thought about maybe driving on to Sarita’s in Lewisville, an additional 145 mile drive. However the last 40 miles would be driving though Fort Worth and Dallas traffic. This meant, with stopping for lunch, we would be arriving about 4pm and still have to back the trailer into Sarita’s back yard. Due to the configuration of her driveway it takes us about 30 minutes to back the trailer in. The problem is that the driveway has an 18” by 18” brick post on one side of the entrance to the back yard, followed by an iron gate, the then to top things off, there is a dogleg to the left starting just after the gate. This gives us about 2” clearance on each side of the trailer when going past the brick post and through the gate. I am going to have to create a post about backing the trailer into Sarita's drive way, one of these days!

In the end we decided to spend the night at Copperas Creek CG. It sure is nice being retired and to not have to rush to some place because we are short on time. It is a hard life. :)

We had a pleasant campsite under some shade trees with a pretty view of a cove and the lake in the distance.

Morning view from the back of the trailer:

That evening we were sitting outside enjoying happy hour about 6pm. Down the way from the back of our trailer, was a family with a boy about 9 years old, fishing and feeding two or three ducks pieces of bread. Suddenly we started hearing a loud honking coming from the water a little to our left, but out of sight. At first we though it was the ducks giving out a loud quacks, but then shortly we saw two geese swimming across the little cove to where the duck were being fed. While the geese were swimming across the cove they continued to honk. From prior experience we know how aggressive geese or any wildlife that have lost their fear of humans can be when people are feeding them and you run out of food or just want to stop feeding them. Geese can and will start biting your legs or any other part of your body they can reach. In the case of children, geese are large enough to reach up to the arms, hands and maybe even the face. Sure enough once the family stopped feeding the geese, the geese approached to within a foot or two of the adults and demanded food. Fortunately these geese weren’t bold enough to actually attack the humans. All’s well that ends well. 

Just about dark three cars pulled into the campsite right next to us. Out piled 6 or 7 “Yutes” (“Yutes” comes from the movie “My Cousin Vinnie” and is Brooklyneese for “youths”). Oh boy we thought, here comes noise through out the night! :( :( They did play the radio and did talk until after 2am, but they were quiet and well mannered. :) :) We knew they were up until after 2am because both Sharon and Al usually wake up for a few minutes in the 1am to 3am time period. Before we left in the morning Al thanked them for being polite and quiet the night before. We called this group “Yutes”, but this is from our perspective being in our 60’s. They were in the early 20’s to early 30’s age group. Not exactly teenagers.

Saturday: Took our time as usual, packed up and left shortly after 10am. Took us about 3½ hours to go the 145 miles to daughter’s. There was an extra half an hour delay in there because of some stop and go traffic in Fort Worth and Lewisville. So much for light traffic on Saturday! :(

Pictures at our Daughter's  house in Lewisville.

Front yard:

Back yard:

Our trailer in the back yard:

Future Itinerary
We will be staying our daughter's back yard until mid June. Then we will head into the mountains around Santa Fe, NM for three or four weeks. We will probably spend most of late July and August in the mountains in South Central Colorado. We have an appointment at the NuWa (pronounced New Way) factory, in Southeast Kansas, the last Tuesday in August to have a window installed at the head of our bed in the trailer. Right now we have a small window on the right and left side of our bed. We spend a lot of time in places w/o electricity for air conditioning and want the window for extra ventilation. Also we like to be able to lie in bed and look out the window at night and in the early morning.

We plan on being back at daughter’s for Labor Day weekend and then back in San Antonio the first week in October or earlier to be on hand for the birth of our second grandchild, due in late October. We are planning on spending the winter in San Antonio again.

That’s all for now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bio for Al & Sharon, May 2007

Introduction to Al & Sharon and our travel logs. It is not our intent to update this blog or travel log on a daily basis. After we travel for a ways or have visited a particular area, we will post a log and pictures of our travels. Most of the writing will be done by Al, and edited (corrected) by Sharon. We welcome comments and feed back and will try to reply to emails.
We do not have full time access to internet. We currently use our cell phone for internet access. We have studied accessing the internet by “air card” and two way satellite, but we have not made a commitment to either yet.
Al & Sharon retired at an average age of 60 in 2004. Al worked in the mainframe computer industry for 37 years at IBM & USAA Insurance Company. Sharon took “very early retirement" from government service in 1973 when our first child was born and has been a homemaker for Al & the kids ever since. Of course now Sharon says “What retirement? I am still doing much the same work things I did before “we” retired in 2004! :)
We have two adult children, a daughter who lives in the Dallas, Texas area and a son, DIL and grandson who live in San Antonio.

Grammy says our grandson is the "cutest kid in the Universe”
We have known for years that we wanted to travel extensively after retirement. Al’s parents became full timer travelers (RV’ers) twice in their lifetimes, once for two years in the early 50’s when Al was 6 to 8 years old, and then again for 10 years from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s. So the full-timer bug is a trait that Al must have inherited.
After retirement in 2004 we started taking trips in our 33’ Mobile Scout travel trailer to see how we liked living in a tin box. This included a 5 month trip in 2005 to Wyoming and Idaho.

After returning from this trip in the summer of 2005 we started getting serious about clearing out 35 years worth of accumulated “valuable possessions”, painting & prepping the house for sale in the spring of 2006. In May 2006, just a few days before we signed a contract with a realtor to sell the house, our son & DIL decided they wanted to buy our home. This really made Sharon happy to have “family” live in the home she has loved for 30 years instead of some stranger. It is also nice that our grandson will get to grow up in the same house & have the same bedroom his father did.

We then moved into our 33’ Mobile Scout Travel trailer and began our full-timing lifestyle. Even though we had spent considerable time in the Mobile Scout, we began to realize we wanted a little more space and ease of towing for our full-time traveling home. Since we love staying in National Forest, National Park, State Parks, BLM areas, City Parks, etc, we didn’t want a 36’ to 40’ 5th wheel and a medium or heavy duty truck. We also ruled out motorhomes. The “nicer” motor homes are beyond what we are willing so pay for an asset that depreciates very quickly. We probably would think differently if our 2200 square foot house in San Antonio had been located in a high priced city where the sale would have brought several hundred thousand dollars. Then we may have considered using a portion of the sale money to buy a motorhome. In San Antonio, the proceeds from our home would just about pay for a decent diesel pusher.

Our first trip as full-timers went up thru the heartland of the US into Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. In Kansas, we toured the 5th wheel trailer manufacturing plants for Excel, New Horizons, and the HitchHiker, made by NuWa. Everyone we met in these plants impressed us with their desire to turn out a quality product. On the other hand in Indiana, we toured several manufacturing plants and were sorely disappointed in what we saw. Of the plants we visited in Indiana, only Numar seemed to put much thought, interest, and care into the manufacture of their product. The rest seemed to be interested in only how much product they could turn out in a week.

In September, we attended our first RV rally, the Escapees Escapade in Van Wert, Ohio. There we met a nice couple who was the president of one of the HitchHiker club chapters. They knew of a nice lady in Omaha, Nebraska, who wanted to sell her HitchHiker & Chevy diesel tow truck as a package. This package was just what we were looking for. Our current tow vehicle was a gas powered Chevy, which we knew was not rated to tow a 33 to 35 foot fifth wheel.

We talked with the lady in Omaha and agreed to purchase the trailer & truck after being allowed to give it a through inspection. As soon as the Escapade was over we high tailed it to Omaha, and in short order we agreed the trailer and truck were in excellent condition and committed to buy them. Now we had a dilemma. Two trailers, two trucks and we were in an unfamiliar city. We headed back to Texas, with our Mobil Scout, to our daughter Sarita’s house in Lewisville, Texas. It is so nice there; we can park our trailer in her back yard. Woo Hoo, free rent!! J

Al & Sharon spent the next couple of weeks making the Mobile Scout ready for selling. Al then flew to Omaha, completed the purchase of the HitchHiker and truck and brought them back to Lewisville.  

We moved all our belongings to the HitchHiker.

 Now the next obstacle: Where & how to sell the Mobile Scout. A couple of years ago we had read in an RV’ers web site where they had bought their 5th wheel from a consignment dealer in Houston, at PPL Motor Homes We had researched PPL and thought they were very professional. However we really didn’t want to have to tow the trailer 300 miles down to Houston if we could sell it in the Dallas area. We took the Mobile Scout to a small consignment dealer about 45 miles north of Dallas. That turned out to be a mistake. The trailer sat on their lot for a month, and I don’t believe anyone looked at it. The day before our free sales period was over we picked up the Mobile Scout and took it to PPL. Six days after it was put on PPL’s lot it sold for the NADA retail price. We were thrilled! J NADA’s prices are always somewhat over priced, but the Mobile Scout was in excellent condition.

We spent Thanksgiving & Christmas in San Antonio with the “kids” and thoroughly enjoyed being with our grandson. Our daughter came down for both Thanksgiving & Christmas. It was great spending both holidays with all of our family.

A couple of days before New Year’s Day we left for southern New Mexico and Arizona for the winter, returning to San Antonio the first of April. We had mostly very nice sunny and warm days in New Mexico and Arizona. We did have a few days of cold and a little rain but not enough to be uncomfortable. We did have a memorable day in Zion National Park, where we had 4 ½ inches of snow right around daylight. We were camped inside the park and it was beautiful, first with the snow falling and then with ground, trees, bushes and canyon walls white with the snow. We wish we could show you pictures of the snow but all the pictures of this trip were lost. Al thought he had all the pictures and travel logs of the trip backed up, but due to an operator error the external hard drive he uses to back our files deleted these files. You live and learn. Sometimes the hard way!!
We hope you enjoy the stories of our travels.