Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Cotulla TX Gate Guard Friends, Set-up at our Winter Site, Step-Father in Hospice

November 11 - 17, 2014   

This really has been a bizarre few weeks for us.  It all started with the truck having the wrench light come on in Mississippi back on the 10th of October. Then the next day Patty’s mother went into the hospital and then died 6 days later.  We then made our first long trip (1,100 miles) back north from Jackson MS to Buffalo NY for the funeral.  We got back from Buffalo to find that our truck was still not finished and it was another 10 days (total of 26 days) before we finally left to continue further south.  However, not until we paid $2,800 for the repairs! Four days later in Ingram TX we had the same issue return on the truck.  This time though Ford ate the charges, but it did delay us for 2 more days.  We finally made it to our winter site in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on the 14th. We got set-up and I got a phone call from my step-father’s hospice nurse saying that we should get there ASAP as he was in his last hours of life.  We left the next morning at 10:30 am for the 1,400 mile trip and arrived 3 days later in Crawfordsville Indiana.  We did all of this in just 5 weeks!  

Saw this road runner when I was taking the garbage out the day we left Ingram TX.

Tuesday the 11th we got the rig ready to leave and then at 8:00 am I picked up the truck at Ken Stoepel Ford.   Got the truck gassed up and then went to Home Depot, Lowes, and then to The Tractor Supply Company where I picked up a portable propane heater.  I got the Mr. Heater Buddy that has been recommended by many people online.  The heater uses the small 1lb propane cylinders so I got a pack of 4 before I headed back to the RV.  Our plan was to use the Mr. Heater while we are at the Gate guard site in Cotulla, TX boondocking. The weather is to get pretty cold there (highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s) and the RV furnace is not very efficient so we can use the heater.

We are headed to Cotulla TX about 180 miles straight south from Ingram TX.  We are visiting our new friends, George and Tebra, we met via the internet that are gate guarding at an oil well field a few miles outside of the town of Cotulla TX. Actually, Tebra first sent us an e-mail that went into our spam bucket.  She then later sent a message through our blog that I got and then responded to.  They have the same RV, Sanibel, as we do just a year newer.  They also purchased the rig at the same dealer as we did and they went full-time almost to the day a year later than we did, August 2013 and us in August of 2012.  So we had much in common.

So we made a date to meet them at their gate guard site on our way down to Elsa TX.  We kept moving the date due to our truck and parent issues but here we are finally at their site.  George and Tebra have been at this gate since January of this year.  I had originally thought that gate guards only worked a couple of months and then moved on.  Well, I learned a lot about gate guarding from George and Tebra and in fact there are both short and long term gate jobs. They work 24/7 with each taking a 12 hour shift.  The work is long but not hard either.  They are furnished with their camp site, water, sewer, and electric as well as a daily wage.

George and Tebra's Sanibel is on the left and ours is on the right. They were telling the truckers that they were starting a Sanibel lot.

This is the gate guard support flat bed.  It contains the diesel generator, the water tank, and the diesel fuel tank.  The flat bed also contains the water pump.

We got to really see a busy gate while we were there.  They said that it was usually slow, about 20 vehicles a day they checked in and out.  It looked like they were now doing that every hour while we were there.  This is an interesting work idea but it would not be for us.  First, we are not really wanting to work and certainly not that many hours.  Also, Patty sees way to many doctors to make this something we could consider.  However, we really did like meeting George and Tebra and seeing this job in action.

George and Tebra.  Great hosts!

We found that the Mr. Heater was not a good solution when using the small 1lb cylinders.  They just didn’t last long enough to make it worth the cost of the convenience.  The heater has 2 settings, low and high.  On low we got 4 hours per cylinder and on high we got 2 hours.  The low setting is about equivalent to our electric fireplace on high which keeps us 25 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.  The Mr. Heater high setting is almost 10,000 BTU which kept the RV at 70 inside with the outside temperature of 29.  Actually, we needed to turn the heater down or it would have been over 70 inside.  To make the Mr. Heater a better solution I bought the adaptor hose for our 20lb BBQ cylinder.  After we started using the 20lb we were very comfortable for the next couple of days.

Entrance to the gate.

Looking back toward the entrance to the oil rig site.  Note both of our Sanibels.  Ours is on the right.

Pictures of the oil rigs.  

We said our goodbyes to Tebra the night before we left as she would be sleeping when we left on Friday.  Friday the 14th we packed up and said our goodbyes to George before heading the 230 miles further south to our winter place, Natures Resort in Elsa TX.  

We arrived at Natures around 4pm after the office was closed but it didn’t matter as we already knew we were in site 120 and we could take care of paying later.  We took our time setting up as we will be here for the next 5 months.  
Our site at Natures resort in Elsa Texas.

A few days ago my step father (Leon) was placed under hospice care.  The main reason to go with hospice was to make him more comfortable as his condition was not going to improve.  He and his wife are in an assisted living facility where he can still go to dinner and he can mostly carry on a conversation.  He really wasn’t on watch for eminent death, at least at this point.  

On our way down to Natures from Cotulla we got a call from the hospice nurse to let us know that Leon was not doing well.  She went on to say that we did not need to come back to Indiana just yet.  She said that she normally gives family a call when it looks like death is within a week.  She didn’t think Leon was in this stage but that nothing is guaranteed.  We fully understand that.

While I was setting up the site, Leon’s wife’s daughter Kathy left me a message to say it looked like Leon was going to pass soon.  I called Kathy and explained what the hospice nurse said and she said that Leon had a major change just after the nurse called me in the afternoon.  Kathy and the nurse were meeting with Leon later that evening and they would give me an update then.  The call was from the hospice nurse and it was the one where he will pass in the next 2-3 days if not sooner.  She said not to catch the red eye tonight but I need to think about getting there tomorrow. 

We made the decision to rent a car and drive the 1,400 miles to Crawfordsville, IN. We could fly and be there on Saturday but at considerable cost and we didn't know when we would be returning.  I also do not like flying due to the very small airplanes that they use for these small markets like we are in and going to.  Also, my stepfather and I are not close but he is the only father I have really known (my real father died when I was 7).  All of that said, and I know he would understand, we decided to drive.

Driving turned out to be the right thing to do.  Just after we left Leon started to improve.  We drove 9 hours on Saturday and stayed the night just north of Dallas TX.  Sunday we drove another 10 hours and stayed just over the Illinois state line in Marion IL.  Then on Monday the 17th we drove the last 4 hours into Crawfordville IN.  We went first thing to see Leon and see how things are.  We found him to be stable but somewhat fragile.  Anyway, we are not really sure of how long he has to live.  He is not doing well but he seems he could stay like this for a while.  We stayed and had dinner with Barbara, his wife, at the facility and then called it a night.

Our first snow in Marion Illinois. 

First stop in Indiana.  The non-antifreeze windshield cleaner from south Texas froze so we stopped here to clean the windows. 

We are planning to stay here for the next week or unless something changes.

Stay Tuned!

Columbus and Ingram TX and Truck Issue again

November 06 - 10, 2014   

Thursday the 6th we traveled the 280 miles to Columbus TX. That was a very long drive for us and we did it on just one tank of fuel.  We didn’t pick a campground before we left so Patty did the research on the way west on I 10.  We knew we were going to be on I 10 for the next couple of days so there wasn’t any real need to pick a place for our one night stay west of Houston TX.  We are getting real good fuel mileage for some reason right now so as we went along we just kept intending the distance to where we going to stay for the night. 

Back in Texas!

We found a place right off of I 10 in the town of Columbus TX called the Columbus RV Park, who would have thought!  Anyway the price was right at $26 with a pull through site.  This place was just for one night so it really didn’t matter much about the place or what was in the area.  The only thing we did here was to eat and sleep and have a glass of wine of course.

Our site in the Columbus RV Park.

We don't know the circumstance here but this RV burnt to ground.

We had a loose turkey chase us around the campground.

On the 7th, Friday we traveled the last 180 miles to Ingram TX which is about 50 miles west of San Antonio.  Just as we were in the last 15 miles or so of the trip, the truck wrench light came on again as we were pulling up a small hill.  The engine fan came on too which is not normal for such a small hill.  It takes quite a bit of hard pulling to get that fan to come on.  In fact, we never heard that fan for the first 3 months until we got into the Rocky Mountains the first year we were out.   We thought there was something wrong with the truck back then because the fan is very loud.  So now I have the same situation as I had a month ago as we pulled into Jackson MS with this wrench light on.  I didn’t stop, I just kept on until we arrived at our destination about 15 minutes later.

We went to the Guadelupe RV Resort where our friend Janelle is a resident.  We have known Janelle now for over 2 years after meeting her at our stay in South Florida our first year full timing.  We arrived around 3pm and were set up in the Park Model sites number 27 next to Janelle.   This campground is nice but a little on the pricey side for us at $39 a night plus the cost of Wi-Fi.  

Our site at the Guadalupe RV Resort.  Janelle's site is on our left.

This is a large campground!

The Guadelupe has a nice bar located in the center of the resort that draws a lot of local town people out too.  So after getting set up and having a little dinner that Janelle brought over we headed over to DT’s for drinks and karaoke.  We were surprised that the place draws so many people.  This is the way to have a bar in an RV resort.  By 9 pm the place was really hopping.  By 10:30 we had enough and headed back to our RV for the night.  It was a long day!

I decided to just wait until Monday to take the truck into the local Ford dealer, Ken Stoepel Ford, here in Kerrville TX.  My reasoning was that Saturdays were usually very busy and if I needed to call back to Rogel Ford in Jackson they were closed on Saturday.  Also, I just didn’t want to get up early and deal with it just after we got here.  So I made an appointment online for 7:30 am on Monday at Ken Stoepel Ford.

Saturday and Sunday we (I) just hung out at the resort and enjoyed the nice weather while it lasts.  Patty did a lot of sleeping as she has been having issues with her blood sugar again.  She is either way up or way down, just can’t seem to get into a groove with it.  We have new things to discuss with her Endocrinologist in Edinburg TX when we finally get down to our winter spot.  The Dr. adjusted her insulin pump before we left and she was doing very well.  But now she just seems to be all over the place with her sugar levels.  Also, she is reacting differently to being low now.  Before, Patty would start to sweat and get lethargic that would let us know she was low.  Now she becomes hysterical and has uncontrolled movements and talks out of her mind.  It’s pretty scary actually!

One of my walks around the campground.  This is the Guadalupe River on the right.

Monday the 10th I got up a little before 6 am and did my stretch bands routine and then headed off with the truck to Ford. After about an hour I was informed that the truck had the same issue as before with the oil cooler being bad.  Also, there was a fault code from the truck computer saying the fan clutch was bad.  The good news is that since the previous work was done by Ford (Rogel in MS) the current failure is covered and won't cost us anything, just the time to do the work.  Also, the fan clutch is covered by our extended warranty, yea us!  Ford also wants to replace a $150 electronic sending unit while they have the cab off just because it’s a good time to do it cheaply, so I agreed.  All in all we will have to pay $500 for this repair in total (warranty deductible and the sending unit). 

At first, Ford said that they couldn’t get to for a week.  Then that afternoon they said that since we are traveling and the issues we have had before, they pushed us to the top of the work pile and in fact had started on it already.  They believe it will be done tomorrow by the end of the day!  Wow!  

As far as the rest of the day, we went to the Walmart here and got some more wine and a few food staples.  We are now thinking we may get to Cotulla TX to visit new friends this week, finally!  So we topped off our three propane tanks so we have all of the propane we need when we boondock at the oil well.  

No matter what, we eat good!

I also had a brain fart about keeping warm during this polar vortex while boondocking. This latest polar vortex is now hitting here and will be down in south Texas by Wednesday.  Since we will be boondocking without electricity we will need to use our generator.  When it’s warm out, relying on the generator is OK because we don’t need it too much.  However, when it’s cold, we need to keep warm all of the time, especially when it’s only going to be mid 50’s in the daytime with low 40s at night.  We will need to run the furnace which will run but uses the battery to run the fan.  We can only get about 5-6 hours out of the battery running the furnace fan.  The 40s and 50s isn't that cold but it does require having some minor heat and running the generator is really overkill for this purpose.  So what we need is a small propane space heater.

Tomorrow I plan to be on a mission to get a propane space heater.  Also, the cold weather gets here tomorrow so I am planning to make some cold weather chili!

Stay Tuned!

We are on the move again! Lafayette Louisiana

November 03 - 6, 2014
We finally got the truck back on Tuesday the 4th and we left the same day.  Rogel Ford in Crystal Springs MS had our truck for 22 days to change the oil cooler with a cost of $2,800!  Yeah and our extended warranty doesn’t cover the oil cooler.  Anyway, the truck runs fine and I have not seen any leaks after pulling the RV for the first 230 miles to Lafayette LA.  So far so good!

After not hearing anything from Rogel on Monday the 3rd Patty sent off another e-mail to the owners telling them we had no confidence in them.  They had promised the truck would be done on Monday and we didn’t even get a call from them.  We were set to just drive into Rogel on Tuesday if we hadn’t heard anything by 10 am to just see the truck and raise some hell!  We didn’t need to do that as Rogel called at 7:20 am to say the truck would be ready by 10 am.  We then began to get the RV ready for moving and I took the rental car back.  Due to the damage I did to the rental car, I had to pay Enterprise our $500 insurance deductible.  Again, this was a very expensive month for us!

After picking up the truck and hitching up to the RV we were on our way by 11:30 am headed toward Lafayette LA.  The truck drove great with no issues.  Actually, the engine temp was just a tad cooler than usual. We were mostly interested in the truck performance and that was fine because there wasn’t anything to look at outside.  The landscape through south MS and then into south east LA was not very interesting.  

We made it to the campground Frog City about 15 miles west of Lafayette LA around 4 pm.  We will be here for the next 2 nights as we return to our regular 200 miles travel and a minimum 2 nights stays.  I got out the grille and we made dinner of Italian hot sausage with fresh grilled peppers and onions.  It smelled just like being at the fair outside!

Our site at the Frog City Campground.

Wednesday the 5th we did our usual walks, me 5 miles and Patty 2 miles, around the park and surfed the internet.  For the evening we went out to a local Cajun restaurant that was recommended by the campground.  We went into Lafayette to the Prejean’s restaurant which was about 15 miles away. 

Live Cajun music.

We both liked the food.  There was just too much food so we took half of it home for another meal.  Patty had the Shrimp Extravaganza which really was a lot of shrimp.  Her dinner had a shrimp garden salad to start and then a cup of shrimp gumbo.  Her main course consisted of shrimp done 4 ways; fried, blackened, Cajun, and stuffing which were shrimp stuffed into stuffing balls.

Patty's main course.
 I had the southern fried catfish and man was that spicy, just the way I like it!  Prejean’s is somewhat touristy but that was OK for us as we really didn’t know what to expect.  We would return to this restaurant!

Tomorrow we head out to just an overnight stay west of Houston TX.  We want to make Ingram Texas and the Guadeloupe campground on Friday and see our friend Janelle.

Stay tuned! 

Still in Jackson MS, Visit to Natchez MS, Trouble Backing up

October 28 – November 02, 2014   

It’s not warm in Jackson anymore but it is still sunny.  This past weekend the 1st and 2nd of November the temps haven’t left the low 60s and the night time temps have been in the 30s.  Saturday night was our first time in the RV below freezing at 30 for the low temperature!  We didn’t do anything special for the cold.  We ran our electric fireplace which keeps the RV a little over 20 degrees warmer than the outside temp.  We also set the propane furnace to 60 for overnight.  Then in the morning we just turn up the furnace to 65 and open the blinds and let the sun in.  We are facing east so we get a lot of sun in the morning so the furnace only runs once just to get the temp up a little.

As the title says, we are still in Jackson MS and still without the truck.  It has now been 21 days since I took the truck in to Rogel Ford in Crystal Springs MS and was told it would be just a 2 day job maybe 3.  The first week it was there we were more worried about getting to Buffalo NY and what was going on with Patty’s mother to be real concerned about the truck.  The second week we were in Buffalo attending to the death of Patty’s mother so we again didn’t think too much about the truck.   This past week we have been in a routine of waiting for Ford to call in the morning which never happens and then I call them and find out it will be ready the next day.  Then I go to the office at the campground and pay for another night.

Finally by Friday the 31st Patty got fed up and wrote the owners of Rogel Ford an E-Mail explaining our problem getting our truck back.  That got us connected to a higher up guy at the service department who actually called us and apologized and said the truck will be done next Monday.  OK, that means we will be here for the weekend again!

This is what I’m worried about, Rogel not doing the complete job on changing this oil cooler out.  It is very important that the cooling system be flushed out properly.  I did some reading on this and found out that to properly do this job the cooling system needs to be flushed out using a couple of chemicals.  If this doesn’t happen then the oil cooler will just clog up again in a few months and we will be 1,000 miles away.  I have lost confidence in this service department to do the right job.  All I can do at this point is to question them when we finally get the truck back and hope for the best.

Also, besides the truck issues, I managed to back the rental car into a light pole here in the campground.  It just gets more expensive as we go along here!  I don’t like backing up any vehicle but this car has very little visibility when backing up, especially compared to driving the truck.  Anyway, our site has a tree a few feet back and also a light pole 10 feet further away both on the passenger side of the site.  The sites are pull through so they are angled toward the exit direction. This means you need to make a tight turn as you back up to get centered into the exit road.  I saw the tree and concentrated on missing that and then hit the pole.  To make matters worse, I then tried to paint the scratches to make it look better and failed badly.  Not sure how much this will cost but it won’t be cheap.  

Bad light pole!

The coldest day was Saturday he 31st so we decided to get laundry done.  We have the rental car so we can go outside the campground where it would be cheaper.  This campground it one of the highest we have seen, $2.50 per machine, even the dryer.  There are also only 2 washing machines and only one dryer.  Even in Jackson the cost was still $2.00 per washer but just $.25 per 10 minutes in the dryer. However, they had many machines so we were done in about an hour.

With the wash out of the way we decided to have dinner in the other Mexican restaurant within walking distance.  The Mexican Grill has many more customers than the other place but the food was about the same as far as we could see.  We both had a full meal with a glass of wine and a beer for me and the bill was only $26.  The only thing we could see was maybe the prices were just a little bit cheaper than the other Mexican restaurant that is only 2 minutes from this one.  We liked both places about the same so it was a wash for us.

Nice little wrap on my very cold beer.

Back at the RV for our coldest night in the RV yet and hopefully ever!  The temperature dropped to 30 around 6 am in the morning.  Since there isn’t any wind and it is clear out, it really doesn’t feel as cold as Texas did when it was in the 30s there.  We did fine with no issues at all.

Sunday the 2nd we decided to take advantage of the rental car and take a drive to Natchez MS by way of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  Natchez MS is 102 miles from our site via the Natchez Trace Parkway.  There are many places to pull off and see a site, hike or just have a picnic.  We managed to pull over for a few things on the way making the trip about 2 hours long.

There a few places on the Natchez Trace that are sunken due to all of the foot traffic over hundreds of years.  This is one of them.

This is the original Natchez Trace that has been worn away over the years.

At the top of the trace is a sighting of the colorful Patty.

We arrived in Natchez MS around 1 pm and decided we would check out the town as we didn’t know anything about it.  First, I didn’t know that Natchez was on the Mississippi River.  Natchez is a very old city dating back to the early 1700s.  It was originally settled by the Spanish as a major cotton and slave trade town.  There is a very old sign in town that reads “more Negros means more cotton and more cotton means more Negros.”  

This marks the start of the Natchez Trace on the southern end.  It continues over 400 miles to Nashville TN.  We now have been on the first 250 miles and the last 87 miles.

The old Grand Hotel in Natchez MS.  It sits just off of the Mississippi River.

Tug boat pushing a barge north up the Mississippi.

Looking north up the Mississippi with Louisiana on the left and Mississippi on the right.

There are 2 casinos here in Natchez, this is the Magnolia Bluffs.

This is the other casino, the Isle of Capri on the steam boat the Natchez. 

We eventually found our way to the “town under the hill” which is what the old town of Natchez is referred to as.  We both needed to use the facilities and then get a bite to eat. We found a great little place right on the banks of the Mississippi called the Magnolia Grill.  We had a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of appetizers and watched the tug boats push long barges up and down the Mississippi.  It was a great afternoon!

Nice place to watch boats on the Mississippi River with some wine!

View from inside the Magnolia Grill.  Patty only sat there so I could get a picture with her in it.  She sat with me across from the window so we could both watch the boats on the river.

All good times come to an end so we headed back to the RV around 4 pm.  This time we took the faster interstates to get back which still took us about 1.5 hours.  Patty had started a pot roast in the crock pot before we left so the RV smelled great when we got back inside.  The cool fall like weather made the pot roast a very nice meal for the end of a great day site seeing.

Tomorrow we hope to get the truck back!  If we do we will be headed to Lafayette Louisiana on Tuesday.

Stay Tuned!