Thursday, March 12, 2009

Texas Touring Motor Home

We uncovered the Holiday Rambler
  • March 5th and started loading it for a spring trip. While my wife sewed a patch over a hole that the wind wore in the winter cover, I started to fill the water tank. While carrying things into the coach, I noticed a wet spot forming on the kitchen floor.

    Ran outside and shut off the water valve. Ran into the house and grabbed a bunch of towels to dry the pergo type floor fast. We set up the scenario again and co-pilot watched as I pressured the water system. ......Yup leak.

    Called our local Albuquerque Camping World
  • asked how much for a 10 gallon water heater model GC10A-4E
  • Their tech looked it up and fast answered, $511 water heater and install for $200". In a moment of insanity driven by a slight feeling of desperation, I asked when can do, and that's when the BS started flowing, "gotta call you back".

    Fast dancing around and "not sure about the price after all". "May have to special order"
    "Maybe monday when someone else may call back". "Maybe can work on it next week".... "We have a different (smaller one) in stock". "Holliday Rambler Factory recommends that small 6 gallon one, anyway. It'll fit just fine"........ It was all BS, and flowing fast. Obviously a mistake had been made. Ahhh..reality shock finally hit me and logic returned to my brain.

    That got me to take action on my own. I removed the screws around the outside flange and carefully used a towel and large scraper blade, in combination with a flat pry bar, to slowly pry the caulked flange away from the fiberglass wall of the coach. As soon as it was clear enough, I wrapped several layers of masking tape around the painted flange to protect it against scratching.

    As soon as it was out enough to reach in from the inside cabinet, the water lines were easy to unscrew by hand. The wire connectors to the 12v logic and the 120vac heater unit were easy to disconnect. The gas line fitting was then removed after shutting off the supply valve at the tank. I took the unit into the house, set it on the kitchen sink and my wife watched as I blew air into it. She noticed a straight saw kerf about 1/4 inch long, near the bottom front drain fitting where it was welded to the tank, and felt air coming out.

    In the previous fall, before storage, I had to drill and cut out the sacrificial metal drain plug. I had not removed it often enough during the summer, as recomended. Within 6 months, it had grown 'roots' and seized into the surrounding aluminum. During this radical removal process, I had inadvertantly sawed through the aluminum pipe connector, welded to the tank. Next time, if ever, I will only drill a hole through the blockage, large enough to drain the tank for the winter. The 'sacrifice' part of the electrolysis reaction, will over time disolve the remaining metal.

    We loaded it up in the back of the environmentalist hated SUV, (they also really despise Motor Homes) and went to breakfast at Flying Star on Paseo Del Norte and Wyoming NE the following morning. After breakfast, my wife suggested taking the tank to TROY's WELDING
  • on 2nd street. She knew his son from HS years ago. His welder, Juan, welded the aluminum saw kerf closed, while we sat and they recalled past events. After return I foolishly re-installed the water heater without air pressure testing, and during the water pressure test it leaked again.

    Do NOT remove the plug under pressure. It blew the plug out of my hand and the sound of the escaping high pressure water jet, caused my wife to ask from inside the coach, "Are you alright"? Back to Juan the welder, back home again and this time, we tested the integrity of the weld 'before' installing. My wife found a tiny barely noticeable air soap bubble leak under high air pressure.

    I mixed up a batch of metal repair epoxy, and using a small, hand fashioned tool, coated the inside and outside weld joint. I also fabricated a small aluminum drain diverter trough, to divert any drops of water to the outside where the interior floor will not be affected by a minor leak. Reinstalled the unit with it's new sacrificial alloy rod plug, hopefully for the last time.

    These RV water heaters, 'all' have a design flaw. The fresh air required for a clean, lean burn, is not available. In our latest coach, the CO detector often sounded the alarm.

    I have taken a tip from years ago and replaced the two lower center mounting screws with longer ones. I changed the angle of the hinge springs to allow the lower portion of the door to stress out 1/4 inch from the lower flange. This adjustment allows fresh air to enter below the burner. A lean/clean burn is the final result. Try it.

    If this weld repair fails to suffice, after many price and model comparisons, I found a new, exact replacement 10 gallon LP 120vac ATWOOD water heater on the internet for $499 plus $30 shipping.
  • (BTW 'Camping World' never called back until weeks later)
    Oh well that's the way camping trips always start out. Must be some reason. Gods plans are not always understood by man. The delay most likely kept us from a rendevous with an unforeseen incident. :>)

    Returned home to ABQ NM Friday April 17 2009 and will now sort out the events as they occured along the trip meandering through the always RV and tourism friendly, Great State of Texas.
    Washed the coach and polished out the salt corrosion on it's chrome. A penny, scraps off the raised 'dots' without scratching the chrome. Used two 'environmentally friendly', $1.00' shopping bags from the grocery store, to cover the big chrome, remote controlled mirrors until the next trip. See how 'Green' I am?

    Day one March 16th;
    led us South to Roswell NM
  • with it's hotel (and homes) building boom in progress, and a stop in the friendly Walmart
  • parking lot where we stay overnight while shopping for supplies. A small single battery powered toothbrush by Oral B for $7, works as well as the expensive versions. Amazing technology. I forgot how great that bed feels after a days driving.

    The next day;
    took us through Tatum NM
  • A funny story from the ironwork artist in Tatum, about the 'Royal Order of Rabbit Hunters' (they sold them to a mink farm) in his 1950's class from the Oklahoma Panhandle State University
  • led to more stories, soon my co-pilot had to be considered and away we flew into Texas.

    Plains Texas;
  • where we visited the recent burial plot of a close friends parent. Luckily an Oil Well Pump Jack
  • lot was large enough to turn the rig around in front of the Plains Cemetary entrance. A walk around the grave markers and soon the newly turned earth revealed the marker. A photo to send to the friend, and we moved on down the road.

    Big Spring Texas;

  • Walmart fuel is much better priced than in Roswell New Mexico. We keep the Sam's Club/Walmart 'Cash Card' loaded and save another .03 cents per gallon. New diesel tanks were being installed in the ground that day. We ate at the Furrs Cafeteria near the Walmart. The big Walmart parking lot is quiet for overnight camping in the SouthEast end, not far from the Dollar Tree
  • It's also close to walk for a few more dollar items always neccessary. I like the Walmart in Big Spring. They are hunters and fishers
    in Texas style, so their 'stuff' is good. All Walmarts do not sell the exact same 'stuff' so it is interesting to investigate them while traveling.

    South Llano River State Park;

  • Near Junction Texas;
  • on Hwy 10. As the rest of the State Parks in Texas
  • Llano River is great for hiking and connecting with nature. Quiet overnight camping, birding and wildlife stop with numerous hiking, biking trails and numerous 'bird blinds' to sit in, while watching the bird activities. Bright red Cardinals
  • were the main species easily viewed on this stop. Too early for the Painted Buntings
  • plentiful Turkeys and Deer are usually abundant here, but apparently staying shy on this evening.

    Fredricksburg Texas;

  • Walmart is a favorite overnight camping spot with more gift shopping in the little German town where Admiral Nimitz of WW II fame, was raised. The Pacific Theatre Museum is being enlarged even more. This is a great museum with full size dioramas, including aircraft, a PT boat and countless other pieces of equipment for educational experience, don't miss it. The little open air sidewalk restaurant up the block and across the street, had great food. The weather was nice and the always plentiful touristy people, enthused. Austin is not far away so this is a 'Tour' destination for many lifestyes including bicycles and motorcycles. A McDonald's breakfast from Walmart including their excellent coffee and orange juice, readied us for more driving.

    Inks Lake State Park;

  • No camping space, filled due to Spring Break. We were diverted.

    Buchanan Dam, Black Rock State Park;

  • Two nights on Lake Buchanan
  • with a side trip by Jeep to Burnet
  • . Antique shops of course (an old five string banjo which I am presently restoring). We visited where friends are building a new home in the little Baptist Community. Returned to a nice evening hike around the lake shore which is usually under water. Buchanan flood control Reservoir is very low due to a drought in South Texas. The boat docks were high and dry. Buchanan supplies the other lakes in the chain which take priorty, so Buchanan rises and falls drastically. This entire area was susceptible to intense flooding before the multiple hydo-electric dams were built.

    Fuel is low priced on this trip with H.E.B in Burnett at $1.71 per gallon. Co-Pilot keeps records of best prices, best campsites and favorite attractions. The tank is always kept topped off at the lowest cost per gallon. By checking previous trip records, we rarely are low of fuel in locations where the price is high. Having a 6 to 700 mile range gives us favorable options.

    Lockhart State Park;

  • was next with hiking, fishing, and golf for those inclined. I did a bit of hiking, and fishing in the stream, caught and released a few bluegills. One man caught a large catfish under the little bridge. This park, as many in the US, was built by the CCC 'Boys'
  • during the Great Depression of the 1930's. We took our tow Jeep on a side trip to the big Outlet Malls of 'Prime' and 'Tanger' near San Marcos on one day. Sea Island Restaurants are great places to eat seafood, whenever in their San Antonio Texas locations. Also a new Cabellas sporting goods
  • near Buda Texas, is one of my favorite 'time burners'.

    Corpus Christi;

  • Fuel 'top off' at Sam's Discount before our destination stay. A polish dog or pizza slice at the snack bar of course.

    Padre Island National Park;
    Weather is always varied on North Padre Island where we camp on the pavement near the facilities. Free entry and four dollars nightly for Golden Age pass holders, can't be beat. The wind's frequent change in direction, drasticaly reverses the ambience from visit to visit. The Beach is seldom the same as well. Read the conditions at the entry station, paying close attention to the tide tables if you camp or drive on the beach.

    Malaquite Beach;
    in the Padre Island National Seashore Park
  • is always fascinating, connected to it's unbroken shoreline of approximately 70 miles in it's natural state. We attended an interpretive class about the endangered Kemp's-Ridley Sea Turtle
  • The species was re-introduced to North Padre Island beach in the later 1970's to have a secondary breeding population. The smallest of sea turtles at 30 inches, are just now starting to see good results from the gathered and protected hatchlings released. Within 10 years, according to the Ranger, driving on the beach will probably be outlawed to protect the habitat.

    We were fortunate to have made the 63 mile, 4X4 drive, South to the Mansfield Cut
  • three times in the past years. Always a fascinating but harrowing adventure with no way out, except the same desolate stretch of wave lashed, fickle double tide affected, shell paved and sand duned shoreline
  • described in mile by mile detail in previous years blog posts. We made the trip alone each time. That method is not recommended due to sometimes tricky sand conditions and chance of being stranded.

    Restrictions will most likely affect private volunteers who organize often to remove countless tons of plastic debris from the entire shoreline. The Coastal Bend's natural current flow, gathers floating plastic from the caribean like a huge garbage collection point. Plastic with its many hundreds of years longevity, is the main enemy of our environment today. It kills fish and turtles that ingest it as food. Forget highly controversial CO2, it's minimal 'Cause OR Effect' is entirely money oriented, highly political, and overwhelmingly related to agenda driven, factional power shifts in governments.

    The new very obvious addition to the entrance of North Padre Island National Park, consists of a very large array of cameras, all recording the comings and goings of vehicles, closely focused at license plates and through the windshield onto drivers and passengers faces. Vehicles and persons entering and leaving the park are duly noted. Homeland Security installed this intense technical array, and is now in the process of installing untold millions (Billions?) of dollars of similar arrays
  • around the USA to monitor our society for suspicious activity. We camped for two nights, then left north by 'no fee' State ferry from Port Aransas
  • to Aransas Pass
  • where the temp on that day was around 100 degrees F.

    Goose Island State Park;

  • Luckily we were given the 'trees inland' campsite rather than the shoreline. The wind blew all night. Spring Break had the park filled. The person on phone, said to get there fast and possibly a cancelation would open one site. She was correct and we hurried to find one site near a hiking trail. Two nights registration and I used the trail for several miles of solitude after the hectic arrival. Driving around in the Jeep, found fishermen cleaning their catch at the dock while the always hungry 'Brown Pellicans' gobbled the scraps, bones and all. Our trying to catch a fish in the lagoon, proved difficult due to the wind effect on our novice casting. Fun to reel in weeds pretending they were really big fish. Yeah right.

    Galveston Island State Park;

  • Campground is sadly no longer useable due to the extensive Hurricane Ike damage last fall. It will be at least three years before any infrastructure is back in place. We camped in the great 'snowbird golfer friendly', Green Caye RV Park
  • for two nights. A side trip to view the results of the Hurricane
  • proved interesting.


  • Work crews are busily repairing the damage to thousands of structures. Anyone saying they "are not able to find a job" here is just NOT wanting to find one.
    Collecting federal and state aid as a lifetime career is much easier and does not entail any effort. The rapidly growing social services sector of our economy earns it's livelyhood on this highly promoted, ever expanding beaurocratic mentality, visibly noticeable here as well as elsewhere.

    Many Galveston hotels damaged, are now open for business again. The big surfside Flagship Hotel
  • that stuck out over the ocean on a 1,000 foot pier, is still a mess with a rusting pickup truck stranded askew, on its entrance ramp supports, high above the beach. Flagship was nowhere near it's former glory and needed refurbishing anyway. Now they have a reason? Many former homes and businesses are gone. The concept of the homes on high support pilings, works surprisingly well. The flooded buildings are now immaculate and back in business...IF that is what they desire. The McDonalds in a bad economic sector of Galveston, is apparently not going to reopen in their old location.

    Brazos Bend State Park Campground;

  • South of Houston, Where the aligators and fish still eat each other, is where we stayed another two nights. After big vicious battles, the bigger alligators eat the smaller ones, as we witnessed. That system keeps their population balanced as it has for millenia. The alligators also came over to watch us fish. They know the posted rules. "If the gator grabs your fish, cut the line and let him have it. Don't argue with the gators". I hiked a few miles...watching where I stepped whenever near a suspected gator nest area. Armadillos are armored possums with poor eyesight. They walk right close to any person standing still. Their long noses probe every inch of ground while they busily prowl their rounds in the evening hours.

    We returned through the Rockport-Fulton
  • area where fuel is usually lower priced at Walmart. We always find something interesting around this harbor town. Good little restaurants with great ambience along the Fulton Beach road. A very big restaurant back towards Aransas Pass, The Big Fisherman
  • is enjoyed by locals. Last trip to Gulf was good seafood for a reasonable price.

    Returned to Corpus Christi on the mainland highway, rather than the State Ferry across Mustang Island. You have to try something different each trip just to keep each day interesting.

    Academy Sports Outdoors;

  • has a great store in CC, bought a beautiful new 8 foot Mako rod with silky smooth spinning reel, 12 lb line combo for $19.95 on sale. Excellent 2nd choice after returning first lower quality setup. Return to North Padre Island Malaqite Campground for a couple of nights on the beach with surf sounds and casting, before starting back toward ABQ NM. Disaster struck the old reliable Jeep. A timing chain tensioner came loose after 140,000 miles. Faithfull Jeep limped us 2 miles off the beach and back to the Motor home. It ran just enough to get in tow position. A stop at this Auto Zone
  • and 'Free' diagnostic (Mechanical) was correct. A second opinion at Corpus Christi Jeep dealer
  • $95 cost for quick estimate only (valve keeeper?), resulted in it being a towed vehicle for the rest of our trip.

    Lake Corpus Christi State Park
  • is 34 miles North of CC. Nice reservoir with friendly fish, birds and squirrels. Each of us caught a couple of small catfish. Released them to be caught again after they are grown. Fun entertainment for two nights stay with miles of hiking. Met a Texas native agriculture expert who's family is in the agri-flying business. He also works with 'outfitters' in game hunting.

    His pastime was casting all along the shore for any chance to catch and release whatever snaps at his lure.
    He as are hundreds of thousands of Texans, also is trained and licensed to carry a concealed weapon. We both now had another interest in common. Very few Motorhomers are unarmed, male and female alike, with many I have met, Trained and Certified
  • Most Campers are not about to be easy victims of the US legalistic notorious, 'repeat offenders'. Total CCW is now in the realm of three million in the USA today and rising fast.

    San Antonio KOA;

  • Two nights with no more side trips, due to fatally sick Jeep. Fished the KOA stream and caught one bluegill and two turtles. Softshell Turtle
  • was interesting, the other Semi-Aquatic Map (basking) Turtle
  • broke the 6 pound line. Left next morning for the nice, new developement area on the bypass Northwest around San Antonio. Watch for one of our favorite Sea Island Shrimp House locations
  • While anywhere around San Antonio. The Bass Pro Shop, Outdoor World
  • is attached to it's big Islamadora Fish Company restaurant (great lunch).

    Burnet Texas;
    again on our route of return. Topped off the fuel tank at H.E.B once more.
    Inks Lake State Park;

  • was wonderful for two nights. Too early to watch the antics of the Scizzor Tailed Flycatchers
  • as they do their aerial gymnastics. Fished and caught a plump bluegill. Wife, fishing from the steps of the MH, (lake was within feet of our site) wanted to taste a Bluegill so I cleaned it for later. Sick Jeep ran once more ..sort of.

    We drove to the big fishing pier where a group of Juvenile Incarcerated
  • boys were on an outing. One young councilor, while removing something from his pocket, dropped the van keys into the lake through the planking on the big fishing pier. My wife said "There they go, down the hole". The other councilor jumped into the cold lake to retrieve them. No luck, but made for some entertainment. I Cut one hook to release a 'Texas Map Turtle' caught by a woman on the same pier. The young men selected to stay behind as the accompanying van was smaller, enjoyed the delay. It gave them a chance to do more fishing and enjoy quiet time away from their facility.

    We rented a canoe from the Inks Lake state park store, as we have done each year's visit. Nice quiet morning paddle to Devil's Waterhole. Basking Texas map Turtles are plentiful on the rocks, along with lots of ducks, geese, coots, Turkey vultures
  • and one lonesome Crested Caracara
  • (Mexican Eagle) that circles with them. The turkey vultures (seen all over Texas) can smell carrion as well as see it. Good choice of campanions for the Caracara. It stole a dead fish from the turkey vultures.. after they found it.

    The Turkey Vultures seemed intimidated by the lone Caracawa, and jumped back when the Caracara approached the carcus. The great Texas State Park system
  • lets everyone fish without a license, including the wildlife. We bought the Texas State Park annual pass. It is a good investment for many visitors to the Texas State Park system. Over one hundred fascinating locations and 39 of them built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The CCC was highly instrumental in constructing the others. Needless to say, the wonderful State Parks in Texas are used heavily by the citizens.

    Started the Jeep for hookup tow one last time, and that finished it off. Loud noise as valve timing dropped into piston interference. No more chance of any MH maneuvering mistakes. The Jeep and Motor home are now permenantly united for the rest of trip. (note; old 2001 Jeep is in shop being repaired. Just too nice to junk quite yet) We have also bought a replacement 2006 Jeep repo from NM State Credit Union in Santa Fe. It is also being restored to it's former glory by CROWN COACHWORKS, 2nd location near Rio Rancho NM

  • San Angelo Texas;

  • the Lake Nasworthy City Park; with its erily silent (this time of year) Lake Nasworthy overnight camping. Hwy 87 or loop 306 from the SouthEast to Knickerbocker Rd. Follow it West 3.4 miles to Fishermans Rd. Right a short mile to Enter Camper Rd right into park, follow right to store, to pay 12 dollars overnight. Go find a spot you like or there is even a real RV park
  • with hookups. Lake Nasworthy was our restful halt among the various species of squirrels (some Mexican? Black ground squirrels)
  • and always birds. Turkeys and deer were not easily seen this trip, neither was the white peacock
  • or the Llamas on the other side of the lagoon from where we park. Goats are everywhere with even festivals of goats in small Texas towns.
    The American Black Vulture
  • is seen circling in the updrafts, seperately from the Turkey Vulture.

    Of course the plentiful wild hogs are a common sight, especially in the evening. Unrestricted hunting (if you don't take the meat, unless it's on your land) of this breed of wild hog is a pastime in Texas. Hunting of all types is popular in Texas
  • Stops with the Jeep 'in tow' are now limited to 'drive through' sites only. Walmart is last available option for overnight rest, so driving along through sparsely vegetated, yet scenic West Texas, is daily routine now. Massive Wind Turbines numbering in the thousands, are obvious on every high horizon in West Texas. Texas leads the nation in wind power. The entire month long trip was such a pleasure that one small Jeep hardship was no big deal.

    Big Spring Texas;
    A stop for last fill up fuel before ABQ return. By not rushing and favorable wind, we are often seeing 700 miles to a tank. Head out against the wind toward Roswell New Mexico.

    Roswell Walmart;
    Sleep overnight to wait out the increasingly windy weather from a storm that is bringing snow into the higher elevations of Western US, ABQ included. Weather and wind changed often on this trip and progressively cooler than in years past.

    Global Warming advocates are not acknowledging this cycle. It would affect their politically motivated agenda. One other noticeable fact, the new construction visible along our route. Big Hotels and even new homes in Roswell which is considered a pleasant retirement spot in the USA. New corporate buildings under construction throughout business friendly Texas. Crews were working almost every city we passed through. The oil field workers that I talked with, were getting back to work.... after the bubble burst. These are all signs of a bright future in this latest cycle of up's and down' communities and 'right to work' states, the states that do not have restrictive taxes or regulations.

    Bought some more supplies in the Roswell Walmart that evening, including a new excellent little $14.95 black Titanium Nitride coated Winchester 'Parfive' Tanto folding lockback knife, to replace my old one dollar plastic handled one. The same knife lists at $24.95 at Bass Pro.
    No wonder Walmart is attacked by the media. They sell items based on a reasonable profit.

    Drove away North heading directly into the cold morning Northwest wind after our Walmart McDonald's, sausage bisquits and coffee, making the decision, rather than West toward Lincoln NM, to go North toward Vaughn NM, then on to snowy 'Clines Corners' on I-40 with it's high priced fuel (never stop there unless emergency) and into snowy ABQ with the mountains covered in white. The desolate western highways always have surprises.

    A tough looking older man, standing behind his very old Ford pickup truck and decrepit 'slide in' camper, held a little paper sign, 'Out of gas'. Of course we stopped. He said even the Sheriff had driven by without stopping. I gave him all we had in containers totaling over 6 gallons. When the ancient Ford truck started, it sounded almost as sick as our dead Jeep. He offered me four dollars. I refused, telling him The Lord helped me all through life by sending people to render aid when I needed it, I was just passing on the favors.

    I gave him $20 to help him with gas in Vaughn, 40 miles away. We followed his old truck there at 50 mph and my wife gave him a sack full of canned goods. He was returning from visiting family in West Virginia where he grew up, routing through Florida where he visited his son, then back to Utah. Said he had been out of gas since yesterday afternoon and no one had stopped. Traffic on that lonesome stretch of highway is light, to say the least. After arriving at the gas stop in Vaughn, rather than buy gas, he then lit up a cigarette and set himself up with his sign once again....

    He and his rig looked extremely rough, but he still needed help from someone. He openly told me that without Jesus, he could never survive. He had a personal talk with Jesus his Savior, about his predicament, just an hour before we saw him by the roadside. My wife said she knew there was some reason we took that cold lonesome road this morning. I knew there was some reason I carried those spare fuel containers. The Lord works his way for the good of all Believers. "Believe It".
    The United States of America, "One Nation Under GOD"