Monday, April 12, 2010

Texas Touring, Camping Holiday Rambler

The Holiday Rambler motor coach was sitting suspended on it's 'landing gear' in the back yard, for the last 6 months. After returning from the last trip to Oregon Coast

  • it had deserved a rest. Stored it for winter, filled with fuel and treatment. The Camping World 'ADCO' RV cover, 'sun rotted' away after about two seasons (less than 12 months total) in the always harsh UV of the NM sunshine. The 'CLASSIC' cover with white double layer top panels is/was sold online Walmart. It lasted far better. Not covering for storage, leads to rapid degradation of finish and seams, where panels join, start to separate from the heat expansion. The slide out awnings suffer from the sun and rot away where exposed (did a report on restoring the awnings, earlier). Covers cost a bit, but save much more.

    Changed the oil (should have done it on return, but weather wasn't pleasant). Anyone tried the New (Pep Boys) Purolator 'Gold' Oil Filters? Great construction, gritted texture outside with 'red silicone' gasket, AND anti-drainback valve as well. NAPA also has similar 'Gold' series. It holds 1/2 qt more oil. I have been using that type for the last few trips with great success. I tried the even larger NAPA 2 qt series, but found too late, it had No Anti-Drainback valve. No problem on a long trip, with short periods of stand down, but if in storage, it would surely allow the upper lube system of block, to drain down.

    Moly-Grease (withstands high pressure) all of the numerous fittings (13) in the drive line and steering linkage. Fill the 60 gallon water tank, adding a cup of Clorox (we do not drink the water from that tank). Fresh water tank is used for washing, shower and flushing purposes. Bottled water, refilled with sturdier clear plastic gallon containers from the Dollar Store (the common milk container type breaks with flexing, during mountainous elevation changes common in western state touring), tastes far better, with less hassle and extravagant wastefulness of fresh water, while attempting to thoroughly flush the entire system.

    Test the water heater on both LP and AC. Test the auto-switching refrigerator on AC and LP. Amazing, all systems came alive on 'power up'. Even the 5500 watt generator started with only a few spins. One quart of Marvel Mystery Oil poured during fill of the 75 gallon fuel tank seems to help as does a periodic additive CD2 (higher viscosity type) fuel injector cleaner.

    Wipe down and Teflon/silicone (DuPont) spray the extended struts of the landing gear before retracting. The seals will last longer without a coating of dirt being ingested during retraction. Same DuPont spray on slide arms and joints of Blue Ox Towbar. Thoroughly test and recheck tail light connector assy's mounted on towed vehicle. Cleaning the connector pins, saves frustration of following vehicle drivers.

    Carry out enough clothing of various predetermined weather variance. Shoes to allow for a few cactus and rock canyon hikes. Texas has a bit of that. After a Prayer to protect the house left in the hands of an alert neighbor, we started our 'Take Off Roll'. The Wind was along the Southern half of the state, so we headed due East this trip. Nice traveling along the I-40 Interstate to Clines Corners, where we then turned South to Roswell NM, over 100 miles away. The touring 'Alien' fans were in abundance as usual, visiting and touring the local museum and items related to the 1947 'Crash site'. Those crashing UFO's leave a real mess :>)

    The Sam's club/Walmart lot north end of town, was our evening campsite. We stocked up with many food and supply items still required. A quiet evening, a hike around the area, and slept well. Morning wake up, and departure for Big Spring Texas. The Oil Fields were busy. The price of Oil is around $80 US dollars a barrel, so the well service crews are all working.

    According to a friend I met at the Walmart fuel station in Big Spring, The yearly well service is now worth doing at $80 U.S. a barrel. Pulling casings in some wells, replacing the pump workings and motors in others. New Sucker rod in others. Acid treatment to open the fractured access to the oil pool and they are good for another year of pumping.

    My 'fuel friend' is working in Louisiana on a gas well at 12,000 feet (many go down to over 20,000 feet). Tricky with horizontal drilling using 'mud motors' to achieve the right angle turns into 'porosity', where casing is not used. The collector bores (often through pre-historic coal seams) are left open and explosive fractured for the gas to work it's way to the casing for retrieval. Some of them have many horizontal bores all collecting natural gas to feed up through the single or multiple casings.

    The price of natural gas is not high enough for a profit at this time. The oil profits are subsidizing the drilling work for now.
    When they hit a fault line, the bit rides up or or dives under the 'porosity'. This consumes time and money, reinserting the surface oriented 'mud motors' to find the 'porosity' strata once again.

    Nice to see thousands of oil wells, mixed among the heavily 'Tax' subsidized, imported wind turbines scattered among the cotton fields. Texas (a Republic) is resourceful and survives when other states are paralyzed by any setback in economy. Texas controls their Tax structure to keep industry operating while welcoming more companies from other highly taxed and regulated, restrictive states. Other states feed off high taxes and suppress their own funding, You would think other states (incl federal govt) would figure out, NOT to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs..

    Leaving Big Spring, after a nice quiet evening camped in Walmart lot, fuel fill at their pumps (San Angelo Sam's Club is cheaper, if possible to go the extra distance), evening Deli meal from Walmart (Furr's Cafeteria is also option), Dollar Tree, water gallons restock, McDonald's sausage biscuits and coffee for breakfast, and away we go. Heading South for eight miles. Wife's joint pains were too much for her to tolerate, so we turned around and headed home. One hundred and sixteen miles later, and several phone calls, she found out that no doctors would see her for several weeks.

    Yup.. decided to turn back around once again and spend the time on our Texas tour instead. You never know the reason for delays like this. It may have saved us from some unforeseen disaster. This time we only stopped in for a few gallons at Walmart fuel in Big Spring, continue on to San Angelo.

    The San Angelo City Park at $12 a night, is a really nice quiet place to spend the sunset gilded evening camping (fishing with license) within feet of a channel of beautiful Lake Nasworthy.

    Not many people there yet. Friday night slowly brought in more weekend 'over nighters' though. No 'party animals' yet. Matter of fact no animals other than Turkey Vultures this trip. Usually Feral Hogs (Texas has millions of 'em, bring your guns, ranchers let you shoot 'em). Lake Nasworthy is also home to Turkey Vultures, Turkeys, Peacocks. One time we watched a somewhat rare 'White' Peacock spread its beautiful tail. He was just across this channel from our campsite. Even Llamas and a donkey over there, along with lots of other birds. One trip I looked down into a 6" pipe hole I thought might contain a waste tank 'dump' connection.

    Deep in the bottom was a hopelessly trapped baby Black Rock Squirrel. After putting on a pair of leather gloves, I reached into the deep hole. The baby squirrel bit the glove and grabbed hold while pulling him out. He was dehydrated, so I poured water down the trunk of a nearby tree where I set him. He lapped it up and eventually ran off to find his mother. I placed a large rock over the open pipe. Grey and other types of squirrels are also abundant, along with a few 'Fire Ants' to keep you hoppin'..

    Crossing the Texas countryside and making only one 20 mile farm road detour across remote rural farmland, the scenery is always interesting. Agile Goats, climbing on top of every structure and into trees, are in abundance, as well as cattle of every description, even 'Longhorns' like on the old historic Chisholm Trail.

    Interesting about the 'Chisholm Trail', it was used for many years, but was only viable for about ten years, and started declining in the 1870's. By the late 1880's it was over with. The public wanted a better quality of Beef, among many other factors.

    Spain lost control of the South Texas region in the early 1800's. Their 'imported' Spanish Andalusian cattle left to roam wild, accumulated and evolved into the countless millions of 'Longhorns'. The ranchers had a joke. The poverty of a rancher could be assessed by the number of cattle he owned.

    Jesse Chisholm was an Indian trader. Not to be confused with Texas cattle ranchers named 'Chisum'. He blazed a set of trails from south Texas to the Northern Indian Territory. When Kansas and Missouri acquired railroad terminals and stockyards, Jesse Chisholm's trails were the ticket North to sell the cattle.

    A cowboy was not really graduated from 'Cowboy School' until he had ridden the trail drives at least once. One in three 'cowboys' were black or Mexican, with even a few women posing as boys or in rare cases, owning their own herds. The Mexican terminology stuck. Lariat, Chaps, Lasso, Remuda, Bandana and Mustang are used even today.

    Barbed wire was the main invention that curtailed the 'Open Range' so necessary for cattle 'driving'. The Longhorn 'Texas Fever' forced the rail terminals to move ever more West, so as to avoid the settlers not wanting the tick infested Longhorns crossing their land. Eventually the railroads came into Texas and the long cattle drives were no longer needed.

    The Trail Boss led and scouted the trail ahead, the Camp Cook (Coosie) was the second in command and was always ahead of the herd with his Chuck wagon. Breakfast was bread or biscuits and coffee. Lunch was chili or stew, bread, water or coffee (always Ink black). Supper was steak with beans, potatoes with gravy, biscuits, water or coffee.

    Most herds, depending on size, had various Riders interchanging as Point, Swing, Flank and Drag. The Wrangler was an expert horseman that maintained the Remuda of mounts for the cowboys. Stampedes were always a danger. One large herd of 15,000 Longhorns, lost thousands of cattle to a lightning storm near Waco. They ran off a bluff into a deep ravine. The herds, which started in Spring, moved 10 to 12 miles a day depending on water and grass. Several Months later they arrived at the rail head stockyard.

    Branding Irons are still used today to identify the ownership of cattle and horses. Ranch Entrance Gates are apparently a status symbol. Many are massive, intricate mechanisms and very ornate.

    Fredericksburg is one German part of the 'Hill Country' in Texas. Quaint and popular with tourists, it is always busy. The Museum of the Pacific War Theater, Admiral Nimitz home town and lots of little shops with sidewalk cafes to keep anyone lost for hours (take 'walkie talkies'). Quiet hours spent near back of Walmart lot for the night and a few hikes for exploration and provisions. We lifted off for bustling San Antonio in the morning.

    Bass 'Outdoor' Pro Shops and their great attached seafood restaurant, are always interesting for a little stopover, My wife even likes that store. She usually finds gifts for the family there. We ate near the huge salt water aquarium. The friendly manager stopped by our table, showed his recent gulf fishing pics on his cellphone, and explained that the restaurant's inside display tank water, is kept lower temperature to control algae, inter-species aggression and breeding. Hmmm, seems like one workable solution for humanity..

    Traffic was not bad around San Antonio, due to the weekend. Usually we hit it full rush hour, so this was a change for the rig and stress level in the cab. One night at the San Antonio 'Alamo' KOA and a morning side trip in the Jeep
    to 'Sea Island seafood restaurant', with a stop at Costco for blueberries for my breakfast. ('Dog Food' as my wife and grand children refer to my concoction of blueberries, chopped apple, raw oatmeal, raw rolled  rye, walnuts and plain Yogurt and cinnamon. Back to San Antonio KOA for another night.

    This trip, the Muscovy Ducks are nesting on eggs.
    They sit on about 15 at a time, no wonder they are so prolific at this campground. Two fearless 'sitting ducks' were right by the office door and camper deck near the office. Time for an evening beer outside, contemplating the ambiance. Me, not the ducks.          Note: on trip of Oct 2012 (see post), the Ducks once plentiful, were nowhere as numerous (saw only One). The Duck oasis office flower box pictured, is now removed as KOA 'improvements' are made. West Nile virus (another International 'Import') is now rampant in Texas, with the Mosquito population on the rise. Treasure this image, it is all that remains until the Duck population restores itself. 
    The little stream flowing along the edge of this KOA park, often has very large Alligator Gar, sloshed in from flooding. Mostly the fishing line gets broken from large soft shell Turtles. I recommend a slightly heavier line and a net for retrieval if you want to save your lures and hooks.

    Following day, made a Jeep trip to New Braunfels and 'Camping World'. Found a great priced and wonderful to use, dial type pressure gauge for the big high pressure coach tires (110 psi) It was only $9 U.S. and ranged up to 160 psi. Needed a small black plastic 'raising' gear for the Winegard Antenna. Seems that Holiday Rambler techs left off two important screws when mounting the 'Antenna Up' sensor magnet switch. The alarm never lit or sounded (I had added a Radio Shack buzzer). We drove for about 200 miles from Roswell with it in the raised position. It was only saved from total destruction, by a concerned 'Guardian Angel' that walked over and told us about it, just as we were about to drive into a covered fuel station at Big Springs Walmart.

    The raising gear was broken and only a bit of my rooftop bouncing of the antenna, while co-pilot nursed the 'in coach' crank back down, saved the winged 'Winegard' TV antenna. One more night at KOA in the rain and we left for the Prime Outlet and Tanger Mall complex near San Marcos on the next day.

    After a little shopping, sharing a delicious Starbucks Frozen Mocha Latte, we drove on to the nearby little Lockhart State Park (CCC built in the 1930's) for two nights. Golfers love this little park. It also has a nice big family swimming pool. Texas 'prisoners' wearing black and white striped clothing like in the old movies, maintain the entire complex.

    The park ranger told us about recently stocking over 1,200 Large mouth Bass in the stream. I caught three feisty Bass and one plump Catfish on cut pieces of raw shrip from the grocery store. None were of acceptable length of 14 inches. More rain, we left for the next stop at the new Cabela's Sporting Goods, near Buda Texas. Now Cabela's is my kind of store. Their 'Animal displays' are magnificent on the indoor mountain. I could spend an entire day in there.

    Co-pilot patiently waited in the coach reading her book, and doing her Sudoku, so I did not do a long visit. Lots of guns and ammo in stock. The shortage must be diminishing, at least in well armed, safe and peaceful Texas. Everybody is polite in Texas. Lots of Please, Thank You, Pardon me, Yes sir, No sir. Fair and equal Texas is partly due to countless thousands of 'Certified Concealed Carry' Citizens in among the general population. Their education system is not too shabby either. :>)

    Next day, after more rain, we drove on to one of our favorites, 'Inks Lake State Park'. This chain of lakes are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 'Dam' controlled, and vary by approximately one foot each day (still flood occasionally). Last year Buchanon Lake was really low. I hiked part way across the bottom. This years rain is slowly filling it again, only ten feet low now behind the interesting 'Buttressed' Buchanon Dam. Rain and more rain along with co-pilot's aches and pains, dictated a short trip. Met friendly campers at every night's camping site, this was no exception. Too bad the visit was cut short.

    We could not get another nights reservation at Ink's, due to solid weekend bookings. If you desire uncomplicated evenings, make reservations at most Texas State Park. They are in demand at all times. They also have many cabins for those visitors without campers or tents. Remember that No fishing licenses are required when staying in the well stocked Texas State Park system.

    The next morning, after co-pilot having a painful night and wanting to go home, we disconnected from facilities and pulled out for our home base. Only after traveling for a hundred miles did I notice my Jeep keys were lost. Probably in the grass at the campsite. Called and left message at the park. Hopefully the little AAA tag will help them find home. Only an intelligent finder will realize to send them to AAA. One can only hope and Pray. The remote 'smart key' is expensive and troublesome to replace.

    Working our way back to Big Spring Walmart for the night, while driving into the wind, was slow going. More rain and wind on this trip than previous. After a McDonald's breakfast nearby, we mossied North against more wind and rain. A long four Hundred mile day, brought us home. Fuel economy was non-existent against the incessant wind. The hundreds of wind turbines around Big Spring were happily spinning in the 19mph wind.

    Last time we traveled through, oil was too low and the 'oil patch' was not even operating. This time is different and even the cotton is planted early in some fields. The large wheeled irrigation systems were parked at the edges of the fields. They all have the 'low sprinkler' heads that conserve water. Colorado seems to not have caught on about those water saving devices.

    With all of this wet weather, this years crops should be excellent, like in the past. A Good combination, Oil Patch in the cotton fields, with 'Gummint' subsidized Wind Turbines for extra income. Now that's my kind of business. Texas is doing great, San Antonio is booming. Urban sprawl is in progress, new highway construction of a 37 mile by-pass is under way, just as the beautiful past projects are winding down.

    As we drove along this highway North from Roswell, we recalled helping the old man stranded without gas along this desolate stretch of highway last trip. He was traveling on Faith alone. No money, no gas just waiting for anyone kind enough to stop and add fuel to the tank on the old Ford Camper.

    Wind and more wind. Fuel gauge kept dropping, but estimate enough to arrive in ABQ at 5:30pm. Costco fill up, then home to spend a little time at Son and Daughter-in law's for a nice baked chicken strip meal. Now to wash the filthy Jeep and Motor Coach. The front lawn grass likes the wash water.

    Unloading is a project. The refrigerator kept going into failure mode on this trip, due to wet weather. I stopped frequently, ran the generator and used a small hair dryer to restart the circuit board out of 'fail' mode. It is mounted within the outside access panel. I am installing a screen on the inside of the panel door, maybe that will help a little on future wet weather trips.

    The fact that Holiday Rambler technicians failed to use little screws to hold the automatic magnetic safety switches in place on the antenna and also on the step re-tractors (had to replace the entire retractable step assembly), have resulted in unnecessary, very expensive problems. Sticky tape just doesn't 'cut it' guys. Smarten up. Good thing you are not 'Aircraft Technicians'.

    Previous trips blogged, were far more extensive than this little one of over 1,800 miles through only 'The Hill Country' of Texas (big isn't it?:>) Too short of a trip this spring, never got to really stop and smell these prolific roadside 'Bluebonnets'. This year was a bumper crop. This picture shows a little of the carpet of flowers, that covers most of the Hill Country this time of year.

    Arrived home, unloaded and the next day, parked the rig in the grass, Washed it from the roof down. Noticed lots of loose fittings and vent covers to be repaired on the roof. The awning over the slide out room, started to rip again on the corners. The wind 'rattles' it to death when parked camping, with 'slides out'.

    Climbed and moved the ladder about 50 times working alone, removing the awning cover, removing tension, and sewing and restoring the awning fit. To retain the fabric, Inserted black 1/4 inch irrigation tubing into both ends. Inserted long screws into both ends of channel to retain the tubing. Both ends of the clear tubing supplied by the awning repair company, had shrunk back.

    Later I will do a nice, fast easy 'Eagle One' Spray Wax, the wash/wax will have to suffice for now. One other 'tip' is to buy a foam 'noodle' from the dollar store. Cut it in half and slice one side. Slide it under the wiper part of the windshield wiper blades, to protect them from the UV of the sun. They will last far longer stored within the protection of 'the noodle' while at rest on the windshield.

    As soon as my co-pilot gets over her health affliction, we hope to get away a little more, after my new 'Career' with the U.S. Census. I start the job training on the 27th of April and tentatively work for 11 weeks. I definitely will blog that little 'Gummint Employment' stage in my life, whether I complete it or not :>)

    There is a new 'Western' film being done in NM ( I have signed on for consideration as 'Background' in that one (I like Westerns). Also is always looking for 'talent'. :>) Times are now tough in NM filming. In the past, in spite of my age, I worked very often in the film industry, 44 films were working in NM at any given time. Now no more than 17, and I am rarely considered due to budget constraints. This OBAMA administration, with full support from the voting Un-knowledgeable, is shutting down the Freedom based economy of the USA with insurmountable debt and predictable taxation. Day by day, executive order by executive order, This sitting International president is striving for world 'equality' ...with Zimbabwe.

    Travel for enjoyment combined with Education, Enjoy life and opportunity in the United States of America. The greatest and most Freedom based nation the world has ever known. "One Nation Under GOD".

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