Sunday, June 19, 2011

We Don’t Go Far But Learn a Lot

Saturday, June 18 (with no Internet so uploading later). 
Ok, I (Suna) am switching to first person now that I am blogging in real time. One of the things Lee and I wanted to do with Ursula was check out the parks near where we live—there are all sorts of places less than an hour away that we have never been to, or at least I haven’t—Lee’s former spouse liked to camp, whereas my heat stroke predilection has limited me to a couple of church campouts over the past decade or so, plus a work gathering where we slept in the back of the pickup truck with the camper shell on. With all these thoughts in mind, I bravely called my government and booked a spot at Taylor Park, an Army Corps of Engineers* park on Granger Lake (near Lee’s former home in Granger), though more close to Taylor, Texas—one town away from Round Rock or Georgetown. Ha, if you don’t live around here, get a map. I’d wanted to go to a bigger park, but it was completely booked for this weekend.
On the little hill that was on our campsite. Nice shelter, plus some trees.
I was very pleasantly surprised at how helpful and patient the woman I talked to on the phone was. She was quite good about helping me choose a spot and seemed to know all the parks, even though she does bookings for the entire US, including National Parks and such. I do have a link to their website in the sidebar. It is lots of fun to explore various options and choose exactly what space you want to reserve! I found a different website that listed Taylor Park and had photos of each site! That was cool.
View of other campsites. Note the extremely dry grass. That should be a wildflower meadow.
Probably we went here more for the experience of successfully booking a campsite than because we were dying to look at a Corps of Engineers lake. But, it’s got a lot of good features, other than not being able to actually see much lake. There is a nice hiking trail that we haven’t walked on because it is too hot. And there is the haunted Hoxie Bridge, which dates from the early 1900s and used to be on the main road. Now it’s on the hiking trail—the Corps took it apart and moved it. We took some nice photos of that before it got too hot to be outside. I was also extra thrilled to see a male bluebird fly by. Or hmm, could it have been an indigo bunting…Suna checks the bird book she so brilliantly installed in a cabinet…nope, bluebird. Anyway, here’s the bridge.
Lee looks for ghosts on the Hoxie Bridge.
Pretending I am about to drive my carriage across the bridge.
Close-up of construction.
After some nice time sitting and knitting and relaxing outside, the not-too-fun stuff started. Last night we had noticed the rear air conditioner wasn’t working, but the front one kept it cool enough to sleep…as well as you can sleep on Ursula’s awful mattress—that’s on the “things to get” list. Then after lunch the front air conditioner also stopped working. Now, why was it again that I didn’t camp most of my life? I started overheating, even though I was trying to not move. Lee got the good idea of using Ursula’s outdoor shower to wet ourselves down, then we could sit in the covered shelter while the gale-force winds blew on us and kept us relatively cool. (Windy? Yes it was! We could not use the awnings at all. And hot? Indeedy! 105 here! We have both an extreme drought AND earlier than usual stretches of 100 degree temperatures. Excellent camping weather.)
Hello.It's really hot.
Meanwhile, we tried to think about what the issue could be. Lee had already solved the “slide-out won’t slide out” problem by realizing he had left the slide lock on. That slide lock does work. I thought about the fact that we only have 30 amp service at this park, and two air conditioners. I suggested we try using the generator. But, first we had to clean the vents, call the RV place, talk to Nephew Chris and such. Eventually, Lee tried the generators. Yep, we are drawing more than 30 amps all right. And he found a handy display and setting we can use in the future. Really, though, this is what having a new vehicle like Ursula is all about. There are all sorts of mistakes and miscues you have to do once, so you don’t do them again later. There is an incredibly large amount of “stuff” you need to know about owning and using an RV! We are taking all these little glitches in stride and laughing at ourselves.

Since it is too hot to be outside, we have been able to do some interior stuff. We put a nice new bedspread on, and will have new pillow shams as soon as I get Queen-size pillows. Last time, while buying the replacement dinnerware, we also got a “bed in a bag” in tan that has a nice coverlet to use as a blanket. So with this, we have more than one set of sheets and a “show” bedspread in addition to a blanket for when it’s cool.
The new bedding matches the old pillows pretty well! Can't wait to add the shams.
Lee has been working hard to figure out how the sound system in Ursula’s front cabinets works. We have been unable to watch a movie and have had a hard time even listening to CDs or the radio, but we have a better idea of what’s going on now. For one thing, all the antennas were squished up. For another, do we really need a VCR? That will be a “no” so we can get rid of one component! This trip, with no real agenda, is perfect for learning Ursula’s ins and outs, an doing some needed maintenance. Tomorrow’s morning agenda is greasing the slides, so maybe they won’t get stuck again like they did at Krause Springs. Between the slides not retracting and the levelers not going back up, we thought we’d never get out of there!
Very confusing innards to sound and television components.

Sunday, June 19!
It finally got below 100 degrees, so I insisted on going out and finding the darned lake. I took a trail that led from the area near our picnic shelter and it ran into the hiking trail that surrounds the camping area. From there, a few dozen yards down, I found a rough trail that led to the edge of the lake. There was a family of cardinals not happy that I intruded, and a zillion little dragonflies that flew up when I got to the lake edge. It’s a rustic lake, with lots of stumps in it, mostly for boating and fishing, but it is so quiet that you can’t complain. Not dozens and dozens of personal watercraft like on Lake Travis.
Granger Lake close to sunset.
I walked a bit further and found a beautiful view of the lake through the woods. I really liked the trail, because it was not all beautifully finished. There were rotting logs, fallen trees and interesting debris everywhere.
Sun setting through the trees.
There was so much to see, but I kept an eye out for the spot where the trail cut back up to the campsites (I did NOT want to walk the whole, huge trail!). It was easy to spot, because it had the only obviously man-made improvements. Still, they were nice and rustic stairs!
Steps leading up out of the hiking trail.
By the time I got back to Ursula, I realized I had overheated myself—I felt OK as long as I walked, but was all red and sweating like crazy once I came home. Nonetheless, it takes me a while to figure stuff out, so before dinner Lee and I took another little walk. By this time it was almost dark, so it couldn’t be too hot, right? Well, wrong. More sweating ensued after that, but we did get a wonderful photo of one of the trees at dark. Lee said it reminded him of Africa.
Tree overlooking Granger Lake right after sunset.
Dinner Saturday night was another frozen meal over greens. These are so good and so easy.
Sunday we took it mostly very easy, just sitting out in the wind again in the morning with coffee, then Lee did a bit of maintenance—greasing the slides. And we cleaned. It’s fun to clean Ursula because she isn’t too large. I took my first RV shower. It was not bad! The shower is not as tiny as the one in the RV we rented to go to New Mexico that time.

It came time to leave, and sure enough, the learning opportunities were not over. Ursula did not want to start, because her battery had run down. We are not sure if the battery has just hit the end of its useful life or something got left on in the truck part of Ursula that drained it. Then, sigh. After a nice drive through Wahlberg and Granger and such, we got to the RV storage place only to find the card that lets us in had disappeared. Lee had seen it earlier in the morning…

I was overheating like crazy because the truck A/C doesn’t quite do a good enough job unless the RV A/C is also on (we were driving toward the baking sun with those huge RV windows letting in a lot of heat). At least the delay was made bearable by knitting and a nice water from the RV place lady, who is quite kind AND owns two spotted donkeys. I do like them.

A triumph concluded this trip! Lee parked Ursula with only ONE try. He backed her in like a pro! That skill takes a while, even for someone experienced backing up big rigs. I must say I am glad to be home, but it was mostly a peaceful, pleasant trip, honest!

*When my family lived in Plantation, Florida, we lived on a canal built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Those guys and gals like to move water around. We saw gators, water moccasins, snapping turtles and also things that don’t kill you in there, like coots, Muscovy ducks and egrets.

Trip Report: Taylor Park, Granger Lake, Circleville, TX—June 3-5, 2011

Highlight: Seeing a bluebird to close to home

Lowlight: No air conditioning in over 100 degree heat (106 to be exact)


  • Bag meal from frozen foods section of grocery, beef and cheese with pasta. It was actually quite good and the sauce was tasty on the mixed greens we served it on. Potato salad accompanied it for Lee.
  • Bag meal of the same type, only chicken, spinach and pasta. Equally yummy.
  • Sandwiches for lunch, with the potato salad, which was quite good for grocery store kind. It didn't have rubbery potatoes like it sometimes. We used what may be the last of our homegrown tomatoes on them. The heat is killing our crops.
  • Bananas for one breakfast, and peanut butter sandwiches for the other breakfast. Exciting!
  • I do like the coffee maker we got for Ursula. It's one with a metal carafe that keeps the coffee warm, and it simple to operate. It is a nice break from our fancier one that is more finicky!

Location Review: This Corps of Engineers park is quite close to home and even closer to where Ursula lives. Granger Lake is for fishing, so there aren’t any swimming activities and most spots are hard to see the lake from. We had space 18, which has a little hill from which you can see the lake. It is very far from its neighbors on either side and has a little gorge next to it. Behind each campsite is woods with a hiking trail on it. Then there is the lake. You can’t see the lake from all the campsites, and there aren't too many trees in the center campsites. But, for around here, it’s not too bad, and it is nowhere near as expensive as Krause Springs. It would be fun to come here with a group in the spring or fall, since it’s so quiet and relaxing.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t leave bread in the pantry. Eww.
  2. The icemaker works. Turn it off when you aren’t using Ursula, or you will get a big glob of ice.
  3. The slide-out will not slide out unless you remove the slide lock. Important step in the checklist!
  4. The air conditioning unit will NOT work on 30 amps. Use the generator OR remember to change the setting on the control panel to 30 amp.
  5. The outdoor shower feature is great for wetting yourself down and letting the gale winds cool you off, even when it is over 100 degrees in the shade.
  6. Make sure accessories on the truck part of Ursula are off, to conserve the battery.
  7. Always put the access card for the storage place in the same spot, so it does not get lost.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a great first learning trip! I would never have guessed that the pillows and the bedding weren't purchased as a set. I look forward to reading more of your adventures!