Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We didn't go anywhere in Ursula last week, but we did think of her, lounging away in her covered parking spot.

We went to Target to buy a new scale. I guess every 20 years or so, you need to get one. However, many other things were purchased, since Lee and I both thought of things we needed to get for Ursula. It's interesting how more and more necessities pop up as time goes on--I see how people's campers get all filled up!

So here are a few of the things we got.
Happy Li'l Lights

First, if you have ever seen people with campers out camping, you will know that they love to string up lights. Now, I'm no follower (did you know I never read the Harry Potter series because everyone else was doing it?), but I do think the lights look cheerful. And maybe they chase away bears, who knows. So, we got two of these strands of solar metal lights. If we get there  before the sun goes down, we should be able to have them even on the first night of a trip. If not, they will surely work the second and subsequent days! They had a lot of different styles. Each light is a nice size, and I think they will look nice hanging off the awning, if we ever go anywhere that the wind isn't too strong.

And if the lights don't get charged up we also got a lantern. It's a Coleman CPX 6 LED lantern, in case you are curious. We really need that for safety if we have no power for some reason or have to go to the restroom in a park. We got the one we did because it could sit, strap onto something, or hang. Seems versatile. We can use it if we have a picnic table or shelter wherever we go.

We also got two queen sized pillows, which can serve dual purposes. Most of the time, they can fill out the shams that came with the bed covering. But, when we have guests (which we hope to have on out next camping trip!) they can be bed pillows for them. We have lots of sheets and pillowcases so that will not be a problem! You can never have too many pillows. And they sure don't charge much for simple pillows at Target. These were $6 each, and they had even cheaper ones. Of course, they won't be as comfy as my fancy schmancy Sleep Number pillow with memory foam core. Most likely they are just as comfy, actually.

And finally we got a replacement for the kitchen rug that only got used on one trip before becoming embedded with deadly shards of Corelle Ware. The poor kitchen mat bore the brunt of the falling dishes, which I guess is good--the hardwood floor didn't get all dented. The first one had wine glasses, but we got a big ole rooster this time (no photo yet). I got the kind that is cushiony plastic, because those are a lot easier on your feet when you are standing there washing a lot of dishes.Of course washing dishes is FUN on a trip when you have a lovely view out the window!

My view out the window will be Lee's dad's cattle this weekend. We are spending the long weekend hanging out with Lee's dad and hoping to convince him he DOES want treatment for his condition. It's a hard decision at 88, I guess. We can cook stuff, hang out, go look at nature, and visit with family. That will be just fine and relaxing. I will try to finish my knitting!

I am making reservations to go somewhere park-like next time, though. I hope a friend comes with us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lost and Found

In case you were wondering along with me, the missing entry card to the RV storage place did turn up. Lee went back to see Ursula on his way back from his dad's house, and found it under the driver's seat. The large collection of keys to the storage bins are still missing.

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.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Something of a First for Suna

One of the things Suna doesn't do a lot of (other than run, gamble or eat sweetbreads) is travel just for fun. Most of her life, vacations have been visits to family, or sitting around the house due to lack of funds. Most of her trips to exotic locations have been for work--she didn't do a trip abroad in college, or go to school to study any of the languages she learned. And that's fine. She got a good education, enjoyed her family, and really enjoyed the kids. But, now is Suna's big chance!

Now that Suna and Lee have Ursula, they feel compelled to actually USE her. You can't let an RV sit around and disintegrate slowly! So, they decided to go somewhere very nice on their first non-farm trip: Krause Springs, which is located on Cypress Creek near Spicewood, Texas. It's a private park, owned by, of all people, the Krause family. Look at it.
Krause Springs with no drunk people, but there IS a turtle in the photo.
This place has over 30 springs, and it was a lot of fun to go find where the little streams that were everywhere popped out of the ground. And there were so many huge Cypress trees!
Tree hugger.
However, before Suna and Lee could enjoy their relaxing couple time, they had to have adventures. In good news, a neighbor said it was fine to park Ursula beside his house, so they could leave straight from work without having to go fetch her. So they set off bravely...only to discover on the very first tight turn that a visitor had not quite shut the cabinet door where the service for 8 of Corelle ware was. Oops. About half of it was rendered into tiny, razor-like shards of glass all over the main cabin. This meant that Suna spent half the drive to Krause Springs painstakingly collecting big and small pieces of crockery. Yes, Corelle is break resistant, but it is NOT break proof. She got all the major pieces up with the whisk broom, then Lee bravely pulled in to the South Austin Target parking lot, where we got a new set of dishes AND a really nice vacuum cleaner--it's a little narrower than usual, which makes it great for the RV space. Guess what our first fun activity at the park was? That's right! Shard removal! We each got one cut, but really, it was not as bad as it could have been.

We are in there cleaning. OK, really, Lee is trying to back into the parking spot.
Why do we have Corelle? Lee really doesn't like plastic or metal for eating. So, though Suna bought plastic cups for her own and visitor use, there are two glass glasses and two glass wine glasses, well padded, in the cabinet. Suna's loving friends have all suggested that blue speckled camping plates and cups, but that is not gonna work out for Lee's issues purposes.

Issues? He doesn't have issues.
After a rather scary jaunt down the very bumpy dirt road (made the farm road seem silken in comparison), Suna and Lee were thrilled to see how pretty the RV spots were. After a little trouble getting parked (even the back-up camera doesn't make parking a behemoth easy), it was fun to enjoy the quiet and explore the park in the late afternoon.
Proof it is pretty. Such cool roots.

This is one of the little streams made by the springs.
It was fun to make dinner together and sit outside in the lovely air. It was so shady and nice that it was possible to sit outside! And a LOT of Saturday morning was spent sitting by Ursula and drinking coffee, while watching all kinds of birds. There was a woodpecker that hid from Suna but chickadees and titmice were everywhere, plus huge families of cardinals. There were also black squirrels! And gray ones with black heads. Lee tried so hard to get a good photo of them...but alas they were always in the shade.
Corelle coffee mug. And a rumpled shirt.
In addition to the springs, the Krauses have made a really interesting "butterfly garden" near their house. It has huge wind chimes and a fern-covered grotto with odd statues peeking around in it. Plus, so many purple coneflowers! There were dozens and dozens of tiger swallowtails and black tiger swallowtails and many happy hummingbirds flitting around. Suna and Lee spent a LOT of time taking photos of flowers, butteflies, bees and such.
Coneflower Fantasy

Suna loved this big ole agave plant.

The grotto and the bottom of the big wind chimes. Dark, huh.

Trip Report: Krause Springs, Cypress Creek, Spicewood, TX—June 3-5, 2011

Highlight: Friday evening visiting the springs with hardly any people there, and looking at the turtles and colorful fish in the water. It’s just magical.

Lowlight: Rude people who left trash all around the beautiful location. Well, that and the dishes all breaking.


  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches for breakfast and snacks
  • Ham/ turkey and cheese sandwiches with home grown tomatoes and baby greens. These were lunches, along with bags of chips from a huge box Suna got.
  • Macaroni and cheese (the easy Velveeta kind) with hatch chili tomatoes and beef franks. This is surprisingly good.
  • • ?? Can’t remember other main meal.

Location Review: This is one of the most beautiful places in the Austin area. It would be just perfect if visited in winter or fall and/or on weekdays. Summer weekends are a bit busy. The campground is on dirt roads, and the camping spots not marked at all. They are quite close together. However, the RV parking spots all border a lovely woodland area with many beautiful birds to listen to and little streams full of moss and flowers to explore. You can find both frogs and toads! There are very nice restrooms. The park is not huge, but there is a lot of wetlands to explore, and if you are a tent camper, some really special spots to camp. The springs area has been well developed to look fairly natural, and the spring-fed pool is a delight. There is even a “cold tub” area for an intimate dip. The butterfly garden has one of practically every concrete statuary item you can think of, but the flowers are well selected and it is obviously lovingly attended to.

Lessons Learned:
1. Corelle ware breaks into tiny needle-like shards. Make sure all cabinets are shut well before heading out.
2. Slideouts need grease.
3. Ursula will not go anywhere if the levelers are not fully retracted, though one can be a little out and she will still run.
4. The air conditioning will drown out belly dancing parties.
5. The electricity at the RV storage place WILL run the fridge, so you can leave condiments and water in there.