Sunday, July 31, 2011

Visit to McKinney Falls State Park--With Friends!

Saturday, July 30

This weekend we went to the state park closest to us. You would not believe McKinney Falls is right near very busy roads and the Austin International Airport once you are ensconced in the deeply wooded campsites, pathways and creeks here.
A few of the many trees in our campsite (#20)
We had a bit of a late start, thanks to me being busy with final job interviews (looks like I will be starting a new job, and even getting that elusive “vacation day” thing after a few months) and Lee having work issues. But, we fetched Ursula and had a relatively good trip down—it took a while to get from Georgetown to South Austin, but at least I had a good view—you can really see even familiar things differently from such a high vantage point.

The best thing about this trip, though, was that we didn’t spend the weekend all by ourselves. Last night our friend Jennifer joined us, as our first overnight guest! We had a real good time hanging around and chatting after Lee and I took a long walk around the campground area. We sat under the stars and enjoyed the peace and quiet, interrupted only by a couple of raccoon visitors, one of whom just sauntered by us as if he or she owned the place, then came inside to the wonderful air conditioning.
Lee and Jennifer enjoy relaxing and Words with Friends in the place where we would put a tent, if we, in fact, had a tent. We were also on high alert for deer and nighthawks.

We were all prepared to have a guest (even got Ursula some new towels!) other than I forgot to bring the guest blanket I finally finished. Oh well, next time for sure. And I’d promised her she’d get to see it on this trip!

We all slept until around 8, then Jennifer and I went on a long hike around the beautiful hiking trail surrounding the campgrounds, which also went to the upper falls (right now it is just one little stream, not the usual lovely waterfall). The weather was incredibly muggy, especially for so early in the morning, because it had rained just a tiny bit earlier. But we enjoyed the walk very much. In fact, we saw so many cool things that it was hard to stop! Here are some flora and fauna highlights:
  • The weirdest moss either of us had ever seen. We are told it only grows on dead or dying trees. It hangs like Spanish moss, but is brighter green and much lighter in texture
  • Very interesting moss in a dead tree.

  • A golden cheeked warbler, very easy to see, singing in a tree. It was a first for both us us, and as bird people, we were excited. We saw another one later. These birds are found only in this area, where there are also lots and lots of other types of warblers. No photo. I was too enthralled to actually grab the phone and take one.
  • The beautiful lagoon by the upper falls. You know I love those cypress trees.
  • Another raccoon, this one fishing on the shores of Onion Creek (no, they do NOT use fishing poles). We got to watch this for quite a while. It was quite charming. The whole section of the trail along the creek was fascinating.
  • He or she was a bit far away, but there is the busy little raccoon!
  • The cutest collection of turtles on a branch—and beside them a very large and content cormorant that ignored us completely
  • Turtles are on the left, the bird is one of the two dark shapes in the circle on the right. I can't tell which is bird and which is debris!

  • A kingfisher that we heard very plainly but only got a glimpse of. A LOT of the birds here are very vocal but hard to spot. We got a lot of use out of our Audobon Bird application on our phones. The feature that plays sound samples helped us verify the kingfisher.
  • Some really cool trees and natural features, plus the original stone fences from the first European settlers in the area.
  • Old rock fence. Those took a lot of effort to build!
    Just a cool tree. And don't let the greenery fool you. It's very dry.

    Even Cooler Tree. Jennifer said it looked like a rhino.
  • A mouse, rather large, but not a rat. It was right next to us on the path, and it seemed as startled to see us as we were to see it. Right after that, I saw a cottontail rabbit.
I had a lot of fun identifying plants, trees, bugs, scat, etc. Jennifer kept saying I was amazingly observant, which tickles me, because I do seem to have the feature of noticing details. And I was on a bit of a lucky streak on our hike!

If we saw this much cool stuff in the middle of an extreme drought and heat wave, imagine how nice this park would be in the spring and fall! One of my favorite memories of when my children were small is our first visit here, which was the first spring we lived in Austin. Some of the flowers were breathtaking, especially a huge field of baby blue eyes under tall trees. The colors were so striking. And Declan and I saw our first hummingbird moth here—the other two could barely drag us away from it.

By the time we got back, it was HOT. So we showered and relaxed until our second visitors arrived, our friends Rhys and Elizabeth (with their two very small dogs).
So happy to get to see Ursula. Of course, later they took many subversive photos of themselves in her, when we innocently went off for a walk.

We sat around, had lunch and goofed off during the afternoon. Elizabeth and I went to Target (so nice to have a CAR while camping) and got a third set of lights for the outside. As you can see below, they look really good now.
Photo copyright Rhys Edouard Samaniego-Finch

Then Ranger Louis Brown showed up.2

During the afternoon, as we were sitting and chatting, we had a visit from the Park Ranger, because Jennifer had parked her car slightly crooked and that is a big McKinney Falls no-no. He turned out to be a most charming and entertaining young man (he appeared much younger than his actual age—he must be at least mid 20s but looks like a teen), and he had some wonderful stories of his adventures in the Coast Guard reserve and being a drug enforcement and anti-terrorism person. He said it was always fun working where they had all those ranches where rich people go shoot things, because they would be all drunk and belligerent and not believe he had the power to arrest them, until they apologized the next morning. He also said they ALL either were lawyers or had one to quickly invoke. Anyway, we all were charmed by him, so it was good we broke a rule, so he could visit. I thought he would find us even weirder than when I said “karma” if I asked to take his picture so we don’t have one. Just picture the Boy Scout down the street. The really, really clean cut one who is very good with knives.

When it got to be late afternoon, Lee set up one of our new “tarps” (very nice squares of shade cloth) and covered the picnic table area so we could play a nice round of Scrabble. Jennifer has a really cool set her kids gave her—it’s portable, but large and sturdy.

We are playing Scrabble under a tarp. I am trying to not look posed.

It was a fine afternoon, followed by a good dinner—we had melon afterwards, and that hit the spot.
It rather wore out Gairgunn.

Lee and I got brave and took another walk before dinner (still really muggy and hot), to the other section of campgrounds. There are some lovely sites there, too, but none have 50 amp service. Ours is actually one of the nicest 50 amp ones—I hope we can get it again if we come back, which I also hope happens! While we were gone, the kids "played" in Ursula. I stole this off Facebook.

Ahem. Don't drink and drive, young man. Especially with a tiny dog in your lap!

It’s been the kind of day I always wanted to have with Ursula. Hanging with friends, relaxing, and seeing some lovely nature sites.3

July 31, 2011

It was a bit cooler and slightly more breezy this morning, so sitting out and drinking coffee was more pleasant. Jennifer found raccoon tracks on her chair, so we know we had guests last night. We decided not to do another big hike, so Jen and I drove to the lower falls entrance and explored there for a while. It is a beautiful, unique kind of scenery, even with very little water. Here, enjoy some sample photos.

It was fun to see all the tiny fish fry in the little streams heading to the waterfall (which are generally slightly bigger streams). Some folks were swimming in the lagoon and said it was pretty darned hot in there. We were, by that time, boilingly hot ourselves. Walking in the sun on all those rocks generates a lot of sweat! I did notice a lot of brown leaves on the trees—I hope they are just going into premature autumn and not dead.

This is all that is trickling in to make a waterfall in this drought!

In the center is where that little trickle comes out.

After cleaning Ursula and emptying the gray and black water (the water we used showering and washing stuff vs. the pee and poo), we are about ready to head back to civilization. What a good weekend.

Trip Report: McKinney Falls State Park, Cypress Creek, Austin, TX—July 29-31, 2011
Another cool dead tree

Highlight: Tie between having our first guests and the golden cheeked warbler

Lowlight: Oppressively still air


  • Friday night Lee and I had sandwiches. Jennifer ate at home
  • More sandwiches for all at lunch on Saturday. Jen and Rhys did low carb stuff.
  • Another chicken and spinach pasta meal for dinner, on greens. The low carbers had some of that stuff, and we all had watermelon and cantaloupe (muskmelon to those in the know) for dessert.
  • I got some strawberry all fruit preserves, so I can have PBJ for breakfasts.
  • Exciting after dinner drink treat was Sprite and plum vodka, which I was assured tastes just like an alcoholic version of "Sprite Remix." Rest assured this was not consumed in public, Officer Brown.
Location Review:
This is the kind of park I really like. Both Lee and I declare it our favorite so far, even if Krause had cooler water. Lots of shade, woods, water and wildlife. I like the long trails (there are more than we could do in one weekend when it’s so hot). I like the 50 amp service and the very friendly staff. As the young people were saying, this is a place you could come to over and over. What’s to stop us? It’s nearby and we bought a State Park Pass. To be honest, I feel sort of bad that I haven’t been here in so long. It’s a lot less crowded than Inks Lake, and you have much nicer campsites.

Lessons Learned:
1. Bungee cords rock. Between the assortment I got at Target and the rope that came with the sunshades, Lee was able to get us a nice cover without damaging any piece of nature. He also used tiny ones to anchor the GPS where he can actually see it while he drives.
2. Raccoons are fearless.
3. Police officers, even State Park Police, have senses of smell. You are not hiding your roach by just lowering it when you check in at a park (from Officer Brown).
4. Having people come with us is as fun as we had hoped it would be.
Rhys's cool panoramic photo of Ursula's interior4

Guest Reviews of the Ursula Experience

Jennifer has come down with a case of Ursula envy. She says, “We have wonderful hosts. I have had such a fun day doing stuff I wouldn’t normally do.”
Sitting in the "bird watching area" and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, not something she normally does.

Elizabeth says so far the best part is that it only took them 15 minutes to get to the park, though she hadn’t walked around yet, because it was hot, but the campsite was quite beautiful and shady. She declared, “I liked the Park Ranger. That was a nice ‘view’.” She added, “Ursula is way larger on the inside than she appears on the outside. If I had Ursula, I’d name her after the whale in Pinocchio, whatever its name. The amenities are top notch, and the spread is quite delectable, but the staff is just par. Luckily there is a Target just down the street.”

She rarely poses. Such a natural gal.

“Ursula is welcome shelter on a hot summer’s day. A splendid staycation.” Says Rhys.
When he is famous, he will have to drive the tour bus.

Gairgunn the Dog gives Ursula 4 out of paws. Leia the Dog didn’t have much to say, but seemed quite fascinated at the prospect of people dropping crumbs anywhere near Ursula.
Leia is on the left.

Notes from ELAB:
  1. Well, maybe you would. The trees don’t quite block out all the traffic noise. Then there is the occasional boom box car and jet. But none of that detracts from the countryside feel of this park.
  2. “Ranger” may be a correct word, but his shoulder patch actually said, “State Park Police.” He was very emphatic that his is actually a State Trooper and told funny stories about making arrests outside of parks. One guy actually asked him, “Do you know where you’er at, boy?” Never a good way to start a conversation with a cop—no matter who is asking the question.
  3. What I got done this weekend was to install the Blueray player and use teensy bungie cords to mount the GPS more permanently to Ursula’s dash.
  4. Didja notice I’m in the shot twice wearing two different sets of clothes? We’ll have to have a chat with Continuity.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Live Oak Ridge, Continued

We went on another nice walk Saturday evening, right at sunset, and got a few nice photos of sunset over the cove. It sure was a pretty one.

Sunset from our spot--you can see Ursula's delicate backside at right.

You can see swimmers at the boat ramp in this one.

Lee spent a lot of time trying to get pictures of birds. I will see if he has any good ones and get him to add some.

These guys stopped by to enjoy the sunset with us. The whole family was there.

We both read a lot last night. I finished my book, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma. Wow, I sure liked that book—it is about the history of prescriptivism in English, but way more fun and funny than that sounds. One thing the book has done is make me very self conscious about my writing style. Am I using those words and phrases that make the prescriptivists upset? Have I split an infinitive? Do I care? I really like the author, who seems to be my kind of lexicographer—he says what matters is not whether you are using “good” or “bad” English—everything could be “good” in the right context. What is important is using what is appropriate for your situation. That’s quite along the lines of what I worked on back when I was a linguist, myself! OK, I digressed into a book review. (The history of “OK” is interesting, BTW—hey look, two abbreviations in one sentence.)

Today we spent the morning watching someone try to learn to ski. It was a lot quieter until people started packing up and driving off. After that I made some rather bland tuna salad, since I forgot to put salt and pepper in the pantry, then gave Ursula a nice cleaning. I like arriving and finding her all nice and clean for the next trip. At least the air conditioning is keeping up so far, so I am not too hot. We are off to head home, Put Ursula away and await the next adventure in two weeks, McKinney Falls near the Austin airport. I do hope we get some guests or visitors there.

Trip Report: Live Oak Ridge Park, TX—July 15-17, 2011

Highlight: The highlight for this trip is probably a tie between seeing actual rain over the lake and finally getting some sort of television to watch when it is too hot to be outside.

Lowlight: Really, just the music from the people next to us was the only irritation. None of Ursula’s little burps made us irritated this time.


  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches for breakfast for Lee, just bananas for me, due to a temporary crown that likes to fall off.
  • Ham/ roast and Swiss/pepper jack cheese sandwiches with tomatoes and baby greens. These were lunches, along with bags of chips from the huge box we have that is nowhere near empty.
  • A reprise of the macaroni and cheese (the easy Velveeta kind) with hatch chili tomatoes but without any hot dogs. I ate mine with greens.
  • Another frozen pasta and meat bag meal. Yes, we are already into repeats. But these are easy and we like them. I think we will try to do some grilling next time.
  • Tuna salad sandwiches for Sunday brunch. I figure we should always keep a can of tuna in here, since it can go in a lot of different things.

They could have named the park Mockingbird Ridge instead of Live Oak Ridge.
Location Review: This is a very nice park, especially the beautiful trees. Most sites have lots of space between them and the next site, though I think a couple of sites are “doubles” for families. You can see at least a bit of lake from most of the park, but where we were is just great. We had beautiful views of the little inlet where the boat ramp was, as well as the main lake. There’s not much to do here other than walk around and look at the lake. Of course, if you have a boat or fishing poles, there is lots to do. We need a kayak. There is a nature center with a nature trail on the other side of the main road, though, so if we ever came here in the spring or fall, we could walk to it. When it’s over 100 you can’t walk too far where there is no shade.

Lessons Learned:
1. You need extension cords to do outdoor lighting.
2. The icemaker is not happy unless the RV is completely level. And what Ursula thinks is level really isn’t.
3. That new inexpensive mattress is GREAT.
4. People really do seem to think their radio is more interesting than the sounds of nature. Sigh.
5. An outdoor chair that has a built-in footstool, or a chaise lounge would enable me to sit outside and not have ants crawling all over my legs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which We Straddle Belton and Temple. TX

This weekend, Lee returned from Da Farm. as he calls it on Facebook, and picked me up. We then headed to the scenic Georgetown Target store, which was a) on our way to our destination and b) the only store that had the item we most wanted. We also got a few other things. We parked way out, for E-Z ingress and egress.
Lee delivers our purchases.
After a fuel stop in Lee's favorite practically invisible truck stop, we drove up to the Temple/Belton area, which is north of us, to Live Oak Ridge Park, which is on Lake Belton. It’s another Corps of Engineers park. The campsites here are very wooded, though ours wasn't really near any trees (#17 if you ever go there). However, we have a great view of an inlet as well as the actual lake. We can see it from most of the windows.
View from our campsite, an inlet on Lake Belton
This shows you how close the next (loud) group was to us.
The rest of the park, with all its live oak trees, is also nice looking.
As you can see, the place fills up.

The sunset was beautiful last night, and other than having more issues with 30-amp service (I found out only the sites in the very back have 50-amp), it was a nice night.
Proof that the sunset was beautiful on Friday.
We are spending the day doing chores around Ursula. We figured out how to get hanging lights up, though Lee accidentally left my solar lights on the cattle guard at the farm, and we didn’t think to get an extension cord when we were buying the other kind of lights at Target yesterday. (They are really pretty and look like balloons.) But, we practiced using the light hanging things I ordered, so it wasn’t a waste of time.
Inspecting the new lights. 
 I also ordered one of those rugs that don’t harm grass to put outside the door and keep out dirt. It’s reversible. We will see if it is useful or not.
Kokopeli rug, and the American flag that the cows didn't break at Da Farm.
The biggest thing that has gotten done on this trip, other than relaxing and goofing off, has been that Lee installed a new television in the front compartment. That is good, because what was there was both old and square AND nonfunctional.
Art Garfunkle on the new TV.
He measured the space and determined that a 26” HD television was the biggest that would fit in the space. That is good, because those televisions, even nice ones, aren’t very expensive. We got a nice LED one at Target and we are pretty impressed that it fits in the space. Lee even got the surround thing around it. We hope to figure out something nice and attractive to do with the space under the new TV. We may put the as-yet-un-purchased Blu-Ray player there.

The first thing we watched was suggested by Declan. It’s the DVD that came with the reissue of Bridge Over Troubled Water. There are two things on it, which Declan recently watched on PBS and told me I HAD to watch, because they talk about how they do harmonies, Mom! That feature is called “The Harmony Game.” Also on there is “Songs of America,” which was only broadcast once in 1969. It’s really cool to see it as it was on TV—they had to sorta reconstruct it. It’s well worth getting the CD just to get those shows. So, that’s my plug!

While we didn’t do much, there was lots to enjoy. Believe it or not, one of my favorite times was ten or fifteen minutes I spent, supposedly reading while Lee fixed the windshield wipers. I watched an adolescent mockingbird practicing catching bugs, just a few yards away from me. The bird got a wasp, and took many tries to actually eat it. There was a great deal of jumping around, flapping, and pecking involved. That’s the kind of stuff you don’t get to say in your hurried day. This place has many, many families of mockingbirds flying around and yelling at each other in a variety of bird languages. I have not seen a blue jay here, but I sure have heard them.
The bird is in the center. It blends in.

More tomorrow....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ursula Gets a PTA Bath

We had planned to meet up about 07:30. But when I stuck my head out of Ursula, the Black Truck was gone. Chris had run into town to buy breakfast at Donut Pallace. It was probably the lowest callorie breakfast of the trip, consisting of a bacon and egg croissant and a cinamon roll. The cinamon roll was really good. It wasn’t all sugar, as seems to be the rage these days. You could actually taste the cinamon.

Chris and I spent a couple of hours trying to find new windshield wipper blades, but nobody in Yorktown had them. After that, he helped me give her a quick bath.

I hit the road back to Austin about 13:00 and made it there about 16:20. Traffic. Ursula behaved mostly and only heated up a couple of times. I’m still not sure what’s going on there, but I remembered from my big truck days that deisels can run a little hot in this weather. I also remembered that the Jake can dump some of that heat quickly.

Well, I guess it’s time to turn this log back over to Suna.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Bringing Dad Home and Maintenance

Chis made and photographed this watering apparatus. He later added a pipe with evenly spaced holes across the back so the water drips instead of spraying.

We arrived at the hospital about 08:20 to find Dad in good spirits, if a little grumpy from being awake all night. He couldn’t sleep last night because he had slept all day the previous day. No big surprise there. He doesn’t like to take drugs for pain or sleep because they can affect him the same way LSD does the general population. Just before the commissary closed, we headed down for another American breakfast, leaving Dad in the capable hands of the nurse who wanted to give him a bath while waiting for The Doctor to come by and authorise his release.

Just before noon, all the paperwork was done, and we thought we were on our way home. But Dad had to pee and couldn’t. Apparently, when we stood up, a blood clot dislodged and blocked the urethra. We spent another few hours, reflushing his system and napping, while he endured another mummy looking hospital lunch. When he was finally ready to go, we met the nutritionist on the way down. She thought we were being sarcastic when we told her how good the food was. I guess she’s used to complaints; nobody really likes the food when they don’t get much say in what it is, especially if it’s good for them and they’re used to an American diet.

We got Dad home about 15:50. He went to take a nap while Chris and I went to get his prescriptions filled.

When got back to Da Farm, each chilled in our respective busses (just like rock stars) until the temperatures dropped below the melting point of aluminium. During that time, I removed the old square TV from Ursula’s console and stored it in her belly. I also “fixed” the power adapter I broke installing the TexTag. It now looks right, but it still doesn’t have any power. I cleaned up a little and read.

That evening, Chris watered the Jiggs again while Dad and I inspected the pod. I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture of the ingenious rig Chris built for watering. He mounted a 200 gallon tank to the back of Dad’s new (a couple of years ago) John Deer tractor. A gasoline pump pushes the water through a three-inch PVC pipe with regularly spaced holes. It takes about an hour to fill the tank but only a few minutes to empty it.

Dad went to bed at his usual time (20:30). Chris and I headed to Dairy Queen to feast on nachos before bed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lee Returns to Ursula

Here’s Chris in one of his more photogenic moods.

When last we left Ursula, she was sitting at Da Farm while Suna and I drove away in Chris’s black Dodge truck. That way she would be there today when I arrived, and I wouldn’t have to buy so much fuel for the quick turnaround. That bit apparently taxed the limits of my ability to plan ahead, and I didn’t think to go get Chris’s truck from Ursula’s house at the Georgetown Docks yesterday afternoon. (She has a new, longer berth that does not put her nose into the Westering sun.) So, I had to go about 45 minutes the wrong direction after work today.

That bit of unplanning was not so much of a bad thing. It meant I got to have dinner one more time with Suna before spending a few days baching it with Ursula.

I got to the Da Farm about 22:30 and found her waiting in the same spot where we had left her—at the same angle…nose down and butt to the sun. Chris had turned down the AC for me, so her insides were cool and comfortable if slanted.

I called Suna to let her know I had arrived safely, downed a nightcap, and climbed into Ursula’s butt to go to bed. The last time I had to sleep on an angle like this, the old lumpy mattress buttressed me so that I didn’t constantly feel as if I were rolling out of bed. The new mattress is much too comfortable to keep you from rolling to the floor if you’re world is aslant. So I made a wall of 10,000 pillows and drifted off to Nod.

I spent Wednesday at the hospital with Dad and family. That was the reason for leaving Ursula at the farm and for this trip down to pick her up. I won’t bore you with the details. But if you want to be bored, you can find the details here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

As Roseanne Always Said...

Sunday, July 3
When I was a teen I always enjoyed Saturday Night Live, especially Gilda Radner’s chracters. Roseanne Rosanadanna always said, “You know, it’s always something!” And that sure seems to be the case with our Ursula. I find it hard to put any credence to those commercials about idyllic times relaxing in your recreational vehicle, when every time we take ours out some new and exciting malfunctioning aspect of our complex piece of machinery rears its ugly head.

This trip, as we were riding down to Yorktown, the practically unreadable warning screen informed us that she was overheating. Lee figured that trying to use the cruise control on the rolling hills at high speed might be the problem, and sure enough, when he slowed down, things went back to normal. But still, he wasn’t able to start her without jumping her from the secondary batteries, and various things kept refusing to work unless she was running the engine, like the entry step. This sort of thing does not relax me, since I get visions of being stranded in Farm World, far from RV repair shops or the Internet.

Because of the electrical issues, we ended up parked very slanted the first night we were at the Family Farm, and we could not put out the slides. It’s a little squishy like that, and interesting trying to get into the bed (will be even more interesting from now on, as you will see later). Chris, Lee’s amazing mechanical genius nephew, spent a lot of time making us a 50 amp plug to plug into, but we could not get Ursula close enough to the electric pole to reach it without getting incredibly slanted, so we ran the generator Friday night.

A good thing about having lots of electrical issues is that it gave us a project for Saturday and got us out of the area so Lee’s dad could rest, which he needs a lot of right now (bonus—it got me out of the heat). We set off for Cuero in search of RV batteries and the components for a giant extension cord. Cuero is really a pretty little down of 6,000 or so people. There are so many really nicely maintained old houses to look at, and the downtown area is also chock full of well-maintained old buildings and civic structures. It’s the county seat, so there is a really attractive courthouse and an old jail that looks like a castle (no, that is in Luling, I realized later). [Cuero once boasted the largest population of millionaires per capita in the country.]
DeWitt County Courthouse, Cuero, Texas
One of the lovely old houses in Cuero. Taken from the truck, so it's a bit askew.

The first place we went in search of supplies was a really old hardware store with a lot of original fixtures, and really cool wood floors. While they did not have what we needed, they did have a lot of very interesting cast iron doo-dads, a lot of old bits and pieces to decorate with, and some very interesting bird houses and outdoor furniture. I enjoyed that place a lot. Next we went to a newer hardware store, but it still was a lot of fun—on of those places with everything for every project. There we did find all the parts needed to build the giant extension cord, including some very thick wire for the 50 amp electricity. I enjoyed looking at all the different departments and listening to the employees bantering. I concluded to myself that I am very easily entertained, but that is probably a good thing if we are going to spend a lot of time in this area!

Speaking of civic structures, you can tell oil money is rolling into Yorktown, too. Their little war memorial park got a bunch of flags on poles last year, and this year they have put a helicopter up on a pedestal, which they are about to surround with limestone bricks. Quite fancy looking. There are also a few new restaurants and a lot of RV spots for oil workers.
Veterans' Memorial Park in Yorktown, undergoing major upgrade.

Anyway, less entertaining but still useful was the Cuero Wal-Mart, where we got a lot of large batteries, a fold-up table for Ursula, and some festive 4th of July decorations. I had hoped the decorations would disguise her obvious leaning to the side. But no, it did not help. Finally using the jacks to level her DID help, but that required power.
Ursula all decked out for the Independence Day festivities. Note pinwheel. Lee's dad carefully moved it before we left, and positioned it for ideal wind action.
The late afternoon and early evening I spent watching Chris and Lee try to fix the electrical issue. It took longer than expected because they had been given bad info on which batteries ran which part of Ursula, and because they discovered some of her batteries were 6 volt, not 12. We get to take some batteries back. But, thanks to perseverance, we believe all electrical issues are fixed. And Chris made a really fine giant extension cord, so we now don’t have to run the generator! Everything’s working. We celebrated with an outdoor dinner of barbecue we brought from Johnny T’s at home. We then sat around and talked until late (Lee’s dad went in at 9—he was up late!). We heard hoot owls and bob whites, which was so nice. And we saw night hawks, which Lee’s dad says they used to call “bull bats.” He also said he hadn’t seen any in years—well there were plenty zooming around last night.

The moon was a sliver last night—I took a sorta dim picture out by the “pod,” which is where water separated out from the oil well is stored and where oil is sent on its merry way to wherever the pipeline goes. All I know is the equipment looks cool.
The best my Android phone can do in night photography--and I did use the night setting!

Monday, July 4
It’s weird when the holiday (US Independence Day) falls on Monday, so you have to come home that day. I have actually spent quite a few 4th of July holidays traveling, since my former nonprofit employer’s late lamented international conferences were always held that weekend, knowing that many families would have the holiday off, at least in the US. I remember what fun it is to look down from a plane and see fireworks going off in little towns beneath you. We won’t be seeing many fireworks going home through drought-stricken Texas, even if we leave later than planned.

Yesterday turned out to be considerably less stressful than many RV days. I even had a few things work out well—like the solar lights charged up properly and looked really pretty draped in the bushes and along the old trailer next to Ursula. Once we get the little hanger things, they are going to look nice hanging from the awning. They aren’t so bright that they attract insects, but they do look festive.
Solar lights on a string. Festive.
Much of the day was spent watching Chris and Lee’s dad working on a contraption to water some grass springs they planted (to be a different kind of hay than the Coastal kind the rest of the pastures are). They are going to turn the cornfield next to the pipes and pipelines into more pasture for more cattle. A lot less stressful than watching corn die. This year’s crop is sad thanks to so little rain. They got 5 inches, but it was way too late.

Lee and I went to Victoria, waving at our friends Jim and Esther as we did. After returning excess batteries, we went to a mattress place that has some nice, simple mattresses and got a new one for the bedroom in Ursula. The mattress in there was godawful bad. It looked brand new but was lumpy and uncomfortable. I slept the best last night that I have since getting Ursula, so I think that investment will be well worth it in the long run. However, a standard queen size is a bit longer than an RV one, so it sticks out about 6 inches over the base. Thankfully, it does fit when the slide slides back in, but now there is no room to maneuver in the bedroom unless the slide is expanded. Small price to pay, believe me.

Lee and I drove around the property in the “mule” (a small utility vehicle that runs on gas, but it otherwise similar to a golf cart). Our favorite thing to do is to go way over to the gully at the edge of Lee’s land and listen to the birds. I am happy that there are now quail in there, because I love to listen to them. And I don’t know how any one ecosystem supports so many cardinals! There is an owl in the tree next to where we are parked, and it’s great to listen to as well. We ran into some folks visiting, people who used to live across from Lee’s grandparents. They were interesting because they have traces of the German accent that so many around here had only a generation ago (Lee’s grandparents spoke German). [Dad says he didn't speak English until he start school. Learning was so traumatic that he wouldn't speak German at home when I was little.]

It was a pretty pleasant evening, watching Chris water the grass, seeing the sunset (Lee got good photos of that--so I got one from him), and hanging out and talking until real late.
Chris and Dad work on their watering rig. After trying gravity feed, they eventually settle on using this 200 gallon tank to feed a power washer and spraying the new grass as with a water hose.
Birds at sunset
I am glad Lee and Chris get family time. I get knitting time and the chance to learn a lot of stories. That’s quite entertaining, so it has been a good holiday even if we didn’t go to a fancy resort! I’ll just hope we got Ursula’s issues all under control and we have a good trip home. I miss the kids a lot when I am gone—that’s the main complaint I have—I think I can take the various components failing—what do you expect with a used vehicle this complex anyway?

We ended up leaving Ursula at the Family Farm (Lee has to come back in a week for his dad's next surgery and chemo procedure), though Lee moved her to a more shady spot less in the way of other projects going on. When we realized that a couple of soapberry branches were hanging down and preventing the perfect parking maneuver, Chris jumped up the back ladder and sawed them off as Lee backed Ursula up. This was made much easier since the back-up camera has a microphone, so Chris could tell Lee when to stop. And don't worry, he was creeping along VERY slowly.
Parking under a tree is much easier with your personal tree trimming helper in action!

So, we drove home in a diesel truck that Chris let us borrow. Much less stressful in a "smaller" vehicle (it's a duellie or however you spell that [dually for the dual wheels on the drive axel]--not a small truck at all, but it seems small!). We went a different way than usual, so we got to enjoy some different scenery. It's always nice to just ride around and chat with each other--one reason we look forward to spending a lot of time with Ursula!

I guess Lee will have to blog the next trip, since he will be solo.