Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ursula Minor Rumbles to McKinney Falls

Poor Ursula. It's always something with her. We put her in the shop at the place where we bought her to get her leveling system repaired after our difficulty on New Year's weekend. She's still in there, which is why there was not a lot of travel blogging in January. Her parts are on order, so there's hope we get out in February.

You may recall that we planned a little winter campout with our friends last time we were at Inks Lake. We all wanted to go to McKinney Falls, since it's right by the Austin airport and not too far to go, plus we all had great memories of our previous trips there. It got put off one week, because we had some important visitor some talk about our church's new ministerial search last week. We had hoped Ursula would be fixed in time, but, no. So, by gosh, we would not be deterred! We decided to rent a small RV from the place near our house where we rented the first RV we tried out a couple of years ago. Lee dubbed it Ursula Minor. Of course, it did not go totally smoothly...Lee had trouble getting our insurance agency to cough up proof we had adequate insurance, the cleaning lady sweetly put away all the food products Lee had set out to take with us...but we made it!

We got the same campsite we did in July, but notice the greenness of it!
I had to take my MINI, Ethel, because I had a Texas Choral Consort rehearsal scheduled for Saturday morning. So, I packed all my knitting, reading, music clothing and games—pretty much everything we could think of to bring into Ethel, and I left as soon as I could after work. I'd worked extra a couple of days last week so I could leave early on Friday, but our big weekly meeting had been rescheduled, so I did not get out until 4 pm. Leaving at 4 pm made the trip to McKinney Falls State Park twice as long as it would have been even a half hour earlier. Plus Ethel's GPS took me an odd way. In any case, as you can see, both Lee and I made it!

The rented RV (Ursula Minor) and Ursula at our site.

By the time I got there, both my other friends were already there. Our frequent co-traveler, Jennifer, brought her extra cute little pop-up camper. She loves it very much. She met it at McKinney Falls on a trip with Texas Outdoor Women Network (I think?) when someone else owned it. A few years later, that woman decided to sell it and get something bigger, so Jennifer told her husband THAT is what she wanted for her birthday. And now she has it! It tows behind her mid-sized SUV and is easy for her to set up all by herself..

Jennifer's camper
I admire that she can go off and camp on her own whenever she wants!
Also, Janet brought her pop-up camper, which she got used as well. It got here quite successfully, towed by her kind boyfriend. Unfortunately, his truck broke in a big way after he got back'll have to read on to see how that resolves! We were joined by Lindy, who stayed with Janet, and 5 was a nice number of co-campers.

Lindy is knitting, and you can see Ursula Minor and Ethel in the background.
Note the green grass. Last time we were here was the end of July. There was no green grass.It's incredibly green there right now. And there is a lot of debris around from flooding last week—this area had 6 inches of rain over one night! The weather in Texas sure changes rapidly.

Speaking of weather, it was a cloudy/rainy weekend. What a nice change to be chased indoors from rain rather than heat! Though we did spend much of the weekend saying, "I need a...oh, that's in Ursula," we at least remembered our games, so having to go inside for a bit wasn't a total loss. I'd brought Super Scrabble. Let me telll you, that's a winner. With more squares and letters, it makes for a more fun time with larger groups of players.

Friday, night, though, we just sat around and talked until we were all talked out. I had to get up early for that choral thing, so I dragged myself up, after a long, long night of rain, storms, thunder and some dang piece of the RV making repetitive noises. Plus we started the night using air conditioning and ended it needing the heat! That made for a long morning of screeching out high notes (I have decided I will ask to be SECOND soprano next time—being the high one hurts). By the time I got back, fun had already been had, but I jumped in and had fun in the afternoon.
”…and a good time was had by all.”
Janet, Lindy, Jennifer and I decided to go to the Visitor Center and the Lower Falls, and take the nature walk. We had not done that last time. We had a good time in the Nature Center, where the Park Rangers were almost as entertaining as the legendary Louis Brown from last time. They told us that during the flood two naked campers were washed down the creek and over the falls (people who had been camping OUTSIDE the park, let's be clear). Since they had no ID, nothing happened to them, but the way they told the story was really funny, especially when one ranger hinted that perhaps the reason this happened to them was that they'd been fornicating. Still chuckling over that tale, we went out and checked out the still rather raging falls.

Last time we were here, this was three little trickles.

I admit it, I just like the weird shapes the water makes in this one.
Here's a couple of other things we saw. We had a little brochure explaining everything on the nature trail that had a number. We saw a thicket, a red oak, a pencil cactus, and such. We also saw an ash juniper (what is inexplicably called "cedar" here in Texas). I had to take Jennifer's picture with it.
Jennifer, Juniper, #4.
Wow, her hair is so shiny in this photo! Love it! We also saw how the limestone formations make cool caves, and a plant I kept having trouble pronouncing.
Water dripping down over the rocks.

Maidenform Hair. I mean, Maidenhair Fern. One of my mother's favorites.
When we came back, the Neemidges had arrived—they had planned to camp, but thought better of it knowing they would be bringing two kids and two standard poodles in a tent, in the rain. But, they had a fine afternoon at the park. The dogs sure loved it.

Yep. she's a lap dog.
It got chiller and chiller as the afternoon wore on, and we found ourselves moving to get more sun. We realized it was our golden opportunity to have a real campfire, not one made out of battery-operated candles! It's nice that the burn ban was finally lifted last week. It was a good fire, as long as young folks didn't try to much of, "I wonder how THIS wet object will burn?"
Lee supervises unauthorized fire experimentation
I got chiller and chiller. Good thing I had layers.
Knitting up some more layers.
After our chatting was over, the Neemidges went home to eat, and we scrounged for food, then regathered to play the Super Scrabble. We barely fit in Ursula Minor. However, we were able to bring in a camp chair, and all fit around the dining table after a fashion. I mostly ate all of Janet's hard boiled eggs. For some reason I really wanted some eggs—I'd exercised enough to earn them! Many thanks to Janet's chickens.

Everyone was so tired from not sleeping the previous night, that apparently we were all asleep before 10:30. I slept a lot better, since we borrowed a blanket from Janet, and Lee had wrestled the weird noise to the ground somehow. It started to rain early in the morning, so we just slept until it stopped. That was really, really pleasant.

When we finally did get up, we enjoyed Janet's coffee (see, SHE had her usual camping vehicle, so not all HER stuff was in Ursula). Jennifer had to leave a little early so she packed up her little camper and headed off. I watched Janet and Lindy play Scrabble and soon Lee joined us in Janet's camper. It rained a bit more, then stopped. While it was stopped, we women took the chance to go on a longer walk while Lee packed up the stuff in Ursula Minor for her return. We took the trail Jennifer and I had walked last summer, which is much nicer when it is not hot. We saw a couple of cool things, plus the other set of falls.

We thought these worm trails were interesting. I like how all the dying trees are left in the woods, so they can keep contributing to life.

This cypress was not underwater in the photo I took of it last spring!

So nice to see lots of water, not just a trickle.
Janet and I walked long enough that I earned my Superbowl chili dinner later on! It is so nice to walk the same trail in different seasons, to see what's blooming, what has no leaves, etc. We even found that someone had erected a bird feeder next to one of the picnic tables along the creek. We saw a house finch, a chickadee, cardinals and a sparrow.

By the time we got back, it was time to have a bit of lunch and head home. It was easy for me...I just drove our stuff home. Janet had no way home, so Lee drove Ursula Minor back, picked up our pickup truck (oh, that's why they call them pickups?) and went back to the park (again, how nice that it isn't too far!), hooked Janet's camper up and brought her home. Unfortunately, he didn't have the connectors for her brakes and rear lights, so she followed him really closely all the way back to her house, to be sure no one was endangered by that! Whew. I know Janet and Mike are glad we have the truck! By the time Lee got back, the park police had already told her she needed to go! After that, poor Lee had to go back to the RV rental place and clean Ursula Minor. As a reward, I did make chili, rice and a nice salad for dinner.

Honestly, even with the chill and rain, it was worth the trip. We were really able to relax, since we were with friends we didn't feel a need to entertain, as Lindy had put it. But we did have people to have fun with. Just perfect.

About Ursula Minor

The little RV we rented is a Class C RV, truck based. She runs on regular gas, which is nice, and certainly is easier to park and maneuver than Ursula. The truck seating area is very cramped—I swear it's less roomy than my MINI Cooper. And it's very basic. The whole camper is basic. I am guessing it's a base model, which means it would be an economical first RV.

But you sacrifice a lot. There are no slide-outs, and it is not on a long wheelbase, so all there is to it is:

  • A banquet seating area with a table, which seats about 4
  • A pretty good kitchen with a sink, 3-burner stove, a medium-sized fridge, and a little microwave
  • An incredibly tiny bathroom that at least had a reasonable shower
  • A couple of storage cabinets, one pretty big with a mirror
  • A double-queen (not sure which) bed area that is really a thin piece of foam over a board.
  • A "closet" that sorta sticks over the bed, making entry and exit a challenge.
  • An over-cab sleeping area where the little TV is, too.
The heating and A/C both worked well, but there was a noise made by the electrical inverter that was a pain, plus the satellite kept looking for a signal. I assume if we owned Ursula Minor, we'd have those dealt with.

She'd be easy to clean. There are no fancy surfaces at all. The whole dang thing (ceilings included) was carpeted.

Ursula Minor would work for occasional camping, and probably more enjoyable in good weather when you can be outside a lot. But a family would be pretty cramped. I assume kids would spend a lot of time in the bunk. And it would be better for small, thin people. There's not much wiggle room.

I admit Ursula is probably overkill for a lot of people. But if you have mobility issues at all, getting in and out of that bed would be a challenge. And if you are a larger person, the bathroom might give you claustrophobia. And I have to say, the lack of padding on ANY seating area in the whole vehicle made it hard on my rear end.

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