Wild About Texas

Texas has done it again.  Dawny and I have been enchanted by another one of their State Parks.

As I have mentioned in previous posts about campgrounds and ratings, our basic requirements are simple but fairly specific.  Succinctly put:  wonderful dog walks, decent 30-amp sites, good Verizon signal, and a budget-friendly price.

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park sits on the swampy banks of the Steinhagen Reservoir in east Texas.  “Caution: Alligators…” is boldly stamped on a prominent sign at the park’s entrance.  Admittedly, this steered our dog walks towards the middle of the road during the first part of our three night stay.  We are happy to report that there was plenty of asphalt ribbon to keep us exercised and entertained.

The park has lots of foot trails for fearless folks looking to wander through nature’s swampy wilds.  After the first creepy-crawly free day, we ventured a bit more off the road so Dawny could sniffle around the pine needles and greenery, leaving her two scents in the perfect spot.

Some of the best waterfront sites are for tent campers.  As a former tent camper from several lifetimes ago, I respect and appreciate that these spaces are reserved for those least likely to block the view and enjoyment of others.  For their part, tent campers probably appreciate not being surrounded by monster RVs complete with bright porch lights drowning out the stars and TVs chattering nonsense well into the night.  I remember turning my nose up at those lumbering beasts back in the impertinent righteousness of my own youth.

For those of us no longer physically able to last a night in a tent, let alone get a wink of sleep in one, there are 30-amp electric/water RV sites in the Hen House Ridge section.  Some of the asphalt pull-through pads are a bit bumpy and short, though, which might be challenging for those with a big rig.  There are 50-amp electric/water back-in sites elsewhere in the park.

It is a beautiful park with a wild flavor to it.  Splendid shade is provided by towering trees all around.  Many of the RV sites border Gum Slough–a backwater creek–their picnic table and fire ring areas providing front-row seats to their own private alligator habitat.  Be careful, though.  Sitting by one of those fires on a moonless night could well invite nightmares of alligator eyes lurking, stalking… drip-swoosh, drip-swoosh… tick-tock…  Yikes!

Back to civilization!  Not only was I able to get a strong Verizon signal for my phone and internet hotspot, my over-the-air antenna picked up several major network channels.  I am ashamed to say–but I’ll get over it and say it anyways–it was the TV signal that sealed my third night.  I was only going to stay two nights, but having the crazed civilized world crash into the serenity of the past two TV-sparse months was too much to resist.  What can I say?  I lack discipline.

For anyone looking for a good, efficient source of RV campground reviews, visit the website www.rvparkreviews.com.  I finally signed up and will do my good-camper duty by posting reviews there as often as I can, although I may still share a more circuitous journey to the same conclusions here.

The Brilliance of Bath Mats

For anyone who doesn’t mind looking a bit loony, here is a hopefully helpful hint to protect your windshield (whether on an RV or a stand-alone vehicle) from hail damage.

My rig is not a strict class-C, which would have a large overhang over the drivers cab containing a bed.  It is considered a B+ class.  It is built on a cutaway Ford van chassis with an 8 foot wide body containing the house behind the cab, but the area over the cab is streamlined, with the entertainment center and some storage in it.

This leaves the front windshield totally exposed to potential hail damage.

Enter the bath mat.

The tiny suction cups hold the mat to the windshield very nicely, as well as provide a little extra cushion beyond the rubber surface of the mat itself.  While a hefty wind would likely rip them off of the windshield, at least they will provide some protection up until that point.

After the storm passes, it is very easy to dry the mats either outside or by tossing them onto the shower floor.  Indeed, that shower floor may be a good place to keep them until they are needed for double-duty up front.  Alternatively, they roll up to a fairly compact size for storage.

The picture at the top of this post shows three mats that I slapped onto the windshield this morning before a severe storm hit.  The suction cups worked well and there was no slippage even in heavy rains.  Tomorrow I will go to Walmart and buy a fourth so that I can cover the entire windshield with no gaps.

Loony?  Yup.  Simple?  Yup.  Brilliant?  Nah, but not too shabby!  🙂

The Comfort of a Circle

Our time in Texas is coming to a close and Dawny and I have been heartened by a blessed circle of friendships.  New friends, old friends, and unexpected friends.

Last week I was talking with Lee, a volunteer at the Escapees CARE Center (www.escapeescare.org), and we discovered that we know each other’s blogs.  Now we know each other.  How sweet is that?  She is a solo traveler, like me, with a four-legged companion (in her case, a “curious cat”).  Lee writes a beautiful blog, www.overtlysimple.com, where she journals her thoughts and experiences starting a few years before she became a full-time RV traveler two years ago.

I was also able to catch up with many of my old friends who reside at CARE.  Lorraine, who full-timed with a tiny towed trailer before settling down at CARE, continues to exercise her creative talents on her newest blog, www.threequartersandcounting.com.  In addition to nourishing her green thumb on pots upon pots of plantings, she builds bottle trees to brighten her tiny yard and the yards of many of her CARE neighbors.  Lorraine’s blog from her traveling days can be found at:  www.tabteardroptravels.blogspot.com.

Another friend from CARE, Brian, treated me to several lunches at the dining room–the cooks there are awesome–and shared charming stories that he has been writing about his life.  Bud, with whom I used to share a table at meal time and an occasional dance during Thursday afternoon jam sessions, greeted me with a great big smile and a big strong hug when I showed up again.  Tom, another former table-mate, is a newlywed now, married to Patsy, whom he met at CARE.  It brings a special joy to see new love sprout from a couple strolling through the twilight gardens.

A few of my old friends have, unfortunately, passed on, leaving a vivid reminder to let your last word be a kind word, your last hug be warm, and your parting smile, sincere.  For they may well be the last.  And it is a blessed gift if sweetness lingers when emptiness reigns.

Dawny and I are also grateful for new friendships, with Marsha, Mr. Mike, and Uncle Joe at the top of our list.  There is a real community spirit at this campground (Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park).  While Dawny has been showered with cookies and love, I have enjoyed our walks, many friendly visits, and an occasional movie at the campground club house.  Dawny’s Uncle Joe doubles as The Movie Man, showing movies two nights per week, complete with popcorn and a delectable assortment of sweet treats, all at his own expense and effort.  There are many other activities that take place during the week for those who enjoy socializing.

It has been a fine winter.  The Good Lord and Lady Luck willing, we will return to this area next year.  Meanwhile, we are preparing for our journey to Florida in a few days.  We look forward to seeing old-new friends at the campground we wintered at the past two years, as well as a visit with a good friend from an online RV forum.  Then, onward we shall roll to our old homestead in Virginia.

We are starting to wear a comfortable path on these roads we travel upon, with more and more way stations containing familiar, welcoming faces.  We are not randomly wandering.  We are not inefficiently zig-zagging.  We are riding on a giant circle of hugs.