Mother Nature & Brazos Bend

As soon as possible after setting up in a new campground, Dawny and I like to get out and explore our surroundings.  While walking through our latest park, Brazos Bend State Park, something odd struck me.  No matter which direction I looked, there was a consistent, straight, perfectly horizontal line on all the trees, bushes, and undergrowth.  Close, far, no matter, the line held true.  Mother Nature isn’t usually that consistent.  She doesn’t often paint in straight lines.  She excels in curves, subtleties, and the beauty of imperfection.

Hurricane Harvey pounded the Texas coast just a little more than four months ago.  Many state parks were closed because of record-breaking flooding and damage, including Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston.  The Brazos River crested at 52 feet over flood stage and most of the park (over 5,000 acres) was underwater.

The horizontal line I saw all around me was the high-water mark on the park’s forest and vegetation.  In many places that we walked, I was weighed down with the eerie realization that the line was over my head.

I have included a few photos in this post to try to give you an idea of what it looked like, although a picture can never do the reality justice.  Especially this sort of reality.  Note the pictures that have picnic tables in them and trees nearby to get some perspective on how high the water was.  Tree lines in the distance look like a mist is hovering a few feet above the ground.  That isn’t mist.  It is Harvey’s high water mark.  Park rangers had to get around in boats.

The Texas State Park system, its workers, and many volunteers did an outstanding job getting things back in order so that visitors could come enjoy this park just a few months after such devastation.  They have been busy in quite a number of parks in southeast Texas, and much work remains to be done.

I highly recommend this campground, by the way.  The campsites are paved, spacious, and level.  Large, beautiful trees provide shade to most of the sites.  The roads (two-way) are freshly paved and easy enough for even bigger RV’s to maneuver through.  The park is huge and there are lots of nice places to walk the dog, including a number of trails.

Be sure to keep your doggy on-leash and away from the water, though.  As noted in park instructions in the picture to the left, Brazos Bend’s most popular residents are some of Mother Nature’s most interesting children:  beautiful, subtle, and very dangerous.

(Direct link to Brazos Bend State Park’s website:  https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/brazos-bend.)

Happy 25th . . . Bye Bye!

Wowzer, Bowzer!  You may not believe this, except that it comes from my very own trustworthy lips.  Er… do doggies have lips?  Of course they do.  They are on the thin side, but they are there.  And, for the most part, they are extraordinarily trustworthy.  After all, what reason do we have to lie?  exaggerate?  embellish?  None whatsoever.  That’s more the two-legged style.

Okay, that’s settled.  Let’s get back on track here.  A week or so ago, guess who drove up to our little house…  My Daddy!  Ya!  Mom and I were in this crazy campground in west Texas that was full of sand dunes, heavy winds, and prickle burrs that were unavoidably attracted to my paws.  Despite those burrs, it was a pretty neat little campground.  Especially once Dad arrived.

He pulled up in a pretty red car.  I knew him right away, even though it has been over three years since Mom and I have seen him.  I am a good leaper to start with.  My greeting that day just about sent me to the moon.  I didn’t know how much I missed my Dad until I saw him again.  As for Mom, she was really happy to be with family again for the first Christmas since we hit the road.

The three of us have spent this past week together exploring west and south Texas.  Dad is trying out the RV lifestyle to see if it suits him and, if it does, he might buy his very own little house on wheels.  He is gaining an appreciation of the simplicity and flexibility inherent in RV traveling.  As for me, I appreciate the extra cheese and other treats I can beg off of him–he was always a much easier mark than Mom.  And I love showing off my prewash skills on all the extra pots, pans, bowls, and plates that result when the human presence is doubled.  After all, when you have three residents with eight feet and forty toes combined trying to coexist and function in a small space, every one needs to do their part.

Mom says that tomorrow would be her and Dad’s 25th wedding anniversary had they stayed married.  They both agree that, in their case, it is way better to just be old friends.  So tomorrow we part ways.  Happy 25th Anniversary ya’ll.  Bye bye Dad.  May the wind be at your back, the burrs stay off your feet, and your cheese never run out.

P.S. Happy New Year to all from Mom and Me!  — Dawny Virgil

Our House Came Home :)

Dawny and I were without our house for ten days.  Yesterday it came home.  What a splendid feeling it was to drive it out of the shop, speed down the highway at 65 mph–faster than our normal speed, but I wanted to test things out–and return to our friends’ ranch, where they had generously accommodated us in a private apartment over the barn.

On the way back to the ranch, I settled comfortably into my well-worn driver’s seat, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and sent out a prayer of gratitude.  For a stroke of bad luck, we were blessed with several strokes of extraordinarily good luck.  The squeaking noise we had occasionally heard on the way to Texas was due to a nasty rear axle/nut/bearing/brake situation.  It was a major repair job.

Fortunately:

  1. We are lucky that the problem did not deteriorate to the extent that it caused us to have an accident on the road.
  2. There was a Ford dealer/repair facility nearby that serviced RV’s, which is not an easy thing to find.  (Our RV is built on a Ford E-350 chassis.)
  3. Although our Ford bumper-to-bumper warranty recently expired, this problem was covered under the drive-train warranty, which was still good.
  4. Our bill upon leaving the repair shop was a mere $7.00 to cover the cost of the annual Texas vehicle inspection.
  5. Our friends made us feel welcome and gave us a safe, comfortable place to stay, even though our week-long visit stretched to two weeks.

Keep in mind that Dawny and I travel in our 25-foot motorhome and do not tow a car behind (often referred to as a ‘toad.’)  When the rig goes into a shop for routine maintenance, we wait around for it.  This was the second time in three and a half years that it went in for a lengthy repair and we were unable to stay with it.  The first time (August/September 2014), we happened to be visiting my son’s dad and were able to stay with him for the duration.

When researching the full-time RV lifestyle nearly four years ago, I read lots of opinions about whether or not to pull a toad.  In order to keep costs down, I decided to start out not towing and, if it looked like a necessity, I could change my mind later.  Not only would it save a lot of money not having to insure and maintain a second vehicle, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible in our new life.  KISS–keep it simple sweetie!

I have no regrets about going toad-less, but I do wonder what things would have been like had we not been with friends during these two major repair jobs, which together totaled about 20 days.  I suppose I would have rented a car and stayed in a pet-friendly hotel.  That would have been expensive, but still a lot less than the cost of owning an additional vehicle all this time.

I really missed our little house, and I am so happy it is home.  We are home.  And soon we will be back on the road, house and all.