Thursday, May 20, 2010

Precation - Summer 2010

I know what you're thinking . . . what the heck is a "precation?" Obviously, it's the trial run at a vacation before we embark on the real thing to ensure that the coach is operating properly. Well, that's what I told Suz, but really it was my way of getting two vacations this summer. Anyway, here's what's going on. We left OKC and headed for our lot at Cedar Blue where we spent the first two nights. It's such a great place to be during the work week when nobody's there. We also discovered during this trip that our little lot is luxurious compared to most of the commercial RV parks across the country. We've got a large covered wood deck with fireplace, BBQ, comfortable patio chairs, a covered concrete drive for the coach, and a boat and golf cart at our disposal. Whereas, the majority of RV parks tend to boast that they are the "Finest & Largest," but we are quickly finding out that they're nothing more than a gravel driveway situated in the middle of a former pasture with weeds and grass burrs (which Maynard tracks into the coach). We're also finding out that KOA parks tend to be better quality than most other private parks. At least they're better maintained.

After keeping a careful eye on the weather, we roared out of Cedar Blue and headed south into Texas to get ahead of the impending storms. Nothing can make one more tense than navigating a 40-foot bread box, pulling a 4-wheel drive pickup, through two hours of rush hour traffic in Forth Worth, Texas. Feeling the tension, we pulled off I-35 just north of Waco and stayed the night at the I-35 RV Park & Resort, where Maynard picked up his first batch of grass burrs. Fellow RVers, don't let the largest advertisement in the Trailer Life Directory fool you. Suz and I are lifetime members of the Good Sam Club, which publishes Trailer Life, and we also are members of Camp Club USA and have relied on their directory. But, these publications are no more reliable than the Yellow Pages. The most trustworthy directory seems to be Big Rigs, which only lists parks personally visited by the authors. At least they let you know if the sites are gravel or concrete.

We were up early the next morning and continued our journey south. Most people probably take rest areas for granted until they drive an 18-wheeler across country or buy a motor coach. I used to zip past them hoping no one had to pee, but now I look so forward to the break so I can walk and stretch. Some even have hidden jewels. For example, the photo below was taken at the rest area near Gainesville and serves as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of WWII. Several miles further south on I-35 is the rest area at Salado, which has a gristmill (non-working) and a tornado shelter inside the facilities.



Now, I chose this photo for posting because of its "artistic value." But then there are those times when a photographer/writer is torn between two or more photos of the same subject. And with no disrespect to the memory of our fallen soldiers, I just had to post the following photo for its comedic value as well. I'm sure you've heard that "pets have a tendency to resemble their owners." Click on the pic to enlarge it and see if you notice any resemblance between Maynard's ears and Susan's grey hair?



Our ultimate destination is Kerrville, Texas. But Suz had previously visited Fredericksburg with her uncle, aunt and cousins, so we decided to spend the night there and check out the sites. We reserved a site at the Oakwood RV Park near Fredericksburg, which is considered an "upscale" park. Not impressed! It's a clean and well organized park, but gravel sites (minimal gravel). When it rains or the ground around the site gets a little damp, you'll track dirt (mud) into your RV.



Fredericksburg looks interesting. We plan to come back after we set up the coach in Kerrville, which is only 20 or so miles south. We'll visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, http://www.nimitz-museum.org/, and tour LBJ Ranch (President Johnson's "Texas White House").

On the road to Kerrville and Buckhorn Lake Resort!



Finally, the RV park we've been looking for . . . concrete drives and patios, paved streets, green grass, and high-end coaches everywhere you look. This community has an "Executive Section," which is a portion of the park set aside for private membership. You can lease (30 years) your very own RV site and build a cottage next to your concrete drive. It appears that these lots may have been designed for "Winter Texans," who migrate south with their rigs for the winter. A private owner has his lot for sale - small cottage with open drive: $282,000. Anyone interested? Check out the following pictures and tour the park with us . . . .



Be sure to click on the pics to enlarge them for detail. This place is beautiful and well maintained. And no more expensive than a KOA! I was even able to get a "coach spa" (wash, wax, and roof treatment). We're here for two days and then on our way to Grapevine, Texas. But here's a few pics of our visit to Kerrville, Fredericksburg and the Pacific War Museum. Believe it or not, Kerrville had a "Gibson's Discount Center." I haven't seen a Gibson's in years. They have a wonderful sporting goods section, and stock just about anything else you may need. Suz heard there was also a James Avery store in the area, so we paid them a visit. Not only do they have a retail store in Kerrville, but it appears by the size of the place that it may be their corporate headquarters and design studios. Whatever it is, I can sum it up in one word - Expensive!



Below are pictures of the Fredericksburg area and the Pacific War Museum. We spent almost four hours there, but needed two days to see all the exhibits. It's very well done and I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Fredericksburg. The building on the upper left is dedicated to Admiral Nimitz, who led the U.S. Navel Forces in the Pacific during WWII.



The gray chunk of metal on the upper-lower right is a steel door removed from the USS Arizona during the rescue attempt after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following pics are various weapons used by both the United States and Japan during the Pacific War.



On the road back to Kerrville we saw the American Flag waving in the swift Texas breeze. Texans, like Okies, proudly display the nation's flag broadly throughout the state. But, it appears that the Texas state flag is more commonly flown by its citizens than the Oklahoma state flag is flown in our state. We observed numerous Texas flags being flown at many private residences and businesses. Come on Oklahoma; let's get on with it and show our Okie pride!



Well, Texans may take pride in their state and proudly display their state flag, but I don't have any idea what the pic on the upper right implies. Obviously, it caught our attention enough to compel us to pull over on the side of busy Texas State Highway 16 and snap the shot.

As I've said before, "a motor coach is a rich man's toy, and I'm not a rich man." We lost the electric portion of the refrigerator today, but fortunately the propane side still works fine. Just another thing to put on the repair list for when we get home. Swimming pools, boats, and motor coaches . . . costly to maintain.

Pulled out of Buckhorn Lake Resort on Sunday morning and headed to Grapevine, Texas. Stopped to tour LBJ Ranch on the way and snapped the following pictures . . . .



The first pic is the back of President Johnson's home, also referred to as the "Texas White House" during his term in office. The next pic is of the front porch. The tour of the house was guided by a National Park ranger and our access to the property was restricted; thus, no good shot of the front of the house. We were allowed to view only 5 of the 28 rooms in the house. We did, however, get to see the President's office. It took me back to the 1960's because it looked and smelled like my father's office, i.e., old IBM typewriters, large ashtrays, and the smell of heavy cigarette smoke.

Several of LBJ's vehicles were on display, including the Lincoln Continental and amphibious car. The tour guide said that the President would frequently entertain guests with drives around the ranch. Note the "mud tires" on the rear of the Lincoln. LBJ would lower the convertible top, drive his guests right up next to the cattle for an eye to eye look at his livestock, but sometimes get stuck in the mud. The amphibious vehicle was often used by the President to personally pick up guests at the private runway (lower right). He especially enjoyed giving the ladies a scare by making an unexpected turn into the Pendernales River (which runs through the ranch). The last picture is the Johnson Family Cemetary and the burial site of the President and Lady Bird Johnson, which is also situated on the property.

The majority of the ranch tour was self-conducted by personal vehicle. We were given a CD at the Visitor's Center that provided a good narrative of the tour. You simply slip the CD in your car stereo and follow the speaker's directions. A considerable amount of the CD contained the voice of President Johnson discussing the ranch and many of its interesting aspects. After the tour, it was time for lunch.

One great thing about traveling in a motor coach is that you can carry your groceries with you. Suz made sandwiches and we enjoyed a quick lunch in our air-conditioned coach on LBJ's Ranch before continuing on to Grapevine.

We finished lunch and pulled back on to the highway about 1 P.M. The wind was blowing out of the south at 15-20 mph and gusting to 35. As a result, we had a very stiff crosswind hitting the starboard (right side for you landlubbers) side of the coach. The wind, traffic, and 5-hour drive to Grapevine left me drained. But, we had to stop for dinner and get diesel before heading into the campsite. As we pulled into the Waco Cracker Barrel, an elderly man in a recent model Lincoln blocked our path to the RV parking area. He was determined to hold his ground until I backed out of his way. He actually expected me to back 60-feet of fiberglass and metal into four lanes of traffic so he could pass. Well, he blinked first and gave up waiting, but still tried to squeeze between the coach and wooden fence as he passed giving me a few choice words.

Now, at the risk of offending our Texas friends and relatives, the motorists here leave quite a bit to be desired. They'll frequently criss-cross in front of the coach in heavy traffic at high speeds, or much worse, pull directly in front of us and quickly apply their brakes. We currently weigh in at close to 31,000 lbs., and I continue to pray our brakes don't fail. Texans can say what they want about Okies, but as a whole, I find Okies much more courteous and hospitable. Needless to say, Suz and I won't be moving south of the Red River!

We finally made it to Grapevine about 8 P.M. There was just enough daylight left to set up the coach. But the site we were assigned was simply too steep for the automatic leveling system to level the coach. Nobody was at the gate when we arrived and Suz had to scramble around trying to find someone to reassign us to another site. By the time we found help, it was dark and very difficult to maneuver to another site. In spite of the stressful arrival, here's the beautiful park we awoke to the following morning . . . .



The "Vineyards Campground on Lake Grapevine" is considered an "upscale" park operated by the City of Grapevine. It's too bad OKC doesn't do something like this around Lake Hefner or Overholser. This park is situated in a very exclusive area (expensive homes) and is exquisitely maintained. Our only complaint is that some sites are too steep, such as the site we were originally assigned (compare the photos below - the left pic is the original site, and the right is the reassignment).



Tomorrow, we head for Wichita Falls to see Susan's daughter, Katherine. "K" serves in the U.S. Air Force and is stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base. We've been on the road a full week and I think at least one of us is ready to go home . . . .



But, he can't say he hasn't had fun. Watch the following video of Maynard trying to make friends with the local ducks.

video

Up early Tuesday morning and on the road to Wichita Falls. The wind has finally calmed down and it's four lanes all the way. We called ahead and reserved a site at the Wichita Falls RV Park, with which we were pleasantly surprised on our arrival.




Click on the photo (above, lower-right) and note the little extra attention given to Maynard's benefit (multiple fire hydrants).

This park is a former mobile home park that was converted to an RV park. The majority of sites are full hook-up with gravel drives and small concrete patios. They have cable TV, excellent Wi-Fi , swimming pool, and a rally room. The grass was a little high when we arrived, but they mowed it today.




Above left is Suz with Katherine at the campsite before dinner. Above right and lower left is Suz with Katherine and her husband, Richard (affectionatly known as "Elmo"). Katherine and Richard (Elmo) have done a great job with their home and yard.

While the kids were at work, we thought we'd do a little siteseeing in Wichita Falls. We first went to the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum. It's on the site of the former Union Station and boasts it's the largest collection of equipment from six Texas railroads, including the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) Railroad.



Although the advertisement listed hours of operation "Mon-Sat. 12pm-4pm," the sign on the gate stated the museum is open only on Saturday from 12pm-4pm. So, I guess we'll try next time. But, we did see the Falls . . . .



The original falls were destroyed during a flood of the Wichita River in 1886. For more than 100 years, the City of Wichita Falls went without the symbol of it's namesake, until the current "man-made" falls were built in 1987. The falls are 54-feet high with a water flow of 35-45 feet wide, and recirculated by a pump at 3,500 gallons per minute. Adjacent to the falls is Lucy Park, which has 4 miles of landscaped, lighted, all-weather walking trails that wind along the Wichita River. The city is clean, well-organized, and easy to drive to from OKC.

Well, we leave Wichita Falls tomorrow morning for OKC. Hope you've enjoyed the trip and stay tuned for our next adventure!