Category Archives: Texas

Big Texan

Wednesday was our last full day in Amarillo. I spent the afternoon packing the trailer. Donna went to the pool and swam laps. We made plans to visit the iconic Amarillo attraction, the Big Texan Ranch Steakhouse. The Lee family owns Big Texan and they recently bought the Amarillo Ranch RV Park. They offer a free ride from the RV park to the steakhouse.

As you approach Amarillo on I-40, you’ll see signs advertising a free 72-ounce steak at Big Texan. The gimmick is this – you must eat the whole entree with included side dishes or you pay $72 for the meal. Donna made a reservation at the RV park office for the limo ride to Big Texan. Our driver showed up at 5pm – we wanted to arrive early for happy hour before dinner.

Usie in front of the limo

Us in front of the longhorn limo

Big Tex limo

Big Tex limo

The exterior of the restaurant is a typical touristy facade.

The Big Texan Ranch Steakhouse

The Big Texan Ranch Steakhouse

Okay cowgirl

Okay, cowgirl!

Once we went inside, the place reminded us of Lambert’s (Home of the Throwed Rolls) in Missouri. We were seated family-style at a large rustic table. We started out by sampling the beer brewed on site. Donna went for a pecan porter that she absolutely loved. I had a sampler flight with their Rattlesnake IPA, Whoop your Donkey double IPA, a palate cleansing honey blonde lager and finally the Whiskey Barrel Stout.

Beer flight and pecan porter

Beer flight and pecan porter

The double IPA and the stout were good beers. For dinner, Donna ordered the prime rib plate and a second pecan porter. I went for the baby back ribs and a pint of Whoop Your Donkey. The menu says the baby back ribs are dry rubbed – well they were, but they were also slathered in barbeque sauce Kansas City style. The ribs were tender and good, Donna’s prime rib was exactly what she expected from a steakhouse – excellent. Everything is bigger in Texas and these entrees were enough for two meals and more – we took home leftovers.

While we were there, a guy took the 72-ounce steak challenge.There are rules of course. There’s a one-hour time limit. He was seated front and center, spotlighted at a table on a raised platform so he could be seen. If anyone got up there with him, he would be disqualified. He was told if he got up or threw up, it was game over. On the start signal, he started chewing as the crowd cheered.

Taking the challenge

Taking the challenge

Our waitress told us that at least one person per night has a go at the big steak – as many as five or six on Friday and Saturday nights. She said about one out of ten guys eat the whole thing and about one in eight women finish it. Her take on that was that fewer women make the attempt – those who do are pretty sure they can do it. I can’t imagine ever stuffing down four and half pounds of steak.

Big Texan rocking chair

Big Texan rocking chair

Ozark spent most of her time in Amarillo watching the big, boat-tailed grackles strut around our site. The birds would walk past every day with Ozark either perched on the dash watching them or on the back of the sofa. Eventually she would doze off and dream of catching them.

Ozark dreaming of catching a bird - she's not falling off, it just looks that way

Ozark dreaming of catching a bird – she’s not falling off, it just looks that way

On Thursday morning we hit the road. The surface on I-40 was rough in places through the city, but once we hit the outskirts of town it improved. West of Amarillo and into New Mexico I-40 is mostly smooth sailing.

We climbed through rolling hills. We gained elevation every mile of the way. The terrain changed from shortgrass prairie to sagebrush country. I liked seeing the table-top mesas and rock formations in the distance. When we were taking the limo ride back from Big Texan, we shared the ride with a couple from Alabama. The had been out west and were heading back home. They remarked how happy they were to be back in tree-filled landscape. As we drove through New Mexico, Donna remarked how happy she felt to be back in the southwestern desert.

We stopped in a small town called Santa Rosa where we heard of a couple of boondocking possibilities. We checked them out and parked in one of them – a paved lot on the main drag. Donna went for walk to the Blue Hole – a natural swimming hole 60 feet in diameter and 81 feet deep in a county park about a mile away. I tried to find a level spot on the lot – there wasn’t one. I found beer and a bag of ice in a store nearby.

When Donna returned from her walk, we decided to move on another 40 miles to the Flying C Ranch. This is a tourist trap gift shop and Dairy Queen in the middle of nowhere. They offer free overnight parking in the lots surrounding their store. We found a quiet spot on the west side of the property in a partially paved gravel lot. It’s very level and we set up next to a stand of trees.

Sunset out our door at Flying C Ranch

Sunset out our door at Flying C Ranch

We’re at an elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level. As the sun set, it cooled off quickly outside. We slept with windows open and enjoyed the cool, fresh air.

We’re up early this morning. We’ll head up to Santa Fe today. We haven’t booked a site there, but we’ll find something on our way.

RV Museum

I ran a few errands on the scooter yesterday. Getting from the east side of Amarillo to the west side on a scooter requires planning. I don’t like to ride the scooter on the interstate. Here in Amarillo, I-40 has one-way service roads on either side of the interstate. On the north side of I-40 it runs west and on the south side it travels east. There’s a snag though. I-40 passes over a large rail yard just before you reach downtown. The service roads don’t go through the rail yard.

Going westbound, you have go north to SE 10th Avenue before you can get past the railroad tracks. On the south side of I-40, you have to loop south to SE 27th Avenue to get across the tracks. I learned the way quickly and it’s a minor hassle (map).

In the afternoon, I scootered Donna to her hair appointment at The Plant Studio. The stylist there, Johnny, was recommended by a stylist in Tempe, Arizona, who attended one of his classes. She told Donna, “If you’re ever in Amarillo, stop and see this guy.” While she was having her hair done, I rode over to Jack Sisemore’s Traveland to check out the RV museum.

Traveland is an RV dealership with a very friendly atmosphere. Jack Sisemore has a great story leading to his successful business. He started by borrowing $2,400 from his grandmother to open a gas station – I think it was in 1962. He added a second station soon after. He bought a motorhome for family camping trips and rented it out at his gas station to offset the cost. Within a year, he had six rental units.

In 1974, he opened his RV dealership on a small lot. He expanded that to over six acres of land. Later, Jack and his son, Trent Sisemore, were founding partners in Keystone Travel Trailers. They sold 1,000 Keystone Travel Trailers the first year. Production ramped up to as much as 1,000 units built per month!

The receptionist at the dealership walked me out back to a warehouse where the museum is. Entry is free and it’s open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm. In addition to the RV collection, Jack collects motorcycles. He had old cars, boats and motorcycles along with memorabilia from earlier times. I was free to walk among the displays and enter the old RVs. Here are some photos I shot.

1941 Westcraft

1941 Westcraft

1941 Westcraft interior

1941 Westcraft interior

This 1941 Westcraft was owned by a defense worker. He lived in it in a special workers’ camp that provided restrooms and showers. After the war, he relocated to Arizona. This is a very rare trolley roof model.

Wally Byam's Airstream

Wally Byam’s Airstream

Wally Byam was the founder of Airstream travel trailers.

Max Factor's 1976 FMC

Max Factor’s 1976 FMC

This 1976 FMC was owned by cosmetics mogul, Max Factor. FMC coaches were 29 feet long and were built from 1973 to 1976. The were pricey, selling for $27,000 to $54,000. At that time, you could buy a house for the same cost. Only around 1,000 were built.

1948 Flxible Bus used in the movie RV

1948 Flxible Bus used in the movie RV

Interior of the Gornike's Flxible

Interior of the Gornike’s Flxible

This 1948 Flxible was used in the movie RV starring the late Robin Williams. Jeff Daniels played the part of Travis Gornike who traveled with his family in this bus.

Teardrop trailer pulled by a 1948 Ford

Teardrop trailer pulled by a 1948 Ford

1963 Chris Craft speed boat

1963 Chris Craft speed boat

In addition to the RVs, cars and boats, there were many interesting motorcycles – mostly hanging from the ceiling.

1967 Bultaco Matador in the bed of a 1967 Chevy El Camino

1967 Bultaco Matador in the bed of a 1967 Chevy El Camino

1973 Triumph Bonneville

1973 Triumph Bonneville

He had many Harleys on display. The one that caught my eye was this 1977 XR750 flat track racer. The number plate was signed by nine-time National Champion, Scott Parker. Flat track bikes are raced on dirt oval tracks. They don’t have brakes and are pitched sideways to power through the turns.

1977 Harley-Davidson XR750

1977 Harley-Davidson XR750

The other bikes that caught my eye were the Bultaco machines he displayed. Bultacos were built in Barcelona, Spain from 1958 to 1983. They sold first-rate racing machinery to the public and dominated Trials competition with Sammy Miller riding in the 1960s and 70s. Their motocross bikes were capable of competing with factory teams in that period as well. The Bultaco Astro was a formidable flat track machine. Their enduro bikes competed and won in the International Six-Day Trial competition. They also built road racing machines that won world championships. The name Bultaco comes from the founder – “Paco” Bulto. He took the first four letters of his surname and the last three of his nickname.

1968 Bultaco Pursang

1968 Bultaco Pursang

There were many smaller displays of period artifacts such as these motor oil containers. Prior to World War II, oil was dispensed from glass containers with long metal spouts attached.

Old motor oil containers

Old motor oil containers

Do you remember these?

Do you remember these?

I spent about 40 minutes in the museum before I went back to pick up Donna.

One of the errands I ran earlier in the day was to exchange my sewer hose at Walmart. I’m happy to report the replacement Rhinoflex hose doesn’t leak.

This morning, it’s uncharacteristically foggy out. I plan to load the trailer today – I hope I can find a self-serve car wash to clean the scooter first. This evening, Donna and I will take a free limo ride from the park to a local favorite – Big Texan Steak Ranch.

Tomorrow we’ll leave here and head to New Mexico. We’ll probably head to Santa Fe, but our plans are flexible.

 

Gray Water Drip

Amarillo Ranch RV Park was nearly filled to capacity over the Labor Day weekend (map). Lots of grills were cooking on Sunday although most people stayed indoors to beat the heat. We didn’t grill on Sunday – Donna made shrimp fra diavolo on the induction cooktop instead. Served over whole wheat angel hair pasta mixed with zucchini noodles, it was outstanding.

Shrimp creole over angel hair pasta

Shrimp fra diavolo over angel hair pasta

On Monday morning, we saw rig after rig pull out of the park as people headed home and back to their workaday lives. We started the day with a treat. Donna cooked up a frittata – which is an Italian egg dish similar to a quiche without the crust. Donna filled it with bacon, potato, mushrooms and green onions and topped it with extra-sharp cheddar cheese and fresh basil. Yummy start to the day.

Frittata for breakfast with fresh cantaloupe

Frittata for breakfast with fresh cantaloupe

A while back, I noticed our sewer hose had damage. It looked like it had been stepped on or maybe hit with a mower. The three-inch hose is reinforced with a steel wire coil inside the polyolefin hose. The steel wire was kinked near the end. I use Camco Rhinoflex sewer hoses because of the heavy-duty construction. Anyway, when I dumped the gray water, the hose had sprung a leak near the end where it had been kinked.

On Monday afternoon, we rode the scooter to Walmart. Donna bought groceries and I bought a new Rhinoflex sewer hose.  We had a full load on the scooter coming back home. I took the old hose to the trash dumpster and set up the new one. I opened the gray water valve and saw water dripping from the fitting on the RV end of the hose. I closed the valve and disconnected the hose. I loosened the locking ring on the bayonet fitting that attaches the hose to the RV drain. I made sure the bayonet fitting was fully seated in the hose end, then tightened the locking ring. I opened the gray water valve again and saw water dripping from the fitting. I looked closely and saw the problem. The fitting is made from two pieces of plastic swaged together to allow the fitting to swivel. This one was defective and leaking where the two pieces are joined together. I’ll have to return it and try another. I’m not having much luck with sewer hoses.

Later, I fired up the Traeger while Donna marinated chicken thighs in sriracha sauce and lime juice. We had plenty of open space around our rig as the park had really emptied out. I cooked the bone-in thighs skin side down for 45 minutes on the Traeger wood pellet fired grill/smoker. When I took them off the grill, Donna basted the chicken with equal parts honey and sriracha and let them rest for a few minutes. This was a new recipe and it was very tasty – you have to like spicy for this one though. Donna served it with a side of colorful cauliflower rice, another new recipe.

Honey-sriracha chicken thighs

Honey-sriracha chicken thighs

Speaking of eating, Ozark the cat has an incredible appetite. We put nearly a quarter cup of dry food in her dish in the morning. We refill it in the afternoon. By bedtime, she’s crying for more food. Donna is concerned about her getting fat. I think she’s still a growing and developing kitty – she’s about nine months old now.

Does she look fat?

Does she look fat?

We had a few raindrops overnight – hopefully it knocked some of the pollen out of the air. The ragweed pollen count has been very high and I’m feeling it.

Today I’ll return the sewer hose and run a few errands. This afternoon, I’ll take Donna to her hair appointment and have a look at the RV museum at Jack Sisemore’s Traveland.

Against the Wind

We pulled out of Time Out RV Park around 9:30am yesterday and left Chickasha, Oklahoma heading west on US 62. Our route took us on US62, then north on US281 and west again on OK152. These were two-lane highways through cattle ranch and oil drilling country (map). The narrow road surface was mostly smooth with a few rough sections. The hard part of driving this route was the wind. We had wind coming directly from the south. On the westbound highway, I was buffeted by strong crosswinds. This is very tiring in a high-profile vehicle.

We hit I-40 after two hours in Sayre, Oklahoma. I topped up our fuel tank at the Pilot/Flying J travel center there. Diesel fuel was $2.31/gallon with my RV Plus discount card. I was already tired but had a few hours of driving ahead of me to get to Amarillo, Texas. The wind was relentless as we headed west into Texas.

The surroundings changed as we moved along. All day we were going up and down short, rolling hills. The net result was a gain in elevation as we went uphill more than we went down. In Texas, we were no longer looking at trees in the landscape, we were on the short grass plains now. The rolling hills disappeared and we gradually climbed all the way to Amarillo which sits 3,600 feet above sea level.

Our original plan was to stay in a RV park east of town that had a Passport America rate of just $12.50/day for an unlimited stay. Further research on Google Earth and RV Park review sites changed our mind. The place was basically an open dirt lot with hook-ups. We booked a week at the Amarillo Ranch RV Park. This place looked pretty good online – I’ve found that online pictures tend to make places look better than reality (map).

When we checked in, I was pleasantly surprised to find the park is nicer than it appeared on the web. We’re in a level, gravel pull-through site. We’ll spend a week here recharging after being on the go since we left Lake George, New York. Donna has a hair appointment next week with a stylist that was recommended to her. We have some important mail sitting in South Dakota that will be forwarded here. I also have a few maintenance items to attend to. We’ll take in a few sights while we’re here and get some of the local flavor.

After a week here, we plan to head into New Mexico where we’ll explore and kick around for three weeks before we go to the annual balloon fiesta in Albuquerque.

 

Last Stop in Texas

The heavy rain in the forecast didn’t happen Sunday afternoon. Instead, weather-wise, it was one of the nicest days we had in Rockport, Texas. I had already loaded the trailer, including the scooter. We thought about unloading the scooter, but decided against it. We didn’t need to go anywhere and I didn’t want to get it out of the trailer when the weather can change in an instant.

Donna took a long morning walk. She went out Copano Ridge Road to Harbor Point on Copano Bay. Her round trip was about five miles. After lunch, we went out and walked together around the park. We went out on the fishing pier – there was no sign of the jellyfish we saw there before. The wind was light and it was getting hot out. The temperature reached the upper 80s.

While it was dry out, I decided to take care of one more maintenance task. I should change the fuel filter for our Cummins ISL diesel engine annually. I had put this off because I couldn’t find my spare fuel filter. I always like to have a spare filter on hand in case I get a load of bad fuel on the road. I ordered a replacement filter when I bought the air filter element. My intention was to install the spare filter I’d had for a year at that time and rotate the new filter into the spare role.

On Sunday, I got serious about finding my spare filter. Normally it would’ve been in a bin in the trailer where I keep things like that, but I remembered putting it into a basement compartment where it would easier to retrieve when were loaded up and traveling. If I could only remember where I put it. Donna suggested that I take everything out of one of the compartments. Way in the back, there was a cardboard box I didn’t recognize. I opened the box and there it was! It was in an Amazon box – I was expecting to find a Cummins Fleetguard box.

Changing the fuel filter is always a messy deal. Fuel drips when the old filter is removed. You have to be sure the rubber seal in the center comes off with the old filter, then install the new seal before screwing the new filter in place. Once the new filter is tightened, the fuel will stop leaking.

New fuel filter with date marked on it

New fuel filter with date marked on it

I marked the new filter 6-15 so I won’t have to remember when it was changed. The last step in the replacement procedure is to turn on the ignition key for 30 seconds. This activates the lift pump and pumps fuel into the empty filter. I repeated this four times for a total of two minutes fuel pump run time. The next time the engine is started, it will purge the air from the system at low idle, then it will run normally. This procedure works for CAPS injection systems and high-pressure common rail (HPCR) injection systems found on Cummins diesel engines. This is better than pre-filling the filter. Pre-filling the filter with fuel runs the risk of introducing unfiltered contaminants into the injection system. It doesn’t take much to ruin a fuel injector.

Around 5pm, a few clouds were passing overhead. We heard a sudden crack of thunder as lightning struck nearby and the rain began to fall. It rained off and on most of the night. Donna made fish tacos with fresh tilapia for dinner. They are so yummy with blackened tilapia.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

On Monday morning, the sun came out and we had mostly clear skies. I dumped and flushed the tanks while Donna finished packing the interior items. When I fired up the Cummins, it stalled the first time. I restarted it and it settled into a normal idle and ran fine. I checked the fuel filter one more time for leaks as I did my walkaround before we hit the road.

Our route took us up TX35 along Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to TX185. We followed TX185 through Victoria, then hit TX77. This took us north through La Grange. I couldn’t help but sing parts of the ZZ Top song about a cat house in La Grange.

Rumour spreadin’ a-’round in that Texas town
’bout that shack outside La Grange
and you know what I’m talkin’ about.
Just let me know if you wanna go
to that home out on the range.
They gotta lotta nice girls.
Have mercy.
A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.
A haw, haw, haw.
Well, I hear it’s fine if you got the time
and the ten to get yourself in.
A hmm, hmm.
And I hear it’s tight most ev’ry night,
but now I might be mistaken.
hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm.
Have mercy.

 

Further up the road we came to a screeching halt. Many Texas highways have high speed limits even though there are driveways and cars stopping to turn or cars entering the highway without an acceleration lane to allow them to merge with traffic. Apparently some one had pulled out of the gas station on our left and a car coming down the highway collided with it. It looked bad and was obviously a high-speed collision.

Car crash ahead

Car crash ahead

It was a reminder to stay alert and ready for cars entering the highway or braking suddenly. In an RV, keeping your distance is imperative. I can’t stop 33,000 pounds in the same distance as a 4,000-pound car.

We made our way to Bryan, Texas. I stopped at Big Gas Travel Center and pumped 60 gallons of fuel to top off our tank. In this humid climate, I like to keep the tank full when we are parked to minimize condensation in the air space of the tank. I also added Biobor JF to the tank.

When I went inside to pay, my Chase credit card was declined! I tried it twice, then I used my debit card to pay the fuel bill. When we arrived at Primrose Lane RV Park, my credit card was declined again. This happened frequently when we first started traveling cross country. The security folks at Chase thought all the charges in different states were suspicious. I talked to them last year and they added notes to my account indicating that frequent travel and large fuel bills were normal.

I called the number on my Chase card and through their automated system, I was able to authorize the charge for two nights at the RV park. I also added travel information. The system only allows me to indicate travel for up to twelve months. So next summer, I’ll have to go through this again. We have a 90-foot long pull-through site on a concrete pad. It easily fits our rig and I didn’t have to drop the trailer. The site is narrow though, only about 12 feet wide.

Once we were set up, I went online to pay my Flying J fuel bill. I charged $534 for fuel at Flying J during the month of May. I have my account set up with Flying J to pay electronically. It wouldn’t go through. I tried a couple of times but kept getting an error message telling me to call customer service.

I called and was put on hold for 15 minutes. When the representative picked up, I could hear some background noise but he didn’t say anything. I said, “Hello?” Then he said, “Hi, how are you?” I said, “Fine, is this Flying J?” He said it was – seemed pretty unprofessional to me. I told him what my issue was and he said the system was down for maintenance and I should try again tomorrow. Really? The system is down for maintenance and you give people an error message telling them to call? Why not have the message say the system is down for maintenance until XX? Or record a message to that effect for incoming calls? End of rant.

Our long, narrow pull-through site

Our long, narrow pull-through site

We plan to head over to College Station and have a look around today. Donna would like to get a bike ride in, but the roads around here in Bryan don’t have much shoulder and it may be too dangerous. We’ve booked two nights here at $18/night for full hook-ups with 50 amp service with Passport America. Tomorrow we plan to head east to Shreveport, Louisiana.

Beating the Storm

The weather guessers had me scrambling yesterday. I wanted to get things done since they were certain we would be in for a wet and stormy Sunday. I packed up the tire covers and the windshield covers. I wanted to store them away while they’re dry – packing them when they’re wet makes a good environment for mold.

I broke out the ladder and climbed up on the roof. Our front air conditioner shroud is cracked. I put duct tape over the crack. Then I checked the rear cover – it’s cracked as well. I need to order new shrouds soon. I thought the shrouds were made of fiberglass but it appears to be molded plastic. Baking in the sun on the roof eventually leads to deterioration. Our air conditioners are Dometic Duo Therm Penguin 15,000 BTU heat pumps and parts aren’t cheap. The plastic covers are about $100 each!

Workers here at Copano Bay RV Resort were also going double time to beat the weather. The park is pouring new concrete. The workers are prepping unoccupied site pads. About a dozen of the pads already have new concrete. They’ve prepped about a dozen more over the past couple of days. I’m thinking they should be using rebar in addition to the wire mesh to strengthen and reinforce the concrete. After all, there may be a 40,000+ pound RV rolling over it. But they’re the experts, not me.

Pad ready for concrete

Pad ready for concrete

I don’t know when they will pour the concrete. They need a window of dry weather for a day or two.

Donna took the scooter grocery shopping in the morning. When she returned, I rode it to Walmart and picked up a case of water and restocked my beer supply. Then I finished organizing the trailer and loaded the scooter in preparation for Monday’s departure. I figured we wouldn’t be using the scooter on Sunday if it’s stormy and I might as well have the trailer packed and closed up while it’s dry.

My daughter Jamie came up from Robstown with her friend Ruby, two of her step-kids – Rayleen and Ariana – and their cousin, Victoria. Donna took them to the community pool while I was packing the trailer.

The rain held off while they were at the pool. When they returned at 5pm, I could see a storm approaching on the weather radar app. We said our goodbyes and they left, trying to beat the storm home. I don’t know when we’ll see them again, but we plan to return to this area at some point – hopefully at a time when the weather isn’t so wet. May has been a very wet month – more than twice the average rainfall for the month.

One of the things Donna bought at HEB was jalapeno salmon burgers. These are made fresh at HEB, not frozen. I fired up the grill to cook them and also toasted onion ciabatta rolls. Donna made a remoulade sauce and garnished the burger with lettuce, avocado and remoulade. These were the best salmon burgers I’ve ever tasted.

Jalapeno salmon burgers and toasted onion chiabatta rolls hot off the grill

Jalapeno salmon burgers and toasted onion ciabatta rolls hot off the grill

One tasty sandwich

One tasty sandwich

We rarely buy bread, but when Donna asked the guy at the seafood counter if the salmon burgers were good, he told her how he makes them and it sounded so good, she had to do it! Since she had to buy the onion rolls in a package of six, she bought four more salmon burgers and stashed them along with the rolls in the freezer.

It started raining while we were watching Homeland. The lightning made a great backdrop for the show.

This morning it’s dry out. The forecast has backed down from the dire storm warnings. Now they say there’s a 30% chance of thundershowers this afternoon. Oh well, I guess it didn’t hurt to make our preparations for travel a day early.

 

Key Allegro Island

A guy posted a question yesterday on one of the RV forums I visit. He said his coach was in storage for five months. When he took it out of storage and hooked up at an RV park, he dumped his gray water holding tank. He said the discharge was dark, more like black water and had black flakes of solid material. He suspected black water sewage had somehow infiltrated his gray water tank.

There were several responses to his post with lots of theories on how black water could have ended up in the gray water holding tank. My take on the situation is this – he doesn’t have black water in his gray water tank. His gray water turned dark because he left untreated gray water in the tank with organic matter in it for five months.

The gray tank holds the water coming down the drains of the kitchen sink and shower. If you cook and wash dishes in the sink, a certain amount of organic matter (bits of food) will drain into the tank. Some soaps contain fats and oils which are also organic. Leave this stuff in a tank of water for an extended period of time and it will become a science project gone wild. Bacteria and molds will thrive.

Some people think the gray water tank is benign and doesn’t create a sanitation challenge. I disagree. The gray water tank needs attention, just like the black water tank. Gray water tanks can create foul odors if left untreated. That’s why I use TankTechs RX in my gray tank. I wrote about it in this post. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

The run of nicer weather continued yesterday. We had a high temperature of 86 degrees with partly cloudy skies. It wasn’t as windy as it’s been. Most of the time we’ve been here, we’ve had steady winds of 15 -20 mph. Yesterday it calmed down to about 10 mph.

I ran a couple of errands on the scooter and while I was out I explored Key Allegro Island. Key Allegro is a small island community in Rockport. Riding north on Broadway, I could see the island looking east across Little Bay. I made a right and crossed the bridge to the island where Broadway becomes Fulton Beach Road.

View of Key Allgro across Little Bay

View of Key Allegro across Little Bay

The entire island is developed with very few unoccupied lots. The beach areas are private. Most of the properties back up to canals that criss-cross the island. It’s a boater’s paradise.

View from one of the few undeveloped lots

View from one of the few undeveloped lots

One of the Key Allegro canals

One of the Key Allegro canals

When I returned, I told Donna about Key Allegro. She was going out on a grocery shopping run on the scooter. I suggested heading out to the Grog Bar and Grill on Key Allegro for happy hour when she returned from shopping.

The Grog Bar and Grill is located at the Key Allegro Marina. We took a look around the marina – it was filled with sportfishing boats and luxury yachts. We found a table at the back of this large, beautiful bar overlooking the marina. We were the only people there!

Vie from the Grog Bar and Grill

View from the Grog Bar and Grill

We sipped a couple of beers and watched the antics of sea birds in the bay. I had an IPA brewed in Houston by Saint Arnold Brewery. It wasn’t anything special – it can’t compete with San Diego’s IPAs. We were there for close to an hour and no other patrons showed up. I took Donna for a scooter tour of Key Allegro before we headed back home.

After we returned home, I grilled herbed chicken thighs. Donna served it with sauteed haricots verts (French green beans) with cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. Donna duped me into trying anchovy vinaigrette dressing by not telling that what was on the green beans. I’m not a fan of anchovies. The vinaigrette was a little salty for my taste but the flavor was good.

Grilled boneless chicken thighs with green beans, tomatoes and kalamata olives

Grilled boneless chicken thighs with sauteed green beans, tomatoes and kalamata olives

We finished the evening with two episodes of Homeland from season two.

Our run of nice weather ended abruptly at 5am this morning. Donna and I were both jolted awake when a bolt of lightning struck nearby followed by a loud crack of thunder. Wind was rocking the coach as torrential rain fell. I got up and closed the living room slide as a precaution against wind or water damage. I looked at my weather radar app and once again we were in the thick of it.

We are the blue spot in the center of the storm cell

We are the blue spot in the center of the storm cell

I went back to bed and listened to the thunder and rain and drifted off to sleep again. When I woke up at 8am, it was still raining but not as hard. The wind had died down. By 9:15am, the rain showers quit and sun came out. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with no rain until early Sunday.

I think I’ll remove the tire covers and windshield covers once they dry out. We’ll pull out of here Monday morning and I don’t want to pack wet tire and window covers.

 

Birds and Birthdays

The weather has improved considerably over the last few days. We’ve had lots of sunshine and a lot less humidity. On Tuesday, we had a few sprinkles of rain, nothing measurable. Donna went to the community pool and swam laps on Tuesday morning. I puttered around at the RV park. I ventured out at one point to pick up a few things at the store.

My daughter Jamie and Francisco came up from Robstown a little after 3pm. We drove to the south side of Rockport to hit happy hour at Paradise Key Dockside Bar and Grill. The bar and grill used to be located on Key Allegro, which is an island on the north end of Rockport – it was called Paradise Key Island Grill at that time. The new location with the name changed is on a cove off Aransas Bay.

I can hear Jimmy Buffet

I can hear Jimmy Buffet

The coastal bend area of Texas is home to the Great Texas Birding Trail. At any time of the year, over 100 species of birds can be found here. In the winter, it’s home to the endangered whooping crane. Whooping cranes are the tallest North American bird. By 1941, unregulated hunting and loss of habitat had the whooping crane on the brink of extinction. There were just 21 wild birds and two in captivity at that time. Today, more than 200 whooping cranes winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge from November to April. Then they migrate north to their breeding grounds in Canada. Sandhill cranes, which are almost as large as whooping cranes, are also found here.

At the Paradise Key Dockside Bar and Grill, there is a bird watching platform at the end of the parking lot. It’s one of many bird viewing areas we’ve seen around here, but the first we’ve visited.

Bird watching platform

Bird watching platform

We stood on the platform for a few minutes and saw egrets, herons, gulls and pelicans. The pelicans we saw were smaller brown pelicans. The pelicans along the California coast are a larger sub-species. White pelicans can also be found along the Texas coastal bend, but we didn’t see any.

Brown pelican soaring past the platform

Brown pelican soaring past the platform

We watched the birds soaring on the wind currents, hunting for fish before we made our way inside. We sat out back on the deck. The deck overlooks a slough off the cove. There’s a marina in the distance. Boats cruised to the dock below and the occupants tied up there while they came in for a drink or bite to eat. On the weekends, there is live music on the deck.

View from the deck

View from the deck

We enjoyed a platter of tortilla chips with artichoke-crab dip and a couple of drinks while we took in the view and talked. Jamie and Francisco wanted to treat us to dinner. We thought about ordering dinner there, but decided to try another place that Donna’s friend, Dina Martin, another full-time RVer had suggested. She and her husband are from The Woodlands, Texas and spent a lot of time in Rockport.

We drove back into town and went to The Boiling Pot near Fulton. This is a funky, casual Cajun-style place. Once you’re seated, they cover your table with butcher paper and tie a plastic bib around your neck. Most of the items on the menu, such as crab, crawfish or sausage is served (dumped) on the butcher paper without a plate! Their signature entree is a combination plate featuring blue crab – but they were out of blue crab. We weren’t very hungry after the chips and dip, so three of us settled for gumbo and Jamie ordered red beans and rice with half a pound of boudin sausage. The food was good and the gumbo was enough for Donna and me. I don’t know if Francisco had enough to eat, but he didn’t complain.

We came back to our place and talked into the night. Jamie had brought two bottles of Tavel she found in Corpus Christi. Donna opened one. Jamie also picked up four large chocolate truffles that we enjoyed for dessert.

Wednesday was Donna’s birthday. She went to the community pool and swam a mile to celebrate her birthday. She hung out for a while at the pool afterward. She met a woman there and they sat in the sun and talked. Donna’s sporting a bit of sunburn today.

We went out for her birthday dinner. Donna chose Latitude 28°-02′. This is an upscale restaurant in Rockport. It’s also an art gallery. During the day, half of the building houses the art gallery. In the evening, the art gallery is used for dining. There’s another dining area that’s not part of the gallery. They serve seafood and steaks.

We both went for the seafood. Donna had blackened grouper with chipotle crawfish cream sauce. I had fish oscar which was made with the catch of the day – fresh red snapper – with crab meat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce on top. Both dishes were served with green beans and orzo on the side. My snapper was slightly overcooked, but otherwise delicious. The portions were larger than they appeared – Donna brought half of her fish home.

Happy birthday Donna

Happy birthday, Donna!

After dinner, we came home and watched a couple of episodes of Homeland. We enjoy the series although I have trouble sometimes with the unrealistic premise of the plot. That’s TV though – sometimes you have to overlook things since most shows can be picked apart.

Yesterday was also my youngest daughter Shauna’s birthday. She couldn’t enjoy her birthday much last year as it was her first day working as an intern at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington D.C. This year finds her back in D.C. studying for her bar exam. Happy birthday, Shauna.

Texas Flood

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about heavy rains overnight and standing water. I should have said how thankful I am. The brunt of the storm hit along a corridor running from San Antonio to Austin, Texas. I mentioned Donna’s friend, Kathy Palmer, being evacuated from the RV park they were staying at in San Marcos, Texas.

The RV park was the Pecan Park Riverside RV and Cabins. It’s on the bank of the Blanco River. The Blanco River was about five feet deep last week. It’s considered to be at flood stage when it reaches 13 feet. On Sunday night, the river crested at 40 feet. It flooded the RV park. Everything in the park was destroyed – the cabins, RVs left there, the site infrastructure and the park owner’s home. I lifted a few pictures of Pecan Park Riverside RV from this site.

RVs tossed aside by flood water

RVs tossed aside by flood water

5_26PcnRV2

5_26PcnRV3

Thankfully no one was injured as everyone was evacuated in time. That can’t be said for everyone along the storm path.

Two families were reported to be staying in a vacation home on the Blanco River. The home was lifted off its foundation by the flood water and the house smashed into a bridge, completely obliterating it. Twelve people are missing and presumed dead.

Foundation and debris are all that's left of this vacation home

Foundation and debris are all that’s left of this vacation home

The wind, tornados and flooding damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Four people were confirmed dead, killed by the storm. Our thoughts go out to those who’ve suffered from this storm.

Fulton Crawfish Boil

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I took a walk through the RV park. The soil here usually drains quickly. But hours after the storm passed through, we still had standing water. Overnight, 1.52″ of rain fell, bringing the month-to-date total up to 6.66″, more than double the average rainfall for the month of May.

Standing water several hours after the storm

Standing water several hours after the storm

When I hand washed our coach last week, the hard water left water spots from mineral deposits. One benefit of the storm was the low PH of the rain water. Around here, the average rain water PH is 4.9, meaning the water is acidic – a PH of 7 is neutral, higher is alkaline and lower is acidic. The slightly acidic rain water washed the mineral deposits from the coach. We don’t have any water spots on the glass or paint after the storm. I’ll still go over the coach with waterless cleaner as it leaves a protective film on the paint.

Today is Memorial Day, a day to give thanks to all who served our country. We went to a charity fundraiser crawfish boil yesterday to support a group called the Coastal Bend Troop Support. They send care packages to troops deployed overseas and assist troops returning from combat with post traumatic stress syndrome.

The crawfish boil was similar to the event we attended a year ago in Heber City, Utah, but not as fancy. For $20 each, we got a crawfish flat, which is a cardboard soda case (flat) filled with crawfish, five jumbo shrimp, potatoes, corn and andouille sausage.

Crawfish flat

Crawfish flat

It seemed like a lot of food, but it takes a lot of crawfish to supply a small amount of meat. After picking up your flat, everyone was seated cafeteria style in the Fulton Convention Center Paws and Taws. The convention center title seems to be a little ambitious – it’s more of a community center or auditorium.

The convention center was created by a group of square dancers from Rockport, the Paws and Taws square dance club. They incorporated the club, raised funds, leased the property from the town of Fulton and began building the center in November of 1964. The grand opening dance was July 10, 1965 and 340 square dancers attended.

For this event, the Coastal Bend Troop Support organization had the walls covered with Memorial Day posters and displays.

Display at the back of the stage

Display at the back of the stage

Wall poster

Wall poster

Display commemorating local veterans

Display commemorating local veterans

We found a table and sat with a couple from the area. They spent three years living on a 44′ sport fishing boat. They cruised from Rockport to the Bahamas and south Florida before coming back and moving into a conventional house. Now they spend January and February in The Keys and the hot summer months in Taos, New Mexico. We had an interesting conversation, but we never got their names before they left.

Another couple joined our table. He is the publisher of the Rockport Pilot, a local Aransas County newspaper. She is the president of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce. They’ve lived in Rockport for 30 years and take frequent weekend getaways, often flying to the west coast. We enjoyed conversation with them as we finished eating.

After we finished our lunch, we took a walk out on the Fulton fishing pier. The pier is constructed from wood and is about a quarter of a mile long.

A laughing gull on the rail as we head out on the pier

A laughing gull on the rail as we head out on the pier

We walked to the end of the pier and saw a few people fishing. A woman reeled in a small catfish as we approached.

View of the Fulton Convention Center from the end of the pier

View of the Fulton Convention Center from the end of the pier

Then we rode the scooter on Fulton Beach Road until it became Broadway in Rockport. This was a scenic ride and we found shops and restaurants along the way. There are many nice houses along the waterfront. We hadn’t been to this part of town before. Donna has a 25-mile bike ride mapped out that includes this stretch of highway. Now that we’ve driven it though, she’s not sure about cycling it as the road is narrow and there is no shoulder. Perhaps the road will be quiet enough after the holiday weekend.

By the time we returned to the RV park, the skies had cleared. Although it was windy, it was the nicest weather we’ve had since we’ve been in Texas. The forecast calls for a chance of thundershowers every day for the foreseeable future. We’ll be here for another week and hope for the best.