Monday, July 27, 2015

Trailer Life: Portable Grey Water Tank

When we travel in our trailer, I prefer to go to more natural areas, such as state and national parks. Such parks usually offer natural beauty and a quiet environment. Unfortunately, such parks often lack full hookups that commercial campgrounds offer, especially sewer connections.

Our trailer has 33 gallon tanks for grey and black water. That is sufficient for several days for black water, but the grey water use limits us. We like to shower every evening when camping. After all, we normally are pretty active, as we like to hike, fish, and enjoy camp fires. Most campgrounds provide bathroom facilities, but we prefer the privacy and comfort of our own facilities. So, taking daily showers, washing dishes, and using our sink can put quite a bit of water into our 33 gallon tank on a daily basis. If we are unable to dump that grey water, then our stay can be limited.

Once a tank is full, you have to empty it, which basically means you have to unhook all your connections and drag the entire trailer to the dump station. That's a lot of work. To alleviate this, we recently purchased an 18 gallon Thetford portable grey water tank. 18 gallons weighs roughly 144 pounds. We will only dump grey water (sinks and shower) into this tank. When full, it can then be attached to the trailer hitch on the truck and towed very slowly (5 mph or less) to the dump station and emptied. The trailer stays put where it is, and all connections stay intact. I figure I will probably empty the tank every morning while Donna is doing things inside getting ready for the day.

This will now free us up to stay in parks we might have avoided before. Texas is blessed with a number of state parks with full hookups. In fact, most we visit have full hookups. But in looking at parks in other states we like to visit, like New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, I see that most of their parks have only electricity and water; seldom do they have sewer connections. In the long trip we took over the Southwest in 2012, we always stayed in commercial campgrounds, for we normally stayed at least 1 week in each location, and 1 week would have been too long for the size tanks we had on that trailer.

With the portable tank, we can now stay in places without sewer connections a bit longer, at least until the black water tank nears capacity.

The Thetford SmartTote Grey Water tank in its carrying position. It has 2 large rear wheels and 2 smaller wheels in front. It pulls quite easily on our smooth driveway.

The tank opened up. On the left is the tow handle. On the right is the hose that connects to the trailer for collecting grey water and later to the dump station for emptying the tank.
Overhead view. The hose on right will fold down for use. The short white hose in center is for rinsing the tank. Just above the white hose is the vent. As you empty grey water into the tank, a valve will pop up in the vent as the tank nears capacity. The rinse hose will also connect here.

The tank connected to my trailer hitch to be towed to the dump station.
On our recent trip, we used the tank at Lost Maples SNA and at South Llano River SP because we stayed at each park 3 nights. I found the tank generally easy to use, though it does take a bit of work to completely empty. I found I had to stand the tank up and slosh the water around to get it completely empty. But it served its purpose and allowed us to stay in parks we might normally avoid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Monster Bash 2015

This past Saturday, we attended a monster bash. Our two youngest grandsons, Camden age 2 and Jenson age 1, were having a joint birthday party at their paternal grandmother's home about 2 hours north of us. We joined the little monsters to help celebrate this milestone. The boys were born 3 days part -- July 21 and July 24 -- so that makes throwing a party convenient.

Things were going rather well until it was time for cake. Each lad had his own small cake to dig into caveman style. Camden decided that rather than blow his candle out, he'd put it out with his finger. Well, things went downhill from there. But Jensen enjoyed his cake. He looked like a circus clown after a while, so we had to hose him down later.

After the party, we brought oldest grandson, Xander, home with us to visit for a few days. Next month, Xander becomes an obnoxious teenager, so these visits with him may be winding down. He is developing his own interests as he grows up, and grandparents probably aren't high on the list. But we enjoyed the time we did have with him.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where We Ate on Our Recent Trip

We enjoyed some good, simple food on our recent trip to the Hill Country.

Our first stop was the Patio Cafe at Love Creek Orchards in Medina. At the time, we were staying at Lost Maples State Natural Area and were just driving around the countryside enjoying the scenery. This place was once rated as one of the Top 40 small town restaurants in the state by Texas Monthly magazine. The business is located in an old house. Enter through the front and work your way to the back of the Apple Store, where the cafe is located. Donna ordered a salad, which she enjoyed, while I had the special of the day, a pulled-pork sandwich with beer-battered onion rings. I don't normally eat much pork, but I enjoyed this sandwich. The bread was really good, and you could definitely taste the beer in the onion rings. My only complaint was the number of flies in the cafe.

Our next dining experience was in Kerrville, when we were staying at Kerrville-Schreiner Park. On our previous visits to Kerrville, I had noticed a small Thai restaurant, Thai Ocha, tucked away above the Guadalupe River near downtown at 417 Water Street. This was a good find. I can't recall what Donna ordered, but I had a good bowl of red curry; I believe it was called Massaman, and it was the special that day. We were also invited to sample the salad bar. The small salad bar had a nice variety of items, including vegetable rolls, water melon, pineapple, and pudding. My curry wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was quite good and had a strong curry flavor. I'd definitely go back.

We also spent one afternoon at Brew Dawgz Grille and Ale, conveniently located just outside the entrance to Kerrville-Schreiner Park. It's no secret that Donna and I enjoy draft beer, and Brew Dawgz does have a generous selection. In fact, their menu lists 20 beers on tap, including a few brewed in the Austin/San Antonio region, such as Lobo Texas Lager (Fredericksburg). We spent quite a while there, and we sampled 3 different brews each. Prices for pints were reasonable. We also tried the cheese and jalapeno nachos, and found the chips to be fresh and the cheese to be plentiful. It was a pleasant way to pass the afternoon. The best part is that the place is within walking distance from our campsite.

While at Junction, we visited 2 places we've frequented often in the past. We were hungry for a burger one day, so we stopped in at the Milky Way, which is located at 1619 Main Street. This is a no frills old fashioned drive-in type place, but patties are hand formed, tasty, and reasonably priced. Service is small-town friendly, just the way I like it.

On our next trip into town, we visited Lum's. It looks like they are building their website, so it may not be active when you click it. A lot of people passing through on the interstate stop at Cooper's for BBQ. We've tried it twice and were disappointed both times. It is not of the quality of the Cooper's in Llano -- which we enjoy -- and the service is greatly lacking. If folks would head south towards town for less than a mile, they would get much better service, much better prices, and much better BBQ at Lum's. I got the regular sliced brisket lunch with cole slaw and potato salad, while Donna got a senior version of the same meal. We also had desert and drinks, all for $25.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

South Llano River State Park, June 2015

Donna and I have been visiting South Llano River State Park since shortly after it opened in 1990. In those days, we lived in Ozona, less than 2 hours to the west, and we had a small folding trailer (pop-up). Our daughter was still young, and we spent many weekends and holidays enjoying this beautiful park. In the early days, the park was quiet and peaceful, and we practically had the place to ourselves. A lot has changed since then.

Headquarters for the park is in the old Walter Buck ranch house. Note the inner tubes on the porch, which visitors can rent.
Today, South Llano River SP is one of the more popular parks in the state park system. The clear waters of the spring fed South Llano River draw visitors who enjoy swimming, tubing, and kayaking/canoeing. You can probably get some peace and quiet during weekdays during cooler weather, but the park's wildlife also attracts large numbers of bird watchers and other animal lovers. There are numerous bird and animal blinds located throughout the park. The park is noted as a roosting area for the Rio Grande turkey, who are drawn by the pecan trees in the bottom area along the river.

One of the many bird blinds scattered throughout the park. This one, named "Lora's Blind", is located just off the main park road approaching the headquarters.

View from inside Lora's Blind. Can you see the squirrel in the right side of the photo?

In addition to river activities, the park also has 18 miles of hiking trails, mostly in the southern part of the park. Fishing is also available in the river as well as in Buck Lake, an oxbow lake just north of the campground.

Our last visit to this park was in March 2013, just before we moved into our current home. You can view my entries for that visiting by clicking the links below:
I'll try not to repeat information presented in my earlier entries.

We encountered this rascal during an early morning walk. We steered way clear of Pepe.

The park has a camping loop consisting of 58 campsites, all with water and electricity (30 amp only). There is a dump station just to the west of the campground. Additional camping is available in 6 walk-in sites and 5 primitive camping sites. Most campsites in the loop are well shaded, and all are paved. The pads of some are a bit short, and the park does monitor parking, so be sure you don't park on the grass. Many campsites have a covered picnic table.

As with Lost Maples, we were unable to pick up any television stations using our antennae. We were able to pick up a radio station or two, though. Junction is simply a long way from any population center.

We were there during the peak of the summer, and the park was basically full, even though our stay was during the middle of the week (Monday - Thursday, June 29 - July 2). Most campsites were occupied by some sort of self-contained trailer or motor home, although there were a few tents, folding campers, and other vehicles.

During the summer, most people come to the park to play. It looks as though many of the occupants come for a full vacation, as they bring all sorts of gear. We saw large patio grills, various furniture, even a stand-up full-size water dispenser. One site had no fewer than 15 chairs. Often 2 or 3 neighboring sites are occupied by friends and family. During the heat of the day, there is a constant flow of traffic, usually pickups loaded with people and water flotation devices, heading for the river. Since the camping loop is one-way, we were able to watch all the traffic from our campsite as it either came or went. As the afternoon wore away and evening approached, people returned to camp where the grilling and other play activities began.

This is the downstream side of the low-water crossing of the South Llano River just inside the park entrance. In the old days, we would get on the upstream side and body surf under the bridge. The large rocks have been moved in since then, perhaps to prevent that.
Upstream from the low-water crossing.

Downstream from the low-water crossing.

Farther downstream, you can see where the highway is cut through the hills.

We saw very little wildlife on our visit this time. We've always seen plenty of deer and turkey before, but not this trip. We did glimpse a few deer during one early morning walk, but none came into the campground as they have before. And I don't believe we saw a single turkey. We've always seen some exotic species on  private land just inside the low-water crossing, but on this trip we only saw a couple from a far distance. It may be the time of year or it may be the large numbers of humans that are keeping them away.

Day use area.

Park road through the pecan grove near the river. This is what attracts the turkeys.
We probably won't be returning to South Llano River SP, at least not during the summer. It's not the same park where we had so much fun in the 1990s. The hordes of visitors the park receives have certainly changed it from the place we fondly remember.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Coming King Prayer Garden

Located atop a 1,930 foot hill in north Kerrville is the Coming King Prayer Garden. The Garden is accessible from the feeder road off Texas 16 (Fredericksburg Highway) just north of Interstate 10.

The cross atop the hill. Photo taken from the entrance to the prayer park, just off the feeder road.
Donna and I decided to get up early Saturday morning and visit the park, which is open from 6 AM to midnight daily. We arrived by 7:00, and we had the place to ourselves. However, the light was not good on this overcast morning, so my pictures sometimes do not have the detail I would like.

The Garden is a solemn place, well thought out and designed. In all, the Garden is 24.5 acres, but the bulk of items of interest are located on a single acre or two atop the hill. There is a walkway in the shape of a cross. As you begin your pilgrimage around the walkway, be sure to read the Bible scriptures inlaid in the walkway. The scriptures are in 3 languages: Spanish, English, and German.

Example of the Bible passages inlaid in the walkway.

Section of the walkway showing the inlaid scriptures. Take the time to read each one as you walk around the cross walkway. Immerse yourself in this experience.
Near the start of the walkway is an impressive statue of Jesus, the "Fisher of Men". It is life-sized and in detail. Heathen though I am, I was moved by it.

This is the "Fisher of Men" statue, with the 77 foot cross about 30 yards or more in the background. This bronze sculpture, by Max G. Greiner, Jr. of Kerrville, depicts Jesus holding out a cast net, symbolically calling Peter and Andrew to become fishers of men and to follow him.
The right branch of the cross walkway extends to another statue, the "Divine Servant", a bronze sculpture by Max G. Greiner, Jr., of Kerrville. The piece depicts Christ washing the feet of Simon Peter in the Upper Room.

The "Divine Servant" sculpture, looking east over Interstate 10.
Another view of the "Divine Servant". Because of the angle, the light is better and more detail shows up.

The top of the walkway cross is the location of the 77 foot "Empty Cross". This is another Max G. Greiner, Jr., sculpture. The cross arm is 40 feet across, and the width of the cross at the bottom is 7 feet. The entire sculpture weighs 70 tons and is anchored in solid rock. Inside the concrete foundation below the cross is a Bible which was anointed with water, soil, and oil from Israel. The cross is located at the same latitude as Israel.

The 77 foot "Empty Cross". Because of the poor lighting, it may be difficult to see little Donna at the very bottom, but the old girl is there.
The left branch of the cross holds another Max G. Greiner, Jr., sculpture, "The Great Commission". The sculpture depicts the World, the Word, and the Rock.

"The Great Commission" from the east.

"The Great Commission" from the west.

I have to admit I was moved by my visit to the Garden. It is a place for contemplation, a place of hope, a place of inspiration.

The Garden is a good place to think, to contemplate, to gain peace and strength.
The views from atop the hill are also impressive. All in all, it is a wonderful location for such a moving garden. 

You can learn more about the artist Max G. Greiner at his website, Max Greiner, Jr., Designs

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hike Report: Kerrville Schreiner Park, June 2015

On our previous visit to Kerrville-Schreiner Park, we hiked half of the red trail, 90% or so of the green trail, and all of the blue and orange trails (see "Hike Report: Kerrville-Schreiner Park"). On this visit, we wanted to hike those trails we had not previously hiked.

From our campsite in the Deer Field Loop campground (see map), we walked along the road to the trailhead for the Red Trail. At the first fork on the trail, we veered left, whereas on our previous hike we had veered right. We then followed the Red Trail until it joined the Green Trail. We walked perhaps half a mile on the Green Trail, then took the crossover trail to the Blue Trail, which we followed to its junction with the Orange and Yellow Trails. At the junction, we then followed the Yellow Trail all the way back to Trailhead 3 near the Midway Mini Cabin camping area.

This is typical of the trails in Kerrville-Schreiner Park.
I really didn’t take many pictures of the trail itself, for what we walked today was about the same as what we walked on our previous hike. There really are no unique features on this trail system other than the views from the Orange Trail as documented in our previous hike. Donna and I have found these trails to be quite easy, with very little elevation change. Although some of the trails have rocks and roots, there are many sections on bare earth and level ground. It really is an easy hike. And since there are few elevation changes, the system is also good for riding bikes.

We came across this rocky corpse early in our hike -- on the Red Trail, I believe.

Along much of the Blue Trail and a little of the Yellow Trail, you'll see splotches of yellow paint and old asphalt. I guess these trails used to be roads.
Someone took a bit of time to erect this nice cairn along the Yellow Trail.

There were a few places along the Yellow Trail that afforded some decent views.
Another view from along the Yellow Trail.

On our last hike, I noticed signs along the trail with letters, such as A and B. At the time, I was using one of the small pocket sized maps the park provides. On this hike, I was using the full-sized map, which I could see better, and noticed that these signs correspond to letters on the map. So, you can pinpoint exactly where you are when you come across one of these signs by checking your map. 

Signs such as these along the trails correspond to way points on the park map.
On our hike today, there were very few good views, but most came between points L and M on the map. Our hike today, including road walks from our campsite to the trail head and back, was probably about 4 miles.We saw no wildlife on the trails, and encountered only 1 couple.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Museum of Western Art, Kerrville, Texas

I have always loved the American West. I read all I can about the West, and I love a good western movie. It didn’t take much to get me to go to the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville.

Located in southeast Kerrville on the Bandera Highway, the Museum of Western Art is a beautiful modern building on a high knoll overlooking the city. It opened on April 23, 1983, and its mission is to collect, preserve, and promote Western Heritage.

Museum, as seen from the parking lot.
As you approach the entrance to the museum, you are greeted by the “Rain and Wind” statue located just outside. That statue, by William Moyers, helps set the tone for the museum.

"Wind and Rain" bronze statue located near museum entrance.
We were warmly greeted by the staff, and a docent led us through the interior halls and gave us a briefing on the building itself and some of the items in the halls. The facility is 14,000 square feet. Among its more interesting architectural aspects are 23 bovedas, or ceiling vaults. Additionally, the floor consists of polished Saltillo tile, which often contains thumb or finger prints of the artisans who made them.

One of the many bovedas located in the museum.
After a brief description of the layout, the docent then turned us loose in the galleries. It is worth noting that no photography is allowed within the galleries, only within the hallways and exterior grounds.

One of the museum hallways. Note wagon at end of hallway. Doors to the right lead to galleries. Also note bovedas in ceiling.
Studebaker wagon and stagecoach at rear of museum.
From time to time, the docent would check on us and give us some insight into the collections in the area of the museum we were currently in.

Although most items are pictures (oil, charcoal, pen and ink, etc.) and statues, there are other items as well, such as barbed wire, a stagecoach, and even saddles. Out the back door is a patio where many of the artists have left their hand and boot imprints in cement, along with their signatures.

Palm and boot prints of artists, along with signatures.

Looking in a northerly direction from rear of museum, which is located atop a hill in southeast Kerrville.

Statue at rear of museum.
Location, hours, and entrance fees are available on the museum's website