Friday, May 27, 2016

And the Years Roll By

On May 26, 1977, Donna and I stood before a minister in the Methodist Church of Conroe, Texas, and said our vows. After 39 years, I'm still putting up with the old woman. She's mighty lucky to find me; I don't know of anyone else who could put up with her this long.

We don't celebrate things too much anymore. One day is pretty much like another now. But I did take the old woman out to H.E.B. yesterday so she could buy some food to cook for me. They were having a good sale on beef ribs, so we bought a large package as well as some other things we were hungry for. I then had to take Donna to another grocery store so she could buy some wine. Upon checking out, the clerk asked if I was stocking up; I replied that I was simply trying to keep the old woman sedated. Sometimes life is easier that way.

We then went to the movies and saw Money Monster with George Clooney and Julia Roberts. We enjoyed the movie. It wasted little time getting into the action, and the plot was intricate and interesting. I do wish the movie industry would refrain from using extremely vulgar language to such an extreme, though. I simply see no purpose in it. It seemed like the "F word" was in every sentence. I don't enjoy that.

After the movie, we went to Cheddar's for a late lunch. We both ordered sirloin steaks, and they were good cuts of meat cooked exactly to order. I was happy. The baked potato was just right, and the red beans and rice was also quite good.

It was a good day. I wonder how many more we will have. If we don't get out of this trailer soon, we may not make it to our 40th anniversary.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I'm an RV Watcher

When Donna and I go to the mall -- which isn't often -- Donna will go into a store and often I'll just sit outside on a bench and watch people. I've always enjoyed watching people. I know many of you may be the same way. Well, I'm also an RV watcher.

Donna and I both enjoy watching rigs pull into the park where we happen to be staying and then watch them set up. Everyone has their own way of setting up. With some couples, the husband will set up everything on the outside while the wife gets the inside ready. That is how Donna and I do things. Sometimes the wife will help the husband outside. I've seen instances also where the wife takes the lead outside. Some folks set up quickly, while we've seen some RVers take 2 hours. I'm always interested in learning from other folks. I like to see what gear they have and how they do things. Perhaps I can improve our process.

But what I really enjoy is looking at different rigs people have. Rigs often reflect how people live and what they do. Now, it's always dangerous categorizing people because there are always exceptions, but here are some general lifestyle trends I've seen over the years.

People in larger rigs, both class A motor homes and large 5th wheels, tend to enjoy their comforts more. First of all, these rigs have more comforts to begin with. Some motor homes, for example, practically set themselves up. Simply push a button and the rig will level itself. Many of these folks have their satellite for their TV. Larger rigs have more storage, which means more goodies can be stored aboard. Many larger rigs also have washers and dryers. Yeah, life aboard these rigs can be very comfortable. Now here comes the generalization, and keep in mind this certainly does not apply to everyone, but I think it is often true. From my observations, many of the folks in these larger rigs tend to live a lifestyle very similar to someone living in a traditional stationery home. During the day, they may go out and visit a museum, take in a movie, or do something else, but usually at night they are home in their rig watching TV and enjoying a good home-cooked meal. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. These folks are living comfortably while they travel about the country visiting places on their bucket list.

The folks I really admire, those, are the ones that show up in the smaller, more efficient rigs, such as pickup campers, Casita trailers, or Trail Manor trailers. These rigs are much more fuel efficient, and I admire that. I probably average about 10 mpg pulling my trailer, and I envy those rigs who get considerably more. I've always admired efficiency. But you give up some comforts and storage space with these outfits. In many smaller rigs, you have wet baths (shower and toilet in same space) that are very tight. As a result, I see many of these folks using public facilities, even when full hookups are available. Many of these rigs also take more work. The awning on a Casita, for example, requires manual setup, and a Trail Manor requires quite a bit of "unfolding" to set up. Setting up a Trail Manor in the rain is not fun.

But the folks I see in these rigs are pretty rugged folks. They don't mind using the public facilities, and I often see kayaks and canoes lashed to their rigs, as well as bicycles. They hop out of their rigs early in the morning, backpack in hand, and disappear into the wilderness to return at night. Many of these folks live outside, not inside. The camper they occupy is simply a shelter for the night and a place to carry limited gear and clothing; it serves as a sort of base of operations. And some of these folks do this full time.

Donna and I are somewhere in the middle. We don't have a large rig with all the luxuries, but we do have enough storage to carry a sufficient amount of clothing and gear, and we do have enough space to be comfortable without using public facilities. We enjoy our television, stereo, A/C and furnace, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, but we still try to spend a good amount of our time outside. And it doesn't take us long to set up, usually 30 to 45 minutes.

And I guess that is the good thing about the RV lifestyle; however you want to live, you can do so.

Friday, May 6, 2016

House Update

When we arrived in San Angelo well over a month ago, we visited Rio Concho West (RCW) and were shown the houses that were available to purchase at that time. After considering our choices, we opted for one. We then began visiting supply houses in Angelo looking at tile, carpet, counter tops, and other housing options. Since then, we have made all choices and submitted those to RCW. In turn, RCW received estimates for all upgrades. We have approved those estimates, so work is underway transforming our new home.

I can't predict exactly when we will be able to move in, but I hope we are settled in there by the middle of June or so. In the meantime, we will continue to travel about.

We are currently in San Angelo checking on the house. We will stay here another week, then store our trailer for a week while we take a quick trip to East Texas to visit family. Then we come back to Angelo and check the progress of the house. If time allows, we'll hook up the trailer and take off for another week or two. If not, we'll hang around Angelo and prepare to close on our house.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Red Arroyo Trail

Quite a while ago, the city of San Angelo undertook construction of a walking and biking trail along the Red Arroyo, which runs through the southwest and southerly portions of the city. You can read a couple of stories about the trail in our local paper by clicking the links below:

Although there is still some work to do on the trail system, people are already using it. Donna and I got out this morning and walked the easterly portion of the trail.

This map was part of one of the stories listed above. Donna and I walked the trail on the east side of College Hills Boulevard.
We parked the truck in the parking area on Sul Ross. We began the hike by walking east to Knickerbocker Road. It was almost exactly 1.25 miles from the parking lot to Knickberbocker and then back. We then followed the loop west to College Hills and back. This portion of the trail was right at 1.5 miles. Our total walk was 2.74 miles.

And that's all you really need to know. I'll let the pictures below tell the rest of the story. I'll just close by saying I feel this is a great addition to the city. This is property that is in the flood plain, so it is not suitable for other development. And since the trail is in the heart of several residential areas, it is easily accessible.

One of the many fine bridges that cross the arroyo.
Looking upstream at Red Arroyo from the bridge.
East end of the trail at Knickerbocker Road
Apartments along the trail near Knickerbocker Road.
View of Parkview Lakes through the trees. The lakes are near some condos located just off the trail.
Stormwater pond along the trail near College Hills Blvd.
View from a bridge of the arroyo, a driving range, and a miniature golf course.
Miniature golf course along the trail at College Hills and Millbrook.
More stormwater ponds along the trail.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lost Alaskan RV Park, Alpine, Texas

We just spent 8 nights in Alpine. We stayed at Lost Alaskan RV Park on the north side of town. I have seen this park for years and years, but we had never stayed there before.

The office is at the entrance. The building in the right background is the United States Courthouse on the opposite side of Highway 118.
This is not a park I can wholeheartedly recommend to others. We really wanted to spend this time in the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis just north of Alpine, but they were booked during the dates we were interested in. So, we decided to take a chance on Lost Alaskan. Now, everything at the RV park actually is fine, but the place is a bit run down. Part of my reason for saying this is just the ongoing drought, which the park has no control over. We visited Alpine from Angelo where everything was green from recent rains. But Alpine has not been getting any rain, and everything is brown already, and that gives the place a depressed look. In addition, there are also a lot of long time residents in the park, and some of their sites look quite messy. And even though there has been no rain, grass is still pretty tall in places around the park. I do not know if water restrictions are in place, but it doesn't appear that the grass is being watered. And to add to all of this, the wind blew hard every single day we were at the park. This caused a lot of blowing dirt.

The park does offer all the standard amenities, including full hookups. Cable TV is provided, but only 12 channels are available. The WiFi works, but it is a bit slow, and the signal dropped several times during our stay. There is a dog park as well as playground and swimming pool. The laundry room is well maintained; it contains 6 washers and 6 dryers, and all appear to work. The laundry room is a bit small, though, with very limited seating inside. The tables are also small with little surface space for working with laundry. The restrooms and showers are also well maintained. One unique aspect of this park is that it has an RV wash slab at the back of the property that can be booked and used.

The community building is in the center of the park. It contains an "adult room", the laundry, and restrooms/showers.

Men's restroom area. Showers have nice sitting area outside shower stalls.
Dryers and folding tables in laundry. There are 6 washers on the opposite wall. Not much room to move about if more than 2 people are working in the room.

The dog run is located at the front of the park, near the highway.

Pool in southwest section of park.
Playground next to pool, with tent area in background.
Sites are equipped with concrete/brick picnic tables. There is no division between sites, so the "front yard" of one RV looks onto the "back yard" of another RV, including all hoses and cables. There are half a dozen or so premium sites, and these have a concrete patio and small fences separating sites. Otherwise, they are more or less like the other sites. Somehow, the grass in premium sites seems to be in better shape; they may have in-ground sprinklers.

This is one of the park's "premium" sites. What makes this a premium site are the cement area and the low walls. Take these away and you have a regular site.
Compare this regular site to the premium site above.
Our site, #13. This was taken about mid-morning, so we are getting some shade. In the afternoon, this area will be full sun. Notice all the grass is dead and the site is mainly rock.
Backside of our trailer showing the utilities. They are all located close together, which I like. This is what our neighbors behind us would see if they were sitting outside of their door.
All interior roads are paved, but sites are gravel and I found ours to be very uneven. I had to use a couple of boards to level my trailer from side to side. The office is attractive, and it contains basic RV items.

One of the half-dozen or so interior roads. Trees are plentiful throughout the park, but not all sites have good shade.
I found the design of the park to be a bit odd. I often wonder who designs RV parks. The 5 interior streets in the park run east and west. Most sites are pull-thru with the exception of a half dozen sites just west of the pool and the sites on the north side of the park. All of the sites in the park except those by the pool are laid out so that the doors of RVs open to the west. So the "porch" or "patio" areas of RVs, where people normally set up their chairs for outdoor living, are on the west side of the RVs. So during the heat of the day, these areas are exposed to the afternoon sun. Now, you can extend your awning, but when the wind is blowing hard, as it was during our entire week long stay at Lost Alaskan, we were not able to use our awning. Personally, I would prefer my door to open to the east or possibly the south.

There are a few cabins available as well. These are next to the office.
All things considered, the park is a perfectly good place to stay. If aesthetics are important, though, you may be less than satisfied. This is probably the best RV park in Alpine.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Big Bend Brewing Company

It's no secret that Donna and I -- especially Donna -- enjoy a good brew. So during our stay in Alpine, we decided to tour the Big Bend Brewing Company.

Outside of the brewery on the western edge of Alpine.

We took the tour of the plant, which is offered Wednesday - Friday at 3:00 PM and on Saturdays at 1:00 and 3:00 PM. The tasting room is also open those same times on those days. The tour is very brief, and costs $10. But with the tour, you get to sample each of the brewery's 6 beers and then you receive a pint glass full of any brew. You get to keep the pint glass. Not a bad deal at all.

The tasting room
The web site lists only 5 brews; however, the brewery has recently introduced a new beer. I'm not a beer connoisseur, so I can't really describe the beers for you.

From information provided during the tour, it seems that Big Bend Brewing is expanding. Production was ramped up during our visit. Our guide mentioned during the tour that this is the most remote brewery in the U.S.

The facilities at the plant, with our tour guide on left.

Another view of the brewery.

This board behind the bar shows the 6 brews the facility is producing.
For more information, you can visit the web site linked at the beginning of this entry.