Stephen F. Austin SP, August 2017
Monday, August 14th, 7:45 PM
Well, this trip has been a long time coming. I took a trip to Houston to visit my buddy Jim Gips. That took the place of a camping trip. I have wanted to come here for a while now. Both times I actually had reservations, they had flooding. I cancelled the first time because the trails were closed. They cancelled the second time because the whole danged park was closed. Anyway, I'm hear now.
I did not enjoy the trip up here at all. Just as I hit Luling, the wind picked up and started giving me just enough wind sway to make me nervous. I slowed down to 55-60 instead of my usual 60-65 when towing. I white knuckled it into Buc-cee's and checked my wind alert app. It was only blowing 11 MPH, but there were gusts indicated up to 21. It's the gusts that get me. A steady 11 is nothing. As a result, it took longer to get to the park. I'm okay with that. My trailer buddies all know what a wimp I am. I was being passed the whole way by campers going 80!
When I arrived at the park, I was absolutely stunned by how hot it felt walking into headquarters. It was only about 92*, but WeatherBug said it felt like 101. I say it felt like HELL! It is the humidity from the Brazos River that is getting to me.
I picked site #27 because the rangers said it was one of the shadiest. I do have some trees, but the shade was aiming wrong when I arrived. It was a miserable hot set up. I almost had a major disaster. It certainly put me into panic mode! I've been using a 10" stack of stabilizer pads under the tongue jack landing gear, ever since I got this camper. It takes forever for the foot plate to reach the ground. The RV forum people told me to use the stack to shorten the distance that the motor has to drop it. I have had no problems. This time, everything went as usual. I brought the jack down with the foot plate in the center of the stack, unhitched, and pulled the truck forward. Then I was ready to level the camper from front to back. I went inside to check my level, came back to the tongue jack, started to lower the front end and noticed that landing gear had slid, and close to half of the foot plate was hanging off the edge of the damned stack of pads! I knew I had to get the trailer back on the hitch STAT! But, when I pushed the button to raise the receiver high enough to go on the hitch ball, the foot plate slid some more! I got in the truck and backed it up, but I was so panicked I had to pull forward and try again about three times. I finally made myself calm down and do it right. I got it on the hitch, took that damn stack away, and brought the tongue jack foot plate down on a small board I keep for leveling. Disaster averted. I really don't know what would have happened if it totally fell off the support stack, but it couldn't be good!
I finished hooking up the water. I already had the AC on, but the thermometer was reading 96* degrees inside when I turned it on. About an hour later, after I had brought my stuff in and unpacked, and was ready to leave camp in search of cooler places, it had just reached 88* inside. It was cool enough to give me a chance to dry off and put on a dry shirt.
I started my travels across from the park. I had seen an interesting Methodist church on the way in. The rangers told me there was a historical sign on it, so I decided to go read it and take some pictures. Then I went about 100 yards down the road to the State Historic Site. I walked around looking at everything before going in the visitor center and pestering the manager with questions. It was nice and cool in there, so I asked a lot of them.
I decided I wanted a beer at the local Huff Brewery, but it was closed. Instead I ended up in downtown Sealy at the Saddleback Salloon. I drank a beer from the Huff Brewery after all. I decided to have a hamburger because the Internet said they were amazing. Rachel will understand this: Rachel... what's the one thing they were out of? Yep! It is the Baker curse. They said they will have hamburger meat tomorrow. I am damned stubborn enough to go back again!
I decided to get some gas and buy a bag of ice on my way back to camp. I asked Siri for directions, and it seemed like it found a better way. I drove 1.5 miles out of town on Highway 36 towards Belleville. I turned right onto some road, the name of which escapes me. I drove two miles and turned left onto Peter's San Gabriel Road. I passed several cotton fields. I passed the ACME brick factory. I drove a total of 5 miles. Part of it was a the road was dirt, but it got back to a paved portion pretty quickly. I passed a piano sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Then the road suddenly ended with a huge pile of dirt because the bridge was washed out in the flood a while back! When I turned around, I saw a back entrance to Stephen F. Austin State Park that was so overgrown with weeds that I hadn't seen it when I passed it. It was locked and had "No trespassing" signs. I ended up retracing my route all the way back to the park.
When I got to the camper, it was 81*. For some reason, that is actually comfortable with the fans going. At home, when the AC is broken, 80* is agonizing. I don't know why it is different in the camper. It got to about 79* by 6:30. As soon as the sun dropped, it went down to 72* really quickly. When I get up in the morning, it will be about 65*. The trailer will stay cooler all day because everything in it will already be cool.
Anyway, I just hung around the camper when I got back. Every time I thought I might venture out to explore the camping loop, the hot air instantly changed my mind.
Now, I'm going to drink some wine, read my book, and go to bed early. I want to hit some trails tomorrow before they get too hot.
I will add to this every night during the trip. It will automatically update for those of you who want to read it. This is the link to the photos from this trip. It will also update automatically.
4:15 AM, Tuesday, August 15
Well, I went to bed last night with the idea of getting up early to go get some kolaches a nearby bakery, with the intent of eating them before hiking the trails. That would obviously mean they were calorie free… Right?. However, I certainly hadn't planned on being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at four a.m.!
I'm sitting here drinking coffee. The sun isn't supposed to come up until 6:52 AM. The park gate is locked with a combination padlock. That means I have to get out of the truck to open the gate in order to get out. I'm going to wait a while, and hopefully, the gate will be open. Even with a flashlight, I always had trouble opening the gate at Mckinney Falls State Park, which is set up the same way. Besides, it's just downright creepy standing in the dark opening a gate. Time to read some more!
10:15 PM, Tuesday, August 15
Well, I waited until 6:00 before getting in the truck and heading out to buy kolaches. I had to unlock the gate both coming and going, but they have it pretty well lit here, so it wasn't a problem. By the time I got back, daylight was pretty advanced.
The kolaches were a disappointment. The place turned out to be just like a Snowflake donut shop. Don't get me wrong= the apple fritter an kolaches were good. They just weren't the Czech kind I had a craving for. I'll just have to keep craving. The only other place to get the real stuff is about 45 minutes away. I don't have any plans for traveling that far.
After I ate my goodies, I dressed for hiking and hit the trails. I managed to get a very muggy 5 mile hike in before it got too hot. I was back in the camper by 9:30. The trails were completely shaded and very level and well cleared. I don't know how, but I ended up almost at headquarters and had a hard time re-finding the trail. I'll be more careful tomorrow.
After cooling down and drying off in the Colby 2.0, I just let the day go idly by. I read a little. I wrote a little. I napped a little. But that's pretty much it. I did manage to get my new park medallion nailed to my walking stick.
At about 11:00 AM, there was a guy mowing my site with a riding mower. I went out and watched. Then I noticed that three of the campers near me were in the process of packing up to go. There are still a lot of people here.
I tried to watch some TV this evening, but none of the channels would keep their picture. Instead, I watched part of a movie on YouTube, because I couldn't get NetFlix or Amazon Prime to work. Then the movie froze, and I was just over it.
I'm going to read some more, play my three word games, and hit the hay early again. I don't plan on getting up as early in the morning. I have a few chores to do in the cool. I need to check the air in the camper tires and top them off. I also want to hook up the sewer connection and have it ready for dumping on Thursday before I leave. After that, I'll hit the trails for awhile. The afternoon is up in the air, but I think I'll go siteseeing in the area.
7:40 PM, Wednesday, August 16
I slept well all night and didn't even stir until 7:00. Even then, I lounged in bed for another 30 minutes. I decided just before going to bed that I wasn't going to put air in the tires until tomorrow. It is too hard with the slide out. I also waited until later to hook up the sewer. It made for a nice gentle morning of coffee and reading.
At about 8:30, I left on my four mile hike. It seemed a lot less muggy this morning.This time I didn't get lost. When I got back I cooled down for about an hour doing social media, etc. Then I took a nice hot shower.
I decided to travel the area today. First up was lunch at a Cajun joint out in the middle of nowhere. Siri found the directions and said it was in Brookshire. Then it led me ten miles in the other direction. The final stretch was on a narrow country road that wound through different farms, seemingly following fence lines in the process.f actually drove past the place. The only indication that it was a business was two pickup trucks parked in front.
The place is called Repka'a. It is just a quaint little Texas honkytonk. They are known for their crawfish, but it is out of season right now. I had a boudin ball, red beans and rice, and an order of alligator nuggets. It was all terrific, but there was way too much food. I brought more than half home for supper. While I was there, the good old boys at the next table (they were in their 80s at least) were chain smoking and arguing about current events. The most heated part involved the controversy over confederate memorials. One of them actually said, "They oughta just ship all those @$##%&^ back to Africa". The server saw my face, walked over to him, pointed in my direction, and whispered something in his ear. Not sure what she said, but they switched topics right away. I was a little nervous about being singled out, but it was nothing.
After awhile, my favorite Patsy Cline song, You"re Stonger Than Me came on from out of nowhere. That started the old guys talking about music. They were reminiscing about seeing Waylon, Willie, and Kris Kristofferson. One of them knows Kris personally and was talking about the problems in his life right now. I stayed an extra thirty minutes just to listen.
From there, I drove to the town of Hempstead. At least Siri says I did. All I saw was a gas station that the rangers told me housed a great meat market. I bought a dried sausage, some beef jerky, and a sausage ring to take home and share with Jared.
I took my sweet time coming back to camp. For a while, if Sriri said go left, I went right and vice versa. He kept rerouting me, and I got to see more of the country side.
Back at the Colby 2.0, I took a nap. Then I did some chores to get them done for tomorrow since I had the time.
I played a game on my iPad for awhile. It is a super market management game. Not that great, but different from my usual mystery games. I ate the leftovers for supper as planned. Then I fixed a great big wine cooler and started writing this.
Friday evening! I forgot to update this when I got home yesterday.
I went to bed with heartburn on Wednesday night. I looked in my travel kit and discovered that I had left my antacid tablets at home. I looked in all of my first aid kits, but none of them had any in them. I force fed myself some tortillas, which helped a little bit. Then at about 2:00 AM, I woke up in agony. I was really mad at myself for eating those fried alligator nuggets. I know fully well that I can not eat fired food like that anymore. It always either gives my heartburn or makes me nauseous as hell. When I break down and eat fried chicken, I prep with a few Pepcids before the meal. Anyway, I looked in my pill jar again and thought that maybe what I thought were aspirin were just a bit too small. (I dump all my meds in one jar! I know...) I used my iPhone to magnify one of them, copied the number, and searched the Internet. Sure enough, they came up as famotidine. I took a few and eventually the heartburn was controlled enough to get back to sleep.
I woke up and lounged around for awhile. Now that I'm retired, I'm not as driven to get home early to save part of a day for unwinding at the end of the weekend. I drank coffee, looked at the trees, and read my book. Then I got my departure prep underway.
Departure prep always starts on the interior of the Colby 2.0. I clean the bathroom, wash up all the dishes, make the bed, stow the appliances and gear that were used, and vacuum the floor. Then I get everything that is going back to the house packed and placed in the truck. I take the trash bag out of the trash can and take it to the dumpster.
Next I move to the exterior. I remove all locks from the tongue jack, drain the tanks, backwash the black tank, air up the tires, disconnect and store all plumbing related items, and lower the stabilizers. After that, I hitch up, disconnect the AC and store the shoreline. I do a signal check to make sure the lights are all working. Then I stow all stabilizer pads and chocks. I do a final check on the interior before putting the door mat inside, locking the door, and securing the entry steps. All that's left after that is a final walk around and texting Rachel to tell her I am on my way.
With all that done, I headed out of the park. I stopped at headquarters on the way to get a new map for Jared. He has been collecting them for a while now. I ruined the one they gave me by sweating on it and folding it up. Then I hit the road.
Traffic was terrible. I remembered seeing that it was standstill due to construction on east-bound IH10 between Luling and Waelder when I was coming up to camp. I decided that I would go off at exit 653 and drive on 90 from Waelder to Luling. Having spent the first four years of my teaching career in Waelder, I thought it would be fun to see it anyway. Before I got there, Siri said, "You can save 24 minutes by taking an alternate route." I always have an active navigation going to I can see the mileage countdown. The 24 minutes was the time I would be stuck in the stand-still traffic. My plan worked!
Waelder was a booming little metropolis. The sausage factory has really grown, and it had a lot of cars parked in a lot by the tracks. There were people all over the place. I noticed several more businesses than were there in the early 1980s. The school district has a brand new gymnasium building.
I noticed that I was burning through gas at a crazy rate due to the wind. I decided to stop at the Luling Buc-cee's for gas and food. Buc-cee's is one of the few places I like to get gas with a trailer. They have several wide and easy to access gas pump islands.
The rest of the trip home was no fun. The closer I got to San Antonio, the heavier the traffic got. In San Antonio, I had several problems with lanes that suddenly became turn only and lanes that ended up not going off at my exits. When pulling a trailer, you can't just switch lanes whenever you want. You have to plan it out. I ended up making two complete loops around downtown before I could finally get on the right highway to get home.
I couldn't believe how hot it was at the storage lot. I did what I had to do quickly and got home. For some reason, I was more exhausted than I remember ever being after a camping trip. It was good to be home.
Until next time, happy trails!