To recap starting this past Monday, we left Lakehills Thousand Trails about 8am, with our first stop at an HEB in Boerne about 25 miles away. After taking on about 50 gallons of diesel at $3.88 a gallon, we headed west on I-10 for Saddleback Mountain RV Park near Balmorhea about 325 miles away.
The road between Lakehills and Boerne was pretty rough so I didn’t notice any problems, but as soon as I got on the Interstate I could tell there was a problem somewhere. I was feeling a lot of vibration that I hadn’t felt on our way into Lakehills.
By then Jan had seen a Cracker Barrel billboard and decided we were stopping there for breakfast in Kerrville. When we came back out I crawled under the rig and took a look. And the first thing I noticed was a LOT more oil on the back of my rear wheel, the one that needed a new oil seal. My first thought was that it had leaked enough oil so that the bearings were going out. But luckily that wasn’t the case.
So it looked like we weren’t going much further without replacing the seal. And after a few minutes on the phone with CoachNet I had the name of a nearby repair shop, Reid Graham Trucking, and it was only about 4 miles away
After a phone call to confirm they could do the job, we unhitched the truck and made the short drive a little further down the Interstate to their location right off the next exit. They had said on the phone that they were pretty booked, but under the circumstances would get to it as soon as possible. So after getting the rig parked in the lot and dropping off the keys at the office a little before 11am, Jan and I headed out for some errands.
Jan wanted to get her hair cut so we drove over to the Wal-Mart so she could take care of that. While she was there, she got some suggestions for good places to eat and sights to check out in the area.
After she was done we headed west on SR 27 to check out some of the things the stylist had mentioned. Along the way we noticed an Elk’s Lodge with RV parking in the back so we checked it out and found they had three open sites. This was good to know since I had already figured that with 300 miles still to go to Saddleback Mountain, one way or the other, we were spending the night in Kerrville. Hopefully it would be in our rig, but we might end up in a hotel, we’d just have to wait and see.
After driving around a bit, we went back by the repair shop and were happy to see that our rig had been pulled into the shop bay and they were working on it. After raising the rear of the coach up on the levelers to make it easier for them to get the tires out of the wheel wells, we headed back out for the afternoon.
We ended up driving out along the Guadalupe River to check out the sights.
In one of those “You Never Can Tell What You’ll See In Texas” moments, passing through the small town of Ingram, we came across Stonehenge.
Huh? Stonehenge? Well, not THE Stonehenge.
It turns out to be Stonehenge II, a 3/4 size replica originally constructed in Hunt, TX in 1990. In 2010 the property was sold and the structure was moved to the grounds of the Hill Country Arts Foundation and reassembled in 2011.
And along with Stonehenge, there are also two life-sized Easter Island Moai on the grounds nearby.
Stonehenge III was also featured on the TV series “Friday Night Lights”, which told the story of a Texas high school football team.
About 1:45pm I got a call from Reid Graham that they’d gotten everything apart with no problems, but there was oil and grease everywhere and they figured it would be cheaper just to replace the oil-soaked brake pads instead of trying to clean them. I asked if there would be a problem if the pads on both sides weren’t replaced at the same time and was told that there wasn’t a lot of wear on the old one and just replacing the one shouldn’t be a problem.
About 4pm we ended up back in Kerrville and decided to have dinner at Billy Gene’s Hill Country Restaurant, one of the places recommended by Jan’s hair stylist.
And it turned out to be a really good one. Located on the banks of the Guadalupe, the food was as good as the view.
Jan had the Grilled Catfish and I had the Chicken Fried Chicken, both delicious Hill Country favorites.
After finishing our meal, we drove back over to the shop about 5:30 to find everything back together, and them trying to get the rig tilted to one side so they could add oil to the axle.
As it turns out, many commercial chassis have no access plug to add oil to the axle. You have to tilt the axle so you can add fluid in one side until it’s full and then cap it off. Nick says his old MCI bus was the same way.
The way they normally do this is drive down the road a few hundred feet and carefully back the rig down the roadside as it slopes off a bit until the coach is tilted over a bit. And we did this with no problems.
But now for the Bummer! part. As I carefully pulled the rig forward the way I backed in, and rig twisted back level, the passenger side of my split windshield cracked at the bottom right corner.
The same thing had happened on our way back from Alaska in 2008, except on the driver side, so I knew I was looking at a $750-1000 replacement, twice as much as the $440 repair bill for the oil seal and brake pad replacement. But what’s done is done, and after a 15 mile test drive, I headed the rig down to the Elk’s Lodge with Jan following in the truck. Getting there we found two sites still open so we pulled in and got set up.
50 amp full hookups for $15 a night. Nice!
A little later we drove back down to the Wal-Mar to buy a roll of heavy duty transparent shipping tape to cover the many cracks to help hold things together.
I had done the same thing in Alaska in 2008 and we had driven all the way back to Houston with no problems before replacing the windshield there. Hopefully this time it will work until we get to the Apache Junction area, which will probably be the first time we’ll have a chance to get it replaced.
The next morning we left the Elk’s Lodge about 9am to make the 300 mile run to the Saddleback Mountain RV Park near Balmorhea.
About 50 miles down the road we stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s at the Junction, TX exit. But just as I pulled off the Interstate, my TireTraker Tire Pressure Monitor went off. The inside tire on the passenger side rear duals was leaking down. But since we wanted breakfast and it was getting close to the changeover time to the lunch menu, we went inside and ate before I looked at the problem.
This was, of course, the same tires that were removed when my oil seal was replaced, and from appearances, I didn’t get my original valve extension back. This one was a different color.
And as I discovered after cranking the generator up so I could use my air compressor to pump up the tire, the threads on the valve extension were so messed up that the locking air chuck on my compressor kept popping off. But I finally got the tire aired up and we hit the road again.
We go into Saddleback Mountain RV about 3:30, paid for three nights and got parked and set up, We did have two surprises, one when we registered and one after we parked.
The first was we were lucky to get a site because they were almost filled up. Normally they have plenty of sites when we come through but there’s now oil drilling rigs in the area and they’ve got a lot of permanents here now.
The second surprise was worst. Normally we’ve always had good Verizon cell and data service here, but this time it was almost non-existent. When I ask about at the office they said it had gone out about two weeks ago and hadn’t come back.
For dinner Jan sliced up the leftover steak from our visit to Magic Time Machine, made up some spicy seasoned mayo, put it all together with the leftover bread, and made us a delicious steak sandwich dinner.
A Hidden Gem
Wednesday afternoon we made the 45 mile drive south through the mountains to Fort Davis to try and meet up with some blog readers who lived in the area. But because of the problems with our cell and data service we hadn’t been able to lock in a time and place to meet. So we decided to drive over there and see if we could get in touch. But as it turned out, we never were able to connect.
It took almost an hour to the trip, but Jan thought it well worth it when the first thing she saw was a gift shop. That made the trip worthwhile. After she found a pair of RV camper earrings and a few other things she couldn’t live without, we decided to find a place to eat linner (lunch/dinner). Our friends had mentioned a place, Poco Mexico, that had really good Chili Rellenos which piqued Jan’s interest, but we found that it closed at 2pm when we passed it on the way into town.
So after driving around for a while, we decided to check out the Fort Davis Drug Store, Hotel, and Restaurant. And we’re glad we did.
When we got there the place was so crowded we had a 15 minute wait to get a table, but it was worth it.
I had heard several people talking about how good their steaks were, so I decided to have the Surf and Turf, while Jan went with the Grilled Basa, which is a Vietnamese catfish.
Both our meals started out with deceptively simple, but delicious salads with romaine hearts, raw broccoli, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes. But the real topper was their fantastic homemade poppy seed dressing.
Then our entrees came out and it was quickly apparent that the salad was not a fluke.
My steak was cooked perfectly, charred around the edges, but medium rare inside. Along with the grilled shrimp, fresh sautéed green beans, and toasted homemade bread, it was a meal you wouldn’t expect out in the middle of nowhere.
And how we found room for a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream for dessert, I’ll never know.
But we did!
Coming back to the rig we enjoyed some of the beautiful mountain scenery in the area, a real treat.
After getting back to the rig, we wanted to see if we could get a glimpse of the comet that people at the restaurant were talking about. So about sundown we put our chairs out and waited for the sun to go down. It was suppose to be low on the western horizon, kind of in line with the crescent moon. But I think the mountains on the western skyline block our view.
We did get a nice, colorful sunset and a pretty crescent moon, though.
A beautiful end to a very nice day.
Today, Friday, started out with a quiet, slow morning, just taking it easy/ Then about 1pm we headed out for a bunch of errands and then dinner.
Our first stop was Sam’s Club for a few things before I once again started trying to find some new tire valve extensions, but with no luck. I may have to wait until we’re in Tucson and get them from Amazon.
Our next stop was the Wal-Mart right near the RV park. This one was kind of a disappointment. It’s one of those smaller ones, that although it’s a Super Wal-Mart, it just doesn’t stock as many items as the bigger ones. Items that I’ve bought at many other Wal-Marts, they didn’t even stock.
By this time it was after 4:30 so we decided to head over to ChaChi’s for dinner.
ChaChi’s has become our new favorite place here in Las Cruces. They have great Mexican food, but also delicious steaks and burgers.
While Jan went with a Mushroom-Cheddar burger, I took a liking to their Angus Sirloin Steak Fajitas. And boy did I make a good choice!
They were really, really good. I’ll definitely have these again.
Finishing up, tomorrow is a big day. Nick and Terry Russell will finally catch up to us after goofing off in Florida all winter.
I guess that after his punch list of things for me to fix went to a second page, Nick decided I had relaxed enough and needed to get back to work.
Thought for the Day:
If more sane people carried guns, fewer crazies would get off a second shot.
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