Thursday, December 31, 2015

Harker Heights to Van Horn Texas

I didn't get a Merry Christmas wish out in time, but we hope you had a great one! And here it is New Year's Eve already, and I know I won't get this online until New Year's Eve, but we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

I have been trying to figure out how to write about the next section of our trip, as there really isn't much to tell about in getting from Harker Heights to Iraan, Texas. The drive was pretty much uneventful, except for some idiot going like a bat out of hell coming up on my left on the interstate around Killeen, but at first glance he was far enough back that at normal speeds it shouldn't have been a problem. But he decided to take issue with me having to change lanes in front of him in order to get in the correct lane for where I needed to go, and not only blew his horn at me, but then proceeded to slow down in front of me, to about 40 MPH on a busy interstate...as though challenging me to something. Obviously he was one of those hot heads that go into road rage at anyone he doesn't think is doing what "he" thinks they should be doing, even though he was going at least 20 MPH over the posted speed limit!

I just slowed down behind him until he got tired of playing his childish game, and he eventually moved right to get off at the next exit. So if you know anyone in a two-tone gold Lincoln town car that frequents the Killeen, Texas area and has anger management issues...yeah that was probably him!


The rain held off all day, for the first time in well over a week, and we had clear roads on Hwy 190 all the way to Iraan, Texas. In fact, as we got closer, we watched as a welcome strip of pure blue sky started to get wider and wider as the afternoon got later and later.

Rain clouds giving way to blue sky near Iraan, Texas.
The above shot, taken through the windshield with my wife's camera is about the only photo we have of this segment. The last hundred miles started to show a dramatic change in landscape, too. First there was the cutout rock sections, shown above. It wasn't long before we saw larger hills, and finally several flat-topped mesas reaching up several hundred feet.

And Texas tea...yeah, we could smell it in the air almost as soon as we started to see oil rigs all around us...some working, some idle. By the time we got to Iraan, it was obvious that the town caters heavily to the oil trade. When you've been around construction vehicles as much as I have, you can tell at a glance what they are used for, and it was obvious that this was an oil town, just by what most people drove.

Our camping app showed at least one campground that was city owned, but when we stopped at a convenience store because we couldn't find it, the clerk said it was probably closed, and directed us to another a few blocks away. That one had no spaces left, and most of the RV's there were obviously oil men. But, it turns out that the city actually owns three campgrounds in the small city, and the one at the northeast end of town, that we had passed on the way in, had a couple of spaces left.

It wasn't fancy, but at least it had electric. The water had been shut off for the winter, but that was no problem for us. The spaces were wide enough for two vehicles, which was also good, and the city provided a drop box within the gate, with instructions and envelopes, as well as a steel lock box to deposit the payment of $15 per night into. There were no other facilities except electric, but spring to fall probably allows for full hookups.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful, perfectly clear blue sky. The drive out of town took us through more tall mesas until we got to I-10, and then suddenly they vanished again. It was back to rolling hills and scrub brush...perfect deer hunting country, although we didn't see any.

But what we experienced about three miles after getting on the interstate was a sudden explosion! "BOOM!" A quick glance in my mirror showed something flying in bits and pieces! My first thought was "Oh no! My solar panels!". Fortunately, that was not the case, but it took a few moments for me to realize that. I immediately hit the brakes and pulled to the side of the road, not knowing whether I had a blow out (although the handling was fine) or what had happened. I realize now that there was a sudden change in air pressure inside the van, but it was hard to think about that at the time. Sharon, following in the other van behind me, also pulled over. No other cars had passed us or were within at least a quarter mile of us in either direction.

As I walked around the front of my van and then toward the back, I didn't see anything wrong with the solar panels on the trailer (much to my relief), but as I rounded the rear of the van I saw black glass all over the bumper and on the ground. As I looked up I saw what it used to be...the left rear door window in the van was now completely gone, except for a few shards of safety glass still hanging under the top mounts and lower hinges.

As Sharon came up she said she saw what looked like a puff of smoke, but obviously, it was the glass exploding into thousands of little pieces, none larger than a dime, and most of them smaller. We swept the glass off the bumper and threw it into the grass at the side of the road, and as I examined the damage, I could see we also had glass all over the inside of the door area and down into the privacy shade, which was pulled down. Oh well...this was neither the time or place to worry about that part of it!

My first thought was what had caused it. No other vehicles were around us, and we were simply cruising along at 60 MPH on a perfectly smooth section of highway! I searched for any other damage, such as from debris, or even a bullet glancing off and hitting something else. There was no damage to the privacy blind inside the vehicle, and it was down at the time. There were no marks on the front of the trailer, or anywhere on the van. Could it have been a stray hunters bullet that hit and glanced off, missing the rest of the vehicles entirely? Or was it simply internal stress within the glass? I guess we'll never know!

I had to drive the rest of the way to Van Horn, Texas with a rear window missing, and of course, I was worried about exhaust fumes coming in, but I drove most of the way with one or both front windows down to let plenty of fresh air in, and didn't have any problem.

When we got to Van Horn, we chose the Mountain View RV Park as our night's destination, and were very happy with it. Although each site is only wide enough for one rig, we were able to park the extra van and trailer directly in front, on the other side of the road. They had just redone the utilities on that side, and hadn't yet turned the electric on, so no one could use those sites. It worked out nearly perfect for our needs.

It was obvious this park was going through some serious and expensive renovations, but not in any way that disturbs normal business. A couple of rows of sites on west side were getting all new utilities. The streets were graded and raked smooth like a beautiful Bonzai garden. The clubhouse was sizable, and included private showers and restrooms, with plenty of hot water and heat. The staff was very friendly and helpful. You couldn't ask for anything more.

Unfortunately, the only photos we got were of two cabins that were in the back right corner, and VERY nice! Both were occupied, but appeared to be more than overnight users. Maybe the managers themselves had the big one, and a staff member the smaller one, but we didn't ask.

Tiny homes at Mountain View RV Park, Van Horn, Texas?
The reason we took note of them is because we have long been fans of "tiny homes" in our quest to downsize, and we have seen many "storage barns" converted to very nice tiny homes, and these were two of the nicest we have ever seen! I would have loved to get a tour of the barn style with the gambrel roof, or better yet, both of them, but we didn't want to impose on anyone's privacy.

We have seen many nice "barn style" tiny homes by following the tiny house movement through sites like the Tiny House Blog, Tiny House Listings, Tiny House Parking, and many other online sources. We could see ourselves in something like this if we ever get tired of traveling, but that is likely going to be a long time down the road...no pun intended! But we wouldn't want one in a park, like the park model RV we had in Mesa. Rather, we would prefer it on our own little piece of land, in an area with no zoning restrictions or community laws to adhere to. 

It would be completely "off-grid", with sufficient solar to provide all the power we would need, as well as necessary water and waste management designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. We have never been avid gardeners, but with less traveling, could see ourselves getting into hydroponics...not only for the practicality of it for growing more in less space, but also because it would get the plants up to a workable level without so much ground level bending over. I don't think my back could take that anymore!

Anyway, I digress. Back to Mountain View and the shattered rear window. It was our good fortune to have a site right next to a very helpful gentleman by the name of Jim Burge...who (along with his wife) happens to be summer campground hosts at a campground in Seward, Alaska! And he just happened to have a piece of foam core, plastic laminated signboard that he wanted out of his way, and it was just enough to cover our rear window opening! (Thank you, Jim!) We also had our packaging tape gun, from our eBay sales, so by cutting his sign board to the approximate shape of the window, we were able to splice it where necessary and tape the piece into the opening. It is still there, several hundred miles later, and hasn't loosened, but the repair will be made very soon...by a professional glass company recommended by our insurance company.

Other than the window incident, both vans (and trailers) have been running and handling very well. I wish the big van could get better mileage, but at 9 - 11 MPG, pulling a roughly 3000# trailer, it may never do better, and that's OK. I have no idea when a tuneup was done last, and that might help it, but probably not a lot. The Chrysler T&C has been getting about 17 - 18 with pulling the fully loaded smaller Harbor Freight trailer with 4-foot-high plywood sides on it, so we're happy with that. Of course, the trailer is now parked and disassembled, with it and the Chrysler van scheduled to be sold in the spring.

Eventually, I will do a post, or maybe even a page(s) regarding expenses. For now, we know that we are going over budget in our hurry to get to our destination in western Arizona, but after we get there, we will likely sit at only a couple locations until after winter, so we're hoping it will all balance out. We're spending way more than we planned to for overnight stops, and not making use of the boondocking that we had planned to do. We're typically stopping for lunch at a restaurant if we feel a need to eat. Sometimes, we just munch on finger snacks during the day and then eat a good dinner when we stop. And then there's the occasional meal at one (or more) of the resorts, which we feel a need to participate in, just to meet new people and get back in the groove of staying informed about what is going on in the industry, just like we used to. And, most of the meals have a small fee involved, which was also not in our budget, but we feel it is a necessary expense.

Oh, and "the Q", also known as Quartzsite...we can't forget about that! Besides the festivities going on there all during the month of January and into February, there is also the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) which appears to be started and hosted by none other than our current neighbor (200 feet away) Mr. Bob Wells himself! Due to a change in our own location in just a few days, we won't get to spend as much time at the RTR as I had hoped, but we will try to at least drop in for a day visit to attend a couple of the workshops/seminars that are provided...all this being subject to weather, of course, since it is all outside.

We aren't really big on large crowds, either, but I would like to meet some of the other bloggers and YouTube "vloggers" (video bloggers) that will be attending, since I follow so many of them. Whether you are a van camper, or a have a huge Class A or 5th wheel, you are really "out of the loop" if you don't keep up with what is going on in the RV industry. The RTR has many van dwellers in it's group, but is attended by many others, and for many different reasons. One look at the schedule for the event (found on CheapRVLiving.com) will tell you that there is something from which any type of RVer can benefit. 

However, this is not the end of our travels, nor the "little inconveniences". But we'll tell you about that in the next post, which will get us into Arizona, for the first time since 2007. Stick around as our adventure continues. Later on, after we get settled in for awhile, we'll talk about the pros and cons of the trailer living, as well as the life on the road, and what we have learned so far...about our rigs, about ourselves, about the parks we have visited, and about our fellow nomads. Please subscribe in the form at the top of the right margin if you have not already done so, and you will receive an email notice when a new post is published.

Thank you for reading, and stay well and travel safe. 



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