Thursday, March 10, 2016

Our Crazy Winter Trip

Our plan was to leave early January for Mission, Texas, the same place we vacationed last year.  On Christmas Day we drove to Charlotte to spend the holiday with family and on the way home we were in an accident. We were only about 20 miles from home on a two lane highway when a car failed to yield at a stop sign and pulled out in front of our car.

Luckily no one was hurt in either car but the old Trailblazer was messed up pretty well. 

The car has a few years and miles on it but we wanted to keep it until we went to Alaska because the roads can be challenging up that way.

No major damage was done to the engine so the insurance company did not total it.  Of course, since it was the holidays, it took some time to get an appraisal and start the work on repairing the car.  Luckily it was not our fault so the other driver's insurance had to pay.  The work was completed on the 15th of January and we were on the road on the 16th heading to Richmond, VA. Right.....that is not the way to Texas!  Our younger daughter and family found out they were moving to Richmond from Philadelphia, PA, and she asked if the Captain and I would drive up there first and meet her to look at houses to purchase. We arrived in Richmond on Martin Luther King weekend and toured the area and homes on Saturday and Sunday.

While we were there it started to rain, the weather turned colder, and ice started forming.  It wasn't enough to mess up the roads which is a blessing but it didn't help our rig out at all.  On Monday morning when the Captain went to close the slides so we could leave, they wouldn't go in.  The slide toppers above the slides had filled up with water which had frozen and it was a mess.  The Captain had to climb up onto the roof of the rig carrying a broom and slide along on his belly to "chop" the ice off the toppers.  It was a cold and dangerous assignment but he is the Captain!

We left Richmond and spent the first night in North Carolina.  It was still quite cold and all we wanted to do was get to the warmer weather.  Second day we were in Norcross, GA, all set up for the night and eating our dinner when we heard a loud bang.  It sounded like the side of the rig had been hit.  The Captain went outside to look and noticed the rear passenger slide was not quite straight.  When he pushed on it it moved inward and hydraulic fluid came running out.  We were unable to close the slide so we called a roadside service and they came the next morning.  They told us our hydraulic line had broken causing the fluid to spill out and they were not equipped to fix problems like that.  So after getting more equipment, they were able to force the slide in and wedge a piece of wood into the side of the slide to keep it closed and we were able to continue on our trip.

When we got into Texas we saw ads for a gas station called Buc-ee's that sells diesel, too.  They have very good prices so we decided to stop and fill up at one of them.

The place has close to one hundred pumping stations.
It also has a dog walking area with cute reminder signs.

Walking into the store there were rows and rows of ice machines.
The store is huge and has all kinds of deli foods and clothes to buy, and many other sundry items.

Almost any kind of goodie one could imagine.

And other cute items to purchase.

The Captain was lucky enough to get a special picture taken with Buc-ee.

We finally limped into San Antonio, TX, to Iron Horse RV Maintenance.  We had already set up an appointment with them for our basic maintenance and we just added the hydraulic slide problem to the list.  One of the things we have found owning a rig is that there are few places where one can get really good maintenance.  Most shops are not certified or the technicians don't know enough about Class A motorhomes so often there are mistakes.  We had been to Iron Horse before and we liked their work which is why we came back.  The owner of the shop has a Class A so he understands how they work.  He has a list of items that should be checked after so many years or miles and we realized that these maintenance jobs had never been completed on our rig.  Most places just change the oil and lube a few things but that's it so if you don't know what you need you can't expect to have everything serviced.  We told the shop to go ahead and get everything checked out.  
Little did we know what this would involve.  The diesel engine is in the rear of the motorhome so they had to go through a trap door in the bedroom to get to it.  What we didn't know was they also had to go through the closet floor to get to all of the engine.  Since the floor is carpeted they had to cut through the carpeting to get to the second trap door.   That really proves that the needed maintenance work on the rig was never completed.
Everything from the closet had to be removed to get to the engine.
And then they had to remove one of the dresser drawers and cut the carpeting through that space to get into the engine.
Access to the diesel engine.

Men at work.  While doing the maintenance they found that our exhaust pipe had separated and the heat from the engine was being pushed back into the rig.  This is very dangerous and could cause a fire so we are glad they found and fixed it. 
I also had something stuck in my vacuum system and they had to get to it through a bathroom drawer.  Not a fun job.
Our front TV was also coming loose so they had to pull it out to fix the problem.

So after a week in San Antonio at Iron Horse RV we were able to head further south.  BTW, one of the nice things about Iron Horse is that they have power and water hookups so you can stay in your rig on their property while the work is being done unless it is something significant.

We drove from San Antonio to Fredericksburg, TX, to spend a few days before heading to Mission.
While there we spotted a car wash that also advertised a dog washing service so we took the pups in to get them cleaned up. 

We were able to wash both pups for ten bucks and they supplied everything needed for the bath.
Desi getting the works.

Wow! Two excited and clean dogs.  I wish they had these doggy washes in our area.
We arrived in Mission, TX, on February 1st for a month.  The park is very nice and the weather was absolutely fabulous in the upper 70's and 80's everyday and cool in the evening for sleeping so you could keep your windows open.

Right outside the park there are plenty of things to do.

This is where we stay in Mission.

Spring was already beautifying the area.

Rigs can either park on the sides of Bentsen Palm or around four separate circles in the center of the park.  We like the circle area  because it gives you great views and seems roomier.  Inside each circle is a palapa used for entertainment.  This palapa has pool tables in it.


The circle we were on.

This year we put up a screen attached to the awning to give us some shade.  It really came in handy. The pups got so used to it we could let them lay out there without leashes and they stayed in the area. 

One of the things we like about this RV park is that it is very dog friendly.  The dog run area is huge and in the afternoon there can be 20+ dogs all running around and playing while the owners chat.  It is also a great way to make new friends.
One of my favorites is "Freckles".  She was only 10 months old and just full of herself.  She is a mix of Great Pyrenees and Border Collie.  She has the size and personality of  the Pyrenees and some of the color markings of the Collie.  She was very shy when we first met her but soon became friendly and played with our dogs.

We adopted Desi from the Cinderella Pet Rescue which is a no-kill shelter in Mission, TX.  Every year they have two benefits in February to support the shelter.  The woman who owns and runs the shelter, Suzanne, opened it in 2008.  She is a widow who spends all her time and efforts to help needy animals in the area.  Along with dogs, she also rescues cats, boards horses, and runs a bed and breakfast.  All pets that are rescued are spayed or neutered and chipped.  And to do that she has to drive them to Brownsville 1.5 hours away because it is the cheapest spay/neuter clinic she can find. 

They get all their annual shots along with monthly heartworm medicine and Frontline for fleas and ticks.  In the cooler months of the year the Winter Texans spend many, many hours volunteering at the shelter to help.  Suzanne receives no financial aid from any government agency so the benefits and donations are vital to her operation.  This past year with the help of the volunteers, large pens were built to allow the rescues a place to run and play in groups. It is to help socialize the dogs with others.  The dogs wear special colored collars to identify the personality of the animal; shy, rough and tumble, aggressive, and so on.  The runs have swimming pools for the dogs to play in and cool off.  A volunteer is in each run with the dogs to supervise and monitor their behavior.  Also this year all the dog pens had covers erected over the dog houses so the animals would have more shade in the hot summer.  

The first benefit was at Bentsen Palm Ratama which is right next door to where we stay.  In this RV park the people purchase their lots/homes for their RVs.  The benefit was a lovely sit down dinner with items that were raffled off afterwards. Many of the volunteers at Cinderella live here and donate their time several days a week.  Many of them also have pets they adopted from Cinderella.

In our RV park we have an annual dog parade and they also sell raffle items and provide food to purchase.  But for this one the dogs are the center of attention and awards are given for the best dressed dogs.  Here are a few of the many imaginative costumes these pups paraded.

This is "Ammo".  He's a Great Dane/Mastiff combination. 

He was in a Harley Davidson outfit.

For such a big boy he is just the sweetest laid-back pup.


This little girl is "Pippa".  She only weighs a few pounds but runs with the larger dogs every chance she gets.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes were present.

"Kaiser" is a beautiful Boxer dressed as Batman.

Another favorite of mine is Miles.  He was dressed as a US Border Patrol dog.  Check out the pistol on his side!  

He can also carry three tennis balls in his mouth at one time.  Never saw anything like it!

Even a Green Bay fan.

They also brought rescues from Cinderella who are looking for a forever home.

The mama of these puppies was pregnant when she came to Cinderella.  These cuties are now up for adoption.

 Both benefits are a lot of fun and for a good cause but there is also a darker side to the conditions of many of these dogs.  Too many dogs are abandoned in the area or are taken away from abusive homes and they wind up at Cinderella.  Suzanne purposely chips all her dogs even though her adoption process is quite lengthy.  Some people decide they just don't want the pet later but don't want to take it back to Cinderella so the pet is dumped somewhere or taken to a dog pound.  Many times Suzanne has been called because the pound checked for a chip and found out the animal was from Cinderella.  The dog is always brought back to her facility to save it.  

 The next picture is very ***GRAPHIC***.  I show it only so you will know what a great organization this is and how much they help unwanted animals.

This poor animal was found almost dead.  This is a picture of him when he was first picked up.  He spent a good deal of time at the vets getting stabilized and then weeks in a foster home before he was well enough for adoption.

This is "Rex" today.  He is at Cinderella now awaiting a forever home.  He is the sweetest, most gentle guy and so happy to get a pat on the head or a little loving.   I  still am amazed he survived at all.

So that is why we support the Cinderella Pet Rescue.  It is great organization that is always in need of help.  If you love animals and are looking for a charity this might be just the one for you.

While in the southern Texas area, we checked out some of the local stores to see all the colorful pottery.

They even had Texas-flavored bedroom suites.

This table was carved from one piece of stone and decorated with a lovely Mexican dish setting.

One day we drove about an hour west to Falcon State Park to take the pups on a hike on the Rio Grande River and saw more signs of spring.

The trees were full but not very large.

Across Falcon Dam you could see mountains on the Mexico side.

And we finally got to see one of the wild boars of Texas that we were warned about.  Actually they are peccaries which are somewhat related to the pigs but are no longer classified in the pig family.  In Texas they are called javelinas and are usually daylight animals.  They can live in groups of up to 50 and sleep in burrows at night under the roots of trees or in caves.  Although they mostly ignore humans they will react if frightened and can defend themselves with long tusks.  They normally feed on cactus, mesquite beans, fruits, roots and small vertebrates.

We had parked at a campsite at Falcon Dam and saw them as we were leaving.  They will also hang around camp areas looking for trash. 

They are big enough that you don't want to get close to them, especially with dogs.

The land out here is very dry and stark and most of the towns are small along the Rio Grande.

This town was called Rio Grande City and if you turned one block to the south you would find the international border with Mexico.  

Much of the town was old and failing but the newer sections were further out.

We saw this large cathedral and were curious to know what it was so we stopped by.  It was a local bank.  Only in Texas!

March 1st we left Mission and drove back up to San Antonio.  And guess where we wound up?  The Iron Horse RV Maintenance Shop.  We decided we wanted a few more items repaired on the rig such as new slide toppers, repair of a wall in the rig that had water damage, new carpeting in the rig, and a few other things.  Well, remember when I said you could stay in your rig while the work was being done unless it was something significant.  This work is!  So what we did was rent a small U-Haul and we drove back home with part of our worldly goods to South Carolina.  The work is supposed to be completed in a month and then we have to get in the car and drive all the way back again to pick up the rig and drive it home.

It was a long trip home from San Antonio and the pups were exhausted riding in the back of the SUV.  We haven't had the heart to tell them we are going back again in less than a month!   Peace!

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