Polk County Museum, Pizza With Friends

We’re down to our last week here in the Livingston area, so we’re trying to make the most of it, checking out some more of the local points of interest and visiting with old friends.

On Friday we drove into town, primarily to refill our drinking water jugs that we had forgotten to take to the store with us the previous day. On our way there, we decided to stop and check out this old locomotive that we had seen on display:

Locomotive No. 5, used until 1952 in the development of the local timber industry

The locomotive is part of the Polk County Memorial Museum, which is housed, literally, in a neighborhood house that was donated by a former citizen of Livingston. We decided to tour the museum as well, and although it was small, it contained a lot of information that was nicely presented and well organized.

Old piano

Victorian Crazy Quilt

Mastodon tooth found near Lake Livingston

Pine needle basketry woven by women from the Alabama and Coushatta tribes

After touring the inside of the museum, we went outside to see the locomotive as well as this old settler’s home:

Old settler’s home from the period

However, when we came outside there were dark clouds rolling in and the wind was really picking up, so we only had time to take a few quick photos before hurrying back to the truck to beat the rain. We scurried over to Walmart to get the water containers refilled, and then drove back home to the RV. We were concerned about the wind possibly damaging the awning that we had left extended, but were happy to find it undamaged when we returned.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the weekly all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast at the Care Center ($5). The blueberry pancakes are delicious, and it only takes two of them to fill me up.

After getting our fill of pancakes, we drove to Houston to meet our old friend Stan and his wife and daughter at Mellow Mushroom. The rains had moved in again overnight so it was a dreary drive, but we made it to MM just after noon. Stan and his late wife, Carson, were dear friends of ours from our days in Houston, having met at Second Baptist Church. Stan recently remarried, and he and his wife Jergen have a beautiful 18-month-old daughter, Katherine.

We enjoyed catching up and getting acquainted over some delicious pizza and salad while the rain poured down outside. Staying in touch through Facebook is all right, but nothing beats getting together in person to share good times!

Today (Sunday) we’re driving back to the Houston area to The Woodlands to visit with more friends. We’re not letting the rain stop us!

Last week we received our new checks for our new Wells Fargo bank account, so at this point we’re only waiting on two items in the mail–our permanent drivers licenses and the titles to our vehicles.

On Friday I went out for my usual morning walk and noticed that there were some workmen digging up the ground near a water spigot at one of the campsites on our street.  When I returned to the rig after my walk, one of the workmen told me that the water would be off for about a half hour. When I got inside, I found Andy watching YouTube videos on how to fix plumbing issues in the RV. He didn’t know they had turned off the water (there was no notice given), so he thought it was a problem with our plumbing system. He had tried everything–checking the water pump, dumping the tanks, checking the filter for clogs–and was referring to YouTube for advice on other things he could check. So it was a relief for him to find out that there was no problem with Lizzy’s plumbing.

The water was actually off for more than an hour, but since we already had fresh water stored in our holding tank, we were able to just switch on our water pump and use our stored water for flushing the toilet, hand-washing, etc. until the park water was restored.

Andy got a nice check from The Main Attraction, the boutique in Tupelo that carries his jewelry. It’s still selling, and he’ll continue to keep them stocked out of his inventory. We also received a refund check of $79 from the escrow account on our house that we sold. Always nice to get checks instead of bills in the mail!

So that’s life for now. We’ll spend this week visiting friends, checking out a few more local spots, and preparing to pull out of here on October 1. We are so anxious to escape the humidity and get to a drier climate!

Not How I Remember It

Yesterday (Tuesday) we decided to leave the campground and take a drive south toward Houston. We wanted to find the house that we built in Spring back in 1993, on a street called Plymouth Ridge. You would think that would be a fairly simple thing to do, right?

Not so much.

I used the Apple Maps app to look up the address because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive right to it, especially coming in from the north. I set the app to avoid toll roads, just because we’re cheapskates and didn’t want to pay tolls. The app calculated the route and it looked like it would take us right at 1:20 to get there.

Well, here’s the thing about Apple maps. If you deviate one little bit from the calculated route (i.e. pull off to get gas), it will re-calculate based on it’s own little algorithm, trying to do you a favor, supposedly. And you won’t even know it happened. You’ll just be driving along and suddenly realize that you’ve been directed to some part of town that’s entirely out of the way from where you were going.

And that’s what happened. Instead of leading us to our old house from the north, the app took us all the way down to Beltway 8, then west, then turned back north on some surface streets until we finally got to an area we were vaguely familiar with, Kuykendall and FM 1960 (now called Cypress Creek Parkway). Eventually we got to our old house, but it took much longer than originally planned. But we did avoid the toll roads.

The area around our old neighborhood was pretty much unrecognizable from when we lived there. When we built our house in 1993, it was mostly undeveloped in the area north of FM 1960, even more so north of Louetta. In the 25 years since then, of course it has changed tremendously, but it doesn’t look all that new. Mostly it looks worn out.

However, we were pleasantly surprised once we turned off of Kuykendall into our old neighborhood of Bridgestone West. The houses and yards all looked well-maintained and cared for, and the trees are now mature and shade the streets where we used to walk and ride our bikes.

We found our house at the end of the cul-de-sac on Plymouth Ridge, and it did bring back a flood of memories–the trees we planted, the neighbors we cooked out with, the little dramas that all neighborhoods have in common. There were several cars parked in the driveway and the garage door was up, so we didn’t stick around. But it was nice to see that the house was still in great shape and looking nice.

Our new house, built in 1993 on Plymouth Ridge, Spring TX

Our house, 25 years later, still looks great!

After leaving the neighborhood we decided to take a drive down FM 1960 for old times’ sake. Back when we lived there, FM 1960 was the place to go for restaurants, shopping, we even began our Starbucks addiction there. But it isn’t anything like we remember it.

In the years since we left the area (we sold the house in Spring to move into a condo in the Med Center area in 1996, then we sold the condo and moved to Phoenix in 2000), FM 1960 has gone downhill so much. We saw very little that we recognized–Willowbrook Mall, Pappadeaux and Pappasitos, our old Starbucks. Andy remembered the Champion Real Estate School where he took some classes. We remembered the street names, but the businesses were all different. Some of the architecture looked vaguely familiar, but if I had been blindfolded and dropped off on the side of the street, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where I was.

After stopping at a different Starbucks, we headed back home to Livingston, both slightly disappointed in what we had seen. I know there was some flooding in the area last year when Hurricane Harvey pounded Houston for days, so it’s possible that some of the depressed-looking real estate could be a result of that catastrophe. Not sure. But it sure wasn’t what we expected to see when we drove through.

Anyway, it was an interesting and emotional day trip.

So far this week we have received two of the five items that we’re expecting in the mail from establishing our domicile. On Monday we received our voter registration cards, and today we received our permanent debit cards for our new bank account. We’re still waiting on the vehicle titles, our drivers licenses, and our new checks for the bank account.

We have a couple of meet-ups scheduled for this weekend with old friends from the Houston area. More details on that to come.

In the meantime we’re just riding out the hot weather, looking forward to next week when the temperatures are supposed to drop considerably, especially at night. Of course, there will be some rain to go along with that, but they haven’t said anything about storms.

We’re starting to plan our exit route to leave Livingston on October 1, heading west toward New Mexico. More news on that as we get closer to our departure.

Just Hanging Out

It’s early Monday morning, and I’m sipping some Celestial Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea while I take care of a few online chores. Andy is still snoozing, the kitties have just been fed, and it’s the start of our fourth week as full-time RVers.

We’re still here in Livingston, Texas, at the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park, just biding our time as we wait for all our domicile paperwork to come in the mail. But we’re already getting restless and ready to move on, if for no other reason than to get out of the oppressive humidity. Yesterday was the first day since we’ve been here that there was zero precipitation for the entire day. Fortunately there have not been any storms, just lots of days with either drizzle or a few periods of very heavy downpours. Perfect conditions for the mosquitoes.

Sunset in the East Texas countryside.

We decided to check out some of the local color over the weekend, and so we visited the Livingston Trade Days at Pedigo Park on Saturday. This is a monthly flea market, for lack of a better term, with about 100 vendors, some in the typical pop-up canopies and some in indoor pavilions. There were a few interesting things to see, and some tasty barbecue sauces and pickles to sample, but nothing that even tempted me to pull out my camera to share with you. And or course we weren’t interested in yard art, antique kitchen gadgets or handmade Christmas tchotchkes. When you live in a 24′ RV, you quickly learn that you can’t collect things that don’t serve an important purpose. We walked away without buying anything.

Last Thursday we visited a local coffee shop, Java Quest, mainly to use their internet. I had a couple of apps on my laptop that needed to be updated and I didn’t want to use my Verizon data plan to download those big files. I had a pumpkin spice latte with almond milk and Andy had a regular latte, also with almond milk. Both were pretty good, a lot better than the internet service.

On Saturday morning we returned to the Care Center for the weekly pancake breakfast. This is rapidly becoming a highlight of our week! 🙂

Andy took care of a couple of maintenance chores this weekend. He cleaned the filters in the air conditioner again (we do live with two cats). Then he had to clean out the intake tube to the front burner on the stove. I had noticed that the flame on that burner had started burning yellow instead of blue. We did some online research and found out from, of course, YouTube, how to remedy the problem. He disassembled the burner and used his pocketknife to scrape out the black gunk from the tube–it was pretty hard and crusty like hard charcoal. After putting it all back together, we once again have a blue flame. Good job, Handy Andy! Here’s a link to the video we found that explained the process.

Other than that, nothing too exciting going on right now. I’m enjoying my morning walks and spending some time in the pool to cool off afterwards. We’re both doing a lot of reading, but now we’re starting to think about researching and planning our route for when we pull out of here on October 1, two weeks from today. I’m still spending some time each day updating our accounts with our new address (there are so many!!) and making sure that old accounts related to our home in Tupelo are properly closed out and all the final bills are paid. I really can’t imagine taking care of all this without a laptop and Internet access. God Bless Technology!!

We’re hoping to set up a meet-up or two with friends from the Houston area over the next couple of weeks. And I also have a video project that I want to work on this week.

Otherwise, it’s just a normal life. We cook our meals, do our laundry, chat with the neighbors, read, take walks, watch our favorite YouTubers. I did try to listen to the Ole Miss-Alabama football game on Saturday but it was too depressing so I turned it off before the first quarter was even over. Hotty Toddy Ugh.

Typical lunch–homemade hummus with raw veggies for dipping

Sorry we don’t have anything more exciting to share at the moment, but it’s coming!


We’re Domiciled Texans

It’s early morning and time for some coffee, even if it is decaf. When the kitties decide it’s time to eat, then that’s what time I get up.

Coffee time, even if it’s decaf

The first three days of this week have been a whirlwind, but we finally completed all the steps that we needed to take to get our Texas domicile established.

After getting the vehicles inspected and obtaining the license plates on Monday, Tuesday was the day for getting our drivers licenses. I will say this–Texas does not make it easy to get a license. First of all, their DPS offices are woefully understaffed. Just Google “Texas long lines at DPS office” and read all about it.

We went to the DPS office in Livingston, obviously because it was the closest one, and we were lucky that we got there as early as we did. The office only allowed 10 people at a time to go inside the doors, everyone else had to wait in line outside. Fortunately it was overcast but not raining, as we had to stand outside for about 20 minutes, and we were second and third in line when we got there.

After getting inside, we had to take a number and take a seat while waiting for the nine people in front of us to be processed by the single DPS official working in the office. While waiting, we filled out the application, played solitaire on my phone, and eavesdropped on the other people being processed.

After waiting almost 90 minutes, we were finally called back. We had to surrender our Mississippi licenses, and had to show them our passports, the vehicle registration/inspection reports, and our social security cards. We had to pass a vision test, then we got our mug shots, paid $25 per license, and were finally issued temporary paper permits. Our official licenses will be mailed to us in a couple of weeks. Also, as part of this process we applied for voter registration cards, which will also be sent to us.

By that time it was after 1:30 PM, so we decided to eat lunch in town. We returned to the Patron Grill (great Mexican restaurant) where we had a plate of cheese enchiladas, black beans and rice.

After lunch, Andy got the tags installed on the two vehicles and also installed the windshield stickers. Here in Texas, the stickers serve as validation of both the inspection and the registration. The hardest part of the process was peeling the old Mississippi inspection sticker off the window of the Tacoma. Mississippi stopped requiring inspection stickers several years ago (one of the smarter things they’ve done), so this sticker had had plenty of time to get baked onto the window.

Installing our new Texas tags on the RV and truck

So, with our drivers licenses in hand, we could move on to the next step in our domicile process, which was to set up a new bank account with a local bank. We decided to go with Wells Fargo because they have plenty of locations in the areas where we’ll be spending most of our time, plus we’ve done business with them in the past. They were our bank when we lived in Houston as well as Phoenix, and they also handled the mortgage on our house in Tupelo.

As it happens, however, they don’t have a branch here in Livingston, so yesterday (Wednesday) we made the 35-minute drive down Highway 59 to Cleveland, Texas. We spent about an hour there getting our account established. Since we were already in their system it didn’t take as long to do, we just had to update our contact information. We got our temporary debit cards and checks, ordered our permanent checks, and then we were out the door.

New checking account established with our old bank

So that was the last step in our process, but we’re still waiting on several things to come in the mail–drivers licenses, voter registration cards, permanent debit cards and checks, and the Texas titles for our vehicles. These are pretty important to us, and we would rather stay here until they come in the mail than risk having them forwarded to us somewhere down the road. So we’ll be enduring this heat and humidity for the rest of the month before we pull up stakes and head west.

At least we’ve gotten all the “business” chores taken care of, so now we can plan a few more fun excursions while we’re here. We still plan to head down to Houston at least once, probably Galveston as well. A lot will depend on the weather, as we don’t care to be sight-seeing in the rain.

We’re still getting accustomed to full-time life in such a small space. Andy is staying on top of the maintenance chores on the outside, while I tend to most of the “housework” on the inside. We split the cooking and dishwashing, as that’s the way we’ve always done it.

So that’s where we are on this Thursday morning. After breakfast I plan to take my morning walk, and then possibly hit the pool before it rains….again.

Speaking of rain, our thoughts are with the people facing Hurricane Florence tonight and over the next few days. Stay safe out there!

The Cost of Being Texan

Today we made a lot of progress toward getting our Texas domicile established. It wasn’t cheap, and we still have a couple of things left to do, but we got a lot done today.

Our new Texas license plates

We actually took the first steps before we even closed on the sale of the house by obtaining a Texas address through the Escapees mail service. This provided us with a street address to use for forwarding our mail from our old address in Tupelo, Mississippi. Since we’ve been parked in the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park for the past ten days, we’ve been able to pick up our mail every weekday at their headquarters building here at the park.

Since we had obtained a Texas residential address, we were able to start shopping for vehicle insurance to cover the RV and our Tacoma pickup. We had heard that Progressive Insurance was RV-friendly, and they are one of the few insurers who offer policies specifically for people who live full-time in their RVs, sort of a combination vehicle and home-owner policy.

I actually contacted Progressive by phone yesterday (Sunday) after using their website to get a quote. I was prepared to purchase the RV policy, but when the agent entered Andy’s drivers license information, she said it was showing that his license was invalid. Well, that wasn’t good!! She advised us to contact the Mississippi motor vehicles office today to get it cleared up. Needless to say, that was a little worriesome.

After thinking about it last night, I came to the conclusion that the agent had to have entered something incorrectly in her system, so this morning I pulled up the quote that I had saved and went through the purchase process online rather than calling an agent. And there was no problem at all with Andy’s license. After purchasing the policy for the RV, I repeated the process to purchase a policy for the Tacoma and then downloaded all the ID cards and other documents for the policies.

So at this point, we had documentation that our vehicles were insured in Polk County, Texas, at a specific address.

The next step was to get both vehicles inspected. In Texas, a vehicle safety inspection is required before you can obtain a vehicle tag. You have to locate a business that is certified to handle the inspections for the type of vehicle that you own–you can either download the list from the Internet or just look for the sign on the front of the business.

So we headed out of the RV park about 10:30 AM, but first we made a stop at the Livingston Public Library where we printed out paper copies of the insurance documents in case we needed them. Lots of places will now accept documents on your phone, but you never know.

We then took the Tacoma to have it inspected (we decided to have the truck done first just to make sure we understood the process before taking the RV in). We went to the Pennzoil oil change shop in Livingston, where they took the truck for a quick test drive to check the brakes, checked the lights, horn, etc. and then pronounced it safe to drive.

We drove back to the RV park and decided to go ahead and take the RV in for its inspection since the forecast was calling for rain for the rest of the week. Moving the RV means we have to unhook the electricity, water and sewer, stow away anything that can go flying off the countertops or out of the cabinets, and we also stress out two cranky cats; so we don’t move the RV unless it’s necessary. But this was one of those times when we had no choice–the inspection had to be done.

Lizzy in the RV park before we unhooked her

The location where we had taken the Tacoma earlier for inspection had a very small parking lot on a busy street, plus they were closed between noon and 1:00 PM. We wanted to find a place that had more manuevering space for the RV and that was open during the lunch hour. I checked online and found a local Ford dealership that handles Texas vehicle inspections, and they were open at lunchtime so we decided to take it there.

We drove about nine miles to the dealership, only to be told that they did not handle RVs. So we decided to head back into Livingston and return to the Pennzoil shop even if it did have a small parking lot and we would have to wait for them to return from lunch. But on the way over there, we found another place that did inspections.

This was a little shop that specializes in window tinting, but they also handle inspections. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that the process was much less “involved” than getting the Tacoma inspected, and we had our documents in hand in no time flat. Just sayin’.

We drove the RV back to the park and got everything reconnected, and then had a late lunch of salad and black beans. By then it was almost 2:30 PM and some dark clouds were moving in, but we decided to drive back into Livingston and take care of getting the title transfer, registration and tags.

We got to the tax assessor’s office just before the downpour started. We had all our documents in hand–Mississippi titles, proof of insurance, inspection reports, photo ID. For the RV, we had to have a photo of the RV as well as documentation of the vehicle weight. I had a photo of Lizzy on my phone as well as a photo of the sticker inside the driver’s side door that gives the weight information, and we were able to just email those photos to the tax assessor for them to print out.

Door sticker information from our RV

She gave us the application forms to complete, which were pretty straight forward except for that part about the weight. They wanted the “empty weight” of both the RV and the pickup, and we didn’t have that information. We only had the GVWR, which is the total weight that the vehicles are rated for.

We gave them the information that we had, and then they actually got online and tried to find the “empty weight” for the RV–they weren’t able to find it either. So they finally wound up just taking the GVWR instead, since it was all we had. They were very nice and helpful, and we walked out of the office with our Texas license plates and our registration/inspection stickers for the windshield. We haven’t put them on the vehicles yet because of the rain, but we’ll get them installed this week.

So–the big question–what did all this cost?

A lot.

Here’s what we spent today.

$682 – 12 months paid in advance for the RV
$262 – 6 months paid in advance for the truck
(We saved a significant amount of money by paying in advance instead of monthly.)

$14 – $7 each for the two vehicles

License, registration, title transfer:
$252.75 – RV
$193.50 – truck
(Note: Includes $90 each for RV and truck listed as “new resident fee” on the application, but listed as “sales tax fee” on the receipt. Hmmm….)

Add to all that the $2.50 we spent at the library to print our insurance documents, our total spending today to become Texans came to $1,406.75.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, y’all!

Tomorrow, we’ll see what it costs to get our driver’s licenses!

Pancakes with Boogie / Lake Livingston

As you know, we are currently parked at the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas. One of the advantages of staying at a large RV park are the amenities that you won’t find in most state parks, and certainly not in a boondocking location. For instance, we have enjoyed using the pool almost every morning this week, especially after taking a 3-mile walk in the heat and humidity.

But yesterday we discovered a new perk for staying in this park, and that’s the Saturday morning all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. It’s held in the Care Center dining room and costs $5 per person, which includes pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, juice, coffee, cereal, etc. It’s a bargain!

It’s served from 7:30-9:00 AM which means Andy has to get up earlier than usual, but for all-you-can-eat pancakes, he’ll gladly make the extra effort.

We got to the Care Center about 8:15, paid our $10 and ordered our pancakes and eggs (of course we skipped the meat). They gave us a choice between plain and blueberry pancakes, and we chose blueberry. The pancakes were large and perfectly griddled, with tons of blueberries. The scrambled eggs were good too, and we added some coffee and grape juice to our meal.

As we were finishing our meal, we were joined at our table by a gentleman named Kevin, who goes by Boogie. I don’t know about you, but when some random person asks if they can join me at my dining table, I’m not exactly enthusiastic about inviting them in, no matter how politely I may respond to them. But in this case, I’m so glad Boogie decided to join us.

As Boogie got seated, he immediately began to recite details of his life story, almost as if he were reading a script, and for good reason. He is paralyzed on the left side of his body with no use of his left arm, although he has trained himself to walk haltingly with supports added to his left leg. He said that he knows people look at him and wonder what’s “wrong” with him, so he wants to just go ahead and tell his story and get it out in the open to put other people at ease.

And what a story!

At age 29 while living in Colorado, he had a motorcycle accident which left him in a coma for 2-1/2 months and resulted in his paralysis. He had a traumatic brain injury, and had to learn to walk, talk and swallow all over again. While he was in a coma, his fiancee left him.

Several years later, while tending a campfire, he stumbled and fell into the fire, landing on his left (paralyzed) side, so he couldn’t move to get himself out of the fire. He received severe burns over 40% of his body, down to the bones and organs. He received skin grafts and was put into a medically induced coma for recovery.

He didn’t let either of these horrific incidents keep him down. He learned to drive, got a 5th wheel travel trailer, and found a spot in the Colorado Rockies where he lived on his own for years. He had (and still has) cats as companions. One evening his cat had jumped up on the stove. He scolded the cat and it jumped back down. The next morning, Boogie stepped outside to “take a piss”, then came back inside the trailer and proceeded to light the stove for breakfast. Unknown to him, the cat had managed to nudge the gas knob on the stove so the trailer had filled with gas, and when he went to light it, he was blown backwards through the door of the trailer into the yard.

Boogie told us that as a result of these and other events, he is on his 8th life now. Despite his handicaps, he remains positive and continues to find ways to survive on his own. His goal is to eventually buy a pontoon boat and return to Lake Powell to live, but right now he’s living in his small RV right next to the Care Center where he can get assistance with things that he’s just not able to do on his own.

Kudos to the Escapees organization for providing a place where full-time RVers can come to live when they are no longer able to live independently on the road. The Care Center is a godsend for these people.

After having a good breakfast and great conversation, I took my morning walk, had a nice shower and a good lunch, and then Andy and I did some exploring. We drove to Lake Livingston State Park, paid our $10 entry fee, and spent about an hour or so checking out the facilities and campgrounds. At some point in our travels over the coming years, I can see us staying at this park on our way through Texas.

After becoming accustomed to the laid-back administration of the Mississippi state parks, it was almost jarring to see how professionally the Texas parks are managed, although that also means that there are a lot more fees for users. There were uniformed park staff in abundance, a park store with a ranger doing a live interactive demonstration of bee-keeping, and lots of people kayaking, canoeing and boating. However, I was surprised at how many open campsites we saw on a Saturday afternoon. There was plenty of availability for both RVs and tent campers.

Water sports on Lake Livingston

Lake Livingston was created by a dam built on the Trinity River. We wanted to get a good look at the dam, and finally found a spot where we could view it by stopping on a highway bridge and pulling off to the shoulder. Needless to say, we got some angry honks from other drivers, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to get the photo.

Lake Livingston dam on the Trinity River

Last night we finally got the rain that they’ve been forecasting for days. It rained heavily for about 90 minutes, and then pretty much stopped by the time we went to bed. No severe weather, just plenty more moisture to raise the humidity levels, but at least the temperatures are supposed to be lower for the next few days.

Have a great week, everyone. And stay positive like Boogie!!

A Good Kind of Mistake

Today I found out I had made a big mistake. And it turns out that things are a lot better than we thought they were.

If you remember from my last post, we had checked the electric meter on our site and found, to our horror, that we had already incurred over $42 of electricity expense in just three days. This was based on the opening meter reading that the front office provided us at check-in, and the current meter reading at the time we checked it three days later.

As I mentioned, I had created a spreadsheet to compute the charges we were accruing at 12.38 cents per kWh used. The spreadsheet works great. My typing, however, not so much.

On the spreadsheet I entered the opening meter reading as 7693.

Today we were discussing some of the activities that take place here at the RV park, and I picked up the printed materials that they gave us at check-in, to which the electric meter form was attached. As I glanced at the form, something about the opening meter reading just caught my eye and alarm bells went off.

The opening meter reading on the form was actually 7963, not 7693. That’s a difference of 270 kWh, or $33.43.

Yes, I had transposed the number when I set up my spreadsheet. What a dork!!

So I corrected the spreadsheet and re-checked the meter. As of this evening, we have actually accrued electricity charges of $16.09 over the past five days and nights.

That, I can live with.

In the past two days of panic, we cut way back on our electricity use. We learned to conserve power, we ran the fans instead of the air conditioner for most of the day until it got up to 90°, and we made use of the pool to cool off.

Once we found out that we weren’t consuming nearly as much electricity as we thought we were, we breathed a sigh of relief and turned the A/C back on. But as a result of this transposition error, we have become much more conscious of our power consumption. Yes, our final bill is going to be much less than we thought, but at the same time we want to keep it as low as possible.

So, we won’t be keeping the RV as cool as we were originally, especially at night. Additionally, we went to Lowe’s today and picked up a roll of Reflectix insulation to put in the windows that face the afternoon sun. Reflectix is a product that almost every RVer uses to reduce the temperature inside their rig. Today we cut pieces to fit both the driver’s and passenger’s side windows in the cab, as well as the big window over our dinette. We could immediately feel the difference as the sun’s heat was blocked by the Reflectix from entering the RV. We plan to cut pieces for additional windows as needed.

Installing Reflectix in the cab windows to reduce heat in the rig

And speaking of the pool, it’s been really nice to have that amenity available to us even if we weren’t trying to conserve electricity. Yesterday I went to take a swim after I finished my morning walk. It was about 9:45 AM, and I didn’t realize that there was a water aerobics class beginning at 10:00. The ladies talked me into sticking around for the class, and it was a hoot! I really enjoyed it, and as it turned out, it was a great workout. This morning I finished my walk a little earlier, and so Andy went with me to the pool so we could enjoy a nice swim before the class started. We’ll definitely be using the pool on a regular basis while we’re here, although we won’t be regular participants in the class. After all, I don’t own a pool noodle. LOL

We’re still trying to get things organized inside the RV. We got the Roku hooked up to the TV so we can watch Netflix and YouTube via the hotspot on our Verizon phones. There is very little TV reception here in the park, so we haven’t even raised our TV antenna. The biggest challenge is when it comes to meal preparation–I have to climb up on the dinette to retrieve things from the overhead compartment storage, sometimes having to shift bins around to reach things like the Instant Pot which are stored further back.

But that hasn’t stopped us from preparing delicious, healthy meals. We’ve been grocery shopping at three different stores in Livingston to find the best produce, and so far we’re sticking to our whole foods, plant based diet, eating lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Our goal is to stay healthy on the road for as long as possible.

We plan to start working on our domicile requirements next week, along with doing some sight-seeing in the area. There’s not much to do or see around Livingston, but we plan to make our way to some of our old stomping grounds around Houston, Galveston, Huntsville State Park, etc. over the next few weeks.

And now we have no problem leaving the A/C running for the kitties while we explore.

Amazing how one little transpositional error can cause so much consternation!


The Cost of Comfort

One of our goals with living the full-time RV life is to get closer to nature. That thought includes images of clear mountain streams tumbling over boulders, strolling through meadows of wildflowers while elk graze in the distance, and lying on a blanket on a desert evening, far from the light pollution of the city, watching a meteor shower or the passage of the Milky Way.

But getting closer to nature also includes dealing with the temperatures and humidities from which our sticks-and-bricks homes have shielded us with their climate-control systems and blown-in foam insulation. Living in an RV, especially one like ours that is not rated for four seasons, quickly reminds us what it must have been like for our ancestors who settled and lived in this part of the country.

Right now we are parked in Livingston, Texas which is about 100 miles from the coast. Since we arrived on Saturday evening, we’ve had lots of rain, temperatures in the high 80’s, and the usual Southern summertime humidity levels up to 99%.

Our solution was to keep the RV closed up tight, run the air conditioner along with our dehumidifier, and avoid going outside unless it was necessary.

And that solution worked as far as keeping us comfortable. But there was a problem.

When we booked this site, we opted for the monthly rate since we planned to be here for several weeks getting our domicile established and catching up with friends in the Houston area. The monthly rate for this site is $340, or about $11/night, which is a bargain for a full hookup site. The kicker is, you have to pay extra for your electricity usage which is metered at the site. When we checked in on Saturday, they gave us a slip of paper that showed the starting meter reading, and when we check out, we will read the meter, fill in the form and turn it in to the office so we can pay for our usage.

Electric meter on our site

The rate for the electricity usage is 12.38 cents per kWh. Now, if you are like me, you have never really paid that much attention to what your electrical rates are at home–you just know about how much your total monthly bill should be. So we didn’t really think too much about how much electricity we were using to power our air conditioner in our RV after we parked here on Saturday.

Yesterday after lunch, I got curious about it, so I created a little spreadsheet (of course I did, that’s what I do), and then I went out and checked the meter.

Opening meter reading: 7693
Current meter reading: 8040
kWh used: 347
Charge per kWh: $.1238
Accrued charge to date: $42.96

Yep, you read that right. In three days we had run up an electric bill of almost $43. Obviously, we needed a new plan.

We immediately turned off the air conditioner even though it was the middle of the day. We opened all the windows and the door (they are all screened to keep out the bugs), and turned on the overhead fans. I even went to Walmart and bought a small Honeywell room fan, since someone who shall remain nameless talked me out of bringing one of our three fans that we had at home.

We agreed to still run the air conditioner at night, primarily because of the super-high humidity that the fans suck into the RV, but we’ll keep it set to about 74° instead of the 69° setting we were using before.

All of this is part of the learning curve. This is the first time we’ve camped anywhere that had a separate metered electricity charge. We normally did our summer camping in state parks where we paid $16 a night (senior discount) which included the electricity. But I’ve found that when you get the highly discounted monthy rate at just about any park, you will have to pay for your electricity separately, and I guess that’s understandable.

By the way, I went back and checked to see what our electricity rates were with Tupelo Water and Light at our house:
Energy Charge – per kWh $0.06930
FCA Charge – per kWh $0.01947
Total – per kWh $.08877

Our plan for this adventure is to follow the weather, and if it were not for the pesky issue of having to get our Texas domicile established, we certainly would not be camped here in East Texas in the summertime. We’ll see how it goes, but there’s always the possibility that we will speed up the process and pull out of here early if we start getting too cranky. Of course we also want to keep the kitties comfortable.

But I will say this–my hair has more body now than I’ve ever seen it have before! 😂

We’ll keep you posted!

Welcome to Rainy Texas!

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re snuggled in the RV with the kitties, having a cup of coffee while the rain pours down outside. Welcome to rainy Texas where we’re under a flash flood watch (so much for the Burn Ban signs we saw on the way in).

We left our Harvest Hosts location at Landry Vineyards around 10 AM yesterday morning after enjoying a peaceful morning overlooking the grapevines. Andy took a walk around the property and snapped some great photos.

Look closely to the left of the tan building and you can see Lizzy! Photo cred: Andy

From there we made our way through Shreveport, LA, and then turned southwest toward Livingston, TX. Along the way we stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop where we re-fueled the vehicles and also fixed lunch for ourselves.

We arrived at the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park yesterday just after 4:30, a bit later than expected, but safely nonetheless. We really need to have a talk with Apple about their maps/navigation app. The last five miles of the trip, Siri had us on a little tiny country lane with tiny wooden bridges over little streams. Needless to say, Andy was pretty stressed by the time we got here, and I was stressed from driving behind him, watching him maneuver those little bridges.

Ah well, we wanted adventure, right?

So we got checked in at the campground, got ourselves parked and hooked up, and then had a meal of heated-up, leftover spaghetti and some coleslaw. We were both pretty tired so we turned in early and slept like babies.

Parked in site #60 at Escapees Rainbow’s End

This morning we awoke to overcast skies and humid conditions (what else is new?). We had coffee and a light breakfast of fruit. I went for a long walk around the perimeter of the RV park–it took me almost an hour as it’s larger than it looks on the map. Many of the lots have permanent homes on them with RV garages. There is also a Care Center where full-time RVers can reside when they are too old or ill to travel or live on their own any longer, or even if they just need to stay temporarily to recover from a surgery, for instance. This is also the national headquarters of Escapees, and their mail forwarding service is located here. Any mail that is sent to our new address will come through the facility here and then be forwarded to us at whatever General Delivery location we provide to them.

After I returned from my walk, we both got showers. I used the shower in our rig, but Andy used the campground showers and said they were very nice and clean with plenty of hot water. I prefer to use our own shower just to avoid having to load up a bag with all my stuff to tote around, but since we keep the cats’ litter box in the shower, we always have to move the box and clean up any scattered litter before we can turn on the water. I think it’s worth it, though, as long as we’re in a spot with full hookups.

We decided to drive into Livingston to do some grocery shopping and to also have lunch at the top-rated (on Yelp!) Mexican restaurant in town, Patron Grill. The minute we walked in the place, we felt so at home and remembered why the “Mexican” restaurants in Tupelo just never satisfied us. There were the Christmas lights strung all over the place, the sizzle of the fajita skillets being delivered to the tables. The salsa was warm, not cold, and there was that delicious green sauce to go with it.

Oh, yeah, welcome back to Texas!!

Of course, we don’t eat meat anymore, but they were able to accommodate us with a bowl of delicious guacamole, veggie fajitas, bean burrito, and black beans and rice. There was even a self-serve ice cream machine on the way out. We left stuffed and happy.

From there we went to Walmart to fill up three of our one-gallon water jugs with filtered drinking water (we don’t like to take chances drinking the water at the campsites, although we cook and clean with it). Next we went grocery shopping at HEB, another Texas staple, since they were reputed to have better produce than Walmart. They didn’t disappoint on the produce, but they didn’t have a couple of items that we wanted, so we’ll have to go back to Walmart or possibly try a different grocery in the next few days.

Both Walmart and HEB were packed and busy, and we couldn’t figure out why, since it was a Sunday afternoon, and then we remembered that tomorrow is Labor Day. Everyone is prepping for those holiday cookouts, although it’s looking like they’re going to be a little soggy.

So, we’re enjoying a quiet afternoon at home. I’ve spent some time online submitting address changes to various accounts. Andy’s been watching videos, and the kitties have been sleeping. It’s almost time to get started on dinner–tonight the menu is collard greens, baked sweet potato and corn.

We don’t have any real plans for tomorrow since the weather is pretty iffy. But that’s the way we like it, playing it by ear from now on.

Launch Day – We’re On the Road!

Today we officially launched as full-time RVers, living in our 24′ Class C Thor Chateau, accompanied by our Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner as a chase vehicle.

We spent our last night at Tombigbee State Park near Tupelo where we had been camping out for the week while we closed on the sale of our house and took care of some last minute business. Our last evening in Tupelo included an intense thunderstorm that hit between 5:00 and 6:00 PM, and the huge claps of thunder definitely added to the anxiety level of the kitties, especially Molly. Fortunately, the storm cleared up after about 90 minutes, although we had a few more drizzles of rain overnight.

We got up a 6:00 AM this morning to start preparing for our road trip. We had plans to meet Mom and Dad at Cracker Barrel in Tupelo at 9:00 AM so we wanted to make sure we got everything done in time. As usual, Andy handled everything on the outside of the RV while I took care of securing everything on the inside. We pulled out of our campsite around 8:15 AM and pulled in to Cracker Barrel about 25 minutes later.

We had a very enjoyable breakfast with Mom and Dad. I told them I hoped they were ready to have breakfast with their hippie children! Andy and I both had pancakes and hashbrowns, with copious amounts of coffee, and Mom and Dad had the non-veggie breakfast (LOL). It was nice to be able to spend time with these very special people before hitting the road–they mean the world to me. We left them with some more tools, a wind chime, and a bowl–we’re still decluttering as we go. Mom took a photo of the two of us, and then we were on our way.

Mom and Dad’s hippie children! LOL

Our route for today took us from Tupelo, MS to West Monroe, LA. Since we were still so full from breakfast, we didn’t stop for lunch on the way, we just took a couple short breaks to stretch our legs and to fill up with gas once. It was about a five hour drive, plus time for stops. Maggie handled the drive pretty well, spending some time in Andy’s lap. Molly, on the other hand, got up into the “attic” in the overhead area and wedged herself between the Crock-pot and a storage bin and refused to come out. She rode up there the entire drive. We checked on her at each stop, and she seemed to be doing fine.

We arrived at our destination, Landry Vineyards in West Monroe, just before 5:00PM. One of the owners, Libby Landry, showed us where we could park our vehicles on a hill overlooking the vineyard with a gorgeous view and lots of shade.

Parked on a hill overlooking the vines at Landry Vineyards

Once we got the vehicles parked, the kitties came out of hiding and made themselves at home, especially since we were able to leave the doors and windows open with just the screens in place. We had just enough time to get back to the tasting room before they closed at 5:30 (they were gracious enough to keep the tasting room open for us even though they were busy setting up for a concert they’re hosting tomorrow night). Their tasting included every single vintage on their menu, at least 15, so we got a good variety.

This is a Harvest Hosts location, meaning they allow RVs to stay on their property for free if you’re a Harvest Hosts member. The annual fee is $49, but we got a 10% discount on our membership. The participants in the program include wineries, museums, breweries, local attractions, farms, etc., with almost 700 participants and growing. Although you don’t have to pay a nightly camping fee, it is customary to purchase something from the host to show appreciation for their hospitality, and we did purchase a couple of bottles from this host, as a commemoration of our launch day as full-timers.

We had a light dinner of hummus and raw veggies. Since there are no hook-ups at this location, we are boondocking which means we are running off our battery.

Light dinner of raw veggies and hummus

It’s less humid here and there’s a nice breeze blowing over the vineyards so we haven’t needed the air conditioner yet, but if we need it in order to sleep tonight we’ll crank up the generator to run the A/C. The generator burns about a half-gallon of gas per hour and we filled up right before we got here, so we’re in good shape. I’d like to avoid using the generator if possible since it is a little noisy, but we’ll see how it goes.

We have a view of the vineyard from the door of Lizzy

I wish we could hang around here for the concert tomorrow, it sounds like it’s going to be a blast! But we’ll probably break camp around 10:00 AM and head on toward Livingston, Texas where we’ll live for the month of September.

We’ve been so busy this past week trying to get the house ready for closing and then taking care of all those last minute business affairs. We’ve decided that when we get to Livingston, we’re going to spend the first week doing pretty much nothing but reading, hanging out at the pool, taking walks and just relaxing. After the first week we’ll get around to the business of getting our Texas domicile established, and also make arrangements to meet up with friends we haven’t seen in much too long.

But for the moment, we’re going to enjoy a beautiful evening in an idyllic location, where we’re able to see the stars and feel the breeze blowing over the grape vines.

Launch Day was a huge success, and we’re looking forward to seeing what this lifestyle has to offer as we make our way west.