Saturday, February 15, 2020

Day 8, 9, 10 - Medina Lake, TX - TT

It’s been almost half a year since I left Fairbanks in the Prius. I’ve been through twenty one states, Canadian provinces and Territories during those 181 days.
Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Texas. 
Granted, some of those I just passed through.

Thursday (8) - Some maintenance today. I checked the water level in the house batteries. All cells had plenty of water. I added maybe an ounce of distilled water to each cell. The Magnum inverter/charger has an equalization mode but it applies to the chassis batteries as well which are AGM. I’ll need to disconnect the chassis battery cable before running the equalization cycle. It was already late afternoon when I looked into this.

I had stopped at an ACE hardware store and picked up a small hose clamp to fix the small 12vdc air compressor. I know that the left inner rear tire needs air but I don’t have a long enough 12vdc power cable. I need to move the coach first. Or start the engine and use the chassis air.

I found the procedure to test the grid heater on a Cat 3100 series engine. This is what the C7 used to be so I’m hoping the procedure still applies. There is a real shortage of information on this engine on the Internet.

Friday (9) - We visited the Guadalupe River State Park which is northwest of San Antonio. There was a nice loop trail that was about four miles and modest hills. I guess this area is referred to as “Texas Hill Country” so some hills are expected. After the hike, we went to the end of the road where this picture was taken. Then on to the Discovery Center. It was sunny but not very warm with a high of 52°F.

The trail walking might be my favorite activity these days. On the sections with no mud or loose rocks, I even got in a little jogging to try and raise my heart rate a bit. The good thing is that my knees and ankles no longer hurt when running. Since I’ve lost some weight, it helps.

This info graphic made from Apple Watch data does show what can be collected. I’ve found that unless I can get my heart rate above about 145, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting any exercise. This is from the HeartWatch iPhon app from AppleWatch data. After arriving back at the campground, I sat in the jacuzzi for a while enjoying the 60°F temperature and sun. There was a full-time couple and family at the pool. Interesting conversations.

Saturday (10) - This morning, we headed to New Braunfels, which is east and a little north of San Antonio, to meet an acquaintance from Fairbanks. We also stopped at the Camping World to pick up a new latch for the medicine cabinet. One of the hinges is bent so I’ll fix that as well. Hopefully, I’ll have time to check out the grid heater circuit on the engine. This preheats the intake air when the engine is cold both before trying to start as well as after starting. The grid heater draws a lot of current so the chassis battery voltage should drop quite a bit during the preheat cycle (Wait to Start) and I’m not seeing the drop. On the Dodge truck, the battery voltage drops to about 11 volts before starting.

Right now, we are at a boba tea shop and I’m having a delicious Vietnamese coffee. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. I don’t think there is anything planned for tomorrow besides getting ready to leave. We’ve been really conservative on propane usage as I didn’t want to need more until we leave on Monday...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Day 7 - San Antonio, TX

By late morning, the weather has cleared enough that we went into San Antonio to see some of the sights. I had not realized that San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the U.S. and is rapidly catching up with number 6, Philadelphia. At 46°F it’s not warm but at least the heavy rain and thunderstorms went through last night. Still colder than I expected given our latitude (29°35’ N) and elevation (1110ft).

The first stop was the Alamo. San Antonio’s most well known tourist attraction. The last time I had been here, the line to enter the church building was really long. Today, no line at all. No pictures are allowed inside the building.

We then cut through the Hyatt to the Riverwalk. Some nice waterfalls along the way. This particular grotto looked cool. This is using the long-exposure iPhone setting. I think it does a good job with waterfalls. They did a good job on this waterfall. The water along the Riverwalk looked pretty grungy.

This is along the approach to the Riverwalk from the Alamo. Lots of restaurants but very little else. I guess the property along the Riverwalk must be pretty expensive. It’s a nice walk and worth doing. We stopped at an Irish pub when we finished for happy hour. The staff was all in kilts.

We were originally planning on having dinner along the Riverwalk but ended up leaving and having dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the way back to the campground. Not quite as much atmosphere but decent food and probably better prices.

I’m not sure what is on the schedule for tomorrow but we will be here through the weekend. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Day 6 - Streaming Services

Something a little different, video streaming services we use while on the road. There is a series on Apple’s streaming service, Apple TV+, that I just finished watching called For All Mankind. It shows an alternate  reality where the Soviets landed on the moon before Apollo 11. It was pretty good though the streaming service itself could be better. YouTube will scale back resolution and frame rate when there is a lot of network congestion. Apple TV+ just stops working rather than deliver a less than HD video. I prefer the YouTube method. When I was at the Seattle airport using WiFi in the Alaska Air Lounge (very fast) I downloaded a couple of the last episodes of this season to my phone. The app refused to play them over an HDMI cable to the TV claiming not allowed probably due to copyright. Annoying.

I got the Apple TV+ subscription free for one year with our Apple TV purchase. We also have a year of Disney+ courtesy of Verizon. We pay for Netflix and Amazon Prime. But all of these streaming services require Internet bandwidth which is sort of iffy within most campgrounds. Netflix and Amazon Prime downloads play on the TV without a problem. Disney+ downloads seem to have the same restriction as Apple TV+. But, they all work fine when I use the Apple TV appliance. But that needs WiFi to work. I occasionally connect our router to the Internet using the iPad as a hotspot but there is a 10gig limit from Verizon.

Some of the other programs that I’ve watched recently are Imagineering on Disney+, two seasons of Mars on Netflix, Snoopy in Space on Apple TV+, Aeronauts on Prime, Mandalorian on Disney+, and I started watching The Expanse on Prime. Hmmm, lots of space videos. Maybe I’m in a rut…

Monday, February 10, 2020

Day 3, 4, 5 - Medina Lake, TX - TT

Saturday (3) - We rode the e-bikes down to the lake today before the predicted rain. And since rain is in the forecast for a while, I went ahead and packed up the bikes afterward. It was only 51°F so it is still not warm. If it continues to be cold at night, I may have to pick up some more propane. This campground is broken up into two sections located about ½ mile apart. One is next to the lake and the other is near the entrance. We are near the entrance.

All of the non-functional power pedestals are painted red and I think that maybe as many as half of the sites. Quite a few of the sites don’t have sewer connections and most only have 30 amp power. This must be one of the older parks that a lot of people complain about within the Thousand Trails system.

Sunday (4) - Very humid today and kind of warm at 77°F. Too cold, too hot, too humid, too sunny, too much rain... Some people are never happy. The forecast is for thunderstorms for the next couple of days and the forecasted low for tonight is 64°F! We went into town to pick up some stuff this morning. The RV supply store was closed as I guess state law in Texas prohibits you to show or shop for vehicles. No kidding! That’s what the sign said at the RV dealer. We stopped at H-E-B, which seems to be the dominant grocery store chain around here. Good prices. Fresh shrimp was cheaper than frozen and less than half the price of Fairbanks. Regular gas seems to average about $1.85/gal.

Monday (5) - The Spettel Riverside House is on the campground property right next to the pool. It was moved here from its previous location next to the river before the dam was finished. Medina Lake is a man-made reservoir. Some others told us that the lake was almost dry last year with shrubs growing where there is currently water. People were driving in the bottom of the lake. Medina Lake is privately owned and not a Corp of Engineer project. The dam needed repair and, I was told, that it has been turned over to Corp so it would be repaired. Since it now holds water I’m assuming that it was repaired.

The Riverside House isn’t restored or open in any way. There is just the sign. The house kind of fits in with the feel of the campground. I thought about moving to a different site this morning as there were a couple of them around us that were more open. Plus they had sewer connections that were in better condition.

Bridget is thinking about going into San Antonio tomorrow so, hopefully, I’ll have more content. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Day 2 - Medina Lake, TX - TT

Below freezing last night but 74°F this afternoon. The pool here is too cold to use and the jacuzzi is all right. It felt great after the long flight. And it’s warmer than Fairbanks. We had lunch at Bob’s Burger Barn with a couple that we first met in Palm Desert, then again in Fairbanks. They are living full time on the road. We showed them the electric bikes and now they are looking for pedal assist bikes. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Day 1 - Enroute to TX

I'll count today as Day 1 as I was only in Alaska for half an hour. My flight left Fairbanks at 12:30am AKST and arrived in Seattle around 4:30am PST. The next leg of my trip leaves at noon so there was over seven hours of "free time". If you have an Alaska Airlines credit card, you can get a day pass for the Alaska Lounge for $25. That seemed reasonable for a comfortable seat, fast WiFi, complimentary espresso drinks and breakfast. Without an Alaska Airlines credit card, it's $50. Probably not worth it. I should arrive in Texas at around 6pm. So another really long day.

Seattle is definitely an Alaska Airlines hub. From my seat I count over twenty Alaska planes. It looks cold and rainy. The clouds are blocking any view of the mountains. The only thing that I forgot in my haste was my hat and gloves. But I shouldn’t be needing them again for a while. I kept switching things around trying to balance things out since I’m only doing carry-on. A backpack and a messenger bag (freebie from a meeting).

It looks like I’ll be returning home one more time on this snowbird trip around the beginning of May.

Yet another gate change. The fourth one so far this morning.

Spoke too soon. Gate change number 5...

Arrived back at the campground around 8pm. The narrow, winding roads seem even more so after dark. I’m not sure how much sleep I got on the flight but it wasn’t much.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Day 0 - Leaving Fairbanks

A couple days in the snow isn’t that bad as long as nothing broke down or got stuck. The truck had one low tire but the air compressor was maybe 10’ away so that really wasn’t any kind of hardship. I met some wonderful friends for lunch. We went to what used to be Wasabi Bay and is now a second location for Irashai on South Cushman. I had kimchi with rice in a smoking hot stone bowl kind of like dolsot bibimbap. Very good!

No other errands. I discovered that the serial number of my MacBook Pro is no longer in the firmware on the logic board. Without the serial number, several Apple services are unable to authenticate and aren’t available. The one that I miss is the being able to unlock the screen with my Apple Watch. That is a super convenient feature.

It’s going to be another long day with my flight leaving Fairbanks at 12:30am followed by a seven hour layover in Seattle. I arrive back in TX at around 6pm tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Back in Fairbanks

Lots of time sitting in airports and planes yesterday. 4:35 from San Antonio to Seattle and 3:45 from Seattle to Fairbanks. Over eight hours in the air. Plus a two hour layover in Seattle. I arrived in Fairbanks at 2AM. The ibuprofen was needed in Seattle. I really don’t like flying but I think I’ve said that before. I am really glad that Kyle was willing to pick me up this morning.

Picking up a permanent registration and tags for the Prius was straightforward at the alternate for-profit DMV office on the Old Steese Hwy. And I was even able to get the registration laminated and pick up a newer style license plate for the car (the one with the bear in the middle of the plate). West Valley Vision adjusted my new glasses so they don't fall off. I picked up Bridget's hearing aid. Dropped my Planet Fitness membership and there ate two reasons. One, we never used it while traveling as we thought we might and second, the one time I did try, the Planet Fitness location couldn't look up my membership. The manager at this facility said that they could've called but apparently they didn't want to be bothered. I also picked up my university Macbook Pro from being repaired. I'm using it to type this post while my applications and photos are downloading from iCloud.

I stopped at Sunshine for coffee this morning and got to meet with many of the regulars. It was good to see them again. I met a colleague for lunch at Lemon Grass. And lastly, I stopped at the RV storage location and paid until the end of May. They were having trouble using the card number that I had given them. I think that's about all of the planned tasks for this trip.

It's well above 0°F in contrast to the really cold temperatures just a few days ago. I'll take credit for bringing the warm weather with me from Texas…

Monday, February 3, 2020

Day 86 - San Antonio Intl Airport

Time to head back to Alaska for a bit. This time from San Antonio, TX. I think the last time I was here, I arrived on American Airlines as Alaska didn’t have a flight into this airport. Now they do. Unlike some other airports, I was the only one in the Pre-check line. That was pretty convenient as the regular line looked like a Disney ride line.

So far, I have nine tasks to do in Fairbanks. One of them was the DMV but I think I can get it done at the private satellite office on the Old Steese. They charge an extra fee but the last couple of times I was there, no waiting. I’m also looking forward to getting my university MacBook Pro back. It’s been under repair since last August. One of the USB-C ports stopped working and it necessitated a couple of new boards. The MacBook I’ve been using works fine but is a lot slower.

It’s going to be a long day. Over eight hours in the air plus several more on the ground. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Day 85 - Lakehills, TX - TT

Only an hour or so from the Cracker Barrel to the Medina Lake Thousand Trail campground. We will be here for over two weeks so I’m glad that we found a nice, long, reasonably flat site. It’s even paved. We are surrounded by trees and junipers. It is a 30amp site but that just means that we need to be conscious of what is running power-wise. e.g. Can’t run heat pump + microwave + Keurig all at the same time. This RV has a device that monitors power and can control the front A/C (heat pump), water heater, rear A/C, washer/dryer and power things off as needed. Convenient device.

We went to the local grocery store. Not much as far as actual groceries such as produce. I think it’s geared to people out for a weekend on the lake. Tomorrow, Bridget will be taking me to the airport.

The deer picture was while walking to the pool this evening. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Day 83, 84 - Last Day in Big Bend

Friday (83) - A windy day and near freezing last night. We drove back to Panther Junction Visitors Center this morning. The movie was pretty good and explained the history of the park and some of the unique features. It seems ironic that most of the incredible views and footage were aerial shots and visitors are not allowed to fly drones. They even state in the video that Big Bend is best seen from above.

I put the main slide in today for multiple reasons. The last couple of times it was very slow to move. But if I operated the slide key lock a couple of times, it worked fine. Since it’s windy today, I’ll leave the slide in. Today is day 83 which means a trip north to home is coming up very soon. I leave Monday afternoon for Fairbanks arriving in the middle of the night. I try to avoid doing that but there are very few Alaska Air flights out of San Antonio.

Saturday (84) - We made it to Kerrville, TX, which made for a 400 mile, eight hour day. Kind of on the long side. We are staying behind a Cracker Barrel so dinner was easy with no cleanup. Tomorrow will be a short day to another Thousand Trails campground. Check-in time is noon but hopefully there will be some that left early.

Filled up again using the TSD Logistics program and saved $33 on 64 gallons of diesel. Over $100 saved on the last three fill ups.