Monday, April 29, 2013

Campground Review: Texana Park & Campground

We had the opportunity to visit Texana Park last weekend so I thought a review might be a change of pace vs. the camper/house sale updates.

Located near Edna, TX about 2 hrs SW of Houston

Texana Park gets it's name from Lake Texana, on whose shores the park is situated.  Lake Texana was created by damming the Navidad River.  The park used to be a Texas state park but is now owned and operated by the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority.  Cost is $23.00 per night for a campsite with hookups.  There are 139 campsites so its a fairly good sized campground.  There is also a day use area with picnic tables, a boat ramp and a pier to fish off.  

There are 5 restroom/showers spaced among the campsites.

Over near the day use area is a small Nature Center that exhibits both live and mounted examples of the local animal population which includes a couple different types of venomous snakes, alligators, white tail deer, dozens of different bird species and even bobcats.

Free Admission!

We lucked out on the actual campsite we obtained.  It was a large waterfront site that had thick bushes and trees on both sides of it that made it completely secluded from the sites to each side.  This campsite was the largest we've encountered in our Texas camping and had a great view of the water.

View from the water's edge.

View from the camp chair

With all the water around we assumed there would be canoe or kayak rentals but when the two nice ladies at the park office were queried they said that there are plans to have rentals NEXT year....somebody is missing a business opportunity!  If you want to canoe or kayak this year on Lake Texana you'll need to bring your own.

We didn't see any alligators but there are warning signs posted that educate you on what to do if you do:

 "Yield right of way to alligators."  No problem!

We had wonderful partly sunny low-80's weather but that changed big-time after midnight Saturday night when a powerful thunderstorm camped over us for about 6 hours with winds in the 30 to 40 mph range.  Then Sunday morning the weather completely cleared and it was a cloudless mid-70's day....perfect!

Texana park has about 10 miles of hiking/biking trails to explore and abundant wildlife can be observed along the trail.  We had two whitetail deer walk through our campsite to get their morning drink from the lake Sunday.

Conclusion:  We really enjoyed our weekend at Texana Park.  We thought we got the very best campsite out of the 139 but there are probably a lot of other really nice ones too.  We gave the park a 4 out of 5, deducting a  half point for no watercraft rental and a half point for being about $5 to $7 more than most Texas State parks. 

 If you go request campsite 88, you won't be disappointed!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 12, 2013

More Power!

The second 100 watt solar panel came in along with the mounting hardware and wire so I decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather here  in Texas and install it.  After attaching the "Z" mounting legs on the ground I lugged the panel up the ladder and maneuvered it into place on the left of the vent as discussed in a previous post.

                            The other wire is a Sirius XM radio antenna....wish I had one!

After screwing the legs into the plywood roof  through the 3M mounting tape that I had put on the bottom of each Z leg I coated each leg with a big helping of Dicor Sealant to insure no water penetrates into the wood of the roof when it rains.  I highly recommend Dicor, after you apply it it "self levels" and makes a very nice seal.  I want to connect the two panels in parallel so that  the voltage of the system remains the same (18 volts) but doubling the current flowing to the battery (about 5 amps with one panel, hopefully 10 with two).  To do this I have to splice the new panel's positive and negative wires with the positive and negative wires of the installed panel.  This splice would be exposed to the elements if not protected so I have it all taking place in this junction box that is attached to the roof behind the refrigerator vent.

                                       Positive to positive - negative to negative

After checking that the power controller by the battery was indeed getting power from both panels I sealed up the junction box and squeezed Dicor around the wires where they enter the box to seal it to the environment.  In it's location the box is shielded from airflow while driving and also doesn't create any additional "drag" (as if this rig needs any more!).

                                                  Have gun, will travel!

So I took my multimeter tool to the solar controller and connected it to the positive wire coming from the now parallel solar panels and switched the multimeter to measure DC amps going into the controller.  Surprisingly, even though it's a cloudless day here the display jumped around quite a bit from 6 amps all the way to 9.8 (which was the high reading).  I guess if I would have taken this measurement when just the one panel was connected it would have showed 3 amps all the way up to 4.9 so I'm grateful for the doubling in current even though it's not the predicted 11 amps if 100% efficiency could be obtained.  Oh well, I guess More Power! is better than whatever you used to have!

                  Wish I had a buck for every time I climbed up and down the ladder today!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Odds & Ends

I've put most of the final touches into the camper with possibly one big exception that I'll cover last.  In a previous post I mentioned how much interior square footage the factory installed queen mattress was taking up and my plans to put in a twin size and utilize the freed up space for storage bins.  This is what the bins and bed area look like now.

                                                I need a lesson in bed making!

The 22 gallon bins are from a company called Sterilite and are pretty thick plastic with latching removable tops.  22 gallons is about two thirds the size of a normal garbage can so they should hold a lot of "stuff".  Also, placed where they are puts them forward of the camper's center of gravity which reduces weight carried by the rear axle of the truck which is always desirable.

I have yet to ever shower in the camper.  The shower works fine but thus far I've never been in the camper long enough while not having access to other means of bathing.  To make standing in the bathroom a little more comfortable I "carpeted" the shower!

                                               Just like having a fur-lined sink!

When the shower finally IS used the piece of carpet comes right up.  This should be more comfortable than standing on the plastic shower floor during non-showering activities.

And lastly, I put in a 100 watt solar panel (PV) a while back to keep the camper's 105 amp hour battery charged.  In a previous post the new solar charge controller was discussed and the whole system is working pretty well, the battery stays at 100% throughout the day.  Recently, though, I was running my laptop through an inverter and this 12 volt fan at the same time on a fairly sunny day and the PV panel couldn't keep up.

                                       In lieu of running the jet-engine....I mean AC.

The solar panel puts out a little over 5 amps of electricity (100 watts / 18 volts = 5.55 amps) under ideal 100 per cent sunny conditions.  The fan draws about 2 amps and my laptop (depending on what it's being used for) pulls a little more than 4.5 amps so with both those drawing power, the battery started to go below 100%.  Since using my laptop and running a fan are going to be pretty likely daily activities ideally I'd like the PV system to be able to handle the "draw" of about 6 amps or so, with the one panel it doesn't appear able.

Which takes us up to the camper roof!

                                        Nice shot of my neighbor's yard!

There is plenty of space to the left of the hatch cover to mount another 100 watt panel and double the generating capacity of the system to around 11 amps (200 watts / 18 volts = 11.11 amps).  The charge controller is rated up to 20 amps so no upgrade is needed there.  An eleven amp system would allow some "cushion" on partly cloudy days when 100 % PV efficiency isn't possible so I bit the bullet and ordered another 100 watt panel like the one already installed and the mounting hardware and wire to connect it in parallel to the one in the picture.  When it gets here I'll do another post on the installation process and results.

Thanks for reading!