Friday, February 28, 2014

Campground Review: Fullerton Recreation Area Pitkin, LA

After celebrating my birthday (and three days of not running out of gas!) at my daughter's I left Dallas-Ft. Worth and drove to Shreveport, LA and from there south to the Fullerton Recreation Area near Pitkin, LA. 

The complex is located 7 miles north of Pitkin.
The town of Fullerton existed from 1907 to 1927 and was set up by the Gulf Lumber Company to house it's lumberjacks, mill workers and their families.  The population varied from 2500 to 5000.  The town boasted a movie theater, a dance pavilion, a hospital, a post office and was quite modern by early 1900 standards.  The recreation complex is built on and around where the town and saw mill used to stand and is part of the Kisatchie National Forrest administered by rangers of the US Forestry Service.

The largest sawmill west of the Mississippi!
Here's the campground data:

Hookups:                                 no
Fire ring:                                  yes
Water Access:                         yes
Dump station:                          no
WiFi:                                       no
Level sites:                              yes
Laundry:                                  no
Store:                                       no
Pool:                                        no
Shade:                                     yes
Verizon reception:                   ½ bar out of 4
Millenicom reception:             ½ bar out of 4
Cost:                                        $5 / night

Camping at one of the complex's nine campsites is boondocking although there is a bathroom with vault toilets and there is one faucet with running water.  

Campsite under the pines with picnic table and fire ring.
Fullerton Lake itself is fairly small as inland lakes go, probably not more than a few acres but the locals seemed to believe there are fish for the taking as they daily came to try their luck.

Boat ramp at Fullerton Lake - no gas engines permitted.
The Forestry Service has constructed hiking trails through the overgrown ruins of the mill and it's service buildings.

This used to be the kiln building where the lumber was dried.
You can take the long way or the short way.

Your Blogger took the long trail.
The foundation for the "log slide" that slid the logs off a train into the lake still stands in the lake.

They put the logs in the water to clean mud off them prior to milling. 
At $5 a night the camping at Fullerton Rec Complex is a bargain!  I'd definitely return although maybe with a cell signal booster to facilitate internet access.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 24, 2014

One of THOSE Days

My plan was to drive to Abilene in central Texas and hit the Anytime Fitness branch there for a workout and shower before driving the final three hours to my daughter's apartment in Hurst, TX outside of Fort Worth.  This was the final day of this decade of my life, what could go wrong?  Google Maps had navigated me along state roads that were occasionally interrupted by small 1500 person Texas towns that sometimes hosted a gas station and sometimes didn't.  (This is called "foreshadowing" in the Blogger community).  As I approached Abilene Google Maps showed I had 12 miles to go to Anytime Fitness but just as I looked at that data the Tank's gas warning light came on.  Normally, if you drive a vehicle with a gas warning light when it comes on you have a couple gallons of gas remaining and that fuel provides you with 25 or 30 miles to find a gas station.  (More foreshadowing!)  I had run out of gas in the Tank one time in the past because Chevrolet, in it's design wisdom, had decided that the Tank's gas warning light would remain off until there was only one half gallon of gas remaining.  The Tank, bless it's heart, gets 10 mpg as configured so a half gallon means I have 5 miles to find a gas station after it comes on.  I was on Texas 83 heading south into Abilene.  At this point Hwy 83 was a 4 lane limited access 75 mph highway.  With the gas warning light screaming it's warning I approached an exit with a cluster of nondescript buildings at the end of the ramp but it wasn't apparent any had gas pumps.  Without certain knowledge that I could fuel up there I continued past the exit and as soon as I got PAST the exit a sign appeared announcing that a convenience store at that exit had gas for $3.25 a gallon!  I'm certainly no marketing genius but wouldn't a Marketing 101 course suggest that if you wanted customers to exit the highway and patronize your store you put a sign announcing your store's presence BEFORE the exit not after it?  So now you know what happens next.  I get about a mile past the exit and the Tank's engine revs up to about 4500 RPM's (which seemed curious since it was running out of fuel ) and then shut off, leaving me seconds to steer over onto the side median and out of the 75 mph traffic.  I had become one of those guys you drive past and shake your head thinking to yourself "How could anyone ever run out of gas?"

Readers of the blog know I carry a mountain bike affectionately named Wally after the store he came from.  I got Wally down from his carrier on the back of the Tank and rode the mile back to the convenience store with the savvy marketing campaign and purchased a $9.99 plastic gas container (no markup there) and one gallon of their $3.25 gas.  After awkwardly pedaling back to the Tank balancing the gas can on the handlebars I dismounted and got ready to assemble the gas can's pour spout so I could get the gas into the Tank and get going.  I'm a mechanical engineer by training and tasks like figuring out a $9.99 gas can spout NORMALLY don't offer me an insurmountable challenge, but I was coming to the rapid conclusion that this end of the decade day was anything but "normal".  There was no physical way to attach the pour spout of the $9.99 gas can to the can itself which would allow gas to be conveyed to the Tank's gas spout without most of the gas leaking onto the ground.  I concluded that an extra part, which my can was bereft of, was required to secure and seal the spout where it attached at the gas can.  Did I mention that cars were screaming by three feet from me at 75 mph?  I prayed none of the drivers was looking down texting their "bestie".  So I threw caution to the wind, opened the Tank's gas door and sloshed the gas directly from the spoutless $9.99 gas can into the Tank's gas line, spilling quite a bit down the side of the Tank but probably getting 3/4 of a gallon in.  Elated that I now had 7.5 miles of driving available I hopped into the Tank and proceeded to the next exit BEFORE which a sign proclaimed $3.25 a gallon gas available....yay!

Walking around the back of the Tank after filling up something seemed missing and then it dawned on me that Wally, the faithful mountain bike, was not hanging from his carrier.  In the post-3/4 gallon excitement I had jumped in the car, taken off and left Wally standing on his kick stand by the side of busy Hwy 83!  I think God made it hard for us to kick ourselves in the butt for days like I was having, although I could have just asked a stranger to do it.  I headed back the way I had come fully expecting Wally to have been kidnapped by one of the numerous pickups streaming by but I had to at least go look.  Looking across Hwy 83 as I approached the spot of my debacle there was Wally patiently awaiting his rescue!  No one had stopped to steal him.  (My brother, after hearing my story, opined it probably looked like a police sting to any experienced bike thief).  So I went under the underpass loaded the bike onto the Tank's carrier and finally made it to Anytime Fitness. 

This story is true, only the names haven't been changed to protect the idiotic.

Here's some photos I took the next day on a hike with my daughter along Fort Worth's biking/hiking Trinity Trails.

Trinity Trails run for 40 miles along both sides of the Trinity River. 
A Trinity River turtle family.

Thanks for reading! (and laughing).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Campground Review: Seminole City Park Seminole, TX

I spent the weekend at the Escapee's "The Ranch" RV community in Lakewood, NM.  I didn't do a review because there's not much to it, but, as always, the residents were very nice and welcoming.  From there I drove three hours through Hobbs, NM to the small town of Seminole, TX.  Incorporated in 1906, Seminole is a town of about 6400 and the county seat of Gaines County in west Texas.  The city park there has free 3 day RV parking with free electric and sewer hookups.

Just call that number and a city employee comes by and.....

...opens the padlock on the free electric and sewer hookups!
Here's the campground data:

Hookups:                                 30amp, 110v
Fire ring:                                   no (fires not allowed)
Water Access:                          no
Dump station:                           sewer hookups
WiFi:                                        no
Level sites:                                yes
Laundry:                                   no
Store:                                       no, but close by
Pool:                                        no
Shade:                                      yes
Verizon reception:                     4 bars of 4G
Millenicom reception:                4 out of 4 bars
Cost:                                        free for 3 days

Seminole City Park is a very quiet park that the city police drive around multiple times during the day.  It has a large number of oak and other trees that would shade the actual RV sites during the hotter part of the year. 

No leaves now but plenty of shade later in the year.
One caveat if you are planning to overnight at the park is the size of the sites themselves.  Rigs longer that 30-32 feet would have a tough time squeezing into these back in sites as might be seen in this side photo of the Tank in it's spot.

Large Class A's might overhang into the side street.

Seminole City Park isn't really a camping destination but if you are passing through it's an excellent full hookup overnight in a nice little west Texas town at an outstanding value -- free!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Campground Review: Kartchner Caverns State Park Benson, AZ (Part 2)

The Guindani Trail actually leaves the state park and enters the Coronado National Forest and travels along the eastern flank of the Whetstone Mountains.

The scrub oaks don't grow over 5 or 6 feet high.
The trail starts at an elevation of 4750 feet and at it's highest point hits 5620, mile high territory and your lungs can feel it.  Much of the trail is partially covered with loose rocks so you have to be watchful not to turn an ankle which would be very easy to do.

This looks a little worse than it really was.
The description of the hike along the Guindani Trail says "the first mile is an easy walk, next 2/3 of the trail is moderate difficulty, and the last leg is strenuous."  I agree with the last part for sure!

See a trail?
I'd really recommend Kartchner Caverns State Park if only for the impressive cave tour.  The hiking was great too.  I only stayed two nights following my resolve to greatly reduce my camping cost this year versus 2013 but it was worth it.

Thanks for reading both posts!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Campground Review: Kartchner Caverns State Park Benson, AZ (Part 1)

As the second eastern leg of my drift towards Ft. Worth (the first was to a overnight in Tuscon at a Walmart) I traveled along I-10 to Benson, AZ then 9 more miles south to Kartchner Caverns State Park.  The park is rather small with only 62 campsites but is renowned for it's giant limestone caves which are tour-able.  Here's the campground data:

Hookups:                                Water, 110, 30amp, 50amp
Fire ring:                                  no
Water Access:                         no
Dump station:                         yes
WiFi:                                       no
Level sites:                              no
Laundry:                                 no
Store:                                     only knickknack items, no food
Pool:                                       no
Shade:                                    no
Verizon reception:                  2 bars, 4g
Millenicom reception:             3 of 4 bars
Cost:                                     $25 / night

The campground is on the beginning of foothills and slopes down to the East.
 I know as you read this you're anticipating all the super cool photos I took on the cave tour but the rules preclude taking any photographic equipment including smart phones (they check you) into the caves, I guess because the flash might hurt the stalactites.  So you can go to Google images and see them here:

Kartchner Cavern Photos

The guided tour takes a couple hours and it's really humid in the caves for those with hair that frizzes up!

The park contains two hiking trails, the 2.5 mile Foothills Loop and the 4.2 mile Guindani Trail which follows the huge Guindani Wash.  On day two of my stay I did Guindani Trail hike through some fairly challenging terrain.

The trail head for the Guindani Trail hike.
Long time readers of Tech-nically Homeless might recall I've had issues with not carrying enough water on hikes before (especially that 8.5 mile one in Colorado!).  To remedy that I bought this nifty hike belt at Walmart that carries two 1.8 liter bottles and has a small pack area for snacks, first aid kit, and maps.

S15 at Wally World.
The Guindani Trail starts out fairly level and passes through grass and small oak trees.

It looks like it takes you right up in the mountains at first.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Goodbye to Yuma

As I drove south towards Yuma and the Escapee's KOFA Ko-op I anticipated the luxury of having five days of electrical, sewer and water hookups at one of their "always available" rental slots.  Unfortunately, it seems that every other Escapee who was boondocking around Quartzite or the Imperial Dam had the exact same plan and so when I got to the Ko-op office the Inn was full!  They don't accept reservations so other than show up a couple days earlier there was really nothing I could do.  I snagged one of their "dry camping" spots which amounted to a parking spot in a gravel covered lot at one end of their compound -- no hookups but at a reasonable $7 / night.  After 45 days of boondocking I was signed up to do 5 more, although with pluses like a full laundry and a pool and, most importantly, great FOX TV reception for the Super Bowl viewing.  Unfortunately there was one major negative to the dry camping area:

And Honda generators like this are advertised as the "quiet ones".  The majority of the ten dry camping rigs in the dry area had solar so we were silent but there were two or three generator operators who seemed to "tag team" their efforts throughout the daytime.  Also the Super Bowl was a dud.

I have one of those traumatic birthdays that end with a zero coming up and my daughter in Ft. Worth wants a birthday presence (pun intended) so I am going to make my way east along I-10 for a while, keeping well clear of the Arctic Jet stream which seems to only made it through the top half of Arizona up to now.  I hope the video didn't kill your data plan this month, it's the first one I've tried.

Thanks for reading!