Monday, October 16, 2017

Fixes and Improvements

I uploaded all my photos to Amazon's cloud from my phone and then downloaded them to my laptop so I guess it's a workable solution.  I'm going to save future photos directly onto my phone so hopefully I'll be able to transfer them directly to this blog instead of the laborious up to the cloud and back again method.

Another fix I made was replacing the broken wheel jack assembly that I broke when I was up in Michigan.  Amazon had a drop-in replacement for it so I got it delivered here at the RV park I'm staying in.

The broken wheel jack assembly.

All fixed up!

The Mini came with a 110 watt-hour 12 volt house battery that only has 55 usable watt-hours because you're not supposed to run lead-acid batteries down more than 50% down.  I had room to add a second 12 volt battery but that would have only provided 110 usable watt-hours of off grid energy.  Research online revealed a UPS - like battery "generator" that offers 345 watt-hours (probably 300 usable) that weighed less than 8 pounds because the battery it used was lithium-ion like the battery in our phones, only way bigger.  I found one on Amazon that was 40% off and that had good customer reviews so I bought it and Amazon got it to my RV space in the park in 2 days.

The Chafon-brand "generator".
The generator came with a 100% charge so I plugged my TV and the Dish set top box into it for a trial -- it ran them both for over six hours before I shut it down when the gauge on the front indicated 20% charge remaining.  (Lithium ion batteries can be discharged to 20% without damaging them).
So instead of another heavy lead-acid battery the Mini has this little 8 pound powerhouse for solar storage!  My solar suitcase charged the little UPS back up in a couple hours which I thought was really fast!

So those are the Fixes and Improvements to the Mini (hopefully no more fixes!) thus far.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Phone Problems

Sorry for the delay in new posts, the SD card in my phone where I store all the photos I take of the camp sites I stay in is acting up and I don't know if I'll be able to recover the pictures I've taken.  I'm currently staying at the Escapee's Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, NM which I previously reviewed here:  Dreamcatcher RV Park Review .  I'll keep trying to pull photos off my recalcitrant SD card and post as soon as I'm successful.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Campground Review: Potters Creek Park Canyon Lake, TX

I'm always looking for parks that accept my Senior Access Pass 50% discount off their camping fees.  I found a really nice one on the northern shore of Canyon Lake, Potters Creek Park, which is an Army Corps of Engineers constructed park in the Hill Country of south central Texas.  Most National Parks, Corps of Engineers, federally administered parks accept the pass and it has saved me a ton on camping fees!  When I got to the park only one of three sections was open for camping.  It was a couple weeks after Hurricane Harvey and the CoE were reserving one large section for any evacuees that might need a place to stay (this seemed weird to me, if they didn't get anyone just after Harvey why hold campsites more than two weeks after it hit?)  It's a big park, though, with 130 full hookup campsites so I scored a nice shaded campsite in the loop that was open.

The giant live oak trees kept the afternoon sun off the Mini.

There really aren't any hiking trails in or around Potters Creek Park so I got my walking in on some of the country roads going by the park where some of my fellow campers also biked.  I guess the main activity at the park would be boating on Canyon Lake.

The boat ramp onto Canyon Lake.

Here's the Potters Creek data sheet:

Hookups:                                             20, 30, 50 amp, water                                                
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     Yes (lake)                                                       
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                         
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes (flush)                                         
Showers:                                             Yes                                                                 
Dump station:                                      Yes                                         
WiFi:                                                   No                                          
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                   No                                                                              
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                3 bars                                      
Cost:                                                  $26/night, $13/night with Senior Pass

Being in the Hill Country meant that there were a lot of deer in the park and it was a rare walk where I didn't encounter some.

One of the park's deer families.

Like all the CoE parks I've stayed in Potters Creek is really well laid out and the showers and bathrooms were cleaned on a daily basis, the trash dumpsters were emptied daily too.

Covered picnic area with shower building in the background.

For full hookups and access to Canyon Lake $13 a night at Potters Creek Park is a pretty great value!  I'd never camped there before but I'll definitely be back.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Oversized Breakfast of the Week - September

I've lost five of the eight pounds my trip to Michigan to see family netted me so I rewarded myself with a morning trip to Kuka's Burritos in Muleshoe, TX.

The Combo breakfast burrito! 

I probably won't need much of a lunch.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

'Tis the Season...

One of the things I will NEVER miss about Texas is the little insect Plecia Nearctica, better known as Love Bugs.  Not once but TWICE a year (Spring and late Summer) the bugs do their "Love" thing and all sorts of disgusting hi-jinks ensue:

That's not snow on my windshield.

Did I mention the bug's guts are slightly acidic making removal from your vehicle after more than a couple hours really difficult?

The Mini wasn't spared either.

At times they sounded like raindrops they were hitting the windshield so frequently....ugh!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Campground Review: Arrowhead Lake Park Johnston City, IL

On my way "down" to Houston to inspect suspected water damage to my storage unit I stopped a night at Arrowhead Park in Johnston City, IL (Pop. 3543) that is in the very southern tip of Illinois.  The city maintains Arrowhead Park and within the park is a 66 site RV campground called Arrowhead Lake Campground.

The campground abuts 30 acre Arrowhead Lake.

I usually like to stay more than one day before reviewing a campground but I did a lot of hiking on the nature trail that encircles the lake and also looked at a good deal of the park so here goes!

The trail runs about 2.2 miles around the lake.

I can't vouch for other times of the year but I was amazed that there were virtually no bugs on my hikes through the woods on the Nature Trail around the lake.

The campground from the path on the other side of the lake.

Here's Arrowhead Lake's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             Water, 20, 30, 50 amp                                                
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     Yes (lake)                                                       
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                         
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes (flush)                                                                 
Showers:                                             Yes                                                                 
Dump station:                                      Yes                                                     
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                      
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                               4G, 3 bars                                                       
Internet reception:                               3 bars                                      
Cost:                                                 $18 / night Discounts for seniors and veterans

The campsites at Arrowhead Lake were well spaced and quite a few of the sites looked to be occupied by long-term guests.  The campground was extremely quiet, especially after dark.

Knowing I was leaving the next morning I didn't unhitch from the pickup.

There was one small cabin for rent at the park which would be great for car travelers, I didn't inquire about the nightly cost.

The rental unit came with front porch chairs.

Across from the main office where you check in were the bathrooms and showers, I peeked inside and the bathrooms and showers were very clean.

Spotless on the inside.

Arrowhead Lake Campground is open year around although it warns that water service is cut-off in months where freezing takes place,  Most full-timers I know would be in Florida or Arizona by then but it could be useful as a just passing through stop in winter months.

The staff was very friendly and the park was extremely well-kept.  The utter quiet at night earns the park bonus points too, as does the reasonable $18 / night cost!  I'll be adding Arrowhead Lake Campground to my list of places to stay on my way to and from Michigan.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Back to Katy

So I've kept a storage unit in Katy ever since I sold my home.  There were some items I had that were too sentimental to give away like I did most of my possessions, pictures my Mom had given me, photos of my daughter when she was little, a couple guitars, you know the kind of stuff I'm talking about.  With the hurricane hitting Katy I had called the manager of my unit and asked if the units had flooded, fearing the worst, but she said the unit hadn't flooded but my block, D Block, had been "inundated."  On a subsequent phone call she explained the water had come in through the roof, thus the differentiation from flood damage. The storage manager advised me to check out my storage locker as soon as possible to see if insurance claims had to be filed.  I drove from Michigan down to the Escapees RV park in Livingston, TX (there wasn't RV parking much closer to Houston due to all the evacuees moving there) and this morning I drove in to Katy storage unit was completely dry, no damage at all.  At least I got to pick up an old buddy:

My old "axe"!  I've got room for it now in the Mini.

I did stay in a couple RV parks on the way to Texas I'll review soon, from here I'm thinking get to Colorado before it gets too cold.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Entertainment Upgrade

Readers of the blog will recall that I have been maintaining a "grandfathered" 40 gig / month data plan with Verizon because my usual method of viewing TV was to stream it over the Internet because I typically wasn't close to cities with over the air broadcasting.  While this worked fine for me it had two drawbacks, it was expensive and data limited, especially towards the end of my billing period.  My Verizon bill was $230 a month!  That was two lines, my phone and my MyFi internet modem.  When I finally paid off my truck (yay!) the Verizon bill was my biggest monthly expense (not counting gas for the truck).  So I made the decision to get a Dish satellite account and at the same time give up my 40 gig data deal with Verizon and go with their unlimited data plan.

R2D2's little brother.

My Dish monthly subscription is $68.  Dropping my huge data plan with Verizon cut my monthly phone bill to $115 so if my math is correct I'm going to save $47 a month.  So I'll be paying less, and getting 120 channels on Dish including The Big 10 Network (go Spartans!) and ESPN, so the quality (and quantity) of my sports viewing will massively increase.  The cool thing about the Dish receiver is that it's virtually idiot proof.  You set it on it's tripod, go inside and turn on the set top box and TV and it asks you what state you're in, after you input the state the receiver automatically aims itself at the 3 satellites in the southern sky and within about 10 minutes you're watching HD TV!

The Mini's counter extension seems like it was made for the Dish box!

After four and a half years of carefully rationing my monthly data pool on only my "must see" TV programs it feels a little strange to watch TV whenever I feel like it.  I'll try to get used to it.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Time to Head South(west)

I woke up this morning at my campsite in Michigan's UP shivering.  After I forced myself to get out of bed and turn on the heat I looked at the Mini's thermometer:

August 26 and it's 48 degrees in the Mini!

I'm going to spend this morning planning my migration to the Southwest.  Watching the news about the hurricane this morning I guess I'm lucky it's just cold here.  Glad my house has wheels!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

90th Birthday Party

The weekend after my Dad's birthday my family got together at one of Midland's parks to celebrate!

Bros, sisters, nephews, nieces, uncle, in-laws, the whole gang!
Although rain was forecast we lucked out with beautiful sunny weather and everyone had a blast.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Campground Review: Glen Gough Memorial Park Pickford, MI

There's a really nice city park in the northeast corner of the small township of Pickford, MI (Pop. 1,595) called Glen Gough Memorial Park and I made it my final camping spot in this year's Upper Peninsula swing.

A Canadian named Charles Pickford settled along the Munuscong River (which borders the park's northern boundary) in 1877, giving the town it's name.  Gough Park covers 32 acres and contains 18 back-in sites with 30 amp hookups, individual trash barrels, and picnic tables.

The Mini's site in Gough Park.

The park is extremely well kept by the town with a crew of three employees working on it every day I stayed there.

You can obviously stay at least a month at the park.

Here's the Glen Gough data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30 amp                                               
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                     
Fresh Water:                                        Yes (near dump station)                                             
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes (flush)                                                     
Showers:                                             Yes                                                                 
Dump station:                                      Yes                                                     
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                      
Store:                                                  No                                                                  
Pool:                                                   No                                          
Shade:                                                 Yes                                         
Verizon reception:                                4G, 1 bar                                            
Internet reception:                                1 bar                                       
Cost:                                                  $12/night or $75/week

I reported that the park has water access and due to the Munuscong River providing the park's northern border that is true, but I wouldn't plan on doing any swimming.

Picnic area near the muddy Munuscong.

The park has a little league ball diamond, a kiddo play area, and a large meeting hall.

The ball diamond and kids playground.

Gough Park actually has two separate camp areas.  The one closest to the park entrance where I stayed has nine sites then along the north edge is a second group of sites with nine more sites.

The mostly empty northern campground.

 I usually don't comment on the bathrooms and showers at places I camp but I have to say that the Gough Park showers were the cleanest I've ever seen!

Clean showers!
If you enjoy camping in clean, quiet, reasonably priced municipal parks then Glen Gough Memorial Park is for you!  It's always rewarding to discover a really good camping spot to work into the camping "rotation" in a particular geographic area, Gough Park gets added to next years Upper Peninsula rotation.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My Dad turns 90 years old today!  Pretty amazing stuff, it's hard to imagine myself reaching that milestone.  It's also hard to imagine myself being 90 and still being able to do this:

My Uncle Dick looks on as my Dad prepares his tee shot.

Here's wishing you many more fun rounds, Dad!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Campground Review: Brevoort Lake Campground Moran, MI

I decided to continue heading east in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and found a campsite at the US Forest Service's Brevoort Lake Recreation Area within the Hiawatha National Forest.  I love camping in National Forests because I get to use my Senior Pass that gives me 50% off of whatever the nightly camping rate is.  When I bought my card, which is good for your lifetime, incidentally, the price was a ridiculously low $10!  It more than paid that back in savings on my first usage.

Located about two miles north of US 2 (the UP's main drag) the campground is accessed by a paved road all the way into the campsites, which is nice if it's been raining.  The campground is situated on a peninsula that juts into the 4233 acre Brevoort Lake so there are a lot of waterfront campsites but you need to get reservations to get one of those, as I was a "walk in" I ended up in a non-waterfront site, although I had a view of the lake.  There are about 70 campsites divided into two areas.

Call that number or go online to try and reserve a waterfront site.

Here's the data sheet on Brevoort Lake:

Hookups:                                             None (Dry camping)                                                  
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     Yes                                        
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes (Flush)                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      Yes                                         
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                                  
Pool:                                                   No                                          
Shade:                                                Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                4G, 1 bar                                            
Internet reception:                                1 bar               
Cost:                                                  $18/night ($9/night with US Recreation Card)

The campsites at Brevoort Lake are very spacious and almost all are completely shaded by the large forest in which it resides, that was somewhat problematic for my attempts at using the Mini's solar suitcase although I managed enough sunlight to keep the house battery and my electronics charged.

This was about "max sunlight" for solar at my site note the tree shadows.

My site was adjacent to the boat ramp and fishing pier and actually had a little trail through the woods to the ramp and pier so I guess that was my "waterfront".

The fishing pier on Brevoort Lake allows the boatless to still fish.

Ducks sleeping on the dock next to the boat ramp.

There were a couple hiking trails through the forest around the camp but the first one I tried was very narrow and seemed to have poison ivy along it (I'm never 100% sure of my ability to ID poison ivy) so I pretty much kept to the camp roads to do my walking.

On the plus side, there were very few mosquitoes around my site which, anyone who has camped the UP knows, was pretty amazing.  I did my walking without spraying DEET all over myself!

View of the lake from one of the waterfront sites.

I stayed four days at Brevoort Lake Campground and found the camping there really enjoyable.  The one piece of advice I'd give anyone who is considering camping there (and which I'll remember for next year) is to reserve a waterfront site well in advance of when you want to camp there, it'll make your camping experience much more memorable.

Thanks for reading!