Larry and I are taking off on an extended road trip in less than a week. When Larry is ready to leave, he is ready to leave. When I am ready to leave, I become like the push me pull me creature from Dr. Dolittle.
Mr. Shakespeare sure had it right when he wrote that parting is a ‘sweet sorrow’. I mean, I feel so lucky to have friends and family who I love so much. I will miss them terribly. And then there is this very strong urge to hit the road and to explore. So, I sit in the middle of this beast with my very sweet sorrow and that is all there is to say.
Happy Trails to you, until we meet again. Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts. Here’s a happy one for you!. – Dale Evans
On our 6 month excursion last winter, we learned that when boondocking, it was impossible to charge the batteries up to a satisfactory level using the generator. If the sun was shining and the solar panel was working all day there was no problem.
But if we were parked in a shady spot or it was overcast the generator wouldn’t charge the batteries fast enough. After 4 hours of running the generator the batteries were only 75% charged at best! That matters because discharging the batteries below 50% will damage them.
It forced us to find electricity and pay for private campgrounds more often then we wanted to.
Not fun sometimes.
I thought about lithium batteries but they would cost about $2000 for two batteries. Ouch! AGM batteries are better then deep cycle batteries but not nearly as expensive so we compromised and went with two new AGM’s. So now we have batteries that will hold a charge longer but that doesn’t solve the problem of the generator not charging the batteries fast enough. That was solved, we hope, with the upgrade to a multi stage converter.
Here’s the deal as I understand it. The converter that came with our Airstream was, well, not the best. It had one charging mode and that is slow. That’s ok if your staying at private campgrounds and hooked up to electricity (shore power) all the time. But we like to boondock not only because of the secluded camp sites but also most of the time boondocking is free!
So I ordered a new converter and called my buddy Jimbo to help with the installation. I say help me but actually he did all the work. 🙂 It was a fairly easy installation though. We took out the Parallax 8355 55 amp single stage converter that came with Shiny and installed a Progressive Dynamics PD4655 VL multi stage converter and a remote pendent PD92201TV from Bestconverter.com.
The new PD4655 VL converter also comes with a toggle switch for lithium batteries in case we decide to ever go that route. Sweet!
Here’s what the old converter looked like after Jimbo got it out.
Not much more than those 4 wires to get that beast out!
So what did we get with this upgrade?
Instead of a converter that charges at a rate of a little over 13 volts no matter how discharged the batteries are we get these modes of charging.
The last 10% is always the longest. Many folks that boondock for extended periods use a 50-90 rule of thumb meaning they try to not go below 50% SOC (State Of Charge) but only attempting to get back to 90% on a daily basis saving that last 10% for an over night charge when you get back home. Charging from 50 to 90% should only take 2-3 hours with a modern 4 stage converter.
We should be able to avoid the expense of private campgrounds more often. We won’t have to avoid that many (about 12) to pay for the converter upgrade which was about $240 and the two new AGM batteries which cost about $350.
We had been on the road for an hour already on winding back roads when we finally made it to Route 95 North. The highway sign read, Bangor -130 miles. At that point I was wondering whether this trip to Sabao Lake Campground was going to be worth the drive. Once we hit Bangor, we would have another 45 minutes of travel and then we’d finish the trip with 11 miles on a dirt road to get to the campground.
I know you can’t stand the suspense, so I’ll answer the question now, “Yes! It was worth it.” As a matter of fact, we are calling it a gem! The campground is managed by a friend of ours, Arthur Tenan, and we are grateful for his warm hospitality. The campground is on land owned by a paper company and is leased by the Tenan family. We were told that the water in front of the camper was deep because they used to run the logs through there in the winter. The logs floating through formed a deep channel.
The camp is situated on a beautiful lake. The sites are big and, for the most part, we were the only people there. In our terminology, it is primitive camping, which means no electric hook up, no septic, no laundry, no water and very little cell service. There are several well maintained outhouses. We watched eagles and kingfishers dive for food, listened to bull frogs croak and loons cry for 4 days.
There was one log on the lake that was a favorite hang out for turtles. The woods and beaches had a great variety of wild flowers including a wild orchid, Rose Pogonia, some Shin leaf, water lilies and Pippsissewa.
We took nice hikes on nearby ATV trails and found an old bus that we learned had housed loggers who were working nearby back in the 40’s and 50’s. Given the sign on the bus, I am sure there were some more recent inhabitants as well.
We had a pretty exciting moment when, after watching storm clouds for 30 minutes or so, I ran to Shiny as the wind picked up suddenly. I turned to see a funnel of water rising off of the lake. We made it into Shiny just in time to get the windows closed as the micro burst blew by, which was no small feat. Alas, Shiny did sustain some cosmetic damage and a tree fell down right near us. Luckily we weren’t hurt.
And, if you think that was terrifying, why, the next morning, we were drinking our coffee and the side table gave way and ALL of our fresh coffee spilled on the ground. We are still recovering from that. Luckily, the guardian angels of Shiny were with with us and we proceeded without harm.
As usual, we meet very nice people on our travels and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Greg, our campsite host, who made us feel at home and looked after us even though he was on crutches. Thank you for your service to our country, Greg! On our last evening at the camp site, our peace and tranquility were broken by the arrival of some party-ready folks. Imagine our surprise and delight when one of them arrived at our campsite with a few pounds of fresh steamers complete with a can of beer in which to cook them! They were delicious and such a selfless gift from a stranger.
We returned home feeling refreshed and glad for the reminder of life on the road. Now for a few more doctor’s appointments and jury duty and then, if the stars align, we hit the road again.
For reservations call 207-546-3828. Downeast Wilderness Experiences does have a Facebook page as well. Tell them Shiny sent you!
We’ve been home here in NH enjoying our new grandson Connor. He’s growing fast but still needs a lot of tender loving care. Brooke, Dan and Sue are doing the bulk of that.
Meanwhile we’ve been thinking about our time on the road and our blog. We decided to hire an artist friend from Denmark, Jesper Deleuran, to create an image for us that we could use for the header. Jesper’s work is phenomenal. He created the logo for my website Slippery-Hill.com.
Here is the finished image for our blog Streamin-In-Shiny
At first we thought we wanted a long never ending road as the background. Then Sue came up with the space idea. When I first saw this image all I could say was WOW!
We wanted to get back on the road by Labor Day weekend but Sue was picked for jury duty so that is now up in the air.
When we depart we plan on taking a route that traverses the northern states to the West Coast. Work our way to the Southwest again for the winter.
I guess it’s time for us to tell why we had to scoot home so quickly.
Connor Lawrence Foley appeared in this world a little earlier then everyone expected. But don’t worry everyone is doing real fine and Sue and I are very, very happy grandparents.
Sue flew home from Austin, TX on May 2nd to go to Brooke’s baby shower and low and behold, Connor was born on May 3rd so she got home just in the nick of time! I drove home from Austin with Shiny via Jackson Center, Ohio.
What’s in Jackson center you ask? Well that’s where they make Airstreams! And they have a huge top notch service center and Shiny had developed a grinding noise in one wheel that sounded very serious.
Shiny was repaired the day after I got there. It turned out to be a brake problem in one wheel. They put new brakes in all 4 wheels. I’m happy with their service department. Not happy with the dealers who blew me off as soon as they heard the word “warranty”.
The Mother Ship was an interesting place. There were plenty of full hookup sites free to anyone there for service. $10 if your just passing through.
In a way it was a depressing place because if you are there it’s because you’re having a problem with your Airstream and so I had to listen to all the problems that people were having with there RV’s. But I did meet some very interesting people here.
I left Jackson Center and drove straight home sleeping in truck stops along the way.
When I got home Sue came running out, ran right past me and gave Shiny a big hug. 🙂
So, we are camped out in Shiny in our yard for a while and plan on making some short trips this summer. We already have the itch to get back on the road for a long trip. Maybe we will head out in September. It’ll depend on which way the wind blows.
We have slowed way down into Shiny-time and the days have turned into weeks. We aren’t sure what day of the week it is. When one of us is in a hurry, the other will remind about shiny-time. It’s a lot about being in the present. Shiny-time is a great gift that Larry and I have received on this trip and we are grateful for that. Even in these ideal conditions, it’s easy to forget about the gift of shiny-time. I hope that, when I return to a home without wheels, I will still listen to her wisdom!
So, we’ve been to three state parks in the past 2 1/2 weeks or so. Each was beautiful in its own way. All had great hikes and at this time of year, all had lovely spring flowers. We have found that you have to reserve way ahead of time if you want a site during the weekends. Please add this neck of the woods to your bucket list!
Now for the photo tour. Enjoy!
The South Llano River had pecan trees along its banks.
Larry spied these deer in the morning.
So much to see!
Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow. Does anyone know what kind?
San Pedro was windy and hot
Inks Lake was an incredible combination of hills, water, flowers, hikes and ROCKS!! Shiny had a nice shady place to rest.
Did I say, ‘rocks’?
Then there are the lovely Spring flowers. I must have seen 6 different types of mugworts!
All the Texas State Parks nearby were full for the weekend so we scrambled to find a place to park for 2 days. We were told, after the fact, that it was a miracle we were able to get a reservation at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park but somehow we did. And by doing so landed in the middle of the biggest VW rally in Texas.
And we had fun!
We were packed in like sardines and it was noisy as all get out, but we didn’t care.
The crowd was just a bunch of local Texas boys and girls out having a good time. Everyone was friendly and hospitable. Flannel was an acceptable outer wear. I fit in quite well.
People paraded their VW’s around all day and half the night showing them off.
This was not something we would have chosen to do ahead of time but this slice of Americana turned out to be a very memorable event.
Sue got to walk around in a haze of nostalgia remembering the VW’s of her youth.
No cell service, anemic WiFi, and no trash removal, that’s all the downside (if you can call it that) we can think of for Kickapoo. Sue and I loved this park. It’s a Gem!
The bathrooms and showers were kept in pristine condition. There are five full hookup sites. There is a guided cave tour on Saturday mornings. The rangers were friendly and helpful. The camp host went out of her way to make sure we were happy.
Deer, javelinas, birds galore, few people, and eighteen miles of trails.
The most amazing thing of all, though, was the bat cave. It is home to over three million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. These bats are considered to be one of the most abundant mammals in North America. That’s something to think about! We drove to the cavern at dusk and on the way we saw clouds of what we thought were flocks of birds. But, no, they were bats!! When we arrived at the cave opening we were greeted by wave after wave of bats leaving the cave for the night. This went on for over an hour. When the bats were finished leaving for their night of hunting, cave swallows flew in for their rest. The smell of the guano was pretty overwhelming.
To borrow a phrase from Arnold Schwarzenegger “we’ll be back“.
Here is a meditation drumming in case you need to calm down after seeing all of those bats! Click here!
Big Bend is in the southern part of Texas and is along the border with Mexico. To get there, you have to drive for several hours through uninhabited desert land. When Larry and I drove there, it was about 95 degrees. Once we entered the park, we still had 40 more miles to go before we would arrive at the campground. As we headed into ever more stark and dry landscape, our moods slowly dropped as we imagined being in Shiny in the full desert sun for four day. We were delightfully surprised when this lovely oasis near the Rio Grande came into sight.
There was no electricity at the campsite but we were able to generate quite a bit with our solar panels. Alas, on either side of us were two big motor homes and they stayed cool by running their generators constantly. And, one of them had a huge TV screen on the outside of their rig and they watched March Madness basketball games with the volume on. So, needless to say, the feng shui of the site wasn’t the best. We were lucky to be in the shade of a big cottonwood. We had to trust the Fates in the middle of the night when the wind was REALLY BLOWING!
The park was big and raw and beautiful. Some of the rocky landscapes looked like we were on another planet.
We couldn’t help but think about the proposed wall along the border. Many types of animals migrate back and forth on land, air and water. Seemed like the wall would be an ecologic disaster to say the least. We found little walking sticks and wire beaded animals for sale on one of our hikes. Two young men waded across the Rio Grande and up to the items for sale, checked the money box, tidied up the display, and left and waded back across.
On our many hikes, we saw lots of wild life and beautiful spring flowers. It was hard to imagine how such life could exist in such a harsh environment.
We feel so lucky to have these parks in our country and to be able to have so much fun in them!
The Guadalupe Mountains are among the best examples of a marine fossil reef. Isn’t that amazing? These mountains are in the Chihuahuan Desert in the southwest corner of Texas. This planet is an amazing place!
These lands were originally inhabited by the Nde (Mescalero Apache). As settlers headed west, the area became sought after because of the nearby springs. In 1849, the US Army began a campaign against the Nde that lasted 30 years. In the midst of this conflict, Butterfield Stage Coaches began carrying mail through the mountains on the nation’s first transcontinental mail route.
The Park was beautiful and wild and rough and interspersed, for me, with sadness at the thought of the genocide that was committed there.
We took some really great hikes and enjoyed learning about the area.
The night sky was filled with stars. The camping section was a little less than ideal. We were all smashed into one parking lot and there really weren’t enough places for everyone.
We felt badly for folks arriving in the evening and finding that there wasn’t any room for them. The nearest other campgrounds were about 30 miles away in Carlsbad. We did meet a nice couple who own an Airstream who live in Lubec, Maine. On the last morning, I watched as a young mom hid Easter eggs for her kids. Home is where you make it!