Lake Livingston, TX February 2018

We drove up from Baytown to Lake Livingston whose southern end is near Livingston, TX. We are staying at the North Shore RV Resort near Onalaska, TX about 10 miles north of Livingston.

It is a nice place, right on the lake with a swimming beach, a swimming pool, a boat launch, a fishing dock and play areas for the kids. The lady in the office is friendly. Most of the folks here right now are here for a while. On the weekends more show up for just a couple days.

Here we are for about three weeks.

This is in front of the coach looking over the lake in the evening. Very nice. There is a nice big grassy area for kids to play.

Steering Box

One of the planned for events here is to remove our slow leaking steering box and get it rebuilt and reinstalled. It has been leaking very slowly ever since we got the coach in California. I have added a quart or two of oil to the hydraulic reservoir over six years so it is not a big leak but a bit messy and still a leak. If the timing works out right I want to send it to RedHead in Washington for the rebuild and they send it back. 10-14 days total time.

This is the 120 lb steering box after it came back from a shop in Houston. The timing did not work out to send it to RedHead but I think this will be fine. All of the internal parts are new including all of the seals. They had it done in a day and our friend Rudy transported it both ways. He happened to have an AquaHot service job in the same park we are in, the folks next to us actually, so he was here anyway. And their AH required a return visit to replace some electronics part so he had to come back. Pretty fortunate for us. Thanks, Rudy!

To get the steering box out and back in we called on Beau Reece. He is a mobile service guy in this area that comes very highly recommended. The generator has to slide out forward, the generator radiator has to come out and the electric fan for the generator radiator has to come out. Then the arm on the box that moves the parts that make the wheels turn has to come off. This is the hard part that requires special tools. Then you have to have a floor jack to hold the box up while you pull the bolts and then wrestle with a big heavy thing. I am glad I didn’t tackle this myself. If I had this post would have been coming from a hospital room.

Beau got everything out by himself. When he came back he had a helper, first day on the job. Rachael did a fine job, learning on the fly and got pretty dirty too.

That’s her arm. I hope she sticks with it, she will see and learn a lot with Beau.

Bike Riding at the State Park.

At the southern end of the lake one finds Lake Livingston State Park. Is it a big park with four different camping areas, about 160 camp sites. It was a 20 minute drive to get to nice roads and trails to ride on, picnic areas and a camp store where there was ice cream.

There are swimming areas, docks, boat launches, kayak rentals and lots of people trying their luck at fishing.

The campsites just across this small bay were very nice, full hookups, spread out and many were lakefront. This is a place we would stay at as well as the North Shore RV Resort.

One loop around through the campgrounds and park roads was about 5.3 miles. We started out with one loop, worked up to a loop and a half and finished doing two loops. Six visits so far, more than 40 miles so far.

We had one mishap, a blowout. Susan’s front tire had a significant tear in it and the tube blew out. We had a spare tube, fixed that temporarily. Ordered two new tires and two more tubes from Amazon. We replaced the front tire on Susan’s bike with the one from Roger’s bike, put two new slightly more aggressive tread tires on Roger’s bike and now have a spare tire and tubes.

One day we stopped at a Whataburger (not in Minnesota) for a Mushroom Swiss burger. We split it. Plenty and good.

Another visit to NAC.

One day Rudy called me up and says a fellow and his wife he knows from Louisiana, Forest and Cindy, are coming to NAC to look at Foretravels. So Rudy drives to Livingston, jumps in our car and I drive to NAC. These folks also know Chappell and Mary Jordan so that is where we met them.

This time I managed to get a couple pictures at Chappell and Mary’s home.

Their home is like a museum. But very comfortable and welcoming. It was very nice to see them again.

We looked at a 2005 36′ U270 with a slide, a 2001 36′ U295 with a slide and a 1997 40′ U320 with no slide. By far the best of the bunch for condition, equipment and price was the ’97.

It is always a learning experience to look at as many coaches as you can and in NAC there are many to look at. Not just Foretravels but many brands. Forest and Cindy have had Newell coaches before and were looking for something smaller. They were thinking a 36′ no slide Foretravel would be a good fit.

There were significant interior differences between the 2001 and the 2005 coaches. The slides mechanisms were different and used much more interior space in the 2005. It had a dinette booth rather than a J shaped dinette. Much less leg room in the dinette booth. A lot more flexibility with the J dinette. Kitchen storage in the 2005 was much different, much less than the 2001. Much less kitchen drawer space and the kitchen layout itself was different. Basement space in the 2005 was also less. These are things you don’t easily recognize from pictures or floor plan drawings. You have to see them.

The 1997 40′ U320 no slide had all of the up scale advantages of the U320. AquaHot, the more powerful M11 engine and the more robust 4000 series transmission are the big things. It was good for them to see a non-slide coach to see how the floor plan changes the way space gets used without a slide. The 40′ adds 2 ft in the front split between the kitchen and the living room and 2 ft to the bathroom. These four feet may not seem like much but they change the bathroom layout to be more roomy and add a third closet space. The kitchen gets dramatically more storage space and has a table and chairs. And there is more room in the living room between the kitchen and the front passenger’s seat. The big thing for Forest and Cindy to see was how the floor plan used space in a different way in a non-slide coach. The extra space in a 40′ coach goes away in a 36′ but the floorplan makes the space useful.

There was coffee and cookies back at Chappell and Mary’s. Chappell had a pork shoulder on the smoker when we got there in the morning. He brought it in and it smelled wonderful. But Rudy and I had a drive ahead of us and Susan wanted me home by dark so we said our good byes, Mary sent us packing with bags of fresh baked cookies and off we went.

When we got back to Onalaska Rudy asked me to help him put in new LED headlight bulbs in his Prius. One side was easy, one side required some disassembly of things in the way but we got them in and tried them out. White and bright! Rudy reports that they were wonderful on the way home.

St Patricks Day

Spring break, a nice weekend and St Patricks day all coincided while we were here.

The beach was full of Mom’s and kids. Boats were being launched. Lots of fishing. Lots of floating things. The pool was packed. Kids were playing volleyball. There were kids and dogs on stand up paddle boards. Lots of activity. Lots of sun. A nice end to spring break week.

Lots of folks are leaving today on Sunday. We leave tomorrow for Jim Hogg COE park on Lake Georgetown

More later,

Roger and Susan

What is an AquaHot?

An AquaHot is an appliance in the basement of the motorhome that makes coach heat and hot water. There are many different versions and capacities of these. In our coach it is an electric and diesel fired boiler that heats antifreeze just like you have in your car. This hot antifreeze can be circulated through any of the seven heat exchanger/fans in the coach and the basement of the coach in four separately thermostatically controlled zones and another zone that circulates heated antifreeze through the engine to pre-heat it to make it easier to start when it is really cold out. It also heats 16 gallons of water and will supply continuous hot water no matter how much or how fast you use it.

There are lots of hoses coming out of the top pumps and back into the side where the red plugs are. The cover over the left end has been removed. A bunch of wires too.

If you are driving, the engine circulates hot coolant through the AquaHot providing coach heat and hot water. You can run the diesel part of the boiler at any time for more and faster heat. If you are plugged in you can run the electric side of the boiler for hot water and heat. For us that is down to about 40 degrees.

It is a pretty amazing appliance but like anything it needs maintenance. If you use it properly you can go for several years between “annual” service. This usually consists of replacing the diesel fuel filter, the nozzle that sprays the fuel into the burner chamber, cleaning out the burner chamber and the flame sensor and setting the gap on the spark starter. This is something you can do yourself or get someone else to do it. We have done it both ways.

Other than normal service we have had to replace the fuel pump (a factory recall sort of thing) and the ignition coil that makes the spark and a plastic clutch between the motor and the burner blower. Not much considering it is on almost all of the time and is 17 years old.

Baytown, TX February, 2018

We drove from NAC to Baytown on the eastern side of Houston in a steady rain, a hard driving rain at times and pretty much into the wind the whole way. It is about a three hour drive mostly on four lane divided roads. It had been raining on and off for several days and the road sides were very soft. We saw two semis off the road and stuck hard in the muck. The rain stopped about 2/3 of the way down.

Rudy and Carolyn are full timers whose home base is on the side of a man-made lake at their friend Ralph’s place. He has several acres along the side of the lake and let Rudy and Carolyn put in a concrete pad with a steel framed cover over it down at one end. It is big enough for their coach, two cars and a storage shed. They have water, electric, a sewer hookup and DirecTV. It is quite nice. Ralph has a coach that rarely leaves its heated and air conditioned 60 x 40 ft coach house. There is a nice laundry room and bathroom and plenty of room for the things Ralph likes to collect like old gas station pumps and fire hydrants. There is about 20 ft of covered space at the end of the barn where the big garage doors are. There is also a 50 amp electric hookup, water and waste hookups too. It was not raining when we got there but Ralph insisted we pull in under the cover because more rain was on the way. The Jeep fit under the cover as well. We got electricity hooked up, added some water to the fresh water tank and settled in for a visit.

The next day I caught up on some work stuff, we did laundry, washed the coach and the Jeep, Carolyn’s car got washed too.

Rudy was off in the morning doing an AquaHot service call. This usually consists of replacing the diesel fuel filter, the nozzle that sprays the fuel into the burner chamber, cleaning out the burner chamber and the flame sensor and setting the gap on the spark starter. It takes Rudy and hour. It takes me about two. And he does several a week during the late fall and winter season. Sometimes there are other issues that he fixes like pumps, control circuits, relays, internal thermostats, motor bearings, clutches, fuel pumps and more. He is a whiz at diagnosing issues and getting them fixed. It is a good source of income for them.

We went out for dinner that evening to an Olive Garden because we had a gift card and so did Rudy and Carolyn. Dinner was good. I had a Bolognese sauce on pasta something or other. I have always liked Bolognese sauce but rarely make it any more. Susan had a Braised beef with gorgonzola and Alfredo sauce. We all had salad and bread too. We took half of our dinners home with us.

The following day was sunny so we all got into Carolyn’s car and headed to Galveston. It is about an hour and a half drive but we mostly went the back way not the interstate so we got to see all of the stuff along the back way. We saw two giant container ports, lots of areas that were flooded during last winter’s Hurricane Harvey and lots more damaged and rebuilt areas from Hurricane Ike (2008). Harvey was mostly rain, 49″ where Rudy and Carolyn live. Ike was very high storm surge.

It is just hard to imagine that much water anywhere. There is a car race track near Rudy’s place where there were more than 46,000 flood damaged cars. They get a salvage title and get resold to unsuspecting folks somewhere else.

In Galveston we stopped to see the Elissa, a late 1800’s iron hulled, three masted sailing ship that has been restored. It now is at the Texas Seaport Museum in Galveston Harbor. It visited Galveston a couple times in the early 1900s and as a real part of Galveston’s maritime history it was rescued from the scrap yards in Greece. A repair team made it seaworthy enough to tow the 205 ft ship back to Galveston to complete the restoration back to her original form. Today the Elsissa is a National Historic Landmark. Her main mast towers nearly 100 ft above the water line.

We wanted to see the Elissa in part because Susan’s sister Nancy was on the crew when it sailed from Galveston to New York City in 1986 for the Tall Ships Celebration of the renovation of the Statue of Liberty.

She was the cook on this cruise in a pretty small kitchen.

Today the Elissa is maintained by a large crew of volunteers and trains crews in the ways of sailing a classic square rigged ship. Just learning what ropes were for what and the names of all the sails takes weeks. At least once a year the Elissa sets sail for sea trials and training in the Gulf of Mexico.

We had a nice visit, toured the ship, went through the museum and of course the gift shop.

We had a very tasty lunch at a restaurant just down the street.

And then further down The Strand to an ice cream and chocolate shop. We got some of both. It was nice to have tour guides like Rudy and Carolyn who know how to get around and where to park.

Rudy had a fellow named Gus as a person-in-training for Aqua Hot repair. Gus had been to the AH school and now had to get some hands on experience. Gus goes along with Rudy and does most of the hands on stuff while Rudy helps him learn the diagnostic process. Gus lives up near Lubbock, originally from Uruguay. His wife was along too and they were staying in a nearby RV park. Gus told me that coming to Houston was the furthest they had ever been in their motorhome.

One morning Rudy and Gus dismantled the guts of an AH right down to the bearings in the motor and put it all back together. After they were done we all piled into Carolyn’s car (all except Susan) and we went to a TX tradition, Whataburger. It is definitely not McDonalds, way better. I had a massive mushroom and swiss burger. Very tasty.

That evening we went to a small BBQ place. It was the size of an old fashioned small gas station because it once was. Ordered at the counter and they brought it out. It was different from the BBQ that we are used to but quite good. Nothing came home for leftovers.

I helped Rudy with a new small laptop for his coach and tried to get his printer to connect to his wifi, it would and then get lost, over and over. We fixed a louvered door in Ralph’s coach that had been damaged. We reglued it and added a couple screws for good measure.

As is always the case there seems like there were a few things we didn’t get to but mostly we just had a very nice visit with Rudy and Carolyn. They are good friends and we are glad to know them.

Next we head north(ish) about 80 miles to Onalaska, TX on the shore of Lake Livingston. We will be there for about three weeks.

More later,

Roger and Susan