One Year on the Road

Sugar Land, Texas

Beth and I kick back in their pool.

After camping with my sister and brother-in-law at Goose Island, we followed them to Sugar Land (outside of Houston), to spend several days at their house. We were looking forward to kicking back in their pool, but we also had some things to take care of. Bessie needed some servicing, and I would finally get my permanent crown installed, hopefully ending the saga of the aching tooth.

A Place for Bessie

Once again, we were faced with the dilemma of what to do with Bessie while we stayed at Beth and Don’s. She’d be in the shop for at least two days in the middle of the week, so we were looking at two or three days on either side of that. Beth and Don had studied both the rulebook of their homeowners association and the dimensions of their driveway, and they thought we could safely park her right in their driveway.

Big Bessie in the driveway.

Big Bessie in the driveway.

She went in quite smoothly between the basketball hoop and a tree, and we could reach the extension cord to their carport outlet. There was even room to open the slides. Having her right there made it so much easier to get out what we needed throughout the week.

The morning we were leaving, though, Beth and Don received a letter from the homeowners association insisting they remove the RV from sight immediately. So even though the rulebook didn’t outlaw it, and all the cul-de-sac neighbors were fine with it, Bessie’s presence did not pass the stringent expectations of the New Territory administration. I’m not sure what we’ll do when we pass back through next winter.

Reminder to self: unplug the extension cord before you drive away.

RV Repairs

So far, getting Bessie repaired while we’re traveling has proved to be a big headache. In San Diego, we had some things taken care of and then spent nearly an hour on the phone trying to line up reimbursement (which is still in the works). This time, I reserved a slot with the one Itasca Service Center in Houston two weeks in advance.

Tip to RVers: Check the user reviews of repair shops before you hand over the keys to your home and everything in it. Camping World in Katy Texas appears to be one of the worst RV Service Centers in the country. The bad reports go on for pages. Our experience was frustrating but could have been a lot worse.

When we got there, the service rep went through all the needed repairs with me but then indicated that they probably couldn’t all be done in the two days before we left the area. I said that the priority issues were the driver’s side window that can’t be locked and the outside storage bin that floods when we drive in the rain. The next day I called for a progress check and she said that the two main issues had been rejected by Winnebago because they’d already been worked on in Eugene and I’d have to take the RV back there to have them fixed. I asked about the other issues and she said, “Well, I told them just to work on the two main things and they couldn’t do that, so they’re not working on it anymore.” When I suggested that she have them fix some of the smaller things that day, she grudgingly agreed.

I called Winnebago to talk about the repair rejections and it turns out that Camping World had never even contacted them. Winnebago called them directly and insisted that they work on the leaking storage bin at the very least. When I picked Bessie up at the end of the day, they’d done some caulking in the storage bin, but not one other thing. Whether that caulking actually fixes the issue remains to be seen, because it hasn’t rained yet.

We’ve now got an appointment at Reliable RV in Springfield, Missouri, where we hope to get all those other issues resolved (and test out the leaky bin, since rain is forecast). This place has great reviews and so far has been incredibly professional, courteous, and helpful.

Crowning Glory

My toothache woes started the day I left Eugene with new crown that just didn’t seem to fit right. Three months, three dentists, two rounds of antibiotics, and $1,365 later, I now have a new gold crown that is still a little tender but seems to be the right fit. At last!

A dentist in Durango declared the previous crown to be unworkable, removed it, did all the prep work for a new one, and put in a temporary crown. When the new crown came in three weeks later, he mailed it to my sister’s dentist in Sugar Land, who put it in and adjusted it for a mere $45. My dentist back home kicked in $400, which was not overly generous in my opinion, but more than many dentists would do. I’m just glad to be out of pain and carefully chewing on my left side at last.

Road Work

While I was in Sugar Land, my old manager at Paradigm called about a possible tech writing contract. It’s for piecemeal projects, which I can accept or reject as I like, with Novatel, a company that makes MiFi products (mobile wifi routers) for Verizon and other cell phone companies. I interviewed with the manager there, and it was an easy click. The woman at Novatel actually loved that I was living on the road, because I’m a perfect example of how their products can be used. She wants to use my testimony in their promotions.

So she’s sending a MiFi router to my Dad’s address in Missouri, and I’ll get to use it to connect to the internet from anywhere. (No more carefully monitoring data usage on our phone account.) And I’ll have my first project (should I choose to accept it) next week.

I want to be careful not to spend too much of this precious year working, but a little work now and then is not only a welcome brain workout but will give us some extra cash for the trip. And Kate says she doesn’t mind extra time to hang out and sew.

Leisure Time

We spent a full week in Sugar Land, and we got a lot of business taken care of, but we also had a lot of down time. We spent several hot afternoons in Beth and Don’s pool, and we even coaxed Bailey in for a couple of swims. I worked on the blog. Kate got her sewing machine out and sewed a blanket for Jesse’s best friend’s new baby. We gave Bessie a thorough washing, inside and out, and took full advantage of the laundry room. It was nice to stretch out in a big house and relax. And so nice to just hang out with Beth and Don. We’ve spent a lot of time with them this last month, and we don’t appear to be sick of each other yet. My sister and I never get enough time together, but these weeks the four of us have been able to bond in a way we haven’t before, and I’m so grateful for it.

Texas Tiny Houses

Kate and Don share a fascination with the new “tiny house” craze that my sister and I find a little comical, given how much stuff they both have. I think Kate could only live in a tiny house if she had ten of them in a nice little circle. One could be her sewing room, another for gardening, one for reading, one for sleeping, one for entertaining, one for her rock collection display… Maybe I’d get my own tiny house. Or maybe I’d just squeeze into hers.

Texas tiny house.

When we were in Gruene, Kate read about a company nearby that builds tiny houses out of 95% reclaimed materials. They dismantle old houses and fill barns with windows, door knobs, lumber… everything you could possibly reuse in another house. From one old house, they have enough material to build ten tiny houses. They give tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which didn’t fit into our schedule. But when she mentioned it to Don back in Sugar Land, he was more than willing to drive the 90 minutes there for a tour.

So on the Wednesday that I took Bessie into Camping World, Kate and Don drove to Luling and had a private tour of the projects. Kate has written her own blog post about it: Tiny Texas Houses.

Scott and Chali.

Quick Reunion

The morning we were leaving, my nephew Scott and his girlfriend, Chali, flew in for a friend’s wedding. We stayed long enough to enjoy a quick lunch, a tour of Bessie, and some hearty hugs before leaving them to have a little family time with Beth and Don.

Texas Oddities

What is it about Texans and white trucks? I swear 75% of the vehicles on Texas roads are white, most of them pickup trucks. And of the non-white vehicles, 75% are black, 20% silver. A flash of color on a Texan highway is as rare as recycle bin. I must report that Beth and Don own a white pickup truck and two black cars. But Don has a lifelong Get Out of Boringland Free card for buying a cayenne red Saab convertible 17 years ago and selling it to me nine years later. (That sweet car is home waiting for me.)

Toll roads are another thing. New ones have popped up all over Houston since I was there last, and they don’t have toll booths. They rely on electronic window passes only, and if you don’t have one supposedly they’ll track you down with a ticket. I don’t know if they’ll go after out-of-staters, but I added an hour to my travel time trying to avoid these blasted elitist roads.

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