24-26 March 2010
We had an easy drive to Conroe, TX… it helped having been here before. Garmin directions are useless but this time we arrived from the East and had no trouble spotting the KOA sign.
Conroe KOA (N of Houston about 50-60 miles) is a high-end facility but I hate staying here. Last time we had the landing gear replaced on our previous Montana, so I was planning on just a single night here so we could leave before Murphy found us again. No joy.
The next morning we hooked up. I was rushing to get away and sadly, “the hamburger was not in the bun”, (the king pin wasn’t safely located between the jaws of the hitch). I pulled forward to test the trailer brakes and was greeted by a loud ker-thunk! as the king pin landed on the bed saver. Thank you Mr. Blue Ox!! The truck would have had a crushed bed without the bed saver.
We called CoachNet.com emergency road service (similar to Good Sam roadside assistance; we got this with the new Montana) and soon a 50-ton tow truck arrived. It was huge! In a matter of 15-20 minutes he had us back on the landing gear. With the truck out of the way I could see the cable from the trailer that attaches to the truck had been mashed. So we set off to an automotive store where I bought a crimping tool and some splices. It took most of the day but I got the damaged wires spliced and everything put back together.
I wanted to get out of town before the next disaster, so we left for a one-niter in Rusk, TX followed by Leander, TX and Kerrville, TX. And that’s how we were introduced to the hazard of making reservations too far in advance.
26-29 March 2010
(New Braunfels, TX)
We were on our way thru some gorgeous countryside headed for Rusk. We found that Texas has some wonderful roadside picnic stops that had room for the Montana. We were able to rest and eat comfortably. A short while after pulling back onto the highway the alarm for the trailer-brake controller went off. It said the trailer wasn’t connected. “Oh yeah?! Well I can see the bloody thing right where it’s supposed to be!”
My first guess was that I hadn’t gotten one of the connections spliced properly. The really scarey part was the failure meant we had no trailer brakes. We had to rely solely on the truck brakes to stop all 23,000#. God help the person that cuts in front of us.
As we drove West, the Admiral got busy on the phone and we rerouted ourselves thru San Marcos, TX onto I-35 and then to Camping World in New Braunfels, TX. We made it there without too much pucker-factor only to be told they’d be happy to schedule us for repair in about 6 weeks. Clearly Camping World, a Keystone dealer by the way, is not a place to rely on in an emergency.
I’d noticed an RV park about 5 miles North of CW, so we turned around and went to Canyon Trails RV Resort and managed to get a space. ‘Managed’ because the park was filled with Hitchhiker 5th wheel trailers. Turned out a West Texas chapter of the national organization of owners was having their annual rendezvous (rally? whatever).
We called a mobile RV repair guy willing to take a look at the problem. He re-did all the work I’d done and found we still had the same fault. Then he discovered that the problem was actually in the connection between the after-market connector in the bed of the truck and the Ford wiring harness. The brake failure had nothing to do with the repairs I’d done to the cable. He suggested using the Ford connector down by the lower hitch till we got back to Santa Fe and have the truck wiring repaired. He also found that the fuse in the truck that feeds the trailer battery as we tow was blown (not surprising since a lot of things had been shorted when the trailer dropped). We took his suggestion and switched to the other connector and had no further trouble unless I tried to turn too tightly.
Canyon Trails is an older park which had recently re-done their short-term rental sites (don’t recall if the long term renters had new sewer connections and patios). So it had the appearance of being a new park. Plus they have a good sized dog run in front, so everyone was happy.
About using the KOA reservation system: we managed to lose the cost of one night of camping at each of 3 KOAs because we weren’t able to cancel at least 48 hrs ahead of the reservation. We use KOA a lot because theirs is the only on-line reservation system available to RV campers. But there’s a risk associated with using their system and we paid the price.
29-30 March 2010
With the repairs and work-around in place we left New Braunfels and went to Junction, TX where the KOA is right next to the Llano River (pronounced YAW-no). Many of the campers brought fishing gear and spent the day fishing. The park was very open when we were there at the end of March, so we could really enjoy walking thru the campground. The only problem is the park is filled with pecan trees which aren’t harvested. So the ground was covered with them. Annie did here part to clean up the fallen nuts by swallowing as many as she could whole. I swear she rattled when she walked but she was a happy girl.
We had arrived at the campground early in the day and were able to nose around the area a little including a stop at the local market. We picked up a few odds and ends and while waiting in line, Celia struck up a conversation with the guy behind her. Turns out he had just turned 96 and also had just finished shelling 1,200# of pecans. Yikes! He told Celia he used to do over 3,000# but he was getting too old to do that much. We were mightily impressed! Judging by the respect given him at the market, locals are very proud of their old timer.
Junction was a one-niter since we needed to get to Santa Fe to start doing taxes. Next stop… Van Horn, TX.
30-31 March 2010
(Van Horn, TX)
Van Horn is an odd stop. The campground is on the south side of town and happens to have the best cafe in town. We stopped here on the way East and now knew to plan on eating at the campground. There are a couple truck stops in Van Horn, so diesel is easy to find. We looked around the town a little but the truth is it’s a desperate looking place that doesn’t make you feel like “I wouldn’t mind living here.” But it is perfectly located between Junction and Las Cruces, NM, so it’s a popular stop that fills up every night. Btw, the park is also very horse-friendly offering corrals and exercise area.
Next morning we were up early (for us!) for a long run to Las Cruces. I wanted to be sure we passed thru El Paso, TX before the commute started as the highway there scares the crap out of me!