Our Run to the Border (December 27, 2016 – January 3, 2017)

We left Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Eva, TN on the morning of December 27th and began our 1,100 mile trek to Mercedes, TX. Since Jason and Jarrod had left the previous evening, we were able to make an early start. However, since we hadn’t had a sewer hookup at our site, we had to make a stop at the park’s dump station first. The lane to the dump station was obviously designed with smaller rigs in mind and had a sharp curve in the middle. We had to be very careful to avoid hitting a tree on one side and a steep ditch on the other.

Once we got underway, the first day was almost entirely on I-40. We spent the night at the Downtown Riverside RV Park in North Little Rock, AR. We had stayed at this park in November 2015. It’s a city-owned park on the banks of the Arkansas River, with a pedestrian bridge across the river to the Clinton Presidential Library. Rather than deal with the difficult back-in we had faced last time, we requested a pull-through site and were set up and ready to relax in a fraction of the time.

On December 28th we only drove 150 miles to Texarkana, TX. Our primary reason for stopping in Texarkana was to get all our vehicles inspected. Texas requires that all vehicles be inspected annually as part of the registration renewal process. However, if you are out of state when your registration expires, you can renew your registration without the inspection but must get the vehicles inspected within 3 days of re-entering the state. We took the RV to be inspected at Shady Pines RV Center where we had had it inspected in December 2015. Since our fifth-wheel is not motorized, the inspection really didn’t involve much more than checking the lights and turn signals. After passing the inspection, we set up for the night next door at the affiliated Shady Pines RV Park.

Phil drove the Nissan a few miles back into town to get it inspected. The mechanic told Phil that, since the vehicle is registered in Polk County and Polk County requires an emission test, he wouldn’t be able to perform the inspection for us. This didn’t sound right since we had gotten our vehicles inspected in Texarkana previously but Phil decided to get us some lunch before investigating the matter any further. While Phil was sitting in the drive-through line at McDonald’s, Jan called him rather franticly to report that there had been a major accident with our rig and truck. About 15 minutes after we had leveled the fifth-wheel, the front legs had lowered, bringing the front end down on the tailgate of the truck and putting a large dent in the front end of the fifth-wheel. By the time Phil got back to the RV Park, one of the neighbors had already gone next door to summon the Service Manager for assistance. Phil moved the truck forward a few feet and we were greatly relieved to see the dent in the fiberglass on the front end of the rig pop right back into shape. There was also no apparent damage to the tailgate of the truck. When the Service Manager arrived, he surmised that the problem was due to a leak in the hydraulics that control the legs and the two rear slide-outs. He added a quart of hydraulic fluid and we bled some air out of the lines. He also placed a couple of jack stands under the front of our rig as a caution in case the legs failed again.

That afternoon, Phil verified that Polk County doesn’t require an emission test so he was able to get the Nissan and RAM inspected.  Overnight we were pleased that the front legs did not drop again. Early the next morning, we hooked up the rig and took it next door to have it inspected more closely while we went to breakfast. Since we didn’t know what they would find, we were prepared to stay in Texarkana another night. However, by 10 am, we got word that there didn’t appear to be any immediate problem that would cause us to delay our travels. The RV service tech had added another quart of hydraulic fluid to bring the level up to where it should be. The Service Manager told Phil that they normally add hydraulic fluid a few ounces at a time so, to add two quarts at once, we most likely have a leak somewhere. Although they could not find any significant leak, the bottom of our rig is enclosed so it is possible that any leaked hydraulic fluid could be absorbed by the insulation. The Service Manager said that the only way to know for sure would be to remove the panels on the bottom of the rig, which would require about eight hours of labor. The Service Manager advised against doing this since our extended warranty would not pay for the labor unless they actually found a broken part. As an alternative, the service tech drew a line on the hydraulic fluid tank so we can monitor any future leaking. If it continues to leak, we will need to take the rig for service at a dealer who sells our brand.

After leaving the RV dealer, we started our 250-mile drive to Waco, TX. Since we’d heard horror stories about construction delays on the freeways around Dallas, we decided to avoid Dallas and instead take the state highways that run between Texarkana and Waco. There were a lot of highway changes and we traveled through many small towns along this route. The GPS only failed us once and instructed Phil to turn down a small back road that looked particularly uninviting. Instead, Phil continued driving until he found a business where he could get the rig turned around. The rest of the drive was uneventful and we arrived at North Crest RV Park in Waco. The owner greeted us warmly and led us to our site. Although we had requested a pull-through site, the owner noticed that we had a satellite dish and he backed us into a site that had the greatest chance of getting a DirecTV signal. The satellite worked great although the Wi-Fi was somewhat spotty. The card for North Crest RV Park referred to it as a “working man’s campground.” We weren’t sure whether this referred to the clientele or the owner, since both appeared to be true.

After having driven for three days straight, we had decided to spend two nights in Waco. However, we discovered that Waco doesn’t really have a lot to see. Other than Baylor University, Waco’s main attractions are the original Dr. Pepper bottling plant and an archaeological dig where the remains of mammoths and other prehistoric creatures could be seen. Instead, we visited Magnolia Market at the Silos based on reviews we had read online. Magnolia Market is essentially a home goods store established by Chip and Joanna Grimes, hosts of HGTV’s show Fixer Upper, but it is much more than that. The Market is based in a rather run-down part of Waco and is built around a number of industrial silos. In addition to the home goods store, there is a bakery and garden shop. Between the stores is a large play area that is stocked with sport equipment and games for use by children and adults alike. There are numerous food trucks that ring the play area. The Magnolia Market was clearly a major attraction for Waco as there were lines for everything and the neighboring Baptist Church was doing a thriving business charging $10 a car for parking.

On December 31st, we left Waco and headed 200 miles south on I-35 to Braunig Lake RV Resort in Elmendorf, TX, a suburb of San Antonio. This was our second consecutive New Year’s Eve in the San Antonio area but, this year, we were too tired from driving to venture out. We managed to stay awake until midnight to see in the new year.

On New Year’s Day, the campground hosted a free lunch. Although the main courses were hot dogs and hamburgers, so many of the campers brought other food that it was quite a feast. We made sure to have some black eyed peas and hog jowls.

On January 2nd, we drove 150 miles, mostly on I-37, to Kingsville, TX. We spent the night at Nature’s Own RV Resort. This small campground was very neatly laid-out and might have been a nice site for a longer stay if there had been more to do in Kingsville. Actually, if we’d arrived earlier, we would have toured King Ranch, the largest ranch in the U.S. King Ranch is as large as the state of Rhode Island and covers parts of six Texas counties.

On January 3rd, we finished our journey with a 110-mile drive to Llano Grande Resort and Country Club in Mercedes, TX, about 20 minutes north of the Mexico border. The temperature was 84 degrees when we arrived, not bad at all for January 3rd. We were very glad to be able to settle down and not have to drive again for a month.

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