Monday, April 23, 2012

Mammoth goes South for a Family Reunion

Friday, April 20th, 2012
Well, it was time for the Heartland Chapter Rally in Spring, Texas at Rayford Crossing RV Resort, near Houston. Mammoth has never been that far south, so we were exploring new territory for her.

First, some back-story... We have made a few "mods" to Mammoth, to make our trips more enjoyable. One was the upgrade to the TV antenna, with a replacement head from JACK TV. It was supposed to be an easy install, but we could not get the cable to supply power to the antenna head, like it was supposed to. After trying nearly all day, we gave up. We think there was a problem with the cable between the amplifier and the antenna, in the ceiling. The second upgrade, we did quickly in the dark, right before the trip. A new exhaust fan for the bathroom, that was supposed to move more air and be quieter. Again, a simple replacement, without removing the outside vent cover. Well, in the dark (because the power needed to be off for wiring) it wasn't so easy. We got it installed, but it's actually LOUDER. something doesn't sound right, but we opted to leave it and deal with it in daylight. I also have another upgrade to do soon, a new window and black frame for the front door.

Well, we headed out about 1:30, in light rain, to Spring.  We saw lots of bluebonnets near Ennis, TX, but of course! It was the Ennis Bluebonnet Festival! The travel was fairly uneventful, and we actually drove out of the rain for a while. I was surprised how unpopulated the roadside is along I-45. Lots of trees, and tall ones at that! We also saw a place where wildfires had done some damage (probably last summer) and looked as though the fire had jumped the highway.  As we drew nearer to Huntsville, I began to watch the radar on my phone more intently. Severe storms were popping up and threatening our path. We got to Huntsville and the rain picked up, but we never saw anything remotely severe. However, we could tell there had been a lot of rain recently, as the road spray from cars and trucks made it hard to see. We also encountered a lot of roadwork! Nothing like having concrete barriers just outside the lane markers... no room for a Mammoth to breathe!

I-45 south, between storms

We found the RV Resort fairly easily with the help of out GPS, and arrived just at a clear spot on the radar. Jay Coffman, the Heartland South Texas Chapter Ambassador, came by to greet us and welcome us to the Rally. We decided we needed to stop the chat and get set up, as more rain was headed that way. We finished getting the outside set up just before another band of heavy rain came through. Although the Rally was officially started and many were gathering for a cookout, we opted to eat sandwiches in the rig (to get food in us quickly) and go visit after it stopped raining. We did go visit for a while, but then we were getting tired. We said goodbyes and headed to bed fairly quickly, as we had to meet at 8AM for a caravan to breakfast at Furr's in the morning, sponsored by Ron Hoover RV and Marine.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012
We got up bright and early to head over to Furr's. You would have thought we could have coordinated some carpooling, but nearly every rig's truck came along, and we formed a long caravan of pickups... Ford, Dodge, Chevy, GMC and Toyota were represented. It was quite a sight! After a delicious breakfast completely paid for by Ron Hoover, we lined up the trucks for a photo-op. "TXBobcat" took this from the front of the pack. We're the red dually truck in the right row, about midway back.

20 or so trucks at Furr's

After breakfast we ran to WalMart to pick up a side-dish for the pot-luck dinner this evening. We were originally going to cook a roast, but Ron Hoover offered to bring in Bar-B-Q, so we were to bring sides and desserts instead. After we got back, we visited with folks and rested, enjoyed a chat with the Ron Hoover GM, and took it easy. Tony decided to look into the antenna issue, and we discovered a loose coupler in the wiring in the ceiling. I was able to work it out of the hole where the crank attached, and Tony tightened and taped it so it shouldn't work loose again. Voila! the antenna works!

The temperature was PERFECT for windows open... in the 70's with a good breeze. We didn't run our AC hardly at all this trip!

Eileen likes seeing all the rigs!

But she loves HER MAMMOTH the most.

We were also able to have the Ron Hoover tech look at Mammoth's nose flex. Tony showed him what was happening, where caulk is separating when we hook up. The tech suggested longer screws -- There was not enough movement to concern him, but he said the screws can work out over time. We'll probably show it to the techs at Gillette, before we try anything.

Ron Hoover also brought some rigs for us to view, a Road Warrior and a Big Country.
Here's a view of one of the 3 rows full of Heartland rigs!

Heartlands as far as the eye can see

At dinner, we had a huge amount of food, fun, and fellowship. There were great door-prizes, including a Winguard Carryout satellite system worth nearly $600! We didn't win that, but wow, there were some great prizes and everyone walked away with something.

Drawing for door-prizes

A full house

After dinner, they took a group photo of all the attendees. When I see it posted, I'll try to get a copy and add it here.

After dinner, we hung out and visited with a large group near Jay and Stella's rig. They had a fire pit going, and we were glad, the temps dropped quickly when the sun went down. We had a lot of fun just chatting. Most of these folks are retired or soon to be, but they sure have energy! We decided to call it a night about 10:15, and we were the first to go.

A fun time under the stars, enjoying the fire.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
We got up about 8 and had breakfast, then began our prep to head home. BOOO! We made quick work of it, as we hadn't had time to get too spread out. Tony was checking the tires on the truck, and noticed one was about 20 lbs low. That's not good! We decided we better get it looked at before heading out, so we went searching for an open tire place (on a Sunday morning!) We finally found a Firestone, and they got us in quickly... almost too quickly. They said it was a bad valve stem core, and they replaced it and sent us on our way. We ate lunch, hitched and headed out. 

Since we were running behind already, we weren't able to stop and see the Sam Houston Monument. I took a pic as we drove by.

That's one big ol' Sam Houston Monument.
Notice the TINY people at the base!

At our stop for diesel in Fairfield, I looked at the tires, like I always do. Hmmmmm. That truck tire looked low again! Tony checked it, and sure enough. Well, we filled it as best we could with the truck stop air, and began to look for a solution. We headed on, and I kept an eye to the side mirror to watch the tire. After a while, I again told Tony it  looked like it was low. We stopped and checked, and decided we'd need to find a good place to unhook and change the tire, or call our roadside assistance. We were not too far from Corsicana, so we stayed on the service road so we could go a little slower. As we grew closer to our proposed stopping spot, (A Home Depot parking lot) we discovered a run down gas station converted to a {Halleluya} Tire Repair Shop! And they were OPEN! We pulled in and asked for their advice. They quickly discovered a damaged valve stem, removed the tire and replaced it, and we were back on the road in no time. Whew! Talk about answered prayers. ;) All this tire "fun" delayed us getting home by about 2 hours, but I'm glad to say we had no ill effects because of it.

We got home about 6:30pm, unloaded and Tony took Mammoth back to storage. It almost seems like a dream, it was such a fast little trip!