Friday, November 16, 2018

A New Chapter

Our New RV!!!!!!!!

Roger here....  Dianne and I have been talking about changing our RV footprint for quite a while. We discussed it with Jay and Nancy before they left Fredericksburg.  We discussed extensively after they left.

Our Mountain Aire has been in great shape.  It has run well.  The inside is immaculate, but it is 15 years old.  The Toyota Matrix that we pull behind the motor home also runs well, but it is 12 years old.  Both have been perfect vehicles for our travels.  Our thinking has been to trade both of them in before they develop problems.

It was time to say goodbye to our beloved Newmar Mountain Aire.  

Seeing these pictures make me sad.  We loved our motor home.  However, it was time for a new chapter in our travel adventures.

We decided to change our traveling profile drastically by getting a late model mid-sized SUV capable of towing a small, light-weight travel trailer (preferably an Airstream).  Since we were close to an Airstream dealership and a Carmax in Austin, we did some research and decided to travel to an Austin-area RV park to check things out.  The Toyota was the first to go.

We traded it for a 2016 Toyota Highlander which should easily pull a small Airstream.  Max (his real name) of Carmax found us a perfect SUV that was already equipped with a towing package.  We now have a nice relatively new vehicle.

The motor home trade was a bit more complicated.  Airstream has an excellent track record of quality construction.  We wanted a low-weight Airstream that our new Highlander could easily pull.  We found a used 2019 model that we wanted, but the final deal required some negotiation.  

Before leaving Austin we put money down on a 16 foot Airstream Sport (also called a Bambi).  It is small, but it has everything we need to travel and more.

In order to finalize the deal we needed to drive back home to Mission, Texas (6 hours) to empty ten years of "stuff" out of the MountainAire.  

Yikes!  What happened to our beautiful patio?  We divided the stuff into piles:  things to go into the much, much smaller Airstream, things we would carry in the Highlander, RV things that we would give to neighbors, things we would store in our covered outdoor storage area, and the largest pile --- things we would donate to some of the poor people here in the Rio Grande Valley.  We also pulled clothes from our closet that we seldom or no longer wore to give to people who could make good use of them.  A local construction worker from our neighborhood brought a large trailer to transport the donations to one of the poor neighborhoods (called "Colonias).  What a good man he is.  

It took days to organize the disposition of our "stuff", but it is now mostly done.

In the midst of our uprooted lives, I drove the motor home back to Austin for the trade.  Dianne followed in the Highlander. 

 We did a walk-through of our new Sport.  We then spent the day at the dealership as the Sport was prepped for delivery and the electrical connections between the SUV and Sport were upgraded to enable the turn signals and brake lights to work.  They also added a braking system for the trailer.

After a long day,  the SUV was connected to the Sport and we were on our way.  We were anxious to travel south of San Antonio before spending our first night in our new Airstream.  A storm was again threatening the Austin area that we hoped to avoid, threatening high winds, rain, and even hail.

We took one quick picture of our old Mountain Aire between our newly connected outfit.  Kind of nostalgic.  Goodbye old friend!

Hey, our vehicles match!

The drive back home was uneventful, always a good thing.  We drove out of the storm.  All of the systems in the Sport worked well. The Highlander had no trouble pulling our new Airstream. Our gas mileage was more than double what it was with our Mountain Aire.

Our little Sport looks great in our driveway.  Some of our neighbors are asking how big it is, my new response is 48 feet --- circumference.

The folks at Airstream design their products cleverly.  The inside is filled with nooks and crannies for storage.  It has all the amenities that we had in the motor home and more (except space).  We have a stove top, microwave,  small fridge with small freezer, TV with an amazing over air antenna, cable hookup, stereo system with blue tooth, furnace, heat strip, air conditioner, fantastic fan, lots of windows with ventilation, shower, hot water, USB ports, built-in laundry hampers, small closet, outdoor electric outlets, outdoor awning, rear view camera, pre-set connections for solar panels....  The design is modern, sleek and clean.

We will have to adjust to the smaller space, but we have traveled in a smaller trailer before, and know what to do.  We need to be careful to not overload the trailer, but we will be able to utilize a great deal of space in the highlander when the second and third tier of seats are down. We already bought a high-efficiency cooler for extra food storage that we will keep in the Highlander.

The dinette serves as a prep space for cooking.  It also easily converts into a second bed.
The toilet, shower room has a pass-through so that outdoor gear can be washed.  There is also a medicine cabinet.  This is a new configuration for us that we will adjust to.

The bed is cozy and comfy, however, it is difficult to get up in the night without waking each other up.  We intend to utilize the dinette bed transformation, which would not be an issue with us.  

One aspect of our smaller footprint that I have not mentioned is being able to fit our traveling home into smaller spaces.  We hope to camp in more state and national parks than we were able to do in the past. Our first trip may well be to Falcon State Park, about an hour away.  Oh, and driving is so much less stressful.  I do not worry nearly as much about accidentally bumping into things.  We traded a gigantic luxurious box for an easy-to-drive and updated travel trailer.  We can't wait to use it.

Pet Picture of the Day....

Meet Chica, our next-door neighbors' new puppy.  What a cutie.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Gastronomic Tour of Texas Hill Country with Oenophile Friends

A View of the Vines at Grape Creek Vineyards

Roger here... Once again, I apologize for the late posting of our Hill Country adventures due to events that occurred a few weeks ago.  We have been busy.  (More information in the post following this post).

The drive from Bandera, Texas to Fredericksburg, Texas was somewhat perilous as we crossed two flash flood zones along the Guadalupe and Pedernales Rivers.  The drizzling rain that you can see in the opening photo continued during our entire Fredericksburg visit (except for the last day).  We had a great time anyway.

We arrived at the Fredericksburg KOA a day before our friends, Jay and Nancy.  They flew in from Indiana for several days of fun.

The Day Before Our Friends Arrived....

 Our first visit was to Grape Creek Vineyards.  As new members of their wine club, we wanted to check out our favorite winery before Jay and Nancy arrived.  

We explored the gift shop with a glass of wine. Where I bought a new baseball cap, that I really needed.  

We checked out the trattoria to be sure that we could eat there with our guests.  By the way, the term oenophile in the title of this post means wine lover.

From the sophistication of Grape Creek Vineyards we traveled down the road to encounter the Fat Ass Ranch Winery.

A Retama Village neighbor wanted us to pick up a bottle of Prickly Pear Jala-Raspberry- Peno (jalapeƱo) wine.

The grounds of this interesting winery included several countrified structures including these restrooms that were crafted from repurposed grain silos.

After a stop at Wildseed Farms (largest wildflower fields in Texas) and a candle shop where we picked up candles for another Retama Village friend, we headed to the newly opened Altstadt Brewery.

This brewery of German-style beers is quite the place.  There were several bars to sample the various brews as well as....

.... a basement sports lounge, and a very wet and cold biergarten.  

It was lunch-time and we were hungry.  A hostess led us across this mosaic floor to a massive German beer hall.  We ate excellent food at long picnic-styled tables.

Dianne enjoyed a glass of Chianti.  I sampled four of the Altstadt beers.  My favorite was the darker-colored Alt.

The German-style food was delicious.  My open-faced roast beef sandwich may well be the best I have ever eaten.  

Dianne had high praise for her salad.  

Jay and Nancy, arrival day...

Jay picked us up at our RV site, and we headed 30+ miles to the town of Marble Falls.  Jay coveted a slice of pie from the iconic Blue Bonnet Cafe.  Disappointment followed us.  The entire town, on the Llano River, was under a mandatory water boil due to the flooding.  Every restaurant was closed.  So....

... We drove back to wine country and stopped at Pedernales Cellars (new place for Dianne and me) for a wine-tasting.

After some wine we drove back to the Altstadt Brewery for lunch.  Followed by some shopping in Fredericksburg and....

... some home-made ice cream at the Clear River Ice Cream and Bakery.

More Food and Wine....

Over the next few days we continued to enjoy delicious food and wonderful wines.  In no particular order ---

We drove several miles down narrow country roads to feast on some tasty comfort food at the Alamo Springs Cafe.  The "cover burger" in the photo was named the best burger in Texas by Texas Monthly Magazine.  The photo below shows us woofing down a tableful of fried food :-).

Jay was finally able to satisfy his yearning for home-made pie.

The Alamo Springs Cafe is definitely an eclectic place --- run-down (intentional) appearance, serve-yourself beer and wine from the coolers, friendly atmosphere.  In the photo above, Jay gave up on the restroom line when several bikers from Luckenbach arrived for lunch.

Hill Country, Texas Halloween display along a country road

We drove through mud and trudged through mud to visit a gigantic monthly flea market.  Most, but not all of the goods, were displayed in five large buildings.  Dianne bought an ocotillo (interesting flowering cactus) for our yard from the cigar-smoking "cactus guy".  He referred to Dianne as "darlin".

An Artful and Delicious Bowl of Butternut Soup
The Cabernet Grill was an excellent gourmet choice for an evening meal.  Most of us opted for a preset wine and food pairing.

The Wines that were Paired with the Meal

The Main Course

We revisited Grape Creek Vineyards with Jay and Nancy for wine-tasting and lunch one day.

The view from inside our lunch spot in the glass-walled Trattoria was awesome (even in all the gray weather).

Our Last Day in Wine Country...

We went back to Grape Creek Vineyards one last time for Sunday brunch.  This was the first sunny day!

I wore a Purdue shirt because the Boilermakers had upset Ohio State the night before.

More amazing food --- this time outside in the gardens.
Crab Cake Benedict

After brunch we sauntered over to a nearby patio where we enjoyed a glass of wine and listened to live music.  It was a great morning.

Nancy had an excellent suggestion for working off some of the calories that we had been adding during our past days together.  We were able to arrive at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (state park) a few hours before it closed for the day.

I had wanted to visit this place for several years.  It is essentially a gigantic granite outcropping, one of the largest in the world.  Walking to the top was our plan.

The weather was perfect for a memorable hike.  

Jay and Nancy --- on their way up.

About a third of the way to the top, Dianne and Nancy became concerned about the steepness.  Going up, though exhausting, was simple enough, but coming down could have been treacherous. They headed back down.  Jay and I pushed on.  So brave!

The scenery on the trek upward was amazing.  
The walk past these waterfalls was exhilarating.  All that water from the past week had to go somewhere.

Near the top, I was still breathing, albeit more like panting.

Jay, in the picture below, seems pleased with himself at the top.


Jay and Nancy left the next morning, but our time in the Texas Hill Country (near Austin) was not to end for a few more days.  You will have to wait until the next post to see how Dianne and I began a new phase in our travels.

Pet Picture of the Day...

Poquita --- Staying Warm in the Chilly and Wet Weather