Having completed two trips with Tallulah Belle in late 2013, we looked forward to more adventures on the road, and so as the New Year rolled around, and I returned home on January 2, we thought that a trip to visit my folks on the family ranch in Central Texas would be a good idea. They had not seen the trailer except in photos and we had belated Christmas gifts to deliver (since I was offshore during the holidays). We also figured that while we were there, a short jaunt over to Fredricksburg, Texas would be nice. Fredricksburg is a lovely old German-Texas town, with wineries, peach orchards, lots of history and of course good food. (barbeque AND sausage). Melinda and I are both BBQ aficionados–remember my blood type is mesquite negative–so while travelling this would give us opportunity to hit some prime BBQ joints along the way.
We rolled out on a bright sunny warm (75F) day and travelling conditions were good, but as we got into Texas a strong wind started up, which demands lots of caution and attention. Pulling a large box in a 30MPH crosswind can be tricky, and the tail can wag the dog if you aren’t careful. Our path took us through Round Rock, and we stopped at the Salt Lick, a locally well known bbq joint.
The Texas BBQ Tour had commenced! After lunch our drive to Central Texas took us through Temple and Gatesville and we finally pulled off the road at Star, Texas to make the final few miles to the ranch. Stopping for a photo at Bennett Creek, we had to hurry as the road was in constant use from 18 wheelers enroute to local dairies, so we had to take a quick photo and then skedaddle, but we were just a few miles from the ranch, so it was not a problem.
Bennett Creek, Mills County, Texas
That night a STRONG cold front blew in, and temperatures dropped to the mid 20’s, so as we set out the next morning we had clear but frigid conditions. Finding ourselves in Llano near lunchtime we HAD to stop at Cooper’s…one of the best damn BBQ joints on the planet!!
BBQ heaven…Cooper’s in Llano.
We got to F’burg in late afternoon, the temps were still in upper 20’s and we wanted to stay close in so we camped at a big RV park inside city limits. Very nice place, great amenities and the owners were canned ham people also, with a old Mobile Scout in the process of restoring. Once again we were slotted between ginormous motor coaches from cold weather states (the term is ‘snowbirds’) who stayed in warmer climes during winter months. The town still had Christmas lights up, but holiday crowds had gone so it was a very pretty place.
Also very cold.
The temp that night got down to 13F and we had the ceramic heater to keep us warm. With all the new insulation, the trailer stayed cozy enough but all the water in the tanks and lines had frozen solid. We were noobs, remember? Thankfully there was a large shower facility, laundry station and ‘community hall’ in the center of the park so we really did not need to use any of the facilities inside the trailer. Good thing,, too. Even the water in the Porta-Potti was frozen solid.
After a couple of days we hitched up and began the long (13 hour) drive back to Louisiana, which was pretty uneventful, however when we got to Beaumont, Texas (it was full dark by that point) we were pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper on the side of I-10. We had all our paperwork in order, but when the officer greeted us she pointed out that our trailer license plate was missing.
When we bought the trailer, the PO had just bought new Minnesota plates, which were good until March 2014, so we were waiting for those to expire before we got Louisiana tags. Since we had bill of sale, title and other paperwork, the trooper let us go, but she admitted that she really wanted to see the trailer and the missing plate was a convenient excuse!! We gave her a tour of Tallulah and also gave her a photo because she commented that she really wanted to show her mom what a restored camper could look like. Vintage trailers have fans all over!!!
Arriving home safely, we unhitched the trailer and unpacked the truck. All is well, right? Well…not really.
Unknown to us, the hard freeze had frozen up all the water lines and had ruptured the new on demand heater and the original 1960 shower valve/diverter. We did not make this discovery until May, when we next planned to go camping. The ridiculous winter and cold temps of the 2013-2014 winter kept us from even thinking about camping until the last weeks of May, and then as we were planning a Memorial Day trip, we discovered the damage.
The heater was out of warranty, so we were out of luck there…$150 for a new unit. The PEX lines I was able to replace fairly easily but the diverter was made of brass and split on it’s backside. NO replacement could be found. The water taps were 3″ on center, which was standard then but nothing is made in that size now. I was forced to remove the diverter, file the back smooth, use JB weld to seal the split, file it smooth and then another layer of JB weld to completely cover the backing plate. What a painful lesson to learn.
When cold weather is coming, DRAIN YOUR SYSTEM. Oh sure, we know that NOW. There’s that RV learning curve again.