The temp finally creeps above freezing around 11 am and shortly after I’m on the road, having spent a good part of the day before using my windshield scraper like an ice pick to free my hitch lock, power cord, wheel chocks, and other various RV goodies that need to be moved to leave but which were frozen in place like elaborate ice sculptures.
Just south of Coffeyville Kansas becomes Oklahoma, it’s easy to forget how near the boarder I am when I never venture south of the town. Northern Oklahoma has a good deal of ice as well, and I take a video of sunlight glinting off the frozen trees, turning them into a light show that rivals the most fervent Christmas decorator.
Farther south the ice is all melted away, but there’s a good 20-30 mile stretch of road where the trees are showing considerable damage, most with large limbs or tops missing. At first I wonder if it was a wind storm, but it’s too big of an area. It must have been ice, more than the ½ inch we saw in Coffeyville. I wonder if it happened in this most recent storm, or the one earlier in the month that just brought snow to Coffeyville where it was too cold.
My first stop on the road to Florida is Little House Customs, a RV shop and store that caters to the Casita community, with the occasional other molded fiberglass trailer thrown in for variety. My appointment is on the 27th, so even though I could make it that far today, it would do me no good to show up early. Right before sundown I pull into Shady Lake RV Park, located just south of Sulphur Springs, TX. Despite showing up on Christmas day and in the evening, the owners are friendly and helpful. By the time I get settled in night has fallen. I read my Kindle for a while, and enjoy how much easier it is to keep Cas warm when the low is only 30 instead of 20 or colder.
Hmm, I’m already nearly at Fork Lake, which means today won’t be a driving day but a find something to do day. Just north of Sulphur Springs sits Cooper Lake State Park, which lists hiking as an available activity. Sounds good to me!
Every now and then, my GPS tells me to do something silly. Normally it’s not worth a mention here, but this time it took me on little one lane county roads which isn’t so bad in itself, except I missed the turnoff for one of them. “Recalculating route” pipes my GPS. I sigh and continue forward while waiting for it to give me the next turn.
“In a quarter mile, make a U-turn” the pleasant voice says. I’m on a dead end road. Single lane, ditch, trees on both sides, there’s no way I’m making a U-turn on this road hitched up.
Under these kind of circumstances, the best thing to do is not panic. If you find your way into a tight spot, you can get out of it. There’s always the option to back up. Backing up for a half-mile down a one lane road might not be pleasant, but if you keep your cool and take it slow and keep a good eye on your mirrors you’ll get there. I’m about to follow this advice myself when I see a little leaf covered driveway with a gate across it about 30 feet back from the road. It’s up a hill and I have no idea what the road quality is like under those leaves, but it’ll be quicker than backing up so I give it a shot.
By now I’ve got enough experience at Y (or maybe ‘T’ is a better letter) turns with Cas that it doesn’t take me long at all. The dirt under the leaves is packed and gives good traction and in less than 5 minutes I’m on the road facing the other direction, success.
Onwards to the park.
The day use fee for Texas state parks is five dollars. When I get in I discover I have the place all to myself, the two day use areas I stopped at anyway.
Coyote Run is my destination, it’s a 4.7 mile round trip hiking trail through a terrain consisting of mostly young oak forest with semi-open fields between. I stop at one oak that has a large sturdy branch at waist height and climb up in it to take some pictures. I’ve always enjoyed climbing trees, even now that I’m an adult.
It’s sunny out and in the mid 50’s, good weather for hiking. The short day keeps me from finishing the whole thing, but after sitting in the truck for a day it feels nice to walk. This park is named after the lake it sits on, which use to be called Cooper lake but is now known as something else. The water level in the lake is extremely low, a product of the severe drought that plagued the state last year. The swimming area is closed because there is no water in it at all, the boat dock overlooks dry land.
When the sun is hanging low in the sky, it’s time to find a place to stay the night. This time it’s a Walmart in Sulphur Springs, as the low is going to be above freezing so I won’t need electric for heat.
The first summer I had Cas when I needed to replace a bad rivet, it was LHC I ordered the rivets from. Larry runs the shop full-time out of a large barn on his property on Lake Fork, near Yantis, TX which is about 90 miles east of Dallas. His wife Debbie runs the store, which carries replacement parts and modifications for Casitas. While the place can be hard to find even with GPS, anyone heading out there to get work done is given written directions from Larry and I find it without issue.
Calling Little House Customs a barn is a disservice. It’s got a full kitchen and guest quarters built in for people who are getting work done on their RVs. The shop floor can fit five Casitas at once, and there are doors on both sides, making it a pull through. For the first time since I’ve had Cas, he’s blending into the crowd instead of standing out. Inside the shop when I arrive is Larry and Debbie’s Casita, a 1996 model that is in excellent condition. Later on they will be joined by the 2000 Freedom Deluxe owned by Reine and Paul, followers of this blog.
I’m here to get the city water connection inlet and the fresh water outlet replaced, and to get my water heater looked at and possibly the anode changed if necessary. Before any of that can happen, Larry notices how hard it is to move the tongue jack up and down, it’s rusty and has been getting harder to move for some time now. LHC carries electric tongue jacks, and customers will often pay Larry to put them on. Because of this he has a lot of manual tongue jacks just laying around, taken off for people who wanted the upgrade, and he takes pity on my full body unhitching experience and offers to replace it with another manual one and only charge for the labor, because that’s the kind of guy he is.
If you need work done on a Casita, you really need to look Larry up. His prices were much better than I would have gotten at say a Camping World, and unlike just any old RV tech he knows and is passionate about Casitas and doing the job right. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get RV work done at a place that cares and knows what they’re doing, that fresh water outlet I needed replaced for instance I’d had done at a Camping World just earlier this year and it was already failing because the job had been rushed.
Now I can use my fresh water tank again because water put in it does not immediately flow out of the city water connection. The water heater anode was still in good shape, but sadly the water heater itself wasn’t, which I kind of expected.
I haven’t fired it up since last February because the flame (it’s an old propane only model) was burning irregularly and making popping noises, it didn’t seem safe. This time the pilot would light but it wouldn’t light the main flame at all. The gas valve needs replacing, and it’s a $200 part and requires disassembling most of the water heater to change out. At the kind of price all of that would cost, the best option is just to replace the whole thing. I didn’t have that in my budget this time, but I know I’ll be going back to LHC to get it done when the time is right. I’ve been living in Cas for well over a year now and have never used the shower, preferring the larger hot water capacity and more space to be found in the shower houses of whatever campground I’m staying in, so continuing to not have a functioning hot water heater is truly no big deal to the way I currently travel. When I get around to boondocking it will be, but as that time is still a ways off there is no rush.
Just as valuable as the work I got done was the information I gathered by finally getting to chat at length with other Casita owners. Larry let me watch him while he worked and ask questions. Reine was happy to show me how she hangs things on the carpeted walls with drapery hooks (brilliant), and that night the five of us went out to eat at a local cafe and were joined by three other local Casita folks. I got the fish fry, which was excellent. The company was excellent too.
After dinner I spent the night in Cas, who was still parked inside LHC making it the first time I’ve slept in him indoors. With the blinds drawn though, it makes no difference where you park on any given night – you can imagine yourself anywhere. Personally though, I was quite happy to be there, what a nice visit it turned out to be.