Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Welcome to the World, Allie Rose…


As mentioned in the previous blog we made our way to Rockport to set up camp for a couple of months knowing that on March 27th Sharon would fly to NC for the birth of our third grand child (Katie's due date was March 29th). The plan is that I will fly out nearer to the end of Katie's planned maternity leave for a visit and to fly back with Sharon.


Our second day at the park we were at a gathering when we received a call from Katie that she had just come from her doctor's office where concerns were raised with regard to Katie's blood pressure being high. In addition although Katie had been doing some prescribed exercises, the baby had refused to budge from her breech position. The doctor explained that there was an elective hospital procedure called E-version which could be performed by her doctor to attempt to flip the baby around to a position for normal birth. Should there be any complications and a c-section become necessary, they would perform it that day. This would be scheduled Thursday March 18th.


The problem with the 18th was that Sharon had just moved her flight from the 27th to the 23rd. We asked Katie if we should scramble and get a flight out right away. Katie said because of COVID only Brooks could be with her so we might as well keep the flight on the 23rd.


The E-version procedure was not successful so after consulting with the doctor the recommendation was that Katie and Brooks schedule a C section the following week which would give the baby a little more time to grow as Katie was just coming upon her 38th week of pregnancy Prior to the procedure it was discovered that along with her elevated blood pressure, bloodwork had revealed a low platelet count. The doctor asked that they return to the office on Friday for a blood pressure check and more bloodwork.


On Friday after her visit it was decided that because Katie was presenting as possible pre-eclampsia, they should schedule the c section the very next day on Saturday, March 20, 2021. This would be our granddaughter's birthday. Again Katie urged us to keep our flight as she would be hospitalized with no visitors allowed so there would be no need for Sharon to come sooner.


The morning of March 20th we were introduced via text and pictures from Brooks that Allie Rose Hester had entered the world weighing 7 lbs 6 oz and measuring 20 inches long. Mom, Dad and baby are doing well. Sharon is very excited about her trip to help Katie in any way she can adjusting to motherhood and healing after surgery.

I will be a bachelor here at the motorhome for awhile and it will be strange for Sharon and I to be apart because since our retirement ten years ago I don't think we've spent one night apart much less several weeks. Thankfully with video chat and texting we will stay in touch. I will fly out later to meet our newest grandchild.


I think it is fitting that little Allie was born on the first day of Spring marking the beginning of my favorite season of the year. And hope is on the horizon for us all as we continue to vaccinate and carefully work our way out of this historic, life altering pandemic.

NOTE:  We are currently at Angler’s Retreat in Rockport Texas until at least mid May… 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Rockport TX, beach, strolls and fun…


Hard to believe we are finally headed north after staying 11 days longer than planned in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas just to get everything back in working order after the big freeze. Alas, that day finally came when we fired up the Cummins and made our way north.


A long 190 mile drive later we pulled into the Angler's RV Retreat in Rockport, TX. We are not sure how long we will stay in Rockport because the main reason we booked it was so Sharon could fly out to North Carolina and help our daughter. What does our daughter need help with? The answer is becoming a mommy for the first time. Yep, our daughter is going to have her first baby.


Sharon plans to stay with Katie and our soon to be third grandchild for as long as Katie needs her which will possibly be two or three months. So we have booked two months here in Rockport for now and will plan accordingly as events unfold.


In the meantime we are enjoying our stay in Rockport Texas for now. We are less than a mile to Rockport Beach for our beach strolls and not far from Corpus Christi, Port Aransas and  Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for places to visit. While Sharon is gone I am sure I can idle away the time fishing the many hotspots nearby.


One of the first places we visited here was the Big Tree located near Goose Island State Park. It is one of the largest live oak specimens in the United States and the second largest live oak in Texas after being replaced as the Texas State Champion Virginia Live Oak by another larger live oak discovered in 2003 in Brazoria County.


The Big Tree has a circumference of over 35 feet and is estimated to be between 1000 and 2000 years old! For sure this old oak has seen a lot of history and endured a lot of Hurricanes with the most recent one being Hurricane Harvey which left this part of the coast in Texas nearly demolished. Harvey, a category 4 hurricane hit the town of Rockport on August 25, 2017. The town even today still shows signs of the devastation left behind.


Happily the Big Tree emerged relatively unscathed by Harvey, a testament to its strength and ability to thrive in this environment. One of the neat things about visiting this historical giant is that it is also a great  place to find the Whooping Crane, an endangered species.  It is the the tallest North American bird named for its whooping sound and lucky for us, migrates to Texas to overwinter.While they will be returning north very soon we have had the pleasure of seeing them every time we have visited the Big Tree so far this spring. We haven’t been able to get any great photos from afar but have certainly enjoyed watching them in our binoculars.

Soon we hope to be sharing pictures of the newest member of our family!

NOTE:  We are currently at Angler’s Retreat in Rockport Texas until at least mid May… 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Visit to Two State Parks and Time to Move North…


Before leaving the Rio Grande Valley we took the time to visit a couple of birding hot spots. First was a visit to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. We have been to this state park before when we wintered down in Mission TX one year. Since we were fairly close we certainly wanted to revisit the park.


We love seeing all the beautiful birds that can only be found in southern Texas. One of our very favorites is the beautiful Green Jay. These birds were once only found in the southern reaches of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas but over the years they, along with the Kiskadee Flycatcher, have been slowing expanding their range northward to near San Antonio.


The park allowed camping in the past and as a result there is a loop now restricted to bicycles and hikers along with the occasional Border Patrol truck making rounds. It does make for a nice hike though. Within the park is a remnant oxbow (Resaca) of the Rio Grande which is home to three species of Hummingbirds. We have seen all three of them.


The other park we visited was Estero Llano Grande State Park. While we saw many of the same birds there we enjoyed this visit as well. There were a few more feeding stations set up and we were treated to a great showing of the Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and the Altamira Orioles.


It was nice to spend a few extra days in the RGV of Texas to not only see the birds of the valley one last time but for the chance to relax and put all our repair woes behind us. However, now it became time to move north and hit the road once again… 


We will close out this blog and our stay this winter in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas with this parting shot of an Orange Crowned Warbler taking a bath…


NOTE:  We are currently at Angler’s Retreat in Rockport Texas… 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Everything is finally all fixed!!! Halleluiah!!!

As mentioned in our previous blog, we had no choice but to take our RV over to the Doggett Freightliner shop in Harlingen. Prior to that appointment I spent some time trying to solve our slide out issues. As I previously described, while trying to leave South Padre Island where we discovered the slides would not come in, I learned from a RV tech how to jump the slide relay to get the slides to work. After settling in at a park in Harlingen, I began troubleshooting our slide out wiring.

red wire to jump slideout relays

I discovered two wires not connected to anything in the compartment where a lot of our electronics are stored. One was a red wire that I was using to jump the relay with and I knew it belonged somewhere. It had a tab on the end designed to to attach to something. I was pretty sure it needed to go to the Slideout Inhibitor. However, the green wire I found had a label that said it was the Parking Brake Ground and I had no idea where it went.

slideout inhibitor wires as they were

The green wire had no end on it but it appeared as if it had broken off/pulled out of somewhere.  I spoke with Don Boyd at Tiffin (a fellow who has helped me out numerous times). He was able to send me an image of what the wiring for the Slideout Inhibitor was for our rig. Upon inspection it was certain where the red wire went but the green wire was still elusive. Also the picture showed a white wire attached to the Slideout Inhibitor that I couldn’t find anywhere.

image showing how wires should be connected

Speaking with Don Boyd again we finally determined that my green wire and the white wire in the picture were the same. Therefore I attached a female spade terminal to the end of the green wire and put it where the white wire in the photo went. I also attached the red wire to where the photo showed it should be. WOW!!! The slides now all work as they are supposed to. Thanks Don at Tiffin for your invaluable assistance! I assumed that these wires were accidentally knocked out of place during our inverter installation.


The next day was our appointed time to address our other tribulations so we stowed away all of our stuff and prepped the RV for its move over to Pharr, Texas. Wonderfully all the slides came in as designed and the jacks were brought up smoothly. We began to prepare ourselves mentally for a long day awaiting diagnosis and repair at Doggett Freightliner. We started up the engine,hooked up the car and hit the road for the short 40 mile drive to Pharr, Texas.

As we merged onto the highway I became aware that the transmission was shifting incorrectly and the engine would hang at 2700 RPMs before finally shifting to the next gear. Sigh…


We managed to make it to Doggett and we checked in promptly at 8:00 am hoping to allow plenty of time to fix our woes. While there we decided to have them perform our annual preventative maintenance as well if time permitted. To take our minds off the RV problems I told Sharon we should plan a half day trip over to Benson Palm State Park about 30 minutes away and spend the morning hiking/birding.

We had a great hike where we saw lots of birds and were happy to have the distraction from the stress. On our way back to the RV to check on its progress, we made a stop at Delia's Tamales for some lunch and really enjoyed the best spicy pork tamales we have ever had in our lives. After lunch we drove back to Doggett.


After an hour I called to ask about progress and the service manager told me she had just received our paperwork from the technician and everything was now working properly. Wow, were we ever excited to hear that news. Rightfully they explained there was no charge for anything other than the preventative maintenance. It turned out our whole problem was the ECM settings were never correct, just as I thought!

Once the technician found the correct program settings for our ECM everything wrong was resolved. Halleluiah!  After paying the bill we took her for a test drive to ensure everything worked as advertised and were very pleased to report to them that all was now as it should be.


Thinking the repair would take hours (or days) to fix we had planned a stay right around the corner from Doggett Freightliner at Tip O' Texas RV Resort. We had planned only a one night stay so we could move on to our next location in Rockport Texas but after our ordeal we added another day to simply relax!. Finally our trials and tribulations are over…

NOTE:  We are currently at Angler’s Retreat in Rockport Texas… 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Finale? NOT! The Saga Continues…


Our day of departure from South Padre Island arrived with much trepidation. After all our issues after the winter storm, would everything work? What if it didn’t? Checkout was at 11 am so I got up early to prepare to go.

I packed the outdoor rugs and chairs, stowed all the power, water and sewer stuff. Sharon did her usual routine to ready the car for towing. I checked everything outside and then after going inside to pull the slides in … nothing. Slides won’t move… sigh.


Hurriedly I checked  fuses, breakers etc. and assume I have a relay problem. With no time to spare I called a mobile tech who came out to at least jump the relays to make them all come in. I fired up the engine and then the jacks won’t come up.  Really!!! Then I noticed the low power light and see the batteries weren’t ready. When the light went out the jacks came up so at least we could leave and I would figure out the slides later… oh, well.

As we start driving the RV out of the park, the first thing I notice is that the speedometer isn’t working. WTF!!! Really? Well at least I notice the engine is running fine other than it had a rough idle before we left. We continued on. Just outside of of Port Isabel we came upon a stretch of road where I was able to pick up speed.


Watching my RPM’s I knew we were going about 60 mph. I switched on the cruise control and guess what? Yep, you guessed it… it didn’t work! At least we only had 50 miles to go to our next park since I wanted to stay in the valley to be close to the Freightliner shop who worked on our rig. Now I was sure glad we chose to do that.

Before we finally got to the next park we also discovered the exhaust brake wasn’t working either. As we made our way to our assigned site at the RV park, we discover the site was nearly impossible to get into, but, we did. I jumped the slide relays to pull the slides out and had the jacks go down smoothly, so now it was time to call Freightliner back.


I called service who informed me that it would cost more to send the tech back out until I sternly reminded them their last job wasn’t done yet and simply needed to be finished. They agreed to send out a tech the next day.

Tuesday morning we saw our friendly tech, who we now are on first name basis with, especially after Sharon gave him some of her homemade apple crumble last time he worked on our RV. Anyhow he spent about three hours checking each and every ECM setting that I had Freightliner send them to doublecheck each setting in my newly installed ECM to ensure they were correct.


After uploading the new program settings to our ECM we were pleased to hear the idle was perfect with the new settings. Now we were hopeful that upon taking it out for a spin all the other issues would be resolved as well.  Unfortunately it did not happen. After several hours of more troubleshooting the recommendation was to bring it to the shop in the morning…

So here we are…

NOTE:  We are currently in Pharr, Texas at the Tip O Texas RV Park, next up Rockport Texas…  

Friday, March 5, 2021

Surviving the Big Freeze in Texas (The Finale)


With our new batteries and a new inverter/charger installed we finally had a some successful moments. Now all we needed was to receive and have the ECM installed. Freightliner found a new ECM in Arlington Texas and it was to arrive by Friday. Well Friday passed and later that day we were told if it arrived Saturday they would still come out to replace it for us even though they would be normally closed.

When I saw I had a call from Freightliner Saturday I was happy to answer it only to discover the part didn’t come in on Saturday but they were hopeful it would on Monday. We were again assured they could replace it early and we could still leave on time.


Saturday afternoon Sharon and I decided to take a break from all the stress by driving over to the Laguna Boardwalk for a little stroll to do some birding and take a few photos. That was a great idea until our 2011 Honda CRV decided not to start. Crap, what else can go wrong??? Thinking the battery might be bad I looked at it and everything looked great but I knew the battery was only fourteen months old.  Luckily we found a fellow in the park who offered to check the fuel pump out and to determine if we had spark to eliminate some things.

Everything seemed to check out but he suggested that before we dig in any further he was going to throw 50 amps at the battery and have me try again. After sputtering a bit it indeed started. We were so relieved… I drove it over to Walmart to have them check the Everstart battery. They said it was good, but I was not convinced. I told them I had problems with their batteries before and that they should consider renaming them Never-starts. After the initial failure to start we have thankfully had no further problems with the CRV


Of course the call from Freightliner on Monday was that the part still hadn’t come in. On Tuesday they called to say the tracking on the ECM was wrong and they had no idea where it was but to not worry as it should arrive soon. Again Sharon and I thought it would be wise to book yet another week if it was available just in case it was going to be a while before the new ECM found its way down to south Texas.

Late Tuesday afternoon we got a call to say the part had been found and they would came out in the evening to replace it. Finally the part was here… Our mechanic came out and installed the new ECM only to find out our engine displayed the same No Eng code and wouldn’t start. Sigh…Well he checked  several other things and discovered that the ignition relay had apparently failed as well and once it was replaced we were able to start the engine. It was joyous to see all was back to normal…. Finally!


Our trials and tribulations are finally behind us (we hope). We cancelled the extended week despite the fifty dollar penalty as we really need to get back on the road and closer to the airport to send Sharon to NC for the birth of our new granddaughter…

NOTE:  Today’s photos are from some salt flats on South Padre Island’s bayside. We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas until March 8th…

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Surviving the Big Freeze in Texas (Part 3)…


We were scheduled for the Freightliner Mechanic to come to our dead RV on Tuesday morning , Feb 23rd. When he called to say he could come over Monday night we were thrilled. After spending about an hour diagnosing our issues he determined our ECM was probably fried. He told us they would test it and if needed, order the part. He said they’d call to let us know what it would cost along with an estimated time the part would come in. He assured us they’d have it all done well before our departure on March 1st.


As mentioned in the previous blog I also had to order a new Magnum 2012 inverter to replace our old Xantrex Freedom 458 unit. On Sunday when I ordered it I paid the steep price for overnight shipping thinking it would arrive no later than Tuesday night so we could get it in plenty of time to install it before March first.


It seemed things were looking up, right? Well, as they say – Not so fast! Tuesday I received a tracking number for the Inverter which said I would get it Wednesday before 9 pm. Sigh… Next, when we called to check on the ECM we found out that freightliner hadn’t fully tested the ECM because they were waiting for wiring diagrams.


Wednesday came and went without any progress on either the inverter or the ECM for our RV. We now would have two more working days left before we’d be screwed since there would be no way for us to leave on March 1st without the ECM.

Thursday I am told by Freightliner that my ECM was indeed bad and a new one had been located in Arlington Texas. It would arrive on Friday. They knew we were slated to leave on Monday so they assured us they’d send the techs out Friday or Saturday to install it. Also our inverter finally arrived on Thursday as well.


When I open the inverter I see I got the wrong one. I should have gotten the Magnum 2012-20B. By getting the wrong one I would now be unable to install it myself and would need someone else to do it. We called all the mobile techs and no one could do it before we needed to leave. Finally I found an electrician (a friend of a RV mobile tech} who agreed to take on the job and had it installed Friday morning. Yes!!!

The good feelings were short lived as Freightliner called Friday evening to inform me the part did not arrive as planned and they would now come out Monday to install it. Well crap, we were supposed to leave Monday. We decided we needed to talk to the park office and beg to stay another week knowing someone else had reserved our site.


Sharon got it done for us but not before having to shed a few tears while trying to communicate our impossible situation. . I mean  without the ECM we can’t move our RV not to mention it would be nearly impossible to tow since our site is a nose-in site with trees in front and beside us. 

At least we now have another week to solve this mess.  

NOTE:  We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas until March 8th…