Ardent Camper's website may have been quiet for the last few weeks, but life has been anything but.
On Saturday, we officially left Houston. And we don't expect to be back until the holidays. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing we're adventure-bound but leaving family and good friends behind.
But first, let's back up a little bit, because the last time we updated the blog, we were still marooned by winter weather in Amarillo.
Traveling to the Gulf Coast
We had planned on leaving Amarillo on January 3rd and making the drive to Houston all in one day so we could enjoy Christmas Part 2 with my parents on the 4th.
The morning of the 3rd, we woke up to this:
There was snow and ice caked on our roof, which would need to be removed before we attempted to retract the slides.
The roads were just one big icy mess, and while Dovahkiin could handle it, we weren't so sure about towing our house through it.
So we decided to stay for two extra days until it was supposed to reach a balmy high of 34 degrees — the first time it had been over freezing in a week.
We used the time to pick up delectable pork green burritos from our favorite Amarillo hole-in-the wall, Tortilleria Lupita.
We also got a dozen Spudnuts for my parents, who see them as the ultimate edible flashback to their childhood. And, of course, we picked up several for ourselves too.
We ate lots of snow ice cream and enjoyed looking out at the peaceful scenes. Being in them? Not so much.
On the day we left Fort Amarillo, we got up early but didn't get a chance to hit the road until 2pm because it took us a while to knock the snow and ice off the slide-outs. Plus the morning ablutions were made slow by the lack of water for over a week due to what we thought was a plumbing problem with our kitchen sink.
Instead of driving all the way to Houston, we broke the trip up into two days, stopping just north of Fort Worth for the evening.
The afternoon of January 6th, we arrived at Woodland Lakes RV Resort in Conroe, Texas, a suburb of Houston. We had just 10 days to see as many friends and family members as we could and make repairs on our RV. Oh yeah, and try to get some work done!
We had a wonderful evening celebrating a belated Christmas with my parents, uncle and cousin.
We had a social gathering (or two) just about every day we were there.
On our last night in town, we celebrated my dad's and Josh's birthdays and got a parental blessing of safe travel and some great hugs.
Repairs and Revelations
Remember that broken kitchen sink from earlier? It was still haunting us.
The sink hadn't been draining since our post-Christmas trip to Las Vegas, and we had assumed we had some kind of ice-formed clog.
Josh had removed the P-trap, but that hadn't been the problem. Then we tried a snake but hit nothing.
We thought that, by heading south, we might thaw out the pipe and resolve the issue. But when we arrived at the Gulf Coast, the sink was just as clogged as ever, so we finally settled on calling out an RV repair technician.
He poked around for a while and even solved the low water pressure problem we were having (junk clogged in the water savers in the faucets — an easy fix), and then decided the lack of draining must be due to a busted diaphragm vent.
A trip to the hardware store later, he came back ready to get to work. "Just one question," he said before he started. "You sure you don't have a second gray water tank?"
"Well," I told him, "I don't think so. On our tank level sensor, there's a place for a Gray 2, but nothing happens when you push it. And there's a hole for a second gray tank valve release, but nothing in it."
"Hang on a sec."
He went outside and returned just a few minutes later, asking me to come look at something.
Sure enough, we had a second gray water tank valve release. But it wasn't where it should be, and it had no sensor attached. The release was up under the rig on the driver's side, a bit in front of the tires. I had to crawl under the slide to see it.
"This is a hack job," he told me, "but the good news is you don't have a clogged kitchen sink." The hidden release was for a second gray tank that was only fed by the kitchen sink. The tank was completely full after a few months of use, so it was backing up into the sink because it had nowhere else to go.
Easiest RV repairs ever.
Woodland Lakes RV Park
We parked our rig at Woodland Lakes RV Park in Conroe, just north of The Woodlands, situated in site 16.
It was a peaceful place to stay with three ponds and a solitary walking path that dead-ended in marshy forest typical of the area. It was pretty close to the Lone Star Hiking Trail, which I have hiked bits of several times.
I even had to carry Gabby through some of the muck.
While there, I saw an RV lifestyle first for me: a tiny house in an RV park. I have been interested in tiny houses for years — before I even considered buying or living in an RV — but I'd never seen one in person. It was a pleasant surprise to have one as a neighbor.
Goodbye and Hello
After just 10 days, it was time to say goodbye to the city that had been my home since August, 2004.
I had moved to Houston from North Carolina to pursue my college degree. Then I had begun work in the nonprofit sector as a grant writer, a career that would become over the years into an avenue towards freedom.
Houston is where I met my husband, my business partner and some of the best people I'd ever know. And I'll really miss seeing my family and friends who live there, but we're looking forward to seeing them on the road or when we return for holidays.
The only thing I won't miss... that Houston traffic.
Adventure awaits! We're off!
If you could take your home anywhere, where would you stop first?