Monday, September 1, 2014

A Gift: Long Weekend, Long Post.

Yes, that is a South East Texas POP-UP Camper's Club banner beside a travel trailer.  Why? Because we Scouted this weekend, and because this all-inclusive Club doesn't discriminate by breed, creed, gender, religion, or what you go camping in! (Although, to be totally honest, we did join the club while we were still in a pop-up...)

RDB and I took a few extra days off to make the Labor Day weekend a little longer, and left late out of Houston after running errands, going to the gym, and dropping Diesel-Dog off at doggie day care (we wanted a bit of a vacation to celebrate RDB's birthday and Double D doesn't understand what 'sleeping in' means). Honestly, it was a little odd without him.

We're back (again!) to an old favorite - the Texas State Rail Road campground up in Rusk, TX.  (Remember how last year, RDB said he'd gladly spend his birthday here again?) M&D from the camping club beat us there and had already picked out one of the more secluded sights.  J/D had family in the area and weren't coming over until Saturday morning.  We made ourselves at home in site 10 and snuggled in for the night.

By the way - if you haven't picked up a dog-bone for your camper, you should do so. Our 30amp wasn't working, but the 50amp was - so the connector (which was still new in the package after all this time) finally came into good use.

Friday morning we slept in(!), enjoyed our coffee and breakfast, lazed around the camper for a bit, then took a trip into Palestine (to have lunch at Giovanni's. Again!)  We made a stop off at the Walmart - one set of my outside rope lights had died on our past trip, so we picked up another - and we spent a little time in downtown Palestine.  I had researched a quaint little shop called the Texas Art Depot before we left: they were supposed to be a Thomas Kincaid gallery (I think we saw one print) and had several different local artisans. We thought the metal works were really neat and ended up buying one for my Dallas Bro.  

See the red-headed poker player at the bottom? Yep, that's my Bro.

Back at the campsite, we spent some time talking with M&D.  They had gone to the Caddo Mounds  Historical Site that morning, and were planning on riding the train on Saturday once J/D got in.  Since RDB and I have ridden the trains twice, we opted to spend this trip sight-seeing (and eating... a quick side note: I packed only 3 main meals (just dinners, no lunches) because we always come home with food. 4 nights, 3 dinners this trip, and somehow we still came home with food uncooked?!)  We finished up chatting with them and walked back to our site just as the sky opened up and it down-poured on us.  Good thing I bought Despicable Me for RDB's birthday....

The sunset Friday night after the rain was just glorious. I'll let the photos speak for themselves:

I don't think the steam and diesel trains in the campground will ever grow old to me.  There's just something so magical about the type of travel we used to do - and hearing the train whistle totally delights me.  I spent a good bit of time after the rain Friday evening walking the tracks and taking photos of the empty station (you can see them in my Flickr feed - link at the bottom).  I ventured out Saturday morning to wave to the other SETPUCCers who were going for a ride on the #7 Diesel that morning. M&D said they had known about the trains up in Rusk for decades, but had never made the time to actually go and ride.  It's for that very reason I'm glad we Scouted this trip!

While they were off on their rail adventure, RDB and I drove down to the Caddo Mounds State Historical Site.  We've driven past the mounds nearly every trip up to Rusk, but had not taken the time to go walk the site.  The museum is currently under construction and will reopen partially  in October ("When the politicians are available.") and will be fully completed in December.  Rachel, the education coordinator, was extremely knowledgeable and gracious enough to lend us the keys to the golf cart ("It is August, after all!") so that we could ride around, rather than walk the mile trail between the mounds.  I really do look forward to going back once the new museum is open and spending a bit more time there learning about this ancient culture.

Once we all made it in from our respective 'rides,' we debated a bit about dinner.  Tradition has it on SETPUCC trips, that there's a potluck on Saturday night.  With just 3 families attending this weekend a potluck seemed a bit over the top.  So, on M&D's recommendation (aka, TripAdvisor research) we jumped in the truck and went back out to Palestine for dinner at Little Mexico.  (J/D stayed in... which in hind-sight, was the better choice!)  The place was packed, but the service was severely lacking. And the food? Ehn.  I think we'd have done better going back to Giovanni's (again!) which happened to be literally right next door! (I think I've figured out why I keep coming home with extra food....)

Saturday night we planned to go for an Owl Prowl after we got back in from dinner.  RDB and I got back to the camper, unlocked the door, grabbed our trash and as I took it to the dumpster, he closed our gray tank.  I got distracted chasing a frog as he made it back around to the front door.

"Look what I caught!" I said, motioning to the frog.

"Look what I can't open." RDB said, tugging on the camper door.

(Somehow, magically, our door had re-locked itself and we were stuck outside.)

I said: "No problem! I have a spare key in the truck - I just need the truck keys, but they're..."

" the camper?" RDB said.

"Maybe we could use a screwdriver to pry it open? I have a tool set, but it's..."

" the camper?"

"We could.... call AAA? I've got a membership! I just need my phone, and it's..."

" the camper."

About that time, D and D showed up and joined us in pondering how we managed to get ourselves locked out of our camper (it felt like the old "Who's on First" routine all over again.)  Thankfully, M had a tool set back in his pop-up and after trying a multitude of non-violent attempts to pick the lock, RDB decided "force" was the only means necessary, and skillfully broke the lock. I say skillfully, because he only broke what was necessary to get the handle to open - the door still latched, and the deadbolt still locked... but it will eventually need to be replaced.  You know, I had a locksmith back in Raleigh tell me a story once about Gremlins....

Speaking of Gremlins, we did some Geocaching on Sunday (Gremlin, Garmin. Get it?)  We found four, but didn't do much searching beyond that.  When your Hubby says, "I'm getting itchy just looking at that one," you know you've gone about far enough.

Found our tiniest Geocache ever, and our first TravelBug.  I'd say four was plenty!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the campsite (and watching Despicable Me 2 when it started raining again).  I cooked coconut crusted chicken for lunch, and though it was good, I'll never do it again - frying stuff, even lightly, in the camper leaves a fried-fast-food-restaurant smell that even Febreeze had a hard time getting out.  After lunch, once the rain cleared, we took another walk around the lake.

Life is sweet to us right now.  We really enjoy our camping, our friends, our life together.  It's hard to imagine that only a year ago next week, RDB proposed.  It may be his birthday today, but I feel like I'm the one waking up each morning to a gift.

For more camping photos, go here.

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