Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spicy Austin

We had a fantastic day today. We got up unusually early for us (around noon). Mar started her day with a cup of coffee but not Bernie, she gave up coffee for lent. Then we got ready to go and headed out the door. We were met with a chicken at our door, then the chicken followed Mar all around the yard.

Sue and Jules said we could borrow one of their vehicles today to go into town to take care of our errands. On the way out we stopped first at the local farmers market to deliver Sue’s lunch. Sue was there selling the free range chickens and organic eggs from their farm. If you need any eggs or chicken, check out this chicken farm.

Then we headed into Austin to find a restaurant supply store, to look for a bigger roll of rubber matting for Bella’s floor but unfortunately we didn't find the size we needed.

Our next stop was the Keep Austin Spicy asian festival. It was quite small and not very organized but it seemed like a good effort so hopefully it will grow into something amazing.

Then we decided to find a Walgreens to get some allergy meds for Mar because she has been sneezing nonstop since we got to Texas. On the way there, we were stopped at a red light and noticed a small crowd down the block. We decided to park and go check it out. We were on Congress Avenue.

We found a very groovy part of town. There are some very unique stores such as Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds and Uncommon Objects. On the other side of the road there are several trailers along the road selling cupcakes, popcorn, pizza, and other goodies. It was a fun place to spend some time. The Hey Cupcake trailer has a coupon on their website for a free cupcake. Mar got the Michael Jackson cupcake and Bernie got the 24 Carrot cupcake.Both were very yummy.

Then we headed to a laundromat to do our laundry. When we were done there, we went to dinner at the Green Mesquite, a place featured on the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show. Lucky for us Island Texas was playing on the patio tonight and we really enjoyed their music. We had the chicken wings and the bbq plate, with ribs and pulled pork. The food was ok but we had to wait a super long time for it so listening to the music helped.

We finally found our way back to the farm where everything was dark, the sky was filled with stars, and we were more than ready to call it a night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The chicken farm

Before leaving Walmart today we got milk and creamer, and returned the movie to RedBox.

Next we went first to Home Depot and then to Lowes looking for something that we can use to replace the carpet in Bella's cab.

At Home Depot we found a small can of "oops" paint for only $1, for the new bed in Bella.

At Lowes we found a grey anti-fatigue rubber mat that we think will work well for the cab floor and will be easy to keep clean. It is not quite the right size so we got two rolls and we'll have to figure out what to do about the seam between the two.

Then it was time to leave Austin. We drove east about an hour to a chicken farm in Paige TX, where Bernie has her next job.

After driving for a while on dark, unpaved roads, we got to the farm where we met Sue and Jules. Once we had plugged in the electric and hooked up the water, we went inside for some good wine and great conversation.

We started to learn a lot about chickens and heard all about the potential projects they have for Bernie. There is a lot of work to be done at this pretty new farm, we could be here awhile ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Following the hail

As soon as we finished up packing the last few things, we were ready to hit the road. The first thing we did today was go to Walmart to buy fuses. We bought extras to keep on hand. Then we went to Home Depot to return the leftover materials that we ended up not needing for the bed.

Then we set out to find a Washington Mutual. Bernie got paid with a check at this last job and it took us a while to find a branch. The bank charges $5 to cash their own check. Now that is highway robbery, plain and simple.

Next we headed to Ikea in Round Rock TX, to get a mattress for the new bed. Mar tested all the firm mattresses and luckily found one she liked that we could afford.

While we were there we could tell it was raining pretty hard outside, so we just took our time, it is such a fun store. The rain had almost stopped by the time we came out, just a light sprinkle was falling by then.

It was now almost dinnertime so we headed to B. B. Rovers in Austin, where we were to meet Ron for dinner. Ron is a new friend from our vandwellers yahoo group, who happened to be in town tonight.

As we got closer, we started noticing something white on the ground and realized that it was hail, big pieces of hail and plenty of it.

When we parked at the restaurant, we noticed the cars had big dents all over them, and many of the windshields were cracked. When we went inside, Ron told us we had just missed the hailstorm and we talked about all the damage the hail did to the cars in the parking lot.

We went outside to see the damage to his van and he gave us a tour of his van. The van wasn’t too badly damaged but the windshield was in bad shape. We were so blessed that the hail didn’t make it to the area of the Ikea store where we were, about 15 minutes away.

Ron loves this restaurant and recommended the pizza. We had the cheese pizza with mushrooms and onions, and the veggie basket.

After dinner, we got on 183 and drove until we found a Walmart. There are still some things we need to finish up the repairs in Bella, but didn’t find anything we needed at Walmart tonight. The floor in Bella is wood laminate but the cab area still has the original carpet, which got wet from the leak so it has to go. We want to replace it with some type of rubber floor or something that is easy to keep clean.

We then rented a movie from RedBox and parked for the night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What doesn’t kill you

They say challenges and difficulties in life give you strength and build character. Well, we should have tons of strength and character by now!

Today we were cleaning and packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow. While Bernie was finishing up the new bed and putting it in place, she asked Mar to turn on the pump to test the water system before putting it all back into place.

Mar turned on the switch for the pump and nothing happened. The pump for the fresh water tank was not working. But why?

We could not believe this was happening, we didn’t think anything else could possibly go wrong!

We started brainstorming possible solutions, got online to find answers, pulled out the rv repair books, tested the voltage, called the company (they were closed) and nothing helped, nothing worked.

In desperation we emailed one of our yahoo groups, explaining our problem and gave our phone number, begging for anyone who could help us to call us. A little while later, we got a phone call.

Larry, from the vandwellers yahoo group, called and explained how to tell if the fuse was bad. Bernie pulled it out and that was it, a blown fuse. We don’t have extra fuses so we had to “borrow” the one for the furnace (we know we won’t be needing that one for a while).

As soon as the fuse went in, the pump came on. We thought it was the most beautiful sound ever. We actually jumped for joy and high fived each other, it was such a great relief to have that problem solved. We are so grateful to Larry for helping us!

By then we were physically and emotionally exhausted. We finished up most of the packing and organizing, and called it a night. They must be right, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A hard day's night

After a long day of hard work - Bernie finishing up the windows and Mar meeting deadlines for her online classes - we dragged ourselves to Austin.

We were almost too tired to go but decided to push ourselves because we both needed a break.

First we went to check out the last act at the monthly Full Moon Barn Dance, which started at 2 pm but by the time we got there it was already after 9 pm. There were still a lot of people there and everyone was having fun, what a great event.

We met the hostess, Leeann Atherton, who is a local musician and was very happy to see us. We had been emailing back and forth and it was a pleasure to finally meet her in person.

Then we went to downtown Austin for dinner at Casino El Camino, a place featured in the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show on the Food Network.

Downtown Austin was very much alive, there were a lot of people everywhere, even for a Sunday night. There was a band playing in a garage-like space between two buildings. They sounded good and were so loud that you could hear them all around the block. Tonight was the last night of the South By Southwest festival.

We found parking across the street from Casino El Camino and went inside … after getting carded … that is always fun.

We walked into a bar, full of young people, where everyone was drinking. After visiting the restroom (bad idea) we were beginning to wonder if we really wanted to eat here.

But then we saw the kitchen and walked past it, down a long hallway, all the way to the back, where we found a semi-covered patio with a funky fountain, cool murals, and more people. There was only one table available so we sat down, looked at the menu, and after a while figured out that no one was coming out to take our order.

So Bernie went back to the kitchen to place our order. We had the chili cheese fries, which were pretty good, and the chicken wings. You can order the wings mild, hot, or explosive. We ordered them mild but we’re pretty sure we got the explosive instead. Our mouths, lips, tongues, everything was burning! We got a glass of milk, which helped a bit. The kitchen gave us sliced tomatoes, they said that would help too.

After that, we were ready to go home. We went back to Dripping Springs, where our hostesses are now back from their trip. And tomorrow Bernie will start building the new bed that Mar needs in Bella.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The mysterious leak

The past couple of days have been nothing but work, work, and more work. We are house sitting and pet sitting at this ranch house on a remote, quiet Texas mountain. It is very pleasant here and the weather is wonderful.

Mar has been working nonstop in the kitchen on our meals for the road and in the washroom doing our laundry. She has made everything from appetizers to entrees to desserts. We hope we’ll have room for it all in Bella’s freezer.

Bernie has been working on the house’s window frames. First sanding and filling in the wood and then painting it red. In Bella, she has ripped out more and more carpet and cleaned the mold with bleach. This is not an enjoyable task but we have to get this done so we can get on the road again. Bella is our home and Mar needs her bed back.

We think we might have found the mysterious leak. The water seems to be coming in the window, sitting on the sill, then down the inside of the wall and finally draining on the floor. Now we just need to figure out why it is coming in the window in the first place. We can only hope it won’t rain until we fix this!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maria and muffins

The day started with a haircut, and what a haircut! Bernie has been thinking about shaving her head for some time and decided today was a good day to go for it. She asked Mar to do the honors. As clump after clump of hair came down the excitement grew and grew. Now Bernie has a new look, but don’t worry too much, it will grow back.

Then we headed out to run some errands. First the post office and then Home Depot, to get some wood for the new bed Bernie will build in Bella.

Then we went to the Apple Store at the mall to get a new power cord for Bernie’s laptop because hers isn’t working any more and sharing one is really inconvenient. It’s a good thing that last Christmas Bernie got a gift card from her brother for the Apple Store.

After we left the mall, we saw a bookstore called Half Price Books and decided to stop and go in. Mar lived in Dallas from 1984 to 1989 and she used to go to this same bookstore there all the time.

We were going to just have a look, just a quick look around. Well, they had bunches of book on clearance and we walked out with ten books! The good news is the books were only a dollar each. Now that’s a good deal.

We were hungry by then and went to get dinner at Maria’s Taco Xpress, a restaurant featured in Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

This place is definitely not your regular taco joint. This place is full of: Maria. The owner’s image is everywhere, among all the pictures and paintings and found objects. Her image is plastered everywhere in one way or another, in a playful manner. This is one fun place. She is even on the roof, with outstretched arms, in bigger than life proportions.

During dinner we listened to the music of the Traveling Women’s Review. Eight musicians played here today as part of the South By Southwest events going on in Austin right now. The performers came from Norway, Sweden, Boston, Georgia, Wimberley, and south Austin.

We shared the Al Pastor dinner plate and it was absolutely delicious. It was only around $9 and it was more than enough for two people. We were stuffed.

But that didn’t stop us from going out front to the muffin bus in the parking lot to check out this uniquely wacky place. Lucky for us, they were open later than usual because of the South By Southwest event going on next door.

The muffin bus is an old trolley car converted into a muffin making machine. Their slogan is 'taste no evil' because they only use organic products. We tried the muffin top ice cream sandwich: two chocolate muffin tops with coffee ice cream in the middle and it was yummy.

Next we went to Walmart to get the groceries that Mar will need for her cooking marathons, to fill up our freezer again before we hit the road.

Finally we headed back to the house on the mountain that we’re house sitting this week. On the way there we saw a deer right in the middle of the road, it’s a good thing we were going slow on these curvy, hilly roads. When we got home, the dogs we are pet sitting were very, very, very happy to see us!

Monday, March 16, 2009


Now we are dealing with two water related problems that are not related to each other.

First, we discovered a tear on Bella's roof when we saw rain water getting in. This is over the couch, right behind the passenger's seat. We've been advised to use EternaBond to fix it. Thankfully it is a very small tear, cause that stuff is expensive.

Then we have the leak under the bed, where the fresh water tank is, right behind the driver's seat. We put on our detective hats again today and try as we might, we can not figure out where the leak is or how the water got there. We have a fan on full blast directed at the wet spots and all we can do is wait for it to dry. Lucky for us, there is no rain in the forecast and the temps will be in the 80s for the next few days.

The one thing we do know is that the two water problems are not related, they are on opposite sides of the coach, but they just happened at about the same time and funny that we just happen to be in "Dripping" Springs TX right now ...

Bella looks like a disaster zone. There is stuff everywhere and the bed is gone, Bernie had to take it apart so we could work on this problem. We have to get rid of the twin mattress because it got wet too and it is now moldy.

It's a good thing we are not traveling right now and that we are in a driveway with hookups. It's a really good thing that Bernie is a carpenter and can build a brand new bed for Mar.

Our hosts are leaving tomorrow and we will stay here to take care of their cat and two dogs. While we're here Bernie will be working on some projects around the house for them. This week Mar will do the laundry, a couple of baking and cooking marathons, and will work on her online classes.

Because we are not traveling right now, we will probably not post the blog every day, but we promise to keep you updated if anything interesting happens. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More water

After getting gas and a few supplies at Walmart, we were ready to hit the road. We drove west about two and a half hours to Dripping Springs TX, which is just west of Austin.

After going through Austin where there was a lot of heavy traffic for a Sunday, it was quite a contrast to leave the city. As we got closer to Dripping Springs, we were driving on long, narrow, hilly, curvy roads with lots of green everywhere we looked, and pretty much nothing else.

We went to the house of Vickie and Kathy, located on a five acre ranch. They have asked us to pet sit for them while they go to NY for spring break, and they also have a couple other jobs for Bernie to do this week.

After a nice chat and getting the tour of the house and the land, we went back to Bella to plug in and get settled in.

A couple of days ago, Mar had noticed a wet spot on the carpet by the driver's seat. Today the spot was much bigger, so Bernie decided to try to figure out where the water was coming from.

As she looked closer she could tell the water was coming from behind the driver's seat, from under Mar's bed. When we lifted the mattress, we saw everything under there was soaking wet and it was not a pretty sight. This is where the pump and fresh water tank are located.

Bernie took the whole bed apart, she removed all the wet wood, carpet and foam. Then we tried to determine where the water was coming from. We looked at every possibility and could not figure it out. Looking closely with a flash light, we tested the water pump, the water heater, we tried both filling up the fresh water tank and connecting the outside hose. There is no way to tell how all that water got under the bed.

It looks like a disaster area in Bella now but it was late by then and the only thing we could do was turn on the space heater in front of the wet spots, and wait till the wet floor underneath dries up, before we can do anything else with this mess.

So for now we are just waiting for water to dry ... the adventure never ends.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Apple blossoms

Once again it was raining when we woke up today. Because of the rain we discovered there is a leak in Bella's roof. Bernie took a look and found a small tear in the roof. The water is seeping through that tear and down the wall inside the cabinet where we keep our books. Thankfully the books are fine, we caught it before there was any damage.

We are not sure how it could have happened but lately we have been doing mostly city driving and we can’t always avoid the lower tree branches. Maybe that did it. Now we have to find the way to fix the tear.

After drying up the leak we drove about 15 minutes to the Orange Show Monument. It is a whimsical place, decorated with lots of colors, on a quiet corner lot with all kinds of found objects and lots of quotes all around. It is an indoor/outdoor 3,000 square foot concrete maze that includes an oasis, a wishing well, a pond, a stage, and an upper deck.

Then we headed to the Beer Can House, which is a house made completely out of beer cans and it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. We extended our stay in Houston just to wait till Saturday so we could see it. When we got there today, we saw a hand written sign on the fence saying that it was closed due to the weather. We had to leave without seeing the inside and we were sooooo disappointed!

To end our tour of Houston we drove by the area that used to be the Sacred Heart Dominican College, where Bernie's mom went to college.

Then we left Houston and drove about an hour and a half to College Station, where we went to dinner at the Hullabaloos Diner, one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Hullabaloos is an old streetcar turned into a restaurant and brought over from NY. We had the mushroom philly steak sandwich and the mexican green chili burger. They were both excellent, we really enjoyed the food.

But the best part was how friendly everyone was. The couple sitting at the table next to us told us all about the area. Matt, our server, was a very nice, polite, young man who was eager to hear about our travels. We met the very warm and friendly owners, Cindy and Rich, and had a nice chat with them.

We were feeling stuffed from such a great dinner when we saw Matt walk toward our table with two plates we didn’t order. The owners surprised us with dessert: two wonderfully rich Apple Blossoms, that were absolutely delicious. If you are ever in Texas, this is where you want to eat.

We don’t really like to drive at night if we don’t have to so we decided to drive just part of the way to our next destination, Austin TX. Between our GPS, our Walmart atlas, and the Walmart website, we figured there is a Walmart about an hour away so we took off towards Caldwell TX.

There are no major highways between College Station and Caldwell, or at least our GPS couldn’t find them. After miles and miles of quite lonely, very small, barely paved, totally dark roads, we finally saw lights in the distance. We reached civilization and found the Walmart, which was closed already and it wasn’t even 11:00 pm. Where are we?

Friday, March 13, 2009

The butterflies

Today we got up and went just outside our door to see the Project Row Houses. This is a neighborhood art and cultural organization consisting of twenty-two shotgun houses and other properties, including artist exhibition spaces, houses for young mothers, artist residencies, office spaces, a community gallery, and a park.

They are between installations right now so we didn't get to see much but we were told that tonight they are showing their free monthly movie for the community and we said we would try to come back.

Before we left there Juanita, a new friend from one of our yahoo groups who lives in Houston, came by on her way to work, to meet us and give us some coupons she had for us. We had a nice chat with her and then we went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the The Cockrell Butterfly Center.

The butterfly center is a simulated tropical rainforest inside a stunning, three story glass structure built around a fifty foot waterfall, and it is filled with exotic plants and hundreds of gorgeous butterflies.

We got a nice discount on the price of admission with the coupons Juanita gave us. Thank you, Juanita!

It was really cold and raining a bit as we left there, so we went to do some drive by tourism. First we drove through Chinatown, then we went to see the tiled benches and water tables in Market Square, then we went to see the seven wonders sculpture in Sesquicentennial Park, and the waterfall at the Wortham Center.

Then we went back to the Project Row Houses just in time to see the movie and have some popcorn. The movie they showed tonight was "The City", a black and white drama of four separate stories about immigrants in New York City. After the movie, there was a good, thought provoking discussion.

After that we decided to go get some groceries. We found the closest Walmart, did our shopping, rented a movie from RedBox, and parked for the night.