Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Back Again

Back Again

Well I kind of dropped the ball at the end of the winter season last spring and just left the blog hanging - no specific reason, just got lazy I guess, sorry about that. I will make up for it with a fairly long first post.

For the first time in a long while we stayed home all summer, no trips at all and we never moved the trailer and truck out of storage after we got home in mid-March. Since we did not renew our NASCAR Bristol tickets this year we did not even make our traditional trek to Eastern Tennessee in August. We finally got off our butts and hit the road with a vengeance in November.

4,300 Miles in Two and a Half Weeks!

When they announced the inaugural Formula One race in Austin was being moved from June to mid-November we decided to give it a try since we are rabid F1 fans and had never been to an actual race. The race was scheduled for November 18th so we decided to get there a week early to check out the lay of the land and check out the Bar-B-Que in the area, since the RV Park we found was near Lockhart - the “Bar-B-Que Capital of Texas”.

We left home on Friday the ninth, stopped overnight in St Robert, Mo and Chandler, OK, and arrived at Lake Falling Star on Sunday evening. Turned out to be a really nice mid-sized RV Park with friendly hosts. Quiet and dark at night, just what we like.

Early in the week we drove by the track and checked things out, hit three of the barbecue places in Lockhart - Blacks being our favorite, Smitty's number two - explored downtown Austin and spent a day exploring San Antonio as well.

I should mention that Lake Falling Star, besides being a nice RV Park, was very reasonable with their rates for the F1 weekend. Unlike some other parks in the area, LFS kept their normal rates, with Good Sam or Escapees discounts, and only asked for a single nights deposit. There was one park I contacted that was charging $100 a night, seven night minimum, full payment in advance, no refund! I was also disappointed to see that LFS, in spite of being fully booked, had a number of no-shows. They had a waiting list and I hate to see people being so rude that they do not have the courtesy  to call and cancel when plans change. Unfair to the park and those on the waiting list.

Austin F1 Race Weekend

Friday found us at Circuit of the Americas for practice 1 and 2. What a beautiful facility! We were very impressed with the whole place, they really did an impressive job. Traffic control coming in a Friday was a bit congested, but they straightened it out on Saturday and there was no issue at all over the weekend. Our RV Park was 30 miles southeast of the track and since most traffic was coming from the northeast we had no problems at all. After the race on Sunday, which should have been the worst traffic period, we were back home an hour and a half after the end of the race!

The weather over the weekend was perfect, sunny and in the 70’s with a nice breeze. The practices, qualifying and the race itself were great fun and interesting. We did determine however that we are both too old to spend several hours sitting in aluminum bleachers! At Bristol we had nice plastic seats with armrests and backs, guess we are spoiled. This is probably a one-time experience since you can really see more of the race on TV than in person.

Our seats were very good, row four in turn 12 at the end of the DRS straight where a lot of the passing took place. We had great sight lines, much closer to the racing surface than we anticipated, and a diamond screen right on the other side of the track so we could see activity on other parts of the track, so it was a very enjoyable weekend. We also rented a FanVision for the weekend which allowed us to keep close track of what was happening and gave us a radio feed for our noise canceling headsets.

Bad News, Good News, Bad News, Yada Yada

Monday morning after the race we loaded up and headed for home for Thanksgiving, that’s when the trip got interesting.

Bad News - Coming north out of Austin on I-35 I threw a cap on the left outer rear wheel of the truck - BAM! It took out the fender on the truck AND cracked the front fender on the smart! We were about 300 yards from an exit so I crept along the shoulder until I was off on the exit ramp (Thank you Texas DOT for those nice marker posts that prevent getting well off the pavement!)

Good News - Just after I called Good Sam Emergency Road Service a Texas trooper stopped and pointed out that there was a truck tire center just off the end of the ramp! He covered our rear while I crept into the tire center. A little over an hour after the big bang we were out the door with four new (virgin not recap) tires on the drive axle.

Bad News - Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch, as I walked out an ambulance went north on I-35, as Nancy came out another one went by, and a third one passed us on the northbound entrance ramp. Methinks, “this does not look good”. Sure enough, about 20 miles north we came to a dead stop and in spite of a bit of creeping we sat still for two hours. When we finally made it past the tie-up there was a wad of 3 or 4 semis under a bridge.

Good News? - maybe, a little figuring said we would have been right about here three hours ago if we had not had the tire failure. Maybe we dodged a big one?

Bad News - the delay put us into Ft Worth at 5 PM, took an hour to get through. Got to the campground east of Oklahoma City at 10:30 PM. 

Good News - we had reserved a specific site when we were here a week before so we could just pull in and set up.

Bad News - next morning the left front tire on the smart was flat. In addition to cracking the fender the flailing tire cap had broken the tire valve (with tire pressure sensor!). 

We left the trailer in Oklahoma, left at 6:30 AM Tuesday in the truck and made a quick run back to Homewood in time to attend a wake for a friend that evening. Then we met Nancy’s sister Joan for dinner (at a Cracker Barrel of course) and then another hour home. I had Wednesday only to straighten out the issues with the smart tire. Picked up a new tire pressure sensor from Mercedes ($150!!). Oddly enough a new fender will only run $148, will save that repair for later. 

Took the tire and new pressure sensor to the local tire store to have it installed ($30) and then when they went to balance it we found the wheel was bent! So now we need a new wheel and we are leaving for Arizona on Thursday!

Unloaded the car and threw on the snow tires and spare wheels - so we will be driving on four Blizzaks all winter in Arizona. Oh well, we don’t need them now anyway. 

Good News - the trip back to Arizona was uneventful. So now I just need to come up with a new rear fender for the Volvo and a new front fender for the smart. 

We left Thursday afternoon after dinner at Joan's house, stopped at a hotel in Missouri that night and got back to the trailer in Oklahoma on Friday. Saturday we went on to Roswell, NM and stopped at Trailer Village. We stayed there Sunday so we could watch the final F1 race of the season from Brazil, then on to Wilcox, Az Monday night and arrived at Desert Trails Tuesday morning.

Good to be back in our regular spot for the winter. They had some substantial storms this summer and the desert looks very lush, with nice fat Saguaros. On our morning hikes we have seen several places where there is evidence of water flowing across the desert well outside of the washes.

Weather is warm and sunny and we are relaxing, visiting with winter friends and settling in. More later.

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