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YEAR #3 - STOP #7

After our third consecutive long (for us) travel day we have arrived here at Spring Branch RV Park just north of San Antonio, TX. It's a private family owned and operated park and you all are probably wondering why we picked here to stop. We don't usually do private parks.

This is where we are getting our solar power upgraded. Currently we have 160 watts of solar panels to collect the sun rays, a 1000 watt inverter to supply us with 120V power and 200 amp hours of AGM batteries to store our collected power. By the end of the week, after our upgrade, we will have nearly triple those statistics.

We will be working with Bill Murray (not THE Bill Murray) from RV Solar Solutions to install all our new equipment. Four more 100 watt panels will be added to our roof and a 2850 watt inverter will be added to our 1000 watt inverter we already have. We will be replacing our AGM batteries with 2-300 amp hour lithium batteries for a total of 600 amp hours of service.

What does all this mean? It means we will have the ability to comfortably camp in more remote places for longer periods of time. We won't have to pay for power from campgrounds to do things like charge our laptops and cell phones, power our cell phone boosters or light our trailer. But if we want to run our A/C or cook and heat with electricity we will still have to run our 2000 watt Honda generator. It also means we will start to use a lot for propane to cook with, heat with and run our refrigerator. But propane is cheap compared to campground fees. Last year we averaged nearly $650 a month for camping, this year we are going to try and trim that back to about half, or $325 a month.

If we can manage to do that, we figure it will take about 4 years to recoup the money we spent on our upgrade. But it's not just a money thing, without the solar upgrade, there are so many places we are going to camp that wouldn't have been possible without it.

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY - Before we get ready to watch the big game tonight we are going to treat ourselves to a late lunch/early dinner at a true Texas BBQ restaurant. While checking into the campground I asked the owner to recommend a nearby BBQ joint known for their brisket. He didn't hesitate to send us to Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar•B•Que in nearby New Braunfels, TX.

That's a lot of food for just under $50.

We ordered a pound of Beef Brisket and a pound of Pork Chop (all meats are ordered by weight). Then added a pint of Cole Slaw and a pint of Potato Salad, two monster sized Loaded Baked Potatoes with some Smoked Cinnamon Apples for desert. We also shared a bottled water to wash it all down.

There was a small buffet set up with unlimited Baked Beans, Cooper's BBQ Sauce, Dill Pickle Chips and Raw Onion. We were stuffed when we finished eating and still had about A THIRD OF EVERYTHING left over. So we boxed it all up to take home for lunch the next day along with another loaded baked potato. That's a lot of food for just under $50.

On the way home from Cooper's we stopped at a nearby Walmart. While Tricia went inside to pick up a few items I took ROVER over to the Murphy's Gas station and filled up with $1.99 cent gasoline. We arrived back at THE POD around 5:30PM and sometime around 6:00PM I started to try at find the Super Bowl Pregame Show on our TV. I knew it was on FOX Network and looked up the local station channel number for FOX, but couldn't find any reception on that channel.

Luckily here at Spring Branch RV Park they have a wonderful little building with a lounge area, complete with cable-TV on a 32-inch screen. Also in the lounge area is their laundry equipment, a bathroom, an honor system beverage cooler ($1 cans/$2 bottles) and a lending library of paperback books and DVDs. I turned on the TV quickly found the game, but wondered why there were only a few minutes left in the first quarter.

I seem to remember that every Super Bowl Game I have ever watched began at 6:30PM? What I somehow forgot was I was located in the Eastern Time Zone for every one of them and here in Texas, we are in the Central Time Zone so the game started at 5:30PM. Live and learn!

By halftime we had attracted three more gentlemen from around the campground, so cheese dip and cracked were retrieved from our campsite and shared with my new football buddies. I'm so glad it turned out to be an excellent game to watch!

MONDAY - This morning at 9:00AM sharp we met Bill Murray to begin the process of getting our solar equipment installed. It wasn't lost on me that yesterday was Groundhog Day and one of the Super Bowl commercials was a spoof by Bill Murray on his performance in the movie Groundhog Day. I didn't mention it to this Bill Murray, not yet anyway!

Most of the first day was dedicated to Bill figuring out how he was going to route all the necessary wiring and the best location for all of our new solar components. Even though Bill has installed more than a handful of solar packages into other Airstreams, each one is a little bit different and presents it's own challenges. By the end of the day we had a plan and I was completely confident that we had hired the right company and more importantly, the right technician, to do the job.

Bill will be working on the install everyday this week, and we have some sightseeing to do while here in the San Antonio area, so I gave him a key to let himself in and lock up when he was done, in case we weren't here. Complete trust in someone is a good feeling to experience!

TUESDAY - In 2015 the San Antonio Missions were awarded the designation of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the early 1700s Spain built five Catholic missions along a ten mile stretch of river that currently goes through the center of San Antonio, TX. We didn't have time to properly visit all of them so we picked just two, the largest one which is Mission San José and the most famous one, Mission San Antonio de Valero (also known as The Alamo).

We took a free 45-minute guided tour of Mission San José and learned all about the history of the missions. We learned what life was like living inside the mission and how each member was expected to contribute to the survival of the community. Even today there are Sunday services held in the church, more than 300 years after it was built.


Sadly by the early 1900s most of Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) was lost due to it's location in modern day downtown San Antonio. The follwing picture is the front of the church that served the residents of The Alamo. It is about all that is left of the original mission.

Remember The Alamo!

THURSDAY - Today we're going underground! For the first time in nearly four months we are going on a cave tour, actually two of them. Just west of our current home is the Cave Without A Name. This will be our 24th cave tour since we started fulltime RVing and our first in Texas.

I always include a link to each cave tour's website where you can see professional photographs, taken with special lighting and long exposure settings using a tripod. Our handheld photos never quite capture the splendor we are seeing first hand by being there, but we'll include them below anyway.

Pathway leading down into the Cave Without A Name

Long and thin Cave Bacon formation along the cave wall

For our second cave tour of the day we are heading over to Natural Bridge Caverns, which is on everyone's Top Ten Cave Tours list. This will actually be two tours in different sections of the cave. We arrived just a few minutes before the Discovery Tour was leaving which would allow us enough time to catch the last Hidden Passages Tour of the day, couldn't have been better timing! Our second tour turned out to be a private tour, seeing as there was no one there but us and the guide.

The natural bridge just above the entrance to the cave

The pathway down into the cave

Huge formations were everywhere you looked

Enough sightseeing for today. Let's get back to THE POD and see what progress Bill has made on our solar install!

SATURDAY - Today is the day Bill puts the finishing touches on our solar install and then instructs us on how to monitor and maintain our new system.

This afternoon we are going to "unplug" and take all the new equipment for an extended overnight test drive to see if there are any hidden kinks that need to be worked out.

SUNDAY - Yesterday we invited Bill, and his wife Kelly, over for breakfast this morning to celebrate a job well done and bid a fond farewell. Everything worked perfectly with the solar equipment and after one last little kink was solved we were clear to take off. But with minimal cell service coverage where we are headed next we decided at the last minute to spend one more night here (where the cell service is great) and give Tricia a chance to get some more of her work done.

One of the many Amazon items we had delivered to us here this week was a new cell booster antenna. It should improve our ability to maximize any signal in our area and I'm looking forward to testing it out at our next remote campsite.

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