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STOP #258

As far as our moving days go, today's was off to a good start. We are moving a little less than 100 miles today and check-out time here at Ratcliff Lake Rec Area isn't until 2PM, with check-in at the next campground, Cagle Rec Area, officially being the same time, 2PM. The "unofficial" check-in time is after 12 NOON, which is when check-out time is and theoretically our campsite should be vacant.

We lazily broke down camp and even had time to squeeze in showers before leaving this morning. We vacated our campsite around 11AM, dumped our tanks on the way out of the campground and spent the next two hours driving towards our new destination, arriving at 1PM.

With COVID restrictions in effect, gone are the days of driving up to the check-in station, confirming your reservation with a park ranger and receiving a tag to hang on your rear view mirror with your campsite number, check-out date and possible gate code to re-enter the park after dark.

If that would have been the case this afternoon, half of our blunders would have been avoided and the other half would have been immediately brought to our attention. Instead, this is what happened!

In the calendar app on my laptop I make notes about where we are heading next, what campsite we are on and how many days we are staying. All of this data is entered when I make the reservation, usually six months in advance of the reservation date.

Then on moving days I make a habit of checking this information immediately after uploading the blog post for our most recent visit.

I now program our GPS with coordinates from our current specific campsite to next specific campsite. I used to only program it from campground to campground, but some of these campgrounds are huge and the chances of getting lost somewhere between the entrance drive into the campground and our actual campsite is a real possiblilty.

Even with all these precautions taken not to make a mistake, today was just the perfect storm of mishaps. We arrived at the campground without mishap, but then everything went wrong. As expected there was no one manning the check-in station, so we were on our own to locate our campsite. It is usually now when I ask Tricia to check the calendar app on her phone to verify which campsite we are on, since I only commit the site number to memory and don't write it down.

For some unknown reason the campground was recorded in her information, but the campsite number was not. In this case we check the calendar app on my phone, which is supposed to be synced to my laptop, which is where all of the email confirmations are stored.

My phone app had Campsite #9 listed for our reservation, how I still don't know? My memory had me believing our campsite was #35. At this point I unexplainably turned off the GPS, we were here afterall and I didn't need the GPS and Tricia both telling me where to turn. We found Campsite #9 and backed in, unhitched the truck and trailer, then Tricia began the process of leveling THE POD front to back from inside the trailer using the remote control for the tounge jack. I was in the process of hooking up the electric power and filling our fresh water tank with just enough water for our stay.

This is when the Campground Host arrived in his golf cart and mentioned we could only stay on the site for one night, because tomorrow (Friday) the site was reserved for five nights. I said I know, I have this site reserved for five nights, but it begins today. He admitted his information is not always completely up to date, especially when there are last minute changes to the reservation. I told him that I made the reservation six months ago and never changed anything. He asked for the name on the reservation and I asked for a chance to go inside and check my email confirmation on my laptop.

When I came back out of the trailer the Campground Host had returned and informed me he didn't have any reservation under my name. I explained we discovered we were on the wrong site number, that we were actually reserved for Campsite #35. He said that makes sense why he didn't have us listed, it was on a different campground loop and he only had listings for his loop, sites #1-19.

We apologised and mentioned that in three and a half years on the road this had never happened to us. He said it happens here all the time. We hooked the trailer back up to the truck and ventured further into the forest to the next campground loop. Here we found Campsite #35 and began the process of once again unhooking the trailer.

When all was done I thought, let me double check the small dry erase board that is attached to the campsite number post at the entrance to our campsite. That's when I noticed we only had a four day reservation instead of five like I thought. I got online and checked if our site was available for an extra night and it was not, darn it!

Next I checked to see if our next campsite could be extended to arrive a day early, no again! Now what to do? I checked the route between the two campgrounds and saw an Army Corps of Engineers campground about equal distance between both. Not ideal, but a one night stay is not the worst that could happen, it sure beats an overnight Walmart stop. Luckily there were some vacancies and we booked a beautiful waterfront site with water and electric hookups for $13, that's a $7 savings from what we would have paid if we stayed here in the forest. Plus it beaks up a long 200+ mile travel day into two shorter ones.

In the end I guess everything worked out just fine for us!

FRIDAY - It's been over two weeks ago since we've done laundry. Well, as Mel Fisher used to say, Today is the Day! Google Maps tells us that if we exit the park and head a few miles south on Interstate 45 there is a laundromat called Flip Flop Coin Op. Don't believe me? Google it.

Anyway we load up ROVER with our dirty clothes and head out. We follow the directions to the laundromat location only to find a tall concrete wall with iron gates and it's closed with no one around? This has happened to us before, so we return to Google and find another laundromat 10 miles further south on the Interstate. What choice do we have, the truck is already loaded and it needs to be done.

We found the second laundry location right where it's supposed to be, so I drop of Tricia and set out to take care of a few of my own things. We are running a little bit low on cash so I hit up the ATM at a nearby branch office, so as not to pay any ATM service fees.

It happens to be in the same location as a giant sized Kroger Grocery Store and there are a few items we need. I've been looking for some of the McCormick Tex-Mex Chili seasoning packets to make my Key West Chili recipe and can't find them anywhere. You'd think they would be in every grocery store in Texas, but I can't find them anywhere? The other items on my list were all easy to find.

Kroger has a gas station in the parking lot and their price is $2.89 for Regular. Me trying to save a buck or two, fire up the Gas Buddy App on my phone and find a station five more miles south on the Interstate with gas selling at $2.67, according to the app. Off I go! I arrive and find the price is $2.89 just like Kroger was. I report my findings to the Gas Buddy app so no one else gets conned into believing the price. I think sometimes the gas station owners post their own fake prices to pull in business.

I get back on the app and find another station with gas at $2.70, but it's another mile and a half south on the Interstate. I've still got time so off I go again!

You guessed it! I arrive and find the price to be $2.89, so I once again update the Gas Buddy App with my findings. While sitting there updating the app I look across the street and spot a small gas station with an old style sign you have to change the numbers on manually and their price is posted as $2.75, but once I arrive at the pump, I find that's the Cash Price. If you are using a Debit Card the price is $2.79 and a Credit Card Purchase will cost you $2.83 a gallon.

I'm not only frustrated with all this running around, but I'm running out of time, Tricia (now nearly 7 miles away) will be finished with the laundry soon and it's lunchtime.

If I would have indeed found gas for $2.67 I would have saved $4.40 on my 20 gallon purchase. At $2.70 it would have still been $3.80 savings, but at $2.83 my savings dwindled to just $1.20 for my efforts. I was still able to use my Ducks Unlimited VISA Card to save 5% on my gasoline purchase which gave me another $2.80 off.

I arrived back at the laundromat just in time to help Tricia finish folding the clothes, load them in the truck and discuss where to go for lunch.

Our best choices in this area are a Taco Bell, a Jack-in-the-Box Burger joint, or take a chance on the never before seen Bubba T's Cajun Kitchen location right across the street from the laundromat. Turns out Tricia made the right call to head across the street.

Bubba T's only has two locations, the one here in Willis, TX and the other is 25 miles south in Spring, TX, their original location.

With such a tough looking Alligator Chef logo the food must be good!

They have an extensive menu and it was difficult making our selections.

I ordered a bowl of their Seafood (shrimp and crawfish) Gumbo as an appetizer and it arrived at the table within minutes with our drinks. I was so hungry and it smelled so good I just had to take a taste. Ten short minutes later the gumbo was gone and I was anxiously awaiting my entrée selection of the Cajun Combo which is Blackened Catfish and Shrimp Creole, served with Jambalaya Rice and Jalapeño Hush Puppies.

Tricia ordered the Blackened Mahi Taco with Coleslaw. We fully intended to take a photo of our meal, but once it arrived at the table the thought of waiting another moment to eat completely left our heads. Sorry, once again, to all you foodies!

It was the best authentic cajun meal we've had outside of New Orleans in all our travels.

SATURDAY - With another cold front coming through here tomorrow and a forecast of rain we decided to get out of THE POD today and have a little fun.

On the eastern side of the Sam Houston National Forest is another campground with reservable sites featuring water-electric-sewer hookups. We decided to go check it out, just in case we ever find ourselves in the area in the future, because you know we don't like to repeat visits when there is somewhere new to experience.

Double Lake Recreation Area campground is very similar to the Cagle Recreation Area campground where we are now. If you are a mountain biker Double Lake Rec Area is where you want to be and if you are a fisherman then Cagle Rec Area is where you want to be.

We drove through the campground and noted the best campsites for us to select if we found ourselves interested in visiting here. Afterward we were headed for home and realized it was getting close to lunchtime again. We had a decision to make, eat-out or eat-in at home?

Since we forgot to take a photo of our meals yesterday we made the decision to drive all the way back to Bubba T's for our second meal there in two days. Oooooh the sacrifices we make, just for our foodie readers, we hope you appreciate it! :-)

Tricia enjoyed her Blackened Mahi Taco so much yesterday she ordered it again, only this time with the Jambalaya Rice for a side instead of the Coleslaw, after tasting my rice yesterday.

I changed up my order only slightly by ordering the Crawfish Combo which is Fried Crawfish Tails and Crawfish Etouffee, once again served with Jambalaya Rice and Jalapeño Hush Puppies.

Once again the food was outstanding, but I think next time we'll be looking to sample some TexMex cuisine.

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