When you live in an RV, something is always broken. Really, in any sort of mobile house, be it a boat, van, bus, or trailer, something is always broken. Things break for no apparent reason, all of a sudden, out of the blue. All you can hope for is that you are somewhere pleasant and convenient when it happens.
Lucky for us, we happened to be staying at Canyon Lake, near some of my favorite Texas Hill Country towns. We were 30 minutes from Gruene, New Braunfels, and Wimberley, and our campground (Lake Pointe RV Resort) was right on the edge of Canyon Lake with a junior-olympic sized pool where we could watch the sunset every evening.
Our problems began almost as soon as we arrived. We invited our friend, Robert, to come stay the weekend with us and help finish off some of the leftover champagne from the wedding. Although we succeeded in finishing off almost all of the champagne, we had to do so in an RV that, to be frank, smelled a bit like shit. Literally.
Our waste water holding tanks are as old as the RV (he’s a ’94) and we have never had them professionally cleaned. Honestly, I have no idea if they have ever been cleaned by anyone. We assumed, because of the odor, that we were having a problem with our holding tanks. Maybe they were not emptying properly because the problem did not go away when we dropped tanks. Our tank level sensors have also never worked properly. These are little sensors inside of our tanks that tell us how full they are. Maybe there was “stuff” stuck in there? Dealing with holding tanks is seriously the least glamorous part of this whole “run away in an RV” plan.
With some investigation (i.e., block the drains and see if the smell goes away) we decided that we must have found the problem. In the morning we called up a company that specializes in cleaning holding tanks. Essentially, they have a specialized pressure washer that can clean inside those tanks better than any pour down the drain tank cleaner ever could.
But in true Brandon fashion, he could not stop troubleshooting until the problem was solved. So while we waited for the pressure washer company (it would be a few days) he kept poking around. It didn’t take too long to realize that we were completely wrong. We had not been smelling shit. We had been smelling propane! It turns out that the thermostat in our water heater had gone out. The water heater would attempt to light but would inevitably fail, leaking the smell of unlit propane into our kitchen. We eventually figured this out when we realized that the smell always came back after doing something with hot water.
We decided not to cancel the RV tank cleaning service because we thought it would be nice to have our tank sensors finally work properly, but now we also needed to find an RV technician that could fix our water heater. Luckily, there were a couple of mobile RV repair companies in Canyon Lake and we soon had one scheduled to come fix our water heater. While the tech was replacing the thermostat we learned that we also needed to replace the anode rod, a part we didn’t even know we had! This is a magnesium rod inside the water heater made of special material to absorb calcium and lime deposits that can damage the water heater. Who knew?
The RV tech was also able to give us some good advice about whether or not to fix the old washer dryer combo that came in the RV. It has never worked properly and we were suspicious that it might cost more to fix it than it was worth. It doesn’t heat during the dryer cycle and at the very end of the wash cycle floods itself with water (and possibly the floor if we didn’t turn it off). We were right on about the washer dryer. He suggested we either remove it and repurpose the space for more storage or buy a new one. The washer dryer is currently in a recycling heap in Bastrop and we have no intentions of replacing it. I actually don’t mind using laundromats. I can get four loads done in the time it would take to do a half load in an RV sized combo unit!
Despite spending some of our time waiting on RV techs and tank cleaners, we actually had a wonderful time at Canyon Lake and in the surrounding towns.
We drove down to the nearby marina to look at the boats.
We spent an afternoon in Gruene, enjoying the river view, some tasty mojitos, and a little shopping.
If you go to Gruene you will likely eat at the historic Gristmill Restaurant. The food is good but the real winner is the atmosphere and view created by the multiple levels of decks overlooking the river.
We also approve of their mojitos!
We came back to Gruene a few days later with our friend Tyler and his girlfriend Bella. Gruene is a very cute small town, even if it is a bit touristy. There are lots of fun shops and restaurants. We particularly enjoyed the outdoor tables and live music at Oma Gruene’s Secret Garden, a German beer garden (this area of Texas was largely settled by German immigrants). The town also maintains a number of the historic buildings, such as the office below, the Gristmill Restaurant (an old cotton gin), and the famous Gruene Dance Hall (oldest dance hall in Texas).
While staying at Canyon Lake we also made friends with the neighbor RV’er and his adorable dog, Dave. Dave was just a baby and was still learning the rules of being a dog (like don’t chew on your leash). But he was so darn cute that he could get away with almost anything.
Dave’s owner was a musician named Jonathan Moody (check him out here) who lived in his RV in Canyon Lake when he wasn’t traveling to gigs.
I have to admit that we met Jonathan because I spotted his puppy out our window and wanted to meet the puppy. I’m a total sucker for baby animals! But it turned out that Jonathan was a great guy and we all had a lot in common. He even drove a Jeep! We hung out with Jonathan and Dave quite a bit while we were in Canyon Lake. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again, maybe at one of his gigs, further on down the road!
We also took a few days to explore the adorable artsy town of Wimberley. We had some awesome mac and cheese at The Leaning Pear, as well as some of the best iced tea I’ve had. Secret: it was made with peach tea!
After walking through the many shops and art galleries downtown we stopped for a beer at Inoz with a few of Cypress Creek.
Wimberley is a tiny town of fewer than 3,000 people but it is very well known for its arts scene. I counted at least five art galleries just downtown. Some of the pieces were priced into the six-digits!
This boot was my favorite. Even if it had been for sale, I think it’s a bit big for the RV.
One of the main reasons we wanted to visit Wimberley is that we think it might be a nice place to settle down after we’re done traveling. We like that it has the sort of funky, artsy vibe that you usually find in larger cities while still being a tiny town in Texas. You can live on a farm in the country but still drive a few minutes into town to hang out at a hip wine bar with a few of the river. Wimberley is also very close to San Marcos, my Alma Mater, and a bigger town with more employment opportunities.
So while we were there we pulled up a few real estate listings and started driving around. We didn’t find what we were looking for but it was a ton of fun and we were really glad to have the Jeep. It gave us the ability to drive onto some of the properties that did not yet have roads!
We’re looking for about 10 acres where we can build a house, a big workshop for Brandon, and a nice parking spot for the Alpha 1. Let us know if you hear of any good leads!
We had been wanting to go to this marina restaurant called the Baja BBQ Grill since we got to Canyon Lake but they were always closed. I still don’t really understand their hours, but we finally found them open one night and I couldn’t help but order the nightly special: 3 pounds of crawfish! When the plate arrived neither of us thought I would even get through half of it.
But then I ate every last one. I’ve always loved crustaceans. I just can’t help myself!
This is actually our friend Jonathan’s Jeep. Brandon was helping him fix his jet skis and they were out for a sunset test run while I hung out with Dave. Everyone was happy.
We were able to do so many things while at Canyon Lake because we were there a full five days longer than we originally intended. The plan was to stay for a week, but when we got in the RV to leave on Saturday we ran into yet another problem: we had no brakes!
Before we left Oregon we had a supplemental braking system installed that helps the Jeep to brake in tandem with the motorhome while being towed. This is safer and easier on both vehicles. Well, the valve that controlled that supplemental brake system had failed and we were leaking brake fluid. Even worse, instead of bypassing the supplemental system when the valve failed, it shut down the RV brakes entirely. I’m not an engineer but this seems like a terrible way to design a brake system. Had we been on a major road and not driving 5 mph inside the park, we would not have been able to stop.
The brake failure was actually the most frustrating (and expensive) of all the repairs we had encountered at Canyon Lake. Primarily because the failure was caused by improper installation of the brake system all the way back in Oregon. This was a part that should never fail unless improperly installed and the mechanic that helped us fix it was able to confirm that it was indeed the result of someone else’s shoddy work. Luckily, we were able to convince a local branch of the company to give us a new valve for free, but we have so far been unsuccessful at getting them to pay for the repair bill.
Furthermore, while the mechanic we found was very knowledgable and did great work, he really needed to invest in a watch. He was late every single time and not just by 30 minutes or so, but late by hours. We spent a lot of time just sitting around the RV (or at the pool) waiting for someone to show up. But in the end, the brakes did get fixed and we were able to finally leave Canyon Lake. It’s funny how traveling for just a few months will make you to want to get moving again if you stay somewhere too long.
Now, I really don’t mean to complain. Our current situation is pretty darn fabulous. We are already doing what lots of people dream of doing, one day, far in the future, when they finally retire. We feel incredibly lucky to be doing this now. But we’re learning that part of being a perpetual traveler is dealing with the set-backs, changes of plan, and frustrations caused by things breaking, crazy weather, etc. Afterall, adventure is not always pretty, but that’s what keeps things interesting.