After the rally, we moved a mere 20 miles down the road to visit friends Charlie and Carol Mitchell at their home in Spicewood. They live on 2 acres on a hill. In fact the next hill from where Willie Nelson bases himself when not “on the road again.”
We met the Mitchells and their three Chihuahuas (Rosa, Carmelita and Paco) at the Eclipse Rally in Wyoming last summer. At that rally, there were three or 4 of us “relegated” to an out-of-the-way area of the fairgrounds, due mostly to the short length of our respective buses. We first thought this was purgatory, but soon discovered that it was good fortune…we had trees and shelter and quiet…the rest of the buses were on the hot, asphalt main-parking area of the fairground!
And, we had AWESOME neighbors like the Carol and Charlie; and a great time at that rally, though I am actually surprised we can remember any of it due to the margaritas Charlie produced on a daily basis. We carry that recipe proudly, and have made them more than once (Charlie is still the master).
Charlie had a batch done and ready for consumption almost immediately after we got our bus parked in their driveway.
Even before the margaritas, Charlie gave us a tour of his Leeds-certified, extremely sophisticated house and associated systems. Obviously quite proud of his work, we spent a lot of time learning about the rainwater capture system…miles (well, ok, not miles, but certainly furlongs) of carefully considered PVC pipe, pumps filters and tanks.
This ALMOST made me nostalgic for the fish tanks and pumps in our upstairs apartment in Chicago, which I maintained and improved and managed for years (25 to be exact).
Charlie’s system is at once simple and sophisticated…and very impressive. He collects thousands of gallons of water from the roofs of the three buildings on his property, storing them in the “Rain Barn” in 2,500 gal tanks (6 of them). The fail-safe system of collection pipes even includes special automated devices to divert/reject the first bit of water from each roof during a rain … so that he is storing only the cleanest water AFTER the roof has been flushed off.
Charlie promised the SOFTEST HAIR after rainwater shampooing…I am sure Liz appreciated this but it was lost on me!
In addition to rainwater collection, he has solar panels over all of the roofs on his property…to the extent that he pays $6/mo for electricity all in…and A/C is pretty necessary in the area during the summer months. Charlie swears this was done to minimize the monthly “nut” for a couple of retired folk. I am sure that is not untrue, but I can easily recognize the impact of an engineer with too much retirement-time on his hands.
We were’t alone visiting the Mitchells. A sort of caravan embarked from the Rally – new friends Powell and Char Brown (their’s was the bus next to ours that was hosting an alternator-kibbutzing session while we were at the rally) were planning to visit so that Charlie could help Powell with re-installing TV/Video in Powell’s Bluebird.
This was in exchange for an old windmill from the Brown Farm near Corpus Christi, which Charlie thought would be JUST THE THING to generate wind power. Apparently, the idea of sending the power company even $6/mo is unbearable to Charlie!
Carol thought the windmill would be too big even though in Texas BIG is always appropriate if not required. For example, the number of MEGAchurches within 20 miles of the Mitchells is impressive…each bigger and more elaborate than the next. Charlie and Carol were still “discussing” the size of the windmill when we were packing to leave, so it is unclear if the TV work was going to be for compensation or just for fun.
What happens in Spicewood STAYS IN SPICEWOOD.
What happens in Spicewood STAYS IN SPICEWOOD.
Naturally, there were several problems to work on Powell’s bus. Not only the TV (which turned out to be easy), but also some weird electrical problems. This bus is WAY NEWER and therefore has WAY MORE systems, computers, etc. than our old bus. Powell said he can deal with mechanical things, but electrical stuff mystifies him. After a couple of days and several rounds of margaritas, Charlie had all of the problems (at least the ones that had revealed themselves) well in hand.
One of the problems required replacement of a very unusual fuse. I had to run a couple of errands, so while doing so I tried to find one in Austin based on a picture Charlie sent to me, but could not. When I got back fuse-less, I offered to order one from Amazon, which Powell gladly accepted. He doesn’t order much stuff online…kinda old fashioned that way. He was surprised how easy it was for me to find and then tee up a package of these rare fuses, to be delivered FOR FREE to his (VERY) rural address. “No shipping charges, REALLY?” said Powell, a bit incredulous.
I could almost see the thought-bubble over his head, and then he said, “Could you order a pump for me, too?” I said “Of course!” Couple more clicks on my phone and that, too, would be waiting for him when he got back to the farm.
Powell and Char were emphatic: “PLEASE come visit us on the Farm…we have hookups for your bus – stay as long as you want!!!!” They are some of the nicest, most gracious people I have met (along with the Mitchells), but I assume possibly Powell also has electrical things to install and perhaps Amazon things to order. No matter, whatever the reasons, we now have another place to add to our series of Bluebird friends who have offered hospitality if (when) we ever pass thru Texas (or anywhere else) again.
THEY CANNOT LEAVE!!!
— The Mitchells, in Unison!
As we were getting ready to leave the Mitchells, we wrapped up the cables , put everything away and climbed aboard, ready to back out of the driveway. But, THE BUS WOULD NOT START. Not a noise. Well, there was a groan; which I could not be sure was from the engine or from Charlie or Carol (“OH NO, THEY CANNOT LEAVE!!!”). Our hosts CLAIMED we were always welcome. Even saying, “Did we have to leave so soon…” But now that it appeared the rubber was NOT going to meet the road, Charlie looked a bit panicked. A test of sincerity and friendship, for sure.
Charlie and Dan, engineers as we are, pulled out the blueprints and started tracing circuits. What was live what was dead, where were the fuses, etc. Meanwhile, Powell, being MUCH more practical and grounded, checked the battery terminals…and several were loose!!!! Not just “worked-loose” but in fact barely attached. Apparently, the BOZO/IDIOT who had installed the new battery meter in Las Vegas had not quite finished the installation.
I could have been ANGRY, except the idiot was ME! SO I somewhat sheepishly tightened the cables and the bus fired right up!
Powell, who had been feeling a little helpless troubleshooting the electrical problems in HIS bus, was very pleased that his years of experience keeping old tractors and combines working on the farm was the precise expertise to get RV WHERE YET going. And, I am not sure, but could that big, broad smile seeing our bus running (and us leaving!) have been partly from putting the engineers in the group to shame??!!
Far from resenting the smile (IF Powell was showing off!) , I was very pleased the problem was so simple (and the Secretary of the Treasury was even MORE pleased it cost $0 to fix!) and that our new friend Powell was around to figure it out so quickly!
Liz, in the meantime, went for a walk with Carol and Char. She knows better than to watch over the shoulders of the bus repair dorks, as they skin their knuckles and curse at the ancient machine. I called her when I had started the bus; Liz will neither confirm nor deny that coffee was being enjoyed and muffins consumed by the ladies.
All of this yielded a bit of a late start from Spicewood, but we had plenty of time (2 days) to make our next stop…the Gray Ranch in Vian, Oklahoma!