We spent an uneventful month at the Highway 6 RV resort. The resort was nice, quiet and had good amenities. We got our second shots and had some aches and fatigue but that cleared up in a couple of days. The free Crispy Crème doughnuts for being vaccinated were a nice bonus. Our new health insurance kicked in so we scheduled a round of health checkups, which of course led to additional follow up appointments for various routine screenings. Olivia went to a pediatric dentist for a checkup and cleaning since we did not like the dentist in Oaxaca. All our health screenings shows that we are all quite healthy but it is good to check.
We also switched our phone plan from Google Fi to T-Mobile. Holly finally got her fancy new 5G capable phone so we got the fancy expensive unlimited Magenta Max plan for $140 a month for 2 lines as we plan to be travelling around quite a bit. This is quite a bit more expensive than our previous Google Fi/local provider cost but so far we have been satisfied with the performance and we are really enjoying having internet everywhere and not having to worry about paying for data by the gigabyte. We no longer need to hunt for free Wi-Fi and Olivia is really enjoying being able to watch Netflix as we drive.
We have found that we are enjoying Houston much less than our previous visit. It is hotter and much, much more humid than when we had previously visited in December. It is just… sticky. It might have been somewhat better if we were in a house with proper air conditioning but Rover is small and its air conditioning is both loud and less effective than a house AC. Frankly when the weather is not good, travelling is not good.
We did enjoy Houston though. It has pretty much completely re-opened and we were able to do many things that we mostly avoided while hiding out from the pandemic. We saw King Kong vs Godzilla in a nice movie theater (good movie), ate out quite often, visited the Kemah Boardwalk and was even visited by our friend Shantrea who flew out from California to visit us.
Unfortunately, it rained the entire time she was visiting so we were limited in what we could do. We did manage to see a few things such as the Natural History Museum and of course, we sampled a lot of Texas food.
We met some nice people at the Highway 6 RV park and Olivia even got to invited to one of the neighbor kid’s birthday party. There was a family of ducks with some tiny ducklings and by the time we moved out the ducklings were almost ready to leave the nest like we were.
After our month at the Highway 6 RV park was up we still had some doctor’s appointments scheduled but did not need to hang round Houston the whole time so we decided to explore more of Texas and have some fun instead of just sitting around Houston. We had just gotten our second Covid shots but still needed to wait two weeks before we were considered fully immunized so while we could relax our guard a little we still had to be careful
First we took a trip to Austin and San Antonio for a week. We were not much impressed with Austin as there didn’t seem much to do. The best place we found was a really fancy supermarket called Central Market. Unlike a regular supermarket with straight aisles it was laid out more like an Ikea with separate sections encouraging people to wander around. It was clean and everything was organized very pretty. There was even a good children’s playground with many shady benches and picnic tables where you could eat food from the Supermarket’s extensive hot food section. The best part was that the weather was sunny and dry which was a welcome break from Houston.
Along the way we came across a giant squirrel so of course we had to stop and take a look. This turned out to be a pecan store that had a pecan pie vending machine! It is great having the time to be able to just pull over whenever we see something interesting. And yes, the pecan pie was delicious!
On the way from San Antonio we stopped by Gruene, a pretty little town with lots of historic old buildings. The Gruene River Grill was especially pretty, built out of an old barn right alongside the river.
In San Antonio we had lunch and a boat tour at the Riverwalk, visited Seaworld and the Aquatica waterpark next door. The Riverwalk was just as nice as we had remembered it with lots of cute riverside restaurants and we had nice lunch there before taking a boat ride along the river. It was a hot day out but the Riverwalk was a cool and shady oasis.
We all had a great time at our first real amusement parks in over a year. I had purchased a two day, two park pass from AAA but really you can get them online or anywhere at the same discount. A pro-tip is to get the all-day dining pass at Seaworld. It allows you to get a meal every 90 minutes including entrée, desert and drink and that turned out to be perfect for the three of us. Every 90 minutes we would stop by a restaurant and get a meal for all of us to share and this turned out to be a great way to make sure we had a break and snackies regularly. Surprisingly we found some of the best BBQ we have tasted so far in Texas at the Smokehouse Grill in Seaworld. The Brisket there was so tender and delicious we went twice. The all-day dining pass cost $34.99 for an adult and we definitely got our money’s worth since each meal we had at the Smokehouse Grill would have cost over $26.00. A bottle of water at Seaworld cost almost $4 so the dining pass is almost worth it just for a cold drink every 90 minutes. If we go to Seaworld San Antonio again our first stop will be the Smokehouse grill. Oh, the orcas and dolphins were nice too.
The next day we went to Aquatica, the Seaworld Water park. It was pretty much a standard water park but we really enjoyed the sunny weather. One funny thing was that while masks were required at Seaworld, they were not in Aquatica and pretty much no one wore one. Of course, this makes perfect sense since it would be silly to wear a facemask while going down a waterslide but it did make me wonder why they bothered with the facemask requirement at Seaworld since Aquatica was even more packed than Seaworld. The Aquatica Waterpark dining pass is cheaper but the food is not nearly as good although I would still recommended it.
After San Antonio we headed back to Houston for a follow up doctor’s appointment and finding Houston to be still hot and muggy we went up to Dallas. There we went to Kidzania. This is an interesting kid’s entertainment venue which consists of a miniature town with a number of businesses where the kids can try out different jobs. Olivia had fun “working” for a delivery service, dentist, policeman, fireman, pilot, even a pest control serviceperson. For lunch Olivia got to work in a real pizza restaurant and made her own pizza. Olivia had a great time all day and I would highly recommend anyone with kids 4-12 years old to visit if you happen to pass by.
The next day we went to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. It is housed in the library depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy. The museum was excellent with many exhibits including the exact spot where Oswald shot at Kennedy. Looking down from that perspective you realize that Kennedy was actually really close to Oswald. Standing on the site of the infamous “grassy knoll” it is hard to see how anyone could take a shot from there without lots of people noticing since it is so close to the road.
We stayed at the Jellystone RV resort near Fort Worth. This was a bit different from a normal RV resort in that it is packed full of activities… at least on the weekends. There are wagon rides, a petting zoo, bound pads, archery, paintball, laser tag, dance parties and all sorts of activities. Monday came though and everything shut down. And it rained all day for the next couple days and there was literally nothing to do.
A few days later we passed by a billboard advertising a Six Flags annual pass and I decided to go online and check it out. Dallas/Fort Worth had a Six Flags Amusement Park and a separate Hurricane Harbor water park. Looking into it further Six Flags offered a pass, called a Membership that allowed unlimited entry and free parking into all Six Flags parks and Waterparks in the country. In addition they also had a meal plan that offered two meals, snacks and unlimited drinks on every visit. The cost for both the pass and the meal plan was about $226 per person, paid monthly. Considering that a single day ticket plus a single day meal plan cost almost $70 per person plus $27 a day for parking if we visited more than three times we would more than break even on the membership. Looking even more conservatively, if each meal cost $10 normally (realistically in Six Flags each meal plus a drink would cost closer to $20) We would break even from the food alone after 10 visits. Since there are 27 Six Flags parks throughout the US, Mexico and Canada, we are full time travelers able to visit multiple parks and that we homeschool so have an extremely flexible schedule it made a lot of sense for us to buy memberships for all three of us. Counterintuitively spending almost $700 in theme park tickets will most likely save us money over the long term. As an added bonus we could shower at the water parks.
We went to Six Flags Amusement park and it was about what you would expect from a Six Flags. It was early in the season and early post pandemic so capacity was limited which in one way was great because there were few lines but in another way was no so great because many of the rides and restaurants were either closed or opened late. Still we had a lot of fun and Olivia enjoyed going on some of the medium thrill coasters. It was very interesting to see her graduate from the kiddie rides to the medium rides while still being not quite ready for the big coasters. The little spinney kids rides are just not much fun for her anymore while she is still afraid of the big inverted coasters. She is tall enough to ride most of the big roller coasters already so maybe by the end of the year she will feel comfortable going on them.
We had planned to go the Hurricane Harbor water park the next day but it started raining again so we decided to head back to Houston a little early for the next round of doctor’s appointment. The funny thing is that we weren’t even sick, it was just routine tests which were all coming up healthy. We just couldn’t do them all at once, we had to go to several different doctors and schedule different appointments which were all inconveniently had earliest available appointments a week or two apart. Back in Houston we completed another doctor’s appointment but they scheduled a follow up for a week later. This time we decided to just stay in Houston and we booked a week’s stay at Eric and Jay’s RV resort. This turned out to be a very nice smaller resort with a large pack of kids running around. Some people would not like packs of feral kids running around but we like it as Olivia can get some feral socialization experience.
While waiting we decided to get some maintenance done on Rover.
First, Rover was due for new tires. Since Rover has six tires it cost over $1,100 at Discount Tire but you gotta do what you gotta do. While they were putting on our new tires I had them install a new tire pressure monitoring system. Checking the tire pressure is a pain on our dually RV (four tires in the back) so this would save me the trouble of checking regularly plus it would quickly tell me if we had a slow puncture while driving.
Next we had to do an alignment since Rover was pulling to the right. Discount Tire doesn’t do alignments so we took it to a local shop called Kacal’s Auto and Truck service at the recommendation of someone we met. We arrived at Kacal’s and they seemed like nice people. While we were there I asked that they do a break flush since that was due. While pulling Rover into the bay I warned the mechanic that Rover had an after market steering stabilizer called Safe-T-Plus and he assured me that it would be no problem. A normal alignment usually takes one to two hours. Over five hours later they still couldn’t get it to steer straight and they admitted that they had no idea what was going on so I said forget about it. To be fair they only charged for the break flush and did not charge for the alignment. I was thinking unkind things about Kacal’s until the next day when the owner called to follow up. They had finally looked on the internet and figured out how to deal with the Safe-T-Plus and asked us to return to resolve the issue at no charge. It was Memorial Day weekend so we returned a couple days later and they fixed the problem at no additional charge so we basically got a free alignment for our problems. I wrote a good review for them since everyone makes mistakes and it is how a business handles its mistakes that separates out a good business from a bad one.
Finally, we fixed our toilet. Our toilet was not holding water in the toilet bowl. For those that are not familiar with RV toilets, they have a valve and a gasket that holds water in the toilet bowl to seal it from the sewage tank below. This system uses a lot less water than a regular toilet. The problem is if the gasket wears out the water leaks out of the toilet bowl and into the tank. Then you might have nasty smells come from the toilet. We had ordered a new gasket but our model toilet would require us to completely remove and disassemble the toilet to replace the gasket. This is not something we were looking forward to and so had put off for a while. As we were planning to get moving we finally bit the bullet and after few hours of cussing and removing the toilet a couple times got the new gasket on.