Monday, May 6, 2013

Lovebugs, narrow toll booths, and a free campground


May 1-2, 2013
Tomball, Texas
Spring Creek Park


Staying true to our pinky swear, we left Betty’s RV Park on Wednesday with about a four-hour drive to Houston.  Houston had not been a high priority on our itinerary until Vic reconnected on Facebook with a college roommate he had not seen in over 35 years. This kind of stopover is one of the sweet bonuses of life on the road: taking time to visit with friends and family in various places throughout the United States. Both feeling a little blue about leaving Abbeville,  it helped to be looking forward to spending time with Vic’s friend, Jim, and his wife Simora.  At least we wouldn't be going through total happy hour withdrawal after so much social interaction at Betty’s. 

After about two hours on road, I noticed that the windshield was almost completely covered with love bugs. Neither of us had ever experienced a lovebug onslaught, but we had heard of it before. Lovebugs, black flies about a 1/2" long with a reddish head, are often found mating in flight. They come out every fall and spring in the Gulf states and are a problem mostly for drivers as they don’t bite, nor do they carry disease.  When they are in season, they are prolific and can easily cover your vehicle causing damage to the paint, especially if they are "baked on" in the sun. I thought we should stop and at least take time to clean the windshield but Vic said he could see just fine and wanted to wait until he could take care of the whole front end.

Okay, then as we were approaching Houston, on the Sam Houston Tollway to be specific, we hit a fair amount of traffic and had the challenge of trying to figure out which lane we needed to get in to pay our toll.  One lane was closed due to a stalled car. Another lane said narrow vehicles only. The toll amount said $1.75 minimum which didn’t help me figure out if we had exact change, so we pulled into a lane that said Full Service. As we approached the booth, I heard a loud noise and looked out the window to see our passenger side mirror hanging by a wire. Ouch. The guy in the toll booth said he sees this kind of thing happen all the time. Great. The actual toll charge turned out to be $5.25, plus a whole lot more when it comes to replacing a mirror. Vic moved ahead and pulled off on the side of the toll road as soon as it was safe to do so. He had to cut the wires to the mirror to avoid having it bang on the side of the coach potentially causing more damage. The mirror itself was in perfect shape, but it was sheared off at the arm.  We wrapped it in a towel and gingerly placed it inside the motorhome in a safe place hoping we could salvage it.
Now, for the good news. I am not sure if it was Jeannie of Where’s Eldo or Antoinette of Have Retirement Will Travel, but we are grateful to one of them for telling us about a great park in the Houston area that is free.  I never heard of such a thing and felt a little suspicious about the neighborhood until I did some research ahead of time and discovered it is a county park with eight full hook-up sites plus tent camping. Not only is it true, but they take reservations!  Furthermore, if you have been following my previous posts, you will know that I had to change the reservation three times! Spring Creek Park is a real gem of a place and it turned out to be only fifteen minutes from Vic’s friend. Score.





Amazingly, even with free rates, the park’s eight sites were never full and we were here over a weekend.  Notice the concrete pad and spacious sites. The surrounding grounds were very well-maintained with picnic tables and grills, play equipment, a pavilion, and even tennis courts. The only downside was the sites seem to attract families with small children. There were five children under the age of eight in the camper next to us.  Fortunately, they were very well-behaved and relatively quiet.



Back to the lovebugs.  Here is the view of the windshield when we arrived to the park. Could be worse but the bugs on the diamond shield were the ones that concerned us the most. A stroke of good fortune came, however, when I called my brother, who used to own a body shop, for ideas about replacing the mirror and happened to tell him about the lovebugs. As a Florida resident himself, he is all too familiar with these bugs and said the best way to remove them is with hydrogen peroxide. We had a big bottle that we carry to clean the dogs’ ears. It sure worked well to clean off the bugs, dissolving them with a foaming action.



The mirror. We called Tiffin and learned that you cannot order separate parts for the arm and the mirror; it all is one piece wired together with heating elements. Bummer. We also called the local Tiffin dealer in Houston and they wanted about $200 more for the mirror and shipping, so we called Tiffin back and ordered the mirror for $435 to be shipped to our next campground in Austin (as it would take 4-5 days to arrive.)  Vic did not want to drive without a mirror so he made a trip to Home Depot for lots of duck tape and managed to make the mirror work well enough for us to limp our way to Austin in a few days.



The most ingenious thing Vic did was place a small plastic bottle underneath the mirror itself to help support it before taping around it. It did take two to accomplish this task--one to hold the mirror and one to tape, but we felt confident this temporary fix would allow us to safely travel the 150 miles to Austin.



p.s. I called the Houston Toll Road Authority and talked to them about the mirror incident. They said there is a special lane for wider vehicles on the right but we sure didn't see one.

14 comments:

  1. Oh, darn! We had a similar toll incident in Chicago. They did have a wide lane on the far right but we were following a detour. So we went with the sign and then heard a crunch outside. When we were able to pull over, we realized we had hit the concrete barrier and scraped below the door. Luckily, it is hidden some by the trim under the door. Boy are those other lanes really skinny!!

    Love the campground!! And free...totally amazing!!

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  2. Thank you so much for the tip about the hydrogen peroxide. I am assuming it works on all bugs. We have traveled through Florida...once on our Harley...and know first hand about the love bugs...UGH!

    The toll booths are way to tight...so sorry about your mirror. Hope your insurance covers the cost!

    Nice campground and free too...cant beat that price!

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    1. With a high deductible, it wasn't worth turning it in to insurance. Oh, well. No one was hurt. That is the main thing to keep in mind. It's just chrome and glass.

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  3. It makes be nuts when I have to go thru those really narrow booth stations. I always wonder what their secret agenda is.

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  4. Bummer about the mirror and the love bugs. Thanks for the RV park tip. I doubt we'll ever be in Houston but stranger things have happened. Enjoy your visit!

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  5. Amazing find..free camping! Get some Texas BBQ in Lockhart if you can! Trudy's is a fun place to eat in Austin and the Crown and Anchor Bar near the UT campus is owned by a friend of ours named Craig Steede. People bring their dogs and sit out on the deck enjoying nice cold beers and burgers! The Capital Building and UT campus are fun to tour! 6th Street has live music nightly! It'll be fun for sure!

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    1. Thanks for the tips. Looking forward to it!

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  6. Oh my! I'm always worried about toll booths ... with good reason apparently. We always look for the truck lane, but sometimes they're not all that wider than the regular lanes. Thanks for the tip on the free park ... amazing in this day and age, but smart. Will definitely pin this. Haven't seen too many love bugs here on the coast ... perhaps because it has been so windy. We experienced a swarm around Sarasota one year ... so bad that the rental apartment's walls were covered with them (someone had left the screen open). Luckily they managed to get it cleaned while we were on the beach where the breeze keot them at bay. Even if they don't bite, having them swarm was no fun. I take it there was no adverse affect on the Diamond Shield from using the peroxide to get rid of the bugs???

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    1. No, my brother is motorhome savvy. The peroxide worked great.

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  7. I drove our Tiffin on that very road also. Paul slowed waaaaay down before we got to the toll both. We almost got in the same lane you did. We said no way would be make it. The very outside lane was much bigger. Thank goodness we took that one. So sorry they didn't mark it better for you.

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  8. I hate those toll booths, they are a menace. All one has to do is look at all the scrapes and marks on the sides where big rigs have hit them to know they aren't wide enough.

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    1. We haven't had much experience with toll booths, obviously. We will be much more vigilant in the future.

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  9. It would be good if the highway departments would post lane widths in large print. Then we could all choose the wider lane.

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    1. This idea would be most helpful! Thanks, Nan.

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