En route from northeastern Louisiana to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to visit our daughter, Megan, a loud, fast beeping like the dreaded kitchen smoke alarm sounded in the truck. I glanced at our tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and saw 25 flashing with the words “low pressure,” indicating only 25 psi in the driver-side rear trailer tire. Then the number 17 appeared with the words “fast leakage.”
I told Bob we needed to pull over. He carefully got us to the shoulder of Interstate 20, and we both got out to assess the situation and our options. Bob heard the sound of rushing air as he approached the tire but didn’t see any damage to the tire itself. It seemed the stem might be at fault.
We checked Google Maps and saw a truck stop about a mile away. We didn’t want to risk attempting to change the driver-side tire on the freeway. Plus, we were parked on a slant, which meant jacking up the driver side would be precarious. So, we nursed the trailer to the truck stop and were able to change the tire there.
We had purchased a 3-pound air compressor before leaving the Mesa, Arizona, area. That made it easy to inflate the spare tire to the proper pressure.
About an hour and a half after the low-pressure alarm, we were back on the road, thankful for our TPMS. Had it not alerted us, we wouldn’t have known about the tire until we made our next stop. And by then, it could have shredded and caused serious damage to our trailer. That’s why a TPMS is one of our must-have RV gadgets.
Something Doesn’t Look Right
The tire incident was our second delay of the day. The first happened east of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when we prepared to leave the rest area where we had spent the night. I double-checked the TV antenna from the bedroom, something I’ve been doing since a roof incident last year, and it kept spinning. It should have reached a stop point.
I went outside to examine the antenna externally and noticed it appeared to be leaning outward. As I stepped farther back, the issue became apparent: The antenna had pulled up from our roof, probably the result of hitting low-hanging branches somewhere along our journey — yet again.
Bob gathered some tools, and we ascended the trailer ladder to repair the problem. (It’s a good thing I had cleaned the ladder after our Polly encounter in Texas.) We peeled off the previous layer of self-leveling caulk and removed the screws from the antenna unit. Then, Bob put a layer of caulk under the unit to seal it back down. I had to go inside the trailer and move the knob that controls the antenna’s direction to get it to align properly.
With the antenna unit back in place, Bob put in new screws to hold it tighter and resealed the top with a good wide layer of anti-leveling caulk. Then we had to kill some time to let it dry before relinquishing it to the wind.
This event confirmed the importance of doing a walkaround before leaving for anywhere. It also reminded us that it’s never a good idea to rush. Like the last roof mishap, this one occurred when we were trying to stay ahead of a rainstorm. Deja vu.
The French Influence
Prior to these two incidents, we enjoyed a visit to Paris — Texas, that is — complete with a stop at Texas’s Eiffel Tower. We also spent a week in a beautiful state park in northeastern Louisiana right along Bayou Macon, which, as it turns out, is an attractive black bear habitat. In fact, we encountered some signs that made us stand up and take notice. But we didn’t see any bears — or alligators, which are also known to be in the area.
While in the vicinity, we ventured into the town of Delhi to visit Louisiana’s oldest drugstore, which dates back to 1873 and still features a soda fountain. No trip there would be complete without a milkshake. The joint also serves po-boys, burgers, and other Southern specialties.
Gulliver Gets His ID
We successfully made it to Megan and Sydney’s, where our mail and Amazon packages awaited. Opening them was like Christmas morning. Our best gift? Gulliver got new license plates that make him official.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying that “everything’s bigger in Texas.” We certainly found the state campgrounds to be bigger and more expansive and found the night skies bigger and the stars brighter. We also saw a 20-foot-wide British bowler hat statue, and brother Tom and his wife Molly saw a 30-foot eyeball.
Besides big things, the Lone Star State is known for the yellow rose, BBQ, longhorns, the Alamo, and live music — and armadillos.
Inspired by Molly, who makes a point to explore each area she and Tom stay in before moving on, we determined to have a Texas experience that didn’t center on an attacking bird. Since we camped equidistant from Fort Worth and Dallas for two weeks, we wandered into both cities.
In Search of the Yellow Rose
We visited the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, where beautiful tulips in every color proudly stood on display for passersby, and Japanese maples stood sentry over walkways. Other flowers abounded as well, signifying spring had indeed arrived.
After surveying the 66 acres of perennials, we spread a blanket and reclined on a grassy amphitheater overlooking a lake to enjoy a brass band concert. We watched sailboats drift this way and that, carried by the wind. Although we didn’t see the famous yellow rose, we left satisfied and grateful that we had gotten out and explored on a beautiful spring day.
An Old Western Adventure
Eager for an authentic Texas experience — especially after getting cowboy boots for my birthday, which we celebrated in the state by eating BBQ — we ventured to Fort Worth. Our mission: to witness the daily longhorn cattle drive up close and personal, a unique sight to behold. The cattle moved slowly, their heads swaying with the weight of their horns, some of which stretched more than 8 feet from side to side.
After the cattle drive, we followed our ears to a live music venue playing country tunes.
Before completing our Fort Worth excursion, we traveled downtown to the Fort Worth Water Gardens, where we marveled at the architecture before us. The design that went into the three water features was nothing short of amazing. Tom, Bob, and I carefully walked down the rail-less steps to the active pool while the water rushing between steps played tricks on our eyes. After recovering at the bottom, we worked our way back up and out — an easier feat than the descent.
Having participated in Texas BBQ, flowers, longhorns, and live music, we only had one thing left to complete our Texas experience, as we were too far away to “remember the Alamo.”
So, we went on a nightly armadillo hunt in our campground, anxious to get a glimpse of the creature we kept hearing rustling leaves and bushes and racing for safety when we shined our flashlights in its direction. This continued evening after evening while we sat around a fire at Tom and Molly’s campsite. And the creature continually evaded us.
After relocating to another Texas state park northeast of Dallas, we heard a familiar rustling in the bushes one evening while sitting at a picnic table. We had seen white-tailed deer in the area, so we thought that might be the source of the noise. But, as the scurrying continued, we weren’t convinced.
We got closer to the noise and spotted what we had been looking for: An armadillo crouched, hoping we’d keep our distance. We chased it a little, never intending to catch it, and then lost sight of it.
Those creatures are fast. They can actually run up to 30 mph — 5 mph faster than our electric bikes can go.
We returned to what we had been doing before the disruption. After 10 minutes or so, we heard some more rustling. So we got up again, and the armadillo ran across the street, letting us get evidence of our sighting and making our Texas experience complete.
Ah, spring. Warmer weather, budding trees and flowers, and chirping birds greet us every morning. It’s peaceful and serene with new life abounding all around us. Well, almost.
One bird greets us with a tap, tap, tap on our windows at 7 every morning. We found the gesture cute the first couple of days. But it quickly became annoying. We thought we had left the eerie experiences behind in New Mexico, along with the dirt, dust, and wind — but maybe not.
A day after settling into our new, green location near Dallas, Texas, a female cardinal perched on a branch on a mountain cedar tree directly behind our rig. We marveled at how close we could get to her, as she couldn’t see us behind our dark-tinted privacy glass. The male cardinal fluttered off, but Polly (as we named her) lingered, posing for pictures and alighting on our built-in trailer ladder that leads to the roof.
Then, she started flying at and pecking at our back window. Silly bird. Maybe she was saying, “Hi! May I come in? I want to be your friend.” Or maybe it was more like, “Hey! You’re crowding my turf.” Maybe she was upset that Mr. Cardinal left her.
Whatever the cause, this pecking behavior continued daily. You would think the bird’s beak would hurt, that she’d wise up, and that she would have given up after a day or two, but no.
We tried to outsmart Polly by hanging a couple of shiny kitchen utensils to encourage her not to stay. She thought they were cool. Polly likes shiny things.
We tried putting paper up in our back window to break up the reflection she must see. That didn’t deter her either.
She’s like the feisty, aggressive female cardinal in New York that bit the same Audubon scientist eight years in a row when he and his team performed their annual capture and banding. She doesn’t give up.
I’ve stared at the tree Polly usually launches from, peering to find her nest — but to no avail. She must feel threatened. It’s springtime in Texas. Mr. Cardinal has only returned rarely and briefly, from what we’ve seen. Maybe Polly’s upset at him and taking it out on us. Maybe she’s simply going after the bird she sees in the reflection of our windows.
Whatever the reason, Polly has morphed into Birdbrain in our view, and we’ll be happy when she no longer considers us a threat. That may not be until we move on to our next destination.
Desperate for relief from the daily tapping noise, we visited the local Dollar Tree store and purchased three pinwheels. We secured two to our back ladder and put the third in a tree on the south side of our rig. How did she respond? She perched on our ladder just beneath the two pinwheels.
Battle of the Wills
I lowered the highest pinwheel to kind of block the step Polly normally sits on, and that succeeded in keeping her away from our back window.
So, you can imagine how flabbergasted I felt the next morning when I heard her tapping on our window again shortly after 7. Just as I had hoped, our back-ladder boobytraps kept her away from the back window. But I kept hearing her tapping.
Polly decided to alight right next to the pinwheel in the tree on the south side of our trailer. Remember how I said she likes shiny things? She used that branch as her launching point to fly at the window behind our TV. And then she kept trying to land atop another window, hanging onto the ¼-inch glass for dear life — thankfully without causing any damage.
We may have finally found what she’s so angry about. It appears she had begun a nest right near our concrete pad. No one had occupied this campsite for a long time as the campground had been closed for restoration after flooding.
Whether that was truly her nest or not, Polly has a vendetta against us. Somehow we’ll have to coexist until we’re ready to leave this place for our next destination — because we’re not leaving on her account, and she’s clearly not leaving on ours.
This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.