What a Difference a May Makes

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Dinosaur Valley State Park

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Lake Abilene

When Ren and I visited Abilene State Park last year, we got a bit of a surprise when we went to see Lake Abilene and found that it was gone.  The lake had entirely dried up.   That was when it first hit home to us just how bad the drought in Texas had become.   After that we saw signs wherever we went.  Much of Texas was in severe drought and had been for several years.

Lake Arlington Jan 2015

Lake Arlington April 2015 Lake Arlington January and April 2015

Here in East Texas things were not as bad as in other parts of the state, but most of our lakes were well below full.  Late last year we began hearing predictions that a strong El Nino might provide some relief.  In February the Dallas area received a winters worth of sleet, snow and ice in two weeks.   March was about average and April was a few inches above average in North Texas.  The ground was saturated and we were starting to get some recovery in lake levels.

Then came May.

At first most people were pleased at the amount of rain we were getting.  The drought that had been afflicting Texas the last several years was beginning to ease.  Towns that had been watching anxiously as their water supplies dried up, breathed a sigh of relief as their lakes began to fill up again.  It rained nearly every day, and most people responded to comments about the weather with some version of, “Yeah, but we really need the rain”.

Ren and I were glad to see the rain.  We had been concerned with the drought ever since that trip to Abilene.  It looked like we were finally getting some relief.  Whenever anyone complained about the rain to me I responded that this was great weather, exactly what we needed.   We had seen so many lakes and rivers nearly dried up.  On May 10th we decided to get out and see a park that wasn’t suffering from drought.  By this point we had already had quite a lot of rain, with more on the way.  I wanted to see nature during a storm.  So we packed up our rain boots and rain coats, and headed for the Paluxy River.

Our first stop was east of Glen Rose where the Paluxy feeds into the Brazos.  There is a RV Park / Resort there called the Tres Rios Resort.  Tres Rios because Squaw Creek enters the Paluxy just before the Paluxy enters the Brazos.  I’m not sure I would consider Squaw Creek to be a river, but I guess “Tres Rios” sounded better than “Dos ríos y un arroyo”.

In any case we found out that they generally didn’t allow day passes, that their resort was for overnight stay.  They said that they were getting a lot of people who wanted to see the river while it was running so high, and they would let us in for a short stay at no charge.  The hiking and picnic areas were underwater, as was some of the road.   It looked more like a lake than a river.

We shot some video while we were there.

We drove on into Glen Rose and stopped to take some more video at Big Rock park.  There was a large crowd there to see the river.  The Paluxy is a small river, only about 28 miles long.  When the weather has been dry it is a quiet river.  You can wade along the riverbed looking at the dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Valley State Park, and barely get your feet wet.

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The Paluxy River at DVSP November 2014

After a big storm however the Paluxy is a powerful and dangerous river.  Big Rock Park is a good place to appreciate the power of this river.

It looked like the storm we were expecting was getting near so we left Big Rock Park and headed on into Dinosaur Valley State Park.  The Park Ranger did not seem pleased to see us.  She explained that the footprints were not accessible and also advised us to stay well back from the river that there was a big storm coming in.  When I explained that we knew there was a storm coming and that we wanted to experience the storm in the park, she didn’t seem very happy about that.

We had about an hour before the storm was due.  We shot some more video of the river, which was, if anything, even more impressive.  This is the same area of the river where the above photo was taken.

Our plan was to ride out the storm at the park, but when the Park Ranger came by and told us that there had been reports of tornadoes associated with the approaching storm, we decided it was time to go.   We made it home without incident.

If you have seen the news at all then you know that Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas received a LOT of rain in May.  For most of the state 2015 will go into the record books as the wettest May in decades.  In many places it will be the wettest May on record, and in some places the wettest month on record.  The average rainfall for the entire state was 7.55 inches.  If this had been spread evenly it would have ended the drought nicely, but of course it was not spread evenly.  Many places received two or even three times that amount.  Pottsboro, near Lake Texoma received over 26 inches of rain in May.  Here in Dallas flash flood warnings were an almost daily occurrence.  By the time we reached Memorial Day weekend the lakes and rivers had taken in more water than they could handle, and major lake and river floods began all across the state.  So far 31 people have died in the floods and the crisis is far from over.  It looks like the rains are over for at least the next week, but nearly every lake and river is filled beyond capacity, and it’s going to be a challenge to get the lake levels down to normal without making the flooding down stream worse.

The loss of life is, of course, irreplaceable.  Many who survived lost homes and businesses.  It will be a while before we know the full extent of the damages.

While it pales in comparison with all the other losses, the State Park system also took a big hit. Many parks suffered millions of dollars in damages in addition to the revenue lost from having to close. Bastrop State Park lost it’s lake when the dam failed, and will be closed for some time. Many of the parks are still largely underwater. If you want to help out there is a very easy and enjoyable way to do so. Visit a State Park.  They get half their income from visitors.

As for Lake Abilene, the dry lake that first brought the severity of the drought to our attention.  As of May 28th, the water levels were still too low for the instruments to measure.  According to the Park Ranger the average depth is less than two feet.

Our Big Life With Tiny Steps

I am assuming that if you are following Scott and me you know about our plans to go on the road in a year or two.  However, I am sure you are finding yourself wondering why we decided to pursue this adventurous life.  Let me start at the beginning.

About a year and a half ago I started having these horrible dreams about my husband passing away and I was alone.  It was so extremely overwhelming and I found myself getting depressed.  I was very scared for myself and him.  I began, within myself, to  figure out what I would do if it happened and a thought occurred to me, “I’m not going to be alone, I have a family.”  Then another thought grabbed me; my family live in different places.  How was I to be with them all?

Being taken with the Tiny House Movement (THM), I decided I would build a tiny house and move it around the country to be with my parents, friends and each of my children for extended periods of time without getting in the way of their daily lives.  I love tiny houses because they have a tiny footprint, don’t cost much to live in, and they are just so freakin’ cute!  Once I made the plan, I began doing all the research.

Eventually I sat down and talked about these dreams with Scott.  It caused him to get back on track of taking care of himself.  I began to feel better since there was a plan and he understood a little bit more about my massive obsession with the tiny house.  Then something happened.

Scott started thinking about taking my plan and putting it into an RV and traveling.  I was not happy for while; I mean, he took my idea and not only stole it, but ripped it to shreds and rearranged it!  Rearranged it so that we could both be part of it!  How dare he do that to me!

Yeah, I know, silly.  I did get over it and it has become our life goal!  Not sure why I was so upset when he first started talking about it.  He has always wanted to travel and so have I; why not do this with the person you are spending your life with!

So, we took the jump and began to do more research. We have looked at hundreds of RVs: fifth wheels, C-Class, Super C-Class, motorhomes, travel vans, conversion vans, buses, and the list goes on and on. We have viewed videos on YouTube about school bus conversions, how to stealth camp, boonedocking, and engine braking.  Our research has been full of videos, internet, conversations, and shopping.  What we have found has been amazing and the looking has been fun.

When we finally decided that we were actually going to do this, we decided we needed to move from the 2,000 sq ft house into a small apartment to help us cut rent and other bills down.  We started our search and decided upon a 547 sq ft apartment. Not as small as an RV but it was a start in the right direction.  We began the purge by doing online garage sales, three actual garage sales, putting things on Craigslist, eBay, and on our personal Facebook accounts.  When we went to moved out of the house, we only moved a quarter of what we moved in with.

So, in this tiny apartment we have our two chairs, three book shelves, a TV cabinet, a small table, desk chair, two captain beds, two nightstands, the piano, two shelf/end tables and two foldable shelves.  That’s it.  There is of course books, embroidery stuff, his music stuff, ect….  but not as much as we had in the house.  We did have to rent a 20×20 storage unit to hold what we just didn’t have time to sort and purge because of attachment issues, but that is being dealt with this weekend. The goal is to get that 20×20 down to a 5×5 and only keep our camping gear stored.  Everything else in the 20×20 will be thrown away, donated, sold or in our apartment.

I know, I know, that is still a lot of stuff that won’t fit in an RV.  Baby steps man. We plan to take the next year and sort out what we will and won’t take with us when we finally get into one, but for now we only have to fit in this apartment.

Not only will we get down to an RV-sized pile of stuff, but we are taking the next year to force ourselves to become more disciplined with our money and our time.  One of the things we noticed was that we were spending our money on going out to eat and bills; bills we made for ourselves.  We are sitting down and re-watching the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University videos and working on our budget.  Before we can get on the road, we have to learn how to manage our money correctly.  This also entails figuring out where our money is going to come from once we get on road but that is another long post.

“Wait!”  I hear you screaming, “What about that tiny house?!”

Yes, what about the tiny house.  I have been trying to figure out how to make that our road worthy home, but I fear it is not something that will happen for us, just yet.  You see, tiny homes are meant to be in one place.  They are extremely heavy and built to be a house, not a traveling house.  These were never meant to be trailers or RVs, they are on wheels because of the political side of the Tiny House Movement.

Across the United States people feel as if they have to live in the biggest home possible because there are housing codes created to make money for the housing industry.  Instead of allowing people to decide what is best for themselves, we have politicians who have told us what size everything must be in our homes.  Some of this is good and it keeps people safe, but most of it is useless and only benefits the businesses and politicians who decided it must be a specific way.

The Tiny House Movement is about taking one’s life back, getting rid of the things that hold us captive and not allowing us to have a life free of huge debt.  I’m not saying tiny homes are cheap and the answer for everyone; I am saying it is one of the ways people have decided to enable themselves to own a roof over their heads and still be able to afford to do other things and have a life.

I have struggled with this because I wanted to be part of the Tiny House Movement for a long time, but I have been told I cannot be part of that movement if I move into an RV.  The reasons are mainly things like a moving RV isn’t ECO friendly, they do not use sustainable products in the building, ect…; however, I say it can be just as responsible as the THM.  First you purchase a used RV, do not buy a new one.  Secondly, instead of plugging into the grid, you use as much solar and wind power as possible.  Third, you stay in places for a longer periods of time enabling you to see, do and meet many more adventures. There are other reasons, but I won’t bore you with the long list.

So, there you have it, here is what we are doing.  We want to be a part of this country, not just viewers of what is going on in our country.  Over the next year we will be working on our habits, working to purge the unneeded,  working to save money to start our own movement – a MOVEMENT to live life.

Ren