February 21 Monday
After that Tolstoyan epic I penned yesterday, I must be getting closer to recovering my misplaced writing mentality. I know my writing isn't back to where it once was, but step by step we're getting a little closer now. Wow, now I've got song threads rattling around upstairs. Just hope that they stay bottled up for awhile because they are not the easiest things to write.
Linda was a happy girl this morning, her coffee can was full and her morning cup was just around the corner. I had to laugh when I asked her what kind it was, because as I soon learned, it was the, "Decafe with some big long name I couldn't pronounce," roast. That lead to conversation about the great coffee hunt, which necessitated reposting a photo from Sunday's Daily Journal.
For some reason, the photos I've been posting since I got this new computer have been not nearly as sharp as before. The cause of which I need to see if I can uncover and rectify. As you can see, Linda's comment about the name of the roast was right on. Part of the reason for this was what happened when she was bagging those beans.
She knew she needed to write the PLU code on the bag, but as she said, "I looked everywhere, but I don't think they had the code displayed." "Well then," I asked, "Why not write down the name of the coffee." Which was when she went into a dissertation about the fact that if she couldn't pronounce it, what good would it do to write it down.
This was taking place at the same time I getting that photo ready to post. "Are you sure there wasn't any PLU code on the coffee," I asked, following up with, "Are you sure you looked for the PLU code?" I knew these two questions had the potential to rile the grizzly, but she was involved in doing something on her computer and was momentarily distracted.
Then she turned towards me, her face bearing a steely countenance, which cause me to wonder if I hadn't gone to far. Meaning the you know what was about to hit the rapidly rotating object. Next I hear, "Just what was it you wanted so bad you needed to interrupt me?" Causing me to realize that in times like this, playing the role of the subservient spouse is the only way to secure survival.
"Come over and look at this photo," I suggested, using the sweetest voice I can muster. A few growls and grumbles later, all of which were definitely due me, at least in her mind they were, she was claiming those numbers weren't there yesterday. Not knowing what to say, I just said nothing. Then she smiled, kissed me on the top of the head, and said, her eyes sparkling "I really didn't see them yesterday." Understanding women is hopeless.
What you see is what you get. The Art Institute of Chicago may have American Gothic on display, but Because-We-Can has Winter Texans. We found these two out for a walk at a nearby RV park, which led to the following description.
Candid portrait of two Winter Texans. John and Judy, just down from South Dakota were photographed on their first day in the warm, sunny, wonderful Rio Grande Valley. Suffering the obvious effects of snow blindness, coupled with snow bleaching, they arrived with brains still partially frozen but eager to be real Texans like all their fellow northerners. Selecting their apparel so as to blend in with the local population as easily as possible, they set out on a walk. Quickly realizing they missed home, they sought out the only thing they could find that reminded them of their beloved South Dakota. Which is why we found them, taking a stroll on this 90° day, inhaling the aroma's around them coming from the park dog walk they were standing in, as well as the large cattle ranching operation just upwind. Proving that no matter what you are looking for in the Rio Grande Valley, you will find it.
February 22 Tuesday
While Linda is now over her encounter with her late unpleasantness, she still has a few aches due to having used muscles in ways she didn't normally use them. Which means we are partially restricting ourselves in the scurrying around department. However that doesn't mean we aren't aware of what is going on in the neighborhood.
This did pose a dilemma for Linda, which was looking at the what you see in the photo and trying to figure out the what they are doing. After this truck had driven down the street, stopping only a few doors away, Linda was soon perched on the couch following the action.
The truck just sat there for quite some time, then two fellows got out of the cab and walked up the driveway. Soon they were back carrying the chair you see sitting in the driveway, then making a return trip with with this second chair. Next they lowered the lift gate on the truck, climbed on it and raised it, disappearing into the cargo area.
All the while Linda was observing what was going on and giving an abbreviated play by play description of the action. After a time they reappeared at the back of the truck, placing two chairs on the lift gate that looked identical to the pair sitting on the ground. They then proceeded to carry the chairs up the driveway, one at a time. They were gone for a long time, finally returning to put the two chairs they had originally carried out of the house when they arrived, on the lift gate so they could be placed in the back of the truck. Then the truck just sat there for another 10 minutes or so, before it drove off. So just in case you thought you had a boring day, there's always somebody out there that's in even worse shape.
Not all of the day was like that, as we actually did do a few things including having a wonderful time at our next door neighbors-to-be. Not only did we get to inaugurate their new pergola, we also enjoyed being able to sit and visit, getting a sense of what our "backyard" will be like.
Besides the great company and setting, the birds serenading us, hearing the howl of the coyotes, we also enjoyed Roger's guacamole and some port wine cheddar cheese. It's always amazing how many things fulltimers have in common with each other, even outside the fulltime life, which makes for even more shared experiences. To say that we are going to like our new winter stopping spot and our next door neighboors is definitely an understatement.
We also got to be the first guests to share a meal in their new, 98% completed, coach house. I have to say that as we sat there, sharing a wonderful meal and great wine, talking of our shared experiences of traveling through Tuscany, the way that Dianne had the coach house decorated, along with the lighting and the furniture made it seem as if we really were back in Europe, where the scale of things is smaller, but the ambiance more than makes up for the lack of physical dimensions.
Returning from a subject I touched on yesterday, what you see is what you get. Well not exactly, but after the way these photos are turning out I'm wondering if I'm going to have to stop and figure out what is wrong. I think I'm going to download these same photos from the camera to my old laptop. Then use the programs on it to do a post, or at least a couple of photos and see if I can figure out what is wrong. Sometimes it may appear not to be so, but really, I do have a few standards, and these images I'm posting aren't up to them.
February 23 Wednesday
Last Minute Things
With our Norcold recall scheduled to be done either tonight or tomorrow night, we wanted to leave Retama early enough to see if we could get to Hondo, Texas in time get it done tonight. That meant pulling out as close to 9 AM as possible. We thought we would only need to drop off the keys, etc. and a sheet outlining what our changes to the utility plan would be.
Wrong. Though the result was actually far better than we could have possibly hoped for. We ended up outlining what we wanted done to Jennifer, which she then entered on a plan for the Construction Division. It involved moving the electrical service towards the front of the coach house by a foot, changing the location of the floor drain for the shower, and several other things.
Then she arranged a brief meeting with the construction superintendent to review the changes, where we added and clarified even more items, signing off on the plans and saying good-bye, see you in a week and a half to watch it being constructed.
Since we couldn't hitch up the Explorer where we we parked, I drove around the corner and waited for Linda, and waited for Linda, and waited for Linda. Wondering if she drove the wrong way, her having the same ability to get lost as our oldest daughter, I started walking back towards where the Explorer was, only to meet her walking towards me.
Noting the lack of the Explorer, but also seeing the look on her face, I did not say, "What's the matter, forget where you parked the Explorer." It probably saved my life because that was one rather upset grizzly who related the story of the Explorer that didn't want to explore. I was almost like Sir Galahad to the rescue, turning on the Explorers lights, hitting the starter, lights go out. Linda's hero goes to back of Explorer, gets out starting battery we bought in Fredericksburg, attaches same to battery terminals, asked Linda to start Explorer, which instantly roars to life.
Bob then proceeds, to put away the booster battery, closes hood and turns to Linda saying, "So what do you think?" Bob thinks she is going to say something like they always do in the movies, like, "My hero!" while flinging her arms around him and giving him a big smacking kiss. Linda, smiles and says, "That booster battery just paid for itself." Bob shakes head muttering, "That's what 40 plus years of marriage does. It changes what they always show happening in the movies to something like this."
For those that don't get to this part of the country, or those that plan to head north on US Hwy 281 out of the valley, here is what you see near Falfurrias, a huge border patrol checkpoint. And if you don't think they take things seriously down here, as we were driving north on 281 towards this point, we saw a number of vehicles pulled over to the side of the road undergoing a very intense inspection, including one vehicle they were actually dismantling.
As you can see, they take their job very seriously, and we are safer because they do. I just don't understand the people who scream bloody murder about their rights being trampled on by these types of measures. I don't think those who protest necessarily have anything to hide, but I do think they have misplaced priorities. Somehow they think that they as an individual are more important than we as a society as a whole. But it's a free country so it's their right to state what they do, or at least I read that somewhere. Why can't we just all get along rather than only one way be the right way and any others be not only wrong but also against everything the country stands for. I'm as puzzled about what has gone wrong as many of you.
Just the other night we watched a fascinating program showing how the Border Patrol trained these dogs. It was great to see one in action, even if it was our home it was checking out!
We have really been remiss by not posting some photos of the wonders of Texas and what makes it the greatest state in the United States. North Carolina may have its tobacco, Kansas its wheat, Washington its timber and California its fruits and nuts. But Texas has them all beat and its not just its black gold, its got the greatest people on earth, something that those that think Texas is only cowboys and oil wells never realize. At the very least, we know that at least a handful of the greatest people on earth live here, and there's probably more.
Here's a another of those greatest people on earth, Alice of The Wandering Workentinsthe kind of people that make this country what it is. NOT a couple of over paid yuppies who dropped out of the "rat race" and want people to chip in so they can live it up as full timers because they are unwilling to actually work to keep up their life style as they want it.
Ron and Alice are real Americans, the kind that don't ask the government or others to support them, even though they fell on hard times through no fault of their own. They make there own way through life, working hard and trusting in their faith in God. And we are rightly proud to finally meet Alice, and so have invited both Alice and her husband Ron over to the coach tomorrow night for dinner. People like this restore our faith in America.
February 24 Thursday
Getting things done
"I should have stayed in bed'" is a phrase that people sometimes say when they are having a bad day. Now don't take that first sentence wrong and think that either of us had a bad day because we didn't. However, there was this tiny little part of her day shortly after Linda got up this morning, that just might have fallen to that category.
For anyone that thinks this is the way that she normally makes coffee, it is not. Even I, as oblivious to her normal morning mutterings as I am, snapped my head towards her when she let out her stream of comments immediately following this happening.
Once the initial blast was over, I began to understand the enormity of what had just occured and the impact it had. Every little piece of that coffee was important to her, and she did her best to salvage each and every one of them.
Once she relaized I was documenting the great coffee spill of 2010, no doubt with the idea of selling my photos to some national news outlet which would showcase this huge disaster to the world, she tried to clean it up as quickly as possible.
Fortunately we were handling this spill just like they do on any of those reality shows on TV. The reality being that there are people actually stupid enough to believe that what they show actually happened just as shown. Here you see a retake so the photographer could capture her hand actually sweeping up some the precious coffee. What made it so precious was this was the last of the coffee she had bought in Wasilla, Alaska, and which she considers the best coffee she has ever had.
She was able to recover almost every last grain, making her a happy girl and getting us through the rest of the day in one piece. In the late afternoon we heard a knock on the door, and discovered that Murphy Matthews of Matthews RV Repairhad arrived to do our Norcold refrigerator recall installation.
It didn't take long, involving the installation of a sensor above the burner area, and a non-serviciable fuse should the unit overheat. It's there to prevent what has been a problem with failure of a weld near the burner and the potential for a fire if that happens.
It's been a while since I've posted any food photos so I'll just ease into it by showing our guests for the evening meal, Ali and Ron. who are the park managers here where we are staying. As I mentioned in yesterdays Daily Journal, they are the kind of people who make America what it is, and we really enjoyed getting to know them. Blogs and fulltime life go together like apple pie and ice cream. And while desert wasn't that, the apple crisp and ice cream we did have was almost as good.
February 25 Friday
We did something today that we don't normally do and it was all my fault. When we switched things around, moving our appointment at MCD up by a week, it left us with five days to travel from Mission, down in the Valley, up to the northeast side of Dallas. Then when we were trying to decided which days to travel and to where, I piped up with "Well if we need to put in some long days, it's no problem."
As always, saying something is likely to be a bit different from the doing of the same. The result was 272 miles on Wednesday and 318 miles today. There are many people who look at that say, that's not far at all, and by their standards they would be correct. However by our standards those are far longer travel days than we like, after all who's in a hurry.
We do not like to arrive anywhere late in the day, so the morning shadows were still long when we checked out of the Lone Star Corral Escapees Park this morning, hitting the road shortly before 9 AM.
It was also the scene of one of the potential dumb mistakes that any one of us are prone to do no matter how long we have been doing this fulltimer travel thing. At Escapee parks you pay when you leave, so while Linda went in to settle up while I hooked up the Explorer.
Remembering that Linda had said the right rear brake and turn signal light was not working in the Explorer, I wanted to check for myself. So after hooking up the tow bar, safety chains, etc., I walked up the front of the coach, activated the turn signal and walked back to discover they were working, meaning we were good to go, and wondering what Linda was or wasn't seeing the other day. I'd bet the angle of the sun was the culprit, making it seem to her that those lights weren't working when they were.
Then when Linda came back out to the coach we went through our regular check of turn signals, brakes, tail lights and the SMI brake system. Next Linda signaled for me to pull forward so she could make sure the locking handles popped up on the tow bar. As I was doing this I watched for Linda's signal that either they had both engaged or I was turn to one side. That was when I noticed she was madly waving in a way I'd never seen her wave before.
It turned out I hadn't done anything inside the Explorer, so it was still in gear with the emergency brake engaged and the steering wheel locked. As she said, "I knew from the sound something wasn't right." The sound being the tires dragging on the gravel where we were stopped. No damage done, a lesson learned, don't assume that just because Bob hooked everything up, it was done correctly, and we were on our way to Jacksboro where we will be staying on Friday and Saturday night.
We had decided on a route that took us over to San Antonio, taking Hwy 1610 around the northwest side of town, then heading north on our old friend, US 281 towards Jacksboro. We knew traffic in San Antonio was something we were not looking forward to, but we were so far out of town that it really wasn't that bad, plus the late morning travel time was also on our side. There was one very minor fender bender that slowed us up a bit, but other than that it was an easy drive.
One thing that anybody traveling at this time quickly notices is just how much the price of fuel is increasing, seemingly on a daily basis. Diesel was varying between $3.55 and $3.65, and we split the two, paying $3.59 where we stopped, and could only wonder what fuel prices must be back east and out in California. If we hadn't bought the coach house we wouldn't be making this a round trip, but rather heading east after the shades were installed, so we are paying the price so to speak in extra fuel costs in more ways than one.
By the time we arrived at Jacksboro I was ready for a rest, sacking out on the couch for a while, then enjoying the guacamole Linda had fixed while I snoozed. Our site at Fort Richardson State Park is great, a long back-in with water and 30 amp electric with a view of only what nature provides to the front and one side. Guess that's the advantage of arriving somewhat early in the afternoon, 3:45 being early in this case, and getting our pick of the sites. We plan to do some sightseeing on Saturday, then make the relatively short drive over to McKinney on Sunday afternoon to be ready for our Monday morning appointment at MCD. All ya'all have a great weekend.
February 26 Saturday
Back into History
We are really enjoying this brief interlude at Fort Richardson State Park, and wouldn't hesitate to come back here again. The site we have, No. 41 is well suited to longer RV's. It has a grove of small oaks off to the right side with a fire pit nestled in among them, but even so, Linda has elected not to have a fire.
There is 30 amp power and water at the site, and while the site is lower in the back than the front, leveling was not a problem. At check-in the Ranger told us that the park map did not accurately reflect the length of the sites, and she was right. While Linda made an online reservation, we really wouldn't have needed one, plus you can't reserve a specific site, only that you have a site in a group of sites.
While Linda wasn't interested in having a fire during our stay, that didn't mean that she was sitting in front of her computer happily Facebooking all the time. On Thursday we had bought a bag of caladiums along with a perfectly colored and sized pot. She was very emphatic that she didn't need any potting soil, so this morning it was time for her to return to her roots and do something she has done every year that we've been married, which plant some flowers.
For the first couple of years of our life together we rented a small duplex apartment where she planted flowers in the basement window wells. Now she grows her flowers in plastic pots, yet she still has that same big, beautiful smile on her face whether is a window well, a huge garden, or a plastic pot that sits in our coach, when she does the planting. It's the perfect answer to those who question why we could give up what we had for this Life we now live. Life is what you make it, and we try to make it the best we can. And yes, she had all the potting soil she needed down in one of the bays.
In the early afternoon we walked over to the fort area, where we were more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of the historical features and the way they were displayed. A few years ago we had visited Fort Davis in Fort Davis, Texas, which was under the auspices of the National Park Service, and were somewhat disappointed with what we saw and the way things were displayed.
After today, it is too bad that the State of Texas couldn't also be the custodian of that fort. After visiting many National Parks, both here and in other countries of the world, as well as many State and Provincial Parks, it may be that the US had the very first National Park in the world, but since then many countries and also states have have surpassed the National Park Service in their ability to present the natural or historical features they have responsibility for.
The fort is portrayed as it was during the frontier time period of 1868-1878. In the fort hospital there was one room that was set up as an indoor privy, complete with sheets of torn paper. In another area beds were set up, covered with netting, and representative of what the conditions in the hospital would have been. Looking through a notebook in the visitors center, it quickly became apparent that disease and accidents, and not the dangers of battle, were the soldiers greatest enemy when stationed at a frontier post.
I was saying I needed to get back to posting food photos, so here's today's. And no, it's not a meal I fixed, it's what was served at the hospital mess table. See, there can be even worse food photos than the ones I normally post.
The end of the day saw us sitting around our non-fire, talking about the upcoming week and remembering the various things we had seen at the fort that not only caught our eye, but also made an impression on us. We decided that since there was no need to hurry over to McKinney, that's exactly what we would, not hurry over there. So we plan to hang around the fort until the 2 PM checkout time tomorrow before leaving, which will give us some more time to explore other areas of the park and the nearby town of Jacksboro as well. Have a great day and live Life your way.
February 27 Sunday
McKinney, coming definitely, aka MCD
One thing we quickly figured out today was that the campground at the park was populated with weekenders. Our site was at the end of the first loop of the campground, so it didn't surprise me when the 5th wheel that had been parked a few spaces down from us pulled out shortly before 8 o'clock this morning. Considering the amount of beer they had been consuming it was a near miracle they could drive out that early, but maybe because it was Sunday morning a miracle had indeed occurred.
Speaking of miracles, here is one that Linda was personally responsible for. She had brought back several starts from her Mom's Christmas Cactus plant that when we can back from spending Christmas with our oldest daughter and her family. With loving care, the kind that can only be the love of a daughter for her mother who has passed on, Linda planted them, nurturing them with a love that would not only insure their survival, but would result in them thriving. As you can see from the multiple buds erupting from the tips of the segments, love conquers all.
Our day was going to include a drive over to McKinney where we would be getting our MCD shades installed this week, but we were in no hurry to make the 90 minute plus drive. That meant a walk in the park, one that started out one way and ended an entirely different way. Our intent was to check out the rest of the campground, which got off to a bad start when one of my comments was picked up by Linda when it shouldn't have been and, familial relations deteriorated from that point on.
By the time we were at the end of the campground road, the temperatures had to be in the 80's, a fact we later confirmed, and Linda was near the boiling point herself, with me being the firewood. When we got to the end of the road, she said, "There's only a turn-around loop, if you want to walk over and check it out, I'm staying here." Deciding that it is better to suffer the barbs of the bear than the slings and arrows of defeat, I made the turn to head back to the where we started.
Unfortunately my turn wasn't as sharp as her tongue and it was only a second before I was being berated for "cutting her off" and not turning as sharply as I should. With knowledge born of some 43 years living with this woman, I shut my mouth and walked meekly beside her.
Then some distance down the road we came upon a path that lead to a lower level of the campground, a level that could only be reached by a road continuing onward from where she said the turn around was. Knowing that some things are better never said, I merely commented on how nice the lower campground was and followed her down the path. What you see above was what we discovered as we walked deeper into the park.
The trail moved away from what was called " Lost Creek" and the vegetation changed. I asked Linda to move over closer to this area of cactus so I could take a photo, and immediately her modeling instinct kicked in, and she was kneeling beside a cactus with red section on the top. She knows she is good at what she does, and she is.
Here we were, slightly north of Dallas-Fort Worth on Feb 27th and spring was already apparent. We weren't sure exactly what this tree was, but with its distinctive apple type blossoms and the sharp thorns sticking out from it, we guessed it might be a type of crabapple or hawthorn. However since we haven't yet had the native vegetation course as part of our "How to become Real Texans" indoctrination, we weren't sure as to what it was.
Yesterday I posted a typical meal that was served in the Fort hospital. Today we get to take a look at a table setting in the officers quarters. That "rank has its privileges" was never more apparent.
While the drive over to McKinney was only several hours, it one of the most stressful drives we have had in along time. The wind was really blowing, and never at the rear of the coach rather, always at an oblique angle making for a most difficult trip. I was constantly sawing the wheel back and forth to keep the coach going in a straight line. Needless to say, going to sleep is not going to present any problem for me tonight.
At the end of the drive was MCD where were going to spending much of the week getting our new shades installed. They had warned us that there was a dip in their driveway, but it really wasn't that much of a dip. We were greeted by Peggy, shown to our site, directed into it by Jim, the electric turned on and then we given a welcome packet that included things to do in McKinney. It was very professionally done and we look forward to getting our new shades. Hopefully I'll be able to post a complete overview of all that is done for anyone else considering MCD shades so they will have an idea what the process includes based on our experience.
Linda ended our day doing one of her favorite things, talking to her sister up in Ohio. Katherine is under going currently undergoing chemotherapy, and as Linda says, this was a good day to talk to her because of the steriods she takes prior to her treatments. From a grizzly this morning to a softy this evening, Linda is exactly why men the world utter that phrase, "Women, I'll never understand them."
February 28 Monday
Making color decisions, aka MCD
Today was measurement day at MCD. It was also the day to decide on which color and grade of vinyl or fabric we wanted. They were to start on the first coach at 8 AM and would then work their way down the line with us being 6 of 7. According to she who keeps track of such things, it was 9:42 when the knock came on the door, and soon we were talking to Peggy and Christine about what we wanted on the estimate.
While the front sun and nightshades would be power operated, we had the choice of power or hand operation on all the rest of the windows. Linda initially said that hand operated would be what we wanted for all of the them, but I wanted the one beside me to be power as it is very distracting to have to reach up and pull it down while driving. Once they had all the information they needed, they left fabric swatches with us pick which material we wanted the shade made from, either vinyl or a fabric upgrade.
While we didn't know exactly how long it would until the two fellows who did the measuring would get to us, we knew that is wasn't a maybe thing. This was what was resting next to the front door of the coach. These measuring sticks are used to measure the width of the windows in the coach, the type of measuring tool depending on which window it was.
The smallest measuring stick was used for the windows such as the one shown behind my computer on the narrow wall of the slide out. For the vertical measurement a standard measuring tape was used.
And as would be apparent, the largest measuring rod was used on the front window. The larger rods had padded rollers that could be placed up against the window with causing any damage the window or valance. The two fellows who did the measuring would also be the installers, so we suspected they would be making sure all the measurements were as accurate as possible.
Measuring the front windows was a two man operation. The only modification needed with our coach would be a small notch that will be cut into the the top corner covers of the A pillars. We were told installation generally takes 6 to 8 hours for the windshield, and approximately 2 hours for all the remaining windows in the coach.
Once the measuring was completed, during which we gave them our choice for the material we wanted the night shades to be made from, we then waited for Peggy to work up the estimate for the materials and return to the coach. She was here at 12:15, and we opted to have all the windows, including the bathroom window redone with MCD shades. The estimate did not include labor, which is charged after the job is completed, and is based on the actual number of hours it takes to install our shades. Now we wait until sometime on Wednesday or Thursday for the installation to begin.
Knowing that we had some free time for a day and a half or more, Linda programmed the GPS to take us to the McKinney Post Office to pick up our forwarded mail, and then on to Sam's Club. For some reason the route to the Post Office took us through the old town area of McKinney, then back out to the post office which was the most convoluted roundabout way of getting there imaginable, bar none. If we have to go there again we will take the short route.
With mail safely in hand, we were off to Sam's Club, a location that the GPS seemed to know how to take us to by a direct route. While we came for a couple of food items, Linda did what she always does, look through all the women's clothes. It took two passes by this section as we shopped in different parts of the store, but as is often the case, the second time was a charm and the cart now contained a very pretty top she had picked out. Sometimes in this full time life the major unknown of the day is something as simple as this.
Linda called this, job security at Walmart, I called it, too good to pass up without a photo. Just know that we may have been lucky to even have found Walmart. We were just a block away, ready to drive into the Walmart parking lot when the GPS started telling us to turn and go another way. It's really one of the worst things that can happen, the fact that you loose your trust in your GPS, but that's what's happened with us. It's going to take some real convincing to get us to ever buy another Garmin GPS,
We did make one purchase at Walmart, well several actually, but the only one worth mentioning was this small storage box which will prevent a number of small items from trying to make their way to the floor of the coach every time we open this overhead cabinet door. It's not always the big things that bring one joy. Today it was a lot of little things, all those shades that are going to make Linda's Life a lot easier.