Thursday June 21 Bartlesville, Oklahoma
More museums today, The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum, Bartlesville Area History Museum and The Frank Phillips Home. We both really enjoyed the Phillips Petroleum museum, and not just because the Company was much of our life for many years. So why a barber chair in a petroleum company museum? Frank Phillips, who started the company, started out in life as a barber, so there was a barber shop inside the main company building. It was gone before I ever started with Phillips, so here was my chance to relive the past that I never got to see in the first place.
The other museum we enjoyed was the Frank Phillips Home, which was a time capsule of the 1930's, though unfortunately you couldn't take photos while inside the house. It was interesting that Frank didn't have a home office which the homes of these past titans of industry usually seem to have. On the other hand, there were separate bedrooms for he and his wife. Guess the saying, Business before Pleasure, is true in more ways than one. I may never have risen to be a titan of industry, or even a midget of industry for that matter, but Linda and I sure have always had a lot of pleasure in our Life.
Friday June 22 Van Buren, Arkansas
A new state
Off to Arkansas today on a route that took us through Tulsa. As we approached the city I remarked to Linda that one of the reasons I had been hesitant about coming this way was because many years ago whenever I had to be in Tulsa on business I remembered the freeways were narrow and in bad condition, but that wasn't the case at all today. But no sooner had I uttered those words than this appeared and then we were on one of those narrow nasty freeways I remembered. I will just have to learn to keep my mouth shut as we approach big cites.
At last that hole in the middle of our US map can be filled. We plan to stay in Van Buren for two nights and visit Fort Smith tomorrow. The forecast is calling for very, very high temperatures so we may be doing everything in the morning and retire to the coach for the afternoon. There was a time when that wouldn't have been the case, but it seems the older I get, the smarter I get. Besides anything I'd be doing in the afternoon, I'd have to be doing it by myself as I know Linda will definitely be in the air conditioned coach. And yes, we did make sure we have a 50 amp hookup at the RV park we are at. (And both air conditioners are already running full blast as I write this at 9 o'clock on Saturday morning.)
The deed is done, meaning the map looks a lot better. Linda wondered why it mattered. What could I say, after all, it's a guy thing. Later in the afternoon I spent some time walking around Van Buren's downtown which has many fascinating old buildings including a depression era post office with an awesome mural inside. It's one of those things we do on occasion that lets both of us have our space and do our own thing. Besides, it's far better than me staying at the coach and her going off shopping. At least in the financial department it is. Especially since I bring back photos while she brings back clothes. Still, either way, we sure do live a good Life.
Saturday June 23 Van Buren, Arkansas
We see many things in our travels that we notice but think little about. I speak not only just of ourselves, but of all fulltimers who travel the roads of our country. Leaving the RV park and heading to Fort Smith we passed not just this sign, but a total of three signs that made it increasing clear that anything but single vehicles needed to turn around and not proceeded on this road.
Last evening when I was walking around downtown Van Buren I noticed a memorial in a vacant area along Main Street. It listed nine people who had lost their lives on the evening of June 21, 1985 when a semi truck driven by a young husband and wife team lost its brakes on long steep hill we had just come down and slammed into a station wagon with a brother and sister and their families in it. When everything was over, three buildings had been destroyed in the ensuing fire and all nine occupants of the two vehicles were dead. An article on what happened is here. We can never take life for granted, and little do we realize what things along the roads we travel might mean.
Our destination was historic Fort Smith, the place of movies. Clint Eastwood, Hang 'em High, True Grit, both loosely based on the fort and what took place there. There really was a Hanging Judge, and he really did send out US Marshals to bring in outlaws, and many were indeed hung from the nearby gallows. Actually the true stories are much more fascinating than what is portrayed in the movies. But isn't that what Hollywood is for, turning out propaganda masquerading as truth and trying to brainwash the masses. I've never understood why someone would spend money to see a movie or buy a DVD from someone, or starring someone who's ideology is diametrically opposed to their own. I guess the sucker born every minute adage is more true than ever. Speaking of suckers, Linda is a sucker for every NPS Passport Stamp Station, and here she making sure she gets those stamps in the right spot.
We lucked out in choice of days to visit the fort because they were doing an artillery demonstration today. Later we walked through the nearby National Military Cemetery, seeing row after row on unknown Civil War graves. A moment waiting for a traffic signal in 1985, a moment in battle in 1862, the result is the same. Do we wait for some day to live life, or do we live Life when we can? It is up to each of us to answer that question, but when we drove away from our house six and a half years ago we had made our decision and we have never regretted it for a moment. Somehow or other things have a way of working out, even if the answer isn't always what we might wish it to be.
Sunday June 24 North Little Rock, Arkansas
Presidential Library Redux
We were planning to be on the road by 10 o'clock this morning since it was about a three hour drive down to the Little Rock area. That got put back a little when, as I was doing all my normal outside activities, I disconnected the electric only to discover Linda had not yet stowed the MotoSat dish. Not good, especially since the both the temperature and the humidity were somewhere in the 90's. Eventually I moved out of the sun, and eventually Linda got the MotoSat stowed. Meaning eventually we got on the road, and wonder of wonder given the circumstances, no harsh words were exchanged, not that I didn't have a few in mind as I stood out there sweating and sweltering. I really couldn't blame Linda as she was busy doing things and I should have checked before unplugging the cord. Still, this was looking like it might be a good day even if it was a less than perfect start.
Our destination was a park on the river in North Little Rock directly across from the Clinton Presidential Library. The nice thing about arriving on Sunday morning, actually early Sunday afternoon, is there is very little traffic. That was good as the GPS had the entrance to the park some distance past where it actually was, meaning there was a rather sudden deceleration and turn as part of the arrival process. That wasn't all however, as we soon learned the 104 degree temperatures were the all time record for the day and even with both air conditioners going full blast, it was still too hot in the coach.
The solution was across the river, and after a quick lunch we walked across the pedestrian bridge that started at the end of the park and were soon in the Clinton Presidential Library. We had been in the Gerald R. Ford Library in Grand Rapids last summer so we were anxious to see how this one compared.
One exhibit was a mockup of the cabinet room in the White House. That is not an intern sitting in the Presidents chair, but that woman did wonder if Monica's dress would be on exhibit. Not in your wildest dreams. To tell it like it was, we found the Library a rather disappointing experience, being more of a Bill Clinton ego trip than what we were expecting of a Presidential Library. Maybe we were spoiled by how interesting and informative the Ford Library was. Or maybe Clinton is simply someone who is full of himself. I'll not dispute he did good things and also did some incredibly stupid things as President. But the over the top bragging we saw here was a little too much. Great men are praised by others, petty men brag about themselves. This was bragging and then some. And besides, the exhibits just weren't that great either.
Monday June 25 North Little Rock, Arkansas
A very,very,very hot day
Some things need explanation and this is one of them. Our first stop, and it was in the cool of the early this morning with the temperatures forecast to be 105 and more today, was the Arkansas Museum. We ended up spending three hours in it, which is probably 2 and a half hours more than most people do, but it drew us in and wrapped us up. What can I say but we love history, even if it is history we have never been exposed to before.
I will skip all the things we liked about the museum except for one thing. Not that I liked it as much as Linda, actually I liked the Native American Gallery as much as Linda I just couldn't get the hang of this exhibit. Native Americans were predominate in Arkansas in the early 1800's, after all it was their land, and this gallery focused upon the atrocities the European American's inflicted upon them. Broken treaties, outright genocide and the precursor to the way the freed blacks were treated as sub humans under slavery and the later Jim Crow laws. But enough of that.
One of the displays was an Native American dance that had the incessant beat of the drum as part of it. In front of the screen was an electronic drum where visitors were invited to copy the beat of the dance. I tried, believe me, I tried, but all I could do was once during the entire dance hit the beat when it should have been hit. Linda looked at me. Linda laughed. Linda said I sure didn't have any blood in my veins that had anything to do with rhythm. Linda was absolutely right.
Now it was Linda's turn. From the first beat she was right with it. By the time the dance was over I was in awe. Then it dawned on me. It was a Native American dance. Linda has Native American blood coursing through her veins. Native American dance, woman with Native American blood. Why should I wonder why it should come so natural for her? Lucky Bob for asking the right girl to be my wife. And the miracle was that she said "YES!" Later I learned it was because I was reasonably good looking and had a college degree, meaning I had prospects. Forty five years later I still think she is the prettiest girl ever, and what can be wrong with that. Besides, knowing her, if I ever was to step out of line she would probably scalp me.
Another day. Another museum. Another penny smasher. Another penny for Zachary's (also Abby and Lindsey's) collection. Math may give him a bit of a problem, but geography and American history is a snap thanks to Grandpa and Grandpa. And as luck would have it, this fall he has world history and this fall we will be sending him smashed Euro penny's from across Europe. Unconditional Love. It has changed the world. It is the greatest gift we can give.
In the afternoon, with the temperatures in the unhealthy range, with ozone warnings being broadcast, with don't go outside unless absolutely necessary warnings being broadcast, Linda wisely spent the afternoon in the air conditioned comfort of the coach. I spent the afternoon out in the sun, looking at old buildings and an awesome sculpture garden. So many towns we have visited on this trip that really deserve two or three more days. I can't say we will ever be back, but neither can I say we won't. Life is so short, how can we ever have time to see everything we want?
I want to end with a thought that I have carried from early in our adventure. We had been on on the road for about 18 months when we returned to Carmichael, California where we had lived for over 25 years. One of our long time friends mentioned they had been fulltimers. They had driven around the country in 8 months, had seen it all, and while they were glad the did, they were disappointed it hadn't lasted longer. It is obvious everyone has their concept of what the fulltime Life is. For them, it was what they did. For us, there is no end in sight, and there are many places we want to return to again. Life really is what each of us makes it out to be. For some it it is slam, bam, thank you ma'am and it is over. For us it is a never ending Journey that we hope continues in the Life to come after this Life is over. To each their own. Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas -- We Will Be Back!!! Fly over country is the greatest.
Tuesday June 26 Marshall, Texas
Texas at last
Given another set of circumstances, this could be Linda, but thank goodness it is not. I can only wonder what conversations took place between husband and wife before they left home for the start of this trip. While she loaded the car with more plants than we thought it could hold, he was busy unhooking the sewer, water and electric. It looked to be a case of, if she wants to bring them, she can take of them. It reminded me that no matter how bad it is, (which it really isn't) some other husband has it far, far worse.
I always chuckle as we approach a state line because of the comments coming from the navigator's seat. It is a running count down of the miles as we get closer and closer, then on occasion she still misses the sign. Not today, and being the good person she thinks I can be at times, I slowed down as we approached it. It felt good to be back home in Texas, even if the thermometer was registering 101 at the time. Looking at the right way, it was still cool, since the high was predicted to be 104.
Driving on Hwy 59 we could see a vehicle in the distance traveling slower than the rest of the traffic. As we came closer we saw the reason, melons, lots of different kinds of melons. I could see Linda's mind working, plus she was licking her lips in anticipation of the good food we would be eating in the coming month. That woman sure does love her melons, and I sure like them too, and in more ways than one.
What can I say. While Linda stayed cool in the coach, I headed off to town, where I tramped through a very old cemetery, doing my thing. Some people eat at a restaurant in every town they visit. I visit a cemetery in every town we visit. Restaurant eating makes you fat. Walking through cemeteries takes weight off. It also provides a glimpse into the history of the town you are visiting like nothing else can. This cemetery had many awesome makers in it, including this unusual cast iron cover and marker. But also scattered throughout the cemetery were the graves of a number of unknown confederate soldiers. No matter where we travel in the north or south, the Civil War touched every town, some devastatingly so. I am so glad we chose not to sit at home doing what we had always done in our former life, shopping at the same stores, going to the same church, talking to the same friends. Life is too short not to live it to its fullest. Remember: Life is not a dress rehearsal. Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early.
Wednesday June 27 Livingston, Texas
A change of pace
A fairly short drive today, but it resulted in a fairly a major change in lifestyle. For the next month we are going to volunteering at the Escapee Care Center in Livingston, something we have wanted to do for some time. As time goes on we will be describing more about what it is and what we will be doing, mostly because we have already had our first "trailing" experience tonight at dinner. Think trailing around with someone who has done this for five different volunteer stints. We know nothing, they know everything. Yet after four hours of this we actually think we have a reasonably good understanding about most of the things we will have to do on our own in a few days. It's not a case of fast learners, rather it's a case of excellent teachers. Much more to follow on this experience, but for now I think we both are looking for some rest as we have to start at 6:45 tomorrow morning. Hey, we used to get paid to go to work that early, so now that we are retired we do it for the fun of it.
Thursday June 28 Livingston, Texas
6:45 came earlier than we thought it would, likely because we were still tired from yesterday's drive from Marshall to Livingston, then the four hours of training we had. It was really more a mental tiredness, probably due to trying to remember all the information we had received. Of course as soon as we started walking the few steps to the Care Center, adrenaline took over and we were fully ready to go again. As far as the morning mist and dews and damps, we were told it was unusual. Time will tell.
We were breakfast help this morning, but it turned out to be fairly easy as the breakfast most mornings is cereal, toast and an assortment of beverages. As we learned, things are not put out in just any order, it has to be the same way every time. That is due to the limited eyesight of a number of the people who eat breakfast. If you are blind and eat bran flakes every morning, they better be in the same location every day. They key here is that the people who utilize the Care Center must be ambulatory and have the ability to take care of themselves. The best way we have come to think of it is adult day care.
Not that everything is perfect here. Take our Splendide washer/dryer. Observe a cycle where it will fill with water, pump the water out, but in between it just sits there with lights flashing and the dial rotating on its own. A call to the manufacturer resulted in it's either the motor, control board, or the connections between the two. Of course checking it out can be done by a local RV shops that is an authorized Splendide service center, or I can try to do it myself. Currently we have opted for the latter, but it is going to be a week or so before we can tackle it as we need to concentrate on learning our new jobs. And the washers here in the park are inexpensive, plus with the temperatures in the upper 90's, drying anything on the clothes rack is easy. Besides, if living the fulltime Life was too easy, everyone would be doing it.
Friday June 29 Livingston, Texas
What you see here is the application of the old adage: "I'd rather be lucky than good." Translation: It is good that I was in the process of putting the tire covers on the coach. The lucky part was not the what, it was the where. Just to the back of this wheel and about two feet out from it was a fire ant mound that I was totally unaware of. I can't imagine what would have happened had I laid down and stretched out the way I am, but behind the tire instead of in front of it. I was very lucky and I know it. PS, the fire ant mound has been treated with ant dead.
We had another training day today, and while we learned a great deal, only time will tell if we retained what we were told, and also if we were told all we need to know. When the trainer is being trained by the trainer trainer as the trainer trains the trainees, it isn't too difficult to believe more than a few things get lost in the process. Still, it's the great thing about having volunteered at a number of places. We've learned that it ain't perfect and it ain't gonna be, so lighten up and take it as it goes. The hardest part is knowing that the people who are the Care Center residents are most likely us 20+ years from now, so we really do want to do our very best.
Take these two old ladies for example. Obviously they have had some good years in their lives, but now they are pretty much limited to repetitive tasks that are easily learned. Stack all the silverware in the center of the napkin. Fold up the bottom, roll in the sides, place in the container of rolled silverware and repeat. From the look of the one on the right I should not have been taking a picture of their attempts at silverware rolling. I just hope it is a long time until things like this are in Linda's and my future.
It was not a day of all work and no play because we did drive into town and do a little shopping. First we scouted out Lowe's as we longer shop at Home Depot since our daughter's late unpleasantness with a minority shopper at Home Depot resulted in her dismissal as a Home Depot employee. We now understand that discrimination goes both ways. Home Depot may not miss us but they are never ever going to get another cent from us. If the minority persons that our daughter identified because of their actions, to be potential shoplifters, spend money at Home Depot then Home Depot might possibly come out ahead though I doubt it. Otherwise it will be a lose-lose for Home Depot. Besides, one long shopping trip to Lowes has convinced us they have a far better selection of merchandise that Home Depot.
Also included was a stop at HEB, where we got reacquainted with the best darn grocery chain there is. We ended up with a few goodies, part of which was a two pound container of dead ripe strawberries that I turned into the best strawberry margarita's we have had in months. When you use about one and a half pounds of strawberries to make strawberry margarita's there is no doubt they will turn out to be awesome. From the compliments I was receiving from Linda I did at least one good thing today. Isn't Life like that. Given lemons some people throw them out. Others make lemonade. Which type of person are we? Hint, we love lemonade. How about you?
Saturday June 30 Livingston, Texas
First off, today was unusual in that neither of us took a single photo. Second, the couple that were supposed to be on duty today were sick, so Linda and I got a heavy dose training and experience, which goes a long way in explaining why we took no photos. It wasn't that bad, but we are going to be on duty from 8:30 tomorrow morning till 8:30 on Monday morning, making for two very long days in a row. As we are learning, it goes with the territory of volunteering at CARE in summer. It seems that everyone wants to volunteer in the spring, fall and winter when the weather is much nicer. At those times they usually have seven volunteer couples, meaning light work for every one. We have two couples and two singles, so we really get to be busy, but the people who utilize CARE are all so nice it really isn't work.
Just a little bit on volunteering here. You are furnished one of the seven free sites behind the CARE Center. They are 50 amp FHU back-in sites, and you pay for the electric you use and and any propane you need. We will have four days of training, though not in the follow me and do this sense. More in the here is what to do, if you have any questions, ask someone what to do. It really isn't as bad as it sounds, but insecure people will probably feel pretty insecure. It's late, time to go, more tomorrow.
On a side note, about those margaritas yesterday. It sure was one and half pounds of strawberries. We like our strawberry margaritas to taste like strawberries. There is also an appropriate amount of tequila and triple sec added so that in the end we end up with two large margarita glasses each. It does put the "happy' in happy hour, but sometimes you just have to live Life.