Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The National Museum of the Pacific War and Killer BBQ

At Majestic Pines RV Resort, Willis, Texas...

Since our rally in Marble Falls was so close to Fredericksburg, we decided to drop in there and take a look at the Pacific War Museum. I had heard that it had seen a massive expansion and, since I am a WWII history buff, I really wanted to check it out. 



I must tell you that the museum is unrecognizable from the rather sparse exhibit that it was many years ago when I first visited it.  We were surprised at how large and well done it is, arranged as a labyrinthine timeline beginning with the ancient history of Japan's conflicted past and its quest for hegemony among its neighbors, the principal of which was China. I found this history particularly interesting and revealing, as I really didn't have a good understanding of the influences over centuries prior to WWII that led to its aggression toward the United States; this large exhibit explained it nicely. The exhibits continued until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the resulting Japanese surrender. There were many other exhibits, some interactive, along with plenty of narrative, including a walking audio, that explained each presentation like, for example, a B-25 from the Doolittle raid over Tokyo:



Japanese defensive weapons:


A Willys WWII Jeep:


I found the interactive displays especially interesting, in that they depicted in a video presentation the strategy and plans for many of the most important battles in the Pacific theater.

As might be expected here in the hometown of Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, his presence was certainly apparent in videos and in a separate building where his life story was presented:



What was evident from the presentations was that Nimitz, who eventually rose to the five-star rank of fleet admiral, was the right man in the right place at the right time to ensure Japan's defeat. His inspiring values of hard work, coolness under duress and wise decisions, along with a little good luck, served him and our country well. I found his strategy at the battle of Midway, about which a really good movie was made, particularly fascinating.

We weren't able to see the entire museum in one day, so we'll have to return to see it all. We couldn't stay any longer this time, as we needed to get back to Conroe for my (yuck) colonoscopy that has been scheduled for some time. And, while I'm on the subject of colonoscopies, if you are over 50 years old and not having these done every few years, you are playing Russian roulette with your life. I am an ardent proponent of these, having even devoted a couple of posts to the subject, one of which you can read here. You can also search on "colonoscopy" to see the other one.

On the way back, we stopped in Elgin at the Southside Market for some barbeque:



One of the nice things about this place was that it had a huge parking lot that would accommodate Phannie and even several other motorhomes as well. And the barbeque! Well, see for yourself:



This was their "small" brisket sandwich!  This large place also sports a meat market where you can buy their products like smoked meats and sausages. And yes, this goes on my list of favorite restaurants, linked over there in the right margin. 

We'll be in Conroe for a few more weeks, then we'll be making our way to Branson with an interim location yet to be determined. Stay tuned!


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

I had rather see the world and own little than to own the world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rally Time Again and Pinky Trauma

At Sunset Point RV Resort, Marble Falls, Texas...

After the ridiculous cold spell in the Houston area, it felt good to fire up Phannie and head over to Marble Falls for the January rally of our Tiffin owners' club.  On the way, we stopped for a couple of nights at La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin to visit with fulltimer friends Steve and Jackie, who would accompany us later to Marble 
Falls in their Phaeton.  

Not wishing to pass up an opportunity to try new restaurants, Steve and Jackie took us to a couple of their favorites, and they quickly became favorites of ours, too! Now for those who get tired of reading about our constant foodie exploits, I say with the utmost affection: This is something you probably need to get over. Everybody has to eat, so why not talk about places that are interesting and exceptional? You may want to try them yourselves some day, right? And, by the way, these will be included in our favorites restaurant list linked over there in the right margin.

We loved the chipotle grilled pork chop and seasoned fresh corn at Verde's, an upscale Mexican grill:






Steve and Jackie
At Opie's BBQ, one must take off one's hat to their offerings of Texas smoked fare; they serve it the old fashioned way--until it runs out!



Besides having great BBQ, the owners also have side dishes to die for--things like spicy creamed corn, tater tot casserole, butterbeans and some killer cobbler. This place is some distance from Austin, out highway 71 to Spicewood, but worth the drive.

We traveled close behind Steve and Jackie out to Marble Falls, where we were obligated, of course, to have dinner at the legendary Bluebonnet Cafe. We had coupons for free pie, and that's all it took to get the whole bunch out there, and the food, fun--and pie--were great!



Earlier in the day, soon after our arrival at our site at Sunset Point, I had a slight accident while doing something I shouldn't have been doing--rushing--to get Phannie parked and set up and join our group for lunch. No, there was no damage to Phannie, just to my little finger that somehow I neglected to remove fully from a closing belly door. It nearly sliced the tip off my finger, and the result was, well, a little bloody, I'm afraid. We quickly headed for the hospital, where the wound was sewn up expertly with four stitches after I struggled, with the complication of my infirmity, to complete the endless paperwork that I think would have sufficed for a heart transplant.



I'm not going to show you the wound like some bloggers do when they suffer injuries (some of the photos included in their posts are pretty gruesome, and I never understood why they think their readers want to see that).

But, back to my pinky:  Okay, I can hear you out there right now: "For God's sake, Mike, what's the big deal?" Well, it wasn't a big deal but, for some reason, the fact that it was my pinky finger seemed automatically to diminish the seriousness of the wound to, well, zero in the minds of my "friends" in the club. I reminded them that it required four stitches, but that didn't seem to matter. I was going to get roasted about this.

Upon my return from the hospital, people who I previously thought were really nice, caring folks were merciless in their teasing me about my ineptness in doing something as simple as closing a bay door without requiring a hospital visit. I confess to egging them on by pretending to be largely "disabled" by the trauma--using a cane to walk and even pretending to need a footstool to get into a car. Totally ridiculous, of course, but hey--aren't we supposed to act more childish when we get old?





It was all great fun, of course, but perhaps less so for me than the others, as their fingers weren't the ones doing the throbbing, were they?

The next day was the regular club business meeting, where we also had 'Tech Talk,' a show and tell that's always a popular means of catching up on the latest info and gadgets for RVers. Chip leads this discussion and always does a fine job.


 
Many in the group were headed to Quartzsite after the rally, but we couldn't resolve some scheduling conflicts to make the trip ourselves. We're headed to Fredericksburg for a couple of days before returning to Conroe.  I'll have a post about that next time.


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.




I had rather see the world and own little than to own the whole world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler












Thursday, January 4, 2018

Freezing in Texas

At Thousand Trails Lake Conroe, Willis, Texas...

The temperature has been in the twenties here in the Houston area!! It's bitterly cold for us Texans, but it sure beats most of the rest of the country north of here. Amply warned by Weather Bug, we stopped at one of the local propane purveyors to top off Phannie's tank. The attendant, a long-haired teen with a several-day stubble on his face, ambled out of the small office a bit unsteadily, seeming to have just awakened from a nap. He didn't inspire us as being terribly interested in our business, but we watched as he jerked the filler hose away from the pump and up to Phannie's propane door. Opening the door, he dropped to his knees and attached the nozzle to the adapter on the tank and turned on the pump switch. Immediately from around the nozzle erupted a loud hissing sound and a cloud of vapor, as the propane was clearly leaking from around the fitting. 

The kid, clearly rattled, said, "Something's messed up here!"  

I started to say that he had a masterful grasp of the obvious, but I figured my sarcasm would just be wasted even if it were understood. He scratched his head a bit and looked at the hose nozzle and the adapter on the tank, finally saying that he didn't know what was wrong but that he couldn't fill my tank. I didn't argue because my confidence in this guy had  pretty much reached zero. So, I just said thank you and drove to downtown Conroe and the facility of an old-line propane dealer who had probably been in business since propane was discovered. 

Out from the office came a stern-faced older guy, striding swiftly toward Phannie. He was all business, approaching his task as though he were to begin fueling an Atlas rocket. Saying nothing, he swiftly attached the nozzle to the tank adapter and turned on the pump. The hissing sound immediately returned, along with the visible vapor all around the fitting. He muttered an expletive that wasn't quite discernible and immediately turned off the pump switch.

Okay, I thought...the kid with the stubble at the last place was at least correct in his assessment that something was wrong; I'll give him that. But the older guy here simply turned around and reached into a small cabinet above the pump, retrieving a black rubber washer about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Laying the hose on the pavement for a moment, he pressed the washer into the adapter on my tank and then spun the hose fitting into the aperture, almost in a single action. This guy had definitely been doing this for a while, I thought. Turning on the pump, the propane began flowing smoothly and silently into the tank without a hint of hissing or vapor. 

I was impressed that this guy not only identified the problem, but that he also had at hand the part needed to fix it! I was reminded of an old French proverb that says, 'Take your dough to the baker, even if he steals half of it.' I've always thought this was a quaint way to advocate the use of a professional when possible. But the French are a little different, aren't they?

I was a little surprised that I hadn't previously heard of this kind of problem in all my years of RVing. Not wanting to be without one of these rubber washers in the future, I strode into the office and purchased two of them to keep on hand. 





Prepared!

The cold weather seemed ideal for comfort food, so I trotted out the new small-sized pressure cooker that I had purchased on the recommendation of our friend Janice. The first was beans and ham that we served with hot water cornbread and then a pot of spicy pork chile verde the next day. These were both wonderful and really hit the spot during the cold snap.



The grandsons enjoyed a large Christmas, of course, and we were privileged to be on hand for that. In the photo below, grandpa has a good seat to watch the boys open their gifts. (This is about the only thing for which I would get up this early.)


We've been steadily working through our yearly visits to doctors and dentists. This has been an especially busy time for this activity, since I needed crowns on three teeth and a colonoscopy, not to mention some new arthritis issues that have been bugging me. Sandy needed new glasses, a teeth cleaning and changes to some of her meds. I have to confess that, since I've never gotten old before, I was a bit unprepared for the seemingly endless treks to health professionals that must be made in order to keep getting this carcass out of bed every morning. I'm not complaining, however; there are so many who don't get the privilege of getting old, much less leading the active lifestyle we enjoy. All I can say is, thank God for good health and good health insurance.

We also had a nice visit with good friends Chip and Diane, who are visiting relatives in The Woodlands this week. Here they are after a wonderful dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Palenque in Spring, Texas:


We will be leaving next week for Austin, where we will spend a couple of days with friends Steve and Jackie, then on to another Tiffin owners' rally in Marble Falls. We'll also spend a couple of days in Fredericksburg before returning here to Conroe to finish up the medical visits. Hopefully, we will not be seeing any more of this frigid weather for a while!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it as I should each day.

I had rather see the world and own little than to own the world and see little of it. --Alexander Sattler


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Settling In for the Holidays

At the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

Now that the flea market frenzy is over and there is only a wisp of smoke emanating from my depleted wallet, we are settled in here until early January, when we will be attending another Tiffin owners club rally in Marble Falls, Texas. Before that, however, we will probably be stopping in Austin for a brief visit with our pals Steve and Jackie, who also own a Phaeton and will be accompanying us to the rally.

On our way back from Canton, we stopped in Nacogdoches, my home town, to visit old friends John and Pat, with whom we had a nice seafood dinner. We also visited my aunt Joyce who, at 92, is just about as spry as someone thirty years younger. Would that all of us could have such genes:


Thank you, Aunt Joyce, for the wonderful pecan pie you made for us; your cooking skills are just as good as ever.

We spent a good deal of time riding around town, remembering how things used to be and seeing how much had changed. For some reason, these visits seem a trifle maudlin as the memories flood back. That feels odd, since the memories were mostly good ones, but I think they were accompanied by the reality of knowing that the people with whom I shared those good times are largely gone, except for just a few. Thomas Wolfe was right: You really can't go home again. Well, yes you can, physically, but the magic of the experiences of youth will forever remain out of reach except through memories.  

We stopped for dinner in Lufkin and, by pure happenstance, found ourselves in the same restaurant as a friend and former employee, Ray, and his wife Carolyn:


I owned a trucking business in Lufkin many years ago, and Ray was just a likable young pup when he began to drive for me; I think it may have been his first job. By his calculation, it had been 44 years since we had last seen each other, and it was a sweet reunion. We will look up these fine folks next time we're in town, for sure.

Back in Conroe, we are staying busy with the never-ending periodic visits to dentists and doctors, who largely keep us alive with modern chemicals. We're not complaining, though; retirement is only as good as your health, really. We're still sorting through thousands of old photos and slides--something we should have finished years ago--and culling out unimportant ones (which should be most of them, if we're doing it right) before digitizing them. 

And then there are the grandsons, of course, whose energy knows no bounds and who keep us laughing as we near exhaustion when they're around. Here are a couple of photos of Mason and Pryce, who found one of my old pilot's uniform caps:


I thought this was a great photo of Mason and his mom and grandmother:



I also need to tell you about a cool new porch light that I acquired for Phannie. I had mentioned to friend and fellow Phaeton owner Steve that the little led bulbs in my old porch light were burning out, and he dragged out this one that he had just purchased himself:


For about 50 bucks, this has some neat features, including motion sensing, a photocell to keep it shut off in the daytime and a coach battery voltage monitor, of all things. 

After ordering it from Camping World, the question was, who will install it?  I suppose I could have, but that sounded a lot like w*rk, something that is now, for me, the eighth deadly sin.  Not wishing to fall into perdition in this way, I enlisted the aid of son-in-law Tyler, a towering hulk of a guy who can fix most anything he doesn't choose to demolish. He readily agreed and had the old light off and the new one installed in no time, complete with silicone waterproofing. And guess what? The mounting holes on the light matched the OEM holes perfectly! Pretty smart design, huh?


I really like this light; it's pretty doggone bright, and it seems to work exactly as advertised. Thank you, Tyler, for being a good guy and doing stuff for me.  (This won't be the last.)

And so it goes; a happy Christmas season is approaching for our family. May God's blessings be manifested for you and yours during this festive and holy time.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it 
as I should each day.

I would rather see the world and own little than to own the whole world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler




Sunday, December 3, 2017

First Monday is Over!

At Mill Creek Ranch RV Park, Canton, Texas...

Our annual trek to First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas is (almost) over! The hardy group of trekkies this year--besides us--was Tyler and Mindy (our kids), Bubba and LouAnn, Steve and Jackie and--for dinner only one night--John and Bobbie Jo.


John and Bobbie Jo
We had a laugh-filled dinner at the Buttermilk Cafe downtown when John and Bobbie Jo were with us, but they were wise enough to retreat back to their digs in Kemp before all the crazies arrived to engorge the tiny town of Canton and its legendary flea market. (By the way, the food there was sufficiently good that it gets a nod on my favorites list linked on this blog; don't miss the CFS.)

The next day was spent by the ladies wandering the vast labyrinth of buildings and stalls from which one can buy just about anything imaginable. In case you've forgotten from a previous post, this is what the monthly event's venue looks like from the air:



We guys walked around for a relatively shorter time, but we didn't really see anything we needed. However, we were able to enjoy some pretty strange sights among the denizens of this amusement park for off-center folks. In the photo below, this couple's dogs apparently have a thing for flea markets but really prefer to ride while they shop:


  
Speaking of dogs, we saw this one, who appears to be quite high up in Episcopal canine clergy but, since this was Friday, he was a little early for the Sunday mass:



Now nothing will add authenticity to your safari room like a seven-foot metal zebra:


We saw many shoppers who had figured out a means to access more of the sheds than the mere pedestrian, as seen below. This woman, I'm sure, has a plan for her newly-acquired windmill, chicken coop and life-sized ethnic doll, but we are left merely to speculate as to what that may be:



For only $175, you could have picked up this slightly used fireplug:




After a day of incessant walking in which only a tiny fraction of the trade area had been covered, the tired bunch posed for a photo before returning to their RVs:


Sandy, Jackie, Mindy and LouAnn are in the front and Mike and Steve in the back.

The girls went on their own on the last day, and what did they find? I guess Jackie and Sandy thought these bows would be perfect for their Christmas glam:



That was not the end of their questionable activities. In the photo below, LouAnn, Jackie and Sandy appear to have a roving eye for grown men who dress up as elves. I don't know whether to be jealous or alarmed:


The enthusiasm for this adventure rose and fell along gender lines, to be sure. The girls thought it was nirvana, and the guys, to a person, would prefer to have an appendix removed without anesthesia. Nothing new there, I guess. That's the way it's been ever since the role reversal happened--perhaps in the cave dweller era--when women, like those above, became the hunter-gatherers and men became, well, largely irrelevant--needed mainly for procreation and playing video games. We guys know we dropped the ball somewhere, but it's hard to figure out how, these days, for fear of going to jail if we say the wrong thing to a woman.

Sandy will be quick to tell you that the camaraderie with her family and friends means much more than finding that perfect thing she didn't know she needed.  (Although she tends to find that, too.)

We will be returning to Conroe soon, but not without a stopover at Nacogdoches, the city that is my ancestral homeland.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the whole world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler



Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Reader's Digest of a Blog Post

At Thousand Trails Lake Conroe, Willis, Texas...

Sandy and I drove toward Tomball today to have lunch with Mindy and see the hospital where she now works as a nurse. After that enjoyable visit, we were driving back to Thousand Trails and once again became acutely aware of the aggressiveness of the throngs of drivers all around us on the freeways. It was sort of like a NASCAR race, with all the folks trying to get out of town for the holiday. Speeding is something I just don't see the need to do any longer, although not keeping up with traffic on the freeway can be downright dangerous, so sometimes I just tighten the seat belt and go with the flow. 

It was during the drive through this demolition derby (we saw several wrecks) that I began to think of some things that I neglected to include in the previous post. Sometimes after I publish a post to this blog, I find that I may have left something out, accidentally--or even on purpose, if I thought the piece was getting too long. So, this post is more or less a housekeeping job that really has no theme other than the randomness of its leftover topics.

First of all, I have been cutting back on including so much foodie stuff in my posts, but you'll just have to bear with me here, as I need to catch up and identify a couple of restaurants that have made it onto the "Favorite Restaurants" page linked on the right side of the blog's website. When we were in the RGV, we ate for the second time at the Santa Fe Steakhouse, and found it superb, if a bit pricey. Although pretty doggone elegant for McAllen (they have white tablecloths and live piano music), we saw folks there dressed very casually, so you don't have to fret about getting all gussied up. We had steak and shrimp, and it just couldn't have been any better:



Another addition to the list was Lin's Chinese Buffet in Weslaco. This place actually returned to the list after being booted off a couple of years ago due to a disappointing experience. Lin's seems to have turned it around, however, and we thought it was just about as good a Chinese buffet as you can find out there. I do love Chinese food, and a really good buffet is almost too much of a good thing (not really; there's no such thing). I always walk around the steam tables, cruising the offerings to make sure the food looks fresh before I sit down, and Lin's offerings were nothing if not fresh. Even so, it's a good idea to go to any buffet within the normal meal times, just to be sure the food is turning over rapidly. Lin's has another location in McAllen, which I assume belongs to the same family; if so, I'll bet it's good, too, although I haven't tried it. Here's a photo of the Lin's on Hwy 83 in Weslaco:



I've also included in the list a new mom-and-pop Thai Restaurant in Arlington, Texas, named Lemongrass and Grill. I think this place serves the best Thai food in the Metroplex, and I guess I was so excited to find it that I forgot to take a photo. Just trust me on this one.

While I'm talking about favorites, you should know that I keep adding to the list of "Best of the Best RV Parks" linked on the right side of the blog's web page. The newly-added parks during 2017 can readily be identified by a red triangle beside the name of the park.

Okay, now let's talk about friends, of whom no one can have too many. We had a surprise visit from some dear friends from our RV club, Chip and Diane (forgot to get a photo again), who joined us for a fun-filled lunch at a local Mexican restaurant and then toured the Thousand Trails facility here on Lake Conroe. Their impression was sufficiently positive that they joined at the basic level, as we did a few weeks ago because we wanted to see if the value exceeds some bad press that has plagued TT for years. We've seen evidence that the outfit seems to be emerging from years of neglect by previous carpetbagging owners whose skimming and flipping
 left it in a pretty sorry state. That all seems to be changing now, thankfully. If the improvements continue, a membership just might be the best bargain out there for RVers. Here are some web photos from around this huge 128-acre park:






Signs of improvement: 76 brand new concrete RV sites are nearing completion:



On another subject, I'll tell you about a hack on dealing with tank valves I learned about the other day while doing a little net surfing; unfortunately, I can't remember where I saw it. 

For a while, I had been having trouble with the blade valve when dumping Phannie's black tank. It would sometimes stick open or closed, and I feared that my continued forcing of the handle would eventually cause it to break. So, here's the hack:  

You drill a hole in the top plate of the valve's blade housing, like this:



Then you spray some lubricant in the hole (I used silicone spray):



Then you simply install a tapping screw in the hole to seal it.


The result? It freed up the valve instantly; It moves as smoothly as new, maybe better.  If it needs lubing again, I'll just take out the screw and give it another shot. I did the same thing with the gray tank valve, so perhaps this will last for a long time. Now, I'm not very skilled or motivated to do any serious repairs on Phannie, but I don't think that even I could mess up this one. Easy-peasy!

Well, this post was kinda like cleaning out the closet, wasn't it? Even I didn't know what I would find! I hope you saw something interesting.

Sandy and I wish for you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings, as we thank God for all of our blessings, among which we count each one of you. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

While Phannie Rests, We Stay Busy

At Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

We arrived back here from our trip to the RGV and got right into the buzz of activities that accompany what I suppose is now becoming our home base here near Conroe. We weren't able to see the kids right away, as grandson Pryce was sick and contagious, but Sandy had a doctor's appointment, and I had to have another tire installed on our toad, Mae, that had picked up a nail in a location on the tire that couldn't be repaired. 

If you've been reading this rag for a while, you know this has been quite a year for tire problems, starting with our debacle that plagued us between Indiana and Montana, where I had mistaken a leaking tire pressure sensor for a bad tire. This had resulted in my buying an extra new tire unnecessarily that I kept in our storage unit here near Thousand Trails. So, as luck would have it, that extra tire was available to replace the one that picked up the nail here in Conroe. Better yet, Discount Tire made the swap at no charge. This came on the heels of having a valve stem replaced on one of Phannie's steering tires while we were in Mission, so I'm hoping this was the last event of our year of tire problems.

After we left Aransas Pass on our last leg to get here a few days ago, we drove through Port Lavaca, mainly to see what kind of storm damage they had received at their location on the gulf 50 miles north of Rockport. The first thing we noticed was that every telephone pole along coastal highway 35 was new.  (Sorry for the blurry photo; it wasn't a good idea to try to drive and snap the camera at the same time.):


I hadn't thought of the need to replace thousands of telephone poles within 50 miles of Harvey's landfall, but that's clearly what they did, and that alone must have been quite an undertaking.


Below is a photo of a boat storage building in Rockport. The other side of the building was facing the gulf, and all of the metal exterior had been blown away from that side, leaving dozens of boats imprisoned in the crazily bent steel framework:


Arriving in Port Lavaca, there were clearly damaged areas, but these weren't nearly as extensive as in Rockport and Port Aransas. Here are a couple of boats that had been blown ashore from their moorings, joining many others that we saw marooned on land, some quite a distance inland from their moorings on the coast:


On the third day after our arrival here, the day turned out to be beautiful with clear skies and a light breeze, following a cold front that blew through a couple of days earlier. This would be a great day to go flying, I thought!  So that's what we did, renting a little Cessna from the nearby Huntsville airport. I had to re-establish my currency by making a three takeoffs and landings beforehand, and these went amazingly well, if I say so myself. Then I picked up Sandy for a flight down across Lake Conroe and over the kids' neighborhood about fifty miles to the south.

Below are a couple of photos taken on a previous flight day:



After the short flight down to the Woodlands, we flew over their house and saw the grandkids jumping up and down in their back yard, waving frantically. Naturally, I forgot to take a photo during this flight, but they loved it and, of course, so did we. They will certainly be insisting that they go along next time, and so they will. 

I must say, getting back in the cockpit after so many years away from flying has been even more gratifying than I imagined. I was so pleased to find that the skill was still there--perhaps a bit rusty at first--but, after a couple of flights, it was as though the intervening years had never happened. I miss the power and performance of the jets I used to fly, but that is compensated by the freedom of flying a small airplane whenever and wherever I like, just for the fun of it, and especially when I can see the grandsons' excitement when they go along. 

On the subject of what comes next for our travels, we've come to the realization that we have overstuffed our itinerary for the next several months. We were originally planning to make a trip to Quartzsite in January, but we have a commitment in Branson in March and an annual maintenance visit to Red Bay soon afterward. We also have a Hawaiian cruise booked in early summer, and we're planning to drive Phannie to California then, where we will catch a flight to Honolulu. Since we just returned from the west coast a few weeks ago, we don't think we have the desire or stamina go back and forth two more times in the span of the next few months. So, something has to give, and we've decided it will be Quartzsite. This is unfortunate, because we were going to meet a number of friends there, but we'll just have to see them another time. Our winter stay this year will probably be somewhere on the gulf coast.

In terms of the immediate future, we will be leaving in about ten days for our annual pilgrimage to Canton, Texas, where we're meeting good friends at an RV park near the unrestrained shopping orgy known as First Monday Trade Days. This blood sport will be held at what is probably one the world's largest flea markets. When they arrive, the female members of our group will embark on a feeding frenzy of sorts, discovering all kinds of things they had no idea they needed. I will make sure that Sandy and I have several discussions about the finite space in which we live and the fact that I have no intention of buying a trailer to pull behind Mae. But she will do fine; I think that for her, the thrill of the hunt is more exciting than actually buying something. At least that's what I'm telling myself today. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the whole world and see little of it. 
--Alexander Sattler