Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ten, No, Eleven RV Essentials for Fulltiming

At Northlake Village RV Park, Roanoke, Texas...

We got through the wedding without any known hiccup or embarrassment (I think). Our cousin, the bride, was beautiful, and we had a good time seeing all the friends and relatives at this joyous event. As anticipated, however, the outdoor ceremony was a trifle warm, with temperatures in the low 90s. Well, let's be clear: It was pretty danged HOT! Now I'm not about to question this venue choice in the summertime in Texas, but being in love and having sound judgment are almost always mutually exclusive, aren't they?

As we visited with friends and family, there were the inevitable questions about our fulltiming gig, and we enjoyed the full spectrum of reactions. Some professed great admiration and a desire to do the same thing, and others looked at us as if we had just shown up in tinfoil hats. And that's fine; they would never get it anyway.

Some who expressed the most interest in the lifestyle were likely to ask followup questions. One guy who already owned an RV but hadn't yet gone full time asked me to name the top ten RV accessories that I would consider essential for fulltime RVing. I had to think for a minute, but I finally came up with it. And these are they, in order of importance:

1. A residential refrigerator. Nothing else we have bought for Phannie makes it seem so much like a home. 

2. The third air conditioner. In Texas, a 40' motorhome should not be without it.

3. Washer and dryer. Happy wife, happy life.

We debated whether to replace the Splendide washer/dryer combo with separate units, but Sandy made peace with it and decided the extra space was more important to her. So far, so good.

4. The Winegard Trav'ler automated satellite antenna. Push a single button and all of Direct TV is yours with zero hassle.

 5. The hard-wired Surge Guard surge protector. No more worries about what kind of power you're plugging into. If it's not good power, Surge Guard will reject it.

6. MCD shades. The old accordion things were a source of constant frustration.

7. The electric power cord reel. This has saved me so much aggravation, it probably needs to be higher on the list.

8. TST tire pressure monitor. Peace of mind when towing Mae. There's no telling how far she otherwise might be dragged with a flat tire. We tried two other brands before we found this one, which is a keeper.

9. Computer desk and easy chairs. Taking out one of the couches and replacing it with these things was smart--very smart.

10. The Breville electric oven. Pricey, but such an improvement over the factory-issued microwave/convection oven.

As I was writing this, I thought of number eleven: Our king-sized iComfort mattress. You should not scrimp on the place where you'll be spending much of your life sleeping. This model happens to be our favorite. 

So, there it is--the top ten, er, eleven. In our mind, these things proved to be essential for our fulltime lifestyle, and we absolutely would not want to omit any one of them. This list would certainly be different for other fulltimers--perhaps significantly--but this is what works for us. 

We are in the DFW area for three more days, then to Lake Conroe and the grandkids. Yay! 

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dropping In On Our Old Stomping Grounds in DFW

At Northlake Village RV Park, Roanoke, Texas...

After catching up with family and friends in Killeen, we relocated back to the DFW area to prepare for attending the upcoming wedding and take care of the never-ending medical/dental appointments and, of course, Sandy's visit to her hairdresser--easily the most important appointment of our stay here. 

While in Killeen, we met up with some of Sandy's relatives--the Boales clan--for lunch:

We also caught up with longtime friends, Rev. and Mrs. John Abbey and some of their lovely family:

Not pictured was a fine steak dinner with Sandy's Uncle Mac and Aunt Janie and a visit with her Aunt Virginia. It's not that I didn't want to include their photos, I just forgot to take them! I really get annoyed at the absent-mindedness that comes with getting old. 

When we arrived in the DFW area, we were still dealing with temperatures in the mid-nineties, as I knew we would face but, in the last few days, the weather has begun to moderate a bit. I think I saw 92 degrees briefly today. Upon walking around Phannie, getting her set up in our new parking space here in the park, I noticed that one of the outside rear tires looked a bit low. I had not seen this before, as I check the tires frequently and have never allowed the pressure to get low enough to see a visible belly on a tire. I hit it with the gauge and found it at 60 psi instead of the normal 100! I summoned a mobile tire service through Coach Net, and the tech found that the valve extension was leaking. I had him remove it, and I'll just make do without it, as I have the backward fittings on my tire gauge and on the inflator I use with the portable compressor. (If you are a guy, you'll probably know what I'm talking about; if you're a gal, you probably don't care.) And, by the way, if it's not politically correct to say that, ask me if it bothers me. (It doesn't.)

We went with Bubba and LouAnn to see the movie, "Sully." I must say that I enjoyed it a great deal, having flown as an airline pilot myself. The technical aspects of the flying depicted in the film were surprisingly accurate--something that can't be said about many films in this genre. However, having perhaps a somewhat unique perspective of a second career with the FAA, I can tell you that the roles of the federal investigators were a bit unfairly portrayed, but I attribute that to the film makers' quest for protagonists for a more dramatic effect. While watching the film, it occurred to me that, except in simulator training, I had never lost even one engine in a jet airliner, much less two at the same time--especially problematic when two is all you've got! Captain Sullenberger is a credit to our profession, and I can only hope that I would have performed so well under those awful circumstances.  

We'll be here another week, then off to visit the grands near Houston. Stick around!

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Prisoners in Texas (Prisoners of Air Conditioning, That Is)

At Cicada Springs RV Park, Killeen, Texas...

I knew it would be bad. During our reentry into Texas, my gaze fixed on the outside air temp gauge on Phannie's dash as we crossed the New Mexico/Texas state line. I had already seen 96 degrees at Roswell, so I was fearful that it could get much worse. We cruised through Midland, San Angelo, Brady and San Saba into Killeen, during which the temperature only increased to 99, so at least we didn't make it into triple digits. But 99 was bad enough.

I wouldn't have been so obsessed about the temperature had it not been for our being spoiled by the idyllic summer spent in Colorado and New Mexico, where we often ran the heater in the mornings. But, the longer we're here, the more accustomed I am becoming to being coachbound, as Phannie's air conditioners seem to run incessantly, keeping us from a certain death by heatstroke. Spending any time outdoors is out of the question for a few weeks longer, I'm afraid.

We overnighted in Midland at the Midland RV Park, a dusty, gravelly place with lots of long term trailers and a howling wind that caught Phannie's entry door as I opened it and jerked it out of my hand, testing the integrity of the door stops. They held with no damage, but I looked at them closely to see if anything had pulled loose. The wind had been blowing like crazy out of the south since we left Roswell and, needless to say, Phannie's fuel economy was abysmal. I didn't even check the computer to see what it was; I really didn't want to know.

We are visiting friends and relatives in the Killeen area before heading up to Fort Worth for medical/dental appointments and to attend the wedding that is the purpose of our early return to our beloved state. (Although you couldn't tell from my constant complaining about the weather here, we still love Texas, although perhaps not quite as much from June through September, when it is largely uninhabitable.)

Phannie's windshield and front cap are very bug-spattered after our dash from Santa Fe. In my mind, this makes the coach look unkempt--something like this classy rig:

Okay, that may be a bit overblown, but I notice this coach has its cockpit door open, which probably means that they, too, are in Texas in September.

I'm still working up the courage to go outside and wash off the bugs. On the other hand, I may just wait until we get to Fort Worth and get the mobile wash folks to do the whole rig. That would make more sense than calling the paramedics, I think.

Trapped inside Phannie as we were, we decided to to a little housecleaning. (Well, just to be accurate, it wasn't WE who decided that.) I was put in charge of vacuuming the floor and polishing the woodwork. Here's a photo of Sandy, showing me how it was to be done:

She had to show me over and over, because I was having trouble understanding the concept. She said that I was perhaps the poorest student she had ever had in her 30 years of teaching. I actually took a bit of pride in this, as I really hadn't exceeded any of my teachers' expectations back when I was in school. I finally figured out the process, however, but it didn't take long for this to become a real chore. There is much more wood in Phannie than I realized!

Well, that's enough for now; I have to rest up. Check back in a few days to see if we're still alive.

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016


At Midway RV Park, Roswell, New Mexico...

This is merely a one-night stop for us, so we were looking for a budget parking space, and we found it. This little park is about five miles out of town and is inhabited mostly by permanent residents. There are several paved pull-thrus with fifty-amp power and water but, oddly, no sewer connections. Fortunately, Phannie's waste tanks were empty, so we didn't need the sewer connection anyway. The rate was a dirt cheap fifteen bucks with Passport America, so we were pretty happy with this find for a single night stay. However, we happened to notice the huge cattle feed lot nearby and considered our good fortune that the wind was from the south, blowing the "aroma" away from us. If it hadn't been, that may have been a show stopper for us.

Arriving here from Santa Fe was a bit of a jolt, in that the outside air temperature had reached 96 degrees as we were parking. We knew we were going to encounter this kind of heat again after our idyllic summer in the mountains, but we thought it would more likely be when we got all the way into Texas. When we left Phannie's cool air conditioned comfort and stepped out into the hellish heat at Roswell, we looked at each other and thought the same thing: "What were we thinking?"

I think Sandy finally had a heatstroke while we were downtown Roswell, as told me she thought she saw a large alien while walking along Main Street. I don't know where she gets these ideas...

Tomorrow night will be in Midland, Texas, on our way to Killeen to visit friends and relatives.

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

Time to Head Home

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler, so it will soon be time to head back to Texas. Our return will be a bit sooner than would be ideal for those like us who would normally hold out for a cooler clime in our glorious state. (It is not advisable to be in Texas in June through September.) However, SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) will not be deterred from attending a cousin's wedding there in mid-September. So, I will see if I can bring up Phannie's heat shield to protect us during our early re-entry. 

Having had a thorough review on an earlier trip of Santa Fe's historical treasures, such as the Basilica Santa Fe and the Loretto Chapel, etc., we are mostly just chilling, doing a little star-gazing and trying new restaurants. I have a few more upon which I'll give you a report, and I'm happy so say that some of these finally made the Favorites list:

The Ranch House - Recommended by one of my cherished blog readers, this has to be one of the fanciest barbecue joints ever constructed. I am so accustomed to ramshackle firetraps with sawdust on the floor (where some of the best barbecue can be found, honestly), that I almost didn't know how to act in this place. It had a beautifully landscaped and paved parking lot and a very tasteful exterior, and customers enter into an anteroom with a well-liveried and charming hostess. 

We were seated in an impeccably decorated and spotless dining room, and the waitress handed us menus that didn't even have fingerprints on them, much less the little globules of dried barbecue sauce to which I'm accustomed. Sandy and I had lunch specials; hers was a brisket sandwich, and mine was a rib plate, upon which the ribs, slaw and a piece of cornbread were strategically placed along with a little dish of butter. The plate was even clean! I looked around at the fancy surroundings, wondering if I should pick up the ribs with my fingers; then I decided that I couldn't think of another way to eat them. The very efficient and personable waitress served us promptly and cheerfully, leaving us with three types of barbecue sauce, all of which were tasty.

The ribs were cooked perfectly, and I found myself wishing there had been more of them on the plate. I compensated by stealing a bite of Sandy's sandwich and found it to be excellent, too. There were only three small things that detracted from the otherwise flawless experience: First, and most egregious, was the sweet cornbread. I'm sorry, but I'm from the South, and cornbread there is NOT sweet. Sweetness is for cakes and cookies--not cornbread. After a bite, I abandoned this abominable culinary travesty, looked heavenward in reverence to all of the great southern cooks in my family who have gone to their reward without committing this sin. Secondly, the chile slaw was bland and forgettable. Where I come from, if you're going to put chiles in slaw, it should make a statement--you know, like damaging the lining of your mouth. This stuff didn't, so I abandoned it, too. And the third flaw was that they served no slice of onion for Sandy's sandwich. However, she could have ordered one, I'm sure, but she chose not to. Even with these missteps, the Ranch House is going on my list of favorites. It was saved by the meat offerings and the elegant surroundings. It would be worth your visit for these things alone, not to mention that it wasn't terribly expensive.

Maria's - This is an iconic Mexican restaurant that has been around since 1950 and is the haunt of whatever glitterati visit Santa Fe, like politicians and movie stars. It is said to be a favorite of Robert Redford's. We ordered shrimp enchiladas to share and a bowl of green chile pork stew, both of which were wonderful. 

Maria's doesn't look like much from the outside.

Shrimp enchiladas at Maria's
And yes, Maria's goes on our list of favorites.

The Wok - This is a nondescript and slightly rundown Chinese restaurant in a shopping center on Cerrillos Road, into which we dropped because we were a little burned out on the New Mexican cuisine offered by perhaps a couple hundred restaurants here in Santa Fe. I don't know if we were just lucky in choosing a really good dish--the three-meat sizzling platter--but I would come back for this one alone. And in fact we did; The Wok is the only restaurant reviewed that we visited a second time. (I should disclose that Asian food is a huge favorite of ours.) Of course, the Wok goes on the favorites list.

Sorry I didn't get a photo of our dish; we scarfed it down before I remembered the camera.
Cafe Castro - This is a New Mexican-style spot very popular with the locals. We weren't impressed; the red sauce on our enchiladas was very bitter, and the plate included a strange mess of bland white hominy that they were trying to pass off as posole. Well, properly crafted posole can be a thing of beauty, but this was merely a "thing," in my opinion. Another unforgivable sin was their three-dollar charge for salsa and chips. What is with these people? If they tried this in Texas, some good ole boys would probably shoot up the place.

Horseman's Haven Cafe - We thought this unassuming little place behind a gas station would be one that offered American cafe fare--you know, blue plate specials and the like. It wasn't. It's more of the same New Mexican fare and little else. Sandy had a hamburger that she had to assemble herself. (Another pet peeve of ours.) I left most of my pork ribs adovado, which had too much gristle. The place has good reviews on Yelp, but I don't know why. Don't bother with this one.

Dr. Field Goods - Now we're talking! This farm-to-table joint, oddly, is next door to the Wok! Imagine that--side by side restaurants that make it onto our favorites list. We had fish and chips, with a side of Mexican street corn and roasted brussels sprouts. This was, by far, the best food we've had in Santa Fe. I wish we had discovered it earlier. The only negative is that it's a bit pricey. Fortunately, we'll gladly pay a bit more for food this good. Here are some photos:

We had already started eating this corn when I remembered to take a photo. Slathered in butter, cheese, garlic and parsley, it was the best corn on the cob ever. 

The freshness and quality of these dishes could not be improved upon.
Upper Crust Pizza - This is a celebrated pizza place near old town that has good reviews and deserves them. We chose our own ingredients for our small pizza and asked for a light crust. I don't know how they make a hand-tossed pizza with such a light and crisp crust, but they did, and it was excellent. This one goes on the favorites list as well.

We spent about an hour at the Saturday farmer's market in the rail yard near old town, and enjoyed the large number of offerings there. We brought some wonderful street bread flavored with green chile and arugula along with some tomatoes, peaches and cantaloupes. I must tell you that the cantaloupe was probably the best we've ever had. I would highly recommend this market as a must-do for visitors.

Roasting chiles at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Smelled so good!
I couldn't resist an ear of roasted corn. So good!
We feel a bit sad that our wonderful summer in the mountains is over. We are so blessed to be able to enjoy this carefree lifestyle, moving around the country to seek out new adventures and leave behind harsh climates that don't suit us. We're headed back to be with family and friends in Texas, and we're both excited about that. 

Here's our last night's look at old Santa Fe in the form of the Basilica Santa Fe. What a beautiful old cathedral!

We also enjoyed one last sunset today, looking westward from our RV park. I snapped this photo of a lone dissipating thunderhead poking up over mountains a hundred miles away with the final light of the sun casting a pink glow on it. We will miss these scenes a lot:

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Samplings of Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

We have not exactly been setting the world afire here in Santa Fe. We've just been mostly relaxing and cruising the area, enjoying the weather and the scenery. Sandy, of course, has been scoping out a few of the shopping venues, and we've made a run to Wally World for supplies. 

The wifi is good at this park, so I've been researching more RV parks for my "Best of the Best RV Parks" page linked above. (Unfortunately, Santa Fe Skies doesn't make the grade, as you might imagine from my previous post.) 

This research is a slow process, as each park listed must be confirmed to have hard-surfaced streets and pads, in addition to the other requirements listed. Some RV parks publish website photos of their inner roads and sites, and some don't, so sometimes, I have to use Google Earth to try to confirm the hard-surface aspect. However, I've also decided to include on the list some parks that don't necessarily have all their roads and sites hard surfaced but have sites that are otherwise extraordinarily well maintained. (There must be NO DIRT--a pet peeve.) These "almost" parks get an "HM" after their listing, meaning "Honorable Mention." 

A question one might ask is, "So what's the deal with touting the 'best of the best' RV parks, since you have an old rig and some of these parks might not let you in anyway?" Well, that's a good question. First of all, Phannie still gives a pretty good impression, so we haven't been turned away from anywhere yet. If we are, then that park is probably too snooty for us, anyway. But here's the crux of the deal: When we're on the road to get to a destination, we typically try to find inexpensive, basic parks for a one- or two-night stay. When we get to where we'll be staying for a while, we prefer nicer parks with the amenities described in the list, and we haven't found a website that reliably shows these in every state.

I know there are plenty of parks out there that would qualify for this list, but I haven't yet discovered them. If you have suggestions, I would be most grateful to hear about them. Just leave a comment below; I try to answer each one.

Since Santa Fe is supposed to be a foodie town, we've been visiting some of the restaurants that have been suggested or that have good reviews. Here are a few more, along with my opinions, which obviously don't always agree with the published reviews in Yelp or Trip Advisor:

Mariscos La Playa - Expectations were high for this restaurant because of excellent reviews and the half dozen "Best Of Santa Fe" awards adorning the walls. Alas, we were thoroughly unimpressed, mainly due to the frozen, factory-breaded fried shrimp we were served and which we promptly sent back to the kitchen. For shame! Even in a land-locked place like Santa Fe, such a sacrilege is the kiss of death for any hopes of a favorable review. Another nail in the coffin was the fish taco, whose little cubes of fish had the texture and taste of tofu--that being no taste at all. In fact, I'm not sure it wasn't tofu. It would not be fair, however, not to mention a couple of things that were good: The shrimp taco and the shrimp ceviche tostadas. These were fresh, tasty, and the ceviche was plentiful.  

The Original Real Hamburger - Expectations were also high for this joint, which was supposed to be a favorite among the locals. The problem? A disgusting, mealy bun that would have been better used like a Brillo pad to clean cookware. It also had a fixings bar where you can select your own veggies and make the burger yourself. Well, I'm sorry, but I didn't come here to make my own lunch. If I had I would have saved about ten bucks and cooked it myself. On a positive note, the french fries were fresh cut and cooked perfectly. 

Clafoutis - This is a French bakery/cafe that is popular with chicks. This is mainly because they serve quiche, designer sandwiches and prissy salads and, oh yes, the owner, who is French, greets all the customers with "bonjour" and with "au revoir" and "merci" when they leave. This typically sets the girls all a-twitter. They also have some French pastries, only a couple of which we tried and thought they were sort of ho-hum. Of course, that might be slightly unfair, as we're now comparing everything to the Taste of Denmark Bakery in Denver that can have no equal anywhere. Sandy had a ham and asparagus quiche that was quite good. I had French onion soup that was also good. The salad dressing was a house vinaigrette that was way too sour; we added a little honey to the dressing and it was much better. Because of their missteps, Clafoutis cannot be listed on my favorites page.

The Pantry - Basically a small family-run cafe that has great reviews and is also supposedly a favorite of the locals. It has been around on Cerrillos Road forever, so we were expecting a real gem. Alas, it was not to be. We were charged for the chips and salsa (a hanging offense in Texas), and the combination plate (taco, enchilada and chile relleno with rice and beans) wasn't memorable, except for the taco, which was outstanding. The red sauce was more salty than flavorful, and the chile relleno was tough as leather. Even worse, we were aghast to find that the rice and beans were undercooked! How could this be? 

No photos today. I've decided not to post photos of restaurants that do not qualify for my favorites list. If we're not going back there, I don't need to remember what they look like, do I?

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

Settled in at Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

After a pleasant 300-mile drive from Colorado Springs, we are nesting at Santa Fe Skies, an adequate RV Park on the outskirts of town. 

There are good things, bad things and interesting things about this park. 

First, the good things: The office and facilities building is large and well-appointed, and the employees are friendly. The wi-fi service is surprisingly good--a rarity, we have found--so this gives our mi-fi hotspots a bit of a rest. The area is quiet, so we find ourselves almost missing the highway noise and train horns that seem to be prevalent at many RV parks. There is some interesting outdoor "art" placed around the park, some of which is for sale. Here are some samples:

I'm not sure what this depicts; it's made of rebar.

This is a 1949 Diamond Reo Truck

More metal yard art. That's an old gasoline engine on the right.

Now, for the bad: The roads and sites are mostly gravel, but some of the sites need to be re-graveled. Dirt anywhere in an RV park is a pet peeve of mine, and this could stand some more attention here. Now I don't mind parking on a firm grassy area, but dirt can turn instantly into mud, and I don't do mud. 

Creeping dirt--not good.
Another negative was how unlevel the sites are. Our site was the least level of any we have encountered in our eleven years of RVing! This put Phannie's leveling system to the ultimate test; after the leveler's brain thought for a minute, trying to determine if the coach was really that cockeyed, it finally raised the left rear wheels well off the ground, causing me to have to shore up the vacant space with some wooden blocks for appearance's sake. (I removed one of them for the photo.)

There are a couple of interesting things about the park. The owner has installed a large solar power array that supplies more than half the park's electrical power. You can see a good video of an interview with the owner discussing the $1.2 million project here

They did a pretty good job of xeriscaping the place, using native plants and wildflowers that are drought tolerant, as there is no irrigation system.

A couple of friendly birds landed on the satellite dish to welcome us to the park:

For those who keep track, we've tried three eating joints here so far, and here's what we thought of them:

Blake's Lottaburger - An okay burger that will never, ever, be a Whataburger.

Los Potrillos (New Mexican) - Good food, excellent service, but a little pricey for what we got. Can't put it on the favorites list, unfortunately.

The Shed (New Mexican) - A long wait at this touristy gold mine near the old plaza. The crispy taco was the best thing, enchiladas were good and the red sauce spicy (which I like). Perhaps the worst gazpacho and posole I've ever eaten. It'll be easy to forget this one.

Today was a down day, catching up on chores in the bus (I replaced one of the wiper blades), but we took time to enjoy today's sunset as the sun sank behind the anvil head of a line of distant thunderstorms:

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Blizzard on Pike's Peak -- in August?

At Colorado Springs KOA, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

It seemed like a good idea: Take Sandy to the top of Pike's Peak for her first time. I made reservations about ten days in advance for the cog railway, which I assumed was the best way to make the trip. I had little to go on to make that assumption, however, since my only other trip to the summit was, let's see, 59 years ago as a kid, and that was riding in my uncle's Dodge.

There is a problem that plagues me when I make reservations so far in advance: Ten days is a long time for an old brain to hold on to information, and when I didn't take the time to recheck the booking, we ended up at the station a day late. At the time our train was supposed to be leaving, Sandy and I were at the luncheon mentioned in the previous post, where we were harassing Ed unmercifully and enjoying every minute.

When we arrived at the railway station after discovering my error, I confessed to being a day late, and the clerk merely put us on a standby list from which we were called for boarding on the 1:20 p.m. train. 

Cog Railway Station at Manitou Springs
Upon boarding, we were surprised by the sardine-can accommodations and finding ourselves in perhaps the most uncomfortable seats ever invented. I mean, these were tiny wooden seats that were possibly salvaged from Nazi torture chambers. There was never a time when we weren't squirming or sliding around as the train rounded curves. The only saving grace was the conductor, who pointed out a number of interesting sights along the way and who had a nice repertoire of jokes that were so bad, they were actually good!

The hard seats became maddeningly uncomfortable by the time we reached the summit, a trip that took much longer than expected--about an hour and a half to go 8 1/2 miles. There was some scenery--mostly trees--during the ascent, but the worst part was at about the 11,500 foot level, above which no vegetation grows. It was at that point that we entered the clouds and a mixture of rain and snow that completely obliterated any view. When we exited the train, the visibility was about 25 feet, and the temperature was 29 degrees in blowing snow. Mind you, this was still in August!

Sandy doesn't take cold too well, 
The bottom line: Our visit to Pike's Peak was a total disaster. Next time, we will be sure of the weather at the top, and we will be traveling by car! Never again on this train from hell.

Ed, Marilyn, Bob and Janet were kind enough to meet us for a farewell luncheon the next day at an excellent Thai restaurant named Na Rai Siam Cuisine. We talked and laughed a lot and, hugging them goodbye, we thought how lucky we were to be able to name these fine folks among our friends.

Back at Phannie, Sandy made an excellent batch of fudge to console us for today's debacle. To offset this decadence, we made a healthy Thai salad with Korean chicken that is one of our mainstay meals.

Santa Fe, here we come!

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Visiting With Friends in Colorado Springs

At the Colorado Springs KOA, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

In the last post, I opined that I had not heard the last of the mischief by our friends at Mountaindale, for whose cookout we showed up a day early.  I was right; our arrival on the correct day and at the correct time was met with the usual hijinks. Ed was guiding me with hand signals to a place he had left empty for us to park, or so I thought. As we were following his directions, he suddenly motioned for us to bypass the parking place and proceed in the direction of the park exit. Nice, huh? During the waveoff, however, he relented and motioned us into the shady spot he had saved for us. 

As Sandy and I exited the car, the cookout attendees burst into applause and cheering, obviously the kind of faux praise that would be given to an imbecile for having learned to tie his shoes. Needless to say, the theme for the rest of the afternoon was set: Get Mikie! For this sort of thing, they are professionals. They go for a person's soft underbelly like catfish to stink bait. It was okay, though; if it hadn't been my turn in the barrel, it would have been someone else's. Here is a photo of the group, in case any of them are wanted by law enforcement:

From the left: Marilyn, Jesse (with the blue cup on his head), Eddie, Jan, Sandy, Janet, Ginger, Ed and Bob. (Good breeding keeps me from commenting on Marilyn's posture or what may be causing it.)
The next day, we had plans to visit with Phyllis and Vicki, longtime high school friends of Sandy's who now live in Colorado Springs. We had a little time to kill beforehand, so we made a quick round-robin drive to Canon City for a look at the Royal Gorge, which Sandy had not previously seen. Having a bit of acrophobia, she elected not to go across the bridge, but we got a good view without much uneasiness on her part:

On the way back, we drove a little out of the way on highways 9 and 24 to come into Colorado Springs from the west and see the "other" side of Pike's Peak. It was a beautiful drive, which we enjoyed a lot.

Our visit with Phyllis and Vicki included dinner at Kura, a Japanese hibachi restaurant in Colorado Springs that we agreed was the best of its genre we had ever patronized.  It will go on our list of favorite restaurants.

Phyllis, Vicki and Sandy at Kura
It was fun to catch up with these sweet sisters, and we talked and laughed until the place closed. Thanks, ladies, for an enjoyable time.

The next day, we joined our Mountaindale friends again for lunch at the English Dockside seafood restaurant in Old Colorado City. Joining the group this time were two additional couples, Jim and Ellie and Rod and Debbie, nice folks whom we had not met before. 

Still smarting from the ribbing I had previously taken at the cookout, I decided that it was time for a little payback. As Ed has a deserved reputation for choosing restaurants where everyone would meet, only to find them closed, I decided to arrive early and conspire with the restaurant staff to pull off a practical joke. This involved affixing to the restaurant door a sign reading, "Sorry, Closed For Private Luncheon." As our group of friends arrived (all of whom were well aware of Ed's problem with closed restaurants), I asked them to wait with Sandy and me outside the door, pointing at the sign when Ed and Marilyn arrived. Ed's reaction was sort of stunned befuddlement, hardly believing what he was seeing, as he knew that Ginger had made reservations for our group. As soon as it became obvious that he had swallowed the bait, we took down the sign and went inside to our table, much to Ed's relief. 

We weren't quite finished with the harassment, however. We also conspired with the waitress to tell Ed, upon his ordering lunch, that his selection was not available and instead to recommend a "horn fish" entree that the chef was offering as a special. Ed's natural response was to inquire what a "horn fish" was, precipitating several other mentions of the term. Every time "horn fish" was mentioned, Sandy (who was more than willing to become a co-conspirator) would surreptitiously blow a bicycle horn hidden in her purse. Yes, it was all decidedly juvenile, but everyone laughed themselves silly. Ed was the best of sports through it all, but it will probably be time to pick on someone else next time. There will be plenty of targets, as there are many deserving mischief makers in this bunch.

Ed and Marilyn. Ed was the target of today's mischief.
I should mention that Ed is the author of a recent book, "My Journey to the Clouds," the story of his career as a corporate pilot, which he asked me to edit for him, presumably due to my own long career in aviation and a penchant for writing. I was happy to do so, and I had the honor of writing the forward to the book. I'll include that forward below, in hopes that it will entice you to read his inspiring story, available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon, or as a Nook e-book from Barnes & Noble:

It is an old saw among pilots that there are no “old, bold” pilots--meaning, of course, that 

pilots who take unnecessary risks while flying may not be around to collect their Social 

Security benefits. For humans to fly above the earth in a machine is an unnatural state of 

being, and gravity will eventually win out over man’s best attempts to defy it: The 

machine will return its occupants to the ground in one way or another.

This is the story of a man’s quest to fulfill a lifelong desire to become a pilot and, having 

achieved that goal, a recounting of some of his exploits as a corporate jet pilot. It reveals 

not only an impression of a corporate pilot’s career but the nature of the man who 

understood the dichotomy of “old” and “bold” as they pertain to aviation safety.

Growing up in Missouri, Ed Dray was fortunate to be surrounded with the Midwest 

values of God, country, family, honor and hard work, and he had in his DNA another 

attribute essential to becoming an “old” pilot: Common sense. While he does not try to 

thrill the reader with tales of daredevil stunts or narrow escapes from death, he discusses 

the thoughtful yet methodical manner in which he molded his career and in which he 

handled situations while airborne that, through his actions, never made the evening news.

At times funny, the story also reveals a great personal sadness shared by relatively few—

one that never goes away and never fully heals. His faith and the strength of his family is 

tested, but these very things allow him and his devoted wife, Marilyn, to overcome the 


"My Journey to the Clouds" is suitable for all ages and could be especially inspiring for young people in the final years of their education and making decisions about their careers.

By the way, all but two couples having lunch today are fulltimers. Jim and Ellie were fulltimers for eight years and are now part-timers, and Eddie and Jan are part-timers about to become fulltimers. I think the takeaway from this is that the fulltime RV lifestyle doesn't mean that people necessarily become more isolated. On the contrary, we have met and made friends with scores of like-minded people who have jettisoned the stress, bondage and expense of stick-and-brick house living for the freedom of the road. It's also easier to make friends if you are carefree and stress-free and have a common bond. And so it is for us.

We have one more day in Colorado Springs, then we're off to Santa Fe. Stay tuned!

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