Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sandy's Surgeries Are Done, But I Have Dishpan Hands

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

It has been a week since Sandy's shoulder replacement surgery, and she is doing remarkably well. We had been expecting a painful healing process, but she only needed moderate pain medication for a few days, then she reduced to Advil, and now--none at all! Physical therapy won't begin for a couple more weeks, though, and that's going to be crucial in her use of her new shoulder. After my shoulder surgery two years ago, I had PT for months, continuing with home therapy for about a year afterward. But it paid off; I have about 95% use of that arm now.

I now have a greater appreciation for the chores she normally does that have now fallen to me. I have no capacity, of course, to do them to her satisfaction, but I figure her fixing what I mess up will keep her from getting bored when she regains the use of her arm.
I even had to do some laundry the other day--for the first time in 44 years!  She was barking complicated instructions over my shoulder, and I think I handled the clothes and the chemicals correctly, but I told her I couldn't possibly figure out the undecipherable controls of the laundry equipment; she would just have to do that with her good hand.

She had the nerve to counter that pronouncement with, "So you're telling me that you, who somehow managed for years to fly jet airliners with more than a hundred passengers aboard, are mystified by a few buttons on a washing machine?"
I really didn't have a good answer for that, but Sandy and daughter Mindy got on the phone later and had the best time defaming me about my supposed incompetence. (Those two could easily become terrorists, I thought to myself.) 

Mindy said, "Tyler is exactly the same way; it's conjured-up helplessness!  I told him that anyone who can build a football stadium can probably handle a load of laundry." It was pretty easy to see that Tyler and I were in a no-win situation here, but when I started fumbling with the washing machine controls, I got my hands brushed away (she still has one good arm) and admonished that I "wasn't doing it right." The bottom line? I still don't know how to operate the laundry machine--could that have been my goal all along? 

However, I will tell you that I have learned to wash dishes to her satisfaction. And I have dishpan hands to prove it! What humiliation to have to put lotion on my dried-out hands! I shudder to think how far I have fallen. Yesterday I even cleaned the bathroom! That was pretty disgusting, but I got high marks for that one. Making the bed, I suppose, is beyond my capability, according to her. For some reason, she prefers a bed to be made up all prim and properly, looking smooth and finished. My way is to get covers generally on the bed without much of the sheets showing. I mean, really, we're just going to get in it again in a few hours. I never understood all the fussiness.

I can hear you asking just exactly what kind of help I am to her and, besides helping her into and out of the bed and chair and helping her get dressed, I am a pretty decent cook and do all of it...always have.  This has given me a good deal of credit over the years, and I am making use of it these days. 

If you know us personally, you will know that most of the above is exaggeration--something I am prone to do from time to time. There's not anything Sandy and I wouldn't do for each other.

Monday will be our last day at Thousand Trails--for good. We are selling our membership, for several reasons. During the last couple of years, we have had the opportunity to visit several TT campgrounds, and at some of them, we just turned around and left.  There are a few very nice parks, like here at Conroe, but many of them are way below our standards. We are not really campers but glampers, I'm afraid. We don't' really care about communing with nature up close and personal and, for us, "roughing it" would be a place where we couldn't receive cell service or satellite TV. We're also highly averse to being parked on anything but pavement of some kind. That will bring a few sneers, but it's amazing how little we care about what others think now that we're getting old. 

There's also the fact that we now have our own little place at Escapees in Hondo. That will cut down on our overnight costs. Besides being unimpressed with most of the accommodations, we just didn't get our money's worth with TT, because we didn't use it enough.

We will be in the Conroe area for about another month--maybe longer--as Sandy's PT gets under way. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with another favorite photo from our travels:

Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Painful Time and a Joyful Reunion

At Grand Texas RV Resort, New Caney, Texas...

I think that one day, most of us will look back on the past year and just shake our heads. There has been so much suffering and loss, and it doesn't appear to be over yet. We have been blessed more than many, in that we have been spared illness, but Sandy's ordeal with surgeries is only half-finished. Her foot is healing nicely now, and she hopes to transition out of the orthotic boot next week.  On March 3, however, she will have shoulder replacement surgery, which means that she will not have fully recovered from the previous procedure when that happens. 

Fortunately, we have not been adversely impacted by the blizzard-of-a-lifetime that blew into Texas a few days ago. I don't think anyone alive today here has seen anything like it; I know I haven't. For the last hundred years or so, Texas' focus has been on dealing with power supply for hot weather and certainly not blizzards. We have little experience with arctic-like weather and, when it hit, we were knocked right off our saddles. The state literally came to a standstill that was monstrous in its effect. Grocery store shelves were quickly emptied, as trucks couldn't get around to restock them; the same thing happened with gasoline.  A million pipes froze and burst in houses not built for extreme cold. Much of the state was without power. Thirteen million people were advised to boil their water once it did begin to flow. Many sickened and some died from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm in their vehicles in their garages. Our electric power grid all but collapsed, overly dependent as it was on wind and solar power, and its generating plants powered by natural gas, coal and nuclear were woefully unprotected and shut down as their systems froze. There has been a lot of finger-pointing, but you can be sure there will be a flurry of activity toward increasing our preparedness. Whether or not it will be effective likely will only be known a hundred years from now when the next deep freeze happens. Let's hope we leave that generation with a better legacy than what we've experienced.

Meanwhile, life went on as usual in Phannie. I never was so glad to hear the steady rumble of the generator to give us electricity, ample propane to give us heat and a big tank of fresh water on board. The power in our park was out for a total of about 24 hours, during which Phannie's generator ran without a hiccup, even though it has over 2,000 hours on it. Fanatical servicing over the years paid off when we needed it.

We have both had the good fortune of getting both Covid vaccinations, and our wait time expired yesterday. We finally were able to see and hug our family, from whom we had been separated for more than nine months. It was a great day, and our joy was complete:

I got big hugs from my two older grandsons, Mason and Pryce, and the youngest, Sutton, leaped into my arms, even though he couldn't have remembered me; he wasn't even walking the last time we were together. The feelings are on full display in this photo:

We all gathered in our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Palenque, and we somehow forgot to ask the waiter to take a photo of the entire family, including daughter Mindy, SIL Tyler and Sandy's sister, Brenda. We were just as happy to see them, of course, but only the grandsons were in this photo with us. I think grandparents can be forgiven for such slights:

By the way, Tyler and Mindy are heroes to us. Tyler selflessly labored in the freezing temperatures for days during the blizzard to fix pipes and get water going for family and friends. When we were getting a little low on diesel, he brought 25 gallons to our park for Phannie's tank, refusing to accept any payment. Mindy, a nurse, has spent days at the downtown Houston hospital emergency room--at times without food or water in the facility--and without being able to go home, helping those with carbon monoxide poisoning and other emergencies, not to mention those infected with Covid. We're not sure how these young'uns of ours developed such a selfless and helpful nature. I'd like to think it was parental influence, but I don't remember our having crises like they have faced during which they performed so heroically. To say we're proud of them is a gross understatement. I just have to include a photo, although a little old, of Mindy, Tyler and their family:

Of course, Brenda, who lives here in Houston, is like a sister to us...oh, wait...she IS a sister! We can't imagine being a family without her:

We wish other members of our family could be closer, as they mean the world to us, too.

We have been in this campground for about five weeks while Sandy has been recovering from her foot surgery, and we will be moving back to Thousand Trails in Conroe on Monday. We will be there when she has her shoulder surgery and, when our time is up there, we'll be moving back to this park until she needs no further follow-up visits with the surgeon. Her physical therapy will probably be done in San Antonio, since that is near our new digs in Hondo.

While we have been in the area around us here in this park, we have found some excellent new restaurants, including a pie shop, a seafood joint and a place we just have to mention, named the Ranch Hand, near Cleveland, Texas. We stopped there on a whim...well, that's not exactly the case; we were hungry. Now we usually have certain standards--although pretty low--for places to eat, but this one was a little questionable--especially at nighttime, which was the case for our first visit. It looks a little better in the daylight:


Yes, judging from the almost universal presence of pickups, you can conclude this is a pretty redneck place, and yes, pickups are more or less the vehicle of choice for most good ol' Texans, but you can usually count on them to be driven by someone with a heart of gold and a love of God and country. They also pretty much know where to eat! That more or less sealed it for us. On our first visit, we were hungry for a chicken fried steak--the quintessential dish of Texas--and we figured it would be pretty large and enough for both of us. We were right:

Now I don't make this pronouncement lightly, but this was probably the best chicken fried steak I have ever eaten. That pretty much ensured our return to the place, at which time Sandy ordered a hamburger and onion rings, which came out in equally intimidating size
(I had already scarfed up a couple of onion rings when this photo was taken. Shameful, I know.)

Yes, I ordered the chicken fried steak again, but we had to help each other eat it and, even at that, we had leftovers.

Another thing I like about country cafes like this is the kitschy things on the walls, like these, for example:

And then there was this one, that pretty much sums up the best way to live one's life, in my view:

Now if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I occasionally find peculiar things along the road that pique my interest. This one was in a yard near the Ranch Hand cafe:

Now, perhaps the first thing you notice is that he house is painted in camouflage, which is the first time I've seen this in a civilian setting. One can only wonder what was the need for it. The second oddity that draws your eyes is the headless mannequin wearing a purple shirt and sitting on a residential toilet that happens to be outside. I don't even try to make sense of this; I just enjoy it for its eccentricity

I'll mention one more thing that is, unfortunately, troubling, and that is the accelerating censorship of free speech that is endemic in the media and on big tech platforms. Many of you got my note that explained that I am the process of switching away from the oligarchs' products as soon as suitable alternatives appear. I probably won't be switching from Blogger this late in the game because I don't really publish anything here that would raise their hackles enough to cancel me. We do not watch the terribly biased mainstream TV news at all.  If this erosion of our freedom doesn't worry you, it should. It should especially worry you about the country in which your descendants may have to live, perhaps sooner than later. 
I'll have another update after Sandy's next surgery. Until then, travel safe and God bless!

Oh, I almost forgot! I told you I would be including a favorite photo taken during our travels while we are immobilized here. Here is one you may enjoy. It is a late afternoon photo of the Rogue River in Oregon, not far from Crater Lake:

To our dear readers, we feel almost guilty for having traveled so many miles and seen so much of our beautiful country, when some of you do not have that ability. We hope your travels with us via our blog have brought you at least a small feeling of the blessings we have enjoyed and our delight that you have traveled with us all these years.

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Progress in PartTiming and Medical Issues

 At Grand Texas RV Resort, New Caney, Texas...

I see that I'm a little overdue for an update here in our Houston-area holding pattern.  In a week, we will celebrate five years of fulltiming, and this is the first winter we will have failed to spend either in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas or in Arizona, as we did last winter. We're grateful for those five years that were almost free of medical problems that weren't self-induced--as in our disastrous falling in Fredericksburg, Texas last year.

 The latest on Sandy's foot is the removal a few days ago of the steel pins from inside her foot that had been placed there by the surgeon after the failure of the first surgery. This was a huge relief for her, as you can imagine walking around with steel pins holding in place the bones inside your foot. We're thinking the healing will go much faster now, as the pain has decreased immensely.  

However, in probably a month's time, she will have surgery to replace her shoulder joint, and that's not likely to be very pleasant. I'm getting to be a pretty good cook and dishwasher, and it looks like my employment in these areas is not in any danger. My knee surgery will be next, but I may put that off for a while longer. We need a break, and I can still get around pretty well.

I'm not sure why our joints seem to have gone south on us all at once, but we are grateful for all the travels we've been able to do until now. We're also grateful for world-class medical care here in Houston and that we haven't contracted Covid. More positive news is that we have both had our first vaccination and will be due for the second in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, we will have dodged that awful plague, and our joint problems seem relatively minor when we think of all those who have had devastating tragedies in their lives. The best news is that, after our second vaccination, we will finally get to see our kids and grandsons! It has been agonizing to be so close by without being able to be with them. We celebrated Christmas with a Facetime connection and, while we're grateful for that technology, nothing takes the place of being there.

We have a little news about our part-timing arrangements that we've been contemplating. We have purchased a lot and adjoining building at Lone Star Corral, an Escapees Co-Op in Hondo, Texas, which is not far from San Antonio, one of our favorite Texas cities. This will allow us to have a permanent base, a second living area and a storage area, a combination we've wanted for some time. After the initial purchase, the monthly dues we'll pay to live there will be less than we were paying for storage here in Houston. The adjoining building is quite nice--fully insulated, air conditioned and carpeted with a nice storage area. We still don't know exactly what we will make of it, but I know for sure that I will finally be able to have a piano again!  When we're not there, the park rents out our RV space (not the building) and splits the proceeds--not bad! We also have good friends, Karen and Richard, who live there, and they seem to love it. 

The five years we've spent fulltiming have been pretty predictable, I would say--having made friends doing the same thing and reading the blogs of others. For the first few years, we were going like mad--in what is known generally as 'vacation' mode. Then we began to slow down and linger at the places we liked and, finally, after having seen so much of the country, we became more interested in just going to one place to spend the winter and another place to spend the summer. Finally, the prospect of having our own digs again--anywhere--became very attractive.  So, that's where we are at this point in the adventure; we know this will not be our hang-up-the-keys destination, but it will do nicely and inexpensively until we decide where to settle for good. It's a good place for part-timers, as we will certainly not be spending the summers there; Texas is too doggone hot for that. It would be a good place for the rest of the year, however.

We are not quite ready for a real house again. I've mentioned before our periods of insanity when we built or bought huge houses and then, we even built a medium-sized one, and we grew to despise the expense and upkeep of all of them. We have learned to live happily and simply in a small space, and whatever we end up with as a permanent dwelling will also be small and simple, probably in a 55+ community that is not too far from our kids. Unless you're in Florida, Arizona or the Rio Grande Valley, small homes in well-kept areas are not easy to find.

That's the latest from here in the holding pattern, and I'll post again when we have some news. Meanwhile, be careful and stay tuned! 

As I mentioned in the last post, I'll be attaching a favorite photo from our fulltime travels. This one was taken in St. George, Utah. (I'm a big fan of the desert Southwest):


                                      Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood






Friday, December 25, 2020

2020: When It's Mentioned in the Future, We'll Just Smile Nervously and Change the Subject

 At Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

This year just keeps on giving, doesn't it?  I mentioned Sandy's foot surgery in the last post but, since then, things haven't gone so well. Five weeks after the initial surgery, it had to be redone because a screw came loose from the straightened array of bones, and one of the bones broke. The surgeon replaced the screws with metal rods to hold the bones in place. He said this was the old, tried and true method, although it is more painful, obviously. The ends of the metal rods are exposed outside the foot, so they can be removed when the bones have fully fused.  This means, of course, that five weeks of recovery have been lost, not to mention the added pain of metal rods inserted into her foot. Sandy calls them "swords," which probably gives you an idea of her discomfort. Yes, she has painkillers to help, but she refuses to take opioids. I never cease to be amazed at her lack of complaining. I can guarantee you that I wouldn't have handled it as well.  But then, I think God gave pain tolerance to women for a reason:  They are the ones who have babies; if it were left up to men to have them, the population would eventually fall to zero.  I admit to being a resentful whiner when I'm sick or in pain; when I get a cold, I think Sandy considers hospice care for me. When I have my upcoming knee surgery (I'm putting that off for a while), she'll probably trade me in for a new model.

If that weren't enough, Sandy has also been having worsening shoulder pain and immobility, and a recent MRI showed that she is going to need shoulder joint replacement surgery. That will happen after her foot heals sufficiently. Yet she takes it in stride, merely eager to get it all behind her. I simply can't match that; I think I would be looking for a cliff. Well, not really. All we need to remember is that these things are all fixable. When we think not of ourselves, but of so many others whose medical conditions are much worse or hopeless, our problems become small by comparison. But how fitting that all this would happen in 2020.

Well, I have strayed a good bit from the subject of RVs, but I want these thoughts recorded in this blog for that time when the memory isn't as sharp. The year of the plague and the masks will not soon be forgotten.

Getting back to RV life, we think it was perhaps Providential that we happened to be in this fulltiming lifestyle at this time. As it happens, we can easily be isolated and move from places where virus hotspots develop, and that's what we have done, mostly. We were able to stay in lowly impacted areas for months and, after we left, many of them turned into hot spots. Look at California now, for example. When we were there, the virus was almost unknown. We spent the winter, spring and summer in areas of very low population, and we felt quite safe. We wouldn't be here now near Houston if it weren't for the chance of finally seeing the kids if we can get vaccinated and, oh yes, Sandy's surgery.  Thank goodness there's now a vaccine and life, hopefully will get back to normal one of these days.

We are beginning to notice that a surprising number of new RV parks are being built in this area of Texas. I think the park builders are finally beginning to catch on to the great proliferation of RVs in the past few years--especially during the pandemic. It is really hard for me to keep up with the good ones that would be worthy of listing on my 'Best of the Best' page.

Obviously, we're not going to be mobile enough for a while to do much reconnoitering of the 'part time' digs we have in mind. We are looking for a 55+ community of small houses--larger than park models--that are located in inland Texas, not too far from the kids, but not near the coast with its humidity, hurricanes and mosquitoes. There are hundreds of these communities in Arizona and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that are beautiful and well-landscaped, but they are too far away from where we want to be. We've looked at Del Webb, Robson Ranch and such developments that are within our budget, but their houses are too large. If we wanted that, we would have kept the house we had. We're accustomed now to minimalism, and we like the simplicity of a small space; however, we're nearly convinced that what we're looking for in a 55+ housing community doesn't exist outside the hellish heat areas like those we've seen in far-away Arizona and in south Texas. 

It was nice to see old friends when we returned here at TT Lake Conroe. We even met some new ones--new to us, not our other friends--and we have been in (safe) contact, as in this outdoor lunch at P. F. Chang's the other day in The Woodlands:

Clockwise around the table, starting with Sandy-- Janice (new friend), Ed, Rick (new friend) Dave, Janice and Debi. Sandy was in a good deal of pain during this lunch, but it wasn't going to prevent her from having such a good time among dear friends.

I think I'm going to toss into these posts a favorite photo from our travels while we're grounded. Maybe that'll make it a little more interesting for newcomers. I know we'll enjoy seeing them again. By the way, if you're new to fulltime RVing, I urge you to keep a journal of some kind. Our blog helps us remember so many things we've forgotten. When you get older, you'll understand. 

Here's a nice view of the Grand Canyon at sunset:

We'll keep you posted on Sandy's progress. In the meantime, please include her in your prayer list.

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Sunday, December 6, 2020

In a Painful Holding Pattern

 At Pearland RV Park, Pearland, Texas...

I suppose it's about time to publish an update, something I don't do often when we're not traveling. In our case, we're not traveling for two reasons: First of all, we're hoping for a Christmas visit with our "kids," as we call our daughter and her husband and our grandsons. As I mentioned before, this has to be under careful circumstances due to our daughter Mindy's occupation as a nurse in a major Houston hospital with Covid patients.

Besides that, Sandy has suffered a setback in the foot surgery she had five weeks ago. After the surgeon's rebuilding of her foot, the stresses thereof apparently caused a bone to break in the area of the repair. This was allowing the repair to come apart, so it had to be done all over again, this time with some hardware installed in her foot to stabilize the bones in their new paths. As I noted in the last post, the surgery is brutal, and now, we are starting over with the healing process, the five weeks we had behind us being lost, of course. Radical foot surgery is among the most painful, and I feel so sorry for her having to endure the painful recovery all over again.

My arthritic knees have improved via the injections I have every six months, so I really don't have any complaints, compared to poor Sandy. I won't even be considering knee surgery until my condition becomes unmanageable. 

As we have had healthy lives for so long, it is a little difficult adjusting to the maladies that age brings upon us. Fortunately, our problems, so far, are fixable with modern medicine, and we are remaining positive about our prospects after we are past these bumps in the road. What this has done, however, is to force us to face the reality of aging, although we may not have wanted to do that. We have had five fabulous years of fulltime RV travel and pretty well checked off our bucket list, so it seems prudent to think of our exit plan, as we explained in previous posts. However, because of Sandy's lack of mobility, we can't do much in that regard for a while, so that's why I mentioned we're in a holding pattern.

We have had some nice visits with fulltiming friends Dave and Janice--who have left the fulltiming life now--and Steve and Jackie, who have not. Steve and Jackie stopped by to visit us on their way to Florida for the winter, and we're so glad they did. The following photo shows us at Pappas' Seafood House in Webster, where we had a great meal and good times together:

As you can see, Sandy's left foot is in the chair (the white thing is my mask) to lessen the pain. Her repair surgery was only a few days away at this point.

I know you hear these kinds of stories all the time, but our friendship with Steve and Jackie was totally a matter of fate. In an RV park in Austin, I had pulled Phannie into a parking spot next to a couple (Steve and Jackie) who were sitting outside their fifth wheel next door. If I see occupants of an adjacent site outside, I have a habit of going over to greet them in a friendly way since we'll be in such close proximity. When I went over to chat with them, they were extraordinarly friendly and invited me to sit in a nearby chair--a bit unusual, since we had never met. But I sat, and we began to talk a bit. Meanwhile, Sandy wondered what had happened to me, as I hadn't even begun to set up the coach. She eventually came looking for me, was drawn into the conversation, and our friendship has blossomed ever since. Steve and Jackie even switched their planned purchase of a new fifth wheel to buying a Phaeton motorhome, based on what they saw and liked about Phannie. 

There are similar stories about dozens of RV friends we've made, and that's part of the mystique, I suppose, of this type of living. We became friends with Dave and Janice, for example, in Idaho, of all places--merely by their recognizing through RVillage that we were both Texans in the same RV park. We met, the chemistry was right, and now we're friends forever.

I can't mention all the stories here, but there are many similar ones. This phenomenon--of RVers being some of the nicest people we've ever met--has been an unexpected benefit that, in our view, eclipses the grandness of all we have seen and experienced in our travels.

We are staying here until we can get back into Thousand Trails in Conroe. Most of the parks seem to be quite full these days, and reservations are required far ahead in some cases. After our three-week stay there, who knows? We've not been hobbled like this before, so we're sort of making it up as we go along.

Thanks for reading--more later!

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

So Close, But So Far...

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

We have moved near Conroe, Texas, but still trying to stay as far away from the Houston madness (and Covid) as possible. It has been excruciating to be so close to our family for weeks and not be able to see them due to Mindy's constant exposure to Covid as a nurse. But we have a plan for Christmas, involving all sorts of safeguards; can't wait!

Meanwhile, we have been catching up on seemingly endless medical checkups and Sandy's foot surgery, which has her pretty much immobile and has resulted in my new job as a housewife/nurse. I do it gladly, though; she has seen me through two surgeries, and it's hard to imagine having to recover without a thoughtful spouse to help with those things we can't do for ourselves. 

Unfortunately, her foot surgery was brutal, as the surgeon nearly had to rebuild it. She hadn't been injured; part of her problems stemmed from bunion surgery 40 years ago that was done using primitive methods that are not practiced now. This allowed her toes and metatarsals to become deformed--in essence, lapping over each other--and, thusly, becoming very painful. On the same foot, she had a large bone spur that was also removed during the surgery. I have some photos of her foot when they changed the bandage after the first week, but the pictures are just too gruesome to show here. I'll just include this one, which is the position she will mainly occupy for several weeks:

This photo was taken in Phannie only a couple of days after the surgery, and, as you can see, Sandy has a notably unstylish protective boot that she must wear for several weeks. The bag around her neck is a pump that periodically injects pain medication into the affected area. That she could manage any kind of smile in this photo was amazing. The empty recliner is mine, and the nearby computer--a Dell all-in-one--is where I'm writing this post right now.

If you're wondering how Sandy climbed the six steps into the coach, it took a few tries, ending with the use of her climbing on all-fours. I wanted desperately to take a video of this spectacle but, unfortunately, she knows where we keep the firearms and threatened to use them if I dared do such a thing.  

As I write this, the election is over and the winner declared by the press. I have learned over the years to keep this blog as apolitical as possible, but I'm pretty sure I won't be watching much TV news for the next four years. Instead, I'm going to enjoy being with family (soon, I hope) and friends and figuring out how we are going to transition from fulltiming to part-timing. We have some ideas, but Sandy's recovery from surgery will be mostly on our minds for quite a while. I'll check some reliably honest Internet news sites to keep up with events.

In a previous post, I mentioned my bad knees, but I'm going to put off that surgery as long as possible. Every six months, I get knee injections that supplement the missing collagen, and that helps immensely. My day of reckoning is coming, I'm afraid, but it will be well after Sandy is back up to full speed. I hope any young folks reading this blog will try to appreciate more keenly the gifts of youth while they can. It will not always be so, unfortunately, in your sunset years. It's pretty cool to have attained a lot of wisdom as I have aged, but I wouldn't mind being stupid for a while if I could do some of the things I used to be able to do.

We spent three weeks in the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, and we are now out for a week, which is one of the membership requirements at our level. Except in our case, we will not be able to return to TT until late December due to heavy bookings. It seems that RVs have been deemed the ultimate Covid escape, and RV parks haven't kept pace with the demand for parking for all the new units being bought by the public. We'll probably find a park in a different location not far away to hang out for a month until we can go back to Lake Conroe TT.

I think we're just going to try to forget 2020 and hope 2021 will better for all of us. We'll give you an update with any changes that take place. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Going From Fulltime to Part Time May Have Some Complications

 At Bastrop KOA, Bastrop, Texas...

Let's see...I think we left off bemoaning the fact that we were having to leave the mountains and head back to Texas. We did that, stopping at Plainview, Texas to visit with longtime RV friends Bubba and LouAnn and their wonderful extended family. We think of all the Barkers as part of our own family, and it was hard to say goodbye. As usual, I forgot to take photos, doggone it. The old memory just isn't what it used to be.

The long and hurried drive through Texas (we had doctor appointments) doesn't produce much content for a blog post, but we count the trip's being uneventful as a blessing. We picked Bastrop to stay outside of nearby Austin, which is where Phannie's windshield would be replaced. You may remember that a large rock thrown by a vehicle going the opposite direction slammed into Phannie's lower left windshield just outside Golden, Colorado on our way to Yellowstone with the Turleys in the summer. The damage was fatal for the windshield, but I taped up the foot-long cracks that radiated from the main strike point, using clear shipping tape, and we were able to make the whole trip without the cracks growing longer.

We stayed outside of Austin because we try to avoid large cities whenever possible, due to the greater incidence of Covid. There's also the fact that Austin traffic is relatively insane. It has also been invaded by a whole passel of left coast lunatics that are trying to turn it into San Francisco or something equally despicable. They're calling it Austifornia, of all things. Anytime you see a city council trying to defund the police, you know something is terribly wrong. I can hardly believe it is happening here in my beloved Texas. It is so, well, un-Texan. There was a time when we had a sort of fundamental way of dealing with these things, but it's not the old West anymore, and it's kind of a pity.

Longhorn Glass had Phannie's windshield replaced in about four hours, including drying time for the sealant, and they seem to have done a good job. I had an insurance deductible to pay, but it was small potatoes compared to the insurance company's part. By the way, let me give a shout out to Texas Farm Bureau Insurance. We have been customers of theirs for years, and the few claims we've had have been handled superbly, beyond all expectations. They are good people. Our agent, Tyler Duniven, is Bubba's and LouAnn's son-in-law, but we don't think that gives us special treatment; the company's just good at what they do.

Okay, let's get to the part where we talk about the subject of this post. I tend to digress more and more often these days, don't you think?  We are approaching five years of fulltiming since we sold our house in Fort Worth and hit the road. It has been a glorious adventure, and we've seen so much of the country that we're close to completing our bucket list. Would we do it all again? Absolutely. 

Phannie has covered almost 60,000 miles while fulltiming, and our two toads (we wore out the first one) named Mae have been driven much more, besides being towed for all those miles behind Phannie. What is amazing is that, in all her miles (110,000 total) and her 15 years of age, Phannie has been nothing but dependable as a home on the road. We've replaced air conditioners, the microwave oven, the tires (twice), the refrigerator (changed from Norcold to residential) and installed at new jack system, but the Caterpillar engine, the Allison transmission and the rest of the chassis have operated without a single hiccup. And we haven't had to buy a single drop of DEF!

With that in mind, maybe you can understand why we don't want to giver her up. The truth, is, Sandy and I are the ones who are beginning to need repairs instead of Phannie. Sandy is having foot surgery later this month, and I don't know how much longer my knees are going to hold out without new parts. There are a few other non-serious health issues that are also going to need some attention before long.

These are signs that are pointing to a new paradigm. Luckily, we've had five good years on the road, and we're not ready to give up our occasional traveling in Phannie, but we know we need get ourselves repaired and find a home base where we have terra firma of our own--where we can keep our "stuff" and put down some roots, if only temporary ones. The question is, what will that look like, and where will it be? You might be surprised that we didn't have an exit plan from fulltiming, but we didn't. I am not a planner by nature, and I have always believed in the old Yiddish adage, "Man plans, and God laughs."

One big complication is that the pandemic is keeping us from being in contact with our family for the time being. Our daughter is a nurse who is constantly in contact with Covid patients and, thereby, her whole family are potential carriers. If we were exposed, it could be lethal for us, being in the riskiest group as we are. By mutual agreement, we've decided to stay apart until there is some kind of resolution in place, which we pray will be soon. Thank goodness for Facetime!

With this in mind, we want to find some place that is not too far from the kids and the medical facilities we have been using, so that may preclude our consideration of a permanent dwelling like buying or building a house, because we may eventually want to move closer. We're looking for something small, close to a good-sized town. As we look at various opportunities, we are trying to be open-minded and hoping the right thing will come along, praying for clarity when it does. In fact, we've already made one offer--a very reasonable one--but it didn't work out. So, that's a door closed--a step toward clarity, we think--and we'll see what happens next.

I'll give you an update after Sandy's surgery, so hang in there, and send a prayer her way, if you're so inclined. This part of our RV life may prove to be interesting, since we don't know how it's going to turn out. You can be surprised right along with us!

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Where Are We Now?

 At Circle the Waggins RV Park, La Veta, Colorado...

Well, sorry I sort of left you hanging after we made our break from Washington State. We have put quite a few miles behind us since then on our way back to Texas: Spokane, Butte, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, Durango and now, La Veta, Colorado. These have been mostly one- or two-night stays, and it's not easy to come up with something worthy of a blog post with such short stays. Fortunately, there are already posts in the blog for Butte, Salt Lake City and Durango, so I haven't exactly left you empty-handed. All you have to do is search on the city names.

So why, you may ask, do you feel the urge to post about tiny La Veta, Colorado when this is also only a one-nighter? Well, two reasons:  1) There may be a handful of readers who wonder what we're doing and 2) La Veta was far more interesting than I thought. We got here over the famed 10,800-foot Wolf Creek Pass (also the Continental Divide) and, I must say, the drive down 160 from Durango was simply beautiful. I could have stopped at a dozen places and taken some great mountain photos, but we already have dozens of photos of beautiful mountain scenery in many different locations, so I decided not to take the effort to find places to pull off the road with the 65 feet of vehicles we were driving. We are also eager to get back to Texas in order to have Sandy's foot surgery done. She has suffered far too long, and I suppose that was part of my thinking.

Admittedly, there are other issues. We know we're going to be transitioning to part-time status soon, given that we are having more joint problems (my knees need attention rather badly). But there are other reasons we're making the change. By the time we make the changeover, we will have been RVing for 16 years and fulltiming for five years. Things have changed a lot in that time. First of all, we've just about fulfilled our bucket list and, at the time of this writing, I can't think of a state we haven't at least traversed. Secondly,  many of our formerly fulltiming friends have left the road, so we aren't able to get together with them nearly as often. A third consideration is the difficulty of finding RV spaces in parks we prefer. The RV manufacturers are turning them out by the hundreds of thousands, and few new RV parks are being built to accommodate them. And lastly, we know it's time. It's sort of like before Sandy and I retired; we would ask our retired friends, how do you know when to retire? Invariably, they said, "You'll know." And we did.

Verifying my frustration at finding RV spaces, I wanted to stop desperately at Moab and take a look at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks again but, alas, there was no room in the inn. Moab was covered up with tourists! The best I could do was to get a photo of an arch south of town as we headed to Durango:

Just because we're changing from fulltiming, that doesn't mean we're getting rid of Phannie. As long as we're able, she will handle our part-time journeys--I'm sure as faithfully as she has for the last 11 years she has served us so well. 

What we don't know is what--or where--our not-on-wheels home will ultimately be. That, of course, has been on our mind as well, so we'll have a number of things coming up that will be occupying our time and thought.

With that out of the way, allow me to chat about La Veta for a bit. This little one-horse town is a first visit for us and, from the looks of it, there wasn't much to expect. However, it is one of the last towns where we will see vestiges of our beloved Rocky Mountains, and highway 12 that runs through it is one of Colorado's Scenic Byways--and for good reason. We got here early enough to do some driving around, and we found some pretty fascinating geology, that I'll briefly describe. First of all, let's get downtown La Veta out of the way--a cute little town, quite rundown in places, and some of the streets are dirt. But the vibe was a little Santa Fe-ish--maybe a hundred years ago!

Driving out Route 12, we ran into some interesting mountain features that we happened to learn a little about by reading roadside signs.

First, there was the East Spanish Peak (or the West Spanish Peak; I'm not quite sure which it is) shown above which, at about 13,000 feet, I hadn't seen before. Notice the protrusion of rock above the trees in the lower left of the photo. I don't pretend to be a geologist, but I have read that this is harder rock than that around it, so it erodes more slowly. The interesting thing about this is that it forms a sort of backbone line that can be seen in the next photo. I'm sure there's a much more esoteric explanation available from someone less ignorant of geology--like my friend and geology professor Pat Sharp, for example. I'll get her take on it one of these days.

Here is the end of the backbone that I found interesting with colorful vegetation around it:

According to the information on the road signs, this is what's left of a volcano that failed to erupt, although it came close. The protrusion above the ground, presumably, is the magma that entered the throat of the fissure but chickened out. Since it is harder rock than that which surrounded it, its erosion has been slower:

We love anything to do with folklore, so take a look at the photo below:

Taken at a very long range, you can see stones protruding from the mountain that form a stairstep pattern. You may be able to see them better in this next one:

According to the information on the roadside signs, ancient Indians believed this was the stairwell the devil took when he came up from the underworld to wreak havoc (who knows what trials they may have endured?) Then, according to legend, God--or the supreme being in which they believed--ultimately forced the demon back down the stairs to the world below, and he has never emerged again. How can you not find that interesting?

I'll leave you with this photo of some more mountains around La Veta in the very late evening. It saddens me to be leaving my beloved mountains, though we must. I take some comfort in the fact that, since we don't live among them, we flatlanders perhaps wouldn't be as excited or appreciative when we see them again.

Stick around--I'll get an update to you before long. Thanks to all who have made this journey with us all these years!

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Monday, September 14, 2020

Making A Run For It

At Alderbrook RV Park, Spokane, Washington...

The west coast seems to be on fire! Whenever we go to the Pacific Northwest, smoke follows us in the same way as it does our friend Ed Dray when he builds a campfire. Ed is famous for this, much in the same way he is famous for taking guests to restaurants that are closed.  It's all in fun, of course, and Ed laughs as much as anyone.

But this, unfortunately, was serious. Forty-something fires in three states on the west coast were causing death and mass destruction. We really hadn't been watching the news, but we began to pay more attention after the last post and the nice photo of Mt. Rainier. We got up one morning, and all of northwest Washington was enveloped in thick smoke. At first, I thought it was just cloudy, but the skies were clear!  The smoke was so intense that you could look directly a the sun and it would not hurt your eyes; it just looked like a bright moon.

We had never seen anything like this, so we thought it would be a good idea to get the heck outta Dodge--but which way? There were fires to the south of us and to the east of us, and the other two directions would take us into the Pacific Ocean or Canada, neither of which was possible at the moment.

After a little homework, I decided to head eastward (the fire east of Seattle was not close to I-90) and then southward toward Texas. Since it was more than 350 miles to Spokane, I thought that would  relieve some of the smoke problem, so we fired up Phannie and took off. 

Did it help? The slight wind was out of the west, and it was blowing the smoke all the way to Spokane. Here's proof: In the photo below, taken not far from Spokane, there is a large overhead bridge about a half-mile in front of us. To the right and left of the roadway is a large lake--except you can't see it. If you look very closely, you might be able to make out faintly the end of the superstructure of the bridge:

Beyond the bridge is a ridge of forested hills that you might be able to make out faintly. I'm sure it was a scenic area, but we'll never know.

So what had we accomplished? We certainly didn't improve things smokewise, but at least we're out of any fire danger. When we arrived at our RV park, neither of us felt like preparing any food, so we tried a very nice Thai restaurant that had one of the most interesting ceilings we've seen. Although you can't see them in the photo, there were hundreds of tiny embedded lights representing stars. Unfortunately, the food was just okay, so it won't make the favorites list. We thought the decor was quite beautiful, though:

Somehow, this made us feel better about driving I-90 for the entire day and seeing virtually nothing but a half-mile of pavement in front of us. It reminded me of a few of my flying days when the flight was made entirely within the clouds, the only thing actually being seen was the takeoff and landing. My friend Ed, whom I mentioned above and who flew a corporate jet for years, knows what I'm talking about.

Tomorrow we're leaving for Butte, Montana, where the visibility report at this writing is three miles in smoke. Hey, that sounds pretty good; it's about a 500 percent improvement!

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

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood