Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Heading Back for the Holidays: We Take a Look at Port A

At Ransom Road RV Park, Aransas Pass, Texas...

We reluctantly said goodbye to the Rio Grande Valley and good friends Ed and Marilyn, Bob and Janet, Mike and Marian and Denny and Jackie and began our two-day journey back to Conroe. As we readied Phannie for departure, we got word from Marilyn that Ed was having to go to a chiropractor right then due to severe back pain; sure hope you get better soon, Ed. 

On the evening before, we had all decided to go out for dinner together at a place of my choosing. Ed couldn't make it due to his back problem, so I carried on his tradition of taking people to restaurants that are closed. I hope it made him feel better! Bob suggested the Costa Messa (yes, that's the way they spelled it) Restaurant nearby, and it was fine. Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded, so we could sit, talk and cut up as much as we liked.

On our way back to Conroe, we decided to spend the night near the Rockport/Port Aransas area, a place where we have spent a good deal of time over several winters. We wanted to see how things are going with the cleanup after hurricane Harvey. We selected the Ransom Road RV Park in Aransas Pass--a nice enough park with all paved streets and sites. Surprisingly, although there was storm damage all around the city, no storm damage was evident at the park, and it was very full of RVs. Unfortunately, this accentuated the fact that the sites are very, very close together, so it would not be a park where we would want to spend any length of time in the future.  Because of the crowding, it also doesn't qualify for my "Best of the Best RV Parks" list either.

We drove toward Port Aransas and took the ferry into the downtown landing. It was a pleasant, if short, ride in really pretty weather, and we couldn't see any evidence of the storm damage as we approached the landing:

Once we drove off the ferry, however, it was a different story. Here are a few photos of some of the damage we saw:

There were debris piles everywhere...

This was a boat service company. The steel building was no match for Harvey.

This is an auto garage. You can still see a car on the lift.
Now for the positives:  The place is coming back FAST.  Although many structures received damage, repairmen were everywhere and the cleanup is going nicely. Just south of town is a huge pile of debris collected from all over town that is slowly being hauled away.  I would estimate that about a third of the businesses have reopened, including our favorite restaurant, Irie's Island Food. Surprisingly, all the RV parks have reopened and appear to have lots of customers. I'm guessing many of these RVs belong to the workers who are helping rebuild the town. I saw the following sign that perfectly illustrated the attitude of Port Aransans:

As you can see, the sign says, "Port A Strong," that certainly seems to underscore the prevalent attitude among the hardy residents. (Note that temporary traffic signals are in place, as the original ones were heavily damaged in
the storm.)

We had a fine seafood dinner at Shempy's, a favorite hole-in-the-wall seafood joint a few miles south of Rockport. We will be driving through that town as we head north tomorrow.

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

New Friends Made and Another Rally

At Bentsen Palms RV Resort, Mission, Texas...

We arrived here in Mission a few days ago after spending a couple of weeks at the Thousand Trails park in Conroe and a quick trip to the DFW area for our annual physical exams. We have slowly acquired new healthcare providers in the Conroe area, except for our family doctor in Dallas, whom we have been seeing for decades. He is very accommodating to our constant travel status and even calls us from time to time to see how we're doing when he knows we're sick. We don't think we would ever find anyone to match his caregiving, so we just bite the bullet and make the trek to the DFW area when it's time to see him.

While we were in Conroe this time, we had the good fortune to meet some new friends like Dick and Judy, Ed and Debi and Dave and Judy, who are also friends with Dave and Janice. (Yes, I know the names don't mean much to you, but their names mean a lot to them and to us, and they are neat people who deserve to be recognized for being so very nice to us.)

While we were in the DFW area seeing our doctor, we also reconnected with wonderful old friends Peggy and Terri and Harvey and Mary Lou, with whom we got caught up over dinner, along with some other new friends, Don and Ruby.

One of the unexpected benefits of fulltiming is the astounding expansion of our circle of friends. We have met so many fine folks whose acquaintance we would not otherwise have made, and we always enjoy crossing their paths when we can. Thanks to all of you for your friendship; we are looking forward to seeing you again.

With our physicals out of the way, we set a course for Mission, Texas, the site of our next rally. The trip from the DFW area was uneventful, but we didn't care much for the 90-degree-plus temperatures in the Valley. It looks like the parks here have not begun to get really busy yet with winter Texans, and the too-warm temperatures have a lot to do with that, I'm sure. They will start to arrive en masse for sure after the Christmas holidays. Our park, Bentsen Palms, is very nice but sparsely populated:

Here's the view outside our window:

This must be the year for tire problems. Upon our arrival here at Bentsen Palms, we noticed a prominent belly on Phannie's right front tire. I quickly checked the pressure and found that it had fallen to 40 psi! This was quite a surprise, as I had not noticed any steering problems on the way to the park. Thankfully, this problem must have begun very near our destination, I'm thinking. I quickly gave a call to CoachNet, who began the process of getting me a mobile tire service truck. In about an hour, A technician arrived and removed the tire, checking for damage and/or leaks. As it turned out, I hadn't run over anything; the problem was a leaky valve stem core, which the tech quy quickly replaced:

It is very rare indeed for Phannie to have tire issues, so I really can't complain about this. I'm just glad we were safely nestled into our space and not exposed out on the road somewhere.

Our being here in the Valley is also an opportunity to get a really good wash and wax job for Phannie at a better price than just about anywhere else:

When we are participating in these rallies, we tend to do a lot of, well, eating. We always go out somewhere that the hosts recommend, and Carol, the wagon master, picked a great place called Griffin Grill there in McAllen. We had breakfast there, including this masterpiece of eggs Benedict, enjoyed by our friends Art and Shirley:

We had a large group going with us, so we had to get a photo, for posterity:

We also made a trip across the border to Progreso, Mexico for lunch an shopping. Everyone seemed to have a good time:

We will be returning to Conroe in a few days to spend the holidays with the kids, then out to Quartzsite in January.

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

While Here In a Holding Pattern, a Trip Recap

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

Writing the title of this post reminded me of holding patterns as they apply to flying. Since I spent quite a few years as an aviator, I thought a brief primer might be in order:

A pilot who wishes to add an Instrument Rating to his or her qualifications must demonstrate knowledge and skill in performing a holding pattern while referring solely to the aircraft's instruments. These are specific maneuvers whose track across the ground would resemble a racetrack as the aircraft is flown within certain confined airspace that is associated with a navigation aid or fix. When assigned a hold by Air Traffic Control (ATC), the pilot is supposed to know how to enter the pattern and fly the correct direction, distance and/or time to be flown in the maneuver without instructions from the controller. In the holding pattern depicted below on an aeronautical chart, the airplane would fly this racetrack pattern southeast of the Pomona, California VOR (a navigation aid), making left turns and one-minute legs, all the while maintaining an altitude as assigned by ATC.

Below is an interesting photo showing contrails of a jet aircraft having made several turns in a high-altitude holding pattern.

If several aircraft need to hold at the same location, the crews are usually given instructions to fly the same pattern at different altitudes, stacked one over the other until they are cleared to proceed further.

In the last 50 years or so, the necessity for flying holding patterns has become quite rare, thanks to the vast technological advances in navigation and radar equipment. Aircraft can now be spaced in a desired sequential flow pattern for hundreds of miles before reaching a point where a holding pattern would normally have been needed. However, a pilot must still demonstrate the procedure in order to obtain the rating.

As a pilot, I still recall my training days when I learned how to do holding patterns, and I guess we are in an RV holding pattern now, having arrived in Conroe after our epic summer of wandering through no fewer than 22 states!  We will always be drawn here because the kids are here, and we really got antsy to see them after more than four months' absence. Here is a view of Lake Conroe from our park:

This explains the absence of posts since the end of that trip. This seems to have developed into a pattern over the years: When we're on the road, I'm inspired to make frequent posts because of all the new places we visit, but not so much when we're settled here for a while. Some years ago, I experimented a bit with daily posting, but I just couldn't bring myself to write about the mundane stuff we do each day. That's not to say I don't enjoy reading the blogs of those who post daily, because I do, and I admire the authors' discipline in doing that every day. I really think the whole problem is that I'm lazy--something, by the way, that I can point to with a degree of pride. I've already done the w*rk thing, and I like not w*rking better. 

I wouldn't want to leave the impression, however, that we are idle while Phannie takes a well deserved rest in her spot here by Lake Conroe. We've already attended a rally in San Marcos with some of our Tiffin owner friends, and we're planning a trip to the Dallas area next month for doctor visits and attending a concert. Then we'll have another rally in the Rio Grande Valley where we'll hang around until mid-November visiting friends there.

What it looks like at one of our rallies.
We think our mobility and good health--which we believe has improved since retirement--is at least partially attributable to our refusal to circumscribe our activities and accept the confinement of a small world defined by four walls of living space and the boundaries of a single neighborhood or town. 

We have a physician friend who seems fascinated by the freedom of our lifestyle, and he shared with us that he sees so many older patients who seem to age faster as their world becomes smaller after retirement, restricted to gatherings of friends and relatives who generally sit around and talk about little more than their ailments. With God's help, we are not going to do that. We have striven always to live our life without regrets, and I think we'll be able to say that we've pretty much met that goal.

We couldn't be more proud of ol' Phannie on her long voyage. The drive train part of the bus operated perfectly without a single hiccup of any kind. We couldn't say the same for the house part, however, that saw the need for a new bedroom air conditioner. But that unit was pretty tired after ten years of use, and it was time for a replacement. We also broke a slide torque tube shear bolt in Memphis, but that was the only time we had to call a mobile technician on the whole trip. 

Of course, there was the ignominious end of Mae, our Chevy HHR tow vehicle, in Indiana, necessitating our acquisition of the new Mae, a Honda CR-V. We were sorry to see the little red car go but, with her unreliability, she lost our trust and had to be put out to pasture. We love the new Mae, though; life goes on, doesn't it?

Phannie and the new Mae at Billings, Montana
Phannie, our aging Phaeton coach, looks a little dated beside some of our friends' coaches that brightly reflect their multi-hundred-thousand-dollar price tags, but some of these have given their owners lots of headaches. Not so with Phannie--she just runs and runs. Trade her for a newer one, you say? I don't think so; she has served us too well. Plus, she's much like a member of the family. And there's a lot we can do with a couple hundred thousand dollars.

As we have traveled and found ourselves rubbing elbows with other RVers, we have made so many wonderful friends among fellow nomads who share this interesting life and who are some of the nicest people on the planet. This trip was no exception; why, on the eve of writing this post, we had dinner at a local dive with this fun group, assembled mostly from our neighbors here in the park:

In a couple of days, Janice and Dave, new friends we recently met in Idaho, will arrive, and there will be much merriment for all.

Thankfully, with this blog to help with our fading memory, all we have to do is to go back a few posts and remember all of our summer trip. It would be hard to come up with a favorite photo, but here are just a few from the trip that we really like:

And so, I'm sure you will agree that our current holding pattern is an enjoyable one and that this may inspire you to get out there and live your dream with no regrets. As our longtime friend Ed closes each of his daily blog posts--life is good! (Thank you, Ed; everyone should have a friend so positive.)

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 world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler

Friday, September 29, 2017

Colorado and Fall Colors

At Enchanted Trails RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico...

We had a nice reunion with old friends Bubba and LouAnn at Priest Gulch Campground near Dolores, Colorado:

Here are our rigs, parked right on the bank of the Dolores River:

This is a very peaceful wooded setting at about 8,000 ft. above sea level, so it is a nice cool place to escape the Texas heat in the summertime. Since we were there in late September, there was already quite a chill in the air, with the temperature getting down to around 25 degrees one night while we were here. What we were really interested in seeing was the fall color in the mountains, and that did not disappoint. Take a look at these photos:

Near Ridgway, Colorado

Near Silverton, Colorado
Even when we weren't blessed with fall color views, the scenery in the clean autumn air was just magnificent:

Near Ouray, Colorado

Near Telluride, Colorado
Driving on the "Million Dollar Highway," we made a brief visit to Ouray, Colorado, a place we hadn't seen in decades, and we liked it so much that we have vowed to return next summer, if possible:

We are headed south from here, returning to our Livingston, Texas address of record to take care of some auto registration and driver's license renewals. Then we will continue to Conroe, where we will be in and out for the next few months. We are going to miss the Colorado mountains and our friends, for sure. 

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 world and see little of it.  --Alexander Sattler

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sedona, The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

At Sun Valley RV Resort, Sun Valley, Arizona...

Yes, we are moving again, having enjoyed our stay near the Grand Canyon and some more fellowship with new "old" friends, Dave and Janice. Acquainted almost by accident through Janice's friendly hello on RVillage, we now consider these two like family. We come from very similar backgrounds, and we discovered that we are, in fact, neighbors when they visit their home base near ours in Conroe, Texas.  They've gotten us hooked on a game called "Rummykub," at which they are ringers, and we have them hooked on "42." The abuse at the table is brutal, but it's all in good-natured fun. 

Dave and Janice
We consider ourselves fortunate to have met so many really wonderful friends in our RV lifestyle, and we love to get together when we can. We hope to see these two again in Conroe.

We took a brief side trip to Sedona, about 35 miles south of Flagstaff. We had visited there before, but it was a long time ago. It's still the bustling, touristy place that it ever was, but few towns have ever been established in a more beautiful setting. We took this photo from the airport overlook:

Before leaving town, we had dinner at the Mesa Grill Restaurant at the airport. It was quite good--amazingly so, in fact, for an airport restaurant.

From here, we're making our way to southwest Colorado, where we will meet up for a few days with longtime RV friends Bubba and LouAnn. On the way, we decided to stop in and take another look at the Petrified Forest National Park and its environs, the Painted Desert. Here are a few photos we took:

I have long had a fascination for the history of Route 66, the iconic "mother road" that traversed half the country and was the means by which many families got their first look at the magical place that is the American West. In Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, Interstate 40 follows much of the old highway, and I'm always delighted to be able to drive down any part of it, observing some of the relics of that golden age of travel. Here is a photo of the carcass of a 1932 Studebaker that is placed exactly where the now abandoned Route 66 traversed this national park. 

The desert plants have since reclaimed the highway, so the only indications of the roadbed location are the old telephone poles, also abandoned, that are visible beyond the car. This was only a few miles from the Painted Desert Inn, also in the park and overlooking the Painted Desert:

This place was built as a CCC project from 1937-1940, when it opened to the delight of travelers as a hotel. When Interstate 40 was built, it lost some of its allure for the fast-paced traffic and closed its doors in 1963. It was going to be demolished at one point but, after being designated as a National Historic Landmark, it will be saved for posterity. It now houses a museum and bookstore. We didn't get a look inside, as it had already closed for the day when we arrived. We love the architecture, and we were able to walk all around it, taking in the spectacular views:

A few miles farther down the park road, we encountered the fascinating areas of petrified wood that had once been part of a thriving forest eons ago. The trees fell and were buried in river sediment and, over unfathomable ages, absorbed minerals that displaced the organic matter of the trees, only to be unearthed through erosion and now visible to onlookers. We thought the minerals in the logs made them quite beautiful:

At the end of our day in the Petrified Forest National Park, we drove back to the little town of Holbrook, also situated on old Route 66. We were delighted to see the iconic Wigwam Motel, where all the rooms were designed to look like teepees. It was easy to imagine how many travelers stopped here in the heyday of Route 66, much to the excitement of their children:

Our summer travels are coming to a close, and what a summer this has been! We have been away from the Texas heat for the four hottest months of the year, and now we will be returning to milder weather--perfect for more spoiling of our grandsons! 

We will not be idle, though. We have rallies to attend in San Marcos and the Rio Grande Valley. The ladies have a trip planned to First Monday in Canton and, after the holidays, we will be headed back to Arizona for our first visit to Quartzsite--known as Woodstock for RVers. After that, we will probably be wintering somewhere in the great Southwest. Next summer, we will be taking a Hawaiian cruise and then spending the rest of the summer somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. And who knows what else?!!

So, stick around and travel with us as we make our retirement dreams come true! 

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 world and see little of it.  
--Alexander Sattler