After a such long sleep in Prescott Valley, Phannie's Caterpillar diesel engine came quickly to life on the cool morning of our departure for Texas. I don't know why the eagerness of the engine surprises me slightly, for it has been quick to fire up every time for a thousand starts during our ten years and 100,000 miles together. I get the feeling Phannie tires of long downtimes; she seems more than ready to get on the road!
After maybe five revolutions, the engine starts and settles immediately into 700 RPMs, barely audible 40 feet behind me. Due to the lack of engine noise, I sometimes have to check the engine gauges and the absence of warning lights to confirm a successful start. More than once, I have, absent-mindedly, attempted to start the already-running engine after leaving the coach briefly, forgetting that I left it on.
After hooking up Mae, we turned eastbound out of the beautiful but lifeless campground, still having met none of the hunkered-down employees or guests in person. A few days later, we received an email from some disembodied person, thanking us for our stay. The absence of the human element in all this was still unnerving, to a degree. What an isolation it was--more than six weeks in this local area that had few cases of the virus and no deaths, yet one would get the impression that a nuclear blast had occurred and everything in the park was radioactive. Such is the power of today's media and the fear that it is capable of provoking.
Nevertheless, we are definitely in the vulnerable age group, so we have decided to avoid larger cities for a while and stay away from crowds at all costs. It occurs to us that traveling by RV is probably as safe as you can get--self contained as we are. It wasn't long until we sadly left the Arizona mountains behind as we slowly descended into the flatlands of New Mexico and the rising outside temperature.
After a brief overnight in Clovis, New Mexico, our first stop in Texas was in tiny Lockney, to visit longtime friends Bubba and LouAnn, as well as two of their daughters, their son-in-law and three grandsons. It was a great visit, and we were treated royally. It was so good actually to interact with people again--especially these good friends. Naturally, I forgot to take photos but, in my defense, I was out of practice since we hadn't been around people for so long! We also didn't pay any attention to social distancing; cases of the virus are almost unknown in these remote areas of the Texas panhandle.
Our next stop was in equally tiny Spur, Texas, where we had a nice visit with Sandy's brother, Rick, and his wife, C. J. Since they had recently relocated here in west Texas from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we were eager to see their new manufactured home of the brand we may be considering when we exit fulltiming. You may be aware that Spur is a community known for welcoming tiny homes, offering inexpensive land and all the amenities of modern utilities. You couldn't really call Rick's and CJ's home a tiny home, though, as it occupies almost 900 square feet. Here's a photo:
"Manufactured" housing almost always leaves the impression of a mobile home or park model on wheels, but that's not what this is. It has no wheels, but it arrives by truck from the factory and is set on a foundation that is installed beforehand to fit the structure. Rick and C. J. added a garage and a storage building. It has all the amenities found in a site-built home only, in our opinion, it is even better in many ways--for example, with foam insulation completely encapsulating it. The finish work is beautiful inside and outside, and we couldn't tell the difference from a site-built home.
There are several models of these offered and customizable at Leland's Cabins, built near the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We were so impressed that we have looked into the company ourselves. We are so done with the big houses we've owned in the past with all their upkeep and expense, and this might be an answer for us. The older we get and the more physical challenges we have, the more certain we are that we have more fulltiming days behind us than ahead of us.
Rick and C. J. gave us a nice tour of their town and the surrounding area, and I must mention their passion for photography, especially that of west Texas scenery. Having worked in the tech area and in education for many years, they are now free to pursue their talent for photography--even turning it into a side business, Texas Big Sky Photography.
I thought I would include just a few of their west Texas photos here; there are many, many more available--scenes of Texas and other locations--on their website. It takes a degree of artistry to see through a camera lens certain things of beauty that may not be evident to many. These images were taken in Spur and nearby areas in west Texas and treat the viewer to the concept that those things that appear old and worn--even small, sleepy towns themselves--can be charming and beautiful, especially considering the stories of the past they could tell if they could only speak. In these cases, they are speaking through the artistry of the photographer:
I confess to being guilty myself of seeing things superficially and failing to behold the beauty and the essence thereof. I have taken hundreds of photos that appear in this blog, and I have to confess that the really good ones are mostly accidental. Not so with these.
Having had a great visit with Rick and C. J., we left for the San Antonio area, where we will find another small town to stay safely away from the masses of humanity and enjoy the feeling among the townfolk that life goes on as it always has. We are looking forward to remembering Covid-19 as a bitter episode in history after it is vanquished. We will also be more keenly disposed to appreciating life and looking for the hidden beauty in things that may not be evident at first glance.
Thank you, family and friends, for treating us so well.
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