Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Monday, March 18, 2019

Old Friends, New Friends and We Meet a Fellow Blogger

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

When I think about our soon-to-be concluded winter stay here in the Valley and the reasons this place continues to beckon to us as we flee the cold weather, my first thought is about the friends, old and new, whose company we have enjoyed during our wanderings and some of whom are usually here during the winter. We write often of our friends--perhaps too often for some of our readers, but they are important to us, and we like to keep them at least in our thoughts when we're apart. I am ever mindful of that prescient quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path." 

When we see their photos, we sometimes talk about how we first met each of these couples and, with few exceptions, the common thread is the RVing connection. Within that group, the original contact was usually made in one of a couple of ways: By personally interacting with fellow travelers parked nearby or through first becoming a cyber friend through reading RVers' blogs. I used to read quite a number of these in the years leading up to our going fulltime--mainly to assess the authors' experiences and what we could learn from them. And I still read some that are done well and include plenty of narrative along with photos. Blogs that include mostly photos and little story telling are immediately shunned. Anyone can post photos; the author's story is the interesting part. While I'm thinking about it, let me give a shoutout to Mary, who writes Reflections Around the Campfire, one of my favorites. She is a talented writer who lets you into her head with a smart and thoughtful commentary about what she's thinking and observing.

We think immediately of longtime friends Ed and Marilyn, whose blog, The Happy Wanderers, we have been following for perhaps the longest time. Ed is another blogger who is more of a  daily storyteller than an picture taker, and his blog has way over a million hits to underscore its appeal. We would have to give them credit for introducing us to a whole gaggle of their friends, whom we now count as friends of our own and, like all of our friends, we think they are the best people anyone could possibly know. Here's a photo of some from that group, sitting outside Ed and Marilyn's coach house a few days ago while John played the guitar and sang. (Notice the warm weather clothing; we mustn't forget to mention that the tropical climate is another reason we're here in the winter.): 



We think of Gordon and Juanita, whom we came to know many years ago through Gordon's blog, written when they were traveling. We think of Dave and Janice, who have a Facebook blog and who introduced us to a wonderful group of pals in the Conroe area. We also think of the friends we've made through rallies of the RV club to which we belong. There are many other wonderful friends--not necessarily RVers, but those whom we've known from other circles and perhaps for decades--who will remain close in our hearts for all our lifetime. Today's focus, however, is really about meeting, right here in the Valley, new blogger friends Mark and Denisa:



I tend to give some extra ink to RV bloggers we've met, but this delightful couple deserve an extra supply. This would not only be because of their terrific blog, Wandering His Wonders, authored by Denisa, but also because they are just such personable, winsome people. Denisa obviously takes pride in her posts, because they are unfailingly interesting and informative with great photos. If you haven't already found it, it's worth clicking on the link above, for sure.

These fulltiming Oklahomans must have retired early, as they both look annoyingly young. Mark was in the tech world, and Denisa was in academia. They have two sons and recently became grandparents! They also seem tireless, engaging in endless  physical activities such as kayaking, hiking, swimming and dancing, to name a few. Oh yes, and let's not forget pickleball and water volleyball, and there are probably more. Just writing about all of their physical activity is wearing me out; compared to these two, Sandy and I would have to be classified as more vegetable than human. (By the way, if you're trying to picture me as some kind of vegetable, please don't let it be kale or eggplant, neither of which I like. Just about anything else is fine.)

Here's another photo of this charming couple, beside whom rests a bowl of freshly picked oranges and grapefruit from the ubiquitous fruit trees in their RV park and many others here in the Valley. And yes, the fruit in the parks is usually free for the picking:



I was delighted to learn that, besides our having a common interest in blogging, Denisa is also a fellow pianist, carrying a full 88-key keyboard piano in their motorhome:



This is a bonus I would also enjoy, but we just don't have the room in Phannie--something that's a little difficult to explain since our coach is five feet longer. (Let's just say that going into that really doesn't serve well my best interests, so I think I'll just move along.) I also notice a guitar case in the photo above, something I failed to inquire about. Obviously, these are talented people who've gotten this fulltiming thing all figured out. 

I feel lucky to have access to three pianos here at Victoria Palms, including the nice grand piano in the activity center. Playing for Sunday church service has also been enjoyable, and the practice has helped a great deal. Speaking of the church service, this would be a good place to mention yet another couple of new friends, Illinois residents and Valley snowbirds Linda and Craig, who graciously had us over for dinner the other evening. Linda serves as one of the song leaders at the church service here at VP:



Since we have only about three weeks left here in the Valley, we are often asked if we will be back next winter. We haven't decided yet, as we have never done the snowbird thing anywhere else, such as Florida or Arizona. We think we would like to see what it would be like to spend the winter somewhere in the southwestern U. S., so we might do that next winter; we'll see. We don't think we will be spending any winters in Florida, where it is difficult to find space, and that which can be found is quite a bit more expensive.

I'll mention one more thing--something I posted in the RV Tips Facebook group, but that I'll also include here for the sake of posterity. By the way, my friend Ed Hurlburt runs the group, and he's got about 140,000 subscribers now, as well as a new program offering to members all kinds of vendor discounts. It's well worth taking a look, in my opinion. 

I wanted to mention the light over Phannie's dining table that, until recently, appeared to be getting dimmer as we got older. (I'm sure it couldn't possibly be our aging eyeballs that are the problem.) The original fixture installed at the factory was a dinky one that was painfully dim from the outset. We put up with it for a few years, but eventually found a three-light fixture on eBay that was 12 volts and used those infernal white-hot, push-in 921 bulbs. This new fixture was a great improvement but, as previously mentioned, the light just kept getting dimmer and dimmer with the passage of time. It was becoming more and more difficult to see what we were eating or sometimes even to identify the hazy figure sitting across from me who seemed oddly  familiar. 

Of course, a better course of action would have been to do a rewire and install a 120V household fixture. We really don't need 12-volt lighting in key areas like this because we never do boondocking. However, that sort of project is well beyond my level of expertise and, perhaps more importantly, my level of energy, which we have already established earlier in this piece. Then there's always the possibility that any shadetree installation of mine involving electricity could result in some catastrophe that might involve the summoning of first responders.

I had been looking for some LED bulbs that would fit the push-in slots of the old 921 bulbs but that were also bright enough to be the cataract-friendly kind we needed. However, I also wanted the kind that would give off a warmer light than those bright white LEDs that remind me of the fluorescent bulbs in an old K-Mart or something. I mentioned that to someone that the other day, and his reply was that the bright white LED lights are "in" and that I'm a dinosaur. He may be right; some of the newer coaches I've been in almost require sunglasses to be worn inside.

Undeterred by his remark that must have been incredibly insulting to dinosaurs, I found some LED bulbs on Amazon that looked like what I wanted and, with uncharacteristically good fortune, they turned out to be perfect. Here's the URL, if you're interested: https://tinyurl.com/y6gynd4z

These suckers are almost bright enough to enable surgery to be performed underneath, but they have the warm white color we wanted. I'm including a photo of the fixture with one of the new bulbs in place; the difference is obvious:



But hey, that's just me; I guess I probably am a dinosaur. But I still don't like those ultra bright, fluorescent-looking lights. And the cataract surgery can be put off a little longer.

In closing, we'll be looking forward to a visit in a few days by Sandy's sister, Brenda. We can't wait to see her and show her around.


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

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Air Horns, Airplanes and Staying Young at Heart

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

Yes, I know it has been a while since I posted something. We have been having so much fun with our friends here in the Valley that I've just sorta ignored the blog. Sorry about that! However, I've previously posted photos of some of our typical gatherings--usually at a restaurant (where else?), so posting more of these would become a little trite, don't you think? 

We've made several trips over to Mexico with various groups of friends, and that's always fun. We also had a good time teaching the domino game '42' to Larry and Carolyn and Steve and Jackie. They're getting pretty good at it! We also had a brief visit with Bob and Janet of our contingent of friends in nearby Mission, and it was really good to see them again. Joy and Glenn were with us here for a while, but our time with them was way too short, too.

But these eight great friends have headed back north, and we are settling back into what has become a routine of sorts. I can hardly believe that I wondered, when I booked this park for a three-month stay, what in the world we would do with all of our spare time, since we wouldn't be traveling anywhere in Phannie. That worry has proven to be silly; we're busy all the time, it seems. When we aren't visiting with Ed and Marilyn, Denny and Jackie, Eddie and Jan, Mike and Marian and others, we try to take care of housekeeping chores as well as making trips to Wally World and H.E.B for supplies. But we usually have some time to relax, and we've gotten pretty good at that.

I also serve as pianist for the Sunday church service here at Victoria Palms. I was asked to serve by someone who happened by when I was playing the piano in the lobby just after we arrived, and I was delighted to accept. Sandy sings in the choir, so we are glad to be able to take part and serve in these ways.

I also have had a couple of issues that required visits to our site by outside service providers. One wasn't my fault--a windshield nick on Mae that was quickly fixed by Safelite. The other was a lot more expensive and embarrassing, but I might as well confess--maybe I'll feel better about it, but probably not. 

Let's just say that if you find yourself driving a motorhome down a road with tree limbs overhead, it's a really good idea not to proceed if you're not absolutely certain there is plenty of clearance between the limbs and the roof of the coach. If you don't stop, get out and check with your own eyeballs, things can get expensive. 

This bit of stupidity on my part occurred at an RV park in Rockport, where we stayed overnight during our trip here to the Valley. In order to maneuver Phannie past another RV that was taking up more of the road than it should, I drove too close to some overhanging tree limbs. From the driver's seat, the clearance appeared to be okay but, upon hearing an ominous crunch over my head, I knew that it obviously wasn't. The crunch was the dislodging of the left air horn from Phannie's roof. There was nothing to be salvaged from the disfigured remains of the horn, so it was relegated to the dumpster, and I set Phannie on her course toward the Rio Grande sans one of her air horns. These things are very effective, by the way. Since one of these 20-ton beasts won't stop on a dime, a blast on the air horn is pretty handy in getting the attention of a driver who is about to get run over.

I really didn't know what I was going to do about the missing horn when we arrived here, so I began an Internet search and--wonder of wonders--what would show up but "Air Horns of Texas!" Yes, friends, McAllen happens to be the home of probably the only shop anywhere dedicated entirely to the installation and repair of air horns. I couldn't believe my good fortune! I gave Jason, the owner, a call, and within a few weeks and with the parting of a few hundred dollars, Phannie's missing air horn was ordered and replaced after a temporary repair to the roof where the horn used to be:



This was a particularly irksome ordeal, as I fancy myself a pretty cautious driver. This lesson won't be soon forgotten, nor will the pain in my wallet. And I won't forget my luck in finding Jason, either.

We also managed to have a little extra time to do some flying. I was due for my required biennial flight review, so I went to the McAllen airport, snagged a flight instructor and rented a Cessna from McCreery Aviation to get this done. After a short flight, I suppose the instructor was satisfied that I sort of knew what I was doing, so that checkout ended pretty quickly. A few days later, during a nice day with calm wind and good visibility, Sandy and I rented the Cessna and flew over to Port Isabel, where we landed and checked out that sleepy little airport. Taking off again, we flew over the causeway to South Padre Island to see what it looked like from the air:




The view above is from about 1,000 feet. Sandy was amazed because  the island looks so narrow from the air. She's holding my iPad, the device used by most pilots now for navigation and airport information. If only such a thing were available back when I had to lug around all those Jepp manuals in my flight bag.



She doesn't seem scared at all, does she? 



I'm having a good time, too. These little airplanes are great for sightseeing--something that was nearly impossible in a jetliner. I'll see if some other friends want to fly around a bit before we all leave the Valley.

I've had some comments from some folks on Facebook about how active our lives seem to them--flying airplanes around and driving a motorhome all over the country as we do. (They are too tactful to add, "at your age," I suppose.) Well, first of all, we aren't really all that old; I'm barely into my seventies, and Sandy hasn't made it to that decade yet. We know quite a few much older folks out here in the RV world who seem to run circles around us. 

I think part of it is just being willing to step out of what is routine, familiar and safe and embrace new adventures. But there is also a philosophy involved that I really hadn't thought of until we saw Clint Eastwood's recent movie, "The Mule." Clint, at age 88, was asked how he managed to do something like make a movie at such an advanced age. His response was, "I get up every morning and I just don't let the old man in." What a great line! Like Clint, we don't think of ourselves as being old, and I'm going to keep the old man out just as long as I can, Lord willin'.



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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Time With Friends Goes By Quickly

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

We sadly said goodbye to Jackie and Steve today. We had been roaming around the Valley here for a couple of weeks, enjoying the mild weather and having lots of laughs, culminating with a visit to Padre Island and lunch with Carolyn and Larry, another fulltiming couple about whom we've written in earlier posts. Although we've known them for some time, these two couples had never met, so our lunch at Dirty Al's on Padre Island was double the fun, as they got to know each other.


One thing we have in common is that we all own Tiffin Phaeton motorhomes. Sandy and I met these two couples by happenstance, in RV parks in different states. In both cases, we parked in a nearby space and, as they were outdoors when we arrived, we said hello and introduced ourselves, finding quickly that we had much in common. 

And now, as with many other friends, we can't imagine our loss if our paths had never crossed. Many other friends of ours are wintering here in the Valley, and even more are in the east Texas area and other places around the country. We feel the same about all of them. Our lives are made so much richer by such great people. 

We really couldn't leave Padre Island without a walk on the beach, watching the seagulls and listening to the roar of the waves coming ashore.



We've had Jackie and Steve over for tamales, and they invited us to their rig for a meal of shish kebabs. They were super good; here are Jackie and Steve, looking at the last of the kebabs that would become leftovers; we had scarfed down all the rest.


We've had great times trying favorite restaurants as well as new ones, and we've played many rounds of new games like 42, Rummikub and Mexican Train. The girls have done some shopping, and I've even been able to do a flying checkout at the McAllen airport. We'll be doing some aerial sightseeing pretty soon; maybe some of our friends will tag along, who knows?

And so it goes. We've been here at Victoria Palms for six weeks, and it seems like six days!  For those who wonder what we do with our spare time, well, we don't sit around and look at four walls, that's for sure. That's why we traded our four walls for four slideouts and a big windshield. If we get tired of the view looking out of the windshield, we pull in the slides, crank up the diesel and find another view. Life is good.

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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Amateur Psychology: Retirement Happiness is Silly

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

I suppose it probably gets old for readers to see more photos of a bunch of older RV folks sitting around a restaurant table, laughing and chatting as if we don't have a care in the world:  


Well, that's pretty doggone close to being right.  We may have some cares in our world, but what others think is really not one of them. 

Frankly, we've already made our contribution to society and the world of work, and we're now living our retirement years on our terms. That doesn't mean we don't have problems, of course; everybody has these. It's just that most of us don't need to include holding a job as part of our daily activity. This gives us a lot of extra hours in the day to think up solutions for little problems  before they get to be big ones. If we can't solve them ourselves, there is always support available among friends like these who have come to know each other through our common interest in RV travel. 

It also gives us time to act silly like Larry and Marilyn in the photos below:





By the way, Larry and Marilyn have never met; they represent friends of ours from different areas of our travels who happen to be in the RGV and whom we will try to bring together while we're here, if possible.

Merrymaking of this sort is hardly silliness, of course. Well, maybe it is, but it's the good kind. It certainly represents the ultimate in a positive attitude regarding the inevitability of growing older and the kind of mindset we choose to have in the process. I think Sandy and I find this lifestyle so attractive in no small part due to the refusal of most of the participants to 'go gentle into that good night.'  Our movement about God's creation will be circumscribed for all of us at some point--a limitation we will need to accept with as much grace as possible--but not until we have squeezed out every moment of awe and wonder and heard the very last laugh of friends like these.

Maybe you are still working and wondering what retirement will be like for you. Well, it will be whatever you choose it to be, in my view. While it may not be the nomadic style we have undertaken for now, you will have with each new day the opportunity to seize it with gratitude, gusto and a merry heart. That's what Larry and Marilyn do, and that's why we love and admire them.

Steve and Jackie have joined us now at Victoria Palms, and we will have more stories to share as we roam around far south Texas.


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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Fulltiming: Three Years Behind Us; How We Got From Big House to No House

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

As we are settled in here among the palm trees in the sunny RGV, we contemplate the anniversary of our third year of this fulltiming adventure. We continue to marvel at the hoards of friends we have made along the way, many of whom appear in the pages of this blog from time to time. Just before we left Thousand Trails in Conroe, our friends there joined us at a favorite Mexican restaurant. We feel so lucky to find ourselves among such great people, and we will be eager to see them again when we return:



Here in the Valley, we've already been running around with pals from Mission like Denny, Jackie, Kellie and Jim below. (For some reason, I missed getting pics of Ed and Marilyn on our trip over to Mexico on a cooler-than-usual day):



Aside from these fine folks, we've also enjoyed being with our friends here at Victoria Palms that we've already mentioned in a previous post. In about a week, we'll be joined by Jackie and Steve and, after their visit, Sandy's sister, Brenda, will be joining us for the first time!

This third anniversary brings with it the unexpected news that no fewer than four couples of our fulltiming friends are leaving the road for various reasons! Exit from the lifestyle is expected at some point for all of us, of course, but we really weren't anticipating this sudden coincidence. That doesn't mean they won't still be our friends, of course, but it is a bit jarring to realize we won't be crossing their paths as often.

So, how are we doing three years in as fulltimers? Well, we would have to say, "Terrific!" We have no inclination that we need to contemplate an exit yet. We are still blessed with good health, and  our fitness for travel will likely be the determining factor when the time comes for a change. 

As we think back over these three years as fulltimers, we can't help but contemplate our history of home ownership and how we got to the fulltiming decision. We cringe when we think of some of the housing decisions we made during our four decades together, especially during the earlier ones. These decisions could have been much better if we could just have had some of the wisdom we have gained in our older years. Bigger and better was what everybody was supposed to do, right? If only we could have had the life lesson before the test instead of the other way around...but that's usually not the way life happens, does it?

It took 40 years for us to become houseless. Our first house was a nice little ranch style on a cul-de-sac in which we lived when our  children were born. 



After a dozen years there, a job change came that would necessitate a move. For some reason, I had the notion that we should have a big house in the country with some acreage, so we built an enormous house on five acres in a rural location that would require both of us to do a long commute to our jobs, which then were in opposite directions from the new monster house.

It wasn't long until we began to realize that we didn't own the house; it owned us. I had to buy a diesel tractor with a mower deck to keep the weeds at bay from the five-acre yard, and we couldn't find or afford housekeeping help for the 3,400 square feet of house, including its four bathrooms for the three of us. Sandy had to maintain the vast expanse with little help from me, as I was usually on the tractor or doing other chores to keep the property up when I was home. After a couple of years, it became evident that we had to get rid of the monster house in order for us to avoid an early demise from exhaustion. I don't have a good explanation for why we couldn't see the pitfalls of this ill-fated adventure beforehand. It seemed like the right thing at the time, but it was certainly more greed than need. We sold the place, happy to see it go.

Duly chastised after my 'country estate' folly, we moved into a nice condominium where no maintenance or yard work was required, so I felt I was on the road to redemption. Then came another job change, this time requiring a move to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Because our daughter, Mindy, was only three, we wanted her to grow up in a house in a neighborhood, so we bought a reasonably-sized house that had a very small yard--an absolute requirement of mine because of my still-fresh memories of my enslavement to the big country house with the five-acre yard. 


Mindy did grow up in this house and it served us well until she left for college. About that time, it became apparent that we were going to need to bring an elderly parent to live with us. This would require building a significant addition onto the house for invalid care, which we did. But the parent didn't move in after all, and now we had a house even bigger than the one with the five-acre yard! It was now face-palm time again. There we were, roaming around in that cavernous place by ourselves. How could this happen again?

By this time, we had begun RVing during breaks from work, and we thought it would be a good idea to sell this latest monster house and build the perfect smaller retirement home, complete with an RV port. At this point, we knew an RV would always be in our lives, but I figured Sandy would never agree to go fulltime, something I had daydreamed about for years. Frankly, I found no fulfillment in maintaining a house and yard, and I wasn't a tinkerer; I didn't need a man-workshop or a TV man-cave, either, for that matter. 

The new house was indeed perfect, built completely to our liking and small enough to maintain with minimal effort, including a xeriscaped yard. The story of selling the big house and building the new one begins here. We spent eight happy years there until both of us retired. 

Finally free from our worklife, we left in Phannie on a two-month RV tour of the Pacific Northwest, including a stop in Seattle to take an Alaskan cruise. We loved the freedom to wander as we pleased, untethered to work and household chores. With the ending of the cruise, we came to the conclusion that we really didn't want to go back to our house in Fort Worth. Mindy was married by this time, and she and her family were living near Houston. Naturally, we wanted to spend most of our downtime closer to them and the grandkids. In addition, we were dreading the long-neglected household chores that were inevitable after our time away. Even with xeriscaping, there were always weeds and overgrown bushes to tend, not to mention the mess made by trees, spiderwebs, etc. There was also the matter of the break-in that we suffered before I retired, wherein a burglar took almost all of Sandy's jewelry--some pieces of which were valuable and irreplaceable keepsakes. The house was never the same to us after that; we never got over how violated we felt. On top of that, the possibility of another burglary was always on our minds when we were away. We found ourselves frequently checking our cell phones for the feeds from the video cameras we installed inside and outside the house after the burglary. I'm not sure why we did this, as we could have done nothing about it from thousands of miles away. But it was evidence that our spirit of enjoyment of our travels was always dampened by a 'thing' we owned, and we resented it.

The decision to sell and go fulltime was surprisingly quick after that trip and, astonishingly, it was Sandy who first proposed it! The whole experience is fully documented here in the blog, so I won't go into it now. 

That brings us to today--three years into fulltiming and still pinching ourselves that we can actually live like this--having the freedom to do whatever we like and go wherever we wish, free of the obligations, expenses and confinement of a stick-and-brick house. I often say that we feel as though we have stumbled upon a way to beat the system and are having a blast doing it. I sometimes get the urge to look over my shoulder, thinking we're getting away with something we shouldn't and that one day, we'll get caught. I hope not.

In the meantime, here we are in this tropical location, wearing shorts and sun hats, feeling almost guilty that much of the rest of the country is in a deep freeze, as is evident in this photo of the TV news today:



For those affected, we hope you will be safe. But we're very grateful that we are here where we are--which, of course, is a choice we have that's easy to make as fulltimers. Life is, indeed, good.


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

You don't stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing. 







Saturday, January 12, 2019

Winter? In the Rio Grande Valley

At Victoria Palms RV Resort, Donna, Texas...

On our way to the Valley, we stopped over for a couple of days at a nice park near Aransas Pass and Rockport. We made the short drive into Corpus Christi for Sandy to do a little shopping, after which we dined at Doc's, a seafood joint overlooking the causeway. The food was pretty good, but watching the sunset while dining al fresco was a real treat. I do love sunsets and the opportunities for good photos during the short time it takes the sun to sink below the horizon. Such was the case when we exited the restaurant and went walking on the pier. The crane in this photo seemed to be begging to have its picture taken, looking forlornly as it was toward the spot where the sun had just disappeared:



One of these days, I'm going to do a post with only photos I've taken of sunsets; I do love this time of day.

The relatively short leg to Donna and Victoria Palms RV Resort was uneventful, except it is always good to see the palm trees lining Highway 77 on its straightaway into Harlingen. It's almost as if the palms are welcoming us to a place of sunny refuge from the throes of winter weather experienced at higher latitudes.

This always presents a wardrobe problem for Sandy, who must now rearrange her closet to make summer things easier to grab while moving winter clothes to some place less handy. I, of course, have no such problem, as my tiny fraction of the closet holds perhaps a dozen and a half garments, among which summer and winter clothing are adequately represented. I've found that having this small selection of clothing is all that I need, and I could probably get by with even less. Oh yes, and I am not shy about sharing with Sandy--for whom  the all-too-small space for clothes in Phannie is the bane of her existence--about my delight in keeping such a simple wardrobe. I should also mention that such remarks of mine are usually met with an icy stare and a sudden coolness in the air that makes me think we may not be far enough south after all.  But I digress.

Victoria Palms is a massive RV/manufactured home park whose labyrinthine layout could easily serve as a valid cognizance test for senior citizens. All that would be needed is to place the subject in the middle of the park and let him try to find his way out. It is a 55-plus park with amenities galore to keep its elderly residents housed, fed, laundered and entertained. 



The park is clean, all streets are paved and curbed, and the sites are all concrete. It seems to be well-managed with friendly staff and aesthetics that would be expected of a higher-end park:



There are many, many Canadians here in the park, and who could blame them for wanting to escape the harsh winters up north? Golf carts are the transportation of choice for hundreds of guests in getting around the park, and you have to keep an eye out for them if you're out for a walk. These are parked outside the activities center:



Inside the activities center I found, to my delight, a beautiful grand piano that, thankfully, was in excellent tune. I couldn't help myself and played a few old standards, much to the delight of other ancient old fogies there like me, who think that, with a few exceptions, there hasn't been any decent music written since about 1970:



Okay, Okay. I've gone back and edited this post to include a link to a video of my playing Love is a Many Splendored Thing on my own piano. Here it is:  https://youtu.be/Asw92riYfNM It's really not all that good, but I am providing it because several asked.

It's easy to see why the RGV is popular in the winter. Unless an uncommon cool front has pushed through, the weather is springlike almost all the time, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Of course, summertime is a different matter. The heat here is oppressive then, and the reason, of course, that the winter Texans flee northward in the spring.

Of course, there are the ubiquitous fruit trees that have been planted all around the park. Alongside Phannie's parking space we can pick oranges and grapefruit that are quite tasty: 




Upon our arrival, we were met by friends Joylea and Glenn, fellow east Texans, who are also here, having made this park their winter home for many years:


We met this great couple last summer in Colorado. They have a motorhome much like Phannie, a tribute to their good taste! 

After getting settled, they invited us to go with them to the ballroom, where a country and western band played classic country tunes and did a great job of it. None of that new-fangled country music here:


Joy and Glenn couldn't resist a dance, so I snapped their photo for their 15 minutes of fame in the blog world! 



A bit later, we were joined by friends John and Bobbie Jo (left foreground) and Carolyn and Larry (right foreground) at Willie B's BBQ in Alamo for some laughs and some righteous 'cue:



And so it goes--the life of a winter Texan. Not bad.

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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Holidays with Family and Friends

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

As usual, we have had a wonderful three-week stay in this park near Conroe, where we have ready access to Mindy, Tyler and the grands. When we weren't with them, we enjoyed the fellowship of a gaggle of friends who, like us, wander in an out of Thousand Trails here. We especially enjoy getting together at a favorite restaurant, as pictured below at El Palenque, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Spring, Texas:


For our grandsons, Mason and Pryce, Christmas is HUGE, of course, and we had loads of fun joining in their excitement:



Of course, we are excitedly awaiting the momentous arrival of grandson number three in April! 

Here are Mindy and the boys, having a blast making a mess in the kitchen. Mindy and Tyler are great parents, making sure the boys are included in all their family experiences, and we feel genuinely blessed that we are always made to feel welcome to join in the fun.


The time has flown by, and we have such good memories of this time together.

In only a few days, we will be leaving for our winter stay at Victoria Palms in the Rio Grande Valley where we will encounter more of our snowbirding friends, so stay tuned for more fulltiming adventures!

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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Shade Fixed, I Receive a Pilot Award

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

After pausing for a few days in Tyler to keep from having to drive Phannie in rainy weather, we made it to Mckinney and MCD Innovations for repairs to Phannie's windshield shade. There are actually two shades on each window, one a 'day' shade to reduce sunlight and glare and the other a 'night' shade that is opaque. It was the night shade that was giving us trouble. Here's a photo of the day shade; you can see the bottom of the night shade near the top of the photo:



The day shade lowers on the inside of the night shade, and each has an electric motor to roll them up and down. The problem was with the night shade motor but, just for peace of mind, I wanted the technician to replace both motors with an improved version they are installing nowadays.

We were met on arrival by Calvin, the installer, who did some troubleshooting and confirmed that the motor was likely the problem. He said he would be at the coach at 8:30 a.m. the next day to install the new motors. 

Not being in the mood to do any food prep, we decided to go to Hutchins BBQ, a place highly recommended in all the foodie apps. We were not disappointed. I had brisket and ribs that I thought were at least as good as Franklin's in Austin and perhaps even better. Hutchins BBQ will definitely go in the Favorite Restaurants list:


We spent the night there at the factory in one of their dozen RV parking spaces, along with four other motorhomes parked there for shade work. Sure enough, at 8:33 the next morning, there was a knock on the door, and there stood Calvin with his toolbox. Here are photos of our parking spot and Calvin, getting to work:




After a couple of hours, the work was done, and we left MCD behind, along with nearly four hundred of our dollars. It was worth it, though. We love our MCD shades, and they have been rolled up and down an uncountable number of times without a hiccup over the past seven years. 

Another reason for us to be in the Dallas area was for me to receive an award from the FAA for my long career in aviation. This was the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, signifying that the recipient has spent at least 50 years as an active pilot with no accidents or safety violations. 

I never really thought this was very significant until I was informed that only one pilot out of perhaps 500 receives this award. Of course, I started flying very early in life; my flying lessons began when I was 16, and I received my commercial pilot's license and multiengine rating before I graduated from high school, something that's almost unheard of. And, since I'm still doing some flying now that I'm in my seventies, I have, indeed, been at it for over 50 years, soon to be 60, I guess. 

I had the good fortune of knowing exactly what I wanted to do for a career from the age of eight when I took my first airplane ride. And I feel doubly fortunate for having enjoyed every one of my 15,000 flying hours and my having flown many kinds of airplanes, from single-engine Cessnas to large commercial jet airliners. 

I received the award from an old friend and fellow FAA manager, Bill Smith, who himself was an award recipient:


(And no, we didn't coordinate our attire for the ceremony, but it surely looks as if we did.)

Here's a photo of the type of airplane in which I took my first flight and then my first flying lesson--an Aeronca 7AC:


Here's a photo of the last type of airplane I flew as captain before retiring from airline flying--a Boeing 727-200, after which I began a second career with the FAA:


I'm still not convinced that my status as an aviator is such that an award is appropriate. In my view, I'm being awarded merely for being an old pilot who made it through 50 years without bending an airplane, hurting myself or any of my passengers or doing anything that resulted in a safety violation. There are many thousands of others who could say the same thing. But I'm grateful, very grateful for the career I've had and this nice bit of recognition.

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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.



Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last Hurrah in Branson, Jury Duty and a Blast From the Past

At Tyler Oaks RV Resort, Tyler, Texas...

Winding up our Branson holiday get-together, the boys had to take a turn at one of the indoor go-kart tracks. I just had to include these photos of their sheer delight. This was the first time Mason was old enough to drive a car by himself:



Pryce and Mindy share a ride until he's as old as his big brother:


Even Tyler got into the act. Boys will be boys:



After the kids left Branson, we took in a great Christmas show starring Jimmy Osmond and the Lennon Sisters. The girls are looking pretty good to be in their seventies:



As I mentioned in the previous post, we returned to Livingston to volunteer for jury duty. I know this sounds odd, but we appreciate the accommodation given to Escapees by the local courts, and we don't think it's unreasonable to accede to their request for us fulltimers to volunteer occasionally in return for the flexibility given for appearing. As it happened, Sandy and I were not chosen for duty this time, but we felt good about having our presence recorded to keep our part of the bargain.

As we were making plans to leave town, I pushed the button to raise the motorized MCD shade that covers the inside of Phannie's windshield, only to have the motor stop and begin a series of beeps, indicating either a voltage problem or a programming problem. At this point, the motor would run only sporadically, sometimes not at all. This was something entirely new; all of the shades in the cockpit are motorized, and they had never given a single problem in the seven years since they were installed by MCD in McKinney, Texas.

I gave a quick call to the factory, and a tech guy answered right away. After I described the problem, he said that I should make an appointment in McKinney for assessment, possibly to have the motors replaced. Not wishing to be without this oft-used shade, I quickly made the appointment, which they will be able to accommodate in a few days. So, that's where we're headed next. 

It's been a while since I included a blast from the past, so I thought I would include photos of a couple of our fulltiming RV friends whom we have known the longest. These are from approximately ten years ago, taken when we first met. 

Ed and Marilyn are known by many through Ed's blog:


Gordon and Juanita, whom we also got to know through their blog, visited us in Fort Worth for the first time ten years ago. Here we are at Angelo's, an iconic Texas BBQ joint:


One of the things we didn't anticipate about RVing when we started 14 years ago was the number of good friends we would make along the way. We count dozens of them now; these two blogging couples just happen to be among the first.

More updates to follow, of course, so stay tuned!

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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.



Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving at Branson

At Treasure Lake RV Resort, Branson, Missouri...

It would be difficult to find a better place than Branson for a family with kids to get together for the Thanksgiving holiday, especially if the weather is beautiful, as it mostly has been this time. With this in mind, we planned this trip months ago and made our reservations at Top of the Rock for their awesome Thanksgiving buffet. Mindy and Tyler flew with the kids up to nearby Springfield, Missouri and then settled in at the Grand Country Inn in Branson, a hotel and entertainment complex where there are almost limitless activities for kids. They spent a couple of days at Silver Dollar City, a large theme park west of town, decorated to the hilt with more than six million Christmas lights. Here's a sample:



To say that the boys were enthralled would be an understatement. Each night they would fall into bed, exhausted from their full days of excitement.

Thanksgiving dinner at Top of the Rock was especially nice, as we had our own little alcove where we could eat and visit. We were there as the sun set, and the view over the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake was breathtaking:



Here we are with Mindy, Tyler, Pryce and Mason in our private dining alcove at Top of the Rock:




Sandy is in heaven with her boys, Mason and Pryce. They love their Mimi:



The boys seem to tolerate their Poppy pretty well:



We mentioned in an earlier post that Mindy is expecting, so we have another grand on the way. Now we can disclose that it will be another boy. We are so excited! There is indeed so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We trust that all of you had a wonderful holiday.

On the one and only cold and rainy day during this trip, I decided to cook up a pot of soup, and Sandy made crackling cornbread. Both were new recipes for us, but they turned out really tasty.  The soup was my take on Olive Garden's creamy Zuppa Toscana, made with sausage, potato, onion and kale, I think. Since I'm not all that fond of kale, I tossed in a little cabbage, and it turned out really well:



Sandy made crackling cornbread by a new recipe, and it was absolutely scrumptious:



We also had the good fortune of running into our friends Larry and Carolyn while we were at Treasure Lake. 



We are so thankful for all our friends like these in the RV community. When we began this adventure, we had no idea that we would become acquainted with so many wonderful folks along the way. There is a common element, I suppose, in that most are retired and enjoying themselves, free from the constraints of work and raising families. For those like us who are fulltimers, their surroundings can change from one beautiful place to another merely by turning the key in the ignition. At this stage of their lives, with their days of confinement, struggle and drama behind them, it's easy to see why they're happy. And it's not hard to make friends with happy folks.

In a few days, we will return to the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails through the Christmas and New Year's holidays before heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the rest of the winter. But first, we will stop in Livingston, our residence city of record, to fulfill our civic duty. Sandy and I both had received jury summonses over the last several months and, because we are rarely in the state to comply, the district clerk simply excused us when we called and asked that we volunteer for duty at a future date. This is a rather remarkable accommodation for us fulltimers, but not unreasonable, I suppose, due to the importance of Escapees to the little town.


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

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.