Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rain Delay

Oddly enough, it has never rained before on a day we departed on an RV trip.  And perhaps never before had we been so fully prepared for an early departure yesterday, but it was all for naught.  It came a gully washer there in Fort Worth, and I wasn’t about to try to hook up and drive while that was going on.  There are enough crazies on the road as it is, and they get even crazier when the road is wet.

So, we didn’t launch until mid-afternoon, and that allowed us to get no farther than Wichita Falls before time to quit for the day.  This puts us way behind in our schedule, and we’re going to have a couple of long and grueling days getting to Durango.  RV travel during a defined period of time off from work is often frantic for us, and we can hardly wait for retirement so that it won’t matter if we take a delay for rain. 

Here are some photos of our departure from Homer’s little RV port beside our house near Fort Worth:
 IMG_0033 IMG_0035 IMG_0036 IMG_0037
(In case you’re wondering, backing Homer into this RV port was a little challenging until I had done it a few times.  Nowadays, I rarely hit anything.)

About halfway to Wichita Falls, Sandy began chanting and meditating, zen-fashion, getting herself mentally prepared for the long trek across west Texas and New Mexico.  She is less than enthusiastic about traveling through desolate and featureless landscape, and there is plenty of that along our route.  Unfortunately, there is just no way of avoiding it if you’re going west or northwest through Texas.  I do love my state, but God was not particularly slavish to topographical appeal in some areas when He designed it.  One fable has it that God, when putting Texas together and beautifying it, became tired because of the hugeness of the state.  He decided to rest when he was about half-finished but never got around to completing west Texas.  Other Texas lore says that when God was creating west Texas, he tossed all the leftover rocks into Big Bend.  We would agree with that, but at least in Big Bend, you’ve got the rocks to look at.  In much of west Texas, you’ve got nothing to look at but, well, nothing.

We stayed at the Wichita Falls RV Park (wonder how long they agonized over what to name it?), an older park that was nice enough, with lots of trees and not very crowded.  It was very quiet, and the wi-fi was free and working pretty well.

Upon a recommendation from a local denizen, we tried McBride’s Land and Cattle Co. for dinner and found it to be a little above mediocre. 

After the obligatory stop at Wal-Mart, we returned to Homer, watched a little TV and turned in for the night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Trip is in the Works!

For the past several months, Bubba has lobbied for us to join him and his family in Colorado over the fourth of July holiday.  We finally gave in, not because we didn’t want to visit with them (they’re quite a hoot to be around), but because it is so disagreeably hot in July and August if you’re south of, say, Nome.

Sandy and I are hopelessly dependent on air conditioning during the summertime here in the hell simulator we call Texas.  When we built the new house, we demanded a higher capacity a/c unit than was recommended.  As a result, all the lights in the neighborhood go dim when we fire up that sucker.  (Not really, but it does keep the house frosty cool.)  We even added a separate a/c unit for the master suite, which we keep at 68 degrees while sleeping.  And no, our electric bills are quite low, thankfully, due to extreme overkill in insulating the place.  It’s actually more like a huge Styrofoam cooler than anything else.
Bubba, LouAnn and daughter BreAnn have a head start.  They departed a few days ago for the Grand Canyon, after which they will make their way back through southern Utah to Durango, where we’ll meet them on July 1.

We’ll leave Fort Worth next Tuesday and stay overnight at Lubbock and Santa Fe en route to Durango.  While there, we will ride the old steam train up to Silverton through some really gorgeous mountain scenery.  I made that trip when I was a kid, so I don’t remember much about it, and Sandy has never ridden the train.  I got a note from Ed Dray today, giving us some suggestions about where to sit on the train for the best view and a line on a good Mexican restaurant in Durango.  Wish he and Marilyn could be there with us, but schedules just didn’t match up this time.  We hope to see them in the fall when they head back to the RGV.

We’ll bid farewell to Bubba and family at Durango and continue into the southeast corner of Utah and Monument Valley.  This is a bucket list item for me, and we’ll be so close at Durango that I can’t pass up the chance to go there.  In this setting for so many western movies, we’ll be prepared for an Indian attack at any time in Monument Valley, but confident that John Wayne will ride to our rescue if we get in trouble!

After Monument Valley, we will turn south to Flagstaff, Holbrook, Show Low, and back into New Mexico, where we’ll go through Silver City, Las Cruces, Alamogordo and Roswell—all places we’ve never been--before re-entering Texas and making our way home.  We’re going to pray that Lucille’s air conditioner holds up in this sun-drenched part of the country, lest we have to call a wrecker to drag her to an air conditioner repair shop!  If any of you dear readers have suggestions for interesting places to visit on this route, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

In preparation for this trip, I’ve acquired a couple of new gadgets.  One is a Pressure Pro tire monitoring system, and the other is Microsoft Streets and Trips software.  The Pressure Pro will give me some peace of mind with Homer’s tires, which are hardly worn but have been on the trailer four years.  The conventional wisdom is to replace tires at five years, irrespective of the amount of wear they’ve seen, so this will probably be either the last summer for this trailer or the last for the tires.  I’ve begun to fiddle with Streets and Trips, and I like what I’ve seen so far.  However, I need to investigate extra databases I might acquire to show even more cool stuff while planning trips.
This weekend will bring about the final trip preparation and making arrangements for our mail pickup and house monitoring, things you full-timers don’t have to worry about any longer.  Grrrr.

We’ll keep you posted along the way, so TTFN!  (Ta-Ta For Now!)

346 days to retirement, if anyone is counting!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lucille Gets Hitched!

Well, I have a new respect for bloggers who post every day; I don’t think I’ll be able to do that as long as I’m still working.  For me, it’s just so difficult to carve out enough free quiet time to construct a thoughtful piece that I think might be worthy for someone to read.  Sandy says I am way too obsessive about the writing process.  (I admit to a certain preoccupation in this area, as I may revise my copy a dozen times if I deem it to be imperfect in any way.)  I think she’s right; this is hardly the great American novel, after all, and I know I need to lighten up.  Old habits are hard to break, however, and it would be so painful for me to discover that I had split an infinitive or ended a sentence with a preposition and not caught it before publishing a post.

Last weekend went by much too quickly; Saturday involved a few minor projects and dinner at the Flying Fish, a favorite seafood joint in Fort Worth, to celebrate Sandy’s and my 34th wedding anniversary.  Bubba, and old friend of many years, joined us, along with his daughter, BreAnn.  (I’ve written about Bubba and his family a number of times in earlier posts.)

The Flying Fish - A Ft. Worth Fave

BreAnn, Sandy and Bubba (and Lucille, of course)

Bubba approves of the new hitch.

This thing reminds me of a lunar lander or something!

Four air bags, two struts...Homer thinks he's riding on a cloud!

I was asked to be a front stage singer at church on Sunday, and that involved a sound and camera check at 7:00 a.m. and three services to follow, ending at 7:30 p.m.  It’s getting pretty exciting at First Baptist Dallas, as we are about to embark on a $120 million building program.  I’m told that’s the largest church-related building project in history.  (See a remarkable animation video at

Monday brought Lucille’s first experience pulling Homer since I acquired her a few weeks ago.  I must say, I was excited to see what the difference would be with the Dodge 3500 dually versus the old Hornet, a 2500 SRW.  Of even more interest was the function of the new Air Safe 25K hitch just installed by United RV Center.  I swallowed hard writing that check, but I was sold on the hitch after reading recommendations on several forums and after watching the convincing video on the Air Safe website.

Lucille proved very capable of her new assignment, purring happily along S.H. 121 to our house; the tow was a short one—about 10 miles—and the dual rear wheels seemed to add a good deal of stability under Homer’s 11,000 lb. load.  The star of the show, however, was the Air Safe hitch!  I set my rear view mirror to get a good view of the hitch and pin box, and I was utterly amazed at the oscillations of the pin shoe atop the Holland Binkley head floating on the air bag/strut assembly—oscillations that were absorbed entirely by the hitch’s air bags and not transferred to the truck chassis at all!  This should make for a far less fatiguing ride when towing, and I couldn’t be more impressed.

This marks the end of our progression from the original Reese hitch, with which we pulled Homer I and which nearly jarred our teeth out of our mouths, to a Pull-Rite Super Glide hitch and Fifth Airborne pin box used to pull Homer II (a really fine combination, by the way), to the current Air Safe hitch, an absolute marvel of engineering that, in my view, is probably unrivaled and worth every penny.  How much, you ask?  About four grand, installed.  (I told you I swallowed hard.)

The outfitting of Lucille is going nicely.  The Air Safe hitch was easily the most expensive of the upgrades so far.  I just finished installing shiny new step tubes underneath the pickup’s front doors, along with some mud flaps to protect Homer and other following vehicles; then I added extra gauges for EGT, turbo boost pressure and transmission temperature.  (A pilot can never have enough gauges.) Next will be a new satellite radio/GPS system, an exhaust brake and some engine intake/exhaust modifications.

Yes, I’m planning for Lucille to be with us for a long time, and I want her to have all the bells and whistles.  That’s the reason I bought this particular truck with its legendary Cummins engine.  The darned thing will probably outlast me if I treat her right!

Only 353 more days until we say goodbye to work and hit the road; the time is passing quickly, and there is much to be done!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mason's First Birthday Party

The past week was pretty much a blur, as Sandy and I were preparing to play a support role for grandson Mason’s first birthday party on Saturday, June 5.  Mindy, his mom, has been nothing short of a dynamo in planning this thing, ordering all kinds of personalized party decorations from the internet, a custom-decorated cake, food, punch, party favors, balloons, streamers and the like, and all of it coming to my house!  Yes, our smallish new retirement home, kept lovingly in immaculate condition by Sandy and never remotely envisioned as a party barn, was to be invaded on Saturday afternoon by (gasp!) the Sweaty Masses.  It was not clear that it would ever look the same again.

I certainly didn’t mind helping host the party.  (It wouldn’t matter much if I did, as such things are normally decided at a higher levels of authority—namely, Mindy and her mother.)  It’s just that this house is not particularly well suited for entertaining a large group. 

I couldn’t help but marvel at the elaborate preparations Mindy had undertaken for this event.  Everything had to be just right, from the invitations to the color of the punch. 

I told Sandy that I hadn’t yet figured out why Mindy went to all the trouble when Mason, barely a year old, will have absolutely no recollection of any of these festivities. 

Sandy, never reluctant to explain all things unknowable to a man—which, in her view, is just about anything not classified as machinery—informed me that the party was not for Mason!  As I scratched my head, she put her hands on her hips and, with her nose angled upward, made that familiar sniffing sound that she usually reserves for people who have had their brains removed but still try to engage her in conversation.  

“It was for Min-dy,” she explained, drawing out the name as though she didn't expect me to understand words of more than one syllable.  

“She so loves that baby, and she’s ready to celebrate having raised Mason through a thriving first year while going to college and working part time—all without any meaningful sleep.” 

Finally figuring out the mysterious polysyllabic name of our daughter, I agreed that she had a point.   We are very proud of Mindy and the very positive spiritual and family growth that she and Tyler have experienced with little Mason over the past year, and we think she deserves whatever kind of celebration she wants.

All in all, it was a grand and happy occasion, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  Nothing else really matters, does it?

Proud Grandma (Mimi)

Proud Grandpa (Poppy) will teach Mason how to make the perfect salsa.

Great Aunt Brenda (Sandy's sister)

Good friends Marty and Cathy (well, Cathy anyway)