Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ten, No, Eleven RV Essentials for Fulltiming

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

We got through the wedding without any known hiccup or embarrassment (I think). Our cousin, the bride, was beautiful, and we had a good time seeing all the friends and relatives at this joyous event. As anticipated, however, the outdoor ceremony was a trifle warm, with temperatures in the low 90s. Well, let's be clear: It was pretty danged HOT! Now I'm not about to question this venue choice in the summertime in Texas, but being in love and having sound judgment are almost always mutually exclusive, aren't they?

As we visited with friends and family, there were the inevitable questions about our fulltiming gig, and we enjoyed the full spectrum of reactions. Some professed great admiration and a desire to do the same thing, and others looked at us as if we had just shown up in tinfoil hats. And that's fine; they would never get it anyway.

Some who expressed the most interest in the lifestyle were likely to ask followup questions. One guy who already owned an RV but hadn't yet gone full time asked me to name the top ten RV accessories that I would consider essential for fulltime RVing. I had to think for a minute, but I finally came up with it. And these are they, in order of importance:

1. A residential refrigerator. Nothing else we have bought for Phannie makes it seem so much like a home. 

2. The third air conditioner. In Texas, a 40' motorhome should not be without it.

3. Washer and dryer. Happy wife, happy life.

We debated whether to replace the Splendide washer/dryer combo with separate units, but Sandy made peace with it and decided the extra space was more important to her. So far, so good.

4. The Winegard Trav'ler automated satellite antenna. Push a single button and all of Direct TV is yours with zero hassle.

 5. The hard-wired Surge Guard surge protector. No more worries about what kind of power you're plugging into. If it's not good power, Surge Guard will reject it.

6. MCD shades. The old accordion things were a source of constant frustration.

7. The electric power cord reel. This has saved me so much aggravation, it probably needs to be higher on the list.

8. TST tire pressure monitor. Peace of mind when towing Mae. There's no telling how far she otherwise might be dragged with a flat tire. We tried two other brands before we found this one, which is a keeper.

9. Computer desk and easy chairs. Taking out one of the couches and replacing it with these things was smart--very smart.

10. The Breville electric oven. Pricey, but such an improvement over the factory-issued microwave/convection oven.

As I was writing this, I thought of number eleven: Our king-sized iComfort mattress. You should not scrimp on the place where you'll be spending much of your life sleeping. This model happens to be our favorite. 

So, there it is--the top ten, er, eleven. In our mind, these things proved to be essential for our fulltime lifestyle, and we absolutely would not want to omit any one of them. This list would certainly be different for other fulltimers--perhaps significantly--but this is what works for us. 

We are in the DFW area for three more days, then to Lake Conroe and the grandkids. Yay! 

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dropping In On Our Old Stomping Grounds in DFW

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

After catching up with family and friends in Killeen, we relocated back to the DFW area to prepare for attending the upcoming wedding and take care of the never-ending medical/dental appointments and, of course, Sandy's visit to her hairdresser--easily the most important appointment of our stay here. 

While in Killeen, we met up with some of Sandy's relatives--the Boales clan--for lunch:

We also caught up with longtime friends, Rev. and Mrs. John Abbey and some of their lovely family:

Not pictured was a fine steak dinner with Sandy's Uncle Mac and Aunt Janie and a visit with her Aunt Virginia. It's not that I didn't want to include their photos, I just forgot to take them! I really get annoyed at the absent-mindedness that comes with getting old. 

When we arrived in the DFW area, we were still dealing with temperatures in the mid-nineties, as I knew we would face but, in the last few days, the weather has begun to moderate a bit. I think I saw 92 degrees briefly today. Upon walking around Phannie, getting her set up in our new parking space here in the park, I noticed that one of the outside rear tires looked a bit low. I had not seen this before, as I check the tires frequently and have never allowed the pressure to get low enough to see a visible belly on a tire. I hit it with the gauge and found it at 60 psi instead of the normal 100! I summoned a mobile tire service through Coach Net, and the tech found that the valve extension was leaking. I had him remove it, and I'll just make do without it, as I have the backward fittings on my tire gauge and on the inflator I use with the portable compressor. (If you are a guy, you'll probably know what I'm talking about; if you're a gal, you probably don't care.) And, by the way, if it's not politically correct to say that, ask me if it bothers me. (It doesn't.)

We went with Bubba and LouAnn to see the movie, "Sully." I must say that I enjoyed it a great deal, having flown as an airline pilot myself. The technical aspects of the flying depicted in the film were surprisingly accurate--something that can't be said about many films in this genre. However, having perhaps a somewhat unique perspective of a second career with the FAA, I can tell you that the roles of the federal investigators were a bit unfairly portrayed, but I attribute that to the film makers' quest for protagonists for a more dramatic effect. While watching the film, it occurred to me that, except in simulator training, I had never lost even one engine in a jet airliner, much less two at the same time--especially problematic when two is all you've got! Captain Sullenberger is a credit to our profession, and I can only hope that I would have performed so well under those awful circumstances.  

We'll be here another week, then off to visit the grands near Houston. Stick around!

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Prisoners in Texas (Prisoners of Air Conditioning, That Is)

At Cicada Springs RV Park, Killeen, Texas...

I knew it would be bad. During our reentry into Texas, my gaze fixed on the outside air temp gauge on Phannie's dash as we crossed the New Mexico/Texas state line. I had already seen 96 degrees at Roswell, so I was fearful that it could get much worse. We cruised through Midland, San Angelo, Brady and San Saba into Killeen, during which the temperature only increased to 99, so at least we didn't make it into triple digits. But 99 was bad enough.

I wouldn't have been so obsessed about the temperature had it not been for our being spoiled by the idyllic summer spent in Colorado and New Mexico, where we often ran the heater in the mornings. But, the longer we're here, the more accustomed I am becoming to being coachbound, as Phannie's air conditioners seem to run incessantly, keeping us from a certain death by heatstroke. Spending any time outdoors is out of the question for a few weeks longer, I'm afraid.

We overnighted in Midland at the Midland RV Park, a dusty, gravelly place with lots of long term trailers and a howling wind that caught Phannie's entry door as I opened it and jerked it out of my hand, testing the integrity of the door stops. They held with no damage, but I looked at them closely to see if anything had pulled loose. The wind had been blowing like crazy out of the south since we left Roswell and, needless to say, Phannie's fuel economy was abysmal. I didn't even check the computer to see what it was; I really didn't want to know.

We are visiting friends and relatives in the Killeen area before heading up to Fort Worth for medical/dental appointments and to attend the wedding that is the purpose of our early return to our beloved state. (Although you couldn't tell from my constant complaining about the weather here, we still love Texas, although perhaps not quite as much from June through September, when it is largely uninhabitable.)

Phannie's windshield and front cap are very bug-spattered after our dash from Santa Fe. In my mind, this makes the coach look unkempt--something like this classy rig:

Okay, that may be a bit overblown, but I notice this coach has its cockpit door open, which probably means that they, too, are in Texas in September.

I'm still working up the courage to go outside and wash off the bugs. On the other hand, I may just wait until we get to Fort Worth and get the mobile wash folks to do the whole rig. That would make more sense than calling the paramedics, I think.

Trapped inside Phannie as we were, we decided to to a little housecleaning. (Well, just to be accurate, it wasn't WE who decided that.) I was put in charge of vacuuming the floor and polishing the woodwork. Here's a photo of Sandy, showing me how it was to be done:

She had to show me over and over, because I was having trouble understanding the concept. She said that I was perhaps the poorest student she had ever had in her 30 years of teaching. I actually took a bit of pride in this, as I really hadn't exceeded any of my teachers' expectations back when I was in school. I finally figured out the process, however, but it didn't take long for this to become a real chore. There is much more wood in Phannie than I realized!

Well, that's enough for now; I have to rest up. Check back in a few days to see if we're still alive.

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016


At Midway RV Park, Roswell, New Mexico...

This is merely a one-night stop for us, so we were looking for a budget parking space, and we found it. This little park is about five miles out of town and is inhabited mostly by permanent residents. There are several paved pull-thrus with fifty-amp power and water but, oddly, no sewer connections. Fortunately, Phannie's waste tanks were empty, so we didn't need the sewer connection anyway. The rate was a dirt cheap fifteen bucks with Passport America, so we were pretty happy with this find for a single night stay. However, we happened to notice the huge cattle feed lot nearby and considered our good fortune that the wind was from the south, blowing the "aroma" away from us. If it hadn't been, that may have been a show stopper for us.

Arriving here from Santa Fe was a bit of a jolt, in that the outside air temperature had reached 96 degrees as we were parking. We knew we were going to encounter this kind of heat again after our idyllic summer in the mountains, but we thought it would more likely be when we got all the way into Texas. When we left Phannie's cool air conditioned comfort and stepped out into the hellish heat at Roswell, we looked at each other and thought the same thing: "What were we thinking?"

I think Sandy finally had a heatstroke while we were downtown Roswell, as told me she thought she saw a large alien while walking along Main Street. I don't know where she gets these ideas...

Tomorrow night will be in Midland, Texas, on our way to Killeen to visit friends and relatives.

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

Time to Head Home

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler, so it will soon be time to head back to Texas. Our return will be a bit sooner than would be ideal for those like us who would normally hold out for a cooler clime in our glorious state. (It is not advisable to be in Texas in June through September.) However, SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) will not be deterred from attending a cousin's wedding there in mid-September. So, I will see if I can bring up Phannie's heat shield to protect us during our early re-entry. 

Having had a thorough review on an earlier trip of Santa Fe's historical treasures, such as the Basilica Santa Fe and the Loretto Chapel, etc., we are mostly just chilling, doing a little star-gazing and trying new restaurants. I have a few more upon which I'll give you a report, and I'm happy so say that some of these finally made the Favorites list:

The Ranch House - Recommended by one of my cherished blog readers, this has to be one of the fanciest barbecue joints ever constructed. I am so accustomed to ramshackle firetraps with sawdust on the floor (where some of the best barbecue can be found, honestly), that I almost didn't know how to act in this place. It had a beautifully landscaped and paved parking lot and a very tasteful exterior, and customers enter into an anteroom with a well-liveried and charming hostess. 

We were seated in an impeccably decorated and spotless dining room, and the waitress handed us menus that didn't even have fingerprints on them, much less the little globules of dried barbecue sauce to which I'm accustomed. Sandy and I had lunch specials; hers was a brisket sandwich, and mine was a rib plate, upon which the ribs, slaw and a piece of cornbread were strategically placed along with a little dish of butter. The plate was even clean! I looked around at the fancy surroundings, wondering if I should pick up the ribs with my fingers; then I decided that I couldn't think of another way to eat them. The very efficient and personable waitress served us promptly and cheerfully, leaving us with three types of barbecue sauce, all of which were tasty.

The ribs were cooked perfectly, and I found myself wishing there had been more of them on the plate. I compensated by stealing a bite of Sandy's sandwich and found it to be excellent, too. There were only three small things that detracted from the otherwise flawless experience: First, and most egregious, was the sweet cornbread. I'm sorry, but I'm from the South, and cornbread there is NOT sweet. Sweetness is for cakes and cookies--not cornbread. After a bite, I abandoned this abominable culinary travesty, looked heavenward in reverence to all of the great southern cooks in my family who have gone to their reward without committing this sin. Secondly, the chile slaw was bland and forgettable. Where I come from, if you're going to put chiles in slaw, it should make a statement--you know, like damaging the lining of your mouth. This stuff didn't, so I abandoned it, too. And the third flaw was that they served no slice of onion for Sandy's sandwich. However, she could have ordered one, I'm sure, but she chose not to. Even with these missteps, the Ranch House is going on my list of favorites. It was saved by the meat offerings and the elegant surroundings. It would be worth your visit for these things alone, not to mention that it wasn't terribly expensive.

Maria's - This is an iconic Mexican restaurant that has been around since 1950 and is the haunt of whatever glitterati visit Santa Fe, like politicians and movie stars. It is said to be a favorite of Robert Redford's. We ordered shrimp enchiladas to share and a bowl of green chile pork stew, both of which were wonderful. 

Maria's doesn't look like much from the outside.

Shrimp enchiladas at Maria's
And yes, Maria's goes on our list of favorites.

The Wok - This is a nondescript and slightly rundown Chinese restaurant in a shopping center on Cerrillos Road, into which we dropped because we were a little burned out on the New Mexican cuisine offered by perhaps a couple hundred restaurants here in Santa Fe. I don't know if we were just lucky in choosing a really good dish--the three-meat sizzling platter--but I would come back for this one alone. And in fact we did; The Wok is the only restaurant reviewed that we visited a second time. (I should disclose that Asian food is a huge favorite of ours.) Of course, the Wok goes on the favorites list.

Sorry I didn't get a photo of our dish; we scarfed it down before I remembered the camera.
Cafe Castro - This is a New Mexican-style spot very popular with the locals. We weren't impressed; the red sauce on our enchiladas was very bitter, and the plate included a strange mess of bland white hominy that they were trying to pass off as posole. Well, properly crafted posole can be a thing of beauty, but this was merely a "thing," in my opinion. Another unforgivable sin was their three-dollar charge for salsa and chips. What is with these people? If they tried this in Texas, some good ole boys would probably shoot up the place.

Horseman's Haven Cafe - We thought this unassuming little place behind a gas station would be one that offered American cafe fare--you know, blue plate specials and the like. It wasn't. It's more of the same New Mexican fare and little else. Sandy had a hamburger that she had to assemble herself. (Another pet peeve of ours.) I left most of my pork ribs adovado, which had too much gristle. The place has good reviews on Yelp, but I don't know why. Don't bother with this one.

Dr. Field Goods - Now we're talking! This farm-to-table joint, oddly, is next door to the Wok! Imagine that--side by side restaurants that make it onto our favorites list. We had fish and chips, with a side of Mexican street corn and roasted brussels sprouts. This was, by far, the best food we've had in Santa Fe. I wish we had discovered it earlier. The only negative is that it's a bit pricey. Fortunately, we'll gladly pay a bit more for food this good. Here are some photos:

We had already started eating this corn when I remembered to take a photo. Slathered in butter, cheese, garlic and parsley, it was the best corn on the cob ever. 

The freshness and quality of these dishes could not be improved upon.
Upper Crust Pizza - This is a celebrated pizza place near old town that has good reviews and deserves them. We chose our own ingredients for our small pizza and asked for a light crust. I don't know how they make a hand-tossed pizza with such a light and crisp crust, but they did, and it was excellent. This one goes on the favorites list as well.

We spent about an hour at the Saturday farmer's market in the rail yard near old town, and enjoyed the large number of offerings there. We brought some wonderful street bread flavored with green chile and arugula along with some tomatoes, peaches and cantaloupes. I must tell you that the cantaloupe was probably the best we've ever had. I would highly recommend this market as a must-do for visitors.

Roasting chiles at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Smelled so good!
I couldn't resist an ear of roasted corn. So good!
We feel a bit sad that our wonderful summer in the mountains is over. We are so blessed to be able to enjoy this carefree lifestyle, moving around the country to seek out new adventures and leave behind harsh climates that don't suit us. We're headed back to be with family and friends in Texas, and we're both excited about that. 

Here's our last night's look at old Santa Fe in the form of the Basilica Santa Fe. What a beautiful old cathedral!

We also enjoyed one last sunset today, looking westward from our RV park. I snapped this photo of a lone dissipating thunderhead poking up over mountains a hundred miles away with the final light of the sun casting a pink glow on it. We will miss these scenes a lot:

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