Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Between Long Trips -- Here's What We've Been Up To

At Escapees Co-Op Lone Star Corral, Hondo, Texas...

You can't help but notice that the frequency of my posts drops off when we're not moving from one part of the country to the other, as we were during our Michigan trip last summer. That's obviously because events become more routine, and I think that I'm more motivated to post about new adventures rather than those things that are more mundane. Having said that, new fulltimers may have some interest in what our downtimes are like. We are way past the point where we're always on the go somewhere; the older we get, the more appealing downtime is. However, now that I think about it, we have not really been as idle as usual this fall, so this may be a bit atypical. 

After returning from Michigan through Red Bay and with all the mechanical difficulties resolved for the moment, we spent a few weeks at the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, where we didn't get to spend all the time we wished with the kids and the grands because they were having a spate of illnesses running among them, as happens with kids in school--the ultimate germ factory. I caught a slight case of one of these bugs, but it lasted only a couple of days. 

As you get older and the body begins to lose the vigor of youth (not to mention your hair), it is axiomatic that downtime at your home base, if you have one, will include frequent visits to medical professionals. You will have made appointments well in advance of your arrival, wherein you will visit all sorts of specialists who will do their best to prescribe medications and install new parts to help you keep going and, hopefully, push back on the constant creeping in of annoying medical conditions. 

For those who followed the aftermath of Sandy's and my falling accidents in Fredericksburg, I suppose a final progress report is appropriate. Thankfully, Sandy recovered quickly and seems to have no issues now except a slight deformity in her upper lip that was cut badly when she fell. I think she and I are probably the only ones who notice the little irregularity, so that's a good thing. As for me, it has been six months since my shoulder surgery, and I must tell you that my recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. It has taken a lot of therapy and my faithful following of the prescribed exercises, but I now rarely notice a difference in my good arm and the injured one. I'm not sure if it will ever feel or perform fully as it did before the injury, but it is really close to being back to normal. If you could only see how far it has come from its being pathetically limp and useless just after the accident, you would be amazed, too. Thank God for my surgeon, Dr. Hayes, and all those who gave me such excellent medical treatment. 

I should mention that I had the opportunity recently to play the piano again for the first time after the accident. Longtime friend Rev. John Abbey invited me to play the new grand piano at his church in Killeen during a short stopover, and I was quite nervous, not knowing if I would still have the strength and dexterity that always places more demand on the right arm and hand while I'm playing. Although out of practice, I was still able to perform most of the flourishes and intricate fingerings that I love to add to enhance a piece of music. However, I also noticed that my upper keyboard reach was not as it should be, but that is a matter of continuing to rebuild my strength in that right arm. I am determined to make that happen.

Okay, hopefully, that's the last you'll hear of the aftermath of our falling in Fredericksburg. I know that we are much more careful now to watch where we are stepping when we walk, and I hope none of you have to go through this kind of experience or worse. For goodness' sake, let's all watch where we're going and avoid getting in too much of a hurry. When we we get older, we're much more susceptible to falling, and the results can be catastrophic.

Once our Houston doctor visits were were mostly out of the way, it was time to make our yearly appearance at the Texas Gospel Music Festival, so we motored up to Fort Worth in Phannie and spent a few fun days with our friends, Brent and LouAnn, Harvey and Mary Lou and Don and Ruby. It's always a treat being with these fine people. Much to my chagrin, I forgot to take a single photo of the bunch. I've got to do better. 

While we were there, we also had checkups with our family dentist and family doctor we used while we lived near Forth Worth. We have been seeing them for decades, and we simply cannot imagine having to  replace them with someone else. There are certainly some fine medical professionals in the Houston area where we are sort of based, but have you ever had your family doctor or dentist phone you after hours to see how you're doing after an office visit? Well, these guys do, and changing to someone else would be like giving up a member of the family. I guess this means we'll be making medical stops in both Dallas and Houston whenever we're in Texas. Changing from these exceptional professionals who are our friends will be difficult whenever we are finally forced to do so.

After this, it was back to Conroe to see the kids and grands again and also to see a knee specialist about arthritis in my knees. He began a series of injections in my left knee that will help for six months or so. I'll probably have to get them soon in my right knee, as well. I really don't mind it, though; I certainly want to avoid knee replacement as long as possible. Sandy has already had both knees replaced around a decade ago, and she is also going to need some more attention to them--something her surgeon predicted.

As I write this, I realize that I have blathered on entirely about medical issues. Well, it's not because they're not real, and this can become quite a problem for fulltimers as they get older. In fact, it is when their health problems become too intractable that they usually hang up the keys. My intent is to push back on this aspect of aging as long as possible. My goal is much like Clint Eastwood's, whom I quote at the end of each post as just 'getting up in the morning and not letting the old man in.' 

After all this, we did even more fun stuff. We went over to Bastrop to look around, checking out a flying club over there that has an airplane I would like to fly; we didn't make a commitment, though. Then we went to a Tiffin owner's rally in Marble Falls. We hadn't seen these friends since the accident, and it was really good to see them again. I even have a few photos:

Yes, as usual, we're eating and chewing the rag, probably talking mostly about our kids and our medical problems, but that's okay;  we're great friends and have a good time. We share new things we learn about RVing and problems and discoveries with our Tiffin coaches. It's a great group, and I usually learn a good deal from the 'tech talk' time, usually expertly moderated by the ever-helpful and informative Chip Jennings. Chip's wife, Diane, his keeper and a genuinely lovely person, is in the pink shirt in the middle of the photo above. In the foreground is Don, another former pilot with whom I can talk 'hangar flying' when he's around.

Above is our great friend Shirley, who was the winner of the left/right/center game we played. Shirley and her husband, Arthur, are very special to us because they were the first to take us under their wings and make us feel at home when we were brand new to the club.  

We also had a special visit with Steve and Jackie while we were at the rally. These are dear fulltiming friends we made by chance when we parked next to them in Austin years ago. They were looking to replace their fiver with a new one at the time and, after seeing Phannie, they decided instead to buy a Phaeton, too. They love their coach and just completed a fabulous trip all over the northwest U. S. 

The photo above was taken when we first met in Austin. What a great couple and such dear friends now! 

By the way, Sunset Point RV Resort at Lake LBJ is a beautiful park and well worth your visit if you're near Marble Falls, Texas:

While we were there, we found a technician who installed a new entry step motor on Phannie that I had ordered from Tiffin (There's always something!) After 13 years of faithful service and uncountable extensions and retractions, the original motor was just tired and worn out. The new one works great, and I was more than happy to pay the young man to get under the coach so I wouldn't have to. If I were to get down under the steps like he did, I would probably just have to stay there until somebody got a winch to pull me out. 

After Marble Falls, we thought we would take a look at the Escapees Co-Op named Lone Star Corral near Hondo, Texas that was not too far away. Hondo, if you don't know, is near San Antonio. As Escapees members, we're able to stay overnight there for 20 bucks plus electricity. It is a unique place, run entirely as a non-profit co-op by the owner/occupants. 

There are several of these Escapees co-op parks around the country, and there is always a waiting list to buy in and get your own permanent lot. There are about 50 people on the waiting list for this park in Hondo. Only for 55-plus RVers, it is attractive as a way to sort of beat the system if you really want to live cheaply. You pay a relatively small buy-in price for the lot and improvements, then you live there on your own lot for as much or little time as you wish, paying only a small monthly maintenance fee until you're ready to give it up and do something else. If you like, you can also put your lot in a rental pool when you're away on a trip. If you decide to move out, you get back, at least, all the money, except for a small fee, that you paid to buy in! It's quite unique in our experience, and I don't want to tell you much more about it for fear of giving it too much exposure. You can find out plenty, though, on the web, if you're interested and wish to become a member of Escapees. 

So, you might ask, why are you there? Are you interested in a buy-in?  Well, yes, we are sorta interested. We're thinking about it as a second home base and a transition, of sorts, from fulltiming to not-so-fulltime. I'm not going to say part-timing, because that would imply that we also have a house, which we don't. We met some really nice folks who invited us to an ice cream social in the clubhouse along with some other interested buyers. As usual, the RV community is friendly and welcoming here, and we enjoyed meeting the group. And thank you, Bob and Sammye, for being our first new friends at the park:

That's Bob and Sammye just to the right of Sandy in the photo above.

I can already hear the responses to this idea: But Mike! You really aren't changing anything; you're still living in your motorhome; aren't you getting tired of that? Well, the answer is no, not yet. Besides, the co-op allows you to put another building on your lot, if you like, as long as it doesn't exceed certain dimensions. At the resort-type owner-occupied parks, these are called casitas. That would be too fancy a term for most of what you see here in this park. But the price of admission is only a tiny fraction of that of luxury parks like Retama Village, for example, in Mission, Texas. This, by the way, would also make a fine snowbird roost, as the park is only about a hundred miles from the Mexico border.  

And while the economical living part described above is attractive, it's not as though we don't have the means to buy a house again; we certainly do.The truth is, we're still not ready to go back to living in one. We just don't want the expense, the upkeep, the worry and the lack of freedom until we're forced to get back into that. We are very comfortable in Phannie; she has all the comforts, appliances, gadgets and technology that we would have in a house, but the main reason it works is that we enjoy being in each other's company 24/7. If we were types who must have our own space at times, this probably wouldn't work. We still love the fact that if we decide we want to go somewhere else for a while for any reason, we just pull up the jacks and head out; we haven't gotten our fill of that freedom yet. Getting a place in the co-op wouldn't really change that perspective, as Phannie would still be there, still lived in and still ready to go, but it would be nice to have all our stuff, now in a storage facility, in one place that we call our own.

We drove around Hondo a good bit and found it to be a nice small town of about 10,000. Although not particularly picturesque, its principal attraction, of course, is its proximity to San Antonio, perhaps our favorite city in Texas, and it's not too far from our family in Conroe, something that is very important. We also met with the Hondo airport manager about the possible rental of an airplane hangar.  So, I'll just leave that little tease hanging there, and we'll see what happens.

Another thing we liked about Hondo is that the city government doesn't appear to be fearful of not being politically correct. We were so pleased to see Christmas decorations along U. S. 90 near downtown that celebrated the real meaning of the holiday. This photo of a nativity scene is a little blurry, as it was taken from quite a distance on the other side of the rather wide highway 90:

I was also pleased to see that the city had put up municipal signs that also have a faith-based reference. Gotta admire that gumption in a world gone crazy:

Well, that pretty well accounts for the month just passed, so we are headed next to Dallas, where we will meet the kids and grands for a fun time at Great Wolf Lodge (one of our Christmas gifts to them), then to Branson for Thanksgiving with other good friends. After that, we'll be back to Conroe for Christmas, New Year's and Pryce's birthday before heading to New Mexico, Arizona and southern California in early January for the rest of the winter. See what I mean about freedom? When I crank up Phannie's big diesel engine, I'm only thinking of the adventure ahead--not what I've left behind to worry about. It won't be that way forever but, for now, it ain't bad.

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