Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, March 30, 2020

Thankful to be Here

At Orchard Ranch RV Resort, Prescott Valley, Arizona...

Things are very quiet here in the rural area where we're parked between the small towns of Prescott Valley and Dewey, Arizona.

There's been a small uptick to 15 known virus cases here in Yavapai County, with about 1,100 in the entire state of Arizona and, unfortunately, 20 deaths, statewide. Thankfully, the risk is low around here, but we still try to take the prescribed precautions. We've washed our hands as never before, and we're very mindful of what we touch outside Phannie, making sure to sanitize afterward. The thing we're having difficulty learning is to avoid touching our faces with our hands. Never before had we noticed how many times we touch our faces every day and, even as I write this, I find that I mindlessly reach up to adjust my glasses or scratch an itch or something on my face. It's maddening to try and break that habit.

All of the social gathering places in the park are closed, and we rarely see another guest outdoors. Our daily routines are becoming fairly predictable:  We sleep late (nothing new about that), then Sandy gets up to start her iced tea IV drip (if you know her, you'll understand). Shortly afterward, I stumble into the kitchen and figure out what I'll fix for brunch.  We eat only two meals a day--brunch and dinner.  For years, I have done the meal cooking and Sandy does the baking. It works perfectly, because I enjoy cooking entrees but not baking, and she enjoys baking (at which she's very good) but not cooking entrees.  However, she doesn't get to use her baking talents much these days, because we have tried very hard to limit carbs in the last few years. That's helped me lose 53 pounds since retiring, but we've sorta plateaued now that our outside activities have been curtailed--mostly by the social vacuum and Sandy's foot problems.  

She's seen yet a third podiatrist in nearby Prescott Valley; he is changing the orthotics she received from the previous Tucson doctor (who made things worse at a cost of $600) and advised that the orthotics he would be using would be much more appropriate for her condition (we'll see). He also said that surgery may be the last resort, but warned her that it may have only a 50-50 chance of success, in his opinion, because she has already had bunion surgery in the past. We'll see what our doctors in Houston have to say--if we ever get back there.  She mainly just toughs it out, walking with a temporary orthotic from the new doctor. It seems to help, so we're encouraged that he may know what he's doing.  She doesn't complain, however--unlike me, who would do much more whining if I were the one with her problem.

In the afternoons, we generally watch television or spend time on the computer conducting our personal business or keeping up with family and friends.  Thank God for modern technology! We have kept Phannie updated with the latest in satellite and unlimited wi-fi streaming capability on all the major cellular networks, so we are completely independent of any park resources for TV and wi-fi, which is a good thing, as the wi-fi in most parks is terrible.

Dinners are usually light and simple. We have no problem with leftovers, which we often have on hand, as it's not all that easy to cook for just two people.  This has been a huge change for us, as we have had a habit of eating out for the evening meal, usually trying new restaurants that we hear or read about as being good ones.  This has come to a crashing halt with the closing of inside dining, as we almost never do takeout.  We don't like eating in the car, and takeout food has usually deteriorated in some way in the time it takes to get back to Phannie.  Today's menu was a scrambled egg and sausage sandwich for brunch, and dinner tonight will be leftover beef stew and some sauteed fresh vegetables. I would like to say there would be a piece of one of Sandy's wonderful pies, but that would be like giving drugs to a recovering addict--not a good idea.

Thanks to technology, we're able to keep up with the kids, relatives and friends--sometimes by Facetime, and that helps a lot. It has been hard not to be around the grandsons as they grow like weeds. Here's their latest photo:

L to R:  Pryce (6) Sutton (11 months) and Mason (10)
On some days, we drive around the local area, so we'll know our temporary home better. There are some very unusual and picturesque granite rock outcrops around Prescott that we find fascinating. You can barely see Sandy standing in the shadows at the base of some of these rocks:

Here's another photo of the rocks along Highway 89 northbound from Prescott. The mountains in the far distance are 7-8000 feet, near Williams, Arizona:

Beautiful Watson Lake, just north of Prescott, is nestled in the rocky area:

According to geological sources, this collection of granite rocks is known as the "Dells" and consist of very old granite that has been exposed and weathered over time into spheroid shapes. The rocks are unusually high in uranium levels, necessitating periodic radon testing of houses built nearby. All we know is that they're very scenic, and we enjoy driving through the area.

We'll try to get some photos of the town of Prescott the next time we take an excursion. Life, for us, is moving very slowly now, in this unusual time for our country; it's almost as though everything is happening in slow motion. For us, a day's activity may consist of just one chore or maybe a trip to the grocery or drug store. We feel especially bad for those who are sick and those who have lost their jobs, and we pray things will return to normal sooner rather than later.  Until then, we'll keep you updated from time to time.

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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Settled In 'Til The Storm Passes By

At Orchard Valley RV Park, Prescott, Arizona...

Well, we didn't see this one coming. I am reminded of the old Yiddish proverb, "We make plans, God laughs." And so it was; we had made extensive plans for the next six months or so--perhaps more than at any other time during our travels. We have made appointments and reservations months in advance...and now this.

It was a conversation with my old hometown friend John that gave me the idea to change our route back to Texas and detour through Prescott, Arizona. We thought it would have warmed up by late March, and there are so many beautiful places nearby. However, we got here just as the world was shutting down, so here we'll stay, I suppose, until the storm passes by. 

There are worse places to be. We secured a space at this very nice 55+ park in nearby Prescott Valley. It is a combination of an RV park and modular home neighborhoods--a very quiet place with no children around to spread germs to us older folks:

Yavapai county had the added benefit of having no reported cases of the Coronavirus, but that didn't keep the inhabitants and staff of the park almost totally out of sight. Only occasionally would we see another person outside or at the office, which is closed to all except staff. As of this writing, we haven't met a single person here, even at check-in, which was done over the phone when we arrived, including the payment of our rental fee. It was a surreal situation, revealing the paralyzing fear of so many in perhaps one of the safest places in Arizona, if not the nation. There's no virus here to catch, folks, at least for now. Good grief!

This "social-distancing" taken to the extreme did not deter us from going into town almost daily to take care of errands and get groceries. Our on-board provisions were not very robust, given our usual daily entertainment of trying new restaurants wherever we are. We found the grocery stores to be very busy, and success in finding things we wanted usually required visits to more than one store. There were a number of empty shelves in all the stores, but we finally found almost everything we needed. We gave up on finding toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizers, but we really didn't need them, as we had luckily stocked up on these recently. 

We were able to try one Thai restaurant before indoor dining was shut down, and it was perhaps the best Thai food we have ever eaten. I was so surprised at the good food that I forgot the name of the restaurant, but we will certainly patronize it again and put it on our list. I hope they are still in business when this virus hysteria is over.

After a down day for bad weather, we awakened to a rather substantial snowfall! How ironic this was, as our whole reason for going to Arizona and southern California for the winter was to get away from cold weather. Following is a photo of the sight we saw driving into town that day:

This should be expected, of course, since Prescott is about the same elevation as Denver, and the high country is more subject to snowfall. Even so, Sandy and I looked at each other and marveled at how our plans and circumstances had changed so quickly and unexpectedly in the space of perhaps three days. Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined going to Arizona for the winter and finding ourselves in a snowstorm.

Speaking of Sandy, the orthotics have not helped her foot at all, so we've made an appointment with a local podiatrist to get a third opinion. We now have no idea when we will be able to return to Houston and the medical teams whom we trust.

On the fourth day here, the weather improved greatly, so we went on a short sightseeing venture. This is a very picturesque town with an old west flavor and lots of granite rocks strewn around:

We didn't have very good light on this day for photos, so we'll be including more in future posts, since it looks like we'll be here for a while.

The virus plague, even though it hasn't visited Prescott yet, has caused all the restaurants to close their dining rooms out of fear, offering takeout food only. this puts a real crimp in our restaurant foodie habit, as we really don't care much for takeout grub. As a result, we're having to get back into the habit of (gasp) cooking again. After a light lunch of a couple of hot dogs, I fixed a respectable hearty vegetable soup, and Sandy cooked a skillet of her famous cornbread for dinner. 

Oh my, this isn't going to be so bad, after all!

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

Friday, March 13, 2020

Saguaro National Park and We Meet Fellow Bloggers!

At LazyDays RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona...

While waiting for the orthotic inserts for Sandy's boot and shoes to be fabricated and sent to us, we decided to take a ride out to the Saguaro National Park, about 15 miles west of Tucson. We're usually pretty happy to hang out out our RV park because of how nice it is, especially for a KOA, but this was such a nice day, we just had to do some sightseeing: 

Sometimes we have raised eyebrows about KOA parks, as many are old, run-down and expensive for what you get. This one is anything but that. It is beautiful, expertly managed, with each site having gravel for the RV, asphalt for the accompanying vehicle and a concrete patio with table and chairs. Most sites have fruit trees from which you're invited to pick. 

You barely get your trash set out any time of day before it's picked up, and you won't find a weed anywhere. Yes, it's a little pricey at about $60 a night, but life is short, so why not treat yourself once in a while?

Our trip out to Saguaro was in the usual format--Sandy in the back  seat with her bum foot elevated and my position in the front as chauffeur. It would have been fun to wear a chauffeur's cap, driving perhaps the world's only Honda CRV limousine.

The fairly new national park (designated as such in 1994) is relatively small, with a very nice visitor center looking out over what appeared to be a forest of saguaro cacti. For some reason, I neglected to take a photo of the visitor center itself which, while fairly small, seemed quite adequate for the number of visitors on this day. Inside was a theater with repeated showings of a video that stressed almost entirely the desert customs and culture among Native Americans, their connection with the saguaros being their belief that, since the Indians came from the earth at birth and returned to the earth at death, they are also part of the earth and, thusly, the saguaro itself, thereby necessitating the need to respect the earth, the saguaro and all things that come from the earth--or something like that. Well, okay, we get it, but so much time was spent with this mysticism, no time was left for imparting any knowledge about  saguaro itself--not even one fact.  It seems these are the times in which we live--cultural identity is cooler than the objects for which the park was named and which we came to see.

A very nice desert garden formed the front couple of acres of the visitor center, with concrete walkways throughout. Following are a few photos taken in the area. 

In this one, I liked the contrast between the saguaros and the eroded rock layers in a draw viewable from the visitor center:

The next photo shows the saguaros growing impressively from a rocky hill where there seems to be little soil for their stability and nourishment:

The desert marigolds were in full bloom, surrounding the cacti at the side of the road:

The following photo shows a Teddy Bear cholla, named for its seeming fuzzy cuddliness. That would be a mistake, as its thorns pull away easily and are painfully sharp:

I caught this view out the car window as we were driving back to Phannie. I never get tired of these beautiful vistas here in the Southwest. The beauty of the Sonoran Desert is simply amazing:

We returned to Phannie fairly early, as this was a pretty ambitious day for Sandy's foot. Besides that, she had to rest up for a much-anticipated visit with Cheri and Dean Peine, who happen to be in Tucson for a few days. We've been reading their blog, Travels with Bentley, for a long time, and we always like to add to our list of bloggers we've actually met in person:

We drove out to where their fiver, Bentley, was parked west of Tucson and chatted for a while before taking a small tour around the city. In easy, nonstop conversation, we learned more about each other, then set out in the car, heading first to Sentinel Mountain, for  a bird's-eye view of Tucson and its environs:

We then made a stop at Amy's Donuts, an offshoot of the famed and larger Amy's Donuts in Colorado Springs. Their claim to fame is an epic selection of donuts, the likes of which we've never seen before. Ever had an Elvis donut? We'll, you can get one at Amy's.

Dean and Cheri had never experienced Amy's before, so we all went in and bought a few goodies. Then, returning the favor of a foodie find, they informed us of one of their own favorite carb hangouts, Breadsmith, which just happens to have a store here in Tucson. Armed with this information, I told Siri to take us there at once!  It was late in the day, and they were sold out of most items, but not sold out enough for us all to get some really tasty bread:

Okay, I can just sense you out there, getting all judgmental and wagging your fingers! Well, I'll have you know that these loaves of bread are chock full of whole grains, fruit and nuts, so there's not much room left for carbs, right?  Besides, we need to get stocked up for the coming Corona virus famine!  And, just so you'll know, we didn't contribute to the toilet paper shortage; we're pretty well stocked up on that. (Don't get me started on this stupidity.)

After scoring all this "health food" from Breadsmith's, we had Siri take us to El Torero, a Mexican restaurant supposedly run by a talented and innovative chef who is part of another family restaurant dynasty here in Tucson. 

So, here we went again, taking our new friends to an untried Mexican restaurant--shades of our treatment of Doug and Michelle; you'd think we would have learned by now. However, I thought I had an ace in the hole on this one. I was doing some clothes shopping the day before, and I asked the clerk--a Tucson native named Mark, who seemed pretty sharp--for his opinion of the best Mexican restaurants in town. He put his fingers to his chin and thought a moment before giving me a list of four--of which El Torero was near the top. As good-naturedly as possible, I thanked him but left him with the understanding that there could be consequences if he guided me wrong. 

"Don't make me come back here to return these clothes," I said. "I'm counting on you, Mark, and my reputation is at stake." I was trash-talking him, of course, but I noticed he wasn't smiling any longer. After leaving, I pulled up Yelp and checked out El Torero, finding that it has great reviews, so I was a little more comfortable. Dean and Cheri agreed to join us as guinea pigs, so off we went. 

I began to get nervous as we turned down the street in a questionable part of town where the restaurant was located. It took a while to spot the small pink facade that was almost hidden from view across a small dirt parking lot. I winced and thought back to my conversation with Mark, the store clerk who recommended this place. I convinced myself that a jury would side with me, once they heard my story.

I parked Mae and turned to the other guinea pigs. "Are we up for it?"

I saw their eyes darting from side to side, clearly nervous but not wanting to offend. They replied with a surprising bit of gusto: "We can do this!"

Buoyed by their response, I turned off the engine and said a little prayer as we made our way across the parking lot to the front door. Once inside, the restaurant was larger than expected, but there was only one table occupied!  

"Sit anywhere," said a smiling waitress. 

"No kidding," I thought. I was beset with a feeling of doom, as I remembered the fairly busy restaurant where we had taken Doug and Michelle for their debacle--and there were many fewer patrons here at this place. This couldn't be good, I thought.

A perky blonde waitress came over and, in chatting us up, asked us from where we hailed and then, learning we were from Texas,  revealed that she, too, was from Texas and claimed to have recognized instantly my accent. (For the record, Texans have a right to have a unique accent, as we were once our own country for nearly ten years. A lot of us would like to go back to that status, but we wouldn't include Austin, which has been ruined by too much immigration from the left coast. We would carve it out and let it be its own country, named Austifornia. After it collapses, we'll just invade and take it over again.)  But I digress.

The menu was huge and included names of dishes I had never heard before, but the descriptions sounded good. As it turned out, the food was delicious and plentiful, and the enchiladas they served may have been the best I've ever eaten. They served something called a green tamale that was uniquely tasty. They also had a house hot sauce (not salsa, but sauce in a bottle), that was so good I could have drunk it, except I was worried that it might be fatal to do so. In fact, I bought a ridiculously high-priced bottle to take home with me:

Now before you get all judgmental again about our foodie extravagances, you should know I have few, if any, costly hobbies or vices. (Well, flying airplanes isn't exactly cheap, but I don't do that too often.) Sandy has become pretty economical too, now that her shopping has been curtailed by the limited space available in Phannie. Nowadays, if she has plenty of iced tea and doesn't have to cook, she's relatively happy (therefore, so am I). 

So, in the whole scheme of things, my designer hot sauce is a pretty cheap high. I don't even want to know what's in this stuff; I hope it's not something illegal.

It wasn't too long before the restaurant began to fill up, thankfully. We all agreed that the visit to El Torero was a success, and we had a great deal of fun during the meal. Oh yes, and Mark, the guy who recommended the place, is off the hook.

After we took them home, we bade Dean and Cheri goodbye, grateful to have turned these cyber friends into real ones. Godspeed, y'all! Hope to see you again soon.

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


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sandy's Foot Will be Headed to Houston

At LazyDays KOA, Tucson, Arizona...

I thought I would give you an update on Sandy's foot problem. We saw her podiatrist, who gave us the report on her x-ray. As suspected, there are bone spurs and a bunion that are the sources of her pain and swelling.

This is going to require surgery, which we will have done in Houston. Before we leave Tucson, however, we are waiting on some custom orthotics for her shoes, and she has received injections that, along with the boot, will hopefully give her some relief for the walking she will have to do until we can get back to Texas. We have had good results from the world-class surgeons available to us there in Houston, so we will be leaving earlier than we intended and miss a number of things we wanted to see here in Arizona and people we wanted to visit on our way back. We'll just have to make another trip to catch up on these. Lucky us! 

While we're waiting on the orthotic inserts, we're trying to do some sightseeing by car, wherein Sandy rides in the back seat with her bum foot stretched out across it to reduce the pain. The trip back to Houston in Phannie will afford her a similar level of comfort, hopefully, as her cockpit seat has an electric-powered footrest that will keep her legs elevated.

In the meantime, we still have to eat, so we rolled the dice on another restaurant, still smarting from the debacle with Doug and Michelle. This time, we went to El Charro, the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, dating back to 1922:

We figured it would be good, judging by the line outside, and we were right!  (Sorry, Doug and Michelle; if only you had had another day or two here.) This would go into onto our favorites list based on the tres leches cake alone, but everything else, including the service, was A-plus:

I have a terrible weakness for tres leches cake, and the piece in the photo above was just sinfully good. For some reason, I've neglected to tell my doctors about this blog, so I should be safe from their harassment, unless somebody tells on me. Besides, Sandy and I shared this piece--sort of.

On another clear day, desperate to do as much sightseeing as we could, I got Sandy all positioned in Mae's back seat, and we took a drive up toward Mount Lemmon, a 10,000-foot peak that overlooks Tucson. (If you look back in the previous post at the photo of Tucson, Mt. Lemmon is in the background.) It was a beautiful drive, although we didn't go beyond the 8,000-foot level before turning back. It was nearing sunset, and I really didn't want to negotiate all the curves in the dark. I was able to get some nice photos, however. Maybe next time, we'll go all the way to the top. 

The Mt. Lemmon highway is a good one, with plenty of railings on the outside edge.
This is a view overlooking Tucson from about the 3,000-ft. level.

Driving farther up the mountain, I was fascinated by the hoodoos (rocks left stacked in strange configurations as softer earth eroded 
around them). They reminded me slightly of those in Bryce Canyon National Park, except some of these seemed to have remarkably human-like features:

I loved this one; it looks like a guy actually speaking among a group of people around him, all of whom are looking toward Tucson! Could he be a tour guide?

Here's another one where the members of the group appear to be looking in different directions. The one with the beret appears to be looking at the moon that has just risen in the background.
Here's a nice view from about the 6,000-foot level, looking eastward toward New Mexico. This is overlooking the San Pedro Valley; the nearest line of mountains is about 50 miles away. 

The most distant mountains--the blue peaks barely visible on the right and left of the photo--includes Mt. Graham, which is over 10,000 feet and not far from the New Mexico border.

The next photo was taken just at sunset at about the 2,000-foot level and, although it doesn't show adequately in the photo, this cactus, which looks like a prickly pear, had beautifully variegated pads, some of which were purple, orange, yellow and green. It's hard to believe how much beauty can be found in the desert:

I turned the camera around and, in a few minutes, the sun slipped below the horizon, leaving this breathtaking painting across the darkening sky:

There is no scarcity of beautiful sunsets in Arizona; we will miss these, for sure. 

I'm glad that we were able to spend most of the winter in the great Southwest, and what a great trip it has been! Our having to leave early will just give us an excuse to come back and see the things we missed. 

I hope you enjoyed today's little ride up the mountain. If we take any more day trips like this before we leave for Texas, we'll post about them for sure. 

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tucson! We Have Visitors, Phannie Gets a Well-Woman Check, and Sandy Gets the Boot!

At LazyDays KOA, Tucson, Arizona...

Well, there's a lot to cover in this post, so it would be a good idea to freshen your coffee. And (spoiler alert) Sandy's not really going anywhere, and you'll soon see why. 

A couple of days after we arrived here in Tucson (we were then at Voyager RV Park), Doug and Michelle stopped for an overnight just to see us! Now, this was special and doesn't happen every day so, to show our appreciation, we took them to a restaurant that would have to do an Olympic-style pole vault to reach mediocre! We were aghast!

 Doug was very tactful in his Facebook comment about it, but my response to his comment there was less so, if you happen to have read it. In our defense, we hadn't eaten there before, either, and decided to go based on a recommendation; however, some very bad luck or a change of ownership must have befallen the place in the meantime. That's about all I'll say about it, but our companions get gold stars for politeness during it all. Now that I think about it, they were captives, riding with us in Mae, so that may have been a partial motivation for their tolerance and good humor. (No, not really; they're just good folks with good manners. But that probably won't last; it won't be long until they'll become as sarcastic and abusive as the rest of the friends we love.)

I'm getting ahead of myself here. Before we had the dinner disaster, we drove around Tucson a bit, which was very much the blind leading the blind, as we had barely gotten to town ourselves. We first had the idea of going to Old Tucson, which we missed by, oh, ten miles or so. (Thanks, Siri--way to impress our new friends.) Then we spotted some cars driving up Sentinel Mountain on the west side of town. We didn't know the mountain's name, so we didn't have any GPS help, relying instead on meandering around the base of the mountain until we spotted what looked like the road to the top. Luckily, it was the correct road, and it led us up to a large white letter "A" near the top that had been fashioned from rock and concrete. Since the University of Arizona is here, that makes sense, and the view of Tucson from that vantage point was beautiful:

Yes, just go ahead and make fun of my poor travel planning; I never claimed to be fussy about that like others we know (yes, you know who you are). We usually get ideas from bloggers or friends and just sort of add these to a fluid mental list of places we'd like to visit, relying on Google's Maps and Earth and the miracle of GPS to get us there when we feel the urge. Well, when Doug and Michelle showed up, we hadn't had time to do much homework like this, and since we didn't find Old Tucson, my finding the road up Sentinel Mountain was like what Christopher Columbus must have felt back in 1492! At least it was something we could claim as being a bit entertaining for our guests. 

The dinner afterward was so appalling that I forgot to take a photo of Doug and Michelle; but you can look back in the Quartzsite post and see them. We sheepishly said our goodbyes afterward, and, true to their word, they vanished the next morning. We hope we hear from them again. (Sigh)

I've been mentioning in previous posts that Sandy has been having foot problems, for which she has seen podiatrists in Mesa and here in Tucson. Since the problem is worsening, the Tucson doctor ordered an x-ray, and we will get the results in a couple of days, meanwhile, she is having to wear an orthopedic boot to help until the diagnosis is known. You can tell from this photo that she is not her usual bubbly self, and this is worrisome, to say the least:

We'll keep you posted on this, which we're guessing might be due to a bone spur. We have been very fortunate over the past four years of fulltiming to suffer few illnesses (our falling injuries in Fredericksburg was the most severe medical problem, but that was not due to illness). Fortunately, we have great health insurance, and we are not prone to delaying treatment when we need it. Travel beyond Tucson is probably on hold until this problem is resolved.

I also had Phannie's 100,000-mile check done at Empire Caterpillar here in Tucson, an appointment made months ago. 

I was unaware then, of course, that Sandy would have foot problems and have to be on her feet more than usual as we moved Phannie from RV park to the shop and back. She didn't complain, although I know the extra activity caused her a good deal of discomfort.

The maintenance schedule on Phannie's engine calls for a valve adjustment when reaching 100K miles, so that was the main purpose for the visit. I also requested that both engine thermostats and both fuel filters be changed. I discovered that one of the fuel filters was not changed as instructed during an oil change at a diesel shop that I used in Indiana, which is why I always try to get service done at a familiar, trusted shop or at Caterpillar or Freightliner. I had the thermostats changed because, while they are not frequent failure items, they do fail, and changing them at 100K--while we were already at Caterpillar anyway--may prevent our having a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, a place we often find ourselves. 

The Caterpillar engine is known to be simple and durable, having little of the EPA paraphernalia required nowadays and no need for DEF, but it is very sensitive to having clean oil and clean fuel, which is the reason that I have oil and filters changed more frequently than factory recommendations. Phannie has repaid us with great dependability over the years. Trade her off? Wouldn't think of it; that engine should be good for 500,000 miles, which will, for sure, outlast us!  We've got some interior refurbishment and painting scheduled for June in Red Bay, so she should be good for quite a while after she gets 'prettied up.'

We'll chat again when we find out what's going on with Sandy's foot. In the meantime, I should be safe from getting kicked for a while, you think?

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