Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Goodbye Arizona, Hello Texas

At Quiet Texas RV Park, Hondo, Texas...

After a such long sleep in Prescott Valley, Phannie's Caterpillar diesel engine came quickly to life on the cool morning of our departure for Texas. I don't know why the eagerness of the engine surprises me slightly, for it has been quick to fire up every time for a thousand starts during our ten years and 100,000 miles together. I get the feeling Phannie tires of long downtimes; she seems more than ready to get on the road!

 After maybe five revolutions, the engine starts and settles immediately into 700 RPMs, barely audible 40 feet behind me. Due to the lack of engine noise, I sometimes have to check the engine gauges and the absence of warning lights to confirm a successful start. More than once, I have, absent-mindedly, attempted to start the already-running engine after leaving the coach briefly, forgetting that I left it on.

After hooking up Mae, we turned eastbound out of the beautiful but lifeless campground, still having met none of the hunkered-down employees or guests in person. A few days later, we received an email from some disembodied person, thanking us for our stay.  The absence of the human element in all this was still unnerving, to a degree. What an isolation it was--more than six weeks in this local area that had few cases of the virus and no deaths, yet one would get the impression that a nuclear blast had occurred and everything in the park was radioactive. Such is the power of today's media and the fear that it is capable of provoking. 

Nevertheless, we are definitely in the vulnerable age group, so we have decided to avoid larger cities for a while and stay away from crowds at all costs. It occurs to us that traveling by RV is probably as safe as you can get--self contained as we are. It wasn't long until we sadly left the Arizona mountains behind as we slowly descended into the flatlands of New Mexico and the rising outside temperature.

After a brief overnight in Clovis, New Mexico, our first stop in Texas was in tiny Lockney, to visit longtime friends Bubba and LouAnn, as well as two of their daughters, their son-in-law and three grandsons. It was a great visit, and we were treated royally. It was so good actually to interact with people again--especially these good friends. Naturally, I forgot to take photos but, in my defense, I was out of practice since we hadn't been around people for so long! We also didn't pay any attention to social distancing; cases of the virus are almost unknown in these remote areas of the Texas panhandle. 

Our next stop was in equally tiny Spur, Texas, where we had a nice visit with Sandy's brother, Rick, and his wife, C. J.  Since they had recently relocated here in west Texas from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we were eager to see their new manufactured home of the brand we may be considering when we exit fulltiming. You may be aware that Spur is a community known for welcoming tiny homes, offering inexpensive land and all the amenities of modern utilities. You couldn't really call Rick's and CJ's home a tiny home, though, as it occupies almost 900 square feet.  Here's a photo:

"Manufactured" housing almost always leaves the impression of a mobile home or park model on wheels, but that's not what this is. It has no wheels, but it arrives by truck from the factory and is set on a foundation that is installed beforehand to fit the structure. Rick and C. J. added a garage and a storage building. It has all the amenities found in a site-built home only, in our opinion, it is even better in many ways--for example, with foam insulation completely encapsulating it. The finish work is beautiful inside and outside, and we couldn't tell the difference from a site-built home.

There are several models of these offered and customizable at Leland's Cabins, built near the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We were so impressed that we have looked into the company ourselves. We are so done with the big houses we've owned in the past with all their upkeep and expense, and this might be an answer for us. The older we get and the more physical challenges we have, the more certain we are that we have more fulltiming days behind us than ahead of us.

Rick and C. J. gave us a nice tour of their town and the surrounding area, and I must mention their passion for photography, especially that of west Texas scenery. Having worked in the tech area and in education for many years, they are now free to pursue their talent for photography--even turning it into a side business, Texas Big Sky Photography. 

I thought I would include just a few of their west Texas photos here; there are many, many more available--scenes of Texas and other locations--on their website. It takes a degree of artistry to see through a camera lens certain things of beauty that may not be evident to many. These images were taken in Spur and nearby areas in west Texas and treat the viewer to the concept that those things that appear old and worn--even small, sleepy towns themselves--can be charming and beautiful, especially considering the stories of the past they could tell if they could only speak. In these cases, they are speaking through the artistry of the photographer:

I confess to being guilty myself of seeing things superficially and failing to behold the beauty and the essence thereof. I have taken hundreds of photos that appear in this blog, and I have to confess that the really good ones are mostly accidental. Not so with these.

Having had a great visit with Rick and C. J., we left for the San Antonio area, where we will find another small town to stay safely away from the masses of humanity and enjoy the feeling among the townfolk that life goes on as it always has. We are looking forward to remembering Covid-19 as a bitter episode in history after it is vanquished. We will also be more keenly disposed to appreciating life and looking for the hidden beauty in things that may not be evident at first glance.

Thank you, family and friends, for treating us so well.

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, May 2, 2020

Places We Would Revisit

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

As we approach the end of our lockdown here in Arizona, I figure it's time to send out another update. Being able to include something interesting is a bit of a challenge, since nothing very compelling has been going on here. In 15 years of RVing, we have never before had the experience of having no significant interaction with RV neighbors in nearly two months. I guess the virus has everyone spooked, although I don't think anyone else has checked into the infection statistics in our location. In the zip codes covering the towns of Dewey and Prescott Valley that border our park, there have been fewer than 10 Covid cases and no deaths. That makes for astronomical odds against running into anyone who is contagious, but such facts don't seem to make much difference when there's nothing but 24-hour doom on the TV. It's pretty sad.

One thing to which we've become accustomed is cooking in Phannie. In all this time, we've had only three takeout meals. All the rest have been cooked in the coach by me, since Sandy is still waiting on the orthotics that, hopefully, will relieve some of her arthritic foot pain that she has when she's on her feet.  We have two meals a day--brunch and supper--and you certainly couldn't call any of them gourmet or even mildly complicated, for that matter. Although my grub is simple southern cooking, we have a surprising variety of dishes that I found I could cook, and, since I also wash the dishes to keep Sandy off her feet, I don't get any complaints from her. The only thing I don't cook is cornbread and baked goods like cookies, cakes and pies. I would never try to compete with her on such things, and I don't particularly enjoy baking stuff. Besides, we definitely should not be eating these sorts of things so, although I miss these goodies, it's much better that they aren't available. I will admit that I've talked Sandy into fixing cornbread a couple of times; I help as much as I can, so she can stay off her feet as much as possible. 

The Arizona governor still has the whole state closed down, which I think is ridiculous for rural areas like this. I don't know why it has to be a one-size-fits-all situation but, since we're not Arizonans, we really don't have any say in the matter--just an opinion.

Now, let's get to the real topic of this piece--places we've been that we would definitely revisit.  Most of these have been in the western U. S.--probably because of the scenery and open spaces. 

Number one would probably be the Grand Canyon. We never get tired of the wonders of this immense place:

Then, of course, we would have to go back to Glacier National Park, as we only saw half of it when we were there, due to forest fires at the time:

We need to go back to Yellowstone, all of which we still haven't seen because the park is so large:

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. We're hoping to go back here and to Yellowstone this summer, if things work out:

Monument Valley. Who could get tired of these vistas?

Moab Area: Arches and Canyonlands N.P.s:

Big Bend Area:

Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg and the Smokies:

Arizona. We didn't get to see everything here we wanted to visit this winter because of the pandemic. We definitely must return and do this.

The Oregon Coast and the Pacific Northwest:

The Gulf Coast:




As I'm writing this, I am overwhelmed by all of this beloved country and Europe that we have seen--some of which occurred before digital photography was in use, and I haven't digitized those photos! I simply cannot include all of the places we would like to revisit. But I find that I'm getting ahead of myself, because there are still so many places we haven't seen yet!  

God willing, this plague will go away and we can get busy again!

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