Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, July 26, 2021

Cool Colorado With Friends

 At Dolores River Campground, Dolores, Colorado...

The first couple of weeks in July that we spent at our Hondo, Texas place was a reminder that we were more than a month overdue for our usual departure from the oven that Texas becomes in the summer. While it wasn't as hot as usual, the heat coupled with the humidity made for very unpleasant days, wherein we were trapped inside but grateful for Willis Carrier's invention of the modern air conditioner in 1902. Being there with friends Richard and Karen was a delightful distraction; however, they must stay in Hondo all summer. There is no doubt they will enjoy their big, spanking new fifth wheel to keep them comfortable and cool.

Our 1,000-mile journey from Hondo to Dolores went without a hitch, thanks to good old Phannie. We try to keep the legs to about 300 miles a day now, especially in the badlands through which we traveled--well, they're not really BAD, they're just, uh, not what you would call scenic. We have tried driving 200 miles a day, but that seems too slow (unless we're in scenic territory), and we've tried 500 miles a day--once. We're getting too old for that kind of abuse. Three hundred-ish seems about right.

Once we approached Cortez, Colorado, the San Juan mountains began coming into view, and we knew we were not far away from a very pleasant remainder of the summer. We continued ten miles past Cortez to the little town of Dolores which, at nearly 7,000 feet elevation, we knew the heat and humidity we left would have a hard time finding us:





Dolores is a tiny town--so tiny it has only one bank and one small grocery store and, of course, the old train depot you see above, the cutout showing the town's elevation of 6957 feet. (I hate to tell you this, my dear family and friends back home, but we often have to use the heater in Phannie on cold mornings; it sometimes gets down into the fifties.) In a drive through the back streets of Dolores--which doesn't take very long--we see flowers like these. I don't know what they are, but they appear to be growing wild. It's a pretty little place.


We spent a day sightseeing, the six of us friends riding with Bubba driving over to Ridgway to eat a scrumptious breakfast at Kate's Place. It's Limoncello pancakes were possibly the best we've ever eaten. Everything we had was good enough to place it in the "Best Restaurants" list on this blog. Here are the six of us at Kate's--way too full, I'm afraid, but the weather was fabulous:

L to R: LouAnn, Bubba, Me, Sandy, Jackie and Steve outside Janet's

We were lucky to meet up with these good friends this summer. While LouAnn and Bubba will be here only for the week, Steve and Jackie will be our traveling partners for the rest of the summer. Are we lucky or what?

We enjoyed Ridgway, an old Colorado town wherein a lot of the old buildings have been preserved like this old firehouse that has become a boutique. Luckily, the owner retained its historic look of the early 1900s. Note the old fire truck parked outside:


Traveling to Ridgway, this is the kind of scenery that is so emblematic of the San Juan Skyway, the highway on which we were driving:



We also drove through Ouray, "The Switzerland of America," as it's called. We agree:


Having toured most of Colorado now, we are convinced the west side of the Rockies has the edge on sheer beauty and scenery. 

Retracing our route somewhat to get back to our campgrounds and, by now, hungry again, Bubba insisted that we stop at this place in tiny Rico, Colorado. The town is so small, it makes Dolores look like a metropolis:


To me, although this historic old 1892 building in Rico seen above was interesting, it looked like a biker joint/pool hall inside. However, Bubba insisted that the food was excellent; this is typical of Bubba, who apparently thinks getting mugged is okay if you can get a good meal afterward.  (Don't write me letters; I'm joking about bikers, pool players and as always, Bubba. Most of them, except Bubba, are fine people. (Yes, I'm joking again.) I admit to putting up a significant protest since we had the girls with us but, as usual, Bubba ignored it. It was fortunate that he did, because the food was, indeed, superb. We had hamburgers so good they would make you cry. And yes, believe it or not, this funky little joint made the "Best Restaurant" list. That's two in one day--something that rarely happens. Oh yes, and there was no mugging, just a friendly game of pool going on inside.

Well, that's probably enough adventure to recount in one post. We had a great day, with good friends, good food and a million laughs. At a sudden moment of curiosity, I pulled out my cell phone and took a look at the temperatures back in Texas. I could only shake my head as, by this point, we really needed a jacket here in Colorado. Such was not the case in Texas.

So goes the end of a great day. I know it's a trite expression, but we wish you could be here.


We leave you with the view above, looking south from Dolores toward Ute Mountain in the distance on the right. I just love it when the day ends with a scene like this.


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








Monday, July 19, 2021

Next, It's My Turn for the Scalpel, So We Are Gonna Be Rolling Until Then

At Hat Creek RV Park, Big Spring, Texas...

I can just hear you now..."Big Spring?" What are they doing there?  Okay, I have been seriously lagging in posting lately, but there hasn't been much going on. As I mentioned before, we had been at our place in Hondo for several weeks while Sandy recovered from the last of four surgeries. She is almost fully back to normal now, thankfully, except for a bit of partial nerve numbness that the surgeon said would eventually go away.  While we were in Hondo, we enjoyed the company of friends Richard and Karen, who recently acquired a sparkling new RV to replace the one lost in the terrible hailstorm described a couple posts back. 

Karen had mentioned that she would like to be able to cook really good fried rice. This seemed a bit coincidental, as I fancy myself as somewhat of an expert in cooking this dish. Never wishing to pass up an opportunity for self-aggrandizement (which is, hopefully, recognized as merely an act), I volunteered my services in rendering the best version I could, as long as I could use her beautiful new propane stove--which works a bit better than our induction unit for cooking things that require a lot of heat. One evening, we traipsed over to their new rig with all the ingredients needed, and the general opinion afterward was that I had outdone myself. This was one of two skillets full of the yummy stuff:


Okay, okay. I know that fried rice is easy to make, if you do it simply. It's also an especially good way to get rid of leftover stuff in your fridge. However, I have developed--through an untold number of versions--a combination of ingredients, technique and seasonings that I think most will agree has no equal. And I didn't even have a wok this time!  Share the recipe?  I haven't written it down, and I'm not sure I could, since I mainly just do it by sight, smell and taste. One tip, however, will always be true: Make sure you cook the rice using less water than the usual 1:2 ratio. In other words, if the instructions on the bag call for two cups of rice and four cups of water, use only three cups of water. This will give you firm grains of rice instead of mushy ones and allow better absorption of the seasonings and sauces during cooking. Finally, make sure the cooked rice is thoroughly cooled before cooking. I often cook the rice a day ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight before starting the fried rice. Never, ever use those boil-in-a bag minute-rice things. That is such a travesty, it's probably illegal. I do use a rice cooker; it makes things so much easier.

Another accomplishment this time was to bring everything from paid storage to our cabin in the park. This is the first time in over five years that we have all our personal keepsakes with us in our own digs. Even these will be thinned out over time, as we continue to open containers and ruminate over the contents.

I have enjoyed my new Kawai electric piano immensely. It will never be the same as my Kawai grand piano that is still in storage, but it was so good to sharpen my technique again with this one.

Things are slowly improving in the park after the hailstorm disaster. All of our repairs which, thankfully, were relatively minor, have been completed, but others are awaiting insurance settlements, and some occupants just walked away. This will not bode well for their resale funds, if there are any to be had for them after the park makes the needed repairs.

One of the things that was essential when we decided to buy into the Hondo Escapees park was that the building on the lot (which is large by RV park standards), would be small, and it is at 12x24 plus a 9-foot porch. Even so, it will still require minimal upkeep. I was reminded during this visit that even the smallest structures and yard still need attention. The yard is entirely covered with aggregate, but weeds still appear now and then. It has to be cleaned, and there's always some little thing that needs to be fixed. The fact that one can live there for almost nothing makes those tasks a little easier, however. The rapid increase in home prices, building materials and taxes these days makes the deal we have even sweeter. If we need to take a break from small-town living, our proximity to San Antonio makes that quite easy. 

Oh, I see I have digressed. Let's get back to Big Spring, Texas. We have left our compound at Hondo for a whole series of trips before my first knee replacement on November 4th. Big Spring was our first stop on our way to Colorado, where we will be with friends for the rest of the summer. It is way too hot in Hondo--and most everywhere else in Texas--during the summer, and we are very late in our usual escape to cooler climes. 

I think I'll keep you in suspense about our fall itinerary after Colorado, but a lot of it has to do with other friends with whom we love to travel. I confess there may even be some desire on my part to keep my mind off what's going to happen to my poor knees in a few months. These trips are not easy for me, either; I move slowly and try to find ways to minimize the pain involved in setting up and breaking down camp. Walking, thankfully, is not much of a problem yet, so perhaps I will not be too much of a drag if we're in a group.

Since we haven't been on the road too much during all of Sandy's medical issues, we were astounded today at how many RVs are out there. I wish I had counted them, but they seemed about equal to the number of trucks on the highways. Also, there is a certain strangeness to this RV park, where perhaps the better part of a hundred RVs are parked tonight. That strange thing is this: out of all those RVs, only one of them is a motorhome--ours. I know Phannie feels conspicuously out of place, but I'm beginning to realize that the meteoric rise in RV sales must be much more in towables than motorhomes, and the obvious reason, of course, is the difference in cost.

One of the places we're headed for sure in September is Red Bay, where Phannie is going to get some new flooring. This faithful old girl could use a little dressing-up inside, but I'm not sure we could ever give up a rig that has been so dependable and trouble-free over all these years. (I hope I haven't jinxed myself with that remark.)

I will have more frequent posts for the next few months, so you can keep up with our  adventures, which will come to a screeching halt from November through spring, as I get new knees and recover from those surgeries. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. I'm going to include a favorite photo from some of our earlier travels--this time from Colorado, which I think is quite appropriate. I snapped this just outside Silverton, Colorado in late September. The fall color was just beginning. It must have been stunning a little later.



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



 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Why Would Blogger Do This?

 At Forest Retreat RV Park, New Caney, Texas...

For reasons unknown to those of us using this platform to host our blog, Blogger has decided to discontinue at the end of this month (today, I guess) the feature where you can submit your email address and the program will automatically inform you when something has been posted; this, of course, is not very helpful but, apparently, they don't care.

It is painful for me to imagine that you might miss one of my riveting commentaries because of this travesty on Blogger's part, so if you will send me your email address, I'll add it to a notification list that I already have. I promise--cross my heart--that I will never share your information with anyone else. Simply email me at mikemills159(at)pm.me with your email address and I will include it on the list. This system is Proton, a highly encrypted email service based in Switzerland, so no one can see what you write but me. While I may be a hack at writing these posts, the email system is supposed to be invulnerable to hackers. What is not quite clear is why someone would want to do that, anyway.

I was hoping not to switch to a new blog host, because I like Blogger and--probably more important--I'm familiar with it. This is important to lazy retired people (sorry for the redundancy). I also want it to be around when my millionth pageview is posted, (even though it really has already has reached that point, as this blog was begun in 2005--five years before Blogger began counting pageviews).  It would just be nice to see the number show up there on the counter.

Let's see...I seem to have forgotten lately to include some favorite photos of our travels, so let me do that right now. I always liked this log in the Petrified Forest. Although it has every detail of the wooden log it once was, it is indeed now a log of solid rock. Amazing. 

 


I had calls today from two of our RVer friends whom we've met on our travels (thank you, Denny and Richard). They don't know each other, but they and their wives are just a few of the many wonderful people we count as our valued friends. And to think, we wouldn't have met, had it not been for our common interest in RVing; what a loss to us that would have been!

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, June 26, 2021

Well, We Just Thought Her Surgeries Were Finished

At Forest Retreat RV Park, New Caney, Texas...

Sandy's shoulder surgery went well but, soon afterward, she developed a numbness in part of her left arm and hand. Tests showed that she had a pinched nerve near her elbow and that yet another surgery would be required quickly, lest she lose some use of her left hand.

The surgery took place on June 24 and, thankfully, the procedure was made simpler by a slight deformity in her left elbow that allowed for greater access to the nerve by the surgeon. It also meant that the nerve would not have to be moved to another location in her arm as he had anticipated.


This has been her fourth surgery since October--counting the do-over of her foot. She has remained positive, pleasant and stoic throughout--far beyond my capability to do the same. 

A pleasant distraction has been visiting with the kids and grandsons; I think they provided just the right "upper" to keep us smiling when we didn't feel much like smiling. We've also enjoyed visits with friends, and that always keeps us laughing.  Thank God for these angels in our lives.

We are still planning to spend most of the rest of the summer in Colorado assuming, of course, that all goes well with Sandy from this point. I am dreading our return, however, as knee replacement surgery will be awaiting me. I can guarantee that I will not handle myself as well as she, but I think she understands that most guys are whiners, and I'll be doing plenty of that, especially when the physical therapy begins.

So now you know why my posts have been scarce lately. This seems to be our season for medical issues, and these can take you out of the game for long periods, unfortunately. 

I'll keep you updated with our progress as we work our way through these obstacles, so please don't give up on following along with us. At this point, I would advise you to let no moss grow as you enjoy yourselves without these encumbrances. Fortunately, we already have lots of miles of smiles and memories to enjoy as we work our way through our "overhauls." 

I will try to post a little more regularly, now that our time here in Houston is coming to an end, at least for now.  In fact, I just may have a little surprise for you in an upcoming post, so don't go anywhere. 

 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, May 14, 2021

Hail, Hondo!

 At the Lone Star Corral Escapees Co-op, Hondo, Texas...

I think I mentioned only in the most general terms what we're doing here--even that we bought a lot in this rather desolate and isolated place! Perhaps it would be appropriate to explain our--well, mostly MY--rationale. Sandy okayed it, but she usually gives me more slack in my rope than she should. After nearly 45 years together, we have been through a lot of life phases and resulting schemes--a few of them idiotic--that come and go, and she probably figures this is just one that will be a precursor to the next.  The problem is, we're running out of years; there are many more of those behind us than ahead of us, so we've got to come up with a fulltiming exit plan. The Hondo thing, in my mind, is sort of a 'halfway house' until we figure it out. 

Before I get too far into this deep, philosophical explanation, you should perhaps note the title of this post, which has a double meaning. Not only can it be taken as a greeting to the town of Hondo, but its real significance is the hailstorm that accompanied a small tornado that ravaged the park a few days before our arrival. You may have read in previous posts that it had been our intention to occupy our new digs here weeks ago, except for the complications that kept arising from Sandy's multiple surgeries in Houston. 

I have included several photos of the result of perhaps the most damaging hailstorm I've seen here in my beloved but sometimes violent state. Some say it was a tornado but, whatever it was, it totaled most of the RVs and vehicles in the park, and I can just imagine what Phannie and Mae would have looked like if we had arrived here earlier as we had planned. Many would say the delay, because of Sandy's medical issues, was simply coincidental, but we think God was protecting us, even though we didn't deserve it, and we thank Him for it. I'll post a few photos of the hail damage all around us when we arrived. It may not have been the worst you've seen, but it was for us:


The sun visor didn't spare the Freightliner below from damage. Even though it was parked at the time of the storm, the front grill and the driver's mirror still took a beating along with the windshield:



The photo below shows the size of the hailstones that struck this little cabin. I could easily put my fist through some of the holes:


All of the north windows of the events center below were broken out, allowing rain to flood the place:


While the little cabin on our lot sustained some damage on the north side, including broken windows, it was, thankfully, much less serious than most of the other structures and vehicles in the park.


We already have plans for some significant remodeling and landscaping for the property, but we are very grateful that it came through the storm with relatively minor damage.

The cabin, by the way, is not meant to be another living/sleeping area; it is merely an all-purpose building where, in our case, we can finally have a place for storing the personal things we don't usually carry with us on trips. It also means we don't have to rent a storage unit, and I will finally get to have a piano again! Our grand piano is still in storage, awaiting a new home with daughter Mindy's family when they move to a larger house. The cabin also has a small workshop and lots of hidden storage space.

Okay, let's get back to the philosophy--or maybe mental breakdown--behind our getting this place. This is an Escapees co-op for those 55 and older, consisting of 124 large lots on 25 acres of land about five miles west of Hondo, which itself is about 45 miles west of San Antonio. All the lots are owned by Escapees members and are deeded for life, unless the owner(s) decide to sell, and that sale can only be made to the co-op, which will sell it to other Escapees members through a process overseen by the co-op management. Because it is a co-op and not run for profit, the price of the lots are very low and are adjusted upward as appropriate through appraisal of any buildings or other improvements that may have been made to the lots.

There is a very modest yearly maintenance fee, and the only utility payment is electricity at ten cents per kwh and TV cable/internet if you want it. The park also has free Wi-Fi. Real estate taxes are a couple hundred bucks a year. It should be dawning on you at this point that the cost of living here is almost nothing. (Well, I guess a tent on the sidewalk would probably be cheaper.) That's why there is a waiting list of 50 couples to buy lots here, and they could be on the list for a couple of years or more before their number comes up.

I can almost hear your asking, "My goodness, are you guys on the ropes financially, then?" Well, hardly; we are quite comfortable. I think we've become far more frugal--perhaps to a fault--as we have aged, and this is a sea change from our younger years when the extravagance and size of one's house seemed all-important, and we took the bait. We quickly learned that such largesse comes with a terrible price besides the monetary expense involved. It has a devastating effect on that thing that money cannot buy--time. We never considered the time and work that would be required for the upkeep of a leviathan-sized house. We found we had no time for anything else or for each other. We didn't own the house; the house owned us.

Now, throw in the fact that we've been living fulltime in Phannie for more than five years. We have been all over the country, to just about every place on our bucket list, and we are quite accustomed to the close quarters; in fact, we've grown to like it. Wherever we go, our house goes with us; there are no bags to pack, no lawns to mow, no weeds to pull, and housecleaning takes about a half hour. Yes, there's a little maintenance on the vehicles now and then, but someone else smarter than I always does that. Nowadays, when we see a big house alongside the road, we just shake our heads as we remember our insane years. Life is a tough teacher; you get the test first, then the lesson follows.

In my quest to disclose the rationale for what we're doing is something almost embarrassing. (Remember, I said 'almost' embarrassing. Old people generally jettison the need to impress anyone or to be embarrassed, along with the disappearance of any filters on the things they say; it's such a relief to be rid of that silliness.) Our foray into this nowhere place called Hondo is just an extension--like fulltiming--of my delight in beating the system. That's why applicants sometimes wait years to get into this place--they've figured it out, too. The more stuff you have--and it's mostly just stuff--the more of your time (ergo, your life) it consumes. No, this lifestyle is not for everybody, but all you have to do is read this blog--now going on its 17th year-- to see what a great time and a great life we've had. Regrets? Like Frank Sinatra sang,.. "too few to mention."

We have more friends now than ever, and some of them have already transitioned off the road. We are in a good place to stay (and still go on RV adventures) while we decide what will be best for us.

Meanwhile, we will be spending the summer in Colorado with some of our RVing friends. Hondo gets a little too warm for our liking during that time. Meanwhile, the park will rent out our lot (not the cabin) for us and split the proceeds. Life is good!

Last, but most important, Sandy is doing extremely well after her surgeries. She's still doing PT for her shoulder, but her recovery has been remarkable. She's more like her old wonderful self every day. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers.


 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, April 24, 2021

Catching Up Before We Head West



At the Lufkin KOA, Lufkin, Texas...

Yes, I know it's been a long time since I posted, but Sandy is still in the physical therapy phase after her surgeries and, of course, this doesn't go quickly. We were getting pretty antsy to go somewhere (we've been immobile almost six months), so we made a quick trip to Searcy, Arkansas to visit with RVer friends Larry and Carolyn (whose photo I forgot to take, but they appear elsewhere in the blog), and to have lunch in Nacogdoches with friends John and Pat (same forgetfulness but they, too, appear elsewhere in the blog). In addition, we had dinner with Ray, Carolyn and granddaughter Claire, whose photo I managed to remember to shoot:


Ray was a driver in a trucking business I owned some 50 years ago but, more importantly, a friend--and we happened to meet by chance in a Lufkin restaurant some time ago, promising to get together again. We were delighted to meet again his lovely wife Carolyn, and it's not difficult to perceive his affection for little Claire. Thank you all for joining us in catching up; we had a great time.

Naturally, our long stay in the Houston area and (finally) our vaccinations coming through, we were able to spend more time with the grandsons. Here is Mimi with Sutton, 2, and Pryce, 7.  Mason, 11, was bouncing around somewhere else at the time the photo was taken and, with such energy as they have, it's not easy to get them altogether for a photo:


We will soon be leaving Houston to occupy our lot at the Escapees Co-Op in Hondo, and we will have another new area to explore; nearby San Antonio will provide all kinds of opportunities. We have plans for spending the summer in Colorado, and I'm hoping that my knees will enable us to make the trip. They are in increasing need of replacement, so I suppose we will be spending more than a year, between the two of us, getting new body parts for those that have worn out. This is a bit of a strange time for us, as we have enjoyed good health for many years, and I suppose I shouldn't complain if we can get everything repaired within a year. There are so many people with problems that are much worse.

It has also been a strange time in the country since the election. I have learned that it is pointless to become too political in this blog, as it would have little chance of changing anyone's opinion. However, we almost never watch television news any longer, relying mostly on reliable internet sources that still deliver news instead of opinion or advocacy disguised as news. It is difficult to believe that in only two generations since the Greatest Generation we have become a country I hardly recognize. Of course, it was all predicted...II Timothy 3 describes it perfectly. (If you don't know what book that pertains to, you may be part of the problem.) We have forgotten the principles upon which our country was founded and now, I fear, we will pay the price.

We have another week to spend in the Houston area getting our final medical appointments done, then we will be moving farther west to see what the San Antonio area holds for us. Sandy will be continuing her therapy there, and I will be visiting with knee surgeons. 

Once again, I leave you with a favorite photo from our travels. This one is fall color just outside Silverton, Colorado in 2017:


 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






 








Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sandy's Surgeries Are Done, But I Have Dishpan Hands

 At Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

It has been a week since Sandy's shoulder replacement surgery, and she is doing remarkably well. We had been expecting a painful healing process, but she only needed moderate pain medication for a few days, then she reduced to Advil, and now--none at all! Physical therapy won't begin for a couple more weeks, though, and that's going to be crucial in her use of her new shoulder. After my shoulder surgery two years ago, I had PT for months, continuing with home therapy for about a year afterward. But it paid off; I have about 95% use of that arm now.

I now have a greater appreciation for the chores she normally does that have now fallen to me. I have no capacity, of course, to do them to her satisfaction, but I figure her fixing what I mess up will keep her from getting bored when she regains the use of her arm.
  
I even had to do some laundry the other day--for the first time in 44 years!  She was barking complicated instructions over my shoulder, and I think I handled the clothes and the chemicals correctly, but I told her I couldn't possibly figure out the undecipherable controls of the laundry equipment; she would just have to do that with her good hand.

She had the nerve to counter that pronouncement with, "So you're telling me that you, who somehow managed for years to fly jet airliners with more than a hundred passengers aboard, are mystified by a few buttons on a washing machine?"
 
I really didn't have a good answer for that, but Sandy and daughter Mindy got on the phone later and had the best time defaming me about my supposed incompetence. (Those two could easily become terrorists, I thought to myself.) 

Mindy said, "Tyler is exactly the same way; it's conjured-up helplessness!  I told him that anyone who can build a football stadium can probably handle a load of laundry." It was pretty easy to see that Tyler and I were in a no-win situation here, but when I started fumbling with the washing machine controls, I got my hands brushed away (she still has one good arm) and admonished that I "wasn't doing it right." The bottom line? I still don't know how to operate the laundry machine--could that have been my goal all along? 

However, I will tell you that I have learned to wash dishes to her satisfaction. And I have dishpan hands to prove it! What humiliation to have to put lotion on my dried-out hands! I shudder to think how far I have fallen. Yesterday I even cleaned the bathroom! That was pretty disgusting, but I got high marks for that one. Making the bed, I suppose, is beyond my capability, according to her. For some reason, she prefers a bed to be made up all prim and properly, looking smooth and finished. My way is to get covers generally on the bed without much of the sheets showing. I mean, really, we're just going to get in it again in a few hours. I never understood all the fussiness.

I can hear you asking just exactly what kind of help I am to her and, besides helping her into and out of the bed and chair and helping her get dressed, I am a pretty decent cook and do all of it...always have.  This has given me a good deal of credit over the years, and I am making use of it these days. 

If you know us personally, you will know that most of the above is exaggeration--something I am prone to do from time to time. There's not anything Sandy and I wouldn't do for each other.

Monday will be our last day at Thousand Trails--for good. We are selling our membership, for several reasons. During the last couple of years, we have had the opportunity to visit several TT campgrounds, and at some of them, we just turned around and left.  There are a few very nice parks, like here at Conroe, but many of them are way below our standards. We are not really campers but glampers, I'm afraid. We don't' really care about communing with nature up close and personal and, for us, "roughing it" would be a place where we couldn't receive cell service or satellite TV. We're also highly averse to being parked on anything but pavement of some kind. That will bring a few sneers, but it's amazing how little we care about what others think now that we're getting old. 

There's also the fact that we now have our own little place at Escapees in Hondo. That will cut down on our overnight costs. Besides being unimpressed with most of the accommodations, we just didn't get our money's worth with TT, because we didn't use it enough.

We will be in the Conroe area for about another month--maybe longer--as Sandy's PT gets under way. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with another favorite photo from our travels:


Sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park



 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, February 21, 2021

A Painful Time and a Joyful Reunion

At Grand Texas RV Resort, New Caney, Texas...

I think that one day, most of us will look back on the past year and just shake our heads. There has been so much suffering and loss, and it doesn't appear to be over yet. We have been blessed more than many, in that we have been spared illness, but Sandy's ordeal with surgeries is only half-finished. Her foot is healing nicely now, and she hopes to transition out of the orthotic boot next week.  On March 3, however, she will have shoulder replacement surgery, which means that she will not have fully recovered from the previous procedure when that happens. 

Fortunately, we have not been adversely impacted by the blizzard-of-a-lifetime that blew into Texas a few days ago. I don't think anyone alive today here has seen anything like it; I know I haven't. For the last hundred years or so, Texas' focus has been on dealing with power supply for hot weather and certainly not blizzards. We have little experience with arctic-like weather and, when it hit, we were knocked right off our saddles. The state literally came to a standstill that was monstrous in its effect. Grocery store shelves were quickly emptied, as trucks couldn't get around to restock them; the same thing happened with gasoline.  A million pipes froze and burst in houses not built for extreme cold. Much of the state was without power. Thirteen million people were advised to boil their water once it did begin to flow. Many sickened and some died from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm in their vehicles in their garages. Our electric power grid all but collapsed, overly dependent as it was on wind and solar power, and its generating plants powered by natural gas, coal and nuclear were woefully unprotected and shut down as their systems froze. There has been a lot of finger-pointing, but you can be sure there will be a flurry of activity toward increasing our preparedness. Whether or not it will be effective likely will only be known a hundred years from now when the next deep freeze happens. Let's hope we leave that generation with a better legacy than what we've experienced.

Meanwhile, life went on as usual in Phannie. I never was so glad to hear the steady rumble of the generator to give us electricity, ample propane to give us heat and a big tank of fresh water on board. The power in our park was out for a total of about 24 hours, during which Phannie's generator ran without a hiccup, even though it has over 2,000 hours on it. Fanatical servicing over the years paid off when we needed it.

We have both had the good fortune of getting both Covid vaccinations, and our wait time expired yesterday. We finally were able to see and hug our family, from whom we had been separated for more than nine months. It was a great day, and our joy was complete:

I got big hugs from my two older grandsons, Mason and Pryce, and the youngest, Sutton, leaped into my arms, even though he couldn't have remembered me; he wasn't even walking the last time we were together. The feelings are on full display in this photo:


We all gathered in our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Palenque, and we somehow forgot to ask the waiter to take a photo of the entire family, including daughter Mindy, SIL Tyler and Sandy's sister, Brenda. We were just as happy to see them, of course, but only the grandsons were in this photo with us. I think grandparents can be forgiven for such slights:


By the way, Tyler and Mindy are heroes to us. Tyler selflessly labored in the freezing temperatures for days during the blizzard to fix pipes and get water going for family and friends. When we were getting a little low on diesel, he brought 25 gallons to our park for Phannie's tank, refusing to accept any payment. Mindy, a nurse, has spent days at the downtown Houston hospital emergency room--at times without food or water in the facility--and without being able to go home, helping those with carbon monoxide poisoning and other emergencies, not to mention those infected with Covid. We're not sure how these young'uns of ours developed such a selfless and helpful nature. I'd like to think it was parental influence, but I don't remember our having crises like they have faced during which they performed so heroically. To say we're proud of them is a gross understatement. I just have to include a photo, although a little old, of Mindy, Tyler and their family:


Of course, Brenda, who lives here in Houston, is like a sister to us...oh, wait...she IS a sister! We can't imagine being a family without her:



We wish other members of our family could be closer, as they mean the world to us, too.

We have been in this campground for about five weeks while Sandy has been recovering from her foot surgery, and we will be moving back to Thousand Trails in Conroe on Monday. We will be there when she has her shoulder surgery and, when our time is up there, we'll be moving back to this park until she needs no further follow-up visits with the surgeon. Her physical therapy will probably be done in San Antonio, since that is near our new digs in Hondo.

While we have been in the area around us here in this park, we have found some excellent new restaurants, including a pie shop, a seafood joint and a place we just have to mention, named the Ranch Hand, near Cleveland, Texas. We stopped there on a whim...well, that's not exactly the case; we were hungry. Now we usually have certain standards--although pretty low--for places to eat, but this one was a little questionable--especially at nighttime, which was the case for our first visit. It looks a little better in the daylight:

 

Yes, judging from the almost universal presence of pickups, you can conclude this is a pretty redneck place, and yes, pickups are more or less the vehicle of choice for most good ol' Texans, but you can usually count on them to be driven by someone with a heart of gold and a love of God and country. They also pretty much know where to eat! That more or less sealed it for us. On our first visit, we were hungry for a chicken fried steak--the quintessential dish of Texas--and we figured it would be pretty large and enough for both of us. We were right:


Now I don't make this pronouncement lightly, but this was probably the best chicken fried steak I have ever eaten. That pretty much ensured our return to the place, at which time Sandy ordered a hamburger and onion rings, which came out in equally intimidating size
(I had already scarfed up a couple of onion rings when this photo was taken. Shameful, I know.)

Yes, I ordered the chicken fried steak again, but we had to help each other eat it and, even at that, we had leftovers.

Another thing I like about country cafes like this is the kitschy things on the walls, like these, for example:



And then there was this one, that pretty much sums up the best way to live one's life, in my view:



Now if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I occasionally find peculiar things along the road that pique my interest. This one was in a yard near the Ranch Hand cafe:



Now, perhaps the first thing you notice is that he house is painted in camouflage, which is the first time I've seen this in a civilian setting. One can only wonder what was the need for it. The second oddity that draws your eyes is the headless mannequin wearing a purple shirt and sitting on a residential toilet that happens to be outside. I don't even try to make sense of this; I just enjoy it for its eccentricity
.

I'll mention one more thing that is, unfortunately, troubling, and that is the accelerating censorship of free speech that is endemic in the media and on big tech platforms. Many of you got my note that explained that I am the process of switching away from the oligarchs' products as soon as suitable alternatives appear. I probably won't be switching from Blogger this late in the game because I don't really publish anything here that would raise their hackles enough to cancel me. We do not watch the terribly biased mainstream TV news at all.  If this erosion of our freedom doesn't worry you, it should. It should especially worry you about the country in which your descendants may have to live, perhaps sooner than later. 
 
I'll have another update after Sandy's next surgery. Until then, travel safe and God bless!

Oh, I almost forgot! I told you I would be including a favorite photo taken during our travels while we are immobilized here. Here is one you may enjoy. It is a late afternoon photo of the Rogue River in Oregon, not far from Crater Lake:



To our dear readers, we feel almost guilty for having traveled so many miles and seen so much of our beautiful country, when some of you do not have that ability. We hope your travels with us via our blog have brought you at least a small feeling of the blessings we have enjoyed and our delight that you have traveled with us all these years.

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, January 17, 2021

Progress in PartTiming and Medical Issues

 At Grand Texas RV Resort, New Caney, Texas...

I see that I'm a little overdue for an update here in our Houston-area holding pattern.  In a week, we will celebrate five years of fulltiming, and this is the first winter we will have failed to spend either in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas or in Arizona, as we did last winter. We're grateful for those five years that were almost free of medical problems that weren't self-induced--as in our disastrous falling in Fredericksburg, Texas last year.

 The latest on Sandy's foot is the removal a few days ago of the steel pins from inside her foot that had been placed there by the surgeon after the failure of the first surgery. This was a huge relief for her, as you can imagine walking around with steel pins holding in place the bones inside your foot. We're thinking the healing will go much faster now, as the pain has decreased immensely.  

However, in probably a month's time, she will have surgery to replace her shoulder joint, and that's not likely to be very pleasant. I'm getting to be a pretty good cook and dishwasher, and it looks like my employment in these areas is not in any danger. My knee surgery will be next, but I may put that off for a while longer. We need a break, and I can still get around pretty well.

I'm not sure why our joints seem to have gone south on us all at once, but we are grateful for all the travels we've been able to do until now. We're also grateful for world-class medical care here in Houston and that we haven't contracted Covid. More positive news is that we have both had our first vaccination and will be due for the second in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, we will have dodged that awful plague, and our joint problems seem relatively minor when we think of all those who have had devastating tragedies in their lives. The best news is that, after our second vaccination, we will finally get to see our kids and grandsons! It has been agonizing to be so close by without being able to be with them. We celebrated Christmas with a Facetime connection and, while we're grateful for that technology, nothing takes the place of being there.

We have a little news about our part-timing arrangements that we've been contemplating. We have purchased a lot and adjoining building at Lone Star Corral, an Escapees Co-Op in Hondo, Texas, which is not far from San Antonio, one of our favorite Texas cities. This will allow us to have a permanent base, a second living area and a storage area, a combination we've wanted for some time. After the initial purchase, the monthly dues we'll pay to live there will be less than we were paying for storage here in Houston. The adjoining building is quite nice--fully insulated, air conditioned and carpeted with a nice storage area. We still don't know exactly what we will make of it, but I know for sure that I will finally be able to have a piano again!  When we're not there, the park rents out our RV space (not the building) and splits the proceeds--not bad! We also have good friends, Karen and Richard, who live there, and they seem to love it. 

The five years we've spent fulltiming have been pretty predictable, I would say--having made friends doing the same thing and reading the blogs of others. For the first few years, we were going like mad--in what is known generally as 'vacation' mode. Then we began to slow down and linger at the places we liked and, finally, after having seen so much of the country, we became more interested in just going to one place to spend the winter and another place to spend the summer. Finally, the prospect of having our own digs again--anywhere--became very attractive.  So, that's where we are at this point in the adventure; we know this will not be our hang-up-the-keys destination, but it will do nicely and inexpensively until we decide where to settle for good. It's a good place for part-timers, as we will certainly not be spending the summers there; Texas is too doggone hot for that. It would be a good place for the rest of the year, however.

We are not quite ready for a real house again. I've mentioned before our periods of insanity when we built or bought huge houses and then, we even built a medium-sized one, and we grew to despise the expense and upkeep of all of them. We have learned to live happily and simply in a small space, and whatever we end up with as a permanent dwelling will also be small and simple, probably in a 55+ community that is not too far from our kids. Unless you're in Florida, Arizona or the Rio Grande Valley, small homes in well-kept areas are not easy to find.

That's the latest from here in the holding pattern, and I'll post again when we have some news. Meanwhile, be careful and stay tuned! 

As I mentioned in the last post, I'll be attaching a favorite photo from our fulltime travels. This one was taken in St. George, Utah. (I'm a big fan of the desert Southwest):


 

                                      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






































































                       





   

               

 

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