Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

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