Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

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