Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, July 3, 2022

"And That Has Made All The Difference"

 At West View RV Resort, Dolores, Colorado...

Many will recognize the title of this post to be an abridgement of Robert Frost's famous quotation: 

Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

To further illustrate the overall themes of this post, I must include a snippet from the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's iconic song, "My Way" (the tune composed by Claude Francois):

Regrets, I've had a few but, then again, too few to mention...

You may have noticed that my posts of late have begun to point toward this blog's eventual conclusion, not that I'm contemplating it by any means, but perhaps because I have many more years behind me than those ahead. This month marks the 17th year of the publication of Phannie and Mae, and it is entirely appropriate, I think, to look in the rearview mirror and reflect upon the path we have traveled.

Having extra time on my hands among the idyllic mountain settings of Colorado affords a perfect opportunity to reminisce about having taken the road "less traveled by" and its having resulted in regrets "too few to mention."

An unknown butte in the foreground with Ute Mountain in the distance.
(Photo taken near Mancos, Colorado.)

You see, we believe we have enjoyed the best of both worlds--having spent most of our years working, raising a family in a nice home and being involved in a community that included friends, family and church activities. Then, in preparation for retirement, we decided RV travel would be a good way to visit all the places we had longed to go when we were no longer tethered by our responsibilities. And so we did--and it has "made all the difference," as has been faithfully recounted from day one in the hundreds of posts and countless photos in this blog. And we ain't done yet!

As we sit outside with friends Jackie and Steve, sipping a cold beverage and feeling a bit too cool in the high country breeze, we can't help but think of family and friends back in the cauldron that is Texas in the summer and how unthinkable it would be for them to need a jacket in mid-afternoon. We would, indeed, feel a bit guilty had we not worked hard to enjoy this privilege. 

From time to time, we question ourselves as to whether we miss having a regular house, and the answer inevitably comes back with a shudder. No! The reasons have been stated in previous posts, and nothing has changed. When we are forced to hang up the keys, we will be looking for something small and simple in a 55+ neighborhood. You will recall from previous posts that we have a hybrid of that now in Ranchito Hondo.

For those who wonder if we get bored when we go to Colorado for months at a time, we just say, "Are you kidding?" We have arrived at the age when simple pleasures matter most. These include being with good friends, talking with our family members, shopping for and sending trinkets and souvenirs to the grandkids, playing games, exploring, having potlucks and, most of all, remembering all the good times and good friends we have met along the way and wishing they could be with us. It also doesn't hurt that we are enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery and weather imaginable.

This brings me to what is perhaps the more important of the two pearls of wisdom expressed above by Messrs. Frost and Sinatra:  Regrets...too few to mention. One thing I have always thought would be a tragedy is to arrive at my sunset years regretting things I wished I had done. I can testify to the incomprehensible blessing of our having no regrets for having taken the path that has made all the difference.

If you find yourself wondering what kinds of things we do during our escape to southwestern Colorado, I have to tell you that relaxing is a mainstay. Here are a few photos of places and activities we also enjoy:

Steve proudly holds up his baby-back ribs, having outdone himself with his smoker.
So good!

A rainbow ends on Phannie's roof! No pot of gold was found, unfortunately.

Historic Durango is only an hour's drive away and, on another day, we were able to have lunch al fresco downtown at the Thai Kitchen. The weather was absolutely perfect--79 degrees, no wind, and no pesky insects. We lingered for quite a while, not wanting to leave:

On yet another day, we just had to make a visit to the Dolores farmers' market, held in a lovely park in the town center:

I scored a big bag of freshly-picked salad greens that were so good. (We had already used half the bag when I took this photo.):

Jackie purchased a couple of greeting cards made by a local crafter using something called  'quilling,' an amazingly intricate and laborious technique of which I had never heard. Impressive, huh? I don't know if she'll be able to bring herself to send them to someone:

Another trip to Durango required a visit to Honeyville, a specialty factory that deals in everything imaginable having to do with honey, as well as homemade jellies, preserves and other goodies. I was especially fond of the honey peanut brittle--perhaps my favorite candy of all time.

Sandy's making friends with the honey bear at Honeyville.

Having spare time to putter with Phannie, I installed a couple of cameras on the outside, so we won't be quite so oblivious as to what's going on when we're away or when all the shades are down at night. The video shows up on the cell phone wherever we are, and this is made possible through our constant wi-fi service via Starlink. The cameras are wireless and are easily detachable when we are ready to travel:

I thought you might like to get a flavor of what the first few weeks of our stay in the mountains was like. We will be leaving Cortez in a few days for Grand Junction, where Phannie will get her annual service. After that, we will proceed higher in the mountains to cool Gunnison for the rest of the summer. Stay tuned!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should every day.

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 18, 2022

We Took Starlink With Us; How Does It Work?

 At West View Resort, Cortez, Colorado...

We've been Starlink customers for about five months now, so when they announced their new portability feature, it was a no-brainer to take it with us to Colorado for the summer. I had read on some Facebook groups that there are some problems when you take the dish away from its home base, but that didn't deter me from signing up for portability at an additional $25 per month.

If you've read this rag for a while, you probably know that we have disconnected our DirectTV satellite and gone to full wi-fi streaming. Before Starlink, this was done via a Verizon unlimited hotspot (which is really not unlimited) and our T-Mobile cell phone hotspots. Now this gives us over 200 gigs of unthrottled data, but who needs the hassle of running up against limits and having to change devices to get wi-fi? Enter Starlink, where you just turn it on and forget it--unlimited lightning-fast data, all the time. There's no need to turn it off; your "home" network is on all the time.

We left the Starlink dish in a belly compartment (it comes with a protective carrying bag) and used the Verizon hotspot during the two-week trip to Colorado. Once we arrived here in Cortez--where we will be for three weeks--I set up the dish and fired up the router. Within seconds, the dish came alive and pointed itself northward. The network came up immediately, and a speed test revealed that the data throughput was somewhat slower than it was at Ranchito Hondo. Even at the slower speed, it was still faster than DSL and the Verizon hotspot. The slower speed was a known factor, as Starlink advertises that its use in portability mode results in a lesser prioritization than that given native users. This was fine with me, as I much prefer the "set it and forget it" nature of a wi-fi network live all the time with no worries about throttling at some point--which is what Verizon does with my hotspot at 100 gigs. We're hanging on to the Verizon hotspot, however; we don't want to be without multiple backups (including the cell phones) when we're not using Starlink.

So, here is a pic of our setup--so easy to do and so easy to move to our next location:

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, June 17, 2022

Colorado, At Last!

 At West View Resort, Cortez, Colorado...

Seeing Edgewood, New Mexico in our rearview mirror was a relief (see the previous post). I eased Phannie onto I-40 and set the cruise control on 62 mph, the old gal's sweet spot. The tranny doesn't shift into sixth gear until 57 mph, so that gets her a little cushion against downshifting while maximizing her fuel economy, if you could call it that.

I chose a somewhat longer route to Cortez to avoid the mountain driving that would have been required going through Santa Fe and Durango. We've done quite a bit of mountain driving over the years, but it's not a favorite of mine because the management of the steep grades is nerve-wracking and hardly easy on Phannie. That having been said, I continue to be amazed at the incredible stamina and dependability of this old motorhome; I can tell no difference between now and the day we bought her.

Our route took us to Gallup and then northbound on New Mexico 491 through Navajo Indian territory; the last few miles cut through the Ute reservation. It is a lonely, boring highway that is in rough shape in some spots. The scenery was that of a bleak wasteland--that is, except for passing by Shiprock, an interesting rock formation somewhat resembling a sailing schooner:

If one lets his imagination get out of hand, he can easily catch himself looking atop ridges across the badlands to see if an Indian war party has amassed on horseback to attack our wagon train. (That's not me losing it, you understand...just a hypothetical. I'm glad we cleared that up!)  It is pretty easy, though, to see why the Indians would be mad at us; just look at the wasteland we gave them after the Indian wars!

So why southwestern Colorado instead of the more cosmopolitan big-city areas on the eastern slope of the Rockies? Well, I think it's because this is the jumping-off point for some of the most beautiful mountain scenery that is fairly close to Texas and relatively free of urban influence. Besides, we've done the eastern slope many times, and we love the relatively undiscovered San Juan mountain area.

Making it through the New Mexican badlands without an Indian attack, we finally arrived in Cortez, Colorado, a good-sized town of around 20,000. The elevation has risen to around 6,500 feet here, so the temperature is 15-20 degrees cooler than the triple-digit furnace that was Texas. The elevation rises steeply to the northeast as the majestic peaks of the San Juans are in full glory:

We had a bit of a shock on our first morning after arriving:

Yes, I turned on the heat right away, still pinching myself after baking in triple digits for the past ten days!

Looking west from our area, we captured a wonderful sunset with some low hills visible about 12 miles away:

The West View Resort is easily the nicest facility anywhere around these parts. The park is quite full of RVs, which was a bit of a surprise, as we were expecting more people to stay home during these ridiculous fuel prices. A local couple owns the park, and they have spent much time and treasure making it beautiful:

Old friends Jackie and Steve will be joining us tomorrow, and we will be here a couple more weeks until traveling to Grand Junction for Phannie's "well-woman" check. From there, we will be moving to higher ground as the summer heats up. Our final destination, Gunnison, is at 8,000 feet, and we expect the same wonderfully cool summer we've enjoyed there before.

Our recovery from Covid?  Going great--just an occasional cough now; we're 99 percent back to normal.

Stay tuned. The next post will contain a Starlink update.

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

Thursday, June 16, 2022

What's It Like to Get Covid Now? (We know.)

At West View Resort, Cortez, Colorado...

We had just pulled into an RV park in Plainview, Texas after a weekend with our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons in Dallas. I remarked to Sandy, "I have a doggone tickle in my throat." She nodded and disclosed that she, too, had the unmistakable beginnings of a cold. We were both taken aback, as it had been years since we had a cold of any kind, and we couldn't remember the last summer cold either of us had experienced. 

Luckily, we had planned for a week's stay at this park while we visited nearby friends, so we thought we would give ourselves a couple of down days, and these sniffles would go away. Alas, it was not to be; each day brought with it more coughing, drainage, fever and a slight breathing restriction. This was anything but a summer cold, we thought. About the time we were becoming concerned as to the nature of our malady, our daughter, Mindy, who is a nurse, called and said she had tested positive for Covid, as had her entire family. She said we likely have Covid ourselves because of our exposure to them in Dallas. This was a shock, because none of them appeared to be ill, except for our oldest grandson, who lost his voice near the end of our visit. 

We hadn't even thought about Covid for a long time, as we had been fully vaccinated and boosted.  We assumed, therefore, that we were at relatively low risk, especially since we were also in relatively good health for an older couple. Nevertheless, we hurried to a local emergency care clinic for testing; it was, indeed, Covid. We looked at each other with the realization that we had finally contracted the infamous virus that had been the scourge of the whole world. It was a somewhat sobering moment, but we also knew the lethality of Covid had lessened greatly over time. The doctor gave us a prescription for Paxlovid and told us to come back if our conditions worsened or we had any difficulty in breathing. Once we began the medication, we improved quickly, with only the cough and drainage lingering.

According to the doctor, we were fortunate to have contracted Covid after the virus had mutated many times, rendering it far less dangerous than the original. The downside, according to him, was that the current variant is highly contagious.

We're just sharing this personal experience for your health information and in memory of friends and loved ones who were not so fortunate. We are grateful to God for our good outcome.

At the end of a week in which we felt pretty lousy, our energy had returned to an extent, and we set off for Colorado on schedule.  We wished our friends well until we see them later this summer at our park in Gunnison. Our only stop enroute would be in Edgewood, New Mexico, some 30 miles east of Albuquerque. But first, we had to travel past Earth. No, not the planet...Earth, Texas:

The tiny town of Earth (population around 1,000) is in the panhandle of Texas, not far from the New Mexico border. It was established in 1924 and originally named Tulsa, which the post office rejected. It was then named "Good Earth" due to the good farming land surrounding the area. After a while, the name was shortened to just "Earth." According to the mayor, there are no other towns in the world so named...something I haven't fact checked, but I would like to believe it's true.

Earth is not what you would call vibrant, but it DOES have a Dairy Queen, so there's that...

Since leaving Plainview, we were plagued with a vicious headwind for the entire 287 miles to Edgewood. I don't even want to know what kind of mileage Phannie was getting, but I'm sure it was less than her usual 7.4 mpg. I tried not to think of the nearly one dollar leaving my bank account for every mile traveled.

We arrived at the Route 66 RV Park, dog-tired and still somewhat weak from our bout with Covid. There was not a sprig of vegetation anywhere in the park--just powder-like sand, mixed with gravel in places to form RV sites. The wind was whipping up dust devils everywhere and, when I stepped outside the coach, my hat blew off, and I was covered with a layer of fine sand. Suddenly, I thought I was in an old foreign-legion movie or something; I expected to see a camel at any moment. It didn't dawn on me until later that I had not recovered fully from Covid, one of the effects of which is diminished lung capacity, and look at what I'm breathing! 

Water, I thought; I must have water! I fought my way to where the water hookup should be and, upon brushing the sand away, found that the faucet was located beneath a steel manhole cover about 18 inches below ground level! Now consider what this means for someone who has one bad knee and one fake knee, neither of which is designed for kneeling on gravel and reaching 18 inches below to hook up a water hose. The meme below best describes my thinking at that moment:

Through the dust storm, I could barely make out the office in the distance. Wondering where my hat was by then, I stumbled to the office, where my windblown countenance visibly frightened the poor girl sitting at the desk. I explained my circumstances and asked if they had a maintenance person who could help me drill for water. "Um, the owner has gone to Albuquerque, but I'll call him," came the answer. Not at all sure how this would help, I thanked her and rode the tailwind back to Phannie. It would have been nice, I thought, if I had included a divining rod when I was preparing to leave Ranchito Hondo. (I wonder who will know what the heck I'm talking about here.)

In a short while, a young fella showed up. (At least that's what I thought the visage was, as I was trying to see through the dust on my eyelids.) I explained the situation, and he quickly hooked up the hose after half his body disappeared through the manhole.

It wasn't long until nightfall, and the wind began to moderate. After a nice shower, we settled in for a short night...we had over 300 miles to go the next day.

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, June 12, 2022

Small Town Charm

  At The Hitchin' Post RV Park, Plainview, Texas...

As we travel around the country, we are encouraged in these trying times by the simple friendliness that abounds in small towns. Such was the case in Kress, a lonely burg on the high plains of west Texas. A stop at Jeff's restaurant was a step into another world, where we were greeted by Rhonda (Jeff's wife) with a, "Hi, y'all, sit anywhere; I've got a fresh pie comin' out of the oven."

We were treated as though we were friends from next door and the train wreck that is our country had been a bad dream. We sat near the buffet, fussed over by Jeff and his young grandson, who was obviously learning the ropes. As the excellent home-cooked offerings were gobbled up by customers, Jeff put his hand on the young man's shoulder, saying, "Come on, boy, let's cook up some more catfish."

After our meal, we bent the rules and shared a slice of Rhonda's coconut pie, a little piece of heaven that had somehow made its way to earth. As we left, Rhonda waved and said, "Y'all come back now," in a syrupy Texas drawl. For this brief stop, it was fifty years ago. Oh, if only time could stand still...

I posted the passage above in Facebook and received an unexpectedly large response, for reasons I don't quite understand. Perhaps it was because, considering these crazy times, a lot of people are reminiscing about the 'good old days.' In fact, it will be published in my hometown monthly newspaper, and the editor, a high school classmate, asked me to write a column to appear in each issue. Totally surprised, I accepted; We'll see how that goes. (Hint: Next topic--Covid.) We leave Plainview for Colorado tomorrow.

 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, June 5, 2022

And...We're Off!

 At Hapgood RV Park, Henrietta, Texas...

We are four days into our summer escape from the Texas heat...except we really haven't yet escaped. As usual, we plan our summer travel after oldest grandson Mason's birthday on June 3; this was his thirteenth, and we joined the family in Grapevine, Texas, where he was feted at the Great Wolf Lodge.

Upon our departure from Ranchito Hondo, I discovered that Phannie's dash air conditioner was not blowing at its normal chill. Uh oh, this was not good--especially for someone who thinks air conditioning should appear in the Bill of Rights. Fortunately, it was an unusually cool day with some showers around, so the cooling was adequate for the first leg of our journey. However, when the weather warms up again, it will need to have been fixed, or I'll have to call a tow truck. With that in mind, we have a few stops to make in the coming week to take care of this and some other minor issues.

The first of these stops will be in Wichita Falls at an auto air conditioning shop. In preparation for this, we stopped at the city RV park in nearby Henrietta before taking the old girl in to be "Freoned." We discovered this little gem of a park several years ago--a great little place, well away from busy U. S. 287, with all pull-through level sites, full hookups (some with 50 amps) and manicured grounds--all for $15 per night, paid on the honor system:

As you can see, we are almost alone in the park; I suppose this is because few RVers know about it. We have found that many small towns in Texas and in other states have municipal or county RV parks available at very low cost, assuming, of course, that users will patronize local businesses.

This trip's departure is the first where I have experienced a subtle psychological change in myself that I've been expecting. The aging process, I believe, naturally brings with it a more cautious and guarded outlook on life--something that seems to increase in older people until their spirit of adventure is more and more circumscribed, ultimately to be suspended permanently. It is said that a person's world is very small at birth, very large in young adulthood and middle age, only to become small again in old age. I'm pretty sure that's what is going on here but, having recognized it, I'm going to do my best to bring it in for a soft landing--perhaps years from now. In the meantime, we will have had two decades of incredible journeys and, most important, no regrets for having 'slipped the bonds' and lived the dream. We feel blessed because so many are not afforded the time, resources or good health we have had in order to make these memories and form treasured friendships along the way. In the meantime, I must keep an attitude like that of Clint Eastwood, whom I quote at the end of every post.

Well, that's about enough self-psychoanalysis for one day; perhaps sharing this little insight will be a signpost for others traveling this road. 

Once Phannie's little hiccups have been cured, we will be spending a few days near Plainview, Texas with old friends Bubba and LouAnn and their family. More to come as we push forward to the mountains.

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Countdown Until We're Northbound

 At Ranchito Hondo in the Lone Star Corral Escapees Park, Hondo, Texas...

First, I would like to point out that it has been less than a month since my last post! This burst of writing energy leaves me encouraged that I may not have  given over to the last of the seven deadly sins--that being 'sloth.' This seems especially true since we have not been indolent here in the Texas outback. Even though we have been busy, as you will see below, the unusually hot springtime weather has caused us to spend more afternoons under Phannie’s ample air conditioning. The time is growing short until we shutter the Ranchito (yes, Ranchito Hondo is the new nickname of our Texas 'acreage') and point the Dowager Phannie northbound to Colorado. It will not be a quick trip, however, due to a long-anticipated stopover in the DFW area to see Tyler and Mindy and the grands. They will be celebrating grandson Mason’s birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, and we will gladly brave the heat to be with them for a few days. After that, we’ll have another stop in northwest Texas to visit longtime friends Bubba and LouAnn and their families. We will see them again in Colorado along with some other dear friends, Steve and Jackie. My posting frequency will, undoubtedly, pick up once we begin that trip.

I’m trying not to think about the cost to fill Phannie’s 100-gallon fuel tank. I had the good sense to fill the tank before we parked for the winter/spring here at Ranchito Hondo. That 'cheap' fuel will take us only 700 miles or so until we’ll have to become bank robbers or something. The problem with that money-making scheme, however, is that Phannie will probably not be a good getaway vehicle. Sandy will never go for it either, because wearing a face mask would ruin her makeup. I’ll have to think of something else, I suppose. Although I have learned to keep this blog relatively free of politics, I have some rather strong views about whom to blame for the craziness we’re witnessing in the country; I'll leave it at that.

As mentioned in the previous post, we have spent a good deal of our time and treasure lately, upgrading the formerly gruesome landscaping here at the Ranchito. Over the years before we bought this place, the weed barrier beneath the much-despised pea gravel yard had deteriorated, causing a losing battle for me against the wretched, useless plants that sprang up everywhere, mocking me for my ineffective attempts at controlling them.

In the last post, I also mentioned that the absurd green paint on the driveway would be sandblasted; below are photos of that effort:

The sandblasting crew was another blow to the treasury, but it has helped curb my overdosing on Xanax:

Ah yes, so much better now:

The cable in the photo above goes to a Starlink router inside Phannie. When we return in the fall, this will be redirected inside the cabin, where it will provide Wi-Fi to a new TV, security cameras and the like. Service out to Phannie will then be provided via a wireless network.

After all this, plus a little landscape lighting (see the second photo below), the place is much more welcoming, don’t you think? There are slight differences between this photo and the one in the previous post. (Hint: The wooden fence and the cactus in front of the boulders.)

Nighttime view:

A couple of nights ago, we took time to watch the lunar eclipse and see the phenomenon of the “blood moon.” I took some photos, three of which I’m including here--at the beginning, middle and end of the increasing shadow of the earth upon the moon:

Hence the "blood" moon.

I couldn’t help but wince at the inadequacy of the hybrid legit/digital zoom on my camera, but an upgrade will have to wait a little while until the bank account gets off life support.

Let's see...I guess I could offer my impression of Starlink, now that we've had a couple months' use under our belt:

The first question I'm always asked is, "Is it worth $110 per month (plus another $25 if you want to carry it with you)?" Well, yes; but I am a gadget freak, and I am absolutely fascinated with the technology brought about by the genius of Elon Musk. The lightning-fast Wi-Fi speed with no limits is terrific, but probably is a bit of overkill for my use. Do I care? Not really. I had to have it, and there are toys and vices I could have that are more expensive. I'm looking forward to trying it out in Colorado.

And so it goes with our tiny winter hideaway out in the country. There are plenty of good neighbors around, and we have made fast friends with some of them here in the park. Although we could choose differently, we have come to love the simplicity and economy of this lifestyle and have no desire whatsoever to go back to the 'bigger is better' mentality of our past. We only wish we could have learned that lesson much earlier.

We have only a couple of weeks' countdown until we blast off for the summer; look for more posts after that!

 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, April 25, 2022

Okay, This is Embarrassing!

At Escapees Lone Star Corral, Hondo, Texas...

No, the blog hasn't gone dark; I'm still here. However, things are a-changing, methinks. We seem to be entering a new phase in our fulltiming/part timing lifestyle that appears to be brought about largely by the inevitable aging process. It is said that a child's world is very small until he or she reaches adulthood, when the world grows large and potential is seemingly limitless in many areas, including travel. However, in later life, their world slowly gets smaller until their confines return to that of a child when their cognitive and physical abilities diminish with their passage into old age.

I wouldn't want you to infer from the above that Sandy and I have suffered much cognitive decline, at least that we can perceive (some may disagree). However, the last few years have presented some physical challenges, and we have the surgical scars to prove it. These have been illuminated ad nauseum in prior posts, so there's no need to rehash any of that. Even though surgical repairs have been made and parts replaced to enhance our mobility, an aging body is sort of like the Bop-A-Mole game, where something unexpected begins to hurt, creak or leak from time to time. This adds to the frequency of visits to health professionals to get that mole bopped down again. If you're in your seventies or better, you know what I'm talking about. If you're not there yet, you can get a glimpse herewith of that to which you can look forward!

Besides enriching health providers, there is another very effective means to lessen the impact of the unwelcome moles that pop up; it all has to do with one's attitude. We try to concentrate on the positives--the things we can do, our wonderful family and the many cherished friends who are almost family to us. We thank God for each new day and try to ignore or beat back the moles that keep popping up. (Have I worn out that metaphor yet?) Sandy is naturally better at brushing off adversity than I; I think men, in general, are predisposed to whining about things that don't go right, and her lack of complaining can be annoying at times. See? It's not hard for me to find something about which to whine!

Now before you get the idea that my lack of presence in the blogosphere is due to my being holed up in a pity party or some kind of 12-step program, we are not doing nothing. In fact, we have been quite busy, recently spending a month away from our digs here in Hondo to visit family, celebrating grandson Pryce's birthday and visiting with friends in the eastern part of the state. Meanwhile, while there, we took care of some end-of-life business that befalls everyone when the realization of the inevitable shows clearly the loose ends that need to be tied up. Once accomplished, however, these can be forgotten, replaced by more pleasant things.

I've written previously about our reasons for buying into this Escapees park--mainly having our home (Phannie) and our stuff (stored in the cabin) together in a place that we own. Since the cabins here are not equipped for fulltime living, they can be claimed on the tax rolls as 'sheds,' thereby generating an insanely low tax footprint. Being classified as a shed doesn't mean that it can't be very nice inside and outside--projects in which we have been heavily involved lately. (Photos of the inside later.)

When I think back at all the crowing I have done about having gotten rid of the drudgery of keeping up a stick-and-brick house, I feel a little sheepish about having a small resurgence of that drudgery with our place here in Hondo. I guess it hadn't occurred to me that any edifice in which one at least partially lives--no matter how small--always requires attention. For example, I had to buy an electric hedge trimmer the other day--after I had given away my old one when we began fulltiming, and I thought then I would never have to use one again. Following the acquisition of our tiny stick-and-brick cabin, we have had to acquire anew many of the house-upkeeping tools that we had given away, all the while sneering at the poor souls who would have to be using them. Karma is alive and well, it seems.

That brings me to the concluding thoughts about this new phase of our lifestyle and the years that led up to it: 

1) In the initial phase of fulltiming, we were drunk with freedom; we couldn't wait to go and see all the things on our bucket list. We were always on the move--sometimes exhaustively. I remember writing about the most inane of details--about everything; it was so exciting! 

2) As time went by and we began to develop friendships along the way, we tended to moderate our traveling frenzy to include places where we could interact with those friends for a longer period of time. 

3) Even when we were not with friends, our traveling was moderated in favor of staying a longer time at the places we had grown to enjoy. 

4) In the next phase, which stretched over years, we traveled to see most everything on our bucket list, so we found ourselves returning--and off the road--for a full season at the places we liked. 

5) In the current phase, we feel the need to have our own home base--however modest--from which we do an even lesser amount of traveling. We find now there is really no substitute for being home, irrespective of what kind of home, as long as it's ours.

So, are we no longer fulltimers? I guess we're not. We seem to have flopped into part-timing after about six years. 

Since we are quite happy with our setup here in Hondo, we've decided to dress up the place a bit. We hired a landscape company to revamp completely the entire area around the cabin with near-carefree hardscape. The company had a designer on staff, so we prevailed on him to make a unique design for the front yard, and he certainly did.  Here is a photo, taken as the workers were beginning the job; you'll notice they have removed part of the horrid chain-link fence that the previous owner had installed to keep pets from roaming:

The weed barrier beneath the old pea gravel had deteriorated, causing a fight with weeds that I was about to lose. The company removed every bit of the pea gravel and the old weed barrier, bringing in new, plus river rock, flagstone and crushed granite to make this design:

The photo above was taken from the street in front of our place, and it shows the minimalist design that we wanted. You'll notice the dark crushed rock is roughly in the shape of the state of Texas with a stack of large boulders in the middle. The boulders, to which I refer as a mini-Stonehenge, is a real head-turner for many of the park's residents, whose tastes generally run in a much more traditional vein. The purpose of stack of stones, of course, is to evoke curiosity in the viewer as to 'what it means.' The truth is that it has no intended meaning; it means whatever the observer thinks--good, bad or indifferent.

In this instance, the design has some of the aspects of modern art, which I  always thought was a bit silly, as I couldn't figure out what the artists were trying to show with odd blotches, squiggles and tortured shapes. Then I realized that it wasn't necessary to figure out the 'meaning' of the piece; whatever I thought about it, in most instances, was the meaning, and so it is with the landscape design. We are becoming much bigger fans of minimalist simple design and, if we were to build another house (not gonna happen), we would need to resurrect Frank Lloyd Wright to design it. As you can imagine, there is nothing else like our lot in the park, and there has been no shortage of head-scratching from those who pass by. We just smile and do a high-five. Success!

This project--the cost of which was hard to swallow--still isn't quite finished. One last row of chain-link fence, visible in the photo, has now been taken down, to be replaced by a wooden rail fence. The driveway, which is painted dark green in places--for reasons known only to God--has yet to be sandblasted. There is another small area of pea gravel at the rear of the driveway and along the other side of Phannie that will be refurbished in the fall with river rock.

Now that we've been here a while, we are meeting new friends besides our old friends and fellow residents, Richard and Karen. Here are a couple of photos that show some of them:

Richard and Karen are on the left of the photo above, and new friends Patti and Gary are beside Sandy. They are sitting in the park's event center.

Lanie and Walt, above, are busy renovating their cabin. Unlike us, they are annoyingly talented at this sort of thing, but their friendliness helps us overcome our own inadequacies in such endeavors.

About a month from now, we will be leaving for the Dallas area, where we will help grandson Mason celebrate his 13th birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge. After that, we will be making our way to Colorado to spend the summer, with a stop near Plainview, Texas, to visit friends Bubba and LouAnn and their family.

I appreciate all of you who have stuck around during my serious posting deficit. My entries will undoubtedly pick up steam when we leave for Colorado.

 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