Old Diary, Travel

Day Two And We’re Getting Itchy

Considering that two days ago they had some pretty rough weather, Saturday it was a glorious day and a great day to drive.  The roads were moderately busy — using my 40 year scale of light to busy for general highway travel.

A nice easy day today

A nice easy day today

Last night we burnt out a headlight and our last ‘job’ for the day was getting a replacement bulb from O’Reilly on Friday night.  Having gotten the bulb installed we could leave before sun-up on Saturday which we did.  And that put us into Rolla about 5 p.m.

With clear skies and decent traffic we enjoyed the drive — watching for snow — which we never saw in any appreciable amounts.

We stopped at Big R’s BBQ for lunch and had a really nice meal — at a place that serves ample portions, of nicely smoked & still moist pork BBQ. The resto is near one of the areas hit by the last big tornado and while there was a lot of rebuilding within 2 miles of the resto — the joint itself seems to have survived without much damage at all and the loyal clientele were out in force on a wonderful Saturday afternoon.

So, we have one more day’s drive remaining.  With luck we’ll be back in Milwaukee by 4:30 on Sunday and sitting down to a turkey dinner with Mike and Katy.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Practicing scriptlessness

Yesterday was spent in the car.  We had howling winds all night before and Peg didn’t sleep much so we got an early start in the morning. That was partly due to the winds, partly due to sounds that sounded like someone’s door being slammed — over and over and over again, and partly because her back has been quite painful.  Which is the reason for our quick trip.  We know we could get medical service in TX but for a variety of reasons we opted to make a quick trip to Wisconsin, see her regular doctor, see our daughter and Son-in-Law, do some business with our safe deposit box, and a few other things we realized could be all done in one fell swoop so we hopped in the car and headed North.

The longest of three days drive

The longest of three days drive

The Plan — such as it is — is to make the 1500 miles in three days while there is a good weather forecast.  Friday was 542 miles from Los Fresnos to Plano TX.  While it was a very manageable distance I was reminded why I don’t like I-35.  It is/was virtually rush hour traffic from San Antonio to Dallas, including at least 40 miles of stop-start bumper-to-bumper going-nowhere-fast.  I really like Los Fresnos, but I really dislike this route and I will do all sorts of things to avoid taking it any more than absolutely necessary.  There ARE other routes out of South Texas.alternates

 

To illustrate, here are two alternate routes:  1.) via I-10 to I-55
2.) via I-30 to Memphis.  Both of them have advantages over the route we picked this time.  This is a route I’ve driven quite often from Dallas North.  What I haven’t driven often is the Dallas-San Antonio section and every time we have done so I-35 has been under major reconstruction with horrendous backups.

Once we pulled into Plano we needed a good meal and we found our way to Paesano’s.  Tripadvisor rates it as #33 out of 233 restos and I can see why.  The prices are reasonable,  the entrees were well done, ample, served quite quickly, and the place is BUSY — in a good way — the sound of people having fun and enjoying life.

Peg has a Dr’s appointment on Monday.  We’ll see what the treatment plan is — can we be in and out of Milwaukee on under 1 week or not?  We’ll see.

Saturday we will head north to Rolla Mo.  I’ll talk with you from there. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

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Old Diary

Life Unscripted…. really unscripted….

plans-changeSomething has come up that necessitates a quick trip to WI.   We hope to be back in Los Fresnos in a few days (given the fact that we are taking 3 days to go up and back – that really means 2 weeks).

Given the way we travel, I may stay current with my postings but  if I fall behind know that we aren’t dead or dying — we’re just attending to businessok_change_of_plans_sorry_1118385.

Today it will be Los Fresnos to Plano, TX. Let’s see how that goes.  The forecast is dry, but with possible freezing temps overnight so we don’t know how early we’ll leave in the morning. As always avoiding Austin, and Dallas during rush hour are paramount.

By the way… if you don’t use the individual state Department of Transportation websites to keep you up to date on road conditions — its something you should look into.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.24.39 PM  For example, the TXDOT road condition map currently looks like this, with lots of negative road situations SW of Fort Worth and East of Dallas.  In Texas’ case they tell you expected end of situations and road location.  In keeping with the fact that this is NOT the UNITED states of America — each state has their own way of reporting road conditions, so you may need to check each individual state in which you plan to travel.

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll try to talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary

And suddenly it’s the end of summer… NOT

Our minds play tricks with us.  Or on us.

We were walking from the pool tonight and peggy says to me, “I know it’s weird, but with all the people leaving the campground now it seems like it should be the end of summer!”  And you know… I does kind of feel that way.

You know that feeling when the weather starts to change, when your neighbors at the lake start packing up their summer stuff and start closing down their summer cottage for the winter and you know that they will soon all be gone and the winds will blow cold and the summer will be over.

Well, in a weird way it feels that way right here, right now.  The Season is almost over. I guess that’s the way people here think about it: the season.  Not the winter.  Just the season. There are conversations about “Are you  coming back next season?”  Not next fall, or next winter.  In fact, come to think about it I don’t think I have heard anyone utter the word ‘Winter’ since we’ve been here.  (Well, not unless Peg or I might have done it.

How does a person’s mind get out of sync by 1/2 a year?   I know that as we are expecting a cold front to go through tonight a lot of folks are talking about their body parts announcing the cold front’s approach — just as you might do up North.  But it’s a curious phenomenon that should happen primarily (for us) because of the association of departing friends with the end of summer.

Don’t Rush the Seasons

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Momma Nature is bigger than us all! Don’t fight with her — you’re guaranteed to lose.

Monday seemed to be the day for a few early departures from the campground — but sometimes it doesn’t pay to rush the season.  Our neighbor to the North is preparing to leave in the coming week.  Their neighbor to the north left a few days ago — about the time of the last weather advisory for Ft Worth & Dallas.  Well, we heard from them today and they are still stuck just North of Ft Worth — parked at a Casino  — waiting for the weather to improve before driving on home.  It doesn’t pay to fight with Mother Nature.  Which is a lesson a lot of us RV’ers learn pretty quickly:  Don’t drive in bad weather; which is to say, get off the road wherever you and and just wait it out.  A lost night’s lodging reservation isn’t worth an accident.  And if you don’t have a reservation it’s even less of a good idea to soldier on and risk an accident.

That’s it for today.  Talk to you tomorrow. And thanks for stopping by.

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Old Diary

Memory Games

Memory Game

We all play memory games, don’t we?

We play little games while we are in a campground.  Do You?

Sometimes it has to do with incoming campers, but at the moment it’s all about OUT-GOING residents.  This morning we took our usual walk around the park and for the first time we totaled up all the sites that have NOT had an RV in them at all since we have been here.  Out of 200 sites, 47 have not seen a camper all season.  And out of the rest it’s already easy to tell that some sites will have had 2 months occupancy for the whole year, others 3,  a lot will have had 4 months and far fewer will see 5 or 6 months occupancy.  There are of course a few year round mobile home-ers — just a handful.  And I have to wonder how you maintain a park of this size when just about 50% of your sites haven’t had a tenant in 12 months, and those who do aren’t full for very much of the year.

But I digress….

Our game — is to try to remember from day to day which sites have been vacated in the last 24 hours.  It’s not as easy as it might sound.  In fact this morning I saw one rig pulling out.Rooftop wind deflector It was a pickup truck with a 5th wheel behind, and the pickup had a roof top wind deflector.  And here’s the odd part about it.  This is the only guy who’s had one of those in this park all season long, and I’ve been eyeing it up all season because it is the only one like it — and today when I walked around trying to figure out which site they were in I can’t figure it out.  I can tell you who was in three other recently emptied sites — and I know which sites they were.  But I cannot for the life of me recall where those people were camped.  It’s maddening!

We got into the pool today — the first time in about 2 weeks that the weather has been nice enough to stick one’s toes into the water.  We appear to be having two nice days — today in the 80’s and tomorrow in the 80’s — and then down to the 30’s overnight and 40’s during the day for a few days.  We will not see 70 until after the current 10 day forecast.

Jetter Slide

What I’m looking for

Universals

These have served me well

This was the second morning with heavy morning fog.  Today we could not see 1/4 mile.  But we still got in the car and did a little long delayed shopping.  I’ve been wanting to get a pair of TEVA sandals for the summer.   TEVA’s have been the one sandal that seems to fit my feet particularly well and also that enjoys any amount of sole longevity.  Alas, after checking the TEVA website and going to the stores that are supposed to  carry them all I found were pairs and pairs of the same style I have now that I want to get away from; I’m looking for one without an ankle strap.

And while we were out I needed to replace my plastic cutting board.  It seems I’m a terribly forgetful cook and I keep putting hot pots on top of the plastic one we have and it keeps warping more, and more, and more.  I noticed recently that both Walmart (where I did NOT want to buy from) and Kitchen Collection have laminated bamboo cutting boards and I thought I’d give those a shot.CBPY393_1_1  Bamboo is eminently sustainable, and the boards we got (as distinct from the one pictures) has end pieces running crosswise to help maintain a flat surface.   With the limited counter space in our coach a few little movable workspaces are highly prized and I can’t stand working on a warped cutting board.  So, for less than 2 fancy coffee drinks we now have boards that will last us a goodly long time.

I should say, in passing that it’s nice not having an illuminated Check Engine light staring me in the face.  I know I should not have put it off  so long but I’m glad to look down and not see anything!

I hope that with the cool weather coming and the taxes out of the way maybe I’ll tackle the Silverleaf remount project.  And then this morning I was thinking once again about adding a short extension to the desk in the office so that my graphics tablet would be completely supported and more usable.  As it is it hangs off the edge of the narrow desk.  Always something to be done….  But I have three more months to get around to it. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary

Shoring Up!

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Judy & Don

Our friends Don & Judy left yesterday.  It was they whom we pulled in immediately behind when we arrived  on December 1, it was they who waited along with us for a dry spot to park on, and it was they who pulled in the second site to the South of us and have been neighbors all winter long.    They’re from Springfield IL (near our good friends Debbie and Delbert) and they are off to participate in their first ever Escapees Escapade. We’ll miss them.   We hope they return next fall.

Upon their departure we scarfed up some 2 x 10’s they left behind — too long to fit in the trunk of their car — and placed them in front of our drive axle in case the spring is wetter than it is now.  When we pulled in the workamper chintzes on how much caliche he put down for us to drive over and I’ve been pondering whether we would have any difficulty in May getting out of here — or if we move sites in April.  Now with something better to drive across — and up to the point where the caliche begins — we should be hunky-dory.

2015022510414101Spring is taking over wherever one looks things are greening up — and  I love it. 2015022511200403In spite of a high of 44º  forecast for later in the week this is lovely!

Any comments from the Bluebonnet Sightings Page have stopped.  Not sure where the flowers stand right  now but with bad weather across the state from Dallas (as I’m writing this a couple days ago) I doubt there’s much activity on the wildflower front.

We had our last monthly seasonal meeting today.  The proceeds from the Hog Roast and other donations were distributed to both the local EMT squad — who make ample trips over hear each year — and the local battered woman’s shelter.  Each group received a check for $550.  That was nice.  It’s good to see a community of temporary ‘neighbors’ doing that much good.

It also looks like most of the activities here will wind down by the end of March and most of the Winter Texans will be leaving this month.  By show of hands, there won’t be many left by April 1.  In fact, after Don & Judy left yesterday two more neighbors on our street left this morning.

At the moment we have a nice beef brisket in the slow cooker and we’re looking forward to a nice quiet meal tonight.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary

I’m a Wisconsinite, Please Forgive Me

Scott-Walker-cartoon

This guy has been the most socially divisive governors in Wisconsin history.

I have to say that as a sort of traveling emissary for my old home state I’m periodically embarrassed by Wisconsin’s Governor.  No, I’m not going to get political on you; and suffice it to say that Gov. Scott Walker has enough problems putting his own foot in his mouth that I don’t need to help him on that account.

But in light of some of the things he’s done and said of late  the question comes to mind:  have you ever wanted to leave this country and take up life as an Expatriate somewhere else?

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A meeting of ExPats with the US Consul in Panama.

Boquete-Weather

Panama is filled with many scenic beauties

One of our pre-mobility options was just that.  We are still content that we didn’t decided to do it — to pick up states and move to another country.  There are some pretty attractive locales around the world and some of them are quite content to have your Yankee $$$$$ spent within their boundaries.  At the time we were preparing to move and downsizing there was a lot of attention being given in the press to Americans moving to Panama, and I have to say we looked there for a short time.

Fact of the matter is that in spite of all the problems this country has, it’s still a pretty great place to live.  And just because a place may be beautiful that does not make it the best place in the world to take up residence.   No, finding a different place to live, no matter how frustrated you may be with government, or the lack of government, or the excess of government is no easy matter and for us we’re staying in a country that has been really good to us.

Tax Time

taxesAhhhhhh…. You knew there was a reason I was dragging out the flag, didn’t you! Yup — It’s tax day for me, my least favorite hours of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have to pay the taxes than not have made the money in the first place but because our tax code is so confusing and I have never been brave about dealing with government in any form — I just hate it.  And I bet you are just the same.

business-tax-lawIf there is anything good about tax time it’s that retirement has made tax season a little less onerous.  It’s taking me a while to get used to the idea of which things become income events in retirement and how much money we can make (if we were working) without raising our tax liabilities but I’ll suss it out in time.  I’ve never understood money very well anyway.  And our legal residence IS in a state that does not tax Pension benefits.  And that’s about the end of the good stuff.

If we were any more complicated — as a tax example — I’d be using professionals but for the time being I’m content to do the Intuit Turbo Tax thing, and the fact that it is able to keep all the pertinent stuff — like prior year tax losses straight — has been a life saver for me.  So, I set up my ‘puter, and get out my CD ROM reader once a year to load in the new year’s program and I sweat bullets for a few hours and come away not feeling too badly.

user1680_1178903354That does not mean I feel any better when I see how my Uncle (Uncle Sam, that is) uses my donations to the common good.  But I’ve done my share and I can only hope that those who’s lifestyle I’m supporting are going to do theirs.  I know I’m the eternal optimist and sometimes they don’t — but hey, you gotta keep a smile on your face even when the world turns upside down.

So — a Sunday fighting with the Tax Man is my day’s prospect and I’m sure I’ll survive.  Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.  If I don’t survive, It’s been nice knowing you. 🙂

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Old Diary, RV Living

Simple Pleasures

This way or that way, or that way and this way…

I turned my attention to routes from Los Fresnos,  Northward in May and then again back South at the end of summer.  I don’t know about you but I find it harder to plan a shorter trip than a longer one.  And I find it hardest to plan a trip where I have a firm start date and end date.

I’ll get it figured out.  What I’d prefer is to make both trips without reservations…. just taking each day as it comes.  This spring it will still be early in the vacation season.  This fall the kids will be back in school and some parks will even be preparing to shut down before we wend our way towards the equator.  Even though I’ve been up and down so many of these highways most of those times were in a car or a truck — not in an RV — and we are still learning the ropes about RV seasons.  I’m not going to fuss about it. Eventually all will fall into place.

We are still planning (some of those set-in-gelatine plans) to take in the Blanco Lavender Festival in mid-June.  I wish I could find enough information on the festival to decide whether we really need reservations at State Parks that are 20 or 30 miles away from the festival.  For a guy who a.) tends not to value things in the same way as others and b.) who is unfamiliar with local customs this is one puzzle that comes up every time we are planning a trip:  how to balance our desire to wing it, without getting stuck with 55 feet of coach and tow vehicle and no place to park it for a few nights.  If necessary I’ll make reservations but I’d rather not need to.

Blanco was not always known as the “Lavender Capital of Texas.”  The idea of Blanco farming lavender did not take root until Robb Kendrick, a National Geographic photographer, and his wife Jeannie Ralston visited Provence, France some years ago and noticed the land there was very similar to their own in Blanco, Texas.  Robb returned to Texas and planted 2,000 lavender plants and started conducting seminars on how to grow lavender.  People listened and then, in 2005, the first Blanco Lavender Festival was held.  And now, it gets bigger every year, and it’s not just arts and crafts; it’s arts and crafts, music, food, farms, and seminars.

We are pretty sure that after Blanco we’ll stop in Livingston to check out Rainbow’s End and the Escapees.  We are members but we have not had anything to do with them yet and still don’t appreciate all the services they have to offer.

Simple Pleasures

I awoke, this morning,  to the sound of silence.  Well, the sound of near silence…. Peggy was purring away beside me in that wonderful, contented, semi-snore that she does.

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Our old school/home

Silence — it’s a wonderful and rare commodity — something we didn’t hear much of in Milwaukee. (does that make sense — hearing silence?) There were always sirens, airplanes, trains and the constant drone of traffic on the highway.  Even when we lived in Cudahy — as far from the Interstate as we could get, and as close to the lake as we ever managed — still there was no escaping the constant drone of the city.

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this was my old office in Cudahy — I loved the color even if some of my family members didn’t. And NO — I am NOT colorblind.

I woke in a reflective mood.  The RV park has been working on cosmetic touchups  (which is to say that workampers and volunteers have been doing the work) — remodeling this, and painting that.  Part of their sprucing up includes repainting the entry vestibule at the office.  The color brought back memories — they chose almost the same paint color as my old office.  Lime Green.  Some people might not have found it pleasant but I enjoyed it tremendously.

Anyway…. back to silence and other simple pleasures.

This time of year with temps in the 50’s overnight we don’t leave the furnace turned on — consequently we sleep in silence — no noises, no blowers, no fans, no rushing air or furnace sounds.   Silence is golden.

Our school had hot water heat — (it did after we PUT it in shortly after buying the property).  I LOVE hot water heat, and radiators, and anything that’s not blowing. Blowing  is why I don’t like convertibles and why I don’t like driving with the windows down — too noisy!

baseboard

We had these baseboards with a zillion aluminum fins to dissipate the heat — and the heating and little fins made a lot of noise.

radiator

We had one of these in the kitchen – silent as the day is long — but that was no help when the bedroom baseboards chattered. sigh

Hot water heat is supposed to be silent. The baseboard in our bedroom was not silent.  Whenever the heat came on the baseboard crackled — heating and cooling, expansion and contraction noises.  And every morning it woke me up.  It wasn’t a loud noise.  It was hardly a noise at all.  But it woke me up.  Every single day.

I’m finally learning to sleep a little later in the morning.  I  never used to be able to stay asleep past 5,  usually not much past 4, and sometimes not past 3 — so I’ve spent plenty of  hours enjoying the morning peace.

I loved that time: for reading, for writing, for being alone with my thoughts.  RV’ing brings a new dimension to peace.  I don’t consider the sounds of nature to be ‘noises.’  I love the chatter of birds early in the a.m., and the sound of tree frogs and owls;  even the breeze in the trees.  Somehow the sounds of nature don’t strike me as noises.  Those sounds I welcome.  We have no forest noises here; but we do have a good number of birds.

Now that the switches on the Norcold are ‘fixed’ the alarm doesn’t go off in the middle of the night — that’s nice too.  Funny, how after 3 or 4 days of periodic alarms being able to go to bed and not even think about the fact that the alarm won’t go off is another blessing.

Simple things.  Quiet.  A hot cup of coffee early in the morning. Time to think about things:  big events, big ideas, the ebb and flow of life.  And to listen to the sounds of birds.  Without sirens…. that is heavenly.  To me, anyway.

In those few years that I drove truck I saw too many terrible accidents.  For 2 years I hauled meat from Madison (Oscar Meyer) to Boston.  Saturday night and Sunday were rather like  a movable feast.  About 20 of us drivers seemed to meet up with each other just east of Chicago over a space about 50 and we all drove together for most of the trip to the PA/NJ border.  There we broke up, some going East into The City, others heading NE towards Boston, Bangor, Hartford, etc.  One of my good friends during that period was cut off by a car near Hartford, he swerved to avoid hitting the card and plowed into a bridge abutment.  There was a lot of fire;  he was terribly burned and died a few weeks later.  Ever since the sound of sirens has brought back unpleasant memories and I have wanted to be as far away from sirens as possible.

Sounds are strange things.  We form associations with noises that have nothing to do with the sounds themselves.  Where we heard them, and why, the time of night (or day), etc..

Another simple pleasure is the compactness of our ‘house.’  Living in 40 feet sounds hard but living in 40 feet is almost the easiest thing we have done.  I am so happy we made the choice to downsize.  I can still mess up my desk.  We still have things sitting around that aren’t put away, but housekeeping 40 feet is much easier than keeping a couple thousand sq ft of house and caring for a lawn or garden or grove of fruit trees.  I love being 10 steps from everything!  I love that we don’t have as many ‘everythings’ as we used to.  I didn’t need them and don’t miss them and I keep trying to find ways of shedding even more of what we carry with us.

There is some traffic in and out of the park.  Not a lot — but we are on the main park road and we pretty much see every vehicle that enters or leaves.  There aren’t that many of them.  But I find that I miss the periodic sound of campers arriving and departing that accompanies staying in state and federal campgrounds.  The lot of us arrived several months ago and most of us are still here — other than the UPS truck, the FedEX, and Waste Management there aren’t many trucks coming or going.  Getting accustomed to not being part of the workforce, and consequently not caring about things that used to be part and parcel of life is an ongoing process.

Sitting in the sun — something we aren’t getting as many chances to do as we hoped but something I almost never did at when I was still working — I was always fussing and puttering — it’s another simple pleasure that I’m coming to really enjoy.  Sometimes with a book, other times just to watch the ‘neighbors’ parading back and forth.  I never thought I could learn to enjoy such little things.   My parents in their retirement loved to visit National Parks and part of their ritual was to find a bench from which they could just watch people passing.  I don’t even need a National Park.  Watching people is always fun.

I like the fact that retirement is changing me.  Change is good — even if we aren’t always of a mind to welcome it.  Some people have a plan for their retirement  — places they want to go, things they want to do.  Some folks seem surprised that we are quite happy to make our plans whenever we make them and not to have things plotted out very far in advance –– but why should we?

I’m finding that the longer we’re retired (and the less I have to deal with customers) the happier I am. I love people and I enjoy them — but in much smaller quantities than I ever had to deal with when I was working.  In good weather and in bad every day of retirement, and every day of this mobile life has been wonderful. Whether we went one meal a day or four, whether we sleep 4 hours a night or 10, whether we talk to 100 people or no one  this has been a wonderful 3 1/2 years and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Even the worst days (not that there have been ‘worst’ days) have been pretty doggone great.

Those of you who aren’t yet retired, who may yet have to make your decisions about how to spend your retirement — all I can hope is that you end up being as comfortable about your final choices as we have been.

Grumble, grumble, grumble

It happened to me on Sunday. For the first time in my life I had to choose NOT TO READ A BOOK because the print was too small.  I never thought it would happen; and to be forthright I do think that the print in that particular book is exceedingly tiny — but geez,  I’m too young for this.

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow!

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