Friday, December 31, 2010

Closing the Year ....

We have been living in our motor home for 3 months. One quarter of a year. Doesn't seem like much time has gone by at all! We have been SO busy ... moving around a bit, getting used to the new coach, learning the new systems and gradually realizing that we are "home" ... no place else to go!

We made a quick trip back to Pennsylvania for Christmas ... saw friends and visited our storage unit, took care of some Dr. visits and then spent time with our PA grandchildren and family. Loved it!! I especially loved the fact that we flew and did not try to drive the coach. I just KNEW it was going to snow while we were there, and that we would get into terrible difficulties. I was RIGHT!! There was a snowfall of about 12" and we were very lucky to have gotten out of Phila before the next one hit. I got snow down my neck, in my shoes and in my face. Enough to hold me for a while!

Back in Texas, we happily settled into the parking lot at Foretravel and attended a New Year's Eve party with friends in PA via Skype. It worked very well. Out with the old ... in with the new ... who knows what the new year will bring? I hope that 2011 is a good year for everyone. I hope that people who need help get it, people who are ill become well, people who are lost find their way. I hope.....

Friday, December 17, 2010

McKinney, Texas

Had a few relaxing days with Peg & Kent at Lavon Lake ... very quiet park, but very cold and windy. It would be nice in the Spring, I think. We left for MCD to have our new blinds installed... it is only about 30 miles away, and after following the directions to their new location we are parked in their lot and hooked up to electric. Their Camp Hosts are tapping on our door in minutes, ready with a Welcome Pack of info about the town and points of interest.

We are measured promptly the next morning and a price quote is prepared for us to approve. These shades are not cheap, but I really want to get rid of the existing Day/Night buggers that are so hard to deal with. They will go into production on Tuesday, after we approve the costs, and we should be installed and out of there by Friday AM.

The boys who do the measuring and installing remind me of Andy (my son), and one of them is even named Andrew! They are fun and quick and know their job.

Peg and Kent came to visit us one day ... we explored the historic town of McKinney and toured some of the old homes. It once boasted the largest number of millionaires in Texas, and was a true hub of industry, commerce and finance. Of course, this was in the 1880s and 1890s.

The Heard Mansion, especially, is very lovely. The interior is cutting edge, for it's day. The beautiful main stairway, with it's fretwork and carving, is awesome.

We toured a group of rather old buildings that have been moved to a central area of town for better preservation. they are not necessarily old, by Eastern standards ... our home in PA was certainly older ... but for this area, any wooden structure that has survived basically intact and inhabited since the mid-1800s is considered "historic" and worthy of note. These were the settlers, merchants, doctors and early lawmakers who really made McKinney into a true town ... a place where families raised their children and built schools and churches and courthouses. Stores were established, the railroad came to town ... life picked up speed.

Many of these buildings have residents who are not inclined to leave. This particular structure was once an inn. there was a large, dormitory-style room that contained a row of beds for travelers (men, really) who needed a place to stay and meals. The husband and wife who ran the place had a spinster daughter who was a seamstress. At the right side of the photo is the private room that she called her own. Only one door ... she was nicely protected from the riff raff of the travelers who stayed upstairs. Her mother and father slept on a bed in the corner of the main kitchen / dining room. There have been sightings of a man on the second floor, looking out of the window. He apparently likes it there, and sees no reason to leave.

This is the porch ceiling of another home, boasting a color that we are told is "Fly-speck Blue". It is supposed to be the exact color of the Texas sky, and had the effect of fooling the flies into thinking it was the way to the open air ... thus drawing them away from the human inhabitants on the porch. Dunno, but all reports are that it really works. It is certainly a pretty color.

There are 5 or 6 houses clustered in this "square" and folks like to hold weddings in the small church that is part of it. they are maintained by donations and the work of volunteer docents who love the town and are happy to lead visitors thru the buildings and tell the tales of the original inhabitants. One of the most fun is the old school house. It is right out of "Little House on the Prairie". Jeff felt right at home, as he spent a year in a school just like it, very early on, of course!

Imagine all the kids who learned to read and cipher at these desks.

Imagine all the kids who sat on this stool and had to endure the humiliation of being singled out as a "Dunce"... maybe for being dyslexic, maybe for being left-handed ... or maybe for being too smart for their own good and more than the teacher could handle!!

A tough life in many ways, to be sure.

But, then we found a place that sold genuine Gelato!

The flavors were just amazing. I found it hard to believe that a smallish town in a far-out suburb of Dallas could support a place like this!

But we had a very nice treat, and I imagine that the folks in town like it as much as we did. Great hot chocolate, too!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back in Nac ... fixin' to fix.

We are back in Nacogdoches after our stay in Canyon Lake. Work on the "new" coach is coming along. We are learning more about it and what we would like to do to make it "home". We upgraded the house batteries with some new Red Top gel and redid the dip switches on our inverter to the proper settings. A day in the shop at FOT now has us equipped with new Koni Gold shocks. I am still cleaning and scrubbing ... things are brightening up. Peg and Kent are arriving soon from Oklahoma for a short visit and we will then go back north for a bit to McKinney, Texas. there is a campground there that we have heard of, and Jeff and I are going to the MCD Factory to have new window shades installed. the old day/night shades are just a pain to deal with, and I am eager to get rid of the horrible, fabric covered lambrequins around all the windows.

We headed north and met Peg and Kent at Lavon Lake State Park. Once again, we arrived withing about 10 minutes of one another. Trip is always so happy when we are all together! He is just the coolest dog. We would all be having a lot more fun if the weather would warm up. It is windy and cold and raw. NOT what I want to to see on the forecast. But, it is good to be together again and Jeff and I begin removing the psychedelic lambrequins from all the windows in the coach and haul them to the dumpster. We met another Foretravel couple who came up from the south to see their daughter. Other folks, in a SOB 5th wheel, who come to Texas for the winter (from Alaska!) were in love with our motor homes, and amazed at how solid they are. the wife was bouncing up and down and laughing because they don't shimmy and shake the way her trailer does! Funny.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do Not Read This Post ... Really

Do not read this post if you are going to be eating soon. Do NOT ... really.

I was grocery shopping in Nacogdoches. The local grocery chain is an outfit called Brookshire Bros. Nice grocery, good produce, great selection of wines. I was wandering the meat aisle, hoping to see some good steaks or some packages that I could divide for my freezer. Honest to God ... I am amazed at some of the stuff I find in this part of the country.

Do not read this post if you have a weak stomach. Really. I am adventurous eater ... not really squeamish. But, honestly ..... here are things I found in the meat case.....

Turkey Tails. Really. The part that went over the fence last. Multiples. In a package.

Pig Tails. Really. Uncurled. Hairless. But definitely the rearmost part of the pig ... with no discernible nutritional value that I can imagine and decidedly unfavorable flavor, I would think.

And lastly .... truly unsettling ... Hog Maws. Seriously. Hog Maws. The Maw of a Hog.

What is a "maw", you ask? I researched this, just to be sure.


the mouth, throat, or gullet of an animal, esp. a carnivorous mammal.
the crop or craw of a fowl.
the stomach, esp. that of an animal.
a cavernous opening that resembles the open jaws of an animal: the gaping maw of hell.
the symbolic or theoretical center of a voracious hunger or appetite of any kind: the ravenous maw of Death.

Hmmm. "Ravenous Maw of Death". Well, anyway ... it is more along the lines of #3 ... a pig's stomach ... and there are actually loads of recipes, mostly from Pennsylvania!! the Amish have a liking for stuffed Pig's Stomach, likening it to the casing on a sausage ... just a container. but this stuff looked nasty ... frozen white globs of nastiness sitting next to the tails and such.

I would post photos, but I love you too much.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Starting December

The very last bit of our stay at Canyon Lake included a VERY fast overnight trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We needed to be there in person overnight to get our Driver's Licenses and finish establishing residency. So, we got up at the absolute crack of dawn(4 AM!!) and drove to the airport in San Antonio for our first leg ... a 7:30 flight from Texas to Chicago O'Hare.
We get in line for our security screening ... I have given this much thought and have dressed appropriately. Nothing metal. Nothing bulky or concealing. There has recently been a bomb scare in an airport, so screening is serious business. I am ready. Totally. We travel with Passport ID, proper boarding passes obtained easily at the airport, car rental info prepared, all electronic components in baggies, liquid toiletries ready for inspection. I am ready to be screened, patted, x-rayed, wanded ... whatever. Bring it on!
A cursory inspection of my passport ... yup, that's my face. "Have a nice day."

I efficiently whip everything into the plastic bins ready for conveyor. Carry-ons open, baggies exposed, shoes off, purse, jackets, Jeff's stuff displayed ... and I am eagle-eyeing other passengers who may try and pull a fast one and steal my stuff from the conveyor. Nuthin' gets by me! Mr. TSA man motions me forward. OK!! Wand me! X-ray! Inspect me!

"You're good. Thank you. Move on through."

Apparently, there is nothing remotely interesting or intriguing about me, whatsoever. Just moooove on through and let us get to the people who have a mysterious or deviant aura that I seem to lack. Hmmmph. I have to admit that I am a tad let down. But, tucking knees under chin in our tiny commuter jet, we take off on time and are carried to Chicago ... where we grab breakfast and get on another teeny 50 passenger plane for the trip to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls airport boasts 8 ... eight ... EIGHT gates. Total. Two of them are being repaired, so there is a grand total of 6 gates for incoming and outgoing travelers. And believe me, there is NO crowding because the airport is operating at only 75% capacity. At the rental car area (30 feet down the hall) the 6 guys (representing the 3 rental companies) all perked up at the sight of us. 4 of them were destined to be disappointed. Our paperwork expedited,we are ushered out to our auto ... started and warmed up! GPS in hand, we navigate the snowy streets. I suppose I should mention that it snowed in Sioux Falls. Only about 6 or 8 inches, and the constant wind is so strong from the NNW that from the air it looked as though someone had been dragging a giant paintbrush over the ground, always from NW to SE. Some places the earth was almost bare ... but there were also small drifts. For South Dakotans, 6 - 8 inches is nothing, so they only do some cursory plowing. Slipping and sliding in a rear wheel drive car, we head out. First stop, our mail box location to meet the ladies we talk to and who helped us set up our vehicle registrations. Happily, the DMV is almost next door! Good thing we stopped, because it was vital to review the requirements for documentation. Then, on to the hotel. Geez Louise! Just walking from the car to each building is excruciating! The hairs in my nose are freezing. It is about 20 degrees with a wind chill of about 6. Criminey!

Sioux Falls looks like a place we actually would like to visit. Driving around, we see lots to do and see in warmer weather. The hotel is very nice ... people are lovely and friendly ... no surprise there. Everyone in the Mid-West and South seem to be congenial. We dashed out for a great steak dinner just next door at the Texas Roadhouse Steakhouse ... where I have a revelation about potatoes. Some TRUE GENIUS has devised a way to give you a baked potato ... loaded with butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese & Chives ... IN A BOWL. Not just plunking a potato in a bowl. They smoosh it and take off most of the skin (not all!) and lightly and carefully mix the luscious add-ons into the tasty baked potato juuuuussst enough. It is "baked potato without the work" in a bowl. Genius ... genuine genius. And bliss when paired with a meltingly tender Filet of beef that is cooked just past absolute Rare. Two of their enormous Margaritas went down my gullet, and did not feel the cold nearly as much when we staggered out to the car for the 90 second drive back across the parking lot to the hotel.

I never sleep very well in hotels, and twice I got up during the night to look out the window into the night. The American flag on the hotel next door was blowing straight out each time, in the wind. The wind ... from the arctic NNW, never, ever stopped. Brutal.

Next morning ... head to DMV for licenses ... CHECK! We are now legal drivers with fairly acceptable photos. Stop at the mailbox to ask a few questions and thank the ladies ... CHECK. Back to the hotel to finish packing and check out ... CHECK. Leisurely drive towards the airport to return out rental and begin our trip back to Texas ... CHECK. We took care of all our business and put a grand total of 27 miles on the rental car. Amazing. Back at the airport I am looking at the posters and information for incoming travelers to Sioux Falls. Most of the information seems to be along the lines of "Please Make Sure You Are Aiming At Actual Wild Game and Not Livestock, Electrical Equipment or Other Hunters". Very different from what you see in the airports at Phila, Chicago or San Antonio! Ready to board our plane for the first leg of the trip ... a teenier, tinyier 25 passenger plane to Minneapolis / St.Paul. Holy cow. Thankfully, it is a short flight. Then, aboard a full sized passenger plane that is only half full, we expand and finish our journey to Texas ... fully "Citizens of The Road".