Low Key in KC

Once we finished up visiting with Megan and Bob, we set our sights on Kansas City and points east. Jim’s brothers and sister are still based there and he hadn’t seen any of them since his dad died. We still have several good friends there and we wanted to get together with some of them.

I was on a mission to buy as much Vernor’s Diet Ginger Ale as I could. I bought it at my local grocery when we lived there but in Texas I could only order it online at about twice the price. We once again have a “Ginger Ale bay” in the bus.

And we had another cat dilemma with Astrid, the black cat. Of course it was Astrid. She had had dental cleaning and surgery for FOR Lesions in Texas at the end of March. For about a month she seemed to be recovering then her right eye started getting really goopy like it had been before the surgery. They said the antibiotic shot would last about a month and the time was up on that. We figured we would take her back to Steve Smith at the Brookside Animal Clinic. He got her back to health after she got lost in the Minnesota woods three years ago. She had as good a chance with him as anybody.

We knew the Kansas City Elks had one 50 AMP spot so we called ahead and agreed to pay an extra night if they would reserve it for us. An extra $10 was all it took. We got the spot and took the cats out right away. The Lodge has a wonderful park-like atmosphere and you have it all to yourself. In the middle of the city. We enjoyed a couple of Midwestern thunderstorms during our time there as well as some luscious ripe tomatoes Betsy and Ralph brought for Happy Hour. We devoured them so fast we didn’t even take a picture. Of the tomatoes. Betsy and Ralph are longtime friends and Jim and Betsy worked together at SAS. She was the one who always put together the fabulous holiday parties and she was in charge of the coveted “drink tickets” there. They were plentiful. We always enjoy catching up with them.

Our spot at the Elks… The cats loved going outside here.

While we had the rental car we drove around to some of our old neighborhoods. We went by the house Jim grew up in in Red Bridge where the neighborhood has transformed into a mature tree delight. I wondered aloud if anybody still lived there who knew the trees as small. Lo and Behold! We went by an old friend of Jim’s house and there was his friend Bobby Walker in the yard of the same house he lived in when they were kids.

We finally got out on the bikes! The Elks backs up to the Indian Creek Greenway and we were able to ride many miles in both directions. Plus we had to get Gates’ Barbecue one day for lunch. The burnt ends are really good. Along the trail…

Another night we went to another friend’s for a lovely dinner on the patio. Marg showed us some of her new art. She is prolific! We have two quilts that she made and several smaller pieces. Marg and Jay are great hosts and their home is welcoming and beautiful.

I should have bought one of the ones on the bottom right of this picture. The only space left in the bus or house would fit one of these.

Another night we went to Happy Hour at Nick and Jake’s, one of our old haunts. Their ahi tuna appetizer is always really good as are the Absolut martinis with bleu cheese olives. The crab cakes were good too.

There was supposed to be a car show at the Elks on the Saturday before we left but we woke up to a prodigious downpour that cancelled that. Of course by afternoon it cleared up and the sun came out.

Astrid’s eye seems to be clearing up and we continue to give her the drops. From here we’re off to Lake of the Ozarks to visit friends we haven’t seen in almost two years, Doc and J. Looking forward to alot of boat riding, swimming, hanging out and Joker.

Oh! Omaha!

It took a couple of days to make our way to Omaha and Megan and Bob’s house. The first night we stayed at a Walmart in North Platte. We had gotten up early so we covered the 245 miles and arrived before noon! It had three giant parking lots and when Jim went in he said it was the biggest Walmart he ever saw.

The next day we really broke our two-two-two rule and made 275 miles on the Interstate. We still arrived in time to enjoy Happy Hour on their deck amidst Megan’s incredible landscape. They live in a lovely quiet neighborhood with many large trees and it was simple getting the bus there and settled in their driveway. Of course, a tour of the garden was in order.

When I saw the giant allium plants I was reminded of growing them in Kansas. But I never saw BLUE! I was amazed and asked her where she found them, I had never seen or heard of them. She got kinda quiet then told me her secret. She spray painted them! We laughed and laughed.

She likes hosta too. Many different varieties grow beneath the mature trees that shade the yard.

We had a delicious al fresco finger food supper while we discussed the next day’s plan. We love when people show us their part of the world so usually we just are along for the ride. We packed a lot into one day! A brief driving tour of the Old Market and downtown revealed cobblestone streets and bustling sidewalk cafes filled with diners. Lots of little artsy shops and galleries lined the streets. The College World Series of baseball was in town with the championship game scheduled for that evening.

We walked across the Bob Kerry Bridge into Iowas and back. Lots of public art to admire.

After lunch on the patio at a French restaurant we drove past Bob and Megan’s old apartment building, where they met and a few other places in their history. We love learning more about people and their lives.

Then we went to what has to be a crown jewel of Omaha, the Joslyn Museum. The building alone is a work of art made entirely of marble. Built in 1931 by Sarah Joslyn as a gift to the people of Omaha, in memory of her husband, George, a self-made businessman, it has various large collections with works by Dale Chihuly, Matisse, Renoir, Monet and many others.

We will be returning another time. After we toured the museum we drove the city and saw Megan’s old house, featuring many hostas there as well. Then we saw the Joslyn mansion, covering a city block.

More art! A coop yielded Jim a new coffee cup and more art.

We had to laugh while Megan took this pic in front of the Chihuly.

What a wonderful visit we had! Our thanks go out to our gracious hosts. Looking forward to seeing them again in the fall or more fun and friendship.

Rocky Mountain High

After Pueblo, we planned about a week at the Elks in Westminister, Colorado. They are good sites, large and with 50 AMP electric. It was still hot when we arrived so we definitely wanted 50 AMPs. We arrived before noon. With our new practice of getting up early and traveling while it’s cool, we also have the bonus of early arrival.

We had spoken with Ruth, the RV coordinator and she showed us where to get water on the side of the building. About halfway through that, I checked out the sites and picked one with 50 AMPs. Even though the parking lot was deserted (Elks don’t usually open up before 4 PM) I got out our little chairs to mark that the spot was taken.


It only took about fifteen more minutes till the tank was full. Jim pulled around the building while I walked around to the front where I had marked our site.

Where are our chairs? There was no sign of them, on the site, near the lodge, nothing. This is in broad daylight. At an Elks Lodge, of all places. As Jim pulled around in the bus he said “Where are the chairs?” Good question.

A little background on the chairs. We got them for motorcycle camping years before we got married. They are sturdy, small and comfortable, easy to pack and carry. A few years ago we had our friend Theresa replace the thirty year old cloth seats and backs. The picture is after the replacement. The canvas wears like iron and we have two blue and two purple sets.

Now they were gone. I asked a guy in the parking lot if he had seen anything and he said no, but to go talk to Larry at the Lodge. I rang the bell and a woman answered. I asked her about the chairs and if Larry was there. He actually was right behind her and started nodding his head when I described them missing. He said he saw one of the “permanent residents” at the Elks park put them in her car and say “I got me some beach chairs!” Larry said they weren’t hers and she said well they were just in the middle of nowhere so she took them. I started walking the park looking at all the sites. Of course, there was nothing I could do if the thief took them inside…

Meanwhile, Larry came to the bus where Jim was. While they were standing there, the thief drove up and Larry flagged her down. The chairs were in her backseat! They got them back and she continued to defend herself by saying there was nobody there.

Whew! At least we got them back. They are now locked safely in the bay. But, um… Notice the awning? The night after we got here, the wind started to pick up. Jim was getting up to take the awning in when he said “It’s on the roof!” And just like that, we lost our awning. It didn’t seem like that much wind but we found one arm a few sites over.

Jim was trying to decide whether to try and order replacement arms and brackets or just replace the whole awning. After awhile on the phone, he was assessing the damage when a couple walked by and struck up a conversation. Glenn and Beth wisely suggested calling our insurance company and making a claim, which Jim did. Then he called Coachnet for a mobile RV repair guy who could come out, remove and haul off the old awning. We had plans for the day but thought we would be OK on timing. Then the mobile repair guy called and said he would be three hours late due to picking up parts. Well, that wasn’t going to work with our dinner plans so we got a hold of our friend, Ronnie, in the nick of time before he ordered his car service up here. We rescheduled for Sunday.

And it was a good thing we did! The mobile RV guy called again and said he would be here at 7 PM! By this time it was raining hard and getting dark. So they called everything off until this morning when they actually showed up, removed the awning and took it off. They strapped it sideways across the bed of their regular sized pickup and they got out the gate. The rest is on them. I see a trip to Colaw’s in our future. All our other awnings have come from their seconds/salvage yard.

Even though we have had to deal with bus stuff (again) we have gotten a few things checked off our lists. And some bike riding on the trails right by the lodge, which are extensive. There is a light rail train station nearby and Uber is fast and easy. A gentle rain is falling and we are comfy and cool inside without A/C. We have plenty of food, drinks and dinner plans for tomorrow. Life is good.

Along the bike path:

More Albuquerque, More Heat!

Even though we had to stay an extra night in Albuquerque, we needed to get the engine shutoff fixed. We took the bus back to Herrera Coach where Nick determined that the circuit breaker was the culprit. He said they may have one in their “Old Parts” room but it was a mess and he wasn’t sure he could find it. Jim just happened to have another one in his parts stash and Nick installed it. Voila! It started up and, most importantly, kept running. We went back to the RV park, cranked up the A/C and spent another hot night while we prepared to head out for Las Vegas, New Mexico the next day. Our friends Ron and Ling live there in a very nice little wooded park. Finally we got to catch up with them!

Over the first evening Happy Hour we decided to take a cruise into Taos the next day. The drive through the mountains was very scenic, especially considering that we would never attempt those roads in the bus. We love when people to show us their corner of the world. Once we arrived in Taos we had lunch on the patio at a very good Mexican (of course!) restaurant. We walked around town a little bit. Parking is crazy in Taos and everything was packed. People really are getting out and about. Of course, some people, like these don’t believe COVID exists, so there’s that….

When we got back, Jim determined that he would have to work on the bus a little. Our site in the park was a little challenging but we got it leveled by raising the rear axle off the ground. Unfortunately, because we had such a long time away from the bus, we forgot that the last time we did that, in our driveway in Kansas, the airbags for the tag axle got bunched up and hung up above the axle. When it happened before, Jim was able to air up the bus with the compressor and pull the airbags down once they filled up. This time only one bag was stuck so he got to work.

We couldn’t bring the slide in since the rear end was raised up so high so he brought the levelers up and crowbarred the corner of the slide and we got it in. Then we fired up the engine and he drove off the rocks we had put under the rear tires, moving forward about a foot. We got the rocks out and left the slide retracted in preparation for departure. We won’t forget about that again.

From Las Vegas we headed to Pueblo to begin our Colorado visits and adventures. The Elks in Pueblo has no electric but after checking a couple of very tight and very iffy RV Parks we decided to stay. When we exited the highway this gigantic truck was stuck in the roadway coming off the exit ramp. He couldn’t go forward or back.

We had already driven over 200 miles, part of it through the construction in the mountains of Raton Pass. After a cocktail in the bus we got a bite to eat at Dee Tacko and did a little shopping before we went back to the bus. Pueblo is a very interesting town with lots of cool old buildings and street art. Downtown is eerily quiet, especially on Sunday evenings.

Next we will go to the Elks Lodge in Westminister where we will stay a week while catching up with friends, bike riding and taking it easy. And eating Mexican food, of course.

On to Amarillo!

After an overnight stop in Lamesa, we were ready to be on the move again. I forgot to mention that when we came through Eden, Texas we had to stop at the Burrito Lady for lunch. The first time we stopped there a few years ago, she was closing but made lunch for us anyway! So we had to stop again. She remembered us, well, the bus anyway.

After lunch we headed for the Elks Lodge in Amarillo. We planned to stay a couple of nights since the heat was brutal, like 106 degrees when we arrived in Amarillo.

When I registered at the Elks the bartender warned me that the next day was going to be extremely busy due to a Mud Volleyball tournament they were holding. As we approached the Elks there was a big hose strung out across the road and a truck blocking the way. A last minute detour got us there and we got the last spot right along the fence. Perfect for Mud Volleyball watching. The Fire Department had a couple of trucks there so the players could rinse after the matches. Very entertaining and the players played real Bump Set Spike volleyball; that was refreshing to see. Maybe this should be a SPR Olympic event?

After Amarillo we planned to visit friends Ron and Ling in Las Vegas, New Mexico for a few days. We pulled into Santa Rosa and found a park right by a highly recommended Mexican restaurant. After we got set up, we walked over to eat. A few Santa Rosa sights… The Corvair body was actually in pretty good shape but the interior was a little rough.

The plan was to head for Las Vegas the next morning. As Jim says, “It’s good to have a plan…” When Jim went to start the bus, it sounded normal at first then sputtered and died. What? That never happens. Kept trying, kept dying. I went up to the office to see if we could stay another night if we needed to and was brusquely informed that the park was full and we would have to move. I told him the bus wouldn’t start and he said he would have us towed. Nice.

I asked him if there was a mobile truck repair service and he did call a guy who came out pretty quickly. He and Jim ran down the relays and switches in the engine cut-off and thought it was a relay. Jim had spare parts, including a new Skinner valve that regulates the air to the shut-off.

And our first brusque friend, Chris, went to the hardware store for us and got fittings and relays that might work. A couple of times. He also had all the cigarette butts removed from our site, extra bonus.

Meanwhile we were waiting to get a call back from Coachnet, our roadside assistance service. It took a while but they finally called back and authorized a tow to Albuquerque, 120 miles! In the heat. And since we don’t tow a vehicle, the cats and we would have to ride in the tow vehicle for that whole time. We have been towed once, for just a few miles when we had another car. That was nervewracking enough; I don’t think we would all survive 120 miles through the mountains.

Jim and the Big Rig guy decided that if they bypassed the relay part of the shut-off mechanism we could drive to Albuquerque but would have to watch the temperature closely since the engine overheat shut-off would be disabled. We watch the temperature gauge like a hawk when we drive anyway, especially in this heat. I went back up to the office to see if we could get a site for the night and the nicer guy said we could but we would have to move. No problem. We got moved and settled in for the afternoon, planning an early departure for Albuquerque in the cooler morning.

We got up at 5:00 AM and took off. The disabled shut-off worked fine and we made it to the shop by 9:00 AM. By noon they thought they had run down the problem and we met friends, both traveling and who live here for lunch at Sadie’s, a seriously good Mexican restaurant. We toasted with margaritas and more food than we could eat. The mechanic wanted us to stay here at least another night and start the bus occasionally to make sure the bus was fixed. He wouldn’t even take any money until he knew it was working.

After lunch we dispersed in the heat and relaxed at the site, preparing to stay another night.

Later in the evening, Jim tried starting the bus and it was back to the old start then sputter routine. He called Nick and we are waiting for a part that may or may not have to be overnighted. It seems Nick is determined to solve the problem and he warmed up to Jim after he saw the depth of his knowledge and bus parts inventory.

We got to see sunrise and sunset yesterday.

So we may have another night here. We shall see.

Route 66…

And remember…Choose to be Happy!

Travel Prep and Departure

It was finally time to hit the road in the bus for the first time since September 15, 2019. After getting some ($$$) work done on the bus it was time to bring it back to the park and get loaded to go. We didn’t have to move a lot of stuff to the bus since we already had pots and pans, towels, napkins and linens. Just food, clothes, personal electronics and stuff. Even though it was parked right next door to our house we still managed to get in over 10,000 steps a day while getting ready to go.

We had a couple of final dinner parties before we left and enjoyed being with friends for the first time in months. We are fully vaccinated and have been since late February but we are still cautious and wearing a mask in public. Everybody at dinner was fully vaccinated. 

During the pandemic we only went grocery shopping once a month or so. We had a large stash of food and frozen stuff from our’s and a friend’s freezer so we didn’t really even have to go shopping to stock the bus. That was nice and our bus freezers are stuffed!

Finally we had everything loaded and we decided to move into the bus early while we closed down the house. I cut the garden down so it would be manageable while we are gone for three months or so. That was a lot of work! The cannas came back like gangbusters after the February freeze and everything else did too! Then it started raining on June 1. Apparently June is the beginning of the rainy season in south Texas and the first day when we got five inches or so, the park didn’t flood. The next day it rained again, another 3 inches so of course it flooded. They guys working the pumps had their work cut out for them but they kept at it. The garden was well watered.

We moved into the bus while we waited for last deliveries, which ended up taking longer than we thought. Jim ordered a small amp for his ukulele. It came in plenty of time but was the wrong amp! He sent it back. Then the day before we planned to leave the amp arrived. It was the correct amp but no cables were included! He spent hours on the phone with a couple different companies and ended up ordering two sets of cables just to make sure one would be right. They overnighted them and both were the right cables.

We had moved the cats over to the bus to get them assimilated and Astrid started acting more “normal” than she had been for over a month since her dental surgery. We had been giving her appetite stimulants, which she hated and she would only eat shrimp and not very many of them. She was always hiding in her apartment (we call under the bed Astrid’s Apartment), wouldn’t go outside or get on our laps. I was worried about her. We had taken her in for a sonogram since the vet thought there might be more going on than the dental surgery. It was inconclusive but she still wouldn’t eat much.

Miracle of miracles! Once she got back into the bus, she quit hiding, started eating and getting on our laps. I think she likes the bus better than the house. Maybe too many people coming over? Not sure, but after a week in the bus, she is eating regular cat food, getting on our laps and going outside, even in new and strange places. What a relief!

Once we got the amp cables we were able to take off. We tried to get a reservation at our usual jumping off spot, Choke Canyon State Park but they were booked for the weekend. Apparently everybody is as antsy to get on the road as we were. So we headed to Walmart in Pleasanton, Texas and had an uneventful first day. The bus ran great and everything went smoothly.

We booked a four night stay at South Llano River State Park to rest up and we needed it! The first non-travel day we slept late and just enjoyed goofing off. The park is very nice with hiking trails and bird blinds and lots of people go tubing on the river. We took the cats out, hiked around and enjoyed relaxing and reading. No internet in the park but I have a bunch of New Yorkers downloaded and books so not too bad. We scrounged some firewood when a neighboring campsite emptied out and we enjoyed a fire. We even saw a live armadillo! I don’t think I have ever seen a live one. I always thought they were born dead by the side of the road. Like possums. One of them also visited our site.

Next we are heading for Lamesa where there is a city park with hookups where you can stay for free for four nights. We won’t be there that long, it’s been hovering at around 102 degrees. Time to head north.

In Lamesa…

Mom’s Missouri: Volume II

If you read my last post you know about my mom’s Missouri photo project. I had contacted the Historical Society of Missouri to see if they were interested in the project materials, negatives and location finder. They were! So I packaged it all up and now it has arrived in Columbia, Missouri to be cataloged and placed online. They said a specific link to her collection may take a while because they had lost a lot of staff in the past year. At least they have it; it’s clean and dry and somebody may actually benefit from it.

Here are some pics from More Missouri 1980s: Volume II. I sepia-toned this book for some reason. I must have had a lot of extra time on my hands because sepia toning is a real pain of a process. For one thing, it stinks like sulphur. Stains your hands so you have to wear gloves. But for some reason, I did it. I also have a black and white copy of this volume.

The only real thing I can see with what is different is that we used a little more descriptive text as to the locations. We made the titles on the back of the prints, instead of facing pages so in case the books came apart, the description and location is on the same piece of paper as the image.

I bring you More Missouri 1980s: Volume II.

The ironic thing is that a high school friend called me after my first post on this project and said he was involved in restoring old historic homes in Missouri and did I know the locations of the pictures. I told him that the Missouri Historical Society has all the info. He even asked about the negatives; they have those too.

Mom’s Missouri

My parents traveled extensively. They used to have a big map in our basement with the countries they had been to colored in. I remember looking at it and thinking “the only place they haven’t been is Greenland!” They have been to places you can’t go to now; Iran, Iraq, Uganda, Afghanistan, China, India…

They were both skilled amateur photographers and we always enjoyed the slide shows on their return. Or I did, anyway. Mom and Dad would invite some people over for cocktails and dinner and we’d look at slides and movies afterward. My dad shot 8 mm movies at that time and the photo viewing sessions could get long. I remember turning the lights back on one evening and one of the guests was literally snoring on the sofa. We laughed about that.

In 1961 my dad was transferred to Missouri from Massachusetts by his career-long employer, Monsanto. They and their families were lifelong New Englanders but if Monsanto says Go, you go. A bunch of their friends were transferred at the same time so they still had a social circle.

Once we ended up in St. Louis, my parents never looked back. They embraced their new state and enjoyed the differences from New England. After the kids had all flown the coop, they started making trips around Missouri. They loved being together, stopping on a whim and ending up at a motel at night.

In 1981 I was a newly divorced college graduate living in Columbia, Missouri. My Bachelor of Fine Art degree was in photography and graphic design. I had bought my own house (with my student loan money for the down payment) and had a full darkroom in the house where I spent many hours making black and white and color prints. My cat Skaggs would sit on the stool with me in there for hours; I called her my assistant.

I was doing some event photography, weddings, parties and meetings but during college and for a while afterward my main source of income was cleaning houses. I was an independent contractor and it worked out well. My transportation was my bicycle for many years and I worked all around town. My farthest house was 14 miles away and I would ride there and back after cleaning. It was a great way to make money and I just bid the job, not a certain number of hours. Then I worked FAST.

After I graduated my mom was looking for a new photo project. We talked about what she might do and she and dad decided to take a bunch of trips around Missouri and document the countryside as they saw it at the time. She was trying to decide whether to shoot color or black and white film and I suggested black and white because of the archival qualities compared to color at the time. Naturally, I suggested that I might develop the film and make the prints and put the books together. We set out a price schedule and I strongly suspect that part of the reason she cooked this project up was to help supplement my income. I was happy to be involved.

So we all embarked on an extensive and detailed three year project where Mom shot the film, Dad schlepped the bags and cameras and I developed the film and made the prints. We produced two volumes with about 50 prints in each book. She faithfully documented where she took every shot in two steno notebooks. Mom was nothing if not meticulous. We made multiple copies of both books so my brother and sisters could have their own copy. It was like a manufacturing process.

Many years passed. When my dad died in 1991, Mom determined that I would be the curator of all her photography, including this project. My brother died in 1993 and his copies of the books came back to Mom. I kept my copies all through several moves and lifestyle changes.

When Mom had to move out of her house, I ended up with all the remaining copies of the books, the location notebooks and all the negatives she shot for both books. It wasn’t a huge amount of stuff and I always figured I would do something with it; I just didn’t know what.

Mom died in 2012. Before that, she was in assisted living in Kansas City near us and I could easily ride my bike to visit her. I never told her this, but sometimes the bike ride was the best part of the visit. We had already bought our bus and Jim was working on it full time after his retirement from SAS Consulting Services. Now we knew we could hit the road without worrying about Mom having no company. That was a huge relief.

Then in 2014 we sold our house and most of our stuff in preparation for the full-time bus lifestyle. When we were clearing out our 2700 square foot house, we set aside the things we wanted to keep and bought an enclosed 4 x 8 foot trailer to store until we ended up someplace else. We stored the trailer in a barn in Missouri and when we bought our house in Texas, a friend towed it to Texas for us. Mom’s Missouri project was included in the trailer. I figured I would do something with it once we got settled.

More years passed, almost three to be exact.

Finally, last week, I sent an email to the Missouri State Historical Society asking if they would be interested in the books, negatives and notebooks. They answered back right away and I boxed everything up, except my personal copies of the books, and shipped it all off! So now Mom’s work can live on in research and historical studies. I always thought it would be interesting to go back to some of the locations and see what they looked like now, but that’s an undertaking for someone else.

I must say the books and negatives all held up very well with no chemical stains on the prints and the negatives clean and dry. Packing them up and sending them off is like the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. Seeing Mom’s notes and handwriting made me tear up a little but I hope she somehow knows that the project is in good hands and will live on in history.

Pictures from Volume I, Missouri 1980s: The Way It Was.

One humorous memory… I was working on this project when Mom and Dad were traveling out of the country and I entered this photo of Mom’s in a local photo contest. She won Second Place. I also entered one of my photos and got an Honorable Mention. I never heard the end of that. Thanks for the memories, Mom.

Photos from More Missouri 1980s: Volume II: soon.

Wild Week in Texas!

We knew it was going to start getting cold, really cold for the Rio Grande Valley where we have only seen temperatures below freezing once and then for just a few hours. This time it was expected to get below freezing for several nights. Urk! We spent a whole day trying to cover things in the garden the best we could.

Then we waited.

We had a nice Valentine Dinner at home, steak Diane and salad. With heart shaped treats from a friend.

On Sunday night after dinner it got very cold and we lost power. And water. We thought it was just a rolling blackout but our section of the park was without power for days! It was cold in the house, even colder than outside. We figured we would just stick it out but after a couple of days it was impossible to keep warm. Even the cats were freezing. Two pairs of f socks, two pairs of pants, three shirts, hat and gloves, in the house. And a cat on the lap… It wasn’t working.

A friend helped us run a very long extension cord to a house with power so we could at least plug in the refrigerator. We also have food in another friend’s freezer but that part of the park never lost power. Whew!

We decided to go get the bus and got the OK to move to a spot with electric and water. The power was out to all traffic lights and there were mile long lines at all the gas stations. We had filled up the car previously and the bus was full of diesel. A boil water order was in effect but the bus tank was full and we just used it. There was no propane to be had. The grocery stores had no meat, dairy, water or eggs. Thankfully, we were way stocked up for the pandemic and didn’t need to go near the store.

We brought some food and the cats over to the bus and waited it out. It was nice to be warm again and once the cats realized where they were, they were fine. Carmella even went on walks on her leash.

In the garden. Before…

And after…

I knew the castor beans would be toast but we had decided to cut them down before we started traveling this summer so they wouldn’t get taken out in a storm like last time. They were only five months old so the stalks weren’t too big. When they got blown down in the hurricane they were two years old and had trunks about eight inches in diameter. Jim had to dig out the stumps. When we got done with that backbreaking task, he said “Maybe we shouldn’t let them get so big next time.”

I had trimmed out a bunch of the cannas and they grow from a bulb anyway so I figured they would be OK. They are already starting to grow back. So are the elephant ears. We got the castor beans cut down yesterday and used some of them as edging. Not sure whether the Norfolk pines will be alright or the rubber trees. I left the crotons standing too; maybe they will grow from the stems but not real hopeful about that. Even though we covered them well, two plants I was babysitting for friends who aren’t here got bit. It just got too cold. They were plants from her parents’ funerals and very sentimental. We couldnt even bring them in the house, it was freezing in there too. I will try my best to get them growing back but feel badly that we just couldn’t save them.

The irony is that temperatures are back in the eighties now, heading toward ninety this week.

In better news, we are more than two weeks out from our second vaccine shot and arranged our first impromptu dinner party in almost a year! Dr. Fauci said you could get together with others who had their shots and we enjoyed several bottles of wine and much laughter. We all got carry-out from the venue here in the park so no cooking involved.
That felt great!

The bus is back in storage. What a good bus! After sitting for over a year with the occasional startup, it fired right up and kept us warm. Jim even discovered a few things that needed to be fixed so maybe a blessing in disguise. We have power and water (no boil order) at the house.

Texas was apparently four and a half minutes from the whole electrical grid shutting down entirely until they started the rolling blackouts. Texas decided to build their own grid and remove themselves from the national grid to avoid federal regulation so no extra power was available during the freeze. If that breakdown had happened it would have taken MONTHS to restore. And they were warned by the federal government TEN YEARS AGO that they needed to insulate and improve the whole system. Maybe they will pay attention now. Maybe not. Ted Cruz decided to jet to Cancun and Rick Perry said Texans would rather be without power for a few days than be subject to regulation. The Governor blamed it on the Green New Deal. If regulation keeps the heat and lights on, I am all for it.

So, this year we have experienced a flood, a hurricane, a pandemic, isolation, and a deep freeze. Several friends here have had health problems, falls, stroke or broken bones. Our hearts and our food go out to them.

We remain grateful. We are BIG BIG lucky. Life is good!

Pandemic Place Settings

Since the pandemic began, we have asked each other everyday… What should we have for dinner tonight? Of course it’s just the two of us but still fun to make it special and nice. And delicious! Anyway, we have to eat and I got all the stuff.

I joined a Fiestaware group on Facebook. Now I am going to have to get some new pieces.

It’s like having a new art project every day. When we moved to Kansas from Washington DC Jim brought me the animal candlesticks when he went back on business from a little store called Kindred Spirits. I got eight before they weren’t available anymore. I love them. The painted table runners are so candle wax can’t drip on the tablecloth. Now I use dripless candles. And the place card holders were my Aunt Muriel’s. A friend told me what they were and ever since then we have had themed place cards. When I found them while cleaning out their house I thought they were cake decorations or something. The Wedgewood china was inherited from my aunt Barbara and the Fiestaware we bought from our friend Ronnie a couple years ago when we could still travel.

And some food…

What are we having for dinner tonight? Holiday hamburgers on ciabatta buns with with tomato, avocado and mozzarella cheese.