Happy New Year!

I know it’s almost the end of January but Happy New Year anyway! I can’t believe a month has almost gone by. Where does the time go? I remember once when I was about 30 saying to my Dad, “Boy last year went by really fast!” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “When you get to be my age, the years just roar by…” I’ve never forgotten that and now it is happening to me.

We decorated the bus for the holidays. We still turn the lights on when we have a Pub Nite so we can find our way back. Ha!

We had a very cold several days this month, nothing like the Midwest and Northeast but COLD by RGV standards! It actually snowed one day and got below freezing temperatures. During the day! It is coming back up now to the mid seventies but we would all like it to hit 80 soon. I have still been swimming laps and the water is warm; the hard part is when you get out and run to the shower! It doesn’t take long to become a weather wuss.

We went to the local Festival of Lights after Christmas on the last nice night before the cold snap. My favorite photo from that.
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And a gratuitous cute kitty and beautiful garden pic. The nasturtiums froze that very night. On my watch as substitute gardener!

Jim’s rock and roll band played a date in January and I will post a link to the You Tube videos when I get them uploaded. Soon.

I do sincerely wish everyone a great year. Be focused in the present moment and enjoy every bit of life. Things can change fast.

Change is the only thing you can count on!

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The Iron Fist RV Park

Note: This post was begun in August 2015 after Jim broke his wrist in Astoria, Oregon. Finished in January 2018 in conjunction with this post about ladies learning to drive, which I had been meaning to write for quite a while.  

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So we really were lucky to find a spot to park the bus in Astoria during the busy season. There are only two RV Parks here and now we have stayed at them both. Pier 38 was right in town on the water but he only had room for us for two nights. Turned out we squeezed an extra night out but we had to pack it up after that. The park is a little rough with long term seen-better-days campers and people who live in them. We actually like this kind of park; people are quiet, no kids, few dogs. Better than a state park where everybody drags all the stuff and all the kids and all the dogs to the campsite to enjoy once a year. I really want to love the state parks. Just don’t stay there on weekends.

We went to the Klaskenine River RV Park near Olney. It was a little farther out of town but we had a car during Jim’s surgery and follow-up so we were good with that. Joanie was super nice on the phone and had experienced an injury like Jim’s. She is also an RN. When we got there, she wasn’t there but her husband Jerry was and he got us a site where before we thought we would have to move and boondock around weekends. So it was good to get plugged in and settled before, during and after his surgery.

In the meantime we knew we had to find a place where we could hole up for at least a month while his cast came off and therapy started. Jim had called what we now call The Iron Fist RV Park; the proprietress said all she had was a 20 AMP spot with no dump. We figured we better go look at it. It was slim pickins.

So we drove over in the rental car. When they saw Jim’s arm in the giant sling, naturally they asked what happened. He told them and that he was having surgery. She said “Where?” And Jim said here, in Astoria. She said, “Why?” Like, you idiot. They explained that they went to Portland for all their “work.”

Anyway he showed us the site and it turned out to be 50 AMP! Yes! Still no dump, but they had showers and we are thrifty with our grey water. We figured we better reserve it so I filled out the registration paperwork and we went to look at another park quite a ways out called Perkins Creek. They had been real nice on the phone and very sympathetic about Jim’s hand. We were in the rental car but we gave them a card. Later when I emailed to tell them we were passing on the spot, they emailed us back that they had rented it and by the way, they didn’t allow 1981, too old. They probably looked at the blog, saw the bus and said, No Way! First time that has happened to us. We had decided that was too far anyway so we called The Iron Fist RV Park and said we would arrive on the 14th for a month. Kind of pricey but not much alternative.

Well.

It turned out to be a good thing that we made the reservation and paid while we had the rental car. We packed up the bus and got there with no problems. When I went in to the office, she said, in a real church lady type of voice, “Do you have a reservation?” I said yes. She looked shocked, like she would have enjoyed turning me away. I reminded her that I was the one with the broken wrist husband. She found our reservation and then she asked, “Is THAT your RV?” I said that was our bus. The other guest checking in immediately started talking about the colorful jitneys in the Philippines and likening the bus to them. The Iron Maiden was not amused. She would probably have found a reason to turn us away if we had showed up in the bus first.

We got to the site and started to set up. When we plugged in, the breaker kept blowing. The Iron Maiden’s Husband said immediately, “You got a short in your bus.” Jim explained that we had been plugged in all along and everything had been fine. Believe me, Jim has been all through the bus and knows exactly what is going on. Jim was getting a little stressed after it blew a few times and The Husband mentioned that it was a $180 GFI. It turned out to be the GFI; his worker replaced it with a non-GFI breaker and we were fine. The Husband discounted everything Jim said, and told RV war stories from his experience with “million dollar coaches.” Very impressive, ahem… At least we didn’t have to deal with an electrical problem; that I can’t do.

By now we saw that they were very hands on and very strict. She asked about pets and we told her we took the cats out on leashes and they always went back to the bus to do their business. They have a list of dog breeds and blends that are not allowed in the park. There are very specific rules about laundry, WiFi and just about everything else. When I asked about WiFi, she said “No Streaming!” I told her we didn’t do that. We have our own hotspot of course, but anytime you can use someone else’s that’s a good thing.

Even though we had checked in and paid, we didn’t get the usual info, WiFi key, laundry code, etc. So when I went back to get those I knew to tread lightly. I asked about having mail and packages delivered since she hadn’t even given us a site number. She said UPS or Fed Ex?” I said both probably. Naturally the drivers aren’t allowed to deliver to your site, they drop at the office. This gives them a good excuse to drive all over in their golf carts keeping their eyes on everything.

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On my return to the bus, I read that the pets were only to be in the “Pet Area” which is a million cat miles from where the bus sits. We are tucked back behind a building with good cat walking right by the bus. I figured I better ask since they also said on their literature that they could ask anybody to leave at any time. She said we could walk them by the bus but they weren’t to do any scratching in the dirt or other catlike things. Right. I am quite pleased to report that the first few times Tikita went out, she not only rolled in the dirt big-time, she scratched herself a little hole and peed. HA! Seriously, if The Iron Maiden saw that… We stayed on the lookout after that.

The first few days we pretty much laid low; it seemed everything we did required an admonishment or explanation from them. I was thanking her and said something about how stressful this time had been for us. She dryly replied, “It’s called Life.” At least she didn’t add, “So suck it up.” But she didn’t need to. When The Iron Fist’s Husband asked how things were I said so far, so good. And mentioned that it was quiet. Big mistake.

The next few days were filled with the sound of equipment working right by our site. They were preparing some more parking but Jeez! One morning while Jim was still asleep, the guy comes with his backhoe and turns his radio up to 11. I went over there and told him Jim was still asleep. The weird thing was, when I approached where he was working, I could barely hear the radio; it was pointed directly at the bus. What? He turned it off and that hasn’t happened since. Plus we are not far from the dump truck where they apparently load all the campground trash. And then empty it when it’s full? When the dead body smell is overwhelming? Oh wait, it already is.

We survived Week One and they softened a bit. Maybe they are realizing that even though we have a dragon on our bus, we are not monsters.

As the weeks went on they got a little more human. I got to practice yoga in the greenhouse, the husband gave us a ride to town a couple times. Then when the Husband fell and broke a couple of ribs, they got much friendlier.

We had some gorgeous views overlooking the golf course right by our site. Walking around the course we saw muskrats, deer, rabbits and lots of turtles.
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I broke out my bike and got some riding in. We were stuck in a beautiful area.

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By the time we pulled out in early October they had thawed out quite a bit and welcomed us back anytime. It turned out to be an excellent spot to land in an emergency and worked out well. We are grateful.

And no, it’s not really named The Iron Fist RV Park. We may need to go back.

Ladies! Learn to Drive!

I have been meaning to write this post for a couple of years.

When we were looking for a bus, we had decided we would get an automatic transmission since we both would drive. This is more unusual than you might think. Jim’s bus guru, Howard Best, is the only driver in their rig and they have been full time in their bus for over 25 years! They’re lucky and blessed.

Our second season on the road after selling our house we were working our way up the Pacific Coast when Jim broke his wrist in Astoria, Oregon. You can read the gory details here. We thought we were in town for just a couple of days to visit the Maritime Museum, see the Columbia River/Pacific Ocean confluence and eat seafood. We were there two months.

We were in a park right in town on the river but fishing season was coming up and we had to move. Jim needs surgery in a week, can’t do anything with his hand and we have to find a place and move. And Astoria has a total of two RV parks. We talked the owner into another night, rented a car and went far and wide looking for a spot. We found one about nine miles out. And we could only stay a week through the surgery, then we had to find something else for the time through therapy.

Before we left, first we had to unhook, dump, put the bikes and everything else away and get the bus ready to roll. Awnings, compressors, lots of “boy” stuff that I had seen done but didn’t know how to do.

I can drive though. Thank God and Captain Ted for that.

It actually worked out really well. Jim had to explain and I had to listen. If he had tried to “teach” me the man stuff another time I might have had too many questions, here I just soaked it in. Because I know he is the kind of guy who does things right, I listened and learned and we made it to the “surgery” campsite and got hooked up. And the way he explained things was really good too. He’d say, “Well, what I usually do is unwind the hose this way…” instead of “Do it like this!” Smart man. There are lots of hills and logging trucks in that part of Oregon but we made it. Whew! Big accomplishment!

We rented another car and scoured for a place to stay. Made our way to the ONLY other RV park in Astoria and scored a 50 AMP spot in the man camp for fishermen for two months! We had to move to dump but I could drive. When we arrived in the bus, I realized it was a good thing we had secured the spot when we were in the rental car. When we arrived in the bus, she said, “Is THAT your RV?” I said yes, we had already paid for the two months and it all turned out fine. I actually have a draft post I have never published called The Iron Fist RV Park. It will be a followup.

The point is, if  you are a couple touring together in an RV, both of you should know how to drive and perform the basic functions of the boy/girl side of things. That would include girls learning the boy side of dumping, electrical hookup, taking on water, changing propane tanks, tire monitoring, awnings and battery monitoring. I never had to change the propane during our hiatus; we have two forty pound tanks and they lasted well.

What makes me write this now is that a beloved member of our winter community here in Texas died suddenly this fall. We are all shocked and saddened right along with his wife. Fortunately they were not in their RV when he passed, but they were in another country which exacerbated the situation. She badly wants to return to the Valley but her rig is 45 feet long and they tow a pickup. At least I didn’t have to deal with that. She did drive their rig some and also a previous smaller one. Traveling alone and being responsible for it all is a different story. As she said, it’s the confidence factor.

A lot of full-time women I meet can drive on the interstate or back roads but hand it back to their husbands when they get to the city. When we were approaching Los Angeles in 2015 we had planned to do that, just because, but there was NO place to pull over. I ended up driving into the city and parking curbside in a scant space on a Los Angeles Street. You gotta be able to do it all.

When Jim and I traveled extensively on motorcycles, I realized that if something happened to him, I would not be able to get us back to civilization. I took a road qualifying course in Maryland and got my Motorcycle License. Still have it. If you ever see me on a motorcycle, go in the other direction. But I was happy to know how to operate the damn thing.

Having a teacher is the way to go. The aforementioned Captain Ted not only taught us how to do all the driving, safety inspections and backing up, he taught us the hand signals that we use to this day to get the bus into a spot without talking or a radio. Well, sometimes we have to talk. But we go to the driver window. We learned early on that yelling doesn’t work.

This is not just meant for the ladies. My full-time friend, Maria’s husband still does not drive their rig. Not sure why, but he could learn to. He might need to someday.

Just do it.

 

 

 

Ladies Lipstick Day!

This post is sponsored by Anne Kinner an Independent consultant with Jamberry.
My first sponsored post!

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Anybody who knows me knows that I am no fashionista or makeup person. Every once in a while I like to pretend I have eyebrows and put on some lipstick but that’s about it. Foundation? Nope. Eye make-up? Rarely. Heck, I don’t even like to wear clothes!

One of my friends on Facebook, Anne Kinner, is another full time RVer and a Jamberry consultant. Jamberry’s main product is nail wraps that come in all designs and colors. I am not a manicure person either (surprised?) so not real interested in those. I have never even had a professional pedicure, a fact that horrified my friend Cindy when I told her this summer. That’s getting fixed the next time we go to Mexico.

Anyway Anne said something on FB like “I wish I knew somebody who had a blog to review Jamberry’s newest product, a lip manicure. I said “I have a blog!” and the journey began.

She sent me a bottle of the lipstick with applicator and some of the preliminary lip scrub which exfoliates your lips and gives you a smooth canvas on which to apply the lipstick. She sent a very bold red called Daredevil and I started wearing it around the park to try it out. People definitely noticed.

I found that I really like it! The application process needs to be pretty exacting because this stuff stays on forever! In other words, put on your glasses when applying. You carefully outline your lips with the applicator and fill in the rest. I certainly don’t have Taylor Swift lips but it would be great for those who do. The first time I tried it, I drank water all morning, ate lunch and went to Happy Hour, all without any reapplication. It doesn’t smear your coffee cup like regular tube lipstick does and dries to a matte finish. I found that if I tried to apply lip gloss over it or even Chapstick, the smearing of the cup resumed. That is one thing I hate about regular lipstick.

With people noticing, I got the idea of introducing it to lady friends here by hosting a Ladies Happy Hour. We have a happy hour here every day somewhere so I started spreading the word. Anne sent me some swabs and the lip scrub for everybody to try it and we set a date. In the meantime I decided that I wanted more than one shade; they had a Black Friday sale and I bought all four colors, two bold, Cheeky and Daredevil and two more neutral, Charming and Coy. Anne also sent a bunch of her business cards with samples of the Jamberry nail wraps so people could try them out. They require heat and other tools so we didn’t sample them at the party but everybody took a card home. We were really ready now!

 

Party day came and it was rainy and cool for south Texas. We had secured an indoor space with tables and chairs and about 25 ladies showed up to try it. I told how this had all come about with the blog review and that I was hardly a beauty or fashion person, which they already knew. Elsie kept saying, “Of all people to give beauty advice…” Ha!

We used the individual swabs she sent, so no cooties, and dabbed the colors into the lid of the lip scrub to try all the colors. I had found that you couldn’t blend two colors together as you applied it, but you could mix them in the lid with some success. If you put one color on top of another, it just covers up; it’s that good.

I tried to mix Daredevil and Coy and came up with this:
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This is Daredevil.
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And yes, I know I am terrible at selfies.

We also took some pics of the ladies wearing it but I didn’t get everybody. It was interesting that the same color looked different on different people. It also seemed like some people weren’t using enough, you have to really paint it on to get the lasting effect.

 

Again, who am I to be giving beauty advice?

The consensus? Most people really liked it and we had fun. One lady said she was thinking of getting some for her working daughter because it is so long-wearing and non-smearing. Great idea!

So whether for a gift or a holiday present for yourself, consider trying Jamberry Lip Manicure. If you sign up as a Style VIP (I did!) for $15 you get 15% off and free shipping on all orders. If you decide to order anything, go to Jammin’ with Wendy. My party will be open until December 29 and when supplies run out, that may be it. I have a feeling that what I bought will last me a long time! Please understand that I am not selling anything, just spreading the word about a great new product. I’m glad I found it.
Click here for the direct link to the lip manicure.

If you are in the park and couldn’t make it to the Happy Hour, I still have all the colors, the scrub samples and the swabs to apply. And the nail wrap samples too. Come on over to the bus and see what you think.

Now about those Taylor Swift lips…

 

This post is sponsored by Anne Kinner an independent consultant with Jamberry.
All opinions are my own
.

Winter Wrap-Up

We are back in our winter Texas spot. We have shifted from the everyday travel and changing locations to knowing where we will be for the next few months. No finding state parks or Walmarts for a while. Focus has shifted to swimming, volleyball, yoga, ukulele and band practice and, of course, happy hour.

As a wrap-up, I broke down where we stayed, who we visited and how many times we moved this season.

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We stayed at a total of 55 spots, 22 of which were Elks Lodges. We detailed the Elks here. Elks were by far the majority of our stays and we always have a good experience there. Join the Elks!

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We visited with 25 different sets of friends and family, 10 of whom were Winter Texas friends. Fellow travelers often have good parking and hookups too! Two friends we ran into as we were rolling down the road (not literally) and pulled off for an impromptu meet-up. This is the first time that has happened but I guess the bus is easy to recognize. We met up with six family members, including three sets of my long lost cousins in Vermont. We love seeing people in their local environment and seeing the sights.
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We rode 15 bike trails covering about 900 miles for the season. I would like this number to be higher but ya gotta go where the trails are.

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We camped in five actual campgrounds or RV parks. We usually do this when it is the only option. This includes fairgrounds (one) which are usually deserted, have hookups and good cat outing areas. Often near a bike trail.

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State/National parks are wonderful during the week. We stayed in six. Our senior pass gives us 50% off camping.

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Eight Walmarts and one Lowe’s are on the list. Walmart is free and we can stock up. The parking lots are huge so we can find a spot out of the way. We  stayed at the Lowes when Walmart said we might get rousted out if we parked there. The Lowes said “Come on down!” No problem. We just close the blinds and are safe in our cocoon. Not many had good cat walking but some did.

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City and county parks total: four. These are very nice places to stay. Quiet, few other campers and often adjacent to a bike trail . Sometimes the mayor comes to the bus to welcome us. We need to find more of these.

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And even though we made the conscious decision to stay longer in most spots, like 4-5 days, we traveled to 27 states this year.

This was a wonderful six and a half months of travel. Our best season so far. No broken bones. No shingles. P.S. The new shingles shot, Shingrix,  is coming out soon. GET THE SHOT! It is much more effective than the Zostrex one we got. I will be first in line.

No bus repairs or problems. That keeps the money in the checkbook. This old bus just keeps on rolling down the road. We may be slow and we may be big but we are The Million Mile Mighty Bus.

We arrived at our spot in Texas and were sidelined with a bunch of bad news about  several friends here. One died, several are sick with cancer or in hospice. It was unbearable to hear such heartbreaking news about people we have come to know and love. As one of those friends articulately said, “Love each other.” We know things can change in a New York minute but we are so very thankful that we are BIG BIG lucky.

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2017: The Year of Elks

This was our third season of traveling in the bus. The only destinations that were time sensitive were the NAOC Convention in June in Reading, Pennsylvania and the total solar eclipse in Mid Missouri in late August. In between we planned to hit some bike trails, see some more friends and play tourist in places like Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi and Charleston, South Carolina.

We also decided to slow our pace a bit and stay longer in spots that worked well for us. Maybe four or five days instead of two or three.

We have been members of the Elks Lodge since before we sold the house and hit the road. We knew from other full time bus friends that they were safe, mostly quiet (more on that later) and often have electric hookups. Many don’t but that’s OK too; we have our trusty generator. Some lodges have a set price but most just ask for a donation to the lodge. It’s up to you how much to donate. We decided early on to donate a minimum of $10 a night. We’re really big spenders. Even a minimal RV park or campground is likely to run $30-$50 dollars. A night. And the sites will be tight, the dogs will be barking and the kids screaming…

We have the Elk RV guide books for every region of the country. With a map of  each state, they outline which Elks allow overnight parking, the length of time you can stay, what services they offer, address, phone number and directions. We always call ahead to ask if OK to park and let them know we’re coming. When we arrive, we check in with the bartender and find out where to park. The bartender is really the gatekeeper at the Elks and pretty much everything goes through her. Some lodges offer a first or second free drink and we tip well. Drinks are really cheap too. We don’t go in to the bar very often but when we do people are friendly, curious and interested in the bus life.

Since we have the address, we always Google Earth the location to check out the size of the parking lot, nearby green space for the kitties and get the lay of the land.

Jim keeps a running log on his iPad calendar and this year I started taking a picture of the bus with my phone each night. I forgot a few. We go a while sometimes without updating the calendar and the phone tells you exactly when and where the pic was taken. A miracle!

It turns out that many lodges are right on or near a bike trail we want to visit so we consult the Elks books, Walmart and the AllStays app to plan our route.

Seguin, Texas was our first stop on our way east so naturally we found an Elks. And another one the next night in Huntsville.
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Many lodges don’t open until late afternoon so we leave a message if we can and proceed. A few times we have reached a message that “This number has been disconnected.” In both Georgia and Mississippi we got to a lodge only to find it closed with a For Sale sign out front. Hmmm. Both times we called the realtor’s number on the sign and they got in touch with the Elks and said it was fine for us to stay. No electric, but no donation either.

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A couple of places were a tight fit like in Windsor, Vermont. When I went in to check in, the bartender had blocked off a spot right behind the building for us. That was great but the lot was small and cars were parked where we needed to turn around to back in. Hey, it’s the Elks! They all came out and moved their cars so we could get in the spot. Then they fixed us up with some 15 amp electric and said we could stay as long as we wanted. The guy on the phone said we could only stay two nights. We ended up staying about five nights. Macon, Missouri was too tight. Our bus would have taken up the entire lot! We moved on.

Many times the lodge was near the train tracks. I like the graffiti on the cars and getting the engineer to blow the horn. A couple of places the tracks were right by the lodge and the trains were fast and loud like Nelliston, New York. But it was only certain times of day and not all night. And we got to see stuff like this:
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A few lodges we stayed at:
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Natchez, Mississippi. The lodge was closed and for sale but we got to park anyway.
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I didn’t get the bus here but this was the view in Raleigh, North Carolina. On Memorial Day weekend. We had the place to ourselves and the cats had room to roam.
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Vicksburg, Mississippi. Right by the pool.
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Charleston, South Carolina. Under the live oak trees.

Brockport, New York. About a mile from the bike trail.
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Poughkeepsie, New York. We came back from a ride and the Elks were partying in our awning shade. We joined in.

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Ashtabula, Ohio. One other rig there. Right on Lake Ontario. The sunset…
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Grandview, Missouri. This is right in the Kansas City area.
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Denver, Colorado. The lodge here has an actual RV park. It was a little more pricey but we could get Uber anywhere and there was a nice playground for the cats.

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Pawhuska, Oklahoma. A short ride to town. Deserted.

When we first found out about the Elks perk of RV parking for members, we sorta thought we should keep it under wraps. What if everybody wanted to join? But since we have been traveling and stayed at so many lodges, some closed, I actually think it is a win-win if the Elks can attract more RV members. They gain more members, get some revenue and the community becomes more robust.

If you decide to join, just do what Jim did. Go to your local Elks lodge and say “I want to be an Elk!” Somebody will sponsor you. You have to go through an initiation ceremony and the lodge leader is called the Exalted Ruler. Really. Just don’t say you want to do it for the RV parking. You want to help the community, fight drugs and crime, play bingo, whatever.

We know many full-time RVers here in Texas and elsewhere and we have always encouraged them to join the Elks. Some people never boondock so that takes care of some of them since they need electric or hookups all the time.

For the rest of us though, we could all be doing each other a favor. Cheap, safe and friendly place to stay. Helpful and nice people when you arrive. Definitely a win-win situation.

This year we stopped in 55 places. Twenty two of them were Elks.
Seguin, TX
Huntsville, TX
Natchez, MS (closed)
Vicksburg, MS
Childersburg, AL
Augusta, GA
Summerville, SC
Charleston, SC
Raleigh, NC
Poughkeepsie, NY
Windsor, VT
Nelliston, NY
Brockport, NY
Ashtabula, OH
Springfield, IL
Grandview, MO
Sioux City, IA
Westminister, CO
Lamar, CO
Woodward, OK
Pawhuska, OK
New Braunfels, TX

2017: Year of the Elks.

 

 

 

Family and Friends!

We love hanging out with Jim’s cousin Warren and his wife Judy. They are family who are also very good friends, often an unlikely combination. They love to laugh and have a good time and we always sink back into a deep and comfortable friendship and conversation with them.

We had looked in our Elks book but the lodge in New Braunfels was not listed as having RV parking. Judy got on the phone and got the OK from the Knights of Columbus to park there, then she called the Elks too and they said “Come on over.” So we did.

Once again I have to sing the praises of being Elks. The people at the lodge are friendly and welcoming and we always have a safe and quiet place to park. New Braunfels was no exception and the lodge is right in the heart of downtown. We could walk to anything!

 

They showed us where we should park because they have deer that visit the grassy area in the lot. Every day. They had 15 amp electric so we plugged in and took the cats for a walk. While they were out the deer friends showed up. One deer was very curious about Carmella and approached her hesitantly, snorting and stomping her hoof repeatedly. She got about ten feet away from the cat before she turned tail and ran off. Then we started catching up with Judy and Warren.
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Last year we met up with them in Austin in their motorhome. This year they had accomplished the very formidable task of selling their house and alot of their stuff and moved into a new house in New Braunfels, Texas. They also have two new puppies, Kash and Kole, who are littermates and described as a schnauzer mix. They look a little like schnauzers but they have long legs and Kash has very large and expressive ears. They are very cute and much fun. Somebody abandoned them and the mom in a field probably when they discovered they weren’t full Schnauzers. How can people do that? They sure got lucky when they ended up with these guys. Warren said, “How could we not take them in?”
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And they are immortalized on the patio.

They brought us one of their cars to use (!) and we drove to their house to watch the first game of the World Series. Judy fixed up a tray of snacks that would feed an army! We settled in with margaritas and puppies to watch the game. Go Astros!

 

The next day we went to breakfast at Union Station Diner. The biscuits and gravy were really good and I was stuffed all day. We drove to nearby Gruene (pronounced Green) and poked around the historic downtown before eating out for the second time in a day at Cantina Del Rio. This place got good reviews on Yelp and we arrived for Happy Hour. Of course. I ordered shrimp tacos that were really good but everybody else got fajitas. The meat was good but that was all there was, no peppers or onions steaming up the plate. I think they forgot. Get the shrimp tacos.

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There was free live music in Gruene Hall, where George Strait got his start, and we listened awhile after cruising the local tourist shops. LOTS of “good stuff!” Then we headed back to their house for Game 2 of the Series.

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Our last evening there we went to the Gristmill in Gruene after finding out the patio was closed at McAdoos. We ate outside and had a good dinner. Afterward we went back and played with puppies, drank wine and watched football. We drove their car back to the house and got an Uber for the ride back to the bus. When we got in the car he asked where to (although they already know) and when we told him The Elks he said “the bus, right?” Even though we were tucked behind the building he knew it was there. His name was John and the pic of him in front of the bus shows why you get Uber in the first place! (I blame my phone…)

What a great visit we had! Judy and Warren are warm and wonderful and fun. By the second night they said, “You know where everything is; make yourselves at home. This was the last round of friend visits this season. And a good time to stop eating out for a while! We certainly ended the season on a high note with these guys and look forward to seeing them in the spring. The puppies will be all grown up by then. They are on their first extended road trip to North Carolina to celebrate Judy’s grand daughter’s first birthday. I bet Kash and Kole will have a great time with the kids.

After we left New Braunfels, we stayed four nights at Choke Canyon State Park. I had a work project I needed to finish up and we had a fine campsite with large sites, few other visitors and more deer friends!

 


I got my project finished and turned over 3700 miles on my bike while we were there. I guess I won’t make 4000 this season. That’s OK; I feel fortunate we got to ride as much as we did. I think we got in about 800-900 miles this season. Shoulda kept track. I know I turned over 3000 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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We will spend the day reprovisioning, fueling up the bus and traveling to our winter spot in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been keeping track of where we stayed every stop these past  six and a half months and will put together a wrap-up soon.

It has been a great season. We are truly blessed and thankful.

 

Mineral Wells Otra Vez

We are wending our way back to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. We know Texas is bereft of bike trails outside of the cities, so we decided to revisit the Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway in Mineral Wells, Texas for some final trail riding for the year. We still bike in Texas but on the road to the grocery store, sometimes with packs of dogs trailing behind us. The dog packs seem to have diminished since our first year. I guess that is why we have seen so many dead dogs along the road. Gotta remember to buy dog biscuits to throw at them to divert the attack.

There is a state park in Mineral Wells but we planned to go back to the Eagle’s Nest RV Park where we stayed last time when the state park was full. Bev, a single lady, runs the park and it is way above the valley floor for spectacular views. It is more expensive than the state park but she finagled us the spot (#4 if you go there…) we had before and we settled in for bike riding, sunsets and meteor showers. What a perfect place for all of these!
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Bike riding commenced. We rode into the town of Mineral Wells and checked out the formerly bustling, now struggling downtown. From about 1880-1919 the town was booming from the people coming for the health benefits. Supposedly wells in the area had minerals to cure or improve many conditions and people rode the trains in droves to “take the waters.” Hotels were built, even a railroad. Hence the bike trail.
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This once grand hotel, the Baker occupies an entire city block and is slated for demolition. It dominates the town skyline.

The trail has some flood damage but that just made it more interesting to ride. Ha! The larger gravel and ruts smoothed out and we had great rides in both directions with fantastic weather.
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We planned a night at Camp Walmart in Lampasas before we land at the Elks in New Braunfels to visit Warren and Judy. They have a new house and two new puppies we gotta meet. We always have lots of fun with them.

Okies! Wichita Mountains!

From Pawhuska we set out for Norman and a long overdue visit with Janelle and Bill, Dos Okies. We also looked forward to seeing John and Carol who we met on our last visit. You would have thought we were visiting royalty! Janelle had a succulent beef tenderloin and asparagus dinner for us the first night and Carol and John made us delicious New York strip steaks and baked potatoes with corn and bean salad on Sunday. What did we do to deserve the red carpet treatment?

The Fairgrounds in Norman was a good base for visiting. We got to meet their new puppy, Taylor who Janelle described as “forty pounds of trouble.” He is actually very smart and responsive, he’s just a puppy. A very cute one. Look at his cute eyebrow.

We spent our twenty-seventh anniversary watching OU football, drinking wine and visiting on the porch on a beautiful day. A delicious stew dinner followed that. A good chance to catch up.

Sunday we all went to John and Carol’s where John immediately led us to his building where he shared his treasure trove of rocks, fossils and sculptures. He has a two floors full of cool stuff and of course the second floor has a highly reinforced floor. Lotta rocks there. He gives talks to local schools and youth groups. I bet the kids love it. He used to live in Alaska and has several interesting items like walrus skulls displayed in the house. Some of these sculptures are made using his polished and rare rocks. He gave me a few (small) ones to go in my rock drawer.

Carol’s table was beautiful too and the meal was out of this world. The company could not be beat.
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The Okies had told us about an area they were both familiar with and had spent much time in, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge so we decided to head down there together for a few days. They had both spent many happy days there as kids and continued to visit after that. We love being shown the special sights by the locals! And mountains? In Oklahoma?

On the way we stopped at the Meers Store for lunch. This is a funky little place where it looks like they have been adding on for decades. They serve Longhorn beef burgers and I found out that they sell Longhorn skulls! They were out at the moment but now I know where to get one once I convince Jim that we should mount one on the bus. Wonder how long that’ll take…

With our senior pass, camping was just $10 a night! The sites are very large and even when the campground was full it was nice and quiet and private. We saw buffalo and Longhorn cattle and wild turkeys roamed the campground.

We toured all around the park, went up Mt. Scott where the very colorful lichen adorn the very large rocks.

We drove to the small town of Medicine Park and strolled around the town. Photo opp!

And we found the Rockin’ J Ranch! Hi J!
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We didn’t eat there since we planned a meal of hamburgers and potato sticks when we got back. Jim and Bill played some music, we drank more wine and had a fine campfire and evening.
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O HAI!
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And I got some great wildlife shots. At the Visitor’s Center…

This area is beautiful and we took a couple of short hikes so we could see the place as these guys know it. This one was taken above the swimming hole where Janelle learned to swim many a few years ago. She climbed to the top of Boulder Mountain here for her 50th birthday!
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Above the swimming hole.

This is a beautiful area and we are so lucky that we got to enjoy it with good friends who know it well. We ended up staying an extra night so we could have a “day off” before we headed out.

We had a wonderful time in Oklahoma but it’s time to start wending our way back to south Texas. Texas is a little short on bike trails except in the cities so we will go back to Mineral Wells and ride the trail there before we start heading south. Eagle’s Nest campground has the best big sky views of the valley. This is the view from our site. Night and day.

Then on to New Braunfels to see Judy and Warren. We always have a good time with them.  Plus they have two new puppies too so we get to rile them up. And they bring Bloody Marys to the bus! What’s not to like?

New Mexico & The Pioneer Woman

We decided to spend a couple of days at Clayton Lake State Park in northeastern New Mexico.
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It’s always good to have a plan and we found a good spot right on the lake but it was FREEZING! Literally had a hard freeze the first night. Everybody left after that and we had the place to ourselves.

We bundled up and took a short walk to see the dinosaur tracks in the park. They discovered them when they built the dam for the lake. It was a small area just below the dam. It was like a bunch of teenaged dinosaurs were frolicking in an area their parents told them to stay out of.


I made some really good lentil soup in the crockpot and that was perfect to counter the cold before we headed east to experience the phenomena that is The Pioneer Woman. I met and photographed her for an event in Kansas City several years ago before she became a super celebrity.

Since then she has not just a blog, but a show on the Food Network, her own magazine and a line of products distributed by Walmart. Then she bought a building in her hometown, Pawhuska, Oklahoma and made it into a store selling the same stuff that is in Walmart and a restaurant, pretty much a tourist destination. Oh, and now they have bought another building and are making it into a hotel. Like I said, a phenomenon of ambition. We were in the area, there is an Elks Lodge there and it was just a short bike ride into town.

We passed the ranch on the way into town and had to get a picture with the bus. I left a card in her mailbox. Ha!

The Elks in Pawhuska was a fine place to park. Kitties had lots of room to roam and hardly any people or cars. We love the Elks.
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The next day we unloaded the bikes and rode into Pawhuska and The Mercantile. The building renovation is lovely and well done. We had lunch and didn’t buy anything except food. After all, you can get all that stuff at Walmart. It’s like a nice Walmart, but still Walmart. Hard to imagine how much cash she is raking in and they are already wealthy cattle ranchers.

It was a weekday and an off hour but we still had to wait an hour to eat lunch, which was OK but nothing to write home about. She is definitely a job creator, lots of people working there. All the people and activity has to be an economic boon for the town; I wonder how the locals like it. We bought some cinnamon rolls for Bill and Janelle, which was our next stop.

It’s one of those things like going to Graceland; once you’ve been you never need to go back.

On to Norman and a long overdue visit with Dos Okies.