Making Our Way South

When we got done visiting our friends in Norman, it was time to head south. We found an Elks Lodge in Cleburne, Texas and had the place to ourselves after a day of driving through some dramatic skies. And more heat. We haven’t done nearly as much boondocking as we normally do because of the heat. If we have the technology, we might as well use it. We had started having some trouble with the 50 amp cord in Norman but Jim’s stick-to-it-ivness paid off in the end. We had tried to buy a new cord head in Norman but no luck. We figured if we just jiggled it all the way back to south Texas we could fix it then. In Cleburne, he got us plugged in just fine and left the bay door open so as not to disrupt the now sensitive cord.

I had been noticing for awhile that my iPad was discharging fast and when navigating I had to have it plugged in. We knew we were going through Ft. Worth and decided to stop at the Apple Store there. Normally we visit our friends Viv and Gary when we pass through for an annual art adventure but decided to pass on the indoor stuff this time with the Delta variant erasing all the progress of last year. We will see them this winter.

Looking at Google Maps we could see that the parking at the shopping center was very tight so Jim parked on a side street while I went in for my appointment. Even though Apple was introducing new versions of both iPhone and iPad in a few days, we were here NOW with not much of a chance for returning. They helped me start setting it up and I went back to the bus to finish. Jim asked me if I was sure I got the version that had good GPS and navigation since we use it for that all the time. Back to the store I went. Of course that version of the iPad Air was more expensive. Of course it was… I was glad he mentioned it at the time. This time they left me to set it up on my own and I started doing that when we got back on the road. Once it got going it perked right along and by the next morning everything was transferred from my old iPad. Of course that meant I couldn’t get a trade-in for it. I will figure out how to handle that; I may just sell it but my new one doesn’t connect to my computer yet (waiting on an adapter) so I can Airdrop to the old one for the time being. And I kind of like having an extra one although the new one stays charged much better.

That night we found another Elks in Temple, Texas, where, as usual, everybody was really nice. They were having burgers that night and we got them. They were really good! I didn’t get a picture of the bus there but we were the only ones there. Our view from the bus with our 50 amp spot.

We had reservations at Choke Canyon State Park for our final stay of the summer. We reserved our favorite spot and settled in for a few days. Then Tropical Storm Nicholas started to form. It was projected to hit the coast of Texas and we wanted to make sure we didn’t arrive home while the park was flooded. So we booked three more days just to make sure. Of course it hit further up the coast but that’s OK. At least we wouldn’t have to deal with flooding.

Even though it was still really hot, I got my bike out and rode about 25 miles around the park. We pretty much have it to ourselves. We see deer everyday and javalinas in the evening. They are prehistoric looking, to say the least. Speaking of prehistoric, there is a sign as you enter the park that says “Beware: Alligators exist in this park.” We’ve never seen one. Carmella likes it here but it is so hot that she basically just lays under the bus. Heat index is 110 degrees today!

Javalinas pass through our site
Around the park

We will start back tomorrow after thoroughly enjoying our Family and Friends Tour of 2021.

Hey, Hey, Labor Day! And Dos Okies!

We decided to layover Labor Day at Heyburn Lake in Oklahoma, about 80 miles from our friends in Norman. It was HOT! I took a few walks down around the lake but when I stepped into the water there was no cool relief. It was still hot. Good chance to catch up on reading and art.

At first we were the only ones there but then it started to fill up for Labor Day weekend. But as it turned out, by mid-morning of Labor Day, we were back by ourselves.

On to Norman!

We usually park at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman, but they were undergoing renovation and the County Fair was scheduled during our window to visit. Hmmm… We called the Lloyd Noble Center where they have RV parking for the OU football games. They had plenty of space at $100 a night! During football games it is $150 a night. We booked for two nights and figured we would get to visit with both Janelle and Bill and John and Carol during that time.

After cocktails at Bill and Janelle’s place the first night, we drove to Othello’s, a nice Italian restaurant with a covered patio. When we got there we discovered we had a flat tire! Janelle said the hell with it, let’s eat and change it afterward. So we did. When we finished, Jim changed the tire while Janelle used my phone as a flashlight. Otherwise, we would have pictures. After that they took us straight back to the bus so nothing else could go wrong. They got the tire fixed the next morning.

Janelle always cooks for us when we’re there but I didn’t want her to have to rush around to feed us so I made up my Holiday Hamburgers and Jim grilled them for the six of us the next night. We ate on their lovely and cool back deck where it it is like being in the treetops. Because you are! We had hamburgers, buns, tomato, avocado and cheese. Janelle did do a dessert of pie and ice cream; we were stuffed!

And, yes, for $100 a night, we threw out our dishwater. It was so hot that it dried quickly.

And their dog, Taylor! He was barky and suspicious of us at first but he settled down fast. He is sweet, very well trained and obedient and it was great to get reacquainted with him. He is four years old now and Bill has done a great job of training him. He is a pleasure to be around.

He cocks his head when you make a meowing sound!

It is especially nice to be able to catch up with people we haven’t seen in almost two years! These are the kind of friends that you just fall back into conversation with, picking up where we left off. Time is flying by and we don’t want to miss any opportunities to catch up with dear friends. Who knows what the future holds?

Next time we will park at John and Carol’s house in the country. Or the fairgrounds, if renovations are finished. And hopefully we can see Bill and Janelle in Mexico next spring. We have had to cancel twice because of COVID but we are now fully vaccinated and more than ready to travel. PLEASE get vaccinated if you are not; help out your fellow community members. Public health is involved, not just personal choice.

This concludes the Family and Friends Tour of 2021. We visited 21 sets of friends and family in just three and a half months!. That’s one of the reasons we got the bus in the first place, to be able to visit our far flung friends. It’s working!

From here we head to Choke Canyon State Park for our last camping of the season. It’s still hot and getting hotter as we head south. A tropical storm is forming in the Gulf of Mexico and we want to wait it out if it hits our winter park.

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over! We missed visiting some other friends who were either out of town or too far away. We’ll catch them next time!

Rolling Toward Rolla

After Illinois we backtracked through St. Louis on the way to visit our friends Lori and Norm. They have been trying to get us to visit in the bus for years but the time and place were never right. This time it was. We spent a hot night at the Elks in St. Clair, Missouri where they thankfully had 50 amp service. Both air conditioners on high, please! From St. Clair we made a short provisioning run where we also got our booster shot! Bonus!

Once we decided where in their driveway we should park, Lori took a video of us backing it in. When she played the video back for me I could hear her say, “I’ve been trying to get them to come for YEARS!” Be careful what you wish for.

Old friends from Columbia, we hadn’t seen Lori since 2009 when she came and stayed with us for a pastel painting workshop she took in Kansas City. And we hadn’t seen Norm since their housewarming party in Rolla in 1996! Time to catch up!

Once we got the bus parked, it was time to figure out the electric. The garage had 15 amp outlets, but not enough to run an A/C. Hmmm. The porch had an outlet that turned out to be 20 amp! YAY! Like everyplace else we have been this summer, it was super hot and the A/C truly appreciated. Jim has just about every adapter known to man and soon we were cooling off with the refrigerator plugged into the 15 amp in the garage. Our view from the bus…

Our spot in the driveway

We figured Carmella would be really happy here. They live on 20 acres outside Rolla and their road was not very busy at all. Of course, we forgot to factor in Skye, their 10 year old dog who is quite large and friendly. She wanted to make friends with Carmella so badly but Carmella wasn’t having any of it at first. A few days before we left she decided to come hang out on the deck and they got acquainted, sort of…

Look at her sweet face…

They also have a 16 year old Siamese kitty, Brown Toe. He is a cool cat who has had a kinda rough life. His previous owner died about six years ago and she was so worried about the cat that Lori said she would take him. He’s a lucky boy. He has kidney disease but he loved brushing and I proceeded to brush him daily since he had lots of knots and clumpy fur. We collected the fur in a bag and had a whole grocery sack full by the time we left. I left them the brush I got for Astrid and hopefully he will get more brushing. Lori became allergic to him a few years ago and he really enjoyed the extra attention. You can see how he got his name.

Lori is an accomplished plein air painter. Which means she paints outside, in all weather conditions, often with a limited amount of time. She travels to events all over the country and gives workshops in her spare time. She has a little studio on the property, a whole house actually. Their house is like a gallery with displays of her work, as well as Norm’s excellent photography.

Lori in her studio with a few of her many awards. Not only does she win awards, she sells many of her pieces, along with note cards. See more at her website.

Not only is Norm an award winning photographer, he is what I think of as a gentleman farmer. We sampled his delicious wares throughout our visit. He is also a musician and he and Jim collaborated on the deck in the afternoons. And what a deck! Comfortable, spacious and cool with a ceiling fan, we spent almost every minute out there.

Lori is also a great cook, who loves to putter around in the kitchen. The first night she made BLTs, the next a delicious Brazilian fish stew, served with her homemade bagels. What a treat! Then she made moussaka, a delightful eggplant dish. We contributed spare ribs and salad one night and crappie and salad the next. We just happened to have some of Doc’s crappie in the freezer and it turned out that it is Lori’s favorite. And Norm made rum raisin ice cream!

Before COVID they would have an open house with a personal concert for their guests. This is from one of those.
I love it.

They are also collectors and have art from other people displayed.

Around the house…

And all of a sudden it was time to go! What a lovely visit with great friends. You know you have good friends when after many years, you can just fall back into conversation with them and pick up where you left off. We are fortunate and grateful to have reconnected. Thank you Lori and Norm! We’ll be back!

Friends & Family Tour Rolls On…

Once we left St. Charles it was just a short trip to a really nice recreation area in central Illinois. We wanted to meet up with new friends, Leslie and Rodney. We met online and have many things in common and similar interests including yoga, cats and art. Why not visit? We are always curious to meet up with people and have them show us their world; we learn alot that way.

The Washington County Recreation Area is a really nice campground on Lake Washington. We had been warned that they might have some electrical “issues” due to their outdated system but Jim has every kind of adapter we might need and we figured it would be OK. We pulled in and picked a site. The camp host, Cathy, came over and we told her we would get set up and then I would come and give her a check. She reminded us that the site we picked was “Reservable” which meant that unless we reserved our first night online we couldn’t re-up with the camp host and someone could reserve it out from under us and we would have to move. Hmmm… We plugged in anyway and the electric was not cooperating. Jim finally set the inverter to “Charge” and it held then. But there was still a possibility we would have to move if somebody reserved for the weekend.

Cathy showed us where the non-reservable sites were where we could stay for up to two weeks without moving. We found a really good one and moved the bus there. This turned out to be a great spot for Carmella. We got there on a Monday, paid for a few nights and discovered a fire pit and LOTS of fallen wood to make a fire with. Naturally, I started collecting and soon had a fire built for that night with lots of wood to add.

The second night we were there, Leslie and Rodney came over with a lovely and delicious snack tray and a couple bottles of wine and we proceeded to get better acquainted. She is a fifth grade reading teacher and he is a chiropractor, practicing in their town and one down the road. She is back in school now after teaching virtually last year. Can you imagine fifth graders doing that? She has a calm and steady manner and it was a success but she is glad to be back in the classroom and so are the kids. Masked, of course. We waited a while to take a group selfie and had to turn on the sidelight.

It was still very hot, like 99 degrees every day! I found that it took about 2000 steps to gather wood for a fire and build it. We didn’t get the bikes out due to the heat. Carmella was able to roam around without her string, supervised of course, and her mood picked up quite a bit. A change of scene does everybody good. I decided to start walking to get some exercise and made it to over 10,000 steps several days.

A couple of nights later we went to their house for dinner. Rodney took us on a quick tour of their town with many stately homes. He has lived there his whole life and we saw his childhood home and a couple of the places they lived before their current home. I wish I had taken more pictures but they had dinner in the oven so we headed to their place. And what a place! Close to town, their house sits at the end of a winding, wooded driveway totally secluded and peaceful. They have their own lake and her parents live across the lake from them.

We explored the property a bit, met Kevin the cat and had some cocktails made with these super large ice cubes Rodney makes. Then it was time to eat. He grilled the biggest steaks I have ever seen and they were delicious, from a local supplier. We had baked potatoes and salad, a perfect meal. They even gave us doggie bags since there was no way we could eat all that in one sitting. It lasted us each three meals!

Their kids are grown up and have moved out now, but can you tell that the pink was the girl’s room? That’s me with Gus the cat. We also met Remy the cat and Murph, their 14 year old Collie/St. Bernard mix. They have some tough decisions coming up with Murph, our hearts go out to them. It was a wonderfully relaxed evening with friends. Besides the steaks, Rodney also sent us home with some of those big ice cubes!

On Saturday it was still hot but we all went to the American Thresher’s Show in nearby Pinckneyville. I have never seen so many tractors in one place. From early steam driven ones to modern ones with air conditioned cabs, they covered the fairgrounds. A lot of the tractors had cool graphics so I concentrated on those for the pictures.

It rained some, perfect muddy ground for the tractors. Leslie kept dry and shady with her umbrella.

They had old steam tractors which were noisy and had what seemed like train whistles on them. They had belts connecting to a power takeoff, concrete mixers, one that they were mixing up ice cream with and everything in between. It was a Midwestern experience, for sure. This guy built this 95 year old Ford pickup truck from a coupe and gave me a ride. It was his grandfather’s.

We ended up staying for almost a week so it was a good thing we moved to the unreservable site! The last morning Cathy brought over some of the ornaments she is working on for a craft sale in Alabama. She has an embroidery machine which she says “keeps her out of trouble.” She was also making a cover for the camp gator. I wish I had gotten a picture of her, she is beautiful inside and out, best camp host ever!

On our last night, Leslie and Rodney came over to say goodbye and brought their son, Ethan. We had another fire and enjoyed a short visit.

Leslie brought us some tomatoes from her garden and we have been enjoying them. One last sunset then back through St. Louis to Rolla to meet up with Lori and Norm, more friends!

What an excellent stop! Good for Carmella and for us too. We enjoyed meeting these new friends and look forward to getting to know them better. Even though this trip didn’t include any of my immediate family, you know what they say… Friends are the family you make for yourself.

The Accidental Astrid

We adopted Astrid and Carmella together as eight week old kittens on August 14, 2006. We had looked online at the kittens at Wayside Waifs and decided we definitely wanted to adopt Carmella, whose name was Camilla at that time. Jim and I were emailing back and forth about the kittens and he said “Astrid is very cute too.” And she was. A little bundle of black fluff with devil horn spikes on top of her head between her ears…

When I got in the “kitten room” Carmella was nowhere to be seen until I reached into a long box and felt the softest fur ever. She was sleeping but I tried to wake her up. Meanwhile, as I sat among the kittens, Astrid kept jumping on my lap as if to say “Pick me! Pick me!” She had been at the shelter for over a month and I couldn’t believe she hadn’t been adopted yet. She was fostered and on her info sheet it described her as “a cuddlebug with those I love.”

She was so insistent that I ended up deciding to adopt them both. We already had two adult cats at home, Tikita and Narcissus but I had never had a little kitten. Now we had two. When I decided to get them both, the staff at Wayside Waifs made me call Jim and make sure it was OK that we got them both. They actually insisted on talking to him themselves! Of course he said it was OK and I brought them home the day before my birthday. I actually asked if I got a discount since I was adopting two and Astrid came home as the ten dollar kitty. That didn’t last long.

Then, the next day Jim gave me a DSLR camera for my birthday so I started testing it out on the kitties. They have been well photographed in the last 15 years.

The day after we brought them home
Astrid and the D-70 box

About the $10 kitty… Because I was adopting them both and because Astrid had been at the shelter so long we got a discount. We kept them separated from the other cats for a few days then let them start exploring.

A couple of mornings later we were lying in bed looking out at the stairway landing. Narcissus, the big white male cat was on one side of the railing and Astrid was on the other, short side, trying to play with him through the railing. I said to Jim “There goes my new vase” which was right below the stair landing. No sooner than I said it Astrid fell off and we heard the loud crash of the new Blenko vase I had just bought for flower arrangements from the garden. She was uninjured, fortunately. At that point she became the $150 kitty. A few years later I found them both on the same table sniffing the flowers. At least they didn’t knock this one over. I still have it.

It turned out that Carmella is a lifelong flower eater.

Astrid didn’t get along that well with Tikita, but they had many adventures together.

When we adopted them in August we decided to delay their going outside till spring. In the spring we got them harnesses and long strings and began walking them around the yard, establishing boundaries they could establish. Eventually we let them out on their own and they were pretty good about staying in our yard and not crossing the street.

Naturally throughout her 15 years, she had plenty of other instances. Once we let them go out on their own, Astrid was basically on the “Vole a Day” program. She knew where to find them in the garden and ate one every day. Once when Jim was on a business trip she got really sick. I took her to the vet but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. We figured she must have eaten a diseased vole. They took blood and all the usual stuff. She was so dehydrated that I had to take her in for subcutaneous fluids and leave her overnight. They warned me that she might not make it. But she did. Her recovery took a long time and after that I promised her that when she was on my lap she would always have my full attention.

Then there was the time she was under the net at the back of our large koi pond and she fell in. She scrambled back out only to fall in again. She steered clear of the pond after that.

One Christmas morning she came running into the kitchen with a piece of thread hanging from her mouth. Closer examination revealed a needle and thread lodged in her mouth! We removed it and stashed all the sewing stuff after that. She also loved paper clips and was an expert at removing them from a sheaf of papers. Eventually we had to have a paper clip free house.

After she got in a cat fight in the yard, she developed a large abscess at the base of her tail. We had to keep the wound open for over a week and administer antibiotic ointment. It took both of us to do that. Another time her tail got caught in the screen door and they thought it might have to be amputated. It didn’t and her magnificent tail was saved.

After she got lost in Minnesota for two weeks, she lost all interest in playing with the other cat. Carmella tried to chase her and play like they used to when they were little but Astrid took everything seriously and as an attack. Carmella just wanted to play. We were just happy to have her back.

This is the first time in 15 years that Carmella has been an only kitty. At first, in St. Charles we thought she was depressed and didn’t want to go out but once we got to a lovely state recreation area in Illinois she could, and did, roam freely. We were glad to see that.

We both miss Astrid. Mornings are the worst since she used to jump on my lap and rub her face against my iPad while I read the paper. We are fortunate that our paths crossed and that we had her for so long. Carmella is too. RIP Astrid.

Missouri: That’s a Wrap

After we had our cruise on the Joseph M. LaBarge we kept our eye on the weather forecast so we wouldn’t get stuck at Marni and Eric’s place. They were calling for storms later in the week. Plus it was super hot! A little rain would cool things off but we definitely didn’t want to get the bus stuck! And, as it turned out, the sternwheeler ride was the actual reason we went to the river, although we didn’t know that at the time. A happy accident.

So we packed it up and headed to the Elks Lodge in Columbia. We have stayed there before and we knew there were 50 amp spots on each pole. Turn on all the air conditioning! It started raining a little on our way there but we had a nice level spot with power for $10 a night. We still had some friends to see.

The rain and high winds came a day or so later. We’re glad we moved when we did.

Right after I took this, the rain poured down and the wind blew.

I had been in contact with another friend, Phyllis who we knew from the many years ago that we lived there. She is a seasoned and resourceful world traveler as well as a longtime prolific gardener. And an accomplished artist. I hoped to arrange an in-person tour of her garden but when she came out to the bus she said everything had pretty much dried up. We enjoyed catching up with her, it had been about 20 years since we saw her last. Time flies. Instead of the garden tour, she gave me a good haircut, much needed. And she brought flowers for the bus.

We wanted to see our old friends Joe and Kathy so we put together a loose plan to pick up food, then go eat at an outdoor venue. Jim had a better idea and we ended up making quesadillas in the bus and just relaxing with them without having to worry about masks and distancing and all that crap. So we did and that worked out well. We just wish we could do it more often.

Carmella had to investigate Joe…

We ended up staying a couple more days to regroup after Astrid and just relax. We ended up getting dinner and ice there, thanks to Lawrence, the chef who asked if we were in the bus and when I said yes he said “That is cool as s**t! Pardon my French!” I laughed and we enjoyed a nice takeout dinner of garlic Parmesan wings and a club sandwich. Really good!

This is a nice Elks Lodge and the people are very friendly and helpful.

Off to St. Charles to ride the Katy Trail there and see our friends Sandy and Carl. My oldest sister lives in St. Louis but she said St. Charles was too far for her to drive. Oh well. Maybe next time. We stayed there through my birthday and had a nice dinner at Firebirds Smoke and Seafood where we could eat outside. Complimentary dessert for us both. I guess getting older isn’t so bad.

The Family and Friends Tour is winding down. What’s next? Now we are in Illinois to meet up with a new friend and then toward Rolla to see Lori and Norm. They have a beautiful spot in the country. Lori is an accomplished plein air artist and I am looking forward to seeing more of her work and studio. After that we will wind our way south to see our friends Bill and Janelle, and hopefully Carol and John in Oklahoma.

Finally! Some Fun!

Once we finished up our sad business with Astrid in Kansas City, it was time to have some fun! We went down the road to Columbia where we planned to catch up with Marni and Eric for the first time in two years! We were a little leery about parking in our usual spot since one of the years in the past, it started raining while we were there. It ended up raining quite a bit and we got stuck when we tried to back out. Coachnet to the rescue!

We got settled in our spot, took Carmella out and just tried to relax. Marni and Eric are always involved in projects. We got the bikes out and rode down to Cooper’s Landing the first day. I had told Jim that while we were there I wanted to see if we got get a ride on the Joseph M. LaBarge, a 1930s era sternwheeler named after a famous steamboat captain who never lost a boat in his 50 year career. You can read some more about their history with the boat here. It is docked during the summer at Cooper’s. As we were drinking our $9 margaritas, who should appear but Roger, the owner of the boat. I had tucked a card into my bag that morning just in case we came across him.

We caught up with him and Blue, the river dog. We keep up with him and others on Facebook but it’s always nice to talk in person. I told him that I had mentioned to Jim that we would love a ride if Roger was so inclined. He said he had a “charter” the next weekend and might take it out for a test drive. I gave him our card and begged him to call or text all the numbers since we don’t have good internet or phone on the river sometimes.

We continued on our bikes and went back the next day, Saturday. Lots of other boats were tied up at the dock and we didn’t see Roger. Then when we got back, Marni said Roger had texted Eric and a ride was scheduled for that day! WOO HOO! We all headed out and met the crew and a few other passengers at 4:30.

Taking off from the dock is a process. Because of the bend in the river and the configuration of the curve, they get lots of flotsam and jetsam at all times of the year. Once the paddlewheel is powered up, vigilant crew members have to make sure the bigger logs don’t get stuck in the wheel.

Another Facebook friend, Jonathan is a river rat and an excellent photographer. He often shadows the LaBarge and he was following along in his pontoon boat, the Dark Star. Lots of these pictures are his, the ones taken from the water.

The boat has two levels and the living quarters are light and airy. Barbara made everybody margaritas and snacks and we set off for the river town of Lupus, on the opposite bank. Lee is chief engineer and cannoneer. Yes, they have a cannon on the boat, similar to the one Lewis and Clark used on their expeditions. Roger says, “That way they know we’re here.”

Jonathan’s takes…

Back in port, all hands on deck to bring ‘er in.

We finished off the day with a sunset cruise in the Dark Star. Western fires making the sky red…

What an awesome experience! I don’t even have a Bucket List but this is already checked off! We are so grateful for the chance to do something completely different. Our gratitude to Barbara and Roger for an extraordinary day!

P.S. That’s Blue, the river dog beneath our feet. He likes to be where the action is!

Backtrack to Kansas City

When we took Astrid to the vet in Kansas City he couldn’t get a good look in her mouth to check on the dental surgery she had in Texas. Both Carmella and Astrid had their teeth cleaned and Astrid had FORL lesions again and two teeth had to be extracted. Carmella healed up pretty quickly but Astrid took longer. We had to give her an appetite stimulant and she would basically eat only shrimp.

She had a goopy discharge coming from her eye on the same side as the surgery and we wondered if they were related. The vet had given us some antibiotic drops to put in her eye four times a day and she tolerated it pretty well. It seemed to clear up the discharge while we were at the lake but it didn’t go away. And her appetite didn’t pick up. She was still going outside, rolling in the dirt, getting on my lap and seeming to recover. But she was definitely diminished. We figured since we were so close we should go back to Kansas City and see what was up.

This time he sedated her and good look at her mouth. He also took an X-ray of her skull. When we went to pick her up, he shared the news with us. Her site of the dental surgery was covered with what he called “gunk” which he cleaned up. He took pictures before and after. Then he showed us the X-ray of her skull where he pointed out a mass on the side of her jaw. He said he was pretty sure it was bone cancer. I had a friend who recently died of bone cancer and it is painful and debilitating. The buildup of gunk in her mouth and the goopy eye were most likely related and due to infection. He mentioned that a biopsy could be done on the mass to determine for sure what was going on. But he also said that if she was a four year old cat that he might recommend a biopsy but just shook his head at doing it to her at 15.

What a blow! Poor Astrid! I asked him what he would do if it was his 15 year old cat. He said that if he was 100% sure of the bone cancer diagnosis, he would put her down that day. I asked him how sure he was that was it and he said 85%. Not good odds. If on the 15% chance that it was something treatable by antibiotics he could prescribe those but obviously he didn’t have much confidence in that route. And she hates pills and drops and all the other mechanisms of administering medicine. So we dropped a few hundred more dollars and took her back to the bus for the weekend.

Our friends Marg and Jay came over for happy hour and I ended up buying the piece I had admired at their house when we went for dinner. She brought it with them and we shared snacks and cat stories. They’ve been through this too. Interestingly enough, the title of the piece I picked to commemorate Astrid, the black cat, was Infinity and Beyond. More tears.

Now we just had to figure out what to do and when to do it. Marg mentioned that they had used a mobile veterinary service when they had to put their mostly feral cat down as he hated the vet. And Astrid had been schlepping to the vet back and forth for several months now. It seemed worth a try so we started making calls, including to the vet who had diagnosed her.

Who would have guessed it cost so much to do the deed? We wanted her cremated like we did Tikita but in the three years since then, prices went way up! Close to $1000! Maybe it was just because we were in the city so we called a couple small town vets and found one in Grain Valley who was reasonable and would do it in the bus. We just had to decide when. Three years ago when we lost Tikita we discovered that we had waited too long and she wasn’t getting any nutrition from her food. No wonder she was so hungry all the time! We wanted to do the right thing for Astrid instead of just considering ourselves. We knew that meant sooner rather than later.

We made the appointment. She continued to maintain, gong outside, rolling in the dirt, eating treats and shrimp and sitting on my lap. That made it really hard.

The morning of the appointment she came up on the bed, which she hadn’t been doing lately. I thought “Maybe it’s not time yet.” She jumped on my lap several times. She ate shrimp and went outside. She was saying goodbye. We went down the road and arrived early so we just held her until the time came. When the vet came out to the bus, he got overheated coming up the steps and I thought he was going to pass out. Just what we needed, a human emergency and a cat emergency too.

He gave her the first shot to sedate her and she put up a mighty struggle. I had to hold her tight and take her into the bedroom to calm her down. Tikita just gave one last feisty squeak when this part happened.

Then it was over. They left us alone with her and Carmella came up to say goodbye to her lifelong friend. We both had a big ugly cry when it was done.

We weren’t sure if we would try to go down the road but we ended up just going a couple of miles to the Elks in Blue Springs. We were wrung out. I got some ice from the bar and made drinks. We ordered a pizza and settled in for the evening. No lap kitty this time.

Although she didn’t quite make it to August 8, the three year anniversary of when we got her back in Minnesota, we are grateful for the extra time we had with her after that. We are grateful to Dr. Steve Smith at Brookside Animal Clinic for bringing her back to us so we had those three more years with her.

The Joker’s On Us

We didn’t exactly get an early start out of Kansas City. Even though it was only 128 miles to our spot at Lake of the Ozarks, we had a full day of preparation and provisioning ahead of us. We took on water at the Elks but it was SLOW! It took almost an hour to fill our 165 gallon tank. Then we stopped at the Pilot on I-70 for fuel and to dump our black tank. Then on to the grocery in Sedalia. After we left Sedalia, the countryside started to get very rural and hilly. Welcome to mid Missouri.

We were hopeful that Astrid’s eye drops would help her continue to improve. She was pretty good while Jim administered them and the discharge seemed to be drying up and not so gunky. She wasn’t hiding in her cubbyhole as much, still going outside and eating and drinking as usual. When we had her at the vet in Kansas City he couldn’t really get a good look in her mouth to check on her recent dental surgery but he thought it might be related.

Anyway, off to the lake! We were definitely looking forward to cooling off since the temperatures have been sweltering. Almost 100 degrees with very high humidity. Time to get in and on the lake. Because of the pandemic we hadn’t seen Doc and J for almost two years! Time to catch up. Everybody is fully vaccinated, by the way. Missouri is a hotspot for the virus but here we are. Get the shot!

One thing we wanted to do while we were there was learn to play Joker. Lots of people in our winter park play and we want to play too. We tried to learn one time after a wine soaked dinner party but it didn’t go too well. This time, we were determined to become at least competent. Doc and J have a wonderful tree house porch surrounded by fragrant mimosa trees and we settled in at the Joker table to be educated. This time it took and we enjoyed many games on the porch. Girls beat the boys!

More swimming holes and boat rides…

The picture above was a lovely private swimming hole we found. The picture below is just across the cove from Doc and J’s, which is also a great place for a private swim. See the sunning snapping turtles?

We are so fortunate that we got to park the bus at Jack and Linda’s place across the lake but just sorry that they weren’t there. We missed them!

Casper D. Chadwick is First Mate but it was so hot that he stayed home most of the time. We enjoyed our rides with him. Ironically he doesn’t like the water and avoids getting in.

Their daughter, Ginny came down with her friend, CT and that was the only day in 2+ weeks that we didn’t spend together. They came by in the boat to say hi.

What a fabulous time we had. Everything meshed well together. We planned meals and everybody brought something that worked with everything else. Without asking. True friends. As Doc said one time when we were planning a Chiefs game together; “They’re like us, they’re simple people.”

Simple people, simple pleasures. We are ever so grateful .

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.