Heading West… Gradually

After our stop on the Katy Trail, we made our way to the Kansas City area. Jim’s dad had been in the hospital recently but was back in his apartment so Jim made a plan to see him. He is 95, soon to be 96. We parked at our usual spot at the Grandview Elks Lodge, rented a car this time, and settled in for what we thought would be just a few days.

Then we looked at the calendar and realized the Memorial Day weekend was right around the corner. We thought we had another week! We didn’t want to be traveling on that weekend so we decided to just stay over at the Elks. Jim’s birthday was actually on Memorial Day this year so we enjoyed the birthday weekend there.

It was really hot, almost 100 degrees. And humid. Good thing the Elks have power, a 30 amp hookup at our usual spot was just the ticket.

The cats have free rein there, it is a big deserted field far from the road. They got a little adventurous but always came back to the bus. Unfortunately the catnip plant they discovered there in past visits was no longer there. Carmella went right for it on her first walkabout.

We made Holiday Hamburgers (recipe below) for Jim’s birthday and what we call Potato Sticks. They were delicious and we had some to freeze too. I went to yoga with my longtime teacher, Emily and we saw a few friends. We mostly kept to ourselves and enjoyed the time off. The sky always is celebrating on Jim’s birthday. We played around with my selfie stick. Then when we got to Colorado we discovered it was missing. There are not too many places to look in the bus but maybe it will show up.

IMG_5012
Once the weekend was over, we were ready to hit the road and continue our Elks tour. Jim found a Corps of Engineers lake in Marion, Kansas and we settled into a great big site for the evening. Right by the lake. The sunrise was spectacular the next morning. This is a great place to camp, first come, first served. With our Senior Pass the cost was only $9 a night. Gotta go back. Get Site #23.

Our next stop was Garden City, Kansas at another Elks, of course. This was a one-nighter with no power but a fine place for the night. Garden City has a background feedlot odor and when we left the next morning we saw the feedlots and lots of trucks. Say goodbye to your lives, cows…
IMG_5035
On to Pueblo, Colorado and another Elks. This lodge was a old downtown building right in the downtown area. We rented a car so we could visit Bishop’s Castle, recommended to us by Theresa, a friend in Texas.

Jim had done some research and we got the car because the castle was at 9200 feet elevation and the roads in and out were hilly and twisty. Not bus-friendly. A beautiful drive though.

Bishop’s Castle is one of those homegrown and hand built visions by a guy who has been building it for the past 35 years.

Jim Bishop was onsite working the whole time. He said, “Every day is a work day.” Admission is free but since there was a fire in the gift shop, donations were welcomed. He is a real individual liberty type, as you can see from various signs around the property.

Many elaborate stairwells with narrow see-through steps allow you to explore the entire height and breadth of the property.

While we had the car, we stocked up on groceries and scoped out Yelp for a good Mexican restaurant. We chose Fritanga’s and the carne asada and carnitas plates did not disappoint. We had more than enough for two meals each.

Beautiful downtown Pueblo. They actually have a good bike trail system here but we didn’t break out the bikes. We’ll do that in Denver, where we are headed for another Elks and more visits with friends.
IMG_5070

Holiday Hamburgers
3 lb. ground chuck
2 red onions, chopped medium
2 large jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
Barbecue sauce, about 3/4 cup or to taste
Fake eggs, enough to bind

Mix meat, onions and jalapeños well. Add barbecue sauce (we used Show Me and Arthur Bryant’s, mixed)

Add fake eggs (Egg Beaters) and mix well. Form patties and pat firmly together.

Let sit for a day in refrigerator. Grill. Serve with ciabiatta rolls and more barbecue sauce. Add avocado and tomato slices. Delicious!

Potato Sticks
Slice small red potatoes thinly.
Drag through olive oil, Spike seasoning, salt and pepper.
Load onto wooden shishkabob sticks, leaving room between slices.
Grill skewers on grill.
IMG_5016

 

Party Aftermath

river-pano-2
Once we moved the bus to Marni and Eric’s parking area by the lower garden we continued to ride bikes, visit friends and eat lots of delicious fresh homegrown food. Asparagus is plentiful and the irises and peonies continued in full luxurious bloom. They had a couple of impromptu dinner parties which are always filled with great food, friends, music, wine and laughter.

Marni had some folks out to see the irises and she gifted a lot of them to friends. This girl from the Missouri Department of Agriculture got several specimens. And Ron and Irene enjoyed the blooms too.

We rode to McBaine one day and visited with our old friends Joe and Kathy. They live right up the hill from the trail and we had a nice visit. We always go see them; Joe doesn’t really like to leave home. But we got them to agree that next year they would meet us at Cooper’s Landing, just 5 miles down the trail from them. This is real progress! Ha!

One day I rode to Hartsburg. The cafe was closed but I sat on the porch awhile and rode around town.

On the way there I passed this girl and her dog and they were taking a break on the way back. Her sign said “Hungry. Anything helps.” I gave her ten bucks and she slipped it in her pocket without thanking me. As I rode off I said “You’re welcome.”
IMG_4764
The next day I decided to ride to Rocheport, about 18 miles each way. Jim came partway but turned around at Huntsdale. He was still dealing with an ear infection and trying to take it easy. By this time the mostly purple wildflowers on the trail had faded and these brilliant yellow flowers lined every ditch and field.

We ran into these folks at McBaine and they were on their first outing on their electric assist bikes. I met them on the way back too and they must have had the assist on HIGH because they were flying! I was a little pooped after 35 miles, riding with no assist. Turned over 3900 miles on my bike that day.

I spotted this goose about 50 feet up on the bluff. He was talking alot!

The next day it rained all day so I was glad I rode when I did. After being in Texas all winter with very little rain and lots of wind, it was nice to hear and experience the rain. And the gardens loved it.

More iPad art:

It rained that whole night and we had planned to take off in the morning. I mentioned to Jim that we could just stay another day but it’s a good thing we didn’t. More rain was forecast and when we were packing it up, Jim noticed that the left rear drive axle was kinda sunk into the mud. We were only about 20 feet from the driveway and figured we could get enough OOMPH to make it there.

Nope.

Black smoke billowed out from the tires, our new and very expensive tires. Jim tried using the levelers to raise up the bus and we put plywood and the pads under the tires but still no go.

Eric said they had a friend with a tractor that could pull us out so we called him. He said he would be along in an hour or so. In the meantime Jim tried to figure out where on the frame to hook a chain so as to not damage or bend the frame. He also called Howard, his bus guru. We have Coachnet, a roadside assist service and I thought maybe we should call them. So did Howard apparently. He said they would be responsible for any damage whereas the tractor guy was just doing us a favor.

We called off the tractor and a tow truck showed up soon. Jim and the driver consulted on where to put the chain and they agreed it was best to winch it out. His truck had a giant winch. Fortunately we weren’t buried too deep and he slowly pulled the bus onto the driveway. It took about 15 minutes tops. And cost us nothing except what we tipped the driver. Coachnet is awesome; this is our second time using them in five years and the experience is always good.

As soon as we got that settled, we tried to deal with the giant ruts we had left in their lot.

Marni, who is very particular about her place, wouldn’t hear of it. She said they would just drive the truck over them to smooth things out. She said, “Go, just go.” She probably wanted us out of there before we could do any more damage! Jim felt terrible leaving it that way but they insisted. When we arrived in Kansas City later that night I texted her and she said it had been raining for two hours with no sign of stopping. Good thing we got out when we did. She also said the rain was melting away the ruts. Right!

After boondocking for two and a half weeks, we still had 40% of our black tank available, thanks to the outdoor shower and our grey water disposal method (out the window). We added water to the fresh tank while we were there. They sent us off with a giant bag of fresh asparagus which we have been enjoying, along with special memories of the wonderful times we shared.

I think Jim put it best in an email to them, with gratitude “for your generosity, your hospitality, your friendship and love. We chose to adopt this lifestyle primarily because we had dear friends scattered across the country and this was a way to reconnect and enjoy more than just an occasional phone call. However, we never dreamed that we would reconnect with both you and Marni! Such serendipity! I owe Pete a debt of gratitude for thinking of us and inviting us to your party back in 2012. I never imagined that, but that is what we love about having our hearts wide open to the possibilities. When I said that yours is our favorite spot to park, I meant exactly that, so Thank you again. We try to live each day with gratitude in our hearts. Some days are easier than others, but our days with you are easy. Sitting on our patio mat talking and laughing with you two is rich beyond words. I never imagined it. So it is so much sweeter. Thanks for being part of the family we choose for ourselves!”

Such dear friends. We love these guys and know we are so very lucky. Marni hates pictures so here is one from their fridge, a few years ago… And Eric now…

 

An Eyeful of Irises

After the big party, we moved the bus to Marni and Eric’s lower garden spot and are enjoying days of bike riding (about 100 miles so far), music at the local river venue and fresh veggies from the garden including lots of fresh asparagus. Yum!

This is one of our very favorite places to park. Not only is it beautiful, quiet and right by the Katy Trail but Marni and Eric are very good friends and sincerely welcoming. When we first set off in the bus five years ago this was our first stop. We were brand new at the bus deal and had new bikes with zero miles on them. Now we are more familiar with the bus life and the bikes have over 3800 miles on them!

When we left that first year Marni made a point of saying “You are welcome here anytime” and she meant it. That helped us get off on the right foot in the bus and we have been back every year since. Including for the total solar eclipse last summer. That was awesome!

Jim helped Eric tear down from the party, which is a very big job. I went bike riding with Sandy and Carl that day. We are getting in some excellent time visiting/catching up with them/listening to Eric’s new music in the aftermath.

Marni has spectacular iris beds and they are in full bloom now. I’m glad we decided to stay longer. She is quite the iris expert and it is fun to gain more knowledge about them from her. And they are great photo subjects.

And fun for iPad art too…

We will be here a few more days while some of the other specialty irises start to bloom. What a treat!

When we left our house and garden we brought some of Jim’s mom’s family peonies here for Marni to tend while we traveled and they are starting to bloom here too. We have hummingbirds at our feeder, the orioles are abundant and many other birds grace their feeders and gardens.

Our views from the bus…
To the west:
IMG_8335
To the east…
IMG_8353
The cats love it here; Carmella caught a mouse today and they are wandering around off leash. We try to keep them in the mowed area because of the ticks but a couple of times we have found them out on the trail. Bad kitties!
IMG_4547
A few more days here and we will be off for the Elks Lodge in Grandview where we stay when we visit folks in Kansas City. Jim’s dad has been in the hospital and rehab so we are waiting a bit till he actually wants visitors. We have friends we want to meet up with and I always like to do a yoga class with my longtime teacher, Emily.

Then on to Colorado! Captain Ted, here we come!

Party on the River: Sinkhole de Mayo

Our longtime friends have an annual birthday party with lots of people, food and music. And a giant bonfire and fireworks. They spend all year building the bonfire and it is amazing. You can get an idea of the size by viewing the pair of pants hanging off the top left. Before…

During…


After…
IMG_4421
The yard was decorated to the hilt with lights and flowers and kids blowing bubbles and playing croquet. The musicians played all afternoon and evening. The food was fabulous, as always, and included lots of vegetarian options, including this lovely salad served on one of Marni’s large platters. Many margaritas were consumed.
IMG_4371  IMG_4424

And the fireworks finale… More here and here.

We are parked by a nearby barn so we wouldn’t take up all the party parking with the bus.  Our view from the bus. Looks like a good ol’ midwestern thunderstorm coming in.

The next couple of days we rode the trail with Sandy and Carl. Turned over 3800 miles on my bike.

We will move into the lower garden spot and enjoy some more time here before heading to Kansas City and points west.

Crystal Bridges Museum

The main thing we wanted to do in Bentonville is visit Crystal Bridges Museum. They have an extensive collection of all types of art. The museum was founded by Alice Walton, of the Walmart fame. She is worth 41 BILLION dollars!

We enjoyed the museum but as a friend pointed out it was basically built on the backs of low wage workers at Walmart. And who needs 41 billion dollars anyway? Wouldn’t one billion be enough? I would think so…

Anyway, while Jim went back to the bus to meet with the glass guy, I enjoyed as much as I could.

Some of my favorites:

Big Georgia O’Keefe exhibit opening May 26. Would love to see that.

A couple of Thomas Hart Bentons:

Rosy the Riveter by Norman Rockwell
IMG_4289
Loved this black and white display room

Lots of contemporary art

One of my favorite shots from the cafe…
IMG_4299
When I got back to my bike, this little lady was gracing the bike trail. When I asked her what the occasion was, she said “It’s my birthday!” I’m guessing her 15th.
IMG_4303

On to Mid Missouri for Marni and Eric’s big annual party, Sinkhole de Mayo! Always lots of fun, plus Sandy and Carl are joining us for a few days of bike riding and fun.

Windshield Worries

On our way to Bentonville, we pulled over for lunch. After we ate our sandwiches, and we went back to the cockpit, I noticed a rather large breach in the windshield. On the passenger side, not in line of sight. Where the heck did that come from? We had heard some loud noises but the hole didn’t immediately appear.
IMG_4200
Urk! What to do? I started Googling and found a Safelite glass repair service right near where we would be at the Elks. We called the next morning and scheduled an appointment. The customer service rep asked “Is it bigger than a dollar bill? No. This was a good sign. I offered to email a picture but that was all they needed. Awesome! If it could be fixed onsite with no replacement of the windshield that would be great! Justin the tech arrived promptly and we were hopeful.

He took one look at it and said “This is not repairable.” Because the impact site was larger than a dime, they couldn’t get their tool on it to inject the resin. Crap.
IMG_4234
Justin determines “Not repairable.”

It hadn’t started cracking yet but he said it could be six months, six weeks or six minutes before it did. We asked about those Walmart windshield repair kits and he said it wouldn’t help. Crap again.

We decided to head in on the bikes to Crystal Bridges Museum with a stop for me to get a much needed haircut. While talking with the stylist, she mentioned another glass repair company where her ex worked and said that they had fixed a lot of Safelite’s work. Hmmm…

We got to the museum and decided to give the other company a call. The tech was able to come out to the bus right away but that meant one of us would have to forego the museum and try to get back to the bus before him since he would need to get inside to fix it. Jim took off on his bike and I took a distracted tour through the museum while waiting for the results of his analysis.

Sure enough, when the rep called back, they also deemed that it was not repairable since the whole site of damage was larger than a quarter. Just barely. Jim had not yet arrived back at the bus so I called and left him a message that it was no go. After my distracted tour, I headed back to the bus and picked up dinner on the way back.

We decided to stay an extra day in Bentonville since the lodge is quiet and great for cats (and us!). We located an O’Reillys a couple miles away on the bike trail and they had the windshield repair kits. I headed out to pick up two and when I got back, Jim went to work on the hole.

IMG_4200
Before
IMG_4307
Scraping the extra debris out of the impact zone.
IMG_4309
Injection of the resin
IMG_4311
Taped together for extra holding power.
IMG_4313
After removal of tape and resin scraped off!

From before to after… We have our fingers crossed that this will hold till we get back to Texas and we can get a new windshield. Fortunately it is a split windshield.
IMG_4200  IMG_4313
We tried to get both companies to attempt to fix it without requiring a guarantee but they wouldn’t. As usual, I trust Jim more than the professionals.  We’ll see how our luck holds.

And Crystal Bridges was really wonderful. They are closed on Tuesday or I would have gone back today. New post coming on the art.

All In, All Elks

So far anyway. We are a week into our traveling season, heading to mid Missouri for Marni and Eric’s big party on the river, Sinkhole de Mayo. This year it is actually on May 5. We will park at the nearby barn before the party then move to our cozy spot in their yard. That will be the first stay of the year that isn’t an Elks Lodge.

As we worked our way out of the Rio Grande Valley, we naturally turned to our Elks books for suggestions on where to land. Last year we stayed at a total of 55 places, 22 of which were Elks. We are already up to four this year and heading for another one in Springfield, Missouri.

The first night we were at the Seguin Elks, where we have stayed before. They have a good place for the cats to go out but it was raining, hard!
IMG_4159
The next night was Tyler, Texas. This lodge has a good spot with 30 amp power and room for the cats to roam.
IMG_4163
IMG_4224
They also had a steak dinner on Friday night, which was a good opportunity to meet some of the locals. Here are Breanna and her mom, Belinda.
IMG_4192
Belinda makes these beautiful and great smelling soaps. She gave me one.
IMG_4187
Our view from the bus…
IMG_8296
Next we were off to Mena, Arkansas and another Elks lodge. This one was set in the trees and very quiet. As usual, we had the place to ourselves.
IMG_4197
And some more iPad art of our view here in Mena.
Painted in Waterlogue
There is only one thing about the Elks that we don’t like. Because they are a private club, they can allow smoking even if you may not be able to in a public place. The Elk bars at Tyler and Mena were a good example of why to not frequent the bar. The air was thick with smoke. But we limit our time to paying the bartender for the spot and getting ice, which the lodges are very generous with. Our icemaker needs to be defrosted so we have been using Elk ice so far.

Our next stop was Bentonville, Arkansas to ride their extensive bike trail system and visit the Crystal Bridges Museum. I had been looking forward to the museum for a long time. This is our spot at the Bentonville-Rogers Elks. This stop is especially quiet since the bar does not seem to be open and there is nobody around. And it is right next to the bike trail.
IMG_4305
While in Bentonville we got to talking about where we would go after we left mid Missouri. We decided to make an Elks tour though Colorado, Utah and down the coast of California, staying at as many Elks as we can, meeting the folks and checking out the lodges and their facilities. As Jim says, it’s good to have a plan.

Some things you can’t plan for… See next post.

Tikita is a Tough Kitty

Now that the cats are getting some regular time outdoors in the garden, they came down with fleas! We treated Astrid and Tikita with stuff we had on hand but Carmella can only tolerate Revolution. So we ordered some of that and thought we were OK.

Tikita started losing weight and acting not quite like herself. Plus she was pulling her fur out and it was getting kind of patchy. I made her a vet appointment and it turned out she had had fleas pretty bad. The only time I can brush her is at the vet so I spent most of the time grooming her and pulling out the flea dirt. They said to only use Revolution so we doused her with that as soon as she got back to the bus.

They did lab work, $$$. The results were that she is anemic and had some elevated levels of liver enzymes that could be a precursor to liver disease. The vet thought her kidneys were enlarged but they came back normal so we are feeding her a high calorie food.

The vet wanted to follow up so we took her back. This time I brought the Furminator and another brush and was able to practically make another cat with the fur I got out of her. The vet wanted to do a sonogram to look for growths but it cost like $400 and there was nothing we could do unless we decided to do cat chemo. I had to ask, “Is that a thing?” It is indeed. I can’t imagine how expensive that would be and we would have to be in Austin or San Antonio to do it twice weekly. We decided to treat her symptomatically since she was much improved after the Revolution. That means a supplement, which looks like a treat but she doesn’t like them. I have to put butter on it to get her to take it. And I am giving her all the butter she wants! She had even gained a little weight by the second visit.

Her appetite is good, she loves her treats and she is drinking water, grooming herself and not in pain. She goes outside and explores the garden and we have had them hang out on the porch with us. Her fur is clean and I got out the flea dirt at the vet.

We are getting ready to hit the road for the season so her outdoor time will be more limited but the butter and treats won’t be. She is 14 years old and we want her to be with us as long as she can.

She is a tough kitty. Here she is in one of her favorite spots.
IMG_3450

Movin’ On Down the 600s…

Here we are two months into 2018 already! We have been having some good and not-so-good weather but this week it will be back up into the 80s and 90s. When it gets down to 50 we all freeze. Spolied? Yes.

We have kept busy swimming laps, going to Mexico, doing yoga, attending happy hours and theater productions and dances and just hanging out with friends here in the park. And working… Jim’s house band has played several gigs to great response. They are sounding really good!

Oh! And we bought a house! Well, we won’t close or take possession until fall but we have made the deal. It is right next to where we are parked now and right on the dog park, which we renamed the Cat Park. The owners of the house refer to it as the Parade Ground. Whatever you call it, it is a nice open, green space. The location is key because it is in the middle of the park and not up against the outer fence where critters can crawl under and so can cats.
IMG_3843.JPG
And we will have a garden, Thorn Thicket. The garden that I have served as substitute gardener for since our arrival here will be the kitties’ new domain. Stanley, the gardener, had already said they could visit anytime and it is really cute to see them triple file over to their respective hiding places to watch the birds and enjoy the quiet. We also have a purple martin house right out front.

It will be good for us too! Jim was worried at first that it was a little small for us. I reminded him that we have been living in a BUS for four years! It has a big screened porch overlooking the garden and an added on room for dinner parties. YAY! We can’t really have a dinner party in the bus and that is one thing I really miss. Problem solved. One bedroom, a full kitchen and salon as well as a washer and dryer! Comes fully equipped and furnished. Except Stanley is taking some of his garden tools, including his Mexican hoe. Gotta get one of those!

The current owners are building a house in Louisiana and when this first came on the radar we thought it would be about a year down the road, which would have been fine with us. They they stepped up their timetable and decided to go for it as soon as possible. Time is flying. So we worked out a deal where they can come back and forth while building their house and we will close and take possession in the fall when we return from traveling this season. When opportunity knocks…

We will keep the bus, of course, and continue to travel during the season. This year we are heading either west and north or north and west. We will most likely retrieve our five by eight foot enclosed trailer from the barn in Missouri where it is stored on the way back to Texas in the fall. I remember some of what’s in there like my dining room furniture and silver and dishes but the rest of it will be like Christmas morning. Or more likely, “Why on earth did we save that?”

We know that not only are we crazy, we are BIG BIG Lucky!
header 03-02-15.

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.
DSC_1289_90
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!