Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Time for an update so we can keep track of ourselves…

After we got the garden squared away it was time to get busy having fun, catching up with friends, swimming laps, doing yoga and having Happy Hours and dinner parties. And live music on the porch.

The first and second nights we were here friends invited us to dinner. That made a world of difference and we could wear ourselves out without having to cook. The second day we were here Lynn came over and said she had rescued four newborn kittens from under a house. Somebody shot the mother cat and she was trying to keep them alive. I have a friend in Kansas who fosters kittens and I know that keeping them alive when they are so young is a big job. I gave her some small syringes so she could feed them and we all hoped for the best. That night at dinner we told Susi and Richie about them and Sue went and got them the next morning, determined to foster them.

It was rough. Nevertheless she persisted. Feedings every two hours and three of them didn’t make it. The one remaining kitten did though and she is now nine weeks old! I visit every few days; Sue calls me Aunt Wendy. At first they thought she was a boy and named her Barney. Then a visit to the vet revealed that she was a girl kitty and she renamed her Ziva. None of us can stop referring to her as “he” and now her nickname is Squirt. She has been a little developmentally delayed but is finally figuring out the litter box. She is loving and playful and a sweet lap kitten. A real success story; she is out of the woods and firmly ensconced in our hearts. Sue really did her research and my hat is off to her for her success. Here she is about six weeks ago when she was still really tiny. And when she was still Barney.
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And here she is today. She loves her litter boxes (and she has several), just not exactly for the intended purposes. Yet…

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When I got home Carmella said, “Don’t even think about it.”
IMG_1497We needed our annual tooth cleaning and Jim was having some pain from a crown so we headed to Mexico to see Dr. X. We always have good results there. And a teeth cleaning is $25! The last time I had my teeth cleaned in Kansas it was $150. That all went well but when Jim came out he said they did an X-Ray and a 3D MRI of his mouth and determined that he needed a root canal. Then they said they could do it that same day and would take about an hour if he could get hold of his “specialist.” While we were sitting in the waiting room, a guy in black scrubs walks in with a toolbox. I said, “I bet that’s the specialist.” And it was. They took him straight back and I walked around for an hour.

We went to get margaritas at Angel’s, then to lunch at The Red Snapper. We were starving by then. And the best thing? Jim’s pain went away IMMEDIATELY! No recovery time, no discomfort once the Novacaine wore off. He said he had a root canal in the States many years ago and it cost $2000. The total cost for the X-Rays, MRI and root canal was $395.

One day we went to South Padre Island for the Annual Sand Carving Festival. It was another really hot day but the carvings were really creative and well executed.

On October 23rd we finally had our Better Late Than Never Open House and Garden. The weather was delightfully cooler and we had a good turnout, about 80 people. And LOTS of food! Marilyn brought us flowers and we celebrated with our friends.
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We had a lot of fun and enjoyed showing off our new quilt by my friend Marg Higgins. We received it just in time for the event and it was greatly admired. Carmella likes it too.

Another little house project that made a big difference was two simple shelves. Jim added an extra shelf in the cabinets under the sink in the kitchen and bathroom. Doubled our storage space. And we bought a new dishwasher and refrigerator. We finally have an ice maker that can keep up with us! And the dishwasher is amazing. When we moved into the house last year and started having dinner parties, we soon discovered that we had to wash the dishes even after they had been through the dishwasher. Urk. We bought one off the floor at Lowe’s and it didn’t take long to get used to it.

IMG_E1158We have started having dinner parties, gearing up for Thanksgiving when we will have ten people. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I love to cook all day and drink Tequila Bloody Marys, a holiday tradition. Click here for the Tequila Bloody Mary recipe. You will not be disappointed!
We’re mixing it up a little this year. Cher, our event coordinator, decided that we should branch out from our usual group and she and I both invited eight people, concentrating on the people in the motorhomes and trailers since it’s harder for them to cook. We will all meet up for champagne and appetizers at B’s house, then move to our respective dinners and meet up again for after dinner drinks and conversation. We ended up with 10 since a couple of our original invitees were going to another friend’s, but she had a TIA. We are happy to welcome them too. Have the fun now. Spend the money NOW! Our good friends from Oklahoma are coming too.

What else have we been doing? Hard to remember. We were invited to Mariachi Aztlan at UTRGV and it was fabulous! The poise and talent of the young musicians is pure pleasure to watch and listen to.

We decided to go back to Xcalak, Mexico next spring so we booked ourselves into Playa Sonrisa where we haven’t been since we started traveling in the bus. We are looking forward to having a “real” vacation…where somebody cooks for you, cleans for you and we really don’t have to do anything except spend money. We will meet up with two different sets of friends while we are there.

We wanted to put together a houseboat trip but that didn’t work out so we will try again next year (2021).

Since we have to travel differently next summer to avoid another garden disaster we started looking at European Bike and Barge tours. Jim found one on the Danube that lasts two weeks. So we booked it for two weeks in August.
IMG_1491Oh yeah. The chickens are still here. The workers in the park have been trying to catch and “re-home” them but it is going slowly. First they tried what I call a Mexican chicken trap, a laundry basket propped up on a stick with some feed underneath. The other birds sit on the laundry basket, trip the trap and then the chickens eat the bait. They spend a lot of time in the garden since it is really the only haven for them. I can’t really do much with them still coming here. They dig indentations in the soil to take their dirt baths and until they’re gone I can’t mulch or use landscape fabric. We are down to two roosters and four hens. They know something is going on and they are very skittish and independent. Time for measures that actually work.

IMG_1491The garden is coming along. I have cannas, rubber trees, castor beans and a few cactus. The elephant ears are returning and a friend in Missouri sent some more. The fire ants are here too. A cold spell came through and it got down to 45 degrees; we were all freezing. We even had three inches of rain the other day. With no flooding.  Whew.

This is long, I know. We started the blog to keep track of ourselves; I guess I better update a little more often.

As I write this, the band members are playing music on the porch, friends are dropping by and it’s almost time for Happy Hour. The temperature is almost 80 degrees. Life is good. We are BIG BIG lucky.

 

 

 

 

Timing is Everything

We were already on our way back south to the Rio Grande Valley when I opened up my email one morning to find a message from the owner of our winter park. She sent a picture and said that the garden was basically “out of control.” Our neighbor had been a great help in sending the occasional photo so I could keep abreast of developments. I knew it was getting “a little overgrown” in the words of said neighbor but I also knew it was a small space, the bones were good and it wouldn’t take long to whip into shape.

At first the photos weren’t too bad looking and things were growing. I had arranged for another neighbor and our housekeeper to water the small trees so they wouldn’t die in the heat. The rest was either drought resistant or expendable.

Apparently the plan was for the owner’s husband to bring in his tractor, shove everything in front of the fence down and plant sod! Whoa! The day that was supposed to happen there was a big rainstorm and it had to be put off. Then the tractor broke and it would be a week before the part came in. A little breathing room.

We got back on Sunday the 14th and after we unloaded the bus, I got to work that day clearing grass and weeds. We were supposed to talk the next day and I wanted to convince her that it could be dealt with thoroughly and in short order.

The next day I went to work in earnest. Jim and Richie were busy installing an outdoor shower so it was a solo effort for a couple of days. The house was on hold until the garden shaped up. By the time the owner came by on Monday I had cleared off a good patch and she described what they had to deal with during the summer. The castor beans in back got blown down in a big storm and had to be trimmed up since they couldn’t mow behind the garden. An insidious viney grass had taken hold in the front and was a bitch to pull out.

The pics below were sent by neighbor Michal. The last one is what they looked like when we got back.

And now… This stand is six plants.

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I trimmed everything up so they could mow easily.  One of the roosters, the one I call the Gay Rooster roosts about ten feet up in them at night. I call him the Gay Rooster because he is a loner with no hens. The chickens are going to be “re-homed” which is probably a good thing. Last year when we left there were 35 chicks and hens and one rooster. It could easily become unsustainable. Now there are four hens and two roosters. Here he is in the beans.

These pictures were taken the morning we got back. Lots of work to do.

Initial progress. During our chat I found out more details of what had transpired. I apologized profusely for putting her in that position and petitioned for a week to make it right. She remarked that I had made a lot of progress and I assured her it would continue. I also told her that we were going to travel differently next summer and that it would NEVER get like that again. It turned out that the tractor couldn’t be fixed for another week so I just kept grinding away at it.

By the third day the outdoor shower was installed and it was a lifesaver! Jim joined me in the garden and applied his detail oriented mentality to the stands of stuff that had grown up and taken over and the grass that had emerged in the front. We also bought a weed whip.

We cut back large branches on the pyracantha, flame tree and two large branches off the retama tree. We had several large brush piles going. When the guy came to cut the retama and haul the brush away it was like a veil was lifted and you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We gave away the swing and planted rubber trees and cannas in its place. Before:

And after… Swing is gone now.

Jim weed whipped the area between us and neighbor Patty. That made a big difference! Starting to take shape.

And did I mention that it was HOT? Obviously there was some malfunction of the sensor but it sure seemed that hot! If it wasn’t for the outdoor shower, I would be dead right now.

We’ve been back a little over two weeks now and every day things are looking better. We have had a couple of good rains that brought the green back to the cannas and the elephant ears started popping up again.

I am so grateful for the reprieve and second chance to whip the garden into shape. It was one of the main reasons we liked the house so much and I am thrilled that we can continue to enjoy it. I know it was serendipitous timing due to the heavy rain that delayed the mow-down before we got back and the delay of the tractor part delivery. When we were on our way back I reminded myself to Trust the Loving Universe. And it worked!

The Mexican Orchid is blooming, hummingbirds are visiting the feeders and the woodpeckers, doves and green jays are visiting the birdbath and feeders. And, for now, the chickens are here. Today I was actually able to clean up the house a little.

We continue to feel BIG BIG Lucky! And I’m glad that episode is over. I know the park owner is too. When she said “It’ll work” I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you, thank you.

Annual Ft. Worth Art Expedition

IMG_0940Working our way back south, we had to stop in Ft. Worth for our annual art outing with Viv and Gary, friends from our winter park. Last year when we were trying to decide what sights to see they suggested the Kimball and Modern Art Museums. We have been to the stockyards and downtown Ft. Worth so we  embarked on a great day of art, food, good company and drinks.

The Kimball is a world class museum and this year they had a big exhibit of “Monet: The Late Years” covering the years between 1913 and his death in 1926 with over fifty paintings, some never seen in the United States before. Gary had texted me several times reminding me about it and we made a plan.

We found an RV park in Weatherford, where they live. When we arrived there was no one in the office and we called the owner who said he would be out in an hour and to just pick a spot. It was another super hot day and we just wanted to get plugged in and cool down the bus. When Jim went to the pole with our cord, there was no power. I called the owner and told him and he said we could move to another spot but by that time Jim had determined that the problem was at the bus, not the pole. The breaker in the bus wasn’t doing its thing. Todd, the owner, showed up and he had a tester that also determined that the pole was OK.  Jim tried every combination of 30 and 50 amp adapters. We figured we would just have to run the generator and have a couple of hot nights.

Jim removed the bus breaker and the switch was a little askew. Then Todd said he thought he had another breaker. He went and got it, Jim installed it in the bus and Voila! It worked! When I wrote the check for the two nights, I tried to pay him for the breaker too but he wouldn’t let me. He said sometimes you just gotta do something nice for somebody. What a guy! We did buy two new breakers the next day and left one for Todd. Maybe someone else will need one like we did. We had a nice evening when things cooled off. This was a nice park and only $25, well worth it.
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The next day we got down to serious business: catching up with Gary and Viv, seeing art, eating and drinking and visiting. Of course it was another hot day. I dressed for air conditioning and there was a long line outside the museum. OOPS! Somebody said they were told there would be a two and a half to three hour wait! Yikes.

The line moved quickly though and got shorter when people in front of us left. The staff passed out umbrellas, there were giant fans, water, and anybody who bought a yearly membership got escorted in. We only ended up waiting about forty minutes and the exhibit wasn’t overcrowded when we did get in. It was also half price day.

In the late period, Monet painted almost exclusively in his gardens and home in Giverny. Even casual art observers are familiar with his water lilies series and there was a good graphic explanation on how he embarked on expanding his vision with large works. There were several studios on the property and he had to build another one when he started on the very large canvases.

The Japanese bridge is another recurring motif and a good example of how his failing eyesight manifested itself in his depictions. The photo shows the actual bridge and the first painting is an early representation. After that it got a little more freewheeling and he used stronger colors than he had previously. As his eyesight worsened, he placed his paints on the palette in a way so he knew where the color was even if he couldn’t see it.

This is my favorite from the later works of the bridge. The colors are vivid, not muddy and the form is energetic and free flowing.
IMG_0980Another series of weeping willows, painted after his son and wife died.

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My favorite of these. In these later works, he used much bolder colors that he didn’t earlier. Lots of red, orange and vibrant green.

Some details.

Another series was of his house as viewed from the garden. If I hadn’t seen the photo, I would barely have known there was a house in any of these.

There were some photos of his studios and gardens, most of which I had seen in my Art History classes. Photography had been around for many years but cameras were still bulky and not highly portable.

There was an audio tour and one of the things I noticed about the people who were taking it was that they would stand right in front of the painting listening to the audio but almost never even LOOK at the painting itself. And of course they were oblivious to people who wanted to actually look.

It was an excellent show, well laid out and explained.

IMG_1021After lunch at a local sushi place, we drove over to see the new (to them) house that they are getting ready to move into. The painters were there so we took a quick look before we went back to their place for drinks.

It’s going to be a great little home. They hope to move in October.

We always have fun with Viv and Gary and look forward to seeing them again soon. Now they are off to St. Martin with some other peeps from our winter park. Bon Voyage guys! And Thanks!

From Weatherford we set out for Lake Buchanan, Texas. Another good camping spot on a really nice lake. Still really hot too. What to do? Head further south!

 

Normal in Norman…

IMG_6955We always stop and see our Okie friends Bill and Janelle on our way south. They had been on a short trip testing out their new T@b trailer so we holed up in Tulsa for Labor Day then headed south. We normally park at the Fairgrounds but the county fair was going on and they were closed until the 16th. We will be back in south Texas by then!

Janelle found RV parking with 50 amp hookup at the Lloyd Noble Center right near their house. We could stay two nights at a reasonable rate then the price shot up to $100 a night for the OU football game. And the forecast for the start of the game was 98 degrees at 6:00 PM. We planned to be outta there by then!

Since we only had two nights we had to make the most of it! Bill’s weekly music group met Wednesday night and Jim sat in. Before that we had a delicious dinner of King Casserole with all kinds of yummy sides, beans, guac, pico. Yum! Janelle is a great cook and even though I told them we would take them out, she insisted on cooking both nights. Twisted our arms…yes, she did.

They have also been the custodians of a few pieces of our old patio furniture that we just couldn’t part with when we sold our house five years ago. It belonged to my family in the 1960s when I was a kid. We had it powder coated and new cushions made and used it every day. We saved two cushioned rocking chairs and a small table that will work great on the porch of our little house. We cleared out a bay and it all fit perfectly! Once we got that squared away and in the bus, we headed to the Midway for lunch. The Midway is a great little sandwich shop and music venue in a residential neighborhood near them. What I remembered was that they have excellent potato salad. I made the mistake of ordering it and the Filipino Aboda. Both delicious but too much food! Saved it for another meal.

We went to their house and resumed catching up and playing with Taylor, their two and a half year old Australian Shepherd. He is a really smart and good dog and much calmed down from when we first met him a couple years ago. Jim and Bill played music while Janelle and I had a “toddy” and talked. Later, another friend, Carol, arrived. Her husband, John, was traveling for work, so we missed seeing him.

We got ready for another epic meal. But first we ate a delicious spinach artichoke dip that made us question our sanity about eating another big meal. We proceeded to have another gastronomical delight of grilled salmon and sausage, oven cooked potatoes and a salad. We were so stuffed that Jim and I didn’t even eat dinner the next night! What a treat!

Around the house…

We can always just pick back up with these guys, sign of true friends. Even though it was a whirlwind visit, we hope to meet up with them in Texas this winter and in Mexico in March. We try not to barge into town on short notice and force everyone to adjust to our schedule. Sometimes we just don’t know when we’re going to land somewhere. Better work on that. Need to work on our selfies too…

We said our goodbyes and headed out the next morning for another Corps of Engineer campground at Lake Texoma. It is still ungodly hot, almost 100 degrees every day. Still don’t believe in climate change?

Tomorrow we will aim for Weatherford to visit more friends from our winter park and see a large art exhibit of late work from Claude Monet at the Kimball Museum. Gary texted me about it months ago and we will arrive just in time to catch what promises to be a major show, 52 paintings. We love our art outings with Gary and Viv; it’s become a tradition and we are looking forward to it!

 

Living on Tulsa Time…

Our Okie friends in Norman, Bill and Janelle, were on a short trip so we decided to head to Tulsa to kill some time before they got home. And lay over for Labor Day. Tulsa has a really extensive bike trail system and lots of things to see and do.

Plus, our friends, Cher and Steve, from Texas have been parked there for a few weeks while she underwent her second surgery for breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy a couple of months ago. She has been a rock star and a warrior through the whole process and we wanted to wish them both the very best in person. Her cancer was discovered during her annual mammogram, was very fast growing, and in the eight weeks between discovery and surgery it doubled in size. Cher says “Get your mammogram!” Her good results are from early detection. And we got to see her new “rack.” Her words, not mine. It was just a week since her surgery when we met up.

We arranged a place to park right by the Riverside Bike Trail and spent the first couple of days playing tourist with Cher and Steve. Who am I kidding? We ARE tourists!

 

The first day they picked us up and we went on a Route 66 excursion. To Miami (mah-am-mah) to have lunch at an original hamburger stand that has been operating since the early days of Route 66. Down the street was the Gateway to Route 66 sign and the beautifully restored Coleman Theater. We caught a tour and wandered around.

 

The tour guide was very knowledgeable and related how they actually found certain items, like the pipe organ in other locales and they were returned. The chandelier was found in a bar. It became obvious that she could talk all day and we had sights to see so we left after a while and proceeded on our Rt. 66 tour.

 

We came to a section of Rt. 66 called The Ribbon Road because it was only nine feet wide!

 

This pull truss bridge in Chelsea was only in use for six years before they rerouted the road. It is the last on Rt. 66. Around Chelsea…

 

The red roofed house is a Sears and Roebuck catalog house. The blue whale was built on a local pond as an anniversary gift to the builder’s wife. It is basically a swimming and diving platform. They also have a Noah’s Ark, just for fun.

 

Totem Pole Park. Folk art much?

 

Back into Tulsa on Route 66…

 

 

Cher scouted out a microbrewery for refreshments before they took us back to the bus.
IMG_0691Cher is a great tour guide, with phone in hand she can offer up a narrative on each attraction. And Steve chauffeured us all around the countryside. It was a fine day with friends.

The next day was cool and we had planned to ride but Cher and Steve invited us to join them at The Center of the Universe and The Woody Guthrie Center and lunch, so we did. The Center of the Universe is a small circle in the middle of a dead end pedestrian bridge in downtown Tulsa. If you stand on the circle and talk, you hear an echo. It’s really true!

 

The Woody Guthrie Center is amazingly well done and although small, it gives a full and rich history of Woody Guthrie and his life. I never knew he succumbed to Huntington’s Disease, a terrible disease. And he was not just musically talented but he wrote and drew and painted. Such a talent.

IMG_0789A virtual reality clip that showed Black Sunday was very lifelike and scary. It showed the birds and animals trying to stay ahead of the giant dust cloud while electricity crackled all around. Black Sunday, April 14, 1935 was my dad’s seventeenth birthday.
IMG_0772And Woodstock began on my 17th birthday. I didn’t remember that but I know I didn’t get to go. I was a junior in high school. No way my parents would have allowed that…
IMG_0764Speaking of Woodstock, there was a whole room dedicated to the career of Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s oldest son. He is also a prolifically talented musician and artist and photographer. The movie Alice’s Restaurant still makes me laugh.

 

One of the rooms had a screen with performances by various artists of Woody Guthrie’s iconic song “This Land is Your land, This Land is My Land.” They had lots of versions, from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Lyle Lovett, Glenn Campbell, Joe Ely and several others. My favorite, and I watched it twice, was Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing with a large gospel choir on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while Obama was president. He and his family were there and they did a multi-verse version of the song. It had me in tears.

 

A detailed timeline with photos and narration outlined Woody’s whole life, his marriages, children, tragedies and musical milestones. It turns out that Woody Guthrie was a victim of Fred Trump’s racism and tenant horrors and he chronicled this in a song and the lyrics were on display. The (black) attendant told us they had had death threats for including that information. Guthrie lived in Beach Haven, in Brooklyn and was a first hand eyewitness to Trump’s fleecing of the residents and discrimination against blacks. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

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After several hours at the Center we were ready to eat and drink. The Peacemaker Seafood and Raw Bar was just the ticket. This server was friendly and helpful and the food and drinks hit the spot.

 

We wandered around the district some more.

 

 

Our final stop on the tour was the Cancer Treatment Center of America so Cher could show us the facility she was treated at. It is very nice and un-clinical and everything is conveniently located within the smallish building. Here she is showing us her new “rack.”
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What great fun with great friends!

Cher and Steve are heading back to Texas so we said our goodbyes. We will see them soon.

The next day we decided to ride the bike trail to The Gathering Place, a riverside park that is “the crown jewel” of Tulsa. Maybe so, but when we got there, there were mobs of people and kids and dogs and long lines for food, and we couldn’t get out of there soon enough. A hot Sunday before Labor Day was probably not the best choice. But we really like cities that have a river running through. Tulsa, Little Rock, Omaha. Especially if they have bike trails!
OK-pano-1Tulsa has a lot going for it. We really enjoyed the easy access to the city and our time with friends.

 

And remember, ladies, get your mammogram. And be sure you ask them to use the thyroid guard! Tell them Cher sent you! As she says, “Knowledge is power!”

 

The Arkansas River Trail

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After an overnight at Valley Creek State Park, where we had another large, private site right by the creek, Jim found a campground/city park right on the trail and we moved into a very nice large, wooded 50 amp site in the Burns Park RV Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Plenty of room for the cats to roam and again, lots of firewood for a campfire. I gathered up a good pile and appropriated some large logs from an empty campsite.

Still very hot with high humidity but a chance of rain to cool things off. I sent my friend in Little Rock, Jennie, a message and asked her to please cool things down so we could ride. We made a plan to get together during our stay. I hadn’t seen her for 25 years when my mom and I last visited her when we lived in Washington D.C.

How do I know Jennie? Kind of an odd story. She was the high school girlfriend of my long dead brother. We have kept up with each other on Facebook. She is funny and smart, a sweet and gentle soul  and we can always pick right back up with each other, the sign of a true friend. She has been married to Roger for 33 years and they have three grown children. He is a banker and she runs her Crown Trophy franchise.

She suggested that they come “pluck us from the woods” and go with them to their regular Friday night spot for dinner. Sounded like a good plan; we love to have the locals show us around. She mentioned that Friday was seafood specials. Yum.

Meanwhile it was time to ride. It was still very hot but normally the trails are shady so that offers some respite. The first day we set out I checked the weather app on my phone partway in and saw that a storm was coming. Jim was worried more about the wind than the rain since our big awning was out. After about four miles, we headed back to the bus. We just didn’t want to risk the awning. There are some big hills between the park and the trail, some of them were a little too steep to ride. Plus, did I mention? It was very hot.

Friday we had a break in the heat; it was only about 85, not 95 degrees. WOOHOO! We made it to the trail and got in about 22 miles. We rode into Little Rock, saw the Capitol, crossed the river several times and looked forward to the evening with Jennie and Roger. We were sure to be hungry.

When they picked us up she told us that their regular Friday night spot was their country club. She didn’t want to sound “hoity toity” so she withheld that info until we were in the car. Hoity toity?! Ha!

And look what she made for us!
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And on the back…
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What a thoughtful gift! We will treasure them and use them often.

The club is lovely and we got a table in the bar room and enjoyed the live guitar player. The atmosphere was very nice and many friends greeted them and graciously welcomed us. Without even asking, the bartender brought them their drinks and we proceeded to order ours. It was unhurried, the drinks were delicious and plentiful and the conversation delightful. Roger had never met either of us and Jim and Jenny had never met either but we all enjoyed a lively discussion covering many topics and many cocktails.

The food was fabulous. I had blackened snapper with roasted potatoes and asparagus, my favorite. Jennie had the scallops, Jim Atlantic bluefish and Roger a steak. I would eat there every Friday night too if I could. And the air conditioning was at a reasonable level; I didn’t even have to wear the sweater I always carry.
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What a fun night! Jennie thanked us profusely for taking the time for them but we are the true beneficiaries of their kind and thoughtful hospitality. I told Jennie that I was glad she didn’t end up with my brother and I am lucky to have gained a meaningful relationship with her from the ashes of theirs. My new sistah. Love ya’ Jennie! Let’s not make it another 25 years! You can bet we’ll be back way before that.

After discussing it with them at dinner, we decided to stay an extra night and go the Clinton Presidential Library. We Ubered into Little Rock and spent several hours touring the library which is very well done and occupies a commanding view right on the Arkansas River. Along with all the presidential stuff, there was an exhibit made from some of the plastic and trash they have taken from beaches around the world. Called Washed Ashore, it was impressive and humbling to know this was just a tiny fraction of the trash we have committed to the ocean. And this didn’t even include all the plastic floating around in the ocean.

The Clinton Library was impressive and, I must admit, the first Presidential Library we have visited. Have to do more.

The design of the columns, boxes of official Presidential papers is based on The Long Room from a library in Dublin. A guard told me that these floor to ceiling columns were just a fraction of the papers, the rest are archived.

Some of the gifts they received… There were many.

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Commissioned from Dale Chiluily, there were two of these glass towers in the White House. Magnificent!

IMG_0554IMG_0577IMG_0576You couldn’t take photos inside the Oval Office but from outside was OK. All the docents and guards were very friendly, conversational and knowledgeable. It was a great experience and I must say it made me feel politically nostalgic. Jim and I lived in D.C. when Clinton was elected and we went to his inauguration where I met and shook hands with Vernon Jordan. Jennie has met Bill Clinton twice, and Roger has too. Apparently he comes to town frequently and has an apartment on the top floor of the Clinton Library. We didn’t get to see that.
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Afterwards we walked down President Bill Clinton Avenue to The Flying Fish where we ate delicious fish and drank a giant margarita before Ubering back to the park. Would love to see the sign lit up.

What a wonderful visit to Little Rock! Cities with a river running through them are the best with lots to see and do. We were grateful for Jennie and Roger’s good company and showing us a little slice of their lives. We will be back soon; they may get sick of us stopping in more often but Jennie and I have 25 years to make up!

Now we are parked at another Corps of Engineers campground outside Fort Smith, Arkansas. We have been loving the COE campgrounds, just $10 a night. Because we’re old… We have another fire ready to roll. In the morning we are on our way to Tulsa to wait out the holiday, get our mail and cat food, ride the trails and do some touristy stuff with friends from our Texas park, Cher and Steve.
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As Cher says, “Life is good!”

Lazy Land Between the Lakes

After riding the Tunnel Hill State Trail the heat just kept on coming. We found a Corps of Engineer campground on Barclay Lake and planned to stay for a few days to celebrate my birthday, relax and figure out our plan going forward. The heat continued to be oppressive, almost 100 degrees and very high humidity. I rode my bike around the lake and into town for ice but Kentucky is hilly as well as hot.

barclay-pano-1DSC_2633IMG_0434IMG_0430aThe campground is one of the best we have been in. We had a big, private site right by the canal where we could watch the barge and tugboat traffic and the many deer that gather daily. Carmella liked the deer too and acted like she was going to try to make friends. They didn’t let her get close…
DSC_2630DSC_2632We ended up staying several extra days, five nights in all. This was one of our longest stays this season, with just Lake of the Ozarks and Kansas City being longer. The surrounding trees provided plenty of firewood and we had a fire a few nights. Once the sun went down, it was comfortable.

One interesting incident… We had a fire on the night of my birthday and Carmella was out at night with us. Astrid was inside and when one of us opened the door, she shot out, without her leash and started running around like a mad kitty between the trees on the site. We were beside ourselves, needless to say. Jim had a flashlight and of course we couldn’t see her in the dark without it. I’m not sure if the fire or the flashlight freaked her out. We finally got between her and the woods and shooed her back to the bus. Whew. Of course it was the night of the full moon.

Here she is relaxing by the canal. That darn cat…
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Nighttime barge traffic through the canal.

We decided to head toward Little Rock where they have an extensive bike trail system in the Arkansas River Trail. After an overnight in Blytheville, Arkansas at another RV park because it was still so HOT we had to be plugged in. We enjoyed a nice sunset that filled the whole sky.

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We were just hoping that the weather would break and provide some relief from the heat.

The Tunnel Hill State Trail…Again

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We’re running out of trails! When we left St. Louis, we wanted to ride a system Sandy had told us about but couldn’t find anywhere to park the bus. We were just a short drive from the Tunnel Hill State Trail where we have ridden and stayed before so we decided to ride a different section of it.

On the drive there, we saw more of the devastation from the spring floods and the water is still very high in many places. And we drove through the flood damage in a torrential downpour that cleaned the windshield off very well. My phone wanted to focus on the raindrops on the window but you can see the high water mark on these buildings. It was sort of biblical with so much water.

First we went to Karnak, Illinois where Jim found a small campground that was practically deserted and a good place for the cats. Our first actual “campground” of the season. We rode in both directions and I turned over 4300 miles on my bike.

The second day we agreed to ride for an hour and head back to the bus. About 10 minutes short of an hour we started to feel some raindrops so we beat it back to the bus and got the bikes loaded up right before the heavens opened up and it poured down rain for about an hour. Whew!

Once we had ridden both directions in Karnak, we decided to move up the trail to Stonefort. I got us a place to park (I thought) and we headed north. When we got to Stonefort, there was no campground in sight and nobody in the very small town had ever heard of it. We finally located it for real on Google Maps and called the guy… it was 20 miles off the bike trail. When I asked him about that he said he was right on the trail but I think he meant an equestrian trail. OOPS! We did meet a gentleman in town who suggested a spot and went to the house of the guy in charge. He came over and led us to the park pavilion which would have been perfect but no power although plenty of 30 amp boxes. He didn’t offer to turn it on for us. Gotta love the small town attitude and offers to help though.

We called the city of Vienna to see if we could park in the city park again and they said No Go. A campground has opened in town and they steered us there. It was only about a mile and a half to the trail and we would have power, unlike at the park. And it is HOT! Heat indexes of 112 degrees forecast for the next few days.

We wangled every discount we could and it was a good spot in a former golf course. We knew we could ride to the tunnel easily from there.

Even though it was smokin’ hot, the trail is shaded and the tunnel was cool. From the other side.

We took this selfie and when I saw it, I knew I had to give myself a little haircut. It’s better now.

After a couple of days and a day off, we are moving on to the Land Between the Lakes, a spot we have been a couple times before. A short travel day after stocking up and we are settled in for several nights in a lovely site right on the canal. Full moon and my birthday celebration ahead.

A Year and a Day of Astrid

Last year on July 26, our black cat, Astrid, followed Carmella out the bus window in a strange and unknown (to her) very rural spot in Minnesota. We had a angst-filled and tearful two weeks. You can read the synopsis here.
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Long story short, we got her back! The live trap did its job and we were overjoyed and amazed when we found her in it after thirteen very long days and nights.

Then the fun began. A visit to a vet in Minnesota, then in Iowa and finally in Kansas City and many hundreds of dollars later, we finally had her back in good shape.

Minnesota:
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Iowa:
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Kansas City:
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We are thankful every day that we got her back. In the time since, many folks have expressed their amazement that we did. The universe tilted in our direction and all our hard work paid off.

In the year since, she has been very skittish about going outside, even in our little house in Texas where she used to roam the garden unstopped. She has started going out of the bus in isolated places, which is one reason we love the Elks Lodges; they are often wide open and uninhabited.

We always think the cats will run for the bus when confronted or alarmed but we can never be sure about Astrid. As Jim says, she has the insanity factor in her favor and we are hyper vigilant. We panic if we can’t find her in the bus.

In such an Elks, in St. Louis, she went out and ventured a short distance from the bus. Then she sashayed her tail and acted like she was going to run in the other direction! WHUT?! After that, she is confined to her leash and seems to be doing fine. Whew!

The only other difference is that when Carmella tries to jump on her and play she goes into all-out fight mode. She had a few cat fights in Minnesota when she was on the lam and she thinks every cat is a threat. Even her 13 year old sister.

We’ll take it. We have had her back for a year now and every day when she climbs into my lap or demands brushing or food or pets, we are grateful.

A year of Astrid:

And the “good kitty” Carmella…

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Trouble in River City…

When we set off for Columbia, Missouri we knew it would be different than our usual visits. We normally park the bus right on the Katy Trail at friends and stay awhile riding the trail, visiting friends and catching up with Marni and Eric.

This year, because of all the flooding on the Missouri River and the levee breach, we couldn’t even get the bus to their place, never mind it being dry enough to park. The levee breached on May 26 and for weeks they couldn’t drive out their driveway due to the four feet of water in the lower yard and garden. They had their entire lower garden planted with tomatoes, peppers, onions and potatoes when the floods hit. They managed to move some tomatoes and onions but the potatoes and most of the onions were a complete loss. They grow most of their own food, so this is serious. And with all the surrounding farmland, Marni is concerned about the garden no longer being organic. At least their house is up on the hill so no damage there.

During the worst of it. And they are a mile from the river.

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The driveway from up the hill.

This photo shows where we usually park. The water was up to the blackberry bushes behind the garden, in front of the tow truck.
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A neighbor loaned them a four-wheeler so they could travel up over the bluff to their car but it was weeks before they could drive out onto the trail to get to town because the River Road is closed. It’s a real mess.

Marni took us on a tour of the damage.

This shows the levee which the River Road is on top of. They sandbagged but it didn’t work. And the local music venue on the river was completely flooded. They got all the trailers out but the store flooded. Not as high as 1993 flood though.

We parked at the Elks Lodge in Columbia and rented a car so we could see friends. We had Shakespeare’s Pizza with Joe and Cathy and their daughter, Sara. Sara has just returned from Russia where she taught English as a second language. We normally ride the eight miles on the trail to their house but not this time.

This is where my castor bean seeds came from. The red ones are some I sent Chuck and the kitty is Boy. She had three kittens a few months ago but she’s fixed now. The castor beans in Texas before we left.
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From Columbia we  went to St. Louis to see Sandy and Carl. I have known Sandy since sixth grade and she, Carl and I all went to the same high school in the same class. Her dad died recently and they have been fixing up Carl’s parents old house as well as take care of her dad’s estate. They have a house in South St. Louis as well, along with two cats, a bird and two very young and energetic dogs. Oh, and they think they want to buy an RV so we all went up to Winfield to look at one they are considering. I’m not sure the RV is big enough for all the animals…

We got to see more flood damage here, this time on the Mississippi. The guy selling the RV had his whole farm flooded, including his house. He’s packing it up and moving to Gulf Shores. He took us for a drive down the road.

This house has a basement too that was completely flooded. Not exactly…
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The Chesterfield house. They are thinking they can move there when they are older, one level, wide doorways, etc. They have done most of the work themselves and opened up and lightened up the house a lot.

After we went to Sandy’s dads’ house we were starving and thirsty so we went to Cellar House which is near the Elks. Since they both have electric vehicles, we had to switch cars a couple times due to the range and how many miles we had driven. Carl treated us to cocktails and delicious small plates. The ahi tuna sliders were the bomb. Sandy liked the chocolate martinis. And a portrait of her mom and dad. Even though we were friends in school I never met them. Strong family resemblance.

And we tried a selfie after repairing back to the bus but it was dark by the time they left, so the picture not so hot. Maybe it was the cocktails…
IMG_0262What a great time with great friends. We always love people showing us their part of the world. True friends can’t be beat!