Friday, February 27, 2015

Lone Pine

On October 29, 2003 we departed the Tahoe Valley Campground in South Lake Tahoe, California on the way back to Twentynine Palms. We were lucky to get out of town before the blizzard. The route we took south was on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and we went through a little town called Lone Pine where we decided to spend a few days. I have mentioned Lone Pine a few times before. You can reference my post on the Bristlecone Pine Forest posted on July 20, 2014 and the post on Manzanar posted on October 13, 2014.

Lone Pine is the gateway to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in the continental USA. The lowest point in the United States is at Death Valley in the Death Valley National Park about 100 miles east of Lone Pine. We drove east planning to go to the Death Valley Park, but somewhere along the line I made a wrong turn and we never actually got to see the lowest spot in the US. It was a long drive back to Lone Pine and getting late, so we decided to visit the site at a later date.

The Alabama Hills are between Lone Pine and Mt. McKinley. Many movies have been shot in these hills, including “High Sierra”, “Maverick” with Mel Gibson, “Lives of a Bengal Lancer” and “Along the Great Divide with Kirk Douglas. There is a museum called the Lone Pine Movie Room that attempts to keep alive the old western traditions and movie memorabilia. Highly recommended if you find yourself in Lone Pine someday.

Additionally there is an Eastern California Museum that has artifacts and stories from Inyo County, Death Valley and all the eastern Sierra area. The museum has been open since 1928 and is filled with artifacts. They feature over 27,000 photos depicting history of the area.

We spent five days driving around the Lone Pine area, using the Boulder Creek RV Park as our home base. Things are so far apart, I think we probably drove 600 miles while we were there – some of the miles were pretty rough. The trip to the Bristlecone Pine went up to 15,000 feet and the roads were more like rocky ruts making for slow driving. The trip one way took about four hours.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

I also write a Thought and Ideas blog you might have interest in at:

Arlon in the Bristlecone Pine Forest wearing Texas winter clothes.

Bristlecone Pines  live in very harsh conditions at 15,000 feet elevation,

A cabin in the Alabama Hills

A happy face in the Alabama Hills.

The View from our RV Park

Another view of the domed cabin.

A waterfall coming down from Mt. Whitney,



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

San Francisco Streetcars

Last week in one of my posts I stated that I thought the cable cars in San Francisco would cease to run because of the cost of operation. My son AJ still considers San Francisco his home and he took exception immediately. He gave me a little information about the cable cars and told me he was surprised I did not mention the historic streetcars in use in San Francisco. I remembered seeing the streetcars around town and now I remember he told us while we were visiting San Francisco that the cars came from all over the world. The historic cars are used on cable car lines, bus lines and trolley lines. Trolleys are different from busses because they run on rails and use overhead electric lines as a power source.

At the time we were driving around the city looking for particular locations and I thought the trolley cars and extra pedestrian traffic boarding the trolleys were a nuisance. I realize now I was thinking like a motorist and not thinking like a tourist.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, hereafter referred to as MUNI, was created to improve public transportation in the city to allow better traffic flow and make the public transportation more appealing to visitors. San Francisco has the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) and MUNI working together to provide transportation to everyone in the San Francisco Bay area.

The cable car system has three lines that provide access to Market Street, Union Square, Ghiradelli Square, Nob Hill, Powell Street, Hyde Street, Fisherman’s Wharf and other city areas in between. Busses move on surface streets covering most of the areas surrounding downtown. In most of the city public transportation of some sort is accessible within four blocks.

Market Street Railway is a non-profit organization with about 1,000 members that was established to raise money to help the city and MUNI improve the transportation system and beautify the cars to make them more attractive to tourists. The Market Street Railway conducts festivals to raise money to buy historic cars from around the world. They have the No. 3357 car from Hamburg, Germany, nine cars from Milan, Italy and fourteen cars from Philadelphia.

Some of the cars are Peter Witt cars designed by him when he was the commissioner of the Cleveland Transit system. These cars are entered via the front door and the conductor is located in the center of the car for people to pay on the way to the back to exit. This design was intended to speed up stop time to ingress passengers.

After thinking about it, I agree with AJ. Cable cars and streetcars will never leave San Francisco. There is too much history and too much visitor appeal associated with the look of the transportation systems in the city. Use the following web URLs to see some pictures of the cars.




Friday, February 20, 2015

Lake Tahoe

Before I get into our story about Lake Tahoe, I would like to remind readers that we are staying in Dickinson, Texas for a long period of time this year because my brother-in-law, Larry Clark is recovering from Leukemia. He is back in the hospital with a C. difficile infection, so he is taking two antibiotics, blood and platelets along with the feeding solution he is taking while a bowel obstruction subsides. He is very sick and getting great care at Methodist Hospital.

Back to 2003. Seeing AJ in San Francisco was great and tours of San Francisco, the coastal areas around San Francisco and farmland to the immediate north of the city was an unforgettable adventure. We enjoyed the vineyards and wineries in the Napa and Sonoma valleys and bought some wine to deliver to friends back in Texas. Kathi and I tried several of the wines, but we are just not wine aficionados.

Our son, AJ on the coast in San Francisco.

Waves splashing on the rocks in the Pacific Ocean.

On October 27, 2003, we left the fertile fields around Petaluma, California and headed east through Sacramento, across the Sierra-Nevada Mountains through the Donner Pass and on to South Lake Tahoe, California. We got into town about dark and checked into the Tahoe Valley Campground. There were only two other trailers in the park and we found out it was the end of the season for them and they would close as the end of the month for winter. There were a lot of big trees in the park, mostly pine I think. We could not get a TV signal with our built in satellite dish, so I had to hook up our portable dish in the dark. Did I mention a lot of big trees? I had to use 140 feet of coaxial cable to find an open space in the southern sky to allow us to get a TV signal. We got settled in for the evening and relished the idea of being RV travelers once again. 

A vineyard in the Napa Valley.
The next morning we took a drive around Lake Tahoe, The Lake is about 20 miles long and 10 miles wide at the widest point. It took us about four hours to get around.  Every spot we were able to pull over and take pictures, we did so. There were not nearly enough pullouts to get a good grasp of the beauty around this lake. It is another adventure we will not forget, but I do wish we had taken time to drive around one of the little lakeside communities to see their boat docks and piers.

Lake Tahoe

A view from a pullout on Lake Tahoe

Another view of the lake

More trees and more Lake Tahoe
The California-Nevada state line runs through Lake Tahoe and north east of South Lake Tahoe is a little community called Stateline, Nevada. As far as I can tell there is actually no town called Lake Tahoe, Nevada, even though I know you can fly into the Lake Tahoe airport and can book hotels in Lake Tahoe. We spent a few hours at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in Stateline on Stateline Avenue. What fun.

The next morning we were ready to move along to Lone Pine and I am glad we did. A blizzard came through South Lake Tahoe the evening after we left.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Petaluma

On September 26, 2003 we left our Marine and the heat in Twentynine Palms, California and moved north to visit our oldest son, AJ in San Francisco. We spent two nights at the Yermo/Barstow Calico KOA and two nights at the Visalia/South Fresno KOA on our way to the Petaluma KOA.

We really enjoyed seeing all the greenery – crops and dairy farms everywhere. North of San Francisco, I remember all the billboards along the highways were agriculture related. Something was different driving the roads in California, compared to Texas. In Texas you get on a highway or county road and drive for hundreds of miles without changing highways. In California we changed highways about every twenty-five miles. We found it confusing and relied on our GPS a lot more than we do today. I was perpetually lost.

It was October 1st when we got to Petaluma. There were haystacks and pumpkins everywhere. The Petaluma KOA RV Park had big trees at every site in the park and water sprinklers running continuously. They had farm animals on display at the park for Kids to view and pet. We were in awe of the scenery, but more happy to get to see our son in San Francisco.

We unloaded all the musical gear and a lot of AJ’s clothes from the motorhome into the car to drive it into San Francisco to deliver to AJ and move it all to his new apartment. After delivery of the equipment we took AJ and drove around the city site seeing. We took a driving tour visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, Pacific Heights and Chinatown. Traffic in the city is different than what I am used to seeing. I spent my life in the suburbs, not inside a big city. One of the first things you notice driving in San Francisco is that pedestrians have the right of way and they act like there are no cars on the streets. There is constant jaywalking. With Kathi’s encouragement I paced myself and relaxed. Like I had a choice. Pedestrians set the pace for me. There are never any parking places, so delivery trucks double park along the street – they really have no choice.

AJ loved San Francisco and still considers it his home. He will move back there if the opportunity ever arises. AJ is visually impaired and the public transportation in the city gave him a lot of freedom he never experienced in the suburbs of Texas. He took us for rides on BART – the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. It is like a subway, sometimes three stories down to catch a train.


Flowers at Fisherman's Wharf

Pumpkin patch in Petaluma. Corn growing on the left.

More pumpkins

Another pumpkin patch

Red tree at Raley's in Rohnert Park north of Petaluma.

Tin Man at Fisherman's Wharf
The first time I was in San Francisco was 1963 when I was in the Army on the way to Korea. At that time we were able to catch the cable cars while they were moving and pay the fare to the operator. On this trip we found you had to buy cable car tickets before you got on and had to catch the cable car after it stopped. It really did not matter, because most of the day the cable cars were packed with tourists and there was no room for three more people to get on. I am not sure how much longer this service will last. The bus and BART systems can get you anywhere in the city and I am sure cable cars are expensive to run. It is fun and unique. San Francisco is a blast for a tourist, but Kathi and I would never live there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

First Trip to California

On September 15, 2003 we were finally through with chores related to selling our house and received the registration papers and license plate for our RV. We were ready to hit the road as RV travelers. We were on the way to see both our sons who recently moved to California. Christopher was in the Marines and stationed at Twentynine Palms and we needed to deliver CD players and other music related paraphernalia to our oldest in San Francisco.

The first time through a travel stop to get diesel was a memorable experience. We got in line where the 18 wheelers pulled up to pump diesel. Kathi went inside to leave her credit card and they told her RVs were supposed to use the pumps in the front where pickup trucks got diesel. I drove around to the front and looked and saw no way to get our RV and tow vehicle next to the diesel pump in front of the store. I drove back around and got back in line with the 18 wheelers and asked Kathi to go in and explain the situation. The clerk taking the credit card looked out the window and said, “I didn’t know you had a bus.” Well, we do not have a bus, but it may look like one to some people.

We headed west mostly on two lane roads, avoiding main highways until I was more comfortable driving the RV. It took us a while to realize we were retired and RV travel was supposed to be relaxing. We traveled like we would have traveled in a car, staying only one or two days at each stop. We left Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas on September 15th and moved to the Belton KOA for two nights, two nights in Abilene and one night at the Lubbock KOA.

On September 20th we finally got out of Texas. The state was still big. It did not shrink because we were driving in a motorhome. We spent two nights in the Tucumcari KOA in Tucumcari, New Mexico, two nights in Albuquerque and one night in the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA in Holbrook, Arizona. We thought at the time we would return and visit the Petrified Forest, but writing this blog entry is the first time I have thought about it since the nights we stayed there.

On September 25 we finally made it to California and stayed in the Needles KOA. We were traveling much too fast for the trip to be enjoyable, although we were still excited being in the motorhome. The next morning we arrived at the 29 Palms Golf Resort and it was hot. We parked our RV and picked up our son, Christopher and two other Marines and we headed to the Palm Springs area in our car. We found a Red Roof Inn near the Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage and spent the evening enjoying being with the Marines and having a good time.

Christopher was 29 at the time, but most of his fellow Marine friends we 18 - 20. It was fun spending time with younger people who were excited about having new friends, new jobs and being in new places. Their conversations were entertainment enough for us. We only spent one night with them and returned them to base the next morning, promising to return for a longer visit on our next trip through town.

Onward to San Francisco.

Christopher, a Marine inside our RV at Twentynine Palms.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Setback

Just a quick note on our current situation. We are staying in Texas most of this year taking care of family. While we are here, I have been posting about our previous travels. I will continue those stories next week. Today we are going to the hospital.

My brother in law, Larry Clark has had a setback in his quest to rid himself of leukemia. He had chemotherapy about six weeks ago and has been in the process of building up his strength for a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, this week he developed an infection in his bowels and is off solid food until the infection is cleared up. He is extremely weak and readmitted to Methodist hospital for the near term.

More later when I find out anything new. Hopefully some good news will come soon.

I have several other friends also suffering family illnesses. Special good thought to Hubert, Tom and Gilbert and their families.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Our First RV Adventures

In August 2003 we loaded our clothes and other personal items we intended to keep and got in our RV and drove about 15 miles from our home in Deer Park, Texas to the Willow Creek RV Park in Baytown, Texas. I was still apprehensive about driving and stayed off main roads as much as possible. This move gave Kathi time to finish giving away our furniture while living in the motorhome. We readied the house for the new owner to move in and soon after we were no longer homeowners.

While in Baytown we got a baseplate and auxiliary brake installed on our car. This was a first installation for the technician and it took about twice as long as an experienced mechanic would have taken. Determining how to wire the brake lights on the car for operation from the motorhome was another difficult process for the first time installer-technician. We bought a Blue Ox Aladdin tow bar for installation on our RV. The Aladdin is still my favorite tow bar. It will pull 5,000 pounds and is made of aluminum, so it is light and makes for easy hook-ups. We are currently using a Blue Ox Alpha Tow Bar. It is rated for 6,500 and is made of steel, so it is much heavier and more difficult to hook-up. We switched to the Alpha when I hit a dip on Prince St. in Clovis, NM, breaking my Aladdin. The local Blue Ox dealer only had the Alpha in stock and we were leaving town the next morning, so I took what I could get. In RV vernacular our car was now called a “toad”, as in towed vehicle.

We spent about three weeks in Baytown, then went on a longer trip of about 90 miles north on Texas highway 146 to the Rainbow’s End Escapees Park in Livingston, Texas. Did I mention I was apprehensive about driving? We signed all the paperwork for them to manage our mail and toss junk mail for us. We have talked to some really great people at the Rainbow’s End mail room. They are extremely helpful and customer friendly. Ever since that trip our permanent mailing address has been 123 Rainbow Drive in Livingston, Texas. The 77399 zip code for the Escapees mail service has more people than the population of Livingston. This has caused some resentment among local citizens, because travelers can sway their local elections. Personally, I do not vote in their city elections or get involved with their bond proposals.

The Escapees RV Club owns several RV parks around the country and sponsors a lot of parks they do not own. Most of the Escapees parks people own the RV site where they live.
We have stayed in numerous Escapee parks or Escapee sponsored parks in Georgia, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, Washington and Oregon.

Somewhere I had picked up a KOA discount card which we used for the next few months of our travels. It did not take long for Kathi to realize we could get much lower priced RV sites than we were paying KOA, even with a discount. KOA has some really nice parks, but they are priced too high for us. Passport America is probably the travel group we have used most in our RV travels. Of course this was before I was brave enough to boon dock for free.

We have never for one minute regretted selling our home and moving into an RV. This is one of the best decisions Kathi and I have made.

A street car on display across from the Rainbow's End office.

A donkey that lives near Rainbow's End

A truck in downtown Livingston.

Display at a shopping center in Livingston

Livingston is a patriotic city.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Leaving Home

A quick update on our current travel status. Kathi and I are staying in the Houston area for an extended period this year to visit our sons and help Kathi’s brother, Larry Clark through his leukemia ordeal. Larry has been though chemotherapy and is currently too weak for a bone marrow transplant. He is staying at home and going to Methodist Hospital twice a week for blood tests and infusions of blood, platelets and other medications the transplant team deems appropriate. While we are here I have been writing about our previous RV experiences.

In summer 2003 I retired, my mother died, one son moved to San Francisco and the other joined the Marines, we sold our house and bought an RV and drove it for the first time, all in the matter of a few months. It sounds so easy when you list the items, but there is a lot of consternation with each of these events. We were moving so quickly we were not taking time to process events properly.



Azaleas

Mixed bed in the front yard

Kathi and our youngest son Christopher had spent a lot of time from 2000-2003 creating flowerbeds at our home, with Christopher doing all the heavy work. We had a pool that I worked with every day to keep clean for relatives and friends who came over almost every weekend. We had a fifty inch TV. This was before the LCD screen TVs that are available today. Our TV stood five feet tall and weighed about 250 pounds. We had a fairly new refrigerator, a washer, a drier and a 15 cubic foot freezer. We had recently spent over $15,000 to remodel our kitchen and bathrooms. Talk about poor planning for retirement. We really did not think about retirement until the last six months before I actually retired and we immediately started discussing travel with an RV. Much emotion is still attached to the home we left 12 years ago.


Arlon cleaning the pool.

We bought a GPS sensor and Copilot GPS software to use on a new laptop computer. We joined Escapees RV Club so they could handle mail service for us. All our mail is sent to Escapees and we call to have the mail forwarded to us.

One of our friends wanted to buy our house and we sold it without the benefit of a Realtor. We got a title company to manage the paperwork and sold it as-is for a fair price agreeable to both parties. As-is to us meant we walk out and you walk in. All appliances stayed.

We agreed we did not want to put anything in storage. Kathi jumped into high gear and got rid of all the furniture and all our personal items we had accumulated over a forty year period. Most items we gave away to friends. A newlywed couple got our king-size bed. He worked a minimum wage job and had little extra money, so they were thrilled to get the bed for their apartment. I had fire arms that we gave to a Deer Park policeman for his personal collection. I reluctantly gave away my math and science books and DVD collection.

We gave our record collection to our nephew and we loaded about 200 CDs, amplifier, two CD changers and four speakers into our new RV which was sitting in the driveway of our house. We planned to deliver the music paraphernalia to our son, AJ in San Francisco. He is the music buff of the family, having written enough songs to fill three CDs that he and some friends recorded using the Care Factor name for their group.  The “Welcome to My Pants” CD is still available on the internet. We were finally ready to hit the road. My next post will discuss our first RV trip.


Geraniums and yellow bells.

Small flowerbed of mixed flowers

Yellow bells at the front door

Jasmine and Gerbera daisies around our mail box

Mixed flowerbed in the front yard

Mixed bed in the back yard

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Buying Alfa

It was June 2003. A year earlier when we started talking about retirement, both of our sons were living with us. We announced our intent to sell the house, so they began thinking about other living arrangements. Our youngest, Christopher was attending the University of Houston at the time and felt that he needed to be involved in the battle against the terrorists who had attacked the United States. At the end of the semester, Christopher opted for the Marines and our oldest, AJ decided to move to San Francisco which is beautiful, has great weather and good public transportation to assist him in getting around with his limited eyesight.

After retirement circumstances caused us to have second thoughts about buying a motorhome. Then we took our trip to the Grand Canyon. After three weeks of hauling bedding around the country to load and unload continuously, I decided I was ready to sell the house and buy the motorhome. We went to Lone Star RV on I-45 north of Houston and started the paperwork rolling to purchase the Alfa RV we had been sitting in on weekends for almost a year.

On July 31, 2003, we got Kathi’s stepfather to take us to Lone Star and drop us off. We signed all the paperwork and the salesperson took us to the shop for one of the mechanics to give us a walk through and explain how everything worked. Our Alfa was in their shop to add a mud flap behind the rear tires. When the work was completed the mechanic pulled the RV out of their shop and asked me if I had driven an RV before. I confessed that I had not so he told me to get in the driver’s seat and got Kathi positioned in the passenger seat and he sat behind me to look over my shoulder while I drove an RV for the first time.

I drove around a few streets in the neighborhood without incident and told him I was ready to solo. He agreed, so I started making a U-turn on a neighborhood street with an esplanade between opposing traffic lanes. The RV was too long to make the turn without backing up and there was some traffic coming from both directions and in the middle of the turn I was having second thoughts. The mechanic told me to go ahead and back up and complete my U-turn, while assuring me the other cars would wait for me. I did and they did, so we headed back to the shop with me full of self-confidence.

There was a fifth wheel on my side of the driveway when I got to the dealership, so I pulled around it. Before I got past it I looked in the rear view mirror and my RV was against the left rear corner of the fifth wheel. I panicked, I confessed and I backed up. The mechanic got out to check the damage and I had scraped the paint on our RV and did minor trim damage to the fifth wheel trailer. I drove back to the door of their shop and he took our brand new Alfa in to buff out the scratches I had made in the paint on my first day of ownership.

That was completed successfully, so Kathi and I hit the road headed back to our home in Deer Park. It took less than an hour of white-knuckled driving on Houston Freeways to get the RV into the driveway of our old home. It filled the driveway with only a little hanging out in the street, so I parked our car at the edge of the driveway to provide a buffer for the RV.

Next time we move our clothing and traveling supplies into our new home and sell our house.

Our Alfa in 2014

I parked it in the sloping driveway behind the Chevrolet pickup.

Another view of our house from the front

The back yard of he house we sold

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Three Week Trip

I retired from Shell Chemical Company in June 2003 with plans to sell our house and buy a motorhome and travel the USA. Soon after my retirement, Mom had a stroke and she died on June 30th. We felt the need to get away for a while to relieve some stress, so we decided to hold off on buying the motorhome and travel staying in hotels and motels. We headed out on a three week trip across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to see the Grand Canyon. Everything about the trip is a blur in my mind. I still had not processed my retirement or Mom’s death.

I laid out the clothes and toiletries I would need and Kathi packed everything for traveling. She decided she had to have her own pillows and blanket, so I placed those in the car, also. Then we were ready to hit the road. The result of Kathi having her own bedding made every motel stop a chore. It meant at least two trips from the car to the motel room and sometimes three. Remember it was July and neither of us enjoy the heat. We finally got to Flagstaff, Arizona which we would use as a home base to drive to the Grand Canyon. I looked at maps and literature and thought I would like to view the canyon from the north rim because it offered a higher elevation for viewing. I realized it would add another week to the trip.

The trip from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon National Park was about seventy five miles. The signs we saw advertising the few restaurants along the trip put an emphasis on buffalo burgers, buffalo steak and fry bread. I like beef and I did not see any need to change my diet to include buffalo and fry bread was a new term for me. I still have not tried it, but I understand it is delicious and fattening.

As everyone knows, the Grand Canyon is a spectacular place to visit. We missed a lot of the great sights because the few walking trips we took wore us out in the heat, so most of what we saw was from the car at pullouts along the park roads. Even with those limitations we saw enough to be mesmerized by the views of the canyon. We even saw people walking out to the precipice of some of the ledges and I felt a twinge just watching them. My fear of heights seems to be more pronounced the older I get. It may have something to do with the vision I have of me bursting open at the bottom of a fall. I wish I could say that was enough to help me lose weight, but it is not.

We decided going to the north rim would be a waste of our time in the heat. We also agreed that we would like to return to the Grand Canyon in a cooler time of the year. That is still on the agenda somewhere down the line, but no immediate plans. After a two day stay in Flagstaff we headed back home.

In my next post I will discuss preparation to sell the house and move into an RV.

See the people on the ledge in the top center

Beautiful sights

Pictures really do not show how big this canyon actually is.

I love this view.

Unusual rock formations

Strata in the rocks is amazing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Back Home

Kathi and I drove back to Dickinson from Austin this morning. We had a great couple of days with our son, AJ. Eating out, grocery shopping, refrigerator repair and just catching up is always fun. We usually talk to him several times a day, so we are never out of contact, but it is fun to see each other face to face. It is the only way to get a hug.

We took the US 290 toll road out of Austin. The toll road part only lasts about five miles and saves about four red lights and a lot of traffic, so it was worth the $2.00 or so it cost to ride. I do not have a TxTag, so they send me a bill in the mail. I could save money on each trip on the toll road, but it would end up costing me more because I would be tempted to ride the toll roads in Houston, also. I normally drive on feeder streets and avoid toll roads. It is time consuming, but I am retired so, who cares. We were ready to get out of town this morning and the toll road was our quickest option.

We spent one night in Super 8 and one night in Best Western. Best Western was tremendously better. We have never had a bad night in a Best Western hotel. We slept both nights in a king size bed and Kathi was so far away from me. We have a queen bed in our motorhome and we rub elbows all night long. I missed being touched, so I reached out to her until my shoulder started to ache, then I fell asleep. We were up at five this morning to go to Starbucks for coffee and picked AJ up early for another quick trip to the grocery before leaving town.

It is nice to be back home with our own bed, bathroom and DVR. I could not hear the TV in the hotel room without waking the neighbors, so I watched people pantomime. Home is better.

We had a little rain coming into Houston and moving east on Highway 225. I felt sorry for people walking the picket line in the rain as I passed Shell. I hope they get the issues worked out with the oil companies soon, so people can get back to work. We have way too many people out of work in the country as it is.

Kathi's pineapple upside down cake was delicious.

Buckees gave me coffee and kolaches coming and going.

AJ standing by our newly painted Jeep hood. AJ is 6'7".

Snapdragons at the corner of League City Parkway and South Shore Harbor Drive.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Quickie Trip To Austin

My brother-in-law, Larry Clark is still in remission from his Leukemia. His immediate problem is that he is too weak for a bone marrow transplant, so we are working to build up his strength. Nothing he eats tastes good and his doctor told him that he must eat anyway. He may live off of milkshakes for the next few weeks.

His daughter, Amy is in town for two more weeks and she has been a real help to Larry and Andrea. Kathi and I took advantage of Amy’s presence to make a quick trip to Austin to see our oldest son, AJ. We left our motorhome in Dickinson at 9:45 am and arrived in Austin about 2:00 pm. Our only stop was Buckees in Giddings. Kathi made me eat two cheese and sausage kolaches and she had a cranberry muffin. She claims her muffins are better, but she ate the Buckee’s version rather handily.

We had a room reserved at the Super 8 in the 5500 block of I-35 in Austin, but our room was not ready when we arrived. We told them we would be back to check in later and went to pick up AJ for lunch. We went to Rudy’s Barbecue on the Capital of Texas highway in Austin and had a great lunch in the open air section of the restaurant. AJ and I always make sandwiches out of the extra moist brisket and Kathi gets the extra lean brisket. We had a few slices of brisket left over and we packed them in a bag for AJ.

Next I drove Kathi and AJ to the Walmart store in Sunset Valley to buy a few groceries. Sunset Valley is a little community completely surrounded by Austin and on the outskirts of downtown Austin on the southeast side. The population of Sunset Valley is 684 people, according to the city limits sign. I sat in the car for about half an hour contemplating what to do with the rest of my life. Before I could decide, Kathi and AJ arrived with a cart full of groceries. We drove AJ back home and unloaded the groceries and took them to his apartment. Kathi and I went to check in to the hotel and left AJ holding the bag. He had a lot of groceries to put away.

AJ had a chair propped against his refrigerator door to keep it closed. I opened the door to find out why the refrigerator door would not stay closed on it’s own. I realized the seal had come loose from the door and was stuck magnetically to the refrigerator. About that time I realized he had told us about the problem a few weeks earlier and it was far back in my memory, so recall was a little slow. That is one of our projects for tomorrow.

We got back to Super 8 to check in and a different person was at the desk. Kathi had reserved a room with a king size bed and the desk person told her they had no rooms with king size beds. It took about ten minutes discussion for Kathi to get what she wanted and I am glad I stayed in the car. Kathi said the desk clerk was very rude. We walked to the elevator and a lot of things appeared to be in disarray and dirty. We got in the elevator to come up and it was a mess and also sounded like it had some mechanical problems. Kathi agreed to stay tonight, but the first thing she did when she got in the room was contact the Best Western a few miles south of us and reserved a room for tomorrow night. We may lose the cost of one day at Super 8, but Super 8 lost our business forever.

Industry on Lady Bird Lake

A view of downtown Austin

State Capitol Building looking north down Congress Street

Ducks on Lady Bird Lake
A view of downtown Austin looking north across Lady Bird Lake