Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dog Days

It's summer, and once again time for the big San Antonio dog shows. Earlier this year than last...June instead of July. That gets John's and my vote, for sure! So far we've had temperatures in the 90s, which is a lot better than the 100+ readings we had here last year. Of course, it helps that the AC in the Royals works very well. If you remember, last year the first thing John had to do was find a mechanic to fix the unit on J.R.  Fortunately, Travelers World RV Resort has lots of trees and an adjacent grassy area for walking dogs, so we're very comfortable. The dog show sponsors also run shuttles to and from the RV park to the convention center, so we can come and go without worrying about parking downtown.

We came down on Wednesday, but didn't bring the Tracker as we haven't yet installed the tow bar. The Falcon and the fifth wheel made the trip with no trouble, and we set up Nickie's crate at the San Antonio Convention Center when we arrived. After drinks and dinner with Carol Hardaway at Boudreaux's on the Riverwalk, Nickie and I had a slumber party with Carol and her Border Collie, Gabby, at the Riverwalk Marriott. John and Feathers took the dog show shuttle back to the RV, and returned on Thursday to watch our runs.

They shouldn't have hurried. Nickie and I NQd all three of our runs on Thursday. The first was a very tough series of three obstacles which Nickie had to take while I directed her from 15+ feet away. That's a "not enough practice on distance work" problem. The second was Nickie's determination to "go in whichever end of the tunnel I like, no matter what you tell me." Her problem. The third was clearly "handler error" when I took my eye off Nickie and she went behind me instead of taking the jump. Oh, well, we had fun, and enjoyed watching our friends. Nickie's pal, Gabby, took a first place in her first event, and was very proud, as was her mom. She did well on Friday, too, and is shown here with Carol displaying her two blue ribbons!

Feathers got a lot of attention, too. I don't think any dog at the show made more people smile. She is suffering from a still-undiagnosed problem which has caused both eyes to become dilated. As a result, she is very light-sensitive. We have addressed at least the discomfort part of the problem by letting her wear sunglasses. People at the dog show asked John if she was a movie star, and of course he said she was! Here Feathers shows off her "Hollywood" look.

Friday's agility trial got off to a fantastic start when Nickie got a blue ribbon and a qualifying run in her first class. It was downhill from there. She and I teamed up to make mistakes in the our next two runs, and finished the first two days 1 Q for 6 attempts. Fortunately, on Saturday we finally got our act together and she got a Double-Q. That is, she had qualifying runs in both her "Standard" and her "Jumpers with Weaves" courses. Here she is with her ribbons....two firsts and a third...and the most important thing (to Nickie and Feathers) the toys that dogs get when they take first place.

Between agility runs, we had plenty of time to visit the many vendors at the show, and to watch the conformation, rally and obedience classes. Here a couple of Salukis wait their turns in the conformation ring.

Not all the dogs in San Antonio were at the dog show, though.  While on a "potty break" across the street from the convention center, we saw this group out for a brisk stroll.  The handler's T-shirt said "I'm not a dog walker; I'm a pack leader!" 

Sunday was a "play day" for John and me. We had breakfast across the street at Taqueria Guadalajara (rated a "Best of San Antonio" by Texas Monthly). We then left the girls in their crate at the convention center and spent a couple of hours at The Institute of Texan Cultures. Built as the Texas Pavilion for the 1968 Hemisfair, it is now affiliated with the Smithsonian and remains open to showcase and celebrate Texas' diverse history and heritage. Our very knowledgeable guide, Ed Johnson (strangely enough, an archeologist from New York), shows off an old hearse which is said to be haunted.

We enjoyed our visit, but were ready to get back to Austin by the time Monday rolled around.  We look forward to next year's event, and hope to collect even more "Qs and Blues."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Making Tracks

Our most recent excursion, unlike the previous ones, did not involve the Millennium Falcon or the Royals. It was related, though. We left on Wednesday of last week via American Airlines bound for Lewisville, KY, to pick up our "caboose." That is, we went to acquire a 2004 four-wheel-drive Chevy Tracker, which we will tow behind our fifth wheel. If you followed our previous trips with the big truck, you know that thereare downsides to having only one vehicle to drive if it's the tractor part of a tractor-trailer! 

So, when we learned that the Tracker was available from a fellow Escapees RV Club member, we made arrangements to add it to our assortment of vehicles and (hopefully) make traveling with the fifth wheel less complicated. We were also excited about seeing a part of the country that neither of us has visited before, to check out things to see and do, and to locate RV parks for future use.

We arrived in Louisville and were met by the folks who were selling the Tracker. After lunch and a thorough examination of the vehicle, we decided to spend the night in Louisville and see some of the local color before undertaking the +/- 1,000-mile trip home. Luckily, we found space at the downtown Hampton Inn, just a couple of blocks from the entertainment district, shown here.

Being in the heart of Bourbon Country, we decided to sample some of the good stuff, and headed for the Maker's Mark Bourbon Bar. A couple of appetizers later, accompanied by a couple of Manhattans and a flight of Bourbons, we called it a night. We liked the Maker's, but were wowed by the Four Roses! You can see how much we liked it, and no wonder....it's 100 proof!

Thursday morning, we set off for a nice walk through the downtown area. Louisville is lovely, and probably the cleanest city we've ever visited. There wasn't a single beer can or cigarette butt to be seen. There was, however, plenty of art. The waterfront park features a magnificent sculpture of York, one of the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Sculptures of horses, however, are more numerous. Austin has its decorated guitar sculptures; Louisville has its thoroughbreds. Two examples are sculptures depicting Derby Winner Real Quiet, and 1987 contender Alysheba.

We also toured Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. We were told that last year's Derby winner Mine That Bird was in residence, as well as super filly Rachel Alexandra. We didn't see either of them, but we did watch this handsome guy getting a bath after his morning workout.

After leaving Louisville, we stopped for a tour of the Jim Beam Distillery, part of the Bourbon Trail that stretches from Louisville to Lexington and back. Unfortunately the Jim Beam facility was being renovated and actual tours were not available. We did sample a couple of their fine whiskeys, though, and will return another day to take the full tour.

Thursday night found us in Jackson, Tennessee, relaxing in another Hampton Inn. On the way out, we planned a visit to the Casey Jones Village, named in honor of the legendary railroad engineer who sacrificed himself to save his passengers. Our sightseeing Karma still wasn't working, though. The railroad museum was closed due to a power problem. We made a quick visit to the Country Store, with its supply of Elvis Presley memorabilia and old-fashioned candies, and were on our way.

Friday night we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas. We would have visited the Clinton Museum, but John said that, since we are registered Republicans, our names were probably on the equivalent of the "No Fly" list there. We did, however, visit the Peabody Hotel, where we were just in time for a cocktail and the Parade of Ducks.   At precisely 5:00 p.m., surrounded by camera-toting fans, the ducks are escorted from the lobby fountain along their red carpet to the glass-fronted elevator, and from there to the Duck Palace on the second floor. Sometimes being a duck can be pretty nice!

Saturday morning we took a walk along the Arkansas river, and saw the famous "Little Rock" for which the city is named. It's located at the base of the pedestrian bridge over the river, and is shown in the photo below.  (And it really is a little rock.)

After our walk, we visited what is the probably the best farmer's market I have ever seen! Located along the waterfront, it features an amazing array of produce, flowers, and arts and crafts.

I could have spent the morning, but we had another 300+ miles to go. We bought a few vegetables to take home, and headed for Fort Worth.

We spent the night with Cousin Kathy Cash and her husband, Eric Vanderbeck and family dog Jack. Kathy, Eric and Jack are frequent visitors to the farm in Hamilton County, but we had not seen their Fort Worth home, nor the three chickens who always send a supply of eggs to farm weekends. Released from the "hen spa" for some foraging time in the yard, they made good use of their time to stock up on bugs, worms and whatever else chickens enjoy. Eric's special favorite is "Nekkid Neck," the Turken, sporting her (really) naked neck and small cap of black feathers.

Here chicken-sisters, the Silver Laced Wyandotte, and "palomino" Araucana entertained us with chicken conversation as they scrounged around for bugs.

On Saturday, we had breakfast with Michal's brother, Allan and wife Jefflyn Jones, Kathy and Eric, and Michal's mother, Evelyn Jones, who was there for a short visit. We also had a chance to visit Cousin Karen and the homes of Nieces Anna and Erin and their families.  We took Evelyn back to Hamilton on our way home. Only one small hitch...when we got to the farm to check things before returning to Austin, we found that Bos, our sweet and gentle Bonsmara bull, had decided to go visiting next door and had demolished about 50 feet of fence. John and I spent Sunday afternoon making repairs so we could return him to his home pasture....and hope he stays put!

The Tracker performed well on the trip home, and we look forward to hooking it up and heading out for a longer trip this fall.