Friday, December 5, 2014

Back in our Rut and Having a Doggone Good Time!

Well, we’re back in our rut, so to speak.  Not really, though.  Since we got home we’ve been moving non-stop.  Trips to the farm to move hay, sell calves and do other chores have been a weekly occurrence.  Through it all, Colt, Rue and the cows kept a close eye on each other.

We arrived home in Volente to find the yard looking lush and green, but a little wild and wooly.  We’ve now had the flower beds weeded, bushes trimmed and the yard mowed.  It looked great for a few days, but then the weather turned unseasonably cold.  The early freezes have meant that we needed to move plants inside several weeks early, and that the leaves began to turn a bit sooner than usual.  The ones at the farm have been especially pretty.

We hardly had time to catch our breath, and it was time to get ready for Thanksgiving.  We left for the farm on the Monday before, and began to prepare for a big holiday weekend.  We were joined on Wednesday by Cousins Kathy and Eric, then a few hours later by my brother and his wife.  At that point the humans were outnumbered; there were only six of us and seven dogs!  They were flying in all directions most of the time, so it was impossible to get all of them in one photo, but you get the idea!

In addition to our three, Kathy and Eric brought 10-month-old Kaia, who was readily accepted since she looks a lot like a Border Collie.

My brother, Allan, and his wife, Jefflyn, (Jef) showed up with their own Molly and their two “grand-dogs,” Clover the "All-American," and Rudy the Brittany Spaniel.  

It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that bedlam and mayhem quickly followed.  There were dogs flying in every direction, chasing, barking and in general having a fine time.  To give you some idea of our “entertainment” for at least part of the weekend, here are a few of my favorite photos.

Playing chase at the stock tank

Enjoying the fruits of a successful search for cow pies!
My brother’s family spent Thanksgiving Day with Jef’s mother and her siblings, while Kathy, Eric, John and I drove into neighboring Clifton to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Isbell’s.  The small, family-owned restaurant outdid themselves.  In spite of the fact that some of their employees didn’t show up for work, they pulled it together and delivered a just-as-good-as-home-cooked turkey/ham and all the trimmings dinner.  

There was even pecan pie with a crust like my mother always made!  We were thrilled to have someone else do the cooking (and the clean-up!) and look forward to going back next year.

Things really got lively on Friday when my son, Brian, and his family (including our grand-dog, Louie) arrived and my brother’s whole family was back.  

Mallory is finishing her senior year in high school, and Myles just celebrated his 14th birthday.  Can you guess why we call them "The Redheads!"

In the afternoon, Kathy and Eric gave rides on their horses, Radius and Savvy.  

Noah gave tours of the tepee fort he had built from cedar poles, and Jamey demonstrated how he would climb up into the big elm tree.

(Photos of these activities are still on my camera at the farm....stay tuned!)

Our Friday full-family get-together started with happy hour at my brother’s house.  

While the grownups visited, my nieces' children, Noah, Rachel, Jamey and Laura, amused themselves with books and dogs.  


Happy hour was followed by dinner for 19 at our place.  John and sous-chef Kathy outdid themselves with a fantastic pork butt, and the go-withs everyone brought were spectacular.  By the end of the evening, there were 19 full bellies, and not a leftover on the place!  

On Saturday there were more riding lessons, long walks to admire the leaves, and more dog fun with the pack now at full strength.  With two puppies, 10-month-old Kaia and 13-month-old Clover, there was never a dull moment. Chewing bones was very popular.

Clover wasn't exactly sure what to do with hers, so she turned to Molly for instruction.
Molly also gave her a lesson in the proper way to "mark" your territory.  

The unusual way Molly lifts her leg to pee was started by original Pack Leader Lucky Dog.  She taught it to Feathers and Nickie, and then to Molly.  We keep hoping some of the other dogs will follow Molly's example and continue the tradition, but so far none of them have.  Clover was paying close attention, however.

By Saturday evening, we were all exhausted and happy, but looking forward to the next gathering.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adventures and Misadventures

Well, we have had more adventures, and misadventures since my last post.  It seems the last report from the road is the hardest to finish, but it's finally done!

We enjoyed Lake Bob Sandlin State Park so much that we stayed a couple of extra days.  The trails were wonderful, if rugged,  and we were only scolded once for letting the dogs off leash.  

They did manage to get into a couple of the slough-like ponds, though, and came out smelling like swamp creatures.  They all got baths when we got back to camp.

On Sunday, I drove most of the way from East Texas to Waco…through Tyler, Athens, Malakoff and all those other small towns with multiple stop lights.  It was good practice, though.  I’m getting lots better at stopping and starting, and corners aren’t so scary.  

When we got to Waco, we stopped at Airport COE Park, one of our favorites.  About 25% of their sites are full-hookup, and #61 had a great view of the lake.  

Waco Lake is a clear, constant-level impound, and the bottom is gravel.  The dogs loved it, and worked off a lot of energy playing in the water and fetching sticks. 

We stayed two nights in Waco, and played tourist on Monday.  The Waco Mammoth Site was closed, but we did spend a couple of hours at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.  We’ve been meaning to do that for years, and were very glad we did.  There is a lot of history there, not just about the Rangers, but about some aspects of Texas history that I either never knew or had forgotten.  From the statue out front to the exhibits inside, it's well worth a visit.

The Texas Rangers are the oldest state law enforcement body in the United States.  They were unofficially created in 1823 in a call-to-arms written by Stephen F. Austin, then were officially authorized in 1835, primarily to defend the border.  Disbanded by Federal authorities shortly after the Civil War, the Rangers were quickly reconstituted when home government was restored.  They have protected settlers from Indians and outlaws, investigated crimes, acted as detectives and riot police, and protected the Governor of Texas.  Since 1935, the Rangers have been a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and enjoy a proud tradition in Texas and worldwide.

Not only did we enjoy the exhibits featuring “real” Rangers, we also saw a collection of memorabilia from the “Lone Ranger” movie and TV series.  The Lone Ranger, his white stallion, Silver, and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, were a part of my childhood, so I was glad to relive some of those experiences.  

And then came the misadventures.  We left Waco on Tuesday morning, bound (we thought) for Austin.  Then, in Bruceville-Eddy, just a few miles south of Waco, we experienced a double-blowout of the two left rear tires on the RV.  We were traveling south on IH 35 through a construction zone when our Pressure Pro tire monitoring system lit up like a Christmas tree and alarms sounded.  Fortunately we were on a stretch of road that had some shoulder and John managed to get us to the side quickly.  However, by the time we had pulled over and stopped, we were only a few feet from a section of road with concrete barricades on both sides and no shoulder.  

Since we could only creep along on our one remaining tire, there was no way we could pull out into 60-70 mph traffic without help.  We called 911 and were quickly assisted by two Bruceville-Eddy patrolmen.  We limped off the interstate, and some 3 hours later had our spare and a new tire mounted and were on our way.  Interestingly, the guy who changed our tires said he had fixed several blowouts on that stretch of road in the past week, the latest that morning at almost exactly the same spot where we had problems.  I wonder if someone didn't drop a box of nails or some other tire-unfriendly material!

Instead of going into Austin during afternoon rush hour, we spent Tuesday night outside Belton at Live Oak Ridge COE Park, then continued on to Volente on Wednesday.  We parked the rig and began the looooonnnnng, arduous task of unpacking and settling back into our “sticks and bricks.”  We had a great time, are glad to be home, and are looking forward to our next adventure.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Back to the Piney Woods

After enjoying a beautiful sunrise out our back window, we said goodbye to our friends, hooked up the RV and left Hutchinson on Tuesday, October 21.  

I maneuvered us through Hutch and almost all the way to Tulsa.  I was glad to be so comfortable handling our rig under different driving conditions.  It’s really a pleasure to drive, and our Copilot Truck software gives us confidence that we won’t wind up on a bridge that won’t support us, or scraping the air conditioning units off on a too-low underpass.  (When we bought the software, we put in all our rig’s vital statistics, and the software analyzes our route and sends us on roads appropriate for our size.)

But the driving conditions did get interesting.  Sometimes “Mr. Rogers” as we call the voice of Copilot Truck, doesn’t consider all the things we would like.  After an uneventful trip across Kansas and through a lot of Oklahoma, we were glad to be nearing our destination, Walnut Creek State Park near Prue, Oklahoma.  The park was well-rated by RV Park Reviews, which has been pretty reliable for us.  In addition, friends have stayed there in the past.  

Walnut Creek Park is located on Keystone Lake, and Mr. Rogers directed us to take a round-about route to get there.  The road conditions got worse and worse as we went along, but there was no place to turn around.  We were bouncing along at 20-25 mph, and I’m convinced some of the potholes were as bad as the frost heaves our friends Janet and Ray encountered on their RV trip to Alaska!  Finally, Mr. Rogers told us we were at our destination, but there were no signs, and only a very small road we weren’t about to take.

We continued on for a half-mile or so, and pulled in to the only convenience store/gas station on that entire stretch of road.  Then we got the news .… The park was located on Corps of Engineers Land and operated by the State of Oklahoma.  According to the locals at the convenience store, the park wasn’t profitable and on October 1 the State of Oklahoma returned it to the COE.   The COE unceremoniously closed it and removed the sign, leaving us and who knows how many other people wondering what happened!  We were disappointed, but at least we didn’t have to take that very small entrance road.

John took over the driving to give me a rest, and a half-hour later, we pulled into Keystone State Park.  We had just enough time to unhook and set up before it began to get dark.  Most of Keystone’s sites are on the small side, but # 302 fit us well.  The dogs liked the big, grassy yard, and there were nice areas to walk and stretch our legs.  

John’s arm is much better and he drove us home to Texas on Wednesday.  We took several toll roads as we crossed Oklahoma, including the Indian Nation Turnpike.  We have decided that, although the traffic is much lighter than on the interstate, the roads aren’t well maintained and it’s really not worth the $$$.  

We are presently parked in the piney woods in Lake Bob Sandlin State Park near Pittsburg, TX.  Space #11 is long enough to hold the RV, but the Volvo and Tracker are parked in an adjacent overflow area.  

Our yard is large and grassy, and has access to the lake.  

The dogs are enjoying themselves, especially since the park has several miles of walking trails that wind through the piney woods and a fishing pond where they take dips. 

The foliage is lush and beautiful.  Even though most of the leaves haven't taken on their fall colors, the beauty berry bushes are loaded!  We even found a few pink ones among the purple.

We are in this particular area to discuss some proposed modifications to our truck bed with a couple of guys who specialize in that work.  As a result, we’ve been driving around the area a bit.  Just outside the small town of Gilmer, we came upon a very unusual sight.

Some 30 fence panels were hung with women’s bras in every size and color imaginable.  We turned around for a better look, and saw this sign in front of the house.

Knowing there was certainly a story here, I consulted Google and learned that the fence is a project of Breast Cancer Survivor Cynthia Clark.  After her mastectomy in 2010, Cynthia didn’t know what to do with all her bras.  She decided to use them to raise awareness of breast cancer and the need for women to get a yearly mammogram, since that is how her cancer was detected.  She solicited help from family and friends, and In October of 2011, she, her daughter and granddaughter decorated the fence with bras.  

Women continue to donate bras to the cause, and each October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) Cynthia hangs bras on the fence around her house to raise awareness and help prevent this disease.  The number of bras displayed has now grown to over 800.  We were very fortunate to be in the area this month, and hope to see even more bras if we visit next October.

We discovered another not-to-be missed attraction in the area.  Vaughan's Catfish Restaurant is just outside the park entrance, only 5 minutes or so from our campsite.  On Thursday evening we indulged in their all-you-can eat special and enjoyed every mouthful.  It's been our only all-you-can-eat extravaganza this trip, and worth waiting for.  

(But I do think John looks a little guilty, don't you?)