Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tuesday, December 29, 2009, through Monday, January 18, 2010: At Harlingen, Texas:
We were scheduled to stay at Tropic Winds RV Park for two weeks. It rained all the way from Elmendorf to Harlingen. Not a hard rain, but steady. Because of the rain, we were told not to park our trailer on the grass at our site. Instead, we were instructed to park on the narrow concrete pad adjacent to the site. The concrete pad is normally used for picnic tables, outdoor furniture, etc. (I would rather park on a hard surface, anyway, so I was OK with the instruction.) We tried very hard to avoid the grass in backing into our site, but we dug quite a trench in the grass, nevertheless. One of the joys of having such a long truck is that it’s hard to steer the trailer when backing up in a small area.
We just relaxed Tuesday night after joining other park residents for Hamburger Night at the lodge. Wednesday was dry but very cold and windy. Thursday (New Years Eve) was dry, warm, and beautiful. We went on a seven (+)- mile bike ride. I discovered that a 30 amp extension cord I had made a few weeks ago (and not had an occasion to use until we arrived here) was melting from internal arcing. Fortunately, the cord was outside the trailer (connecting the trailer to the power pedestal) and an RV store was not too far away. I guess I will stop making things that other people manufacture for a living. On Thursday night, we had a very nice dinner at the local Texas Roadhouse restaurant. There was so much food we took half of it home. The place was mobbed. I think we were the youngest patrons. New Years Day (Friday) was typical for me---fizzes and football! I really didn’t care about the games and didn’t watch all of any of them. Being a Pac-10 alum, though, I was disappointed that Oregon lost to Ohio State. On Saturday, we drove to the gulf---to South Padre Island (125 miles round-trip) ---
to see what it looked like without thousands of screaming college kids during Spring Break. It was quite calm. We did, however, have a nice lunch at Amberjacks—a beachside seafood restaurant. It was right on the water with piers and birds basking in the sun.

Our waiter, Manny, was terrific. Sunday and Monday were devoted to pickle ball,

shopping, and a little trailer maintenance.

On Tuesday, I stopped at the local NAPA auto parts store because one of my truck batteries had been diagnosed as leaking acid at one terminal when we were in Yuma. I had bought the battery two years ago when we were at the Grand Canyon. It happened to be a NAPA brand battery, and, while I knew it was out of warranty, I thought there would be some sort of proration of the cost of a new battery. In addition to the new battery, they sold me some acid neutralizer for preventive purposes. I sprayed it on the offending terminal. The can said the stuff (which was red) would turn yellow if there was any acid present in the area. It did not say anything about the way the stuff would foam up. It looked like the laundry soap scene from "Mister Roberts" when the bright yellow foam covered the battery and surrounding area. The installer dutifully cleaned it all up for me. It turned out that the old battery was one with a seven-year “guaranteed” life, and, while a proration was appropriate, the dealer decided to simply give me the new battery for free. He even installed it at no cost. What a guy! What a surprise!

That same evening, we saw "Invictus" with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It was fabulous, and had another terrific Texas meal---this time at Logan's Texas Roadhouse. Again, half of it came home in a doggy bag. The Texans sure love their beef and large portions.

There are many jack rabbits at this RV resort. Daisy has been entertained.

Because of the expected good weather where we were (the prediction for the weather where we intended to go next was awful) and the fun Bill and Becky were having playing pickle ball, we have decided to stay at Tropic Winds for an extra week. Because that exceeds our "free" time under the rules of our Thousand Trails membership, we had to not only pay retail for the extra week, but move to another part of the park (away from the area reserved for "those Thousand Trail people"). So be it. We moved to a terrific spot closer to the pickle ball court, so Bill and Becky were ecstatic.

We worked in a side trip to Mission, Texas, a depressing town about 60 miles west of Harlingen. We had lunch at what was purported to be the best Mexican restaurant in town. We then visited a new RV/Second home development outside of Mission. The setup was strange. There were partial houses connected (roof and all) to a place to park one's RV. The front door to the "house" opened to a breezeway between the RV and the house. Apparently, these were designed to have you live in your RV but have an easy transition to a couple of extra rooms.

We went to an RV show in nearby Mercedes, Texas. RVers love to see what's new in the genre and to gloat about how much better what we have is than what is now on the market.

We also took advantage of the hot tub at our park.
On our last Saturday at Tropic Winds, Becky injured her foot chasing a pickle ball. She was not a happy camper. On Monday, the 18th, we finally said goodbye to Harlingen and Tropic Winds and headed for Victoria, a one-night stop on the way to Lake Conroe, Texas, where we are scheduled to stay for two weeks. A final word about Harlingen: After three enjoyable weeks there, we (all four of us) agreed that the town was so strangely laid out that we still had no idea where we were going at any time. We knew how to get to various venues, but we never knew where we we while on the way.

Monday, December 28, 2009: Heading to Elmendorf:
Today we traveled to an RV park near Elmendorf, Texas, so we could spend the afternoon and evening with Linda and Murray Metcalfe,
some co-workers at the North Rim in 2006. Their home is nearby. We re-lived the campfire experience we used to have at the North Rim. Murray even supplied us with peanuts, which we used to have at our campfires.
Linda made us a very nice dinner, including eggnog, which I drank with gusto.

Wednesday, December 23 through Sunday, December 27, 2009: In Austin, Texas:
We made the 120-mile trip from Medina Lake to Austin without mishap, and settled in at La Hacienda RV Park---next to the Wheelers. We called Rick and arranged to have them meet us at the RV park and lead us to a place for dinner. We ate at the Iguana Grill, overlooking Lake Travis---good food and even better margaritas. Thursday morning we woke to ferocious winds, which made the 45 degree temperature feel like 25 degrees. The winds lasted all day. We all went to the local gas station/mini-mart for coffee. On the spur of the moment, we left there and headed for the “nearby” Costco. We got directions from Joell by phone and proceeded to miss a key turn, making a 20-mile round trip into a 53-mile round trip. Naturally, we over-bought at Costco.

We were all invited to Barbara Coad’s sister’s house for a Christmas Eve party. Rick suggested we meet beforehand at the University of Texas Golf Club for a round of adult beverages. We talked our way past the guard by telling him we were going to have dinner there. When we arrived at the club house, it was eerily quiet. It turned out to be closed (something the guard should have known, I think). We ended up at Rick and Joell’s house for our pre-party beverages.
The party was fun. Barbara’s sister (Debbie) and brother-in-law (Don) are very nice, and comfortable to be around.

Christmas morning started with a few batches of Ebbert Fizzes (my personal version of a Ramos Fizz). The rest of the morning was spent in quiet repose (actually, naps). In the afternoon we went to Rick and Joell’s again, this time for dinner. Their neighbors Chip and Andrea Cooley joined us. In the early afternoon on Saturday, December 26th, we all went to Hamilton Pool, a state park with a waterfall, in the woods.

There as a steep hike in and out. Sunday morning we went to Rick’s warehouse to see his inventory of cars.

Very nice. Afterwards, Rick took us on a quickie tour of Austin. The main sights were the Capitol and the University (of Texas). The football stadium there is awe inspiring. We went to lunch at The Oasis, overlooking Lake Travis.

Saturday, December 19 though Tuesday, December 22, 2009, at Medina Lake:
This stay at the beautiful Thousand Trails Medina Lake preserve was supposed to be a relaxing warm-up for the hectic Christmas week to follow. For the most part, it was. The Map Quest instructions we gave the Wheelers were wrong in one important place, and they ended up on a dirt road that was not wide enough for their motor home. They had to unhook their tow car from the rig, and back out. A couple of phone calls later, they arrived at the preserve. We arrived (without incident, having printed directions from a different source) just in time for the Saturday afternoon ice cream party. Since it cost only a buck, we had to participate. That afternoon, Becky and Bill found a couple who were into pickle ball, and the competitive spirit took over. Pat and I rarely saw them after that. I found time to repair a drain valve problem that had arisen a few days earlier. We fed the deer a lot. They were glad to see us back.

Thursday, December 17 and Friday, December 18, 2009; at Fredericksburg:
We came to this pretty little town because we had seen a little of it in August, and were intrigued. It was the birthplace of Admiral Nimitz, and there is a museum in his honor as well as a museum dedicated to the Pacific War in general. Of course, we went to neither one. We did, however, ride past the war museum while on a bicycle tour
of the residential area of town. There is an unusual mix of architecture there, and I’m not sure they have much zoning control. One interesting highlight: The town was founded by German immigrants, lured there by the gift of free farm land and an additional small plot of land in town. They built a small house on the town property to use when they came to town for business, church, etc. Many of the so-called “Sunday Houses” are still there, not used any longer but preserved as a part of town history. One of the homes had a funny banner on the front lawn.

Sunday, December 6 through Wednesday, December 16, 2009:
We returned from Park City to Wilderness Lakes on Sunday, and rested a bit due to the constant rain. Without much to do, we decided to back up some of the data on our computer, which we hadn’t done for a few years. Big mistake! In the process, our hard drive crashed for the first time in the 25+ years we have had PC. Because of the timing, we couldn’t deal with the problem until we got to Yuma, Arizona.

On Tuesday, we left for Yuma, mainly to visit Jerry and Robi Sypkens (former colleagues from the North Rim), who were spending time there. We stayed at Yuma Lakes RV Resort, a nice place. Bill had his transmission cables repaired and I had our fuel filter replaced (to get rid of the “check engine” light on our dashboard). If it’s not one thing, it’s another! We were enticed by Jerry to join in the stupidest card game in the world, Pegs & Jokers.

The girls kayaked with Jerry,

Yuma is the lettuce capital of the world!

We left on Saturday, and headed for Tucson to stay at the Voyager RV Resort. It was very nice, but had a lot of old people. We had an uneventful trip to get there. We spent three days there, Becky and Pat hiked; Bill and I relaxed, including a visit to the RV park where Bill and Pat stayed when they worked in Tucson a few years ago. Bill renewed acquaintances with some of the old timers there. We started to deal with the computer problem. After some confusion involving the geniuses at Best Buy (Never again!) we got our old computer back with a blank hard drive and our old program disks. We also now have a notebook computer, as well. We couldn’t resist its cuteness. Its main purpose is to give us both the chance to be “working” at the same time. (Sometimes, “working” means playing hearts or free cell.)

Becky had dinner one night with a former Grand Canyon South Rim colleague, Laura Dillon.
Since we had been there just a couple of months ago, and because Tucson isn’t very interesting, there wasn’t any sightseeing to do. Going to Costco was a highlight.

On Tuesday, we headed for Las Cruces, New Mexico (to the Siesta RV park), for a one-night stay. The RV park was laid out at the time of the Model T Ford, apparently, since the sites were miniscule. It was easy pulling in, but quite a challenge to get out. We spent some time at the historic Mesilla area of Las Cruces.
New Mexico State University is located in Las Cruces. Yippee! On Wednesday, we headed for Fort Stockton, Texas, also for a one-night stay at the same (nice) Fort Stockton RV park we had occupied on prior occasions. I got diesel at the nearby filling station the night we arrived (i.e., the night before we left) and forgot to retrieve my American Express card. I realized it the next morning, just a few seconds before we were to enter the highway leading out of Fort Stockton. I was quite relieved when the clerk was able to locate, and return, my card.

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