grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, May 31, 2008

28-30MAY08 - Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

Before departing Kerrville, TX, on the 28th, Dan learned that he had four day job for LSU in Ohio 11JUN. So rather then driving straight to the Seattle area just to catch a plane, we decided to take our time and Dan would fly out of Denver. We always enjoy driving the RV in Texas even on the two lane roads. Not only are the two lane roads in excellent shape, but often the speed limit is 65 or 70mph. And the state is now spending millions of dollars on what they call Texas Public Safety Rest Stop Areas. These facilities are not only on the interstates but on many of the other major highways throughout the state. Each facility is designed based on the local area architecture and uses native materials from that area of Texas; in addition, each facility contains small geographic and historical displays for that area. Lastly, each facility has free WiFi.

Since we were in no big rush, we decided to spend several days in the Amarillo area before going to Denver. Before we arrived in Amarillo, we spent the night in Big Spring, TX. The next morning we continued to head north to Amarillo. In about an hour we approached the town of Lamesa, TX, when Dan announced we needed to pull into town for a quick photo op? Turns out a local business has one of the original and very rare “Uniroyal Girls”. Although this uniroyal girl has been redone to resemble a local high school cheerleader, there is no doubt that it is a uniroyal girl! For more info, check out:

As we continued to drive north and west to Amarillo, we continued to experience the record heat TX has experienced for the last several weeks. In fact the heat and continued drought resulted in several dust storms obscuring the road during the drive. As we drove this flat and treeless plains area we finally came to our first camp site in the Amarillo area without warning – Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon, after the Grand Canyon, in the USA. But let’s just say there is a big difference between number one and number two. But one neat thing is that you can camp in your RV at the bottom of the canyon; after you navigate the narrow, switch backed, two mile road that drops 800 feet with a 10% grade. The Park Rangers gave us no warning about the road, but luckily we had decided to disconnect the Toad before driving the road.

Although nowhere near as spectacular as Grand Canyon, the canyon walls are still beautiful. Plus many buildings built by the CCC remain. The Visitor Center (built by the CCC) has small historical display on the CCC in Palo Duro Canyon along with some of the handcrafted furniture they built. The State Park is also home to the musical drama “Texas” for the last 41 years. The play runs from early June to mid August. The cast was going through dress rehearsals while we were there and we got to see some of the light show on the Canyon walls that appears to be part of the grand finale.

The next morning, Friday, we drove the canyon floor inside the State Park enjoying the beautiful scenery. Since we had zero cell phone or computer connectivity in the bottom of the canyon, we headed into Canyon, TX, later that morning. After checking e-mails at the library it was time for lunch at the Ranch House Café. Definitely a local favorite as it quickly filled up with construction workers and ranch hands. Dan definitely enjoyed the heart healthy chicken fried steak sandwich.

Dan then took Corrie back to the RV so he could check out the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum (largest state history museum in TX). This is an excellent museum with displays covering panhandle paleontology, Native Americans, ranching life, panhandle geology, oil industry, the importance of windmills to ranches, a replica of early TX pioneer town, extensive firearms collection, and several art displays with Native American art and “cowboy” art. There was a special and moving display of a document called “A Kiowa’s Odyssey”; one of the few illustrated documents by a Native American as they were displaced by European settlers.

Unfortunately the museum was also displaying the firearm and art collection of Samuel Colt. Because of this the entrance fee was raised from $7 to $12. Dan felt the Colt exhibit was not worth it. Especially since the Colt security personnel would not let you photo anything, because everything was “copy righted”.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

20-27MAY08 - Kerrville, TX (we're back!)

After leaving Livingston, TX, on the 20MAY we decided to drive straight through to Kerrville, TX, rather than taking two days. For new readers of this BLOG, we always try to spend time in Kerrville because Dan’s sister Sharon, her husband Tim, and Dan Sr live there. For more details, see our previous BLOGs about Kerrville & Dan’s relatives.

Since Tim & Sharon both have jobs we would visit briefly at the end of their workdays, after taking a day to recuperate from our drive. But on Saturday we met Sharon and Tim downtown at local craft fair. The hi-lite of the fair for Dan was eating jalapeño ice cream made by an ice cream churn powered by a 100 year old John Deere gas engine. From there it was off to Luckenbach which was celebrating its 150 yr birthday for the 10th dang time. For those that don’t know Luckenbach, their motto is “Luckenbach, where everyone is somebody.”; and the place was made famous by a Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson song in 1977. Luckenbach consists of nothing more than four buildings and is known for the mostly free music that occurs there (especially on weekends). On Sundays musicians from all over the hill country of TX gather to take turns picking and a singing. On rare occasions nationally famous musicians, like Willie, may show up unannounced. During good weather hundreds of bikers will stop at Luckenbach. For Luckenbach’s birthday free live music was scheduled through the day. At one point, one of the bands put down their instruments to play a rubber chicken, rubber rat and two kazoos. Even though the area was experiencing record heat, we all had a great time and Corrie even had her picture taken on a Longhorn steer.

The next day, Sunday, it was off to Gruene Hall (pronounced Green) for more free music. Gruene Hall is listed as Texas’ oldest dance hall. At one time there were hundreds of Halls throughout Texas where ranch and farm hands would come on Friday and Saturday nights for live entertainment. Today there are just few in use, primarily in the Hill Country.

Turns out we were able to catch a CD release by Guy Forsyth. Guy put on an excellent show, playing a blend of country, rock and blues. Dan was considering purchasing one of Guy’s CDs, put felt that $25 was a little steep.

On Memorial Day we gathered at Tim & Sharon’s for an impromptu BBQ. Dan made drunken chicken, and Tim made deer steaks and sausage. Several of the neighbors were invited and good time was had by all. After another home cooked meal on Tuesday, 27MAY, we again placed the Mercedes in their shed, and it was time for us to hit the road and make our way back to Washington state.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

13-19MAY08 - Kinder, LA & Livingston, TX

Tuesday, 13MAY, we got a later start than planned because Dan insisted on cutting plywood hurricane boards for all the windows and doors before departing on Rebecca and Raymond’s recently purchased house. Once this was done we headed to the RV resort at the Coushatta Indian Casino in Kinder, LA (see our BLOG for 03APR for more details on this establishment). Once again we stayed for free because we visited the casino, unfortunately we lost a little more money than last time.

Wednesday morning we fueled up the vehicles at Casino’s station because fuel was still ten cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else in Louisiana or Texas. From Kinder we continued to the Escapees RV Club in Livingston, TX (see our BLOG for 27MAR-02APR for more details on this establishment). During the drive we encountered driving rain, for once this was a good thing. Why? Because the love bugs were mating!

The love bug (also known as march fly, honeymoon fly, telephone bug, kissybug and double-headed bug) (scientific name Plecia nearctica) is a small flying insect common to the south. During the semi-annual love bug flights or "seasons", the insects are commonly found spattered on the hoods and windshields of automobiles. The body of the love bug is acidic and can affect the paint on vehicles if not washed off. Upon mating, both love bugs fly around joined together until they commit suicide on your vehicle! So having accumulated thousands of love bug couples on the RV, it was nice to have the rain wash them away before the paint was damaged.

We stopped in Livingston, TX, because it put us one day’s travel from Dan’s sister and husband, and Dan’s dad, in Kerrville, TX; but because we were going to try and buy a new toad using the Mercedes as a trade in. Wrong! Even though Houston is the fourth largest city in America, it appears to us that the car dealers are not interested in selling cars; they just want to give you a hard time. We figured that with the large number of auto dealers in and around Houston, we would eventually find a reasonable deal. Well, after wasting three full days of our lives we realized that car buying is still one of the worst experiences in America! And we will be sticking the Mercedes back into the open ended shed on Sharon and Tim’s property in Kerrville.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

14APR-12MAY08 - Houma, LA (home sweet, first home)

Three days after returning to Houma from New Orleans and the French Quarter Festival, Rebecca and Raymond finally closed on their first house 17APR. The house was built around 1975 and is in a nice neighborhood of Houma, called Mulberry. And the house backs right up to a city park. Being over thirty years old, we knew the house needed some work (not to mention removing the dreaded orange shag carpet that was so popular in the 70s in two bedrooms). Loyal readers of this BLOG (see 15DEC07 entry) know we had promised the kids that money saved by having a small wedding would go toward their first house; and now it was time to pay-up.

After the closing we moved the RV over to the house’s driveway and discovered that it fit with one foot to spare! After parking the RV we discovered the first bad news. We have learned to test all electrical circuits before plugging the RV into shore power. When Dan did this, he discovered that there was an open ground in the circuit (not good!). Further testing showed that the house was originally wired with two prong plugs only (ie one hot wire and one neutral wire); but later someone had added some three prong plugs (ie one hot, one neutral and one ground). After testing all the plugs in the house we determined that the original two prong plugs were still okay; but half the three prong were not grounded for some reason. Anyway we plugged the RV into one of the “good” three prongs and made a note to call an electrician.

Immediately after that bad news, we discovered some good news. As we started pulling carpet back we discovered the house had parquet wood floors! (for some reason any time someone says parquet, Dan says butter?) So we decided to rip out not only the orange shag carpet in two bedrooms, but the pretty new gold carpet in the master bedroom, hall, dining room and living room and refinish the parquet floors. But when we removed the gold carpet from the dining room, we discovered that the parquet did not extend that far, and it was ugly yellow linoleum. So the decision was then made to install tile flooring in the dining room and kitchen; something we were going to do next year. So at the end of day one we needed to find an electrician, and had basically ended up deciding to dealing with all the floors in the house (except bathrooms)!

We developed the following plan of attack:

---remove all carpeting

---refinish parquet floors

---install tile floors

---after floor in particular room was done, paint out room

---add additional insulation to attic

---fix electrical problems

---misc items like new faucets, some new moldings, work bench & shelving in storeroom, solve water leak in laundry room, closet organizers, strip wall paper, clear & clean yard, etc.

---dump runs to remove debris

---deal with surprises!!!

Dan took on the task of improving insulation in the attic. This was not an easy task because the attic was only four feet high at highest point; and since the house was built on a concrete slab, all the wiring, piping and venting is in the attic! In fact all the major machinery for the AC/heating system, except the heat pump, is in the attic. It was while in the attic, that Dan decided that the electrical issues needed immediate attention. It seems he placed one hand on a metal junction box, while his other hand was on a water pipe and experienced an electrifying moment! Long story, short, we finally got an electrician to trouble shoot the house, fix the major problems, and we now have list of things to do later.

Also while in the attic Dan bumped the flexible gas line to the heater, and it started to leak! Dan immediately shut the gas and electricity off to the house and called the gas company. It was encouraging to see them show up in less than five minutes. The technician looked at the line and listened to Dan’s description. He showed Dan how to shut of gas just to heater and began to leave. Dan asked him about repairing the flexible line. Technician told Dan just to go to hardware store, buy new line and do the repair himself (ie not their job). Dan will work on plumbing and electrical, but decided to call a professional on this. For $125 we had a new line and the entire gas heating system was checked out.

Meanwhile, we (Rebecca, Raymond, Corrie & Dan), along with some of Rebecca & Raymond’s friends had ripped out all the carpeting and it was time to refinish the parquet floors. This involved getting down on your hands and knees to find all the nails and staples used to hold the carpet down. Then more time on your hands and knees to remove the glue and stains accumulated over thirty years. Then Corrie would apply a finish that needed three days to fully cure. You could walk on it after 24hrs, but it wasn’t fully cured and would easily scratch or mar.

The biggest headache with not damaging the floors for three days was the dogs and their nails. As you know from reading this BLOG, Rebecca & Raymond have a Weimaraner puppy named Gracie, and of course we have Gumbo the one eyed Jack. So while the floors were curing during the day we would lock them in the backyard. They would stand at the patio door, looking so sad. It was during this exile to the backyard that they went from not tolerating each other to discovering sex (or trying to). They each had some vague idea of what it was all about, but couldn’t figure it out. Gumbo would try to figure out how to mount Gracie, but that was impossible as would be climbing Mount Everest; or Gracie would stand over Gumbo and wonder why nothing was happening?

During this time Dan did teach the dogs how to play “tug-of-war”. For any you who have met Gumbo, you know how he loves to take his lead (or any rope) in his mouth and tug and tug. One of the dog toys in the backyard was a rubber football with ropes on each end. Dan was letting Gumbo tug on this, one day when Gracie kept sticking her nose in. So Dan placed the other rope in her mouth and let go, and the battle was on - neither dog would let go! Gracie would either lie down and let Gumbo tug and tug, or she would get up and walk around with Gumbo being easily dragged with her. But eventually Gracie would relax her grip, and since Gumbo would not, he would end up “winning”!

Since we had decided to tile the dining room and kitchen, and we knew we were painting every room, it was off to the mega hardware stores to choose tile pattern and paint colors. For those of you who know the joys of doing this with your spouse, think of the fun when there are four of you, two in their fifties and two in their twenties!!! Being a newlywed Raymond tried what he thought was the safest reply – What ever you want dear. This reply would make Rebecca angry because she wanted his input; it would make Corrie happy because she had already made up her mind; and would make Dan cringe because as he told Raymond – you’re going to have to live with it.

After a few minutes of this family fun Dan would wander off to check out the power tools. Every few minutes he would check on the other three to see if progress was being made or blood shed. Eventually three colors for the different rooms were decided on, and even Dan could live with the choices. At this point Dan was told he had to stay with the group and a different process was decided on for picking the tile. Each person was to independently pick out three tile colors/patterns without telling any of the others. Then all the choices would be laid side by side and the number reduced until consensus was reached. This worked perfectly and we all agreed on one tile! But when we went to place our order for the tile, we were told it had been discontinued long ago and no one had bothered to change the display!!! Luckily we quickly agreed on a second choice.

And because of this forced family outing Dan got some new power tools. Many years ago Corrie got Dan a complete set of 18v Ryobi battery power tools. Dan has used these extensively over the years and actually carries some of them in the RV for repairs, and because eventually he hopes to volunteer again with Habitat for Humanity. Anyway Ryobi has come out with new 18v lithium batteries for these tools. These batteries are lighter, charge faster and last longer; but are very expensive. One battery with charger costs $120; but four tools with charger and two batteries were on sale for $250. Problem was that Dan already had the four tools, but it made perfect sense to Dan to give old tools and batteries to Raymond and for Dan to get the new stuff (for some reason this did not make sense to Corrie and she says Dan owes her one).

During all this was Raymond’s birthday. Corrie and Rebecca got him a three burner propane BBQ. Raymond immediately assembled the unit and we were treated excellent grilled burgers on his birthday.

Since some of the sinks drained really slowly and the drain for the wash machine kept backing up, we decided to pour drano down the drains. This did not work, so we moved up to acid. You know you are dealing with strong stuff when the plastic bottle is sealed in heavy plastic bag, in case bottle leaks. Unfortunately the acid not only removed the clogs in the sinks but the last bit of rust holding the steel pipes together. So now we had drain pipe leaks in both bathrooms. Fortunately the leaks were in the walls behind the vanities, so no one will see the holes we had to rip in the drywall to apply plumber’s bondo. The acid however did not remove the clog in washing machine drain line. We were on the verge of getting a plumber when Dan decided to rent a power “snake” and give it one more shot. Four hours in the hot sun with the snake and another bottle of acid, problem solved.

After over three weeks of steady work by us on the house, we decided that enough was enough for now. By Dan’s calculations, Corrie and he had worked over well 400 hours (remember the kids were at work for most of this time); and had accomplished more in three weeks then we had in ten years on our old house on Tiger Tail Rd in Houma. And as usual Corrie did most of the work and especially the tedious tasks like painting, laying tile and grouting! Anyway it was time to leave the kids alone in their first house; and for us to start our trip back to our property in Sultan, WA, almost six weeks later than planned.