grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Sunday, November 30, 2008

24-30NOV08 - Houma, LA (happy turkey day!)

Our return to Houma was just in time for Thanksgiving day. Rebecca decided that she wanted to prepare the traditional turkey dinner and fixings for the family (which consisted of us, since Joe was offshore working). Corrie prepped most of the side items the day before, and Rebecca cooked the turkey and main dishes on T-day. Raymond invited a co-worker, Frank Garcia, over to dine with us. Everything turned out great, and Raymond even carved his first turkey with only a few hints from Dan.
A couple of days after Thanksgiving we attended the birthday party of our good friend Virginia De Fraites, aka Mother Goose (don’t ask). We won’t say how young Goose is, but this was one of those birthdays that ends in a zero. And apparently Goose has a history of really big parties/events for these once a decade birthdays. For this particular soiree she rented a local auditorium, hired a popular local band Na Na Sha (get it?), and had the food and open bar catered. As you may have guessed from the name of the band, the theme of the party was the 1950s and everyone was expected to dress accordingly. One thing that was very different, was that there was a Mass presided over by two Friars from Kentucky before the party started. Only in southern Louisiana?

Monday, November 24, 2008

22/23NOV08 - Biloxi, MS

After three very cold days at the Tiffin RV factory we decided to head south to a warmer climate and little casino R&R in Biloxi. That night, Saturday, found us at one of the local casino seafood buffets. The average cost for these type of buffets is about $20 per person. But this casino gave each person a $10 coupon for gambling. Even though one of us broke even gambling and therefore actually only paid $10 for the buffet; the other lost a little more gambling and we might have been better off paying full cost and not taking the coupons.

Sunday morning we decided to drive westward on US90 and see how the recovery from Hurricane Katrina was progressing. The portion of Mississippi westward from Biloxi received a storm surge estimated at 30 feet, and therefore was pretty much leveled. The recovery is still going very slowly, with one exception. For some reason the building of brand new condominiums seems to be going like gang busters?

For lunch Dan wanted to eat at the very first McDonalds he ever went to way back in 62/63. At that time Dan’s dad was stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. The housing area the Ryan family lived in was off the AFB on Pass Road, and the McDonalds was within walking distance on Pass Road. The original style building with the Golden Arches has been replaced but still in the same location. Dan thinks the sign used to say 12 million served back then?

That evening we went to a casino we had never visited before because they gave new members $20 to gamble with. As in all things in life, there are no free lunches. Turns out that “money” was credited to your player’s card and you could not cash it out; and you could only use it on slot machines! Dan hates slot machines and only plays video poker; so he was not pleased being forced to play a slot machine. He picked one that had so many options, that he couldn’t figure it out. End result was he ended up betting everything and winning! That meant he could now cash out and go play video poker.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

19-21NOV08 - Red Bay, AL

On Wednesday, 19NOV, we decided to go to the Tiffin RV factory in Red Bay, AL, to have some minor things looked at on our RV. See one of our previous BLOG entries about taking our RV back to the actual factory that built it to have repairs done.

As usual we didn’t have an appointment, but fortunately we were able to get a four hour block of time on Friday morning. One of our repairs to fix three minor problems with our toilet. The RV company man decided that to trouble shoot the three problems, get necessary parts and then do the repair would take several hours at $85 per hour. Mechanic decided that it would be cheaper to install new toilet at one half hour of labor. Unfortunately our after market warranty company didn’t see it that way and wanted the three problems diagnosed. Thankfully about one hour later our after market warranty said go ahead with new toilet.

Unfortunately for the two days we were there, North AL was experiencing an unseasonable cold spell and our heater ran almost continually.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

08-18NOV08 - Houma, LA

Even though we were stilling dealing with the passing of Dan Sr; we needed to start addressing the hurricane Gustav damage to Rebecca and Raymond’s house upon Dan’s return to Houma from Kerrville, TX. The eye of Gustav passed over Houma and caused significant wind damage; fortunately there was no storm surge or major flooding. The roof on the kid’s house was damaged and required covering by the infamous blue tarp.

Even though it has been months since the hurricane, the effects of Gustav are evident throughout Houma. Most of the damage consists of roof damage, fence damage, damaged trees, and destroyed signs. Because of this the hardware stores and lumber yards are constantly busy and can not keep roof shingles, plywood, cement and fencing material in stock. And because of all the damaged roofs, there are scores of roofing teams who have come from all over to work. In fact, the team that repaired Rebecca and Raymond’s roof were from Mexico and have been in the USA (legally) for four years repairing roofs damaged by hurricanes and tornadoes.

In addition to roof damage, the kids also had several big limbs on their oak trees snap and the screened sun porch received significant damage. But one outdoor feature escaped any damage! In the sun porch was a very small shelf hanging from the ceiling. On this shelf were many glasses and a couple bottles of booze. Although exposed to the full fury of the hurricane, the shelf and its contents escaped unharmed!

While the roof was being repaired, we took on a couple of home improvement projects. First item on the agenda was removing the box hedge that lined the front of the house. Most people would probably dig the bushes up, but not Dan. His idea was to tie them to the bumper of our new truck and pull them out. First we tried high shock mountain climbing rope – it broke. Then we tried 1-1/2 inch manila line – it broke. Finally we were successful using a three inch wide nylon strap (rated at 20,000 lbs) and four wheel drive. If we had tried digging them out, we would probably still be at it.

Corrie then took on redoing the kitchen cabinets in a faux finish. In addition to refinishing the cabinets Rebecca decided that the old hardware wouldn’t do, and all new hardware was purchased. Unfortunately it appears that the cabinets were handmade and fitted with one of a kind hardware. This resulted in cutting and sanding each cabinet door to get it to fit back into its original opening after the installation of the new hardware.

Meanwhile Dan and Raymond took on cementing in the small side yard of the house by the carport. This eight foot side strip was always wet and muddy (or dry and dusty). Add to this their now fully grown Wiemaraner, Gracie, and their new dog Jake; and you have a piece of yard that will never grow grass. Even though Dan and Raymond are tackling the project in three foot sections (10 total), it still will take about one hundred and twenty 80# sacks of cement by Dan’s calculations. Since we are talking close to five tons of cement, this project will take awhile!

Monday, November 10, 2008

02-07NOV08 - Kerrville, TX (one journey ends, our's continues)

On Sunday Dan flew to San Antonio, where he met up with middle brother, Shawn, and drove to Kerrville. Although Dan Sr’s health appeared to have taken a turn for the worse, it was not un-expected and had been discussed by the doctors. However, it was believed that there would also be a rebound, or two, before his passing and the doctors were talking weeks not days.

Early Monday morning Sharon, Shawn & Dan visited Dad, at that time he was coherent and thanked Shawn for visiting. By the afternoon he was extremely tired and not very coherent. When we returned Tuesday morning, he recognized us but kept passing in and out of consciousness. Shortly after lunch he expired.

We won’t recount the sadness and the tears, but rather share something that was unexpected and nice. Dan Sr had only been in TX less than two years, and never was truly happy there. From our vantage point it appeared he had little, to no, social interaction with anyone in Kerrville. However, he did routinely go to Chili’s everyday for lunch and a toddy; and would also return a couple of times a week for dinner and a toddy. A couple of his acquaintances from Chili’s did visit him at the VA and Skill Nursing Facility. On of them, John, talked to Sharon and suggested that we all meet at Chili’s, Thursday at 5PM.

Before the appointed time on Thursday, Tim took Dan Sr’s car and parked it the handicapped parking spot that he routinely used. There was no mistake that it was his car, because the passenger side was severely scratched up from front to rear from his last mistake behind the wheel before we got him to stop driving. Apparently the car caused a couple of double takes by the regulars and the staff. In preparation for our visit to Chili’s, Sharon prepared a bulletin board with many family photos; in addition we brought his Air Force certificates and his service cap.

When we (Dan, Shawn, Sharon & Tim) arrived at Chili’s we found a handful of people who had placed flowers and his glass (and we mean his glass, it was not a Chili’s standard glass and bartenders were instructed no one else was to be served in that glass) filled with Tuaca (Italian Liquor) on the bar in front of “his” barstool. To this we added his favorite hat, which he always wore on his trips downtown. Within minutes there were over twenty people gathered around the family pictures telling us what a great guy Dan Sr was. So a situation we were not sure of, turned out to be very nice “Irish” wake, that would have pleased Dan Sr and we found very enjoyable.
In addition to the sad details and legal necessities, Dan & Tim found time to take brother Shawn sightseeing to the River Walk in San Antonio, the Alamo, and the Mission Trail to Mission San Jose. And also took him with Sharon on the required trip to Luckenback. Shawn, who also owns a Harley Davidson motorcycle, kept saying he would be riding everyday if he lived in TX.

On Friday Shawn flew back to the Seattle area; and Dan & Sharon met with the lawyer to probate the Will. Then first thing Saturday morning Dan jumped into the MB that Tim & Sharon had kindly stored for half a year, and started driving back to Houma.

Monday, November 3, 2008

27OCT-01NOV08 - Houma, LA (houma sweet houma)

One of the interesting things about our return drive to Houma was the diesel prices enroute. No matter what the price of a barrel of crude, the price of gas or diesel in Texas is almost always lower. But due to the recent really high prices we have learned to check numerous websites on the internet to determine cheapest price down the road. Lo-and-behold we discovered that diesel was sixty cents cheaper per gallon than any station in Texas, in our old home town of Houma! So we decided try and make it to Houma without refueling enroute, and we succeeded.

As we traveled from TX to LA we began to see the evidence of hurricane damage from Gustav and Ike. Although neither storm was as powerful as Katrina they caused more damage in Houma and even inland in Baton Rouge. The reason for this is that while the winds were lower, they were sustained for a longer time from one direction because the storms moved so slowly. So when we finally made it to Houma we found a tremendous amount of wind damage that did not occur during Katrina.

The primary damage was roof, trees and fences. One month after Gustav many houses still are covered with blue tarps, and hundreds of roofing crews work six days a week to accomplish all the needed repairs. In fact, the Civic Center parking lot where we have parked our RV in the past is overflowing with RVs, trailers, tents, etc, for all the “temporary” workers in town (habla espanol?). Unfortunately our daughter and son-in-law’s, Rebecca & Raymond Pitre, house received roof damage and they are in the process of finding a reliable contractor. Needless to say, Home Depot and Lowe’s constantly busy and half the parking lots are devoted to staging roofing material, cement and plywood.

Soon after our arrival it was time for Halloween. Since this was the first for Rebecca and Raymond in their new home, in the new neighborhood, they may have gone slightly overboard? They bought way too much candy and had a couple of animated figures that Dan felt might be too intense for younger kids. One figure was a guy with a “phantom of the opera” mask. To Dan this guy was pretty scary already, but when his motion sensor detected motion, he removed his mask to reveal an acid scarred face. We quickly learned to turn him off for kids younger than five.

Regrettably, soon after our arrival in Houma, Dan’s sister Sharon called to say that Dan Sr’s health had taken a turn for the worse. It was decided that Dan would fly back to Texas on Sunday, 02NOV.