grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, December 31, 2011

01-31DEC11 - Houma, LA (xmas & still waiting for the stork!)

First, as should be obvious for those that follow our BLOG, we spent the last month of 2011 waiting for the arrival of our first grandchild (aka our daughter’s, Rebecca, & husband Raymond’s first child). Now we will just have to continue patiently waiting in 2012! December was also more routine medical & dental appointments; while preparing for the Xmas holidays. Oh yeah, somewhere during the month was a 30th wedding anniversary!

One of the things we decided this holiday season was not to give each other presents, but to purchase whatever we wanted when we saw it on sale & start using it immediately. So on “black” Friday we purchased an Xbox video game system with a Kinect motion sensor. For those that don’t know, the Kinect motion sensor allows you to control the video game using body movements. Unlike the Wii system we gave Rebecca & Raymond two years ago (which we thought was pretty cool back them), no additional controller is necessary. As with the Wii it is hilarious to watch the bodily contortions of the player as they try to maneuver their on screen avatar. But be warned, the Kinect also takes pictures of you as you play, which it will automatically post to your facebook, twitter, or other internet “space” if you are not careful. Apparently this feature has caused embarrassment for some unsuspecting Kinect users.

Also, during the month our son, Joe, was back from working offshore plugging abandoned oil wells. Joe has been doing so well in his job, that the company told him that they would train him to be a supervisor, followed by a couple break-in shifts to “learn the ropes”. But someone got fired (or “run off” as the oil industry says) & he was immediately promoted to night shift supervisor. Anyway it was great to have him in town for almost all of December, & having over dinner almost every night (including one of the kid’s favorites – steamed mussels)!

Sunday, 04DEC, was our son-in-law, Raymond’s, last day in the Air Guard. With the increased demands of his civilian job (& Rebecca’s) along with the expected arrival of their first child; it was time to fully focus on family & career. That evening after Raymond’s last drill, it was time to decorate the Xmas tree.

As we usually do on our yearly return visits to Houma, we take on at least one major “project” at Rebecca & Raymond’s house. This year’s project is building a 10ft by 12ft storage shed in their back yard. However, Dan calculated that it would take over two cubic yards of concrete for the pad & demanded that someone make arrangements for a professional delivery because he wasn’t going to participate in mixing the concrete by hand. So after much dragging of feet, the concrete was delivered on 12DEC & transported into the back yard via Georgia Buggy.

Dan figured that after the concrete cured, that he, along with Raymond’s & Joe’s assistance, would have the entire shed done in five or so days. Especially since Dan purchased an entire set of pneumatic nailers on black Friday just for this project. Of course this resulted in a constant struggle among the boys to see who got to use the “big” framing nailer everyday. The project also resulted in a refresher course in high school math as Dan would be mumbling things like - A squared plus B squared equals C squared, & side opposite over side adjacent equals tangent. Even with the latest in power tools, the shed is only 90% complete & will need to be finished in the new year. (you might note in the pictures that some days we are t-shirts, some days we are in winter coats; such is the winter weather in south Louisiana!)

Xmas morning, Sunday 25DEC, we gathered around the christmas tree to open presents. The hit of the day was another Kinect sensor we gave Rebecca & Raymond for their Xbox game console, along with the game “Just Dance 3”. As happened two years ago with the Wii video game system, the best part was watching the antics of the game player(s) trying to keep up with the on screen action. Once again it was amazing how much of a work out you get in just a couple of minutes of “hopping around” while standing in one place! We even convinced Raymond & Joe to demonstrate their dance moves mano-a-mano. Their dance off was filmed by Rebecca & immediately posted to her facebook page; within minutes of posting Joe & Rebecca were receiving text messages about the video. As always, the holiday was finished off by another fantastic meal prepared by Corrie.

Now we wait for the grandchild to arrive before the new year!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

19-30NOV11 - Houma, LA (turkey day & m3 maintenance)

Saturday, 19NOV, after recovering from the Willie Nelson concert we headed back to our daughter, Rebecca’s, & Raymond’s driveway in Houma, LA. The rest of the week was spent preparing for the Thanksgiving meal & Black Friday shopping (at least by Corrie). Since some stores (ie Wally Mart) are starting their “supposed” good deals on Thanksgiving evening; this resulted in Corrie leaving the house soon after the Thanksgiving meal was completed to grab a spot in line. But before she disappeared for the rest of the day, we had another great Thanksgiving meal; unfortunately our son, Joe, was offshore & not present.

After completing the majority of our Xmas shopping, it was time to string the Xmas lights on the house. As usually many of the light strings that worked fine last year wouldn’t cooperate this year. End result was all new strings purchased once again. Dan thinks that the manufacturers purposely make the light strings to self destruct after a couple of months, no matter how good you take care of them.

Sunday, 27NOV, we unhooked the RV & headed to Slidell, LA, for RV maintenance at the nearest Freightliner dealership. As we have described in previous BLOGs getting routine maintenance on your RV when you live in it as “full timers” is one of the few headaches with the full time lifestyle. As we have previously discussed for the more complicated servicing you must go to a semi-truck facility that often will not deal with reservations. See the below BLOG entry for more on RV chassis maintenance & our favorite service facility discovered so far.

For our Freightliner chassis there are three recommended maintenance intervals – M1, M2, & M3; with the M3 being the most complicated & time consuming. Since we were due for a M3, Dan tried over the phone to convince the service manager that the required work would take two days. Eventually it was agreed that if we got there first thing Monday, 28NOV, morning they would get us in first & could get it done in one day. Since it takes almost two hours to drive from Houma to Slidell & because we didn’t want to fight New Orleans rush hour traffic, we decided to drive up the day before, ie Sunday, & stay at an RV park right next door. After checking into the RV park, it was into New Orleans for dinner at Roma Café.

First thing Monday morning, 28NOV, bright & early we were at the Freightliner dealer in Slidell. Once again Dan tried to convince the service manager that the M3 maintenance would take more than one day. Since the service manager felt it was doable, Dan asked that if it couldn’t be done, to leave the RV in drivable condition at the end of the day so we could go a RV park. We needed this as a back-up plan because the Freightliner dealership has no RV hookups & does not allow you dry camp on their facility. In fact, at 6PM they kick everyone out & lock the gate. We won’t bore you with the details, but they didn’t get it done in one day & we were back first thing Tuesday morning for another six hours! Then it was back to Rebecca & Raymond’s driveway in Houma.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

14-18NOV11 - Various Casinos (willie nelson & family)

Monday, 14NOV, we departed Rebecca & Raymond’s to do some sightseeing before catching Willie Nelson & Family in concert at Coushatta Casino, Kinder, LA. You may remember that back in October as we drove from our new house in Sultan, WA, to Houma, LA, our final stop was at Coushatta before making it to Rebecca & Raymond’s. While there we learned that Willie Nelson would be in concert on 18NOV, & bought tickets. So we decided to take off after the baby shower & take our time enroute to the concert.

Our first stop was to visit Natchez, MS; turns out that the closest RV park was actually across the Mississippi River in Vidalia, LA. It was a very nice RV park on a batture with excellent views of the Mississippi River. (Trivia – what is a batture?) That evening we headed to the Isle of Capri Casino back in Natchez. The first thing we noticed odd about the casino, was that there were no signs giving directions to the casino? We knew it was located on the river just below the bridge, but because of oneway streets & dead ends we couldn’t seem to find it. Eventually we were forced to ask for directions & made it to the casino (which was pretty poor in our opinion).

Tuesday morning we headed back to Natchez to spend several hours sightseeing. First stop was Melrose Plantation part of Natchez National Historical Park. Next was a walk about & in downtown Natchez. Natchez is unique in that it was a major city for the Confederacy during the Civil War that survived pretty much intact. This is because although it was a major port on the Mississippi River, it had minimal rail connections. Because of this, the Union bypassed Natchez & concentrated on taking Vicksburg with its important railroad connections.

After lunch Corrie decided to check out the shops while Dan followed the Natchez Walking Tour through the town. The walking tour includes the William Johnson House also part of the Natchez NHP. William Johnson was born a slave, but was freed as a child & lived the rest of his life as a “free” black in Natchez from 1820 to 1851. Eventually he became a prosperous businessman owning his own house & other properties (including his own slaves!). The reason his house is part of the National Park system is because he also kept a meticulous daily dairy of his life & business. Even though his dairy is very detailed, it contains no mention of slavery, or his position as a second class citizen with no political rights.

We then got back into the Toad & headed to the historic site of the Slave Market at “Forks of the Road”. Turns out even southerners were embarrassed by the sight of slaves for sale outside stores in downtown Natchez; so the sale of slaves was outlawed inside the city limits. This resulted in the slave dealers relocating just past the city limits at Forks of the Road. This resulted in one of the few spots in the South where slaves could be bought every business day, rather than waiting for an auction. Eventually became the second largest slave market in the USA. Unfortunately right now the site consists of a barren plot of land with historical plaques, in the middle of several busy roads (hence the name “Forks of the Road”).

Then it was back to the river & Natchez Under the Hill. “In its day, 165 years ago, Natchez-under-the-Hill was the most notorious river landing on the entire Mississippi. Although it was the financial pipeline to the opulent population on top of the bluff, knife fights and killings were part of everyday life at this lawless location on the river. It was also notorious for a row of saloons built on stilts over the river, called “trap-door saloons”. Naïve travelers who wandered into one of these saloons were often clubbed to death and robbed of their belongings; their bodies dropped into the river thru trap doors in the floor of the saloon It was often the case, during the 1840’s & 1850’s, if you got into trouble with the law in New Orleans, you’d take a steamboat up river to Natchez-under-the-Hill to hide out until it was safe to return to the Crescent City. The police never ventured to the river landing at Natchez-under-the-Hill, it was just too dangerous.”

Unfortunately, not much remains of the original buildings; other than the building housing the Under the Hill Saloon, which we did not check out. Last stop was the Natchez Visitor Center (we know, it should have been the first stop). It is a large, fairly new center with excellent displays on the history of Natchez.

Wednesday morning, 16NOV, it was off to the Paragon Casino in Marksville, LA. After setting up camp Dan took off to find the Sarto Old Iron Bridge, while Corrie checked out the casino. The bridge is a steel-truss swinging bridge built over Bayou des Glaises in 1916, & is a rare surviving example of its kind.
Thursday was sightseeing in Alexandria & Marksville. To say there was little to see in either city would be an overstatement. Alexandria is a fairly large city, but the downtown was basically dead! It’s not that the city is filled with boarded up store fronts, it’s just that there are no stores or cafes that we could see. In fact, the only open food establishment we found, was a coffee shop. Marksville is a very small town with the town square surrounded by boarded up shops; because everyone shops at the national stores located outside of town.

Finally Friday morning, 18NOV, we were “on the road again” to catch Willie Nelson & Family at the Coushatta Casino in Kinder, LA. For those who have never visited a casino; their intent on providing live entertainment is to get you into the casino before & after the show. We wonder how they were going to get the concert goers into the casino since the concert was in a separate building about 1/2 mile away. In fact it was so close to our RV spot, that we planned on walking to the show. But there was an extremely deep drainage ditch between us & the concert hall. Turns out the casino collects everyone in vans, transports them to the casino, where you walk through the gambling floor & board bigger busses to the concert. After the show, the entire process is reversed! Luckily we discovered a small parking lot close to the arena; so we drove the Toad to the parking lot & walked to the show.

After finding our seats, we wandered over to check out the Willie “merchandise”. Dan figures that since you pay $50 or more for your tickets, the merchandise should be cheaper than in stores. Wrong! Cheapest shirt is $30, & every CD is $25! One unique thing we discovered was not only did they sell beer in metal bottles, but you could buy as much as you could carry to take back to your seat. If you bought more than five, you got an insulated bag to keep them cold!

The concert started with Willie & Family playing one of his biggest hits - Whisky River. Their playing & singing was “off” & very “rough”; & we were afraid the rest of the evening might be more of the same. But by the second song they had warmed up & the concert was excellent. However, Corrie couldn’t get over the fact how short Willie is. Dan was surprised at how good a guitar player Willie is & that the drummer only played a snare drum (that’s it, nothing else, not even cymbals). Also, since this was a no smoking venue, no doobies were smoked; even though Willie sang his gospel song - Roll Me Up & Smoke Me When I Die. Remember, as Willie says - whisky for the men & beer for the horses!

Trivia – who or what is Trigger in relation to Willie?

Monday, November 14, 2011

16OCT-13NOV11 - Houma, LA

As we stated in our last BLOG we are at Rebecca & Raymond’s awaiting the arrival of their first child (aka our first grand child)! Upon our arrival Sunday, 16OCT, Corrie immediately began “organizing” the baby’s room. By the second day she had repainted the room & then began on refinishing a dresser to match the color of the crib. Meanwhile Dan was tasked with assembling a “changing dresser”; a task that involved hundreds of little fasteners & 25 pages of instructions that were not 100% correct. He also assembled the stroller, a much easier task because the only thing required was installing the wheels & drink holders.

During this time we also started our annual round of doctor & dentist visits. Dan also had to attend a two day conference in Baton Rouge for his part time employer, NCBRT. We described in one of our previous BLOG entries about changing out our RV metal venetian blinds for custom day/night shades at the Tiffin RV factory in Red Bay, AL. Due to the cost we did not change out all of them at that time. Finally the amount of dirt & dust on the remaining metal blinds got to us & we decided to change out the remaining four using household plastic roller blinds Corrie bought at the local home center. The end result was a definite & inexpensive improvement; we should have done it years ago!

The “hi-lite” of the last four weeks was the Baby Shower on Sunday, 13NOV; held at Rebecca & Raymond’s friend’s, Beanie, house. It was a coed function, so Raymond & Dan were dragged along. From the pictures you will note that many of the attendees were wearing Saints football jerseys. Why? Because the shower was the same time as the game between the Saints & the Falcons (aka the Dirty Birds). It was very good time, & thankfully the Saints won in overtime!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

06-15OCT11 - Various WA, OR, UT, NM, TX & LA

We departed Monroe on Thursday, 06OCT, & stopped in Leavenworth, WA, for lunch with Dan’s cousin Sheila. Since we hadn’t been able to get together during the summer, we made a lunch date on our drive east & south. Although it wasn’t the same as spending a couple of days together like we have in the past, it was an excellent time together. Next year we need to try harder to spend a couple of days in Leavenworth.

We then departed Leavenworth for cousin Steve & Bonnie’s in Kittitas, WA. Friday was spent on last minute errands, RV maintenance, & an oil change on the TOAD. Later that afternoon a “successful” hunter brought by an elk he had shot to be butchered. We know elk are large animals; but only when we saw the carcass being moved around on the end of a tractor, did we realize how really big they are! Meanwhile Dan & Steve were “co-cooking” BBQ ribs for dinner. They were working as a team because Dan had supplied & marinated the ribs, & the actual cooking was being done on Steve’s fairly new smoker. It was a constant battle between Steve turning the heat down & Dan turning it up. But in the end peace prevailed & the ribs were excellent.
Saturday morning, 08OCT, we commenced our dash to Houma, LA. Why the hurry? Because our daughter, Rebecca, is having her (& Raymond’s) first child (aka first grandchild) in DEC, & for some reason Corrie thinks we need to be there NOW! Anyway, it was a beautiful drive to Huntington, OR, thru the Blue Mountains. Sunday we drove all the way to Provo,UT, only to find the off ramp to our chosen RV park closed due to construction. Luckily Dan spotted a small & partially hidden RV sign. It turned out to be the very same RV park we stayed at 17SEP04 while Dan got our computer fixed.
We then departed Provo early Monday morning on US 6 through the scenic canyons of Unita National Forest; driving the length of Utah through red rock country of Moab & the four corner area. We have driven through the four corner area a couple of times, but we need to come back & spend time in amazing National Parks & Monuments. Monday night was spent in Gallup, NM. Tuesday was a 500 mile drive through Albuquerque, Roswell, & Carlsbad, NM, to spend the night at an Escapee Park in Pecos, TX, that we had stayed at once before.

Wednesday afternoon, 12OCT, we arrived at Dan’s sister Sharon & Tim’s in Kerrville, TX, to spend the next two days relaxing & decompressing from the drive. While there we checked on our household goods that have been in storage since 2007. we are not sure how, but we need to figure out how we are going get all this “stuff” moved to our just completed house in Sultan, WA?

Early Saturday morning it was back on the road to finish trip to Houma, LA, with an overnight stop at the Coushatta Casino, in Kinder, LA. There were no winners this visit, but Dan noticed Willie Nelson was playing a concert on 18NOV, at the casino. Since it is only a three hour drive from Houma to the casino, we bought tickets to see Willie & Family.

After a short drive Sunday, 16OCT, finally arrive at Rebecca & Raymond’s in Houma, LA, & are now parked in their driveway waiting for the stork.

Friday, October 7, 2011

01-05OCT11 - Sultan, WA (final construction thoughts)

As we said in our last BLOG entry the house was finally 100% done at the end of SEP & we received our final county inspection on 28SEP. Are we glad we did it? Yes! Would we do it again? No (with caveats)! First, we are a little to old to be doing this; 10 or 20 years ago this would have been an easy thing to do. Even though the contractor did 95% of the work, we still did the remaining 5%; plus anything that had to do with getting utilities hooked up, & grading the property for future yard/landscaping.

If we were ever to do this again, we do it on property that had all utilities on site & ready to go. Looking back it took three summer visits to clean-up property, improve driveway for heavy trucks (& RVs), drill a well, run power over 450 ft, etc, etc. In addition to being time consuming, these items added substantially to the overall cost!

But the end result is a house that we are extremely happy with! Also, we feel this house is a fantastic value for the monies actually spent on its construction. Although it is a “basic” plan from Lexar Homes, it is a design we are both pleased with; & with the few upgrades we selected, feels a little “custom” (especially on the interior).

A pleasant surprise was the quality & strength of the overall construction, while remaining affordable. Way back when, Dan was on site when his paternal Grandmother had a “custom” rambler built on ten acres in Redmond, WA; & then when his parents had a bare bones spec house built on one acre next door. Neither house was as solid or skillfully constructed as this one. Why? Dan’s theory is because “back then” a group of carpenters showed up every day & did everything except the ventilation, plumbing & wiring; plus these carpenters had very few “power” tools. Today ever aspect of construction is a “specialty” contractor. The foundation forms are done by one team, framing by another, insulation by another, drywall by another, & so on, & so on. In addition, these specialists have the latest power tools, along with special materials that make assembly literally a snap. End result is that the back in the day a house took all summer with daily activity by multiple people to construct; while ours took all summer but with only about fifty actual days of construction & very few individuals to get it done, with better quality & far less waste!

Anyway, we reluctantly spent the first week of OCT11 cleaning up the property; parking the tractor & other equipment in the barn; & securing the house for our absence. Then it was back to our almost permanent spot at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds for one night to dump holding tanks & prepare for a hard drive back to Houma, LA.