Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi (3.14….) Day from Oklahoma

Our weekend in Texas’ Hill Country was quite good.  In early January, we had spent a week in the southern part of it and heard of the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Shop and its Bent Rim Grill in Leakey, TX.  We got a souvenir T-shirt there but the grill was closed for remodeling.  The shirt advertised the “Three Twisted Sisters” which are nearby county roads #335, #336, and #337 and are a motorcyclist’s delight.  At that time, we only rode one of them, so Saturday we went back and rode all three, plus had lunch at the re-opened Bent Rim Grill.  It was a cool, cloudy day with a couple of very light showers in the morning, but the weather turned very nice by the time we got back to the RV park.  Good thing we rode Saturday because Sunday was much colder. 

We chose that day to head north.  After spending over 4 months in Texas (except for the week of Christmas) it was time to depart.  We had originally planned to stop in northern Texas but had made good time so we kept going all the way into Oklahoma which is where we will stay for the next 3 weeks.  Four hundred miles is more than I’d like to put on in a day with the motorhome but we did that (and a little more) arriving just before 6:00 PM.

We had thought that our next project would be repairing tornado damage, but instead learned that this area was hit with massive rainstorms in June of last year.  We are parked in a vacant lot between a cafĂ© and a food store (both very small) because the lot has electricity, water, and sewer hookups for us.  We will be working on a home in the town of Maysville, which is north of us.

According to the National Weather Service, this area was hit with about 8” of rain flooding homes and streets, plus washing out some bridges.  For more details, see

https://weather.com/news/news/flooding-severe-weather-plains-midwest-mid-june-2016-impacts .  Mr. Stevens had bought a home in Maysville some time ago, which his son now lives in.  Mr. Stevens had the garage converted into a small 2-story apartment for his use upon retirement.  We heard that he had about 3 feet of water in his lower level before the rains stopped and the water went down.

Earlier repair teams had completed the demolition, and re-framing, and had hung most of the new drywall.  We will be completing his home with new walls, painting, cabinets and vanities, and a new floor.  Once this home is done, there are more awaiting.  Nomads will be working here through all of April and into the first week of May.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Back to the Hills

We completed our month long volunteer commitment at the Escapees Care Center on 2/28, took a couple days to organize, and then headed out to our next project.  We enjoyed our time at Care and met lots of very interesting senior citizens and staff at the center.  Definitely not the physical work of the Nomads projects.

We have had a good time this past week, helping out a Nomads group at a Methodist Church in Taft TX.  We have known the leaders, Dave and Sally, for over 5 years and have worked together a couple of times.  They had a lot of work to do and a small team so we helped during their third week In Taft.  This is a small town not far from Corpus Christi.  A number of churches in this area work together for the community’s common good.  Nomads teams have been here many times and are well supported.  The local Kiwanis Club has provided lunch for the group every Thursday.  We met some very interesting people at the lunch this Thursday.  We sat by the Justice of the Peace from Taft and learned about her job.  She serves as the local “judge” who sets bail and sentences for traffic violations and petty crimes.  We also met the woman who serves as the Housing Authority.  She told us of her background as a member of a family of migrant workers.  They traveled in a vehicle from Texas north picking crops.  She has fond memories of being in Minnesota (but can’t remember what city) where a group of teenagers worked with the children.  That’s where she learned all about multiplication and the tables.  She also had her parents with her at the Kiwanis lunch.  Her father is a retired fire fighter now.  Her sister just retired from the National Park Service.  Very different than their migrant working days!

The Nomads team had worked on a couple of homes around town as well as 2 churches before we arrived.  We helped with re-glazing some windows and re-painting a fellowship hall at the Methodist church.  A retired vet and his wife hosted a fish fry dinner at their place on the Gulf of Mexico and the Presbyterian pastor and his wife hosted a BBQ at their home.  We were well fed, as usual!

Now that the project is complete we have relocated to the western edge of Texas’ Hill Country for some motorcycling in the hills tomorrow.  We won’t have a long break as there is a Nomads Disaster Recovery Project in Oklahoma that needs help so we’re heading there to start work on Tuesday for 3 weeks.  Tornados damaged many homes there last year and we will help with rebuilding.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Time Flys Quickly

Once again, the month has flown by so fast.  Maybe our 3-day rotation has something to do with it.  The “On-Call” day starts 7 AM when we get the “book” from yesterday’s On-Call team.  It lasts until we close and lock the building at 9 PM, unless an emergency comes up and we take the after-hours call (but that hasn’t occurred overnight this month).  Our next day makes us available to drive residents to their appointments or shopping.  If no trips are scheduled, this can be a light duty day of helping in the kitchen, but there could just as easily be 4 trips scheduled.  Our 3rd day we are officially “Off Duty” so we have scheduled some fieldtrips for shopping and sightseeing.  On our own we have been to Galveston, Trader Joe’s in The Woodlands, a plant tour of Foretravel’s RV manufacturing plant in Nacogdoches, and the Johnson Space Center museum in Houston.  We have also gone with the residents on field trips out to dinner and to an ice cream parlor. 

Inside a $1M motorhome

Saturn rocket

Shuttle ready for delivery

Ice Cream shop
We have also had company:  Denny (Bob’s brother) and his wife Dianne took a vacation from Minnesota’s winter weather to see lots of Texas and passed through here for a couple of days.  We took them to Florida’s, which is a local “down home”-style restaurant.  It’s always so good to see family!!
Dinner is Ready
Even this posting took 2 days to create – it is hard to stay focused sometimes.  Tomorrow will be the last day of the month, and also our last working day.  We will be “on call” once again so it will be a long day.  To make up for that, we have permission to stay for an extra day and night on the first to do some last minute laundry and packing.  Then we will depart on the second to return south a bit.  We have heard from some Nomads who are now working near Corpus Christi that they have more work than people so we plan to help them out next week, which is their third week on site.
Our past month as volunteer workers at CARE has been less physical, and more social.  Most of these active retired RVers are fun to be around.  We’ll miss a lot of the folks here and they want us to come back again next year, but we still like to see different places and probably will go west next year.  Who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll be back.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

First Week as CareGivers

After a couple of days “shadowing” other volunteers, we have now completed 2+ cycles of 2 days ON and 1 day OFF.  The other 2 teams of volunteers are experienced, having worked here in the past as well as during last month. 

The first day of our cycle starts with opening the building (lights ON and doors unlocked) and ends with closing the building 14 hours later.  In between we answer phones and get the count of meals the kitchen staff needs to provide.  All residents can get around on their own and are expected to contact us by 10AM with their needs for meals.  If they don’t call us, we call them.  Here is a typical meal-time scene:

The second day of the cycle has us driving residents to shopping, hairdressers, or doctors as needed.  The CARE Center provides a small fleet of vehicles for these trips.

The third day we have off for laundry, sightseeing, or other personal activities.  Bob has taken the hydraulic cylinders off of our HydraLift and UPS’ed them back to California to be rebuilt.  We found a UPS Store in nearby Conroe and later went sightseeing in The Woodlands, a planned community this side of Houston.  We thought about going into Houston to play like tourists, but there still might be too much Super Bowl traffic for awhile; we will go there later in the month.

The weather has been great lately: lows in the 60s and highs in the 80’s, plus we’ve had some great sunsets:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

About to become CAREgivers

Our 3 weeks in Falfurrias is now complete.  Twelve Nomads worked on houses of two residents.  Most worked on Mary and Robert’s house in the country, east of town.  It had been in Robert’s family for many generations, and had also been abandoned for some time.  It had settled unevenly, so the floors were wavy, the siding needed replacement as well as a number of windows.  It had been built before electricity was available, so the main supply box was mounted on the outside and most circuits were routed around the outside as well.  Since the old siding was coming off, we took the time to route new circuits inside of the walls.

The two of us worked in town on Nellie’s house and three other Nomads came by to assist us at different times.  Our main jobs were to replace the slats on the side of her carport with new plastic lattice, re-roof a metal shed in the back yard, repair an exterior door on the laundry area, and replace many soffits which had begun to rot away.

As mentioned in the prior posting, Stel took lots of photos of the two buildings and all of our activities, and posted them to her blog.  Click on that link to see some of our results.

We finished work on Thursday and departed town on Friday morning.  Friday night was spent at Pinchers RV in El Campo, TX.  This place was selected for a couple of reasons:

-        it was about halfway to our next stop.

-        it is fairly new, with good reviews on http://www.rvparkreviews.com/

-        there is a seafood restaurant right next door, and it was very good! (ever tried “crawfish mashed potatoes”?)

Saturday morning we drove north through Houston, and its very slow construction areas to Rainbows End, the Escapees park about an hour north, in Livingston Texas.  We will be volunteering at the club’s CARE center for the month of February.  CARE stands for Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees and its mission is:

“…to provide a safe haven with professional assistance at affordable prices for members whose travels are permanently ended because of age or temporarily interrupted because of health problems.”  It is a seniors’ assisted living complex for Escapee members.

We will be assisting with:

“…driving resident to appointments, opening and closing the CARE Center building, monitoring the phone at night, and some light cleaning”

Sunday and Monday we are “shadowing” one of the couples who volunteered for January, so that we can start right in on Wednesday.  Three teams are rotating through 2 days ON, and one day OFF in exchange for free camping and three meals per day.  Many of the volunteers come back year after year.  We are looking forward to helping here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Still Workin'

Our second week at Falfurrias is complete.  See Stel’s blog (a link should now be on the right side of this page) for more details and photos.  We have had another 3-day weekend to recuperate and are now ready to start our final week.  Most of our group stayed with re-siding the original house where we all worked during the first week.  Last week, three of us went to a second home where we are replacing a lot of rotten fascia, siding a carport with vinyl lattice, and are about to re-roof a yard shed with corrugated metal sheets.

We had a nice ice cream social evening on Tuesday evening.  We each brought ingredients for an ice cream sundae – yum!  We had a good time! 

On our Friday day off, we took the advice of a couple of “Winter-Texans” at church and went to a seafood restaurant on Baffin Bay which drains into the Gulf of Mexico nearby.  The restaurant was known for their “fish ribs” which we had not heard of before.  Two of our group ordered this, but it will likely be a “once in a lifetime” experience (there is not much meat there and a lot of effort to get it off the ribs).

Over the weekend, four of us drove about an hour and a half south to the Rio Grande valley for a luncheon at the Methodist church in Mercedes, Texas.  We expected to know at least one other couple there, but actually knew 2 and met another couple who are originally from Duluth, as well.

After the luncheon, we went sightseeing toward the east, to the spring-break party area of South Padre Island.  All of the condo and hotel development is on the southern end, but most of the barrier island is undeveloped.

Today we have endured lots of wind as a front came through the area.  It was a good day to stay indoors and be glad we are not working with sheets of roofing or siding.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Another Part of Texas

Falfurrias Texas is a little more “city-fied” than Ozona: the local Walmart is only 36 miles away, in Kingsville.  It is, however, another small town with no TV service – this lack of electronic entertainment is getting to be way too common.

We arrived here on Saturday, the 7th, and met the rest of the team, most of whom we have worked with in the past.  Four of the six couples have had some connection to Minnesota (either current or former residents).  All week we have been working on the house of Robert and Mary, longtime members of the local congregation, and Mary has prepared lunch for all of us on most days.  For more detail and photos see http://cummingsngoingson.blogspot.com   Next week most of the group will remain there while 3 of us will be starting on another house.

On our day off, Friday, we took a sightseeing drive to Aransas Pass and took the free ferry to Port Aransas on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  After a lunch of fresh seafood  (shrimp-rice bowl and fried oyster Po-Boy sandwich) we continued south to North Padre Island and the National Seashore before returning to the mainland at Corpus Christi.  We found a seafood market, so there was more fresh shrimp for Saturday’s supper.

After some very cold weather in Bandera, where our water pipes froze, we have encountered much warmer weather here in Falfurrias.  Temps have been in the low 80’s but the downside has been the strong winds.  Most of the time the winds have been about 20 mph with lots of blowing sand.  We’re hoping to see those winds subside soon.