Saturday, December 17, 2016

Back to the Hill Country of Texas

Our last week at Ozona was fairly relaxed.  We finished scraping, priming, and painting the parsonage.  Also, the handicapped shower for Mariano was completed.  Some of us stopped by to see the work our group did.  Lupe (Mariano’s wife) had prepared peach cobbler and wouldn’t let us leave without some.  Yummmm!  The hospitality shown to our group everywhere we went was incredible. 

Bell Choir with Carollers

The banks in town hosted community open houses 2 days in a row.  One bank had theirs on Tuesday with the young elementary school children performing.  On Wednesday the other bank hosted an open house with the Bell Choir and older elementary kids performing Christmas music.  One of our members, Steve, got corralled into playing Santa Claus at this event (we think he rather enjoyed it!).

Last Thursday we finished up our work at Ozona with a Mexican lunch, provided by the church’s secretary.  Thank you Esther!  Early in the afternoon we returned to Canyon Lake, TX where we had been 3 weeks ago, with some other Nomads who have been working on rebuilding a number of homes which had been destroyed by the flooding of the Blanco River in 2015.

Thinking about our time in central Texas, we realize that it is a whole different lifestyle when services are so far apart.  Where Bob grew up, homesteads were 160 acres, and only a few “big farmers” had more than a section (640 acres).  In west Texas, acres don’t count.  A rancher needs many sections to support any livestock.  Eight to ten sections (5,000 to 6,000 acres) is very common.  One member of the congregation had a “hobby ranch” of only 600 acres for a little retirement project.  Many families have their ranch house and a second house, in town, for use when school is in session.  A weekly trip to San Angelo (80+ miles one way) for shopping is quite common.  That’s probably why 75 mph speed limits are common on two-lane roads.

Here, near Canyon Lake, there are a lot of housing developments with costly new homes in the country.  Commutes to San Marcos and San Antonio are only 35 to 45 miles each way.  The biggest change for us is a choice of TV from either Austin or from San Antonio.  After 3 weeks with no TV, we are grateful!

One week until we see the kids and grandkids again.  So excited!  To everyone out there – Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Still Working

We are coming into our last week in Ozona, Texas at our Nomad project.  We are looking forward to a move at the end of this week, being able to watch TV and have better access to shopping and other services.  However, we’ll miss the people at the church and those on our project. 

As we worked in houses in this community, we are much more aware of all the blessings we have.  Linda is a woman with multiple health issues; COPD, back issues, and more.  She rarely leaves her house and spends most of the time with her beloved cat.  She had holes in her bedroom ceiling that resulted in her waking up to a racoon looking down at her.  There were other rooms with holes in the ceilings also.  We repaired what we could, tried to seal up leaks on the roof, removed any tripping hazards, and replaced some floor tiles.  Her kitchen is basically not useable; appliances don’t work and she can’t navigate in there.  It is not a home I would want to live in but she is so thankful for the work we have done for her.

We also repaired 2 ceilings and replaced and painted outside siding on another house.  This woman was a widow with a 20-something daughter.  This daughter was severely disabled and could not talk or move.  Mom had to carry her to from her bed to a wheelchair or a device that held the daughter in a standing position.  Again, this woman was so appreciative of our help.

The project we are finishing this week is a handicapped shower for a man who fell off a work truck several years ago and is paralyzed from the chest down.  A shower was built for him by a contractor, however, the floor of the shower is tilted away from the drain so water is left standing and the drain was not created properly.  We took out the bench he sat on and re-shimmed the base, so it now drains properly.  He is a gregarious man who had built this house and he spends much time in his wheelchair traveling around town to visit his friends.  His wife made a pot of soup and corn bread for the folks working at the house last week.  They also are so thankful that someone is helping make their life easier.

As we work at these homes, we’ve learned how a big component of our work is spending time listening to their stories and giving them validation.  What they don’t realize is the impact they have on all of us doing the work.  They help us to align our priorities with what’s really important in our lives.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Where and Why?

Where we are is Ozona Texas.  Some might ask “Where is that?”  One answer is that is at the far western edge of “Hill Country” and at the start of where West Texas begins.  It is also at the edge of the oil patch with some oil and gas wells and a lot of ranch land.  Cattle comes to mind first, but we have learned that the wool from sheep and goats is what really made this area grow, originally.

Ozona is in Crockett County, which was named after Davy Crockett, “King of the Wild Frontier”.  He was originally from eastern Tennessee but moved to Texas in 1835, shortly before his death at the Alamo in 1836.  It is a good thing that the county seat is here, because it is the only town in the county; its neighboring towns are all in the next counties.  There is absolutely no TV reception without satellite or cable (neither of which we have).  There are 2 FM radio stations however.  The nearest Walmart is 80 miles north, in San Angelo.

We are here at the request of the local Methodist church which has hosted Nomads once before.  That group did most of their work at the church itself, whereas we are working at homes throughout the community.  West Texas doesn’t get much rain, but the rain can do a lot of ceiling damage if roofs leak.  There is a lot of that type of repair for us, as well as remodeling a bathroom in the Community Center.  We are here with 5 other Nomads, and we will be joined soon by 2 others.  At one time or another, we have worked with all but one of them, so there is a feeling of “reunion”.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why Are We in Wimberley?

On May 23, 2015 a massive storm system dumped as much as 13 inches of rain on the area feeding into the Blanco River, near Austin Texas.  The rushing rainwater quickly became a “wall of water”.  The river rose 36 feet in 4 hours; at one point, it rose 5 feet every 15 minutes.  Before it returned to normal, more than 15,000 trees, 350 homes, and 11 lives were lost.  More than 6,000 volunteers donated 47,000 hours helping with the recovery which is still on-going after almost 18 months.   The Nomads and a couple of other groups are still working here. 

Our team is parked at a former church camp about 15 miles out of town.  We have 9 individuals in 5 rigs and are working on 2 homes.  There is room here to park 7 rigs and, after a short break for Christmas and New Years, there is work planned through the end of March at least.  There is that much work remaining to be done.  We will be here for just this week only, before moving on to Ozona, in west Texas for the next 3 weeks.

We have previously worked with 2 couples and a single woman and just met one couple from Missouri.  It’s a nice combination of reconnecting with some folks and meeting new folks.  We will work for 2 ½ days this week.  On Wednesday we work ½ day and then go out for lunch as some people will be leaving.  We plan on working Wednesday afternoon to decorate for a community Thanksgiving dinner in Wimberley.  We will attend that dinner on Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Now in Austin

Once again the time has come to update our followers.  Because of our medical issues in Duluth, we had cancelled out of a service project in southern Missouri for late October and into early November.  We had worked with most of the other volunteers there at other places and times, so we were disappointed to not see them again.  One of the other couples, the Hilmo’s, we have known for a couple of years, and we’ve met them on the road many times, but we have yet to work with them.  We knew they were headed to the Escapees park in Livingston TX after their work was done in Missouri.  Since our service at Winnebago had gone so smoothly and quickly, we decided to push hard for Livingston and meet the them before they moved on.

After 1500 miles in five driving days (including the “little” side trip to Sioux Falls) we finally parked in Livingston on Tuesday morning – Election Day.  The park was nearly full, and we could get a site for only 4 days, departing Saturday morning.  In the meantime, we had time to recover from the back-to-back driving days and to spend some time with the Hilmo’s.

With 2 weeks to go before our next project starts, we headed west and stopped near Austin Texas.  This is about halfway but, more importantly, has TV over the air.  We had a chance to watch news and network programming again.

While relaxing in Austin on Saturday, we realized that other friends were working on homes needing repairs due to 2015 flooding, and they were only an hour away.  We met up with them on Sunday and decided to continue our recuperation this week but to join them in working during the week of Thanksgiving.  We just can’t seem to stay idle too long.

Today we did a little sightseeing in Austin.  The weather here is sunny and warm so it was good to get out for a drive.  Here’s a picture of Lake Travis from a restaurant high on a hill.  Lots of very expensive, huge homes in this area.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

On the Road Again, and Back “Home”

It has been a busy week in the Riewe household.  Last weekend was our quiet, stay-at-home, rejuvenation time at the cabin.  It now seems to have been so long ago.  Trouble was the weather: cool and wet.  It stayed that way into Monday, when we moved groceries and utensils back into the motorhome, and did our final laundry.  Tuesday morning was when we closed things up for the winter, opened the main electrical breaker, loaded the motorcycle, and hooked up the truck. 
Ready for Winter
We topped off the propane tank on the way into Duluth and set up outside of Steve’s house.  Tuesday evening we had a “going away” dinner with Paige’s mother, cousin John, and cousin Steve and his wife, Deanna.

Wednesday Bob had his last eye appointment early in the morning, and Joyce had a medical assessment later in the morning.  As soon as both were completed we hit the road to Elk River for a quick visit to see the granddaughters and have a turkey dinner at Brett and Jen’s.

As soon as the girls left for school Thursday morning we, too, hit the road again.  This time for Winnebago’s factory service center in Iowa.  We didn’t have a reservation so we took a chance on getting onto their drop-in list, hoping they could get us in on Friday.  We got there by noon, they had us in by 1:00 and had replacement parts scheduled for installation Friday morning.

Friday we had an invitation to lunch at the farm of friends Russ and Nancy Elmer, our next door neighbors at the cabin.  Just as we got there, Winnebago called to say our service work was complete. That gave us time in the afternoon to park the rig for the night and take off in the truck for our “home” in Sioux Falls.  In order to renew our drivers licenses we need to provide a receipt showing the two of us have spent at least one night in South Dakota.

Saturday morning it was back in the truck and back to Iowa to pick up the motorhome then head south.  It was a sunny, warm day here and apparently the weather was also beautiful at the cabin as we received pictures from Steve and others.  One of the nicest weekends this fall and we missed it!!

We still have a few more days of driving ahead of us.  Once we get to Texas we will sit still for a couple of days to relax.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Things are Winding Down

Here at the lake, it has been very quiet: little traffic on the road and even fewer boats on the water.  Most of our neighbors have put their boats onto trailers and pulled their docks out of the water.  There are about 100 households in our cabin owners association but less than 5 live here year-round.  The color of fall leaves is long gone and we can see through the branches where the leaves had been.


We got Paige’s mother moved out of rehab and into her new apartment and she is settling into the new social scene.  There is a good feeling to having this completed before we leave for the winter in the south.


Last week we had a little “field trip” to the Twin Cities.  We loaded some of Joyce’s extra furniture for delivery to David, had a nice dinner out with Dave, LeJoy and kids, took time to get our flu shots, and attended a badging ceremony, where Brett was officially promoted to Captain in the St Paul Fire Department – Congratulations!

This weekend we will make a smaller-than-normal batch of lefse for Holiday meals, and finish closing things up around here.  We plan to move groceries and utensils back into the motorhome on Monday and relocate to Duluth on Tuesday.  Wednesday Bob has his last eye appointment and Joyce has another assessment, then we will head to Brett and Jen’s place for a quick, early Thanksgiving dinner before hitting the road south on Thursday.  We need to get some motorhome maintenance done in Forest City, Iowa – hopefully!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We Have Heard Our Public

Quite a number of regular blog readers have reminded us that “it’s been awhile” since our last posting.  Yup, over 2 months!  At the time it seemed like we were doing very little, but looking back now I guess we really were busy.  Here are the highlights (in no special order):

The previous post mentioned we had volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity project in Virginia MN (about 30 miles away).  We put in 4 days there over 6 weeks: painting, finishing woodwork trim, installing doors, and forming a curved sidewalk.  There is going to be an open house this weekend to celebrate the completion of the house we worked on.

The prior posting also mentioned visitors and we had quite a few.  Paige’s mother came to visit here a couple of time (both alone and with friends) usually for a single afternoon but at least one over-night when the electricity was out in a great part of Duluth and impacted her apartment building for 4 days.  Paige’s sister and niece came from Arizona.  They hadn’t been here in a long time.  Paige’s cousin Tim and his son, Nick, were here for another weekend.  Bob’s brother and his wife got into camping this year and stopped by for a weekend as part of their loop through northern Minnesota (It was their first visit here).  We also got together with 3 of our Nomad friends: the Hilmo’s and Easley’s came to the cabin for visits, and we met the Norton’s for dinner in Virginia, MN.  Sophia, Ann, and Olivia spent a few days with us in August which we thoroughly enjoyed!

There were not many projects at the cabin this summer but we did replace and renew doors on the sauna.  They’re looking good.  We bought a new door for the outhouse but installation will need to wait until next year.

We also helped cousin Steve and Deanna move into a lovely year round house which is next door to their family cabin around the corner from us.  This move occurred in June so we’ve been able to spend a lot of time with them this summer boating, eating, and playing cards.

Bob’s doctors said that cataracts are a common result of last year’s retinal reattachment; they were right.  Early in August a lens was replaced but the follow up inspection in Sept showed the work is not yet complete.  We are still dealing with multiple drops until next week when we will learn more.

We have had 2 trips to the Minneapolis area to assist sons and grand-daughters, plus get some routine medical exams out of the way.  David and LeJoy’s wedding was a big part of the most recent trip. 

We have spent a bit of time on the water: in our own boat, cousin Steve’s pontoon, a Vista Queen Sunday brunch cruise with friends and attending Duluth’s Tall Ships festival to ride on one of those ships.

Much of our time, recently, has been with assisting Paige’s mother.  Between doctors’ visits, X-ray appointments, hospitals, and multiple rehab facilities there has been a lot going on.  She has been battling severe back pain with no real plan for relief yet.  The doctors are as frustrated as she is.  Yesterday we moved her from one rehab center to another where she is more comfortable. 

The next couple of weeks will involve lots of rehab, then a move to an assisted living place nearby. Pam and Paula will be coming next week to help with this move.  The move is to a smaller 2 bedroom apartment which is very cute and in a building just across the parking lot from her independent living apartment.  Because of these activities, we have delayed our departure and canceled our participation in a Nomads project in Missouri for late October.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Quiet Summer

Nearly a month has gone by since our last posting.  This helps to prove how mundane our lives have been.  We would like to do a little outside painting and add some waterproofing to our dock, but we haven’t had more than 4 dry days in a row that we can remember.  The 4th of July weekend was rather busy with about a dozen guests joining us for the holidays.  We still haven’t washed the motorhome and it is really filthy now, after a trip to Superior for routine maintenance and coming back through yet another rain over 12 miles of road under construction.  We were towing the Canyon at the same time and it was even more dirty.  While waiting in line at a car wash last week, a boy came by and broke out laughing and pointing, saying “Your truck is REALLY dirty!”  As if we didn’t know it.  It hasn’t been all rainy; we have had some nice sunsets like last evening:


For a change of pace, we volunteered to help paint the interior of a Habitat for Humanity house in nearby Virginia last week.  There were about 10 other volunteers from Wells Fargo also there so a lot of work got done.  We met the buyer, who was putting in part of his “sweat equity” and heard how excited he and his family are to get into a house of their own later this year.

We expect to have more visitors later this month and into August.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Well, That was Different!

We have volunteered for lots of activities in the past, but this week held a “first”.  We volunteered to help at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth.  They have had activities all week long, ending in the ½ and full marathons on Saturday.  Friday the organizers held a pasta meal and the William Irvin 5k run.  We joined the traffic control group for the 5k, and held posts at the sculpture garden, where the runners got their first view of Lake Superior.  Our job was to make sure the spectators didn’t get in the way of the runners.  Just past our location the course dropped to near the lake level and turned back along Duluth’s Lakewalk and then back to Canal Park.

This race started at 6PM.  The first runners came by about 15 minutes later and kept coming for over ½ an hour.  There were more than 2400 participants, most of whom were enjoying themselves.  The crowd included a number of “characters” (like a Forrest Gump look-a-like, and a couple of ballerinas).

Meanwhile, at the lake, we think summer is about to arrive.  We have had a lot of cool and damp weather, and now the forecast is for warmer and damp.  Our 4-legged guest has been having a good time with walks around the point nearly every day and swimming in the lake to retrieve her tennis ball on most days.  And now that the weather has improved, we plan on getting some projects done – sealing the dock, washing the RV, improving some landscaping, etc.  Need to get the place spiffy before the Fourth of July when we’ll have the family here.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Quiet Times at the Lake

Two weeks since our last posting!  How time does fly; but it’s not like we have lots of activity.  We have been busy cleaning up the leaves, mowing the lawn and hosting all the kids/grandkids for Memorial Day weekend. Here are the girls at Grandpa Cliff's gravesite.
Like many past long weekends, the weather was miserable until the actual holiday.  We put them to work stacking our wood pile. 
The golf cart always gets a good workout when they’re here.  It turned beautiful as our company packed for their return trip to the Twin Cities.  It has since turned back to wet and windy again. 

Last Tuesday we, too, returned to the Cities for a number of medical appointments and a high school graduation – congratulations to Valentina for completing high school!  We returned to the lake on Friday and helped with another graduation party on Saturday: cousin Steve’s youngest son, Ryan, who also completed high school this year.

There were also 2 additions to the extended family when 2 of Paige’s cousins became first-time grandparents within 2 days of each other last weekend.  Both cousins Dan and Steve had grandsons.  Congratulations!

This week we get our grand-dog, Stella, on Thursday.  Brett will be bringing her up here as they will be leaving on a 2+ week of vacation.  This year they’re going west – Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon.  Stella loves being at the lake better than travelling! 

So, we’ll be hanging out around the cabin for awhile.  Just hope the weather improves.  Looking forward to some visits from Paige’s mom, Joyce.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back at the Lake

We have now been parked at the family cabin on Whiteface Reservoir for a week.  We had considered driving up here last Friday evening, but thought the better of it since we would be sharing the roads with the fishermen heading north on opening weekend and since we prefer not to arrive after sunset.  Instead, we loaded up the granddaughters on Saturday morning and had a more relaxing drive.  We also took the time to stop at the girls’ favorite drive-in for lunch and ice cream.

Two years ago the lake was still ice-covered on fishing opening weekend.  This year the ice was gone, but snow flurries were in the air and the temperatures were in the low 30s.  The wind was biting cold – a huge difference from our winter weather in CA, AZ and TX!  But we have had a continual improvement in weather every day and the stillness of the morning lake has been very peaceful.
The granddaughters didn’t seem to mind the bad weather last weekend and even decided to clean up their swing.  Unfortunately, the swing was too old and broke in half so Brett will replace the wood and they can finish their project next weekend when they come up for Memorial Day.  We’ll have a full house then with Dave and his family coming up also.  Looking forward to that.
It’s also been good to be back here and reconnect with our Whiteface friends.  We saw a lot of them last night at the Friday night happy hour and some had come over during the week to say hi also. 

We’ve been able to spend time with Paige’s mom and helped her purchase a new mattress to help alleviate some of her back pain.  She is moving about more freely now and is almost back to normal after dealing with the back and shoulder pain issues.  She plans on driving to the cabin soon.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Family Times #3 & #4

We have had a quiet week at “Camp Winnebago”.  We have had to arise early every morning to disconnect from power and drive to the Service Department’s parking lot by 7:00 AM.  We have been here many times, but this might be the busiest we have ever seen them.  Many of the other customers we have met schedule all of their service work here at the factory.  The mechanics are always friendly and helpful, plus they know what they are doing, and have all the parts needed.

All of our planned work (as well as a couple of surprise extras) was completed early on Thursday, which allowed us to get the motorhome back early enough to do a complete housecleaning, and still have time to go out to dinner with new friends.  Plus, we extended our stay to include Thursday night, so we could sleep in while our neighbors were going to the service department early on Friday morning – life has some occasional pleasantries. 

Our annual Riewe campout at Lebanon Hills got started early on Friday afternoon (family time #3).  Bob’s brother Denny and his wife came to visit with us for a while, then Brett brought his daughters to spend the weekend with us, and finally David and his family arrived to park his trailer in the site next to us.

Saturday, Bob took some of the girls on a geocaching hike, while David took his own, longer, hike through the county park. That evening we had the whole group around a campfire.  Sunday brought a big group breakfast before we split up: David and his family to NE Minneapolis and we brought the granddaughters to their home in Elk River.

We have parked the motorhome along Brett’s curb and will be here for the coming week, doing “Grandparent duties” (family time #4) each morning to see the girls off to school, and at least one vocal concert at the middle school, with maybe a soccer match possible.  During school hours, we are visiting with friends and getting some doctors’ visits out of the way.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Family Time #2

For a few years now, Bob’s cousins have held an annual reunion in southern Minnesota.  We have attended once or twice in the past, but it has usually been scheduled when we are still too far south to attend.  This year’s gathering was delayed enough that we could make it.  Leaving the motorhome at the Winnebago Visitors Center, we drove about an hour and a half to meet the rest of the clan.  Thirteen of the sixteen cousins were there, along with many of their spouses, some of their children, and even some grandchildren.  We didn’t get a total headcount or even any pictures, but a good time was had catching up with everyone.  

Now we are back to Winnebago’s plant where we will remain for most of the coming week.  Their service people will start on our list of (mostly) minor repairs on Monday and we should learn how long we can expect to be here at “Camp Winnebago”.  We have stopped here in the past and have usually had a good time socializing with the other owners who are having service work done.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Family Time #1

The week is almost gone once again, so it is time to bring this blog up to date.  Monday was another travel day, and a fairly long one at that: north through most of Oklahoma (including Oklahoma City) and about half way up through Kansas, stopping in Salina.  The weather had been rainy earlier in the week and the forecast was for more bad weather, so we took advantage of Monday’s tailwind and put in a long day.  

Tuesday was that much shorter since we planned to stop and see Bob’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Bill, in southern Nebraska. 
They have told horror stories about the dirt roads in their neighborhood that become extremely slippery when wet.  We had called them to ask about road conditions and they advised us to camp at a former Pony Express Station east of them.  It wasn’t particularly convenient for them, but it was paved all the way there and the parking area was paved as well, so we wouldn’t sink into the ground.  Our rig is about 35,000 lbs and getting a tow is not a small undertaking, so we appreciated their help in finding this parking area.  They came to visit us on Tuesday evening and again when we had them over for dinner on Wednesday.  The bad weather came, as predicted, on Tuesday night and this was one of the few areas that was not drenched with rain, pelted with hail, or blown over by the wind.  It was one of very few areas that was spared. On Wednesday, we took a trip to Lincoln to do laundry, errands, and lunch with Mary.  It was great to spend time with them! 

After a little down-time there, it was back on the road again.  Thursday was cloudy and cool, but without wind and rain so it was good to put in another longer day.  We stopped at a Corps of Engineers-managed area just north of Des Moines.  This made for another shorted day on Friday, just getting to Forest City, where Winnebago RVs are built.  We have a service appointment there next week which is great since we developed problems with two of our slides last night.  Our large passenger side slide seems to have developed the same problem that was “fixed” at LaMesa in February.  Grrrrrrr!  We’re lucky to be able to get this fixed here as the factory seems to be more reliable than their dealers. 

April has been a month with lots of driving: from California on the first to northern Iowa by the end of the month.  Our little sightseeing in West Texas has meant about 3,000 miles just this month, which will likely be more than half of our expected miles for all of this year.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Quiet Weekend

Where did we leave off?  Oh yes, Thursday morning was spent wandering the Hill Country of Texas – nice roads and scenery! The noontime was spent tracking down Paige’s mother who was having some unplanned medical issues that have since been resolved (mostly).  The rest of the afternoon was quiet, thankfully.

Friday was yet another travel day, getting through the combined San Antonio – Austin metropolitan areas.  There was lots of crowding and road construction as well, so it wasn’t quick.  Just north of Waco we found a place alongside of the Interstate and stopped for the night.  Billboards along the way promoted the Czech heritage in this area and advertised a couple of nearby bakeries.  We got some kolachis at a nearby store which reminded us of the bakery items at Tobies in Hinckley (similar crowds). 

Saturday was another day of metro traffic and road construction; this time getting through Fort Worth.  This will be the last large city for awhile, thankfully.  We crossed the border into Oklahoma and stopped for the weekend at a private RV park across the road from the Chickasaw Cultural Center.  It was too late in the day and too close to closing time for us to stop when we drove through the area.  But we did find a Braun’s Ice Cream Shop.  We found one of these in Tahlequa when we worked at a project in Oklahoma a couple years ago.  Braun’s has a huge selection of ice cream and a 2 scoop ice cream cone for $1.99.  Can’t pass that up! 

Sunday was a day for church and rest and recuperation.  We met an interesting couple during a stop at Walmart:
Their parrots go with the couple when doing errands.  They are 4 and 5 years old, with a life expectancy of about 50 to 60 years.  Their plan is to pass them to any of their children who do not provide them with grandchildren. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Busy Traveling

As mentioned in the prior posting, Sunday was a day to travel into the Big Bend area.  We stopped for two nights just to the west of the national park in an area called Lajitas, at a nice resort type campground.
This is not really a town, but it does have a mayor (who is a goat)

On Monday we passed through Terlingua, a former ghost town which has become famous for its chili cookoff competitions, on our way to the park itself.  Big Bend is a huge park and is so far out of most peoples’ way that it is also lightly used, see for more information.  One of the park’s highlights is the mouth of the Santa Elena Canyon.  This is where the Rio Grande comes out of a narrow rock canyon into a wider flood plain.  Mexico is on the far side of this river.  To save 30 miles of paved road, we got there on a 13 mile dirt road; 4 wheel drive was not required, but high clearance helps and it was dry today.
Another highlight is the Windows View Trail.  We drove the paved Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to get there, including driving up a mountain to the nearby visitors’ center.  The top was socked in by clouds with a heavy mist in the air making it hard to see across the parking lot, so we skipped the hike and returned home.

Tuesday was another moving day.  Many cactus were in bloom:
The Texas Hill country was too far away for a single day, so we stopped in Sanderson TX.  We learned that the Big Bend Open Road Race is scheduled for later this week and Sanderson will be the turn-around point.  There were 2 RV’s in the campground with us that brought cars for the event.  After a week full of registration, inspections, qualifying and meetings, on Saturday US 90 is closed to all public traffic and becomes a timed road course for about 59 miles.  The drivers’ objective is to maintain a particular average speed and get to the finish line at the right time.  Target speeds range from 85 to 150 mph.  Cars leave individually in the order of their target times, so there shouldn’t be any need for passing.  After every one has gone south, they turn it around and every car is timed north.  We didn’t stick around to watch someone roar past, but we did cruise by the tech inspection area:
On Wednesday we left Sanderson, headed to Hill Country.  Just after a mid-day stop in Del Rio we crossed the 100 degree Longitude line, leaving the West behind.  Now we are in an area where rivers actually contain water, row crops are planted, and the real color of green exists, not the desert’s pale shade.  It is also quite humid, something we haven’t felt for many months.

We planned to sample some of the Hill Country’s scenery on the motorcycle, but the sky was dark and the forecast was for rain.  The V-Strom went back on the lift and we jumped into the truck, and had a gorgeous sunny day, but no photos.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday as a Tourist and Sunday Relocation

We had a busy Saturday around Fort Davis: first we found a geocache and left a trackable coin that we got from Yuma, then we visited the Fort Davis National Historic Site  (see

Then we went down the road to nearby Alpine where we toured the free Museum of the Big Bend.  Very interesting!  All this was before noon.

We had afternoon tickets for a guided tour of the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory.  To get there, we had to drive the highest paved road in all of Texas, nearly 7000 feet above sea level.  They have many telescopes here and we got inside two of them.

Our guide made astronomy almost understandable.  These telescopes are incredibly complicated!  A number of the research team live on the site and sleep days so they can do their research at night.  The sky is brilliant with stars here as there is no nearby light from a city so it’s a good location for the telescopes.  The evening turned windy and cloudy so they might have had a hard time doing research then. 

Sunday was another traveling day as we went south to Presidio on the Rio Grande.  We slowly followed the river downstream to Lajitas.  It was interesting to see Mexico right across the river while we drove.  In spots there might not be room for Crazy Donald’s wall:
The river road, El Camino Rio, is slow and roller coaster-like as it follows the riv er.  At one spot there is a 16% grade up to a mesa and overlook, and another 16% gradeto get back to the river level.  Bob likes his diesel torque and exhaust brake.  Paige liked the scenery – very twisty and pretty mountains. 

Tonight we are at a private RV park outside of the Big Bend National Park.  We plan some non-paved roads, some hiking, and some scenic views for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Traveling Again

We have been making up for lost time, putting on quite a few miles lately the past couple of days.  After sitting around in Yuma for about a week, Wednesday’s drive across most of Arizona was just a warm-up.  On Thursday we entered New Mexico and crossed the Continental Divide, so we are back in the middle part of the country.  By the end of the day, we finally got to a river that had water in it: the Rio Grande, where it comes south out of New Mexico toward El Paso before it becomes an international border.  We used our membership in Harvest Hosts (see ) to spend the night at a winery near the state line and also near the river.


Yesterday was a little longer day, ending in Ft Davis Texas after a quick detour through Pecos (not quite on the way).  Pecos didn’t have what we wanted for an overnighter, so we came south into the Davis Mountains.  The last 15 miles or so was especially pleasant.  This is the highest town in the state, at over 5000 ft elevation, and has some interesting history.  We plan to take today off and play at being tourists again.  We should have some interesting photos and comments for tomorrow’s posting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Where Does the Time Go?

It has been over a week since our last posting.  In the prior post we had mentioned our plans and they all worked out.  First, we had 3 days being a snowbird in Yuma where we saw the Territorial Prison (now a State Park), went to Los Algodones Mexico (to see where Paige’s folks used to buy their medicines) saw the Yuma Proving Grounds and Imperial Dam.  Here is Bob waiting for "The Especiale" in a downtown tavern:
You know you are in "Snowbird Country" when the supermarket has a fleet of more than a dozen battery-powered shopping carts:
Last Wednesday, we moved about 17 miles to a large RV park that was hosting a number of RV rallys: the Fleetwood owners club had just finished, and both the Alpha and Freightliner clubs were there for the rest of the week.  Freightliner (the same company that makes big trucks) makes rolling chassis for a number of RV builders.  Freightliner puts together the frame with wheels, tires and brakes then adds engine and transmission, steering and dash hardware then Winnebago (or other manufacturer) adds all their stuff.  This rally is part of the Family Motor Coaching Association and is a chapter, or sub-group, for the owners of any brand of motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis.  We knew only one couple when we arrived, but made a number of new friends.  Two sites north of us was a couple from Nova Scotia who had our same motorhome (but with a different paint job).  We had fun touring each other’s rigs comparing storage ideas and problem areas.  Just south of us was another couple with a house in the same area of California where we just completed 2 projects.  We sat in on a number of informative presentations and shopped at a couple of vendor’s booths.
After the rally ended, Freightliner held two limited-enrollment schools for 2 days each.  Bob was lucky enough to get into the Mon/Tues school which just finished.  Paige had the opportunity to spend time at Starbuck’s and doing little projects and cleaning around the motorhome.  Some people we met had to loaf around (like seniors can do) until today when their school started.  Now we know enough to be dangerous around a service shop.  Paige had time to hang around the pool:

Today was our longest driving day of the year at 275 miles.  We are parked at the Escapees club’s Saguaro Co-Op in Benson AZ.  Here is what our view through the picture window (windshield)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Traveling Again

We finished working last Thursday and had a pleasant dinner with the group that evening.  This group was such fun!  We did a ton of laughing.  We don’t say “goodbye”, but instead say “we will be seeing you again somewhere/sometime.”  One couple pulled out early Friday morning, and the other two went sightseeing to Venice Beach where there is great people-watching.  We stayed around LaVerne and did routine errands and relaxing.  On Saturday morning we hosted the others for a waffle breakfast, then hooked up to leave the Los Angeles area.  We stopped for the night at the Escapees Jojoba Hills Park outside of Aguanga CA.  This co-op park is member-owned and, this time of year, the members are all here so the only space for us over-nighters is in a boondocking area (no electric).  After living with low voltage at LaVerne for the past 6 weeks, we now have No-Voltage, so we are only staying here for one night.  It is a very scenic area with lots of hills and ranches.

Tomorrow we will head for Yuma where we will be staying for 10 days: 3 on our own, 5 at a FMCA rally, and 2 at a Freightliner school.  It looks like there are some interesting sites to see there – a date farm, Algadonas Mexico, an old prison, etc.  We should get some photos for the next posting.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Finishing up at San Dimas

Today is Thursday, Mar 31, which is our last day working at San Dimas UMC.  It is a historic church, built in 1901, which was expanded in 1924 and suffered a fire in 1998.  They have a small, but very welcoming congregation.  They fed us snacks and lunch every day we were working here (4 days per week, and 3 weeks duration).  Our team of 4 couples did some landscaping, a lot of painting, some carpentry, and some stucco repairs at 3 locations: the church, today’s parsonage, and the original parsonage (which is 1880’s vintage and too small for today’s usage). 
We have had a great team, had a lot of fun, and got a lot of work done too. 

As we said in our last posting, this our first back-to-back scheduling, so we are ready for a break. 

Last weekend Paula was in town and we got to see her at Tomie’s apartment.  All four of us took the time to explore Marina del Ray, Venice Beach, and the neighborhood of Venice.

We will be staying here for an extra day (Friday) to do laundry and slowly repack, then move to an Escapee campground south of here (for the weekend) before heading to Yuma AZ for a Freightliner rally next week.  After that we plan to take a couple of days to head east toward Big Bend and hill country in TX, before turning north again.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Nomads’ Third Period is Complete

Our work here in LaVerne is done and the rest of the team is moving on. One motorhome left earlier today, headed to Texas, and two others plan to leave tomorrow, going only to Pomona.  We will be staying right here for the next 3 weeks with a new team of volunteers.  Two things will be different: this will be our first back-to-back projects (6 weeks straight) and we have worked with all of the other people coming for the next project at least once previously.  During our next 3 weeks, we will be commuting all of about 3 miles to a neighboring church in San Dimas.  They have no room for us to park there but it is not far and it is a pleasant drive.

While here, we scraped and painted at least 9 lampposts and 4 wrought iron gates
Facia boards on their two out-buildings were repaired, scraped, and painted.  Over a dozen 4x6 columns were jacked up for repairs and repainting.  Quite a few smaller plumbing and furniture repair odd jobs were also completed.  We cleaned up a rusty old folding chair as a present for the church's project coordinator.
We didn't get bored.

This is the second time we’ve done a project here.  We were here 4 years ago also.  This is the church featured in one of the final scenes of the movie from the late 1960’s – The Graduate.  We had a chance to reconnect with many of the church members from our first project.
The members of the church brought in snacks and lunches almost every day.  The lunches were often huge and included various Phillipino recepies.  There is a large Phillipno presence at this church.  We didn’t expect so much food, but we did appreciate it.

We had some time to go exploring during the weekends.  There was a trip to Studio City to see Jeff and Jamie and their two daughters.  There was one motorcycle trip to Angeles Crest Highway only to find it closed for repairs.  We still got to ride about 10 miles of its west end, before pulling a U-turn and seeing it from another perspective. Last weekend we tried to see the ocean and the southern metro beaches, but traffic was so horrendous that we gave up and returned home.  Twenty miles per hour is about average for these 8-lane parking lots.