Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Pleasant Time in Sioux Falls


We have spent a whole week seeing the sights of Sioux Falls, beginning with the river and waterfalls that give the town its name.

           



We have also wandered around downtown and tried a couple of local restaurants, including Bob’s BBQ which was a really good little hole in the wall.

 

Normally, our mail is collected here and forwarded to us twice per month, but this week we picked it up in person at Dakota Post’s new offices.



We have also seen a number of current movies, one in a sit-down theater (Beauty and the Beast) and two others on our home theater (Sully and La La Land).



It was a relaxing week there and now the relaxation continues as we move east.  We have plenty of time to take state highways slow and easy.  We are now in Iowa’s “Great Lakes” area, a major tourist area in the summer near Spirit Lake and Lake Okoboji.  It is not crowded at this time of year, but we can see how it will be busy later.  We took a ride around the lake and saw some huge, beautiful homes.  It was a real surprise to see how popular this area is.



We are heading slowly toward the Winnebago plant in Forest City IA for a quick fix or two next week.  When done there, we will continue north to see the kids and grandkids in the Minneapolis area for a few days, and try to get to Joyce’s place in Duluth before the opening of fishing season on May 13.



The local weather forecasts are now including some frost warnings.  Are we coming north too soon?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In Sioux Falls for Awhile


After a week volunteering at Oak Park Retreat Center we continued our trip north, following the pollen and dandelions as spring led the way.  From Perkins, Oklahoma to Bob’s sister’s farm in southern Nebraska, it is an easy 2-day drive.  Friday, the 14th, we had a very strong tailwind that blew us north into Kansas.  We stopped for the night at a Corps of Engineers park on the Marion Reservoir near Marion, Kansas.  The only problem is that the wind didn’t stop, but kept on blowing at 30 to 40 mph all night long; so intense that we kept our living room slides in all night.



Saturday the wind was not as strong, but continued from the south and helped us roll into Nebraska.  When we stopped here last year the weather was very stormy, but this year was quite nice.  We attended Easter services with Bill and Mary and had Sunday dinner with them as well. 



After a pleasant Monday of laundry and shopping with Mary, we hit the road again, this time to Sioux Falls.  This city is officially our legal home, so we plan to spend some time here and get to know it better.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Art Deco


Our wandering around northern Oklahoma brought us to Tulsa where the tourism brochure suggested seeing a church on South Boston Avenue near downtown.  The Methodist church here was built in 1929 in the Art Deco style and is quite unique.  So much so that has also been designated to be a National Historic Landmark.


Some details can be found at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Avenue_Methodist_Church



We found it on Saturday and chose to attend services there on Sunday.  It is quite a building, but a choir of about 50 youth was even more impressive.
          

Now, after a whole week off, we found the possibility of boredom setting in, so we have gone back to work.  The Oak Park Retreat center in Perkins Oklahoma had been slowly going to pieces for many years, until a new owner (a local Methodist Church) bought it about this time last year.  They had a group of Nomads work here last fall, and some of them told us that Oak Park will have lots of work available for quite some time.  We contacted the minister and asked if they could use some help for 4 days this week.  He was very excited to have the offer of help.  We are doing our first “Drop In” project here this week. 

We met with Larry, who is our contact at the retreat center, on Sunday.  He asked us to unpack 250 new folding chairs and paint some of the rooms at the center during our 4 days here.  Their rooms look a lot like hotel rooms with a bedroom and bathroom/shower.  We’ve been able to do one room & bath per day with a goal of getting 4 rooms done. 
They are very grateful and we’re so grateful we can help out.  Pastor Max had us over for dinner on Monday night and then took us out for lunch on Wednesday.  We’ll be able to attend his church for Maunday Thursday services which we’re looking forward to.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Getting our Kicks on Route 66


We are taking that time off mentioned a couple of days ago, just not where we had in mind.  The first Corps of Engineers campground that we had planned didn’t work out.  It was too remote and provided neither TV nor cell phone/internet service so we didn’t check in.  Instead we took a round-about route to stop for 3 nights in Eufaula.  Tuesday we moved again, a little farther north, to Big Cabin which is a small town near what was Route 66.

Although old US Route 66 went from Chicago to Los Angeles, it seems that Arizona and Oklahoma do the most for tourists to help remember it.  We have toured parts of it in California, Arizona and New Mexico in the past.  Today we went to Miami Oklahoma, in the very corner of the state, to see Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger shop.
This was part of a fast-food chain in the 1960’s and is still operating today.  While in town we also spent some time at a couple of other tourist places: the Coleman Theater and the Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum.

On our way back to Big Cabin we also saw the restored 1930’s vintage DX service station in Afton.

Later this week we will see a few other tourist attractions near here before doing some shopping in Tulsa. 

In the meantime we are now watching CBS for the FIRST time all year!  We have been in a number of small towns in both Texas and Oklahoma where there were either NO or very limited TV signals.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Done at Elmore City


Oklahoma is a tough place to live.  We know it is located in “Tornado Alley” but they also have floods, ice storms, and wildfires that can all do a lot of damage.  They have so many of these natural disasters, and so frequently, that the residents have created a lot of helpful organizations to assist their neighbors. 



In our previous posting, we mentioned some of the flooding here last summer.  Some more details can be seen at https://weather.com/news/news/flooding-severe-weather-plains-midwest-mid-june-2016-impacts



The statewide conference of Methodist churches has their own disaster support group (see http://oklahomaunitedmethodistchurchdisasterresponse.org/ ) complete with their own fulltime staff, trucks, and trailers to work with the local area victims and to keep us volunteers supplied with some tools and most materials.  They have been working in a number of towns near here since the flooding happened, and the Nomads have been here since mid-February.  Our team was made up of couples from Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, as well as Oklahoma, most of whom we had not worked with in the past.  Our family of friends continues to grow.  We completed the last 2 homes in the town of Mayville.  Our team leaders, Dennis and Nancy, have their own blog and posted a lot of pictures of the work we’ve accomplished (see http://dennisandnanccy.blogspot.com/ ).  Beginning next week, the Nomads will be parking at the county fairgrounds in Lawton and continue working there for another 5 weeks.



We will not be going to Lawton.  Instead we are going to take some time off to rest and recuperate.  While on Nomads projects, we work hard.  The last 2 days of this project, both of us spent most of the time on our hands and knees, laying carpeting.  After working projects since November, we welcome some time off!  We have scheduled a couple of weeks at different Corps of Engineers campgrounds, still in Oklahoma.  We will move slowly northward, following the pollen and dandelions.

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

More “Tourist Time”


We ended 2016 by relocating the motorhome back to Quest Ranch, outside of Canyon Lake Texas, for about 2 weeks.  Part of that time was spent just relaxing, but we also got in a trip back to Minnesota for Christmas.  Bob found a “park and fly” package through a motel chain that provided us with 2 nights in a motel (prior to departure and after returning) plus a week’s free parking while we were gone.  The timing worked out well: after a long drive to Dallas, we had a nice dinner and an early bedtime.  We caught the first airport shuttle (5 AM) next morning for an early departure.  Brett picked us up and got us to his place by noon.  His girls were still in school for their last day before Christmas holiday.



                                              Thanks to Jen for taking this photo.
Dave and his family came to Brett’s place for Christmas Eve, and we went to Dave’s place on Christmas Day which was a very blustery day and resulted in a shortened visit – bummer!  We also had a day-trip to Duluth on Tuesday of that week to see Joyce.


We spent time at Brett’s working on jigsaw puzzles.  Anna challenged us by finding a bag which held 2 different 500-piece puzzles.  We managed to separate the pieces and completed both puzzles – something Paige never thought we could accomplish! 



Paige, Olivia, and her friend made a batch of lefse.



On Thursday we had a last day with the family and a late return to Texas, arriving at our motel after midnight, and returning to our motorhome on Friday.



Saturday, New Year’s Eve, we relocated to a private RV park about 90 miles west, in Bandera TX.  Our Nomads friends, Everett and Elizabeth, spend the winter months near here and we planned to meet up with them.  They took us to Cowboy Church on Sunday.  That was a fun and interesting experience.  The music was a country western group.  They’ve also taken us to see some beautiful scenery and historic areas including LBJ’s ranch (the Texas White House) and his boyhood home.  We’ve learned a lot about LBJ and Lady Bird.



On Monday and Tuesday the weather was sunny and in the 70’s so we had a great opportunity to go motorcycling in the Hill Country.  We had great rides both days. 




The weather is going to get colder on Friday (highs in the 40’s).  We’re leaving for Falfurrias Texas on Saturday morning and will be spending 3 weeks down there on a community service project.