Friday, February 27, 2009

On The Road Again-n-n-n-n

Just imagine Willie Nelson singing and you'll know how we feel!

The truck was OK and we drove to Victoria, TX on Wednesday night and into Donna, TX Thursday arund noon. It was 90 when we arrived and windy as all get out as usual. We got set up and immediately had to get ready for the luau. Stella even made two dishes so I wouldn't have to make something so quickly.

We are at the Casa Del Sol park and today I'm going to the post office to have my picture taken outside where it says Donna, TX. I think there's a Rogers, TX too. I'll have to research that.

Our agenda today is the post office, the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge so Jay and Stella can get their Senior Passes (I don't know if they'll want to take the tram tour or not) and then "all you can eat shrimp and catfish" with $10 pitchers of Margaritas with dancing at Pepe's on the River in Mission. It sits right on the Rio Grande and you can see the innertubes hidden in the bullrushes that the Mexicans use to float back and forth. I kid you not! Our border is so porous.

Just wanted everyone to know we are safe and sound and we're starting on the second 110,000 miles on our diesel truck. It has a new thermostat, new fan clutch, new water pump and housing and new bearing on the drive shaft much of it courtesy of Ford. Let's hope she keeps on rolling. They say diesels are good for 250,000 miles if taken care of properly so here's hoping!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boring . . . . . .

Well it's Wednesday and we're still at home. The truck has just received a whole new housing and water pump. This is the third new water pump to go on but the first time they've changed the housing. They test drove it this morning and are letting it cool and be observed for leaks, etc. If it is OK, then we're taking it for a test run towards Magnolia with the RV attached. If it appears to be OK, we'll head out. Depending on the time, we may go half way today and the rest tomorrow or just wait and do the whole trip tomorrow.

I've moved my trip to Florida to the week of March 23 so we can stay for two weeks as planned in the Rio Grande Valley. Jay & Stella will be pulling out just about then too so it will still turn out OK.

Staying home for 6 days with nothing planned is really boring! I've missed at least three things that we could have planned to do but I didn't think we would be here. The weather has been terrific and the trees, shrubs and wildflowers are starting to bloom though I haven't seen any bluebonnets yet. That is the start of spring in Texas for me. Leon Hale in the Houston Chronicle says it is when the mesquite trees get leaves in Falfurria, TX. :>)

Wish us luck. At this point we and Gullo Ford both need it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Third Time is NOT a Charm

We were all packed and hooked up by 10 am on Friday morning without incident. We were just starting our travels down 1488 towards Magnolia when the fan clutch kept engaging and just kept roaring. The truck started to heat up so we turned around and came back. We put the trailer back in storage, plugged it in and took the truck to Gullo Ford. First, they had put a new water pump on; second, they had to put another new one on claiming the first new one failed and they changed out the thermostat. It was at Gullo the whole time we were on the cruise. So this was the third time we were taking the truck to Gullo for the same problem.

They called late on Friday to say it was ready. Our fan clutch was "weak" and they installed a new one. They did not ask for payment for the thermostat since that wasn't the problem and Ted refused to pay for the fan clutch until he knew the problem was fixed.

We canceled our night in Victoria but thought we could make Donna in one day if we left very early. So at 7 am Saturday morning we pulled out again and barely made it onto 1488 when it started again. So back we went for the fourth time to Gullo.

Ted rode with the mechanic who had the computer hooked up and he said there is definitely some restriction. No shi* Dick Tracy! We have pulled that trailer up and down the Rocky Mountains in August without incident. Everything worked fine until they put the water pump on. But this was a different mechanic and we're hoping he can figure out what wasn't done right when the new water pump was put on.

We have had a squeak in the rear that sounds like the shock absorber. No one had been able to diagnose that either. This mechanic said it might be a bearing on the drive shaft. If so, this could be another big job. Maybe God was keeping us from getting stuck with a broken drive shaft somewhere between here and the Rio Grande. We drive through a lot of "nothingness" on the way down.

I emptied everything out of the RV and we're just sitting tight. We will take the RV for a drive when we get the truck back without any expectations and with no destination in mind. Maybe early next week we'll be confident enough to load it back up and try again.

After spending time in the valley two years in a row, this is the third year in a row we have made plans to go to the valley and they have been thwarted for one reason or another. Let's hope we can make this "third time" charmed and actually get to go. Stay tuned!

The Rest of the Week

The week went as planned. On Tuesday I spent the entire day in the Harwin area of Houston. This is a great wholesale shopping mecca very popular with the ladies. I bought a few things, had a nice lunch and enjoyed the company of Jody and Ann.

My former boss from Celanese wrote that he and his wife were in Austin visiting their son. He didn't know how far away we were. I told him he was about 3 hours and the only day I had available was Wednesday. So we agreed to meet half-way in Brenham for lunch. It's heartwarming to know there are friends out there who will borrow a car and drive an hour and a half just to see us for a few hours.

We met at Volare Restaurant for lunch and then we took them to the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory for the tour and a free dish of ice cream afterwards. They seemed to really enjoy it. Melissa was all ga-ga over the weather because it was 84 degrees after coming from the Detroit area where they were getting 2-4 inches of snow. It was great seeing them and we made plans to see them in Michigan this summer. On the way home we stopped at Chappell Hill Sausage for some meat to take to the valley with us.

Thursday was my neighborhood ladies' birthday luncheon. We had quite a crowd - around 16 I think but only one birthday. I'm going to be in charge of October when we have five birthdays including mine. Since that will cause about 80 presents I'm going to check with Gwen at Rayford. We may be able to use the rally room and have Pit Master BBQ cater the lunch. That will give us much more space than a restaurant. I need to put that on my To Do List.

Friday we intended to leave for the valley. More on that in the next blog!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Busy Weekend

Rick and Brenda left today for Memphis. We won't see them again until mid-June when we meet up at the IRV2 rally in Dundee, OH so we spent most of the weekend with them. They asked us to meet them at Rayford Friday night to visit Jay and Stella and tell them goodbye. We arrived just in time to play their five bingo games. I won $27 and Ted won $72. Winning two out of five didn't make us real popular! But Ted took $55 of his winnings and became "one in a thousand" at church where they are asking for 1000 people to donate $55 to raise $55,000 to build our second Habitat for Humanity house. Ted worked on five houses in Florida and believes in this group. After bingo and some refreshments we retired to the breezeway and talked until 10:30 or so.

Saturday I putzed around while Ted went shooting. I still had to unpack our suitcases and do laundry. We hoped to attend the Valentine's Show at the Opry but "he who hesitates is not only lost, he is 15 miles from the next exit" and they were sold out. We knew every restaurant would be impossible or a really long wait so we opted for the old standby, Sweet Tomatoes. Our thought process was sweet is a nice valentine word and tomatoes are red. It worked for us. Afterwards we came back to our house and played three games of Jokers and Pegs. Ted and Brenda won two and Rick and I only won one. But there will be many more games during the summer.

We went to church at 9:00 on Sunday to be ready at 11:00 to go to the RV show. Rick had access to free admission for the four of us so Ted drove and Rick paid the parking. I have to say I was underwhelmed. I never see a motorhome that I would be satisfied with. I'm sure they make them but I have never seen one with a couch and two recliners in a place where you can comfortably lounge and watch TV. Many of them are beautiful but for that kind of money I want to be completely satisfied.

The high end 5th wheel manufacturers are dropping like flies. We did see a Daydreamer that Ted liked but I didn't, an Escalade that we both liked except for the cabinets and a Mobile Suite we both liked. However, they were all 38 feet long and our storage space is at capacity with our 35 feet. We would need to have the owner move a shorter rig behind us and rent us 1.25 of a space. We would also need an F-350 or F-450 to pull it. Buying one vehicle is gut wrenching (for me). Buying two would be ... well some day I'll tell you the story about buying the HitchHiker!

We were finished at the RV show around 4:00 and then were given two tickets to the Home and Garden show with the advice, no one is taking tickets there anymore. So Brenda and I went in while the guys took our bags to the car. However, when they came back they were taking tickets and they were stuck. So Ted went to ask the Will Call if anyone had not picked up their tickets and the guy gave him two tickets. Ted always says "asking is free" and lots of times it pays off.

The Garden show turned out to be more fun than the RV show. We came home with a bag full of goodies and travel info. We also had our picture taken with a Royal Canadian Policeman. It was the last hour of the show and everyone was in a good mood and talkative.

When the booths started emptying out we decided it was time to leave. We stopped at Culver's for a burger and then called it a night. Rick and Brenda left right from the driveway after hugs and kisses. I wanted to watch the Amazing Race and we got inside just in time.

Today I played bunco and won! Ted asked if he could buy a new RV now and I said I didn't think the $20 would go too far. Tomorrow is a trip to Harwin with some gals, Wednesday we are meeting my old Celanese boss and his wife in Brenham for lunch. They are visiting their son in Austin so we're meeting half way, more or less. Thursday is our neighborhood ladies' luncheon and Friday we head to the Rio Grande Valley for 2-3 weeks. No rest for the wicked. Retirement sure keeps you busy but we want to keep going while we can. We know the day will come when the RV is too much for us or one of us is not in the best of health for traveling. We hope it's a long way down the road.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We've Returned!

Sunday morning Terry drove us to the airport for our 7 am flight. It was uneventful and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale right on time. We were picked up by my brother-in-law Richard while Karen, Ron, Tim & Cindy were picked up by my sister Margaret. They took us to their contractor business, their home and to lunch. We finished our short visit with a ride from Boca to Port Everglades along A1A so Cindy & Tim could see the area. Here are the anniversary couple, nephew Bobby, Margaret and Richard.

Because we were boarding later there was no delay and we went right to our stateroom on the 11th floor. We were delighted with the balcony room. We sailed at 5 pm as scheduled and met up with the rest of our group at dinner.

Monday we docked at Princess Cay in the Bahamas. It is a private beach with lounge chairs, pavilions, bar service and lunch served for two hours. The weather was perfect but the water was still on the cool side. Here is my view from my lounge chair. Terry & Lynn had fun with their "monkey" drinks and so did the anniversary couple.

Tuesday was a day at sea and we did all the normal things the ship offers ... mostly eating! It was the captain's dinner night so we all got dressed up. Our group was aged 21 to 71 so we left the late, late nights and most of the drinking to the young folks.

On Wednesday we docked on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. The six "older" folks had reserved a van for a tour while the "younger" group opted to stay in town. One of our stops was the beach where the planes are only a few feet above you as they land. The beach stops, there is a two lane road, a fence and then the runway. The sign warns of engine thrust and we saw a couple hanging on to each other to stay upright from a jet taking off. The smaller planes we saw land don't need the whole runway and land slightly beyond the fence but the big commercial liners put it down right over the fence.

Our last stop was Orient Beach. This is on the French side and half the beach is clothing optional. Our side was clothing required but apparently that doesn't include tops for women. We walked the entire beach and reinforced our belief that most people look better with their clothes on! The water was warm and we stayed a couple of hours swimming in the surf.

Thursday was the highlight of the trip. We docked in St. Thomas, rode a taxi van (all 12 of us) to Sapphire Bay and boarded the Yacht Nightwind which is actually a 57-ft sailboat with a captain and first mate (who was also the bartender). We sailed to Hawk's Nest Bay off St. John's Island in the Virgin Islands. I've only been on a two person sailboat where I only had to shift my weight as directed. When this boat keeled while we sailed, it laid over so far water was coming in over the edge. I was told this was normal so as long as I could see land I didn't freak out.

We had a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch on the boat and an open bar all day. We anchored in the bay and I was the first one off the boat with my flippers and boogie board. It was a long way down to the water it seemed but it was delightfully warm and clear. The captain threw some Chex Mix out and lots of fish came around.

Because our ship was scheduled to sail at 4 pm we had to leave about 2 pm to sail back to Sapphire Bay and ride the taxi back to the ship. Normally we would have pulled anchor and sailed to another place to snorkle. It was a great time even though it had to be cut short.

Friday was a disappointing day. We sailed into Grand Turk but were unable to dock with the high swells and our call at this port had to be aborted. I'm not sure who was most disappointed ... the 3000 passengers on board or the vendors on the island watching the boat make a 180 degree turn and sail away. The ship added activities and Ted and I took a waltz lesson. We were deemed "not the best suited dance partners" because of the difference in our size. As if we didn't aleady know that! But it was a lot of fun and after 44 years I think we'll just learn to live with that problem.

Saturday started out wonderful. Karen and Ron wore their 50th anniversary T-shirts and everyone was stopping them to offer congratulations. We ran into them around lunch and went into the buffet. Just as we were finishing up Tim & Cindy came in so we moved to a larger table. All of a sudden Ron had an acute angina attack and couldn't get his breath. They called 911 for the ship's medical staff and he was taken by wheelchair to the medical center. An EKG and blood enzyme tests revealed no heart attack but he had to stay for a 6 hour and 12 hour repeat of the tests. Later that evening he returned to his stateroom with the instructions to use a wheelchair to leave the ship and at the airports and to see his doctor as soon as he got home.

So the celebration dinner never happened. The corsage and boutonniere were never used, the remaining 10 of us glumly drank the champagne and the waiter prepared the cake for me to take to their stateroom. UPDATE: Ron underwent angioplasty on Tuesday. He had two stents plus one balloon angioplasty done and is feeling much better. He has a battery of medicine but at least no permanent damage was done and he is still with us to work on 51 years.

Sunday morning getting off a ship is usually a hurry up and wait event but Princess did an excellent job. We were dressed, packed, had breakfast, got off the ship, claimed our luggage and made it through Customs by 8:45 a.m. We waited a l-o-n-g time for the rental car bus and didn't get on the road until after 10.

We arrived in DeBary around 3 and took Kristin home from our friend Eileen's house. She was feeling better and by the time we left Thursday was back to normal except for being a little tired.

We did lots of little things around the house for Kristin. Single ladies with homes tend to have things for Dad (and Mom) to do during visits. Ted cut and weed whacked the grass and hung two new porch lights as well as put air in her car tires. I hemmed 8 sheer panels for the living room and did the laundry. Ted also put RID down the toilet for the septic system and poured Liquid Plumber down the sink and tub drains. She is getting ready to have her kitchen redone so we spent a lot of time at Lowe's with her in the Kitchen Design Center. I may go back next month to help her unload the cabinets so they can be taken out then get the new kitchen all set up. It will depend on the timing. This is a morning view of the lake from her back porch and two Sandhill Cranes walking through her front yard. Florida had a very cold spell and the grass died like ours does here in Texas. It was strange to see all those brown lawns when they are usually so green. Ted cut Kristin's to help the new growth that you could see coming up.

Our original seat assignments on the return flight were the two middle seats in the two back rows! We were able to change them online when we checked in to an aisle and middle in row 7. No one came for the window seat so I moved over and we had a very comfortable flight home.

As we approached the baggage carousel we noticed TV camera crews. They said they were waiting for "Stump" the Sussex Spaniel that won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. He had flown home First Class and would be coming down the escalator because the NY luggage would be on the same carousel as ours. I managed to get a few shots through everyone's legs. Stump was as bored as could be. What a great little ending to our vacation.