Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keep Austin Weird!

Fried Avocado @ Trudy's

Well, we did our best, what can we's kind of how we roll! We moved from Smithville into Austin proper and stayed at McKinney Falls state park 10 miles from downtown - beautiful, quiet and very reasonable. We were able to get some work done and also get into town to hear some great blues and explore the city. We could both come back to spend more time here, great little city. RVing friends Jeanette and Dennis joined us at the campground for the weekend, before they went into town to street park with Maria and Brian. Jeanette was putting henna on her hair & when I took a look at my roots we decided I must use her crazy purple hair dye to get ready for Mardi Gras - so on a rainy day with nothing much to do we played beauty shop! 

Angie & Malabar visit!

Another rving friend, Angie, drove up in her new rig from New Braunfels, where she was parked, for it's maiden voyage to visit us. It was so good to see her! 

We missed seeing Alejandro Escobar play at one of the clubs in town and our friend Suzanne, from Tahoe, said we just HAD to see him, lucky for us I found out that he was playing at Luke's Locker (a sports clothing store)after a fun run they were off we went for not only a free concert, but free beer and food too! Talk about up close and personal, this was the way to see him - thanks to Suz!

We had such a good time with the music scene in Austin & the funky vibe in the town. Bill had been telling me for years that he was called "Oat Willie" when he lived in the Phillipines and they actually still have several Oat Willie head shops in town - so we had to hit that up, just because! We also went to see the spectacular Capitol building & did a little hiking in our rv park.

Eventually we caught up with Maria and Brian who found a choice parking spot right behind this funky rv park in the middle of town that we weren't able to get a spot in.
with the gang at Uncle Billy's

And finally we got our butts to a hash! I think the last time we hashed was when we dragged Maria and Brian last winter to a couple of Phoenix hashes. It was a crummy, rainy, freezing cold day in Austin on Super Bowl Sunday...but what else were we gonna do?! It was Jeanette and Dennis' first hash and seasoned veterans Maria and Brian's 3rd. And this was a good one to bring virgins to - unfortunately my virgins, and Maria and I all followed this wanker who led us straight to the end, so we had to backtrack to make sure we got to the beer check, jello shot check and field goal competition - I couldn't let them miss that! The trail was great & I even got to take an amazing fall crossing a drainage ditch where I slid about 20ft on my butt, but ended in STYLE! Check out my shirt! 

The "On In" was at the hare's house who had been BBQing briskets all day, Texas style, had a keg of yummy beer, a very long, singing circle and finally super bowl viewing in his warm, cozy house. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Texas fun....from Bill

Texas came in like a lion and we hope it goes out like a lamb. After visiting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico we headed out just after the rain stopped, but I guess we were going faster than the storm because we caught back up to it in Texas. We were on our way to Hamlin, Texas to visit Pam and Derrel, friends from the Philippines that I hadn’t seen in about 30 years. Our route had us taking some back roads, that didn’t look too bad on the map, but when we turned off the four-lane road and onto the narrow two-lane-with-no-shoulders-and-lots-of-trucks-going-70-with-a-strong-crosswind road, driving the RV became a harrowing experience. It was white knuckle time for about 25 miles, then toned down to just driving at night in the rain on country roads. Against all odds, and with only one U-turn, we arrived safely in Hamlin and parked on the street in front of D&P’s guest house. Let the fun begin!

We hadn’t been there half an hour when Barb Baillie, another friend from the PI that I hadn’t seen in 30-some years, called from Maui. I answered the phone and had some fun with Barb before giving up who I was. Coincidence or telepathy? We’ll never know. But we do need to plan a trip to Maui very soon. That evening we caught up on the last 30 years, drank some yummy rum drink that Derrel learned from his son (rum, ginger beer, and something else), and enjoyed a delicious venison stew prepared by Pam. Terrific night and we went to bed exhausted.

The next day we went to the lower forty (or rather 160 to be precise) to visit the “man cave.” Derrel bought a quarter-section about 20 miles outside of town to use for deer hunting. He built a large storage shed on it, half of which he turned into a game room (the man cave). We road around the property on his ATV and a converted golf cart and watched a beautiful sunset. Much beer was consumed and the wild hog that I was supposed to shoot never showed up. It was a blast. And then we went back for another special crockpot meal prepared by Pam. We were experiencing some very special Texas hospitality for sure.

The next day we were off to Austin to visit my brother Kurt. That was not to be, however, as Bebe wouldn’t start up after we had stopped for gas outside of Abilene. We had to get towed to a Ford service center to get a new starter. I had to pull Bebe back out of the gas station with the Subie so the flatbed could get in front of her. Watching Bebe on the back of that truck was almost as bad as the drive into Texas. The folks at the service center were great and had us back on the road in no time. Meanwhile, Derrel and Pam had gone to their Lake House, about an hour south of Abilene and on the way to Austin, so that’s where we went to spend the night.

We had another great night with the Texas land barons and after breakfast we were on our way to Austin; Smithville actually, just a bit east of Austin where brother Kurt and Chrissy were waiting with much food. Obviously, Texas is not the place to go if you’re looking to lose weight. It had been about 10 years since Kurt and I had been together, so there was lots of catching up to do. Kurt played some music on his guitar, the doves flew around the house, and Chrissy served up a delicious meal; one of many we’d be enjoying with them this weekend. After breakfast on Sunday we did a walking tour of Smithville, which didn’t take very long and we ate, and ate, and ate. Love this place.

Monday was a work  day for both of us, but there was much music to be enjoyed in Austin, so we made plans to drive into town to see a show. We had a quick dinner and drinks at Maria Maria then went to Antone’s for the Blues Jam. Lots of great music, highlighted by a chubby 12-year-old that played a mean guitar and had a stage presence that could get him into the final round of American Idol. On the way home, we almost got wiped out by a guy that fell asleep at the wheel and after just missing us, went bouncing off the retaining walls like a pinball with car parts flying all over the place. We called 911 and checked to make sure he was okay (which he was) before heading very carefully home. Phew.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things happen just the way they are supposed to...

Serendipity, fate, whatever you call it - you rarely can change it, so one just has to learn to relax and go with the flow... This attitude, if one could employ it round the clock, could serve you very well especially when living in an RV on the road. Recently we came home one evening to find that one of our pantry shelves had slipped one of the metal clips that was holding it up and it was leaning sideways. Now I must digress here and tell you that Mr. Bill LOVES to shop at Costco & LOVES to get a bargain, i.e. very large quantities or sizes.  I was so very happy when we moved out of our South Lake Tahoe home 18 months ago that I could fit everything from my fridge at home into my one in the RV. Not quite the same with what was in my pantry but I did stock that RV pantry full! God forbid we got stuck somewhere and would need 8 cans of soup! But as my mother would say..."just because you can, doesn't mean you SHOULD". I had also been reading lately that after a year of traveling one should really go through all of their "stuff" and get rid of everything you haven't worn or used in the last year because most likely you won't use it the following year either. Well, it was late at night and Bill was beat so he crashed and I was left staring at this poor, almost broken shelf. I just couldn't go to bed knowing that it might break completely while I slept. So I started pulling everything out - now mind you, this is a floor to (RV) ceiling pantry, and this baby is stocked! I could not believe all the crap that was in there that I knew we would never use. So I started making piles, an especially large one was items that Bill used to cook with, specialty sauces and such, which I would ask him about in the morning. After living in the rig all of this time there were certain things I needed access to on a regular basis and there were other items that I was constantly moving in and out to the counters while we traveled and so on and so forth, you all have similar dilemmas I am sure. But now I realized that some reorganization was necessary, in addition to some purging as well. And purge I did! And rearrange I did! And it looks great, and you can see what's on the shelf, and the super heavy things are on the very bottom! And best of all I had replacement shelf clips on board!! We dropped off several bags of food with Bill's brother, Kurt, to be taken to the local food closet and we now have room - in our pantry, and in our souls. It is amazing what a reduction in clutter can do for one. So next time you are met with an unfortunate surprise, look at it as an opportunity - who knows how things will turn out!

New Mexico!

After Yuma we headed out to the Land of Enchantment. A few months later (and colder) than originally planned, but we were going to do as much of the southern part of the state as we could. First stop was the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I had read about these on the Wheeling It blog and was intrigued. Even more so intrigued when the Cheddar Yeti crew (Jeanette & Dennis) sent us a link to the hot springs in the area. The Gila Ranch Hot Springs RV Park looked great on paper, so to speak, but once we spoke to the host we were a little wary of driving Bebe there. On the website it gave special directions to those driving big rigs and the host gave us very specific instructions to be sure to put the rig in 2nd gear when we got close. Ok...well, we thought we'll just let Jeanette and Dennis go ahead and scout it out for us (they are a bit smaller and not towing) and then let us know if it's ok to proceed. The problem with this plan was that we quickly lost all cell and internet connections. But my intrepid driver looked at me and said "we're going for it!". And so we did, and there was much rejoicing...anyway, when the road got a little scary we stopped and unhooked the car and I drove ahead to check it all out.
 Bill did have to put Bebe in 1st gear through the jaw dropping views at 8500 feet, but we were there! We were not 100% sure that our friends were going to make it but we couldn't wait to set up and get our bodies into those hot springs! The Cheddar Yetis showed up about 30 minutes later and after that harrowing drive up we were all ready for a little R&R. Which is exactly what we did for a couple of days - no phones, no internet, just hanging out, hot tubbing, cooking, drinking, and getting to know each other among the sheep, horses and dogs right there at the rv park. 

We went to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument which gives one a glimpse into the homes and lives of the Mogollon people who lived there 700 years ago. They built homes inside these caves in the cliffs at about 6000 feet - it was pretty cool!

Jeanette & Dennis aka Cheddar Yeti
Next up was Carlsbad Caverns - we decided to take the southern, longer route as the weather was a little stormy and it was a good idea! After stopping to get gas in town we thought we'd unhook the Subie but we weren't parked entirely straight and the tow bar wouldn't release. We headed over to Walmart to park overnight and tried again to unhook. While Bill got out the hammer and started banging at everything I went inside and did my usual forum search. And low and behold, guess what, others had experienced this same thing and several people had posted the solution - turn your car wheels either right or left! So out I went, got in the car, turned the wheels to the left and bam, tow bar released!! We did a little Walmart shopping and crashed as we had an early tour of the Left Hand Tunnel. We woke up to snow but knew it wasn't an issue as we were going underground. This was a super cool 2 hour tour with hand held candle-lit lanterns. Because of the weather the place was pretty much deserted and there was only one other person on our tour. It was completely dark except for our 4 lanterns and our guide was a great story teller. Afterwards we did the self-tour of the big room and got out of there pretty fast for our 5 hour ride to Hamlin Texas to visit Bill's friends he hadn't seen in 30+ years!
We had no idea that we had just crossed paths with Bob and Sini again as we found out the next day they had arrived about the time we were leaving!!

Yuma & Los Algodones

Right across the border as you enter Mexico.
We stopped for a few days at an Escapee rv park in Yuma to clean up after our Slab City stay and to go to the dentist in Los Algodones. This is a real popular thing to do with the retirees - with health care costs so high and with insurance being what it is, many people opt to go down to Mexico for their dental care. We are not quite "retirees" YET, but we are now among the many Americans that no longer have dental insurance. Quite a few of the dentists are American trained and as long as you get a good referral I think it's a pretty safe thing to do. With that being said, all we were going down for were cleaning appointments. We got a great referral from Jenn while we were at Slab City so we made an appointment and drove the 20 minutes to the big parking lot right at the border.  As soon as you walk across the border you are slammed with hawkers asking you if you need dental care and/or prescriptions.  Every storefront is either a dental office, pharmacy, liquor store or souvenir shop. We checked out the price of our favorite tequila, Clase Azul, & it was a little less expensive but not much. It was a very clean city & we didn't feel nervous at all walking around. Our cleaning visits were great, I was very happy that they used the ultrasound machines, and we each got a little bag with all the requisite dental stuff you normally get at your dentist. Not exactly sure if I would go down there for major stuff, but then it probably would depend on how much it costs and where we were financially at the time.

El Paraiso
I had done a bit of research on eating down there so first in order were refreshments at El Paraiso! The sun was shining and the band was playing American tunes for all of the snowbirders, it was a bit bizarre...I would have so loved to listen to music from the area. We moved on to a cute little place for lunch which was more in the center of town, away from the border, and had a great meal. 
Alfresco lunch stop with more American music!
The sun was shining and the entire town was walk-able. It was quite a wait to get back into the US and Jenn told me later that they usually ride their bikes in and lock them up at the dental office and when they leave they can drive through with the cars and avoid the wait - very good tip!! 
Twenty minutes later we were back at our campground only to find out that Sini and Bob were heading toward us for an overnight stay! They brought steaks and we baptized their newly purchased grill, it was fun catching up with them again & we expect to do so, here and there, on our trip eastward.