Monday, December 27, 2010

One of the Best Ever!!

Just west of High River
Time to get the blog started again. I'll fill in a little of the details for the last few weeks while we have been home. It has been a pretty relaxing time with not a lot of activity. The weather has not been what I wouldn't call great, although the last week has been quite nice, cold but nice. Night time temperatures of about - 12 to -18 C and daytime near melting. We have done a fair amount of visiting friends, and of course at this time of year Christmas Shopping is always a big item. This year we were going to cut down on costs to all our family as Christmas is really about family, friends and visiting. All of us, basically have all that we could ever want, and if there is anything that we need, we just go and buy it. None of us are suffering from poverty, so to buy something useful for everybody becomes extremely difficult. We decided that we would focus on filling every body's Christmas stocking with odds and ends, nuts, candy and trinkets rather than large costly item. Everybody has a large stocking hung on the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and when we all start moving on the morn, seems the stockings are always filled to over flowing. Santa must have a very large sack of goodies when he stops at our house.
Bella the Cat looking for mischief
Well anyway, the cheap Christmas is good in theory, but I'm not sure how successful that was in reality. Seems that under the Christmas tree was a myriad of quite expensive gifts. How ever it was a GREAT Christmas!! One of the best ever!!
Mike, Samantha, Joel and Leigh
The whole of our family was there: Don and Shannon (the hosts) Mike and Samantha, with the "Boys" Joel and Leigh, and Mikes Mother, Luke, Caitlin, Ross, and Denice and yours truly. I, being the most likely, old and chubby, (notice how I phrased that) naturally became Santa, distributing gifts to the happy recipients. Denice, What are those?? Santa Generous?
This was after we had all gone through our socks and checked out all those neat items that Santa had found for each of us. Adults enjoyed opening their gifts, but the ones that really enjoy are the young ones.
Leigh is a little young at this time being only 8 months, so he just looked on with a curious face, but that other one, Joel, who is two, got right into the act. He got a lot of clothes, but they just flew in every direction to get to the bottom of the box where the toys were hidden. Wasn't long until he had all them open and in action, and he is only two. I can almost see next year when he is three!
Of honorable mention was a set of photos from grand-daughter Caitlin of the Lethbridge High Level Rail Bridge during the 100th year celebration of the construction of that great achievement. I tell her she has missed her calling, as she is in university in that city taking History as her major. She is a great Amateur Photographer. She also gave us a framed one of a night shot at Henderson Gardens, also in Lethbridge. Great shots Caitlin!!

This one of Henderson Gardens

After completing that opening exercise, we had a very relaxed day. Don and Shannon stuffed the BIG BIRD at noon, and put it in the oven. We had no scheduled time for dinner, so time all was ready, it was near 5:30PM.

We had all the customary fixings: turkey, ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, stuffing, jellied salad, gravy, and pistachio salad. We all did what was customary too. Ate
tooo much, and then suffered. Dessert menu was saskatoon pie and pumpkin cheese cake, but that had to wait until some settling occurred. After clean up and dishes, and a couple of movies, a lot of eyes seem to get heavy. So ended another great Christmas Day.
A couple of snoozing guys
Next morning we were up and organized to all return home. After a porridge breaky, and loading the loot, we headed home, arriving in High River by noon. In the afternoon our friends from Warner, Tom and Linda, stopped for coffee and cake, on their way home. Brother-in-law, Ron and sister-in law Cheryl also arrived for a good tongue wagging session.
December 27th, late in the afternoon, Sister-in-law, LaVaye, and nephew Lance stopped by from a return trip from Caroline to Pincher Creek, where they delivered Lance's brother Kelly's two girls back to their home in Pincher Creek. Tomorrow we will take Lavaye to the Calgary Airport to catch West Jet back to her home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tell Me Again Why we are Doing This?

Week of Nov 22 to Nov 29
Decided not to bore all you folks with a lot of nothing, as that is basically what we have been doing this last week. We went from this
To this in about seven hours while riding the flying carpet home.

Once we got settled in, with the thermostat turned up, we just sort of hibernated for the next four or five days. For you southern people, you may not understand that this is what most of the warm blooded animals do in the cold north. They just find a warm spot in a cave or under a log, and bed down, while their heart beat slows to conserve energy and heat until it warms up again. Well on about Thursday, our hearts started to speed up, and I finally ventured outside to see if maybe spring might be here. No such luck. Only a few days had passed by, but at least it was a slight reprieve from the cold. And also I had an eye doctor appointment down town, to check if everything was copasetic after the secondary cataract on my right eye was lasered, just prior to our leaving in July. All was good, so I'm set for another year. But funny, even though we were somewhat hibernated, our supply of groceries seemed to dwindle, and there were a lot of things that we were still missing, so back to Sobeys, for a re-supply. Well, my favorite co-pilot had had time to make a fairly comprehensive grocery list, so the cost was comparative. Anyway, during the hibernation time we were able to scan through the piles of mail that had accumulated while we were gone. Our next door neighbors, Bill and Dorthy Rowley, had been picking up our mail from our mail box and as they checked our house a couple of times a week deposited the mail in a box we had left for that purpose. Well the box runneth over!! Bills to Pay, appointments to make, letters to answer, (well I guess not letters to answer, who writes letters these days? Rather emails to answer), and on and on. Denice, after a day or two, had them all organized in to piles on her desk, to complete in a somewhat orderly fashion. A couple of those piles were for me to handle. So with a large garbage bucket between us we worked our way through them. Soon the bucket was full, and we were down to the few things of real importance. One of mine was several letters from the Workers Compensation Board. As I think you all know, before we headed out in the summer. I had my hearing checked at Costco Hearing Center, and determined that a set of Hearing Aids would be of great benefit to me, so that I would be better able to hear the directions of my co-pilot. I had been telling her for the last couple of years that I heard her but was "Sorting the wheat from the chaff!" Well this wasn't cutting it any more, so I ordered a set of the "Cadillac" version of aids, and received them prior to leaving, in July. So to make a long story short, I had applied to the WCB for assistance with the rather expensive outlay for them. I had talked to their Edmonton office, explaining my early years running heavy equipment, when hearing protection was not the vogue, and the nice lady I spoke with thought I should qualify for assistance. So now I had these letters from them basically approving the purchase of two hearing aids. I called the nice lady again and she advised me to just send in the invoice for the purchase and they would refund the amount to me. What a great surprise!! Of course I do not have the cash yet, so we will have to see the final outcome.
Now that the weather has warmed some the whole family is arriving here today to welcome us home. A Big Prime Rib Beef roasts is in the oven, and all the trimmings in the works.
About noon the whole tribe descended upon us, all except granddaughter Caitlin, who is in University in Lethbridge taking 5 courses for her final year Majoring in History, and working 25 hours a week at Sears to supplement your educational budget. We sure missed having her here, but Caitlin, if you read this, we want you to know how proud your grandparents are of you!

Here is Great-Grandson Joel, checking out the quality control of one of Great-Grampa's bowls
While Great-Grandson Leigh just relaxed and reads the news of the day!
Another of Chunk Leigh. I think he may be the next famous Sumo Wrestler!
By about 2:00PM the roast and fixing were all cooked and we sat down to a great meal. All accounted for were Daughter and son-in-law, Shannon and Don, Granddaughter and Grandson-in-law, Samantha and Mike, Great-grandsons, Joel and Leigh, son Ross, and of course the chef, Denice and cleanup man, myself. We all ate hearty and the empty dishes by 3:00PM were justification of a fine meal.
Later in the day the grand-kids and great-grand-kids, and son Ross, had to return to Pincher Creek, and Calgary, so with their stomachs full, we bid them safe driving, until we see them again soon. Sunday morning we had planned on going into Calgary to do some of that Christmas shopping that seems to always happen at this time of year, but Mother Nature had different ideas, and sent down some more snow, sort of putting the kibosh on the shopping. Don and Shannon stayed for breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns and then headed home to Pincher as well.

Nov 20
Rise and Shine - Uggghhh at 4:30AM to be ready for trip to the San Antonio airport to catch flight at 8:20AM. Loren has graciously agreed to take us in, and Hettie is coming along for company. We were on the road by 6:00AM and arrived at the airport by 7:00AM and checked in without a hitch.
Boarded at 7:45 and were in the air by 8:15, for the 45 minute hop to Dallas/Fort Worth. A Dallas/ Fort Worth Interchange
Once on the ground there and into the Terminal "A," had to transfer to Terminal "D," quite a distance away. Now Dallas/Fort Worth, has quite a unique method of transfer from one terminal to another for people movers. You take a long steep esculator to a much higher elevation and there you catch one of many, two car mono-rail trains, that circles the airport a hundred or so feet in the air.

A Large Hanger ---------
Not enough room on the ground - You have to go Up!

Stainless Steel Sculpture in the terminal

Korean 747 taxing for take off

The Dallas/Fort Worth version of a "People Mover"
They just wisk you along and in no time at all we were at terminal "D." Checked in there and boarded within 10 minutes, and in the air quite soon for the 4 hour trip to Calgary.
See all those little squares? That what makes Dallas what it is today, oil wells
Fairly uneventful trip, nuch of the time above the clouds, but occasionly could make out some surface detail.

Wyoming --- and Snow
Approaching Calgary
One that we did see, was about somewhere in Wyoming over I 25, snow was evident on the ground! Then cloud cover all the way to Calgary. When we finally descended though the clouds, snow was the topic of the day!!

Highway 22X over the Bow River
South CalgaryCalgary City Center
Customs was a breeze, and Son Ross was there to take us home, but outside, "God it was cold!" From 75F when we left San Antontio to -5F in Calgary, is quite a shock. Highways are icy, but not too bad. Back in High River had to stop at Sobeys for groceries as the cupboard is bare! But at least the neighbors had turned the thermostat in out home up, so it was warm. Had chicken supper from one of those Bar-B-Qued ones they have cooked at most food outlets these days. After supper we crashed fairly early after a full days travel. Ross stayed the night, and will return to Calgary tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Texas - Howdy Y'all

Nov 19th
Moved out to Loren and Teresa's at New Braunfels today
A bit of challenge getting in under all his live oak trees lining his drive way, but we did it without a mishap. Managed to get turned around and backed into his RV Pad. Maybe a little narrow, but with some minor work would be more than acceptable. We did trim a couple of trees to make room for the slides, but in a short time we were all set up. His pad is great. Set up with 35 Amp power, sewer hookup and of course water. We could live there indefinitely. We have been checking the weather back in Calgary, and it is not great. Cold and snow. -6 deg F today. Remind me again why we are going home!!! Please!!
After getting all set up Hettie took us into New Braunfels to Rudy's Bar-B-Que and saloon.

Here they serve the greatest Bar-B- Que food that we have eaten for some time. It is a unique experience to eat there, as it is sort of buffet style. They have a large assortment of meats: pulled pork and beef, chicken, ribs, and all the sides. I had baby back ribs, Denice had this immence red stuffed potato covered with pulled beef. Not sure how she was able to manage eating so much, bit not much was thrown out. Then we went over to Camping World to get some specialty bulbs for ELTORO, get some anti-freeze to winterize him and make an appointment to have him serviced on Jan 4th at 8:00AM. Returned out to Lorens and did the closing up thing to get ELTORO ready for a 6 week rest. Loren came home from work and cooked hamburgers and Sausage for supper at about 8:00PM. Teresa was tied up with daughter Kylie with school things so did not join us as she would not be home until 11:00-ish. After consulting with Loren decided not to winterize. Instead we will just leave the furnace on set to 40 F. that way the furnace will come on and keep the water compartments warm if it decides to turn real cold. Hope that is right decision??
Nov 18th
Headed off to San Antonio today. Denice's cousin Heddie had a doctors appointment there for 11:00AM, and Denice wanted to go in anyway to do some shopping, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone. Heddie has a tracheotomy from smoking too much, and so had a bout with cancer, and a resulting operation. She manages very well, and is quite easy to understand speaking through her throat. She has to have a check up every 3 months for 2 years, and then a lesser number for the rest of her life. She is now the greatest advocate for Non-Smoking of any one we know. She doesn't quibble the words when she shows what can happen when you get throat cancer!! Anyway when we picked her up at Lorens outside of New Braunfels, we put the address into the jeeps GPS, and were able to drive directly to the UT Medical Facility in the San Antonio. It never ceases to amaze us how good a GPS works. Not sure in todays world how we would get around with the old paper maps!! We arrived at the Medical Center with lots of time, and waited until Heddie had completed her check up. Then Denice wanted to go down town San Antonio to "The Mercado Mall."
From Mercado Mall looking Down Town, San Antonio
Last spring when she was here she bought some Tops (Blouses) that she really liked and wanted more, so once more the GPS directed us there without a hitch.

Christmas is coming!
Now we found lots of stores, with the tops similiar to the ones she wanted, but not just exactle the same. Not good enough !!! We came away empty handed! But not empty stomached!!

Hettie and Denice chowing downA Little Serenading!!
A Million Lights and gold Decorations hang from the ceiling!!The Bakery!!Murals on the Walls!!
Stopped at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panderia in the mall for a bite. "Mi Tierra is a noisy, good-smelling, visually dizzying place, hung with thousands of Christmas lights. It's also one of the oldest, biggest, and best Tex-Mex restaurants in San Antonio, a city that can lay claim to being the Tex-Mex capital of the world.

"This is authentic Mexican food, complete with roving Mariachi Bands.
At home, check FedEx tracking number and find "Brake Buddy" has been successfully delivered to Blue Ox in Pender, Nebraska. Pretty good service, given that Pender, Nebraska is about 1000 miles distance in just two days!
Nov 17th
R&R today, little to report
Nov 16
R&R today, little to report
Some more Laundry. I took the Jeep to Walmart and had it serviced - Change Oil, Air Filter, Lub, and Vacuum interior
Then went to FedEx to find if they can ship Brake Buddy to factory for repairs. (Remember on the 12th of November, I explained that it had quit working?) They can, so I buy box and Packing Peanuts to protect it.
Come back home and call Brake Buddy for RMA number, what ever that is. They say they require that before I send it in. It is RMA13399.
Take back to FedEx and they tape it up as I fill out form, but now I do not know address to send it to or Loren's return address. Have to open box again to get details, complete form and seal up again. When at home realize did not give complete address of destination. Should have included "One Mill Road"
Fed Ex gives me a tracking number
Stop for money at bank, as not enough in my pocket for Peanut Buster Parfait for Denice!
When I get home she says "what did you do with the $50 I gave you this morning" Oh Shit!! Must have lost it. Tried to track it down with out success. Live and Learn, I guess
Nov 15th
R&R today, little to report
Laundry and Groceries
Nov 14th
Denice has a Cousin Heddie, who lives with her son, Loren, and Daughter-in-law, Theresa just outside of New Braunfels, so this morning we went out them at about 10:00AM. GPS in jeep did not have confirmed area map of area, so we missed corner and had to circle around to find right address, but after a couple of wrong corners was able to find the right place. It is a beautiful country residence, complete with "Over the Garage, Mother-in-Law" residence for Heddie, swimming pool and 7 acre yard. House is done in white rock siding, driveway is paved and yard is full of Live Oak Trees. It is a great place to live, although it is obvious, a lot of yard work to maintain.

Loren was away in a conference in Pheonix, and will not return until tomorrow afternoon, but Heddie and Teresa kept us entertained. We went into New Baunfels for lunch at the "Olive Garden" and had a great meal. Returned home by 3:30PM
Nov 13th
R&R today, little to report
Nov 12th
Yesterday we arrived in San Marcos early afternoon and checked into Pecan RV Park, the same one we stayed at early this spring when we were here. It is on the outskirts of the city. San Marcos has a population of 50,000 people, a nice little city.

We like this park as it is on the banks of the San Marcos River, has lots of shade trees, and friendly people.

Our plan is to stay here for a week. Next Friday, Nov 19th, we will take to coach and jeep out to Denice's Cousin's Son's place where we can store it while we return to Canada. Since we were here in the spring, Loren, the Cousin's Son, has purchased a new acreage home, with a RV Storage Pad, so a perfect place for us to leave ELTORO. We have booked a flight home on the morning of Nov 20th, with a short stop over in Dallas. We arrive in Calgary early afternoon and will have Ross pick us up and take us to High River, where we will spend the holiday season. Then on Jan 2nd, we return, also with a stop over and plane change in Dallas. This week we will just do some chores that need doing. All the woodwork in ELTORO, there is a lot of it, needs oiling, Denice is going to do Laundry again. I need to get the jeep serviced. We have driven it about 7000 miles since we left home as well as about the same on ELTORO. It needs to be serviced as well, but we will wait until we return to do that. Although we have the time to do it now, it means packing it all up and moving to a service place, likely Campers World, as there is one here in San Marcos, and then moving back to the RV park and setting up again. If we wait until we come back it will just be a lot easier. Denice wants to go into San Antonio to do some shopping one day as well, so I am sure we will have enough to keep us occupied all week. Another item I need to take care of is our "Brake Buddy" on the jeep has decided to stop working. It was working fine one day, and that night I didn't even unhook, but the next morning after charging the system, couldn't get it to test fire. I tried for about an hour, with no luck, so just moved without it. I tried again the next day, but no way could make it work, so I called Blue Ox help line and talked to a very helpful lady, and explained the problem. After searching her data base, she could not come up with a reason, or solution. She said since it is still under warranty, I should send it in for repairs. That makes it real handy, but she said she will get it back to me here in San Marcos, before we return. They have a newer version out now, but I couldn't get her to budge on replacing mine. Oh Well!! The blog may suffer some for the next while! Probably not much to report this week, then once we return to High River, will probably only update every week or so. Look for full returns on the 2nd of January!
Nov 11th
It is with a great a regret that we need to leave this campground.

Although only a one night stay, I would have to rate this one as one of the very finest that we have ever stayed at. It seems to have everything, trees, paved pads, grass, beaches, a waterfront view, and restaurant. Although we did not sample the restaurant, we did check out the menu, and the selection sure made our mouths water. However, since we will be tying up ELTORO for a month or so real soon, we want to eat some of that food we have stored in the freezer, to get down to a manageable amount. So, we were again on the road by 9:00AM, Today's route was through the "Texas Hill Country," where the scenery is great with the rolling landscape in a country setting of ranch lands, some oil activity, trees and grasslands.

We worked our way west and south on this Nov 11th, our Remembrance Day

and the US Veterans Day . Our route took us through several smaller communities, towns and a couple of small cities. Evidence of the Days importance were shown along most of the throughfares with flags definitely proudly displayed. Although we did not see any wreath laying, I'm sure it was happening at each and everyone of these communities. At 11:00AM, we were driving down highway 290 and had just passed through Giddings, Texas. The flags on the street reminded us of the day and time.

Now, highway 190 is a fairly narrow two lane road with a speed limit of 70 MPH and no shoulders or pull overs, so we had to observe our two minutes of respectful silence and thoughts of those who have given their lives to protect ours, as we drove on.

The point being, "We did Remember!" It is also appropriate to mention that on this Day our Prime Minister, Stephan Harper, has committed to keep a 1000 man training force in Afghanistan for three more years to oversee and protect the gains Canada has made there over the last several years.
Nov 10th

Hated to leave the Mississippi, but time marches on so we had the hit the road his morning. We were underway by 9:00AM, west on 84 and 28 to the Texas border.

The Cotton is a'growing y'all
Streets and trip gave us a little concern when she routed us around Alexandria, Louisiana. When I had set up the trip I had not given a detailed examination of the route details, so when she says turn right onto local road 116, we both questioned, why? When we got settled in, in the next RV park , I went back and reviewed her route, and I must say "I apologize, Mary, I think that is your name. You were right. You took us on a route that was direct, and we missed 3 major interchanges, by not following the main highways!" Our route took us on Super four lane routes and shitty narrow 2 lane ones and everything in between today . Highway numbering changed at the border to 63 and then 190. Before we left this morning I did one last check on the weather for Vidalia, Alexandria, and Onalaska, points where our route passes. Onalaska is where we plan to stop tonight. All weather maps said "mostly Sunny ."

This is "Streets and Trips" screen. If y'all zoom in y'all see a little circle with a dot in the middle. That's Us eh!! Just as we cross the Texas border.
Well once into Texas we hit some of the "Mostly Sunny." It was coming down by the bucket loads, for about an hour or so, but then cleared somewhat and clear sailing on to Onalaska. I guess Texans would just call that "high humidity!" Onalaska is on a point of land that sticks out a few miles into Lake Livingston, a large man made reservoir. Their web site says, "Lake Livingston is a perfect place to relax, and enjoy yourself. You can fish, camp, boat, sail, or jet ski. There is abundant wildlife around the lake, so take a day and discover the local inhabitants. Located just 80 miles north of Houston and 175 miles south east of Dallas, it makes a great place for a weekend trip or year round vacation home. Lake Livingston is the 2nd largest lake located within the borders of Texas. It is 39 miles long and at it's widest point it is 7 miles. With 450 miles of shoreline, Lake Livingston is never crowded. It covers 93,000 acres and has been dubbed a "Water Wonderland". There are many beautiful homes, and campgrounds surrounding the shore's. Lake Livingston has a good climate to enjoy visiting the lake at anytime of year. During the summer it averages 92 degrees, winter averages 55 degrees, and spring and fall average 75 degrees. The lake is kept at a constant level by the Trinity River Authority. The lake has an average depth of 23 feet. Near the dam is the deepest point of the lake at 90 feet."

Onalaska, Texas, is located on a peninsula extending into Lake Livingston, 13 miles west of Livingston and 28 miles east of Huntsville on US Highway 190, is nestled in a very picturesque setting surrounded by Lake Livingston and the Piney Woods in all directions. We had reserved for a one night stay at the Lakeside RV Resort and Marina, on the west side of the peninsula, and right on the edge of the lake.

We were given site 70 that is on the beach, and it is a "Drive In" site so we face the lake out of our front widow. Sundown will be across the lake, and as there are quite a few clouds, should be a good one. And it was!!!!