Avoiding the hail; Enjoying a brewpub

LOCATION:  Wichita Falls, Texas – in north central part of State
WEATHER:  A mix.  AM sun.  Very dark clouds in the PM.  Rain in the evening.  Nearby hail.  Clouds looked like a tornado on the horizon.  Bad storms with hail around us. High 96
CAMPGROUND:  Wichita Falls RV Park.  Full hook-ups on cement slabs.  Pull-thru sites.  Cable TV.  Picnic table.  Swimming Pool.  (The “whole enchilada” as the receptionist called it).  However, the enchilada was missing bathrooms – closed for Covid 19.  $45/night.  4 stars out of 5
DRIVE:  An easy 4 hours

We took our time in the morning at Abilene State Park.  George piddled around with the pick-up while I did a yoga class watching a DVD.  (This Airstream yoga studio is a bit tight!)

Now that George is “older”, I am doing most of the driving.  We were on 4-lane secondary roads all of today, so it was a nice drive.  The scenery changed a bit – more hay, wheat, and cotton fields. 

As soon as we got set up, we took a cooling dip in the swimming pool.  Aaagghh….

Since the bathrooms are closed here, we took an outdoor shower to wash off the chlorine…

This is the last stop before we arrive in Rochester, MN that is a metro area.  From here to there, we will be mostly in the boonies – at Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds.  So, we were excited to take advantage of restaurants and brewpubs in Wichita Falls.  We were disappointed to find out that nothing is walkable here.  Since we didn’t unhook, we took a Lyft to a brewpub we found online.

The Lyft procedure was pretty interesting…..When we booked the ride, we received instructions to wear masks and to bring sanitizing wipes.  The driver wore a mask,  and asked us to wipe down our hands before and after the ride.  He also wiped down our seats after we got out.  We felt pretty safe.

Half Pint Brewpub and Restoration Hall was fun.  It is one of those old warehouse-type buildings with old brick walls that have been restored.

We had beers (George a stout and I had an IPA).  It was a bit overly air-conditioned, so George bought a hoodie and donned it..

We shared a charcuterie platter and an order of bruschetta

All very tasty.  Excellent service.  Not very crowded, and since the room was cavernous, we felt like we kept social-distanced…

The brewpub is in downtown, which has seen better days. 

Checking out Abilene

LOCATION:  2nd night in Abilene, Texas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Abilene State Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful early morning, then hot by the afternoon

The first thing we did when we woke up was to check to make sure the pick-up would turn over, and happily it did.  Yay!

The morning’s cool breeze (around 65) was delicious.  We sat at the picnic table and had our morning coffee and some fresh pineapple. 

Then, we drove around the campground, checking out other campsites and picnic areas.  There are 90 campsites, and only about 20 are occupied.  There are more deer here than people!  The camp host lives in this cute little Airstream…

The campground is located near Lake Abilene, so we checked it out.  Not very appealing….

George went on a hike on a trail while I did yoga watching a DVD.  (It was too hot for me to hike.)  He saw this beautiful flower on the trail…

We went in to Abilene, a city of 120,000 about 30 miles away.  There are a lot of churches here!  The downtown has mostly been abandoned, except for some huge churches and government offices.  We did find the old, restored Paramount Theatre which continues to thrive…

We had lunch at a pizza place with some interesting beers.  We were disappointed that they didn’t have wifi, so we later sat in a McDonald’s parking lot to use theirs. 

We had a quiet afternoon, reading and watching some MeTV – the oldies channel. 

It rained really hard for about an hour, with a bit of hail.  Luckily the hail was not big enough to cause any damage. 

DINNER:  Leftover lentil curry with kale, over rice.    Side was salad, and Middle Eastern-style yogurt — Greek yogurt flavored with cumin and turmeric.  The freezer and refrigerator are slowly getting less crowded. 

BOOK:  “Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman” by Elizabeth Buchan.  As the title  implies, this is the story of a woman whose husband leaves her for a younger woman, who perseveres.  Pretty predictable, but entertaining, because it takes place in England.  4 stars out of 5. 

Dead Battery!!!!

LOCATION:  Abilene, Texas – central part of state
WEATHER:  Hot.  High 96.  Mostly sunny
CAMPGROUND:  Abilene State Park.  Beautiful, shady sites with picnic table and firepit.  Level, gravelled pad.  Nice bathrooms.  50-amp electricity and water.  Dump station.  On lake (but our site is not).  Almost empty – so very quiet.  $35/night.  5 stars out of 5
DRIVE-TIME:  4.5 hours

We had planned our last morning in Bandera to be slow and peaceful, maybe getting in another dip in the pool.  Alas, our plans changed quickly when George went to check the tire pressure in the pick-up.  The battery was dead as a doornail.  Nothing we could do. He called the Chevy dealer and they recommended calling a tow truck.  The tow truck guy was able to jump-start the battery, so we didn’t have to get it towed. 

We wanted to get it checked out so that it wouldn’t happen again, especially if we are in some more remote location.  So, we drove to Bourne, about 25 miles away to the Chevy dealers.  After about 3 hours, they pronounced everything to be OK, including the battery.  They think we left lights on or something overnight, although we are certain we did not.  In any case, we finally were able to leave around 2:00.

We drove through more of the beautiful Hill Country, then prairie and ranches.  Sadly, we passed through a lot of dried-up, sad-looking towns. 

We arrived at our campground site and were delighted to find a shady, very accessible site.  We quickly got set up and George got a fire going to cook dinner.  This is camping!!!

It still was too hot to eat outside, so we “dined first class” inside….

DINNER:  Grilled chicken thighs, marinated in Worcestershire and lime juice.  Sides were sauteed wild mushroom mix and leftover pasta.  We opened a nice Cabernet Sauvignon that we got with our wine club.  This is great!!!

Lovin’ the Cowboy Capital of the World!

LOCATION:  2nd night in Bandera, Texas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Pioneer RV
WEATHER:  Scattered showers, then sun.  High 90

It is nice and quiet here, so we slept well, our first night on the road.   The A/C did a nice job and we kept cool. 

We took a stroll in the city park which is right next to the RV park.  It is a huge city park that follows the river.

We met some “friends” that wanted to check us out…

There is a cute, old-fashioned “motel” with cabins next to the river. I think Bandera gets very busy with tourists when they have rodeos and other horse events.

As soon as we got back to Joy, (the Airstream), the skies opened up.  It poured off and on for a few hours.  A huge mud puddle was created in front of us.

While it was raining, we did some reading, and I finished a very good book.  After the rain stopped, we checked out the swimming pool.  We had the whole, big pool to ourselves.  I did some of my water aerobics routines for exercise. 

DINNER:  We walked up to town and ate at a nice restaurant, one of the oldest in town.  We shared some chicken wings, their nightly special, then George had some pasta in lemon/caper sauce.  All quite nice.  Normally, Bandera is full of tourists, but it seems pretty empty.  Most of the people at the restaurant seemed local, with the men wearing their big cowboy hats. 

On our way home, we stopped by the 11th Street Bar, a real cowboy bar which is a famous tourist spot here.  There was a small band playing, but it was pretty quiet.

BOOK:  “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris.  A true story about the lives of a young man and woman in the concentration camp.  5 stars out of 5

And off we go!!!!!!!!!

LOCATION:  Bandera, Texas – in south central part of the state
WEATHER:  We drove through scattered showers.  Mostly cloudy.  High 93
CAMPGROUND:  Pioneer RV Resort.  Full hook-ups.  Swimming pool, river for wading/tubing, level sites, picnic tables, nice bathrooms, and located in town.  $32/night.  5 stars out of 5
DRIVE:  6 hours

Our plan was to leave Retama Village at 9:00 AM; we took off at 9:30, not too bad!  It has been so long since we hooked up, that we almost forgot our routine. 

Being so far south, it takes a long time to get out of Texas.  The first half of the trip today was pretty boring, as we were on a route we take often, wherever we are going, just to leave the Rio Grande Valley.  We drove a total of 6 hours, including stops to pee (George), eat, and gas up.  This is the bathroom break stop…

The second half of the drive was new territory to us, so more interesting. We took back roads so we avoided San Antonio, the only major city along the way.   We entered the Texas Hill Country.  As its name implies, it is rolling hills with lots of cattle ranches.  Each ranch seems to have a fancy, ornate gate to it, often including a welded arch with pictures of the types of animals inside.  Some of the gates lead to beautiful, ostentatious ranch houses; others are wannabes.  Behind many of the tall fences are private hunting grounds.  Hunters pay money to hunt deer and exotic animals there.  It sounds awful to me. 

Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World,  was our destination and we will be here two nights.  It is a fun town.

After we got set up, we walked down to the river which flows right next to the RV park.  The water is low now, good for wading, but sometimes it gets high and is a popular spot for tubing and canoeing. 

Then, we walked into town to check things out.  The population is only 1000 but it seems bigger due to the tourists.  There are a LOT of cowboy bars and cowboy supply shops. 

These are some big cow horns!

After walking quite a way in the hot, hot sun, we stepped into Vaquero’s Bar (vaquero means cowboy in Spanish) for a drink.  I celebrated our first night on the road with a margarita.

We struck up a conversation with some locals, including one ancient-looking guy who had had too much to drink already, and were given recommendations for music and dinner.  We walked a bit farther and found a nice restaurant.  We sat on the patio (shaded and by now cooler) and listened to “pickin'”.  It was their evening for locals to drop in, join the group, play guitar and harmonicas, and sing.  Musicians kept dribbling in, expanding the group.    It was very nice.

DINNER:  While we listened to the music, we ate dinner.  The meatloaf had been recommended, so George ordered that.  I had a Caesar’s salad. 

The walk back home to Joy, the Airstream, was downhill and much cooler. 

Last day in Retama Village!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot again.  High 100

Today is our last day here.  It is amazing that we found enough to do for the 5 months we have been here.  This is the longest we have stayed here at one time.  I hope the blog posts during these stay-at-home days have been interesting….or perhaps a teensy bit interesting! 

We got up early to do outside chores before it heated up.  We took everything out of the shed.  We found a lot of mouse poop, but no mice.  We also found several grand-daddy long legs and a black-widow spider! 

There was a lot to take out….

George cleaned the shed and sprayed for bugs.  After he put everything back in, it seemed like we have a lot more space!

This Facebook photo popped up from a trip we made to Yellowstone National Park with our friends Tony and Jenny.  I sure hope we can get some hiking in this summer.

We cleared out the refrigerator and deep-cleaned it.  We will leave it off while we are away, and don’t want any odors!  We put sun shades – the reflective kind – in our windows behind the blinds for extra protection against the strong summer sun.  Check, check, check more off the to-do list.

A delightful surprise – two of our favorite Retama Village couples dropped by to say goodbye.  There are so many nice people here that we will miss! 

DINNER:  Sauteed shrimp with garlic and green onion.  Side was pasta with the kitchen sink mixed in — tomato paste, green peas, onion, basil, mushrooms, and parsley. 

Checking off the to-do list

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Get out the jackets!  High only 93!  Lower humidity

Today was another busy day getting ready.  George loaded the back of the pick-up.  It has a cover on it that locks, so it is wonderful to be able to store/haul things back there – grills, screen room, chairs, campfire wood, broom, tire compressor, and who knows what else he puts back there….

While he was working outside, I did a lot of kitchen prep work.  I cooked a bunch of vegetables so that they will last longer.  There is not a lot of room to store fresh fruit and vegetables in Joy (the Airstream).  I made up some lunches so that we will be ready for road-side picnics.  Since Joy’s refrigerator is humming along, I transferred a lot of food out of the house refrigerator.  I also stocked Joy’s  wine cellar, aka the shower. 

Speaking of the refrigerator…..George bought a fan that goes into the back of a computer.  He placed it next to the refrigerator fan so that we now have a second fan to give the refrigerator a boost. (It is the round fan with the LED light in it.) While we are parked, he props open the cover to help with air circulation.   It needs all the help it can get when we travel in hot temps..

I use the back seat of the pick-up as a storage area.  We have one “pantry” box that has a lot of canned goods in it.  I also store cleaning products, detergent, etc there.  With a sudden brainstorm, I used this wine carrier to organize the cleaning products so that they don’t fall over.  I guess I need to buy some more wine for more storage cartons!  🙂

We ran more last-minute errands…..The City of Mission offers a “vacation-mode” service.  If you are going to be away for at least 3 months, you can get your utility bill (water, sewer, garbage) reduced by half.  We signed up for that at the City office.  Then, we dropped off our house key with a friend so that he can check on the house once in a while.  Check, check, check off the to-do list!

DINNER:  Lentil curry with naan.  Side were yogurt and sauteed kale.  Nice and different.  

The countdown continues…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not as hot and less humid.  High 97

While the morning was still cool (a delicious 69!), we did some yard work.  With his new hedge clippers, George trimmed the neighbor’s bougainvillea next to our house.  (With their permission).  It really grows quickly and is right up next to our house, preventing the landscaping men from being able to mow there.  It was a prickly job.

While he had one of his new toys at hand, George also trimmed our flowers.  The landscaping crew does major trimming twice a year, but this will help neaten it up until then.

Other than Sunday breakfast, I normally just grab a piece of fruit on my way to yoga class.  George likes to cook breakfasts for himself (and for us on Sundays).  His assignment today was to use up the last of the blueberry pancake syrup.  So, he made some French toast (with the one piece of remaining bread), served it with the syrup, and topped with fresh blueberries.  He was very proud of it – and it did look very gourmet!

This Facebook photo popped up from our trip to Australia, where we did about 6 housesitting assignments over the course of about 5 months.  Between assignments, we visited the southern coast.  Since it was June, it was their winter, and it was very brisk!

We were busy bees all day long, loading Joy (the Airstream) and getting things organized – I LOVE it!!

The day was topped off by a Zoom call from our daughter in Minnesota.  We talked about the gift box from the Irish aguaculture farm.  Nice!

DINNER:  Kielbasa sausage with Texas jalapeno – what a novel (and delicious) combination!  The side dishes were even better.  I was watching Chef Emeril the other day and he gave his recipe for what he says is the best potato salad ever.  So, I looked it up and copied it (although I cheated and used commercial mayonnaise instead of making my own.)  It differs from regular potato salad as it is just cooked potatoes, lots of garlic, mayonnaise, and an entire bunch of cilantro.  We get spoiled here with cheap (30 cents a bunch) and fresh cilantro.  The other side dish was a broccoli dish.  I read somewhere  that this is the very best way to cook fresh broccoli.  I just put it in a pyrex dish, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled on quite a bit of garlic and parmesan, stirred, and baked.  Yum! 

Departure excitement mounts!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village (but not for long!)  in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Less humidity so it was more bearable.  High 98

The excitement mounts!  George brought the Airstream back to our house so we can start preparing for the trip.  Great news:  The refrigerator is working perfectly! 

Here is Joy (the Airstream) back in our driveway.  We have the awnings up to protect her from the sun and the A/C on to help the refrigerator.  Who cares about electricity bills!  Ha!

In the afternoon, we ran errands.  George bought some hedge clippers at Home Depot.  I waited in the car.  Somehow he came out with a circular saw as well.  I don’t know what he plans to do with that.  It is dangerous to let him go shopping alone!!! .  Then to Best Buy.  I stayed in the car again.  I feel like if it is not necessary to go into a store, it is not worth exposing myself to Covid-19.  He bought a computer fan to put in the Airstream refrigerator to give it an extra boost. 

Then, on to the supermarket.  I guess they have lifted the mask requirement.  We wore ours, and I would guess that about 90% of the customers were wearing them.  All staff had them on.  We bought a lot of stuff – mostly canned goods for my “pantry” that sits in the back seat of the pick-up as we travel.  George pointed out that usually the clerk asks:  “Did you find everything?”  But, since we had so much in our cart, she didn’t ask us this usual question.  It was obvious that we found a lot!

We had a lovely surprise awaiting us when we returned – a package from Galway, Ireland.  When our daughter was visiting there last February (pre-coronavirus), she visited an aquaculture enterprise where they are farming abalone and seaweed.  She asked the owner to send me a gift package.  It includes all sorts of interesting food items with like kelp, carrageen moss, seaweed seasoning and dillisk – all seaweed products.  And, a facial seaweed mask, divine-smelling soaps, and a bath soak potion.  It will be fun to check it all out!

How hot is it?  As an example – I have to refrigerate our garbage such as shrimp shells as they get too smelly if I put them in the outdoor garbage bins.  And, the last time I did laundry, the detergent pods melted from sitting in the car too long!  And now, packing up, I cannot put things in the truck too soon, as they will get too hot – like DVDs and CDs. 

George grilled for the last time.  It is so hard to buy small amounts of meat in our supermarket.  Everything seems to come in “family packs”.  I only needed one chicken thigh for tonight’s dinner,  but had to buy a package of 8.  I had George cook them all up and I froze what I didn’t need for tonight.   Before grilling the chicken, I marinated them in leftover kalamata olive brine.  Don’t throw that away!  It makes a great brine!  While George was grilling, I had him grill some sausage for tomorrow.

DINNER:  Naan with feta, grilled chicken, and kalamata olives.  Side was caprese salad.  I have replanted my basil from the pot to the ground, so it will get watered by our irrigation system while we are gone.  So far, it is happier there. 

Out on the town!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cooler – only 99!  Heavy rains in the PM for a short time

It is interesting to watch the men working on the foundation of the house behind us.  They are prepping to pour the cement.

We are getting closer to our departure.  I  have lots of to-do lists and schedules.  Today George plugged in the refrigerator in the Airstream.   We just hope it works ok.  We will check it out tomorrow.  I made arrangements with a lady to pick up our mail while we are gone.  We have a mail-forwarding service with a South Dakota address, but still get a bit of mail here – mostly junk.  We just don’t want our mailbox to  fill up.  This lady provides this service to a lot of residents here over the summer.

The highlight of the day was a happy hour outing.  We went to our favorite restaurant, Loreto’s.  We went with two other couples – ladies who swim and do chair yoga regularly with me.  We had a lovely time.  It is fun to get dressed up, as I have been “living” in raggedy t-shirts and baggy shorts during the lockdown.

The bistro was offering half-priced wines so we shared a few bottles along with some tasty flatbreads.

We sat inside due to the heat and rain.  When the rain stopped, we got a nice photo of the patio…

DINNER:  Since we ate the flatbreads, we were not all that hungry.  I had thawed some shrimp for dinner, so just boiled them up and we had shrimp cocktail.