Saturday, January 29, 2011

Texas January Roundup

Our Rockport Camp
Since January is almost at an end, I guess it's about time to bring the Journal up to date with some of the more notable happenings from the past couple weeks. As usual, Old Man Time ripped through Rockport at supersonic speeds leaving at least this writer stunned by the accelerating pace... the quick repetitive pulsations of lightness and darkness previously known as days and nights... that seem to meld into an ersatz slide-show, one picture per day... the same one each day. At times I feel like a spectator as life parades by... and must exert some effort to get up and into the action. Vacation is over... time to get back to work.

Phil, Rose, Gisele, Tim
The big neighborhood fish fry was scheduled for the 18th. We joined friends Tim & Gisele and Phil & Rose in contributing a bag of oysters to the party. This is a good year for oysters here on the Coastal Bend... big and plentiful... so it was easy to score a bag right off the back of a fishing boat down at Fulton Harbor. The price was $26 for the bag... a little over 100 pounds of raw oysters in the shell. The next step is to "shuck 'em". For this, one needs an official shuckin knife. Then you reaches into the bag, grabs ahold of one of 'em, locates the "hinge" end of the about three inch long shelled creature, inserts the point of yer shuckin knife into the hinge and twist... prying open the shell just enough to stick it in a bit further, twist again, until the shell separates completely. The oyster meat is finally scraped out and refrigerated for later use. A 100 pound bag of oysters will yield something like 7 pounds of meat. It took 5 of us about a half hour to shuck the bag. Sorry, no pics... my hands were a busy and slimy.


The fish fry itself was a real hit. I think we had about 60 people and enough food to feed twice that. It's a lot of work but everyone joins in and contributes in some way... so it's manageable. Good food and good people make it an enjoyable day.

We were happy to have Jan & Dave, my little sister and brother-in-law, visit us during the weekend of the 22nd. They were looking for an excuse to escape cold snowy Wisconsin for a few days prior to gearing up for tax season -- Dave is a CPA and they both work hard long hours between now and tax day in April. It was a short visit, just two days, but we really connect with these two and always have a great time when we get together. When we're back in Wisconsin during the summer we usually join these two for TNOD (Thursday Night On the Deck) at a local Mexican Restaurant in downtown Beaver Dam. It's sorta-like TGIF... their way of starting the weekend. You see, a side benefit of working hard during tax season can turn Friday into a weekend day during the summer. Thanks for coming down you guys... we really enjoyed it.

The Big Tree -- Largest Coastal Live Oak in Texas

The Beach on Mustang Island
Yesterday, Jimmy Smith (of Julianne and Jimmy fame) and I had lunch at a little place on Fulton Harbor -- Moon Dog. It was a nice day so we sat outside and whiled away the afternoon by discussing life, telling stories, and solving world problems. I think I need to do this kind of thing more often. It was good for my mental health.

Other than those, my days have been routine. Dar's still working a lot (today she was called in to cover a staff shortage, which makes 4 long days in a row for her this week) and I'm keeping house when I'm motivated. Even with working so much, Dar's doing a better job of keeping up with our online photo albums than I've been with blogging... so check out the few pics we have from January.

More soon...
T

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blogging and Other Thoughts

Whenever I fall behind with the blog, it's a real chore for me to get back at it. Whether initially caused by laziness or busyness or whatever, there's a certain momentum that accompanies stepping away from the routine of regular posting. I mean "if I haven't posted for the past 5 days, what's one or two more?" And so it goes.

I write this blog for two reasons: first, to keep family, friends, and curious others informed about our location and adventures. This reason has an element of selfishness to it as it's much easier for me to write one blog entry instead of a whole bunch of individual emails and phone calls. But it also means that those who are interested in our whereabouts can do so at their convenience. The second reason I write is for a permanent record of our travels during this fulltime RV lifestyle phase of our lives. Ultimately the permanent record takes the form of a book that I have printed each year with all the entries from that particular year's blog. If I had no regular readers at all I'd still write for the permanent record. But I must say that having a few readers adds another dimension... another level of enjoyment to the whole process.

We all need a purpose for our life. That purpose can, and does, change over time... whether it's raising your kids, a craft or hobby or talent that you're passionate about, your work or profession, or any number of other interests that occupy your mind and your time. I suppose one can have multiple concurrent purposes, but for the most part, I think one will dominate at any single point in time. For me, right now, blogging and other writing projects I'm working on provide me with my purpose.

Some incessant bloggers may carry this need for a purpose into the realm of addiction. That's probably also the case with many who live on facebook or other social networking sites for hours each day. I'm working hard to keep that from happening with me... savoring the days I don't blog but still enjoying the days when I do "fall back ON the blogging wagon".

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Tough Question for the Day: Efficiency and productivity have exploded in the past few years. Is it possible that we can now satisfy the demand for goods and services in the USA without employing most of the nearly 20% of the population that are either out of work or vastly under-employed? Put another way... Do we now have a permanent under-class that neither earns nor consumes anything beyond the basics... and will be a net cost to society for the foreseeable future? How do we deal with this... as a society?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Preoccupied

A mixture of busyness and laziness has prompted this unplanned hiatus from blogging during the past week or so. But fear not... I'll be back at it again soon.

T

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rockport Musings

The weather this week certainly didn't disappoint anyone who likes it dreary, cold, and wet. No sir... the electric meters here at Sandollar Resort are all spinning like tops and the propane delivery crew has been pulling overtime for sure. I'm writing this weather stuff into the Journal as a record... not to elicit sympathy. I'm well aware that as crummy as it's been here, it's still far better than most of the rest of the lower 48.

And the propane guys aren't the only ones with bigger paychecks these days. Dar's been working hard at the hospital and putting in more hours than she signed up for. I think they were testing her stamina the first couple weeks (almost 70 hours in 7 calendar days) as it looks like her schedule relaxes some for the next couple. Maybe it was some kind of initiation ritual? She's doing fine... still has the spunk and stamina of a 25 year old.

The weather has kept most of our fellow Sandollar denizens inside their fiberglass boxes this week... huddled around heaters and TVs. In the old days, TVs put out much more heat than the new ones... remember vacuum tubes... the ever-present TV repair guy... vertical hold? New electronics work cooly and flawlessly... until they don't. And then you just throw them into the landfill and buy a new one. That's what you call progress Bunkie. Oh, and vertical hold??  These days I've heard they've got a little blue pill for that.

As I write this, rain is pouring down and I'm thinking about space. Not the space above where the shuttle and space station fly, but the space we have inside the RV. As much as I long for a smaller RV in order to explore more remote and primitive areas, I do like the amount of space we have when we're confined to quarters on days like this. I wonder how we'd do with a lot less space... if we'd let it bother us or if we'd adapt. I'd like to think the latter.

T

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Week in Rockport

We've been at Sandollar Resort near Rockport for almost a week now, and that week has gone by quickly. The weather has been, I believe, rather typical for the Texas coast -- which is to say it's been changeable. Those who demand a winter of bright sun, warmth, cloudless skies, and light tropical breezes should probably book passage to the south sea islands instead of Texas. During the past week we've had highs in the 60's, lows in the 40's, a lot of clouds, a big thunderstorm in the early hours of Sunday (complete with reports of a small tornado just a few miles away)... and just enough sun to keep cabin fever at bay. But I'm not sure that will be the case this next week as we're expecting even more clouds, more rain, and much cooler than normal temps... which is still OK by me. Any way you look at it, even highs in the 40's are more tolerable than the deep winter sub-zero readings up on the Wisconsin-Minnesota icepack.

The local hospital wasted no time getting Dar back into the medical melee. In our first 7 days here, she'll have clocked more than full-time hours as the hospital beds are full and the staffing light. She takes solace in the fact that this is a short-term gig... only three months. But she also enjoys helping others and making a real contribution to their health and well-being. Those three months should go by quickly.

I've taken on more of the domestic chores around here and am learning how to do laundry correctly. Years ago I messed up and sort of threw everything in the machine at the same time... whites, reds, darks, lights... and it all came out looking sort'a pink-ish. And since that time Dar hasn't let me near a washing machine. (insert happy face here)  I mean, it is a really complicated thing... keeping colors separate; the right amount of soap to add; managing load size; selecting the right settings on the machine... why it's just so darn difficult to get right... so hard to keep it all straight.

But, Dar has taken on the project of helping me with this shortcoming. (insert sad face here)  Of course, we're taking it one step at a time -- not expecting too much too early. A couple days ago, I successfully did a load of towels. And then it was a load of jeans. She calls it progress. I call it a step backward.

Wondering which load this new red sweatshirt should be in (insert sly devil face here)...
T

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Settling In Along the Gulf Coast

Yesterday we finally showed up at our Gulf Coast winter base camp... Sandollar Resort and RV Park, just north of Rockport in the town of Fulton, TX. Strategically and stealthily showing up during a light drizzle we were able to back into our site, level up, and punch out the slides before starting with the process of meeting and greeting and getting caught up with everyone. It was a lot like old home week. Because of the quickening passage of time these days, it seemed like we've only been gone a few weeks instead of the better part of a year.

The expedition from our last extended camp in the State of Washington was a little over 2,800 miles, took 74 days, and involved 17 different camps. Our travel pattern has developed, driven by family circumstances, locations, and nature, into an annual series of three extended stays... Wisconsin in the summer, Washington in the spring or fall, and Texas in the winter... interspersed with three periods of travel and exploration. We strive to take different routes during the travel periods to see as much as we can of the big old USA.

We'll be here along the Gulf Coast for a full three months. After our 97 day stay here last winter (during which a serious case of "hitch-itch" descended on both of us!) we really considered shortening our stay this year to just a month. But the realities of life intervened in the form of less-than-hoped for investment returns, rapidly increasing health insurance costs, and our desire to continue this lifestyle experiment for a while longer. Therefore, being able to augment the income side of the ledger by utilizing Dar's nursing skills... which are 1) in demand and 2) decently paid... seemed like a good trade-off for another extended camp this winter.

Due to the reduction in our explorations I'll probably struggle at times for journal entry topics during the next three months and there will probably be a reduction in the frequency of new posts. But my goal has always been to favor quality over quantity... and I will strive to keep things interesting and current. As much as I like having readers, my primary audience has always been the future readers of the print version of this Journal... a record of our travels and a legacy of insight into who we were. I try to keep this in mind when writing.

Thom

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rolling Downhill to the Coastal Bend

Yesterday, Sunday, we moved from the Escapees RV Park near Hondo, TX. to a new-ish RV Park near Aransas Pass that we thought we'd try on for size for a couple days. It was an easy and agreeable 190 mile downhill drive to the Coastal Bend of Texas... and it felt good to be back. The Aransas Pass location is perfect for Dar to wrap up all the preliminary employment stuff at the hospital, as it's almost right next door. She'll get that done today, and tomorrow we'll head on over to Sandollar, just 15 miles away, to begin our long winter camp.

Three months is a long time for us to be sitting in one place, but we'll both be busy. Besides work (Dar at the hospital; me on a long list of bus-house chores and a writing project), we have our Sandollar friends to make sure we're not bored. And if one has to sit someplace for the core of Winter... this is one of the best places to be as far as we're concerned. The unpretentious and laid-back nature of the Coastal Bend is so comfortable... it really has become our winter home.

After parking and getting set up yesterday, I pulled out the ladder and went to work on the front end of the bus-house. A couple months in the desert have left the whole camper looking dirty, dusty, and sad. My objective was to clean the front-end so we could snap the big windshield sunscreen up as soon as we pull into our south-facing site at Sandollar tomorrow. This sunscreen does a great job at controlling UV and heat... almost a necessity when parked with the front end pointing south, and I hate putting it on over a dirty windshield. So having it all ready to go is one less thing to do tomorrow.

Almost home...
T