Saturday, March 26, 2011

Warm

South Texas (including the Coastal Bend) is the warmest part of the nation today. Highs well into the 80's... could set some new records if the weather folks are to be believed. And being hard against the Gulf, as we are, and with the persistent southeast winds blowing tropical air northward... well, it's plenty humid for this kid too.

As I said in my last post, it looks like we'll be among the last of the Winter Texans here at Sandollar. Texas Highway 35 runs right past the RV Park (I can see it from my writing perch) and there's been a steady stream of RVs heading north during the past few weeks. I've never seen any estimates of how many RVs make up the seasonal migration to South Texas each year, but it must be a huge number. I think I've commented before that this is one of only three places in the Continental US that you have a chance of escaping the extremes of Winter... the others being South Florida and parts of the extreme Southwest between Yuma and San Diego. So the concentration of RVers here shouldn't be a surprise... but it's no less an amazing natural phenomenon than the yearly migration of the Whooping Crane.

This year, just like the last two, we found ourselves "itching" to move... to explore... as we quickly tired of being in one spot for three months. But the opportunity for Dar to pick up some quick cash during the three months of deep Winter trumped the itch and we made the best of it. Life is a series of compromises and as long as you adjust your attitude, it's possible to be happy whatever you decide to do.

What about next year? Hmm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Antsy

Our 3 month respite on the Gulf Coast is drawing to a close for this year. The RV Park is clearing out and vast empty spaces have opened up... providing visibility and a direct path for the persistent and gusty southeast March winds that characterize the Gulf Coast in Spring. The past couple weeks the weather has been the same every day... low temp of 69f, high of 79f, mostly sunny, humid, and windy.

Dar has her last few days of work scheduled (just 5 left) and is getting increasingly antsy as our list of "to do's" isn't shrinking as fast as the time left before departure. She's got, I think, a touch of OCD and simply must be doing something, anything... to "get it all done" before we leave. Kicking-back and relaxing on her days off is rare lately, and will probably remain so until we're back on the road again.

I, on the other hand, am still firmly in the grip of "island time" and have little or no concern about the list or the impending day of departure.. I know what must be done will get done... if not today then maybe tomorrow. Between the two of us, as long as we can keep the mood light and the vibrations positive, we're finding a reasonable balance on the work/relaxation continuum.

We're also having fun working out our travel plan for the next leg of our RV Sabbatical which I'll have more to say about... maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disaster Ponderings

Life is tenuous... society and civilization too. The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear problem in Japan this past week remind me, once again, of the fragile nature of our existence on this planet. The natural history of the earth is one of long periods of relative calm interrupted by short bursts of chaos and upheaval which are dramatic... often life-threatening if not life-extinguishing. Natural disasters are a normal part of the life-cycle of the planet: earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, meteor or asteroid impacts, solar flares, and more. To these we should probably add man-made disasters to the mix as well.  And the only thing we can do about it all, in our built-in drive to survive, is to take reasonable measures to NOT become victims in the event things come un-glued and life as we know it falls apart for some period of time.

Waiting for water. Sendai, Japan
 Being lulled into a sense of complacency and dependency during the calm periods is a sure way to insure you'll be a victim if, and when, law and order collapses during times of chaos. What happens during these times of stress?... Just start with store shelves that are cleaned bare either by legal buyers and hoarders, or by illegal looters... in either case, food and supplies evaporate quickly. Electricity... the power grid... goes dark and simple things like gassing up the car, charging your cell phone, getting clean potable water, or switching on lights at night become impossible. Public safety becomes dubious as the police and fire protection capabilities that are sufficient during peaceful orderly times are quickly overwhelmed during disasters.

So what's a person to do? I'm certainly not an expert on this subject, but it seems that a common-sense approach to solutions could be a good starting point. Here's a short list of what I came up with while pondering the subject:

1) Attitude: Be flexible and have a pro-active and self-reliant mindset. Be ready to do something rather than waiting around for someone to help. Often, during disasters, people are their own worst enemy... frozen in inaction, unable to know what to do or make a decision to do it, and thinking help will be coming soon. Assume help won't be coming.

2) Transportation: Keep the fuel tank of your car, truck, or RV as full as possible. Consider the top half of your tank the fuel you use on a day to day basis, and the bottom half of the tank your emergency supply. With fuel you have a chance to escape the problem in your personal vehicle.

3) Warmth & Shelter: Extra clothing, tarps, tents, para-cord, rain gear, etc. may be critical depending on the situation. Have it available, know how it works, and know where it is. For warmth and cooking, have a means to start a fire and to make the wood to keep it going.

4) Fresh Potable Water:  Have water purification tablets, bleach, water filtration systems, etc. available and know how to use them. Clean water is the most critical item a body needs every day and is always in short supply or non-existent during disasters.

5) Food: Have enough high-calorie and energy-dense food available for the survival period so you don't have to put yourself at risk trying to procure food you, and everybody else, needs. It should be canned so it has a long shelf life and doesn't require refrigeration. Besides keeping your energy and strength level up, it'll keep you away from crowds of desperate people at the store.

6) Bug-Out-Bag:  Consider having a B.O.B. that contains key elements from the list above and some other tools, etc., that may come in handy. These could also include a basic first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries, GPS, Leatherman tool, Swiss Army knife, compact saw, hatchet, handgun, radio, two-way radios, cell phone, a supply of cash... You get the idea.

I'm sure this isn't a complete list and uber-survivalists would have a lot to criticize or add. But it's a start. The key to this thinking is to take responsibility for yourself and to NOT leave your survival up to someone else. Like a good first aid kit, you hope you never need to use it. But if you do it's really important to have.

It could make you a survivor.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Life's a Beach

Life around the old RV park has been mostly slow and easy the past few days. Since the hospital census continues to be low, Dar is working fewer hours than a month ago. More of our Winter Texan friends have left Sandollar to return to their northern homes, and others are preparing to do so in the next couple weeks. By the first part of April when we're planning to depart, the only ones left will be those from the most northerly parts of the USA, or Canada.

We did have one burst of adrenalin-pumping excitement a few nights ago when four of our neighbors, returning from a shopping trip to Corpus Christi, were rear-ended by a pickup truck as they (the neighbors) were turning off the highway and coming into the RV park. The impact created a sickening series of squeals, bangs, skids, and shattering glass, and sent the car spinning before it came to rest against a tree just a couple hundred feet from where I was sitting and reading just outside the bus-house door. I couldn't see anything from my vantage point, but immediately ran to the scene to help out. It turns out that no one was injured enough to be hauled away by the responding EMS... they were all very fortunate in that regard. It was quite a hoo-ha with police cars, flashing lights, gawkers, and more. The car, needless to say, was a mess and needed to be trucked away. All in all, a traumatic hour or so... not the kind of excitement we crave in our travels.

Yesterday Dar and I headed over to the beach on Mustang Island, trying to take advantage of some light dry northerly winds (off-shore breezes) and probably the last quiet day over there before the spring break crowds start showing up in earnest this weekend. It turned into one of the best days we've ever experienced at that beach, with ideal weather and no crowds or hassle at all. We traversed the beach on Mustang from North to South before crossing onto North Padre Island (the next barrier island to the south) and continuing all the way to the Padre Island National Seashore. Along the way we stopped a number of times... for morning coffee... for lunch... for afternoon high-tea. We read, listened to the surf, watched shore-birds flapping around for lunch, and caught more than a few rays of sun on some still-white (now reddish) body parts.

Among the larger tasks I've yet to complete before leaving in April is giving the bus-house a scrub-down... top to bottom, with soap and elbow-grease. Camping this close to the Gulf leaves a layer of salty residue on everything that really should be removed before things start to rust and finishes become dull.

A general plan for our 5 week trek back to Wisconsin is taking shape and it looks like we'll be swinging by South Carolina friends Tim and Chris for a visit before beelining it to Beaver Dam in early May.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beach Lunch for Two

During the past two months in the Rockport area, we've neglected our "couple-ness" -- the bond we share. Between work (for Dar) and the Sandollar social club, we haven't made much time for just the two of us. So yesterday we savored a decadent and unconventional lunch together... to reconnect and escape from the recent sameness and routine that's dominated our lives.

We picked up two slices of home-made cheesecake from Jama's Kitchen in downtown Rockport (Dar selected the last piece of truffle; I, a center piece of white chocolate macadamia nut; to go). Jama's makes some of the best cheesecake I've ever had. Then we headed over to Rockport beach where we set up our beachchairs under a cabana a few feet from the water, stuck our toes in the warm sand, and nibbled on "lunch" while soaking in the sun, the bay views, and some good conversation. It was simple and it was great... one of those little events we'll remember forever.

Earlier in the day I had an appointment at the local tire shop. I'm in the process of installing a tire pressure monitoring system on the car (the toad). One of our neighbors limped into Rockport recently with a badly damaged Jeep Liberty ($4,000 damage) -- the result of a tire blowout while being towed behind their motorhome. A towed car is so insignificant in comparison to the size and weight of a motorhome that a blown tire on the car won't be apparent to the driver until chunks of rubber from a shredding tire start tearing off larger pieces of the car... fender liner, fender, bumper, brake lines, radiator, etc. In the worst cases the blown tire can get hot enough to ignite, setting fire to the car and eventually the motorhome too. We've been using an inadequate system of carefully watching for toad trouble in the rear-facing camera while driving, and stopping often for "toad checks". But our neighbor's problem was the last straw and we finally popped for a PressurePro tire pressure monitoring system.

The PressurePro is easily installed by the user. The reason I had to visit the tire shop is to have new, stiffer, valve stems installed and the tires balanced with the system in place. A small sensor, about the size of a walnut, is screwed on the valve stem of each tire to be monitored. The sensor constantly reads the pressure in the tire and wirelessly relays that information to a base-station mounted in the cockpit of the motorhome. If the tire pressure drops below a set level, an alarm alerts the driver to pull-over and investigate the problem -- hopefully before the tire goes completely flat. I'm counting on this thing for a little more peace-of-mind during our travels.

And the Safety Director is all smiles about it too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Slick Sleek

I've been bothered by my journalling dryspell of late. As during traveling breaks in the past, there just hasn't been much I've wanted to say and, thus, I'm lucky if I get one entry posted per week. My days along the Coastal Bend of Texas meld together to the point where days become weeks and then months before I'm really aware of it.

But traveling and exploring will resume in early April... just a bit over 4 of those short weeks from now. I'm already looking at routes and alternatives for the next leg of our sabbatical project and getting more excited each day. We're thinking about heading generally east to visit long-neglected good friends near York SC. before heading back to Wisconsin for a number of family commitments in May.

The hospital where Dar works isn't as swamped with business was it was a few weeks ago, and she's had more time off the past week than she's had since starting in early January. While that would seem to indicate a general wave of health is flowing over the Coastal Bend, a bunch of people we know have been knocked down for several days by a nasty intestinal bug of some kind. Dar and I have been spared to this point, and we're taking steps to keep it that way. 
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We just took delivery of a new Wilson Sleek Cellphone Signal Booster and I'm pretty impressed with it after an initial "test drive" this morning. In days gone by most cell phones came with an antenna jack that could be used to hook the phone up to a signal booster and external antenna for better performance in weak areas. But, for whatever reason, Verizon, AT&T, et. al., aren't very keen on aiding and abetting their customer's ability to boost signals, and the days of the external antenna jack on new cell phone handsets is about over. But the Wilson Sleek doesn't need the jack... capturing and boosting the signals passively through the use of some technology magic. After a few minutes of messing around with it this morning, I'm pleased that, so far, it seems to perform as advertised. The Sandollar RV Park is in a very weak Verizon area, but the Sleek is boosting our Verizon signal by a full two bars. I'd say the Sleek is pretty slick.

T