Fredericksburg, TX April 2021

Spring Time in Texas

It is spring time in the Hill Country. Trees are leafing out, occasional morning showers turn to beautiful sunny afternoons with big puffy clouds. Warm days, cooler evenings. It really is quite nice here in Fredericksburg.

Norm and Shirl got a new LP gas fire pit so we go over there and burn their gas a few evenings a week. Sometimes there is pie.

Mike and Jackie bring Charlie (light brown) and Clancy (reddish).

And Curtis and Peggy come to visit as well. They have a home near Marble Falls but spend of much their time here in the RV Park. They are both well into their 80s and just as nice as they can be.

Dave Cobb and Debbie (his new best friend) came one evening as well.

We walk everyday around the park and watch the pond bloom and listen to the bull frogs burp.

The Cardinals are getting ready to head north.

And flowers are blooming.

We got some new yard art, took a drive and saw a small herd of Oreo cows (Banded Galloways, from Scotland) and some gorgeous Hill Country views.

We went to the Vereins Kirche (a community building, a school, a church, and now a museum) and learned more about Fredericksburg’s founding and the German immigrants in the mid 1800s. Then we went across the street to the Pioneer Museum to learn more about how the community evolved. Early settlers got a land grant for farming and a small plot of land in town. Many built a small “Sunday” house where they would stay when they came to market and to church.

The Vereins Kirche.

One of many schools, mostly one room for all.

A Sunday house, small with only one room with an outside ladder to more sleeping space in the attic.

There is a carpentry shop, a Blacksmith shop, a smoke house, an old store and more all preserving the heritage of Fredericksburg as it continues to change today and into the future.

Last Wednesday I went to the weekly cattle auction just a couple blocks from the RV Park. We hear the cows bellowing every Tuesday and Wednesday.

I sat on my hands so I wouldn’t accidentally buy a cow. It is very fast paced, sort of a beauty contest where each cow gets 30 seconds or so to show off. Hands are raised, heads nodded, the auctioneer yammers on and cows are sold by weight or by the cow (most of these were pregnant). $700 each or there about. By the pound, most sold for about 60¢ to 70¢. Long Horn steers sold for 25¢ a pound. An older guy in a cowboy hat sitting next to me helped me understand what was happening. Long Horns are scrawny, not much meat, and mostly ornmental.

Thinking Ahead to Next Winter

Plans for next winter are being considered, maybe Fredericksburg again, maybe Alabama, maybe Arizona, maybe Santa Fe. Or all of them. We did make reservations in Fredericksburg for December. They go all out for the Christmas season which will be fun to see.

Getting Ready to Head Home

The time is near to head north to browner pastures. We know they will turn green eventually but you can definitely tell that as we go further north spring is further behind than it is in Fredericksburg. We are leaving on a Sunday to sneak by the outskirts of Ft Worth and get as far as we can into Oklahoma in one day. It is always windy in OK. It looks now like we might have a favorable tail wind. Hard cross winds increase the driving effort quite a bit. We will see what comes.

Projects

Susan graduated from Fredericksburg PT and got a nice red TShirt. She has an appointment to see an ortho doc when we get home and will continue on with PT. Lots of progress made, still some more improvement is possible. So that is our main project.

She is looking at a semi-recumbent three wheel bike. We found one that looks easier than most to get in and out of and it can be ordered with electric assist.

I might have to get a pickup truck to haul it around. 🤠

Be Safe

We have finished up with two covid vaccine shots but will remain careful, wear our masks, be aware of who we are around and where we are.

We hope everyone will do the same for themselves, their family and friends and for the community. It is dismaying to hear of how many are skipping their second shot or refusing them altogether. The risks are very small, the benefit to you and all around you are great.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX Late March, Early April, 2021

Visitors

We haven’t seen our good friends Douglas and Amanda for about a year, way too long but last year was hard for everyone. They surprised us when they told us they were coming to Fredericksburg for a few days right after the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, TX. Their business depends on Art and Craft shows to sell their handmade jewelry and most got cancelled last year. But it looks like the shows are back on for this summer and they are heading to Michigan for the summer in just a few weeks.

We all had a late picnic lunch.

That evening we went to the community room to play Quiddler in person. We have been playing Quiddler with them using ZOOM but it was more fun to play in person. Mike and Jackie joined in and Klaus came to watch. Susan and I made a homemade apple pie using Harlson apples from home that we shared with ice cream.

Birthday

It is an inevitability that birthday anniversaries come once a year and mine was the next day.

Douglas and Amanda snuck over in the middle of the night and hung a birthday banner on our coach.

We got up and got going and we did what good Texans seem to do, we went out for lunch. Mike and Jackie, Norm and Shirl, Amanda and Douglas and Susan and I drove down to Camp Verde, TX to the Camp Verde General Store and Post Office where they have a great restaurant.

This is a treat to go here, always with good friends, and the food is great. And we get to go to the general store which has a large section of kitchen toys. We almost always find something we “need”.

Amanda baked a cake, a four layer carrot cake, my favorite. Susan was her coach and they did a wonderful job.

There were candles, nowhere near the requisite number, there are fire restrictions in effect here. No blowing out candles these days so hand waving had to do.

We fired up the gas fire pit, pulled up chairs, added ice cream to generous servings of cake and enjoyed Amanda’s creation, it even had little carrot decorations.

Klaus and Douglas

Second Covid Vaccine Shot

Finally our day came for the second Covid Vaccine Shot. Susan had rehab in the morning and then we went over to the University Center for our shot. They move people through there in a very organized way. Our papers were filled out and checked and our shots were given at the exact time of our appointment. Fifteen minutes later we were on out way out the door, this time with a lollipop. We feel very fortunate to have completed this process here in Texas, together and after staying healthy though a whole year at risk.

To help celebrate the Blue Bonnets are beginning to bloom.

We are still wearing our masks, sort of got used to them by now and there is no reason to tempt fate.

Lunch-a-Lots

When I was in Boy Scouts one of the patrols in our Troop had the nick name Lunch-a-Lots. We seem to be going out to eat here two or three times a week, mostly lunches, mostly in places that should be on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. Somehow they all seem to be somewhere that involves an interesting drive through the Texas Hill Country, not especially glamour spots but all serving up the best grub.

The Airport Diner looks like a 1950s diner.

The Doss Country Store & Los Muertos BBQ. Some other folks joined us and it was interesting to get a historical perspective from people who have lived in this area for a long time. There were amazing, detailed murals painted on the walls.

And of course one of our favorites, Alamo Springs Cafe. Best Burgers in Texas is the claim, I think they are.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX Later March, Early April, 2021

Weight Lifting

I am a member of a Foretravel owners online forum. https://www.foreforums.com/index.php It is an interesting mix of owners, past owners and hope-to-be owners and just interested folks. Some of it is more socially oriented (Facebookish sort of stuff) off in one forum, some is technical stuff, some renovations, some is general discussion but RV related stuff, some is buy and sell, each loosely contained in separate forums. There have been over 7,000 users over time and more than 400,000 posts. People join, people depart, at any one time there may be a few hundred active users.

A new owner from Washington struck up a virtual conversation with me some months ago and it continues on line and by phone. He is an older fellow (which means he is older than I am) and originally from Germany. His name is Klaus. When I talk to him he sounds just like my cousin Sandy’s husband, Claus, also originally from Germany. Klaus was on his way from NE Washington to Nacogdoches, TX to get some work done, look for a new couch and ask questions. On the way there and back he was stopping in Houston and Dallas to see friends. He found out we were in Fredericksburg so he adjusted plans to stop here to meet us.

I didn’t know this was his first trip in his coach and that he was by himself. He called me from Utah with a battery issue which was quickly diagnosed as old and dying batteries in need of replacement. So in his few days here in Fredericksburg I got to help swap coach batteries.

I ordered three new batteries at an O’Reilly’s here in town so that when he got here we could make the switch. This isn’t quite like changing the 3 AA batteries in your remote control. Each one of these AGM lead acid batteries weigh in at 167 lbs each. They are about 22 inches long, 12 inches wide and 10 inches tall. And did I mention they weigh 167 lbs each.

In our coach you just open up a side bay door and the batteries are right there. In Klaus’s coach the batteries are in a tight space in the middle of the basement. There was a slide out cargo tray and a big cover panel that we had to remove to get access to the battery space. It was a metal box about 24″ wide and about 36″ in from the side of the coach. The height of the basement ceiling from the floor is about 27″. So crawling into this small space and wrestling out 167 lb batteries got left to the young (and reluctantly willing) … me.

There were two batteries in a rack at floor level and a third on a second rack half way to the ceiling. The cables got disconnected and the ends covered to prevent any shorts. The batteries on the floor level were swollen and jammed into the rack. I got my pry bar and with some effort got the first battery loose and up over the 1″ tall lip of the lower rack. It took about 15 minutes to work it back and forth and over the edge of the rack out into the basement space (where I was all knotted up). We hooked a strap to it and pulled it to the edge of the basement opening and out onto the ground. And then we did the same with the second battery. This one was no easier but it finally came out and on to the ground.

The upper battery was wedged in as well. We had some access to the underneath part of the rack so we were able to pry it up and move it forward onto the edge of the rack. The plus and minus battery posts were very close to the steel framing of the opening so we wedged in a few layers of cardboard over the plus post and worked it out past the framing. Then we set up a folding step in line with the battery and slid it out on to the step, turned the battery 90°, and then off the step onto the floor and then out onto the ground. I crawled out of the basement cave and gave it my best shot to stand up. Tough, creaky and stiff.

A young fellow, way younger than either Klaus or me, volunteered to help us get the three batteries (more than 500 lbs total) into Klaus’s Jeep so we could go get the new batteries and get rid of the old ones. He thought he could just hoist one up and get it in by himself. He was surprised when he tried that. It is a two person job.

We assumed that at the battery store there would be a strapping youngster to get the batteries out and the new ones back in. So much for assumptions, there was one middle aged guy there who recently had shoulder surgery. So the old and now 1/2 pooped team had another 500 lbs out and 500 lbs back into the Jeep

Back at the RV park our younger neighbor lent another hand and got all three batteries out of the Jeep and helped get the two lower batteries in and in place. Much easier when they are not all swollen. And then the third one up on the middle shelf. We used one of the folding steps on the ground to get the battery about even with the basement floor. Then a second step just inside the door of the basement on the basement floor which got the battery close to the right height. Then the first step in the cave next to the step with the battery on it and slid it over to that step. Once more with a piece of plywood onto the first step further in the cave and rotated the battery 90° so it was aligned pretty well with where it had to go. A bit of pushing and some pry bar help over the edge of the rack and slid it into place.

Then I reconnected all of the cables and double checked everything. No sparks! After four hours of grunting and groaning we turned on the charger and engaged the power. All was good. We reinstalled the sliding tray, I put away my tools, ate some ibuprofen for lunch and took a shower.

Visitors

Our friends Douglas and Amanda were coming to the Fredericksburg RV Park on the same day we had the battery rodeo. I think they knew what was happening and managed to arrive after we were done. More on this visit in the next blog post.

I am pooped thinking about what we did and grateful we got it done with no one getting hurt. Susan was too. I was pretty stiff in the mornings for a couple days but happy to have been able to help out.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX Early March 2021

Progress, One Step at a Time

When we left Alabama Susan had graduated to a lace up and Velcro brace to support her broken leg and a walker and had been to physical therapy five times. These were pretty basic PT sessions. How to use the walker and early efforts to begin to regain flexibility and range of motion. She had a long way to go. So when we got to Fredericksburg she found a Physical Therapy resource, got the necessary referrals and started seeing a therapist two or three times a week.

It started out with stretching and flexibility workouts, range of motion exercises and home work exercises for hips to help keep her walking straight. All of this is helping. When the ankle is sore she uses an ice pack.

Every day we walk in the park. Susan started walking without the brace sometimes a couple weeks ago. And trying these shoes or those for best comfort. We are at the point now where the brace has been retired and walking is pretty good. In the last week she has started walking without her cane, she still carries it along, sometimes twirling it like a baton or up and down like a drum major. Last week we walked around the park perimeter twice, no cane, 1.4 miles!

Progress is steady, Susan is working hard on making it a reality.

Vaccine

We had high hopes of getting a Covid-19 vaccine while we were in Alabama but like so many other places vaccine supplies were slow in coming, distribution mechanisms were confused and difficult to work with. In the end it just wasn’t going to happen. No word from home yet on them being available so we pinned our hopes on Texas. We had heard that the HEB grocery store pharmacy was giving shots so every day (usually more than once we checked to see if any were available. It was a frustrating effort and left us feeling hopeless.

We signed up at the Fredericksburg Hill Country hospital to be notified when appointments were available. This is where you go in Gillespie County to get notified if vaccines are available. We also signed up in nearby Llano (pronounced “yano”) County for the same thing. There was no way to tell how long the lists were, where we were on the lists or even how many vaccine doses might be available.

And then one morning we both got a text message from the Fredericksburg Hospital with a link to make an appointment for a vaccine shot. We were excited and relieved – all the reactions you can imagine, all the same ones most of us feel when this opportunity comes up. Within minutes we had appointments for the next morning at the nearby University Center. It was only minutes away, Susan’s appointment was just a few minutes ahead of mine, she went in, I waited a bit.

It was very organized, rows of individual tables spaced apart, fill out the paper work, answer a couple questions from the intake person and then wait a couple minutes for the injection giver to get to you. She was a nurse, not dressed like one, probably retired. Looked to be my grandmother’s age but probably only a couple years older than me, a kind and reassuring voice, a jab and it was done! What a rush of emotions. We were on the right path, the right one for us.

When we came out we looked out behind the University Center where there was a large pasture with a most curious looking horse. Actually several of them. The front end was tan and behind a very distinct line the back end was black. I took several pictures and when looking at them later realized the head too was black. Our friends here had been describing the Oreo cows they had seen. Were these the Oreo Horses? And then we noticed a large herd of deer in the background that we had not seen at all in person. These are Texas deer, about the size of a big goat. It was interesting that focusing on one thing, the tan and black horse, other details are just not seen.

After all was done we went to the Dairy Queen for a treat since we didn’t get the customary lollipop.

I hope all those we know will take advantage of a vaccine when it is available to them. Not just for you and your family but for all of us.

Walking

In addition to walking with Susan most of the time when she walks I walk around the entire campground almost every day, back and forth up and down each lane. Many days one and a half times around, sometimes twice. Two complete loops is about 3.5 miles. Since there is a slight slope west to east that means almost half of that walk is up hill. Our friend Mike who is here from Nacogdoches walks most days as well, sometimes we walk together and chat about the news. He listens to much more news that I do and on sources that I would likely not listen to any way. It is OK to get another perspective on occasion. And sometimes I get to take their small poodle Charley for a walk. Lots of start and stopping with that one but I like it. He seems to me to be a tiny dog but his buddy Clancy (their other poodle) is half Charley’s size.

Exploring

We will rarely take the direct route anywhere we are going. Fredericksburg is an interesting town and fun to drive up and down the streets to see what we see. Lots of nice old homes, lots of updated and gentrified old homes and some brand new ones made to look old. And lots of pretty normal new homes and town homes, filling the need for the growth spurt being felt around here. In general they are doing pretty well with style and materials to maintain the sturdy limestone look of the old German roots.

Who would have expected to find a giant tree house in someones front yard? Why not here?

More Later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

The Road to Fredericksburg, TX. February 2021

We waited for an extra week in Orange Beach, weather was nice there but much colder inland. All week we were checking in to see if the place that we were heading for in Nacogdoches was open. They finally got power and water back on Friday, 3/19/2021 after almost a week without. So the next day we pulled up stakes and headed for Nacogdoches. We got there on Sunday after an overnight at a casino in western Louisiana. It was very strange to see snow piled up along the sides of bridges and roads.

Nacogdoches, TX

We pulled into Nacogdoches mid-afternoon on Sunday and stopped at the Foretravel factory campground, two other coaches were there, no people. Two more came in later that day.

We got up early the next morning and drove to Nacogdoches Motorhome Service (NMS). They are a newer spot in town, about 2 years old now, staffed by folks with lots of experience, all worked at Foretravel and Motorhomes of Texas before. Their job was to replace the eight airbags in our suspension system, eight shock absorbers and the three ride height valves. These are the main parts of the suspension. The air bags are like springs, shock absorbers smooth out the ride and the ride height valves let air in or out of the air bags as the coach moves up and down going down the road to maintain a level ride.

This is something some owners will do themselves. I read all the accounts of getting the job done and figured it would take me a day per corner, four days, plus a day in the middle to rest and a day at the end to recuperate and hopefully no injuries. And you need some special tools, ones I could borrow to do the job.

The folks at NMS assured me they could get it done in a day. And they did. We were there about 9 hours, they had two folks on it most of the day for 14 hrs of billable labor. And they did a good job.

While they were working on it we went back to Foretravel, bought a couple of lug nut covers there and checked on a used couch for a friend in Washington State. Then we went to Motorhomes of Texas where we got some gas spring struts that are used to hold upper cabinet doors open and checked there for a used couch too.

Then we drove up to Xtreme Paint and Graphics to see the caved in roof over their office. What a mess. They were hanging up paper records on strings to dry out in a part of the shop that didn’t get wet.

And then we met Mike and Jackie for a late lunch at a newer place in town. It was nice to sit outside and visit.

And then back to pick up the coach. All done. We drove south about 10 miles to an exit to turn around and head back to the Foretravel Campground. It was a busy highway and hard to make a turnaround anywhere else.

We got takeout from Auntie Pasta’s for dinner. It is one of our favorite spots in Nacogdoches. We got small baguettes with dinner which we saved for a French Toast breakfast a later day.

Dayton, TX

In the morning we packed up and headed for a small campground in a rural area on the west side of Houston where our friends Rudy and Carolyn are staying. We got into our spot got everything set up, added some water to our fresh water tank and visited with Carolyn for a bit. Rudy got back about 4 PM, got cleaned up and we set off for Rudy’s favorite place (we like it too), the Monument Inn on the Houston Ship Channel. Keith and Jo, more Foretravel friends, were coming after work to meet us there. We all arrived just at 5. Susan got to ride up the stairs on a motorized chair that goes up and down the stairs. We had a nice dinner, I ordered crab stuffed jalapeños. We had these last time we were here and they were very good, not too spicy. These were an appetizer, six. And when they came they were much bigger than what we remembered. They could have been enough for a whole meal and were very tasty. It was nice to see Rudy and Carolyn and Keith and Jo. We had expected to spend a few days here but a weeks delay put the squeeze on time.

Magnolia, TX

The next morning we packed up again and headed to a campground in The Woodlands, TX on the northern part of Houston. We were going to see our friends Scott and Carol who had given up their full time RV life and built a small cottage in the back yard of their daughter’s home in nearby Magnolia.

It seemed like a long way to drive over there from the campground but much shorter on the way back. Their cottage is probably twice the size (square feet) that their coach was, all new, very nicely appointed. Scott is sort of fussy that way. It is attached by a deck to their daughter’s home so moving back and forth was easy. We visited for a couple hours and Scott cooked up a big tri-tip. Low and slow as they say on his smoker and then finished it off at high temps to get some outside sear. He had a smaller smoker in his coach equipment and he now has a much bigger deck model. When it was done it was perfect along with salad, beans and vegetables. We brought desert, home made Key Lime pie.

Fredericksburg

We left Magnolia in the morning heading west on Texas Highways and Farm to Market Roads. Most were 4 lane, some divided. Typical Texas roads, better than most.

We were headed towards Austin, a place to avoid if you can, it is not quite as bad as San Antonio where road construction is still going on that wasn’t finished four years ago when we went through there. There is a highway that loops around the southern part of the Austin metro area. Not really around but through the southern part, a less congested way to go. It took a while but we got through. We went north a bit to Johnson City and then west to Fredericksburg. When we first came here this was mostly ranch land, lots of cattle and open areas. Today it is endless wineries, some vineyards (enough to qualify as Texas wine). And craft breweries and distilleries. All the way to Fredericksburg and spreading out in every direction.

We are staying at Fredericksburg RV Park which is in the middle of town. The in town part is very nice, just minutes to downtown and everywhere else we need to go. It is an older park with basic amenities, mature trees and friendly people.

So we are here, street sign planted and patio set up.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach, AL, End of February, 2021

Progress

We saw the ortho doc for the last time a week and a half ago, all looked good. He had Susan switch to a soft brace — a laces and velcro sort of thing. She can now walk without the boot, the boot and crutches have been retired to our medical device hall of fame, the walker is mostly on standby duty and a new cane is now the mobility assistance of choice. She saw the PT person twice more as well.

A new soft brace.

Walking with a cane. Cold weather dress explained later.

Across the road the massive piles of concrete rubble have been ground up into even bigger piles of gravel. And every day the tree grinding machines are reducing the piles of hurricane damaged trees into mulch. The mulch piles are bigger than the tree piles. Semi sized trucks have been hauling loads of mulch off to somewhere and barges on the Inter-Coastal Waterway are getting filled with mulch or gravel. Most of the pile of building debris was hauled away but more keeps showing up. The rows of damaged boats are down to just a few. The big crane they were using to move them around has been busy.

When I went by earlier this week there was only one boat left and the crane was gone.

There is still much to repair in this area, every time we drive anywhere we see homes with tarps on the roofs. We checked out two campgrounds out on the road to Ft Morgan, cheaper, older, not as nice, more crowded. And we looked at a piece of property on the Lagoon which clearly had a home on it that had been destroyed and removed.

Heading for Nacogdoches.

The next thing we were going to do was to pack up and go to Nacogdoches in East Texas for some service work. Time to replace the suspension air bags, shock absorbers and the ride height control valves. We had an appointment for Monday Feb 15. It is an easy two day drive over there from Orange Beach, usually.

I am sure you heard about the big polar vortex thing that broke out of its arctic home and came flooding down into the US about the time we were getting ready to leave. On the Gulf Coast we had a couple nights just below freezing but nothing too bad. Then we started hearing about Dallas being below zero, ice storms, massive pile ups. Nacogdoches was in the single digit temperatures, it was snowing, power all across Texas was failing, water supplies in Nacogdoches were shut off.

The Mississippi River Bridge on I 10 was closed due to ice. Just 30 miles north of here there was freezing rain and ice. I 10 goes under the ship channel in Mobile Bay and it had ice on the roadway at the low point.

Everyone we know in Nacogdoches was without water and power, friends stayed overnight in their motorhomes because they could stay warm while their homes got very cold, some suffered frozen water lines and water damage.

This is what our friend’s back yard looked like. It just doesn’t seem right for Texas.

They got out the best of the snow removal equipment they had in Houston.

Needless to say we decided to stay put. Now it is a week later and warmer temps are coming. Power is back on in some places, water too. So we are heading to Nacogdoches in the morning, (2/20), a week later than earlier planned. But it is OK. We are pretty flexible. And our next stop in Fredericksburg, TX had snow yesterday! It is supposed to be spring time and the wild flower season. I guess we will see.

Life goes on. We somehow have no problem getting from one day to the next, always something to do.

We have been playing Skip Bo, a card game with numbers. Susan won 2, I said let’s do best of 3, then 4, then five. She won them all. Best of six? I finally won one. It is entirely luck of random cards turning up. As far as strategy goes, if there is one we haven’t discovered it yet. But of course winning 5 in a row means Susan discovered it and I haven’t.

I have been playing Words With Friends with several friends. I got sucked into this by my sister and have been wasting time, nope, that is, sharing time with others ever since. It is sort of like Scrabble but with a dictionary that makes no sense to a Scrabble player, much different from a Scrabble dictionary. And that is the reference of choice when we play Quiddler so there is always some confusion.

Some neighbors we won’t miss.

Susan has progressed to doing dishes, some cleaning and vacuuming. She is getting around mostly using her cane, even sometimes without it. It is very reassuring to see her progress. We will resume some level of PT in Fredericksburg, walk every day as much as we can and just keep getting better. There is lumberjack work and buckthorn removal to do when we get home. Maybe she will supervise.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach, AL January-February, 2021

Our Big Break

Yup, Susan broke a leg bone on Friday 12/11. I picked more pain meds at the pharmacy the next day. Elevate and ice were the orders of the day. No weight bearing. Susan called the ER Room recommended Ortho Doc first thing Monday morning and we got an appointment for 10:30 AM. We had to get a move on to get there but we did. The Ortho Doc is next to the hospital so we sort of knew where we were going. It is a big practice with more than 30 doctors and several offices on both sides of Mobile Bay.

We got in on time, Susan was riding in a wheel chair. They removed the ER applied splint and took more X-rays of her leg. It was still broken, still aligned OK. Dr Eslava took one look and showed us where it was broken on the X-ray picture. He said surgery was going to be needed as well as some support for the tendons and ligaments that hold the ankle together. It was pretty swollen so he said to come back in a week. The splint and cast guy, Scottie, did a very nice job with the same sort of sock and wrapping and a fiberglass splint and more Ace bandage like wrapping. Elevate and ice. We got home and agreed we were comfortable with Dr Eslava and the direction care was going.

A week later the swelling had gone down enough for Dr Eslava to schedule surgery for the following week. A new splint and wrappings were applied. Elevate and ice. No weight.

Surgery

Surgery was scheduled for mid afternoon and then moved up a couple hours so once again we had to get a move on to make the new time. And then we had to wait as things were running late. Pretty soon they called Susan in to get started and then called me in before she went to pre-op. The nurse said they would call me when she went in to surgery, that Dr. Eslava would call when surgery was done and that the recovery room would call when she was awake in post op.

For all of us who have waited during a loved one’s surgery I think the anxiety is common. The nurse called when Susan went in for surgery. The surgery was supposed to take about an hour. Dr Eslava called when they were finishing up, all had gone well. It was another hour before the post op nurse called. The wait made me nervous. Susan was awake, I helped her drink water and eat crackers and take some post-op pain meds, the same we had used after the initial ER visit. Susan was pretty uncomfortable. Her foot and lower leg was splinted in much the same way as before but with much more padding. After a while she was able to get dressed. We gathered her things together, got her discharge instructions, no weight bearing, elevate and ice, a new prescription and another ride in a wheelchair. We got home, Susan crutched her way to the coach, sat down on the steps, backed up one step at a time, up to the passenger’s seat and then into the coach using her crutches.

We had a followup appointment scheduled for two weeks. We had found a dry cover for her wrapped up leg and a shower stool so showers were possible and welcome. We came home from the hospital with two high tech ice packs. They got a pretty good work out over the next several weeks. They go back into the freezer after use and are ready again in just a couple hours.

So ice, elevate, pain meds as needed, no weight bearing and wait.

Looks pretty gruesome on the post op X-rays. The first few days were painful but that eased up pretty quickly. Tylenol during the day, pain meds at night for a few days and then just Tylenol.

Two weeks went by, pretty quickly or slowly depending on who gets asked.

The post op splints and wraps were removed and the nurse washed Susan’s leg. More X-rays. Dr Eslava was pleased with the progress and ordered the stitches removed, a hard cast and a return visit in another two weeks.

A pretty snazzy job by Scottie. This is a water activated fiberglass tape wrapped over the black sock and cotton batting wrap. One white layer and a second of the wearer’s choice. Green. And a classy non-slip boot.

Another two weeks. Getting around was easier, still no weight bearing, but easier.

The Boot

And then, the boot. The green cast was cut off, another leg wash and a boot. A big black thing, lots of velcro straps, extra pads where needed and a pump to increase the compression and fit. The bottom of the boot is curved so it rocks as you walk in it. Some weight bearing was now OK. The Doc said to get a walker and start Physical Therapy. We saw the PT guy, Patrick, that afternoon for an initial evaluation and then the next day. Twice more this week. Susan is now doing some weight bearing, walking without the boot inside (and a crutch for a helper). We walked 1/3 of a mile yesterday with her boot and walker. Yesterday and today Susan went in and out of the coach standing up using one crutch.

Meanwhile

While all of this has been going on I have been gladly doing my part by doing the grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, picking up take out on occasion and everything else I can.

We (I) have ordered quite a bit from Amazon as we needed it (or wanted it). It all comes right here to the RV Park.

It took me a few weeks to feel OK leaving Susan on her own for any length of time and then I started out on shorter bike rides. It is almost 8 miles if I do 3 complete loops through the RV park without ever leaving the park. And then I started back to the State Park. Those rides are 8-13 miles and I am doing that about 5 days a week. I am pleased to report knees and hips feel OK.

There are lots of armadillos here.

Quiddler

Quiddler is a card game whose cards have letters and you make words with the letters. All of the cards have a point value and you add up the value of all the cards you used minus the ones you didn’t at the end of each hand. There are bonus points for longest word and most words. You start the game with three cards and each hand gets one more card up to ten. It seems to work well using ZOOM, each site has their own game and an Official Scrabble Dictionary as a reference.

We play once or twice a week with our friends in Ohio, Oregon, Texas or Minnesota. Sometimes just four of us, sometimes as many as eight. We get to play a game, visit, stay in touch, see the dogs and laugh a bunch. We really appreciate the chance to stay connected.

Projects

I had some time and projects I had been thinking about. I added an automated electric valve at the incoming water supply that closes by itself when we are not using water and opens when we are.

I added Alexa enabled assists to lock or unlock the coach, turn on/off front step lights, outside patio light, red chili pepper lights and the awning lights. I also added assists to turn on/off and dim kitchen lights, dining room table lights, each side of the bedroom lights, each side of the bedroom window valence lights and the front and rear living room recessed ceiling lights. We replaced the recessed living room lights with new LED lights. About 2/3 of the original lights had burned out. All of this works in the coach using voice or from anywhere using our phones. Pretty neat.

I replaced the coach water pump, it was making an odd noise as it shut off. The new one had something wrong with it too so it is getting replaced again when we get to Fredericksburg. We are back to the first one now. They didn’t want the replaced pumps back so I am shipping them home.

Puzzles

Susan and I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles together. It is a quiet, shared passtime.

Visitors

We had visitors while we were here too. My cousin Sue and her husband Lloyd drove over from Panama City, FL. They stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. We had a nice visit, a good take out dinner and breakfast at the Sunliner Diner in Gulf Shores.

Forest and Cindy Olivier came and stayed for a week in their Foretravel in the site next to us. They are from Louisiana and were on their way to Florida. It was nice to see them again. We actually went out for dinner one evening. Cindy made Key Lime pie which was spectacular, Thanks.

Moving On

We have made lots of progress. Next week we see Dr Eslava for the last time and get marching orders for what comes next. We leave for Nacogdoches in a week or so for some service work and dinner at Auntie Pasta’s, maybe twice and to see friends there. And then over to the north end of Houston to see our friends Scott and Carol. And if we can work it in, Rudy and Carolyn and Keith and Jo too. And then we are on to Fredericksburg. We will follow up with PT as directed. We are hopeful we can get our Covid-19 vaccines as well.

We are very thankful and grateful for the support of the RV Park staff, the EMTs, the ER care and Dr Eslava’s team. We could have been anywhere when this happened but here has seemed like it couldn’t have been much better.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach AL, December 2020 – January 2021

When we got to Pandion Ridge at the beginning of December it was just over 1/2 full. I guess I expected it to be fuller but it was OK. We had no neighbors on either side of us for most of the month.

Christmas

This was going to be our first Christmas away from home in Minnesota. We are at home where we are in out coach but it was going to be different. Susan has a sister in Minnesota and there are some cousins on my side but that’s about it for Christmas. We usually celebrate with just a few family and friends so with just the two of us it seemed like it was going to be OK.

We had the usual Christmas group (the same folks come for Thanksgiving too) over for an early Thanksgiving dinner in mid November. We wanted it early enough to avoid any Covid-19 surprises. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, perfect.

We were being really careful. Susan had cataract surgery on one eye in October and the second eye in early November. Covid-19 tested negative for both and we wanted to keep it that way.

We got out the red chili pepper lights for that Christmas feel.

And a very cool hat, just right.

All masked up, a nice wreath and we were set.

We had our favorite campfire DVD playing on the TV and seasonal music too.

And presents under our makeshift tree. We made lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner. And French Toast made with Bailey’s Irish Cream topped with maple syrup and whipped cream for morning breakfast.

We opened gifts, lots of nice additions. We got a National Parks Edition of Monopoly, a pair of new breakfast plates, several new jigsaw puzzles and much more. Thanks!

Best Laid Plans

We had a list of things we wanted to do while in the Mobile area. A ferry ride to Dauphin Island and a day of exploring. A visit to Bellingrath Gardens. A visit to Fairhope and more places to see. And with easy access to the bike trails in Gulf State Park lots of bike riding.

We started out riding in the RV park for a few days and then out into the park.

The trail from the RV park to the paved trails in the State Park crosses a marsh on a boardwalk and then on a sandy path through the woods over a small rise and down to the paved trails.

We rode east to the Powerline Trail, south to the Campground Trail, west through the campground past the campground offices and then north along the Gopher Tortoise Trail. The Gulf Oaks Ridge Trail leads up hill to the east to the highest point in the State Park and then downhill a ways to the Magnolia Trail back to Pandion Ridge. It is about an 8 mile loop.

I was just behind Susan as she slowed to make the turn on to the Magnolia Trail, a transition from pavement to sand where she stalled in the soft sand and I watched her fall over to her left. It seemed to be in slow motion. Her foot was caught under the bike, I thought she had sprained it or maybe worse.

I called the RV park office and they sent Jeff over in an electric cart. If it was just a sprain we could get a ride back. We both looked at her ankle and helped her up to sit on the cart seat. And then we called 911.

It only took about 10 minutes for two ATV like vehicles with four EMTs to arrive. They checked her out, checked blood pressure, got personal info, determined something was broken, administered some pain meds, applied a splint and wrapped it up in swaddling cloth.

The EMTs transferred her to one of their vehicles. I gave her a kiss and promised to see her soon at the South Baldwin Medical Center, about 13 miles north. Off they went. I loaded my bike on Jeff’s cart, a nice couple staying in the RV Park had taken Susan’s s bike back earlier. I never figured out who they were to thank them. The EMTs transferred Susan to a waiting ambulance for a lights and siren ride to the ER.

I grabbed Susan’s purse, my wallet, keys, a hoodie, some water for both of us and left for the hospital. It seemed to take a long time to get there, much longer than any of the subsequent trips but that is just the way the first time always is.

I found Susan in one of two ER evaluations rooms, full of machines, monitors and beeping things. They had her hooked up, drip fluids, more pain meds. The docs had seen her and ordered X-rays. The ER was busy, they rolled some guy in whose head was all wrapped up, bloody, no idea what was going on. Someone was having a heart attack, a car crash, a father was there with his daughter who was in serious distress.

We got moved to a smaller, much simpler room and we waited. We were a ways down on the urgency of the cases that showed up that night. The nurse was in and out checking on us, she gave Susan another dose of pain meds.

The Doc came in with X-ray pictures, Susan’s left tibia (shin bone) was broken about 3 inches above the ankle. It was aligned OK so they put on a sock and cotton batting wraps and a water activated fiberglass material that hardens in just a few minutes down the back of her leg and under the foot and another down one side and back up the other. That all got wrapped in an elastic wrap.

I went to get the car, they brought her out in a wheel chair with a set of crutches and some pain pills for that night and a prescription for more to get filled the next day. She made it into the car with lots of help and after about 8 hours in the ER we left for home in the dark.

We got back to the RV park about 10 PM. Susan was pretty unsteady after the pain meds she had gotten. She got out of the car and into a camp chair, not at all likely she would make it the 40 ft to the coach door even with as much help as I could offer. So I moved the table and everything else out of the way, turned the car around so I was backing up, folded down the bike rack, opened the back hatch and we got her the few feet needed to sit on it and propped her foot up on the tire holder. She held a flashlight and guided me as I backed up to the front door of the coach where we got her over to sitting on the steps. And then backwards “bum scooting” up one step at a time and then sitting on the passenger seat.

I moved the car back to its normal position and helped her get ready for bed, we were both tired. Crutches are not easy to use at first. She didn’t have far to go in the coach but there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver either. But we made it, foot up on pillows, her spare pain pill at the ready, water at the ready. She was asleep in a flash. My head was spinning for a couple hours.

So in one afternoon we had quite an adventure, not one we chose but stuff happens. And now our plans change to fit our new reality, better or worse sort of thing. We are safe and secure.

More later, Much love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach, AL Early December 2020

I apologize for being tardy getting our blog posts out. I will catch up.

There are lots of routes that go from Maumelle to Orange Beach. If we chose to stay on the interstate highways all the way it is about 850 miles. For us, three days. The more direct way was about 200 miles less and about 60% interstates, and only two days. We chose that route.

East towards Memphis and around the bottom of the metro area then head south towards Jackson, MS. It seemed like a long way around Jackson to get to US95 SE towards Hattiesburg and on to Mobile, AL. We stopped in Magee, MS at a camp Walmart for the night. That left us less than 4 hours the next day. We called ahead to the Walmart to make sure overnight parking was OK and it was. Most (all) of the 24 hr Walmarts are now closed at 10 and some that used to allow overnight parking now do not. Best to call ahead.

They suggested over on the garden side of the parking lot. When we got there there were no other RVs or trucks. By after supper we were surrounded on all four sides by semi trucks, in some directions two deep. Half of them had refrigerated trailers that run (on and off) all night. Several others left their engines or generators running all night. We thought there was no way we were going to get to sleep. I thought of a friend who was an engineer on an ocean going tug hauling barges up the Pacific Coast into the Columbia River. Those engines run all the time. Well, we crawled into bed and were fast asleep in no time. In the morning there was only one truck left, we never heard any leave.

This route takes us to the west of Mobile and then along I10 along the north side of the bay, through a tunnel under a ship channel and on a very long bridge over Mobile Bay. We passed next to the Battleship Alabama. Over the bay and another 20 miles or so and then south on the Baldwin Beach Expressway and then the Foley Beach Expressway. This leads right to the island where Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located. You have to go over the Inter-coastal Waterway on high bridges to get to the island. The Expressway Bridge has a small toll. The other way has all of the traffic, stoplights and congestion but no toll.

We are staying at Pandion Ridge RV Resort which is about 1/2 mile west of where the expressway bridge reaches the island.

This area suffered from Hurricane Sally which came ashore right here at Orange Beach. And then only a short while later another Hurricane, Zeta, came ashore here as well. Most of the way down the expressway there were damaged buildings and enormous piles of tree remains and building rubble. The closer we got the more damage we saw.

Just across Canal Road from the RV park and out to the Inter-coastal Waterway there is a large area where they are collecting the rubble. Huge long piles of trees. Giant piles of concrete remains. And massive piles of the remains of buildings, fences. roofs and building materials. Huge trucks arrive all day with more rubble and it gets sorted out and put in the proper piles. And at the same time big machines are loading it into other truck to haul it to disposal sites. The tree piles are getting ground up into mountains of mulch.

Behind the rubble piles are rows of large damaged boats, most will be scrapped. And on the waterway, towboats are moving barges full of fuel, propane and riprap, boulders used for erosion control. The boulders are getting off loaded near the waterway on the other side of the piles of rubble. It is a busy place.

Lots of unhappy boat owners.

We got moved from site 19 to site 17, closer to the lake. Some folks whose home had been damaged were in 19 for several months. They expected to be gone but repairs are, well rarely finished on time.

We moved in. Our bike shelter tent gets set up in front of the coach. Very little damage in the park other than a few smaller trees blown over and several street signs that are no longer vertical.

There is a small lake south of us and a area of large long leaf pines in front of us. This site has a driveway that almost 100 ft long. The site is on the corner of the roadway and along the trees it is more than 80 ft wide. Very generous. Warm on the patio side in the sun.

The beach is a 10 minute drive away. The wide flat white sand beach goes both ways for miles.

In the distance over Susan’s shoulder you can see the robust concrete fishing pier at the Gulf State Park. Last year we walked all the way to the end. And then over the summer they did a $25 million dollar restoration. And then in the fall two hurricanes tore out a big section almost to the end.

There are high rise condos east and west of the State Park, most suffered damage, several are still being repaired.

The island we are on goes 28 miles to the west to Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay and the ferry to Dauphin Island. Near the fort end it is just a couple hundred yards wide on either side of the highway. Almost every home out that way is damaged, very few have been fixed. The cost of everything has skyrocketed, materials and supplies are hard to find, repair crews have all they can do at premium rates. The homeowners wait.

So we are settled in, starting to decorate for Christmas.

We are glad that we are not home where we would have been forced to get out the plow to deal with the snow.

So – More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Off Again, November 2020

In this time of Covid-19 pandemic with cases soaring, record numbers of people dying and the risks as high as they have ever been, we considered our winter plans (made long ago) with some care, actually lots if it. Can we stay safe? Will there be places we might have to avoid to stay safe? Who are we going to see and are they practicing good behavior? And many more questions.

We had some practice at this last spring starting in early March in New Orleans and Houston and then the rest of March and April in Fredericksburg, TX. We went from hearing about Covid-19 in NOLA to a 90% lockdown in TX by early March. We discovered we could wear masks, we could go to the grocery store in as safe a way as possible at that time. We could get out and walk and ride our bikes. We were as safe and isolated in our coach as we wanted to be. Sure our favorite restaurants were not open but you could get take out. A new batch of food trucks popped up in Fredericksburg with some tasty new choices. The DQ was an essential business and the drive through was open. So life on the road in a scary pandemic time is possible.

Because we would have been stuck pretty much at home all winter – the high school indoor walking track is closed, we are pretty burned out on take out, the roads will be icy and the opportunity for warm outdoors walking and bike riding almost every day was at the end of four days of driving – we decided to go.

And since three months at Pandion Ridge in Orange Beach, AL was only $175 more than twomonths we signed up for three and for the first time we left before the end of the year.

So we are off.

We left for Belton MO just south of Kansas City. It is a drive we have made several times before. We get up and get going and get to a familiar Camp Walmart just about dark. This year was not much different other than being earlier which gave us an extra half hour of daylight. We called the Walmart rather than going in to make sure it was OK to stay and it was. This is the time we start discovering what we forgot. There was a mixup on pillows so my preferred one got left behind. I forgot my favorite wooly socks and Susan forgot her third set of JimJams. We will survive. The next day was sunny and bright, south towards Belle Vista just into Arkansas and then on a new section of I49 that bypasses Bentonville and Fayetteville and some other smaller towns that used to be a pretty slow go. Even so it is a very twisty section of Interstate that requires close attention. More south to Alma then I40 SE towards Little Rock. We crossed the Arkansas River on I430 and then just a few miles north to Maumelle COE (Corp of Engineers) park. 889 miles from Hastings. We have stayed here before as well. A great place to take a day off from driving, flush out the winter water system RV antifreeze, flush out the fresh water tank and take on some fresh water.

We got out for a couple walks. The park was much fuller (Thanksgiving weekend) than we have seen in January. We got to see some of the less desirable light shows that some folks think is necessary.

The rope lights on the ground are to keep animals away. It is a marketing propaganda tool of the rope light manufacturers. And many recent RVs have bright ugly lights on the front that for some reason owners turn on and leave on all night just to annoy every other camper.

We just put down the shades and ignore them. It rained today until early afternoon. We got out for another long walk.

Lots of folks had left. There were still quite a few left. This is a very nice stop. We are off in the morning towards Memphis then south towards Jackson, MS and then SE towards Mobile. We go near but not through Laurel, MS, home of one of Susan’s favorite HGTV programs, “Home Town”. Please do all you can to keep yourselves, your family and friends safe and healthy. More Later, Much Love. Roger and Susan