We went to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 2019 looking for Rocky Raccoon. While we were there having burgers, Ted and Karen and Susan and I signed up for 2 weeks at the end of September 2020 at The Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park. We would be there for the annual Buffalo Roundup. (They are Bison). Several other Foretravelers also signed up.
Then Covid got going, Ted and Karen sold their coach, Ed and Deb took part of their time, Keith and Jo took the rest, several canceled because of Covid. In the end, there were five Foretravels there. Our friends from California, Richard and Betty and Sven and Kristi we’re among those who canceled but they rescheduled their time for September 2021. So Susan and I signed up for as much time as we could get at the same time in 2021.
So here comes 2021. Between all else going on for us in the summer of 2021 we were ready to go. Sven and Kristi had second thoughts due to Covid and backed out. More friends from California, Chuck and Lynda took their time.
Confused? Lots of shuffling. The gang was set. Roger and Susan, Richard and Betty, and Chuck and Lynda. No one got there on the same day and we all left on different days. And then Chris and Elka from Arkansas called, they were in a nearby campground. Now there were four Foretravels.
We drove around the Wildlife Loop and saw lots of Bison. Most that were going to be “Round-Up” were here waiting. Maybe 1500 by the Park Ranger’s estimate
Some up close.
Susan and I brought Canadian Walleye for a sit-down fish fry. Everyone brought something to share and there was plenty. Even treats for the dogs.
Richard and Chuck and I bought fishing licenses and went up the Grace Coolidge Stream towards Center Lake there are 5 small dams along the way built by the CCC in the 1930s.
I tried along the rock wall from the dam. Chuck and Richard were on the side of the pool above the dam.
It was a beautiful day. Then we caught a fish! Now it was a great day. And another fish and another. Maybe a dozen or a baker’s dozen. One came off my hook just as I was landing it. We all threw back a small one or two. We ended up with 7 good-sized rainbow trout, eating size. Chuck jumped right in and cleaned them up. We brought them back, tossed them in the freezer ready for lunch the next day.
Good thing, he was an expert.
Richard and Betty and Susan and I went to the Art Festival. It was mostly arts and crafts stuff, nothing we needed to have but lunch. Richard had his very first corn dog. I think he liked it.
Over on the other side of the State Park there is an old Lodge, the Blue Bell Lodge. It is a rustic log structure. Susan and I had eaten there before and it was good so we all went over there one day for lunch. I had a nice Buffalo Stew, Susan had Macaroni and Cheese. All good.
Mostly this time was about seeing friends and spending time with them. We had a very nice time, the people were wonderful, the weather was amazing. Leaves on the trees changed color while we were there.
It was a pleasant break for us in what had been a summer full of many other distractions. We needed it. And there was more coming up before we could leave for Fredericksburg.
You may remember that Susan tipped over on her bicycle a year ago in early December, 2020, while we were in Alabama, going from a paved trail to a soft sand trail. I will never forget it, I see it in slow motion, in disbelief, in horror. She went over hard, I thought maybe at first it was just a sprained ankle but the odd angle of her foot was pointing at a different conclusion.
It was a broken bone, just above the ankle. A ride in an ambulance and a long long afternoon and evening at the ER. Two weeks until the swelling went down enough for surgery, a couple more weeks until a cast, another couple of weeks until a walking cast, and a few more weeks until PT started.
Her bicycle (2 wheeled) riding days appeared to be over. The RV Park we were in had several folks with three-wheel trikes. Some were trikes, two wheels behind the rider but most, as we learned, were generally referred to as tadpoles, two steering wheels in front of the rider, and a drive wheel behind. We looked at every one of them and talked to the riders. This seemed like a good option to keep riding. So call them anything you want, they are three-wheel recumbent trikes.
We got home and looked at several varieties on-line. The more we looked the more we learned about things like gears, seat heights, seat angles, weight, electric options, and prices. Lots to consider.
Then we went to look at several options available in the Twin Cities. Some got tossed from consideration quickly, some were OK but the bike shop folks didn’t seem very interested in really helping us figure out what was going to work.
Our last stop was the FreeWheel bike shop in Bloomington, MN. They were located in the old part of Southwest Bloomington not too far from where my Mom grew up. We went there specifically to look at TerraTrikes. They seemed to have the right seat height, weight, and other features we thought might be important. We actually wanted to see one in person. When we got there, Chris greeted us and got busy showing us what we wanted to see and answering our questions. FreeWheel has several shops around town. This was their oldest (since the mid-70s) and biggest shop. Chris is the company’s “Chief Experience Officer”. And he made our experience worthwhile.
After a lot of questions and a short test ride we ordered a Grand Tourismo TerraTrike. This is a manual (not electric) bike that we could get by late summer. It can be refit with an electric-assist motor and battery at some future time. Supply chain issues were in full play. We also ordered an EVO model, pretty much the same trike as the Grand Tourismo but equipped with an electric-assist drive and battery. It would be a 2022 model and wasn’t expected until April, 2022.
We started thinking about how we were going to transport these trikes, a pickup truck seemed like a possible option. So we started looking. We were clueless. We wanted a used truck in decent shape, probably a four-door, four-wheel drive, towable. When we went looking there was a severe case of sticker shock. And mileage shock too. Many of the 2016 models we looked at were between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. That seemed very high to us but then we are putting on only 6-7,000 miles a year on our cars. We figured we could wait until spring 2022 since we thought we weren’t going to need it until then.
The first trike arrived, we went to pick it up with the Jeep Cherokee. We were pretty sure it would fit with the back seats folded down and it did. So we thought we’re all set until next spring.
And here is Susan coming down the driveway in our Mango TerraTrike Grand Tourismo. These are seriously fun, easy to ride, and comfortable.
We did keep looking at pickup trucks, mostly to find out what equipment packages we needed to get the features we wanted. And to figure out what it was that we really wanted. Mostly a 2018 or so, a V6, preferably red, leather, heated, and cooled seats, and a long (6.5”) box on a four-door pickup. Some of the newer technology safety features would be nice.
I looked at RAMs and was even more confused about what you got with what. My preference had always been a Ford F150. We discovered that the 6.5’ box on these pickups is pretty rare. Maybe one in ten. Add in a red color and it was now maybe 1 in 50. We found just a few that looked OK. One seemed like it would work, it had a V8 which was not what we wanted but it would work. Then we discovered it had been in 2 accidents in less than three years. That was the end of that one.
We pretty much quit looking. We thought we might have to settle for a white one. Ugh! There was almost nothing in a 50 mile range. One day I was looking at one of the car search engines and increased the distance to a hundred miles or more and a 2018 F150 popped up at a smaller Ford dealer in Kenyon, MN. It was White Gold, sort of tan. It had a nice topper and new tires. I called, it had been sold new to a retired farmer who spent his winters down south somewhere. He had just traded it in on a new truck. It had all that were were looking for and much, much more but was still no more expensive than anything we had looked at closer to home with much less equipment and options.
We went to look at it. We asked if we could have our mechanic, Don, in Hastings look it over. They said sure. We drove it to Hastings. Don looked it over and said it was exceptionally clean and in very good shape. He thought it had never been driving in a MN winter which was right. He thought one of the front struts had a small leak but otherwise a clean bill of health.
We took it back to the dealer and reported what Don had found. They offered to put in new struts at no charge. So much sooner than we had expected, we bought a pickup truck.
Pretty snazzy, way more than we were thinking about but it was available and at the price point we were comfortable with. It seemed enormous to us, it is. But visibility is good, it is comfortable. Some driving practice required.
And a week later, Chris from the Bike Shop called and said one of the 2022 EVO trikes that had been sold to another buyer was available because they backed out. Did we want it? Sure!
And they both fit in the pick up truck.
And they are easy to get in and out. They weight about 40 lbs each. So we just leave them in the back end, undercover and secure. And there is lots of room for other stuff as well. I guess timing is everything.
But in order to tow the pick up we needed to add the base plates for the tow bar connections, add the braking connections, and add the electrical wiring so that the brake, turn and running lights work.
I ordered all of the parts, it took a week to get them all and then asked Don if he could lend a hand. He is retired now but has a lift in his home shop that would get the truck off the ground and make all of this easier. Don and I had it all done in just over three hours.
The proof is in the pudding. The color looks good. We hooked everything up, went through the get-ready-to-tow procedure, checked the lights, and were ready to go. We drove several miles, around corners, down straight roads, curvey roads, left turns, right turns, and then home. We went through the end-of-towing procedure and disconnected the truck, backed the coach into the barn, and breathed a sigh of relief. Compared to the Jeep Cherokee, the F150 is a bit easier to set for towing and set back for driving.
Our friends, Ed and Deb, visited in June.
They just started towing a pickup truck behind their 40 foot Foretravel. Ed cautioned about going around right-hand turns. So we were careful but it seemed fine. We will continue to pay a bit more attention.
What we are still learning is driving the pickup truck. It is longer, takes more room in turns and more room for parking. We are getting used to it. We like it.
Well, that was the rest of the summer’s big projects. There were days when we thought we didn’t get much done while we were busy with our other tasks during the summer. But when we look back we did get a lot done. I even got in several days at a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Hastings.
And we managed to make a two week trip to the Black Hills in September, that is another post.
Summer would hardly be summer without some projects. While we were busy paying attention to other tasks we managed to get some projects done.
A barn quilt is a quilt pattern painted on the side of a barn. We decided to do one painted on a 4’x4’x1/2” medium density overlay plywood panel. This plywood is commonly used for outdoor signs, the plywood part is waterproof and the surface is a smooth waterproof paper.
The pattern is one we found on the internet. Even with 6 colors, it seemed easy enough to lay out and paint. Well, almost easy. There was a lot of masking tape involved, paint, wait over night, and tape, and paint some more. Everything got at least two coats. And even with multiple coats we didin’t use more than a 1/4 of any of the 6 quarts of quality house paint we bought. They don’t sell it in smaller quantities.
We attached it with screws to the front doors of our barn. The sun helped the final cure of the paint. We think it looks good.
Painting the Roof of the Coach, New Air Conditioners
The roof of the coach is fiberglass, over time especially in the sun, the gel coat surface of the fiberglass starts to oxidize. It gets dull and chalky. If you rub your hand on it it comes off with a white residue.
The gelcoat can be cleaned with a rubbing compound and then finished with a non-slippery polish. I did this before we put on the solar panels and it took about 4 days.
There are paints that can be applied to the roof after the surface is sanded with a 220 grit sand paper and carefully vacuumed and cleaned.
The solar panels, the satellite dish, and the old air conditioners were removed from the roof.
It was pretty dirty under the solar panels. The roof was sanded, vacuumed, and cleaned. There was a lot of masking tape applied. A polyurethane primer paint was applied around all of the panel mounts, roof openings and anything else still on the roof. It cured overnight and then a full coat over the entire roof was applied with a roller. After that cured up overnight, the roof was swept and a second full coat of primer was applied.
And then three coats of white polyurethane paint with ceramic micro-beads mixed in. The ceramic beads are hollow and add some insulating value as well as some surface texture that makes the roof surface non-slip. I like that.
The air conditioners that were on the coach were original. They both still worked but were making more and more noise. As long as they were off, I decided to replace them with newer, more efficient air conditioners with about 10% additional capacity. I sold the 20-year-old air conditioners for about 1/3 of the cost of the new air conditioners. Not bad.
Solar panels back on, new ACs installed, satellite dish moved towards the passenger side by about 6 inches.
The original roof vent for the refrigerator was removed and replaced by an aluminum panel with a passageway for the solar panel cables.
A new thermostat and interior covers finished up the air conditioner installation. All seem to be working fine. The air conditioners have two motors, one for the fans and one for the compressor. And they are quieter.
Start Battery Wiring Modification
This is a project that I hoped would improve the process of starting the coach. When I start the coach it seemed to turn over slower than I thought it should. I had all of the parts since I did the Lithium Batteries two years ago. I just needed to find some time and motivation. I am glad I finally did.
The start batteries are each connected directly to positive and negative bus bars. A big cable goes from the positive bus bar to the starter motor. The negative side connects to a shunt, a switch, and then to a big cable that goes to the negative side of the starter motor. There are other wires connected to both the negative and positive sides. By eliminating the original single connection posts and battery connections, more power should be able to get to the starter motor.
It worked! The starter motor turns at least twice as fast now. Much easier on the starter motor, start batteries and the big engine.
Somehow we (maybe mostly me) decided we need to define garden edges a bit more and add some additional bricks around the backyard fire pit. About 300 50 pound concert pavers later we had newly defined edges around trees, bushes, and the fire pit. Almost every brick had to get cut to make the curves. It was a bunch of work but they look good and make mowing much easier.
And there were almost 100 bags of mulch that need to get spread too. We have pavers and bags of mulch left over for next spring’s projects.
There were more projects too, they are coming up in the next post.
We stopped at a smaller casino at Tonkawa, OK for an overnight on the way south and then at another in Thackerville, OK just before we got to Texas. We were trying for shorter driving days on the way south and these seemed to be spaced about right. All were good for an overnight stop. We would have done fine at Walmarts too but these gave us access to water so that we could flush out all of the winter water system antifreeze, get it disinfected and rinsed again and then add some fresh water for the remaining drive.
Our last day on the way to Fredericksburg had us going around the northwest corner of Fort Worth and then west on I20 and south on US 281. Traffic and construction around Forth Worth was busy. We could have (should have) headed west from Denton and picked up US 281 further north and missed all of the construction and traffic. Next time.
US 281 leads to Johnson City and then west on US 290 towards Fredericksburg. When we first visited Fredericksburg several years ago there were mostly ranches between Johnson City and Fredericksburg and a couple fledgling wineries. Now there are about 40 wineries along this route, a couple of distilleries, and craft breweries too. And more wineries heading south of Fredericksburg too. None of the vineyards are big enough to make the volume of wine to support these operations so grape juice is trucked in from other growers, mostly California, to make up the difference. As long as it is 10% Texas grapes it can be called Texas Wine.
We got to Fredericksburg, checked in, and pulled into our site. We didn’t do much more than that. We went for a walk around the campground, fixed some supper, and had an early night.
Our site is about as roomy as they get. Trees on three corners. The sun goes down just behind us, looks nice.
The next day we finished setting up. Got some Christmas decorations out, and hung the red chili pepper lights on the side of the coach.
We came to Fredericksburg, TX for the Weihnachtzeit or the Christmas season. This smaller Texas town is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year and as they do every year, they go all out for decorations.
The town square, the Marktplatz, is all lit up at night and even has a skating rink, a very large Christmas Tree, and a 32’ tall traditional German Christmas Pyramid. Most every shop down Main Street is decorated as well. It is really quite attractive. We are going back to Johnson City on Monday, we hear they are quite decorated as well.
There are usually several homes and nearby ranches that are all decorated and are open for tours. Last year and again this year there are no tours. We were disappointed but it gives us a reason to return.
No snow here but the weather has been nice, mid 80s for Christmas day, much warmer than normal. We got our new three wheeled recumbent bikes out for a spin yesterday. Lots of fun.
We hope your Holiday Season is safe, healthy, and wonderful.
We decided to head South again this winter. The plan was to leave in late November. But as often happens, life’s events dictate what happens.
So we are off towards warmer places. A couple of weeks late but on our way in any case. But not before we got a very nice December snow. It made everything white and fresh and quiet. Our destination is Christmas in Fredericksburg, TX. We are staying until the end of December. Getting there late is a disappointment, we missed the Christmas Parade but we will be there to enjoy the season, see the decorations, see friends, and get in some shopping.
The drive today was highlighted by almost every tree on our way through Minnesota coated in frost from some overnight fog. The fields were covered in a light snow. The roads and sky were clear. The afternoon sun was quite warm.
Tonight we stopped at a casino in Osceola, IA for the night. It is a pretty old RV park but functional for its purpose.
Tomorrow we are headed to another casino in Tonkawa, OK. They seem to be spaced about the right distance apart. It was a very busy summer, more about all of that coming up.
When it is time to leave we know it. We watch the weather, not much we can do about that other than adjust timing. The weather looked good on the way home for the coming weekend but more stormy later in the week. Time to go.
There are lots of ways to go from here to there, where ever those places may be. Sometimes a leisurely pace is wonderful. Sometimes we want to avoid traffic or construction. Sometimes safety is a concern. Sometimes just getting there is the goal.
We left on a Sunday which we like to do, somehow it seems there is less traffic that day and headed north on US and TX highways to I20 west of the Fort Worth area and then east to pickup the highway that goes around the NW Fort Worth metro area to I35W going north. I35 splits south of Dallas and Forth Worth like it does for Minneapolis and Saint Paul and comes back together well to the north. There was come construction as we went through all of this about 2 in the afternoon but overall it was OK. I would really not have wanted to do this on a weekday.
Lots of truck traffic going north, way more than last year coming home. There were times last year going the same way when we could see no traffic ahead or behind in either direction. Not so this year.
We got just a short way into Oklahoma and stopped at an immense Casino that had an RV campground. We had made a reservation just to be sure of having a spot. Good thing we did as it was mostly full. When we checked in the front desk person asked if we had a WinStar Casino Card. I said no and she said if I signed up for one the camping was free. The card was free so I got a card and free camping. All of the other benefits at the Casino went unused since we didn’t want to unhook and drive over to the casino and the shuttle service was not running.
Nice spot in a flat open windy part of Oklahoma with a nearly full moon.
We did see another Foretravel in the park, a classic early 90s model. No one home, their car was gone, likely at the casino.
The next morning we were heading further into Oklahoma where it is almost always windy. We have had the both awnings blow open in strong cross winds in Oklahoma and Nebraska once each so we have added a way to make the awning more secure. We put on the suspenders just to be safe. Checking the winds it looked more like the winds were mostly from the south for the next couple days so not much to be concerned about, easier than driving in crosswinds and a nice tail wind is always helpful.
Our goal for the day was as far as we got. We managed to get on the road early (by 9 ish) and traffic was OK and the weather was overcast and dry. We swapped drivers a couple times, stopped for a short lunch break, and watched the green of the trees and grasses we had seen in TX slowly turn browner as we went north. Leaves became buds. It was like going back in time.
We made it to Kansas where the Interstate becomes a toll road. That just means you have to pay to drive on a road that is no better than most with very limited on/off opportunities and the only services are the service plazas. $20 for the privilege.
A Corp of Engineers Park, in Kansas, Really
Last year we stayed at a small RV park south of Kansas City owned by a young couple. They were just getting going then so we thought we would help out again this year. We called, they were full. Good for them and for us too actually. It made us start looking for other choices and we found a Corp of Engineers Park near Lebo, KS not far off the path. As most of them are, it was connected to a dam and a lake. It had several campgrounds on Melvern Lake and one on a small lake below the dam. We stayed at the Outlet Lake Campground. It was almost full. The volunteer check-in person said they were full most of the time especially on the weekends.
Nice sites, full hookups and only $15 a night with our National Parks Geezer Pass. It was hot so a couple hours of air conditioning was nice. As the sun went down it started cooling off but it only got down into the 60s.
Our site was right on the lake.
And the moon was still close to full.
This is a nice place to know about. We will likely be back.
The next day we got going by 8:30 or so. That put us in the Kansas City area about 10 AM. We went cross the south side of the metro area (Kansas City, Kansas) into Missouri (Kansas City, Missouri) and then north which avoids the downtown areas there were less turns but still a lot of traffic and construction.
And then north through Missouri. It was getting hot, into the upper 80s, windy, still a tail wind that looked like it would change in northern Iowa. By the time we got to Des Moines the winds had helped add more than 15% to our miles per gallon. shortly thereafter the wind direction turned 180 degrees now out of the north. MPG suffers.
We had thought of stopping at Albert Lea, a nice WalMart and fuel stop there but it was starting to rain just as we were leaving Iowa and more rain expected overnight and in the morning. We thought stopping there would get us home by noon the next day. It was about 5 and only a couple hours to go. So we decided to head for home after a stop for fuel. We belong to a fuel discount program that lets us use our card at truck stops. No need to go inside, much faster fill ups and we save about 50¢ or more per gallon.
It rained (heavy mist to light rain) most of the way. The temperature dropped more than 30 degrees. The rain stopped shortly before Hastings. We drove home and pulled straight into the driveway, went into the house, turned up thermostats, turned on the water heater, turned on the water pump and went back to the coach where it was warm, made supper, watched the local news and went to bed.
The next day the house and water were warm. We moved from one house to the other and did loads of laundry. We disconnected the Jeep and maneuvered the coach into the barn and went grocery shopping. We were home.
The grass is green, trees are leafing out quickly. More trimming and clean up in the woods. Buckthorn bushes to eradicate, the grass needs fertilizer and cutting, the sprinklers need to be started up. We have to finish, file, and pay taxes. I signed up for Habitat work days. Susan went to the ortho Doc, all is well, and got signed up for more PT. There are doctors and dentists to see. And lots of projects waiting. There is lots to do.
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.
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. 🤠
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?