Wordless Wednesday – Supercell

Stormy weather…

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Our First “Adventure” with the New RV

Our trip home in the new RV was a nerve-wracking experience.

Happily, our recent trip to check out the prospective RV this past Friday turned out well, and we are once again happy RV owners.

Our new-to-us RV is an older 38′ GBM Cruise Air, and we are now the second owners.  It was a special order coach from the factory by the first owners and has some nice extras that are not typical on many coaches made around this time.  It is also low mileage and low hours on the big Onan generator, and it is quite possibly the best used RV we’ve ever seen in the price range we wanted.  In fact, it is in much better condition than many newer RVs we’ve looked at over the past few months.

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Hubby gives a wave as we started our drive home with the new RV.

We were the first people to inquire about this RV after seeing the ad online, and the dealer was great to work with us, considering we were five hours away and Hubby was gone on an extended business trip.  We agreed on a fair price at the beginning, and the dealer guaranteed that all of the systems would be in proper working order on delivery.  That is pretty unheard of with used RVs these days in our experience, so we decided to play out the process to see what transpired.

I made a quick solo trip right away to see it in person, and I spent three hours inspecting it with the salesman that worked with us.  The only issue I found was with the furnace not blowing through all of the vents, just those on one side, so he promised to have it fixed for us, which he promptly did the next day.  Last Friday, after Hubby returned from his epic round-the-world trip, we finally made the trip for our final inspection.  Everything was working properly, as promised, so we signed the papers, handed over the money, and began the drive home with our new RV.

It seems we have now established a tradition of having a notable complication on the drive home with a new-to-us RV.  This drive home was no exception, although it was due to a very different reason.

When we bought our previous RV in 2011, we immediately had new tires put on before we started our drive home.  We departed after lunch for the five hour drive home, but about an hour from home, one of the brand new rear tires went flat just as we pulled into a small town that Sunday evening.  Of course, everything was closed, and we were not happy campers.  But as usual, people in small towns seem to come to the rescue of those in need of help, and a kind man with a big truck jack came out to help us put the spare tire on.  The next day when we took the flat tire to be inspected and fixed, we were told that the tire was fine but the valve was not put on securely and leaked the air.  So, while it was very frustrating, especially for us as first time RV purchasers, we were relieved to find out the tire was actually fine.

On our drive home last Friday afternoon in the new RV, we once again has an issue.  This time, however, it had nothing to do with our new coach.  Instead, Mother Nature decided to throw a major temper tantrum in our home area around 6 pm as we were still a couple of hours away.   The storm grew rapidly, producing large hail and a possible tornado on radar.  My good friend alerted me by phone to the weather at home, so we stopped at a truck stop to see what would develop with the storm.  Sure enough, the storm progressed southeast directly toward the town where we were and continued to increase in size and strength.  When it was less than 30 minutes away, a possible tornado showed up right over the highway where we needed to go.

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That red triangle is rotation and a possible tornado over the road where we needed to drive.

 

We were not thrilled by this development.  At all.  It was also Friday the 13th.  I’m not a superstitious person, but somehow we both took note of the date as the storm continued to head right for us, and we just shook our heads almost simultaneously.

We discussed possible options, but by that time, none of them made sense.  The storm was wide, so veering around it wasn’t going to happen.  Backtracking would only put us in the path of the storm as it continued down the highway we had just driven.  Besides, it is just not wise to be in a vehicle in a storm like this.  Period.  And we had both the car and the RV to deal with, as well as both dogs which came along on the trip.

Common sense finally told us that we needed to quickly find a sheltered area for the car and the RV, and it didn’t take long for us to find a small gas station / convenience store that was already closed for the night.  We pulled both vehicles under the awning and made plans to vacate with the dogs to a nearby hotel if the storm looked to be really bad as it approached.  The possible tornado was still showing up on the radar, so we turned on the built-in weather radio in the new RV to stay informed on the storm.

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The dogs waited with us on their comfy spot as the storm passed.

 

I alerted a group of friends to our situation and asked them to pray for our safety.  Immediately, many responded and I kept in touch with them as the storm approached and hit.  We never vacated the RV during the storm, as the worst of it literally veered to either side of where we were parked, with the worst part of the storm veering to the west.  No more tornadoes were reported, and prayers were answered.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the only damage inflicted was on my nerves.

After the storm passed, we set out in the dark for the last part of our drive.  The radar was clear all the way home… for about fifteen minutes.  Then, the storms began back-building once again.  Fortunately, none were severe, but we did hit a few spots with very hard rain, and I hit one water puddle on the road at one point that completely engulfed my car for a few seconds and scared me terribly.  We pulled the RV into our storage facility at 12:15 am, and I was exhausted.  Dealing with storms this time of year is not my idea of a fun time.

We have already started working on the things inside the coach and under the hood that we want and need to do, and I will share more about our new RV soon as we make some progress on it, hopefully with a few “before” and “after” photos.  We really don’t have that much to do, relatively speaking for an older coach, as the coach is in very good condition from being stored under a good cover all these years and seems to have been maintained fairly well, despite the fact that it was seldom used.  We’ve already been down the road with an RV that sat for a long time, so we already know of many things to check out and watch for as we begin to use it soon.  It’s nice that many of these issues have already been addressed with this one.

More to come!

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Wordless Wednesday – Birthday (Cup)Cake

Possibly the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten, delivered fresh to me by a dear friend on Monday!

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46 Years Ago Today

Remembering “Tornado Day”

46 years ago tonight, we survived this monster with only minor damage at my parents’ house.  Twenty-six fellow citizens lost their lives, though, and I knew one woman that died.  I was in the sixth grade, and she made regular visits to my school as a volunteer.

My mother, father and I tried to get to a neighbor’s storm cellar across the street as the storm hit, but the fierce wind actually blew my father back into the house when he attempted to walk out the front door to the south.  We took shelter in an interior closet and heard the trademark “train” sound outside as the storm roared over us and blew over our massive maple tree in the back yard, narrowly missing hitting our house.  The wooden fence didn’t stand a chance either.

To this day, I have never been as scared as I was that night.

We had no advance warning until the local news folks broke into the Carol Burnett Show right before the storm hit, showing the simple black/white radar with a “hook echo” on it.  Shortly afterward, the electricity went off, and we listened to a local radio station for news updates on our battery-powered radio from that point and over the next couple of days.  We had no city services until later the next day, a first for me, and it was my first experience in living amid a truly chaotic situation for the first time.

I will never, ever, ever forget that night.  Ever.

It’s still hard to think back on it and talk about it even today, and, like my mother, it’s why I am a fierce “weather bird” just about any time during severe weather season.  I still miss her calls to make sure we are aware of impending weather, too.

If you do not own a NOAA weather radio, please get one and keep it on over the coming weeks. We nearly always have a weather radio on in our RV when camping, and we generally avoid camping during the months of May and June unless we feel that the weather forecast will work for us just prior to our departure day.  That includes forecasted winds, since driving an RV in high winds is not a good plan.  We have good friends that encountered  high winds on their drive home from their RV trip last week, and it certainly played havoc with their plans, not to mention their nerves.

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The massive storm that spawned the deadly El Reno tornado in 2013, as seen behind us after we left the OKC area early, thanks to the early warning from the NWS in Norman.

 

I’ve also found that following the NWS offices directly on Twitter is a fabulous idea, too.  Following the NWS Norman Twitter feed may have saved my life, as well as my nephew’s life, a few years ago on a trip to Oklahoma City when we heeded a early predictive warning about what was likely to come just prior to the tragic El Reno tornado that struck the area where we were a short time later.  We saw that massive storm in our rear view mirror after we departed the area earlier than planned, missing it my about an hour.

What are the chances that I would be in two separate locations where massive tornadoes struck in my lifetime anyway?  I truly hope there are no more, but living in “Tornado Alley” means the chance is always there.

Please remain “weather aware” during storm season.  I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to be informed so much more today than in years gone by.

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Change Is a Comin’

Out with our old RV, in with a new one.

I’ve been AWOL for a bit.  Life has just been busy, but thankfully, it’s been mostly good things happening in life and just lots of the ordinary business of life.

I’ve started both dogs in weekly agility classes, and we are only three weeks into it.  I have to take them separately, so two mornings each week are involved in this new adventure.  The dogs are doing just fine and having fun.  Their handler (me)… is definitely like teaching an old “dog” new tricks.  It is a good challenge and good exercise, both physically and mentally.  I keep telling myself, “If the dogs can do this, you can, too!”  I’ve watched each one have to overcome a certain level of fear, and it is very inspirational to see them do it as we learn each new apparatus.

Of course, there was some financial business to tend to toward the end of tax season, as we had to file our return and the final return for my mom.  Thankfully, we only owed a grand total of $132, a nice relief, for sure.

The big news for us is a decision we made shortly after our good friend passed away a few weeks ago.  If you read that post, you will recall that he and his wife had just purchased a brand new fifth wheel and pickup, as they were starting the process of easing into retirement over the next two-three years.  His death in a freak vehicle accident hit both of us hard.

Prior to our friend’s death, we had already begun discussing selling our current RV and looking for something larger and better suited to traveling with two large dogs.  We are still at least seven years or more from retirement, but we felt that it might be a good move to go ahead and upgrade to start that “easing” process ourselves a little more.  We know that we always want to travel by RV, but we are still unsure of the level of RV travel we want after we retire.  We don’t have to make that decision for a long time either.

After we said goodbye to our friend, it was just pretty amazing that we both recognized that we were ready to take that next step without further delay.  The next time we even brought it up, we were both ready to proceed with that plan not delay it a few more years, as we previously planned to do.  Our minds were on the same page, and it was time to start looking.  That was easier said than done because Hubby had two overseas trips planned, so I would have to do most of the searching.

To summarize the last month, he traveled and I shopped for a new RV, mostly by looking online and in person at a few locally.  The process was frustrating as each one in our price range seemed to have issues we did not want in our next RV.

Finally, I found an RV online that looked promising about five hours away and made a very quick driving trip to go see it in person.  I knew it would likely be snatched up quickly and wanted to not miss the opportunity to get it by waiting until Hubby returned from his trip to go see it in person.  I even braved a pretty wicked wind/dirt storm on the back of a supercell thunderstorm on the drive home and had to briefly pull over on the side of the road until I could see to drive again.

I took lots of pictures and emailed them to Hubby, and the next day, I called the dealer back to tell him we wanted to buy the RV.  They have been great to work with us and the fact that Hubby has been out of the country, and we are scheduled to go pick it up next weekend.  Hopefully, it will pass the final inspection with no issues, and I honestly am not really concerned about that.  I spent almost three hours looking things over when I was there, and we tested all of the major systems.

We sold our motorhome yesterday to a man we’ve known for a couple of years that has admired it all that time.  We felt that he might want to buy it if we told him we were ready to sell it, and such was the case.  It was a brief negotiation, and we actually made $500 more than we paid for it upfront in 2011, a fair price for both of us, considering the fact that we have taken such good care of it and improved it in many ways.

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Farewell, old friend!  You were a great ride for the past five years!  Sacramento National Forest, Apache Campground @ 8000 ft., Cloudcroft, New Mexico, 2015

 

I’m ready to upgrade, but I confess that I will miss this classic RV that didn’t even have a slide out.  It served us well as we learned the ins and outs of traveling in an RV, and we will always cherish the many memories we shared with family, friends, our dogs and many great people we met on our travels.  We are sending it on to a couple that will continue to take care of it appropriately as they learn the ins and outs of RV ownership for the first time, and we will still get to see it fairly regularly, too… a win/win situation.

As long as the final inspection goes well, we will be upgrading from a 31′ low-mileage RV with no slides to a 38′ insanely low-mileage RV with one large slide in the living room.  It is in such great condition, almost new in many ways, and it felt almost cavernous to me as I walked around it with the slide out.

We are excited about starting chapter two of our RV journey soon in a motorhome that we could truly live in, if we wanted to do so for awhile.  It will be a good experience to see if we might be suited to full-time or part-time RV living a few years “down the road.”

We have also not traveled in our RV as much over the past couple of years, and we both want to get back to getting out more regularly again.  Having the additional room with the dogs will help, for sure, and having life settling down a bit from the issues of the past couple of years will hopefully help, too.  We need our quiet time to refresh now more than ever.  And even if we get there and this one doesn’t pass our inspection, we will continue to search until we find another one.  We’re feeling pretty good about this one, though.

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Another Loss

We just lost yet another loved one in our life, this time very suddenly and definitely unexpected.

Late last October, we spent a very quick weekend camping with some friends.  We all needed a little break from our everyday lives, and I really needed a couple of nights away to refresh a bit as we were dealing with the hard situation of slowly losing my sweet cousin.  These long-time friends gladly joined us, as they had just purchased a brand new fifth wheel, and we shared their happiness as they took their new trailer on an inaugural trip with us.

Hubby worked with this man for thirty years, and they were good friends.  Sadly, we just lost this dear friend to a tragic accident.  One day, this friend was at work with Hubby, and the next day, he was gone.  He did not survive but a few brief minutes after the horrible crash.

Over three decades, this friend and Hubby grew very close.  They had a lot in common and helped and supported each other in ways other friends could not at times.  He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement years very soon, and they were especially looking forward to camping regularly with family and friends and even meeting new people on the road.  We were looking forward to being a part of that with them in coming years, too.

My heart is truly breaking following this tragic news that we received while on a drive around sunset with the dogs in the car.  Hubby completely broke down in tears, and it was all I could do to keep some composure myself to try to comfort him.   I drove us home as he wept and called other friends to share the sad news, and I remember seeing one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in some time as I drove.

We memorialized and buried our friend, along with many others who loved him.  He ended his life well, after many years of heartache, and for that healing, I am very grateful today.  He will most definitely be missed.  So many times in situations like this, I struggle to see how his family will go on without him, but I also know that in every situation I’ve known in the past, they always find a way, even though it is seldom easy for them.

I’m sure I will remember our friend every time we revisit the places we camped with him and his wife and enjoyed their company in some beautiful scenic spots, and I hope that over time, I can remember in gratitude and not in sadness.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust

The photos shared in today’s post are from our last trip with our friends back in October, a trip that I remember so fondly.  We had a great time acquainting them with this particular park a little more, and these photos represent some memorable moments we shared together.  It was a lovely time enjoying good friends, beautiful scenery and more than a few much needed laughs.  We also loaned him an extra HDMI cable to use, since he forgot to buy one, and Hubby had great fun teasing him about it.

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Memorable sunsets
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Hidden lake that few people know about
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Beautiful fall colors

 

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Seeing lots of bison and their young up close
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Hiking around the lake

I am feeling fairly guilty right now as I mourn the fact that this is the fifth loved one we have lost in the past fifteen months.  We lost three family members and a good friend last year, and now we’ve lost another friend.  The more I think about being a little resentful of this fact, the more guilty I feel.  Perhaps it is time to quit looking at death in this way and start being more grateful for the blessing of having these people in my life for the time they were here.  As we grow older, we will no doubt continue to lose loved ones like this, and I don’t want the pity party to only grow within me.

This is a very hard loss for many of us, and if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for his family and friends.

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Easter Week at the Lake

We enjoyed a few days at Lake Brownwood State Park just before Easter once again.  Springtime is such a great time to visit this lovely park, and for the first time since we began visiting here is early 2012, the lake was completely full!  This was also our yearly pilgrimage to see our beautiful Texas bluebonnets once again.  A trip to see the bluebonnets in spring holds a special place in my heart, dating back to my childhood days with my family when we would make a trip to another lake in central Texas in the spring, often during this very same week when we had a break from school for Easter.

Here are two views of the same spot at Lake Brownwood in the day use area.  The first photo is from last year at this same time, and the second photo is from last week.

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2015
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2016

 

While we certainly missed all of those beautiful bluebonnets that we saw last year, it was such a treat to finally see this beautiful lake completely full with green grass and trees all around.  The lake actually filled up shortly after our visit last year after significant rains came to much of the state to finally end the drought that began in 2011, but this was our first time back to the lake since the rains came.

There are several campgrounds in the park, and we always enjoy the Council Bluff campground with the full hookups, nice shady sites, great views of the lake and easy access to some nice trails afforded there.  In fact, the overlook in this campground is one of my favorite places in the entire park, especially at sunset.

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Council Bluff overlook, about a minute walk from our campsite
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View from Council Bluff overlook
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Council Bluff overlook
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Council Bluff campground in the morning
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Area behind our campsite in Council Bluff where we saw some wild turkeys
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Sunset view from Council Bluff overlook

 

I captured a few photos of some pretty birds in the campground, including my first photos of our state bird of Texas, the mockingbird, which we do not see very often in our part of the state, unfortunately.  These pretty birds have a beautiful wingspan, too.

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Mockingbird, the state bird of Texas
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Northern Cardinal
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Mockingbird

 

The Willow Point campground, which sits right on the lake, is another beautiful place to camp in the park, offering water and electric sites with easy lake access.  The gorgeous day use area also sits next to this campground, and a nice fishing pier and boat ramp is within an easy walk.  We actually decided to return to the park midweek at some point and camp in Willow Point to take full advantage of the lake access, too.

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Swimming spot at the day use area
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Lovely day use area
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A nice campsite in Willow Point campground
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Lakeside campsites in Willow Point campround
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Willow Point campground
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Patch of bluebonnets near the day use area
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Beautiful bluebonnet

 

Lake Brownwood State Park is one of 29 CCC Legacy Parks in the Texas State Park system, and the most impressive site in the park is the historic lodge, built by the CCC during the Great Depression.  Hubby’s father was part of a CCC group in the hill country in that time, so all of the CCC facilities throughout the state hold a special place in our hearts, for sure.

I always enjoy seeing this beautiful and impressive building on each trip, and each year on Easter Sunday, a sunrise service is held here at a gorgeous overlook that has a great view of the lake as the sun shines its first golden rays over the lake.

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Historic CCC lodge
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Monument at the historic lodge
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Big patio behind the historic lodge
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Beautiful overlook area near the historic lodge
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Sunrise service is held in this beautiful spot every Easter morning.

 

Of course, a visit to this area is not complete without enjoying a meal at a truly iconic restaurant in the town of Brownwood, which is 22 miles south of the park.  Underwood’s Cafeteria is not to be missed when in this area, and you can’t miss it when driving through town with those large signs.  We opted to dine here at lunch on Thursday before the holiday crowds came to the area, which was a good plan.  Underwood’s Cafeteria has been in business for 70 years as of this year and is still going strong with some of the best BBQ anywhere at a fair price.

We had a great, relaxing trip back to this area, and even the dogs had a great time, I think.  We took the car along on this trip instead of the motorcycle, as the weather was a bit cooler than on previous trips, so we took them with us on some nice drives here for the first time.  Easy access to some of our favorite hiking trails from our campsite also allowed us to take them hiking every day, and we especially enjoyed hiking the Texas Oak Trail above the lake at sunset each day.

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Big Red loves to look out the window at our fellow campers.
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Girly Girl enjoying a morning nap in the sunshine in the RV.

 

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