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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Wordless Wednesday – Bluebonnets

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Ambushed

Voting proved to be an unexpected challenge this year.

A few weeks ago, I voted early in the Super Tuesday election.  Over the decades, I’ve learned the benefit of voting early to avoid long lines on election day, as long as I’m prepared to do so in the early timeframe.  If not, I will wait until election day when I’m as prepared and informed as I can be on my decisions because I take this responsibility seriously.  Voting early was a great decision, as the voting lines this year were very, very long on election day, due to both the presidential primary and an open seat in our congressional district for the first time in many years.

As I entered the voting area at a nearby grocery store and dug my driver’s license out of my purse, I suddenly felt ill at ease and tried to figure out why I felt this way as I also talked with the election volunteer.  It didn’t take long for me to realize what was wrong.  For over fifteen years, I have seldom, if ever, gone to vote by myself.  I always took my elderly mother with me.  Now, for the first time in many years, I was all alone while voting.

Voted

I kept my composure fairly well during the initial process, but the tears started to flow in earnest while I was selecting my candidates at the voting machine.  Thankfully, I had my *long* written list with me, so the process went fairly quickly, and after pushing the big red “Cast Ballot” button, I headed to the restroom nearby to grab a tissue and wipe the tears streaming down my face.  A sweet older lady walked in and even asked if I was ok, and I assured her that I was fine.  I briefly shared why I was teary so that she wouldn’t worry, and to my surprise, she gave me a little hug, which made me want to cry even more.  I somehow kept it together at that moment, thanking her for her kindness, and I made it through the balance of the day with no issues for the most part.

Hubby was out-of-town on business that night, so I took the opportunity to sit outside on the back porch with the dogs and a book before bedtime, thanks to the warmth of our new propane table heater which provided just the right amount of heat to keep me comfortable in the late evening cool.  After about fifteen minutes, though, the tears started flowing again.  Sometimes I just need to let them flow, and this was a time to just have a good ol’ cry with only the dogs as witnesses.

As I sat there, I remembered the many times Mom and I went to vote together and the call I nearly always got from her on the first day of early voting to remind me that we needed to go vote soon.  I also remembered one particular election.  A few years ago, Mom was very sick on the day that the voting machines were brought to the assisted living place where she lived.  I had already told her that I would come to her room and escort her through the initial process, while also voting early there myself.  Due to her illness that day, it was very hard for her to even get out of bed, but she insisted on voting anyway.  I helped her get dressed and pushed her in a wheelchair to the lobby to go vote, and I will never forget her insistence on voting that particular day.  There was a certain gentleman running for office for the first time, and she was determined to throw her support behind him.  I missed Mom terribly that night as I sat there all alone with only my sweet pups and years worth of memories to keep me company, and it was time to just succumb to another round of grief for a few minutes.

My parents instilled me in the importance of this precious opportunity we have to select our leaders.  Perhaps their passion for voting was reinforced by the fact that my father’s younger brother died in a prison camp in Europe in WWII, paying the ultimate price for his country at a young age.  My father and brother also served in the military in wartime, so the very least our family could always do was to vote after doing our due diligence as far as candidate research.

I’m so grateful for the influence of my older family members in this regard, especially my late brother’s influence in more recent years when he challenged me to learn even more about candidates before voting.  He died in 2007, but I still “hear” his admonitions to be more diligent in gaining knowledge, even though it is not an easy process.  My views were forever impacted by his own passion in this regard, for sure.

Still, voting without Mom hit me very hard because I was not emotionally prepared.  I shared my experience on my Facebook page with a trusted group of friends, and one of my best friends shared that such an experience is referred to in grief counseling circles as being “ambushed.”  She and her mother have been attending a grief group for the past few months, and I appreciated her sharing this terminology that gave some clarity and justification for what I had experienced.

Here is the definition of “ambush,” courtesy of Oxford Dictionary.

am·bush

[ˈambo͝oSH]

VERB

  1. make a surprise attack on (someone) from a concealed position:

    “they were ambushed and taken prisoner by the enemy”

    synonyms: attack by surprise · surprise · pounce on · fall upon ·

    [more]
    lay a trap for · set an ambush for · lie in wait for ·

I certainly felt ambushed by both memories and emotions that day.  Mom’s absence loomed very large, and for a brief moment, I even thought about just walking out to avoid making a scene while voting, but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to leave before casting my ballot.  Who would have ever dreamed that voting could bring back such vivid memories and strong emotions.  Obviously, I certainly did not.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the less I worry about tears and just try to “let them be.”  If the tears come, let them come.  I think it’s just memories paying a little visit to keep my heart tender and keep me grateful for what was, as well as grateful for what is today.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been “ambushed” like this after the death of a loved one, and I seriously doubt it will be the last time.  Hopefully, I can just experience these moments for what they have to offer, then move on with a nugget of gratitude for it all, even if it is hard.  Life never promised to be an easy affair.

“Sometimes we need the salt of tears to remind us how to savor the sweetness of life.” — Lysa TerKeurst

Amen, Lysa.  Such wise words.

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A Post from a Proud Owner : “Our fearless East coast trip in our 1983 Allegro RV.”

And I just thought our Tiffin Allegro was a little ancient! This is a great story and one that we can definitely relate to. I couldn’t agree more, and we have already passed up a couple of opportunities to upgrade to something a bit newer because we love ours so much because it is pretty much a perfect fit for us as part-time RV travelers.:-)

Tiffin Side Roads

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My name is Sabrina Pendergrast and I thought I might share with you a note about our “bucket list” trip of a lifetime that ended up including an impromptu roadside purchase of a 1983 Allegro. My Husband and I have two sons whom are both in college in Ohio, which is where we are from  and where this journey began. After much talk about “we’re going to do this, want to see that, etc.” as many people often do, We decided the timing was right for us to just do it already! We listed our home for sale, and in the same week, on a trip to the local Walmart, we came upon a big brown 1983 Allegro. $5000 or best offer the sign read. We pulled up and my husband,(much to my dismay) took a look inside and under the hood and proclaimed that “This is it! Our new…

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Valentine’s Day RV Weekend

Our little getaway to Caprock Canyons State Park

The weather has been truly outstanding for the past couple of weeks, and we finally got out in the RV for Valentine’s Day weekend, after more than three months of missing our RV travels.  Even though Hubby is out of vacation days until early March, we still managed a quick trip out to Caprock Canyons State Park for the weekend while the weather was pretty much perfect.

We hoped to once again see our bison pals, but they were likely down in the remote parts of the canyon where the temperatures are a bit higher than they are up on the rim where the RV campground is.  As the weather warms up, they will likely return to areas where visitors can see them once again.

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We looked and looked for the bison, but they were nowhere to be found on this trip.

 

 

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Our bison pals, including a cute baby, back in the early summer of 2015

 

I had one interesting live photographic subject during the trip, though, as a pretty roadrunner decided it was time to pose for a photo shoot in the nice morning light.  My only real challenge was to capture the roadrunner without a lot of bison droppings in the photo along with it.  While the bison couldn’t be found last weekend, their remnants were certainly still there!

These are my first decent photographs of a roadrunner, and I’m happy to share them today.  Note the difference in the feathers on the head in the two photographs.

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Beautiful roadrunner!
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Feathers on the head are up!

 

This roadrunner didn’t seem to mind me gradually inching closer and closer for the shots, but when I was finished taking photos, it immediately took off running at full speed, a fun site to see.  Fortunately, I didn’t see a coyote in pursuit, even though we heard several of them in the early nighttime hours on Saturday night near our RV.  I love to hear coyotes howl.  It always gives me chills to hear them at night in the vast expanse of this lonely and beautiful land, and I can’t help but feel very fortunate to see and hear nature at its best at times like this.

I also captured a few photographs of the prairie dogs near our campsite, including the faithful “guard” to the RV campground entrance.  This one also greeted us repeatedly on our last trip at the end of October, and I was glad to see it still on point and performing it’s duties nicely.  These prairie dogs definitely saw their shadows on Ground Hog day a couple of weeks ago, but I’m not so sure that we are due six more weeks of winter.  The weather has truly been beautiful lately and looks to remain that way for the near future.

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Prairie dog at the entrance to the campground

 

I just adore the beautiful red canyons in this park, and the next photo is a slightly zoomed-in view from our campsite on this trip.  Not all of the RV sites afford this great sight, so we were once again fortunate to grab a site with a view.  Whether we have a canyon view or not, we always love to camp here, as the sites are spacious and well separated from next door neighbors.

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View from our campsite, slightly zoomed-in

 

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The panoramic view, looking northwest from near the campground

 

One of my favorite spots in any park we’ve ever visited is the amphitheater here in this park, which is just a nice walk down the road from the campground.  The views are just breathtaking, and I always make at least one solo walk here on each trip for a little quiet time, usually in the morning when the light illuminates the canyon walls so nicely.

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Walkway to the amphitheater

 

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Mere photos don’t do justice to the grandeur of this beautiful spot.
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One of the prettiest places to be in the morning!
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View looking west from the amphitheater

On Saturday afternoon, we rode the highway loop from Quitaque to Flomot to Monk’s Crossing and back to the park on the motorcycle, which is always an enjoyable ride in pretty weather.  Clarity Tunnel (aka The Bat Cave) is undergoing some work at this time, and the work is scheduled to continue through sometime in April.  We still want to ride the rail-to-trail route on our bicycles to the cave sometime, but we definitely need to do it in cool weather.  Friends have made this ride and loved it, and I’m ready to check it off my “bucket list,” hopefully sometime this year.  If not, we would also enjoy reserving a spot on the new shuttle bus in the park to ride to the cave one evening this summer, too.

Lake Theo in the park is still full, as the snows back in January no doubt helped to keep it that way.  We enjoyed a nice hike with the dogs to the lake and saw many people fishing and just enjoying their day out at the lake in the beautiful weather once again.  Here are some photos that I took of the lake a few months ago soon after the rains filled the lake.  It is a beautiful place, especially when things are green and the wildflowers have bloomed.

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Lake Theo after rains filled the lake, Spring 2015
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Day use area and swimming area at Lake Theo
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So great to see the lake up again, especially at the fishing pier.

 

I haven’t even shared any photos down in the canyon in this post but will do that another time.  The canyon area in this park is truly striking, and in some ways, we think it is prettier than it’s more popular big cousin, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is about two hours to the northwest.  Both are beautiful places, to be sure, but we are especially fond of this gem of a park.

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Candle of Love

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