Random Thoughts

Second day of summer random thoughts

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Today’s post is a little exercise in just writing some “random thoughts” that come to mind, so let’s see what comes to the forefront, shall we?

Summer is officially here as of yesterday, but summer actually showed up in a big way here last week with some pretty brutal temperatures and heat indexes with higher humidity levels.  While others downstate often suffer from high humidity this time of year, it is not such a common occurrence where we live.  Let me just say how glad I am for that fact, too!  Whew, it is pretty much torture to combine heat and humidity, and for us, that is pretty much anything higher than 30%!

 

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The dog days of summer are definitely upon us!

 

We had a nice Father’s Day, and I hope you all did, too.  Son joined us for a nice lunch out, which was actually a combined celebration for us for Father’s Day and our 37th anniversary last week.  We splurged and went to a restaurant that we only visit for special occasions, and it was such a treat!  I tried Tres Leches cake for the first time because our meal came with a free dessert for Father’s Day, and I am now on a serious hunt for a similar recipe.  No, it’s not on my diet at all, but it was so, so good!  I know it had plenty of calories, but I didn’t feel stuffed after I ate it.

I’m feeling a little melancholy right now.  A dear friend informed me that she is going to be moving out-of-state, and I’m sad to hear this.  She is really my best friend at this stage of life, and I’m going to miss her terribly.  It won’t happen for awhile, as she has many things to take care of, including moving her mother and selling their home here.  On the upside, they are moving to a beautiful area in Utah, and it will be a nice place to visit as we are able to do so.

I’m also melancholy about the general state of things in our country and in our world right now.  There is so much hate… so much hate.  I honestly can’t believe some of the things I’m hearing people say these days.  Social media can be such a good tool to stay in touch with people and share some “light,” but these days, I think it is more a tool for the hatemongers.  Twitter is just a cesspool of hate and vile, and I’ve pretty much given up on it completely, except to follow a few accounts individually that are inspirational to me.

Speaking of inspiration, I’ve been studying the book of Daniel for a few weeks, following along via Max Lucado’s teachings via the Oak Hills Church video podcast on iTunes.  It has been great so far, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up soon as it nears its conclusion.  I highly recommend it to anyone desiring a little supplemental study this summer, and it is quite timely as well.

Some fellow RV friends have shared that by this time next year, they may be on the road full-time in their RV.  They are ten years younger than we are, and they are ready to see if they can make it happen.  This took us by surprise, for sure, as their youngest child will leaving the “nest” by this time next year.  They don’t have a firm plan yet on how to do it financially, but it has got us to discussing this option again ourselves.  We still think that we will need to do it in retirement, if we do it at all, so that it won’t stress us financially.  But, it will be quite interesting to see if they go for it or not next year.  I’ve learned so much, and continue to learn, from some of you full-time RVers that I follow here, and based on the large number of people doing it now, I really don’t consider it to be an alternative living option anymore.

Speaking of full-timers, I started following “Driving Miss Norma” on Facebook, and what a joy and inspiration that has been for me.  If you’re on Facebook, be sure to check it out.  Miss Norma is my hero, as well as her family and their standard poodle that travels with them.  Just search for “Driving Miss Norma,” and be sure to read her story.  It has brought tears to my eyes more than once as I’ve been following their journey.

We are looking forward to hitting the road in our RV late next week… finally!  We are meeting three other couples, and it should be a really fun time.  Our Houston-area friends are actually renting an RV for the first time, so this should be “very interesting!”  Hopefully the heat won’t be too terrible.

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Even though you can’t see it in this photo, there is a big air horn on top of the RV on the passenger’s side, and my goodness, it is loud! 😀

 

Hubby’s best Father’s Day gift was finally fixing the big air horn on our new-to-us RV, and wow, that thing is loud!  It only needed a new ground wire.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing!  Ha.

As we are ready to resume RV travels, I’ve been trying to map out our remaining vacation days through the end of February.  We’re considering a possible trip to Big Bend at some point, visiting both the national and state parks there, as well as visiting another new-to-us state park, which is also a goal of ours each year.  I invite any helpful suggestions from anyone as far as making this trip in our RV, too.

Planning vacation days just seems to get more difficult every year, due to Hubby’s work travel requirements, but we will get them in somehow.  At least RV travel allows us a little more flexibility when needed.  It is a real blessing to have four weeks of paid vacation each year, but it is a challenge to actually take all those days, too.

Well, that’s pretty much it for today’s random thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by and reading along!

 

RV Updates and Our First Trip

We’ve worked hard on the RV over the past month.

After owning our new-to-us RV for four weeks, we are mostly finished with the projects we wanted to complete upfront.  Working on our RV has become a hobby for us over the past few years, and it is something we both enjoy.  If Hubby had a good shop, I think he would actually be happy working on RV houses for a living.  Perhaps we’ve watched too many episodes of Flippin’ RVs?  However, our new RV actually needed very few repairs and updates, relatively speaking for an RV that is 16 years old.  In fact, this is quite possibly the best used RV we’ve ever seen for its age.

We have spent most of our spare time lately working on the RV, and we’ve made great progress.  We also made two test trips in the RV to hook everything up.  Our first “trip” was just a short drive to an area RV park for a few hours to give all the systems a good run-through, even though we tested all of them before we purchased it, and our second trip was this past weekend to a state park that had some 50 amp campsites open.  Happily, all is going well so far, and we are pleased with our decision to purchase this particular RV.

We’ve discovered that this is a nice time of year to visit Lake Colorado City State Park, just before the real heat of summer hits.  It is usually not crowded, and once again, the wildflowers were beautiful and wildlife was found in abundance, especially a variety of birds, including bobwhite quail and lots of cottontail bunnies.  Our female poodle surely wanted to break free of her leash to take out after them, too!

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Pretty wildflowers at a nearby campsite
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Another pretty campsite
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Gorgeous view behind our campsite
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A brief storm played havoc with our outdoor chairs and bicycles.

An unexpected storm with some small hail blew through the park early on Saturday evening, and thankfully, we put all the awnings up on the RV just before it hit.  We thought the bikes and our chairs would be protected under the picnic table cover, but as you can see in the photo above, most everything ended up in the mud after the high winds played havoc with them.  The rocking chair was actually laid on its side on top of the table, and you can see where it ended up!  My bike, seen in the mud, just got a little dirty and is fine.

We are starting out from the dealer where we purchased our RV with new tires, a new rubber roof and one new air conditioner in the bedroom.  The furnace and generator were also serviced prior to taking delivery, and the refrigerator was inspected.  Also, the entire fuel system was serviced, including the removal of the gas tank and thorough cleaning.  The RV only had 7,000 miles and the 7000 watt Onan generator only had 58 hours of use.  We knew the story of this RV, and we verified it through Carfax, even calling one of the mechanics listed on the report to talk to him.  After doing our homework as best we could, we felt comfortable enough to proceed with our purchase.

In the rest of this post, I will share some of the updates we’ve been working on with a few pictures, even though they are just phone pictures taken mostly while parked in storage with the slide in and don’t reflect how nice and roomy it is inside with the slide pulled out.  Having a long slide is something new for us, and we are loving the extra room.

Hubby has also done a few mechanical things as well, nothing major, but I won’t attempt to get into those here.  Let’s just say it’s nice to have a mechanically inclined Hubby who has worked on cars since he was 16 years old.

One of the nicest surprises was discovering that our RV came with a set of custom sunscreens for all of the front windows, a feature that I don’t recall seeing before, even in new RVs.  It also has awnings over all the windows that are not covered by the large awning, another feature that we don’t see in RVs very often.

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Nice custom sunshades for the front windows and window awnings over the others

 

We are certainly going to enjoy using these front window sunscreens because they help to block sunlight and keep others from seeing inside during the day, while allowing us to leave the front curtains open.  At night, we will still close the curtains for privacy, but it will be great to leave them open during the day for a change to give us a more open feeling inside the RV.  Having all this additional exterior protection from the sun from both the sunscreens and awnings will definitely help us when camping in warm/hot weather.  They made a big difference this past weekend, for sure.

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Looking through the front window sunscreen at camp this past weekend.

One of the big projects we tackled was updating all of the gold hardware and fixtures throughout the RV to an oil rubbed bronze finish.  Nearly all of the handles were showing wear in the finish anyway, and gold and camping somehow just don’t work for us.

We’ve worked on updating the hardware over the past four weeks, and we are finally done.  We simply replaced all of the bathroom hardware with a new set, including additional towel bars, but we actually painted all of the other hardware and fixtures in the rest of the RV.  Taking one area at time helped to keep the project from feeling too overwhelming at once.

Our new RV bathroom actually has a tub and shower combo unit (Hurray!), and it originally came with gold trimmed shower doors.  We removed those doors, and Hubby trimmed the edge of the unit with new white plastic molding to cover the screw holes and help to hold water inside.  Once that was done, I installed a nice hotel-style shower curtain with a see-through mesh top that I found at Bed Bath and Beyond.  It is so nice to go from a teeny-tiny shower that we could barely turn around in to a very roomy shower/tub combo that is much more comfortable.

Another project that Hubby opted to tackle right away, as preventive maintenance based on a previous experience in our first RV, was to replace all but one of the faucets and attached water lines and also install new water shut-off valves on each faucet, including the outdoor shower that is located in one of the outside basements.  As part of this project, we also purchased new kitchen and bathroom sink faucets in a matching oil rubbed bronze finish.

Our son helped us swap out the old CRT style televisions for flat screens, and he also helped to permanently install our DISH satellite box and two Blu-ray players.  This was definitely a big project, but he does this for a living and did a fabulous job on both televisions with Hubby’s help.  We already owned a large flat screen television in our previous RV that was never permanently mounted, and we did not sell it with the RV.  We only had to purchase the smaller television for the bedroom, along with another Blu-ray player, and I actually found close-out deals on each one.

Updating the bedroom was largely my project.  We opted to have a custom mattress built in the Dallas area (contracted through a local store here) because we needed a queen short mattress.  We didn’t care for the mattress options at Camping World (mostly expensive foam mattresses), and we previously purchased this same Sleeptronic mattress for the first RV and loved it.  It took just over two weeks to get it here, and we are once again very happy with it, after testing it out last weekend for the first time.  This particular pillow-top mattress is very comfortable, but it also has reinforced sidewalls, which is important for an RV mattress.  We tend to sit on the bed in the RV more than we do our bed at home, and without that sidewall support, the mattress will break down over time.

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New Sleeptronics mattress, custom built to fit our short queen bed

 

This bedroom is larger than the bedroom in our previous RV, but even though it has so much nice closet space, it still does not have a slide-out.  The queen short mattress works great, but I wanted to see if we could find a way to regain the extra six inches in length at night.  I found the solution at Camping World, and it is a perfect fit with the new mattress.  It is an Avena brand foam insert with a fitted zippered cloth cover that we place between the wall and the head of the mattress at night, and it is six inches wide, giving us the length of a regular queen size mattress at night.  The next morning, we just remove the insert and push the mattress back up against the wall to make it easier to move around during the day.  It is a simple solution that I highly recommend to others with this same setup in their RV bedrooms, and I think this insert may be a new item at Camping World.

Once our new mattress was in place, I finished out the bed with new bedding from Costco (sheets) and Bed Bath and Beyond (comforter/pillows).  I was determined to find good deals on quality linens, and I managed to outfit the bed very affordably with all new linens, including four pillowcases, three accent pillows and 500 thread count sheets.  I also purchased two Better Homes and Gardens closet organizer units at Wal-Mart to give us a place to conveniently store our shoes and a few other things.

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Our updated RV bedroom.  Painting the hardware and fixtures, installing two new 12v reading lights above the bed, and getting rid of the hideous floral bedspread for a more neutral look, really helped create a nice, relaxing atmosphere.

Hubby installed two new LED 12v reading lights above the bed, one for each of us, and we found them at Camping World.  We had similar lights in our previous RV, and we wanted to have them in the new one, too.  He had to run the wire for the new light fixtures, and he did a great job, as usual.

The kitchen has a hard wood floor, not laminate, and it is in pretty much perfect condition.  We knew that we would need to keep it covered most of the time to prevent it from getting scratched by the dogs’ toenails, and I also wanted to protect the carpet in the living area from wearing faster than the carpet under the slide-out while in storage.

We’ve had a nice Berber carpet remnant in a spare bedroom for quite some time, so I had two custom rugs made, one for each area.  The rug for the kitchen floor also has a special backing to keep the rug from scratching the floor and prevent it from slipping.  I absolutely love how the rugs came out, and they will help preserve both the wood floor and the carpet in those areas.

 

One of the features that we really like in this RV are the many lighting options we have inside, especially the recessed lighting above both the living area and kitchen.  However, none of the fixtures had LED bulbs, so we upgraded two light fixtures to LED bulbs.  At $20 each, that is all we care to do right now.  We want to have a couple of LED lights available, one in each main area, to use at night when we boondock to help preserve the house batteries as much as possible between times we are allowed to run the generator to recharge them. (We also carry some small LED lanterns, too.)  We typically don’t use our inside lights very much anyway, and just like our first RV, this one has lots of nice windows and well-placed roof vents.  We also have a big skylight in the bathroom above the tub/shower.

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An angled hallway separates the main living area from the bedroom.

Another feature that sold us on this RV was the visibility break between the living area and kitchen up front and the bedroom in the back.  We held out hope that we could find an RV with this type of break to give more privacy when others stay with us.  Many RVs today do not have this type of separation, so we feel very fortunate to have it in ours now.  The concept of privacy of any kind in an RV came be a bit hard to come by.

In closing for today, I have one funny story to share as we are slowly becoming acquainted with our new RV.

We both kept looking and looking for the switch for the “back porch” light outside but could never find it, and we even contemplated calling the manufacturer to see if they could tell us where to find it.  Finally, just a few days ago, I noticed that the light was on, but neither of us had turned it on.  Later on, it was off again.  I finally “connected the dots” and realized that the light comes on automatically when one of the basements underneath it outside is opened.  Oh my goodness, what a good laugh we had when we finally figured that out!

Every day in an RV is an adventure, even if we’re just doing chores in it!

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A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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Sky

The calm before the storm

The sky was both beautiful and ominous this week in our area.  One day, it displayed a magnificent morning sight, and another day, it gave us a historic rainfall that was the equivalent of a 500 year flood.

In response to the WordPress Daily Post photo challenge today of “Sky,” I have chosen to share with you the amazing beauty of our morning sky with a single ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds earlier this week, which was the precursor of the storm to come.

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I wrote about the historic flood in my previous post yesterday.

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Flash Flood

Five inches of rain fell in just under an hour!

Hubby and I have a “rule” that we do not camp in our RV in the months of May and June unless we go fairly far from home to the mountains west of us where the weather is a bit more stable this time of year or unless we go when we feel there is some reasonable certainty that the weather will be fine.  However, the weather this year is once again proving why we typically abide by that “rule.”  The weather can just be totally unpredictable and often dangerous with little warning this time of year.

Our original plan had us breaking our “rule” this week to take the new RV to one of our favorite state parks about three hours away, and we were to depart yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon to drive there, staying until Sunday.  Earlier this week, however, it became apparent that the weather was probably not going to allow us to travel this week.

Texas is pretty much one big lake right now, I think.  That also includes our typically dry part of the state after a flash flood hit yesterday morning, and it hit with a vengeance right where we live.

Five inches of rain fell in just under than an hour, and I admit it was a bit scary as I watched water filling up our backyard and our street, unable to run-off quickly enough, even though our house sits on high ground.  In the thirty years we’ve lived here, it has never rained that hard that fast.

Several places in our immediate area flooded yesterday, and I’m sad about that.  Even with the expensive storm water drainage system, we still had flooding because the rain just fell too quickly.  I don’t even want to think how bad the flooding would be today if that flood had come in the years prior to the installation of that drainage system, too.

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Our backyard as the flooding commenced
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The high water line in our backyard was eight inches deep.
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I came upon this flooded intersection when I tried to go check on our RV.  Yes, I turned around after taking this photo!

 

The park we were to visit this week is now closed due to flooding for the first time in the five years we’ve been traveling by RV.  The flooding gets even more critical even further downstate, and many places (including state parks) are closed due to flooding right now and people have died in floods.

My former boss reminded me yesterday in a Facebook comment that we never turn down rain where I live, and that is true.  The incredible rain we had yesterday, though, fell so fast that most of it just ran off.  Still, it was a good soaking for our yards and trees, even if it was pretty scary at the time.

I now know what it feels like to actually be in a flash flood, and I now have a very healthy respect for such conditions.  I’m glad that I was not out in my car at time, as several friends got caught in those scary conditions and were stranded in various locations for quite a while.  Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed.  The motto, “Turn Around – Don’t Drown,” is very, very true!

The rains are subsiding today, and the majority of our roads are clear again this morning.  Since the weather looks to be clear this weekend, we may try to take the new RV out to a different park that is not flooded, as long as the weather holds.  We’ve worked hard on it over the past three weeks, and we are ready to take it out!

Update – 6/3/16:  Our local news is now reporting that this flood in our immediate area was the equivalent of a 500 year flood, and I am even more grateful for our storm water drainage system that was built a few years ago.  Without it in place this week, we might have standing water hanging around for weeks, even months.

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