Closest approach in 63 years… and in my lifetime
Closest approach in 63 years… and in my lifetime
My favorite season of the year
Autumn is flying by for me, and it’s been a most enjoyable season at home and for traveling in the RV. The leaves are just beginning to turn, nighttime temperatures are flirting with the freezing mark but not yet giving in, regular fall activities returned, and my favorite farmer’s market vendor has closed for the season after another good run this year. This is by far my favorite season of the year, and we now consider it to be our “summer,” since it is our preferred season for travel and outdoor fun now.
Since returning from our week-long vacation to the Enchanted Circle area in early September, we’ve made three more shorter trips in the RV, all to state parks closer to home. We’ve also enjoyed some nice times right here at home, including our annual visit to the fair and enjoying the great food there on opening night, none of which was on my diet, but hey, it’s a tradition… right?
At the fair, we once again dined at the same place I used to take my mom for lunch each year, a charitable organization’s restaurant that I’ve always enjoyed supporting and one that also serves reliably good food. I guess I will always have my mom on my mind every time I go to the fair now, remembering how much she enjoying it, and that’s ok. Those are good memories, but it still gets to me each time I go now.
In late September, Hubby and I returned to Lake Brownwood State Park with another couple who also joined us in their RV for four days and three nights, the same couple we met at Caprock Canyons State Park in August on a weekend that was cooler than normal. It was our first time to visit Lake Brownwood in September, and we managed to get adjacent sites with awesome lake views in the Council Bluff campground.
We enjoyed acquainting our friends with the park, and we also had fun hiking and geocaching together, dining outside in the evenings, watching college football on Saturday evening outside on their RV television and driving into Brownwood to dine at one of our all time favorite places to eat, Underwood’s BBQ.
We also celebrated Hubby’s birthday with our traditional family birthday cake, a Texas chocolate sheet cake that I made, and we even made him blow out candles. Once again, I ate that yummy cake, even though it wasn’t on my diet, a most familiar tale this fall.
In late October, we made a quick weekend trip to Lake Colorado City State Park to just get away and relax. Hubby’s nephew surprised us and met us there in his big, new pop-up camper on Saturday afternoon. The guys had fun checking everything out on it a little more, and we all enjoyed a great visit around the campfire together on Saturday night and even made Nutella s’mores. (Yes, we used Nutella instead of chocolate bars!) We had the campground mostly to ourselves, which was so nice for a peaceful weekend away.
Last week, Lake Colorado City finally received some significant rains, and the lake is now up at least eight feet since we were there. We have never seen this lake with that much water in it because we started traveling by RV during the big drought in 2011. This lake was hit hard and has been very slow in recovering. Hopefully, it’s made some nice progress now, and I’m anxious to return soon to see it.
Our most recent long-weekend trip took us to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in early November for three days and nights. We’ve visited this well-known state park off and on for most of our lives, but this particular trip was by far our best one to date.
I plan to write a separate post soon to share more about that trip and some of the pictures I took. Palo Duro Canyon State Park just keeps getting better and better, especially since it was named the top state park in the nation a couple of years ago, and I’ll try to share more soon about the most recent improvements and expansions in the park, which are newsworthy, especially to campers!
The state park system has definitely spent some money on this great park in recent years to improve the roads and add campsites, both of which were sorely needed. Now, if they could just figure out a way to make that 10% grade road going down into the canyon not so steep and narrow! 😉
Since our last trip, we have been cleaning and sprucing up the RV as we begin to transition it for colder weather camping. Hubby wanted to do some exterior caulking, and I opted to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet while the weather was nice.
Even though we began winterizing in late October at our campsites before heading home, we also started switching out some supplies to prepare for winter camping… loading our heated water hose, electric blankets for us and a guest, extra blankets for us and the dogs’ beds and our good space heater with a thermostat. Right now, though, the weather is still very nice and looks to stay that way, at least for the near future. We’re hoping it stays that way next week for Thanksgiving, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.