It’s So Hot…

It’s so hot right now…

… our tropical plants are begging to come back inside the house because they can’t take the heat.

… the weather forecasters underestimate the high temperatures for each day in the weekly forecast.  They never, ever, ever forecast 105 degrees or higher, and that’s probably  a blessing in disguise for us, even if it is living in denial.

… I feel like breaking out in song when a random cloud actually blocks the sun for a few seconds.

… the dogs think they’re being punished when it’s time to go to the backyard to do “business” in the afternoon.

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The dogs were not happy as I made them sit outside in the heat to take their picture after their recent grooming.  Girly Girl’s expression (on the left) pretty much says it all.  But that’s $178 worth of grooming sitting right there and definitely warrants at least a photo. 😀

… we can’t even escape to the mountains a few hours away because it’s as hot there as it is here.

… running errands anytime after 10 a.m. is not a pleasant experience, and getting out between 3-6 p.m. is… well… just a little crazy.  I never said we weren’t a little crazy, though.

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I don’t function well when it’s 113 degrees outside, and getting in a car that’s been sitting in the sun outside a store in this kind of heat is a near-death experience.

… unshaded playground equipment can reach temps up to 188 degrees.  Truth!  There was a report on the morning news today that proved this fact.

… firing up the oven, or any other heat producing appliance, just does not happen.  At. All.  This is officially “dining out” season.  After all, we need to help support all those businesses that are missing the college kids this summer, right???

… clothes dry in half the time by simply hanging them outside vs. using a regular clothes dryer.  This a really good thing, since using the dryer inside the house is really not an option anyway.  Dryers produce heat, and we also need every penny we can save to put toward our electric bill to run the life-sustaining A/C.

… RV travel is not even a fleeting thought in our minds right now.  We are not gluttons for unnecessary punishment.  One time, we actually RV camped down in the canyon at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in July, which is quite possibly the hottest place in the universe in July.  This was in our young and foolish days about four years ago, and we quickly learned that we’d made one of the worst decisions of our married life.  Thankfully, we survived.

… living in a grotto is pretty much a requirement.  Curtains closed, lights off, doors opened as little as humanly possible equals a winning plan.  If I didn’t know otherwise, I would swear everyone in town is away on vacation.

… the birds fight for drinks from the hose dripping water under our big tree.  I’m really not sure how much water is actually making to the tree roots for that reason.  I would run their birdbath, but the water actually gets too hot for them to drink!

… I’m not sure how we actually survived in our house before we had our solar attic fan installed a few years ago.  That thing is a blessing straight from Heaven.

… Facebook friends regularly post about how miserable our state is this time of the year.  They are absolutely correct.  In fact, some of the funniest weather memes ever show up this time of year for that reason.

… the grocery stores put Gatorade front and center for customers to find easily.

… the patches of milkweed in our backyard are finally dying a slow death.  Bye, bye.

… spending time reading a good book in the afternoons provides a nice break from the heat.  I can even pretend I’m back in elementary school earning more sticky stars for my summer reading chart.  (FYI, I’m reading The Lunar Chronicles books, thanks to the recommendation of my sweet librarian friend and an unexpected $30 settlement credit from Barnes and Noble that paid for the first four ebooks.  Nothing like free summer entertainment!)

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I’m halfway through reading these four books, and what a creative and delightful read they’ve been so far, a perfect summer book series.

 

… mowing the yard, even early in the morning, is a real sweat-producing workout.  I willingly took this chore on myself a few years ago and…

What. Was. I. Thinking!!!

Still, I haven’t missed a week of mowing yet this season with my brand spankin’ new lawn mower, and I’m now thinking that I’m pretty much Wonder Woman for doing that.  We’ll see how the rest of the summer goes.  If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to head over to Chick-Fil-A for a large diet lemonade when I’m done.

… I’m remembering fondly the crippling foot of snow we received back in early January… yes, the same one I fussed and fussed about for more than two weeks afterward.  Oh yes, yes, yes… please bring it back already!  I’m pretty sure the dogs would agree, too.

… we were inspired to finally make plans for our fall RV travels while also hoping that the usual break from the stifling heat actually shows up in September.  Sometimes the heatwave surprises and lasts well into October, though, so we are hedging our bets and headed north once again on our next long trip after Labor Day.  The mere thought of temps in the 70s during the day and in the 30s overnight in just a few weeks makes me feel all giddy inside.  We will even need to take coats!

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We are so ready to get this RV show on the road again!

 

There is actually a tiny glimmer of hope for a bit of a break from this weather madness this week.  Supposedly, we actually have a little chance of rain, and the high temps will only be in the low 90s???  If so, it will feel like winter has returned because that is over 20 degrees cooler than some days we’ve had lately!  Hope is always a good thing, and we’ll gladly take whatever relief we can get at this point.

Sometimes we just need to laugh a little and just get through the day as best we can.

Stay cool, friends.  This heat wave, too, shall pass.

I hope.

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 – You’re Too Slow, Buddy!

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Digging Out

We experienced our biggest snow storm in over thirty years!

The historic snow storm hit with a vengeance on December 26 and 27.  The forecasts turned out to be right on target, as we received 11.5″ of the white stuff.

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Today, eight days after the snow stopped falling, we are still covered up at our house.  The melt-off has been painfully slow in our neighborhood, and we have not had any assistance in clearing streets that are not considered “major” streets.  While the overall response initially was nothing short of heroic, in my opinion, the extended response has been very problematic, if not just plain non-existent.

Hubby and I shoveled snow for three days last week in an effort to clear our driveway, part of the street and some of our elderly neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk so that we and/or her family could get to her, if needed.  Our street does not have thru traffic on it, so it is going to take a very long time for it to melt off at our present prevailing temperatures.  Our house faces north, so our front areas caught the brunt of the drifts that were caused by brutal winds of up to 60 mph at times.  I also had to buy a new pair of boots more suitable for this type of snow activity, after I pretty much ruined my one pair of Uggs in the snow.  Fortunately, I found a great pair of Michael Kors lined rubber boots on sale on New Year’s Day and even had a $20 off coupon to subtract from the sale price.  If you have to wear rubber boots, these are a great option, for sure.

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Michael Kors “Devenport” Rain Boots

All of the bad stuff aside, though, it was a truly beautiful snowfall with some epic drifts all around.  As a hobby photographer, I was so sad that I was unable to get out of the house to properly photograph some sights in the area as they were covered by the largest snowfall here in over 30 years, the third largest snowfall in the history of our area.  We ramped up feeding the birds in our yard, so I was able to take some delight in photographing them in the backyard as they dined on their feast of birdseed amid the rare snow-covered beauty.

We also had fun with the dogs, especially watching them maneuver the snow in their familiar backyard turf.  They had such a great time, once they got over some initial hesitation about maneuvering around the drifts.  They were like kids in a candy store, and we laughed and laughed at them throughout the week as they played hard outside in the white stuff.

The largest recorded snowfall here was in 1983, and we personally experienced that 16.9″ of snow and all of the many issues caused in our area at that time.  The second largest snowfall was in 1956 before we were born, so we can only personally compare this storm to the ’83 storm.  The main difference in the two historic storms was the wind.  The ’83 storm did not have the high winds to cause such problematic, but beautiful, drifts like this most recent storm caused.

The damage from the storm here is extensive, and Hubby’s company was just one of many that were hit hard.  Like many other businesses, including our big mall, sections of roofs collapsed under the large drifts that were caused in areas of roofs that were uneven, causing the snow to pile in up certain areas where it was trapped.  I heard this morning that some assistance may eventually be available to those that suffered storm damage, but so far, nothing has been made available, except coverage in effect from private insurance.

If such a historic snow storm had to hit, at least it hit during a week when schools were out of session for the Christmas holidays.  I doubt that schools here could have opened at all last week, due to the poor road conditions.  The snow started falling on Saturday evening, and we were not able to get out in our car until the following Thursday, and it was still problematic that day, too.  We just do not have the same snow removal resources that other northern areas have, nor does it make financial sense to have them to that degree.  However, we do need more than we have at this time, and that fact was made perfectly clear when so many emergency vehicles got stuck in the first two days of the storm.  Many individuals with four-wheel drive vehicles had to literally come to their rescue.  And, as to add insult to the injury in all of this, the city manager left town for the week, and the deputy city manager apparently never even showed up to the emergency operations center while it was activated.  There are already calls by prominent people in the community for their removal from their positions, which is quite understandable.

City officials anticipated that 20-30 people would die in this massive storm, but only one person died.  A homeless man was offered shelter by several different people and one care group, but he refused to come to the shelter anonymously.  There is not much that can be done in that situation, as he could not be forced to go.  Our elderly neighbors were appreciative of the fact that we had our motor home in front of the house, prepared to fire up the generator and take care of as many neighbors as possible in the event that we lost electricity.  Many areas suffered from outages, but thankfully, our neighborhood was good throughout the storm.  One neighbor across the street told us that she thought it might even be fun if we all had to bail out to the motor home together, and she even offered to bring food!  Who knows, it might have been pretty fun after all.

One more tragic result of this storm was the loss of many cattle throughout the panhandle area.  Dairy farms to the north have tragically lost thousands of head of cattle.  Closer to home, many cattle broke free from their fences by walking over them on drifts of snow or through them when they fell.  They took to the roads and even the freeways in town, and one herd was seen on a main road very close to where we live.  Another herd  showed up at a friend’s house that lives just outside of her small town not far away, but she was able to locate their owner through social media.  A group has now been created on Facebook to help reunite cattle with their owners in the area, too.

So, to sum things up at present, we are able to get out in our cars, even though the neighborhood streets are pretty problematic.  City and area officials have a lot to think about and change in their respective responses.  Many homes and business are dealing with extensive damage to roofs and water inside.  But, I’ve never been more proud of the private citizens here that came to the rescue of anyone that needed help during this difficult time.  So many people, especially farmers and ranchers, own 4×4 pickups, and *many* of them just spent those first days after the storm towing out stuck cars and transporting doctors and nurses to work.  We helped as we could, primarily helping our little elderly neighbor “weather the storm.”  Maybe someday, some nice person will do the same for us, if needed.

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Wordless Wednesday – A Fabulous 4th

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Wordless Wednesday – New Camera and Lenses

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Wordless Wednesday – Fun in the Snow

And looks who's the big dog now!
And looks who’s the big dog now!
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