Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear Santa ...


 I’ve never written to you before, but this year I need all the help I can get! I’ve lost my sense of humor! Sometime, somewhere over the past few months, my sense of humor has disappeared.

I’ve looked everywhere for it but no luck . I can’t remember laying it down anywhere where I could have gone off and forgotten it. I’m not aware that any of my other possessions are missing, so I doubt that my pocket has been picked or my purse snatched and it has been stolen. (I rather doubt that there would be much of a market for a used sense of humor anyway.)

It’s just been the past few weeks that I realized that it was gone. Life’s little everyday irritations suddenly seemed like world-shaking threats. People began to get on my nerves; their complaints and bad habits depressed me. I even considered joining the Foreign Legion to "get away from it – and them – all."

That’s when I began to feel that emptiness inside me where my sense of humor should have been. But I checked – and it was gone! Had someone sneaked into my house in the middle of a dark night when I was deep in a sound sleep and performed a "humorectomy" on me without my knowledge? Perhaps it was surgically removed in order to transplant it into somebody else. (But, honestly, St. Nick, I don’t think my sense of humor would be an exact match or a good fit for anybody else. Over the three score and ten years of my life, it has become rather specialized to my unique use of it!)

So, Santa, I’m asking for your help. I’m trying to be good, but it’s hard. Living without a sense of humor is like driving a bumpy road in a car with no shock absorbers!

I’d rather have my old sense of humor back if you can find it. But, if you can’t, I would accept a new model. Just see to it that it doesn’t come pre-programmed with a lot of dirty jokes and stupidity. I’m not sure I could get that erased and re-programmed in time to do me any good. My patience is already growing thin – SO HURRY UP, please!

Desperate and humorless,
Many Sorrows.

P.S. Santa: Forget my request for my sense of humor or a replacement. I found it again, quite by accident! My feet began to giggle and I discovered that my sense of humor had slipped out of its usual place and dropped down all the way to the bottoms of my feet! I had been walking on it for some time thinking I had lost it!

Thank you for your kind attention to my request – now unnecessary. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Cheerful again,
Merry Sunshine

Friday, November 23, 2012

Retreat -- Not Surrender

For seven years, I have been battling sand burrs! I got acquainted with them early in our first winter season in south Texas. We parked in an asphalt drive-thru site, and the weather was delightfully warm. I rushed outside barefoot, and quickly and painfully discovered those pesky, omnipresent little stickers. Since that encounter, I’ve worn shoes.

Several years later, we leased an RV site in a park and immediately made arrangements to have it covered with concrete. "There," I thought vengefully, "that will fix those sneaky sand burrs. We’ll bury them under nearly 4 inches of concrete." And so, we did!

Our concrete slab did bury the sand burrs underneath but it did not phase the sticky little devils elsewhere. Walking across the "infield" of the park, the sand burrs jumped with joy as they attached themselves to the hems of my pants and especially my shoes. If I did not take the time to stand outside the door and painstakingly dislodge every one of the spiny little things, they soon infested the rugs inside our house. From the rugs, when we weren’t looking, they jumped into the towel drawer and the clothes closet. Changing clothes sometimes became a stickery experience!

I hadn’t realized how thickly their roots entwined under the soil, invisible to the eye. We decided to plant some starts of a native plant – called "frog fruit" – behind our rig. Several species of butterflies choose this plant to harbor them in one stage of their development, and we wanted to encourage the growth of those fluttering little gems.

 To prepare the area for planting, I spent weeks pulling and digging out sand burr roots. I could hardly believe the length of some of those roots; several were longer than I am tall! And they are tough, clinging stubbornly to the underground pathways through which they have grown. Often, after I had tugged and pulled out several feet of root, it would break and I realized that I had lost that battle because the remaining root was sure to come up again!

We planted our "frog fruit" and it quickly took root and grew. We were delighted with our lovely patch of plants with their tiny green leaves and white flowers. But it wasn’t long before the sand burr shoots began to appear, up through and above our plants. I pulled them out, and back they came! I cleaned them out again, and they came back even thicker. And, to complicate the problem, their stems looked a lot like the stems of our dear little "frog fruit."

Every fall, when we return to our winter home, there is a bumper crop of sand burrs choking out our flowers. It takes me at least a week or two to clean them out so the "frog fruit" can breathe. Then those persistent little pricklers are back before I can get rested up enough to attack them again!

This year those viney spiny little intruders killed off about half of our little flowers! I realized that, while they are invading and growing 24/7, I was only able to pull and dig them out about 2/3. Clearly, I was losing my war with sand burrs!

So, I came up with a new strategy: I let the sand burrs have the area they had cleared. There they can battle the lawn mower. But, for us, I fenced off an area of healthy "frog fruit" plants. I even stole a few healthy plants from the sand burr territory and transplanted them into my protected place to try to encourage the struggling plants there. I will NOT give up my war against sand burrs! So, this new arrangement may be retreat, but it is NOT surrender!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Hallowe’en has come and gone, and we had a great party here at the park. There were scary costumes, funny costumes, dancing, lots of yummy treats, and a pumpkin carving contest.

But, for many of our neighbors here in deep south Texas, Hallowe’en takes a back seat to Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a traditional Hispanic holiday.

Now, don’t quit reading yet just because the name sounds creepy. It is really a happier and more enjoyable celebration than our Hallowe’en and is related to the same tradition. Centuries ago, the Roman Catholic church designated November 1st as "All Saints’ Day," and November 2nd as "All Souls’ Day." These were designated by the church as times for remembering those who had died during the previous year. The evening before (October 31) was called "Hallowed Evening," a time of remembrance and special prayers for the departed.

English-speaking peoples shortened the name of the October remembrance to "Hallowe’en" and, through the years, it has become focused upon the scarier aspects of death: ghosts, witches, ghouls, vampires, and other such frightening things.

In Spanish-speaking countries, however, the Roman Catholic holiday was combined with ancient native celebrations. An early August celebration of remembrance of the dead dates back 2500 to 3000 years in the Aztec culture. As time passed, those native customs and the Roman Catholic practices became mixed together.

In modern Mexico, October 31st is "La Noche de Duelo" (the Night of Mourning). Some families follow the custom of gathering in the cemetery to clean up and decorate the graves of deceased loved ones on that day.

(picture courtesy of Wikiipedia)

Decorations usually include favorite food and drink of the dead loved one, and perhaps an item representing a favorite hobby or activity, all enhanced with golden-yellow marigold flowers. Some families will picnic together at the gravesites as the elders retell stories of the deceased to the children. Many will sleep around the grave for the night.

November 1st is "Dia de los Angelitos" (Day of the Little Angels) dedicated to the remembrance of infants and children who have died. November 2nd is "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) on which adult ancestors and loved ones are recalled. 

Altars are built in many homes which often include a picture of the deceased, items representing his/her favorite food, drink or activities, a Christian cross, candles, and lovely paper art which flutters in every breeze.

Special sweets of the holiday also decorate the altar. Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead) is a special sweet bread often decorated with coils of dough in the shape of a skeleton. Skull-shaped sugar candies are a favorite for the children. The altar, too, is decorated with marigolds, the official flower of the celebration.

The mood is festive and joyful, even humorous. Telling stories about the deceased – especially funny tales – helps sweeten the family’s memories of the departed ancestor.

The home altar, dedicated to the deceased one, reminds all who enter the house how cherished and important that person still is to his/her descendants. Common images of the occasion include

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

 skeletons and "catrinas",
(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)
elegantly dressed female skeletons, who serve as humorous reminders that the rich
 – as well as the poor – all die.

We were educated about this unique holiday as we toured a special exhibit at the Museum of South Texas History in nearby Edinburg, Texas.


We roamed through their exhibits of home altars, cemetery decorations, tasted some of the holiday sweets, and admired the jewelry, bags, tableware, and notecards created by skilled artisans especially for the holiday.

 We’re all in favor of substituting the humor of Dia de los Muertos for the horror of Hallowe’en!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CPR on me!

It's a long story. Back in the early 1980s my doctor first told me that I had a "benign" heart murmur. At that time he simply wanted me to know in case any other doctor asked if I had been aware of the murmur.

About 2002 the doctor whom I was seeing at that time became more concerned about the presence of the murmur in the Aortic valve and repeated tests every year or two to keep an eye on it.

I began to see my current cardiologist in 2008 and he did both an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization to get a "baseline" for me as a new patient. He has continued to do an echocardiogram each year since then. This year's echocardiogram was done on October 29 and I went back to the office on Nov. 5 for the follow-up. When the doctor entered the room he asked how I felt. "Fine" He looked at me in all seriousness and asked "Do you have any symptoms?" I was a bit floored and replied, "None."

He then proceeded to explain that the echocardiogram was showing significant worsening of the Aortic Valve problem -- almost twice as bad as last year. "I am really worried" was his comment. He suggested a heart catheterization for the very next day. And that was ok with me.

So yesterday I was at the hospital at 6 am to register, do the labs, and be ready for a 7am catheterization. When the procedure was over they called Mary Sue to meet with the doctor who explained that the results were much better than he had expected. The aortic valve was compromised about 20% compared to 10% four years earlier. And while there are deposits on some of the arteries that is not of much concern at this time. Mary Sue was to wait where she was after the doctor left and they would be bringing me out soon.

In the meantime our friend was in the waiting room and heard a "Code Blue" page for the room in the cath lab where I was having my procedure. About the same time a nurse asked Mary Sue to return to the waiting room for a bit longer. When Mary Sue rejoined our friend, the friend could not understand why Mary Sue was so upbeat when Rebecca had just heard the Code page. Apparently Mary Sue was still remembering the good news from the doctor and had not associated the Code page with me.

Later on, the cardiologist met with Mary Sue a second time and explained that when the team had removed the catheter my heart stopped twice. The cardiologist showed her a paper strip from the EKG showing the regular rhythms and then the two periods of straight lines.

Fortunately all is well that ends well. I have some soreness in my chest this morning as a result of the CPR compressions. Also there is some mild soreness around the site where they inserted the catheter. I get to remove the big clunky bandage this afternoon and take a shower (and wash off that green stuff that I am painted up with).

I am to resume normal activities tomorrow and have a follow-up with the cardiologist on November 26.

So I was especially thankful to wake up this morning still breathing!!!!!!!!! and rejoicing in the good news from the heart catheterization.

So, with gratitude, I share with you the good news.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Parade of Physicians: Our Annual Physical Exam


First to the lab to give them some blood.
Then two Docs gave us shots ‘gainst the flu.
Doc Three examined our eyes with great care.
Next the dentist had his turn, too.

Doc Five checked our skin for cancerous spots.
Doc Six assessed our heart health.
Doc Seven removed painful corns from my feet,
And they all dipped into our wealth!

Each year, as we age – or so it seems –
Staying well requires more Docs.
It’s hard to try to keep up with them all,
But it sure beats a burial box!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The New Blinds Have Been Installed

On Monday we wrote in our blog about ordering new blinds for our eleven-year old New Horizons fifth-wheel trailer.   The pleated shades originally installed were wonderful when they were new.  Actually they represent an amazing inventiveness in the way they combine a day shade and a night shade all in one.   However, after eleven years of nearly daily use they looked worn, dirty, and soiled.

The old day shades screened out excess light.

The old pleated night shades were aged, worn, and dingy.
We had repaired many of them with replacement strings.
The new solar-shield day shades keep out the sun, but seem
to disappear so that you can actually see out right through the blind.
The new night shade is easy-to-clean vinyl that
blocks 100% of the light.
We are very well pleased with these new shades and we are well pleased with the process of ordering them and having them professionally installed by the staff of MCD Innovations here in McKinney, Texas.
MCD Innovations is located in McKinney, Texas
We are also grateful to our friends Ken and Lee who demonstrated the MCD blinds in their New Horizons fifth-wheel coach and encouraged us to purchase the blinds for our own unit.
Tomorrow we continue our journey toward our winter home in the Rio Grande River Valley.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Strawberry Jam

We had a mess, and we didn’t even know it! Several times in the past couple of weeks, at the end of the day when we set up, we discovered kitchen chaos. There were scrambled silverware, jumping jello boxes, and crash-landing canned goods when we opened the pantry cupboard in the rear kitchen of our fifth wheel.

We’d not recently had any more broken dishes or tableware since we had begun stacking them with a square of shelf liner between each plate and then packing the stack enclosed tightly in a plastic storage bag. It’s a real pain to get them out if I’m in a hurry to put a meal on the table but it has helped decrease the excitement of exploding plates! We thought we had our breakage problem solved.

However, yesterday at mid-morning snack time, Bruce was checking the bottom shelf – the "extra supplies shelf" – when an ominous sound escaped from his pursed lips, "Oops!" He was searching for the extra jar of apple butter which was hidden away behind the pickle relish. He pulled out the relish jar, and it was artistically adorned with sticky red stuff!

"What was going on?" we wondered together. The applesauce jar he pulled forth next was dripping with the same mysterious juicy mess. Then an ominous memory flashed through my mind. "There’s an extra jar of strawberry jam in there, too," I said with fear and trembling. Bruce pulled out the plastic storage bin, and there it was. The jar of strawberry jam could no longer be referred to in the present tense; it was clearly a "has been." Splinters of glass sparkled in the light and syrupy red goo silently crept across the bottom of the bin. The jar had not only broken, it had exploded!

It was sugar-free jam, but that didn’t make it any less sticky to clean up. As we trashed the remains of the glass jar and scrubbed up its yucky contents, we wondered when the jam jar had met its end. How long had we been carrying that mini-disaster in our pantry?

There had been many bumpy roads and one sudden stop in the previous days. Any of those road hazards could have caused the demise of the strawberry jam jar. We’ll never know when it hit its breaking point but we’re much relieved to be out of our "strawberry jam." In the future, we’ll buy everything we can in plastic containers!


25 Sept 2012 - mshr

Little (beauty) shop of horrors

Bruce and I used to cut each other’s hair. I still cut his, but he came to the conclusion that he’d rather pay to have mine cut by somebody who knows what they are doing. Living on the road full-time in an RV makes it a challenge to find a beautician who fits that category.

The beauty salon I patronized for fifteen years where we used to live in Ohio is always reliable when we’re there. My sister-in-law’s beautician in Illinois does a superb job and always manages to fit me in when we are visiting there. My regular barber in south Texas always manages to send me out looking good throughout the winter season.

My problem is where to get a haircut between Ohio, Illinois and Texas. Yes, you guessed it: at Walmart. Most of their stores include a "Smart Style" beauty salon which offers far more in beauty treatments than I could ever make use of. But, when my bangs grow down over my eyes and my cowlicks begin to curl in unflattering directions, I will take advantage of their services for a haircut.

There’s always a certain amount of risk involved, however. I’ve had very attractive haircuts at Walmarts in Pennsylvania and Kansas. But, at a Walmart in Virginia, I came out of the shop looking as if someone had turned a bowl over my head and cut around the bottom.

Last night I was looking quite shaggy again so I took a chance at a Walmart here in north Texas where we are parked for a few days. I signed in and noticed two names ahead of mine. The beautician came immediately and invited me to her chair. I mentioned that there were two persons ahead of me, and she said, "Oh, they’re out there shopping somewhere so I’ll do you right away." As I was getting settled into her chair, both of those "shopping folks" came back in for haircuts. Of course, they had priority and I sat down to wait.

And wait I did! It only took 15 minutes to do the boy’s cut according to his very specific instructions, but his mother’s re-styling – and gossiping – required a full half hour. Thank goodness for a good book on my smart phone to fill up the time. Forty-five minutes after I arrived, I finally got to sit down in the beautician’s chair.

She was a chatty sort, not only with me but with nearly everybody who came by. Finally, an hour after I arrived, she began my haircut. I had showed her pictures Bruce had taken of a really good haircut I’d had recently. Whether she looked at them or not I do not know.

From the first snip, my anxiety began to grow. She worked fast; so fast I felt she was paying more attention to our conversation than to what she was doing on my head. My hair had been shaggy, but not really long. As she snipped and clipped away on my straight, graying locks, there was an awfully large quantity of hair slipping down over my shoulders to the floor.

About ten minutes later, she was done. She handed me a mirror so I could check out the results. Oh my gosh! Staring back at me from her hand mirror was a peeled onion I did not recognize!

"Well, what do you think of it?" she asked confidently.

How do you tell someone that the hair is much too short; please put an inch of it back on? I mumbled something like, "I guess it will be OK," and went to pay my bill. She accepted my half price coupon – but, even so, I didn’t get my money’s worth!

It will grow out again, I guess. In the meantime, I’m staying inside, and away from public view. It reminds me of an old camp song we used to sing:

"I know how homely I are; my face it ain’t no shining star,

But I don’t mind it because I’m behind it. The fellow out front gets the jar!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

MCD Innovations

On Sunday afternoon we arrived at MCD Innovations in McKinney, Texas, where we anticipate having our eleven-year-old pleated window blinds replaced with MCD's unique American Duo™ Day/Night Shades.   Upon arrival we were struck by the amazing architecture of the office area.
This Texas architecture does not look like an office.

The attractive office integrates perfectly with the production area.
Parking with 50 amp electric is provided for each RV here for installation.
On Monday morning we were greeted by Peg who came to our coach with fabric samples from which we selected our preference for the night shades.   The day shades come only in a standard black color.  Soon thereafter, two men from the installation department came to measure each window for the custom built blinds.   After they took the measurements, office staff calculated the price quote for our eleven windows (Duo blinds) and for our entrance door (a solo blind with just a solar shield).  Peg brought the price quote to our coach and we then went with her to the office to pay for the blinds.  Next, the blinds will go to production.   When they are completed the installers will come to our coach to complete the installation.
MCD welcomes each customer personally.
During the afternoon we met Peg in the office for a tour of the offices, design, engineering, and production facilities.
Sample of blind for Dunkin' Donuts.

Another sample of Dunkin' Donuts blind.
While most of MCD's work is with the RV industry, they also make products for commercial applications, including solar shield blinds for large office buildings.
Close-up of double roller system.
The blind above is similar to what will be installed in our windows.   There are two rollers.  The outer shade utilizes MCD’s exclusive ClearView II™ Solar Sun Screen. Although the outer shade looks black, when you look from the inside it seems to disappear and you can see right through it.  The inner shade is 100% light blocking for privacy.

Peg explained that MCD Innovations is family-owned and operated.  The founders were full-time RVers and recognized the need for better solar protection products for RVs.  The company began in May, 2003, in a 7,500 square foot building.  MCD relocated in 2005 to a 25,000 square foot facility and relocated in July 2010 to the present 56,000 square foot  facility on a 9.6 acre campus. 

MCD is proud to offer Made in America products with over 90% of MCD components being made in the U.S.A.  The facility manufactures between 500 and 700 blinds daily requiring over a mile of aluminum tubing and extrusions. 

After our installation is complete we will post another blog with before and after photos.  Needless to say, after the tour, we are even more excited about this process.   We are grateful to have learned about the MCD products from our friends Ken and Lee who have the MCD blinds in their brand new New Horizons trailer which we toured a couple of weeks ago in Junction City, Kansas. 

Celery Puzzle

May I say a word about celery,
A veggie loved by short and tall?
Well, I’m an exception to that rule,
Because I don’t like celery at all!
It’s green, that’s a sign that it’s healthy.
It’s tough, so there’s fiber in there.
But it’s also bitter and stringy
And, for those two traits, I don’t care.
On a veggie tray I love the carrots;
More broccoli and cauliflower, please.
But the celery sticks and I don’t mix
Unless they’re smothered in cheese.
Each day I try to choke down a bit
Of celery. But to myself I mutter:
"This stuff’s not edible unless
It’s covered with peanut butter!"
As I crunch the sticks, I will admit,
There’s one thing that puzzles me:
If God created all things good,
What went wrong with celery?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alpacas in Sanger, Texas

We spent last night at Wagon Master RV Park just outside of Sanger, Texas.   The campground is owed and operated by Ken and Janet Woolston who also raise alpacas as a hobby.
There is Janet.  It must be feeding time!

Oh, don't I look cute
These two young males enjoy the morning shade.

One of the females welcomes us.
Two of the females are pregnant and are due in October.  Janet invited us to come back to see their offspring.  A baby alpaca is called a cria.
In addition to enjoying watching the alpaca, we spent a comfortable night and got our laundry caught up.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lake Thunderbird State Park, Norman, Oklahoma

Lake Thunderbird State Park borders on the Lake Thunderbird Reservoir in the city of Norman, Oklahoma.  The park has more than 150 tenting sites and over 200 RV sites with 30 of them being full hook-up sites.   Our site overlooking the reservoir has 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service, as well as water and sewer connections and a perfectly level concrete pad.  This is one impressive state park!
On my evening walk I saw one Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, eight deer, and over a dozen Blue Herons.  We plan to stay here two nights which will give us more time to enjoy the lake and park tomorrow.

El Dorado State Park at El Dorado Reservoir

After a beautiful but short less-than-100-mile drive southward from the Flint Hills of Kansas yesterday, we arrived at El Dorado State Park at El Dorado Reservoir -- located near the intersection of Kansas 77 and Interstate 35.
Our campsite overlooks a portion of the 8,000 acre lake which has 98 miles of shoreline.  The reservoir was completed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1981.  The State Park claims nearly 1,100 campsites ranging from primitive to full utility hookups.

As we completed our two-mile walk yesterday afternoon, we agreed that this is a beautiful park that we can add to our "let's go back here" list.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Horizons RV Factory, Junction City, Kansas

Our repairs to our patio awning were completed yesterday and today we will be south-bound.  We have enjoyed spending some time at "Camp Horizons" which is the name that New Horizons RV owners affectionately give to the New Horizons RV factory in Junction City, Kansas.  The service department provides electric and water hookups for RV owners that have returned here for service.  Some units are here only a few days while others stay longer, depending on the nature of repairs that are needed and the availability of parts.
While we have been here we have spent time with Ken and Lee whom we have known for several years and with Willis and Rebecca who are our neighbors during our winter months in the Rio Grande River Valley of South Texas.  We have also enjoyed meeting other New Horizons owners.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Buffalo Soldier Memorial, Junction City, Kansas

Willis (with Blayde), Rebecca, Mary Sue, Bruce
Mary Sue and I are currently in Junction City, Kansas, for some very minor repairs to our trailer.  Our friends, Willis and Rebecca Coombs are also having repairs made to their New Horizons fifth-wheel trailer at the New Horizons factory here.  While we wait, it has been great to spend time together visiting and sight seeing.   Today we visited the Buffalo Soldier Memorial located in Junction City.  The memorial is a fitting tribute to African-American Cavalry members who faithfully served their country in spite of racial discrimination and oftentimes poor living situations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sleeping Across Indiana

Many times, at week-end dances, I have "Waltz[ed] Across Texas."  Yesterday, however, was the first time I'd ever slept across Indiana!

It had been a busy week-end at the end of a wonderfully busy summer.  There were mixed emotions of reminiscing and laughter as family gathered around pizza and Pepsi after one more service honoring our absent sister, mother and grandmother.  The memories were as sweet as the soft drinks but, like the sodas, they had aftertastes of loneliness.

By the time we got home Sunday night I was exhausted!  I ached in places I'd forgotten I had.  Muscles I'd taken for granted for years were shouting at me to give them a rest.  So, I went to bed.

Monday morning came unusually early and achy.  We got on the road headed southwest, heeding the call of approaching winter.  We were only about twenty miles down the road when my eyes began to drift shut.

I roused at every rest stop when Bruce stopped for a "road side rest."  Otherwise I nodded off through southwest Ohio, dozed past the state line, and slept my way across Indiana!  Today's better.  Maybe I'll only sleep through half of Illinois!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Graham Cave State Park

This evening we are staying in the campground at Graham Cave State Park, just off of I-70 near Danville, Missouri.  Central to the State Park is a Native American archeological site called Graham Cave.
Signage at the site states that "Archaeological evidence indicates that people lived in Graham Cave for about 10,000 years.  The people who occupied Graham Cave did not stay in one place throughout the year.   They moved with the seasons to take advantage of the bounty of the land as resources became available.   During most of its use, the cave probably did not serve as a year-round base camp, but rather functioned as a fall gathering camp, a wintering station or a spring hunting camp."
Between 1949 and 1961 the University of Missouri and the Missouri Archaeological Society excavated the cave studying and preserving the artifacts.

The 10,000 year history of the peoples represented here puts our nation's short history into perspective.

Fowler Park, Terre Haute, Indiana

We stopped at Fowler Park for just one night.   We have been here before and knew what to expect.  Just outside of Terre Haute, Indianna, it is a quiet peaceful park operated by Vigo County.
It is about a mile and a half to walk all the way around the lake, and from the other side of the lake we could see our campsite.
A covered bridge, built in 1845, has been restored here along with numerous other buildings of what is now called the Pioneer Village.
 The mill is fed with water from the dam of the lake.
The Pioneer Village includes a school.
 Numerous other buildings are part of the Pioneer Village.
We both commented to each other about how much we like this park and enjoy staying in the campground here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A New Friend

Sometime in the recent past he has apparently had a stroke. Whatever physical losses he may have suffered have been regained. But his speech is still affected. He begins a sentence but after two or three words, he can’t complete his thought. It is frustrating for him, and so he walks.

He had been a farmer, making his meager living from a small, hilly piece of land. Now he is retired. Perhaps it was the stroke that forced him to give up tilling his land. He still keeps the huge lawn of his home place neatly mowed and trimmed. But the inactivity of retirement frustrates him, and so he walks up and down Bean Hollow Road at least twice every day.

His neighborliness didn’t disappear with the stroke so he smiles and waves to all passers-by as he walks. Sometimes when we are out walking we meet up with him along the road.

He’s eager to stop and chat, but the words won’t come. His fists clench, a frown takes over his face, and he shakes his head with frustration. But only for a moment. Then his eyes roll heaven-ward briefly. When they meet our gaze again, the tension is gone. He chuckles at himself and searches for a different way to say what he wants to say.

So, conversing with him takes awhile. But we’re retired and have nothing better to do than to encourage him to communicate. So we stop, listen, wait, and listen again for clues to what he’s trying to say. Sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t, but he seems thankful for our time and our attempts to understand.

We didn’t realize how deeply grateful he was until a few days ago when we were packing up our rig to move on. On one of his walks that day he must have noticed. It was just about lunch time when he walked toward the door of our rig.

Too bashful to knock, he called out his greeting: "Hey!" We greeted him by name and he quickly asked, "How much more...?"

"How much more time will we be here?" Bruce asked. He nodded vigorously. "We’ll be leaving here later this afternoon," was the answer.

After a moment’s thought, he asked again, "To ... south?"

"Yes," Bruce responded, "we’ll soon be on our way to Texas."

A look of concern spread over his face. "Lots of ... mas-ki-tows...." he said with a slight frown.

"Yes, we’ve been listening to news stories about mosquitoes in Texas making people sick with the West Nile Virus," Bruce acknowledged.

"Well, be careful," he cautioned. He waved goodby and turned to go back to his walk.

"See you next summer," we called after him.

"Next summer..." echoed back to us as his thin, farmer-clad figure went striding on down the road.


Rainy Day Exercise

Walking is as regular a part of our morning schedule as our devotions. Our goal is to walk two miles each morning – and each evening – at a brisk pace. Sometimes, however, we don’t achieve that plan, especially when we are traveling and need to get on our way.

Rainy mornings present a different problem. In spite of rain jackets and umbrellas, it’s messy to walk in the rain. We drag mud into our "house" and have to find a spot in our limited space to hang our wet clothes and umbrellas to dry.

But we’ve found a great alternative form of exercise for rainy mornings. We practice our dance steps in the living room. An hour of dance practice certainly feels like the equivalent of a two-mile walk. We end up just as breathless, sweaty and tired as if we had walked!

There are, however, some special challenges in this rainy day routine. The living room in our fifth wheel – even with the slide extended – is about the size of two double bed mattresses laid end to end! We can take up all the throw rugs and move all the chairs out of the way but that doesn’t make it any bigger, just safer.

There’s room for the two of us to practice an "Electric Slide" or an "Elvira." But a "Flying Eight" is likely to leave one of us spread-eagled on the kitchen table and the other face down in a rocking chair! "Footloose," even the slow version, will send one of us slamming into the refrigerator door and the other tripping over the raised edge of the slide! That’s no fun.

If we’re careful to take small steps, we can usually do a "98.6": or a "Cowboy Charleston" without bodily injury. "Mustang Sally" and "Cowboy Cumbiya" fit the space fairly well. The turning "Cowboy Cha-cha" always leaves me dizzy so it’s nice to have a soft chair nearby to collapse into.

We can even practice some stepped down versions of a few couples’ dance step, such as "Blue Rose," "Sixteen Step," and "Waltz Across Texas" (although waltzing across our living room the scenery is much more boring!). We do have to forego some of the more expansive and space consuming moves such as turns and twirls. We really don’t want to risk Medicare raising our rates because of overuse!

By this time we are as wet as if we’d been outside walking in the rain. So, it’s time to quit, take a shower, and then try to find a place to hang up our wet clothes to dry. Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

More of Hocking Hills State Park

Today we visited two more of the six main attractions in the Hocking Hills State Park -- Cedar Falls and Ash Cave.  (Yesterday we visited Old Man's Cave.  The other three are Cantwell Cliffs, Conkles Hollow and Rock House.)
The water of Cedar Falls flows over a 50-foot cliff into a steep-walled gorge.
At the end of summer the volume of water is less than at other times, but the vista is still impressive.
The path to Cedar Falls crosses the stream several times -- including at this unusual bridge.  In January of 1998 a flood of massive proportions ripped its way through the gorge and destroyed or removed almost all man-made structures.  When this bridge was rebuilt the decision was made to reuse the main "bent" steel girders as a reminder of what will come again some day.   The bridge is a great example of the power of the water that formed this entire gorge.   Such a flood occurs only once in 100 years.

After visiting Cedar Falls we drove the short distance to the Ash Cave site where a wheelchair accessible path enables visitors to enjoy the majesty of the cave.
Ash Cave is the largest recess cave east of the Mississippi.  It stretches 700 feet across and rises 90 feet high. 
As late as 1886 the floor of the cave was still covered with ashes. Were they the result of the manufacture of gunpowder by early settlers? Or were they the accumulated remains of countless campfires used by the Native Americans who inhabited the shelter for untold centuries? We may never know for certain the source of those ashes from which Ash Cave took its name.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Each year over two million travelers visit Old Man's Cave which is one of six of the natural attractions in Hocking Hills State Park located south of Logan, Ohio.  Old Man's Cave is noted for its waterfalls, swirling pools, deep gorges and massive rock formations.
Old Man's Cave is named for a hermit by the name of Richard Rowe who lived in the large recess cave of the gorge in the middle of the 19th century.
The area known as Old Man's Cave is part of a magnificent gorge carved by a creek through the entire 150-foot thickness of  Blackhand sandstone.  The length of the gorge is approximately one half mile.
This morning we hiked the one-mile long trail that enables visitors to view the many points of interest of Old Man's Cave and the gorge.
 Through the years bridges have been added to make the gorge more accessible to visitors.
Although the view from above is spectacular, looking up from below gives the visitor an even greater impression of the size of the cave and of the gorge.
When we came to the end of the trail through the gorge we stopped to admire  the Upper Falls.
As we walked along the rim of the gorge on our way back to the Visitor's Center we were able to look down to see where we had been and to remember our delightful visit to Old Man's Cave.