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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Family Ties

Ties hold things together. They come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and have differing purposes. They hold boats securely to their moorings, decorate the necks of some men, and hold railroad tracks together. Ties keep a mobile home in place thru a storm, hold back curtains at windows, and keep the top of a loaf of bread closed tight. Ties anchor climbers as they scale rocks or mountains and perform many other useful duties.

This summer, we learned that family ties, too, vary. Some are close and colorful; others are more distant and strained. Some are relatively new and involve surprises; some are life-long and predictable. A few of those family ties have lasted thru the proverbial "four score and ten years" while others are brand new, within months of their birth. Some bring back memories of days gone by and others draw us into a dreamed of future. Each of those connections both bind us together and bless us by reminding us who we are and why.

Visits with family members and relatives bound our summer travels together this year. From Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri, to Door County, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we went relative-hopping! We estimate that we spent time with about twenty of Bruce’s kin and nearly fifty of MarySue’s.

Our Kansas City cousins are slowing down a bit, but their stories about the days of their childhood and early adult lives get more interesting each year. We celebrated a ninetieth birthday with one cousin, and spent an evening visiting with another ninety year old cousin. She recently returned from a trip to Indonesia with Friendship Force and continues to create beautiful quilts. We were amazed when a casual invitation to get together at a local restaurant brought a crowd of thirty nephews, nieces, and their spouses, children and grand-children! There we were able to make the acquaintance of the two newest members of the clan, born in December and January.

Many of our conversations with kinfolk included memories of relatives not present. Parents and grandparents, now gone from this life, were included in stories both new and old, sad and funny. Siblings or cousins kept away from our gatherings by schedule or distance were also included in our sharing. We all rejoiced to learn of new opportunities in education or employment for some of the younger generation. We were reminded of our own mortality as we observed physical and mental changes in some of the older family members.

Several individuals in both families like to dabble in genealogy, so new pieces of family data were shared with great excitement and properly recorded on several family trees. One visit with a second cousin brought us unexpected delight. He directed us to an old, abandoned family cemetery now hidden away in a state forest. It had originally been part of the farm owned and operated by Bruce’s great-great-grandparents in about the 1840s or 50s. We felt the tug of family ties as Bruce’s cousin pointed out the location of their home, their barn and the earthen dam that had helped power their sawmill.

Seasonal changes and the bonds of friendship now lure us southward. But one more family celebration remains on our summer schedule before we head for our winter home. A memorial service will be held by Wright State University Medical School to honor those who donated their bodies to the school for education and research. Those honored will include a sibling whose death we marked last summer. She is the great grandmother of those two new babies we recently welcomed into the family. Family ties hold us close and bless us with love and stability, but even the closest of family ties cannot prevent change.

1 Sept 2012 - mshr