Friday, May 30, 2014

Three Down - One To Go!

After closing on the house we moved into the RV and to the Lakeview RV Resort in Houston.  Living in the RV while still working has been easier than expected.  Our schedules are nearly the same as they were in the sticks and bricks.  I take the dogs out near bedtime while Kathy sets up the coffee pot for morning.  We all make our way into the bedroom to sleep.  Frances on one side of the bed and Keila at the foot.  You must remember this during bathroom trips in the middle of night (the bedroom's about 8 x 8 and mostly filled by a queen sized bed!)

In the morning, Kathy takes the girls for a quick potty break after plugging in the coffee pot.  I lay in bed awaiting my first cup....yes I am a spoiled princess by my lovely woman and I know it.  After the first cup, Kathy heads to the resort shower for two reasons.  First, they are nice and clean and second, our work clothes are currently hanging in the RV shower stall.  I dress, feed pooches, and take them for their poopy walk and a game of ball for Keila.  Besides being tethered to our pets and poop duty, not much has changed.

Kathy and Joy
The most important thing to any small space is organization and cleanliness.  We wash dishes almost every meal and put the away when they are dry.  If you take something out you put it away when you done using it - seems like something my mom would have said.  Be courteous about your personal hygiene and personal space.  It's easier than expected and I am way more diligent then I thought I'd be.  Even the dogs have fallen into their new patterns.  One thing Frances needs to work on is her being outspoken toward other dogs while on leash.  We don't know exactly what it but think she's trying to be protective.  Keila just wants walks and ball games, same old same old.

The resort offers us a chance to swim, use the hot tub, play tabletop shuffleboard and ping pong.  Usually we just sit in the big swing by the lake and watch the birds dive and swim.  We've seen some pretty big fish that we swear are actually lochness monsters (or alligators.)  Often joggers dart by but we haven't met many folks here yet.

I think the pups missed Kathy!
The laundry room has been a pretty good conversation place and I met a couple from Minnesota who are heading north again soon.  They are staying longer than expected because the weld on the toad (vehicle they tow behind their RV) broke on their way here and nearly took out another car on a Houston frontage road. Sounded completely frightening!

We also discussed RV storage issues and I offered space planning suggestions but since they live halftime in and RV and halftime on a boat, they probably have more experience than I have ideas!  But if given the opportunity, I would like to help someone with my storage ideas and research.  

I have one more week of school and then we hit the road.  Kathy's last day was today and she couldn't be more relieved.  She said that today was the first day in over 3 years that she hadn't awakened with a knot in her stomach and jokes that maybe her hair will start turning back to brown! She celebrated her 47th birthday last week and her gift was new Jeep front fenders and fender extenders.  Jeri the Jeep is going to be pretty!

We are getting better about tackling RV maintenance issues.  We installed the new mudflaps on the RV, aired up the tires, and bought a battery charger to tackle our dead truck battery. We are still seeking a rock guard for the Jeep and need to install an inside the cabinet door waste basket for the kitchen.  Minor stuff that will make life better.  Life is good right now and we're ready for greatness.
Nap time!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Popcorn, Shuffleboard and Cancer

Day 5 of our stay at the Lakeview RV Resort  in Houston.  We closed on the house last Thursday without too much of an incident.  There was some discussion about who was supposed to pay for the survey but the realtors got it worked out and it’s not costing us anything.

Packing was a pain! If we were moving into another house, we would’ve purged and then hired movers to pack/move us.  But downsizing from a 2,000 sq ft house to a 300 sq ft RV proved to be quite the task.  Towards the end we had become eBay and Craigslist junkies and everything not packed and shipped in any box we could find was placed in the driveway for pickup by Purple Heart donations.  Of course, they didn’t pick it up when scheduled so the new owners arrived at their newly purchased house to find a pile of donations in their driveway.  Several phone calls later the pile was finally picked up.

I don’t feel too attached to the house.  It was completely remodeled when we purchased it so we didn’t do much to make it our own other than furnish it and add a doggie door.  I always blame my detachment on being a military brat - moving every 3-4 years means learning not to get too attached to people, places or things.  In my career I’ve made a change every 3-4 years – changed jobs, changed units, changed rank.  Same with moving – changed cities, changed neighborhoods, changed houses.  This might just be my racket but it makes sense to me.

Anyway, May 10 marked my 4th year at UH and I can’t wait to get the hell out!  Was actually ready over 2 years ago but kept hoping I’d feel better about the place.  Nope – didn’t happen.  I’m ready for the next adventure which is why I think this lifestyle will be perfect for me. 

The resort is much nicer than I expected.  Very tropical feeling even though our site backs up to the access road to 90/Main Street.  Took us about a week to figure out things were a lot quieter over night when we used ear plugs so that’s what we do and it’s much better. 
View from pool area

The resort has a nice club house which includes a ping pong table, a pool table, shuffleboard, a big screen TV, a popcorn maker, puzzles, games, books and a computer room.  There’s also a state of the art laundry room (separate post) and beautiful pond with a walking trail around it.  The managers are super nice and we’re really enjoying our stay.  Now we’d much rather have trees and pine needles over concrete and traffic but for the next couple of weeks this will work perfectly.

The resort is about 7 miles south of the largest medical center in the world, the Texas Medical Center, home to MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital and St. Luke’s.  There’s actually a shuttle that runs between the resort and TMC so it’s a very popular home to patients undergoing treatment.  We’ve seen several and have met a few.  You can tell who they are – visible chemo stints, heads balding from chemo/radiation and the tell-tell masks that protect them from the rest of us.  I met a woman last night who had just set up after driving from Kerrville.  Her 63 year old husband is fighting leukemia and, after several months of chemo, he will spend the next 4 months undergoing a bone marrow transplant.  One of those months will be spent entirely in the hospital. 

We also met Debbi and Don, two FB RV page acquaintances, who ended up here after Don’s heart attack in February while RV-ing at South Padre.  Don received a new heart in March and they will be here quite a while as the wonderful cardiologists at St. Luke’s ensure his body doesn’t reject the new heart.

Our Site
We visited with Debbi and Don last night in their 42’ ft Monaco and really enjoyed ourselves.  He is 70 – she is 64 and they’ve been full-timing for years.  What a wonderful couple and two hellacious survivors!  They were so happy for us!

As we complete week two of our new lifestyle, we both agree that the four of us have adapted well and that our routines are working. We haven’t missed the house much and feel that our little RV is just perfect for us.  Let the adventure continue…….

Saturday, May 10, 2014

April's Options

March came in like a lion and now goes out like the lamb of March walking to slaughter when the call came back that it was malignant.  Kathy's mom has cancer, or not, follicular lymphoma, lessons to learn about medical terms and treatment options.  First thought, no Alaska this summer!

A price drop on the house and two offers came...we chose the young doctor and nurse.  Our house is near the medical center in Houston and our house is perfect for a young couple.  Back and forth and an additional $500 to end an option three days early.  No more house, time to pack, time to leave, close the door on the Houston chapter.  But then they ask for a foundation inspection to ensure the warranty is transferable and I get scared.  Scared the sprinkler system will void the warranty because it's too close to the house.  Scared the flower bed or French drain or crushed rock is seen as an alteration.  Okay, at least I have something foolish to direct my fears towards.  Kathy's fears much more real.   What if her mom needs treatment and they refer her to M. D. Anderson here in Houston?

Back working on the plan to prepare to move either to Killeen or hit the road.  Then Kathy noticed a seam on the RV overhang separating. Sure enough after an inspection, water infiltration!  Now the RV is under extreme maintenance with an expensive front cap rebuild.  Our options were either trusting a passionate new guy or taking it somewhere else. Wanting to be friendly and generous and struggling to walk the right path as it seems to be falling apart under our feet, I figured the new guy is still trying to prove something so he'll do a good job.  Overall PPL has been good to work with.  Much better than where we bought it.

We also have to prepare our toad (aka Jeep.) We've asked our neighbor, Cesar, to help put the tow plate on the Jeep.  Reading the directions made it sound easy but 4 hours drilling 4 holes doesn't sound easy. Option two means taking it to PPL to have it done for $400+ or to Meyerland Auto repair shop. With a difference in the quote of more than two hundred dollars, decision made, Meyerland auto collision center. Quick fix and check over gives the Jeep two thumbs up and ready to go except for the need of a spare and a new lug nut.  Too many options for one month.

Our first option seems to be taken care of with the diagnosis.  If treatment is needed, Kathy's sister Karen will move to Killeen and we're headed to Alaska to fulfill our commitment.  The second option is money can save sanity so we paid Meyerland Auto Collision to install the tow plate.

Purging, packing and donating finally gets us out of the house and into the RV full-time.  Less than a month, now.  How many more options will we have before then?

            on hearing it was Cancer
            J.L. Wright

            plans are not Real
            they are a pretense
            we wish to live in

            ours were to be fluid
            LIFE is a breeze
            plans should have been frozen

            instead, we are frozen
            waiting in time
            for information and other peoples' plans

            we feel a shift
            Change causes a reaction
            after a year on the previous plan

            like the frozen skin of a river in spring
            malleability versus flexibility
            eventually everything breaks

            plans are not Real
            ours were to be fluid
            instead we are frozen
            we feel a shift
            like the frozen skin of a river in spring

March Madness

March Madness

This writing is near the end of March 2014, I am report that March madness has encroached on our lives.  Both Kathy and I have had our days with high emotions and days with crummy physical health.

High emotion brought on by stress at work, living in a model home, and the continued cleansing of our possessions. As our days are numbered on the job, the promises we've made to complete tasks at work are building up steam on our timelines.  As a school teacher, I'm entering high stake testing time and am trying to help students and teachers in need of support.  Kathy's work project is getting down to the wire with less than twenty policies and an inspection to go.  Feels like neither of us are going to complete everything at 100% but we are getting it done.  Living in a house on the market showing regularly makes daily cleaning and organization a must.  It takes at least 30 minutes extra daily to get ready to leave for work in the morning and not knowing if someone will visit or not,  and although we still are not packed, we are getting rid of objects that we are not storing or taking with us.  Kathy keeps reminding me, letting go of items is not letting go of the experiences we had with them.  This month we turned in our leased 2013 GTI.  It was hard in two ways, financially and emotionally.  This is the first time, in over twenty years, I am not a VW owner and it cost us to get out of the lease.  I feel like we did okay on the deal because I had two other offers to take back to the Volkswagen dealership before finalizing the turn-in.

Okay is generally not good enough for either of us so we really did know how selling the bike would turn out.  Vito was our 2002 Honda  VTX 1800.  When I had taken the GTI around town for offers, I had also inquired about the bike.  We wanted WAY more than anyone was offering.  Seems there are quite a few VTXs still on the road driving prices way down.  We knew that our baby was special though and needed to be marketed as such.  I came up with this crafty little craigslist ad...Don Corleone couldn't have been a prouder papa to Vito than we are!

Vito is our 2002 customized Honda VTX 1800c. With enough growl to wake up grandma with custom drag pipes and get up and go with the power commander to easily taken anything off the line, Vito is ready to move out of this childhood home.

We adopted this California bike as a toddler and have brought him up right.  Big Bend to South Padre, most of his 34,300 miles earned were in the Texas hill country.  Now he's living large in H-town.

So your interested but your bald, married, and over 50.  No problem!

The XL Ultimate custom seat has you both covered.  This comfy seat saved our marriage!  Now she says "riding bitch never felt so good!" She keeps her purse and a map in the leather bags that zip off easily for prowling nights.  If your interested in iron butting it, we'll sell you the custom bike luggage too!  You could pack for a month with all this storage.

Vito is the perfect combination of power and prowess.  Looks like a million! rides    like a dream! handles like thoroughbred! Muscle bike and cruiser comfort!

This ad interested the man and wife it was directed toward.  Even after coming back from a test ride and discovering an slight water pump leak, Kathy's genuine passion for this bike finalized the sale to a wonderful new family at a very agreeable price.

We both had our lows this month with our physical health too.  The 140 year old oak tree in our backyard has decided to run us off too.  This tree, the oldest in the neighborhood was our pride when we moved into the house.  It draped over nearly half the house and was in desperately needed  trimming but since Houston had been in a severe drought we wanted to ensure we could keep the tree alive and healthy.  We spent several thousand dollars to provide the tree with deep root watering and fertilizing as well as cutting it back away from the house to save it.  Obviously, it's doing well providing food and habitat for a varying of living things such as squirrels, doves, wood pecker, blue jays, robins, and anole lizards.   Too bad the pollen pods are now painting the neighborhood yellow and causing Kathy and I symptoms from headaches, sore throats, watery eyes, running nose, coughing, fever, and even pink eye.

Now we live off steroid sprays and shots while the tree in the back yard flourishes with a nest of baby woodpeckers.  So even though we been under physical, mental, and emotional stress this month we continue to see the roses amongst the thorns.  Less than three months to D, departure, Day.

San Fellipe

Day three of trip four, learning all about our rv for our sabbatical.

This trip was the shortest from home as we are staying in San Felipe the Stephen F Austin state park, which is about 40 miles from Houston.  The trip here almost I didn't happen, weather reports of tropical storms on the gulf with landfall in Mexico means serious rain. 90% chance of rain with flash flood warnings.  We decided we were going anyway, why not?  Who's to say it won't be weather like this when we're traveling next year anyway.  The drive on I 10 on a Friday after work is insane on a regular day but with torrential rain, it can break most men down to road rage.  For us the oldies rock channel kept us out of insanity with stop and go and people who think cutting in front of a 31' RV is their ticket home faster.  With the fuel tank near E, the dog having to pee, and us getting hungry we decided to get of the freeway just outside of town.  Pee trip successful during the lull in the storm, we separated to conquer the other two tasks, dinner and fuel.  Kathy drove to get gas while I hit chipotle for dinner.  The rain returned!  Dinner in the parking lot then a few more miles to the state park.  Reception was cool, no bait and no level spots left.  The park dark and the road not well marker it took a while to locate our spot.  Set in the rain wasn't even too bad, we hung our wet clothes in the shower settled in.

Somehow overnight the forecast changed, it was fishing weather.  1/2 mile hike through muddy trails in swim shoes led down to the Brazos River, the 11th longest river in the US.  Fishing from shore with artificial bait didn't seem promising but during the last cast, I pulled in this nice large mouth bass.  Since it was time to go we released him back into the muddy waters for next time.

The plan for dinner was chicken and something from the cabinetry...but salt and pepper was the only seasonings so grilling the chicken would add flavor if Kathy could set up the grill and get the briquettes to burn.  It ended up delicious, grilled chicken and cheese and onion quesadillas.  Add spices to the packing list for next time.

Forecast now cool and dry.  Sunday morning hike to the overlook, not quite as muddy.  welcome to my church...

Green water flow 'neath moss vert froth
Cool dog days
Soft winds lift wing 'twist tree falls
Bird songs ring, feast time 'fore frost comes

An Unexpected Wonder

Village Creek State Park in the Big Thicket of East Texas was our January trip.  Since I received a metal detector for my December birthday I reviewed the "laws" regarding their use in state parks and other areas.  I learned their use is not allowed without permit in state parks due to the National Historic Preservation Act.  So upon arrival I decided to ask how to obtain a permit.  First I assure the the lady rangers that I had not brought my metal detector but wanted to inquire as to how to obtain a permit.  The first ranger started raising her voice and level of enthusiasm saying, "metal detectors and not allowed, ever!"  I repeated the ordinance said by permit only, and asked again.  The second ranger Kathy Smith ironically agreed the ordinance did say by permit.  She said she could check with her boss and get back to me when I stopped back in the office.  The first ranger reintegrated the rule was absolutely no metal detectors and said my boss goes nuts when he sees them!  Just the the boss appeared through the back door.  Hello I introduced myself, "Your officer was just telling your nuts about metal detectors!"  I didn't say that!  She snapped as she left the room saying I'll let you address her question.  I began again, I'm Joy Nyberg, I was just asking about the ordinance regarding metal detectors, I assure....he interrupted you cannot use them, they are not allowed in any state parks.  The ordinance says without permit so how does one go about obtaining a permit.  The ordinance does not say that....they are not allowed period.  Officer Kathy Smith grabs the pamphlet with the ordinances with a grin and handed it her boss.  He opens it abruptly and point straight to the the line that says metal detection is not allowed...without permit.  So I'm asking how to obtain a permit...oh that's not for the general public and your the general public...that's for professors and historians....ok, I said I'm an educator, how can I obtain a permit.  You have to contact state headquarters.  Ok I'll do that I said as I walked out of the office.

Set up was a breeze, Kathy backed in and the site was nearly level.  It only took a few levelers under the front tires to get the bubble in the circle on the leveler for the fridge.  Now what?  I'm always ready to go, don't want to waste time.  We call EastTX canoe outfitters for a quote.  Forty five for a hour canoe rental and twenty five for a ride.  We'll drive you 20 miles north let you float three miles and pick you up there and then drive you back.  The landing site at Village Creek is too hard to get in because it's a steep cliff to drag the canoe up.  Walk down there and see and then call me back if you want I can drop off a canoe there and you can use it there for just the fourth five dollars but I don't recommend it.  Let's call the next one on the list....piney woods outfitters quoted thirty five ca should pick up us at our site, how about 10:00 am?  Great, we'd better walk down to the landing site and check out if we'll be able to get the canoe out of the water.

A nice bike ride down past the parking lot seeking a place to beach the canoe...our first possibility would be portaging the canoe through the woods for about a half mile back to the parking lot.  Other shore areas didn't seem much better.  Finally we found the actual canoe landing site with a sandy hill.  Steep but not impossible...we're going canoing tomorrow, yeah!

After desert, fire roasted marshmallows we watch old TV reruns and are in bed by 8:00 pm.  The train horns and children kept us awake until midnight or so but the electric heater and the dogs sleeping in the living room allow us to sleep until 5:00 am.

Amazingly the weather was near perfect but we dressed in layers just in case the wind would get at us on the water.  Both dogs properly walked our driver David was right on time.  A quick drive to the drop off point and we we launched down a canoe down the boat ramp.   The glassy river bent back and forth every other curve opening up to pristine virgin white beaches amongst the cypress edges along the rust colored waters. What an unexpected wonder!

The current carried most of the way so we didn't have to work hard to paddle except when trying to avoid dead fall or cypress islands.  The only challenge should have been choosing each area of the bridge to go under when they all appeared to be blocked by vegetation or rocks.  After about an hour we finally came upon fellow river travelers.  Soon we spotted the state park sign and a third canoe.  This canoe slightly out of sight rounded the bend to the landing and were out of the river quickly.  We spotted the landing as the paddled hard into the sandy beach, a man on shore stated we may want to try the other side of the point as it was an easier place to pull out.  As he did, I jumped into the loose sand from the front of the canoe.  I held tightly unto the short rope tied to the bow.  I fell into the sand and pulled the canoe forward.  The sand too soft I slipped and the canoe pitched and I turned toward Kathy rising from the back of the canoe yelling I'm going over.  Sure enough it did and she fell into the icy water grabbing the backpack with my phone from the water.  She didn't yell.  Three men ran to our aid.  The canoe half filled with water too heavy to drag out.  We had to dump the water before we could pull it up the beach.  Kathy drenched and me full of sand headed to the bathhouse so she could take a hot shower.  She didn't laugh she didn't cry.  I apologized and waited.  She was ok and said it was too soon to find amusing.  After a dry afternoon and romantic al fresco dinner of a creole and rice, she at least smiled.  A wonderful campfire and marshmallows eased the humiliation while the aches began to set in.
Kathy's wet clothes

Early to bed and late to rise made our MLK Day a quick departure from Village Creek State Park.  It allowed me to snap a few more photos of the areas unique landscapes and historical features.
Keila, The Hangdog

Monday, May 5, 2014

Surfside Valentine

Celebrating 11 years together Texas coastal style has been a fabulous weekend after a hectic week.  Seven years ago, on Valentines Day 2007 we conducted a private commitment ceremony in our then Austin home with Keila as our witness.  We'd actually had a date scheduled to get married in San Francisco, complete with hotel reservations and plane tickets, but then the court injunction nixed that.  Years later, all three of us are going strong in love and life.  

With less than four months to D (departure) - Day, a weekend away seemed nearly overwhelming earlier in the week. Work duties and purchasing our "toad" kept us away from the house just trying to take care of business.  But we agreed to go camping at least once a month and Joy loves exploring Texas beaches in the winter so Surfside, here we come. Weather in the sixties meant fabulous beach combing and metal detecting.  The dogs, Frances and Keila, loved it too.

We stayed at Beachfront RV resort.  It boasts professional horseshoe courts and illuminated large size chess.  Unfortunately, both were in need of repair.  With the WIFI not working and the private dog run allowing Frances to escape, the park is extremely over priced for the peaceful day we did enjoy.

Just a short walk over the dunes to the beach via a board walk, we went metal detecting.  Since technically we're on private property we can actually use Joy's birthday present.  Texas, like most other states, doesn't allow use of metal detectors on state property without permit and according to a state park ranger, permits are only issued to university representatives for research.  Our finds this weekend, a Hyde brand scrapper, a plastic rake, a piece of iron, and a coin, probably foreign.  According to Facebook friends, our hunting is improving.  
 Our Saturday night fare consisted of delicious homemade cheese infused bbq burgers.  They were awesome!  Thanks to Kathy's dabbling in the kitchen.  In fact, we used one of these tasty patties with a couple of eggs for breakfast tacos on Sunday morning.  One of our current practices for camping is menu planning.  With a small fridge and tiny freezer this is a must.  Maybe we can start sharing recipes with you as well.  Blogging just opens up so many possibilities.

Well, check out time is in a few hours so we're headed back out to the beach for one more metal detector trip.