Sunday, April 29, 2012

sitting still in Garden Grove

Our schedule on this trip hasn't gone exactly to plan, but then, life seldom does.

We knew a long time ago that Steve's dad had terminal cancer. The only "question" was how fast things would progress. Twelve years ago the doctors gave him ten years. . . these Worshams are made of tough stuff. One tends to get overconfident after so much time goes by, but none of us can beat the odds forever.

Shortly after Kendra and Jax left Bud took a turn for the worse, so we extended our stay.  It's hard to watch a loved one fade away, and even harder to see how hard Steve's mother works to take care of him. They are receiving Hospice services too, and I can't say enough wonderful things about the folks that work for that agency. They have made it possible for Bud to be comfortable at home, and for Mom to do the things needed to take care of him. The support they provide is amazing. In the meantime we do what we can for her, connect with family, and try to keep Bud comfortable. The other boys live locally, and their only daughter flew in last night, so all the "kids" are here. "It's only a matter of time", as they say, but time moves very slowly in a situation like this.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Across Arizona

As we expected we bucked a headwind all across Arizona. The saguaro and teddy bear cholla cactus sprout here and there between the blooming palo verde - what a beautiful landscape. I love the mountains in the distance too. In this part of Arizona they form interesting peaks and crags, and with the changing shadows there's real variety in the landscape. We're a little short on real mountains in our part of Texas, so it's a nice contrast to our rolling "hills".

All too soon we were thrown into the race of the big city.... plowing through traffic and dodging cars. We finally reached our destination, the Elk's Lodge in Garden Grove in early afternoon on Sunday.

We've stayed here before, and though the actual parking spots aren't exactly luxurious - they're just blacktop - our space is larger than the one we had at the state park on the beach a few years ago.

A real benefit of stay here is their nice little park where we can take Shiner for walks.

Off to one side of the park the lodge members are constructing a memorial to members of the military. It's still under construction, but so far nicely done.

memorial in the Elks Lodge park
We're close to Steve's parents here, another bonus, and there are always a few Elk members around to chat with. This is an active club, with events scheduled almost every night.

As much as we prefer the rural life, we don't have too much trouble shifting gears, and we looked as this trip as an opportunity to introduce Shiner to a wide variety of experiences. She's met more new people, new dogs, and new sounds in the last couple of days, and who knows  how many new aromas her sensitive little nose has picked up. We needed to find a place where she could run off leash, so we checked out Arbor dog park, just a short drive from Leisure World (where the folks live). The park is pretty nice! It was a bit of a challenge to find, just off Lampson behind the Department of Fish and Wildlife offices. On the first visit Shiner was the classic new kid on the playground, head down, tail between her legs, when two young huskies ran over and greeted her politely, then helped her chase her ball. Though she didn't do a lot of mingling with the other dogs, she did relax and had a great time playing fetch.

One of Shiner's new friends at the park was a Brittany Spaniel named Toby. . . Toby Tornado actually. His owner filled us in on Toby's story. Toby was already scheduled to be adopted by the gentleman we were talking with, and was living with a foster family in Oklahoma when a tornado struck, pulling him out of the house through a skylight. He wandered loose for several days and all concerned had given him up for lost when he was found and taken to a rescue shelter in Dallas, TX. Once all the connections were made with his adoptive parent, Toby was scheduled to be crated and shipped to him out here in California, but a stewardess who had worked with the adoption agency heard about the situation and decided to improve on the travel plans. She went back to Dallas, put a service jacket on Toby, and he flew all the way to his new home in the cabin with the passengers. After all he'd been through I think he deserved a relaxing trip! He's about three years old and seems to be adjusting well to his new home, in spite of his adventure in Oklahoma. Dogs are amazingly resilient creatures, and the gentleman who adopted him has had several Brittanies and seems very attuned to his needs, so I think he went to the perfect home.

Tuesday afternoon we picked Kendra and Jaxen up at the airport. Her bag had gotten lost somewhere along the way, but they managed to find it and deliver it in a couple of hours so the crisis was minor. We spent the evening with family, then tucked the sleepy little guy in for what we hoped would be a long night's rest.
A new friend

 The following day we headed for the dog park again. This time with Kendra and Jax. He loves dogs, spent an hour in his stroller watching the show as dogs ran and played chase. One of Jax's new friends was a four month old puppy wo is being trained as a service dog for a lady who uses a wheel chair, and he seemed to take quite a shine to the stroller as it is so similar to the wheelchair he's used to.

The dog park has turned out to be best entertainment for Shiner and Jax too!

Today we're off again, this time for two days in Palm Desert.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On the road again!

Wednesday - April 11 - This is not our usual heading out for the summer trip. We're on our way to Southern California, where we'll meet Kendra and the baby (they're flying) so he can meet his great-grandparents (Steve's parents). It will be a short trip, but probably good to get us back in traveling shape for the summer.

We hadn't planned an early departure on Wednesday as we knew there were a few things to finish up in the morning, which turned out to be a good thing. As usual the Travel Gods struck and add one more task to the list. The hard drive for the security system went toes-up and Steve had to run into town for a new one, then get it installed and hope everything else was still working. In spite of that, everything was checked off the list and we were out the door by noon. Our port of call for the night, Junction City Park. Not too far away, a free spot by the river is not to be passed up!

We did indeed end up with a nice river view, in a practically deserted park. And upon arrival we learned the Travel Gods had thrown us another curve. The freezer door had apparently popped open on the way down our steep driveway and the contents had fallen on the floor. Most of the frozen food was partially defrosted and worsts of all, the ice had all melted! No ice for my evening cocktail! Now that's a crisis!! So another thing goes on the checklist - check the contents of the interior at the bottom of the driveway. We may be slow but we do learn and seldom have the same crisis twice!

Camping in the park Shiner got her first taste of exploring new territory, and being on the leash a lot! So far she's doing fine as a traveling dog. The only downside - the park is surrounded with the most lovely, blooming China berry and Ailanthus trees, all of which are severe hay fever irritants. I don't know if they are allergens, but the park is also surrounded by an outstanding crop of bull thistles. I felt like we were surrounded by Audrey II and her sisters (the talking plant in Little Shop of Horrors.) By morning Steve's head was a mess. So, that stop goes on the books a good one in some seasons, but in spring, not so much. There may be other areas in town, we'll look into that later. Otherwise, there's always South Llano State Park, where we usually stay.

Leaving Junction and heading west we passed huge fields of wildflowers. This isn't one of the most outstanding years for wildflowers, but the spring rains have resulted in a pretty good showing. Miles and miles of bluebonnets and golden coreopsis are certainly easy on the eyes.

Leaving the Hill Country it's a different story. The impact of the drought on west Texas is even more obvious against the brilliant green of new spring growth. The feathery light green mesquites contrast sharply with the rusty cedar trees and pale yellow cactus patches, all dead from lack of water and last summer's blistering heat. Yes, it's been so dry that even the cactus have died. Live patches remain here and there, and even a few are setting blossoms, but it's a pathetic site overall. They are receiving a bit of rain in the area, but it will take years to recover.

There aren't many choices for overnight stops along Hwy. 10 so (Thursday night) we're back at Balmorhea State Park.  The beautiful pool here has some sort of stinging critter in it, so they've had to close it down until they figure out what it is. We weren't planning to swim so the closure doesn't impact us much, but the folks who drove all day hoping to take a cool dip were a bit disappointed.

Feeling much refreshed after a good night's sleep we headed out for what we knew would be a long day of driving. We thought we'd stop at the Elks in Wilcox, but after arriving and seeing the location of the RV area (right next to a busy railroad line) we decided to move on. Wilcox is an attractive little town, with an historic section along the rail road, and looked like a nice place to go back in visit, just not a good place to sleep! So, after about 600 miles, bucking a head wind all the way, we ended up at one of our usual stops, RoVers Roost in Casa Grande, AZ. This is where our air conditioner died last spring, when it was 110 in the shade. This time of year it's nice and cool.  Shiner thoroughly enjoys the wide expanse of desert just outside the RV park. It's a great place to play fetch! And I love walking among the blooming beaver tail and cholla cactus. They look so healthy here, compared to the drought stricken Texas cactus. Rain is expected overnight, and high winds tomorrow, so we don't plan on driving as far as we did today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jerry Jeff Walker's Birthday Bash

We've been sort of focused on working on projects around the place lately so haven't been out to enjoy any of the local music events since last year - quite a drought!

Steve discovered the perfect event to change that - the Texas Bash, Jerry Jeff Walker's annual birthday celebration event at the Paramount up in Austin.

The Paramount is a beautiful old theater and it's a treat just to mingle with the other folks, sip a drink and admire the architecture while waiting for the performance to begin. The Paramount was built in 1915, and was then known as the Majestic.
It's aged a bit since then, but has seen thousands of performances. Major restoration work was done in the 1980's, and more is needed. It's a constant battle to maintain the elegant murals, light fixtures and furnishings.
Fresco on the acoustical shell above the stage
Jerry certainly knows how to celebrate a birthday! He always starts out at the Paramount, and then a few days later takes a party bus gathering down to Gruene Hall. This year he celebrated his 70 years in the usual grand style.

Though Jerry's an original member of the "outlaw country" genre, along with Waylon and Willie (he's immortalized in the Brooks and Dunn song, Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker ) he's probably best known to the general audience as the author of "Mr. Bojangles" (Jerry's 2008 performance).

The evening's program included that title, as well as "Navajo Blanket" , well known by fans of Ian Tyson who included it on one of his albums (JJWalker, 2008 version). He also wrote "Trashy Women" (Confederate Railroad does the version currently on the radio). The show included a variety of Jerry's titles as well as a few by other country song writers. 
The college students in the crowd chimed in full force when he sang their favorites, including "Red Neck Mother" .  There's more to Jerry and the band than honky-tonk numbers. We thoroughly enjoyed the instrumentation, and watched in amazement as one of the band, Chris Gage, switched repeatedly  between guitar, accordion, and mandolin. The softer side of their music can be heard in the song "Down in Belize", posted on Chris Gage's web site. Though Austin is Jerry's official home, he has a second home in Belize and does an annual trip down there with fans.

Jerry is 70 this year, which may explain why he and his band did the whole show sitting down - not that he sat still. He can boogie better seated in a chair than most people can standing up! One of our favorite numbers of the evening was Jerry's rendition of Guy Clark's "Always Trust Your Cape" - good advice for life!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Porch Project

With the beautiful spring weather we've had lately we've really been enjoying the new covered porch, (see the album for construction photos) even though it isn't totally finished yet.

 We have done a little bit of work toward finishing the porch, Steve got the siding up and installed the welded wire in the "dog window" (a space we left so they could see the yard from the porch) but none of the staining or other finishes have been done yet.

I had visions of a bit of faux gaining on the siding where the house forms the fourth side - it really annoyed me that it was a flat color and didn't match all the cedar - so we fixed it!! My sisters were here visiting for a few days and it seemed like a good time to take advantage of their artistic talents.

The Three Musketeers, and their blank canvas

In progress
Each of us painted "gain" and knot holes with a different color

We thought we made a pretty good match to the cedar beams

Steve attaching the cedar window trim

If you're into faux finishes, here are a few more shots of the project.
We still need to apply finish to the cedar trim as well as the rest of the floor, ceiling and siding. . . .  but we're making progress!

Don't worry, they didn't work all the time they were here! We also had a good time touring San Antonio and the Bob Bullock state museum. The bluebonnets were at peak bloom too, so they had a good sampling of the local offerings.