I so very much want to skip ahead and write about our Pagosa Springs experience over the last couple of days, but that would leave out way too much stuff. Some good, some “you’re not gonna believe it” … but nothing really bad.
We left Lewisville last Sunday, as planned. Pretty uneventful, easy drive … we headed straight down I-45 towards Houston and turned east a little past Huntsville. By 6 o’clock, we were all set up at a small RV park in the thriving metropolis of Pumpkin, TX. Population of about 150 and located right in the middle of the Sam Houston National Forest. As an aside, I’m really grateful for the Passport America subscription. All we had to pay for the overnight stay was $12.50! Compare that to the $50 I usually had to spend at Motel 6’s along the way when we were living in a tent … my budget has been helped a lot going forward.
Anyhow, we headed out to Livingston Monday morning, arriving at the Escapees offices around 10:15. Fed Ex hadn’t made its delivery, but I had a fair amount of other mail. I told the woman behind the counter that I was going to just wait “over there”, pointing to the Nutshell parked across the street. I no sooner went through the mail (a new AAA membership card, the Passport America permanent card, Blue Cross bills … I thought I went paperless, have to check that out), than there was a knock on the window – it was the receptionist, with the Fed Ex envelope in her hand. After thanking her for walking it out, I opened it while holding my breath. Sure enough, there was the title to the Nutshell, signed on the back by the dealer who was going to act as “seller” in this case. Long story – it’s not worth recounting at this point. I’m just glad we were finally ready to register the thing in my name. At least that’s what I thought. Here’s where the “you’re not gonna believe it” part comes.
We drive over to the county tax assessors office to take care of registration. I hand the title to the woman behind the counter and ask her for the registration documents I’ll need to complete. She was still looking at the back of the title as she pulled out the paperwork and slowly handed it across the counter. Then came the words I didn’t want to hear:
“Wait a minute …”
“You’re missing a signature. This top section needs to be signed and notarized. You’ll have to get the dealer to do that.”
So close, and yet so far away. I’m thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me???” followed by, “Shit, stuck back in Livingston for at least 3 days.” I figured that’s how long it’d take to overnight the title back to Vegas, get it signed and notarized, and then arrive back here via a second overnight. I went back out to the car and sat there for about 5 minutes, just trying to let everything sink in.
Something told me to go back in and ask to speak to a supervisor, so that’s what I did. I explained my situation to her and asked if there was anything she might recommend that would get me on my way sooner. I have to say, she wasn’t the least bit bureaucratic in demeanor. From the way she was intently listening to my plight, I thought, “If anyone’s going to help me, this person will.”
Sure thing, she came up with a workable solution. “You’re supposed to do a first time registration in the office, but if you mail everything back to my attention, I’ll take care of your registration and mail the tags to the Escapees address. They can get them to you from there.” She then calculated my exact fees, gave me her card and told me to call her if I had any questions.
Pretty cool, huh? Frank and I were free to continue our travels as planned. I spoke with the dealer, told him what had happened and he agreed to expedite the signed paperwork on his end once he got them. We stopped at the post office in Rice, TX on the way north and got off the overnight package. As an aside, the return package is due to arrive this afternoon at Keith’s house. I’ll fill everything out and send it back to Livingston on Monday afternoon.
So, on towards Pagosa Springs … but first, another stop. One that I was really looking forward to.
Jack and Juanita live outside of Mingus, west of Fort Worth on I-20. It was right on our path and I had been looking forward to seeing them since late October. Jack is another high school classmate from Dallas. Both he and Juanita have been following our travels and routinely respond to our Facebook posts. Anyhow, Jack emailed right after we lost our first tent in Corpus Christi, offering for us to come up and stay with him for a while. While I wanted to see them, I had already laid out a hefty deposit for our next stop. Plus, they were a good 6+ hour drive away. We agreed that I’d stop by to see them when we were in Dallas.
The previous Friday, Jack retired after serving 41 1/2 years as a Dallas policeman. At the time of his retirement, he was one of only two Captains on the entire force, Dallas having eliminated the position some years earlier. Jack wore a variety of caps as he progressed through the ranks, most recently running the dive squad. Simply put, I am honored to have him, and his wife Juanita, as friends. Here’s a link to an article in a local paper, announcing his retirement. Once you start reading, be sure to follow the link in the first paragraph to an earlier article about the dive team – it’s a truly magnificent read.
Through their dedicated efforts, Jack and his men were able to bring closure to thousands of people not knowing what had happened to missing friends and / or relatives. From the outpouring of retirement well wishes and tributes that were posted on his Facebook page, you could tell that Jack was loved and respected by a lot of people.
Juanita posts a lot of photos and videos out at the ranch. Many of them include grandchildren, playing and laughing their heads off. I’ve always been struck by how happy everyone is in them. Uncontrollable glee! And then there’s Hamlet. Hamlet is Juanita’s pet pig. I have to admit that I was really curious as to what Frank’s reaction was going to be. It was really pretty funny.
Frank and I actually made it to their home before they returned from looking at some nearby lake property, so we hung out on their front porch. Jack arrived first, with two of his granddaughters in tow. Juanita was on her way back with the realtor. Jack and I hugged, and after he got the kids squared away, brought me to the backyard. That’s where Hamlet was. The girls got him out of his pen … and that’s when Frank did one of the best double takes you’ll every see from a dog. It was like, “Yeah, they have a do … what the hell is that??? That’s the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen!”
From that point on, Frank watched Hamlet wherever he went. He wouldn’t go near Hamlet, but he was sure watching him.
Jack turned on the grill. “We’ve got some good food planned tonight!” I hadn’t actually planned on staying for dinner. In the back of my mind, I was thinking we’d stop by, spend about an hour or so visiting, and then we’d be back on the road heading west.
“I guess that means you’re inviting me for dinner?,” I asked.
“Well of course, you’re staying for dinner. And breakfast. Wait ’til you see what I’ll put on the grill after we finish making dinner. We’re having grilled pork chops for breakfast, son!”
I learned that Jack has a very simple rule when it comes to barbecue cooking: “If the fire’s still hot, there’s still food to be cooked!” That night, we cooked burgers, steaks, vegetable kabobs and cream cheese-stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon. It was a feast worthy of a king!
Jack has a number of “rules”, and I took great pleasure in hearing him recite them with his granddaughters. My favorite is “Jack’s Rule #1”:
“Life is short. Sometimes it can be cruel and heartless. Always eat dessert first!“
Ya gotta love it! :o)
After dinner, Jack to the realtor and me on a ranch tour. I don’t remember exactly how many acres he has. I want to say it’s about 60, a lot of it left natural. There are a couple of 4-5 acre fields where he’s going to plant different grains, three tanks and a couple of work buildings where the equipment’s stored. Between you and me, I think Jack’s work in retirement is going to rival his efforts as a cop!
By this time, it was getting dark and we went inside for the evening. Juanita and I sat at opposite ends of a huge couch. Frank was between us but sitting right next to me, eyeing Hamlet as Jack showed us some of the tricks he’s taught their “dog”. Hamlet, sat up, danced in a circle, lied down, and even took a treat that Jack held out from his mouth. I looked at Frank and said, “Why don’t you do any of that stuff, huh?”
After that, Jack had to excuse himself – he was teaching an online class in Organizational Development. While he was doing that, Juanita and I visited. Meanwhile, Frank sat stewing over my having compared him to a pig!
It obviously didn’t sit well with him … while he was upset over being outsmarted and out tricked by a pig, Juanita called Hamlet over to get up on the couch next to her. But Frank was going to have none of that. Hamlet jumped and Frank said, “That’s it!” He growled and then snapped. What followed was a cacophony of squeals, barks, and me yelling at Frank to “be cool”. I told him, “You’re a guest in this house, buddy.” He had a very hurt look on his face, upset that I was siding with a pig over him. “He was just trying to protect you,” Juanita volunteered. While it was nice of her to say, I still felt Frank was acting like an ass.
Hamlet retreated to his nest on the floor next to Juanita – some pillows and a big blanket that he likes to cover himself with. Frank put his head down on my lap with a “Pfffftt” … he did not like getting scolded.
Jack finished his class, we visited for a little while longer, but then it was time for bed. Juanita brought a blanket and some pillows out and we bedding down on the couch.
Hamlet bedded down in his kennel. Being out of sight, Frank slept like a log, as did I. The next morning … as promised … we had barbecued pork chops for breakfast, accompanies by eggs, fried potatoes and biscuits. What a meal … surpassed only by the wonderful conversations we shared.
By that time, it was approaching 11 o’clock and we had to get on the road. Juanita took a few photos of Jack and me and then wanted to get some of Frank and Hamlet. I’m thinking, “Good luck with that,” but Jack came to the rescue. He held out some of Hamlet’s treats and sure thing, Frank was right over there. Pretty soon, he and Hamlet were nose-to-nose, both eating out of Jack’s hands. Feuds are one thing … food is another story.
With that, we were on our way.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, with the exception of a couple of hard rains we had to go through. I wasn’t going to stop to put Frank’s thunder shirt on him because we were supposed to drive in and out of the storms. He managed by lying under his magic blanket – what you can’t see won’t hurt you, I guess.
We made it to Santa Rosa, NM about 6:15 pm, Mountain time. By 6:30, we were set up in our spot and ready to hit the sack. As usual though, we had a couple of folks stop by wanting a look at the Nutshell. One guy, Kyle, stayed for a while afterwards and we shared information about places we had been, offering suggestions to each other. He was driving his folks back home to eastern Missouri. For years, his folks made the drive to Tucson, AZ for the winter. But as they got older and driving became more difficult, Kyle took over. He’d drive them to Tucson and fly home in November, then reverse the process in April.
Kyle was a great source of info. I learned of a number of places in southeast Missouri … both campsites and places to eat. I plan on taking advantage of those in 2017, when our itinerary has us heading back up through the midwest so we can spend the summer along the Great Lakes.
Wednesday’s drive wasn’t bad at all. Because we covered so much road the day before, we only had a five hour drive ahead of us. The scenery was beautiful, transitioning from high desert … to city … to rocky plateaus glistening multiple shades of reds, oranges and browns in the sunlight… to mountain forests as we made our way into Colorado. We arrived a little before 3pm.
And that’s where I’m going to end this part of the story. Pagosa Springs in general … and Keith in particular … deserve their own chapter. I’ll post that over the weekend.
(The above photos were taken by Juanita Bragg, by the way. Thanks very much, my dear!) :o)