Yes, we’re still alive! Yes, I’ve been incredibly neglectful with the blog. Chalk it up to issues with inertia. One thing led to another … first, it was dealing with two months of incredibly cold weather, where we had no respite at all during the day time. Then, it was not having a laptop and having trouble dealing with voice to text on the phone. After that? I guess the only thing I can say is “inertia happens”. But now that we’re finally in decent weather and are getting ready to travel north in a couple of weeks, I figured it was time to start things back up. So, here’s what’s been going on with old Frank and me:
We headed back to Dallas on November 7th. Back to one of my favorite parks, the Lake Park campground in Lewisville. I love this place, and highly recommend it to anybody traveling through Dallas. It’s clean, inexpensive, and offers a view of Lake Dallas from just about every site in the park.
Our time there started out well enough. The first week or so was decent weather. We had a chance to visit a lot of old friends. I had lunch with the same group of guys that got together the last two times Frank and I were in town. We also got to visit with the few other folks that we didn’t get a chance to see during our two previous visits.
But it wasn’t just seeing old friends again that made this stay so enjoyable. Frank and I made some new friends, too. There was a woman named Pam, down from Missouri to visit family. Pam walked by our campsite most mornings and would stop to pet Frank and talk to me. We really enjoyed her company and I so got to looking forward to those morning conversations. Pam, we’ve missed seeing you ever since!
Then there was Ray and Kelli, from Oklahoma, who had parked their camper behind us and a couple of spots to the south. They came by one night towards the end of our stay and offered the most delicious beans, ham and corn bread you could ever imagine! It was certainly appreciated, because the weather had already turned cold and it was exactly what the doctor ordered for dinner that night.
What they didn’t know when they stopped by, though, was that I had inadvertently left my car open the night before and someone had stolen my last bit of money out of it, about $140! I had another 3 days to go before my social security deposit would hit the bank account. Granted, I had already done an inventory and figured out that we could stretch the food we had for a few days … it’s not like I couldn’t live off of my blubber for a month or so, too. But for them to just stop by and make the offer? At that particular time? From my perspective, it was just one more Act of Divine Providence which has graced Frank and me.
By that time, Frank and I had been reduced to sitting in our camp chair underneath the canopy, wrapped in a comforter and a blanket. And before they left, Ray and Kelli stopped back by and gave us a really warm fleece blanket. I have to say that Frank and I have made quite a bit of use out of it since then. Thanks very much, from the bottom of our hearts, you two.
Before leaving the area, we had dinner with another old high-school friend, Debbie. Debbie was helping out a friend who was managing an estate sale. She came away with 3 heavy scarves, a couple of wool caps, and a wonderful pair of heavy gloves for me. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time! Things only got colder from there. God bless you for thinking of us, Debbie!
In one of our last posts, I mentioned something about extending our membership in Thousand Trails, the company that has campgrounds located throughout all the country. That’s going to work out pretty well for us, I think. I’m paying a flat amount of money per month, which entitles us to stay up to 3 weeks at a time at any of their campgrounds across the country. No more having to stay outside their system for a week before going to another campground, either. We can move from one directly to another … something that will benefit us greatly as we hea up the East Coast this year.
Based on what we were spending since we left Charleston in early 2015, the upgraded membership will save us an average of $165 a month this year on Campground fees. Not only that, our membership is an asset that we can sell whenever we finally come off the road. Based on the weather saw on eBay before buying the upgrade, we could potentially recoup all our Campground fees when we settle down. But who knows when that’s going to be?!
Anyhow after leaving the Dallas area, we headed to our first Thousand Trails campground at Lake Whitney, just south of Fort Worth. I thought it was cold and Dallas, but that was just a teaser! We had two weeks where the daytime temperatures never got out of the forties and on most days just barely hit freezing. Night time temps were down into the teens, but the nights weren’t a problem because of our sleeping bag. We slept warm as toast! But then we had to get up and go outside during the day. There’s just no way we could stay inside that tiny cramped up space day in and day out! We managed, though.
There weren’t a lot of people at this Campground, and I don’t think Frank and I had a visitor the entire time. So we spent most of the time just buried in the covers trying to stay warm.
We were only there for about 10 days before heading on further south to the Thousand Trails campground at Lake Conroe, just outside Houston. It didn’t get quite as cold there, but we were still dealing with chilly days. I remember sitting there thinking, “we’ve seen the best and worst of Texas weather – heat indices consistently over 110 degrees during the East Texas summer, only to be freezing our ass off now!” That was when I started rethinking plans for next winter. More on that, later.
The first good thing about our stay at Lake Conroe came the day after we arrived. Frank and I drove down to Houston where we got a chance to visit with Mike, a great friend who I’ve mentioned before. Actually, this was our second visit with Mike in the last month. His sister lives near where we camped up in Lewisville and he stopped by the day after Thanksgiving with another old high school buddy, Greg. The afternoon was supposed to involve a lot of guitar playing, but basically turned into three old friends reminiscing and talking about “stuff”.
This time though, there was a purpose to our getting together. Back when I had my heart procedure at Houston Methodist Hospital, Mike and another high school buddy, Nathan, brought me back from the hospital to the nearby motel I was staying at. This time, it was Nathan who had had some back surgery about a week before. So after Mike treated me to some fantastic biscuits, gravy, and freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, we eventually headed over to Nathan’s house to check in on him and see how he was doing. He was actually doing fairly well, much better than I would have expected someone to be after having their back worked on! The three of us sat there and shot the breeze about our shared high school experiences while chowing down on some barbecue that Mike had stopped by to pick up on the way.
Frank was the only one who didn’t have that great of time. He spent the afternoon in a crate back at Mike’s house. Fortunately, Frank doesn’t have too long a memory. By the time he started chowing down on the Chicken McNuggets I picked up for him at McDonald’s as a treat, he had forgotten all about his ordeal!
That was the end of our visits with old friends for the time being. I figured that we weren’t going to be back to Texas for about two years and these visits would have to last us. As it turns out though, it looks like we’ll be back there towards the end of this year. More on that to follow.
Back at camp once again, though, we were treated to yet more wonderful neighbors. Because this campground was pretty full, we were relegated to a tiny section mostly for tent campers. And it was right outside a section of bungalows, where people live on a full-time basis. I found out later that a number of the women living in that section decided they were going to make sure that the solitary old man with the dog … the one who smiled and waved “Merry Christmas” to everyone as they drove by … was going to be well taken care of for the holidays.
The day after our visit with Mike and Nathan, Frank and I came back from the dollar store to discover we had a secret Santa visit. There was a plate of about 9-10 Christmas candies sitting on the camp table, along with a big cup of hot tea. It hadn’t been sitting there long because the tea was still pretty hot.
I found out who our secret Santa was the next day. A young woman and her daughter slowed down in their truck as they were passing by. The woman lowered her window and shouted, “Merry Christmas” to me. I asked, “are you the person I have to thank for my gift yesterday?” She grinned, shook her head, and said, “You looked cold as we drove by the other day, all covered up in your blankets. So my daughter said that we should bring you something hot to drink. And since I just finished making the candies, I thought they’d be a nice addition to the tea.”
Her daughter … who looked like she was about 10 or 11… stuck her head over from the passenger seat and yelled, “You look just like Santa Claus! Merry Christmas Santa Claus!”
I just smiled and said, “Merry Christmas, darling! Thank you for the treats. That was a real nice thing you did.” That’s the second time since leaving Charleston where I’ve been accused of looking like Santa Claus. I’m planning on keeping the beard for a while. I guess I’ll have to do something about the gut, instead! Lol
Shortly after that, a woman came out of an RV across the street and introduced herself as Linda. She said she was making tamale pie for dinner and wanted to know if I would like some. It’s been tough, but I have been working harder at learning how to be gracious and accepting offers of kindness from other people. So I told her yes, thank you … but asked if there was anything I could pick up for her and her husband to enjoy as dessert in exchange. She wouldn’t hear of it! I have to say, it was absolutely delicious and the perfect thing to have for dinner on a cold night.
But it didn’t end there! Over the remainder of our stay, Frank and I received many blessings from other neighbors, too. The next day, a young couple stopped by with 4 or 5 bags of cocoa mix, some doughnuts and treats for Frank. And later that same day, Linda came back but this time accompanied by two other women. They told me that I should NOT make dinner plans for the next several days because they were all going to take turns bringing dinner by.
So, over the next three evenings (the last one being Christmas), I enjoyed homemade spaghetti and meatballs and strawberry shortcake for dessert; roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie; and lastly, some delicious baked ham accompanied by green bean casserole, two buttermilk biscuits, and a huge slice of sweet potato pie. Sweet potato pie! I don’t think I’ve had that since managing the pie store 40 years earlier while going to North Texas State in Denton! Oh yeah, Frank wasn’t left out – everyone thought to include some treats for him along with my dinner. All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas, one of the best I’ve experienced in my life!
You meet the nicest people camping. When I first started out, one of the rangers I met … I think it was at Toledo Bend State Park in Louisiana … said something along those lines to me. That campers tend to look at each other as family. Not having come from a great one, it’s been heartwarming to have experienced so much friendliness and generosity from the people Frank and I have met. It does feel sort of like a family. All I know is that I have some “Pay it forward” obligations to meet.
We left Texas two days later, on our way to Winter in Florida. The trip out was fairly uneventful. We spent the first night at a campground outside Baton Rouge, LA. The second night, we stayed at a campground in the Florida Panhandle, east of Pensacola. After one final long day of driving, we made it to the Peace River RV campground, in Wauchula, FL. We’re actually back at that Campground right now for a second visit.
We’ve been in Florida ever since, going back and forth between Thousand Trails campgrounds, with a weekend stay at Tomoka State Park on the Atlantic coast thrown in for good measure. But I’m going to leave things off here for the moment. Tomorrow, I’ll fill in what’s going on between then and now.
No really. I will. Trust me! : o)