When you move every day or two you get into a routine. When you move very month or two it takes a while to get back into the swing of things. Thus, we try to schedule a short day for our first day back on the road.
Mission to Mathis is a reasonable short trip and served the purpose of allowing us a leisurely tear down of the Internet dish, check things over before rolling, shakedown cruise type trip. After a couple of hours of puttering we left Melody Lane and headed east to McAllen and then north to Alice before cutting across to Mathis and a Passport America park there. After setting up and lazing around a bit we drove to a grocery store to pick up supplies, came back and then went across the street to a favorite Mexican restaurant where we ate too much as usual (happy sigh), had a better than usual Spanish chat with the waitresses and handed out some Spanish curved illusion tracts with the usual delighted response.
The next morning we headed out early to Corpus Christi for our appointment for the regular service of the truck transmission at Greatstate Transmission and their usual affordable, friendly, competent care. After that we went to a RV dealer looking for some parts and then got our exercise by walking through a couple of malls as pleasant places to get some exercise and stay out of the drizzly gray day.
One mall is in semi-permanent decline and has fewer shops open than a few years ago. The other, newer mall is expanding and has more shops. It would be interesting to know the reasons why they are diverging in their fortunes since they are only a few blocks apart and it can't be a neighborhood changing as we have seen with malls in Houston.
Then we looked for a dive shop to find a water-proof wallet, but had faulty directions and gave up on that for the time being and instead went towards the northern reaches of Corpus Christi and the China Bear Restaurant before heading back to Mathis. We fueled up for the next day's trip and went to the library to check e-mail. The library is only open some days per week and this was not our day. E-mail could wait for another day.
The following day we headed toward Victoria and then north and east to a Passport AmericaRV park outside of Brenham, Texas. We pulled part way into the site and Juanita climbed up and clipped a couple of low hanging branches before pulling into final position for the next couple of days. We picked up our e-mail and headed to town to visit an old time ice cream parlor serving Blue Bell ice cream and walk around the restored downtown buildings and shops. Then we headed home for the evening.
On our return and after collecting our e-mail over the site's satellite internet connection I realized I needed a program to fill out an application form that had been sent to me. It wasn't long before the Hughes Net system FAP'ed us (so-called Fair Access Policy that ensures you don't get more bandwidth than you pay for by cranking you down to dial-up speeds for 24 hours if you ever do you get all of what you bought on any given day. Unused bandwidth stays with Hughes Net, of course. I seem to remember there is a class action suit against this policy somewhere.) Apparently most days at that RV park their system gets FAP'ed for the better part of the day. So we drove to town and I bought some AT&T airtime at a Starbucks to download the program we needed. After dinner at Cici's across from Starbucks we headed home and filled out the form and submitted it by e-mail. A few weeks later I got a call and learned that the form had resulted in a job at the CCRL spring shutdown. Certainly worth driving to town for.
We had considered stopping at a few other RV parks in other towns on our way to the February SOWERS project, but with rain happening off and on we decided to stay in Brenham until it was time to move on to Forest Glen. There would be enough to do in Brenham to keep us happy and tearing down and setting up in the rain is unpleasant.
We had visited the other places before so there was no serious experience deficit being incurred by skipping them this year.
Early February is not the height of tourist season so some attractions were shutdown or curtailed for the season. We drove out to a monastery that has a herd of miniature horses. The tours weren't happening, but we were satisfied to stare through the rain speckled windshield at the horses out standing in their fields. Likewise we visited a restored cotton gin and museum in the nearby town of Burton and decided to take a pass on the limited tour schedule. Probably the best time to visit would be the one day a year they fire up the restored cotton gin to process cotton.
The Blue Bell ice cream factory was not closed for the season, however, and we had a marvelous guided tour of the plant plus saw a movie of the company history, much memorabilia on view and for sale. We fortified ourselves for the tour by buying and eating a sample cup of ice cream. After the tour we needed, of course, to restore our energy with another cup of ice cream which is included with the tour. We could have had as many more as we wanted at a very low price, but we nobly refrained. You don't have to take the tour you can just visit the gift shop and pig out on under priced ice cream.
After the ice cream tour we went downtown and partook of a free guided tour of the Brenham museum located in an old US Post Office building. In addition to the artifacts and historical displays we learned about the building layout with its hollow walls that allowed the post master to sneak around and spy down on employees.
We had seen an airport diner picture in a guide book. The picture implied the diner was in an old prop plane. Upon passing a similar billboard we decided to drive to the local airport to check it out. It was a cafe in a modern metal building. We went to Taco Bell to eat.
Finally, on the Friday, we headed to Hunstville. It was a mostly pleasant drive, but with puttering a bit too much in the morning and a few episodes of construction and taking a slightly longer route than planned we got there later than planned but early enough. We met some old former SOWER friends we had not seen for a few months and some new SOWER friends who we had not met before, but who we would know well by the end of the three working weeks.
February SOWER Project
The SOWER project we helped with in February was at Forest Glen Christian Camp . It is several miles east of Huntsville in the Sam Houston National Forest. The facilities can host several hundred people in multiple groups at the same time. Every weekend while we were there groups used the facilities. In the summer they have camp throughout the week and also run day camp programs, busing kids in from the surrounding towns. They handle over twenty thousand campers a year.
The lady SOWERS made curtains, did clean-up, painted cabin interiors and stained the pieces for the bunk beds constructed.
The men installed trim and moved stuff from the cabins which had been started to be re-furbished the previous month. They also built 24 light fixtures for those four cabins, and the two done in February. The light fixtures are 2'x4' frames out of 1 x 6 lumber and stained with white stain. Then OSB was mounted recessed inside the frame and a 4 tube fluorescent fixture with diffuser (like for a suspended ceiling) was screwed to the OSB. Then they mounted four of the units at the peak of the ceiling in the repainted cabins. The camp electrician and his helper then wired them. The cabins had originally had open ceiling with unfinished cedar tongue and groove decking over open rough-sawn king trusses.
The lighting was from single tube florescent fixtures mounted on the top of the bottom cord of the trusses. Kinda dim, plus campers tended to drape wet towels and swim suits over them. This was maybe a fire hazard, but definitely a brightness issue. Refurbishment consisted of spraying the rough wood work white, brightening things and covering some graffiti, painting the interior walls yellow and the interior gable ends green or red and removing and re-staining all the trim from the floors, doors and windows. Then professional carpet installers replaced the carpeting.
With new curtains matching the gable colors and the much higher level of lighting the cabins are much cheerier and brighter. Original plans had been to replace the cabins, but that program stalled shortly after the first was done. The economy has affected everyone and people adapt their plans.
Additionally, the men made 24 bunk beds to replace the last of the metal bunk beds in the cabins. It seemed like a lot to me as we made jigs and cut, routed, sanded, stained and assembled 720 individual pieces of wood, but talking to some alumni of past SOWER projects at Forest Glen who made a couple of hundred bunks I guess it is small potatoes.
You may not realize that we are related to the Texas Bushes. No not bushes and not the Texas Bushes.
Juanita's oldest sister married Johnny Bush before Juanita was born and they had nine children. These nieces and nephews are all around our age down to mid-forties. You may remember a write-up of the wedding in Matamoros of Tracy Bush to Margarita in the February 2007 Update.
On Valentine's day weekend we went to Tracy and Margarita's house north of Houston for a family reunion. There were a number of Bush's and a couple of their offspring as well as two of Juanita's other sisters and one of their daughters and a few assorted spouses. Much visiting went on and more than a little eating.
One night we went to a mid week service in Huntsville where we heard a sermon by a missionary to Brazil. He also did a ventriloquist routine and a report on the work in Brazil. A couple of Sundays we attended different churches in Huntsville and a couple of Sundays we spent in the Houston area with family.
One Friday we attended the Houston RV Show and looked at a lot of rigs from small to large. Some of the larger, more expensive motor homes were "new" but had been new for a couple of years. With some of the more garish it was easy to see that there had just been a failure to find people with both money and bad taste. Others would have sold sooner in a better economy. There are always a few ideas that are worth considering for adding to our present rig or considering for a future one if the future holds that. Mostly, however, we walk away from these shows with a sense of wonder and gratitude that God led us to the rig we have that suits our needs and wants so perfectly.
At one promotional booth Juanita spun the wheel and won a free night's stay at an RV resort in Onalaska on the shores of Lake Livingston. It would come in handy as we left Forest Glen.
On the way to the RV show we stocked up at a Costco with stuff that is hard to find elsewhere.
We had a bit of time checking out the Woodlands area and the Woodlands mall and, later on, a bit of time repairing the minor damage from an attempted break-in to our truck when parked either there or at a restaurant in Huntsville.
In addition to the mini family reunion we had a couple of visits with Juanita's sister in Friendswood and visits with her sister in northwest Houston, as well as meeting a niece and her husband at a restaurant in Spring, Texas and a nephew and his family in Friendswood. One of the visits with Juanita's sister in Friendswood included watching a grandkids' volley ball game, lunch with that nephew and family and a visit to Kema boardwalk. Not to mention a drive-by [digital photo] shooting of an Extreme Makeover house project in Kema. The tiny trailer in the right of the picture is what the family lived in for months after the hurricane.
We missed most of the Olympics TV coverage camping in a one channel universe in the woods of East Texas. But on our way back from south of Houston visiting family on the last day of the games we managed to find a restaurant bar with a big screen showing the gold medal hockey game.
The crowd around my wife and me erupted in the last minute of play as the US sloppily batted a bouncing puck into Canada’s net. I ordered another soda and waited for the Zamboni to finish and sudden-death overtime to begin. I paid for our meal so the scene could be fled in triumph or shame as necessary.
Then my turn to cheer (my wife is more aware of her surroundings) as Sidney did his magic with a graceful overtime, gold-winning goal. The bartender quickly explained to the glum, potentially hostile crowd. “It’s okay. They’re Canadian.” We left and drove back to the forest to start planning for coming home in mid-March. It seems a bit early, but that’s how it goes when you head south in September.
Good job, Canada. We love you even if you are hard to live with at times.
Travel to Canada in March
Back to work on Shop/Studio - add porch, frame inside, maybe add wiring
Work on property - build wood shed, fill it, drill well, build fire pit and maybe ferro-cement gazebo over it