Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 22, 2017. Trying to become Texans

LOCATION:  Our new tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas

WEATHER:  Hot.  High about 95.  Mostly cloudy
We got up early with a long "to-do" list before us.
First we tried to get our Texas drivers' licenses.  Easier said than done.  We went to the location that the internet site had given me.  It seemed a bit odd....big parking lot but no cars.  A big Texas emblem in front with a cross.  But this is Texas, so maybe crosses in government offices are OK?  George went in.  Turns out it is a Baptist church.  They get people like us so often (due to the incorrect address on the website), that they have printed out a map to guide people from the church to the DMV.  Of course, the print-out includes lots of encouragement to join their church when one "has gone on the incorrect route".  
Finally we found the DMV.  We quickly learned, however, that the office is only for renewals.  To get an initial Texas driver's license, one has to go to the bigger city of McAllen.   So off we went, about 15 miles away.  We arrived, only to find out that the process for applying for a license is quite complicated.  They gave us a long list of documents required for the application.  It is quite daunting.  We'll have to work on the list and return in a few days. 
We hurried back to the house for the final walk-through with the builder. We think it looks really good, and there are only a few minor things to be done.
Here is the view of the kitchen.....    
Here is the dining room/living room, unfortunately already being filled up with our junk....    
Another view of the kitchen....    
 This is our front door - nice French doors.      
We bought a bed and mattress at a furniture shop.  At this point, George is so sick of shopping that he agreed to anything I liked.  We should be able to pick it up in a few days.  We also looked at more refrigerators.  We still need to find some sort of table and chairs and maybe a portable kitchen island.  This is all so exhausting!
Back home, we relaxed in our new house.  I cooked dinner in the house and we sat in our camp chairs to eat.  The tiny house seems huge to us and there are a lot of empty spaces here.  It is so pleasant inside with A/C, ceiling fans, a nice bathroom and lots of space.  I put a few kitchen things in cupboards.  We have so many cupboards!
We will continue to sleep in the camper until the bed arrives.  Miraculously the refrigerator in the camper started working again.  Yeah!!!!  
Here is a map showing our location.  It is bound to be warm here even when it is cold everywhere else in Europe and North America, so we are looking forward to our northern friends to come visit!!!!!
DINNER:  Not a gourmet dinner for our fist night here, but it was ok ----- stir-fried rice with leftover SPAM and peas.    

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 21, 2017 Arrival at our tiny house!

LOCATION:  Retama Village.  Mission, Texas.
WEATHER:  Ungodly hot.  101 on one sign.  Cloudy and hazy.
We awoke to a puddle of water surrounding our Airstream.  I asked George to look at it, worried that something was wrong.  It was just from the air conditioner condensation.  It is so humid here that we created a small lake outside, and it even "rained' a bit inside.  
We had a pretty short ride to Mission, about 250 miles.  We stopped about 30 minutes away from our house for lunch.  We stopped in a Mexican place, which turned out, disappointedly, to be a fast food place.  It was packed with Mexican-Americans.  It was super noisy and chaotic - just like Mexico!  There was a salsa bar where you load up to spice up your order.  Free chips.  Lots of kids running around - a real cultural experience.  We won't be going back there, though.
Then, on to Retama Village.  It is pretty quiet here; lots of folks have returned to the North already.  
We parked the Airstream in the driveway.  We peeked into the house, but we can't enter yet until we have the official walk-through tomorrow or Tuesday.
They have landscaped our yard since we were last here - grass on the sides, some flowers on the side and in the driveway, and even our own palm tree!!!
The people here seem so nice.  I had left a note on the Retama Village Facebook page asking for recommendations of RV repair shops where we can get our refrigerator fixed or replaced.  I have had a ton of responses, mostly welcoming us and offering us the use of neighbors' refrigerator space until we can get ours fixed.
We were relieved to find out that they had left the electricity on.  If they hadn't (and then we wouldn't have had A/C), then we would have had to stay in a motel.  But, all was good.  Water and electricity are all in great order. 
While we were setting up, one set of neighbors dropped by to welcome us, and also to offer their refrigerator.  We think we will be ok with our electric cooler.
After getting set up, we headed to town.  We have to buy a refrigerator for the house, Plantation shutters, a dining room table, and a bed.  First to Home Depot where we found a lot of nice refrigerators with Memorial Day price reductions.  Then to 3 furniture stores to look for beds.  Not so successful with this.  George just wants a mattress to put on the floor.  I definitely will not allow that.  He is afraid he will stub his toe on the bed legs.  So, he wasn't happy with anything we saw today.  We will continue to look tomorrow.
DINNER:  Still making-do with no refrigerator, we had paninis.  I want to use up all the food from the "emergency food box" while we are here, then start fresh before our next trip.  Consequently, we had SPAM on our paninis along with some of the yummy smelly French cheese.  
We went up to the clubhouse after dinner.  We had planned on an evening swim in the pool, but it started raining.  So, we just took showers and headed home to home sweet home. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 20, 2017. Day #4 on the long road to South Texas

LOCATION:  Goliad, Texas.  Northeast part of state.
CAMPGROUND:  Goliad State Park.  4 stars out of 5.  Historic monument park.  Electricity, water, covered shelters with grill and picnic table.  Sites are in big parking lot.  $20/night.  
WEATHER:  Still hot.  Cloudy all day.  High 90
Each day on the road has been pretty long.  We have been leaving about 7:30 AM and stopping around 5:00.  We haven't stopped earlier due to the heat.  There would be nothing to do all PM except sit in the air-conditioned Airstream.  So, we have just kept driving.  Since we are mostly off the interstates, the driving hasn't been too stressful.
We did get lost again today.  This time, we had no excuse as we have a Texas map.  Our turnoff was a bit unclear so we got off the main road too soon, and ended up in the middle of a country lane.  George had to do a 3-point u-turn while I stood on the road to guide him and to watch for traffic (none).  
Without electricity, we haven't spent much on food.  Today's lunch picnic was a tuna sandwich (no mayo or mustard) - just tuna, hot sauce and bread!  
We drove by lots of cattle farms, seeing different types of cows including Texas Longhorns.  
In all of the South, we continue to be amazed and saddened by the "haves and have-nots".  We see huge mansions with fancy entrance gates, then a few miles later, some terrible poor shacks and trailers.  
We will probably get to Mission by Sunday evening, although we won't be able to get into our new house until Tuesday, when our walk-through with the builder is scheduled.  We'll just stay in the Airstream until then.  I will probably spend the entire day Monday in the air-conditioned clubhouse and/or the swimming pool!  
DINNER:  Even without a refrigerator. I think this was a success......Spaghetti with artichoke hearts, peas, and leftover shrimp.  I made the sauce with the oil from the artichoke hearts and some cream cheese.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 19, 2017. Crawfish country!

LOCATION:  West central Louisiana.  Near Alexandria
CAMPGROUND:  South Bend Toledo State Park.  4 stars out of 5.  Beautiful site - we have our own deck.  On lake.  Electricity and water.  Beautiful bathrooms.  Private sites.  Would rate it higher except for price --- $38
WEATHER:  Ghastly hot and humid.  High about 93
Still with jet lag, we woke up early, so got a good start.  The A/C ran all night long.  As soon as we started off, we immediately got lost again. The roads just seem to disappear!  We were in really rural areas.   This prison work gang seemed to reflect the spirit of the area.  
We passed through lots of rice fields, flooded for raising crawfish.  They were stirring up the fields to give the crawfish oxygen.
We finally found our way and drove on the Natchez Trace Highway for about 150 miles.  It is very scenic and relaxing to drive.  We stopped for a quick lunch (stinky French cheese sandwich) then off again.    
We ended the Trace in Natchez where we have visited before.  We drove over the Mississippi River to Louisiana.  
We are trying to average 300 - 400 miles per day so we can arrive in Mission in 5-6 days.  We could not find a Louisiana tourist office when we crossed the border so had to wing it again.  At a reliable McDonald's wifi spot, we were able to find our route and figure out where we might stay tonight.  I called to make a reservation at the state park.  Relieved, we drove on the final hour.   Our total today was 430 miles.    
When we were near our state park campground, we saw a sign advertising jumbo gulf spring for $5.95/pound.  I sent George in the shop to buy 1/2 pound; he came out with 2 pounds!  He was in the doghouse for about 15 miles.
The state park here is quite nice, situated on a lake.  Our site has its own deck.  For some reason, Louisiana state parks have free or really inexpensive laundries  located in their bathrooms.  I did laundry for $2,  while we relaxed at the lake.  
DINNER:  Sautéed shrimp with black beans and rice.  I boiled the rest of the shrimp to eat tomorrow night.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 18, 2017. On to the Deep South

LOCATION:  Pickensville, Alabama.  Almost at the Mississippi border.
CAMPGROUND:  Pickensville Campground Corps of Engineers.  4 stars out of 5.  Large campsites with picnic tables, grills, fire pits and paved parking.  Clean bathrooms and showers.   $10 with senior pass.  On lake.  
WEATHER:  Sunny and hot in the AM.  High 90.  Thunderstorms in the PM.
We left Lake Lanier nice and early.  To our great dismay, the refrigerator seems to have died.  Even on electricity, it is not cooling.  The stinky French cheese grows stinkier by the hour.  We did buy some ice for the cooler which is helping.  
We don't have wifi, but I thought I had downloaded maps to help with the journey.  It is trickier when traveling the back roads.  Unfortunately, we got lost almost immediately, but continued on scenic roads taking us south and west, which is the general direction we need to be going.  
 Somehow, we took and wrong turn and ended up on Interstate 20, which was a mixed blessing......we were trying to stay off of interstates, but we were able to catch up on some time, and best of all, we found the Welcome Center at the Alabama state line.  We got a good map and the host gave us some helpful information about campgrounds.  He said there were some great Corps of Engineer campgrounds in the western part of the state.  Since that was our destination and since we had had such great luck with COE campgrounds, we decided to aim there.  
We found a grocery store and bought just enough for dinner, without buying foods that need refrigeration after tomorrow.  
The day had been mostly sunny, then started getting cloudy in the PM.  Then, the skies opened and a wall of water combined with dark black clouds hit us.  Thank goodness George was driving.  We could not see an inch in front of us.   What an experience!  On a positive note....it cleaned off the pollen and spider webs we had collected while the Airstream was in storage. 
We arrived at the campground about 5:00 PM.  It is very nice, but is quite woodsy === many mosquitos.  We made a fire in the grill to cook hamburgers which we had bought, and to make a lot of smoke to keep the mosquitos at bay.  
We cranked on the A/C to cool things off and to help with the humidity.  I LOVE air conditioning!!!!
DINNER:  Appetizer of stinky French cheese with some hard rolls.  Then, grilled hamburgers.  Lima beans on the side.
Another early night, getting over jet leg.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 17 2017. Reunited with our Airstream!

LOCATION:  Lake Lanier, Georgia - outside of Atlanta
CAMPGROUND:  Bolding Mill Corps of Engineer Park.  On Lake Lanier.  Huge, paved sites; ours is pull through.  Each site has a grill and a fire pit.  Picnic tables.  Electricity and water hook-up at all sites.  Dumping station.  Immaculate.  Great bathrooms and showers.  $11 with senior rate.  5+ starts out of 5!
WEATHER:  Miserably hot.  95ish.  Sunny.  
With the time zone difference, we woke up early, ready to get a good start on our 1600-mile trip to our tiny house in Mission, Texas.  Uh-oh.....the refrigerator is not working.  That French cheese is really getting smelly now!  We will try the refrigerator again on electricity tonight and see if the gas set-up is the problem.
Even though we thought we didn't have much to do, it seemed to take quite a bit of time to get the Airstream ready to go.  Finally, we were set to depart.  We had put boards under the tires for storage, so the Airstream would not sink into the ground.  When George pulled out, one of the boards flipped up and smashed the stairs.  Oh-no!   George then had to spend about an hour trying to fix the stairs....  
We were finally off, with the stairs still broken, and with an iffy refrigerator, at about 10:00 AM.  We have about a week to get to Mission, so are going to take our time, avoiding Interstates and big cities when we can.  
We drove through lots of quaint little towns in North Carolina and South Carolina, towns with interesting sounding names - Pumpkin Center,  Strawberry Hill, Cherry Blossom.  We drove by lots of peach trees, strawberry fields and pine forests.  We started looking for a campground at about 4:00.  There was nothing, so we kept on going.  We were getting scarily close to Atlanta, which we absolutely did not want.  In Gainesville, Georgia we stopped at a McDonalds to use wifi, to make sure we were not headed towards Atlanta and to search for RV parks.  There was nothing online. We thought that we drove near the Lake Lanier area that surely there would be campgrounds.  Outside of Gainesville,  I spotted a sign for a Corps of Engineer park and we got off the highway.  Happily, we found the park and it is a gem.  The only bad part is that we had to call an 800 number to get a reservation, even though we were parked at the park itself.  I was on hold for about a half hour.  By this time, it was 7:00 PM!    
I hadn't bought any groceries, not knowing if the refrigerator would work or not.  We plugged into the electricity and will see if it starts working.  Meanwhile, that French cheese is getting even smellier!!!!
DINNER:  Really rock bottom --- a package of instant mashed potatoes with a can of Vienna sausage chopped up.  But, we sat outside on the picnic table, gazing over the lake and were really happy to be on the road again!  

May 16, 2017. Back to the USA!

LOCATION:  Winston-Salem, NC
WEATHER:  Hot and sunny.  High 85
It was a good thing that we had allotted enough time at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, as it is massive.  It has about 10 different terminals. Our plan was to spend our last 20 euros on a nice breakfast after we went through security, etc.  To our great disappointment, we found that there were no restaurants in the terminal!!!  So, we spent the euros on a coffee and a croissant from a gift shop, and I bought some cheese in the Duty Free to take home.
Eight hours later, we were in Newark.  We had about 3 hours to go through immigration, customs and security in a different terminal, which was just about the right amount of time.
While waiting for the flight, I called Medicare to check on my payments.  As I've written before, Medicare has been a total nightmare for me.  I signed up on my 65th birthday in September 2016 for Parts A(free) and B (with a fee).  I signed up for EZ Pay, which is a direct deposit from my bank.  Then, we took off for international housesitting.  When our mail finally caught up with in February, I found that the EZ Pay method had not paid my premiums and they canceled my Part B (which pays for doctors and outpatient costs).  It was virtually impossible to get anyone on the phone. They don't have a website with a chat feature.  Finally, in March, when I was literally at the Charlotte, NC terminal ready to take off for this last European housesitting assignment trip, I reached Social Security in my home state of South Dakota.  The kind ladies there instructed me how to plead for reinstatement.  While in Europe, in April, I found out that I had been reinstated.  I set up the EZ Pay again.  Now, today, when I called Medicare I learned that the EZ Pay has not worked again, and I'm at risk AGAIN for being cut off.  When I reached someone on the phone, I tried to explain the situation.  They don't get it.  I tried to pay by credit card over the phone; they don't accept that.  What a big bureaucratic mess!
Glad I got that off my chest!!!!! :)
From Newark, we flew to Greensboro, North Carolina where George's sister picked us up and drove us to Winston-Salem.  


I'm afraid my French cheese is getting a bit smelly.  It is hot in Winston-Salem, especially in the car.  I'll put it in the Airstream's refrigerator as soon as we get there.   We had a quick dinner at her house, then went to the Airstream where the camper has been parked at George's brother's house.  Other than looking filthy, it seemed OK.  We made up the bed and fell asleep immediately.