Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30, 2017. Detour to Michigan

LOCATION:  Ferndale, Michigan, a nice suburb of Detroit, visiting my daughter

WEATHER:  Gorgeous here.  High about 75.  Mostly sunny. Low humidity.


A slight change in plans....


My daughter in Michigan is having some health issues so I flew up to stay with her for a few days.


The flight was out of Harlingen/South Padre Island airport at 5:00 AM, so we had to get up at 2:30 and drive to the airport.  I was the first in line at TSA - had to wait for the gates to open.


My flight was with United Airlines.  In an effort to be frugal, I had bought the cheapest ticket available.  I hadn't realized that there is something even cheaper/poorer quality than is called Basic Economy.  It really makes you feel like a second class citizen.  I was taking my backpack, purse and small bag that I have traveled with all over Europe and Australia, all as carry-on.  However, with this Basic Economy status, you are only allowed one small "personal item" carryon.  Luckily, I was traveling light, and stuffed the purse and other bag all into my backpack, and that was permissible.  I asked the gate attendant whether I could change seats from the back toward the front, as I had a tight connection in Houston and wanted to disembark as quickly as possible.  I was told, even though there were empty seats, that since I'm Basic Economy that I have to sit in the rear.  I was, of course, in Group 5 to board, the last group called.  When it came time to board, they made a big deal of saying that groups 1-2 could have one carry-on and one "personal item", but those naughty folks in Group 5 are only allowed one personal item.  Geez!     Houston airport is huge, but I made my connection fine.  After a 2.5 hour flight to Detroit, I found myself looking for some public transportation to the suburbs.  Oops - I forgot.  I'm back in the USA, land of very poor public transportation options.  I finally found an information desk only to learn that my only option was a taxi.  Ugh!
Whenever I've visited my daughter here in Michigan, it has been the dead of summer (hot!) or the middle of winter (cold and snowy).   This time, however, Michigan is at its peak.  Her flowers in her yard are beautiful.  I will need to do a little weeding to help out.  

Meanwhile, back in Mission, George finished his AARP Safe Driving class, and got the pick-up checked out for our next journey.  


I was on the internet looking at future housesitting assignments.  We have one definitely set up in Walla Walla, Washington in late June.  Then, a fairly definite one in Bangkok in July, and an almost definite one in southern British Columbia in September.  Our plan is to start our summer vacation in Washington state with the housesit.  Then, we will spend about 2 months in the Northwest.  We want to explore Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  We thought we could store the Airstream and truck in Washington and pick up a housesit or 2 in Asia, taking adantage of cheaper flights from the west coast.  Then, we will meet up with camper friends Tony and Jenny in mid-August for some island-visiting off British Columbia.  We'll have free time in September, so the B.C housesit would work perfectly, and they have plenty of room for us to park our camper.  Finallly, we hope to stick around B.C until early October to attend a get-together on Mayne Island, off Vancouver, with my Canadian relaties.  Then, scoot back to Mission to start welcoming visitors.  




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 29, 2017. Quiet Memorial Day

LOCATION;  At new tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cooler.  High 95
It stormed during the night - lots of thunder, lightening and welcome rain.
I spent the morning finishing the AARP Safe Driving Class online.  I finally finished it.  Thank goodness!  I sure hope we get a good car insurance discount for doing this!
Some people asked about our Airstream setup while we are here in Retama.   We do keep the A/C on during the afternoon so it does not get horribly hot.  We still have our refrigerator on inside, so the cooler air helps the refrigerator not to work so hard.  We watch a bit of TV in it.  We turn the A/C off at night.  Tomorrow, we switch the A/C from the builder's account to ours, so we will probably be more frugal.
I do all the cooking in the house, so I dash back and forth from the Airstream refrigerator to the house stovetop, but it is not an issue.  We will be buying a refrigerator  for  the house when we return.
I checked emails at the clubhouse in the afternoon.  The flowers there are so pretty.
George worked on polishing up the Airstream.  It looks so much better now.
DINNER:  In an ongoing effort to use up old cans from the emergency food box, I made chicken gumbo.  I jazzed up the can with extra chicken, summer sausage and sautéed onion and garlic.  Lots of hot much better!

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 28, 2017. Keeping out of the heat

LOCATION:  At our new tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another scorcher.  High 103!  Hazy and humid
We spent most of the morning in the cool clubhouse, using their wifi to complete an online AARP Safe Drivers Class.  By taking this course, we can save on our car insurance.  It is dreadfully boring and takes 4 hours.  :-(. But, a good thing to do on a hot day.
Our outing in the afternoon was to the library to get library cards.  It is a very nice library with e-book options that I will use while traveling.  These butterfly statues like this one in front of the library are all over town, as Mission is the butterfly capital of the world.  The butterflies' migratory path takes them right through here.  They say that it in the fall, it is magnificent.
We think/hope that we are now officially Texas residents.  We have all the documents we need to prove it....deed to the house, drivers' licenses, voter registration, vehicle registration, water/sewer bills, electricity bills, and now a library card.  
The automatic sprinklers come on about 5:00.  George took these pictures to show the builder - how they are watering the pavement, and not the grass.  In the photo, he caught  the electric/sewer/water hook-up for the Airstream.  These utility units are on each property.
You can see some of the plants that the builder planted.  They use a landscape company that focuses on plants that attract butterflies.   Nice!
We don't know if we will buy a TV for the house or not.  (I'd prefer not.). For now, we watch TV in the Airstream on the rare occasion we watch it.  Today, Sunday, we did watch our favorite shows --- CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes.  George also got in a little TV golf in the PM.  
DINNER:  Leftover pork from the potluck the other night, sliced and sautéed with onions.  Broccoli with cheese sauce.  Potato salad.  All good.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 27, 2017. Shopping spree!

LOCATION:  At our new tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Blistering hot.  High 103, and it is not even full summer yet! 
I've been dying to get a hair cut.  As those of you who travel know, it is scary trying to find someone to give you a decent cut while traveling. It is a crap shot - sometimes it turns out ok and other times not so nice.  My last cut was in Florida in February, so I was really shaggy.  Retama Village has a community Facebook page.  People post all kinds of things there.  So, I posted the question about a good hairdresser.  Immediately, I got lots of responses, so I made an appointment with one of the recommended places.   It turned out pretty well.  I will continue with this hairdresser while we are here.  
Then on to shopping!  The sales staff at Retama Village had given me a $60 Target gift card to thank me for posting about Retama Village on Facebook.  It was certainly easy to spend it --- on sheets, blankets, towels, etc.  I took a picture of the headboard and wall so that I could match the grey and brown colors for the bed accessories., and carried that around Target while I shopped.  So difficult to decide on things.....There are about fifty shades of grey, you know...   :-).    I also lugged around  a spare floor tile for color matching. 
I really like the way the colors turned out...  
Retama Village has several different housing options.  We are the first owners of the tiny house concept.  They are busy building more.  We have learned that sales had slumped on their other options but the tiny house concept is quite popular.  There are two other completed ones, two under construction, and one with a concrete pad waiting to be built.  I watch the builders working really hot in the 100+ degree weather and feel bad for them.  
The development started with the concept of a concrete pad for RV parking and an unfinished coach house.  Some of the coach houses are 12 x 20 and some are 12 x 24.  Most people have finished theirs on their own, as workshops, laundry rooms, men caves, or with a simple bed and toilet for guests.  Most have huge motor homes where the people actually live.  Some people take their RVs with them during the winter back north, and others just leave them parked on their lots.  
Another home style option here is the casita.  It is a bit larger than the tiny house. It has the concrete RV pad, too.    We looked at a model one.  Very nice inside.
Another option is called a port home.  The homes are larger with huge RV garages.  We looked at one, and they are beautiful.
Finally, there are some "regular" houses.  They have a similar look as the port homes, but are for people without RVs.  Apparently there are quite a few people who have lived here for several years in one of the RV options.  They have decided they want to discontinue RVing, but like the community so much that they build a regular home here.  So, it is nice having a variety of housing here.  All share the clubhouse and all of the amenities, including lawn service, and the social activities of the community.
DINNER:  I used some of the leftover rotisserie chicken and made an Indian spicy dish with it over rice.  Side was some really good (and inexpensive) fresh asparagus, steamed slightly. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 26, 2017. The bed fits in our tiny house bedroom!

LOCATION:  New tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot.   High 100.  Hazy
It feels like another successful day....
Our first stop was the City of Mission where we switched our sewer, water and trash from the builders' account to ours.  Later in the day, they delivered our spanking new trash can.  They have a system whereby  "Winter Texans" (like us) who leave for the summer can alert the City and they reduce our  monthly fees.  
Our next stop was the furniture store where we picked up our bed.  The truck was loaded down with the headboard, footboard, rails, mattress and box springs.  We tied everything down with twine.  We had to take the back roads so we could drive slowly home.
Then, the bed assembly.  It was quite the job.  George is really handy, but even for him it wasn't easy.  I don't know how most people do these kinds of chores.  We held our breath to see if it will fit our room.  It does!  Yeah!  It does take up most of the room, but that is ok.  I really really like the colors on the headboard and footboard.  They match the brown/grey floor tiles, and the white window trim, and the grey wall paint.  
The assembly took most of the afternoon.  We were left with a huge pile of cardboard, plastic wrap and styrofoam.  We found a recycle center where we will take it.  Glad to know that it won't just be landfill.  So much!
We did some computer work.  I've been applying to lots of housesitting assignments for this summer. We have one assignment in eastern Washington in late June.  We are spending the entire summer in the Northwest, returning back here mid-October.  We want to do a lot of camping, but it would also be good to have a home base for a few weeks here and there.  I've applied to one assignment in Jackson, Wyoming as well as one in central British Columbia, which would be excellent bases.  I've also applied to some in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, with the idea of flying out of Seattle or Vancouver and storing the Airstream for a few weeks.  We'll see which ones come through.  Always exciting! 
We rushed up to the clubhouse for the weekly Friday night potluck.  Everyone brings meat or something to grill plus a side dish to share.  We grilled porkchops and I made my mother's potato salad recipe.  There were only a few other couples.  They say this is normal in the summer, but in the winter it is a full house. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 25, 2017. Official Texans!

LOCATION:  In our new tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot again - 98.  Partly cloudy
Today felt successful.  We went to the drivers' license office with a stack of required documents.  We had to show proof of Texas car insurance. George was able to email it to the rep so she could print it out.  (Online version was not sufficient.).  We passed through the first scrutiny of the requirements, then were allowed to complete the application.  
We were then each taken to an office to process the application.  That's when the trouble began.  We were ok with ID - passport, SD driver's license, social security card.    But we did not have sufficient evidence of our home ownership.  We had the deed to the new house, but no copies of bills like water and electricity to prove we live there.  I tried to use the home insurance policy as proof, which would have worked, but I only had it online and they did not have wifi for me to send it to them to print.  George had it on his phone, but could not access it without a password (left at home).  Finally, they said that proof of car ownership would work.  But, the car is in George's name only, so he had to sign a form stating that I co-own it.  Finally, finally, the ugly photo was taken and we now have our temporary licenses.  The whole process made me feel like a criminal.  I guess we were lucky, though.  We've talked to people who said it took them 3 weeks!  
Then, it was off to more DIY shopping.  Lots of little things like drill bits, hinges, etc.  We walked miles around Lowe's then Home Depot in search of stuff.
We are using the wifi at Retama Village's clubhouse.  Every time I go up there to do internet work, someone wants to chat.  So nice.  
One of 2 libraries in the clubhouse...
They have started building a new tiny house across from us.  I'm going to take pictures of the progress - they seem to go up very fast.  Day 1.....
Little by little, thing are shaping up.  
DINNER:  Rotisserie chicken and salad.  

May 24, 2017. Lots of running around in Mission!

LOCATION:  Our new tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not as hot.  Only (!) about 93
What a wonderful start to the day.....A neighbor dropped by wth a welcome gift, a wooden spoon that her husband had carved.  She chatted quite a bit and gave us some helpful information.
We feel like we accomplished more today.  First, we did the annual required Texas car inspection.  With that certificate, plus titles, proof of residency, proof of Texas car insurance, and a fat checkbook, we were able to get our new Texas license plates!  One down!
Then to Target, where I had seen a table that I liked.  We wanted to make sure that the chairs we had bought would fit with the table, so we took a chair we had bought in another store into Target to test it out.  Yeah, it fits!   It is an indoor/outdoor table so we can take it outside when the weather is cooler.  "Some assembly required"......
Back to the store where we had bought the chairs.  We had to return one as it was wobbly, and wanted to buy 2 more, so we would have a total of 4......planning ahead for hopeful visitors.  But, they only had 2, so we have to order the 4th one online.  Always something.....
Then to Lowe's DIY store to get the window blinds cut down a half inch.  I had to stay in the truck to guard the chairs in the back of the truck, so George was unsupervised in Lowe's, a bad thing.  He bought a couple of things that I'm going to return another day.  Unnecessary stuff that will just clutter the house.  Naughty boy.  
Back home, George installed one set of blinds.  I think they look great!
Then, off to have cocktails at the home of some neighbors.  These people used to live in a mobile home and had a small coach house here.  They liked the community so much that they sold their motor home and built a "regular" house.  It is beautiful.  It cooled down enough in the evening to sit in their patio.  We had a very pleasant chat with them.  Everyone seems so nice.  
DINNER:  In my goal to use up all the cans in the "emergency food box" and starting afresh, we had a can of soup.  Pretty unexciting!  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 23, 2017. The adventures of homeownership!

LOCATION:  In our new tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  More of the same heat.  Hazy.  High 95
I cooked our first breakfast in the tiny house. I almost hate to get the kitchen dirty!    
 It seems like we get caught in a Catch -22 in everything we do in order to become Texas residents.  Today we went to get our Texas vehicle registration which is required to get our truck registered in Texas.  After waiting in line, we were told that they cannot do it until we get our vehicle insurance transferred to Texas.  So, we will do that and return.  So, vehicle registration is put on hold another day.  
Next up, furniture shopping.  There is a 20-mile piece of interstate between us and the larger city of McAllen.  We drove up and down the strip all day, looking at every furniture store we could find.  We were really getting desperate.  We need small chairs, but everything seems large and overstufffed.  We are also looking for a dining room table that can be indoor/outdoor, and a portable small kitchen island.  All pretty hard to come by. 
Up and down we went.  At about our last stop, we found some wicker chairs that we like.  Good price.  Interchangeable cushions. Good for indoor/outdoor.  Grey color to match our decor.  Let's get 2!    
Then to a DIY store to buy blinds.  We need them ASAP in order to keep the hot sun from shining in.   We found sets that fit our windows.
Exhausted (again), we returned home.  I excitedly unwrapped the chairs only to find out that one is wobbly.  We will have to return it tomorrow.  Then, George started to install the window blinds.  How exciting!  Oh no.....1/2 inch too wide!  We will have to go back to the DIY store and have them trimmed.  
Finished with running around for the day, we went to the clubhouse and enjoyed a beautiful swim.  We had the pool to ourselves.  Afterwards, we used the clubhouse wifi.   I found a kitchen island online and ordered it.  Hope it works ok.  
DINNER:  I had to finish up the SPAM, so made some pasta with the leftover artichoke hearts and some cream cheese for a sauce.  I'm not going to buy SPAM again for quite a while.  :-( 
A neighbor stopped by after dinner inviting us to their house for drinks tomorrow night.  They said the main reason they bought here (a regular house, not RV lot) is due to the people.  We have found that to be so true, so far.  

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 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.