Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This

I was going to write about Sugar Snap Stir Fry tonight but other things came up.

Momma said there’d be days like this…

It was very hot.

Then the rains came and that was a good thing. The temperatures dropped into the 90’s and the caliche tamped itself temporarily down.

Then the wind changed. The rain rained itself sideways right into the vent on the kitchen slide making the refrigerator go out.

Heidi still had the phone number of a roving RV repair man that she talked to a few months ago when the rig washers were washing oil based mud off the RV and soaked the vent, knocking the frig out the first time.

He had talked her through a magical magnet resetting trick over the phone. We sent him a thank you check for $25. She called. He called back and said he’d forgotten how to do it. Maybe we should have sent $35.

She asked him how we could prevent this from happening in the future (it rains sideways a lot on the Oregon coast).

He said, next time you buy an RV, get one with the vents on the top.

OK.

While I was sleeping and Heidi was running back and forth between the gate and the soggy vent, one of our guys stopped by and offered to help.

He accidentally dropped the magnet inside the vent where it found a metal home and he lost it completely.

When I woke up yesterday afternoon, that much of the drama had unfolded. I hobbled out with the umbrella that we were surprised to find still tucked under the front seat (not really much need for it in Texas between the wind and the drought). I held it while Heidi fished around with dueling screwdrivers, trying to grab the magnet.

The sun broke through making the umbrella even more superfluous than usual so I worked the gate while Heidi continued her vent project. She found the magnet, took a guess and, viola! the frig came back on!

We were relieved not to have to haul all of our food down to the Company Man’s extra frig (we did have to do that after the rig washer incident). We were celebrating Heidi’s magnet magic with a close game of Whist when we heard a LOUD thunk.

Heidi went out to find water gushing out from under the RV. She came inside with this:

The filter canister cracked and plunked right off. We called our dealership in Iowa to see if we could still use internal water. Well, that would be a no but they did assure us that it was an anomaly, a defective part and  it wouldn’t happen again.

OK.

Next we called the other roving RV repair guy who had just replaced our grey water valve and toilet this month and our micro/wave convection oven last month. He never called back. Heidi will start the phone calling over again this a.m. The part will have to be ordered so we’ll be waterless for a while (we have plenty of drinking water – just no tap).

Sooo, Heidi bleached a bucket that had previously held who knows what – probably rattlesnake heads – and filled it from the tank outside so we’d have water to do dishes. While she was beaching the snake and scorpion remnants out of the bucket, our mud logger stopped by to tell her to tell me to be careful tonight because they’ve seen 5 rattlesnakes in the past 2 nights under their trailers (about 100 yards from us).

Heidi came in with the bucket and the snake news.

By this time we no longer cared about health and fitness so we ate an entire DiGiorno’s thin crust pizza. Heidi was pretty tired by all this problem solving and went to bed.

A little later, I opened the freezer to get an ice pack for my knee. When I opened the door, a bag of ice cubes fell out on Henry’s head. It wasn’t a very big bag but he doesn’t have a very big head. It didn’t hurt him but it did scare him. He jumped backwards, into his water dish and flipping his dog food all over the floor.

Seeing his dog food all over the floor didn’t make him hungry so I picked it up. But seeing his water all over did make him thirsty which led to Henry drinking a quart and needing to go right outside where the rattlesnakes are gathering in the dark to rumba. They call a group of rattlesnakes a rumba. I have no idea why.

Momma said there would be days like this…

Just  now, as I was finishing writing, there was a knock on the door. I’m used to the bells but a knock on the door at 3:30 in the morning is always a little startling. There was a man with all gold teeth standing on my fake green carpet perilously near the potential rumba. He said in a semi-desperate voice:

Ma’am, I don’t suppose there’s any chance you have jumper cables? There’s gotta be at least 50 men on this site and not one of them, I’m not kiddin’ now, not one of them has a set of jumper cables.

Our frig is iffy, we can’t take a shower or flush the toilet (well, we can but without water so it’s more of an inside outhouse) and I suppose, before it’s all over, we may smell a little ripe, but by golly WE have jumper cables!

I got them out of the truck and he said:

Ma’am, you just saved my life. I mean it! Really!

I’m not sure why the cables were a life line but hey, any day that ends by sharing life saving jumper cables is a really fine day!

Once Bitten Twice Shy

One day a snake dropped out of a tree and landed on my Grandma’s head. This happened when my Grandma was in her 30’s. She lived to be 102 and she never got over it.

“Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.” ~ Chinese Proverb

I’m not particularly afraid of snakes but I’ve never had one bite me or drop on my head which may be why I’m more afraid of spiders. 

Last month was the beginning of a new year on the Chinese Lunar calendar: The Year of the Snake. Swell. I’m not superstitious but the sound of it doesn’t give me a warm, pleasant feeling. However, folks who are into that type of thing are more optimistic:

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve. ~HanBan.com

Hmm… This is just a guess, but I’m thinking a snake in the RV would mean H, H & I in a motel room which would mean our family might eventually starve. Anyway, we haven’t seen any inside but we have seen several outside snakes since relocating deep in the heart of Texas. Most are just the regular garden variety.

Around this time of year down here it’s the Season of the Snake. When the snakes start sunning, the tails and the tales start spinning. Everyone that comes through the gate has a story.

A fellow couldn’t wait to show this one to Heidi yesterday.

A 5 footer - I'm not sure if that was with or without the head.

And a friend stopped by to show us another.

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I’m arachnophobic. I’m shy with spiders having been more than twice bitten – I think.

All I know for sure is there have been red bumps on my legs and squished spiders in my sleeping bag/bed on more than one occasion.

And I’ve bitten back. This I know this because the other half of the spider was still swimming in my Grape Nuts.

I used to catch garter snakes in the back yard when I was little. They didn’t bite but they do kind of pinch if you stick your finger in their mouth, which I did. I came close to being bitten when I caught a 5 foot water moccasin on a hiking trail. It was almost, but not quite, dead which is probably good or I might have been almost, but not quite dead, too, since I was only about 6 or 7.

Anyway, everyone has a snake story now. Last night, the guys at our TSL said the buzzards were feasting on a rattlesnake just up the road a ways. I’m hoping it was one of the 3 or 4 that have been spotted circling the wagons this week.

I was standing right beside this one when I took the picture, but one of the guys had made sure he was already under the weather.

It may be that I’m not afraid of snakes because I’m not real sharp or maybe, like I said, it’s just because I’ve never had one drop on my head – yet. I figure if we stay in Texas long enough, anything can happen!

The upside of having snakes around (it’s good to try to find an upside) is that it should keep the mice population under control and out of my door.

Although, I’m beginning to rethink that. The other night, the guys stopped to tell us about a bobcat that was 15-20 yards from the RV. Heidi was real disappointed not to have seen it. Me, not so much, although I would have liked to take a picture. Anyway, I was telling that to one of the guys who said:

Hey, I’ve got a picture for you. My boss just sent this from a rig about 30 miles from here.

OK, that kind of took the comfort out the mouse prevention bit.

I looked at the picture and then at Henry VIII. The upside of not getting enough exercise is that Henry has put on a little weight and is now officially bigger than a rabbit.

Last night, a driver was warning me about the rattlesnakes. I told him about the picture and he said:

Oh ya, I just saw one chasing a rabbit across the highway.

Really? I think we may have a crop of rabid rabbit chasing rattlers this year!

The folks at Shorty’s BBQ and Grill seem to have found a solution that works for them.

We have Wasp spray.

I just had a driver come in and say:

Be careful, Mama (they say Mama a lot here), I’ve seen six 6 foot rattlesnakes in the last half hour. They’re on the move!

It makes me feel like I’m in Tremors and they’re going to start popping up through the caliche!

I’m trying to remember to stop for a second and scan the area before I fling myself out of the RV in the dark. I don’t expect a snake to charge me, but I doubt he’d be keen on being stomped on. According to Buzzle (lots of rattlesnake facts here), rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night and can bite even after being beheaded. OK…

I’m issuing a warning to any kind of snake out there even thinking about coming too close, I’m pretty sure I’m a dead-eye with the Wasp killer. I haven’t ever actually tried it, but I’ve always been able to handle a spray can! And then there’s always the long, long-handled hoe.

As the African proverb says:

A weapon which you don’t have in your hand won’t kill a snake.

So y’all take care and be safe. Remember to keep your weapons handy and keep one eye on the ground and one on the sky. You just never know.

And Happy Easter  – again this week!

A Very Un-Shakespearean Comedy of Errors

What is the course and drift of your compact?
~William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

It seems our course has run somewhat adrift of late. Picking up where I left off last time, I’m still on the rebound from the fluke of a non-flu bug. I think that I might have been nearly well yesterday, if not for another unfortunate chain of events.

I broke my toe once. I was on a beach in California looking for sea glass. I ran away from a wave right into a rock. I broke my 2nd toe which took the brunt of the hit because it’s longer, if not bigger, than my big toe. I share this only to preface what’s about to follow. Stubbing a toe which sticks out anyway, particularly underwater, seems understandable. What’s happened here, maybe a little less so.

By the way, it was a beautiful beach and I did find tons of sea/beach glass. If you’re terribly bored and are inclined to hunt, there are 15 obvious pieces of sea glass in this photo (green, brown, clear and blue).


The first time Heidi broke her toe, her little toe (this was years ago) she was at my house helping in the kitchen and she ran into my foot. At her request, I took her to the E.R. where the Dr pushed in back in place and taped it up. As it turns out, there’s not much else to be done with broken toes.

The next time she broke her toe – the same one – she was coming up her basement steps and somehow caught her little toe that doesn’t stick out at all on the step and broke it. She called me. I went over and, in an attempt to help, I accidentally set it by grabbing her foot too hard. She hollered and then I taped it up.

Every why hath a wherefore. ~ William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Although I’m not questioning the words of the bard, night before last when Heidi broke her toe – same one again – going up the steps (inside), I began to wonder about the why and wherefore. Somehow, she snagged it on the step, even though her little toe still doesn’t stick out at all, or didn’t until then. Not appreciating my last effort, she decided to set it herself. She hollered (only a little) this time and I taped it up.

She went to bed with her toes taped and wrapped in an icepack. Yesterday, predictably, business was booming which meant quite a bit of foot time for Heidi. I got up early to help. I worked while she kept her foot up and cold-packed.

All in all, things were going pretty well until I decided to fix dinner. I’ve done a lot of cooking in my time but this is the first time I’ve had a convection oven. The problem with the convection oven is that it looks just like the microwave oven because it is the microwave oven.

There should have been nothing to it since I was just baking fish.

I’m not sure what happened. I think I forgot that I’d pushed the magic button that transforms the microwave into convection. The timer beeped. The fish was ready and I brushed my hand against the side of the convected-micro and fried it.

Heidi had discarded the icepack by then, so after some cold water and burn spray, I stuffed it with little baggies of frozen Ragu because cold-pack was warm.

I’m pretty stoic when it comes to pain so I was surprised by just how much the burn hurt. I was even more surprised when, a little while later, I looked down to see blood trickling down my arm. It hurt, but I didn’t think it hurt that much.

The thing about baggies of frozen Ragu is that they thaw pretty quickly when your hand is on fire. I was in such a rush to cram something in the ice-pack wrap before Heidi hopped up and hurt another toe that I didn’t notice they weren’t in a freezer bags.

Upon closer examination, I realized that it was Ragu, not blood, trickling in a sticky sweet line down my arm. While I was washing up, Heidi ended up hobbling over after all and found a bag of peas which worked much better.

For some reason all this excitement reignited my diminishing flu systems which left me in the bathroom and Heidi with no choice but to tromp in and out with her taped up toes and sandals (even though everyone else is wearing parkas again).

By 8:30, she was sleeping, the wind was roaring and the newly promoted SA Henry VIII had taken the helm. He’s unflappable under pressure and has yet to break a dewclaw or burn a whisker.

Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Postscript:

I wrote this early this a.m.  Because some of you are given to worrying I wanted to wait to publish until I could add a health update:

Heidi’s toe is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

After a night of burn spray and peas and a day of sleep, my hand is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

The entire misadventure has worn Henry out. He’s sleeping in front of the fake fireplace, relieved of all Secret Agent responsibilities, and he barely remembers any of it at all. 😉

The Frog Whisperer

It’s been raining – quite a lot –  but that doesn’t really explain it.

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There was that brief time, back in May, when we were parked right next to a swamp. There, it would have been less surprising. But here, south of Kenedy and a very long way from any water, well, it’s just odd.

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Since the rains started a few days ago, stepping outside at night is like stepping into the 2nd of the 9 plagues. As far as I know, they didn’t have  Tumblebugs Egypt and ours have washed away, but the activity on the green carpet and surrounding area continues.

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We’ve switched from insects to amphibians.

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I like frogs. I try not to step on them on my way to the gate. As soon as I start down the steps, they freeze. I guess they think if they don’t move, I won’t see them.

You can keep your willpower, Frog. I am going home to bake a cake. (The Toad)      ~ Arnold Lobel

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Blah, said Toad. ~ Arnold Lobel

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The cynics among you may think that they’ve come to eat the bugs the lights beckon at night.

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Time’s fun when you’re havin’ flies! ! Kermit

But I have another theory and I’m pretty sure it’s valid. To test it, I cornered a frog. He told me the first part of the story.

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When I sit at the table and turn on the computer, Henry likes to take the window seat. I thought he just liked watching the men and the cows and the trucks and the rig.

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It took some persuasion, but I finally got one of them to come clean.

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This last little guy led me straight to the source.

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I came inside where I found The Frog Whisperer feigning sleep. He’d tried to cover his tracks, but as you can see, he was in a hurry and didn’t do a very thorough job of it.

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Come back and wake me up…..half past May! (the Toad)            ~ Arnold Lobel

Really, I think he’s just being modest about his gift. He’s Henry VIII. He’s too shy be a Cesar, but he does know how to whisper. I’m convinced.

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There (But Not) Back Again

He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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And that’s just about what happened next (picking up from where I left off last time). We came to another Fork, we stepped into the Road, and we could never have guessed where we were about to be swept off to!

I thought we had the ideal situation. We had a 2 bedroom apartment on the resort property in exchange for being the night managers. That meant we were on call every night from whenever the office closed (8 in the off-season, 10 in season) until it opened the next morning between 7 and 8. As Guest Services Manger (me) and Assistant Manager (Heidi) we both worked full time but had 2 days a week off (although we were on still on call every night).

We pulled the slides in and parked the RV behind an empty building at the resort.

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I sort of expected to be doing this for years. We loved the area. We joined a wonderful little church. We liked our boss. We worked well with the staff. And we had a steady income. If we weren’t working, we were on the beach.

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Henry became the resident celebrity. He was even the ring bearer – off leash, no kidding –  for a couple who got married barefoot on the beach, just like in a movie. 😀

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But the fame was fleeting. Tourist season ended and Heidi’s hours got cut from 40 to 7 per week. The proverbial writing was on the wall, or at least in the checkbook.

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When Heidi began having chest pains, I knew we had to start looking at other options. We were sinking, just like the Mary D Hume.

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During our time at the resort, Heidi and I had done the majority of the hiring and firing.  Well, I didn’t actually do any firing, but I did participate in the hiring! 😀

One woman I’d hired to work the front desk on weekends left mid-summer to take another job. She and her husband were also workamping at the same private RV park Heidi and I had started out in. They ran into the same things there that we’d encountered, only they chose to leave mid-stint.

I called Joanie one late afternoon in October to see how they were doing. They were working as gate guards on a ranch in Texas. She really encouraged me to look into it. Jumping ahead – this is during a visit. She and John subbed for 5 days last month on the same ranch we were on in Cuero! Small world!

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I’d read about gate guarding in the Workamping magazine and it didn’t sound too appealing, to be honest. But at this point, I was past appealing slipping into better just take anything that’s honest and pays. We were making payments on an RV we weren’t living in. We were already working or on call almost 24 hours a day. With Heidi’s hours slashed, we had a diminishing bank account and she was having stress induced chest pains.

We called the Gate Guard Services office in Corpus. They sent a packet. We decided to follow through. Back then, you did everything from wherever you were. We went to the county jail in town and got our fingerprinting done. We did our best on the Level II Security test and waited.

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Like many who are considering gate guarding, we searched for all the information we could find. Two years ago, we couldn’t find much. We did find Kit and Jerry’s blog. Unlike my rambling stories, Kit writes more of a daily diary. Reading Kit’s blog and talking to Joanie gave us some idea of what we might be getting into.

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The Fork in the road seemed to be pointing south. We called the company after 2 or 3 weeks and were told we were approved. Then came the next wave. There was no guarantee of a job. Patty said just get to Texas and we’ll call you when we have something for you. Hmm… That’s not how I like to roll, but roll we did.

It was another gut wrenching time. We loved Gold Beach and had made many dear friends there. We were a long ways from There and Back Again.  We were so far that we knew if we cut our ties this time, there would be no going back (my apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for using his lovely words in such a sloppy way).

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We talked. We prayed. We packed up.

We said many more tearful goodbyes and hit the highway once again. This time we headed for Texas. I was pretty sure I’d stepped in the Road and failed to keep my feet

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“Farewell,” they cried, “Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.”  ~ J. R.R. Tolkien

In A Land Far, Far Away

So many people have written, asking what in the world possessed Heidi and I to embark on this wild ride. Since I began writing Fork as a way to up date a few friends and family who already knew the whole story, I guess it never occurred to me to begin at the beginning! I’ll try to move the tale along with photos (that way you can skip the narrative if you wish and still get the general idea).

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It all began in a land far, far away called Iowa. Heidi and I met, I’m guessing, in 1982 in the nursery at our church. Our boys were both born that year, 6 months apart, so we spent quite a bit of time in the nursery.

To be honest, we didn’t hit it off at first. Actually, she didn’t particularly like me and I was afraid of her. 😀

We were just about as opposite in our relational styles as two people could be.

Heidi was a fiery, straight to the point, red-headed Fighter.

I was a classic, non-confrontational, peacemaking Flighter.

We got used to each other after a while. 😉

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The first Fork in the Road really took place in the late 1980’s when we started, what eventually proved to be a fairly successful Speaking/Training business, capitalizing on our opposite-ness. We taught communication skills – primarily to healthcare professionals – for the next 20 years.

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In the spring of 2008, Heidi found a renter for her house, bought a 32 foot Motorhome and packed up to escape Iowa winters, which were becoming miserable for her due to some health issues.

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With one half  hour driving lesson and verbal instructions on how to hook up her Saturn for towing, she was ready to go. Did I mention she’s a Fighter? She was completely undaunted.

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I was recently divorced so Henry and I decided to hitch a ride. We said many, many tearful goodbyes and set out to begin a grand adventure.

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Initially, we’d hoped to take the business on the road, but the logistics of marketing 6-9 months in advance when you didn’t know where you’ll be living stumped us. At this point we came to another Fork in the Road.

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When we’d spoken at the National Health Care Convention in Portland, Oregon several years earlier, we rented a car and took a road trip to Cannon Beach. I’d always loved the ocean, but Heidi, not so much. She fell in love with the ocean in Oregon.

Many of you are familiar with an organization called Workamper which caters to part-time and full-time RVers. Before leaving Iowa, we saw a Workamper ad for a job in a private RV park in Gold Beach, Oregon (on the southern coast, 60 miles north of the CA border). We called and got the job. We work-camped (each working in the office 20 hrs per week) in exchange for free site and utilities, with the promise of pay for hours over the required 20.

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At this point in our newly begun adventure, we ran into two problems. The first is fairly common. There didn’t turn out to be any hours over the required 20. The second was hopefully rare: the owners of the park were unethical and unscrupulous (which is why I’m not mentioning the name here).  There is an English proverb that says:

Every path has its puddle.

Well, yep, we  stepped in that one. No extra hours meant no income. I was a frequent visitor at the Gold Beach Visitors center – coming in for tide tables and trying to learn all I could about the area. One of the part-time employees told me there was a position opening up. I was fortunate enough to be hired. It was an incredible job! I loved promoting the area and I could watch the waves break on the beach from my desk.

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As much as I loved the Visitors Center, it was only 18 hours a week at minimum wage. So when our 6 months of work-camping ended, we came to another Fork in the Road.

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We said goodbye to our new friends, left Oregon and headed to California for another work-camping job.

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For 6 months we worked at Edgewater Resort and RV Park on Clear Lake. This time we got paid for every hour worked and then we repaid the park for our site (at a reduced rate).

I cleaned the pool. That was the easy job. 😀

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We cleaned cabins, campsites and did yard work. We cleaned the restrooms… all the time!

I’m sure we had the cleanest restrooms in the state of California. Not only did we clean them every hour –  each Monday we spent half a day power washing and bleaching every inch from the ceiling to the floor drains and all the fixtures in between.

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We painted fences and built fire-pits and shoveled gravel.

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It was tough, physical labor and it made for one long, hot summer. We worked 5 days a week and cleaned houses for our boss on the 6th.

I don’t think either of us had ever been as tired in our lives as we were that summer. At the end of the day, Henry had to help me hold my book. 😀

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This fishing was good, though! I was rarely too tired to fish (catch and release).:D

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Six months later, the season was over in CA and we’d come to another Fork in the Road. Henry’s traveling companion in these photos is Harvey, the un-invisible Pooka – my homage to my favorite movie, Harvey.

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We longed for the wild Oregon coast.

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My wonderful boss at the Visitors Center did some fast talking and I got my job back. This is a photo of Heidi and I with Sue, who was my boss, and now is a life long friend!

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While I worked at the Visitors Center in Gold beach, we lived 27 mile to the north in Port Orford where we worked as Park Hosts. We worked in two stunningly beautiful State Parks.

This was my commute.

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If you’ve never driven 101 along the Western coast, it would make a great bucket list addition!

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I don’t think anyone’s ever had a more beautiful drive to work.

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At Cape Blanco, Heidi cleaned 5 little cabins while I worked in Gold Beach.

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Two nights a week, we sold firewood. We were frequent visitors to the lighthouse in the park.

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Tseriadun State Park, also in Port Orford, is a day use only park. We were there Oct – Dec, so all we did was keep the path to the ocean and the beach litter free.

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It was a rough gig as you can see. 😉

We were the only ones there. We closed the gate every night at 6 p.m.

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The State Park jobs in Oregon are usually set up on a 3 month rotation. When our time in Port Orford was over, we settled in a little RV park in Gold Beach. It was off-season so most of the time we had the whole park to ourselves.

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We left our chairs in the lighthouse for storm watching. It was also a wonderful place to watch the highway of crab boats that ran from December through March.

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I literally walked out the door and down the beach to work. It was incredible! Then, one day, it dawned on us that we were still really quite broke and were running out of  years to rectify that.

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Through my contacts at the VC, I was offered a job as a live-in night manager at a beautiful resort in town.

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Within weeks, I was also the Guest Services Manager, Heidi was the Assistant General Manager and Henry was the Mascot.

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Which is all the data my computer can handle for tonight.

Next stop, Texas.

To be continued…

Mayday! on May Day!

Yesterday was May 1st. That means yesterday was May Day, except in Texas, where not one single person that came through our gate (maybe 150 or so all told) had ever heard of May Day.

Heidi baked a big batch of warm cookies for the 5:30 meeting. We cheerfully passed out candy to everyone who came through in, greeting them with a hearty Happy May Day!

It quickly become apparent that no one had ever heard of May Day. Is this just a Midwestern thing? May baskets made with pipe-cleaner handles, filled with candy and sometimes flowers that you hang on the front door knob or leave on the Welcome mat in the case of no knob. Then you ring the doorbell and hide in the bushes until your friend opens the door and sees their gift! 😀

I did it. My kids did it. My Facebook friends assure me that it’s still happening in Iowa, but in Texas, not so much. Clearly there’s no point in Tap to create event here. We did have one Californian who’d heard of it but he was probably a Midwest transplant.

Anyway, everyone was happy to eat the candy and cookies and it didn’t really matter to them what the occasion was. They did make it known that they know what Cinco de Mayo is. They’ll be pretty disappointed when they come to the gate on Saturday if they’re expecting Margaritas!

Last night, Henry and I were having a Mayday of our own.

 Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal. It derives from the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me”.  ~Wikipedia

If you’re a regular reader, you know, we’ve had some mighty mouse duels. Heidi – 14, Mice-0 at last count. Henry and I have enjoyed weeks of peace until last night. We both heard it at the same time. As usual, the sound started in his food dish.

Henry, who had been long asleep in his bed, switched to his high alert mode, ears straight up. He took a few tentative steps toward his dish. I took a few steps toward his dish. The sound changed from the rattle of dog food to the familiar stuck in the sticky trap thumping.

At this point, Henry changed course. He’s a perfect, certified, pet therapy dog. He’s not a watch dog or a mouser.

I’ve never seen him hide between the footstool and the chair before. This caused me to become a little alarmed at just what was thumping the trap up and down under the cabinets. But not alarmed enough to look. Just alarmed enough to build a protective barrier to prevent it from thumping out onto the kitchen floor.

I knew a mouse could easily squeeze between the water jugs, but I didn’t think he’d be able to drag the trap through. For, oh I suppose an hour and a half, the thumping persisted. Henry continued to look alarmed behind the footstool. I turned on yesterday morning’s GMA to drown out the sound.

I made periodic trips to the coffee pot to make sure the mouse was still safely ensconced. You can’t really do catch and release with mice and the only traps that have worked for us down here (and believe me, we’ve tried them all) are the sticky ones.

When we caught the first mouse under the sink, I was going to take it out, but I saw it’s heart beating and I couldn’t finish the job. Heidi has no problem with this whatsoever and considers every mouse caught a personal victory.

I was relieved when the thumping stopped. This was a change in the pattern. It usually goes on night. This mouse had also been blessedly mute (not a bit of squeaking).

I decided that either the mouse was very, very tired or sleeping or inexplicably dead. I slowly pulled away the water bottles.

A cricket almost the size of a Dorito had been thumping the trap all over the floor.

~

~

Seriously, don’t let anyone tell you everything isn’t bigger in Texas. We need a mouse trap for our bugs!

Phobias

All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears — of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.” ~ Dave Barry

We’re at our new gate – more on that tomorrow.

We had a few misadventures while we were getting ready to leave yesterday. It started with the German Shepard, sort of. We had some folks park next to us in the waiting lot who seemed nice enough. They had a chihuahua, (which is really hard to spell, by the way) who barked quite a lot and a German Shepard who didn’t. She (the Shepard, not the lady) had the ability to suddenly and silently materialize, usually just as Heidi was peering in the bin of the RV.

In addition to Bovinaphobia, Heidi has:

Cynophobia – the abnormal fear of dogs. According to Dr. Timothy O. Rentz of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Texas, animal phobias are among the most common of the specific phobias and 36% of patients who seek treatment report being afraid of dogs or cats.

(isn’t that amazing?)

Although snakes and spiders are more common animal phobias, cynophobia is especially debilitating because of the high prevalence of dogs (in the United States estimated at over 62 million in 2003).  ~ Wikipedia

Henry in the tub, looking scary pathetic after a romp on the beach in Galveston

The problem, in all honesty, preceded the neighborly dogs. It really began with my Automysophobia. I decided I’d better do all the wash before we started a new gate. Since I have a washer and dryer in the 5th wheel, I’m not sure why I thought this was an urgent need, but I did.

In the middle of a game of Cribbage, we heard an odd, non-dog sound, coming from the front of the RV.

Washer and dryer – and the TV –  still covered in its original plastic.

Heidi rushed out to find water streaming out around the hitch. A quick check of the closet confirmed our fears that something had gone terribly wrong with the wash. The clothes inside the washer were damp but the carpet around it and the carpet in the closet was soaked.

After a quick call to the RV dealership and another to the mobile RV repairman, the solution was clear. Open the outside valve. I thought Heidi had; she thought I would have. Nope.

As you know, we’ve battled HUAD (Hooking Up Anxiety Disorder/ Dystychiphobia – fear of accidents) ever since smashing the tailgate – twice. We’ve taken to hooking up the night before we move. This means doing all the negotiating that’s necessary inside to pull in the 4 slides and disconnecting everything but the electricity outside. Somewhere during this process yesterday evening, the German Shepard put her nose right up next to Heidi’s as she was doing some disconnecting, which to understate it wildly, was disconcerting for her.

While this was happening, I was getting things ready inside, including a shower for Henry and then, yes, one more load of clothes. I transitioned back to nights two weeks ago, in anticipation of getting a gate any day. I was in the living room reading when Heidi woke up sometime after midnight and announced that she might have forgotten to shut the black water valve.

I put my glow in the dark shoes halfway on without untying them, thoroughly crushing the heels. I reached in the weaponry closet and located the amazing halogen flashlight that works like a searchlight at a car dealership. I quietly slipped (more or less) outside in hopes of letting sleeping dogs lie, the Shepard in particular.

Even though it hadn’t rained for several days, the ground was as wet as the carpet in the closet! Fortunately, the black tank was closed off, but both of the grey ones were open and so was the septic cap. From the ground our phobias came back to haunt us.

“What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!”
—- Wordsworth


Why Winter Texans AREN’T Snowbirds

In The Lone Star State, It’s Like a Whole other County. You Don’t Mess With Texas because Everything’s Bigger in Texas. And those are just the official slogan. In Texas, everything is about Texas!

We don’t have Snowbirds here in Texas. We have Winter Texans. These same folks would be Snowbirds if they went to Arizona or Florida or any other warm, beckoning state. But here in Texas, where they brand everything, they are Winter Texans. I’m a Yankee Texan, who, like a Winter Texan, didn’t start out here and won’t end up here BUT isn’t leaving here for quite a long time. I’m a Yankee Texan, like fat bread is Texas Toast.

In Iowa, the only thing we branded, were our chops. Iowa Chops (pork chops) were extra thick and delicious and didn’t taste anything like feral pigs or wild boars. You can buy Texas Toast in Iowa, but I haven’t seen any Iowa Chops in Texas. It’s a shame, really.

Texas Toast was first created in the early 1920s at The Pig Stand Restaurant in Dallas or 1941 at The Pig Stand Restaurant in Beaumont. There’s still some debate over bragging rights. They serve pulled pork instead of Iowa Chops. Too bad…

You’ll find Texas Toast, 8 individual slices to a box, in most friendly freezer sections. The Texas Toast back home came in a box that said New York on the front (which I’ve read, refers to the NY garlic spread ). It was made in Ohio. But the slices were extra big. 😀

I’ve already told you about the That’s What I like About Texas DQ’s with their own special Texas menu. Texas brands everything from Texas Tea to Texas Toothpicks (deep-fried jalapeno and onion strips) to Texas Trucks. Dodge, Ford, Chevy and Nissan (really?) all claim to be the Official Truck of Texas.

When we travel and have to stay in a motel instead of the RV, as we did during our tree tango repair, we often stay at La Quinta. It’s only about $8 more than Super 8 and it’s always pet friendly.

Henry VIII is kind of a pretend dog. He doesn’t bark, he doesn’t shed, he never goes to the bathroom on the carpet or on the walls in the hall (which I’ve often seen dogs do in motels). And at La Quinta, he stays for free!

La Quinta also has a large breakfast buffet. They have all the regular things like cereals and bagels and pastries and biscuits and gravy and pre–peeled hard-boiled eggs. The eggs cost the motel $1.50 a piece (I know because I asked when I was a manager at a resort in Oregon). If I don’t get a gate soon, I may hire out as an egg-peeler.

If you travel much, you already know that, for years, the hot item on the lodging breakfast bar is a waffle that you make yourself. I don’t generally make one but I do like them a lot better than the Strawberry Pop Tarts at the last Super 8.

I made one in Galveston, just to show you that, truly, Texas has branded everything. 😀

~

When Things Went South

Since we last talked, things including but not limited to us, have gone south. The actual origin of the phrase, going south is a little uncertain, although it’s universally understood as going bad. Here’s a summary of what I found @ wise Geek.com.

One idea is that when sales or the market numbers are good, they rise toward the top of a chart (North geographically), and when they’re bad when they flow toward the bottom (South). Another explanation, which is much more popular in the North than in the South, is that after the Civil War, the South seemed to be associated with losing. Now that I’m living in Texas, I don’t think I’ll use that one. 😀

The phrase is thought to have originated in England, sort of.  People didn’t say that things were going south, instead they referred to a worsening situation as going west. Possible explanations:

1. The sun sets in the west.

2. Stories of prisoners from London traditionally heading west to the gallows.

This didn’t work as well for Americans who were fond of saying Go west, young man! where the West was associated with a place to seek one’s fortune. Over time, going west became going south which is now used by all around the world, except not so much here in Texas. 😀

To pacify you true Southerners, no one says things are going north to indicate a great improvement in circumstances! Anyway, just before things went south, we spent 2 weeks in Whitsett, waiting for our plumb assignment. We continued to meet nice folks there. More newbies:

Linda and Bobbie (Jim and Jim missed the photo op)

We got a kick out of Mary and Darrel from Arizona. Such fun folks!

Finally, after 2 weeks, the gate we’d been waiting for opened up. Jamie said to be ready at 9 a.m. so of course we were ready at 7:30 (1st law of gate guarding, always be ready hours or days ahead of when you expect to move). Mark was there to move us at 8:00.

Heidi and Mark setting up our ‘permanent digs’

The oil company was Murphy (nice folks by the way). The gate was expected to be easy. It was our first non-24 hour gate. Open it at 6 a.m. and close it at 8 p.m. according to Wayne and Barbara (the folks we replaced). It seemed so right, but right away, went so wrong!

They’re building a plant so the job security was great. It looked like a place we could stay for a year or two. The scenery wasn’t much, but gate guards are used to that.

After 14 months in this business, we’re considered seasoned gate guards. Not experts, just seasoned.  But this time, we made some first-timer errors. The fact that the same couple had been at the gate for 4 months and that our FS had phone service gave us a false sense of security. We didn’t want to spend the money to drive 100 miles to check the gate. Big mistake.

Mark got us set up and drove off. We got out our computers. No internet. We have both Verizon and AT&T internet cards and a Wilson booster… nada.

Heidi made a call to AT&T on her phone. They said we were way too far from any towers (and that the internet and the phone towers are separate).  The call was apparently a fluke, because we couldn’t call out again from the RV – to anyone.

I closed the gate at 8 as instructed only to have guys coming and going until after 11. I stayed up until at least midnight every night and slept like you do when you have a newborn – half way awake, listening for the bell. The padlock was terminally jammed so it was kind of, sort of locked. Heidi got up at 5, which was good since we had people on site by 5:15.

The second day, neither phone worked. My phone found this to be so discouraging that it simply quit altogether and it’s bits faded from view until none could be found. It’s now in the AT&T recycle center.

After 5 trips to Fowlerton (pop. 62) to call the office, we finally got a hold of Jamie and asked for a replacement. 50 miles from a grocery store or Walmart was fine; but 50 miles from a cell tower, not so much. We couldn’t even call 911. That was on Monday.

Jamie said he’d have someone there Tuesday unless we could wait until Wednesday. No problem. Tuesday, Larry came by to say they could have someone there at noon on Thursday. No problem, although I was starting to feel like we were playing out a cheeseburger scene between Popeye and Wimpy.

The traffic from 97 was non-stop and so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other, which made Henry VIII think we were yelling, so he threw-up in his bed. Hmm…

Henry in his post-crisis mode

You know the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yep. It was. Wednesday evening, we looked out the window at the ditch to see a river running through it. The liquid (something – never quite sure what since it was bubbling) was racing toward the RV.

Pre-flood photo

It was too dark to take a picture by the time we finished trying to build a little rock dam to stop the flood. Heidi drove into Fowlerton to call the only number we had for someone associated with the rig, since the CM wasn’t on site.

A really nice guy came out, crawled around in the dark and found a partially open valve of the something… and stopped the flow about 20 feet from the RV.

We were told to be ready to switch out the gate at noon on Thursday. We hitched up, just past dawn, in the drizzle in 3 minutes! Heidi says she’ll never time it again, since she doesn’t want the pressure to do it any faster. 😀

We had just turned around and pulled out of the spot at 7:30 when the new gate guards arrived. Larry was there by 8:30, and by the time we were have supposed to be ready to leave at noon,  we were already set up in a little RV park south of Seguin.

The 3 hour trip was uneventful, except that we apparently were the target of a random tire-stone- toss. We were already waiting to see if  the RV shop in Houston could move our repairs (from my palm tree tango) up a week or so. Of course, now they have to see how long it will take Coachman to ship out the window from Indiana. 🙂

Otherwise, all is well. We’ll use the time off to tackle taxes. Don’t ask. We don’t know anything yet. We’re talking to a CPA to help us out this year. I may continue to write here at Fork, but since we’re not on a gate, I’ll be writing about rather random topics. If you only read here for gate guard info, please check the side bar for other gate guard blogs. 😀