Almost All of 2022
Pictures can be found here
2021 wrapped up with our return to Kemah, TX. We spent our second winter at Brickhouse RV Resort. The first thing we noticed was that there were quite a few more construction workers staying here. My guess is that they may be employed by the huge highway project running through Kemah. Even with this change in the demographic, the place doesn’t feel trashy.
We enjoyed getting back to our favorite restaurants and visiting with old friends. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with Barb’s son and his girlfriend at their house on the north side of Houston. We took our annual weekend trip to friends Karen & Henry’s house in Stonewall, TX, west of Austin for their Christmas dinner party. This year, we left a day early and made a stop in Bastrop, TX at Basin RV Park. We stopped here because a couple that we met workamping in Idaho are working here this winter. We got parked and then spent the afternoon and evening with Brent & Patty. Last summer in Idaho was the first workamping experience for all of us, so it was interesting to hear their comparison of the Idaho experience compared to this place. The next morning, we continued on to Peach Country RV park in Stonewall, TX. After getting setup, we immediately went to Karen & Henry’s house. We joined them and a few other friends hitting a couple of the local wineries. One stop was Foyt Wine Collective, where we got a private tasting and explanation of the history of AJ Foyt’s racing and wine career. They have lots of racing memorabilia there, and plans to build a larger museum in the future. We returned to Karen & Henry’s for a nice dinner with the core group of people who have been attending the annual dinner for years. Saturday, we helped get ready for the larger, main-event dinner which included everyone from Friday night plus some other friends and neighbors. As usual, it was a lot of fun, including the gift swap game. Sunday morning, we got the bus ready to depart, but then went back to Karen & Henry’s for breakfast. After eating and saying goodbyes, we headed back to Kemah.
January took us to Pardi Gras in New Orleans. Due to Covid, Pardi Gras was postponed and relocated to Galveston last year. Although that would have been closer to us, we had already headed to Idaho by the time it was held. This year, New Orleans has finally relaxed Covid restrictions somewhat, so the event is being held, but with a smaller attendance cap. We drove our car to New Orleans, leaving the RV in Kemah. There is an RV park on the edge of the French Quarter, but it is almost as expensive as the hotel, and not as convenient. We did our normal work of manning registration for the event and other general help where we could. The weekend was great, although due to the smaller group, we didn’t have the Saturday street party. We drove back to Kemah Monday, with the trip timed so that we could stop for lunch in Lake Charles, LA at Steamboat Bill’s.
February took us to another Trop Rock event, Lone Star Luau. The previous LSLs were held in Marble Falls, TX, NW of Austin. This year, the event has moved to the Margaritaville Resort at Lake Conroe, TX, just north of Houston. This move has allowed the event to grow from about 300 attendees, to more like 600. We volunteer to work at this event also. Our two primary functions were to help print and laminate badges, and wrangle RV parking. In Marble Falls, the event venue was at a city owned event center, with other open city property adjacent. One of the notable features of the event was free RV parking for attendees. At the new venue, there was an unused parking lot about half a mile from the venue that RVs are going to be allowed, albeit for a fee this time. Being the first time here, we weren’t exactly sure of the size and layout of the parking lot, so I was assigned to coordinate the RV parking. It turned out the lot was a lot larger than it looked on Google Maps, so there was plenty of room. The wrench in the plan though was that it was near freezing and snowing on the day everybody was to arrive. The storm only produced a couple inches of snow, and a lot of ice, but it caused a few people to cancel their plans to come in their RVs. We still had about ten rigs there, and other than the cold, everything went well. The music at the event was great. What makes Lone Start Luau a little different than other events, is that it is a mix of sit-and-listen shows, and party-and-sing-along shows. It’s also a mix of Trop Rock and Country acts. It is hosted by Thom Shepherd & Coley McCabe-Shepherd, from Idaho, who’s musical styles cover both genres.
At the end of February, our departure from Kemah, once again was timed with attending the Pirates & Poets Songwriter Invitational in Port Aransas, TX. Port Aransas is about five hours southwest of Kemah, and the drive takes us along the coast through several towns and then on a short ferry ride into Port A. This year the singer/songwriters for the main show are Donny Brewer, Eric Erdman, and Carrie Welling. In addition to the main show, there were several other musicians Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, who performed at Shorty’s Place.
We left Port Aransas Sunday morning and headed for my son’s house, outside Dallas. We are making this a two-day trip, with a stop outside Austin at Beerburg Brewery, which is a Harvest Host. Harvest Hosts are places that allow you to stay overnight in the parking lot for free. Of course, they hope you will enjoy their business and buy something. This brewery has a nice restaurant also, so we arranged to meet old work friends, Ted & Sharlotte there for dinner and beers. In the morning, we actually were underway shortly before dawn. We want to get to my son’s house before noon, because he needs us to be there when the farrier comes to give the horses their quarterly pedicure. We made it with half an hour to spare.
We spent about six weeks at my son’s, hanging out and doing the usual list of around the house projects he saves for my visits. The cute little puppies he got a year ago are now full-sized Great Pyrenees. They are still puppies at heart though. While we were there, we noticed activity across the street in the form of sticks with flags being placed in the field. Sticks with flags usually means construction is to follow. While there are hundreds of houses being built within a mile radius of my son’s property, the field across the street had seemed to be exempt. The county tax records showed it was owned by a family member of the huge home-building corporation, and rumor had it they were going to build one big home there instead of the shoulder-to-shoulder houses they are building all around. We watched over the last couple of weeks we were there as equipment came in and started working. It turned out that the project was putting in a large sewer line and water line that would connect the big development across the big highway with a treatment plant about a mile down the little road we are on. We watched trucks bring in loads of gravel, loads of plastic pipe, and large equipment. By the time we left, they were just starting to actually dig, and they started down the road, so we had to drive down there and see the work. Once they started, they didn’t waste any time. They were digging a trench about ten feet deep, and within a couple hundred feet, they were digging, placing pipe, and filling in. Too bad we won’t be here to watch the project proceed.
In mid-April, we left TX and headed to the annual Alfa Owner’s rally in Branson, MO. We made it a two-day trip, with a stop at a Harvest Host in Talihina, OK. The Harvest Host is a restaurant that is only open on weekends, and we were there on a Tuesday, so we just had a nice, quiet evening. When we got to Branson the next day, we found quite a few other Alfas already there. This rally was supposed to be held in April 2020, but we all know what was happening in the spring of 2020. So, it was rescheduled to 2021. And then rescheduled to spring 2022. And here we are. Because of the rescheduling, and probably also because people are just beginning to be comfortable with gathering, the attendance at the rally was only about 60% of previous years. There were a lot of the familiar faces as well as quite a few new ones.
We left Branson on May 1, headed for my brother’s house in NY. We spent our first night at Tuscan Hills Winery in Effingham, IL, and our second at Bill Harris Chevrolet in Ashland, OH. Both were Harvest Hosts. The winery was nice, not far off the interstate, and had a huge parking lot. We had dinner and drinks there and enjoyed a quiet evening. The second stop was not your usual Harvest Host. It was a Chevy dealer. But they didn’t expect you to buy a car if you stayed there. Turns out the owner is an RVer, and Harvest Host member. Although he has nothing to sell the RV traveler, he has a parking lot and makes it available. The staff showed us where to park and were very welcoming. There was an Applebee’s right across the street where we had dinner. The next day we continued to my brother’s. We have been watching and complaining about fuel prices all the way across the country. Fortunately, we can research fuel prices, and we knew that Pennsylvania and New York are amongst the most expensive. So, we filed up in Youngstown, OH for $4.00/gallon. That was the most we have paid so far. Hopefully prices may go down over the summer before we return south.
At my brother’s I started working on the usual list of things that I help him with. I changed oil, filters, and blades on three mowers and the tractor, tore down an old shed that was easily 80 years old, fixed the electric fence around the bee yard (keeps bears out), replaced a couple of electrical outlets and switches, and various other little things. One of the things I enjoy doing while here is mowing, but the summer ended up being so dry that I got to do it twice.
We have two side trips scheduled this summer. One is a sailing charter in the Caribbean with friends, and the other is Barb’s son’s wedding in Arkansas. They are literally back-to-back in June. I tried to book a triangle of flights for us, but the price of doing it that way was outrageous. So instead, we will fly from NYC to the Caribbean and back, and then NYC to Arkansas. There will be one day in-between to allow for potential delays. The airlines have been having a lot of troubles lately, so we are concerned about any delay in getting to the wedding. To save us a lot of driving time and parking money, we drove to my daughter’s house on Long Island the day before our flight to the Caribbean. She is about 45 minutes from both JFK and LaGuardia airports, whereas my brother’s house is almost two hours. Now that my grandkids are all out of high school, my daughter’s schedule is more flexible, so rather than us pay to park at the airports, my daughter can taxi us.
Our first trip is the Karibbean Karavan, organized by Donny Brewer, that was originally supposed to happen in June 2020. Again, we know what 2020 brought, so the trip was cancelled, but Sunsail, the boat charter company would not refund our money. They would only reschedule the trip. Come 2021, travel was still sketchy and the trip was postponed again until now. The trip was a group trip with 56 people chartering 7 catamarans. Each boat will be four couples, one of which will be a Trop Rock musician. There will be shows each evening at a local place, and music on the boats. The trip began with an early ride to JFK for a 7:00 AM flight to St. Thomas. The flight was right on time and uneventful. In St. Thomas we got a taxi to The Greenhouse restaurant for lunch. It felt good to be back in the islands. After lunch we walked about half a mile to the ferry terminal where we have reservations on the 5:00 PM ferry to Road Town, Tortola in the BVI. The BVI has had very strict entry requirements until just recently when they were relaxed a little. To enter now, you need only be vaccinated and show proof of a negative test in the previous 72 hours. It took a while for the line to get through Customs & Immigration, but we finally got through and found a taxi waiting to take Moorings/Sunsail customers to their hotel where we are staying tonight. It’s right at the marina where we will get the boat tomorrow. There were a couple other folks in the taxi with us who we don’t know, but they are on the Karavan too. At the hotel, we got checked in and then met a bunch of friends who were going to Pusser’s for dinner. We met in the lobby and a van took us to the restaurant. We traded travel stories and tried to figure who was here and who was still to come. A lot of the people are flying from Texas through San Juan. The puddle jumpers from San Juan to Tortola have been experiencing a lot of delays and cancellations. We were glad we didn’t come that way. Back at the hotel we crashed after the travel day. In the morning we found breakfast in a little shop right there at the marina. We weren’t able to get on the boats until late afternoon, but there was music from our musicians by the pool to keep us entertained. We got on our boat about 5:00, and our pre-ordered provisions showed up shortly thereafter. We got the food all stowed, and everybody got settled in their cabins. Our crew consists of Barb & I, our musician Jerry Diaz & wife Mary, Bradley & Martha Green, and Bill & Trina Geer. We had more entertainment by the pool in the evening. In the morning, we had to get checked out by the staff before we could leave the dock. Eventually a guy came and went over all the boat systems with me (I was captaining our boat) and turned us loose. All six boats got away from the dock more or less together, and we headed for Norman Island. The wind was perfect for sailing, so as soon as we were clear of the harbor, I raised the sails. The boats have an electric winch, so sail handling is easy. With the sails up, I shut off the engines and we enjoyed and hour or so of sailing. Nearing the anchorage, we furled the sails and motored to a mooring ball. Barb had foredeck duty of directing Bradly to snagging the mooring ball line with the boat hook. Jerry was ready with the mooring line although we were nervous about him doing anything that could pinch a finger. Considering it had been eight years since I drove a boat or Barb picked up a mooring, we did it pretty well and high-fives were exchanged. My next official captain duty was to appoint a dinghy captain. Bradley eagerly agreed to take on the role. Late in the afternoon, we dinghied to shore to Pirates Bight, where we had dinner while our musicians put on a show. In the morning we headed for Jost vanDyke. There are not a lot of mooring balls in Great Harbor, and they are now reservable in advance. We had not been able to get a reservation, so we anchored instead. Anchoring here is no easier now than it was ten years ago. It took us several tries, but we finally got hooked up. Once we were set, we dinghied ashore and took taxis over the hill to the Soggy Dollar Bar. We spent the whole afternoon here, with several of our musicians putting on a show. About 5, we took a taxi back over the hill and went back to the boat. Some of us stayed aboard for the evening, while some went back ashore to visit Foxy’s. In the morning we left Great Harbor and went to Sandy Cay where we anchored with our other boats. Sandy Cay is just a little uninhabited sandy island. The point of stopping here was for the group to play some games as part of the ongoing competition between the boats. Barb and I stayed aboard while the others went ashore and represented us. After the games, we motored over to Cane Garden Bay where we picked up a mooring. We went ashore to Rhymer’s where we met up with some other Kemah friends who are staying there. We had dinner there and then went back to the boat. Another part of the boat competition is that each boat is writing a song to be performed tomorrow. Each boat was given three phrases that had to be included in the song. So, we spent the evening with Jerry writing our team song. The next day we motored east to the far eastern end of Tortola (technically Beef Island which is separated from Tortola by a creek) and picked up a mooring in Trellis Bay. Trellis Bay is adjacent to the airport, but is only serviced by small planes, so noise isn’t really an issue. All six boats got moorings such that Donny Brewer’s boat was in front of the others. Once we were all there, Donny set up speakers on the back of his boat. One at a time, each boat’s crew and musician came to Donny’s boat and performed their song for the others. While we thought we had the best song, they were all good and ours was not declared the winner. In the morning, we headed back to Road Town to return the boats. When you return a charter boat, you bring it near the marina, call them on the radio, and they send a guy out in a dinghy to actually bring the boat to the dock. Once docked, we all got our luggage ready, made sure the boat was cleaned up and went through a simple check-in process. We all dragged our luggage up the dock to the main lobby to await our transportation to our next stop. Many people are flying home today, a few are getting on other boats for another charter, and a few of us are going to Rhymer’s hotel at Cane Garden Bay. We shared a van to Rhymer’s with several other couples. The van overheated on the way up the mountain, and we had to stop and let it cool down, but we made it. At Rhymer’s we met up with a Kemah friend whose wife is on a charter, but he chose to stay at the hotel. We hung around with him for a while, walked the beach, and had a meal down the beach at Myett’s. In the morning, we said goodbye to friends, caught a taxi back to Road Town and got the ferry back to St. Thomas. From the ferry terminal, we caught a cab to the airport, where we went through Customs & Immigration. We had plenty of time before our flight, so we grabbed sandwiches at the restaurant and waited for our plane. The flight was right on time, and my daughter picked us up at the airport and took us home. The first leg of the back-to-back trips was complete, and we breathed a little easier about getting to the wedding.
We spent one day with my daughter, changed suitcase contents and she took us to LaGuardia to fly to Little Rock. This flight wasn’t at the crack of dawn, so not as stressful as last week. We flew to Atlanta, where we were to connect to Little Rock. The second flight was delayed a little bit, but it wasn’t a problem as we are simply spending the night in a hotel in Little Rock. We got to Little Rock, picked up a car, checked into the hotel, and then went out and found food. In the morning we drove to Mt. Nebo State Park, where the wedding will be. We are staying in a cabin here in the park for the weekend. The cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They are rustic stone structures, but have been updated with electricity, plumbing, and HVAC. We dumped our suitcase and then went back into town to pick up some groceries for the weekend. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading and enjoying the view from our porch atop the mountain. Barb’s son Aaron and the bride, Kristen arrived the next day. We helped them get unloaded in the cabin next to ours. Kristen’s sister, nieces and nephew arrived today also and are in another cabin down the road. We all went into Russellville to Fat Daddy’s BBQ for dinner that night. Saturday was wedding day. We met at the park pavilion at 10:00AM to help setup the tables and chairs and decorate. The pavilion is not air conditioned, but has lots of windows. It is very hot, but hopefully it will be tolerable. There were about 60 people at the wedding, and everything went well. It was all very informal, and one of Aaron and Kristins friends officiated. Even though it was very hot, everyone had a good time and the party went on for a couple of hours. When the official party was over, we helped clean up the pavilion and then went back to the cabins. We changed back into shorts and t-shirts and hung out with the bride and groom and the rest of the family at their cabin for a while. On Sunday, we packed our stuff up and put it in the car. We don’t fly until early Monday morning, so we will be driving to Little Rock this evening and staying in a hotel there. But it turned out we screwed up our dates and have the cabin paid for another night. One of Aaron’s friends was checking out today but wanted to stay another night, so they moved into our cabin and it didn’t go to waste. We hung out until late afternoon, and then drove to Little Rock to a hotel near the airport. Our flight Monday was very early in the morning. We flew through Atlanta again and got back to NY mid-afternoon. My daughter picked us up and took us back to her house. Our travel is done, and it all went off successfully.
Both Barb and I had medical things to tend to while we were in NY this summer. My daughter’s brother-in-law owns an orthopedic practice on Long Island. I have been headed for a hip replacement for a couple of years, and Barb has been having pain in both her thumb joints. So, in May, before our travels, we visited doctors in the practice. Barb saw their hand specialist, got a cortisone shot in the more painful of the two, and got braces for both thumbs. The cortisone helped her quite a lot and made the boat trip much more enjoyable. I saw the hip specialist of the group and discussed replacement surgery. He agreed I was a good candidate, and we scheduled the surgery of July 5th, after we get back from our travels. We went from my brothers to my daughters on July 4th and spent the night at her house. At o-dark-thirty the morning of the 5th, we were at the hospital checking in. My surgery was schedule for 8:30AM and went off as planned. I was in my room by noon, and Barb and my daughter were allowed in to see me. I had a roommate who was not the greatest. He had his TV cranked up loud, he was closest to the a/c and turned it off, and he was very rude to the staff. Within a couple hours, they had me up taking a little stroll with a walker, and it went well. Due to my familial connection to the doctor, I had apparently been noted as a “VIP” patient. So, when my daughter experienced my roommate, she made a call, and next thing you know I was being transferred to the other wing of the hospital to a room without a roommate. Sweet. My night was about as you would expect a night in the hospital to be, but it was ok. In the morning, the physical therapist got me up walking again, and this time I demonstrated that I could do stairs. That was all I needed to be approved for release, so the paperwork was started. Barb picked me up and we went to my daughter’s mother-in-law’s house. We went there because at my daughter’s house, all the bedrooms are on the second floor. At here mother-in-law’s, the master is downstairs, so she graciously let us stay there and she used an upstairs bedroom. I spent that night in a recliner but did well. The next day, a home nurse and a home physical therapist came to the house. They thought their visits would be each day for a week, but I had discussed with the surgeon that we planned to go back to the bus today. So, after they examined me, taught me some exercises, and confirmed my plan with the doctor, they signed off on me leaving. Barb loaded me into the car, and off we went, back to my brother’s. This would be the first time Barb drove the hundred miles between Long Island and the Hudson Valley. She had been dreading this trip maybe as much as she had worried about the airline keeping us from Aaron’s wedding. She did great though and got me back to the bus without incident. For the first week, I got around with the help of a walker. Using it in the bus wasn’t a problem, and I was able to get around and back and forth to the house ok. After a week with the walker, I was able to graduate to a cane. I was doing the PT exercises religiously and making great progress. After a week with the cane, I ditched it and was getting around with just a little limp. By the end of week three, even the limp was pretty much gone. My only apprehension about doing the surgery had been not knowing what to expect for the recovery. Well, I couldn’t have been happier with how it went, and shouldn’t have worried. At six weeks, we took a trip to Long Island for my follow-up visit and the surgeon was impressed. He agreed we didn’t need to see each other again, and barring any problems, we could do a tele-doc visit in five months.
After my three weeks of recovery, I was ready to get back into doing things around the property. My brother lives in the house we grew up in. When we moved here as children, the property was twenty acres, a barn and two houses. We lived in one house and my grandparents lived in the other. The property to the north of us was a large apple orchard owned by a family with seven kids. When the parents of those kids were gone, the division of the property turned in to an ugly affair. The oldest son retained a large part of the property while part of it got divided up between the other kids. The subsequent divorce of the eldest son further complicated the mess. The house my grandparents lived in was only about ten feet from the property line adjacent to the orchard. Somehow, after all the family subdivision of the orchard property, there was a strip about seventy feet wide and several hundred feet long bordering our property and owned by the eldest son’s ex-wife. My brother approached her about buying it since it was not large enough to build on (by local rules), and it would give more room to the house on his property (which his daughter and grandkids now live in). After many years of refusing to sell, she suddenly came around and sold it to him. Unfortunately, all these years later, the property is way overgrown. So, now we are clearing it. Between his tractor, a bush hog, and a chainsaw, we cut, cleared, removed a chain-link fence and had a giant burn pile fire.
Labor Day weekend, we made one last trip to Long Island to visit my daughter. Then it was time to head south before any thoughts of frost occur. We left my brother’s house on Sept 7th. Our first stop was Appalachian Brewing in Mechanicsburg, PA. They had a nice large concrete parking lot where we set up and then had dinner in their nice restaurant. The next stop was Stone Bridge Equestrian Center near Natural Bridge, VA. This was a small horse farm with easy access to a parking spot next to the barn that included a 50-amp plug which you don’t normally find at Harvest Hosts. The third night was spent at Crafty Bastard Brewing in Knoxville, TN. Their parking was on the site of a shopping center that has been torn down some time ago, but all the concrete slab is still there. We had dinner and settled in for the night. The next night was supposed to be another Harvest Host brewery, but I screwed up entering the route into our navigation system and ended up traveling about thirty miles past the brewery exit to our next fuel stop. After fueling, I realized the error, but I wasn’t going to drive thirty miles back to stay for free. So, I found Sunset RV Park, outside Tuscaloosa, AL at the next exit and that became our stop.
Our next day took us to Choudrant, LA, where we are scheduled to get some work done on the bus. Over the summer one of the two compressors in the heat pump had quit working, so the unit had to be pulled and the compressor replaced. Ronnie & Dick worked on the unit for several hours and got it all fixed up in a few hours. We were planning on spending another night there, but since they were done a little after noon, we took off for my son’s house.
My son is in the process of moving to a new house in more or less the same area. We got to the old house on Sept 12th, and set up in our usual spot. The new house had several projects to be done before the actual move, including hooking up a temporary 50-amp power supply for us to plug into. The new house is smaller than the current one, and is two acres of land instead of six. Downsizing and taking advantage of the current housing market was the impetus for this move. As soon as they closed on the new house, he had a new 30’x20’ metal building put up that has an additional 8 feet covered on each side. The new building will be primarily a man-cave complete with TV, fridge, bathroom, and room for other games. He also had a pre-fab building delivered to be the chicken coop, and a 10’x20’ metal shelter out in the pasture for the animals. After a week at the old house while interior work at the new house was done, the actual move happened. Professional movers did most of the household goods moving, but there were lots of other things, like the mower, the Ranger, the chickens, the horses and goats, and most of the garage contents, that we moved ourselves. We actually moved their fifth-wheel and our bus pretty much last on the 18th. My big project over the next couple of weeks is going to be installing the electrical in the new buildings. The power company came and installed a whole separate 200 amp service to the new building, where the meter box and main power panel were already waiting. My son and I plotted all the electrical needs, including plugs, lights, ceiling fans, outside plugs and lights, and the sub-panel circuits to the chicken coop and pasture shed. We went to Home Depot and filled a cart with over $1000 of supplies for the project. Then there was another $1000 spent ordering the underground cable to go to the two outbuildings. I spent the next week doing most of the wiring in the main building. The next weekend, we rented a large Ditch Witch and dug ditches for the power to the two outbuildings, and ditches to run water to all three new buildings. We got the trenching done Saturday morning, lay the cable for the power and PEX for the water by dark, and then Sunday all the trenches got filled back in like it never happened. Over the next couple of days, I installed the plugs and lights and heater circuits in the outbuildings. After all the wiring was done in the main building, a company came in and spray-foamed the inside for insulation. The next day my son spray painted the foam, and a couple days later he stained the concrete floor. The building of the bathroom and galley will wait for now. There were numerous other projects I did around the new place, like replace all the exterior door locksets and about half the interior ones, install a couple of extra plugs, put together several cabinets for the garage, etc.
We left my son’s house on Nov 3rd, spent one day in Livingston, TX to vote and get our mail, and then were back in Kemah at Brickhouse RV on the 5th. Another year was in the books.