Monday, December 30, 2013

Race to Texas

The van that was to take us to the airport arrived right on time, 3AM the morning of the day after Christmas. Generally, this is not "how we roll", but we were anxious to return to Chicago where our planned trip south had been rudely interrupted. We arrived in Chicago where Sarah's aunt and uncle, with whom we left the tow vehicle, picked us up at the airport. On the way to their home, we were joined by Sarah's sister, Kate, who cared for our cat while we were gone and had decided to join us on our way to Padre Island, Texas where we would celebrate the arrival of the new year with another of Sarah's sisters, Nora.
Aunt Marge and Uncle Ed

We had a pleasant lunch with Marge and Ed before leaving for Louisville, where we had left the Mary Joan III. It took a little over six hours to reach Louisville. Arriving tired and not desiring to have to cook our own dinner, we stopped on Bardstown Road in Louisville, an area with many fine restaurants. After reading many excellent reviews we found on the internet, we chose Ramsi's Cafe on the World ( ). The menu is extremely varied and has entrees from many different cultures.  We decided to each order one of the three northern African dishes and share them (Faithful Falafel, Egyptian Chicken and The Spice Market). Each was well done and perfectly complemented the other. We were pleased with the food and the friendly service. We met the owner and learned how she and her husband had started the restaurant nineteen years earlier and that they have a farm that has supplied many of the ingredients used in the restaurant. We thought so highly of our experience, that we bought a gift certificate for our son and daughter-in-law who live in nearby Radcliff. 
Rhona, owner of Ramsi's Cafe on the World
Thanks for a wonderful meal.

Stopping for dinner before going to the trailer turned out to be fortunate because on arrival at Grand Ma's RV park, we found the trailer's batteries were dead. There are two deep cycle batteries that should have been able to supply the small amount of electricity needed to operate the controls for the propane refrigerator. While the power needed to keep the food cool comes from propane, the refrigerator still needs a small amount of electricity to control the propane. With the trailer in storage and not plugged into external 110 volt power, we depended on the solar power panels to keep the batteries charged.  We believe, judging by the minimal odor, that the refrigerator had not shut down too long prior to our arrival since it seemed the previously frozen foods were just beginning to spoil. 

Despite being tired and realizing that two pounds of lobster meat was lost, the three of us worked quickly and in as good spirits as can be expected to get things cleaned up, organized and the trailer moved to a campsite in less than an hour. We were determined to be on the road by 8 AM in order to reach Corpus Christi, Texas, a distance of nearly 1,200 miles, with only two days on the road. 

Our plan was to reach Atlanta State Park that is just south west of Texarkana where we would spend our first night. But, we were now in the mode of "the way we roll", which is that we are flexible and open to changes in our plans as the situation changes or new information or thoughts occur. On this day, while Sarah was relieving me at the wheel, I saw there was a National Park along our route that was a better option than the state park. I can forgive myself for missing the park when we first planned the route as it is very small. Hot Springs National Park is just a half hour off of I-30, our selected route through Arkansas. We arrived in time to explore the town a little before having dinner at Via Roma Italian Restaurant, where once again, we had a fine meal. 

Buckstaff Baths, Hot Springs, Arkansas

The next morning found us on the road at 8 AM. On the way out of town we stopped and filled all of our available water receptacles with as much of the fine mineral water we could. The flavor is fresh and clean. And, it makes wonderful coffee. 
Every available container was used to collect the water
Hot Springs Fountain

There was a big surprise awaiting us today. Our schedule was predicated on our need to travel about 550 miles a day to reach Padre Island near Corpus Christi, Texas where we were to join Sarah and Kate's sister, Nora. However, just before leaving, Kate pointed out to me that Nora was in South Padre Island near Brownsville, Texas, about 150 miles further than Corpus Christi. Now our required milage was 700 miles. This set a record we hope never to break. But, we wanted to be in our campsite on Saturday night so that we could have a relaxed Sunday to celebrate Kate's birthday by watching football games. Nora had scouted out sports bars and selected Louie's Backyard ( Louie's was packed and we found many tables were reserved. We wanted to be able to see both the Chicago Bears and the Patriots who were playing at the same time, but of the screens we could see, none had the Patriots. After assuring the bartender that I had poled the other fans around us if they would mind a switch of one screen to the Patriots, he quickly obliged. With special prices for draft beers and surprisingly good bar food, we enjoyed the festive atmosphere. 
Thirty cents a gallon less than Massachusetts
Makes up for the decreased mileage we get at 75 MPH to cover the distance we needed to go

We finished the evening by stopping at Padre Rita's to listen to some live music and share a final margarita in celebration of Kate's birthday.  
Happy Birthday, Kate

Our home here in South Padre Island is Andy Bowie County Park. Although not more than an RV parking lot, it is just what we would want for the time we will be here. It is situated just behind the dunes on the beach on the main road and next door to Nora's hotel. 
Andy Bowie County Park

Now we need to plan our New Year's Eve celebration. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas

Reading the first line of my last blog entry could, with minor editing and major change of sentiment, be the same for this blog post. It requires changing just one word to perfectly express the chaos that enveloped Sarah and I after our trip to Kentucky to settle the Mary Joan into her place of short hibernation. "Sometimes circumstances, events and desires perfectly align in time and place to " impede " our travels."

This is what happened to the plans we thought we had crafted so neatly. In late October we traveled with the Mary Joan to Louisville where we knew we could leave her safe from the snow and salt until our return after Thanksgiving to start the retreat from wintry New England weather. It all seemed perfect. We would travel again to Louisville and bring our daughter-in-law along with us to Chicago where nearly all of Sarah's relatives were gathering for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday then return to Louisville and head to the Texas coast where we would join Sarah's sisters for Christmas . However, the small mare's tail wisps of an impending storm that Sarah had detected in her throat in September and had set aside, now demanded attention. An ultrasound of her neck was done on the day before we were scheduled to leave for Louisville. Being optimistic, we stuck to our plans believing that the report would be positive and we could continue on our way.

However, the report we received in Chicago was not positive and our doctor wanted more tests. Our daughter-in-law returned to Kentucky by bus while Sarah and I left the cat and TV in Chicago and flew back to Massachusetts. Two more ultrasounds, an evaluation by the endocrinologist and a fine needle aspirate of the thyroid mass revealed a benign mass that could be monitored over time. We were given the blessing to proceed on our way.

If circumstances and events allow, our desire to travel to Chicago, reclaim our feline companion and TV, and return to Louisville to resume our retreat from the New England winter will happen the day after Christmas.

Hopefully, we learned that circumstances, events and desires may or may not always perfectly align as we would wish. But, align in some fashion they always will. How we accept and deal with that is up to us. 

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All
Merry Christmas