Chapter 2: The Long Way Home

Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

When last I wrote we had just arrived in Terlingua, a town of only 58 people that sits right in between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

What a quirky place. It’s supposedly a desert ghost town, but there’s definitely life here. And a lot of characters!

We purchased a walking tour guide for a dollar at the general store and set about finding the various highlights of what used to be a bustling mining town. Current residents co-exist with the remains of decaying buildings used by miners in the mid-1880’s…a somewhat surreal atmosphere that I kind of liked.

We ate dinner one evening at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon, originally built in the 1930’s when the town was in its heyday. The menu features fare such as country-fried wild boar and tequila marinated quail, and there’s live entertainment every evening. But what I’ll remember most about our meal there was the people-watching.

We’d been seated at a table right next to the bar, a prime spot as it turned out. What a mix of tourists, leather-faced locals, and old hippies paraded past! At some point I happened to glimpse something out of the corner of my eye that I wish I could’ve taken a picture of: a knife strapped to the bartender’s boot. And the bartender looked like she wouldn’t hesitate to use it, either. That, to me, pretty much sums up Terlingua.

On one of the days there we drove a little further west to Big Bend Ranch State Park, past the resort town of Lajitas, population only 75. It blew my mind that a world-class resort–complete with its own charter airplane service–was out here in the middle of nowhere. And that people actually came!! But then again, this nowhere is the most beautiful nowhere I’ve seen in a long, long time. The landscape is phenomenal.

As we continued through the state park, we passed movie sets that had been used over the years in westerns and country music videos. I was surprised to learn that that so many had been filmed here.

On Thursday we headed north to no place in particular because I hadn’t gotten camping reservations anywhere. We knew we still had Alpine, Marfa, and Fort Davis on our “want to see” list. We had one commitment, and that was to go to a “star party“at the McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis on Friday.

We came upon a very small RV park an hour and a half away with a great view on the outskirts of the town of Alpine, population 5,905. It was on the south side of town, while the observatory was an hour’s drive north–but being completely unfamiliar with the area, it was hard to guestimate ahead of time where the best to stay would be. As it turned out, the campgrounds in Fort Davis were all full because of spring break, so it was good that we stopped when we did.

The star party is held only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and only if the night sky is clear. Luckily, the sky was clear the night we went. We drove into Alpine for a bite to eat and then headed to the observatory. Up, up we ascended almost 6,800 feet into the Davis Mountains and waited for sunset, and then darkness.

Way OUT there it’s dark, and way UP there the pitch-black night sky is front and center, in your face. I haven’t been able to find the words that come close to describing the sheer number of stars, their fantastic clarity and brilliance. It seemed to me that the presence of God was splendidly apparent. It was awesome.

Our star guide did a great job pointing out particular stars and constellations, even added a bit of lighthearted humor here and there. Afterwards we had the opportunity to look at the stars up close through several telescopes, but there were more than 400* people jockeying for position in the dark, so we waited in line and only looked through a couple and left. At 10 o’clock it was well past our bedtime anyway, and the drive back to the RV about an hour away. (*More than 900 tickets were sold for the next evening’s star party.😳)

We began the trek home this past Sunday, leaving Alpine and spending the night at the Caverns in Sonoma, where we’d stayed ten days earlier.

Miles drive today: 210 miles today. 832 total miles driven on Big Bend side trip.

We’ve been hanging out in Stonewall, Texas since Monday. It’s in between the trendy Fredericksburg and the ultra-busy Austin, and so far, the most expensive place we’ve stayed at $48/night 😳. But we told our son we wouldn’t see him until Friday, so we had time to kill.

Neither Dave nor I like being around crowds, and I really dislike shopping, so we didn’t even think about going into Fredericksburg’s downtown area. Instead, we went to five attractions in the two days spent here, all of them FREE. And none of them were overrun with people.👍🏼

Luckenbach, Texas (only seven miles away)–one of those places where there really isn’t much to speak of, but you got to stop anyway…

the Lyndon B Johnson Ranch (and Texas White House) and state park…

the Texas Rangers Historical Memorial…

and Fort Martin Scott, built to protect the German settlers from the Comanche Indians–except a peace agreement was reached soon after the fort was completed and it was vacated after only five years.

Last, but not least, was a chocolate-tasting experience at El Rey Chocolate, an importer of Venezuelan chocolate, some of the world’s finest. Shannon gave an excellent and fun ‘tour’ of the five different chocolates we sampled, explaining the processes that made one different from the next. It was very informative and very tasty! I like when learning is fun!

For now, that’s about it from our little corner of the world. I’m ready for the next adventure down the road!🤠

Big Bend or Bust!

It’s only been a week since we left Bandera, and already I’m on sensory overload. It’s like that old movie, “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium,” where a busload of Americans go on an 18-day tour of nine European cities. We’ve set up camp five times in seven days, so I need to get this written and posted while I’m able. I’ve already learned that way out here, being connected to the world can’t be taken for granted.

I’ve taken a ton of photographs and have already posted a lot of them on Facebook and Instagram, so this blog will be mostly narrative…there has been so much I want to remember about this trip.

Whenever we’ve been sitting awhile in any one place, like we were in Bandera, short trips at first are best, especially when a longer, more remote, and more strenuous one is in the offing, such as our hopeful destination of Big Bend National Park. Our first stop would be only 150 away. When we lived on a boat, we called them ‘shakedowns’–if anything was destined to go wrong, it would hopefully happen early on in the trip and be repaired forthwith. So that’s what we did.

We left Bandera on Thursday, March 1. After topping off our fuel in Kerrville ($2.65/gal), our first stop was the Caverns of Sonora, halfway between San Antonio and our ultimate destination of Big Bend National Park (BBNP) on I-10 , a ‘must see’ according to Trip Advisor.

It had a small RV park, and operated on a “first come, first served” basis. I wouldn’t say that I’m a worrier, but I do like to know where I’m going to sleep at night. As it turned out, there was no need to worry; when we arrived at noon, we had our pick of the eight or so sites that were available. By nightfall though, nearly all of them were occupied.

Once we got the RV situated, walked the dogs, and had lunch, we wandered up to the store to purchase our tickets for the tour, careful not disturb the peacocks pacing back and forth.

The tours are kept small, and there were only eight in our group. We descended 155 feet into the earth, past spectacular formations that seemed to go on and on.

When we got to the bottom, Malcolm, our tour guide, turned off the little amount of lighting that illuminated the cave. We sat in complete, absolute darkness for a couple of minutes. Nothing except my glow-in-the-dark t-shirt from the solar eclipse could be seen; it was pitch black. When he turned the lights back on, he turned to Dave and me and asked where we were from. We said ‘western Kentucky,’ thinking he probably wouldn’t recognize Hopkinsville. But he did. As it turned out, he was born in Greenville, only about 30 miles away. Small world!

Day 1: Miles traveled: 154. RV site: $25

The next morning, Friday, found us on the road shortly after 9 a.m., heading west towards Fort Stockton. We’d been advised by several people to top off our fuel whenever possible before heading south to Marathon, where we’d be spending the second night. There are not many places to get fuel way out here.

We arrived at the Marathon Motel & RV Park mid-afternoon. What an unexpected oasis that turned out to be! Small, quiet, impeccably clean, and dim at night. Very dim. As it turns out, Marathon has earned the distinction of “Class 1 Dark Sky” (that’s as dark as it gets!) and businesses and residents intentionally protect their dark sky status from the intrusion of exterior lighting. (We were even politely asked to lower our window shades at night.) It’s easy to see why: way out here, the stars seem greater in number, bigger, and more brilliant. The view is worth protecting.

A short walk down the wide (wide enough for us to make a U-turn towing the 5th wheel) but nearly deserted (two vehicles in succession is an oddity) main drag (Hwy 90) is The Gage Hotel, built in 1927, which was recently named #1 Small Hotel in Texas and #17 in the United States by readers of Condé Nast Traveler. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but go figure: it’s a destination!

Across the street and down a ways is the Gage Gardens, 27-acres of meticulously manicured landscaping. It’s beautiful, of course, and it definitely stands out in the wide open spaces of west Texas. It just seems a little over the top and out of place. Even so, I could’ve easily spent hours here.

On the other hand, the buildings that comprise “Eve’s Garden,” a B&B, seem VERY appropriate.

I wish we could’ve stayed one more night here. Marathon was a delightful discovery to make, and I would definitely come back here in a heartbeat. We topped off the diesel again while we could: $3.44/gal.

Day 2: Miles traveled: 252 today (406 total). RV site: $35

From Marathon, it was 40 miles to the entrance of Big Bend National Park, and another 50 to the Rio Grande Village Campground. I had signed up for two days of REAL camping: no utilities and limited generator usage. And felt grateful to do so since it was the start of spring break in Texas and most availability was for one night here and one night there.

I had no expectations as to what I’d find at BBNP except that the night sky would probably be unimaginable. And it was. So clear and dark. Stars were everywhere. It was truly awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Like Texas, BBNP is enormous, more than 800,000 acres. What makes BBNP unique among other national parks is that it’s the only one to contain an entire mountain range within its borders, the Chisos (highest peak is 7,825 feet.) From the Chisos Mountains, to the Chihuahuan desert, to the Rio Grande that flows along the park’s southern border, BBNP’s plant and animal diversity is amazing.

BBNP is so big that we explored the eastern half during the two-day stay at the park’s campground, saving the western half for when we relocated to the town of Terlingua on Monday. We drove along miles and miles of scenic roadways, often punctuated with turnouts allowing visitors to stop and enjoy. I hiked as much as possible and tried to take in as much of the scenery as I could during our brief stay.

Days 3-4: 90 miles today (496 so far). RV site: $7/nt.

Our batteries were dead when I awoke early Monday morning, so Dave had to jump the generator with the truck (not before 8 a.m. though.) After one last hike, we started packing up. Our neighbors across the road had Missouri plates, and I wondered if they might be from St. Louis.

I noticed the husband had on his STL baseball cap and he noticed my Rick Ankiel t-shirt, so we approached each others like long, lost friends. Hermano!😄 Yes, they were from St. Louis (Webster Groves) and were brand new RVers (as in, sold everything and bought a Class A right off the bat.😳) We ended up talking to John and Diane quite awhile, mostly about the Cardinals and other things STL, like Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drewes. What are the chances of meeting someone from your hometown more than a thousand miles away? This world is sure small!

After two days of living off the grid, I realized how much I take for granted, like electricity, water, and sewer. I was glad when we got to our fourth stop, Terlingua, nestled in between the national park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

In the late 1880’s, the town blossomed around the discovery of quicksilver, used in the manufacture of gunpowder cartridges and shells. The mining industry boomed, especially during WWI, but the Great Depression hit, reducing the need for mine labor. Most miners moved on, making Terlingua a virtual ghost town.

Some intrepid diehards stayed on, and in the 1970’s some enterprising individuals came, lured by the abundance of year-round outdoor activities, such as river rafting on the Rio Grande, mountain biking, camping, hiking, and motorcycling. Today, the Terlingua Ghost Town is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s hardly deserted. In fact, it’s one of the most vibrant ghost towns imaginable. Especially on Monday nights, when hamburgers are half-priced at the historic Starlight Theatre, where live entertainment can be enjoyed nearly every evening.

Days 5-7: 50 miles (546 total). RV site: $28/nt.

This sums up our first week of making our way back home…the long way! We broke down camp this morning, headed north, and here we are in Alpine. This is home for the next three nights, giving us plenty of time to see THIS part of west Texas. I always knew Texas was big, but this trip has given me a newfound appreciation for how beautifully diverse it is. I enjoy sharing it with you.

Miles today: 76 (622 so far). RV site: $32/nt.

Adios, Bandera.

We are less than one week away from leaving a place we’ve been living for nearly two months, and I’m feeling rather sentimental. I’ve been trying to remember what led us to choosing Bandera, Texas as a place to spend the winter when we’d never even heard of the place, and I think it was a combination of things, though being closer to our son and his family in Austin was the primary attraction. But now I’m thinking it might’ve been Divine intervention.

Other than hoping that the winter here was warmer than what was predicted for Kentucky, I had no expectations of Bandera, which is probably why I’ve enjoyed it so. There really is something to be said about one’s serenity being inversely proportionate to one’s expectations. In other words, when expectations are high, serenity is low. And vice versa. When expectations are low, serenity is high.

Being in the Hill Country of Texas has been an experience unlike I’ve ever had. Both the locals and the scenery have a certain ruggedness, though each has its gentle side, too. I think of the two Second Sunday jam sessions we attended, and how mesmerizing it was to watch more than a dozen cowboy musicians come together to blend their talents into hours upon hours of sweet melodies and good, old-fashioned entertainment. These jam sessions were just one of the highlights of our stay, for sure.

As far as the people are concerned, I think the term they use for folks like us, “winter Texans,” illustrates their hospitality best. People here are friendly, look you in the eye when meeting and smile, and actually are welcoming to tourists. It’s nice to be welcomed.

One thing I didn’t count on by being in Bandera was reuniting with cousins I’d grown up with in St. Louis a long time ago…like in the 1960’s. Until I was age ten or so, my family and theirs lived within just a few blocks of one another and we were close, as in going to the same school and seeing each other most every day.

Of course, I knew that two of my cousins, David and Joel, had lived in the San Antonio-area for a long time, but until last summer when the latter came to visit (not me intentionally; Joel and his wife, Ellen, were in Nashville to see friends and Hopkinsville is about an hour away), I hadn’t seen either of them in about 40 years, maybe more. But since we’ve been in Bandera, we’ve seen them both. Yet another unexpected blessing of being here.

When our cousin Betty (who still lives in St. Louis) announced that she was coming down to Austin to visit her daughter in February, the planning wheels were set into motion. We–nine of us–had a little reunion in San Antonio the other day at Pearl (a revitalized area by the Riverwalk that once housed Pearl Brewery. It’s stunning, and surely has got to be one of the city’s crowned jewels.) and it was just like no time had passed! Family stories were told and there was so much laughter–LOUD, rambunctious laughter. The kind that makes you cry. The kind that makes you feel so good to be a part of something.

We still have a month to go before we head back home. Plans are cast in jello, but we’re for sure heading west from here. We have reservations for a couple of nights at Big Bend National Park,, and then we’ll spend a few days in that part of this ENORMOUS state. I understand that it’s so far from civilization that the night sky is vast and absolutely pitch black. The star-gazing should be fantastic!

Thoughtful Ambition

Recently a story trended across the media about a couple from Breckenridge, Colorado who’d sold everything in order to buy a boat to sail the world, only to have it hit a sandbar, capsize, and sink in the Gulf of Mexico two days into their trip from Madeira Beach to Key West ( It brought back a flood of memories (pardon the pun), because my husband and I had sort of done the same thing a long time ago–39 years to be exact: escaped our everyday, workaday lives and lived on a boat.

It was 1979 and we were less than a year into our marriage when we made the choice to divest ourselves of jobs (he: elementary school counselor; me: special ed teacher), house, two vehicles, and nearly all the wedding gifts we’d been given only a few months before. We were landlocked living in St. Louis and knew nothing about sailing, but we were madly in love with each other and even more with the thought of adventure!

While our adventure lasted a bit longer than two days, I have experienced the terror of a boat hitting a submerged object and becoming disabled. Like theirs, our sailboat was 28′ in length with a 5′ keel. Sailing one afternoon from Key West to the Dry Tortugas, we hit a coral head as the tide was going out.

For hours the boat bottom banged and scraped relentlessly against the coral, and I was sure the keel would eventually give way but it didn’t, thanks to an incoming tide many hours later. In retrospect, I think it was our pride that was damaged more than the boat. Whatever romantic ideas we might’ve had about sailing away got slapped with a big dose of reality that day, but not enough to quench our thirst for adventure.

One way or another, the couple who lost their boat will be okay…whether they get another boat or not, whether they continue to pursue their dream or not, or even whether they remain a couple or not. But first things first: the sunken Lagniappe needs to be salvaged.

To that end, a GoFundMe campaign was started ( and as of this morning has exceeded its goal of $10,000 by more than $4,000. It seems like a lot of money, and it is. But it’s going to take a whole lot more cash to chase the nautical dream because that’s just a hard fact of the boating world: everything is more expensive when it’s marine grade. It’s really no surprise that an acronym for boat is “Bring On Another Thousand.”

I truly hope they keep pursuing their dream and not allow the setbacks to extinguish their spirits. I hope they meet nautical angels along the way to help them because Lord knows they have a gigantic learning curve ahead of them. If they keep plugging away and don’t quit before the miracle happens, I believe they’ll have few regrets and a lot of stories to tell. That would be a life worth living.

Howdy, and Happy Mardi Gras!

Cowboy Mardi Gras was celebrated in Bandera last week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It had been promoted all over town since the beginning of the year, and spirits were high as the town braced for one of its biggest weekends of the season.

RVs began rolling in the RV park on Wednesday, and by Friday there was no vacancy. Quite a few of them hauled a cargo trailer containing another secondary mode of transportation: either motorcycle or 4-wheeler, mostly. There was an occasional electric scooter or barbecue smoker. Clearly, they’d done this before and knew that parking for traditional vehicles would be hard to find. No sooner were utilities connected (electric, water, and sewer) that the partying began. Out came the lawn chairs, coolers, party lights and stereos playing mostly traditional country and zydeco tunes. Some party goers proudly declared their fandom, and nearly all proclaimed to their love of Texas with all kinds of decor.

Personally, I LOVE Mardi Gras, especially after having lived along the Gulf coast for so long where it’s a real big deal, and I couldn’t wait! I love everything about it: the decorations, the music, the costumes, the Cajun and Creole food, and especially the parades! There were 118 floats in this one (huge, I think, considering the population of Bandera is 957), and thanks to getting the inside scoop from one of the workers here at the RV park, we walked just a few blocks into town and easily secured our viewing spot at the very start of the parade.

The Cowboy-element put a whole new spin on Mardi Gras, what with all the horses and their riders, the wagons, the steers, donkeys and mules. The people-watching was fantastic, and my palate was gratified with a King Cake made by the bakery here and a New Orleans’ style poboy loaded with fresh shrimp from one of the food trucks from San Antonio. I swear, the way I’m going to remember this trip is by all the places we ate along the way. And I’m going to have a lot of memories, considering the weight I’ve gained already, every pound totally worth it.

One of the highlights for me happened on the very first night. Not knowing what to expect, we paid the $10 cover charge at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar Thursday night. The fact that it was a bar did not make me feel uncomfortable in any way, thank goodness. And really, the 11th Street Cowboy Bar reminds me of the fake town in the movie, Blazing Saddles--it’s a facade that takes up most of the block, and behind it is a big stage, an even bigger dance floor, lots and lots of places to sit, a smaller stage off to the side, and a couple of bars.

It was where the Canine Costume Contest was happening, followed by a Cajun band from Louisiana. Before, in between, and after, Country-Western music played, and the huge dance floor–kept dry and smooth for dancing by occasion liberal sprinklings of sawdust–swelled with couples. I was mesmerized watching them two-step counter-clockwise past where I sat; the intimacy of it overwhelmed me. All the while they danced, the partners touched, whether they was twirling or traveling. I have to admit, the Cowboy and Cowgirl ensembles played a big part in my attentiveness; everything about it was pleasing to watch. The fancy leather Cowboy boots, big Cowboy hats, leather belts with the big belt buckles, leather vests, fringe–the total package was exotic.

By Sunday noon, all of our transient neighbors had left. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend, but I was glad to see things return to normal. I was exhausted! Bandera, Texas–of which I knew nothing previously–has exceeded any expectation I might have had for a winter escape. It has everything we need, and then some. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Bloom where planted

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. -Maya Angelou

A friend back home recently commented that it looked as though I was enjoying life out here in Bandera, I guess judging by what I posted on Facebook. And I had to agree; I really like it here. But, if truth be told, I enjoy life wherever I am. I try to bloom where I am planted. I guess that’s because I’ve moved around enough to know that every place has its pluses and its challenges.

I think an unconventional lifestyle has a lot to do with it. My husband Dave and I (and the kids and the pets) have lived either on a boat or in an RV (one of them, a FEMA trailer) for ten years out of the nearly forty that we’ve been together. It seems longer than that–in a good way. Some might think in a crazy way. After all, how many parents do you know who bought their 15-year-old daughter her own sailboat* because she needed her own room? That’s what I mean by ‘unconventional.’

It can be challenging to live in a confined space with others, but there’s so much to be gained as a result. When I think of Kate and DJ sharing the fore cabin of our boat, I’m both amazed and proud because they were ‘tweens back then and had their own “stuff” to accommodate/assimilate, like two hamsters, a small TV, a boombox, a rather large Caboodle, way too many books and stuffies. Besides the bunkbed, their room housed a full head (shower, sink and toilet) AND the door that opened up into the engine room. Somehow they managed to live together in a tiny space, peacefully for the most part. Or so it seemed. Now in their mid-30’s, I wonder if they ever think back to that time in their lives and wonder how they managed to do it.

Add ‘travel’ to the equation, since that’s what boats and RVs are designed to do. Our kids were 13 and 11 when we took our boat through the Intracoastal waterway from Corpus Christi, Texas to Virginia, and then up the Potomac River to Washington, DC. Many, many nautical miles at a snail’s pace, partially because most of the waterway is a No Wake zone and partially because of the need to give way to MUCH BIGGER vessels, including tow boats and barges. The average distance we made in a day was 50 miles. We left Port Aransas, TX in February and arrived in DC in mid-April. Imagine how many brother-sister squabbles there had to have been! I chuckle now, but I’m sure I didn’t then.

When ‘weather’ is added to the mix, things can get harrowing in an instant, like when we took the boat from San Diego to Catalina Island. The moment we got offshore and the lights of the coast disappeared, everyone–including the dog–got sick, except me. What a long trip that was and no fun for anyone initially. A few years later, we were in DC for the Blizzard of 1996 when 12 inches of snow fell in 24 hours, shutting down the federal government for a whole week. The weight of all that snow on our boat was tremendous and potentially disastrous, so we spent the whole day shoveling the snow off the deck with cookie sheet pans. A true family-bonding experience. To this day, I think we’re all a little more aware of weather and the power of Mother Nature.

I really do think that all of the memories and the stories that can be told are the reasons I like traveling so much. I love the adventure! I find it fun meeting new people, seeing and learning new things, eating local cuisine. My view of the world has expanded and has been positively impacted by travel. I’m lucky to say that because of this unconventional lifestyle, I have friends all over the place. Yet another blessing.

The two months we’re staying in Bandera is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere while traveling, and I’m so grateful we discovered it! The change of scenery has been so good for both of us. Dave’s a lot more active, and walking every day, too. I’m writing again. In the five weeks we’ve been to the big city, San Antonio, 50 miles away, only once. We have all we need right here in this little town.

I don’t think of this as ‘vacation,’ but simply as a place to escape the cold winter back home. This is where I’m living today. Granted, I seldom know what day it is…I rely on my pillbox for that. Soon enough we’ll have return to the real world, but until then I plan on living as fully as I can in this 24-hour chunk. No matter where I happen to be.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:24

* This photo of the sailboat was taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2005. It saved the life of our neighbor, who used it to ride out the storm. Most sailboats have one keel, but this one had two. Good thing, because after the winds and waters of the hurricane subsided, it came to rest just right, and gave our neighbor shelter for several days.

Southwestern Winter

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

We’ve been in Bandera, Texas four full weeks now. The weather’s cooperated with my wanting to be outdoors as much as possible, so the pups and Dave and I have done a fair amount of walking around town and exploring. It’s fun to get off the main drag and see where the real people live.

I especially love that aspect of being at this particular RV park, Pioneer River. We’re within walking distance of a beautiful city park, the downtown business district, and my recovery meetings. That last one is a bonus. Being able to go to meetings regularly was an important part–if not the most important part–of deciding where to spend the winter. That, and being relatively close to Austin, where our son and his family live.

Bandera is a small town (pop. 957), but its heart is big. On Sunday we attended a fund-raiser for a local woman, a horse-and-carriage operator, who’d been tragically rear-ended and killed a couple of weeks ago. The heavily publicized event attracted so many people that volunteers were outside barbecuing chicken, brisket, and sausage most all afternoon. Food, a 50/50 raffle, and a silent auction were all a part of the fund raiser. Music played and people danced. Out front were an almost equal number of horses and motorcycles. For being a somber cause, the atmosphere was light-hearted and very genuine, and one that we were happy to be at.

Yesterday we met up with some old friends who were in town for a Winnebago-owners rally. Ann and Tom live in Clear Lake, near Galveston Bay and the Gulf coast of Texas. Our paths first crossed more than twenty years ago when we all lived aboard our boats. They were retired and cruised full-time, whereas Dave worked, I was a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom and our kids were young. They went from boating to RVing like we did, and our paths continue to cross from time to time.

We met for lunch at a place we’d eaten at once before, Brick’s. It is unassuming as it sits behind a motel on Main Street, along the Medina River. It’s one of those restaurants with a huge menu featuring unique items like fried green tomato BLTs. Yesterday I ordered the Dr. Pepper hamburger, a hamburger patty topped with melted cheddar and jack cheeses, fried pickles, onion straws, and Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce. “Oh, my!” does not begin to convey how absolutely wonderful this hamburger was! So much so that I spent the better part of the evening looking at recipes for Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce.

Turns out that the reverence to Dr. Pepper is not just because it was originally concocted in Texas, but because it’s the oldest soft drink in America, beating Coca-Cola by a year. A pharmacist in Waco, Charles Alderton, came up with the recipe, but it was the owner of the drugstore Alderton worked at, Wade Morrison, who came up with the name, hoping to impress the father of a girl he planned to marry. Alderton was more interested in medicine than manufacturing a soft drink, so he just gave the recipe away and Morrison is the one who became rich. Like the recipe for Coke, the one for Dr. Pepper exists in two parts, each part in two separate bank vaults in Dallas. Morrison’s marriage proposal wasn’t accepted after all, a decision no doubt made before the mother lode was discovered and most likely regretted in hindsight. I find local folklore interesting!

I was lucky to have a dad who was an excellent chef and was, in a culinary sense, absolutely spoiled. I place a high standard on food and truly believe that good food is love, so we’re on a mission: eating our way through Texas.

We don’t eat out all that often because we like to cook, too. And to that end, we patronize Bandera Meat Market at least twice weekly. Given all the cattle in Texas (not including Libby, of course), the beef is excellent! On the occasions we eat out, we’ve been relying on the Trip Advisor app, paying special attention to reviews of restaurants with one dollar sign and at least four out of five stars. Good cooking need not be expensive and besides, we prefer going to where the locals go. Because they’ve helped us so much, I try to be diligent about writing reviews for Trip Advisor afterwards. What goes around comes around.

That’s the story from Bandera. Next week ought to be interesting…Mardi Gras is a BIG DEAL here, and the shops and restaurants along Main Street have had the purple, green, and gold decorations up for a couple of weeks already. It seems like Christmas was just yesterday. A pet parade kicks off the three-day celebration, and we’ve got a bag-full of decor from Dollar Tree to dress up our pups! I can’t wait to see how cowboys celebrate Mardi Gras. Variety is definitely the spice of life.

Second Sunday

I didn’t think I’d be writing again so soon, but yesterday was too good not to write about.

The visitor center of any town we’re at for awhile is usually our first stop, and so it was when we got to Bandera. The people who work at visitor centers are so nice and know exactly what direction to point visitors in, depending on what they’re looking for. We had been to the one here on our second or third day in town, just to get general information about the area. But we went there again last week and asked specifically about live music. It just so happened that something called “Second Sunday” was being held this weekend at the Frontier Times Museum, five blocks from our RV park, and we were encouraged to go.

We were recovering from spending the previous day in New Braunfels (about an hour and a half away) with our son and his family, to include our grandsons, Wiley, 4, and Remy, 1. We were reminded of how much energy it takes to keep up with little ones, and we were exhausted when we finally got home. So I was quite surprised that Dave suggested we walk to the museum. And this was after we’d just returned from washing the truck! For some reason, he’s lots more active and walks a whole lot more when we’re traveling. And that’s a good thing!

We have not had a chance to explore this museum yet, but from what little I saw on the way to being ushered to the performance, I definitely want to go back when we have a couple hours to wander. The venue started at one o’clock and by the time we got there, all but three seats were taken. I counted at least fifteen musicians who’d gathered for a little un-orchestrated fun. Since we were in the very back, I had a clear view of only half of the performers: five guitarists (including one 12-string), one banjo player, someone playing a mandolin, a cello, and a bass fiddle. A violinist, a fiddle player, someone on the harmonica, and more guitarists also played, but we couldn’t see them as well. All but two musicians were men, and every one sang.

For more than three hours we and about twenty others were entertained at this most intimate of concerts. I was astounded at the ease with which the performance unfolded. These musicians had not practiced together; today was simply an invitation to get together and play. Literally and figuratively. And they were GOOD! One performer would start and eventually others would join in, on cue it seemed and so effortlessly. One song after another after another it went on. Songs of various genres–country, gospel, Southern rock. What an awesome afternoon! And it was free!

Only once was it mentioned that next month’s Second Sunday would feature a young local woman who had somehow benefited from these performances through scholarship. In a very discreet way, the message was conveyed that donations for today’s performance would surely be appreciated. Glancing at the jar perched on top of a dresser nearby, I’d say the scholarship fund got quite a boost yesterday.

Thanks to visitors centers, we find out about local happenings we might’ve ordinarily passed up. That’s how we ended up at the Bandera County Livestock Show last Thursday. But that’s a whole other blog! Suffice it to say that this little town of 957 residents has more than its share to keep us busy for the next few weeks. I doubt there’s ever a dull moment. In fact, this Thursday is COWBOY CAMP. I can’t wait to find out what that’s about!

Getting back in the saddle.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” -Cyril Connolly

I was really good for awhile about updating this blog regularly, at least monthly…but then life happened midway through 2017, and it seemed like there was new drama happening every day. I couldn’t have written much without revealing too much, and some things should just be kept private.

Time–that saving grace–has ensured that my new normal has become almost routine, which is a godsend. Normal is good, and so is routine. I have a newfound respect for both and don’t think I’ll take either of them for granted like I once did.

Part of the new normal found Dave and me moving back into our RV in September. We felt grateful to have that option; the 5th wheel we got as a result of losing our house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in Hurricane Katrina has become our refuge as well our escape. Between that and living on a boat for several years, downsizing comes easier for us than it would for most. I know the difference between needs and wants. I like ‘simple.’

We lived at the Western Hills Trailer Park in Hopkinsville, across from Western Hills Country Club and Western State Hospital beginning in September. For many reasons it was a good location, but we’re open to living elsewhere when we come back in the spring. Somewhere quieter. Police car and ambulance sirens resounded at all hours of the day and night, every single day. Between that and the discomfort caused by the presence of certain others–some residents, most not–we’re open to calling another place ‘home’ when we return.

A cold winter was predicted for Hoptown, and neither Dave nor I like cold weather like we did in our younger years. So in October we decided we’d go somewhere south for a few months for the winter. We’ve dreamed about being ‘snowbirds’ for years and knew we’d do it someday. Neither of us expected to do it so soon though!

After briefly researching a few Florida locations, we opted for Texas. Our son and his family live there, and we’ve always had the impression that RVers in Texas are welcomed and much more appreciated than those in Florida. At least, that’s been our experience, having been on both sides of the fence–resident and RVer–in both places. But where in Texas? It’s an awfully big state.

I began researching RV park websites in the Lone Star State. We knew we wanted to be able to see our little grandsons in Austin once in awhile, but we didn’t want to be IN Austin. Or any big city.

We’d become acquainted with the Hill Country, west of Austin and San Antonio, when we promoted”The Unsinkable Legend” for Boston Whaler about a dozen years ago, and remembered it as rugged and beautiful. How I happened upon “Bandera, Texas,” must have had something to do with being near a river…water has factored a lot in our lives over the past 40 years. After calling a couple of places that had no availability, I was frustrated and wondered if I hadn’t begun my search for a winter reprieve early enough. This particular RV park, Pioneer River, had just one space left for the months of January and February, a God-wink, I imagined, so I snagged it.

From there my research turned to the Hill Country in general and Bandera in particular. It’s called the Cowboy Capital of the World because it was the starting point of the Great Western Cattle Trail in the late 1800’s. Its population is a few less than 1,000 residents, but we’ve heard that people from all over the world come here, drawn to the chance to experience the independent spirit that’s prevalent here.

We left Kentucky the Friday before Christmas, and made stops in Little Rock, Arkansas, Campbell, TX (northeast of Dallas) and Buchanan Dam before arriving in Bandera on January 1st. We’ve been at this RV park for nearly two weeks and love almost everything about it. It’s extremely convenient to downtown (1 block), the city park (next door), and AA meetings (10 minute walk that includes a 55 degree slope up. No kidding.) Downtown consists of several blocks of stores and restaurants, antique shops, the library, a bakery, and an outdoor outfitter where kayaks and tubes can be rented. Angled parking in front lines both sides of Main Street. Traffic through downtown is steady and moves relatively slowly.

That pretty much brings us to today, Sunday, January 14, 2014. Currently it’s 34 degrees (about 20 degrees warmer than Hopkinsville), and we’re grateful. This afternoon is a jam session from 1-4 this afternoon at the Frontier Times Museum that we want to attend after we do some chores, to include washing the truck, after we walk a few blocks to the bakery we recently discovered. Our days have become an interesting blend of productivity and discovery and some routine. My adopted recovery fellowship meets every day just a few blocks away, so that’s part of the routine, too.

I really want to do a better job of staying in touch and keeping this blog current. Hoping that the worse is over with regards to last year’s dilemma and being so far from home, that shouldn’t be a problem. Life happens every day. I’ll keep you posted!


The other day while painting the fence in our backyard, this thought popped into my mind: Do the Kardashians have babies so that they have job security? I laughed out loud at the notion, not that I care about the Kardashians, but because it was one of the few ridiculous thoughts I’ve had recently. In twelve weeks, to be exact. That’s how long my family’s “new normal” has been in effect. 

While the whole series of events leading up to it are still somewhat incomprehensible, the fact is that it is what it is and somehow life goes on. We’re left to wonder about so many things, and the truth is that we’ll never know the truth. What is true is that nearly half of my daughter’s life–and a good part of ours, too–has been undermined by lies, and that is only part of the damage she is contending with these days. It’s enough to bring anyone down. 

But not everyone. 

I am more proud of her today than I’ve ever been. Whereas some may have stayed down for the count, I’ve seen the reemergence of the stubbornness, strength, and determination she had as a rebellious teenager channeled in order to keep things running. 

Having the rug pulled out from under her was shocking, heartbreaking, and humiliating, and having to deal with another’s issues and actions on an ongoing basis continues to be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. Ironically though, the series of onslaughts opened her up to the idea of spiritual help. Unbeknownst to her, she had come to the point of surrender. The pump was primed. 

It is a testament to the spiritual program of Alcoholics Anonymous that she is “how” she is today, and that is to say that she is okay, all things considered. The only way I know how to support her these days comes straight from what I’ve learned in the program. It’s amazing that the right words come at the right time, and that she is receptive. I’ve even thought as they left my mouth, “Where are these words coming from? They are not mine.” That’s how active God’s grace has been throughout the past twelve weeks. Well, in this particular case, anyway; God’s grace is always present, though we’re not always of it. 

She’s not only survived literally, but she’s learning so much. The growth will continue, and it won’t be easy. It never is. But it is worthwhile. After all, life goes on. 

There are, and there will always be, things that we don’t understand the “why” of. And that’s okay. We don’t have to. Philip Yancey said that “faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” I guess that’s so, because reflecting on the past twelve weeks makes me grateful for this unforeseen fork in the journey. I predict that someday she will, too. I have faith!