Sunday, April 29, 2007

SpringTrip07 - Report 2

Notes: Report 1:
a. I should have said "when the Rays and we are motor homing."
b. I don't know how Blogger decides to put in spaces between paragraphs. Report 1 didn't look like that -- especially the itinerary -- on the screen before I posted it. Oh, well. I've seen professional bloggers complaining about Blogger.

Saturday, April 28.

Ken and Elsie, along with their two sons and their families, all of whom now live in the Abilene area, have spent much of their "spare time" the last year "flipping" two houses: buying houses badly needing renovation and doing major work to rehabilitate the houses. They gave us a tour of the second house, now nearing completion. This one featured an attic that became a three-bedroom second floor, complete with a new staircase to get there. Pretty impressive. A lot of hard work, though, and they're ready to put that business on hold for a while.

Here are a couple of pictures of their house and yard, and them, not one of their flipped houses.

Sunday turned out to be College Day at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, where we met the Rays in 05. There were various university singers and musicians leading the service and the the church's campus ministry director -- an enthusiastic young man -- had a great message, illustrated by several McMurry U artists. Theme was that we are not an accident -- we have been created for a purpose. Also, it's not an easy process -- illustrated by a potter, right there in the front of the church, who puts stress on a spinning lump of clay to create something beautiful and functional -- cup, teakettle, plate, vase, ..., all different, all having their function. A parallel illustration: every word a poet uses has a purpose. "God don't make junk," as the saying goes.

Heavy rain Sunday night, 1.5 in., and windy, but nothing severe. Monday morning we're off to Fredericksburg. About 180 miles from Abilene, beautiful drive -- mesquite trees with the light green of new leaves, wildflowers of various sorts, more shades of green from pastures and live oaks, all against a purple background of clouds. Sorry, no pictures, but maybe as we do some car touring the next few days.

Went through a couple of county seats. Here's a 2005 picture of a courthouse along the way.

In F-burg the Magellan GPS misdirects us and we end up turning around in a HS parking lot in order to make our way to the RV park. If I'd looked at the map provided by the RV park, I would have known better, but I chose to trust Magellan. Oh, well. We did a leisurely set up, went to the visitor center, walked a couple of downtown blocks, particularly enjoyed a couple of art galleries, ate, and returned to the RV park. Here's a historical house in downtown Fredericksburg.

Our leisurely pace his day is decidedly different from that of the same four people who did Florence in a day, Rome in a day, etc. two years ago. See: We plan for more of the same this week.

Yawn, more later.


Susie and Rob

Thursday, April 26, 2007

SpringTrip07 - Report 1

Dear Family and Friends:

On the road again -- finally! Haven't been out in TuziTwo since Yellowstone last fall (except when we parked it in our driveway and slept there while the Easterling kids were here at the first of April). It's been a very snowy winter and in fact just two days ago we had snow blowing in the air, so we're ready for spring, bigtime. This is going to be a six-week plus trip. Not only that, but we're going to see all six kids in one trip. That'll take care of our 2007 obligations -- just kidding, kids. Here's the itinerary:


26 - depart

27-29 - Abilene, TX

30 - Fredericksburg, TX


1-4 - Fredericksburg, TX

5-6 - Arlington, TX (Heidi joins us here and travels with us to Nashville)

7-9 - Branson, MO

11-15 - Nashville (Mandi and Paul)

20-22 - Ames, IA (Statistics Conference!

23-26 - Sioux Falls, SD (Jeff and Valerie Hinkle)
29-31 - Grand Rapids, MI (Matt and Suzie Hinkle; Kaci's graduation)


1-3 - Grand Rapids

7-10 - Boiling Springs State Park, OK (Easterling family reunion -- Jeff, Mike, and families)

12 - Cedar Crest, NM (home)

April 26. We leave home about 1030 am, right after Regis Philbin's return from heart surgery. Three hundred miles later we're stopped for the night at the Lubbock KOA, where we've stayed a few times before. Perfect RV park locale: near the highway and a busy railroad! Not a hard day's travel, but we're tired, after 2-3 days of getting ready and loading, and ready to stop. Everything seems to work, including satellite TV.

Here's a shot at a roadside rest area en route -- you know that Texas panhandle town, Route, just down the road from Muleshoe.

Day 2 starts with an unusual problem -- About 6:30 am I start to leave for a trip to the KOA facilities and I can't unlock the front door. That's the only door. The lock had been working smoothly, up to now, but I can't budge the deadbolt knob. What to do? I could wait until someone walks by and throw them a key and see if the door will unlock from the outside. The wait might be too long and would be embarrassing. I could force the knob, but that might make things worse. I could go out the emergency window -- but I'm not sure but what when I release its latches, it might crash to the ground, which you would want in an emergency but not now. So, I decide to climb out the driver's side window. The decorative bed spread is laying nearby (we have daily rituals of unmaking the bed and making the bed) so I get the idea to lay it over the window sill and hang it down the outside to protect the motor home. I squeeze out backwards, dangle, and drop lightly, catlike, to the ground. The lock won't budge from the outside either, not surprisingly, so I get a screwdriver out of my toolbox, get the ladder out of the basement, climb back inside and with a little bit of work -- the knob was lined up with the screws -- take the back off the lock. Still can't retract the deadbolt, so it's back through the window and somehow working the key in the loosened lock retracts the bolt. There is a second door lock, so we won't be without security until I get the lock replaced. Getting the back of the lock back on just to hold the lock on proves difficult -- a three-hand job with only two hands. Susie soon arises, though, I tell her about the excitement, and together we soon get the lock secured and away we go.

The standard way from Lubbock to Abilene is to angle down US 84 to I-20, then east to Abilene -- about 180 miles total. I decide to take a more scenic, meaning two-lane, route. And it is more scenic -- more rolling hills as we cross several branches of the Brazos river. We stop in a rest area to check the map and as we pull out I notice a group of three mailboxes, all full of bullet holes. That's neat, shoulda got the picture. Then, almost immediately there's a large ranch gate proclaiming Hang 'Em High. No doubt now, we're in legendary west Texas -- Big Country, the Abilene newspaper calls it. Some people say there's nothing out here. One thing I get a kick out of, however, is ranch gates -- you can see how each owner is trying to make a statement. If there's not one already, there ought to be a book of these.

Two more hopes I have for this route are a small-town cafe and a Texas county courthouse -- and we find both. In Aspermont, after passing one cafe with no room to park, I spot a small place with lots of pick-ups parked around and a sign out front saying only -- catfish. Be still my heart. Susie says that, but not about catfish, so I borrowed it. We go around the block, park, and enjoy a catfish lunch. The interior is what you'd expect -- tattered oilcloth tablecloths, ripped-up vinyl chairs, well-weathered men in boots, jeans, and battered cowboy hats -- even saw one wearing spurs, interesting folks of both sexes. Lots of big people, most of whom seemed to be eating hamburgers, not catfish.

On down the road toward Abilene we go through Anson, which features this courthouse. I'm sure I got a picture of this one in 2005 when we lived in Abilene, but it's easier to take a new picture than find the old one.

Got to Abilene in mid-afternoon, parked in the Rays' (Elsie and Ken -- our Abilene and Mediterranean cruise friends) driveway, rested in their backyard, went downtown to the Grace Museum for an art show (some outstanding Texas scenes by a local artist) and snacks.

That's all for now. We'll be here until Monday when the Rays and us are motor homing down to Fredericksburg for a few days.


Rob and Susie

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Malia's Baptism Weekend

Big Weekend! Valerie and Jeff scheduled Malia's baptism for our church, St. John's United Methodist Church, in Albuquerque, on April 1. (St. John's is Jeff's home church and also where he and Valerie were married.) Both sides of the family came -- son Mike, his wife, Karen, and their son, Jason; Valerie's two sisters and their families and Valerie's mother and stepfather. Because Sunday was Palm Sunday, with various additions to the service that would make it run long, we scheduled the baptism to immediately follow the service, open to all who would like to attend. Made for a nice, intimate gathering, friends and family standing next to the altar. Malia took it all very calmly and seriously. A little water on her head didn't faze her a bit.

You may remember that Malia received a Buddhist blessing in China in December. Now, according to your point of view, she's either protected in two religions or this baptism overrides the Buddhist blessing.

Church lunch followed, more opportunity to introduce Malia around and a chance for Mike and Jeff to connect with church family friends, and then the families gathered at our house for visiting and celebrating.

Malia (she's now 15.5 months) just started walking on her own two days previously, so a lot of our entertainment was watching and catching her as she careened around house and patio.

Spent some quality time with Grandma, too!

The two cousins got along famously.

Here Malia is playing peekaboo with the quilt that the St. John's quilting group made for her, while Jason watches.

We had started the weekend with Saturday lunch at a Mexican restaurant and then reinforced that with a Monday afternoon lunch at a different Mexican restaurant. That evening, we had a professional photographer come out and take family pictures at our house. We've seen Mike's family group pix and they're great. Looking forward to seeing how the rest turned out.

Jeff, Valerie, and Malia returned to Denver on Tuesday. Mike, Karen, Jason, and I took a trip to Bandelier National Monument (ancient Indian ruins, for those who may not be familiar with this site) with a stop in Santa Fe on the way home. Very nice spring day. This picture turned out sort of artsy, so I decided to include it.

Here, tourists (Jason, Karen, and Mike) stroll the portico of the Palace of Governors in Santa Fe.

In sum, it was a very special weekend. Susie and I both get weepy just thinking about Malia being abandoned on a government building doorstep when she was one day old, and now, fifteen months later, what a change her life has seen! Then you add two families gathering, linked by this precious little girl and the sacrament of baptism, and the sentiment really runs deep. Life is good.


Susie and Rob

p.s. For more pictures of the weekend, go to Valerie and Jeff's blog: