On Sunday, the last day of September, we drove to Edmonton after church to stay at our daughter’s. On the Monday I drove up to Whitecourt, Alberta to visit with a friend. He has brain cancer. They took out the tumour and sewed him up and followed with radiation and chemotherapy. An MRI last week shows the tumour has grown slightly since April. He is doing much better than average results for his condition, but as he said Saturday on the phone, “The doctors said they have done all that they can. The tumour is in control.” “Maybe the cannabinoids will work.”
Once back in the city I went to a drop-in clinic for my annual physical for a commercial driver’s license. Saskatchewan requires a special license for towing something over ten thousand pounds. There are other DL classes I could use, but that was the best choice for me at the time I got it. They all have the same medical requirements, in any case. At my age that license requires an annual physical which I passed – PTL! Good for another year.
While in Edmonton we acknowledged our daughter’s birthday, but drove back to Meadow Lake on the morning of the actual day.
Back in Meadow Lake we puttered about doing stuff that needed doing before heading south. I bought 0W-40 synthetic oil to take with us for the truck. It is not easy to find in Texas. I also pack -40 windshield washer fluid to take south for the same reason. Stores don’t stock what people don’t buy and nobody in South Texas buys -40 windshield washer fluid. You don’t want wimpy -10 fluid in the reservoir when you head north in the “spring” though.
I took the car in and had the winter tires put on.
Then we carried on puttering with stuff that had to be done to the fifth wheel and truck and house. In my spare time I split more wood and added it to the woodshed. I tried valiantly to get a track hoe out to the property to help fell some trees leaning toward the house or outbuildings. The company that has the track hoe company is under new ownership. The new owner is young and energetic and has combined a few businesses and is aggressively growing them. My under an hour job is not high on his priority list. It is not that he won’t get around to it eventually, but it got pushed down the list by bigger jobs for a couple of months. That’s the price of not having a history. The former owner would put my small jobs in context of the tens of thousands of dollars of past business we had done. The new owner is looking at a stranger who wants what is almost a nuisance call. Hopefully the leaners while stay standing over the winter.
Normally we leave a couple of days after Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday of October in Canada. We buy our travel insurance months early to get the early bird coverage and have to give them travel dates. I picked October 15th out of thin air as the date to cross the border. As departure approached that date looked less practical. It would put us in Regina on the 13th – in the middle of a forecasted snow storm. Fargo had already had snow, but it was melting.
It looked like the window to travel needed to be earlier.
Wednesday, October 10 - Last Day At Home
On Wednesday, October 10th we took the car over to our daughter’s house to leave it there for the winter and I started the process of winterizing the water system by bypassing and removing the filters. Thursday morning, I finished the job by having a shower and then filling the water lines with antifreeze. (Note to self: finish the job the day before. It always takes longer than you think.) We rolled out of the driveway at 10. locked the gate and drove the grid road to the highway and turned left.
Thursday, October 11 - Meadow Lake, SK to Moosomin, SK
Doing circle checks I had noticed the right rear tail light wasn’t working. I left off the headlights and we stopped in Glaslyn an hour’s journey south. I re-torqued the wheel lug nuts. Normally I check the wheel nut torques before each trip as I had this morning. This is the first trip since installing new wheels with the new tires this summer. They should be re-torqued within 100 km. to make sure they are seated well enough with the new paint on the seating surface. There were a few nuts that moved a bit before reaching torque so it was a worthwhile exercise.
I took the taillight assembly apart and walked half a block back to a hardware store and bought a couple of lamps. That didn’t solve the problem, but some fussing with the lampholder fixed things for now. Rust never sleeps.
We stopped for fuel and lunch at the Red Bull in Radisson, SK and carried on to Saskatoon. The circle of Circle Drive was completed a couple of years ago and I had been taking the new section since then. It has a portion that is low and in shadow and I had visions of it being icy and treacherous with the early winter weather we had been having so we took the old section around Saskatoon. The new section must have offloaded a fair bit of traffic load since the traffic was not as congested as I recall it being. It was a clear and dry road surface all the way.
We stopped in Davidson for more fuel. We probably could make it past Regina, but the access at Davidson is easier. In Regina the rush was not yet in full swing so we had a relatively uneventful trip across there. The new loop around Regina is still a long way from completion and it remains to be seen whether it will be a viable route coming from the north and going east. It looks to be twice or more times longer than the existing route. It would all be freeway with no lights so we’ll see.
We overnighted in Moosomin, SK. We arrived after dark and I turned off the highway too early so relied on the GPS to find roads for us through the totally blacked out fields. Once at the parking spot we found an almost level spot between the puddles, checked when the gas station opened in the morning, locked up and went next door to the Dairy Queen for supper.
The semis running reefer units left shortly after we bedded down and we had a mostly peaceful night’s sleep.
Friday, October 12 - Moosomin, SK to Summit, SD
On Friday we got up and filled up with fuel and gas station coffee and got on the road. I misjudged departure time by an hour, forgetting about the time zone change when headed east into Manitoba, but we still got rolling at a reasonable time.
Once their office was open, I called the insurance broker and updated our departure date and paid for the increased charges.
We fueled up at the Flying J in Headingly on the edge of Winnipeg, then found a nearby WalMart using the truck’s GPS. The GPS thinks it is routing a sports car which can be potentially treacherous when pulling a huge fifth wheel, but we prevailed and parked on the street behind the shopping complex and successfully got back on the ring road south around Winnipeg.
The border crossing went smoothly. They had us pull over and a nervous border person peered into the basement with a flashlight and opened and stared into a number of cupboards. It wasn’t long before we were on the Interstate highway with its occasional smushed sugar beet. They haul them in open trucks and a few fall off on their way to the sugar refinery.
We started seeing snow in the ditches from the recent snow storm, but the highway itself was dry and clean. We stopped in Grand Forks for fuel and carried on south, through Fargo and on to the truck stop at Summit, SD where we fueled up and parked for the night. Another long day’s drive arriving after dark with some confusion about changes to the main entrance in the dark.
We made a pleasant discovery at the Subway inside the truck stop. You can order any subway sandwich as a salad which we did.
Another pleasant night with no noisy trucks right next to us. Probably the third time we have overnighted at this truck stop. The first time we stopped because of the freezing rain and the treacherous highway. The next morning on that sleepover I raised the hood of the truck to check fluid levels and the ice build-up added enough weight that the hood came down on my head as I was peering under the hood.
Saturday, October 13 - Summit, SD to Topeka, KS
Topeka Hilltop Campground
This trip the weather was more pleasant than the ice covered hood hitting head day.
The drive south on Saturday was in good weather. The forecasted weather to the south did not look good. We were planning to go to York, Nebraska and spend a few days, but York was showing almost a foot of snow on Sunday. Nope. Not going to run toward what we are running away from. Council Bluff and Kansas City looked like they would see the same snow storm. Pushing hard and getting south of Kansas City and staying in a Flying J and carrying on to Eastern Oklahoma didn’t look good – heavy rains and flooding predicted there.
Topeka looked good weather wise.
Topeka it would be.
We stopped at Sioux Falls, SD and Missouri Valley, IA for fuel but didn’t stop anywhere for long. South of Council Bluffs, IA we crossed the Missouri River, driving west into Nebraska, near Nebraska City and promptly got misled by the GPS. It predicted a level left turn onto the highway 75 south to Topeka. Not anymore. It is now an interchange and you have to exit from the righthand lane. By the time I realized that, moving over was blocked by a semi beside us so we carried on and turned around at the next opportunity. On our way back I noticed some other driver pulled over looking confused and figuring out what he was going to do next. That was the same place we pulled off five minutes earlier. Probably was Garmined just like us.
As we got close to Topeka I ignored the GPS and followed the on-line directions to the Topeka Hilltop RV Park. Good thing. The GPS thinks sports car. The people entering the information on the park listing think RV’s. Topeka was sunny when we arrived. Some rain is expected tomorrow, but nothing like the torrential rains and flood warnings to the south of here.
We settled in and got set-up and headed out to see the Gosnell movie. Before leaving for the movie we flushed the RV anti-freeze out of the water lines and took the hot water tank out of bypass.
This was the opening weekend and the Gosnell movie was in the top ten at least one night even though the number of theatres was somewhat limited. Gosnell is said to be one of America’s more prolific serial killers. He would birth viable babies and then kill them and call it a therapeutic abortion.
The movie was not an anti-abortion screed as such. It followed the investigation and trial of Gosnell and the horrific conditions of his clinic and managed to do this under a PG-13 rating.
I remember how quiet the crowd was coming out of Schindler’s List. This crowd was equally quiet. I think everybody should see the movie, but it fought an uphill battle to get produced and to get shown in theatres. It had only three national reviews on the opening weekend. Other much less viewed movies were reviewed far more extensively. It is almost as if there is resistance to the story getting out there.
I got an e-mail from Byron at Way of the Cross, asking if I wanted him to plant a tomato for me in the bucket I used for my tomato plant two years ago. I responded that I had been thinking about having a tomato plant as we drove along the day before.
We plan on spending two nights here and most other places we stop until we get to Harlingen. Today was an eight-hour drive from Summit. Now we are south of the snow and north of the rain we don’t plan any more eight or ten-hour driving days.
We had passed a billboard advertising the museum on our way south yesterday. It is not even close to being a bucket list item, but seemed like a fun idea for a rainy afternoon in Topeka.
Evel Knievel was a sketchy businessman and promotor best known for his daredevil feats, leaping over rows of other vehicles on motorcycles. In addition to the motorcycle and rocket stuff, the museum covers his early life and how he came to be called Evel as well as some of his early ventures.
He was definitely a line pusher and maybe a line crosser. One of his early businesses was big game guiding. He would guarantee that his client would bag an elk. It is not known whether his clientele knew he was guiding them onto Yellowstone National Park territory. After the park service discouraged this practice, Evel moved on to his next venture.
There are lots of his costumes and motorcycles on display. There is a skeleton marked up with the location of the numerous fractures his body sustained when the line pushed back.
There were two rockets constructed for his attempt to cross over the Snake River Canyon. The one not used for the flight is on display along with a lot of background on the technical details of this jump and many others.
For an extra five bucks each you can don a VR helmet, climb on a motorcycle and "jump" a row of vehicles.
If you ever find yourself in Topeka on a rainy afternoon this is one of the best ways in town to spend it.
Monday, October 15 - Topeka, KS to Guthrie, OK
We took time this morning for the weather to warm up a bit before we got serious about leaving. There was some snow overnight but it didn’t stick to the ground just the slide tops. Juanita swept them off, which left a layer of ice. Brought the slides in long enough for the ice to start to melt then put the slides out and she swept them again.
Yesterday I had adjusted the pressure in all six truck tires based on some research on line. Shortly after we were on the road the Tire Traker gave an alarm for the right front tire and I quickly pulled to the side of the road. Every thing checked okay so we got back on the road with no more alarms. Can’t come up with a scenario that would explain the alarm and there were no further problems that day or in the future.
We enjoyed a nice four-hour drive on good roads in the sunshine. About 4° C. to begin and 7° C. when we arrived at our destination for the day. We have stayed at this Passport AmericaRV Park in Guthrie, OK before. We used to have friends in area but they moved. We plan to be here two nights. Then we plan to spend two or three nights about two hours east of here. The friends from here moved near there. We plan to hook up and visit with them. We last saw them in Nicaragua. Her mother is still there. Her niece and cousin have left for Spain and Costa Rica respectively. We know the niece well and the cousin a bit. I expect we will get updated when we visit. There is another couple in that area that we know and a couple that may be in the area as well. We haven’t checked with them yet.
We did a bit of shopping and managed a couple of trips to Braum’s ice cream parlor, but mostly just relaxed.
We took advantage of a Group-On discount to buy a Sam's Club membership. The wi-fi connection at the RV park in Guthrie was too weak to provide a sufficient hit for my internet addiction. One day while Juanita shopped I happily surfed with the excellent high speed wi-fi that Sam's provides.
All good things, etc. so eventually I had to come out to the parking lot and get in the truck and drive away. Parked near us was a mid 1940's Plymouth that was worth a few pictures. Along came the owner to show off his baby. He was a boomer of similar age to us. He bought the car in 1963 while he was in high school and has had it ever since.
Sweet little car.
Wednesday, October 17 - Guthrie, OK to Eufala, OK
The couple we thought had moved close to Eufala have just leased a house near Oklahoma City. We eventually figured this out and hooked up with them for a leisurely breakfast. After a long visit we headed back to our rig and they headed back to their moving into the new rental chores.
By noon we were crossing the Interstate on the East side of Guthrie heading East. There is a wonderful highway that veers a bit north there and goes by Cushing. Cushing is home of a massive tank farm that people use to determine current NA crude oil inventories. We took the road less travelled, due east. Good pavement and straight, but narrow with no shoulders and with lots of ups and downs. Not my first choice as a place for a breakdown. Fortunately when we were as close to Cushing as we were going to get (22 miles) we arrived at the north-south highway and took it south to the Interstate going East. I guess Cushing proper stays on my thimble list.
We got to the Passport AmericaRV park on the shores of Lake Eufala a little after two and settled in for a three-night stay. We called our friends that have been building a house in the area and discovered they were on the road east to Missouri. They left on their trip about the time we left Guthrie. Oh well. We’ll look them up in the valley after Christmas.
We managed to cram a couple of trips to Braum’s during our stay. At lunch one day at McDonalds I tried signing up for the McDonalds’ app, but my app store won’t let me buy non-Canadian apps. No deals for you!
One night we had a wonderful dinner with a couple we know through Way of the Cross. It was at a local Eufala landmark - the sort of place that is crowded with locals and is not in any of the tourist guides.
Saturday, October 20 - Eufala, OK to Tyler, TX
We got on the road at a reasonable time, early enough without being rushed. I misunderstood the signs at the turnpike half an hour south of Eufala and we ended up in the lanes going northeast. Not too many miles up the turnpike there was a service island and we used that to top up the fuel tank, use the restrooms and change direction. That worked well. We now definitely had enough fuel to reach Tyler without a fuel stop instead of being “close”. And wondering if it was “close enough”.
Normally when we stop in Tyler we actually stay in Gladewater, but that RV park is no longer a Passport America park and would no longer give a 50% discount. We booked another Passport America park, closer to Tyler. That had us coming into the area through Lindale and getting onto Interstate 20 there. I muttered at Juanita (such a patient lady!), “I think I know that on-ramp. It is across from the Cracker Barrel restaurant and is a long uphill on ramp to the merge lane”. It was. We survived.
A couple of exits later we took the exit to the reserved park and wound several miles through the forest canopy. Nobody in the office, but a call to the number on the door got a person who told us where to park so we did and set up. Eventually said person arrived and took the money for three nights.
More relaxation. We have been to most of the tourist things in Tyler before so demurred to revisit them. We did a bit of shopping and managed to have a final Braums ice cream hit to last us til next spring.
On Sunday we went to church at the cowboy church. Our dually fit right in in the parking lot. I didn’t wear my cowboy hat (our daughter would be pleased) although many did. We drove over to Jasper Bible College in Hawkins and had lunch in the cafeteria. Had hoped to run into some SOWERS but didn’t. Probably have better luck while projects were in session. In between projects a lot of SOWERS are on the move. Had e-mailed one couple headed for the area, but they wouldn’t arrive until Tuesday. We plan to leave Tuesday. Our plan is to go about half way to Harlingen and the rest of the way on Thursday.
On Monday we dropped by the SOWER office and had coffee with several couples, some of whom we have worked with in the past. The normal administrators were away for a few weeks so we missed seeing them, but knew their back-ups.
We visited a big rig hostile Camping World and bought some necessities and drooled over some not so necessity items.
Tuesday, October 23 - Tyler, TX to Mathis, TX
I had planned a route to College Station at first and then changed that to Victoria looking at the weather reports.
Following the GPS meant we travelled a different route than planned and went through Madisonville. We have been there during the annual mushroom festival which is kind of fun. This year we missed it by four days. That is a good thing if you are towing a fifth wheel through town. Madisonville does have a huge, new Buc-ee's gas station, though. As is usual with the purpose-built Buc-ee’s it had lots of room, low fuel prices, lots of food choices and immaculate bathroom. Nice break from driving. Then back on the road on the usual, wide well-paved Texas secondary highways. Lots to be said for oil riches.
North of Victoria we phoned one park and found the choices left for parking sites less than desirable. We carried on to Mathis and a park we have stayed at. It is a little nasty with no wi-fi, but cheap and across from a wonderful, economical restaurant serving large portions of Jalisco cuisine.
I pulled into the driveway and went to the office. We have been stopping here since our way out of Mexico in the spring of 2006. The original owner has died in that time period and then his wife. His daughter has been running the place for several years now. She buzzed me into the office and said she had sold the place and didn’t think she was allowed to rent out any spaces that weren’t already rented. Oh. Bye. Good luck with your life of not being shackled to a motel/RV park.
We drove up to the interstate interchange, fueled up and backed next to a semi-trailer at the edge of the parking lot. There’s been a lot of rain lately. The back of the trailer was situated over a lake but the spot in front of the stairs into the trailer was dry.
We went into the McDonald’s attached to the gas station and dined and used the wi-fi. Later in bed if I held my iPod just so I could surf and do e-mail on the McDonald’s wi-fi. Looking at the weather report for Wednesday we had time to get to Harlingen before the serious rain and wind started. Thursday was not looking good. Nasty torrential rains were predicted, especially around Mathis and most of the way to Harlingen.
We checked with Way of the Cross. Please come down today. Most everybody is teaching at the missionary training school until the weekend and Byron has something he needs you to do before the weekend. So we did, set up Wednesday, and hunkered down in the rain and wind on Thursday. Friday we replaced some windows that had been taken out in a carport fire. That meant the missionary living there had a warm spot to stay when he got back from Mexico on Saturday.
Monday, Byron and I replaced the air conditioner and wiring that was destroyed in the fire. The weather here doesn’t stay cold for long this time of the year. It can be 40 F in the morning and 80 F in the afternoon. This is the first split style unit I have worked with. I like them. They are quick and straightforward to install. The condenser unit comes with enough refrigerant. The tubing has all the fittings on the ends. No silver soldering required. You physically install the inside unit and outside unit. Hook up the wires and tubing, pull a vacuum on the tubing and open the valves. The hardest part was removing the old equipment and replacing the melted conduit and wires.
Thus began our November SOWER project. Being the only SOWER couple here until the SOA’s show up we follow the staff schedule starting each day with their chapel.
There is no Celebrate Jesus Festival planned for November, but there is a Big Feed for December and a Medfest for January. They will happen just over the border in Mexico, but will involve the training center facilities. The maintenance on the training center has fallen way behind for a lot of reasons. There will be no shortage of things to do to help get it back into some sort of reasonable shape to accommodate volunteer teams.
There are a couple of phrases rattling around loosely in my brain. In the spirit of applying decluttering principles I will just park them here at the curb and walk away.
During summer 2017 I worked at a new refinery doing instrumentation pre-commissioning. You check things out making sure they talk to each other and accurately communicate the information the control system needs to know. Once this is done the actual commissioning of the refinery has some likelihood of going smoothly and quickly without getting bogged down. Refineries need water storage on site to be able to fight fires. Our construction trailers were next to one of these storage ponds. The grouping was called “Fire Pond Village” certainly a name that evokes a much more idyllic image than the reality.
Another phrase that has been bobbing around in my cerebral gyre is “mixed marshmallow arts”. Run with it. It is probably safer than running with scissors.
The last for this month, dear reader, is “participation trophy wife”. Probably running with this phrase is a lot more dangerous than running with scissors. Could it describe the result of a soy boy hanging out with the feminists? Maybe ISIS in its prime? Maybe some things are best left unconsidered.