RVHer Fulltiming With a Dog and a Dude


Note: All names have been changed.

I have listened to a lot of stories about the Dude’s siblings. He has four but he mostly talks about Cassie. He told me how she was a good sister to him. How she helped him when he needed it. How she backed him up when he needed it. He told me how she was so smart and talkative and lively and how her personality could fill a room and how she was impossible to ignore, even if occasionally he wanted to.

On the way to Calgary we stopped in Oklahoma. I met Cassie, and her husband, Tom. I met their son, the handsome Todd, and his lovely wife, Lisa, and their beautiful girls, Lizzy and Madison. I met Cassie and Tom’s daughter, the beautiful Missy, and her awesome kids, Alissa and Hunter. [This family is, and I’m not kidding, like a TV family. The kids are well behaved and gorgeous and listen to their parents and have beautiful manners and talk to adults as if they were adults themselves. (OK, maybe the two-year-old didn’t carry on adult convo, but she had good manners.) (Hunter: I’m not including you in the “kids.” You, Killer, are head and shoulders above the other persons-of-your-age I have met. May you long rock on.)]

I watched and listened to Missy interacting with her kids and seeing how much she really seemed to LIKE them, and how they liked her. (What is, “T-Dog?” I think that is what y’all said.) They talked like friends, but they obviously respected her as mom. I watched the 17-year-old Hunter love on his grandma and order dinner for her. (A gentleman, that one. Good job, Missy.) I watched Lisa and Todd play with and comfort their girls. I watched Tom pay attention to his grandkids and pet on them. I watched these people talk to the Dude like it was just yesterday that they had seen him, not years ago. I listened and watched and saw a beautiful, amazing, unique family.

I also listened and watched as Cassie told a story, and then listened and watched as she told the story again, and then again. I listened to this family tell the Dude how much Cassie has changed in three years, and how much she had declined in the last six months. I listened as the family asked, “Where is Grandma,” and looked around, everyone quiet, tense, aware.

While the Dude talked to the family, I looked at the family pictures and there was Cassie, the vibrant, bright-eyed woman I’d heard about. I saw her engaged with the camera. I saw a fierce intelligence and independence, and maybe a bit of stubbornness. I saw her eyes reflected in the grandkids. I watched the Dude’s composure falter. I watched Alissa ask Missy a question. I watched Missy tell Alissa that there were no guarantees in this world. Alissa is gorgeous, and smart, and wise beyond her years but she is also only 10.

I don’t know when we will be back this way but I hope to meet this family again. I don’t think Cassie will remember us, though. Cassie is 63, younger than my beloved momma, and three years ago was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. It is genetic. It is fucking cruel.

There are no guarantees.

Wait, What? We’re Actually Leaving the South? No, It Can’t Be.

We picked up our Chieftain in Tampa back in October. So that was what? Eight months ago? And for eight months we have really done nothing but sit somewhere in the South and make repairs to the Chieftain, and here now, the Phaeton. Oh sure, we spent the winter in the Keys (at one RV park), which, don’t get me wrong, does. not. suck, and then made some stops on the way to the the NuRVers gathering, but save for those things we haven’t left the South and gone on a real trip.

We went from Tampa to the Keys to Tampa to Atlanta to Memphis to Houston to Austin to Gonzales to Dallas to Daphne to Montgomery to Dallas, and the only reason we even left Florida was we had to go to the storage unit in Dallas, and then the only reason we didn’t get on the road was we decided to buy the Phaeton so it was back across I-10 to go to Alabama. NOW, praise the Lord and pass the biscuits we are finally, finally on our first real excursion somewhere.

So here we are, sitting at Hidden Lake RV in Ardmore, OK, with one last friends/relatives stop to make. In a couple of hours we will be in Yukon, OK, visiting with one of the Dude’s sisters and her family and then it is off to Calgary.

I am trying to be a positive thinker but some of this preparation has started to seem more like putting stuff off. It’s time to cowgirl up and get this rodeo started.

Yee haw!

Renovations. Inspired or Masochistic? Discuss.

So, while we are stuck in Montgomery, Alabama, where it rains every effin’ day, three times a day, we have decided to do away with the stock valances and day/night shades and replace them with pull-down shades, sheers, and curtains. It seemed like an easy thing to do. Unscrew this, screw in this, hang up that, but what has been happening is this: Unscrew this, screw in this, hang up that.

Trying to maneuver curtain rods and blinds up the steps and past each other and not step on a cat or dog and not whack the shit out of something thereby causing yet another repair for the Dude would be comical in a Larry, Moe, and Curly kind of way IF the Dude had even the tiniest bit of humor left but seven months of nonstop RV repairs and still working a full-time job and adjusting to this new lifestyle have kind of sucked the whimsy right out of him. I mostly just try to do exactly what he says, anticipate what he wants next (aka read his damn mind), and stay the hell outta the way.

Now add to the previously mentioned fact that it rains every day, and the Dude has repairs that have to take place outside and we are running out of time to get to Canada, you can see how the renovations that should’ve been a piece of cake are fraught with DRAMA.

“Grab it! GRAB IT,” screamed the Dude, who just seconds before had been talking to himself and the curtain bracket. How was I to know that his exclamations were directed at me and not the disobedient bracket that had failed earlier to grasp the rod?

“God damned pieces of shit! Retailers must believe that Americans want the cheapest shit available. Does anyone ever try their products?! What, the Chinese had these screws on sale this week? These don’t even fit this bracket!” Thus began a 10-minute rant lecture well-thought-out talk about American consumers, the state of our consumerism, the retail industry, and China.

“Hand me my keys,” said the Dude. I look around for keys. “Did you hear me!” asked the Dude when I don’t answer quickly enough. “Do you see the blinds that go in the kitchen,” asks the Dude. “Yes,” I swiftly and decisively answer. “Stop, stop! You said it too quickly. I thought we had a bad connection,” said the Dude, sans irony. (Y’all, excuse me for a few moments, won’t you? I have to go and find my eyeballs. I think they rolled under the couch.)

And so I sit here, writing this, waiting for the Dude to get back from Lowe’s, wondering what today will bring. Will it be easy and the last curtain set goes up easily, or will it be another diatribe on the lack of quality in our products these days, or perhaps I’ll get snapped at. Yet again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I Don’t Think That We Will EVER Actually “Hit The Road.”

We are sitting at a Freightliner shop…Hold up, check that, we are DYING IN THE HEAT at a Freightliner shop in Montgomery, Alabama…waiting for some mechanics to do whatever it is they need to do to get the Phaeton working properly so that we may actually leave the south to get to Canada. “What? ‘Alabama,’ you say? ‘Canada? Phaeton?’ Who the? What the?”

Note: I was going to erase the following rant but this is the stuff that goes through my head when I fight with the Dude. Or get my feelings hurt, and they get hurt easily. Too easily, and I know that. I am traveling in  a relatively small home with a dude and three animals and we ALL get on each others’ nerves occasionally. You can keep your sense of humor for a long time but sometimes you lose it, and then you lose it! Anyway, it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that this travelin’ life is a beautiful picnic all of the time. It has its bumps just like life in a static place. Remember, I was mad when I wrote this so don’t judge the Dude.

<rant> OK, I’m going to go off on a tangent here. This next stuff has absolutely nothing to do with travels. I’d like to know whose blog this is. No, really, whose is it? Why, I do believe it’s MINE, which means I can write about what I want to but I have a partner who only wants me to write about the topics he cares about and can’t find anything nice to say about the topics he doesn’t like. He read my last posting, the ONE-OFF on Texas, and this is what I got: “Nice blog about Texas. I thought this was supposed to be about your travels.” What the fuck? I’m not even going to tell him when I update anymore because he can’t even be assed to care unless he chooses the subject. You know, if he doesn’t care, why the fuck should a random stranger care? I get it, he hates Texas but this is something I wrote. If I make something to eat that he doesn’t like he at least has the decency to appreciate the effort. The last few entries have garnered nothing but derision from him. “Well, you’re not writing it for me.” You’re right, Dude, I’m not, but being a dick about my creative output because it’s not what you want to read is a shit-heel move. <sarcasm>Makes me just super motivated to write more.</sarcasm>

Seriously, what is a personal blog? Isn’t about you and what you’re doing and what’s on your mind? Doesn’t it make sense that traveling around the country might make you appreciate stuff that you miss? OH, oh, and if I ever say that I miss [whatever] I get attitude and phrases like, “Well, you can just go back there,” or “Why the fuck did we buy an RV?” Like he takes it as a personal affront that I would miss the few friends I had in Philly or would want to see my friends in Texas. Just because we are traveling doesn’t negate or erase the past. Just because I miss [whatever] doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see and experience the future. Missing one thing does not mean I want to move back to wherever. I miss my friend, Liga, but I don’t want to move back to Philly. I miss going to A&M football games but that doesn’t mean I want to move back to College Station. Appreciating where you came from and what was there does not mean I don’t want to see other stuff. I mean, I like Philly cheesesteaks but I’d like to try other regional foods, which you can only experience by traveling. I might find something/someplace else that I will miss BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN I WANT TO STAY THERE.

And wouldn’t traveling around bring up all kinds of emotions? This is a journey and you learn things about yourself and have emotions you’ve never had before.  And that Texas post was titled as a ONE-OFF. And THIS post was supposed to be about what has been happening since the NuRVers gathering but I’ll be damned if I tell him that this is about traveling. Fuck that.

And, and, is it wrong to want and expect the person closest to you to LIKE your output, even if it isn’t his cup of tea? Hey, Dude, I don’t know fuck all about electrical stuff and RV mechanics but I tell you all the time how much I appreciate all you do and how much I appreciate the effort it takes you to do it. I don’t say, “Nice, but I couldn’t care less.” “Nice, but so? Means nothing to me.” “Nice, but I hate mechanical shit.” “Nice. And?” See, sounds shitty, doesn’t it?

He couldn’t be bothered to say, “Well, Texas isn’t my favorite anymore but that paragraph about the fair was fun,” or “You know, I don’t like Texas but that makes me miss some of the good stuff.” Hey, Dude, did your dad treat you like that and make you feel bad about your creations, because this sounds familiar to the shit he did to you.

Anyway, it’s stuff like that that makes me less inclined to write. I made something that I put my heart into and worked hard at and the person closest to me couldn’t care less. But that’s not supposed to hurt, I guess.</rant>

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program called, I Don’t Think We Will EVER Actually “Hit the Road.”

So after practically dying in the heat at the Freightliner place we got back to our latest RV park, which is in Montgomery, Alabama, which, uhm, is not so great. We are in not the nicest area and it’s pretty sketchy here. This a huge change after Daphne and Fairhope. (It’ll make sense in a minute.)

After the gathering in Gonzales (TEXAS), we traveled to Dallas (oops, there’s Texas again…sorry, Dude) to see some friends and family. (Correction, MY friends and family.) The lovely and talented, DeAnn, braved having dinner with my mom, brother, his girlfriend, and my nephew, and she drove to Rockwall to do it. DeAnn is over there > in the blogroll. She’s the photographer (Big Tex stuff–whoops, there’s that Texas again. Funny how living there for quite a while makes some memories that get talked about occasionally. My apologies, Dude.) and all-around groovy chick I mention sometimes. I have known her since 1995. We met at Saturn of Mesquite (RIP). I sold cars for a while (!) and she keeps the place from falling apart, and knows where the bodies are buried, if you get my meaning.

Anyway, after we left the-State-That-Shall-Not-Be-Mentioned we drove to Daphne, Alabama to look at a Phaeton. The Dude had been in contact with a car dealer about trading the Winnebago for the Phaeton, pretty much a “mine for yours” sort of deal. It took us only a day to get to Daphne (traveling the god-awful roads of Louisiana yet again) and we got to the dealership after it was closed and we took a look at the Phaeton.

After that we drove a few more miles to Fairhope, which is just a beautiful little town, to the Coastal Haven RV Park. We had planned to only be there for a couple of days, just long enough to (possibly) trade the Chieftain and move into the Phaeton but (dun dun DUN) that’s not exactly how it worked out.

The actual deal was made in a day but moving from one coach to another is HARD. You’d think it would be easy. You just park next to the new coach, walk your stuff from one to the other, and done. But no. Huh uh. You are talking about moving from two sets of closets to one closet. From one chest of drawers to no chest. From one set of cabinets to an entirely new set of cabinets. From one fridge to another that is set up completely different. Not an easy thing.

AND, the Phaeton didn’t have a TV worth a damn nor a satellite dish and the speakers didn’t work right, and the tires were shot, and the AC crapped out, and the ice maker didn’t work, and, and, and. (Now, when we finally left LazyDays way back in, what, November (?), the Dude had to make pretty much all the same repairs and add-ons to the Chieftain that he was having to make yet again to the Phaeton so I have been instructed to smack him if he decides he wants to make a change to another coach in the next year. I might smack him anyway just because.)

So we were in Fairhope for about three weeks and although we didn’t do any sight-seeing we did manage to befriend a cutie calico who I named Hope and get her fixed and possibly adopted. I took her to Eastern Shore Pet Hospital, which is active in TNR and they gave us a discounted price on Hope’s spaying. We ended up not taking the discount and giving them a donation on account of the fact that they kept Hope to find her a home. She was soo friendly and soo pretty that they kept her even though they said they didn’t have room. I didn’t get a pic of her. Boo.

The Dude also found a blackberry patch on the edge of the RV park and picked so many berries that we had pie and cobbler a lot. Apparently blackberries just grow all over Alabama because the park we’re at now has them everywhere. Excellent! (The Dude had to do all of the picking because you know, spiders.)

So, after all the work on the Phaeton at Coastal Haven, the Dude gets brand-spanking new tires put on and we drive to Montgomery only to wake up with a flat because the mentally feeble at the tire store put the wrong size stems or something on the tires. And those same idjits didn’t attach the hubcaps properly so one blew off on the highway. Deeeelightful!

The Dude was able to air up the flat so that we could drive over to Freightliner and the tire store, and here we are now, sitting at the sketchiest RV park we’ve been to, waiting for some more parts so that we might, might, just might actually “hit the road” by next Wednesday so that we can get to Canada so that the Dude can teach a couple of classes. We will be seeing Calgary (missing out on the Stampede, though) and Vancouver!!! Yay, I loved the couple of days I had there for the Olympics so it’ll be great to see more of it.

And since we’re not seeing anything other than the RV park I might have to write about something in the past, write about something I know, and that might include something about, oh, I don’t know, TEXAS!

But hey, it’s my blog, right?

A One-Off On All Things Texan

Holy mothers of Cynthia Ann Parker and Sam Houston but do I love the Lone Star State. I don’t love everything about it [Sideways glances and middle finger salutes at the Texas State Board of Education–as the astronauts (Hello, NASA!) in Houston say, “Way to screw the pooch.” Man, just when you think it is safe to once again admit to being a Texan, these guys show up. I swear, if the Board had any brains they’d play with them.] [Additional salutes to the heat and humidity–Really, Texas, is it necessary to be hotter than the surface of the sun? I just don’t know why once the settlers got there in spring, “Oh, look at this land. It’s beautiful. It’s fertile. The weather is lovely,” that they didn’t pick up and say, “Screw this,” once the summer (In the summer of 1980, high temperatures in Dallas/Fort Worth exceeded 100 °F  a total of 69 times, including a record 42 consecutive days from June 23 to August 3. D/FW reached an all-time high on June 26 and 27, when the temperature reached 113 °F on both days.)] hit. As my mom says, “Spring in Texas: One nice day in April. Fall in Texas: One nice day in October.” But I digress as I am wont to do but I do love it.

I was born in Baytown, Texas. I am a third generation Texan. I have lived in Texas, on and off, for most of my life. I tell everyone that no matter where I live, I will always be a Texan. Texans know that, “No, most of Texas isn’t a desert. There are the piney woods of East Texas, the flatlands of North Texas, the gorgeous hill country, the Gulf Coast, the tumbleweeds of West Texas, and the snows of the Panhandle.” I truly believe that “Don’t Mess With Texas” is absolute genius. Not only did it clean up our roads because Texans are a proud lot but it captured how we feel about our state. I mean, it’s like your family: YOU might be able to talk bad about it but don’t even let someone else start ’cause it’s ON at that point. I’ll defend Texas, and my family, until I die. Hell, you might even bicker with your fellow Texans about what’s happening in our state, but let someone from outside start in and we’ll beat your ass down, and then get back to our argument!

I love Giant. I’ve never read the book but the movie is near and dear to Texans’ hearts, even if the movie does get a lot of stuff wrong. What they got right, though, is this: The moment where Leslie’s father tells her, “You mustn’t speak that way to a Texan. They feel very strongly about their state.” Makes me laugh every time! And the cinematography is out of this world. If you ever have a chance to watch it at the theater, please do it.

Last I heard parts of the facade were still there.

And let’s not forget Lonesome Dove, just one of Larry McMurtry‘s books set in Texas. Please read the book and don’t forget to watch the miniseries. Both are fantastic.

I can’t even begin to tackle the food so here: Homesick Texan, kolaches, Kerbey Lane, Texas blood (aka Ro-Tel, Oh make sure you enter the Ro-Tel contest over here at Deep South Dish),  to die for, mother’s milk, combo platters, Gulf Coast, and even though chili is the official state food of Texas I believe it is actually this: The beautiful, indescribably delicious, perfect-in-all-ways chicken fried steak! Oh my God, are you kidding me with that? And bitch, please. Don’t EVEN call it country fried steak. Damn! I wish I were in Texas right now ’cause I hongry! Oh, oh, if anyone should feel so inclined and generous, I would love to have this (in the Texas-shaped bottle, if at all possible. Yes, please, and thank yew!).

Now, let’s talk about the State Fair of Texas. [And that was a perfect segue from food because I mean, come on, how do you not LOVE a state that comes up with these: Fried Coke (though I would’ve preferred fried Dr Pepper as DP is from Texas), Deep Fried Latte, Fried Cookie Dough, Fried Banana Split, and this, the holy grail of fried goodness: Chicken. Fried. Bacon! ] I have been to other state fairs and fairgrounds and they are sad. They are small little affairs on small little fairgrounds and they make me appreciate even more the spectacle and ritual that is the great state fair of Texas. I don’t know of another state that builds in a day off of school in each school district just so that the kids can go to the fair. “Fair Day” is right up there with Halloween and Christmas for kids in North Texas. We got the day off from school and a free ticket to the fair. Shit, school buses were reserved to give us a ride, and if you were old enough and could talk your parents into it they would drop you and a friend off in the morning with a couple of twenty-dollar bills and you would tear up that midway! And when your momma would pick y’all up in the afternoon you were sunburned, sick to your stomach from all the fried food, and if really, really lucky, carrying a bunch of stuffed animals that would stay in your bedroom until you graduated from high school and your momma redecorated your room after you took off to college.

I don’t have a segue for this so I’ll just jump in with one word: Manners. Y’all Texans know EXACTLY what I’m talking about but for those of you unfortunate enough to be born elsewhere I will now politely school you. There are manners and then there are Texas manners. Manners dictate that when asked if you’d like some tea, you say, “Please.” Texas manners dictate that you say, “Yes, ma’am, thank you.” Texas manners mean that you fellas take your damn hats off indoors, and that means your gimme caps, too. (This has sadly been declining in my time. My PaPa would’ve died before leaving his hat on indoors.) You “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” everyone, even those younger than you because it’s polite. You offer to get your visitors something before they’ve even sat down. Men stand when a lady walks into the room. (This can be dropped with your friends and family but please stand when a lady not of your acquaintance walks up.) If I have to keep explaining this then you will just have to look it up on your own. Googling “Texas Manners” pulls up tons of article from other Texans who have written about them; obviously it’s important to us.

Before I finish my love letter to Texas, here are just a few more words for you: Football, big, boots, cowboy hats, Wurstfest, dance halls, C&W, Tito’s Vodka (feel free to send me some of that too), Hillshade RV Park (prettiest, friendliest little RV Park in the Hill Country) and finally, here are the Reivers, my most favorite band ever! Please, please check out their music.

So there you go. While I am driving along in the RV, looking forward to my next adventure, my heart is in Dallas. And in Austin. And in Houston.

Don’t mess with Texas. Y’all.

It’s Not You. It’s Me.

I ain’t gonna lie; I went in to the 2nd annual NuRV Gathering with high hopes and those hopes were dashed on the rocks on the first official day. Clubbed like baby seals, beaten like red-headed stepchildren, shall I go on? I was surrounded by the groovier-than-thou and I felt like I was in high school (Fuck you, DeSoto. I hated you then. I hate you now. Especially you, KURT. And you, MISSY.) all over again. I was thisclose to saying, “Fuck this noise. I’m outta here.” Seriously, here I was thinking that I was going to find kindred spirits and other outsiders and be able to be something awesome and what did I find? I found these teched out, dreaded out, hipped out (www.liveworkdream.com) way-better-than-Mes and I stepped right back into my head and died a little.

BUT, but here’s the thing: Those rocks my hopes were dashed on? Not real. The clubbing and beating? No one did that to me. I did it to myself. All that bullshit I’ve been carrying since grade school and high school, in particular, I’m still carrying. And it sucks. I swear to the universe that this, “No matter where you go, there you are,” is truth. I have been trying to leave ME somewhere else and damn it, I keep showing up.

So, to you, the NuRVers, my most humble apologies for not giving you the credit you deserve and for assigning you my issues. You were all, to a person, open and honest and forgiving and giving and sharing. Thank you for opening my eyes. Y’all rock.

Hah! Not dead yet.

Yeah, yeah, I know. No, really. I. KNOW.

Here’s the deal, and this is not an excuse, mind you, but the real reason why I don’t update the blog like I should: WordPress. I don’t really get it. I am missing the techy/l33t coding gene and just adding links and pictures takes me a couple of days and so “just” updating an event that only took a couple of hours in real life takes me about a week in computer life. I would LOVE to be able to add music and little videos and more links and pics. Just recently I saw a lady make a video, edit it, add music, add text, write a little something, edit that, and get it up and running on her website in just a few hours. Hell, it probably only took her an hour.

Maybe the free blog programs make this stuff easy, but WordPress can bite my sizable ass. Working in it takes all the fun out of this blog. I know everyone else seems to be able to manage it. Yay for everyone else. You may know this, and you may not but here’s how I work: I have to write the story (the fun part for me) and then resize any photos and upload them to WordPress, then research the links and code them [with this ridiculously specific and kind of long group of randomness (I know it’s not random but for me it is because I don’t GET it. Get it?) on both sides of the link], and then edit the whole thing, and then upload the story from wordpad and hope that it doesn’t get borked in the process. AND if it does since I don’t know enough about it I then have to figure out what went wrong, which could take me another day. I tried to add the WordPress Add-On that is supposed to put a google map on my blog and I can’t figure out how to size it properly. And I can’t figure out how to size the pictures properly. AND, and the Dude seems to think that I can just read the forums and know what happened and how to fix it, but that’s like handing a fallen souffle and a cookbook to someone who has never baked and telling them to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Oh, and which kind of souffle it is and what’s in it! Riiiiigggghhhht. *wink and tsk and finger point*

So, if anyone knows some shortcuts, add-ons that fucking work, anything that will make this even a slightly easier process please feel free to lead me to them.

Oh, oh! And you have no idea how long it took me to realize that I can’t write and do all my editing in Word and then copy and paste to WordPress. The frustration I felt when I worked for hours and hours on a post only to have it implode on publishing. Here I had the perfect story, no typos, the photos were exactly where I wanted them, the links were relevant and funny, oh, it was beautiful. I copied and pasted into WordPress, hit “Publish,” and then ppffft. Total crap. Nothing looked like it should and the links? Looked exactly like I had typed them with their seemingly random characters before and after the linky http:whatever-the-hell. I don’t know about you, but my brain and good humor went fucking ballistic. (Please supply your favorite curses and perjoratives here. Me? I went with various forms of, “Please have intimate and carnal relations with your maternal parent.”)

So, my patient friends, this is why I am so bad about posting. Again, if you know of some magic, some life-changing work-around, some WordPress whozit that actually works, please let me know.

Since I last posted here’s some of what I have done:

  1. Flew out of Ft. Myers, FL to Dallas, TX so that my mom and I could go to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
  2. Tried to fly out of Dallas, TX to Vancouver during the worst snow storm in Dallas in the history of ever. (No, really. Worst snowstorm/most snow in a 24-hour period in Dallas in RECORDED history. After being trapped on a plane on the tarmac for five hours you just don’t care anymore. Either get this plane in the air or go back to the gate. One or the other, bubba.)
  3. Managed to get to Vancouver in plenty of time for an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully not–look out London, I’mma figure out how to get there for your games) experience. I’ll show you my souvenirs if you ask.
  4. Flew back to Dallas and decided to stay for a month so I could visit friends and family aaaaannnnddd promptly got so sick that I didn’t get to see anyone except my mom, brother, and nephew. I was sick for about three weeks.
  5. Flew back to Florida to catch up with the Dude and furry friends, finally hit the road. (“Traveling” since October actually means sitting out the horrible winter in the Keys. Not a bad deal.)
  6. Went to GA to see the Dude’s old stomping grounds.
  7. Coca-Cola plant in Atlanta. Fun in a touristy way with the payoff being that you can try every Coke product manufactured in the world. Massive sugar rush, many children bouncing off walls.
  8. Tupelo and the birthplace of Elvis.
  9. Graceland and the deathplace of Elvis. Also Memphis BBQ, which is mainly pork ribs and a sweet sauce. I don’t really like pork and I don’t like BBQ so my world was not rocked nor was my mindset changed by the experience.
  10. New Orleans and the French Quarter Fest’. Way, way fun and I got to see my cousin, Marcia and her hubby, Jerry, for a little while. Smoochies!
  11. Houston and Shawn and Raji. More smoochies!
  12. Bryan/College Station so I could have my own tour of my old stomping grounds. Also saw the Bonfire memorial and it is way sadder than I thought it would be. I have much unexplainable love for Texas A&M (“From the outside looking in you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”)
  13. Austin and Cyn, Jame, Dane, Katie, and much Rock Band. The amount of love I have for y’all and your indulgence of my love of Rock Band (and your indulgence with the fact that I am teh suck at it)  is boundless. I truly love y’all. Also got to see some Houston-family cousins who moved to Austin and some that just happened to be there that weekend. Dena, Toni, Natalie, Lindsey, and the littles, Evie, Lily, and Jess? Y’all are some beautiful and kind and generous ladies and holy crap! Are y’all funny! Many laughs and I wish I had more time with y’all. I love ya! More smoochies.
  14. And today? I am in Gonzales, TX, at a gathering of the NuRVers, a group of amazing people who are doing amazing things who I am in absolute awe of and feel unworthy of being around. The level of awesome is beyond anything I could have conceived of. The place is made of win and I feel like I am made of fail.

And there you have it. I would put up a metric shit-tonne of photos and links but I’m tired now and when I hit “Publish” this god-damned thing will probably eat a dick and I’ll have to start all over…

And publishing in three, two, o…

Enfermedad de Key West, Parte Dos

The third time is supposed to be the charm, right?

Our plan was to ride the trolley around Key West, getting off at the touristy spots, already conveniently marked as stops. The only place not an actual stop on the tour was the Key West cemetery, but considering that Key West is only four miles long and two miles wide walking to the cemetery wasn’t a big deal.


We got on the trolley around 12:30 and rode one stop to Duval Street. We were headed to Salsa Loca, the restaurant owned by Nancy who is the women the Dude met on the plane out of Key West. We walked a couple of blocks to where google maps said it should be, but no, no Salsa Loca. I looked it up on my POS phone (The Dude got rid of our Blackberries so I was back to using a primitive form of communication. You know, no QWERTY, no aps, priiiimmmmiiitttiivvve, might as well be using a tin can and a piece of string or drums or smoke signals or a public phone.) and finally found the real address, 10 blocks away from where were. So, we turned around and walked right past our first trolley stop and then right past the next stop and down to the next stop, which was right at the corner we needed and had we stayed on the trolley we wouldn’t be almost an hour behind already. Oh well, it was a nice day.

I’m just going to tell you now that we never got back on the trolley so we spent over $70.00 to ride one stop. Just one. Makes our Universal Studios fiasco look like a goddamn bargain, don’t it?


We went in and looked for a place to sit and I almost stopped right by the door but rethought it and walked farther in. We started to sit down, noticed the pack of ferals, oops, children, so we moved back to the original table. A cute little dog strolled over and as I was petting her and trying to find an owner, the woman next to me asked if the dog was bothering me. I told her that no, the dog wasn’t bothering me. The dog’s name was Roxie and she belonged to the lady. Roxie wandered off and a few seconds later it occurred to me that the dog was so comfortable there probably because she spent a lot of time there and therefore the lady next to me was probably the owner. “Oh, excuse me. Are you the owner?” “Yes, Ah am.” Excellent!

I introduced myself and told her how I’d heard about her and her restaurant and then the Dude wandered up and they started visiting. Nancy is from Alabama and I don’t know how long she has been in Key West but her accent is still there. Always nice to hear someone who sounds familiar. Nancy is a real force of nature. Tiny with the energy of 10, she treats you like you’re a relative she hasn’t seen in 20 years. The kind of person you just instantly like and wish you could be friends with. Or at least go to her parties. Should you find yourself in the Keys, stop by Salsa Loca. Lots of vegetarian options, good salsa, cool owner. Margarita was pretty good too.

After lunch we walked a few blocks to the Hemingway Home.

I am ashamed to admit it but I’ve never read any Hemingway. I very familiar with his works and his legacy and his history but somehow actually reading one of his works? Hasn’t happened yet. I know, I know. Shame on me. Bad English major. No Master’s degree for you.

Yummy Beaches

Our tour guide sailed to Key West with his wife a few years ago for a vacation and just never left. (That’s his story and he’s sticking with it whether it’s true or not. Adds to the charm, I reckon.) He had a dangly earring, wore a captain’s hat, and carried a flask that he dipped into regularly. A peg leg would not have looked out of place.

He told us the story of the Hemingway Home and how the pool and the penny

came to be and how the polydactyly cats came to live there. I, of course, had to pet as many of the kitties as possible. The ticket taker told me that I couldn’t pick up a cat but whatever else might happen between the cat and me was up to the cat. Pft, like that’s any different from any other cat. “Hi, kitty. Can I pet you?” “Uhm, mebbe. Let’s wait and see, shall we?” But I, being the cat whisper, found kitties everywhere and only one was indifferent to my charms. Fucker.

Oh, just because I found it amusing, here is how the Hemingway Home got chandeliers. Seems that the second (He would have four.) Mrs. Hemingway, Pauline, was from a very rich family and was quite accustomed to the niceties of upper crust living and couldn’t handle the heinous monstrosities and assaults on her precious senses that were ceiling fans. She therefore had every ceiling fan removed and replaced with custom-made, hand-finished, blown-glass chandeliers. In a place that sees 90% humidity and 92 degree weather and in a house without central air. (Our tour guide hopes that Mrs. Hemingway is enjoying her time in Hades right now since he has to deal with her custom-made, hand-blown hell every summer.)

We finished up there and walked to Kermit’s Key Lime store so that I could get some of their lotion. (It is lovely. It smells great and doesn’t degrade into that weird rancid smell that most lotions do after an hour. You smell like lime zest all day. Yummy.)

We decided it was time to head to the cemetery and since the trolley didn’t stop there we had to hoof it. No biggie, little island. We passed by a wine shop on the way that I will get back to before we leave from our little slice of heaven in the ocean. They had, what, 30 different fruit wines and I got to sample a few of them and they are tasty. (Back off, wine snobs. You weren’t there. I worked in the liquor and wine business and you can trust me when I tell you that these weren’t Mogen David or Boone’s.)

It is now 5:00 and the cemetery is a few blocks away. Cool. The Dude had read about the cemetery and there were supposed to be some really beautiful headstones and a few funny epitaphs, like this: “I Told You I Was Sick.” The cemetery was one of the Musts for the Dude so I was happy to oblige. I get a kick out of cemeteries anyway.

We reached the gate at 5:15 and the sign said that it closed at 6:00. Awesome. Plenty of time to wander around. We go off in separate directions, looking for the funny and obscure but mostly found hard to read things. I did notice that many of the headstones had photos in them and I’d never seen that before. They don’t hold up well. They fade.

The Dude calls me at 5:30 and he walks to where I am, which is at the other end of the cemetery. We ask two guys if there is another way out and one says that there are gates along all sides. Great. We walk to one and it’s locked. We walk to another and it’s locked. We walk as far down the side as we can and all gates. Are. Locked. Nice, anonymous guy. Yeah, there were gates and I guess it was our fault for not specifying that we were looking for an open one.

Obviously we are going to have to leave from where we entered. We were walking that way anyway. We wander over to the gate. And it. Is. Locked. It’s only 5:45 but it’s locked. Shit. That can’t be good.

Well, what to do? Can I crawl under the gate? There is some space but alas, no. We already know that the other gates are locked. Can we go over the fence? Uhm, hell no. Eight feet tall and filled with pointy suicide. Or splatty suicide should the pointy fail at its task.

We climb up on a few of the, I don’t know, tombs (lots of above ground crypt things, like in New Orleans), looking for some way out of this predicament. Some people ride by on bikes. The Dude hollers to them that we’re locked in. Some people on bikes keep riding by. While laughing. Some people on bikes are assholes.

At this point you should know that I have very bad balance. I am completely deaf in my left ear and my balance is borked so the idea of climbing up and onto and over an 8-foot tall fence that could impale me or toss me off the other side is about as appealing as performing my own dentistry. Tell you what, why I don’t I just let you beat me with a stick and we’ll call it a day.

I’m about ready to cry because I don’t see any alternative than one or both of us having to scale that fence and even if his balance is fine the Dude isn’t exactly 20 years old anymore when suddenly? Our saviors appear out of nowhere. This handsome couple comes strolling up and offers assistance. They are appropriately amused at our situation but realize that we are really and truly stuck. (In case you should be in need of Saviors, here’s how you can recognize them: They are about 40 years old. He is about 6’4”, supremely confident, and wears khakis and a lightly pressed pink shirt with an unironic sweater thrown over his shoulders. Not kidding. He pulled off this look with ease. She is about 5’10”, super fit and super friendly, wears black shorts and a zippered black sweat shirt. It should be obvious but I’ll tell you anyway that they are fantastic looking.)

Male Savior (MS) coolly assesses the situation, walks to the fence, finds the lowest and most stable point and begins to instruct the Dude on what is about to go down. Let me point out that MS was not in the least bit pushy or bossy. He just seemed to know exactly what he was doing and that he had it covered and let’s do this and we didn’t question him at all. Female Savior (FS) was there to lend the moral support and back up MS and his actions. FS also told me that I would be fine (I was starting to cry.) and that MS really knew what he was doing. She sounded like he had experience at these kinds of situations but when and where would someone need rescuing from behind a fence?

As I am pondering rescue scenarios and just as the Dude was about to step on top of the fence, our third Savior rolled up. No, really, she was driving a Jeep. We’ll call her JS. I think you know why. JS pulled up, asked if there was anything she could do, and within a few seconds MS had reevaluated his options, had JS back the Jeep up to the fence and the Dude was up and over, courtesy of JS’s spare tire. Ta da!

But wait, now it’s my turn. Oh shit. I don’t think I can do this. I really don’t. Visions of impalement and broken limbs and shattered skulls are racing through my still intact brain, which is the way I’d like to keep it. But MS insists I can do this and that he won’t let me fall and the Dude is there to help also and FS assures me that this is a piece of cake and that MS really knows what he’s doing so I put my left foot on the top of the fence like MS says to and he holds it like he said he would and he’s holding my hand to keep my balance and I grab the Dude’s hand and put my right foot up on the fence and the Dude holds that and MS says to move my left foot while he’s still holding it to the top of the tire and even though I can’t see where I’m going MS guides my foot to the tire and holds my waist while the Dude helps me move my right foot to the Jeep’s bumper and then I’m on solid ground on solid footing outside the fence. Hmm, I’ll be damned.

We thank our Saviors profusely and I give JS a hug and she drives off in the night to rescue other people. (She was actually headed to her bartending job but hey, bartenders rescue people in a sense so I’m still right.) We visit with MS and FS for a few minutes and find out the reason MS was/is so awesome and knew what to do and kept a level head and was so confident: He’s a retired Federal Marshal. No shit. It’s true. We were rescued by the motherfuckin’ Feds and it didn’t involve handcuffs or jail time and for that I am extremely grateful.

Random Post

Just to let you know the reason it takes me so long to get any posts up is that I’m still learning WordPress. It is heavily linky/formatty/characters I don’t how to use, and I don’t know how to write all of those linky things and how to format those linky things and how to format and how to post pictures, and figuring out “why the fuck isn’t that linking properly when it worked fine the other day?” takes me a while.

Thanks for sticking with me.