Travails with the Traveling Princess

Let me start this confession with a confession.  Boy, did I screw up.

And now let me say it was not my fault…exactly.  

And now this.

On Saturday morning, we left the hills of Camarillo with our Dog House and Zoomobile.   The two were not attached given the gravity of the winding road leading down from my cousin’s perch of a place in the hills above the city of Camarillo.  What a spread they have.  Complete with tennis court in their backyard.  Suffice it to say, they have so much acreage, we were able to park our RV in their long, windy driveway and so we did.

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Here’s a picture of them in their backyard which would be big enough to handle 5 skinny houses!!

And we decided that we should wait to hook up the car until we went up over the steep pass and down to Thousands Oaks.  As I’m wont to do, I decided to drive the hard part so Rayman could relax.  And off we went.  

Long about Rancho Cucamonga, I had tired of driving and asked Rayman to find a Starbucks where we could coffee up and change seats.   We exited the freeway, and drove to the Starbucks which was located in a shopping center that included a Ralph’s grocery store which I will now refer to as Ralph’s Center.  Rayman jumped out and ran into Starbucks.  I was driving and there was a sudden loud noice.  I didn’t know what it was and so I kept driving.  A noise got louider.  People were staring at me.  I stopped before making another turn and opened the door to the RV.  OMG.  Our Zoomobile was impaled on the brace which was part of our hitch gizmo (a technical term).  How did that happen?  OMG.  Where was Rayman?  Without taking a  moment to think, I jumped out  of the Dog House and ran across the shopping center to the Starbucks, opened the door, flailed my arms and he came to the door.  I said, “I have wrecked the car and the RV.  We need to run over to the site of the accident.  It isn’t pretty and I am blocking traffic.”  

Rayman reacted to this news quite calmly.  I was beyond surprise, seeing as how I was dripping with guilt and angst.  

Here is a picture of the two vehicles.  

 

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Out of nowhere, Wes entered the scene.  He’s our new friend.  While Rayman and he and a few others were talking, I was on the phone with AAA ordering up a tow truck.  It was Saturday.  AAA was busy but would try to get someone to come ASAP.  By the time I entered the conversation with Wes and Rayman, it had been determined that Wes was a mechanical engineer and he had theories on how to dismount a Ford C-Max from tow hitch arm.   So, out came the hammer.  Whack, whack, whack.  Something moved.  But not enough to free up the car.  

 

Here is Wes.

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Then a tow truck driver came and he wasn’t actually the one that was dispatched…just in the area and saw the cluster…k of a situation so was doing a drive-by.  Then the actual tow truck driver arrived, took a picture, sent it to dispatch and announced that he was certainly not going to touch the car or the RV for fear of liability issues…i.e. if he made matters worse.  Really?  Really he said.   After this blog, I will be composing my letter to AAA and raise the question if why their contracted tow truck company would not have liability insurance from AAA?  What the f…k?

So, while Wes and Rayman continued to try other ideas on the car/RV, I called AAA again and asked, “How is this a thing?”.  What were we to do?  Why were we paying for insurance?  It was then that the dispatcher said they would send out another tow truck driver to render a second opinion.  If the second opinion was the same as the first opinion, they would have us pay for the “dismount” and we would have to file claims for reimbursement (which I didn’t understand at all).  But those were the rules of engagement in this particular situation.  Then the dispatcher informed me it would be 90 minutes.  “90 minutes”, I exclaimed.   “We need someone here before 90 minutes.  The RV is up against the curb (almost) facing the entrance to Ralph’s.  Traffic was blocked.  The store couldn’t be happy and, lord knows, we weren’t happy.  And we have a party to attend at 4 p.m. and we need to get this done now.”  

I’m quite sure the party part of the objection was the reason that 12 minutes later, the first tow truck driver that was doing the drive-by showed up.  His name was Robert.  He was by his own admission a big Mexican that had eaten too many tacos and could not get into the car because the door wouldn’t open all the way because the door on the driver’s side was impinged by the bent-out-of-shape wheel cover fender. 

Here is Robert.

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But, let me backtrack here and tell you more about Wes.  He had  removed all the pins that connected the RV to the tow bar.  And then he had me drive the RV forward except that the hitch was so bound up by the tow bar arm which was attached to the the tow bar receiver, that the car would not release.  

Then he came up with the idea of jacking up the car.  Sounds simple unless you don’t know where the jack it.  So we researched the location of the jack for the Zoomobile.  And we still couldn’t find it.  So, Wes googled it and found a You Tube video that showed it where it was.   It was so well hidden that I’m going to use the jack location to hide all my jewelry as no one will ever think to find it where the jack resides.  Just saying.  

But I digress.

Once located the jack was employed.  Wes then had me try to move the RV forward again, but, again, nothing would release.   But what did happen is that the tire was no longer on the ground and Wes suggested we try to free the tow bar arm that had jammed between the tire and the axle preventing the wheel from moving.  And that was done and we could not budge the tow bar.  

Rayman then suggested the we use the lug wrench from Wes’s daughter’s car (Wes had traded cars with his daughter in the parking lot where had lunch and she had his vehicle that had all his tools, sadly) to loosen the lug nuts so we could take off the tire… reasoning that the tow bar rod might release.  So, Wes retrieved the lug wrench and the plan was launched.  And to everyone’s amazement once the wheel was off, the tow bar fell to the ground.  The wheel was re-attached.  Mission partially accomplished.   Excitement ensued as evidenced by moi jumping up and down and taking pictures.  

Extricated Zoomobile picture.

 

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To summarize, two guys essentially solved the problem of the RV/C-Max debacle with a hammer, a jack, and a lug wrench.  A job AAA wouldn’t touch.

Circling back to the story in progress, Robert, the tow truck driver showed up as the guys finished up the disengagement work.  He was astounded.   

Then the cop arrived.  

A nice sheriff, Omar, arrived and said they had received a call about our problem.  So while I was admitting to the crime of being in the driver’s seat, Ray and Wes and tow truck driver did what was necessary to get the car towed and that’s when we discovered that Robert couldn’t get into the car to drive it up the ramp of the tow truck (miraculously, the car ran).  So, Rayman forced the door open enough that Robert was able to squeeze in.  Don’t know what would have happened it the door didn’t open at all.  Presumably, the car would still be in the Ralph’s lot.  As it turns out, that might have been okay.  One of the employees from Ralph’s came out with a bottle of water for all involved.  The staff in the store had been watching and they felt sorry for us so they brought water.  Great gesture.

The sheriff in he meantime, ran my license, walked the route I had driven and got in his patrol car and drove off into the sunset.  He was very good looking, by the way.  

But the story of Wes doesn’t end there.  Wes’s daughter had just had some body work done by a shop near by but he couldn’t remember the name of the place, she wasn’t answering her phone, and couldn’t find it on the internets.  We said we would just use a AAA approved facility.  Robert, the tow trucker driver informed us that he would be taking the car to Foothill Auto Body but that they were closed.  Wes announced that Foothill Auto Body was the same place his daughter used.   So, we bid Wes a fond adieu and a hug from me for all his help.  Got his business card and jumped in the RV and followed Robert, the tow trucker driver to the body shop.  After I filled out a form printed on an envelop and sealed the keys inside and dropped the key through the slot, up walks Wes.  With a roll of Gorilla tape in his hand.  He was worried that RV might start flapping.  

What?  The RV start flapping?  Well, the dog house did sustain some damage.  The factory installed ladder on the back was bent out of shape and was torn from it’s mooring.  And a part of the body on the passenger side at the rear of the vehicle had been “altered” so the guys just sort of leaned on it to return it to it’s spot but the work on that looked a bit iffy.  Hence the tape.  Wes was worried about it coming apart and or the ladder banging.  

What a guy.  We were so lucky he was around to help us.  If he hadn’t come to the rescue, we’d still be there or at the very least we definitely would have missed the party.

One other event as if that was not enough.  Our pals Ruth and Tom were on the way down the same day for the same party which was a surprise 80th birthday party in Palm Desert.  When we had been turned down by the first tow truck driver, I sent out an SOS to them.  They were behind us on the freeway by an hour or so and had not reached Rancho Cucamonga yet.  So, they dropped by to see if they could help.  By the time they arrived it had been determined that we were going to be towed, so they left.  What great friends we have!!

We made the party, it was a surprise party that was actually a surprise.  And we had too much wine to drink.  In order to do all that, Tom had come to the RV park which was near Marriott Shadow Ridge Resort where everyone else was staying and picked up us so we could attend.  We were 10 minutes late which was a miracle.  Of course, by the time we arrived, it was too late to set the RV up and so that was left until we returned about 9:00 p.m.  Oh, joy.  But, again, Tom and Ruth were was so gracious to offer help on leveling the rig.  And to our delight, the slide on the passenger side opened.  And after they left us, our heads hit the pillow about 9:45.  

It is now Thursday, the car will be repaired, it will cost $6000 plus, will be done about Dec. 12, and we have a car rental so Ruth and Tom can have their lives back…i.e. they don’t have to ferry us around now.  

In conclusion, it could have been worse.  If the tow hitch had failed while on the freeway, it could have been a disaster.  As it stands now, the insurance company says it will not affect our rates.  And Rayman is unharmed.  Beau is in good shape.  I stand harmed in that my ego was bruised.  Really bruised.  But this too shall pass.

  

  

 

Running out of Time

We have been on the road now since the 23nd October and as our time is growing closer to a return to home, there are more observations to be made on Oaxaca and Mexico.

Facebook posts have included some of what I will probably write here.  Too lazy to check, really and that is because it is warm and sultry here today and we shopped for gifts for friends and family today.  Rayman is in repose on the bed and I’m sitting on the couch by the open window which is allowing smells to come wafting in…corn, chicken, familiar wonderful food smells.  Should I call them scents?  It sounds nicer.

But I digress.

Yesterday was day two of Dia de los Muertos.  As in Gaul, there are three partes…Gallia est divisido en tres partes…as I sort of remember my latin lesson from high school a million years ago.  But be not impressed by my memory.  I googled it.  Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.  Okay, I stand corrected.  This may explain why I have never excelled in foreign languages!!

Again I digress.

The first day of the dead is for people who died too young.  Day two is for people who died in accidents.   Today, day three, is for everyone else who has succumbed.  Well thought out, I think.  The first day was joyous and over the top with parades, bands playing songs that didn’t seem to be well rehearsed but perhaps that is their style…not sure.  Alters are devised and festivals are held.  The one festival we attended (everything is free) included a group of young people singing Mozart’s only dirge in Spanish.  It was both recognizable and beautiful.  3IKraxsATvaKjj6fxD1AYQMarigolds are the flower of the festival.  They are everywhere and they help the spirits find their way to their alter.  Incense is burned to help the journey…the spirits can smell their way home as it were.  When they get to the alter, they find food and drink and trinkets that represent what they loved when they were in this world.  The candles placed on the street help light the way.The alters are fascinating and all over the city.  As Teddy Roosevelt used to say, “Delighted!”. 

Some observations.  We have been touring by wandering around and have met many, many gringos.  From Washington, D.C., Houston, Chapel Hill, Arroyo Grande (yes, our friends Liz and Robin were here and we met up for mezcal margaritas last evening…small world).  Met two Docs from SF, two women from Portland one of which has a friend that lives blocks from our skinny house.  Also a man from Harlem who once lived in LA.  The list goes on and one.  Most Mexicans we met speak muy poquito English and since we have limited Spanish, I cannot give the same details.  Suffice it to say they were all lovely, helpful, warm, welcoming people with rich histories.  

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is a hat holder in the restaurant.  It sits on the floor and can be mored around.  Here’s a pic.  GSQMc+ViRb6Z+pZHhEf21QWhat a great idea.  Can also be used for purses.   A revelation. 

After touring some of Italy, this vacation is almost free.  The exchange rate is so favorable, it seems unfair.  Many Mexicans live on a dime but their clothes are clean, their children are beyond well behaved which doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Once we went into the interior of the Yucatan and the women all wore white dresses that were spotless…how did they do it?  Don’t know but they did.  Another thing we saw was the base of the old trundle Singer sewing machine with a glass on top instead of the machine.  We are going to try to replicate that for the skinny house.  It was really cool.  No picture because pictures were not allowed in the art gallery.

Our hosts are wonderful.  Donna comes from the east coast.  An architect by training, she moved her 20 years ago.  Carlos is a native and he is a super host.  They have el perro (a dog), Gabby who was abandoned at 4 months (a rescue dog).  She attends obedience training and is a fast learner.  Sweet, sweet bowwow.  Makes us miss Beaumeister more. 

This region of Mexico is known for the mezcal that they make.  It is a cousin to tequila…from a different agave plant.  There are two methods of making mezcal.  One is similar to tequila.  The other is smoked and you can taste it.  It is delicious in a drink such as margaritas.  We are enjoying it.

Today while wandering around looking for the store that sold a man on the street a blue linen hat that Rayman liked, we happened into Oaxaca’s market which takes up almost a city block (blocks are not big here).  Snapped some pictures.  Fun time at the market.

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We

purchased so many things, we must buy another suitcase to get it all home.  A rug and a Oaxacan piece of art (an opossum which has great significance in this culture).  Can’t reveal everything because they are mostly gifts and my dear readers won’t be surprised when they receive them (laboring under an assumption they read my blogs which is silly on my part). 

Rayman was not looking forward to this trip.  Now he doesn’t want to leave.  Quite an about face.  He is delighted with the scene, the food, the people, the tradition of the holiday.  Pretty cool.  And he is practicing his Spanish which sounds more French than Spanish.  The other thing he is practicing is leaving an establishment with his credit card.  Twice he has left it on this trip.  Just sayin.

The other tourists we have encountered have been from France, England, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Australia. It’s very metropolitan for such a small city.

Tomorrow we visit a World Heritage sight.  It is Mount Alban.  The oldest mesoamerican city discovered.  We are taking a bus (no rental cars for us on this leg of the trip).  It is situated up the mountain from here and promises wonderful views of the valley.  We are stoked.

More later.    

Dia de los Muertos

On a big, bright, sunny, north-of-the-equator-a-bit kind of morning, a pause must be taken to drink in all the delights of Mexico. I know many of my friends would not and will not come here for all sorts of reasons. For them and for my memory, I comment on this area of Mexico.

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Oaxaca City is a city nestled in the mountains of southern Mexico in the state of Oaxaca, about a six hour drive down to the Pacific Ocean…yes, that Pacific Ocean. Not far from the center of town is the ancient place known as Mount Alban. We plan to visit it. A ancient site inhabited by an estimated 40,000 people from about 1 A.D. until 400 A.D. I give you this info from memory. It might be all wrong!! What is known as that the city was abandoned. What is not known is why.

Modern day Oaxaca is a poor city by our standards but it’s culture is rich. Much of it as you drive in from the airport looks impoverished with tagging on walls, many buildings appear boarded up. When you get to the center where we are staying, things improve. It’s lovely in the center. The weather is lovely, a warm 83 high today so we will visit churches and museums of which there are many of the latter. I’m not sure what the Catholics do here. It seems the religion is infused with the local customs and it makes it a hybrid which has an interesting feel. And Dia de los Muertos, day of the dead, is a perfect example of what I mean. The pictures do the talking so I’ll not wax on about it.

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In the morning, the music starts. Did de los Muertos permeates everything. Beautiful songs in Spanish start up about 7:00 a.m. along with the jets coming in and taking off…the old and the new, the ying and the yang. As I gaze out our window down to the street, people walk by briskly now and then. Everyone seems to be working very hard in preparation for tonights activities which include visits to cemeteries to hold all night vigils. We are anxiously awaiting the evening…it should be spectacular.

The locals set off some type of fireworks that go BOOM. Really loud BOOMS. Part of the celebration one suspects. Not as pleasant as the singing and instrumentals that grace the day.

The city is choked with traffic. Cars and buses everywhere idling as they wait fo the lights to change. The drivers here are very courteous. Actually, the people here are lovely and gracious. The Mexicans are as wonderful here as they are at home. Perhaps more so because most don’t speak English and my Spanish is at the level of a two year old…but try we might to exchange ideas. It is really fun to try.

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Food here is extraordinary and the region is famous for it’s moles. Many of us don’t even know a mole from a gravy so I provide an article for your enjoyment since I cannot transmit the actual mole over the internets. Redolent in spices with a hint of chocolate in many moles, they tickle the tongue and delight the taste buds. In our two nights of eating here, I’m not sure what we are going to receive when I order. Last night I thought I ordered a ensalada (salad) Cesar, but no. A broccoli based ensalada arrived instead and we were thrilled. It was fabulous and really, I cannot describe it. We also ordered something that had corn fungus in it and it was a soup that was out of this world delicious. Then there was the trio of tacos, small fish tacos with melted cheese of some kind topping them off. My, oh, my. We were in food heaven. I washed it down with a local dark beer. Rayman went for a Mexican white wine. We started off with a smokey mexcal which came with the thinnest of chips and a great salsa.

As we were finishing up, a woman plopped down next to us and we engaged. Molly is from Kansas City, MO. Well, that was a segue to the fact that my grandmother (on my mom’s side) was born there. She asked for her maiden name. I had to explain that she did not know who here father was and that I had a friend, Dorothy Buck, that had researched the genealogy without much luck because the name rumored to be Noble or Nobles came up a bit blank so (My explanation to Molly was more concise than this rendition) that was that. Molly had a few fascinating stories of her own family history. We loved her. And we had a rousing conversation while also meet her friend, Jerry, a designer of museos (museums) and a winemaker in Kansas City. He has 42 varietals at his winey…perhaps a world record. What an interesting conversation was had with him. All this ended in my gathering Molly’s name and email and phone. She invited us to K.C. to visit her, she has a golden doodle, a civil rights attorney husband (who stayed in Mexico City while she came to Oaxaca…love it…the freedom they share), and a group of friends that were enjoying the heck out of Mexico too. This is when traveling becomes so rewarding and enriching. A excellent meal followed up by meeting interesting people.

But I digress.

An alter.

An alter.

Oaxaca really stands out in the color department. The art is beyond colorful. A feast for the eyes as it were. If there is anything a kin to reincarnation, I must have been a Mexican. I love the colors, the art, the architecture (though, I must admit, it was heavily influenced by the Spanish after the conquest), the food. EVERYTHING IS COLORFUL!!

Need to close for now…must go visit the old church that was once taken over by the government, the alter destroyed and just recently replaced with a new one as part of a restoration project. Need to learn more about that…reminds me to the museum in Turkey that began as a Christian cathedral, was taken over by the Muslims and is now a museum. Different parts of the world, but the same theme.

 

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We are back. Did not make inside the church because we were so enthralled with the museum. By the time we finished up with the Museo, it was time for some food. So we meandered up to the apartment. On the way I saw an internet shop. We went in and met some Aussies and he helped me get a copy of the LA Times Sunday crossword puzzle. He and his wife had been in Mexico for a month wandering around Mexico. They are currently on a travel visa to Canada where they are living in Vancouver. Lots to talk about.

Wall art in the restajrantl . A bicycle shop was behind the barl .

Wall art in the restaurant . A bicycle shop was behind the bar .

Today is a holiday and we could not get into a popular restaurant so we ducked into the restaurant next to our apartment. For $6.85 we got two chicken enchiladas mole, and a beer and we tipped generously. It’s almost free here.

The bands are playing now in preparation for the festivities. Our hosts have created an alter downstairs that includes pictures of their loved ones, chocolate kisses, two bottles of booze, flowers, and mementos. A bittersweet tradition as one of the pictures was of her friend that just died about 3 months ago. She was an artist and some of her pottery was on the alter.

Bought a painting for $15 and a small mask of a tiger for $20. More shopping to do. The crafts, textiles, pictures are wonderful.

So, it’s about time to head to the cemetery for tonight’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Woman making chocolate at a food stall.

Woman making chocolate at a food stall.

 

Vendor roasting corn. Lots of these stands.

Vendor roasting corn. Lots of these stands.

 

El toro anda great example of the art of Oaxaca.

El toro anda great example of the art of Oaxaca.

 

One of the festivals in the courtyard of a church.

One of the festivals in the courtyard of a church.

We are back and did not find the cemetery but we saw many festivities. Tomorrow night affords us another chance and we are going to try to get a tour so we don’t miss it. We have never been to Mardi Gras but it must be similar. Lots of music, parades, costumes, fireworks, food stalls and fun.

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

Uthj0ap0T%irKB6FNEcUtQAirplane time offers up an opportunity for blogging, reflecting…not necessarily in that order.

Traveling in Texas was altogether interesting.  And having the advantage of friends and family to be our tour guides was invaluable.  Yes, we still had to schlepp our bags which as thus far only resulted in one mishap as yo jumped on the escalator in Mexico City.  I lost control of my carry-on for my computer/iPad  and it tipped over head first so to speak and landed pointing down the escalator two steps below me.  Snatched it up at the last second with a jujitsu move that was quite impressive if I do say so myself. 

But I digress.

TAXES ARE LOW

Back in Austin, the refrain was always the same…no taxes.  We don’t pay state income tax.  They think we Californians are crazy.  This is reflected in their political TV commercials as well as in conversations with strangers in stores, in queue at the airport.  “You can have it”, the younger man said when we mentioned that we were from California.  This bares considering.  How can they have such wonderful roads and good looking modern schools and pay no income taxes?  We wonder.  We did notice a lack of safety features like handrails on steep grades in the public park.  But is that all?  This must be investigated as soon as I get a signal and log on to the internets.  I am jealous that it only take a $72 registration fee to drive your car.    Is there a breaking point, I wonder?  A place where the rubber meets the road (as good as they are)? 

We have arrived in Oaxaca and have a fabulous little apartment in zona centro.  It is a dream. So, we are tired.  Have been on quite a journey and I’m taking a little breather to do some Texas research.  GTS is a new acronym that means Google That Shit.  So, I looked at education which is near and dear to my heart.  Here’s what I found.  They  beat out California K-12.  Yikes.  Okay, what else?   California outperforms Texas in healthcare, ranking 1 in public healthcare in the nation.  So there is that.  Our economy outperforms theirs which puts the idea that taxes kill business in the dubious claims department.  We are neck in neck in opportunity but we are both at the bottom of the barrel in that category.  They rank higher in infrastructure and that does not surprise me.  It is great.  Public safety is lower for Texas despite a cop behind every tree.  We saw mucho grande police action in Texas.  The only thing they had more of was bars.  They ranked higher on fiscal stability which makes me question these numbers from the U.S. News and World Report.  So…it is was interesting to look at the study.  And I’m glad I live in California and glad to have visited Texas!!

WEATHER OR NOT

On to other observations.  Johnnie, Rayman’s bro, reports that Austin had 90 days over 100 last year.  Ouch.  And they just had a record breaking rain storm that has locals boiling their water before drinking.  So, Texas has some pretty awful weather in my estimation.  Born lucky, I’ve ended up on the Pacific Ocean which is mild year round.  Isn’t this priceless?  Probably unless you are in a service job and have two kids.  Dollars are stretched for those of that circumstance. 

DIVERSITY

It has a diverse population with lots of Mexicans and black citizens.  A smattering of Muslins based on observations of women’s outfits.  Some Asians.  It is very young.  We left feeling ancient. 

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THE LONE STAR STATE

Texans pride themselves in their “Texiness”.  Lots of boots and cowboy hats.  Lots of flags flying.  American flags.  Texas flags (the one with the lone star).  Theirs is an air of superiority over all others (from other states).  Egos, perhaps as big as that star of Texas.  Vast amounts of the state are covered with sagebrush and appear uninhabitable (think West Texas).  Around the hill country there are loads of oak trees and rolling hills make it a very pretty place.   Lack of water is a problem.  They have been in a drought.  Just like California.  Texans don’t qualify as cult status but they sure are enamored with themselves…(generalities here.  Our friends and family are not included!!).

TEX MEX FOOD

The food is good but I love authentic Mexican food.  We ate well.  And enjoyed it very much.  Did I mention how much I like authentic Mexican food? 

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TRUCKS

Trucks are everywhere.  My heaven’s.  Never seen so many trucks.  Gas guzzling trucks that get by on $2.39 per gallon.  After all, it is oil country.  So they stimulate the economy by driving around in big honking trucks.  Prius cars are an endangered species.  May have sighted one
Tesla.  Few hybrids.  In the countryside, it’s all trucks all the time. 

CHARMED I’M SURE

Texans are very friendly and so are we.  So we got along famously with everyone we met.  Yes, sir.  No, Mam.  Lots of that going on.  Sweet really.  

Boiling Water

As we jet off to Mexico City, I sit here in the exit row with plenty of legroom.  This makes blogging a much easier task as I have plenty of room to spread out all my electronics.   And there is no eating of knees.

The last couple of days have flown by.  After leaving the Visellii’s Texas castle, we rented a car from Enterprise and it was so smokey in the car, we had the attendant spray the car.  And then we headed south toward Austin, TX to meet up with Rayman’s brother of the step kind.  They have know each since about 1950.   Johnny and his wife, Dianne, met up with us at a lovely resort where I cheaped out and reserved the “courtyard view” which was really a parking lot view.  They were smarter.  They got a lake view of Travis Lake. QkE2gq17RJacs9gXBVSxcg

There was wine tasting in the lobby.  Met some fine folks one of which knew the winemaker at Robert Hall.  The Viognier was quite good…and free.  As we were exiting the lobby on our way to dinner, someone asked us if the car in front of the door was ours.  Actually, yes it was.  Seems when we drove up the bellhop grabbed us, Rayman threw the keys on the front seat and off we went in search of our room.  Forgot all about the car, the claim check etc.  So, our car sat in front of the from door for about an hour and everyone going in and coming out apparently was asked if the car was theirs.  There was a sign in the middle of the driveway…No   Parking.  And there was no valet.  We howled.  And then Rayman moved the car.

Johnnie and Dianne were fabulous.  They drove us all over the place starting the first night they  escorted us to the Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis.  A multi-story restaurant that featured a dinner bell that rang at sunset.  Fun time was had by all catching up on all our mistakes, mishaps, and the like!!  It had been 2003 the last time we saw them.   Here they are with the Rayman.

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The next day we were treated to a wonderful tour of Austin, home of the Texas Longhorns.  Thank goodness they weren’t playing at home on Saturday.  As it was the roads were jammed in downtown Austin.  The Japanese Gardens was our first stop.  We walked the property which was delightful.  That was after Dianne, Rayman and moi charged from the car to the entrance and managed to lose Johnnie who does not have a cell phone.  The search was on.  After 10 frantic minutes, he was located by Dianne and then we were lost.  Once found, we roamed the gardensIMG_5264 and as we were about to leave, a woman sauntered by and told s there was going to be a butterfly release in another part of the park.  So we followed her there and witnessed a butterfly release with a group of about 50 people.  Timing is everything.  It was great fun too.   Johnnie and the Rayman above.

Leaving the gardens, we headed over the Barton Springs.  It is a huge natural swimming hole fed by springs usually. H5iPQyT5SaCLRBzw3eEGMQ Because this was the only the second sunny day Austin had had following 2 weeks of rain, the Springs were higher than usual because of the river that was at flood level washing down the ravine.  Quite a sight.  On a somber note, there are signs all over certain neighborhoods of Austin telling residents to boil their water before drinking it.  Yikes.

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Then we drove through downtown which was having a book fair and caught a glimpse of the state Capital building.  Beautiful.  Lots of shenanigans go on there and it reminded me how much I missed Molly Ivans, the intrepid reporter for the daily newspaper.  Texas politics is a hoot and she captured it in all it’s quirkiness. 

On to the LBJ Library.  When whipping out his wallet to get the credit card, Rayman discovered that he didn’t have it.  Panic ensued.  A full blown search was embarked upon.  He called the restaurant from the night before.  Nada.  So, we put it aside, Johnny bought the tickets and we took the tour.   That was the highlight of Austin for moi.  I have read 3 of Robert Caro’s books on LBJ so it was great fun for me.  Not as fun for the ex-Vietnam vets I was with…Rayman and Johnnie.  Rayman is still pissed at LBJ about that war.  But his Great Society was such a success that it has endured until the Republicans got control of all branches of government and they are busy trying to dismantle the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act.  The juxtaposition of Johnson and Trump is instructive.  This was my first visit to a Presidential Library and it was fascinating. 

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After the tour, we went to the Muddy River for lunch where Rayman managed to get stung on the neck by a bee which activated his arthritis in his knuckles.  Really.  The bees ignore me but the mosquitos didn’t.  I look like I have chicken poxs.  Just saying.   Even have a bite or two on my fuselage.   

We returned to the Lakeway Resort and rested (I washed undies).  After an hour or so, we went up to their room and sat outside enjoying the view.  And we started talking about old family stories.  Johnny had the funniest one.  He lived in Laguna Beach in his 20s and one Thanksgiving he went to dinner at Ray’s mom’s house, his stepmom’s house.  Before entering he threw his white clothes into the washing machine with soap and clorox.   When it was time to cook the turkey, it was discovered that the bird with in the washtub which the washing machine drained into.  How was he to know the turkey was there?  The very bleached bird was discarded.  A friend had an extra bird defrosted and it saved the day.  He’ll never forget it.  And neither will we!!

Always something to learn.  Always something going on.  Great visit. 

Some things in Texas are completely unsurprising which is surprising in and of itself.   

Our trip to Texas originated in San Luis Obispo and took us first to the TSA desk, and then the x-ray machine, then off to the belt that moves your possessions through a curtained box, and then the stuff comes out the other side and all piles up like a herd of sheep running up against a wall.  Then all pressure is on, isn’t it?  Picking up your belongings and putting them in your purse, wallet, on your wrist, in the carry-on..and you have to do it in a flash.   Which can induce a feeling of panic and discombobalation.

After that we got in the plane and discovered that we were in the last row.  So, in the last row and on a plane that was so narrow, I could not roll my carry-on down the aisle.  On the flight to Phoenix, I ate my knees and worked a crossword puzzle. 

We transferred at Phoenix and took another flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.  Very bumpy ride with belts on the entire time.  Geez.

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It was agreed that we would meet Larry in baggage claim.  And sure enough …there he was.  With his silver white locks, he is hard to miss.  We jumped in the car and headed to Granbury, TX.   A bedroom community 45 minutes southwest of Ft. Worth.  They live in a big one story stone home.  On a big piece of land.   Complete with waterfall feature and as much outdoor furniture as indoor furniture. 

Larry and Laurie invited old friends Jeff and Donna to dinner.  Steak and potatoes…so Texan in my mind.  Great evening with great people and great food and wine…Oh, and the fig and pr0sciutto salame.

Wednesday was spent getting the lay of the land.  In the rain.  In a fancy car that hit my head every time I climbed into it (yes, climbed is a verb, and an apt one at that).  Once I hit my head and then managed to poke myself in the eye with the straw that was poking out of the top of the styrafoam cup that I had in my left hand.  What a klutz.

In our drive-by ride, we stopped in at Larry’s country club.  While walking by the bar, Laurie noticed some women she knew so we dropped in to meet them.  One woman introduced herself as Nita Dick, a very pleasant lady.  The other woman had started the intro handshaking session by introducing herself as Fonda Peters.  Okay.  Really.  The first people we had met in Texas in a bar.  And that is saying a lot because I think the Texas has a lot of bars.  They have bars inside bars.  It is a lifestyle I really hadn’t expected.  So, when I say we met Fonda Peters and Nita Dick…well, that is just special, isn’t?   These women were a stitch.  A good time was had by all.

When we returned home the TV went on and we learned about the bombs being mailed to Democrats.  And we were hooked watching with probably everyone else in America that had a TV and time …the news about the bombs. 

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Today, it was Ft. Worth.  They took us to the Stockyards which is an area if town.  Lots and lots of bars.  The pic above is us at Buffalo Butts.   Of beef restaurants.  And a fabulous boot shop. 

Bootshop

Boot shop

Here are some pics.  I saw a pair of boots that were on sale for $1650…the salesman said that they were only $825 each.    IMG_3683It was a fabulous store filled with about$300,000,000 of pure luxury.  Oh, and there were saddles sitting on saw horses here and there.  A sign said to talk to the staff before mounting.  Okay.  Really.  So I told them I wanted to mount that saddle.  He was going to give me a boost but then declined by implying I wouldn’t do it.  “You don’t know that”, I retorted.   And we bantered back and forth.  The guy was a hoot.  Did not expect that in Texas. 

There was a cold wind blowing.  Lots of clouds in the sky.  We stopped for a coffee to warm up.  Had fun wandering the streets and looking in the stores and the windows of the stores.  Lot’s of Halloween merchandise in the windows. 

But. I digress.

The people of Texas have been friendly and with humor galore.  We have had a great time because our friends have gone all out to entertain us.  We didn’t have to rent a car.  We have been chauffeured from here to there.  All the while, catching up with all the news since we had seen each last…a couple of years ago.   That was not my best English sentence but I am not sure how to restate it.  No ( perhaps)   interest to restate the sentence.  You may finally be witnessing me boring myself. 

Other random thoughts.  Texas is pretty flat.  It has very nice freeways.  And I’ve never seen more law enforcement in my life.  I have seen Police, Constables, Sheriffs.  Everywhere.  And get this.  Texas does not air condition their prisons.  You don’t want to get on the wrong side of law here, I’m suspecting.

And the last thing I was say is the visit was way too short.  We leave tomorrow for Austin for the weekend to visit Rayman (you remember him, right?) family members. 

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Then it’s hasta la vista, baby.