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Stephen'nAmber posted a topic in Chapters, Chapter RalliesMy name is Stephen and I have been a member of the FMCA since I was a child. I am a third generation FMCAer and it has been my dream since I was 18 to get my number. I have purchased my first motorhome and got my goose egg. But I am having a hard time finding a chapter in Texas that would have me and my family. The fact that I have children is apparently a turn off to the local chapters. I have made contact to the Thousand Trail chapter and they are welcoming us to their rallies. It is disappointing though since when I was a kid we were apart of at least five chapters and wee always very active. Last I checked we were the Family Motor Coach Association, not the Retiree Motor Coach Association. If there are chapters out there in the Texas area that have young families I would love to join. Stephen F3887G
Family Time and the Motor Home
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaWe are wrapping up a three week stay with our family in Missouri. We've had a chance to see all of our grandchildren and enjoy some time with each. Ryan is now a freshman in high school and a new member of the marching band. Spencer is in eighth grade and enjoys sports as only a young boy can. Kaitlyn started sixth grade in the middle school and is just getting involved in 4H and is picking out an instrument for the school band. Elaina is a fourth grader, a junior cheerleader and really enjoys taking care of her younger brother, age 8 months. Luke is setting weight records for 8 month old babies but that will change as he has just figured out crawling and is about three days short of becoming a real carpet terror. They are all growing up fast. The two older boys are already taller than Louise and likely will pass me before we see them again next spring. I'm glad that we aren't feeding and clothing them! Our children, the parents of these wonderful children have weathered the economic downturn and are making a recovery along with the rest of the country. Our son-in-law works in the housing industry and we were particularly worried about his business but he has come through the tough times and is rebuilding his business. Our son is working in the petroleum and natural gas industry, needless to say he is doing well with the present boom in that industry. Watching the grandchildren grow up is a thrill but also quite humbling. We went on a hike with Ryan. He is working on his Eagle Scout hiking merit badge. I indicated a desire to take on a ten mile hike with him. The hike was about all I could manage. The trail was rough and overgrown with brush and weeds. He took the hike in stride, I was beat by the time we reached the parking lot. Louise went along as well and was able to finish the hike despite crippling pain in her knees. We both felt in pretty good shape having just been on hiking trails frequently in the last four months in New Zealand and Australia. It will be a while before I'm able to get Louise on the trail again. Wisdom would have had me choosing a different trail if I had thought about the wet summer and its affect on the growth of brush. The trail was one I had hiked before but it has been rerouted over rougher ground than the old route which I loved to hike almost 30 years ago. We have been pleasantly surprised by August in Missouri. Today is one of the few days we have had temperatures in the mid 80's. Most days have been in the upper 70's and low 80's with frequent cloudy and rainy days. Nights have been in the 50's and 60's so the air conditioners are getting a real break. A normal August in Missouri has frequent days with temperatures in the upper 90's. We remember them well enough that we don't live here any more. Neither do we stay at home in Texas. I'm still working with the dealer for Carefree of Colorado trying to resolve issues with the awnings. The replacement canvas which was shipped to us here in Missouri arrived and I immediately found three of the four awnings to be significantly different than the original awnings. Two were narrower than the original and one was much longer, not matching the length of any of the others. I have a warranty claim number and they are supposed to be replacing them for me but as of this date, I haven't heard of a schedule for their arrival. We'll have to pick them up at another location on our route of travel. Both Louise and I have had dental exams and subsequent dental work. We also visited our dermatologist and both of us have passed our annual skin check with flying colors, always a relief. Louise renewed contacts with her bridge club, a group of ladies she played cards with for many years. Tomorrow we'll attend the monthly meeting of the Missouri Pilots Association and touch base with a number of friends. We'll get updates on their lives and let them know what we've been doing since we last saw them. I wanted to fly while here in Missouri but the weather, foggy and low clouds and blocked that activity. So what does our motorhome have to do with all this? It is the magic vehicle that makes it all work. We have been able to stay here in our own "home" parked in our daughter's driveway. We are within a few miles of our son and we have plenty of time on our own as well as time to visit with each of them. We aren't inconveniencing either of the families. We have our schedule and their schedules are their own. We don't have to worry about carrying suitcases and living in motel rooms. We are cooking and eating the food we need to remain healthy when we aren't eating at restaurants or with family. It's a budget thing, it's a health thing, it's a convenience thing. Our motorhome is an important part of our life and staying in touch with family.
We're Still Rolling Along
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaIt is hard for me to add things to my BLOG when we are living in our fixed home. Now that we're back in the motor home for the summer I have dozens of things to write about. At home I've been busy settling in for two years now, kind of like a dog turning around several times before it finds just the right spot to lay down. During this period of settling in I am afraid that I've been pretty much ignoring the motor home through the winter. It's plugged in and we keep minimal heat and air conditioning on to keep the interior in top shape. When we hit the road this spring we found out all the things that had quit during the winter. As I explained to Louise, if we were living in it through the winter these things would have occurred one at a time rather than all in the first week back on the road. The list is long, but not overwhelming. We will be making repair stops as we travel. Our first three stops have been complete wash-outs, 0 for 3. Things will get better, I know it. Our first stop out of the blocks was at the Lone Star Chapter of FMCA rally in Rockport, Texas. Being new residents of Texas I want to be involved with a local chapter and Herman Mullins has been inviting us to join for several years so we had to give it a try. We got a royal welcome from the assembled membership. Herman was there to help us get parked! We found lots of friendly people and plenty of good food. We managed to drum up a golf game the first morning of the rally. A happy hour circle, games and other activities gave us plenty of opportunity to get aquainted with the 40+ members at this rally. To top it all off, I was on the championship bean-bag toss baseball game and got a ten dollar signing bonus! That was topped off when we got our official chapter license plate. And then we ran off with the grand prize in the door prize drawing. We actually got our entire registration fee refunded! What-a-deal! Leaving the rally we found out that the generator wasn't in a working mood. It gave us overheating errors on two tries to start it. So, just turn on the dash air for some relief - wrong, it blew only warm air. Louise gave the generator another try out of desperation. We planned to drive 500 miles from Rockport to Little Rock, AR and it was going to be blistering hot. Thank goodness, the generator finally gave in and ran. We turned on the roof air and kept our fingers crossed. Thank goodness it has been working ever since. The dash air is out of commission until we can get the compressor replaced. It's on order... The KVH dish has quit so we're back to broadcast TV. I was surprised to find that the number of channels that are available have increased. Our stop to determine the problem revealed a faulty computer card, no replacement available. The company wants the entire antenna unit returned to the factory... I'm thinking about it. Arriving at our destination in Missouri the next day, we picked up our two grandsons for a ten day tour of Nebraska and South Dakota. At ages 10 and 11, they are really interested in paleontology so we made the U of N State Muesum in Lincoln, NE our first stop. These are two exceptional 10 and 11 year old boys. They actually stop to read and learn from the displays. Sure, the gift shop is not an optional stop but they really love all those bones! Then we were off to Custer, SD. We made that our base for four days of exploring. We hiked to the outstretched arm of the Crazy Horse Monument with the annual Volksmarch. The boys would get 20 or 30 yards ahead of Louise and I then wait for us to catch up. I have lots of pictures of them standing by the side of the trail waiting! Our next day was a visit to Mount Rushmore followed by a drive through Custer State Park. I've been through the park several times and seen only an occasional bison. Thank goodness this trip was different. We saw many herds of the giant of the plains. Frequently they were only a few feet outside the window of the toad. And there were huge numbers of calves. We arrived back at the campground just before dark. Speaking of the campground, we stayed at Beaver Lake Campground and found it to be a great place for the boys. They actually had a collection of bicycles for use in the park, free. The boys would pick their bikes to ride and the next day get a different one. They enjoyed the playground, pool and the rabbits. Our final South Dakota activity was on the way back to Nebraska. We stopped at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD. We had arranged two special experiences for the boys. They learned to throw an atlatl in a hour session with Chelsea. We ate lunch in the motor home parked on the parking lot. Then returned to enjoy the advanced lessons in paleontology. The boys learned to map and record their finds and how to preserve the fossil bones by plaster coating them. Then they were tunred loose on a plot to find bones. With each find they would record the find on the map then continue excavation until they had exposed the bones sufficiently to identify them. As the proceeded they would update the information on the map. Chelsea was our instructor and with the help of several assistants they even got Louise and I through the exercise. We then drove on to Nebraska and stayed two nights at Fort Robinson State Park. We explored the reconstructed buildings on the frontier cavalry post. We walked the ground where Crazy Horse died and learned about the life of late 1800's cavalry soldiers in the western prairie. They also have a paleontology museum at Fort Robinson which the boys still found interesting! The boys are cousins and they really enjoy each others company. I told Louise we got double points for this vacation with the boys, one point for the places we took them and one point for their chance to be together for an extended time. Through all this they never tired of each others company. Our final stop with the boys was at the Ashfall site in northeastern Nebraska. Here there are rhinocerocus bones that were buried in a volcanic ashfall. The rhinos had clustered at a waterhole along with camels and horses and other animals, trying to cope with a smothering ash cloud. Four feet of ash fell and the animals suffocated and were buried. The site was discovered about 40 years ago and has been preserved inside a large building that protects the unfossilized bones. There are dozens of skeletons and excellent information about the nature of the animals. Both this site and the museum at Fort Robinson are extensions of the U of N State Museum in Lincoln. We returned the boys to their parents and picked up their sisters. Two girls ages 7 and 8 are a world apart from the two boys. We planned an eight day trip to Indiana and Kentucky. We visited the zoo in Evansville, Indiana. The youngest was disappointed that there was no elephant. They managed to make friends with a jaguar. Both girls got to hand feed a pair of giraffes and they enjoyed the many play items on the grounds of the zoo. Then drove on to Palmyra to stay in the county park there. Our first day we toured the Schimpff's Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana. This is a great place to take kids and adults. The tour covers the history of the business which has been in continuous operation by the same family line for over 100 years and they have the equipment to show for it. We got to watch them make their signature red hots and then got a sample that was still warm. We got a special treat at the county park has a swimming lake with a sand beach. The girls enjoyed several hours of play in the water and on the beach. The next day we drove the toad to Lexingtion, KY to vist the Kentucky Horse Park. The girls weren't ready to leave when the park closed. The horseback ride around the park was followed by several visits to the Children's Barn where they learned all about horses in hands on activities including a brush and shine lesson with a real horse. Thomas, a large black Frisian, stood absolutely still as a dozen children brushed and combed him to be show ready! We saw several shows and rode the horse drawn trolly around the park. After all that it was Pizza Hut, a break for Louise, and a long drive home. Their final experience was at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. This museum is a wonder for young children. We've visited this museum a number of times and it never disappoints. They seem to find ways to make it more interesting every time we visit. The girls loved the carousel and then spotted the play houses. They even enjoyed the Lego's and Hot Wheels exhibits. Taking after their brothers they even enjoyed the dinosaurs. After returning the girls we attended a baseball game for the 11 year old boy and then celebrated fathers day with my son and the 10 year old boy and the 6 year old girl. Today we rested. Louise caught up with the laundry and gave the entire motor home a thorough cleaning. I was off to spend the afternoon working at my mothers home, helping to get the house ready for sale. We buried my mother in late April followed by Louise's mother in mid-May. Both were near/in their 90's and had been in failing health over the last few years. We are parked at my daughters home and they are leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'm looking forward to some quiet days ahead. We'll leave Missouri mid-week next week and be pretty much on our own for the rest of the summer. Dozens of things to write about... more soon.
Granddaughters on Board - Days Two and Three
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaWe are taking care of our two granddaughters, age 5 and 3. Our first day was a trip to a local zoo and amusement park in Lodi, California. Day two we planned to stay at home. It turned out to be a very good plan as the second day it rained all day. We had planned on being outdoors for part of the day but we were all inside the motor home for the day. A day indoors with the girls is eased by Louise's experience as an elementary school teacher. We keep a supply of crayons, stickers, coloring books, scissors and drawing paper in the motor home at all times. On a rainy day those are available on the table-side counter all day long. Anytime the girls want to draw or color, they can sit down and go to work. We also have a variety of favorite animated movies available. The final piece of the hat trick is the Wii game. The girls also bring a few toys from home. Finally, every young child needs a nap after lunch. Louise was catching up with the laundry all day long. The girls enjoyed watching the Splendide washer/dryer tumble the clothes as it washed and dried. They had never seen a washing machine with a window so this was a novelty. That evening they wanted to watch the washer TV so the girls set up a step stool and a seat cushion in front of the washer. Louise picked up on that and got out my construction flashlight, placed it on the bathroom counter and aimed it at the washer door. The girls thought this was real fun. We had to referee who had the best seat a couple of times. This now ranks right up there on my Art Linkletter list of things our grandchildren like about our motor home. Our final day with the girls we planned a picnic lunch at Columbia State Park. We woke up in the morning to the sound of rain on the roof. I checked the Weather Bug and there was some hope. As the morning continued, so did the rain. About 11:30 we decided to go ahead with our plans. Columbia State Park is an 1849 era gold rush town. Many of the original buildings remain and have been preserved. Some of the buildings are dedicated to their original purpose, a bank, the assay house, a pharmacy, a fire house, a bowling alley, a livery and blacksmith shop. Other buildings house shops, restaurants and stores. They have a gold panning experience for people to try and some lightly excavated mining areas the kids can climb around on bedrock left between mined areas. The drive from San Andreas where we are staying to Columbia State Park is about 30 miles and there are two ways to get there. We decide to make it a round trip, taking a different route going to and from the park. The route on Parrots Ferry Road has spectacular scenery. We cross an arm of New Melones Lake on the Stanislas River and then drive along it for some distance. We'll cross the reservoir in another place on the return trip. When we arrive at the state park it is still raining lightly. The picnic tables are in a low draw between parking lots and water is standing around the base of the tables. We picnic in the car. Louise makes restroom runs with one of the girls before lunch, the other after lunch. As we finish lunch the rain stopped. We venture forth to explore the town. The first building we pass has an ice cream parlor. The girls have been here before and we explain that we will get ice cream on our way back to the car. Our next stop is the gold panning shop. They have rocks and minerals on sale but the gold panning is closed on a cool rainy week day. We walk through the panning area looking at the water troughs that would house the running water for panning. At the far end is a rock maze, granite bedrock that remains after the quartz veins were mined from it. The girls enjoy exploring various passages and then give climbing a try. There is mud everywhere but that doesn't stop the girls. As the day goes on they find many a puddle to walk through. If you are young, there is nothing better than a wet muddy day out playing. We visit most of the shops and stores. As we exit each building the youngest asks if we are going to the ice cream parlor. One of our first stops was the candy shop. Everyone picked out candy they wanted. We spent a while at the bowling alley. There is a nine pin set up complete with pins and balls. I was the pin spotter, Louise helped the girls get the balls off the return rack so no fingers were smashed. The girls took turns knocking down pins. We spent a few minutes at the blacksmith shop picking out a dinner triangle for our new house. We found some period toys at a general store. A penny whistle and a ball and cup for the girls to play with. The youngest is fascinated by a guitar on display. The rule is look but don't touch but a three year old can't remember that for long. I go to remind her and see the price on the guitar, $3000. I picked her up explaining I didn't have enough money to buy that guitar! We took a quick tour of the visitors center and museum. By the time we got back to the ice cream parlor they were closed! Disaster. We knew of another ice cream stop on the way back to the girls home so we said we would stop and get ice cream there. They took it well, no complaining. Our trip home was delayed for about a half hour as an accident was cleared from the road. We were several curves back so couldn't see the action. On our way through Angels Camp (of Mark Twain Jumping Frog fame) I spotted a lighted ice cream cone in a store window. I pulled into a parking spot, hopped out and hustled the girls to the shop before they closed. It turns out they serve food as well and they were open when we left. The youngest ordered a bowl of spotted frog ice cream, the oldest wanted double chocolate. I ordered a bowl of gold nugget ice cream and Louise had a cup of hot coffee. The spotted frog ice cream was mint with cookie crumbles. My gold nugget ice cream was butter pecan. This was the perfect end to a fun day. We stopped on the way back to pick up a couple pizzas at the Pizza Factory in Valley Springs then returned the girls to their mother. We regaled their mother with their adventures over pizza. The girls were mastering their new toys and telling tales of their own. Louise and I left, ready to put our feet up for a while.
Granddaughters on Board - The First Day
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaOur trip to California had one commitment, taking care of our two granddaughters, ages 5 and 3, during their two week school break. The school is on a year round schedule which explains the vacation this time of year. We look at this as a special privilege of grandparenthood. Monday we stayed with the girls at their house. Tuesday morning Dad dropped the girls off on his way to work. The girls would be ours for three days and two nights. Mom had several night events at the school where she works. Dad's schedule runs in 12 hour shifts. We'd save traveling to and from and the girls get the fun of staying with us in the motor home. All of our grandchildren think that the coolest thing about our motor home is that the couch folds out into a bed. We have wheels, a big engine, we can go anywhere. We have satellite TV, satellite radio, hot running water, cold drinks in the refrigerator, air conditioning and heat on demand. But none of that matters ... the first thing the girls want to do is turn the couch into a bed! It's ten o'clock in the morning and they want to turn the couch into a bed. We had plans for the day, a trip to the local zoo and amusement park, Micke Park in Lodi, California. After two weeks of near 100 degree weather, the weather has been rainy and cool this week. We arrive at the zoo after several attempts to navigate an area with roads that have been rerouted after our GPS data. There are about a dozen cars in the parking lot. We pay to enter, where are the restrooms? We enjoy walking through at a child's pace. Check 'em off, eagle, snow leopard, turtles - yawn, baboons - he-he!, iguana, doves and ibis. Thirty minutes later, we're leaving the zoo. The attendant at the zoo had told us she didn't think the amusement park was open but a short walk and we found the open gate. The young man who sold us the tickets for the rides left the booth to be the train engineer for our first ride. This is a small amusement park, the most challenging ride is the scrambler which grandpa rides with the girls. They both love the scrambler. The girls ride the cars, the airplanes, merry-go-round, the strawberries and the fish. Along the way the girls make friends with a boy who is here with dad. They exchange names, become friends in an instant. They are the only three children in the amusement park. The two boys who are running the entire park today take turns escorting us all from ride to ride. There is a Japanese Garden so the three children and adults go to see the carp swimming in the ponds. The girls love fish and enjoy watching the carp, marveling at all the interesting colors and patterns. Did I mention that dad is an avid fisherman and the oldest girl has a stuffed fish that she sleeps with? Yes, as in a mafia novel, she sleeps with the fish! The fish was with us this morning, waiting in the car while we enjoyed the park. Both girls give their new found friend a hug goodbye and we're off to the parking lot. Lunch comes next. We're off to Denny's where the girls start with a trip to the restroom. They order kid pizzas and smoothies. And yes, there is another trip to the restroom for both. We need a quick stop at Wal-Mart which turns into another trip to the restroom for both girls. Boy, grandma is getting a real work-out doing restroom duty. A quick stop for gas and we're on our way home. Day one comes to an exciting close as we fold out the couch into a bed! The girls sleep well through the night.
Bad to the Bone
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaOur travels after Denver were easy to plan. We drove about three miles from Golden Terraces RV Park to I-70, headed east and stopped when we got to Foristell, Missouri. Another three miles south of I-70 and we were at our daughters' home where we are parked for an extended period of time. Our activities since arriving here have included a dance recital by our granddaughter, a barbeque on Memorial Day weekend which included several killer games of croquet, and now a brand new knee for me! We've visited with my mother, both of our children and their families including our four grandchildren in the St. Louis area. Our granddaughter loves to dance and it shows. The dance school has a huge performance about this time each year. The participants range from 2 and three year old dancers up through high school and beyond. The really young ones are cute beyond description. The older dancers have amazing ability. Our granddaughter is somewhere in the middle. She does love to dance and it shows in her performance. The show starts at 1:30 and runs until 4:30 for a full afternoon of dancing. We treated everyone to ice cream at Fritz's, the local ice cream shop. The next week included hitting the doctor's offices including getting surgery for my knee scheduled. Louise has had a persistent cough, ear congestion and swollen glands. The doctor diagnosed a sinus infection and bronchitis. She is now on the mend. My orthopedist scheduled my knee surgery for June 2. This set off a series of visits for tests and exams at the GP and a pre-surgery visit at the hospital. As part of my pre-surgery routine, I set about getting everything top shape on the motor home. I had no idea how long it would be until I was able to work on fix-its after my surgery. One of my projects was to install the day/night shades from MCD Innovations which we ordered on our way out of Texas. The shades arrived on Friday after our arrival in Foristell. I had them installed by the following Monday. So now we have first class shades in the motor home. Louise loves how dark the night shades are. She has been sleeping late trying to shake off her bronchitis and sinus infection. At 5:30 a.m. on June 2, I reported to the surgery unit at St. Anthony's Hospital. Two hours later I was in the operating room and two hours after that I was waking up in the recovery room. It is now the 4th of June and I'm resting comfortably at home in the motor home. My orthopedist prescribed a rigorous pre-surgery exercise and conditioning program and it has paid off by getting me home quickly. Now I'll continue with the follow-up therapy. Once this knee heals, I'll have the other replaced. I thought perhaps I didn't need to have the replacements but a week off the pain medication I've been taking for the last several years settled that issue. Once both knees are replaced and healed completely, we'll break camp and head down the road for more motor home adventures. In the meantime I'm really ddddddddddddddddrowsy. Those hospital beds aren't all that comfortable. I only got about six hours of sleep the last two days. It turns out I'll be enjoying those MCD Innovations shades also!