Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Good Week

It's been a good week for Donna and me. Actually, we've been rather busy for us. When you are retired, you kind of get used to not doing much at all, so that when you do a few things, you really think you've been busy.

We started the week by attending a political forum Monday night to listen to some candidates running for office in the next election. That kept us up past my normal bedtime, so I was exhausted.

On Tuesday, we had appointments all day. We started with Donna getting her regular eye check-up. She also got a prescription for new glasses. She hasn't had a new pair in years, so we stopped off and had her fitted for a new pair.

We stopped in at the mall for a while. I needed a new light jacket. The one I have been wearing was about 15 years old and was becoming frayed around the sleeves and showing other wear and tear. I found a pretty good one at Dillard's at our local mall. Our local Sears in the mall was in its final days of operation. I hate to see that company fold. Those old Sears catalogs were a staple for so many small town folks in the old days. We could order all kinds of goods and have them delivered. And their appliances and yard machinery were top notch. But change happens, as much as I hate that. I'm really still stuck in an earlier time, but that's another story.

I had a medical appointment later that day, so we got to sit in another waiting room for a while. But waits here are generally not bad at all, and I'm grateful for that. We use Shannon Clinic and Hospital, and overall, we are pretty pleased with our doctors and the service we receive. After my appointment, we stopped in at the Schlotzsky's near the clinic for sandwiches. Donna really likes Schlotzsky's, and I do, too, but not as much as the old woman. Donna had a veggie sandwich and I enjoyed a ham and cheese. Isn't their sour dough bread great? After our late lunch, we picked up Donna's new glasses, then returned to her eye doctor because she was having trouble with one of her new contacts. Finally, we arrived home about 5 after a very long day. We were exhausted.

On Wednesday, we stayed home in the morning, but attended a presentation by Bilbrey Tours that afternoon. Bilbrey Tours is based in nearby Abilene, so most trips originate either in Abilene, San Angelo, or other regional towns. If you go to their website, you will see they go all over the place. We will look at some of their offerings and see if they are going someplace we would like to go. Most of the time, I'd rather just go on my own, but there are some places I would like to see that I would not be comfortable traveling on my own. And isn't traveling what retirement is about?

On Thursday, we went to Rosa's for lunch. Rosa's is probably our favorite place to eat, day in and day out. Yeah, there are other places we might enjoy more, but the price tag at those places prohibits us from eating there often. But we find Rosa's to have consistently good food at a very reasonable price. On Thursday, for example, we had very satisfying meals for a total of $13.50. We then took a drive around Lake Nasworthy and were rewarded with good viewings of both deer and turkeys.

Turkeys are such funny critters. As we approached the lake, we spotted one turkey running along pell-mell with its wings flapping. It had gotten separated from its buddies and was hurrying to catch up. On a walk around our neighborhood one day, a single turkey came running out from between two houses a short distance ahead of me, just gobbling and running madly, basically in a panic. It crossed the street, ran between two houses, and I could hear its cries continue. Soon, it came out again, re-crossed the street, still gobbling and running madly. A short distance away, I came across the rest of the turkeys. I suppose he had gotten separated and was desperately trying to find them. Perhaps we should change that old saying, "Running around like a chicken with its head cut off" to "Running around like a turkey desperately trying to find its friends."

So, another good week for Donna and Keith. But I think it is probably time we did something different.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

We Survived the Cold

I don't like the cold. The older I get, the more I dislike it. I'm alright until it gets below 40 and stays there for days.

This last cold spell was especially difficult for me. In the part of Texas where I live, we are not used to sustained periods of cold. Usually, a cold front will come through, last perhaps a day or two, then move on. That's not what happened with this last cold spell.

The cold actually moved in about Christmas. Even though nights were cold and we had some ice here and there, the days usually rose above freezing. But last Saturday (see "The After-Christmas Lull"), a very cold spell moved in. On Saturday, the high was in the mid-30's. That night, temps dropped down into the 20's. From then until about noon on Wednesday, temps remained below freezing, including several nights in the teens. We're just not used to that in this area. Sure, we usually get a snow or two every year, but they are light and the snow usually melts right away. But this time, it turned cold and stayed that way. Even on those days around Christmas when the temps rose above freezing, the skies were overcast and gloomy, so it seemed like a pretty long spell of depressing weather to me.

During the week or so of cold temps -- including those times when the temps rose just above freezing -- we basically hunkered down in our warm and comfortable home. It's so nice to be retired and not have to get out in bad weather. I did get out one day to run some errands, but Donna stayed inside for about a week. She began complaining about "cabin fever" at one point. So, on Wednesday, we finally ventured out to a movie and a meal. The sun came out, and the temperature rose to about 50 or so. It was great!

By the way, the movie we watched was Jumanji. We felt like something light and comic, and this turned out to be a good choice. And best of all, I don't recall any bad language during the movie.

On Thursday, we emerged for our first walk in a week or more. It was great to be out in the fresh air and working our limbs. I'm arthritic, and I find that when I don't walk for a while (a week or more), then I have difficulty getting back into my walking rhythm. So we only walked about 3.5 miles, and afterward my legs ached. I'll slowly work up from that to my normal 4.5 or 5 miles before long.

On Friday, we did some shopping in the morning. For lunch, we stopped in at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, What Da Pho. After starting with 2 spring rolls and their wonderful peanut sauce, Donna enjoyed a bowl of chicken noodle soup while I had beef soup with shrimp. Yum!

View of the lake from along a ridge on the Horny Toad Trail. If you click to enlarge, you should be able to make out the straight line of the dam as well as a travel trailer on a ridge in the right-center of picture.
The day was beautiful, and I wanted to get out. So, we drove to San Angelo State Park and took a short hike of 4.83 miles. We decided to put together a loop (clockwise) starting at the parking area next to the playground near the south entrance. We headed west following all or parts of the following trails, in this order: Horny Toad Trail, Nature Trail, and Lankey Lackey Trail. We then cut north along an old 2-track trail past an old restroom from the early days of the park (Corp of Engineer days) to pick up the Winding Snake Trail. We then followed this trail back east, ending the hike on the Chaparral Trail. You can see these trails on the park's Trails Map. The Horny Toad Trail is not named on this map, though it is shown on the map.

We came across this armadillo near the end of the hike. That is my shadow in the lower-left, so we were pretty close. He didn't seem to notice us at all until we got next to him to take the following closeup.

The little fellow was nice enough to pose for us by rearing on his hind legs.
It was a good little hike, but along a very rocky route. I ended up with blisters on both my big toes that evening, but because of the scenery, fresh air, and exercise, it was certainly worth it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Walking Stats, 2017

As we approach the end of another year, I look back over what I've accomplished. When you are retired, your accomplishments change quite a bit, as you no longer have a career to consider. One of the biggest things I consider is my walking.

You undoubtedly know by now that walking is important to me. Mainly, it helps with so many health issues, such as cholesterol and cardiovascular areas. But I just enjoy walking. When I feel bad, a walk outside makes me feel better.

My father suffered from dementia his final years. Near the end of his life, he moved into an assisted living facility near me. This was against his will, and he even told the employees there that I had more or less kidnapped him. But that's another story.

Dad wasn't a happy camper, but his mind really was not working properly. He could no longer live alone. Something had to be done. So, the first few days in the facility he was mad. Donna and I would go over each day after work only to find that he had packed up everything in his room and was waiting for someone to take him home. Donna and I would patiently unpack everything, including the items that belonged to the facility and not to him (such as the microwave oven). We learned to time our arrival while he was in the dining room, so we could go to his room while he was eating and have him completely unpacked by the time he returned. When he returned, he was unaware that he was completely unpacked again.

So, this went on for several days. On the second weekend, I took Dad to our home to spend a Saturday with us. He was not happy and he was not comfortable. Finally, I took Dad for a walk to Synergy Park on the east side of Kilgore, where we lived at the time. The park at the time was rather new and consisted of a few trails through ab East Texas forest around a small lake. But that little park worked miracles on Dad. His expression changed; his attitude changed; his step became more lively. Taking a walk outside was like a magic elixir.

Now, the walk didn't cure his disease. In fact, when we took him home, we stopped at a local hamburger place. Dad loved burgers, and this particular place was well known for its burgers. Now, Dad had never been here before. When I asked him how his burger was, he said, "Oh, I've eaten here several times before; they make really good burgers." But at least he was feeling better.

A walk helps me, too. Being outside, feeling the wind in my face, seeing the clouds drift across the sky, hearing the chatter of squirrels or the whistle of a bird, all these things help me. So I walk simply because I enjoy it.

Well, I didn't mean to stray so much from my topic. I wanted to share my walking stats for the year. For 2017, I walked 487.51 miles. I purchased my current shoes on July 26, and I've put 278.11 miles on them. I had hoped to break 500 miles, but the extreme cold weather kept me inside the final few days of the year. Yeah, I enjoy walking, but not enough to freeze doing it.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The After-Christmas Lull

Christmas 2017 has come and gone. And what did Donna and I do for Christmas? Basically, the same thing we've done for most of the last 20 years or so.

After Courtney graduated high school and Donna and I found ourselves in an empty nest, we started a new Christmas Day tradition -- going to the movies. For most of the past almost-20 years or so, we've continued this. This year, we saw Father Figures, starring Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, with supporting roles by Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw, J.K. Simmons, and Christopher Walken. We enjoyed it for the most part, except for all the gutter language. Why does Hollywood feel they have to include such language when there is absolutely no reason for it? I'll try to be more careful in future about the movies I watch; such language does not impress me at all.

Normally, we find a place to eat after watching a show on Christmas Day, but we couldn't find anything we wanted this year so we just headed home and put something together there. And I was surprised by the crowds at the few places that were open. I saw several families going in and out of these restaurants, and they didn't look like travelers to me. I guess the traditional holiday meals are fading away for some folks.

A very cold front moved in on Wednesday. Never did the temp rise above freezing on that day. We had an early appointment and had to get out. Because of moisture the previous day, there were several icy patches around town, especially on the bridges on the loop. We left early, choose a low-traffic and safe route, and safely arrived at our destination. There were numerous wrecks around town that morning.

The cold continued the next day, when the temp just barely rose above freezing. Daughter Courtney and her band of mercenaries arrived close to noon for a belated Christmas celebration. Donna cooked ham, baked beans, and white potato salad -- yum yum! We opened presents, watched the little guys play with their new things, and had a good visit. They spent the night, then returned home the next day.

After they left, Donna put away all the indoor Christmas decorations -- tree, stockings, etc. I went outside and removed the lights there. So, Christmas is officially over for us for 2017.

The cold has continued. Every day is a wintry day, with low temps and overcast skies. We've had light moisture almost every day; not enough to add water to our reservoirs, but enough to make driving tricky with the overnight freezes. As I write this at just after 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon, the temp is 38, and that is probably the highest it will be for the next several days. The high tomorrow (Sunday) is 32 with an wintry mix. It dips to 17 Sunday night, and climbs to a mere 25 on Monday, New Years Day. Monday night gets to 16, rising to 28 on Tuesday. We finally get back above freezing on Wednesday.

Donna and I had planned a trip next week, but with the bad weather, we decided to stay home, so we canceled and rescheduled for another time. Now, for all you mountain folks and northerners out there, this weather doesn't sound that bad. But for the folks in my neck of the woods, this is quite cold. It seems that we haven't seen the sun for a week or more.

To end the week, we will attend a New Year's Eve party out here at Rio Concho West on Sunday night. Lock up the women and children, as the old folks are cutting loose! I'll tell you about this wild affair in another entry.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas, 2017

I wish you a merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20 King James Version (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
I quoted the King James version above, as I've always felt the language used in that version is the most beautiful. 
I wish you peace and love for the coming year. May we all strive to live by the example set by Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Meanwhile, Back at RCW

Christmas is sneaking up on us. I hope all of you are ready. We are. Daughter Courtney and her merry band of terrorists will come barreling down to see us a few days after Christmas. That means Donna and I spend Christmas alone. It also means I have more time to ponder the impending invasion. It's kind of like when you get sent to the principal's office and s/he makes you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Just makes the torture worse, doesn't it?

We've had some rain, followed by some beautiful weather. Early in the week, we had about three-quarters inch of rain. A couple of days later, we had temps in upper 70's and even the lower 80's. Wow! It was really nice, so I made sure to get some walking in. We went to the park one day for a short walk of almost 4 miles, then the next day I walked just over 4 miles in our neighborhood.

Sunrise at Rio Concho West
Same direction, but zoomed in a bit and a few seconds later.
In the previous post, I mentioned our annual outing to see Christmas lights. After the drive around town, we stopped in for a light supper at Chile's. Back in the 1990's, we frequently ate at this Chile's on our shopping trips to San Angelo when we lived in nearby Ozona. But we don't eat there much anymore, and I'm not sure why. Donna enjoyed her tortilla soup while I really liked my Quesadilla Explosion Salad.

Turkeys came through our yard shortly after the sunrise.
On Friday, a cold front moved through. Temperatures hovered around 40 for most of the day. What do you do on a cold day? You go to the movies. Donna and I drove to our local theater and caught Downsizing, the new Matt Damon film. The movie let out about 3:30, and we headed over to our local Olive Garden for a late afternoon lunch. Nice day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Light Tour, 2017

Since retiring to San Angelo in 2011, it has become a tradition for Donna and me to follow the Tour of Lights each Christmas.

The Tour of Lights is a unique Christmas celebration whereby a 1 mile stretch of West River Drive -- sometimes referred to as Park Drive -- is ablaze in Christmas lights. This stretch of roadway follows the North Concho River as it meanders through downtown San Angelo. Most of the decorations are set up on the opposite side of the river from the road. For much of the stretch, the land rises from the river, creating a bluff to serve as a backdrop for the lights, with homes gracing the land behind the lights. The reflection of the lights in the waters of the North Concho River certainly adds to the beauty of the scene.

This is the 24th year for the event, and the number of lights grows each year. It runs for the entire month of December, roughly from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Currently, a $5 per car donation is suggested.

If you go to the website linked in the first paragraph above, you will see mention of a 2.5 mile route. The actual route along the river is only 1 mile. At the end of this section, the route then leaves the river, travels along historic Concho Avenue in downtown San Angelo, then turns south on South Oakes Street where it then detours for its finale through the area across from old Fort Concho where the Farmers' Market is currently held. At certain times during the month-long event, there is a live nativity at this location.

I encourage you to visit the website linked above to view the gallery there, as their pictures are far superior to my unworthy efforts. But, if you are a glutton for punishment, then you can view a few of my pictures below. We got there just a little before it was fully dark.

The tunnel near the beginning of the route. The lights rotate across the top.

Notice the bit of reflection at the bottom of picture, as well as the house in the background farther up the slope.
Some of the displays bring the old 12 Days of Christmas song to life. This one shows the 8 maids a milking.
I love the reflections in the river.

A close up of one of the displays to demonstrate the detail that goes in to this.