Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life in a Trailer

Prior to our current experience, the longest we had stayed in our trailer was about 10 days. We've been in here now for almost 3 weeks, and we expect to stay another 3 to 4 weeks in the trailer while waiting for our house to be completed.

So, how are we doing?

For a couple of old geezers, Donna and I are pretty flexible. That's good, because there are lots of adjustments to make when living in a trailer.

The refrigerator is about one-third the size of our regular fridge, so we have to plan our purchases more carefully. We do this by purchasing smaller quantities and making more trips to the store. Our overall storage space, of course, is greatly reduced, so we are unable to go to Sam's Wholesale, for example, and purchase items as we normally would.

And then there is the human space. Our combined living, kitchen, and dining area in the trailer is about the size of an average bedroom. Our bedroom is even smaller. And the shower . . . Well, let's just say I miss the shower in my old home.

All in all, though, we do fine. Probably the biggest problem, at least for me, is boredom. I feel that we are in sort of a transition period. If we were on vacation and visiting interesting locations, then we'd be going out to museums, hiking, or doing other sight-seeing activities. However, now we are grounded in one spot, just waiting for all the dominoes to fall in place. Donna goes fishing almost every day -- sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. She loves fishing. I work on genealogy projects I'm involved in. We watch a little television, and we both read quite a bit. We try to keep healthy by walking. We have developed a 3 mile route we walk several times a week, and we ride our bicycles as well.

I spend a little time on a regular basis maintaining the trailer. I try to keep all slides, steps, and other related items lubricated, for example. I monitor all tanks (grey water, black water, propane, etc.) and empty or refill as appropriate. I clean out all external hutches from time to time and re-pack them to get more efficient use out of them. I try to stay busy.

But at the end of the day, I'm looking forward to moving into our new home and getting to work in the yard and building my new garden. Life in a trailer is good for a while, but there is no place like a solid home.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One Down, One to Go

We closed on our house in Kilgore yesterday.

For the past several weeks, we tried to set up a closing for the house. The buyer had not turned in all paperwork promptly, and that resulted in several delays. The closing finally occurred at 3:00 PM on Friday. That meant Donna and I had a long drive back to San Angelo. We arrived here last night about 11:15 PM.

It's nice to have that behind us, though, despite the late night drive home.

Now we can focus on finishing our new home in San Angelo. Our next task is to measure rooms and windows and start finding blinds that will cover the windows.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Richard Proenneke

In some recent posts, I've touched upon living a simpler, more natural life. Again, I want to emphasize that I don't intend to live a primitive lifestyle. As I have said before, I enjoy my creature comforts. Still, I do think there are some things to be learned from a simpler lifestyle.

A few years ago, I caught a broadcast on KERA (PBS) about Richard Proenneke.  The film really caught my attention, and I went out later and purchased a related book, Alone in the Wilderness.

Dick Proenneke was quite a man. In 1968, he moved to Alaska to an area called Twin Lakes. He constructed a cabin using only hand tools, such as an axe and other basic tools: no backhoes, no chainsaws, no electric drill, just hand powered tools. Dick even made many of his tools himself.

Dick's cabin measured 11' by 14'. It had a gravel floor, windows, a dutch door, a fireplace, and a moss covered waterproof roof. He had to build all his own furniture, too -- chairs, tables, desk and his bunk. He also built a cache to store his food out of the reach of the animals.

Dick Proenneke building his cabin

Again, I'm a bit too spoiled to live like this, but I admire someone who is so in tune with his environment that he knows exactly what he needs. And Dick's lifestyle drives home the fact that we really don't need all the material possessions most of us have to lead a satisfying life.

And have we lost the satisfaction of doing work using our own bare hands? One of my favorite moments is sitting on my patio looking over my freshly mowed lawn and taking satisfaction in the fact that I did the work.

So, as I move from one home to another, I evaluate every item we possess -- do we need it or not?

What would Dick Proenneke do?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

House Progress

We were able to tour our house over the weekend. It's coming along great. Completion date is still set for the end of June.

Below are some pictures.

Front of house faces west; picture taken 5 days after other pictures shown

Kitchen with granite countertops. Sink is part of island bar.

Shower in master bath

Dual sinks in master bath. All sinks in the house are bottom mounted.

Brick on south side of house. Same brick will be on back and north side as well.

Corner fireplace in living area. Window next to fireplace faces east (back yard).

Tile in entry way.

Front door with Texas star design.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Creek Marina and RV Park

Spring Creek Marina and RV Park is our temporary home until about June 30th. It's really a pretty pleasant place to stay.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, and things were hopping. There aren't that many lakes in West Texas, so people out here take advantage of the water they can find. On the weekends, this place is crawling with water rats.

Spring Creek Marina and RV Park is located where the Middle Concho River and Spring Creek merge to form Lake Nasworthy. The lake is also fed by the South Concho River.

Junction of Spring Creek and Middle Concho River
Spring Creek Marina and RV Park is private property located next to Spring Creek Park. On weekends, folks from all over West Texas bring their tents or RVs and camp either in the RV park or the public park.

We are currently staying in site 66.

Our campsite: Spot 66
One of the things we enjoy about this place is the generous shade provided by the numerous mesquite trees throughout the park. Not many places in West Texas provide so much shade, so we are fortunate to be here.

Mesquites provide shade in the park. Our rig is the Rockwood in the center of the picture.

We've enjoyed watching all the activities on the lake. Actually, the body of the lake is downstream from the park, but a great deal of boat traffic moves back and forth on the Middle Concho within view of our campsite.

View of the lake from our campsite
Now that the weekend is over, the park is quiet. The weekend campers have returned home, and the park is left to retirees and those few individuals who stay in the park while working on jobs in the area.

Donna and I took a walk this morning. We like to walk 3 miles several times a week for our health and to keep us fit for hiking. On the walk this morning, we came across 2 flocks of wild turkeys and numerous deer. This spot is truly an oasis in West Texas.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Loaded Up and Gone

Well, we made it!

Donna and I picked up a Budget rental truck Wednesday, and with the help of a friend were able to load it that afternoon. Our 2-vehicle convoy left Kilgore at 4:30 on Thursday morning.

I'm pretty proud of us. Although we did get some help loading the truck, Donna and I had already loaded the fridge, freezer, washer, guest room bed, and entertainment center before help arrived. I must admit, though, that I was glad to get some help. By the end of the day, I was pretty beat.

A couple of weeks before we moved, I splurged and bought a furniture dolly and a heavy duty hand truck. I have not regretted these purchases at all. These 2 items did all the heavy work for me. And since I will have to come back once more and move our furniture out of storage into our new home, the cost of buying them probably is about the same as renting them twice.

Moving like this brings back lots of memories for me. Donna and I were married on May 26, 1977. I was just completing my undergraduate degree (BAT) and had been invited to continue on at Sam Houston State University to serve as a teaching assistant while working on my Master's. Those 2 years (from 1977 to 1979) were great, and we loved our lifestyle. And that, in itself, is odd. We were barely able to make ends meet and we had very few possessions. We lived in a small efficiency cabin in the woods about 5 miles outside Huntsville. The living area, bedroom, and kitchen were all in a single room. We had a single closet, and you had to pass through the bathroom to get to it. We were on well water, and it stained the walls in the bathroom because of the high sulphur content. But we had as much enjoyment then as just about any other time in our lives. This theme reverberates to the recent posting regarding whether we own our possessions or they own us -- what does it really take for people to be happy?

After I completed my graduate degree, it was time to move on since SHSU did not offer a PhD in English. I secured a position teaching English in Olton, a small town about 50 miles northwest of Lubbock. At the time, I had hoped to continue my studies at Texas Tech, but that wish would never materialize. When it came time to move out there, we rented a U-Haul truck, loaded it with hand-me-down furniture donated by various family members, and our little 2-vehicle convoy wound its way up to the Caprock of Texas. In the first big move of our lives, we were completely alone; I do not have the words to describe how exciting that time in our lives was. Now, once again, we find ourselves making this move alone. And I like that. It brings a certain symmetry to our lives. But this time, instead of beginning our lives, we are bringing our time to a close.

We arrived in San Angelo about 1:00 PM on Thursday and began unloading our belongings into a storage room we had rented for a short term (our new house will not be ready for at least another month). After about 4 hours of unloading the truck on our own, though, we realized we needed help. Donna called our son-in-law and asked if he could come down the next day to help finish. As much as I hate asking for help, I must admit I am grateful she did this. I was simply worn out and had no strength left in my arms.

Michael arrived the next day, and we were able to finish unloading the truck and packing the store room in about 3 hours. We then turned the truck in, picked up our trailer, and set up our temporary home at Spring Creek Marina and RV Park.

While waiting for our house to be completed, we'll spend our time taking early morning walks along Lake Nasworthy and Spring Creek, and we'll explore historic downtown San Angelo. We'll walk along the North Concho River as it winds through downtown San Angelo, separating the old downtown area from Fort Concho. As we wend our way through these areas, I'll think about Elmer Kelton, who wrote so accurately about life in this part of Texas.

Elmer Kelton: Western Writer and Gentleman
San Angelo is a great town, and we're looking forward to becoming members of the community. As I've said before, life is good. We invite our friends to journey west to spend some time with us. We'll leave the light on for you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Living in Harmony with Nature

This posting is dedicated to my good friend, Steve V. (aka, "The Pirate") who is a tireless warrior determined to protect the environment.

If you've read my blog for very long, you've probably learned that I love the outdoors. I consider myself a naturalist. I believe that there is a natural rhythm in life, and if we just learn to live in harmony with nature, life is better. I'm probably in the minority, though. Most people today believe in "drill, baby, drill", it seems.

Now, let me be clear about this. I don't want to live a primitive lifestyle. I do enjoy my creature comforts. I do like to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. But that doesn't mean we have to surrender our souls.

As a child, I happened along at a pretty good time. All the houses I lived in had indoor plumbing -- at least, as far back as I can remember. And Dad was a big fan of air conditioning. We moved quite a few times when I was a child, for Dad was moving up through the ranks of public education, from teacher to principal to superintendent. And as we moved, Dad took personal charge of 2 things: the window units (air conditioners) we had accumlated over the years and the TV antenna.

Both my paternal and my maternal sets of grandparents, though, did not enjoy these creature comforts. Much of my youth was spent visiting my maternal grandmother in the small Freestone County community of Kirvin as well as my paternal grandparents near Point Enterprise in Limestone County. Neither household enjoyed the luxury of indoor plumbing. We drew water from a well, and we took our baths in a number 2 washtub.

#2 washtub
 When nature called, we hustled out back to the outhouse.
My maternal grandmother was rather well-to-do for her neighborhood, so she had a 2-holer:

2-hole privy
Now, this wasn't my normal lifestyle. The houses we lived in had modern plumbing and modern bathroom facilities. But I'm grateful that I experienced an older way of life. It has helped to ground me, so to speak. I believe it has helped to make me a bit more humble, a bit more thankful, and it helped put me in touch with certain basics of life.

Today, there are certain basics of life I still try to adhere to. In most years, I do all I can to grow the vegetables I eat, and now that I'm retired, I plan on a large garden as soon as we get in our new home and I can get the garden area prepared (and this may not be until Spring 2012). Donna and I take our vegetable scraps and compost them, and we do the same with the grass clippings I accumulate whenever I mow the yard. I do not use chemicals on our lawn. To control weeds, I prefer to use corn gluten or other natural methods rather than harmful pesticides. We recycle aluminum, steel cans, paper, plastic, glass, and anything else we can.

In essence, we strive to live in harmony with nature. We only have 1 Mother Earth. If we take care of it, then it will continue to provide us with the food we need to sustain ourselves.

To learn more about living in harmony with nature, visit your local library and peruse the latest edition of The Mother Earth News. You may find it so interesting that you subscribe to it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hiking Around Texas

In a recent post entitled "Hiking Around", I introduced the topic of hiking and why Donna and I enjoy this activity so much. We intend to do a great deal more hiking as soon as we get settled in our new home.

I started thinking about all the places we've hiked in Texas and decided to make a list. As I continue this blog, I'll post reviews of trails when we hike them, and I may even post reviews of past hikes.

As best as I can remember, here are the trails in Texas we have hiked so far. Links are provided. The list is in alphabetical order.

Keith at trail junction on Four C Hiking Trail
 There are quite a few places on our "bucket list" to hike in Texas before we call it quits. These include

The state park system (Texas Parks and Wildlife) does a good job of providing maps and other information related to hiking and camping. However, maps and related information differ from park to park. For example, some parks -- like Dinosaur Valley State Park and Hill Country State Natural Area -- give precise mileage on trails. Other parks provide maps that lack sufficient detail and trail signs.

Donna on boardwalk over swampy area in Hunstville State Park
 You may wish to consult other hiking sources for Texas. Laurence Parent has written a number of books on hiking in Texas. These books are usually available in bookstores such as Hastings and Barnes and Noble. There are also websites worth consulting, such as Texas Hiking. If you visit this site, you will find a number of hikes I recorded several years ago under the username of "kcameron".

If you've never done any hiking, consider it. Hiking is one of the cheapest and most rewarding outdoor activities you will find.

I hope to see you on the trail.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hiking Around

One of our favorite pasttimes is hiking. Over the years, we have enjoyed some really nice hikes. Now, I'm not talking about backpacking the Appalachian Trail or anything like that. I'm just talking about spending the day on a trail to see what is around the next bend. Most of our hikes range in length from 5 to 10 miles, though occassionally we do a bit less or a bit more. I don't want to spend the night in a shelter, hut, or on the ground; I much prefer coming back to my comfortable trailer at the end of each day, taking a hot shower, having a nice meal, and partaking of a few adult beverages as a reward for working off a few calories wandering around the wilderness.

Many of our friends and family don't share our love of hiking. In fact, many of them think we're nuts. Well, we probably are, but there is much to recommend hiking as a pasttime.

First, it's great exercise. Lots of folks walk for exercise, usually following the same route day after day. But too many don't walk far enough to get much benefit. As I understand, it takes about 30 minutes of strenous walking to just get up to the level where good things begin to happen, and that seems to be when most people stop. So, just consider the positive effects of a 10 mile hike through the woods that may take 5 or 6 hours.

Second, there are so many beautiful places in our country that are accessible only by foot. We have enjoyed the most beautiful views from the trail; or perhaps it's that wonderful sculpturing done by a stream over limestone, and we get to inspect it up close at our leisure.

Third, I enjoy the personal challenge of a longer hike. Depending on the conditions (steep trail; rocky surface; extreme heat; tricky river crossing; etc.), each trail can present unique challenges. Expecially at our age, I want to continue to test myself, to push my body a bit farther when it begins to ache. I want to know that when I am challenged, I can step up and complete a hike.

But the things I most cherish about hiking, I think, are the simple pleasures I experience on the trail, and this sort of echoes the theme I touched upon in a recent post about how your possessions own you rather than you owning your possessions. Over the years, I've learned to appreciate those little pleasures that occur. It may be that beautiful view from atop a ridge in Lost Maples State Natural Area (see picture below). It may be that after walking through a humid and stuffy pine forest, you happen into a hilltop clearing where a cool breeze strikes your sweaty brow and freshens you. It may be sighting a doe and her fawn grazing undisturbed in a clearing, unaware of the nearby presence of man. It may be the refreshing drink from your water bottle on a 100+ degree day while hiking the Lake Somerville Trailway. Or it may be cooling your tired feet in the Paluxy River at the end of a long day of hiking.

View from ridge in Lost Maples State Natural Area
It is these simple pleasures that I think about when I recall our many hikes. If you are looking for some hobby, and one that can be rewarding as well as pleasurable, I would recommend hiking to you.