Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Lone Star State

Long before we hit the road as fulltimers, our plan was in place to spend the holidays at my parents’ ranch outside of Abilene at least through the New Year.  My Dad put in utilities in anticipation of our stay, and positioned us to maximize the view while getting some protection from the winds. We arrived at Live Oak Ranch on November 1st and settled in.

Scoopy sitting pretty at Live Oak Ranch

On our way from Amarillo, Steven kept looking for a place where we could fill up with propane. He called ahead to several truck stops but none of them sold it. When we got closer to our turn-off in Merkel, he called the Flying J in Abilene and was told they had propane. But after hours of driving, I was ready to call it a day and did not want to drive beyond the point where we needed to turn off the highway. We decided we'd be fine. Actually, it was me who decided we'd be fine, in that "we don't need no stinkin' propane" kind of way. That decision came back to seriously bite us (actually, me)  in the butt, but we learned a valuable lesson.

You see, one week after our arrival, Steven left for a two week visit with his family in Ireland. I stayed behind to get started on some extensive dental work that was long overdue. It was during this time, when I was without Steven, that the propane ran out. And it happened during a period of fairly significant winter weather and cold temperatures. Of course it did.

I could have packed up and driven to the Flying J, about 40-miles round trip. Thing is, to move the rig, I would have also had to move the Direct TV thingy. Since I have no idea how to set it up, that meant I would have lost TV, and more specifically, football, Seahawks football. That just wasn't going to happen. I finally found a place in Abilene who would deliver, but they were backed up a couple of days. Still, I put my name on this list as it was my only viable option. For two days I waited, shivering, and watching football in the extreme cold. I had electric heaters, but when it's 9 degrees outside, they can't keep up. I could have slept in the ranch house, but I felt like I needed to stay with Scoopy. Like a captain with her ship. I felt so responsible.

Thank god for delivery! 

By the time Steven returned from Ireland, the temps were back up into the 60s and all was well with our home. I certainly learned a lot through this experience, and am not likely to pass up an opportunity to take on propane when needed.

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Steven being interviewed for a radio show in Dublin        The extended Irish family

Thanksgiving arrived and along with it a whole host of family members, most of whom I haven't seen in years. It was so great to catch up with everyone. A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, we celebrated Steven's 50th birthday, and my Dad's 81st. Such a celebration called for a new pair of cowboy boots and Chicken Fried Steak.

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Thanksgiving at the ranch                                       Birthday boots basking in the sun!

Remember Scoopy’s steps that we have basically McGuyver'd our entire trip? Yeah, they finally gave out completely, which meant all our efforts for repair were for naught. We had to cough up the money to pay for complete replacement. I have to admit, though, it's awfully nice to have fully-functioning steps. While we were at the repair facility, we also had them install our spare water pump. That's a real treat, too, a working pump. 

McGuyver would have been proud (not)

We spent the next few days getting prepared for the Christmas holiday. We shopped, decorated, wrapped and cooked. Zac and Tara arrived for Christmas at the ranch, unfortunately Zoe was unable to make it because she had to work. As sad as I was that I wouldn’t see her, I fully support her being on someone's payroll. :)

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Christmas at Live Oak Ranch and our little Christmas tree on our new steering wheel table!

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Luke gets into the holiday spirit.                            It was great to be with the kids again!

The Christmas gang at Live Oak Ranch

Among the many activities we got up to during our stay at Live Oak was lots of Phantom flying and even some shooting practice. Shannon’s boyfriend, JP is a former firearms instructor so we all got some sound lessons on safe handling and shooting. Shannon, having been in law enforcement forever, also knew her way around the weapons.

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Aerial views of the ranch at sunset as seen with the Phantom

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Chouter shooters. Linda getting instruction from Shannon and Steven working with JP

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Tara looking the part, and Zac aiming carefully.

Overall, we spent eight weeks and two days at Live Oak Ranch. The best part, for me, was spending time with my family and sharing the holidays. I haven't done that in a very long time. We'll make a couple more stops at the ranch before we head back to Seattle this summer and I have to say, I'm looking forward to it. It's a great "home base" for us.

Still, we were more than ready to hit the road as soon as the kids had gone and I think my parents were happy to see us go. We've planned a southern swing through Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and back to Texas and we were both chomping at the bit to get going!

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Scoopy all lit up for an early departure.                The huge live oak that provided Scoopy’s shelter

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Sunsets were spectacular at the ranch and the wind turbines made a great silhouette