Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stormy Weather, a New Tree and Halloween

The rain let up for a day or so, and then it was back with a vengeance. From Thursday midnight until Saturday morning, we had 12" of rain according to our rain gauge. We were under a tornado watch yesterday morning. I was awake numerous times last night, because of the thunder and lightning. This morning, however, the rain has stopped

This morning our friend, Mike, who owns a pick-up truck, helped us pick up a tree that we were awarded through an annual City of Temple Parks & Recreation program called A Tree for Me. If you would like a free tree, you apply, as we did a few weeks ago. Then trees are given out on a first come first served basis, based on your application date. You get to list your preference of varieties, but your choice is not guaranteed. I really don't remember what I listed as my preference, but it wasn't a red oak, which is what we got. But, as they say, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." We were really glad the rain had stopped this morning, when we had to pick up our tree. But the road to the nursery had flooded and was a muddy mess. Luckily, they had volunteers there loading the trees, so we didn't have to get out in the mud.  Here is our little, somewhat scraggly red oak. Now we have to get it in the ground.

And tonight is Halloween. We usually try to be with our grands for this spooktacular holiday, but it didn't work out this year. I'm hoping that the weather continues to be dry so we will get lots of little goblins at our door tonight. We're ready!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Weekend from Two Perspectives

This past weekend was an interesting one. I think I'll tell about it from two perspectives - Dan's and mine.


All year long Dan waits for this one weekend in the fall. It's the weekend when he goes to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the Formula 1 race track in Austin, to watch the United States Grand Prix race and all the preliminaries. It's a three day event, starting on Friday and ending with the actual two-hour race on late Sunday afternoon. In the past, Chris has joined him there, as well as a few of Chris' Houston friends, whom Dan now counts as friends, as well. This year Chris did not plan on being there, but some of the friends, including a fellow named Lindsay, were coming, so Dan had been coordinating everything with Lindsay.  They would all be staying at the same hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, in nearby Bastrop. 

We have had a dry, dry summer this year. No rain at all . . . until the remnants of Hurricane Patricia slammed into us with all its fury, bringing torrents of rain and some wind. We only got three days of this weather  . . . you guessed it, Friday, Saturday and Sunday . . .RACE WEEKEND! Dan was a trooper, though. and stayed for the entire three days. The friends who were supposed to join him there, however, backed out. I'll let you read about Dan's weekend experiences in his own words. This is an email he wrote to the absentee guys (only slightly edited by me):

Randy Travis had a hit a few years back that included these lines:
"As long as old men sit n' talk about the weather
As long as old women sit n' talk about old men"
From "Forever And Ever, Amen” 
I can say that I thought of these lines many times as I texted and talked with Lindsay and Chris over the weekend. The weather was influencing everything and it was mean. Raining hard, wind blowing, soak you to the skin type of weather. My poncho worked wonderfully and I only got wet below the knees. Even when the rain stopped, it was still cold.
 That said, going to Bastrop and the race for the weekend was a much easier decision for me than for anyone else. Never was I more than a little over an hour from the warmth and dry comfort of my own home. And definitely more than once I considered calling it a weekend and spend that brief hour or so to drive home. I didn’t, mainly because I was there and hope springs eternal. Based on the information available at the time, we all made a right decision.
Friday, they let me park in Lot N with no problem. I watched morning practice and when they canceled P2, left. Then I got stuck in the parking lot. Some very nice people helped to push my car out. COTA announced Friday night that Lot N would be closed Saturday and people that were to park there had to go to downtown Austin to park and be bussed to the circuit. 
Saturday morning the circuit was closed to anyone not already there. I showed up at noon to park in Lot N and they told me only workers, campers, and police were allowed in Lot N but I could park in Lot Q (Lot Q is about 2 miles from the circuit) and I would be bussed to the circuit. I went to Lot Q and stayed in my car and watched people get drenched as soon and they stepped out of their car. I monitored from my cell phone the procession of delays for the scheduled qualification and when the drenched people started returning, I left. I never made it to the circuit. There wasn’t anything to watch, anyway, qualification was rescheduled for Sunday morning. COTA amended their parking announcement but I was still supposed to go to downtown Austin to park.
Sunday, they let me park in Lot N because I showed them a parking pass. I watched qualification then went back to my car to wait out the rain. Rain stopped about 45 minutes prior to the race start. I watched the race and tried to wait in the stands for the Elton John concert. Since I had got up at 5:30 AM to get to the circuit early, I was much too tired and left after waiting until 5:00.
 So I was able to see everything that ran except FP3. I maybe should have tried to get in, but that would really be pushing my luck because COTA said that the circuit was closed. Sunday racing was spectacular. I am a great fan of racing in the rain and F1 in the rain is no exception. Practice and qualifying in the rain was spin after slide and driving off the track for everybody. And that was just at the corners I could see from my seat. Watching the rooster tail grow as they accelerated down the back straight was astonishing. 
This is what Lot N looked like after it stopped raining. I took this sitting in my car on Sunday. No, I didn’t park in the mud, I was on one of the gravel access roads that crisscross the lot. 

America hasn't had a Formula 1 driver in almost a decade, so Dan got this brief clip of American driver Alexander Rossi as he sped by in Practice-1. 


I may look forward to Dan's weekend at the races almost as much as he does. I usually plan to work on long-overdue projects and spend some time just relaxing and watching movies on Netflix. So when the ominous weather reports were coming in, I began to worry that both of us might be disappointed. But Dan when wasn't dissuaded by a "little rain," I was a bit relieved, myself.

I spent a lot of the weekend finishing up a project that I had already started earlier in the week -- sorting through all of my thousands (literally) of old  disorganized, disheveled photos that have been moved from one house to another - from one state to another, actually - and storing them in a keen set of boxes I ordered from Amazon. Each box holds 16 smaller containers, each of them holding around 100 photos. I filled nearly three of these boxes, plus another type of box which holds my 8x10s and 5x7s. It feels so good to have this all done! Now I can put my hands on photos, by subject matter, in a matter of a minute or so.

I spent a lot of time on my current art class painting, as well. It was great because I was able to spread out on the kitchen table , where I usually paint, for the entire three days and not have to pick everything up for meals. I just ate in front of the TV, watching my favorite Netflix features, and listening to the thunder and the pounding rain.

I also spent several hours on the computer working on and (sigh) setting up a Facebook account. (Four years ago my Facebook account was hacked, and it created all sorts of chaos for me. I finally decided to take a chance again and set up a new account. I found I was missing out on too much news from friends from Alaska, Oregon, New Mexico, and closer to home.)

I really did enjoy my weekend, but when Sunday evening came, and I heard the garage door open, and saw Dan driving his wet, mud-splattered car in, I was really happy. I enjoyed flying solo all weekend, but it was great to have him back in the nest, safe and sound. Three days of being on my own is just about right. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grandma/Clara Road Trip

We only had a weekend, but to a nine-year-old, packing a suitcase and staying in a couple of hotels means "road trip."

I sent Clara an invitation about a month ago, and she had been looking forward to our weekend together ever since then. (So had I!) Clara got out of school early on Friday, as it was an inservice day, so Kelsey had her bag all packed and met me at the school, where Clara and I began our big adventure.

We stopped at a fast-food place on our way out of town, and had lunch together, then made the drive from Houston to Waco. It took a little under three hours for this leg of the trip, which ended at our hotel.

After taking a few minutes to settle in, we hopped back into the car and drove to the Dr. Pepper Museum. The museum is housed in what used to be the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company, the first building dedicated to the manufacturing of Dr. Pepper. The museum encourages people to use their imaginations and follow their dreams. I didn't realize, before our visit, that Dr. Pepper is the oldest major soft drink in America, created in Waco in 1885, one year before Coca-Cola.


This is the original artesian well from which they drew their spring water for making Dr. Pepper. 

At the end of the museum tour (three floors of displays) we stopped in the old soda fountain and had a Dr. Pepper float. Clara was impressed at how they made it, using the flavored syrup and soda water, and more impressed by the taste! Yum!

I let Clara choose what we ate for the main meal each day. On Friday evening she asked to go to a barbecue restaurant. That kind of surprised me until she explained further: "Barbecue restaurants always have mac and cheese!" So we asked a young man at the Dr. Pepper Museum if he knew of a good barbecue place, and he recommended Vitek's BBQ. It's a locally owned spot and really did have great food -- including four-cheese mac and cheese. We both left happy.

We still had a little daylight left, so we drove downtown to see the old historic suspension bridge, which crosses the Brazos River. This bridge opened in 1869, and was the first major suspension bridge in Texas. At that time, Waco was located in a very remote area, so getting building supplies and manufactured parts to the site was extremely difficult. The twin double towers at either end of the bridge were, at the time, considered a marvel of engineering, and contained nearly 3 million bricks, which were produced locally. It was designed for stagecoaches, pedestrians and cattle, and tolls were collected on each one that crossed.  (The toll for cattle was five cents/head.) Now the bridge is only for pedestrians, and has a park at each end. It seemed to be a hot spot for families and picnics. Folks were even spreading their picnic blankets on the floor of the bridge, where they could watch the sun set on the Brazos River.

This is a bridge that spans the river a little way down from the suspension bridge. The sun was setting behind it, which made for a pretty picture

We played a game in the hotel room that night and watched a little TV.

After a good night's sleep, we arose on Saturday and ate the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Clara thought she'd like one of their fresh-made waffles - which was in the shape of the state of Texas - but only ate a little bit of it, saying that it wasn't really as good as it looked.

We packed up our car and spent the morning at the Cameron Park Zoo, also situated beside the Brazos River. Zoos are always a hit with kids, and this was no exception.

Clara was determined to get a photo of one of the komodo dragons, because it's Robert's favorite animal. But the kimodos were behind a rather messy glass window, with the sun shining on it, which made it nigh-on to impossible to get a good picture. So we took Clara's picture by this komodo dragon statue, instead, in hopes that Robert would enjoy it.

After lunch we went to Homestead Heritage Village, where Clara enjoyed watching a blacksmith form some decorative iron pieces, watching the potters create pottery out of clay, learning about how flour was made at the gristmill, sitting in some beautiful rocking chairs made at the woodworking shop, and trying her had at weaving at the fiber crafts house. She also LOVED the store, where all of these handmade goods were available for sale. She had a little bit of sticker-shock, though. She fell in love with one of the quilts that was hanging on the wall, until she saw the price tag - $4200.00! Later she said she was going back to get a picture of it. I thought she meant the quilt, but she actually went back to get a picture of the price tag - ha ha!

This was the quilt with the shocking price tag.

We left Homestead Heritage around 3:00 p.m., and drove to Hutto, TX, about two hours away, where we checked into our second hotel. Clara had brought homework with her, and this seemed like a good time to get it done.  Afterward she thought that Mexican food sounded good for dinner, and since there was a recommended Mexican restaurant just across the road from our hotel, that made it an easy request to fulfill.

The next day was Sunday. I had promised Clara that we'd go to Shipley's Donuts for breakfast before church, but I encouraged her to eat a little bit of "healthy" food before the donuts, so we spent a few minutes at the hotel breakfast bar where she ate some yogurt and some Canadian bacon. As we got out of the car in the Shipley's parking lot, Clara was surprised to see Grandpa there! He drove down, from Temple, to meet us for breakfast and church. The donuts were great, and we enjoyed class and worship at the Westside Church of Christ, where our friends Robert & Susan, and Jack & Lisa are members. It was good to see them again.

Clara's choice for Sunday lunch was pizza, so we found a Double Dave's pizza parlor and filled up before heading back to Clara's home, in Houston. This leg of the trip was about three hours, and seemed longer. It always seems to take longer going home than it does heading out on an adventure.

Back home

I spent the night with Chris, Kelsey, Robert and Clara, and got to see the kids off on the school bus the next morning before driving home, where Grandpa was awaiting my return.

Waiting for the school bus this morning

Clara is getting on as Robert heads toward the bus
 They were two very busy days. I hope Clara made some sweet memories. I know I did. Wouldn't it be nice if this were just the first of many Clara and Grandma road trips?