Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sedlacek means peasant, I think.......since I don't speak Czech I could be wrong

Technically, it means little peasant, or little farmer. That was the name and heritage of my great grandmother, Frantiska Sedlacek Vahalik.

In my young adult life, I was not "into" my heritage. It wasn't kings and queens, after all, but peasants who came to Texas from the old world to eake out a living from the soil. It was my best friend from high School, last name Mladenka, who led me to the Czech countryside at long last. She had always been proud of her heritage and so, when I received a random email about a Czech piano student needing a host family, I sent it to her. Jitka was working on her doctorate at Rice, and she came to live with the Mladenka household for several years, eventually marrying their son. So, it was a wedding in southern Bohemia that brought me to the Czech Republic at long last.

Following is my account of my first day in the Czech Republic.

June 15 2007

We entered the Czech Republic on the Deutche Bahn via Nurnberg. As the train crossed the border, my heart sank. Every town looked bleaker than the last. Round-faced Czechs in too-snug uniforms replaced the crisp German conductors. We arrived in Cheb, where we were to transfer to Czech Rail after a two-hour layover. Cheb was ugly. Buildings stared vacantly. The train station was bleak. We cable locked our bags to the platform and sought food and a restroom. I couldn’t translate a word on the signs, and no one spoke English. Worse yet, no one smiled. I was questioning my decision to spend two weeks in this country of my roots.

We found an ATM, withdrawing 4,000 Koruna ($200) so we could use the WC, which required 5 Kc. That’s about a penny. When I paid the fee, the attendant invited me to take some toilet paper. I stared at the dispenser. Right there on the dispenser was the word Sedlacek, my great grandmothers’ maiden name. Am I the long lost relative of a toilet paper dispenser-manufacturing magnate from Pribrm? I zoomed in and snapped the photo.

Back on the platform with our 85 Kc lunch, we struck up a conversation with a 78-year-old woman who had agreed to watch our baggage. She was born in Karlovy Vary, our destination that day, a spa town in the Northwestern Czech Republic. She said that during the War, the townspeople were eagerly awaiting the American soldiers. When the Russians arrived, it was a sad day. She moved to London, where she married. Later she moved near Nurnberg and worked 30 years for Siemens. She wanted to see Karlovy Vary again and she was traveling there with a cigarette smoke coughing friend.

The train arrived, and we settled into our first class cabin: no A/C on a warm stuffy day, seats and rug of threadbare red velvet and the WC, politely put, rustic. I felt like I had boarded a three times used Orient express. The conductress said “jízdenka“ and Carl jumped, taking his feet off the seat. I looked up the word. “Relax”, I said after looking the word up, “ she wants your ticket.”

In Karlovy Vary, commonly known as Carlsbad, our new friend negotiated with a taxi driver to take all of us into town. He kept swearing in Czech as he loaded the luggage. “Ježíš marián.” I recognized those words. We were crammed in, 5 people in a 4-passenger car, and we left two other taxi drivers disgruntled at the stand. He dropped us first at the Hotel Esther. The fare seemed a bit high to me. What do I know of Korunas? It occurs to me that the ladies rode free.
I was relieved that the ugliness of Cheb did not follow us to Carlsbad. Carlsbad is a quaint town, with pastel Baroque buildings lining cobblestone streets that follow the curve of the River Ohre. Our hotel clung to a steep hill. A thundershower poured down, and we waited for a break to cross the street to the Carlsbad Spa. In the lobby, an American couple was trying to make sense of the spa offerings, and the husband became more and more upset that the receptionist did not speak much English. His wife kept saying, “We are not in New York, Saul. They don’t have to speak English.”

After much miscommunication with the girl working the reception desk, we signed up for two treatments and unlimited mineral pool swimming. First we must shower and put on a bath cap. While I was following directions, an Oriental man kept wandering into the ladies showers. He was trying to find his way out of the spa. I saw him later, still looking for the exit, while I was swimming in the mineral pool with the balding but otherwise quite hairy Saul from New York.

It was time for my treatments. For my underwater massage treatment, I climbed three flights of slippery marble stairs in my bare wet feet. The staircase went straight up with no landings, no handrail. There I met the attendant, who motioned me to get in a bathtub. Then she leaned over with her cigarette breath and proceeded to pressure wash me under water. First the front, then the back. I floated up, and she pushed me back under. Done! She motioned. And she left for another smoke break.

I met Carl coming up the stairs. “How is it?” he asked.
“A lady with cigarette breath pressure washes you.”
“Oh boy.”

For Kniepp Therapy, we alternated standing in two pools, water halfway up our calves. One was boiling hot, the other icy. One minute hot, 30 seconds cold. And so on for 15 minutes. At first the cold water was stabbing, then my legs went numb. I was surprised to find that my feet felt pretty good afterwards; circulation must have improved. I capped the experience by walking through a shallow pool on stones, supposed reflexology but mostly painful, and drinking some distasteful mineral water and acceptable hot tea.

The spa receptionist recommended a Czech restaurant (duh) and we had a salty Bohemian meat plate with red and green vinegary cabbage and good beer. We wandered the town back to Hotel Ester, a nice place, not scary like the train stations. We decided to follow the recommendation of our hotel clerk and take the bus to Prague tomorrow.

Oh, and about that toilet paper dispenser. Yes, the company has a website. I emailed them about my inheritance, but I have not heard back. Well, not yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Going to take more than a leafblower

It ain't easy being green after a hurricane. Consider yard waste. There is SO much of it my compost is overflowing and I can't do any more. It breaks my heart, all that leafy matter going into giant dumpsters. If it were only a couple of months later, we could make wreaths and garland from the pine branches and deck the halls.

There are so many trees to say goodbye to. My friend with a tree in her guest room had this to say:
Did you know about the scruffy, no-account Chinese tallow tree that gave his life to save my house? He caught the main trunk of the Old Man (75 rings) and held him in his branches until the crane could get him off. He was badly split and leaning - so he was chopped down too [I was not there to see the killing]. Very sad for both my tree-men. I miss them both. And seeing their broken bodies in my yard everyday is hard. I loved the smell of pine after a rain. And the squirrels nested in the Old Man and ate pine cones like corn on the cob. Recovery will be slow.

Today, only ten days after the storm, which is amazing to me, contractors entered my neighborhood and began loading debris. It's not the usual city crew, and the equipment is ill prepared for the job. There are two guys running around with little bitty front end loaders filling dumpsters. Since their equipment is lacking, they can only pick up the branches, none of the leaves and shredded pine twigs, and no big logs from whole trees. If it is on the lawn, they don't pick it up because they destroy the turf with it. My kind neighbor Margaret who let us all dump branches on her sidewalk will regret her generosity when she sees that her edging was scooped up too. To his credit, the forklift operator was very upset when he did it.
I discovered that if I raked everything into the street, the baby forklifts could scoop up everything easier, so I did my best for the neighborhood by raking their debris into the street until the dumpster was full. Then then little scoopers moved down the street to be closer to the next dumpster. They were on a clear mission: get the most bang for the effort and move on. Houston might have been destroyed in a day, but it's going to take a lot longer to clean it up.
It's hard to think about recycling this week. I posted the little recycle Tuesday sign on my lawn, since our neighborhood is being threatened with losing curbside pickup if we don't increase our participation, but the green bins are woefully not in evidence this week. One would think there are a million plastic water bottles waiting to be recycled, no?
But it ain't easy being green when you don't have power. 25% of Center Point's customers are still without the juice, including two of my friends one neighborhood removed. And traffic lights? What are those? The city is a snarl. About 25% of the lights are working. Monday's back to work traffic was the worst in the history of the city. With local lights out, commuters are taking to the freeways, which are NOT designed for the load. Contra flow lanes were still closed for safety because there were no signals. By day's end, police were converted to crossing guards at major intersections.

And then, there's school. The city's major school district opened about a third of its schools this week. They are opening them as they can, which is mass confusion for families with children in more than one school. OIYY!!! And this isn't even Galveston.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill has gone to Washington to ask the Federal Government to give us a fair shake and hurry up about it. With the bailout of the financial markets breaking the back of the economy, they are stuck in Park. Get it in gear, Congress. What we are asking is a pittance compared to the bailout, and we didn't cause this fiasco like the well paid executives on Wall Street did. Remember, Houston is the city that told New Orleans we would take 250,000 people, including everyone in the Superdome, and keep them, apparently forever, since all the money thrown at New Orleans has not caused those citizens to find The Road Home. It's our turn.

That's life today in the Bayou City. Gotta go. My little friend operating the baby forklift is back. He needs me to rake! This is what retirees do!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Redefining Home: where I got my feet

This is the grave marker of my great grandfather, the man who came to the new world seeking land that looked just like the Czech countryside. Where in the Czech countryside, we don't really know. Perhaps someday, with the help of blogs and internet, we will know just where this man of mystery was born. I have for many years called myself Bohemian, but just look at that marker. It says he was born in Moravia. Now that's a Czech of a different color, no? But then, I don't speak or read Czech, so maybe Morave means something else entirely. I could be making the same sort of mistake I made the time I asked the French waiter if he was Lundi or Mardi, having read Ferme Lundi et Mardi on the menu cover and assuming that to be the names of the owners. Not so! I had asked him if he was Monday or Tuesday. One must never assume when one does not know the language.

We have a Vahalik reunion every two years in my home town, Yoakum, the reason for this weekend's central Texas graveyard visit. Actually, I was raised in Midway, which is a community between Shiner and Yoakum, and I went to school in Shiner, so I have a split affinity between the two towns, and relatives buried all over, including Hochheim, where I was baptized. This weekend, Teregram my RV attended the reunion with me, which is a homey feeling, since I don't have a home to go to anymore. After Mother died, we sold the homestead to a neighbor who has transformed it from an overgrown jungle to a showplace with a brand new slab waiting for the framers to come build his house right where ours used to stand. It looks so different it doesn't make me feel sad to look at it any more. He's scrubbed it up like I would have wanted it to be if I had kept it. My niece took a look at the photo of the slab poured next to the oak tree that was planted on my 3rd birthday and said, "your RV Pad?"
Teregram makes me feel at home anywhere, and for $10 a night, I parked in an idyllic spot right next to the Veterans memorial in Green Dickson Park in Shiner. I had a view of the ball fields, the sweeping hills with picnic sites, and the Shiner Cemetery. On Friday night, I heard the blood curdling yelps of the Flatonia Bulldogs as they made waste of the Shiner Comanches. Cousin Mary and I listened to the band play "Oh Christmas Tree." I suppose that tune must have some other words, or maybe they have transformed it into their fight song. It doesn't go with either bulldogs or comanches, in my opinion, but maybe things are greener in Flatonia than I remember.

There was no need for security in the park, as the floodlights of the memorial next door were so bright they found their way into every little crack in Teregram's shades. I was the only RV there, which made it easy for the police to find me. The sign at the park said to call the police to pay. The officer came over and collected the money and said he'd be back to check on me at 11:45 when the park closed to outside traffic. What a deal! My personal guard, and still only $10. The only thing the park lacked was showers.

Being the only RV there also made it easy for my cousins to find me. I loved having a home to host company in. We slept, ate, showered (my first time to shower in Teregram), played Farkle (which I am told originated in Oklahoma, where cousin Katy settled) and chilled our Shiner beer.

We went on a cemetery prowl and found the Shiner Cemetery the most interesting of the three we visited. There is an unmarked division there between the Catholics and the rest of the world. In the Catholic section the names are major league Czech and there are crosses everywhere. In the remainder of the cemetery the names are German or Jewish, with an occasional Smith thrown in, looking really out of place.

One thing about a reunion: you see a lot of people who look like you. We Vahaliks are a sturdy bunch, not fine boned in the least. Check out the group photos to see that I am not the only person with a size 11 shoe.

For MORE photos of the Vahaliks, see my web album. Follow the link below.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Debbie's night of terror

My friend Debbie is not all that mechanically inclined; household repairs take on new dimensions for her. Buying an appliance is always a long story that needs telling and laughing at. So when I got this account of her storm adventure, I just had to share it. Those of you who know her will howl with delight.

Here's Debbie's story!

Ronnie and I had our bedroom window blow out during the storm, but we managed to save the situation with a big blue plastic tarp we usually put in the back of the van to put coolers on top of. We actually had to hold the thing in place from 3:30 am until 6:00am Sat. morning because the winds and rain were so strong it blew the tarp down. We had to hold it one of us on each side. I am still exhausted.

Yes, it is amazing what you can do when you have to. What's funny is we held that up with our body weight in awkward positions for 2 1/2 hours and it was me saying to Ronnie come on we can do it. Hold on. His arms and legs were so tired at one time he gave up for a few minutes and layed on the bed and I spread my body across the center holding on to both sides as best I could (can you visualize this, my friends of Debbie?)

After several minutes I said please help, come on I can't do it alone. He hopped up and took up his post again. At some points it got almost comical. My cell phone would ring and I would reach with one hand to answer. My mother, Kim and Rachael would call and say are you ok? and I said I am holding a tarp against 85 mile an hour winds and rain, can't talk now. They were so upset. My mother called again an hour later and was giving me tips, like go get two old pictures you don't care about off the wall, angle them at the top of each corner and nail hard and it will hold. She was almost hysterical. I thought she was crying , but she was crying and laughing, and I said I really don't think I can abandon my post and look around the house for paintings and pictures and dig up more nails, since we had used all we had already, so just pray we can hold it for more hours and pray that God would soon stop the winds. All this talk lasted seconds as I would say gotta go, can't talk now.

I love you Debbie! Lunch soon so I can hear this story with the body gestures! Maybe we could invite a few friends from your old audience?

Making my way back

I can remember where I stood when the power came on, just as surely as I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. But I exaggerate, and it's only been 24 hours.

I had been telling myself all along how lucky I was, but I hadn't been feeling that way inside, not really. Then the alarm let out a "Honey I'm home" beep and it happened. Serendipity in the form of energy I am know very little about except it has something to do with a kite and a key in a thunderstorm.

It was a big surprise, since only 35% of Houston had power then. By the end of the day, the "haves" were up to 42%. There are power trucks everywhere with all kinds of unfamiliar names on them. On our way home from Austin, we saw convoys of flatbeds loaded with transformers. The power people are doing an amazing job.

I've visited since with several non-powered people. Some of the houses on my street have partial power. It warms the cooktop but not enough to boil water. One of my non-powered friends plans to eat really early in the evening and then go to bed. She finds the cold showers envigorating. That same friend keeps everything important in one place so she can find it in the dark. Another just had the tree removed from her guest bedroom. It required a crane. I drove by today to see the carnage. The tree had 75 rings, and when it fell, it took the sidewalk up with its roots. A pretty impressive hole. I heard from another friend whose bedroom window blew out at 3 am during the storm. She and her husband held a tarp over the hole against the wind and rain till daylight. Way tired, that's what she was.

So yes, I am drinking from the breaks pipeline. I considered handing out food at one of the distribution centers, but there's things to do closer to home. Today Carl and I helped finish a fence so one of our neighbors could let the dogs out of the house. Three dogs and three people, small house. Daisy and the neighbor dogs have been missing their daily through the fence conversations, so tonight is probably open mike night for the canines. Let's howl!

Traveling surface streets requires more than the usual concentration. The best case at most intersections is blinking red lights. But many have no lights at all, so motorists tend not to notice the intersection and blow through it. Freeways are the way to go this week, as they don't have missing lights.
The piles of tree debris are growing daily. It feels like there is a competition: my pile's bigger than your pile, my pile required a chainsaw, my pile covers my whole yard, my pile has a whole tree in it, my pile has a tree and my fence too, I would make a pile, but that tree is in my power line and I'm not touching it! I am just so grateful not to be a coastal resident. Then my pile would be my house.

Tomorrow I am giving a pint a blood. I'd give more if they would take it. I've been blessed. If you are a Houstonian reading this, they need your O+ the most! Otherwise your platelets, for cancer patients and hemophiliacs who don't quit needing them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Power Envy

The day a first hand acquaintance has electrical power restored after the hurricane is the day your baser self comes out.

This is not the day you just know someone who knows someone who has gotten power back, but the day when a friend calls you to say "My power is back on." They will follow it with something well-meaning like, "so come on over if you need to sleep in the cool or wash your clothes or need some water or ice."

Bah! You hate them. What did they do to deserve power? There's no big picture for you after that phone call.

There's no realization that hundreds are homeless. That some lost loved ones. That some are still flooded. That some do not have enough money to buy food unless they can get back to work. That some return home to sift through the rubble that was their home hoping to find a few photos of the family. That the inhabitants of Galveston Island cannot even return to see what is left of their homes. That downtown is open again and people are returning to work, a feat that took thousands to accomplish. That hundreds of cities are sending their power and debris crews to help us. That foreign countries have sent relief. That the entire infrastructure is doing its level best to bring order to the disorder.

None of that matters. All you feel is envy. Pure, selfish envy.

How dependent have we become on our conveniences? I'm only one generation from the kerosene lantern, clotheslines, butter churns and outdoor plumbing. I grew up with minimal power, no tv, no telephone, not even a power lawnmower. Power was owning a tractor instead of a mule team. We hand cranked ice cream on Sundays. I wrote letters to communicate with my friends. And yet, two days without the internet and I am starving for information. Bothered by the quiet. Irritated with the slowness of the days. Craving stimulation. How far have I come? Is this progress?

I think it's time to take a gratefulness break. Perhaps a more appropriate emotion would be survivor guilt. In its brief lifespan of only 13 days, Hurricane Ike wreaked great deal of havoc. Affecting several countries including Cuba, Haiti, and the United States, Ike is blamed for approximately 114 deaths (74 in Haiti alone), and damages that are still being tallied, with estimates topping $10 billion. Many shoreline communities of Texas were wiped from the map by the winds, storm surge and the walls of debris pushed along by Ike.

So, get a grip, self. It's just electricity.

(thanks again to National Geographic for the photo)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This is not so much fun anymore

It's a ghost town. Right now, I only know somebody who knows somebody who has power. That's a long way from me having power. At night, the streets are totally dark. When I look for something in my house, like my glasses, it takes about 30 minutes to find them. Living in the dark is disconcerting.

Carl and I brought Teregram home late yesterday. Several units in her storage facility were damaged by wind, but she was fine. While Carl wandered the neighborhood with a helpful chain saw, I moved the contents of our refrigerator into the RV. Do you know how many jars of pickles you own? I cannot remember the last time I ate a pickle, but I had three jars in the refrigerator. Stuff!

It is incredibly humid. This was, after all, a tropical storm, ergo, this is the tropics. After our trickle baths, which we both needed after the sticky afternoon of limb hauling and chain sawing, we started the generator and cooled the RV off. Then we settled in for a good night's sleep. Until the rain storms came. A good three inches fell in about an hour, pounding the roof of Teregram and making for a second restless night. A cool front entering the area delivered the deluge. Right now, a drizzle makes me nervous.

We talked about it, and we decided to leave town for a couple of days. There is $8 billion in property damage out there, 30 people dead, folks using generators checking into the hospital with CO poisoning, no stores, no power, and a questionable water supply. People are ready to kill each other in the gas station lines. We should leave. Give the city time to sort things out, restore some power, let people get back to their jobs. Mayor Bill asked people to please stay off the roads. He said they didn't need any more people to rescue from last night's floods. But I figured two people headed west on the elevated tollroad would be two less people Mayor Bill needs to provide services for this week.

Hasta la Vista, Houston. Be back later.

PS thank you once again for National Geographic for their photos.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Daylight. I can finally see if my imagination during the night matches reality. When the storm comes during the night, the mind goes wild. One thing I imagined was that the tarp I had used to cover my collection of marbles for mosaics had come loose. The tarp was definitely trying its best and making a dreadful noise. I second guessed my decision not to bring all those marbles inside instead of covering them, all night long, into the wee hours when the winds hit 100 mph. If the tarp had let loose, there would have been marbles flying around the patio, pinging the windows to shreds and impaling themselves into me while I feigned sleep. I would have died as my most original mosaic to date.

We all had our fears. My neighbor Christine worried that her house would catch on fire from the sparking she was seeing on the power line in her back yard. She played the scenario of grabbing both kids and rushing out into the storm over and over in her mind.

What I found at dawn was that my pine trees were upright and the whomping willow was missing about 20 feet of its top. That was a big surprise. I would have laid money on the whomping willow over the pines. The wind was still wailing at that point, so it was back to bed to wait for calm.

Around noon, the neighborhood began to venture out between the rains to check things out. You okay? Yeah, us too. Lots of limbs down. Lost my fence. It's gone, don't know where it went. The bayou is really high but not over the road. Looks like Joyce lost her roof. Oh, yeah, I have a few pieces of that in my yard too. Oh, is that the metal I heard flying all night? Whose whirlybird vent is that? Yeah, we have a chain saw. And a chainsaw operator, see video.

In one hour, the street was cleared, with everyone pitching in to clear the street in front of their house and then help a neighbor. Neighbor Margaret invited us all to make one big pile of trees in front of her house. This is when I appreciate where I live, when the neighborhood bands together. Right now we don't care that we don't have power, that the water from the tap is a trickle, and that our relatives in other cities have seen reports that we should boil the water. We have no TV news, just each other and what we have seen and shared. We'll deal the with refrigerators, the tree sitting on the power feed to the house, and the inevitable heat tomorrow. We don't know how bad it is beyond our street. We are safe here.
Thank you National Geographic for this photo. It says what I am feeling.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Second thoughts

Okay, I admit it. I'm freaked. Night is falling, and the storm should be centered on us about 3 am. A major hurricane in the dark seems more ominous than if it were going to be daylight. We are starting to have tropical winds. The trees emit a low roar like a train as the winds whip through them. Set against a darkening evening sky, it's a head trip.

I sat on the porch looking at the cypress trees in Judy and Jim's yard. I planted them with their kids for their 2nd and 4th birthdays. That was 15 years ago. One tree has always been 3 times bigger than the other, and the big one is a giant three times the height of their house, like David is three times the size he was then. They've never trimmed the bottom branches of the tree, preferring the full christmas tree shape. The boys still climb them and hide in the full fluffy branches. Jim curses their cypress knees poking up all over of the yard everytime he mows, and each year he gets Judy to concede to take one row of branches off the bottom so he can mow around them a little easier.

Tonight the giant cypress looks like the whomping willow in Harry Potter. Its multiple rows of branches are churning in the wind. From time to time the top half bows toward the ground, then snaps back up. Such a limber tree. It will probably still be dancing in the morning.

My pine trees, on the other hand, are inflexible toothpicks. Oh what was I thinking 25 years ago? There's a row of 7 down the west side of the house. A twister took the top out of one of them a few years ago, so it's not quite so tall. The rest are ready to rumble. In 1983, after Hurricane Alicia, they were little saplings that bent to the ground and had to be staked right up again. Now, they are roof smashers ready to pounce. If I had waited ten years to plant trees, they would be cypress whomping willows, putting on a show, and driving the next door neighbor wild sending up knees in his yard instead of just accumulating pine needles on his roof. Both the whomping willow act and the cypress knees would have been a jolly good show. But no, they are pines, waiting for just the right gust, one of the million gusts Ike is going to deliver. Look at the track of that storm. Looks like my street to me!

On the east side of the house, there are four oak trees. When they snap, I am hoping they miss the house. They're not as tall, yet, nor as close. But I am sure there will be major snapping to be seen by the morning. The chain saw is at the ready, Carl willing, with plenty of gas and oil in the garage. I think we are going to be busy tomorrow. I just hope it's not tonight.

A local congretation was featured on the news this week, standing in the field by their church, out in the bright, hot sun, commanding the winds to slow. I think I should have joined them. Please, please, Ike, just spare our roof. Please, no westerly or easterly winds, just northerly. I think I can take northerly. I hope I can take northerly. I pray I can take northerly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

e, f, g, h, IKE!,

Boy, does the gulf coast know how to welcome me home. We're having a hurricane party. Put in the link below and check out updates of the path....right at me!

This is about my 5th big hurricane, being a Texas native. The first one I remember is Carla, and what I remember the most was Carla caused the annual church picnic to be canceled. It was the biggest social event of the year, and poof! just like that, no picnic. Do you remember how long a year wait is in the life of a ten year old?

But also I remember how quiet the eye of the storm was and how the winds howled all night. Quite a night.

Since then I've experienced a few more big ones, and I learned that you don't run from the storm if you are not in a low lying area. You stay, repair the damage, and then leave in search of power and air conditioning. (Unless you have to do something non-civilized like go to work, in which case you get dressed in the dark and go to work with wet hair.) I'm glad we returned from our journey before this storm. I cannot imagine any of my friends loving me enough to take down all the dangling objects in the back yard. Today I regretted being such a bohemian gardener as I took them all down and swatted off the yellow jackets who moved into them over the summer.

Teregram went into storage today. We weren't going to put her away till we finished cleaning her up after the trip, but with the size of this storm and the winds we expect, she ran for cover.

We'll probably lose power sometime tomorrow. Ike is so HUGE, about 300 miles diameter. The hurricane force winds are 75 miles across. That's a lot of punch. Maybe I'll take my own home movie to post later.

Carl asked if I was going to buy water. No, I said. Teregram is all filled up with 30 gallons. She's full of fuel, propane and water. All we need is to find out which of our friends will have power after the storm, and there we will be, plugged in and cool as cucumbers.

This funny comes from my cousin who lives in Louisiana and has way too much personal experience with hurricanes:

Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season is Like Christmas

10. Decorating the house (boarding up windows).

9. Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season (Camping gear, flashlights).

8. Last minute shopping in crowded stores.

7. Regular TV shows pre-empted for "specials".

6. Family coming to stay with you.

5. Family and friends from out-of-state calling.

4. Buying food you don't normally buy ... and in large quantities.

3. Days off from work.

2. Candles.

And the number one reason Hurricane Season is like Christmas...

At some point you know you're going to have a tree in your house!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where am I?

I think I am back in Texas, but this sure doesn't look like it. West Texas is lovely if you stop to enjoy it instead of going through it to get somewhere else. The temperatures are cool, the mountains are scenic, the parks are little jewels. I can see why you would want to ranch here, live here, be an artist here. It's a fine place.

I've learned in the last 15,000 miles not to get in a hurry. The world is a beautiful place, and where ever I am is home to me after this trip. Lots to think about, lots to remember.


PS As usual, Rosabella has been doing most of the blogging. She's quite a writer. Check out her blog.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Close Encounters and Bats

Boy oh boy do those folks in Roswell know their alien stuff. We took a state of the art audio tour of the museum, recorded on vintage cassettes by researchers there. Not only did the aliens land there, the military covered it up. There's proof everywhere. Just read the posters and believe!

I believe, because the aliens sucked the juice out of every battery we own today. I had to charge batteries in my camera, my video camera, my MP3 player, my phone and my computer mouse. I think there is definitely something suspicious about that!

After Roswell, we motored to Carlsbad, arriving just in the nick of time for the bat flight. At precisely 6:45 pm, as predicted, the swarms of 400,000 bats began to pour out of the cave for their nocturnal hunting. At 6:48 pm, the rangers asked us to please leave the bat amphitheater, because their little lighting gizmo detected lighting. At 6:50 pm, it was raining. I think the Aliens may have been involved in that too. It made for an incredible sunset, tho.

We drove home in the dark, that being the direct result of watching a dusk bat exodus, and we felt very certain that there will be no flies in the area tomorrow. All those bats were HUNGRY.

When we arrived at the RV Park, Daisy saw rabbits and broke lose for an incredible run. Carl said the rabbits are dog size and like to harass dogs. This sure is WIERD territory......
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