December 2006 Archives

Awake: 8:23am Temp 31 sleep 7+31 partly sunny Overnight @
Indiana, PA.

After breakfast, Kathy takes (3) medium size bags of laundry, first doing
some grocery shopping at Martin’s and then to the nearby Laundromat. After
starting the laundry in the washing machine she delivers the goods to the
Foote household in time for Kevin to make his crock-pot meal, returns to
finish the laundry & then returns to our hotel.

We visit the Foote house @ 3:10pm to find them playing in the back yard
with 50 degree temps & partly sunny….dressed as if they were inside. These
guys don’t use much heat. Both Andrew & Matthew appear to be in much
better spirits today.

I take a few minutes to call Alaska & ask to have our mail sent to the
Foote address.

Around 4:00pm, the traditional wine, cheese & crackers are served before
dinner. Zack, although not feeling well, is a wine connoisseur who knows
when the good & expensive wine is not to be missed.

5:05pm dinner: Sloppy Joes with mixed salad. For whatever reason, these
sloppy Joes tasted real good to me. I spend a little time with Matthew
while Katrina & Kathy clean off the exquisite dining room table, empty the
dishwasher & dry the still wet dishes so that the next load can take their
place in the dishwasher. Then I excuse myself from playing time with
Matthew & spend the next hr washing by hand, some large pots & pans, rinse
off dishes, cups, saucers, glasses, etc while Kathy dries the dishes I
washed by hand & reloads that dishwasher for tonight’s cleanup.

Meanwhile, Zack & Katie drive to the nearby Mall looking for a birthday
present for her father to present to him Dec. 30th.

When Z & K return, we ready the living room for another game of “Wits &
Bets.” Suddenly, a call comes thru on my computer…..then Katrina’s. A
Skype call! I have no mike to talk so Kevin quickly takes Katrina’s
computer which has a microphone & answers the call. It’s Nick in Nagoya,
Japan. With Nick using his miniature camera mounted on his computer, we
can talk with & see him very well. He gives us a walking & talking tour of
some of the rooms in Eriko’s parent’s home. We see little Jerry jumping up
& down; Eriko’s mother (Yasuko) making breakfast in her kitchen, sometime
with Jerry in a carrier on her back; Eriko’s father (Atsuki) holding Jerry
for a short time & Eriko herself making funny faces in the camera. We have
short conversations with both Yasuko & Atsuki & talk for about 30 min with
Nick. It was a delightful call.

Our game of “Wits & Bets” was fun again. It’s a good game for 4 or more to

High temp=54 Lights out:12:22am

Awake: 8:15am Temp ? sleep 7+12 some sun overnight @
Indiana, PA.

We take our time going over to the Foote house today. Kathy had called
earlier only to find out: Zack & Katie were both napping on the couch; the
young Foote boys did not sleep well & consequently, Melissa did not have a
good night either. Fortunately, Kevin was able to get up early enough to
make fried eggs & toast for Nick & Eriko before they boarded the shuttle @
6:00am for the trip to the PIT airport.

Around 2:00pm we leave our hotel, make a stop @ Starbucks for Kathy’s
coffee latte & a Chai tea for Katrina & then arrive @ the Footes @ 2:35.
As we walk around the house, there is a feeling of: where is everybody?
Already the Nick & Eriko family is missed.

Later, I spend a great deal of time playing with Andrew in the dining room
& library; thus keeping him distracted & away from the playroom where
Katrina was the main design engineer for building a new train track layout
with Matthew’s approval. Also this afternoon & during Andrew’s nap time,
using long straight stick pretzels (used to be penny pretzels), Katie &
Zack dip the pretzels in warm dark chocolate or milk chocolate or white
chocolate & then cover them with candy sprinkles. This treat is a
specialty of Katie’s. So Matthew was very busy being occupied with dual

4:55 dinner: Chicken stir fry with rice. Afterward, Katie & Zack do a good
job of cleaning up the dishes & kitchen.

Mid evening, Kathy begins to grumble about always being cold & having to
sit around not only with her jacket on but also using a fleece blanket
that Katie had made + tonight, wrapped in a feather comforter trying to
keep warm. Her grumblings got so bad that the kids finally took pity on
her (Katrina, Zack & Katie) & walked to the nearby Giant Eagle store where
they bought (3) press logs to burn in the fireplace. Does the Foote family
have an adequate heating system? Why yes, of course, they do; it’s their
home & we respect their wishes to leave the thermostat set where they are
comfortable. 45 min later, our Princess Kathy removes her feather
comforter & then, a short time later, removes the fleece blanket but kept
her jacket on while moving to and sitting in front of the fire. Then, all
of us, except Melissa, play (2) rounds of the game: “Wits & Bets” a family
gift from Zack that Katie brought with her from Chi..

Back @ our hotel, I upload more pics to our Kirsch photo web site.

High temp=45 Lights out: 12:52am

Awake: 7:23am Temp 32 sleep 7+08 light snow dusting
overnight @ Indiana, PA

After breakfast in our room, I trim a section of Kathy’s hair in the
bathroom where there is tile, being careful not to let hair clippings get
over onto the room rug. No grocery shopping this morning.

We arrive @ the Foote house @ 10:55am. Gary & Rosemary C. have been here
for about an hour already visiting with their godson, Andrew, & the rest
of the Foote family + Katrina, Eriko, Nick, little Jerry & Zack + Katie.
Yes, we were a little late but in retrospect, I think our being late was
good as it gave G & R time to visit the rest of the family and we were
comfortable just sitting & talking, + catching up on: “what’s new with
them" since we’ve talked last. G & R., I discovered later, gave both
Andrew & Matthew Christmas gifts and later, I discovered how much Andrew
enjoys playing with his gift, the bus.

G & R left around 12 noon. Kathy & I left for Ebensburg about 12:35. It’s
mammogram check time again for Kathy. That moved along quickly & we are
back @ the Footes @ 3:00pm. And just in time to witness the new Brio super
train track setup utilizing the recently opened gifts of: the lifting
bridge, stacking track supports, tunnel with pop out animals heads,
ascending tracks, & (4) piece train with (2) piece magnet top section.
Katie’s arrival was not only good for Zack & us, but also good for the
Foote boys as she was the chief shopper & deliverer of the more
sophisticated Brio units from Chicago. Later, I was honored to be selected
to play with Matthew on this masterpiece created mostly by Nick but with
Matthew’s direction.

Before dinner: we all pose for family pictures which Katie took using (4)
digital cameras. After selecting the best one by fair voting, it was then
uploaded to adorn our family web site log-on screen.

5:15 dinner by Kevin: Large grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings,
grilled potatoes, & Caesars salad. Kevin makes the biggest & best
hamburgers on the block.

Mid evening, we adults minus Eriko, play the board game of Apples to
Apples. It was similar to the Boxers or Briefs game we played on Monday
but a tad more fun.

Around 10:00pm, we say our “goodbyes” for now to Eriko, Nick & Jerry. They
are being picked up @ the Foote house by shuttle @ 6:00am for their 10:00
flight to Japan. It was simply great hanging out with them over the
Christmas holidays & that little Jerry; he is so neat!

Later @ our hotel room, I upload 37 more pictures to our web photo site.

High temp=? Lights out: 1:03am

Awake: 7:23am Temp 36 sleep 6+49 light rain overnight @
Indiana, PA.

1st thing this morning, I upload more of our photos to our web site. After breakfast in our room, we take the
latest grocery call list from Kevin, hit the local Wal-Mart, Marvin’s & PA
State Liquor for more cheap wine & arrive @ the Foote house with the goods
@ 12:05pm. I could clearly detect a familiar voice when entering: It’s my
sister Sister Corinne from Lilly. I give her my BEST “Merry Christmas” hug
possible without passing on any of my cootie bugs.

@ the large Foote library table & from the echoes in the kitchen, some
interesting discussions are building: relating to how sensitive the K & M
family are to welcoming a new boyfriend or girlfriend into our elite
family network. Melissa feels strongly that we should skip the body
search, “X” ray machine, metal detector & 20 personal questions & simply
accept anyone, wholly based on the good common sense of the Kirsch child
that is bringing in his/her new friend of choice. This highly
controversial discussion lasted for over an hr & could have gone longer. I
think my sister Sister rather enjoyed being privy to such delicate &
exclusive hot topics of the M & K enterprises. Corinne leaves around

Zack readies himself for driving to the Pittsburgh airport to pick up his
girlfriend, Katie….coming in from Chicago. Not being too familiar with the
BIG city of PIT, I let Zack use our Lady Garmin GPS to make his journey
more comfortable. After Zack leaves, Kathy gives Nick a haircut with Eriko
watching & making mental notes so she can cut her husband’s hair with
their very own hair clippers which they received as a Christmas gift.

Dinner tonight is staggered as we each choose our own time & selection of
leftover plates. The young Foote boys eat around 5:00pm; Nick’s family
around 6:30pm; Kathy, Katrina, Melissa & I around 7:00pm. Kevin started
with the young boys around 5:00 but distraction & chores stretched his
meal out to after 7:00pm.

Later Zack calls from PIT: Katie’s luggage was over an hr late! Then they
discovered that they were watching & waiting @ the wrong carousel. A short
while later, Zack calls & wants the address of Bocktown Beer & Grill where
Kathy & I ate @ Dec. 17.

Later this evening, Nick demos to us how to send photos on line from our
Kirsch web site.

High temp=46 Lights out: 12:15am

Awake: 7:55am Temp 29 sleep 7+32 rain…all day overnight @
Indiana, PA.

“Merry Christmas to all!” K & I visit the Foote home early (10:00 am)
where everyone is up & being casual. The gang all had egg omelets for
breakfast so when we arrived, there were (3) eggs left & Kathy quickly
created an omelet for us before those remaining eggs disappeared.
The stockings were hung by the fireplace with care knowing there would be
no heat coming from there. The candy inside would certainly not melt so
the kids could have their share then loosen their belt.

Opening the Christmas presents began @ 11:50am. Matthew & Katrina passed
out a more reasonable amount of gifts than last yr. Matthew remained cool,
calm & collected during these tense & excited times for the adults. As the
paper wrapping flew off the packages & the gifts herein exposed
themselves, it was obvious to the most casual observer that the only
things that the junior railroad engineer was interested in was: getting
BRIO train pieces & more track. A few of his packages did contain more
BRIO units to further expand the most ultimate Brio train track ever built
in this 1921 home.

In no time at all Zack, one of the two assistant engineers hired by
Matthew, began to lay out a new & more refined train track plan than ever
before attempted. This project took most of the afternoon to construct,
test & modify. Pictures, we have pictures!

Meanwhile little Jerry was busy entertaining just about all of us with his
infectious smile & enthusiastic mannerism. He is such a cutie; so tuned in
to all the activities nearby. Andrew unfortunately, was not feeling well &
needed his mommy most of the day.

Besides this entire electrified atmosphere in the living room, there are
wonderful things also happening in the kitchen: K & K (Kathy & Kevin) are
working feverishly with the turkey dinner preparations.

3:20 Christmas dinner: Turkey and stuffing with gravy, mashed potatoes,
sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, asparagus with cheese sauce, and
cranberry sauce.

The traditional early evening showers/baths were preformed by the Foote
management team while Kathy & I cleaned up the dishes & kitchen as it was
our turn. Luckily tough Kathy had the tenacity to carry on.

Early evening: with Nick’s assistance, I upload my digital memory stick
pictures to my hard drive & then erase the contents of that memory stick.

Later evening, we play Katrina’s new Christmas gift game: “Boxers or
Briefs.” Then even later, the game of “Stare,” which I really like…and
guess what…I won!

High temp=47 Lights out: 12:34am

Awake: 7:24am Temp 40 sleep 7+36 overcast overnight @
Indiana, PA.

This morning, K & I share computer time & send as many e-mail wishes as we
have time for. We pride ourselves on being organized! On our way to the
Foote house, we stop & Martin’s to fulfill a short grocery list before the
stores close tonight @ 5:00pm.

Mid afternoon, I ask Nick if he could help resolve a few glitches on our
computer; he solved the problem by downloading a recent upgrade of the
program we were using.

We all attend the 4:30pm Vigil Mass @ Saint Thomas More church. I made (2)
trips with the Suzuki taking people back & forth to the church + the
Footes drove their Camry. Mass was very crowded; the Foote family sat in
the front pew on the right side near the choir & musical instruments. It
is a clever location because any singing off key by the young Foote boys
would be drowned out by the overpowering music & choir.

The rest of us sat mesmerized behind the Foote family. Father Willie was
very good; the choir & music very good; the female cantor excellent;
Matthew however, not feeling well, tested his mother & father’s patience &
fortitude by creating a few off key notes with the choir & without the
choir + disturbing his brother Andrew who also sang a little off key.

Back @ the Foote house, Kevin prepares to serve us (5) of his homemade
Pizzas that he had readied before leaving for church. One @ a time, all
with white whole wheat flour: 1st a pepperoni with cheese; then a
pepperoni, cheese & pineapple; next a Mexican; that followed by a
pepperoni with black olives; & finally a pepperoni with cheese + cheddar
cheese. These pizza pans were of a large size so there were plenty of
slices to go around and left over. Kevin has been making good pizzas for a
number of yrs now.

Bed time for the young Foote boys is earlier than usual; Matthew
especially, is not feeling well.

No games again tonight, but lots of good talk after the young boys are in

High temp= 46 Lights out: 12:17am

Awake: 7:37am Temp 35 sleep 7+33 partly cloudy overnight @
Indiana, PA.

Kathy makes the traditional early morning phone call to the Foote
residence asking for the grocery list of needs for the day. We then take
the list, visit Wal-Mart, Martin’s & the state run Wine & Spirit
store….arriving @ the Foote house around 1:00pm.

The house looks good: it’s organized, the kids are calm & relaxed & Kevin
is already preparing the dinner meal in advance.

About 2:25pm my brother Don & his wife Josie arrive. This is the 1st time
they have been to the 1921 Foote mansion, so Kevin gives them the $2.00
tour, not to include the basement. To include the basement would be an
additional $3.00. After their elaborate & exhaustive tour, up & down many
sets of stairs, we offer Josie some wine & Don some beer with cheese &
Triscuits to help quench their thirst and hunger. Josie brought a bottle
of wine with her for the occasion, so in the shadows behind the kitchen, I
cleverly blended some of my cheap wine that I was generously giving to our
kids, with Josie’s expensive wine & somehow managed to turn the glasses of
wine into “very good wine!” It was magical…..almost like a miracle. We all
sat in the living room & had many good chats on various subjects. It was
truly a very nice visit. Don & Josie leave @ 4:35.

K & I attend the 5:30 Vigil Mass @ Saint Bernard’s church overlooking the
city of Indiana. From up there, it was a great view.

To keep with tradition, dinner was served around 5:00pm which we missed,
but there was enough leftover chicken stir fry and rice to satisfy our

No games tonight; the young Foote boys had not yet recovered from their
latest bug, so we all sat around the playroom & casually whiled away the

High temp=50 Lights out: 11:48pm

Awake: 6:28am Temp 41 sleep 6+25 rain overnight @ Indiana, PA.

After coffee in our room, K & I drive (5 min) to the Comfort Inn &
exercise for 45 min in their hotel’s small exercise room. Our hotel is a
sister of the Comfort Inn. There were only (3) machines but it’s a start.
Back @ our hotel we have breakfast in our room…..then Kathy leaves with
(3) rather small bags of laundry. She will be picking up Katrina & Eriko &
then it’s off to the Laundromat. I have another freedom morning to do as I
like; read newspaper; crossword puzzle, computer, etc.

Early afternoon, she calls from the Foote house; the laundry is finished &
now she’s prepping the dinner meal. “Am I ready to be picked up?” she asks
me. I question her on the current activities & the condition of the Foote
infirmary & patients. The retired nurse reports that Jerry & Nick are much
better but Matthew has a 102 degree fever; Katrina & Eriko complain of
having sore throats & Melissa is also nursing a sore throat. So far, Zack
continues to have a clean bill of health. “Hmmm, maybe you should pick me
up next month; oops, I mean mid afternoon.”

Kathy hits the Wal-Mart for more groceries en route for my pick up; on our
return to the Foote house, Melissa had another request for things @
Martin’s. It was then that I finally confessed to my nurse: my throat is
feeling funny. Oh no! Vitamin C & A she prescribes.

The Foote house is rather quiet. Bodies lying hither & yon; Christmas 2005
memories suddenly return. Since my technical buddy Matthew is temporarily
out of service for any repair assistance, I feel it necessary to finish
work on the Playskool toy & fix it up properly before Jerry gives me the
evil eye. 30 min or more on some critical surgery & the Playskool machine
is working normal again + Eriko is happy that her heavy investment was
well selected.

5:10 dinner: Chili-mac with corn chips & homemade corn bread.

After the young boys are all in bed, Katrina introduces the game of “speed
Scrabble” to us adults. With the girls playing, the game went supersonic.
With just us guys playing, the jet plane simply taxied around the runway.
How did these ladies get so smart!

Today’s high=53 Lights out: 12:04am

Awake: 5:55am Sleep 7+29 light rain overnight @ Indiana, PA.

We leave @ 7:00am & drive to the town of Hastings (45 min) & check in at
the Miners Medical Center where Kathy is scheduled to have a Gastroscopic
examination. The physician will be viewing the inside of her esophagus,
stomach & duodenum (part of the small bowel). Her doctor requested this
because Kathy was complaining of having more and more heart burn
throughout the day. After she got checked in & assigned a room, I was
called from the (SPU) short procedure unit waiting area & allowed to stay
with her until she was called into the Gastronomical lab for the

A nurse & the doctor sort of described the procedure this way: An
intravenous (IV) is started & the nurse will give her an injection
(Versed) which makes Kathy sleepy & relaxed. After that medication has
taken effect, Kathy is asked to turn on her left side. The doctor then
asks her to swallow the flexible, rubber endoscope tube. This is
accomplished with surprising ease they tell me, due to the relaxing effect
of that medication…..and tho the tube does not interfere with her
breathing, they do give her oxygen per nasal cannula. They will also take
a biopsy for microscopic examination & she will feel no discomfort during
that process either. It should only take about 30 min.

I returned to that SPU place & did some reading & writing until I was
notified that Kathy was back in her room. Amazingly enough, Kathy was
feeling good but retained a little lightheadedness. The nurse waited for
about 2 hrs before offering Kathy something to eat. After some signing of
documents & making sure the results would be phoned in to us, and or
written, we thanked them, wished them a Merry Christmas & sped down the
highway toward Nicktown.

In Nicktown, we gathered our mail from the post office & sped back to
Indiana. Kathy insisted she was feeling “just fine” & insisted that
grocery & miscellaneous item shopping would be OK for her to do this
afternoon. She acted tough & she was.

So, we hit the Wal-Mart Super center pretty hard; Nick & Eriko had some
special items on their list, which we were able to fill & Zack also phoned
in an order. In addition to W.M., we stopped @ the “Game Stop” store for
Zack & that was a bust. Not to give up easy, we tried one more place: the
Hobby Shop in town & that also was a bust for Zack’s list. A visit to
Martin’s grocery store completed our list & then we checked in with the
Foote folks around 3:00pm. By that time, Kathy was back to being herself &
started helping Kevin in the kitchen preparing for the big dinner meal.

Matthew was extremely friendly with me today… far. No suspicious
glances, no holding back his smiles or conversation. It was like: I’m a
grandparent again. How nice! I had this feeling that he was searching for
us to do something together. Well, one of the toys that Eriko bought for
Jerry @ the Latrobe thrift store wasn’t quite working right, so I engaged
Matthew in taking the toy apart to find out just why it was not working
properly. Matthew is a very good helper; he aims to please. That toy had 8
screws that were holding the two units together. Getting those screws out
was not easy for a 3 yr old. Our 1st Phillips screwdriver was not good;
the sharpness of the point was worn & dull. Matthew was twisting & turning
with nothing happening. Luckily I found another, a little bigger & like
new. It worked well after I loosened the screws a bit so he could easily
remove them, pick them out & put them in a container so they wouldn’t get
lost. The two half sections were pried apart; now we can easily see the 4
small plastic gears with springs & other simple mechanisms. Matthew’s eyes
were BIG & aglow with enthusiasm but, we couldn’t do any more on this
project today because… time was approaching & that in itself was a
serious priority before dinner. Matthew accepted this pause for now, but I
could tell he would not forget the repair & reconstruction of this
important toy for Jerry.

5:30 dinner: Spaghetti with meat balls, Caesar’s salad, garlic bread &
blueberry muffins.

After dinner, the standard before bedtime scenario began as well as the
routine clean up the dishes & kitchen program. Tonight it’s Zack, me, &
some much appreciated help from Kathy. Remember, she’s the tough one!

Later evening: We all play the game of “Split Second.” I didn’t fare well
doing this; my brain was too slow & my answers too long…..just the
opposite of what it takes to be in the winning circle.

This day was much better; having had Kathy’s Gastroscopic examination done
& some prescription medicine on order, was a good thing + knowing that our
grandparent license has not been revoked yet, is also good. Oh yes, there
are so many good things I could mention, it would just take too much time
to make the list. We are back @ our hotel after 10:30pm.

High temp=50 Lights out: 12:03am

Awake: 7:24am Sleep 6+47 sunny overnight @ Indiana, PA.

Nick calls@ 7:45am: Jerry did not sleep well & he didn’t either.
Therefore, Nick will be babysitting Jerry @ the Foote house while the rest
of the gang take a ride to Latrobe (one hr driving) for a big thrift store
of toy & clothes shopping experience. Kathy was interested in going but
the speedy & luxurious Foote van seats were all spoken for. Now with Nick
& Jerry staying, there is room for Kathy.

Not long after that call, the Luxurious Foote transportation machine
arrives for Kathy & smiles from every window can be seen as they speed
away for half the day.

Ahaa, freedom for me; daily newspaper; crossword puzzle & computer with
the high speed access connection as the time goes quickly.

Before I know it, my cell phone rings; its Kathy & the speedy luxurious
Foote transportation machine is minutes away & closing fast on this hotel.
She reports that we have the opportunity to take Matthew with us for an
afternoon of grocery shopping. “Wonderful” I tell her. “I’ll meet you guys
outside in a quick few minutes.” Look @ those smiles: it had to be a good
shopping trip. The biggest smile however, was from Matthew. He likes to
hang out with his hip G. Momma & his hip G. Daddy. We quickly transfer his
car seat from van to Suzuki & wave our goodbyes for now to the blurred
faces of the smiling gang as the big machine speeds away.

Now this is more like being grandparents. Matthew pushes the elevator
buttons to our 2nd floor room & then I work with him in using the plastic
card to unlock our door. Inside, he takes a potty break, eats a few
healthy snacks with us & then we are off to the Supercenter for lots of
Wal-Mart shopping fun. Matthew does good @ being the organizer of the
shopping cart as Kathy selects many & different food items from the
shelves. I, being the driver of the cart, maneuver this heavy thing
flawlessly around the crowded aisles & tight spaces. We were so proud of
our positions & efficiency; this is great! I couldn’t imagine that grand
parenting could be so rewarding.

Only one minute glitch occurred during this heavenly & nearly flawless
episode. When checking out @ the cash register, Matthew who was accustomed
to entering the zip code on the credit card device (which we did not know)
grabbed the plastic pen with a death grip & would not give it up. We tried
the gentle talk approach, then the Jaws of Life to no avail. Matthew
started yelling, screaming, threatening to fire us as his hip & cool
grandparents, etc. It was UGLY! The people waiting in line behind us were
making angry facial expressions like they were going to alert the Child
Welfare Dept any minute. We got out of that store fast! Back @ the Foote’s
home, Matthew lowered the boom on us some more: he tattled & told his
mother everything bad. We were so ashamed. How can we ever be happy
grandparents again?

Well, slowly things did get better & we think we will be able to live with
this BIG blunder & do better the next time, if & when there is a next

Wine before dinner with an extra refill for those wine aficionados, esp K
& I, who continue to slowly recover from that, you know what.

5:30 dinner: Baked spiral sliced ham, American fried potatoes, corn &
spinach salad.

The evening time scenario duplicated itself with the kids being readied
for bed. Matthew did eventually warm up to us a little during the long
evening, but eyed us suspiciously from around corners & dark places much
before that.

The adult time was mostly consumed by playing a game of “Stare.” I like
this game a lot….maybe because I was lucky & they let me win.

This day was, ah sort of just ok.

Lights out: 10:26pm

Awake: 6:19am Temp 29 sleep 6+15 clear overnight @ Indiana, PA.

Our complimentary hotel breakfast has slimmed down to only an English
muffin with butter & jelly. That is, unless you want to eat sweet & sugary
donuts. But that’s ok, we have a refrigerator & microwave in our room so
we’ll be making other plans for breakfast.

Kathy called Melissa for the latest food shopping request but their line
was busy. The next call is answered by: “come on over!” En route to the
Footes, we make a quick stop @ the latest new Starbucks Coffee shop in
town & use that Starbucks card. Our timing was good as lunch was ready to
be served on the exquisite Foote dining room table when we arrive. The
chicken salad with a lot of fresh strawberries made up for a, not so good

Kevin joined us for lunch & then returned to work @ the university. After
lunch, Zack & Nick went on line with their computers searching for
Christmas gifts on the Internet. While they are busy doing that, Katrina
is busy burning calories on the 15 degree inclined treadmill located in
the library/sunroom area; Kathy is playing with Matthew; I am entertaining
little Jerry while holding him & watching the computer action from the
boys; Melissa is carrying Andrew, fast asleep in a sling, while she is
preparing a cake for Matthew’s birthday being celebrated mid afternoon.
Eriko has gone upstairs to catch a fast wink & perhaps overcome her jet

Mid afternoon: Kevin returns home again: Matthew’s cake, shaped like a
large dump truck which he helped decorate, is brought into the exquisite
dining room with 3 lit candles. The traditional birthday song is sung, a
few presents are presented & we all eat a sample of his truck cake with
ice cream.

5:10pm dinner: Tacos: whole wheat and regular soft shells and hard shells
with a choice of ground beef or chicken, lettuce, cheese, tomato, & sour
cream. Evening time, we talked a lot while the young people showered with
help from their respective mothers/fathers, then the “goodnights” & off to
their bedrooms they go.

Later evening, we slightly older ones, played the game of: “Loaded
Questions” which was a lot of fun. Around 10:30pm, us (2) seniors elected
to return to our hotel haven for the night. It was another good day.

Lights out: 12:37am

Awake: 6:07am sleep 7+56 cloudy…..then rain….then partly sunny
overnight @ Pittsburgh, PA.

Corn flakes, corn flakes & more corn flakes for breakfast with milk. Not
to downgrade the Microtel Hotels: they offer a bargain price with free
phone calls including long distance, free WI-FI & breakfast. And if you do
the park, sleep & fly thing, you can leave your auto in their parking lot
for 7 days or more with no extra charge. More about that breakfast: on
rare occasions, their breakfast options can be somewhat limited. Before we
leave the Microtel @ 9:45am, Kathy calls Melissa for a food shopping list
to be purchased @ Costco this morning before picking up Katrina @ the

Our GPS Lady Garmin guides us to the Costco store in less than 12 min.
Traffic @ this time is very light. We take our time looking @ all the new
merchandise items Costco has brought in for the holiday season…..some nice
stuff. Kathy takes care of the Foote food list & then we both ponder over
a few gifts that we might give to our Goddaughter & 3 grandsons. Not to be
ungrateful for her efforts, but I am not impressed with her selections on
gifts. Instead, I humbly suggest we visit a hobby store that I had seen
last night on our way to the Microtel Hotel. She takes my mild mannered
idea graciously. Just before we check out from Costco, Katrina calls from
Minneapolis to report that her next flight to PIT is delayed by about 30
min, but will call again when arriving @ the PIT terminal.

10 min drive to the Hobby Town USA store on Robinson Lane. We spend the
next hr looking around @ the many gift ideas with a much better selection
for the younger kids. After this Hobby Town experience, we realize that
only one gift from Costco will be acceptable so it’s back to Costco to
return the other gifts & have a lunch of pizza slices in the process.
Things have changed: now the holiday traffic is thick & slow moving.

Katrina calls from the PIT terminal & now on her way to baggage. She’ll
call again to give us the pickup area door number. We hustle out to our
Suzuki, program Lady Garmin & proceed to the PIT airport. The call comes
while on our way; she’ll be waiting outside entrance #2.

Katrina looks good & reports a comfortable flight. Now our trusty Suzuki
is really loaded down with an additional 3 of Kat’s bags. The Suzuki does
not show the extra burden & Katrina does not complain about her cubicle
being smaller than her airline seat, so we continue with a smile. To help
Katrina smile a little wider, we both left her morsels of Costco pizza to
nibble on during her next leg.

Our PA route 22 was not a good choice: holiday traffic, close to rush hr
time & highway construction really slowed our estimated arrival time into
Indiana, PA. When we do finally arrive @ 4:35pm, all the M & K family
members + grandchildren & Eriko are here for the holidays. Kevin is
working @ the university & will be home by 5:00pm. Everyone is looking
healthy, even the grandchildren. We were impressed with Matthew showing so
much affection, Andrew’s BIG smile & Jerry’s inquisitiveness.

Before we start unloading all the freight from the big Suzuki, Melissa
hands us a small homemade card that she encourages us to “read now!” I
open it carefully, trying to figure out…..why is this necessary? Oh, now I
get it: there’s a Wal-Mart shopping card that we can conveniently use for
getting groceries without using our retirement checks. But wait, there’s
more: “a Starbucks card” to help wake us up before we go food shopping for
groceries @ Wal-Mart. How thoughtful of our daughter Melissa & son-in-law
Kevin. Hold on, there’s appears to be a note inside this card that reads:

You’re great grandparents we wanted to say,
But that’s not the reason for this card today.
No riddles to guess, no games to play.
The third Foote child is on its way.

Wow! And “Congratulations to you guys” we tell them.
After a little more excited conversation about this next up & coming
miracle, we get busy & unload the heavy cargo from the Suzuki.

More news you can use: Nick presents a special bottle of wine for toasting
@ dinnertime: He & Zack are celebrating the successful IPO of their
company, Isilon, in Seattle, WA going public just last Friday. Another
thrilling chapter opens in the lives of the K & M family. Our 6:15 dinner:
Meat loaf, mashed potatoes & salad.

K & I, trying to set a good example: wash, dry & clean up the kitchen
afterwards with little fanfare. It was quite a job for us as we are
normally accustomed to using instruments for only a party of two.

After this laborious workout, we look @ some of Nick’s digital movies on
his computer of Jerry & Eriko. This rather quick & busy visit with our
family was a wonderful start for the holidays. Now we leave this busy &
very active environment, drive about 3.5 miles & check into our hotel
which is located very close to the Wal-Mart in town. We’re not finished
yet: more unloading & organizing & then, we relax for the night. It was a
good trip up here to PA & it’s even a better trip being with our family

Lights out: 12:04am

Awake: 6:05am sleep ? overnight @ Winchester, Kentucky

We eat an early complimentary breakfast, check out of our comfortable room
& then attend the 8:30am Mass @ Saint Joseph Catholic church in town. It’s
a fairly large church on the outside but noticeably small on the inside.
We suspect hidden passageways leading to illegal Bingo Parlors!

We couldn’t help noticing that the town of Winchester has an amazing
number of huge mansions on large acreage in very pristine condition, which
further supports our Bingo gambling theory. The downtown area looked very
healthy, alive & well: an old town with many store fronts remaining in

We leave Winchester @ 9:45am; mostly smooth roads on I-75, I-64, I-79 to
Pittsburgh, PA. I was shocked when entering Pennsylvania on I-79: we were
greeted with nearly 10 miles of rough to rougher road surface. How could
they do this? After that ugly stretch however, no more complaints.

We avoided our planned destination in Pittsburgh momentarily & visited the
near-by Barnes & Noble Book Store instead to make a few last min
purchases; then arrived @ our Microtel Hotel @ about 5:45pm. Today’s
travel: over 400 miles. 8+ hrs. Total miles from Aransas Pass, TX to
Pittsburgh= close to 1700 miles.

Now we are tired & hungry. Our Hotel clerk Jodi, tells us of a new (2 week
old) restaurant & bar just across the large parking lot & up the hill.
It’s dark so we decided to drive the distance; the transmission barely
shifted into a higher gear & we were @ the Bocktown Beer & Grill
restaurant & bar.

As we are walking into the Bocktown restaurant, Katrina calls from Denver:
she’s on her way to her rental house & will start packing tonight. We
discuss our pickup plans @ the Pittsburgh Airport for tomorrow & wish her
a bon voyage.

Jodi was right: this place was good! We asked for samples of dark beer &
they graciously gave us over 8 different selections to start with &
offered more. You see, they advertise over 400 different bottled beers
from nearly everywhere and 17 beers on tap. With our taste buds shot, we
settle with a draft called: Eastend Snow(sp) & share a pot roast sandwich
with salad.

Evening time: a little reading; a little computing & TV watching.

Lights out: 10:11pm

1st awake @ 3:30am (noisy people across the hall), took me awhile to get
back to sleep. 2nd awake: 5:15am sleep……less than 5+50
weather=foggy, then later: sunny overnight @ Cottondale/Tuscaloosa,

Complimentary breakfast @ the hotel was ok…..mostly cereal & coffee.
Again we store our perishables in the hotel’s refer for the night & then
make the transfer in the morning.

Leave the Cottonwood/Tuscaloosa area @ 7:11am. It’s very foggy for the
next 2.0 + hrs but, traffic flow was close to normal. I-20 continues to be
smooth until entering Georgia & then we were roughed up a little in our
short wheel base Suzuki.

Entering the town of Winchester, Kentucky, we spot a Catholic church just
before 5:30pm & stop to maybe attend the vigil Mass tonight. No, Mass had
started @ 5:00pm so we’ll plan on the 8:30am tomorrow. Darkness has
fallen, so in lieu of driving around to find a hotel, I ask one of the
local policemen about lodging in town. He talks about the area of (5)
hotels. Hampton Inn is our 1st check: the clerk gives us a price; I thank
her & we begin to walk away. Then she mentions that this price includes a
hot dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow morning & high speed
Internet…..whoa boy…..we back up & sign in for the night.

Today’s travel: 488 miles 9 + hrs. 4 stops en route: 2 for state
maps (Georgia & Kentucky) & 2 for fuel. We snacked a little along the way
on sourdough pretzels.

Our room was spacious & very nice; the king bed very comfortable with many
pillows. 7:15pm dinner: hot vegetable soup and meatballs, cheese & fruit.

Lights out? I forgot to look @ the clock.

Awake: 5:20am Sleep 6+52 foggy…..then sunny overnight @ Breaux
Bridge, Louisiana.

A good nights rest for both of us; we have the complimentary hotel
breakfast which was quite adequate.

Before we left Aransas Pass yesterday, Kathy packed food for a few lunches
to eat along the way. We ate only a fraction so last evening, with the
clerk’s permission, we stored our perishables in the hotel’s kitchen frig
for the night…..taking it out this morning & transferring it back to our

We leave the Holiday Inn Express @ 8:25am. The heavy fog takes it's time
dissipating …..maybe 2.5 hrs later we finally see the sun breaking thru.

Eastbound I-10 from Orange, TX to I-12 to the border of Louisiana was 50%
rough. I-55 Northbound from Baton Rouge to the Mississippi Border was very
rough. I-20 from Jackson, MS thru Alabama: very smooth.

We arrive @ the Microtel Hotel in Cottondale/Tuscaloosa, Alabama @ 4:57pm.
Today’s travel: 409 miles Driving time: about 8.0 hrs. 3 stops en
route: MS state map @ the visitor’s center; Flying “J” fuel for the Suzuki
and lunch for us in our car in the shade; & a stop @ the Alabama Visitor’s
Center to get an AL state map.

5:45pm a short walk down the street for dinner @ Ruby Tuesday’s
….unlimited salad bar; chicken, bean chili; and mini Rubys (2 small, but
good hamburgers) with French Fries.

Microtel offers free telephone calls anywhere in the continental USA &
free high speed wireless Internet so our evening was too busy to watch a

Lights out: 11:25pm

Awake: 5:45am Temp 65 sleep 7+33 partly sunny overnight @
Aransas Pass, TX.

Driving our Suzuki tow car, we leave Aransas Pass @ 8:10am heading north.
We follow the same smooth roads to Houston that we came south on November
26, except this time, when we get to Houston, we pick up I-10 eastbound.

We share driving time: I drive 2.5 hrs; Kathy drives 3 hrs; then I drive
another 2 hrs.

We make 3 stops en route: lunch break in our car (stopped with shade);
fuel stop @ a Pilot Station in Orange, Texas; & a tourist info stop in
Louisiana for the state map.

We arrive @ the Holiday Inn Express in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana @ 5:00pm

Today’s travel: 433 miles driving time approx 7.5 hrs.

Nice hotel, recently renovated. It had been used for some of the displaced
New Orleans people for about 6 months following Hurricane Katrina. To us
it looked like new.

6:00pm dinner @ Landry’s Seafood Restaurant; a short walk from our hotel.
Kathy & I share a fresh Swordfish dinner with rice, carrots, green beans &
a salad.

Evening time: we do more sharing; each getting some computer time.

Lights out: 10:28pm

Awake: 6:35am Temp 53 Sleep 5+46 sunny overnight @ Aransas Pass,

Most of the day (save for a trip to Wal-Mart & our 4:00pm Social Hr) was
spent packing our suitcases & bringing extra winter clothing along for our
trip north.

It is amazing how many things we feel we should bring with us that we
probably could do very well without. It’s like; we always have these
items with us in our home so now we can’t leave them behind…..not even for
a month. End result: our Suzuki is stuffed!

4:00pm social hr again was fun. I say my goodbyes to the guys with “Merry
Christmas” wishes. I know the pool game will be even more competitive upon
our return; they’ll have all that extra time for practice.

Before dinner, we retract all slides.

6:35 dinner: Italian sausage with whole wheat noodles, Waldorf salad &
garlic bread.

More organizing & packing into the evening.

High temp=72 Lights out: 10:12pm

Awake: 5:41am Temp 63 sleep 5+49 sunny overnight @ Aransas Pass, TX.

After breakfast, Kathy is assigned & accepts the washing of our Suzuki
while I finish cleaning the final 1/6th of our motorhome. Our work
efficiency drops off a little as some of our near neighbors walk over for
a visit & curiosity view of our Detroit engine, etc. I add a little
coolant to the diesel engine’s radiator & some Mobile one synthetic oil to
our Suzuki’s engine plus check other fluids for proper quantity. Kathy did
a wonderful job of the Suzuki’s cleanup. We break for lunch around 1:30.
Then I bring in our suitcases for packing & collect the gallon water
bottles for refilling all 13 in Pennsylvania.

4:00pm social hr was fun. These guys are great. The pool playing however,
was ho-hum as Fred & Mike were the guys to beat & the rest of us patiently
watched & waited. As a matter of fact, so many of us played so little that
4 of us stayed later & played 3 games just to get some practice in. That
Fred, he’s 76, has good eyes & does not wear glasses.

6:30 dinner: Pacific salmon, Waldorf salad & garlic bread.

Late satellite movie: “The Yearling” with Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude
Jarman, Jr., Chill Wills, etc. A sensitive tale of a boy attached to a
young deer. Jarman won a special Oscar for this one. 1946. Its a little
slow & a little long….I had to fill Kathy in on “what’s happening” several
times. Washing that Suzuki obviously wore her out!

Today’s high=74 Lights out: 12:49am

Awake: 5:45am Temp 61 sleep 6+10 foggy, then sunny overnight @
Aransas Pass, TX.

Today’s project: Clean house! Kathy works with me….starting @ 10:30am &
cleaning throughout the day until 3:45pm. We did break for a 30 min lunch
however. So that’s 4 hrs & 30 min of exercise but we didn’t quite get
finished. Tomorrow we’ll finish up.

Social hr @ 4:00pm took precedence & it was good. 2 new pool players
joined our crowd: Fred & Jim. Yesterday they were unbeatable & some of us
duffers had little playing time. Today Fred & Jim were split up with
different partners so they were of a lesser threat to the rest of us. This
campground allows a “one time” washing the motorhome & car per season,
thus the cleanup program.

6:30 dinner: Italian sausage with whole wheat noodles, Waldorf salad &
garlic bread.

Call & talk with Dick @ the Outdoor Resort RV Park in Las Vegas, NV.

High temp=65 Lights out: 11:52pm

Awake: 5:29am Temp 53 sleep 6+33 cloudy overnight @ Riviera, Texas.

K & I attend 8:30am Mass @ the small church in the town of Vattmann (not
on the map), about 4 miles from our campground toward Riviera. The church,
“Our Lady of Consolation” was built by some early German settlers in late
1800’s, was completely destroyed by a hurricane & then rebuilt in 1924. It
is very small including a real small sanctuary & is very crowded today.
About 15 of us were from the campground. The vestibule could barely hold
the priest & 3 altar boys.

Back @ the bus, Kathy makes sourdough pancakes with eggs, bacon & maple
syrup. One of the guys from the campground, Don who we sat next to us in
church, heard about Kathy’s 100 + yr old starter & wanted to check it out.
So after breakfast, Don saunters over & talks with Kathy about her starter
& recipe and gets some of the starter. Another friendly guy, Gene also
visits during my outside prep for travel.

Katrina calls from Denver while driving to her church just as we are ready
to leave the campground. Kathy chats with her for about 15 min.

We leave the Seawind RV Resort @ 12:30pm & no rain. One 25 min stop en
route @ the parking lot of Lowe’s so Kathy could go across the street to
Wal-Mart for a few needed items, before arriving back @ the Ransom Road RV
Park in Aransas Pass, Texas @ 2:34pm. We had called Edna for a head’s up
on our arrival time & sure enough, she was waiting by her golf cart to
lead us into our parking site when we arrived.

Today’s travel: 1+49 time 88.2 miles 11.3 gal used 7.84 mpg
50.4 avg speed.

6:30pm dinner: Filet steak, baked potato, salad, leftover broccoli &
garlic bread.

Melissa calls from Pennsylvania & chats with Kathy. Gary & Grace call from
eastern PA. We both share chat time.

Late satellite movie: “The Goodbye Girl” with Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha
Mason, Quinn Cummings, Paul Benedict, etc. A warm comedy. The young actor,
Dreyfuss, & dumped-on divorcee, Mason get together as unwilling tenants of
the same N.Y.C. apartment and we watch their growing relationship.
Dreyfuss won a Best Actor Oscar for this movie. 1977. Its good! Add it to
your list.

High temp today=60 Elevation 3 ft Lights out: 11:35pm

Awake: 6:05am Temp 41 sleep 6+07 light drizzle overnight @
Harlingen, TX.

Another case of: I should have been tough & refused to park on the grass.
I had to use our positive traction (dual wheels on both sides spinning),
flinging mud & rocking the coach forward, then reverse 3 or 4 times to
finally get our on the street, leaving a mud trail. Kathy went back to
view the scene & reported: big deep ruts & a real mess. Hey, they insisted
that we park on the grass & NOT on the patio.

Anyway, we leave the Paradise Park @ 11:00am. The drizzling rain has
stopped. Little traffic en route & we arrive @ the Seawind RV Resort on
the Bay @ 12:45pm which is 9 miles from the town of Riviera. This place is
a sleeper + big rig friendly with friendly people.
Kathy does 3 loads of laundry while I walk around the lake looking for
birds & ducks.

7:00 dinner: “beef stew with whole wheat noodles.

Today’s travel: 1+46 time 91.3 miles 13 gal used 7.3 mpg
53.5 avg speed.

Late movie: “Mortal Storm” with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Robert
Young, Frank Morgan, Robert Stack, etc. Nazi takeover in Germany splits
family & ruins life of father, Professor Morgan; Stewart tries to leave
country with Professor’s daughter (Sullavan). 1940. Could possibly bring
back scary memories of WWII.

High temp=60 elevation 6 ft Lights out: 10:57pm

Awake: 5:25am Temp 49 sleep 5+45 intermittent rain
overnight @ Harlingen, TX.

K & I attend noon Mass on this holy day (Feast of the Immaculate
Conception) downtown @ the Immaculate Heart of Mary church. It was
crowded. Afterward, we visit a nearby HEB grocery store for milk & by
accident, we find 4 bottles of our # 2 choice wine.

Next, we drive the one-way streets looking for a store that might have
postcards (HEB did not), & several other stores we stopped @ did not
either. Finally, we figure we might as well drive to the Harlingen airport
for a postcard; airports always have postcards & they did. One of the
attractions Roger told us about was: the only other Iwo Jimo Memorial
outside of Washington D.C.which is right here @ the Military Academy
adjacent to the airport. So we visit the museum & learn more about the
battle of Iwo Jimo than we ever knew….watching a 30 min movie of that
battle was not easy to endure. The museum also had a lot of memorabilia
from that battle to view. We didn’t walk over to the memorial itself (too
much rain) but I did get several pictures from our car.

Then we visit Maria & Roger, take photos of their Christmas decorations,
thank them for their hospitality & say our goodbyes for now. It was nice
spending time with Roger & getting to know Maria a little better. En route
back to our bus, we drive down the historic Jackson Street (the original
main street), stop & browse @ an antique/thrift store for 25 min & also
the D & K Restaurant Equipment store where Kathy finds & buys a set of
stainless steel measuring spoons + a grated cheese shaker.

8:30 dinner: Italian pasta with broccoli & garlic bread. We both do a
little late night reading.

High temp=? Lights out: 11:58pm

Awake: 5:35am Temp 67 sleep 6+30 rain began @ 8:30am
overnight @ Harlingen, Texas.

The weather channel predicts heavier rain here in Harlingen around 3:00pm
to continue for the next few days; right now it’s a drizzle so to avoid
cleaning water off those slides before we travel, I retract them now.

We drive the Suzuki to Roger & Maria’s home, pick up Roger, drive hwy 83
westbound to Weslaco, then mile 3 south to Progreso, park the car & walk
about 150 ft to the Duty Free Liquor Store just north of the Mexican
border. We keep the good prices in mind as we continue to walk across the
covered walkway bridge over the Rio Grande River into Nuevo Progreso,
Mexico. Kathy checks a few pharmacy stores for a good price on cough syrup
with codeine which does not require a prescription in this town. After
comparing prices, she buys 2 small bottles in the event someone over the
holidays could use the codeine to help overcome a bug.

As we stroll down the streets with our umbrellas, ducking in & out of
stores, we pass a restaurant which Roger tells me: “when my wife & I come
down here, this is where we always eat.” Sounds good to us & we ate there
also. Roger was quite right.

Walking back toward the liquor store, we had to cross over the bridge
leaving Mexico (pay 30 cents each), then walk back around to the liquor
store (25 cents each to enter this area), buy some liquor, then cross over
the bridge again into Mexico, walk across the street & over the bridge
leaving Mexico (another 30 cents each), pass through US customs (pay US
Federal Taxes on liquor), then pay Texas State Taxes on each bottle of
liquor. We felt like we were being nickel & dimed to death but: “these
were the best prices yet in our travels.”

The drive back to Harlingen in the rain was fine. Maria was home when we
dropped Roger off so we visited a little before returning to our bus @

Our lunch was filling so our dinner was sparse: Tomato soup with oyster

Watch late movie: “Thief ” with James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson,
James Belushi, etc. Arresting drama about a professional thief; Caan is
excellent as the man with one drive: survival. 1981. You want action, this
one does it right!

High temp? Lights out: 11:40pm

Awake: 6:29am Temp 60 sleep 6+11 partly sunny overnight @
Brownsville, TX.

We leave the Winter Haven RV Park @ 10:55am. This RV Park was a good
choice. If we should return some day, we’ll keep this place in mind. It
sure was a lot more efficient getting out of town today than it was
getting into town last Saturday. Timing, it was the timing and just the
slight goof of missing our exit off of Hwy 77.

Arrive @ the Paradise Park in Harlingen, TX @ 11:35am. Wide streets &
turns to our assigned parking site (a back in) but, it didn’t have
adequate maneuvering space so I had to maneuver about 4 times to get into
position for backing up. The idiosyncrasy of this logic is strange: we
were asked to park on the grass of this site, but alongside of it, is a
nice long & thick concrete pad which they tell us is to be used only as
our patio, NO parking on it. Well ok. I have gotten in trouble a few times
by parking on grass when it rains & the ground goes soft.

Today’s travel: 42 min time 29.6 miles 3.6 gal used 7.6 mph
43.1 avg speed.

After lunch, we drive the Suzuki 4.7 miles to visit my cousin & ole high
school classmate Roger & his wife Maria. Maria was working today; she
retired from teaching math & was called back on a part time basis by the
school district to tutor a number of students. Roger greets us @ the door,
gives us a tour of their home & then we sit & chat in their living room
until Maria arrives. We continue our talk time until after 7:00pm & then
ride with R & M to the Mexican restaurant Laplaya. K & I each have our own
Taco salad which was quite good. Since both Roger & Maria attend 7:00 am
daily Mass, we don’t linger very long when arriving back @ their house;
we’ll see them again tomorrow.

Tonight I register both of our cell phones on the “do not call” list. Then
call Anchorage & request our mail to be forwarded to a future campground.

Travel temp=? Elevation 42 ft. Lights out: 11:05pm

Awake: 6:05am Temp 49 sleep 6+25 cloudy overnight @ Brownsville, TX.

I make some phone calls this morning relating to our next campground
visit; also later, I call Anchorage to have our mail forwarded to a future
campground stop.

BIG PLANS TODAY: I have decided to take Kathy on another bird safari. This
time… a special place: “The Brownsville City Land Fill.” She’s pretty
excited & wants to leave immediately, but I insist that we have something
to eat first. It might be risky bringing food along to eat @ the landfill

Lady Garmin does a good job of getting us there in record time. We had to
program (2) intersecting roads to hone in on, thereby getting us close
enough to where the big garbage trucks turning down a dirt road helped in
leading us there.

The place was fantastic! @ least I thought so…….birds everywhere. I took
many digital pictures to figure out later, using my bird book, as to what
I saw. Every time a fresh garbage truck would arrive & dump its load, the
birds (by the thousands) would get all excited. We climbed to the top of
this man-made mountain to get a closer look @ the heavy earth moving
equipment that’s doing the job; BIG equipment, only they were not moving
earth! Several birds I think I captured on camera: “Aplomado Falcon”,
“Cooper’s Hawk” & the “Turkey Vulture.” There were also hundreds of
seagulls. The rest I’ll need to do further research on.

We spent a lot of time @ this land fill area & I couldn’t help noticing
that Kathy was really getting into this birding stuff; she wanted to go &
find another birding area now. Then we realized: by the time we’d get
there, it’d be too dark to take photos. We make a quick stop @ the biggest
Wal-Mart we have experienced to buy milk before returning to our bus.

Again we walk the Winter Haven campground for an hr of exercise &
curiosity. Darkness fell during our excursion so we were treated with
seeing a lot of the campground occupant’s lit Christmas decorations along
the way.

8:15 dinner: called “Hay & Straw.” But it really was: Whole wheat penne
pasta, julienned ham with parmesan cream sauce, salad & garlic bread.

Late movie: “Anatomy of a Murder” with James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben
Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, etc. An exciting courtroom drama;
daring when released, tamer now. 1959. A must see so add it to your list.

High temp=65 Lights out: 12:18am

Awake: 7:05am Temp 46 sleep 6+26 mostly sunny overnight @
Brownsville, TX.

Mid morning, Kathy calls the ole Confederate Air Force Museum in
Brownsville to establish if they are open today……they are. Then early
afternoon, we drive the Suzuki to the Brownsville/South Padre Island
Airport where a wing of the CAF is located. This museum is a fraction of
the size of the relocated CAF museum now is Midland, TX. However for its
smaller size, there were plenty of WWII memorabilia to see & to read
about. Probably the most interesting thing for me was the 30 min movie
they showed of how the CAF (now called the Commerative Flying Air
Force)began & how they keep the aircraft flying using mostly volunteers.
All total, we spent about 2.0 hrs there.

Since we are already in South Brownsville, we might as well check out
South Padre Island, which has a population of 2,422 people & located 19
miles from this CAF museum. This area of Harlingen & Brownsville etc, is
very flat, so when crossing a bridge that has a vertical clearance for
ships, one can see for miles. En route to SPI, & crossing over the Laguna
Madre Causeway, the bridge gave us the lift necessary to view nearly the
entire 110 mile length of the island before arriving. The width of the
island? maybe a mile if that much.

We drive north, then south, looking @ the numerous beach related stores,
high rise hotels & privately owned condos + homes; many of the condos had
“for sale” signs attached. Kathy wanted to check out the beach on the east
side, so we stop near a hotel with beach access. She gets out, walks about
20 ft, stops & returns to our car. She reports that the sand was blown up
so high on the sidewalk that it made walking difficult (most likely from
the strong winds on Sunday). The sea was very rough with very high waves.
Our Lady Garmin brings us back to our bus by the shortest routing. For
exercise & curiosity, we walk the Winter Haven Campground for an hr.

9:40 dinner: Sword fish with leftover broccoli casserole, brown rice pilaf
& garlic bread.

Late satellite movie: “Baby Face” with Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent,
Donald Cook, John Wayne, etc. It begins with Stanwyck bartending @ a
speakeasy, then literally sleeping her way floor by floor to the top of a
N.Y.C. office building. 1933. Quite shocking it was; the Legion of Decency
had to do some strong editing to clean it up @ that time. Recently though,
the classic film group got a hold of the original uncut version & this is
the one we viewed. By today’s standards however, it was mild.

High temp=61 Lights out: 11:40pm

Awake: 6:55am Temp 62 sleep 6+31 rain continues until noon
time, then cloudy ….overnight @ Brownsville, Texas

Kathy makes sourdough pancakes served with maple syrup, eggs over easy, &
bacon for breakfast.

After studying our latest brochures of what to see & do in Brownsville, we
are dismayed to find out that most places we are interested in going
to…..are closed on Sunday. Even though the rain has subsided, the winds
are uncomfortably strong. So with our limited options, we choose to see
the Palo Alto Visitors’ Center & Battlefield; 15 min from our campground.
Lady Garmin makes it easy for us to find.

It is written that the annexation of Texas by the US in 1845 was a major
cause of the 2 year US/Mexican War which was declared on May 13, 1846
along the Rio Grande in the Palo Alto area. Here, about 158 yrs later, a
battlefield tour & visitors’ center is established to commemorate this
event. We watched a reenactment movie of this battle & then, despite the
strong winds & falling temperature, walked the 1 mile trail overlooking a
lot of the battlefield area. We suspect they are not finished with the
outside area as there was very little to see from the trails, period!

From here we drive 20 min south, turn on Billy Mitchell Blvd & check out
the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport where a wing of
the ole Confederate Air Force is located. I had called this CAF via cell
phone earlier with no answer. Sure enough, they too, are closed on
Sundays. The ole CAF has changed its name to Commemorative Air Force
Flying Museum, now moved to Midland, Texas which we visited in February
28, 2005. If you are interested in WWII aircraft that still fly, that
without a doubt, is the place to see. We are back to our bus by 4:30.

I call my cousin Roger who lives with his wife Maria in Harlingen, a mere
20 miles north. Our plan was to do some touring in Brownsville before
visiting them @ their home. As we are talking, Roger offers to drive down
to see us & then have dinner together @ a nearby Italian restaurant. With
Kathy’s approval, we welcome this opportunity to get together earlier than

Roger & Maria arrive around 6:00pm. I have not seen Maria since the mid
60’s when she was visiting Nicktown with their two young daughters @ that
time. Now, all 4 daughters are married with children, giving Roger and
Maria 10 grandchildren. We have wine in our MH & start catching up on each
others retirement lifestyle activities & then, 7:45 dinner @ the
restaurant “Johnny Carino’s. K & I share a crab ravioli dinner, a
delicious Italian dish. We return to our bus where I show Maria & Roger a
slide show on the plasma TV of this year’s Memorial Day parade in
Nicktown. I could tell they were holding back their excitement. We will
talk tomorrow about future rendezvous’.

High temp=62 Lights out: 12:39am

Awake: 6:41am Temp 53 sleep 6+19 cloudy overnight @
Corpus Christi, Texas.

Today is free calling on our cell phone so Kathy calls Melissa: they talk
little due to the Footes having morning plans. Kathy calls Katrina &
leaves a message. Kathy calls her friend Marge in Grand Junction, CO. &
they talk for close to an hr.

We leave the Greyhound RV Park in Corpus Christi @ 11:02am. Smooth roads
continue on I-37 & US-77. Entering Brownsville, the drizzle of rain
strengthens to heavy rain & traffic funnels down to a single lane, plus we
didn’t obey our GPS & missed our exit ramp; this leads us into a traffic
jam of road construction & Christmas shoppers, adding 30 min or more to
our en route time. Even worse, now our clean house is dirty again from all
the road spray. UGH!

Arrive @ the Winter Haven RV Park in Brownsville @ 2:12pm. This place is a
gated senior living complex, with over 600 owned sites and only 29 rental
sites for transient RV people like us. My parking skills went awry; it
took 3 tries with Kathy’s help to finally get parked nicely.

Today’s travel: 3+10 time 162 miles 21 gal used 7.2 mpg
54.4 avg speed.

We use our Garmin GPS to locate a nearby church, 3.5 miles south, & attend
the 6:00pm vigil Mass in English @ Saint Luke’s. The visiting priest gave
a wonderful homily. It is a very large English/Spanish parish with half of
the Masses in Spanish.

8:00pm dinner: Smoked bratwurst, leftover sweet potatoes, my cousin’s corn
off the cob, & spinach salad.

Late satellite movie: “You Can’t Take It with You” with Jean Arthur,
Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, etc. An eccentric but
blissfully happy household becomes prime Capra fare. This movie was an
Oscar winner for Best Picture & Director. 1938. Add it to your list;
you’ll be glad you did.
Rain continues throughout the day, evening & night.

Travel high temp=71 Elevation 26 ft Lights out: 12:24am

Awake: 5:54am Temp 39 sleep 6=28 sunny overnight @ Aransas Pass,

The storm has passed, the sky a bright blue & the temp is more to my
liking….cool. Today we continue our touring southbound. Our next
campground is so near, we need to hang around here until almost noon so as
to not arrive too early.

After breakfast, I clean off the slide tops which had some fine dust on
them. Then later, I retract the slides. In the near distance, I can see 4
of the pool players standing around & talking so I join them for awhile.
After Kathy finishes watching her morning TV programs, she visits the
ladies @ the club house. They are designing and making a large Christmas
stocking ornament to enter in the city wide competition; last year they
won second place. This year’s theme: the Ransom Road RV Park is
overflowing with fun.

@ 11:42am we leave the Ransom Road RV Park; smooth roads continue on hwy
35 & I-37 southbound. Arrive @ the Greyhound RV Park in Corpus Christi,
Texas @ 12:22pm. This campground is dated but has 5 or 6 big rig sites
with maneuvering space that worked well for us.

Today’s travel: 36 min time 25.3 miles 3.5 gal used 7.2 mpg 42.9
avg speed.

We waste no time in finding things to do. Leaving our slides retracted, we
head downtown in the Suzuki to the Port of CC bay front area & marina.
With great weather, we opt for a walk along the bay with all its yachts,
sailboats, ocean freighters & even the anchored USS Lexington aircraft
carrier. This shoreline boulevard with its wide sidewalk is like a
promenade & maybe 2 miles in length. The Art Museum of South Texas, the
Museum of Science & History and Columbus Ships + the Water Garden with
some 150 fountains in a large circle which is lighted @ night are located
at the far north end. On a bad weather day, we would have visited the
Science & History Museum. Sitting @ the Water Garden steps, we met a young
couple & their daughter from France. They are touring Texas in a rented
truck pulling a rented 5th wheel.

Back in our Suzuki, we drive downtown & do a grid pattern of the streets.
Corpus Christi downtown is a 2 tiered city. The older section of town is
maybe 100 ft or more lower than the upper & newer section. As we are
stopped looking at the Centennial House, the city’s oldest existing house
built in 1928 (still on its original site) of the then popular
“shellcrete” construction. The president of the restoration project just
happens to saunter by and gave us more info on the house than we can
remember, other than once it was a civil war hospital. The Cathedral, a
beautiful, huge complex, and the chancery office are located across the
street. Unfortunately, much of the block long structure is unused and the
school is closed. In lieu of returning to the bus for dinner, I persuade
Kathy to have a beer & dinner @ the Water Street Oyster Bar. We share an
appetizer of oysters Rockefeller, calamari, quesadillas with guacamole &
bread with our beers.

Then we drive over to Heritage Park where we tour 4 of 7 historic homes:
circa 1893 to 1905. These homes were moved into their present location
from other areas of the city. It was very interesting to see these homes
of yesteryear but we didn’t get any old fashion or new ideas from the

En route back to our bus, we stopped @ an HEB grocery store just to check
on their wine varieties. We bought nothing.

High temp=low 60’s Elevation 26 ft Lights out: 12:22am

Awake: 6:31am Temp 72 sleep 6+34 sunny, strong wind, then rain
overnight @ Aransas Pass, Texas.

1st thing this morning, I tune into the weather channel & see a line of
strong activity heading in the direction of this area. We were planning on
heading further south today but, after I stepped outside & looked to the
west, I thought differently.

Later K & I walk over to the office & talk with Ben about staying another
day; he checks his computer, groans a little & finally says: “Yes, you can
stay in that site another day.”
Then I call our next campground & delay our arrival until tomorrow.

Our temperature here @ Aransas Pass has dropped 24 degrees in 3 hrs with
winds close to 50 mph. And by 9:00 the rain starts, very heavy at times.
We are comfortable with our decision to hang around for another day.

Shortly after 2:00pm, the rain slows to a drizzle & the winds subside
considerably…..enough so that the brave Alaskan lady challenges the
elements & takes a trip to the local Wal-Mart.

4:00pm social hour; our pool playing skills reached new highs today. I
don’t know if the wild weather had anything to do with it or not….but it
was amazing. The dazzling effects spared no man whether he was using an
expensive pool cue or not. None of us could shoot worth a darn; shooting
more than one ball in the pocket in a row was totally out-of-the-question.
After our hr was up, we all laughed about it, but down deep, some of us
were humbled by the experience.

6:30 dinner: Chicken & broccoli stir fry with brown rice & garlic bread.

Late evening: we watch the history channel featuring the making of: Crispy
Cream donuts; Pork Rinds; Beef Jerky; Popcorn, etc. Yes, it was

High temp=72 Lights out: 11:26pm


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