Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scenes From a Sunday in Taos

To begin the day, a flock of blue birds of unknown name and origin gathered around the house. Rene and Bevin had never seen them before, so we decided they were most likely of the "Bluebird of Happiness" genus:

Next, we attended the birthday party of the four-year-old granddaughter of our dear friends Pam and Bruce, who moved back to Taos from Western Massachusetts a few years ago. We were happy to attend the party, and Mary was happy to have her face painted: 

In the afternoon, we visited downtown Taos and saw some interesting and entertaining street signs: 

Bored of street signs, we paid a visit to the studio of Thom Wheeler, an artist well-known for his metal relief sculptures, who welcomed us into his impressive studio along with his equally friendly canine welcome wagon: 

We find the people of Taos very friendly, and although we're warned that we are indeed visiting at the worst time of year, we still find it beautiful despite the patchy fog, intermittent snow, deepening mud, and the vast chasm between the wealthy and the poor, not to mention the fact that most people have to work two jobs just to survive here.

This week, our lovely visit with our wonderful son and daughter-in-law will most likely come to an end, and we will extract our rig from the mud and head for points south. It will be hard to leave our "kids" (who have been the most gracious hosts) but the search for a new home and the journey ahead still call our name. 

Taos: Moon and Mountain

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carpe Manana

Here's a bumper sticker spotted in downtown Taos. This must say something about the pace of life in New Mexico......

Friday, February 26, 2010

Travel, Travail, Wandering and Wondering

Continuing to read William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways, his assessment of the value of travel and exploration keep hitting home, in spite of---or even because of---the inherent contradictions of his words.

Just this morning, after waking up and meditating for a few minutes as the low clouds greeted the New Mexican morning sun, I read "If a man can keep alert and imaginative, an error is a possibility, a chance at something new; to him, wandering and wondering are part of the same process, and he is most mistaken, most in error, whenever he quits exploring." This passage hits home, reminding me of the fact that our endeavor to eschew our former lives and explore the country in pursuit of a new place to call home is indeed an endeavor of wandering and wondering, and moments of error and miscalculation are also moments when possibilities open which may have otherwise gone unseen. 

Interestingly, several pages later Heat-Moon quotes Homer: "Nothing is harder on mortal man than wandering", adding that the English words "travel" and "travail" share a common etymological origin. 

Our dear friend Paul Woodward from Connecticut has written a wonderful self-published book entitled "Years Wandering and Wondering", and it seems that it's a common denominator of human existence to look back on one's life, assess the extent of one's errors, miscalculations and successes, and draw conclusions based upon that assessment. 

I imagine that, one day in the not too distant future, Mary and I will sit back on the sunlit porch of our new happy abode, reviewing and assessing the circuitous path that led us there. Perhaps from that vantage point of hindsight informed by experience, we'll see where we may have turned left instead of right, where we were misguided, when we were trying too hard, where we were totally tuned in, and when we simply allowed the journey to happen without our attempts to direct its course. How I would love to have a glimpse of that hindsight now---just for a second---but then again, that might ruin the game and rob us of the opportunity to commit even more errors that simply need to happen in order to get us where we truly need to go. 

At times, the uncertainty of our journey weigh on me, and I long for that glimpse of what the future holds. At other times, I'm keen to continue wandering and wondering with great curiosity and openness to the future. 

Our journey has indeed taken many twists and turns. We've gone off the beaten path quite frequently, exploring corners of America not seen from the relative safety of the interstate. We've been lashed by winds on the Mississippi coast while camped on the ruins of a house destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. We've sloshed through the red mud of Palo Duro Canyon, slept in a hotel parking lot, and relied on the kindness of strangers and friends alike. 

Now, we're safe in the home of our son and daughter-in-law on this mesa outside of Taos, and the low-lying morning clouds ride the winds, floating over the distant adobe homes and casting shadows on the fields of sagebrush below. 

Today I'll stay home and nurse the cold, cough and sore throat that have taken hold of my respiratory tract at a time when being sick is the last thing I would ever want. In fact, I had a nagging cold for the first nine or ten weeks of our trip, and it's only the last six weeks that I've felt basically healthy (aside from the chronic pain that's simply part and parcel of life in my particular middle-aged body---for now anyway). 

Soon enough, alight from Taos towards the south, and perhaps our new home is simply waiting for us to find it. Perhaps a few "wrong" turns and miscalculations will be all that it takes to get us there. If it's true, as Heat-Moon says, that our worst mistake would be to quit exploring, then there's nothing for us to do but to continue on according to plan, and hope that we can remain open and flexible enough to allow the future to happen without too much help from us. 

Traveling and travail may have the same etymological origin, but that origin from the Middle Ages may indeed be due to the fact that travel at that time in history was fraught with dangers unknown to the 21st century traveler. Our "wheel estate" has most everything we need, and with ATMs, cell phones, WiFi and credit cards, the sky is truly the limit (or is it our credit limit?)

No matter the travails of travel, it's a wonderful way to "reboot" our lives and begin our third decade of marriage. As the singer Conor Oberst once sang, "there's nothing that the road cannot heal", and it seems clear that the road ahead will offer even more healing, adventure and discovery than we can now imagine. One day, we'll write a final blog post from that sunlit porch and reflect on the road that delivered us there, and it's then that we'll truly know that we've arrived. 


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reflections on Taos

After five days and five nights in Taos, we're just beginning to get a feel for this place that's named after a word in the native Taos language meaning "place of red willows".

Taos in February is not necessarily Taos at its best, and visiting at what some may feel is an inauspicious time allows us the opportunity to see the area without the rose-colored glasses that would be easy to don at another time of year. (If we were ski enthusiasts, perhaps we might feel differently as the snow continues to fall.)

As is our luck on this journey in general, the weather has been colder, cloudier and snowier than most years at this time, and while there have been several days of brilliant sunshine, the majority of our visit so far has not been the most favorable weather one could hope for. Still, the beauty of the area shines through no matter the weather, and when the mountains emerge from the clouds and the sun burns off the fog, it is, in a word, spectacular.

Last night, visiting old and dear friends in Arroyo Seco, a community just outside of Taos, both of our cars were mired in snow and ice on the driveway (our son and daughter-in-law arrived to dinner an hour later than us), and it took until 2am to convince AAA and the local towing company to come fish us out. Being spoiled New Englanders, we expected a 3-ton tow-truck to valiantly rescue us. Instead, an old  Chevy Suburban with a winch mechanism and a bunch of chains was dispatched, and with a fair amount of pushing from three of us positioned behind each car, we managed to extract both vehicles and land them back on the road for the icy drive home.

Here in the Taos area, contradictions abound. The infamous Donald Rumsfeld keeps one of his many oversized homes just outside of town, and even Julia Roberts and Val Kilmer have homes nearby. Meanwhile, low wages and a relatively high cost of living keep the majority of residents struggling to make ends meet. Why do they stay? It's incredibly beautiful, cultures are rich, and those who love Taos hang on for dear life in order to reap the benefits of such a place.

From what we have learned, racial tensions are still periodically an issue here, with Anglos controlling the majority of the wealth and the Native Americans and Hispanics often feeling either disempowered or overwhelmed by the economic clout of the Anglos. Underlying tensions can make some transactions difficult, and cultural sensitivity and tact are often called for, and Anglos who speak Spanish can sometimes have an advantage in terms of communication and cross-cultural connection.

Our friends who have lived here off and on since the late 60s tell stories of fights, turf wars and violence over the years, and even in recent times tensions have flared. With gangs prevalent throughout New Mexico, and nearby Espanola being one of the black tar heroin capitals of the country, drugs and violence are understandably a reality. Apparently, Rio Arriba County---the county in which Espanola sits to the north of Taos---had the highest rate of drug fatalities in the country between 2001 and 2005, and that's really no surprise since drugs, poverty and economic hardship exist hand in hand most anywhere that the conditions are ripe for such an unlucky combination.

Aside from these challenges mentioned above, Taos abounds with culture, free music, art galleries, shops catering to tourists, and what some might feel is unsurpassed natural beauty. In the town's cafes, remarkably attractive young baristas serve up relatively pricey lattes and coffee, kitschy shops sell dream catchers and other ersatz Native American fare, and the art galleries peddle what some might feel is mostly bland pedestrian art to visitors (with some exceptions, of course). Economic hardship, however, has also hit the merchants of Taos, and our friends tell of closed galleries and slow business throughout the area.

In the small villages and clusters of adobe homes and trailers that dot the landscape, people carve out their existences as best they can, and homes can range from the ramshackle to the magnificently beautiful. A sizeable number of people live in EarthShips on the nearby plateau, Earthships being energy efficient passive solar homes made of recycled tires, rammed earth, bottles, and other salvaged materials.

Surrounding the town of Taos, small villages (like Arroyo Seco where we were briefly stranded last night) offer an escape from the busy traffic of Taos, villages where affordable New Mexican and traditional Mexican cuisine can be found away from the majority of tourists.

In terms of natural beauty, one must take into consideration the awesomeness of the surrounding mountains, the nearby hot springs, the trails, and the huge open sky suspended over the area like an azure dome. Just a few miles away, the Rio Grande has cut a spectacular gorge into the heart of the plateau, and its beauty is certainly spectacular.

Meanwhile, as our rig sits in the yard, we watch the weather carefully. Nights are still in the single digits, but just yesterday the bright sun and temperatures in the upper 40s turned the earth around the rig into a sea of mud. When we're ready to shove off to southern New Mexico (our next destination in our search for intentional community and a new place to call home), we may have to pull out at night when the mud has frozen over. March is official "mud season" here in Taos, but as the days warm up even now, the moist soupy earth has begun to make its presence known.

They say that Taos Mountain either welcomes you warmly or it eats you up, spits you out and summarily rejects you. It seems fairly likely to us that we will not be testing that hypothesis any time soon. With good friends and our son and his wife living here, we are certain to return to explore the area more thoroughly, but settling in and making a life here is probably not in the cards for a variety of reasons (the tow truck incident last night being only one factor in that interesting calculus).

For the moment, we're still here, and after further visiting and exploring, the call of the open road and warmer climes will certainly magnetize us southward on our continuing journey. Taos won't have the chance to spit us out, but we'll have a little more time to chew and digest what the area has to offer before moving on.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our "Grandcats"

Since true grandparenthood is a few years off, here are some photos of our "grandcats":

Nina, Addie and Jacques

Addie and Jacques at rest

Jacques looking handsome

Addie looking straight into the camera

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snowed in in Taos?

Well, here we are in Taos, New Mexico at the home of our son and daughter-in-law. Here's a nice photo of their house in El Prado, just outside of Taos.

Today, February 22nd, is Rene and Bevin's six-month wedding anniversary. We are so happy for them as they continue to build a new life together.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are just west of the house, the snow-capped peaks bringing many wintertime visitors who come to ski.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked along their dirt road just after a light snowfall and photographed the sagebrush in the late afternoon sun.

Listening to weather reports yesterday, we did what we have never done before: we "skirted" the bottom of our rig with tarps weighted down with rocks in order to keep the cold and expected snow from getting underneath the rig and causing damage from the single-digit temperatures forecast for the next few nights.

This morning, we woke up to driving winds, constant snowfall, and a rig beginning to get snowed in.

So, we'll cozy up, play some games, take care of business, do some writing, and wait out the storm that is expected to drop 10-14 inches of snow by tomorrow morning.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Initial Images of New Mexico

Here's the view as we drove across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains yesterday....

The entrance to a rural cemetery, "El Descanso" ("descanso" means "rest" in Spanish, but the term "descanso" often refers to roadside memorials erected after someone dies along a road or highway):

A stunning photograph taken by Mary of the cemetery across the street from "El Descanso" during a sudden snow squall:

Ravens in a yard with the mountains beyond:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Entering the Land of Enchantment

After visiting Palo Duro Canyon on Friday, we made a brief stop in the urban sprawl of Amarillo, a town that came as a shocking antithesis to the open, rich beauty of the canyon. We had to stop at Target to pick up a few prescriptions and supplies, and everything that Keith brought out to the rig reeked of chemical fragrances. Mary can't even go into such places anymore due to the predilection of such stores for fragrances that make her feel ill, and Keith learned (yet again) that he also must avoid such exposures. It was a wake up call and a minor crisis, and all of the packaging, wrappers and bags were quickly disposed of in order to decrease our reactions to the chemicals permeating the products we had purchased.

Moving westward across the plains, we drove in an uncannily straight line towards the New Mexico border, careening down the highway, frequently surrounded by herds of eighteen-wheelers moving at top speed towards their destinations. Mary pointed out a few tumbleweeds stuck in barbed-wire fences next to the highway, and the vastness of the plains gave way to cliffs and snow-capped peaks in the very far distance.

We entered New Mexico unceremoniously, stopping at the Welcome Center where a large sign announced quite clearly that we had entered The Land of Enchantment.

Our next stop in New Mexico was the town of Tucumcari, with Mary singing an old Linda Ronstadt song which somehow included this improbable name in its lyrics: "I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari.....".

Tucumcari was at first glance a sad town. Near the interstate, of course, were the usual suspects: McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Sonic Burgers, all beckoning to the weary traveler with their promise of fast and easy food that's cheap, filling the belly and clogging the arteries in one fell swoop. As is our wont, we drove further into town in search of a place where locals might eat, and we were met with one boarded up shop after another, even on streets adjacent to Historic Route 66 and the Tucumcari Historical Museum.

We found the "La Cita" restaurant just near Route 66, and since it was not quite dinner time, we were the only customers in the large open room with naugahyde chairs, a drop ceiling in need of repair, and tired-looking slices of pie in one of those ubiquitous rotating glass displays. The room was filled with light hazy smoke due to a broken exhaust fan in the kitchen. The kind waitress was interested in Tina, who was in the passenger seat of the rig just outside the window from our table, yelping pitifully during most of our meal. She told us about all of the rescued dogs who live with her and sleep under her covers at night, and asked if we needed a bowl of water for Tina. The food---enchiladas with beans, rice and green salsa---was pedestrian TexMex, but it was a feast after not having eaten all day, hungry travelers that we were.

As the sun set, we managed to arrive just before dark to Santa Rosa Lake State Park, a park built by the Army Corps of Engineers. A quiet New Mexican night allowed us a night of deep rest, knowing that the next day would bring a long-awaited reunion with our beloved son and daughter-in-law.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Palo Duro Canyon

Today we spent half a day at Palo Duro Canyon near the town of Canyon, Texas. Mary lived in Canyon when she was ten years old, and she will hopefully share some thoughts and a few videos and photos from that walk down Memory Lane here on our blog soon.

Palo Duro Canyon is a wild and beautiful place, the second largest canyon in the United States, and is often called “The Grand Canyon of Texas”. It is approximately 75 miles long and 6 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. It was carved into the Texan earth by an ancient river many millennia ago, and the layers of rock and sediment visible in the canyon walls is impressive and breathtaking.

Here are a few photos, videos, and impressions from our hike: 

We had a wonderful drive through the canyon, and a great hiking experience with Tina, who simply came to life with all of the smells and tracks and scat that we found along the red clay hiking trails.

It was a long haul from Georgetown to Canyon---about 450 miles---but it was worth the effort, providing us with a peak hike experience despite the cold, cloudy weather that ended with a blue sunny sky as we exited the park and drove west towards New Mexico!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Miles and Miles of Texas

In our quest to reach Taos this coming weekend, we spent today making our way through hundreds of miles of Texan terrain, leaving behind the mild and sunny climate of central Texas (just when signs of spring have arrived) and barreling along the flat, straight highways into the heart of the Texas Panhandle where huge Longhorn steers grazed along the side of the road.

Small Texan towns are frequently graced with interesting and quirky names. Inspired by William Least Heat-Moon's predilection for interesting town names (he would base his travel itinerary on which towns had the most intriguing or funny names), here's a brief and entertaining list of towns spied along the way today:
  • Novice
  • Oplin
  • Comanche
  • Blanket
  • Oatmeal
  • Zephyr
  • Sweetwater  
  • Trickham
  • Rising Star
  • Early
  • Tye
  • Lawn
  • Happy (population 647)
Don't these just sound like they could be the names of horses? Mary bets there are Texan towns named after horses and horses named after Texan towns.

Texas is an idiosyncratic place, a country unto itself in many ways, and a state whose residents pride themselves in their history and individuality. In fact, it is the only state in the US that is also a republic unto itself and could legally secede from the union and be its own country if it chose to! (We know some of you probably wish they would!). There is so much to see, and so many small towns worthy of at least a brief walk along shady arcaded main streets with their false store fronts and interesting Western architecture. If we had the time (which we usually have plenty of), we're sure many colorful conversations could be had if we spent some lazy hours at a few local watering holes and barbecues (like the one pictured below where Keith took a surreptitious photo from his lap), but alas, that will have to wait for another time.

You see, we are on a mission to get to Taos as soon as we can, a mission which has motivated us to make a 360-degree turn and the longest drive in a single day of our trip yet---almost 500 miles! Phew! We actually made it beyond the halfway point to the little city of Canyon where Mary spent a very happy year of her childhood. We've already driven by the home on her old street (which looks just the same but even better), her old school Rex Reeves Elementary, and the pool and playground where she used to swim and play with her brothers and pals. It's nice to see that Canyon has retained its small town feel and that its downtown and infrastructure seem to be thriving. Canyon has one of the lowest crime rates in the state of Texas, not to mention the lowest taxes. Indeed, the general economy in Texas "es mejor" than most states we've traveled through, yet the Southwest still calls us, Mary's eleven generations of Texas roots notwithstanding.

This afternoon, stopping at a Home Depot in some nondescript town for supplies, we were standing outside the rig when a big black pickup truck pulled up, and the windows rolled down.

"Is that all you?" the young man in a baseball cap asked as he flicked the ashes of his Marlboro cigarette out the window, pointing at our rig. "That's quite a truck you got there." The woman in the passenger seat agreed, and the second young man in the back seat grinned and smoked in silence.

Keith strode over to their truck and leaned on the sideview mirror. "Yeah, it's our only home. We sold everything and hit the road. Now we're looking for a new place to call home."

The man in the truck leaned over towards the passenger side and said, "Well, the Texas hill country is one of the most beautiful places in America. We live near the lake about 20 miles from here. It's quiet, no one bothers you. You could live anywhere here and be happy." He took a drag on his Marlboro and his girlfriend nodded agreement to his assertion.

"Well thanks," Keith said. "My wife's parents are in Georgetown and her aunt and uncle are in Denton, so this is about halfway between them. But we're on our way to Taos to visit our son. We might end up in New Mexico, after all."

"Well, that's too bad, but good luck with your trip and all. That's a fine truck you have there." And with that, they drove away.

The rest of the long drive consisted of oil fields, oil refineries, long stretches of open country and low red cliffs, and the area of Sweetwater which claims to be the "Wind Energy Capital of the Country", where massive windmills dot the landscape like multi-armed titans. Meanwhile, the small oil wells (no photos, sorry!) dotting the vast open landscape resembled arch-backed dinosaurs hungrily pumping away at the earth in their eternal quest for crude.

Even though it's easy to feel judgmental of the people who speculate about, pump or invest in the development of crude oil, it's that very crude that powers our rig, cooks the food on our propane stove, and heats our rig to a toasty warmth on a cold night. Oh the irony of it all.

Slowing down to local speed limits as we entered various towns along our route, we saw signs for custom meat processing plants, an auction of "exotic animals", an archery and taxidermy specialist, a rodeo stadium, a gun shooting range, and any number of car lots packed with pickup trucks, diesel rigs, and farm machinery. Intriguing small town shops beckoned to us in almost every place we passed through, but the miles of open road ahead of us had a stronger magnetic pull than the storefronts, sadly enough. Still, the character of the charming towns left us wanting more, and there's no doubt we'll pass this way again some day.

At this writing, we are "boondocking" in the parking lot of the Canyon Holiday Inn Express, the night manager sympathetic with our need for a free and convenient place to park for the night. Mary entered the lobby, told him our story, and he said "I have no problem with that" when he learned that we would sleep in the parking lot and leave early in the morning to visit Mary's childhood home down the street.

At this late hour, the wind blows fiercely and rocks the rig, and the outside temperature is 47 degrees. With plenty of propane, we're safe and warm in our cozy mobile home, and the sounds of a distant train and the traffic on the street in front of the hotel are no obstacle to sleep (especially with ear plugs). After 470 miles of open Texas roads, we'll sleep as soundly as a rancher stuffed with pulled pork at the end of a harvest day.

Howdy from Canyon with love from Mary and Keith.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Next Stop: The Texas Panhandle

Today saw our return to good old Pflugerville, Texas for the final repairs to the rig which will allow us to continue our journey in safety. Two new tires, a new ball joint and a sorely needed alignment now have the rig driving more smoothly, the steering wheel firm and steady in the hand. Although these repairs set us back quite a few hundred dollars (no surprise there), we're grateful that our "wheel estate" is more solid than ever, and this gives us a certain feeling of security for the road ahead.

Since we had three hours to spend while the repairs were being done, we hopped on our bikes, took our lives in our hands, and biked along the I-35 service road to the nearest movie theater to take in the newest Jeff Bridges film, "Crazy Heart". The film, with music by T. Bone Burnett, was satisfying on many levels. Lovely cinematography of New Mexico and Arizona certainly whet our appetites for the next chapters of our journey, and a few tears were indeed shed by us both over this tale of redemption.

Pflugerville, movies and rig repairs aside, we are now plotting a course north into the Texas panhandle, where we will make a stop to visit the town of Canyon---one of Mary's childhood hometowns. We will then turn west with the goal of reaching Taos, New Mexico on Saturday in anticipation of a joyous reunion with our beloved son Rene and his wonderful wife Bevin. We have not seen them since they left for Taos in August following their wedding, and this is the longest we have ever been apart from our son in his 26 years of life. Although Taos is rather cold in February, we will winterize the rig, make lots of soup and tea, and warm ourselves with the company of two of our favorite people on this earth.

New Mexico is home to a number of intentional communities of great interest to us, and with friends in Taos, Las Vegas (New Mexico), Albequerque and Santa Fe, we are sure to be even further warmed by the familiarity and comfort of old friends.

Texas has been kind to us, and although the Lone Star State is now technically our legal domicile, we feel that New Mexico and Arizona may indeed be where we will discover our new home. These are exciting times for us, and as we leave Texas behind this week, we look towards the West with great optimism and excitement. Off into the sunset to the Wild West we go!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Babylon By Bus

This morning we left beautiful Lake Buchanan and Rainbow Hearth after a wonderful week that combined work, leisure, and the making of a new friend. It was simply a treat to work with Mariah and assist with the  running of Rainbow Hearth, and we leave a piece of our hearts behind at that special hilltop sanctuary where we are certain to return.

Diving back into Babylon, we made our way to Pflugerville, a semi-industrial and most un-picturesque suburb of Austin, which is the only place for miles in any direction where we could have a sorely needed wheel alignment on our rig. Noticing that the tires on our third axle were showing signs of wear and dry rot, we also elected to have those two tires replaced, bring to eight the number of new tires that the rig now enjoys. (For those interested in such things, we have four wheels on our drive axle, and two wheels on the front and rear axles.)

Walking around the working class neighborhood off of Interstate 35 behind the garage after dropping off the rig, we noted a community of modest homes---some more ramshackle than others---many of which sported chain-link fences behind which small feisty dogs yapped as we walked by with Tina. Interspersed among the homes were empty trash-strewn lots, several churches, car repair yards and other small businesses. Many of the homes, businesses---and even churches---were actually double-wide or single-wide trailers plunked on a small piece of scrubby land, some more cared for than others. It was an interesting mix, to say the least, and we have learned that many Americans of modest means call such trailers home, although some of this neighborhood were rather worse for wear.

Meandering down one nearby street, a Latino mechanic from the garage drove up beside us, telling us in broken English that the manager of the shop wanted to speak with us. After chatting with him in his native Spanish, we called the shop only to learn that a front ball joint would need to be replaced before the alignment could be done, a delay which would mean a return tomorrow for yet another round of escalating repairs. With a somewhat sinking feeling, we agreed for the ball joint to be ordered, and resigned ourselves that another day in Babylon would be needed.

These transitions from lovely spots of natural beauty back into the world of commerce and American ugliness---"Babylon"---can be difficult, and we often find ourselves wilting under the pressure and tumult of the world at large. Still, humor and levity do sometimes spring forth amidst the difficulties, such as a chuckle being had when we came upon these two vehicles along our walk, vehicles which Mary felt might be pictured right alongside our rig as jalopies worthy of our consideration:

The double-decker pictured above is actually a 1950s London diesel bus, and we imagined retrofitting it for our purposes. Just imagine, a two-story piece of "wheel estate"!

Mary also gave us a laugh by personally demonstrating that everything is bigger in Texas, even the cans of beer found on the side of the road.

So, after a dinner reunion with Mary's consistently kind and generous parents, we returned to our noisy campground off of I-35 for a night of sleep before returning to scenic Pflugerville for one more round of mechanical repairs. Luckily, Tina will have doggie daycare tomorrow with Mary's mom, allowing us to go to a movie while our rig is in the shop.

The return to Babylon is not always easy, and we go to sleep this evening with the dull roar of the interstate to lull us into dreamland, where we may very well hope to hear the gentle lapping of the water on the shores of Lake Buchanan. Meanwhile, the ceaseless traffic on I-35 flows on.......