Friday, March 27, 2015

Breathe in, Breathe Out

The burst of color here is so pretty--the shamrock green lawns, the red, pink, and white azaleas, the fragrant lilacs!  I just love to breathe in the wondrous scents of Spring and frolic in the flowers!  Lucky for me, I missed sitting on a fire ant hill!  The fire ants are EVERYWHERE, and we were warned these nasty buggers will cover every inch of your body inflicting bites and stings should you accidently step on their homes.   Believe me, the last thing I want is ants in my pants!
Frolicking in the Blue Bonnets, Texas's Official State Flower
We are all breathing a sigh of relief that the truck is finally repaired.  You may remember from my last post that the ABS work could not be completed on Monday—they ordered an incorrect part.  The correct part would be in on Tuesday.    Well, as sure as Swiss cheese has holes, the part didn’t come in on Tuesday.  You would think International would have called Daddy to let him know this, but Nooooo.  Dad initiated the call himself on Tuesday.    Thankfully, Dad’s phone call on Wednesday brought good news—the part was in, so he trekked back to Houston.  The Service Manager at International was reasonable.  He did not charge Daddy for the part OR labor associated with the ABS system.  Cost for the tie-rod and alignment:  $607.  Between the initial ABS problem in late February, the tires, wheel alignment and bent tie rod, Big Boomer consumed our entire Federal tax refund, plus some.  And I was looking for a slice of that money to buy myself some Cheese Doodles, Cheese Nips, and Cheese and Crackers!  So not fair!

We are having fun here at Rainbow’s End.  We are “regulars” at movie nights, recently attended the Livingston Swing Band performance, and even did a few more line dancing classes.  Dad now attends the Livingston Masonic Lodge meetings.  Mom is back to doing her 4 mile walks, enjoying the countryside and farm animals.  But the treks come with a few road hazards:  Unleashed Chihuahuas.  She’s had her share of dogs bark at her, follow her, and even jump on her as she has walked through the years, but NEVER has she encountered as mean and vicious a bunch as what Mom calls “Mexican rats with hair” (personally, I find her term insulting—likening a sophisticated rat like me to a Chihuahua)!  They come tearing down the street, growling, gritting their teeth, and circling around her.  Needless to say, she no longer walks down that street for fear she will get bit.

Got to go taste test some cookies Mom is baking for movie night!  Talk to you soon!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Anger Management 101

Can’t talk to you long—Daddy’s on his way back from the truck repairs, and he is one UNHAPPY CAMPER!

Dad left at 6:30 this morning to arrive at the tire dealer right as they opened at 8 a.m.   The tire guys installed and balanced the new tires for $1,045, completing the job at 10:00 a.m.

Dad goes immediately to International Truck, arriving before 10:30 a.m.  But they don't start working on Big Boomer until 12 noon.  They complete the installation of the tie-rod and complete the wheel alignment by 3:30 p.m.
Now it’s time to replace the worn ABS sensor, the problem that brought him back to International Truck in the first place.  The problem they said should have been noted and repaired with the other ABS issues 3 weeks ago.  The problem they said they would do free of charge.   Now, at 3:30, after sitting there since 10:30 a.m. mind you--now they tell Daddy he has to come back yet again--they ordered the wrong part!!!!  WHAT!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!  WHY DIDN'T YOU CHECK THE PART RIGHT AWAY!  As Comedian Ron White says, "You can't fix stupid."  Dad is so steamed, you can see the smoke cloud from miles away!
Mom’s got his dinner and a beer waiting—good food always has a soothing effect on him.  As for me, I’m going to be quiet as a church mouse until Dad settles down.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this seemingly never-ending tale!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:

Hurray!   Dad and Mom both passed their road tests this week!  They went out to celebrate on Thursday at the Blue Duck, a tavern/grill located in a store front in town.  We drove right by it several times and never even noticed it.  But it got decent reviews online, and Mom and Dad were more than satisfied with the portions, price and taste.  Mom’s pork chop dinner came with my favorite, mac and cheese.  Since she brought it home for me, I can tell you it was yummy to my big rat tummy!  Elbows baked with not one, not two, but THREE types of cheeses, nicely seasoned with parsley!  Lip-smacking good!
At last, we can settle in and unpack, hang our pictures, and turn the RV back into home!  We couldn’t do this previously because we had to take the rig out 3 times in the past 3 weeks:  once for inspection, once for Dad’s road test, and once for Mom’s road test (unfortunately, the DPS could not schedule their road tests for the same day).
After five days, the torrential rains have ceased and the sun is shining brightly!  Now I know how Noah felt when he finally was able to leave the Ark!  Everything looks so green, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, the squirrels are scurrying.  Spring has finally arrived!

The Bad: 

Would you believe the ABS system warning light in Big Boomer lit up just minutes before Mom’s road test?  Yes, the same ABS system that cost us $1,052 just 3 weeks ago.   You can’t make this stuff up!  To say Mom was upset is an understatement.  Having to do a road test is bad enough, but to have the dashboard warning signal lit at the same time is quite nerve-wracking!  Boy, did she have a few choice words!
International Truck in Houston, we have another problem!  “Bring it in first thing tomorrow”, they say.  Daddy treks back to Houston on Friday.  Diagnosis:  Worn ABS sensor ring.  Cost:  No charge since they should have seen it when they fixed the prior ABS problem 3 weeks ago.  Ya think?  Unfortunately, they need to order the part.  It won’t be in until Monday. 
Mom’s in Spring Cleaning Mode!  She has vacuumed, dusted, washed, scrubbed, and polished every nook and cranny of the RV!  She is even talking of sending me to the dry cleaners!  Get out of the way or you will be her next victim!
Sweet Cheeks is driving us all nuts!  She hears the birds outside chirping at dawn and starts talking to them!  She’s like an alarm clock!  If Sweet Cheeks starts singing, it is 6 a.m.

Sweet Cheeks

The Ugly:

International Truck in Houston finds an unrelated problem with Big Boomer:  The tie-rod is bent (maybe all that off-roading we did in the Arizona desert finally got to Big Boomer), which has worn down the front right tire.  So in addition to replacing the tie-rod, we now need 2 front tires.  Unfortunately, International Truck does not sell or install tires.  Daddy must get them elsewhere.  He locates a nearby tire dealer, who orders them for delivery on Monday.  So tomorrow, Daddy must go to the tire place, have new tires installed and balanced, go to International Truck, have the tie-rod replaced and an alignment done.  Somehow, I think Dad will end up paying dearly for that “free” ABS repair.  Stay tuned for the finale of this drama!
Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Texans At Last!

Yee-haw!  We are officially Texans!

After establishing our mail service, we spent the last week getting vehicle inspections, insurances, titles, and registrations.  We set up our bank accounts, received voter registration cards, and became members of the Livingston Municipal Library.  We updated our address with dozens of vendors, service providers, etc.   And we now have ACA-compliant health insurance!   We have accomplished our mission of becoming Texans, but we are exhausted!    In South Dakota, we paid our mail service to act as our agents, so they did a great deal of this leg work for us.  No can do in Texas.

A Pooped-Out PoPo

No matter what you may hear elsewhere, Texas insurance rates are higher than in South Dakota.  Comparing the same two motorcycles, driving records, and coverage cost us double in Texas than in South Dakota, using Progressive Insurance in both states!  The insurance agent explained that Texas still allows 30-day insurance policies, resulting in folks letting their insurance lapse, and therefore becoming uninsured motorists.  The uninsured motorist portion of our motorcycle bill was more than the entire motorcycle policy premium in South Dakota!  Can’t refute those facts!

Now Mom and Dad have the most important thing left to do:  get drivers’ licenses.  Because of the weight class of our tow vehicle and RV, they require a special Class A license in Texas, which means taking a written and road test!  Yuk!!!  What a pain in the buttocks!   We didn’t need any special licensing or testing in South Dakota!

When we phoned the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) over a month ago, they said the written test includes general knowledge per the regular Texas Drivers’ Handbook and knowledge derived from Chapter 14 of the Texas Commercial Drivers’ Handbook.  Mom and Dad started studying like diligent students, downloading both manuals as study guides and using flash cards and practice tests found on-line. 

My parents got to the DPS office in Livingston yesterday promptly at 8 a.m., the first in the door, ready to take the written test.  Well, the DPS had other ideas.  Their computer system was down.  Mom and Dad hung around, knowing the minute they left, the system would come back up.  Anyway, they can’t schedule the road test until the written test is completed!  Finally, 5 hours, 40 minutes and 17 seconds later, the system came back up and Mom and Dad took their tests.  I’m happy to say that they both passed their written exams!  But it turns out DPS gave us bad info when we phoned—the written test is based solely on Chapter 14 of the Commercial Drivers’ Handbook.

They are both scheduled for the road test later this month, and of course, Mom is a nervous wreck!  I’m going to say a little prayer that she passes. Maybe you can do the same?


Thanks for listening!  Talk to you soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

See the Rainbow

International Truck in Houston, we have a problem.  They say, "Come on in and wait your turn—we don’t set up appointments."  So Daddy spent 8 hours on Friday sitting in their lounge, eating fast food, and watching Steve Harvey, COPS, Wendy Williams and assorted other shows he would rather not be watching.  Diagnosis:  Disintegrated front wheel bearings.  Financial Damage:  $1,052.  Outcome:  “Big Boomer” is feeling better and we can safety travel together again. 

We spent the last few days checking out the Escapees Rainbow's End RV Park and the Livingston area.  The park concept is unique—it serves the needs for every stage of the RV lifestyle.  It has a section for transients just staying a few days; sections for those staying for longer periods of time; an area called CARE for folks whose health prevents them from traveling and who need assistance with tasks like dumping tanks, changing propane, laundry, and cooking meals; and deeded lots for those who have come off the road permanently.  They have a free lending library and free movie rental, so folks who don’t drive regularly don’t have to go far to get these items.  They have movie nights on Wednesdays and Fridays, showing fairly current movies like "Hunger Games Mocking J Part I", serving popcorn, candies, baked goods, and beverages—all free of charge!  And they have planned activities like card games, ice cream socials, line dancing, etc.  Most importantly, the people running these activities are all volunteers.  There is a real sense of community here, people helping people.  I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking of it (could be because as a stuffed rat, I am warm and fuzzy all the time!)

Livingston is the county seat of Polk County.  It has your essentials like two food stores, a Wal-mart and a Lowes, but if you are looking for a major shopping spree, keep on trucking!  You need to travel over an hour to either Lufkin or Houston.  We asked around for a good meat market/butcher shop, and were guided to the Phillips 66 Gas Station on Texas State Highway 146, just a few miles from the Escapees Park entrance.  Yes, located inside the station convenience store is a meat counter with some great beef and pork!  T-bones, NY Strip, triple thick chops, and if you want something special, just give them a few days’ notice!  I don’t have to tell you, Highway 146 Grocery and Feed gets:

Rambing RV Rat's Top Award - A 5-Cheese Rating
Livingston is also home to Fain Theatre.  A blast from the past, it is supposedly the oldest continuously operating movie theater in Texas.

We stopped to visit Heritage Park, where Locomotive 5 came to rest.  Built in 1912 and in use until 1952, it contributed to the expansion of the logging and timber industry in the area.

Locomotive 5 - Heritage Park, Livingston, Texas

The park also contains the restored cabin of Jonas Davis, one of the last Pakana Muskogee Native Americans to reside in Polk County.

Jonas Davis Cabin - Heritage Park, Livingston, Texas
That’s your nickel tour from Rambling RV Rat!  I need to take a break.  Talk to you soon!