Another Land-Shopping Let-Down

fieldYesterday I go the land bug again and decided to do a little shopping.  I have pretty much given up on my dream of moving to Colorado to retire early.  I still want to retire early.  I’m only two years away from my new deadline of 50. (Holy shit!)  I don’t want to live in San Antonio.  It’s too big and there are WAAAAAAYYYY to many people here.  I just want to live in a small town far from the influence of any big city.

There’s a small town about 20 miles east of Austin called Bastrop.  It is a kind of special place because it has pine trees.  Unlike the rest of Texas, (except for East Texas) it looks beautiful.  I looked on Zillow and found some plots of land nicely in my price range.  $2-10k.

I was feeling optimistic but not overly optimistic because land hunting will easily let you down.  I jumped in my deer-smashed Prius and hit the road.  It took about an hour and a half to get there.  I found myself in a nicely unimproved neighborhood with Hawaiian street names.  Bonus!   Finding my first pick was not easy though.  The neighborhood is composed of both old and new houses and some streets that show up on google maps are nothing more than a barely visible path through a field of weeds.  I drove up and down the road like a fool trying to figure out how to get to the place Zillow said was for sale.  I had to stop and consult Google Maps on my phone constantly because it kept telling me I had to go pas the end of the road.

Finally I decided to throw caution to the wind and headed off the road and into the field in my off-road Prius.  I plowed through a field of high weeds barely able to see where I was going.  Weed chunks and grasshoppers were all over my windshield.  I powered through a mud hole and luckily made it to the other side.  The street I was looking for was nothing more than a deeply water-gouged trench.  Not going that way for sure. I continued on until I got back to a real road.  So much for that property.

Already disappointed, I consulted Zillow to see what else was available.  I drove to various plots of land that were either on the side of a hill or in a ditch.  Completely unbuildable.  I found a few lots that had potential but some bastard carved up the whole neighborhood into tiny lots.  Most were empty now but they are so small that once they are occupied each house would nearly be touching the next.  Asshole!

Some lots were shaded by beautiful pine trees but most of the ones I saw were just scrub brush much like the rest of Texas.  I guess all the good stuff with road access is already taken.  See!  Too many people!!!!!  What did I tell you?

Disappointed and depressed, I gave up on my quest and stopped in a nearby Chinese buffet to eat my sadness away.  I really wanted to find something because this town had everything I require:

  1. Hardware stores
  2. Best Buy
  3. Chinese Food
  4. A community band
  5. An area naturist club
  6. Grocery Store
  7. Not too close to a big city.

I drove home wondering what the fuck I’m going to do.

Do I give up on my dream of having at least 1/2 acre of land so I can have a house surrounded by a privacy field of trees and brush so I can go naked all day?

Do I settle for a house right up at the street like all the other common people always feel like I don’t have what I want?

Do I give up completely and live out my pointless life in an overcrowded city with infinite traffic jams?

I have two years to figure this out if I’m going to meet my deadline.  Now that I found out that I have Heart Disease and possibly have less time that I thought it is even more important that I do something soon.  I wish I could find someone who will let me buy an acre in the corner of their ranch and let me be happy.

 

Best Birthday Present Ever – Chinese Massage

cmsgHappy Birthday to Me!

The best birthday present you ever get is the one you give to yourself.  Other people give you crap.

A Chinese massage has been on my to do list for years now but as a new experience, I was afraid.  I decided a few months ago that on my birthday, I would do it.  No doubts about it.

So today finally came and after a long day at work, I finally pulled into the Chinese Massage shop just up the street.  I’d passed by it many times recently but today was the day.  My heart was beating quickly with anxiety not knowing what to really expect.  I’ve read reviews but they’re all different.

The lobby was very dark and consisted of a counter, a large corner couch and multiple doors leading to small rooms along the wall.  I was greeted warmly by a young Chinese girl who asked, “Massage?”  “Yes, Please”, I said.  She asked how long in broken english but I’ve spent enough time in Chinese restaurants to get the feeling of what they are saying.  I asked for the 60 minute massage which was listed as $60.00 on the price board.  I handed her the $60 in cash and she lead me to one of the rooms.

There was a low massage table there with nice clean sheets and the hole where your face goes.  It was very dark.  She turned on a small lamp and a CD player with some nice relaxing music.  She showed me a bin where I should put my clothes and said to lie down on the table.  Heart still beating quickly.  I took $30.00 for a tip and placed it on the lamp table.  I took off all my clothes and laid myself face down on the table.  There was a towel to cover up with but I wanted to make sure that everything got massaged so I didn’t bother with it.

It was maybe 5-7 minutes before she came back which was fine because the music was calming. She apologized for taking so long. There were other customers so I understood.  Not a problem.

She started massaging my back and asked, “Strong?”.  I said, “Strong.”  She massaged a little harder.  It was not a major quality massage but a girl was touching me so I didn’t care.  It still felt wonderful.  She did a good job on my shoulders, back and down on my buttocks.  I was enjoying it very much.  She spent quite a bit of time on my back with a variety of massaging techniques.  Down on my buttocks, she occasionally tickled my crack region making me giggle.  She giggled too.

After a while she said to turn over.  She touched my penis and said, “OK?”   I said, “OK!”  She held up 4 fingers.  “40 dorrar.”  I smiled and said, “OK!”  I kind of expected a bit of a frontal chest massage first but that’s OK.  She got extra lotion and gave it a nice rub until it was done.  She was a little quick on that.  I would have preferred a little slower, longer technique but it was the first time anyone has ever touched my penis so anything was good.   She went and got a nice hot towel and cleaned me up then dried me off with a clean towel.

She massaged my arms and hands then my legs for a while.  I smiled at her generously and she smiled back.  I told her it was a very nice massage.  When she was done she said, “Finished.” and left the room while I started getting dressed.  Before I was done, she came back in and gave me a bottle of water.  I handed her the $40 plus $10 I found in my pocket.  $110 for a wonderful birthday massage = Totally worth it.  I said Thank You in my attempt at Chinese.  “Shea-Shea”  She was surprised that I tried and repeated it back plus a little more Chinese that I, of course, didn’t understand.  She told me to come back and I guarantee I will.  I drove home on Cloud 9 not even noticing the traffic around me.

I think I’ll treat myself every few months at least.  Maybe I’ll become a massage connoisseur and try out various shops.  I’m glad I finally made myself do it.  It was on my New Years Resolution list and my bucket list.  Check those off.   The first time you do something is always the toughest.  After that you ask yourself, “Why did I wait so long.”  Life is short enough so Do Stuff while you can.

 

RV Camping trip to Garner State Park 2016

streamIt has been a long time since I’d taken a day or two off of work so I browsed the internet for a place to spend a few days out in the wild. I hoped to go on a Saturday and Sunday so as not to waste too much precious vacation time at once but Fridays and Saturdays at any park are booked up through 2096. Fortunately the calendar indicates that the masses have to be back to work on Mondays so they leave the parks Sunday Afternoon. That was a pleasant surprise so I scheduled a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday reservation.

Saturday around noon, I brought the RV home from storage and gave it a good washing with the help of my neighbor’s bored son and daughter. They were excited to climb on the roof and help me wash the stroage dust. We ended up in an old-fashioned hose nozzle water fight and were thrououghly drenched by the time it was done.

Sunday morning I finished loading up my supplies and hit the road. It was a nice 80 mile ride through the mostly empty Texas Higway 90. It sprinkled a little. The weather report for the next few days is cloudy with a 20% chance of rain. I was OK with that. Camping is much nicer when you don’t have to run the air conditioner al the time. Plus you don’t get as sunburned.

As I turned onto the northbound road from Sabinal I noticed the large number of cars, trucks and RVs headed the other way. The masses evaculate! Yay! I arrived at 2:00 as expected. The trip used 3/4 of a tank of gas. I calculate that is about 8 MPG in the old RV. Pretty normal for a machine of that age. Good thing gas is cheap and I am rich.

I pulled in and had my pick of the spots. I got one that backs up to the river and has a nice shady Live Oak Tree with a picnic table and a firepit. I backed the rig into my spot, leveled it and hooked up the power and water. Done!

The area was virtually deserted except for a few RVs scattered here and there containing retired people who had nothing else to do. That will be me some day. I walked down to check out the river. It was just about a hundred feet down the path through the trees. The water was amazingly clear and clean. I walked along the bank for a while, sometimes climbing over the rocks. It was cloudy and the breeze was almost cold so I didn’t exactly want to jump into the water at the time. I found a spot where I could sit and dip my feet into the water. It was cold but nice after the long walk. I took a picture and texted it to my mom whom I promised I would notify when I arrived.

After a while I headed back to the RV and put the fajitas on the grill. There were also some spanish rice and charro beans to make a Mexican style meal complete. When in Texas, do as the Mexicans do. After eating I went for a bike rid around this part of the park then went back into the RV and watched a movie while looking out the window at the surounding nature. Now that’s what I call camping! It wasn’t really cool enough to do the campfire thing which worked out OK since a huge thunderstorm came through. The lightening and thunder were fantastic. At one point a thunderbolt was so loud that I thought it was the end of the world. As usual though, it was all bark and no bite. There was very little rain which suited me just fine. I looked out the window and saw the stars in the sky as I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning to a blue sky. So much for cloudy and rain. After a bit of brunch I drove the RV over to another section that was better to test my new inflatable kayak that I just bought for $99 over the internet. I pumped it up and paddled scerenely around the cypress shaded river as I looked down through the crystal clear water to see the fish swiming around. This is a very nice place to be a fish. A couple of girls and a guy came walking down the river. They also commented about how all the people leave on Sunday afternoon. They were there for the big thunderstorm last night too.

After sufficently testing my kayak, I deflated it and packed it up into my RV and went back to my assigned spot. It was hot and sunny so I put on my tiny swim shorts and applied sunscreen for a walk down the river. Now that the sun was shining, walking in the river was very nice. I waded through variable depths until I found a spot near the center of the river that was shielded by reeds from both banks. It was an area with a strong current cascading over rocks. As a nudist I couldn’t help but get naked. Going naked in a state park is illegal for some reason but if nobody sees you then technically no laws are broken. If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there to see it, does it make a sound? I would think that a state park would be a great place for everyone to get naked and enjoy nature. In a better world people would not wear clothes.

I played around in the cascading stream appreciating the cold water and the hot sun on my naked body. You don’t get to do this very often. There was a rock that was bathed in water yet was just below the surface so I could lay on it and drink in the sun. Vitamin D from the sun is very good for you. I enjoyed the momend for at least 20 minutes then sat up against the rock facing upstream. It was difficult because the rushing water was very powerful. It flapped my dick around until it became as hard as the rock I was bracing myself against. I sat up on the rock and stroked myself gently in the sun until I came all over my stomach. If only someone else was there to enjoy it with me.

I reluctantly put on my little swimsuit and headed back down the river. I could feel that I was starting to get sunburned so it was time to get out of it. The water was so clear that I had to swim in a few of the deep blue holes along the way. I wish I had my snorkel gear with me. Not to self. Next time bring snorkel gear. I passed one older couple sitting in the river. We greeted each other in passing. I stumbled down the rushing river at akle depth until I found my pathway leading back to the RV.

It was dinner time so I grilled up a nice T-bone steak, baked potato and jalapeno ranch-style beans. Damn good! It was very hot so I had to turn on the Air Conditioner and take a nap. I watched an episode of the New Screensavers that I downloaded before I left. Always a big fan of technology. Still to tired to do anything else, I watched another movie and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning to a cloudy sky. Good! Hot bad! It was going-home day. Booo. I was just getting into the groove of relaxing properly. They really should give us WAY more time off. In some European countries they get a month or so off each year. Kind of like teachers do here but for everyone. In a better world we would not be forced to work the majority of our lives away. Who voted for that?

I had planned to do a little fishing but the fish I saw from my kayak were not really worth the trouble. It has been 30 years since I’ve been fishing. When my father died when I was 9 I pretty much had no reason to fish again. In Texas state parks, you don’t need a fishing license. Hey. They got something right! Still, I’ll save it for another time. I’m ready to pack things up and head home. I still need to clean the oak pollen things out of my swimming pool and do a few things around the house before I head back to the daily grind. So long nature. Hello Mundania.

Camping alone at Medina Lake 2015

I camp alone.
Yeah with nobody else.
You know when I camp alone,
I prefer to be by myself.

I had a lot of vacation that needed to be used before the end of the year so I loaded up my 1982 Holiday Rambler RV and took the short drive to Medina Lake. I totally miscalculated and filled the 20 gallon gas tank but it only took a quarter of a tank to get there. I guess I’ll have to go somewhere else soon to use it up before it goes bad.

Day One.

Img_0352I arrived around 11:00. It was nice to see water in the lake again. After so many years of drought the water looks weird. The last time I was here I rode my bicycle on the bottom of the lake. After setting up camp I walked along the shore trying to find the exact spots where I took pictures when the lake was empty in order to make a before/after comparison. I think I found at least a couple.

Img_0360It took me a while to get my DirecTV dish aligned correctly. Unlike my last outing, this time it is more of a Glamping trip. I’m not going to worry about camping “correctly”. This time I’m here to relax and do whatever the hell I want. That includes watching satellite TV and chilling on the couch.

The weather was cool and the sun shrouded by high clouds. Better than the usual Hell Hot for sure. I relaxed in my hammock and read while enjoying the view. After a while I decided to ride my bike and see if the hot tub looked good. It was a long ride but it looked good. I wanted to come back later when it was dark and enjoy it.

Img_0362When I got back to camp, I started up the charcoal and grilled myself a burger and toasted up some tots. I watched a little TV then rode my bike back up to the hot tub. I wired my bike up with a nice big headlight and running lights connected to a 7.5 AH battery strapped to the cargo carrier behind the seat. It was fun to use. Without it I would not have been able to even see where I was going. Night is dark when you are not in the city.

As I rode up to the pool area, I heard voices. There were a couple of older ladies in the hot tub. I joined them and we made small talk for a while. Good practice for me. Eventually they had enough and were ready to go. Of course I took the opportunity to get naked and enjoyed the hot water and the cool evening air in style before riding back to my RV.

I watched some telly and went to sleep. I expected it to be cooler than it was so I was kind of warm under the covers most of the night.

Day Two:

I woke up and watched some TV then took a shower and cleaned up the RV a bit. Not ready to cook a big meal for lunch I microwaved up some Tuna Noodle Casserole that I made the other day and brought along. That hit the spot for now. Steak for dinner.

I heard a gnawing sound behind the refrigerator so I went out and opened up the access hatch to find a squirrel looking back at me. He must have crawled in the open refrigerator vent on the roof and was hanging out near the heat source. There was no way I can get him out without pulling the fridge out so I am just hinging the access door open with a piece of wood so he can get out when he’s ready. As long as he doesn’t chew anything he can stay for a while. Note to self: Put some screen over the vent opening.

I watched more TV (because that is what I like to do best.) then rode my bike around the park to look at the other RVs. All of them newer and fancier than mine but I still like mine best. It has character and everything I need plus it gives me something to work on. If I had bought an expensive new rig I would have wasted money and have been bored.

There are many permanently parked RVs and quite a few that look like they are currently lived in but there’s not a soul in sight. As I rode around I saw one guy walking and one other guy building something with a saw. The place is virtually deserted in November. That’s partially why I chose this time. There are no inhabited RVs near me in sight. If it was warmer I could run around naked. It was 84 the other day. That would have been great. Now it’s 64 and overcast. Too cool for nakedidity and swimming. I’ll have to come back during the summer next year for a weekend getaway and see what it is like with people all about. For now, quiet and alone is preferred. All I can hear right now is the humming of the hard drive in my DVR. Note to self: Get a SSD.

Img_0372At 4:30 I grilled my steak and boudin sausage included a small baked potato and some jalapeno ranch style beans for a manly dinner. I watched the news and now that it was dark I went out and had a small campfire while listening to Midnight in the Desert where the guest was Neil Degrasse Tyson. It was very dark. All I could hear were the crickets, frogs and deer running around just beyond the threshold of night.

Img_0377After a couple of hours of that I went back in, took a hot shower then watched Terminator Genesis then went to sleep.

Day Three:

I woke up earlier than I had planned but what the hell. It was cool and overcast. I watched more TV. Made some waffles. Watched more TV. Lying on the couch with nothing I have to do is awesome.

I read a while. Watched another episode of The New Screensavers then Heated up a frozen pizza in the oven. This is the first time I’ve used the oven. Mostly because I haven’t needed it and also because heat is bad most of the time in Texas. It’s a cool day so the heat actually felt good. So was the pizza.

Being a Saturday, a few people showed up in both tents and RVs. I watched a few kids ride their bikes and longed for the old days when I was young and had family and friends. There were a few boats speeding by on the lake but not a lot of traffic there. Seems a bit cold for going fast.

A little rain fell now and then but not enough to get the ground permanently wet. It’s not really pleasant outside because of the overcast and lack of sun. If it was sunny, it would be awesome! I expect to spend the day on the couch with my book, tv and nappage. Sounds fine to me.

Yeah. I spent the whole day on the couch. Still, the view out the window was much nicer than being at home.

Img_0379It’s after dark. I was reading my book and enjoying the silence when I heard thunder. I thought I would go out and bring in anything that shouldn’t get wet. While I was doing that, a face appeared in the darkness beyond the glow of my single string of led christmas lights strung across the closed awning. It was a young deer. The deer here are wild and will run away if you get too close to them. This one was either young and dumb or smart enough to recognize a good person when he sees one. He came right up to me. I told him to wait a second and went inside for a few slices of bread. I came back out and sat on the steps while he ate the bread right out of my hand. I was able to pet him a bit. That was fun. I see deer all the time but never touched one. I told him he would get fat if he kept doing this.

Reading again. . Great. I hear the squirrel stirring under the refrigerator. I thought he was gone. I propped open the exterior access door again. He was there all last night and all today. I think he has a plan to stow away and go to San Antonio with me. I tried to talk some sense into him. Going to San Antonio is crazy. This place is a far better environment to squirrel around in. The city squirrels would be jealous. Still he’s not budging. I guess if he is still there tomorrow I’m going to have to pull the whole refrigerator out if not tonight. I’ll sleep better if I do it now. That means I would have to disconnect the propane line and remove a bunch of wires and screws. Not feeling like that energetic right now. Get out! Don’t make me come in there!

Day Four:

Img_0359Another overcast, dreary day. I had planned to stay one more day and leave on Monday but I think I’m done. If it was sunny and beautiful yet cool I would totally stay but I think I can better use the last few days of my vacation at home taking care of some things that can’t be done during a work week. I feel adequately vacated. Time to pack up and take the long 30 minute journey home.

I’m going to have to do this a little more often. So many places to camp within 100 miles of home that it can easily be done on a regular weekend. The only problem there is that is when all the regular people go camping. At least it is less crowded in the winter.

Trip Report – Bahams Cruise

Day one: Galveston

pwshWe left San Antonio early at 6:30am.  It was still dark.  I has been a long time since I’ve seen 6:30 in the morning.  The drive to Houston was quite quick compared to the last time I made this trip.  I think Houston may have gotten closer to San Antonio.  Maybe the world really is shrinking.  After a quick stop for a snack in Houston we continued toward Galveston to the port.  The traffic was pretty dense near the ship with all the people looking for a place to park and trying to figure out what they were supposed to do.  The line waiting to board was quite long and snaked back and forth forever but the procedure was fairly efficient.  It didn’t really take all that long to go through it.

Once we got on the ship and found our room the rest was easier.  My little group was easily confused about directions not realizing which way was fore and aft.   I didn’t have too much trouble keeping my bearings.  It took a while for our luggage to make it’s way to our room.  Soon the ship was underway.

While my roommates tried out the casino I took a private leisurely tour of the ship to see what was what.  Considering the size of the ship, it really isn’t very big.  The majority of the decks are taken up with tiny staterooms leaving the center area for the common areas that include overpriced shops full of completely unnecessary doodads, jewelry, perfume and liquor.  None of that interests me.  Avoided.

The ship’s interior overall is brightly colored, flashy and chromey.  It kind of reminds me of one of those hall of mirrors.  You can’t really tell what you are looking at because of all the reflections and changing colors.  Not exactly a classy ride but probably breathtaking for the common people.  I would have preferred something nice like the fancy woodworking on the Titanic or the Queen Mary.  Times have changed.  Get used to it.  Seems I heard that they were making a replica of the Titanic.  Wouldn’t that be sweet as long as it stays on top of the water.

Around 7:30 was Cruise Director Skip’s introductory show in the auditorium.  There was dancing, flashing lights and smoke.   Meh.  They chose eight random people from the audience to come up on the stage to make fun of.  I thought it was interesting to note that out of the eight people, all of them were there with a spouse or significant other.  I figure a random selection of eight people from the audience represents the ship’s population pretty well.  That means that 100% of the people on this ship, besides me, are attached.  The chances of meeting a single white girl here is minimum.  I guess I won’t spend much time on that.  I hadn’t planned to anyway.  Gave up on that decades ago.

Right after the show was our assigned dinner time.  The food was fairly good but to really special.  After a Caesar salad, chicken breast with veggies, baked potato and a desert of some kind of cake with ice cream I was plenty full.

We went back to the room where my roommates fell asleep.  They had planned to go back to the casino later so I went out on the deck near the rear of the ship and sat in a padded chair and enjoyed the fresh air, wind and the night sky.  I was hoping to be able to see a lot of stars but the ship’s lighting and the moon prevented seeing much but the brightest stars.  It was a nice relaxing place to chill while watching the oil platforms drift by and the occasional tanker and cruise ship going the other way.

It it wasn’t for the platforms and ships you would not even know where the horizon was.  Dark on top, dark on the bottom.  It must be weird to be driving a big ship into the nothingness.  Good thing they have instruments to sail by.

After an hour or something I came back to the room where my roommates were still sleeping.  I took a shower, brushed my teeth and went to bed.  I was smart to bring my earplugs because my roommates do not sleep quietly.  I slept quite well.

 

Day 2: At Sea

Img_0810I woke up around 8:00.  They were still asleep.  I got up, shaved and went up one deck to the breakfast buffet.  Not bad.  Not special.  I sat and watched the ocean go by.  It was a cloudy morning and we had moved further out in to the gulf overnight so all the oil rigs had vanished.  There was nothing to see except ocean.

It’s amazing to think about how much water surrounds us out here yet places like Texas and California are in such a drought.  We seriously need to get some major desalinization going.  Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

I came back to my room around 10:00.  The roommates were finally awake and scurrying about getting dressed.  It was another day at sea so we were free do do whatever we  wanted aboard the ship.  They went to the casino to play in a Texas Holdem tournament.

They did quite well too.  One came in at second place.  I am not into gambling and the cigarette smoke in the casino area made it difficult to breathe.  I’m surprised they allow it in today’s world.

Instead, I went to the rear of the ship and sat in a deck chair to relax and read a book.   The sky was pretty heavily overcast so the risk of sunburn was greatly diminished.  The air was warm and fresh.  I read half the book in one sitting.  I’ve never done that before.  It usually takes me months to get through a book.

As I watched the people mill about I noticed that none of them looked like anyone I would want to talk to.  None of them noticed me either so it’s just like being home.  There are 2400 people aboard this ship but I am the only one here.

I appreciated the fact that my mind was in a wonderful vacation fog.  No thoughts about daily life.  No thoughts about my future.  Briefly my thoughts brought up something at home but it immediately felt foreign and weird.  Obviously getting away really does work.
After a few hours I returned to my room to see what was up.  We looked through the available shore excursions to make plans for the upcoming stop in Key West.   I had signed up earlier for a Catamaran snorkeling trip at our third stop.  I didn’t know what or even if they were going to go on any of the excursions.  After they read the options they seem to be decided on a segway tour.  Meh.  I guess I might go along.  They are totally not interested in any of the fun stuff like snorkeling, diving or even spending time on a beautiful beach.  What kind of crap is that?  I guess I am on my own to have a good time for the most part.  In Texas, our beaches are brown and the water is brown.  I would think the opportunity to swim in a clear blue ocean with nice white sand beaches would be a YOLO level event for sure.  I never cease to be amazed to see what other people think is fun or not fun.  I don’t think they even brought bathing suits. Mind blown: Boooooommm!

It was soon dinner time.  Tonight is fancy dress night at the main restaurant.  I don’t do fancy dress so I bid them bon-voyage and went to the anytime buffet just a flight above our room.  I had prime rib, spaghetti carbonara, a nice salad and a great key lime cake.  I don’t miss fancy dining in the least. Meh.  I’m not getting dressed up on a cruise!  I’m on vacation.  Shorts and flip flops yes.  I intentionally did NOT bring a suit.

A nice thing about this cruise is that you can grab something to eat anytime for free.  You have to buy soft drinks but tea, coffee, lemonade, water are all free.  (Well, you paid for it in the price of the cruise but you don’t have to pay additionally.)  There are also some fancier restaurants where you can buy a nice overprice meal if you like.  There’s plenty of alcohol if you are an alcoholic and want to waste money on that.  I’ll never understand that.  Boooom!

After dinner we went to the show at the auditorium.  It was a 70s music review.  OK.
I’m having a little internet withdrawal problem.  They have WiFi here but it is super expensive and extremely slow.  Not worth the trouble.  It is strange not being linked with my external brain.  I guess you get used to it over time.

 

Day 3:  Key West

KWestWe arrived in Key West about 9:00 am.  We got up early to go see if we could schedule a shore excursion.  There were a few openings left in the Kayaking Nature Tour that we wanted to take.  There was a long line waiting to get off the ship but right on the dock we found our guide waiting with a sign.  After a short wait we boarded a van for a ride across the island.  The driver gave us the nickle tour as we passed by local landmarks.

 

 

IMG_0825The kayack tour was fun.  It was rather hot and humid but not much different than San Antonio so I was pretty much used to it.  Our guides stopped us at certain areas where they found things like jellyfish, starfish, sea cucumber, sponges, anemones and stuff.   It was nice to be on water that I could see through.  The brown water in Texas is so lame.
After the tour we came back to town in the van.  We walked over to the Conch Republic Seafood restaurant.  The food was expensive but pretty good.  With food, there comes a point where it doesn’t really get better to the degree of overpricedness.  I guess $27 for a stuffed shrimp plate isn’t totally outrageous but I think it would be more realistically priced at $17.00.  Well, what do you expect in a tourist town.

Across the street was a key lime pie place where we got a key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate.  Interesting.  $5.00

There were still many hours to kill before the ship left so we walked down the street looking at tourist shops full of beads and baubles.  Not interesting.  Pass.
Back aboard the ship.  So tired and grungy.  First thing: take a shower.  I headed up to the deck to get a signal to call my mom to let her know things were going well.  The ship was just starting to back out of the dock.  Dolphins played in the prop wash.  I came back to the room where the roommates were lying in bed.  They missed the departure and didn’t care.  Boooommm!

We went to the dining room and sat next to a very talky lady.  It was her daughter’s birthday.  We sang Happy Birthday and ate cake and talked forever.  She was also from San Antonio.  It seems most of the people on this cruise are from Texas.  I guess that would make since because the cruise leaves from Galveston.

 

Day 4:  Freeport, Bahamas

Imgp0642I got up at 7:15-ish, got dressed and went up alone for a quick breakfast at the buffet.  I stood on my favorite aft deck and watched the ship dock in Freeport.  I thought driving my RV was cumbersome.  It must be quite a task to turn the ship around inside the port then sidle up to the dock.  They did an amazing job.  If you were in bed like my roommates, you would never have known we arrived.
Imgp0650I changed to my bathing suit and packed my supplies for a Bicycle Tour of the island.  We got in a van and drove a few miles to a place where we met our guide and picked up our bikes.  They were old and run down but the island is pretty much all flat so a lot of breaking and shifting was not necessary.  It was a 12.5 mile ride and we stopped every mile or so to rest under a tree and learn some history from our guide.  He was very knowledgeable having lived in the Bahamas all his life.  Near the end I was about to die.  The temperature was in the 80s and the humidity was super high.  Much like San Antonio.  I don’t ride bikes in the summer in San Antonio.  Nobody in their right mind does.  Still, it was a tour so I braved it.  Fortunately, as I lagged behind, we reached our final stop.  There were four of us.  An older couple, myself and a girl perhaps close to my age and single.

Imgp0656It was a nature preserve kind of thing with shops and a place to eat.  A simple meal was included in our deal and I had a Tuna sandwich and Cheetos.  As we ate, a group of ducks begged at the tables and were always rewarded.  One poor duck had a misshapen bill and got my sorrow.  He had a hard time eating and often got his meal stolen by one of the other ducks.  Still, I was able to get him a few bites.
Our group walked around the shaded walkway enjoying the plants and animals.  The shops were pretty much like any other shop on any other island.  Full of knick-knacks that I had no interest in.  I feel bad about not buying anything from these shopkeepers but I really don’t want any of that.  Seriously!

Imgp0653We got into our van and were dropped off at a beach with a bar.  There were a lot of other groups there.  The segway people and the jeep people were all there.  I would much have preferred maybe a scooter tour.  Manual bicycling labor was rough even on flat roads.
The beach was nice.  White sand and blue clean water!  We were there for about an hour to enjoy the beach.  At least I got a beach fix on this trip.  Our van was having engine trouble.  It would start but wouldn’t stay running if the driver released the accelerator.  It was an old van so it was probably a carburetor clog.  He got us back by restarting every time it stopped, gunning the engine and shifting to drive.  I hope he made it to the mechanic.

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When I finally got back to the ship I was desperate for a shower and clean clothes.  The girl and I walked up the gangway to our ship and used our cards to get in.  She was suddenly gone without saying goodbye.  I was like.  OK…….

 

Day 5: Nassau, Bahamas

We got up a little later.  My scheduled catamaran and snorkeling trip didn’t leave until 10:30 so we had breakfast together in the dining room.  We barely squeaked in.  For some reason it closes at 9:00.  I had some pancakes, bacon and fruit.  Good enough.
Img_0810After lunch I got ready and headed out by myself to the waiting area for the excursion.  After 10:30 we all walked over to the catamaran which was docked right near the ship.  It was a rather large boat which was a good thing because it was a large group.  I would guess at least 40 people.  The boat headed out for a 45 minute ride to the reef.  I wasn’t really very far.  You could see the top of our ship in the distance but we were heading into the wind so it took much longer.  If you don’t like to get wet, don’t sit in the front on the mesh.  It is a splash zone for sure.
Img_0783Once we got out into the ocean it was rather choppy.  It was a bumpy ride but nobody got seasick and blew chunks or anything.  We were only a few hundred yards away from land anyway.  I usually have no problem with near-shore boat rides.  It’s when you’re out in the deep ocean bobbing up and down with no sight of land where things get uncomfortable.
We arrived at our reef.  Another boat was there already.  We had 60 minutes to snorkel the reef which went pretty quickly but was long enough.  The reef was very nice.  There were lots of different corals.  Brain coral, Finger coral, Fan Coral.  I even saw Christmas Tree anemones.  There were plenty of tropical colored fish too.  Large and small.  I had a great time.
Most of the other passengers were noobs.  There were a few seasoned snorkelers who, like me, brought their own gear.  The noobs bobbled around in the water making it a little difficult to get around.  I was able to dive down to get closer looks at the reef.  I wished I had a waterproof camera to take some nice photos.
Img_0791After everyone boarded we raised anchor and headed back.  They offered complimentary rum or punch.  It didn’t take long to come back as we were headed with the wind.  They even opened the front sail.  Cool.  It was a nice trip.  Totally worth $56.00.
After we docked we all got off.  I gave them a $10.00 tip and headed back toward the ship.  It was about 2:00 and I really wanted to partake of some local cuisine but I didn’t see anything except bars and doodad shops.  I was salty, sticky and wanted a shower so I went back to the ship.  We depart at 4:30 today so I didn’t feel there was time to leave the ship again and go searching for a nearby restaurant.  I kind of wish we had two days in each port.  I guess it’s not really necessary.  So far what I’ve seen of island food is not really anything especially different from regular food.  Maybe it is just because I’m in the tourist areas.  If I had more time I would like to have eaten at a local authentic place off the beaten path.  Maybe in my next lifetime.  At least on my bicycle trip in Freeport we ate a few fruits right off the trees.  That was cool.
I got back to my room, took a shower and went up to a little buffet called Tandoor.  Indian food.  I had been wanting to try it but they close after lunch for the day and I kept missing it.  It was pretty good.  Not special.  I don’t know what it would take to impress me foodwise anymore.  At least it was different.  So far nothing I have eaten on this trip impressed me.  Maybe I don’t know how to be impressed anymore.
I really didn’t see anything in Nassau.  My roommates went to see the Atlantis Resort which is supposed to be fancy but I just went snorkeling.  I probably missed a lot not seeing more of the island but as usual, you mostly just see the tourist traps.  You can see that anywhere.  Snorkeling on a reef is not something you can do in your backyard unless you are really lucky.
Not having anything else to do, I grabbed my book and glasses and locked myself out of the room.  Ooops.  Left my key card.  Oh Well.  Nothing to do here.  I went on up to my favorite deck and read for a couple of hours.  I love being outside.  I love feeling the wind.  These are two things I can seldom do at home.  I read and watched the fat people swim until my roommates got back from their island tour.  We had a snack and went back to the room.  I watched some news on TV while they slept.  They sure sleep a lot, huh?
We eventually went to the dining room.  Another meal.  I’m so stuffed.  I’ll bet I will have gained 10 lbs by the end of this.  Passed out in bed.

 

Day 6:  At Sea
Having nothing important to do, we got up late and had brunch.  We often share a table with other people during breakfast and brunch.  I sat next to a beautiful Ukrainian girl who was on the cruise with her mother.  She was way out of my league.  I couldn’t help dreaming having her as my girlfriend or wife.  Yeah. Right.
We came back to the room where they slept more.  I went out on the deck to read.  It was sunny and hot with less breeze than you would expect on a ship going 37Km/hr. (Whatever that is in real measurements.)  By the time I came back down they had gone off to a digital scavenger hunt.  I was going to go but forgot what time it was to start.  Whatever.  No big loss.
We then wandered about a bit and did some stuff I can’t recall because I didn’t write it down right away.  Eventually it was time for dinner so we hit the buffet at 6:00.  They were going to the elegant dining experience tonight but I wasn’t so I had a large meal and they just had a light one.
Our next appointment was a show in the theater called “Win!”  It was pretty good. Kind of a mishmash of game-shows and stuff.  It was sufficiently entertaining.  Afterwards we went back to the room so they could engage their elegance for dinner.  I just took a shower, watched a movie on my laptop and waited for them to return.
We then went to another show then came back to sleep.  I was tired from not doing anything.  I wonder how that works?   There was an outdoor movie in the central pool area on a large, bright, LED screen.  Super compressed video.  We watched  “The Faults in our Stars.” about a girl and her friends with cancer.  Good.
Sleep.

 

Day 7: At Sea

Img_0806Got up around 9:00 and lounged in the room watching a Bourne movie that runs infinitely.   Lunch was at the Cuchina del Capitan or Captain’s Kitchen I belive.  What am I?  Italian?   They have a free  pasta lunch that was not bad.  Select your pasta, your sauce and extras.  Not really a big meal but that was OK because they had a Chocolate Extravaganza with lots of chocolate deserts.  Nice.
We stopped at the shopping area where I bought a souvenir t-shirt for $16.95.  You could get two for $20 but I didn’t want two.  It was hard enough finding one that I would want.  They of course gave me a hard time about it.
Img_0809We went to the top deck where they have a obstacle course up on poles.  It was scary fun.  I bought a coke for $2.80.  Good thing  I don’t drink a lot of soda or alcohol.  I’ll bet many of the ship’s majority of alcoholics spent more buying drinks than they did on the cruise itself.

 
Img_0813We went to the auditorium to play bingo.  It was fun.  $25 for three cards.  We got close but no wins.  Bummer.
We stopped back at the room to pre-pack our luggage for departure tomorrow.  I pretty much lived out of my suitcase so packing was simple.
Dinner at the Dining Room at 7:00.  A movie at the pool theater. Maleficent.
Sleep.

 

 

Day 8: Galveston

We woke up back in Galveston.  We had left our luggage outside our doors the night before to be picked up in the terminal.  Good thing because a million people lugging 3 million bags downstairs would really have sucked.  They had an orderly procedure for leaving the ship that took a long time but was relatively painless.  We were almost last of course.

My roommates are Vietnamese and wanted to stop in Chinatown in Houston so we had a Vietnamese sandwich (Very good) and some phở. (Extremely good.  I’ve had it a number of times before.  It’s a big bowl of tasty soup.)  We picked up some Asian groceries and headed home.  The drive seemed to take forever but eventual we got back.
Hallelujah.  A cruise is a nice thing but being back home is nicer.  I enjoyed it overall but don’t think I would do it again for a while unless I can find more exciting roommates or go alone to a more exciting place.  Still.  I recommend going on a cruise at least once in your life.  It’s a different experience.

Quick Trip Report – Palmetto State Park

pmstI just got back from a quick RV outing to Palmetto State Park near Gonzales, Texas.  During my career-break, my sister is letting me park my RV at her house near Seguin.  I wanted to take her and my mom out for a little outing.

It is a little late in the season to be outside in Texas.  Mid-June is not the time to be leaving the house because the weather is hot, Hot, HOT and more HOT!  Fortunately having an RV with air conditioning makes it at least bearable if you stay inside during the most blazing part of the day.

We only spent one night at the park but that was enough.  We got there on the first day about noon.  After docking the motor home we made a quick lunch and attempted to sit outside.  Fortunately the park is covered with nice tall trees so avoiding direct exposure to the atomic furnace was easy.  Still, the humidity was so high that it was difficult to breathe but we managed to enjoy the outdoors for a while.

By 2:00 there was just no way.  We went inside and watched a movie that I had brought along.  As evening approached we attempted to walk one of the trails along the river.  We walked slowly and my 84 year old mother managed quite well.  It was only a 1 1/4 mile trail but after only a short while we were dripping with sweat.  The short trail seemed to go on forever.  It was a nice trail and we enjoyed the trees, plants and spiders along the way.  Finally we made it back to the RV and jumped inside to evaporate under the nice, cool A/C.

Still to hot to be outside, we watched another movie until darkness fell.  We went outside again to see what it was like.  It was dark and the lightening bugs blinked over our heads.  You don’t see them much anymore.  The moon beamed through the tree canopy and a million crickets chirped, synchronized in a pulsing roar.  The mosquitoes took advantage of us so we didn’t stay out very long.

We slept pretty well after our long journey.  Morning came and after some breakfast my mom and I walked over to the springs and lake to see what they looked like.  Pretty nice area.  A number of people were camping in tents.  I don’t know how they could stand it without air conditioning.  That must really suck.

By the time we got back, even in the cooler morning air, we were covered with sweat.  In high humidity the sweat doesn’t evaporate.  You just get wetter and wetter and hotter and hotter.

It wasn’t too bad sitting outside as long as you aren’t moving.  After lunch we packed up and headed back.

Overall it was a good trip.  I can imagine it would be really awesome in cooler weather.  I plan on going back one day…. in the winter.

 

Trip Report – Canyon Lake

rvatlkeHaving become unamused with work I decided I would take advantage of some really nice weather and GTFO.

I needed to make use of my new old RV before the weather gets too blazingly hot to even think about going outside.  I took Wednesday and Thursday off and packed up the rig and headed out Wednesday morning around 9:30 to avoid the standard running of the masses.

I’m starting to get a better feel for this kind of thing and did a good job packing what I needed.  I only forgot a few things but managed just fine.

The secret camping ground I picked was only 45 miles away.  About an hour drive.  Strange how close this lake is yet I have spent so little time there.  It always seemed much farther away for some reason.  Unlike Medina Lake, which is virtually empty, Canyon lake was still full since it is part of a rather largish river.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen a body of water larger than my swimming pool.  It was an easy drive and before I knew it I was backing into my reserved spot right next to the lake.  It was possibly the 2nd best spot available.  The best spot was right next to mine and had a nice shady oak tree to lounge under.  Unfortunately it was taken up by a Bus style motorhome.  Boy that baby was shiny and beautiful.  I wasn’t too jealous though.  I wouldn’t want something that big or fancy.  I like my little 1982 Holiday Rambler Imperial just fine.

After setting up and plugging in, I assembled my hammock under the moving shade of the picnic table shelter and read for a few hours.  The breeze was almost cold but enjoyable against my skin.  The sky was a nice blue without a cloud in sight.  Whenever I looked up from my book, I enjoyed the view of the lake.  Certainly better than spending the day in my dark cell at work.

Next I put on my speedo and wandered down to the water’s edge.  The water was bearable but still a bit cold.  I decided against snorkeling and just got myself a little sun.

After that I decided to ride my bike around the rest of the park to see what it looked like.  It is basically a peninsula.  Down at the end was a tent campground.  There were a couple of tents but no people or cars.  I wonder where they went.  The area was completely deserted.  I like that.

The whole park is pretty basic.  The only thing here is what you bring with you.

When I got back to my ship I was hot and tired from pedaling.  Bicycles are so much harder to ride than they used to be.  I think they have changed the way they are made or something.  I need to find an old bike that is easy to ride like the one I had when I was a kid.

I cooled off in the shade and breeze then fixed myself a nice spaghetti dinner.  Yeah, barbecuing is the standard fare but I wanted to do something different.  It was good.

snstAbout that time, the sun was setting over the lake.  I got some nice shots.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a sunset.  At my house, the sun just goes behind the trees and houses.  Not very satisfying.

I was looking forward to the darkness so I could see the stars.  Another thing I don’t get to see much of on a regular basis.

cmpfrI built myself a small fire in the fire ring for a little companionship.

As darkness fell, the moon was about 2/3 full in a cloudless sky.  Had the moon not been out I might have been able to see the Milky Way.  Still it was nice enough that I could easily see Orion and the Big Dipper.

I watched a few planes fly by and even saw a satellite pass right through the handle of the Dipper.  Cool.  Not many people notice satellites.  They look like tiny stars moving quickly through the sky.  Faster than a plane and non-blinky.

When I got tired of stars and fire I went inside, took a shower and watched “12 Years a Slave”.  That looks like a most unpleasant experience.  Glad it wasn’t me.  I easily fell asleep when it was over.

The next morning I woke up with sun streaming through the windows.  I made myself some waffles and read some more until about 11:30.  I wanted to hit the non-rush window between 1-4 when I got back to the city.

It was a fairly relaxing trip.  It would have been much more relaxing had I not been getting texts from work complaining that a server was down.  I ignored them.  I’m on vacation.  Screw that.  I’ll deal with the repercussions tomorrow.  It’s not my fault.  I don’t have anyone qualified to back me up and I need vacation sometimes.

Overall I’m feeling even more confident about my RV.  I worried about it’s reliability considering its age.  It only has about 60K miles on it but sits around a lot.  So far it has been nicely reliable.  I think I will gradually take it to more distant locations.  I already have an idea for my next outing.