25 April 2010

Camping in North Central Texas

Early last week we checked the weather report and it looked like we would have a great weekend so we booked a campsite in Liberty Hill Park on Navarro Mills Lake, in North Central Texas. John managed to leave work early Friday afternoon and after a 3 hour drive, we were able setup the campsite long before dark. We had chicken fajitas for dinner and enjoyed a quiet evening with an audio book on the Kindle. This was just the calm before the storm...

Sometime around midnight, the storm rolled in and our little tent was rocking and rolling in the wind. If it hadn't been anchored to the vehicle, it would have blown across the field of Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes, with us in it. The rain was blowing horizontally with such a force that the tent's rainfly/canopy was of little use and the rain water started coming in on us. Our dog, Randy, was NOT a happy camper!

The howl of the wind felt like a tornado so we decided we would be safer in our little Ford Escape. Going outside in the rain was not an option because it would have been impossible to unzip the tent, or open a car door, with the force of the wind. Fortunately for us, the tent is designed to attach to the back of the SUV and gives us full access to the cargo area. Can you picture us crawling into the Escape, over all of our gear and climbing into the front seats? It's a good thing we've now lost about 160 pounds between us, or we would have been calling the fire department with their "jaws of life" to pull us out.

The storm was over by about 3 AM. We were soggy, but OK. We went back to the tent and found a couple of inches of water on the floor and some wet bedding. The temperature was in the mid 50's and it was almost impossible to get warm again until sun up. We had several campers that were staying in motor-homes stop by to check on us Saturday morning. One of them told us she had heard on the news that the winds topped 75 mph!

We strung up some clothes line and hung up all the wet clothes and bedding to dry out. It was a gorgeous morning on the lake and after lunch we went geocaching with our geopup Randy. These are just a few of the
hidden caches we found. As usual there are no pictures of me, because I'm usually the photographer.

Here's a picture of Randy, exhausted after geocaching. --->

After we got back from geocaching we made a nice salad and heated up some taco soup and tortillas for supper.

John went to put some of our gear back in the SUV and discovered we had a dead battery. Yours truly had managed to leave the key in the ignition, in the ON position, to charge the Blackberry batteries we had drained while geocaching. There really wasn't any way we could get a neighboring camper to jump start us. They were all anchored down in their motor-homes. We placed a call to AAA and they managed to send a rescue truck to us within the hour.

After our lack of sleep Friday evening, we turned in early Saturday for a great night's sleep. Sunday morning, after breakfast we saw a Bald Eagle floating on the thermals just overhead. That's the first time either one of us has seen a Bald Eagle outside of the Pacific Northwest. What a nice treat for us just before we packed up and took a leisurely drive back home.

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14 April 2010

My Kindle

Once upon a time I was an avid reader. I was always in the middle of a book and usually read for an hour, or two, before bed. When I met John my interests changed and I put the books on the shelf for a few years. I was too busy working, keeping house, cooking and spending time with John, to find time to sit down with a good read. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed reading until John gave me a Kindle for Christmas with a note telling me to think of him reading to me every time I pick it up.

When we were in Costa Rica last December, John spent many evenings reading to me from stories he had downloaded to his laptop. After that trip, we decided it was time for me to go back to Costa Rica for a few weeks to supervise the construction of our perimeter wall, gate, etc. I made my plans to travel this past February and I started downloading books from Amazon to help make the time in Costa Rica go faster.

What was supposed to be a 3 week trip, turned into a 6 week trip and my Kindle became my constant companion. Two weeks into my stay, I discovered I had read everything I had downloaded from Amazon's wireless Whispernet service. This service allows you to download a book directly to the Kindle in less than 60 seconds, but it is not available in Costa Rica. I decided to see if it would be possible to download books from Amazon through my SLOW dial-up internet connection to my laptop and then upload them to the Kindle via a USB cable. It worked far better than I expected and I was able to download novels in just a little over 60 seconds.

During the 6 weeks I was in exile (away from John) in Costa Rica. I managed to read 17 books. Just to name a few, I read several novels written by Clive Cussler, Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, John Sanford, Michael Crichton and Paulo Coelho. I am so grateful to John for giving me my little Kindle and bringing me back to the joy of reading. Needless to say, I would rather spend my time in his company, but now that I'm retired, my Kindle keeps me entertained while John is working. Now, when John retires, I'll have to give him his own Kindle or we'll be fighting over mine.

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Casita Wegner Update - March 2010

We had a few setbacks building the perimeter wall around our property and I had to extend my trip from 3 to 6 weeks. I took advantage of the extra time and managed to get a few extra projects completed. I had forgotten how things get done in Costa Rica and it was fascinating to watch the construction process. In the U.S. we have automated so many processes, and put so many regulations in place to protect workers, that we tend to forget things are done differently in other parts of the world. I'm not saying our way is better, because they are just as competent when it comes to getting the job done.

Our perimeter wall is constructed of precast concrete panels measuring 1 x .5 meters each. These panels are designed to slip into steel reinforced concrete posts. Multiple panels can then be stacked, one on top of the next, like you see in this picture.

Here in the States, the panels are usually moved into position by crane. John had asked me what type of equipment is used in Costa Rica to accomplish this and I replied with this photo.

Once the concrete panels were in place, they welded steel reinforcing beams along the top edge and filled all the concrete seams.

The final step was an application of pre-colored stucco to give us a maintenance free finish. The construction crew usually worked from 7 AM until 5 PM, with the government mandated breaks. Thirty minutes for the morning and afternoon coffee breaks and an hour for lunch. The team also worked from 7 AM until 12 noon on Saturdays.

They did an excelled job and the finished results give us a beautiful perimeter wall, a new automatic sprinkler system, a concrete driveway and a electric gate.

We have already made our travel arrangements for our next trip during the upcoming rainy season. This time we will plant grass, fruit trees, shrubs and flowering vines on our new fence.

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