I haven’t posted much lately – nothing here, and far less on social media than I usually do – but, then again, I haven’t done much, either. I basically realized that, on my social security income, I cannot afford the full-time RV travelling life. I have help from friends and family, but the road isn’t cheap. I decided that the holiday season would be the perfect time to shack up with the family who always says they miss me.
I finally got my bone scan done in San Diego in mid-October, after spending a couple of weeks at my brother’s house in Ventura; getting to know the family a little better and spending time with Janis. I hit the road right away, spending only one night at my Dad’s in San Bernardino, and heading north to Las Vegas, then east to the Four Corners and south again to my sister’s in Houston.
It was a fairly uneventful trip east, because I didn’t have the money to stay at a fancy Harvest Host or campground, plus I was in areas that didn’t have much. I say “fairly,” because the morning that I was almost at my sister’s, my refrigerator stopped working.
I thought I could make it to Houston, but it was close – I literally had just texted my sister, telling her I was ten minutes away – the engine died literally as I was pulling off of the freeway. It was brutal; I was in a three-lane exit ramp during rush hour, and it was a really, really bad time to discover that my hazard lights also didn’t work. My sister’s boyfriend was perched on the rear bumper for a good 45 minutes, directing traffic away from Dolly, until we were able to punch the gas and get to a parking lot nearby.
I finally got Dolly towed to my sister’s house, not even a few miles away, and tried to find a good mechanic. Between the confusion about how to get it fixed – RV techs won’t look at the engine, and mechanics won’t work on a RV right off the bat – that was way more of an ordeal than I anticipated. It took weeks to find a tech to come look at it, and then afterwards, my fridge still didn’t cool anything even though the motor was now running. My lights worked, and my engine started, but I had no idea why it broke down again, seemingly for the same reasons.
My stepdad has been saying since Dolly started doing this same thing while breaking down that it was the ignition coil. I was able to get one and get a local mobile mechanic in Houston to install it, and by that time I had been in Houston for nearly a month.
Of course, I made the best out of being “stuck” in a great city like Houston.
My sister has lived in Houston for a few years now, in a super cute neighborhood near their Produce District. Every year the neighborhood association puts on a Dia de Los Muertos festival in their local park, and my sister is a huge part of the planning and organization. This year, for once, I got to be there to experience it.
It was pretty spectacular. The costumes and decorations were brilliant, and the food was amazing. I had churros and tacos and beer and I watched beautiful dancing and met all of my sister’s neighbors and friends.
My sister and her boyfriend have undergone a total diet and lifestyle transformation this year, cutting out all alcohol, most sugar (except for natural sugars in berries and whatnot), most fats (except for the healthiest avocados, etc.), and most carbs but the most complex and healthy. I’m so proud of them for the transformations they have made. Most of our meals consisted of lean meats, roasted or low-oil-sauteed veggies, an ancient grain or two, and very little, if any, sugar.
This was our Thanksgiving dinner: lean turkey breast, a root vegetable mash, roasted acorn squash with an ancient grain stuffing, a tabouli-type salad with fresh herbs, low-fat feta, pomegranate seeds and more. The red stuff is a faked-out cranberry sauce I made with hibiscus and apple. Everything was really delicious, and it was fun to try new healthy variations on some favorites.
Of course, I also took advantage of the amazing food scene and ate out a bit as well.
Houston is rightfully known as a great foodie town and is one of the most diverse cities anywhere. In addition to being right next to Mexico and Louisiana (so Mexican and Cajun food is off the hook); there are huge Thai, Vietnamese, and Arab communities, so the ethnic food of every type is great everywhere.
I had some really incredible food, just within walking distance of my sister’s house. There is an amazing Thai street food place, where I had delicious curry, Tom Ka Gai soup, and chicken appetizers, not even a half mile away.
A few blocks in the other direction is a famous Mexican joint, Teotihuacan Cafe.
Down another street, towards the farmers market that is the heart of the Produce District, and on the way to a street corner with a taco shop, a famous Mexican bakery, and a spice store, there is an amazing cheese shop with free samples. I had a blast walking around.
If you’re ever in the neighborhood, Houston Dairymaids is worth a taste.
While I was there, a fan of my Instagram page contacted me about Hugs and Donuts and encouraged me to check it out. I got an amazing boudin kolache and a cherry chocolate shortbread donut. Magnificent.
Of course, it wasn’t all in one neighborhood. I met up with one of my old friends from college, who treated me to a super fancy and decadent dinner at Caracol, an elaborate Mexican restaurant in the fancy tourist part of town. I had some amazing oysters, wood-grilled with cheese, chipotle butter and breadcrumbs, and enjoyed a great evening with an old friend.
As you can see, I had a fabulous time eating my way around town. But just as often, I was chilling at my sister’s house, playing with her sweet kitties (especially the luscious Nerms, below).
I was there for weeks, and while I had many good days, where I felt great walking all around the neighborhood, I think I had just as many low-energy, not-so-good days. It’s been like that for a while, now that I think about it; but I am trying to focus on the good days and enjoy life as much as I can. That’s the whole reason I am on this trip, anyway!
So, after a month, and a new ignition coil, I hit the road for 2-3 days to my mom’s house in east Tennessee. All I wanted was an uneventful and safe trip, and I got it.
The first night was in Louisiana, where breakfast was a boudin ball from a gas station. If you’re not familiar, the best food in most parts of the south is at gas stations. Food desert doesn’t even begin to describe some of these areas.
I stopped the next night in Mississippi, then in Alabama (both at truck stops just to make it easier and cheaper), then I was, miraculously, without incident, at my mom’s house in the Smokies. I hadn’t realized how anxious I was about the engine dying, or something crazy happening, until I finally got out of the RV and hugged my mom, and realized I was really, really there.
Not long after I got here, there were major tornadoes and thunderstorms across Tennessee and Kentucky, but luckily they were far from us. We got a few menacing-looking clouds, but nothing too serious.
I have spent most of my time relaxing, cooking, and doing artwork.
I used to do oil painting as a kid and it was a lot of fun. I know my mom was disappointed that I kind of stopped doing art as an adult (except for cooking and some needlework stuff), but really I think it was because my apartment was too small to do a lot of projects.
Regardless, I got the chance to make up for lost time, doing some paint-by-number coloring and painting projects, as well as painting a big empty wall in the basement.
Before (above) and After (below). And, yes, I used the magical hula hoop I got from Raiye at Rabid Brewing in Chicago.
During the drive to my sister’s, headed east through Arizona and New Mexico, I started to feel tiny pains in my left wrist. By the time I had been at in Houston for a couple of weeks, I had a lump on my wristbone that was freaking me out, so I started wearing a wrist brace to prevent any potential damage. I called my doctor, who basically said he couldn’t do anything until I came back.
After a couple of weeks in Tennessee, I ran out of CBDs at the same time that I weaned myself off of Baclofen, a back-spasm-reducing drug that I had been taking for way longer than the recommended time due to my back pain. It was bad timing, for sure. I was in so much pain that I was ready to cut short my time in Tennessee and go back to San Diego right away.
Luckily, I got a hookup on some good CBD capsules, and within days my pain was much better and more manageable. My mom briefly planned to come back with me, but she has her own health issues to take care of, so she will hopefully get to join me in California sooner rather than later.
We had a really lovely, but small, New Year’s celebration, complete with a huge party cheese plate and spread …
and, of course, some black-eyed peas with greens and cornbread for good luck on New Year’s day.
As I sit here now, finishing this post, I am planning to leave tomorrow from my mom’s house, head straight south through Alabama to Interstate 10, then straight west, as far south as I can be, until we get back to San Diego. Of course, I will stop to see my sister in Houston again on my way. I have an appointment with Dr. Vlad on January 21 already, so if I am back earlier, I will try to see him to check out my wrist.
It’s been a wonderful and relaxing couple of months with family, but the weather out here is too cold.
I can’t wait to get back to the beach!
Follow me on social media for updates, and I’ll see you all out there on the road!
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