Sunday, May 24, 2020

Week 7 of hiatus

Monday, 18 to Sunday, 24 of May 2020

This week I had a brief bout of optimism and decided things would be much better as the summer went on, given doctors' thoughts that the coronavirus would mimic the habit of the flu virus to virtually disappear in warm weather.  And Lord knows Texas has warm weather in the summer.  I started thinking maybe I could visit New Mexico in July and Arizona in August, maybe even taking in Texas before fall came around.

All that changed when scientists began reporting increasing numbers of infection and death over an increasing number of states, numbers that looked like they coincided with the premature (in my mind) reopening of activity in those states.

I do not believe there will be many governors who try to reestablish lock-downs if the numbers seem to get out of hand, and even if they try they'll have to figure out how they plan to enforce them.  There are already a stunning number of idiots who believe the virus hasn't really happened at all, or that it has happened but it's a weapon of Democrats and will disappear after the election, or some other nonsense, and are unfortunately acting on their beliefs - i.e. refusing to follow simple health guidelines that protect them and the rest of us.

Those being my beliefs, I not only can't assume - I can barely even maintain a flicker of hope - that I'll be able to get back on the road at all this year.  This reassessment of my situation has made this a depressing week for me, and I've been having a great deal of trouble finding impetus to get much done.  But I also believe that it's all only temporary and that if I'm careful, I too will be able to live through this mess.  In this case my optimistic hopefulness didn't serve me any better than the subsequent depression, and I'll be much better once I can get my feet back under me for living on an even, and more realistic, keel.

Ants
I'm still having a battle with ants and still hating it, so this week the pest control guy came by to give me an estimate.  He pointed out that the tree I'm parked under - a crepe myrtle - is notorious for encouraging ants.  He pointed out at least 6 ant beds under this one as well as a healthy trail of ants climbing the tree.  He figures what's happening is the ants are climbing the tree, falling on the roof, and getting in through the skylights (which explains why they sometimes seem to drop from the sky - they are).  He said he didn't think I had a colony living in the RV, which was a relief, but that he'd be glad to come in and do the usual spray  under cabinets and around what would be baseboards if this were a house with baseboards.  The company's usual cost is $125 for ant service.

He also suggested I move over a space under the next tree, which is an oak.  It too had some ants on it, but he thought my problems would greatly diminish with a move away from the crepe myrtle.  He said his company is often having to suggest to clients with recurring ant problems that they cut back crepe myrtle branches at least 3' away from their houses.  In this case, I'm barely 3' away from the whole tree, let alone its branches, so that's not an option.  The oak has some branches that hang down too low for me to park the RV under, but Anna said she and David could help me with that problem.  After I give the oak a chance, I'll see how much of an ant problem I still have before calling in the bug service.

Dexter
this is 4 fans, plus the water dish,
taking up the limited floor space
He woke me up before 3:00 one morning this week, pacing back and forth (which was a trick in the dark with all the fans on the floor).  I thought he'd heard some thunder that I couldn't hear (it was forecast) and tried to calm him down.  A few minutes later, Gracie came back to try to get into the bathroom, which I again assumed was due to thunder I still couldn't hear.  But I finally got worried because Dexter kept pacing back and forth, which he doesn't usually, and got up - to find that Dext had vomited a large quantity both on the floor and on his bed.  The smell was probably what got Gracie up.  Dext went on to vomit on my driver's seat, which was fortunately covered with an Indian print bedspread that I got at Pier 1 my sophomore year of college (making it 52 years old).  Did you hear Pier 1 is closing permanently?

So I spent quite a while trying to clean up the mess and finally took the bed and bedspread outside and laid them on the carefully pruned boxwood hedge around this parking area.

After all that, Dexter was still pacing up and down and I finally decided he may be having other digestive problems as well, and took both the dogs for a walk.  Sure enough, he relieved himself several times in fairly liquid form, and I sure was hoping that forecast for rain materialized because I had trouble cleaning up people's lawns (it didn't).  Fortunately, after all that he was fine.  I'm assuming he ate something I didn't see him eat - he can be so fast about it, but I'm usually able to see him even when I'm not fast enough to stop him.  Whatever it was, it was gone from his system.  But I'm still trying to clean up the mess, because it did rain on Saturday and again today, so the bed and the cover and the spread keep getting wet and needing to dry out.  At some point the neighbors are going to complain that I'm bringing down the tone of the neighborhood.

The next day, we had an appointment for Dext's annual shots.  Vet visits are so different now than before because vets don't want to be in small enclosed rooms with the pet owners.  But the vet told me afterwards that he'd been well-behaved, which was a relief because he isn't always where shots are concerned.

And Lily
She woke us all up very early another morning by yowling at the door.  She's never done this before and it upset the dogs for being so unusual.  She made it very clear what she wanted: to go outside.  It's the first time since I got her that she's made any move towards the out-of-doors besides just greeting us at the door when we get back from a walk.  Yet there she was, standing down on the bottom step, yowling away in that special way only cats can pull off.  Well, it got me out of bed.  That's 2 mornings this week I was rousted by agitated animals.  Of course, I explained to Lily she had a snowball's chance of getting outside, but she kept registering agitation.  I have no idea what was outside.

Gracie
She wasn't a problem.  I just thought she should have her own category, since the others did.  Well, no more of a problem than usual.  When I got back from taking Dext into Banfield for his vet appointment, I found a note on the windshield saying I should crack a window for Gracie (by name) and that this nameless person had discovered my door was unlocked and come inside the RV and given Gracie some water.  God Bless! the note said.

Dext and I were gone for a half hour, almost to the minute, and the outdoor temp was in the 80s, not the upper 90s.  So my first reaction was slight exasperation with this well-meaning but officious person.  But later it hit me - she (it was certainly a she who put the little hearts on this note) entered my home without my permission or even knowledge and with no real excuse.  If she'd actually been observing my actions, she'd know I wasn't gone but for a few minutes before she did all this - not exactly an instance of animal abuse - so instead she was probably just passing by and saw Gracie sitting in the front seat waiting for us to come back.

I really wish I had a chance now to talk to this woman.  How many people walking down a sidewalk and seeing a dog in the window of a house would even go up to the door, let alone see if the door was unlocked - let alone actually walk into someone's home uninvited.  That's called trespass and can be prosecuted criminally.  Just because many people use an RV for weekend recreation didn't give this woman a license to go inside it.  So I've come to see that this was emphatically not the actions of a reasonable person, however well-meaning she may have been.  Honestly, I feel invaded.  No I don't lock the door when I leave - it's never been a problem before.  This woman's lucky it was Gracie inside and not Dexter, who takes a pretty serious view of his role as protector of the home.

Weekly Cleanliness Trip
I needed water as well as a tank dump, so I went back to the RV park in Caddo Mills that I went to a month or so ago.

I drove past a company called Signazon, and with a name like that I looked it up.  They do custom banners of all kinds for anyone who wants them.  For instance, they've got a whole category of banners for less than $25 that you can customize to welcome home a returning service member.  Nice idea, actually.

I had no idea JC Penney's is headquartered right here in Plano.  I heard it on the radio.

I also heard a reporter on the BBC Newshour talking about the president's claim he's taking that hydroxychloroquine.  With her British accent the reporter was saying how surprising she thought that was, given that he's "fond of his bonnet" and that hair loss is a common side effect.  Which makes me think he isn't really taking it, because his doctor would undoubtedly have told him of this side effect.

I saw several fields of corn at varying stages of growth - some about 4' high.  It's so easy for me to forget that nature's keeping on keeping on, and our nation's farmers are obviously trying to keep on with it.  Seems brave of them.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
I think I saw several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers today.  The bird book says they're rare outside their range, and sure enough, I haven't seen them in years.  But Texas is their breeding ground and I grew up with them.  They're still around.  Their tails are pretty unmistakable.

For part of today's drive I was on Farm-to-Market Road 36.  I'd forgotten about these roads, but this gave me a good refresher course: they're built to carry goods from farms to markets (duh) so they run past lots of fields.  This means they're full of 90° turns as they go around people's property lines.  One after the other after the other.  Did a good job of keeping my speed down, but I don't mind it.  They're clearly a continuing part of the history of our state.

As I drove through the small town (1,300 folks) of Caddo Mills, I wondered about the name and found the city's website.  They say the Caddo Indians used to camp near the banks of nearby Caddo Creek around the 1850s; some years later, European settlers established a gristmill in the area.  The town says it was named for the gristmill (though there was only one mill apparently, not mills plural).  I think the town should revise its website to say it was also named for the Indians, or at least for the creek, and not exclusively for the singular mill, but history's a tricky thing.

I came across the highway turnoff to the town of Fate, so of course I had to look it up to be sure it really was a town.  It is.  But even the town can't seem to agree where the name came from.  Everybody seems to agree it was named for either William Lafayette "Fate" Brown, originally from Mississippi, or for George Washington Lafayette "Fate" Peyton, originally from Tennessee.  Despite the obvious name similarities, they don't appear to be any relation to each other, but both were early settlers in the area.  I can see how 2 men can be named Lafayette back then, but how can it be possible for both of them to be nicknamed "Fate?"  Anyway, they were, and the town was named for one or the other of them, and I guess not many people today really care which one. (I'm guessing "Fate" is a play on Lafayette, but in both cases it was a middle (or 3rd) name so seems odd to be a source of a nickname.)

What's odd about Fate, though, besides its name, is that the 2010 National Census identified it as the fastest growing city in Texas over the previous decade (from 602 in 2000 to 6,357 in 2010) and there's thought it could exceed 20,000 by 2021.  That's definitely a population boom.  But other than it being 30 minutes from Dallas, I can't figure out what's propelling the growth.  Odd.

I passed a billboard that said: "Remember when everyone had a waterbed?  Times change.  Jesus doesn't."

Next up
I've got an appointment on Wednesday to get the parts I ordered installed in the RV - the new kitchen faucet and the TV antenna and the trim around the cab.  I hope those things'll make it seem more like the little guy I originally set out with - though dirtier.  I need to wash it sometime.

I really will dredge up more momentum this week and get to work on my 2 unfinished blog posts.  I know I keep saying that, and I'm not promising, but I really do want to get them off my to-do list.

I saw in the paper that a peach orchard is reopening its market as of yesterday.  It's about 30 miles from here, so I thought I'd head that way on Tuesday on my weekly cleanliness trip.  The article said they'd gone to a great deal of trouble to figure out how to keep both them and their customers safe while still selling their peaches - they're not opening their indoors market, for instance, just their outdoors one - and I do love peaches, so I'm hoping it'll work out.

And I hope everyone's keeping safe and healthy.  These are scary times in some ways, but I do believe everything'll come out okay in the end.  (And if you've seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you know the next line is, "And if it's not okay, it's not yet the end.")  Hope on, hope ever.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Week 6 of hiatus

Monday, 11 through Sunday, 17 May 2020

Hard to believe it's been only 6 weeks since I came here.  Feels like it's been months.  I'm guessing half the residents of the world feel that way.  I still believe the scientists more than the politicians, though, and am only sorry that the politicians have sidelined the scientists.  Makes it hard to get trustworthy information, which makes it easier to be worried.  The unknown is almost always scarier than the known, which is how incumbent politicians get reelected so often.

Weekly Cleanliness Trip
The trip was reasonably successful but the day itself was a near disaster.

I was only planning 4 stops and intended to start with the KOA in Arlington, where I could dump my tanks.  From there I was going to a Target to order some DVDs, then to an Albertson's for groceries, then on to the recycle center and then home.  After I'd gotten the whole itinerary worked out and written down, I called the KOA just to be sure they'd let me dump my tanks and they said yes, no problem, but don't come before noon.  So I had to rearrange the whole thing, but at least I found out before I'd started driving.

So here's how the disaster day went:
   Tuesday started with thunder and lots of rain and upset the dogs, but then that cleared off and it got hot and humid.
   I hadn't slept well the night before so I was fighting to stay awake all day.
   I was wearing a shirt that kept reminding me I've gained too much weight in the last 2 years, so I spent all day feeling fat.
   When I was tying my shoes in the morning, I noticed water dripping from the frig and discovered it really had turned itself off.  I'd been suspecting it was doing that but hadn't ever been able to tell for sure, but this was for sure.  So I spent all day worrying about how and where I was going to get it fixed.  The KOA gave me business cards for 2 mobile RV repair companies, so that was a help.
   The manager at Target told me they couldn't order my DVDs online, and I said I don't want to order them online, I'm ordering them here in the store.  So he repeated that same thing, and I repeated my same thing.  And he got mad at me, and I told him I'd called the day before and the woman I talked to had told me she couldn't do it over the phone, that I had to come in, so I was in.  He wanted to know who I'd talked to, but I didn't get her name, all I knew was that it was a woman.  So he got upset with me about not knowing who I'd talked to.  This is the manager I'm talking to.  I finally pointed out to him that I wasn't understanding the words he was using and that all he kept talking about was ordering online which I didn't want to do, so he needed to use other words if he wanted me to understand him.  He got really huffy but said I couldn't order the DVDs in person in the store.  I thought he said I couldn't order them at all while the coronavirus was still a problem, but that made even less sense than the rest of what he said, so I ignored it because I don't believe it.  Of all items that might cause transmittal of the virus, DVDs should rank pretty low on the list for either side of the transaction.  But his whole approach was that I was causing problems by asking at all and by not getting the name of the person I talked to on the phone.  I almost told him that many stores, including many Targets, assume the customer is not an enemy and they try to solve problems, not stonewall them, but I got tired of dealing with him.  Jerk.  He almost made me reconsider my policy of never posting an online comment about a business.
   After I got groceries, I opened the frig to store the refrigerated stuff and discovered that my bottle of soy sauce had tipped over, the lid had come unscrewed, and there was soy sauce dripping all over everything because of course it was on the top shelf.  I mopped up as best I could, but even then opening the door smelled like a Chinese restaurant and the smell was all over my hands.
   Sometime about then, I discovered the cabin electricity was completely out - it supplies power for the cabin lights and water pump and anything electrical when I'm not plugged in and don't have the generator on.  Gone.  At least everything worked when I turned the engine over, but I need to have that independent power.  At the same time my radio stopped working, even when the engine was on.  It didn't come back for the rest of the day.
   On the other hand, I did get the tanks dumped and filled up with fresh water.  I did get the recycling where it belonged.  I did get the groceries I wanted.  I didn't fall asleep at the wheel or have an accident out in the Dallas traffic.  So I guess disasters are relative.

Mopping up problems
The next day I spent quite a while cleaning up the soy sauce smell in the frig.  Turns out it had dribbled on about half the stuff in there, so everything had to come out while I wiped down all the shelves, pulled them out to clean into the slots the shelves fit in.  And the glass shelf at the bottom didn't want to go back in because the door was in the way - the platform my bed sits on is exactly in the way of the frig door opening far enough.  I had to take the door off, except the door didn't come all the way off, there was no screw at the bottom that I could access, and I had to hold the half-off door with one hand while reinserting the glass shelf with the other (my left), and it didn't want to go and didn't want to go and it was all pretty hard.  I'd had to take it out because the shelf not being porous meant lots of soy sauce had collected in the slot the shelf sits in.  The frig was full of food, of course, and I had the contents sitting on every flat surface in the cabin, and the day was getting warmer so I was trying to hurry to get stuff back in before things started spoiling.  And I was doing all this cleaning with a water source that was just a trickle.  My water faucet has gradually over the 2 years been producing less and less and less water flow, and now it's just a trickle.  Really hard to rinse out a sponge full of soy sauce with just a trickle.  All very trying.  It's not like patience has ever been one of my outstanding virtues but I didn't have a choice.

At least the frig no longer smells like soy sauce.

Then I tried to come up with solutions to my other problems.  I called the 2 numbers KOA had given me, and got a recording for one saying the mailbox was full and got a recording for the other saying all circuits were busy, which was nutty - what circuits?  It was the same area code as the first number so what circuits?  Anyway, I kept trying several times and finally got an answer at one number.  The guy said he'd call me back within a half hour.  An hour and a half later he finally called me back, but he was talking while he was driving (not a good idea in Dallas traffic) and the signal kept breaking up so I couldn't understand him.  He said he'd call me in just a few minutes when he got to his next stop.  An hour later he still hadn't called back, so I called a company in Rockwall that had a big bunch of good Yelp reviews.  They said they'd squeeze me in the next morning for an assessment.  Nice folks.

Thursday, I went out there - Luxury Coach Services - sounds like a really fancy company for the likes of me and my little beat-up guy, and it was.  They cater mainly to the spiffy Class A bus-type RVs, but they said they're happy to help anybody who needs it, which certainly includes me.

A very nice guy named Alex came right out to work on my RV and I suggested he start with the cabin batteries, because it had occurred to me finally that they're supposed to be the power source for the cabin lights.  He looked and said yep, they're bone dry, no wonder they're not putting out any power.  He replaced them and cleaned up that whole area and all the connections which had been crudded with dirt and hair (the nest the batteries stay in is under the entrance steps).  He checked that everything was getting power and - like magic! - I had power in the cabin.  Everything worked again.  He said the frig draws some power from those batteries even when I'm plugged in to a power source; he said the frig is a delicate piece of equipment that has to have a reliable source of power at all times, and that's why it was cutting itself off sometimes.  The water pump worked, the radio worked, the frig worked, everything worked.  It was very exciting.

So I had him order parts for me for several other repairs I've been wanting but not taking the time for before now.  Of course, like everybody else, time is about all I've got these days so I might as well get it done.  Things like a new TV antenna that I guess got ripped off by a tree branch more than a year ago and a new faucet for the kitchen sink to get more than a trickle of water out of it, and repair to the trim around both sides of the front cab that I've been having to hold up with duct tape and making my little baby look like Frankenstein with braces.  So they'll order parts and then we can set up a date for repairs.  Nice people.  Not cheap - labor is $155/hour - but it seemed worth it and I think that's about in line with other mechanical labor costs.  I told Alex I thought the cab trim might be just cosmetic, but he explained its actual purpose was to cover up the screws holding the outside siding in place, and without the trim the screws would get corroded and leak and then the whole thing would start to fall apart.  So I'll get the trim and pay to have it installed.

They called me the next day to say they'd found out the faucet company doesn't sell just the spray head, which is what I wanted, that I'd have to order the entire assembly which would cost $120 plus an hour of labor.  A far cry from just screwing in a new faucet head that I could do myself.  I authorized the buy and now have my fingers crossed that this will actually fix the problem.

Meanwhile . . .
The weather on Tuesday stopped being thunder and rain and started being really hot and humid and stayed that way - on Thursday I saw it had gotten up to 91° in mid-Dallas, and I figure it was somewhere about that here.  All that meant it's been hot at night - not even getting down to 70° by morning - so it's hard to sleep very well.

All that changed on Saturday.  A little after 7:00 AM it started raining and from then on what we got was rain.  All day.  Well, it let up now and then, but it was mostly serious rain and often a lot of wind along with it.  In the paper today it said they got more than 3" of rain at the Dallas Love Field weather station.  I just could not work up any enthusiasm at all to get anything constructive done and instead spent almost all day watching NCIS episodes on DVD.  It was all so cozy in here, and the rain was so steady outside, that when I asked the dogs if they wanted a walk about 2:00, they just lay there and looked at me.  Actually, Gracie didn't even bother to open her eyes.  It finally let up towards evening (and got hot and humid again of course), but it was a pretty relaxing day.

I'm still seeing ants everywhere in the cabin.  On my bed (I've killed them walking across me during the night), on the kitchen counter, on the table, on the floor, coming out of the microwave, on the upper bunk.  And I still can't for the life of me figure out where they're coming in and why.  There simply isn't any food around.  I really do have it all sealed up.  I finally called a pest control company, and they said they've done RVs before, and we finally settled on a (free) estimate visit next Friday.  I want them to take a look at the space they'd be treating before we actually book a visit, and I want them to tell me if I need to move things out before they do it - move the dog beds, for instance, or clear out the storage space underneath the cabin or pack up the pans and stuff in the drawers - like that.  They said they'd charge me $125 for an ant-killing visit, which is a lot of money, but I really don't like having ants walking all over me.  I've been killing them on my arms.  It's just a grotesque way to live.

And I have an appointment for Dexter to get his annual shots.  When I called the nearest Banfield I explained that they'd have trouble getting his records because their computers ate them last year and a second file had been started up in Michigan or somewhere, and I told her the IT people had blown off both the Banfield person who'd tried to recover them before and also me when I'd called to ask.  The woman I talked to at this Banfield said she'd try to track down them down, and she called me Saturday to report progress.  She says she's one of those who believes persistence is a virtue (that's not the way she put it) and the squeaky wheel gets the grease (that is how she put it), and she wouldn't take no or later for answers.  She says they're trying to come up with a work-around.  The system insists Dext is actually in one of the Banfields right now - has been in there continually all this time - that the system had a glitch while he was there way back when and never logged him out and won't even allow that Banfield to log him out - they tried.  She thinks if they have to, they can get that Banfield to fax his records to her.  I'm still not sure where the second file is, though I have some records myself now.  But it's really nice to find someone who's willing to put in so much effort for me, and I said so.  She said she and the IT guy both enjoyed it - she said she felt like a detective doing all that tracking down.  Very nice of her.

Other comments
Despite the stupid virus, nature keeps on going (thank goodness).  I saw a pair of Cardinals and their 2 babies when the dogs and I were out walking the other day.  The babies were fledged of course but following the parents around to get fed.  Very sweet.

The magnolias have been blooming for a week or two.  So pretty, though they don't smell as strong as I remembered.  Probably it's my memory that's not as strong.

I heard on the radio (once it started working) that accordion sales are up during the sequestration.  There's a company that makes them in Dallas and the owner said they'd sold as many in the last few months as in all of last year.  Who woulda thunk it?

When I was out on my two drives this week, I passed a large group of buildings labeled Texas A&M Agrilife.  I learned that, among other things, they do research on turfgrass breeding, looking for something suitable for this climate.

In Richardson I passed a business called Qorva, no "u", so I looked it up and learned they're in the semiconductor business.  They're right down the street from a Texas Instruments facility, so I guess Richardson's turning itself into a high-tech center.

Arlington has car manufacturing plants - I passed a Ford plant and heard about a GM plant that's the only one still producing GM's large SUVs.

Apparently both Arlington and Grand Prairie have large Spanish-speaking populations, based on the signs and businesses I saw driving through there.

All day I noticed how high the gas prices are in this area.  I saw $1.39 - $1.49 at most places and at a Shell station saw $1.69.  That seems crazy to me given that Texas is full of oil wells and oil refineries and the price of oil is still rock-bottom and I was paying $1.19 in Arkansas a couple of months ago.  I asked David and his best guess is the amount of tax different states tack on.  I imagine he's right but I never saw Texas as being big on gas taxes.

I passed a billboard that said, in big letters, OOPS.  And underneath it said DallasDivorce.com.  And that was it.  So I looked it up and found a lawyer named Kimberly Pinkerton.  I don't know - "oops" just seems like an odd word to connect with divorce.  I mean oops isn't how my divorce felt.

And I'm back in Texas where drivers refuse to let me merge or change lanes and speed up to keep me from moving in front of them.  And all the time I've been driving in other states wondering if I've been fair to Texas drivers or maligning them in retrospect.  Now I find my memories were pretty accurate.

I passed a highway sign saying "Monday - Friday, Various Lane Closures."  "Various?"  Really?  Does this really alert drivers to a danger?

I passed another sign that said "Heavy Load Must Exist."  And my tired brain finally figured out the sign had said "Heavy Load Must Exit."  But in the meantime I thought it was funny.

In Garland I saw a huge facility labeled Epiroc.  They manufacture mining equipment.

The Nabors Family Roofing Co. in Rockwall has paid for at least a half dozen billboards on I-30 that all say "Proverbs 3: 5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."  I'm sure it's a nice thought but can't figure out a context for it - not for roofing or for this stupid virus or for driving down the highway, for that matter.  Wonder how they came to pick that particular verse.  I mean, billboards aren't cheap.

Next week I'll make a higher priority of finishing that Civil Rights Museum post.  The last time I worked on it was last Monday.  With all the problems I had on Tuesday that I was still dealing with the rest of the week, I just couldn't dredge up the motivation to fit civil rights in.  But now I don't have to worry, I just have to keep my appointments, so I'll get my work done more expeditiously.

Hope everyone's staying healthy and safe.


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Week 5 of hiatus

Monday, 4 through Sunday, 10 May 2020

My time
Other than it taking me all Monday morning to figure out the errands I wanted to run and the route I wanted to take on Tuesday's Weekly Cleanliness Trip, I've spent all week working on my post about the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  The museum presented an extraordinary amount of information and, as I've said before, they didn't present it in a way I could follow easily.  Trying to understand it myself and pulling all that together coherently is just time-consuming.  But I'm almost through 1963, so onward and upward.

Weekly Cleanliness Trip
I went back to the TA Travel Center in Rockwall I went to several weeks ago because it was the closest one.  At all my stops today I wore a mask and gloves.  I was glad to see that in many stores, everyone else was wearing masks, though in others quite a few weren't.  But still, I did my best and I was glad to see others doing the same.

Garland
The Dallas-Ft. Worth Metro area is packed with smaller towns, many of which I drove through during the day.  From Richardson, I went through Garland, passing a large Kraft (as in cheese) plant and a huge 1st Baptist Church.

Rowlett
Then there came Rowlett (1st syllable pronounced to rhyme with ow (as in I stubbed my toe), and the emphasis on the 2nd syllable.  It sits on the shore of Lake Ray Hubbard, a very popular site for any water-related activities, named for the man who was head of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board for 30 years.  (The City of Dallas owns the lake.)

Rockwall
Just to the east of the lake is Rockwall, where the Travel Center is.  This time when I pulled up to the dump station, I noticed the padlock was unlocked.  When I went in to pay I told them so, and said they didn't have to come out because I'd leave it as I'd found it, but they asked me to wait a couple of minutes for a staff person.  I went out and waited a couple of minutes and went ahead and dumped my waste tanks anyway.  I was finished with that and had my hose put away in the RV's storage area and was throwing away my gloves when finally an employee came out, carrying a soda, saying sorry for the delay in a perfunctory sort of way.  When I told him what the other staff hadn't, about the lock being already undone and that I'd left it just as I'd found it, he was quite disconcerted.  And I sure was glad I hadn't bothered to obey instructions.  I understand their concern - lots of people don't know what they're doing (just as I didn't at first) or are sloppy about doing it (leaving a yucky mess).  But I've been emptying these tanks at least once a week for more than 2 years now and no longer need adult supervision.  Especially not the kind where my convenience isn't as important as his soda.

I drove from there back west on I-30, then on I-635, over to the northwest part of Dallas.  First time on interstates in a while.

Mesquite/Garland
I passed through Mesquite and must have gotten back into Garland without seeing a sign when I passed something called Amberton University.  The name of this Garland school sounded a little hokey to me, so I looked it up.  They started in 1971 as a part of Abilene Christian College (now University), and separated in 1981 as Amber University; in 2001 its name changed to Amberton Univ.  It's the only private university in Texas that allows concealed carry (of guns) on campus.  It caters to working adults and all students are age 21 or older.

And as a by the way, Abilene Christian University (in Abilene, duh) is one of the few US colleges that has chapel each class day, and it's mandatory for all full-time undergraduates.  Missing chapel without an exemption may result in the student being suspended.  I don't know what qualifies for an exemption.  In contrast, offshoot Amberton University, while still being affiliated with the Church of Christ as the mother school is, promises students complete freedom of conscience in pursuit of their education.  Maybe they mean it.

Farmers Branch
Then on to the town of Farmers Branch, for some years the home of Robert Tilton, a televangelist in the 1980s and '90s who taught that all the bad things in life, including poverty, were the result of sin.  He preached that when people made financial commitments to his ministry, God would reward them with vast wealth.  He preferred commitments of $1,000, occasionally asking for $5,000 or $10,000.  He said when people would send him these commitments along with a prayer request, he would personally pray over each request.

Diane Sawyer and her show PrimeTime Live on ABC, and later the Texas and US governments, did some investigating.  They found all the mail was sent directly to the bank, which opened the mail and deposited the money.  A lot of this mail was found in the bank's dumpsters; 10,000 pounds of these prayer requests were found in a recycling bin in Tulsa, where Tilton had a PO box. 

Tilton sued ABC for libel; a federal judge dismissed the case; the appeals court upheld the dismissal; the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case (effectively upholding the dismissal).

Then some of the private donors/victims sued Tilton for fraud; eventually the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the victims couldn't prove damages because they couldn't show that, even if Tilton had prayed over their prayer requests, God would have granted those prayers.  (With examples like these, I wonder how anyone could think of the study of law as boring.)

And as for Tilton, he left Texas, tried a few other places, and now is starting his whole set-up again in Florida.

And Farmers Branch, by the way, was the first town in Texas to pass anti-illegal immigration laws, such as fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants.  The federal district court said they were unconstitutional; eventually the US Supreme Court refused to review the judge's ruling.  The court process took 7 years and who knows how much money in legal fees.  Farmers Branch has fewer than 25,000 residents.  I would have thought they could find more constructive uses for their money, since they were bound to lose that argument.

Addison
David had warned me that I might run into traffic problems in Addison; he said it's geared more for smaller cars so has small parking spaces and crowded streets.  My high school memories of Addison are of a country town, so I was curious and didn't take his advice.

Turned out that the virus has so many people not getting out that there wasn't a traffic problem.  And I stopped worrying a long time ago about not fitting into parking spaces - I just park far enough from the door that I'm not blocking off most shoppers by taking up extra room.

Richardson
The Addison stores were all along Belt Line Road, which is a loop road around the outer edge of Dallas County.  From Addison, Belt Line runs into Richardson and was always the main road (though there's a separate Main Street) through town.  The city's recycling center is just off Belt Line, and that was my next-to-last stop.  David offered to give me some of his official recycling bags for weekly pickup by the city, but I don't mind going to the center, which is free; the bags cost a little money so why bother?  I'm just delighted to have a recycling center that will take glass, after all those months of trouble.

I swung by a Kroger near home because I hadn't found everything I wanted in Addison, and Anna and David surprised me by showing up there.  They brought me an envelope that looked like it was from the IRS and thought I might want to get it in the bank while I was out.  It turned out to be my $1,200 stimulus check, which is certainly a nice addition to a bank balance, but by then I was just exhausted and wanted nothing more than to drive the one more mile back to my parking place in front of their house.

Weather
Monday the "feels like" temp was 95°, but I could feel a storm blowing in when I walked the dogs late in the day and, sure enough, from midnight on we got thunder and rain, and it was much cooler in the morning.

It warmed up but still, cooler weather - like daytime 70s and low 80s - was the norm for the rest of the week.  That was a help because last week it was so hot I had a hard time sleeping at night.  In fact, I haven't had more than about 4 hours of sleep any night in several weeks.  An extra hour or two of dozing each night helps but doesn't replace the lost hours of sleep.  I end up feeling groggy a lot more often than I want to.  But oh well.  It happens.

Another storm blew in Friday with strong strong winds all day.  Friday was trash day and this whole end of the neighborhood was coated with bits of trash from one of the neighbors down the street.  I finally went out myself to pick up some of the trashiest of it but was limited because I don't have a lot of storage space and the trash truck had already come and gone.

And so forth
We were really lucky to have the Blue Angels do a flyover all around the Dallas area, buzzing the area hospitals.  Because there's a hospital pretty close to here, we got a good view of them, though at the speed they were going it was a really quick view.  Super nice of them to do.

Because I like routines and think the dogs need something to count on, I take the same routes for several of our daily walks, and switch around another one of them for variety.  But I end up seeing many of the same people on these walks.  One older couple living the next street over walk to the end of the block and back to their house most days, and then the husband does some exercises in the garage.  When I passed them one day this week, I asked how they were doing and the wife said, in a strong Texas country accent, "We're one day closer to being out!"  Given the frustration of not having an ending date to this sequestration we're all going through, I thought that was a real positive way to look at it.

Despite all that spraying I did last weekend, I still have ants.  Not in the trash any more, because I spray the inside of each fresh bag I use, and spray inside it again a day or two later.  But I'm finding them all over the RV - on my bed, on the table, on the kitchen counter and in the sink and on the stove, on the upper bunk - I've seen them everywhere but on the floor.  And I can't for the life of me figure out where they're coming from.  They just suddenly appear in a spot where they weren't the split second before I saw them.  I don't see them coming from the walls or the windows or the door.  There's not a trail of them anywhere.  I just see 5 walking on my bed in the 3 minutes it takes me to get dressed.  Or 10 walk across the kitchen counter when there's nothing going on.

I'm now washing the pet dishes twice a day, wiping everything off all the time.  I only have about 3 or 4 more Clorox wipes so only use a clean sponge or paper towel to do this wiping, but I'm sure there's nothing available for them to eat.  Everything that's at all edible is either still in its original, unopened packaging or it's in a Zip-loc bag or it's in the frig or freezer.  Everything.  Including the pet food.

The only thing more I can think of to do is call a pest control company, but I'm not sure I'm ready for such an extreme measure.  At least, it seems like it'd be extreme, an RV not being much at all like a house.  Well, if this keeps up, maybe I'll at least call them.

Still want very much to get back on the road, but since today's only the 10th, I'm going to wait and see what happens later this month to the number of infections now that the governor's reopened the state (way too soon in my opinion).

I sent emails to my 3 cousins, who are all older than I am so I was worried about their health.  All 3 wrote back that they're sticking to their homes and staying away from just about everybody.  I sure wish the rest of the country were following their example.

For everybody reading this, I hope you're able to stay safe and healthy.


Sunday, May 3, 2020

Week 4 of hiatus

Monday, 27 April through Sunday, 3 May 2020

"Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin' into the future."  (per Stevie Miller)

And that's just about the way it feels.  The days are each happening, and I can remember each one, but they seem to be doing not much besides bringing the future.  That future keeps looking different, too, thanks to our changing levels of knowledge about the coronavirus. 

I'm guessing that a lot of the frustration and eruption into mass groups on beaches and in parks that we're seeing is due to cabin fever.  I lived too many years in Alaska not to have a healthy respect for the power that feeling can generate - and that's what this looks like to me.

The trouble here is that the stakes are a whole lot higher.  I'm getting a little tired of the it's-my-life-and-I'll-risk-it-if-I-want-to line of arguments, which completely ignores the crazy ease with which this virus is transmissible.  But, as I said, cabin fever is a powerful force that can override reason.

Daily life
I'm still keeping to the RV as much as I can, aside from walking the dogs 4 or 5 times a day.  One of the best things about this "campground" David and Anna are running is the number of different routes the dogs and I can take.  This being an actual neighborhood and not a campground, we can take different roads and take them in different orders, which keeps our walks from being boring.

I started a 4-week subscription to the Dallas paper, which has been nice.  I like paper newspapers much better than digital ones, and I've really missed the Sudoku and crossword puzzles on my travels.  Plus, the paper articles seem more in-depth than most of those I find online.

But one thing online that I did enjoy was Brad Pitt's take on Anthony Fauci for SNL.  I've never been a Brad Pitt fan, but this was something special.  I actually had trouble finding the whole clip but, if you haven't seen it, here's a link.   https://www.huffpost.com/anthony-fauci-brad-pitt-snl

I spent most of this week editing the photos I took at the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum.  At least, that's where I thought I'd taken them.  Finally, Saturday afternoon I discovered they were actually the 2nd batch of photos I took at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  The ones I posted a few days ago were only half of what was there.  I remember now that by the time I got that far into the museum I was feeling a little overloaded with information and took a break, got some barbecue, walked the dogs, then went back for a few more hours in the afternoon.  And it's those afternoon photos I spent the week editing.  The ones I took in the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum I'd dumped into the trash.  Fortunately, I haven't emptied the trash for just such a situation so was able to retrieve all the photos from there.  Once I'm finally done with Memphis, I'll move on to Birmingham and then FINALLY I'll be caught up.

Errands
On Tuesday I took my usual Weekly Cleanliness Trip.  One of my first stops was at a Valvoline Instant Oil Change place, to get some way-overdue servicing done on the RV.  I'd called ahead to be sure they had a door that was tall enough to take me, and when I pulled in the guy came running out and said "there are 3 others ahead of you" which I didn't think anything about.  But then I waited and waited, watched 2 of the 3 clear out, watched 2 of the 3 employees doing nothing, and got more and more irritated as more time passed.  Finally the guy came out and said they'd have to take care of me out on the drive because they didn't have room inside, and I knew then that something was wrong.  No way were they going to do an oil change out on the driveway.  Turns out they thought I wanted a state inspection done.  He never bothered even to mention it, let alone ask me.  And though I didn't mention it either, when a business is named "Instant Oil Change" I'd think they'd assume it was an oil change I was there for.  He apologized and gave me $20 off, but that wasn't enough for me to think he was doing a reasonable job managing the place.  Still, the oil got changed, which is what I wanted.

I dumped some more stuff at the storage place, but some day I need to go back and spend some serious time rearranging boxes and figuring out what I have in there and how I can store it better.

I stopped at a PetsMart and bought a couple of new dog beds because I'd had to throw out one of those I had.  On Sunday morning, Gracie started gagging, and since she was standing over the floor at the time I thought it'd be easy to clean up.  Then she moved onto her bed and (before I could get to her) instantly vomited.  There was a lot of it for some reason and when I pulled the cover off I found it'd soaked past the cover (which anyway was coated in dog hair) and into the bed before I could even get to the paper towels.  At that point I gave up on trying to clean it up and took it outside for the trash pickup.  Dogs are still easier than kids, but sometimes it seems like a tossup.

Then I went on to this week's dump station - a business called National Indoor RV Centers, which sells and services fancy Class A RVs.  They also have 3 dump stations, which they let anyone use for free, and also access to potable water, which I needed to fill my almost empty tank.

This place was on the other side of Dallas in Louisville (the Fighting Farmers, per the slogan on the city water tank).  On the way I went through actual countryside (though I'm sure the developers will build more houses on it in the next 20 years), with cows and at one place a herd of llamas.  An actual herd (or whatever you call a bunch of them).  I'm used to seeing just a few at any one time and this was a lot more than that.

There seems to be a sizable Korean community out in the Carrollton/Lewisville area, based on the number of churches I saw with Korean letters on the signs.

I got behind a delivery truck that said "Texas Born, Texas Bread."  It was a truck for Mrs. Baird's Bakery, which I'm delighted to see is still in business.  I remember our Brownie Troop went on a tour of their bakery in Waco.  That must have been 60 years ago, and I still remember it.  Amazing thing, memories.

Weather
For most of this week, the temperature has been higher than normal, which isn't really what I wanted, given that this isn't December.  We've had several nights where the temp inside the RV was well into the 80s when we went to bed and didn't get even close to 70° until about 6:00 AM.  I have one little fan that works only if it's about a foot away from you - so not enough.  Anna and David have loaned us 2 more fans, which really help, and I run the fan in the ceiling unit from about 2 PM on.  It's humid, too, which makes it seem hotter than it is.  On my errand run this next week I'll stop off at a Target or somewhere and see about getting another fan or two, since it looks like we won't be able to leave for a cooler climate any time soon.

It did cool off real nicely one night, though - that was the night we had a serious thunderstorm that scared both my puppies quite a bit.  I hadn't been able to sleep anyway because of the heat so noticed when the thunder started up about 10:45.  I looked at the floor and saw both dogs huddling by the bathroom door.  I patted them and said encouraging things, which I'm sure they didn't believe, but the thunder still kept up for a couple of hours.  It brought with it quite a bit of rain and wind, and I was really glad I had believed the forecasts and closed all the windows and skylights, even though it meant we'd be hotter.  As it happened, the storm cooled things off just fine, so we were okay.

Ants
On Thursday morning, I opened the cabinet to put some things in the trash and saw, to my great dismay, that there were enough ants crawling around in and on the trash can for me to start an ant farm.  It was really strange because there hadn't been a one 20 minutes before that when I'd gotten the pet food out of the same cabinet.

Anyway, I bundled up that bag of trash and put it outside for the next day's trash pickup.  A day or 2 later, David and Anna picked up some ant spray for me, which turned out to be very timely.  Because of the gazillion warnings on the label about it being hazardous to pets, I planned to take the 3 critters over to their house for a few hours on Sunday while I sprayed around the cabin.

Well, Sunday morning, there were another ant-farm's worth of ants crawling all over the trash can.  This time I took the can outside and sprayed it all over inside and out with that spray and just left it outside for a while.

I also found a dead baby Robin lying on the drive near my RV, poor little thing.  I found a broken Robin egg near that same spot a week or 2 ago, so I worried about whether the parents had been able to produce any surviving birds.  But then I looked them up and learned Robins normally lay 4 eggs, so I'm hoping they'll have some survivors.  Anyway, I had to bag up the dead baby and the ants that were crawling on it and then spray that spot and the surrounding area.

Once Anna was supervising my babies, I spent an hour emptying cabinets and getting pet beds off the floor and sweeping up Gracie's hair and so forth.  I turned the fans off to do the spraying, to keep the spray from getting on things I didn't want it on, so it was a pretty hot and sweaty chore, but it had to be done.  The whole time I worried about the health risks and how to protect us in such a small space from the cure being worse than the disease (as our elected officials are wont to say these days).  I also sprayed some of the outside of my RV and the power cord that trails for its whole length across the ground to meet David's power cord.

I turned on all the fans and went back over to my family's air conditioned home.  I'd especially worried about Lily adapting, but I closed off all the bedrooms to limit the number of places she could hide and she spent more than an hour exploring the 4 main rooms she could get to.  Actually, so did Dexter.  Dext tried to chase Lily but lost traction on the wood floor and slip-slided away while Lily took up a strong defensive position under the coffee table.  When he got to her again, she hissed and clawed at him, which he deserved, and that seemed to settle him down a bit.  Otherwise, she was fine.  She voluntarily got up into Anna's lap a few times, which I wouldn't have thought she'd do.  By the time I took them home a few hours later, she made a beeline for her litter box, but I was relieved she didn't just pick a corner of a rug or something before that.  She has better manners than I expected.

I also spent several hours doing my laundry, which is never a cool chore, so by the time I got the cabin put back into order and my laundry put away and the dogs walked, I was really hot.  Weather.com said it was 90°, with a feels-like reading of 94°, so no wonder I was warm.  But I found after I sat for a while in the breeze from Nature + the fans that I'd cooled down to a temp that wasn't life-threatening.  Imagine running a fever in these conditions.  I'm so very thankful I'm still healthy.

I hope you all are staying safe.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Week 3 of hiatus

Monday, 20 through Sunday, 26 of April 2020

Spring weather
Most days this week, the temp's been in the 80's which, when it's also humid and you don't have AC, can be pretty warm.  Sometimes when I think about my Momma with 3 kids, 2 still in (non-disposable) diapers, living through Texas summers without AC, I wonder about the Nobel Prize committee's selection process.

We had some variety on Wednesday, though - a serious tornado threat to our area.  David said Anna was monitoring various weather outlets and they'd let me know if anything got close.  He wanted to be sure Lily's carrying case was handy (behind the driver's seat) and said he'd come over and help me get the critters across the street if it was time.  We had some rain in the morning, but the threatened tornadoes and hail both skipped right over us and landed in East Texas instead.  I'm very sorry for them, but I'm also very relieved my little RV wasn't put to that test.  Then all the clouds cleared up and we got up to 88° by 6:00.

The temp got back up to 88° again on Friday and seems to be aiming for that level again today (Sunday).  I'm assuming it'll be even warmer next month, giving me so much to look forward to.

This week's activities
The tornado non-event day I spent working on my unfinished post about the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  I've had enough trouble with my computer freezing up that I've finally learned to save my work in progress, but this time that wasn't good enough.  Google itself ate every bit of work I did during the afternoon and all I was left with was the morning's work.  The blog is on Google's platform and the error message I got was a Google error message, which is why I'm blaming Google.  And no matter what I could think of to do, all that work was gone gone gone.  To keep from being in complete despair all evening, I watched Walk, Don't Run - Cary Grant's last movie, also starring beautiful Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton (aka Ellery Queen), who I thought was brilliant in this film.  Both very sweet and likeable.  It's impossible to watch this movie without coming away feeling the world's not such a bad place (despite Google).

The next day I redid all my work that had gotten lost and - ta-da! - have finally published a completed account of my visit to the National Civil Rights Museum.  If you want to take a look at it, it's right after the Day 22 - Memphis post in the Tennessee section.

I also added in the great photos Anna took when she and David came to spend Christmas with me.  Some she took in the town of Ozark, others are of the dogs.  They're in the post for Days 24 & 25 in the Alabama section.

I spent most of a day sorting through and packing the notebooks of the 24 states I've visited so far and storing them in the space I freed up in my basement storage after visiting the rented storage unit (see below).  That was actually a lot more work than it sounds and I was pooped after I got it done.

I took advantage of these sunny, hot days to clean all the windows in the RV - even the little one by the upper bunk that's used exclusively by Lily.  I discovered that the screens over the windows slide, but they slide only where the window slides and can't be removed, as far as I can tell.  That means the screens can't really be cleaned and the windows can't be completely cleaned unless I want to start removing a lot of screws.  Not happening.  At least, not right now.

And I discovered I'll have to remove the screws holding in the window covering to take down the venetian blinds in the little window over the kitchen sink.  As far as I'm concerned, the only reasonable way to wash those blinds is by taking them down and laying them on the grass somewhere and washing them that way, drying them in the sun.  Trying to do it while they're hanging is more of a nuisance than it's worth.  So maybe next month I'll think about taking down these window coverings and meanwhile I did a quick wipe-down of the blinds.

Now that I've gotten the RV's state inspection, I was eligible to renew the registration online, which I did.  Very exciting.  I felt like a real resident.

I spent almost a full day on the simple chores of taking a shower across the street and doing 3 weeks worth of laundry, also across the street.  Anna and David are really generous to allow me to plug in my RV and use their facilities and pat my dogs when we're all outside at the same time and get me some milk on their grocery run and just generally be good neighbors.  I'm a very lucky camper.  Without them, I'd be spending this quarantine period in near terror.  Instead, I've got 2 very sensible, level-headed relatives who are absolutely doing their share not to catch and pass on this virus.

Plans
I saw in a Carolyn Hax column the idea that someone who really likes to make plans and is very frustrated with this uncertain situation we're all in might actually be able to make plans anyway.  They just can't be the kind of plans with dates attached.  You can plan on taking a trip to France (for instance) and start researching places to visit and start taking French lessons and plan routes - for when the world's no longer under a death threat.

I thought that was a great idea because it allows room for hope.  For someone like me, goals and plans for the future carry hope.  No ideas/no plans carry a sense of hopelessness.  Sensible or stupid - that's the way it feels to me.

So I pulled out my ancient wooden puzzle of the United States and took a look at where I've been and all the states I haven't yet visited and came up with a new idea.  Instead of planning the sort of route I had before, based on avoiding northern states in the winter and southern ones in the summer, and based on moving from one state to another that was geographically next to the first, I grouped the remaining states in clumps of 3 or 4 or 5.

My thought was that I may be able to travel only a few months at a time, depending on whether the virus does increase in the fall during flu season, and depending on whether states open up too fast and we have a resurgence in cases before flu season ever comes, and depending on whether those who've been infected once develop immunity (which WHO says isn't looking likely, I'm sorry to see), and so forth.

I can tell I'll be here until at least June 1st, maybe even July 1st (though living in a metal box in Texas in July without AC isn't my first choice).  But whenever things seem to be settling down enough that I won't feel I'm risking my life by going back on the road, then I can see how many months I might have of travel time.  Maybe I'd just plan to go to - say - the clump of Missouri and Iowa and Minnesota.  And if it looked safe to stay out longer, I can add on some or all of the clump consisting of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.  Like that.  I've got one clump that's just Texas and Oklahoma, in case traveling seems safe but the experts are cautious.

Anyway, I feel better with a plan that's flexible and can be adapted to different and changing conditions.  It makes the future seem more possible and less improbable.

Errands
For this week's Cleanliness Trip on Tuesday I picked out a Love's Travel Stop in the small town of Anna, north of McKinney, for dumping my waste tanks.  I'd intended to run by the Recycling Dropoff Center to offload both my and David/Anna's weekly accumulations and then run up the highway, aka US 75, aka Central Expressway.

Groceries
Well, then I remembered there's a Kroger just around the corner from the Recycling Dropoff and, because they've designated early mornings for seniors to shop, there aren't many folks shopping then.  So I stopped off there.  By the time I got out of the Kroger, it was almost 10:00 and I'd made an 11:30 appointment for Lily to get her claws clipped.  Driving up to the Love's was more than a half-hour's drive for regular drivers (meaning much longer for me) so I'd almost certainly be late for the appointment.

Instead, I rearranged all my stops, upending my carefully planned itinerary.  Fine, no problem, but for someone trying desperately to feel even a modicum of control over life in these uncontrolled times, it was very unsettling.

Frig power
Even more unsettling was my refrigerator.  After I'd put in things like milk and eggs I'd bought at the store, I noticed the indicator light for power to the frig was off.  There's a switch at the top of it that can be set for power from propane or electricity, and when I unplug from a power source the propane comes on automatically.  Except it wasn't on.  We were already feeling the temp creeping up to the seriously hot level forecast today and the last thing I needed was a nonfunctioning frig/freezer.  So my mind started scrambling to figure out where I could get it repaired and was I going to have to cut my errands short so I could dump food off at David/Anna's extra frig/freezer to keep it from spoiling and was I going to have to cancel Lily's appointment and so forth.

Storage
Still, I decided to keep on keeping on until I could come up with a Plan C and went from the grocery store up to a UHaul to buy some book boxes, and then on to the storage unit I've been renting for the last 2+ years.  Their security procedures are pretty good and the only reason I got in and back out is that I was able to dredge up memories from when I was here in February 2018 - how to get through the gate, where the storage unit was, how to get it unlocked, how to transfer stuff in and out, how to lock it back up, how to get back out through the gate - procedures at every turn that weren't obvious on their face.

But now I've got much more room in the basement storage space and even more room in the cabin after moving out things I brought with me that I've never used.  And there'll be even more stuff moved out in a week or two because of those boxes of notebooks I packed.

Pets
By then I'd thankfully noticed that the frig's power light was back on, so that was one less thing I'd have to worry about, and it was almost time for Lily's appointment.  Except I made several wrong turns getting there because I wasn't coming from any direction I'd planned for.  Still, we made it.  One of the few vet offices in the area that was accepting non-emergency patients - and the length of Lily's claws constituting an emergency for my furnishings didn't quite make that grade.

Meanwhile, the dogs had been becoming increasingly insistent that they should have a walk, but I'd been so focused on the frig and Lily's claws and wise use of time (storing stuff because the storage place was sort of on the way) that I hadn't been able to bring myself to take time out for the dogs, poor things.

So while we waited for Lily, I took them across the busiest street in Plano to the only green grass I could see and walked them around a parking lot for a bit.  Then we went back and got the kitty and then, finally, we went on up to the City of Anna (pop. 14,200) to the Love's.

Love's
I've been noticing that most of these convenience stores are providing fairly strict adherence to CDC guidelines and employee protection: stickers on the floor showing safe distancing, plexiglass shields at the counter, employees wearing masks and/or gloves.  It's a far cry from what I saw last month in Arkansas and I'm guessing most of it indicates the change in public attitudes about the deadliness of the coronavirus.  I always wear a mask when I run these errands, and sometimes I wear gloves too - especially in grocery stores and places where I might touch things other people have touched.  And I welcome any precautions I see others taking, especially in this state with an unofficial motto of "You Can't Tell Me What To Do."  You'd think Texas was your basic idiotic 15 year old.

Sights while driving around
While we were driving around, I saw a sign at a church that said, "Jesus washes away all sins, but you still have to wash your hands."  Definitely a sign of the times.

I passed a business called Windmill Stables in Richardson near Dallas.  The thing about this place is that it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood but it's a real functioning horse stable, complete with plenty of horses.  I've assumed it was grandfathered in to the neighborhood - how else would a horse stable get into the middle of a bunch of houses - and finally got around to looking it up.  And in fact it was opened in the 1980's, at which time those houses weren't even a gleam in a developer's eye, so yes, they did get grandfathered in.

(I have mentioned, haven't I?, that grandfathering something in is a phrase that grew out of Jim Crow laws post-slavery.  Ruling whites tried to make it impossible for blacks to vote so they established literacy tests; well, poor whites couldn't pass those any more than the blacks could so they came up with an exception for those whose grandfather had been eligible to vote.  That took in the poor whites but left out the blacks who had all had grandfathers who were enslaved and were, therefore, ineligible to vote.)

I passed a church named Asian American Baptist Church.  Asian Americans are a really varied group, I'd have thought.  In fact, I looked it up and learned that, as of 2018, almost 25% of Richardson residents are foreign-born.  Only 68% of residents speak English at home; 12% speak Spanish (which is a surprise to me only because of how low a percentage it is), but 4% speak Chinese at home, more than 2% speak Vietnamese, almost 1% speak Korean, and 1.6% speak other Asian languages in the home.  So I wondered how on earth a church could cater to such a broad category of folks, and I looked them up.  What I learned was that it's a fairly new church that tries to fill an ethnic need that more conventional churches aren't but still bridge the Asian cultural differences by using English in the church.

I passed a (temporarily closed) business called Condom Sense and of course had to look it up.  They say they were established in 1990 in response to the AIDS epidemic, after Magic Johnson had announced he was HIV+.  They claim status as Dallas's oldest adult product store.

Shakespeare and the Bubonic Plague
I heard on the radio that the Bubonic Plague was a serious threat during Shakespeare's time and that he'd written Macbeth and King Lear while in quarantine.  So I looked that up and got some conflicting reports - some websites agreed with this and said he'd also written Antony and Cleopatra in that same year (1606) while stuck at home, while others said he'd left London where theaters had been closed because of the plague, was touring the provinces with his plays, and he was bored out in the boondocks, which is why he'd had time to write.  Whichever is right, they all agree that the Plague had an enormous effect on him and references can be found throughout most of his plays.

The Bubonic Plague, aka the Black Death, arose in the 1300s and was rampant in London especially but throughout England from at least 1563, when 20,000 died in London alone, 80,000 in England.  There were outbreaks periodically throughout Shakespeare's life (he was born in 1564) and it wasn't finally conquered until the Great Fire of London in 1666.  That fire killed the rats that infested the city; the rats carried fleas that carried the virus, which arose from the raw sewage dumped straight into the Thames.  In 1665 alone, the Plague killed 16% of London's population.

The Plague killed Shakespeare's 3 sisters and 3 brothers, his grandson and, most tragically, his only son.  It was so greatly to be feared and so little was known about it and went on intermittently for so long that it's no wonder Shakespeare's plays are filled with references to it.

It's hard for me to imagine it now, when we live in a time of such great scientific knowledge and people are impatient when a vaccine can't be discovered this month (i.e. instantly) for our own plague.  The people then were literally living in their own sewage, which was killing them with a horrible and excruciating illness, and that situation went on for more than 100 years.

Back at the ranch
It was hot
The official temperature today seems to have only gotten to 84° but it seemed about 10° hotter than that, especially in this metal box I'm living in.  I opened all the windows, the door and all the skylights and turned on the ceiling fan and 2 small fans that I put on the floor for the dogs.  By 5:00 Wednesday morning, the cabin temperature had still only gotten down to 75° which was only just starting to be comfortable.  We were plenty warm during the night, but there just wasn't anything I could do about it.

Holocaust Remembrance Day
I heard on the radio that Tuesday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and when I looked it up I learned that yes, it started at sundown Monday until sundown Tuesday.  Well, sundown in Richardson these days is after 8:00, so by the time I found out, I still had time to remember.  I decided to rewatch Denial, the movie about the libel trial of an author who was sued by a Holocaust denier when she wrote that he was a Holocaust denier.  She won.  The judge in London's High Court agreed that he had lied and manipulated historical facts to promote his ideas of anti-Semitism and favoring Hitler.

She's among the many who are very concerned that, like so many of the WWII generation, Holocaust survivors are beginning to die, leaving a world that is increasingly unable to believe that wholesale slaughter of people for being who they are occurred.  Maybe they're the same people who think enslaved Africans were happy working on plantations.

Correction
Actually, it's not really a correction, but somebody wrote in and asked about a post I did when I was in Delaware about Barratt's Methodist Chapel.  I've added the comment and clarifying information to that webpage, if anyone's interested in taking a look.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Week 2 of hiatus

Monday, 13 through Sunday, 19 April 2020

What I've been doing
This week has been a series of activities that would normally be called Spring Cleaning, but in this context it's called Sorting Out the Things I Don't Need on Future Travels.  During this process I've found a few things I've been looking for for the entire 24 months I've been on the road - I had put them in a very safe place, obviously.  And in the sorting this time, I've realized how much I've learned about what I truly need and how I truly live, as opposed to what I thought I'd need for the life I thought I'd have.

I've not only paid this month's bills but also straightened out some financial confusion I haven't had time to sort out before.  As an example, I finally responded to a letter from Social Security they sent me last October saying I might be able to increase my benefits.  I've been drawing survivor's benefits from my former husband's social security for 5 years or so.  Social Security tells me that the benefits I qualify for now that I've turned 70, using my own income rather than Pete's, gets me to an extra $150 a month, and they'll give me retroactive benefits at that level for the last 6 months.  I was practically incoherent with gratitude.  But a small part of me knows that Pete was such a competitive person that, in a way, he'd have hated to know that my benefits get me more money than his.  One of the ironies of life.

My usual way of doing things would have meant I'd have taken several trips to the storage unit to clear out the RV as I've sorted through various batches of things.  The hitch in that plan was that one of the things I'd put in that very safe (unfindable) place was the key to the storage unit.  I'd been smart enough right in the very beginning to leave extras with David, but it was knowing that I had one here some place that kept me sorting and looking instead of making trips.  And finally - ta-da! - I did find it.  Along with the business cards for all my medical providers in Austin and a few other important items.  But now enough time has passed that I'll just keep on with the sorting until Tuesday, when I'll need to leave anyway to dump my waste tanks again.

Weekly Cleanliness Trips
What else can you call a trip that has a primary purpose of getting rid of waste products.

Rockwall
The trip last week to Rockwall included Anna and David and didn't work all that well for them.  Anna sat at the dining table and couldn't hear much of anything David and I were talking about just a few feet away, thanks to the non-acoustics in here.  David sat in the shotgun seat and spent half his time convincing Dexter that the seat would only hold 1 at a time.  Also the passenger side door doesn't open because of that displaced molding around the outside that's barely being held in place by duct tape - it hangs down enough to block the door.  So each time he got in and out, David had to shoehorn his way into the passenger seat while trying to deal with the dog beds taking up all the floor space between the 2 front seats, as well as the console that juts out from the dashboard between the seats.  He nearly got stuck once.  Much easier for me because I'm used to all of it, but not so easy on my guests.

In Rockwall we passed an enormous building that Anna said was the county courthouse (I didn't recognize it as such because it was just sitting on a plot of land like a regular building instead of at a town square).
Rockwall County Courthouse
At that point, I was still thinking of Rockwall as being a small rural community, forgetting that it's now likely considered a suburb of Dallas and Richardson and Plano - that whole growing tech/industrial area.

Rockwall County has an estimated population (in 2017) of 96,788.  This building was built in 2011.  And rural or not, this still looks pretty fancy sitting out in a field on its own.

I walked the dogs around one of the fields and got a couple of photos with the wildflowers.

Dexter
Gracie
Gracie never wants to look at the camera.  Dexter was just oblivious.

Driving through Garland, we passed a building labeled International Leadership of Texas.  D&A told me it's a charter school and that there are several of this particular brand around the area.  I thought the name seemed a little weird so I looked them up.  They claim to work on building leaders for tomorrow by offering classes in English, Spanish and Chinese and that 100% of their students take at least 1 AP qualifying test.  All very well, but they rank as #81 among the 427 private schools in Texas, which doesn't seem very lofty to me.

I looked up Garland High School and it ranks #377 among the 2,813 public high schools in Texas.  Using very creaky old long-division without a calculator, I work that out as the private school ranking 19% and the public school ranking 13%.  Maybe I figured it out wrong, but that's what I got.  Both schools claim 60%+ minority students and 50%+ "economically disadvantaged."  So why should someone be paying for the private school?  Especially why should the State of Texas be paying for it, which I think they are.  Some economist or researcher with time on their hands during this quarantine might want to take a look at these figures statewide, and the source of their funding (and maybe the political connections of those sources).  Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of full funding for public schools and a zillion years ago was a very poorly paid teacher in the Texas public school system.

The trees and plants are noticeably green, which I commented on, but both Anna and David said it'd been like this for many weeks.  To my eyes, though, the well-advanced green was stunning.  I'd seen nothing like this in any state I've visited since last fall.

We passed the Milano Hat Company, also in Garland, and I was surprised to see the Justin brand on the building so looked it up.  Milano Hats was founded in 1983 and was very successful, and a few years ago began getting the rights to produce hats for other brands - most notably Justin® Hats, Larry Mahan® Hats, and Tony Lama® Hats.  I had no idea Garland had become the center of the Western hat universe.

We passed a building labeled Mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was a church I hadn't heard of so I looked it up.  Turns out to be a branch of Catholicism that focuses on missionary work.   The depiction of Jesus at right is theirs.

That same image is in a front yard in the next street over from here, and every time I walk the dogs by there, I think it's an odd choice for a portrait claiming to be Jesus.  He would have been a Middle Eastern Jew and, granted, people undoubtedly looked different 2,000 years ago than they do now, but at a minimum I'm confident no one living in that region had skin this pale, and I'm pretty sure those features are much more northern European too.  But it was a long time ago and cameras didn't work so well then.

Speaking of cameras, we also passed a very large warehouse-y building labeled Shutterfly.  I'd always thought this was an online company, not a manufacturing concern and couldn't figure out what they'd need a big building like this for.  I still don't know.  They say online that they are indeed an online tech company and don't manufacture any products that aren't already on your computers.  And this building didn't look like someplace a bunch of computer programmers or techs would be sitting around in.  It looked like a warehouse or, at most, a factory building.  No windows.  Odd.

We passed a bridge that was labeled as prohibited to any vehicle "over 3 axles or more."  It still strikes me as funny.  Did they really need to say no more than 3 axles twice in one sign?

Caddo Mills
This past week for variety I drove to a place called Holiday Road Travel Center at Caddo Mills, which is a few miles beyond Farmersville and is just as rural an area as it sounds.  This place turned out to be an RV park with multiple RV services, including a repair shop.  So I was able not only to dump my waste tanks there, but also dump my garbage and fill my water tank.  And then they let me take my dogs to their enclosed dog park (which the dogs immediately misused by eating grass instead of running around and enjoying being off leash).  They were very nice about everything, but the RV park didn't seem very hospitable to me - the land had been completely cleared and the nearest trees were quite a ways away, so it's probably fiercely hot when the sun shines.

On the way there I passed a Raytheon plant.  Turns out they've already got plants in Dallas, Richardson and Plano and are building one in McKinney and claim more rapid growth in North Texas than anywhere else in the US.

I passed through the town of Murphy, pop. about 20,000, that David tells me was there when I was in high school but I sure don't remember it.  Still, that was in the '60s and even as recently as 2000 its population was only 3,100, so it was probably tiny back then and surrounded by fields.  Now it's an actual town and bleeds into other surrounding areas.

I saw lots of bluebonnets and paintbrush along the road.  Anna said the peak was weeks ago, but it still looks good to me.  I also passed huge fields full of yellow flowers.  Very sunny on this non-sunny day.

I passed through Farmersville, pop. 3,301, with the slogan "Discover a Texas Treasure."  Maybe next time I go out that way I'll stop for a look at the town.  This trip I just stopped at the Dairy Queen for a malt, and found they'd stopped answering their phone so I had to go to the drive-up machine and place my order that way and they brought it out the (locked) door to me.  Odd experiences these days are bringing.  Nothing wrong with the malt, though.

I passed through Princeton, pop. 6,807, which I've also never heard of.  But it's been around for a while because there was once a POW camp there briefly during WWII.  I found a one-page entry that seems to say a migratory labor camp was converted to hold German POWs, who were actually held 5 months after the end of the war.  It's the "migratory labor camp" bit that's interesting to me.  Take a look for yourselves at this link.   https://www.collincountyhistory.com/pow-camp

I heard on the radio that Cook Political Report has designated Wichita Falls as the most conservative congressional district in the United States.  Which is saying something, when you think about it.  We lived in Wichita Falls for 2 years - Pres. Kennedy was assassinated while we were living there - and I don't remember anything about that time that made me think it was so very right-wing.  Either I was too young, or my parents insulated me, or things have changed.  Or all 3.

I drove through McKinney, current pop. 195,342 (where Raytheon is going in).  McKinney is considered an exurb of the DFW metroplex and is reaping the population benefits.  From 2000 to 2003, and again in 2006, it was the fastest-growing city in the US among cities of more than 50,000.  In 2007, it was the 2nd fastest growing city in the US among those of more than 100,000, and in 2008, and again in 2017, it was the 3rd fastest in the same group.   The 2010 census put it at 131,117; the estimate for 2018 is 191,645.  And in 2014, Money magazine named it the #1 Best Place to Live in America.

All that for little old McKinney.  Who'd've thunk it?

Plano - Allison Autocare
I'd stopped here last week to get the RV officially inspected (now that I'm back in the state of Texas), only to discover that I couldn't lay my hands on a copy of my current insurance policy.  That policy is one of the many valuable things I unearthed during my Spring Cleaning this last week, so this time when I stopped, they were glad to help me out.

It's been a while since I've had to get a vehicle inspected, and I remember the days of putting it on a machine to test vehicle emissions and other exciting things.  No longer.  Those days are past.  This guy checked all my equipment, including my tires, and asked some questions and that was pretty much it.  But he sends in a report to the state about how road-worthy I am, so this time I can get the registration done without arguing about getting the inspection done in another state.

In fact, my registration is due in May, and my driver's license expires in September, so I've put both on my list of things to do during this hiatus.  But at least I now know where my insurance proof is and I now have my inspection done.

Future plans
Earlier in the week, I got the impression from the news that maybe if I stayed here through May, I'd be able to get back on the road in June.  I really miss it - the traveling around and seeing new things and learning about new places and people.  Then I started to do a little research.

I discarded my original travel plan, which would have me postpone Missouri (April) and Iowa (May) for a later time, and instead go to Minnesota in June, North Dakota in July and South Dakota in August, and possibly even Nebraska in September.  My thinking was that some of the medical people are hoping the virus will die down during the summer, and possibly kick back into gear in the fall, which might give me some travel time.

But all those states except Minnesota have governments that have refused to institute statewide stay-home orders, making me very very nervous about traveling there.  Just because the virus may not be spreading as fast doesn't mean it isn't spreading at all.  And with my asthma and my age group, I feel pretty vulnerable.

Instead I thought I might head west to New Mexico and Arizona and Nevada.  I looked them up to see what kinds of measures their governments were instituting and found that even in those states where the governors were being very cautious, they were being subverted by the state legislatures and by protesters among the general population.

And when I look east to the states I missed in the beginning - Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina - I'm seeing the same sort of trouble recognizing reality.  I'm getting pretty sick of listening to elected officials saying saving lives is less important than saving the economy.  Like the illustrious lieutenant governor of Texas did a month ago - this article is a funny version of that ghastly pronouncement.   https://news.yahoo.com/texas-lt-gov-dan-patrick  I still don't understand why it's an either/or proposition.

Anyway, after all that discouraging research, I concluded I can't make plans right now.  I can hope - but I'm with those who think adequate testing is a bare minimum for opening things back up, and we sure ain't there yet.  But who knows.  Maybe in a month things'll be different.

Meanwhile I'm taking comfort from the advice I noted last week from that elderly survivor of other worldwide disasters - forget about planning into the future and instead make a daily to-do list.  So every morning, I sit down and make a list for the day.  And I do my very best to get through my list each day.  That's where I focus my attention.  It really does help.  I can control the little things.  The rest is up to somebody else and there's no point in wasting energy thinking about it.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Week 1 of hiatus

Monday, 6 through Sunday, 12 April 2020

As I'm sure everyone else is experiencing, my week seemed very strange on several levels.

* One was the progress of Spring.  The Dallas area is farther south than I've been in a while and Spring is much farther along than I've been seeing it.  Here all the plants are completely leafed out, and it's easy to see which ones survived the winter, which are sick, and which didn't make it.  Many of the flowers and flowering trees I saw in Arkansas, for instance, are well past their blooming time here, and we've moved on to Bearded Iris, which seem to be blooming everywhere.  Also Anna tells me the Bluebonnets are way past their prime, though I still see some here and there.  What's up now are Oriental Poppies and Bachelor Buttons - often together, and their striking blue and red together are just gorgeous.

* Another (and related) area of strangeness was the weather.  This past week we had days where the high barely got to the mid-60s, and others that were downright hot.  On Wednesday, Dallas set a record high temp for the date of 97°, with a high of 88° the day before.  I'm plugged into a 20 amp power cord from David and Anna's house so can't turn on the AC, just the fan.  So for a couple of nights, I had all the windows and the door and the skylights wide open all night.  This meant not closing the shades, because they'd block off the breeze.  I think it was hardest on the dogs - especially Gracie.  One evening I found her panting and heaving, and I finally took a chance and wiped both the dogs down with an ice cube.  I've heard that may not be good for dogs, but neither is Gracie's double coat in an indoor temp of 85°.  It seemed to help her.  Actually, I did the same for me and it felt great.

We've also had intermittent rain, with occasional serious thunderstorms.  Gracie was already well under the table at that point and, when Dexter came to me and looked worried, I encouraged him to go join her, which he did.  Pretty well the gamut of spring weather this week.

* Still another different situation for me is that this is not only not a campground, with the usual campground amenities available (think dump station), but also it's a residential neighborhood that's under an HOA situation.  It's certainly obvious to the neighbors that I'm actually living in this RV, but so far no one's raised any concerns.  I try to keep a low profile, but I'm still taking up one of only 4 extra parking spaces for this little cul-de-sac we're on.  On the other hand, another one is always occupied by the mom of a resident, working here at least temporarily from Louisiana; another one is also always occupied by a nearly unemployed neighbor, so it's not like I'm the only long-term parker.  I'm hoping people will avoid pushing on this issue because of not wanting to be in close contact with a stranger during these weird communicable-virus times.  And anyone can see I'm sheltering in place, which may ease what might otherwise be trouble.

This HOA seems typical of what I've heard of others, where at least one person is a stickler for compliance with the rules.  Anna told me there was a huge fuss when a homeowner on the next street wanted to take advantage of major tax rebates and cover his roof with solar panels.  Common sense won, but I guess it was a struggle with some HOA bigshots.  But it's that sort of thing that worries me and doesn't want me to get my family into some kind of conflict just because I'm sitting here in front of their house, scared of getting this virus.

* Speaking of campground amenities, I took the RV out on Tuesday to do some errands.  I drove over to Rockwall (smallish suburb of Dallas) to a TA Travel Center on the interstate where, for $10, they let me dump my tanks.  I found them on a website called www.rvdumps.com, which I hadn't known existed.  Very helpful.  Showed available dump sites both on a map and in a list.  Then I went to The Propane Station in Plano, which was basically a fancy name for a regular gas station that also sold propane.  I still wasn't down to a quarter tank but thought I'd better get it while I was out in case the predicted cold front blew through.  (It did, but not right away and it wasn't all that cold.)  I can usually wait 7 or 8 days to dump my tanks, but it'll still be a once-a-week thing.  Now that I have that website, though, I can check out different places in this area.

* Another thing that's different is that I'm not usually too concerned about my health, other than the aches and pains from the most recent dog-dragging incident - that sort of thing.  Yet now I'm taking my temp several times a day and continually mindful of possible symptoms.  Then at some point this week I learned that asymptomatic can mean the person can have the virus but never show symptoms.  I had thought it meant that it might take several days of having the virus before the symptoms showed and hadn't realized a person could have it and never show symptoms.  That thought really shook me. 

I've seen that my usual temp is 97._° but this week I've seen it go up as high as 99°, which really worried me.  That was the first day, though, of the heat wave and I realized later my temp was up because I was hot.  It went back down again later.  Easy to become a hypochondriac in these weird circumstances.

Anna is as cautious as I am when we go to the grocery store and other errands.  We always wear a mask outside our vehicle.  Yesterday I also started wearing gloves partly to protect me from all the dopes who still aren't taking this seriously, but also because of not wanting to infect someone else, in case I'm one of those asymptomatic people.  Such a strange world we're living in now.

And I just learned this morning that the virus is creepier than I'd suspected.  Scientists don't yet know exactly what its properties are.  If it behaves like the 1918 flu pandemic, it could abate during the summer and then come roaring back in the fall.  They're also discovering that even those who recover from having the virus aren't recovering fully - people's organs aren't regaining their former strength.  The virus seems to be leaving a trail of damage through the body, leaving a weakened heart or liver or other organs.  There are no long-term survivors yet, since the first case only happened a few months ago, so they don't have any way of knowing the long-term effects of this virus.  This information would certainly argue against those who think we should just all get infected, with most of us surviving, and then we'd have antibodies.  In fact, scientists think the weakened organs of survivors may make them more susceptible to catching the virus again with possibly worse consequences.

Then this morning I saw an interview with a well-respected vaccine researcher at Baylor Medical College in Houston who said scientists are very unlikely to come up with a vaccine by the end of the year, because the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed was the mumps vaccine, which took 4 years.

He also said the 1918 flu pandemic actually came in several waves that lasted 3 years, from early 1918 until late 1920.  He said everybody's working around the clock on this so it's at least possible they'll get a vaccine sooner, but people shouldn't be counting on it.

He was worried about what might happen when they relax the quarantine rules, only to need to reimplement them a few months later when the next wave comes along.  He was afraid people wouldn't take it seriously the 2nd time around, since so many are having trouble taking the 1st round seriously.    If you want to look him up, this is Dr. Peter Hotez, who's been appearing on many networks to get information out to people.  Smart man.

I saw an interview with a woman who is 102.  She was born during the flu epidemic in 1918 and lived through the Great Depression and WWII.  Her advice on making it through this: To cope with this virus, don't get stressed about planning far ahead.  You can't do it.  She said long ago she learned that when life started to feel out of her control because of war or pestilence, she would to start each morning by making a to-do list.  That was the only thing she could control, and she stuck to working her way through her list each day.  She said to keep in mind that this, like everything else, will pass.  

I find her advice helpful.  Like everyone else, my life is on hold and my plans are shattered.  Almost everything about the future seems uncertain and potential hazardous.  I can't plan ahead with any certainty at all, and it makes me feel uneasy.  But simply accepting that that lack of control isn't my fault, that I can't do anything to bring it back, that I just have to wait for events to unfold and see where we are then - that's an attitude that brings me a small sense of peace.  And I love to-do lists anyway.

I've noticed that "Stay safe" is the new way to say goodbye to people.  It makes me, and I think others, feel like we all care about each other, that we're all in this together.  What strange times we're living in.