One Year on the Road

Waco, Texas

Waco made news last month when two rival biker gangs had a lunchtime shootout at a local restaurant, killing nine. But what put Waco on the map before that, at least for us, was one of Kate’s favorite HGTV home decorating shows, Fixer Upper. In it, a Waco couple takes on redecorating newly purchased homes in the area. They’ll start with some termite-infested, off-kilter house with “good bones,” gut it, repair it, and decorate it like a Texas Country dream home.

Chip and Joanna.

Not much of a plot line, but Chip’s boyish antics and the Joanna’s eye-rolling good humor make the show appealing, and Kate loves it. The couple also own a home décor store in Waco named Magnolia, and when we had a weekend to fill, Kate wanted to check out Waco and find their store. As long as we kept away from biker hangouts, I was game.

Thousand Trails RV Club

I’m still deciding what I think about this RV Resort Club. The cheapest membership is $545 a year for camping in one “zone.” There are five zones in the U.S., with between 13 and 23 resorts in each. A year’s membership gets you 30 free nights in any 1,000 Trails Resort in the zone you choose. After that, you pay $3 a night for up to a total of 100.

We got a free year’s membership when we bought Bessie. We chose the Southwest zone and we stayed at several resorts in California, and one in Arizona. One was pretty run down, most were rather remote, but generally, they were good places to stay, usually with pools, laundry facilities, and other amenities.

When we signed up for the club, our representative promised us that we could switch zones (only once) when we moved out of the Southwest zone. So when we got to Texas, I gave her a call to start taking advantage of the Southeast resorts. I called for two weeks. She never answered her phone and never returned my messages. When I called member services, they said I could only change zones on my anniversary date, when I signed up for another year.

After two weeks, I got a supervisor and at last, a response from Stacy. She apologized and said she’d been on vacation (which I’m not sure I believe). She agreed to change the zone for me and offered to extend our membership another year and add a second zone for $300. At this point, I was feeling like Thousand Trails was pretty shady business. But when she promised, in writing, to let us switch both zones later in the year so we could basically cover the states, I agreed. Even if we just stayed ten nights in resorts, we’d more than cover our costs, and it could save us a lot of money in the long run. I’m still a little skeptical, but we’ll see.

Flooded Lake Whitney.

We booked two nights in a 1,000 Trails resort on Lake Whitney, about 40 miles from Waco. This one, as it turns out, was in bad shape, but not through any fault of its own. The recent floods had washed out the road to their two main loops, laundry facilities, adult lodge and pool. And before that, lightning and wind storms had felled many trees. So they were only partially open, with one pool and one wooded loop. But it was an okay place to rest our heads for the weekend.

A Day in Waco

On Saturday, we left Bailey in the air conditioned RV and drove into Waco. First thing, we went to Magnolia, Chip and Joanna’s home décor store. Waco’s most popular couple wasn’t there, but the store was having a parking lot sale and the place was packed. There was an ice cream cart, and free melon-mint water and pumpkin muffins. We don’t have much room for home décor additions to Bessie, but Kate did find a tea towel with a drawing of a goat and the Magnolia logo. She made it into an apron souvenir.

Lunch counter.

For lunch, we found a popular downtown diner (without bikers) called Jake’s Texas Teahouse. It had a 1960s garage theme, filled with shiny cars (or partial cars), old gas pumps and rusty signs. We shared a huge country fried steak and soaked up the local atmosphere.

After lunch, we stopped for a tour of a house museum that is only open for two hours on Saturday. It was built in 1858, originally as a one-room house for the Earle family (with slaves sleeping down by the river). In 1869, the Napier family bought the place and added onto the house and it stayed in the family for two more generations. I liked that the last residents of the house were two educated spinster sisters who stayed there until their deaths.

Mom’s Oldest Friend

Mom and Barbara in 2008.

When we left on Sunday, we drove through Plano and stopped for lunch with my mom’s oldest friend and her daughter. Barbara and my mom met in kindergarten, and stayed close for much of their lives. Barbara and her daughter, Jenny, met Mom, Beth and I for lunch in Austin six years ago. It was a bittersweet reunion, because Mom’s Alzheimer’s left her clearly impaired and that had to be hard for her old friend to see. But it was heartening to see these two together, who’d started their friendship 75 years earlier.

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