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Patio Touchups

November 8, 2017

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Being parked “permanently” means giving a little more attention to the outdoor space. Heart surgery got in the way of doing much around the place for the summer, so we decided to at least dress things up a bit before winter gets here.

The impetus for doing this the other day was a chance encounter with a neighbor we hadn’t met. I pass her site on my walks and always admire the collection of succulents and other plants she grows under her fifth wheel overhang. She was outside that day and I commented that I’d sure like a couple of cuttings. Before I knew it, she was picking out plants to send home with me. She said she grows them to give away.

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One of our acquisitions was this collection of succulents that Nell repotted into a low clay bowl that we had sitting empty. The big green things are pieces of Irish Spring soap. Our next door neighbor puts this in her planting beds and it’s supposed to keep rabbits and other mammals from feasting on our plants.

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To go with our new acquisitions, we picked up a little bit of sedum and some pansies at Loew’s.  As these grow, we’ll move them into bigger pots for larger spots of color.

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There are still a couple of things we want to do, but at the moment, it’s cold and rainy, so they will have to wait. The idea of investing in a gazebo-style garden tent is back in the conversation. The umbrella is a nice touch, but on windy days it waves around like a sail. We’ll see once winter is past.

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For now, we’ll settle for color. And on a dreary day like today, a little color goes a long way.

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Painting in an RV

October 24, 2017

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I know of a couple of artists who have converted an RV into a mobile studio, but they appear to be strictly for travel and/or short-term use. The problem with being an artist who actually lives in his RV with his spouse is that one can’t always be set up and ready to paint. I take up a lot of storage space with art supplies, paper, sketchbooks, etc. and now I’m adding stretched canvas to the collection. The only way I can get away with this is that I have a very understanding wife. We met and married as mature adults and she accepted the fact that I was an artist, with all that goes along with that. In fact, if you’ve followed us for a while, you know she has even been a participant in the artist life.

So I try to be considerate. I put the easel away when I’m not painting. The good news (for me, at least) is that I’ve been painting a lot lately.

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This is the first batch of 16×20 acrylic paintings on canvas done since my heart surgery. I’m enjoying it immensely and hope to get a couple of paintings into the gallery before long.

 

The Chicken Fried Steak in Weir, Texas

October 20, 2017

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About three weeks ago we decided on a gray Wednesday that it was a good day to check out a new RV park being built northeast of Georgetown (Texas), on Hwy 971 between Weir and Granger. I’ll leave the park nameless at this point. Turns out ground was barely being broken, so there was really not much to see. Our impression was that it was being built on a bald hill without a single tree, and was way too far from much of anything (groceries, etc.). There was a positive note, though. We had lunch at a cafe at a gas station/convenience store called Weir Country Store, at the only major intersection in Weir, Texas (Pop. 591, according to the 2000 census). The only identifying sign is for the Shamrock gas station. In fact, the only way we found the place was by driving a couple of blocks off the highway and asking at City Hall. We not only got directions, we were informed that Wednesday was chicken fried steak day.

We splurged and went for the Wednesday Special: chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. (We did order the small.) We got there early but by the time we left the place was nearly packed. They’re supposed to have really good hamburgers, but it’s a long way to go for a burger. It just might not be too far for that chicken fried steak, though.

River Views

October 14, 2017

This blog was begun several years ago as a travel blog. There hasn’t been a lot of traveling done in the past couple of years and the blog posts have become less frequent. I felt that if I didn’t have photos of places to show, no one would be interested. This morning I was reminded that the title “Back Roads & Brushes” implies art, and the original intent was to post paintings and drawings of the places we’d been. And… this blog is also a way for me to stay in touch with a few special friends. So… here is a recent piece that reflects the title. I think.

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Along The North Fork, 16×20, Acrylic (in progress)

As most of you know, health issues slowed our RV travels significantly and we settled somewhat “permanently” at an RV park northeast of Austin, Texas. One of the reasons we chose this place is the north fork of the San Gabriel River runs beside it. The park sits above the river and while we don’t have a view of it, a less than five minute walk takes us down to the bank. When we moved here, the river was almost dry due to drought conditions. Since then, we have seen it rise and fall (never to a threatening level).

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Morning On The North Fork, 16×20, Acrylic (in progress)

 

I’ve begun working in acrylics and, in fact, The Mason Gallery in Mason, Texas took a couple of my acrylic paintings along with several gouache paintings to begin my tenure as one of their artists. (Mason is a 1 1/2 hour drive due west of us.) The paintings were 11×14 and the owner requested I work at 16×20 size. These paintings are in progress with the hope of getting them into the gallery.  Although they are  both works-in-progress, I thought I’d share them.

Hurricane Harvey

August 27, 2017

(While this article focuses on the Coastal Bend of the Gulf Coast, we cannot ignore the devastating flooding that is taking place in Houston and surrounding areas. I grew up in Houston. Nell and I have family and a lot of friends there, so our thoughts and prayers go out to them.)

Everyone probably has a favorite place to visit, to spend a week or a weekend, or a vacation. I have to admit, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, I saw the names of a lot of places I had never heard of. With that in mind, I suspect not everyone has ever heard of Rockport or Port Aransas. They are on a part of the Texas coast called the Coastal Bend, near Corpus Christi. They are small towns, coastal towns, tourist towns. And we, like a lot of Texans, love them.

When we were traveling full-time in the motorhome, we spent two winters in Rockport. Rockport sits on the mainland. Port Aransas sits on Mustang Island, beside the shipping channel that leads from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Corpus Christi.  One of our favorite day trips was to take the car ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas and explore the town, walk on the beach and watch for dolphins at Rogers Point Park. We’ve also spent an occasional week at Mustang Towers, a condo that sits right on the beach further down Mustang Island, and we’ve stayed at other rental places on the island with family as well.

Our first winter there, we meandered around at the Port Aransas marina and I did a little painting there. We met several people who lived full time on their sailboats moored at the marina, and one day we were even invited aboard by one of them to share a bottle of wine. We have a piece of decorative ceramic on our patio which we bought in Port A.  And, of course, we’ve developed our own list of favorite restaurants, cafes, and shops. Earlier this year, we were seriously considering relocating to an RV park in nearby Aransas Pass.

On Friday night, a monster named Harvey roared ashore as a Category 4 hurricane and devastated Rockport and adjoining Fulton, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass. We’ve already seen images of familiar and favorite places severely damaged. Major RV parks on Mustang Island have been destroyed. We’re still not sure of those in Rockport, but some were right on the waterfront at ground zero. At this writing, first responders are still trying to clear Highway 361, the only highway running the length of Mustang Island from Port Aransas to Corpus Christi.

The area will spend years rebuilding. We intend to continue trying to find places to stay when they reopen and spend badly needed dollars at restaurants and shops. We don’t have a lot. But we haven’t lost everything like the businesses and residents along the Coastal Bend. For now, if you were planning a trip there, you should call ahead.

Back In The Saddle (sort of)

August 9, 2017

Here’s an update:

https://ralphparker.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/and-im-back/

 

Surgery rescheduled

June 10, 2017

My surgery has been rescheduled to Monday, June 19th. Thanks to everyone for your best wishes.