Monday, April 25, 2016

And In The Meantime...

As I wrapped up the entries about the Mexico mission trip I went over notes (mental and written) about future entries.  The following are what's taking up space in my noggin.  

A Tough Question

At last month's 4H meeting the opening question was: If you could be someone for one day, who would it be?  

Geoana's answer was Beyonce.  

Who would I choose?  

I thought about this one for some time.  The one day limit eliminates anyone whose lifestyle I envy because even if I choose someone who's perpetually on the "very wealthy persons" list you can only do so much in one day.  

I pick Tim Cook.  Not for the purpose of enjoying his wealth (which he doesn't even seem to do much given he's a notorious workaholic).  No, more so for the reason that in one day I can learn about everything coming down the Apple development pipeline.  

There is one drawback to this concept.  Once that day is done I won't be pleasantly surprised by Apple's offerings in future keynote presentations.  For many years.  

That might send me back to the proverbial drawing board.  

However I just can't think of anyone else.  During the Texas family visit I mentioned this to my sister and her brood.  Got some interesting answers including sports figures.  

I still don't know.  I guess Cook wins by default.  

Maybe I need to develop a more interesting life.  


I checked the weather forecast in early April and decided to take a chance and de-winterize the camper.  

So far, so good.  I think we're done with the freezing temps for this season.  And it's gratifying to know the on-the-fly winterizing Geogal and I executed in the dealer's parking lot worked just fine.  

I plan at least one trip in May.  A short one, one of those leave-Friday-after-work and return on Sunday afternoon.  I don't know yet the destination for a longer summer sojourn.  

But that's part of the fun.  Heck, I might just get a map and a yardstick and see what develops.  


My surgery scar is healing just fine.  The glue finally dried up and fell off so my face looks much more like normal.  Also just about everyone who's curious has asked me about my facial issue so I don't have much explaining to do these days.  


See you next time!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wrapping It Up

Many thanks to those of you following my adventures/exploits/experiences on the Mexico mission trip.  This is my second-to-last entry where I'll provide some snippets of the time between crossing back over the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and arriving back home in Kansas.

Geoana and I reunited formally with Geogal at the Church of Christ in Del Rio.  We had foresight to pack our luggage at the very back of the van's trailer so transferring belongings took no time whatsoever.  Daughter and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the team and then our reunited Geofamily made a beeline to Chick-Fil-A for a very late lunch.

Our reunion gives me a small sense of relief.  As the child and I went to Texas with the church group Geogal was left to drive herself to south Texas.  For those of you who aren't acquainted with her, she has a poor since of direction.  Up to the day she left she dreaded taking a wrong turn somewhere and winding up like these guys:

Back to our story.  Well fed, I get behind the wheel of the Nitro.  Since I haven't driven in nearly a week I'm happy to take the helm.

Turn east on U.S. 90 and it's a drive through only-slightly familiar territory.  As I noted in a previous post I last was this way (in a vehicle) in 1979 when dad, two cousins and I took a trip to Big Bend National Park.

Along the way this particular afternoon I learn of how Geodad and Geogal tried to kill the time since the border crossing happened later than anticipated.  Dad thought Geogal would enjoy seeing a bit of West Texas history and the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langtry fits the bill.  Once the two of them got to the town of Comstock Dad realized he was off on his recollection.  He mentally had Comstock and Langtry reversed and since the latter would be a longer round-trip than first thought they reversed direction and headed back to Del Rio.

Desert brush starts giving way to taller and greener flora and soon San Antonio is within striking distance.  I told Dad (joking, of course) that I don't remember San Antonio and Castroville being so close together.  Of course I noted urban S.A. has made a very westward march and Castroville now seems more so to be a bedroom community rather than the small town of the past.

Highway turns to freeway and soon we're in Seguin.  More greetings and hugs.  Geomom and Geodad planned to take all of us to a restaurant for Texas cuisine (i.e. chicken-fried steak) but again, because the border crossing was so late in the afternoon by the time we arrived in Seguin it was nearly closing time for the eating establishment.  Maybe next time.

That very evening I take advantage of our lodging amenities and hit the shower.  I enjoy the water pressure, improved temperature control and not having to be on someone else's schedule.  Geoana does the same thing the following morning.

That day it's also time for a family get-together.  Geosister the older, her husband, and their three sons join us and we all enjoy a day of talking and eating.  I might have missed chicken-fried steak yesterday but the meals today include breakfast tacos (from another Seguin eatery, Su Casa), BBQ beef brisket for lunch and Whataburger for supper.

With great pleasure I enjoy every bit of today's Texas-based menu.

Saturday dawns and it's time for our nuclear family to get on the highway and head north.  I wanted to make a "stop" at Czech Stop in West.  During my last road trip here (in December 2012) I picked up several varieties of kolaches and took them home to liven up breakfast time.

Problem is, between then and now Czech Stop seems to have been "discovered" and in this age of the 'Net word spreads quickly.  The nondescript convenience store/bakery is now a larger travel plaza with quite the line of folks queued up to purchase kolaches and other baked goods.  Remember in my last post how I revealed my impatient nature?  It flared up again and I was ready to bail and get back on the road.  However the woman in line just behind us said these lines moved rather quickly and the staff was very efficient.

So purchase kolaches we did!  Yes, we enjoyed these breakfast treats upon returning home!

It turned out to be a long day on the road.  We chose to go far today as to have a short trip home the next.  The overnight stop ended up being Wichita.  Hotel was nice and we enjoyed a supper featuring Mediterranean offerings.

The next day is Sunday.  Our last day on the highway begins with a bit of a surprise from Old Man Winter.

I go out to the Nitro and add brushing off snow to my list of pre-trip chores.

Fortunately this storm was fast-moving and before we're even out of the city the clouds give way to sunlight.  All the way to Salina I'm treated to the perverse joy of seeing and hearing sheets of snow fall off the vehicle.

Finally, home sweet home.  Am I better for the experience?


Am I changed?


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Will We Ever Cross The Border?

House is built!  We’ve accomplished what we, as a team, set out to do.  

Generally at this point we would head over to the Casas storage area and return the tools to their rightful places.  However several of our bunch wanted to visit the house they built last year.  

Which doesn’t sound like much of a time commitment.  Except that the site of this house was, generally speaking, way out to Timbuktu and back.  

Plus Carolyn wanted to make another stop in order to give an isolated medical clinic some supplies (another of our trailer contents that we had no intention of taking back to Kansas).  At least the medical provider was in the same general area as last year’s house.  

Then, finally, we return the tools and other construction implements.  But my desire to move along is thwarted when several of our gang linger in the T-shirt (and other items with the Casas Por Cristo logo) shop.  I do go in there with an open mind but none of the items really grab me.  Geoana chooses a long-sleeved shirt.  

Wait, wait, wait.  After a time everyone else finishes their purchases.  We say goodbye to Jason and prepare to drive to the downtown shopping district.  

Carolyn does a thorough job of explaining our time limit (one hour) and that we are to stay in groups of at least three.  

Geoana and I stick with several others and we venture through several tiendas.  Geoana does see a liter bottle of vanilla and accepts the deal for a mere 5 American dollars.  (Turns out we could have joined Carolyn’s mass order for $4 per bottle but decided even before we left Kansas that we didn’t need a liter of vanilla.)  Geoana convinced me by making one statement:  “Dad, do you know how much better my cookies will taste if I use that stuff?”  


What do I buy?  Six half-liter glass bottles of Coca-Cola.  That’s right, the same stuff I enjoyed on our runs to Oxxo.  One of the other teenagers with us follows my cue and buys himself a 2-liter bottle of something called Joya.  

Our group is observant enough to return to the church vans before the hour is up.  Can’t say the same for the others.  In truth just about everyone does show up on time.  Save for two folks--a mother and daughter.  Apparently daughter is having a bracelet made and it’s taking more time than expected.  

More wait, more wait, more wait.  

During this time I get a call from Geogal.  She knew of the original schedule indicating we cross back over the border sometime around noon or 1 p.m.  But that didn’t take into account us having the house dedication this morning (instead of yesterday afternoon or evening) or the visit to last year’s house, or taking much longer than expected with just about everything today!!!

One of my character defects is I tend to go from just a little impatient to warp-speed annoyance.  No middle ground.  To say I’m doing a slow burn at this point doesn’t do my mental state justice.  

I explain to Geogal that since I’m with a group I simply have no power over when we will cross back over the border.  She’s peeved and I’m apologetic.  Doesn’t help my mental state.  

So Geogal and my father continue to knock around Del Rio while I play the waiting game.  

The mother-daughter duo finally arrive and then it’s time for us to head for la frontera?  

No, not yet.  

Jim (the other trip leader and husband of Carolyn) decides he wants to stay “hi” to a vendor acquaintance.  “Just let me out, take a quick spin around the block and I’ll be back on your next go-round,” he promises.  

It actually does go according to plan but I’m still fuming and wondering when (perhaps if) we ever will get back to the Great State of Texas.  

Finally, the border is in sight.  Going through the Mexican toll area takes no time at all.  

Over the Rio Grande, then it’s sit in a long line of vehicles waiting to pass through the immigration checkpoint.  

An hour later (no exaggeration) we’re through!  They didn’t even motion us off to the side or anything.  

And then I see my own vehicle.  Meet them, then wait for the other church van.  Greetings and hugs all around.  

Nice to be back in the States.  Finally.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


For the last time I wake up in a large room.  Actually its the sanctuary of a Pentecostal church in Acuna.  But for the past three days it’s been our home base, sleeping quarters and evening devotional location.  One of our leaders (Carolyn) made extensive use of the adjoining kitchen.  

I use that kitchen’s sink area also.  Since the bathroom the men typically use holds the four shower stalls there is no vanity or sink.  I’m told by one of the women sponsors that the ladies’ bathroom has a sink with a rather large mirror.  No shower area, though.  So, making the best with what I have I use the kitchen sink for the evening brushing of teeth and the morning putting-in of the contact lenses.  

In case you're curious, come evening the men showered first, then the women had their turn under the almost-no-water-pressure shower heads.  

But back to the story.  I woke early, as is my nature.  So early that I was either the first or second person in our entire entourage to put feet to the floor. 

Before lights-out the night before our youth minister decreed 6:30 would be the wake-up time.  

With some coffee already working its way through my veins and brain cells I kept an eye on the time.  

As the waking time approached I decided to get a little gratis entertainment.  Sat down right beyond the church’s foyer, affording me a great view of the entire large room.  

In a couple of minutes the alarms began to ding, buzz, chime, hum and mambo.  Right away I went to the light switches and bathed the whole area in nice incandescence.  

Probably had a grin on my face.  Maybe even an evil one.  

Soon all are up and about and it’s time to get very busy.  Deflate and roll up our mattresses, fold the linens, pack everything.  Clean, clean, clean.  

Load the vehicles for the last time.  Get everything belonging to the mission organization into Jason’s truck.  Everything else?  Into the vans and the trailer.   


More clean, clean, clean.  

Then I’m asked to do a unique task.  Since I am one of only two in the whole group who is proficient in Spanish, our missionary excepted, Carolyn hands me a card and asks me to write the Acuna church a thank you message.  En espanol.  

I think I composed a good one.  However since I’m a southpaw I did smear some of the ink.  Dang it!  It’s the thought that counts, right?  

Soon we’re ready to head to the house site for the dedication ceremony.  I packed well and have a fresh shirt to wear.  I notice some others in our entourage picked out his or her cleanest dirty shirt.  

We are again welcomed warmly by Juan, Emma, Christal, Antonio, Garcon, and many others.  

Also on hand are Amos y Gloria, the people for whom Jim and Carolyn built a Casas Por Cristo house two years ago.  The same wonderful folks who brought us the empanadas ayer.  

Did I mention Amos and Gloria pastor the church that our Acuna family attends?  Again, small world south of the border.  

Prayer time, and there is nothing quite like Pentecostals doing group prayer.  Only one person praying publicly is unheard of to them.  It is a lovely cacophony of spoken blessings, thanksgivings, and petitions in both English and Spanish.  Mostly Spanish.  

Our family receives the keys to the house.  We all then participate in a ritual in which a small, almost like a bicycle-size license plate is nailed to the window frame to let all visitors and passersby know this is a Casas Por Cristo-built house.  Jason the missionary starts it but everyone steps up one at a time, takes the hammer and gives the nail a strike.  The last one is Juan and he finishes the job as he should.


Then it’s picture-taking time.  My only goof of the morning was to stow my sunglasses away in Geoana’s pack which wound up in the trailer and inaccessible at this time.  And that desert sun is bright.  

Oh well.  Tough it out.  

After what seemed like endless abrazos and goodbyes our team finally is ready to leave the work site and move on to the rest of our daily agenda.  

And that, dear readers, is a story worth its own blog entry.  Watch for it tomorrow.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

We Have House!!

Note to my readers:  There is an explanation for this being my first post in a week.  I went to Omaha and had a procedure to remove skin cancer.  The trip there and back, plus recovery, took more out of me than I expected and therefore the lack of postings.  Good news--they got all of the cancer and it hadn't rooted.  I thank all of you for reading about my mission trip to Mexico.  Here's the latest installment:  


Another morning!  Get ready for the final day at the construction site.

We know the drill by now.  Get up, get ready.  Have breakfast.  Load up the construction gear.  Everyone have their tool belts?  Head out!

Once we get to the site it’s stucco and drywall time.  Are you in or are you out?  

I choose in.  I’ve done some drywall for my own house so at least I’m familiar with this task.  It doesn’t hurt that our missionary has a very awesome device for the task.  It looks like a drill but it’s rigged to insert drywall screws faster than it takes to blink your eye.  Seriously.  

Geoana chooses out.  Later in the day she tells me she enjoys troweling stucco and likely will do it again next year.  

As with the previous two days, the family for whom we are building the house supply lunch.  Handmade tortillas with the bean or papas filling.  

Then we’re treated to lunch, version 2.  

Our family’s church pastor and his wife arrived with empandadas filled with a luscious meat and potato concoction.  Our leaders knew this couple as they constructed their casa a couple of years ago.  

Even south of the border it’s a small world.  And all of us on the team are happily stuffed.  Good thing too, as we didn’t realize at that time just how far we were from our goal.  

It’s mid-afternoon and I notice we (as a group) still have some work to accomplish.  The plan was to complete the construction and then have the house dedication.  

We get closer to evening and it’s obvious we won’t have the dedication today.  

Yet all of us solider on and we finally get the construction done shortly before the sun goes below the horizon.  

All told it was about a 12-hour work day.  

It wasn’t all nose-to-the-grindstone.  Between our teenagers interacting with the local children and the meals served we had plenty of pleasurable moments.  

As we were there well longer than expected the family had yet another surprise.  Early evening they brought out the largest cauldron I’ve ever seen.  Containing one of the best concoctions I’ve ever seen.  And tasted.  

My Spanish is sufficient enough that I talked with one of the women about the ingredients.  Carne de res, carne de puerco, salchicha, frijoles, cebolla, cilantro, and some other spices.  

Chowing down on this (again, with made-from-scratch flour tortillas) I was in culinary paradise.  It had a bit of a bite but wasn’t overly spicy.  

Plenty of fuel for the final stretch.  Darkness falls and the interior wiring is ready.  One of the family’s relatives (nice guy by the name of Manuel) connects the copper and let there be light!!  

Soon we’re picking up the last of our mess and packing the vehicles one final time.  Manuel’s moved to the house roof and is shining a large florescent light, illuminating the area better than our small flashlights ever could.  Us gringos are exhuasted and the family is ecstatic.  

Not only did we build them a house but thanks to the generous support of our church we had funds left over which some of our gals used to make a trip to Soriana.  We gave the family a futon, a bicycle for their 13-year-old son, and quite a few other housewarming regalos.  

A fine end to a hard-but-worth-it day.  

Then it’s back to the church where we’re lodging.  But before that, one final stop at Oxxo.  Nothing says wisdom like the youth pastor allowing teenagers to load up on soda and junk food when it’s approaching 10 at night.  I take a pass.  

Needless to say I barely could keep my eyes open when it came time for evening devotions.  I decided if I accidentally dropped off I could excuse my actions away by being “very deep in prayer.”  

I also feared a repeat of last night.  Yet the young folks clearly were as worn out as I and there was no need for a countdown from Kellie.  Sleep comes easy and I look forward to tomorrow.  House dedication and it’s back to Los Estados Unidos.  


Monday, April 04, 2016

March Along, It's Coming Together!

The morning of Day Four dawns!  

Sleep quality?  Surprisingly good.  

For the first time this trip I was in a large room with just about everybody else.  The reason I chose church classrooms the previous two overnights was due to the old (and true) adage:  The loudest one to snore is always the first to fall asleep.  I’ve experienced this on men’s retreats and other group getaways in the past so the lack of peaceful sleep was one of my larger concerns for this journey.  

Yet last night the combination of being very tired and a white noise app on my iPhone combined to give me the rest I desired.  

Again I’m among the first to rise.  (There are but a few naturally early risers in this gang and this has a Newtonian effect later today.  More about that later.)   Coffee and breakfast go well.  

Then it’s everyone forming yet another bucket brigade and we get the pickup and trailer loaded with tools, accessories and lunches.  

A short drive to the job site and it’s time to resume construction!  The concrete has cured to the point we can walk on it (carefully) and everyone gets to the task of fastening the frame together.  

A short while later many folks get to work on installing the wall sheathing.  Afterward, it’s chicken wire time!  

I learn some new skills this day, not the least of which is the art of nailing in chicken wire (it serves as a base for the stucco).  It is very important to stretch it tight.  And tight means very very tight!  As Jason told us, if you get it pulled onto the nail with little effort, then it’s not tight enough.  

In the meantime some others are working inside cramming in the insulation.  And a third bunch is assembling the roof.  We’ve got it going!!

Workday is nearing an end and we’re prepared to drywall and stucco this casa tomorrow.  

Back to the church, again following a stopover at Oxxo.  Another very good supper and after cleanup then it’s back to the evening shower routine.  

Devotion time is rich, with some people sharing and all of us practicing our song (en espanol) we will perform at the dedication.  

Bedtime, but that doesn’t equate to rest and sleep for a lot of these young folks.  Lights out comes and goes yet all of us still bear audio witness to laughing, cutting up, talking and the like.  

Finally our youth pastor has had enough.  Kellie (with the loudest voice she can muster) tells all in earshot she will count down from ten, and during the count all are welcome to make whatever noises we wish, then when she’s done everyone is to quiet down.  

It works.  

Sunday, April 03, 2016

No More March Madness, Now It's The Real Thing (a.k.a. Day Three)

It’s now the morning of Day Three.  I slept well and having a blanket made a world of difference.  

Again I’m one of the first ones up.  Again, there are no showers here but the men’s room at least is roomy and has a good-sized sink area.  I shave, as I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to do so again, and also wet down my hair in an attempt to make it presentable.  It still looks just a little more rough then yesterday.  

Then it’s time for coffee.  This church has a dedicated coffee bar area featuring three K-Cup brewers and plenty of varieties.  In scoping out this area last night one of the women in our group said “Wonder why we don’t have something like this at our church?”  

Good question.  

Since I had no chance to mess up the java by making it extra-strong this morning everyone enjoyed their wake-up hot bean juice.  And yes I threw a few dollars into the kitty.  

Another simple breakfast today.  We all go about our tasks quietly.  I think some are a bit nervous, as am I, since today we cross into Mexico and begin our entire reason for the journey.  

Our Casas Por Cristo missionary arrives about 7:30.  We do introductions and exchange the obligatory greetings and handshakes with Jason.  

Same routine as yesterday morning, pack the trailer and we’re out of here.  As we caravan toward the international bridge I’m getting more apprehensive by the moment.  

But about what?  I’m with a group of folks and we all have the same purpose.  Our leaders have been to Mexico on these house-construction projects over 30 different times.  We are with a well-trained missionary and for the next three days we are his sole responsibility.  Also in our group are a few students who did this exact same thing last year and many couldn’t wait for the opportunity to do so again.  

Looking back now, I think leaving my comfort zone was the largest cause of my anxiety.  Obviously anything involving the unknown is difficult for most people and I’m no exception.  Going into another country with a very different culture and different language is a bit daunting as well.  

While waiting at the toll booth I choose to direct my thoughts elsewhere.  I haven’t been through Del Rio in a vehicle since 1979.  Needless to say I don’t see or remember anything familiar.  My last jaunt through this city was in 1997, on a train.  This was a Christmastime trip from Tucson to San Antonio by way of Amtrak.  

I also think about the history of this place, one you won’t read about in high-school textbooks.  No, I’m referring to the border radio stations that existed from the 1930’s through the early 1980’s.  Around 1988 or so I bought a book titled (not surprisingly) Border Radio, published by Texas Monthly Press.  (And guess what?  It's still available.)  Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna played a major role.  Starting with Dr. Brinkley in the 1930’s and going through the Wolfman Jack era of the early ’60’s, I look out the window and wonder what it was like for the residents of that day to see the high-powered broadcast towers and the glow they must have given at night.  

Since this is a church-sponsored missions trip I left behind my radio and Macbook Air (with the ever-useful DTV stick).  I didn’t miss them except for last night.  How I would like to listen to the XERF of today and realize I’m hearing a station on the same frequency that was such a legend before I ever came into existence.  

But before I know it we’re over the Rio Grande and going through the checkpoint in Acuna.  The official is kind and doesn’t make us wait very long.  Then my iPhone starts dinging with text messages.  “Welcome to Mexico.  Here are details on the Verizon Wireless international plan.  Blah blah blah.”  I’ll worry about this later. 

We go to the warehouse in which Casas Por Cristo keeps their construction equipment.  The high schoolers and us adults form a bucket brigade and in just a few minutes we have Jason’s truck loaded with everything from power saws to stucco-mixing equipment to numerous hand tools.  

Then it’s over to the church where we will spend the next three nights.  Unload all the luggage and food, make sure we have our tools, hats, and other items.  Take one last bathroom break and we’re on our way to the job site.  

I’ve been into Mexico a few times.  Matamoros in 1976, Juarez in 1986-87-88, Las Palomas in 1992, Nogales in 1996, a cruise to the Mexican Riviera in 1997 (Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan) and Puerto Penasco (“Rocky Point” to Arizonans) in 2006.  Yet today it’s different for obvious reasons.  While Acuna is on the border this isn’t a day-trip border town shopping excursion.  The up-side?  All of us get a chance to experience true Mexican culture.  Despite my feelings indicated earlier I’m eager to get exposure to everyone and everything we will encounter.  Besides, now that we’re here the excitement begins to kick in for yours truly.  

We meet the family for whom we are building:  Juan, Emma and their progeny.  

Then it’s time to get to work!  Folks are divided into two groups:  the cut crew and the concrete crew.  (How’s that for alliteration?)  Geoana and I both wind up on the cut crew and that’s fine with us.  We set about cutting the 2x4s for framing while the concrete gang gets the site ready for, well, concrete.  The cement truck shows up on schedule and the forms are in place!  

As the day moves along the concrete pad is complete and the framework comes together well.  I, together with many others, swing a hammer hundreds of times and sometimes even drive a nail in straight on the first try!  

We’re done for the day.  Head to Oxxo (Mexico’s version of 7-11) and splurge on junk food.  To my delight they also sell Coca-Cola in glass bottles.  The kind made with cane sugar.  The good stuff.  Head back to the church and again form a bucket brigade as we need to unload EVERYTHING and store it indoors.  Sigh.  

Supper, then everyone takes turns using the showers.  No real water pressure here and trying to mix the hot and cold faucets into a tolerable stream of water takes longer than it should.  Just make your choice.  In the words of the teenagers:  either it’s lava hot or Antarctic cold.  

Builds character!  For me it’s light-years different than staying in the luxury condo in Puerto Penasco!!  Once everyone is somewhat clean then it’s time for devotions and then lights-out.  

What does tomorrow hold?  I think I’ll just worry about that tomorrow.   

Friday, April 01, 2016

Marching Into Madness, Part Deux

When we last saw our hero (sorry, watching too much “Batman” TV series reruns on Me-TV), he inflated his air mattress and bedded down for the night.  

But with the promised bedding lurking in a suitcase far into the van’s trailer I (yes, switching back to first-person) elected to do what guys often do:  make the best of what I have.  

I picked one of the church’s classrooms to set up my mattress (hey, they said it was OK) but the room got a bit too chilly a bit too quick.  I already had on a t-shirt and sweatpants so I flung my jacket over my legs and used my sweatshirt for the upper blanket.  

No sound sleep I am sorry to report.  My makeshift linens didn’t quite measure up to the job.  

Around 5:15 a.m. I decide to stop fighting it and get up and prepare for another day.  No showers available so I wash my face and brush some water through my hair in order to appear at least somewhat presentable.  

Then I head to the kitchen to get some coffee going.  

I haven’t measured out regular canned coffee in many years so I make my best guess when scooping out the Maxwell House.  

My best guess resulted in coffee that was just a few drops short of pure tar.  Fortunately the other coffee drinkers in the bunch didn’t mind a whole lot.  One shared his philosophy that “strong coffee can always be watered down, weak coffee can’t be made stronger.”  

Breakfast wasn’t much, just muffins and breakfast bars one might find at a low-end hotel.  That was no issue however as I suggested since we would be going through Sweetwater we might as well stop at McDonald’s.  No problem getting others to jump on that bandwagon.  

However once we got to Mickey D’s (after just over 30 minutes on the road) my stomach was jumping around to the extent I skipped ordering anything and just sipped regular ol’ water.   Don’t recall whether it was sweet.  

Other people’s stomach’s filled, we again return to the highway and head south to San Angelo.  It’s been well over a quarter century since I’ve been to this part of the Lone Star State and it’s just as desolate as I remember.  Still, I’m looking forward to the morning destination as I’ve never been to San Angelo itself.  

Our first lengthy stop is at Southgate Church of Christ.  Since it’s Sunday morning and we’re a church group this makes since, even if we’re a different denomination.  

Our teens are welcomed into the youth Sunday School class.  The service is quite good and I have no issue with a capella singing.  Fortunately there’s enough people around me to drown me out.  Sermon also is a plus.  

Time for lunch.  Out youth pastor hoped for Chick-Fil-A but they don’t do business on Sunday.  

No problem.  There’s always Chicken Express.  

Once we’ve loaded up on fried chicken and unhealthy side dishes we’re ready to roll again.  It’s a short jaunt through Eldorado into Sonora, a town with which I’m familiar due to my several Interstate 10 trips between Arizona and South Texas.  Top off the tank and we head south on U.S. 277.  

Through a whole lot of nothing.  But at least it’s a somewhat attractive nothing.  Rolling hills with short green trees for the better part of 90 miles.  

Then we’re at our destination for today:  Del Rio.  

But no time to rest and relax.  One of the leaders divides us up into teams of two.  A guy named Cale and I are paired with the assignment to pick up tortillas (both corn and flour), oranges, apples, bananas, grapes.  

During this task I find Geoana and her shopping partner, they too have picked up their list items and my kiddo and I set out to find blankets and a few other essentials.  

Did I mention all of us only had 30 minutes to shop?  We meet everyone else at the register and pity the poor cashier who rings up our team’s several carts’ worth of food and bottled water, sufficient to feed a small army for three days in Old Mexico.  

Then it’s our last stop of the day.  The day that is gradually turning into night.  

Another Church of Christ.  This evening it’s Central Church of Christ.  

And we’re surprised.  The youth pastor and his wife have not only enough food for their gang, they generously provided more than enough for our crew!  Pizza, baked chicken, tamales and, to my delight, abundant green salad.  I might not have had my appetite at breakfast but I make up for it at this meal.  

Same as last night, I choose a quiet room and again inflate the Coleman air mattress.  This time I’m fortunate to have a light blanket.  

Would our hero sleep well this night?  Tune in tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat-channel!!