Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Construction...

We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable New Years Eve.  

Our workers showed up for a little work on the slabs for the garage and patio this morning.  Gracie proved to be a crappy guard dog since no deer were involved.  I looked out the window and saw several trucks and a mob of workers coming through the gate as Gracie quietly wagged her tail.  Not even a hint of a bark.

They had a guy bringing in the base material with a Bobcat.  I'd love to have one of these things just because they look so fun to drive.
They were digging trenches which will result in cement beams to support the weight of the garage and the weight of our jacuzzi once we get it set-up and filled with water.
They spread the base material and then tamp it down really well.
And now it is ready for them to start putting in the re-bar and wire mesh.  Monday we could see some cement being poured.  And that will be good.

Dinner Report: Triple C Steak House in Devine...

My wife got a tip from friends that if we needed to find a good place to eat in nearby Devine, we should hit the Triple C Steakhouse.  We needed to find a good place to eat, so we went! 
Located just off I-35 on Highway 173, you can't miss the place.  Ample parking and even a covered driveway so you can drop folks off in your Cowboy Cadillac, even from the outside you get the feeling that this is a place where folks gather for some solid grub.
 Just inside the door, the meat display gives an idea of what is in store - if you go for the steak, that is. 
 The decor is fairly consistent with old family style restaurants that I recall from my youth. Triple C has a full service lounge that was fairly busy during our visit.  The rest of the place is covered with ranch brands.  These aren't just made up brands, but the actual brands from local and surrounding area ranches.  And, if you can't get to Bass Pro Shops to see the museum of dead deer, you can get your fill hanging on the walls as you dine.    
The service was okay.  We had a very friendly and thoughtful waitress though she may have been a bit task saturated.  We weren't in a huge hurry, so it wasn't a big deal at all.  There was one minor mix-up where another waitress swiped our onion ring order and gave it to some diners that had arrived after us.  But our waitress recovered by getting the next order of rings out as soon as possible.  The rings were good but in much need of salt and something to dip them in.  My wife's request for some Honey Mustard was completed once we had pretty much polished off the appetizer.
With our meals, we got a trip to the salad bar.  This is no Ruby Tuesday.  The croutons were outstanding, but the fact that the salad bar was very limited in extra items (like shredded cheese), it left me thinking that they could have saved time and effort by just offering a house salad instead. 

Don't get me wrong, the salad was fresh, lettuce was crisp and all, but I was just hoping for more toppings.

Our daughter was in town for the holidays and had a hankerin' for some chicken fried steak.  She and my wife both ordered the small plate which believe me, is enough.  Everybody agreed that the baked potato was wonderful.  Salted skin, just like they do at Texas Roadhouse, they didn't skimp on the shredded cheese or bacon bits.  The CFS itself however, was a different story.  If you aren't a regular connoisseur of CFS, this would certainly pass I suppose.  It wasn't that it was bad, it was just bland.  I suspect the Triple C staff is cooking for a more geriatric crowd with certain dietary concerns.  You will need to add lots of salt and go heavy on the gravy (which was very good).  If you need some CFS, take a trip into San Antonio and go to Lulu's or Tip Top.
We also had our nephew with us and he ordered from the kids menu.  The grilled cheese sandwich was nice and cheesy and the steak fries were not over or under cooked. Those are things that make a kid happy.  That and a BB gun.  By the way, my nephew showed great restraint when a very nice older lady from the table next to ours grabbed him by the face and got extremely close to him and said, "You must be chompin' at the bit to see what Santa has in store for you."  With a nervous smile, he uttered a soft "Yes, Ma'am" and the terror was over as she let out an excited laugh. In the old days, kids were trained to endure such friendly abuse from strange elderly folk but not so much these days.  Kudos to my nephew for not freaking out.
The real hit at Triple C was the catfish plate I ordered.  Yes, I know what you are asking: Why does this guy go to a steakhouse and order catfish?  Because I love me some catfish, that's why.

I ordered the small portion which again, is enough for any normal appetite.  The plate came with some onion rings (nice touch) but I quickly ate them to get a better picture of the delicious fish. Unlike the breading on the CFS, the catfish has a light dusting of some sort of seasoned breading. Perfectly cooked, a small dip in the creamy and very nicely done tartar sauce, I was suddenly aware that just 5 or 6 miles down the road, I would have access to awesome catfish at any time.  This made for one happy camper (me).
Put on your jeans and some clean boots, grab the family and head down to Devine.  I can't recommend the Chicken Fried Steak unless you are on a really bland diet.  The catfish and the baked potatoes and the fine hospitality are winners at Triple C. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sand vs Dyson, Construction, and Spiders...

We were warned by several folks about the sand.  Actually, as soon as we started looking at houses south of Highway 90, we were hearing about the different soil types found on the desert side of San Antonio, concerns about foundations and so forth.   You hear these things and I suppose it is like hearing about what to expect when you deploy in the military.  You want the information and good advice from those who have deployed before you, but things change over the years, and that information isn’t always current.  I’m here to tell you; the sand is still here.

The first casualty was our beloved Dyson DC25 Animal.  Between the dog tracking in sand on her paws and in her spur covered coat and the fact that you cannot stomp your shoes enough to shake all the sand off before entering the house, the tile floor seems to have a constant grit to it.  After a day of running in and out of the back door, tracking in buckets of the outdoors in, sweeping the kitchen with a broom results in a small beach needing only the smell of Coppertone an old fat guy in a Speedo and some annoying flapping seagulls to complete the scene.

The Dyson was apparently built for dog hair, not a sand dune.  Somehow, the switch would not stay on, so we called the service number to find out where there might be an authorized repair place nearby.  Strangely, they were not open on Christmas. 

The good news is, I did register the Dyson when we bought it, and a call to their toll free number resulted in a short trip to Powell’s Vacuum Cleaner and Allergy off of SW Military Drive and in under 10 minutes, the switch was repaired and the Animal was back in service at no charge.  Take that, sand!

We have figured out that in addition to floor mats on the outside of the doors to wipe your feet on, we need them on the inside to give a second wiping once in the house.  Perhaps we can have a lady stand by the door with a tub full of bleachy water to ensure we dip our toes each time we enter, sort of like gym class in school.
Our fencing project slowed over the Christmas weekend.  We drove around in the rain – yes, rain – on Christmas Eve trying to find a place to purchase the right type of fencing posts.  We finally ran into the Tractor Supply in Castroville on Sunday to grab some so we can finish up.  Oh, important note about trying to be a good citizen and shop the local stores.
 You really have to stretch the crap out of this field fence or it will look pretty bad.  I purchased a come-a-long for $44 at the True Value in Lytle.  Tractor Supply had the same one for $15.  I’m all for a little mark-up, but that’s sort of like paying $9 for a beer at a Spurs game.  I won’t ever do that again.  So far, we have about one third of the fence up.  Gracie is already feeling the walls close in!
The big construction project began on Monday.  The foundation for the new garage and the slab for our patio were supposed to be poured on Wednesday but the rain sort of put a damper on that.  I think next Monday is looking like a better bet.  As we continue to unpack the occasional box and settle inside of the house, things on the outside won’t be quite right until we can get the big Pack-Rat container out of the driveway and the Jacuzzi moved from under the carport.

What is with the incredible amount of spiders?  I’m not talking about the standard spiders that you find around any house, I’m talking about huge tarantulas that want inside and simply wait on the porch for you to answer their tiny knocks at the door.  And when I say huge, I’m not saying it in the “it’s so cute to over-exaggerate the size” kind of huge, I mean huge as in, “put up a poster because someone lost their small dog with a bunch of extra legs” huge. 

My mom tells a story about staying with her grandparents at their gas station on  Gower’s Corners in Pasco County when she was a little girl and how there was a huge momma spider that lived in the corner directly above her bed.  As scared as she was of the spider, it never attacked her in the middle of the night and she just let it be.  That is heartwarming I suppose, but I also suspect they didn’t have a can of Raid back in those days.  At any rate, I’m not a fan of spiders or eager to sleep with one spinning webs above my pillow, but I do understand that they serve a positive role in the circle of life out here.  So, learning from my mother that it is possible to co-exist, my inclination is to let them enjoy the outdoors so long as they promise not to spin webs and wait for me to walk into them as soon as the sun goes down.
My wife on the other hand does not have a heartwarming story about spiders from her mother’s youth to guide her feelings about sharing the environment with all of God’s creatures.  She was immediately looking for a blow torch, rounds for a .22, large shoes, a long handled spatula, a Louisville Slugger and any other weapons that might assist in the battle to take back our front porch.  At one point, she grabbed the walkie-talkie from the charging station to call in an Agent Orange strike on our front yard.  I don’t think I’m overstating the fact that the woman does not care for large fury spiders.

Just wait until spring when the males all run around in the open looking for mates.  It is going to be like a Hitchcock movie out here.


Oh, and just in case you wondered - we are back on the Internet after a long arduous ordeal, the depths of which I will not discuss further.  Twenty-four days.  I feel like I should qualify for some sort of pin.

Friday, December 24, 2010


The look on his face says it all. 
This is an eleven year-old boy who is up to something. 

And if you can’t tell by the look on his face, his older cousin teaching him to drive along the back roads near our house brings a mischievous smile to her face. 
Our first Christmas in Natalia.  Good times.

Morning, Phones, Fences...

It will not always be like this.  When my parents built our home in Florida, I remember the excitement of all the activity that takes place when a new development goes up.  Coming home from school every day to find a new foundation poured or the cinder block walls of a house going up.  We thought we lived out in the country, and we did, sort of.  I have fond memories of the woods that surrounded our sub-division in Brandon; riding bikes on the trails, shooting BB guns and climbing trees.   But years later when our sub-division was built out, the woods surrounding it would become valuable property for new home builders.
It is rare that I can get back to Brandon but when I do, I drive by that old neighborhood.  Not necessarily our old house, but the houses that occupy those woods, and I swear I can recognize sections of trees that represent landmarks from my youth.

What I liked best then and what I love about this place is the morning.  I suspect my days of setting up a tent and camping are behind me.  I don’t miss the feel of sleeping all night on uneven ground or an air mattress attempting to replicate my Tempurpedic, but the mornings where the air is a bit hazy from the fog and the sounds of nature are things that make an uncomfortable night in a tent worth it.   And we have that out here, without the discomfort of a root poking through the thin tent floor.  There is rarely the sound of traffic, but maybe you can hear a deer rustling in the nearby brush on a path through the area.  That’s some traffic I can live with. 

It will not always be like this but even when the place is built out, the fact that these are not your typical postage stamp-sized lots, there are still trees and there is still room to breathe.  We may not have the view on all four sides of the house in 10 years that we have now, and perhaps the coyotes won’t come as close as they dare to today (this morning in fact), but I suspect things will still be quiet.

Being a whiner is generally an unbecoming characteristic and I suspect it wears thin if all you want to do is read a few blogs and see what is happening out here.  I promise, if you indulge me for just one more segment of bitching about not having access to the Internet, I’ll do my best to let it go.  I may have to seek out a Yoga Master to teach me the art of releasing the bad energy, but I won’t speak of it here, again.
Importantly, we do have phone service.  I can’t even begin to convey the frustration involved in getting to the sound of a dial tone only 11 days after the scheduled start time, but that isn’t important.  Nor is the fact that we still don’t have Internet, after all, McDonald’s hasn’t seen this much of me since I was a 16 year-old working at one.   If we are lucky and the stars align, perhaps by New Years Eve…

The Verizon phone service is resolved.  This is sort of interesting if you care to hear about it.  Let me caveat this by saying that we have always had good service with Verizon and even when we got some bad phones, they worked with us to easily resolve things.  I remember that stupid Chocolate phone I had.  Worst phone ever!  And when both of our Blackberries crapped out on us, they replaced them, little to no questions asked.

I had called weeks ago to initiate an engineering study on why we don’t get fabulous phone service out here when, if you see their commercials, they have coverage everywhere.  I called back a few days ago and they had completed the study.  I asked what the result was, and the lady read the notes and the result was that they could not locate my house, so they closed the study. 
Everybody, say it with me: WTF?

So I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a Google map in Satellite view trying to guide the Verizon lady to where my house was.  That was the easy part.  The hard part was convincing her that Interstate-35 and a specific exit is the closest landmark I could give her short of saying, “turn left at the house with the brown horse”

Anyway, throughout this process, Verizon people have offered to give us this home cell tower that you connect to the Internet for free.  It normally runs $249, but to get the matter resolved, three different people I talked to offered to send it out overnight for free.  Each time, I explained to them that I don’t have Internet.

Finally, on Wednesday, they called me and said they were releasing me from the contract,  14 months early because they could not provide us with the service.  I asked if we needed to send back the phones (they were just replaced less than 2 months ago), and they said not at all.  Wow.  I was shocked.

When I got home, we talked about it and my wife suggested that we ask them to at least try the little cell tower that connects to the Internet, since, we assume that someday, we will once again have access to the Internet.  So Thursday, I called Verizon.  Told the lady that we were willing to go back into our contract and give the little cell tower Internet thing a try.  She asked if that would be cash, check or charge for the $249 and I nearly blew a gasket.  I explained to her all the offers from people to send it out for free so we could resolve the “engineering issue”, but she was having none of that.  Let me get this straight, I said to her.  You want me to pay $249 dollars so I can connect to Internet that I am paying for so I can have the privilege to pay $200 a month for service that you can’t otherwise provide?  She said with what sounded like a straight face, “Yes.”

So, we have been released from our Verizon contract and sometime in the next few weeks we will go to the AT&T store and get new phones.  Perhaps I’ll bundle my cell service with my home phone and Internet, though I’ll probably have to go online to make that happen. 

Okay.  Whining is done.  Thanks for your patience.

We’ve started the fencing project.  Our daughter is home on leave and staying with us so we got her and my nephew who loves to visit out here, to help get started putting it up.
We are regular ranchers.  Hopefully this will keep our herd of one dog in the yard.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Tub, The Dog, The Deer, The Fence...

Several folks have asked us what we did with the tub.  It is safe and sound sitting between some trees while we wait to find the final location for it. 
This isn't like a piece of furniture that you can move around the living room every time you get the urge for a change; the thing weighs a ton, or at least a lot.  The problem is, at this point, construction on the house isn't complete and we need to have it out of the way of cement trucks and lumber deliveries. Once the garage is in place we will have a better idea of the proper placement.  I doubt we will need to consult one of those fing sway people; we'll just know.

We made a trip into Jourdanton and Pleasanton Saturday afternoon to purchase a bunch of field fencing from Tractor Supply. We had planned for fencing to be an immediate thing but after the first few days out here, our prissy little  house dog, Gracie was pretty good about staying within the general area of the house.  But with the sand spur population reduced somewhat by Manuel and the guys at River City Tree Service, she has suddenly decided that our lot is not big enough and she needs to see what the properties next to ours have to offer.  This is a big no-can-do.  I know we may have joked a little about coyotes and such, but now that we are here, it ain't a joke.  Not only do we need to install the fence ASAP, but I'm taking the dog out at night on a leash.

Just this morning,we took a little walk and when we got to the front up by the gate I heard what sounded like a large animal walking through the thick woods across the street.  Gracie stopped and listened for a bit and when the cracking of branches stopped, she sniffed for more information.  The movement continued for a second or two then stopped again.  This was not a gopher or a skunk but something a lot bigger.  The beginning burnt orange glow of the sun was only starting to add to the light of the street light on the corner of the cul de sac across from us, so it was still too dark to even think about seeing what it could be, and I think that was enough for Gracie to decide to go back closer to the house.

When the sun was up enough for us to see everything, I decided it would be okay to let her out by off the leash.  Big mistake.  Eva walked out back with me and we looked toward the cul de sac and into the sun where the clear black silhouette of a fairly huge deer stood.  As we looked to the east, Gracie bolted to the south toward a much smaller deer that was minding its own business about 250 feet away from us.  I know, we probably would make crappy hunters since we have no skills of observation.  But the foot chase was on and the white tail deer took off and we watched Gracie in hot pursuit, running through the heavy brush trying to keep the pace.

I went back in the house and grabbed my jacket and the leash and took off after.  Thankfully, the properties are all fenced in at the street, but the internal boundaries are not.  So the worst that would happen is I would have to wander around in the woods for a while trying to track her down.  The deer would easily jump the 4 foot field fence and move along but Gracie would be confined to one of the neighboring lots.  I caught a glimpse of her at one point and thought it would be easier to get to her by reversing direction toward a clearing.  Little did I know, she gave me the slip and as I was wandering around the property behind ours, she had made her way back into our yard. 
This is what she looked like after a fun little deer chase.  I wonder what she would do if she could catch it?  I suspect she just wants to be friends.

So anyway, the fence is a must because I would rather open the back door and let the dog out without actually having to go wander around the yard to accompany her or traipse through the sub-division following deer and dog tracks to find her.  And we have decided to tackle the job ourselves.  Everyone has told us that it is fairly easy.  We bought enough fence and maybe half of the posts needed to complete the rest of the property. That's a start.
We had really great customer service at the TSC on Highway 97.  This guy named Paul helped us sort out the different options on fencing and then, when we were all sorted out, he got us all loaded up.  The truck really, not us. 
Oh, like most of this part of Texas you will frequently see deer crossing signs, but we really enjoyed this cow sign on the way to Devine yesterday.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010


...I am a glutton for punishment.   

If I had access to the Internet, I would quickly Google that quote about “Insanity” being defined as “banging your head on the wall repeatedly expecting a different outcome each time”, of course, without Google, I have no idea what the exact quote is for sure.  For all I know, I just defined being a glutton for punishment.

At any rate, I trust many of you have returned to find out just how thankful we were to get our phone installed, Internet connected and our cell service restored to full capacity.  Perhaps your return is just a tad bit premature.
On Monday, I called AT&T from work to figure out just what the heck was going on.  I was frankly pleased with the honest answer that it could be a few weeks before we would have service. 
In fact, if it had ended there, I would be sitting here telling you about the wonderful landscaping action that has transformed our overgrown land into a beautiful park-like yard in a matter of five days.  Oh sure, I’ll get to that, but first, you simply must read about Carlos and Miss Lisa.

Carlos is the guy from AT&T who called me on Wednesday, completely unprompted by me, to tell me that he would have a guy out Wednesday afternoon to run the wire from the street to the house followed by a guy on Thursday morning or at the latest Friday to hook up the phone lines.  Sweet.  For a brief moment, I thought that the corporate leadership in Dallas had been doing random Internet searches looking for disgruntled customers only to find my small blog and, upon reading my displeasure, provide me with excellent customer service.  I was so excited about it, I asked Carlos about my DSL status.  Carlos was not aware that I had ordered DSL, but not to worry, I could go to Best Buy and get a modem, and by the time the guy finished installing my phone line no later than Friday, I would be online Googling irrelevant quotes and deleting Spammed e-mail messages announcing that I had won the Lottery.

When I called my wife and left a message on her cell phone announcing that an AT&T employee would be at the house before long, she quickly ran into the middle of the street, stood on one leg while facing due south and called me with crappy cell service to announce that there had been no sign of any AT&T people all day.

And so it would go on Thursday and Friday.  On Friday afternoon, I decided just for fun to call the computerized AT&T phone voice just to see how many different ways I could be hung up on, but in fact, after only a few short prompts, I was speaking to Miss Lisa from 12 degree weather in Indiana.  Miss Lisa told me she is 54 years old and that is simply too old for 12 degree weather.  She is also a Virgo, likes long walks on sandy moonlit beaches and is partial to bourbon, neat, during her afternoon break when nobody is looking.  Okay, some of that stuff I made up, but the point is, Miss Lisa was a very friendly lady, and she and I developed the type of quick phone relationship that promises quality customer service.

Oh, and my new friend Miss Lisa lied!

So about quarter till 7PM, I put on my pink furry slippers and headed out to the middle of our street with my Verizon Blackberry to do battle with the AT&T Computerized Voice.  Here is a little tidbit you may not know:  If you are expecting someone to show-up by 8PM and the computerized voice tells you that the technician will arrive by 8PM, in spite of the fact that it is already dark, you do not have any option to speak to a human without first being hung-up on and calling back.  On my second call, I entered my ticket number and convinced the computer that I needed to speak with the dispatcher.  It was still 6:50PM according to the people at Verizon, but the AT&T dispatcher who closes shop at 7PM was apparently joining Miss Lisa at Happy Hour, because I got the automated hang-up again.

I did call the number for emergency service and was told that my wait could be up to ten minutes.  Hey, it isn’t like I was gonna go in the house, make a few calls and surf the Internet, so why not stand out in the middle of the street like an idiot listening to staticky Muzak and hints on how I can pay my bill online?

Unfortunately, Verizon thought otherwise and instead of being hung-up on by AT&T, I was nailed by Verizon’s lack of coverage in my area.  It’s just as well.  I have decided not to even think about it this weekend.  If someone shows up and we get phone service; great.  If not, I’ll start looking into the several options that others have suggested to me on Monday. 

I do appreciate the suggestions and the comments on my previous posts.  I promise, once I’m actually online for more than the time it takes to go through the drive-through at McDonald’s I’ll respond to the comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Phones, Spurs, Trees...

The communications black-out continues!  I suspect my wife’s crops on Farm Town are dying from lack of harvesting (or whatever it is one is required to do on Farm Town), but aside from that and frustration, we will survive.

We did get the people from Verizon to look into some engineering survey whereby they look at their maps and towers and if needed, actually send a guy with a cell phone out to the house to verify that in fact, we have no cell coverage.  From there, they will most likely release us from our contract and we will become iPhone owners.

We met a nice couple who live a few streets up from us and they have Sprint.  They told us that the only coverage in the area is with AT&T.  Since they have already gone through the long process of getting a landline (over three weeks in their case), they just live with the lack of cell service out here. 
Our dog Gracie is learning the skillfull art of tip-toeing through the rough landscape and avoiding the spurs.  Still, we may have to invest in some little doggy boots just to be sure.  She may be a dog from the comfort of the suburbs, but when she hears a gopher or some other playful creature; she must run at full speed to investigate.  This has resulted in repeated sessions of me picking her up and carrying her back to a clear area so I can remove the spurs.  This gets old for both of us and she is getting better at avoiding the really thick areas.
And of course, the landscapers are on duty trimming the trees back.  Things are really taking shape as the pile of branches grows.  Medina County has a burn ban right now, so we are nervously contemplating what to do about it all.  Our original intent was to have the wood that could be chipped turned into mulch and use it for landscaping but we’ve been told that due to the dry state of it, it could cause the chipper blades to break.  I’m no lumberjack but this sounds a little strange to me.  So the plan for the moment is to have several piles in the clear areas surrounded by sand and wait until the burn ban is lifted.  You can get a waiver, but I am inclined to wait until it is safer.

Who knows, maybe by the time we have phone service and the Internet, we can have a big bon fire to celebrate!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Off The Grid...

As we signed one document after another on the day of closing, the gentleman from the title company commented on the fact that we were accomplishing the task with some speed.  He said, “I guess this ain’t your first rodeo” and I had to laugh, thinking about the TV commercials for “The Hammer”, the lawyer who will “Fight for you!” (pronounced “ewe”).

We have moved before and we are all too familiar with the minor frustrations associated with establishing a new residence.  We laughed mightily, for instance, when the U-Haul trailer got stuck, half on the drive-way when trying to maneuver around one of the Pack-Rat containers sitting in the drive-way.  And we giggled up a storm when the truck pulling the U-haul trailer got stuck in the sand (trying to find a different way around the Pack-rat container sitting on the drive-way).  These are all things that just happen and you simply can’t sweat it.

Going into the move, I learned a few days before that when AT&T installed the phone line on Friday, they would not be able to install the DSL service for at least a few days after the line had been established.  This is the price you pay for moving out in the middle of nowhere.  But, thankfully, with our Blackberry’s (from Verizon), we would still have access to e-mail and, like I am doing now to post this blog entry, we could hit the free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s.  You would think that with all the work to be done, there would be little need for much more access to the outside world than all of that, right?

It didn’t hit us that we have no cell coverage in our new house until our tree guy called trying to get directions to the place.  I ended up walking to the front gate, standing in the middle of the street on one leg and holding the phone due south before I could get a bar and a half of the red map Verizon keeps showing us on their commercials. Let me tell you something, that map could have 99% of the country in red, but if you just bought a house on the 1% of white, you are now the proud owner of $200 a month matching paperweights shaped like Blackberry’s. 

I had all of these ideas in my mind about walking to the neighbors house half a mile up the road and not asking to borrow his phone, but his cell coverage.  We did all sorts of little experiments, like walking onto different pieces of the property to see if we could get an extra bar or two.  I seriously thought about climbing up on a telephone pole like The Douglas’s in Green Acres just to make a call.  But, not to worry.  We would be getting the AT&T landline on Friday and at least we would have a link to the outside world!

I thought about going into great detail, the efforts that I made to confirm that AT&T would be installing my landline on Friday, but suffice it to say, I got two confirmations on Friday that the installer would be there by 8PM on Friday.  I even explained my crappy cell phone service and let them know I would be checking my messages (one leg, middle of street, facing due south) so by all means, have the technician let me know if there was a problem.  Long story short, no AT&T on Friday and know messages explaining why.

On Saturday morning, I drove into Lytle and sat in the parking lot of McDonald’s to get all the e-mails that my paperweight won’t receive out at the house.  I also made numerous calls to AT&T’s automated phone service that uses interactive voice to route your call to the most convenient way to hang-up on you.  I spent half-an hour calling over and over to try to trick the computerized voice into letting me talk to a real person, but it just wouldn’t happen.  I could seriously feel my blood pressure going up, not because we didn’t get our phone, but because it was so frustrating trying to outwit the stupid phone tree.  I guess that says something about me.

The other issue in the back of my mind was that, the longer it takes to get a landline at the house, the longer I have to wait to get the DSL going.  I am so seriously considering other options at this point. 

Later, we had gone by my mother-in-law’s house and I used her phone to go through the entire routine again, but this time, instead of telling the computerized AT&T guy that I was a customer, I told him I was an employee needing assistance.  This got me through to an actual person.  I explained to him my dilemma and he was kind enough to tell me the truth:  There was nothing he could do, but he would connect me with someone who could help.  He then put me through to a very nice lady who was equally concerned about the fact that she could do nothing for me, but she was going to connect me with the dispatcher who could get to the bottom of things.  Unfortunately, the “dispatcher” was the AT&T computerized voice guy who helped guide me to the most convenient way to be hung up on.

I seriously thought I was going to have a heart attack.  I don’t mean that in a “I was so mad I could spit” way, but seriously, “somebody hand me a baby aspirin and call 9-1-1” way.  It was time to just let it go.  We are not getting phone service over the weekend so I had to just let it go.

My son and his wife were in town, so while the ladies were out doing baby shower activities, he and I ran to do some errands.  I had calmed down enough to go into an AT&T wireless store to beg someone for a secret number to a real person, but even they say that whole thing is a myth.  There is no secret number to where they have an actual person who can assist you.  Only the computerized voice who reminds you to go to for better service.  I’ll tell that to my Internet Service Provider.

We did go into the Verizon store.  Why not?  If I’m going to drop dead from stress, I ought to be able to blame two phone companies, not just one.  Turns out that if you do a *228 on your Verizon phone every 30 days, it does some sort of cell tower update.  That’s great.  But I still don’t have cell phone access at my house.  The real kicker is, my daughter-in-law walked into the house with her iPhone from AT&T and had 5 bars.  Salt in the wound.

So, I know we can’t be the first people in the history of cell phones to move to a place where one provider doesn’t work at all and another provider does.  Is there a way to get some sort of roaming deal where I can pay a little extra and use AT&T’s tower?  I already know that I would have to pay some outrageous fee to get out of my Verizon contract.  The Verizon guy told me they sell a device for $249 that connects to the Internet and is supposed to enhance your cell coverage around your house, but I have read mixed reviews.

The good news.  We love it out here.  
The first morning we woke up to the view from our bedroom window.  The fog was just beginning to lift leaving the trees in a misty haze.
The view from our front drive-way looking East as the first hints of sun peer through the trees and oddly enough, telephone lines. 

It is so quiet out here that only the sound of a train in the distance reminds us that we aren’t a hundred miles from everything.  We have so much work to do but it is good work.  Work that takes your mind off cell phones and Internet and landlines. 

A little.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


We are.  The old house now has new occupants.  The new house is waiting for us to walk in and make it a home.  We are ready to get started and I suspect there will be much tossing and turning tonight as we eagerly await the closing in the morning.  

No Internet until at least Monday - that sucks, but perhaps we can find a nearby hot-spot to do important Internet surfing in between unpacking of boxes and such.  So if you see us sitting out in front of your McDonald's or in the parking lot of the local rest stop, don't call the police on us!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I spent the entire week on job related travel up in the National Capital Region where in spite of the much cooler weather, there is still much color in the landscape.  Virginia and Maryland are still somewhat green - or at least greener than south Texas.  This is something we accept in return for living in a much better place.

I had to meet delivery people out in Natalia to have half the contents of our house placed on the property that we don't yet own - a leap of faith on the part of the seller that we will close, and a leap of faith on our part that the place we are moving to isn't on the radar screen of bad people with bolt cutters and a big truck!

I stopped in at the Natalia Post Office to pick up the keys to our new mail box and I was once again pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the lady working behind the counter.  She let me know that the box comes with 3 keys and she understood that I was not a housewife, but if I was a housewife, she would tell me to give one key to my husband, keep one key for myself and take the third key and tape it inside a kitchen cabinet.  Good advice for a housewife, or even the husband sent to collect the key. 
I thought I was probably just a few minutes ahead of the first delivery when I pulled onto the County Road leading to our new place when I saw a truck with our storage container speeding ahead of me.  I couldn't help but wonder which of the items would somehow jam itself up against the door making all of our stuff inaccessible. But as it would turn out, the container was placed down delicately on the drive and I was able to roll up the door with ease.  One down.

My wife was managing the efforts back in Silver Creek and called me to let me know the people picking up and moving our much beloved jacuzzi would not be there for a while giving me time to drive down to Devine to grab some lunch and look around.  We have driven through so many small towns that very often, the standard features like a SuperS, Dairy Queen and tiny taqarias all blend in as if they could have been lifted up and brought in from any other small town.  But a good hardware store gets my attention and this particular small town has an Ace Hardware that is attached to the SuperS grocery store.  Take that, Super WalMart!

After choking down a barely edible Hung'r Buster from DQ, I went back to the property to wait for the jacuzzi guys.  Further down the street from our place, I could see an AT&T guy up in the bucket working on the lines overhead.  I wondered if someday we will be able to get U-Verse out here?  I decided to walk around the yard looking for signs of anything that would need to be immediately addressed.  Aside from the extremely dry, gray, overly brushiness of the place, it is hard not to look out and see the potential.

A dozen grasshoppers bounced in every direction as I made my way through the sandy loam covering what will some day be my lawn covered backyard.  I visualized a sprinkler system, the new garage, raised gardens, and in my vision, the grasshoppers were not chowing down on fresh vegetables.  I felt a sticker burr attach itself to my sock somehow and looked down to realize that my pants and shoes had a dozen already joining me for the walk.  Fertilizer, grass, mowing; something will eliminate the sticker burrs or our dog is not going to be a happy camper.

By the time I made my way back to the front of the property I got the call that the jacuzzi guys were on the way.  I made good use of my time using a pocket knife to remove the last of the sand spurs on my shoes and thought about the idea of one of those motorized remote controlled gates.  A friend told me he found an old garage door opener at a flea market, then used the Internet to look for a plan to convert his Genie into a gate opener.  Same principal I suppose.

When the truck driver backed his trailer into carport easily maneuvering around the container full of household goods, I was amazed at how much it was worth it to me to pay Family Leisure $300 to do this.  
We contemplated and strategised and figured and planned and really got wrapped around the axle over how we were going to get the jacuzzi from one house to the next - where we would store it if we had a long delay between selling one house and buying another.  These are all things that have to be thought of and dealt with and paid for.
 Since we don't yet have a back patio slab to place the jacuzzi on, we had to have it placed under the carport.  But the guys set it down where we will be able to easily move it to the new location when we are ready. 

My final visitor for the day would be a contractor coming to give an estimate for the new garage which will be attached to the back of the carport.  I doubt very seriously any of our vehicles will ever see the inside of this new garage, but it will be there just the same.  The side of the garage facing the back patio will have a pull down screen so that on really dark nights we can project a movie upon it and enjoy the outdoors, and the grasshoppers and the deer and the possums and gophers.  A Disney movie will be in order, no doubt.   

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lunch Report: KD's Old Fashion Burger in Lytle...

If there was any thought that we might not find a good place to grab a burger close by, we put that concern to rest at lunch today.  
Just west of Benton City Road on I-35 South is a place called KD's Old Fashion Burger and when we stopped in to check it out, we were pleased to see something called "The Ooooozing Volcano Burger" as one of the highlights. How can you not want to give that a try?

Inside, the place looks like a great place to play a game of pool and listen to a few tunes on the juke box (which only accepts quarters).  There is plenty of room to spread out and they even have a dining area designated as a meeting room so you could have a little gathering.
We were also pleased to see an old fashioned ice cream parlor in the place, but we did not partake of the triple thick shakes being offered up. I can easily see a return trip for dessert.  In addition to ice cream, KD's offers up some Philly Cheese Steaks, chilly fries, hot dogs, and as you would imagine, burgers.
 I asked the lady taking our order what the Oooozing Volcano was all about and she explained that they fill the burger patty with cheese.  When you bite into it, the burger oozes hot cheese.  Well sign me up!  

I will tell you this:  compared to the regular burger that my wife ordered, the Oozing Volcano is HUGE!  It also comes on what seems like a home made bun that is buttered up and toasted on the grill, a definite sign that someone knows what they are doing.
You select one of four cheeses; I had Swiss on mine and my son opted for the pepper Jack on his.  Our server warned us (twice) that the cheese would be oozing out like a volcano and she reminded us that it would be hot.  Okay, let me make it very clear.  The cheese is HOT and it oozes out of the burger when you bite into it.  I think I may have 2nd degree burns on my goatee where some lava like cheese oozed out of my mouth and burned a trail down my chin.  Listen to the lady when she says the oozing cheese is hot! 
 In spite of the fact that I may have required some assistance from the burn unit at BAMC, that volcano deal was one fine specimen of a burger.  You will have to wait a little longer for it to be prepared (it was 15 or 20 minutes) but I assure you, the wait was worth it.  The bread alone is reason enough to give KD's a shot, and I think you'll agree, it's a Tasty Treat.

Dead Wood and Spurs...

One of the first things we will need to do once we take possession of the new property is get Manuel and the guys from River City out to clear up a lot of trees and brush.  It isn't so bad that we couldn't try to tackle it ourselves non-stop for a month, but seriously, we are going to be too busy with all the other things you have to do when you move in to a house.
 The surveyors have been out to post those little pink streamers indicating the four corners of the lot and my son and I walked back to see just how far the land goes back.  Yikes, lots of dead trees and some old fences posts toward the back.  
 Of course, we were covered in those stickers (in Florida, we called them Sand Spurs, in Texas, I think they call them Sticker Burrs) and had to brush them all off before getting back in the truck.  The dog is going to hate this.  I suspect she will remain an inside dog with only occasional walks way out back until we really get the place under control.In the mean time, I suspect boots and jeans will be required wear.

Oh, we did see a couple of good sized deer walking out back but the minute they heard us, they took off into the brush.  I was actually holding my camera when my son pointed them out to me but I didn't even think to take a picture.  Next time

Friday, November 26, 2010

Natalia 78059...

We took a short drive into the small town of Natalia today.  The population is only about 1,600 or so but the place seems smaller than that.  I had called the post office ahead of time to ask what paperwork I would need in order to get a mailbox set-up.  The place we are moving to uses those mail box clusters so we will need to get a box assigned and some keys.
When we walked in, the older guy behind the counter reached for a card and started to hand it to me before we could even explain what we were there for.  He said, "You called about an hour ago, right?"  Holy crap!  This guy not only knows all 1,600 residents, but he can even tell what people look like over the phone. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Packing...

My next door neighbor (from the old house) walked up as I was moving boxes into the portable container parked in our driveway.  "Don't you think your taking this charade a little too far?"  I smiled at him as a bead of sweat formed on my forehead.  "First the Sold sign and now this huge container; you guys really know how to pull a prank."
No prank.  We are moving.  And, as it turns out, we are taking all of our junk with us!  No wonder they call these things Pack Rats. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2010


We came home from along day of relaxing to find a sign in our yard.

Yea.  We know, but it is sort of shocking when you see it for the first time.  Today was the last option day for the buyers of our house to back out and they haven't, so as if it wasn't clear that we really are moving before, now it is.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


There is the obvious excitement that comes with starting a new adventure and in a way, you wish that we could just fast-forward and be there.  On the other hand, as it becomes obvious just how much needs to be done, I wonder if we need a few more months to get ready.  We close on our current house in less than 20 days and close on the new house a day after.

Saturday, we spent the entire day clearing out the garage so we could stage the boxes we have to load in the right order.  There is no perfect way, but we can try.  We also cleared out the shed.  That makes for one less thing to clean out for the new owners and it makes for fewer steps when we load up.  

We also took down the screened cabana that covers the jacuzzi.  What an ordeal.  By 6:30, we were both worn out and decided to jump in the jacuzzi for some relaxation.  The moon was particularly awesome peeking through the trees at our home.  It brings on a sense of loss over what we have here, but a great deal of pride in everything we did to the house we are selling.  Oh sure, I can't take credit for the oak trees or the moon, but as we look over our house, we did so much, invested money and labor to make it a home that we know the new owners will enjoy.

Of course, it motivates us to make the new home in the woods much better than it is when we move in.

Today, we take a break.  We are going to do our shopping early, then take a drive to Bussey's Flea Market followed by lunch at Clear Springs Cafe, one of my favorite places... 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting Ready...

We have resolved all the details related to the selling of our current home and it would appear the details of the new house are pretty much nailed down as well.  This isn't our first time through this process.  Stress is expected.  You plan but you remain flexible. 

We are on target to close on both homes within a few weeks and I have begun the important tasks of setting up Internet, phone service, and something new for us, the use of DirectTV.  When I called AT&T to see about getting U-Verse, they laughed.  In fact, they had to do some sort of fancy 9-1-1 research, just to verify that I could get phone service.  The lady promised to make a note on my account for them to contact me (in about 10 years) when U-Verse might be available in the area.

Do people really use landline phones anymore?  Eva wanted to drop the whole idea of a house phone but in order to get AT&T to come out and run an awesomely fast Internet connection to our new house, I had to order up the least expensive phone service.  So now we will have what they call a Metro number.  It is like calling an 800 (actually, 830) but it is a local call to the people in the 210 area code.  As long as my wife can still check Facebook on her Blackberry, I don't think she cares about the house phone.

We also need to contact a garbage company.  The builder told us that Waste Management offered service out here, but he knew of a small independent garbage company who would pick up trash for a lot less.  I don't know why I immediately thought of some guy in a Sanford and Son pick-up truck driving down the road and picking up my garbage cans.  I'm guessing recycling pick-up won't happen, but we'll figure something out.  I don't want to sound all tree-hugger, but now that we have trained ourselves to recycle, it feels like littering when we don't.

I wonder if we will get any sort of deposit back from CPS and SAWS (the San Antonio utilities for gas, electric, garbage and water)?  Or, I wonder if they will tell us that they incorporated our deposit in to our bill years ago.  Who knows?  Either way, we need to get with the water and electric companies in Medina County to get those things switched over.  Oh, and we'd better go register to become Medina County voters.  We wouldn't want to miss out on that action.

In addition to packing all of a junk up, I need to get some bids for immediate work to be done on the new house.  We have to get some field fencing up to keep our dog in, we need a huge patio poured so we can get the jacuzzi set-up and have a place to put our BBQ grills, and I must have a huge - I mean big honkin' shed built so we can transfer all of the crap we have in the old house to the new house.  I wonder if we were to have a garage sale in the middle of nowhere, if anyone would find us? I can just see a Craig's List ad.  It would simply say Garage Sale and then there would be three paragraphs explaining how to get there.

Much packing to do...

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Obligatory Introductory Post...

I rolled over to look at the clock on the nightstand to see it was just a few minutes after 4AM.  Before I could dose off for another hour of sleep, my wife asked me if I thought we would be safe.  She tends to start conversations without determining whether or not I’m awake or paying attention.  I was, but I tend to respond by saying nothing at all.  At 4 in the morning, she just needed to say it out loud and didn’t really need a response from me.  Too many conversations about guns and snakes and gophers and deer can make city-slickers a little anxious, I suppose.


If you have reached this page from the old blog, welcome to our new digs.  If you just happened upon this page by accident, I suppose an introduction is in order. Hi, I'm Dave.

In about 2007, I started writing about my neighborhood, the places my wife, Eva and I ate and pretty much the interesting things we saw.  The blog was called Silver Creek 78250, a play on the name of the TV show, Beverly Hills 90210, and an acknowledgment that I am not clever enough to come up with something more interesting.
We have two adult kids, both of whom are serving proudly in the US Air Force, and we have a dog named Gracie.  We moved to Silver Creek in 1999 to have our kids in a better school environment for middle and high school, but now that they are out of the house, schools are not an issue.

During our time in Silver Creek, we met wonderful friends and neighbors, got involved in community activities and honestly, we loved our home and neighborhood.  But with our kids gone, we knew it was time to move forward with a long term goal of moving out of the suburban sprawl into a home away from the traffic and onto a small piece of land with room to stretch out.
When we first started to put the plan into motion, we almost scrapped it altogether.  We had new siding installed and a much needed paint job on the house just to get ready to put it on the market, but the new appearance suddenly gave us a reason to reconsider the move.  In no time, we were coming up with ideas on how to add to our house including a whole new kitchen, relocated master bedroom and bath and a wide open floor plan like we had dreamed of for years.  It would be an ambitious undertaking but we loved the home and the neighbors.

Unfortunately, the economic reality of home ownership dictates that the house has to appraise for the amount of the loan (and then some) and what we had plans for would never allow us to recover our costs.  I know it sounds odd at first; if we loved where we were so much, why not live with the floor plan we had?  The main issue involved being in a two story house and wanting to live on a single level.  It also had to do with seeing what was possible - an open living area that incorporates the kitchen into the living room and having the space to entertain family and friends and having those hopes dashed.  Our floor plan worked while we were younger, but without the changes, suddenly, it was back to Plan A

We spent several months driving all over the small towns south of San Antonio looking for potential places to buy.  We scoured the Internet searching for land and homes that caught our eyes.  We didn’t need a huge parcel of land; just an acre or two.  But the house had to be right.  We were focused on the area around Floresville but had looked as far west as Castroville and Quihi.  A few houses that did speak to us were sold before we could get an offer on our house.  As the stars and moon seemed to align, we had changed our focus south west to the small town of Lytle.  After several road trips and even more Internet time, we happened upon a new home between Lytle and Natalia.  On the same weekend that we negotiated an offer to sell our home in Silver Creek, the offer we made to purchase our new home was accepted.

I have to admit, I was not immediately sold the first time we saw the house.  I liked the property and I liked the area, but I didn't have the same initial reaction to the home itself that my wife did.  For one, this home while beautiful was not in the same price range of others we had seen.  The lower cost showed in some of the immediate things we would have to do to make it work for us. We would need fencing, a huge shed and most importantly, we would need a large patio to house our jacuzzi!

After looking at a handful of more uppity homes with all the amenities one would need, we both wanted to go back to the new house that needed work.  It would be a project.  A brand new fixer-upper.    


By the time I got up and had the coffee going, my wife was bouncing downstairs reporting that everything was good.  She would deal with the snakes and the deer and the gophers and sand spurs; we would plant apple trees, peach trees, oranges and pecans.  We could build raised gardens and grow our own vegetables.  Not half an hour earlier, she was afraid a coyote would snatch our dog from right beneath our noses and we would have to engage in a shooting match with wild boars.  Now, with my calming lack of discussion, we would become farmers, living out here.