Day 223 : The Mystery of the $180 Pickles

25 February 2011

Bandera (TX) to Katy (TX)

High Points :

1) Early morning horse riding at the Running R Ranch with Dianna and David… Steve and I are now level 4 riders!

2) The night we spent at the Elk Lodge in Katy, a bit of true Americana!

Low Point : I love Beavers ….. and I love Nuggets… However I do not love Beaver Nuggets!

No Point : American Bingo doesn’t even use the catchphrases that make Bingo so amazing in every village hall at home…. 2 Fat ladies anyone!??

Health Point : The girls have introduced fruit and vegetables to my diet…. O.M.G

Authors Comments

“Every morning should be like this!”….. it was difficult to argue with Steve as he rode his horse “Cowboy” through the beautiful Bandera National park that skirted around the Running R Ranch. In Truth it was probably our horses that were taking us for a ride and despite our claims that we are now skilled riders the horses knew exactly where they were going at all times even when Gemma and Vals steeds decided to take some interesting shortcuts! My horse “Gunner” on the other hand took great amusement out of making me duck under any low branches on the Path! I know i can speak for all the crew in saying thank you to Everyone at The Running R Ranch for making our night and morning so enjoyable!

Like most of rural America the fire fighters of Bandera are volunteers all with fulltime jobs but all ready to (quite literally)  drop everything if the alarm bells ring! So it was especially kind of them to take more time out of their day to give us a convoy out of town with all lights blazing!

We were heading to San Antonio for a very important meeting with Bill Simmons  (The President of Globalink) and the Man who has really made all the logistical parts of getting a fire Engine around the World actually happen! He was excited to hear from the crew about our adventures for the past 7 months and from Steve about his experiences at all the borders and ports where Globalink Partners have been so helpful. It really is a testament to his company that so many different people from so many parts of the world have all come together to make the impossible… possible.

Our final destination of the evening came about by chance when a few days earlier we had been contacted on facebook by an English ex pat Alex Alexander about meeting up for a small fundraiser at his “Lodge”  on the outskirts of Huston. As we arrived at the address in the town of Katy all seemed quiet and although the lights were on we wondered if anyone was at home! Steve went off on a search for life while the rest of the crew wondered what this lodge was used for and why there were large Elk pictures on the entrance door? Ones mind does tend to go wondering off into realms of fantasy at such times and believe me the stage 8 crew came up with some great stories about what could be behind the closed doors!

Five minutes later Steve emerged from the lodge with a small crowd of happy, smiling locals who all came out to give Martha the once over and find out what we were doing passing through Katy with a British fire engine!  After a few (dozen!) photos we were whisked inside to the bar where all our questions would be answered.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of The United States Of America (BPOE), or more simply “Elks” was established in 1868 when a group of actors and poets formed a group committed to helping others less fortunate around them. Their main focus being improving the lives of children with learning disabilities as well as protecting the elderly. Today there are over 1 million members of the fraternity and over 2,100 Elk lodges throughout the United States!

By the time we had sat down with some food we had cash donations flying into our big red FTFE bucket and also found out that a Jar of homemade pickles had been raffled off for an astonishing $180! Best of all the spicy Mexican style pickles were then opened an offered to all the crew… talk about having your cake and eating it!

Next up was a tour of the Elks lodge where we found out that their version of Bingo features an electronic voice announcing all the numbers to the players with the charisma of a tired Steve Davis! Still devastated from the bingo news Steve and I were then introduced to shuffle board (basically a mini version of curling played on a 20ft long waxed table) and proceeded to give our hosts a good run for their money in an England vs USA grudge match….  I`ll let Steve tell you about out what he has called the “”best sporting achievement of his career” as with one desperate throw he saved the Brits 9 points…  more by luck then judgment i thought! Finally at the end of the night the crew were invited to join in with the Elks 11pm toast to their loved ones, both present and absent.

The Elks couldn’t of been kinder to us all night, their generosity was truly humbling and none more so than Gerry McGill who not only gave generously to us but also let us sleep at his amazing mansion nearby. Thank you Gerry and Susan for not only for putting us up for the night but also for the wonderful breakfast this morning!

Small town America (and Katy in particular) may lack the stars of L.A and the Bright lights of Las Vegas but it has something that both places fail to offer, it has a real heart and a genuine kindness that is keeping us flying along to the deep south of America…

… Ive given up working out what might happen tomorrow!


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