It's hard to believe we've been here since the first week of November! That's five months. Though I've been coming here with Dave for almost 30 years, we never spent more than a few days at the most. I must admit to wondering what in the world would keep me occupied for five months, but since they've flown by, my guess is that something did.

Technically speaking, we are in Kingsland (pop. 500), Arkansas, but when we talk about "town," we're actually referring to Fordyce (pop. 4,799) about eight miles down the road. Our location in the south-central part of the state ensures mild winters, hot summers, and

Although we could have moved out of the RV and into the house that is here on the property, we elected to pour a concrete pad for the RV and continue living in it. After all, it is "home." We did a lot of work in the house, though, and it's well on its way to becoming a user-friendly getaway for anyone who would like to escape.

I have truly loved living here these past few months! The town is small and quaint, and of course, everybody knows everybody. It's pretty obvious when a newcomer arrives; one of the first questions asked is, "Where are you from?"

That is, far and away, the most difficult question for us to answer. Do they mean where were we born or where did we lived last? By the time we finish explaining about the hurricane, the months spent in the FEMA trailer, becoming full-time RVers, working part of the year in Southern Illinois, and spending part of the year here tending to the property, people are either intrigued or confused, and either glad they asked the question (remember, Where are you from?) or sorry they did. At any rate, I'm sure we're viewed as "unusual," to say the least.

I love that here, people greet you, look you in the eye, and smile. Nobody is in a rush, and it really doesn't matter if you are. Chit-chat is the norm, so time must always be built into the most ordinary of transactions.

Conversely, making appointments for just about anything is unbelievably quick. For example, this past Monday we dropped off our New Patient paperwork at our doctor's office and asked to make an appointment for a check-up. After checking the appointment book, the receptionist asked, "How about Wednesday at 8:30?" I couldn't believe it. Same thing happened when I called to make an appointment for Victor at the vet's. Dr. Campbell himself answered the phone, nice as could be. I could have taken Victor in later that same day, but opted for 8am the next morning. (As an aside, we are thrilled with our new doctor and Victor's vet! Both take as much time as necessary. That's highly unusual these days.)

We get things notarized (for free) at the county Courthouse. We had an expert with the University of Arkansas Extension Service come out to the house. That service was free. He tested the water in the lake, determined it has a low pH, told Dave exactly how to treat it, and then told him how to get it stocked with catfish (for free.)

Not everything is free, obviously. But there are some unbelievable bargains to be had here, particularly if you're into being healthy and exercising. For a one-time charge of $10, you have access to the facilities at the Civic Center, where there's a very well-equipped workout room, auditorium, indoor walking track, tennis courts and a swimming pool. Everything is clean and well-maintained. At the opposite end of the parking lot, the paved walking track meanders its way through tall pine trees. It's beautiful.

Dave and I just began an 8-week exercise program sponsored by the county's health coalition. One of the front-page stories of the Fordyce newspaper, the News-Advocate, mentioned that there are more than 30, 8-person teams participating in this program. We think that it's great that health and exercise are so highly regarded in this community. Walking the track has become part of our day. We're starting off with 3 miles/day, and hope to add more each week. Don't believe Kate if she tells you that I have Dave on a death march; actually, he has really gotten into this :

The local newspaper, the Fordyce News-Advocate, is one of the highlights of our week. It's a 12-page publication that comes out once a week (Wednesdays) and it costs 50¢. It's one of those newspapers that you can't help but read just about EVERY word. The sports page is good and the classifieds are always interesting. Standard weekly articles include Notes from the Museum (what's happening at the Dallas County Museum), announcements and minutes of various and sundry meetings, news about folks in surrounding areas, like:

"Idonia Craig went to the doctor on March 28th. Betty Jo Craig enjoyed a phone call from Stanley Williams. Mr. and Mrs. Connie Nix were in Arkadelphia Thursday." I am not making this up.

I think what I like MOST about the Fordyce News-Advocate is small blurb called "Briefs." This week's briefs were:

" Airlines hiking fares.
" Confidence returns to many on Wall Street.
" More gloomy news on housing industry.
" High gas prices affect millions.
" Pentagon says Iraq war cost $600 billion.
" Obama-Clinton race tightens in polls.
" New primaries unlikely in Florida, Michigan.
" High school dropouts major problem.

So there. That should give you some idea of what news is really important in these parts!

The discovery of tanning beds in one of the local gas station (along with some mighty good fried chicken) catapulted Fordyce into one of the best places we've ever lived. And you know we've lived in a lot of places! But it's just so UNIQUE, you've got to love it.

Honestly, I'm sad about leaving Fordyce for a few months. It's not just the doughnuts and the breads from Klappenbach's Bakery that I'll miss; it's the friends we've made, and most especially, being a part of such a nice community.

We can't wait for you to come home, Steve, so that you can spend some time with us down here. Stay safe, and know that a lot of people are thinking of and praying for you all there. Take care.

Maria & Dave