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Found 11 results

  1. I had to check my last blog entry to see when it was posted. It was September 6, not quite three months ago. Since then we have been on the go... We spent a month with our daughter and her family in California. Our granddaughters are growing up fast but a few golden moments still to go. We took them to a working farm. A 1940's version of a poor working farm. We slept in the rehabbed chicken coup. The girls fed the cows, gathered the eggs, bottle fed some really large calves, made friends with an aging bull that was as big as a house, well, maybe a chicken coup. The girls loved the tire swing and the adopted kittens. Thankfully they didn't ask to take them home. During our stay in California I spent several days communicating with everyone in government I could to convince them to get on top of the situation in Puerto Rico following hurricane Maria. My comments were the same that I heard from numerous others, this was an extreme circumstance. The nature of the island and the near total destruction was going to make recovery here much more difficult than any other area. Today as I write this, most of the island remains without electrical power and hundreds of thousands of island residents have left the island and come to the mainland US, mostly to Florida. There are many in and near Houston and throughout Florida who are dealing with the aftermath of Harvey and Irma yet today. They are so much better off than those in Puerto Rico. Roads and bridges remain out of service. Food and water are difficult to get in many locations. Huge numbers of people are living in what remains of their homes with no hope of secure shelter in the near future. Give what you can to agencies involved in hurricane relief. Our return trip from California has lately involved a trip north to Elkton, Oregon to the Oh-Ho (the Oregon House) for a week with the above family. This year they were off to Mexico and we got relieved of grandparent duty a week early so we made plans to attend an event we haven't been able to see in 16 years on the road. We were able to get last minute reservations with the Monaco International Chapter of FMCA to attend the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. I can spell it without looking it up or playing word check lotto - now. We invited our friends, former FMCA members, now without the big wheels, to join us at the Fiesta. Five days dry camping with four adults on board - and we loved it! The event is spectacular. We were parked four rows back from the launch field. Our gathering point for meals and socializing was right on the front line. I attended most launches and recoveries. I was hooked. If you attend, and if you love balloons for the flying or the beauty or the excitement of the launch and recovery, you will love it also. There were 550 balloons this year and most launched in the morning and returned by noon. The evening glow is fun, no flying but great chance to visit with pilots and crews. We left Albuquerque buoyed by the events of the five days at the Fiesta. We paced ourselves across west Texas and headed for Corpus Christi. Since 2012 I have been active in a group called Texas Master Naturalist. Formed from a splinter group from the Master Gardner group in San Antonio in 1998, the Texas Master Naturalist program has expanded to more than 40 chapters state-wide. Each year there is a statewide meeting of participants. In years past the meeting has been at remote resorts near interesting nature sites. As the size of the organization increased, the character of these meeting has changed. This year almost 600 Texas Master Naturalists gathered at the Corpus Christi Omni Hotel. I have attended several of these events and enjoy the chance to meet and talk with Texas Master Naturalists from other areas and learn about what they are doing. We spent the weekend of October 20 - 22 in Corpus Christi before making the trip to our winter retreat in Edinburg, Texas. So now we're home. Unpacking, cleaning up our mobile home residence, settling in to our winter routine. We have excellent lawn care during the summer but now that's my job. Lots of little things like having the air conditioner serviced, loading the refrigerator, turning on the DirecTV receivers, getting caught up with six months mail that has been stored. We have the letter stuff delivered but the rest sits in a container waiting for our return. I have created our bicycle ride schedule for the park, Louise has conducted her first book club meeting. Louise spend a weekend in Austin for her retirement occupation, the Texas Silver Haired Legislature, a senior citizen group organized to promote and look out for the interests of senior citizens. She is very good at this. So the holidays are upon us. We will bicycle South Padre Island Tuesday this week. We play golf on Monday, I bowl in a league (as a substitute for a friend) on Wednesday, Thursday is a day of leisure for me, my chance to mow the lawn. Louise plays cards with groups of ladies whenever she has a chance. Friday our park bowling league begins it's season with an organizational meeting. The weekend? This weekend we are painting the deck and porch. With luck, we'll have that finished tomorrow. I spent last Sunday helping band birds, a citizen science activity. We capture birds in mist nets, the birds are measured and weighed and tagged with a leg band and released. If or when they are recaptured, we learn about their travels, habits, age, and many other possible bits of information. It is basic avian research. The kind of thing that professional scientists are too busy to do. The professionals are delighted to have the data. They, their graduate students, and others use the data to increase our understanding of the life of birds. This is one of my volunteer activities for the Texas Master Naturalist program. I will attend a chapter meeting Monday night and will receive my re-certification pin for 2017. Re-certification requires eight hours of advanced training and 40 hours of volunteer work each year. Retired? Yes. How else would I be able to do all this?
  2. When last you heard from us we were winding up a huge tour of the National Parks in the Four Corners area. We arrived in Las Vegas for an extended stay. Actually, it was planned as a departure point. We stayed at a park in Henderson, a southeastern suburb of Las Vegas. The rates were good and the security was by all accounts very good so we felt comfortable leaving our coach there while flying to St. Louis to be with family for the big 50 birthday party. Las Vegas RV Resort turned out to be an excellent choice. In early September, the park is mostly empty but the staff is on duty taking care of the park. During the winter this must be quite a busy park but for now, it provided easy access to the Las Vegas area and the good security we wanted. There is a gate house with someone on duty 24/7. We spent several days out on the town. I had a Euro recliner that was part of the original coach equipment. It was showing its age and I had been considering replacing it. I figured a larger city like Las Vegas would provide a good selection of furniture stores. A little internet browsing and we picked several stores to visit. The first had recliners, the big puffy kind, not exactly what I needed. The second store had one that looked good and it was on sale but, they didn't have it in stock. It would be several weeks, we weren't staying that long. On the way to the car, we walked past a tent sale for the same store. We decided to take a look and found a nice chair and ottoman combo that fit our needs. These were clearance items so I figured what we were looking at was the item on sale. It looked to be in good condition so we caught a salesperson between corralling children playing on the furniture and put in our request. Over to the register, provide all the information and we get directions for picking up our, new in the carton, chair. It was half the price of the one we had looked at in the main store and was quite similar. I'm in it now! I put the old chair out on the street in the RV park with a note attached, "Free to a good home." The next morning it was gone! We did the obligatory run through some of the big casinos on The Strip. It really isn't as exciting as it was when I was young. They even charge for parking these days. We drove out to Hoover Dam one day. We've done the dam tour before and I'd recommend it to everyone who is interested in taking a look at this amazing piece of engineering and construction. This time we took the walk across the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This is the amazing engineering project that allows US Hwy 93 to bypass the dam. The views of the dam and the canyon from the walkway are spectacular and unlike a helicopter ride, you can linger and take all the pictures you want. There is a great array of informational panels and displays about the project. We flew Southwest Airlines from Las Vegas to St. Louis on Thursday, September 8. Friday we attended a practice marching band performance at our oldest grandson's school. He has found his calling in marching band and we enjoy the seeing the performances. Saturday we pitched in and helped get everything cleaned up and ready for the big birthday party. We had several people in the family turning 50, my youngest sister and our oldest son-in-law were both celebrating. I myself had just turned 70 but nothing was said about me being one of the celebrants. About an hour before the party my brother and his wife who are living in Kentucky arrived. There was a decorated table with my name on it and a sign that said, "70 Rocks!" My grandchildren had picked out some special rocks to anchor the sign, rocks that we had brought them from our travels. Our oldest daughter and her husband hosted the event using their garage, driveway and patio to entertain the crowd. We had great weather, a musician had been hired for the night, there were plenty of snacks, beverages, and several campfires with chairs set up around. We had a very enjoyable evening visiting with family and friends. Sunday we slept in then went to an RV Show with the other two birthday celebrants who are both into RV's now. My oldest daughter and her husband have a nice travel trailer that they have been using for some nice family trips. My younger sister and her husband have a Class B that he used for commuting to work across the state for years. The RV Show had a good display of trailers and motor homes all on a shopping center parking lot. In previous years the venue was indoors but for various reasons they moved outdoors, more appropriate I thought. It is fun to look at the state of the industry even if we weren't shopping. Monday morning we were on our way back to Las Vegas. Tuesday we had an appointment at Freightliner in North Las Vegas, to look at a few chassis problems. They were short handed and didn't think they could do more than look at any problems. So we left there disappointed. We had a Wednesday appointment at Cummins in North Las Vegas and went there to see if we could get in early for engine maintenance. They were booked so we ended up at Walmart for the night and got in early the next day. Wednesday we departed North Las Vegas about 1:00 p.m., temperatures still near 100, and headed into cooler weather in northern Nevada. US Hwy 95 along the western border of Nevada is a common route when we leave Northern California on our way south to Texas. This was the first time we'd traveled that route headed north. It does make the scenery a little different. We covered a little over 300 miles that afternoon and settled in for the night in a "dispersed camping" area alongside Walker Lake. Temperatures were in the 60's overnight and by morning, the coach was nice and cool. A little more than 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada on California Hwy 88 to Jackson and on to Valley Springs to our youngest daughter's home. We've been here two weeks now, temperatures in the low to mid 90's are a little warmer than desired but a cool front has come through and they have dropped into the 70's into the afternoon and 50's at night. That's more comfortable. It never (hardly ever) rains when we are here in the fall and this fall is no exception. We stock our wine rack while here in California. We have a favorite winery nearby and we will take several cases of their wine with us as we return to Texas. There is also a liquor chain here, BEVMO (Beverages and More). They have periodic 5 cent wine sales. Buy one bottle at regular price and the second bottle is 5 cents. We enjoy a variety of wines and this gives us a chance to spend a little more than normal on a bottle of wine and still keep it on budget. So we'll look a little like bootleggers as we head for Texas. It's all legal! The motor home makes a great truck. Our two youngest granddaughters live in Valley Springs and their schools year-round schedule has them on vacation for the next two weeks. That is our mission, to keep the girls busy while they are on vacation. Their mother will be on vacation next week and we'll all head north to their "OHO," their Oregon House. Several years ago they purchased a house on the banks of the Umqua River in western Oregon. The whole family loves to fish and the river is in their back yard. The house is on a good sized hilll, well above river level so anything resembling normal flooding will be no problem for them. We'll spend a week there then depart for Texas as the family returns to California and back to work and school.
  3. We spent most of this week with our daughter and her family at their vacation home in Oregon. During our stay there were several days of rain and clouds. Nights were cool enough that we had the furnace running. Oregon is beautiful. Their home is on the Umpqua river about 30 miles inland where they can actually fish from their back yard for salmon. In fact, the oldest girl, age 8, landed a 20 pound Chinook Salmon on Wednesday. Her father assisted by powering the rowboat and helping her with the final capture of the beast. Dad could be described as a fish whisperer. He has taken us fishing and can almost always pinpoint where the fish will be. Anyway, we love Oregon but the weather sometimes can be a bit of a wet blanket. We were on schedule, departing Oregon this morning heading for our winter haven on the South Texas border. I try to get everything done the day before we leave but there are utilities to disconnect in the morning and the door mat to put away. Add to that sweeping the roof, we were parked under pine trees and the deciduous trees are losing their leaves so the roof was a real mess. I could let it blow off but the toad would never forgive me. Everything was wet and putting away wet materials means putting away lots of dirt. I hate doing that because it means I'll have to clean it all up later. This time it is the last trip of the year and the coach will get a good cleaning upon our return home. So I guess this will just make the dirt a little easier to see. After hooking up the car we said our final good-bye's and were down the lane to the highway. From Elkton, Oregon the trip to I-5 is a tedious drive up and down hill and around curve after curve. Despite the fact that we're starting a 2400 mile trip, I'm taking my time on this road. The light rain continues off and on all the way to I-5. Then we're on the interstate. Oregon has a speed limit for trucks, 55 MPH, and I usually drive the truck speed limit even if it isn't specified for RV's as well. This time I'm going with the car speed limit. I'm driving in the 62 to 65 MPH range so only a few trucks are passing me now. At Exit 99 on I-5 in Oregon is the Seven Feathers Casino. They have diesel fuel at discount prices, no difference between commercial diesel and private coaches which is not the normal case for fuel in Oregon. You can also fuel your own coach which is a variance from the Oregon requirement of full service fueling. While discounted for the normal diesel prices in Oregon, we're headed to Nevada and the fuel prices there are better so I'm taking on just enough to get me to the Reno/Fernley area on I-80 where I'll take on more fuel. I always do a survey of fuel prices along our route to determine where to purchase fuel. I use Flying J's posted fuel prices because the give me a good overview of a state or several states. There are times when I fuel at Flying J but I also use Gas Buddy to locate low cost diesel suppliers in an area. As a general rule, when traveling west I'll fill up at each stop, usually just before leaving each state. Fuel in Wyoming is cheaper than in Utah. Utah has cheaper fuel than Nevada, Nevada is cheaper than California. If I do things right I won't buy any diesel in California! When traveling east my general practice is to purchase just enough fuel in each state to get me to the next. The GPS routing for the trip would take us through the central valley of California but that is a route that we're avoiding for several reasons. First is the terrible crush of traffic. It doesn't matter if it is I-5 or US 99, the roads are always packed with trucks and traffic in and around towns and cities it is even worse. We have just come from the Tulelake area and decided to travel through that area to US 395 south to Reno, Nevada and then pick up US 95, a favorite route, south through Nevada. These roads are all in good condition and have little traffic along most of the route. Once we get to Tulelake we're past the mountain driving. The highways weave through the high country between mountains. There are some elevation changes but nothing like driving I-5 in northern California. Today the drive was easy, traffic even on I-5 to Medford, OR there were few trucks. Once on the road to Klamath Falls we had very little traffic at all. Even on the two lane road there were seldom any cars following us. We found a nice roadside pull off for a lunch stop and stopped several times for rest stops in towns along the way. We considered stopping somewhere in Susanville but it really wasn't on the route so we bypassed Susanville, stopping for the night at the Honey Lake Rest Area on US 395. There are lots of empty truck spaces here and we are alone at one end of the parking lot. Once we shut down the generator we should have a nice quiet night of sleep. Tomorrow we'll be in Nevada and on roads which are more familiar to us. Familiar isn't always a goal but when we're trying to get somewhere in the shortest amount of time, familiar works well. We'll do more sightseeing next year.
  4. After our stay at the factory service center in Oregon, we are now in California staying with our daughters family in the Gold Hills south of Sacramento. We come here every fall to take care of the two girls, age 6 and 8. Their school is on a year-round schedule and they get a break this time of year. Mom works in another school district which has a different vacation schedule. Dad has a varied night work schedule. So we take care of the girls for a week. It saves them money for child care or a babysitter and we get to know our granddaughters better. We've been here for one week, the week before our babysitting duties. The girls have been in school and we've been free to do some shopping and relaxing. There are no RV parks near where our daughter lives. For a number of years we stayed at a park about 20 miles away. We tried several parks over the years but none was convenient and we were often driving home in the dark. Last year the kids put in a 50A outlet and we there is a water faucet about 50 feet away and a sewer connection. Life is so much more convenient when we are living next door. We've had an opportunity to go with the girls for their gymnastics lessons. They have been attending classes for several years and they are showing nice improvement. It is fun to watch them develop their skills. The girls love to visit the motor home. They find excuses to come visit us when we aren't at the house. We keep a store of coloring books and drawing paper to entertain them. There are some other toys and games and they enjoy those as well. Both the girls are in 4-H and we will take them on a 4-H field trip to Apple Hill next Wednesday. Apple Hill is a fall festival area for children. There are dozens of apple orchards, wineries and farms. In the fall they all market their wares, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, petting zoos, and a host of other activities for children. For adults there is food, a pleasant outdoor shopping and recreation experience and a place to entertain the children. We've taken the girls in the past. This year it will be part of a larger group. Both Louise and I have done many field trips with children when we were classroom teachers. This will be a flashback experience for us. Today we went with Mom and the girls to the Grape Stomp in the town of Murphys. Each year they hold a festival to celebrate the grape harvest. As part of the festival they hold a grape stomping contest. This is "I Love Lucy" grape stomping. There are two person teams, one person stomps the grapes and the other moves the grapes and pushes the juice out the drain to a collecting bucket. Each team is given 5 gallons of grapes, freshly harvested, still attached to the vines. The grapes are in a half barrel which has a one inch drain. Contestants are sometimes in costume, sometimes just shorts and t-shirts. They have five minutes to get as much liquid as they can from their 5 gallons of grapes. It is as much fun for the spectators as for the teams. Louise posted the girls near the stage so they could see the action. They were close enough to catch some of the splattering juice from one of the teams! We only watched one of the preliminary flights of contestants. There were over 50 teams competing in the contest this year. The main street of Murphys is lined with vendors and all of the wineries in the area have their tasting rooms open. In the park where the contest is under way you can purchase a souvenir wine glass and there are many wines there to be tasted as well. With the girls along we didn't do much wine tasting. As the designated driver my job was to entertain the girls while the ladies tried some of the wines. We brought home three bottles of wine. The girls enjoyed wading in the stream that flows through the park. They met several of the dogs who were also enjoying the cool water on a warm afternoon. They spent some time touring a real old-time toy store. It had all the great stuff many of us remember from the neighborhood dime store. I resisted my impulse to steer the girls toward some of the musical toys even though mom refused to pay for my silence! We all had a good time. We've taken the girls on trips in past years and this year will be no exception. We're going to take the girls on a trip to Oregon. Mom and dad have a family vacation house not far from the Oregon coast and they will spend a week at the vacation house. We'll take the girls in the motor home for the trip to Oregon. It will just be a two day trip, no special destinations, just a road trip in the motor home and the girls will be thrilled with that. After we spend several days with the family we'll begin our trip south for the winter. There are so many ways that having a motor home enriches our lives and the lives of those we love. We truly are fortunate to have this wonderful home.
  5. Having traveled the country for 14 years in a motor home there are many places mentioned in the news Louise and I have visited. They become more than just abstract names of places in the news, they become familiar territory. In the news in the last few weeks, Phoenix, Lake Havasu, Tuscon all had major flooding and damage. We stayed in RV parks and visited friends and relatives in those cities. Today Joshua Tree National Park was in the news with flooding also. We've hiked many miles in Joshua Tree and thoroughly enjoyed the desert scenery and the trails to old gold mines and oases. Weed, California is in the news today. A ferocious fire has destroyed over 100 buildings in the town. My history with Weed (the town) goes back more than 30 years. Weed is a small town along I-5 in northern California. It is a few miles northwest of Mount Shasta, a beautiful composite volcano. Mount Shasta is in the Cascade Range of volcanoes that include Mount Ranier, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens among others. The whole range is active though the activity at any one volcano may be hundreds or thousands of years between major eruptions. Active in this sense is a geological term more than a human term. Still any one of these volcanoes could have a significant eruption at any time. I mention that because it was the framework for my first encounter with Weed (yes, still the town). We (my first wife and I) were on summer vacation with our two pre-teen children, We had been to Crater Lake which is a caldera from a collapsed Cascade volcano. These were our tent camping days and grocery stops were frequent. The whole family, our camping equipment and clothes fit into our Chevrolet station wagon so the quantity of groceries was pretty slim, a small ice chest and a box of what we needed for the next two or three days. So we pulled off I-80 at Weed and found a grocery. After a swing through the store we lined up at the cash register to pay for our food. When it came time to pay for the groceries I wrote a check (remember those days?) and was asked for my identification. I dutifully produced my Missouri drivers license. The clerk, a young woman, took a look at the license and noted that it was from Missouri. She looked at me and asked, "How do you live there with all those tornadoes?" I told her it really wasn't that bad, we had never been affected by one. She said, "I could never live there." I shrugged it off and we loaded our tucker (an Australian term I learned this year meaning grubstake or food) into the station wagon. Then we were off to return to I-80. As I pulled onto the entrance ramp to the highway I looked at the road ahead and there straight ahead was Mount Shasta with the cinder cone Shastina on its northwest flank. So here we are in the shadow of an active volcano and the clerk is worried about the danger of tornadoes. I had to laugh at that. For years I incorporated this story into my Earth Science classes. The 8th graders always laughed when I mentioned Weed, I can't imagine why. I used the story to help them understand that almost anywhere you live you will find some danger from nature. In some places it is tornadoes, other places have floods, earthquakes and tsunami's are common in still other places. You might wonder why anyone would live near a volcano but people do that also. It is just one more of natures dangers. Fast forward to 2002, the first summer of our RV travels. We started in southern California in the early spring. We visited deserts, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and others. We tromped our way among the trees of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. Further north we stopped to explore Mount Lassen, the most recent active volcano in the US (before Mount St. Helens) and yes, a Cascade Volcano also. Traveling further north we pulled into Weed and found a very pleasant RV park there as our base to explore Mount Shasta. I am a volcano junkie, I love to explore volcanoes of all kinds. We stayed there for a week, partly to just rest and partly to do some climbing on Mount Shasta. We found many interesting hikes to other areas nearby and enjoyed the entire area very much. We've stayed there again and explored the area since. So Weed, California has for me many pleasant memories. It is a town that has been in my lexicon and in my memory for almost half my lifetime. A sleepy little town along a major highway. Now Weed is a smoky disaster area. We'll make a swing by Weed on our trip this year. I hope that the RV park is still there and that we'll be able to find a place to stay for at least one night. I'm sure there will be sadness to see an old friend in its despair. Perhaps we can lend some support to those by our presence. Travel makes life so much more vivid. These aren't just names in the news, they are places. Places with personality; parks, homes, forests, bike trails, mountains and people. When you know them, the news is so much more than just a story. Now Weed, in the shadow of the mighty Mount Shasta, has fallen victim to a forest fire. Mother Nature is beautiful but very dangerous.
  6. We recently made a typical trip that included some sightseeing and maintenance stops. I submit this description as an example of full-timers' travel experiences even though we are no longer full-timers. This trip is like many drives we have made as the final trip of the summer travel season. We left south Texas in early May of 2011. We visited family and I had knee replacement surgery during the summer. We left Missouri September 7 and arrived in California on September 16. After a stay of a month we departed our campground about noon on Thursday, October 13. We had an appointment to have our entry door lock repaired at Paul Everett RV in Fresno on Friday morning. They have an adjacent area with water and electric hook-ups. By sunset we were parking and hooking up electric. We had water and empty sewer tanks so no need for any other hook ups. We had been to Paul Everett for service before and they were always willing to take us in even though we have never purchased a motor home from them. Friday we lined up for service as the shop was opening. After a brief check in the motor home went into the shop. I browsed the parts store and found a few handy items we needed including a new propane detector. They were happy to install that for us. With the lock repaired we were departing Fresno just after noon. Our next destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had Southwest Airlines tickets from there to St. Louis for a 12 week check-up after knee surgery. The doctor appointment was for Wednesday the 19th so we didn't have to push too hard. Still, I'd rather be sitting in a campground than driving an extra day so we didn't let any dust collect on the tires. Friday night was spent at Wal-Mart in Barstow, CA. Saturday night we parked at the Wal-Mart in Winslow, Arizona. Sunday night we were in the Santa Fe Skies RV Park in Santa Fe, NM. We talked over plans as we traveled. When it became apparent that we should be near Albuquerque on Sunday we decided to spend some time in the Santa Fe area. This was not our original intent but it was going to work well on several counts. I could take the car to the airport, leave it overnight and pick it up the next evening. Louise would be fine in camp for a day and a half without a car. We would be better off making one trip to Albuquerque for the plane flight than staying in Albuquerque and making multiple trips to Santa Fe for sightseeing. Monday we spent most of the day exploring Santa Fe. Tuesday I left for the airport shortly before noon arriving in St. Louis just after dark. Wednesday morning I saw the doctor and got the OK for six months until the next appointment. I was back in Santa Fe by 9:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. On the drive back to Santa Fe I was listening to the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Texas Rangers in World Series Game 1. Thursday we did more touring in Santa Fe. Friday we decided to drive to Taos. As we drove through the gorge of the Rio Grande on the road to Taos we enjoyed the brilliantly colored leaves so much that we made numerous stops to photograph the scenery. We picnicked along the river in the middle of a grove poplars with bright golden leaves. We barely made it to Taos when we decided to return to Santa Fe. The trip in this case truly was the destination. We would return to Taos another time and explore the area further. Saturday we left Santa Fe taking the most direct route toward San Antonio. Saturday night we stayed at the Wal-Mart in Lamesa, TX. By Sunday night we were parked at Cummins Southwest in San Antonio. Monday morning, October 24 the motor home goes into the Cummins shop for an oil change and lube. We're out of the shop before noon. We had a rock hit the windshield during our drive from Santa Fe. I used the waiting time at Cummins to arrange a stop at the glass shop for the afternoon. They were very flexible. We pulled up and parked on the street in front of the shop. Ten minutes later they were at work on the windshield. I called our next service appointment while work on the windshield proceeded. We would be at Iron Horse RV after their lunch hour. They had installed a water pump which had failed. A second had been installed and it was showing the same problems the first pump did. They made some adjustments, I changed water filters, it was working better. Will it last? We'll have to use the pump for a while to see. Now I called ahead to Texas RV which had ordered parts for repairing our toilet. They would accommodate us for the night on their lot with electric hook ups. The next morning, Tuesday, we had a tech at work removing the toilet. Inspection showed that we needed new vacuum breakers. They hadn't ordered them and it could be several days before they could be shipped from the manufacturer. After some checking they found them at another dealer in San Antonio. Now it is 2:00 p.m. and we are leaving San Antonio. We used our passage through San Antonio to take care of several maintenance items so we would be ready to go next spring. Tuesday as the last light faded from the sky we were pulling into our winter residence in Edinburg, TX. We park the motor home next to our mobile home which makes the unloading process easier. Still, late in the evening we pretty much settle for just getting a few items into the house before hitting the sack. The next day we would take the motor home out for its annual safety inspection. Once that is done, we can park for the season. By Wednesday evening the motor home is on its wood pads, leveled and we're unpacking and storing the contents in our house. Several days later we close up the slides. We left the campground in California on October 13 and have parked the motor home for the winter on October 26. Thirteen busy days from summer travel to parked for the winter.
  7. We are taking care of our two granddaughters, age 5 and 3. Our first day was a trip to a local zoo and amusement park in Lodi, California. Day two we planned to stay at home. It turned out to be a very good plan as the second day it rained all day. We had planned on being outdoors for part of the day but we were all inside the motor home for the day. A day indoors with the girls is eased by Louise's experience as an elementary school teacher. We keep a supply of crayons, stickers, coloring books, scissors and drawing paper in the motor home at all times. On a rainy day those are available on the table-side counter all day long. Anytime the girls want to draw or color, they can sit down and go to work. We also have a variety of favorite animated movies available. The final piece of the hat trick is the Wii game. The girls also bring a few toys from home. Finally, every young child needs a nap after lunch. Louise was catching up with the laundry all day long. The girls enjoyed watching the Splendide washer/dryer tumble the clothes as it washed and dried. They had never seen a washing machine with a window so this was a novelty. That evening they wanted to watch the washer TV so the girls set up a step stool and a seat cushion in front of the washer. Louise picked up on that and got out my construction flashlight, placed it on the bathroom counter and aimed it at the washer door. The girls thought this was real fun. We had to referee who had the best seat a couple of times. This now ranks right up there on my Art Linkletter list of things our grandchildren like about our motor home. Our final day with the girls we planned a picnic lunch at Columbia State Park. We woke up in the morning to the sound of rain on the roof. I checked the Weather Bug and there was some hope. As the morning continued, so did the rain. About 11:30 we decided to go ahead with our plans. Columbia State Park is an 1849 era gold rush town. Many of the original buildings remain and have been preserved. Some of the buildings are dedicated to their original purpose, a bank, the assay house, a pharmacy, a fire house, a bowling alley, a livery and blacksmith shop. Other buildings house shops, restaurants and stores. They have a gold panning experience for people to try and some lightly excavated mining areas the kids can climb around on bedrock left between mined areas. The drive from San Andreas where we are staying to Columbia State Park is about 30 miles and there are two ways to get there. We decide to make it a round trip, taking a different route going to and from the park. The route on Parrots Ferry Road has spectacular scenery. We cross an arm of New Melones Lake on the Stanislas River and then drive along it for some distance. We'll cross the reservoir in another place on the return trip. When we arrive at the state park it is still raining lightly. The picnic tables are in a low draw between parking lots and water is standing around the base of the tables. We picnic in the car. Louise makes restroom runs with one of the girls before lunch, the other after lunch. As we finish lunch the rain stopped. We venture forth to explore the town. The first building we pass has an ice cream parlor. The girls have been here before and we explain that we will get ice cream on our way back to the car. Our next stop is the gold panning shop. They have rocks and minerals on sale but the gold panning is closed on a cool rainy week day. We walk through the panning area looking at the water troughs that would house the running water for panning. At the far end is a rock maze, granite bedrock that remains after the quartz veins were mined from it. The girls enjoy exploring various passages and then give climbing a try. There is mud everywhere but that doesn't stop the girls. As the day goes on they find many a puddle to walk through. If you are young, there is nothing better than a wet muddy day out playing. We visit most of the shops and stores. As we exit each building the youngest asks if we are going to the ice cream parlor. One of our first stops was the candy shop. Everyone picked out candy they wanted. We spent a while at the bowling alley. There is a nine pin set up complete with pins and balls. I was the pin spotter, Louise helped the girls get the balls off the return rack so no fingers were smashed. The girls took turns knocking down pins. We spent a few minutes at the blacksmith shop picking out a dinner triangle for our new house. We found some period toys at a general store. A penny whistle and a ball and cup for the girls to play with. The youngest is fascinated by a guitar on display. The rule is look but don't touch but a three year old can't remember that for long. I go to remind her and see the price on the guitar, $3000. I picked her up explaining I didn't have enough money to buy that guitar! We took a quick tour of the visitors center and museum. By the time we got back to the ice cream parlor they were closed! Disaster. We knew of another ice cream stop on the way back to the girls home so we said we would stop and get ice cream there. They took it well, no complaining. Our trip home was delayed for about a half hour as an accident was cleared from the road. We were several curves back so couldn't see the action. On our way through Angels Camp (of Mark Twain Jumping Frog fame) I spotted a lighted ice cream cone in a store window. I pulled into a parking spot, hopped out and hustled the girls to the shop before they closed. It turns out they serve food as well and they were open when we left. The youngest ordered a bowl of spotted frog ice cream, the oldest wanted double chocolate. I ordered a bowl of gold nugget ice cream and Louise had a cup of hot coffee. The spotted frog ice cream was mint with cookie crumbles. My gold nugget ice cream was butter pecan. This was the perfect end to a fun day. We stopped on the way back to pick up a couple pizzas at the Pizza Factory in Valley Springs then returned the girls to their mother. We regaled their mother with their adventures over pizza. The girls were mastering their new toys and telling tales of their own. Louise and I left, ready to put our feet up for a while.
  8. Our trip to California had one commitment, taking care of our two granddaughters, ages 5 and 3, during their two week school break. The school is on a year round schedule which explains the vacation this time of year. We look at this as a special privilege of grandparenthood. Monday we stayed with the girls at their house. Tuesday morning Dad dropped the girls off on his way to work. The girls would be ours for three days and two nights. Mom had several night events at the school where she works. Dad's schedule runs in 12 hour shifts. We'd save traveling to and from and the girls get the fun of staying with us in the motor home. All of our grandchildren think that the coolest thing about our motor home is that the couch folds out into a bed. We have wheels, a big engine, we can go anywhere. We have satellite TV, satellite radio, hot running water, cold drinks in the refrigerator, air conditioning and heat on demand. But none of that matters ... the first thing the girls want to do is turn the couch into a bed! It's ten o'clock in the morning and they want to turn the couch into a bed. We had plans for the day, a trip to the local zoo and amusement park, Micke Park in Lodi, California. After two weeks of near 100 degree weather, the weather has been rainy and cool this week. We arrive at the zoo after several attempts to navigate an area with roads that have been rerouted after our GPS data. There are about a dozen cars in the parking lot. We pay to enter, where are the restrooms? We enjoy walking through at a child's pace. Check 'em off, eagle, snow leopard, turtles - yawn, baboons - he-he!, iguana, doves and ibis. Thirty minutes later, we're leaving the zoo. The attendant at the zoo had told us she didn't think the amusement park was open but a short walk and we found the open gate. The young man who sold us the tickets for the rides left the booth to be the train engineer for our first ride. This is a small amusement park, the most challenging ride is the scrambler which grandpa rides with the girls. They both love the scrambler. The girls ride the cars, the airplanes, merry-go-round, the strawberries and the fish. Along the way the girls make friends with a boy who is here with dad. They exchange names, become friends in an instant. They are the only three children in the amusement park. The two boys who are running the entire park today take turns escorting us all from ride to ride. There is a Japanese Garden so the three children and adults go to see the carp swimming in the ponds. The girls love fish and enjoy watching the carp, marveling at all the interesting colors and patterns. Did I mention that dad is an avid fisherman and the oldest girl has a stuffed fish that she sleeps with? Yes, as in a mafia novel, she sleeps with the fish! The fish was with us this morning, waiting in the car while we enjoyed the park. Both girls give their new found friend a hug goodbye and we're off to the parking lot. Lunch comes next. We're off to Denny's where the girls start with a trip to the restroom. They order kid pizzas and smoothies. And yes, there is another trip to the restroom for both. We need a quick stop at Wal-Mart which turns into another trip to the restroom for both girls. Boy, grandma is getting a real work-out doing restroom duty. A quick stop for gas and we're on our way home. Day one comes to an exciting close as we fold out the couch into a bed! The girls sleep well through the night.
  9. We have just completed our trek across country from Missouri to California. We've done this trip many times since we have grandchildren in both states. The quickest route is to travel I-70 west to Denver then jog north on I-25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we pick up I-80 on to California. This trip we decided to take a different route. We planned to visit friends in Yankton, South Dakota so it seemed that going north into Iowa and then west to Sioux City, Iowa would be a nice change. Interstate 70 across Missouri is always a race track, loaded with trucks and lots of auto traffic. Avoiding the interstate tangle of Kansas City was another plus. So we decided to drive north on US 61 and US 281 and I-380 to Waterloo, Iowa. That was the first leg of our trip. US 61 is four lane from I-70 almost all the way to the Iowa border. The road surface is fair to good and traffic is light. US 281 is good surface and four lane most of its distance. The only heavy traffic we encountered was on I-380 from Iowa City to Waterloo. This may not be consistently busy, it was Friday afternoon about 4:00 p.m. when we passed through Iowa City. We arrived at the Wal-Mart just off US 20 in Waterloo about 5:00 p.m. I spent an hour or more working on replacing our water pump. When we unhooked and switched to the water pump preparing to leave my daughters home, the water pump wouldn't work. I found a blown fuse, replaced it and it blew again. Calling ShurFlo I found that we would have to send in the old pump to get warranty service. I wasn't ready to do without a pump for a week while we waited for a replacement so picked up another matching pump at a local dealer before we left town. Now I'll return the defective pump for an exchange and have a spare on hand. Saturday morning we drove west on US 20 through central Iowa. Traffic was very light and the highway was excellent. About 100 miles from Sioux City the four lane pavement gives way to the old two lane highway which wanders from town to town, up hill and down dale. That part of the trip was slower but still comfortable travel with very light traffic. On our way, our friends from Yankton, South Dakota called to let us know that I-29 was still flooded by the Missouri River and was closed south of Sioux City. We laughed, if we were on our regular route to their home, we would have been searching for a route around the flooding. As it was, we would not be affected at all by that closure. We took I-29 north from Sioux City to US 50. The final ten miles of I-29 was littered with orange barrels and two way traffic which slowed our travel before we arrived at Junction City and US 50. We spent two days with our friends, sharing our summer experiences. They took us to the Gavin Point Dam on the Missouri River to see the water being discharged from the dam. We marveled at the 90,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge from the dam which was considerably smaller than the 160,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge that was occurring in May and June of this year. The force of water is a spectacle not to be missed, whether from a dam, waterfall, rapids, or waves on a shore, water is awesome. Of course that force is also threatening as the people downstream from the dam learned this spring. We enjoyed dining out at a nearby restaurant overlooking the Missouri River. We went bowling one evening which gave me a chance to try out my new knees. I didn't have my ball or shoes so bowled using a spare ball loaned to me by my friend. By the end of the evening it felt like my own ball! I was back to bowling my average. That was reassuring to everyone as the four of us are a bowling team in the winter in south Texas. By the end of the evening I was ready to get off my feet and ice down my knees. With the recommendation of a neighbor we found a welder to fix part of our towing linkage. One of the two brackets that link the car to the tow bar had developed a crack. The welder was able to clean up the crack and put a good weld on the crack. It is holding well and should get us home for the winter. Then I'll have to pursue a replacement. Leaving Yankton, we drove south on US 81 to US 20 in Nebraska. This is the same highway we were on in Iowa. Right away we experienced several sections of road repair. We were beginning to question our decision when the repairs stopped and we traveled many miles before encountering more repairs. There is very little traffic on US 20 in Nebraska, the road surface is generally good and travel is surprisingly fast. The towns are small and widely scattered so you travel many miles before the next town. Most of these small towns don't even have a stop sign so you can keep on rolling. After miles of crop and pasture lands we reached western Nebraska which has beautiful scenery of sand hills. These are ancient sand dunes, now supporting grasses and trees. As US 20 continues into Wyoming, there are more rocks and mountains. The scenery is beautiful. We encountered a few showers but arrived in Casper, Wyoming before dark. The Wal-Mart parking lot, our overnight stop, is packed with RV's, many are on the way to or from Yellowstone we suspect. US 20 joins I-25 about 50 miles before reaching Casper. Wyoming 220 from Casper south to Rawlins, Wyoming gets us back to I-80 and our normal route west. Rain hit us again on I-80 in western Wyoming and eastern Utah. Louise and I are sharing driving duties. I simply can't sit in the drivers seat for an extended time. I set the timer at 2 hours and when it goes off I look for a spot to pull over so we can change drivers. Louise takes the wheel for an hour then looks for a stopping place. While she drives I have my legs propped up on pillows on the passenger seat leg rest. That coupled with wearing the surgical stockings from the hospital keep my swelling in check. Louise drives the approach to Salt Lake City until we reach the Park City area where the slopes become steeper and the curves tighter. I'll get us through the city and to our fuel stop at Lake Point, Utah. From there Louise drives to our next overnight stop. Near Knolls, Utah is a wonderful rest stop which we have used frequently. Most of the truck parking is on a slope but there are a few nearly level spots at the western end of the west bound rest stop. The rest stop is well off the highway and high above the highway so there is no highway noise. A truck pulls in next to us late in the evening and immediately shuts his engine down. We both sleep well tonight. Thursday morning we are up and away about 8:00 a.m. We've been making really good time and our scheduled arrival in San Andreas, California is assured. We're stopping for fuel as we travel west because the fuel keeps getting more expensive as we travel. We'll grab some more fuel in Winnemucca, Nevada and then head on to Fernley where we leave I-80 for the short cut to Carson City, Nevada. We find the Wal-Mart posted "No Overnight Parking." This is a change, we have stayed there many times before. We continue on south on US 395 to Hwy 88 which will become California Hwy 88. This will take us over the Sierra Nevada. It is now late and we're not going to tackle that highway at night so we find a wide area along a river and park for the night. We are alone and it is quiet. I bookmark this spot in the GPS for future use. Friday morning Louise fixes a fine hot breakfast and we're on our way. Only 90 miles to Gold Strike Village in San Andreas, California. These 90 miles are real mountain driving. We're on two lane roads, plenty of turn-outs and lots of tight turns. The engine brake gets a workout on the down slopes and the engine has lots of exercise on the climbs. We arrive in Jackson, California just before noon. Louise wants a grocery stop so we make our way to the Safeway in Jackson. After shopping and eating lunch we are into our campground by 2:30 p.m. Saturday morning we are watching our five year old granddaughter play soccer. It's just too much fun to be missed. It makes the whole trip worthwhile. We'll be here for a month enjoying both the 5 year old and our 3 year old granddaughters. More soccer games, reading books, babysitting, and just being grandparents. The girls want to know what the scars on my knees are. They trace the line of the scar on my right knee and talk about stitches. I laugh and tell them they used staples. Ewww! Wait until I get the x-rays on disk. They should arrive in the mail next week. That will keep the girls entertained for five minutes.
  10. Our summer has been one of little travel and few activities beyond medical care. Fortunately, this has not been life saving medical care. The medical care was more like quality of life care. My left knee was replaced on June 2 and my right knee replacement was done July 28. As a result, I haven't been getting out and about as much as normal. Exploring has been a big part of our life since we started living full time in the motor home. We've traveled all 49 RV states and most of Canada. Along the way we drive, hike and explore our surroundings. This summer we have missed that activity until this last week. With the healing well under way, I'm becoming more mobile. A fellow camper here at Goldstrike Village in San Andreas where we are staying mentioned that California highway 4 was a wonderful scenic drive into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Having nothing scheduled on Friday we decided to explore that route. Our first stop was in Angels Camp to drop off our water pump at the UPS customer center. It's going back to the factory center to be repaired. Leaving Angels Camp our next stop was at Murphys to top off the gas tank, always advisable when heading into the mountains. From there it was a steady uphill drive. The highway is excellent here with a good stretch of new pavement that hasn't been painted yet. We stopped for lunch at Bristol's Ranch House in Big Trees, a fair sized town near the state park of the same name. Louise had the special for the day, stuffed peppers and rated it first class. I had one of the best French Dip sandwiches I've ever had. Prices were reasonable and we were able to eat outdoors on the deck and enjoy the nice weather, sunshine and comfortable in short sleeves and shorts. Leaving Big Trees we were headed into high country. We passed up Big Trees State Park wanting this to be a thorough exploration of highway 4. The state park is close enough to our base that we can visit it another day. Once we are at higher elevations scenic view points start popping up. We stopped at several, enjoying the view taking pictures and doing some light hiking. The first stop had just a short trail out onto the white granite bedrock. At the second stop we found longer trails through a feature named H*ll's Kitchen. The granite bedrock was strewn with granite boulders weathered from the native rock. I guess you could picture it as a very messy kitchen. We walked around the whole area taking our time and plenty of pictures. This was my first real experience with rough terrain since my surgery so I was slow and deliberate. My right knee is just nine weeks old and I'm still favoring it a little when it comes to up and down grades. I was also being sure footed when picking my way along the trail. Scattered over the landscape are giant sequoia trees which dwarf the tall pine trees among them. Still, these are not the true giants which are found in the state park and further south in Sequoia National Park. It felt good to be back out on a trail. As we left this area we passed a sign for the Spicer Meadows Reservoir on the Stanislas River. Louise asked if we could drive to the reservoir and I agreed. It was a ten mile drive into the valley on a smaller, unmarked road through some spectacular scenery. There was very little traffic and one hardy bicyclist on the road. We took our time and enjoyed the ride. The reservoir is beautiful with the surrounding scenery being truly spectacular. I've seen the California reservoirs dreadfully dry in past years but this year the level was quite good for the end of the summer. We walked onto the dam as far as the Department of Homeland Security would allow, then drove below the dam to hike to a view of the generator housing and discharge pipe which feeds the Stanislas River below the dam. There was a full flow of water coming from the six foot diameter discharge pipe and additional water coming from two active generators. This put out a nice spray which the wind drifted to us from time to time. We enjoyed viewing the resulting river rushing downstream as we walked over a low bridge. After returning to highway 4, we continued on east toward Pacific Pass and Ebbetts Pass. It was now getting late in the afternoon. As we drove the road narrowed and became serpentine. The road was entirely unpainted, not even a center stripe. Signs cautioned snow plows not to continue past the point where the road narrowed. They also indicated permits were needed for vehicles over a certain size. This was going to be true mountain driving. We continued on for about a half hour, passing over Pacific Pass and descending to the bridge over the North Fork of the Mokelumne River. We had about an hour of daylight left. I elected to abandon further exploration so we could return over the narrow steep curving road in the daylight. We had already had a pair of deer stare us down and there were sure to be more as darkness descended. Besides, who wants to drive on a narrow snake of a road in the dark with oncoming traffic. No thank you! We made it all the way back to the town of Big Trees before stopping for dinner. The final 30 miles back to Goldstrike Village were done in the dark but on much better road. We had seen some spectacular scenery, walked among some of the big trees. I felt like an infant that had taken their first steps, I was going to get better and we would be returning to our life of exploring.
  11. We are currently in the gold hills of California near the town of San Andreas. The abundance of turkeys in this area is amazing! Today we were sitting outside beside the motorhome and I saw a turkey fly by behind Louise, along the main entrance to the park. It landed within view and then circled around the motorhome next to us and back up the road behind me. We went to look and there was a whole flock, more than 20 turkeys. They were just across the road from us. This flock wanders through the park on a regular basis. I got up early last to play golf and looked out the window and they were moving through the empty space right next to us. Louise and I played golf at a golf course near Valley Springs one morning last week. When we reached the 14th tee, there across the fence from us, less than 50 feet away, was a flock of turkeys resting in the shade. We teed off and they didn't move. We had a great time playing golf. At our daughter's home there are turkeys in their yard almost every day. The other day, Louise and I were there in the afternoon. Our granddaughters weren't home, so we settled into a couple of chairs on the back yard patio. There was a small flock of male turkeys (gobblers) in the back yard. They moved away from us but didn't leave the yard. As we sat quietly, they moved back and forth through the yard. They left the yard after about two hours. We went bicycle riding yesterday. We did 17 miles on the American River Trail in the Sacramento, CA, area. At the western end of the trail is Discovery Park. Discovery Park is right across the river from the location of Sutter's Mill, which is where gold was discovered in 1849. That started the California Gold Rush. I knew the history, but never knew where exactly Sutter's Mill was located. It turns out we've been by it many times. It is almost directly under the I-5 bridge over the American River where it meets the Sacramento River. We had great weather, cool and sunny. Louise blew a tire shortly after we turned back toward the car. Fortunately I had the tools to change the tire and a spare tube with us, so it just delayed us for a little while before we were back on the trail. As we returned to the car, a flock of 20 hens crossed the trail in front of us. We were less than 15 feet away and they calmly kept crossing the bike trail. I've seen flocks of turkeys in other parts of the country but they are always wary of people and sightings are brief. In my experience, turkeys are seldom observed at close range. It is certainly not true here in this part of California.
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