Our 2024 Viking Cruise on the Danube

Passage to Eastern Europe

FANTASTIC RHINE RIVER CRUISE ON VIKING

ON OUR WAY
Saturday July 15, 2023

Neighbor Ben took us to Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix for our 9:35am Delta flight to Amsterdam via Minneapolis.

Don’t downplay Ed having a cane, it got us early boarding.

Delta’s web site said it would be $70 to check a bag! We’ll have to check about that next time. Anyway, we managed quite well with each of us having a carry on.

Delta flight to Amsterdam

After seeing Ed  using a cane, Delta agents ushered us on the plane for pre-boarding. We had a 3 hour flight to Minneapolis then we boarded our Amsterdam flight a couple hours after landing. The Amsterdam flight  was a little over 8 hours. Tried, but couldn’t sleep.

AMSTERDAM
Sunday July 16, 2023

This is Viking Riverboat Hlin. Four levels. The top level is open deck, but they do provide canopies. Excellent location for viewing all the countryside on the Rhine.

The bottom level are the standard staterooms. Better value, but somewhat limited view. See comments later.

Our Standard Stateroom was the lowest level on the 4 level riverboat. The windows were a little above water level, we could still see out a bit, although Connie had to stand on the bed. The bed is a very comfortable queen. It looks bigger bc of picture. Bathroom is small as well, but adequate. The shower can be seen in the mirror reflection.

Rhine travel map

The Cruise
Day 1 Sun July 16: Amsterdam
Day 2 Mon 17: kinderdijk, Netherlands
Day 3 Tue 18: Cologne, Germany
Day 4 Wed19: Koblenz & Rüdesheim, Germany
Day 5 Thur 20: Speyer, Germany
Day 6 Fri 21: Strasbourg, France
Day 7 Sat 22: Breisach, Germany
Day 8 Sun 23: Basel, Switzerland and Home

After 11+ hours of flying and a 2 and half hour layover, we got into Netherlands Amsterdam Schiphol Airport around 7:45am CEST (Central European Summer Time). CEST is 8 hours later than Mesa, AZ. After finally finding our Viking Representatives, Viking provided bus transportation to our Riverboat, Hlin (silent H), in time to get our bearings and enjoy an 11am brunch. Our stateroom wasn’t ready so we headed out to explore Amsterdam


There are many canals in Amsterdam and many canal cruises. We selected the Hop-on-Hop off boat for our transportation (under the bridge coming toward stop). We boarded the boat near the Hlin and disembarked at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. We walked from there to the Heineken Experience.

on board the hop-on boat
Hop-on-Hop-off boat

Vincent Van Gogh Museum


Ed.VanGogh.painting

We found the Vincent Van Gogh museum fascinating. Many many originals. Also many many people for mid-day on a Sunday.

Heinken taps

While the Heineken Experience provided a little adventure it was somewhat disappointing. Connie did discover a new drink she likes at the specialty bar, and Ed enjoyed teasing the help.

BTW, we understand that Heineken purchased Lagunitas Brewery in 2017. However it wasn’t offered here. Dutch don’t care for IPA?

Our canal Hop-on-Off boat sailed (?) right by the Heineken building on the way to Van Gogh so we had a good idea where it was when we walked back. Our boat was red, so this isn’t it.

We did get up to the roof on the Heineken building. A great view of Amsterdam and quite relaxing to finish our drinks. For some reason they would not sell us a 2nd drink. We talked with some folks there and enjoyed our time. Connie had just purchased a couple Van Gogh prints on postcards and they somehow managed to fall through a crack in the plank floor. No way to retrieve.

KINDERDIJK
Monday July 17, 2023

The only day we had rain on the cruise was the first day out at Kinderdijk, where we walked to see several Dutch windmills. They are part of a larger water management system to prevent flooding. The area is low and the windmills pump water to higher levels to avoid flooding. Today, this is done mostly with electric pumps, but they keep these older windmills for their heritage and traditions.

We had a bit of a break from the rain by going with our guide to a makeshift classroom to learn more about the complexities of the windmills.

COLOGNE, GERMANY
Tuesday July 18, 2023

Cologne Cathedral

We docked at Cologne, Germany July 18, the second day of the Rhine Cruise. Köln is German for Cologne. Cologne is given credit for the famous vernacular for the fragrance. But also for this massive (184′ feet tall) Cathedral built in the 16th century.

Jewish Marker

This is a plaque in the sidewalk with the name of Elisabeth Friede, born 1884, deported from her home located here (left picture below) in 1941 by the Nazis.

The picture on the right is an HA Schult, creation of a winged Flying Ford Fiesta, located on the former armory “temporarily” since 1991. Click on the link to view it better.

KOBLENZ, GERMANY
Wednesday July 19,2023

First picture is the 16′ Lorelei maiden (click link for full story). According to legend the beautiful maiden would sing and sailors would be transfixed, lured to their doom. The next two pictures are landscapes along the beautiful Middle Rhine. We sat out on the open deck and listened to our program director (Lee)  describe the scenery and many castles along the way of our cruise. We suffered from castle overload…not really.

The Hlin docked at Brauback, Germany where excursions to Medieval Marksburg Castle, the Fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, and our included (free) excursion to Koblenz began. We cruised to Rüdesheim and docked in the afternoon where there were evening excursions to wine tasting and dinner at Schloss Johannisberg Estate, and yet another excursion to dine in Rüdesheim. We stayed on board for the chief steward and the bartender demonstration of making Rüdesheim Coffee: Brandy, coffee, sugar,whipped cream, and chocolate. All this while enjoying beer and wine as an option.

We bused in to Koblenz , a town on the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Our guide led us through old downtown to one of the many churches in this area. Seems like all the towns/villages have at least one cathedral. Too bad no one attends.

SPEYER, GERMANY
Thursday July 20, 2023

Speyer.Cathedral,inside

Speyer Imperial Catherdral. Romanesque style, much plainer than the Gothic cathedrals we’ve seen. Built between 1030 and 1061, serves as the tomb for 4 emperors, 4 kings, and 3 empresses. We chose not to view crypt, but got coffee on the square instead.

Speyer square

While the German city of Wittenberg is known as the birthplace of the reformation when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the church there. It was Speyer where the name Protestantism originated. Derived from a letter of protest signed by six princes and representatives of Imperial cities during the Diet of Speyer in 1529. Speyer also served an important part of the Jewish culture as well. Very interesting town. Enjoyed it for sure.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE
Friday July 21,2023

Strasbourg had may highlights. One of the most surprising was learning about the storks that live there. We learned that they mate for life, live to be about 30 years old and migrate south in the winter…unless one of the parents is native; then just one parent migrates. They always come back to the same nest every year.

Strasbourg Cathedral

A fun surprise for us strolling around Strasbourg was stumbling in to this market. Lot of fresh vegetables along with a variety of other items, like flowers. There were a few shops with meat items displayed in glass enclosed refrigerated cooler mounted on a trailer. It was a great experience. Connie bought some Pasta that we managed to get home. It’s gone now.

The architecture in Strasbourg was different than we had seen before, especially in Mesa, AZ, or the USA for that matter. Brought back memories of some WWII war movies that have cities like this. The fellow with the red sign is our guide. We were in group 32L (for leisurely). Viking provides a “listening device” with several channels to listen to your guides. Works very well and is good for about a block away in case you drag behind.

Strasbourg.32L

BREISACH, GERMANY
Saturday July 22, 2023

Colmar Pocket
Colmar Pocket view

View of the Colmar Pocket valley where intense fighting happened during WWII. Our excursion was, led by a very passionate and inspirational guide, Birgit was full of knowledge that she shared very well.

Colmar trek

After overlooking the Colmar Pocket area from the hill with a stone depiction of some of the action, we strolled the street to the wine cellar museum. Not that spectacular, but shows how thankful the French are for the Americans.

A baptism gown made from a parachute. American and French flags honoring the bravery and courage of those that gave their all.

Outside of Colmar, at Holtzwihr, a short distance with this memorial a major battle where US soldier Audie Murphy protected the under fire troops by jumping on tank that was on fire and firing the machine gun that drove back the advancing Germans. View the full history of the event here.

Our bus parked right next to this tribute site. I wanted to capture that while it is a very moving tribute, it isn’t glamorized at all. One has to know where it is. Nonetheless it remains a reminder of the courage and dedication portrayed by so many.

bus

We were mesmerized by all the cobble stone like very narrow streets, the very old buildings, plants in the windows. Connie loved the plants in the planter.

Colmar-Ostheim Church

On our way back to the Hlin, we stopped at Ostheim, near Colmar (see map above). This is the wall of a church that was destroyed in the bombing. The French community decided to leave the wall that was left standing as a memorial to remember all that fought and perished. Note the huge stork nest on top. Anabell’s nest, but she wasn’t there when we stopped.

Check out this web page with a great history of the Colmar Pocket battle. The Colmar Pocket – “The Forgotten Campaign”

BlackForest

After arriving back to the Hlin, just in time for lunch. Certainly don’t want to miss a meal, We boarded buses for a trek up and around the Black Forest, famous for Black Forest Cake…maybe. At any rate views all around were breathtaking. We heard that the cows have legs shorter on one side so the can traverse the hills to graze.

Marktscheune Martketplace

One of our stops was at a unique spot along the Black Forest highway (Marktscheune) on the return to the Hlin. In time for dinner of course. They sold cuckoo clocks as many folks come to this area to buy the clocks. Several on the tours purchased clocks. The sales included $89 shipping.

Marktscheune had many interesting things to look at other than cuckoo clocks. One of was the Black Forest WOOD bicycle. Only €4950,00 Euros (about $5400). But no shipping. Wouldn’t fit in our carry-on.

Before loading back on the buses. Our group gathered for a fun Black Forest cake making demonstration. And it was fun.

THE CRUISE DEVELOPED NEW FRIENDSHIPS

Everyone on the Hlin were wonderful and fun. We hit it off very well the stewards from Portugal. Ines (left) and Barbara (right). We always tried to sit in their area. We learned Barbara was only 18 and this was just her 2nd week. Delightful young women.

We also developed new friendships with many. Pictures on the left, clockwise from Connie is Mark and JoEllen from Dallas; Gary and Amy from Houston; Ken and Colleen from “South” Omaha.

On the right picture, our delightful friends from the UK. John and Pauline, and Pauline’s sister Joan (black hair). They were indeed a lot of fun.

Now that we’re back home, we enjoyed it so much we’re planing on going again in 2024. Not sure which river yet, or maybe even an ocean cruise. We found Viking an outstanding cruise company and highly recommend looking into what they offer if you’re considering a cruise. Be sure to tell them Ed and Connie Allen referred you. They told us they might thank us.

Our Lives in Mesa, AZ

Ed got a job with Via Adventures, or Via Trailways, charter bus company out of Tempe. Newer buses than he drove at Grace, but a few more restrictions…like he must wear slacks, white (or gray) dress shirt and a tie. Perhaps he’ll get used to it.

His first trip was taking some Junior High students to a YMCA camp in Prescott.

He drove one of four bus loads of Steeler fans to the Cardinal game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Crazy.

We left our new home August 21 to travel to Colorado for a visit, but the main calling was to attend grand daughter Faith’s senior year of volleyball. We stopped both ways in route to stay/visit with our long time friends Cliff and Cyndy in Montrose. A great time with them. Cliff drove us out to the badlands not far from their home.

We also managed to stop at Brian and Angie’s for a night. Fantastic time spending time with them at their new Fraser River BeerCo brewery in Fraser.

One of the games was in honor of all the seniors on the team (2). Faith played the senior role for fun. Got a great picture of her with us, along with Shannon and Tim.

We also managed to get up to Gillette to visit son Shelby and grand daughter Brittani, her husband Garth…and our GREAT grand daughter Blakelee. We had a much better time on our visit then this impromptu picture would indicate. Blakelee is generally quite happy, but was a little grumpy when we took the picture.

We stayed in Colorado 2 full months, leaving September 23, a day earlier than planned to avoid a storm. However, we still hit a piece of it as we traveled through the Teleuride area.

We love Colorado..and Wyoming…but it was nice getting back to our new home, and warmer weather. Excited about the fall/winter in Arizona. So nice, especially when we see all the dreadful storms moving through the middle of the country.

Soon after getting back, we traded our 1 ton F350 diesel dually in for a 2017 F150 Platinum. It appears unbelievably new, but had 71k miles. Glad we got a 36k/3yr warranty to go with it. At any rate, a lot easier to get around in than the big dually. We hope it will pull whatever new travel trailer we wind up getting when we eventually sell our 5th wheel.

Sorry to say, but we still haven’t sold it. It is at Auto Corral RV in Mesa on consignment. Hoping the influx of snowbirds will generate a buyer. It should as the new price is a steal.

In the mean time, we continue to spend $ like we had some. New granite counter tops and lighting in the kitchen does help make our home more comfy.

Finally…Getting Settled

Long time since our last post, to its time to catch up a bit. Before leaving Twin Palms to move in to our new home, we were amazed by watching the palm tree trimmer. We learned that palm trees need to be trimmed once a year or they start looking rather shabby.

MOVING DAY – JUNE 3, 2019

As we reported in our last post, the home we purchased in Mesa was our 8th offer. We questioned our reasons several times since moving in. Primarily because we had hoped to locate in the Gilbert area. We try reasoning to justify our purchase…but resort to reminding ourselves we’re on a two-year plan; after that we’ll know more about post RV life and where else we might want to live. At any rate, we pulled our Mobile Suites up to the front of our house and started moving in on Monday June 3, 2019.

So, where is your Mobile Suites you might ask…well we have it under consignment at Auto Corral RV in Mesa. Not much interest with temps in the 100s, but we’re hopeful it will generate more interest when the Snowbirds start arriving in October/November.

One of the first things we did after moving in was paint the garage and epoxy the floor. Connie painted the entire garage herself using paint from a $20 5-gallon ooops paint bucket from Home Depot. Water in Mesa, most of Arizona really, is terrible. We added a whole house filter, new water heater and a softener. The exiting water heater was 20 years old!! We had the softener connected prior the whole house filter. Seems to work well as we tolerate the water okay. The epoxy floor is incredible.

Another focus on moving in was to get the old brown carpet out of the house. We put in new plank tile where most of the carpeted area exited; then new carpet in two bedrooms.

To our delight, we have found many businesses around our area are convenient to our home. Home Depot, Frys, and Sprouts for example. We can ride our bikes to our new dentist, and Ed can ride his bike to his new doctor. He has been riding to Home Depot a couple times a week. A round trip journey of 4 miles. Sometimes in the 100 degree heat. Silly guy.

Yet another must on moving in was to get the sewing room painted and organized. Other than being the hottest room in the house, Connie loves her setup.

She has an never ending list of sewing to do; mostly quilting. She put many hours in to this tee-shirt quilt. Maybe a geometry II class back in high school would have helped. It took a lot of measuring and re-measuring for it all to come together. She made the quilt for a retired General Motors engineer from our church. Actually, a gift to him from his wife. He worked at the Mesa Proving Grounds until he retired when it closed in 2009. He had saved all these never worn tee shirts.

We’ve been working diligently in the yard. We had been looking for a maintenance free place. Ooops

Ed has taken out several plants. A couple large ones to make room to park the dually, and several others because he thought they looked like they needed to come out. A lot to do with not fully understanding desert life. He got 1 1/2 ton load of gravel and spread it around the front yard. Unfortunately it wasn’t a direct match with exiting gravel and didn’t completely cover. Now what?

While it does get quite hot here through the day, many mornings have been quite pleasant. We can go out on the patio for our morning coffee around 5:30am and enjoy about 1/2 hour of a cool 82 degrees. Later, temps have been in the 104-115 range.

We have a view of the Augusta Ranch Golf Course from our patio. Much better than having a view of a 2-story across a block wall fence. The view must be where our reasoning was captured.

We have discovered, however, that scorpions come out of the block fence openings at night. Ed has sprayed 3 times, but we may still find one when we go out with our trusty blue light. So far we haven’t found any in the house. It is amazing how they glow like a neon sign when they are in the blue light. They even hold still for you to smash them, but if you miss with your smasher, they are quick to disappear. This is our Arizona entertainment folks.

This is the thermometer on our patio in the middle of the afternoon. It will probably go up another 1-2 degrees by 4-5pm. We’ve learned that Arizonians are quite proud of their heat. It is often a topic of conversation. Much like when Coloradans boast about 6″ of new April snow or how they endured a May blizzard. All in all it is a “dry heat” and much much more tolerable when there is no humidity.

To escape the heat, our plans are to leave Arizona August 21, and enjoy the northern Rockies through October. Looking forward to our visit with our full time friends, Cliff and Cyndy. No longer full time. Also with our high country friends, Brian and Angie in Fraser, especially their newly opened Fraser River BeerCo brewery. But also being around family and going to grand daughter Faith’s senior year of volleyball at Lakewood high school. We also plan to venture into Wyoming to see family. Connie will undoubtedly find time to visit her super friends at the Presser Foot, and Ed will undoubtedly drive a few trips for Grace Coach Lines.

ARIZONA!

We had our first major excitement a couple months after arriving. Mesa Sales 3 alarm fire located next door to our RV spot at Twin Palms RV Park. Fire started around 6pm Jan 30, 2018 and had Twenty fire trucks responding. Main street was blocked off for several hours. Around 70 fire fighters and 3 ladder trucks. Look closely and you’ll see our trailer and Rav4 next to the ladder truck. An exciting evening for sure.

We’ve enjoyed our time here since arriving last November. Nice to have the little Rav4 and leave the big dually parked. Connie gets around more like a native every day.

We flew to Grand Junction twice looking at homes. The first trip in November, 2018 was premature because we were committed to serve as host/manager at Twin Palms RV through March. The trip was mainly to just check the real estate market in the area. We flew over again in February and looked more seriously, but must have lost motivation. Sister Cheri drove over and stayed with a us a couple nights and looked at houses along with us. She was open to move there, so was disappointed in our change of heart. We managed to carve out a little time to make a run to the nearby Monument National Park. Spectacular. We also got to visit with friends Jim and Connee as well as Cliff and Cyndy. Other than failing on the house hunt, we so very much enjoyed seeing everyone.

So…returned to Arizona with eyes set on finding a suitable home. WOW! Not so fast buster. So were thousand of other folks! We made 6 offers before finally going under contract for a home in Gilbert on our 7th. However, the home inspection turned up some serious problems, so we bailed. Our 8th offer went under contract April 8 with this home at 9447 E Kilarea Av in Mesa 85209. However, the seller wanted extra time to find a home to buy in Henderson, so closing was set for May 30. Needless to say, we are anxious in the waiting game, but all is coming together. Inspection, appraisal and loan all in place.

So many homes we looked at had a view of a 2 story behind, or a variety of other negatives. So we were drawn to this Kilarea home because of the unobstructed view of the Augusta Ranch golf course. Neither of us golf, but will be nice having the openness. We’ll also have a guest bedroom! Haven’t been able to have many guests the past 4 years living full time in our RV. Connie will also have a sewing studio. We’ll take some pictures to post after we get settled. Mostly of an empty house because we have no furniture!

House Hunting, but where??

Know anyone interested in a 38′ deluxe 5th wheel? This one is for sale. Also the 2016 F350 Diesel Dually to pull it with. Check out all the details at conyk.com.

While it has been our “HOME” for the past 3 years, we’ve come to covet a home with a foundation.

After leaving Chatfield State Park in Colorado, we stopped at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs for 2 nights so we could attend Faith’s regional Volleyball tournament; then 4 days in Stephenville, TX to visit sister Alice and family. We had a great time with all of them.

Arrived back at Twin Palms RV Park on November 2 to serve our 3rd winter here as host/managers. A great spot for us where we are treated royally by the park owners. We’ve committed to them stay here through March, when our future is yet to be decided. If you know some folks that might be interested in hosting here next Winter, let us know and we’ll talk.

Timing is wrong to  buy an existing home now, so our focus is on new builds that would be ready for our April time frame. We are looking around here at some new developments, but nothing for us in AZ as yet.

We fly to Grand Junction, CO December 3-6 to scout out some new builds there, hoping we will be able to fine tune our thinking a bit. So…we’re down to Arizona or Colorado. Both are pulling at us, often both ways, or alternating. Our daily prayer includes asking for the good Lord’s help to lead us one way or the other, closing doors that we won’t fit through.

Sorry, but not a lot going on other than that. Oh yeah! We did have a marvelous Thanksgiving with sister Carol and family here. They always make us feel so welcome. Oh…we are also enjoying getting back to Christ Church in Gilbert.

Still in Colorado

On Thursday September 6, 2018, we traveled over I70, through the Eisenhower tunnel and over Vail Pass to Fruita. Fruita is about 10 miles west of Grand Junction.

We parked at the very nice Monument RV Park, just across I70 from Fruita. We were there 4 nights, mostly because Faith, along with Lakewood High School volleyball team, played in a tournament in Fruita on Friday, and Grand Junction on Saturday. They won both games! Yay!!

Just down the road and across the nearby Colorado River from the RV park is Colorado National Monument, often referred to as just “Monument” by the locals. It consists of 23,000 acres of canyons, plateaus and massive towers of naturally sculpted monoliths.

Tuesday, we drove 90 miles south to Ridgway State Park where our friends Cliff and Cyndy Mills serve as camphosts. At least they were, but they recently purchased a home in Montrose and are giving up full timing. We joined them for a chili cookoff, then  a tour of the dam on Wednesday. It was quite obvious that the Ridgway reservoir is very low. It’s water source comes from the Uncompahgre River. The dam and it’s associated 8-MW hydopower plant is managed by the Tri-County Conservancy water District. The tour included a 2000+ foot drainage tunnel they use to monitor how the dam is functioning.

From Ridgway Friday September 14, we stayed overnight at the Grande River winery, compliments of Harvest Hosts. Saturday we got back on I70, but took a bit of a detour in route to Fraser; taking Colorado 131 from Walcott to State Bridge, then over secondary Trough road to Kremmling, and on to Fraser, via US 40, where our friends Brian and Angie live. After spending a week in their driveway, we hope we’re still friends 😉  We had a great time with them and got around to tour some of the area. We had never been to Grand Lake, so that was fun experience.

Geez, the little town of Grand Lake, at an elevation of 8369′: claims to be the home of the world’s highest registered yacht club and the nation’s highest altitude golf course. The lake, fed from Rocky Mountain National Park streams, is where the Colorado River actually continues it’s 1450 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Many quaint shops along the historic downtown street, even a quilt shop! Warning: Grand Lake needs to fact check their boast of highest golf course and yacht club.

While we were at Brian and Angie’s, they invited us to attend the Great American Beer Fest (GABF) on Thursday September 20, 2018 opening day. The 3 day event, held at the Denver Convention Center, hosted over 800 breweries from all 50 states (160 from Colorado) serving over 4000 beers!


Not represented this year at GABF, but hope for the future. Brian and Angie are well on their way of opening Fraser River Beer Co in Fraser. It is exciting to follow their progress.

In spite of the long long line, depicted above, the convention center handled it well (over 8 football fields). Since we arrived somewhat early, it wasn’t very crowded yet. We just picked up our plastic tasting glass and were on our way. The GABF had a great app to show where to locate the brewers and beers by their large number placard.

It was indeed a fun night. Thanks Brian and Angie. We found many new beers to taste, of course, and saw many of the breweries we had visited on our travels.

While it took a little while for everyone to get in, the convention center became quite crowded by the time we left. Attendance was over 60,000 for the three days.

We spent the next two weeks at St. Vrain State Park near Longmont. More volleyball games, along with coffee, breakfasts, lunches with friends from the 12+ years we lived in Longmont. BUT…on our way to our next stop, Bear Creek Lake Campground, we were coerced (not really) to help load the Uhaul truck with Cliff and Cyndy’s storage unit stuff. Pictured are Connie, Austin (Cliff’s son) and friend Gary. Don’t ask where Cliff is.

The empty storage unit never looked so good…empty! They had maintained the unit since first going full time back in 2014. We are so happy for them, especially for finally moving their stuff from storage…and we know they are ecstatic!

We stayed at Bear Creek Campground 4 days. Quite convenient to Ortho Colorado where Connie had her hardware removed. Surgery was around an hour and she did very well.

This picture is a collage of Connie’s broken angle and first surgery. The hardware appeared quite large in the X-rays.

This is a picture of all the hardware removed, less two screws that were embedded in a bone.

Surgery was Wednesday October 10, followed by a post op appointment on Friday to check her healing process and remove the surgical dressing & elastic wrap. After that, she just had to keep a light bandage over the area for a week till the stitches come out. We went to Faith’s volleyball game that night without issue.

The day after surgery we moved to Chatfield State Park. A wonderful wide open park with lots of space. It was fantastic having full hookups again.

We see a few deer hanging out from back window.

But it is Colorado! Had a little storm come through our first Sunday at Chatfield. Temps got down to 15°. All of us parked there had to disconnect our water hose and use water from our on board water supply.

We’ve followed Cliff and Cyndy for four years, so since they are giving up full timing, our plan is to continue with their template. Just not sure about the location yet. It seems to be between Colorado’s western slope, and the Phoenix east valley…Gilbert area???

 


Like Cliff and Cyndy, we’ve enjoyed our full time experience, but its time to get a real house. No more black tanks to empty!

 

 

Catching up

We left Garryowen, Montana July 27 with sights set to eventually get to Loveland and Longmont (Colorado). We have many Volleyball games to attend. Grand daughter Faith plays for Lakewood High School and they have games scheduled through the end of October. See short video later in this post.

Stopped in Gillette for a few days for a visit with son Shelby, Grand daughter Brittani’s family, and grandson Hagen, fiancée Leanna (not in  picture), and other friends. Garth installed a 50amp outlet so we could park next to his shop with shore power. We stayed four nights. An enjoyable highlight was spending time with GREAT grand daughter Blakelee! She is such a sweet girl…and will soon have a brother to share with…Dean Scott.

July 31 we ventured over to Spearfish City Park for two days to enjoy the beauty of the area and visit George and Janet, some old friends from Utah going back to the 80’s. We were there a couple days before the infamous Sturgis Rally, so lots of interesting tents and motorcycles.

After Spearfish, we continued south to Cheyenne for Connie’s long awaited and planned 50th HS reunion. This large pasture, Last Chance Camp without hookups, suited us just fine for the three nights we were there.

We visited historic downtown Cheyenne and the 1886 Union Pacific Depot national landmark.

The depot houses Accomplice Brewery. Quite 21st century, especially for Wyoming. Serve yourself taps where you buy beer by the ounce.

Friday evening August 3, was Cheyenne’s High School Reunion’s first gathering icebreaker to reacquaint with old friends from high school days, and 1968 graduation. It was held at the new Botanical Gardens. There were a reported 285 folks in attendance. Cheyenne is a small town (approaching 60,000 now) and only had 3 high schools in 1968: Central, East, and St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s has since closed. Connie graduated from East (home of the Thunderbirds). Oddly enough most returning grads were 68.

The dinner was a well planned evening held at the Cheyenne Country Club. We sat with Gary and Linda, currently from Mesa, AZ. Linda and Connie go back to when they worked together for Mountain Bell in Cheyenne in the 70’s. The event committee did a fantastic job as many more folks attended then they had originally estimated. Seating was a little short for all 260 that came, but they made it work and the event was enjoyed by everyone.

August 6, 2018: Arrived for a one month stay at Loveland RV Resort, and later for a couple weeks at St. Vrain State Park near Longmont. It was great being settled for longer that 2-3 days. Ed drove some for Grace Coach Lines and Connie did a lot of sewing and visiting. She loved hanging out with sister Cheri and all the Presser Foot friends.

While we were in Loveland, we returned to Gillette for grand son Hagen’s wedding (8/18/18) to Leanna. Don’t ask about the dogs. Recently certified, Son Shelby performed the ceremony. What an event! We rode up with daughter Shannon in her Jeep Wrangler, which made for a long trip. Stayed overnight at Brittani and Garth’s place.

Here is a short 4 second video of grand daughter Faith serving. She is playing the Libero position.

NEXT BLOG:
LAKE GRANBY
GREAT AMERICAN BEER FEST
CHATFIELD STATE PARK
CONNIE’S ANKLE SURGERY
GIVING UP FULL TIME IN THE RV

Video

Bozeman to Little Bighorn Battlefield

Spent 4 days in Bozeman with beautiful weather, but decided we should keep on track with our trek to Connie’s 50th HS reunion in Cheyenne.

We got on our way from Bozeman to Garryowen, on Wednesday July 25, but had to make a quick quilt store stop at Big Timber. A cute little shop called Little Timber. Wouldn’t you know, Connie found a piece of fabric “just right” for one of her projects. Yay! We found Big Timber to be delightfully welcoming with a small town footprint.

Arrived around around 2:30pm, parked and setup at 7th Ranch RV Camp, just south of Garryowen and the Little Bighorn National Park. The first picture here looks north toward the battlefield and the Little Bighorn river. A delightful location with full hookups. They even offered us a free ice cream treat when we checked in. We didn’t want to insult them, so we accepted.

Thursday, we drove the short 7 miles from our site to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Custer’s Last Stand) arriving soon after they opened the gates. Free to old folks (62) with the America the Beautiful National Park Senior Pass. They are $80 now, but were only $10 when we got ours. Sorry youngsters. Next to the visitor center is Custer National Cemetery. Custer’s Last Stand site is on the hill just beyond the visitor center.

We watched a very informative 45 minute video in the visitor center, then caught the ranger talk on the south side overlook. The Ranger, actually a volunteer, dramatically spoke for around 30 minutes about the battle field and a step by step review of what took place that June 25, 1876, along with the events that led up to it, as well as afterward.

After the ranger talk, we walked the Deep Ravine pathway from the visitor center toward the Little Bighorn river. Much of the battle that the indians call “The battle of Greasy Grass” took place in this area, as well as some of the surrounding area.

The 249 marble stones mark the place where each soldier originally died and were buried in shallow graves. Our nations only battlefield where markers are found where soldiers fell. In 1999, with input from stories handed down from Lakota and Cheyenne families, the park service began placing red granite markers where the 60 plus indians fell. A difficult task since their bodies were taken away by the tribes after the battle.

Last Stand Hill Monument has the remains of about 220 soldiers buried around the base of the memorial. In 1877 the remains of 11 officers and 2 civilians were moved to various cemeteries throughout the country. Lt Colonel Custer was buried at West Point. Custer had been a general during the civil war, but assumed his regular army rank after the war. In 1881, the other soldiers were relocated from their original grave where they fell and re-interned in a single grave below the monument.

We opted to take the Absaalooke Tour bus for further explanation of the battle. A young Crow Indian was our narrator as we traveled along the battlefield road to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield Monument. In June 1876 there were an estimated 7000 Sitting Bull led Lakota, Cheyenne, and some Arapaho gathered in their village on the Little Big Horn River, 1500-2000 were warriors. By order of President US Grant, the 7th Calvary was determined to push the indians back to their reservation. Custer’s men all perished by the warriors determined to live as they had before, but battalions led by Major Reno and Captain Benteen had gathered together after initial fighting and retreated to a location along Sharpshooter Ridge. They conducted the shallow grave burials after the battle. We had passed the Little Big Horn National Monument many times as we drove by on I-90, but glad we stopped this time. An incredible history and site to see. Plan to stop if in the area.

Seeley Lake to Bozeman

Tuesday July 17. After spending a couple enjoyable nights, and breakfast with our hosts, we said goodby to Tom and Peggy and pulled away around 9:30am. Should have been a good travel day with a beautiful drive and relatively short trip to Helena. But our truck powered down about half way with an “Engine Power Reduced” dash warning. We could still drive, but only about 20 MPH in first gear. We pulled over while we contemplated what to do as there was zero cell service. After about 15 minutes, we decided to limp down the road a 1000 yards to a level spot and more off the highway. When making the move, the engine started running normal, so we were cautiously on our way again.

We found the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds in Helena and set up on our reserved spot. Electric only, but quiet…except for the train whistle that sounded erratically through the day and night. Ed got the truck in to Helena Ford to check the reduced power issue. They were very responsive and discovered the computer needed to be updated. Yeah! They took care of it under our power train warranty.

Later, old friend Lyla came by and took us to the Lewis and Clark Brewery in Helena. Very impressive! We all had one of their beers and then wandered over to the Suds Hut for chicken dinner. We had eaten there several times when we lived in Helena in the early 80s.

Wednesday, we met Lyla and some friends at Women’s park for Helena’s Alive at Five music in the park night. Wonderful weather and a fun night. Pictured are Ed, Mark (Lyla’s new acquaintance), Lyla, Vickie, Larry, and Gina. Connie took the picture of course. Ed worked with Gina and Lyla while he was with US West in the early 80’s. We stayed four days in Helena and had a great time. Getting back to this city we loved was a grand experience.

Friday was a free day for us. We drove out to Canyon Ferry Lake on the Missouri River. It is the 3rd largest body of water in Montana which is just 50 miles downstream from Missouri headwaters; Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison come together at Three Forks to become the Missouri. A fantastic recreational area, especially if you have a boat.

Saturday July 21. Left our Helena friends behind and headed for a four night stay at Sunrise Campground RV Park in Bozeman. We stopped at Wheat as a rest stop….but couldn’t resist getting one of their rolls. So big we shared half, and took the other half to share later. A recommended stop as you travel I90 around Three Forks.

We got parked and set up at Sunshine Campground on the east edge of Bozeman then headed downtown to Crazy Days, which included so much shopping, stores had their wares displayed on the sidewalk. We managed to look a lot, but got out unscathed.

The White Dog Brewery and Bozeman Spirits Distillery are downtown too.  We both tried the New England Hazy IPA and kept it cold by setting the glass in the ice tray. Pretty clever. We came back Monday to fill our growler at White Dog and purchase the Distillery’s 1889 bottle of whiskey, 1889 the year Montana became a state.

Of course our stopover wouldn’t be complete without searching out the local quilt store. Connie loved looking around Main Street Quilts, but disappointed that they are no longer a Bernina dealer. Although they did have a couple machines setting out.

We spent our last day exploring the beautiful Bozeman area, including a drive up Bridger Canyon to Bridger Bowl. We have fond memories of skiing there with friends and family when we lived in Helena.

Time to Head South

Wednesday July 11, 2018; Pulled out of Banff, Alberta and drove CA93 through Kootenay National Park in British Columbia to overnight at a Boondockers Welcome place in Canal Flats, BC. Our time at Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canada was fantastic to say the least. It was sad to leave the majesty of it all.

We discovered that Canal Flats is a village of less than 1000 and that they don’t have pizza delivery…or pizza at all. But they do boast that they are the source of the Columbia River. Read about that HERE.

Thursday July 12. Next stop after Canal Flats is a Harvest Host location at Glacier Sun Winery in Kalispell, Montana. We were very pleased crossing back to the USA from Canada. Again, just a couple questions at the Roosville border, like did you enjoy Canada; then “Welcome back to Miles per Hour.” Staying at Glacier Sun was nice, and convenient with the Apple Barrel, a small fruit and country market with local items and gift shop next to the winery. Our parking area, however, was dusty, and noisy from the traffic on Montana highway 2. The dusty parking lot should improve when it is paved for the new Sacred Waters Brewery that’s going in next to the Apple Barrel.

We loved walking around downtown Kalispell. We spent a little time at the 50th annual Arts in the Park weekend event in Depot Park. It was great fun looking at the incredible work these artist do. We recalled that it was this same Arts in the Park event that we visited back in 2010;  Connie went with when Ed when he drove for Grace Coach Lines on a charter bus trip . Connie had purchased a set of ceramic dishes from potter Bob Markle. The potter here told us Bob had passed away about 2 years ago.

Ed was amazed with this creative artist’s very interesting exhibition. Creations made from arranging various common pieces together to form a display. Expand the picture to view the horse head made with harness hames.

Wherever we go, our journey wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a local brewery . Other than people and beautiful sites, breweries and quilt stores seem to be the targets of our travels. We had a great time walking around Whitefish, stopping at the Great Northern Brewery for refreshments.

Saturday July 14: The beautiful drive along Flathead lake from Kalispell to Polson went by fast. With 160 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Polson is on the south end of the lake. Miracle of America Museum in Polson was our next Harvest Host site. And an interesting site it is. The Miracle of America Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of one of the largest collections of American history. Gil & Joanne Mangels founded the Museum in 1981.The collection contains thousands of artifacts scattered throughout dozens of buildings and is open year round.

Wow! Driving a 100 miles around the south end of Flathead Lake and through Cherry orchards, we came to Tom and Peggy’s home on the 6th green at Double Arrow Golf Course in Seeley Lake. Peggy is an old friend from our life with the phone company. Tom also worked with various phone and contract companies. We hadn’t seen Peggy since we retired in Denver back in 2000, so it was wonderful seeing her and catching up with her life with Tom for the past 18 years. They have a beautiful home and were so gracious to us. They offered us electric and water hookups, which we accepted, of course.

The weather was beautiful during our 2 night stay. It beckoned us to take a walk along the golf course to the lodge.

Tom drove us around the Seeley area. The girls had a blast shopping at the super nice Deer Country quilt store.

Exploring Banff and Nearby Places

We explored Banff a little Monday night after arriving. Found the Banff Avenue Brewery, 2nd story in the building with all the flags. Banff is very very busy with lots of people and vehicles. Very difficult to find parking, especially with our big dually. Fun little town though, reminding us a bit of a Breckenridge or Aspen kind of town.

Tuesday July 10 we backtracked 35 miles north on CA1 to Lake Louise. Immediately after exiting the highway, we could tell how busy it all was when we saw a Banff National Park employee directing traffic at the intersection. We wanted to visit Lake Moraine, but no room in their small parking lot and the road was barricaded.

We did find parking at Lake Louise, just as a vehicle was pulling out. Several parking lots, but all were full. You can get an idea of the crowd in this picture. That’s the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel in the background. We were afraid to ask the cost of a room.

The Lake is truly beautiful, especially with the glacier hovering picturesque above.

Having had enough of crowded areas, we backtracked again, 15 miles south past Banff on CA1 to Canmore. This entire National Park area is so breathtaking, passing by huge rock formations along the highway that seemed to dominate the landscape.

Surprise! Canmore is busy too, but they do have a very nice quilt shop, Sugar Pine. Visiting the shop delighted Connie and helped satisfy her long hiatus from quilting. And we were blessed with a little rain. High today around 60°.

After the quilt fix, we walked down 8th Avenue  a couple blocks and just happened on to the Grizzly Paw Brewery.  It too was busy, but we found seats near the bar and ordered a glass of Grizzly Paw’s own; Connie had a Sleeping Buffalo Stout, while Ed had an Evolution IPA. After another full day. We were delighted to get back “home.”

 

Jasper to Banff

We have been doing quite well parking without hookups (boondocking), but not a lot of sun at Whistler Campground for our solar panels because of all the trees. Ed got this Champion 3400 watt dual fuel generator for just such situations. So we got a chance to try it. It worked wonderfully well plugged in to the 30amp outlet Ed installed in front of the trailer. We can also tap in to our RV propane tank if needed.


Another ingenious idea we learned from Lauren (our traveling nurse friend) is to keep house plants in the shower, especially when it has a skylight. Makes for a great solarium for Connie’s precious house plants, and keeps them stable while traveling.

It was certainly a beautiful drive along the Icefields Parkway on CA93 toward Banff. We departed Whistler campground around 10:30am Monday July 9, 2018. Quite a bit of traffic, but manageable. Driving took Ed’s full attention so Connie stayed busy taking pictures as we traveled. We stopped at Strutfield Glacier pullout where we met a nice younger couple (pre-retirement age) from Idaho and agreed to snap each other’s pictures.

Columbia Icefield (glacier) is quite impressive as it gets closer to the road. There is a side road that gets even closer where sight seers can walk out to it.

Not too far down the road we pulled out again to get a picture of the Tangle Creek Falls.

We believe this to be the Snow dome. If it is not, it should be. There is a cloud behind so the snowcap almost looks like part of the cloud.

Yet a little farther down the road we had to slow down to let a mama Grizzly and her cubs cross the road. Snapped a picture from the window after they got across and back on their way. We also saw a boar Grizzly later, but didn’t get a picture. He was more in the wooded area and there was no place for us to pull over.

Pulled in to Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court site 220 at 3:30pm. The name implies trailer court, but it is really a very nice, yet unique, RV park. Over 600 spaces, all lined up in 3 block rows with pull through spaces on both sides. No need for the generator here, We have full hookups. Location is just a few blocks up a hill from downtown Banff. Beautiful setting. We’ll get more pictures Tuesday.

Click HERE to view a Google Maps route of our trip from here to Gillette, WY.

Jasper and Maligne Lake

Sunday July 8, 2018. We decided we’d spend our day by driving Maligne Road to Maligne Lake, about 25 miles up the Maligne River. Guess it was a Maligned day. But first…we stopped by the Bear’s Claw bakery and Coffee shop in Jasper to get a cup of coffer for the trip. Yeah right…couldn’t resist the strawberry/Rhubarb muffin, so we split one. Gotta watch the intake you know.

We were taken by the Jasper Community Garden across the street from the bakery and on the street where we parked. Nice job Jasperites.

Just like driving CA93A Saturday , we were again taken in by the majestic views. This is Medicine Lake, about half way to Maligne Lake. The lower landscape still show a lot of burned area from a large 2015 wildfire. Idiot Ed climbed up on the rocks shown in the first picture to get a better view for the Medicine Lake picture. He got black char on his clothes from the climb, but got the picture. After driving on around the bend, there was a pullout for a much better view!

Difficult to tell the majesty and depth of the mountains with a cell camera, or probably any camera, but from the road, this rocky peak was impressive. Ed nicknamed it Mt Rushmore Wannabe as it looked perfect for the faces of historical Canadian forefathers, waiting to be carved into the granite.

Again, can’t really tell how dramatically steep this mount looked from where Ed is standing, pointing, no…I won’t be climbing this one.

We saw three Caribou on the drive to the lake. They stood very still. Surprised that caribou can be spotted so far south.

Made it to Maligne Lake. Three parking lots and spaces all along the road were taken and the area was swarming with site seers. We stopped long enough to get this picture.

We stopped on the way back at this pullout because it had a toilet. Found this group of bighorn sheep strolling around, oblivious to all the cars pulling in. They were quite straggly. None of them had a full rack.

Jasper and Athabasca

We left Valemount at 10:15am Saturday July 7, drove up CA5 the 13 miles until we headed west on CA16 47 miles through Jasper National Park entrance and to the village of Jasper. It had rained on and off through the night and it was quite gloomy when we left. It started to clear off a bit by the time we crossed over to the province of Alberta and the park entrance. $C39 for a 2 day pass.

We pulled into the village of Jasper and found it full of RVs and people. A little uncomfortable pulling our 38′ trailer, so decided to just go down CA93 a couple miles to our camp site at Whistler Campground for the next couple nights. A bit challenging backing into 30GG without tagging a tree, but got set up fine about 2pm (changed to MDT when we crossed the Alberta province border). No hookups and not a lot of sunshine for the solar panels because of all the trees. We do have our Champion 3400 watt generator just in case.

After setting up, we drove back to explore Jasper. The day turned out to be quite beautiful. A little cloudy, but still lots of sunshine. Temp was cool, around 64°. What a great town to wander around. There are lots of shops and restaurants as Jasper is also a winter sports mecca. Found the Jasper Brewery of course. The sleeve (10 oz) of 6060 stout and the bacon burger hit the spot.

A lot of daylight left, so we ventured south, taking CA93A loop, a less traveled road on the east side of the Athabasca River. Beautiful drive with snow capped mountain peaks around every bend.

We drove along the Athabasca glacier fed river, lending itself to incredible views of God’s creation. So many mountain peaks it was hard for us to identify them for certainty. Thinking this one must be Mt Edith Cavell (11,033′).

Athabasca Falls is located just before CA93A loop joins back with CA93. Spectacular views joined with the roaring sound of the water purging through the rocks was absolutely breath taking.  The observation area was swarming with other tourists, all appeared as amazed of the beauty as we were. It appeared to us that most people were from other countries. Perhaps Europe, Asia, Middle East, and India. Many rental class C RVs parked in the parking area and along the road. Including Adventurer, CanaDream, CruiseCanada, as well as private RVs. Jasper is a wonderful destination for vacationers. God is good.

Salmon Arm to Valemount British Columbia

Here is a picture from a Visitor Center Brochure that shows our route from Washington to Salmon Arm on CA97; then CA1 to Kamloops,  and CA5 to Valemount. Over the next few days we’ll take CA16 east to Jasper and down to Banff.

 

 

 

 

 

British Columbia is so incredibly beautiful. Wonderful drive up from Salmon Arm to Valemount. Pulled in to Irvins RV park around 3:30pm Wednesday and enjoyed having full hooks ups. A chance to drain tanks, refresh our fresh water tank, do laundry, and run the AC a bit. Haven’t really needed AC, but just ran one for an hour or so.

After showers and getting ready, we drove down the road to explore Valemount. First, we headed for fuel (diesel). Wow! $1.379 per LITER. Almost 200 liters for $270C. But US $ is a bit stronger, so after all the calculations, the Visa charge was $211US. A little better, but still a little over $4.19/gal compared to cost per gallon in the US.

We saw billboards on the way in to town for “Fresh Craft Beer” so had to check out Three Ranges brewery. We tried the “Tail Slap IPA”. Pretty good, but not quite up to Arizona Wilderness, or BRI (Beer Research Institute in Gilbert).

Before leaving for more exploring Thursday, we decided to try this Swiss Bakery we heard about tucked away in Valemount. Quite quaint. A cup of pretty good coffee and sharing a cinnamon pastry was just what we needed to get our morning started.

After asking for information at the Valemount Visitor Center, we decided to drive the 30 minutes to Mt Robson Provincial Park toward Jasper. We stopped to view Mt Terry Fox (the 8694′ snow capped peak on the right side of the picture). Interesting story on Terry Fox. He was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on an east to west cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$750 million has been raised in his name, as of January 2018.

Geez. Mt Robson (12,972′) looks a lot like Denali and Rainier…clouded over. But it is still quite spectacular. We got a couple shots on our way to the Mt. Robson Provincial Park Visitor Center. The center is very nice. Somewhat crowded. Most of the visitors we heard inside were speaking another language.

Overlander Falls on the Fraser River is just up the CA16 from the visitor center and called us to try a short trek to check it out.  The falls are named for the Overlanders expedition of 1862. A group of some 175 men and 1 woman from Ontario that traveled across the prairies and through the Rocky Mountains, intending to reach the Barkerville or Cariboo goldfields.

Having a little energy left from the Overlanders Falls hike (really a simple hike), we made one last stop for the day for another short hike at Rearguard Falls. The sign reads that this is the farthest point that salmon migrate up the Fraser River to spawn, about 1,260 km (783 mi) from the ocean.  The Fraser flows into the Pacific at Vancouver BC. It is an awesome river, we think comparable to the mighty Columbia in the US. We were very impressed with the board walk and railing the park installed. Made it a lot easier to get down to where we could almost touch the water going over the falls. We could feel the spray.

Next, on to Whistler and Jasper National Park.

Washington to Salmon Arm British Columbia Canada

We left Bonair Winery mid-morning Monday, July 2 and drove the 100+ miles to Wenatchee. We enjoyed all the agriculture along the way. Lots of Cherry orchards, vineyards, and hops. Shirley told us the this area grows more hops than anywhere in the country. Yes…future IPAs.

After fueling at a Fred Meyer, because we had a $1/gal off up to 35 gallons, we drove to “Sleepy Hollow”, our Boondockers Welcome location for the night.

Jack and Shirley greeted us like family and invited us to share happy hour with them around 5pm. Now we’re talking great hosts!

We arrived around 2pm on a beautiful Washington day. Our hosts are located a short walk from the Wenatchee River so we were able to get out for a little stroll to enjoy it. The river joins the Columbia a short distance down.

Jack is a retired welder but still loves to weld up about anything that hasn’t been welded. One of his specialties is fabricating huge wind chimes, using high power electric transmission line insulators as clangers. He made so many he didn’t have a count of how many. We felt welcomed as soon as we pulled in when we saw Jack’s “Yea Trump” sign on the side of the garage. We were also invited to plug in to their 50amp outlet and use their very handy water spigot.

Tuesday July 3 was quite an interesting day. We left Wenatchee mid-morning with full intentions of staying at a Harvest Host winery in Oroville, just before the border crossing. It was an incredibly beautiful drive following the Columbia River most of the way. When it was time for a rest break we stopped at Wells Dam welcome park, a Douglas County Public Utility point of interest. Nice restrooms, a kiosk explaining the dam history, a walkway trail and an observation area.

As we traveled north we still had a lot of daylight ahead of us, so we decided to forego the Oroville winery stop and proceed on to our next destination. A unique Harvest Host market in Salmon Arm, BC that we have been looking forward to. We had been quite worried about what challenges we might encounter crossing the border with our “house” since they don’t allow, or were limiting certain food, plants, alcohol quantities, firearms and such. We were VERY pleased when we were welcomed to Canada after showing our passports, registrations and insurance papers….and answering just a few entry questions; like where we were going and for how long. Once in to British Columbia, we were surprised with all the traffic. Lots of stop and go though Kelowna. A much larger city (pop 125,000) than expected. Later, we realized the increased traffic was because July 1 is Canada Day and a week to vacation. There were lots of recreation places around Kelowna, primarily because it is on Okanagan lake. In addition, Ed thought DeMille’s market was just over the border in Osoyoos, but soon realized we had another 150 miles to travel from the border.

Another beautiful drive, this time along the Okanagan River in route to our next Harvest Host location; DeMille’s Farm Market in Salmon Arm, BC. Arrived around 5:30pm and parked in the large front parking lot for two nights. We passed miles and miles of irrigated agriculture on both sides of the river and hillsides. Many more cherry tree orchards. Seems like there was fruit stand every mile.

We were very welcomed by owner Brad. Connie was elated with the market and all they had to offer in the way of produce and fruit.

Walking around the grounds a bit, we could easily see why DeMille’s is called a “farm” market. Not to mention the fresh fruits and produce in the market, mostly provided from area farms. All and all it was a wonderful stop for us. The only negative was Canada Highway 1 next to us was quite busy, but not that annoying.

Salmon Arm seemed like an unusual name, but a local explained to us that Shuswap (shoe-swap) lake is in the shape of a huge letter “H”, and Salmon Arm is one of the arms.

Leaving Big Creek for Canada, via Washington

Pulled away from our Big Creek Hatchery site about 7am July 1. Got a chance to say so-long to Jessica and Travis. Bitter sweet as leaving was like leaving family.

Wednesday before we left, most of the techs and their families surprised us at the 10am break with a good-bye cake, some Tillamook ice cream, and a very nice don’t leave card.

 

Ross instructed Connie on proper fish feeding the week before we left. Click on the picture or attached video to view the 4 second video.

Retired tech Mike (was here when we volunteered in 2016) took 3 techs and Rob’s son Jaxson halibut fishing while we were there. They returned with their fish ready to fillet for the pan, or freezer, all in the same day. Jessica was kind enough to give us a couple generous fillets from her catch. We also enjoy some Spring Salmon (Chinook or King) that has been given to us. Yum yum,

Kayla and Ross hosted a crawdad boil the Sunday before we left. They trapped the crawdads in a slough a short distance from the hatchery. It was quite an event getting the live crawdads ready to drop in the pot. Click on the picture or view attached to see Kayla and Connie prepping them.

After leaving Big Creek on Sunday July 1, we drove US30 to Longview, then up I5 to US12 over White Pass Scenic Byway, and through the edge of Mt Rainier National Park to Yakima and Bonair Winery.

Stopped near the summit at a Mt Rainier View Point. And reminiscent of trying to catch a glimpse of Denali while we were in Alaska, it was clouded over too.

Got set up next to Bonair’s vineyards around 2pm. Fantastic! As members of Harvest Hosts, we are good to park here and no cost. The wine was NOT free however!

Mt Rainier can be seen from here on a clear day, but not clear enough today. We did get a great view of snow covered Mt Adams which is a little closer. Rainier is over 14k’ and Adams a little over 12k’

Vineyard/winery owner Shirley was very gracious and served us a variety of their selections. Wonderful wine… and hospitality. Shirley and Gail planted their first vineyard back in 1980 and have been going strong ever since, starting the winery in 1988. They boast that this Rattlesnake Hills vineyard area is on the same latitude as Burgundy, France….noting that the California vineyards are on the same latitude as Baghdad, Iraq!

We  enjoyed walking around the grounds on such a perfect day in the low 70s. Later we walked down the peaceful country road along side huge cherry orchards. All agriculture in the area is irrigated with water from the Yakima river. Needed water as Shirley said their annual rainfall is only 6 inches.

Couldn’t resist buying Bonair’s  2013 Rattlesnake Hills Malbec (pink label), Touriga Port, and a Bung Dog Red for on the road.

Monday, we continue north a short distance to a Boondocker’s Welcome location in East Wenatchee. Another no-cost night, then one more winery before crossing into British Columbia Canada.

 

Ooops and Lots of People

First of all…So sorry for sending out the last post 3 times. There was a glitch in the Email Plugin and  it continued send to the post automatically…and from Admin at StreamingAround instead of Ed. I think we got it figured out now, so stay tuned.

Turns out our RV friends from Mesa are serving as park hosts just 60 miles from us in Washington at Seaquest State Park near Castle Rock, which just happens to be directly across Washington hwy 504 from Mount St. Helen’s Visitor Center. We had a delightful visit with Don and Doreen and enjoyed seeing their park. They are there June and July, then will move over to Yakima Sportsman State Park for August. They enjoy the cooler summer climate in Washington, but will be happy to get back to their new home in Queen Creek, Arizona after their volunteer stint.

We enjoyed stopping at the visitor center across from the state park to check out the view and a little history. We learned that the US Forest Service’s Johnson Ridge Observatory, about an hour up WA504 (end of the road) where you can see the west side of the 1981 blowout. Don told us that it is a beautiful drive and some fantastic views. Next time maybe.

We put in our 20 hours a week by working 4 hours per day M-F. The day starts out in the office with 4-6 hatchery techs and Rob, the hatchery supervisor. Clockwise from Connie is Rob, Tanner (a roaming tech that serves 3 area hatcheries), Jessica, our neighbor and new friend, Nick, Dustin, Travis (our volunteer coordinator) and Ross (the hatchery senior tech). All our great folks, as well as their families we have grown to know. Rob, Dustin, Travis, and Ross were here when we volunteered back in 2016.

As noted in our May post about “Lost Salmon”, Spring Chinook  Salmon stray up Big Creek and wind up coming up the fish ladder and into the pens normally used to process spawning Fall Salmon later in the year. Consequently, Spring Salmon fishing is pretty good in May and into July, but the salmon that get past the anglers, wind up in the pens. We transported them back to the mouth of Big Creek last time, but they were not quite so fortunate this go round. They were killed with a club and bled (one of their gills pulled out). Sounds cruel, but they are destined to die anyway. Like all salmon during spawning time. Connie got in on the clubbing. This video is where the fish are first brought up from the pen and are very active. Click HERE to see the 34 second youtube video.

Travis, our host coordinator/tech,  takes advantage of the excellent fishing in Big Creek, as well as other locations around the area. Often rises early before work and goes down to the creek. Note that “work” and “the creek” are closer than some folks walk to get their mail. At any rate, Travis always makes sure we have plenty of salmon. He came by here to drop off a few fillets, along with his son Everett. The boy next to Connie is Benjamin, another neighbor. We’re very fond of Benjamin.

Cousin Lia and Jerry from Klamath Falls brought their motorhome to Astoria for a few days and Cousin Mike and Colleen, came down from Seatac and stayed with them. They all came up for Connie’s Instant Pot meatloaf dinner on Friday. Mike was a little boy when Ed last saw him, so it was great re-uniting and meeting Colleen.

Lia and Connie have really hit it off, as displayed on our trip to Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. We all drove the short distance from Astoria to enjoy a rather cool (56°), with a little wind, beach combing experience. The tide was very low, enabling walking out to the rock and exploring tidal life (like starfish) that are normally under water.

After tide pooling at Haystack Rock, we headed back north to the Muscle-Chrome car show in Seaside. About 3 blocks of vintage cars parked on the street and surrounded by hundreds of folks taking a closer look. Most cars were 1960s thru 1978. We had a great time, taking a break at the Seaside Brewery for lunch.

Couldn’t get enough of the large crowds, so walked the 3 blocks of vendor tents at Astoria’s Sunday Market. Mike and Colleen left earlier that morning, so Just Lia, Jerry and the Allens participated. Ed and Jerry enjoyed a Vortex IPA as we all stopped by at the Fort George Brewery before heading back to Big Creek

How to Spend a Courtesy Day Off

Friday June 1, 2018: We were told at our 7:30am meeting that we should just take the day off. No problem! We got ready and departed mid morning. We drove up Washington’s Long Beach peninsula on US 101 and Oregon 103 to Oysterville on the peninsula between Willapa (Willa-Paw) bay and the Pacific.
We visited the quaint Willabay Oyster Sea Farms company and store and bought some smoked osysters. Willabay generates revenue for the restoration and preservation of Oysterville’s last oyster buildings. These buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and they are a key reason why Oysterville is designated a National Historic District.
 
Oysterville was once a thriving village and served as the County Seat in it’s early history. The area was populated by Chinook Indians prior to Europeans coming to the area to harvest oysters, shipping oysters on schooners to San Fransisco during the Gold Rush days. Many of the homes were built in the mid 1850s and  are restored. They make for a scenic drive down the short streets through the village.


From Oysterville, we drove south on Sandridge Road and stopped at the Nahcotta interpretive center. It was low tide so we were able to see harvest beds from the building. The building is a replica of the residence used by oystermen and their families when they lived over their oyster beds for security. We also watched a short video that helped us to understand the oyster harvest process and history. Several commercial oyster operations are next to the center.
 
Driving a little further south on Sandridge Road, we couldn’t resist checking out the LJ Ranch Goat Farm. The sign “Kids for Sale” caught our attention before we realized it referred to “kid” goats. Jerry and Lisa were very gracious as they showed us around their farm consisting of 38 goats from babies to older Billies (too many Jerry said). We had to succumb to purchasing a small block of Gouda goat cheese and lavender soap .
 
After all that, we were ready for a snack. After driving the short distance down Sandridge, we unexpectedly spotted Bailey’s bakery and cafe in Nahcotta. Actually drove by before realizing it was there. Connie enjoyed a cup of delicious clam chowder and Ed had tortilla soup. Had to throw in a couple yummy ginger snap cookies to fill the gap….oh yeah, and a peanut butter one too 🙂
Before heading back to the hatchery, we just happened  [sce emoji=”wink”/] to drive past the North Jetty Brewery in Seaview. Had to stop of course. Ed tried an 8oz glass of their Discovery Coast Coffee Stout, but Connie held out for a glass of water. How boring. It was a delightful day! God is GOOD. Got home around 4pm.

May at Big Creek

This is a view from the meadow in back of our trailer. Trees in the foreground are plum. We can hear Big Creek babbling from the meadow, and from our trailer if we listen close.

A heard of elk meander around the hatchery grounds and we’re able to capture a view now and then. Majestic.

We venture in to Astoria, as well as nearby Warrenton, about once a week to shop and check in at a brewery. Astoria was used to film several movies, the most noted is the 1985 movie “The Goonies.” We stopped at Astoria Coffee Roasters, located a block away from the Goonies house, and also the Kindergarten Cop school building. Because of all the unwanted traffic created by Goonie fanatics, you can’t get close to the house, but Kindergarten Cop school is an easy drive by. It continues as a school today, known as the John Jacob Astor school… Or “Astoria Elementary”

We enjoyed a short drive on US 101 across the Columbia to Ilwaco, Washington and their Saturday market along the docks. Mostly crafty items this time of year, but it will expand as local farmers can harvest their produce. At any rate it was a fun day to explore.

We met Lauren and Caleb at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook on Saturday over Memorial Day weekend. They are young couple that serve as traveling nurses around the country, generally working 12 hour days of night shifts. We met them while we were all staying at Twin Palms RV Park in Mesa. They needed a break from their long night shifts, so we suggested they try volunteering at Alsea Fish Hatchery near Corvallis. We had volunteered there in 2015. They did, so that enabled us to meet them at Tillamook and catch up. Sad that the factory was closed for remodeling, but we were able to visit their temporary visitor building for cheese tasting and their delicious ice cream. Later, we stopped by De Garde Brewery for a taste, and the Pelican Brewery for a burger and an Umbrella (their IPA).

Meanwhile back at the hatchery, we had a fun time gathering with the tech families for a little BBQ. The added social life makes our stay here extra special.

Life at the hatchery this time of year is somewhat slow as far as the hatchery operation. Mostly maintenance. But we got to participate in gathering up some Spring Salmon that couldn’t quite find their way back home. These Chinook (King) average around 12 pounds. Here is a 26 second video of the operation.

“Springers” aren’t hatched or released at Big Creek, so they shouldn’t be coming up the creek to spawn from the ocean, but some occasionally stray up the stream each year. They “become lost” in part because of net pens in the sloughs.

After gathering the “lost springers,” we took them down close to the mouth of Big Creek and released. We helped punch a hole it their tale for identification, but so far no one has reported catching one.

TULE SALMON RELEASE

Tule Chinook (King) salmon spawn and hatch at Big Creek Hatchery. Columbia River Indians called them mitúla, or “white salmon,” because the flesh of the salmon is light colored when they return to spawn. When ready, the young salmon (2-3 inches) are released into Big Creek to begin their journey to the pacific, where they live 3-4 years before returning to spawn. To help get them ready, techs will poor on the feed, looking for about 70 fish per pound before releasing. View the 8 second video below to see the feeding process.

When ready, the pond gates are opened and the young Tules are coaxed out through a large pipe over to a larger pipe that runs under the spawning building.

Look closely and you can see a couple young Tules as they come out of the channel under the spawning building. These guys are only a couple inches long.

Then they follow the channel into Big Creek, and eventually the Columbia River and the Pacific. Big Creek released around 2 1/2 million, and less than 1% will make it back to spawn.

 

Arizona to Oregon

April 24, 2018: Say goodbye to Steve and Jenni and others as we depart Twin Palms RV Park around 9am toward Kingman, Arizona.

With months of Arizona dust build up on our home, we decided to run it through the Kingman Blue Beacon Truck Wash before venturing down Historic US 66 about 5 miles to the Desert Diamond Distillery, a Harvest Hosts location. Even though they were officially closed Tuesdays, John and Deborah welcomed us to their distillery and showed us where to park; right along side a quaint gazebo patio area and the vintage Pullman car that came with a story on how the heck they got it there from Kansas… along with their plans to refurbish it into a restaurant.

John took the time to give us a tour of the distillery and an informative presentation on how they distill rum. Afterward, we joined Deborah at the bar tasting room for some samples of their product. Connie favored the Barrel Rum Reserve so we purchased a bottle as a reminder of our D³ (Desert Diamond Distillery) stop.

We met up with John and Deborah for breakfast at the Airport Cafe Wednesday morning. We were able to walk to the cafe as it is located a short distance from the distillery. The area is next to the local airport located in the industrial area of Kingman.

After breakfast at the cafe, we traveled US 95 by Hoover dam and continued though Las Vegas. We hoped to find a truck stop along the route where we could pull in/out easy with our big 5th wheel. Nope! Wound up making a U turn north of town and heading back to a station located in a shopping center area. Got into a rather tight situation, but managed to find an end pump and a couple nice young ladies that were there to pump our fuel. Whew! We were off and going again after about 1/2 hour.

We tried to figure out this spectacular bright light in the desert as we approached Millers Rest Area, 10 miles west of Tonopah. With good cell service we were able to Google that this was the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110 megawatt solar thermal project with 1.1 gigawatt-hours of energy storage.

Just past the huge solar project is Millers Rest Area. Like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Very non typical as no trucks are permitted. There is even a dump station for dumping our holding tanks.

Incorporated next to Millers Rest Area is a large area for overnight parking. We got there mid-afternoon so had plenty of time to relax a bit. It was so much better than a Walmart stop, other than Walmart is nice if you need supplies.

We got settled in to Silver Sage RV Park Thursday night and met up with daughter Shannon and grand daughter Faith where they were staying at the Atlantis Hotel and Casino. Enjoyed dinner with them at the Purple Parrot in the Hotel. The Atlantis enclosed walkway to the convention center made it very convenient to get back and forth to the volleyball games over the next couple days. The convention center is less than a mile from our RV park so we walked to the convention center for exercise as weather permitted.

The “Far Western National Qualifier” volleyball tournament was amazing.  They had 77 courts (see map) set up and games going on continually on all the courts throughout the Friday and Saturday, plus teams waiting for their time on the court. The courts were also busy Sunday  for playoffs. I calculated 77 courts, 12 girls on each court, plus subs and 12 girls waiting for the court…plus coaches and subs…and easy 2000 plus volleyball players and coaches. Connie says there had to be lots of drama ;-).

Grand daughter Faith and her mom were our motivation for being in Reno. Great to see them and great to see Faith play in such rigorous competition. She plays with Colorado Juniors 16. They did well and the team placed 4th out of the 50 teams in their Division.

Colorado Juniors warming up, Faith in the forefront.

We did take a little side tour to get fuel while in Reno. Well…diesel for the truck. But couldn’t resist stopping at the Great Basin brewery for human fuel recommended by friend Annette. Ed enjoyed an “Icky” IPA, while Connie tried their Alpenglow Hazy IPA. The beer went well with an order of wings.

We took daughter and grand daughter to the airport early Sunday evening so they could fly to Denver and get back to their regular life. Then Monday we were on the road again toward our ultimate destination at Big Creek Fish Hatchery in Knappa, OR; near Astoria.

Ed had recently established a re-newed relationship with Lia, his 2nd cousin, when she and her husband Jerry stopped off at our place in Mesa. They invited us to overnight at their place near Klamath Falls on our way to Big Creek. WOW! A fantastic place in the woods outside of Klamath Falls. They made us feel especially welcome and offered full hookups for our 5th wheel.

Now this is hospitality folks. Jerry cooked up some tri-tip meat and BBQ chicken. Lia fixed a salad and mashed potatoes. Doreen, another 2nd cousin came up from California to see us and stay overnight. We had an awesome visit with everyone, and enjoyed the libations along with the company.

Lia and Jerry not only have a fabulous home, but Jerry gave us a tour of his “Man Cave” where he builds guns and loads his own ammo.

Next to the man cave is a garage where they keep the fishing boat and Jerry makes fishing poles. The man has many talents, including upgrading their kitchen. We think he’s best at hospitality. Here is a picture of Jerry with the cousins: L to R: Doreen, Jerry, Lia, and Ed.

We pulled in to Big Creek Tuesday May 1 at 5pm Tuesday and got settled in after a wee bit of a backing in problem. Ed’s pride was crushed that he didn’t get it backed in with one fail swoop.

Reported for our first 4 hour day on Wednesday and got right to it after a morning meeting. We spread lime pellets on all lawns in around the tech’s homes.

Thursday Connie worked in the flower garden near the entrance while Ed mowed on the John Deere. We’ll take before and after pictures of her garden work next time as she made a big difference here.

We’ve been invited to a BBQ Saturday, hosted by Dustin and Brianna. Dustin is a tech and lives in the green house in the picture. Not counting our trailer, there are six homes in our quaint neighborhood. All for the techs and their families. A great group of folks. Yesterday, Brianna brought muffins over and Travis brought over a salmon filet he caught caught earlier in the day. It’s going to be a good May and June.

Winding Down in Arizona

A well known Mesa landmark that always catches our eye when we’re driving on Main Street is the historic Diving Lady neon sign. It has quite a story. Originally erected in the 1960’s but came down with a crash during a storm in 2010. Mesa Preservation Foundation was instrumental in restoring the landmark in 2013,  and it now stands proud in front of the Starlite Motel…that no longer has a pool.

We’ve had several visitors since our arrival last November. Janet and Nancy from Utah stopped by the afternoon March 10. We took them to the Mesa Beer fest and our favorite BRI brewery.

We got together with Mike and Marva a couple times in Mid March. They are friends we met at Brazos Bend State Park near Houston mid-March. We served with them there Nov-Dec 2015. Mike and Marva parked their RV trailer down the street and we had an awesome time with them in the area…including the Olive Mill Farm, the Pork Shop, and riding bikes to the Gilbert Farmers Market. Great seeing them again.

We are thankful that Colorado friends Jann and Jeff Fox that have their RV parked across the valley (Goodyear) and we are able to see them from time to time. They came to see us Friday April 6, bringing Jann’s sister Jeri and her husband Bruce. Great visit, meatloaf, and beer.

On Thursday March 22 we road our bikes the 4+ miles down the Consolidated Canal path to the Oakland A’s Hohokam Stadium to watch the Rockies beat Oakland 4 to 2. Nice day to enjoy a beer, hotdog and the ballgame.

Ed took Connie to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on Saturday March 24 for her flight to Colorado and a family connection fix. Her flight was 5:15am, leaving Ed plenty of time to attend the Men’s breakfast at Christ Church in Gilbert. He had a great time meeting and sharing with some other Men. Connie enjoyed her week with sister Cheri and daughter Shannon and family.

We took a long drive to Wickenburg and Jerome on Thursday April 12. From Mesa we drove the freeway to Scottsdale Rd and the Carefree highway (highway 74), then over to 60 and up to Wickenburg. We loved walking around Wickenburg a bit, stopping at the Chamber of Commerce located in the old train depot. Shopped a couple antique stores before moving on toward Jerome, through Yarnell and Prescott via winding highway 89. Yarnell is known for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots that died fighting a wildfire back in 2013. Josh Brolin stars in Only the Brave, a movie about the tragedy.

Drove highway 89A from Prescott to Jerome. Now Jerome is quite an interesting town. Reminded us a bit of Central City, Colorado. An old copper mining town built on the side of a hill. In the old days it was sometimes referred to as the Wicked City. Brothels and such you know.

Our drive happened to coincide with Arizona Bike Week so we saw lots of Motorcycles.

A potter had a few of his things set out in a spot between two buildings. Connie couldn’t resist buying yet another unique cup.

The Wicked City Tap House is up yet another hill we had to climb, but was worth the walk to get a little refreshment. Connie found a stool next to a very bony fellow.

We’re saying good bye to friends and family in Arizona April 24 and going back on the road. God willing, we’ll be back here November 2.

4/24 Depart Mesa. Drycamp at a Desert Diamond Distillery in Kingman
4/25 drycamp at Millers rest stop near Tonapah, NV
4/26-4/29 Silver Sage RV Park Reno, NV for Faith’s VB tournament
4/30 Lia & Jerry’s place Klamath Falls, OR
May-June – Big Creek fish hatchery near Astoria, OR
7/1 – Bonair Winery 500 S Bonair Rd, Zillah, WA (near Yakima) bonairwine.com (509) 829-6027
7/2 – Boondockers Welcome Pearts Wenatchee, WA
7/3 – Harvest Hosts Esther Bricques Winery & Vineyard Oroville, WA
7/4 – Harvest Hosts DeMille’s Farm Market Salmon Arm, BC
7/5-7/6 Irvins Campgroud Valemount, BC
7/7-7/8 – Whisler CG Jasper – diyr 30GG confirmed no hookups
7/9-7/10 – Tunnel Trl Court CG Banff FHU
7/11 – Boondockers; Canal Flats BC
7/12-7/13 – Glacier Sun Winery Kalispell, MT
7/14 – Harvest Host Miracle of America Polson, MT
7/15-7/16 – Peggy & Tom’s DoubleArrow Golf Course near Sealy Lake
7/17-7/20 – Helena Fairgrounds space 20 w/electric
7/21-7/24 – Sunrise Campground Bozeman, MT
7/25-7/26 – 7th Ranch RV Park Garryowen, MT
7/27-7/30 – Gillette, WY
7/31-8/1 – Spearfish City Park RV campground
8/2 – City Park Wheatland, WY first come first camp
Aug 3-4 Hi-Camp campground no hookkups-Cheyenne for Connie’s 50th HS reunion
8/5 – Cheri’s Loveland
Aug 6-Sept 6 Loveland RV
9/7-9/10- Monument RV Campground , Fruita, CO
9/11-9/13: Ridgway State Park site 18 confirmed
9/14-9/21: Fraser
9/22-10/6: St. Vrain
10/7-10/10: Bear Creek Lake Rec Area Lakewood, CO
10/11-10/25: Chatfield SP
10/26-10/27: Cheyenne Mtn SP Colorado Springs
10/28: Childress, Tx
10/29-10/31: Stephenville, TX
11/1: Las Cruces, NM
11/2: Twin Palms

Family, Friends, and Excursions

Grandson, Hagen Brinkerhoff, from Gillette, Wyoming was working in the area for Komatsu during February and March. It was great that he could come by a few times on Sunday evenings for dinner and a visit. Great because he was working 14 hour days, 6 days a week and it was great to see him.

Also got a surprise visit from Ed’s 2nd cousin Lia, and friend Jerry, traveling through from Klamath Falls, Oregon in their new motorhome. They were on their way to Florida, with a stopover in Stephenville, Texas to visit Ed’s sister Alice. Ed and Lia hadn’t seen each other since Lia was a child.

Weather has generally been nice enough to eat on our little patio. Its especially appreciated when we have more than the four people. Four is about all that can comfortably sit at our inside table. This evening we enjoyed having our local Arizona family: Connie’s sister Carol and husband Roger, Carol’s son Marshall and his wife Amanda, and their daughter Mackenzie.

You meet a lot of new friends when living the RV lifestyle. A couple new ones are Janet and Allen Hlady from Beauseliour Manitoba, Canada. Not shown is their cocker-poodle dog Leo that Connie fell in love with. They are a a fun couple and invited us to stop by when we travel that way the summer of 2019. In case you’re wondering, Allen is not drinking a strange brew, but winterizing their trailer. He knows that it will certainly be freezing, even before they get back to Manitoba.

We also have some old friends we met up with. Jeff and Jann Fox have their 5th wheel trailer parked at an RV park near Goodyear, Arizona. Nearly an hour away, but close enough to arrange a visit. This day we fired up our dually and drove them out to St. Anthony’s Greek Monastery near Florence, Colorado. Note the special attire required to tour the grounds. Only face and hands should be visible. Men may leave the top of their head exposed.

Connie and Jann go back over 40 years to their friendship in Cheyenne, Wyoming! Jeff recently retired (again) and they enjoy their new freedom to travel in their RV. Jann is working through some serious medical problems and we continue to pray for them.

Other friends we met RVing are Don and Doreen. Both retired Navy and avid Carp fishermen. Lots to tell about their story, but Don rebuked me when he saw I posted a picture of him fishing the canal, but didn’t include the picture of one of the fish he caught. So here it is. Wow!

But wait! Just learned that Doreen caught this 34 pound carp on the fourth.

Excursions included a visit to the Wood Carvers gathering at the Mesa Convention Center. We were invited by Doris Trinko, an RVer that parks here. Doris is a widow and active in the wood carving world, specializes in wood burning art. The carvings were fantastic.

Our excursions also included riding the Light Rail to downtown Phoenix. We boarded at the last station east, and found we had most of the train to ourselves, but after passing Tempe and Arizona State University, the train was packed. We enjoyed walking around town some, but didn’t push it as Connie’s ankle has been giving her pain problems from her ankle break.

We stopped in Tempe on our return and enjoyed a short walk down Mill street. Lots of restaurants and shops. A fun excursion for a $2 ticket to ride all day.

Another excursion was to the owner of our RV Park’s home to pick oranges and relax with a cool beer. Picked several bags of oranges that we’ll share with guests at the RV park. Steve and Jenni have 30 orange trees that remain from the original orchard. Great navels that everyone enjoys.

Not really an excursion, but we do need to provide a little labor around the park from time to time. Ed has been working on insulating, or re-insulating all the water risers on the park’s 15 spaces. So far we haven’t had a freeze, but always good to be prepared just in case the temp drops to the high temp back in Colorado 😉

 

Grand Canyon Visit

We drove up to Williams, AZ the afternoon of Wednesday January 17, 2017. Williams is a unique town right off Interstate 40, but with a lot of US 66 history.

Back in 1984 Williams was the last location where I40 bypassed US 66. We learned there is a stretch of US 66 that is still drivable from Ask Fork, AZ (just west of Williams) to Kingman, AZ, but most of the old highway is history, and even this drivable stretch if now designated “Historic Arizona 66” rather than US 66.

We even found a brewery in Williams. Historic no less. All this just a short walk from the Grand Canyon Hotel in Williams.

After a good night’s sleep at the Grand Canyon Hotel, we strolled down to witness the shootout.

After the shootout, which is next to where the Grand Canyon Railroad boards passengers for the 2 hour 15 minute train ride to the Grand Canyon South Rim, we were ready for the next step of our adventure. The train travels the 65 miles at an average speed of 40mph. Slow enough to fully enjoy the ever changing countryside; from desert sage, juniper trees, and pines, to the Grand Canyon itself. We even saw a bobcat! Thanks to Kathy with a “K” for pointing it out.

Kathy with a “K” was our PSA (Passenger Service Assistant) and did a fantastic job of informing us about how we might enjoy our 3+ hours at the park. She also had tons of other facts about the area; maps, history, trivia and jokes. She certainly helped make the train ride enjoyable.

Sid Hausman, from New Mexico, entertained us on the morning ride with his excellent banjo skills and a song on his “Bones” that he said came from one of the BBQ dinners he went to? This picture gives a glimpse into the “coach” car. There are also first class seats and observation car seats. The car directly behind us was the diner, but we never made it.

Connie had never been to Grand Canyon, and Ed had only been there as a charter bus driver, but didn’t really “see” the canyon. We both enjoyed the spectacular beauty and depth. We were also blessed with excellent weather. Quite sunny, no wind, and a warm 57°. Quite warm for a January day at 7000 feet. Our light jackets were more than enough..

The Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, is rarely visible because of the canyon’s mile depth; it averages 10 miles in width. Its narrowest point is in Marble Canyon, where it is 600 feet wide. Its maximum width of 18 miles is found at several different points.. The blue dot in the center of the bottom picture is all we saw of the Colorado.

It seems that many agree on how many millions…billions of years the earth is, and how many years it took for the Grand Canyon to erode to what it is today…even though they weren’t there. Connie and Ed lean more toward a young earth, much as described in the new “Is Genesis History” movie. But at any rate, we amused from the congratulation sign of our hiking accomplishment.

The train departed at 3:30pm for a 5:45pm Williams arrival, and it was just as enjoyable as the morning ride. Jesse Anderson played the banjo for us on the return. Quite a different style than Sid, but very excellent.

Some of those desperadoes that survived the morning shootout, came along the train on horseback, boarded the train while it was in motion (not the full 40mph) and proceeded through each car, robbing passengers of their belongings. The sheriff was in hot pursuit and I’m sure recovered everyone’s cash and diamonds. He explained that they could claim their stuff back at the old town shootout area if they had the serial numbers from the bills. Actually the bandits got away empty handed.

After arriving back in Williams, we fueled the car and headed home, a 3 hour drive on I17. It was a fantastic 2 days!

Weather is Delightful

Time is passing by fast. We’ve been here (Mesa, AZ) two months and it seems like we haven’t really been doing and going much to truly enjoy the beautiful weather (sorry north friends). But as we look back on some of the few pictures we’ve taken, we can see how we really have taken advantage it. On December 7 we hiked the Lost Dutchman Trail in the Superstition mountains. Got a cool picture of a formation with the moon poking through. Look close, it’s there.

Roland had been on this trail several times and was eager to show us the way to the Lost Dutchman’s gold (failed to find it of course). Susan and Ed tagged along reluctantly, but Connie was eager, as usual. It was a great day…Roland drove us to the trailhead; and Susan provided a tasty bowl of split pea soup on our return. Is that an oxymoron…tasty split pea soup?

Connie hiked South Mountain with sister Carol and hiking friend Kerry on December 11 and we were in the groove of walking a 3 mile stretch of the canal path in early mornings with Roland and Susan…They got sick and had to hold back, and Connie’s ankle was started to give her problems. So our walking routine is on hiatus right now. Oh…but we did walk a block to McDonalds for an ice cream cone.

Sunday after church December 10, we took a lovely trip through Payson, Cottonwood, and Sedona to Harding Springs, primarily to get our water jugs filled, but to enjoy the journey and ever changing beauty of the Arizona landscape. The Sedona area is illustrious with red rock formations and picturesque views, like the Midgley bridge, gateway to Oak Creek Canyon, in route to Harding Springs.

We still endeavor to put in a few hours at Twin Palms RV Park. Connie took on staining the gate entrance from the park to the canal; and Ed managed to change out several site water meters. Before and after below:

We haven’t seen many quail come by this year…at least not yet. But we did have a visit from some Rosy-faced Lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis). Reportedly these fellows were first sighted in Arizona in the eighties. There were actually three that came by.

Geez. What’s this? Fishing the canal? Yep, that’s our old Twin Palms pal, Don, evermore fishing for carp! Yes folks, carp. He doesn’t keep them, or eat them…just releases them back into the canal. Why? You’ll have to ask Don I guess. It is convenient for him though, just a few steps from his trailer and out the gate.

A recent highlight of our life in Arizona was a trip to St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence…about an hour away. Note St. Elijah Chapel just to the right of the entrance sign. Sister Carol and husband Roger were our guides as they had been there before.

The first thing we see when entering the grounds is St. Anthony’s Church. The inside is quite ornate with many pictures of saints and mosaics. Note the humongous brass chandelier where candles represent the “heavenly church.” There are no lights (except for 2 small ones on the chanter stands). No chairs! Nearly everything is from Greece. Carol, Roger, and Connie stand in amazement as they look around at the incredible fixtures. In addition to the church, there are 5 chapels.

The monks will not allow anyone on the grounds if they have any skin showing other than face and hands. Women must wear a head scarf as well.  The men must wear long sleeve shirts. No sandals. Fortunately, they have a supply of loaner clothing.

The monastery was established in 1995. It is absolutely incredible what they have done to the property in the few short years since. The grounds, fountains, and chapels make up a lush oasis in the middle of the desert.

The interior of one of the Chapels appears very similar in design to the main St. Anthony Church, yet somewhat smaller and exhibits an artistic incredible inlaid wood ceiling.

St. Elijah Chapel, the newest and fifth “chapel”, is still under construction, but attacks the eye’s attention from it’s hilltop setting. Each of the chapels, as well as the monastery itself, have deep rooted history from the early Greek church.

While we don’t attend a Greek Orthodox church, we could be accused of church hopping when we’re in Arizona. We first attended Harvest Chandler, then moved to Harvest East Valley, and we currently attend Christ Church in Gilbert. Actually, they are all the same church, just moving, growing, and renaming. Loving the music and the Bible based messages that dig in to the Bible. We miss Foundations in Loveland, but love Christ Church too.

 

 

Our Colorado to Arizona Transition

We pulled out of Bear Creek Lake, Indian Paintbrush Campground in Lakewood mid-morning Friday October 27, 2017 and traveled the short distance to Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs. A wonderful park across from a Fort Carson Army Base entrance. Stayed here one night so we could attend Faith’s volleyball games that afternoon. Our site had a fantastic view of the valley.

We left Cheyenne Mountain SP just before sunrise on Saturday and began our trip back to Stephenville, TX to visit sister Alice and family. We stopped overnight at the Canyon, TX Walmart. Canyon is just south of Amarillo. We left early Sunday, making  an emergency stop to gather cotton decor while traveling US 84 somewhere between Post and Sweetwater.

After a brief visit with our Stephenville family, which overlapped Halloween (no costumes were needed), we got an early start for our 600 mile trip along I20/I10 across West Texas to a Las Cruces Walmart. A great stopover point. We walked about a mile to the Paisano Cafe for a delicious dinner. A fantastic night for a walk and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation of the Organ Mountains at sunset.

We drove the final 400 miles to our winter home (Twin Palms RV Park) on Thursday November 2, stopping at Blue Beacon for a trailer/truck wash. We were cheerfully greeted by Jenni and Steve with a fruit basket. They were most ready for us to arrive and take some of the park management pressure off.

Since we’ll be here through most of April, we decided having a car, rather than the dually beast, would work much better for tooling around the area. We were originally thinking of just getting a cheap “beater” to get around, but managed to swing this 2013 Rav4 the first week here. Connie Loves it. Ed has only driven it once, riding his bike to Home Depot a lot.

Getting settled in our great little abode.

We attended the blessed wedding of Kevin Sauter and Amanda May on Saturday November 11. Kevin is Brother-in-Law Roger’s son. It was a quickly planned, yet fantastic wedding and reception. Newly certified Roger performed the ceremony. Roger’s wife (Connie’s sister) Carol joins in the celebration and joins in a picture.

Kevin’s son Ryan and daughter Jenna (far right), along with Amanda’s twins Rachel and Maria, and oldest daughter Nina are all one family now. Five children (five 1’s in 11/11/17) plus Kevin and Amanda make 7 (as 111117). How quaint is that?

Roger and Carol are very involved here, including serving as head ushers and Sun Valley Tempe. The natural thing to do after church, of course, is head over to Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row in Gilbert. Connie enjoys her Bloody Mary for breakfast. Oh that girl. The place is quite an adventurous experience, but a little loud for Ed.

Otherwise, we keep quite busy here at Twin Palms. We just re-planted and mulched the bed along the west wall. Ed keeps the pea gravel raked up in the spaces and is busy with general maintenance stuff; Connie cleans restrooms once a week and cares for all the flowers. We both fraternize with the residents here.

A Twin Palms RV Park gate leads directly out to the Consolidated Irrigation Canal and walking path. Low and behold, Ed saw this tortoise along the path. Surely not out of the canal! It turns out that he (she?) got out of his yard and escaped! Animal Control had quite a job getting him off the path.

Heading South in the Nick of Time

Thursday, October 26, 2017: Beautiful sunrise this morning here at Bear Creek Lake Indian Paintbrush Campground. A peaceful 50° degrees. But flakes of snow and dropping temps this afternoon. It was 84° yesterday at this time (4pm) and 34° today. Supposed to get down to 18° tonight. Maybe we’re leaving a day late? Will pull out first thing in the morning, but only as far at Colorado Springs. Two more volleyball games Friday, then we’ll continue on south Saturday. Halloween with Ed’s sister Alice and family in Texas, then on to our Winter headquarters in Mesa, AZ. Refer to our winter temp address in the margin.

We attended many Lakewood High School Volleyball games during our stay here. Ed drove a few times for Grace Coach Lines, including Kari’s bus Clifford to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Pays the rent he says.

Any shopping from our space at Bear Creek is quite a drive, but a pleasant bike ride up…up…up…up to Home Depot on a concrete path. Ed rode it 2-3 times. There is quite a view of the area once reaching the top of the ridge. Zoom in enough, you can find our trailer. Red Rocks Amphitheater in the background, as well as Bandimere Speedway.

 

Making the Most of Bear Creek Lake Park

 

After Connie introduced Angie to sewing when we visited her and Brian in Fraser on Labor Day weekend, she acquired a new passion. She soon bought a used Bernina (what else) 707, circa 1969, then she made a trip to our digs at Bear Creek Lake for sewing 101 with Connie the following Saturday. While Angie passed her sewing precursor intro on Connie’s machine during our visit there, 101 was a good for her to get started on her own. Yeah Angie!

While  our campground is not convenient to shopping (maybe 6 miles to a shopping center), it is very close to Red Rocks Amphitheater. In fact we can see it at a distance from the park. The campground is also across the C470 highway from Bandimere Speedway and the little town of Morrison. We rode our bikes in to town a couple times for breakfast. Connie went with Jodi Gawf to see Chris Tomlin at Red Rocks, and we can often hear the motors revving up at the speedway.

Red Rocks is absolutely outstanding. Highly recommended for anyone to visit, not only to see the engineering foresight that went in to it, but the newly added (circa 2001) museum underneath. Incredible! Lots of pictures and history of so many entertainers through the years. Best of all…it is free to visit and the views are fantastic!

The Archery Range and horse stables are a stone’s throw from our site, and we ride or drive by nearly everyday. The stable rents saddle horses and provides wrangler led trail rides…for only $40/hour! The archery range is free to use for anyone with a day pass, which is needed to even enter the park.

Bear Creek Lake Park offers a very nice swim beach, along with canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. You can bring your own and play on Big Soda lake for free (must have day pass), or you can rent one. Little Soda lake offers ski and wake boarding lessons…again at a price. The larger Bear Creek Lake reservoir is open for fishing and boating (10 horse power limit).

All in all, we love it here. Nice spacious sites, beautiful countryside and trails. Many trails are concrete and provide excellent bike riding, which many folks take advantage.

Bear Creek Lake Park provides a convenient place to be, only 10 miles from Lakewood High School to watch our darling grand daughter (Faith) play 5A volleyball. So fun. Her mom, Shannon, is very involved as president of the booster club, and we were able to assist her fund raiser booth at the Tiger Prowl. We mostly watched their 2 mutts…ahh..dogs.

Tomorrow, Thursday September 14, we move back to Loveland RV Resort in Loveland. It will not be as convenient for Faith’s volleyball games, but we’ll be back near sister Cheri and a more convenient to Grace Coach Lines when Ed has a driving job. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday coming up. But generally he has time to do retired person stuff.

Future plans now include returning to Big Creek Fish Hatchery near Astoria, OR next May and June. We’re pretty excited about getting back there and seeing the new friends we made.

Oh Where to Park The Beast

After returning to Colorado from Wyoming, we were able to park  at St. Vrain State Park . But we were limited to 3 days as State Park spaces are reserved far in advance, especially weekends, and zero spaces were available.

However, Grace Coach Lines (aka/dba Dakota Bus Service) were fine with us pulling in to one of their bus slots for 2 days while waiting for our reservation start at Bear Creek Lake Campground. Ed drives charter occasionally for Grace, so he was able to get the okay. Actually it was quite nice, with 20 amp service and concrete pad. Thank you Phyllis, Mike, and John. NOTICE: The large “D” and Mobile Suites across the cap is gone, and we are now: In Search of Fun.

After 2 days at Grace Charters, we had 5 days reserved at Bear Creek Lake Indian Paintbrush Campground.  The Campground is 2 miles from the Bear Creek Lake Regional Park entrance on an asphalt road that winds around the Soda Lake swim beach and marina, horse back riding stables and archery Range. The campground has 47 campsites, which is just a small part of the 2600 acre area that also includes miles of trails, as well as Bear Creek Lake. One morning we rode our bikes on a paved path for about 4 miles to Morrison for breakfast.

Connie tried out the new skillet we recently purchased at the Thermopolis Cafe to make a delicious Shepherd’s Pie. Life is good.

Our time in Colorado is mainly driven by our Grand Daughter Faith’s high school volleyball schedule. Faith is lined up with her team for introductions before a game. As a starting team Libero, her jersey must be an off color from the rest of the team. We are proud grand parents indeed to see Faith starting as the only sophomore on a 5A team.

Saturday September 2, we drove 67 miles over Berthoud Pass to our friends place in Fraser. Brian and Angie have a lovely home with a view of the Winter Park Ski area. They were very hospitable, providing us with 20amp service, WiFi, great water if we needed it, friendship and shared meals. A Labor Day weekend to be remembered. Thanks Brian and Angie.

After arriving, we got on our bikes and followed Angie down to the paved pathway to Winter park, and the Hideaway Brewery where Brian works part time.  We were blessed with beautiful weather the entire Labor Day weekend.

We also enjoyed sitting around the barrel fire in the evenings to chat and roast s’mores. Having the fire in the barrel prevented all the smoke smell and was easier to contain. We didn’t miss our popcorn/movie routine at all.

Brian not only works the bar at the Hideaway Brewery, but also does a lot of the brewing. Their signature beer is BruBrew IPA. Very good.

While Brian had to work at Hideaway this September 4th Labor Day, Angie was eager to learn how to sew. Connie was more than happy to oblige. Angie and Brian’s Great Dane Lucy wasn’t quite as interested and was happy just waiting for her walk time.

We head back to Bear Creek Lake Campground Tuesday, September 5. We’ll be there until the 14th when we move to Loveland RV Resort for a full month!

So Much To Do, So Little Time

While Ed was driving charter bus on a Mormon trip, Connie and Cheri met Debbie for a little Kayaking on a small lake by Debbie’s home on Tuesday August 1. They had a great time. Thanks to Debbie for providing the kayaks. The girls don’t go anywhere without their wine. Can you spot it?

August 11 through the 14th we pulled the trailer back to Grand Junction. Cheri tagged along this time and we parked at the RV Ranch in Clifton. A very nice park. Cheri was contemplating a move to the Western Slope, so we did a lot of driving around to look over real estate, stopping a some wineries along the way of course. Visited Grand River Winery in Palisade again (first picture), as well as several others. Palisade is great wine…and peach country so we had to buy a box of peaches while we there too.

Stopped for a little impromptu lunch on a fantastic trip to the Grand Mesa. Spot the wine? Ed took his first selfie. Enjoyed some incredible views to the valley below.

We pulled the trailer back over I70 on Tuesday August 15, dropped Cheri off in Loveland and continued another 125 miles to Wheatland, WY. We love Wyoming (minus the wind of course). They are very RV friendly. We parked for free (donation) at Lewis City Park. They even provide 50 amp service! A nice evening after the long drive over the mountain.

Wednesday, August 16, we traveled 216 miles to the DeLight Raspberry Farm near Shoshoni. A real hidden gem we discovered on Harvest Hosts. Raspberries were ready and thick. We picked 2 pounds at $4 per pound…our total expense for staying there. We ate a lot and froze some so we can continue to enjoy.

From Shoshoni we traveled a short distance (126 miles) to Cody, WY, stopping for a great breakfast at the Thermopolis Cafe. They served our skillet breakfast in a 8″ Lodge skillet, and gave us an extra plate so we could split it. We’ve been in search of a good seasoned small skillet, so Ed asked if we could buy it! Wow, surprisingly, they sold it to us for $5.

We stayed at Parkway RV Park while in Cody. Quite nice and very reasonable, especially as the Eclipse frenzy was building. After dropping the trailer, we drove 6 miles west of Cody toward Yellowstone on US Highway 14 to see the spectacular Buffalo Bill Dam (formerly Shoshone Dam). Standing 325 feet high, it was the tallest concrete dam in the world when completed in 1920.

Wyoming weather was perfect for strolling around downtown Cody a bit. Connie’s ankle is nearly totally healed now. Ed admired the clever special offer on the sandwich board at a local coffee house.

Of course, a little walk demands something cool and refreshing. Pat O’Hara’s brewery provided what was needed. Very quaint and Cody like.

Friday was Cody Night Rodeo time. They do a great job. Rodeos most every night during the summer, keeping the tourists happy as they search for “authentic” Buffalo Bill related venues.

We sat directly behind the chutes so were able to see cowboys mounting their broncs and bulls…and getting bucked off. It was a fun time.

We crammed in a lot for only being there 2 nights. To help relax, we enjoyed a concert in the park.

A real highlight of our stay was a visit to the nearby Heart Mountain Japanese Confinement site. Heart Mountain can be seen in the lower picture, hence the name of the camp. It housed over 10,000 Japanese between 1942 and 1945, making it Wyoming’s third largest city. Many were Americans. An incredible and well done interpretative site.

We hooked up and pulled out of Cody by 8am Saturday, heading for Gillette for a few more days of F.U.N. Traveled via US highways 20 and 16 through Greybull, Basin, Worland, Ten Sleep and Buffalo. Ten Sleep is a delightful Big Horn Mountains foothills town (pop 250) that boasts a brewery on the edge of town. It is located on the edge of a hay field picturesque setting below the red sandstone Signal Cliff.

While Gillette was not in the total eclipse path, it was certainly convenient to sit in our son’s driveway to view the 98% eclipse on August 21. Even at 98% it was fantastic to view as many others can attest. Son Shelby even had our viewing glasses ready for us. Shelby is the one that looks like Chewbacca. Grand daughter Brittani is on his right. Not sure who the other dude is.

These antelope hang out in Shelby’s yard where they can be viewed off his deck.

Wednesday, August 23, we head back to Colorado, parking our Mobile Suites Rollin’ Retreat to a variety of RV sites.

Rain Rain Rain

Typical Colorado Summer…daily afternoon thunder storms. Nice for keeping Colorado green…along with the cannabis, but sure puts a cloud (pun intended) over outdoor activities.

Connie got to ride her new bike a little last Sunday, but the rain and other activities has kept her grounded for awhile. Good news, however, she’s finished with PT and walking somewhat normally.

We’re heading back to Grand Junction Friday (August 11) for 4 days. Sister Cheri will go with us. She wants to look around at some Western Slope real estate. Of course wineries and breweries too. The two girls are planning our meals with provisions from Cheri’s garden. Should be a feast!

On return to Loveland, we’ll drop Cheri off and head out for Wyoming. Stopping at a Raspberry farm in Shoshoni (Harvest Hosts), then Cody, and Gillette through August 22. Will be in Gillette for the Eclipse on the 21st. Gillette isn’t on the main path, so we won’t see the full effect.

In the mean time, Ed drove charter bus, along with 6 other buses, from the Longmont Mormon Stake Center to historic Mormon Trail sites in Wyoming. We drove 300 plus high school youth and their leaders for a Pioneer experiential adventure along the Mormon Trail in Wyoming.

After arriving mid-day, we dropped the group at the Willie Center Sixth Crossing (Sweetwater Junction, WY) The group got in the groove pulling hand carts and camping out that day. Fortunately, the bus drivers drove to hotels in Riverton or Casper. The next morning the group loaded up and we transported them down 11 miles of dirt BLM road to Sage Creek. From Sage Creek, they pulled their hand carts the 13 miles cross country to Rock Creek Hollow where they camped. Then off to Martin’s Cove on Wednesday for more experiential trekking and camping. We bused the totally exhausted group back to Longmont on Thursday.

Ouch!

Well…the hardware looks rather uncomfortable, but Miss Connie is handling it quite well and so happy to have the go ahead to put a little pressure on her foot. Doctor tells her if plates and screws bother her, she may elect to have them removed in a year!

She can actually walk on it a bit. The new tie-on support really helps. She loves her PT guy Duane who has gotten her excited about her recovery and getting back to normal.

We’re holed up at Riverview RV park near Masonville, only about 5 miles from Loveland. Located on the Big Thompson River…well next to it. The park was severely flooded with the last Big Thompson flood back in 2013. Consequently it is either dusty or muddy, but…very shaded and somewhat secluded.  We’re parked next to one of the several tiny houses they rent along with RV spaces. We were happy that we were able to book 3 weeks anywhere. Because of our broken ankle change in plans, we’re staying at a variety of places during the recovery. We’ll head back to Mesa the end of October.

In the mean time, Connie finished this Beer Quilt, which is now proudly displayed at the Presser Foot in Longmont.  Pretty neat actually. Check our quilt page for some other pictures.

Our RV Park is on US Highway 34, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It gets a lot of traffic this time of year. We pass the Buckhorn Brewery when we venture in to Loveland. While the Buckhorn has been around about 4 years, it is still in it’s infancy, remains a nano brewery.  Dave Beer (may not be is real name) loves his Gruit compilation. Consequently, so does Connie. We stopped by one afternoon while the Sauter family and Mackenzie were here, for a little music in the Beer Garden. A long story about that too…but only available when stopping by and chatting with Dave Beer.

We were hopeful that Obama Care would pay for this therapy bike for Connie’s recovery, but no such luck. No, really we ordered this new Giant Liv Flourish Thursday July 27 and is excited for it to arrive next week. Should help with recovery and exercise too, right? Also ordered a basket and a rear rack.

Making the best of it

 

Wednesday, June 5, we took advantage of our time on the “Western Slope,” and pulled our trailer the 80+ miles from Palisade to Ridgway State Park (Seems like an “e” is missing in Ridgway, but guess not). Our friends, and former co-hosts in Alaska, Texas, and Louisiana are hosting at the park and managed to arrange a “Handicap” spot for us near the restrooms and their space. We stayed 2 nights and had a great time with Cliff and Cyndy Mills. They fed us a wonderful meal from their BBQ and roaster oven on their hideaway patio in the trees.

The next day we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the patio at Kate’s Place in Ridgway. Only one negative: Connie crashed her scooter/stroller when the wheels hit a dip in the concrete walkway. She was a little scared at first…we all were…but she got back on the beast and wasn’t about to let it get the best of her.

 

After breakfast, Cliff drove us over Owl Creek Pass where we got a much closer view of Chimney Rock on Courthouse Mountain in the Cimarron’s (picture stolen off the internet). We stopped for lunch at a National Forrest Campground near Silver Jack Reservoir before completing our circle back to Ridgway SP through Montrose. The bottom picture is the Uncompahgre Plateau range. A grand tour, thanks to Cliff and Cyndy.

While the girls struggled to get up the stairs at Ladybugz Quilt Store, the guys walked across the street to the Horsefly Brewery for a little refreshment. How convenient is that!

We came back to the Grand River Winery Friday June 7 and shared more time around Palisade with Jim and Connee, visiting the Sage Creations Organic Lavender Farm, Alida’s Fruits, and the Graystone Winery, Colorado’s Port House. Connie loves lavender and port, so it was a great afternoon, largely in part to our guides Jim and Connee.

Later Friday, we were invited for dinner with new friends we met while at Twin Palms RV in Mesa…Jim and Cherlynn. And a GREAT dinner it was. Lobster, shrimp, corn on the cob, and other vegetables. Absolutely wonderful. Cherlynn prepared each meal wrapped in tin foil, and Jim cooked it up on their grill. We did have some liquid refreshments before hand of course. I think uppity ups call them libations? Some of us just call it wine and beer. Maybe a little scotch when Jim has the urge. Was great visiting with them and hearing about their family and the Fruita area.

We spent Friday night back at Grand River and managed to get this fun shot on the way back from Jim and Cherlynn’s. We returned via I70 back to Cheri’s in Loveland on Saturday. They still haven’t ran us off!

Life goes on back in Loveland. We all went to a free concert at Forte Lagoon Thursday July 13. Enjoyed Irish Folk & Celtic Rock along with many others. All of us included: Connie and her sisters Carol (white hair), Cheri (right of Carol), and Carol’s grand daughter Mackenzie (next to Connie). Mackenzie is visiting from Arizona.

No special handicap battery operated cart for this lady. She gets down the King Soopers aisle faster that a speeding bullet…well…nearly as fast as a kid on a scooter.

Getting Stronger

Connie’s ankle continues to heal well. She started her physical therapy and has several exercises she can do to help in her recovery. In the mean time, she’s got a new way to get up and down stairs or steps.

Ed is able to pick up charter work now and then when we stay around Loveland. This red bus, known as Clifford (like the dog) is special because daughter Kari invested in it’s purchase, helping Grace Coach Lines secure several tours. She loved talking about “her bus.” Ed drove it to Frontier Ranch near Buena Vista and transported a North Carolina Young Life group to the Denver Airport.

The lil’ Red Truck that Could…or thought it could. Cheri has nephew Marshall’s F150 in Loveland and we use it a little to avoid taking Big Blackie. Lots easier to get around. But it’s not quite up do pulling our 10 ton DRV. Big Blackie waits nearby just to rescue lil’ Red when needed.

Missing our summer travel plans to Michigan, Canada, and Maine, we felt we’d like to get away for at least a short trip around Colorado. So we gathered up Connie’s stroller/scooter and crutches and headed to the Western Slope…and the heat! Harvest Hosts generally provides a wonderful opportunity to park at a winery for free while enjoying the area. Grand River Vineyards in Palisade didn’t disappoint and were very gracious. Suzy here, along with the rest of the staff made us feel very welcome. After enjoying their free tasting, we wound up purchasing 3 bottles of wine. Parked with no hookups and 100° heat, it was all we could do to manage. Thanks to our fans.

Old friends from Montana came to the rescue! Picked us up soon after our Palisade arrival, then off to the Palisade Brewery where they enjoyed a Dirty Hippie Wheat, and we both had an Off Belay IPA. After a brief tour around Grand Junction, Jim and Connee took us to Kannah Creek Brewery for more refreshments and dinner…supper if your Roland and Susan. By the time we got home, temps were tolerable. Thanks Jim and Connee!

The Moffatts came to the rescue again on Tuesday July 4th and we were grateful again to not only spend awesome time with them, but to see and learn much more about Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita. We drove around peach & cherry orchards, grand tour around Fruita, and stopped at Anita’s Fruit Stand, and a few wineries. Many places were closed due to the 4th.

One last watering hole stop before heading over to the Moffatts for dinner. Surprised to find Peach Street Distillers in Palisade. Connie and Connee had to squeeze in to taste 3 of their liquors. The liked the third one, but not enough to purchase a $68 bottle.

Lastly, we were invited for a delicious BBQ pork tenderloin dinner at the Moffatts. Very nice evening. We drug out our visit until 9pm, but our trailer was still very warm…well hot…when we returned. It did cool down some a little later and we managed to get a good night sleep. Now, on to Ridgeway State Park Wednesday July 5, 2017.

 

 

Back in Colorado

Connie’s surgery went well on Wednesday June 14 in Denver. Our trailer repairs were completed that same day and Ed started his journey back to Connie’s sister’s in Loveland. A week had passed since the awful break, and here we are parked in front of Cheri’s in Loveland with surgery and repairs behind us. God is good.

The surgery involved inserting a metal plate along her ankle to act as a support. It took a lot of stitches. Thanks so much to daughter Shannon who met Connie at the airport and transported her everywhere needed. Also thanks to sister Cheri for helping as care giver now.

On the other side of the ankle, the surgeon used a couple screws to pull the break close to the bone. All this hardware can be removed if they become uncomfortable after full healing…a year or more.

Connie remains in good spirits and has her pain in control with a little help from the Norco pills. She doesn’t like taking the pills and is tapering off. She’s learning to get around well on her crutches, and its hard to keep up with when she’s on her stroller/scooter.

She has some limited up/down movement in her ankle and is starting a self exercise recovery while waiting for her appointment Monday, June 26, to have the stitches out.

Not sure what the future holds for us, but we hope to make a few short excursions around this area, but we’re quite comfortable parked at Cheri’s. The trailer is parked on the street. Cheri and Ed walked the block talking to neighbors about whether they had any qualms of us parking there. So far, so good.

Going our Separate Ways…Temporarily

Connie had a good night’s sleep after she was treated at Monroe Clinic Hospital on Thursday. On Friday, she felt energetic enough to make a brief visit to the new hilltop New Glarus Brewery as well as a drive-by around the old one, which does maintain some presence. After all, we had to visit the brewery…it was one of the reasons we included this stop as one of our adventures. The new hilltop site is quite impressive. Very nice open patio with views of the area. We enjoyed (sorta) listening to a couple guys play (blow) their alpine horns, which added to the Swiss theme throughout the New Glarus Township and the brewery. We loaded up with Spotted Cow, Moon Man and Scream II IPA (scream when you hear the price); mostly for some Colorado friends…and some for us! After all, the brewery makes it well known that they are “Only in Wisconsin.”

We made it from New Glarus to our BoondockersWelcome host near Winnebago, IL on Saturday June 10, dropped the trailer then drove the 80 miles to Madison, WI airport. Connie had a pretty good trip and is staying with daughter Shannon, Tim and Faith for a few days. She has surgery Wednesday, and follows with 12 weeks of PT. In the mean time, she has a “Stroller” to get around. She still has crutches but they are hard on her body. She’s smiling because that’s just what she does, but relieved that her surgery is schedule and she can start the mending process.

Ed returned to the trailer in Winnebago and pulled it to Lake Forest, IL on Sunday to visit with George and Mary Ann Hartnett; son-in-law Tim’s folks. Very nice visit, brunch and mini tour around Lake Forest and Lake Michigan before hitting the road again.

Got back on the road headed to Lippert Components (LCI) in Goshen, IN for the first stop to repair the trailer’s  mis-aligned king pin hitch box.  Lots and lots of traffic and road construction driving down around Chicago, so didn’t arrive in Goshen until 9:30pm EDT. Wound up boondocking in Lippert’s parking lot; up at 4:30am to make room for incoming workers. On a positive note…the Scream IPA tasted very good. Lippert Service  pulled our trailer in early Monday, finished the repairs and I soon got on the way to the second repair stop at the DRV plant in Howe IN.  I must have passed at least 20 Amish horse drawn carriages along the 36 miles of county & state roads. Amazing site for a Rocky Mountain boy.

Very impressed with the setup at DRV. Fabulous full hook up sites while here for service. They pull your trailer in the shop at 6am, and return it to you for the night around 2:30pm. Very nice lounge and Wifi. Hoping the repairs go as well. Note the water tower in the backdrop…not our new satellite receiver.

Journey is over!

We had a wonderful Boondockers Welcome site at a farm near Elk Mound, Wisconsin Wednesday June 7. Hosts were very gracious. Connie was able to help Eileen a bit with her quilt and we had a nice visit with her and Elton John…really.

We got in to New Glarus, Wisconsin about 2pm Thursday and were able to park in the Chamber of Commerce lot for two nights. We had arranged to do that earlier. Very nice small town and the home of New Glarus Brewery, our main reason for stopping here.

But then something awful happened. It sprinkled a wee bit and just after setting up, Connie slipped on the step as she was stepping out and her foot slipped into one of the steps as she fell to the pavement. Ed managed to get her into the back seat of our truck and rushed her in pain the 20 miles to the Monroe Clinic ER.

An excellent team of nurses, doctors, Xray techs, and even pharmacy folks did a fantastic job of getting her ankle back in place and in a cast. However…the break is so severe that she has to have surgery right away. So Connie flies back to Denver from Madison, WI to Denver Saturday. Daughter Shannon and sister Cheri will assist from there. She has an appointment with an Orthopedic surgeon on Monday. Ed will take the trailer to Indiana in order to keep the repair appointments that were scheduled several months ago, then pull the trailer back to Colorado.

We are very sad that our continuing trip is cut short, but so thankful to the Lord that it wasn’t something that could have been a lot more devastating.

South Dakota to Minnesota

We left Oacoma Saturday June 3 and stopped at the Chamberlain Information Center just across the Missouri River. A picturesque stop with great views, and an incredible sculpture of Sacajawea with her back to the Missouri River.

We still had some mud and road grime on our unit, so opted to swing into the Sioux Falls Blue Beacon truck wash before finding our overnight stop at the Louise Avenue Walmart. However, the Walmart sprinklers came on during the night and totally spotted the left side of our truck and trailer with ugly water spots.

Susan and Roland came by our Walmart digs Saturday afternoon  and gave us a bit of tour around Sioux Falls, including “the Falls” and a few breweries. Then took us to Dinner (they actually call it supper….dinner is lunch) at Jacky’s, a favorite Mexican fare eatery, Guatemalan really, but much the same. Susan and Roland are friends we spent time with at Twin Palms RV Park in Mesa. Thank you Susan and Roland for a great time.

We’re getting spoiled. Sunday morning Fay and Ken Fisher came by and to get us, then took us to Abiding Savior Free Lutheran church for a wonderful morning of worship and fellowship. We knew Fay years ago when we lived in Tooele, Utah and her adult boys were pre-elementary. Her son Sean lives in Sioux Falls and joined us for Breakfast after church at Kaladis. Thank you Fay and Ken for a wonderful Sunday morning, including breakfast!

The older we get, the more we learn what we don’t know. We left Sioux Falls after the Kaladis breakfast, heading north toward Alexandria, MN to an RV park that former co-hosts (Colorado Bend, TX), Bob and Twyla co-manage. Bob suggested we stop at Pipestone National Monument on our way. The monument is a little north of the small town of Pipestone, MN. What a delightful side trip. We learned that Indian Tribes from around the nation come here to quarry for pipestone rock to make peacepipes. It is quite laborious work and only available to native Indians, and only by application. They have to hand quarry through all the hard granite to get down to the small vein of pipestone, which is quite soft. We saw a native making a pipe by hand, and saw a few pipes for sale at the visitor center. No…we didn’t buy one.

We ventured a little further north toward Prairie View RV Park, a stone’s throw from Prairie Edge Casino neat Granite Falls.  A fabulous park and one of the nicest we have ever stayed…and maybe the most reasonable…$25 a night for full hookup, concrete parking pad and patio, new tables, yard lights, WiFi, personal trash receptacle and recycle bins, very nice bath house and landscaping.

It was a beautiful day Monday June 5, and since we only had 88 miles to travel, we decided to do a little house cleaning. Both inside and out. Ed gave the truck and trailer a hand bath to get the water spots out, while Connie scrubbed the floor and gave our throw rugs a thorough cleaning. A great morning. Thank you Lord for providing. We pulled in to Oak Park Kampground in Garfield Minnesota, 6 miles from Alexandria, Monday early afternoon and were greeted by our friends, Bob and Twyla.

They took us in to the Boulder Tap House for a brew and burger. Very nice, especially visiting with our ol’ buds from Colorado Bend State Park in Texas. Oh…the tap house has zero connection to Boulder, Colorado!

Tuesday, Bob and Ed drove the 6 miles from Oak Park Kampground to the Legacy of the Lakes Museum in Alexandria. Bob, being from this land of 10,000 lakes had actually built a few boats himself, and was a member of the museum support group, so was quite familiar with many of the boats on display. He made an excellent tour guide as we explored the museum. Bob pointed out the predecessor to the jet ski in the foreground of the top picture. Thanks Bob.

Jay and Gail Kulp came out to the park later Tuesday. They took us back in to Alexandria for a brew and burger at Raapers Eatery and Ale. An older hole-in-the-wall restaurant where they knew many of the folks. No wonder…Gail grew up in Alexandria and graduated high school there. We had a wonderful visit as we reflected on some Utah memories from back in the 80’s. They drove us around the area, pointing out many of the lakes. They finally agreed there were 351 fishable lakes in their county.

Bob and Twyla came over for a pancake breakfast Wednesday morning before we departed for Wisconsin, but we failed to get a picture while they were there. Got this quick snapshot of Twyla on her pool duty just as we were leaving. They love it at Oak Park, but not so much after October. So we plan on seeing them again when we all get back to Arizona this winter.

South Dakota

After a wonderful visit with family, we pulled out of Gillette on Thursday June 1 heading east toward Sioux Falls, SD. As we neared SD in eastern Wyoming, we saw how lush the country was with green grasses, along with cattle munching away. We were reminded of a time long ago by this historical marker at a rest stop along I90 and thought it gave travelers, including us, a bit of history of the area.

Pulled in to Spearfish Canyon City Campground  Thursday afternoon to a beautifully landscaped RV campground near the heart of town. The babbling Spearfish creek  was right out the back of our spot.

The DC Booth Historical Fish Hatchery is directly across from our park on Spearfish Canyon Road. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the hatchery has 10 campsites reserved for volunteers that serve as guides and cashiers at the various sites at the hatchery. We walked around a bit for a short time with a promise to spend more time there on our way back in August.

George and Janet Wilken, some old friends we knew from Tooele, UT back in the eighties live in Spearfish. It was a real treat to have them come by and say hi and take us to dinner later. A memorable Spearfish visit for sure.

We’ve seen these Wall Drug signs as long as we can remember traveling our nations roadways, so it was only proper to take a little time to pull in the Wall, SD and see what Wall Drug Store was all about. Wow! It’s pretty incredible really. Lot and lots of notions, knick knacks, clothes, boots, donuts, ice cream, and the stores go on and on. We didn’t notice any drugs at Wall Drug Store however. It was very crowded as we weaved our way around other curiosity seekers.

After surviving Wall Drug, we made our way to our first Boondockers Welcome location. Boondockers is made up of RVers from around the country that share a place they have to park an RV in return for being able to park their RV at similar places when they travel. We don’t have a place to share, but pay a modest annual fee to be part of the group. This first stop did not disappoint. Park on a hill overlooking the Missouri River. Fantastic!

Travel Wyoming

Before leaving Berthoud we took a fun walk around town. Berthoud is a great little town between Longmont and Loveland and boasts TWO breweries! We love City Star and their American IPA. City Star is located just next to the US flag in the picture.

We also had to make one last visit to Aleworks in Loveland. They now include sour brews; an up and coming trend. We’re not quite there yet.

Also had to make a quick stop by Laughing Ladies Quilt store in Berthoud. A quaint place with added charm because its located in one of the Berthoud’s older buildings and maintains a rustic appeal.

We began our journey north on Friday morning May 26 with a delicious egg and bacon sandwich at Cheri’s in Loveland. Then up to Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Cheyenne to visit the Tilton gravesite. Cheri drove separately and met us there. It was windy of course, so Connie’s hair was out of control. The stop was especially fitting for this Memorial Day weekend. Harold Tilton, the girl’s father, served in WWII and landed on Normandy Beach. The small U.S. flag honors his service. The ashes of their beloved mother Vera are buried next to him.

We continued our trip on Friday to Huntley, WY? Uhh? Where? Almost to Lyman, NE. Uhh? Where? Actually a beautiful wide open and green area of our country. The Table Mountain Winery boasts being the only commercial vineyard in Wyoming. They use Frontenac grapes, a hybrid vine especially vibrant in colder climates, formed from  a cross-breeding process developed at the University of Minnesota. This was the first Harvest Host stop we have ever made, but we have a few more in line as we travel east. Patrick and is mother Lori were very gracious, serving us in a wine tasting as well as welcoming us to park for free…with WiFi. Their smaller vineyard is next to the tasting room, and they have a much larger vineyard just over the hill. The family also farms.

Long roads out here in the west! Maybe a car, or an antelope now and then. Seems that there are places one can go to get away from the stop and go, and long waits in traffic. Wyoming is the least populated state, with only ONE U.S. representative (Liz Cheeney). When Mile High football stadium is full, the population would be the largest city in Wyoming.

We pulled in front of Shelby’s home in Gillette mid-afternoon on Friday. It had rained all night at the vineyard and we had to use 4×4 for over a mile to get back to the pavement. Our truck and trailer were covered in mud. We used Shelby’s hose to wash off most of it.

Shelby loves his basement, which is always decorated for Halloween. We raised a strange kid. The basement is set up with an awesome big screen TV, not to mention a bar, electronic darts, pool table, regulation card table, and commercial size popcorn maker. He’s pictured with his girlfriend Kerri.

We lost our daughter Kari to cancer in February. Her husband Warren was killed on a motorcycle in 2012. Way too early for both of them! We visited their gravesite on Memorial day with the Gillette family, pictured here are Kari and Warren’s adult children, Hagen and Brittani. Warren served several years in the National Guard so a small flag had been placed next to the cross at the foot of his gravesite; just a many others graves were marked this Memorial day.They served and honored their country.

Stopover in Colorado

Colorado is normally quite beautiful. However, we’ve had 3 to 1 bad days to nice days since arriving. Snow and cold in May?? Even after Mother’s day! Here’s a couple shots of Loveland RV Resort on a nice day, and another of our spot on one of the not so nice days. It snowed more than the picture shows. We stayed here from April 18 to May 18.

After spending a few hours getting the snow off the top of the slides, we moved our home to Cheri’s on May 19, only about a 3 mile trip. A quiet street and neighbors didn’t fuss. No hook ups here, but spent most of the time in the house. A very nice 3 days with Connie’s sis. She takes great care of us and no parking fees!

We were not comfortable sticking our in the street at Cheri’s, so we moved down the road about 9 miles to Berthoud. Our financial manager and his wife Bobbie invited us to stay in their driveway while they went on their New York trip. Their 1892? home is in the background. A very nice setting and they even ran an extension cord so we could have a little power. Our solar has been working fine, but it doesn’t function well while nasty weather and clouds.

Its was good to touch bases with friends and family here, along with dentist and doctor appointments. Ed drove a few times for Dakota Bus Service/Grace Coach Lines which helped pay lot rent at Loveland RV. So even with the not so nice days, we’ve enjoyed our time, but ready to head north to see family/friends in Gillette, Wyoming over Memorial Day.

We’ve Moved…again!

Just before leaving Arizona, we were invited for dinner and a tour of Amanda Sihler’s frog farm. Amanda is the published co-author of the Poison Dart Frog book. She is also nephew Kevin’s sweetheart. The tour was fascinating, especially listening to Amanda’s wealth of knowledge about these tiny frogs from rain forest environments. Oh…and the dinner was great too. Dined with teen girl daughters: Jenna, Nina, Maria, and Rachel. We were impressed with them as well.

Saying goodbye to Steve and Jenni, we departed Twin Palms in Mesa on Thursday morning, April 13 and traveled to the Walmart in Las Cruces, NM. Nice Walmart with 24hr security and an easy walk to Applebees. We enjoyed a beer and had a bit to eat before coming back to have some popcorn and watch a movie. Our solar is working great.

Then over to spend time with Ed’s sister Alice and some family in Stephenville, TX. Very nice visit and enjoyed Easter services at the Cowboy Church of Erath County. We were greeted by cowboys on their horses as we drove in. Definitely TEXAS. Joined more family for Easter dinner at Stacy’s mother-in-law’s place. Liz is a great hostess. Stacy is Ed’s nephew.

After spending 3 nights at the Stephenville City Park campground, we got back on the road heading north, stopping at Valley Pecans in Chillicothe. A delightful place that has a small cafe in addition to pecans, wine, and all sorts of must-haves. A recommended stop when traveling down US 287.

Traveled on to Dumas, TX for another night on the road at Walmart. A pleasant evening, eating at home and a night of popcorn and a little Plex TV.

We generally get going pretty early when staying at Walmart. Made good time, making it on in to Loveland RV Resort on Tuesday April 18 around 1:30pm. Remembering that we had been in 2 other time zones on our trip. We’ll be here through May 18.

Last Few Days in Mesa

Our little yard at Twin Palms has turned out to be quite nice. We now have a shed and a newly painted bird house to offset the miniature bird bath and flower pots. We’ll leave all this behind when we leave Thursday April 13, only to return in November when we resume our manager duties.

Connie’s sewing room (doubles as dining room and theater) has expanded. Just needed “a little,” more room for “stuff.” She looked long and hard for just the right table and found this gem at Ikea. Catch? She had to stain and polyurethane it. Ed put it together. Pretty much a non event. It’s working out quite well and she’s happy to have her tools close at hand. Happy wife, happy life!

Ed thought the stones around the south loop lawn needed beefing up in order to keep folks from pulling their trailers over the grass, and in some cases over the stones. He used Steve’s truck and trailer to pick up 4 much larger stones, boulders really, at Pioneer Materials. We’re hoping that folks will drive with more caution now.

New boulders are somewhat heavy, but even the old guy managed to roll them in to place.

We’ve enjoyed attending Harvest East Valley Bible Fellowship. This is their new facilities as of April 2. They moved from a business warehouse where Harvest Chandler was first established in 2012. Lots of friendly folks. Music is great and Pastor Adam Bailie is powerful as he preaches straight from the Bible. He has a special gift; he can preach on just a couple verses, giving the hearer a greater understanding and holding our attention. However, we are looking forward to getting back a for a few Sundays at Foundations in Loveland. Fantastic worship in the Lord there as well.

Connie volunteered to lead a Beth Moore women’s study on Tuesday evenings at Sun Valley Community Church in Mesa. This is sister Carol and husband Roger’s home church. It’s been fun for Connie. Carol also leads a study and helped cover the class while we were in Gillette with Kari.  Tough times for us, but grateful that the ladies in the class fully understood, and offered prayers for the family during this time.

Life at Twin Palms is slowing way down now that the weather if getting hotter. We only have 15 spaces here, and down to 6 RVs after being at capacity most of the winter. Walking the loop at night, we have jokingly compared it to being like a ghost town. But it does give us a chance to visit around the area.

No, the picture isn’t Twin Palms, but Turf Paradise race track in Phoenix. We attended Monday April 3 (Happy BD Shelby)  and stayed for 3 races.

We actually made three $2 bets and won on one. After investing $6, our return on investment was $2.10. Alpine Luck won this race…but he wasn’t the horse we bet on. Lots of fun, plus free parking and entrance to the clubhouse on week days.

Not yet completely broke, we left Turf Paradise and drove over to Scottsdale. Walked around old town a bit…


…then had a late lunch/early supper at Rehab Burger Therapy. We enjoyed our burgers, definitely did not need supper, but came close to needing therpy:-)

 

Last few weeks in Arizona

While we had a week of hotter than the norm days…mid 90°, we are back to low to mid 70° range these last few days of March. Very very nice, especially in the late afternoon and evening. Great Happy Hour weather. We’ve taken a little time to explore and found The Pork Shop in Queen Creek, out in the San Tan Valley area. A small meat market (dead pig only) in the middle of a somewhat rural area. How fun. We got a pack of great pepper bacon and some scrumptious pork chops. A fun visit.

We visited the Keelan (Nephew Marshall, Amanda, and Mackenzie) Homestead one Sunday to help plant some new fruit trees and install new buried water lines. Lots of work to do there, which is actually in the heart of Chandler! Amanda on tractor. Looks like Connie found a treasure?

Marshall with mom Carol (Connie’s sister) taking a break from planting trees while discussing ongoing plans . It was a fun day…a little hot, but we were rewarded well 🙂

Meanwhile, we do have duties at Twin Palms RV Park. One of Ed’s projects is standardizing sewer connections on some of the RV lots. Here he is cutting off the existing orangeburg pipe below ground level.

Next step is adapting to regular size 3″ PVC pipe using a Fernco flexible adapter.

Lastly, top off the new PVC with a cap, pour concrete in to a form to keep junction in place. Once set up, the site it ready for a new occupant.

Our new car??? Well not exactly. Just a note that we  are planning on purchasing an older run-around car when we return to Mesa in November. That means we have been invited to return as park managers (hosts, volunteer overseers, etc) next winter. Will return in November and depart again in April 2018…Lord willing and our health holds out.

Back to Full Time in Arizona

Unlike living in a home where you have a yard, we have to compromise a bit on space. Connie loves plants and would love to have a garden, but full time in a 5th wheel trailer requires some sacrifices. Connie makes the most of our small yard and recently purchased this cute little bird bath. Surprisingly enough, we have a variety of birds here; including finch, doves, hummingbirds, and quail. We have 8′ Oleanders along the back of our lot, usually loaded with birds. At any rate, it helps make full timing a little more enjoyable, especially when we’re here for several months.

Our dining room, evening theater, and sometimes bedroom, often turns in to Connie’s sewing studio. You can see the oleanders out the rear window. Click here to see some Connie’s quilting activities while we’ve been here.

Living in the 15 lot Twin Palms RV Park doesn’t have all the amenities of some larger parks, but we do have community, albeit short time frames. Most of the folks in this impromptu “block party” have moved on, but we remember them well.

A previous occupant at the site next to us trimmed a large chunk out of one side of this tree, plus it was leaning about 30°. Ed dug a large hole about 2′ deep all around, then pulled it straight with a tie-down strapped to a steel post. It will probably stay attached until next winter. After a little more trimming, it looks a lot better! Way to go Ed. Note the oleander plants along the back of the lots. Gives us a little privacy.

Connie has gotten out a few times to hike. Mostly with sister Carol (above) and a couple other women that have become new hiking friends. This hike was earlier in the year around Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Another hike with new friend Kerry, was up around Lost Dutchman State Park. The howling coyote is a sundial.

These beautiful Lilies were sent to us from the great folks at Big Creek Fish Hatchery in Oregon to help comfort our grief from losing Kari. We gotta go back there. What a wonderful place to serve as well as great community!

We have a few more weeks to enjoy Arizona. It supposed to be hitting 90 this week so won’t be too long before it gets really HOT! We pull out April 13, heading to sister’s in Stephenville, TX; then back to Colorado for about 6 weeks; then Gillette for a few days before heading east. We’re thinking of taking a “Vacation.”

A Final Goodbye

Darling and courageous daughter Kari.

Placard of Kari’s headstone. The real one will take a few weeks.

Saturday February 7, 2017: We took an early morning (6am) Frontier flight from Phoenix to Denver; Drove Cheri’s car with nephew Marshall and Cheri to Gillette, Wyoming. A 5 hour drive. Attended the Celebration for Life service at New Life Wesleyan Church in Gillette and graveside at Campbell County Cemetery, and drove the 5 hours back to Denver. Flew back to Phoenix Sunday evening.

Celebration of Life video slide show. Thanks to Shannon Hartnett and Brittani Phelps.

Goodbye Precious Daughter

Our beloved daughter Kari Ann Allen-Brinkerhoff-Wales passed on to the arms of Jesus today after a 13 year battle with cancer.
April 29, 1974 – February 7, 2017

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2Timothy 2:7-8

Merry Christmas from Arizona

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Greetings. No, we don’t have snow here…yet. I stole this picture off the web. It doesn’t depict this joyous time of year when we once again remember the reason for Christmas. Not Santa or the giving, but to celebrate God’s gift to us in Jesus.

Through the years…centuries…the story of Christmas has evolved a bit and permeated our minds with visions without a biblical basis. In the past, I enjoyed sharing a simple Christmas “test” that helps us understand some of the fallacies. Here is a sample.

What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
    A. “There is no room in the inn.”
    B. “I have a stable you can use.”
    C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
    D. Both A and B
    E. None of the above

Curious? Check the other 19 multiple choice question test here. There is also a link to the answers.

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We enjoyed meeting up with Bob and Twyla for a pizza and a visit to the Phoenix Zoo to see the fabulous Christmas lights. Bob and Twyla hosted with us at Colorado Bend State Park in Texas; back on our very first volunteer job. This winter, Bob and Twyla are volunteers at  Maricopa County Park: Desert Outdoor Center near Anthem.

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We saw several Lego displays on our walk around the zoo. You can’t tell much from this picture, but they are quite incredible.

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Our duties here at Twin Palms RV Park are pretty basic. Owners Steve and Jenni are fantastic. When an RV departs, Ed rakes the site and reads the electric and water meters in preparation for a new incoming RV. There are only 15 spaces, and many folks are here by the month, so not too demanding.

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Connie is back doing her favorite work…playing in the dirt. Especially when someone else pay$ for the flowers. She has offered to do her next favorite thing, painting, but Steve hasn’t taken her up on it yet. Her least favorite is cleaning restrooms, but only does that once a week and they are small and stay pretty clean.

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Gilbert Farmers Market is open every Saturday throughout the year. A great place to stroll and pick up a few items. Gilbert and the market is only around 4 miles from our park.

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About 4 miles in the other direction is the Mesa Flea Market. Over a mile of covered shops, food, and entertainment. A fun way to spend a few hours getting some exercise. Reaching for your wallet doesn’t count as exercise.

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Other than the fantastic weather, having a great place to park our 5th wheel and lots of activities, we have family here too. Connie’s sister Carol and her husband Roger are only 4 miles from us…a nice bike ride on the canal path. Roger’s son Kevin and his girlfriend Amanda joined us at Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe for a brew and supper. Fantastic! Kevin and Amanda both have high school daughters that are friends and play soccer…Amanda’s twins and Kevin’s daughter Jenna. The girls were actually responsible for them becoming a couple.

Connie’s other sister, Cheri, is driving down from Loveland this week (December 15) to spend a few weeks scouting for a new home and maybe a job? She really wants to retire, but she is inhibited with youth…not quite old enough 😉

We wish you a very memorable Christmas and 2017. May it be filled with comfort and joy. Comfort knowing Jesus, and Joy knowing He paid the price for our everlasting life.

 

Winter Home in Mesa

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We arrived in Mesa Wednesday afternoon, November 9. Our awning had pulled out of slot a bit, so we dropped our trailer off to a dealer across the street for warranty repair.

We were not able to get in to our spot at Twin Palms RV until Saturday, so we were left with 3 homeless nights. Jill, the service manager at Desert Autoplex, was super and allowed us to leave our trailer in their secure lot with 50amp service. They completed the awning repair Wednesday! They are conveniently located directly across Main from Twin Palms.

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Connie’s sister Carol, and husband Roger left for the Holy Land (no not Texas) trip the day we arrived. So we had their home to spend our 3 homeless nights! Now that’s some kind of deal! It was like staying at a $300 a night resort with pool and all the amenities. Here’s Ed on their patio near the pool. Even had the use of Carol’s car!

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We got settled in to our new spot (#9) on Saturday, then had orientation with Steve (the owner) on Monday. Orientation included basic items Steve wanted us to do in his absence as “Managers.” Pretty light duty compared to our other volunteer jobs we’ve had. We love our spot. It’s directly behind Steve’s Motorcycle shop on Main Street, so we get some noise, but quite tolerable.

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solar-install

We had Mike Isley install three 260 watt solar panels and associated equipment the week we arrived at Twin Palms. Mike did a great job and knows his stuff. Click here for a few more pictures of the install. Ed braved prepping the fiberglass roof for solar by washing and waxing it. The solar will be our safety net while traveling with a power hog residential refrigerator. And of course we like to have our popcorn and movie while parked at Walmart 😉

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Carol’s son Marshall, his wife Amanda, and daughter MacKenzie live in Chandler. Just a few miles from Mesa. While they are only a block off a major street (Dobson), they have a large irrigated tract. The former owner boarded horses. Marshall and Amanda have huge plans for “going off the grid” and have a perfect place for that…only as outsiders, we see lots and lots of work! They invited us over for BBQ and to get a tour of their new place. Even had a beer!

Colorado to Arizona via Texas

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Left Loveland RV Resort on Thursday November 3, 2016 in route to our winter home in Mesa, AZ. We had a nice uneventful drive to the Walmart in Trinidad, CO. Managed to walk the 2 miles in to downtown along the Santa Fe Trail. Not really a trail, but a 2-lane highway.  But enjoyed getting out and seeing some of the downtown area. Somewhat surprised of all the emphasis on cannabis (marijuana) sale places. One next door to Walmart, and a block of stores in downtown. Trinidad is on the border, so is a good source for folks from other states to stalk up.

Traveled from Trinidad to Childress, TX on Friday; pulling in to a delightful campground in the park. Only $15. Was nice and quiet, but we did hear the ducks quacking on the lake. Loved it.

We ventured to Stephenville on Saturday and stayed till the following Tuesday. Great visit with Ed’s sister and family there. Click here to view Texas family pictures.

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Many rodeo cowboys call Stephenville home and the town honors them with a dedicated Cowboy Capital Walk-of-Fame block in downtown.

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Walk-of-Fame plaques include famous bull rider, Tuff Hedeman, Rodeo Clown and bull fighter Junior Meek, and Dallas Cowboys running back and steer wrestler Walt Garrison and 1979 Miss Rodeo America wife Debbie.

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When driving from our Stephenville City Park RV site to Ed’s sister’s place, we would pass Tarleton State University, home of the Texans…or Texanns if you’re woman volleyball player. Tarleton is an extension of Texas A&M, College Station, Texas. We made a note that our grand daughter Faith might one day be interested; scholarship pending of course.

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Drove 600 miles on Tuesday November 8, voting day, to another Walmart in Las Cruces, NM. We had stayed here before on a different trip and remembered it offered pretty nice accommodations…for free..plus they have all night security patrol. Many choices for dinner after hours on the road. We enjoyed a Goose Island IPA and dinner at Applebees, a short walk from Walmart.

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A shorter drive from Cruces to Mesa on Wednesday. Only 350 miles. Another great leg to our journey. We knew we were getting close when we drove through the Texas Canyon area. By this time, our poor Mobile Suites and Dually were quite dirty and weather beaten. Stopped at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Casa Grande and were very pleased. Full wash, hand dry, and wheel service for $69. Now we’re all clean again and ready for our new site at Twin Palms RV.

Still in Colorado

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Good news is that Kari is home in Gillette after the ordeal she went through at Anschutz Cancer Center. She’s started a new round of chemo, but not sure how well it’s going to work yet. She gives thanks for the few days she feels better. One day she was happy to get out of the house for a lunch date with a friend. Our prayer is for her to regain her strength so she can participate in life…and granddaughter Blakelee!

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Meanwhile, Connie spent 5 days at Jodi’s mountain condo sewing with girl friends. Had a fantastic time and laughed a lot.

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We’ve been blessed with a warmer than usual fall, which allowed some of the condo girls to take a break outdoors and get in some hiking on nearby trails. This picture has Connie and Jodi leading on.

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Ed has been driving charter bus to help pay the rent here. Weddings, shuttles from downtown Denver to Red Rocks for all kinds of concerts, high school volleyball & soccer teams, seniors from Greeley to see a play in Denver…and transport for folks going to the Bronco’s Monday night football game on October 24.

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We continued to battle the traffic in to Denver to watch Faith and her Lakewood Tigers play volleyball. Shannon got this picture after her last home game. The Tigers finish up this weekend with a tournament…then maybe go on to some playoffs. Faith then begins club volleyball.

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Connie pops in to the Presser Foot (Bernina sewing and quilt store) now and then, and helped them at the Quilt-a-Fair event. She also enjoyed meeting Jenn and Debbi for breakfast a few times.

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After selling most all our stuff (treasures) the summer of 2014, we stored all that we could not part with at sister Cheri’s shed in Loveland, CO. Quite a reduction from a 2700 SF home eh?

 

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Now Cheri has decided to sell out and move to Arizona. Okay, so we once more reduced our footprint…to this. Cheri will take it with her to Arizona. What a peach she is. Just family treasures and keepsakes remaining. Well, except for the steel base swivels for our lounge chairs.

Heading south Thursday. Should beat the Colorado snow. Yeah!

Pre Arizona Visiting

Daughter Kari with her granddaughter Blakelee (our great grand daughter) prior to returning to Denver for more surgery.

Kari has battled cancer since she was 28. It has escalated to the point where her lungs fill with cancerous fluid and must be drained. She’s been to Anschutz Cancer Center at the University of Colorado Health Center 3 times since we’ve been here. We’ve battled the traffic from Loveland several times to be with her post surgery and while she was there. Not pleasant.

Each surgery was supposed to coat her lungs to prevent the fluid build up. Each time requiring a hospital stay. The surgeon punctured her spleen on the last surgery and he had to removed it!! She’s home now, but on oxygen regaining her strength. Kari handles all this with grace and has many people praying for her comfort, strength, faith, and lots more time for her to ride her Harley Trike!

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We miss Big Creek Fish Hatchery, our new friends there, and the park like spot we had. But family is west of there and we feel disconnected without a seasonal visit. We had a great visit in Wyoming, and now in northern Colorado. We’re parked at Loveland RV Resort, located right next to the Centerra Marketplace shopping complex. A huge area with lots of restaurants. Not good! At least when trying to restrain ourselves from going out.

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Grand daughter Faith’s high school volleyball schedule is one reason we wanted to be back in Colorado this fall. Like the good grand parents we are, we’re very proud of her. She is not only the smallest on JV and Varsity at a 5A school, but the only freshman. She loves volleyball and we love watching her and the Lakewood Tigers. The only drawback is the traffic getting to Denver area schools. We will not miss that as we travel south.

We travel to Stephenville, TX on November 3 and will spend a few days with Ed’s sister Alice and all the family there. We will also try and beat the snow in Colorado, then on to Mesa Arizona for the winter.

 

Goodbye Oregon Hello WY & CO

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Sister Cheri flew in to Portland August 22 and spent time with us for our last week in Oregon. Lots for us to show her, but we had to experience downtown Portland before heading back to Big Creek. Wherever women are, it must include shopping! Cheri popped in to a TJ Maxx for a shopping fix. We enjoyed a beer and lunch at Deschutes.

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Had to take Cheri to Astoria’s Maritime Museum. A fabulous place to visit. We also got to tour the Lightship Columbia in the background. Fantastic history that we never knew about before.

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Cheri’s visit would not be complete without a stop a the Bowpicker for a basket of tuna and fries. This time it included the typical wait in line.

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Ed and Connie on the bow of the Lightship Columbia with the Columbia River port in the background.

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Took time to stop for a beer at Rogue Brewery on pier 39 on Thursday August 25, then visit the historic Coffee Girl and Bumble Bee Cannery the following Saturday, August 27. Made it a morning visit for coffee and a treat prior to driving to Ilwaco, WA to buy some tuna and visit the waterfront vendors. Girls need their shopping fix.

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Our volunteer hours didn’t cease because we had a visitor. Cheri actually spent a couple days helping out a bit, but soon realized there was no future in it. She did get to meet our wonderful new friends at Big Creek. L/R are: Joy, Mike, Dustin, Travis, Ross, and Rob. A great group to work with.

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Some of Ed’s last days at Big Creek was spent on this weed wacker. Whew! Didn’t quite finish wacking this path from the hatchery to the inlet, but got a pretty good start.

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Looking back from the picture above is the “after” wacking look.

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Enough with working and on to more Oregon adventures. Pat, a volunteer at Big Creek (didn’t show up for the picture) was relentless that we had to visit Oswald West State Park, just south of Cannon Beach. We found the Cape Falcon hiking trail and were determined we could easily hike the 2.5 miles…and return. In spite of the posted warnings!

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Needless to say, we felt like we had hiked way beyond the 2.5 miles and never did see a sign that said Cape Falcon. We saw some breathtaking views before heading back, including the little waterfall and typical misty view of the Pacific.

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Cheri’s visit wouldn’t be totally complete without a visit to the Tillamook Cheese factory in…you guessed it…Tillamook, OR. Ed was especially excited for the visit because getting a couple dips of his annual ice cream treat was in store. Vanilla of course.

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We pulled out of Big Creek around 7am Tuesday August 30, dropped Cheri at the Portland airport and headed toward a Walmart in Spokane for the night. All went well. Even found a Great Clips where Ed could get a much needed haircut.

Stopped at Timeless Quilts in Missoula to get their row by row. Click here to see pictures and comments on bottom of Connie’s Quilting page.

Got an early start Wednesday with hopes of making the 540 miles to Billings. However, we had inadvertently failed to latch the refrigerator doors and soon discovered a few things had “flown” out. So decided to stop and a Bozeman Walmart. We had stayed there before and remembered it was walking distance to the 406 Brewery and Wild Rye Distillery. Connie got a jug of their Five Drops Bourbon whiskey.

Oh…the pictures are from our in-route to Bozeman stop at Wheat Bakery in…you guessed it again…Wheat, MT. Always a must. We did refrain from the scrumptious looking cinnamon rolls.

gillettefamily0916

Finally arrived at daughter Kari and Edward’s in Gillette, WY on Thursday afternoon, September 1. They were futuristic enough to equip a 50amp hookup for us next to their house. We took advantage and bummed out here for a week. We had time to have several nice visits with family: L/R Hagen, Shelby, Leanna, Brittani, Ed, Connie, Garth, Blakelee, Edward, and Kari.

Preparing to leave Bozeman early Thursday, discovered our inverter had suffered a low-voltage shut off during the night,  and our refrigerator was off. We were pleased that it had only gotten down to 50/28 before we connected to Edward’s graciously supplied outlet.

edwardscementaryfeature

While in Gillette Edward took us on a tour of the city cemetery where he works. Quite impressive for a cowboy/oil/gas town, or any town for that matter! This water feature is just one example. The residents there can’t really appreciate it, but their visitors can. Edward does everything well and was proud to show us all around.

loveland-rv-spot34

Pulled back in to Loveland RV Resort in Loveland on Tuesday September 8, but site #34 this time. We like the spot. Lots of shade and pretty nice yard, but we have more traffic than our last #213 spot. And doesn’t compare to our digs at Big Creek!

Tuesday was busy. Shannon came up from Denver to hang out a few hours before we drove up to Poudre High School in Fort Collins to watch Faith’s volleyball game. She didn’t get much play time on varsity, but when she was out there, she was awesome.

Winding Down

MikesBoat

Mike, one of the “techs” here has been at the hatchery for 20 years and grew up in the area. A great guy that we enjoyed getting to know. Loves to fish. Missed the chance to go out on his $150k boat, but dropped by the waterfront in Ilwaco, Wa to see what it looked like. Pretty nice fishing boat!

Jessies.Ilwaco.WA

We also enjoyed the Saturday market along the waterfront docks while in Llwaco, stopping by Jessie’s for some fresh tuna. They didn’t have any!! However, got some great halibut. The other fish markets didn’t have tuna either. Lots of tuna fishing boats, but weather has been holding them back.

Connie.boat.dock

Across Young’s Bay from Astoria is Warrenton where we shop at Fred Meyer’s (King Soopers affiliate for our Colorado friends). A very nice store. We must travel 40 miles to Longview, WA to find a Walmart. We stopped to check fishing boats for tuna in Warrenton. No luck there either.

Blackberries.behind.RV

We love having blackberries everywhere. Connie picks a few from directly behind our trailer.

neighbors.Julian.Julia.Isabel

Julian and Julia, along with Henry (not pictured) and Isabel, live right across our grassy area. What delightful neighbors. Welcomed us right away, and even let us bootleg from their Wifi. We’ve enjoyed all the kids in the neighborhood of 6 tech houses.

OregonGiftQuilting

Connie stays busy on her Bernina. A real blessing when wanting a little something to give back for all the generosity shown to us from the techs and their families. Check Connie’s Stuff to see her other quilts and notes.

AwningAnchors

The bucket of rocks awning anchor worked out so well, we got a couple Camco anchor sets. They have worked out great. Haven’t had to roll in the awnings because of wind since using awning anchors. We changed our menu on the main blog page a bit, adding Mod/Repairs to track some of the little modifications we’re doing, along with some repair issues.

We’re on our last week here at Big Creek. Sister Cheri will be here to spend it with us. We’ll drop her off at the Portland Airport as we say goodbye here and head toward Gillette, Wyoming to spend a few days with daughter Kari and other family there.

Big Creek has been a marvelous summer for us!

Fantastic Oregon Summer

Ed-hammerDrill

We continue to work around the hatchery. We try to get all the mowing…and there’s a lot…done on Thursday and Friday, but keep busy at other times too. Here Ed is using a hammer drill to insert concrete anchor bolts into the steps to secure a handrail.

Connie-Mulching

We’re trying to use all the mulch dumped for us earlier. Connie flexes her muscles loading and unloading the Gator. She has made a huge difference in all the landscaping around here.

Connie-Weeding.on.River

Connie hates weeds and sometimes finds them in hard to reach places.

Chinook-inBigCreek

Just below the area where Connie is pulling weeds, and just below the weir, is this pool of Spring Chinook (King Salmon), 10-15 pound range. These salmon are “lost.” Believed to have taken a wrong turn (probably following a Garmin eh Cliff?) or mistakenly came up Big Creek to spawn. So they just wander in this pool, can’t go up any farther upstream and not in their nature to go back.

NoFishingSign

We see anglers up and down the creek and not many catching fish, or only one or two. The “lost” salmon are just beyond this closed sign. Go figure.

Henry-Isabel-onTractor

There are six homes on our neighborhood street, the hatchery road. Hatchery techs and the manager live here, and most have children; ranging from toddler to 12 years old. Having the kids around playing in the street (rarely has traffic) give us joy and we’re getting to know them. Our next door neighbor, Julian and Julia have two children that we see most often. Here is Henry and is little sister Isabel. Grandpa just got them this contraption from an antique store.

AwningAnchors

We don’t get a lot of wind here, but an occasional gust causes concern with the awnings flapping around. If the wind catches them just right, we’d have more damage to contend with. Ed hung a couple buckets of rocks using bungee cords to the awning arms which seems to help.

Clatskanie.FarmersMkt

Hard to believe that the nearest Walmart is 40 miles away in Longview, Washington. We do need our Walmart fix now and then and the drive is actually quite nice. Highway 30 takes us through Clatskanie, Oregon. We made the Walmart trip Saturday July 23 and stopped at the Clatskanie Farmers Market on the way back. A fun day.

DewberryCrisp

Remember the dewberries we posted that we picked in our last post? Connie made a delicious dewberry crisp. We don’t eat desserts much, but had to indulge in this tasty treat. Locals like the dewberries better than the blackberries. Dewberries are like blackberries, but a lot smaller, ripen a month or so earlier, and are much harder to locate and pick. We are surrounded by blackberries. They are everywhere. Connie’s next project is Blackberry Jam. Yeah!

FortGeorgePulledPork

Living in Oregon calls out to visit a local brewery whenever you get the chance. We love Astoria’s Fort George Brewery. Stopped in for a Vortex IPA and a pulled pork sandwich(?) after one of our adventures to town. We ordered the pulled pork on chips instead of a bun. Quite interesting.

HaystackRock

The hatchery asks us to work 20 hours a week each in exchange for living in this beautiful park like setting with full hooks-ups for our trailer. They even provide us with a cute little shed with a washer and dryer. Everyone is super and seem to love having us here. Our normal schedule of working around the hatchery is 7:30am to 11:30am. We often go over that a little, but it leaves us with ample time to explore Oregon. Especially when it doesn’t get dark until 9pm or so.

So Thursday July 21 we traveled about 45 minutes down highway 101 to Cannon Beach. What a delightful little town, albeit a tourist draw. They are well known for “Haystack Rock” (picture above). Can you guess why?

Connie-CannonBeach Ed-CannonBeach

Enjoyed walking on the beach. Even got a little sand between our toes.

CenterDiamond

Other than exploring this quaint little seaside town, we had two primary goals. Those that know us can imagine what they were. One was to find the quilt store. Connie loved the Center Diamond Quilt Store and…of course, bought another “Row by Row” for her ongoing collection.

CannonBeach-street

PelicanTaps

And we both loved the Pelican Brewery. Shown in the forefront of the street picture above. Several taps available. We tuned in to their Umbrella IPA (the green label on the left tap).

BowPicker

July 28 – Drove in to Astoria again for Astoria’s downtown Farmers Market setup on Thursdays. Click here for our earlier posting about the market. It was also time to visit Zac at the Astoria Brewery again. Zac is fantastic and hugs, sounds, and resembles our nephew Marshall. Connie tried a 10oz glass of their stout and liked it, and Ed stuck with the Ichiban IPA.

We always pass the Bow Picker Fish and Chips boat as we travel to/from Astoria. There is always a long line. Except this Thursday, so we had to try in out. A little pricey, $9 for 3 pieces of fish and some fries, but…the fish is tuna and absolutely great. Worth the $9. And they are very friendly.

Gull-on-truck

So friendly even the sea gull says hello as we enjoy our fish and chips. Probably waiting for someone to leave a morsel for him?

Big Creek Grounds Keeping and Trailer Maintenance

Ed.mowing

Because the hatchery is in more of a maintenance mode during the summer months, they like us to keep the grounds looking nice for visitors and anglers. Lots and lots of mowing. It seems it takes a full week to get it all done, then its ready to start over. No one likes the little Cadet Zero-turn, including Ed, but no grass clippings to dump

Connie-JD-clean

Connie loves the John Deere mower and takes very good care of it, but Ed notes that she makes a quite a mess when she cleans it by blowing grass off with an air hose. He complains about having to strap on the big blower to clean up her mess. We enjoy teasing each other about that.

Ed.spraying

We do have several other grounds keeping chores to do other than mowing. For example, Ed spent a some time spraying weeds. Connie has spread several loads of mulch (a load it just the bed of a John Deere Gator utility vehicle).

Ed-trailerWash Connie-trailerWash

Saturday July 17 we tackled washing our trailer. As usual, it was a rather cool day in the mid 60s. But we started around 12:30pm and it turned out to be a great afternoon for getting the job done. Our site worked well as a wash bay. Connie got under the slides and tackled the windows.

Waxed.Trailer

We didn’t think we would have the energy for the waxing job, but after an hour break, and a little refreshment, we started the project. Connie waxed the bottom, and Ed waxed all above where she couldn’t reach. We finished around 6:30pm and were very pooped. Can you see it shine?

Some folks think are trailer is small to live in full time, but it actually has a lot of space: Full kitchen, breakfast nook, sewing suite, spare bedroom, dining room, theater, laundry room , full bath, master bedroom, and a study. They can’t all be used a the same time, however 🙂

LogRdviewColumbia Ed.top.logRd

Back to work the week of July 18. Our hatchery work hours are generally 7:30am till 11:30am so we have time to explore in the afternoon. Tuesday afternoon we ventured a couple miles up a logging road behind the hatchery to find some dewberries to pick, and to catch the view one of the Techs told us about. Spectacular view of the Columbia River valley, and if looking hard enough, we could see where it runs into the Pacific. By the way, we did pick enough of the delicious dewberries for Connie to make a crisp and provide a special treat for Ed’s morning cereal.

Seeing the fireweed in the area brings back fond memories of our time in Alaska last summer.

Exploring Astoria Area

Con-Faith-FortClatsop Faith-JrRanger

Sunday, July 3rd – Took Faith to the Lewis & Clark Historic National Park where she toured Fort Clatsop. Along the trip she completed a Junior Ranger questionnaire and was sworn in as an official Junior Ranger. Her certificate is invalid, however, she gave her name as Melina  Meade. First and last names of two celebrates she likes.

We all found the history of Lewis and Clark’s journey fascinating; learning that Fort Clatsop is where they spent the winter of 1805/1806. It rained nearly everyday.

July4th-Sunset

 July 4th – Waiting by Columbia River docks in Astoria for the fireworks.

July4th-cold

Still waiting…reminded that you don’t have to go to the mountains to escape the heat! A cool night on the river.

July4th-fireworks

Finally! Enjoyed a wonderful display to celebrate our Independence. We got home late and have an early day tomorrow. But a great time to spend with our grand daughter.

TidePools-Ed_Faith.Starfish

 

July 5th – Coming back late from fireworks, then having to be on the road again by 6am didn’t set well with Faith, but she was able to sleep on the way to see the tide pools near Seaside, Oregon. The goal was to be at Ecola State park by 6:45am, an hour before low tide. Otherwise the tidepool critters  would be covered with sea water. Here, Faith and Grandpa observe one of the many starfish clinging to the rocks.

TidePools-hidingCrab TidePools-starfish TidePools-anemones TidePools-lost.crab

 We saw many anemones. They close up when not in water, but blossom when in a pool. The first picture is a sand crab (I think) trying to hide, and the bottom picture is a Dungeness crab that must be lost. Connie picked up a discarded shell in the sand…she thought it was discarded, but it was a live crab! Faith said she enjoyed the trip very much and it was really worth getting up early. But Ed and Connie had to put in a few hours at the hatchery when we got back. Realizing our age more now days.

Wednesday July 7th – We made another round trip to the Portland Airport to get Faith headed back to Colorado. She enjoyed her stay, but we’re sure she’s be happy to be back home.

FarmersMarket

Thursday July 8th – Made another 17 mile trip in to Astoria. This time to check out the Thursday afternoon Farmer’s Market. Another cool day (we’ve been in the mid 60’s) and somewhat small, but Connie purchased a beautiful head of cabbage, and got a recipe for fried cabbage that we both like. In addition, we stopped at Homespun Quilt, the Bernina Store, for another “Row by Row”,  and met Zac at the Astoria Brewery. Zac poured our beer and told us about his paintings. He reminds us so much of nephew Marshall. Another bearded bear.

Later, we enjoyed another beer with our dinner at the Buoy Brewery and restaurant. We found that we could google the name on a ship anchored in the bay and learn about their cargo, home country, and much more.

Astoria-SunMkt

Sunday July 10th – Back to Astoria. This time to check out the Astoria Sunday Market. Wow! About three blocks worth of all sorts of stuff. Mostly crafty and innovative, but there were a few stands with produce and fruit. We, of course, had to visit Zac again. He filled our 64oz growler with their Ichiban IPA for $10. Very good.

ClipTrailer

Meanwhile, back at Big Creek Hatchery. Ed and Connie continue with their chores. Mostly mowing and landscaping. But this semi trailer came in over the weekend, so we’re learning about how the small hatchery fish have a fin clipped to identify it as a hatchery fish when it grows to be 20 plus pounds.

ClipTrailer.inside

Inside the clipping trailer is quite impressive with all the fish clipping automated machinery and computers.

Clip Trailer-start

The fish start their journey by being hand dipped out of hatchery ponds just outside the trailer. They are poured into a large basin, a little smaller than a bathtub, the sucked through this blue hose (see the fish in the hose?), which begins the process. The fish are distributed to the clipping step through the white tubes (see the previous) picture and on to the clipping machines.

Clip Trailer-process Clip Trailer-handclip

Any overflow, or fish missing the machine clippers, wind up being hand processed by the two employees at the rear of the trailer. What a tedious task. This trailer will count and clip all the Steelhead at the hatchery. Over 100,000! After their ordeal, they are discharged though the large blue hose at the back of the trailer (5 pictures earlier).

 

 

Work and Play

sweeping-pond

The summer months is maintenance time here at Big Creek Hatchery. Only 9 of the 30 ponds are being used. Five ponds hold fingerling Spring Chinook salmon, also called King salmon.  They will be released in November. Three ponds of Coho (Silver) salmon fingerlings, and one pond with fingerling Steelhead. Over a million fish total. They produce a lot of poop, so Ross and Mike are sweeping it out.

mowing-connie1 mowing-connie2 mowing-connie3

We have our share of maintenance too. Couldn’t decide which picture to post of Connie on the John Deere so here are all three. She loves mowing…except emptying the grass catcher! Ed used the Cadet Zero Turn and did his share of mowing. We’re asked to put in 20 hours each in exchange for living in this beautiful place with full hookups. Everyone is very friendly and we enjoy the work.

creek-girls

Grand daughter Faith is visiting the week of June 29 through July 6. She loves it here and enjoys exploring the area. Only fell in the creek behind our house once and couldn’t wait to show us where. Grandma loves having her around. Grandpa too of course.

WetDog

The 17 mile trip in to Astoria seems to get shorter as we run in often. We love Fort George Brewery and the Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery. Nice view of the Columbia river from the Wet Dog table.

zipline-faith zipline-connie

Faith and Connie found the High Life Adventures Zip Line a fantastic way to spend 3 hours on Friday afternoon (July 1). The zip line, Fred Meyer (alias King Soopers, Smiths, Frys, City Market, etc), Home Depot, and a variety of other well known stores are located in Warrenton, just across Youngs Bay from Astoria. Astoria is great, but more tourist centered. Ed passed on the zip line and visited the Fort George for a Vortex IPA instead. Saved $ to boot.

picking-berries

Saturday (July 2) was a great laid back day, but we did venture up Big Creek to seek out what berries we could find. We are surrounded by the native blackberries, but they need to be on the bush a little longer, so looking for some that might be ready now. We found some wild raspberries and native blackberries (dewberries) to pick. Delicious. A fun outing, but Faith didn’t care much for the spiders, so her picking was limited.

Finally! Back in our Home

Faiths14-selfie

Yes, we now have both our truck and trailer back! We did enjoy our extended time hanging around Colorado waiting for repairs. We met some family at Waffle Brothers restaurant in Denver for Fathers Day combined with celebrating Faith’s 14th birthday. Left to right is Faith (taking the selfie), Faith’s grandfather Jon, son-in-law Tim, daughter Shannon, Ed, and Connie.

WalMart-RockSprings

Picked up our trailer from Lazy Days RV in Johnstown Tuesday (June 21, 2016); stopped by Cheri’s to load our stuff. Got on the road to Oregon at 6pm, making it to the Rock Springs Walmart about 11pm (it was a little cooler by then). Good start Wednesday morning (took this picture) to continue our journey.

Browning-MorganUT

Our friends, Cliff and Cyndy, advised that a stop at the Browning Arms outlet in Morgan, Utah was a must. It is just off the I84 in route to Layton. Some pretty good prices, but only bought a ball hat for $5.99.

Mustians-Layton

Pulled in to Layton around 10:30am where we had a great place to park in front of Tom & Dava Mustian’s home. They were gracious enough to allow us to steal a little power so we could charge our trailer batteries. Had a great visit with them and went out to eat at Cafe Sabor (Mexican) by the Layton Train Station. Very good.

ColumbiaRiber-I84

After a restful night (quite hot) we got back on the road about 9:30am Thursday, stopping overnight at another Walmart in La Grande, Oregon. Friday was our final leg to Big Creek. We enjoyed the scenery along I84, traveling alongside the Columbia River.

BigCreek-ourSpot

BigCreek-ourSpot-side

Finally arrived and got set up at the hatchery. Greeted by Dustin, Mike and Travis who made us feel very welcome at our new summer spot. The little green shed is ours to use. It’s equipped with a washer, dryer, and deep sink. Nice to have the extra out-of-the-weather storage too.

BigCreek-ponds BigCreek-miniFalls

The hatchery is just down the hill a short walk from us. Big Creek runs through the hatchery and down behind where we are parked. Nice hear the rippling water sound from our trailer.

Astoria-trolleyBobAnn Astoria-trolley

We met up with some friends in Astoria on Saturday. We met Bob and Ann Caraway while serving as volunteer hosts at Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, Texas. They were vacationing in the area. We all took a fun in-town trip on the Astoria Trolley along the water front, stopping at the Wet Dog cafe & brewery for a late Lunch. Gotta get some sun on those legs!

Sew-Bee-It

Most everyone knows that Connie loves to quilt. She is now enjoying a new Row by Row challenge. Click HERE to go to Connie’s quilting page.

Summer Foiled!!

Verboten

After returning from Wyoming, we had a great month in Loveland and around Denver. Enjoyed being around so many breweries that entice a visit. Verboten (Forbidden in German) in downtown Loveland for one. Cheri and Ella (Cheri’s dog) even joined us for a quick one on their patio.

Alehouse

We succumbed to the Aleworks, also in downtown Loveland, where Cheri joined us again. Not traditionally a beer drinker. Must like the company.

WibbyBeer

Had to include a quick stop at the new Wibby Brewery while we were in Longmont. Wibby took advantage of a former Turkey Plant facility, which is directly across the street from the razed Turkey Plant. They specialize in Lagers, so had to try their IPL (India Pale Lager).

FaithsGraduation

Our time here was complete with watching our lovely Grand Daughter Faith graduate from the 8th grade. She now goes on to Lakewood High School on a new adventure.

BerthoudPass.Summit

Brian-Angies-Place

Left Loveland RV Resort (our home base since March 30) Friday May 27 to Snow Mountain Ranch near Granby. Stopped a moment to snap a picture on Berthoud Pass Summit, then on to Fraser. Spent Friday night in Brian and Angie’s driveway. We enjoyed seeing all that they had done to their home since the last time we visited. Great Hosts! Fed us Elk for dinner and a wonderful egg dish Saturday morning.

steep incline to spot

Then on Saturday May 28 our SUMMER WAS FOILED! Arrived at Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA) around 2:00pm. Our site reservation was site #29. Judging from the steep hill and having to swing out so wide to make the 90° turn into the site, we should have declined and asked for another site.

Campground.drive-depession1

Curbside1

Doorside1

As we were making the turn, the door side trailer wheels fell into a depression in the entrance and tilted the trailer just enough to pop the trailer king pink our of the hitch…and off it came!!

Thanks to our friend Cliff and his truck, we finally did get parked, but not without tragedy.

The hitch and kingpin look okay, so will try to pull it back to Loveland on Monday (Memorial Day), then get the insurance bids started.

Dave.Christine.Wedding

Why Snow Mountain? David, our family friend’s son  was getting married to Christine. They had a very nice wedding at Snow Mountain Ranch with a beautiful backdrop. The ceremony was Saturday but their friends are active people, so many came up for the weekend to spend time together with the Bride and Groom; joining together for meals and outdoor games. The weather, which can be moment-to-moment in the mountains, held out well.

Trip to Wyoming

Wyo-Welcome.sign Wyo.VisitorCenter3 Wyo.VisitorCenter2 Wyo.VisitorCenter1

We left Loveland Thursday April 14 for our 5 hour trip to see family in Gillette, Wyoming. Crossing the state line on I25, just south of Cheyenne the Welcome to Wyoming sign greets visitors. Just a few miles past the sign is the new Curt Gowdy Visitor Center. Named after the famous sportsman from Wyoming. A worthwhile stop when traveling the route.

ParkedatHouse

We had a beautiful day to travel on Thursday and got settled in next to Kari (daughter) and Edward’s new home in Gillette. They made sure their new home had a spot for us to park, complete with a 50amp RV receptacle. By Friday, the weather started turning more winter than summer, getting down to freezing a couple times and spitting snow/rain mix most of the time here. It was supposed to be nice for our return trip Thursday, April 21.

FamilyDinner-Garage2 FamilyDinner-Garage1

Edward takes A LOT of pride in their new 6+ car garage and keeps it pristine enough to host family gatherings. They hosted a family BBQ Saturday. The first picture is looking west toward the back of the deep 2-car section. The second picture is looking east. Note the TV on both walls. Surround sound speakers built in to the ceiling, and painted floor. The brown door is the entrance to a restroom. How convenient!

Brittani-Garth-Blakelee

Granddaughter Brittani & husband Garth with our 2-year-old great granddaughter Blakelee. Blakelee is a lot of fun and keeps everyone in a good mood. Most of the time.

Shelby.Kari.Edward

Son Shelby lives in Gillette too, pictured here with Kari and Edward. Notice the refrigerator, microwave and wine chiller in the background. Also the entrance to the restroom. And this is a “garage?”

Hagen.Blakelee.garage

Grandson Hagen playing with Blakelee. Also a view of the south section of the garage. LOOK! There is really a car in the garage!

Leanna.Hagan.Blakelee

Grandson Hagen with girlfriend Leanna, with Blakelee checking in out.

Lil'RednMr.Big

Connie finished Lil’ Red and Mr. Big doll ensemble to give to Blakelee. Blakelee wasn’t all that interested at first, but was clinging to it the next day.

FaithsVB042416

Returned to our spot at Loveland RV Resort on Thursday April 21. We spend Sunday April 24…yes all day…at Norco in Windsor. Norco is volleyball central where many of the CSU (Colorado State University) players have their roots.  Granddaughter Faith participates in club volleyball (Sudden Impact). She is inherently smaller than the other players in her age group, which makes her a great candidate for the “Libero” slot (the one in the white jersey). She is very good! Other than a lot of down time, it was a lot of fun watching the games.

Laying back in Loveland, CO

Parked@Cheris

Just a short post here to update our status. We left Saint Vrain State Park Friday, March 25 and parked on the curb in front of Cheri’s in Loveland. Thankfully, the city didn’t come by and run us off, and the neighbors seemed quite understanding. Our plans were to head up to Gillette, Wyoming on Tuesday March 29 to visit family, but plans had to change: Stormy weather was a factor, and daughter Kari and husband Edward (Wales) came down from Gillette.

Kari-Ahschutz-w-quilt

Friday (April 1…but no April Fool here), we took Kari the quilt Connie made for her. She wasn’t able to see it because she couldn’t open her eyes as she’d get nauseous…and she was in a lot of pain. But Saturday morning she texted this picture, saying she loves her new quilt. Kari will stay at the CU Cancer Center hospital, with 1/2″ tubes attached to her lungs that will ensure full drainage. We’re praying that the procedure will be fully effective and they’ll be able to head back to their new Gillette home by Monday (April 4).

Kari-Ahschutz

Kari has been battling breast cancer for the past 12 years. For the past couple years she has had to have her lungs drained (thoracentesis), over 2 liters at times. A rather painful experience. This trip was necessary for her to visit with Doctor Virginia Borges, a cancer research doctor at the University of Colorado Cancer Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus.  Dr. Borges is putting her on another chemo drug to start in a couple weeks. At Dr Borges’ recommendation, she had a procedure (pleurodesis) to line her lungs that will, hopefully, allow drainage, and prevent a need for future thoracentesis drainings. The surgery was Friday morning and she was in a lot of pain later through the day, but got through the night and was well enough Saturday to give a smile. She is an awesome trooper in her battle.

Loveland RV-spot213

We had moved from the street to Loveland RV Resort near I25 in Loveland. Great site with Wifi and just a walk across the street to the Marketplace at Centerra Shopping Center. Wow! Starbucks, JoAnns Fabrics, Panera Bread, Sportsman’s Warehouse and many more.  We’ll stay here until we leave for Big Creek Fish Hatchery near Astoria, Oregon for June, July, and August.

Last Day at St Vrain State Park

StVrain.Blizzard

While the 5″ of snow that fell soon after we arrived at St. Vrain State Park melted rather quickly, and our heat tape on the water hose worked well, we are now survivors of the historic March 23, 2016 blizzard! It dumped another foot plus of snow, horizontally, as the penetrating winds howled. We felt blessed as we were able to comfortably hunker down and watch it all out the window.

StVrain-snow.scene StVrain-Pelicans

It warmed up into the 40’s Thursday, the day after the blizzard, which created some picturesque scenes for Connie to snap with her new camera. She took these from our parking spot. We saw many Blue Heron’s as well as these Pelicans.

Friday, March 25, 2016: So we leave St Vrain SP, dreading pulling the trailer through the mud and slush left from the blizzard, and head up I25 about 30 miles to Cheri’s (Connie’s sister) in Loveland. We’ll park in the street in front of her house, hoping that the city won’t notice the short 5 days we’ll be there before heading north to Gillette, WY.

Back in Colorado

StVrainSnow031816

After several great spring like days, it has turned back to winter in Colorado! A freezing reminder on why we’ve been going south in the winter months. BUT…Easter came early this year and we wanted to be back with family. All is well here at Saint Vrain State Park. We’re huddled in our cozy Mobile Suites staying warm. It snowed about 5″ last night. The temperature is supposed to get down in the mid teens tonight, Friday 3/18/2016. Hoping our heat tape continues to keep our water flowing. We’re here through Thursday March 24 when we head over to Loveland for Easter, then up to Gillette, Wyoming to see more family. Praying for less winter by that time.

VisitorCenterFlood

Seems we left Louisiana just in time, avoiding all the flooding. Our friends, Cliff and Cyndy, are still there and keep us posted via their blog. Check it out for more pictures of the flooding.

DakotaRidgeArriving Thursday March 9, 2016 in Colorado, our first stop was parking our 5th wheel at Dakota Ridge RV Park in Golden . We had a great trip from Elk City, stopping Wednesday night at the Trinidad Walmart store, a regular overnight stop when passing through southern Colorado.

Faith-Grandpa-MountainToad

Connie took grand daughter Faith to her orthodontist on Friday to have her braces removed. We drove to Golden afterward to walk around town. Faith got an ice cream cone, then we walked up the street to the Mountain Toad Brewery. Faith is very happy showing a big smile without her braces.

Connie@Auction

After helping Shannon setup for Faith’s confirmation event, we enjoyed going to St. John’s Lutheran School fund raiser auction,  “Men Who Cook” in downtown Denver on Saturday March 12. Wine tasting and food samples from various restaurants around Denver. Connie tries the Dill Pickle Vodka. Ed refrained!

Faith&Mollie

Sunday, March 13, we attended St. John’s Lutheran in Wash Park for Grand daughter Faith’s confirmation. Her mother, our daughter Shannon, worked hard on setting up a very nice reception afterward; with a great Etouffe over rice dish. Faith’s good friend, and volleyball team member, Molly, joined us at the event.

Good Bye Louisiana…Hello Colorado

Connie-SewingOther than not having to shovel snow, serving here at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge has allowed plenty of time for sewing. Connie and Cyndy enjoy going to sew days at the Quilt-n-stitch in Monroe on Wednesdays.

BackView

Red-tailed_Hawk_with_moon_over_Estero_Bay_CA_-_composition_red-tail-moon-composite-2630s_(323660913)[1] 24b035f4ed38077e0fbdb74cb40d0a7c[1]eablphoto[1]

We’re blessed with a view of the Bayou DeSiard (locals pronounce it like “brassiere” with a “D”). Connie smeared some peanut butter on a pine cone, then rolled it in bird seed. We hung it from a limb we could view out our back window and enjoyed seeing a variety of birds as we eat breakfast and while she is sewing. Just some of the birds out our window are: Red breasted Hawk, Cardinal, and Eastern Bluebird.

Quilt-bedspread

Connie loves the birds and managed to complete our queen size “bird” quilt while enjoying watching the wild birds right outside the window.

ShopArea

While the view from the back of our trailer is quite pristine, the shop area is out the front. Not so breath taking, but close to the vehicles and where Ed spends a lot of time. The short commute is GREAT! The large metal shop in the background has been constructed while we’ve been here. It’s almost finished. Cliff will get to enjoy helping move all the Fish and Wildlife Services’ stuff in to the new building. It is quite state-of-the art. The project manager told use the entire shop’s indoor lighting (quite bright) is only 8 watts!

We depart our home at Black Bayou Monday February 29. We’ll stop that night at a Walmart around Longview, Texas. We’ll be on our way to Stephenville, Texas on Tuesday to spend a few days with Ed’s sister Alice and family.

FaithsConfirmaiton

The plan is to travel from Stephenville to Elk City, Oklahoma on Saturday March 5 in order to have a little maintenance done on the trailer. Then off to Colorado on Wednesday March 9. A crummy time to leave the south for more wintry weather, but we want to be back for grand daughter Faith’s confirmation and 8th grade graduation. We can endure the weather 😉

Life on…and off… the Bayou

BLACK BAYOU LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Ed-PowerWashing

While the temps have dipped down to freezing a few times, many days warm up quite nicely. We take advantage of the warm days to get some outside work done. Ed and Cliff did a power wash job on the kiosk in prep for painting…and

Connie.signPainting

Connie found a couple more sign structures to paint…

Connie-paintingGates

Even found some gates to paint. We painted gates “safety red” in Alaska, but John Deere green? They do look nice.

Ag-Expo

Friday January 15 – we took our tour of duty at Monroe’s Ag Expo where we manned a table with refuge information. The table included a butterfly display as they relate to plants they are attracted to;  a snake skin, turtle shells, alligator head, and brochures to encourage folks to visit the refuge. During slow times, it was fun browsing the other displays from huge John Deere tractors to baby chicks. Connie spent a little time at the Landry wine table 🙂 

flagpole

 

Ed’s been doing some electrical/lighting repair around the refuge. Including several fixtures, the flag pole light, and making a spreadsheet for circuit breakers identification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vicksburg-CanonsOther than working at the refuge, we’ve enjoyed our side trips with Cliff and Cyndy. On Tuesday January 19, 2016 we traveled the 100 miles east on I20 to Vicksburg, Mississippi; just across the mighty Mississippi River, the state line. Driving the self tour of the 1863 Vicksburg Civil War battlefield was awe-inspiring. Incredibly, over 10,000 Union, and 9,000 Confederate soldiers died here.

Vicksburg-Wisconsin Memorial

Militias from the states in the battle have erected monuments to their fallen. Some quite elaborate.

Vicksburg-USS.Cairo

Our last stop on the battlefield was the USS Cairo. The original hull preserved here under a canopy. The Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These “ironclads” had thirteen big guns (cannons). The Union planned to use them along the lower Mississippi River to split the Confederacy in two.

Fairbanks

Between working and our side trips, we took a drive around some roads near Black Bayou. We discovered Fairbanks! The name certainly reminded us of last summer and the great time we spent in Alaska. But, of course, this Fairbanks, does not compare.

Natchez-MississippiBridge

On Thursday February 4, 2016, the Mills rode with us for another 100 mile trip to Natchez, Mississippi. With the river being a major transport waterway, Natchez has lots and lots of history; including the beginning of the Natchez Trace, and the cotton industry.

Natchez-Mississippi-north

The Mississippi River has an enormous history, especially in the nineteenth century where is was the main transportation trade route. A main reason the Union needed to seize river access at Vicksburg during the civil war.

Natchez-Antebellum-Rosalie Natchez-Antebellum-Rosalie-Dunleith Natchez-Antebellum-StantonHall Natchez-Antebellum-Rosalie1

Following the tour map we got at the Natchez visitor center, we saw many Antebellum era homes; some referred to as mansions, and some as a hall. The antebellum homes above are: Auburn Home, Dunleith Mansion, Stanton Hall, and the Rosalie Mansion.

 

 

Hello Louisiana and 2016

BlueBeaconWash

Pulled out of Brazos Bend mid-morning on New Years Eve, heading to Black Bayou (not Bijou as mis-spelled in previous post) National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Stopped at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Baytown, TX and lined up with all the trucks to get a much needed bath.

EntranceSign

For our New Years Eve fun, we parked in the Walmart parking lot in Alexandria, LA, otherwise would have had to set up at our new digs in the dark. Alexandria is only about 100 miles from Monroe. We watched a movie for our celebration and got to bed somewhat early. Arrived at Black Bayou on New Years Day.

OurSpot

Other than having to run our drain hose across our patio and needing 100′ of hose for our water connection, our new spot is quite nice. The price is great too. The refuge allows us to stay at no cost in exchange for volunteering a few hours a week. We back up to Bayou DeSiard (pronouced like brassiere with a “D”).

FrostyMorning

Haven’t had to shovel any snow, but we have had a couple nights that dipped down around 28º. Windshields tend to frost over even when the temperature is more moderate. However days can be much warmer with tee shirt temps.

BBNWR.VisitorCenter LearningCenter

Black Bayou refuge, established in 1997, consists of 4,500 acres of former cotton fields, including the 1500 acre Black Bayou lake. The lake is owned by the city of Monroe which leases it to the refuge on a 99 year agreement. It is the city’s secondary water source. The area is located in Ouachita Parish. Ouachita (pronounced WASH-ah-taw) derived from an indian tribe that lived in the area when it was first settled. And parish is what most other states call counties.

The Visitor Center, an 1880’s planter’s house, restored in 2004.

The Conservation Learning Center includes the Aquarium Room with live exhibits of native fishes, reptiles and amphibians; and the Discovery Room with six learning stations. Members of Friends of Black Bayou, Inc., a refuge support group, were instrumental in establishing and restoring these facilities and provide thousands of hours of services for the refuge.

Boardwalk

The boardwalk stretches out over the lake for a view of a variety of bird species, along with the cypress and tupelo trees in the lake. Fewer birds this time of year, and the alligators do not show themselves like they do in warmer weather.

Connie.Painting.Sign FishTankCleaning

Ed-sign.repair

In addition to enjoying the refuge and surroundings, we enjoy contributing as well. Connie painted a second coat on the steel ceiling joists in our club house (more on that later) and is back painting signs again (she painted signs while in Brazos Bend). Ed worked with Cliff cleaning the algae off the inside aquarium glass at the Learning Center and is working on sign repair.

CenturyLink

It’s only about 4 miles in to Monroe on US highway 165. Along the way we pass CenturyLink’s Corporate Headquarters. Very impressive campus. Both of us use to work for US West, which was bought out by Qwest, then later CenturyLink. Son Shelby is an outside plant engineer in Gillette for CenturyLink. So being close to the headquarters has some special meaning.

Also nearby is the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Nice campus. Cool mascot…Warhawks!

We have several places on our list to see while we’re here, including the Duck Dynasty facility. No breweries around, so will have enjoy the many other things in the area.

Goodbye Brazos Bend and 2015

ConniePainting

The painting girl! This girl found her niche at Brazos Bend. With a little help from Marva, and part time help from Mike, painted the Assistant Superintendent’s entire house, and most of the headquarters building. Not to mention a few signs. Loves to paint and meeting a new friend helped too.

LiftStationFence

Ed and Cliff had an opportunity to work together on rebuilding one of six enclosures around a lift station. Looks simple, but really took some on-the-spot ingenuity. Consequently, with our short time left at the park, decided not to start on enclosure number two. All and all it was a fun experience to share.

KarbachBrewery KarbachRodeoClown withMills.at.Karbach

Tuesday December 29, decided we would spend our last opportunity in the area to check out Karbach Brewery. Karbach distributes several beers in Texas. Ed was anxious to try their Rodeo Clown Double IPA. Connie tried one of their bourbon casked porters. Loved it. There was no root beer for Cliff and no wine for Cyndy, but they did enjoy the outing and meal.

Wednesday December 30, Packing up today for our departure for Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge tomorrow. Will make the 390 miles a two day trip, stopping at a Walmart for the night in route. So will begin our new 2016 year in Louisiana. Happy New Year.

Seeing some sights

Galveston.Map
Wednesday November 18, the four of us (Ed, Connie, Cliff & Cyndy) took a day trip from Brazos Bend SP to Galveston Island. Cliff & Cyndy are Colorado friends that we volunteered with in Alaska,  and will be together again at Black Bayou NWR in Louisiana.

The map is from the internet, but gives a good picture of our travels. The red arrow points to Brazona NWR, which has no bearing on our trip ;-). However, you can see Brazos Bend State Park on the map. We traveled down FM (Farm to Market) roads to Lake Jackson. A nice town where the girls got a tip (Ann Caraway) about Calico Cats quilt store.Then over to Surfside Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

Galveston.trip Galveston.trip.houseFrom Surfside Beach we drove down the Bluewater Highway over the toll bridge and along the peninsula to the city of Galveston. We were amazed seeing all the homes on stilts along the route.

Galveston.hurricane The reason for stilts became a lot clearer after learning more about the devastating 1900 hurricane that virtually wiped out Galveston. The stilts won’t help in 150 MPH winds, but these newer homes are hurricane resistant and the stilts help with high water from storms…and adds a little storage area underneath.

galveston-seawall-blvd2[1]We drove down the Galveston “Seawall” and enjoyed a little lunch/dinner at Miller’s on the Seawall Grill to celebrate Cliff’s birthday. Viewed the surfers and folks enjoying the beach. Could see tankers in the distance waiting to load or unload their oil. The Galveston Seawall was built after the 1900 Hurricane for protection from future hurricanes. Construction began in September, 1902, and the initial segment was completed on July 29, 1904

USS.TexasWednesday November 25, while Cyndy flew to Washington DC to visit her new grand daughter Clara, Cliff drove us to see the Battleship USS Texas historic site in La Porte, near Houston. We enjoyed roaming the decks of this beast and seeing the amazing 14″ guns. Surprised to learn it was first commissioned in 1914 and has gone through several refurbishings; serving in WWI and WWII.

SanJacintoMonumentRight off the bow of the USS Texas we could see the San Jacinto monument. It is slightly taller (567.31′) than the Washington Monument (+/- 555′), complete with reflecting pool. Leave it to the Texans. We walked through the battleground and visited the museum.

We have certainly heard of the Alamo, but San Jacinto holds a prominent place in Texas history during this time period. In the fall of 1835, Texas settlers were no longer happy with being citizens of Mexico. President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had established himself as dictator and the Texians resisted his rule. Armed rebels drove the Mexican army from Texas by December 1835.

In retaliation, General Santa Anna  marched 6,000 soldiers north to reclaim Texas. The Alamo fell on March 6, 1836; Texas troops at Goliad surrendered two weeks later.

Sam Houston and his troops surprised Santa Anna and his troops on April, 20. His 750 soldiers were eager, but outnumbered compared to Santa Anna’s 1,200 troops. They swarmed into the Mexican camp, shouting “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” declaring independence from Mexico. The Texians killed 600 plus Mexicans and captured most of the others. Santa Anna escaped, dressed as a private.

Texian troops captured him the next day, and brought him before the wounded General Houston. Houston forced the Mexican president to sign a treaty that would recognize Texas’ independence. The treaty also opened the gate for America’s westward expansion.

StArnold.bldgStArnold-areaArtCar

After visiting the historical sites, Cliff drove us through a little of downtown Houston, and over to the the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewer in Texas. Quite a place! Connie and Ed enjoyed an Art Car IPA on draft, while Cliff had a FREE root beer that they brew. The Art Car IPA name was inspired by the fleet of hand painted Art Cars created by local artists for Saint Arnold.
NASA.SpaceStation Friday, December 11. Cliff drove us all to NASA, where we boarded a tram train to the different sites. First was the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where NASA astronauts train for duty on the International Space Station.
NASA.MissionControl Next we viewed the familiar Mission Control room that we have seen in movies and news reports back when the Apollo voyages were being made. Located on the 2nd floor in Building 30 of the Johnson Space Center, where NASA monitored nine Gemini and all Apollo missions, including the historic Apollo 11 trip to the moon. The NASA team exercised full mission control of Apollo 11. The control room’s computer had a memory of 2MB in 1969,  less than the memory size of a  picture on your smart phone camera. Incredible! This control room served NASA till 1992 when the new control room was established downstairs. It had been updated through the years, but the older equipment saved, then returned to preserve it’s history.

NASA-boosterCliff and Ed walked the Saturn V Rockey Park display building. The Saturn V rocket transported  astronauts during the Apollo missions. over 36 stories tall, it is the most powerful rocket ever built. Rocket Park had large pictures and a history summary of all the Apollo missions. We were surprised to learn that there were actually 6 successful moon landings made by Apollo crews. Apollo 11 was the first. Remember the Tom Hanks 1995 Apollo 13 movie? They were supposed to land, but had to turn back because of a malfunction.

Benny-Bailey-ShannonWe got a text from Dan Benedict (Benny), Tim and Shannon’s friend   that now lives in Houston. Benny and his girlfriend Bailey thought they would come out to Brazos Bend for a visit. Little did we know that daughter Shannon had arranged an overnight flight to visit also. Saturday December 12, Shannon stowed away in the back of Benny’s hatchback, only to jump out shouting Merry Christmas when arriving at our site. A wonderful surprise. She spent the night and we took her to the airport Sunday night.

Life on the Brazos

EntranceWe arrived at Brazos Bend State Park on November 1, 2015 and will be here through the end of December when we move to our next location in Louisiana. The park consists of nearly 5,000 acres along the Brazos River near Needville, Texas. There is quite a mix of wildlife and plants with areas of coastal prairie, bottomland forest, and wetlands. The Park includes over 300 species of birds, white-tailed deer, armadillo, raccoon, gray squirrels, and the most unwanted feral hogs. American alligators are the most popular residents of the park

Our202SpotWe have a beautiful site in one of the two camping loops, with lots of room between sites.

40Acre.Path Ed.on.Trail Connie.on.trailThe park has over 35 miles of easy walking trails, much like this trail Connie is posing on. But…trekkers must keep a careful eye out for: fire ants, chiggers, poison ivy, venomous snakes; Copperhead, Cotton Mouth (water moccasin), Coral snake and Rattlesnakes. And a variety of non-venomous snakes. No worry though, the large Golden Silk spider and the somewhat smaller Gasteracantha spider are not harmful to humans. What a relief!

Look at those pigs! Well, these are some feral hogs that our friend Cliff snapped (with a camera or course) while we were taking a drive around the park. They are unwanted for sure and hunters can shoot as many as they want without a license. Very destructive of the environment, digging up ground as they root for bugs or anything to eat.

Alligator-side Alligator-mouth.openAnd of course there are American Alligators. These guys were laying out to capture a little sun. They almost look stuffed as they seem motionless. The mouth on the one above stayed open the entire time we were there. I mentioned to the folks with their little dog on a leash that he was just waiting for a puppy to come by.

buckThe park is closed for deer hunting the week of November 16. We see lots of whitetail around all the time, including around our site. Mostly does and fawns. This nice buck may not be around after the hunting week. State Parks are open to hunting as only 5 percent of Texas is public land.

Anhinga white.ibisThere are a ton of birds. The snake-necked water bird called an Anhinga was so fun to watch has he stretched his neck around. Hilarious actually. The White Ibis are strange looking with their long beaks.

Connie.Deer.Blind Connie-mowingThe park allows us to park at no cost with full hook-ups in exchange for some volunteer work around the park. Unlike other locations we’ve served, this is a large & active park. Close to Houston, it gets more visitors than any other Texas State Park. There are several sites for volunteers. Consequently we’re meeting lots of new folks.

Connie helps rig ups a hunter’s blind and does a little mowing. Ed is also involved in various projects. Its all interesting and allows us to enjoy the park in depth.

flyingSaucer-out flyingSaucer-insideWe are about 20 miles from the nearest major shopping in Rosenberg and Richmond. Sugar Land and Missouri City are a little further down the highway. We stopped at the Flying Saucer Beer Emporium with friends, and co-hosts, Cliff and Cyndy Mills for lunch and a beer…or wine…or root beer for Cliff.

Dripping Springs??

FrontBumperBefore leaving Cedar Park (suburb of Austin), we had a few things to get done to the truck, as well as visit downtown Austin. Long story, but had to take the truck to a Ranch Hand store to get a Legend grill guard to fit the dually…seems that the dually is a bit wider. Because of some misunderstanding, Truckfitters installed a FULL BUMPER LEGEND GUARD! They knocked of $500 so they wouldn’t have to redo everything. It appears that they would not be able to fit the regular Legend anyway, so we now have the full bumper guard…that isn’t quite wide enough, but does fit somewhat. We’ll be ready for the armadillos and deer now! No real worry on the armadillos. While in the area, we also added air bags for added control of our very heavy trailer. Just keep bleeding money as Shannon says.

MetroCommuter.Austin BangersPub-AustinWe rode the MetroCommuter from Cedar Park in to downtown Austin. Visited the historic 6th Street district, which reminded us of Denver’s Larimer Street back in the 80s. We stopped in at Bangers on Rainey Street for a brew (104 on tap) and a bite to eat. After walking all over the Austin area, Connie managed to meet her Fitbit goal.

JackProblemWe needed an AC hookup because our residential fridge needed some power…the inverter doesn’t handle more than a day in the heat. So Tuesday October 13, we moved from Walmart…3 miles down the road to Big Oaks RV Park. Found a nice shady spot with about 1/8″ between the door side slide and the 10″ limb. We held our breath as the slide came out.

When getting ready to pull out on Thursday, discovered the front jacks would not lower. The more we tried, they would only retract, eventually fully retracting. Consequently, our trailer took a bow. Glad the truck wasn’t under the hitch! After calling Level Up support to no avail, managed to find an RV repair guy to visit. After he spent an hour with support. The park manager (Roger) and I suggested adding a little hydraulic fluid would help. Duh! Problem solved! Soon, we were hooked up and heading to Dripping Springs (what a fun name for a town). Somtimes…okay, often…pronounced Drippin’ Sprins.

DrippingSpringsRanchPark
Thursday October 15 we accidentally (stopped in at the Dripping Springs Visitor Center) found the Dripping Springs Ranch Park (DSRP), about a mile out of town. We stayed here for 5 days, mostly in solitude. but over the weekend, twenty plus rigs showed up. Rigs that haul sheep and double as campers. Parents and kids had a show weekend at the ranch. A great place for such an event.

TwistedX-outside

Dripping Spring’s population is less that 2,000, but we found lots to fun things to do. We just happened (yeah right) to drive by the TwistedX brewery on our drive to the historic Salt Lick BBQ. Enjoyed their Chupahopra IPA before some great BBQ at the Salt Lick.

SongwritersSingingDripping Springs hosted an annual Songwriters Festival where songwriters performed at various venues around town. Actually, this historic part of town is less than a block long. We listened to Shawn Byrne, Jefferson Clay, and Havilah Tower sing their songs at the Mazama Coffee Company.They were all very good. Nice treat. We didn’t partake, but strange that several of the coffee places (not Starbucks) in Texas that we visited, also offer beer and wine!
Valli.and.Kim.quiltShopNext to breweries, we also seek out quilt and fabric places. Dripping Springs is no exception. Connie sought out some needed fabric at Valli & Kim’s while Ed enjoyed a walk over to the Barber Shop…no…not for a haircut, a beer on tap.SanSabaRVparkSignSanSabaRvAfter a wonderful 5 days in Dripping Springs, it was time to move on to San Saba; leaving Monday October 19, with an overnight stop at the Marble Falls (one of Ed’s favorite Texas towns) Walmart. Then off to the San Saba Golf Course RV Park. A great, quiet, and inexpensive place to stay with all the amenities we could want. Only about a mile from town. San Saba boasts it is the “Pecan Capital of the World”.

WeddingOak WeddingOak-plaqueThey take a lot of pride in town here. The RV park and golf course where we are is owned by the city, and they have several other nice parks and a quaint downtown area. Many of the old downtown buildings have been restored and are quite picturesque. One such building is the Wedding Oak Winery (tasting room), named after the historic Wedding Oak tree a few blocks from town. Another of our (Connie’s) favorite places is the San Saba Olive Oil Company.

Christine-Jerry@CoopersWe visited nearby (35 miles?) Colorado Bend State Park, our first assignment when we went full time a year ago. We met many fine folks while there, including Ranger Christine Clopton. We met her and her husband Jerry at the popular Coopers BBQ in Llano for supper. Pictured here with friend and Cooper employee, Mario. We view and select our cuts of BBQ off the grill (background); then they put it on a tray (yes, tray) to take inside to be weighed and wrapped…even if it is not to go. They give you butcher paper to use as a plate if eating there. Quite primitive, but good…and fun.

BridwellFamilyWe missed seeing the Colorado Bend’s Superintendent and his family on our earlier visit to the park, so they; Kelby, April, and Canyon Bridwell, joined us for dinner at “our house” on Tuesday October 27. It was fun catching up and seeing how much Canyon had grown.

Saturday, Halloween, we’ll be heading off toward Houston and our new assignment at Brazos Bend State Park. Will have to get back into the job mode, but this time keeping an eye out for roaming alligators.

BREAKING NEWS:
We just found out that we are on the calendar to host at Big Creek Hatchery near Astoria, Oregon (one of Ed’s favorite Oregon towns) for June, July, and August next summer. Very exciting.

Colorado to Texas via Oklahoma

BerthoudPassSunday afternoon September 20, 2015. Our stay at Cheri’s in Loveland wasn’t all business. Cheri rode up the mountain with us to Fraser to see Brian and Angie’s new place. Had a nice lunch…and beer…at Deno’s, downtown Winter Park. Enjoyed the colors on the way up.

BreakfastGroupStarted Monday September 21 right! Ed joined his ol’ bus driver breakfast group at Sante Coffee and Burrito for their Monday morning gathering. Connie had a doctor appointment. From Left: Jim, Dan (his face is not discolored, it is the light from the window), Cliff, George, Steve, Roy, and Ed. See you again in March fellas.

WibbyBreweryWe made several trips between Loveland and Longmont while in Colorado. During our Monday visit, we also Stopped to check out the new Wibby brewery that had recently opened where part of the old turkey plant used to be. Very nice!

LoadedGot it all in the trailer! Packed it full for sure. Boxed up our 2 bikes in to bicycle shipping boxes and strapped them to the top of the Uhaul. Ready to depart Loveland, but only as far as Lakewood. We’ll spend Saturday and Sunday with daughter Shannon, her husband Tim, and our granddaughter Faith.

WaffleBrosFun day hanging out with daughter Shannon and grand daughter Faith the rest of Saturday. Went to Cherry Creek to shop for cinnamon at Penzies, then stopped in at Waffle Brothers for a treat. Catching Shannon finishing a bite.

Sunday, September 27, we enjoyed watching Faith play volleyball at Gold Crown. She plays for Mullen on the High School Volleyball Prep Development League. Her team won. Faith is not used to loosing 😉

unloadingMonday, September 28. Our long awaited day to see our new trailer has come. We leave Denver at 4am to drive the 580 miles to Rolling Retreats in Elk City, Oklahoma. The refrigerator wasn’t getting cold, so it wasn’t ready for us to move into that afternoon. But Alicia got us a room at the Hampton, and took us out for dinner at Lupe’s.

All was ready on Tuesday so we unloaded the Uhaul and started moving in. Several folks came by and commented “it won’t fit!” but it did…by Wednesday afternoon. We had a few other incidental problems, so it was good we were able to stay “hooked up” at Rolling Retreats while Slade took care of everything.

20151007_092016[1]Wednesday, October 7: After staying at Rolling Retreats for over a week, we finally hooked up and started on our first endeavor…traveling 285 miles to Stephenville, Texas to visit my sister Alice and her family.

StephenvilleParkOur first parking adventure, the city park in Stephenville. Quite nice for $10/night with water and electric. No problem backing in, but there was a lot of room. There were a few things that were bounced around during the trip, but nothing too vulnerable. A learning experience.

Sundown.on.SquareEnjoyed hanging out with Ed’s sister Alice Wallace, far left, and niece Shiela. Had a great time at Stephenville’s Sundown on the Square night. also got a chance to visit other family: Nephew Stacy Wallace and his wife Lisa, their daughter Jordyn and new husband Mario. Connie delighted with the haircut Lisa gave her.

CedarPark-WalmartMonday October 12 (Columbus Day) we traveled the 135 miles from Stephenville to Cedar Park, just north of Austin. Found a nice spot in the Walmart parking lot so we could check out dry camping. No other RVs around and close to lots of shopping. Very hot so no air conditioning!! Had our first major concern: the inverter batteries for our residential refrigerator died that first evening. Will look into ways to remedy in the future.

Wyoming and Colorado Family Visit

Hangin-Shelby'sGarageArrived at Son Shelby’s home in Gillette, WY about 5pm on Thursday September 3rd. Found the family connection waiting for us, lounging in their favorite place…the garage. Pictured are granddaughter Brittani, daughter Kari, grandson in-law Garth Phelps, Connie and great granddaughter Blakelee.

Shelby-FiberXboxShelby is the outside plant engineer for Century Link in Gillette and a lot of northern Wyoming. Here he shows us a recently installed fiber crossbox that he engineered for a new subdivision. Lots of changes since dad’s similar work using “icky-pic” cable. Amazing how these tiny fibers, about the size of a #2 pencil lead, can carry so much data; soon to have 1Gb speed!

Hagen.Connie.Harley HibachiSushiDiningWe joined the family at a Japanese Hibachi grill for dinner one night. Connie bummed a ride with grandson on his Harley. Harley’s are everywhere around Gillette. Pictured are son-in-law Edward Wales, daughter Kari Wales, and granddaughter Brittani Phelps.

FourGenerationsFour generations here. Daughter Kari, great granddaughter Blakelee, and granddaughter Brittani. The grumpy guy is Ed.

Wales-NewHouseKari and Edward are VERY excited about their new home under construction. Note the 6 car garage. It will double as their lounging area. It even has toilet facilities. And they were thoughtful enough to allow us room on the side for our new 5th wheel with a 50amp hookup. Still wondering how to get a sewer connection, but there is a free dump station in the city park a couple blocks away.

Faith.NewF350Left Gillette on Sunday, September 2 and was greeted enthusiastically by Connie’s sister Cheri. Cheri is single and lives in an awesome large brick home in Loveland, Colorado. We have claimed ownership to her recently remodeled downstairs bedroom and bath. A real home away from home…which we don’t have at the moment.

Finally! Got out to Interstate Ford on Labor day to pick up our new F350 dually with 5 miles on the odometer! Granddaughter Faith went with us and appears to have gone to the dark side here, abandoning her tie to the Chevy loyalty she shares (shared?) with mom & Tim in Lakewood.

Kari.pre-opDaughter Kari, and friend Michele, came to Cheri’s from Gillette on Thursday, September 17. On Friday, the four of us drove to University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora for Kari’s liver biopsy. An incredible campus! Kari carries her battle with cancer quite courageously. Here she is in pre-op. Knowing the biopsy is an invasive procedure, she continues to maintain her good humor.

Kari.post-opHere she is in post-op with daughter Shannon doing a good job of trying to cheer her up a bit. The biopsy procedure went well, but Kari did have a tough time coming down off the anesthesia and pain medication, especially riding in the car back to Loveland.

Cheris-patioStill hurting a bit on Saturday, Kari did find enough steam to venture off to Lyons to check out a new quilt/fabric store. It was good therapy for her. Later, we took time to relax on Cheri’s patio. Don’t want to miss Happy Hour you know. Later is pop corn and movie. Just trying to get back to normal. Pictured is Connie, Kari, Cheri, and Michele.

staging.areaSince being at Cheri’s, we’ve gone through and thinned much of what we had stored in her shed, along with all we had from the Airsteam; then began staging all that we want to take along to Rolling Retreats in Elk City, Oklahoma to move in to our new 5th wheel trailer. We’ll rent a 5×8 Uhaul, hoping we can get it all the stuff crammed in, ready to head out Monday, September 28.

Homeless

Packed.truckSaturday August 29, 2015 – North Pole to Tok, AK – 189 miles: After loading the rest of the truck (not fully loaded in the picture),  which filled it to the tailgate and topper window, as well with the rear seat area; pulled out of our site at the Chena Flood Control project just as the river was reaching the flood stage. This is where the Corps of Engineers real importance comes in to ensure folks below the dam and Fairbanks are not flooded. Our co-hosts and friends, Cliff and Cyndy Mills, stay behind and assist in the project as they can. They did an excellent posting on their blog that does a great job explaining the “Event.” Click on their link to view.

Spent our last night in our Airstream parked at Northern Energy/Tesora Gas station parking area in Tok, Alaska. Leaving Saturday evening and driving the 189 miles to Tok saved making the entire trip (nearly 600 miles) trip to Whitehorse, Yukon on Sunday.  The drive to Tok was uneventful and the roads & weather were good.

fast-eddy-s-restaurantWe had dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning at Fast Eddy’s Restaurant in Tok. We were waiting at the door as they opened at 6am. Fast Eddy’s is quite nice. Somewhat unexpected in such a small  remote town.

Construction.Tok-WhitehorseSunday, August 30, 2015 – Tok, AK to Whitehorse, Yukon – 386 miles: Hit our first of many road construction projects. This first one led us through several miles of ucky gravel and mud, which left us with delivering a dirty trailer to turn over to it’s new owner in Whitehorse.

Got in to Whitehorse Sunday evening and met with new owner Carrie Bragg. Carrie is the manager at MacPherson equipment Rental so we were able to pull the trailer in to their indoor wash bay for the evening. She was so excited she didn’t seem to care much about how dirty the trailer was. Later we got fuel and found a place where we could wash some of the gunk off the truck. We had dinner at Boston Pizza, where Carrie delivers on Sunday nights.

Ed.and.CarrieToadLodgeMonday August 31, 2015 – Whitehorse to Fort Nelson, BC – 951km (591 miles): We met Carrie at MacPhersons at 7am to go over the ins and outs of the Airstream. She already was having a friend (Bill) starting to wash the trailer. She’ll be okay I think. Later, we met her at Starbucks in Whitehorse around 9am. Her bank is directly across the street. Carrie is a delightful young single lady; bold enough to take on the expense and care of her new Airstream adventure. We got our check for the trailer and was on the way again by 10am.

Stopped along the way for supper at the Toad River Lodge. Not many places to stop along the Alaskan highway. We were getting a little hungry by 6pm, and still had several hours to drive. Toad River really comes from when equipment and supplies had to be “towed” across the river during the Alaskan Highway construction. It just got shortened somehow to toad.  Notice the other red truck next to us (they hadn’t washed theirs yet). Folks that spend their summer in Alaska, and were on the way back to Louisiana for the winter. We saw them again as we both happen to drive though Calgary about 1000 miles later. What surprise when the honked and waved while we were at a traffic light.

sheep Elk.JasperNP buffaloDawsonCreekTuesday September 1, 2015 – Fort Nelson, BC to Hinton, AB – 917km (570 miles): Lots more construction, but lots of animals to see as we traveled. Took a little time to visit the Visitor Center at Dawson Creek, the historical start of the Alaskan highway…mile “0”.

JasperNP.mountainsWednesday September 2, 2015 – Hinton, AB to Shelby MT – 544 miles: We were exited to take the highway through Jasper National Park, but the weather was raining and cloudy. Even at that, we did see some spectacular views. Vowed to return again in the future.

MaggiesAlso on Wednesday, we took a little time to visit around High River, AB; aka Hudson in our favorite Canadian TV series: Heartland. Visited the town museum where they had a small corner dedicated to the Heartland show…going into their 9th season in October. Got a picture of Maggie’s Diner, Tack and Feed, a central meeting place for the Heartland characters when they visit “Hudson.” Also couldn’t resist having a dip of ice cream and an adjacent ice cream parlor.

Thursday September 3 – Shelby, MT to Gillette, WY – 527 miles: Happy to be back in the lower 48, especially the lower fuel prices. We had been paying right at a dollar per gallon more in Alaska and Canada! Considering the trip so far, the trip to Gillette was almost enjoyable with little construction and great weather. However, was surprised to see 97 degrees! We were getting used to the 60’s.

Will post later about our time with family in Gillette and trip down to Colorado.

Packing up

packing.upIt’s been a lot of fun and a great experience, but it’s time to go back to the “Lower 48.” We’ll leave the North Pole and our site at the Corps of Engineers Chena Lakes Flood Control Project Saturday evening, August 29. We’ll dry camp at Tok, then leave early Sunday for Whitehorse where we’ll drop the trailer off to the new owner! Yes, we’ve sold it! At least every thing is in place for making the transfer Monday, August 31, 2015. It’s looking like we can cram all our stuff into the truck and be on our way again mid day Monday. Planning some hard driving, hoping to make it from Whitehorse to Gillette, Wyoming to see family by September 4th! Two thousand miles!

painting.gatesOur last few days here were spent painting 14 gates Corps of Engineer red. It was fun to do together, trying to grasp some time between rains. And it has been raining a lot.

Cole.n.SmokeWe’ll have to say goodbye to Cole Van Beusekom, our volunteer coordinator. A great young man, as well as Senior Ranger Jake Kresel, and Manager Tim Feavel.

We’ll see our co-host, Cliff and Cyndy Mills again in Texas.

Here is a picture of Cole and his dog Smoke.

Both rangers are karaboo hunting August 24-26. Cole just returned from a sheep hunt where in bagged a nearly full curl ram.

 

 

 

chicken.coopNot long after arriving at the North Pole, we found a family about a mile away that raises chickens and occasionally sell the eggs. We enjoyed feeding the chickens and harvesting the eggs on three occasions when Keith and Deana were away. We could ride our bikes on a path most of the way. And have certainly enjoyed having fresh eggs.

Moose-in-yardWe’ve seen quite a few moose since arriving in Alaska, mostly cows. Around the time we got here, most of the cows had new born calves. Seems like most have two. So it was a special treat when this mama and her calves came waltzing through our yard just a few days before we leave. The picture isn’t that good because it was taken out our trailer window. Didn’t want them to run away if we opened the door.

So living at Chena, the North Pole, and Fairbanks has been a true joy for us this summer and that we’ll remember it for a long long time.

Exploring the Flora and Fauna

our.site.from.leveeWe have a multitude of exploring to do from our hide-a-way site just off Laurance Road, North Pole, Alaska.

Volunteer.host.signConnie’s main project here at the Corp of Engineers Chena Lakes Flood Control Project (entirely different project than Connie’s) has been planting and nourishing an abundance of flowers. Nearly all need hand watering.  This is the entrance to our hide-a-way. Not really that much of a hide-a-way as Laurance Road gets quite a bit of traffic going to the nearby campgrounds. There is a park-n-ride is across the road from us where hikers and bicyclist can take the 4.7 mile paved path to the north end kiosk, which adds to the traffic.

Shed.flowers Porch.flowersflowers.chena.signSeems like she has flowers everywhere. These are on our patio and around our shed, and the sign on Laurance Road.

office.flowersAnd these are just some of the flowers around the office (a little over 2 miles up Laurance Road from our site. Note the Moose Creek Dam “Bunker” in the background. It used to hold Nike missiles when this site was used as a missile site.

Chena.flood.plainFloodControlAerialPhotoThe first picture above is one we took on a walk down the levee, and the second is a aerial file photo to help put it all in perspective. This aerial shot shows Laurance Road running along side the Moose Creek Dam levee, the flood plain, and the corp and burrow offices. The earthen levee is about 25′ high. The Moose Creek Dam, should really be named Chena River Dam…but Moose Creek is in the area, just our government at work.

Ranger.TrailGetting out and patrolling the 20,000 acres from time to time, can reap rewards.

blue.berry.picking blue.berry.bush raspberry.bush OwlsLike discovering wild blueberries and raspberries, along with a couple owls.

Satelite.antennaSIDEBAR NOTES
Since arriving in Alaska, Ed has been quite puzzled that satellite antennas seem to point to the ground. Some even appear to be pointed at a hill?? Don’t they have to be aimed at a satellite above the earth somewhere? Without obstructions?

candy.cane.weldingEven the North Pole welding shop display their support of the year-around Christmas spirit of the North Pole area.

DRV-curbSideOUR FULL TIMING ALERT

We have enjoyed our first year full time so much, that we’ve decided to continue, but our 30′ Airstream in our only home now, and somewhat small for full time, and not really an all-season trailer. Not that we plan to be anywhere cold! So we’re picking up a new F350 dually when we get back to Colorado around Labor day. After visiting a bit with family and friends, we’ll head over to Oklahoma to pick up our new 38′ 5th wheel. Click on the picture, or here, to view a few more pictures. We’re doing this with $ from our home sale, so no turning back…at least for awhile. We hear housing is through the roof in Colorado anyway. After fulfilling our Texas and Louisiana host assignments, we’re planning on being back in Colorado March through May 2016. Need a place to park! Any ideas?

Our New Ranger and the Arctic Circle

connie-newRanger
The Corp of Engineers certainly strives to keep their hosts happy. Just got our new Polaris Ranger to use for transportation to/from our host site and the office/shop area, and all around the nearly 20,000 acres of the Chena Flood Control Project. Note Bullwinkle in the background. But why is the calf tagging along with a bull?
Allens-Mills-w-Rangers Allens-Mills-overlook Ranger Jake at overlook
On Sunday afternoon, July 3, we explored some of the area around that 20,000 acres. Stopped to take in the view of Moose Creek. Connie drove our new Ranger (fearlessly) with Cyndy hanging on for dear life; and Cliff drove the older Ranger with Ed because their new Ranger was shined up for North Pole’s 4th of July Parade. We were led by Senior Ranger Jake Kresel riding his 4 wheeler. Jake is a great guide and anxious about his upcoming Minnesota wedding July 17 to Shelby. Note the difference between the Polaris Ranger, and Jake the Ranger. No comparison 🙂 
 
Parade.
Cliff drove their new Ranger in North Pole’s July 4th parade while Ed, Connie, and Cyndy threw out Corp of Engineers Water Safety frisbees. The Ranger pulled a little flatbed trailer with a canoe and the moose calf, wearing a life jacket (PFD) of course, from in front of the office, but the hit of the parade was COE Bobber, the water safety dog. Ranger Cole said it got very hot! Bobber also wore a PFD or course.
Parade-Bobber-getReadyBecause Ranger Jake is the Senior Ranger, he delegated Ranger Cole (our host coordinator) as Bobber for a day. Here is Jake helping Bobber put on his tail 🙂 As a side note, Bobber (not Cole) is kept in a real kennel when not out and about. Good news: no poop!
DaltonHwySignEd and Cliff drove the James W Dalton Highway on Monday July 6 with a goal of making the 270 miles from North Pole to Coldfoot. The Dalton Highway was built as a supply route to Deadhorse oil fields around Prudhoe Bay on the northern slope, the head of the Alyeska Pipeline (Trans-Alaska pipeline).
YukonBridge YukonPipelineXing YukonRiverThe Dalton Highway Crosses over the mighty Yukon River about 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and is the only road that crosses the river in Alaska. The pipeline runs adjacent to the highway close enough that we saw mile after mile of it as we drove. More than half of the 800 mile pipeline to Valdez is above ground. A picture above shows where it crosses the Yukon on the E. L. Patton Bridge, which has a unique story of it’s own.
EdnCliff@ArcticCircle
After 180 miles of chuck holes, dust, and the gravel road, we made it to the Arctic Circle from Fox (12 miles from Fairbanks) around noon. There were several guys on large dirt bikes also stopped. We met up with James Plumb from Mead, CO of all places. James owns Plumb Construction and builds homes around the Mead area. He had rode his bike alone, all the way from Mead and was returning from Deadhorse, having spent a night in Coldfoot. With advice from James, we decided to avoid the additional 60 miles to Coldfoot, along with all the chuck holes on the 3 hour round trip and started back.
 
 fires
Over 300 Forrest fires have been burning in Alaska this summer. We have had very thick smoke throughout the North Pole and Fairbanks area. It clears up from time to time, but hasn’t left completely yet. We saw several fires burning on one hillside along the Dalton highway on our trip to the Arctic Circle.
 
 
Since Ed drove, Cliff offered (co-erst really 🙂 ) to buy dinner at the Silver Gulch Brewery in Fox on the way home. Ed enjoyed their Old 55 Pale Ale, and Cliff had his root beer as usual. Connie and Cyndy enjoyed a day of sewing and boasted about the great steaks that Cyndy cooked on their Weber grill. The guys got back around 7pm (before dark 🙂 ) and we all enjoyed popcorn and a movie.

Life at North Pole

santa-claus North Pole sounds like it should be just north of Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope of Alaska. Actually it’s just 15 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and 140 miles from the Arctic Circle.
 
North Pole is VERY Christmasy. A giant Santa Claus greets us as we enter town (about 3 miles from our camp spot), the light poles are all painted like candy canes.
 
We can truly say June 21 was the longest day of our life. At least if you count a day by daylight hours. We had nearly 22 hours of daylight. We have not seen any reindeer flying around, however.
connie-planting We enjoy working around the Chena Lakes Flood Control Project (yes…quite a long name) and getting to know the two rangers, both single and in their twenties. Although Jake, the senior ranger, is getting married in July.
 
Connie loves to plant stuff and has planted over $700 worth so far. The good part is COE (Corp of Engineers) pay for them. The bad part is that there are many places and most have to be watered by hand. Gives her daily stuff to do. Note the Polaris Ranger that serves as our transportation around the project.
 
Ed-mowing Ed is learning the skill of the Zero Turn mower. He has several large pieces to mow, so he’s enjoying the challenge.
 
Mills-trailer-spot Our Friends, Cliff and Cyndy Mills, are also serving here as hosts. Their site is nearly 5 miles from our site. Cliff also has a large area to mow. They monitor the kiosk, parking, gate, and toilet. They are a stone’s throw from the Chena dam and river. If Cliff wasn’t having rotator cuff issues, he could probably test if it really is a stone’s throw.
 
MooseCreekDamChenaMapSitesThe dam (really resembles a levee, but the Corp guys don’t like that term) is 7.1 miles long. Normally the Chena River flows freely through the dam gates, but the dam (levee) becomes very relevant during high  water events; keeping down river Fairbanks from flooding again. The rangers don’t have a good story as to why the dam is named Moose Creek dam, when it’s on the Chena, and Moose Creek a mile away and doesn’t flow into the Chena.
 
Normally, all the green on the map behind the dam (levee) is grass and has many different recreational uses. Many folks bring their hunting dogs to train.
 

connie-pipeline Can you believe it? Connie holding up the Alaska Pipeline! One of the places near Fairbanks where the pipeline is above ground.  Overall, about 1/2 of the 800 mile pipeline from Prudhoe bay to Valdez is above ground.

AlyeskaSign We have learned to appreciate all that went into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Absolutely incredible. A buried portion of the pipeline actually runs under our driveway from the road to our site! The term Alyeska pipeline is used more here as they are the firm that actually built the pipeline and now maintains it.
 
SilverGulchBrewery
 
Fox village is about 15 miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese highway. There is a pullout on the road to observe the above ground Alaska pipeline (where Connie is holding it up).
 
The Silver Gulch Brewery is in Fox; boasting the furthest north brewery in the United States. They have great beer and a fine menu. Although we’ve learned that prices in Alaska are half again what we’d pay in the lower 48.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We joined friends Cliff & Cyndy, along with Cyndy’s son David and his fiancee Christine on a fantastic stern wheeler cruise down the Chena River on Tuesday June 23.
 
PumpHouse BushPilot ButcherSledDogs Didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but many beautiful homes. We cruised by the Pump House Restaurant, and vowed to have dinner there on the river later that evening.
 
We all enjoyed the bush pilot take off and land on the river. While it was all staged for the passengers, it was never the less a fun experience.
 
One of the highlights was seeing the Susan Butcher sled dog training facility. Susan won the Iditarod 4 times, but life was cut short from Leukemia in 2006. Her daughter Tekla, and husband Dave Monson (also a musher) continue to train sled dogs. They demonstrated how they train the dogs in the summer by having them pull a 4 wheeler (engine removed).
chena-Tanana The end of the cruise is where the Chena flows into the Tanana. The Tanana is a glacier fed river and is somewhat milky. Quite interesting to see where the two rivers join.
 

Catching Up

Cheri-airport-sm We made it from Valdez to Anchorage on Friday May 29 and found Cabellas Parking lot for the night. Very nice accommodations with a new Target, including a Starbucks next door.

Picked up sister Cheri at the Ted Stevens (former Alaskan Senator) Airport on Saturday May 30 and began our trip down the Kenai Peninsula to Soldotna.

blownTireBlowoutRepair We were blessed with little mechanical problems after leaving Salem; traveling over 2500 miles over some pretty wacky roads through British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. Then POW, a blowout on the way to Soldotna. Lots of traffic and no where to pull over. We were so thankful as we thought of how much worse it could have been. The trailer did suffer some minor damage where the blowout tore through a piece of aluminum molding.

Cheri-Connie-Kingfisher-smWe were hungry and thirsty after the blowout, so stopped at the Kingfisher Roadhouse along the way for refreshments.

Airstream@Daves-smparked@Schneiders It’s nice to have friends. We parked in Dave & Rochelle’s yard just outside of Soldotna, close to where our friends Cliff and Cyndy were parked. Dave set us up with a place to plug in and hook up to water; and we were able to drain on gray water on the grass field. Dave & Rochelle are the parents of our friend Dava that we know from Longmont days.

Homer-Bay-smHomer-everyone-sm In addition to Ed going to breakfast with Dave & Cliff every morning to join Dave’s friends group, we made a few side trips around the area…like the Home Depot in Kenai, but everyone took a longer trip down to Homer. Homer is about most southern spot you can drive to down the Kenai and a beautiful and interesting place. At the request of the women, we visited the Bear Creek Winery. In the picture are Dave, Cliff, Cyndy, Ed, Connie, Cheri and Rochelle.

Moose-youngBull2 We saw a lot of moose. Saw this one along side the road on our trip to Homer. A cow and a couple caves wandered around the Schneider’s place. Cliff and Cyndy got some good pictures posted on their blog.

AialikTidalGlacier connie-cheri-cruise On Wednesday June 3, a rainy day, Connie and Cheri drove to Seward to experience the Kenai Fjords Cruise. While it was a bit rainy, they enjoyed the trip very much. Lots of sea creatures; steller seals, sea otters, whales. They got some close up viewing of the Aialik Tidal Glacier. Finished off the 9 hour cruise with an all-you-can-eat prime rib and salmon buffet. Fantastic!

DavesBoat-sm Daves-Gun-smpie@Schneiders Staying at the Schneiders was indeed a blast. They have lived in Alaska since they were young adults, even living in Kodiak and on Raspberry Island. Experienced the 1964 earthquake. Super folks with a wonderful gift of hospitality. And very talented. Dave made the boat from raw material as well as the rifle (one of several). Rochelle quilts (of course) and makes FANTASTIC pies! They definitely gave us a sense of being part of Alaska.

Ed-Connie@Talkeetna-sm

Cheri-Connie-DenaliBrewing Enjoyed our stay with the Schneiders for 5 days before heading north on Thursday June 4 to our summer assignment near Fairbanks. Parked overnight at Cabellas in Anchorage again (wanted Cheri to fully experience full timing).

After getting a new tire and doing a little shopping (Cheri wanted some more fish), we departed Anchorage on Friday, stopping in Talkeetna for the night. Took time to explore the little town, reminiscent of a smaller Estes Park. Lots of cool little shops. Denali Brewery was hoppin’. One can often view Mount McKinley from here, but more often than not it is clouded over. As was the case during our travels. Cheri missed it, but we should have other chances while here.

Speedometer-100k The ol’ red truck turned 100,000 near Trapper Creek as we traveled north on the Parks Highway (Alaska 2). It’s been very dependable since we left Salem, and hope it stays that way as we’ll sell it when we return to the lower 48 in September.

Chena-yard-sm Cheri-Connie@Chena-sm Left Talkeetna about 5am Saturday June 6 to finally arrive at the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project that afternoon. Met Rangers Cole and Jake. They showed us our site and very graciously welcomed us.

3 Days in Valdez

BridalVeilFalls Anxious to finally get to Alaska, Left Whitehorse, Yukon at 5am May 25th, Memorial Day. We counted 30 plus Elk and another Grizzly as we traveled along the Alaskan Highway. Got to the Yukon/Alaska border mid-morning only to have our frozen chicken, Connie’s precious eggs, fruit, and some vegetables confiscated. Connie had just been shopping and was quite irritated. Come to find out, our friends, Cliff and Cyndy, came through the following day and only had to forfeit a bag of apples. But we were FINALLY in Alaska!

The road was awful, lots of heaving that makes stuff in the trailer fly all over; and construction to get our previously clean truck/trailer looking like we just went through a mud slide…well not quite that bad.

truck-trailer-bridalVeilFalls We left the Alaska Highway at Tok Alaska, headed south on the “Tok Cutoff,” Alaska 1. Parked overnight at Dry Creek State Recreation Area near Glennallen. On Tuesday (May 26) we headed south on the “Richardson Highway”, Alaska 4, from Glennallen junction and was off to Valdez.

We’ve been surrounded our entire trip by the beauty of God’s creation. Breathtaking. We were overtaken again as we traveled the 115 miles to Valdez, occasionally catching glimpses of the Alaska pipeline. Going by Bridal Veil Falls the picturesque drive became ever so apparent.
BilllyMitchelMtn-AKWe had to stop and get a shot of Mount Billy Mitchell, named after Lieutenant William “Billy” Mitchell, a pioneer of the US Army Signal Corp that constructed the Trans-Alaska Telegraph line in 1903.

FatMermaid-LornaAfter getting settled at the Bear Paw Campground, explored the very small (one gas station & a Safeway) and quaint Valdez a bit. Walked around the port to view the many fishing boats, continually marveling over the snow capped mountains surrounding the town around the port. We stopped at the Fat Mermaid, with 15? beers on tap, for dinner. Enjoyed meeting Lorna, a delightful young girl that worked there, but she also works with a helicopter extreme skiing company. Grew up skiing Targhee (near Jackson, WY) in Victor, ID. She is full of stories of her exploits and travels. All quite interesting; including living in Valdez and her extreme skiing experiences.
GlacierSpirt-ValdezHarborSeals-ValdezPipelineTerminalWe booked a 7 hour cruise on the Stan Stevens “Glacier Spirit” around Prince William Sound out to the Columbia Glacier the following day, Wednesday May 27. Saw lots of sea otters in the bay and a good view of the Alaska Pipeline terminal where tankers fill will oil piped all the way from Prudhoe Bay.
ColumbiaGlacier-Valdex ColumbiaGlacier-closerWe saw the Columbia Glacier up quite close, one of the fastest moving in the world. Yes, named after the famous university. We didn’t see it move per se, but lots and lots of ice bergs floating around from all around. It has been retreating  since 1980. Our very fine Captain/narrator Chris, explained that glaciers advance and retreat, sometimes in cycles; nothing to do with global warming. There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska!
Steller sea lions ValdezAfter the glacier,  we spotted several groups (called a colony or pod) or Steller sea lions sunning on the rocks. Unlike the California sea lions, these northern guys are light blonde to reddish brown. Males weighing in as much as 2500 pounds!
dallsPorpoiseOn they back to port, we only saw one humpback whale at a distance, but enjoyed watching the Dall’s porpoise cruise along side the boat. They moved so fast (reportedly up to 35mph) we didn’t get a picture, but they looked a lot like this picture off the internet.