Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 Expedition West Part 1

26 days; 4 parks; 3 museums; 1 observatory; 1 fantastic dinner out!; 3200 miles later :-)

Our trip from Florida to Wyoming was a little shorter time period this year due to Easter being later in April and the Scootaround job that we had signed up for. But we still managed to pack in a fairly good amount of activities, plus I was able to read about 1200 pages of legal transcripts that my clients had sent me :-).

We left Florida on April 17 and spent five days traveling across the Southeast, arriving at our first destination, Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.
We had a bayfront site, and I don't think we could have gotten closer to the water if we tried.
In fact, standing at the front of our living area looking back, I would have thought that we were actually on a boat, not in an RV :-).
We had beautiful sunsets each night, though. The downside was the wind. It was actually so windy the last two days we were there that I kept checking outside to make sure the water wasn't coming up high enough to cause us to float away! 

A primary objective for us in coming here was to visit Padre Island National Seashore. It was about an hour's drive south of Rockport.

This park is best enjoyed by people who have jeeps or other high-clearance vehicles, but we did enjoy going down to the shore.

Honey especially enjoys the waves at the beach. She must have been taken to the beach a lot before we adopted her.

It sure was pretty there, although we suffered through an invasion of lovebugs, which are some of the nastiest bugs I've ever encountered :-(. We had to clean them off all our vehicles several times during the drive across the Southeast. Nasty!

Closer to Goose Island, we explored the town of Rockport. We really liked it. It bills itself the same way that our home fishing port of Montauk, NY, does: a cute little drinking town with a fishing problem!

Notable local attractions included the aptly named "Big Tree."

There was a nice selection of wildflowers around the Big Tree. In fact, there was a profusion of wildflowers blooming throughout Texas during our travels.

We had an enjoyable morning driving through Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, we were about two weeks too late to see any of the resident whooping cranes that winter there, but we saw other local wildlife.

We also spent an enjoyable morning touring the historic Fulton Mansion State Historic Site. It was an interesting view into the life of a wealthy family living here on the coast in the late 1800s. We then rounded out our stay here in Rockport with a sampling from a local donut shop (what is it with Texas and donut shops?) and a lazy afternoon by the seashore. 

From Rockport, we packed up and headed further west, back up to San Antonio and a brief, two-night stay in Fredericksburg, Texas. We so enjoyed our visit here a few years ago and the Pacific War Museum that we decided to stop and see the exhibits we had missed last time. I do not have much of an interest in war memorabilia, but I do enjoy learning more about our history, and this museum is an excellent venue for learning more about World War II, particularly the Pacific venue. It is quite sobering, and I pray the world never becomes embroiled in such a conflict again.

From Fredericksburg, we drove some back roads through stunningly beautiful wildflower fields. I finally saw the famous Texas bluebonnets :-). Then it was on to the never-ending I-10 interstate as we headed to our next destination, southwest to Alpine, Texas. 

We stayed in Alpine for three nights, which ended up being two nights longer than I had originally anticipated, not because of problems but because we found there were enough sights for us to see to keep us busy! 

We stayed at the Lost Alaskan RV Park just outside of town. It was a nice campground, and the pictures showing a generous sprinkling of trees throughout the campground was a prime draw for me! One does tire of the sun constantly beating down on you, especially when it was so hot. 

Our first day there, we visited a very nice museum, the Museum of the Big Bend on the campus of the Sul Ross State University. I am always amazed at the great little museums we find in some of these small towns that are even free! It was a great exhibit that showcased the natural and cultural history of the entire Big Bend area. 

Looking through TripAdvisor for Alpine, we saw the top-rated restaurant in town, the Reata, was known for its excellent chicken-fried steak. We couldn't resist and had a real treat for dinner. It was the best chicken-fried steak we've ever had, with a chocolate chunk bread pudding for dessert to die for. 

Fort Davis National Historic Site was in the area, and we spent a few hours on a self-guided tour of the site. Fort Davis was an Indian Wars' frontier military outpost from 1854-1891. Fort Davis is unique among frontier forts in that it became the Regimental Headquarters for all four Buffalo Soldier regiments that served during the last decades of the 19th century. Buffalo Soldiers were commissioned by Congress 1866 and were composed of six post-Civil War regiments of black enlisted men. This act marked the first inclusion of black men in the regular army. It was very interesting and informative as we toured the reconstructed buildings. It is a work in progress, with many other buildings awaiting work. 

While in Alpine, we also attended a "star party" at the McDonald Observatory. Located on the top of Mount Locke, it's a prime viewing area for the cosmos due to the lack of lighting in the area and the clear air. This means that it is quite a ride through uninhabited land! There are two events, the Twilight Program and the Star Party. I wasn't able to get tickets to the Twilight Program, but we went early and put our names on a waiting list, and we were fortunate enough to get the last two seats :-). The Twilight Program was an hour and a half long, and that night's subject was the moon. The lecture speaker was very interesting, and we were glad to be able to attend. After that, we bundled up -- it happened to be a record cold night, of course -- and headed outside to the amphitheater for the Star Party. The first hour consisted of a discussion about the constellations, with the speaker using a laser pointer to pick out the different stars. We even saw two satellites cruising across the sky. After that, there were about a dozen telescopes set up around the area, pointing at different star groupings, galaxies, and planets. It was amazing, and we highly recommend doing this if you are in the area.

We did have a slight glitch in Alpine. Upon returning to the rig after touring Fort Davis, we found that our converter had died. What we initially noticed was that everything electrical was pretty much off, and by tracing back different scenarios, Al determined the converter was not working. It must have been down for a while because our batteries were extremely low as well. Of course, we are nowhere near any RV supply place, but we did find one over in the town of Marathon. Being Sunday, of course, there was no one there, so Al got up the next morning early and headed over there to be there at open. We were supposed to be leaving for Terlingua, but I was hesitant about going even further away from civilization without replacing it. In the meantime, we had looked on Amazon, and they did have what we needed. That was a fortunate thing because the shop in Marathon did not have the right size for our rig. So I ordered the converter from Amazon Prime and had it sent to general delivery to the post office in Terlingua. The battery charger had charged up the batteries sufficiently, so as long as we were careful with our usage, we would be fine until it arrived and Al could replace it. And we were! It's a good thing to have a handy person around :-).

So this is getting pretty long. I will stop at this point and resume with our adventures in Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the next installment. In the meantime, we are doing fine here on the ranch. I'm just very busy with working here on the ranch and doing my proofreading as well as enjoying my time here in the Tetons! My friend Jonell has been doing much better at keeping her blog updated, and we have spent several days off together, so if you want to see what we've been doing, hop on over to Liv2RV and check out her last few blogs! We have a great crew working this year, which is a good thing as we are very busy. We also have the great solar eclipse to look forward to next month. Oh, boy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Unintentional Hiatus

Four months. I have never gone that long without a post! I really do admire all the bloggers, especially those who have been doing it for years, that consistently post daily or even on a regular basis. I had fully intended to do so; it didn't happen!

So what have we been doing since we left Amazon at the end of December?

We arrived home in Homosassa on New Year's Eve, after Al had worked an extra week at Amazon, covering a vacation schedule spot. We had our annual prime rib holiday meal with the family a week late -- no extras this year.

 We started out strong, trying to get all of our doctor appointments done and over with. It was working out well, until that monkey wrench was thrown into the works, as usual. Al ended up with a bout of his atrial fibrillation. Fortunately, he was not symptomatic this time and managed to stay out of the hospital. With a deductible on our insurance of more than 13K, this was good news! After two weeks, he did convert with the use of medication, and all is well on that front.

We had a picnic with a large group of our RVing friends that gather in Florida for the winter. I hope I don't miss anyone in this list: Joan and Steve Crowe (who organized the picnic in their hometown of Apopka in a great park, Magnolia Park), who we met through their blog, FOSJ; their friends, whom we met in Custer last spring, Jim and Deb Britt;  Pat and Diana Brown and Bonnie and Richard Waltman, who were blog followers of mine and have become cherished friends; Jessica and Harry Riker, Dino and Lisa Olivieri, and Kelly and Bill Murray,who we met at Amazon and work with each year; Cliff and Flo Ann Avery, Ken and Jan Hermann, and Carol and Ken Blevins, all of whom we worked with in Bar Harbor, Maine; Ellen and Tom Whitesel, who we met through our dear friends Dan and Jonell Anderson and worked at Amazon with for a short while last fall. We hope to make this a yearly event!

Our family reunion went off without a hitch at Walt Disney World, and that brings January to an end!

We finished up our family reunion, then spent a couple more days over at Titusville where we visited the Kennedy Space Center. Dan had returned from Wisconsin by that time, so he and Jonell joined us for the day. It had changed a lot since our last visit there many years ago, and we had a very enjoyable day. Jonell has written extensively about it on her blog, Liv2RV.

We then proceeded to Tampa for two weeks, where we embarked upon a new adventure for us, working for the ScootAround company. Scootaround is a "personal transportations solutions" company, and they hire workampers to man their concessions booths at events such as the Florida State Fair. I had been looking for something to bring in a few dollars over the winter for two reasons; one, we really did not get very much overtime pay from Amazon this past fall, and, two, we have a rental property that we receive income from, and we were losing our tenant the end of January. I wasn't sure how fast we would pick up a new one so we would be short that income. ScootAround seemed like it would be a very good job for us as it allowed us to pick events to work at that we could do around our busy winter social schedule :-). Basically, we are renting scooters, strollers, and wagons to event attendees. It's not hard work, by any means, but it can get very hectic and good organizational skills are an asset in keeping the paperwork in order. If anyone has questions about it, feel free to personally email me.

This is Duke, a Great Pyrenees. He belonged to our coworkers at Booth 2, Charlene and Jim. Duke enjoyed "working" at the booth :-)

After our return home from the State Fair, we had about a week to relax and get geared up for company arriving from New York. We also met up with Dan and Jonell and Tom and Ellen over at Disney Springs, the new shopping and dining area at Disney, and we had a great lunch at a new restaurant, Art Smith's Homecoming. We won't see either of those couples until we get back up to Wyoming.

Our first guest from New York, our friend Ed, arrived the beginning of the month and then it was ten days of mostly the guys golfing! Luckily, it's fairly inexpensive to golf in Florida. We also visited Tarpon Springs one day and went to the Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT another day. Dinner at our friends Alan and Sharon Babula rounded out that ten days, with a great wine tasting of Alan's homemade wine.

A few days after Ed left, it was time to head back to the airport to pick up my brother. Bill and another couple from New York, our friends Greg and Viena, had come down to go fishing with Al for a two-day trip out in the Gulf. They came home with a ton of fish!

And what was I doing while the golf and fishing were taking place? Well, I was setting up my proofreading business, putting together a marketing program, finding clients, and getting to work! I've actually succeeded better than I could have ever imagined, and I have gained a steady roster of clients and read thousands of pages of legal transcripts in the last three months. It doesn't sound exciting, but I'm very happy that I set myself a goal and managed to accomplish it. Learning wasn't as easy as it used to be!

The third weekend of March we headed over to Daytona, where we worked for ScootAround at the Spring Fling Turkey Rod Run, a classic car show. That was very interesting. We worked with three of the couples we met at the State Fair and had a great time. Then it was back home for a week.
Our booth is all ready at Daytona.We had 160 scooters for rent, and we sold out both Friday and Saturday!

Some of the cars at the Daytona Spring Fling

April 3rd we headed north to Concord, N.C., where we worked our last event for ScootAround this year at the Charlotte Speedway Spring Auto Fair, another classic car show. This one was much larger, much more hectic, but it was interesting, and we had fun.
Unloading the scooters from the tractor-trailer in Concord. I did not get a picture of everything set up, but we had 235 scooters here, and we sold out Friday and Saturday.

We then headed back to Florida to spend Easter with the family and get everything ready for our departure west. We had reserved a campsite for the weekend before we left so that we had hookups. This enabled us to steam clean our carpets and just basically give everything a really good cleaning, dusting, and polishing.

April 17th, we headed north and west! It will be a shorter than normal trip west since Easter was late this year, but we are still taking the time to do a little sightseeing along the way, with stops in Rockport, Fredericksburg, Alpine, and Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We are currently in Rockport, and I will have pictures of our adventures here, soon -- promise!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Very Strange Season

Wow. It's been three months since I last posted! Everyone probably thinks we gave up :-)!

Well, to start where we ended, we made our quick trip across the country from Wyoming to Florida in six days just fine. I sure don't want to do it again, though. We were very happy that we had zero issues with anything mechanical for a change! It was nice :-). Even the weather cooperated, with dry driving conditions all the way. Once we reached Campbellsville, Kentucky, we dropped the trailer at a campground and drove to Florida the next day. From there, we flew to New York and spent an enjoyable five days with family and friends during my brother's wedding festivities. Sadly, the weather did not cooperate for that, and it rained quite a bit. It didn't dampen the spirits, though, and we had a great time visiting with many folks we haven't seen since we left New York in 2011. I will say that I have not missed flying these past few years, but it was the most expeditious means of travel for the short time we had.

We spent a couple days with family back in Florida, visiting the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival for two days. We always used to go to that every year, but with our workamping schedules since going on the road, we haven't been able to work in a trip. So this worked out, and we had a great two days sampling many different dishes. Then it was time to make the drive back up to Campbellsville, where we picked up the trailer from the Holmes Bend Campground, where we had left it, and got set up in our regular campground for Amazon peak, Green River Lake State Park.

It's been a very odd season here right from the start. Al had all kinds of problems getting started, as first, they wanted him to apply for the medical office job via a temp agency, and that brought forth a whole host of hurdles that had to be jumped over. That didn't even work out like it was supposed to, and I ended starting as scheduled on October 17 while he was still waiting for paperwork. The HR people finally got him hired through Camperforce like normal, and he started the week after me. So we were both finally working, and after a few nights, we even ended up working on the same shift for the first time. That was nice, having the same nights off :-).

There were all kinds of issues with the campgrounds this year as well. They had hired more workampers than usual this year, and as the season progressed, the campgrounds closest to the facility were filled to capacity. Another campground that did accept reservations from folks failed to honor those reservations, and several people were forced to find a site elsewhere. There is usually about twenty or so rigs here in the State Park, but this year we ended up with more than double that number. That was a boon for the State Park at least, as they were able to collect more rent dollars this season. Once people came and stayed here, they found out how nice it is so we may not have quite as nice and quiet park as we used to!

I ended up working in the same department as last year, receiving. On the down side, it wasn't nearly as busy as it was last year, and we have very little overtime this year. Work in receive was light, and I was sent to the Stow department several times, which involves putting all the merchandise away in the warehouse. A lot of the merchandise comes in on pallets and does not need to be entered into the system by a receiver, so there usually is more work for the stowers. By the last three weeks, many of us were "loaned" to the pack department, and we spent the last week or so packing the orders. It truly wasn't a high-volume peak season, though, for anyone in our facility. They are saying that will change for next year, that the Campbellsville facility will be busier than ever before next year, and that they will still be looking for several hundred workampers to augment their work needs. Many first-time workers were very disappointed, though, at the lack of overtime, and they were pretty vocal about voicing their displeasure. All in all, it was an odd season, and whereas I did enjoy meeting up with former friends and finding new ones, I am glad the season is done, more so than normal :-). We are still here in Campbellsville, though, as Al is working an extended schedule through next week. We should be arriving home in Homosassa by New Year's Day.

Our winter plans are pretty much the same as normal, with our family reunion at Disney at the end of January, and visits from other family members. We hope to see friends in the Central Florida area while we are there. We will be doing our yearly doctor appointments and such as well. We've also signed up for a new adventure, which I will write about once it's been confirmed that we've been accepted and where we will be. But it doesn't affect our summer plans, which will have us returning to Luton's Teton Cabins in Wyoming once again, and we will be reuniting with not only Dan and Jonell from last year, but also Ken and Jodi from 2014.  Between working with good friends and the impending solar eclipse in August, we are really looking forward to the summer!

Our spring travels out to Wyoming this year will include stops in Texas, near Padre Island National Seashore and Big Bend National Park. If anyone has any "must dos" in those parks, please let me know :-).

That's it in a nutshell; everything we've been up to for the last three months. It was mostly working for Amazon, and I just really didn't feel a need to write about it when I have in previous years, and so many other folks have written about their experience. So have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, and I will catch up with everyone in the new year :-).