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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

Monday, January 7, 2019

2018 in Review

Well, I did a really lousy job of keeping this blog updated. I'm sorry. I have to work on this work-life balance some more. I haven't had much time for pleasure writing since I embarked upon my remote business of proofreading court documents. That, on the other hand, is going very well! I have a dozen court reporter clients that keep me quite busy now, and I'm reading a wide gamut of transcripts, everything from bread-and-butter insurance depositions to week-long murder trials. It's always interesting.

So I thought I would just do a year in review with some of my favorite photos showing what we've done and where we've gone this year. It hasn't changed much from the year before in reality, but we did visit several new areas of the country that we enjoyed very much.

The year started with us arriving in Homosassa for the winter right at Christmas. We spent Christmas with family, and, of course, we had the annual New Year's Day dinner of Al's yummy prime rib. Several of our friends have been lucky recipients of this dinner in the past, and our best buddies, Ken and Jodi Himes, joined us this year. They were staying over in the Kissimmee area for the winter and drove over to join us for the day.

The end of January we headed over to Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World for our annual cousins' reunion. We spend about 9-10 days there, visiting with Al's extended family. We are adults, at least in physical years, but we always enjoy our time there. There really is something for everyone of all ages. We have a wonderful time together, between riding some favorite rides, watching shows, lots and lots of dining, and several rounds of cards. A new favorite card game, Samba, has found its way into our game-playing. It's an evolved version of the perennial favorite, Hand-and-Foot. 


In February we worked for two weeks at the Florida State Fair with Scootaround, as we did last year. We do enjoy the couple of events that we do with them. The people-watching at the State Fair is especially interesting. We also worked with them in March at the Daytona Car Show, and then up at the Charlotte Speedway car show in North Carolina in early April. Our cousin Billy even bought a new car there this year. 


In between the Scootaround shows, we spent a lot of time at home with the family in Homosassa. Not too many visitors this year except for our good friend Mark Poitras and his family. We did get a lot of things done around the house and spend time in the beautiful weather. 

After the car show in April, we started heading west for the summer. Our stops along the way this spring included:
Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

Monument Valley, Arizona

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada



Death Valley National Park, which is massive. We spent a week here and, unfortunately, were not able to do any hiking. Even at the end of April, it was still very hot. The campground forbids leaving the dogs in the trailer unattended, which we came to find is a common thing here. And I understand; if the power goes out, which they said is a very real possibility, the trailer would heat up very quickly to a life-threatening temperature. So we took them with us each day, leaving at daybreak and heading back home around noon when it got beastly hot. The park was definitely large enough that we were able to do a different scenic drive each day, but it is a lot of miles. I was beat at the end of the week!


From Death Valley, we backtracked a bit and headed north to Wyoming by driving the highway along the east border of Nevada out of Las Vegas. It was a beautiful, peaceful drive once you left the Vegas area. We stopped at several state parks, Cathedral Gorge among them. Both the dogs and we had a great time exploring the miniature slots in the formations.

We stopped for a few days in Ely, Nevada, and took a train ride on the Nevada Northern Railway restoration. It isn't nearly as nice as the train we took last year from Chama, N.M., but they are working on it.



Ely was also our base for a day at Great Basin National Park as well, where we had an enjoyable day driving the park and visiting the cave. Al took the cave tour there and really enjoyed it. The dogs and I hung out and had a short hike in a spot where they were allowed. Sadly, it was just a little too early to be able to drive to the top of Wheeler Mountain where you can see the bristlecone pines, trees that are thousands of years old. Next time!

This was the last stop on our way to the cabins. We headed back to Luton's Cabins for our fifth workamping season. It was a two-day drive from Ely, and we arrived the day before Mother's Day. Dan and Jonell were right behind us that day, and the other two couples were just a day or so behind. From there, the spring cleaning swung into full gear. Work-wise, nothing much had changed from prior years. Al continued his role as laundry guy and housekeeper dispatcher, and I worked in the office and did housekeeping. We had more hours in the office this year as there was only two of us to cover the week rather than three as the previous year. Jonell and I alternated weeks, working 3 days one week and 4 days the next. It was all good. 

Our days off, however, were unable to mesh this year due to the office hours, so we didn't get to do many extracurricular activities together. Dan and Al did get to do a lot of fishing, though, as the season for fishing swung into high gear the end of July on.



They did most of their fishing on the Buffalo Fork River, floating downriver on our Sea Eagle zodiac, and the results this summer were quite impressive. I don't think they were ever skunked ;-).

Speaking of the Buffalo Fork River, we have always wanted to kayak down it, and we decided this year was the year. Our friends and coworkers, Erin and Shawn, were off on Mondays with us, so we decided one day to do it! It was a little too early in the season, though, and the river was still running a bit hard, as we found out. We did do it, but with a few mishaps, a couple of dunkings, but all participants and equipment arrived at the end, except for one coffee mug that was lost forever. I will say, after this kayak run, Erin is now a superwoman in my eyes forever!


Our lunch spot on the kayak trip. It was a piece of cake from this point on :-).

We also went for a float trip down the Snake River late one afternoon, and a morning trip across String and Leigh Lakes, which we've done before. These kayak trips never disappoint!

 We did several hikes this summer, some old favorites and some new adventures. The Heron Pond hike is one we do every spring shortly after arriving. The snow on the mountains is always beautiful.

 A new one is a one-way hike from Lupine Meadows trailhead to the Taggart Lake trailhead, about 6 miles, and goes past two lakes, Bradley Lake and Taggart Lake. Late June is excellent for this hike as the spring flowers are bursting out. We did see a black bear on this hike, but he was a bit too far away for a good picture. 

Taggart Lake from the trail above.



A new hike we did this summer was to Lake Louise in the Wind River Mountain Range, east of us near Dubois. The hike is a little over five miles with an elevation gain of 1400 feet and follows a nice cascading river most of the way. It was a nice warm day when we started out, and by the time we got to the top, it was cold and starting to drizzle an icy, sleety rain! So we didn't spend too much time admiring the lake, which Erin assured me was very beautifully colored on a sunny day. But we did have our first sighting in five years in Wyoming of a bighorn sheep! 

We were joined later in the summer for a hike around Taggart Lake with some 2011 RV-Dreams rally fellow alumni Laura and Bruce Raber. They've been traveling out west for several months and landed in the Tetons this summer. Can you tell Taggart Lake is a favorite hike of ours?



In September, we took our last hike of the season into Cascade Canyon, another beautiful hike in the park. We did about 8 miles round trip, falling just short of the junction that takes you on to Lake Solitude. It was getting late, so we cut it short. We aren't very fast hikers. The scenery on this hike never disappoints, and we saw five moose along the way, culminating with this mom and baby. 


In August, we had friends from New York, Bob and Chrissie Savage, join us for a week on the ranch. It was fantastic to spend this time with them. Several activities were on the agenda, with our one and only trip into Yellowstone among them. There's a new trail that just opened in the park that gives you a birds-eye view of the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is a very rewarding addition to the park.


The end of September, I sent Al back to New York for several days to spend some time saltwater fishing with his buds back home. He had a great time and brought back plenty of fish to have a fish feast for the last of the workampers at the ranch. Arriving back October 2, we had planned to depart the following weekend, around the 7th, but an early season storm pushed up our departure plans and we rolled out ahead of it on the 4th. It pretty much chased us all across the country! We did stop for a few days in Springfield, Illinois, for a visit to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Presidential Library, and Lincoln's Tomb.

We had set our arrival date at Amazon for the end of October so we would have a little vacation time, and we spent two weeks in North Carolina. The first week we stayed in Morganton, N.C., visiting Kenny and Jodi. They had gone off the road, deciding to settle down here for a while. It's a cute small town with a lot of activities and close to the middle portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and all the outdoor activities nearby. Unfortunately, we arrived during an extremely rainy time, but we did manage a few outdoor excursions, namely, this one pictured above at Linville Falls. We had a great week exploring the town, trying some restaurants, playing games and cards at night. They have since bought a house here, and luckily for us, there's an RV site right on the property!


From Morganton, we headed a couple hours south to the Cherokee, N.C., area for another 5 days, this time joined by our South Carolina cousins Bill and Denise. We took a steam train ride from Bryson City and had hoped for some beautiful fall foliage colors, but due to the unusually wet summer and fall, the colors were very late this year. We did enjoy the town of Bryson City. We also did a triple waterfall hike on the Deep Creek Waterfall Loop on the one (one!) nice day for hiking. The trails were very wet. We also drove over to Gatlinburg one day -- now that was a trip! especially the moonshine tasting in the Ole Smokey Distillery shops -- and went to a great apple orchard farmers' market and explored the town of Waynesville. More local restaurant sampling and nightly card games with Bill and Denise kept us busy right through the end of our stay. All too soon, it was time to head to Campbellsville and another season at Amazon -- for Al!

Yes, I did not return to Amazon this year. I have become very busy with my proofreading business and simply would not be able to handle the hours required by Amazon. Plus, our furkids, Casey and Honey, are really getting up there in years, and we don't feel comfortable leaving them alone for such a long stretch of time any longer. So for the first time in my entire life, I was a stay-at-home mom, working my job remotely. It was quite a change for me, and I did enjoy it, but I did miss the daily contact of people. Most of the Amazon workampers in the park with us worked during the day, so there wasn't much activity going on. Al ended up on the midshift this year, working 12:15pm to 10:45pm. I kept pretty much the same hours that he did, doing my work while he was at work. The dogs appreciated having me at their beck and call, available for walking whenever they wanted :-). 

The weather was not very nice there this year either, very rainy, cold, and windy. Al did not get much overtime at all this year, and we are seriously considering if we are going to go back next year. It may be time for a change, and we are exploring some different opportunities at this time.

Speaking of change....we are returning to the ranch this year for the 2019 season, and it will be our 6th season there. But changes are coming, and we have made the decision that 2020 is going to be our year to head to Alaska! We are quite excited about this, as a summer adventure in Alaska and Canada has always been at the top of our bucket list. We are finally in a position where we financially can take off the summer, so we're doing it. At this time, some of our best friends are joining us: Dan and Jonell, and Bonnie and Richard. We are super-stoked about it, and the planning is really kicking into gear this winter. I will definitely have to make a better effort at keeping up my blog for that, as there is so much to see and do. 

So we are now back in Florida for the winter. The usual activities are taking place: taking care of doctor visits, maintenance on the rig. We have plans at Disney again, and we will be there from January 13 until February 1. It's a long time, but we are joining my sister and her family the first week, and then we have Al's family for our annual family reunion. We then expect to work the State Fair again with Scootaround, and then we'll have approximately 6-7 weeks off to goof around. Al is going fishing a couple of times, and I'm sure there is going to be some kayaking and "touristing" going on. The end of March we'll be headed north, probably working the Charlotte Car Show again with Scootaround, and then doing some visiting with friends in Charleston and "vacationing" at the Outer Banks, Richmond, Gettysburg, and Ohio on our way to Indiana, where we're having a beefier suspension and disc brakes put on the trailer. Then back to Wyoming!

So that's what we did in 2018, and the plans so far for 2019. I wish for all my friends, family, and readers to have a happy, healthy, and safe 2019, and maybe we'll see some of you down the road!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Lake Mead Recreation Area and Valley of Fire, Nevada

Note: still in catch-up mode from the spring travels. This was the end of April 2018.

Leaving Flagstaff, it was an easy day of driving to Lake Mead Recreation Area. Straight west on I-40, then hang a right at Kingman, AZ., onto 93, straight into Lake Mead. I like the easy days of driving :-). We decided to splurge here since we were staying at the Boulder Beach RV Park and booked a lakefront site. The sites were beautiful: level, concrete, quite large, with a beautiful view out our window of Lake Mead. 
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Lake Mead is a man-made lake formed by damming the Colorado River with the famous Hoover Dam. The recreation area encompasses a total of 1.5 million acres of land, following the Colorado River from the westernmost boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park to just north of the cities of Laughlin, NV., and Bullhead City, AZ. In 1964, the area became the first National Recreation Area to be designated by Congress as such.  



Our primary mission and a reason for stopping here on the way to Death Valley National Park was to visit with some old RV friends, Steve and Joan Crowe. They've spent a few winters here as volunteers. Once we were set up and settled, they headed over in their awesome red jeep (fully outfitted for the supreme off-roading experience!) to pick us up and head off for dinner, because, you know, that's what RVers do when they get together; we go out to eat! :-). Boulder City, NV., is south of Las Vegas and is a really nice town. It came into existence in 1931 as an area to house the workers building Hoover Dam. Because of the scope and duration of the work, a more permanent town was planned and built rather than temporary housing. Boulder City was actually conceived and planned through federal supervision, and as the Hoover Dam itself was a project of optimism for the country, suffering through the effects of the Great Depression, the city was planned with an emphasis on making a clean, pleasant living environment for the workers. There was plenty of open public space and landscaping in the design which eventually earned Boulder City the title of "Nevada's Garden City." And as Joan and Steve were giving us the tour of the city, we could see how nice the public areas are, and the pride in the town was quite evident in the neat and tidy residential areas. Many of the old block houses are being renovated into really cute homes. We did like Boulder City and think it is a great place to hang out for a while. 

After dinner, we went on an off-road excursion to view the sunset behind Lake Mead. After Steve asked if anyone had a fear of heights (!), we headed into the backcountry behind the dam. The trail ran along a crest of a ridge, and yes, it was quite narrow and dropped off quite steeply on both sides of the trail. I was super glad Steve is an experienced jeeper, although I'm sure this trail was easy-peasy for him. 

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The next day was a work day for Steve and Joan, so we planned an excursion to the north end of the recreation area to a Nevada State Park called Valley of Fire. Unfortunately, we didn't do any hiking there. There are some beautiful trails that wind into the formations, but it was a tad hot here...
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So, number one, we didn't want to leave the dogs alone in the trailer just in case something happened and the air conditioning went out, and, number two, look how hot it was! Not safe to do any kind of hiking in that heat. So we just had a nice driving tour through the park.

Valley of Fire consists of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in beds of gray and tan limestone mountains. In 1912, a rough road was carved out through the landscape, allowing people to travel between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. The name "Valley of Fire" was coined by an AAA official traveling through the area at sunset in the 1920s. 8500 acres of this land was given to the state of Nevada in the 1920s, and in 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps built the first facilities and campgrounds. In 1934 the park was officially opened as the first state park of Nevada. Valley of Fire now has 40,000 acres of multicolored rock, displaying a varied array of shapes and textures. 









The next day, we decided to take a tour of the Hoover Dam. We had been over it once many years earlier, but never took an actual tour of the facility. We headed over there early in the morning and got tickets for one of the first tours of the day. We took the hour-long dam tour, which includes a movie about the building of the dam and a tour of the power plant. 







After our tour of the Hoover Dam, we headed back to the rig for some lunch, and then Joan and I took an excursion to Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden. We told ourselves that the primary reason was to view the gardens, hoping that the cacti would be in full bloom, but we both ended up walking out of there with a good sampling of handmade chocolates to last a few days! Some of the cacti were blooming, but it was just a tad early for most of them. The chocolates, however, were delicious!







Steve and Joan were at the end of their volunteer stint at Lake Mead, with their last day occurring while we were visiting. We spent our last night there visiting with them in their gorgeous new Entegra motorhome and said our fond farewells as we were heading over to a new national park for us, Death Valley National Park, and they were headed up to North Dakota for their summer volunteer jobs at Sully's Hill National Game Preserve. We had been looking forward to exploring the state of Nevada on this expedition west this spring, our first time here in the state since we started RVing, and so far it's off to a great start!