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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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Trek West and Arrival Back at the Ranch!

Let's see, where did we leave off?? We had left Lexington and all our fun activities there, and I had already posted about our interruption due to mechanical issues prior to that. So we were in Rock Island, IL, and not too far from one of Al's favorite show's home base, American Pickers. Since the repair to our landing gear was so quick, once we got the rig back to the campground and set back up again, we took off to visit Antique Archaeology.
I had no idea where we were going when the GPS directed us into a narrow alley, but Al recognized the car right away.

I was expecting a much larger shop, but they did have quite a bit of stuff (junk??) tucked away in the small building. I then realized that there was also a second building full of more stuff. I quickly came to the realization that there must be a lot of people that really like old signs, old tools, old bikes and old motorcycles. Of course, there was also a good amount of logo items available to purchase :-). It was an interesting diversion for a cold, rainy afternoon. 

After stocking up at Walmart on groceries for the next several days, we just relaxed in front of the fireplace and caught up on some shows. The next four days were going to be driving days as we headed west towards Custer State Park. The first day was all easy driving, straight across Iowa on I80. It was rainy, and I found there was a lot of truck traffic along this route. we stopped to refuel at the exit where you find Adventureland, a popular amusement park for workampers; what a nightmare this exit was! I have it marked "never again!" unless absolutely necessary. Our stop for the night was Wilson Island State Park, right off the highway as you switch over to I29. Electric-only sites, but easy access to water and a dump station if needed, and the sites were pretty big. It was also mostly empty, and easy on/off of the highway. Next stop was an overnighter at Mitchell, South Dakota, as we were traversing South Dakota. While in the area, it was absolutely necessary to check out the world-famous Corn Palace.
The Corn Palace is not actually built out of corn, but reinforced concrete. Every spring, however, the exterior is completely covered with thousands of bushels of native South Dakota corn, grain and grasses that are fashioned into large murals.

Each year's theme is different, and the theme for 2016 is "Rock of Ages."

The next day, we headed further west, and stopped at Badlands National Park for the night. After setting up, we had a quick dinner, and then took a ride out through the park to see the sunset from a nice vantage point. This area is called the Yellow Mounds, and is always stunning with the last rays of the sun illuminating the mounds.

Our actual sunset spot, though, was at Conata Basin Overlook. You could tell it was quite early in the season, as we were the only people hanging out here. It was so quiet and peaceful, not even a car drove by this late, and all we heard was the coyotes yipping in the distance. Simple moments like this are what we love about this roaming life :-). Priceless.

A short, 90-mile drive the next day landed us at our destination for five days, Custer State Park. Another electric-only campsite, we filled up with water and settled into a site at the Game Lodge Campground. It was still early in the season here, but the campground was quite busy, especially on the weekend when all sites were filled. This campground actually has no sites set aside for walk-ins; if you don't have a reservation, you must call the reservation center before taking a site to see if it's available. In the interests of conserving water here, so we wouldn't have to fill our tanks halfway through the stay, we used the showers at the bath house and they were very clean and well-maintained. A big thumbs-up to the camp hosts here, they are doing a great job!

A huge reason for our stop here for a few days was to visit our good friends Phil and Rudee, of Workin' Rv'ers fame. They have settled in Custer for now, working year 'round at Crazy Horse Memorial. We were also delighted to find out the Steve and Joan were also in Custer, hoping to secure jobs at Crazy Horse for the summer (which they did). We all had dinner together one night, minus Rudee, who was in Indiana attending to some family business. We also met Deb and Jim Britt, friends of Steve and Joan, who are also at Crazy Horse this summer. I love the intertwining of our lives :-). We had a great time at Black Hills Burger and Bun, a new favorite for us when in Custer.
While here, we took a drive along the Iron Mountain Road, finding several pronghorn along the way.

We did some geocaching at an old abandoned ghost mining camp...


searching for the caches among the dilapidated buildings and cars.

We did a cruise past Mt. Rushmore, but didn't see any mountain goats...bummer.

Back on the Needles Highway to another favorite area, Sylvan Lake, where we took a hike around the perimeter of the lake.

The going gets pretty narrow at the far end of the lake!

The reward on the far side of the lake is this beautiful view.

We also had an up close and personal tour of the Crazy Horse Memorial, the advantages of knowing people in high places :-). Thanks, Phil!

While we were checking out the progress of the sculpture, we were being checked out by a pair of suspicious marmots.

There's still a very long way to go before this statue is finished.

A model of the finished version is on display in the Visitor's Center.

This picture shows the lines drawn on the existing block of the mountain. It sure is a prodigious amount of work involved, and it's all done without any government or tax-payer funding.

Being early spring, there was an abundance of "red dogs"....the term for the baby bison. We had a really great visit, even getting together one night with Steve, Joan, Deb and Jim for some rousing games of Marbles, Cards and Jokers, and they taught us a new game (for us), Qwirkle. I think I see it in our future :-)

With a fond farewell to everyone in Custer, we headed out once again, west into Wyoming. We had an overnight in Casper, then drove north to Cody to spend a few days before reporting to the ranch to start work. The drive through the Wind River Canyon from Shoshone to Thermopolis was simply magnificent, even with the light snow that we were driving through :-)!My main drive for stopping in Cody for a couple of days was to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which I had heard was quite interesting. This was very true! We spent a whole day there, and only were able to see about half of the exhibits. We really needed another day, but had the good fortune to be in Cody for the beginning of the "Spring Into Yellowstone" Festival. I had no idea it was going on, but I found several different events taking place, one of which I was thrilled to find available spots for: a visit to see the wild horses on the BLM lands of the McCulloch Peaks. Sign me up!!

So on our second day in Cody we took the dogs for a long walk, first visiting the dog park and then walking around Beck lake and the reservoir. After lunch we joined the ranger, loaded into an over-sized van and headed out to the BLM lands east of Cody. It wasn't long before we found one of the herds!

Every horse is named and kept track of by rangers with the BLM. The woman leading our expedition has been working with this herd for 25 years.

It was so interesting to just hang out and observe these wild mustangs.

Each male has his own "harem", and in this instance, the females roamed a bit farther away than he wanted. He started rounding them up, in a maneuver they called "snaking."


What a beautiful setting it was, and all too soon it was time to head back to civilization. I am so happy to have experienced this. Once again, one of the reasons we are doing what we are doing!

We had one more day in Cody, as it was Friday the 13th, and I refused to travel that day :-). We had planned to go back to the museum, but the toilet that started leaking everywhere that morning had different plans for us! At least it happened in a spot where there was an Ace Hardware store only five minutes away! We accomplished that task, along with some other small items, and did some cleaning and grocery shopping. We splurged on going out to dinner at the Chinese Buffet in town, as we really don't have anything like that near us for many more months. It was pretty good, but so far I haven't found any Chinese Buffet that comes close to being as good as the one in Brooksville, Florida!

So we arrived here at the ranch mid-afternoon May 14th. We started work on the 16th, and worked eight straight days :-)! The season is kicking off with a strong showing of bookings, and we've been working hard on the spring cleaning, getting everything all spiffy. There hasn't been much time for pictures or socializing, but we have a really nice group of workers this year, and we look forward to getting to know them all better. Now that training is underway, and everyone seems to be getting the hang of the procedures, I think we're going to have a great summer. So hang on, and we will start our summer adventures soon! Thanks for coming along with us this spring, we had a wonderful trip west.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lexington, Kentucky

Leaving Asheville, N.C., we had an easy drive west on I40 then north on I75 straight to Lexington. It was a beautiful day, light traffic, and an easy ride -- just what we like! We stayed at the Kentucky Horse Park campground, which I chose for its proximity to the attractions we wished to attend: the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland Race Track, and Woodford Distillery. Towards the end of our stay, we were also meeting up with our former co-workers from Bar Harbor, Mark and Debi Warner. They've been roaming the quilt show circuit this spring and summer, and decided to meet us here as they were in the area -- one of the best parts about our gypsy lifestyle :-).

The campground was pretty nice, but the site we had initially selected turned out to be extremely
unlevel, with the back of the site much higher than the front. We spent close to an hour trying to get level, without much success, the front jacks being so far extended out that we just weren't comfortable leaving that way. I ended up going back to the office to see if there were any other sites available, and out of the three possibilities they had for us, we did find one that was much better suited for a big rig like ours. Once we moved, setting up was a piece of cake and we were settled for a week here.

We spent a whole day here at the Kentucky Horse Park, 

We spent all morning here, at the International Museum of the Horse, a affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

It went through the entire history of the horse, with many exhibits.

the history of horse racing was detailed throughout many exhibits as well.

Different breeds had their own halls and exhibits, such as the Arabians.

Outside, there was a riding exhibit of different breeds of horses, with their riders dressed in the traditional garb of the countries they were representing.

Outside, there were memorials to famous horses such as Man O'War...

and Secretariat.

The next day, we took a tour of a few local horse farms, such as KatieRich Farms. It's baby season, and this beautiful little foal is only 3 days old.


These are all thoroughbreds, and their living facilities are unbelievable. These horses are worth big bucks, and treated accordingly.

I just love horses!
When we work at Amazon in Campbellsville each fall, we are in the heart of what is called the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Several people we have worked with have done this adventure, but we never had; it was difficult, working the night shift, to get out and about during the day to pursue activities; at least, for us it is. So we decided that while we were in Lexington, it was time to investigate and find out what the distillery tours are like. Woodford Reserve is pretty close to the campground, in the town of Versailles, so we headed up there one morning. I found the tour quite interesting.

From fermentation...

to distilling...

to aging...

and bottling.


Tasting was last on the tour, and they gave us two different types to taste, along with a bourbon ball chocolate candy. Rest assured, I will not be turning into a bourbon connoisseur; yes, the second taste was much smoother than the first taste, but I'm pretty sure it was because the first taste burned away my taste buds! 

We had the good fortune to be in town during one of the two months when live horse racing is occurring at Keeneland. While in Rome, and all that....so we bought tickets for seats in the Grandstand, and headed over for the races :-).

If you don't own a fancy hat, not to worry; you can get fixed up right there at the race track!

Of course, what would races be without a glass of champagne?


We headed to our seats, taking time to look at all the details, as well as stopping at the "Betologist" booth, where neophytes like us can become educated in the basics of betting :-).  We had a quick lesson, and went all out with big bets....$6.00 on a straight wager, across the board...select one horse to either win, place or show. We did this for the first three races of the day.


Before each race, the horses run in the race are brought out into a central area for all to see. They are certainly beautiful creatures.

Before each race, the track is smoothed out.

The scoreboard is across the track from the Grandstand.

All the horses racing in that particular race are brought out and paraded in front of the grandstand, on their way to the starting gate.

The horses are entering the starting gate....

and once fully loaded, the starting signal sounds and off they go!


It's quite exciting for about two minutes :-). Then it all starts over again, with about 30 minutes in between races. We stayed for three races, I think there were six races that day altogether, and we had a great time. We even won on the last race....we bet $6.00 and got $6.20 back....LOL. We are definitely not getting rich that way :-).

We had a good time with Mark and Debi as well. We had a cookout at the campground the first night they were there, and we gabbed for a real long time, catching up with what we've all been doing since 2013. Time sure does fly! The next day we drove into Lexington together, and took a tour of the Mary Todd Lincoln House. It was very interesting, and I really enjoyed learning more about this misunderstood woman in history. I highly recommend it if you are in the area. We had hoped to also visit the Henry Clay Estate, but it wasn't open that day. We all decided to check out a local BBQ restaurant, Red State BBQ. It's one of those places that you wouldn't give a second glance at driving by, but has some really good food. We had actually stopped there on the Horse Farm tour, just for ice cream, and we wanted to go back for dinner. Since we never have to twist Mark's arm to go out for BBQ, we all headed over there. Everyone said the food was great, and I can personally attest to the fact that my brisket sandwich with beer cheese was totally awesome. The big downer was that the day before we had tried their peach bourbon bread pudding, which was delicious, but they didn't have any that night :-(. I guess that just gives us a reason to head back there some day!

While in Lexington for a few days, we also tackled an issue that has been giving us fits; our internet
. One thing I require is good internet. Up until last summer, we had been working off of a Verizon Jetpack which worked pretty good most of the time. Last year, though, Al decided to change to the Verizon aircard U620L. During the summer, we had been hit by a lightning strike that had fried the WifiRanger router that we had, so we replaced it with the Go2 WiFiRanger router. We were never able to get it working correctly, and it was extremely aggravating. We had gone so far as to send the aircard and the router together back to WifiRanger. The first time they had it for over a month before deeming it working properly (which it didn't when we got it back). We sent it all back to them again when we got back to the house for the winter, and again, they patched it, or whatever, and sent it back to us. We tried it out when we went to the Keys in March. It wouldn't work at all when we were in Naples overnight, but then hooked up and worked fine while we were in Marathon. But as we headed out this spring on Expedition West, it was all over the place, and we finally threw in the towel. Al talked to the folks at the 3G Store, and we are now set up with the Pepwave Surf Soho, and it's working brilliantly. I can only take so much aggravation :-).

We are currently in Cody,WY., and will be heading to the ranch tomorrow. I still have a little bit to catch up on with our travels west, so hopefully, I will have that updated quickly, as I'm sure our summer adventures will come upon us quite quickly!