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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Loss

I've been putting off this post for quite a while now.

A week after we left Rodanthe, we lost a huge member of our traveling household. Most people we have met along this RV road since 2011 have remembered us because of one thing, I think: our two dogs, Chelsea and Casey. We lost Chelsea back in Maine in 2013, devastatingly quick. It was a terrible blow to Casey, who had grown up with Chelsea since we had adopted him at 4 months old. He was 8 years old at that time and already getting a little gray in the muzzle.

We've never had a dog live longer than 10 years old before, so as he surpassed that age and kept on going strong, we were counting our lucky stars. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with kidney disease after he began to lose some weight. He was always thin to begin with, so it was quite noticeable when it happened. Fortunately, we had good veterinary care for him in our three main locations: Jackson, WY; Homosassa, FL; and Campbellsville, KY.

We could see him losing ground this past winter, but he still wasn't giving up. However, as we left Rodanthe, NC, and headed to Gettysburg, PA, he became very ill, and we found a veterinary practice close by the campground who would see us the day we arrived. They tried their best, but it was finally time to let him go. We said goodbye on April 27.

Hiking at Calf Creek Falls, UT

Hiking in Colorado with his friends, Kyoto and Osaka

Colorado hiking with Chelsea

Exploring the Beartooth Highway, MT, with Al and Honey


Saturday, April 20, 2019

On the Road Again


Our three months in Florida sure did go fast! It seemed as if we had no sooner arrived there than it was time to start heading out again. We had a wonderful time visiting with so many different family members during our stay at Walt Disney World. Due to the high cost, I don't foresee another such long stay there for us, but it sure was fun while it lasted :-). We also worked our customary 2 weeks at the Florida State Fair for Scootaround. Back in Homosassa, we finished up seeing our doctors for our annual exams, accomplished a good bit of yard work at the house, did some maintenance work (and repair work) on the rig, did our best to keep our two senior citizens, Honey and Casey :-), on their feet, and did a lot of preliminary planning for our big trip to Canada and Alaska in 2020. Our friends Bonnie and Richard have been an invaluable help to us this winter with Bonnie's help in the trip planning and Richard's tireless assistance on work on the rig. We've never had a name for our rig before now, but we think the appropriate name at this time is "Bionic." 

We actually left Florida on March 31. Our first destination was Charlotte, N.C., to work at the Auto fair again for Scootaround. I will say this will be our last year working the Auto Fair. We only do a couple of shows a year for Scootaround, and we have only worked for one managing team, Sandi and Dave. We mainly came to this show this year because they were working it. This year, though, the work at the show really beat us up. I think we were tired already when we arrived as we had done a ton of work in the yard at the house and a pretty grueling day of work on the rig two days before leaving -- we had to replace the underbelly covering of the rig. If you haven't had to do that yourself, it isn't fun. A huge "thank you" to Richard for his assistance! 

Once we were finished in Charlotte, we headed over to Charleston for some downtime, visiting our friends from New York, Bob and Chrissie Savage. They have retired to the Charleston area and spent the week showing us some of their favorite spots. We had been to Charleston a couple years ago and had already done the historic walking tour of the historic district, visited the Straw Market, and seen Fort Sumter Visitor Center and the USS Yorktown. So it was nice to see new areas.

On John's Island, we stopped to see the Charleston Angel Oak Tree. It's a massive live oak tree estimated to be 400-500 years old, possibly older. It's 66.5 feet tall, 28 feet in circumference, and the longest branch is 187 feet. 

The next day we went with Bob to go on a bird walk at Caw Caw Interpretive Center. It was about 3 hours long and introduced us to the history of rice farming plantations in the South Carolina coastal area. I had no idea that there was rice farming there! But this tract of land was once home to several rice plantations and home to enslaved Africans who worked on them. It was labor-intensive work, wet and dangerous with the alligators and snakes. It is humbling to think of the work involved to carve out a rice-growing plantation out of the cypress swamps. 

 These canals of water were carved out of the land for growing the rice.

Hanging out with the bird nerds :-). Most folks are regulars at the park and very nice. It's a wonderful spot to take a walk at. 

Fields of wild iris growing in the cypress swamp. 

Another excursion was to Middleton Plantation. Of course, Charleston is home to many plantations, and Middleton is one that has been saved and restored for its historical significance to our country. The Foundation has done a wonderful job of keeping the plantation historically accurate and researching the Middleton family and African-American slaves' stories. The plantation is said to host America's oldest landscaped gardens which Henry Middleton envisioned and began creating in 1741. 

The view from the ruins of the main plantation house, home to the Middletons. The main house was destroyed in the Civil War. 

The South Flanker of the home, shown above, was the surviving portion of the home and houses the plantation museum today, filled with original furniture, portraits, silver, china, documents, and more belonging to the family. I asked how much of this was saved from the ravages of the war and was told the family had warning that the Union Army was on the way and had time to spirit away most of their valuables. 

The gardens and view of the Ashley River were beautiful.

Our last day in Charleston was spent with a visit to Fort Moultrie National Historic Park on Sullivan's Island north of Charleston. Fort Moultrie has a long history starting with the Revolutionary War, being attacked by the British on June 28, 1776. After the Revolution, it was neglected and abandoned until 1794, when war broke out between Great Britain and France and the U.S. wanted to fortify its coastal defenses. The second Fort Moultrie was also neglected and eventually destroyed by a hurricane. In 1809, a third Fort Moultrie was built and manned. The Federal garrison abandoned the fort in 1860 when South Carolina seceded the Union in favor of the more easily defended Fort Sumter, which also fell to the Confederate forces in 1865. After the world wars and the advent of nuclear weapons and guided missiles, the fort was rendered obsolete, and today, the fort has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. It was a very interesting visit.

Our next stop was a place that's been on our radar for a long time but never made it onto the travel itinerary. This year it did! We have been camped for the last week at Camp Hatteras in Rodanthe, N.C., in the Outer Banks. It is beautiful here and really reminds us of a lot of home. For our folks back on the Island, picture Napeague Stretch, but going on for about 100 miles! 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches north to south across three islands: Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. We stayed on Hatteras Island, in the middle of the three, which is also the longest island. Highway 12 runs the length of the 3 islands, with bridges connecting Bodie to the mainland and Hatteras, and a ferry connecting Hatteras to Ocracoke. We didn't make it to Ocracoke on this trip. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse above is one of the world's most recognizable lighthouses and is also the tallest brick lighthouse, standing at 208 feet tall. Its light beam reaches out 20 miles into the ocean, protecting vessels from one of the most treacherous stretches of waterways on the East Coast. Coastal erosion threatened to topple the lighthouse in the early 1990s, and in 1999, the lighthouse was carefully moved 2900 feet inland to a safer location. If you don't mind heights, heat, and walking up 248 steps, you can even climb up to the top of the lighthouse!

These were the home buildings for the lighthouse keepers and now house the museum. 

Inside the museum is a map of the shipwrecks, over 600 of them, in this area, known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."

In fact, in the town of Hatteras is the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. There are no entrance fees, and it's a very well-done museum of exhibits detailing the history of the coast from The American Revolution through the Civil War and the world wars, with an emphasis on the German U-boats that were wreaking havoc on our shipping.  There were also exhibits on the history of diving, pirates, and fishing along the coast.

Al had a shocking moment in the fishing exhibit when he realized some of the equipment depicted is equipment he used to use on his boat out at Montauk. He said seeing that stuff in a museum made him feel really old. 

The mansions along the ocean at the tip of Hatteras Island. 

North of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the town of Nag's Head, where you can find your major shopping area, and Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers National Monument is. This is where the Wright brothers had their famous first flight. There are a small museum and a short drive loop to different sites within the park.

Replica of the original aircraft. There's a piece of the original cloth of the wing material in a dark box. 

60-foot monument on top of Kill Devil Hill honors the Wright Brothers and marks the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight.

This bronze-and-steel sculpture recreates the historic 1903 flight. The powered glider is in front, with life-sized figures representing the local townfolks that had come out to assist with the tests.  The photographer who is taking the historic photo is John T. Daniels, a local member of the U.S. Life- Saving Service.

This marker commemorates the exact spot where the glider took off from the ground the first time. 
Smaller stone markers chart the first four flights' paths, distances, and landings. 

While in Rodanthe, we were fortunate to discover that there was going to be a demonstration by a team of volunteers showing how an actual rescue of shipwrecked people happens. The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station in Rodanthe held a lecture about the history and then walked us out to the dunes behind the boathouse to show us the Beach Apparatus Drill. 

The boathouse and life-saving crew wheeling out the cart holding all of the rescue equipment.

The cart and equipment weigh about 1,000 pounds. It looked difficult enough for them to wheel it out the short distance they did here. In reality, they would be wheeling it out in the most horrid storm conditions, possibly up to 3 miles down the beach in either direction. There are 16 stations total spaced out along the coastline, but depending upon where a ship comes to be in distress, the distance can be quite formidable to get to it. 

Each seaman would step forward and recite the particular steps that were their requirement to get the job done. There are 8 seamen working in concert with each other. Each step has to be done at the exact right time to keep lines from becoming tangled. 

Drill in progress. They are shooting the rescue line to the mock ship's mast on the beach.

Simulated rescue of a ship's passenger on the rescue line in the breeches buoy.

The demonstration was totally fascinating and humbling to think of how hard men used to work to rescue people in danger, putting themselves in danger as well. I am very happy that we were here at the right time to be able to join the group. Afterward, there was a BBQ chicken dinner put on by the volunteers to raise money for the foundation that has kept the property in such good shape. I feel it is very important to keep pieces of our country's history intact like this and applaud those who donate their time and money to doing so. And the chicken was really good!

While we've been here, we've also gone through two pretty respectable storms. I'm happy to report that the rig easily withstood sustained winds of 40+ knots with a couple of gusts up to 60 knots! Not something that I really care to repeat often, but we did fine :-). 

Tomorrow we will be back on the road, headed further north. We'll be stopping for a couple of days in Richmond, VA., and then Gettysburg, PA., for a few days. From there, we're headed to Elkhart, IN., to the MoRyde factory, where we're having the IS suspension and disc brakes put on. Remember, we're Bionic now ;-). Hopefully, the weather will be a little more cooperative and the storms are behind us for a while. 

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!