"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Yellowstone...what a treasure.

This is a little after the fact but sometimes these blogs run around in my head but I lack the discipline to sit down and put them on paper (or in this case the computer). We are in Missoula now and are headed towards Portland. John has had this destination on his list for awhile so since he's the driver, that's where we will go. I have us set up for 2 weeks at the Columbia River Resort. We read that it is easy to use public transportation to go into the city so that's our plan. I'm not complaining as it is a mecca for yarn shoppers and I love, love , love yarn shops!
View from the Biscuit Basin Overlook

Mystic Falls

So back to Yellowstone. It seems fitting that we visit this park, the first National Park on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We have been close to this park on several occasions over the last 6 years but for one reason or another we were unable to spend time here. I planned a week and really that is not enough time but the RV parks in this area are pricey and we are pushing the season a bit so a week is all we planned.

We stayed in Gardiner MT just north (as in spitting distance) of the north entrance to the park . I tried to get us into the Fishing Bridge campground in the park but they were full and I made that call 8 months in advance.  Instead we paid the bucks and stayed at Rocky Mountain RV Park. It is on a hill overlooking the town and within walking distance, though up a steep hill, of the restaurants and shops, so a very convenient location. It was a well kept up park and I think we would stay here again though I believe our next visit we want to be near the Tetons and the southern portion of the park.

Mother nature was not our friend this week though and out of the seven days we really only had 2 nice days. The rest of the days were chilly and rainy on and off. Monday it snowed in the higher elevations and Thursday when we were at the Canyon Village it was spitting snow. To further complicate things there were several fires that had places closed down and on Monday they closed the road south through Norris so anywhere we wanted to go after that he had to travel the loop and over the pass.

This fire really kicked up while we were at Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Even with all the frustrations we enjoyed what we got to do. On our 2 nice days we hiked Lost Lake trail that starts right behind the Roosevelt Lodge. This is a beautiful mountain hike with about 400 ft elevation change to a beautiful mountain lake. I think this was our favorite hike. The weather was beautiful and there was no one on the trail with us. That feeling of being alone in nature  is such a joy and in busy national parks sometimes hard to find unless you are willing to go uphill.
Sapphire Pool

Our second hike was Mystic Falls. The trail head is at the back of the Biscuit Basin area. We got to the sign and it had Mystic Falls both directions at about .7 miles one way and an Overlook area  about .7 the other and the falls 1.7 mi. We decided to go to the Overlook thinking it would be a good vantage point to see the falls. What the sign didn't say was it wasn't an Overlook for the falls but for the Basin so 1 mile later and 600 ft of elevation change we had a beautiful view of the area and were exhausted. It was a climb and these slightly out-of-shape flatlanders did some huffing and puffing all the way up (and a decent amount of complaining). However it was well worth the effort as the views were stunning. The rest of the hike to the falls and back were a little easier and Mystic Falls is beautiful.
Hot springs

We did some other touring by car with short hikes since the weather was not great. We saw the geysers, Old Faithful, the Artist Paint Pots, Mammoth Hot springs and the Canyon area. The lower falls of the canyon are also a stunning site to see. The view from Artists Point is not to be missed, It is the most photographed point in the park and for good reason.
Lower Falls from Artists' Point

Our last trip into the park is when we viewed the most wildlife. Elk are plentiful and all you have to do is go to Mammoth  Hot Springs and hang out at the visitors center to see a bull elk and his harem. On Thursday we saw a huge herd of Bison. They were on both sides of the road. We also got to see some Long Horned Sheep and Mule Deer. We had a couple places people sighted bears and of course the ensuing traffic jam as every one wanted to get a photo. I always wonder what the bears think of that. People just act crazy trying to get photos. The poor rangers who are trying to keep both the people and wild life safe sure have their work cut out for them.

The combination of weather and construction kept us from exploring the southern part of the park and the Tetons so we decided we'll just have to come back and explore those later. I think I will plan for us to stay in the Tetons that trip and do both from there. One of the things I like about this lifestyle is knowing I can return another time and we don't have to do it all at once. The joy of being retired.

I am so glad we finally made it to Yellowstone and I am so thankful for these Public Lands and the opportunity it gives us to  explore this incredibly beautiful country we live in. So Happy Birthday to the National Parks may we protect and enjoy them for centuries to come.
Goodbye for now Yellowstone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What I've learned from my granddaughter

Life Pro Tips is a topic on Reddit that collects the wisdom of people that have lived life and want to pass on a few of the things they've learned. But what would you call it if you get your tips from a three year old? I call it Life According to Evie. Or maybe: From the Mouths of Babes (although she would be quick to point out that she is not a baby, she's a big girl.)

When she was two, she taught me that when things go south, no matter how guilty you are you should hold your hands over your mouth, act surprised and say "Oh no, how did that happen?" When she was three she came up with this gem: "That's ok; that happens sometimes." I'm guessing she heard it from her mother or her dad, but she applies it with a broad brush. Anything that might be described with a preface of "uh-oh" is quickly followed by "That's ok; that happens sometimes." It's used to offer absolution and forgiveness, and to move on. Even if it was your fault. Or maybe especially if it was your fault. It's a bandaid for minor wounds, but once you start saying it, you start pushing the boundaries to how much stuff it will cover. This is from a little girl who still believes a kiss will fix many scrapes and bumps. This power is invested in parents and grandparents, but can only be given by the very young. And when does this kiss lose the power to heal? Never. It's not the kiss that changes, it's the belief in what that kiss can do. As long a you believe, that kiss actually helps. So how cool would it be if we could actually forgive ourselves, or someone else, and move on? All it takes are the magic words: "That's ok, that happens sometimes." You have to believe. You have to forgive. And you have to move on. For a three year old, it's no harder than breathing. She's my hero.

- John

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Black Hawk SP and the Black Hills

Black Hawk Lake, Lake View IA

Gabe & Melissa
It's been a great week even though the weather has been a bit iffy. After visiting with friends in Omaha (thanks for a great visit Judi, Al, Dixie and Dan) we ventured back into Iowa to visit our oldest son Gabe and his wife Melissa. Seems the summer passes and we never get enough time with them. They recommended a new spot for us to camp at, Black Hawk State Park on Black Hawk Lake in Lake View IA, about 20 miles south of their home in Early.  I reserved a site on the lakefront for a couple nights. The signage into this park is not great but we finally found our way there. The roads are a bit tight and when we found our spot and tried to park, it was going to be a bit tight because of 2 trees and then these crazy posts with the site numbers that made backing in impossible. Called the ranger and explained our dilemma, he said we could pull the problem post out. Really? He could tell I was skeptical and said he was on his way to the campground and he would stop by. Yep, the posts come out relatively easily, who would have thought. We actually talked him into the site next to ours so we didn't have to deal with the trees, so we stayed on site 49. The best site actually is site 50 next to that one and I have already decided to reserve that one next spring for a week. I have to say the kids were right, this is a beautiful place to park. Since they were working we had some time during the day to just relax and enjoy the lake. John also decided we should walk around the lake, he estimated it at 3-4 miles. Well, 6.60 miles later he admitted he had underestimated it a little. Longest hike we have done in awhile.  Beautiful lake, long hike and time with Melissa and Gabe makes for a wonderful day.

Thursday we drove to Mitchell SD for just a one night stay. It was our anniversary (32 years!) so we went to eat at the Whiskey Creek Wood Fired Grill. No lunch today so we went early and had the place almost to ourselves. It was great. We both ordered their baby back ribs and they were fall off the rib yummy. We have been in Mitchell before and already visited the Corn Palace so one night was enough. We stayed at the R & R Campground right behind the Super 8. It's great for a convenient in and out stay.

Friday it was on to Spearfish SD and the Black Hills, where we are currently staying. The park I picked is the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. This one is a little pricier than I usually pick but it lives up to its resort status. We have a good WiFi signal, cable tv, there is a pool, tennis courts, basketball court, and horseshoe courts. The WiFi and cable are really the only two we have used but the WiFi has made it worth it. I am doing a photo book for my granddaughter and was able to upload all the photos I needed and I'm getting this blog posted, yippeee!!!! Just before bed I used the bathroom and when I went to flush the cable broke on the pedal. Crap. My first thought was " here we go again, in a beautiful spot and we will spend it fixing something". Luckily John had parts for this, as he had anticipated it happening so by noon Saturday he had it fixed and working better than it had in awhile. The good part about where we are parked is we are right across from the shower house so Friday night and Saturday morning we had easy access to the facilities which I have to say are quite nice.

So Saturday afternoon we took off to discover the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and take a short hike to Roughlock Falls. This is a stunningly beautiful area, we've been in the Black Hills before and I don't think it will ever get old. The trail to the falls is paved and easy and wonderful. It was a nice break from the driving and fixing things. I had some fun with the camera so I hope you enjoy the photos. Even though the forecast called for rain, we had a beautiful day and the storm held off until evening.

Rain was and is in the forecast for everyday here but Sunday. I wanted to visit Devil's Tower which is a little over an hour away into Wyoming. I checked the weather app and at the Tower it looked like it would clear off in the afternoon so we decided to go. We drove in a drizzel and fog until shortly after we exited I90 and then it gradually cleared. It did cloud up again as we got to our destination, but no rain. We had missed this site on our other trips this way and it was high on my list of things to do. The day was actually perfect for the short hike and viewing this incredible rock. Climbing this rock is a big thing, with my fear of heights just the thought of it makes my head ache. There were several groups of climbers out so fun to watch them. It was late enough in the day we were actually watching their decent. We even did a little video we sent to Evie. She loves rocks and we told her she would love this really, really big rock. :) As we traveled back just before I90 the fog returned. The rain held off long enough for us to get back, stop for groceries and get into the rig, then it let loose again. Our luck is holding out.
Our approach to Devil's Tower

See if you can find the climbers..

A little closer now
A little perspective

Leaving and heading into the fog

Lunch with Laurie and George
Yesterday (Monday) we took a drive to Custer to have lunch with fellow full-timers and blogger friends Laurie and George. We have met them several times along the way but the last time we visited is when were both at Campbellsville to work for Amazon. They have had a year of challenges and it was good to catch up. George had surgery recently and it was particularly good to see him doing well.
We ate at the Buglin' Bull. Great burgers. It only seemed right to have a bison burger since this is where the bison live large. The drive there and back was serene. We made a short stop at Deadwood and checked out the downtown. Interesting and if you like to gamble there are lots of opportunities. The sun was out for a short time when we returned but it wasn't long before the clouds and rain were back. With all the rain in this area this week we feel very lucky to get out to the places we wanted and stay dry. Today we are just hanging out. We will do a little laundry and relax. Tomorrow is a travel day to Gerryowen MT. This is close to the site of the battle of the Little Bighorn and the Cuter museum which should fill the day we have there. Friday we will drive to Gardiner MT, our base for seeing Yellowstone. The weather there has not been good this week but is suppose to improve by the time we get there. They even had snow in the higher elevations. It should be interesting. 

Beyond Yellowstone? Maybe Oregon and Portland, maybe  Idaho & Utah. Suggestions anyone? Sometimes there are so many choices I feel like I can't make a decision. Well I've got another week so what's the rush, right?

Happy Trails.................................

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Looking forward to fall travel

A visitor to our campsite at Squaw Creek

Well summer is winding down and our fall travel is taking shape. It has been a great summer here in Iowa. We spent lots of quality time with friends, family and especially our granddaughter but it's time now to hitch up for adventures down the road. Hitch-itch always hits me in August and this year is no exception. We are packing up and preparing this week as well as saying goodbye to people here. We have a little bit of a roundabout route coming up. Sunday we will drive to Omaha to spend some time with good friends there, Al and Judi, as well as Dan and Dixie who are coming in from Loveland, Colorado. We always have a good time with this group and this will be a great start to our travels. Leaving Omaha we will go back into Iowa to stay near our son Gabe and his wife Melissa. We will be trying out a new camping spot south of them at Black Hawk Lake State Park. They really like this park so we are anxious to check it out. Then the real travel begins.
We are going to miss this cutie

For several years we have talked about going to Yellowstone and the Tetons but something always came up and it never worked out, but this is the year. Along the way we are also going to stay in Spearfish SD and check out this part of the Black Hills. We will be there over Labor Day and I also want to drive to Devils Tower as this is also something we haven't seen yet. We have lots of new areas on tap for us this fall and we are really looking forward to it. 

We have spent 5 of our 6 years of travel in the West and Southwest and yet there is so much to still discover. Rushing around in vacation mode is just not our style but sometimes it's necessary. I think the time at Yellowstone will be like that. I don't have any reservations passed that week and if the weather is good I would like to stay near Jackson, closer to Tetons National Park.  I have a couple potential parks there to call. The other factor, as always in the fall, are forest fires. Just today on the NPS site for the Tetons there is an alert and road closure due to fire. Once we are done in that area we will decide where to go next. I am trying to have fewer reservations to give us more options. I have Plan A, B and C for after that. All great places with new discoveries to be made.

This year is the first one in a while that we have not worked some along the way and things are going pretty well. We would like to do more traveling in the summer. There are a lot of places in the North half of the country that we would like to see and people we would like to visit, especially in Minnesota and some out East and family in the Northwest. So next year we are going to do things a little differently. We will be back in Iowa in the early spring, in time for our granddaughter's birthday and then in June we will take off for the Northwest for a couple months. We have a wedding at the end of July in Seattle that we want to attend. Then the plan is to return to Iowa for another month or so and the next winter will be in Florida. Like all our plans these are all made in jello and can change to suit what's happening at the time. What's clear to us is we still have lots of places to discover. This is a large and extremely beautiful country and even if we travel 10 more years I know there will still be things we have missed. We feel blessed to have this life.

Happy Trails..........................

Monday, August 1, 2016

The long hot summer

A beautiful summer sky

So is it hot where you are? It sure has been a hot one here and I think it has been in much of the country. The previous two summers were pretty mild so this one has been a bit of a shock but I do remember other summers in Iowa that were like this. With world wide temps on the rise I just hope this doesn't become the norm. We have had plenty of rain bringing a banner crop of gnats and mosquitoes. In spite of all that, it's shaping up to be a great summer.

When we came this summer we thought this would be a slower pace since we weren't working. Well, such is not the case. It's been a great summer but busier than ever. We have tried to spend more time with our granddaughter, even had her overnight once and maybe we will get that privilege again. At three, she is simply a delight to be around. We have gone with her preschool on two field trips and that was a hoot. The last one was to a splash pad and park. After helping to wrangle about 15 3-4 year olds,
Field Trip!
we were exhausted. How do these people do it? Her head teacher, Miss Vickie, had 10 children of her own so there is a lot of experience there. I stayed home when my sons were little and I can tell you, I don't think we pay our daycare workers nearly enough for all they do.
Its hard to resist that cute face!

We also have connected with many good friends, some that we haven't seen much the last couple of years and had some great talks and laughs around the campfire. Another great visit was when fellow full-timers John and Sharon Hinton came through and stayed a week. That week we camped down at a COE park on the Coralville Reservoir. We did some sightseeing, visited a couple local microbreweries and just generally had a blast. They were here on Father's Day, so our son and Evie joined us at the campfire and it was good to have him see what great friends we have made on the road. Many people just don't understand that. I think we have as many good friends out on the road as we do in Iowa. The internet has made that possible thru blogs so that when we cross paths we can get together. Another of our full timer friends Evelyn also stopped by this past week for a couple hours. So good to see her and catch up.

Fun with the Hintons!

Trudy and Mike
On top of all that we had two big projects we wanted to accomplish. Our friends Trudy and Mike have helped us out countless times and last winter Mike went beyond the call of duty and helped us get a car for our son and daughter-in-law. He worked hard and went way beyond what most people would do. We wanted to do something to help them. I know Trudy had been talking for the last few years about cleaning and staining their deck but with both working and teenagers there never seemed to be time. Perfect project for us to tackle. We worked 4-5 days on it, of course only for 3-4 hours at a time and when we finished we thought it looked great. 

Hard at work
Tada!! A finished deck!

The second project was to help our friend Gayle get her 5th wheel cleaned out and ready to sell. Last fall her husband John passed away. We got to see him right before we left the area and he died a couple days later. We have spent time camping with them the last 4-5 summers and we really miss him. So last week we went to the storage lot, hitched it up and brought it out to Squaw Creek where we are currently camped. Gayle spent a long 5 days cleaning it out an getting it ready to sell. John washed the outside to get it looking nice an shiny. On Friday we helped her haul it to Dubuque where it will be stored at Couler Valley RV on a lot big enough to get the slides out so she can show it to potential buyers. This unit is an 2005 Excel Limited 33RSE. They were snow birds and took excellent care of it. If you know of anyone who is looking for a full time worthy RV but can't afford a new one let me know and I will get the specifics to you. Our rig is also an Excel so we can vouch for the quality.
Our friend's Excel, beautiful rig.

We are hoping the next few weeks will slow a little but it seems like the days and evening are already filling up. We want to spend as much time with Evie as possible the next few weeks. Our plan as of now is to leave here on the 28th. Labor day we will be at Custer State Park  in the Black Hills and then on to Yellowstone and the Tetons. Beyond that we are looking at going to Portland area and spending some time in Oregon before going further south for the winter.

I hope you all stay cool and enjoy what's left of the summer.

Happy Trails.........................

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Growing older

I like this age!

We are enjoying our summer in Iowa, time with friends , time with Evie, time with family. Pretty normal stuff going on. Today is my birthday so I thought I'd share a little about how I feel about growing older. I actually love it which I know may sound strange to some but I like where I am at in life.  Here's a little list of what I like about growing older:
My baby photo
Janie 3-4 y/o

1. I've now out lived my mother by almost 20 years and I don't take that lightly. I think of all the amazing days I have had in those 20 years and it makes me sad that she missed those kind of days and thankful for each additional day I am blessed with. 

2. I know what I don't know. Remember when you are young and you literally think you know everything? Well the years have taught me how little I know and it is now easy to admit I don't know anything about a lot of things. Even the things I do know, well there is probably a lot more I can learn about that too.

I was a dancer?
3. Gray hair and wrinkles are ok. I'm actually a little surprised I can admit that. About a year ago I decided it was time for me to embrace the fact that I have gray hair. I quit coloring it and once all that finally grows out I will truly have gray hair. John likes it. He was gray in his 30s so he is happy with my gray hair. As for wrinkles, I think they are my badge of honor. I earned everyone of them...motherhood will do that to you.

High School Senior
4. Other people's opinions of me matter less as the years go by. I'd love to say they don't matter at all but that would be a lie. All my life I have been a people pleaser,  just part of my personality and that still is there to a point but I recognize it and try to keep it in perspective. Now I try to do the things that please me and make me happy rather than just the things that make others happy.

5. I still have the wonderlust and now I'm not afraid to endulge it. I think I had this when I was younger but was too afraid to run with it. Our full time RV life had let me embrace it. I still have so many places I want to see that I'm sure in this lifetime I won't get to every place on the list. Part of that is I do like the slow road, staying long enough to get a feel for the area, not just a taste. 

Trudy and Janie out cruising
6. Knowing who your friends are and who you can count on. We have many friends in our lives and many come in and out of our lives but there are those special few who are constants. You know those when you haven't seen or spoken for months on end but when you do connect it's like time disappers and they have always been right beside you. Then there are those who are new friends and those connections are still being made. The RV life has also added many friends to my life and I am blessed to have them as a part of it.

7. Having experienced lasting love in my life. I feel very lucky to have found a partner in life that has shown me that love can last and can grow stronger as the years go by. We've been married 32 years and the time has flown by. We have weathered some storms along the way and I am sure there will be a few in the years ahead but together is the way we will continue to be strong.  Thanks John, for loving me.
My true love and partner in crime

I'm sure I could find a few more but that's enough for now. I've had 60 years of blesssings to count and if the number of my days would end tomorrow I would know that I'
ve had a great life. So every day forward is another day to enjoy being older and each day is a day to celebrate. Cheers!!

Happy trails.................................................

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back in Iowa

I seem to be back to my scattered self and intermitent blogging. When we are in Iowa sometimes it feels as if we never left and life takes on a routine pace. We are not working this summer and that seems a little strange after two summers working at the ball park. We wanted to be more available to help with our granddaughter and with John now on Social Security we have enough to get by financially. This winter was the least expensive of any winter previously so that helps too. 

My beautiful Little Evie
We've actually been here about a month and as usual it's always pretty busy when we first arrive, This year we had the wedding of one of my sons' (both of them actually) friends to get back for. My youngest son Mitch was officiating and my granddaughter was the flower girl. They both did a great job and it was fun seeing Adam and Crystal start their married life together. It's hard to believe all those boys who were in and out of my house all those years are now grown men. Guess that means I'm getting older too.

The week of the wedding was even busier as friends of ours from Omaha were in town and we were able to squeak breakfast in with them. We love getting to see Judi and Al. John and Al always entertain us with us with stories from their early years at Rockwell. Hopefully we will get to see them again this summer. The downside of that same weekend was the passing of another friend of ours that John worked with at Rockwell for many years. We were so sad to hear about Steve Blair's passing and we were able to get to the visitation and give his wife Jenny a hug. I think it's another reminder that we are getting older and need to cherish every day we have.

Crystal & Adam & Evie
We haven't done too much since then as far as recreation. We have gotten together with friends, celebrated John and Evie's birthdays, which was fun. My friend Trudy turned 60 (I get to be younger than her for a little over a month) and we spent her day eating and shopping in Kalona and then back to eat some more with her family. The Woods clan feels like family for us too. 
She did a great job!

We've some time with Evie but it doesn't feel like enough. We are trying to set up a day where we pick her up mid afternoon from daycare and then Mitch and his girlfriend Jen join us for dinner. It worked out well last week so I hope we can continue it. We are enjoying getting to know Jen too. They started dating about the time we left last year so it has been great to meet and get to know her. 

We just got a question from Ray and Wendy about the flooring and remodle we have done on our rig. Our intention was always to do a blog about all that but it never got done. John is just now finishing all the trim. He promised that once that is complete we will take some more photos and he will blog about all that. I'm going to hold him to that so look for that in the near future. Included in that remodle is a new refrigerator, our old one quit and we found a residential one that with a little help fit. It's always something but that's life and I'm happy with my new fridge.

I do have a favor to ask of all my RVer friends. John and I are going to go to Yellowstone and the Tetons this fall. Staying in the park isn't really an option as we do need at least electric hookups. If you have any suggestions of places outside the park plese let me know. I am looking now but need all the help I can get.

Happy Trails............................