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

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............................

Friday, April 15, 2016

An Interesting Spring

Fairhope AL. The pier and park on Mobile Bay

We finally got out of Deming after 2 weeks with the emissions system fixed and no alarms went off  even after we added new DEF to the tank. Yea!!! This detour meant my plans for a week or two in Elephant Butte were out the door. We decided it was better to move on towards Alabama so that if we had anymore trouble we had a buffer. My nephew Alex was getting married April 9th and I didn't want anything else stopping us from getting there. We did make a couple stops.

The first was in Stockton, Texas at the Hilltop RV park. A very nice little park in an area where there are not too many places to stay, also it's spring break time so the state parks and some of the private parks are full. Next stop was Kerrville Texas in the hill country. We have been in this area before and decided to stay at a park that many have recommended, Buckhorn RV Park. It definitely lived up to its reputation. We were able to stay 4 days but again spring break got in the way and the weekend was booked so we left on a Saturday morning. Next up Livingston, Texas. It takes forever to get across Texas. Again spring break is a factor this time of year in the south so we chose to stay at another Escapees park. This one is just a little east and north of Houston. I am always happier when we are not in the cities. Moving on our next stop was Buccaneer State Park in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This is another repeat visit. Its a great little park and since it was early in the week and we only needed one night we got a great spot.
Bay St. Louis MS

Bay St. Louis is a nice little town right on the bay and the last time we were here was during Mardi Gras week a couple years ago. It was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and on our last visit it was looking pretty good but now there are a lot more new homes and business that have sprug up. We stopped at the local pub and enjoyed dinner with a view of the bay. I was wishing we had more time to stay here but not an option this year.

Finally on around March 20th we reached our destination here in Summerdale, Alabama . It's
 another Escapees park and a very nice one. Has a bit of that park feel rather than an RV resort feel. We are about 20 minutes north of Gulf Shores.This is a beautiful area and we have enjoyed our time here for the most part. I like it here in Summerdale better than Gulf Shores as it was just too busy there. Now it may be an unfair assessment as were still at the tail end of spring breaks and so it may have been a little busier than usual. The traffic is crazy. The beaches remind us of Destin with the white sand.
The beach at Gulf Shores

Now here's the part that wasn't so great. Another recall notice came in our mail and this one was for the track bar for the steering. We had received one earlier on this and it just had to be inspected but now the recall is to have it replaced. John did some calling around and the only dealership that had the techs to do this were in Bay Minnett about 45 minutes north of here. We new it would be there overnight and this time I wasn't going to be without wheels so we rented a car from Hertz. This dealership never once called us to let us know what was going on and we would call to check and it was always something, they had the parts but not the paint. Then got the paint but hadn't gotten to it. We explained that we needed to know how long to rent the car and that we needed the truck Thursday because we were leaving town for the wedding. Everyday it was not today maybe tomorrow. Everyday we were calling Hertz to extend the rental. Thursday it was suppose to be done by 5 so off we went. We had wanted to be in Destin, which is two hours away, before dark. Got to the dealership at about 2 and planned on just waiting until it was done. Guess what, wouldn't be done until Friday morning. That wasn't an option for us so this time we extend the rental until Monday.  My frustration with this is that I think they knew it was going to take all week to get it done and should just have been upfront with us about it so we could have made those arrangements at the beginning instead of calling everyday to both the dealership and Hertz. We were able to pick it up on our way back from the wedding but I am not impressed. They had spilled something on the mat on the passenger side and didn't clean it up and on their call waiting message they bragged about how after servicing they wash your car, well that didn't happen either. I'm glad this is fixed but when we fill out the customer service survey it won't be good. Also they said we could apply to RAM to be reimbursed for the rental. John went online and found the link but also in looking for the recall info to reference what was done, it said we should have been provided a loaner while the fix was being done. All these issues with truck are driving me crazy. I love how it rides and there are so many things John likes better in this truck than our last but sometimes I feel like they are rebuilding it as time goes on.
USS Alabama

Having a rental car was nice in some ways. We did some site seeing and it was nice not to have to worry about finding a space big enough to park in. After leaving the truck we were very close to Mobile where the USS Alabama is docked as a museum and a submarin, the USS Dunn, is on display too.  We spent several hours there and really enjoyed it. Seeing these ships has always been great and an education too. This was a battleship and it's amazing to see how many guns it had and how big some of them really are. The sub was interesting too. I don't know how the crews did it. It is very tight quarters and I know I would have been claustrophobic in that situation.
Lunch on Dauphin Island. Nice View

Leaving Mobile we decided  to go to Dauphin Island on the southern tip of Mobile Bay and then take the ferry back to the Gulf Shores area. There is a bridge from the mainland to the island on the east side of the bay but the ferry is the only way from there to get across the bay. We did stop for a late lunch there, nothing special but we were able to sit outside and enjoy the view. The Ferry only holds about 30-40 cars but its always a fun way to get somewhere. We made one more stop at the Audubon bird sanctuary and that's where we were really glad we had a car rather than the truck. Its not a very big area and the road and parking is very tight. Didn't see many birds except for a group of very noisey ospreys.

We also made a trip to Fairhope a couple days later. Now this is my favorite town in the area. It has a very quaint downtown area with an abundance of restaurants and shops. This is where we found our favorite restaurant in the area. Yelp had this place at 5 stars and we have to agree. It was busy when we walked it but there were some seats at the bar area and we always feel those are the best seats and that proved to be true that day too. We each had Quiche Lorraine and a salad and it was amazing. The best part of it was that the owner stopped to see how things were and we struck up a conversation. Even though the restaurant was hoppin' he stood and talked to us for almost half an hour. His name is Joe Rider and the restaurant is R Bistro. If you are visiting this area make sure you check it out and tell Joe we sent you.
Alex and Olivia

So now on to the wedding in Destin. My nephew Alex is stationed at Hurlbert Field and two years ago when we spent the winter in Destin we spent some fun time with him. We also met Olivia. This was very early on in their dating life but now two years later it's wedding time. The wedding was at the Destin Bay house and was a beautiful venue. The wedding was beautiful and time with family is always fun. My brother Larry and his wife Barb also made the trip and Sharon, Alex's mom, has a big and fun family, the Hoffman clan, that are always fun to be around. On Sunday after the wedding we all went on a Dolphin cruise. Saw a couple dolphins but it really was more of a booze cruise, who can say no to free beer. The scenery can't be beat either.
My beautiful niece Audra

My nephew Austin's daughter, Izzy

My 3 very handsome nephews

John and I stayed in a condo in Miramar beach with my brother Gary (father of the groom), his wife Sharon, daughter Audra and son Aaron. Nice digs for the weekend and as an added bonus it was near a yarn shop that I hadn't been to. It had a great selection. It made me do a happy dance. John is so good to let me indulge my crazy obsession.
John and this other fella waiting outside the Yarn shop. :)

We start back toward Iowa tomorrow. We have another wedding to be at April 29th, my granddaughter is the flower girl and her dad is officiating. The parks open there this weekend and I am excited to get back and spend some time with my family and friends. I waited too long to post so sorry about the length.

Hope all is well with everyone out there.
Happy Trails..................................

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Stuck in Deming NM

Dream Catchers RV park....not much here but glad to be around Escapees

We are currently parked in the Escapees Dream Catcher's Park in Deming New Mexico. This was an unexpected stop and is shaping up to be a long one. We left Benson last Sunday expecting to spend a week at a favorite campground in Elephant Butte NM but around the NM border the truck dinged a message that something was wrong with the DEF system (Diesel Exhaust Fluid is injected into the exhaust to control some polutants) and we had 200 miles to get to a dealer to have it checked. After 200 miles the truck would go into a limp mode and only go 5 mph. John was aware that some people had some trouble with these from his time online on the TDR forum. For most trucks it was either bad DEF or the sensor wasn't working. We had just filled the DEF before leaving so we knew we had plenty but now wondered if it was a bad batch. At 98 miles we were coming up at Deming and checked that there was a dealer there and we were familiar with the Escapees park there too. We had stayed here a couple other times for a night. We pulled in and got a spot and waited 'til morning to talk to the dealer which is conveniently a very short ways down the road. (easy walking distance).

The gal scheduling said their computers were down and would call us back to schedule us in. We waited until after lunch and no call so John called back. The computers still weren't working and she was very rude about it. We called again at five and got a fella this time who was very nice and said to bring it in the morning and they would try to work it in. The next day came and went and when we called at the end of the day they still hadn't looked at it. Finally yesterday they called and we find it was worse than we thought. Replacing the DEF didn't fix it so they want to replace the catalytic converter. Today we find out the parts they need are on back order so we honestly have no idea when this will all get resolved.

The frustrating part about all this is we have no vehicle. Deming is a very small town. There is one car rental place with get this --no cars. The dealership has no loaner at the moment either. If we had transportation there are some things here or at least near here we would love to check out. Luckily we do have our bikes and backpack so we can at least get to Walmart for groceries.
Luckily I love to knit.

We are good at entertaining ourselves. I am going to get a lot of knitting done and John's always glad to have an excuse to sit and read. Today I did find a good walking/running path too.
I think its going to be a long couple weeks but we are safe and at a park with nice people- something you can always count on at an Escapees park.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

A view from the trail above our park

Can't believe we are in the middle of the month already, just seems to fly by. We are currently at the Escapees Saguaro Co-Op park in Benson AZ. Our original intention was to stay one week and just maybe two. Well two it was until our mail didn't arrive at the post office by Friday, so let's make it 3 weeks. Hopefully we will be ready to move on a week from today. The good part is we really like this park and are on their hot list for a lease. Our number is well down the list and we still are not certain where we will land but being on the list makes this a possibility several years out. ( we are currently  #207).

It is a quiet park with lots of nice people but not as much to do as where we were in Yuma or Tucson. There are some good trails adjacent to the park that are good hikes, not so good for my running. Tried it and took a fall, just a little road rash but decided they are not for running, at least for me. One of the great features of this park is the workshop John is able to use. He went to work on a couple of unfinished projects and loved having access to a table saw and several other great power tools. That is actually why we stayed the second week and indirectly why we are staying a third. He did a couple projects inside that required a lot of bending twisting etc. and then changed the fuel filters on the truck, which meant a lot of crawling around under the truck. Not sure which project or maybe the combination of all them made his lower back give out but such is the case.
Had to make a stop here

Last week did take one day to check out Bisbee AZ. It's a nice little town that was once the largest city in Arizona when the copper mines were working. It was truly an old west city and has a great history. If you are there do check out the museum. Now it's more of a little artist community with galleries, shops and restaurants. It was a nice day for being a tourist.

Our first week here was cold. The day time temps were in the 40s and we had snow one day, though none of it stuck. At the end of the first week we started to see the temps rise and now it's actually a little hot during the day with highs in the 80s. That is all right with me. What I like about the desert is the days tend to be warm and the nights cool. We keep our furnace at 55 because we like it cold for sleeping but last night, for the first time in awhile, it never came on. Usually we have the fireplace on in the morning and the fans in the afternoon.
Bisbee AZ

Since it is Valentine's day, I want to share with you one of the joys of this lifestyle; being around couples who truly love each other. In these parks it is not unusual to see older couples holding hands as they walk. I think if you live in such small quarters at least liking each other is pretty important and loving each other too is a real help. I'm not saying you don't see this other places but I do think it's more common in these communities.
Downtown Bisbee

I have been very lucky in my life to find someone who not only do I love but I also like. This life would not be possible without him. There is a song by Clint Black that I think of when I think of our life together and, since it's Valentine's Day, I think that gives me license to be a little mushy. So I will leave you with a link to the song and music video. Hope you enjoy it and your Valentine's Day.

It's Something that We Do