Year in Review

I have been remiss in not keeping y’all up to date on our whereabouts and travels. I am starting at the beginning of our Great Western Adventure so some of the beginning of the blog may be a rehash but bear with me.  I promise to do better in 2017 – and you may be surprised by a guest writer once in a while, too. We have such a good time and enjoy sharing our experiences with you.

Our trip out west began in late April. This year we were joined by our good friends Steve and Kathy Dresch who we met at Rolling Ridge RV Resort over the winter. Steve and Kathy were to begin their very first Workamping adventure at Canyon village in Yellowstone National Park. They had never traveled west before so we hitched up our 5th wheels and the caravan headed out. The Great Western Adventure had just begun.

Our first stop was the Ho Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, FL. This is one of those hidden gems that we come across from time to time. Carrabelle is located on the Apalachicola Bay of the Gulf of Mexico. The RV park is right on the water and has awesome sunrises and sunsets. Dogs are welcome but no children. A great place to soak up the warm sun rays and enjoy an ice cold beverage!

We spent several uneventful days traveling across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and finally arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Coronado campground is located just north of Albuquerque in Bernalillo in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains and overlooking the Rio Grande River.  http://www.townofbernalillo.org/depts/campground.htm   We have stayed there a couple of times before and thought Steve and Kathy would enjoy it too.   It was fun to share their delight and excitement hiking in the Boca Negra Canyon in the Petroglyphs National Monument.   https://www.nps.gov/petr/index.htm    https://www.nps.gov/petr/planyourvisit/bn.htm   You cannot imagine the number of Petroglyphs. The next day we took the Road Runner train https://www.roadrunnershuttleandcharter.com/ to Santa Fe, visiting the farmer’s market and lunching at Del Charos a wonderful restaurant located in the Inn of the Governors, famous for their margaritas. Yes, we had a couple each! That’s why we took the train! https://www.innofthegovernors.com/del-charro-saloon/.   We were having so much fun we decided to stay a couple of extra days.  We took a day drive along the Escalante Staircase stopping to take a lot of pictures, Drove part of the Turquoise Trail stopping at Tinkertown Museum.  tinkertown.com   They have a ton of hummingbird feeders hanging in the trees and on the buildings so I spent my time photographing the birds.  We took them to one of our hang outs, Kaktus Brewing Company – on Sunday night they have belly dancers come in so we, of course, had to go see them.  We met up with our friend Patti Wade who winters in the area and had dinner at the Range Café.

Heading west from Albuquerque our next stop was the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. None of us had ever been here and it certainly was a different kind of place.

We stayed in a campground just outside the entrance and were able to collect some of the petrified wood pieces that were scattered all about. ( A little reminiscent of Lucy in The Long Long Trailer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNC5Dn0Dtnc) https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm

The next stop in our Great Western Adventure was the Grand Canyon National Park.  We stayed Williams, AZ which is about an hour’s drive south of the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon is huge.  A lot of visitors hike down to the bottom but we were not that adventurous.  The top was enough for us.  We spent the day hiking the rim of the Canyon and stopped to have a picnic lunch. A must while hiking the rim is to stop at the Kolb Brothers Studio – The Kolb Brothers were probably the first to photograph the Grand Canyon from top to bottom in a “dearing do” fashion.   The Kolb brothers were also Rotarians and allowed Rotary to meet in their studio.  http://library.nau.edu/speccoll/exhibits/daysofarchives/film.htmlhttps://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm 

 

We decided to stay an extra day so we could drive down to Sedona and check out that area.   The drive through the gorge was breathtaking. In fact sometimes I was even hanging out the window to photograph the beautiful sights.  We had a picnic lunch in a pretty park and did a little hiking too.  We all said we would like to come back to this area and spend some time getting to know it.   http://visitsedona.com/what-to-do/

We left Williams and headed to Flagstaff and then north towards Zion and Bryce National parks. Just outside of Flagstaff the road goes through the Painted Desert.  Wow, what beautiful scenery in every direction.  The colors were truly amazing.  The Painted Desert https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_Desert.

We were not able to bring our fifth wheels through the Parks so we stayed at Ruby’s Inn Campground next to the entrance to Bryce Canyon.   A lot of Workampers work at Ruby’s which is open year round.  Staying at Ruby’s Inn and campground https://utah.com/rubys-inn-rv-park-and-campground is very convenient while we explored both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.   https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm    https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm.

Tom, Steve and I hiked down into Bryce Canyon taking scads of pictures along the trail.  Kathy doesn’t do heights well so she stayed behind but made a lot of friends at the top while waiting for us. The next day was spent at Zion. What a contrast, in Bryce you look down into the canyon and in Zion everything is above you. Both Parks are spectacular. Can’t wait to go back and spend more time. We were not able to hike the Narrows due to high water and chance of flash flooding….boo hoo.

We finally made it to West Yellowstone in early May.  We weren’t starting our jobs at Homeroom at Madison Crossing for a few days giving us a bit of time to get settled.  It was our 6th year working there.  We said we would never work at the same place twice…but when you find a place that is wonderful, you just keep coming back.  www.cabindecor.com  

Steve and Kathy were able to begin their  jobs a few days early so they only stayed one night in West.  We had an awesome summer in West Yellowstone.  We did a lot of hiking and eating out…We tried to get together at least once a week – usually going to the Wild West Saloon/Pizzeria for Pizza and beer and taking a few hikes and road trips together.

Due to the fires in the National Park, we did some nice hikes in the Gallatin National Forest.  We were able to bring Finnigan with us into the National Forest so he got a lot of running, exercising and sniffing done. The only downside this year was all of the forest fires in the Park.  Some were even visible at night from town and in the mornings you couldn’t see across the street because the smoke was so thick.  We woke up one morning to the sound of chain saws and equipment across the street from us and were told by the firemen “they were doing fuel reduction…”  They were finally extinguished but only after 400+ firefighters were brought in from all over the country. It certainly wasn’t good for breathing or business.   http://www.destinationyellowstone.com/node/12659

Alison, Jeff and Annabelle came out to visit us in September.   Finn went crazy when they came through the door.   While we were in Bozeman picking up the kids, friends got the smoker ready for Tom’s famous ribs and chicken.  A “welcome to Montana” dinner was planned for the kids and was being hosted by our friends, Diane, David, Pam, Leah and Clay.  It was such fun. Diane makes outstanding River-Ritas… (margaritas she makes on the River when she and David camp)

Since we are at 6700 feet elevation, we wanted to get them acclimated so we stayed in town Friday and took them to the Grizzly-Wolf Discovery Center.  http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/    Annabelle attended a 30-minute presentation on bears for the “Keeper Kids” program then got to actually go into the bear sanctuary and hide food for the bears to find.  Sam, a 1,100-pound Grizzly found all the hidden goodies.  I taught Annabelle how to use my Nikon 3300 to take pictures of the wolves and eagles – she is a fast learner.

Saturday we ventured over to Lewis and Clark Caverns.   However, we had to stop in Ennis for breakfast at the town pharmacy.   Sounds weird but they have a cute little restaurant in the store and it is a treat to eat there with the locals.   It is a 2 mile walk through the caverns and you really don’t want the power to go out – the caverns are a treasure and our guide did a great job. http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/state-park/lewis-and-clark-caverns-state-park.html

Sunday we went into the Park  https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm  and got caught in a bison jam.  We weren’t even 2 miles into the Park… It took us an hour to go 7 miles…..We took the kids to the Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Inn.  Old Faithful went off right on schedule and did not disappoint.  We walked on the boardwalk out to Morning Glory Pool.  As usual, just before we got to Morning Glory Pool, it started to rain and… hail…it didn’t dampen our trip, however.

The Artists Paint Pots was a highlight on our trip into the Park on Monday.  Plop, plop, bloop, bloop, are the sounds that the bubbling pots make.  Annabelle likes to take pictures so I showed her how to focus in and out and how to set up a picture again using my Nikon 3300.  She  got some good pictures of the pots bubbling up.

The road to Mammoth from Canyon was closed due to construction so we had to go the long way around through Canyon over to Tower/Roosevelt.  It was an AWESOME animal day.  We got to see two big black bears, grouse, female elk, two male elk chasing each other, of course tons of buffalo, deer, lots of mountain goats with babies and Bighorn Sheep.  In Mammoth, elk freely roam the grass in the square, around the hotel and wherever they darn well please.  In front of the Mammoth Visitor Center, we attended a ranger lead program on the introduction/importance of wolves into Yellowstone. During the presentation, the ranger kept looking over her shoulder and across the street because there were many female elk across the street and two male elk stalking each other.  She said the “rut” was just beginning and if she said MOVE we were to MOVE.  We didn’t have to move but it was fun to watch the two elk stalk each other.

Big Springs State Park is located in Idaho and we really like going there.  It really is a very pretty setting.  Annabelle got to feed some fish and ducks and then take a nature walk along Big Springs which flows into Henrys Fork of the Snake River which eventually flows in the Columbia River.  We didn’t see any wild life other than ducks.  We were hoping for a moose or two.   It was a short day because Annabelle had to do some schoolwork.  https://www.co.fremont.id.us/departments/parks_rec/big_springs/johnny-sack_big-springs.html

Driving through the Park over to the Grand Teton National Park is a very pretty drive especially because the fall colors were ablaze.  The Laurance S. Rockefeller Nature Preserve   https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/lsr.htm    is a wonderful place to do some hiking and learn about the flora and fauna of the area.  Annabelle completed her first Jr. Ranger Badge while visiting the Preserve as it is part of the Teton National Park.

We met up with, Dan and Jonell Anderson, our friends from Amazon and who worked with us two years ago at Homeroom at Madison Crossing, for lunch at Dornan’s at the base of the Tetons.  https://dornans.com/

It was a great summer all in all.  Lots of hiking and driving through beautiful parts of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana.

It was time to leave West Yellowstone in early October and after a delicious Good-Bye dinner at Diane’s house, we left West Yellowstone heading to Superior, WI to visit with the boys for a few days.  We stopped in Minnesota to visit our friends Alan and Kathy Zimmerman along the way.  We met them a couple of years ago in Florida at Rolling Ridge RV Resort where we stay during the “season”.  This year they are staying near Naples, FL so we were happy we got to see them and look forward to visiting them in Naples.

As usual, the boys were great hosts.  We stayed at Thad’s house and parked 3M at his shop. http://www.twwooddesigns.com/ (handsome fellow on the left is Thad)  It was great to see the boys.  We went out to eat a few times and Thad introduced us to Sclavi’s Italian Restaurant that was superb.  The Hacienda was one of our stops and we came back one night to listen to music.  We did a little hiking with Todd in Pattison State Park.  Finn got to play with Daisy and Stuart, Thad’s dogs.  Our time with them was short but we needed to get underway.

It is difficult finding open campgrounds after Labor Day and we wanted to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan hoping to get to Mackinaw Island and to see the locks at Sault St. Marie.  Our goal was to stay in Munising at a lovely city campground on the Lake and do a bit of hiking and visiting lighthouses.  BUT, a wheel shirred off 3M and we had to spend several days in Ishpeming, MI waiting for parts thereby cutting short our visit to the area.   Since we had planned on going to the locks in Sault St. Marie we decided to just go ahead and go up and stay in a hotel while waiting for the parts.  The locks were awesome – a couple of ships passed through.  Here’s the link. http://www.saultstemarie.com/   Its pretty amazing to say the least watching the water drop and then rise lifting and lowering the ships.

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After a night’s stay in Sault St. Marie we went back through Marquette  stopping at Donckers  https://www.donckersonline.com/  Restaurant and homemade candy store.  You have to go upstairs to get to the quaint restaurant.  We bought a small box of their chocolate assortment and are fighting over the last piece.  I will probably win.

A most unusual place caught our attention while driving back to Ishpeming to pick up 3M.  The Lakenenland Sculpture Park  outside of Marquette-  this is a lot of great “yard” art – y’all know I like yard art.  One of a kind and a must see if you are ever in the area.   Someone as a lot of time on his hands.   http://lakenenland.com/

We got back to Ishpeming and picked up 3M in the early evening and decided to get underway right away – we don’t usually drive at night especially in the rain but we just wanted to get some miles under our belt so we got to the RV park in Munising, MI – not unhooking and stayed the night.

The next morning we got up early and were  finally  heading to Campbellsville, KY to start the Peak Season working at Amazon as pickers.  Upon arriving in Kentucky, we were unable to stay at the Stables RV Park where we had reservations so we were fortunate to be able to stay at the Green River Lakes State Park.   http://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/green-river/   A simply gorgeous, gorgeous park on a gorgeous, gorgeous lake.  Lots of Amazon workers stayed there, too, and it was one big happy family – made it easy to car pool.   Finn loved running like a mad dog and playing in the water.  We had some Amazonians over for smoked pork.  Lively group.    The morning sunrise and evening sunsets were something to behold.  Great place.

Lexington, KY is a little over an hour away.  Doug and Kathy Brown, friends from West Yellowstone, moved near Lexington, KY last year so we drove over to visit them and stayed in their lovely home.  They love to fish, as does Tom, so we went out on their boat.  Tom, Doug and Kathy fished while I just sunned myself, sort of.  Kathy and I stopped for a “break” and in the shallow water we searched and found geodes.http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-geode.  The lake was really cold.  We found some and brought them back for Annabelle to open.   We were invited to come back and spent Thanksgiving with them and their family.  Kathy and I did some Christmas shopping too.  It was nice to have a friend to shop with.  We were both exhausted when we got home.  We are looking forward to visiting them again during our travels.

During our drive to Campbellsville, we talked seriously about trading in 3M for a newer model 5th wheel, especially after the wheel issue on the way to Campbellsville.  We had been mulling over upgrading the Mobile Mountain Mansion for some time.   3M was showing wear and tear and it looked like we would need to do some major work to keep her in tip top shape.  Over the summer, Tom started researching newer Fifth Wheels.  We had a good idea of what we did and didn’t want.   Finding the best one would be difficult because we were spoiled with the storage space in 3M and some other features we knew we wouldn’t be able to get in other models.   We wanted to get a newer Carriage like 3M but Carriage went out of business in 2011.

Tom finally found a 2012 Redwood fifth wheel on e-bay.  He contacted the dealership and negotiated a good deal.  The 3M2 was in an RV dealership in Ottawa, Kansas.  After the arrangements were made, we rented a storage unit in Campbellsville, unloaded a lot of our “stuff” so we wouldn’t have to deal with it in Kansas, packed up 3M, Finn and headed to Kansas to pick up our new home. Of course, we had to stop in Paducah, KY at the National Quilt Museum on the way.  We had been to the museum a couple of years ago during their during their national quilt show and conference.  The exhibits change every few months and it was a pleasure looking at all the beautiful quilts and admiring the handwork.    http://quiltmuseum.org/ It is sad you cannot take pictures in the museum but we have the pictures of the beautiful quilts in our memories.

We arrived in Ottawa Kansas and 3M2 (Mobile Mountain Mansion II) was waiting for us.  She is a lovely 38’11” 2012 Redwood fifth wheel.  Black Beauty is happy too because 3M2 weighs a bit less and the paint on the body is black/tan and burgundy so Black Beauty looks good pulling her.

Now, to back track a bit, Tom and I terminated our employment with Amazon shortly after we arrived.  Tom worked about 3 weeks and I one and a half week.  We both were experiencing shoulder issues and we felt it just wasn’t worth relying on taking pain meds to get through the day and to sleep at night.  We started work smelling like Bio-Freeze applying more throughout the day and ended each day smelling like Bio-Freeze!  The issues we were experiencing were a result of the rear end collision last December.   So we gave notice and left with the door open to come back for another season(s).    We arrived in Florida about 3 weeks earlier than normal and it has been fun having time with Alison and Annabelle before Christmas.

We wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

Keep in touch.

Tom, Ellen and Finnigan

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Great Western Adventure 2016

Our 2016 Great Western Adventure began on Sunday, April 24.   I had shirts made that we all agreed we would wear that said the Great  Western Adventure.  I know, too cutsie!!! But we did wear them.20160513_080817.jpg

Annabelle spent Saturday night with us and set up fort “Finnabelle” in the living room.   FT. Finnabelle       In the morning she got up and helped us close up the slides then she and Alison took Finn for a final walk around Rolling Ridge.

We are traveling westward with Steve and Kathy Dresch and Yannie20160513_080915.jpg who sold their home in Upstate NY in the fall.  This is their first RV adventure.  Steve and Kathy will be starting their first work camping job in Yellowstone NP at the Canyon Gift Store around the middle of May.  We are hoping to have at least one day off together so we can play.

We decided that staying off the interstate highways as much as possible would be a good thing. We did take the Florida turnpike to Ocala where we picked up RT 27and rode through quaint towns, pasture land, horse farms and the most gorgeous wild flower fields chuck full of yellow, red and purple flowers.  The bad part is you can’t stop to take pictures when pulling a 37foot 5th Wheel.  Had to settle for pictures out the window and when we stopped for lunch.

Upon recommendations of several friends, we stayed in Carrabelle, FL at the Ho Hum Campground located directly on Apalachicola Bay Sunday night.

20160425_083403What a great place. We would highly recommend it and hope to stay there again. We arrived at 3:00 giving us the time to get settled, catch a few rays before cocktails and dinner… the breeze was wonderful.  It was high tide so walking on the shore was not possible so as you can see, we stood on the dock and had a few cocktails.  _DSC0043

We vowed to get up early and catch the sunrise in the morning.Monday, sunrise was a little after 7:00.  Kathy and Steve were out on the dock with me with their coffee and camera and, of course, Yanni, their golden retriever.  I left Finn cuddled up next to Tom who is NOT an early riser.  We patiently waited for the sun to rise.  We were happy there were some clouds so they added a bit of contrast with the sun rising and the water.  Very, very pretty._DSC0222

Leaving Ho Hum, we had to get on I-10 so we googled directions and set off.…well, we did want to take the roads less traveled and thanks to google we were able to do just that.  We took the directed turn which took us on a circuitous trip through the country roads of Florida.  We eventually found I-10 and all ended well.

Gulfport, MS was our next overnight destination. We try to stay at Passport or Good Sams RV parks because of the discounts.  We strongly recommend if you travel a lot, become members of both Good Sams and Passport. You will more than make up the membership fee.

Steve and Kathy had to take a detour to Pensacola to get a vent panel installed.  That particular vent blew off their brand new 5th wheel somewhere along the way.  We made plans to meet up at the Alabama tourist center for lunch.  Got to Gulfport and stayed at the Campground of the South. http://campgroundsofthesouth.com/.  Got set up, relaxed a bit then had a cookout of chicken and ribs.  Delicious.  The campground is ok for a night or two.  You are right off of I-10 and the road noise was heavy.  But, we ran our air conditioners at night and hardly heard a thing.  Gulfport and surrounding areas were hard hit during Katrina.  To find out more about this area go to:   https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hurricane_katrina_damage_gulfport_mississippi.jpg   There’s a lot to do in Gulfport – follow the link to see what you can do.  https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g43802-Gulfport_Mississippi-Vacations.html

Our next overnight was into Marthaville, LA  and the drive was uneventful.  Driving through small towns is fun and downtown Bunkie, LA beckoned us to stop for lunch.  I forgot to take pictures of the place where we ate lunch. Darn!   !http://www.bunkiechamber.net/   There’s a cute little park in Bunkie where we were able to stop and have a lunch under the trees in a city park.

We arrived about 4:00 at the Ajax Country Livin’ RV Park.  http://www.ajaxcountrylivinrv.com.

It is a really pretty RV park settled in among some trees and a little pond that allows you to catch and release fish – but it was really way too hot to stand in the sun to catch fish – so, we set under the trees and enjoyed the delightful breeze.

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Tom picked up some shrimp and made a Cajun dish with rice and I made – shrimp and grits.  Neither Steve nor Kathy had ever had grits so it was an experience for them.  They actually liked them.  I make mine with milk so they are really creamy and, of course, cheese.  Had a first today.  We were able to put another state under our belts.  Neither, Kathy, Steve, Finnigan, Yanni nor I had ever been to Arkansas.  Of course, most of this western trip is new territory for Kathy and Steve.

The weather forecast was looking a bit crazy.  It was reported that a powerful front was expected in the early morning hours.  It did not hit our area until around 5:00 in the morning.  We had some hail, lightning, heavy thunder and rain.  It didn’t last too long but it was pretty strong.  Shreveport, near us got hit pretty hard. We waited for the rain to subside and left a little after 9:00. Heading to Sherman, Texas where we plan to spend the night.

In order not to get too fatigued, we agreed we would only travel around 300 miles a day.  We don’t have to be in Yellowstone until mid- May so we are just moseying along at a good pace.

When looking for gas stations, we need to be able to pull up to the diesel pump which is not always on the correct side and a station that will allow you to get around parked cars.  On this trip, we have to be able to get the two rigs in and out without too much trouble.

We are continuing our attempt to stay off the interstates as much as possible.  We are finding a lot of baby cows and they are really cute.  There are patches of wildflowers along the Texas roads.  That’s a good thing because Lady Bird Johnson, who was from Texas, loved flowers and was a lifelong advocate for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways (“Where flowers bloom, so does hope”).  The Highway Beautification Bill was informally known as Lady Bird’s Bill.

Look to sun

Trying to find a spot for lunch has been interesting. We have to find a spot that not only will hold two big fifth wheels but is also easy to get in and out of.  Today we stopped in DeKab, TX and ate in a little gazebo.  We got to walk the dogs and, of course, Finn decided to roll.  Well, he rolled in a patch of burs!  I was able to brush him and get most of them off but missed a few. We will be pulling them off of him for days, I am sure.http://dekalbtexas.org/

It is now Friday, April 29th and we were headed for Lubbock, TX for the night but got in the wrong lane and headed to Amarillo.  It was a good thing we did because Lubbock got hit pretty hard with a severe storm that pretty much missed us in Amarillo.   We did have a lot of wind and rain but nothing like the surrounding areas.  We stayed at the AOK RV Park – not the prettiest place by far but it did have full hook-ups.  We were next to the interstate and a Air Force Base that had a lot of planes flying in and out when we arrived.  Kind of cool in a way.  But due to the severe weather forecasted for the night, just heard one or two planes.

It is now Friday.  We woke up to pretty heavy rain so we stayed a little longer so the guys would not get soaked when they hooked up.  They got soaked!  We had trouble with our antenna – the inside handle came off the evening before but Tom got it back on.  When he went to lower it in the morning, he thought it was down–it wasn’t.  Good thing eagle eye Steve noticed it was still up before we left the campground.  He and Tom got it fixed, getting soaked again.

Reminder, do a walk around your camper, 5th wheel or motorhome before you pull out making sure you are completely disengaged from the sewer, electric, water, all slides are in the steps are UP and turn signal lights are working.  Also, look up to make sure your antenna is DOWN.

We are heading to Albuquerque where we planned on staying for several days.   We had rain for a little while but it cleared up and we had good weather to Albuquerque.  Tom and I stayed at the Coronado Campground last fall and really liked it so much we thought it would be a great place to stay with Kathy and Steve on this trip.

Bernalillo is a town in Sandoval County, New Mexico, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 6,611. It is the county seat of Sandoval County. Bernalillo is part of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area.  http://www.townofbernalillo.org/depts/campground.htm

Coronado Campground is conveniently located on Highway 550, just west of Bernalillo along the Rio Grande.  You have an unobstructed view of the beautiful Sandia Mountains to the east.  You can enjoy the Rio Grande s it flows gently through the valley below.  The sunsets are really pretty.

We would like you to continue following our our Great Western Adventure in upcoming blogs.  We  have had such a good time and we don’t want you to miss any of our Great Western Adventure.

Please share our blog with your friends and make comments and I think you can click on something that will allow you to know when a new blog is posted.

 

Taking time to visit RVer friends

Family and friends are so important – in this chaotic world we live in and after all the horror of the past few days – it might be a good time  to just give someone a call you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time – My dad, John Higgins Aloysius Clancy, used to say “Why bother to go to their funeral when  you haven’t taken the time to see or talk to them when they were alive.”  So make time.  This blog is about some of our RVer friends we met along the way.    Enjoy

Not being under any time constraints in getting to our next work camping posting in Texas, we decided to take some time and see friends we had met in our travels. Our first stop was to visit with Kathy and Alan Zimmerman who were our neighbors last year at Rolling Ridge RV Resort in Clermont, FL http://www.rollingridgervresort.com/#!home/zoom/mainPage/image1dxx – They were directly across the street and just about every morning, we’d see Alan get on his treadmill, that he had set up under their awning, so he could do his cardio workout. Kathy and I would go up to the Community Room for a rousing Yoga class… or participate in the sewing club or go to the monthly ladies’ luncheon. I have to share this because it is kind of funny. Kathy and I were carpooling to a restaurant with a couple of ladies. We were getting to know each other so we told about our children and grandchildren, etc. Kathy asked Betty how old her kids were and Betty said, “Oh, 74 and 72”. Well Kathy’s mouth dropped open. Betty is 90+ and is very active so it did come as a shock.

Kathy and Alan live in Brownton, Minnesota – about an hour outside of St. Paul. They live on their farm which was originally a dairy farm but now the land is being leased by their kids to grow mostly corn. The farm has been in the Zimmerman family for almost 100 years – it will soon have the designation of a “Century Farm”. Pretty cool. It is a lovely setting. We were able to park in their driveway and hook into their utilities.
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After a delicious breakfast prepared by Kathy, we headed out to The Science Museum of Minnesota. Macgillivary Freeman’s Humpback Whales https://www.smm.org/whales was being presented in their omnitheater,. The theater is HUGE and you sort of recline in the seats because the screen is also on the ceiling. Really neat. Very interesting perspective on the Humpback whale.

The museum is a must see if you are in the St. Paul area. The artwork in the vestibule is amazing. The “Aurora” is made up of Dichoric glass that gives the sculpture its shimmer. The Pipe dream is created by tubes filled with mineral oil and when pressurized air is released into the tubes bubbles form creating silent “melodies”. They even have musical stairs – really! If you are lucky to be the only one on the staircase, you can play whatever tune you want simply by stemping on the various steps.

Pipe Dream
Pipe Dream
Aurora
Aurora
Mississippi River in background
Mississippi River in background
Tom, Kathy and Alan at Museum
Tom, Kathy and Alan at Museum

After learning everything we could possibly learn about whales, we headed off to find a place to have an early dinner. These bike rental stations were all over the city. If don’t want to walk, just rent a bike.

Healthy mode of transportation
Healthy mode of transportation

There is a park in the center of downtown that is devoted to Charles M. Schulz creator of the Peanuts comic strip who was born in Minneapolis but was raised in St. Paul. There are statues of the comic strip characters stationed in various locations.

Sally and Linus
Sally and Linus

Kathy an Alan will be leaving for Florida in the next week or so and we will again be neighbors. We left the next day bidding farewell to the Zimmermans and continued our circuitous route to TX.

We didn’t want to drive all the way to our next stop so we stopped in Wilbur, Nebraska at an American Legion Park. The sites are big and it was only $8 a night so if you are in the area – check this out.

Our next stop was Woodward, OK. This is a first for me. Neither Finn nor I have been to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma or bust!
Oklahoma or bust!

We are on our way to visit our RV friends Condy and Rita Mowry. Condy and Rita worked with us at Amazon.com in Campbellsville, KY in 2011. We encouraged them to come to West Yellowstone for the summer of 2012 and they did. They worked at the Imax Theatre. On our mutual days off we went hiking and enjoyed dinner at one or another’s home.

Condy and Rita - YNP
Condy and Rita – YNP

They were planning on wintering in Mesa, AZ and suggested we go along with them since we were heading that way anyway to manage a Hickory Farms store at the Superstition Springs Mall. Tom and Condy worked together at the RV Park a couple days a week so we could have a free site and Rita worked for me at Hickory Farms. We had not seen them since December 2012 so we were thrilled we were able to meet up. We have kept in touch with phone calls and e-mails, etc. but nothing is as good as a hug.

Since they were babysitting their 3 grandkids for the weekend, they suggested we stay at Boiling Springs State Park http://www.oklahomacampers.com/boilingsprings.htm
and they would join us. It is a wonderful park and kid friendly. It was fun watching their grandkids run around like chickens with their heads cut off, climb, fall out of and get stuck in trees, make and eat smores. –

After the kids left on Sunday, we were treated with a ride around town. Rita had planted a garden and frost was expected that night so she and I picked the rest of her tomatoes and we got a bag to take with us. It was fun. We then went back to the park and just sat, had a little wine, and caught up. We just picked up where we left off in 2012. It was a great visit. We said our good byes in the morning and headed out for Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Boiling Springs
Boiling Springs
Story of Boiling Springs
Story of Boiling Springs
Shelter for springs
Shelter for springs
The “boiling” springs
See, Hear, Speak No Evil - three little monkeys
See, Hear, Speak No Evil – three little monkeys
3 crazy kids
3 crazy kids
Hiking with the kids
Hiking with the kids
Flowers still in bloom
Flowers still in bloom

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A Superior Place To Be

A Superior place to be!

The city of Superior is located at the western end of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. Bordered by Saint Louis, Superior, and Allouez bays, the city is framed by two rivers: the Nemadji and the Saint Louis. Superior and the neighboring city across the bay,Duluth, Minnesota, form a single metropolitan area called the Twin Ports. They share a harbor that is one of the most important ports on the Great Lakes. Both cities have museum ships (SS William A Irvin in Duluth and SS Meteor in Superior) devoted to the local maritime heritage. Superior was the last port of call for the Edmund Fitzgerald before its sinking.

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We were in Superior to visit the kids, Todd and Terrie and Thad after our summer in West Yellowstone before heading to New Braunfels, TX to manage a Christmas Tree Lot.

Thad is owner of TW Wood Designs  http://www.twwooddesigns.com/ located in the old school bus garage.  We are able to park under the portico and plug into his electric.  Which is really great.  We then stay at his house which is only a couple of blocks away.

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We had some work done on the inside of our home – of course, the work being done by Thad.  We had some water damage to the back and sides under our windows so we replaced the siding with oak bead board paneling and it looks great.  Thad also made a super top for Finn’s home so we would have a place to put some pictures and “stuff”.

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Hawk Ridge is a favorite haunt of bird watchers.  The Ridge is the highest point in Duluth and you do have an awesome view from there.

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Todd and Terrie are avid bird watchers and they go to Hawk Ridge on weekends.  They invited us to go and we saw a lot of birds including hawks. The hawks and eagles, obviously were very, very high up so getting a picture proved impossible but I did try.

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http://www.hawkridge.org/\

On a drive up the coast of Lake Superior (Minnesota side) we stopped at the Split Rock Lighthouse located southwest of Silver Bay, Minnesota, USA on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The structure was designed by lighthouse engineer Ralph Russell Tinkham and was completed in 1910 by the United States Lighthouse Service at a cost of $75,000, including the buildings and the land. It is considered one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the United States.http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/split-rock-lighthouse

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If you are in the area, stop at the Lemon Wolf Café.  Not a great entrance but looks are deceiving.  We had a great lunch.  There’s a lot of stained glass in the little café by a local artist.  They would not give me the name and that’s too bad because it really is beautiful.   http://www.lemonwolfcafe.com/

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Palisades Head is another place to stop to take pictures.  It rises 300 feet from the waves of Lake Superior and affords you a long range view that on a clear day you can see the Apostle Islands.

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Don’t miss Gooseberry Falls State Park also located in Minnesota.  Gooseberry River is approximately 23 miles long and drains into Lake Superior.  Lots of trails and super waterfalls that are a photographer’s dream if only for the tourists.  The CCC built the structures, most of them stone between 1934 and 1941.

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The Capri Bar is within walking distance of Thad’s workshop.  He and his friends meet there in the afternoons to heft a few pints.  It is an eclectic group.  The “Mayor” is the bartender and he has been there for well over 40 years and is quite the character.  Thad dismantled a bowling alley and used the flooring for the bar top and the table tops as well.  Very unique hometown pub.  https://www.facebook.com/Capri-Bar-116443708380523/info/?tab=overview

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The Vintage Italian Pizza (VIP) is another favorite.  Really good pizza and they have a ton of beer on tap.  Todd is a budding comedian and he does his stand up every once in a while at their comedy night.  He is putting together some new material to keep us laughing.  http://vintageitalianpizza.com/

We had a great time visiting with the kids and their friends including Daisy, Stewy, Rory and Keats – Finn had a great time with them – chasing them in the house and sliding around on the wood floors.

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Please enjoy our blogging – we will try to keep it up to date.  Also please like us and leave your comments.  We love sharing our adventures with you and always have you in our thoughts.

Tom, Ellen, Finnigan

Summertime, Summertime, Sum, Sum, Summertime!

We are mid-way through June. The weather in West Yellowstone, MT has been rainy but the skies appear to be clearing and we are seeing much more sun and absolutely gorgeous Montana Blue Skies.

We left Florida at the end of March, and worked selling ads for guest guides for Chester State Park located in Chester, SC – http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/chester/introduction.aspx  and Oconee State Park located in Mountain Rest, SC http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/oconee/introduction.aspx  and a private park, Crooked Creek, located on Lake Keowee. http://www.crookedcreekrvpark.org/ – we were in SC for most of April.  We did go to Brevard, NC for a week to visit friends and help out at our Rotary Club’s annual Assault on the Carolinas Cycling Event – http://www.assaultonthecarolinas.com/. Lots of money was raised for local and some international projects. Check out the website – if you are a cyclist, get registered as soon as you can because it will be sold out early.

We had a wonderful time visiting our friends. We chatted with Woody Platt of the Steep Canyon Rangers http://www.steepcanyon.com/, at Quotations Coffee House in Brevard during our visit. Tom sold Woody and the Steep Canyon Rangers their very first touring van. Woody and the boys are mostly from NC having met while in college at Chapel Hill. Check out their website – they are really awesome and it is very nice that Woody took the time to visit with us and asked about my cousin Joni who became friends with him while she lived with us while going to Brevard College.

After our stay in SC selling those darn ads, we headed westward.  I had never visited to St. Louis, MO and was very anxious to go to the top of the Arch.  We stayed over night  in an RV park right downtown.  In the morning took the trolley over to the Arch.  Boy is it big!  We were very early so the wait was very short.  We got into that itsy, bitsy, teeny, weey  cramped, elevator car for the very interesting ride to the top.   It was worth the ride.  The views were spectacular.  They sky was a very pretty blue and clear.  We got back to the RV Park and took off.  We did comment that we would like to come back and spend a few days sight seeing – lots of historical sites we want to visit.

We had planned on going up to Superior to visit Todd and Thad but we were experiencing problems with Black Beauty and decided to just head to South Dakota and get some major work done. We were getting poor gas mileage and were loosing power – not a good thing – We found out we needed to have all 8 fuel injectors replaced – we decided to get 4 of them replaced with the plan to have the balance replaced once we got to Montana.

Our friends Dan and Jonell Anderson (friends from Amazon.com) were headed out to West Yellowstone to work with us this summer.  We met up in Rapid City, SD at a neat KOA.   Due to the fact we  had to have work done on Black Beauty it was great they had a vehicle we could use.  We went out to dinner in Rapid City at and had a very nice dinner and absolutely the best beer Jonell and I have ever had.  Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.  Golly Jeepers, awesome beer.

Dan and Jonell worked at Crazy Horse last summer and invited us to dine with them in Custer with some of the friends they met while working there.  Custer is a little over 40 miles from Rapid City.   As we were driving, we all noticed a strange sound coming from “someplace” near the engine.  Nothing to worry about.  We arrived in Custer, had a very nice dinner.  After dinner we headed back to Rapid City and their truck was making a lot more noise and we were smelling a exhaust.  Of, course, to top it off, it was raining!   We were all happy to get back to Rapid City with out breaking down.  Dan took the truck into the Ford Dealer the next day and it was a somewhat simple fix but they did not have the part and had to stay several extra days until the park came in.  We headed out and left them to a very nice snow storm!

We left the next morning and arrived in Sheridan, WY late in the afternoon.  We had dinner at the … then back to 3M for a good nights rest.  (oh, I did get my nails done too).

Bozeman is only away.  We planned on staying overnight in Bozeman after grocery shopping but decided to head straight to West Yellowstone.   We got somewhat situated in the same spot as last year and took a walk a block into town.  We were really feeling right at home.

Season End – Moving On

Just finished our 5th season at The Homeroom at Madison Crossing in West Yellowstone, MT. http://www.yellowstoneshop.com/.   Saying good bye is always hard but iutys t is doubly hard because we are treated like family. During or final week, many of our customers and friends stopped by to give us a hug and say good bye.

We packed up and started to close in the slides on the morning of October 8th and ran into a problem.  One of our bedroom slides decided to take a powder and would not close.  Tom called on our friend, Kenny and asked him if he could come over and help us.  He came right over.  Kenny is a man handy fellow to call a friend.   It was decided that the slide would have to be pushed in.  So that’s what we did.  The slide will have to remain in until we can get to an rv repair shop.

We got off about 1:15.  Our destination, Columbus, MT, where we stayed at the Itch Kep Pe City Park on the Yellowstone River.   http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/recreation-area-campground/itch-kep-pe-park.html.   This is a great location.  The sites are large and most of the sites have a fire ring.  There is also a pile of wood available.  No hook up facilities but there is a bath house.  (If you are looking for free or almost free camping sites in your travels, check out http://freecampsites.net/.  Very helpful and we have used it and found it some neat places to stay off the beaten path.  Give it a try.)

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Tom and Finn went fishing but Finn was more interested in playing ball and running and splashing in the river — that’s probably why no fish were caught but we had a swell time watching Finn cavort and be happy.  The sunset was pretty too.

Over the last 5 years, during our trips to and from Montana, we have passed the exit for Pompeys Pillar and remarked “wonder what it is” but never stopped.  So, we took the exit this time.  If you get the chance, stop and visit this National Monument.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeys_Pillar_National_Monument .   The park is small but well maintained and they have a lovely Visitor Center.  It was closed when we arrived but we talked to the manager of the Park and he was very informative.  There are short hiking trails and it is pet friendly.

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Pompeys Pillar
Pompeys Pillar

At some point in the journey of Lewis and Clark, they separated  planning to rendezvous later up river.  Clark noted the Monument and decided to investigate.  He discovered many Indian symbols etched into the rock.  He then carved his name and the date he and his men stopped on their travels. He named it Pompys Tower after the son of Sacagawea.  The Monument is right on the banks of the Yellowstone River so it is easy to see how it peaked William Clark’s curiosity.

I knew we were going to Theodore Roosevelt National Park but Tom had a surprise in store for me before we got there.  He said I would say, “what the heck” or “wow”.  I was “Wowed”.    Terry MT is about 100 miles from TRNP and is three miles from the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area.   http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/b-l-m-recreation-area/terry-badlands-wilderness-study-area.html.   We stayed at the Small Towne RV Park.   After getting set up, Mel, the owner of the RV Park was chock full of information and gave  us directions to Cherry Creek where he said we would find Montana Agate in the river bed.  We headed out to hunt for Montanan Agate.  We had absolutely no idea what an agate looked like nor wht a Montata Agate looked like.  We picked up lots of pretty stones and rocks hoping one or two were the real McCoy.  We would not know until the morning if any of our cache contained Montana Agate.

Mel also told us the best spot to see the sunset – a place called Scenic View located in the Montana Badlands Wildlife Study Area.    The drive to Scenic View is not for the faint of heart and should not be done on a full stomach.  It is a one lane dirt and rutted “road” shared with free range cows.  It was a beautiful ride and many of the formations were various shades of pink.  When we got the “Scenic View” it was almost sunset.  Boy was it pretty.  We took a lot of pictures.  Remember to look out the back window – some of the best pictures are not in front of you.

On our way through town, we passed the Roy Rogers Tavern which was  beckoning us to stop in for a beer after our wild ride – so we had a beer and then went home to 3M for dinner.

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You will remember upon returning home from our Montana Agate hunt we did not know if we were successful.  Well, we dumped our haul on the picnic table to be sorted through by Mrs. Mel.  She identified quite a few of our cache as being Montana Agate – Hurrah!  We also found some green jasper, petrified wood and sugar quartz.  We can’t wait to get to Superior, WI, because Todd, Tom’s son, offered  to polish them in his tumbler.

Next stop on our adventure —   Medora, ND.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park located in Medora, ND  http://www.nps.gov/thro/index.htm.  Medorahttp://www.medorand.com/. Several years ago, we took a family trip with the kids to the Bad Lands, Custer, Crazy Horse and Theodore Roosevelt NP so we knew what to expect.  It is really lovely but I do have to say there are not many places to pull over to take pictures. We did stop at several of turnouts and took pictures.  The vistas are amazing.    Saw a couple of bison and a bit further on, got held up in a bison jam. Stopped to look and take pictures of a prairie dog “town” and saw 4-5 deer on the hillside and a coyote who was eying a large marmot.  The marmot scampered off but the coyote must have thought he would still have a chance so he hunkered down when all of a sudden the deer came running at him and chased him away.  Quite interesting.   We stayed in the park to take sunset pictures but it was a cloudless evening so we didn’t get great ones.  It got dark pretty quickly and on our way out, a deer darted in front of us – thank goodness Tom has good reflects.   We got back to 3M and had a delicious steak dinner.

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Tom fell while attempting to climb out of the Madison River when fishing about 4 weeks ago.  The bank he was attempting to climb gave way and he lurched forward jamming his right hand into the ground to stop his fall.  Of course, it swelled up and hurt but being the “typical” male,  decided to just live with it despite the fact it remained swollen and hurt.  He decided to have it looked at when we got to Rapid City so on Monday, Tom visited the Black Hills Orthopedic Center on Monday and learned he has several hairline fractures in his hand and is now sporting a splint that he has to wear for about 4 weeks.

My follow up visit to the surgeon who did my skin cancer removal in August was fine.  Dr. Wittenberg (who is cute as a button) gave me a clean bill of health.  He’s very happy, as am, I with the incision and the resulting scar.  Said he may want to do a little laser work on it in the spring but still looking good.

If anyone who reads this blog is in need of medical care in the Rapid City area, Rapid City Medical Center and Black Hills Orthopedic Center will treat you like gold.

We are now headed to Superior, WI to see the boys for about a week.  Despite the fact that we (Tom) had to drive in very windy conditions for two days (wind gusts of 40-60 mps), we got to see some beautiful country.   It it so hard to describe how simply beautiful the rolling hills are,  how many shades of blue the sky can be, the pictures made by the clouds, colors of the leaves on the trees.  The vibrant reds of sunset and sunrise.  We are so blessed to have the freedom to live the way we do.

We  hope you enjoy this blog.  More to Come

Thought for the day:  When you speak, put a smile on your face–

First RVing2gether Blog – Happy New Year

This is our first Blog.  We hope you are able and want to follow our adventures.  We have been doing a newsletter but we think blogging on a regular basis will be better.   So here goes!!!

We again were pickers at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY for the PEAK season.  Never say Never!  Prior to starting stayed outside of Louisville so we could go to the Jack ‘O Lantern spectacular in the park in Louisville.   http://www.jackolanternlouisville.com/  My pictures do not do it justice so click on the link.

While at Campbellsville, we, along with about 98 other CamperForce workers were invited to transfer to the Jeffersonville, IN facility. We were offered a nice bonus and an increase in pay so we said yes.  They put us up at  a KOA in Jeffersonville, IN, just across the bridge from Louisville.  Instead of working 4 10 hour days we ended up working 5 10 hour day with the option to work 11 hour days.  We opted to do the 50 hours. The Jeffersonville facility ships out clothing, wedding dresses, jeans, bathing suits, socks, underware, jackets, purses, wallets, Armani suits, all kinds of clothing (mostly black!)  If it could be worn, we picked it.  Completely different that what we were picking at Campbellsville.  Jeffersonville is larger than Campbellsville it is over 1.2 million square feet.  It is only 3 years old too.  So nice and clean.

Amazon

We only had 2 days off and it usually rained but we did get to see the lights under Louisville www.louisvillemegacavern.com/attractions/5/lights-under-louisville.  with our friends Dan and Jonell and also went out to dinner with them at Johnny V’s  www.johnnyvsoflouisville.com .  We got a group of CamperForce workers together and drove back to Johnny’s for dinner for a final farewell.  Very nice group of people.   

Our last day was Saturday, December 20th and go up early Sunday morning with friends, Dan and Jonell, heading for sunny/warm Florida.  We met up in Perry, Georgia, where we spent the time before continuing on to our destinations.  Dan and Jonell headed toward Jacksonville to change their residence to Florida while we trucked on to Clermont to get settled in at the Rolling Ridge RV Resort.

Dan and Jonell met up with us at stayed down the street at the Clerbrook RV Resort.  Jonell came over and helped Annabelle in an all day cookie decorating marathon.

Decorating cookies- yummmy
Decorating cookies- yummmy

They then  spent Christmas with us. We were all invited over to Jeff, Alison and Annabelle’s home where there was plenty of family and friends.  I had a big surprise, my sister Jean and her husband Joe were visiting from snowy NY so I got to spend Christmas with them for the first time in many years.  Jeff smoked a turkey and ham.  He and Alison put on a great meal for 15 of us   Everyone was stuffed!

We had fun with Dan and Jonell going out to dinner and seeing the sun set over Lake Minneola and a few beers before they left on the 27th to go to their RV park near Tampa.

Evening on the Lake
Evening on the Lake
Tikki Bar on Lake Minneola
Tikki Bar on Lake Minneola

We will meet up with them again at the RV show in Tampa later in January and then again when they move over closer to New Smyrna.  We are looking forward to visiting them over there.

New Year’s Eve was celebrated at Rolling Ridge.  The theme was “Margaritaville – It’s 12:00 Somewhere”.   Social hour started at 6:00 with appetizers and then dinner consisting of tacos and other delicious items was served at 7:00.  Music started shortly thereafter.  We all had a good time, more than others!!! We got home early and watched the ball drop on TV.  Happy New Year.

We are settled in and did a lot of housekeeping.  Washed 3M, made inventory of some routine maintenance needs.  Cleaned windows, put winter clothes away, etc.  Got out my reduced number of tubs with fabric so I can complete and/or start new projects.  NOT going back on the road with these tubs of fabric and that’s a fact!  Tom replaced our toilet YEAH!!!  We also need some work done on Black Beauty – a ball bearing in the front tire, yuk!

Finn no longer looks like a Yak.  We had him groomed the other day and now he looks like a puff ball.  So cute!

We had a sleep over with Annabelle – the weather was rainy so she made a tent in the living room utilizing Finn’s crate.

Having fun in living room "Fort"
Having fun in living room “Fort”

Earlier in the morning, she and I went to exercise together and then went for a bike ride.  It hadn’t started to rain yet but we did get wet coming back – we rode for about 5 miles or so.

Wet rug rats!
Wet rug rats!

It has been kind of cool – did get to the pool twice.  Annabelle braved the 72 degree water for a swim with her friend Annabella (can you believe that?).   Good thing she learned how to swim because I WAS NOT GOING TO GET IN!  The day bef

I got a gift certificate for Clermont Herb and Day Spa (Spa being the key word) and took myself out for a long needed massage and a micro-derm facial.  I look 25… Tom is out today with some of boys from the “Old Folks Home” (ha ha) – going to a Harbor Freight hardware store of some kind???? then lunch in Leesburg.

That’s it for now.