Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One More Time

I was resigned to putting the camper away for winter storage last week. Then, out of the blue, Rosie says “Let’s go camping one more time before winter”.  She is so persuasive!  It took her about 2 seconds to convince me to hook up and head out. 

We decided to make our last trip this year to the place where we made our first trip last year (are you following this?).  So here we are at Ririe Reservoir about 15 map miles from home, but is seems like another world.  This is a County Campground with full hookups for $16 a night for us Golden Age folks.  It is set high on a bluff overlooking a man made reservoir.  The sites are large and paved.  The site we wanted was the one we stayed in last year, but it was taken.  There is dirt moving work going on adjacent to Loop B.  It appears that the campground is being expanded.   It looked like all of the other campers were construction workers staying near the job site.  We got here on Monday and on Tuesday, our desired site was vacated.  So we moved into it today, Wednesday.  We took the pups for a walk on a trail leading out from the site.  When we returned, Rosie spotted a snake near the back of the trailer.  When I took a look at it, I discovered it was a baby rattlesnake about 6 inches long and the thickness of a pencil.  It was actually coiled up in striking position.  I hate snakes.   I really hate poisonous snakes.  So I killed it with my mighty axe.  Yuk.  I don’t like to kill natures critters, but I make an exception for insects and reptiles.

Since we returned from our 6 week reunion trip to South Dakota, we have been working hard on the camper getting it in shape for going full time next summer.  We washed down the walls and ceiling inside; then painted the walls a very light tan color.  We put in a wallpaper border at chair rail height.  The biggest part of the project was adding wood trim to the top and sides of the slide outs.   Here are some pictures:
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IMG_4576 We think the bathroom really turned out pretty nice.  In the spring, we are going to replace the carpet with a light beige color.  That will really finish off the redecorating project in a nice way.

The plan for this winter is to pack up boxes with the stuff (albums, books, collectibles, etc.) we want to put into storage.  In late May, we will have the packed boxes and the furniture in our bedroom and the guest bedroom put into long term storage.   At that point, we will move into the camper and set it up at a local campground while we clear out the house.  The first weekend in June we plan to have a “We are moving into our RV; everything must go sale.”  That should be interesting, selling off most of the “stuff” we have accumulated over the years.  Whatever is left, we will either trash or donate to Goodwill.  We will keep Idaho Falls as our base by getting a mailbox mailing address at the local UPS store.  We can call them and go over the mail by phone at any time and they will forward the mail we want to where ever we are.  I checked with the DMV and we can change our driver’s licenses to the UPS address.  If all goes well, we should hit the highways and byways in mid June.  My family reunion is moving up from mid August to July 6th next year. so we will head towards South Dakota first.  Not sure where we will go after that.  We plan to be near Simi Valley for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  Then off to the California and Arizona deserts for the winter.  

This week we have been “pretending” to be full timing; just to try to get the feel of what it will be like to not have a “home” to go back to.  We really feel comfortable with the space in the camper.  It feels good.  We think of it as having a small home, but a really big yard; and we don’t have to maintain the landscaping.  We really feel like this will be a final “adventure” in our lives.  Hopefully our health will hold out and we will enjoy many years before we have to to give it up and move into an apartment or condo somewhere.   So this will be my last post until next year.  I plan to keep on writing about our travel adventures.  We hope you will follow along and enjoy it with us.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Home Again

I guess I should know by now that lines on a map don’t reflect reality when it comes to elevation and terrain.  US 14 from Ranchester, WY to Cody, WY doesn’t look too bad on the page; in fact the road surface and width are great.  However, this is a steep grade up and down the Big Horn Mountains.  It reminded me of Highway 12 in Idaho; miles and miles of trees, granite and wondering if we would ever get to the top.  I was carefully monitoring the temperature gauges for the engine and transmission on the Chevy.  I guess the recent oil change and complete transmission service paid off.  Temperatures did rise slightly, but nowhere near as high as they have in past experiences.  We ran into a fellow “Alpenliter” at a pullout viewpoint about 3/4 of the way up the hill.  He and his wife have been full timing in their 2001 Alpenlite for about 3 years and love every day of it.  He has installed a solar panel system that works very well for him.  I picked up a lot of great information from him that will be useful when we enter our full time phase.

The KOA in Cody is pretty ordinary.  For some reason unknown to me, we got a free upgrade to a “deluxe” site, meaning we had a patio slab with a patio table and four swivel chairs.  However, we were only in Cody because I had some work assignments in the area.  It took me a whole day to visit 3 remote natural gas processing stations.   My final assignment was in town and I did that one on the way out of town in the morning.

We pulled into the East Entrance of Yellowstone Park about 11:00 am.  By the time we could see Yellowstone Lake the air was heavy with smoke from a fire many miles to the south of our position.  We pulled over for lunch near Fishing Bridge.  Gave the pooches a chance to walk in the woods and check out the good smells that dogs seem to relish in.  About 30 minutes down the road from our lunch break, traffic came to a complete halt and we couldn’t see why.  After a few minutes traffic started moving ever so slowly and then we got the first glimpse of the cause.  It was a “bison jam” on the highway.  Buffalo were on the road just sauntering along; seemingly oblivious to the cars and RVs all around them.
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A little further down the road, Rosie got this great shot of buffalo cooling off in the Yellowstone River.
We arrived at Henry’s Lake in Idaho about 3:30 pm.  Rosie loves Henry’s Lake because of the extensive hiking trails nearby.  I like it because it is a popular fishing destination.  This is an Idaho State Park which means the sites are large and the fee is low; $19.08 for 50 amp electrical service.  I threw a couple of lines in the water, but (as seems to be normal) no fish were interested in my offerings.  Rosie was on a hike with the dogs when she noticed a Moose Crossing sign.  She was really surprised when a cow moose with a calf came ambling by.  She was afraid that Annie would start barking and making a scene which could agitate mama moose; but Annie strangely enough was silent for a change.  Maybe she realized she was not safe in the back seat of the truck and that really big animal might hurt her.

After four weeks and one day on the road, we returned to Idaho Falls about 11:00 am.  After much reflection on where we are in this stage of our lives and what we want to do with the rest of our time; we have decided to embrace a full time RV lifestyle.  We had planned to spend the winter in warmer climates this year as a final test of whether we were ready for this new adventure.   However, we have come to the mutual conclusion that RVing is what we want to do for as long as our health holds out.  So we will put the camper in storage for the winter and start the process of divesting ourselves of our house and most of the “stuff” we have accumulated over the years.  Sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2012, we will begin our new adventure.  That means I will get to write more blogs about our new life.  Until then, thanks for following along. 

Feel free to make comments on this blog in the comments section below.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Shufflin’ off to Buffalo

Buffalo Wyoming that is.  Wow.   How time flies.  It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote about our adventures, so I have a lot of catchin’ up to do.
IMG_4436I last wrote from the campground in Yankton, SD after catching a rather handsome catfish.  The other thing I caught on that fishing day was a good sunburn on my feet.    After a whole summer of wearing socks and sneakers, I decided to spend a day fishing (in the bright sunlight) wearing sandals.  Rosie has been questioning my intellect lately, maybe she is onto something Surprised smile.  Several applications of a good Aloe lotion is helpful.
We pulled out of Yankton on Thursday morning on a little over 300 mile push to Lake Maloney State Park south of North Platte, Nebraska.  We discovered this place last year.  It is a good stopover between Yankton and my brother Bill’s place in Eaton, CO.  We already had a State Parks sticker from Chadron earlier in the trip, so the cost for this overnight was $15.  It is set on a lake with big sites and wonderful sunrises.
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We decided to take the “back roads” to Colorado instead of the interstate.  Two event occurred on this journey; first I turned over 200,000 miles on the Chevy and we got a close up look at a lot of corn fields and grain storage silos.  These silos are right on the Nebraska/Colorado border.
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We arrived at Bill’s home in Eaton about 3:00 pm.  It is nice to wonder around a large home for awhile.  Bill and Joanie found a real gem in this house last year; about 3,000 sq. ft. with a 3 car garage and a large, beautifully landscaped yard, complete with hot tub.
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Bill and Joanie have 3 sons and 6 grandchildren.  Sunday afternoon is dinner at grandma’s.  It is sort of controlled chaos, but mostly chaos.   This Sunday’s feast included pulled pork sandwiches with a lot of good side dishes.  I don’t think anyone went hungry.  Bill presented me with a large bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka for my birthday, which I reluctantly Nyah-Nyah accepted. 

On Monday we headed up the into the mountains southwest of Denver to our old neighborhood in Shawnee, Co.  Shawnee is so small that you are required to go to the post office to pick up your mail.  There are no retail stores in Shawnee.  We set up the camper in the yard of our former neighbors, Mark and Janice Richter.  They have a beautiful home on a mountain hilltop.
It is a little tricky getting the camper into their yard, but once there it is a great setup.  The builder originally built it for himself and included RV connections, including sewer, in the yard.  Obviously he changed his mind and sold the house, but that little feature sure comes in handy.  Mark and Janice are great hosts; treating us to a filet mignon dinner the night of our arrival.  Mark has a pool table, so I always pack my personal cue on these trips.  We based our operations from here for a week.  I took the truck into Denver to have major service work done (an expensive celebration of 200K miles) on Tuesday.  Also got some personal shopping done while the service was happening.  Thursday Rosie went hiking with her old hiking group; followed by a gathering at Shari Sorensens's home in Conifer.
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Friday night we and the Richter’s enjoyed dinner out in Conifer.  Saturday morning Mark (a former truck driver) expertly helped me get out of his driveway and we headed back to my brother’s home for the Labor Day Weekend.  On Saturday afternoon, I had two work events, one in Cheyenne and another in Laramie.  Rosie and the pooches went along for the ride.  That evening, we enjoyed a great meal in a snazzy Mexican Restaurant in Greeley with Bill and Joanie.  On Sunday, Bill cooked up two fantastic pork loins for the family gathering.  The food was excellent and the company wasn’t bad either.
It is now Monday and we are in Buffalo, Wyoming for a night stop over on our way to Cody, Wyoming.  I have 4 work events in the Cody area and will get them done on Wednesday and Thursday.  We are in a great campground in Buffalo with very large sites and full hookups, 50 amp. electric, water, sewer, Cable TV and a good wi-fi connection.  The dogs are settling it to a more restrictive environment after having the run of Bill’s big back yard for several days.  Rosie and I are settling back into the quiet life on the road.  Life is good.  We expect to be back home in Idaho Falls on Friday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Town Happenings

I left Yankton, South Dakota in September 1965 and moved to Los Angeles, CA, where I met my wife, raised our children and enjoyed an interesting career.  I didn’t return to Yankton much over the first 30 years, but my visits have increased over the past few years.  I have two brothers, a sister-in-law, and a niece and a nephew who still live here.  My mom passed away two years ago, so that reason for returning has gone away.  Over that last 4 or 5 years, we have made a practice of stopping here on the way to, or way from, the Amick family reunion in Colome, only about 135 miles away.  Rosie and I also both enjoy the campground we stay at; Chief White Crane Campground, which is part of the South Dakota State Parks system.  The sites are spacious with long, level parking pads.  This year, like last year, we invited all of my local kin to the campground Monday evening for a BBQ and evening of family visiting.  This time, my sister, Marla Sathe, drove all the way from Omaha, Nebraska to join us.  

Here are some pictures from the evening.
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  Family visiting                                                                                 Niece Jill and Sister Marla
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Nephew Chad, me, Brothers Larry and Danny                           Group photo

Tuesday afternoon I picked up Larry and we went out checking potential fishing holes for our planned Wednesday fishing outing.  We drove out near the farm where we grew up and went to Lake Marindahl.  The lake was much larger than I remembered it, but it has been at least 50 years since I was last there.  Then Larry tells me that an old high school friend, Jim Starr, has been bugging him to bring me by to see him the next time I was in town.  Now Jim works Mondays and Tuesdays at The Ice House, an institution in Yankton going back to my childhood and perhaps before that.  It is a Drive In Beer Bar.  Yes, that’s right; a Drive In Beer Bar.  You drive up to the loading dock in front of the building and someone comes out and takes your order and brings you the brew of your choice.  As a kid, I remember seeing on duty Yankton Police Officers sitting a in squad car taking a beer break.  So Jim Starr comes out to ask our choice of beverage and recognizes Larry and says hello to him.  He looks at me and I say “I hear you been looking for me”.  He reaches out to shake my hand and says “My God!  I would not have recognized you walking down the street”.  Of course, the last time we saw each other was 1962.  So he waves us into the building (I have never been inside the building before) and he gives me a Bud Lite on the house.  We yakked for an hour and a half about the old days and the current whereabouts of friends from High School.  It was an interesting afternoon.

That evening Rosie and I attended the Yankton chapter of Drinking Liberally’s weekly meeting.  We are full time attendees of the Idaho Falls Chapter of this national organization and it was great to meet people of like political  persuasion in my home town.  It was a small group, but we had a great time.

Wednesday morning we awoke to a new phenomena, a May Fly hatch.  The camper was covered with May Flies.
Fortunately, they were almost all on the outside and only one or two on the inside. 

I drove up to the local convenience store to get some fishing bait (worms) and a couple of newspapers.  After breakfast I drove about a 1/4 mile to the Missouri River and settled in for a day of fishing.  The River is at near flood levels.  The spot I was at is about a mile from the dam where the Corp of Engineers is letting out record amounts of water.  The water level is easily 10 to 12 feet higher than it was last year when we were here.  In the first 30 minutes I had a good hook up with something really big.  After about 10 minutes I could see that it was a good size catfish, about 24 inches long.  To make a long story short, I managed to lose it trying to land it.  So I chalked it up to my notoriously bad luck with fishing.  My brother, Larry, came out about noon and joined me for the afternoon.  He caught several fish and I caught one more, none worth writing home about.  Then about 3:30 I had another good hook up.  Whaddya know, it turned out to be the twin of the catfish I had lost in the morning.  This time Larry was going to make sure I didn’t lose this one, so he goes out into the water a bit and scoops it up onto the shore.  What a guy.  So my day was not a complete loss.  

Here is me with my 5 and 1/2 lb., 26 inch channel catfish.

Rosie and I are not fans of catfish for eating, but a friend of hers in Colorado loves catfish.  So I have two nice catfish filets for her.  The only other noteworthy event for the day was that I sunburned the heck out of my feet and ankles.  I normally wear socks and sneakers.  Today I was wearing sandals and my lily white feet and ankles got really red.  It will be a few days before that pain and itch subsides. 

Tomorrow we hitch up and head for Lake Maloney  near North Platte, Nebraska and on Friday we will arrive at my brother, Bill Sathe’s home in Eaton, Colorado.  We will catch up with more on our travels early next week.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Gathering Of The Clan

Reunions, especially family reunions can be joyous or dreadful, depending on the perspective of the participant.  My family reunion is clearly a joyous occasion.  For the last 20 some years, the Amick/Strochine clan has held their annual family reunion at the Roger Pochup farm near Colome, South Dakota.  Biologically, I am the son of an Amick.  However I was adopted at the age of 3 by Marvin Sathe, who married my mother in 1947.  I did not meet my biological family until 1993 when my father, Ivan Amick, reached out to contact me.  In 1994, I was invited to the Amick/Strochine reunion where I met a large number siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews for the first time.  That was an exciting and rewarding experience and I have returned every year since on the 3rd full weekend in August.  Sadly, my father died suddenly two days after that 1994 reunion, limiting the time I got to know him to a meager 14 months.  Through the stories told at the reunion and long conversations with dad’s sister, Rita Strochine, I have learned a lot about him and the life he lived before we met in June 1993.

This years attendance was light, primarily due to school years starting earlier and earlier.  Many families with school age children cannot attend because of the timing.  There were about 40 or 50 blood relatives plus their spouses and additional members of the local community are invited to participate in the Saturday night feast of a pork main course with a variety of yummy accompaniments.  There are hay rides on a flat bed trailer pulled by a farm tractor across the fields with at least one stop at the rock on Hoop Snake Hill, where Roger Pochup tells the tale of the Hoop Snake and how the snakes affected the lives of the settlers in the early days.  There is always a “posse” of young horseback riders trailing along.  There is a silent auction, and fireworks, and karaoke, and lots to talk and lots of eating.  I always weigh more on the Sunday departure day than I did on the Thursday arrival day. 
Here are some pictures from the event:
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This year some of us made a trip into Nebraska to visit an old cemetery where I have several relatives lying at rest.  The cemetery is located about a mile off the nearest paved road and is used infrequently these days.  Among aunts and uncles and cousins that are buried here, my great grandparents ( my father’s mother’s mom and dad) are here.  Here is a picture with me standing between their headstones.
After the reunion, we hitched up the camper and drove east to my home town of Yankton, South Dakota.  We are set up in Chief White Crane Campground, a South Dakota State Park.  We always take a day or two to adjust to the increased humidity.   For some meteorological reason that I do not understand, the humidity goes up dramatically as soon as you cross the Missouri River.  Anyway, we are here and comfortable with 50 amp electricity to run the AC and everything else we need.  Tonight, Rosie and I are hosting a gathering of the Sathe Clan, two of my Sathe brothers and my sister and a nephew will join us at the campground for grilled burgers and fixings.   After that we are headed for Colorado to visit more of the Sathe clan and our old neighborhood in Shawnee, Colorado.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chadron State Park, Northwest Nebraska

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We discovered this little gem quite by accident several years ago.  For a short while, about 10 years back, my mother lived a half mile down the highway from the entrance to this park.  I made a mental note of it when we made a trip to visit her.  After we got our first camper, we stopped here on the way from our home in Colorado to the family reunion in South Dakota.  We liked it a lot at the time and vowed to return someday.  Well, last Saturday was someday.  We have been here for 3 days now and it is as wonderful as we remembered it.  The sites are large and well spaced, with 30 amp electrical hookups.  There are flush toilets, showers and a laundry room about 100 feet from the campsite.  There is an extensive trail system; and we have taken the puppies on some of the shorter trails.  We may even try a longer trail before we head out of here on Thursday morning.
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Rosie is always happy at a trailhead.                                        Our camper is in the center of the picture.

The only thing that has me a little grumpy is no television.  There is nothing from the “over the air” antenna on the camper.  I spent more than an hour trying to find the DirectTV satellite; but there are too many trees and the hills to the south are too high to get a good shot at the satellite.  The access to the internet via my Verizon air card is spotty; sometimes good, most of the time not at all, and it is not predictable when it will be good or it will be bad.  There is a reliable good reception area in the park about a mile from our site.  If I absolutely must send/receive anything, I just drive up there for a few minutes to get it done.  However, I have been able to work from the site most of the time.

Yesterday, I took Sammy and Annie for a ride into Chadron to run a few errands; refill one of the camper propane tanks, refuel the truck, pick up some groceries and go to the post office.  The puppies always enjoy going for a ride.  Of course, whenever I get a newspaper, I give it to Sammy to carry into the camper and he gets a treat.  Of course, it is only fair to give Annie a treat also, even though she didn’t “earn” it.  Typical female, living off the fruits of the labor of a  male Smile.

The weather here, for the most part, has been good.  We have had a few night time sprinkles.  Last night the wind blew hard enough to shake the camper for about an hour; along with some lightning and thunder.  Yesterday was hot; 97 degrees.  The camper AC got a workout keeping us cool.  We had a great moonrise on Sunday night.  A big, orange colored full moon rose out of the trees, keeping us entertained for about 20 minutes.
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It seems I will survive my mishap of last Wednesday.  The pain and tingling sensation in my arms has diminished and the dull, throbbing ache in my shoulders and neck has dissipated.  The only part that still hurts is my right shoulder.  That could be from driving (with my right arm) and/or the fall on Wednesday could have triggered a relapse of an old shoulder injury from an auto accident when I was 16 ( a bazillion years ago).  Anyway, Aleve seems to be handling that nuisance pain.

I got a fair amount of maintenance work done on the camper this morning while it was cool.  Cleaned off the bugs from the front cap and cleaned up the road dirt on the lower front that we picked up going through construction zones on Highway 26 in Wyoming.  Even spent about an hour tightening loose screws (not the ones in my head).

Thursday morning we hitch up and head east to my family reunion in Colome, South Dakota.  We always enjoy our reunion time.  I will blog again from there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our trip starts with a bang; and a CT Scan

The day before our departure date for South Dakota and Colorado I did a really dumb and clumsy thing.  I was walking around the camper parked in front of our house.  I had my gaze on the ground and my mind on my next task.  I ran my forehead smack dab into the open bedroom slide on the camper.  That knocked me out.  I fell backwards hitting the back of my head on the pavement.  I came to with one of my neighbors kneeling over me asking if he should call 911.  I said “No, I don’t think so, but let me lie here for a minute and think about this”.   I was dazed, numb and had tingling sensations in my neck, shoulders and upper arms.  He helped me to my feet and I went in the house and told Rosie she should drive me to the Emergency Room.   The first thing they did after giving me an initial evaluation and hearing my story, was to put me in a neck brace.  Those darn things are exceptionally uncomfortable.  I was in the neck brace for 3 hours; first waiting to get into the room for a CT Scan, then waiting for a doctor to come in and give me the results.  I was a worried dude.  Finally, a nice doctor walks in, reaches to remove the neck brace and says “I ‘m the good news guy”.  I did not have a concussion or a broken neck.  What a relief that was.  He also gave a full thumbs up to driving, even pulling a fifth wheel, the next day.  I had been lying there in Bed 16 of the Idaho Falls Regional Medical Center Emergency Room fully expecting that the trip was off; and my camping days were over.  So dramatic!  Anyway, my fears were not grounded.  I survived the experience with some shoulder and neck pain, sorta like whiplash, only whiplash while walking.

This morning we pulled out of Idaho Falls about 8:00 am.  We headed east for Jackson Hole and then north alongside the Grand Tetons to Moran Junction.  Then east over the mountains, with Highway 26 undergoing major construction, to Dubois, WY.


The Snake River south of Jackson


The Grand Tetons over the top of my truck.   Sorta goes with the Alpenlite decals, eh!


A buffalo next to the road on the way.  Rosie is getting to be a great wildlife photographer.

We arrived at the The Longhorn Ranch and RV Resort about 2:30.  This was our second visit here this year.  When we were here in June, the river next to the campground was rising.  Now it has subsided to something more resembling normal.  We really like this campground, but their rates went from $29 in June to $45 in August.  Ouch!  However the setting is great.  The dogs love it.  Rosie loves it.  What could be better?

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               The river.                                                               Our site in the shady trees.

I now have to show off our little Annie’s new look.  We took her to the groomer for a bath and a hair cut.  She is a different gal.


Tomorrow morning we continue east to Douglas, WY.  I have a couple of farm inspections for an insurance company along the way.  I will be back with you in a couple of days.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The final week!

Almost a week has gone by since my last update on our travels.

Monday was pretty much a work day for me.  I had 6 insurance surveys in Carpinteria.  I got back to the site about 3:00.   I wrote up a couple of my reports, then spent the rest of the day relaxing.  Tuesday we were hosts to Rosie’s sisters, Helga and Gigi and their husbands Fred and Harlan, and Helga’s grandson, Shane.  We prepared a campfire dinner of chicken, potatoes, and veggies with some cream of mushroom soup and a little wine all mixed together and wrapped in six layers of heavy duty foil.  After 45 minutes over an open campfire, everything was fully cooked and ready to eat.  Add some French bread and butter and top it off with an apple tort baked by Rosie and we had a meal.   We sat and visited for a couple of hours enjoying the surroundings and each other’s company.  Of course we had to take a group photo.


From left to right; Fred, me, Rosie, Gigi, Helga, Shane and Harlan.

Wednesday was a day without any commitments or plans.  I wrote the rest of my reports and we chilled out at the site.  Thursday I had 2 surveys in Santa Barbara scheduled, but one of them cancelled while I was driving up the coast to Santa Barbara.  It has been at least 18 years since I have driven the Pacific Coast Highway.  It was strange to see the ocean again after living inland all these years.  I had also forgotten how crowded Santa Barbara is; small homes on narrow streets are the rule until you get into the mansions in the foothills.  Thursday evening Heidi had us over for dinner;  she picked up chicken and fixings from El Pollo Loco, one of our favorites.  We put our pooches in the back yard and Heidi kept her three little canines in the house during our visit.   It was good to spend some more time with our grandsons Robert and Tyler.   We are looking forward to being able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with them this year, since we have decided to spend the winter in our camper exploring warmer winter climates.  We stopped at Albertson’s in Simi Valley for a final stock up on groceries for our trip home.

Friday morning we hooked up and pulled out of the Ventura Ranch KOA, our home for the last 10 nights.  This is the longest we have stayed at one location since we started camping.  It was a good experience.  We had a great site.  There were many places to walk Sammy and Annie.  The local wildlife consisted of little bunny rabbits and peacocks.  The peacocks are birds with extraordinary color patterns.  This one came right into our camp one morning.


Friday was the beginning of our desert journey home.  We stayed Friday night in Barstow.  The campground did not have a single blade of grass anywhere.  Puppies like to pee on grass; so we took a ride to a local park where they could take care of all their business on lush green grass (a rare site in Barstow, CA).  We continue to meet Europeans in our travels.  A large Class C rental RV set up next to us.  A family from Switzerland; husband, wife and two sons.  Their English was pretty good, but their German was better.   Rosie really enjoyed a long conversation with them Saturday morning as we were getting ready to go.

I was dreading driving through Las Vegas; but it was not so bad.  The major road construction they have been working on for the last few years is completed.  I was able to stay in one lane all the way from the south to the north end of town.  The temperature kept climbing all day, by the time we reached our destination in Mesquite, NV, it was well over 100 degrees.  The only RV resorts in Mesquite are connected with Casinos and Hotels.  This means they are cheap, $20 with full hookups, because they expect you will drop some money at the tables.  The RV area is a large paved parking lot.  We lucked out with a corner site that is very wide and very level.  I plugged into the 50 amp circuit and we fired up the main air conditioner; and the circuit breaker in the camper tripped.  Not a good sign.  So I reset the circuit breaker and set the fan to low on the AC.  That seemed to make it better.  After about 30 minutes I set the fan to high and it has been running good every since.  Then I turned on the front (bedroom) AC.  After five minutes, that circuit breaker tripped.  I have been trying to run the front AC on low for a couple of hours and it always trips after 10 or 15 minutes.  Finally, I said to heck with it, I will run it on high for as long as it will go.  It has been going for about 40 minutes now without failure.  Maybe it is because it is cooling down outside and it doesn’t have to work so hard.  We were thinking about hitting the slot machines for a bit, but decided it was not a good idea to leave the pooches alone in the camper if the AC were to trip the breakers it could get too hot for them.

Sunday we headed out about 7:00 am for Nephi, UT.  We came upon a serious accident on I-15.  A SUV was upside down in the center median and many motorists had stopped to give assistance.  We saw one person sitting up against the vehicle holding a towel to his head; unable to tell if there was anyone else still in the vehicle.  First responders had not yet arrived, but many folks were talking into cell phones.  These things are always a reminder to us of how fortunate we are and how your life can literally be turned “upside down” in a second.  We arrived in Nephi about 2:00 pm (back in Mountain time now) and are set up in the High Country RV Camp.  We have a shady site on level gravel and are able to stay hooked up to save time in the morning.  Both AC units going full blast with a good 50 amp connection and no circuit breakers tripping in the camper.  Temperature is a cool (compared to Mesquite) 90 degrees.  Also have 26 channels of “over the air” digital television from our roof antenna.  How good is that?

So, part of our “lessons learned” on this trip now includes avoiding desert travel in the summer.   We will head home in the morning and be there for almost three weeks before we head for the family reunion in Colome, SD followed by a trip to our old neighborhood in Shawnee, CO.

I will write next time from Chadron State Park in Nebraska.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

People and Peacocks

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                                       Concrete Deer                                                             Real Peacock
We arrived at the Ventura Ranch KOA Tuesday afternoon.  The site that we were assigned to was way too small for our camper, so we ended up moving to a much better site with the gracious cooperation of the KOA staff.
This  is a nice, private site.  No other camper on our street side with plenty of room to set up chairs for our many expected guests.

The drive to Santa Paula was uneventful.  We had very little traffic until we got onto Interstate 5 at Gorman and headed down the long grade to Los Angeles.  Fortunately, we were able to avoid the real LA traffic since we were able to turn off on highway 126 towards Santa Paula; a modest size California community about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  The proximity to the ocean makes for cool temperatures at the campground.  It is in the mid-seventies here while it is in the eighties about 15 miles away in the Simi Valley area.   Wednesday was a day to explore the area.  We drove north of Ojai to check out a forest service campground I found on the internet.  It is in a very nice, heavily wooded setting with a stream running through it; but, the Karma (as Rosie called it) was terrible.  The camper trailers there were very old and run down.  The people were kind of scary.  It looked like a setting for a Hollywood Horror Movie.  We drove down to the beach and were struck by the smell of sardines and rotten kelp.  There were a lot of camping units along the beach front.  I don’t know how they stand the odor.   I checked the “Gas Buddy” app on my Android phone and went to a Fleet Fueling station that was supposed to have diesel for $4.05.  When we got there, the sign out front and on the pump said $4.09.   I put the nozzle in the tank and started cleaning the windshield.  That finished, I went to check on the fueling when I noticed the price was now $4.17.  I stopped the fill up at $94; not a very happy camper.  Apparently the $4.09 was the price if you were a “Fleet” member.  Arghhh!

We headed back to the campground to wait for Michelle to arrive.  She is spending two nights with us instead of making her usual 60 mile (one way) commute to her home in Pine Mountain Club from her job in Santa Clarita.  Dinner was grilled salmon for her (she has gone meatless (vegan)) and brats for me and Rosie.  She was the first one to test out the pull out bed in the couch in the camper.  She and Annie found it pretty comfy.
Thursday was the day for Heidi and our grandsons, Robert and Tyler to come out for lunch.  Rosie prepared chicken the way the boys really enjoy and I put a few pieces on the grill in addition.  Every one enjoyed lunch and then the boys (including a friend of Roberts) went down to try out the rock climbing wall.  After that we followed them to a skate park in Santa Paula, where Robert and his friend did their skateboarding thing for awhile.
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On Friday, we went to Trader Joe’s in Simi Valley before I dropped Rosie and the pooches off for lunch at Heidi’s house.  Heidi was hosting a lunch for Rosie, her sister  Gigi, and a cousin, Joy, and Joy’s infant daughter.
                                     Rosie                Joy                   Gigi                  Heidi              Tyler with Scoobie
While they were doing the “girl” thing, I had lunch at El Torito, my favorite Mexican restaurant and had the truck treated to a thorough wash and wax job at the local car wash.  We stopped again for groceries on the way home.  We are freaking out at the food prices in the grocery stores here compared to the Wal-Mart in Idaho Falls. 

Saturday morning I drove into Moorpark to watch Tyler in a Basketball Game.  His other grandparents, Bob and Connie, were there with Heidi.  Tyler made four baskets and his team won 26 to 25.  I took many pictures at the game, but I guess I am not a sports photographer; none of them are worth sharing. 
Saturday afternoon our son Karl and his girl friend Shana came over to spend the afternoon and night with us.  Karl always goes out of his way to prepare great meals when we visit them, so we grilled steaks and salmon, threw in some large shrimp and Rosie’s famous scalloped potatoes.  After Karl and Shana left on Sunday, we found a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Oxnard and stocked up on groceries and other needed items.  It was good to find some reasonable prices again, compared to the local Supermarkets like Vons and Albertsons.  Rosie did the laundry in the campground facility and we started to relax after a rather hectic week so far.

Tomorrow I have six inspections to do in Carpenteria.  Tuesday, two of Rosie’s sisters, Gigi and Helga, are coming out with their husbands to have dinner with us.  We are planning a feast of chicken, potatoes and vegetables in mushroom sauce cooking in heavy foil over a campfire.