Dec 7, 2010

Tough Time in Michigan

It's been over two weeks since my last post.  I guess it's time to get back into the swing of things. When we arrived back in Michigan we knew that it was going to be a difficult time.  We weren't prepared for how challenging it was going to be. On Sunday the 21st of November we received a call from our daughter Michelle in Portland, Oregon.  It seems that our youngest daughter Julie, who also lives in Portland, had some medical problems and was having emergency surgery. After some discussion and debate we decided that Judy should fly to Portland the next morning to be with Julie and help her through her recovery.

I was spending time with Chris and I would stay here in Michigan. Our daughter's surgery went well, and Judy was able to help her and Jeremy get ready to host a nice Thanksgiving dinner for 10.  It was our first Thanksgiving apart since we were married 36 years ago. I spent Thanksgiving with our hosts Stan and Kathleen. Stan had recently bought a new Green Egg charcoal cooker so he used that to prepare an excellent thanksgiving turkey .
With snow in the forecast and the tanks getting full, it was time for me to move the coach.  So on Saturday, the 27th, Stan helped me move to a campground just south of Grand Rapids which has one loop open for the winter.  Normally, when we move, Judy takes care of securing things on the inside and I take care of the outside stuff.  I had to make one unscheduled stop to secure a few things that I had forgotten about. Fortunately nothing broke. I picked a good day to move because the next day we got 6 inches of snow.

Last Wednesday morning Chris's wife Teresa died. Chris, and Teresa's two sisters, were by her side when she took her last breath.  I had just been to their house to pick up some pictures to have made into enlargements when Chris called to say Teresa had just passed away. He asked if I could come back to stay with him and I sat with him until the funeral home came to pick up her body.  The funeral was on Saturday and I ended up being one of the pall bearers.  It was a very difficult day. Unfortunately, Judy was not able to be here for the funeral, but ended up flying in that evening.  It's good to have her back.

We will be spending the rest of this week and part of next here in Grand Rapids. A week from Friday we have an appointment at Spartan Chassis in Charlotte, MI to have some service work done on the coach and then we plan to move to the eastern side of the State.  We found a campground about 30 miles south of Detroit that is still open, and we will spend Christmas with our oldest daughter Melissa and her family in St. Clair Shores.  Then we head south to search for warmer weather.

Until later.

Nov 19, 2010


We are back in the Grand Rapids area.  We are spending the week plugged in and hooked up at the home of our friends and business partners Stan and Kathleen.  They have just finished building a beautiful home in the country and have a pad with 50 amp power and water next to their house.  We are so thankful for their hospitality and use of their home.

This is unfortunately not a fun trip.  Our friends Chris and Teresa are going through one of life's darkest moments.  Teresa is dying.  We have known Chris and Teresa for over 10 years.  We were there when their daughter was born and have traveled together several times over the years.

Teresa, who is only in her late 40's, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer two years ago.  We thought she had it licked, but it came back last spring and there is nothing more the doctors can do.  Chris who just turned fifty one has been taking care of her and also trying to be Dad to their daughter who is now nine years old.  As you might imagine this is a very difficult time. Hospice is involved to help with the medical issues, but it's still not easy talking about upcoming funeral plans and related matters.

One of the bright spots this week is that we were able to spend time with our new grandson Harrison "the bear" Randall. What a good natured little guy.  He has brought some sunshine into this difficult time.  How can you not smile when you see this?

Not a good day on the scales.  In spite of watching what I ate, I am up two pounds. I'm going to have to be very careful during the Thanksgiving period.  It's easy for me to use food as a mood booster, so I'll have to watch it.

Until later.

Nov 16, 2010


Yesterday we drove from the middle of Missouri to northern Indiana. So far we have had stops in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, and now Indiana.   Last night we found a Passport America park in Remington, Indiana to spend the night in.  So today we have a relatively short three hour day.  After four days on the road we are both ready to stop for a while.  We have had good weather, relatively light traffic, and been blessed with safe travels.  There are some crazy drivers out there, and we sometimes feel it is a miracle when we arrive in one piece.  And maybe it is....

On the weight loss front.  Apparently I don't eat much when traveling.  This morning I was down 4.5 pounds.  That is a total of 7.5 since I started this last push.  That means I am half way to my goal of losing fifteen pounds by the year end.  This would bring me to a total of losing 50 pounds for the year.

Until later.

Nov 12, 2010


We are tucked in for the evening just east of Albuquerque at a Passport America Park in Tijeras.  We really enjoyed Dead Horse State Park and hope to return next year. We still have lots to see and places to explore.   After using the dump station and hooking up the Explorer we were on the road by 8:40 this morning north to Flagstaff and then east on I-40.

We stopped in Winslow for some fuel and Judy mentioned she wanted to stop at the PEFO visitors center to get her passport book stamped.  As we drove in I noticed a Lazy Daze pulling a Honda Fit.  I recognized it as Andy Baird's rig.   Andy spends most of his time in New Mexico and has an interesting blog.  He also published a E-book which I had purchased a year ago.

While Judy fixed our lunch I took Mollie out for a walk.  I could see Andy inside his rig so I stopped and introduced myself. We had a nice visit.  He was heading towards Cottonwood where we just came from.   It's a small world out there.  You never know when you will run into someone you have met on the internet.

The rest of the day was spent just keeping the RV between the lines and heading east. Judy and I were very touched by all the kind comments, emails, and text message today.  Our email shows up on our phone so it was great to be able to read the comments while we were traveling down the road.  We are still getting used to the idea of having friends most of whom we have never met yet we share so much in common.  So again thank you!

Until later.


On Wednesday we took a trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad.  The weather was beautiful, and we had great seats. We splurged, and bought first class tickets. This was a long train holding over 400 people and our car was next to the last.  We had access to an outside viewing car which was nice for taking pictures.  The train also has a caboose which can be reserved for parties of 6 or more.

We left right on time as everyone in our car offered up a complimentary champagne or apple cider toast.  They also provided a light buffet with chicken wings, salad, pickles, olives, and crunchy veggies. Our trip took us 20 miles up the Verde Canyon to Perkinsville.  On the way up we had to make one unexpected stop to let some wild burros cross over the tracks.

For me the highlight of the trip was the 640 foot long tunnel.  It was fun to see the long train curve through and disappear into the mountain.  The tunnel was curved so as you entered you really couldn't see the light at the end....

The only disappointment was we were not allowed to get off the train in Perkinsville.  Instead we came to a stop, they unhooked the engines from the front of the train, ran them around us on a siding, and hooked them back up on the caboose end for the return trip.

Even though the trip back was on the same tracks the views were different and just as spectacular.

We were back into Clarkdale a little ahead of schedule.  As we came in we noticed an ambulance waiting. The train stopped short so they could remove someone who had suffered an insulin reaction.  We later heard that she was doing better.  All in all it was a good day, and if you like trains this is a great way to spend the afternoon.

On a more sober note.  We are changing our travel plans.  We were planning to leave here next Tuesday and slowly work our way into Texas.  We were going to meet up with our friends Bob and Linda in Fredricksburg and spend Thanksgiving with them.  Instead we are on our way back to Michigan to support some friends of ours who are going thru a very difficult time.  After talking and praying about it, we have decided we need to be there.  We will be in Grand Rapids by Tuesday if all goes well.  

I am down one pound since Tuesday.  That makes the total three pounds.  Twelve to go before the end of the year.

Until later.

Nov 9, 2010


There isn't much to report today.  We went on a walk this morning to explore the park a little more. Mollie loves going on walks but she doesn't like the desert very much. There are too many things that get stuck in her paws. This certainly is a beautiful setting and we can see why people enjoy coming here.

After breakfast we headed into town to do some errands, post office, drug store, wash the car, Home Depot, that sort of thing.  Since we are going to be here a few days, I placed an Amazon order.  The office said they would hold it if I brought them some goodies.  Might as well give them something fattening since I'm on a diet.

Speaking of  the diet.  No loss since Friday.  In fact I have stayed exactly the same.  I was kind of surprised, given the amount of exercise I've had lately.  I weigh myself each day and chart it on a graph.  There seems to be a pattern of dropping a few pounds, leveling off, or going up a pound and then dropping a few more pounds.  As long as the graph keeps heading down I'm happy.

We are going on the Verde Canyon Railroad tomorrow, so maybe I'll even have a few pictures to post. Meanwhile, there is a new picture posted almost every day over at my other blog, Camera Vagabond.

Until later.

Nov 8, 2010

Weary...Body and Soul

Have you ever sat down to write a blog entry and just stared at the keyboard?  That's how I feel right now.  I have so much I'd like to say, but the brain is not cooperating.  We had a great stay in Page, Az and look forward to our next visit.  I spent two and a half days just wandering around in the desert, saw some of the most amazing formations and an awesome slot canyon.  But I'm worn out.  I've got over 25 gigabytes of images to edit and I don't know where to start.

My friend Rich Charpentier was my guide and we visited three different locations.  Friday afternoon it was the Paria ghost town, which was the location of many western movies.  Saturday we spent the day at Coyote  Buttes, south area, and Sunday we hiked four and half miles into Buckskin Gulch to the slot canyons.  It's not the four and a half in thats the problem, it's the four and a half back out.  So here are a couple of youtube videos to give you an idea of what it was like.  These were shot by Rich with a simple Ipod Touch.  He gave me permission to share them on our blog.

This morning we packed up and headed south to Cottonwood, Az.  We are staying at the Deadhorse Ranch State Park.  We have been reading about Jo and Fred volunteering here during the month of October, and although we missed meeting them by a week, we are looking forward to spending a week or so here.  On Wednesday we are going to take the Verde Canyon scenic train.  We will also be visiting Jerome, Sedona, and the surrounding area.  If any of you have any must see attractions let us know.

Until later.

Nov 5, 2010


What is a ghost town?  When I think of a ghost town I'm thinking about old abandoned buildings and tumbleweeds blowing down the street and no one else around.  Well yesterday I learned that many times all that is left is a few bricks and broken bottles.

Wednesday our friends Bob and Linda played tour guide and took us to several settlements and abandoned cemeteries.  Even Mollie came along.  Our first stop was Eureka, Utah.  Not officially a ghost town as there are still people living there, but the downtown certainly was abandoned.

We then headed off to see if we could locate an old  cemetery. After backtracking down several roads, we were fairly certain we were in the right area so we stopped and pulled over.  With Bob pointing his gps towards the woods, we scrambled through barbed wire fence, trees and brush, and there it was, the Fitch family cemetery. I was so impressed with Bob's discovery that I forgot to take pictures.

We repeated this exercise several more times that day.  Stopping, heading off into the brush to look for pottery and artifacts.   Bob saved the best for last.  We headed up an old railroad grade and after crossing a fill barely wide enough for the explorer, we arrived at an old abandoned railroad tunnel.  Even though you could drive through it, we elected to explore it by foot.  

By now it was time for happy hour and dinner so we headed back to our RV.  Judy made a wonderful Indian curry for dinner, and we all enjoyed a glass of Opolo Tempranillo.  We then spent the next few hours hearing about Bob and Linda's adventures in Alaska this summer.  I have a feeling we will be heading in that direction in the next couple of years.  Maybe even by water!  

Yesterday we hitched up and headed down the road to Page, AZ. We took our time heading south on I-15 then cut over to I-89 through Kanab and finally arrived at the Wahweap campground on Lake Powell.  I have been bragging about the cheap parks we have stayed in recently.  Well I think we blew the budget this weekend. This park is $38. a night.  But with full hookups, paved level sites and a view to die for, well, I think it is worth it.  We were surprised to find that our phones and air card work here.  So it's all good.

I am meeting a photographer friend of mine here.  Rich Charpentier lives in Prescott and is an accomplished photographer and printer.  He has a business reproducing art work and original photography on canvas and other materials.  I'll try to post a few pictures on Monday.  

On the weight loss front.  I am happy to report a 2 pound loss.  13 more pounds to go.  8 more weeks.

Nov 2, 2010

Travel Day

This will be a short post.  We had a nice drive from southern Utah to Nephi, Utah which is south of Provo.  We are here with our good friends Bob and Linda and tomorrow we are off to explore some ghost towns in the area.   The weight loss is off to a slow start.  I have not lost any weight since Friday.  Next weight loss report on Friday.

Until later

Nov 1, 2010

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and other thoughts.

How far did you walk today?  I thought about that question when we were watching a movie about the Oregon Trail this morning.  For most of us a couple of miles, maybe even 5 or 6, is a good walk.  Now imagine walking 15 to 20 miles every day for 5 or 6 months straight.  By the way leave your fancy running shoes, water bottles, ipod, gps and power bars at home.

I don't know about you but I am soft, too soft.  10 years ago Judy and I participated in the Disney Marathon.  We speed walked it.  26.5 miles later I sat down and couldn't get up.  The next day I could hardly get out of bed.  If Judy hadn't dragged me the last couple miles I wouldn't have finished.  I know today I could not even walk a half marathon.

It is amazing that whole families walked from Independence, Mo. to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Yes, they had a small wagon pulled by either Oxen or Mules.  The wagon was for all of their stuff.  So they walked, and walked, and walked some more. All in search of a better life.  These days I get upset if the internet is too slow, or if we park under trees and our Direct TV dish won't work. This afternoon we drove across the corner of Idaho in just a few hours.  They walked for days.  And when they weren't walking they were cooking or feeding livestock or fixing their wagon so that tomorrow they could....walk.

So where does that leave me?  About a month ago I wrote a footnote on a post about an upcoming 30 day challenge.  Well life got complicated and I didn't get back to my plan.  I have lost 35 pounds since January and want to lose another 15 by the end of the year.  So I am going public.  I will share with you twice a week whether I have gained or lost weight.  And I'll tell you how far I have to go.  And at the end of the year I'll even tell you my starting weight and my ending weight.  I am doing this to give myself an added incentive (embarrassment).  It's one thing to tell you I had a "good" or "bad" weigh in, it's another to put the actual numbers out there.  Your job is to help keep me honest.  So every Tuesday and Friday you'll get an update.

Until later.

Oct 31, 2010


The last 3 months have passed very quickly, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here visiting with family and friends. We are feeling the need for sun and warmer temps and so it's time to head south.

This morning we pulled out of the Lake Pleasant RV park just north of Seattle around 8:45.  Leaving on Sunday morning allowed us to have very light traffic as we headed south on I 405 to pick up I 90 going east. 

With sunny skies and beautiful scenery we made good time today and are spending the evening at the Oregon Trails RV Park in Baker City, Oregon. It's a nice park, not very full, and with our Camp Club membership it only cost us $12.50 for the night.

In the morning we want to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center before hitting the road again.  We are planning a short rendezvous with our friends Bob and Linda who are waiting for us in Nephi, Utah.  If  all goes well we should see them Tuesday afternoon.

Until later.

Oct 29, 2010


Our stay in the Pacific NW is winding down. We are moving down to the Seattle area tomorrow and then heading towards Arizona on Sunday. We have enjoyed our stay in Anacortes visiting several local shops,  galleries and a return to Adrift, our favorite local restaurant.

Judy has even mastered the art of knitting socks during our stay here.  There is a wonderful knitting and cross-stitch store here in Anacortes and she has taken advantage of their generous help.  This is how a local business can beat out any online store.  By providing exceptional hands on support, they won a loyal customer and we helped the local economy.  We also discovered a local store that smokes salmon.  They also sell online, but I doubt I would have ordered from them without first being able to taste their product.

We also enjoy staying connected on the Internet.  Whether it's keeping family and friends informed, or making new friends with common interests.  We enjoy keeping up with fellow RVers through their blogs.  Occasionally we even get to meet in person.  Last summer we got to spend a day with  Randy and Pam and showed them around our hometown of Grand Rapids.  Next month we are looking forward to seeing our friends Bob and Linda somewhere in Texas.

Today we had lunch with Ron and Alice.  Alice commented on our blog a month ago that they were from the NW and had just been to Port Townsend.  One email led to another and it worked out to meet today for lunch in Bellingham.

 Ron and Alice had a scare this week when the engine in their RV caught fire. Thankfully they are okay and it looks like the damage can be fixed without too much trouble.

We had a great time over our leisurely 2 hour lunch.  It was fun to hear about their workcamping experiences.  When work for Ron, a licensed plumber, dried up they knew they needed to find something else to do. So they spent the last several months working the carnival circuit.  They did everything from taking tickets, to helping setup and tear down, to running the rides.  It was hard work but they both seemed to enjoy it.  With carnival season over until spring their next project will find them selling Christmas Trees.

In this difficult economy it's always inspiring to see how fellow RVers are making ends meet. While some RVers seem to think the answer is to put a donation button on their blog, others like Ron and Alice aren't afraid of hard work.  Wow, what a concept.

Until later.

Oct 22, 2010

Our RV Floats

Yesterday it time to say goodbye to Port Townsend and the Olympic Pennisula.  After enjoying a couple of beautiful sunny days on the water, we awoke to thick fog.  After morning coffee and a quick walk for Mollie, it was time to hook up the explorer and head to the ferry dock to get in line for the 12:45 ferry to Coupeville.
 We realized it had been almost 6 weeks since we actually towed the explorer.  The explorer has 4 wheel drive and an automatic transmission, and has a couple of steps to go through before towing.  First push the 4 wheel auto button, then put in in neutral, then turn the key to off, then press the brake pedal while pushing the 4 wheel drive button and wait for the indicator light to quit blinking and stay on.  Then check to make sure the brakes are activated by the SMI AirForce One system, then check the turn signals, and brake lights.  Then we were ready to tow.  Good thing I have a checklist

We had decided to take the ferry rather than drive all the way back down the Olympic Pennisula and back up thru busy Seattle.  The ferry cost 53 dollars for our 30 minute ride.  Considering we probably saved at least 3 hours and fuel which is 3.50 a gallon here, we thought it was worth it.

The ferry crew are experts at loading and we were soon on our way.  The crossing was smooth and it didn't take long to be back on dry land on Whidby island.

We then headed north through Oak Harbor and across the beautiful bridge at Deception Pass.  20 minutes later we were at our destination. We are at the Fidalgo Bay Resort which is owned by the Samish Indian Nation.  In  prime season this is an expensive park and we would probably not stay here.  But they lower the prices in the fall and also honor Passport America so it becomes a bargain. So we once again have a nice water view at a reasonable price.  Not as nice as Port Townsend but still a very pretty place. We are looking forward to getting out and exploring this end of the island.

Until later.