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North America

2006 - ??

   
   Winter 2012  Wisconsin - Mexico
   Summer 2011 Wisconsin - Niagara Falls
   Spring 2011 Spring Break National Parks Tour
   Winter 2010 Wisconsin- Mexico
   Summer 2010  Arizona - Wisconsin
   Fall Winter 2009  Wisconsin - Mexico
   Summer 2009  Quebec - Wisconsin
   Spring 2009  New England - Quebec
 

Winter 2008

Mexico- Teacapan

   Summer 2008  AZ-WA-WI
 

Winter 2007

Mexico- Mazatlan

 

Fall 2007

Wisconsin to Mexico

 

Summer 2007

Alaska

 

Spring 2007

Texas to Washington

 

Fall 2006

Down South

 

Summer 2006

Washington and Wisconsin

     
   
 
top of page Winter 2012
 

Another great winter at Villas Onac. Again .. not busy .. quite isolationist. No one (that means me) organized even Xmas/NY Eve gatherings and no one mentioned it .. no one wanted to cook. We shared a pleasant Christmas dinner with Clarence/Darlene, John/Peggy followed by an omlette-in-a-bag brunch at John/Peggy’s villa. Raphael and family came around Christmas morning and gave us all colorful Villas Onac t-shirts. They will now become collectors items. Wahhhhh …. We gave ours to Pam and Chris. They were too small for us .. and MUCH too big for them.

We had just one bonfire, a few walked to La Tambora for the sand sculpture event, but we again had nightly Happy Hours. A core group had Friday lunches out. The Friends of Teacapan had 2 parties plus the sand sculpture event. Main street in Teacapan was torn up all winter to install drainage .. another 2 month project gone awry. When we left mid-April, they were part way thru completion .. alternating strips of hand laid interlocking bricks w/ mortared stone lanes. Very manual. The fish guy came every week from November thru March, always with tamborillo and shrimp. We had almost no rain all winter but chilly winds came up most afternoons, again a La Nina winter, but not as cold as 2010. Lots of us had gardens. I love watching veg grow there and harvesting our salads. Also lots of hummingbird feeders and oranges for the orioles. Squash were prolific by April. I kept several gardens watered after peeps left. It was fun harvesting and watering with Jaime and Emily when they came for Easter week. The girls thought we might be stealing.

We had another good week in Mazatlan w/ Mary, Carl, and visits w/ friend Babe Scanlon. I thought we’d lost Babe, as her phone was disconnected when I called and she does not reply to email messages, as she can’t see anymore. We went to her neighborhood to see if we could find out anything .. and behold .. she was still in her apartment. She just disconnects her phone when she goes to the states. Friends Betty (Flentje) and Joel Schleifer from Minneapolis came with Mary and Carl this year and enjoyed the week. They came for a week in 2008 when we had a condo for a month at El Quixote. Larry ate raw oysters the day before we went to Maz … and was sick for half the week. He might not be doing that again. Chris Hall got sick too .. and Dr. Rizo advises that he NEVER eat raw oysters again.

We didn’t have many bikers this winter, so around Christmas I got brave and started riding 20 miles many days on my own. The road is narrow, no shoulder, and everyone drives like idiots .. so I got a LOT of grief for being out there. It’s a good way to spot birds and turtles, and to collect roadkill peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos. Some of us went into Teacapan for the Mardi Gras parade. We passed by a recent accident .. vehicle upside down over the fence in the field. A woman was placed/came to rest in the brush, facing heavenward, arms in RIP position. Very weird image. Two women killed. Five days later a motorcycle hit a truck and the 4 passengers were all killed. Yes .. 4 passengers. Yowza!! A man, his girlfriend, her 2 young children. Both were from vehicles passing .. on a stretch of road that was paved on just half .. and the oncoming vehicle hit the ditch. The road was being repaired 2 years ago, when an election happened .. and funding for the project was stopped. Within 2 weeks of the motorcycle accident, the road got finished, pot holes got filled in the rest of the way to Teacapan, and the lines repainted. Amazing!!! Sad.

Heidi, Jaime and Emily came Good Friday for 8 days. A Mexican family rents all the villas for Easter week, so we all stayed right in the rig. It was fun. We walked the beach, boogey boarded, swam in the pool, played lots of Apples to Apples, had 2 bonfires/wienie roasts, tea parties, walked to La Tambora, watched the International Space Station pass overhead amid the wonderful star show, and had a birthday party for Emily’s 7th May birthday. It is so fun watching Emily’s reading skills improve each time we see her. She did a fabulous job with the adult Apples to Apples, really reading the card explanations and choosing an often-winning card, despite not knowing the people or ideas printed there. Jaime is tall and slender and can’t find skinny bling jeans to fit her. We found some in Escuinapa and she is pleased. The girls loved the array of bling clothes and sandles I had for them.

When we took them to the airport .. I detoured down the bumpy awful road to Stone Isand to take in a short horse ride for the girls. You can drive the washboard road to the village .. or turn and take a sand path thru the palm tree plantation to another sand road to town. I missed a few .. then took one .. and slowed down too much approaching the turn onto the sand road to town. This one had a LOT of sand and I got stuck. Whoaaaaaaaaaa … All we had was a few palm fronds to dig out. Larry started digging .. I walked up the hill to a tractor/wagon for tourists deal. The guy came back, towed us out via rope … and 400 pesos of thanks later and we were on the way again .. but our front tow bar was bent. Larry is speaking to me again. And he was able to straighten the bar. Made the 50p horse rides less of a bargain .. but an added adventure. We took the washboard road out.

Days before the girls came, we found out that the Canos sold Villas Onac to a condo development group from Mazatlan. Raphael said we must leave Friday while the girls were with us. We planned to stay until later in April .. but with this news .. Larry packed all week .. and we decided to move to Mazatlan .. and head north soon after we got the girls back to the plane. But lucky for us .. the new guys showed up Thursday and said we could stay. We and all our Canadian friends were happy to find out the park will still be open to us next winter, rates will stay the same, our RSVPs are safe … and they wonder what they can do to improve the place. Yeahhhhhhhhh …. I’m sure it will be all condos in the future .. when this Playa Espiritu deal goes forward .. but for now we’re good.

We had another safe fun winter and can’t wait to come back.
 

 
top of page Summer 2011
 

The summer flew by quickly. We took the girls to Niagara Falls and had them to ourselves for 2 weeks. They loved the Badger Ferry ride to Michigan. We did a lot of biking and eating at Tim Horton’s. We LOVE Canadian $ Stores!!!  We had a fun visit w/ friends Rob and Daph Breeze and puppy Opal.

Heidi picked up the girls at Muskegon MI and we investigated the west coast of Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, then crossed the Mackinac Bridge and biked Mackinac Island. After dinner with my brother-in-law Donny and friend Mary and nieces Chris Schiesl and Jody and Matt VanDuerzen in Eagle River, we returned to Two Rivers and spent more time with Larry’s Mom. Deirdre came for a week to visit Grandma and we had dinner with nephew Tom and Meg Schiesl and Callie and Colin.

Mary and Carl Tighe took a cruise in Europe and asked us to housesit while they were gone. They measured .. and the RV fits in their driveway … so we moved in and took care of plants and pool and enjoyed living in a house for 2+ weeks. The grands came a few days and had a ball. They asked if we could baby-sit the house again sometime.

During the house-sitting weeks, I had a few Dr. appointments and Saturday diabetes classes. My mammogram called for a few extra views .. not unusual .. but the radiologist saw a lump and sent me to a surgeon. A core needle biopsy said cancer.  I could have gone for a lumpectomy, but didn’t have time for 7 weeks of radiation.  I went for the full mutilation mastectomy and reconstruction  .. as the silver lining will be to NEVER have another mammogram EVER again.

So I had a second mastectomy September 12. All edges and nodes are clear, so no chemo required.  The plastic surgeon is re-doing the left side as well .. so I have expanders on both sides and getting weekly fill-ups til we leave later in October.  Next summer I’ll finish the fills, then get implants the following summer, as the expanders are to 'cook' 4 months when filled.  Not the prescribed plan, but approved by my medical team.  I started on a 5-year schedule of Arimidex, which will lower by 19% my risk of having cancer somewhere else in 10 years. That is if I can survive the horrendous list of side effects that are possible. None so far.

We are sooooo ready to get back to Teacapan.  I had way too much time to stock up for Mexico. This year for life as a diabetic. Every year is different. Most of our friends will be there or be back. Sadly a few have medical issues to stay away a winter, but they’ll be back.  A few bought new trucks that require sulphur-free diesel and it is only available in a few spots in Mexico.

 

 
top of page Spring 2011
 

We made it back to Tucson in three days. We shopped, got the RV and car maintained, just enjoyed civilization again. We tried In and Out burgers again and didn’t like them. What the???

We moved to a campground outside Grand Canyon and drove to Las Vegas and checked into Sam’s Town casino. Deirdre, Heidi, Jaime and Emily all flew in and we spent a week together visiting parks and sleeping in the rig. All were happy to get home to their beds, but we had a fun week. We enjoyed the casino pool and light show, a stop at the Hoover Dam, the Canyon. A tour of a slot canyon in Page AZ was a hit and a campsite overlooking Lake Powell was beautiful.

We all enjoyed a day at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Knaab UT. We had a great personal tour of the horses, a Parelli horse training demonstration and a tour of Dog Town and Cat World. Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon were fun days. Heidi and Jaime rode horses for 2 hours at Bryce. I did a lot of Trip Advisor research and all the restaurants worked well.

We continued our parks tour after the girls went back home, and enjoyed Canyonlands, Arches and Dead Horse Point State Park. We drove over the mountains toward Denver and spent a few days visiting Cindy and Jack Bruner and Carol, Rick and Masha Hagerbaumer. I think I killed my liver in just 2 evenings.

Next we visited friends Ted and Mona Thieman in Nebraska. We hadn’t seen them in a few years. Mona was just recuperating from a mastectomy and chemo treatments and she looks great. We enjoyed a tour of their new-to-them Fleetwood Pace Arrow class A rig. They sent us off with local ground beef, honey from their own bees and free range eggs.


 

 
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Winter 2010

 

We had another great winter. There were just a few of us at Onac for the winter. Even the rigs that passed thru were different .. more foreigners and quaint little rigs doing big travels.

We had infrequent bonfires, a few walks to La Tambora, weekly Happy Hours. The fish guy came every week from Christmas til April, always with tamborillo and shrimp. We had NO rain all winter but chilly winds came up most afternoons.

Heidi and her workmate Connie came for a week of quiet R&R. We had a good week in Mazatlan w/ Mary, Carl, Susie, Ruth w/ visits w/ friend Babe Scanlon. Babe’s friend got us a big suite again at El Cid for our meager Malta timeshare exchange. Babe was quite sick and has left Mexico for parts unknown. She can barely see and does not reply to email messages. We will miss her and her El Cid upgrades.

I took 3 mini-trips to Mazatlan, staying at La Siesta hotel down in the old part of town, near the market and Plazuela Machado. The first was with Marilyn Hill and Susie Hunter. The second with Heidi, Connie and Mary Anderson. The third with Pam Hall, Millie LaRocque and Liz Millar. La Siesta is right on the ocean and the second floor balcony was such a treat. We all had great shopping and eating adventures.

Linda Taylor got a group from Minnesota to travel to Teacapan for a vision clinic for residents from all around. They gave the people those glasses you deposit in the bins at the Mall. Really!!! The Boston Stretch groups came for their annual dental checkups for the school children. I volunteered for both projects and it was good.

We had another safe fun winter and can’t wait to come back. People will return next winter, as we were so safe.

 

 
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Summer 2010

 

We rested for one day, then set out to look for a newer RV. There were a couple of RV sales places in Tucson. We started by looking at the rigs outside Camping World, then drove across the road to Beaudry’s RV .. a nice big place we thought too $$$ for us. A few hours later we had bought a 32’ Class A 2007 Fleetwood Fiesta with 10k miles … the first rig we looked at. Wow … it was so easy!! And we worried all winter the what, where, how much, what to do with the old rig, how/where to do the transfer. After we got the money together and closed the deal, we moved into the transition row at Beaudry RV Park, side by side with the old and the new .. and we camped there for free until the new rig was ready to move and the old rig empty and ready to turn the keys in. They even brought a ladder so Larry could remove the satellite dish and solar panel.

We moved to Phoenix where we had a professional do the install of the MotoSat dish. We visited with cousin Sue Halbrook Bartel one evening. Dave is going to mechanics school for repairing classic cars … a dream of his. Sue was on edge, as their daughter Jennifer was due to deliver their first grandson any day … and her mom Doris was very near death .. all back in Wisconsin.

We headed right to Washington and DDs house to get the rig wired and ready for prime time. We spent a few days in Lake Havasu and enjoyed a few In and Out burgers and some beers and the Kentucky Derby at the Barley Brothers Brewery next to the London Bridge. It was exciting driving the rig across the Hoover Dam, on our way to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. We loaded up on cheap alcohol in California, then spent a few days at Memaloose State Park in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge. Too many trees and no internet, but we survived. A few more days at one of our membership parks .. just to make use of our annual fee .. Maple Grove RV Park, between Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt Adams. A beautiful rest stop before the work began .. for Larry.

We met DD at the Black Diamond Bakery for lunch .. then followed her home and met new grandpup Kailey Mae … a little sweetheart of a pup .. and Acro and Hatter .. two foster dogs she’d taken on .. and who found homes while we were there.  Acro was for Acrobat and is an escape artist .. leaped out of her cage and the border fence.

Larry spent the next weeks fixing, enhancing, building, wiring in the rig. Each night he came in looking worse .. his left hip hurting. We wrote to our Dr. and made an appointment to see her in July to see if he might get a hip replacement before the cold set in.

Mary and Carl Tighe visited from Janeville. We visited Seattle and toured the Needle and Pike Market, took a tour boat to see orcas around the San Juan islands, and visited Victoria, BC for a day. It was a busy fun week. In January I told them if they came, we’d just sit on the deck and enjoy the scenery .. I was done driving. By the time they arrived, we’d been sitting in the cold rain damp for a month .. and I was ready to get out of the house.

I flew to Milwaukee and brought Jaime and Emily back to DDs house for 2 weeks. Heidi came and brought them home. DD had 11 foster kittens and the girls had the time of their lives, with all the cats and dogs. We went to the beach for a few days and both girls rode horses twice. We did an orca watch trip with them too. Fun times.

We stayed with DD until July 5, and caught up with friend Rita Benish and her sister Mary who were in Butte, MT for a national folk festival. We had time to visit Mt. Rushmore before Larry’s Dr. appointment.

Dr. Ryan was suggesting PT and such .. but when she saw the x-ray, there was no doubt that she would refer Larry to the surgeon. We took the first appointment available. He agreed with the x-ray verdict and surgery was set for September 1. He assured us that hip surgery is the safest most reliable surgery they can offer .. it can hardly be improved upon .. and the hip should last 30-40 years. That should be enough!!

So we had time to take the girls to Manitowoc twice .. biking, Bay Beach, breakfast out every day .. lots of chocolate chip pancakes and hot chocolate. We helped Larry’s Mom get to Green Bay for a cornea transplant and some follow-up visits. Along the way we accumulated some props for Larry’s recovery .. elastic shoe laces, the sock aid, the long handled shoe horn, some crutches and a walker.

We moved to a KOA in DeForest for a month of recuperation. We were nervous about the operation .. and recuperating in the RV .. but it all went great. The hospital stay was a wonderful experience, Larry really WAS ready to leave in just over 48 hours after surgery, and the RV was a great place to recuperate. And Larry was a perfect patient. John and Colette Kreuser, Rita Benish and Jenni Marquess took good care of us.

After the KOA month .. with 2 weeks to go before the final surgeon visit .. DD came for a week and we enjoyed time with the girls and Heidi, soccer games, pizza with cousin Tom Schiesl and family, time with Grandma, dinner with old friends Jim Chadek, Dick Malek, Jeanie Crowe Miller and Don, lots of burgers .. and time to stock the freezer with those coveted Konop’s wieners.

We took DD to the airport and headed back to Madison. I stocked the rig with wine, popcorn, bagels, sausage, cheese, maple syrup .. all the wonderful foods we’ll want in Mexico. Mary Ellen (Loberger) and Spoerke made us a super adios dinner.

Oct 12 the surgeon said all is well, see you in a year. We spent the night in Janesville with Mary and Carl, then drove long days to Elephant Butte Lake near Truth or Consequences, NM to meet up with friends Phil and Linda from Savary Island BC. We both stayed a week … the view there is so wonderful. Phil and I biked 10-12 miles most days .. and we biked into Elephant Butte the final day for beers. Larry and Linda drove in and brought us back home. Nice hills .. great views. Fun. We played lots of Apples to Apples. Linda made us chicken enchiladas with roasted peppers they got in Hatch.

We planned to use the 2 free nights certificate from Beaudry’s RV Park, plus spend the $35 coupon at the parts store, that we got with the RV in spring. I called and called and finally got the message that all of Beaudry’s .. RV park, sales, service .. closed October 11 .. under reorganization. We’re lucky that’s all they owe us!!

So we spent a week at Justins Diamond J RV park, final stocking up for Mexico and sitting tight til the election results are in. We have a favorite 99 cent store and love Big Lots. Friends Tony / Lynne and Art / Marlene from BC are traveling around the southwest, as they won’t be coming to Villas Onac for the winter. They spent a night at Justins with us. More Apples to Apples. Most of our new Canadian friends aren’t coming back .. the bad news reports have them frightened .. plus the Canadian government warns citizens to avoid the border towns .. to fly in if they must visit Mexico.

We are nervous about it too. But we are always nervous driving in Mexico. We think it will be OK. Even Deirdre and Heidi think we maybe shouldn’t go. But that ocean draws us .. and we think it is worth a risk. It will be a quiet winter .. only a dozen or so rigs are coming for pretty sure. None of my biking buddies are coming, so Larry will have to bike to town with me for supplies. We both got new bikes, so the bigger wheels should be easier on the sand road and the bumpy asphalt.

So the election happened .. could have been worse. Sad for Russ Feingold, Joe Sestak, Tarryl Clark, Allen Grayson, Susan DelBene, and Justin Coussoule. California voters are smart. Happy the Senate is still blue-ish. Sad for Wisconsin. Happy Patty Murray is still our senator. Most of our $$ contributions helped .. Patty, Barbara Boxer, Anthony Weiner and others. Next time …

So we crossed the border November 4, overnighted at Hermosillo, Navojoa and Celestino Gasga. We are happily and peacefully settled in Clarence / Darlene’s spot, just for this winter, and have a garden growing in Darlene’s lovely garden plot.

We’ll spend a week in Mazatlan at El Cid in January using one of our Malta timeshare weeks. Mary, Carl, cousin Susie, and Ruth will be at Pueblo Bonito for 5 of those days. Heidi and her workmate Connie fly in and come back to Villas Onac for a quiet week of R&R and drinking. Brian doesn’t want the girls to miss school, so we’ll spend Spring Break with them, visiting Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Deirdre’s coming too. More fun.

 

 
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Fall / Winter 2009

 


This year we followed the Mississippi River south for a few days.  After we stopped at Baumgartner’s in Monroe for Larry’s fix of braunschweiger and limburger, we spent nights viewing the river from Shady Creek Campground near Muscatine, IA and Canton MO City Park.  The Canton site was at a lock and it was fun watching the barges come and go.

After a few days the weather turned and we just pushed on thru Oklahoma. We might have gone thru Norman OK to take Jon Sedlacek to dinner, but he works many hours, so we left him alone and pushed on.  A fun night was at Tucumcari, NM, as we could look up the words and hum .. “5 more miles to Tucumcari, never more will I roam blah blah blah.”  Remember that song??  Well .. WE were THERE.  Ya.  And it turned warm and dry again there.

The touristy event was Albuquerque.  We dined at the Chama River Brewing Company, enjoying the Green Chili and Ale Fondue and the Truffle Dusted Bleu Cheese Fries with some great Stout.  Lucky for us we didn’t order entrees .. as we couldn’t finish these 2 starters. We took 2 growlers of their fine beers home with us, finally using 2 of the 3 growlers we keep carrying around.  Another Trip Advisor recommendation.

On the way to the Brewery, the car died, started again, then limped along threatening to die somewhere on the Interstate.  We took the Sandia Peak Tramway  to overlook the valley, take a short hike and enjoy lunch and beers at the High Finance Restaurant.  We got a great hot air balloon whirligig to fly off the back of the rig.  The car really limped on the way back to the rig, so we didn’t visit the old town, which Trip Advisor makes sound interesting.  We also might have gone to some Road Food places for green chili.

We were headed to a quiet remote campsite on Elephant Butte Lake, but to get the car fixed we needed to spend some time in Truth or Consequences.  Lucky for us there was a spot open for us at Riverbend Hot Springs.   Our price included full use of the hot pools.  Cool.  We enjoyed the pools overlooking the Rio Grande, late at night and after a huge rainstorm, something we never would have done if we had to drive to them from some other campground.  There is no mention of camping on their website, but I had researched them last year when we stayed there and friend Rita Benish said we must have a spa.  Then they were a Passport America campground, but they no longer are.  The $45 site fee is very pricey but an indulgence with the spas which go for ~$15 per person per day.  The car just needed new spark plugs, so we were good to go after $200, with time for a few stops at a BBQ place Trip Advisor readers enjoy.  A fine example of home town America.  Yowza!!  We could retire there when we need to get around with our walkers.

Then we spent 5 days overlooking Elephant Butte Lake, getting ready for Mexico, taking inventory, making lists.  Most days I biked 5 miles out and back, collecting beer cans to clean the roadway and collect tabs for friend Marilyn toward a wheel chair for some Canadian.   I couldn’t keep up with the cans.  Those people don’t love their state.

Next to Arizona and a few days in Wilcox for a visit to Chiricahua National Monument.  Friends Rob and Daph camped there and love it and Barb Brown plans to volunteer there.  It is a beautiful drive.  We didn’t hike up, as Rob and Daph did when they camped there.  Luckily we didn’t try to camp there .. way too many trees so no internets.  Can’t have that.  We enjoyed BBQ at Big Tex BBQ in an old train car and I got the girls some Christmas clothes gifts.  A couple of Wackenhut bus drivers came into Big Tex.  One told a guy they were driving illegals .. we thought to the border, but Linda Taylor in Teacapan said we fly them to Mexico City for release, so they must take them to the airport.  We saw LOTS of Wackenhut buses. Google them .. scary security company who didn’t do so well running Texas, New Mexico and other prisons.

We did the final stock up in Tucson and crossed the border Nov 8 and arrived at Villas Onac Nov 11 after stops in Hermosillo and Celestino.  I made a super dinner of turkey breast, creamy potatoes and bulgur stuffed peppers and we caught up with Marilyn and Lloyd’s adventures since we parted ways.  Clarence and Darlene arrived the next day … and the winter was on.

We were fully stocked up and I didn’t want to leave the compound for weeks.  Then Marilyn got invited to a performance at the Angela Peralta Theater in Mazatlan.  Lloyd wasn’t interested and was willing to stay home with pooch Tessa, so she invited moi.  Moi???  I said yes but we’d have to stay 2 nights and shop and party.  It was on.

We stayed at the Hotel de Cima across from the Malecon and joined John and Pat, who organized the event, Phyllis and Ray, and Sandra and Roberto, all Teacapan winter residents.  After drinks poolside, we took an arriga to the Plazuela Machado and had a great dinner at Il Mosto before the performance.  Il Mosto is my favorite restaurant in all of Mexico so far.  Their Greek salad is good and El Burro is a to-die-for garlicky tenderloin. The theater is wonderful and the folkloric event colorful.   Thanks John and Pat.

Marilyn and I had 2 days of shopping and we visited Stone Island to see if the new white hotel would be ready for Spring Break when Heidi and the girls are coming.  That would be NO.  We sat in the hotel café and ate breakfast watching the Revolution Day parade of school youth of all ages, celebrating the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Saturday we got veg and liquor at Mega and Walmart and Bodega Aurrera and started home.  I felt the engine cut out and was able to pull off the road.  Long story short .. timing belt broke AGAIN.  A wonderful couple saved us from the ‘marijuana guys’ who tried to help us, and took us to the mechanico Good Sam Roadside Assistance took the car to.  Yes .. Good Sam took care of us .. in MEXICO!!  Luckily I signed up for the Mexico plan on our Verizon cell phone.

Melquiades and Isabella dealt with the mechanico, loaded what we could into their little car, got us settled in a hotel, came back 3 hours later and took us back to the mechanic to learn when the car might be ready and the cost, and gave us strict instructions to have esposo along to pick up the car and to NOT pay over $1300 pesos.  They needed to be in Culiacan, or they’d be with us.  They would take no money, booze, dinner for our thanks.

I phoned DD to email Larry to let him know the bad news.  Lloyd and Larry arrived early Sunday morning.  Lloyd and Marilyn returned to Onac and she stored all my wilting vegetables.  Larry and I returned to Hotel de Cima and played tourist for 3 days.  I got hold of friend Babe Scanlon just in time for her to come with us to pick up the car.  All of our translation needs were handled.  We had a nice dinner with Babe and returned to Teacapan the next day.  The car runs a little rough, but hope it survives til we get back to the old country.

By now Clarence was set up and he and Les were biking to Teacapan mornings .. 15 miles return with the first 1.3 miles a sand road.  I joined them and biked all winter, varying from just Clarence and me to 9 riders.  I would buy fresh veg and fruit, eggs, bread, yogurt and not have to drive to Escuinapa for groceries, to supplement all the provisions we packed into Mexico.  It was great, but I need a different bike next winter.  My little Bike Friday just doesn’t work in the sand.  We also sampled at the Chili/Chowder Cook Off, walked 4+ miles to La Tambora for lunch and beers a few times, riding back in trucks, and walked again to the Sandcastle event.  Larry even did it the last time, some new herbals Shawn gave him helping his hip that much.

We had fun Christmas Eve and Day gatherings, great food, and then I got a cold that led to a sinus infection and I was down for 2 weeks.  Finally went to the Dr. and got great meds.  Got 2 doses so Larry could recover too.  Whoops!!

We spent a week in Mazatlan late January at the El Cid, using a timeshare week from that Malta buying mistake we made.  Mary and Carl Tighe and Susie Kelley were at the Pueblo Bonito, so we basked poolside there most of the time.  Babe Scanlon has a friend working at the El Cid, and she got her to upgrade us to a huge Jr suite on the 27th floor.  We had a 2-bed and bath bedroom plus the big kitchen, bath, bed/couch .. with balconies looking south over the ocean, Valentino’s, the Malecon and beyond.  We all spent 2 evenings at our place playing Apples to Apples.  Lots of wine, shrimp cocktail, etc.

The night after we returned to Onac, we had the most howling thunder rainstorm all night long!!!  Wind, rain, lightning .. it was awesome.  Liz and Ken lost their awning.  Raphael lost bushes around the pool.  Shawn and I left that morning for a 2-week Girl Trip south and inland to Patzcuaro and Guadalajara.  All along we heard tales of the Feb. 2 storm.  Windows broke, rain poured into doors, mudslides.  We considered visiting the reserves east of Moralia to see all the Monarch butterflies, but the reserves were closed and the military was helping out the villages from mudslides where at least 15 people died.

We spent a few nights in Los Ayala to visit Rincon de Guayabitos.  Peter and Mona and their daughters Joy and Lea and Lane and Marie were there and we had Happy Hours and dinners together.  I had a pedicure next to a guy from Wisconsin and later he introduced his chiropractor father to Shawn.  We stayed an extra day so Dr. Kari could work miracles on Shawn’s pain wracked body.

We enjoyed pancakes at Rollie's in Sayulita, then thru Puerto Vallarta and arrived at Boca Beach just as Carol was leaving with friends for the transvestite show in Melaque. We’ll meet you there, we say. Miles yet to Melaque .. how could they make a 5:00 show? Maybe it’s in Manzanilla?? We get to Melaque and the Laguna del Tul RV Park and Hotel just as Roy and Judy were driving to dinner.  Wow .. our timing??  They will try to meet us at Bar Siboney after dinner.

Del Tule bungalows were full, but we were lucky to get a 3 bedroom, 7 bed, 2 bath dump at La Frigata across the street for 350 pesos (about $30).  We moved in, freshened up, got a quick bite and a beer at Ava’s … and got to Siboney in time for the 7pm show. Carol and friends were still there enjoying the 5pm show.  The 7pm show started at 9:30.  By then Roy and Judy joined us.  The music was deafening, the show seemed stupid .. but then got pretty good.  The only charge was 25p for beers, $2+.  Be sure and see the pics.  A bar maid came over about every 20 seconds, shaking our beers, anxious to pop open the next one for us.  I wanted to slap her.  I clung to mine and never allowed her to touch mine.  Na-uhhhhhh.

Sunday Roy and Judy picked us up and we met Carol and Ian at Roosters for breakfast.  Then they took us to Barra de Navidad for the afternoon and dinner at Concha Del Mar.  Monday was Shawn’s birthday and Roy and Judy were there with a peanut brittle gift for her.  Awwwwwwwwwwww.

Marilyn said we’d enjoy Comala near Colima, but there were no signs and we missed it.  The lure was free botas / tapas with beer purchases on the square, and 11am would have really been too early for that.  So we pushed on all day and got to Patzcuaro in the dark around 7pm.  I said .. how busy can the squares be on a Monday night?  The answer is .. BUSY.  We couldn’t find a parking spot and traffic was heavy.  Shawn started to panic. We were just about to turn back and opt for the Best Western near the RV park, when we took a quick left to Plaza Grande, found a parking spot in front of Hotel Mision San Manuel.  We booked in and loved the place.  It is an old monastery with huge high doors and ceilings.  We froze, but loved the place.

We trotted all around Patzcuaro, drove to Santa Clara del Cobre, the copper town, then around Lago de Patzcuaro.  A big festival was set up down the main drag of Tzintzuntzan and it took us forever to find a way out.  We found the place where Sue and Stu bought a great cast aluminum patio set and Shawn had to decide if she could buy one .. 4 fancy captains chairs and table for ~$300.  Eventually she had to decide no, as the weight would be bad for the van.  We shopped and walked and tried to adjust to the elevation rise.  We made the boat trip to Isle Janitzio and it was great.  The aim is to climb 250 steps to the monument of Jose Morelos, a Mexican independence hero.  You climb another 150 steps up to Morelos’ wrist and the view from the lookout is great, though very tiny and crowded.  As you climb toward the monument, the Tarascan Indians, the Purepecha, sell stuff.  It’s great.  I got the girls Barbie bunk beds for $3.50 each and little Princess treasure chests for $2.  Shawn bought her grand-niece a cute wool poncho. Sadly we did not see Los Viejos .. the Old Men .. perform anywhere.

We left for Tonala to catch the Sunday market everyone talks about.  We had high hopes of buying for very cheap everything we’d seen in any shop anywhere.  Didn’t happen.  Stuff wasn’t cheap and all that stuff wasn’t for sale there.  We went to Tlaquepaque to see the wonderful shops and have a great Italian dinner.  It was imperative to wander around Guadalajara for several hours and we did see one mural by Jose Clemente Orozco that is a must there.

Shawn wanted stone dinnerware .. a mission that took us all over Tonala back and forth and back again.  We got a name and an address from a restaurant that had dishes she liked.  We found that the house number didn’t exist and no one on the street knew the name and only wanted to send us toward this non-existent address.  Comedy of errors .. en espanol.  We did stumble on a place and she got a set for a great price that she is happy with.  It was fun to have some specific stuff to shop for, as I surely wasn’t interested in anything .. after the Barbie beds and a Barbie table and chair that is, and a few headbands and such.

Shawn wanted another appointment with Dr. Kari, so a stop at Tequila, another body tune-up, and we returned to Onac.  It was a great trip and it was good to be back at the ocean.  People were surprised that two wimmen could survive such a trip alone, without a big strong man to protect us.

It was a great winter.  The park was twice as busy as last year, but there were only 15 rigs there much of the time last year.  We let all the folks around us use our internets .. and they are very grateful.  We got so many gifts from them this year: wine, tequila, Brandy Alexander, much beer, brownies, Tim Horton coffee, hot chocolate, gift certificate, smoked salmon, a Whitehorse Brewery cap, chocolates, banana cream pie, a handmade painted Mexican key holder, knit dish cloths and a Star Choice receiver for Canadian TV.  Wow, right??

One couple, first trip to Mexico, got robbed on a bird watch stop.  They aren’t coming back.  7 cops were killed in Mazatlan, an Escuinapa judge was killed in Mazatlan, Charlie and Pauline were in Mazatlan when some guys tied up the security guard and tried to rob a rig from Calgary.  The guy jumped the robbers and got shot in the leg.  Charlie and Pauline aren’t coming back next year.  Some rigs traveled thru Mazatlan 10 minutes after a car lot got blown up.  The next morning they were at a Celestino RV park when 9 people were executed on the toll road outside of town.  Some of them won’t be back.  Others haven’t decided.  3 couples were hijacked and left in the ditch without truck and 5th wheel south of Reynosa / Brownsville area.  We’ll be there.  Teacapan friend Edgar says it’s only bad people being killed.  We’ll be good.

Heidi, Jaime and Emily came to Mazatlan for Spring Break Easter Week.  They spent 2 nights at Pueblo Bonito and enjoyed the pools.  We were at San Bartolo RV Park a block away.  Easter Sunday we all moved to a home on Emerald Bay, past Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay.  It was great fun.  We played lots of Sorry and Rummikub and the girls rode Ginger’s Bilingual horses.  Those girls are so smart.  They LOVED the Barbie bunk beds AND their own real bunk beds in their own bedroom in the house.  We have them yet to lure them to Washington in June.  My back was out all week but Babe got me some wonder drugs that cured me in 2 pills.  We got some for Larry and these Happy Pills are helping his hip too.  We didn’t get enough for all summer though, because we didn’t know if they would help him.

A rest at Celestino and we were back to the US in a few days intact.  Phewwww …  We’re headed to Washington to visit DD, looking for a Class A RV on the way.  How will that go?

Larry will have a lot of wiring to move to the new rig for TV and internets.  I fly to Milwaukee June 12 to see the girls play soccer, then take them back to Washington for 2 weeks.  Heidi will come get them for Larry’s birthday.  We all can’t wait to meet DDs new dog Kailey.

We hope to spend some time on Vancouver and Savary Islands again to visit our winter friends.  Later more friends around Vancouver and points farther east in British Columbia and on to Wisconsin and back to Teacapan.

(Spoiler alert: we bought a Class A 2007 Fleetwood Fiesta 10k miles in Tucson, first rig we looked at.  Stay tuned.)

 

 
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Summer  2009

 


We spent our first day wandering around Quebec City ... a beautiful European style walled city.  We crossed the river as passengers on the car ferry and rode the Funicular up from Old Quebec.  Lots of beautiful old stone buildings, lots of walking, a simple lunch with a pitcher of beer and a nice tip cost 60$.  We wouldn’t be doing much of that.  We had a lot of rainy windy days spent inside the RV .. and rode the bike paths the few days it cleared.  We were on the edge of the satellite footprint and had spotty internet reception.  We had NONE ever after 5pm and none the many rainy days.  We were like addicts when we would see the blue lights on the modem all light up, never knowing how long it would last.  Luckily we had good DirecTV reception and Larry set up his dish for Free To Air channels.  It’s still better than biking and sitting out the rain in a tent.

I asked our second RV park guy where the Fete would be for the Quebec holiday for St. Jean the Baptist.  He said Quebec City Tuesday night and all day Wednesday.   So we took the ferry over about 5pm Tuesday and wandered and roamed, thinking we’d see buskers and street musicians and food stalls and such.  Nope ... just young folks wandering, resting, drinking beers and toting many more.  Later we went back down to Old Quebec and had dinner and beers at Spag-tini, a pleasant patio restaurant you pass to get from the Funicular to the ferry.

Every half hour a horde of folks, mostly young with beers in hand and 24 more in a cooler trooped noisily by.  Not so many folks going back on the ferry … lots of empty cans on the ferry and the other side.  We had a beer at the St. Louis Pub on the Levis side and were the only patrons for awhile. By now the line for the ferry wound down 2 flights of steps, out the building to the street and curved along the street.  We asked the barkeep what the Fete was .. what was the attraction.  We’d seen a bandstand set up in a terrace area beyond the wall on St. Jean Street.  He said that was it … the music, drinking yourself sick, returning on the ferry hours later drunk and sick.  What a celebration!!  We didn’t go back for the Fete day.

It rained and howled wind most of the time we were there.  We got in a few bike rides on the bike path, but most of the stay was forgettable.  We did make it to Montmorency Falls and the St.Anne de Beaupry shrine.  My Mom asked me .. the two or three times we said we were going to Canada back in the ‘90s .. if we were going to visit the shrine.  Where’s this shrine, I’d ask.  I don’t know .. she’d reply .. are you going there?  No, I guess not this time.  Had to do it this time .. as it was just over there .. 20 miles or so from the Falls.

Eventually we continued on toward Montreal and had a brief visit with Josee and Daniel, who we met on South Padre Island 3 years ago.  Then on into Ontario and a few days in Napanee with Rob and Daph Breeze, who we met in Mexico a year ago and visited in Palacios, TX in March.  A highlight was a Buskers Festival in Kingston. Rob and Daph are trying to sell their home and be fulltime RVers .. but sales are slow .. so they waiver back and forth daily, hourly about should they or shouldn’t they?

We were sooo close .. so we took a day for our first visit to Niagara Falls and we loved it.  You always hear that it’s better from the Canada side .. and it’s so true.  Rob and Daph said to visit Niagara On the Lake as well .. and we loved the cute little town and enjoyed lunch at a little Irish Tea room. We could see spending a month or more there sometime .. and I’m dreaming of taking the grandgirls there in the RV via the carferry from Manitowoc to Ludington in some summer soon.

Back into the US .. and a week traveling from Port Huron, MI to the Mackinac Bridge and over it.  One lane was blocked so traffic speed was slow .. and the day was calm … so the trip across the bridge was pleasant.  We headed to Houghton and spent a few days at the Hancock Municipal Campground and visited with Larry and Jane Gremaux and their 3 sons.  We met Larry and Jane on that same Cycle America bike trip back in ’94. They met each other there too .. and got married 2 years later.  We never got to Indiana to visit them … so we made sure to see them in their new digs now that they’ve moved to Houghton.

Next to Eagle River to see brother-in-law Donny Schiesl and Mary .. and to celebrate the big 50 with niece Chris.  Can you believe it??  We had lunch with niece Jody and Matt in Crandon on our way south, then a few days in Cecil and dinners with Jo Bertler Teaford.  She is doing pretty well as a new widow. Wahhhhhhhhhhh ….

Manitowoc .. and DD came for a few days. She and Heidi surprised us with a 40th Anniversary party at the Pizza Garden.  The logistics were amazing.  They think us dolts to have fallen for the ruse.

My 45th class reunion .. the class of ’64 from Manitowoc Lincoln High .. was fun but crowded. We had a nice group for dinner at the Lighthouse Inn on Friday night and more at the pre-party outside the Inn on Maritime Bay overlooking Lake Michigan and the Manitowoc River.  We spent the next week in Door County and enjoyed the best weather ever.  Mary and Carl and Sarah and Joe were in Ephraim Sunday til Tuesday and we ate and drank our way around the county.  We had the Aunt Peg and Cousins reunion at Basil’s II on our way back south.

We had the girls 3 times .. at their house while DD was in town, again in Two Rivers for Jaime’s 7th birthday, and in Madison for Labor Day weekend.  We had a fun day at Bay Beach amusement park in Green Bay, biked 11.3 miles to lunch at Beernstens in Manitowoc, and a great day in Madison biking the bike path, touring the Farmer’s Market, climbing around in the Capitol, and ice cream at the Union on the Terrace.  Fun.  The girls are so cute and maturing and fun and easier to travel with.

We rented a storage unit for a month to empty the bunk beds for them.  They loved sleeping and playing in the bunks again.  We told them we might have a different RV next year .. with a couch for their bed.  They said NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO … unless it has bunks .. which it won’t of course.

We had lots of beer gatherings in Madison, at the Capital Brewery, the Ale House Asylum, and the Terrace of the Student Union .. and good turnouts at all .. plus our Lulu’s get-together.  We appreciate our friends coming to see us .. and they have a good time catching up with each other.  The weather was great the whole time we were in Wisconsin.

We spent our last days stocking up in Madison, then 2 fun days with Mary and Carl in Janesville.  We can all recommend a fun game ‘Apples To Apples’.  Carl really HATES organized games, but he enjoyed this one.

 

 
op of page Spring 2009
 

 

We finally got out of Texas.   Earlier we were headed to Eunice, LA for the Crawfish Festival .. but that passed us by on the first breakdown.  Nothing much was going on in Eunice and Easter was coming, so we pushed on to Mexico Beach, FL for the holiday.  We used our Passport America membership to chart our course and save $$$.  How fun it was to discover the home of PA in Long Beach, MS.  We stayed at Magic River, the first Passport America campground.  Now it and a campground in Florida someplace are the headquarters of PA.  This campground in Mississippi and another in Holt, FL were so lovely we could have spent longer in both places.

Our Mexico Beach campground was pretty full and we were lucky to find a spot where we could find the satellite.  We think it is funny that the campsites we used to love and covet .. the shady ones with lots of trees .. we now distain.  Now we look for clear sites open to the SW so we can get the internet and DirecTV.  We enjoyed the beach and had a great sunny weekend.  We love the ocean.

Continuing on toward Canton, OH and Patrick Tighe’s wedding, we spent some time in Myrtle Beach, SC and later on the Outer Banks at Hatteras, NC.  No …we didn’t start that fire in Myrtle Beach.  It was all fine when we left.  We could have used more time in Hatteras too. Great beaches and lots of wind surfers.  We visited Kitty Hawk and the spot where the Wright Brothers made their flights.  It was pretty darned cold and windy the day we were there in April, so we could only imagine how awful it must have been that cold windy December day in 1900 when they made those historic 6 flights .. them and all equipment and support staff trucked over from Ohio for the event.

It was a lot of retracing miles to get back off the Outer Banks.  Along the way, Larry kept saying that Mayberry must be around here someplace.  He remembers that Andy, Barnie, Opie and Aunt Bee used to go to Raleigh to shop and they’d go to Mount Pilot to see folks.  And here we were .. Raleigh was over there and Pilot Mountain was coming up.  So imagine our delight when we checked our Road Food book for North Carolina and found an entry for Snappy Lunch in Mount Airy … home of the pork chop sandwich … and hometown of Andy Griffith and inspiration for TV’s Mayberry.  We HAD to go.  The sandwich was totally missable but the town was cute.  Everyone knew about Snappys and there were always people waiting for a free booth or counter seat.  Road Food recommends you order the big fried breaded pork chop sandwich ‘all the way, which means dressed with tomato, chopped onion, mustard, meaty-sweet chili, and fine-cut cabbage slaw speckled with green peppers and onions.’  As the book says, the sandwich is served in wax paper and requires two hands to hoist and eat.  No side dishes are available other than a bag of potato chips.  Iced pre-sweetened tea is the beverage of choice.  We followed their recommendation. Y um ….

A few days later we found our way to Cutty’s Sunset RV in Louisville, OH.  Our books didn’t help us find a place close to Canton but a neighbor back there in Mexico Beach was from Canton and told us about Cutty’s and about a mobile home park in North Canton.  Larry determined from Google earth that at Cutty’s we would have a better chance for the satellite, even though it was farther from the wedding activities.
We got acquainted with North Canton and found the church and the Fieldcrest Inn where we would stay and where the reception would be held. We’d been ordering stuff on the internet and sent it to Sarah and Joe Piller’s house in Bedford, Ohio .. so one day we drove up to pick it up and see their darling Bedford home and meet their young grandson Braden.

Swine flu was spreading and we all had fears for the wedding.  First cases were reported in Ohio.  Pat and Lindsie were booked to go to Mazatlan for their honeymoon … so plans were changed to Disneyworld.  Weather looked threatening for the weekend.  Bleak times.  But the flu held off, weather improved, and the wedding went on and was perfect.  These people thought of EVERYTHING.

The wedding reception was held at the Fieldcrest Inn, a former Hoover estate .. the vacuum cleaner Hoovers.  The reception was in the Lodge, with a huge fairy tale tent erected in the adjacent clearing and set up to seat 500 people at tables of 10.  The Inn is a B&B with 8 rooms.  I wrote to Mary months earlier and asked to be booked into the ‘fun’ hotel.  We were lucky to get one of the 8 rooms, so we were right there with Mary and Carl and John and all the Kellys and friends.  Lindsie had welcome bags in our rooms full of snacks and pudding and bottled water.  Snacks and liquor were waiting in our communal kitchen.  Carl and Mary provided for an Hors D'oeuvres party Friday night.

The church wedding was beautiful.  They had 8 sets of attendant plus 4 of Lindie’s little boy cousins as ring bearers.  The girls had cute strapless gowns in pastel colors.  Mary had a beautiful seafoam long chiffony dress with hand beading.  She looked fabulous.  Photographers and videographers captured the event to the end of the night.

Later we gathered at the Lodge for the reception.  There were several drinks stations, cookies provided by friends and relatives in Lindsie’s Italian tradition, a video of Patrick and Lindsie’s early years, an ice sculpture with huge shrimp, and a huge ice sculpture where later peach schnapps would be poured to flow through a long funnel tube and come out chilled to the waiting glass.  Wow!!  Tulle and flowers were strung through the chandeliers, flowers everywhere in colors to match the girl’s gowns.  The women’s restroom had baskets of flipflops in all colors and sizes to encourage us to shed our heels and get comfortable and able to walk on the grass to the tent for dinner.  The women’t restroom also had a basket of any need you might have .. bandaids, emery boards, spot remover, feminine supplies, pins, etc.

Soon we were summoned to the tent for dinner.  More flowers, red and white wines at all tables, more drinks stations, and a bag hanging from each chair to collect items we would find throughout the evening.  A beautiful cake with separated tiers topped with a hard shell top in the pastel colors and topped by Lindsie and Patrick bobble-heads.  The large tables were covered in cloths with napkins in the pastel colors.  Japanese lantern lights were strung .. thel colors again.  It was a fairytale setting.  The efficient crew got us all through the buffet line in 40 minutes.  Awesome prime rib. Later a man from Atlanta hand rolled Cuban cigars for the willing.  An awesome 9 piece show band had everyone dancing all evening.  It was quite a day.

Many in the Inn left early to head back to Wisconsin and some back to work.  We and Sarah and Joe stayed for the Sunday Brunch in the Lodge and later helped load up the wedding presents.  Patrick received a PhD in Physical Therapy from Walsh University the week before the wedding.  Lindsie got a job in Nashville, so they will move there and Patrick will take the state boards and find a job.  They’ll need a big house for all the beautiful wedding gifts and those from the several wedding showers they had.

We hugged Mary and Carl and Sarah and Joe farewell and headed back to the RV and packed up.  We made it to a Walmart in Buffalo, NY that night and just past Rochester the next day.  We met Abigail Sedlacek, Diane Gerl’s daughter, for dinner in Rochester the next night.  She is working on her PhD in microbiology.  We met in a beautiful area of Rochester and a great Mediterranean dinner at Alexandria’s.  It was good to hook up with Abi again.  We’ll lose track of those kids now as they wander away from Manitowoc.  Jon graduated from Madison this year and moved to Oklahoma to work toward his PhD in physics.  Leah has another year toward a teaching degree from Stevens Point.  All 3 graduate a year early, in part thanks to many Advanced Placement and college credits from high school, plus hard work.

A few days later we met up with John and Pat Barry in Hopewell Junction, NY and had dinner at the Hyde Park Brewing Company near  Poughkeepsie, after a drive thru the Vassar campus.  We met John back in 1994 when we bicycled across Washington State with Cycle America.  He has pretty much retired his bike and now devotes his escapes to kayaking 12 miles in 2 hours on the Hudson River.  We last saw him at our retirement party in Madison in 2002.  It was good to catch up and see their home.  Their 2 boys have fancy degrees in music and engineering.  Michael is getting married this fall.  Luckily John mentioned that only cars are allowed on the Tatonic Parkway or we might have followed Mapquest’s directions that put us on it.  New York sure is a beautiful state .. the trees must be awesome in fall. It was a nightmare for us wanting a shot to our satellite.

From NY thru CT and RI to Cape Cod.  It was a lot of internet research to figure out this bit.  I got it in my craw to bring Emily to Cape Cod for 2 weeks.  She turned 4 with us and is registered for K-4 in fall, so this is the second and last time we can take her away while Jaime is still in school.  We have timeshare weeks to use, so I booked a condo on Cape Cod and booked flights for Em and me.  I was able to use NW Perks miles and fly from Boston Logan to Milwaukee and back in one day.  Now .. where to park the RV.  There were state parks closer to Boston and a ferry to the airport .. but not to get me there for a 7am flight.  Memorial Day was there in our plan dates and campgrounds I could see online had no openings Memorial Day weekend.

I was able to find a Passport America campground not far from the condo that would keep us for the holiday rate of $58 for the weekend and for PA rate of $17 per day the other many days.  The park has hundreds of sites, so we were sure we could find an open site, getting there so early in May. Wrong!!!  Most of the sites have permanent dwellings on them, and we had only a handful of open sites to choose from.  Larry can figure pretty closely, using his compass and some math, whether a site will work for us.  They assigned and we selected the only one that might work .. and only if we parked right up near the road.

Two days later Larry dropped me at a bus stop up the road to catch a 3:20am bus.  Two hours to Logan Airport, flight to Milwaukee direct, hook up with little Em, back through Detroit to Logan, found the bus stop and bus, 2 hours back to Barnstable and Peach … as the girls call Grandpa Larry since last year when Jaime decided he smells like peaches.

It was so fun to have Em ..and she was so good.  She loves playing airplane and bus, driving the RV and instructing us to buckle up .. and taking food and drinks orders.  She does it all on the plane/bus .. pilot/driver, flight attendant.  I ordered a Wee Co-Pilot and shipped it to Sarah and Joe’s in Ohio.  It’s one of those bike attachments for bikes for kids where they have a wheel, seat, handle bars, pedals.  She loved it. We biked 11 miles along the Cape Cod Canal and 13 on a bike trail and lots around the campground.  We had a great whale watch tour from Provincetown (P-Town to those in the know) where there were heaps of humpbacks all around the boat.

We didn’t locate that Nantucket Secret Spice that Kathy Burke introduced us to in Texas, even at the Atlantic Spice Compay.  It really IS a secret. So we took our bikes and ferried to Nantucket one day.  I finally found a store keeper who knew about it.  She called the very lady who makes the stuff and learned that this year’s batch isn’t ready yet.  We’ll have to get it on the internet after all. Nantucket is cute, but it was pretty cold and we spent a long time just sitting on a park bench cuddling sleeping Em, trying to keep her warm.

We ate a lot of pizza on Cape Cod and every pizza was delicious.  Emily loves sausage pizza and the sausage there was Portuguese sausage.  It looked like slices of a cooked sausage and she loved it.  We also went to the Keltic Kitchen three times.  Larry went for a full Irish fry, I loved the sweet potato cranberry candied walnut pancakes and Em loved the chocolate chip pancakes.  Yummmm ..  Great pancake leftovers.

Em would tear up periodically, missing Jaime.  She didn’t mention missing Mom or Dad much, just Jaime.  We didn’t find many friends for her to play with in the 2 weeks with us, and she missed playing with Jaime.  I warned her that Jaime would be in school when she got home … that it would be hours before she would be home, as our plane landed at 8:30am.  Heidi says they were fighting 10 minutes after Jaime got home .. and Em got a bloody nose from a swing incident within 20 minutes.  Bet Em wished she was back with Nanna and Peach then!!

We continued north and spent rainy days in Old Orchard Beach, ME and a beautiful week in Bar Harbor.  We biked in Acadia National Park and enjoyed awesome popovers and lobster stew overlooking Jordan Pond at the Jordan House Restaurant.  Tripadvisor readers recommended lobster crepes at Maggies in Bar Harbor.  It took a couple trips to locate Maggies.  When we finally parked and walked to it … it wasn’t open .. for the season or ever again maybe.  Darn.

One Friday the car died on me and our  Good Sam Emergency membership had just expired, but I found a tow and a guy who fixed it by noon the next day.  We were nervous, as we planned to cross the border Monday and had reservations in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  We biked back roads to pick it up and got there just as it was ready.  Another $650 save.  It was just a belt that broke, but it was buried under lots of things they had to remove to replace it.

A few days in St. Andrews by the Sea and Larry’s first Tim Horton indulgence of the trip.  Of course we biked to Tim’s .. so it was OK..??  Then a few more stops toward Quebec City.  We stayed for 3 weeks in Levis, Quebec, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.  We by-passed the Maritimes this trip, worried about time and campground site availability in the Quebec area, needlessly as it turned out … but who knew?

 

 
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Winter 2008

 

"We spent a few days at Camp Verde before we moved to Dead Horse Ranch State Park outside Cottonwood AZ. We visited Montezuma’s Castle, Montezuma’s Well, both from 1400AD, and did a reconnaissance of Sedona, enjoying lunch at the Airport Restaurant and figuring out some of the red rock formations, Snoopy and the Coffee Pot.

When Phil and Linda arrived, we visited
Tuzigoot, also from 1125 to 1400AD, the historic copper mining city of Jerome .. ‘America’s Most Vertical City’, and Sedona with lunch at Oaxaca Mexican Restaurant. We went in search of feeling the ‘vortex’, but none of us seemed to be open to that experience. We parted ways to meet up again in a few weeks as Linda flew back to Calgary for a quick visit with her little grandsons.

We spent a few days stocking up in Tucson and headed to Nogales and across the border into Sonora mid-November. Phil and Linda caught up with us again at
Celestino, north of Mazatlan. They introduced us to Vampiros in La Cruz .. wonderful grilled marinated pork and beef, shredded and served on a grilled tortilla, with lots of veg toppings. We caravanned to Teacapan, Sinaloa, passing over the Rosario bridge within hours or days of 7 drug peeps killing each other under the bridge .. and reportedly the chief of police of Rosario stepping out from behind the bushes with a mistress in tow.

We visited Phil and Linda at Teacapan last year for an afternoon, so we were familiar with
Villas Onac. We wondered as we approached if we might be able to get a beachfront site. YES!! Phil and Linda stayed a week and we loved the quiet so much, we decided to stay there for the winter. At the time, I was working on flights for Heidi and the girls to visit us in January. Should they fly to Puerto Vallarta and where would we stay and where would the RV be? Or maybe Mazatlan and we could be on Stone Island and ride horses again .. or maybe stay right here at Onac and rent a villa?? We went with Mazatlan flights and rented a villa.

We had a wonderful 3 months in our beachfront site. It was a quiet winter and often there were only 15 sites filled. Villas Onac is owned and run by a quiet Mexican family, the Canos, who speak little Engish. There are NO planned activities, just our kind of place. The empty beach runs for more miles in both directions than I could walk or bike. Dolphins are spotted most days and we can see the ocean from the rig and patio. Raphael cleans the beautiful pool each morning. The nearest restaurant is 5 miles away. Sometimes sea turtles return to the beach where they were born .. and lay their own eggs. People tried to mark off areas where there was evidence of turtle activity, but sometimes there would be ping pong looking turtle eggs disturbed and scattered by high tides. Even two Blue Footed Booby birds spent time on our beach.

Larry had lots of time to work with his kites and make a few new ones. He was quite a hit .. a man with a sewing machine!!! .. and his ever changing whirligigs twirling off the rear of the RV. He got lots of advice and praise and Clarence brought him nice swivels from the hardware store in Teacapan.

Most RVers / campers who travel to Mexico use a campground guide book written by
Michael and Terri Church. Mike and Terri keep traveling full time updating their books for all of Mexico and the Baja, Southwest US, Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Europe. Their books are bibles to us travelers. One of our Teacapan neighbors said they came into Mexico WITHOUT the bible but Mike and Terri were pointed out to them camping at Las Glorias, and got a personal copy from them. They said to watch for them in their truck camper on a red truck .. the same as pictured on the Mexico book. One day they arrived and I arranged a big Happy Hour and everyone came. It was great. And Mike and Terri signed our book. We had celebrities in our midst. Most of the other campers had already met Mike and Terri along their travels. We are SUCH neophytes.

Marilyn Hill organized a fun Christmas Eve Happy Hour and Christmas Dinner Potluck. Laura Hebert organized a Valentine’s Happy Hour and a farewell potluck. There is an active
Friends of Teacapan organization that invited us to a guitar concert and dinner, a pig roast, a sand sculpture contest and lunch and more.

After the Valentine’s Day Happy Hour, we all gathered around a campfire and we brought out some of our stash of
Konop’s Campfire Wieners and tortillas for a weenie roast. Everyone .. especially the Canadians .. maybe they were ALL Canadians besides us .. thought they were the BEST wieners they EVER had. Millie even ate one and she hasn’t eaten meat for 15 years!!! We can’t wait to report the news to Konops in Stangelville, Wisconsin.

We met Heidi, Jaime and Emily at the Mazatlan airport and were so happy to see our little girls. We had ice cream, then headed to the car for the long ride south. We stopped at a hotel in Rosario for dinner and the girls enjoyed the fun swing set and colorful merry-go-round. They loved the villa and playing with the remote control cars Grandpa brought over and charged up .. the ones DD brought to Mazatlan for us all last winter.

I thought I arranged .. in my best Spanglish .. for a guy with a horse to show up the day after the girls arrived, but no show. We drove to Palmito del Verde to Restaurante Campestre where the sign advertises horse rides. I asked in December how much rides are .. free .. and available Sundays. Well, this day I think the lady said the guy who does it wasn’t there. She took us around and showed us the horses and a pig and kept speaking Spanish at us even though I told her ‘no hablo espanol’. We would had stayed for lunch if the rides were available, but we had to feed the hundreds of Tortugas /turtles stale tortillas in the pond, then head to El Pelicano Restaurant where the waiter said horses would be between 3 and 4 on Sunday. Just as we drove up, sure enough, 2 horses and riders came along. Both girls rode horses and the guys led them up and down the beach. Both girls were happy and enjoyed dinner there beachside as the sun set. We thought we arranged for them to come to Onac Monday at 5 for another ride, but again no show.

Gilles told us Monday that a dead whale beached up on shore, down a ways. We girls all hiked down and loved seeing a big old dead whale. It was a 2-mile trek and we did it most days to watch the decay. Heidi did some internet research and determined that it was a humpback. After they left, I went down one more time and the skeleton lay separate from the body. Some ATVs were going up and down as I walked further. When I went back, the skeleton was gone. One of the ATVs carried it off as a souvenir.

We had fun playing in the sun and the pool and Jaime tried boogie boarding the last day and loved it. We made it to Stone Island for a quick horse ride before we had to take them back to the airport and say adios. Even Emily .. age 3.5 rode a big horse all alone. Scary .. but fun. They can’t ride alone in Wisconsin until age 9 I think it is .. then only with helmets and sturdy shoes with heels.

Mary and Carl Tighe, Sarah and Joe Piller, Suzie Kelly Kampman and Ruth Kahl came for their week at
Pueblo Bonito in Mazatlan and we went to visit one day. Sarah and Joe invited us to stay the night in their extra bed, so we did and got more visiting time and some shopping time. It was great fun.

I needed some blood tests done to be sure my cholesterol meds were working. I also got a blood sugar test … and it all worked so easily. And only cost 450 pesos, just over $30 this winter with the good conversion rate. Cholesterol working swell and blood sugar the same as Sept .. not great news but better than the glucose meter I bought says.

Twice I drove into Mazatlan with Charlie and Pauline Hughes for supplies. Alan told us how to get a whole beef tenderloin at Bodega Aurrera .. the Mexican Walmart .. and it worked with some variation .. cut it into steaks .. and they provided some great grilled meals for us. One day Shawn Woods and I rode with Clarence and Darlene Zimmerman when they visited friends on Stone Island for the day. We took the ferry over to the mainland and shopped at the Market. I finally found the dried garlic I couldn’t find at any groceries .. though I got the best bags of it at Gigante last winter. I was happy.

Shawn needed more shopping time and adventure, so she and I spent 2 nights in Mazatlan and hit Cheap Charlies and the Gold Zone and more. We had a great dinner at
El Mosto on Plazuela Machado. We also drank way too much wine the first night and suffered for it the next day. We brought Darlene and Clarence a stone turtle .. and gave it to them just after she asked if we’d seen any. We picked the right gift that time. We also got her a white hat like the black one I got after Sarah, Mary and Susie found them at the Market. Millie liked the one I got her too.

Phil and Linda and the critters returned in February and we had some more fun with them .. and met their friends Mary and Dick from Colorado, Ana and Eric also from Savary Island, and Erlinda and Dan from New Mexico. They planned a surprise party for Linda’s 60th birthday. Linda asked for advice from us over 60 .. not to include her toyboy Phil. Larry said to stick with the younger man .. as it worked so well for Jean. I advised her to get her stomach problems in control so she can drink more. The others had practical advice like have fun, keep looking for challenges, keep learning blah blah. I think our advice was best.

We left Teacapan March 1 .. sad to leave such a wonderland .. with a spot reserved to come back in fall .. but we have that May wedding in Ohio ya know. We waited for Phil and Linda at Celestino, but Phil got a severe case of Montezuma’s Revenge and they never caught up to us. We made it out via Nogales a few days later and spent 3 days stocking up on stuff we missed from the good old USA.

We headed east toward Palacios, TX to link up with Daph and Rob Breeze, who we met at Celestino last spring and with Howard and Lynne who we met in Texas 2 years ago. We limped into Kingsbury, TX one day with no power and loud engine sounds. Another new fuel filter got us going again and the guy assured us we could address the noise problem later.

We had a fun week at
Serendipity RV in Palacios with our friends and some new ones Rob and Daph acquired over the winter. Kathy and John Burke from Michigan invited us to a fish fry and Kathy introduced us to Nantucket Secret Spice, which she thinks is the greatest on fish. I said we could get them some more when we visit Cape Cod. Yes .. you can get it online .. but we’ll BE there.

We still had to deal with the noise problem. Larry found a burst hose under the rig and spent more than a day replacing it. It was all quiet for about 8 miles on the way out of town, then the Pop Pop sound and we knew it went again. We spent almost a week in Bay City getting $250 in repairs.

We made it 80 miles, outside of Houston and a long traffic delay . . then Pop Pop again and we limped back to a campground we’d just passed.
Good Sam located some repair shops for us and we made an appointment for the next morning. The guy hopped in and drove us around a bit, then turned into a muffler shop where he arranged for us to get a new catalytic converter the next week. Our mishaps both happened on Thursdays and these shops are closed on the weekend, so they strung out well into the next week. Good thing we weren’t in a hurry to get any place. This fix cost us $700 and it worked.

One bonus was that we had time to drive to Galveston and see the Hurricane Ike damage. We thought Galveston was gone, but it turns out it’s
Crystal Beach and the peninsula just north of Galveston Island. We traveled that route in 2006 and spent Thanksgiving in Crystal Beach. It’s pretty cleaned up now, but there are still trucks and trucks of debris being hauled out. So much is missing and the beach is all rearranged. We’d have liked to drive that way instead of going around Houston, but peeps seemed to think the road was a mess and you might be driving in sand. But no .. it would have been very doable.

Continuing on and to that Ohio wedding and beyond. Stay tuned ….

 

 
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Summer 2008

 

We spent 4 days in Grand Canyon National Park.  It was a great place to purchase the Senior Pass you can buy for $10 from age 62 that gets the carload of folks into national parks and monuments and more .. for LIFE.  Be sure and get yours when you are eligible.  Isn’t it a GREAT country!!!

We camped in the ather Campground in the park and drove the park and took the shuttle bus.  We saw the canyon from many wonderful sites and walked part of the rim .. many great sunsets .. no sunrises as we were still snuggled in bed til the day warmed.  The canyon is beautiful and amazing.  We saw the Grand Canyon movie at the IMAX.  The rafting looks awesome.  How did the early settlers do it???

We continued north and spent several days in the Lake Powell area.  After 2 nights at an RV park, we moved to Waheap campground in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where we could camp for $10 a night with the new Senior Pass.  Here we overlooked an area of the lake and dreamed about renting a houseboat and traveling the lake with friends.

Next to Kanab, UT, home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary that takes in homeless animals and finds them homes … or houses them for life if they are not adoptable.  Deirdre is a Friends supporter and has gotten all of us involved in supporting them.  Our Katrina contributions went to the great team of Friends that spent an entire year rescuing pets left behind in New Orleans.  They have a special section for rehabilitation of Michael Vic’s fight dogs .. dubbed the Victory dogs.  Very special people there.  Sometime .. maybe Fall 2009 .. we and Deirdre will spend a week there volunteering and giving TLC to the animals.  They have 2 isolated RV spots available to rent that might be fun for nocturnal visitors.

The next adventure was quick day tours of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.  Both beautiful .. very different .. amazing terrain.  We will spend more time in that area.

From there we booked it to Washington.  The weather deteriorated as we traveled.  We should have stayed where it was warm.  From Salt Lake City we went west, then north to Boise, ID, thru a bit of Oregon and northwest into Washington.  What an amazing drive through the mountains.  We were listening to a Robin Cook sci-fi novel Abduction.  I love his medical novels but this one is a weird one about life in middle earth.  It was unnerving to listen to it while driving this winding empty mountainous area in Oregon.

We spent 3 months in Washington.  Deirdre was happy to get her life back in August.  Larry again rewired the RV and got some more equipment for Free To Air TV and learning about FTA satellites and such so we can have entertainment in Mexico.  We now have 3 satellite dishes.  Larry attracts a LOT of male attention at campsites.  Everyone’s curious about what he’s doing out there.

I flew to Milwaukee in June and brought 3-year old Emily back for a week and Heidi brought the girls out in July and I returned them to Milwaukee.  We loved it.  Emily loved it all .. Jaime still wants her Mommy most of the time, but the neighbor horses and Deirdre’s foster kittens kept her entertained.  Both girls are great airplane travelers.

We made 3 trips to our ‘member’ KM campground on the ocean at Ocean City:  first on our way to Vancouver Island, then with Deirdre and grandpup Murrey, and later with Jaime and Emily.  The park is Ocean Mist .. and so aptly named.  Jaime loved collecting sand dollars and both enjoyed kite flying.  But Emily HATES sand on her feet .. so there was always drama.

We visited Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, then took the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island.  Customs in Canada pulled us over and two inspectors searched the RV .. fluffing each seat cushion carefully and looking around the dining table a lot.  Luckily they did not take all the stuff out of the bunk beds or storage areas .. and after 20 minutes or so, we were cleared for takeoff.

It would have been great to park the RV at Westbay RV, near our favorite Victoria brewpub Spinnakers, but it was full due to a Tall Ships event.  So we camped up near Sidney and drove to Spinnakers and Canoe Brewpubs for dinner and beers and high tea and Irish music at the Blethering Place.  We spent a few days in Victoria in 1998 after we biked the Olympic Peninsula from Bainbridge Island and on our way to biking 2 of the San Juan Islands.  We revisited Sidney twice and enjoyed great food and pints at the Stonehouse Pub overlooking the harbor.

Next we traveled north on Vancouver Island and left the rig at Cape Lazo while we took the car ferry to the B.C. mainland to Powell River.  From there we drove north 30 miles to Lund where we took a water taxi to Savary Island to visit new friends Phil and Linda who we met in Mexico last December.  They are retired college teachers who moved to the island about 10 years ago.  They bought a cabin and land and have since built a lovely home next door.  Guests stay in the cabin which now has running water and Phil is adding a bathroom.  There is no power to the island, so everyone uses solar and generators.  All supplies must be brought over on the water taxi and non-burnable refuse carried to the mainland.  A barge visits periodically to bring any vehicles or building supplies or big stuff.  It is a wonderful place .. they have an especially lovely view. 


We met some neighbors and celebrated Canada Day and July 4th holidays with a deck Happy Hour event.  We told Phil and Linda that they can run but they can’t hide from the Klampetts.

We spent a few more days on Vancouver Island at Salmon Point RV Park near Campbell River.  We were right there on the waterfront and it was glorious.  We loved the whole trip so much we think we’ll spend a whole summer there soon.  The car ferry trip back to Deirdre’s from Sidney to Anacortes through the San Juan Island area was beautiful.

Two days to regroup and we were off again back to Ocean Mist with Deirdre and Murrey for a long weekend.  It was still cold but getting better.  Then 3 days more to organize a BBQ party with Deridre’s work friends and get ready for Jaime and Emily’s arrival.  The partying just continues.   A fun result of this party was that I learned about Junie B Jones books, especially Junie B Jones First Grader Toothless Wonder.  This perfectly describes Jaime, so friend Suzette sent 12 Junie B books over for us to enjoy with Jaime.  We both fell in love with Junie B .. and got Jaime really into reading. 

Heidi and her friend Natanya took right off from the airport for one of their ‘Thelma and Louise’ trips.  They like to hit as many Roadside America attractions as they can squeeze in.  Jaime and Emily came with us to Deirdre’s for the week.  Deirdre had about 15 foster cats at the time .. and Jaime was in love.  Eight kittens were in the ‘kitty condo’ in the garage, so we spent a lot of time out there.  We’d let her take out 2 at a time and chase them around endlessly .. then swap for 2 more.  They were very well socialized kittens by the time they went in for ‘snippies’ and adoption.

Heidi and Nat came back and we all went to dinner with Nat’s Seattle friends.  The next morning Heidi and Nat returned to Milwaukee and work .. and we and the girls went to Ocean Mist for 5 days.  We flew kites and collected sand dollars and played on the playground equipment.  Murrey would have loved to go with us … but there are just too many feet when we’re all in the RV and we’d all want ‘his chair’.  I really wanted to let Jaime ride a horse along the beach .. only $20 an hour .. but the age limit was 6 and she was a month shy of 6 .. and I couldn’t introduce her to lying .. though I really really wanted to.

I flew the girls home and we headed east a few days after my return.  Larry replaced the carpeting in the RV in those few days and it looks great.

Back in Wisconsin we spent a night with Norm and Jo Bertler Teaford in Cecil, near Shawano, and had a great fish fry in Bonduel.  Norm was looking forward to turning 64 the next week.  He was having some problems with a knee and his golf thumb .. said if he’d a known he’d live so long he’d a taken better care of himself.  About a month later he died of a heart attack and we returned to Cecil for a memorial service for Norm.  Wahhhhhhhhhhhh ….

We lost another friend in August.  Dear Ruth Chapman from Melbourne, Australia died when her myleodisplasia turned to leukemia.   So she and Sid won’t be joining us on any adventures.  Coincidentally, Norman’s Mom had this disease and Jo told me victims usually die in 5 years, as Norm’s Mom did.  Ruth was diagnosed less than a year before she died.  Sad.

We spent some time at the Village Inn and RV on Memorial Drive near Two Rivers and loved it.  We biked a lot to the Galley for breakfast, Phil Roher’s for lunch and raw fries, Kurtz’s, Port Sandy Bay, Point Beach State Park.  The weather was glorious .. and hot for the area.  We had a cousins reunion at Krolls in Green Bay with Auntie Peg Kane, had dinner with Don and Jeanie Crowe Miller, lots of lunches with Larry’s Mom, and met Sally Yindra Brotski in Brillion for lunch.

We picked up Jaime and Emily after Jaime met her 1st grade teacher and brought them to the RV.  They loved the pool and mini-golf.  We took them to Bay Beach and the TR kite fly and toured the Manitowoc submarine.  It was whirlwind and fun.  More next year.

Dr appts and lots of beer gatherings in Madison, then took care of the girls 5 days while Brian and Heidi had a little R&R in Las Vegas.  I took the girls to Sears for photos so we have cute pics smiling at us from the cupboard doors as I write this.  We had another nice visit in Milwaukee with friend Joy King, who Diane Gerl Sedlacek and I met at Women’s Week at Girl Scout Camp about 25 years ago.

We hoped to head west earlier this year, but Larry needed an extra appointment that put us 2 weeks behind .. so once again we hit the cold and wind and near freezing temps on our way back to the warm.  We filled the larder with Konop’s wieners, Johnsonville summer sausage, Woodman’s extra sharp white cheddar, Czechvar beer, Bagels forever bagels, and Delitalia porta toppings for salad and headed west.  I found Diane Osesek Reisweber again this year .. not spotted since high school years .. and we spent a great evening with them in their new home overlooking McGregor, Iowa and the Mississippi River.  She and Phil taught in Germantown and I thought of them often when visiting Heidi.  They bought an antiques shop in Marquette, Iowa 20 years ago and now it is their retirement hobby.  Their home is a wonderfully decorated with antiques.

Ted and Mona Thieman were traveling in Nova Scotia, so we’ll miss them this year.  Instead we spent a few days further south in Nebraska at Wilber .. the Czech Capital of the US.  Kolaches and rye bread.  Yummm.  While there, Keith Olbermann MSNBC showed a clip of Les Vilda of Wilber, NE .. the BEER party candidate.  Imagine our surprise!!

Destination .. Denver area to visit Carol Loberger Hagerbaumer and get our election ballots Deirdre sent there .. and to meet Cindy and Jack Bruner.  We met Cindy’s brother Howard and partner Lynne in Texas 2 years ago and Cindy’s been in touch ever since.  We missed her last year, as they were in Connecticut at Howard’s son’s wedding.  This year we parked the RV in their yard, just as Howard and Lynne do when they visit.  Isn’t life great??

Cindy and Jack showed us a great time.  We met lots of their friends, enjoyed beers at their local brewpub and at friend Kenny’s neighborhood garage bar, celebrated at an Octoberfest Dinner near Boulder, and enjoyed local Mexican food.  Jack’s chef son Corey made us a great dinner and we enjoyed pictures of Jack and Cindy’s trips, especially to Chile and canal boat trips in France.

We spent a fun day with Carol after she returned from a trip to Wisconsin to celebrate Mom Delores’s 87th birthday and we spent a long happy hour and wonderful dinner with her and Rick and Masha.

We planned to watch the Obama 30 minute TV special in Colorado Springs with Tracey and Roger Ellmers, but the alternator on the RV needed replacement and it took hours.  Our Good Sam Emergency Insurance came in handy, for the first time.  So we spent the next evening with Tracey and Roger and met their friend Gail, who’s been following our travels these 6 years.

We traveled south to New Mexico, took a left at Albuquerque and headed to Arizona.  We settled in near Camp Verde to watch the election and to celebrate the Obama-Biden victory.  Hooooray!!!

We were there to meet up with Phil and Linda from Savary Island at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood.  We will explore Sedona, Tuzigoot National Monument and more before we head to Mexico.
 

 

 

Winter 2007

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It was an easy drive to San Carlos on a minor road whose numbers changed frequently and didn’t match anything the books said. We checked into Totonaka RV Park right next to Phil and Linda and 2 sites from Vicki and Gerry. All water was turned off in the town for the day. Luckily we had our own. We wondered what the people who came to stay in the little cabins did. The bathrooms and laundry were locked.

We set up and spoke to a Canadian couple who contacted us via our Datastorm site. We all want reassurance and to share others’ experiences, so I wrote to tell them how it went for us. They brought us extra horseradish to add to catsup for shrimp cocktail sauce, so we were able to share with Phil and Linda.

Soon we all went across the street to Charly’s Rock for beers and a glorious sunset. Phil and Linda took off the next morning and we didn’t see them again until February when we did a day trip to visit them in Teacapan. Gerry says Teacapan is so lovely he would have to kill us if he told us about it.

Vicki and I took a cooking class from Maria, the owner of the RV Park. She lived most of her years in California and Chicago and understood what we’d want to learn from her. She discussed dry and fresh chilies and showed us pretty pictures as she went. She had us all select a salsa type we’d like to make, then she told us what we’d need to make it .. and we reconvened at 9 the next morning to take the bus to the market at Guaymas. There she advised our purchases and took us to a tortorilla where she bought dough for tamales and chips for our afternoon salsa tasting. We all returned to our rigs and met again in the afternoon to sample each others concoctions. There was a variety of fresh and cooked salsas. She did not approve of the days’ tomatillos or mangos, so there were no green or fruit salsas that some wanted to make. Surprisingly ... all of us who went to the first class were free for the bus tour and next afternoon gathering.

I learned to make cooked salsa. It is rather like the red dipping sauce you get with the complimentary chips at most Mexican restaurants. We will never have to buy jars of salsa again. Yeahhhhh ….

Wanna know how to make cooked salsa?


Use a small saucepan .. about quart size. Wash 2-3 long dry red California chilies and snip off the ends. Cut the chilies into several pieces and put in saucepan. Wash and coarsely chop 4-5 plum tomatoes and about 2/3 of a medium onion. You can vary all of these amounts to your taste on the next batch. Remove the seeds for a milder salsa. Drop in several cloves of garlic and some salt. Add cilantro if desired, though she didn’t.

Cover with water and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer at medium 10 – 12 minutes. Turn off heat and let the mixture cool. Pour off most of the liquid and reserve to use it later for rice or couscous or soup.

Blend the salsa. One of those hand held immersible varieties works slick. Just rinse it with a drop of soap, dry and put it away. Store salsa in some sort of container and it lasts several weeks. A 10-oz (maybe?) plastic peanut butter jar gets filled up when I make it.

Try various dry chilies or add a chipotle pepper from a can before blending for a different taste. Try white and yellow onions. Perhaps even red??


Vicki and Gerry let us ride with them to Guaymas for the Wednesday market. There was a lot for sale in town .. bikes and games and clothes and such .. much more than we ever saw in Costa Rica. We bought a pump for our big 5-gallon water jug and Gerry directed us to some wonderful carnitas … cooked chopped seasoned beef … that came with salsa and tortillas. A kilo made us happy for 2 meals, though we don’t like the corn tortillas nearly as well as flour / harina. I got pretty Barbie dresses for Jaime and Emily.

After laundry and money and organizing and scoping everything out, we were ready to move on to our timeshare week. We left the rig at the El Mirador RV Park just up the road from the Premier Vacation Club for $8 per day. We piled the car high with stuff and checked in. The guys brought a big gray bin and we got everything up in one trip. Again .. a wonderful country.

We met some nice folks, enjoyed the erratic hot tub that was scalding hot some afternoons but tepid at dusk when the air was chilly, had dinner twice at La Manga … a little village past the end of the road that has no electricity .. just propane and generators and solar and such. Vicki and Gerry came the second time and we found a wonderful place up the hill overlooking the bay ... El Mirador … and it felt just like Italy. Wonderful garlic shrimp for $8. We brought our own beer. The weather was very cold that week so it wasn’t our perfect first timeshare week .. but who cares? We didn’t waste a week of work vacation getting here.

Vicki and Gerry travel with no TV, no computer, no cell phone .. but they enjoy a Sirius radio. They email with one of the mail stations you connect to a phone line. So we gave Vicki our 3rd computer to use for a few days and got her started using her web mail site. You remember how hard it is to learn to use a computer keyboard? Move the cursor, anchor the cursor, watch what GIGO you’re typing, etc. She thought I was very patient .. and she was doing quite well after a few days. That keyboard freezes up sometimes and the QWERTY line letters don’t always work. There’s some quirky press the right shift keys and it might come back. So add THAT to her learning and she did so well. Gerry promises they’ll buy a computer soon .. after their South Africa and Eastern Europe adventures if not before.

Here I learned to make Holy Guacamole:

It must be eaten fresh, doesn’t store well .. so this is a small serving Larry and I can get outside of in one Happy Hour and sometimes skip dinner afterwards.

One ripe avocado ... but not overripe. You’ll just have to learn .. should mush up but not be black inside. If it is too hard, they told us you can microwave it 1 min or boil 2 mins .. but I haven’t tried this yet. Avocados are always just right in Mexico.

Some white onion and plum tomato finely chopped. Cilantro and garlic finely chopped. Salt to taste. Some states squeeze some lime juice in. DD likes a touch of cumin and some sour cream. Mash avocado and blend in the rest. Enjoy with chips.

Phil and Linda wrote from Celestino RV Park, a new park about 50 miles north of Mazatlan. People were saying that most places south were fully reserved for the next months. So I tried to contact RV parks in Mazatlan. One was full, one had Spanish voicemail, 2 emails were returned from postmaster. Mar Rosa .. right on the beach and the one we’d prefer anyway .. had a few spots left and were not taking reservations for them. First come first served.

So we checked out of the timeshare the Friday before Christmas and headed toward Mazatlan. We spent Friday night at a tired old park in Los Mochis and on the next day to Mazatlan. There were hoards of California and Arizona and local Mexicans heading ‘home’ for Christmas. Cars and trucks were piled high with luggage, bicycles, wheelchairs and more. Lots of vendors at every tope and toll booth hawking their wares and collecting for charities or washing windows with dirty water and oily rags. I think we chose the Libre road .. at first to be cheap .. later because the turn to the Toll Road looked like an old dusty trail. So we limped thru Culiacan .. making the correct turns despite every sign missing the arrow bit that we needed. Just outside of town, we were stopped for over 90 minutes as something overturned or ??? around the bend. Every little while .. ALL the cars queued would zoom past us and somehow be able to continue. Even when traffic did restart, the truck in front of us didn’t move until all traffic cleared .. which was OK as I preferred them to be in front of us. Somewhere that day my rear blinky bike light disappeared.

Again it got dark on us and we got to Mazatlan after sunset. We backed into a spot that turned out to be beside a couple from Minneapolis, set up .. and caught a pulmonia / golf cart taxi to the driver’s favorite taco stand. The owner ran out somewhere for beers when we inquired. Great tacos.

Our neighbors were all out for the evening and returned later in several little trucks with bench seating along each side … arrigas .. same price as a pulmonia usually, but hold more people. We once saw 13 local wimmen get out of one. We learned the next day they were at a baseball game. Mazatlan was a big winner in this years finals.

Signs announced a ‘group’ dinner Christmas day at 4pm. I bemoaned to Mrs. Minneapolis that we hardly had time to organize a group .. so she caucused with the Canadian wimmen and they deigned to let us join them. They were cooking 3 turkeys they’d won in a golf tournament. We were assigned to bring dinner rolls. Dinner rolls in Mexico??? Hmmmmm …

Sunday we got brave and drove the car to Gigante. We got lots of stuff for escalloped corn, pasta salad, cheap vodka, but no dinner rolls. Off to Walmart .. now we’re talking the day before Christmas eve and we are chicken $h!t drivers in Mexico!!! Busy!!! They had big plastic containers of rolls .. crescent type .. and I got lots. No creamed corn or cornbread mix, so I improvised and turned out a heavy tasty escalloped corn that was hardly touched. Likewise my awesome Greek pasta salad with many veg, goat cheese, kalamate olives, basil, tarragon vinegar and oil. Yummm … But again we went home with it. I gave a bowl to one of the Canadians ..who gave it in turn to some newcomers. They liked their cucumber in vinegar, pierogies, cranberry sauce .. but they did enjoy the Brandy Alexander liquors we brought. It had been cold in the evenings, but the weather held nice for our dinner. I tried to buy wine and Baileys at Walmart but was denied .. it was after 4pm on a Sunday.

Young kids .. 8-12 or so .. or the elderly .. bag the groceries in markets here. They do it for tips. Also there are men in some semblance of a uniform with a whistle that assist you in the parking lot. They also ‘work’ for tips.

After Christmas we moved the rig and tried to find the satellite for internet. We ALMOST got it, so we moved to the second row from the beach without trees overhead. Pricier, but we liked the neighborhood better and we’d hear and see the ocean .. between the honking big class A’s in the front row.. Didn’t get the satellite, so phoned MotoSat and spent hours of 2 days on the cell phone trying to switch to 117. It wasn’t looking good, but by using the campground WiFi for $50 a month, we got advice from DataStorm Users Group and succeeded. It added $160 or so to the phone bill that month. Yipes!!! But SKYPE doesn’t allow you to ‘press 2 for Tech Support’ after you connect, so it was the cell phone or nothing. And we DID enjoy the dish internet. Found out you can’t ie. watch Craig Ferguson clips or download Stephanie Miller podcasts from Mexico .. or perhaps anywhere outside the US. Urngggggg? Happily we could with our dish. Some folks told us it takes them sometimes 8 days to change satellites so they park in Salt Lake City until they succeed. So our $160 was peanuts in a way.

Sheila from BC was staying for a month at the El Quijote Inn next door, so I checked it out and found we could rent a Jr Suite for a month for the same $$ I could get it on the internet for 2 weeks. Hmmmm …. So … I called and emailed Joel Torres many times saying we had no contract, I did not have a signed agreement that he said I needed and he’d send, yadda yadda and return my money. No response, so I booked the suite for a month and invited Betty and Joel Schliefer from Minneapolis area to come for a week, then Tracey and Roger Ellmers from Colorado Springs the final week. All set for some fun now!! I’m putting a bad word out on Joel everyplace I can .. TripAdvisor and the like. Someone on trip advisor suggested a link to a Mexican site for fraud, but since he is in the US, it didn’t cover. Will investigate Small Claims Court when we’re in Washington. He did write 11pm Sunday before our Wed date to tell me to call him to get directions to the Villa. He found time to write to me 10 or more times the next days .. always saying no refund, I knew the villa is waiting for me, HE has a signed contract, we are good to go. No Joel … I phoned and wrote many many times since October. Did they sound like I knew we were good to go? Why didn’t you find time to reply then?

We set about learning the city, buffing up our tans, enjoying the fresh shrimp sold each day right next to the rig, visiting both ends of the Cerritoes Juarez bus route … the Sunday flea market in the Juarez neighborhood and Playa Bruja, a surfing beach with a lovely palapa restaurant, at the other end in tiny Cerritoes .. and trying out restaurants.

Later in January, the Tighes and Ruth Kahl arrived. We brought just enough stuff to Pueblo Bonito for a party, then went back to the rig the next day and drove some stuff over and took the girls food shopping. It was the first time they’d stayed in Mazatlan for 2 weeks … and now they are hooked. We signed up (quite forcefully) to visit the new Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort for ‘an update’. Mary and Carl wound up buying a biennial week there when they promised to rent out their current week in town. By the end they know they’ll use both weeks themselves.

Our guide Fred gave us numbers to call for his favorite restaurant Topolo’s, and for a place to reserve to watch the Carnival Fireworks Saturday night. We had to get right to the Fireworks place to pay and choose a table, so we took the arriga, made the reservations and paid, enjoyed sunset from the roof of the Hotel Freeman, then had a wonderful meal at Topolo’s .. with live classical guitar, fine wine, fruit flambé for dessert. Hmmmm .. Thanks Fred.

We all took in a Fiesta at the Plaza Mazatlan in the Hotel Zone.. an evening of dancing and singing and Mexican buffet plus all you wanted to drink .. in a dinner theater setting. We dined at Casa Loma on the 27th anniversary of Mary and Carl’s engagement. We took the bus out to Cerritoes for shrimp and dancing entertainment. Shopping, the awesome 10:30 Carnival fireworks along the Malecón and the bands and masks and merriment, dinner and a Carnival Parade from the Hotel Hacienda platform, and more. We had fun and both Mary and Ruth went home with a few new baubles from their favorite beach vendor .. Leonardo.

They got us tickets on the airport shuttle bus for a Stone Island tour, so we scratched the cheapo route we’d investigated. For $20 each, an arriga picked us up at the hotel at 9am, took us to the boat which took us out into the ocean for a bit to see Bird Island and sealions .. then on to Stone Island where a Mexican limousine .. a wagon and tractor .. showed us the village and took us to our restaurant for the day. We had lunch, all we could drink … plus a horse ride along the beach or a wagon and horse ride for an extra $5. I hate horse riding, but I went with Carl and we enjoyed the pace. We reversed the trip around 2:30. Another great day!!

I got the tickets for the parade from Babe Scanlon. She is a hoot and I stayed in touch with her for awhile and we went to her house for a birthday party she had for an 83 year old neighbor lady. I used to be Jean Scanlan, so she felt like family.

She also had tickets to a Bull Fight! I thought they don’t do that in Mazatlan, since 2002 or so. Just for Carnival she said. And a midget bullfight in December where a troup of Mexican midgets frolic with baby bulls, but don’t kill them. And recently we heard about an Easter one. Well .. just a few. So we went, as the bull(s) would be killed with or without us there .. and she said it was special because the toreadors rode dancing horses. It was an intimate arena and heaps of locals enjoyed themselves. Little children cheering when a bull went down. Awwww … I cheered for the bull. In all, 4 bulls were ceremoniously killed .. I didn’t know. There were a few protesters outside afterwards … bull fighting is neither art/culture nor sport, they declared! We didn’t know .. what do you eat after a bullfight?? We both pictured chicken places on the walk back, but no. We were in time to watch the second fireworks and had a beer and hot dog on the street before walking home with some Panama Bakery purchases to have with coffee. What a day!!

Next we got ready for DD, Heidi, Jaime, Emily and Natanya’s arrival. We scoped out more restaurants for kid food and vegetarian for Nat. I investigated everything I could find about how they should come from the airport, then recommended that they hail a taxi, pay $26US, and get themselves to El Quijote, avoiding those that would give you a free ride in return for visiting a timeshare presentation. I cleaned out the bottom bunk for the girls .. not a mean feat .. and got their presents ready and the horsie lights we bought at Camping World .. and lots of books. Heidi says Jaime can READ!! And she can.

We had a fun week with them .. doing the Stone Island tour, Cerritoes which had Dancing Horses on the beach at dusk on Saturday, sent Heidi and Nat to climb the lighthouse path … the highest working lighthouse in the world, Arnoldo told us on the Stone Island tour .. to the Market to see the pigs heads and feet, and to the Juarez Flea Market. They had a ball. The girls enjoyed the two camp cats that adopted our site as home .. a lovely calico female named Poncha and a yellow male named Pancho. We were bushed everynight and after they left.

DD stayed an extra week, missing Murrey Seamus O’Reilly and checking often on his behavior at the Oh So Fun Dog Ranch Vacation Retreat. She got jealous that he’d rest his head on herself’s lap in the afternoon when she took him with her inside to do some office work. He also did some snapping at a dog or two, so perhaps she won’t be traveling for two weeks again.

Jaime LOVES horses, so when she got to ride all by herself TWICE on Stone Island .. she declared it the BEST DAY OF HER WHOLE LIFE!!!! She knows how to tickle Grandma and Grandpa. On the last day she rode again on the beach in front of El Quijote. We bought dresses, got their thread name bracelets made, had lots of chicken nuggets .. but mostly lots of chips. The chocolate milk was hit or miss .. often some thin icy concoction. When they left .. Jaime said ‘Grandma .. you’re WONDERFUL!!’ Awwww … By calling the tour company directly, we were able to get the same $20 tour deal that Carl got on the hotel bus for our Stone Island trips.

One day we drove to Copala with DD. It is an old colonial town with the best banana cream pie .. a few hours from Mazatlan and in the hills headed to Durango. It turned out to be a windy little village with a wonderful old church and the pie was good. Meant to go to El Quelite too, but DD preferred to stay at the beach. Next time.

We had one day between DDs departure and the arrival of Betty and Joel, so we drove several hours south and spent a few hours with Phil and Linda in Teacapan. We went into town to a little unmarked bakery and selected items by hand to carry on Linda’s pizza pan. We picked up their laundry at an obscure little place as well and had a great lunch at a little palapa restaurant on a cove, next to a little campground. If we knew, we’d have seen the little class B rig of Rob and Daph Breeze that we met at Celestino a few weeks later. They were in another little park to the right end of the cove. There are heaps of pepper plants in the area and we saw stacks of dried red serranos. Nice trip.

We had a nice visit with Betty and Joel and lots of great meals. We just visited them in August, but since then son Jon’s wedding took place, so we got all caught up. One evening we passed a FSIH building up the road and there were a lot of nationals hanging about. They kept being there and one day handed Joel a 2 page document declaring their plight at losing their homes when the new dam is completed. Soon they had banners, a lane of traffic blocked off, even a march to the Malecón. Then they were gone. Wonder at the outcome?? Our Stone Island tour with Betty and Joel had lots of spring break college students with us. The guys enjoyed the antics of the busty broads.

Tracey and Roger didn’t heed my airport taxi advice ... suckered in by the $150 cash, the restaurant voucher and the free taxi ride. The next morning they visited the Mayan Resort and bought into a 4-week Vacation Package that gives them 4 weeks a year at any of the Mayan Resorts, plus trade and travel pkgs, etc. and again the promise to rent out some weeks or parts of the suite for golf conventions. We spent a day at the Mayan and it was nice. Last year Mary and Carl took us to a newer Mayan in Puerto Vallarta and it was really nice!! Roger’s girls are now out of the house and they’ll enjoy the time away alone together.

Easter and Semana Santa were coming. We were paid until Holy Thursday, but we kept hearing about the hordes of nationals that throng the beach that week, even setting up lots of tents in the RV park between the rows. Lots of music and drinking and messy bathrooms. Most people had gone, so we traveled north to Celestino, recommended and enjoyed by our new friends. It was weird packing up and driving again after 3 months. We didn’t buy petrol for the rig for 3 months!! It was a nice 50 mile trek on the Toll Road .. we’re only going that way hence .. and interesting to become acquainted with the Toll Road exits. Luckily the Churches told us to take the dirt path just before the overhead. Wondering if we missed that feature on the way in from the border, as we didn’t get off the Toll Road until Hermosillo.

We found our way to Celestino RV. There are several RV Parks along that road. We fit in one of the spots closer to the ocean while the big rigs had to stay back toward the road. It is a new park .. deep and narrow. It took us awhile to adjust to the ‘nothing to do’ of it .. and stayed 2 weeks, reluctant to leave. Rob and Daph Breeze, British immigrants to Ontario, were our neighbors and we just love them. We all drove to Chonito’s in nearby Dimas for lunch one day, then on to the El Mirador restaurant that Phil and Linda wrote about. The dirt road road went on forever and nothing after the first sign. We were sure it was wrong, but there were no other choices to have wrongly chosen. Finally we got to a little town and after buzzing it, tried a palapa on a hill that we saw from the other end of the tiny town. What a find!! Beautiful view of the little village, a beautiful cove and a lighthouse on the hill over there. Phil neglected to tell us they didn’t serve cerveza .. an unexpected and unforgivable, really, oversight on his part … so we just had a soda. A crew was putting up new fancy signs as we turned back onto the dusty road. Wouldn’t ya know???

Another day we went north toward La Cruz and found the Turtle Sanctuary and visited La Cruz for lunch and potluck supplies. The coast has 40km of turtle hatching in the fall and January. Must come back for that sometime. They had the shell of a laud turtle and it was as tall and wide as Larry with his arms outstretched. They had a photo of its trail with a guy laying across it and filling the width. They also had a turtle in a tiny aquarium where it had to struggle constantly to keep its head out of the water to breathe. It was very hard to turn around and leave it struggling, but our limited Spanish didn’t provide for a recommended fix.

Vicki and Gerry told us how to do a Copper Canyon tour the cheap way, so we headed to El Fuerte after the Easter holidays ended. We read that there would be black flies .. and there were and they were nasty when we arrived. Larry doesn’t usually get bites, but his calves are speckled with bites. After a day buzzing El Fuerte and environs, we got picked up Monday morning to be taken to the train. The primero train hadn’t arrived yet. We probably spent a minute debating whether to take it when it arrived, but the throng looked pretty likely to fill it up. Plus it is twice the price of the secundo. 327 pesos cheap / double pricey. That’s $32.70 one way or double per person.

The secundo arrived an hour after the primero. There were LOTS of nationals getting on. We got on with a young British backpacker couple. She scouted this way and that and all seats looked full. Then a train guy sent us packing toward a front car. Mid-way another train guy sent us back again and on to the last car. I was pretty sure we would spend the whole trip trippsing back and forth with all our luggage banging everyone. But .. no . the last car had lots of room and we settled in. People used to take the train from Los Mochis, but as the terrain between Los Mochis and El Fuerte isn’t awesome, people now leave from El Fuerte. We met several people on personalized tours who flew into Los Mochis, then took a taxi 50 miles to El Fuerte. What must that have cost?? They didn’t know .. it was built into their pricey package.

The young couple got off at Posada Barraca. Soon the conductor said 15 minutes til Divisidero .. a spot where you get off for 15 minutes and choose from a spectacular lookout over one of the canyons, buy stuff from the many Tarahumara vendors .. or buy tacos from the many people cooking over oil barrel stoves. Nine minutes later we determined that this WAS the stop and everyone was off eating or viewing or buying. We dashed and caught the view and I snatched 2 quick tacos on the way back. The train guy said we had to eat in the Dining Car .. even though EVERYONE was eating at their seats the entire trip. So I tripped back to tell Larry and we tripped forward several cars to eat as directed .. with me again hitting everyone in the head with my bag.

The train goes from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. Creel is about halfway and the best bit is between El Fuerte and Creel. So Vicki and Gerry said to get off at Creel and find our way to Casa Margarita’s Hostel for our room. I knew it was closeby, but it was dark and the hustlers shouted at us immediately. They got us to a bus Margarita now provides. First they took some people to Plaza Margarita, a more upscale habitation, then took us back to the Casa … a short walk from the train station. We got an ensuite room for $35 total per day, including breakfast and dinner. We got settled and went right down for dinner as it was nearing the 8pm cutoff hour.

We sat with Sharon and Fred and Barbara and Walter. I’d chatted with Sharon at the El Fuerte station that morning. They signed up for a shuttle tour of an old church, a lake and some interesting rock formations the next day, but we chose to just sit and rest as Larry’s back was acting up for a week now. Some of the rocks are called Monk Rocks, but Maggie from Poland shared that they look like penis’s and used to be called Penis Rocks, but it just didn’t work with the gringos. Hmmmm …. So we rested and they saw the lake and visited a Tarahumara village I think, but the chapel was locked and they didn’t get to the Monks. A shame!!

The Tarahumara people live in the Copper Canyon area. They are an ancient native tribe that live in a stick hut in the winter and in a cave in the summer and live very primitively, cooking over wood fires, washing and bathing in the river and such. They are very fast runners and are known to run 100 miles in a day and carry on the next. I believe some are in the Olympics. The women wear very colorful skirts and jackets … bright yellow, orange, blue, reds .. with a bandana on their head and a shawl wrapped around them. The skirts have many ruffles and decoration between each ruffle. The jackets are very puffy and pleated and require lots of fabric. They are wonderful!! They make a lot of woven belts and bracelets and baskets and sell them to the gringos.

Many just sat around the town square or craft store all day. Some sewed, the children just sat with them and ate oranges and such. We wondered about their WC and determined that they used the underside of the bridge we saw from our room .. the bridge leading to the clinic.

After a day of rest, we caught the 9:30am ‘chicken bus’ to Batopilas, as directed by Vicki and Gerry. It was an old school bus painted white. It wasn’t quite full, so sometimes Larry and I could have our own seats, as he couldn’t fold himself up sufficiently to fit beside me. Barbara and Walter went too and took the front seat from the door. It had to have been much scarier and hairier from that viewpoint. A grandma from Vermont was on with her son and daughter-in-law and their 7 and 9 year old kids from New Mexico, where Mom and Dad teach high school and they live on an Indian reservation. Dad was good at pointing things out to the kids, so I got his experience too.

The road goes down into one of the 6 Copper Canyons .. this one Batopilas. The first hour and a half we descended mostly on a beautiful 2-lane paved highway .. up and down and around .. past Tarahumara dwellings and lots of desert. Then we turned right onto a narrow dirt road marked as the route to Batopilas .. a narrow rocky terrain that is being widened extensively. We got to use the baños … au natural for the men, a nasty two-seater for the girls. Did I say nasty, messy … but not stinky, so there was that. The seat was also about 12-16 inches from the floor, so I had to hang on to the bench for proper placement, if you get my drift. Thank goodness for anti-bacterial soap.

This road was the adventure. Down and down switchbacks .. you could see down there the windy route we’d follow. It was something .. especially when we’d meet or be passed by another vehicle. A busty national young woman with an unusual cleavage displaying black top sat behind the driver and chatted him up lustily the entire trip. We sure didn’t like it when he’d so often turn around to chat to her. Walter didn’t even want to take the bus back up as he felt it was dangerous .. but we think he had it under control. We arrived anyway … 5 hours after departure. The area had lots of silver mines back in the 1700s and forward. We had another baño stop at La Bufa, where there was a big stack of copper colored tailings from the silver mine. The baño there was a 3-sided affair with natural air conditioning and a great view into the canyon.

We arrived at the mile long village and the bus wound its way to the church. Arturo led us to Senora Monse’s Casa where we were the only tourists to select one of her $20 per night ensuite rooms, no meals included. It was fine, bigger than our Casa Margarita room. Others went next door to Juanita’s and enjoyed her $35 rooms with a view of the river. Senora Monse is also on the river, I had read, but when I walked to the back I saw a cow and a wall and not the bucolic scene I’d envisioned. Before I knew what hit me, I agreed to a tour to the Cathedral the next morning at 9am with Arturo. Senora Monse encouraged us to eat her chicken that evening .. for an added price .. but we begged off saying we were meeting friends, but asked for breakfast in the morning.

We rested a bit, then headed out and turned left. Batopilas has a huge rectangular square a block away from the church, most unusual for a Mexican square not to be across from the church directly. It is mostly empty with wonderful castiron bench seating around the edges and a big bandstand in the center. Our first stop was for beers at the Collegiate Bar and Restaurant .. in a pleasant little courtyard where the locals were getting hammered and the young girls could peek in at us and them and giggle. We saw a bridge over a dry arroyo / river bed and all manner of vehicles and people traveled it .. something that won’t be possible in the rains of July and August when it pours, we were told.

We stopped after 2 Tecates and went in search of Barbara and Walter, who said they would try to stay at the Copper Canyon Lodge with some new friends they’d met on the train Monday. Arturo and some locals went back and forth a bit, shaking their heads, then sent them off ‘beyond the church’. So we wandered a few blocks past and in from the church and didn’t find it. So we returned to sit in the square. Presently they came by with their new friends Richard, Jim and MaryJo .. looking for a bar with margaritas. There is no Copper Canyon Lodge and they were at Juanita’s. We went back to the Collegiate for 2 more beers with them, until they were off for a reserved dinner at Senor Donas I think. There are a few places where you make reservations for the plata del dia, then sit and eat whatever the chef decided to make that day. We stayed right at the Collegiate and had a great steak, baked potato, salad … and 2 more beers. Not the brightest idea having 6 beers!!!

We staggered back to Senora Monse’s and slept the sleep of the hammered dead. I had such a headache all the next day. Senora Monse asked … eggs or cereal. We chose cereal and she charged us $5 each for a bit of creamed rice gruel, a few slices of papaya and instant coffee that said DECAF!! An outrageous sum for what we got. But … it was quick and Arturo was soon there.

He escorted us in his Mexican limousine .. two car/van seats between the cab and the tailgate .. with a big spare tire inbetween. Luxury. All of our new friends plus some from Seattle set out to walk the 4 miles to the cathedral. We passed them close to the last curve where the cathedral became visible. They were hot and tired, but pressed on. The outside of the cathedral must have been recently restored and it was beautiful. The inside looked worse for the years. I read that the Tarahumara celebrate Easter there. The men do some sort of religious drugs and drink some awful alcohol and stumble around for days in a frenetic religious stupor. Many many people drive the narrow road Arturo took us on to witness the events .. then all try to get back to Batopilas at the same time in the dark. And I daresay they’ve been doing some imbibing too. Christianity has really screwed up the Taramuhara peoples!!

The others completed their tour in the Best Western tour shuttle with Pepe, who brought them down in cushy style from Creel the day before. Barbara and Walter had to join our tour, as there was no room in the inn for them. Two Tarahumara women and a small boy climbed into the truck with us. They are supposed to have their own language and are not comfortable speaking to outsiders, but Walter held the boy and tried to converse with the women in Spanish. One acknowledged him unwittingly, but averted her gaze from his. She was beautiful with clear shiny dark skin and beautiful white teeth.

Arturo took us to their winter shack .. a stick and thatch room with ‘patio’ about 8’ x 6’ total maybe. Then we visited the cave just over there where they spend the summer, out of the blazing heat and rain. There was much evidence of goat and cattle residue about .. lots of sharing here. Then we walked a bit further to a neighborhood where 4 families live. An old man was sitting on his haunches while 4 women took care of I think 7 small children. They live communally but each family lives by itself. The others brought gifts of big tins of sardines. I had some gum and candy for the kids. No tire basura we said. All Mexicans throw litter wherever. Adults opened the bus windows to toss soda cans and snack bags. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …. They had a cool grinder attached to a pole in the ground .. for corn and flour and what have you. Arturo pointed out a 2 month old baby asleep in a sling hanging from the rafter of a dwelling. It was the cutest thing. They all had cute puppies. There are lots of dogs in Mexico ... most not so cute .. most females not neutered. Sad.

We rested and bought water and such .. didn’t attempt the mile walk with the others around 4pm to the remains of the Shepard Mansion .. the owner of the silver mines. As we sat in the square, we saw lots of comings and goings. Our intention was to check out the bus that arrived that day, but we must have missed it. A group of mountain bikers went by often and we chatted. We saw them in Creel the day before as we headed to the bus. They got carted along the good road in their van, then road the windy dirt road to Batopilas. One of the guys told us that every other day they send a 9-passenger shuttle down instead of the bus, so if you’re not there at 4:15 am for the 5am bus, you may be out of luck. Happened to him once, so he had to return and crawl back into bed and wait another day. Hmmmmm …

We debated and wondered. We didn’t want to get up so early and not be able to go .. nor did we like being crammed in with 7 others side by side either. But if it was full on Saturday too, we were there until Monday and we really can’t tolerate that much peace and quiet.

I mentioned it to Senora Monse when we got back and she said she saw a big bus that day. I’d earlier bought 3 bottles of agua from a lady in a food stand parked near the church where the bus ends, so we approached her in our not good Spanish to see if she noticed what bus came. Mas agua senora? No … She sent us over to a nice gringa lady who runs a silver shop. She was abashed at our new information and mused that everyone else knows what’s going to happen but the people there. No .. a big bus did come in that day. We put a pint on whether Walter and Barbara would show up in the morning. We already knew the New Mexico peeps were going Saturday. Larry said yes, I said no show.

They all had dinner reservations at Casa Carolinas. We tried another bar and restaurant .. something like El Zagura just down the street next to the church, towards the river. It had a lovely courtyard, reminiscent of Italy. We enjoyed 2 beers and a lovely fried fish dinner. The electricity went off just before dark and it added to the allure. It returned just in time for our walk back to the Casa …

We packed and got to bed early. Up and out by 4:30. At 5am a big honking newish tourist bus comes lumbering in .. barely able to back in and turn around next to the church. AND .. there were 5 of us waiting for the bus .. two local old guys and an old woman and us. The woman carried only a small box from the grocery, tied with twine. We marveled at her pequeño Mexican luggage. But she just handed it to the driver as freight .. and 4 of us got on .. on this big 40+ passenger bus with real seats and headrests and curtains and everything. I win a pint of Guinness as soon as we find one across the border.

To our surprise there were several people already on the bus. How surprised we would have been to find the 9-passenger shuttle already full or nearly by our stop. We picked up another backpacker on the way out of town and another later in the middle of nowhere up on the ridge. How this big bus squeezed down the narrow village walls and onto the narrow bridges, some without any sides at all .. is a wonder. I’d read that it is a 5 hour trip down to Batopilas and 7 hours back up to Creel. Our buses made it in 5 hours each way. An amazing ride for $18 each. The ‘chicken bus’. Try it .. you’ll like it.

We made it back in time to choose the primero train if we wished .. and we thought we wished. But as the 11:30 arrival time approached and we saw all the gringo riders, including an Elderhostel birding group … we just couldn’t stand to ride with them 7 hours. So we returned to El Tungar .. the Hangover Hospital .. and had some wonderful burritos and cokes like we’d enjoyed Tuesday. Love the advice I find on TripAdvisor.

We caught the Segundo at 12:30 and I befriended a young Swiss woman traveler. She had on a very short sundress with a red sweater. ALL the national men loved looking at her, especially when she took the sweater off later. She spoke very fluent Spanish and when she wasn’t hobnobbing elsewhere, had 1 to 4 train guys chatting her up.

She was in Mexico for a wedding I guess. She took a bus from Chihuahua that morning, then was on the train to Los Mochis. Her plan was to catch a night bus to Tijuana (a 36 hour nonstop drive my haircut lady had told me), then on to Los Angeles for a Monday flight home to Switzerland. Can you do all that between Friday and Monday? Tight connections. Don’t know how she got her information. I could find very little. Even the Chepe website for the train gave a schedule that didn’t match reality on the return trip. I got all kinds of prices and times for the chicken bus too. It sure seemed like it only went down M, W, F and back up T, Th, Sat. Or it went down M, W, F but back up every day and on to Chihuahua every other day. Huh .. how would that work? We watched for the bus / van going down to Batopilas Friday but never saw one. The old school bus was sitting where we caught it when we arrived in Creel. Hmmm .. sure wondering what went down to bring Walter and Barb and the 5 New Mexico people up on Saturday???

Our driver Senor Piñas was not at the train station to collect us, so we piled into the nearest station wagon. The guy did not understand El Fuerte RV Park and we were worried .. but we worked it out. He kept pulling over as the car kept dying. Very happy to get ‘home’. Slept like babes. In the morning we packed up and moved north to Alamos .. quickly before the biting flies woke up.

We are all alone at our Dolisa Motel / Trailer Park. We had some problems finding the satellite, and at one point the dish shut itself down in a weird position and did some damage to itself. Larry with his bad but improving back and wonky hip crawled up and did some masking tape and WD-40 repairs, a few dish calibrations and got it back working. It found the satellite but was waiting for hours to complete the tests and connection for it all to work.

When we arrived, we got water from the water plant here. Carl from Colorado in the 4 Corners area chatted and gave us lots of info. Later we chose a patio restaurant on the square in town and he found us again. Lots of chat .. Barack Obama is a Muslim (OH NO HE ISN”T), he’ll get killed within months if he gets elected, lots of naturopath and healing chat, all about his uncle who had property in Los Mochis for decades, his son back from Afghanastan. Larry had a great burger plate and I had a battered shrimp plate. Both had good fries, I had rice and a salad.

Today we both have wonky stomachs and Larry has body hurts. What was it? The food, the new water from here? Too much jostling on the bus and train and crawling around on the roof on hand and knees? Whatever .. we didn’t do laundry as we set up with herself, we didn’t get to the Sunday morning market on the big empty gravel arroyo we turned onto last night .. following another vehicle … then quickly turned back to a real street. We didn’t enjoy the fish tacos Carl said are sold at the market. We missed the music on the square and the Sunday night $1 taco stands that the gringos flock to. Maybe we would have traveled out to La Aduana to see a great old church and enjoy a gourmet meal at the hotel there .. only open Wed – Sun the Alamos website tells me. We already missed the Saturday morning house and garden tour Linda said not to miss. We’ll have to come back. Now we know what to do!! Alamos is beautiful. It is now an historic city and Barbara said the government gave money for all the facades to be fixed up, though many have nothing but rubble behind them. Many expat Americans and Canadians call it home .. at least for the winter months .. and have invested money in the town. We didn’t even go back for photos.

Maybe another day or two here, a few days at El Mirador RV in San Carlos readying the rig for the border crossing. We already lost 2 lovely apples to the search team at the Sinaloa – Sonora state line crossing. We think we’ll cross at Nogales, spending the night before at Magdelina or Santa Ana. Phil and Linda only waited 45 minutes to cross there on a Monday morning. Rob and Daph chose Naco and had an easy crossing. Hmmm .. decisions. Naco doesn’t have a place to turn in the vehicle sticker from the car, so we’d still have to go to Douglas to return the sticker, and that’s tricky. So many decisions.

A few days in Tucson for supplies and such, then up to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and those parks we’ve never seen .. and on up to DDs in Washington sometime in May. Heidi and the girls will come for a week in July. We’ll go camping with DD and Murrey. He loves the ocean but herds us like cattle and sticks close to DD when she’s along.

We hope Sid and Ruth f
rom Melbourne, Australia are well enough to travel and join us in Wisconsin after their 45+ year daughter’s Aug 8 wedding. We will try to visit Phil and Linda on Savary Island. Soon we’ll all return to Mexico and do it again. We’ll go further south next year .. Mazatlan was unseasonably cold this year. We like it here .. love that ocean roaring.

 

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Fall 2007


Heidi and the girls met us at the fairgrounds in Manitowoc where we were camped.  Heidi warned us that Emily was being bashful recently and it took her until the end of a visit to hug the Mohs.  So she had her face snuggled into Mom’s neck when they came from the car .. until I stepped out of the RV and handed her a big baggie of popcorn.  Then I had her .. and it was all over.  She was all smiles and hugs and not a moment more of bashfulness.  She loves popcorn and especially having her OWN big bag.


Jaime came in and looked around.  I asked her if she remembered the RV?  Yes.  Do you think you will sleep in it again this summer?  Yes.    Without Mom??  Yes.   Tonight??? YESSssssssss … Yippeeee


We went over to see Larry’s mom and visit awhile.  Then we all went to Late’s for burgers and on to a Kite Fly in Two Rivers. The weather was wonderful .. warm and windy.  Kites galore and Lake Michigan warm enough for splashing.  Later Heidi went home and we had a great night with our granddaughters.


It was perfect for the new blue bear and red moose pajamas we brought them from Alaska .. and they loved the silly furry bear and moose hats I couldn’t resist for them.  The next day we went to the Kite Fly again .. this time wearing new Alaska t-shirts that came in handy.  A repeat of the weather and the fun.  There were heaps of BIG kites hovering and lots of flags and all.  Fun fun fun.


We had to take them home that night.  Jaime needed a day to recuperate and get ready for her first day of kindergarten.  We went to Tighe’s in Janesville and enjoyed a great day with them in their pool and the sun.  Then a few days in Madison before we returned to Heidi’s for a few days.  Larry bought a new Olympus E-410 camera, we had our fix of Rocky Rococco’s pizza and met Mary Ellen Spoerke, Rita Benish and Ken and Sooz Boldt at the Ale Asylum Brewpub and later enjoyed Chinese at that Wong's Garden near the Barrymore.  Maggie Spoerke took time out from her college activities to join us.


Brian joined UW fans in Las Vegas for a weekend of frolic.  We asked if we could stay with Emily so Heidi could go to work and she was only too willing to save some vacation days.  My nephew Tom Schiesl and family live in Cedarburg and we had them over for dinner Friday night.  We had a nice visit with Tom and Meg and the girls loved playing with Callie and Colin. We went to the Milwaukee Mots Kite Festival Saturday and Sunday at Veteran’s Park on Lake Michigan.  Again .. great weather but not as windy .. so not so many big floaty kites.  Their friend Madison was with us Saturday and Heidi’s co-worker Elizabeth and husband and daughter Grace were there Sunday.  All the girls are good kite flyers.


After that fun, we returned to Madison for Dr. appointments.  Larry developed a pilonidal cyst, diagnosed by friends Mary and Susie in Puerto Vallarta.  It was pretty painful by this time and we anticipated some surgery and recuperation time.  But the Dr. didn’t see it as that bad and prescribed a weeks antibiotic treatment, after which there is no pain and the cyst is shrunken.  It’s still there, so perhaps another time .. hopefully not.


Brian brought the girls to Madison on one of his UW football weekends.  We had fun at Ella’s Deli .. food and riding the carousel, eating and watching planes at the Jet Room restaurant at Madison Aviation, and playing in the new children’s area and carousel at the Madison Zoo.  They love eating at Culvers because a kid’s meal includes an ice cream sundae with any toppings they choose.  They were exhausted by the time we returned them home on Sunday.  We carried on for a Craig Ferguson performance at the Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee.  Craig is the host of the Late Late Show on CBS following David Letterman.  He has a delightful Scottish accent and an impish humor, but at the Pabst he just looked like any poorly dressed comedian jumping around onstage.  He needs the nice suit and the camera close-ups to be the Craig we love.


We drove to Manitowoc that same night so we could take Larry’s Mom to an eye Dr appt the next day.  Then we spent a few quiet days camped at Norman.  We drove around my old home from childhood around Cooperstown and Denmark, had a Kroll’s hamburger in Green Bay, and stocked the freezer with sausages from Konop’s Meats in Stangelsville.  Somehow we missed knowing about them until Mary Ellen Spoerke said she had a Konop’s wiener for lunch one day.  Well .. were we missing out on something great.  Their wieners are just smoky links of heaven .. and they have a zillion interesting brat varieties.  We chose Cajun and jalapeño.  We got a big bag of luscious for $26 and saved most of them for Mexico.


What next?  Back to Madison for Mike Denu’s wedding .. youngest son of Jim and Jo Schulze Denu .. at the Inn On the Park. That’s Schulzie .. from college days.  Then sheepshead with Kim Braatz and the guys at the Union, beers at the Blue Moon and dinner with friends at Lulu’s, a trip to the Madison Farmers Market and the Food for Thought Festival with Sooz Boldt, beers with friends at Capital Brewery, beers at the Cannery in Sun Prairie with Rita Benish and Ken Boldt .. and more.


In October there were 2 Saturday’s when UW football had away games, so we were able to get Heidi and Brian to go away for a week so we could play Grandma and Grandpa at home with the girls.  But first they needed a newly installed laminate floor to be redone, so we got to take Emily away for 2 whole days.  We headed to Manitowoc and planned to park at the fairgrounds again, but water was already shut off for the season.  So we visited with Larry’s Mom briefly and made a Late’s run .. then headed to Two Rivers to a little campground we didn’t know about on the west twin river .. a Passport America savings.


Thursday we headed to Green Bay and met cousins and Aunt Peg at Kroll’s East .. a tradition we started a couple of years back.  Last year cousin Bernadine Kane VandeYacht bought lunch .. and called it her funeral lunch.  At first we gasped .. then agreed what a fun idea.  So this year we bought lunch and called it brother Pat’s funeral lunch .. since there were no public bereavement activities when he died in late August.  It was fun … Aunt Peg, Mary and Lynne Rasmussen, Doris and Amy Halbrook, Bernadine Kane VandeYacht, Terry and Mary Kane and Kathy Kane Konop.  The next day we had another funeral lunch for Pat at Kroll’s West where brother-in-law Donny and friend Mary came early from Eagle River in their motorhome for the Packer-Bear football game.  This time we dined with Aunt Peg and Amy Kane, niece Jody Schiesl Vandeurzen, Terry and Mary Kane, and Bill Kane.  Emily was such a good traveler.


At night we picked up Larry’s Mom and met Kathy Woija at the Pizza Garden in Manitowoc.  When I called her to set it up a few nights earlier, Kathy happened to be on the south beltline in Madison and we were just leaving the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb after dinner with Jo and Jim Denu.  Kathy had some time, so we met at the T.J.Whitney Brewpub on Whitney Way and caught up on the year.


We brought Emily home Friday night so Heidi and Brian could spend time with her before their trip.  The next morning Diane Gerl Sedlacek came from Manitowoc and we visited Joy King in Milwaukee.  Joy is a dear senior friend Diane and I met 25 years ago at Women’s Week at Girl Scout Camp at Madison’s Camp Blackhawk outside Antigo.  Joy and Herald traveled every state and all provinces but Newfoundland.  She is such a delightful person and so happy and thrilled to hear about our adventures.  We get a chance to talk about us .. and we love that.  She had a hip replacement days after we visited her last year and recommends it.  She now lives in a brand new retirement complex near Columbia hospital.  She and Herald had just moved from Sycamore, IL to a wonderful apartment building overlooking Veteran’s Park on Prospect Street 5 years ago just before we retired.  We visited them when I stayed with Heidi and Jaime in the hospital when Heidi needed a skin graft from the burn she got during Jaime’s C-section birth a few weeks earlier.  Herald was very ill and died within 2 months.  I was diagnosed with hepatitis A about 9 days after visiting them and bringing and serving food to her.  I had to call and advise her to get a gamaglobulin shot.  Joy hesitated this time when I said we could go out for lunch, so we got some deli food and stuff from the RV and brought in a picnic that she just loved and enjoyed the leftovers.


That afternoon we sent Heidi and Brian off to casino night at Brady Corp, an honor for employees with 10+ years of service. The next day they flew to Phoenix / Tempe for a week without kids.  They considered going to Toronto but feared it might be cold.  Instead .. Tempe was 100 degrees and the hotel pool was under repair. They don’t think they made a good choice.
After the usual drama from Jaime we settled in for the week.  Larry got the dogs back OK when she opened the gate and they dashed out … she stopped crying and pouting eventually.  It was a busy week .. getting Jaime up and out for the school bus and back home later, cooking, shopping and all.  I took Emily to get her picture taken at Sears and they turned out adorable. The woman taking the pictures had absolutely no bedside manner and would tell her how to pose and to stand in the middle of the rug etc .. and being a 2.5 year child genius, she managed to pull it off.  I thought I might take them both in for a picture together, but never made that.


Cousin Mary Kay Halbrook Hudson lives near Heidi, so we arranged to meet her and 3 year old daughter Helen at the neighborhood park one day.  Cousin Dorothy Kane VanPatten and Van also came with their granddaughter.  We all went over to Heidi’s for some lunch after the girls played.  It was fun.  I hadn’t seen either cousin for lots of years and only ever saw Mary Kay when she and DD were little .. well over 30 years ago.


We had Pom class and Mactober fest at Jaime’s Macarthur School.  Loud awful music but did the girls have fun.  Jaime found a few classmates and they chased each other all around the gym.  Emily soon joined in and had so much fun.  Jaime’s teacher Mrs. Books had her kindergarten daughter Savannah with her.  I introduced Emily to Mrs. Books, she introduced us to Savannah .. then Emily took a reluctant Savannah by the hand, led her back into the gym and got her involved in the frolicking with Jaime and her friends.  It was such a neat thing for her to do.  They were so good we got ice cream later.


The next day we drove to Manitowoc and visited with Larry’s Mom and lunch at Late’s, back home to feed the dogs, then south to the Racine area for a nice dinner and evening with Brian’s sister and family and Brian’s mom and dad.  It was a long fun day and everyone slept in Sunday.  Then it was laundry, clean up because Heidi and Brian were coming home from Phoenix / Tempe AZ.


Brian called us Saturday night at Colleen’s.  They had packed up their bags, ready to fly Sunday, and gone out for the afternoon.  When they returned, their card key didn’t open the door.  A guy had asked at the front desk for a key to their room, some moron gave it to him no questions asked, and he proceeded to take all of their belongings except for the clothes they had out for return travel and their toiletries.  They were devastated and mad as he!! of course.  The Day’s Inn staff were not helpful, sympathetic, sorry .. nothing.  They called the police and spent 3 hours with them.  Days Inn said file an insurance claim.  Today .. 2 months later .. no detective is working on it as a case and Brian cannot make a phone connection with anyone at the hotel or the Days Inn chain.  The main losses were Heidi’s work computer, their digital camera and gifts for the girls. Heidi had a bad cough and went to a Dr. there.  Her prescribed meds were even stolen.  And Brian had his car keys in his backpack, so I brought them their spares.  Now they have to figure out what to do next to get some justice, as Days Inn is not cooperating in their mandate to ‘just file an insurance claim’.


We journeyed back to Madison and had a last meal with Rita Benish in Sun Prairie.  The next day we had the RV oil changed, etc. and bought our last minute victuals .. Woodman’s super sharp cheddar cheese, Johnsonville garlic summer sausage, Bagels Forever bagels, Rural Route 1 popcorn, Delatalia Porta salad topping and dressing.  A last night and meal with the Tighe’s in Janesville .. and we headed west .. with a stop for limburger cheese and braunschweiger sausage at Baumgartners in Monroe


We spent an evening with Ted and Mona Thieman and dog Snerzie in Petersburg, Nebraska.  We met them on South Padre Island last winter and had a great fun New Year’s Eve and more with them.  It was fun to see their hometown, their home in town and their farm outside of town where they keep their 5th wheel parked and have beef cattle grazing in the adjacent field. They took us to their Albion Country Club for a nice dinner and the next morning we had kolaches and coffee cake we brought from the Clarkson Bakery where we’d spent the previous night and Ted recommended we make a stop.  They will spend November and December in a condo on South Padre Island and travel to Haines, Alaska for 3 weeks late January to experience the snow and cold and northern lights.  What fun!!!!


We were hurrying to see the Haggerbaumers in Superior, CO.   Mary Ellen Spoerke, Carol’s sister, was visiting them from Madison and we all needed a little bonding.  Carol, Rick and Masha moved there this summer from the Memphis area.  If you look at last year’s log, you’ll see our visit with them there last October.  They can run but they can’t hide.  The Clampett’s will find them.  We were able to park and level the rig across the street without violating the neighborhood too much.  Carol is a super cook and just kept feeding us and we didn’t really complain.  We provided the sausage and cheese and lots of Trader Joe’s wine and they didn’t complain either.  Larry made his famous ham and egg sandwiches for them and Rick added great hash browns.  Carol and Mary Ellen Loberger are friends since I started 1st grade with Carol in Cooperstown.


We woke Sunday to snow covering the ground.  Brrrrrr … again it seems we started too late.  All we wanted to do was snuggle in and laze around a real house.  We should have met up with Jack at the Gordon Biersch Brewery .. but were too lazy .. and bypassed the best chance we had to meet him.  We met Linda and Howard at the Riviera RV Resort in Texas last year and Howard passed our website on to his sister Cindy Bruner in the Denver area.  She invited us for beers with her and husband Jack when we were in the area.  Unfortunately for us all, we picked the week she and later Jack were flying to New Jersey for Howard’s son’s wedding.  By the time they returned we had ourselves ensconced outside Colorado Springs and neither of us wanted to drive the distance on a weekday evening.  Next time… Jack is a beer connoisseur, says he, and has tales of lots of tasting in England and we want to hear more about a canal boat trip they all did in England using a timeshare exchange .. or some such.


Friend Tracey from Colorado Springs also left town that week .. so we found a nice Passport America campground out in the desert to wait for her return.  I started to get what I thought was sinus / lung stuff from smoke from the California fires .. but after weeks of hacking and snorting and Larry a week behind, we determined it was just some damn bug.  We rested, we enjoyed the warm days, we shopped getting ready for Mexico travel, and Larry designed redesigned reredesigned and finally bought the fittings to install another battery to store the solar panel energy to help us dry camp in more comfort.  The project was a success.


We were noticing that the braking system on the Kia was acting up since we got to Colorado.  It just kept running and pumping all the time, so we had to stop using it.  A guy at Camping World said some systems have a problem in higher altitudes.  Larry got the serial number and such, the guy called Roadmaster, a few more calls and they were sending a new one to the campground with a paid label to return ours.  Now that is excellent customer service.


When Tracey got back we had two luscious meals and pretty good beer with them at the Phantom Canyon Brewery.  The food was so good I wanted to go back and try everything on the menu.  It was great to finally meet Roger and to catch up with Tracey.  We last visited 12 years ago and the first time 19 years ago.  Tracey and I worked together at OSI in Madison before that and she is such a hoot.  We were both pretty excited Mary Kay consultants for a couple years and had much fun at the July seminars in Dallas .. and DD was a success there with us too.


By now it was Halloween.  We still hadn’t decided on Mexico insurance so we didn’t hurry.  We got out the Road Food book and let it determine our course into New Mexico.  We made our way towards Sugars in Embudo for brisket burritos.  The route was most beautiful and it was a good choice.  And the burrito was so good we almost camped nearby so we could come again.  Instead we carried on as planned and stayed the night outside Santa Fe so we could be nearby to San Marcos Café in Cerillos for breakfast.  It was a big rambling place with a feedmill and puppies and turkeys and peacocks peering in the windows at us.  The patrons were very 60’s and nicely aged yuppies.  The food was very nice, great coffee and interesting cinnamon rolls.  Good choice.


We holed up next for a few days at Lakeside RV in Elephant Butte, NM.  A lady at Mountaindale RV in CO Springs said it was another nice Passport America campground.  It was a good park, but no lake view.  Elephant Butte Lake is a reservoir formed behind a dam.   A Ted Turner ranch occupies the entire other side and the village side is all state park.  We moved to a remote state park campground for 5 nights and it was so peaceful and wonderful.  We heard coyotes one night and a roadrunner was spotted.  I finished up the Alaska report from there, rested, and we decided to go with the most expensive comprehensive Mexico insurance we found.  We decided a few hundred $$ wouldn’t seem so important if we didn’t have partial theft and plane tickets out in case of emergency.  Elephant Butte is next to Truth or Consequences, so we took that in too and got great haircuts and some shopping.  T or C, as the locals call it, is a spa town and friend Rita recommended a soak, but it was so bloody hot and lovely that we couldn’t fathom getting the bods into a hot tub at the time.

 

Next we traveled thru Gila National Forest to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  It was a lovely drive and the longest mountain passes we’ve met yet.  We dry camped at Forks Campground 2 nights and visited the dwellings.  It is a lovely 1 mile loop hike to the dwellings.  We got a nice tour from a volunteer woman from South Carolina.  Archeological evidence suggests that many different groups of people have inhabited the area over thousands of years.  The Mogollon peoples built inside the caves between 1270 and 1300 .. determined by testing timbers used in the structures.  But there is evidence that earlier peoples used the caves first.  Weather was great and it was a nice visit.  We drove around, got the girls some treasures at the Trading Post, visited Gila Hot Springs and drove to the lookout we didn’t want to stop at with the RV.  Nina and Richard from Fairbanks were at Forks packing up their Bike Fridays when we returned to the RV.  They said they were behind us on the way in the day before and noticed our Bike Fridays.  We invited them for wine and starters and had an interesting visit.


We spent a few days in Silver City and enjoyed the Rose Valley Ranch RV park.  We enjoyed Mexican food, the college museum with more information on the Mogollons and pottery, shopped, enjoyed Silver City Brewery beer and pizza and toured Pinos Altos.   I started to feel better … Larry was peaking.


Our last days before Mexico we camped in Benson, AZ.  We stayed there earlier this year and liked the little town.  We got good haircuts there, but couldn’t hold out that long this time.  We looked for a Coast to Coast campground, but 5-6 campgrounds in the area left that affiliation this year, since the book was printed.  We are getting very disgruntled with CtoC. So we chose yet another Passport America offering .. Cochise Terrace RV Park.  It was a ways out of town, but is a wonderful park .. nice pool and hot tub … good choice we felt.  We sure got our Passport America membership value already.


We went into Tucson one day for Camping World, Big Lots and Trader Joe’s stops.  After much reading, we decided we would fill our holding tank with Mexico water, add bleach, then put a filter on the kitchen faucet to filter out the chlorine. When the new Brita filter is on the faucet, there remains no clearance to rinse anything.  So we needed a higher one.  It was hotter than all get out, but we did lots of shopping.  We used up all the refrigerator things so we could stock up on more Johnsonville brats and get a ham and fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner sometime.


We ordered a volume control module for the TV that should handle the LOUD commercials followed by the not as loud programming.  Two day shipping didn’t serve us well, so we postponed our Mexico entry until the day after Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day we moved to Patagonia State Park so we would be in spitting distance of Nogales and the border for our assault the next morning.  The park was full of families enjoying the school break.  It still amazes our Wisconsin sensibilities to think of camping at Thanksgiving … instead of deer hunting and freezing.  We drove into Nogales hoping to get pesos and maps of Mexico, but found neither.  We did get more goodies at Big Lots … love their Bloody Mary mix.


The next morning we got up and out early, but after dumping and filling the water tank and stopping for pesos and petrol, we still didn’t cross the border until nearly 11am.  I hit our first tope .. big honking speed bump .. right at the border where we were funneled into a narrow lane and there were signs everywhere so I was looking up and not down.  Serious growling from esposo.  We were going slow, but it did toss a lot of carefully stacked stuff around and send 12 packs of soda sliding and spilled my oh-so-crowded closet.  I knew about them .. you must STOP completely, then ease each set of wheels over the bump gently.   I didn’t miss any more.


There was quite a queue at KM21 where you stop for visas and vehicle permits.  We were chatting with folks around us and the line wasn’t moving.  Some time later a guy found out they ran out of visa forms.  Here .. at immigration .. no visa forms??? No .. no .. say it isn’t so.  Soon a guy came by carrying a big box of forms.  We all cheered and clapped.  It went pretty quickly and easily from there.  They whisked us thru, no worries.  We had lots of copies of all our important documents plus originals and the vehicle permits were easy too.  Best of all, no one stopped us to ask any questions about our vehicles or contents and we were waved right on thru.  Would that have been so if we had brought a nice case of Trader Joe’s wine?


The toll road is OK but oh so narrow.  Semis and buses whizzing past all the time and a big 8-10” drop off to no shoulder. Scary stuff.  Three tolls later we drove around Hermosillo .. a pretty big city, lots of traffic .. we went thru on a Friday rush hour.  Everyone uses the book Mexican Camping by Mike and Terri Church and they give great directions for every turn.
We were headed to Bahia Kino, the first beach on the coast.  It is 65 miles from Hermosillo to Kino and it was close to dusk when we hit the road to Kino.  The road was lovely … wide, shoulders.  But we soon figured out that the best thing to do is to drive way to the right .. in the shoulder lane and a bit in the driving lane .. because everyone passes whether traffic is coming at you or not.  Gringos here say they call it a 3-lane road because everyone acts as if the middle of the road is a passing lane.
Soon the sun was blinding us, then sunset, then dusk, then dark .. but not real black dark.  You read often NEVER drive at night in Mexico.  Banditos, animals, vehicles without lights … We knew .. but carried on carefully so we could make it to Kino.  Phewww … we drove into Kino Bay RV about 7pm … weary and thankful to arrive unscathed.  This is another Passport America campground.  I was able to write a check for payment the next morning.  Imagine .. in Mexico!!  We planned to stay the 2 nights allowed .. although I don’t think they realized there is a limit here .. and look around and pick the best park for a longer stay.


We paid the next morning and on the way back to the RV we lingered at a most attractive permanent site we’d admired the night before.  Ivette from Reno came out and took over.  We toured her and Bob’s lovely winter home, she told us all about the park, the people, the water and the town, then we followed her to Club Deportivo for a tour.  The Club is THE social element of the town.  The winter tourists and year round locals are members and it offers golf, club dinners and breakfasts, dances, parties, happy hours, book club, library, etc as well as a First Response program for boaters and medical emergencies for the area.  It looks like a fun place and the members are very proud of it.  We came out with tickets to a steak fry that evening.


We biked and drove around checking out other RV parks.  The one that appealed to us … that had camping right on the beach .. has been bulldozed and fenced.  A new one on the beach looks like all permanent spots, each with a big fancy roof. Another facing the beach looked like pretty close quarters.  Islandia in Old Kino looked full and not quite right.  We best liked a tired little park next to Sta Gemma hotel.  Bruce from BC had just arrived in his truck camper and we chatted.  Larry had his meter along to check the electric.  The sewer fittings looked very suspect.  It is $15 a night.  The beach is right there .. there’s a Tacos Bar across the street … the rig is almost too long for the spots … but we like it.  Mañana we’ll move here.


The steak fry was much better than we expected.  How they grill 140 steaks all at once and they turn out good is a credit to them.  Each meal has sponsors who contribute $150-200 for the meal.  They might be involved in the preparation and serving or they might not, as they choose.  Member volunteers do all the buying, cooking and serving.  They hire a few locals to clean up.  The club has a local Mexican man running the place.  Moneys from ticket sales go toward running the club and to the many community projects the club supports, especially holiday gifts and parties for local school children.  It was a fun and interesting evening.  Myron is a good friend of Ivette and Bob’s and was at our table.  He is an 86 year old farmer from Iowa who drives down here every year with his motorhome and boat and goes fishing as often as he can.  Ivette says he has tales of his days in Normany in WWII.


The next morning we moved to Posada Sta Gemma RV Park.  Ivette and Bob were heading home to Reno for Christmas and we were sure hoping they’d be gone early so we could slip out.  But they were slower than we were, so we had to acknowledge our departure.  Bob warned us to ‘watch our stuff’ over here.


We invited Bruce and a new couple Cynthia and Richard from Oregon to Thanksgiving dinner that evening.  We cooked up the ham, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and rolls and had us a feast.  Bruce had been driving non-stop for a week and Cynthia and Richard had 2 Mexican Thanksgiving dinners already … but the ham hit the spot for all of us.  Cynthia made a wonderful huge green salad which fit in perfectly.  Only we wished we had that case of Trader Joe’s wine to fill out the meal.  Tecate beer did just fine.


We had two restful weeks there by the bay.  Most days dolphins would pass by grazing their way up and down the coast. Pelicans were plentiful and we put up our hummingbird feeder for the first time and had a few takers each day.
Vicki and Gerry Jacobs stopped by when they noticed our WA plates.  They are from Oregon and have been full timing 9 years with interludes of backpacking trips to places like Laos, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina and more.  Next year they’ll backpack South Africa and eastern Europe countries.  Their first adventure after retirement was to ship their Westfalia van to Germany and drive and camp Europe and Turkey for over a year.  What tales and information they have!!  Of course we invited them for beers.  And a guy came by selling tamales .. so I got a dozen and expanded the visit into happy hour.  We got the tamales twice, chili rellanos once and a kilo of big blue shrimp for $11.  What a great country!


Phil and Linda with pups Sage and Teddy moved in.  They retired from college teaching in Alberta to a home on Savary Island on the coast in British Columbia.  They must take a watertaxi to / from the mainland for groceries and appointments and all and keep a truck on the mainland to get to them.  They set up shrimp and crab pots and enjoy the fruits of the sea in the summer.  They use solar power and heat with wood and propane.  We had lots of fun with them, happy hour sharings and all .. and went to dinner with them and Vicki and Gerry one night.  There are a handful of restaurants in Neuvo Kino and each has a special one or more evenings a week.  We enjoyed a pork chop dinner with margarita for $6 at the Tacos Bar across the street, a Mexican plate with enchilada, tamale, chili rellanos and fixings and margarita at Jorge’s for $7, and a fried shrimp, oyster, scallop dinner for $7.50 at La Palapa another night.


Ivette and Bob told us the water there was not harmful but very salty.  They use it as is for all but drinking.  So our filter idea wouldn’t work here, as it would still be salty we thought.  So we stored our good AZ water in every container we could muster and lived off that for awhile, then went to the store and bought a 5 gallon bottle.


We were parked next to a house.  Dale came for a chat one day.  He is a Dr. from Colorado Springs and very friendly.  We offered him the use of our WiFI and he was appreciative.  He and Liz had us in for Happy Hour and we got to see their lovely winter home and learn more about the area and the gringo Winter Mexicans.


We are going to miss Kino Bay.  It is quiet and there is little to do or buy .. but our spot right above the sand beach and the sea views will be hard to find further south.  This area and our next destination of San Carlos are rare as they have both mountains and desert right by the sea.  It is a temptation to think about buying one of the few remaining empty spots along the sea and build an RV pad or a little stucco home … but we still have so much to see and do that we do just think about it.


Next we drive to Guaymas / San Carlos, spend a few days at Totonaka RV park before we ‘go on vacation’ for our timeshare week at Sea of Cortez Premiere Vacation Club in San Carlos.  We’ll meet up with Vicki and Gerry and Phil and Linda again for a quick visit before Phil and Linda continue south.


We must get to Mazatlan and figure out where the RV will be when we are at Pueblo Bonito with Mary and Carl Tighe and Ruth Kahl .. and at Villa Mazatlan at El Cid Resort with DD, Heidi, Jaime, Emily and friend Natanya.  We rented the Villa from Jole Torres, sent him the signed contract, deposited $2k in a Wells Fargo account .. and haven’t heard from him since.  His last promise was to email and mail the signed contract.  Stay tuned to see if we enjoy the villa .. or if we are scammed and must go to the Tourist Police.
 

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Summer 2007

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We had one last breakfast with Deirdre and Murrey at our favorite Testy Chef restaurant, packed the last bits and took off a few days before Memorial Day weekend.  We stopped for the 3rd and final part for our refrigerator, which should make it work on GAS setting at any temperature … and not tick tick tick tick and start or quit.  Next stop Camping World for a protector bag for the new tow bar on the back of the RV.  Stopped for two nights at one of our K/M Resorts to drink up our excess alcohol before crossing into Canada, as 2 liters is the limit .. one per person.  We biked around Blaine and enjoyed the pool.

We got advice from other campers on where to cross into Canada.  We hoped to avoid a search.  We crossed at Lyndon and it was quick and painless.  We scooted around Vancouver and took Hy 99 to
Whistler.  What a beautiful drive and how lovely Whistler is.  Vancouver is preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so lots of work on Hy 99 to Whistler.  It was nice to go slow and absorb the beauty.  Whistler is a lovely little town, like an Alp village .. all new and brick.  A few skiers were still riding up the tram and mountain bikers as well.  We might have stayed another day to bike around, but the rain the next morning dampened our enthusiasm.  We enjoyed beers at a brewpub and dinner and music at an Irish Pub.

We continued on to Prince George and to
Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.  For several days we’d see many of the same people each night and at stops during the day.  On thru Fort Nelson to Watson Lake and into the Yukon.  We saw about 10 black bears, a cinnamon bear or two and a variety of sheep and bison along the way.  The scenery was always good, except perhaps before Dawson Creek.  Fun stops were Whistler, Fraser Cove Campground and Dawson Creek.  Fun Yukon stops included Muncho Lake, Liard River Hot Springs, rhubarb pie at Dawson’s Peak, the George Johnson Museum, and dinner, free camping and free boat ride at Mukluk Annie’s Salmon Bake. There are plenty of services all along the way .. fuel, restaurants, groceries. The Milepost book starts at Dawson Creek and describes every mile of the way into and around Alaska. Very helpful. We also used Mike and Terri Church’s book Traveler’s Guide to Alaska Camping.

By June 4 we were in
Whitehorse and had a lovely dinner with Janice and Pierre Germaine and son Cole at their home in the country. We met Janice and Pierre in Australia in 2003 but only knew their first names and that they live in Whitehorse. We had to stalk them down and found them thru the Whitehorse Tourism Department, leading us to meet Jeanette Bringsli and Oliver from the department. We enjoyed a lot of wings and pitchers of Chilkoot Lager from the Yukon Brewing Company with Oliver and his friends on the deck of the High Country Inn, then saw a wonderful local performance of Anne of Green Gables with Jeanette and her daughter.  It made Whitehorse the most memorable time of our Canadian adventure.

We next considered our route, and, on Janice’s recommendation, saved the Top of the World Highway route for the return trip.  We decided to go next to Haines, as we wouldn’t be crossing Haines Junction again.  Oliver was excited about the
Kluane Bluegrass Festival coming up in Haines Junction over the weekend.  We considered it, but then were too cheap to pay a whole bunch of $$$, so we headed to Haines.  It is 150 miles from Haines Junction to Haines, with no services.  The road is beautiful, wide, lots of braided rivers and mountains .. but no food, fuel, nothing but a couple of primitive camp spots.  We soon found ourselves in the snowcapped peaks we just saw from back there.  We pulled into Haines on fumes, we thought, but only needed 30 gallons of fuel, so learned something about our gas tank that day.

Thanks to Mike and Terri’s book, we chose to park at
Oceanside RV, right on the waters of Lynn Canal.  Joyce the owner said they sometimes see humpback whales right out there … but not on our watch.  That was Thursday.  Saturday when we got in the car to tour, the brakes were mushy.  We drove carefully and visited two repair shops Monday.  Either could check it out on Thursday.  We wound up spending two weeks at Oceanside while brake replacement parts came from Juneau and Anchorage and were installed.

to We enjoyed growlers of beer from the
Haines Brewing Company, which is located inside the set of the original White Fang movie.  We drove and biked to Chilkoot State Park hoping to see bears and drove to Chilkat State Park to view Rainbow and Davidson Glaciers.  We flew over Glacier Bay with Drake in a small intimate plane and saw an energetic performance by The Wilders from Kansas City on their way to Anchorage from that bluegrass festival we passed up.  We loved every meal at the Chilkat Bakery, especially the special evening Thai meals.  We enjoyed a burger fry at the Legion and Father’s Day Brunch at the Elks Club.  We hiked the Battery Point Trail and enjoyed the many bald eagles around Haines and at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.   The American Bald Eagle Museum is a fun visit and is where we learned about cinnamon black bears and realized that’s what we’d seen along the road, not grizzlies as we had thought.  There are 3000 eagles in the Chilkoot Valley between October and January, they say, with a peak in mid-November.  Campground owners Joyce and Kerri had 2 crab leg pot lucks and cooked us up fresh-from-the-ocean crab.  Yummm … Paula and Rick Garrett from Minnesota were parked next to us most of the two weeks and we followed each other’s adventures in Alaska.  We had a really fun night with a German couple, Heidi and Sigfried somebody from British Columbia, who wanted us to visit them on our trip down the Cassiar Highway, then we never heard from them again.  Almost every night from 8:30 until 10pm up to 5 big cruise ships sailed across the canal from us, going from Skagway toward Juneau.  It was magic.

When we picked up the car $600 later, the key immediately got stuck in the ignition and stayed there until a nice mechanic in Homer extricated it 2 weeks later.  In the meantime we had to be very careful.  Once I left the lights on because the car always dinged from the key in the ignition and I didn’t check.  A lady in a gift store across the street was watching for us and gave Larry the keys to her SUV so we could jump the KIA.  Then we didn’t run it long enough after the jump and even though we drove it to the harbor the next morning, it was dead again in the evening when we returned from a glacier cruise.  This problem turned out to be the key.  The keys given us when we bought the car were duplicates made on the wrong key base.  A nice locksmith in Anchorage fixed that for us.  There was a good key tucked in with the spare tire that he could duplicate.

After Haines, we saw no sheep at
Sheep Mountain, enjoyed a night on beautiful Kluane Lake, were disappointed by the dearth of good souvenirs at Beaver, Yukon, and crossed back into Alaska.  Everyone driving passes through Tok both in and out.  We stopped for lunch at a big restaurant and sat next to a couple from Australia traveling in a big 5th Wheeler they bought on Ebay from a Michigan dealer, pulled by a truck they bought on the internet from Georgia.  They plan to ship both home after their tour.  What an adventure.  Even signing up for a cell phone required creativity, as they said Verizon tracks by social security number.  Halfway across the country they had to organize car insurance, as it comes with vehicle registration in Australia and they never thought it would be otherwise here.  Luckily someone called to ask about it.

We headed to
Valdez, as we had a great glacier tour from there in 1999.  We had an adventure that night at our campground at Kenny Lake.  Larry turned the circuit breaker off in the RV as he often does, then plugged into the electric box.  I stepped into the RV just then and heard arcing and sparking and smelled burning.  He pulled it back out immediately.  Turned out this was a new box and was wired wrong.  Luckily the surge protector saved us.  Larry warned another couple in a rental RV and they were grateful for it.  It took some convincing and some meter readings to convince management, but then they apologized, returned our camping fee, and I weaseled breakfast out of them too.  They will pay for any repairs we may need to the surge protector.

The trip to Valdez is beautiful. We stopped at
Worthington Glacier and we ran into the Bob Tolly family from the Madison area.  I worked with Bob at SPC years ago and hadn’t seen him since the Madison office closed in 1994.  Isn’t that amazing? They were on a quick one week Alaska tour.  Soon we were driving alongside the oil pipeline.  Thomson Pass is beautiful.

On to Valdez and a great 9 hour boat tour with
Stan Stephens Cruises to see the Mears and Colombia glaciers.  We saw great glacier calving, several humpback and orca whales, lots of seals, puffins, sea lions, sea otters and a huge occupied grass bald eagle’s nest.  A store in Valdez shows continuous videos of the building of the oil pipeline and another of the 1964 earthquake.  Both are wonderful.  Marcie and John who Larry warned about the electricity at Kenney Lake parked next to us along the shore.  Marcie forgot they were leaving in a few days and bought too many groceries.  We benefited from her mistake and took lots of milk, cereal, nuts, hot chocolate mix, lettuce, and best of all .. cans of smoked oysters.  Thanks Marcie. We hope to visit them in Santa Fe sometime.

On toward Anchorage along the Glenn Highway, with good views of the
Matanuska Glacier.  Anchorage has way too few RV parks.  We were lucky to get into a better one, Golden Nugget.  We met Wisconsin friend Lynne Snifka at the Snow Goose Restaurant above the Sleeping Lady Brewpub and caught up on events since we last saw her in 1999.  Later we checked out some souvenir shops and I got the girls little jammies … one blue with black bears and one red with moose.  Nice long sleeved tops and bottoms that will keep them warm all winter.  The Alaska Scottish Highland Games in Eagle River made us nostalgic for our days in Scotland.

After a few days we headed to the Kenai Peninsula.  We thought heading south on a Sunday would be good, but there was lots of traffic in both directions.  We free camped on Peterson Lake to and from Homer and saw a small black bear one night. We reserved a spot in a pricey campground on the
Homer Spit because we thought July 4 week would be a busy one.  Turned out there was lots of space in the $15 dry camping city campgrounds.  We enjoyed our $70 a night spot right on the water, in walking distance of spit fishing and services, like the Salty Dawg Saloon, and in biking and driving distance of town with museums and shopping.  Homer calls itself the halibut fishing capital of the world.  Homer Brewery calls it a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.

The newspapers advertised several activities for July 4th.  We chose to bike to a pig roast at the Down East Saloon, a rugged establishment south of town where we imbibed in 1999 when we biked up a very steep hill nearby to
Brigitte’s Bavarian Bed and Breakfast.  Imagine our surprise when a sign on the door announced the roast as a pot luck.  We hung out with beers feeling stung, watching people eat for awhile.  Then Larry asked and the barmaid said .. just help yourself.  It was a very local event and locals knew to bring food.  So we enjoyed, and the price?  Free.  Yep … and we declined the horshoe competition following dinner.  Later we returned to ‘downtown’ for the parade.  No bands, but lots of floats, enthusiasm, candy, flags and a few horses.

We enjoyed visits to the
Pratt Museum that we visited in 1999.  They had a birdcam then where you could watch nesting birds on a nearby island.  Now they have a bearcam as well.  With National Geographic, they have two cameras at the McNeil River State Brown Bear Sanctuary mid-July til September when the bears are fishing for chum salmon.  When the museum is open there is often a ranger operating the camera controls and zooming in on bear activity.  Off hours the cameras catch a wide zoomed view.  They capture some footage and you can view it year-round at the site.

Fun things we learned in Alaska concerned animal names.  Brown bears live in the interior and feed mostly on plants. Grizzlies are bigger brown bears that feed on salmon near the coast.  Kodiaks are even bigger brown bears found on Kodiak Island. Reindeer are farmed / domesticated caribou.  Who knew?

Thanks to recommendations on
Trip Advisor, we had a wonderful dinner at Café Cups .. and enjoyed a few growlers from the Homer Brewery, once with brats at their little brat stand.  A nice guy gave us 3 packages of frozen halibut one day, and acted like we did HIM a favor.  Larry marinated them in olive oil, garlic and onions, grilled them and we had 3 scrumptious meals with them.  We drove up to Brigitte’s one evening and were amazed at the steep distance we biked in 1999.  Brigitte saw us stop and we had a chat with her and Willie.  She didn’t remember us, but seemed happy that we took time to check them out again.

We dry camped in a waterfront city campground in
Seward and took a cruise.  In 1999, the harbor was full of cute little sea otters floating around on their backs with their cute little hands and feet sticking out.  We also saw our best whales on the Kenai Fiords National Parks cruise.  Now we saw one otter, one seal, no whales, and almost didn’t get to see the Aialik Glacier as the seas were rough.  A trip to the Alaska SeaLife Center shows a glimpse of the vast research being done to figure out why sealife distribution is changing.  The simple answer may be movement in the food supply.  The Center is a great place to see the sealife and get a close view of the elusive puffins that dart about so quickly that they’re hard to see and photograph from the boat cruise.

We drove to
Exit Glacier, but were too lazy to hike it again.  Instead we drove toward Whittier and took the Portage Glacier boat tour.  Our tour guide was Cassie Bauer from Sheboygan.  She doesn’t know our Kampman friends from Sheboygan.  We didn’t pay to drive the new tunnel to Whittier, as the town was not much to visit in 1999 when we trained there from Anchorage to take the car ferry to Valdez, and current descriptions don’t indicate much improvement.

After a brief stop in Anchorage to get safe working keys for the Kia on the correct key base, we carried on to
Talkeetna.  Were we surprised to find it was the weekend for the Moose Dropping Festival .. and the RV Park was full.  Luckily they were allowing free camping at the middle school nearby, convenient to the pancake breakfasts and Moose Drop Dropping raffle at the VFW and to downtown for the parade, music, booths and food.  The event included an auction of moose decorated by local artists for the Moose on Parade, much like the cow or other animal decorating cities sponsor.  For the VFW raffle, shellacked and numbered moose poop is hauled up in the air in a net and then dropped on a huge bullseye covering the VFW parking lot. Raffle numbers correspond to numbers on moose poop.  Winners include the closest and farthest from the bullseye.

Some tourist in Valdez asked if we had the
Great Alaskan TourSaver 2 for 1 coupon book?  You can get them at Safeway Food stores for $99 and they contain a variety of coupons for tourist services all over Alaska.  We decided we didn’t need one, but when we started looking at prices for flights to /over Denali, we decided it was time to get one.  We hoped to catch a flight in Talkeetna like we did in 1999 that lands on a glacier /snow field with a base camp and mountain climbers.  We found that without a reservation, it would take up to a week to book the flight and redeem our coupon.  The one we wanted was only good on the 6pm flights and bad weather kept reservations backed up for days.  After one day of the Moose Dropping Festival, with 2 pancake breakfasts under our widening belt, we packed up and headed toward Denali.

We wanted to dry camp yet needed cell coverage so we could arrange our next rendezvous with Lynne Snifka.  There were several good possibilities along the way at
Denali State Park sites where we might glimpse Denali if weather cleared, but no cell coverage.  The sky was cloudy and threatening and you could only imagine where Denali would pop out.  We had such great views of the mountain in 1999 and sure hoped we’d be as lucky again.  Only 20% of visitors ever glimpse the great one, mostly because they flit in and out and don’t have the luxury of waiting out the weather.  Eventually we chose a nice big roadside pullout without ‘No Camping’ signs, faced the rig toward Denali and settled in.  Around 11pm the mountain ‘came out’.  It is a magnificent sight with the two peaks rising so majestically.  Larry was in heaven and barely slept all night.  With our charged battery and inverter, he could shoot all kinds of pictures, then come back to the waiting computer and delete and save.  The next morning every bus, RV and car that went by stopped to marvel at the view.

We had a day before our bus tour into
Denali National Park, so we drove north, past Healy, and found another pullout that looked promising for the satellite dish to find the satellite.  We’d been in the shadow of mountains and trees for days now and were getting internet withdrawal.  We decided to stay if there was cell coverage, else check internet and look elsewhere.  I checked the phone when we stopped and it indicated No Service.  Within minutes however, it rang and friend Betty Schleifer from Minneapolis area called.  We were so happy to hear from her and even more to find out we did have cell coverage.  It was amazing, we were in such wilderness!!  We stayed there again a few days later and were witness to participants of the 2007 Sadler’s Ultra Challenge Handcycle & Wheelchair Race, which has 30 disabled international athletes head to Alaska to race hand powered cycles for 7 days over 267 miles on roads connecting Fairbanks to Anchorage.  Each rider went by soundlessly, followed by a car or truck protecting the driver and supporters shouting encouragement.  We saw them again the next morning from our bus in Denali Park.  What courage and determination!

We reserved seats on a 12 hour green shuttle bus ride to Kantishna and back.  You bring your own food and water for the day. Luckily the bus was empty enough that we didn’t all have to share seats.  We could spread out some which made it easier to jump up when someone spotted wildlife.  It sounds like a long day, but passed very quickly and pleasantly.  There are stops every little while for potty stops and a lunch stop and a souvenir shop.  Although the brochures offer two interpretive bus tour options: the Tundra Wilderness Tour and the Denali Natural History Tour, both offering a formally narrated tour experience by a certified interpretive driver and lunch, our green shuttle bus driver was an excellent wildlife spotter and identified everything he spotted.  The fancy tourists ride on old school buses just like we did but paid many more $$$.  We learned a lot that day and from my scribblings I can decipher that Denali National Park covers 6 million acres and is larger than Israel.  It is home to 39 species of mammal and 168 bird varieties.  From a distance, we saw a wolf, 4 grizzlies, dall sheep, ptarmigan, caribou, red fox, a golden eagle, and lots of duck varieties.  No moose, but we saw a cow and calf in a pond just outside the park twice, but the road was too busy to stop for photos.

When we returned to the RV, Lynne and puppy Bailey were waiting for us.  We got Subway subs, poured drinks and caught up again.  Bailey is a fun funny Jack Russell terrier who needed a home and Lynne couldn’t resist.  He went crazy when I moved my big exercise ball to clear out Lynne’s bed.  We let him jump at it and he looked just like a seal bouncing it around on his nose.  The next morning Lynne and Bailey headed for Anchorage and we visited the sled dogs in Denali.  One female had 8 new pups, yet she jumped and howled like the rest when they were choosing a team to demonstrate a sled race.

We were able to use one of our tourist 2 for 1 coupons to book a flight over Denali from Healy airport, 9 miles north of Denali Park.  We woke the next morning to pouring rain and gray gloomy weather.  We packed up the rig anyway and headed to Healy.  After breakfast at
Rose’s Café, we called the tour company, but the line was busy so we headed out there.  The staff was able to show us on the computer that the sky was clear looking at the mountain from Talkeetna and reports were good, so they were taking us up.  This plane held 10 people and was not pressurized.  It would not land on the mountain but would fly us over it … using oxygen masks.  Turns out the snow was soft by this late in July and the climbers were off the mountain. We’d landed the perfect flight for this time of year.  We flew thru rain and gray for 30 minutes, then emerged near the mountain and flew around it many times so everyone on both sides of the plane could get all the pictures they’d want, then we flew between the peaks.  It was quite exhilarating and beautiful.

Following the flight we toured the
Usibelli Coal Mine outside Healy and got a great free tour from a local young college student summer intern whose dad and cousins and most of Healy work in the mine.  She was a great spokesperson for the mine and the admirable restoration process she was a part of.  It is not a go down under the earth and dig out the coal mine .. it is a move the layers away, get the coal, repeat, put the moved dirt back and put in plantings so you could never tell there was a mine.  We each got a goody bag and brought them back to Madison for fellow sheepshead TDS retiree friend Dave Healy.

Next we spent a week in
Fairbanks parked at Pioneer Park and later at River Edge RV Park.  We preferred the big concrete parking lot of touristy Pioneer Park because we could find the satellite there.  The quiet woody riverside park didn’t provide this and their park WiFi rarely worked. It is funny that now we don’t want trees and hills and mountains clouding our view to the south. We bypass lots of parks we’d have loved just last year.


We took a 17-hour bus trip to the
Arctic Circle and back, along the Dalton Highway made famous by the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.  Again it sounds like a bad idea .. but again the bus was empty enough to not have to share seats and the bus stopped every hour or two and the day passed quickly.  Five of the riders were from Scotland and it sounded just like we had Fiona Richie aboard.  We stopped at the Arctic Circle Trading Post in Joy, Alaska up and back, ordered lunch and dinner from the Yukon River Camp just across the mighty Yukon River, got to experience up close the amazing arctic tundra and feel the veins of ice just beneath the surface, and cross the Arctic Circle in ceremonious fashion to receive an official Arctic Circle Adventure Certificate (misspelled of course).  Marcie and John from Santa Fe left their rented motorhome in Fairbanks, rented a car and drove the Dalton all day to witness the midnight sun.  They wax eloquently on how wonderful it is and how happy they are they made the trip requested by their son John. Next time …


Another day we used our tourist coupon to ride a paddlewheel boat along the Tanana and Chena rivers. We passed
Susan Butcher’s dog sled headquarters and her husband spoke to us and demonstrated a sled run. Later he autographed Susan’s book Granite at the Athabascan Village we stopped at up river.  Along the way we also saw a log home being built for Madison attorney Jack McManus, to replace the one that burned 7 weeks previously.  A big sign proclaims “American (Wisconsin) by birth: Alaskan by choice” or some such drivel.


Other adventures included a tour of the
University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North, including the garden where they grow those enormous cabbages and flowers, dinner at the Silver Gulch Brewery, a salmon bake and lively “Golden Heart Revue” at the Palace Theater in Pioneer Park highlighting the gold rush in Fairbanks, a visit to the North Pole to order letters from Santa for Jaime and Emily (shhhhhh ..), dinner of excellent prime rib with Lynne at the Turtle Club (Are YOU a Turtle???) followed by drinks at the Howling Dog Saloon, where the stage is covered with the very holy red carpet graced by Pope John Paul II and President Reagan during their historic meeting in Fairbanks in 1984. Lynne wanted us to stay for a nachos / margarita birthday fete a friend was hosting for her .. but we declined and headed ‘out’.


We saw our best moose between Fairbanks and Tok and the road was quiet enough to pull over for great pictures. We fueled up in Tok and continued on to the Taylor Highway looking for a quiet pulloff to dry camp.  Many miles in, we came upon a sign advising us Prepare To Stop.  A ways on our lane was blocked by a state patrol car with flashing lights.  We couldn’t see beyond the curve ahead and no person was in sight.  What should I do, I asked Larry?  Pull around the car, says he.  When I did, we were in view of a big tanker trunk rolled on its side into a hill and a tow truck hooked to it, ready to pull it upright.  A big swarthy state patrolman swaggers towards the RV for minutes, reaches us, and inquires ‘Is there any reason I shouldn’t give you a citation Mam?”  Uhmmm … I don’t know … what for?  Didn’t you see that patrol car back there?  Yes.  Didn’t you know it meant to stop behind it?  Nooooo.  Glare glare.  We could have unhooked and turned around.  Instead the tow truckers dropped the lines and they let traffic from both sides pass.  The other side had a patrolman stopping traffic.  Geez …


The next morning we toured the tiny town of
Chicken, AK before crossing back into the Yukon.  I’d been asking my brother-in-law’s Donny’s friend Mary how their ‘I Got Laid in Chicken’ tshirts were holding up as, as we wouldn’t want to repeat any shoddy buying mistakes they made on their Alaska trip in 2005.  She finally replied that they wear them only when they have sex .. so they’re still brand new.  Tee hee naughty.  We thought about dumping at the RV park and taking on fresh water, but as they charged $15 for the dump and $10 for water, we thought better about it.  We topped up the tank with the last cheap AK gas at $3.60 a gallon, crossed the border and drove the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City.  We thought top of the world referred to how far north it is, but is is also high in altitude and a beautiful gravel drive.  You cross the Yukon River back into the Yukon into Dawson City on a small free car ferry.


We chose a big dry camping campground that only charged $10 per night with water and dump.  We were all alone there the entire stay.  We biked into town one day and visited the Information center.  We used one of our tourist 2 for 1 coupons to visit the
Jack London cabin, had a few beers at a battered watering hole Oliver told us about, then biked back home to dry off from the rain and mud.  Later we drove back to Diamond Gerties with another tourist 2 for 1 coupon, had dinner and enjoyed Gertie’s Girls Can-Can show.


Another day we drove along the Dempster Highway for 100 miles, as Janice and Pierre recommended that we visit the
Tombstone Mountains.  Later on, the fields would be ablaze with fireweed, but not yet at this time.  It was a glorious drive and we kept going and going as we just didn’t want to turn back.  Another time we must drive all the way to Inuvik.  We returned to Dawson City and found Antoinette’s, a new restaurant recommended to us by our seatmates on the Valdez boat cruise.  It is a very small house converted to restaurant and though it took a long time, we enjoyed the wine, great food and ambiance.  When we returned to the car, the rear driver’s tire was flat, so Larry lost most of the glow.


The next morning Larry got the tire fixed and we headed back toward Whitehorse.  Along a gravel patch, I pulled to the right a bit when a big bus and rig approached.  It felt draggy.  Hmmm .. deeper gravel?  The draggy feeling continued, so we pulled over to discover that the front car wheel was riding on the rim … all the rubber was gone.  Larry changed it and we were able to continue.  It took some time to find that size rim and 2 new tires in Whitehorse.  Janice, Pierre and Cole were out of town, but Jeannette and Oliver were free to join us for lunch at
Klondike Ribs.


We’d been writing to Rory and Jan in Juneau, fellow Bike Friday riders we met on the south island of New Zealand in 2003. We planned to take a day trip to Juneau from Skagway, have lunch with them, visit the Mendenhall Glacier and return to Skagway.  When we were all cleared for takeoff, I called the boat tour people only to find they had one seat left the next day, Tuesday, and not 2 seats until Friday.  OK .. never mind .. wrote to threaten Rory and Jan for ‘the next time’.


So we headed back south, dinner at Mukluk Annie’s again, overnight near Watson Lake again, then headed toward the much acclaimed
Cassiar Highway.  Jeff Cousins who we met in Haines wrote that the road is awful and he would have turned around many times.  It started out not so bad.  A stop at Jade City saw a motorhome turn in with a rear wheel at 45 degrees out of kilter.  We drove and drove and found the bad stuff, gravel sprayed with a sealant I’d have to look up that makes it slippery when wet.  The road was well manicured and all, just that much of the time it was gravel, no markings, and a steep well manicured edge that hurled down a slope to the land below.  If you ever left the road, it would be horrific.  Once I pulled over a bit when we met a big rig and we both felt the slide and lurch that could have taken us over the edge. Scary.

 Uncharacteristically, we drove late into the night and dark hoping for a good spot for the satellite.  Between two ‘slippery wood bridges’, we passed a big A motorhome with a broken front axel.  We stopped to see what help we could be, but they had a tow truck on the way.  There is no cell coverage for us in Canada, little if you have the correct Canada service, maybe satellite phones would work.  It’s not a good place to break down.

 

We did find a good spot and satellite coverage and continued on to Stewart, BC and Hyder AK the next day, passing beautiful blue Bear Glacier on the way in. A quick stop in Stewart, then decided on the Run-A-Muck Campground in Hyder so we would pass customs just once.  We knew we wouldn’t get satellite coverage in either town, but Run-A-Muck offered WiFI .. sometimes.


Hyder is a cute little town with a few shops, a good pizza joint, and a few bars. Enough for us!!  We are here to see grizzlies. Down the road a piece is
Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site in the Tongrass National Forest.  You pay a fee to stand on a boardwalk between 6am and 10pm mid-July into September and hope to see a grizzly or three.  It’s up to a forest ranger with a canister of bear spray to keep you safe if a grizzly decides to chase a human instead of a salmon.  We visited 3 times with our 3 day pass and saw a good many bears .. or the same few several times.  We saw a mom with 3 cubs briefly one evening when it was too dark to get pictures.  We slept in that morning instead of going to the bears and missed the mom teaching the cubs to catch salmon.  The boy caught one, it flopped back in, he got it again, repeatedly until he figured out how to hold on.  Then Mom and the other 2 cubs took off up the river.  Sonny stood perplexed knowing he must follow yet unwilling to leave his new catch behind.  He started after them, turned back, repeatedly until he just had to leave the salmon behind.  A male grizzly came along too soon and scared Mom and kids into the hills for safety when we were there.  We saw two young grizzlies courting and a comic ranger thought they might have to charge us X-rated entry rates if it continued. 

 

We drove the windy narrow bumpy road up to Salmon Glacier for a quick view as well, because it was there. You looked down on the glacier, different from the many others we saw in Alaska. This one reminded us most of our glacier hike at Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, as we could look down on the deep blue crevices.  That is our favorite day of this 5 year adventure so far.  Now that I look at the pictures I don’t see it at all .. but it felt that way there.


After that we just drove, heading ‘out’.  We hoped to stop for a soak in
Jasper hot springs, but the weather was rainy and awful and traffic was just too heavy. We got our last satellite coverage outside Jasper, amazingly found it between two mountain peaks. After that it was no more, all through Saskatchewan and into North Dakota. I even called MotoSat to check if the satellite fell out of the sky .. but we were just out of range.


We rested a few days at
Army Corps of Engineers sites in North Dakota, then visited with friends Joel and Betty Flentje Schleifer in Richfield, MN, near Minneapolis.  We left the rig down the road at Town and Country RV in Savage, MN and slept in Betty’s guest bedroom.  We NEVER do that .. but there wasn’t much room for the Clampett’s Motorhome at Betty’s.  We had a great visit, met son David and saw his new condo, got the details of son Jon’s impending nuptials, got as close as we could to the I-35W bridge collapse, ate at the Cheesecake Factory and finished the stay with yummy French pastries at Patrick’s French Bakery and Café. Yummmm ..


Next, a quick visit with brother-in-law Donny and friend Mary in Eagle River, WI, then another with Norman and Jo Bertler Teaford in Cecil.


We are up to Labor Day weekend and it is time to stop here.  We are back in Wisconsin, ready to grandparent and spoil the two darling little granddaughters and visit friends and doctors.  Will Jaime stay in the RV with us without Mom? (Teaser … yes yes yes .. it’s so fun .. and we get to try out the new bear and moose jammies very soon …)


We loved the Alaska trip and could do it again.  There are lots of services and groceries all along the way.  Fuel prices ranged from $.779 to $1.499 a liter in Canada and from $2.979 to $3.889 a gallon in Alaska.  We spent about $3500 on gas.
 

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Spring 2007


We were headed to Puerto Vallarta. We hoped to park in the Houston airport parking and spend the night in the RV … and it worked!! We got up early, showered, cleaned out the last bits from the fridge, called the shuttle and were whisked off to our terminal. It was great!!

Puerto Vallarta is much more inviting than Progresso, the Mexican border town where we did a day trip from Texas. Our first hotel, Buenaventura Hotel & Beach Club , was in the city central, on the ocean, and a few blocks walk from the Malecon .. a mile long promenade along the ocean with the town square, the famous cathedral, the flea market and more.  The temperature had been in the 80’s since Christmas but dropped to 60 just before we were to go, so our first days there were chilly and cloudy.  Not beach weather, so we walked the town and visited the shops.

Our hotel offered all inclusive, but we chose to not include meals as we wanted to sample what the city has to offer.  Our best meals were at Spiaggia, down the beach from the hotel.  We wandered down there the first time in our beachwear, hungering from the good smells of our poolside BBQ.  Spiaggia is an open air restaurant, fancy with white tablecloths and all.  We almost didn’t try it … but the menu was reasonable and the staff welcomed us in.  We shared a wonderful blue cheese salad and a cheese fondue type dish with gooey creamy cheese, peppers and onions heated over fire in a small lava pot, served with fresh tortillas.  Friday night we went there for dinner and it was magical.  Dark intimate seating with tiki torches, the waves crashing, hot and wonderful with a jazz combo from 9pm.  It was a 2 bottles of wine evening.

We bussed to Walmart and carted back bottles and bottles of vodka, rum, wine, coke, OJ and microwave popcorn to get our Mayan Sea Garden party off to a good start.  Joe said not to forget the limes … so we needed a few things to go with them.  Saturday morning we packed it all into a taxi and headed out to Nuevo Vallarta to the Mayan to wait for the Wisconsin / Ohio contingent.  Carl and Mary Zmeskal Tighe and cousin Susie Kelly Kampman have time-shares in Maztalan and traded for a week farther south.  They were kind enough to share their digs with us, Ruth Kahl from Delevan and Joe and Sarah Schmitz Piller from Ohio.  Mary and Sarah are friends of mine since 4th grade in Manitowoc, WI.

We had a grand time.  The weather improved when they arrived and we spent the week basking poolside and drinking happy hour bebidas.  We all had to have a free Sunday Champagne Brunch, tour the Mayan grounds and be subjected to the time-share push.  We resisted.  Sarah and Joe bussed into town one day, toured the city with the hordes of cruise ship passengers, then humored one of the many time-share hawkers and were taken south of the city to hear another time-share spiel.  This time Joe pretended to be less hostile and they came away with tickets for a whale watching tour and a city tour.  They really saw the sites and made out like bandits. Very enjoyable. We all ventured to Spiaggia for our final evening together and they loved the setting and great food as much as we did.  We celebrated Carl's birthday with many bottles of champagne.

After they all departed on Saturday morning, we headed to our new home in the marina area, Club Embarcadero.  This time we chose the all inclusive and had beautiful surroundings and great food. The reviews I read about the place had us dreading what we’d find … as most hated everything about it.  But we had a spacious mini-suite with a beautiful pool view and free WiFI from our patio and we loved the food.  We were on the canal with yachts coming and going.  A walk across the road took us to the ocean and cool breezes.  It was wonderful, and we were content to just enjoy it, having done the town already.  We did go back to the Malecon for an art walk describing the many sculptures along the walk and to buy lots more clothes.  Larry has a new wardrobe of Hawaiian shirts and I have shoes and tank dresses.  Jaime and Emily will get 3 new dresses.  We had one last lunch at Spiaggia’s and watched parasailers take off and land in front of us every 6 minutes.  Very entertaining.

Back in Houston the weather was grim and rainy.  Our credit card company called to check if we really bought $300 in groceries in Houston, after the PV charges.  Yup and thanks for checking.

We planned to avoid San Antonio and Austin, but Larry noticed that San Antonio has a KOA campground with bus service to downtown, so we decided to spend some time there.  When I called to make reservations, they were very full and we got the last spot for 2 nights.  Why so busy? The Rodeo!!!  The fairgrounds were down the road and around the corner … the guy said ½ mile but it was a MUCH longer walk than that.  We looked into taking it in, and found that Willie Nelson was performing Monday night.  I’d just read an article about the rodeo on the inflight magazine on the plane.  They hired a consultant to design the rodeo so it would continue to attract people who might not otherwise attend a rodeo, like us, then hired him on as CEO or whatever to keep it going.

You pay an admission that gets you onto the grounds all day along with a seat for the 7pm rodeo and entertainment that follows at 9pm.  We were cramped way high in the nosebleed section, but the rodeo was enjoyable and we loved seeing Willie, as our theme song is ‘On the Road Again’.  He talks his songs now, more than singing them, but every now and then they sounded like the CD.  So we hiked to the grounds Monday morning, got our tickets and visited the animals and booths, hiked back and soaked in the hot tub.  Later we hiked both ways again to the performance.  Our dogs were hurting by midnight.  But it was great.  Our first Willie performance.

Tuesday we took the bus to town, toured the Alamo, walked the Riverwalk, had a pint at an Irish Pub, took a short boat tour of the Riverwalk, then took a couple of bus loops to see more of the city. Again the hot tub felt grand.

We moved on to Fredericksburg for 2 nights and walked the town one day with a couple of fine pints of porter at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company.  In 1996 we did a week Cycle America bike tour with Fredericksburg as the hub.  We loved the quaint town then and it is even cuter now.  We looped thru Luckenbach on the way out and it looks much as it did 11 years ago … cute and quaint. Larry got a Luckenbach denim shirt and I got a new bandana.

It was time to head out of Texas, so we just kept driving west and the next fun stop was the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The ticket is good for 3 days, so we did the Natural Entrance and Big Room self-guided tours included with admission and an additional tour of the King’s Palace, then returned later and did the admission walks again.  We loved the place.  We’ve been in a number of caves on 3 continents, but we like this best.  There is such a variety of decorations and the place is so immense … big and tall.  It was like a religious experience .. when the other moron visitors weren’t chatting and explaining and clicking their annoying high heeled boots.  Shhhhhhhhhhhh   Not to be missed.

It was powerful windy during our stay in Carlsbad.  We stayed put one day to avoid it.  On our return to the caves, the wind ripped up our properly stored TV antenna and blew it away.  It could have killed someone!!  Luckily it was a side wind that must have landed it in a field.  We heard a big noise but didn't know the cause until Larry checked the roof miles later in the parking lot.

We spent a night in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and did a 3 mile hike.   The area is so surreal we decided to make a quick visit to the UFO Museum nearby in Roswell. There seems to be enough different testimonials to suggest a cover-up of the 1949 reports of aliens landing.

On thru Arizona, with stops in Tucson and Quartzite.  We took a bus to downtown Tucson and there were no shops to visit and very few people about.  The only activity centered around the courthouse and municipal buildings.  Very bazaar!  A lady we met at White Sands National Monument said not to miss the Desert Museum in Tucson, so we spent a half day there and it is a wonderful desert landscape and zoo.

My laptop died in my lap and we had to take care of that.  I was using an unknown camper’s unsecured WiFi connection at the campground, so Larry thinks I got zapped for usurping their waves.  Best Buy said I must send it in with the original receipt, which I couldn’t locate so hoped was at DDs.  We were headed to Covina, CA to have a honking big satellite dish installed on our roof so we can get internet and DirecTV anywhere it can see the southern sky.  It was no time to be without a computer!!  So we had to quickly pick one out … no comparison shopping or checking every venue on the internet.  At this writing I have my tiny little Averatec back with a replaced hard drive and the new HP will be Larry’s … now or if his little HP goes down.  Of course I had no backups, so lost it all.  The worst was pics of the cute grandbabes and the first 10 days of Puerto Vallarta.

We started talking ourselves into the satellite dish in Houston.  At first we were going for the cheaper tripod version that you have to set up and find the satellite yourself.  But it is big, must be stored someplace, is hard to setup and takes 20-30+ minutes to locate the satellite.  I hated to think of Larry out there in the wet dark with the bugs after he already has to set up the power and sewer and water when we land.  Worse yet … it might be me out there!!  So, when we learned it can be moved to our next rig if and when, we went for the big roof top mount that takes just a touch of a button. You don’t just pick one of these up at Wal-Mart.  It looked like a place in Virginia was a good place to get one and they have a few installers around the country.  We were too late to get on the install list in Texas, so it would be California or wait till we got to DD's house.

My brother-in-law Donny and his friend Mary wanted to meet up with us on their trip to Phoenix and San Diego and parts between.  So we chose the Covina, CA site as we knew we’d be too busy at DD's to play with it and know it was working before we head for Alaska.  Then Mary and Donny cancelled their trip, so we got our install thanks to their plans but didn’t get to see them.  We got to enjoy sunny California while they stayed in the snow and cold in Eagle River.  Pooor them!!!

We spent about a week around the one day installation.  We stopped at Quartzite, AZ on the way. When you read RV tales, Quartzite is frequently mentioned for its boon docking / dry camping without hookups and for its huge flea markets.  But as we got closer I determined that November thru February is the big flea market season.  Things were pretty quiet when we got there early March, so it looked like just another sad little desert town.  We zoomed by the zillion wind generators around Desert Hot Springs and hovered in Covington, waiting for our equipment to arrive and the install appointment.  All went well, till I tried to redo our router name the first night and ‘broke’ it.  We had to call for help the first morning, then call Linksys who had us cabling up to the modem and downloading a firmware upgrade.  Not for the faint hearted and not an auspicious start.

The desert air was warm and wonderful, so we backtracked our way to Salton City, in the southeast corner of California, where Terri and Arvid Cummings winter.  They were camphosts at a county park near Stevens Point when we biked from Madison to Shawano in 2001 on our pre-retirement practice run.  They retired from Burlington, WI and travel in a 5th wheel fulltime … or did until they settled on winters in Salton City and now even bought a park home there.  The Salton Sea is a huge lake about the size of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.  It is more than 200 feet below sea level.  It was a canyon basin that got filled in accidentally when an irrigation canal from the Colorado River broke in 1905.  The valley has no exit, so agricultural runoff continues to flow in with polluted water from rivers in Mexico.  The sea is beautiful but is very polluted and we saw no boats on it.  There is some fishing.

We had a nice week enjoying the sun and pool and campground activities.  There were lots of Canadians who would return home soon, so lots of activities.  We got in on a local singer event, a camp BBQ, a talent show and some card playing.  Terri and Arvid were busy with activities and getting ready for a trip to Hawaii, but we did enjoy an evening with them besides the camp activities and Arvid took us on a rail ride.  A big entertainment there is to ride sand dune buggy type vehicles in the sand dunes and hills.  It was an adventure!!  Be sure to see the pictures.   We biked to a burger joint for my birthday, and a picture on the wall said that the last episode of the season of the X-Files was shot in Salton City.  Didn’t say what year.

Our friend Rita Benish from Madison visited friends in LA and she and Dorothy came to visit on their way to the Mojave Desert.  It was good to see Rita and to meet Dorothy.  Rita tells us about their adventures on a months long trip on container ships back in 1981.  That’s adventure!!!  Morocco, Tunisia, Spain … I forget where.

I tracked down Karen Slater who worked at OSI and SPC with me back in the day.   I’d lost track of her in the last 5 years, so had to do some internet sleuthing to find her.  We had lunch with her near Sacramento.  She looks great and is a 5 year breast cancer survivor.  Yeah …  The family is traveling to China in May with the Sacramento Ballet as Bob is on the Board of Directors .

We thought we’d go right up I-5 to Oregon, but I noticed that there were a number of our $8 campgrounds along the coast, where I-5 didn’t have them but did have forecasts for freezing temps. We might have gone to Yosemite too, but forecasts were for freezing nights.  So we found a nice route to the coast and loved the trip north.  We spent one night under the redwoods, where our dish couldn’t find the satellite .. too many trees … as you might guess.

We spent 3 nights in Lincoln City, OR with Gordy and Kitty Kelly Bushman .. another friend since grade school.  They have a wonderful new 3-story home with ocean views.  We took their 3 golden retrievers to the beach, enjoyed food and beers at McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub in Lincoln City and the Rogue Bayfront Brewery in Newport, toured the wonderful Newport Aquarium and drank lots of wine, catching up on family lives.  Kitty is doing well after hip surgery in November.  We missed Bob and Marsha Steffen by 2 days at their time-share in nearby Depoe Bay. Wahh …

After a night near Mt. St. Helens, we were only 100 miles on the scenic route to DD’s house when we spotted some cute little cars at a Mom and Pop used car lot in Ethel, WA.  Who knows where that is???  We wound up buying a great looking 2000 Kia Sportage 4wd SUV after DD checked Kelly Blue Book and Car Fax and we got insurance for it. We drove to DD’s in 2 vehicles and are getting a tow bar to pull the Kia behind the RV.  The quick purchase surprised us, but we are so happy we found it so easily.  It saved heaps of hours looking and sharing DD’s car.

So now we’re getting ready for Alaska and beyond.  We had a huge overhaul on the RV and are getting the tow bar.  We passed our first emissions test on the RV so our tabs will renew in August. Larry is busy building (and rebuilding) a secure home for the satellite gizmos and wiring .. modem, router, DVR.   He installed a new antenna for any places the satellite can’t be found and a backup monitor to keep an eye on the Kia.  He’s working on an inverter and battery system for places with no power.  And he’s thinking about a solar panel.  The guy hardly sleeps anymore, he’s thinking so hard.  He installed a new radio in the truck and wired it to the truck battery so it is not tied to the ignition.  He’s just a genius.  Earlier he installed a buzzer if the lights are left on and he made the turn signal clicks louder.

We hosted Easter dinner for DD’s friend Tara and her family, as they always include DD in their family holiday celebrations and shower her with gifts.   Spring has been warm and beautiful this year.   We are here earlier than ever yet the weather is nicer.  I write this from a hospital room where DD is having her tonsils, uvula and surrounding tissue removed … uvulopalatopharyngeoplasty ... a plan to help her sleep apnea .. hope hope.  She has a 2 week recovery.  Then she may get another gum graft on her teeth for gingivitis.  She’ll be off the food for a month … the whole rest of our stay.  We had some luscious last meals these 2 weeks.  Now Larry and I should get back to our You On a Diet eating.  You won’t know Larry … he’s lost his whole spare tire.  I’m not doing as well, as you wimmmen would understand.

So we’re looking forward to months in Alaska.  We hope to find Janice and Pierre who we met twice in Australia and had dinner with, but only have first names and a picture of Janice on her recumbent. I placed a classified on a Whitehorse site to see if we can locate them.  Then we hope to hook up with Lynne Snifka who worked with Larry in Madison.  We last saw her in 1999, first in Anchorage where she was recently diagnosed with (non) Hodgkins lymphoma and later at her folks near Milwaukee where she was recuperating from radiation and such.  We lost touch with her too, but Google found her at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, where she is (temporarily) a communications professor and will continue on another year or two or more until she gets a masters degree or they decide she is invaluable without one.  She may be off to Ireland for holiday or settling her apartment in Anchorage or just enjoying the summer .. but we’ll share a beer with her someplace.  And if we make it to Juneau we will see Rory and Jan … our Bike Friday twins from New Zealand travels.

Then we’ll head for Wisconsin and see Heidi and family.  Jaime will be in kindergarten.  Heidi and Brian will be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.  They should be ready to take off again and let us spend time with Jaime and Emily.  Can’t wait.  I asked Larry’s Mom if she’d like to come visit DD if I flew and got her.  She’s never flown, so it would have been an experience, but she is having sciatica and carpal tunnel problems so says not now.  We might have brought little Emily back for a visit.  Maybe.  She kind of likes us … or did last summer … where Jaime only likes Mom and Dad.

Dr. visits, see friends .. then head south again, thru Nebraska to visit Ted and Mona and Colorado to see Tracey / Roger and Howard’s sister (we don’t even know his last name) if it’s not too late and blustery.  Maybe winter in Mexico this year???  Til then …have fun.  If we’re very lucky, Sid and Ruth from Melbourne might join us along the way someplace.  Sid needs a colostomy reversal from his bladder cancer surgery last fall and Ruth has to decide if she’ll retire from her cushy university career counselor position.

We have a new way for you to track us if you are interested. Click on Find Us on the Pubtopub Home Page.  We are  #4719.  Our location gets updated every time we put up the satellite dish.

 

We'll post our Alaska adventures by late September.

 

Update:  DD recovered fine and could eat anything .. so lots more good stuff.  Larry installed a solar panel on the roof, we spent a fun weekend on the coast so Murrey could run free in the water.   Brother-in-law Donny is having bypass surgery and niece Chris rolled her car and is recovering.  We found Janice and Pierre in Whitehorse and will meet them and their new son.
 

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Fall 2006

The day before Bob Steffen’s 60th birthday parteeeee, we loaded up on Wisconsin edibles: Bagels Forever bagels and bagel chips, Madison Sourdough rye bread, Johnsonville summer sausage, Woodman’s sharp cheddar cheese, Portabella salad topping and buttermilk dressing from Delitalia and some salad stuff for it. After the party, we headed south and had breakfast the next morning with the Tighes one more time. Farewells and we headed to Monroe for a stop at Baumgartner’s for some braunschweiger and limburger cheese  .

Down into Illinois, avoiding toll roads and looking for the pretty bits of Illinois. It was rainy and cold and nasty, so nothing looked too good. We spent 2 nights at $8 RV resorts, then we got to the green bits on the map and camped at Horseshoe Lake near Olive Branch, IL. It was a weird lake, all scummy with 2 kinds of big trees growing in it. We went from wet and cold back to mosquitoes. This isn’t going so well. A highlight was the Honey-B, a little homey café with biscuits and gravy and meat and twos. Ahhh … we’re getting close to the south, where you often choose an entrée and two or three (sides).

The next day we stopped at Fort Defiance State Park that friend Rita Benish recommended as an interesting sight in Illinois. It is at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and has a good vista of the two river areas. There were camping spots there and we wished we had been there last night, but then we wouldn’t have found the Honey-B.

We headed for one of our $8 resorts in Kentucky, Pirate’s Cove near Land Between the Lakes. It was hot and calm and we basked in our camp chairs at waters edge for several hours. The next day was rainy, but we still enjoyed the ride through the Land Between the Lakes, a beautiful recreational reserve . We made our way through Clarksville, TN but missed every $1.979 gas station, darnnnnn …. Late afternoon we got to Nashville and headed for our RV park near to Opryland. Gas here was back to $2.299.

We stopped for a quick lunch before we parked the rig, and the easiest spot looked like a place called John A’s. We parked, dodged raindrops, and bopped in. We were the only customers, they had just opened and no food until 4pm. Well .. just a beer maybe .. since we’re here. Soon the chef came out and chatted with the barmaid about what soup to make that day … it was chicken and artichoke yesterday .. did she try it??? He asked how we were doing .. and I said fine and we’d sure like some of that soup. So he heated us up 2 bowls and made us each 2 corn cakes .. lovely light cornmeal pancakes. Yum … and never before had artichokes in our soup. The barmaid said there is a band here most nights. Great. The best beer choice was Michelob Amber Bock … not tooooo bad.

We drove around looking for the Opry Mills Mall so we could pick up our Grand Ole Opry tickets, but we never did it right. We drove to the Two Rivers RV Resort and parked the rig. We spent the night dual WiFi-ing and listening to heavy rain.

The next morning we got ready and biked the 2+ miles to Opryland and got our tickets  , then wandered a bit at the big Opry Mills mall next door. We just happened to be here the weekend of the 81st Anniversary of the Opry. We saw 2 great shows, and stars like Little Jimmy Dickens, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Earl Scruggs, Mike Snider, Jean Shepard, Charlie Pride, Restless Heart, Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, and LeAnn Rimes. Both nights they wheeled out a big birthday cake and released lots of balloons. Saturday there were kid’s rides and games and entertainment all day. Both nights we ended back at John A’s and heard good bands and special drop-in guests we didn’t recognize. Saturday we also stopped at Nashville Palace for a Highway 101 concert .. but it was tooooo loud and the drinks awful.

We biked to the Mall and caught a bus to downtown Nashville 2 days, one to walk around and one to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, a fabulous museum tribute to country music  . We enjoyed free live music at Legends Corner and Tootsie’s Lounge. Waylen Jennings brother Tommy sang a few at Legends. We enjoyed a few pilsners at the Big River Brewery.

You can tell that food and drink are big in our day. We got a book called Road Food by Jane and Michael Stern, two serious foodies who detail their favorite cafés and diners. They love Krolls in Green Bay, the Charcoal House in Sheboygan, Beernstens in Manitowoc and Copps in Milwaukee, so we know they have taste. They have been tracking down good eats since the ‘70s and wrote a column for Gourmet Magazine. We tracked down a bakery in Whitefish Bay near Milwaukee that they say has dynamite rye bread on Fridays, but that was a bust. We’re hoping for better.

Nashville listed quite a few Road Food sites, but only 1 was downtown, Satsuma Tea Room. It closes at 2pm, but we checked it out anyway .. only to find it has been replaced by Union 417. We were too late for the daily plate specials we’ve been craving, with the choice of sides, but we could order salads and grill items. I had a double chicken salad and Larry a Reuben Sandwich. Both were good and pretty, but nothing distinctive and wonderful as we were hoping for.

On our way out of Nashville, we went far out of our way to try our forks at the Loveless Café, near the Natchez Trace Parkway  . It is pretty touristy with outbuildings selling their country ham and artsy gifts and such. We enjoyed BBQ pork and fried chicken and tried creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and hash brown casserole for sides, all served with fluffy biscuits and 3 preserves. Yum .. yum. Stars frequent the place, but we didn’t recognize anyone. It’s so far out of Nashville, but maybe they live out there.

We had some time to kill before we headed to Memphis area to visit Rick and Carol Loberger Hagerbaumer. Carol was back in Green Bay helping her Mom recuperate from surgery. So we headed east to Cumberland Gap where Daniel Boone crossed the Appalachians to the western frontier, then on to the Great Smoky Mountains. The rolling hills of fall colors were glorious. We drove around Ashville, NC, over the Smokys through Newfound Gap, thru Gatlinburg and spent the night in Pigeon Forge and visited their brewery. We had a long downhill thru the Smoky foothills and the brakes went out. Luckily Larry was driving that day and handled it with cool. But it was scary. We were lucky enough to find a repair business that took us in and bled the brakes. The guy said the brakes just overheated, are OK. Phewwww …. They did the work right away and only charged $45. Amazing. I knew a Manitowoc friend Roseanne Neuser Pagels lives in a Carolina somewhere, so I found her on Switchboard and gave her a call while we were in North Carolina. She and Tom live in Charlotte, so I phoned from her state and had a nice catch-up chat since 1996 and I threatened to visit next time.

After a night in Georgia and one in Mississippi, we spent 4 days in Collierville and had a fun visit. Carol is a domestic goddess and cooks wonderful healthy food. And Rick made some awesome smoked salmon and we loved his home brewed beers. He even sent 6 on the road with us when we left. We had some BBQ and a night out in Memphis, with a long stop at Boscos Brewpub . It was good to see Alex and Masha again too. Masha should have her driving temps by now. Watch out!!

We had some BBQ at Abes in Clarksville MS. We stayed a few nights at the Paragon Casino RV Park in Marksville, LA and asked folks where to find some Cajun music. Following up on some leads, we booked into a campground near Eunice, LA. The next morning we went to Fred’s Lounge in Mamou for their Saturday morning Cajun music radio show . Mamou is a tired little town, Fred’s Lounge has seen better days, yet it is internationally known as the place to be on Saturday mornings for fine Cajun music and fun. It was weird, as there was little space to stand that was not on the dance floor or blocking the view of the people in the few bench seats or too near the bar or in a doorway or in front of the bathroom path. It was November 11 and Armistice Day and a big long parade gave us a long chance to stand outside yet hear the music from Fred’s. It was a long parade, veterans, kids, horses, fire trucks, motorcycles and heaps of candy thrown from the floats. About 40 motorcycles came to Fred’s after the parade, so we listened to the last hour of music on the radio in the motor home. Later we returned to Eunice, visited the Cajun Music Hall of Fame and attended a Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys concert at the Liberty Theater in Eunice for $5 each .

Louisiana had a Main to Main program a few years back where they plowed money into a few towns to revitalize the Main streets. This year they set up a Remember November program where these Main Street towns had musical events every weekend in November, I think to celebrate recovery from last year’s hurricanes and to highlight the results of Main to Main renovations. So we enjoyed the music of Steve Riley  and returned the next week for Beausoleil  and Jo-El Sonnier  concerts. Attendees move up front and dance. We recognized a couple we used to see at Norah’s II near Madison Cajun music dances more than 10 years ago. We introduced ourselves and found that they are Jim and Bev Daubers who moved to Lafayette, LA from Cedarburg, WI after retirement, just to enjoy more Cajun music. We joined their ‘krew’ for dinner later. A krew is a team that builds a Mardi Gras float together, if we got that right. We saw them again the next night at Randalls in Lafayette for a TV taping of a Beausoleil dance concert. We wouldn’t have known about it if we hadn’t met the Daubers. Jim gave us free newspapers with events and info that helped us plan the week.

Between the Eunice music events, we visited the Acadian LaFitte Center  to learn more about the Acadians that came to Louisiana after the British drove them out of Nova Scotia, fearing that they would support the French in war with Britain.  We had a Road Food lunch at Brenda’s in New Iberia, toured the Tabasco factory on Avery Island  , sat out near tornadoes on a lovely lake in Morgan City, had a fabulous catfish and crawfish etoufee dinner at Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge  , and drove the long bridge over the Atchafalaya Swamp Basin. After the Beausoleil concert we found our way to a great shrimp platter at D.I.s of Basile, somewhere between Eunice and the Kinder Casino we were staying at. All of these and more were from Road Food recommendations.

We thought we might travel to Texas along a narrow road along the Gulf coast, but it was blown away by Hurricane Rita, so we had to go in on I-10. We stopped first at a Visitors Center to pick up way too many of the zillions of brochures they have for visitors, then got ourselves to the coast as soon as roads were open past the destruction.

We spent Thanksgiving in a cute little RV park in Crystal Beach, TX, on a narrow peninsula just north of Galveston . We were facing the Intercoastal Waterway and barges went up and down at intervals. We biked to the gulf a mile away and basked and Larry flew kites. Weather was hot and lovely and held til Thanksgiving Monday, when we moved 18 miles south and took the ferry to Galveston. We didn’t know Galveston is on Galveston Island. The downtown area looked historic and spiffed up and there are some new stores where cruise boats dock, but the rest was not too exciting. There are 6 mansions you can tour and some big domes and a tall ship for tourist attractions. The seawall area is a long sandy wonderful access to the gulf. Farther out are lots of raised condos that would be nice outside of hurricane season. We might have stayed awhile, but the weather was grim, so we pushed on and stayed a few days at a harbor RV park in Palacios. Beyond Galveston Island was a huge area all full of oil and gas refineries.

A friendly neighbor lady Lee from Austin travels with 2 wimmmen friends, each driving her own big rig with tow car and they have traveled like this for 9 years. Lee has to be into her 80s and a lovely vibrant lady. What fun!!! They even took this caravan to Alaska one summer. She says they are too good of friends to be in the same rig. They like their independence.

We got great haircuts in Palacios for $22 plus tip for both. And I got a pedicure for $22 plus tip. We had some wonderful shrimp at a seafood place we almost avoided because to us a seafood restaurant sounds pricey and calls for nice clothes. Not down here .. more like fast food joints here and we felt OK in our biking attire.

We haven’t been staying in our $8 campgrounds much recently, especially in Texas. Once we hit the coast we wanted to be on the gulf if we could, and all of our sites are inland. We had hopes for one in Rockport, but it was on the wrong side of a busy road and we couldn’t figure out what gulf access we could have on bikes. So we continued on and stayed at Pioneer RV Resort outside Port Aransas, owned by the same company as the Palacios place . We took a free ferry to Mustang Island and Port Aransas. There were lots of campgrounds, many tired and crowded. Pioneer was lovely and spacious and a walk over the boardwalk to the beach. Larry flew kites, we biked on the beach, we saw many huge cabbage head jellyfish  and we sat and WiFi’d when the rain and wind kept us inside.

We bypassed Corpus Christi and Padre Island National Seashore and continued south. We passed a week at Sea Breeze RV Park on Baffin Bay near Kingsville and Riviera. It is a lovely county park with free WiFi. We biked a lot and walked. Weather the whole week was wonderful.

Our Connecticutie neighbors Howard and Linda just retired and are starting full-timing, part of a growing breed of 40-50+ year olds who give up the work-a-day life, sell it all and take off to explore North America well before they reach ‘retirement age’. We enjoyed hearing about their trips, especially their canal boat trip in England. Howard sent our web address to his sister Cindy in Colorado and she wrote to invite us to visit them and try a few of their local pubs. Sure .. we’ll be there when we visit Tracey and Roger in Colorado Springs.

We also enjoyed our 91 year old neighbors Al and Edith. In 1950 they drove from Indiana to Anchorage with a 33’ trailer pulled by a truck followed by a station wagon driven by them with their 2 young sons. Imagine the roads and lack of services in 1950!! Al called Edith ‘Pioneer Woman’. They stayed for 18 years and homesteaded on 280 acres plus a separate lakefront piece of property. They traveled in motor homes for many years after leaving Alaska, now in a stationary trailer and have called the Sea Breeze home for 2 years. Al still drives 18 miles into Kingsville for groceries. They are a hoot!

We booked 2 weeks in Destination RV Park on South Padre Island  over Christmas and New Years . We started our trip there with a Mexican breakfast in Riviera and took away a pint of their spicy salsa. Stops in Harlingen for a cell phone battery, bike computer replacement and groceries. Trek will send a replacement for my new bike computer that broke when I dropped it, but we will have to come back to the bike store for it in a few days. I will order the cell phone battery online. We bought a $22 spiral ham at H.E.B, the main grocery chain in Texas, and got free a loaf of ciabatta bread, a big Velveeta-type cheese loaf, 12 cans of H.E.B cola, a pound cake and a bag of frozen broccoli. What a deal!! We’re ready for Christmas dinner.

We crossed the beautiful 2-mile long Queen Isabella Causeway that connects Port Isabella and South Padre Island. We found our RV site after we took a quick tour of the business end of the island. Buildings get thin after a few miles, followed by miles of sand dunes. I guess you can go for 30 miles before you hit a canal area separating South Padre from Padre Island and the National Seashore. You can get a permit to drive along the beach. A barge crashed into the Causeway Sept 15, 2001, just after 9/11. Five cars fell in the water and 8 people died. It closed the only land link to the mainland for 3 months. The whole nation was in mourning from 9/11. It must have been even more dreadful for this little corner of the nation after this tragedy. They brought in ferries to get people to and from the island until the bridge reopened in December. 

The next day we biked all over, checked out camping and beach at the big Isla Blanca County Park next door, sampled all the brews at the Padre Island Brewery and finished up with $2 all day Happy Hour margaritas at Boomerang Billy’s Beach Bar. It was quite a day and took us 2 days to recover. The weather turned and wind howled, so we stayed inside out of the bluster. We had a view of the bay and it was a lovely campground. There were huge rigs and lots of Winter Texans as in every RV park. We sat out tornadoes a few days, one that killed a Texan in the north and that sent the Bush’s into some armored vehicle for safety at their Crawford ranch.

There were lots of Christmas activities. We went to the Friday night social hour and gift exchange where you BYOB and an appetizer to share and a $5 gift to exchange. Saturday morning was a $2 Mexican breakfast feed. Christmas Day was pot luck but the Christmas Eve candle lighting was postponed due to nasty weather. Karaoke social hour the next Friday and a nice New Year’s Eve Karaoke gathering with wine and appetizers for $5 a couple. Every day people gathered on the deck for sunset. Destination turned over as a KOA park while we were there. Prices are higher and regulars might not return there next year. Daily price is $35 where it was $24 last year.

We met Ted and Mona from Nebraska who introduced us to Joséé and Dan from Quebec and Kay and Jerry from California. Joséé and Dan sold their house, bought a little class B RV and quit their jobs to come to Texas for 6 months. They will return to else. Canadian socialized medicine plan provides them with health coverage. Kay just lost 50 pounds on the Atkins diet after she was told she was close to diabetes. She and Jerry walk up to 9 miles per day, live in their little home and see if their employers will take them back or if they’ll have to find something here. We went out for pizza one night and had a fun New Year’s Eve dinner at Louie’s Backyard, an open air restaurant where we enjoyed a beef and seafood buffet, followed by midnight fireworks right out there in the bay. It was surprisingly warm and we didn’t freeze our butts, as we might have.

We left the island on New Year’s Day, not waiting to join our new friends at the Polar Bear dip at Boomerang Billy’s. Lots of families arrived for Christmas week and were now leaving. We tried to stay one more day, but all spots were booked. The rest of the Snowbirds were flocking in.

We drove south thru Brownsville and along the other Rio Grande Valley towns to our new home at Mission Gardens RV Park, one of our Coast to Coast parks where we stayed for $13. It was a tired little park but had a nice pool, WiFi if you sat by the pool or in the clubhouse, lots of activities and friendly people. We met Sandy from Minnesota who works there with her husband Jerry as Workampers. They get a free camping site in exchange for 80 hours of work a month between them. They are mid-50’s and will return to Minnesota to work for the summer. This is their first year spending 6 months in the south. Their summer employment company covers their health insurance year round and the RV is home here and in Minnesota.

We drove back to Harlingen for my bike computer and a refrigerator part we ordered. My cell phone battery wandered around FedEx for 2 weeks and we rescued it from the company in person just before it was to be returned to Verizon. The packing slip didn’t include all the information I filled in the form so the address was incomplete.

We joined the Bingo crowd that night in the RV Park clubhouse. Earlier, checking in at the office, I heard a Workamper lady say it isn’t just Bingo … there are more kinds of Bingo than you ever saw before. I wanted to see this. You buy Bingo cards for a quarter each. Cute cards with slider doors so you didn’t need the extra Bingo equipment and markers you see in stores. Every other game was just Bingo or 4 corners, but in between they’d show a pattern you had to aim for: a 4 or a kite shape or two squares in the upper corners or full card etc. I won a game. Peeps at our table said ‘3 wins and we throw you in the pool’. I won again. They said it again. One lady says ‘Don’t worry. I’ve been here 19 years and I never saw 3 wins’. Another lady says she’s played 10 years and only won once. I win again. Oh oh .. I broke a 19 year streak. I stayed dry but was asked if I needed an armed guard to get me back to the rig. Each game had about $3+ and an extra, like a free pizza or breakfast at Dennys or a line of bowling. We spent $2 on Bingo cards and took in $8 plus a free ticket to the $2.50 sausage gravy and biscuit breakfast the next morning and a ‘buy a bag of oranges get a bag of grapefruit free’ coupon. Ever after people would ask me how I spent my winnings .. their Bingo money.

Wed and Sat nights listed a Jam on the Activities roster. Wed night, 8 men and 1 woman were onstage with instruments: a banjo, pedal guitar, fiddle, steel string guitar and 4 lesser guitars. Sat were 13 men and 1 woman, same mix plus another fiddle and more guitars. They went round robin and at their turn they would announce a chord and start in with some Country tune, most singing, with solos from the banjo, pedal guitar, steel string guitar and sometimes the ancient fiddle player. Talents varied, but most enjoyable and the solo instruments outstanding. They broke midway for cookies and coffee. Bingo night we bought ice cream bars for $.50. They do have fun.

A highlight of the Winter Texan life is the big flea market between Donna and Weslaco, lots of tacky booths of antiques, collectables, belt buckles, RV awnings, clothes, bags, books, you name it. We took that in one rainy morning and I bought lots of novels and a backpack. Another event that we skipped is going to ROPA stores where new and used clothes are stacked floor to ceiling and you climb a stack and start searching for bargains that cost $.20-.50 per pound, varying by store. One lady is said to have found $2k+ jewelry in a child’s coat pocket. An actual lady at Mission Gardens … not just SOME LADY!

Biking around Mission Gardens was not good and we could only stay a week on our Coast to Coast membership. Heidi had an on again off again trip to nearby McAllen in the works since December. Now it was off again, so where should we go? Could be anywhere. We booked a week nearby at Bensten Palms Village RV Park, as it was next to Bensten State Park and great bike paths plus free admission to the park. We moved in and had a busy week … too busy for all the biking we dreamed of. A highlight of the park is a really nice really hot tub we soaked in a few times and had good chats with other guests. One couple used a beach towel from Valetta, Malta, so we chatted about that. Another guy and his wife and 17 year old son were down for a month from Saskatchewan and we enjoyed his Canada/US comparisons and his wintry icy trip story coming down.

Monday we went to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge  for a nature tram tour. Back during the cold wet inside days in Port Aransas, I was looking at www.rv.net new entries and followed a thread from a young Michigan couple wondering if they could travel and work part time. One reply referenced www.rv-dreams.net, the website of Howard and Linda Payne from Kentucky. They are one of those growing breed giving up the corporate life to lead a more relaxed self-directed life and travel full-time in an RV. Howard and Linda are currently volunteer tram drivers at Santa Ana and give nature tours 3 times a day twice a week and canoe nature trips on the river another. In exchange they get a free campsite, propane, landline phone, electricity and laundry facilities from Dec thru April 15. We got a wonderful tour with lots of bird sightings and good information. Later we shared some wine at their RV and learned more about them, then took them to dinner in McAllen. It is fun to hear other travel stories. Howard’s entries led us to places we might not have found on our own: Pepe’s On the River, The Riverside Club, the hand-operated Los Ebanos Ferry to Mexico that was closed for maintenance the day we visited  . His site also has a Community Forum where we are learning more about a purchase we are planning .. a satellite internet dish and subscription and perhaps satellite TV connection.

Wednesday we drove to Progresso, TX, parked the rig for $5 and crossed the bridge into Progresso, Mexico. No one told us you pay a quarter to go over and $.30 to return. Of course all of our quarters are in the RV for laundry money but luckily the change machine worked. I planned to get pesos from an ATM to get us started in Puerto Vallarta, but at the last minute I couldn’t let myself agree to a $3 fee for the withdrawal, so we just spent US$. We didn’t know what to expect except lots of markets and dentists and pharmacies and such luring you in. It was pretty awful and nothing but junk, but you could fill all of your prescription needs here. Larry got a $5 haircut and I bought dresses for Jaime and Emily. Lunch and some beers and we were back over the bridge. Larry got a bottle of Southern Comfort for $13, then $1.25 tax added by US Customs. A one time trip we had to get out of our systems. Not for us, but locals and Winter Texans do love the trip. My haircut lady said they go often for things you can get cheaper there. Such as? Well … liquor and cigarettes mainly. A Missouri neighbor bought 5 quarts of vanilla to take back home, mostly for their daughters and house sitter.

We did get in a good afternoon of biking in Bentsen State Park near the campground. The park used to be a campground, so roads were wide and well paved and marked. We hiked some of the trails but found that any wildlife was at the bird feeding stations. We saw lots of Fox Squirrels, Green Jays, Altimira Orioles, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and Chachalacas that Linda pointed out to us. A javelina was lunching at one site and we watched it from a bird hide. Later we saw 3 more at a watering station. Unfortunately we didn’t have a camera along. We went back Saturday but the javelinas were in hiding that day. We saw a road kill javelina when we were biking around the Sea Breeze weeks ago, but called it a feral pig. Now we realize it was a javelina, which is pig-like but not a true pig. We also saw a long indigo snake in a field that day and it took Howard to give us a name to put to it.

Heidi’s business trip to the area was back on. She came in late Saturday via Houston after her flight thru Dallas was cancelled by icy weather. We went to Pepe’s for ribs and margaritas and she told us details of her and Brian’s Germany trip last September when we stayed with the girls. We saw people on inner tubes crossing the Rio Grande River, some shouting and commotion followed by a Border Patrol boat racing up without lights. Lots of wetback crossings we hear, especially with inner tubes, more now because they went back to Mexico for the holidays and are now returning to the US. Interesting!

Sunday Heidi took us to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, free admission with her Milwaukee County Zoo pass reciprocity policy. It had good animals, lots of Australian animals and good monkeys and chimps. Both the Brownsville and Milwaukee County zoos had one of their two elephants die recently. Milwaukee County was awarded the remaining Brownsville elephant because it has construction plans to support a herd. We felt guilty every time we saw an elephant symbol or reference.

The temps were near 80 for her stay .. until Monday when they dropped to 40s and roads and schools and businesses were closed all around the state and country. Bentsen Palms was full and we had to leave Monday. So we headed north toward Houston, looking forward to our flight to Puerto Vallarta next week. Heidi spent Monday at a Brady Corp. plant in Reynosa, Mexico and returned home Tuesday with little delay. We headed north in rain and wind and found a tired KOA campground west of Corpus Christi with free WiFi. We nestled in and WiFi’d for 3 days, running the propane furnace and trying to keep our feet warm. We need to use up everything in the refrigerator and freezer so we can turn the fridge off when the rig is parked at the Houston airport. Temperatures will be in the low 50’s when we leave with rain every day til then. Yesterday we saw gas prices of $1.999, later one station with $1.909. Wow … what’s happening??

We have fun listening to KBON Cajun music from Eunice, LA  , Grand Ole Opry archives from Nashville , Shamrock Radio from County Mayo Ireland, Celtic archives from Cape Breton, Prairie Home Companion archives and more. And you can even watch Desperate Housewife shows on the computer. We love the Stephanie Miller Show on morning Progressive radio. She does such wonderful Bush Bashing. Disturbing really … We really miss it when a campground doesn’t have free or cheap WiFi, or says they do and it barely works. So … after Mexico, we will do more research and likely buy an internet satellite system. Then we can camp anywhere with power. We have decided to also buy a used tow vehicle, so we can see more sites without driving the rig each day.

All of this when we get back ‘home’ to Deirdre’s house ... before we head to Alaska for the summer. After Mexico, we’ll head west thru Texas, spend some time in Arizona and head back toward Washington. Check back mid-April to see where we are and how much fun we had. We have 4 days before and 5 days after we spend a condo week with Carl and Mary Zmeskal Tighe, Joe and Sarah Schmitz Piller, Susie Kelly Kampman and Ruth Kahl. Temps are always right around 80 in Puerto Vallarta, so we are excited. Texas has disappointing temperatures this winter, though last year most days were near 90, one Wisconsin guy told us. That El Nino!!! Whenever we’re having awful cold wet windy weather, it’s always worse in the rest of the country, so we have to stop whining. We met lots of people, many Canadians, passing right through for a few months on Mexican beaches. That will be fun some year too!!! We are hoping friends Sid and Ruth from Melbourne can join us this

year. Sid has one more operation and may be able to travel … the big sweetheart!!

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Summer 2006


As we begin to head south for the winter, it is surely time to write about our great summer. It is good to be back in the U.S. to see family and friends and shop and eat our way around the country once again. We bought an RV and are doing the North American tour. Our favorite road sign so far is ‘Honk if you miss Pluto”. We laugh at that one repeatedly.

Deirdre picked us up from the airport after our 5 months in Costa Rica and we started the eating frenzy with chicken wings and beers. The next morning she and grandpup Murrey drove us around to 5 or 6 RV dealers. Each one had only one or no used RV of the short class C we were looking for. If a dealer had one, it had just come in and was being cleaned as we checked it out and would be sold soon. We settled on a 1991 24’ Fleetwood Jamboree with the bed over the cab, bunk beds and sleeping in the dinette area. It has 7 seatbelts so we can take Deirdre, Heidi, Jaime and Emily riding. And it had only 21k miles and is in excellent condition. It is much smaller than most, but when you’re coming up from a tent, a fixed bed, toilet, shower, oven, microwave, fridge, and TV are exciting again. The bikes ride comfortably on a rack on the back. They will still be our main transport until we join other RVers and pull a ‘toad’ .. a towed car.

We still visited the RV show in Puyallup the following week and saw a couple nice models we could upgrade to in a few years, but we were still happy with our decision. We dropped into a Camping World store to check out what goodies we’d need for the RV when it was ready for us to pick up. We accepted a free chocolate chip cookie from a young group in the lobby who offered us a $50 gas card if we accompanied one of them a mile up the road to hear about an RV resort park membership. Naturally we bought a membership. It was the $ensible thing to do. With it we can camp in the 8 Washington member parks free for 14 days at a time, but more important it allows us membership in Resort Parks International and Coast to Coast so we can pay $8 per night to camp for 7-14 days in other member parks all around the country plus a few in Canada and Mexico. Deirdre thinks there is a big S on our foreheads. Well .. maybe … There is that timeshare from Malta too ….

Three days after we got back, Deirdre found a house in Maple Valley to buy and her offer was accepted. She gave up on her Doggy Daycare Dream because it requires 5 acres and she wasn’t finding lots she could afford and realtors were telling her it would take up to 2 years for paperwork to build if she could. We worked hard all of May packing up what we could and working on the many projects she’d started on her Kent house. We moved in Memorial Day weekend, took a day off, then went back to Kent to finish up there. On June 22 at 5pm the realtor took pictures and put the listing on the internet. June 23 a realtor showed it to a couple and Deirdre’s realtor found an offer for the asking price waiting at the house June 24. It was accepted and the whole thing closed July 3. It is an amazing market out there. The new house is great. It is a big manufactured house on 1.3 acres of manicured islands of bushes and bamboo. It is in the country, same distance from work and on a Private Road. The neighbors try to keep all traffic to 8 mph and the former owners of Deirdre’s house monitored traffic and yelled and raised fists when needed. They all hope she will continue. Elk roam the road during apple season, one neighbor reports. She has fenced the whole thing for Murrey and the cats.

In early June I flew to Milwaukee to help Heidi bring Jaime and Emily to Seattle for a week. It was great to be in the new house for the visit. Jaime slept in the RV with Grandma and PopPop 5 nights. We fed carrots to the horses down the street and doggie treats to two dogs that the former owners of Deirdre’s house always used to feed. At least 4 houses down the road have horses. The lot on the corner has 3 cute brown goats with long floppy ears. They like carrots and celery too. We visited the animals at Port Defiance Zoo near Tacoma and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Mount Rainier. We ordered tickets for an orca watching tour from San Juan Island, and then missed the ferry to the island due to heavy traffic. We were lucky to be able to charter a small plane to take us all for less than $200, so we didn’t miss the nice lunch at the Friday Harbor Brew pub. The orcas put on a good show for us. We had a really fun visit with the girls and were happy to get to know Emily.

We tried out the motor home by attending an Adventure Cycling 30th anniversary event where Willie Weir was the guest speaker. We parked at a KOA campground in Kent and bought a membership there too, which has saved us $$ several times since. Willie is a bicycle adventure writer for Adventure Cycling magazine and works for public radio in Seattle. He writes great tales of his travels in New Zealand, Turkey, Cuba, Thailand, Laos and elsewhere. We had such fun we took a few more days and Murrey and visited two of our new K/M RV resort parks on the Olympic Peninsula. Murrey was fun to have along, but it showed us we aren’t ready for a pet again. We want to bike and don’t want to have to walk a dog many times every day.

We hung around for a barbeque Deirdre had for friends and co-workers. It was nice to meet and visit with her workmates and her friend Tara’s parents. They enjoyed a hot sunny afternoon on her big back deck and in the shade of her bamboo. Carl and Mary Zmeskal Tighe came to Portland just then for 2 weeks, so we took Amtrak down and spent a few days with them. Gordy and Kitty Kelly Bushman joined us on Sunday and Kitty introduced us to pinot noir from the Willamette Winery where their son-in-law works. Larry loved it, so later Deirdre bought all she could find at Safeway and surprised us with quite a few bottles to take east.

We told Mary and Carl again that we would be in Wisconsin by August 17, to pick up Deirdre at the airport to see Grandma and attend Uncle Donny’s 70th birthday party. A few days after we returned from Portland, the mail brought an invitation to Mary and Carl’s 25th wedding anniversary party, to be hosted by their friend Ruth Kahl in Delavan, WI. Why hadn’t they mentioned anything? They didn’t want to pressure us to return early but we had no idea, as the invitation was delayed by the address change. Naturally we are not ones to miss a good party, so we determined to cross the country by the party date, July 30.

Deirdre’s good friend Kadi Jo Miller insisted we stay and come to dinner Friday. Her dad was in the nursing home following a stroke 2 years ago, and Kadi is living in his beautiful Kirkland home with an amazing view of Lake Washington. We are so happy we stayed. We had a wonderful visit and as her dad died this month, she may not be living there next time we’re in Washington. In the days between Portland and Kadi’s dinner, Larry installed a ceiling fan and air conditioner in Deirdre’s bedroom and built Murrey a covered shelter in his kennel. Larry is like the energizer bunny at times.

We set out to follow US HY 2 from Washington to Wisconsin. We spent the first night at Soap Lake, a heavily mineralized lake that is considered spa-like and easy to swim in. The area is beautiful but the water was too muddy to get near. The area is known as Dry Falls and was carved 300k years ago during the Ice Age. It is nearly empty of water now, but was a raging river 3 times wider and deeper than Niagara Falls.

For the next 2 days we followed some of the route we bicycled with Cycle America in 1994 when we crossed Washington, a bit of Idaho and Montana, into Canada and Glacier Park Highway to the Sun. We couldn’t go to the sun this trip as the vehicle limit is 20’. But we did revisit the route from Grand Coulee thru an Indian Reservation to Newport, WA, Kootenai Falls and the road along Lake Koocanusa to Eureka, MT. We are pretty amazed at the biking we did then.

We continued across Montana and North Dakota, staying at our $8 campgrounds when possible. We spent a night with Larry’s cousin John and Carole Rusch near Gordon, WI and had a great visit and dinner with them. The next night we visited Dave and Marilyn Holly Gigure near Siren, WI, friends from Manitowoc who Larry worked with in Rhinelander eons ago. Again, good to catch up after many years. This RVing is fun.

So we surprised Mary and Carl .. the night before the party actually, as we didn’t want to miss any pre-party fun at their house with cousin Susie Kelly Kampman and Minneapolis friends Joel and Betty Flentje Schleifer. There was a request for no anniversary gifts, but we didn’t think it counted if we gave them some Willamette wines we shared in Portland, some eraser tops for their Sudoku pencils and some sand dollars from Washington.

We all had a good time at Donny Schiesl’s 70th birthday party in Eagle River. The weather wasn’t great and the pontoon ride was brisk, but it was fun to see all the Schiesls and my nieces and nephew and families. Jaime and Emily had fun in the motel swimming pool and we had a great perch fry at a northwoods bar. The next night we enjoyed pizza and beer at the Pizza Garden in Manitowoc with Larry’s family and a great bunch of old friends. It was fun to reconnect with Jim Chadek and Dick Malek, friends we had many a beer with in the ‘60s but haven’t seen in decades. Too soon it was time for Deirdre to return to Seattle.

The rest of the time we partied with friends and ate our way around Wisconsin. We had burgers at Krolls in Green Bay several times, at Lates in Manitowoc and even at Micky Lu’s in Marinette. We met up with friends at the Memorial Union and Capital Brewery. We visited friends Gerry and Kenny Meicher at their Muscoda trailer and land and enjoyed an ATV ride. We caught up with Donna and Dan Winger in Marinette from my teaching days in 1969 and Norm and Jo Bertler Teaford in Cecil. Lunch at Krolls with my Aunt Peg Kane and some cousins. And a nice visit with Joy King in Milwaukee, a wonderful woman Diane Gerl Sedlacek and I met at Women’s Week at Girl Scout Camp more than 20 years ago. And lots of other great dinners and laughs with Madison friends and the biking friends we met on that Washington ride in 1994. Thanks to you all for your hospitality and for coming out to party with us. We had a great warm colorful fall week in Door County .. a few days at an $8 campground, a few days at the Bailey’s Harbor Yacht Club with Tighes and a few days with Barb and Greg Sheehy at their new Fish Creek condo with a great dinner including my cousin Sue and Dave Bartel. We were glad we were still around for Bob Steffen’s 60th birthday party and lots of Spring Harbor neighborhood friends.

A special time was the 10 days we spent at Heidi’s house staying with Jaime and Emily and the dogs. Heidi was sent to Germany to certify a piece of equipment for her job at Brady Corp., so she and Brian went early and traveled in Europe for 10 days. We had a great time, loved every minute AND were happy to see Brian return as we were just exhausted. I’d hoped to connect with a bunch of people in Milwaukee, but we were just too tired to even think of it. But it was fun and a great way to get to know the darling grandchildren we choose to leave so often.

Medical appointments went well. I was worried about some bouts of double vision I’d been having, but the Dr. said it was dry eyes. One dose of eye drops and no problem. I thought I’d need some dental work, but the dentist could see no problem. Change toothpaste and no problem. We hung around while Larry recorded blood pressure readings and he may have been prescribed some blood pressure meds, but his new Dr. called in sick 3 days running and we didn’t stay around any longer in the cold and rain for her to return. We’ll have to take care of it from the road.

So we’re off now .. following the sun .. at least looking for it right now. Campgrounds are closing, snow is falling and we need to boogey. Our first stop is in Nashville to hear some country music, visit the museum and attend the 81st anniversary Grand Ole Opry shows. Later we’ll stop to see Rick and Carol Loberger Hagerbaumer in the Memphis area. Rick came to Madison in August for the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival and Carol’s sister Mary Ellen Spoerke got tickets for us .. a special treat as tickets sell out immediately. We all enjoyed many samplings and we look forward to tasting Rick’s home brews. He has a website www.bigfoamyhead.com you should check out if you love beer and want to learn more and hear Rick’s podcast from this festival and others. Those boys know beer. We’ll spend the winter in the south, on to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and beyond, staying at our $8 resorts along the way. We’ll meet Mary and Carl Tighe, Joe and Sarah Schmitz Piller, Susie Kelly Kampman and Ruth Kahl in Puerto Vallarta in January.

Let us know if you’ll be down south anytime and we’ll see if we can hook up. We were hoping Sid and Ruth Chapman from Melbourne would visit us here, but Sid recently had surgery for bladder cancer and he isn’t up to traveling yet. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Next year maybe …….

We’ll mostly be laying seaside or poolside now .. in our dreams for sure, so we’ll post an update quarterly for now. Check back in January for our winter adventures. Meanwhile we’ll be dual PC WiFi-ing wherever it is offered. We have a cell phone, so give us a call. Free minutes weekends 206-595-6687.
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