July 14th through August 5th, 2015 Rockport, Gloucester, Cape Ann Massachusetts

Dropped KatieBug off at Barkwood Inn and drove a nice easy pace to Newport Massachusetts. Reservations were made on Tuesday for our whale watch on Thursday. We arrived mid-morning Wednesday. Cape Ann Whale Watch called to tell us the Thursday morning trip was cancelled, no problem, we left our plans open specifically for this adventure. Checked into our Eagle House Guesthouse room with itty-bitty everything. A tiny room, tiny TV, tiny bathroom and thin tiny curtains that didn’t close completely. Being on the first floor and not one to enjoy the exhibitionist lifestyle, I tried to close us off from the public, all in vain.

Tiny Bathroom  Our cottage room

Our one person bathroom was clean but the room was covered with a coating of dust thick enough for me to write “clean me” notes on the furniture. Deciding to wipe it down myself, I returned the face towel to exchange at the office, asking for a duster to remove the multiple cob webs from the ceiling. When I returned I spotted several brightly colored prescription pills dotting the floor by the bed. OK, this was my escape away from cleaning, I’m not the maid and not getting paid, no more cleaning. Called the front desk and within 20 minutes the owner came with his cleaning crew to scrub down the room. When they left, a few other annoyances popped up (toilet didn’t fill after flushing, sink stopper wouldn’t open, etc.) so we resigned to spend the night after the owner offered us one of his beachfront property rooms for the next night.

Time to explore. Rockport is a small cozy town with clusters of 1700’s and 1800’s homes and considerable numbers of huge marble and brick buildings, a few sky scraping church steeples thrown in for good measure.

1802 Unitarian  Orthodox Church, Gloucester

The town is gathered along the seaside with one stretch of land jutting out into the ocean. The jut, a.k.a., Bearskin Neck, is an historic piece of land named for a bear caught in the tide and killed in 1700.

Bear Skin Neck Sign

Orderly rows of homes transformed into businesses are squeezed snugly together and line both sides of the narrow Bearskin Neck avenue. The styles and maturity of each house varied, many having living quarters above, selling their treasures on the ground floor. The generally accepted hokey beach gift shops were mixed in with antiques, hippy-wares, oddities, a vintage “location, location, location” motel, a menagerie of eateries and sweet shops offering chewy, gooey, sticky, creamy and cold delights.

Bearskin Neck, 1695

Early evening Wednesday, Cape Ann Whale Watch called cancelling the Thursday afternoon trip. Motel, pet resort, dining and gas costs already accumulating, now without the main event taking place. A self-serving 15 minute pout for me. Pulled up my big girl pants and struggled to assume a make-the-best-of-it attitude. Darn…I really wanted to see those whales!

We walked back into town and took the recommendation of our motel manager to eat at the highly acclaimed fish restaurant, The Fish Shack. Seated by the window facing the ocean, we ordered one of their specialties, lobster scampi. The restaurant, the service, the view and the food did not disappoint.

Rockport downtown

Back to our carriage house room to pack and squint at the tiny TV before sleeping. The inability of our curtains to close and our bathroom being so tiny, I dressed for bed in the shower stall rather than put on a striptease show for the neighborhood. This relaxation escape needed a new direction. A quick TripAdvisor search availed a few options of interesting “to-do’s” to fill in for the whale watching trip that was not happening over the next two days.

An early morning stroll into town, a Kodak Moment of the boat dock next to Bearskin Neck, chit chatting with the locals over amazing veggie omelets for breakfast, all prefaced our pack-n-move.

Bear Skin Neck Docks

Our new location was a room at Eagle House Beachside. The property was directly across from Front Beach and next door to Old First Parish Burying Ground dated 1630 through 1930. Our neighbors tonight will be the ghostly spirits of early settlers and many of the officers and soldiers of the French and Indian Revolutionary and 1812 wars.  First settler Richard Tarr provided the plot of land and was buried here in 1732.

Old First Parish Burying Ground

A theatrical drama played out in my mind as to what I would do if this next overnight was anything like the first. It bounced around in my head as we drove three blocks down to the main street, over a few blocks and up a slight hill to our next sleeping destination. Well, this wasn’t exactly beachfront but the ocean was visible from our front door and the room, although somewhat defaced, was dust free.

Eagle House Motel and Beachside

A quick unpack and we left to explore. First “to-do”, a side trip to Gloucester, America’s greatest fishing port for nearly four centuries.

Names of those that went down in ships

Beginning in 1623 with the first settlers from England coming to harvest the oceans bounty and again in the 1800’s this port drew in immigrants from Canada, Scandinavia and Ireland. Later, Italy and Portugal joined in the perilous work, sustained by the hope of prosperity.

The Oceanside walk is famous for the statue of a fisherman, its fame augmented by a breaded fish stick product owned by a Japanese seafood conglomerate Nippon Suisan. The company, in case you haven’t guessed, is Gorton’s of Gloucester.

The fisherman stands facing the ocean, wheel tightly gripped, braced against the turbulent seas.

Gloucester Massachusetts

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. Psalm 107, 23-24”. Over 5,300 men lost their lives. The names on the plaque are somber reminders of mother nature and her powerful force.

The stroll along the oceans edge is peaceful and relaxing. A double dip in the “to-do” department, a mid-week farmers market happening at the end of the pier. It called to us, flaunting several to-die-for oatmeal/peanut butter chocolate chips cookies. They drew us in, pried open our lips and forced their way into our bellies while we perused both lengthy rows of home baked breads, fresh pressed cheeses, fresh fish, organic meats and veggies, an assortment of crafts, soaps, toys and hand sewn clothes. Each booth charmingly displayed wares to shoppers with large reusable bags in tow.

Next up…Hammond Castle, built from 1926 through 1929 by John Hays Hammond Jr. to house his medieval collection and his laboratory that developed basic inventions of guided missiles and radio communications. He was known as the “father of radio control”.

At 12 years of age, John Hammond accompanied his father on a business trip to Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, NJ.  Introduced to Edison, John asked so many questions that the inventor gave him a personal tour of the complex and assumed the role of mentor, remaining in contact with Hammond Jr. for the rest of his life.

In total, Hammond is credited with more than 800 foreign and domestic patents on more than 400 inventions mostly in the fields of radio control and naval weaponry.

Hammond Castle Front

We bought tickets for the candlelit night tour but found out it did not allow views of several areas I was interested in seeing. The ticket counter granted us access to a self-guided walking tour on the spot with an assurance that we could return later for the candlelight tour if we so wished.

Outside Courtyard

Authenticity was foremost for Hammond. No cost was spared to achieve the settings he wished to accomplish in each area of the castle. The entrance to the dining room, the dining room and small library contained dozens of priceless artifacts as did the Great Hall.

Entrance to the dining hall   Dining Room  Library and Music Room

The Great Hall stands in for the church, the center of medieval life. The archway (back right corner of the picture) surrounding the “church” is carved from volcanic rock from Pompeii and was likely carved in the 12th century.

Castle courtyard, 2nd floor dive area

The organ is a Hammond Pipe Organ, no relation; in fact, rumor was that the two heads of households didn’t get on well.  The suit of armor is authentic.

The Great Hall  Hammond Organ and armor   Great Hall from servents area

So many details inside the Great Hall, we stood and tried to take in everything.

Inside the Great Hall  Ornate church platform

The sitting room, a small alcove of the Great Hall, was my favorite room.  The window arches and stained glass are authentic and the room feels cozy and inviting.

Great Hall sitting room (2)  Great Hall sitting room

The oddest relic, but by far the most remarkable, was an authentic skull of a sailor who sailed with Columbus.

Skull of a sailor who sailed with Columbus

Sections of two 15th century French storefronts were purchased to place on either side of his courtyard to give the effect of being in a medieval village. You can see carvings above the door of wares sold in the store which were used to identify the shops for villages who could not read. On one side is a bakery with a residence above.

Bakery with residence above

The other side is a butcher shop with a tavern above.

Butcher shop with tavern above

Mr. Hammond would often tell his guests, while dining, about the castle and courtyard mentioning that in medieval times, the town water was only 12-18 inches deep. Later he would climb to the second floor and dive into the water, which was actually 8-1/2 feet deep, shocking his guests but livening up the post dinner conversation.

Courtyard from Second floor

The ceiling in the courtyard contains Mr. Hammond’s weather control system which allowed him to create a lite drizzle or a torrential downpour, the sound of thunder, knee deep fog and sun or moonlight. He used his weather system to water his plants, startle his guests and dispel boring conversations.

A wealthy eccentric, notorious for being a jokester, he frequently took delight in playing pranks on his drunk overnight guests. Having built his guest room with wall paper covering all doors that opened with a button on the wall, he would impishly move the button before they retired. You can see the bathroom door slightly ajar on the right side of the bed.

Early American Guest Room

Cardinal Richard Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, was a close friend and regular guest. He had a permanent bedroom in the castle.

Cardinal Cushings Room  Cardinals room

Pictures and information about Mr. Hammonds Radionynamic Torpedo System and his Dynamic Accentor, two of his greatest inventions, were immediately observed upon entering his invention room. The 1950’s Dynamic Accentor is an invention that contains many of the components of today’s stereo systems. He installed the invention in his Great Hall and it controlled 35 speakers in the ceiling and walls.

Dynamic Accentor

The Radionynamic Torpedo System is a carrier of explosives for a military target.

Invention Room

Lastly, we took a brief stroll around the castle grounds and paused for a Kodak moment of the castles ocean view.

View from the Castle

John Hays Hammond, Jr. died February 12, 1965. He is buried under the drawbridge of his castle and, as per his instructions, his grave is surrounded by poison oak plants.

Castle Drawbridge

A relaxing drive back to our motel and an early evening walk down to the end of Bearskin Neck to watch the seagulls skim the surf. Rinse and repeat of last nights delicious lobster scampi meal but with an additional treat, the melodic voice of a young singer playing softly on guitar. It was a perfect background for our dining experience. A short stroll back to our room, a glass of our private stock of fermented grape brought from LilyPad to sip on our porch while lounging on comfy padded patio chairs, view of the ocean across the street, quiet and peaceful. Our mini escape had made a complete about face.

Sunset, Front Beach

I set the alarm to awaken before sunrise. John decided to come with and we watched as a warm orange glow spread across the horizon just before an intensely brilliant sun rose up out of the ocean into the morning sky. Well worth the 5:30 a.m. roll out of bed.

Front Beach at Sunrise, Rockport, MA

Beachcombing for old brick and flow blue pottery shards, another beachside ocean view breakfast at a local café, all before packing up and beginning our drive back to Charlton.

On the way home, a quick drive-by the 1862 Eastern Port Lighthouse.  New England’s coastal shores are saturated with lighthouses but sadly, many are now privately owned and not accessible.  This one was private.

Eastern Point Lighthouse, 1862

Back home, mini escape behind us and our “it’s always something” looming large, demanding to be addressed.

This week’s “it’s always something” is the bolt holding the front entrance retracting stairs together. When it came off, it bent other parts resulting in the step refusing to retract or extend. John strapped them closed while we waited to find parts that may no longer be available. It’s one big step up until parts arrive.

Incorrectly assuming that we had enough go wrong this week, the “motorhome spirits” laughed and cried out…”one more for these idiots who refuse to heed my warning and continue to roll around the country on a wish and a prayer!”

John had read on the forum that running high pressure water through the black tank roof air vent might clear the horrid sewer smell that wafted into our bedroom each time we flushed. Mounted on the ladder, he pushed the newly purchased hose and fittings into the vent and turned on the high pressured water. I screamed through the window that something was splashing behind the washer/dryer. John switched it off and we both watched as water dripped down the wall and all over the wood flooring behind the washer/dryer. Turns out the vent wasn’t connected and had separated mid-way causing the smell and now the flooding waters. As appliances are not installed to be removed easily, we will be forced to cut an additional hole in our bedroom wall to access repairs. Yep, this is truly the life.

Time to quickly pull out the towels and fans…again. For the next five days the contents of our box on wheels is once more, askew.

A much needed and appreciated peaceful, relaxing visit with John’s family, who lives in Holden 30 minutes away, for the evening. John’s sister, brother-in-law, their children (our niece and nephew) and their adult kids will be our dining companions. It is what I miss the most about this life…our related (and unrelated) family.

Our next escape will be John’s 50th High School Reunion in Gloversville, NY.  Although several weeks away, it is another highly anticipated escape from the blood, sweat and tears of our current contract position.  Calmly practicing my breathing exercises no longer helps me endure those intolerable horrid 5% of our Sunday guests.

June 21st through July 12th, Beacon New York and Six Day Work A Thon

Another Texan visiting New England! Lynn, a friend from The Woodlands Texas, was visiting her daughter Kristy in Beacon New York and plans were made for us all to meet up. KatieBug vacationed at the Barkwood Inn, the local fur baby resort and spa, while we relaxed for two days and nights in the nearby town of Fishkill, a few minutes from downtown Beacon.

First stop after arrival was Clay, Wood and Cotton, Kristy’s fabulous boutique filled with handmade home-goods and an assortment of splendid yarns. The name gives away the main wares of the fanciful shop that sits at the end of Main Street in Beacon.  Loaded with fun and funky kitchen towels, oven mitts, aprons, containers, homespun gifts, cards to express any occasion and lots of gift goodies, all is lovingly presented by the owner who greets you as you enter. I loved the inside of the store not only for the charming wares but for the detailed wood work and pressed tin ceilings inside the shop that complimented her marvelous offerings.  Visit www.claywoodandcotton.com for more information.

Clay, Wood and Cotton     Clay, Wood and Cotton inside

Off to explore, the three of us stopped at the massive Hudson River to admire its girth and depth when Lynn pointed across the river and mentioned that Orange County Chopper was located just on the other side.

John and I have watched the program but thought it was filmed in Orange County California. Being this close, we could not have possibly passed up the chance to visit the famous motorcycle shop where magnificent choppers are fabricated and the reality TV show is filmed.

The Dog  Orange County Choppers

Unluckily for us, they were still filming so we were not allowed to visit the interior area where the magic happens. So many fabulous motorcycles lined the sales floor. John bought a T-shirt and we checked out the swankiest of the rides.

A festive Santa Cycle

Santa Bike

Make A Wish Foundation Cycle

Make A Wish

Firefighter Cycle

Fire fighter Chopper

Spiderman Cycle

Spiderman

 

Driving along the river to our next destination I spotted some charming hilltop mansions and had to get a closer look.  It is no wonder why I love these homes.  All the romance of yesteryear held inside the architectural artistry of builders who created homes to last generations.  This one was overflowing with the character of a proud Victorian Lady.  The Andrew Jackson Downing House, built in 1815 had all the charm I would want if I were a multi-millionaire and could custom build my home.   He was an American landscape designer, horticulturalist, and writer, a prominent advocate of the Gothic Revival in the United States, and editor of The Horticulturist magazine.

Andrew J Downing House, 1815

Next up, our trio spent several hours at Storm King Art Center. The center is commonly referred to as Storm King, named after its proximity to Storm King Mountain.  It is an open air museum located in Mountainville, New York and contains what is considered to be the largest collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the US.  Founded in 1960 by Ralph E. Ogden as a museum for Hudson River School paintings, it soon evolved into a major sculpture venue with works from some of the most acclaimed artists of our time.

My mother was an artist so I grew up appreciating all forms of art. This fascinating 500 acre open air museum was donated, along with its spectacular 1930’s house now used to showcases various artists.

Donated 1930's mansion on Storm King Mountain

The current guest artist, Lynda Benglis, and her Water Sources were displayed inside and outside surrounding the house.

Inside Storm King

The descriptions of each artists work came from www.stormking.org website and offers additional information on the Center.

Crescendo                                             North, South, East, West

Crescendo  North South East West

Bounty, Amber Waves and Fruited Plane         Pink Ladies

Bounty, Amber Waves and Fruited Plane                                   Pink Ladies

The fields and hills that encircle the house are scattered with giant sculptures in a variety of mediums. Most are handicapped accessible via tram that takes you around the vast property and stops to allow you to get up close and personal with some of the pieces. The moving pieces and the cactus were my favorites.   From the backyard, front yard and side yards, your views took in amazing artwork in every direction.

Storm King fields  Art in the distance

Art among the grasses  Neruda's Gate

Dennis Oppenheim had a deep interest in both architecture and cacti. He once noted that he liked that cacti were both soft and hard, he liked the unpredictable shapes into which they grow, and he liked their prickly nature.  The surface of each sculpture  in this Architectural Cactus is designed in various colors and materials, so each sculpture is unique. Considered an artist whose work was frequently offbeat and humorous, the cactus were designed to suggest puzzle pieces fitting together, like the clues that detectives piece together in the process of solving a crime.

Architectural Cactus

Most pieces are hands-off but you are allowed contact with a few. One such is Momo Taro.  Noguchi, the artist, visited in 1977, surveyed the landscape, selected a site, then returned to his studio on the Japanese island of Shikoku to work.  The rock’s appearance, after being split, reminded his assistants of Momo Taro, an ancient folk hero who emerged from a peach pit to become the son of an elderly couple. The work was finished within a year and was installed in the spring of 1978.

The nine-part, forty-ton granite sculpture, hugging the earth and anchored to a concrete base underground, sits atop a specially landscaped hill, with commanding views of the surrounding area. Noguchi noted, “The sculpture lives as part of a hill. It was the hill that got me going, which inspired me.”

Momo taro

Ursula Von Rydingsvard’s primary material is four-by-four lengths of cedar wood, a material that, as the artist has said, “it seems to be I’m able to speak through.” Von Rydingsvard stacks, glues, and cuts into these beams freehand with a circular saw, an intuitive process that the artist has likened to the freedom and creativity that many artists associate with the process of drawing. Luba is the first work on a large scale that von Rydingsvard created in solid cedar.

Luba

The two simple forms of Menashe Kadishman’s Suspended engage in a gravity-defying balance.  Seen from a distance, atop one of two adjacent hilltops, the sculpture’s balancing act is surprising. Viewed up close, the massive scale of the steel work becomes apparent and its structural viability even more difficult to comprehend. With no visible evidence of the engineering holding the sculpture up, Suspended prompts contemplation of the relationship between its two conjoined, towering masses, coupled with questions about what lies below ground.

Storm King Hills  Suspended

Mermaid, by Roy Lichtenstein, whose flat, bold paintings derived from comic strips became some of the best-known works of Pop art in the 1960s, designed a painting of a mermaid to grace the side of a functioning sailboat.

Mermaid

Johnny Swing’s Butterfly Chair, named for its symmetrical spread-wing form, envelops the sitter.  The chair was made with 1,500 half-dollar coins.  It took Swing more than two hundred hours to weld the 6,400 nickels into the Nickel Couch.

Before a single coin was welded, he spent months crafting the biomorphic shapes in polyester resin to ensure that people could sit comfortably in these unconventional seats

Butterfly Chair  Nickel Couch

Andy Goldsworthy’s first museum commission for a permanent work in the United States, his largest single installation to date, exemplifies his nature-based methodology, which includes building this dry stone wall, drawing on British agricultural tradition. Storm King Wall was originally imagined as a 750-foot-long dry stone wall snaking through the woods, but when it reached its planned endpoint, it seemed only natural to the artist for the wall to continue downhill to a nearby pond. Soon after the wall’s trajectory was extended again; it now emerges from the other side of the pond and continues uphill to Storm King’s western boundary at the New York State Thruway—totaling 2,278 feet overall.  The winter photo, from Storm King’s website, shows greater detail.

A Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall Storm King Wall, Fieldstone

Zhang Huan’s work engages with Buddhist philosophy and rituals and with the artist’s notion that the contemporary condition is continually revitalized through an engagement with the past. Three Legged Buddha, a copper and steel sculpture standing twenty-eight feet high and weighing more than twelve tons, represents the bottom half of a sprawling, three-legged figure, one of whose feet rests on an eight-foot-high human head that appears to be either emerging from or sinking into the earth. The work is comprised of nine sections of copper “skin,” each with an interior steel armature, held together with bolts and welds.  The face is said to be a likeness of Huan.

Three Legged Buddha

Wandering up and down the gravel and asphalt walking paths through indigenous grasses, mature trees and incredible art, discovering all this outdoor art museum has to offer would take an entire day. Their bathrooms are clean, they offer senior rates, very kid friendly, include bike rentals and a snack bar, everything a family needs for a fun educational outing.

Figolu    from the tram

I have marked this Park as a “return venture”.  As for today, we had places to go and things to see before ending our day.

We had planned to visit the CIA New York for lunch…that’s Culinary Institute of America, not the government agency. Our only bit of misfortune on this splendid sun shiny day was that we arrived hours before dinner and lunch was only available in the overcrowded café. A quick TripAdvisor search found a Triple D (Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives) restaurant near our next stop, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and grounds.

We entered the retro café and sat comfortably looking at the menu. So many choices! Our orders arrived, huge servings, wonderful flavors, attentive service, all wrapped up in a very reasonable “check please”…can’t say anything negative about the Eveready Diner in Hyde Park.

Eveready Diner

Next stop, the FDR home, complex, museum and library. The movie that begins the tour was interesting and informative, the tour guide was well versed in everything FDR and the grounds were expansive. Behind the library stands a striking art piece made from pieces of the Berlin Wall.

Pieces of the Berlin Wall at Hyde Park

We paused in front of the charming rose gardens, where President Roosevelt and Eleanor are buried, to hear more about his strength of character and his political life.

The tour continued on to Springwood, FDR’s residence, which housed original rugs, furniture and fixtures.

Hyde Park, FDR's house

Musty stagnant air greeted us upon entering, so Lynn and John finished the house tour and I met up with them in the library.

FDR Livingroom  FDR Birthroom, Jan 30, 1882

The FDR Presidential library is not a library in the usual sense. It holds the archives preserving the written and physical history of the president for which it was built. The FDR library contains collections that reflect political, social, military, diplomatic and cultural life in America during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It features short video’s and personal items relating to the lives and careers of Franklin and Eleanor, their friends, family and associates. The museum was designed to showcase FDR’s viewpoints and was indeed enjoyable.

Dropped off Lynn, then took a leisurely drive down the charming Main Street of the town of Beacon.  The buildings, stores, eateries and the people make it a delightful place to visit.

Downtown Beacon, NY

One brick building had an intricate painting mounted on its side.

Art in Beacon

At the bend where Beacon Street meets the river, an ornate brick building stands, designed by Richard Morris Hunt in the 1870’s, the Howland Cultural Center.

Howland Cultural Center, Beacon NY

Later we met up with Kristy at a local brewery to throw back a few mellow beers and play trivia. Our group name, what else?  “The Old Farts”. We did surprisingly well against all those young whippersnappers. After a relaxing evening, John and I returned to our cozy room for the night.

Our last meet up with Lynn before returning to Charlton was at the local Bank Sq. Coffee House, reminiscent of daughter Liz and my favorite haunt, Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co., in California.

Coffee Shop

John and I split a delicately delicious scone and coffee before saying our good-byes.

Bank Sq Coffee

When we entered our car to start our drive home, I spotted the Hudson Beach Glass Inc., building on the corner. Deciding we could spare another few minutes, we slipped in to admire the artisans blowing molten glass into orbs of beauty. I so much wanted to “need” something from this boutique of delightful wares.

The fine art glass gallery and glassblowing demonstration studio is housed in an 1890 firehouse.  It is owned by four artists and displays their art glass as well as works by contemporary glass artists from around the world.

Hudson Beach Glass

Michael Benzer, one of the owners, was more than happy to help me search for the perfect “something”. The slick luster of glass, twinkling and reflecting the sun’s rays, is something I have always adored. Glass is an overly delicate luxury that is hazardous to carry in our box on wheels, bumping and rattling down the roads. Much caught my eye but nothing that I wanted to suffer the disappointment of losing. If you’ve been following our journey you will remember that in our first week, John broke my Mount Pleasant black amethyst depression glass bonbon plate. I made a note to return to Beacon to choose a piece as a replacement.

Hudson Beach Glass and Michael

Returning home, picked up KatieBug all freshly bathed and tired from her daily romps with other fur babies at the Barkwood Spa. Laundry time and completion of the other dreary life responsibilities before work in the morning.

The 6-days-in-a-row work week marathon had arrived. 12 hours every day, John and I working in the 95 degree heat and on a busy day, no breaks. In hindsight, trading end-of-August time with our neighbor for time surrounding 4th of July, the busiest time of the season, was a mistake. Our first arrival days of being “slammed” were not, comparatively. A mere 500 and 600 count of guests in the park was nothing to stress over and was a relatively lightweight number. Our current July Sundays bring in 1,200 to 1,700 people. No sitting down, no meal breaks, we both must be at the toll booth nearly full time or our vehicle line goes out onto the street, which, of course, is unacceptable to the Rangers. Wave them in, move them up, grab their money, barely enough time to spit out the necessary spiel, “this is a carry in/carry out park, no trash cans are anywhere in the facility. Please take your trash home…do you need a bag?” before quickly moving on to the next…all said with a big smiling no matter how sweaty and ragged you feel.

4th of July holiday, working with 4 people, a somewhat mild day so number were medium.  Woke up late and rushed to get ready for work. Spotted a black bug on John’s neck tangled in his neck hair. Made him sit quietly while I madly dashed around trying to find the plastic tick remover spoon that we use on our fur babies. Pulled out the top cabinets, dug through the drawers, no luck. Pulled out the bottom cabinet, ah, that’s where I put it! Rushed to slip the slit over the bug and it fell to the floor. A tiny dead black and yellow beetle. All that emotional melt down for a harmless bug. This day is not off to a great start.

Day two, our regular Sunday work day, I truly understand the old Polish statement: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. Although John and I are responsible for the intake of toll booth cash, toilet cleaning and cleaning the entire park of trash, we are not responsible for dealing with crazies. They seem to crawl out of the woodwork to settle in our park on Sundays. I tried hard to ignore them but finally had to call and beg for a Ranger to come and keep the insanity in check.

Morning started with picking up goose poop (yep, that’s our job too) and adults fighting over one child hitting an aggressive duck with a life jacket. It upset another parent who began screaming that it was harming the duck.  The duck flew away leaving four adults continuing to scream at the top of their lungs at each other.

Noon, a young boy burned his foot on hot coals, police and ambulance were called, very loud sirens announced their arrival at the park. I was sure that would be the last bit of excitement for the day.

Afternoon, a mom setting up for her young daughters birthday party came to us and asked that we please move the drunk man from the pavilion. No Rangers in sight…darn…walked over, called out “sir”, he awoke, I asked him to please leave. He took off his shirt, walked 20 paces to the grass, rolled up his shirt and passed out again. OK…at least he’s no longer in the pavilion. So much for our “no alcohol” rules.

A woman came to the booth to report a couple smoking a bong in the park. Again, no ranger to be found. No time to respond as the cars were again lined up out onto the road…it will have to resolve itself.

Late afternoon, dogs started a rather loud discussion near another family. Again, no Ranger to be found.  By the time I reached them, their owners had gone their separate ways and all was quiet.

Early evening, a huge generational family of non-English speaking guests were loudly throwing “choice words” at our closing ranger after being asked to take their trash home as per park rules. The empty liquor bottles in the bags could have been the cause of their unnecessary rage. “No-alcohol” signs are everywhere, in three languages. Not my monkeys.

Evening, we began cleaning up the horrid disgusting mess while the ranger was still chasing people out of the park. Park closes at 8pm, the last couple left at 8:30. Sent multiple piles of trash back to the office with our closing ranger. Bathroom and park cleaning was postponed until Monday morning. Both of us dead tired and we have just begun the week.

Monday clean up took most of the day but our third through sixth days started out slow and easy, only picking up in the afternoon.  Mostly moms with kids. Nothing overwhelming and no crazies. Several moms packed in six and seven children at a time, their fee being only  $1.00…such a deal!

Day six, last exchange day. Exhausted. Next time someone asks to trade days with us around a busy holiday, I will politely but firmly decline.

Day seven and eight, two days to recoup before we start our regular two day work week.

Day nine, highest guest numbers in the last two years. No ranger in the park. Called and threatened to quit here and now if they didn’t send a ranger to the park immediately. Very hard to keep a happy disposition after the beating we took last week. Ranger Tim, the head honcho, arrived and took care of the circus and the monkeys and we herded the masses through the toll booth line. 12 long hours later, day is done and so are we.

Today is our day off and we are badly in need of a vacation. Cape Ann Whale Watching Groupon tickets were tucked into Ribitts glove compartment, we had reservations at a small local motel, KatieBug had reservations for two days at Barkwood Inn and our drive to Rockport Massachusetts was an easy two hours away. Good-by circus, good-by monkeys!

May 21st through June 20th, 2015 Buffumville Dam, Marlborough, Sharon and Plymouth

Staying inside LilyPad for weeks with Austin Air Filters full blast does not give one notable adventures. We managed a few weekly short escapes to drug stores and grocers to refill our fridge and cupboards but my face had to be covered when outside by the uncomfortable mandatory mask. It is unbelievable that The Woodlands, laden with pollenating plants year round, does not surpass the breathing constriction, wheezing, sneezes, watery eyes, raspy voices and nose blowing that results from the over exuberant pollenating of New England’s Oak trees. Pollen counts are daily reaching ten times the norm since our arrival, making the inside of LilyPad my entire world for over a month, the exception being days I must work.

Another chart topper attendance day today. The highest counts of park guests in the last year. We are supposed to work twelve hours a day, but chasing guests out of the park at closing, picking up trash throughout the park after they are gone, counting up all the money and attending to bookwork, another hour. Add to that the drive to the bank the next morning for a bank check and a trip to the office to turn in paperwork/bank check, another hour. By the time our two work days are done, we’ve accrued close to 14 hours each day.

Pollen is washed out of the air each downpour making “rainy” my favorite days. Alongside our grocery route road sits an older house with a small barn in back. Several spacious enclosed fields containing mini packs of spindly legged slender necked creatures that peer towards the road at the passing traffic. Their body structure appears to be that of petite Llama’s. Posted on the driveway next to the house is a hand printed sign that reads “Emma’s Acres Alpacas”.

Slowing to watch the animals, John spotted a man sitting inside the barn with doors swung open, dogs resting at his feet. Pulling into the dirt drive, we were immediately greeted by barking dogs, then by Roger, one of the owners. When I rolled down the window and asked about the animals in the fields, we were graciously invited to come meet his family of Alpacas.

Curious Alpacas

We exited the car and chatted with Roger while walking to the field, his elderly dog suspiciously eyeing us and plodding along a short distance behind. When Roger inched open the gate for us to step inside, we were met by a dozen pairs of huge soulful doe eyes and inquisitively sniffing noses. In the distance, additional long slender necks swiveled to follow our entrance into their domain.

Love this face

Natural curiosity coaxed one after another forward for a closer look so we waited patiently until they reached a comfort level with having us invade their personal space.

Watching me take pictures Watching John

Roger appeared with a container of Alpaca endorsed bribes, sharing them with John once the initial anxiety from our presence had subsided.

Roger with his Alpacas

John introduced himself to the bravest and then the prospect of munchies won out over any fear of this human intruder.

John with bribes

After snack time, we were invited into the barn to see the bags of what was recently sheered, then into the house to view completed merchandise. Soft but sturdy, Alpaca fiber sheerings are spun into an assortment of wearable and gift items in various colors. Prices are exceptionally reasonable and their wares are sold on line and at local fairs.

To read more about these gentle creatures and view their current all-season offerings, visit Emma’s Acres Alpacas at: www.emmasacresalpacas.com

Friendly farewells ended our entertaining detour and we continued on our way to the grocer before returning to LilyPad for a home cooked dinner and a Red Box movie. Work in the morning, early to bed, another day in Massachusetts ending.

Groupon is alive and well in Boston. We have secured our half price Hop-on/Hop-off Bus tickets for a Boston overview escape and Cape Ann Whale Watching Cruise tickets for a seaside overnight. They both sit upon the dash ready for the greatly anticipated day of “liberation from pollen season”.

Our next free day after a downpour was spent collecting Kodak moments of local history and exploring the place we will call home for the next five months. Charlton is a small friendly town, first settled in 1735; residents are predominantly blue collar workers. First up, the Town Pound, a niche carved into the backside of the cemetery.

A forged metal pole driven into the ground surrounded by a stone fence served as the dog pound. An antiquated alternative to having them roam free. We’ve come a long way baby!

Town Pound 1837

Stones weathered by age, names partially faded, the Bay Path Cemetery, located at the end of the town in Charlton, holds the remains of many Revolutionary soldiers.

Graves of Revolutionary Soldiers

Giant shade trees overshadow gravestones placed in irregular rows inscribed with RIP dates that span centuries of American history.

Cemetery Grounds  Gravestones from 1700's through 1800's

The cemetery is final resting place for several celebrated personalities.  Bay Path Cemetery 1764

Maj. Gen. John Spurr, 1761-1816, participated in the Boston Tea Party and served in the Continental Army during the Revolution War. His house in Charlton, built in 1798, was added to the National Historic Register in 1976.

Major General John Spurr  John Spurr Home

John Capen Adams, aka “Grizzly Adams”, 1812-1860, was a trainer of grizzly bears and other wild animals he captured for zoological gardens and circuses. He kept several as pets.  Immortalized as a gentle giant in a movie in 1974 and in a TV series in 1977, the true disposition of “Grizzly” was said to more closely resemble an ornery old buzzard.

The original gravestone has no mention of “Grizzly” but has a carved illustration of Adams walking side-by-side through the woods with one of his bears. It is said that P.T. Barnum, a friend and circus partner, commissioned the creation of his tombstone. The Charlton Historical Commission installed a stone marker in 1976 to connect the obscure real name with the popularized nickname.

Grizzly Adams

Hiram Marble, a member of the Spiritualist Church from Charlton, believed he received a message from a 1630’s pirate named Thomas Veal who was said to have hidden treasure in a cave in Lynn. After an earthquake caused a huge rock to permanently close the cave, Thomas Veal was never seen again. Dungeon Rock, the name given the rock, stood blocking the entrance of the cave for several centuries until Hiram moved with his family to Lynn, bought five acres of land and began a lifetime of digging to find the treasure. He claimed to be guided by instructions from the spirit world.  Hiram believed that if he found the treasure, it was an opportunity to prove the validity of Spiritualism. He dug for the treasure until his death in 1868. His son Edwin continued digging until his death in 1880. The treasure was never found.

Hiram Marble

A substantially grassy medium separates two magnificent vintage brick structures, the Charlton Public Library and Charlton Center Historic District, the old Charlton High School. They sit directly across the street from each other in town center.

The Charlton Free Public Library was established in 1882. The library gained national recognition in 1906 after it banned Mark Twain’s short story “Eve’s Diary” for its au naturel illustrations of Eve in “summer costume”.

Charlton Library

The Charlton Center Historic District, formerly the old Charlton High School, was built in 1923 using Granite from the Universalist Church in the foundation.  The building sits on the site occupied by one of the first schoolhouses in town. Three churches had come and gone, the 1760 Charlton Center Meeting House, 1799 Congregational Center Meetinghouse, and the 1827 Calvinistic Congregational Society.

Charlton City Hall

Another day after “rainy” and we were off to explore.  I was born a California dreamer, joined others of pure tenacious spirit living as a Texan but if I ever lived past lives, there is no doubt that my heart and soul found the grace and charm of New England my true and forever home.

Dozens of centuries old towns clustered together along roads that began life as Native Indian trails and grew into well-traveled paved roads for the 20th and 21st century populace. Two and three hundred year old Salt Box, Mansard and Cape style homes, lovingly restored to their former elegance, reminiscent of the 18th and 19th century, now residences of 21st century suburbanites.

Sandwich 1637  Johnson House 1770

Plans are to drive the full length of the countryside and visit as many towns as possible while here in New England. My eyes squirreled from beach front weathered Capes to gigantic clapboard covered 17th century farmhouses attached to rust red barns.  Out one side of the window stood a slate roofed meticulously restored Mansards, my head rapidly changing direction so as not to miss the remarkably restored 1700’s Salt Box on the opposite side of the road.

Hannah Leonard House 1776

Rains continually clearing the air of pollen, our drive was one of many and we plan to traverse New England searching out old haunts and discovering new.

Marlborough, Massachusetts, the location of our pre-children home and life, was my favorite residence and remains so to this day. The memories from our life as New Englanders secured my belief that we belonged in that four story Town Center Remington Brownstone in The Woodlands Texas and was the reason we made the purchase.

Front of our house

Stopping in the middle of the street, relief was immediate as we gazed up at our three story Mansard perched on the lofty hillside, our first home, delighted to see it lovingly preserved by the current owners.

Our old house in Marlborough, MA

The homes on our street were well maintained, the town still neatly kept. Sniffles brought on by memories of amazing friends and joyous times from our past life clouded my eyes with tears.

Another flashback-to-the-past trip made the following week, this time from our 35 year old son Josh’s first year of life, the second time we returned to live in New England. This return, we chose Sharon Massachusetts and bought the last house on the left, back when the movie was still fresh in my then youthful mind.

Sharon 1783  Our house on Old Wolomolopoag

Sharon Massachusetts was a small Jewish community, tightly knit, its Christian parishioners held together by a tall slender man whom everyone called “the Jewish Priest”, the well-known, much-loved Father Bullock.

An avid runner, ever jogging through the town and countryside, Father Bullock was a pillar of strength and determination in the community and everyone knew he must certainly have had a direct line to God’s ear. He hosted and participated fully in a Jewish/Catholic radio talk show and was a leading proponent for religious tolerance.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church  Inside Our Lady of Sorrows

During our year in Sharon attending Our Lady of Sorrows Church, John and I were actively involved and chaired several committees.  We both have countless fond memories of this year in our lives. Rest in Peace dear Father Bullock.

Bullock Center

A new day, a new dawn, another long week indoors.  Experiencing cabin fever, got to get out of this place. Drove to Cape Cod Corps of Engineers to meet the Rangers and volunteers, checked out the other contract work positions, viewed the park and grounds for consideration of future stays. We met a gentleman who worked at Buffumville last year, John and he chatted. Told us he was much happier in his current spot, next to the main road with one bathroom and a few picnic tables, all cleaning split between he and another volunteer couple on the far side of the park. Four full work days, not someplace John would consider. Stopped in Plymouth to stretch our legs, let KatieBug out, breathe in the fresh salt sea air.

Plymouth Harbor

We split dinner at Lobster Hut, a well-known fabulous fast food joint on the docks of Plymouth. Yummy clam “chowdah” (that’s Yankee for chowder) and a monstrous lobster roll, leisurely enjoyed between us before the long drive home.

Lobster Hut

In case you are not familiar with lobster rolls, as was the case for John and I until our cruise stop in Bar Harbor Maine a few years back, I’ve included a picture displaying its chunky lobster yumminess.

Lobster Roll

Back home, quickly completed next-day-work-prep, relaxation for the balance of the evening.  Night-all.

May 10th through May 20th 2015 Journey to Massachusetts, Start of Our Season as Contract Workers for Army Corps of Engineers, Buffumville Lake Day Use, Charlton, MA

Our drive to Massachusetts was primarily freeway, relaxing and easy breezy. As we passed clusters of trees lining the freeway, the web worms were immediately noticeable and had already begun their damage to the local trees. So sad, a giant step backwards that they are just as prevalent as they were when we left Massachusetts 33 years ago.  My last recollection of those pesky worm cocoons  were of me in our Marlborough Massachusetts backyard, gleefully torching them with our bar-b-q lighter and watching them fizzle up in flames.

Bag Worms

Our arrival at Buffumville Dam was uneventful. The gate open, one of the couples already planted in the far site, we pulled into the middle and began to settle LilyPad.  Barely half an hour later the last couple pulled into the site closest to the street.  I was later to learn that our middle site was the prime of all three.  Street side was noisy and had no dish reception, end site had power surges and no WiFi.

Our sites and storage shed

We greeted the other two Contract Worker teams, dogs KatieBug Pug and Casey Corgi sniffed each other and stretched out on the grass while us humans chatted. We are mid-range in age between the other two couples and, after several days together relaxing, it does appear we will all get along splendidly.  A required training day on Friday will start us  off and then we are on our own.  One of the couples worked here three years ago and agreed to be our go-to source should we not be able to reach a Ranger.

Our Fearless Leader, Ranger Jamie, is as we Texans would say, a tall drink of water. Longtime employee, she has had a varied background and is direct, fare and relaxed in her requirements of our duties. Show up for work and do the job to the best of your ability. Our 12 straight hours, two consecutive days a week is our first “paying” job. Our perks include a full hook-up site with all utilities paid, a beautiful park to enjoy on our days off, being close to our New England family and friends, two friendly neighbor couples with which to work and within a half days drive of reaching any New England state we wish to visit.  That and the $5.00 per hour pay, all things considered, this worked out nicely.

Buffumville Lake Park has two pavilions,

Lower Pavilion  Our Round Pavilion

picnic tables with grills,

Picnic area

Volley ball and horseshoe pits,

Volley Ball and horse shoe

a beach, swimming area and a pirate ship,

Swimming beach

flush toilets,

Flush bathrooms

and seven miles of trails around the lake with a 300 car parking lot.

Buffumville Lake Inlet

The toll booth where I work is a cramped dusty cube with two screened plastic sheeting windows, two doors, a small heater and a small musty a/c. There is no way to keep the outside from continuously seeping inside.  It didn’t look this “vintage” in the pictures Ranger Jamie had sent.  John will be cleaning the two stall bathroom facility by the beach and one vault on the dock side of the park and pick up trash. When cabin fever sets in, I will trade my cube for the golf cart, John will take my place and I’ll do trash pick-up, check/restock bathrooms and be the set of watchful eyes around the park.

The gate and the box Toll Booth The Toll Booth Inside

This park is a “carry in/carry out” so whatever you bring in must be taken with you when you leave. No trash cans are available anywhere in the park, not even for our use. We must haul our trash over to the main facility several blocks away. Strange, but it seems to work with the exception of cigarette butts, dog poop and baby diapers left in the bathroom on the changing table. A tad gross but not nearly the worst we have had to clean up in the past so it’s nothing either of us can’t handle.

Buffumville Dam  Ranger Office

It is non-stop busy when the weather is pleasant.  Cars line up to get in so sitting down for a rest is near impossible. Standing on cement for hours does unpleasant things to your back and your ankles tend to swell but our park guests are friendly so the time passes quickly when we are busy.

Our first day of work and we were slammed! Attendance right up there with the busy part of the season. I drove down to the beach to give the “one hour closing” warning after cleaning the bathrooms. A large family was enjoying the beautiful day, sitting on the beach with their whole family, having a Bar-B-Q and continuing their relaxation at our park from the previous days visit.  We struck up a conversation and the husband said he wanted to do what we were doing when he retired. Strange how people see what we are doing and want to do the same. There sits a man in total relaxation, looking at my sweaty windblown self, watching me clean bathrooms and pick up trash, then trot off to stand in a tiny confined cubicle taking money for 12 straight hours, two days in a row with pay being a fraction of minimum wage. Odd that he sees this side of the fence as greener. Five years ago I had a completely different scenario playing inside my head when full-timing was my retirement dream.  If you are thinking this isn’t exactly what I had planned, you would be correct.

For reasons known only to them, the Retirement Spirits chose today to send us a warning, as they have done in the past, that we should be more accepting of our reduced space lifestyle in our rolling box. These “Spirits” intermittently send plagues ranging from slide floors buckling to tanks overflowing and pipes under the sink separating and flooding the floors. Each incident requires us to remove the entire contents of alternating areas of our motorhome, squishing us into an even smaller living space.

At the end of two busy long hot dusty 12 hour days, lungs struggling, back pinching, feet swollen, in a “how the heck is this retirement?!” state of mind, John picked me up in the golf cart and began his “egg shell” walk by hesitating before answering when I requested to go immediately back to LilyPad to ice myself from head to foot.  He smiled as the dreaded words, “Give me a hug” escaped from his lips.  Naturally my reaction was “Oh crap…here we go again”.   Arriving at LilyPad, from outside our front door I could see the water still dripping from the bottom corner of our front slide.  Apparently our sink drain had loosened and all the water from the dishwasher had run out onto the floor under the sink and flowed behind the cabinets to the front of the motorhome.   An “it’s always something” of major proportion.  It took five days to clean it up, dry it out and put everything back.

Water Leak

Our first attempt at a relaxing day off was a drive through town and was interrupted by the local police pulling us over, neither of us immediately understanding the reason. The stolen “Ribbit” license plate we reported last August from a Portland, Oregon La Quinta Inn had come back to bite us in the hind end.  For some peculiar reason, South Dakota DMV decided to ship us another plate with the exact same name. They didn’t tell us that we would probably be stopped if any police happen to run our plates. We drove from Oregon to Texas without any plate at all, no police stopped us. We drove from Texas to Massachusetts with our re-ordered “Ribbit” plates, no police stopped us. In the tiny town of Charlton, Massachusetts, a policeman pulls us over to ask us if we knew our plate was reported stolen. We were told by Oregon and Massachusetts that we were lucky several squad cars didn’t pull us over with guns drawn and hauled us off to jail on a stolen car charge. Yep, just another typical day in our rolling-down-the-road lifestyle. Many discussions were had with Oregon to remove the report. Lengthier conversations were had with South Dakota police to remove the theft from the books, all for naught. Our new “Ribitts” plates, a slight variation of “Ribbit”, has arrived and another “it’s always something” is behind us.

New plates

The pollen counts in New England, due to the late bombardment of snow, have gone on beyond Zebra with the highest counts in history. Already arriving with breathing problems, my lungs “just said no” after two long work days and the stress of major water leakage clean up. We had to quickly find a doctor. Massachusetts has premier doctors and we found our doctor extraordinaire at an Urgent Care facility within a reasonable distance of our Park. Dr. Connors was willing to work with me and discuss my concerns instead of demanding I take what he ordered and not have a say in my treatment. Given strongly worded counsel to “stay indoors”, prescribed two medications to use in nebulizer breathing treatments four times a day, two oral medications and advised to wear a mask if I go outside…UGH, no fun in my future for the next few weeks! My current mantra is, “this too shall pass”. Our next work days will be totally rain soaked, giving me additional time indoors and the continuance of recovery.  John and I will work something out that keeps me indoors more than outdoors for the upcoming weeks.

Another one of our responsibilities is to protect wild life. This morning I drove John to the Park bridge so he could chase off a turtle crossing the road. I am doubtful Mr. Turtle was grateful for us going out of our way, in the rain, to do him this good deed.

Turtle

The local wild life, beyond turtles, is scarce with the exception of one lone turkey who strolls across our front lawn each morning.  Must not be a social guy as he wanders into the forest when he sees us open the front gate.

Local wild thing

The rain encouraged purple Lady Slippers to push themselves up from the thick pine needle covered forest floor and spread out behind our host sites. Hundreds of them have begun to emerge and cover the area. Makes for a pretty back yard of bright spring colors behind our graveled sites.

Lady Slippers

May 5th through May 10th, 2015, Washington D.C.

Arriving at Cherry Hill Park RV in College Park Maryland near Washington D. C. we OK’d the “standard” pull through. In hindsight, that bad decision left us squished into our paved stretch of land with only a narrow strip between us and our neighbors. Taking up most of that narrow strip were two picnic tables on brick pavers, side by side, requiring us and our neighbors to scooch sideways past the tables to reach our cars parked in the rear. Same price as the luxury Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort but that’s where any and all comparisons end. It is a destination park only because of its “Location, Location, Location” to Washington D.C.   They do have many amenities for family camping but only one that we need or will use. Within constant ear shot of the freeway and under a helicopter and airplane pathway, the noise is constant until about midnight.

Cherry Hill Park RV

The amenity we planned to use was the dog sitter who will walk your fur baby while you are away enjoying Washington D.C.   KatieBug focused her attention on extracting goodies from her new puzzle while we set up camp.

KatieBugs puzzle

Originally, I had planned to paint the town red when we arrived in Washington D.C. However, for the past month, my lungs have had plans of their own and I remain highly medicated and must try to avoid all diesel, dust and pollen. Those strict requirements disallow tour buses and excessive walking along the streets of D.C.

Took advantage of the sitter, ignored staff warnings that garage parking was expensive and street parking was impossible to find, didn’t want to set off my lungs with bus fumes so we drove ourselves into the city. Housing along our travels began to take on a vintage New England look.

Row houses on Rhode Island Road

Upon arriving at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, we pulled into street parking ($5.00 for 4 hours) across from the museum and spent several hours wandering the museums multi-level exhibits.  Were we lucky or what!

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Visiting many of these types of museums in past years, the price being gratis and with the amount of superbly displayed and fascinating pieces available, excellent is a worthy description. We arrived ahead of the bus loads of school children and strolled along at a leisurely pace enjoying each section.

The large elephant that filled the grand entrance hall was the main focus of the crowd’s attention. The African section had various stuffed creatures jumping out of wall openings and suspended above our heads.

Entrance  African stuffed

Further into the African section was a highlighted little rodent that science claims was the start of humankind and has the same DNA traits as modern humans.

Begining of our DNA

A display of real sculls, ranging from the beginning of the human race to modern man, was accompanied by a fascinating movie of our origins.

Modern Human Skulls

Always eager to explore fossils, our attention was drawn to the large bones in the distance.

Big fossils

Next section was the fossil exploration with docents exhibiting samples and microscope viewing of specimens from ongoing explorations. Very cool!

FossiLab  Fossil under microscope

Another docent was allowing passerby’s the chance to hold various insects.  Very popular with the boys.  Loved the hissing cockroach!

The Insect Docent

Sparkly flashes caught my eye and we were drawn into the National Gem and Mineral Collection section. At the entrance, The Hope Diamond, donated to the museum by Harry Winston in 1958, the world’s most famous gem. Discovered in India from the Kollur Mine, it weighs in at 45.52 carrots and is estimated to be worth 250 million. Renowned for its flawless clarity, rare deep blue color and notorious history, it is surrounded by 16 white diamonds and suspended from a platinum chain containing 46 more diamonds. The first historical records hint that a French merchant named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier obtained the stone in the mid-1600’s. Recut from the French Blue diamond after 1791, it was slightly reshaped by Harry Wilson between 1949 and 1958 before he made the donation to the Smithsonian. I stood watching as it turned round and round, viewers speaking in hushed tones praising its exquisiteness.

Hope Diamond

On to the next room, one of royal jewels and a display that held my birthstone, the sapphire, some of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

Sapphires

Exiting the side door we stopped to check out the stone heads that stood guard on each side of the door.

Easter Island Stone

At days end we drove back to LilyPad for a relaxing evening once the planes, helicopters and traffic noise died down. Sitter notes complimented KatieBug for being a sweet, very good little girl who enjoyed her mid-day walking adventure.

Next morning we duplicated our form of transportation into the city, same luck with street parking less than a block away from the Smithsonian Museum of American History and  steps away from the IRS Building.

American History Museum

More than a decade of John testifying during IRS audits for the company from which he retired, John thought it appropriate to take a picture of the Washington D.C. IRS building while pointing. After the IRS showed up at our home and asked to enter and talk to me about the company, I think pointing with his middle digit would have been more appropriate.

John and IRS Washington

With busloads of school children only steps behind, we arrived at the entrance of the  museum. Same gigantic structure of a building as yesterday but broken down into smaller sections which became increasingly crowded as the day advanced.

Proudly displayed inside the entrance is Abraham Lincoln’s carriage, the carriage taken to Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. on the evening of April 14, 1865, the night of his assassination.

The carriage, an open barouche model, was built by Wood Brothers in 1864 and presented to Lincoln by a group of New York merchants shortly before the president’s second inauguration.  Luxuriously built with solid silver lamps, door and hubcaps, the steps are connected to the doors so that they lower and rise as the door opens and closes.

Lincoln Carriage

The entrance was filled with small exhibits, famous guitars over the years, TV’s from the 50’s to present, radio’s and record players, card and board games through the ages and a display of attempts to build a better mouse trap.

Building a better mouse trap

American dining habits changed drastically in the 1950’s.  Home cooked meals gave way to TV dinners and ads gleefully claimed “you deserve a break today at McDonalds”.  Fast foods became the latest fad replacing the sit down family dinner.

Dining through the years

In the 1960’s, Julia Child introduced Americans to French cuisine, the European way of dining and offering wine with meals. She told home viewers it was “part of the food chain”. Her kitchen is an amazing collection of every cooking tool, appliance, pot and pan you could imagine being needed to assemble a culinary delight.

Julia Childs kitchen

One of the displays showed Americans moving into Suburbia, the new trend of the 1950’s.  My parent’s first tract home, my first bike and our first TV looked similar to those in the display.  Feeling old.

Early 50s Suburbia

The term “trailer trash”, a derogatory American term for poor people living in a trailer, was used to denigrate white people living in such circumstances.  The term got its start in the 1930’s when families were forced to move from their  homes, no jobs to be found in their towns.  The lifestyle allowed families to travel to areas where work was available. Many stayed together in campgrounds for greater safety.  Although the term “trailer trash” still exist, it rarely applies to the over 1.3 million people today living full time in trailers, motorhomes and campers.  The cost of present day rolling homes of race car drivers and entertainers easily exceed one million dollars.

Trailer Trash

My childhood roots being in California, this scene was included  because my parents traveled frequently through Watsonville, me in the back seat looking out over miles of fields, migrant workers bent over planting or pulling the seasonal crops.  This scene was taken from 1895.  When we drove through the area last year, it looked the same.  Totally drove home the meaning of “some things never change”.

Watsonville 1895

We enjoyed the displays of vintage cars and trains from the 1800’s.

1876 Train

One of the oldest American flags, hand sewn by Mary Pickersgill in 1813 and flown over Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, is on permanent  display at the Smithsonian.  The flag was raised to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem.  America’s first flag is attributed to the hand stitching skills of Betsy Ross but historians now disagree as the story was passed down through her family and several facts are arguable.  The flag that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42 foot garrison flag.  Pictures of the flag are not allowed so I pulled one from the internet and included a photo of the attractive art rendition in the hall.

The only flag available for photo's    American Flag

One large section of the museum held the inaugural dress display. Laura Bush’s 2001 Inaugural dress, a crystal embroidered Chantilly lace of ruby-red, in my opinion, was the most attractive gown in the hall. Along with the description of her dress was the achievement of her speaking out for the women in Afghanistan in the first presidential weekly address ever given by a First Lady.

Laura Bush 01 Inaugural Dress

The State China Service section of presidential memorabilia contained one place setting of each President’s dinnerware beginning with Abraham Lincoln. In 1861 Mary Lincoln chose French porcelain with its fashionable “solferino” color and United States Coat of Arms. The place settings were on loan from the White House collection.

State China Service of Mary and Abraham Lincoln

War memorabilia from every war in which the US fought, not displays that were high on my list, was one of the largest sections.  John wanted time to peruse so I sat and watched a few films of the entertainment industry’s contribution to wars.  Artillery, ammunition, food, clothing and several short films along with life-size scenes from “the big one”, historically world war II, dominated the section. One display that did interest me was a vintage sample of the first Army, Navy and Air Force Medals of Valor. None from the Marines as they were originally under the Navy.

Medals of Valor

Another interesting room contained the Philadelphia, a gunboat manned by Continental Army soldiers that was part of a fleet under the command of General Benedict Arnold and the oldest American fighting vessel in existence. It sunk in the Battle of Valcour Island on October 11, 1776 fighting a larger Royal Navy fleet on Lake Champlain.

It was discovered in 1935 with its mast barely 15 feet under the water in Valcour Bay after almost 160 years. It remained there until an amateur military marine archeologist, Lorenzo Hagglund, located the remains and lifted it from the water with slings to preserve its hull. It became part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection after being bequeathed in 1961.

The Philadelphia

All In The Family ranked number one in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976 and was the first TV series to reach that milestone. The show broke ground in its depiction of racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, religion, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause and impotence, topics previously not considered appropriate for comedic sitcoms.

Encased in glass, Archie Bunker’s chair was an immensely popular item with photo flashes going off continuously. A staple of nighttime TV for John and I as young adults, neither wanted to pass up a chance to view the worn out fabric chair with its grease stained head rest indentation. That one ugly chair induced uncomfortable feelings of the fact that we had reached senior status.

Archie Bunkers chair

Left the museum area to try our luck at finding street parking to visit memorials.  Searching down two blocks availed a spot on the main thoroughfare. Several memorials were a slight wander through tree lined grounds along a paved footpath.

In the midst of dozens of students on field trips, we approached the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall slowing down to read names and reflect on the riddance of a turbulent war that stretched from my childhood through to adulthood. Dedicated in 1982, visitors before us left floral, flag, written poem and stuffed animal offerings along its lengthy pathway.

Soldiers and war heroes who fought an unpopular war and were shunned upon returning, we felt sadness for the loss of life, sadness for the treatment of those who returned and sadness that nothing positive came from a war that lasted from 1955 until April 30, 1975. Few were able to stand in the presence of the engraved black marble wall without tears welling.

Vietnam Vets Memorial Wall

Less than a city block away stood the Lincoln Memorial Building.

Lincoln Memorial Building

The massive columned building held the famous seated statue, Abraham Lincoln, comfortably positioned in his chair, looking as if he were waiting for someone to arrive.

Lincoln Memorial

We had an excellent view of the Washington Monument and its reflection in the Lincoln Memorial Pool from the top of the Lincoln Memorial stairs.

Washington Monument

Homeward bound work traffic overcame us on the journey back to LilyPad but the beauty of the massive columned buildings made the extended travel time through downtown enjoyable.

DC fantastic buildings

More than 19 free museums are available to the public in downtown Washington D.C. and many are large enough for a full day’s exploration. Along with museums are the War Memorials and formidable statue structures that can be seen rising up into the sky from the streets of downtown. Our three day layover was not near enough time for a fulfilling D.C. adventure which means we shall return.

Our plan for our third day was to sleep in, relax in the morning then explore in the afternoon. As John chose our explorations the last two days, today was my choice. There are dozens of churches in D.C. but I was drawn to the description of the “Big Mama”, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Be forewarned, I took an excessive amount of photos of this exceptionally opulent church, enough so that I wouldn’t be craving religious structures in any form, anytime in the near future.

A Roman Rite Catholic basilica with architectural styles of Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival, evident at first sight. Building of the Shrine began in 1920 and it opened, unfinished, in 1959 and then was completed in 1961. Built from marble and totally free of structural steel, its imposing façade sits atop a hill.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Shrine has two floor, the Crypt Level below and the Upper Church. They encircle 70 side chapels and all tolled, the church seats six thousand people. The chapels are tucked into alcoves along both levels.

The Crypt Level holds the remains of the only human buried in the Shrine. Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, the founder of the National Shrine, has a marble recumbent likeness as you enter the first of the side chapels.

Crypt Level

Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Byzatine-Ruthenian Chapel, Glorious Mysteries chapels

Blessed Sacrament Chapel     Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel   Glorious Mysteries Chapels

Everywhere you look there are magnificent religious art scenes to gaze upon while following the free audio tour.

Miraculous Medal

Miraculous Medal

The grandest are the mosaics, glittering of gold and brilliantly polished miniature tiles.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Brezie,  Our Lady of Pompeii

Our Lady of Guadalupe   Our Lady of Brezie   Our Lady of Pompei

Our Lady of Siluva, Mary Queen of Missions, Our Lady of Bistrica

Our Lady of Siluva   Mary Queen of Missions   Our Lady of Bistrica

I love visiting churches. Not only for the peace and tranquility it brings to your soul but for the art work and this colossal shrine to the Mother Mary is loaded with incredibly detailed art work.

Our Lady of Hope,

Our Lady of Hope

Immaculate Heart of Mary,  Our Lady of Good Health

Immaculate Heart of Mary   Our Lady of Good Health

Jesus on the Cross

Jesus on the cross

Mother of Perpetual Help,  Mary Help of Christians

Mother of Perpetual Help   Mary, Help of Christians

Mother of Sorrows

Mother of Sorrows

Our Lady of Mount Carmel,  Our Lady of La Vang, Our Lady of Czestochowa

Our Lady of Mount Carmel   Our Lady of La Vang   Our Lady of Czestochowa

A wall tapestry so fine in detail it appeared, from a distance, to be a painting.

Tapestry

We spent over an hour walking along the Crypt floor before turning our attention to the main church. When we pivoted to face the alter, at that moment, the organ player begin practice and the thunderous chords startled us both.

Main Organ Pipes    Upper Church

Resounding without echo, the chords continued for a full 15 minutes before suddenly dropping into complete silence.

Side organ pipes

The Baldachin Alter stood majestically center stage

Baldachin Altar

Consuming the loftiest expansion of the ceiling, a glittering mosaic of Jesus floated with arms outstretched, glairing down at his followers. Not the calm loving facial expression I was expecting! Must have been done in the days where priests warned their parishioners that sin would pitch them into the fire and brimstone of Hell.

Christ in Majesty

Turning our attention upwards to the ceilings, a stunning mosaic and stained glass sun shone overhead.

Sun Ceiling Upper Church

A circle of saints,  The Last Judgment

Saints Ceiling    The Last Judgment

Our tour was at an end and we both thought viewing all the magnificent religious art was time well spent. A short ride back to LilyPad to pack it all up, get a good nights sleep and leave for Massachusetts, our next  work adventure, first thing in the morning.  A plus this time, we are going to get paid a salary for 12 straight hours, two days a week.  A whole $5.00 per hour! OK, you can stop laughing now…….

April 25th, through May 4th, 2015 Franklin Tennessee, Allatoona Lake in Acworth Georgia, North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh North Carolina

On the way to Franklin we stopped in Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey Distillery.  Highest selling American whiskey, Jack Daniels is distilled in a dry county, is the only liquor allowed to be sold in the county and only allowed to be sold in their gift shop.

Jack Daniels

Birth records were seldom kept in the 1800’s so the exact date of Jack’s birth is not known but it is celebrated as September 1850.  He died in 1911 and was believed to be somewhere between 61 and 66 years of age.

Youngest of his mother’s ten children, when Jack’s mother died his father remarried and had several more bringing the total to thirteen.  Jack’s father died in the Civil War and Jack despised his step-mother so he ran away from home when he was in his teens.  Taken in by a local preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call, Jack began learning the distilling trade as a teenager from Call and Call’s slave Nearest Green, who stayed on with Call after his emancipation.  In 1875, after receiving an inheritance from this father’s estate, Jack founded a legally registered distilling business with Call.  When Call quit for religious reasons, Jack took over the distillery and in 1884 he purchased the hollow and land where the distillery is now located.

The spring water coming out

By the 1880s Jack Daniel’s was one of fifteen distilleries operating in Moore County, and the second-most productive.  1897 he introduced his square-shaped bottles, the shape of the bottle intended to convey a sense of fairness and integrity.

Bottles and his favorite hat Bottles over the years

Jack died in 1911 from blood poisoning.  It is often told that the infection began in one of his toes which was injured early one morning at work.  Kicking his safe in anger because he could not get it open was the tale told until his modern biographer stated that the story is not true.

Jack Daniels was an amazing man.  He dressed in perfectly tailored clothes topped with a dapper hat that became his trademark.  Being short in stature but commanding respect for his fair and honest dealings, his apparel was his way of presenting a professional appearance to the world.

Inside the main hall with Jack

John and I did the tasting tour and concluded that the tour was indeed very interesting, but neither of us cared for the taste of whiskey.   Back on the road again with LilyPad directed toward Nashville Tennessee.

Sampling Tour

 

Arriving in Nashville, my first impression of the Nashville Fair Grounds, where we will spend the next two nights, was not one of shock but certainly one giving off an uncomfortable vibe. With much trepidation we drove up and backed into a spot. Up on a hill and across from the actual fair grounds, its presences was entirely unimpressive. To be exact, it is a big parking lot with a plug and a faucet mounted on posts at the back of the spaces and a hole near the post for your sewer hose. Yes, we have stayed in worse, the Vegas Elks “prison compound” quickly jumps to mind but this makes it to the top five of “Oh crap!   John, what were you thinking?”

Train tracks with after-hour trains surround the area with their “here I come” warnings going off at approximately 11 p.m., 1a.m. and 3 a.m. Annoying blinking blue/red/white/yellow lights were flashing off a huge black 40 foot motorhome that is staged as an extra holding tank for the main poky downtown and is parked squarely in the middle of the sites. Surrounded by police cars, it sits in anticipation of the nightly arrests. A young lady was handcuffed and sitting on a chair outside the motorhome accompanied by a uniformed policeman as we drove up. What a pleasant surprise…free live nightly entertainment! I put my “we don’t call 911” sign up in the window, turned on the TV to stifle the outside noise and we all settled down for the night.

Nashville Fairgrounds

Next morning we walked around the Nashville Flea Market, touted to be one of the top 10 in the country. After an hour of walking, it certainly gave the impression of earning that claim to fame. We had a relaxing lunch with my cousin in downtown Franklin, did our grocery shopping, laundry and packed up for our next double over-niter at Payne Campground, Allatoona Lake, Acworth Georgia.

Lake Allatoona

Break of day exit from the fairgrounds, we pulled into Payne Campground early afternoon and, aren’t we lucky, “it’s always something” and “you can’t fix stupid” hit simultaneously! Our coolant sensor is showing high voltage and needs repair at our next stop as does the transmission pump on Ribbit. Our campground host convinced John that LilyPad would fit around a hairpin turn into what they called a 100 foot long campsite. John bullheadedly spent almost an hour trying, pulling up and back to make it around the turn, me holding back the branches of the tree that were scraping against our sides while the motorhome pushed up against my back. Once again, stuck between a rock and a hard place. John cut back the branches and we switched drivers, me deciding to back out and pull in, backwards, down the wrong way, squeezing into our narrow spot.

Slides out, we relaxed and enjoyed gazing out at the lake. A shot of my moonshine in hand, I sipped to unwind from the ordeal and to sooth my voice from the explicits I yelled in the direction of the no-brainer host that convinced John “you can make it, no problem”. The site narrowly fit LilyPad and Ribbit and was many yards shy of 100 feet in length.

Our site at Payne

Lunch at City Cellar Restaurant in Cartersville Georgia. We are first timers eating shrimp and grits. They were passable but the fried green tomatoes were crisp, full of tomato flavor and awesome. Our waitress said the inside of the Cellar reminds her of the Cheers set and she sometimes shouts out “Norm” just for fun.

City Cellar Restaurant  Inside City Cellar, Cartersville, GA

We walked around the small town, into a few shops, through town center and back to the car for the ride home. One of the shops was a late 1800’s hardware store with all the original shelving and rolling ladder. The quality handcrafted work that went into building the shelving and bins in the store was amazing and the antiques were reasonably priced. And me without a house to stuff full of pretty antique things!

Late 1800s hardware store

The Mellow Mushroom across the street was surprising to see as I didn’t realize that it was a chain. Sad that the one in Texas is closing as we enjoyed eating their pizza and people watching in the “keep it weird” town of Austin.

Mellow Mushroom is a chain

Back to our serene slice of Allatoona Lake to get ready for dinner with a dear friend and her daughter. Trying Shrimp and Grits again, this time they were creamy and flavorful, two thumbs up! Back to LilyPad to pack up and prep for making the journey to Raleigh South Carolina for repairs and visiting family.

Arriving at Cunningham’s in Spartinburg South Carolina early evening, we read the reviews and understood it was populated by mostly long term residents. The friendly manager came by when we called after hours. He offered apologies for the constant spike in the power. Not many park managers would bother to help one-nighters after hours. We switched to 30 amp and shall survive the inability to turn on major appliances all at the same time for this one overnight. Quiet and restful all the way to morning.

Our site at Cunninghams, Spartinburg, SC

Again with the early up and on the road, our transmission pump warning sound loudly buzzing in our ears for the first hour of the trip. Poor Ribbit had to run with its engine on while we rolled until we get it fixed…again.

With a cloud of dust mushrooming around us, we pulled into our next pause for repairs, Raleigh North Carolina State Fairgrounds and RV Park. The area was located just in back of the Hunt Horse Complex and gave way to another “it’s a small world”.

Raliegh North Carolina Fairgrounds

Neither John nor I had ever heard of Cowboy Mounted Shooters. While in The Woodlands, we called a man who was advertising on Workers On Wheels for a couple to farm-sit in Willis, TX. Told him where we had just volunteered and found out he was friends with Ginger, the lady John worked for at Barrington Living History Farm in Washington on the Brazos, TX. The couple’s sport of choice was traveling with their horses as Cowboy Mounted Shooters. After arriving at the fairgrounds site, we noticed that Double L Bar Cowboy Mounted Shooters was producing an event for Cowboy Mounted Shooters this Friday and Saturday night. The sport is fun to watch and one that any age can participate. The adults used blanks to shoot out the balloons, the kids just shot with their pointer finger.  Not the best pictures from John’s cell phone camera.

Competitors Period Dress

blank shots Cowboy Shooter

Another crack of dawn rise to drive LilyPad and Ribbit to the repair shop…anyone beginning to see a pattern here? People think I am kidding when I say, “it is always something” but it is a fact of full-time life in a motorhome, it is always something.

On Site Fleet Maintenance, Raleigh, NC

Back to the fairgrounds for the night, returning in the morning to install the overnighted parts. Rain, rain, rain, then clearing just as the repairs are complete.

Dinner at an amazing vegan restaurant while the rain turned the dusty pollen filled air into a beautiful crystal clear backdrop for a rainbow.

Amazing Neomonde Restaurant

A nice overnight rest, visit with family part of the day and packing it all up to leave in the morning for Washington D. C. and Cherry Hill Park RV.

April 4th through April 24th, 2015 Repairs, Repairs, Repairs and On The Road Again

We are planted here for however long it takes to make repairs. Met up with Tiffin couples in the Tiffin campground that are friends of friends. It is comforting, when sitting for days, sometimes weeks in repair bays, to compare travels, experiences and solutions to commonalities. When you live on a roll, repairs take priority, often times eliminating a leisurely paced arrival to your next destination.

Our Tiffin manufacturer is in Red Bay Alabama and Good Ol’ Boys manage and work the bays. Most of the conversations about our motorhome have had to come from John, something I am not accustomed to, or comfortable with, due to John’s quiet, non-confrontational nature. In my world, Band-Aide repairs are not acceptable as they result in something breaking at the most inopportune moments, usually with astronomical costs.

The laid back work ethics of some Express Bay workers, when you are paying by the hour, are intolerable for me. John, not being one to demand them to focus and stay on task, does not understand my impatience when they repeatedly wander off. They live on Alabama time, a distant cousin of Jamaican time, half the speed of the rest of the country. Standing in the breezeway chatting about weekend benders? Really guys? Save this for your mandatory breaks. Stress, rain, dust and the unpleasant gastronomic dog food odor coming from Sunshine Dog Food Factory up the street remain a constant in our lives for an ever expanding stretch of time.

Waiting for service is like being in suspended animation. Bed covered to keep out the inevitable dust, slides retracted, everyday needs tucked away…location hopefully to be remembered when all is repaired, the household kept in travel mode for the multiple moves to alternating repair bays day after day beginning at 5:30 am and continuing on until 4pm.

Travel Mode

The Tiffin RV park, housing over 100 Tiffin’s waiting for repairs, is made up of row upon row of near identical motorhomes. So much so that one of the new owners we met walked into someone else’s coach to face a shirtless man, not her husband, both of them astonished, red faced and apologetic. This same owner told us she had gone to a safety class giving her instructions on how to exit her motorhome through the bedroom window should the need arise.  I kid you not, she told us that her husband would take the bedspread and hold one end while she climbed out the window, then her husband would shut the bedspread in the window to hold it while he climbed down.  I bit my tongue and smiled politely.  John, tacky daddy that he is, didn’t.

Rows of Tiffins

While sitting at one of the slide repair bay’s, John advanced with a huge forced grin. “Give me a hug” were his first words just seconds after talking to the supervisor. Hmmm. Suspicious and never a good sign. Got my hug, then the news. We need the entire underside of our passenger side kitchen slide replaced as it has snapped and buckled. That is the reason all our kitchen cabinets and drawers are separating.

Our regular repair mode of 5:30 wake time was compounded by the removal of everything in the passenger side kitchen slide from the drawers and cupboards so they can lift the slide out, tilt it and replace the flooring.  Easy right?  Because we have so much extra room to store stuff.

Moving it out Passenger side going down

John felt compelled to pick out every rock and loose screw along the edge to keep himself busy.

Picking out metal pieces and misc screws

After it was removed, we were advised that the repair would take longer than a day.  That afternoon we left LilyPad in the bay and were treated to a night in a king size dog friendly room at Best Western Plus compliments of Bob Tiffin.  Great free omelet breakfast before taking a leisurely drive back to Red Bay.

Overnight in a hotel

And today a new discovery, our kitchen slide on the driver’s side, opposite what is currently being replaced, has broken rollers and the flooring also needs to be replaced. Once we put one side back together, we start taking things out of the other slide…rinse and repeat. Are we having fun yet?

Back in our motorhome, we removed the contents of the other side for the next days repair.  Out, repaired and put back within four hours.

New Flooring drivers slide

Our roof rails needed a tweak (more rivets and then gel coated to secure the replacement made last year) and the wet bay (the floor under the black/grey tanks) is rotting out and must be replaced.

Wet Bay replacement

In another bay, our neighbor went up in the air while our repair man crawled under to fix the newly discovered shorted out sensor in the engine coolant.

Our neighbor going up

When I walked to the back of the motorhome to check on progress, I was surprised to see boots standing inside the back of our engine. My first thought was “maybe we can store something in that empty space”. Then again, probably not.  I doubt I can talk John into crawling under the motorhome to retrieve anything squeezed into that space.

Standing up under our Motorhome Working on our engine

Next bay, another potential repair needed to the back bedroom slide as it is not square to the walls…and the gouge under the fridge slide area appeared again.  Fixed and fixed.

Now, nearly three weeks into repairs, I’m hearing “you need to chill” whenever I explain that the same repair was made last year or that we have just “been here-done that” in another bay. Although exasperating, the silver lining is that if this had been any other brand of motorhome, the cost would have been major.  Tiffin stands behind its motorhomes and almost all of our work is being covered under warrantee. Repairs that are not, are billed at the cost of parts.  Even million dollar motorhomes don’t do repairs gratis six years after purchase.

Taking intermittent breathers, we were able to get away a few times for lunch and dinner with our new friends to chat about life on the road. Saturday we drove to the number one fish restaurant in the area.

Just inside the door

Lash’s Seafood Restaurant has a swampy campy appearance, nothing fancy but as full of atmosphere as a Disney themed diner.  Awesome gumbo but all the other offerings were only mediocre.

Gumbo

I could feel the tension melting away as we sat by the window watching the muddy waters flow past us.

Looking out the window

I usually don’t do the “keeping up with the Jones’s” thing but our new friends have a door bell and I insisted that we needed one. It is set to play “Dixie”. That may not endear us to our Yankee neighbors in Massachusetts, but it will proudly let all who visit us know where our hearts and roots are planted.

Our new doorbell

Our journey to Massachusetts has now been on hold 22 days. Our wood cabinet and drawer repair is done, they replaced the incorrect wet bay tub that was installed when they replaced the wet bay, a new motor for our dishwasher will be ordered (it broke when they took the slide out for repair) and I have heard rumors that we will be done at the end of today. As is the custom here at Red Bay, we will take one entire day to check all repairs before we pay the bill and get ready to roll the next morning.

Early waking up this sunny clear Friday morning.  All is good to go.  Good By Red Bay, see ya next year!  Next stop, Nashville, Tennessee.

March 23rd through April 3rd 2015, Eunice Louisiana, Tiffin Service Center, McKinney Service Center, Bruce’s Body and Paint, HHH Framing and being on hold

Backtracking here just a smidge…John and I went to Sodolaks in Snook, Texas while volunteering at Washington on the Brazos. At the advice of the Travel Chanel, we were instructed to try their Chicken Fried Bacon. I’m not a bacon fan, yes I know, very un-American of me, but they raved about it and John was willing to give it a try. After finishing the plate, John did mention that it would have been more enjoyable if it had been thick cut but my ity bity bite still confirmed that I don’t enjoy bacon. Another item crossed off John’s Bucket List.

Chicken Fried Bacon Sodolacks

Before leaving for our New England journey, the long awaited, albeit 20 years too late, grand opening of the Woodlands Whole Foods had arrived. Our daughter Liz convinced us that we should be one of the first patrons, being 30 year customers of Whole Foods in Houston. We reluctantly arose from our comfy bed at 6:00 a.m. and met Liz in The Woodlands out in front of the store. We stood in line, in the drizzle, to hear the key speaker mispronounce “Galatas Elementary”, and oddly enough, “organic” in the same paragraph. In the parking lot stood a grand old silver bullet RV which was offering free hot coffee/cocoa/tea to the chilled crowd. The company was Allegro Coffee Company and because LilyPad is an Allegro, we had to capture the Kodak moment.

Allegro Coffee Company RV

Selling everything including you home and moving into a motorhome to travel full time puts most of us into the category of “a few cards short of a full deck” which is likely how we can survive living this way. Now we will spend the better part of a month having repairs done to LilyPad before picking up our New England bound trail.

First stop on our journey was Eunice Louisiana for some Cajun spicy tail pinching, head sucking and dancing far into the night. Meeting up with two other Tiffin couples in the land of dang good, slap yo mama spicy Cajun food and Zydeco music, we arrived at Lakeview Park and Beach RV Park late in the afternoon and set up camp. Full Cajun emersion began almost immediately upon arrival. The Tiffin gang came knocking, inviting us to “come with” for dinner at D.I’s in Basile, Louisiana.

Lakeview RV

Arrived just in time to be seated before the entire restaurant filled to overflowing with massive amounts of extended families. The live Cajun music and the smell of blackened grilled oysters was overpoweringly delicious and we stuffed ourselves comfortably before turning our attention to the musicians.

An elderly couple walked gingerly to their table but rose to the floor once the music began. They held onto each other for stability as they danced across the wooden floor, the man’s finger tips tapping accordion cords gently on his wife’s back. You cannot help yourself from having some body part moving or tapping to the Zydeco beat. It is legendary dancing and party music!

D I s

On the way home we passed dozens of flooded rice fields with their first crop being harvested by boats with nets. So many huge juicy crawfish all lying in wait, fattening up before being pulled up, plunged into giant spicy hot boiling tubs and served up with red potatoes, mushrooms and corn to adoring “mud bug” fans across the south. A spicy pinch of heaven. The field’s next crop, already fertilized by the “mud bugs” will be rice.

Flooded fields

Saturday morning we visited Fred’s Lounge, an infamous bar in Mamou known for some of the best Cajun music around, cheap drinks and the ability to start throwing back cold ones early in the morning. The lounge has been hosting its Saturday-morning Cajun music broadcast since 1962 and is live, rowdy and all in French. The plan was to arrive early, suck down a healthy morning beverage, a.k.a. Bloody Mary and spend some time people watching. Several diesel buses outside with engines chugging away, along with cigar and cigarette smoke changed my plans and kept me at a distance but John went in to look around and it was as they say, if you don’t get there by 9 a.m., it’s standing room only.

Fred's Lounge

We were invited to a family crawfish boil by our Tiffin friends to be held at a nearby cousin’s house. The host made a killer jambalaya with the perfect amount of spice and heat. The meat used was his own homemade smoked sausage and pork. His son was busy manning the humongous pot for the crawfish. Bag after bag of crawfish were turned out of the amazing custom crawfish pot that sat in front of their backyard smokehouse.

smokehouse and boiler  dumping the boiler

Home baked goodies closed out the meal with every single bite enjoyed by the group of about 30. Super yummy. Friendly comradery afterwards in a comfortable back yard enclosed kitchen/living room to let it all settle and then back to LilyPad for some outside time for KatieBug before we rest and get ready for our nighttime entertainment adventure.

The parks entertainment for the night was Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie at the dance barn. Free entrance for those that were camping here overnight. Beer was only $2.00 and the special was Margarita’s. The two lines of bellies up to the bar never diminished. This was a drinking crowd.

Lakeview Park Music Barn

A jam packed and dimly lit barn waited at the end of the line, those waiting puffing on their cigarettes as fast as humanly possible before entering the no-smoking bar. I had to take out my mask, never fun. The rest of the group had already arrived and saved us chairs. When the musicians were tuned up and started their first set, it was so packed and so loud that I was taken aback at how I could have done this year after year in my 20 and 30 somethings. Near us, after wobbling a few times, a man standing next to a garbage can sprawled out in front of our table and into John’s fast acting arms. Lifting him up quickly, his friends helped steady him against a barn beam.

After only a few songs, our group decided the noise was to overwhelming but I told John I was not leaving without dancing at least once. We squeezed our way onto the dance floor. The music was so loud that my eardrums hurt and I got woozy so we left to enjoy what was left of the night in the quiet solitude of LilyPad’s interior, ears ringing until noon the next day.

Geno Delafose and French Rockin Boogie

We were amazed that throughout the night it was quiet, with no noise from any of the party crowd. It crossed my mind that we might have temporarily lost our hearing from the multiple six foot tall speakers that were blasting sound across the barn’s small dance floor, me being dumb enough to demand a dance only inches away.

Awoke and completed all our household chores before our group of six left for the 29th Annual World’s Championship Crawfish Etouffee Cook-Off. All sorts of crazy mixed among the arts, crafts, home baked goodies and a plethora of Etouffee booths.

All sorts of crazy

We had three cups of Etouffee, then fried Etouffee rice balls, some fig pie, more Etouffee and several ice cold beers while enjoying another less deafening Zydeco band, the Dixie Club Ramblers.

Dixie Club Ramblers

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse brought the masses of bouncing children to a temporary halt for picture poses being snapped by parents, brightly colored necklaces sporting plastic crawfish dangling from their tiny necks.

Minnie and Mickey

Added to my bucket list is another visit to this festival next year, dragging as many of -our friends and family as possible. Entrance was free, 8oz cup of loaded-with shrimp Etouffee was only $3.00, beer only $2.00 and water/soda only $1.00. The pavilion was covered, had room for lots of chairs and the music was the perfect level. No wonder the state of Louisiana claims the happiest population in the U.S. You can afford to have fun, eat yummy food, dance, party and keep well within budget!

29th ANNUAL WORLD'S CHAMPIONSHIP CRAWFISH ETOUFFEE COOK-OFF crawfish boil

Poking around the historic town area, we came across a small lovely cemetery, Saint Paul, all graves being above ground which is the norm for cemetery plots in Louisiana.

Saint Paul Cemetery

Our campground went from totally deserted weekdays to overflowing on weekends, full of families enjoying the outdoors, lots of kids biking and running, fishing and dashing all over the roads and through campsites. The small lake was surrounded by bar-b-q-ing families, everyone playing music and enjoying the perfect weather. The best part was the real flaming campfires instead of pits of chocking smoke. These Cajuns know how to put heat in their food and build flaming fires! Quiet time is 10:30, strictly enforced and was adhered to all three nights.

Our site was at the end of the row, at the back of the park, near the water and very quiet considering how full the park became on Friday.

Lakeview Lake  Office and pavilion

Monday morning we were off again, Movietown being our overnight. More of a permanent transient housing situation than an RV park. People living in the cabins full time, some with children and only a few places were vacant for short term stays. Clean, quiet, not a destination park but good for an overnight.

Movietown RV

Arrival at McKinny’s RV repair was late in the afternoon so we took an empty space and settled for the night. Early next morning began the sign-ups at the Tiffin Service Center, McKinny’s RV, Bruce’s body shop and HHH Repair.

It started with the explanations of damage and ended with exasperating pleas of “get it fixed correctly this time” for the repeat repairs with Tiffin. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and take big deep breaths to keep calm…something I didn’t do with the manager. The conversation turned into blood pressure rising frustration when he calmly stated, “we don’t know how you treat this RV so it could be your fault”. The cracking wood on all of the passenger side front slide cupboards and drawers were our fault? Then why did you change the design the very next year to brace up the cupboards? I explained that if it weren’t fixed correctly this time, I would fly back and strangle someone. He said he was going to call security! Hard to imagine how an overweight, gray haired old lady is much of a threat to a full grown man. John poked me several times and I regained my composure.

First stop was for a new front passenger slide topper at McKinny’s who tried to sell us a gray color when ours are cream. Seriously…as if it weren’t bad enough that we live in campgrounds. They ordered the correct color and it should arrive next week.

Next it was off to Bruce’s a few blocks away so he could repair and paint the outside damage from the dumb commercial lawnmower. We packed up a few things to stay in the nearest decent hotel, an hour away in Tupelo, MS, to stay clear of the strong paint odor. We stayed at La Quinta in a nice enough room but the cleaning chemical smell was overpowering so we left to tour the area and hoped the room would air out.

Tupelo is the town where Elvis, the King, was born January 8, 1935 in a small simple house built by his father. First introduced as “The Hillbilly Cat”, then introduced by RCA Victor as “the hottest new name in country music” Elvis songs appeared on the country charts more than 50 times.

Home where Elivs was born

Unless you are a serious Elvis fan, the cost to tour the Museum, chapel and house is a bit steep but to walk the grounds is free. I was interested in seeing the house and the chapel and TripAdvisor pictures of the insides were more than sufficient for me to enjoy the beautiful day. We walked around, read all the in-ground plaques surrounding Elvis’s birth-home and read those posted around the grounds.

In ground plaques Elvis with his first guitar

The chapel, Assembly of God, was also tiny and unadorned. It was said that Elvis enjoyed singing the old African hymns of his childhood, minus, I’m sure, of the gyrating hip action he acquired as he matured.

Assembly of God Church

Near the chapel sat a replica of an old outhouse, one that would have been used by poor Southern families in that time period. The one Elvis’s family used was shared with the patrons of their local church and it was well documented that the Sears Catalogue, not toilet paper, was the wipe of choice.

Outhouse The outhouse plaque

Plaques on the side of the museum gave a description of what it was like growing up poor in the South, written by a childhood friend.

Undercover and on loan from the Tupelo Auto Museum is a 1939 Plymouth, same year and model of the car that Elvis moved with his family from Tupelo to Memphis in 1948.

1939 Plymouth

After taking a few pictures and wandering around, we drove into town and walked through the Tupelo Hardware Company where Elvis got his first guitar for his 11th birthday. His mother Gladys offered him a bike, Elvis asked for a 22 caliber rifle but settled for a guitar at a cost of $7.90.

Tupelo Hardware Company

The store is a step back in time with century old hand made drawers that store screws and drawer handles of porcelain.   Upon entering, the antique glass and wooden cases were filled with assorted hardware items, some left over from decades ago.

Handmade nuts n bolts boxes

We took a leisurely stroll around downtown Tupelo, past the courthouse and noticed guitars were unquestionably a well-used theme in Elvis’s birth town.

Tupelo Courthouse  Elvis Guitar Art

Back to the room, the cleaning fluid odor did not dissipate. Up early next morning, headache firmly settled in my forehead, the horrid squeal of the shower faucet causing me to reconsider another night.  We packed up and will take our chances with the paint smell inside LilyPad for the next few nights.

Picked up LilyPad in the midst of a gusty dust storm swirling round the all-look-alike Tiffin coaches. We pulled up to our space to find someone had parked their car dead center. Between the chemical smell, noisy shower, paint smell, dust and someone parking inconsiderately in our space, I was, for the thousandth time, not a happy camper.

Some described camping in a motorhome as “Glamping”. Those “some” certainly are not living in their recreational vehicle full time. Big storm tonight, the weekend is a total down-time as no one works on weekends. Sunday is Easter. Monday morning we hit the floor running.

February 28th through March 22nd 2015 Texas Independence Day Celebration at Washington on the Brazos State Historical Park, Return to The Woodlands and another “It’s Always Something”

Texas Independence Day Celebration preparation had begun months ago and the final touches were being put in place by our Trustees and all of the staff. The trustees had worked hard and long hours setting up all the fire rings, roping off parking areas, setting out signs, chopping fire wood and delivering it to the proper area. Wrapped up against the wind and cold, they painted the education hall and event hall to house a local Mason’s meeting, windows were covered over to retain the mystic inside from escaping and meeting furniture set to specifics as required. All tasks were completed just days before the celebration.

John was to work at the farm and I was to help in our stocked-full-of-Texas gift shop as extra help.

The gift shop

As it were, the cold drove visitors into the center so I primarily sold hot beverages, keeping things flowing by bagging and refilling the shelves.  It suited me, keeping me happily moving all around greeting the celebration visitors. I was completely spent by the end of the day from all the activity but awoke ready to face the crowds the next day, even with the Texas weather being as uncooperative as possible for such an important celebration.

John helped in several areas on the farm, giving visitors the low down on what life was like in the 1850’s, what part pigs played for survival, the living conditions of Anson Jones’ slaves and his favorite (besides eating the farm cooked meals) was working with the Oxen under the guidance of Bruce, an employee.  Bruce stopped for a drink, 1850’s style, from a farm grown hollowed out gourd.

Bruce taking a water break

The second day was slow so I was able to visit the farm and get a shot of John walking  Slim, a Pineywoods Oxen, out of the farm pasture to the pasture next to LilyPad.

John and Slim down on the farm  Barrington Oxen Team

No rain the first day allowed local musicians to play inside and out.  The Lone Star String Band, a group of professionals, played in the visitors center and down on the farm.

More live music  Lone Star String Band

A giant team of Longhorn Oxen stood by the visitor center entrance and allowed celebrators a photo op.  They stood patiently for hours while people milled around them.

Team of Oxen

Several noted local authors came to sign their books; Sharon with The Burning of Brenham,

The Burning of Brenham, by Sharon

Garlyn with The Donkey Boy, Father Forgive Them and The Rachel Plummer Story

The Donkey Boy, Father Forgive Them, The Rachel Plummer Story, by Garlyn

and Laurie with Magnificent Sam.

Magnificent Sam, by Laurie

Our local bee keeper, Lorelei, brought displays,

Beekeeper, Lorelei

Paula the laundress and Happi the soap maker gave demonstrations,

Laundress demonstration, by Paula Soapmaking, by Happi

our neighbor and fellow volunteer Richard was a period interpreter and was showing off his mug made from real horn,

Richard, our volunteer neighbor

and a whole group of Interpreters shared stories of 1850’s adventures while throwing back a cold one (soda) at the Inn.

Reenactors Relaxing in the tavern

The second day had fewer visitors so John and I were able to take a break and walk the area, visiting some of the farm demonstrators.  Dave the blacksmith was an entertaining fellow with impressive forging skills.  Using period style tools, he fashioned dozens of cooking and hardware items, then used a copper rod to demonstrate the making of a tiny masterpiece.

Dave the Blacksmith  Dave heating the metal Dave with copper rod

The resulting awesomely beautiful copper leaf was presented to me to hang in LilyPad.

My Copper Leaf

In the Barrington Farmhouse, Betty was demonstrating tatting.

Tatting demonstration, by Betty

We wandered to the side field where the Texas Army was headquartered, complete with period tents, furnishings and all participants in period dress.

TX Army Camp Reenactors  TX Army Camp

The camp even had its own blacksmith for repairing wagons and making tools.

Cooking dinner at the camp

Along with their two canon’s which were fired off during the celebration, the group was living as they had back in the late 1800’s. Although they were scheduled to stay the weekend, the chilly soggy weather chased them all back to their “real world” homes.

Texas Army Artillery

An enjoyable celebration even with the never ending dampness that stayed both days.

The event marked the highlight of the preceding three months volunteering. Best part of the experience was the absolutely amazing staff…friendly and helpful…loved being in their company.

Packed up and ready to move on to our “home base”, we said our good-byes and departed, the drive being a few easy hours on smooth roads all the way to Rayford Crossing RV Resort. Home again, home again jiggety-jig.

Rayford Crossing RV Resort

Time to enjoy family and friends, revisit doctors, stock up on supplies and plan our next roadway direction. Our objective, to visit as many family and friends along our route as possible before reaching Massachusetts.

This time our “It’s Always Something” wasn’t even our fault but we are still stuck with part of the cost. Unless we find the exact mower that hit us and they admit to the accident, we will end up paying the $500.00 deductible for which we hadn’t planned. I argued that it would be covered for a car hit-and-run, but they came back with “a motorhome isn’t considered a car”. It would be covered if a vehicle hit a “sticks and bricks” house but they stated “because it is mobile, it is not considered a house”. Tried every conceivable scenario but all my arguments were lost causes. Ah, the joys of paying all that money to insurance companies just in case something happens, then having something happen and finding out you are not totally covered.

46 and one half inches high

Soon we leave the comfort of our familiar surroundings for the first leg of our trip. The music in my head starts softly a few days before our departure, picking up Willie’s smooth crooning words, On The Road Again.  When we leave Friday morning, the song will be pumped up so loud, the windows will vibrate as our wheels creep away from our site.  New England, here we come!

February 20th through February 27th, 2015 Johns Birthday, St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary

The beginning of our third year has brought many insightful realizations to our current way of life. Not surprisingly, I found that 30 days of minimal human contact other than John is my maximum. Spending countless evening hours alone on 300 acres is an overkill of solitude and the fantasy of living among wild things creeping around at night is not as attractive as I had once believed.

As our volunteer stretch draws to an end here at Washington on the Brazos, we begin the arduous task of planning the trip details for our next season of life in our rolling box. Thankfully we are already past the difficult undertaking of applying for, and entering into a contract with, the Federal Government, the Army Corps of Engineers. Our job will be working for Buffumville Dam in Massachusetts and has been finally granted us, paperwork signed, sealed and delivered. We are excited about meeting Ranger Jamie, our new head honcho. If our entertaining conversations with her on the phone are any indication of her personality, we are going to get along wonderfully and a good time will be had by all. Three other couples will be working and living near us for our five month job beginning the 15th of May and ending the 15th of September. We will be allowed to spend an extra week before our tour of duty and an extra week after for no cost. Nice perk!

John’s 68th birthday was celebrated with our daughter driving out to visit us “down on the farm” and a first for John, a trip to Brenham’s awesome creamery, Blue Bell Ice Cream. Decades ago I had taken both kids when on a Girl Scout outing and then again when I was home schooling. John never was able to tag along.

John's birthday at Blue Bell

The tour is now six dollars per person, up from “free” a few decades ago but at the end, instead of a small sample, you get an enormous scoop of one of their 13 flavors. If you can’t decide, ask for a taste of several and you’ll get nice rounded sample spoonful. If you have room for a second scoop it’s only one dollar.

We were very impressed with this little creamery, starting out with one small delivery truck and now standing alongside the big boys, Dryers and Breyers and keeping up with them nicely in sales. Many of the employees that began decades ago have generations of family members that continue to work for Blue Bell.  The day was so dreary and overcast that I took a few pictures from the internet to post.  Below is their first delivery truck.

Blue Bell ice cream factory visitor center

Nikki, our tour guide, was fun and full of interesting facts. She also inserted just enough cheesy dairy jokes to keep us moaning once her words were understood by us all.  Picture of the cow and milkmaid are from the internet.  My pictures had dozens of little kids posing for their parents with not much of the cow or maid showing.

Blue Bell statue

The company is still run by the decedents of those responsible for its rise, beginning in 1907 and continuing on today. Closed on weekends so families can be together, all shifts are home by 8pm. Each of the line positions are rotated every 40 minutes to keep spirits high and the break room is stocked with a freezer full of their awesome blue bell ice cream, as much as wanted for free! No pictures of the employees area are allowed but we received smiles, waves, dances and were shown the contents of what was being poured into vats at each viewing through the tour windows.

Next morning we met up at Cozy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro in Montgomery, Texas for what we hoped was an upscale dining experience before visiting Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary. This small eatery did not disappoint. Local art décor, comfortable seating and wonderfully eclectic offerings like a combo eggs benedict of green eggs and ham, the green being pesto, alongside a crab cake benedict.

Cozy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro

On our way to the Wolf sanctuary, the weather cooled and misted over. We passed a Trail Ride gathering of wagons, horses and cowboys ready to continue their journey through to the Houston Rodeo in spite of the dampness.

Trail Riders

Once we arrived at the Wolf Sanctuary, two barking part Shepard dogs dashed to the fence, taking turns assessing our every move as we opened the gate. Our entrance was adjacent to their guarded territory or we would have been shown their sharp canine protective characteristics along with a few wolf fangs.

The warning

The whole area was covered with warning signs, most advising visitors that poking fingers through the fence would be considered a meat treat offering by the four legged guards.

Wolf Sanctuary

Inside we were met by our tour guide, a young man who had a past working with wild animals in zoos and private facilities across the United States. The wolf side quietly observed our movements but as we looked down the row progressing to the pure dog side, the restless pacing and activity turned hyper. Feeding time began with a wagon rolling out a feast of raw meat to fill stainless steel bowls, all secured to metal wire so the wolves would not grab them and run off.

Wolf feeding time

The wolf pack activity reached a frenzied state with yips and aggressive nipping at those on the bottom of the pecking order. Dinner was carefully slid through the narrow opening in the fence keeping fingers clear of the sharp fangs and took mere minutes to devour.  Next came the clean-up of waste, another carefully choreographed plan using two caregivers, one keeping a watchful eye on the moves of each of the caged occupants while the other picked up.

Partial Wolf side of kennel

After wolfing down dinner, our guide told the tale of how these wild animals came to the sanctuary, some from various now defunct refuges, some from private homes and others by accident. The “by accident” happened when animal control incorrectly labeled dogs that looked like wolves. In Texas it is illegal to own a wolf unless one has the proper sanctions and licenses. Those said to be part wolf by owners are sent to the sanctuary, their fate sealed, spending the rest of their life in a sanctuary as the cost to decipher their lineage is not affordable for the sanctuary.

Tala and Remus  Liam, Wolf

We were able to meet two of the full timers, Tala and Tracker, Tala being the ambassador for the sanctuary, Tracker being “in training”. Tala sniffed us on the first go round, then we were allowed to pet her gently. Note her wolf attribute, paws placed one directly in front of the other when walking.

Tala half wolf  John and Tala

Tracker was much friendlier, stopping to lick several of the visitors and paused for several moments to groom John’s beard and verbalize how much he was enjoying the task.  Sadly the camera refused to focus on John as he was seated next to me and we were told not to rise from our seats during the experience.  A picture of the look on John’s face during the cleaning would have been priceless.  Astonishment is an understatement.  Tracker

After the tour, a walk back to the car in the damp air and soggy grass, a quick stop at WalMart for groceries and to watch the giant masses of birds swarm all over the cars,

The Birds at Walmart

warming up with the heater turned up full blast and arriving at the farm in time to view our backyard sunset. All was quiet except for Chrissie growling at our back window and the sound of our pack of yipping coyotes roaming around the park.  Howling would begin as soon as the sun set and continue on after darkness took over the park.

Sunset in our backyard