Category Archives: Family

Friends, Family, and the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains

After spending time with family in Oceanside, we headed up to San Dimas to establish a base to do more exploring and visiting.

We were fortunate to snag this site at East Shore RV Park, which featured a tremendous view of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Our focus during our time here was to catch up with some old friends, visit with more family, and see some of the local sites.  We also honed our urban driving skills on the famous L.A. freeways!

On Thursday, we headed towards Woodland Hills to visit with friends.  We stopped along the way at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery, as Diana noticed there were several celebrities buried there.  We saw the graves of Bette Davis, Liberace, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

It was not lost on us that we were there on May 4, otherwise known as Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you).

From there, we went to one of Diana’s friend’s home in Woodland Hills.

Here we are with Debi and her husband Jamie, along with Debi’s parents, Jeane and Ron. Debi’s mom was one of Diana’s Girl Scout leaders along with Mrs. Faust. (We visited Mr. and Mrs. Faust a couple of years ago in Michigan). Having the same leaders from second through twelth grade made this group of girls very close and many of them still keep in touch. Their troop was very active with many camping trips, including a two week Hike Across Michigan. Diana joked that Debbie’s dad and Mr. Faust should have earned merit badges for driving motorhomes full of teenage girls from Michigan to Yellowstone National Park and back.  It was great to catch up with all of them and to finally be able to meet Jamie!

On Friday, a longtime friend from college came to visit us!  We hadn’t seen Tim since he left West Michigan in 1989 to work for Paramount Pictures.  He and his wife Kim have two lovely daughters and have had great careers in Hollywood. It was really good to catch up with him.  😊

On Saturday, we headed to Pasadena to catch up with Betsy and her husband Wayne.

We met Betsy back in college and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Wayne was our tour guide for the day as we checked out the area.  They treated us to dinner afterward, which was very sweet!

He works at The California Institute of Technology, so we were able to get an in-depth walk through the beautiful campus.  It’s inspiring to note that 33 Nobel Prize winners have graced these grounds.

The fictional characters Leonard and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory work at Cal Tech.  We didn’t see them here at the astrophysics lab.  😉

From there, we checked out Huntington Botanical Gardens, the Rose Bowl, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.

This is the Red Carpet area that leads into the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards are held.  It’s actually a mall that is lined with stores on both sides, which are curtained off for the show.  Who knew?

I’ve always known that I had stiff competition, in the fact that Diana wanted to marry Opie when she was growing up.  😉  (I always did like the nice guys 😊 Diana).  Thank you for the marvelous day, Betsy and Wayne! 

On Sunday, we went to Glendora to visit with more of Diana’s California relatives. Diana’s mother was the youngest of eight children. One of Joyce’s sisters, Lucille (Don), and one of her brothers Ken (Margery), and their families moved from Michigan to California in the 1950’s. Diana is one of 23 cousins on her mother’s side. The main reason for coming to California this spring was a long overdue visit to see these family members, and it was wonderful beyond our expectations!

Seated in the front is Aunt Margery.  From the left are Judy, Mike, Evie, Gregg, Judy, Diana, myself and Wes.  A total of 20 of us attended a get together at Aunt Margery’s home. We were so excited about seeing each other, we failed to get photos until after the following people had left: Uncle Don & Aunt Barb; Barry & Dawn; Evie’s daughter Kelly, her husband Mike, and their son Oliver; Judy’s son Wyatt, his wife Syndi, and their sons Gage & Gavin. As stated in our last post, Diana had not seen some of them since she was a young girl. Others she had yet to meet. We were moved at the outpouring of love from them, and we are determined to not let so much time pass before our next visit!

From the excitement and bustle of the Los Angeles area, we move next to the majesty of the High Sierras.  Be sure to stay tuned!

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Oceanside and San Diego

After spending a considerable amount of time in the desert the past few weeks, we crossed over the Laguna Mountains in Southern California and into the wonderfully cool temperatures of the San Diego region.  Our plans were to see Diana’s relatives who live in the area.  We arrived in Oceanside on April 27 and met up with Diana’s cousin Barry and his wife Dawn for dinner. 

The next day, the four of us hopped the Coaster train to San Diego to do a little touring!

These tiled pillars in the Santa Fe Depot were fabulous!  The building was opened in 1915 and has been in use ever since.  It was built by the City of San Diego in an attempt to lure the Santa Fe Railroad to make it the western terminus for its transcontinental railroad.  Los Angeles ended up winning that competition.

We walked to the bay to see the aircraft carrier USS Midway and to check out the waterfront.

I even kissed one of the pretty girls while we were there!

We had a nice lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, caught a pedicab back to the depot and headed back to Oceanside.  Our driver was very upbeat and entertaining, despite having to haul four adults across town.  😉

The next day, Diana and I hopped in the Escape and headed back south along the Pacific Coast Highway.

One of the surprises for us was the Veterans Memorial on Mt. Soledad.  There were semi circles of black granite tiles with veterans names, photos and stories inscribed in them.  Any U.S. veteran, living or dead, can have a plaque there.  Prices start at just under $1,000 and go up, depending on the size of the tile.

From the top of the memorial, there was a tremendous view to the north…

…and to the south!

From there, we skirted the western side of San Diego to visit Cabrillo National Monument and Old Point Loma Lighthouse.  This maritime sentinel had been on our list of places to see since way back at the turn of the millennium when we were members of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.  That organization featured the lighthouse at that time and caught our eyes.

Built on the top of 400 foot high Point Loma in 1855, the lighthouse was the highest in the United States during its 36 years of service.  It’s demise was brought about by the fact that it was too high to be seen by ships during foggy periods, resulting in the lighthouse keeper occasionally having to discharge a shotgun who warn passing ships.  To solve that issue, the New Point Loma Lighthouse was constructed in the late 1800’s at the base of the hill.

While it was a simple home in a remote location, the views from the windows of the harbor and the ocean made life here worth the hardships.

The next day, we got together in Oceanside with several of Diana’s relatives at a gathering that Barry and Dawn hosted at their timeshare.

On the left is Gregg and Diana’s cousin Evie, who Diana hadn’t seen since she was in fifth grade. On Diana’s left is her cousin Sandra, who was visiting from Delaware.  Next is Dawn and Diana’s cousin Barry, then Aunt Barb and Uncle Don, then me.  Several of us went down to the beach to watch the sunset later on.

Diana and I finally put our feet in the ocean, marking the completion of our trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific!  Thank you so much, Dawn and Barry!  We had a fabulous time! 

On Monday, Barry and Dawn took us on a tour northward from Oceanside up to Huntington Beach.  We made stops in San Clemente, Balboa Island and Huntington Beach, where they treated us to lunch.  We really enjoyed spending some quality time with them!

The following day, we went to see Uncle Don and Aunt Barb at their place in Escondido.  They took us out for lunch and we also spent some time visiting in their beautiful home.  It was great to be with them! 🙂

That wrapped up our time in Oceanside!  Next up, we move north to San Dimas to explore the Los Angeles area and to visit with friends and more family!  Stay tuned!

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Austin and Westward Across Texas

Once we left the Gulf Coast, we headed back up to Austin to visit with family for several days.  Diana’s cousin Nancy and her husband David, who we went to Big Bend with last year, live in Austin. Diana’s cousin Jerry had spent the winter there after retiring, so we also wanted to see him before he headed back to Michigan. They all went out of their way to show us a great time in this fun town! 

First up on Thursday was a trip with Jerry out to Johnson City to see the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s boyhood home.

While his family had a fair amount of wealth, they lived simply in a rural Texas style.

The woman in the visitor’s center referred to LBJ as “a little stinker” during his days in Johnson City.  I’ll bet he was.  😉

From there, we drove west to Stonewall to the LBJ Ranch, otherwise known as the Texas White House.

This is still a working cattle ranch.  The road meanders through the property, as do the prize bovine. 😃

The visitor’s center for the ranch is housed in the former aircraft hanger.

LBJ would fly in to the ranch on this Lockheed JetStar that he dubbed “Air Force One Half”.  We found it interesting that he spent 20% of his time in office at his home here in Texas.

The wing on the left with the covered chimney was his fully functional presidential office.  The gentleman on the left was our tour guide.  He told us that a man on a tour he gave earlier in the day was the brother of the Dallas police officer J.D. Tippet, who was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after JFK’s assasination.  The ranch is where the Kennedys were to spend the night of November 22, 1963, but that was not to be.  

This was LBJ’s domain. He used his 6’4″ frame…and several chairs that sat taller than the guest seating…to persuade people.  He felt self conscious around the Ivy-leaguers who ruled in Washington with himself only having a Texas teacher’s college education, so he would bring them to his ranch where they were out of their element. He achieved a lot in a short amount of time at this location.  He died of a heart attack in this home at the age of 64, six years after he left office.

That evening, we went to a place in South Austin that Jerry had discovered called the Saxon Pub.  Austin has a tremendous music reputation, and this night lived up to it.  

The headliner was Patrice Pike.  She and her band put on an amazing show.  At one point, she morphed one of her own songs into “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, sliding into the drummer’s place.  That left the drummer no choice but to beat the wall with his drumsticks.  The audience definitely got their money’s worth!

The next day, Diana and I met up with Jerry, Nancy, and David.

Our destination was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The facility had a natural feel to it, and the buildings blended well with the surroundings.  Austin, in general, excels in their use of the local limestone in their architecture, giving the town a warm and inviting feel.  We enjoyed our visit to the gardens, and followed it up with lunch at a local barbecue joint called Salt Lick.  That was delicious!  Later that evening, Jerry’s son Ben and daughter-in-law Sara had us over for dinner, which was even better!

Here is Diana loving holding their son Cole.  What a cutie!

Saturday afternoon we headed over to Nancy and David’s home for dinner.  Their sons Thomas and Robert, along with their wives Marlana and Tashia were there, and also Jerry, Ben and Sara. There we had a birthday party for Sara and Cody Lynn, Nancy and David’s granddaughter.

Here is Cody Lynn showing off her new sticker book we got her.

We thought her brother Hayes might like a present also, so we got him a magnifying glass.  It was a hit!

Cole was enjoying a little lawn time.  😃

Sunday evening, we headed downtown to see one of Austin’s unique phenomenons, the evening bat flight.

When the Congress Avenue bridge was reconstructed in 1980, the gaps under the roadway unknowingly provided an ideal place for bats to roost.  Up to 1.5 million bats reside there by mid summer, and their nightly departure draws quite a crowd.  From our vantage point, we couldn’t see them very well…as it was quite dark when they began leaving. Still, it was a hoot to see the people hanging out to watch.

Monday, we began our journey west!  First stop was the tiny town of Junction to meet up with fellow RV-Dreamers Debbie and Steve!  We set up camp at Schreiner City Park, which allows three days of free camping.  We found this and the park mentioned in our last post on the AllStays app.

It’s pretty tough to beat that site!  Just beyond that shelter is the junction of the North and South Llano Rivers that give the town its name.

As a bonus to getting to see Debbie and Steve (seated behind me), we were able to meet Pam and Red, who are also fellow RV-Dreamers.  What a great evening!  If you are counting, that’s four couples from Howard and Linda’s rallies that we’ve met up with in Junction in the past two years.

The next day we headed to Balmorhea State Park in Toyavale.  This location is getting out there in the West Texas desert and featues a huge natural spring.  In the 1930’s, the CCC turned it into the attraction it is today.

From this panoramic shot, it looks like a normal public swimming pool.  What you aren’t seeing is…

…the natural bottom or the fish!  We did go for a dip, which felt really good.

We also enjoyed watching the roadrunners and the bunnies at our campsite.  

On Wednesday morning, we headed west toward El Paso.  For some reason, Diana and I had pictured it to be a sleepy West Texas outpost…not realizing that the city is home to well over 600,000 people!  With construction on Interstate 10, the trip through town was a bit more than we expected.  😊.  We enjoyed our trek across Texas and are looking forward to what comes next.  Be sure to stay tuned!

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A Four State Weekend

No sooner than we were all settled into our site in Leelanau, we jumped in Edsel the Escape and headed back south to Indiana. This was a planned trip, as my Aunt Marge was going to be celebrating her 70th Jubilee as a Catholic nun.  My cousins and my sister all were there, along with our spouses and my Uncle Ed (her brother and my Godfather).  Of the fifteen sisters who were in her class in 1946, five were here celebrating on this day.  Two others were celebrating 50 years, and Sister Johnilda would have celebrated her 80th Jubilee and her 100th birthday this month, but she passed in April.

The event was held at the Ancilla Domini chapel in Donaldson, Indiana, which resembles more of a cathedral than a chapel.  It’s stained glass windows and hand carved statues are all imported from Germany.  The altars were made in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  This branch of the sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ immigrated from Germany in 1918.  The chapel and motherhouse was built in 1923, the year before my aunt was born in Detroit. As the pipe organ played, memories of my mom…an accomplished pipe organist…came flooding back.  I was a mess, to say the least.

Diana and I stayed at their retreat center, Lindenwood.  My uncle lives in their independent living center, which is actually in the 1923 motherhouse and is open to the public. The sisters also have a two year liberal arts college that started in 1937. They’ve recently noticed the birth rate falling in the surrounding community, so they are building dormitories to attract international students.  These ladies find ways to not only survive, but to also thrive and grow!  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in for a tour.  The sisters are always happy to have visitors. Ancilla Domini is listed as one of the top 15 hidden gems in Northern Indiana.

The photo above shows the existing dorm and dining hall, along with a second dorm being built. The sisters also have a complex that is their retirement and nursing home.  The nursing home is where my aunt currently lives.  Her eyesight is very poor, but with her independent spirit, she still tries her best to move around.  She recently fell and injured her neck, so her orthopedic surgeon has her in a doozy of a neck brace and wheelchair.  She isn’t very happy with the arrangement.

But don’t pity her.  She’s still talking about the things the sisters are doing and looking towards the future.  This is one amazing and spunky lady.

And this is her baby brother, my Uncle Ed.  He will be turning 90 this June.  🙂

These sisters were all novices (trainees) under her at one time.  There was also a table of people she used to work with at St Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, including the CEO.  It was my aunt’s job to see that they followed their mission as a Catholic hospital.  It’s been 20 years since she has worked there, yet here they were here this day to celebrate with her.  She was obviously respected and loved by them.

A sister (by birth) of one of her novices had recently been fighting cancer and made several of these fleece blankets while undergoing chemo treatments.  She explained that it was her way of focusing on giving to others, rather than dwelling on her own health issues.   She gave one to my aunt…

…and one to my uncle.  That was very sweet of her .  🙂  We wish her good health in the future.

After we left Donaldson, we headed to Wisconsin to see Diana’s cousin and his wife.  We had a family heirloom that we wanted to take to them, and we also wanted to see the stately 1930’s home they recently purchased.  We left Indiana, scooted around Chicago and crossed into Wisconsin.  They live just across the border in Brodhead.

We really liked their place!  With my love of history, this home was right up my alley.

Lots of classic lines and period furniture, yet very comfortable.

While the home had an elegance to it that would typically make a person be afraid to touch anything, Duane and Gisela’s warmth and hospitality made it a cozy nest.  🙂

With them living in Wisconsin, they were sure to take us to the local dairy.  Sorry about the wind-blown hair, guys! We all got a chuckle when I said “Say cheese!”  The creamery’s offerings were delightful. The countryside surrounding the community consisted of rolling hills and neatly manicured farms.  We decided that we need to return to the area someday and do more exploring.

From their home, we had two options to get back to Wild Cherry.  We could drive either north or south to get around Lake Michigan.  If it were later in the spring, we might have chosen north.  Instead, we decided to retrace our steps and stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan to see our college friends Mike and Cindy. I wish I had photos, but we started right in talking and catching up…and never let up.  🙂  To offer a little history, we both had our houses built at the same time, and the four of us traded labor when we moved in back in February of 1999.  Amazingly, it was sunny and in the mid 40’s both weekends, which is unheard of in Michigan.  When we head back for homecoming at Western Michigan University every fall, the gang either hangs out there or at Paul and Sheryl’s house.  This particular evening, the four of us went out for pizza and then we spent the night.  They had to go to work the next morning, so they told us to just kick back and enjoy the place…which we did!  We ended up finally leaving at 10:30 AM.  🙂  After running some errands in Grand Rapids and Traverse City, we pulled into Leelanau by early evening.  Rod and Mary (who we worked with last summer, then spent the winter near in Melbourne Beach) arrived while we were gone, so it was great to see them again.  Their dog Gracie was happy to be back also.  🙂

That was our four state whirlwind weekend. We made a lot of memories in a short amount of time!  Thank you to our family and friends for making us feel so welcome and loved.  🙂

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Northward!

After our visit to Austin, Texas, we turned our wagon train northward towards Michigan for the summer.  We are returning to Leelanau for at least one more go-around, as we really enjoyed working at Wild Cherry. We met so many great people while we were there, and we want to spend more time with them!  We would also like to do some more exploring in the area. Our trip was a little bit faster than we planned, as my aunt hasn’t been doing well.  She fell and injured her neck, so we pushed a little harder to get back than we normally would have.  She is stable and in good hands, but we just really wanted to see for ourselves that she was ok.

On our way through Arkansas, we spent the night just south of Little Rock. We parked the rig, not even setting up, so we could get downtown to see the William Clinton Presidential Library before it closed for the day.  I’m going to borrow a thought from our friends Bob and Pat at Michigan Traveler and state that Diana and I like to visit Presidential museums, libraries and homes.  Doesn’t matter the party to us; if they were President of the United States, they’ve earned a place in history and our visit to their museum.  So please hold the political comments.  :). I’ll report on the nuts and bolts of the places.  Everybody has a different viewpoint on how they interpret the presentation of history, so I’m not even going to try to tell how I felt in this or any presidential museum…because you may feel differently.

The building itself was interesting in the fact that the upper floors were supported by this one set of columns on one end.  There’s the fire exit intertwined in it, unless you want to do a high dive into the Arkansas River.  🙂

Just inside the main door is one of the limousines used during his presidency.  Made in Michigan, as are most all of them.  This one is a Cadillac, but most have been Fords. 🙂

The Oval Office is an exact replica of how it was during Clinton’s term in office.

We have seen a few of these re-creations now, and this was the best…simply because they let you actually sit at the desk.  Of course they take photos of you and try to sell them to you for way too much money, but to sit at that desk and look around that room…well, that’s pretty neat.  Actually, that’s very neat!   I had to let that moment soak in for a minute.  🙂

They also had a replica of theWhite House Cabinet Room, which we found to be impressive.

The second and third floors were an open atrium with exhibits on both sides.  Those columns contain a portion of the hard copies of the library’s archives.

Bill and Hillary in their younger days.  I got a kick out of this photo, purely from the standpoint that we have college photos that could rival that.  🙂

Down the center of the atruim were these eight panels that discussed the timeline of each year of his presidency.  While we were viewing the displays on the back side of these panels, a small entourage walked through.  A woman was giving a tour to a well-dressed gentleman, and a few others were tagging along.  Then I noticed a man in a suit next to me, nonchalantly looking at a display.  He was wearing an earpiece…as were several others around the room!  Secret Service types everywhere. None of them were looking directly at us, but you bet we were being watched!  Not sure who the gentleman being given the tour was, but he had to have some major level of importance to be given that sort of protection.  Don’t make a false move, kids….

We enjoyed the Clinton Library, just as we do all presidential museums.  It was a very well thought-out design, and it was full of memorabilia and a plethora of information.

After we left Little Rock, we headed towards Indiana to see my aunt.  Earlier in the trip, I noticed I wasn’t able to get my expandable wheel chocks between the wheels on the passenger side of the trailer.  I thought maybe it was because I was on an unlevel surface…except it kept happening campsite after campsite.  Hmmmm….. Prior to our stopover at Effingham, Illinois, we noticed the right side of the trailer drooping. I thought one of our MORryde suspension springs was going bad, so I called ahead to MORryde headquarters in Elkhart, Indiana to schedule service.  Upon reaching Effingham,  I crawled further under the rig and noticed this:

Oops.  One of our sets of shackles had broken and the leaf spring was resting on the underside of the frame.  I called a local RV mobile tech who came out and installed new shackles on that one spring.  From there, we headed straight to Elkhart.

MORryde has six slots with 20/30/50 amp electric for people waiting for service to park in.  Even if you are scheduled to have service, it can take a few days to get in.  They are busy, and business is good.  So we camped there for two nights, listening to freight trains and the construction project next door.  Having read more than once about the scheduling and the trains on Howard and Linda’s RV-Dreams Journal, we rolled with it.  When we knew the first day that we weren’t getting in, we headed back an hour southwest with the Escape to see my 91-year old Aunt Marge. While the brace she was in seemed very uncomfortable for her, she seemed to be in fairly good spirits.  She definitely was getting good care.  If you recall our post from September 2014 called Paradise in a Corn Field, my aunt is a Roman Catholic nun.  She took her vows in 1946, after leaving home for the convent in the early 1940’s.  This will be her 70th year as a nun, and the Sisters are having a Jubilee in mid May.  We will be heading back down for that, as will the rest of the family.  Her baby brother, my Uncle Ed…who will be a very young 90 years old this year…also lives on the property.  The Sisters have a retirement community for the general public, and he hangs his hat there.  He’s my Godfather, and being with him is like being with my late mom again (before she had dementia)…funnier than all get out and sharp as a tack.  Those two were peas in a pod, and he chokes up at the mention of her.  No visit to see Aunt Marge is complete without seeing Uncle Ed.  He is doing fantastic.  🙂

Back at MORryde, we were able to get in the next day.  Sergio, our mechanic, came running out to tell us that they had a cancellation and that he was ready for us. Just like that, Clara was behind closed doors and Henry was all alone in the lot.

Ketchup and Mustard kept a lid on the situation.  🙂  About 5 hours later, we were good to go.  Sergio installed a heavier version of their MORryde vulcanized rubber shear springs than we previously had, much heavier duty shackles than before, new greaseable bolts (the original ones couldn’t be greased), checked the brakes and repacked the wheel bearings. I also had them readjust our pin box, as our trailer had been riding nose high.  Sergio had Keith bring the nose down two inches.  We still have plenty of clearance between the truck rails and the underside of the fifth wheel, and the lower front end will help us level easier in situations where we don’t unhook the truck and trailer for the night.  With us having the Escape to drive at our destinations, we don’t need to unhook…as long as the campsites are long enough.

 It is here I want to say something about the standard equipment suspension on most trailers.  Even though Colorado put on MORryde equalizers, they failed to put on greaseable bolts or heavy duty shackles.  Our friends Tracy and Lee at Camper Chronicles just had the same issue with their shackles on their Open Range fifth wheel.  They did as we did and opted for the heavier duty shackles and greaseable bolts.  They are headed to Alaska this summer and thank goodness that didn’t happen to them in the middle of the Yukon.  The heavy duty parts don’t cost much more, and I believe that they should be standard equipment on all trailers that still use leaf springs.

From MORryde, we drove 20 miles east to Shipshewana for a few nights.  We needed a break!  Nothing like planting yourself in the middle of Amish country to slow down your heart rate.  :). We enjoyed our time there, then headed back up to Grand Rapids.  I must say, the trailer felt like it was riding on a cloud. We needed to be in Grand Rapids to take care of a few things, in regards to Diana’s mom.  Once we are done here, we will be heading up to Leelanau!  If any of you are going to be up that way this summer, please let us know.  We would love to see you!
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Lovers Key

On Tuesday, we headed back across the state to Lovers Key to visit my sister Judy and her husband Dale.  They came down from Michigan for a mid-winter break.  It was not only great to see them, it also was nice to see the Bonita/Naples area again!

  

On Wednesday morning, we went for a stroll on Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs.

  

Here’s Dale and Judy searching for shells.  The quality of the sea shells is outstanding in southwest Florida, and we were not disappointed Wednesday morning.  🙂

  

There were hundreds of intact conch shells.  Of all the years we’ve been on Florida beaches, this was the best shelling we had ever seen!

  
 

Dale found this sea horse that was still alive, so he took it out into the surf to give it a chance at survival.

  

We also saw this dead blue crab.  I certainly wouldn’t want one of these grabbing my toe!

  

We walked a mile down the beach and returned to the parking lot along a nature path through the mangroves.

  

Afterwards, we returned to their condo and hung out at the pool for the afternoon.  We had yet to get any pool time since being down in Florida, so it was a special treat for us.  :).  Check out the view from their balcony!  This is looking south towards Naples.

  

This is looking north towards Fort Myers Beach.  We saw dolphins swimming in Estero Bay and even had an osprey fly by with a large fish in its’ talons.

On Wednesday evening, we went to a local restaurant called A Table Apart in Bonita Springs.  Dale’s cousin Marilyn and her husband Bill joined us.  They are also staying for a few weeks at Lovers Key Resort.

  

We had a wonderful time!  A Table Apart is a restaurant that we can highly recommend.  Our server was outstanding and the food was out of this world.  🙂

Aferwards, we caught the tail end of a sunset from Dale and Judy’s balcony.

  

A perfect end to a perfect day.  🙂

Thursday morning after we headed out, we stopped for breakfast north of Bonita Springs at First Watch.  This is a growing national chain of breakfast/lunch restaurants that we first discovered in the Naples area a few years ago.  

  

Diana likes avacados, and her breakfast didn’t disappoint!

  
My breakfast scramble was fresh and delicious also!

What a nice couple of days in southwest Florida. Thanks, Judy and Dale!

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Preparing to Head South!

C’mon baby, drive south…with the one you love…

Suzy Bogguss

Before we go any further in this post, Diana and I want to thank all of you who sent your thoughts and wishes our way after her mom’s passing.  Our family is very appreciative of the outpouring of love and good will that was wrapped around us. We are fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful friends and family. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

So here we are, well prepared to face another winter in Michigan.  The fifth wheel is skirted and El Niño is keeping Michigan’s temperatures in the low 40’s and snow free.  Should we just stay here or should we find our way south?  That question can be swiftly answered with a statement Diana’s mom used to use on me:  “Boy, you are nuts in the head.”  Time to open the tool box, grab my utility knife and get that skirting off the rig!

When Diana’s parents retired, and they were able to spend winters in Florida, her dad called and advised us not to wait until we retired but rather to move to Florida right then. We responded that we had jobs and were working toward retirement. He still thought we should just pull up roots and not spend one more winter in the cold. We are sure he is very pleased that he gets to be with mom again, and we are finally escaping the snow!

The time since returning to Grand Rapids from the funeral has been spent wrapping up loose ends and preparing to make the trip south.  While we have technically been fulltime RVers for over a year now, this is really our official launch of being able to head out and see where the wind takes us.  That prospect still hasn’t totally sunk into our minds yet.  As one can well imagine, this is a bittersweet time for the two of us…as we grieve losing Mom.  Fortunately she had a stellar sense of humor, and we don’t have to dig too deep to bring a smile to our faces with one of her quips.  🙂

Part of our preparation for heading out has been to get both vehicles ready to go.  Yes, we’ve decided to keep our Ford Escape.  That vehicle was the biggest item on our ‘pros and cons’ list.  This very subject came up at the RV-Dreams rally in September, 2014.  Howard and Linda travel this way, with Howard driving the truck/fifth wheel and Linda in their Jeep Liberty.  One would think that the economics of having two vehicles would be cost prohibitive.  That actually is not the case, as the fuel and maintenance savings of driving a much smaller vehicle at our destinations makes the money aspect a ‘wash’.  Howard has crunched those numbers for 10 years now and has proven that to be a fact.  Fulltime RVers travel an average of 5000 miles a year between destinations. If we limit the truck travel to that and some short travel to lakes and bicycle trails (the kayaks and trikes ride on the truck), we will save a bunch on gas and maintenance, while extending the useful life of our much more expensive truck.  Plus, the Escape is much easier to park.  This makes it more fun in resort towns, beaches, and even going to the grocery store. Our biggest con is not getting to ride together between destinations.  Some might see that as a pro, but we really do like riding together. :).  Part of the fulltime lifestyle is limiting our travel to about 200 miles a day, so we won’t be having the long driving days of past vacations. When we went to dinner with Howard and Linda in October, they reminded us that they use walkie talkies to stay in touch.  As a result, we have purchased a set of Midland two-way radios to accomplish that.  We will see how it works out.  The one point that Linda made that struck home was this:  We own the Escape.  She suggested to try traveling with two vehicles and see if we like it.  If not, we can sell the Escape at a later date.  Linda has a knack for seeing the forest through the trees.  🙂

So the past week for me has been oil changes, new Goodyear Wranglers for the Escape, new RV compatible Garmin GPS units, and finishing up our drawer and door lock projects.  Diana has been busy with wrapping up her mom’s personal business.  We hope to pull out of Grand Rapids by the middle of next week.  We are donating our skirting to our next door neighbor in the campground.  In a rare moment of regret….something I just don’t do very often… I lamented to Peter at Life Unscripted that I should have waited on skirting the trailer.  He reminded me that I made the best decision with the information available to me at the time.  That meant a lot, Peter…thanks!  Although Mom was having a rough go of it, her track record of fortitude gave us every reason to believe that she was going to be with us for awhile.  Quite frankly, I wish we still needed the skirting.

So there you have it.  We will reveal our destinations as we reach them, as fulltime RVers have a motto : Our plans are set in Jello.  For now, all we are saying is: stay tuned and…..
C’mon baby, drive south!


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A Time For Mom

I thought I’d write a quick update to let everyone know what our winter plans are.  We came back to Grand Rapids for the month of November, hoping to find an opportunity to head to Florida for the winter.  That all hinged on our assessment of Diana’s mom’s health.  Not long after our arrival, she took a turn for the worse. It became obvious that we needed to be here.  Mom is now on hospice, and even though she is a fighter, her health is declining.  But beyond that, we just want to be with her.  She lights up when she sees us, as do we when we are with her.  It’s a tough time in the circle of life, but also a very sacred time.

So beginning tomorrow, the skirting goes back on the trailer, as we prepare to face another West Michigan winter.  We are supposed to get measurable snow here on Saturday.  I am going to find myself referring to my own blog posts from last winter and taking my own advice!    I sure hope it’s good advice! 🙂   If I come up with any new ideas, I’ll be sure to pass them along.  We will be posting from warmer winter locales in due time.  For now, it’s Mom’s time and turf…and that is a pretty special place to be.

  
Diana and her mom on Mom’s 80th birthday last April. 

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Putting others first

A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.
Tenneva Jordan

While Diana’s mom wouldn’t pass up a piece of pie or cake, rest assured it would be the smallest slice. This is a woman who has spent her life putting her needs after everyone else’s. Mom has never been one to grab the limelight. And though there have been tremendous challenges thrown her way over the years, she has always tackled them with a ‘no big deal’ attitude. As we watch her in the twilight of her life, with dementia and a weakening heart pulling at her physical strength, glimpses of her iron will continues to shine through.

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Mom is the youngest of eight children. She is under 5 feet tall and petite, but don’t let that fool you. If she has something to say, it is guaranteed that it will be said. Honesty has always been the cornerstone upon which she has built her life. In the early 1990’s, she faced cancer head on. She lost her right leg to the disease, which also metastasized to her lungs. Given an extremely small chance at survival by Mayo Clinic, she never considered dying to be an option. Twenty-some-odd years later, she is still here. Except for the time she was recovering, she continued to cook fabulous meals for her family, all the while maneuvering through the kitchen with one leg and her walker. She can be tough as nails when need be. I remember the surprise to this son-in-law once when she firmly ‘tapped’ the back of my noggin and said “You’re nuts in the head, boy!” Whatever it was that I did, I definitely deserved it. But there is also a gentle side to this woman. A sweet pat on the hand, a reassuring calm in her voice, and a levelness in her demeanor lets everyone know that things are just the way they are supposed to be, and we should not be surprised that they are.

So to watch her navigate her way through this chapter of her life with the same grace and character she has always had, even as dementia and heart issues chip away at her, I am honored to be witness to it. She is firmly in control of the situation. Yes, if there was a pie in the oven and a room full of caregivers, she would surely take the smallest slice and then ask if they didn’t have other patients to tend to.

Yup…that’s my mother-in-law. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.