Category Archives: Family

Perfect Timing in New York City

May 11, 2018 – New York City, New York

When most fulltime RVers choose travel destinations, they envision trees, rivers, and views from lofty heights.  Many look for places where they can hike long distances in natural surroundings.  On May 11, we found the perfect place to accomplish all of that:  New York City. This post deals with how we navigated the first of two days on Manhattan Island…all with serendipitous timing.

This wasn’t our first time in New York City.  We had come here as part of our 25th anniversary trip back in 2007, so we knew how to get around the metro area.  Back then, our friends Karen and Bill had told us of a KOA up in Newburgh, NY that was convenient to the Beacon train station.  That campground also had a woman who would walk our dog Jenny for a donation to KOA Care Camps for children dealing with cancer.  That worked well for us on our two trips into the city that year, allowing us to stay into the evening.  So this time around, we chose the same campground for our week-long stay.  Even though Jenny is no longer with us, we were happy to see that Carol is still there taking care of the pups.  And by a stroke of pure luck, our friend Kathy was working there.  You might remember her from our Charleston post.  We had no firm plans this trip, just a list of possible things to do in the area.

On Friday, May 11, we were drinking our coffee in our PJ’s and trying to decide our schedule for the week.  A quick look at the Weather Channel revealed rain and low temperatures in the forecast for most of our stay,  which meant the best day weather-wise was upon us.  Time to get moving.  We grabbed showers, sandwiches, sunglasses, water, and we were out the door!  Looking at the train schedule, we knew we were going to be close to making the 10:08.  The next train wouldn’t be for another hour, so we really wanted to catch it.  With it being 11 years since our last visit, we weren’t exactly sure the details of accomplishing that feat.  Well if there are two attributes to New Yorkers, it is that they are efficient and willing to help.  After a very quick transaction with the smiling toll collector on the Hudson River bridge, we were in the parking lot at the station.  “Toot-toooooot” … we could hear the Metro North coming!  We ran for the platform and quickly navigated the parking pay station (pay by plate) and up the stairs for the bridge over the tracks.  We passed a woman and asked if we could buy tickets on the train. “Yes, but it will cost you more,” she said without missing a beat.  Ok, so onto the platform, I quickly paid for two tickets in the vending machine as the train came in.  We literally grabbed them, turned to our left and stepped on the train. Ahhhhh….we had an hour-plus to chill. 🙂

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The beauty of riding this route is that it runs along the Hudson River the entire way.  The valley is lined with steep basalt cliffs known as the Palisades.  We could see the castle-like U.S. Military Academy at West Point across the river, along with many beautiful old homes, countless boats, and a fair amount of waterfowl. It is here that I will note that the two train cars furthest from the city (last ones inbound and first ones outbound) are now designated quiet cars.  That is probably a result of our incessant talking and newspaper rattling back in 2007, that resulted in a few glares from the commuters.  🙂

While we were rolling along Diana texted our friend Shari, a professor at Rutgers close by in New Jersey, because we had tentative plans to meet her in New York City that weekend.  She commented that we should be going today, as the weather was so beautiful. Diana responded that we were on way, and asked “Are you in?” She was in the middle of getting her hair done, but was able to grab a bus into the city immediately afterwards.  We made plans to meet for a late lunch at 2:30. We love it when a plan comes together!

Shari was the one who taught us how to navigate the subway system our last time here.  Back then, we toured Greenwich Village, Soho, and the Garment District with her.  We even ended up on CBS Sunday Morning, when we walked into Blue Ribbon Bakery.  They were doing a story about picnics.  Check it out HERE, between 17 and 22 seconds on the video (our five seconds of fame).  I’m the one in the Hawaiian shirt.

As we approached the city, the train slid underground for the final few miles to our destination.  Once inside Grand Central Terminal, we walked up into the main concourse.

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We never get tired of seeing this beautiful building!  Financed by the Vanderbilts, this huge structure was completed in 1913.  In this photo, we are actually one level below the streets.  There are 44 train platforms…the most at any terminal in the world… along with three subway lines that intersect here.  A very busy place that, despite the volume of people, works exceedingly well.

Once on the street, we had three hours until we were to meet up with Shari at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington…about 2.5 miles away.  Plenty of time to take a hike and catch that lofty view I referred to earlier.  We spotted a North Face store across from the station; after all…you would fully expect to find an outdoor store here.  😉  We were wanting a smaller day pack, and the people inside were able to help us accomplish that.  Out the door we headed for the second highest spot in the city, the Empire State Building!  Quickly navigating the mostly-empty queues (due to it being a weekday in early spring), we were soon outside on the 86th floor observatory.

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I looked up to see if King Kong was on the mast, just in case.  Nope…we were good.  Amazingly, this 1454 foot tall tower took only a little more than 13 months to build.

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Looking north, you can see Central Park beyond the tall buildings.  Lots of construction can be seen, as this city is constantly changing.

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This is looking west-northwest.  If you had been here on January 15, 2009, you could have seen Captain Sully land his plane on the Hudson from this point.

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This view is northeast, with the art-deco Chrysler building to the left and the East River behind.  I noticed that it was actually somewhat quiet up on the observatory deck, even though you could hear the street traffic far below.

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And the view south towards the Freedom Tower.  The Statue of Liberty can be seen to the right in the distance.  The Flatiron building is in the foreground on the point.  Amazingly, it was once one of the tallest buildings in New York when it was completed in 1902.

Once we were done, we rode the subway down to 14th Street.  From there we hoofed it to a restaurant called Bubby’s to meet Shari.  We exchanged hugs at 2:31….not bad!  🙂  The cafe had recently had a kitchen fire, so they were going to be opening up for the first time in a week later that afternoon.  Instead we ate at another place named High Street on Hudson, which was very good.  After that we did a little shopping.  She took us into a Christian Louboutin shoe store. Known for their red soles, the prices started at around $300 and rose quickly from there.  Not that any of us were buying, but it was fun to see how the other half shops!  We then headed to the southern end of the High Line.

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What is the High Line you ask?  It is a former elevated railway that carried freight to southern Manhattan.  It opened as a 1.45 mile long linear city park in 2009.  Talk about nature!

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They left the tracks and incorporated the landscaping around them.

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Check out the trillium and the ferns.  Are we in Leelanau?

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Looking up reveals we weren’t.  🙂  Hey…we were just up on top of that tower!

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And here is a dandy bit of construction going on.  That crane is level and plumb.  Look closely at the tower.  They are building it to be tilted like that.  I’m assuming it is an optical illusion that the floors themselves look slanted.  Go figure!

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Shari took this photo of us on this cool park feature.  It is built like a theater with windows at the front.  People are able to sit and watch as traffic on 10th Avenue zips out from under them.  Nice place to hang out and play the license plate game.  🙂

After we walked the entire length of the High Line, we grabbed dinner in Hell’s Kitchen at a restaurant called The Marshall.  Again, very tasty!

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It is always guaranteed to be a fun day when we are able to hang out with Shari!  We said our goodbyes near the restaurant and Diana and I trekked over a few blocks to Times Square.  It was starting to get dark by this time, so the bright lights were in all their glory.

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Right above that ‘2018’ is the mast that the Waterford crystal ball slides down on New Years Eve.

From there we grabbed the Shuttle subway line directly to Grand Central.  While we were waiting for the train we met a young man from Columbia who was trying to find his way to Connecticut, and he asked if he was on the right subway.  I knew enough to tell him the New Haven train ran from Grand Central, so we helped him navigate his way across town and to the information kiosk in the center of the main concourse of the terminal.  As we entered that grand hall, he stopped cold in his tracks.  “Whoa, hold on!!! I have to take a picture!”  He was in awe of what he was seeing, and we were happy to be able to help him.  With that, we made our train back to Beacon with just minutes to spare, capping a day filled with perfect timing and loads of fun.  We logged over 21,000 steps and 11 floors on our Fitbits, once all was said and done.  Whew!

Next up, we spend a second day in New York, checking out several sites in lower Manhattan.  Be sure to stay tuned for that adventure!

 

 

Rockets and Red Cars

This season is shaping up to be the winter of rockets and red cars for us.  Living on the Space Coast of Florida, we’ve been fortunate to see several launches this winter, as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have been very busy.  As you probably have seen by now, the biggest rocket contained a red Tesla roadster.  While that was beyond cool, it wasn’t the only red vehicle launch for us.  More on that in a bit…

On January 29th, our friends Phyllis and Bernie came up from Fort Pierce for a visit.

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Diana and Phyllis worked together back in West Michigan.  They checked out our park and then we went to Sebastian Beach Inn for a late lunch.  It was great to see them again!

On January 31, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a communications satellite.

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The mission required a full thrust to a high orbit, so the booster wasn’t able to return to the Cape.  I was fortunate to get our Nikon focused enough to get this shot as the spacecraft flew by us.  This is zoomed all the way, plus cropped to make it even bigger.

A mere 7 days later, SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket for the very first time.  Luckily, this coincided with a visit by my sister Judy and her hubby Dale!

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It was a perfect day for a show!

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There were a lot of people watching up and down the beach.

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And it’s liftoff, as viewed from Melbourne Beach!  The Cape is just far enough away that it’s over the horizon.

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This is my best photo of it.  We were viewing it from the side, so it’s hard to see the side boosters.  There is a Tesla in that nose cone!  We did see the boosters separate, then fire side-by-side to begin their return to the Cape.  A minute or so later, they relit and landed in almost perfect unison.

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My cousin Mary was much closer up at Cocoa Beach and posted this photo on Facebook of the boosters coming in. Beyond cool!

After the launch, the four of us went to dinner at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

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What a fun day!

So what else have we been doing?  Well, between substitute teaching assignments, Diana and I decided to go for a drive in Edsel the Escape yesterday up to Jacksonville.

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Before Edsel knew what happened, his license plate was off and Diana was shaking hands with William the car salesman.  Meet Edsel 2 on the left, our new 2018 Ford Escape!  Now all we need to do is to make sure Elon Musk doesn’t launch it into space. 🙂

We’ve also been planning our summer trip, which we will talk about in a future post.  It’s also maintenance season for our rig and vehicles….uhhhh, well one vehicle.  We sort of took care of any maintenance that needed to be done on the Escape!

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The biggest job of all is waxing the fifth wheel.  It takes me a few weeks to complete the job, as I only tackle a section each morning.  That strategy to be much easier on my body than trying to knock it out in a couple of days.  And that leaves the afternoons free for the beach and the next rocket launch!

Mid-winter Road Trip

With the arrival of our halfway point in Florida, we decided to give the fifth wheel a mid-winter spin this past week.  As fulltime RVer’s, it’s a good thing to move down the road on occasion, if nothing more that to remember how it’s done.  After all, we are getting older.

With that being said, we set out to visit relatives and friends last Sunday, and to take in the RV show in Tampa.  The latter actually involved us boondocking at the Florida State Fairgrounds for a few nights, which we will talk about in more detail below.  We left the Escape on our site in Melbourne Beach, along with our carpet and our solar yard lights.  Even with that presence, we were the talk of the park when we left.  One of the residents waited for us to pass by his rig and asked, “Are you coming back?”  People tend not to move, once they are here…and most leave their rigs onsite all year long.  We are the anomaly in the fact that we actually use the wheels that are attached to our rig.  We have to remind ourselves that, even though we are surrounded by RVers, most people in the park are not fulltiming in their rigs.  Either way, we all are having fun…and that’s all that matters.

Our first stop was at Southern Oaks RV Resort in Summerfield, Florida, between Ocala and Leesburg.  We spent one night there to see Diana’s brother and his family.  We went out for pizza at Stavros in Lady Lake, which was very tasty!

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From left.  Our niece Danielle, Diana, Danielle’s children: Sarah, Dalton, (cute but not related neighbor boy in the green jacket), and Caydon. Diana’s sister-in-law Carla, Diana’s brother Dan, and me.  It was really fun being able to see them again!

The next morning, we headed further west to the town of Beverly Hills, Florida, to see our friends Rod and Mary.  You may recall that they work camped with us for two seasons at Wild Cherry Resort in Michigan, and they also owned a home in Melbourne Beach.  They were the ones who found our park for us.  They recently bought a brand new home further inland on one acre of land, which gives them a lot more breathing room than they had on their 5700 square foot lot here by the beach.  The only other time we had been to the area was many years ago when Diana’s dad was the construction superintendent on a community college in neighboring Lecanto.  We were pleasantly surprised by the area, as it features more hills and oak trees than anywhere else we had visited in Florida.  We set up camp at Sandy Oaks Resort, which we thought was nice.  That evening, they treated us to a wonderful Filet Mignon dinner at their home. And we got to see Gracie girl, their wonderful English Shepard.

The next day, the four of us headed to the Withlacoochee State Trail, which is a 46 mile long asphalt rail trail between the towns of Dunnellon and Dade City.

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Even though it was a brisk morning, the sun warmed us up pretty quickly.  The vegetation surrounding the path reminded us of late fall on the Leelanau Trail in northern Michigan.  We rode 5 miles north from Lecanto Highway to the northern terminus and back.

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What a great morning for a ride with friends!

That afternoon, we headed a few miles over to the town of Crystal River.  Rod and Mary rented a kayak and we put Ketchup and Mustard in Florida waters for the first time ever.

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Our destination was Three Sisters Spring, as the manatees like to congregate there.

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Mary was able to capture this gentle giant coming up under their boat.  We saw several manatees along the route, which was really fun!

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When we were done kayaking, we headed to dinner at Crackers in Crystal River, then said our farewells for a bit.  We hope to see Rod and Mary again before we leave Florida in April.  We had a wonderful time with them, as we always do!

4 AM Wednesday morning came early, as we packed up the rig and headed south to Tampa for the Florida RV Supershow.  Our goal was to get their early enough to set up the rig in the parking lot without the hoards of people who come in their cars for the event.  We actually did rather well, considering it was foggy in places, and the fact there was heavy traffic along the route.  The usual traffic jam by the show had not materialized yet, so navigating the parking lot was fairly easy.   This was the first time we had attempted to bring the RV.  Our logic was that the show is so large it usually takes two days to see it.  They even ticket the event that way, giving attendees the second day free.  It cost $12 (one time) to park the RV and truck, along with $20 for each night we stayed.  No hookups are provided, so we were sure to come with a full water tank and empty grey and black tanks.  We also brought our new generator, which we looked forward to trying out.  The one thing we failed to do was to fill the one propane tank that ran out the previous night.  With the Wednesday night temperature forecast to drop to a low of 29 degrees, we knew we would need to make a propane run after the show closed on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, the U-Haul dealer we went to for a fill-up had a broken pump, and the other stations in the area either didn’t carry propane or were unwilling to sell to us at night.  We did fine that night, but I was sure to be at another U-Haul dealer in Brandon at 7 AM when they opened.  I needed to be back to the rig before the masses started pouring into the show at 9 AM.

As far as the show goes, Diana and I covered the main indoor building on Wednesday morning and started looking at rigs in the outdoor area in the afternoon.  A raw north wind rolled in after lunch, and made being in the rigs much more desirable than being outside!  We did see one layout that caught our eye, but we really aren’t ready to move in that direction just yet.  Still it was fun to see what’s out there.

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On Thursday, we checked out more of the show before lunch, then we headed back to the rig.  We made plans to have our friends Kelly and Bill from BK American Odyssey over for chili.  It was great to see them again!  Afterwards, the four of us checked out the show for a few more hours, which is always fun.  We ran into fellow RV-Dreamers Guy and Sue from Our ‘Rovin’ Journey, who attended the same Spring 2014 RV-Dreams rally that Kelly and Bill attended.  It was the first time we had met.  Hopefully we will get to see them again down the road!  Midway through the afternoon, Bill and Kelly had to head out for a dinner date, so we finished up the show on our own.  Afterwards, we both realized that we had forgotten to take photos.  At 6 PM, we headed back to our rig as the vendors were all closing up for the night, so we definitely put in a full day!

Friday morning, we packed up the rig early and exited the fairgrounds before the crowds showed up.  We chose a different route back to Melbourne Beach, taking State Route 60 all the way across to Vero Beach, then north on A-1-A to our park.  Despite some traffic lights and suburban congestion near Tampa, the route was much easier than trying to navigate Orlando on the way back.  As a bonus, the Thursday night Atlas V launch from Kennedy Space Center was delayed until Friday evening, so we were fortunate to be able to watch it streak by as it headed southeast past us over the Atlantic.

 

All in all, it was a great week with friends and family, and a great little getaway!  Tune in next time to see what we’ve been up to.  As always, thanks for following along with exploRVistas!

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Rural Indiana – The Heart of the Midwest

There’s something about Indiana that makes Midwesterners like ourselves feel centered.  Perhaps it is because so many interstates converge on Indianapolis, which has earned the state its moniker The Crossroads of America.  Or maybe it’s the laid back rural landscape that holds very few surprises as we travel over it. Having lived our adult lives in West Michigan, the US-31/I-65 corridor through the Hoosier State has become a familiar route to us, as it was our preferred path south for our Florida vacations.  Even though we’ve yet to reside in the state, we’ve come to know it fairly well.

© 2017 Google Maps

Our first stop on our way south on Thursday was the town of Donaldson, Indiana.  Located on the old Lincoln Highway, this unincorporated community sports a post office, a railroad crossing and not much else.  If you keep going beyond the tracks for a mile or so, a steeple appears above the treetops. You may have recalled our post Paradise in a Corn Field back in 2014, when we introduced you to the beautiful convent where my aunt lives.  This is that steeple and convent.

Now known as The Center at Donaldson, this gorgeous piece of real estate is something to see.  A few years ago, my uncle (my aunt’s baby brother) took up residence at the independent living facility the sisters operate on the grounds…so we get to visit both of them on our way through!

Aunt Marge just turned 93 and Uncle Ed is now 91.  Both are doing quite well.  It was so good to see them!

The sisters graciously allowed us to park the rig at their receiving facility overnight, complete with electricity and water.  We left them a donation for their kindness.  

If you are ever going to be in the area, let them know through this link so they can give you a tour of their facility.  You won’t be disappointed.  People of all faiths are openly welcomed.

On Friday, we continued south around Indianapolis to Seymour, Indiana.  This is John Cougar Mellencamp territory.  We didn’t see any ‘little pink houses’, but the one that motivated him to write the song supposedly still sits west of town.  Our destination that day was Chateau de Pique Winery, a member of Harvest Hosts.

This 80 acre vineyard sits in the middle of some beautiful rolling farmland.  The tasting room is housed in this barn.

Angel greeted us and introduced us to their wines.  Yes, they also serve beer and mixed drinks as well.  We took a bottle of their Cabernet Franc home with us to enjoy that evening.

Our camping spot was behind the outdoor reception tent, complete with water and electric hookups.  Most Harvest Hosts don’t offer any hookups, so this was a treat!

Up the hill from our spot was this outdoor wedding venue.  They held a rehearsal just after we took this photo.  Not wanting to crash the party…

…we held one of our own.  😊   If you are a Harvest Hosts member, put Chateau de Pique on your radar!

Next up, a trip down memory lane in Kentucky, plus several places we had not seen before.  Be sure to stay tuned!

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Further South in Michigan 

Who says you can’t go home?

Once we left Leelanau, we headed south and set up base camp in Byron Center to take care of our various doctors’ appointments.  When we arrived at Woodchip Campground, we experienced a bit of deja vu, as we were assigned the site next to the one where we wintered in 2014/2015.  With just one week scheduled to accomplish everything we had planned this go-around, we had our work cut out for us.  Still, we made sure we had time set aside to see friends and family and have some fun!

The first visit we made was to see my sister Judy and her husband Dale.  We failed to get a photo this year, but it was great to see them!

Here’s a photo of us from last year.  They took a cruise to Alaska in May and were fortunate enough to see Denali without clouds for almost their entire stay!  

Ok, so hang on…I’m going to my best to confuse the heck out of you on this one.  The next day we visited our friends Diane and Terry.  Diana taught with Diane, and Diane’s sister-in-law Diane.  Yes, Diane, Diane and Diana…and they were actually a team of three several years!  Anyway, Diane and Terry had a former German exchange student of theirs visiting while we were there.

We hadn’t seen Adrienne for several years, so it was definitely a nice surprise!

Later in the evening, Diane’s brother Bob and his wife Diane showed up with their triplets!

My goodness, these three are growing up!  From left to right is Allyson, Diana, Anthony, and Madelyn.  Anthony finally achieved his goal of growing taller than Diana!  So we failed to get a photo of either Diane….

…but we did get a photo of Terry giving Adrienne her first motorcycle ride!  It sure was good to see these friends!

The next morning, Diana had a mammogram appointment, which turned out great. We then buzzed out to Holland to get an adjustment from my long-time chiropractor.  If I could have him tag along on our travels, my back would be eternally grateful.  🙂 After that we headed to Detroit for a Tuesday appointment with my doctor at Henry Ford Health System.  This was a routine follow-up from my prostate surgery back in 2010.  On the way, we went to Flushing to see Diana’s Aunt Marion, Uncle Bob, and her cousin Debbie.  We really enjoyed visiting with them.  We then dropped south to Ortonville to visit the cemetery where Diana’s family is buried.  From there, we drove to Mt. Clemens and stayed the night at our niece Becky’s house.  Once again, we totally failed to get photos…arrrghh.  Becky and her hubby Dan were excellent hosts and made us a yummy dinner. Diana’s sister Cheryl also came over with our nephew Jared.  It was great to see everyone again!  Tuesday’s appointment went extremely well, and I’m happy to report that I’m coming up on 8 years cancer-free.  Yesssss! ☺️   We then drove back to Byron Center.

Sound like a full week?  Well, the week ain’t over yet folks….

Wednesday morning, we both had our annual physicals with our primary-care physician, then had our teeth cleaned at our dentist.  The physicals went well; the dentist, not so much.  It turns out we both needed crowns.  One of those resulted in us pushing our stay in Byron Center into the middle of the following week.  And just so we could say we had a happy hump-DAAAAY, I started my colonoscopy prep in the afternoon.  Oh joy.  After drinking a gallon of that horrible concoction, I was moved to use many bad words in my opinion of its maker. 

Thursday was my colonoscopy (my third) and all was well…except this is the second time in a row I’ve woken up halfway through.  Jeez…knock me out already, would ya?  Good part is, I’m good to go for another 5 years.

Friday was my appointment for my crown.  I was able to get a one-visit crown, which was a traumatic 3 hour long deal the last time I did it.  This time, while still 3 hours, was much better.  I asked for gas.  😉   

So by this time, you are probably thinking we are ready to drop, right?  Not.  We headed to Kalamazoo for WMU’s Homecoming!

From bottom left: Jim, Mike, Bill, Nina, Karen. Back row, from left: Billy, Cindy, Sue, Diana, Sheryl, Paul, Jim

We crashed at Mike and Cindy’s house for the weekend, even though they were going to Detroit on Saturday morning for a wedding.  Their son Brian and his girlfriend Sarah came over and took the role of surrogate hosts; oh, my…we knew the day would come that the kids would have to chaperone us!

Saturday came, and so did the rain and lightning.  It poured hard all day long, and the storms forced the postponement of the football game until Sunday.  

There was concern that the game would have to be played at a different location, as Waldo Stadium was completely flooded.  With a Herculean effort, more than a million gallons of water were pumped from the field in time to play Sunday afternoon.  Not sure how that affected folks downstream, though.  Anyway, most of us skipped the Sunday version of the game, as we needed to head out.  For us, that meant Byron Center again.

Monday we ran a bunch of errands.  One cool thing I want to highlight about that:  while we were at Camping World, I brought in a step I had purchased a while back.  One of the legs had broken on it, so I wanted to see what the warranty was.  The box didn’t say, but it did say that it was rated at 1000 pounds.

And seeing as we are Good Sam Life Members, Camping World was able to tell exactly when we bought it.  May of 2012.  Probably way out of warranty, but worth a call.  Stromberg Carlson requested a photo and a proof of purchase (which Camping World provided), so we zipped that all off to them.  Within an hour, they were sending us a new step!  That is great customer service that deserves to be mentioned.  And a big shout out to the Byron Center Camping World for their assistance!

On Tuesday, Diana went to lunch with her friend Colleen.  They grew up together in Ortonville, and she now lives in Rockford, just north of Grand Rapids.  I stayed home and caught up on a few projects and repairs.  Wednesday was Diana’s crown and we were ready to go.  We lifted our jacks Thursday morning and headed south towards warmer temperatures and more adventures.  Stay tuned to see what we come up with!

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A Bunch of Fun Meet Ups in the Black Hills!

A few posts back, during our wrap-up of our time in Oregon, we received an offer from Jim and Barb to stay on their property in South Dakota.  We had been following their blog, Jim and Barb’s RV Adventure, since 2014….yet we hadn’t met in person.  Our original plan was to take our time and visit several Lewis and Clark stops on our way through Idaho and Montana, but the smoke in those states put a damper on that.  We were scheduled to meet a friend on her day off in Bismarck, North Dakota on September 16, so a detour to South Dakota would add 300 miles to the trip. 

Except this isn’t a trip….it’s a journey.  😊

We had the time, our home has wheels, and we really wanted to meet them!  We found our way towards their place and up to the back of the property, to a site that Jim had just leveled out for us with a skid steer.  Sweet!

How’s that for a view?  To top it off, Jim and Barb made us a delicious dinner of Pasha Lake walleye.  Very tasty!  We then watched the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints…which was OK with me, as my Lions had won earlier in the day.  The Vikings and Lions are in the same division.

Of course, their dog Daisy had to let me know what she thought of the Detroit Lions team colors on my shoes.  😉

The next day, we walked their property and checked out some of the trail cameras they had placed.  They revealed that there is plenty of wildlife that make their way through the land!  We then went for a drive with them and saw the Crazy Horse Memorial.

This is definitely a work in progress.  It’s hard to imagine how huge this carving is, until you zoom in on the top of the warrior’s arm.

Those are two huge backhoes up there!  There is a lot of controversy surrounding this monument and Mount Rushmore, as the Oglala Sioux consider this sacred ground.  Since this mountain is being carved, it would be nice to see it finished.   The Native American museum at the site is very well done.  Tribes from all over the country are represented.

The next day, Diana and I met up with her cousin Nancy and husband David.  You may remember them from our trips to Big Bend and also to Napa Valley.  They were on their way from visiting David’s South Dakota relatives and heading out to see their niece and family in Colorado. Getting to see them was another bonus to being in the area. We toured Mount Rushmore this time!

Walking on the Presidential Trail, you really can see the intricacies of the carvings.  But when you back away…

You can clearly see they’ve been busy adding additional figures…by George!  

On our way out of town the next day, we stopped by the Mt. Rushmore KOA and saw our friend Kathy, who we met at Amazon last fall.  She’s been working at the campground all summer and has really enjoyed it.

We failed to get a picture, so I borrowed her Facebook profile photo.  She’s the one on the left.  😉

So as far as detours go, this was an excellent side trip!

We really appreciated Jim and Barb’s generous offer and we had a marvelous time with them!  It will be great to meet up again down the road, that’s for sure!

Up next, we move up to North Dakota. More time with friends and some great Lewis and Clark discoveries!  Be sure to stay tuned!

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Click here for Black Hills items and everything else under the sun on our exploRVistas Amazon link!
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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

A Surprise Along the Lewis and Clark Trail

When Lewis and Clark first formed the Corps of Discovery, it consisted of 59 people and one dog.  Most were military men, but some were civilians.  Of those, Sacajawea, her husband Charbonneau, and their baby Jean Baptiste are probably the best known. Another who has often been written about was an interpreter and fur trapper named George Drouillard.

© lewisandclarkinkentucky.org

Drouillard was considered to be one of the most valuable members of the expedition, as he excelled at trading with the natives, was able to recover stolen horses, was a skilled hunter and knew his way around in the wild.  He was extremely hard working and loyal. Having been born to a Shawnee mother, he knew the ways of the natives as the Corps travelled through the west. At the end of the journey, Meriweter Lewis reported to Thomas Jefferson that, “If it was not for George Drouillard, the Expedition would have never survived.”

While I was reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage this past spring, the line “Born north of present day Detroit, Michigan…” caught my eye.  A number of years ago, I researched my father’s side of our family.  I had heard some history from my dad about how Peche Island, a small piece of land on the Canadian side of the Detroit River, was “swindled” away from our family by Hiram Walker, and that his great grandma had put a curse on the island.  Dad vehemently refused to have any Hiram Walker bottles in his liquor cabinet, so I was fairly sure there was some teeth to the story.  In searching “Peche Island” on Google, there was a very interesting article in the Walkerville Times called The Curse of Peche Island, in which my great-great grandmother, Rosalie Drouillard LaForest, had cursed to Walker’s men who forced her off that nothing would ever come of the island….and to her word, nothing ever did. There have been several attempts to develop the island, and they have all have failed.

So there was that name; Rosalie Drouillard LaForest, born north of present day Detroit, Michigan.  I pondered the connection while reading Ambrose’s account and wondered, is it possible that I’m related to George Drouillard?  Well, one thing the French-Canadiens and the Catholic Church do well; they keep great birth, death and marriage records.  Couple that with the excellent genealogy sites available on the web, I was pretty sure I’d be able to follow it back and find out.  I tabled the search, as we were concentrating on traveling across the country.

When we were staying at Lewis and Clark Caverns this past week, I read how Lewis, Clark, Charbonneau, Drouillard, and Sargeant Gass had hiked over the very land we were camped on. The tabled search came back to my mind, so I dug into it.  I knew George was born in 1773; this was going to go back a ways.  As follows:

James Belisle (me)

Rene Belisle (my dad)

Mamie LaForest Belisle (my grandma)

Alfred LaForest (my great grandpa)

Rosalie Drouillard LaForest (my great-great grandma)

Francois Drouillard (my third great grandpa)

Alexis Drouillard (my fourth great grandpa)

Francois Drouillard (my fifth great grandpa)

Jean Baptiste Drouillard (my sixth great grandpa)

Well, Jean Baptiste had another son named Pierre, who had a son named George Pierre Drouillard.  In his genealogy listing, it states that he was an interpreter on the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Well, dang….from what I can gather on the web, George is my first cousin, six times removed! 

I was actually able to trace back to a seventh great grandfather, Simon Drouillard, a French soldier who had served under Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit.  Simon was attacked and killed by the Iroquois in 1733 near Detroit.  His son and my sixth great grandfather, Jean Baptiste, was killed in the French and Indian War at Pittsburgh in 1755. He was the first family member on my grandma’s side to actually settle in Detroit, back in 1749.

Before we pulled out from Lewis and Clark Caverns, we headed into the hamlet of Three Forks.  Our destination, just west of town, was a fishing access on the Jefferson River called Drouillard.  It was here that my cousin met his early demise at the hands of the Blackfeet Indians in 1810.

George and two other companions were ambushed while they were checking their traps along this stretch of the Jefferson.  He was working for the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company at the time.  He had been warned about going out without a larger group of men, but he felt he was too much an Indian himself to be caught. According to one account, the two men with him were lanced… but Drouillard met a much more gruesome fate.  When a search party found them later, George had been hacked to pieces.  Perhaps this was in response to a killing of two Blackfeet by him and Meriwether Lewis four years earlier, after the Indians had stolen their horses.  No one knows for sure, but his death sent a message that the Blackfeet didn’t want white men trapping fur in their territory.  George Drouillard was buried in an unmarked grave on the river bank.

A small memorial marks the approximate location where he met his fate.  

We paid our respects and headed to the other side of Three Forks to find the headwaters of the Missouri River, which we will touch on in another post. 

It was really interesting for a history buff like myself to find this bit of information.  I’m definitely going to journey back along the other branches of my family tree to see what I can find.  What connections are in your past?  We would love to hear about them.  Who knows…maybe we are cousins!

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A biography of George Drouillard and other interesting searches on our exploRVistas Amazon link can be found HERE.
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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

The Unexpected Upside of Fulltime RVing

The biggest surprise to us about fulltime RVing has to be the social aspect of it.  When we prepared to hit the road, we thought we might feel distanced from friends and family.  Social media, this blog, work camping positions, and being members of the RV-Dreams family have helped alleviate that concern and have greatly expanded our circle of friends.  And while the places we visit are the focus of our journey, it’s the people we meet in each locale that end up standing out in our minds!

On July 15, our RV-Dreaming buddy and fellow lighthouse host Rick and his dog Maxine came to visit us at Prineville Reservoir.  He will be beginning his journey east soon and wanted to see us again before he left Oregon.  Since we were working, we brought him along to the programs we were helping out with.

It was great to spend more time with these two!

Maxine felt totally at ease here.  She looked right at home perched outside Mariah’s office.  🙂   It was sad to see them go Sunday morning, but we will definitely see them again down the road!

On Monday morning, we took the rig north to Parkdale to see our friends Bob and Kat.  You may recall that we met at the Fall 2014 RV-Dreams rally, and we met up again in San Antonio and in Lake Leelanau.  They are working at Toll Bridge County Park as hosts.

They suggested this beautiful site, just feet off the east fork of the Hood River.  😊  They made us a yummy dinner, which was appreciated after a day on the road!

On Tuesday, we took a tour of the Columbia River from the Bridge of the Gods up to Maryhill and back.

Our first stop was Stonehenge, a World War I memorial put in place by Samuel Hill.  He was the person responsible for the beautiful Columbia River Scenic Highway on the Oregon side of the waterway.  He first tried to get the State of Washington to build it and when they refused, he approached Oregon with the idea.  Thankfully, they approved construction.

From there, we visited Hill’s Maryhill estate.  This grand structure was built using forms and poured concrete, employing the same methods that would be used in building a highway overpass.  It now houses an art gallery.

The museum houses more than 80 works by Auguste Rodin, including The Thinker.

After that, we ate lunch at Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, Washington.  

An outstanding meal with a beautiful view of Mt. Hood in the background!

We then crossed back into Oregon and checked out Vista House.

Looks like a good place to explore some vistas!  😎

From its’ perch high on the cliff, the building offers a commanding view of the gorge!

Our last stop was Multnomah Falls.

We had seen this beautiful set of waterfalls back in 1996, and they were just as pretty as we remembered them. It was a great way to cap off a really fun day with friends!

So whether it is family, old friends or new, this life on the road has been anything but solitary for us.  August 11 will be three years since we moved into our RV fulltime, and what a wonderful time it has been.  Here’s hoping we have many more roadiversaries and opportunities to spend time with others along the way!
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Our favorite ‘Friends’ sign and many more items available by clicking HERE on our exploRVistas Amazon link!
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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

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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The Big Bang Theory and other great items from exploRVistas Amazon link are available by clicking HERE.

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

 

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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Old Point Loma and other Amazon items at our exploRVistas link by clicking HERE. 😊

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!