Grand Canyon – Southern Style

Some places are so grand, they require two separate locations to access them from.  Such is the case with Grand Canyon National Park, with its North and South Rim units.  Even then, the canyon extends well beyond the park boundaries into Native American lands for a total of 277 miles in length.  In this post, we will detail our visit to the Grand Canyon National Park South Rim unit.

Diana was at the park in her youth, and I flew over it once on our way to Las Vegas.  From 32,000 feet, it looks a bit flat.  That was not the case this time.

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We were awestuck as we walked up to the rim for our first glimpse.  The words I was trying to use to describe it would not come out of my mouth.  They certainly were not needed, as Diana was feeling every bit the same as I was.

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The depth and enormity of what we were seeing was breathtaking.  We were not alone in feeling that way.  People from all over the world were there to take in the enormous vistas.  No matter what language they were speaking, their excitement was being expressed with the same excited tone.  🙂

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It is difficult to comprehend that this grandest of canyons was carved by a river.

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The clouds moving overhead made for a constantly changing scene, as their shadows moved across the canyon floor.

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At the eastern end of the park, Desert View Watchtower marks the beginning of the uplift that the Colorado river had to carve through to create the cataract.

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California Condors are known to frequent the area, as are turkey vultures.  It was difficult to identify which of the two this bird was, but it was fun to watch it take advantage of the updrafts and soar through the sky.

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In all, we walked more than 5 miles along the south rim; sometimes alone and other times with people we had just met.  We had never seen so many people from so many cultures who were just really glad to be in a particular place.

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No matter the viewpoint, the scenery before us was outstanding!

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Some people scrambled beyond the barriers for a closer view.  This activity isn’t recommended, and has actually turned deadly on more than one occasion already this year.  Hopefully these kids made it back safely.  Even behind the railings, we found ourselves staying back a step.  That’s a long way down!

At this point, I want to recognize the recent passing of Diana’s Uncle Bob.

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Uncle Bob was always a pure joy to be around.  Any story that he delivered usually had us in stitches.  He was a huge supporter of us being on the road and he loved to hear about our travels, telling us how much he’d liked to have done what we are doing.

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Well, this one is for you, Bob.  You would love it here. Hop up in the front of my new Ford and enjoy the ride.  It is going to be Grand!

Next up:  We head on up to Utah to explore the many parks in that state.  There is quite a bit that we plan to explore, so be sure to stay tuned.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

There Really IS an Arizona

A number of years ago, we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  As we walked into the lobby, my country music-loving sweetheart heard the guest artist Jamie O’Neal performing her country hit There is no Arizona.  Diana was giddy, to say the least, to hear a country artist performing in the shrine to artists like Lennon, Dylan, the Rolling Stones and so on.  As we waited in line for tickets to the museum, the lyrics and melody filled the atrium:

There is no Arizona

No Painted Desert, no Sedona…

Well, after what we’ve seen over the course of this last week, we beg to differ, Jamie. 🙂

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From the moment we arrived in Springerville, Arizona for a one night stopover, we knew it was going to be a great week.  Looking back east from a fairly nice sunset revealed this surreal moon rise.

We continued on to Petrified Forest National Park where we spent a few nights.  We scored a nice campsite at the Crystal Forest Museum just south of the park that gave us 30 amp electric for only $10 a night.

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At first glance, the old cars with the flat tires in the parking lot gave us pause.  We found out they parked them there a long time ago to make the place look busy.  I guess its time to either update the cars or at least air up the tires.  🙂

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Petrified Forest was outstanding.  The southern end of the park was filled with logs that had been turned to stone after being buried for millions of years.

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This particular one was huge!  There is a photo in the visitor center with Albert Einstein and his wife standing next to it.

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Although the outside of the tree looks like bark, that is actually stone.

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Halfway through the park, we came to Blue Mesa.  Taking the trail, we hiked down into an area that appeared very much like the painted hills we saw in Oregon a few years ago.  Not quite blue, but very interesting to look at!

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At the north end of the park is the Painted Desert Inn.  This is a restored Civilian Conservation Corps era building that is very interesting to tour.

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Behind it is…you guessed it…the Painted Desert!  Guess Jamie O’Neal was wrong about that one!  Wow…it was absolutely beautiful.  It seemed like it went on forever.

From Petrified Forest, we moved on to Meteor Crater.

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This giant hole in the ground was caused by a 150 foot long meteorite that hit here 50,000 years ago.  It was estimated to have been travelling at 26,000 miles an hour.  Pretty impressive, to say the least.  Equally as impressive was the interactive visitor center.  This entire facility is privately owned, and kudos to the owners for offering a prime visitor experience.

While at the adjoining Meteor Crater RV Park, we drove back into Winslow to visit one of Rock and Roll’s other shrines…

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…the corner, from the Eagle’s song Take it Easy.

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Its my girl, my lord, by a flatbed Ford, taking a good long look at me!

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We also checked out the La Posada Hotel.  We had a fabulous lunch in the hotel’s Turquoise Room.

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The lobby was pretty, but the ‘death art’ on the walls was a bit much.  Turns out the hotel owner is the artist.

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I did my best to plunk out Hotel California….

From there, we moved west to Flagstaff for a few days.  The town got its name when some men stripped the branches and bark from a Ponderosa pine tree in 1876 and flew an American flag from it.

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We visited two parks in the area while we were there.  The first was Sunset Crater National Monument.  This cinder cone is part of a chain of volcanic features that dot the area. IMG_1086 (2)

This feature was called a squeeze up, which occurred when the molten rock was squeezed out of the earth like Play Dough.  As it cooled, it sagged under its own weight.

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We also visited Walnut Canyon National Monument.  This park features a trail, seen above, that descends into the canyon.

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Once down there, the path winds past several ancient cliff dwellings.  It was interesting to see the protection the overhanging rock offered.

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From the rim, there was a nice view of Humphrey’s Peak and it’s neighbors.  Humphrey’s is the tallest peak in Arizona.

On our final full day in Flagstaff, we headed south to meet fellow blogger Ingrid from Live Laugh RV. We have followed her blog since 2014.  She has a similar camera to mine, and she offered to drive up from Phoenix to meet us and give me a few camera tips.  We met in…

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…Sedona!  Again, we’ve proven Ms. O’Neal wrong.  🙂

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While Ingrid and I were shooting photos of the scenery, Diana was shooting photos of us.  🙂

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Here we were taking photos of the cairns near Budda Beach.

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I managed to focus on this fly sunning itself on top of one of the cairns.

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I learned a lot about my new camera, thanks to Ingrid.  Hopefully that translates to better photos in the future!  It sure was a pleasure to finally get to meet her in person.  🙂

And Sedona?  It was beyond words.  We were amazed at every bend in the road.  We are happy to report that there IS a Sedona, a Painted Desert and most importantly, an Arizona.  All are beautiful and a pleasure to explore.

Next up:  The Grand Canyon South Rim!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Enchanted Surprises in New Mexico

If there is one way we can summarize our past week in New Mexico, it would have to be that it was full of surprises.  From the time we arrived in Santa Fe to the day we slid out of the state on US-60, the Land of Enchantment did its best to do just that.

We set up camp in Santa Fe at an old KOA that is now called Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground.  It was an unremarkable place, other than the fact that the camp scene from Every Which Way But Loose was filmed there.  That, and our first enchanted surprise…

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What the heck!  Just to let y’all know, this is the first snow that has fallen on the exploRVistas entourage since early in 2015.  We did see previously fallen snow in Oregon, but the temperatures were much warmer.  So rather than hunker down…

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…we chose to embrace it by heading above 10,000 feet to Ski Santa Fe.  🙂

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Here’s Diana after an exhilarating run down the Double Black Diamond slope.

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It was a tremendous place to spend a morning, indeed.

We found the city of Sante Fe to be charming.  The town’s pueblo architecture envelops visitors with a sense of warmth.

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Our NARM membership from the Foosaner Art Museum in Florida gained us free admission into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

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If there is anything that speaks to southwestern art, it is this talented artist’s work.

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Images of New Mexico are the first thing that come to our minds when hearing her name.  With that being said, our next enchanted surprise came during this visit.  We had no idea that a vast portion of her career had been spent in none other than…

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…New York City!  She loved it there, as do we.

Santa Fe also has a couple of well known churches.

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One is the Cathedral of St Francis.  We were surprised to find out that this was once the seat of an archdiocese that covered the entire southwest, all the way up to (and including) Denver.

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And this is the famous miraculous staircase in the Loretto Chapel.  Our surprise here was not the staircase, but where the Sisters of Loretto came from.  You see, there was only one other place we had ever seen this name:  Loretto, Kentucky…home of Makers Mark bourbon.  Indeed, that is the area these pioneer women came from!

We also did a couple of hikes while we were based in Santa Fe.

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Our first was in Petroglyphs National Monument near Albuquerque.   We ventured into Rinconada Canyon to see what it had to offer.

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No this isn’t graffiti, in a modern sense of the word. The carvings into the rocks were left by early native people and also by Spanish sheep herders in the area.  The images were a ways off the roped-off trail, and I unfortunately had failed to charge my new camera’s battery the night before.  This trail and my iPhone did not work well together.  Thankfully, we had arranged our hikes in the order we did, as our next day was outstanding!  When Ingrid from Live Laugh RV heard we were in the area, she recommended we visit one of her favorite places, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

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With a fully charged battery at our disposal, we gave the new camera a workout!

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What an amazing place.  We loved the combination of desert and tall Ponderosa pine trees.

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The ‘tent’ rocks that give the monument its name look like they are from another planet.

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Nothing better than squeezing through a slot canyon!

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The desert environment was full of life.

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The view from the top was simply breathtaking.  Thank you Ingrid!!!

Next up, we moved south to San Antonio, New Mexico.  Our focus there was to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  We first became aware of this place while reading Life Unscripted, as Peter and his wife Peg volunteered here.  Our driving force to visit here was when fellow blogger, the late Lynne Braden, left a legacy gift to the refuge after her terminal cancer diagnosis. This was the first place she volunteered after her retirement and she fell in love with it.

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This is her photo that became the cover art for the latest Festival of the Cranes.  To our surprise, we were fortunate to be able to purchase the last remaining copy of the festival poster.  We will indeed treasure this.  Lynne was a sweet person who never lost her million dollar smile, despite the cancer she was forced to face.  She chose to view it as a gift.  Peruse through her blog, Winnie Views, by following the link.

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Touring the refuge, it was easy to see why Peter, Peg, and Lynne loved this place.

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What a variety of wildlife!

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Some just seemed to pose for the camera…

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…while others were more interested in fishing.

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Some were just out for an evening stroll.

The biggest surprise in this little blip of a town was a small parcel of land on the southern edge of the village.

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Pretty unremarkable, right?  Well, what you are looking at is the birth of one of the world’s largest hotel chains to which I owe a fair amount of my career.  That building to the right was the old post office.  Across the street from it was a little mercantile/rooming house, run by a person named…

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…Conrad Hilton.  It all began here.  And wile the building may be gone,…

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…the long wooden bar he worked behind at his dad’s place can be found just up the road at the Owl Bar, where it was moved to many years ago.  It amazes us at the history that can be uncovered in the small towns of this world.  🙂

Last up was a place we had wanted to see for a long time.

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The Very Large Array Radio Telescope.  These dishes span out in a “Y” pattern, 13 miles in each direction.

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Twenty-seven dishes work in unison to gather radio waves from distant galaxies to form images that aren’t visible to us though our eyes.  The dishes can be moved along railroad tracks to form different images.  The science behind this is WAY over our heads, but the massive nature of the project is amazing to look at.  While we were there, the dishes all moved in unison several times, eventually pointing straight up.  While we knew this facility was here, it was quite a surprise to crest the mountain pass west of Magdalena and see these antennas spread out before us.

We had a wonderful visit to New Mexico this time around.  The land of Enchantment revealed a bevy of surprises and a trove of memories we won’t soon forget.

Next up: Arizona!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Playing Catch-up

With our truck issues putting us a week behind, we had some serious catching up to do on our trip west. Part of the reason for that was we wanted to visit family in Texas, and we were fearful that window had closed.  Fortunately the people we were visiting were able to reschedule one day later, so all was good. With that, we were off to the races!

The new truck ran like a champ across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  Hank the Deuce has much more power than the 2008 F-350 and better fuel mileage to boot.  I had to learn about DEF and exhaust brakes, as my old truck had neither.  The other thing it didn’t have was a sunroof.

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This one makes up for that in a big way!  While this wasn’t something we were looking for in a new truck, the fact it was on it wasn’t going to keep us from purchasing the vehicle.  Turns out, it’s a handy way to keep an eye on Ketchup and Mustard!

We rolled into Waxahachie, Texas on Saturday, quickly set up the rig and headed into town.

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Once there, we met up with Thomas and Marlana.  Thomas is Diana’s first cousin-once removed on her father’s side of the family. He is her cousin Nancy and David’s son. It is always wonderful being able to spend time with them.  🙂

The next day we headed to Waco to meet-up with Seth, Diana’s first cousin-twice removed on her mother’s side of the family.  He is her cousin Deb’s grandson.

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We visited Waco Mammoth National Monument. This is an interesting place where flooding along the Bosque River drowned an entire herd of Columbian Mammoths during the Ice Age.  The find was discovered in 1978 by two men looking for arrowheads.  During their search, they found a femur protruding from an eroded bank.  Between that time and 1997, twenty-two mammoths were unearthed, and more continue to be found to this day.

After that, we ate lunch at Rudy’s.

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Seth recently joined the Army and is being trained to drive Bradley tanks at Fort Hood.  It was great to catch up with him and hear about his experiences.  He will be deploying to Korea soon.  We wish him well and are appreciate his service to our country.  🙂

Once we arrived in Vernon, Texas, we were back on schedule!  Vernon is the hometown of both Roy Orbison and former Federal prosecutor, Kenneth Starr.  The area was once named Eagle Springs by the Tonkawa Indians.  When settlers applied for the name Eagle Flats, the U.S. Post Office nixed the name as Texas already had too many towns with the word Eagle in it.  They chose Vernon instead, in honor of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home.

From Vernon, we moved on to Amarillo.  First stop: Cadillac Ranch!

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Something about this kitchy art installation spoke to us that we were finally on our way west.

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Or maybe we had entered the Twilight Zone!

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Anyone who has ever driven an early 1950’s Cadillac will know that this is where the gas goes in the tank.  My grandpa owned a couple of them, and I would have great fun pulling into a full service station in the 1970’s and asking for a fill-up.  I’d let the attendant walk around the car in frustration, looking for the cap.

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When they finally gave up, I’d jump out and push in the reflector, lift up the taillight and reveal the gas cap.  🙂

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We doubt these cars will ever rust away, as there are hundreds of coats of spray paint on them.

We also went to dinner at Saltgrass while we were in town.

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Two things about this photo:  One, it isn’t very often that a restaurant serves warm gluten-free bread with my meal.  Much appreciated, believe me.  Also, my new glasses are on the table, immediately to my right and out of the photo.  While trying to clean them, the screw came out for the second time.  I’ve also had the screws pop out of my new prescription sunglasses multiple times.  Moral of the story is: while the prices at Costco Optical may seem enticing, be aware that there may be a trade-off in the quality of the product.  I’m only saying this because I had previously recommended their service on Facebook.

We also found a great place to do laundry, the Tornado Laundromat.

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Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the size of the folding tables!

The facility was spotless.  Diana commented to this attendant that she had “never seen anyone do that”, in reference to her cleaning out the soap dispenser with a paint brush.  She quickly replied “What….clean?”  We all got a chuckle out of that.  🙂  We really appreciated her hard work.

From there, we explored Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

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This is actually the second largest canyon in the United States!  A road was extended into the canyon by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s.  While our visit on Wednesday was during a high wind event, the winds seemed to go over the top of us. That made our day an enjoyable one.

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The facilities in this park are top-notch.  This is the patio at the conference center. They also offer several campgrounds, some that can accommodate large RV’s.

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The views within the park are outstanding!

With that, we headed west towards Santa Fe.  Stay tuned for what we find there and beyond.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

We Have Liftoff!…Sort Of

With the arrival of spring, our ambitious year of travel found us poised on the launch pad, awaiting the go for liftoff.  In the lead up to that moment, we spent a good two weeks finalizing both our trip west and our UK trip in the fall.  I also helped our friends Ron and Nancy with their kitchen project, offering my cabinet layout and installation skills I had acquired throughout my career.  In fact, my 5-year retirement anniversary occurred during the course of the project on March 21st.

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Not bad for a couple of old guys, huh? Once the last cabinet was mounted, Diana and I proceeded to shift from our lazy beach lifestyle to travel mode. Thursday, March 28 found us packed up and ready to roll.

After hugs goodbye with our friends, we were off!

Being stationary for over 5 months, our first travel day was not overly ambitious. As we normally like to do, we headed north up I-95 to visit our mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs. After an uneventful journey, we quickly set up camp at the local marina.

Not too many campgrounds can boast that they have a space shuttle external tank on the property. 😉 We grabbed our mail, renewed our tags on our vehicles, stopped at General RV for a few supplies, and finished up with pizza at Mellow Mushroom. After getting our library cards renewed the next morning, we were all hooked up and ready to head west.

Well, our truck Henry had other plans….

As we headed out of Green Cove Springs, we passed Garber Auto Mall. Diana and I make an effort to patronize the businesses in town as we are appreciative of their graciousness to domicile not only RVer’s, but also marine cruisers and military personnel. I literally looked at the Ford blue oval at Garber and thought, “We should buy our next truck from them.” I think Henry heard my thoughts rattling around in my brain, as we were but a few miles past the dealership when the Check Engine light came on, along with the dreaded “wrench” symbol on the truck’s information center. Things seemed amiss under the hood, so we pulled over and called Garber’s service department. It was Friday and they were not going to be able to service the truck until Monday. We called to check for availability and were able to limp back to our previous night’s camp. Within a half hour, we were back on the campsite we had just left and disconnected.

During the trip back, I reviewed the money we had poured into Henry over the past couple of years. I came to the conclusion that we were attempting to put a shiny new saddle on an old horse. He had served us well, but as I thought about our journey ahead, I felt Hank was better served to retire to the green pastures of Clay County.

Diana can more accurately attest that I was a man possessed, as I unloaded the contents of the vehicle to the inside and underside of our fifth wheel.

This is my ‘let’s go truck shopping’ look. Not long after, we were at Garber, weighing our options. Our sales associate, Tom Perkins, located a vehicle for us in Charlotte, NC that fit our needs perfectly. Mr. Perkins has the distinct honor of being the fourth Tom we’ve bought a truck from, with Toms Campbell, Tasker, and Elliott before him.  🙂   After negotiating the terms of the deal, it was determined the new truck would be in our hands by the middle of the next week. Luckily, we had built some time into our trip that would allow us to catch up. The delay also allowed us to explore Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, and Jacksonville a bit more. While we found the latter to be a bit too crowded for our taste, our love for our adopted domicile did nothing but grow. Green Cove Springs is a great little town. Did you know that Frank J. Canova, Jr., is from here? You may not know his name, but I’ll bet you use his invention…the smartphone….each and every day.   🙂    Another interesting tidbit has to do with the former naval air station that was located here. Now transformed into a deep water port and air park, the station was once home to Marine Corps aviator and eventual Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon.   Heeeere’s Johnny!  Also, if you’ve ever wondered where the name of the town came from…

…over 1300 gallons a minute of 77 degree water flows from a spring in a park in the center of town into…

…and out of a swimming pool…

…and down into a beautiful green cove along the St. John’s River. Now you know!

A couple of other things we needed to consider in this transition were the fact we had a folding tonneau on Henry, and we were going to be needing the hitch installed in the new vehicle. Ford has come up with a new feature called the ‘puck’ system that wasn’t going to work with our current hitch. On the surface, it appeared that the new truck didn’t have it, but there was a chance that the hardware for it was under the bed. That would have interfered with the installation of industry-standard bed rails. Kudos to sales manager Darren Mathews for getting the North Carolina dealer to snap some photos to confirm that was not the case. Also, seeing that the tonneau cover /storage box I had was not readily available in Jacksonville (it’s made in Grand Rapids), I was going to need a different method to store stuff and support the front wheels of Diana’s TerraTrike.

This is how the Fold-a-Cover stacked on Henry. There is a large storage bin below it that is part of the system. We quickly determined that a behind-the-cab toolbox would (at least temporarily) foot the bill for our journey, providing both storage and a platform for the trike. We can deal with the tonneau when we get to Grand Rapids in June. As far as the hitch, Tom suggested we talk to Rick Baker, owner of Rick Baker’s RV Center in Green Cove Springs. After explaining our situation, Rick ordered our parts and agreed to have the hitch put on as soon as we could get the truck to him.

Tuesday evening rolled around and we headed to the dealer. The truck had arrived from Charlotte and the gentleman who brought it down to Florida raved at how well it ran for him. From what we could see in the evening light, it was absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday found us at Garber bright and early. After a test drive, some paperwork and a license plate change, we were pretty much good to go. The only thing left to do was get the truck to Rick Baker for the hitch installation. Tom sent a driver in Henry, so as to drop off the old hitch. Tom also set up our Ford Pass in the truck and synced my phone with it. In the process, he asked if I wanted to give the truck a nickname. I replied quickly with a spirited “Oh YES!” With that, I introduce to you our new truck…

Hank the Deuce! That’s a tip-of-the-hat to Henry Ford II, grandson of Henry Ford, who succeeded the founder as the president of Ford Motor Company. Here we are with Tom Perkins, who is as happy as we are that this all worked out so well. It was a pleasure working with him, Darren Mathews, and the crew at Garber, and also with Rick Baker and his crew at Baker’s RV. If you find yourself in Green Cove Springs, be sure to pay either of them a visit with your automotive or RV needs.

Hank the Deuce, Clara, Edsel 2, Ketchup and Mustard are all loaded up and ready to go. We hope to catch up with you this travel season, so be sure to give us a shout if you see we are in your area. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Deep Roots in the Motor City

Detroit, Michigan.  A city that, to many, represents the heart of the rust belt.  A poster child for urban decay and decline.  Yet this was once the place to be, as it was the birthplace of the mass-produced automobile and the home of some of the most stunning architecture in the country.  Detroit was the fifth largest city in the nation in the 1950’s, with a population of 1.8 million people.  And from a little two-story house on West Grand Boulevard, some of the greatest musicians of our time churned out hits at Motown Records, beginning in January of 1959.  A mere 6 months before that, just a few blocks to the west, I came into this world at Providence Hospital.  That building sat due north of the western tip of Windsor, Ontario, giving me the distinction of being born north of Canada.

My entire world revolved around the Motor City.

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My parental grandfather owned a Willys-Knight and Whippet automobile dealership in the suburb of River Rouge.  Dad himself started out working in the machine shop at Ford Motor Company before pursuing a career in business.  Mom’s dad built huge homes in Indian Village, structures that still command a high dollar to this day.  Mom’s maternal grandfather built all or part of some of the finest churches in the city at the end of the 19th century, along with Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City.

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Indeed, my Detroit roots go back quite a ways.

Being in the city has always made me feel grounded and safe.  That may sound odd to most folks, as Detroit has a reputation as being anything but safe.  Is it a place I want to live again?  Michigan’s winter weather quickly answers that for both of us, as we prefer to bask in the Florida sunshine in January.  Besides, we would much rather to be in natural surroundings over asphalt and concrete.  But there is some magnetic pull that has always been there for me…not so much beckoning me to come back, but more to evoke a calm feeling that I am home when I’m there.  A few years back, flying at night from Baltimore to Grand Rapids, I peered out at the unmistakable outline of Detroit from the air.

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As I gazed over the city, I started picking out landmarks.  Then I estimated where all of my relatives from long ago were buried, and I realized just why that pull was so strong.  I had people scattered over this entire photo…on both sides of the river.

Well, until recently, I had no idea of just how far back those roots went.  Digging into my lineage via Ancestry.com, I found many relatives born in the late 18th century in the region that is now Detroit.  Back then, it was mostly French explorers and settlers.  As I got back to my fifth and sixth great-grandparents, I made a several unique discoveries.  In 1775 my fifth great-grandfather, Claude Charles Moran, was farming his land in northwest Detroit when his brother-in-law brutally stabbed him.  Why, I have no idea.  Unfortunately, that was the fifth of many murders to come in Detroit.  Joseph Hecker, his assassin, was one of only 13 people ever executed in Michigan, being hung from the gallows in the center of the city.

But my family goes even further back than that…

St. Aubin, the street my mom’s grandfather built his house on , was named after an early settler and my sixth great-grandfather, Jean Baptiste Casse dit St. Aubin.  He was around in the first years that Fort Ponchatrain was there.  I can’t even begin to count how many times I referenced that street in my dealings with my maternal great-grandparents.

And the line goes back even further still…

On July 24, 1701, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac stepped onto the shore of Rivere du Detroit with a party of a hundred or so men to establish Fort Ponchatrain.

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Within a week, the wilderness they landed on became a bustling trading post…and commerce has taken place there ever since.

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In the heart of downtown Detroit, in Hart Plaza, stands this plaque that commemorates the spot where they landed.  The sixth man down the list on the left, Henry Belisle dit Lamarre, is my sixth great-grandfather.  He was a surgeon and was hired to go along on the trip.  Only the Native Americans had set foot on that land previous to their arrival. Indeed, my roots run deep in the Motor City, and its no wonder I feel so grounded there.

As I dig further back, I am finding even more surprises in my lineage.  I will pass those along sometime in the future.  Do you have any interesting people you have found in your ancestry? Is there a place that inexplicably makes you feel grounded and safe? We would love to hear your stories in our comment section below!

2019 Spring and Summer Plans

In our last post, we jumped ahead to what we were planning for in September and October of this year with our trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  After quite a bit of trip routing, we are ready to reveal our spring and summer plans!

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Like these pelicans along the shore, we will soon line up with everyone else and fly northward.  Once we get to Jacksonville, we are turning westward for a journey to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.  It will be a very busy slate. Look for a spring full of posts about that trip.  We have three months before we have to be back in Michigan to start our volunteer gigs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  We will be there for two months before heading overseas for a month.  And after that???

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Well, the fact that I installed a flagpole sleeve in the ground at our site in Florida, I guess that’s a pretty good indication of where we will be next winter!  We’ve really come to love it here.  Good friends, good weather and…

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…rocket launches!  This particular launch was the Crew Dragon demonstration mission that SpaceX sent to the International Space Station last week.  The capsule safely returned on Friday about 200 miles off the coast.  Future splashdowns will be within 25 miles of shore, so we should be able to get some photos of them parachuting down.

And an update on our genealogy work:  Diana is finding a plethora of information on her roots that will ensure that we have plenty of places to visit when we get overseas.  She has been able to go way, way back in her lineage.  On my search, I’m currently working between my sixth and tenth great grandparents on my dad’s side.  To let you know how involved that is, every one of us have 256 sixth great-grandparents.  By the time you get to your tenth great-grandparents, that number balloons to 4096 people!  Thanks to the Catholic church records in Canada, there is a record of most every one of mine.  And I know that there are several hints waiting to take me beyond that level.  Time will tell what I find on my mom’s German side.

We’ve also found time to have fun with our friends in the area.

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We checked out the St Katherine’s Greek Festival one day with Fred and Bonnie.  It was fun to see the dancers doing traditional Greek dances in their costumes.

We also met our friends Jim and Sue, who were down from Alton, Illinois to see their son Jake pitch for Fontbonne University.

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He didn’t end up pitching that afternoon, but he did start today.  He got the win, and the team is 10-0 on the year so far.

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The four of us rented a nice home on Airbnb which worked out extremely well.  What a great time!

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So as our time winds down for the year in Melbourne Beach, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming posts as we head west.  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Beyond the Horizon

It all started by spitting into a glass tube.

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At the urging of our niece, Diana and I purchased DNA tests through Ancestry© while they were having their Black Friday sale.  Diana received her results before I did and it was almost exclusively from the United Kingdom and Ireland.  As she began to work on her family tree, she uncovered places we never knew existed.  Generation by generation, she stepped her way back past the reign of King Henry VIII to the end of the Middle Ages.  It didn’t take long for me to say to her “We need to go over there.”

Having never been outside the US and Canada, we were not sure how a trip like this would even look.  A visit to AAA to speak with a travel agent quickly eliminated joining a tour group, as we are going to need time to explore in each of her ancestral regions. Would we rent a car and find lodging in each locale?  If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you know that is not how we roll. 🙂

Enter a YouTube video by the RV Geeks.

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There is a link to it at the end of the post.  In it, they talk about their trip around the United Kingdom in a small motorhome.  The video even addresses the one issue with motoring on the British Isles…

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…which is driving on the opposite side of the road while sitting on the right hand side of the vehicle.  🙂  According to them, it is more of an adjustment for the passenger, as that person is in the spot where there should be a way to drive the motorhome!  No worries, as it is said that if you can get through the first fifteen minutes, you’ve got it made.  We will see about that…

Let the planning begin!  First thing we did was establish the time we had available to go.  As we will be returning to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (news flash!) for the months of July and August, we set aside most of September and early October.  We quickly discovered that the monetary exchange rate between the British Pound and the US Dollar is currently favorable to us, which might change in the next few months because of the Brexit issue.  The more things we can purchase now, the better.

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First order of business was round trip tickets between Chicago and London.  We booked flights on British Airways, which includes a ride on the new double-decker A-380 on the way there.

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Once there, we will spend four full days touring the city from an Airbnb in the Chelsea district.  After that, we take a train to the motorhome rental facility outside of town and head off for a month of exploring new vistas!

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We will cover most of what is seen on the above map.  While is seems like a huge area…

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…it looks a lot more manageable when you compare it to Texas.  Although, as most of us know, Texas is a big state!

To plan the route, we gathered several reference books and maps, and Diana pinpointed the places where her family came from.

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We grabbed a study room with a view at the local library and mapped out our route.  We have found that detailed planning actually offers us more flexibility than just winging it, as we don’t need to burden ourselves with finding a place to spend the night while we are there.  We decided against boondocking as we want to be plugged into electric each night, so we want to nail down our campgrounds now.  As said earlier, we don’t know what the exchange rate will be in September, so we are paying in full now.  We are also booking the ferry between Scotland and Belfast at this time, as that price will go up as the passage nears.  We did purchase trip insurance, which makes us feel more comfortable with making all of these reservations.

So, in early September, we are going to store our rig and vehicles in Grand Rapids at a friend’s home in the country.  Many thanks to them for their hospitality!  Also, our friend Ron tipped us off to the money-saving idea of renting one way cars to Chicago and back, as compared to the cost (and worry) of parking the Escape near O’Hare for a month. Huge score…thanks, Ron!  We’ve also asked for some tips from our friends Linda and Steven, as they are going to be living across the Atlantic for the next several years and motorhoming in Europe.  If the stars align, we may even find time for a pint at a pub with them while we are there.

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Be sure to follow along with us as we discover places new to us, using a mode of travel we are familiar with.  Of course going from our usual 5th wheel and two vehicles, to a small European motorhome will be an adjustment. Maybe we will find we like it better. Also, if you’ve done the math, we sort of skipped over what we are doing in April, May and June.  We are going to save that for our next post, as that is still in the rough draft stages.  And future years may have us exploring my French, French-Canadian, and German roots, along with Diana’s family’s path across Colonial America. Lots to explore, for sure.

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

You can view the RV Geeks video by clicking HERE

 

 

Hanging Out on the Space Coast

Hmmmm….where have Jim and Diana been?  No, we haven’t been eaten by sharks or drifted northeast on the Gulf Stream with the sea turtles.  It’s January, which means it is time to catch up on our annual chores and to plan our travels for the year ahead.  We’ve also been hanging out with our friends here in Melbourne Beach, which is always fun.  🙂  The only thing that has been missing is the parade of rockets flying by from Cape Canaveral, as a slew of missions have been pushed into February.  So, without further adieu…

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On New Years Day, the Melbourne Beach Historical Society held a walking tour of the town’s historic district.  Fred, Bonnie, Diana and I tagged along, as we all wanted to know more about the area’s past.  While the area is rich with history, our presenter failed to deliver the story in the riveting manner it deserved.  We also picked up on the fact that impartiality was not his forte.  He is handing over the reigns to a new historian next year, so we will be sure to check that presentation out.

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And remember Cuki the sailboat?  Hurricane Irma ripped her loose from her mooring in Key West and sent her on a 350 mile journey to our beach back in 2017.  Time, vandals, and the ocean had not been kind to her, with her masts and fittings disappearing in that period.

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With the ship being buried in sand to its’ inland gunwale, the decision was made to haul it away in a couple of refuse roll-offs.  It was a mess, to say the least.

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Speaking of fiberglass; our rig was ready for it’s annual wax job.

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Look at that shine!  I can’t say enough about that three-part Meguiar’s restoration system I use.

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We get it through Amazon, but I’m pretty sure West Marine carries it also.  We also want to give a shout out to whoever manufactured the decals for our 2007 Colorado fifth wheel.  Twelve years of sitting outside and they look practically new.  They are proof that it IS possible to make decals that stay put and look good.

While I was waxing, Diana was deep into her genealogy. We both signed up for Ancestry DNA when the kits were on sale on Black Friday.  She has been building her family tree, which has been very fun!  I am starting my tree this weekend, as I delayed the start to allow time to finish my UPS job and the annual rig maintenance.  We have to say that Ancestry.com is very good at what they do, and they have been very helpful to Diana on her journey to discover her family’s origins.  The amount of information contained in their database is mind boggling.  We’ve also become huge fans of the PBS show Finding Your Roots, which is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.   Check your local listings and give it a look.  It is fascinating!

We also have an update on the powered parachute pilot who got tangled in the utility lines near us.  Dima had been in an induced coma since the middle of November until recently, while the doctors in Orlando worked to repair his broken spine and graft his burns.  It was a tough few months.

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Needless to say, we were thrilled to see this photo that his wife Katya posted the other day.  🙂  He is one lucky man.

Midway through my waxing duties, Jerry and Ron invited me to tag along on a trip to the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee.

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We went on a Tuesday, which was not an active auction day.  That meant there were less crowds!

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Here is a predecessor to my truck, Henry.  Those front fenders are wide enough to land a plane on!

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And here is a salmon Edsel convertible.  Diana’s Escape, Edsel 2, would be proud.

While the auction was mostly cars…close to three thousand of them… there were a few boats sprinkled in.

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This Gar Wood boat was built in Detroit.

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My paternal grandfather had a boat similar to this.  Top speed on this beauty was in excess of 70 miles an hour!

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If there is one car that has consistently taken my breath away, it is a Candy Apple Red 1969 Boss Mustang.  My dad once acted as an agent for a guy who wanted his sold.  Mom wasn’t too thrilled when Dad took her to church in it one Sunday…although I detected a twinkle in his eye. 🙂

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Looks like the value of these things have gone up a bit.  Talk about taking your breath away!  We all agreed that we’ve never seen so many near-perfect cars in one place, and the three of us have seen our share of vehicles in our time.  The cool thing about the auction is that you are allowed to sit in most of the vehicles.  Being able to do that brought back a lot of memories for us.

January has seen a group of us checking out the local music venues.

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Here is Libby, Linda, Jerry, Nancy, Ron and us at Summer Crush Winery in Fort Pierce a few weeks ago.  The venue was hosting a Corvette show, so us guys got another dose of nice cars.  🙂

So until next time…

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we will be watching the sunsets…

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and the moonrises.  We’ll be back with an update on our 2019 travel plans in early February, as we should have everything in place by then.  It is going to be an exciting year, to say the least!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

A Very Social 2018 in Pictures

Diana and I were fortunate to have been in the presence of many wonderful people this past year.  While we don’t have photos of everyone we met up with (our apologies!), we enjoyed each and every meetup.  Each photo will have the name of the person and where we saw each other.  We hope you enjoy our little picture summary of our past year.  🙂

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Rick, in Florida and Georgia.

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Our Godson Josh and his bride Jaclyn, in Illinois.

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Jared, Cheryl, Dan, Becky, Doug, in Michigan.  We also saw Doug and Cheryl in Florida.

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Jerry and Linda, in Rhode Island and Florida.

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Paul, in Connecticut.

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Kathy, in South Carolina and New York.

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Ellen, in Pennsylvania.

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Jim and Brenda, in South Carolina and Florida.

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Left to right, after us: Nancy, Ron, Nick, Betty, Linda and Jerry, in Florida.

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Jake, in Florida and Illinois.

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Shari, in New York City.

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Left to right after us: Nancy, Bill, Sharon and David, in South Carolina.

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Phyllis and Bernie, in Florida.

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Paul and JoAnn on the left, Jeff and Sonja on the right, Rod and Mary in front, in Florida.  We also saw Rod and Mary in Michigan.

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MonaLiza and Steve, in Florida.

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Bonnie and Fred, in Florida and New York.

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Rick and Debbie, in Michigan.

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Sue and John, in Michigan.

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Judy and Dale, in Michigan and Florida.

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Nancy and David, in Michigan.

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Left to right: Sarah, Brian, Mike, Cindy, Bill, Christine, Nina, Billy, Alissa, Karen, Sheryl, Paul and us, in Illinois.

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Jodee and Bill, both in Michigan and in Florida.

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Linda and Steven, in Michigan.

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Lane and Patti (not in photo), in Michigan.

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Mike and Cindy, in Michigan.

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Jim’s Aunt Marge, in Indiana.

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Phillip and Marlene, in Vermont.

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Our WMU Homecoming crew, in Michigan.

We had a fantastic 2018, and we are grateful to have each and every one of our friends and family in our lives.  If we weren’t able to meet up with you in 2018, let’s hope our roads converge in the new year!  Safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

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