Relay For Life, Deerfield Beach-Lighthouse Point-Hillsboro Beach, Florida

Saturday, April 16th, was the local Relay For Life event at Quiet Water Park. Here are the photos I took at the event. Friday night we had a really severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind. Several of us prayed really hard that the weather on Saturday would be good for our Relay For Life event because the weather forecast predicted rain. Saturday morning it was sunny, as the day progressed clouds began to form and just before the event began we felt a few sprinkles of rain but they quickly stopped.

IMG_0185JB’s on the Beach once again provided the survivor dinner. They served a delicious meal which consisted of coleslaw, fruit, cornbread, baked beans, chicken, pulled pork, corn, and bar-b-que ribs. They also serve the ribs at their restaurant, they smoke and slow cook them at the restaurant. JB’s has sponsored this survivor dinner for at least 5 years and we appreciate them very much.

Oceans 234 once again provided lunch for the volunteers and we thank them as well.

When survivors arrive, they register and get their survivor t-shirt, wristband and dinner ticket, and also sign a banner with their handprint showing the year of their diagnosis and each year they attend the Relay. Throughout the dinner music was provided by Acoustic Therapy. The tables were decorated with purple tablecloths and plants in purple pots which added a nice touch of color. This is a special time for survivors and their caregiver to connect with other people that have the same experiences. There was a man sitting all by himself and I went and invited him to join us or to go to a group of people at another table. I suggested that he not sit alone, he decided to join some people at the table next to us and he thanked me later for talking with him and said he enjoyed visiting with the people he sat with and said it was better than sitting alone. His smile was thanks enough.

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After dinner I walked several laps stopping occasionally to visit with teams lining the track. On one of my laps I passed a woman who was standing on the side of the track and crying. I asked if she needed a hug and when she said yes I gave her one, and we talked for a while sharing our stories. It reminded me of my first time at Relay when I was crying and someone came up to me and said it looks like I need a hug and gave me one and we walked laps and talked and shared stories as we walked.

The Relay For Life event is often an emotional time for many of us who have been touched by cancer as either a survivor, caregiver, or experiencing the loss of a loved one from cancer. Sharing our stories with one another helps us heal in various ways. Many of us choose to donate our time to Relay by either forming a team, being a committee or team member, being a sponsor, or finding another way to be involved.

I will finish this story soon, need to go now.

Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

Butler House, Deerfield Beach, Florida, and Relay For Life Music Fundraiser, and Johnny Carson shows

Today there was a musical fundraiser for our local Relay For Life event and the weather was perfect which was great because this was an outdoor event. I used my new Canon PowerShot ELPH 170 IS camera and it seemed to work really well. It’s considerably smaller than my Canon PowerShot A 720 IS camera that I have been using since 2009, but the zoom feature on the new camera magnifies a little bit larger which will come in handy.

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Photos taken at the event today can be seen in a new album. I have driven by the Butler House more times than I can count and I have been to a few outdoor events there, however, this is the first time I have been inside this historic house from 1923, and the Banyan Tree in the yard is about 100 years old. This tree is absolutely extraordinary, I bet it has amazing stories to tell. The Deerfield Beach Historical Society hosts events at Butler House.

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The house as it currently sits on the property was built in 1923 and although it did receive some damage, for the most part it survived the hurricane that hit Deerfield Beach in 1928. In 1923 it cost $10,000 to build the house which was a lot of money at that time. All of the light fixtures and most of the furniture and items in the house are from when the Butler’s lived in the house. A nice gift shop was added recently. It was interesting to walk through the house and look at all of the items in the house such as the old clothes, hats, alligator purse, light fixtures, and much more. One of the bathrooms had an orchid/lavender tub and sink, but the toilet was mauve. The bear claw tubs are original. The rooms and doors were built so that if windows and doors were opened the house would be cool with cross drafts since the house did not have air conditioning.

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As you can tell by the number of photos I took, I loved the house and especially the uniqueness of the Banyan tree and how the branches have grown over the past almost 100 years. Steve Minotti and his musician friends performed throughout the afternoon and a lot of money was raised for the local Relay For Life team that hosted the event.

Late at night and early morning when I cant sleep I put the TV on and often there are old shows like Johnny Carson, and many more. Looking at the clothes being worn reminds me of the styles back then. Especially with Johnny Carson show. The carpet on the stage his desk sits on is often green shag. The clothes everyone is wearing consists of bright colors and large collars. It makes me chuckle. No one today would consider wearing these outfits. I can imagine in years from now that people watching shows produced today will say the same thing. I took a few photos of one of the shows so you could see what I mean.

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2016-03-23 19.32.14I saw a lovely wood bench on one of my outings and it has a planter on each side of it. I thought it was a great idea. I wouldn’t plant anything that bees liked in the planter, but other types of herbs or plants would look really nice.

 

solar toysI have been buying solar toys at the dollar store and putting them on the window sill in my apartment. When the sun comes in during the afternoon and these cute critters start dancing it makes me smile.

 

Wednesday morning I went with my friend Nona to the American Cancer Society office to put the t-shirts together for the teams for our Relay For Life event this coming weekend. It was fun for us to work together and Nona is a great lady and fun to be with. The walls throughout the office were covered with purple hearts. The purple and white t-shirt quilt that I designed, assembled, hand quilted, and dedicated to ACS in July 2013 is still hanging on the wall. I loved seeing all of the hearts on the wall, it made it feel like a peaceful environment.

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Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

FIHA Pow Wow, Fort Pierce, Florida, and Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida, Leaking Camper Windows

I took a short trip from March 23rd to March 30th. I went to the FIHA Native American Pow Wow in Fort Pierce, Florida for a few days, then I went to Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida for two days.

You can look at the pictures I took at the FIHA Pow Wow, and the photos of the animals I took at Arnold’s Wildlife. If you look at the pictures of the Marmoset monkeys closely, you can see two babies holding on to the mother monkey. The babies are hard to see, their coloring is exactly like the mom’s. The babies tails are visible in a few pictures, and so are their tiny heads. When I was there last year there was a 5 day old baby ringtail lemur, she is still there and I could tell which one was her because she is a little smaller than the other lemurs, but in pictures I couldn’t tell the difference.

On the way to Fort Pierce for the pow wow I stopped at the RV dealer who repaired my leaking windows because one of the windows they fixed did not open. They fixed the problem and said all is good now. I asked them to run water over the windows to be sure that the problem with the leaks have been fixed, but the service tech that worked on the windows said there is no need, the windows won’t leak, he fixed the problem. I said okay and asked what happens if it does leak and he told me to apply duct tape like they had on the windows while we were waiting on the part. But, he said I won’t have any problems with leaking windows. I was hopeful because the forecast showed rain for the upcoming weekend.

I arrived at the Savanna’s Recreation Area in Fort Pierce for the pow wow and I didn’t see any sign of it nor did I see some vendor friends who I knew would be there. I decided to call one of them and I found out after talking that the location has been changed this year. It has been at the Savanna’s for the past ten years, I didn’t think to ask if the location changed this year, and no one I spoke to before the event mentioned the location has been changed. So, I found out the new location and drove there. I went from far east Fort Pierce to far west Fort Pierce, on one lane roads with lots of traffic. Then when I got there the entrance gate was locked so I had to find the back gate into the County Fairgrounds where the pow wow was being held this year. I like this location a little better, the area where the dancing and other activities would be taking place was in a covered arena with metal bleachers all around the arena and there were nice restroom facilities. Also, there were about 9 vendors indoors in that area and all the other vendors were outside within walking distance to the arena. This works out well for everyone, including me since I help several vendors and watch their booths so they can take breaks or get food.

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I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and I got settled in a RV spot next to Jeff with Spotted Pony Traders. He is one of the vendors I help. Jeff let me plug my power cord into his camper so my refrigerator and lights would operate off of electric which would save my propane and not run down my auxiliary batteries. Thursday night was a camp feed where the FIHA board had a buffet for all of the vendors. The food was okay, it was bar-b-que beef and pork, baked beans, chips, coleslaw, etc. and there was plenty to eat.

Friday night it began to get really windy and we could see a storm blowing in so I started walking to my camper and just as I got inside and closed the door the rain came down really hard, the wind blew really hard, and I could hear hailstones hitting my camper. It seemed they were pea size. I looked at the windows that I had fixed to be sure there was no water coming in and the window that was leaking really badly before didn’t seem to be leaking. However, the window on the other side that was not leaking much, but I had it fixed anyway just to be sure since the rubber gasket was the same age as the other side and it was leaking a little. Well, that side had a steady stream of water pouring in. It was like someone turned on a faucet on low and water just streamed in. I grabbed an empty glass that was closeby and caught the water. When the glass filled up, nothing was within reach so I grabbed a towel and put it under the window to catch the water while I got another glass.

As I was holding the glass, I grabbed my phone and called Jeff and told him when there was a break in the rain I needed him to get his ladder and help me to cover the windows because water was pouring in. About a long 15 or 20 minutes later the storm subsided and I went outside and tried to dry the fiberglass so I could put duct tape over the window edges to keep the water out, but it wouldn’t stick. Thankfully, I had some of the tacky plastic that I used previously to cover the windows and Jeff got up on the ladder and put it over both upper windows. I hesitated because I knew the plastic left a sticky residue on the window, window frame, and fiberglass top and it was hard to remove the glue when we took it off to fix the windows, but it was better than having water come inside. The wind was still blowing and it wasn’t easy to get this sticky, tacky plastic put over the surface, but we got it done and just in time. As we finished the rain began again, but I had peace of mind that I didn’t have to catch more water.

The next morning, which was Saturday, it wasn’t raining so I took the plastic off, and I spent a few hours trying to scrub off the sticky glue residue. It wasn’t fun or easy, but I thought it better for me to do it than have the RV place do it and charge me for it. After I got it cleaned as best as possible, I took the roll of duct tape I had in my camper for emergencies and I taped the frame of both windows because it was due to rain for the next few days. After the windows were secured, I went inside and decided to check the inside of my camper where the water came in and found that my mattress pad, sofa cushions, blankets under the cushions, and the wall and window frame against the wall where the water came in and my bed is situated was all wet. So, I took the sheets off and pulled the bedding items apart and set up my little fan so the air could dry the wet areas. Finally, all was dry and I put my bed back together.

I really got a bit upset when I thought about the fact that if I had not taken the trip and experienced the rain and was able to mitigate the damage the water was doing that the water could have caused a lot of damage and mildew. When I am not traveling in the camper I have it parked somewhere and I go check it and drive it about every three weeks. I don’t like to think about the damage that could have happened in that three week period if water poured in and nothing was done to dry it. My bedding, sofa cushions, carpet, etc. would have been wet, moldy and mildew, and who know what else would have been the result of the water. I caught about 50 ounces of water before I was able to cover the windows and it was raining a lot for several days. I would probably have driven to the camper a day or so after the rain stopped just to check things, but I would have also taken the repair man’s word that it was fixed. Glad I was in the camper when it happened.

I called the RV repair place and told the owner what happened and that I would be bringing my camper in again because the windows were still leaking and worse than before it was fixed. Since the windows were taped and I felt confident that water would not be coming into the camper, I stayed at the pow wow for the rest of the weekend.

There were not as many people at the pow wow, and many of my vendor friends were not there as well. It was probably a combination of the weather being rainy all weekend and a change in locations. I met some new people and visited with others I have known for years. I gave a break to some of my vendor friends, and brought them meals. It was still a nice outing and I was glad to be camping even though it was a short trip and raining most of the time.

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The county fairgrounds like I wrote above, did have some nice benefits like real restrooms that had nice facilities and a covered area for the pow wow. The Savanna’s was all outdoors with no covered areas and when it rained the grounds got very flooded. This county fairground must have a lot of events, there were cattle and livestock barns that were really nice, several building for classes, and outside in one area were small storage sheds that were painted differently.

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The pow wow ended Sunday afternoon, and a few of us stayed over until Monday morning, It turns out that where the pow wow was held was about 20 minutes closer for me to travel to Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. I arrived there mid morning and after I got set up and got my camper plugged in, I was able to feed the monkeys some kiwi fruit that I brought with me. They absolutely loved it.

As I walked around I saw several new animals that weren’t there last year, and I also didn’t see some that I have seen during my previous visits. Sadly, Foxy Brown the rare and endangered fox squirrel passed away, as did one of the llama’s named Oreo. Lulu the camel is due to have a baby in September after a 16 month gestation period. Some of the new additions are a goat, sheep, calf, baby antelope, baby deer, six month old Asian fishing cats, and the usual baby raccoons, owls, chicks, ducks, a duck with spinal or neck problems, etc. The two Asian fishing cats are brothers and they are in these pens until their new habitat is completed.

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In the afternoons I got to help feel some of the animals, in the morning I mixed up the fruit mixture that would be fed to the monkeys. I love watching the various types of monkeys. It’s really fascinating how they eat their food and play with toys, so much like the way humans do these things, other than using silverware. I think the monkeys are so much more interested in food then we are. They seem to examine the food and savor the taste and textures of the food items, and they also do the same with other things they chew on such as straw or even sometimes insects. The Capuchin monkeys Zeke and Cricket are very entertaining and they seem very capable to entertain themselves. Cricket likes to poke her hands and tail outside the cage to see what she can catch. She had a dead frog that she was playing with when I got there, and then later on she was playing with straw. Zeke liked playing with some plastic children’s toys.

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I loved looking at the animals when they didn’t know they were being watched. Some of the positions they get into when they are sleeping or relaxing are very interesting. These black and white lemurs were sleeping on their back with legs in the air. Two red footed tortoises were in a log together and from looking at the size of the opening in the log they had to maneuver to get in there at the same time and it didn’t seem to bother them that a big iguana was sleeping above them in his own bedding.

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A women died and left her part wolf animal, a dog that seems to be the wolf’s watchdog, a horse, and some other animals to Sue in her will. Anytime I got even a little close to the cage with the wolf and dog the dog would carry on and bark, the wolf didn’t seem to be fazed at all. They have been together all of their life and they are in the same cage now too.

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There are several animals that seem to be unlikely buddies, like the albino wallaby and a deer, peacocks and deer, rooster and parrots, and many others. There is also a hybrid that is a cross between a turkey and peacock.

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The butterfly garden was still going strong with beautiful butterflies and flowers. A new addition is the beautiful painted wood butterflies and stepping stones. This garden was created in memory of one of Sue’s daughters who died of cancer.

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The two baby marmoset monkeys hang on to their mom so closely that I didn’t even know they were there until Sue asked if I saw the baby marmosets after my first walk around. I didn’t see them but I went back and looked closely and was able to see the babies. The dad and mom marmoset groomed each other and the babies would climb on mom but stay pretty well hidden. I was able to see a head, leg, or tail and every now and when the baby moved I could see it’s head which was smaller than a walnut.

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IMG_4562I also saw a spoonbill in the distance but couldn’t get a good picture because it was too far away. In the late afternoon every day a family of sand hill cranes and some deer came to the house to be fed. Sue let me put out a few scoops of deer corn for them, of course the goat and sheep wanted to eat the corn so I had to keep trying to chase them away which was not easy.

In the hospital were several baby animals needing special care. One of them was a baby egret who needed to eat minnows. Sue and I drove to town which is Okeechobee to buy minnows. We were surprised at the price. A pound of minnows was $16 and the little bird eats about half a pound or more a day. They put them in a bowl of water so the egret can get them out as if it were in a pond.

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While I was there people brought in animals they found on the side of the road or were caught by other means. One was an osprey, another an adult sand hill crane, another was a barn owl with a hole in the side of it’s head, a screech owl, baby squirrel, and a few other critters. Sadly, not all were able to be saved, but Sue and Angela do their best to treat the animals and save their lives and take them to the vet when necessary. This ospray was really large, but it was doubtful it would survive it’s injuries.

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Sue has a sign that says donations are $10 for an adult and children under 12 are free. I am amazed at how people come and walk around and do not put any money in the donation box. It costs a lot of money to feed and provide care for the animals, not to mention electricity, water, medicine, and other necessities to keep the food stored and fresh for the animals. While I was there they had just had to spend a lot to get their large walk in refrigerator repaired and one of the water pumps stopped working and had to be repaired.

I saw about 20 people, most of which were adults and when Sue emptied the donation box at the end of the day it had about 6 or 7 $1 bills in it. Three adults came together and they came up to me and asked what the charge is for walking around the center and I told them. I guess he felt that a dollar or two would be enough? I know that there are people that maybe can’t afford that, but something would be helpful. I know it’s important that people, especially children, get to see and experience various types of animals, especially rare and endangered ones like the Asian fishing cats, Indonesian Jade Peacocks, Albino Wallaby, Cotton Top Tamarin’s, Kookaburra’s and many others, and there are many of them at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It’s really sad that people don’t make donations, and I know it was disappointing for Sue and her staff who work tirelessly to take care of these animals who are so special to them.

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This is one of the most important organizations that I support. 100% of the donations are used for the care and feeding of the animals. When the wildlife officials, or people bring animals to Sue so she can hopefully bring them back to health and release them, no one gives her money for their care. I saw her give each of the animals a shot with medicine so that they could relax, have an antibiotic or whatever medicine was needed and when able she would feed them. A few had to be euthanized because they could not be saved like an adult sand hill crane with a broken hip and leg. Recently they were able to release an American Bald Eagle that they nursed back to health.

Even though it rained really hard at both the pow wow and at the wildlife center when I was at both places I had a great time. There are several previous albums and stories for the pow wow which I attend annually, and there are numerous albums and stories for Arnold’s Wildlife which I try to go to as often as I can. You can do a search on my website for the stories and photos.

Parts of the wildlife center yard looked like lakes after the hard rains. The rain and large puddles did not stop the wild animals from coming for their daily afternoon meal. Despite the variety of animals, they all get along and share the food. After the rain stopped there was a beautiful sunset.

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There are lots more pictures in the album I posted, so take your time and enjoy looking at them.

Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

Odds and Ends… what I have been up to lately, Kudu Klips, and puzzles

I have been reading books again. I just finished the newest Debbie Macomber books and I am waiting for the last Rose Harbor series book which comes out in August. It will be the last of that series. In my previous post I wrote about my time listening to Debbie’s talk at a local library in February. I also read the two latest books in Fern Michael’s Sisterhood series. This is one of the best series of books that I have ever read. I think there are about 25 books in this series now. I wrote about this series in a story about a year ago. If you want to read a series where the main characters are the same, but they get into different situations and do different vigilante rescues or creative ways they get even with those who did harm or wronged others this is a great series for you to read. Even men would enjoy this series. It has suspense, romance, comedy, mystery, and much more. As the series progresses it gets more involved. The link above is for the series characters, I didn’t know about this page or read it until after I finished about 20 of the books. I am glad I didn’t because I used my imagination of what the characters looked like. When I saw the pictures on the website, my idea of what the character looked like was different than what was shown. I did like seeing the author’s pictures of the characters, it made parts of the story fall into place a little better. But it is not necessary to check the webpage, reading the books is wonderful enough.

I woke up yesterday to a lot of noise outside, it seems the city is having several streets resurfaced and mine is one of them. There were men and machines that were taking up the old asphalt and laying new asphalt. It was really interesting to watch. When they used the rollers to compress the asphalt I could feel the building and floor vibrating. There was black dust all over all of our cars. Thankfully, this afternoon it rained pretty hard so it washed off some of the dust. I guess they will finish paving the street on Monday.

Besides reading, I have been doing some cooking and baking. I like to experiment when I cook so I put different ingredients into the crock pot or pan I was cooking in and these new recipes I created actually tasted pretty good. Of course, I didn’t write it down but I can probably come close to recreating it, or even trying something different next time. I cooked a turkey thigh and usually I put stuffing under the skin and put seasoning on the turkey and bake it. This time I put it in the crock pot with some onion, carrots, garlic, pineapple, peach jam, and a few spices. I even put peach jam and pineapple in the stuffing that I put in the oven. It was a totally different taste. I pureed the sauce when it cooled enough and I served it over the turkey, and I cooked noodles to serve with it. This dinner sort of tasted like a sweet and sour dish rather than a savory one. For dessert I mixed blueberries, pineapple, peach jam, and cranberries with flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon and poured it into a pie crust and folded part of the crust over the filling and baked it. I have made it before with blueberries, peaches, pears, and cranberries and it came out delicious. Adding the crushed pineapple gave it a slightly different flavor. I opened the can of crushed pineapple for the turkey so I had to think of things to make to use it up.

2016-03-08 12.09.11I have started doing jigsaw puzzles again. Last week the local library had their spring book sale so I went a few days before to help set up the books and puzzles. Someone donated about 200 jigsaw puzzles, the library never had that many. Usually, they have less than 20 puzzles. One of the other volunteers and I set up the puzzle table. We were able to get them all on two tables which was quite an accomplishment. When we were finished the other volunteers saw what we did and they told us we did a great job!!! Both of us bought quite a few puzzles. As we were taking them out of boxes and putting them on the table we pulled out ones we wanted. I bought quite a few to take to Texas for my friends when I leave on my trip in a few months. I’m not sure they will all fit in my camper, but I will take what I can. I bought 8 puzzles for myself, 5 of them are in the photo to the top of this paragraph. One of them is a map of the United States and each state is represented by a part of a state license plate. When I was in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta office last fall one of the staff members had a poster showing the states using license plates and I admired the poster. I was really surprised when I saw the puzzle which is exact same thing as the poster. It’s been fun, and challenging to work on it. I use either small paper bowls or empty fruit or applesauce plastic cups to sort puzzle pieces, it depends on the number of pieces for the section or color I am sorting. I wrote the method I use to work on puzzles in a post about a year or so ago. You can do a search on my website, if you are interested.

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2016-03-10 11.50.05I have also completed two other puzzles. One was only 400 large size pieces. This is very different than other puzzles I do. Usually the puzzles I work on are 1,000 pieces and the pieces are small or regular size. So, to make this more challenging I looked at the picture and then began the puzzle. I sorted the pieces by color like I normally do and I completed the puzzle only looking at the picture about three times.

I also completed a special shaped puzzle of an old car, sort of like a Model T. Within the puzzle of the car were other old cars including an old convertible with wood sides, there was a man sitting on a bridge fishing in a stream, and a dog and woman nearby. In the window of the car were other cars, a house, flower bed, and people having a picnic on a blanket. It was also a fun and challenging puzzle. Being a special shape puzzle, finding the edge pieces is not always easy since they are not usually straight edges. Also, being a used puzzle I never know if all of the pieces are in the box. When I finish a puzzle I always put a note that all of the pieces are included. The few times that a piece was missing, I made one and put it in the box in a baggie with a note that this is replacing a missing piece and where in the puzzle it fits. Thankfully, the few times I had to recreate a missing piece it was not too difficult to color. There was one piece missing in this puzzle and I called the library to see if it was in the baggie they have of missing puzzle pieces… unfortunately the piece I needed was not one they had in the baggie. You have to look at the puzzle closely to even notice that a piece was missing that I recreated.

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So, I put a piece of thin cardboard under the puzzle and traced the shape of the missing piece and cut it out. I got out my crayons, markers, and colored pencils and couldn’t get close enough to the green that I needed. So I went through flyers and magazines I had handy. It turns out that the current sales flyer from the local grocery store had a header of almost the exact shade of green that I needed for the missing piece which happened to be in a patch of grass. I traced the shape of the missing piece, cut it out, and glued it to the cardboard puzzle piece I made. Then I fitted it into the puzzle and shaded the piece with black pencil to match what I think the piece looked like. What are the odds that the sales flyer had the color I needed. When I got the new flyer today it was a different shade of green that wasn’t even close to what I needed. A coincidence??? I think not.

Last year I bought a Nuwave Induction Portable Cooktop not only to use at home, but also to take on my trips since it is small enough to take and it cooks quickly. The only thing is that special pots are needed. Aluminum pots will not work. They have to be cast iron, stainless steel, or any other material that magnets will stick to. I only had a couple of pots that would work so I went and bought a few others in different sizes. Of course, these pots were a bit more costly because they are a better quality to work on an induction cooktop. I bought a three quart pot which has holes on one side of the lid which is working great to cook pasta, potatoes, or even meat. I can drain the water or fat out of the pan without trying to hold the lid offset from the pot and having some stuff fall out, and I don’t need to use a colander. I’m really enjoying using this pot and I will definitely take it on my trip.

When I couldn’t sleep the other night I was channel surfing and I stopped on a shopping network because they had kitchen items and were doing cooking demonstrations using some of the pots and pans. There was a shallow 12″ skillet with a special no stick surface which would work on the induction cooktop. After a while, I went online and read the reviews and there was not one bad review for this skillet. So I decided to order it and it came today. I think it is going to work really good, and it also can go in the oven. It came with a glass lid which will come in handy. I also bought a 2 quart crock pot. I have taken my 4 quart crock pot on my trips and it takes up a bit of precious space and I haven’t used it.

My thoughts are that if I take a 2 quart crock pot it will take up less space and I might really use it, that is when I am staying somewhere for more than a day or two. Probably when I am in Albuquerque for 6 weeks. When I am away for my four or five month trips I frequently either buy a meal somewhere and eat it for a day or so, or else I eat sandwiches. This way maybe I will actually cook a meal and while I am working at the Balloon Fiesta office my dinner and leftovers can be cooking. When I am on my trips it seems that I lose about 10 pounds because I am not eating as well as when I am home, and I don’t snack as much. I rarely cook when I’m traveling, and I seem to walk more. Maybe this coming fall on my trip I will do it differently since I have better cooking items that I am taking. I’m planning on being in Albuquerque from the end of August until mid-October so I will be stationary for a while once again and I will be volunteering again so I should have electric hookups. Hopefully, the weather will be rather mild like last year and not really cold like the other years that I was there.

This story is becoming longer than I thought it would be. I bought a Lily of the Valley plant. It was in a plastic bag and only had roots, dirt, and a small shoot coming up from the bulb and roots. I didn’t have any flower pots or potting soil and I didn’t want to drive to the store so I looked around and found an empty juice container that I just finished and had not thrown out yet. So I cut off a portion of the container, poked holes in the bottom, and went down to the flower bed outside and got  some small rocks for the bottom and took some dirt and planted my plant. I put it on the window sill and it’s growing. It has a few green shoots and it might actually bloom. It seems to be growing rather quickly, it went from planted to having green shoots within a week. When I was a child we had Lilies of the Valley growing in our flower beds and when I got a little older I bought perfume that smelled like that. When I saw this bulb at the store I knew I needed to buy it.

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I have been using these amazing hair clips, called Kudu Klips for about 8 years and I absolutely love them. They are handmade and work great, are durable and easy to use, and don’t damage hair like other types of hair items do. They also stay firmly in place all day long and are comfortable to wear. For those of us with hair that we put up or in ponytails, this is a great item. It even holds hair that is not very long and/or very fine. Several times I have contacted Patti that owns the company and I have bought more from her for either myself or as gifts. I got an email the other day that she was going to be at a craft show about half hour from where I live. Usually she lives on the other side of the state. I got up this morning and drove to the craft show and found Patti’s booth. As we talked we realized that when I bought my first Kudu Klip it was at her first show where she sold them which was 8 years ago. When I order by phone I call Patti and discuss which ones are available and what I want. She doesn’t put pictures of all of her designs on her website anymore because even though she and her husband designed and created these hair items, another company copied their product and they were also copying her designs.

Kudu KlipsHere is a picture of the Kudu Klips that I have in my collection. There are so many beautiful designs and I knew I wanted to buy a few more but narrowing it down to which ones was not easy. While I was there the booth got busy with customers so I helped Patti and waited on customers and showed them how to use these amazing hair clips. There are also videos on their website so when I sold a hair clip I gave the lady a business card and told her to go online to watch the videos for other ideas on how to use them. It was really fun working in the booth and helping Patti. There were about six other customers like me that came to buy more. These things are addictive… and because there are many different designs it’s hard to narrow down the selection. I only planned on buying two new ones and I ended up with six new ones. Now I have nine of them.

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I went back on Sunday and helped Patti in her booth for four hours again. I really enjoyed helping, even though we had some heavy rain and high winds for a little while. Unexpectedly, Patti said she wanted to give me a Kudu Klip for helping in her booth, I told her it wasn’t necessary but she wanted to gift it to me. It was very kind and time passed quickly since we were really busy. As I got to my car raindrops began to fall and it rained pretty hard part of the way home. I’m glad it rained, it washed the black dust off of my car from when they resurfaced the road Friday, and when I got home the skillet I ordered last week was waiting by my door.

Wow… this story seems to really be growing beyond what I thought it would be when I started writing this evening. I haven’t written a story in about a month mostly because there wasn’t much to write about until the past week or so. This afternoon when I left the craft fair my pain level was getting pretty intense that’s why I left so I could come home and take my pain medicine. I was really getting sleepy driving but I made it home safely, took my medicine and thought I would take a nap. But, I opened the box with my new skillet, made something to eat since it was about 3:00 p.m. and then I sorted through my beads, and then decided to start this story since I knew I would most probably not get another chance to write for about three weeks. Here it is about three hours later, I can’t believe I have been writing this post for so long or longer.

When I write, time seems to go quickly and I don’t even realize it. Words just seem to flow most of the time. I have a feeling that I have a ghost writer/spirit that helps me to write. Until I started writing this blog in 2011, the only writing I did was letters and other documents for work. Most of my posts take me between three and five hours to write. I still have about another hour to finish this post because I want to insert pictures, which I do after the entire story is written. Over the past six years my writing style has evolved, as has my knowledge of how to add pictures and links. In my early stories I had no idea how to add pictures, or add a link, I used to ask my friend Pam that created my website to add a link or picture every now and then since I didn’t want to bother her too often. After a while she instructed me on how to do it, I think that’s when my stories began to change how they were written and more links and pictures were added.

I plan on leaving this coming Wednesday for a short camping trip. I will probably be gone for about two weeks. There is an Indian pow wow about two hours north of where I live that I go to every year. It’s also a chance to see my friends that are vendors and travel the pow wow circuit and are in south Florida this time of the year. Then I will most probably go once again to see my friend Sue Arnold at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and spend a few days there. Sue told me she has several new animals since I was there last year. There are about five stories and photo albums from my previous trips. You can use the search feature on my website to find them. Last time I went one of the new animals was Lulu a three year old camel, an albino Wallaby, and a two day old ring tail lemur. If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate funds to, I would highly recommend this one. 100% of the funds donated are used for the care and feeding of the animals. It costs a lot of money to feed all of the animals, including the panthers, bobcats, servil’s, caracal’s, camel and so many more.

I got the windows that were leaking in my camper fixed a few weeks ago and the other day when I went to the camper to get info for a lock that needs to be replaced, I tried to open the windows and one of the ones that were fixed does not open. I’m guessing some of the glue they used somehow sealed the window. I called and told the repair place that I will stop by on my way north next week so they can see if they can fix it so it will open. It’s on my way north so I won’t have to detour too far. I’m not sure if they will be able to fix it on Wednesday, if not, I will stop by on my way home a week or two later. I ordered replacement locks for the storage compartment. It’s due to arrive on Tuesday and I hope to have a locksmith change them before I leave, if not, one of my friends at the pow wow said he will try to replace it for me.

In case you are not aware of it, if you are are over 55 years of age, you can take an AARP driver safety course and receive a discount on your car insurance. I usually go to a location and take the six hour course, this year however, I decided to take the online course which can be done at our leisure, and they give I think it’s two months to complete it. I did it in two days and they sent my certificate by email and I emailed it to my insurance company. You do not have to be an AARP member to take the course. I think it saves $5 if you are a member.

In 2009 before I left for a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, I bought a new camera, it is a Canon PowerShot A 720 IS. It’s served me extremely well. It’s small, has a viewfinder, and is easy to use. The past year or two I have noticed that it seems to go through batteries faster and every now and then when I press the button it doesn’t take a picture. I think I have worn out the camera. I don’t really want to part with it since I’m familiar with it, it’s a handy size and it takes great pictures. The main feature I like is a viewfinder so when the sun shines on the digital screen I can use the viewfinder and see what I am looking for or at. This camera is no longer made, so I looked online and found a few used ones for sale on Ebay. One of them looks like it would be a good deal and in working condition so I called a friend of mine who uses Ebay frequently and he said he would bid on the item for me. So far, no one has bid, Milan is waiting until tomorrow just before it closes to submit a bid on my behalf. Hopefully, no one else will bid on it. I know technology has changed. Milan said I should buy a new camera rather than a used one. I said that I really like that camera and want it because I’m familiar with it. I did research for hours the other day and I cannot find another small camera with a viewfinder. Only a few larger cameras have one. So, I found a different model Canon PowerShot ELPH 170 IS that has good features including a higher number zoom than my camera, so I bought it. I won’t get it before I leave Wednesday so it will be waiting for me when I get back home. It’s a lot smaller than my other camera even though the zoom is more powerful. It has a rechargeable battery rather than using two AA batteries like the camera I have now. The new camera has an extra battery and if I find I need more I will buy another rechargeable one. When I am at the Balloon Fiesta I can easily take several hundred photos in a day and I can use about 8 to 10 AA batteries with my current camera. I will have to see how many pictures I can get off of one battery charge with the new camera. I tried to look on my computer to see how many pictures I have in my Pictures folder. The best I can tell it’s about 41,000 since 2011 and including the 700 I took at Glacier National Park in 2009. I will be able to test it out at the Relay For Life event in mid-April. I need to learn how to use it before I leave on my trip in June or July.

My Canon Powershot A 720 IS did an amazing job and it deserves a rest every now and then. I hope the one I got from Ebay is in excellent working condition. It will be nice to have a backup camera and I look forward, sort of, to learning the new smaller camera and it’s features. I didn’t even use all of the features on my current camera. I generally just use the point and shoot automatic feature. Sunday night Milan called and told me that about 10 seconds before the bidding closed he submitted a higher bid and won the camera for me. I should be receiving it soon, but not before I leave on this short trip.

Guess that’s more than enough for now. I just realized it’s 10:00 p.m. and I have been working on this story for about five hours. The next post will most probably be in about three or so weeks. I will keep Travel Map 2016 tab updated as I travel.

 

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Author Debbie Macomber, words of wisdom, and jigsaw puzzle of home

Debbie Macomber is one of my favorite authors. I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet her in person in July 2011 when I was in Washington State on my first long roadtrip. I wrote a story about our visit.

Debbie has a new book that was released today, February 23rd, called A Girl’s Guide to Moving On. It happens to coincide with the Writers Live talk that she had today at a branch of the Palm Beach County Library. Debbie is so popular that the 250 seats that had to be reserved by those of us wanting to attend the presentation were all taken within 30 minutes of when the reserved seating opened. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones that was able to get tickets for myself, my mom, and a friend of ours.

We wanted to get a front row seat so we got there early and thankfully, we did get to sit in the front row. Debbie was interviewed by a woman from the Sun Sentinel who asked great questions about Debbie, her writing style, becoming an author, and the background behind some of her books. Debbie also told interesting and funny stories about her life, letters and emails she receives from her readers, and also life experiences that have an influence on the stories she tells in her books. We also learned how and why Debbie’s writing style or story lines have changed over time.

Debbie told us today about a real life experience she had with a friend and how she incorporated it into a story in this new book. I got the book out of the local library yesterday and had started to read it. I was already past the part in the book that she described and it made it more real when she told about that experience and how it came to be in the book.  She also told about how when she was a mother of four young children and she would write stories that when hard times presented themselves financially for her family that she knew she had to write it was her passion and her calling. Even though times were difficult, her husband Wayne supported her in this decision. It took a few years before she sold a book. Debbie told us that either a publisher or editor, I can’t remember which, told her something to the effect… to stop writing that she would never write anything that would sell. I am so glad she listened to her heart and spirit.

We, all of her readers, are so grateful that she followed her heart and the path she knew was right for her. Our lives are richer because of having her stories be a part of our lives. Her female characters are strong role models. Despite tragedy, difficult life experiences, serious health conditions including cancer, death of spouses, and so much more, they are determined to continue on in life and to not only survive and be stronger, but to reach out and help others along the way.

After hearing Debbie talk and tell stories, I realize she could have a new career if she wants one as a comedian. Debbie describes herself as a storyteller. I definitely agree with her, she tells great stories and often adds humor to them, or the way she tells the story and her pauses and expressions also tell part of the story. I, along with everyone in the audience, thoroughly enjoyed the presentation that Debbie gave today. The talk was about 40 minutes long, with time for questions and answers afterward. Time passed quickly, I wish her talk was longer. I know she has so much to share with her audience, but we are grateful for the time we did get to share with her.

I knew as soon as Debbie was finished talking that she would be rushed to a table to sign her books that were for sale. I wanted to say hello and give her a quick hug, so I quickly rushed to the stage and I was lucky that we had a library staff member take a picture of us together. I took several pictures of Debbie both before and during her presentation. What I noticed during the talk was that when the interviewer asked the questions Debbie looked directly at her, however, when she answered the questions, she looked at the audience.

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If you have not read any of Debbie’s books please give them a try. If you are like me and many of Debbie’s readers, you will become attached and involved in the characters in her stories. There are several series of books and as time goes on and more books are written in the series we get more invested in the lives of the characters. The Cedar Cove book series was made into a movie for two seasons on the Hallmark Channel. And her Mrs. Miracle books have been made into holiday movies.

One of the librarians at the local library and I exchange books often. She gave me a book called Shade by Calvin Miller. I had not previously read any of his books. In a part of this book a character named Isabel was explaining to Otto about life. I liked what she expressed so I am including it here:

“Isabel sat quietly for a long moment. Otto she said at last, life is hard and swift, swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, says Job. The worse sorts of things happen to the best sorts of people. The trials that come upon us either harden us or they soften us. When they make us brittle, we shatter. When they make us soft, we bend and maybe break a little, but the breaking is what puts the fiber in the tree and makes it stronger. They say that when the highlanders need to find a walking stick, they go high into the mountains where the wind and storms have broken the thin trees so often that the heart of the wood is strong as steel. The highlander never trusts the flimsy, untried wood on the lower slopes. It’s the wood that has fought the storms and lost that is the strongest.”

I have been reading books again, I just finished a few new ones by Debbie Macomber and I also just finished the two newest books by Fern Michaels in her Sisterhood series. I’ve read a few other books in between and I have over 100 books on my bookshelf to be read as time permits. I am planning, or at least hoping to take another trip or two this year. I always take one or two tote bags of books with me and swap them out at various places as I travel. I also have a Nook with a few hundred books in it, but truthfully, I love reading a real book better than an ebook. Ebooks do take up a lot less space in my small camper van, but I still like reading a paper book, especially when I want to go back a few pages or chapters to read something again… or skip forward to see if a character is still in the book near the end of the story.

I finally completed the jigsaw puzzle that my friend Patt sent me of where I live. It was a very difficult and challenging puzzle. I had to look at the picture that looks like an aerial view of the area to determine where each puzzle piece went. Other than a house shaped puzzle piece of where my residence actually is, all the other puzzle pieces were regular shaped pieces. There is a main 3 lane each way road that goes north and south through the area, and there are a few condo buildings scattered along that road. Those pieces were pretty easy to figure out, the rest of the puzzle was difficult.

completed LHP puzzle house shaped puzzle piece partial puzzle

If all goes well, next week I hope to have my camper van windows fixed, that is if the part finally comes in. Its been on back order for a few weeks. I look forward to no leaking windows.

That’s about it for now, my website and stories are now complete. I even finished writing my Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta story.

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All previous stories written and caught up

All previous stories are now written and as of today my website is up-to-date.

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January activities, health update, puzzle of home, Cuban Artist Alex Fuster, insurance company steps to resolution

I have been wanting to write some stories for my website for over a month and just haven’t felt up to doing it. Some days I have good intentions to write, then I go to the store, do some chores or errands, then the window of pain free or relatively free time passes and I take my medicine. Then when it begins to work I get tired and I don’t feel like getting my computer out of it’s bag and setting it up and turning it on. So, I decided since today is a good day and my energy level is pretty good to finish the previous story and write this one. I am going to leave my laptop set up on a small table so when I want to write a story all I have to do is turn on the computer and type, maybe this will motivate me to write the stories for my adventures from the beginning of October through November. For those two months I posted my pictures and wrote quick posts, but I didn’t include details and what I did at the events like I usually do. I will work on those stories soon so feel free to check them in a couple of weeks. Until then, I wanted to write an update of my January activities.

Belated Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s been an interesting one for you. I have not been very active most days, I get out to the store and do errands,I enjoy having meals out with friends, and a few times a week I’m baking and cooking. I have even gained about 6 or 7 pounds. I lost about 12 pounds on my trip last year. Experimenting with new recipes for dinners has provided me with some delicious meals. For the first time made sorghum pecan brittle, this was an interesting experience. It probably would have been easier making it with another person. Thankfully, I had all of the ingredients measured out so I could add them quickly when needed. I had to add a few ingredients and then wait until it reached a specified temperature, then add more and let it reach another temperature, and then one last time add a few more and bring to temperature. I thought I stirred it enough as it cooked, but it seems I didn’t stir it very well where thermometer was near the bottom of the pan and I knew it when I smelled something burning. Making candy is a bit tricky. Other than a slight burn taste, my sorghum pecan brittle came out good. It cracked like it was supposed to and it still tasted good. I might try making it again sometime. I looked online and found a way to remove the burned syrup from the bottom of the pan. It worked after a few tries.

I decided to make lasagna, I haven’t had it in quite a while and for some reason this came out better than other times I made it. I froze a few portions so I could have it when I don’t feel like cooking. I usually make it in a glass loaf pan which works out really well and the slices make a nice presentation. I have been freezing some of the food I’ve cooked, this way it’s an easy dinner. Some days I don’t get very hungry and then when I do I don’t always want to cook.  I also keep some frozen stuffed chicken breasts in the freezer, they are another easy meal. Cook half hour in the toaster oven and they are ready to eat. I’ve taken these on my camping trips too since it doesn’t take up much room in my tiny freezer.

A friend of mine from Seattle named Patt came to visit for a few days, both before and after her trip to Cuba. It was interesting seeing the pictures she took and hearing the stories about what she saw and the people she met. She showed me artwork she bought by a Cuban Artist Alex Fuster which included pictures of his house, swimming pool, and the street he lives on where all the neighbors wanted him to create his beautiful artwork on their houses and fences. He does beautiful paintings and also incredibly creative mosaic tile work. He also has a treadmill in the middle of his swimming pool. Here are some of the pictures she sent me of his home and artwork.

Artist Alex Fuster IMG_1233 IMG_1236 neighbors houseIMG_1237 

A month or so ago, Patt told me she saw something she thought I would like and I should be receiving it in the mail. Well, a surprise package arrived and what was it??? A jigsaw puzzle of where I live. The puzzle piece with the exact location of my residence is shaped like a house, all other puzzle pieces are regular shaped pieces. Patt knows I frequently work on jigsaw puzzles. I have several sitting waiting to be done and two that I started before I left on my trip last July. I have not been working on them much since I got home. Anyway, this 400 piece 12″ by 18″ puzzle is extremely difficult!!! When Patt stayed with me I showed her the puzzle and she said she had no idea it would be this difficult. Other than a divided highway, a few ball fields, and the roofs of a few condo buildings, the rest of the puzzle will be almost impossible to do.

I will eventually get it done, however, it will be extremely time consuming. In order to find where a puzzle piece goes, I have to look at the map that comes with the puzzle, find what rooftop shapes or colors look like the piece and put it inside the puzzle frame and eventually pieces will be joining together. The map that came with the puzzle was a little less than half the size of the puzzle and it was almost impossible to distinguish the rooftops. A majority of the picture of the puzzle is roof tops of buildings and houses. I called the company and asked for a larger size map and they sent me a true to size map which will help my eyes a lot, but I don’t think it will make the puzzle much easier to do. Basically, this puzzle is Google Map view of a half mile radius of where I live. The thought was very nice and greatly appreciated. This is a great unique gift. Puzzles can be ordered of favorite places to visit, or anywhere else. It’s a great quality puzzle and it was boxed nicely.

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I am getting back into the groove of reading books again, I have about 150 or so books on my bookshelf. Many are books by authors I enjoy reading and others are by authors I am not familiar with. Also, some of the books are part of a series and I don’t have all of the books in the series. When I am reading a series and if there are books I am missing which is frequently the case, I go to the county library website and see if they have the book I need. It turns out many times they do, sometimes I have to be on a waiting list. One of my friends is in an assisted living facility and she doesn’t get out so I send her a box of books about once a month. I know she appreciates it and it gives her something to do.

Healthwise, I am very grateful that for the past three days my pain has been minimal from mid morning until mid afternoon, sometimes a little longer. I am so very thankful. I have no idea why but I hope it continues. It could be because my sleep pattern is off and I am awake until two or three in the morning, sometimes four a.m. and if I am I take my pain medicine during that time. I also take some about 7 a.m. and go back to sleep for a couple of hours while it works. I am truly grateful for this reduced level of pain… I hope it continues to not be intense pain for quite a while longer. It’s been several years since I have not had severe pain daily.

I have to be honest, some days I don’t want to get out of bed or even move. Some days I have to make myself get up and moving, especially if I am in pain. I don’t think it’s depression. It could be a little bit I guess. Once I’m up and moving around all is well. Other days the pain is pretty intense, my leg and foot are more numb from the tumor pressing on nerves, and my upper abdomen under my rib cage feels like it’s really bruised from organs pressing against my ribcage. Like other times, after several days or a week the tenderness is gone and I feel almost normal. Looking at me from the outside no one could tell what’s going on inside my body. This is a good thing because this way no one looks at me and feels sorry for me or is conscience of my health condition.

Last January I tore the tendon in my right index finger and after splinting it two separate times last year it still did not heal. The tendon did not reattach to the bone like it was supposed to. I had hoped it would the second time. Because my finger was constantly in a bent position due to the torn tendon my finger hurt and so did my palm, so I decided in the beginning of January 2016 to split my finger again and see if the tendon does reattach this time. Today I took the splint off for about an hour and it seems that perhaps it did reattach this time. I didn’t try to bend my finger very much because it hurts from being splinted for a month, and also I want to see if my finger stays straight on it’s own. Before this last time splinting my finger, the top part with my finger nail would bend backwards towards my palm and be horizontal to the rest of my finger. So far today, it’s standing straight up. I will wean off the splint and keep it on when I sleep for a few weeks to let my finger get used to being how it is supposed to be. It will be great to not have a splint on my finger. It’s not easy to cook, bathe, clean, write, etc. when having to keep my right index finger straight, dry, and clean. I’m glad that I thought to splint my finger this last time because it seems to be working finally.

When I had the prescriptions for my pain medicine filled in early January I found out that the new co-pay for each of my three prescriptions went from $20 each last year to $40 each this year which is a big increase. Last October and November I fell into what I found out is called a Donut Hole and I paid $128 for three refills without knowing it until I got home and saw my credit card statements. I had my prescriptions on auto pay since I was traveling and didn’t want to hold up my deliveries if they could not reach me. Big mistake, I never thought to ask the cost when checking they received my prescriptions because for the year, until October, it was always the same. So, I changed the setting to say that they have to contact me before filling my prescriptions so I could avoid these excessive charges. So now, the co-pay is double, I asked if there is any way to have this reviewed and I was told about something called a tier exception.

I am writing about this in order to inform others. I didn’t know there was something called a tier exception until a few weeks ago. If I had known, I would have applied for it last year and would have saved myself a lot of money for medicine co-pays. You may have to check with your insurance company to see if it’s an option or what process you need to follow. I had to get my doctor to send a request to the insurance company asking for the tier exception and the reason why. Of course, on first try it got denied. So I called the insurance company and asked to appeal the decision. I filed the appeal and told the reason why. My doctor had to write an additional explanation of why I cannot take a drug in the lower tier that would do the same thing.

It took me numerous phone calls and many hours on the phone, and I had to resubmit one of the three medicines for a tier exception again because an insurance company rep wrote the wrong strength medicine on a form they sent the doctor. To make a long story short, the tier exceptions were approved for all three of my medicines which significantly reduced the cost for the prescriptions. However, even though it was on my file not to send any medicine or charge to it my credit card without my approval the mail order pharmacy did, to a cost of $120 when the cost should have been significantly lower. Now, after many phone calls and hours on the phone I am trying to get a refund placed on my credit card for the difference. This is not an easy process. A couple of insurance people I spoke with said I could return the medicine. I said that is not an option because I need it and if I send it back it will take a couple of weeks to return it and have it filled again.

I have learned over the years to write down a date that I spoke to someone, what the company representative’s name is and where they are located. Now, I added their employee number. I began doing this even when I was working and had to contact companies for various reasons. I carried it over to my personal life. It’s been helpful over the years. It seems that when calling customer service, insurance companies, etc. it’s almost impossible to speak with the person who helped me during a previous call. By having dates, names, etc. it documents the process and reminds me when I called or what the outcome was. I have learned that when someone says they will call me back or send me a form does not mean they will. A rep tells me that they are making a note in my file about our conversation or what process they are doing to resolve my issue. They often are not telling the truth or do not follow up like they say.

One time I received a call saying that two of my tier exception requests were granted through the end of December 2016 and that it’s in the pharmacy computer system notes. When I called the mail order pharmacy they said their system is showing it’s not been approved. I called again the next day to see if the system was updated. Still the same response. Finally, after discussing this for a while and saying it’s in their system I told the person to enter a dummy prescription to see the cost, guess what… it came up with the adjusted cost. My comment to that person was see… the tier exception was approved or the cost would be the higher cost. She had no response. I had to file a second tier request for the third medicine since the insurance company wrote the wrong strength on the form they sent my doctor. Even though it was a typo on their part, I was told I have to start the process over for the last medicine.

Of course every time I call to see if something has been done yet to resolve my problems or to see if my tier exceptions have been approved, I get someone different, they tell me that the note that I tell them was written by the person I spoke with a few days ago was not written, or it said something different then what I was told was written. One person gave me her ID number, said she promises she will call me back she knows how it feels not to get a follow up call with the outcome… No call, not even now a week later, and when I called on Friday the person I spoke with said they saw her note, and will write a note about him following up he saw her note. Today I called and the person I spoke with said they did not see her note from a week before only the note from Friday and the person I spoke with on Friday. It’s extremely frustrating. What happened that one person sees a note and another doesn’t???

This morning after several frustrating phone calls and over an hour on the phone with no results or anyone being helpful, I called the mail order pharmacy who filled my prescriptions and asked to speak with a pharmacist. The customer service rep asked why and I said to resolve a problem I’m having. God and the angels definitely were helping me during that phone call and directed me to someone that was able to resolve the issue promptly. I was connected to a pharmacist named Greg. I explained my problem and what needs to be done to resolve the issue and I informed him that people in his company have not done what they said or followed through. I apologized for bothering him, a pharmacist because I know he is busy and has more important things to deal with. I also said that I am frustrated because despite the numerous calls and hours on the phone I could not get any assistance to resolve the issue.

Pharmacist Greg was very kind, he told me what options are available and what he can do to try and get the cost corrected. He said he will call me back when he finds out if the adjustment can be done. I asked if my refill date will be affected and he said he will check and let me know. I asked if it will take several days or a week so I will know when to expect his call. Greg said it should be a few hours or a day at the most. He understood and said he knows other cases when prescriptions were filled, shipped, and charged to the customers credit card without customer approval when approval was needed. As I was typing this post and this part of it specifically, the phone rang and it was Greg. He told me that he was able to have the prescriptions billed again and that the adjusted rate was applied and my credit card will be credited with the difference. Also, he said they were able to use the date the original prescription was filled so future prescriptions will not be delayed. I thanked him and said how grateful I was for his help. If someone early in the process would have been this helpful it would have saved me hours and hours of time and frustration and loss of trust in the insurance company representatives. I know that I wrote probably more than was needed. I’m hoping this info will help someone dealing with issues needing to be resolved.

My goal is to complete the stories about the Balloon Fiesta, Texas, and the Native American Flute Festival soon. After I write a story I wait a few days and read it to see if there are any typos or changes needed. Because I edit as I write and change sentences, sometimes words are not changed that need to be. Or perhaps I think of something else to add to the post.

Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

December 31, Two Oh One Five (2015) and Surprise… I’m still alive!!!

In May of 2013, based on my medical condition and the large tumor growing in my abdomen, my doctor told me that I most probably would not live to the end of 2013, and definitely not until December 2015. If you have been following my stories for the past few years you know this already. I had to cut my 2013 trip around the USA short in May 2013, and with disappoint I was not well enough in the fall to take another trip in my camper van. I was in Hospice from January 2014 until early May 2014, when I checked myself out and decided to take another road trip, which thankfully I was able to do. It wasn’t always easy to travel due to the pain and my breathing difficulty, but I made it successfully. I am so very grateful.

I went to my doctor the end of November, after I returned from another road trip which was from July 10th through November 16th. On my trip, like last year, there were some challenging days but I did what I could, I took my medicine to control the pain, and in Albuquerque and Texas when I was with friends I asked for rides, when needed, so I didn’t have to drive and could take my med’s, or if I was driving I stopped and rested when I needed to since I didn’t have any specific dates to be anywhere. In November, Dr. Borrows examined me and she said that my large tumor is still growing, it’s very large and hard and we can easily feel it. We can’t feel the other 3 smaller tumors but they might also be growing. She also said that my entire abdominal and pelvic areas are harder than when she examined me in June. My blood tests came back good which is nice. It didn’t say anything about my stage 3 kidney disease so that is probably a good thing. At least I hope it is. I was told to keep doing what I can and eat what I can. Because I was more active on my trip and I didn’t eat as much or snack, I lost 10 pounds, now that I am back home with a large refrigerator, oven and kitchen I have been cooking and baking and gaining some weight back.

We have no idea why God has chosen to let me have this extra time to be alive. It could be all the prayers that are being sent to me by so many people. I’m guessing there is more that God has for me to do and/or accomplish. Maybe it’s to have a different relationship with God, maybe be closer to God, although I feel I have a close and personal one now, and I thank God many times a day, every day, for all of the blessings I have and all that I am grateful for. I can walk, talk, see, hear, breathe (although some days it’s harder to do than on other days), I can do many of these at the same time. I have a safe place to live, a safe car to drive, food to eat, I can pray any way I want, I have so many friends and people who love and care about me, I have money to pay bills and spend on life’s needs and to take trips with in my camper van. I have my camper van Molly who for 10 years has safely let me travel in her to have wonderful adventures all over the United States. There are so many things to be grateful for, even the challenges present opportunities to be grateful for.

I continue to communicate with God and ask if I am doing what I need to be doing with this extra time I have been given, or am I to be working on a different or closer relationship with God and/or others. Whatever the reason, my purpose here on Earth is not accomplished yet. Like the book Illusions by Richard Bach says… Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth has been accomplished… If you are still alive it isn’t.

Continually I remind people to have an attitude of gratitude, to live each day to the fullest, to not put off trips or things they want to do or say until a later time because they may not have that chance. Life is short, unexpected things happen. Every interaction we have with someone might be our last one, or the latest thing we do might be the last thing we get to do. Don’t put things off… we may not get a chance to do or say whatever it is or go where we want to go. Live in the now.

Life has not always been easy for me, especially since 2010. In fact, often it’s the difficulties and challenges that bring me closer to God and my friends. The situations and people help me to reach out and say I need help, or to step out of my comfort zone. There are too many things to list on a gratitude list, which I do every day, although it is usually done verbally not written. I used to write my gratitude list and on the days where something exceptional happened, or I had a different feeling for some reason, I would draw stars on the top of the page. Sometimes one or two stars, other times it might be a 4 or 5 star day. Not every day got a star, just when I knew that God worked a miracle, or there was something I knew made that day special somehow. Then on the days when I wondered if God knew what He was doing, or why something happened the way it did, I would go get my Gratitude Journal and read the pages with the stars. I would then remember the feeling or experience that day and I realized that God has a plan. It might not be my plan. That not everything is about me. Maybe I am just a player in the life of someone else, maybe whatever happened or didn’t happen was for my growth or to put me where I was needed for whatever reason. I don’t have to know, I just have to have faith, hope, trust, and much more. If you do a search on my website for Inspirational Poems or Inspirational Stories you can read some of the poems that have helped me through difficult or uncertain times. Everyday when I pray I include prayers to go to those who need it, some are specific names, others are just letting prayers go to where they are needed. I feel confident that they are sent through the Universe to those in need.

In May of 2013 after Dr. Borrows told me that I most probably would not live until the end of 2013 I looked at things and life differently. I sold my condo and gave almost everything I owned away or donated it. I only had the bare necessities and a small amount of clothes. I rented an apartment since I had sold my condo and living in my camper van full time would be difficult when I would have to go into Hospice or need someone to help me. When I signed the one year lease I told my friend who I was renting the apartment from that I might have to break the lease, here I am now beginning my 3rd year in this apartment. When I signed the lease I was resigned to the fact I only had months left to live.

I have written about some of this in previous posts, however, I want to share some of it again here. On July 4, 2013 when I watched the fireworks I said to myself that this is the last time I will see fireworks, on my birthday in September I had a party with a few close friends thinking it would be the last birthday I would have, the same with Thanksgiving. I did this in 2014 also, however, in 2014 I decided to take another road trip. I knew it would not be easy, but I did it a day at a time and when I had days I thought I should head back and cut my trip short I waited a day or so and whatever it was passed and I continued on and completed my trip.

This past September I celebrated my 65th birthday. When I was younger I never thought I would live to 30, I had brain surgery in 1982 and had an out of body death experience. At that time God gave me more time to live. I tried to make the most of it… did I? … probably not all the time. Over the past 28 years I really have tried to live my life the best I can. The past 6 years have been physically challenging and I knew that my life was closer to ending any day. I have done my best most days to cherish every day and every moment I have with people I care about. My friends have told me that because of me they have been inspired and that they appreciate life more. That’s a good thing and it deeply touches my heart. I am glad that my life has helped others, often I am not even aware of it unless they tell me.

So since I have no idea how much longer God will give me to be alive, I made a decision this past year, I don’t tell myself that this is the last time I will experience something, or see something like fireworks, or celebrate a birthday, or go to the Balloon Fiesta. I don’t say goodbye to friends and tell them I probably will not see them again, which is difficult for both of us. I just live each day. I write my plans in sand because I know that often they get changed for some reason. I try to be open to God’s plan for me and the path I should be on, or the person I need to reach out to. I have friends that tell me they hesitate to check my website because they don’t know if they will read that I have died. I have written my final story. In fact, I wrote it in 2013. I read it again this past January and it is still relevant. In part, it reminds everyone to cherish life and to live it to the fullest and don’t put things off.

Whenever the time comes that my health takes a turn for the worse, or that I am no longer able to write stories, my friend Pam will put an update on my website, and when I take my final trip to be with God, Pam will post my final story with my picture.

I am having to adjust my thoughts too from being ready to die and being at peace with it, to now thinking that I may still be alive for several more years and being at peace with that. Several people have recently been asking when is my next trip. I honestly don’t know. Maybe in April with a short one before then. I’m not sure. I would love to take another trip, and because I am looking forward to another trip I asked my friend Pam who set up my website to add a new page that says Travel Map 2016. Pam and I laughed, a couple of years ago we thought the trip I had to cut short and return home from in 2013 was my last trip. We both cried about it, so did my friend Sharma in Knoxville who I was visiting when I spoke with my doctor and we decided that it was time for me to come home because I had all the symptoms she said meant the end was getting close. Here it is the end of 2015 and I just completed a 4 1/2  month trip and hopefully I will get another one next year, and maybe more after that. I also remember… life is lived a day at a time. Like I read on a billboard once… Dream as if you will live forever, Live as if you will die tomorrow.

Until then… I am still having some fun. Not as much at home as when I am traveling but still there is joy in every day. It’s hard to find it on days I really am in pain that doesn’t seem to want to go away even with medicine, but then I keep saying the things I am grateful for and I put on calming music mostly by my favorite composer, Steinway Artist Kevin Kern.

I haven’t bought myself many things the past few years thinking that it’s only something else to be given away when I am gone. Even my thinking has changed in that area. In the past few weeks I have bought myself several pairs of new shoes, a few new dresses including a couple of dressy ones, now I need to go somewhere to wear them. I bought new handbags, shirts, and a new small tablet with Internet access so I don’t always have to use one of my laptops. In fact, before I left on my trip in July I bought a used 13″ laptop to take on my trip because it was more compact to take then my 17″ laptop, the smaller one worked out really great and was easier for me to use than the larger one. I am working on sewing a quilt for a friend of mine that is having her 4th child in February. Painting an older pair of jeans is another project I attempted. It’s still a work in progress and I even had the courage to wear these jeans out in public, and I was surprised when someone would say they liked my pants and ask where I got them. Here are pictures of my artwork jeans, they are still a work in progress.

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I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with many blessings and challenges and whatever God has in store for you.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Home Again… Grateful I was able to complete another extraordinary trip

I arrived back home on Monday, November 16th, after being on the road since July 10th. It was a wonderful expedition and I am so grateful I was able to take another trip including attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I traveled from south Florida to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I looked at routes on the map as I traveled so that I could drive on some back roads and highways that I had not driven on during previous trips. This made my journey more interesting and I got to experience new campgrounds, scenery, and places to stop at and explore and take pictures.

Now that I am home again and have Internet connection, I will begin to write the stories I have not written since early October. I have several stories to write including my time at the Balloon Fiesta. As I am able to find time to write, I will work on my last several stories so check back occasionally to see if I have updated my posts. I have posted all of the pictures I have taken along the way, including the flute festival last weekend.

I traveled 5,000 miles on my trip, you can see my route on the 2015 Travel Map tab on the top of my webpage. Thanks for your prayers, they are appreciated. I had some good days, and some physically challenging days. I am grateful for each one. I will update this post as well as previous ones as I get time and energy. Thankfully one of my friends and her grandson met me when I got home and they carried the clothes, food, and other items I had in the camper upstairs into my apartment which saved me many, many trips up and down stairs. I am so grateful to them for their help.

I have some things that need to be fixed on the camper and I’m hoping to have those done soon.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

Native Rhythms Festival and holiday lights, Melbourne, Florida

IMG_3521On my way home to south Florida, I stopped in Melbourne, Florida, to attend the Native Rhythms Festival so that I could see my friends that participate at the event, and also to hear the wonderful, talented musicians that perform, most of whom I have met and heard in previous years. The Native American Flute music to me is very calming and soothing, it also is inspiring and interesting especially when other instruments are played along with the flute. You can read more about the performers, their performance schedules, and this event at the Native Rhythms Festival website.

There was a mound of dirt near the outside of the area where the vendor tents were near the stage and performance area. We noticed that a gopher tortoise, and looking closely deep into her nest when she came out of it we saw a few eggs.

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IMG_3472Jonny Lipford also performed here. I met Jonny many years ago at Musical Echoes Flute Festival when he was about 15 years old and just beginning to play the flute. He is now in his mid-20’s and the father of a two year old son. It has been a great experience to hear Jonny play over the past several years and see how he has now developed his own style of playing the flute and writing songs. He has become a nice, polite, and friendly young man.

It was extraordinary to hear such talented musicians and to hear their new music and see how their music and performances are changing from year to year. I took lots of pictures, and also this time I took some videos of a few performances, mostly when they jammed together informally which I find to be the most interesting. As always, I enjoyed my time at this event and seeing my friends that I see there every time I go, as well as meeting new musicians and people.

There was a man who had an incredible teepee, he said that all of the painting on it was done by him. He did an outstanding job painting all of the animals and designs, they were very realistic.

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My friend Arvel Bird performed with his wife Kim and that was a nice treat. Arvel got a new fiddle and it’s painted very nicely and differently from his previous one. He explained what all of the different colors and patterns represent. I don’t remember the description enough to add it to this post, but it’s very symbolic to him and his Scottish and Native American heritage.

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Florida Bat Conservancy had a booth with different types of live bats, and displays of educational materials to inform people about the important role that bats play with the environment. Check out their website to learn more information about the different types of bats and their importance.

bat houseThey also had a few bat houses to show what they look like. I learned many interesting facts about bats from the lady who was stationed in the tent. Bat houses can also be placed in people’s yards and they will help keep the property and surrounding area free of some types of insects. One bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night. They also have a page on their website on how to build a bat house.

She had some orphaned bats who really are cute and she was telling visitors in her booth things most of us didn’t know. For example, there orphaned bats will not ever fly. Mother bats teach their babies how to fly. Because these bats were orphaned they didn’t have contact with their mother for any length of time and they have to be hand raised and fed and handled by a human. I would have thought that flying is something that would be ingrained in the bats DNA, but evidently not. These little critters are really cute, and very soft to touch. If you or neighbors are having trees trimmed, please be sure it’s not during the season when there are baby bats or birds. Bats will fly many miles to eat insects needed to keep them alive and bat houses can hold several hundreds of bats, even thousands depending on the size. They like to be huddled close together in small spaces.

When I was watching one of the final acts, I was standing to the side of the stage and I saw a woman and her bicycle standing nearby, she had on an interesting outfit. I took a few photos and as she rode away I was able to get a quick glance at her face. I have a feeling she had these clothes from when they were new. I wished I had a chance to talk with her. I liked her spirit and the fact that she was able to dress this way. You will see her in some of the pictures. I think she had a bike helmet on over her regular hat and they seemed to blend together.

As the festival was coming to a close on Sunday afternoon the Boy Scouts held a fundraising walk through Wickham Park where the festival was held. The holiday light display was lit for this walk which kicks off the holiday season and the holiday lights where people can drive through the display for several weeks. I walked the entire mile through the lights and I took pictures of the displays that I thought would come out the best in the pictures. There are more pictures in my album.

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Traveling East

I only have wifi on my phone so this is a short post. I’m back in Florida, will visit friends and attend the Native Rhythms Flute Festival on my way home. I will write stories I am behind on since Albuquerque when I get home and have wifi and time. I’m safe and doing pretty well, just wanted to let everyone know.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 3 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

Here is a link to photos I have taken at Homestead Heritage near Waco, Texas. The addition to the cafe is new, when I was here in August it was still under construction.The construction was all done with cedar from trees that the men in this community cut from cedar trees on nearby properties. I found out that many of the days that trees were cut were rainy days. However, the men persisted making sure to get the wood cut so that the restaurant addition could be completed. Besides adding a new room to the restaurant, they remodeled the original section and kitchen so that it’s more efficient. One of the other changes was to open up the kitchen and serving area. The restaurant has an entirely different feel and it’s a wonderful dining experience, not to mention the absolutely delicious healthy food, sandwiches on fresh baked bread, and homemade desserts and ice cream.

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In one of the photos you will see a large tree, it’s a papaya tree with fruit and flowers. I saw this tree in August but wasn’t able to find out what kind it was until this visit. This bird is a roadrunner, and the yellow and orange flowers are called the Pride of Barbados.

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I am here visiting friends I have in this wonderful community Homestead Heritage. There are several stories and photo albums posted on my website for my previous visits. As during my previous visits here I really enjoy the time with my friends, and also making new friends, and getting to know families I have known better as we spend time together. I was also able to volunteer and help out at the Gristmill, Fiber Craft Shop, and Cheese Shop and also at the house where I stayed. We had pretty good weather most of the time during my stay, but there were a few days where we had record breaking rains.

The Pottery Shop is building a new wood burning kiln. They are using special bricks that are lightweight, one of the materials in these special bricks is sawdust and the other material is some type of ingredient that bonds with the sawdust to make it sturdy, hard, durable, and great for firing pottery.

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I brought some fresh ground flour home to bake with, there is such a big difference in the taste and texture of cookies, pancakes, cakes, and everything else I make with the flour vs using the flour I buy at the grocery store at home. I went to a whole food store near where I live and the whole wheat pastry flour they sell looks like regular unbleached flour, there is no bran or other parts of the wheat in it like what they mill at the Gristmill in Waco. I can really tell a difference in texture and taste. On my next visit to Texas I will go through Waco to see my friends and buy more flour. Here are a few pictures of the flour coming out of the mill where it’s being ground. There are more pictures and videos in previous stories and photo albums from my visit to Homestead Heritage.

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Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Granbury, Texas hot air balloon event and exploring Granbury

I posted an album with the photos I took in Granbury this past weekend, both during the hot air balloon event and also exploring Granbury.

After I left Albuquerque on Monday, I drove straight through to Granbury, Texas, so I could attend the hot air balloon event here. They were supposed to have about ten or so hot air balloons, in reality there were six. I guess this is for the best since the weather was not good and because the winds were too high for the balloons to fly safely. There was one morning when the winds were borderline to fly and a couple of pilots decided to fly. I’m guessing it was a rough landing since wind conditions on land were pretty brisk. Also, since none of the pilots or their crew were from this area it would be a challenge for the chase crew to get to the pilots when they landed. I’m glad my pilot didn’t fly this day. I know the spectators were disappointed that the hot air balloon event did not happen as planned.

When I arrived in Granbury, the temperatures were in the 90’s. I looked for a RV park and the few I found were already full and had no space for me. I stopped at a RV store and they also had a RV park, but it was full. I was going to stay in the Walmart parking lot and drive to the municipal airport where the hot air balloon event was taking place, it was about a 10 or 15 minute drive. But, it was really too hot to not have electricity hookups unless absolutely necessary.

Since it was still early in the day, I decided to drive to the Granbury Municipal Airport and see where the event would be happening, and perhaps they had a parking area where I could park my camper so I wouldn’t have to drive back and forth every day. When I arrived at the airport, I went to the airport office and told the staff that I was here for the balloon event and that I was a volunteer. The airport staff was really nice, they said they want to be known as the friendliest municipal airport in the country. Based on my experience and interaction with them, I would definitely give them that title.

The airport manager said since I am volunteering and helping at the event, they had a spot for me to park, and it also had electricity. They parked me under an airplane hangar and plugged my camper cord into an outlet. I was really happy and also surprised. This way I not only had electricity, but also shade. Where the hot air balloon event took place was a short 5 minute walk from where I was parked.

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This is a really busy airport, and not only during the day, but all night long. Careflight which is a company that flies people to hospitals is located next door and they fly all night long. So, it was not a quiet place to stay, but I was still very grateful to be parked there for several days. This airport had showers and a small kitchen, and I was told to make use of whatever facilities I needed. Since I had not had a real shower in several weeks, I took advantage of taking a long, hot shower. When I was in Albuquerque, I washed myself with a washcloth, washed my hair with jugs of water, and washed my clothes in a bucket. So, it felt really good to take a shower and wash my hair thoroughly. There are rocking chairs out front of the office and the porch roof is held up by propellers which looks really cool.

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It seems that every morning, and throughout the day, there is a group of men that are pilots that come to the airport and sit in the lobby and eat donuts, drink coffee, and visit with each other and tell stories. It was a really nice group of men and I was invited to sit and join them, so I did several times. One of the men offered to drive me to do some  of my errands so I would not have to unhook my camper. We also ate lunch out a few times while we were doing errands. It was really kind of him to do that for me. One of the restaurants we went to was really interesting. They had pictures of soldiers on the walls from every branch of the military, and from all of the wars.

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One morning I heard a really loud sound and when I went outside I saw a large helicopter. I went and checked it out and found out from speaking with the pilot that it is the same type of helicopter that the President uses because it’s extremely reliable. This helicopter just arrived from the Pacific Northwest, it was up there helping to put out the forest fires in Idaho, Oregon, California, and other northwestern states. It is here waiting for instructions on it’s next destination to fight fires. I got to go inside the helicopter and see all of the gear they use. They had large pumps and hoses that were used to suck water up from ponds, lakes, etc. that was used to help extinguish the fires. The helicopter is equipped with both water and fuel tanks.

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All types of small aircrafts used this busy airport. Some people flew in and parked their airplanes, got in their cars, and drove home. I guess they commute to work by plane, that’s pretty cool. Other planes stopped to refuel and then continued on their journey. There was a small plane, I don’t remember what kind, but it was an old plane that was recently refurbished and the owner gave paid rides during the balloon event. I was given permission, after being told what I could step on and hold on to, to look inside the plane.

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I got to see some really beautiful sunrises and sunsets here.

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On Saturday afternoon, my friend Sue, who lives west of Fort Worth drove out to visit me. We went into the town of Granbury and walked around the square looking into the different stores, and we stopped at a restaurant for lunch that was an old gas station They had the most unusual menu. The food dishes were named after car parts, or different types of references relating to vehicles. If you click on the menu pages you should be able to read the items. We had a great time walking around and visiting with each other.

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I did show up every day morning and evening for the balloon event in hopes that we could inflate or fly, but it didn’t happen. When I was in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta I was in the Cameron booth, they are the maker of balloon baskets and balloon envelopes, and other related items. I saw a really cool balloon basket in their booth. Instead of having to climb into the basket which is over 36″ high, this one had a door that opened so a person could step into it rather than climb into it. I was surprised when I saw the same type of basket at this event. I went over to the pilot and said I saw a basket like this at the Balloon Fiesta. He said he just got back from there, that he went there to get this basket that was specially made for him. So, the basket I saw there was this one… pretty cool. Small world. One of the pictures I took with the pilot, and his passenger who happened to be a congressman, looked like it was taken with a painted backdrop, but it wasn’t, it was a real sunrise that was absolutely beautiful. God created this amazing background for us.

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During the weekend, even though the conditions were not always good to fly, there were times when we were able to inflate the balloons and glow which was nice since people came out to the event to see the balloons. We were all glad we could do this for the visitors, even if it was only to inflate the balloons. And a few of the pilots even decided although the winds were questionable that they would fly. I crewed for Rodney, who is one of the pilots I crewed for in Longview, Texas, in July when I was there for the Nationals. That’s how I learned about this balloon event, Rodney told me about it and since it fit into my schedule after leaving Albuquerque on my way to Waco, I decided to stop and volunteer and crew for him. Most of the time when pilots travel, they do not bring crew members with them, so they are happy and grateful to have volunteers crew for them.

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On Sunday, after it was determined the weather was not good for the balloons to inflate or fly, I said goodbye to everyone, I also thanked the airport staff for their generous kindness and hospitality, and I headed to Waco for a visit with my friends.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

After being in Albuquerque since the beginning of September, volunteering at the Balloon Fiesta office, and also helping with Pilot Registration a few days before Fiesta begins, now is the official start of the Balloon Fiesta. Thankfully, I was given a RV spot on top of the hill overlooking the Balloon Fiesta field and I was able to get rides up and down the steep hill on golf carts. I also had electric hookups which was really great, lots better than having to run the generator a few times a day to keep my batteries charged.

There are three albums with pictures taken during my time both before and during Balloon Fiesta 2015. This link will take you to my main album page and you can scroll through the albums to see the pictures for this year, and further down, there are albums from previous years 2011, 2012, and 2014.

There are also albums of pictures I took during the balloon competition in Longview, Texas in July 2015, and Granbury, Texas in October 2015, and I wrote stories about my experiences at each event. Feel free to look through my photo albums and read my stories.

I am the unofficial photographer for Scott’s balloon, Big Blue, because Scott is always busy when his balloon launches. I take pictures of all stages of inflating and landing when possible. By posting these photos, it gives people who are not familiar with how a balloon inflates and gets packed, many of my pictures give my readers a visual on what it takes to inflate and pack a balloon. It’s extremely important that the pilot check to be sure all of the lines are properly connected or the balloon will not fly or react properly when the lines are pulled for various functions during flight or landing. The pictures directly below this paragraph are not in order, but it’s easy to tell which are packing or unpacking. Generally, if there is nice grass under the balloon, it’s being unpacked and inflated.

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In addition to volunteering in the Balloon Fiesta office since September 1st, I also worked on Pilot Registration Committee. It was great fun, and also as I worked with pilots during registration I had the opportunity to meet many of them, and when I saw a picture of their balloon or they told me what it looked like, as I was taking pictures I kept them in mind and took extra photos of their balloons and I told them they could see them on my website. It really made it more interesting for me when I saw a balloon launch or fly and think I met the pilot for that particular balloon, and in some cases it was a couple and they each had a balloon. Some of the pilots were for balloons that I have loved looking at over the past years, others were for new balloons.

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Every day, I went for breakfast at 5:00 a.m. and then about 6:00 a.m. I met my pilot Scott and the rest of the crew in our grid space in preparation for our daily launch, I also went to the Pilot’s Briefing daily. I am so glad that it was not as cold this year as it was in previous years. No frost on my sneakers is a good thing. Predictions before Fiesta began were that the weather would not be good for flying the first few days, however, that was not the case. We were able to fly every day. Other pilots I know did not like wind conditions any day and did not fly once during the entire 9 day event. Each pilot makes the decision on what he feels is best for him and his crew.

I have crewed for Pilot Scott for four years now, and I really like Scott and his Big Blue crew. I am now also more familiar with what needs to be done and I don’t always have to ask what they need me to do. Neither Scott or the other crew members would let me do anything they felt would be too hard on my body, I think they went a bit overboard but it’s okay. They really had enough crew members most days so I manned the fan, held open the envelope, or took pictures. I even had some pictures taken with me in them, usually I am not in photos. One the last day of the Balloon Fiesta, I give Scott and others that want one, a flash drive with all of the pictures I took during the entire 9 day event. They are so busy getting the balloon ready for flight and launch that they don’t have time to take pictures. This gives them nice memories too, especially since Scott’s two sons help several days. This gives them several family photos.

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2015-10-07 18.00.27Unexpectedly, Sunday morning. Day 3,  as we were getting ready to inflate, I was told that I would be going up for a ride today. WOW… I was surprised and thrilled. I love to go up in the balloon and will do it anytime. The day I went up was cool temperature, and also cloudy and overcast. Tina took some pictures of me going up in the balloon and a day or so later Scott and the crew presented me with a picture of me going up in the balloon. Tina said that because it was dark and cloudy the picture of me in the balloon basket as we launched was not light enough to see that it was me in the basket, but I could tell by the outline of the shape that it was. The picture of me in the basket before we launched came out clear. They said they wanted to give me this picture because I am always taking pictures of Scott and his crew and balloon, and all of the other balloons.

It was a pretty good day to fly and I think the flight was about 40 minutes. We landed in a field near some houses and it turns out that when we landed there was a gal and her family helping us to land. Our chase crew arrived shortly after we landed, they had to find a road to get to us. I love taking pictures as we rise in the sky and also flying and taking photos of balloons at eye level, and looking down at them. At one point we realized that we were almost in the clouds, so we had to go lower. It’s against rules to fly in the clouds, there is poor or no visibility. This flight it was only Scott and I, in the flights in previous years there was always one other person besides us. This was a nice change, there was more room in the basket to move around. The other difference this year is the wind direction was a different direction, so, instead of flying over more desert and close to the reservation we stayed mostly over populated Albuquerque and landed in a neighborhood, on grass, instead of dirt fields. It had rained the night before, so we had to be careful not to land in grassy areas that were full of water. This flight, I got to see a different aerial view of the city. As we lifted off, I was able to see where my camper was parked and I got a picture of it. From the air the ground looks level, but trust me, it wasn’t!!!

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The young woman that met us at our landing site wanted to help, and she also said she would like a ride. She said she and her parents were driving and watching the balloons and as she saw us coming down they drove to where we were landing. I don’t remember her name at the moment, but she was thrilled to help us deflate and pack the balloon. Her parents took some pictures with my camera too so I am in some of the pictures. The next day she and her parents came to our launch site at the balloon field, she helped us crew and Scott took her up for a balloon ride. She was thrilled!!!

This time since there were only a few of us to deflate and pack the balloon, I helped Tina pull the crown line at the top of the balloon tight while Scott milked the air out of the balloon so we could get it ready for packing. This was my first time at the top of the balloon, usually I am helping to milk the air out of the envelope. I was surprised at how much hot and warm air escaped out the top of the balloon envelope. I don’t know why I’m surprised, all of the hot air that was put into the envelope when Scott lit the propane burners went into the balloon envelope so naturally, it would have to come out when the vents were opened. I was glad to have this new experience in ballooning. For a change, I took many pictures of the crew attaching the top of the balloon to the envelope.

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A few of Scott’s landings were on either dirt roads or in dirt pastures, or some with dirt, brush, and stickers, some of the times we really had to look for the side roads that would bring us to where he landed. Even though we tried, we did not always arrive before he landed. One one of his flights we noticed his balloon spinning, it turns out that one of the zipties holding his sponsor banner to the balloon broke which caused his balloon to spin, still Scott landed the balloon safely. Another time we had to travel down a one lane dirt road and we had to move an old chair, branches, etc. out of the road before we could get to him. We weren’t the only one landing in some of the areas so we had to watch for the other balloons and help them land a distance away from us, or catch them because their crew did not arrive yet. When Scott landed in the brush, we had to walk the balloon onto the road or a surface that would not damage the balloon and basket, that is if there was somewhere to move it to. That is not always the case.

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One of the landings was close to the balloon field, and we had to hop a barbed wire fence. Thankfully, we were able to put the lift gate on his truck over the wire so we could get in safely. We had driven all around to see if there was a gate into the area, but there wasn’t. There was so much traffic that often it took us almost an hour of driving to get back to where we needed to pick Scott up near the balloon field where he landed. One of the days he landed near the Indian Reservation, we could see his balloon but the tribal police would not let anyone onto a service road to the highway so we could get there so we had to drive all the way back and try a different route. It was really frustrating, not only for us but for all of the chase crews since a lot landed in the same area.

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One morning after Scott launched his balloon, and the other pilot in our grid was preparing to launch his balloon, it was about halfway inflated, the Yoda balloon descended onto the field and coming down almost into our grid where the other balloon was inflating. Everyone ran quickly to the balloon being inflated and tried to pull it out of the way of the Yoda balloon coming down quickly, thankfully everyone working together quickly prevented any damage to the balloon.

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No balloon pilot is supposed to land a balloon on the field when other balloons are on the field waiting to be launched. This is against the rules, and I found out that Yoda and Darth Vader balloons are piloted by pilots from another country, but they have been here before and know the rules. It didn’t look like the Yoda pilot had any emergency situation that would have caused him to land quickly and almost land on other balloons. Everyone was upset that this happened and felt the Yoda pilot should receive some type of penalty, but we found out later on that nothing happened to this pilot. He was not even reprimanded from what we were told. Other than that incident, all went well as far as near our little corner of the field.

There were many of the same balloons from previous years, but there were also many new ones, including special shaped balloons. I also saw some balloons that were at the Longview Balloon event I went to in July. When I was looking at my pictures after I downloaded them to my computer I noticed things I didn’t see when I was looking at the balloons, such as the piranna fish… it had a fishing hook in one side of his jaw and a partial bloody finger in the other side. I loved the turtle, it doesn’t show well in pictures, but, his shoe laces are untied. Another balloon had flip flops all around the balloon envelope. Some of the special shaped balloons were so unusual that I couldn’t even imagine being a crew member or pilot, such as the balloon with three parrots or the cow. One of the crew for the Wonder Bread balloon gave me a few bags of Wonder Bread pins to give out again this year, she gave me some the previous year too. I loved watching the expressions of children and also the adults that I surprised giving them pins. They didn’t know or expect that I had pins to give away so when I handed them one they were really surprised. It was great fun!!!

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After we launched, most of the time I went on chase crew. There were a couple of days I didn’t because I helped to set up for a few of the luncheons for the volunteers. That was really great, because besides helping to get things ready, I didn’t have to stand in line for a half hour or more to come in and get my meal.

On a few days there are afternoon balloon glows and also fireworks. I helped Scott on those days, even though it was pretty windy some of the afternoons, balloons did inflate and glow. It’s not easy to keep the balloon upright, and straight when it’s really windy, but by many of us leaning on the basket, or getting in it, we seem to manage. It’s important to keep the balloon envelope straight, so that the burners do not damage the fabric. The firework displays are incredible. There are five nights of fireworks, each one different and spectacular.

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One the nights when Scott was not glowing, I went back to my camper on the hill and watched the fireworks from there. It was great, I could see them really well and I didn’t have to be in the midst of large groups of people. I am so glad that the gal in charge of the RV spots assigned me to this spot on top of the hill where the officials were parked in their RVs. The only downside was that that lot was not level, all spots pretty much were on a slope so we had to work to get our RVs level. I think I had to get my front tires up about 4 inches. We had some high winds and rains a few nights, and my camper rocked quite a bit. Thankfully, I didn’t blow over!!! One of the afternoons when I was back at my camper for a rest I saw that the fireman balloon was being inflated on the field. I guess they had  to do something with the balloon, perhaps untangle lines? I don’t know, but it was a great opportunity for me to get some good pictures of that balloon. This balloon is a reminder of 911.

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Between volunteering for Pilot Registration, volunteering in the Balloon Discovery Tent,  helping to set up for the various parties for the pilots and volunteers, and crewing, I kept very busy. I tried to get a nap for an hour or two between the morning and afternoon sessions if I can. I kept track of the hours I volunteered and I had about 240 volunteer hours this year. That’s a new record for me, usually it’s about 50 or 60 hours. Most of it’s because I arrived a month early and worked every day. I really liked arriving about a month early and helping in the office. It gave me more of an idea of what it takes to put on this magnificent event.

On the last day of the Balloon Fiesta, the winds were not as favorable as Scott and the other pilots would have liked. It turns out that Scott landed in someone’s yard. We got there as he was coming down. He just cleared the top of a tree, and the crew was able to pull the drop line and get him down quickly on the ground. He is such a skilled pilot. He didn’t touch the tree or house. We had to pack the balloon in the street. After he landed we all walked the balloon and basket to the road and laid it down along the shoulder and into one of the lanes. There was no where else to put the balloon without damaging it. We all had different tasks, including watching for cars so they wouldn’t run over the balloon or crew. If you look at the pictures below, he came in just barely over the top of the tree in one photo and landed in the small yard next to the house… great landing!!!

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I am so very glad I made the trip to Balloon Fiesta once again. It’s such an amazing event, and I always meet new people, and learn something new. Thankfully, my health is holding fairly steady. I can feel that my tumor is growing and shifting position, but it’s not hindering my activities very much, thanks to my medicine. My balloon crew is aware of my situation and they don’t let me lift or pull anything too heavy.

After I leave here on October 12th, I will be heading back to south Florida, stopping in Fort Worth and Waco to visit my friends there for a little while. I plan to attend the balloon event in Granbury, Texas, if I can get there before the weekend after Fiesta. I will see how it goes and how I feel as the date gets closer. I also want to attend a Native American Flute Festival in Melburne, Florida, the 2nd weekend in November. That’s about it for now.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Albuquerque – Sunsets, and having fun and keeping busy before Balloon Fiesta

As I volunteer and crew for pilots before Fiesta begins on October 3rd, I will add interesting stories and photos to the end of this story.

I arrived in Albuquerque on September 1st, and since then I have been keeping very busy working at the Balloon Fiesta office and also crewing for a balloon pilot on the weekends. At the office, I have been doing various tasks while working under the direction of the Event Coordinator and the man in charge of pilot registration and all of the activities that involves. I have been learning many new things such as how to laminate name badges, engrave name tags, use a different binding machine that I am familiar with, learning to use a machine that folds and staples booklets, and how to count numerous tickets, badges, buttons, pins, etc. into groups for the various committees, and many other tasks. No day has been boring, there is always something to do.

This year volunteers are asked to watch four videos and take the quiz at the end of each video. The Event Coordinator asked if I would watch the fourth video and prepare the quiz questions. That was a fun project. I watched the video several times in order to come up with the questions that would capture the main points of the video which is basically information that the volunteers need to know in order to help the visitors navigate the Fiesta events and the location of various places on the balloon field.

While working in the Balloon Fiesta office, I took pictures of some of the Balloon Fiesta Posters from almost the beginning of Fiesta. They are all very interesting to look at, especially the special shape balloons that have been here over the years. I can’t imagine crewing for some of these interesting balloon shapes. One of the staff members has a poster on the wall in her office that I really liked. It looked 3D even though it’s not. It’s a poster of a map of the US and each state is shown with part of the state license plate.

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I have been meeting lots of people I have not met before and I’m making new friends. One of them is Michelle who I have been helping make name badges for the volunteers. One morning when we were working together she said she was reading stories on my website and she saw that we have something in common other than the usual things like doing various bead and craft projects. It turns out that her daughter and son are junior firefighters at the Bradford NY Volunteer Fire Department, it’s one of the departments that I have donated money for them to buy fire hose and other items, also, her ex husband is a volunteer firefighter for that department. What a small world it is.

IMG_9443This past Sunday when the balloons were inflating for the Quad A event, I met very interesting young men from Brazil. Digo and his brother have a factory which makes balloons, including special shape balloons, many of which I have admired over the past four years that I have been coming here. These are a few of the special shape balloons they created that have been flying during Balloon Fiesta.

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One of the things I am inspired by and in total amazement of is the absolutely breathtaking sunsets that happen every few days. Some are sunsets like I see at other places, but some nights it’s just beyond my imagination how awesome God is that God can create the colors and designs in some of the sunsets. One night it started out with yellow, then turned to various oranges, and by the time the sun set the sky was a bright red. Another night the sky was various colors of pinks, purples, yellows, and I could see rain pouring down in the distance. The large mountain here is Sandia which means watermelon in spanish. It’s very appropriate. When the sun is shining on the mountain it turns from a brown color to a reddish pink color, sort of like a watermelon color.

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This past weekend, I crewed for a balloon called Rising Star which has stars on the balloon envelope, and there is a smiling face at the top of the balloon. There were many other balloons launching and inflating that morning. The mounted patrol officers brought their horses this morning so that the horses could get used to the balloons and the sound of the propane burners so they wouldn’t be upset or spooked during the Balloon Fiesta. After the balloon were packed and everyone left the field, a friend took me to the grocery store and we also stopped at the Balloon Museum. Since I saw it last year, I looked for the new exhibits. One was Two Eagles where two men, an American  pilot named Troy Bradley, and a Russian pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, flew a balloon across the Pacific Ocean. I was telling my pilot friend Scott, who I crew for during Fiesta, about seeing this exhibit and he told me he helped the guys unload the gondola when they returned. It seems he is good friends with Troy and he also helped him when he made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Thankfully, I am parked in one of the RV parks that has electricity which is much better than dry camping, and it will be great as the weather continues to get cooler. Right now it’s getting down into the low 60’s at night and in the 80’s during the daytime. Phil and Ann the rv repair people arrived this past Saturday and yesterday afternoon when I finished working at the office, Phil came to my camper to work on my back steps and he was able to get them working again. It seems the switch I bought as a replacement was the right kind, but it also seems that my old switch was still good. We have no idea why the steps all of a sudden stopped working. Now, I have a step stool that I really don’t need now that the steps work again, but I will keep it so I can use it to clean my front windows so I can clean them without standing on the front bumper which is not a safe thing to do.

2015-09-18 07.39.14 Last Saturday the Balloon Fiesta offered a free CPR/First Aid course to the volunteers, and since I have not had that training in about 12 years, I took the class. It was a great refresher course on how to do CPR. What I didn’t realize when I signed up and took the class is that class participants would receive a little certificate from the Balloon Fiesta along with a nice pin saying that I am CPR Certified. What a nice surprise.  I found this out on one of my volunteer days when my assignment was to match service certificates with pins for the number of service years, in 5 year increments, and there were also certificates and pins for advanced balloon training, and CPR certification.

Here is an album with all of the photos I have taken so far. There most probably will not be another posting until sometime during the Balloon Fiesta, if I have wifi, otherwise it will be after the event when I get wifi. The Balloon Fiesta office has wifi so I was able to update my website today when I could get a few minutes to post this story.

On the wall in the Balloon Fiesta Office I noticed another interesting poster which looks like it was created with pastel chalk. Also, there were two certificates showing that the Balloon Fiesta set two Guiness Book of World Records, one in 2010 and one in 2011. I’m guessing there might be more somewhere, but these are the two that I noticed.

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As my crewing experience and volunteer work continues until the Balloon Fiesta begins on October 3rd, if anything interesting occurs, I will add more to this story and add more photos.  Many of the sunsets continue to be extraordinary. It fascinates me how the sky and clouds continue to change color so dramatically in one sunset. Here are some pictures from sunsets on September 17 and 18, including some in panoramic mode. If you are wondering if I use a colored filter, no I do not. God created these amazing colors and designs. Some of the photos are clouds that are reflecting the setting sun and colors in the sky.

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Healthwise I am doing fairly well. There are some days that are still a bit challenging due to the pain and other things happening in my body, but mostly I am doing okay. I take my medicine so that the pain is not too severe which allows me to function pretty well. I haven’t had to drive because people I volunteer with pick me up and take me back to my camper at the end of the day. This allows me to take my medicine when I need it. I’m really glad I made this trip. I realize every day how much I like to be traveling and living in my camper van, even though it’s a small space. Thanks for joining me on my journeys. I hope you like reading my stories.

If you want to read other stories about my time in Albuquerque and at the Balloon Fiesta, go to my Photo Gallery tab to look at the albums from 2011, 2012, and 2014. I also have stories in the archives for September and October of each of those same years.

Saturday, September 19th, Scott the pilot I crew for during Fiesta picked me up about 6:00 a.m. so I could crew for him this morning. We met several of his balloon pilot friends who were also going to fly. The winds were too strong, so after waiting about an hour hoping the winds would calm down enough to fly, they decided it wasn’t going to happen today so we went out for breakfast and are going to try again tomorrow morning. I need to start going to sleep earlier at night so I will be able to get up at 4:00 a.m. during Fiesta. I got up at 5:00 a.m. this morning and it wasn’t easy. I seem to read at night until about 11:00 p.m which makes it tough to get up really early while it’s still dark out.

I love looking at some of the rocks at different places, this is just a couple of pictures I took for fun.

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Sunday, September 20th, Scott the pilot I crew for during Fiesta flew this morning. He had to get his required one hour flight done witnessed by an inspector. A few of us helped out by being his crew and chase crew. It is almost always an interesting experience watching the balloon fly and try to guess where it’s going to land and how to get there. There are usually roads to where the balloon lands, the challenge is finding them. Especially when it’s out in the middle of the desert and there are no houses or parks nearby. We traveled several one lane dirt roads through fields of brush and tumbleweed and finally got there after Scott landed. Unlike yesterday, today the winds cooperated. Since Scott had to have an hour in the air, he found an altitude where the winds were only about 1 mph. Lower down the winds were going much faster.

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The weather is beautiful today. Scott brought me back to my camper after I got finished crewing, and I took a nap for about an hour or two. I got up about 5:30 a.m. this morning so by 10:30 a.m. when we were finished I was tired. I even went to sleep about 10 p.m. last night. I think I may have to go to sleep earlier during Fiesta so I can get up at 4:00 a.m. every day. Hopefully, like in previous years I will be able to take a nap for an hour or so most days between the morning and afternoon sessions. After my nap, I went to the grocery store and decided to stop for Mexican food for lunch since I have mostly been eating cold cut sandwiches for lunch and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. I have lots of packs of strawberry Twizzlers, and bags of animal crackers, kettle corn chips, pretzels, Jelly Bellies, and snap pea snacks that I munch on while I am reading or relaxing, or to eat with my sandwiches.

September 23rd, was the unveiling of the bronze sculpture of Sid Cutter who founded the Balloon Fiesta in 1972, the detail in all aspects of the bronze statue, including his two dogs, was absolutely realistic. There was another spectacular sunset and the sky came alive with the yellows and oranges as the sun set. It looked like the clouds and sky was glowing and on fire. For some reason I am unable to download the photos of the statue or the sunset with the wifi I am using, but the photos are in the album I posted, near the end of the pictures.

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