Still in Waco, Texas, at Homestead Heritage

What was only going to be about a week stay at Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, with my friends here has turned out to be about a 24 day stay. I am grateful to have the extra time here with my friends. It has been a huge blessing for me. Not only have I been able to have time with people I already knew, but I have been able to see them more often and we have gotten to know each other better. I have also made some new friends this visit. One lady and her daughter live in Florida about a half mile from where I live, only they are going back soon and packing up to move here to this community.

Some of the families I visit during my time here over the years on previous visits are away on vacation. I am staying here a few weeks longer so I can see them when they get back the end of August. Also, part of the delay of my travels to Albuquerque is that where they park the campers who arrive early, to help and volunteer for Balloon Fiesta, is under construction. I don’t want to arrive in Albuquerque until there is a place I can park and have electricity. It’s too hot to dry camp.

So, during the time I have been here, like I have written in a previous post a few stories before this one, I have been helping at the Cheese Shop, the Bakery, the Gristmill, and also helping make soap, lotion, lip balm, and other tasks related to each of these areas. It has been fun, and also educational for me. I have learned to do things I haven’t done on previous visits. When we work there are several people doing the tasks so not only are we working, but we are visiting and getting to know each other as we work.

When we work at the Cheese Shop, sometimes we get to snack on the pieces of cheese that are extra or when we want a snack. One of the best selling items is marinated Feta cheese. We seem to make between 25 and 30 dozen jars a week. When there are two or three of us the process goes quicker, however, it’s still a task that takes many hours. One of the men, whoever is available, cuts the Feta cheese with a french fry cutter. This picture is what a 5 gallon bucket of Feta cheese looks like after the whey has been drained from the container. After the cheese is cut, we mix ground up basil, garlic, and sun dried tomato into the cheese, fill the jar, and fill it with extra virgin olive oil. It’s really good on crackers or pasta, or even chicken.

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At the Bakery, there are always cookies and other items that are baked and come out that are not perfect to sell, or a loaf of bread may be a new recipe we get to sample. One day there was scraps of croissant dough, we made chocolate croissants and almond croissants, and I took some pieces of extra dough and made a few small croissants for me to take back to the camper to eat later. They were so good. It’s been fun to see how some of the baked items are made. All of the dough and batter is weighed before it’s shaped and baked so they come out to the same size. I have learned to make stuffed croissants, pita bread, sour dough bread, and of course cookie dough which I have made many times at home. Everything is measured either by ounces and pounds, or grams.

When the bread is sliced, the slicing machine automatically lets the next loaf in line go down to the cutter when the previous loaf is cut and removed. One day we even defrosted the large chest freezer. It just so happens that I had a hair dryer with me the day they did that. I was going to take a shower at a friends house after I finished working that day. I didn’t know we would defrost a freezer. When I was younger we had a chest freezer and used a hair dryer to melt ice. Having the hair dryer with me this particular day shortened the time to defrost the freezer and we were able to get food put back into it quickly after we cleaned the freezer and got the water from the melted ice out of it. It was amazing how much more room the freezer had after it was cleaned and organized. We were able to put more bakery items in the freezer for them to use when needed.

The Bakery makes their own vanilla extract. They take a 2 liter bottle of vodka and add about 40 split vanilla beans and let it sit for about 6 months. It smells really strong and adds a nice flavor to the baked goods. I love the boxes and packaging from the company Nuts. Several friends have invited me to dinner at their house. One of them has a very interesting clock in their kitchen. The hands of the clock have a knife and fork as the hour and minute hand. I learned how to make different shaped pastry to be filled and glazed. The big machine with the white dome is a dough rounder. A large circle of dough is placed on a red tray with circles and in less then a minute the dough becomes round balls and all of the dough is used, no scraps. It’s really cool to see. The mixers are next to the ball rounder and they make about 50 pounds or more of dough at a time. All of the baked goods including the croissants on a rack to rise and more baked items and breads that were stacked in bins was made in one day. The white bins under the large tables are filled with different types of flour, and one with sugar.

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As for making soap and lotion, it was really cool to see the soap we made after it set up for a few days and we were able to cut it into bars. Each brick mold of soap was different for the soaps where we used a few colors in it. Each bar of soap was also different. Since there were some skinny ends to the soap that cannot be sold and are scraps, I got to take them with me. I can give them to a few friends and say that I helped to make this soap!!!. How cool is that. A few times we made lip balm, three different flavors. We took the empty tubes for the lip balm and put them in holders and poured the melted mixture into the tubes. In about an hour they were solid and we could remove them from the holder, put caps on and then label and shrink wrap them. I learned how to finish the edges of soap, polish the soap with a damp cloth and let it dry, then shrink wrap and label them. They look like they are store bought even though we made each one by hand. I love smelling the different soaps too. Some of the soaps are the same scents, but they smell different depending on the ratio of the oils to each other.

IMG_0959In a previous story a week or so ago I added pictures and more stories about the soap and lotion making, including when the oil container overflowed because we didn’t watch it closely. Here are a few more pictures taken when we made another batch of soap. Because the soap contains lye which is very caustic, we wear goggles and gloves when making and pouring the soap. Sadly, I didn’t think to take pictures of the blue soap bars after we cut them. Each bar looked different due to the swirling we did in each soap brick when it was poured. After the soap hardens and comes out of the mold, it is cut into bars which have to cure for about six weeks before they can be used. I like to cure mine longer. The longer they age and the harder they get, the longer the bar of soap will last. I also put a hole in a bar of soap and make soap on a rope that I use in the shower. It works great to not have the soap sit in a soap dish and melt. I especially like soap on a rope in campgrounds because many of them don’t have a shelf in the shower to put soap, shampoo, etc. In addition to being a creative and wonderful soap, lip balm, and lotion maker, Rachel is a fantastic artist. I love this watercolor painting she did for a mutual friend of ours.

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I’m glad this campground has wifi. It allows me to update my website. I found out about a children’s book series called Amelia Bedelia. I had not heard of this character and I found several video’s on You Tube of the book being read and showing the pages of the book. If you get a chance check it out. You will laugh and enjoy the various books. Amelia Bedelia is a child and she takes things people tell her to do literally. If she is told to dust the furniture, she dusts the furniture. She actually takes dust and puts it on the furniture. If she is told to draw the curtains, she takes a pad and pencil and makes a drawing of the curtains. In one book she went camping. She was told to pitch the tent, so she threw it into the bushes. Or she was told to catch a fish, she waded into the water and caught a fish, then let it go. I found out about this character because I was telling someone about Oh, The Places You’ll Go, and the real story of the Big Bad Wolf. I’m so glad I found out about Amelia Bedelia.

I will leave Waco on Saturday, August 27th and head towards Albuquerque. I will stop along the way and I think it will take me several days to get there. I have a few campgrounds scouted out to stay along the way. I will miss my friends here in Waco, but I am also looking forward to all of the projects I will get to do helping before the Balloon Fiesta like I did in previous years. We have had a lot of rain this past week in Waco. It was really needed, but I’m not sure 5 or 6 days in a row was best. It did cool the temperatures from 100 and a little above that to the low 80s and even a few nights in the high 70s which has been very pleasant.

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Picasa Photo Albums now Google Photos…. Help!!!

Since 2011 I have been using Picasa to create the photo albums for my website. Now Google decided to retire Picasa and use Google Photos. They said they transferred all photos from Picasa to Google Photos and it seems they have, but Picasa is not as easy to use and it had more features it seems then Google Photos.

So, this means that under my Photo Gallery Tab where there was a link to all approximately 150 of my photo albums, this is no longer possible. In Picasa, I was able to select an option to make an album public for anyone, for only me, or only for someone I gave a link to. Google Photos doesn’t have the option to make it public unless a link is provided. In my posts from this point forward, I will include a link to a photo album for the story if I created an album because I had enough photos for an album, like for the Balloon Fiesta or a wildlife care center, etc. If the only pictures are the ones in my story, there will not be an album.

I clicked on links in some of my recent stories and some of them go directly to the album referenced in the post, and others go to a page where all albums are shown, then we have to scroll through the albums to find the one referenced in the post. I guess that has to do with whatever link I used for the story. I think there are a few stories I wrote that perhaps related to an event like Balloon Fiesta, or Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where I had several photo albums, so I used the link to the entire set of albums vs. a specific album. I really don’t know why it does that, it was just a guess. So, you may click on a link and get either of those two options, either a single album, or all of them.

When I began writing stories on this website, I didn’t know how to create a link from a story I wrote to a photo album until I think it was 2013, so in my posts from 2011 through mid-2013 there are not links to albums, which I wish I realized back then that it was possible. So now, as time permits and as I have wifi access, I will go back to those early stories and put in a link to the album. This is going to be very time consuming because in 2011 and 2012 is when I took my longest trips and saw the most places and I traveled the most distances from south Florida to northern Washington and many states and National Parks along the way. I hope to someday complete that task. I will miss being able to go to the Photo Gallery Tab and click on it to look at all of the albums, every now and then I liked to look at the pictures and it was easy for me when I met people that were traveling to a part of the country that I had been in to go to my albums and look at the pictures of that area or place. Now, I can’t do that.

If anyone reading this post knows anything about Picasa and Google Photos, please contact me if you have any information or suggestions on what I can do to make this transition smoother. I think there are many other Picasa users who are not happy with this change that Google has made.

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My activities at Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas, includes working at the Cheese Shop and making soap and lotion… Also change in Photo Albums from Picasa to Google Photos

I am still in Waco, Texas, at Homestead Heritage, where I have been coming for many, many years. I love seeing my friends here and also I stay busy. I have worked several days at the Cheese Shop packaging cheese, and making marinated Feta cheese which is really delicious especially when it’s put on pasta or crackers. I have also been peeling and slicing pears from the pear trees and putting them in a dehydrator to preserve them.

Yesterday I was unpleasantly surprised when I went to my Photo Gallery Tab to show someone an album of pictures I took a few months ago of spectacular sunsets. When I clicked on the link that I have been using since 2011 for my pictures, I got an error code. Upon further research, it seems Google retired Picasa which is what I was using to upload my photos and to create albums. It was easy to use. It seems that Google transferred all my photos to their Google Photos, however, it seems that the links in my stories takes my readers to the Google Photos page where all of the albums are now stored. It doesn’t go directly to the album that relates to a particular story like it did when Picasa was still an option, which it no longer is.

I tried to upload a small album of pictures I took while making soap and lotion last night using Google Photos, it’s not as user friendly for me, but I guess I will get used to it. So, bear with me and PLEASE let me know if you are not able to see albums or have trouble getting to them so I can work on resolving any issues. Please also be patient with me as I navigate this new procedure for photo albums. I wish they waited until the end of the year. I think it’s going to be more of a challenge when I get to Albuquerque and want to upload hundreds of balloon pictures. I doubt I can create an album as easily as I did in Picasa. I’m hoping I will be pleasantly surprised and it will work just fine. Like many others, I don’t always like change!!!

I have been in Waco at Homestead Heritage almost 2 weeks and I will be here until about August 16th, then I will head towards Abilene, Lubbock, Texas, then Santa Rosa and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Once I leave Waco, I will have limited Internet service.

It’s been lots of fun helping at the various places here and going out to eat and visiting with my friends here. Rachel, one of my friends makes fantastic soaps and lotions using various scents and materials such as oatmeal, essential oils, etc. The soaps all smell so good. the purple and pink one on the top is black cherry, the green on the next shelf is spearmint.

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I told Rachel that if she makes any while I am here I would love to help her. She said she is making some Saturday and Monday nights, I offered to help. Saturday evening she picked me up and took me to her shop. Rachel was great at explaining the chemistry of the ingredients and the process for making both soaps and lotions. I found it really interesting to listen to how the ingredients react to each other, and also to watch the consistency change as the ingredients are heated and mixed. Watching water, lye, oils, and other ingredients go from a boiling mix and using a mixer to see it become more congealed and beginning to look like liquid soap. Then we poured the scented oils into the mix and poured it into molds. It was fascinating.  The batch we made Saturday night was a mixture of Eucalyptus oil, Spearmint oil, and Peppermint oil. We kept adding the oils until we liked the scent and that it was balanced and one scent did not over power another one.

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The same goes for making the lotions. Ingredients were measured and poured into a mixing bowl and a stand mixer mixed the ingredients for about 20 minutes or so. As the mixture cooled it began to thicken and change color and consistency. While it was still warm, we poured it into the lotion bottles. After it cools, we top off the bottles and cap them.

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IMG_0925One of the ingredients we needed was castor oil. Rachel put her bottle under the nozzle of the large caster oil box so that only the amount we needed would be used. We got busy filling and capping lotion bottles and forgot to keep an eye on the caster oil container that was being filled. It was coming out slowly so we thought it would take a while. When we remembered to look at the bottle, we saw that it not only overflowed, but there was a very large puddle on the floor where the castor oil overflowed. We turned of the valve and got to scraping up the oil and cleaning the floor. Castor oil is a thick and sticky oil and it wasn’t very much fun to clean off of the floor and our shoes, but we managed and then went back to making the soap and a new batch of lotion. Rachel uses Shea Butter in her lotion and I put some on my really dry skin and it worked great. She has several different scents.

Sunday morning Rachel and I prepared tomatoes for dehydrating and also sorted more pears so they could soften to be cut and dried. I’m looking forward to tomorrow night to make some more soap and lotion. Monday and Tuesday I will be working at the Cheese Shop again, and Friday I will be working at the Bakery. If the pears soften, I will be working on those Wednesday and Thursday.

I had only planned on staying here for a week and then traveling north and staying at a Corps of Engineer Park at Lake Whitney which is about half of an hour north of where I am. The owner of this local RV park said that he preferred that I stay here when I have friends rather than spend two weeks camping alone. Since I love being here and there is always lots to do, I decided to stay here where I keep busy and get to see my friends, that is the ones that are here and not traveling like some of them currently are doing. I miss them but I’m so happy that they are able to take a great vacation. While I was here I had the transmission fluid changed in my camper and they put a conditioner in it too. It’s been 27,000 miles since it was last done. I have had my camper van for 10 years and I have driven 70,000 miles, most of them since 2011 when I retired.

One night this past week one of my friends and I went out to dinner in downtown Waco, after dinner we went by the Waco river where one day the city hopes to build stores and restaurants sort of like the San Antonio Riverwalk. Many years ago the Chisolm Trail came through Waco, and in tribute to it bronze statues were placed along the road where the trail came through and crossed the river. It was really interesting to see these amazing real looking bronze cattle and cowboys on horses. It stretched out about half a block in downtown Waco along one of the main streets. There was so much detail sculpted into the statues, especially on the cowboys and their saddles, I’m not sure it shows up very much in the pictures. I took a lot of pictures, but it was using my phone since I didn’t have my camera with me.

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At the campground, I hung my hammock in the shade between two trees and have been relaxing in it when I can and when it’s not too hot to be outdoors.

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Relaxing after balloon rallies and having time with friends in Texas

While it’s lots of fun being at balloon rallies and competitions, we have to get up really early usually 4 or  5 a.m. and we are usually finished about 9 or 10 a.m. depending on where the balloon lands, how long it takes to get to the pilot, pack up, etc. Then I think most of us take a nap. At least I try to a while after I get back. I was at two back to back balloon events, there are no more that I have planned at being at until Albuquerque which is the beginning of October. However, I will be there from the end of August until mid-October so that I can help at the Balloon Fiesta office before the event as well as volunteer and crew during the event.

In the Fort Worth area, I visited my friend Sue for two days and got to see a few other friends that lived nearby while I was there. It was great having time to visit with my close friends that I miss since I don’t live in Texas anymore. we talk on the phone, but it’s not the same. I also got to eat at a few restaurants that I like eating at while I’m there. Not to mention Braum’s where they have the best ice cream!!!

When we were at a grocery store we saw this can of Coca Cola product soda boxes in the format of the Olympic rings, we thought it was very unusual and cool looking so I took pictures of it. Sue and I looked at this display and wondered how someone thought to plan this out and build this display. It must have taken quite a while to design and create this display, especially without the boxes falling. The boxes creating the lettering and circles are protruding a few inches from the boxes that make up the background.

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After visiting with my friends in the Fort Worth area, I drove to Waco to see my friends there at the Homestead Heritage community. I was invited to dinner at a few friends houses, and I also helped another friend prepare food for a wedding that was held while I am visiting. I was also unexpectedly invited to the wedding. I love being here and because I have been coming here for a little over 18 years, I have seen many of my friends children grow up, they have also become my friends, and now they have children of their own. I also get to see the younger children grow up and they know me and greet me warmly. It really touches my heart.

My friend Rebeccah who started a cheese business many years ago was in Iowa at the American Cheese Society awards this past week and we found out that she won first, second, and third place in the Brie cheese category, first place in the Blue cheese category, and first place in the Labney cheese category. We are all so very proud of her and happy for her. Many years ago when she first told me that she was starting to make cheese for her family, we had no idea it would develop into the wonder award winning cheese business it has become. Rebeccah and her family moved to Deary, Idaho, a few years ago and they opened a cheese shop and bakery there. They took an old, dilapidated building and remodeled it into a new store. If you are in the area, please stop in and tell them hello and of course buy some of their wonderful foods and gifts.

Saturday, July 30: I don’t have television or listen to the news while I am traveling, I seldom have Internet. I am staying in a campground in Waco about a mile and a half from Homestead Heritage and they have wifi so I am able to update my website and write stories. I figure if something happens that I need to know about someone will let me know. That happened today. I got a text from several friends and a few phone calls about a hot air balloon accident in Lockhart, Texas. My friends didn’t know if I was there or if it was close to where I am. Lockhart is south of Austin which is about two hours south of Waco where I am. It is very sad to hear about any accident, and balloon accidents are not that common. But this accident was especially tragic, 16 people were killed in this accident. It has not been determined what caused this crash yet, the FAA is investigating. I have been at balloon events where accidents happened, but they usually happened off field when pilots were getting ready to land and I didn’t see any of them, only heard about it after the fact. We can all pray for the families of this accident, and all of the tragedies happening around the world.

All of you that are concerned about me, I am okay. I still have some pain and complications from my medical condition and tumors. I manage pretty well most days and I am so grateful and thankful that I am able to take this trip and travel. I plan on leaving Waco on Wednesday morning and traveling north and west towards Albuquerque. I was going to be there by about August 8th, but they decided I don’t need to be there until about August 24th or so. That gives me additional time to camp along the way that I had noplanned on.

I found several camping areas along the way that I can stop in. I will take back road route from Waco to Abilene, then the Interstate for a little while to 84 north, and camp near Lubbock for a few days, then head towards I-40 west of Amarillo, and probably stay in a state park near Santa Rosa until a day or so before I need to be in Albuquerque the end of August. My plans are flexible and written in the sand, my route often changes as I drive. I look at maps and campground books the night before I leave somewhere to drive to another location, but along the way if I see something of interest, I sometimes change my route and take a different direction. The tentative route I am taking this year is about the same one I took last year when I left Waco so I know of some city owned RV parks about three miles off of highways and other types of roads that I can stay at again, or I can try different ones. It’s nice to have freedom and flexibility as I travel.

I will write again when I get wifi and have something of interest to share.

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Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas

I arrived in Longview, Texas, early this afternoon after finishing my crewing tasks in Shreveport. I came early so that I could help assemble pilot packets and do pilot registration. Thankfully, at Maud Cobb Convention Center where the pilot registration took place there is a campground with electric hookups so I am staying here until Friday morning when I have to move out to the regional airport where the balloon rally takes place. There is no electricity there so I will do the best I can to stay cool when I am not working the gates or crewing for a balloon. Several pilots that were in Shreveport also came to participate in this event, and I also saw several balloons I had not seen before which is a nice surprise. Several pilots I have met at other events and it was nice to see them and catch up on life. There is an album with all of the pictures I took at the Longview balloon rally.

Since I was there a few days before the competition began, and there was time for some practice flights, I went around to various pilots asking if they needed crew. I found a couple from Longview, Joe and Lynn who have a balloon repair business and it was just the two of them, so I crewed for them the entire time I was in Longview. It worked out pretty good and I did some tasks I had not done before which made it more interesting for me. It’s very different crewing when there are only 3 or 4 people than when there are 6 or more. Joe didn’t usually many choices where he landed and twice it took us quite a bit of time and effort to get to him because we couldn’t find the roads to get back to where he was, or we finally got to where he was and had to find people to open gates so we could get into a pasture. One day we landed in a locked gated pasture that took us about an hour to get to and when we got there I realized I was in that same place last year when I crewed for a different pilot. One morning after we were packed up and driving back to drop me off at my camper, we passed a balloon that landed near a main road and the crew was having trouble handling the balloon envelope with the winds blowing it towards the road. Joe did a u-turn and we quickly got out of the truck and helped the crew get the balloon down and thankfully there was no damage to the balloon or any of the crew. It was a bit scary for a while when the winds kept trying to take the envelope towards the road, a mailbox, ditch, etc. we were glad to be able to help.

Joe and Lynn’s balloon is called the Spirit of Texas and it displays five different Texas flags from different periods of time. The balloon envelope is about 69,000 cubic feet and it is a traditional shaped balloon. For some reason it seemed a larger size. Joe said it could be because of the wide white band in the design. One of the mornings we were on crew we stopped in a parking lot of a gas station and Whataburger and we watched the balloons fly in over the target. We decided we were hungry so while waiting for Joe to fly in and over the target we got something to eat. Some of the balloons went really high so they could catch the directional winds they wanted and drop down to the target. When that happens the balloon envelope gets to be a different shape since the winds are blowing the envelope in different directions.

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There was a party on Thursday night for everyone and it was lots of fun. On Friday afternoon I went to the gate for my assigned times, and after working the gate I went to get something to eat and then went to help Joe and Lynn set up their balloon for the glow. We also were able to listen to the concert and see all of the other balloons around us glow. It is really beautiful when the balloons glow in the dark. It’s not easy to get good pictures, especially when I am trying to hold the balloon basket down and snap photos.

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It was fun watching the balloons flying over the target, it takes a lot of skill and dependence on the winds to get the pilots from more than a mile from the target to navigate the winds at different altitudes to get the pilot to fly over a target at a designated location. Sometimes they are able to catch the winds to get them there and sometimes they aren’t. Also, when they drop their marker or beanbag down to the target, the winds can catch the item and not let it go straight down to the target. One morning I saw the moon in the sky when a balloon was flying and another morning the sun was behind the balloons, these gave me the opportunity of taking unusual photos. Another interesting picture I took, was a bird sitting on a power line and as a balloon got closer, I took a picture where it looks like the bird is almost sitting on the balloon.

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On Saturday afternoon, I worked my shift at the gate, got something to eat, and saw that the weather was getting bad. We could see rain off in the distance and hear the thunder. Then the lightening began and we knew that the balloon glow would be cancelled. Then the heavy rains came and everyone ran to their vehicles. It was too bad the weather turned rainy and most people left. About 10:30 p.m. or so I looked out my back door and saw a balloon or two inflate, and I heard music. The concert started late, and the band performed until early morning. I still heard the music about 12:30 a.m.

On Sunday morning I crewed again for Joe and Lynn and after we got to the field where the balloon landed and it was packed up I was driven back to my camper and I packed up and drove to Crowley west of Fort Worth to visit my friend Sue for a couple of days.

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Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship, and Challenge Coin, Shreveport, Louisiana

I arrived in Shreveport for the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship on July 12th. The Rally begins on July 13th and I have signed up to crew for several days. This is the first year Shreveport is hosting the National Championship. It changes locations every three or four years. In the previous story I wrote about my journey to Shreveport and some of the things I have been doing since I arrived here. I created a photo album with pictures I have taken at this event.

For the morning shifts, I have been assigned to a pilot named Jayson Kimball, who is from Napa Valley, California. He has been a commercial balloon pilot for about 20 years, but this is his first time in a national competition. His balloon is named Turbo. Helping him is his brother Colby and also Odin who happens to be the Mexican National Champion who will be going to Japan this year to compete in the World Competitions. And then there’s me. It’s the four of us on this team and we seem to work well together. Jayson is really excited that he is here and getting to participate. Jayson comes from a family of long time balloonists. There are about 36 balloons at this event. I found this page on the website that shows the names of the pilots and a picture of their balloon. Odin flew all the way from Mexico to help Jayson with his first national championship, that is a great friend!!!

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Since we all go in different directions in the morning trying to find the best location to launch in order to have a good flight to the various targets every day I am not able to get many pictures. Also, with just the four of us as crew we are very busy inflating, and then packing up and being the chase crew. Colby is in the basket with Jayson so it’s just Odin and me in the vehicle and we are also packing up the trailer after Jayson lifts off.

I have been getting up at 4:00 a.m. and about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. when we get back it feels like it should be mid-afternoon and I’m ready for a nap. Friday and Saturday in addition to crewing in the morning, I will be volunteering as a crew member in the afternoon. It’s nice to meet new pilots because they all seem to do something a little bit different, but it’s also nice to work with a pilot I’m familiar with because I know a little how they work and what they want me to do. However, that also is determined by how many crew members there are. I didn’t really want to pack up everything in my camper and drive a few miles to the LSU campus where the Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening events take place. I asked one of the volunteers who lives in town if she could swing by and pick me up and she said she would, it’s sort of on her way to LSU. I thanked her very much. This is her first time volunteering at a balloon rally and she loves it!!!

I saw Al Nels from Ohio who is a several time National Champion. I crewed for him in Longview, Texas, last year. His balloon is the one with the blue top and green grass. You can read the story about his special balloon in July 2015 Great Texas Balloon Race story if you are interested. Everything on his balloon has family meaning. The balloon with the multi-colored squares in a geometric design is Jayson’s balloon, this is the one I am crewing for this year. The pictures  of Jayson’s balloon are as he is coming in over the targets during practice on Wednesday morning.

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Jayson is a commercial hot air balloon pilot, he says that he frequently pilots a balloon that is 300,000 cubic feet and it holds 24 passengers. The balloon he is flying here is about 56,000 cubic feet and it’s a racing balloon which reacts very quickly to the propane burners rather than the larger balloon envelope which reacts more slowly. In fact, it was interesting watching the balloons this morning, the winds were very different in the air and many of the balloons were affected by this difference. The top and bottom of the balloon looked like they were at an angle rather than straight due to the wind differences. I don’t have a picture of this, and it’s a bit difficult to explain. I guess if you look at the pictures above you can see a slight slant to the balloon envelope. Sometimes, if the winds are blowing a lot the balloon even looks like it’s collapsing on one side as it’s swayed by the winds. On Thursday, July 14th, the winds were really picking up and when Jayson landed he came in pretty fast and hard, and there were only two of us to try and stop the basket. We got it done and got the balloon envelope down quickly. I’m glad I wasn’t in the basket when it landed.

Friday, July 15th: The winds were not the best for flying, but these balloon pilots are determined to compete whenever the conditions are safe. The winds were supposed to be getting worse as the morning progressed so the pilots and crew all rushed to their vehicles after pilot briefing and we went to the best location for launching and being able to fly to the targets. Many of the balloon teams went to the same location which was a church with a very large grassy lot next to it. I’m guessing there were about 14 balloons that launched from this site. When I was talking with my friend Jeanie in the afternoon it turns out her team launched from the same site as my team. I was able to get lots of good pictures today. Also, Colby gave me a few pictures he took from the air, and also one of me holding the balloon envelope open while the balloon was inflating. There is a yellow balloon that has cats on the balloon, it’s pretty cool to look at. There are many balloons that I have not seen at other balloon events.

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We went to the LSUS campus in the afternoon for the evening glow and concert, but the weather did not cooperate and the winds were really high, then instead of the balloon glow, concert, and fireworks show that was supposed to happen later on tonight, God decided to give us a big display of lights, sound, and wind, provided by Nature. There were high winds, lightning, and then heavy rain. Jeanie and I ran to her car but we still got soaked. It was really sad because all of the people came out to see the show and some wanted tethered rides. We will try again on Saturday. Before the event was canceled, we all went into the gym to wait and see if the storm would pass and allow us to set up the balloons for the glow, but it turns out after about an hour or so it was only getting worse.

While we were in the hallway at the gym, I saw a young boy, probably about a year old in a wheelchair and there was a sign on the chair saying: Please do not touch me, my bones are brittle and break easily. I prayed for the little boy and his family and thought of all of the things he would not be able to do and how carefully he had to be handled for any activity or life experience, even changing his diaper, or dressing him. Once again, I got to be extremely grateful for my life and physical condition. Before I left home I was in a lot of pain, and I prayed and asked God to please lessen my pain. So far, God has been answering my prayer. The pain has not been too bad and I am able to take my medicine when it is and just relax and not drive.

Saturday, July 16th: I got up in the morning and went to the hotel lobby and found out that the winds and weather were not good for flying so the morning event was canceled. The organizers said that they could use help going to the field and getting it ready for the evening events, so I went and helped. The field was wet and the barricades blew over, but other than that things were okay. The rain really cooled the temperatures, it was 75 degrees at about 7:00 a.m. which felt really good after the high 90’s we have been having. The little fridge in my camper is having trouble staying cool with the hot temperature and me not having electrical connections. So, I went into the hotel restaurant and got some ice in a few small containers I have and I put them in the fridge. I change the melted ice for real ice twice a day and it seems to be helping to keep the fridge cooler. I have a little bit of food that I don’t feel safe eating because the fridge thermometer was not in the zone that I felt was food safe. I also run the generator for about half hour in the morning and afternoon to charge the batteries and also I think it helps the fridge to operate better, at least I hope it does.

Saturday evening: Tonight is beautiful weather for the evening events. There was live entertainment and as it got dark approximately 32 hot air balloons inflated and glowed for about an hour. It was an awesome site to see. I crewed for Jayson and since we have all been working together all week I know more about how he likes things done. After the balloons were packed up the fireworks show began and fireworks exploded in the sky producing a beautiful light show for about 20 minutes. When Jeanie and I arrived at the LSUS parking lot we parked in a spot that would allow us to leave easily without waiting in long lines of traffic and it worked great. Partway though the fireworks display we began walking to the car to get ahead of the crowd and we would stop every now and then to watch the fireworks. By the time they were finished we were at the car. I wish the weather last night was this good, but I guess we needed the rain last night.

I am still getting used to my new camera and when it’s dark I can’t see the settings to change them for night pictures, so the evening photos are using the automatic setting. I didn’t take pictures of the fireworks. I know the camera has a fireworks setting, I need to practice finding it so I can take fireworks pictures in Albuquerque where they have five nights of spectacular fireworks. Sometimes when I take pictures I turn the camera sideways to take a picture. I download it to my computer and the pictures all look like they are the correct way, nothing looks sideways. However, after I insert pictures in my post, for some strange reason, the ones I took holding the camera sideways the pictures look that way, and I have to go into edit and rotate them. It also does the same thing in the photo album sometimes. This is a bit frustrating and also time consuming to rotate the pictures but I want to do that so that when you look at the pictures they are facing the correct way. I took a short 25 second video of the balloons flying over the target but the file was too large to insert in this post. It’s at the end of the photo album pictures.

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Sunday, July 17th: I met Jayson in the lobby in the morning and we drove to the location he wanted to launch from. There were several balloons launching from this spot, but not as many as the other morning. As soon as Odin finished tying down the equipment we began our journey following the balloon to the first target location. We arrived in time to watch quite a few pilots fly over the target and throw their markers. It’s really interesting to watch the pilots navigate the winds from a few miles away and actually get to where the target which is X is on the ground, or where a pole is that they drop a plastic ring about 12″ in diameter over the end of the pole. There is a lot of skill and knowledge involved in competition.

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After watching the pilots trying to get their bean bags on the target, we kept going until we arrived where Jayson decided to land his balloon. He landed in some red dirt on a road where we were not able to get the vehicle down due to a gate. So, Odin and I walked around the gate and go to the balloon and Jayson kept it slightly off the ground while Odin and I walked it down the road and over a few mounds of high grass and dirt to a flat dirt field where we could lay the balloon down and pack it. Our shoes and the balloon envelope had a layer of red dirt, but that’s part of ballooning, we never know where the landing places will be until it happens.

I decided to stay here until Monday so that I could crew for Jayson one more day to make it easier for him. I got more ice for my little fridge to help it stay a bit cooler and I threw away some food that I didn’t feel safe eating since the temperature was not in the safe food zone.

On Monday, after I finish crewing for Jayson, I will leave Shreveport and head towards Longview, Texas, which is about an hour and a half or so west of here. I am updating this story at 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, July 17th.

Monday, July 18th: When I showed up to sign in for crewing this morning John Storey, who also goes by Stormy, asked if today was my last day at this event and I said it was. He reached into his pocket and presented me with a Challenge Coin. He said he was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and when he retired after 27 years he had these Challenge Coins made with the name he was known by which is Stormy. He said that these coins are given out to to people who go above and beyond and do something extra special. John was a volunteer at this balloon event and was mostly in charge of the crew volunteers, among other responsibilities. He said that he had these coins made in Turkey by a friend that makes them because he didn’t want to be restricted to giving them out like the Air Force requirements state. I was extremely surprised that he gave me this very special coin and the honor I felt for receiving it was overwhelming and a huge surprise. I didn’t know about these types of coins. I stayed a few extra days and worked a few extra shifts to make it easier for John and the pilots and I also did other tasks when it was needed.

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After this unexpected surprise by John, I met my pilot Jayson and went to crew for him. Since today was my last day, John assigned Robin to help us because she could crew for Jayson the rest of the days of competition. I introduced her to Jayson, Colby, and Odin and explained what we needed to do to help them with the balloon and chase crew. Robin said this is her first time being involved with hot air balloons and she was so excited to join us and help. Watching her joy and wonder as she saw the balloons laid out, inflating, and flying was contagious. Odin drove and we tried to keep track of the balloon and we got to some of the targets to watch the balloons fly over them. Robin took lots of pictures, including some of me. It was a fun day and we got to enjoy our time together before I left for the balloon rally in Longview, Texas.

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Traveling west on another expedition… time for another journey!!! AND UPDATE as I traveled to Shreveport for hot air balloon rally.

I left home this morning on another journey west. Maybe next year I will leave earlier and head in a different direction… that is if God has it the plan for meto take another long trip. For now, I am blessed and grateful I’m able to take this one.

Getting me and the camper ready for this trip has taken a lot of thought and planning, not so much for the route, but researching ways to keep my camper cooler inside, especially when I am not hooked to electricity which will happen mostly in the beginning of this trip while I am in Shreveport, LA, and east Texas for hot air balloon events. I have dry camped many times in the ten years I have owned my camper van so I know I can do it and survive okay. The difference this year is not having the upper windows to open. This is really the same as dry camping when it’s raining because I couldn’t open those windows when it was raining. In previous posts I wrote about what I have done to try to keep the interior cooler and why. After reading the post when I wrote about figuring out the best way to lay out the window sizes I needed for the sunshade, one of my friends told me that all of my jigsaw puzzle experience helped me figure out the layout. I was thinking about that as I did many layouts for the various sizes I needed. It seems that no experience we have is ever wasted, we use it in many different unrelated ways.

As time passes and as I get wifi I will update my posts or this story on how successful all the things I am trying on this trip are working as far as keeping me comfortable temperature wise. Today I drove about 180 miles and stopped in a campground in Ocala, FL, and I have the air conditioning on. I’m also hoping by being plugged into electricity that my small fridge won’t have to work as hard as it does when it’s not connected.

Every day when I travel and stop for the day I text several friends and let them know my approximate location. A friend told me about a FREE app for the phone called the Life 360 app. It shows a person’s exact location when GPS is on and the people add each other to the app. I did this with one of my friends so she will know my exact location at the end of each day. This is great to keep track of family members, children, etc.

UPDATE… I arrived safely in Shreveport, Louisiana on Tuesday, July 12th. Along the way since I left home, I stopped in a few different RV parks including Percy Quin State Park near McComb, Mississippi, on I-55 which was very nice. This campground also has many nice cabins that can be rented. The weather has been really hot but I stayed in parks that had electric hookups. The first day I had great traveling weather, the second day I drove in and out of heavy rainstorms all day. I averaged about 300 miles a day of driving for four days which got me the distance to Shreveport, LA. I was able to stay at three different campgrounds for two days each in between driving. I didn’t know how far I would be able to drive each day so I left several days down time before the date I needed to be in Shreveport for the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship in Shreveport.

When I stayed in the Percy Quin State Park, I was able to see the beautiful lake from my campsite and there was a picnic table at my campsite. Since I was going to be there for two days, I decided to work on the sunscreen material for the windows on my camper. I received the necessary suction cups and snaps before leaving home. I ordered clear snaps since my fabric is black, but the company sent white ones since they were out of the clear. I didn’t know until I called to tell them. They said when they get the clear ones they will send them to me. After seeing how much work it was and how much effort it took to put the snaps through the sunscreen material, I may just leave the white snaps in place rather than changing them out. But then again, maybe one day I will change them since they are being shipped to me on my travels.

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Since I had this really nice big picnic table at my campsite, I held the sunscreen pieces I cut up to each of the windows and attached the top of the sunshade to the top of the window glass and I tried to get it as straight and even as I could. Then I took a nail and inserted it into the screen where it would go into the top of the suction cup where the hole was for the snap, then I separated the fabric more to insert the snap. This was not easy, the screen kept trying to go back into it’s original small square shape. Finally, with much effort, I got all of the snaps inserted into the screen and suction cups, except for the front windshield. I will need some help with that window since the sunshade fabric is 72″ by 29″ and I can’t hold it up by myself and mark where the suction cups and snaps need to go.

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For my upper top windows on the side of the camper that used to open and now are sealed closed, I wrote about that in previous stories, I put the sunscreen on the inside of the window and leave it up all of the time, even when I put the silver reflectix over it to keep the sun out. I really wish I was able to open those upper windows, I really miss having that cross breeze and hearing the sounds of nature when I’m camping, but it’s not meant to be at this time. When I had the sunshade fabric on the driver and passenger windows at the campground I did open those windows to get some air during the daytime. And at the Wyndham Hotel where I am in Shreveport I am opening the windows when I’m inside during the day without the screens. So far I have not had many bugs come inside, other than lots of ants. I put ant traps in the camper so hopefully soon the ants will be gone.

While I am in Shreveport volunteering at the balloon rally, I am parked in the hotel parking lot in a spot that gets shady in the afternoon, it’s on the side of the building and so far no one has told me I can’t park there, thankfully. Otherwise I would have to drive a few miles down the street and park at Walmart and drive back and forth every day which I really don’t want to do since I need to be at the hotel about 5:00 a.m. to meet with the pilot I am assigned to. It has been as high as mid 90’s in my camper. To keep me a bit cooler, I have a small fan that has a USB connection so I plug it into either my auxiliary battery with a 12 volt adapter, or I use an external power supply to run it which allows me a little more flexibility where I can place it since I don’t have to deal with a small length cable. During part of the day I come in the lobby and visit with balloon people, or like now update my website and write stories. I go back into the camper during the day and take a nap when needed.

Also, I have been using my battery operated LED lights that I bought to read which seems to be working well and it keeps the heat down since my regular light bulbs put out a lot of heat. One of the campgrounds I stayed in outside of Shreveport in a town near Homer and Minton, LA is called Kels Kove. It’s a Passport America campground on a nice lake and it has cabins and RV sites. I found a few sites I could use, but it turns out I could not get very level in them, and the ones I could it seems the electric was not working. Finally, I drove around the campground and found a site under a tree that was pretty level. I asked if I could use that spot and even though it was a 50 amp and I only need a 30 amp they let me use it and I have an adapter that would let me connect to the higher amp box. It worked out pretty well for two days. However, other then that location being about 20 miles north of I-20, there was no phone, text, or internet service. I couldn’t even send a text to let my friends know I arrived safely. I tried calling, no call would connect.

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In addition, when I got there and got out of my camper I noticed that the two driver side hubcaps were missing. They were there in the morning when I left the Mississippi state park. Maybe they came off when I was going driving the rough roads with construction near Vicksburg, MS. I don’t know. It seems every trip I lose two hubcaps no matter how well I think they are on the rim. I wrote about the new rims a couple of years ago. When I bought new tires three years ago it was noticed that two of my chrome rims were cracked. The tire store told me that steel rims would be more durable and last better and keep the tires aligned better. So I went with them, and thought hubcaps would work. Evidently, they don’t stay on these rims. When I get home I may go back to the tire place and have them take the tires off and spray paint the rims either black, silver, or white so they look better then the plain steel and then just not use hubcaps. If the hubcaps were going to come off, I wished it was the ones on the passenger side that were not the newer ones, but it is what it is. If that’s all that happens on this trip, I am very grateful and it’s not a big deal. Thankfully, nothing serious has happened. Gas prices seem to be a bit lower as I travel west so I’ve been putting medium grade gas in the camper to help it run a little smoother. While I’m parked at the hotel with no electric, I try to run my generator for about half hour in the afternoon to keep my batteries charged.

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2016-07-09 10.09.03A few months ago I decided that instead of painting my toenails all one color that I would use two colors and do them in different designs each time. It amazes me that I get several comments about the way I paint my toenails, and all comments seem to be positive. So, I took a picture of the way I did them before I left home. Today they will be changed, but I have not decided on the design yet, they will be a medium jade green with turquoise highlights of some type. Maybe just the tips of the nails with the 2nd color. I will see what I feel like when I paint them. That’s about it for this story, I will write about my experience at the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championships in a new post.

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Baby Camel born at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Camper Update, and Health Update

This post has been updated on June 25th. I added the word Update before the parts I added.

On June 17th, I received a picture from Sue Arnold of a baby girl camel born to Lulu at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. Last I heard the baby has not been named yet. I also received a picture when she was 4 days old. The mother Lulu is a brown camel and she was bred to a Pinto/Paint camel that was brown and white. The baby was born with the brown and white markings like her dad. Until now, I didn’t realize that there was any other camel colors or types other than brown. The picture in the top center is the day she was born and a few hours old. The photo on the top left is when she was 4 days old, the other pictures are her mom Lulu. The top right is when she was expecting the baby. She’s very cute. I have never seen a camel this young. After learning about this species of camel, I did a search on the Internet and found a website that has info and pictures of various types of camels. There are several photo albums and stories on my website about my visits to Arnold’s Wildlife over the past several years. There is a date on each photo album, then you can go to the archives for that date to read the story about a particular album, or you can do a search for a story by subject.

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annie camelUpdate June 25: The baby camel has been named Annie. Here is a picture of Annie when she is a week old. It looks like her mom Lulu is a great mom.

 

 

 

 

As for my camper, I finally got it back from the RV dealer that did the repairs. I would NOT recommend using Wait’s RV in West Palm Beach/Riviera Beach, Florida. When I first contacted them I was hopeful that they would be a great repair place because I was told by the then service manager to bring my camper up that day, he said he knows what the problem most likely is and when I arrived he diagnosed it quickly. Well, after a long drawn out process and leaving it there for over a month, then again 10 more days, not to count the month in between when I was told they would fix it… I brought it back for what was to be 3 to 5 days, which turned into 10 days. The only option I was told is that they had to completely seal the windows closed, and that I would not be able to open them. I had hoped to avoid this solution. But since my camper is older, there is no option to order new windows unless I have them specially made which will take time and a substantial amount of money.

So, the next best thing is that I have a good 12 volt fan that I can run on my auxiliary batteries when I am not plugged into electricity or if I don’t want the noise of the rooftop air conditioner. I bought a 4′ x 25′ roll of Reflectix which is the silver material that is used for sunshades in vehicles. Only being on a roll it is a smooth surface, not folded accordian style like the sunshades. I cut a piece for every window in the camper, hoping that it would keep the camper cooler inside, it works to some degree, but it also makes it very dark inside. So, I went online and found several battery operated LED lights that I can hang in various places in my camper for light. My camper does have lights that operate on 12 volt but the bulbs put off a lot of heat and also run down the auxiliary batteries rather quickly, especially if I am reading for several hours at a time.

I have seen sunshade material on large motor homes, it’s a UV sunscreen that blocks out UV rays and heat from the campers. I had not ever considered it for my van because I don’t keep a ladder with me to reach the top of the front windows. I did some more exploring on the Internet and found out that even though it might not be quite as effective, it can be placed on the inside of the windows. It provides privacy during the daytime where I could see out, but it would be difficult for anyone to see in. It comes in a few colors but it seems that black provides the best visibility and would look the best. I also found a similar material at Home Depot and Lowe’s. The quality might be a step down from the types sold at RV dealers but I won’t have to pay the shipping cost of the screening material, only for the suction cups which I can’t find locally. I even found one of the manufacturers of this material called Textilene in Dothan, Alabama, a town which I drove through several times on trips. They want about twice the cost per yard from a company in Arizona I found that sells their fabric by the yard. However, the shipping cost is about the same cost as the material.

I decided to buy some of this material from the local home improvement store and I can hang it on the inside of the front windshield, and on the driver and passenger windows, and other van windows I can hang it either on the inside or outside since I can reach those windows easily. The upper top windows that I can no longer open I will place the material on the inside of the glass. I had  to do a lot of research on both the types of UV materials, and also methods of how to hang it. I decided suction cups with snap rivets will work the best. I got this idea from one of the RV sunshade companies I found online. After more research, I found a company online to order a large quantity of these suction cups and snap rivets.

I drew out several sketches of the best layouts to maximize the use of the yards of material so that I don’t have much waste. It has taken me many hours for this project, but it’s okay, especially if it helps to keep my camper cooler inside. There are pro’s and con’s to whether to hang this sunscreen material on the inside or outside of the windows, so I will play it by ear and try both ways to see which works best. It will also depend if I am staying in one place for quite a while like in Albuquerque for 6 weeks. I cannot drive with this on the windows, so I have to take it off when I am driving. Unless I have a nice neighbor at a campground that has a ladder, I won’t be able to hang the screening on the outside of the front windshield, it will have to go on the inside, which in some way might be best because it won’t get dirty or wet like it would hanging outside.

The end of last week I received some sad news, one of my close friends told me that her daughter’s husband was found dead on the floor of their house. It seems he died unexpectedly of a heart attack, he was 47 years old. It’s very sad, he left a wife and two young teenage boys.  We never know when our time is up… as I have written many times, live life now!!! Don’t wait, don’t put things off… you might not get the chance for a later time.

I have an inflatable kayak that I would like to sell if you know anyone that is interested, please let me know. It’s in excellent condition, and it weighs about 32 pounds and is in a carrying case.

Update June 25th Sunshade for Camper: After doing more research, I decided not to use the sunshade material I bought at Home Depot. I wanted a better quality product that hopefully will last for a long time. I found out that Textilene 90, made in Dothan, Alabama, is one of the best sunshade materials and it blocks 90% of the UV rays. I called the manufacturer of what I felt was the best quality sunshade. They told me that Innovative Industrial Solutions, Inc. in Boynton Beach which is about a half hour from where I live that carries their product, I called them and spoke with Rodger, he said they have the sunshade I want in stock. However, their fabric is 72 inches wide. So I spent several more hours planning a layout, my other layouts were based on 48 inch fabric, and finally after many attempts and many calculations, I was able to get a layout where there was no waste, no unused fabric for 72 inch fabric. I really was a couple of inches short of what I needed but I would be able to be okay with the few inches short.

I called Innovative Industrial Solutions, Inc. and spoke with a man named Rodger. I told him that I want to buy 9 yards of 72 inch fabric, and asked if he could add an extra couple of inches. I wasn’t sure if he could or not. I drove up to get the fabric and brought it back and went to the local library. Buying locally saved me shipping, and also supported a local privately owned company. If you live in Florida check out their website to see the products and services they provide. If you need awnings or other items give Rodger at IIS a call. He was very nice, and courteous, and he worked with me so that I could get what would work best for me.

I don’t have anywhere at home to lay out a 6 foot by 9 foot piece of material so that I could mark it and cut it. I called the city library and they let me use a conference room where I could put three tables together. It worked out perfect. The width of the tables is the width of the fabric and the length was almost the same as the fabric. Rodger gave me a yellow wax pencil so that I could mark the fabric. I brought yardsticks, tape measures, scissors, etc. and began to mark the fabric. When I got to the last section of two pieces, I realized that they gave me a few extra inches of fabric. So, I went back to the beginning and added an inch to other pieces so they would be a little bigger than the glass measurement.

I ordered suction cups and tacks that I will use to attach the sunshade to the camper windows when I am parked for a few days. I am hoping that it will do what it’s advertised and keep my camper cooler inside and still let me see out.

After I got it all marked and triple checked my markings to make sure it was correct, I cut the pieces and rolled them up to take them home. This material can’t be folded, it has to be rolled. When the suction cups and tacks arrive I will put them into the sunshade fabric. The cost of the sunshade material and suction cups with tacks came to about $120. I know that seems like quite a bit of money, I also spent $40 on the Reflectix to put in the windows. If both of these window treatments work to keep the camper cooler it will be well worth the money.

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I spent many days researching various companies, materials, and suction cups online and decided to do the sunshade fabric myself rather than having it made by one of the companies that does this. Most of them wouldn’t make the sunshades to fit my camper van. They primarily make them for the large motorhomes. One place wanted $240 plus shipping just to make a sunshade for my front windshield. My camper has the windshield and 8 windows. I also found the company that sells the suction cups to those companies so I ordered the same ones since they seem to be made of a better quality material and design.

I saved a lot of money by doing this project myself, and it gave me something to do. I’m glad I attempted to do this myself. I think it turned out well. Since I don’t have a ladder, most of the time the sunshade for the front windshield will be hung on the inside of the van. Maybe when I am camped somewhere for several days and I know I won’t be moving someone in a nearby campsite might help me hang it on the outside. The downside to that is if I want to drive somewhere and no one is nearby to help get the sunshade off the window that will cause a problem, so maybe I will only hang it on the inside. It will still help with reducing the inside temperature.

Update June 25 Health Update and music from Hamilton: On June 17th I had an abdominal/pelvic area CT Scan to see what changes there are in my tumors since May 2015. I still have a few very small tumors and a few other minor things going on. The GREAT NEWS is that my large tumor significantly improved according to the report. It went from 6.0 x 4.9 cm to 5.9 x 3.2 cm. That’s about a half inch smaller. I have not done any treatments, or anything else. I pretty much try to ignore it and I tell the tumor that it’s not wanted in my body. I think of it as an alien thing, not anything that is a part of me. Thank you to all of you that are keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, it’s working. This is the first time since September 2012 when I first found the tumor that instead of growing from a small size to this larger one that it has actually become smaller. I still have several of the symptoms of the tumor’s effect on my insides, like my left leg still gets numbness and pain, my lungs are still compressed, as is my stomach and other organs. The main thing is that I am doing pretty good most days. I have some tough days, but so does a lot of people and compared to what some others have to deal with, I don’t complain. I am so very blessed.

I am starting to get my things together for my trip. Target date is July 6th to be on the road. First stop is the National Hot Air Balloon Championship Competition in Shreveport, Louisiana. I pray that the weather cooperates as I travel. All of the flooding from the heavy rains, and the high winds that many states are experiencing is not something I want to be near or in.

As part of my trip preparation is keeping the inside of my camper van cooler, and also to know I will have periods of time where I will be dry camping without electric. The lights in the camper operate off of my auxiliary batteries and they also burn hot. I went online and bought several LED battery operated lights. They seem to be pretty bright and they don’t put off much heat, if any. I will stick them up in various places throughout the camper. Also, I figured out a way to have some clothes on hangers and not take up much space. I bought some chain and I can hang the hangers into the sections of chain so that instead of having the hangers go horizontal, they will hang vertical. I can move the chain up to be horizontal if I need to. Sometimes we have to be creative to get things accomplished, and also to save money.

I have seen parts of the broadway play Hamilton on various TV shows and I love the music, so I bought the CD set on Amazon when I bought the LED lights. I was surprised that in addition to getting the actual CD, I was given a link to a digital version. So instead of having to wait a week for my CDs I downloaded the music so I can listen to it on my tablet or computer. I am listening to it now as I am updating this post. I can see where this music and the story it tells is addictive. I have a feeling I will put it on my MP3 player and listen to it when I am on my trip. Lin-Manual Miranda is extremely talented to come up with the story and lyrics to Hamilton and everyone else involved is also exceptionally talented. If you get a chance, listen to the music. You Tube seems to have the tracks of this play that you can listen to. Maybe one day they will come out of a DVD of the performance.

Posted in 2016 Trip | Leave a comment

May Happenings… Lava Lamps, Dawg Shoes, Grum Goes Global, Craft Projects, Camera, and more

It’s been about a month since my last post. I thought I haven’t been doing much and therefore not much to write about. However, after looking at pictures I have accumulated during the last month I seem to have been doing things I could share with you. I know that some of my readers wonder what has happened to me, or how I am doing when I don’t write posts for a while. I am doing about the same. I went to the doctor last week and she feels that my tumor is larger and my abdominal area is harder. I can tell that it seems to be getting larger and still pressing on my internal organs and nerves by symptoms I am having. Next month we will do another CT Scan to see what’s happening inside my body.

I am still dealing with trying to get my camper van windows fixed. They supposedly were fixed in March, and they still leaked so I brought my camper back to the repair place and they had it for a month and when I got it back it still leaked, only worse than before. So, the guy who was the service manager at that time said he would take care of it… only then he got another position in the company and he said he would take care of it on his own. To make a long, frustrating story short… it’s been a month and he still did not come to fix it. After many promises that he would be here and then never coming or even contacting me to say he wouldn’t be here I called the company and spoke to them and gave them an update. It turns out they had the same issue with the guy, he didn’t do what he told them he was either. So, today, the RV repair place said they would take care of my repairs and would call me back later to let me know when to bring it in. I told them I don’t want to leave it for another month and he said is should only be a few days. Guess I will see what happens. I need to get the leaking windows fixed before I leave on my trip in about a month. Because as it is now, I have duct tape on the seams in the windows which means that I cannot open the windows. I know it’s going to be hot on my trip and I will need windows that open so I can get air, especially when I am dry camping.

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Since I have had my camper, when I am in RV parks I have noticed that the large motor homes have a type of screen material on their windshields that help to keep the sun out, and allow the people inside to see out, but not let anyone see inside. They have snaps installed on their vehicle and have to get on ladders to fasten them. I thought I don’t want to do that to my van. Recently, I read an article in an RV magazine where someone had that material put on the inside of their windows and it still served the same purpose. That gave me an idea. I could get some and use it on the inside of my window. That way I wouldn’t feel as closed in as I do with the silver foil type material that I use to keep the sun out which I can’t see through. Also, by having the material on the inside of the window I won’t have to deal with it if it’s raining or dusty out. I didn’t like the idea of when I was ready to leave a campground to go out and detach this screen if it’s raining and then trying to find somewhere inside my tight quarters to store it if it was wet or dirty.

Putting the screen type material inside solves that problem and will give me the opportunity to see outside while camping and not have anyone see inside. And it will be easy for me to put up and take down because it’s done with suction cups. My windshield size is a lot smaller than the motorhomes, so if I cut the screen type material to fit my front window I will have enough left over to cut for the side windows. I think I will be able to cut it and somehow try to attach it so that I might be able to open my side windows while using this screen type material to keep the bugs out. This will give me more air circulation in the camper which will be great, especially when I am dry camping. I will still close my windows at night when I’m sleeping and I will put the foil material up at night so no one can see inside. The screen type material only works during the daytime, otherwise people can see in when it’s dark and the lights are on inside.

As for other things I am doing, I have been cooking some different foods trying to find things that taste good and make me want to eat. I have not had much of an appetite and I find that often I have to make myself eat something. So, I’m trying new food dishes and desserts.

A local community had a concert in the park, there were several food trucks with a variety of different foods, and also bounce houses and activities for the children. The band played Billy Joel music and they were extraordinary. I got to see some people at the park that I knew and had not seen in a while so that was nice to visit with them.

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I have worked on a few craft projects that I found on YouTube. Here is the link for this project. I took some glass jars and containers and glued some glass disks on them with a hot glue gun. They can be used for a vase, candy jar, pen and pencil containers, or even a night light or candle holder. Using a strand of lights that are battery operated and put in the jar will make it a night light. Also, one of the YouTube videos showed using air dry clay to put on the jar around the glass disks so that the light only shows through the glass disks. I made a few of these but decided not to make any more. It seems when putting the clay on the jar that it loosens the glass pieces and I have to glue them again. The finished result looks nice, but it’s not anything special when not lit. I guess painting the plain clay would make it more interesting. I also put the glass pieces on the bottom of the container so if it’s turned upside down as a night light then it would look pretty on top.

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There is another project I would like to try sometime, this one uses ping pong balls and twinkling lights. I went on Amazon and found that I could order a large quantity of ping pong balls and some twinkling lights to make this light for a reasonable cost.

While I was out shopping one day I saw several nice lava lamps that seem a larger than average size, so I bought two, one for the living room and one for the bedroom. One is a clear liquid with purple lava, and the other a blue liquid with white lava. Most lava lamps are 14.5 inches tall and about 32 ounces. The ones I bought are 16.5 inches tall and 52 ounces so it takes almost 90 minutes to two hours before the lava begins to flow. The designs the lava makes is very interesting, especially as it is still pretty solid and just beginning to change form. It’s a great night light as I am watching television at night.

When I was in Albuquerque last year, I noticed that almost all of the women volunteers in the RV area were wearing these really cool sandals. I asked them about them and they said they’re called Dawgs and that they are really comfortable. They bought theirs in Arizona. When I got home I looked in various stores and didn’t find this brand of shoe. Every now and then I would think about them but I didn’t make any effort to search them out on the Internet until about a month ago. I found that they were available on several websites, but they also have their own website, www.usadawgs.com. Dawgs come in styles and sizes for women, men, girls, boys, and also toddlers. In fact, there are some patterns and colors in the children’s sizes that I wish were made in my size!!!

I explored the website and decided to order some of their shoes, and they have a special offer that if you sign up for their newsletter they send emails with great discounts for the shoes. I like the Z sandal style which is what the women in Albuquerque were wearing. I usually wear Birkenstocks but I wanted to try something different. I ordered two pairs of the Loudmouth Z sandals and when they arrived I was really surprised how comfortable they were. I have a narrow foot so the sandals were a bit too loose on my foot. I called the company and spoke with Sarah the customer service representative who took my order. She said to use a hair dryer on hot to hold over the straps to shrink them. This shoe is plastic so evidently the heat shrinks it. I did it in increments and while the plastic on the shoe was still warm I put my foot in it and just sat still until the plastic cooled. I wanted the shoe to form to my foot. I did this a few times, shrinking it a little each time until it fit the way it was comfortable for me.

Even the sole of this fantastic shoe is designed with their special touch. Each pair comes in a nice plastic bag with a handle and the Dawg graphics. I think this is the nicest packaging I have had with a product in a long time. It made me feel very special when I received the outer packaging and opened it to see what the shoes looked like. I expected when I opened the packaging envelope that the shoes would just be inside the plastic envelope, not that they would be individually packaged with a nice tote bag for each pair. It was a very nice surprise!!! This seems to be one of the nicest companies I have dealt with. I like dealing with the same person at a company and with this company I can. I call and ask for Sarah so I can place my order with her and they put me right through. Great customer service. Also, my order is shipped the same day I call.

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The Dawgs shoes and sandals have little bumps on the footbed which massage our feet as we wear them. I walked to the grocery store and back in them which is about a mile and they were still very comfortable. They almost feel like memory foam. The plastic is very cushy and there is a lot of give in the sole which makes it nice to wear. Since I have been wearing them for a few weeks and I like them and I keep getting discount coupons I decided to order a few more pair and in different styles such as one sort of like a sneaker but it has air holes in the body of the shoe. I also ordered the Premium Z sandal which is basically the same but it has a rubber sole instead of the plastic sole so it is supposedly a bit firmer of a walk and more support in the shoe. I will receive them in about a week or so.

Evidently around every holiday this company offers large discounts on their shoes which means that some styles and sizes sell out quickly. I gave my mom two pair of these shoes and I didn’t think she would like them because of the bumps on the footbed and she likes straps around her ankles and this style doesn’t have that. Surprisingly for both her and me, especially her she said, she loves these shoes too. So, when I ordered a few more pair for me, she wanted a few more too. They sell shoes for all ages, and in several styles. They just came out with new shoe designs which include several countries, and also Las Vegas designs like the sign, dice, etc. They also have a new one with hearts, balloons, shamrocks, etc. Check out these shoes, I don’t think you will be disappointed and with the discounts after signing up for the newsletter it’s surprising how inexpensive the final price comes to.

A couple of months ago I bought a new Canon point and shoot camera, it’s a ELPH 170 IS. Even thought it’s quite a bit smaller than my Canon PowerShot 720 IS, the magnification is more powerful which will come in handy on many occasions. I still love my older Canon 720 IS because it takes great pictures, I’m used to it, and also it has a viewfinder which comes in handy when the sun is reflecting in the digital area and I can’t see what I am taking a picture of. I looked online and found a used PowerShot 720 IS that was in excellent condition and purchased it. That camera takes AA batteries, and I have a large supply of them. The new Canon has a lithium ion battery that has to be charged periodically, especially if being used. When I purchased the camera I bought it with what was called a bundle package that included one extra battery, cleaning kit, and a charger, but it only plugs into an outlet. Because I travel in the camper a few months a year, I want a battery charger that can use 12 volt power.

I like to shop local, eat at privately owned restaurants, etc. but sometimes I can’t find what I want so I occasionally shop online. I couldn’t find a battery and 12 volt charger locally, so once again I went online and found that Amazon had some for a good price. While I was looking I found a camera case that didn’t look too large and that it would also hold both of my Canon cameras. I really didn’t need another extra battery, but since I haven’t taken many pictures with the new camera I don’t know how long the battery and extra battery will last. I looked at the chargers that can be adapted to 12 volt and I found a great deal for a package with 2 Vivitar batteries that are a higher mAh and voltage than other generic brand batteries being sold, and the charger can be used for regular electric and also 12 volt. I really didn’t need two extra batteries or the cleaning kit, but for the difference in cost it was worth buying the set with two batteries, rapid charger, and cleaning kit. So, I placed my order for the charger kit with batteries, and also the camera bag.

I was really surprised a few days later when my package arrived a day or two earlier than expected. Not only that, but when I opened the package I was really happy that the battery was the higher capacity which means it will last longer and take more pictures. Also, there was a note in the package from Walter, the President of Digital Goja. I ordered the items from Amazon, but evidently, it was filled from Digital Goja. The President’s note thanked me for my purchase and said if I am not 100% satisfied to let him know, his personal email address was included in the note. I was really impressed with how the thank you note was worded. I don’t ever remember receiving a note like this for anything I purchased from Amazon, or any other company. So, I wrote a note to the President letting him know how impressed I was by the note in my package. A short while later I received a reply and he included one of his customer service agents in the reply to me. When I read their email I saw that they are located in Miami which is about an hour or so south of where I live so I let them know. I received another reply saying if I am ever in their area to stop in and that their photography specialist would be glad to meet with me and help me with my camera if I need it. If you are in need of any type of photography equipment, camera or camera accessories, SD cards, etc., I would highly recommend Digital Goja. They have a YouTube Channel with Tutorial videos on various types of cameras and lens uses.

GrumOne of my fire chief friends sent me an email the other evening telling me about a man who is traveling around the world raising awareness about Prostate Cancer. Here is what the fire chief wrote to me:

“Thought you would be interested in this, we have a visitor from New Zealand staying at the station tonight who is riding a bike around the world raising awareness on Prostate Cancer. He used to be on the volunteer fire brigade in New Zealand but due to his wife being on the medical side he became a volunteer EMT and she is a full time Life Flight Medic. He flew into New York in April and left there on his bike on April 30 and arrived here today. He tries to locate local fire stations on his route and camps there usually behind the stations in a tent. I opened the station for him and invited him to stay inside on the couches and stuff and let him take a good hot shower.  I was also telling him about you and your adventures and showed him the story of you we have posted there at the station and gave him your web site info. He also has a site called grumgoesglobal.com if you would like to read a little about him.”

I admire what this man is doing. What a great mission he is on. I never thought about using my health issue to go global and bring awareness of colon/rectal cancer. Or asking for sponsors to help with that endeavor. Even though in 2013 my story went viral for a time all over the USA and a few other countries. Mine started out as me just fulfilling a long time dream of traveling around the country in a camper van seeing sights along the way. I didn’t even plan on writing about it or sharing my stories and pictures until several of my friends said they wish that they could go with me, or that I should keep them informed of what I’m doing and where I am and what I see. I casually mentioned that to another friend who creates websites and she said she would make one for me.

That’s how my website began, and now over five years later is still being written and updated as my life and journey is continuing. In my own way, I guess I am bringing awareness. Maybe not exactly about cancer, but about living life to the fullest, the importance of appreciating every day, the importance of having legal and medical documents and directives prepared because we never know when they will be needed. I’m told by many people that I inspire them, that they are amazed at what I am doing considering my medical condition. All I know is I am living the best way I know how and to not give in and just sit around waiting to die whenever this tumor and it’s complications decide to take my life. I’m giving it a challenge in the way I live. Many people have told me that I inspire them because of how I am living and the words I write on my website, or what I share when speaking with them. I continue to pray and ask God if I am using this extra time I have been given in the way that God wants me to. I hope I am.

Well, that’s about it for now. I just got a call from the RV repair place and they said I could bring my camper in on Tuesday for repairs and most probably have it back by the end of the week. I’m really hoping this is true. I am planning on leaving the end of June or right after July 4th on a trip out west again. That’s my plan. I have to see what God’s plan is for me.

Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

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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I was asked to carry one of the survivor handprint banners during the survivor lap, and I felt honored to be asked again this year. I have done this in previous years. This year it was pretty windy so we had to be careful holding the banner so that it would be kept fairly straight. My side of the banner caught most of the wind since it was blowing towards us and I am not much of a wind break. We also had to keep our steps about the same so that the three of us carrying the banner were in a straight line. It was a bit of a challenge at times, but we managed pretty well. We can all always count on Gordon to have a smile and give hugs, and to do whatever is needed to help. During part of the opening ceremony he was watching intently from the sidelines and I was able to get this great photo of him, but it took about 5 minutes because there was a lady standing near him that kept walking back and forth and getting in the picture every time I was ready to press the button.

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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 have made some great friends as a result of participating in our local Relay event. I am so very blessed. If I was not involved with Relay I would most probably not have met some of these people who have become close friends that have made my life better for knowing them. Even my mom got involved by helping out with the survivor banners.

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One of the teams was having pig races. The pigs were animated and very cute. Tickets were $1.00 for a race. I think next year this team is going to be buying a large supply of pigs and selling them. They were really drawing a crowd and so many people wanted to buy them. It was funny watching the race.

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IMG_0200The theme of another team was bats and their tent was decorated with anything bat related including cookies they baked and decorated like bats.

 

There was entertainment throughout the night, including a Jazzercise session where people of all ages participated. These ladies had lots of energy and they had lots of people up and on their feet exercising. Some people even did a few moves sitting in their chairs.

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Just as we were getting ready to light the luminaria bags and walk the laps to remember those we lost to cancer or those who survived the fight against this disease, it began to rain. This happened last year too. Sadly, it is not the same to have all of the bags lit in a small area such as under the large awning or on the stage, but the importance of the lap was recognized all the same.  There is no way you can attend a Relay For Life event and not be changed in some way whether large or small. Especially if you experience the Luminaria Ceremony and walk the laps when the only light seen is the candle in the luminaria bags with the names of people either that died or survived written on the bags.

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Years ago, before I started my blog, at our Relay one of the teams gave motorcycle rides in the parking lot as a fundraiser for their team. There were long lines for those rides. However, they offered three motorcycles to give survivors a ride for the survivor lap. When they asked who wanted to ride on a Harley for the survivor lap, I immediately raised my hand. It was really cool. I was surprised that not many wanted to do it. I will admit that it felt strange riding the survivor lap rather than walking it. But I was still glad I rode, it was great fun and I did wear a helmet even though we were on a sidewalk and going slow.

If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer in any way, consider participating in a local Relay For Life event where you live. It will change your life. Over the years I have served on several committees for Relay, including being event co-chair. Yes, it does take some of our precious time. However, the rewards we gain from participating and making new friends, meeting new people, and helping those still suffering from loss of loved ones or seeing the hope gained from those being healed makes all the hours we donate to making this event a success and raising money for the fight against cancer and for the programs offered to patients and their families well worth it.

The reward of seeing someone who just lost a loved one to cancer and them knowing they are not alone really touches our hearts. As does sharing our story with another survivor. Giving hope to others whether it’s surviving the loss of a loved one or watching someone heal from their surgery or treatment is very important. It is a blessing to know we are not alone, that others have walked the path we are on now. Make a positive difference in the world any way you can. Occasionally, as I travel on my trips, I have been able to attend Relay For Life events in other states. It’s interesting to see how other Relay’s do things. It’s basically the same such as having tents for each team, selling luminaria bags that line the track, and giving survivors t-shirts. But there are also parts of the event that differ. One Relay I went to used a can of food in the luminaria bag to weight it down, others used sand. Another Relay gave each survivor either a flower or a balloon to carry for the survivor lap. Another Relay I went to had a lap in which local motorcycle clubs paid for the honor of riding a lap. I was surprised when someone at that Relay, which was in Georgia, asked me to ride on a Harley during their bike lap. It was really cool.

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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