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

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

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

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

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

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Native Rhythms Festival and holiday lights, Melbourne, Florida

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

It was extraordinary to hear such talented musicians and to hear their new music and see how their music and performances are changing from year to year. I took lots of pictures, and also this time I took some videos of a few performances, mostly when they jammed together informally which I find to be the most interesting.

As time permits, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I will add to this story about the performers, my friends, and include some interesting facts I learned about bats from the lady with a tent who had some orphaned bats who really are cute and who have interesting facts that I didn’t know. Until then, you can check out my pictures and videos.

The pictures I took at night during the performances did not come out as good as I would have liked, I think it was the colored lights on stage that did not do well with my camera setting. Also, if some of the performers look a little blurry, it was because they were moving and I tried to take the pictures as they were standing still, which in some cases was not often. They really get into the music and entertaining, which is how it should be.

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

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

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Traveling East

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

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Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

Here is a link to to photos I have taken at Homestead Heritage near Waco, Texas. The addition to the cafe is new, when I was here in August it was still under construction. In one of the photos you will see a large tree, it’s a papaya tree with fruit and flowers. I saw this tree in August but wasn’t able to find out what kind it was until today.

I am here visiting friends I have in this wonderful community. There are several stories and photo albums posted on my website for my previous visits. I will write a story as time and wifi service permits. Hopefully, I will get to it soon. I am now about three stories behind which will be at least 10 or more hours of writing time. I most probably will take several days to write the stories and post photos in each story. One of the issues with waiting so long to write the stories is that I might forget some of the interesting things that happened during the event or my visit to a location, but I find that after I write a story, I go back a few days later and edit it for things I forgot.

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Granbury, Texas hot air balloon event and exploring Granbury

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

I will write the story about my time in Granbury and also Albuquerque as soon as I can. I have limited wifi and wanted to get the photos posted and the stories will follow hopefully shortly, probably in the next few weeks unless I can do it sooner.

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

I have limited internet access so until I get better wifi this story will be short. I posted all of my photos so you can see  them. As the Fiesta progresses, I will add more photos to this album. After several weeks, I will remove duplicates and will write my story. Until then, you can look at the pictures I posted in 2 albums, it seems only 2,000 photos can go in an album so I had to create a 2nd one. The album for days 1-5 includes pictures I took during my balloon ride on Monday, October 5th. Unexpectedly, Sunday morning as we were getting ready to inflate, I was told that I would be going up for a ride today. WOW… I was surprised and thrilled. I love to go up in the balloon and will do it anytime. I have crewed for this same pilot for four years now and I really like Scott and his crew for Big Blue.

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

There is a Photo Gallery tab near the top left of my website with a link that takes you to over 130 albums of photos I have taken as I travel.

There are also several albums of Balloon Fiesta pictures I took in 2011, 2012, and 2014, as well as the balloon competition in Longview, Texas in July 2015, and I wrote stories about my experiences at each event. Feel free to look through my photo albums and read my stories. For a few weeks I am posting all of the photos I took so that the pilots can look at the pictures of the balloons in case theirs is one I took a photo of. In a few weeks, perhaps a month, I will remove many photos, mostly the ones that are duplicates, or those of people crewing on Scott’s and other friends balloons. They will have the photos because I gave them a flash drive with all of the pictures I took during Fiesta. I am the official photographer for our balloon and because Scott is always busy when his balloon launches, I take pictures of all stages of inflating and landing when possible. By posting these photos, it gives people who are not familiar with how a balloon inflates and gets packed, these pictures give my readers a visual on what it takes to inflate a balloon.

Between volunteering for Pilot Registration, volunteering in the Balloon Discovery Tent, helping to set up for the various parties for the pilots and volunteers, and crewing, I keep very busy. I try to get a nap for an hour or two between the morning and afternoon sessions if I can. I have about 240 volunteer hours already this year. That’s a new record for me, usually it’s about 50 or 60 hours. Most of it’s because I arrived a month early and worked every day.

I am so very glad I made the trip to Balloon Fiesta once again. It’s such an amazing event, and I always meet new people, and learn something new. Thankfully, my health is holding fairly steady. I can feel that my tumor is growing and shifting position, but it’s not hindering my activities very much, thanks to my medicine. My balloon crew is aware of my situation and they don’t let me lift or pull anything too heavy. After I leave here on October 12th, I will be heading back to south Florida, stopping in Fort Worth and Waco to visit my friends there for a little while. I might also attend the balloon event in Granbury, Texas, if I can get there before the weekend after Fiesta. I will see how it goes and how I feel as the date gets closer. I also want to attend a Native American Flute Festival in Melburne, Florida, the 2nd weekend in November. That’s about it for now. I added all pictures through October 6th, to my photo album. More will be added hopefully daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Antique RV Museum, and Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

I left Waco on Thursday, August 27th, and headed towards New Mexico, taking scenic back roads that I have not previously been on in order to make the trip more memorable and hopefully see interesting things along the way. I have traveled west so many times that taking the same roads is not interesting, especially when it’s the Interstate Highways.

Before leaving Waco, I looked at my maps and various campground books to see where I might want to stop that were reasonable driving distances for me in a day. I found several places that looked like possibilities, two were Texas city parks with electric and water hookups each about 4 miles off the highway, the other two places are ones I stayed in last year in New Mexico. So, the first night I stayed at a city campground in Sweetwater which is just a little west of Abilene. It was a nice campground, very quiet. There were only four rv’s in the park. Texas is the only state I have found so far that has a public campground book at their visitor information center. Most state information centers have only state campground books. Texas Public Campground book has state, federal, and city parks listed with their location and contact phone numbers. Between that and my Passport America campground directory, and my Camping with the Corps of Engineers book, I do pretty well finding places to stay.

2015-08-30 20.04.28 On Friday, I left Sweetwater and headed north on Highway 84 towards Lubbock and Amarillo. I drove about 175 miles and decided to stop in a city park in Plainview which is about halfway between Lubbock and Amarillo. It turns out it was a good stopping place. I spent three nights in this park and I was able to relax and also flush out my holding tanks. Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening there were really severe thunder storms with lightening. I know the rain was very much needed. On Sunday evening, as the sun was setting, it looked like a giant bright orange ball. I’m guessing the dust made it a dramatic color. I took a picture, but it didn’t come out very well. I wanted to exchange some of my paperback books at a library or thrift shop but I couldn’t find any open on Saturday. So, I walked across the street to the County Sheriff’s office to ask if they knew of a library that might be open, and it turns out they said they had a box of paperback books in their garage, so I was able to exchange books there without having to drive anywhere. That worked out very well. I returned the books that I was able to read over the weekend so they could pass them on, and I gave them books that I had read before I got there. What a great surprise!!! I have exchanged books at campgrounds that have a book section, not all of them do. But this is a first to exchange them at a sheriff’s office.

As I was driving between Sweetwater and Plainview on Highway 84 I passed probably 100 miles of cotton fields, and there were many oil wells and oil well fields that I passed too. I also saw many areas where there were fields of the wind generators, considering the winds in west Texas I’m glad to see that the wind is being used for a good purpose. Some fields had cotton, oil, and the wind generators all in the same areas. I don’t remember ever seeing so many miles and acres of cotton growing anywhere. I have seen many miles of cotton but never so much as in this part of the country. Then unexpectedly, all of a sudden, I passed a very large field of sunflowers. The vivid yellow was a nice change in color from the green of the grass and cotton plants. I am posting pictures I took of oil wells and an oil well field in case you don’t know what it looks like. It reminds me of giant grasshoppers as the gears rotate and move. Most are painted black, and then I saw some that were painted white with green accents, and further north there were blue ones.

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Monday morning, I left Plainview and headed north towards Amarillo. During the weekend when I was double checking my route to see if I wanted to modify it and what might be of interest to stop at along the way, I found a website Roadside America that lists attractions and interesting places to see by state. So, I checked to see what might be on the route I was taking towards Amarillo and I found two that I wanted to stop at, one was Jack Sisemore’s RV Museum and the other was Cadillac Ranch, both in Amarillo. They were on my way so I stopped at both of them.

The Antique RV Museum was really interesting. It has at least 16 unusual vintage RVs from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, including one that was used in the movie RV with Robin Williams. It was a touching moment to look at that RV and to walk into it and remember the movie and visualize Robin Williams and the other actors in the RV. Many of the RV’s are available for visitors to go in and see up close, some of the older ones had signs to only look in them. I took lots of pictures in the museum and created an album with all of them. Click on the pictures to enlarge them in order to see more detail or read the poster boards.

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There were also many motorcycles, classic, vintage ones, and there were also several old cars, and antique coolers, lanterns, pots and pans, toys, etc. The way the motorcycles are displayed is very creative. They have them hung along the top of the walls, and another section has them on platforms above each other, looking at the pictures I took, they look like toy motorcycles, but they are full size ones. When visitors leave the museum they are asked to sign a guest book and put a pin in a map of the USA to see where the visitors come from. If you are in the Amarillo area, check out this RV Museum, there is no admission charge, it’s open Monday through Saturday.

I got a chuckle, and had a smile on my face, when I read a sign next to a 1953 camper that said they bought it from an 84 year old lady that said it was time for her to stop camping. How cool was that… when you think about her age and how many years ago they bought it from her, I would definitely say that she was a pioneer and very adventurous. I have a friend named Carol who like me travels solo all around the country, in fact I met her online shortly before I began my travels in the summer of 2011. Carol has been an inspiration to me and we meet up when we can. We are planning on getting together in Albuquerque again this year like we did last year. I bet she would get a chuckle from the solo camper mentioned below. It was very interesting to see the changes in the rv’s over the years and to look at the way they were designed back then. There was even a rv in the museum that was owned by Max Factor Jr, the president of Max Factor Cosmetics. There are many more pictures in the album I posted.

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I stopped at the Texas Information Center in Amarillo to get a new public campground book and new maps. My maps seem to tear since I use them alot and I also make notes on them sometimes. I asked the staff person where to find the Cadillac Ranch site and she told me Exit 60. I have driven on I-40 many times over the past four years and I never noticed the cars standing in the air a short distance off of the highway. I found the site and as I got out of my camper and was walking south towards it, I wasn’t sure that was a good thing to do. The wind was blowing south to north and the red dirt was blowing in my eyes even though I was wearing sunglasses. It felt like the sand was getting imbedded in my skin. I kept going, thinking I was already here and probably would not stop again on my way back east. It was interesting to see, not really much to look at other than graffiti. The cars were all stripped down, and there were lots of cans of spray paint near them. Visitors seem to like to spray their names or other things on the car frames. Walking back to the camper was easier since the wind was at my back. I rinsed out my eyes with eye wash when I got back to the camper. If you are interested, you can read about Cadillac Ranch and see why it was created and what it represents.

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I continued my trip and decided to stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I stayed one night last year. It’s on old Route 66. I was really fortunate, I asked the owner if by chance there were any shady spots, and she gave me one. There aren’t many trees here, but there was one and she parked me on the east side of it so I got some shade.

As I drove on my trip today, my odometer passed 90,000 miles. I thought back to when I bought this wonderful camper van, whom I have named Molly, in Phoenix, Arizona, Thanksgiving 2005, when she had about 24,800 miles on the odometer. I am so happy and grateful that I bought it then. She is 15 years old now and still in great shape. I take care of her so that she will remain in good condition. We have had some amazing experiences together. I hope we get the opportunity to make many more memorable and fun trips together.

Tomorrow I will either stop in Tijeras, New Mexico, just east of Albuquerque, or I will drive straight to Albuquerque, it’s only about 200 miles from here. I have taken my time, and drove reasonable distances each day, not more than 250 miles in a day. It’s worked out very well, I am so grateful. I plan on being in Albuquerque until October 12th. In the month before the event, I will be assigned to several committees to help them prepare for the event. This year I am helping on Pilot Registration in addition to the Balloon Discovery Center and I am working under the guidance of the Event Coordinator for the month I will be there starting this week when I arrive. It should be very interesting, and I think I will be very busy which is good. I will also be crewing for the same pilot during the Balloon Fiesta. This is my fourth year here, so now I sort of know my way around, and I get to see people that I have made friends with over the years that I only see here, but we keep in touch throughout the year.

Healthwise, I am doing pretty well. I had a couple of days when the pain was pretty intense, thankfully, I was able to not have to drive on those days. Then I had a few days where I was relatively pain free, and that felt great. Today, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. in severe pain, so I took some medicine and went back to sleep for a few hours. When I got up about 8:00 a.m. I took two Aleve and after about an hour or so, the edge was off the pain and I was able to drive without intense pain, until it started again in the early afternoon. When I got to the campground, I ate a late lunch or early dinner, not sure which because the time zone changed again to Mountain Time. I took a bit of medicine, and rested until it went away. I am so happy to have my home on wheels which allows me to drive, rest, eat, whatever I need as I travel.

I have so very much to be grateful for. Thanks for traveling on my journey with me. I am so glad and grateful I stepped out in faith and made this trip instead of sitting home on the sofa and wishing I did it. I keep praying and asking God to let me continue on this journey and return home safely like I was able to do last year, and in previous years. Having these adventures sure beats sitting home on the sofa waiting for my life to end. I’m enjoying my travels and meeting interesting people along the way. Every now and then I think about the fact that my doctor told me in the summer of 2013 that I would not be alive by the end of 2015 and so far, I’m still alive and doing my best to enjoy life to the fullest!!!

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas visiting with friends

After I left Sue’s house near Fort Worth, I spent the weekend in a campground at Lake Whitney near Waco. It was so quiet and peaceful. This campground was closed for two months due to the flooding from the abundance of rain earlier this year. The weekend I was at the campground was the first time it was opened in two months, so it was just me and one other camper in the entire campground where I stayed. One night there was a beautiful sunset. While parked at the campground I noticed water dripping on the concrete under the edge of the camper. I thought at first it was from the rooftop air conditioner, but after checking, it seems that the gray water tank from my little kitchen sink had some cracks in it. When I got to Waco and parked at my friends house, they patched it with some type of repair kit with black goop that hopefully sealed the cracks so it won’t leak. In a previous story I wrote about my back step no longer working. So far the step stool is working out okay. In fact, I also use it to wash the front window which is safer for me than when I try to stand on the front bumper to reach the window and the top of the camper over the window.

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I have been visiting with my friends in the Homestead Heritage community in Waco, Texas. I have been here many times in the 17 1/2 years since I learned about this community and made many friends here. There are numerous stories on my website that you can read and several photo albums that you can look at the pictures from my previous visits, most of them at the Thanksgiving Fair and in the weeks leading up to the Fair when everyone is getting preparing the many types of foods that are served and the numerous hands on projects and demonstrations. Here is the story I wrote from my visit in November 2014.

Labor Day is the Sorghum Festival. In addition to other activities visitors can watch the entire process of making sweet sorghum syrup–from pressing the raw cane using a horse-powered mill to cooking the juice into a rich, golden brown syrup, and they can enjoy some samples of sorghum syrup on freshly-baked cornbread made from stoneground cornmeal!  I remember the first time I got to chew on a piece of fresh sorghum, it was really sweet and an unusual taste, sort of like sugar cane. Fresh sorghum syrup is delicious, it’s not quite a molasses taste, but it’s similar. I have watched the sorghum pressed and boiled several times, it’s fascinating to watch the syrup change from the liquid that is pressed to the finished product. It’s all done by hand with many people helping the syrup flow from the beginning of the boiling tray until it’s the finished syrup being poured into jars.

IMG_9222Since arriving here on August 3rd, I have spent two days helping at the Cheese Shop, and also having meals with various close friends, and also preparing fresh pears from the pear trees so that the fruit can be dried in a food dehydrator. I also picked hot peppers and helped to get them ready to be dried so they can be ground into pepper for cooking. As always, I make time to rest and take care of myself, and read. As I walk around the village I see many Roadrunner birds. They are really entertaining to watch. They run a little, then stop and look around and while they do their tail moves up and down, then on they go and repeat the process again and again.

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A few weeks ago a Basket Shop was opened, I went in and met Martha who was weaving some baskets. As I walked through the shop, I saw baskets that were finished and ready for sale, and also that were in the process of being woven by people taking the basket weaving class. I saw a basket that contained walnut slices, they were also incorporated into some of the hand woven baskets. I can’t imagine how a walnut gets sliced into nice looking slices. I bet only a few slices can be cut from a walnut.

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This time of year is when one of my favorite plants is in bloom, it’s the Pride of Barbados. The flowers are bright orange and yellow and almost every bloom is different as far as the variation of these two colors. The butterflies love these bright colored flowers and many other types of flowers in the flower bed. Butterflies are abundant, as are fire ants. I prefer the butterflies and flowers. I have had many experiences with fire ants, and I prefer to not have any more, but I know that is not likely.

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Here are some of the pictures I took this year. Since I have taken hundreds of pictures over the past few years during my visits here, I didn’t want to post another album since it will be mostly the same pictures. The Hydroponics Greenhouse was new last November, so I thought I would include some new pictures here the gardens have been used for several months. It’s about 100 degrees here and it’s between planting season, so not many vegetables are being grown at this time. It even reached 108 degrees a few days this week. It’s way too hot!!! I can’t even imagine the intensity of the heat that Caleb works with in the blacksmith shop.

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wall muralOne night I had dinner at a friends house where I got to enjoy time with their three children who are precious and adorable. I have watched them grow over the years and we stay in touch throughout the year. I have pictures at home hanging on my mirror that they colored for me. I love the new house they are in that I got to see the framing for when I was here the end of last year. One of the walls in the girl’s room was painted with a beautiful mural. While at the house I looked outside and there were two donkeys in the driveway, they evidently live next door and often come to visit.

There are so many beautiful handmade quilts for sale here made by members of the community. I love looking at the designs and the very even and straight hand stitching. I have made several quilts myself and I know how much time it takes to make them and hand stitch them. Getting all of the stitches to be the same size is very time consuming, and my stitches are not quite as small as the stitches on these quilts. In addition to selling quilts, the Gift Barn sells other locally made items such as jellies, pasta, candles, soaps,  Gristmill products, and furniture.

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In case you have not seen how pomegranates grow, here are a few photos of them growing on trees. First there is a small pinkish red flower, then the fruit begins to appear. There are a few trees here that have the beginnings of the fruit on them now, they usually are ready to be picked in October and November.  The Century plant is a cactus like plant that is very large. Once a year it puts up a very tall, about 6 foot or higher stalk that sort of looks like an asparagus tip. This is not the time of year for the spike, but the plant is still pretty amazing to look at. It looks like it would have succulent leaves, but they are very hard and dry. You can’t tell from looking at this picture, but some of these plants are about three feet tall and about that in diameter.

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Texas like other states has some beautiful sunsets. Overlooking the lower pasture land here, where there is an overlook facing west, the sunset is majestic. Here are pictures I took all in one evening. It was really interesting watching clouds move across the sun as it was setting.

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The weather here in Texas has been quite hot. We had several days of over 100 degrees temperature. In fact, it was 107 and 108 for a few days. Then it cooled off to about 98 degrees. There was a BIG surprise on Thursday morning when the temperature in the morning was 70 degrees. Then in the afternoon we had heavy rainstorms, the rain was very much needed. There was heavy rains a few months ago that caused serious flooding, and now I heard that a record was set for the most days without rain in quite a while. So, the rain on Thursday was very much needed. Kim and I went to town to go grocery shopping and we got soaked to the skin from being in the rain.

I will be leaving Waco on Wednesday or Thursday and heading west and then northwest, then west again towards Albuquerque. I called a Corps of Engineer Park a few hours west of Waco to see about camping there and I was told they are still closed from the flooding a few months ago. An hour or so west is another Corps park that is open so I plan on stopping there before heading west/northwest towards Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo, then on to Albuquerque. I will update my website as I can since I will have intermittent Internet service and probably not much to write about for a while, other than maybe posting some photos of campgrounds. I am taking some back roads and going through small towns that I have not been through before so maybe I will find interesting places along my route. If so, I will write about them and post pictures when I can. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see any new posts from me for several weeks. I will try to at least keep my Travel Map updated.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Visiting with Friends, meeting Eddie, and Gratitude

On Monday, I arrived at my friend Sue’s house, near Fort Worth, Texas, to stay with her and her husband Mark for a few days. I always enjoy my visit with them. I mentioned to Mark some of the things happening with my camper that needed some repairs, and he graciously made time to fix them for me. He also spent many hours over a few days to try to get my back step to work. Unfortunately, he was not able to fix it, but he did narrow it down to what he thinks the problem is… which is most probably electrical since the motor that puts the steps up and down works when directly connected to a battery. I  bought a sturdy step stool so I could get into the camper and Mark added some wood slats to the bottom to raise it up about 2 inches for me so that it’s a better height.

Wednesday, Sue and I had lunch with my friend Pat and we caught up on life. Last year lightening struck the apartment building where Pat lived and her building burnt and she had to relocate to another apartment. She lost many of her possessions and furniture. I have known both Sue and Pat for about 25 years.

Sue works out at a gym frequently, and on Thursday morning she suggested that I go to the gym with her and I could walk the track while she did her exercises. This worked out great because I bought new sneakers yesterday so I could break them in by walking the track. The sneakers I bought last year hurt my feet when I wear them for a couple of days. It turns out that either my feet grew a size, or the other sneakers were sold to me in the wrong size. When we arrived at the gym I had to sign in and when I went into the office to do that I noticed that the walls were painted with interesting murals.

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2015-07-30 11.21.44As I was walking the track I saw this banner. Click on it to enlarge and read what it says. Part of it says “Live Life to the Fullest.”

So, after signing in, we get to the gym and as we enter we see a man with no legs receiving stretching exercises by a trainer. I watched him going through his routine while I walked around the track. What an inspiration. His legs were amputated in different locations on both legs. One was below his groin and the other was close to his knee. After he finished his workout and I finished walking the track, I went and talked with him and told him what an inspiration he was to me. I frequently write that there are others with much more serious health issues and problems than I have. Here is a great example. This man’s name is Eddie and he gave me permission to take his picture and to include it on my website. After I took his picture, he said “I have one leg on, and the other across my lap.” I asked if he wanted to put it on and I would take another picture and he said no. Eddie was a joy to talk with, it seems he has a great attitude towards life and he continues to push himself to get to be more mobile and active. He told me is is going on a trip to Wyoming in the near future.

Eddie lost his legs 8 years ago in an accident while he worked for a major airline. I told Eddie about David Nicholson that I met in July 2013 who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan. I wrote about David in a story on my website in July 2013. Eddie noticed that like him, David’s legs were amputated in different locations on both legs. Next time I want to feel sorry for myself, I will remember Eddie, David, Parker, Mary Lou, Albert, and so many others who have greater challenges than I do. Look at how big Eddie’s smile is when I asked to take his picture. I admire his attitude towards life and his dedication to continue to work on improving his muscle tone and keep his body fit.

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dry yardBefore I left Florida, I thought it was really hot temperature wise. I forgot how hot it is in Texas this time of the year until I got back here. It’s been about 100+ degrees. The ground is so dry it’s cracked. It’s hard to believe because a few months ago they had so much rain they had flooding in many areas.

I am leaving Sue and Mark’s house on Friday morning, and I don’t know when I will have Internet again. I will post another story when I have Internet and something interesting to write about.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas, arrival and event

I created an album of pictures I have taken during this week long event.

Here is a link to all of the albums I have posted since 2011, or you can go to the Photo Gallery tab on my website. There is a date for every album, to read the story related to an album, go to the archives for that particular date.


Sunday, July 19th, I arrived in Longview, Texas, where I will attend the Great Texas Balloon Race. This will be my first time at this hot air balloon event and in Longview. Before leaving home I tried to find RV parks near the event and didn’t find any too close. It seems that everyone meets at the Maud Cobb Convention Center on the weekdays for the competition and then the pilots and crew take off for destinations to launch from for the competition targets. Because I am not familiar with this event, other than reading the schedule on their website, I figured I would be driving every day to watch the balloons, and also for the times I have volunteered to help. I wasn’t looking forward to driving all over town every day because I would have to secure everything in the camper before moving it. I prayed and asked God to help me know where to stay and how it will work out. I didn’t make any RV reservations, except for the Friday night through Sunday of the event when I would be at the airport and they had a place for RV’s to dry camp without hookups. Everything Friday afternoon through Sunday was at the airport. The weekday competitions was when traveling was necessary,

I called a local RV store, the Longview Chamber of Commerce, the balloon event people, and stopped at the Texas welcome center, and finally someone that I spoke with suggested calling Maud Cobb Convention Center where the balloon pilots, crew, and Event Staff were meeting every weekday morning. I called and guess what? It’s a city owned facility and they have RV campsites at the Convention Center with either full hookups or ones with water and electricity. I made a reservation from Sunday through Friday so I could have electricity and air conditioning, and then on Friday afternoon through Sunday I will be dry camping at the airport where the rest of the balloon events will take place. I was so happy to find out about this campground and it means I will not have to drive all over town during the week. I usually stop at a grocery stores before going to campgrounds to stock up on food.

A few months ago I contacted the Balloon event coordinators and said I would volunteer to crew and I found out I have been assigned Friday through Sunday to the Puddy Cat balloon which is like Sylvester the cat from the cartoons. However, since I am already going to be in town, I am going to show up every weekday morning, health permitting, and if anyone needs a crew member for the regular shaped balloons, I will offer my services. It will be more fun than just watching. I think everyone is supposed to already have their crew but things can change at the last minute. Otherwise, I will just crew on Friday through Sunday. I am so thankful that the city has a RV park at the convention center, it will save me lots of driving time around the city which I am not familiar with. If all works out I will only have to find my way to the convention center and airport and then back to the interstate when I leave. I don’t know for sure, but I’m hoping once I park at the convention center that I can walk to where the balloons meet and also for the party they are having on Thursday evening.

After the balloon event is over, I am heading to visit with my friends in the Fort Worth area for several days, then on to Waco to visit other friends for a week or so, then on to visit other friends as I travel towards Albuquerque. I am going to try and spend a few days camping at beautiful Lake Whitney. It will bring back many memories, maybe even some tears. Many, many years ago, when Don was alive, we used to camp there often. It’s hard to believe he died about 15 years ago. In fact, it was the first place we camped when we bought our trailer. I remember we took our dogs on the trip and we were almost the only campers in the campground, it was a cold October weekend and unexpectedly a bad rainstorm with high winds made our first camping trip a memorable experience.

Tuesday, July 21st, I arrived on Sunday and helped the Event staff prepare pilot packets and I got to meet many of the people on the Board of Directors. Everyone I met was really friendly and they made me feel welcome. Al Nels from Ohio, was one of the pilots that came to register on Sunday afternoon. He needed another crew person so I was assigned to help him on his balloon called Time Flies. It’s a really beautiful balloon and the design tells things about Al and his family. The cards in the photos below tells the story of Al’s and Andrew’s balloons, click on them to enlarge. Al and his friend/crew mate Randy, and his entire crew and family made me feel very welcome and a part of their team.

I crewed on Monday and then met them on Tuesday morning, but due to the high winds, flights and competition were cancelled on Tuesday. I know everyone was disappointed, but it’s better to be safe than risk an accident to either people or the balloon. Safety is the main priority for balloonists.

Al and his son Andrew both fly balloons, and they mostly fly in competition. Al has won the National Championship title twice and also the World Championship title twice. after watching the balloon pilots navigating from miles from the target, to the designated target, I have a greater appreciation for those who have won championship titles. I can tell how seriously Al, Andrew, Randy and the others he flies with take competition. I have learned several things listening to them discuss the coordinates for the targets, where they need to be to take off from, and much more. They all keep in radio contact both on the drive to the take off site and while in the air. Everything is charted on maps and in various types of GPS systems. It’s really fascinating listening to the discussions. I even learned about true and magnetic poles.

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After the balloon envelope was laid out after landing, Al took out what looked like a bent metal pipe and said it’s called Squeeze and instead of people milking the air out of the balloon envelope for packing it into the bag, this tool does the work so much quicker and more efficiently. It’s really easy to use, I was able to help use it so I know that for a fact. I’ve helped milk the air out of balloons in Albuquerque and I know how hard it is and the time it takes.

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I created an album of pictures I have taken during this week long event.


Monday and Tuesday evenings there were parties for people to have fun and meet each other, sort of kickoff parties. As I am writing this post early Tuesday afternoon, Al called to say he and his family will come pick me up and take me to the party tonight since it’s off premises and he felt it would be better to go with them than me driving there. How very considerate, I thanked him. The party Tuesday night was held at Danville Farms about 20 minutes from the Maud Cobb Convention Center. This is a really nice ranch and there are some interesting pieces of old farm tools and equipment and also the room where the party was held is one of the most creative rooms I have ever seen. Each corner of the room was done differently and some corners were made to look like the outside of a building rather than indoors. There was also an old fashioned high back chair, and a very large light fixture made out of antlers. I put the pictures I took in the photo album, but I will include a few here.

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Wednesday, July 22nd, the winds were favorable for flying today. So everyone drove to Kilgore for pilot’s briefing and receiving the location of the targets for competition. The winds were not as good as everyone would have liked, but everyone made the best of it since no one has control over the speed or direction of the winds. All the pilots could do was to try and find out what altitude had the direction they wanted to travel. We launched from someone’s front yard on a back country road and Al landed in a field at a high school. It was so nice to take off and land on grass, rather than fields with dirt, rocks, and stickers like usually happens when I crew in Albuquerque. Later that afternoon, we learned that one of the pilots had a really rough landing and had to go to the hospital. It turns out sadly that he broke a hip and foot. We are keeping him in our prayers.

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Wednesday afternoon there was a baseball game of the police department vs the fire department, which included dinner with bar-b-que and soft drinks for the pilots, the crew, and their families. Once again, Al and his family picked me up and brought me to the event with them. As it got dark, there was a burner glow. When the baseball game began and it was the fire department team ahead by 9 runs in the first two innings, then all of a sudden, the police team began to get hits and they scored multiple runs and the score last we saw it before going to get ready for the burner glow was 20 to 9, police team winning. It was fun to watch the game and see how some players slid into a base or home plate.

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What also made the game more fun to watch was that every inning it seemed they stopped the game to involve children in an activity. Sometimes it was who could run around the bases the fastest. Another was to see which of two children could get in full fire bunker gear the fastest. Then a small plastic pool appeared on the field and it was filled with water and as a relay, two teams had to take a fire boot and go fill it with water, then run back to their team and pour the water into a bucket. Whoever filled their bucket first won. There was also a dance off between five police officers and children and five firefighters and children. Some adults picked up the child to dance, others danced around each other. We got to experience creative dancing in various forms. It turned out to be a really fun evening with entertainment and fellowship.

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As it began to get dark all of the balloon pilots and their crew went to their trucks and got ready for a burner blast. The pilots also gave out balloon cards to anyone coming by asking for one. Cards show the picture of the balloon on one side, and details about the pilot and balloon on the other side. You can see Al’s and Andrew’s balloon card higher up in this story. The heat from the burners is intense. Especially in 90 degree temperatures. Al has a remote control rigged to his burners, so he was able to be a further distance from his burner than other pilots. The people at the event were fascinated by the burner blast. It really was pretty spectacular.

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IMG_8575And as almost always, no matter where I am at, if the fire department is at an event usually Sparky the fire dog is too. He loves to interact with the children.

Thursday morning, July 23rd, the winds were too high and therefore the balloons were not able to fly. I know everyone was once again disappointed, but it’s better to be safe. So, I went back to my camper and went back to sleep for a few hours. Then I came to the convention center and took a shower and worked on this story, updating it from yesterday.

I love Texas hospitality. I felt it the instant I moved to Texas in early 1980 and when I lived here for 19 years, and when I visit Texas, I still feel it. Here is an example, I asked the administrative staff of this convention center if they have any showers and I was told they have one in case of an emergency situation but Anne said she would ask if I could use it. A short time later one of the staff came and found me and said that I could use the shower, so I arranged it for late Thursday morning so I can still be outside at the baseball game tonight and also possibly crew in the morning and then come back and shower so I will be clean for the party Thursday night and be as fresh as I can for the weekend of dry camping with no hookups. It’s about 100 degrees outside and in the sun, inflating and packing the balloon, it feels much hotter and we get soaking wet.

On Monday a RV parked next to me in the campground, but I didn’t see the people in it until Wednesday afternoon. It turns out they are here for the Dog Show this coming weekend. There was a fenced in area around their camper and I figured they probably had a dog. It turns out they have quite a few dogs, Italian Greyhounds. There were 4 adorable 7 week old puppies. Every one had different markings. There were also 3 adult dogs, one was the mother. I was leaning down to get a better look at the puppies who were on the far side of the gated area. One of the pups came over to me and it was so soft to pet. I fell in love with one that has half of it’s face white, the other half fawn. But really, they were all cute.

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Thursday night was another kickoff party. All of the pilots were introduced and I got to meet the special shape balloon pilot that I will be crewing for. His name is Rodney Williams from Branson, Missouri. If you are in Branson stop by Branson Balloons and see Rodney. I know you will enjoy a balloon ride, he’s a great pilot and a really nice man. Instead of crewing on the Puddy Cat balloon, our balloon was changed to the Tweety Bird balloon. It seems that Puddy Cat, Yellow Bird, the Purple People Eater, and Spunky the Skunk are all owned by a man named John. Rodney was assigned to Yellow Bird who looks sort of like Tweety Bird.

IMG_8942At the kickoff party I met Scott Vesely and David Jones. Scott is the pilot for the Annie the Lady Bug balloon, and David has a non-profit organization in Amarillo, Texas, called Up in the Air for Family Care. They have an annual hot air balloon event fundraiser in October the weekend after the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Friday morning, July 24th, we all met at Maud Cobb Convention Center. We located Rodney and he, Cindy his crew chief, and our crew drove to one of the local banks where we inflated the balloon in a field next to the bank so that their customers and people passing by were able to stop and see the balloon up close and those who wanted to took their pictures next to the balloon. It’s always great to see people’s reactions to the balloon, and also when the burners blast. The loud swooshing sound sometimes startles people because they are not expecting the sound. After we were inflated for quite while the winds picked up and we had to bring the balloon down because it was getting harder to manage it safely.

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After returning from crewing, I drove my camper over to the airport and dry camped on one of the runways being used for the balloon event. I rested for a while, then at 3:30 p.m. I reported for my volunteer work at Gate 4. Then at 7:30 p.m. when my shift was over, I reported to Rodney for my crew assignment for Yellow Bird.

IMG_8734I was able to take a quick dinner break about 7:00 p.m. and when I was in the volunteer tent having dinner, I saw six men sitting at the table next to me wearing Cooter Graw t-shirts. I went over to them and asked if they were our performers tonight and they said they were. They were very kind, after I talked with them for a while I asked if I could take their picture for my website and they said I could. They began performing while we were getting ready to take the balloons down for the night. Even though I am not a big country music fan, and I am not familiar with this group, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them perform. Having had the opportunity to meet them casually and visit with them made it extra special for me. I asked where they are from, and they all live in various parts of Texas.

On Friday night, all of the balloons inflated and after dark there was a balloon glow. It was beautiful watching all of the balloons being set up and also glowing. I love the Old Lady in the Shoe balloon, it’s one of my favorite balloons. I have seen it flying every year I went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. At this event, I got to see the balloon laid out waiting to be inflated, and I got to see it close up after being inflated. This balloon is 147 feet tall, weighs 1,300 pounds without passengers, and there are 12 children. There are many more photos in my album.

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balloonsBrandy, one of the people I crewed with sent me this panoramic picture of the balloon we crewed on and other balloons near us.


Saturday morning, July 25th, all the pilots and crew inflated the special shape balloons, while in the distance the competition pilots began their flight towards the airport field for their competition. The winners of the National Competition, in the first few winning positions, go on to the World Competitions in Japan. It takes so much skill, and a certain degree of luck because of the wind conditions, to navigate the wind currents, the sky, and all other factors to navigate the balloon to be over the targets on the field to score. Al Nels that I crewed for earlier in the week was in the competition and after he came over the field and aimed at the targets, he opened some turning vents on is balloon so it spun around as it traveled across the field. It was really cool to watch a professional balloon pilot doing what he loves, and I got some great photos of the different sides of his balloon. Notice how close to the ground he was to get his marker to the target. It’s evident when watching and talking with these balloon pilots that they love what they do and they take great care with the balloons, and the pride they have as a balloon pilot is evident.

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After watching the other three special shaped balloons, also owned by John, several of us crew members assigned to help Rodney were glad he was assigned Yellow Bird which is a special shape balloon, but shaped more like a regular shape balloon, unlike the other three balloons, so it was easier to deflate and pack it. We helped to pack Puddy Cat twice because it takes more crew and we were finished packing our balloon. The other three balloons have much different shapes and parts to those balloons as you can tell from looking at them. It’s a bit more challenging to get the air out of the sections that are coming off of the main balloon. There were six of us assigned to crew for Rodney, I was the only one that had been on a balloon crew previously.

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Here is our crew milking the air out of the balloon envelope. It’s not very easy to do, especially in special shaped balloons.

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IMG_9076 After the first time of setting up the balloon and packing it away, all six of the crew worked well as a team and everyone felt comfortable with what to do in order to get the balloon inflated and packed. By Sunday morning, which was our fifth time to inflate, collapse, and pack the balloon, everyone on our team was an experienced crew member. We had a picture taken of our balloon pilot and crew and Wayne and Carol printed pictures for everyone of us and we all signed the pictures so we could have a memento from the event. That was a really nice, thoughtful, and unexpected surprise.

As I was watching the competition this morning, and looking at the balloons as they were flying overhead, I noticed that one of the balloons had large holes in the lower edge of the balloon envelope. Look in the blue area above the red ring at the bottom. I’m pretty sure this is from the fabric of the balloon envelope being too close to the burners and the fabric melted. Since it was low down, it most probably didn’t affect how the balloon flew. I’m sure as soon as the pilot is able to they will have these holes repaired. It’s very sad to see this happen to someone’s balloon. I know it was an accident that it happened. This is one of the reasons that pilots don’t want to fly or inflate their balloon on windy days. The balloon envelope can shift position quickly when a gust of wind hits, and damage to the balloon can be a result of the wind change. I know when we raise the balloon when using the burners, and also when bringing the balloon envelope down we all try to be sure that the fabric doesn’t come in contact with the flame or hot metal of the burner.

Saturday evening, July 25th, it was the same as the previous evening. I got more pictures of the balloons, and there was a balloon glow and burner blast. As the balloons were being deflated, the performance Saturday night was the Oak Ridge Boys. They played several of their new songs, and also many of their old hits which I remember from when I was younger. They still sound great.

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Sunday morning, July 26th, was the final day of the Great Texas Balloon Race. The special shape balloons inflated for the last time this weekend, and the competition pilots completed their final competition for their scores.

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After we all said our farewells, and exchanged contact information, we all went our separate ways. Rodney told us about a balloon event he will be having in Granbury, Texas, the third weekend in October. It’s the weekend after the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I might try and go to that event and crew for Rodney. Wayne and Carol said they might go too. I think Scott and David said their balloon event in Amarillo is that same weekend. October is a long way off at the moment. I will see how it’s going closer to that date and decide where my travels take me.

IMG_8718I want to express my appreciation and thanks to the Great Texas  Balloon Race Board of Directors. They have been really friendly not only to me, but to everyone that I saw them in contact with. They made a special accommodation for me so that I could park my camper van close to the gate where I volunteered on Friday and Saturday. It really made it handy and I was parked on the pavement so my spot was level. I was able to get a ride in the golf cart when I needed to go get dinner at the volunteer tent so it saved me walking across the large field. They thanked me for my help during the week and on the weekend. God willing, I will try to come back and help again next year.

Near the tent where the pilots and crew eat dinner, there were street signs which I thought was a clever idea. Each of the signs on the poles were the names of Board of Director members.

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I have been feeling pretty good so far on this trip. I take small doses of my medicine so it’s keeping my pain under control. I am taking on small amounts at a time during the day so it takes the edge off my pain, while not making me too sleepy. It’s also good because I haven’t had to drive anywhere. I’ve pretty much been parked at the location that each balloon event is being held and if there is somewhere off site I need to be at either a pilot or another crew member drives me. The tumor seems to not be changing much at the moment. But at times, it’s still giving me sharp stabbing pains, however, they pass quickly. The numbness in my foot and leg is not any worse and I can still get around fine. I’m trying to make sure that I’m drinking enough water so I don’t dehydrate, but it’s tough. It’s about 100 degrees here and it’s so hot. I am really glad I made the trip. I think being out and on a trip has been good for my spirit and it’s giving me something different to focus on, other than my health condition.

After I left the balloon event about noon on Sunday, July 26th, I stopped at the Wagon Train RV Park in Canton, Texas about an hour west of Longview. It’s exit 536 off of I-20. It’s a Passport America campground and it’s quite cozy looking and it’s kept clean. The owners just redid the camp spots and they are level and all of them have full hookups. It felt great to take a shower and get clean after being all hot and sweaty since Friday. I did not have access to a shower since Thursday, so I used washcloths and did the best I could to get clean. Everyone that was outside during the event stayed in a constant state of being wet from the heat and humidity. There was no way to avoid it. However, we still had fun and enjoyed ourselves.

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Tomorrow morning I drive to spend a few days with my friend Sue west of Fort Worth, then I head to Waco to visit with other friends for a few weeks before heading west towards Albuquerque.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

On the road again, traveling west, UPDATE and camping along the way

I left home on Friday, July 10th, and I drove about 300 miles. I kept driving into intermittent pockets of heavy rain, sometimes while the sun was shining. I got to see full arc rainbows twice. I love seeing rainbows, even though sometimes they only last few a few minutes. In the late afternoon, there was a heavy downpour of rain with lighting and thunder, so I got off at an exit when I could and I sat in the parking lot until it let up enough that I could go in and buy some food. After I bought a few things, and the rain let up, I drove north about 30 miles and stopped in a rest area that has security guards at night. It was so hot that it wasn’t enjoyable, I did however use a small fan which helped it not be so hot inside my camper.

camp 1The second day, I stopped in an RV campground east of Pensacola, Florida, about 4:00 p.m. so I had electricity which is definitely needed in this 90+ degree temperature. I am finding that I get sleepy driving so every couple of hours I stop for about a 30 minute nap. I also stop for gas, food, etc. This campground also has wifi so I am able to update my travel map and write this post.

I turned the refrigerator on Wednesday, two days before I left home thinking it would be cold enough by Friday. It didn’t feel very cold so I moved the temperature lever up on Thursday. On Friday as I traveled it still didn’t feel very cold inside so I stopped at a RV dealer and they checked the lever and probe and put it on the fin again for me. Today, which is Saturday it still wasn’t cold enough so I stopped at a Camping World that I passed and a service guy took the probe off the fin and put it on again. I’m not sure he did it right. After being plugged in at the campground for two hours the fridge is not cold inside. The fins which usually get cold and sometimes have ice on them are not very cold and water is dripping on them. I took the probe off and put it on again. I will leave the fridge door closed until morning and check it before leaving the campground. If it is not cold I will decide whether to stay here another day and night to see if it gets cold, or I will continue west and find a RV repair place and hope they can fit me in to see what is wrong with the fridge. It’s four years old and it worked when I took a short trip in May. Hopefully, it will be working fine by morning. Not every time, but many times when I take a trip there is something that happens or needs repair. I hope this is the only happening or repair needed on this trip. If I need to buy a cooler and some ice then I will. Creative eating will be necessary without a fridge. I have bread, peanut butter, chips, and I will find single portion foods like packages of tuna fish if need be.

Sunday morning, July 12th, I prayed before going to sleep and again during the early morning hours when I was awake that the refrigerator would be working well. I checked it about 8:30 a.m. and the temperature was cool and in the good range on the temperature thermometer I keep in the fridge. I’m so glad it’s working well. I knew it was in the middle of May when I was on a short trip and I hadn’t turned the fridge on again until this past Wednesday. I guess since it’s in the high 90’s and operating on gas is not as efficient for the fridge so it doesn’t get as cold as when plugged into electricity. I know there will be several days on this trip when I won’t have electric hookups, such as at the hot air balloon events, but at the other times I will try to stay in campgrounds. It’s much too hot to dry camp.

I don’t know when I will have Internet again, so this might be the only story for a while.  Until I am at the hot air balloon event in Longview, instead of writing new stories, I will most probably add to the bottom of this post and add the date with the new information. I will try to update my travel map location every day or so.

Sunday, July 19th, I am now in Longview, Texas, staying at the Maud Cobb Convention Center for the Great Texas Balloon Race. They have a campground with full hookups, and also inside the convention center there is wifi so I am able to update my story. I wrote the story below while sitting in Buckhorn Creek Campground when I had no Internet, it will save time to post the story when I do have Internet.

camp 2Sunday afternoon, July 12th, I stopped in Lakeview RV Park east of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So far the refrigerator is still working great. I hope it continues. I drove about 300 miles again today. I am now on Central Time. I am so glad I was traveling west on I-10 today. As I was getting close to where I-10 and I-12 connect, there was a backup of traffic going west due to an accident. It only slowed me down for about a mile and about a 15 minute delay. There were also construction signs, but it seems that the construction was mostly on the eastbound side. The traffic was backed up for about 8 miles going east on I-10 and I-12. I hope by the time I return that it is not like that. As any of us drive, no matter where we are, can be driving along with the flow of traffic and all of a sudden it stops. We never know how long of a wait or how far the distance of the backup is. Sometimes when the traffic is backed up in the opposite direction I check the distance out of curiosity and thank God that I am not in it. There are times that I have been in long traffic delays. It’s not fun as you may know from being in them at times. I am using the hotspot on my phone to update this story.

At sunset as I was walking around the campground I took some pictures of the trees and campsites across the lake. I thought the pictures came out interesting. The trees and RVs are reflected in the lake, it’s a fascinating mirror image.

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Tuesday, July 14th, last night I stopped at Ajax Country Livin RV Park in Ajax, Texas. It’s off of I-49 about half hour or south of Shreveport, Louisiana. I had driven about 250 miles and didn’t feel up to going any further. I found this RV park in my Passport America campground book. So I stopped and I was pleasantly surprised because there was a nice lake on the side of the campground which could be seen from almost every campsite. Also, in the office there was a small library where I could exchange some paperback books. I like to do that because in addition to having new books to read, I almost always find books by authors I am not familiar with.

2015-07-13 14.51.492015-07-13 14.52.10So, I get up this morning to continue my journey and I go to put my back steps up and nothing happens. I am plugged into electricity, and the steps also operate off of the battery which I know is charged because I have been plugged in at campsites all nights on this trip except the first night. I try the switch several times, and try pushing the step in and still nothing happens. The campground has a few campers, but only one had a vehicle next to it. So I waited until 9 a.m. when the campground office opened. I explained my situation and asked Denise one of the campground owners if her husband David could help me. David comes out and says he will see what he can do to help.

After about a half hour we think it’s probably the motor because there is power to the switch and the wires to the steps. David suggests several things we can do to get the steps up, and we consider the options. I also sent a text to my friends Ann and Phil asking for their advice because Phil is a RV repairman who has done repairs to my camper when I am in Albuquerque. He gave us things to try and when nothing else worked we did what both David and Phil said is the best option at this time. That was to remove the pin and push the steps up manually and then tie them up against the frame or whatever we can. David removed the pin and very easily the steps folded up. I had some paracord and bungee cords and a rubber strap so David used those to secure the steps so they would not come loose when I traveled. I am so very thankful to David for his help. He took about two hours of his morning to help me and he wouldn’t let me pay him.

2015-07-13 14.12.58I believe that we are here to help others as we travel through life. I know there are many times that I have helped others without anything in return. I guess it’s the Universe’s way to say thank you. We are put here to help others. It doesn’t matter if it’s offering a hug, words of encouragement or support, or even consolation. It’s also helping no matter what, of giving back, of making life easier for others when we can. For offering prayers to those in need.

If you are driving on I-49 between Lafayette, LA and Shreveport, LA, stop by Ajax Country Livin RV Park. It’s about a mile off of exit 155, near Marthaville, LA. It’s very quiet and peaceful there with seating overlooking the lake.

So, after the steps were secure, I thanked David again, and I headed north towards my destination which for this day was going to be Buckhorn Creek Campground in Jefferson, Texas, just north of Marshall in east Texas. It’s a Corps of Engineer Park. I like staying in Corps parks, they are always kept in great condition, usually have level campsites, and almost always where I can either be camped on the lake or see it from a campsite. I stopped in Marshall and bought groceries because like most Corps and state parks around the country these parks are remote and not very close to towns which makes it quite a drive to go shopping.

2015-07-17 13.57.11Early Tuesday afternoon, I arrived at Buckhorn Creek Campground which is a really beautiful campground. Because I arrived on a Tuesday, there are not many campers here. I see four other trailers in the section I am in and none are close to me. I feel like I have my very own private campground with a close up view of the lake. I hung my hammock between two trees and spent lots of time laying in the hammock reading, relaxing, enjoying watching the birds, listening to the sounds of nature, and having quiet time with God. The campsite I am in is pretty much shaded by tall trees. There are a few times when the sun was shining on me in my hammock and on the camper, but overall it was shady for which I am very thankful because it’s really hot here, especially in the sun.

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I have not had any Internet connection for the six days I have been in this park, and two days before that while I was traveling, not even on my phone. I was able to make phone calls, and send and receive texts if they were short and did not contain photos. I bet when I get Internet again there will be quite a few email messages. When I travel I do not have television either and I don’t miss it.

Sunday, July 19th, My next stop is Longview, Texas, where I will attend the Great Texas Balloon Race. This will be my first time at this hot air balloon event and in Longview, and I am looking forward to this new experience and meeting new people.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Emotional Meltdown, Reality and Feelings

Despite everything happening in my life and the life of those close to me, I very seldom get overwhelmed, depressed, or have emotional meltdowns. When they do happen to me, it’s usually only for perhaps 10 or so minutes and the feelings pass quickly, especially when I call a friend and talk about whatever I’m feeling or what’s happening to create these feelings. Thankfully, it usually passes quickly. I do shed some tears, sometimes lots of tears. It’s okay to cry and feel feelings. I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t. I have learned from personal experience that it’s a long way from my head to my heart. I might know something in my head and know it’s a reality, but sometimes it takes my heart much longer to realize and accept whatever it is. Sometimes it takes weeks or months. I have been through this many times, including surgical changes to my body due to cancer. I knew the operations and removal of body parts was necessary, but my heart and eyes quite a while to accept it. I will admit that frustration is a word I deal with on almost a daily basis. I get frustrated that I can’t always do what I want due being tired or the intensity of the pain, or other reasons. But when I think of what I am grateful for during that time, the frustration seems to disappear, or at least lessen.

If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you know I have been living with serious health issues for many years, the past five years have significantly changed my life and given me a shorter life span. All any of us have is today. However, with tumors in my abdominal and pelvic areas, according to my doctor, my life span is not anticipated to be very long. At least that’s what she told me in 2013 when she told me I would most probably not live to the end of 2013, and definitely not the end of 2015. Well, we are halfway through 2015 and I am still alive. God has other plans for my life and I guess God is not ready for me yet. Many days I am ready, but I guess my purpose on Earth is not completed yet. Sometimes, I think of what I would have missed if God took me when I asked.

There are so many things I would not have experienced, both happy and sad. I would not have gone up in the Goodyear Blimp, or volunteered or had another ride in a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I would have missed being able to walk with my friend on her journey with cancer, or another losing her husband. I would have missed sharing life experiences of my friends, I would have missed seeing double full arc rainbows, exploring National Parks, doing fun jigsaw puzzles, eating ice cream sandwiches, traveling around the USA in my camper van, and so much more. I would have also missed being in pain, and even though I don’t like the pain and what I am going through physically, many friends and others I come in contact with on my journey through life tell me that I inspire them, or that what I am living with puts their life in perspective, or that they enjoy reading the stories I write about my trips and life experiences.

A few people ask me if I have tough days, or if what I am going through gets me down because I don’t write about it often. In part, that is why I am writing this story. I don’t have many of those days and when I do they pass quickly. It’s because I do my best to keep an attitude of gratitude. To always look for the positive and what I am grateful for. There are so many people with more challenges than I have, they have worse health conditions or physical restrictions, or they live with much more stressful situations and tragic losses than I do. When I make a list of all I have to be grateful for, it’s difficult to feel self pity. It’s easier to be a victim and say poor me than it is to be a hero and say this is what happened and now I have to live with it the best way I can. No matter what the situation, it’s easier to blame others than it is to take responsibility for my part in the situation. I choose to look at the positive, to be proactive.

I remember watching the July 4th fireworks in 2013 and thinking these are the last fireworks I will ever see, the same with having my birthday, and holidays. The fall of 2013 was difficult for me healthwise. I wasn’t able to take my yearly late year trip out west. I even went in Hospice from January to May of 2014. Then last year in 2014 I went through the same thoughts that this will be the last time, now here it is 2015. Maybe it’s this time of the year that’s more emotional for me. I don’t really know. So now I am not telling myself this is the last anything. None of us know when it will be. It will be when God decides it’s time.

This past Friday night as I was reading a novel I felt restless and unsettled. A feeling of sadness, grief, depression, and of being overwhelmed came over me rather quickly. I started crying. This happens every now and then, and like I wrote it usually passes quickly. This time it wasn’t going away. I did the usual things… thought of things I am grateful for, I prayed and asked God to remove these feelings. I read many pages in my meditation and inspirational books, still no relief.  So I reached out and called a close friend who was able to talk at that time. I was able to tell her what is going on in my life and after a long phone call I felt better. Saturday I spent the day taking my mom on errands since she still doesn’t have her car back from the mechanic. I hope she gets it soon, it’s been three weeks.

Saturday night I was sitting and reading and the same feelings overcame me again. It’s rare for it to happen two nights in a row. This felt as bad or worse than the previous night. I cried for a while thinking the feelings would pass and they didn’t. I reached out to a few friends to see who was available to talk and one of them was home. We talked about what was happening in both of our lives and after a while I felt better. Sharing with someone puts my life back into perspective. Since we are not involved in whatever the situation is that the other person is experiencing, at least most of the time, we can see it from a different perspective and share similar experiences and how we got through them. I am extremely grateful for these special friends who I know save my life and sanity. They feel the same way about me because I am one of their close friends and support group. We feel this connection even if we don’t talk to each other for weeks at a time. We are here for each other no matter what, no matter what time of the day or night.

After two nights and partial times during the day of feeling these overwhelming feelings and thoughts and doubts, now they seem to be not as emotionally painful. It’s not one thing causing this, it’s many things happening all at once. I think I am giving everything to God, but perhaps I am still trying to hold on to things over which I have no control of the outcome. Then my burden gets heavy and I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, and I feel that life it too much to bear. I tell God periodically that I am ready to die. God says not yet there is still more for me to experience here. I was telling a close friend that knows about everything I am going through about this and she said if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t have been able to pray with her this particular day and provide words which really helped her. She is battling two different types of cancer in two different significant parts of her body.

IMG_8391A friend I left a message for Saturday night when I had my meltdown came to visit me Sunday afternoon, she surprised me with a colorful lollypop. As I am typing this story and looking at the lollypop, I realize this is life. Lots of colors. In nature and life, all colors and textures are needed to complete what we see. For example, grass and trees having many shades of green and many different textures makes them interesting to look at. As I travel in my camper van around the country, the different types of landscapes and terrain makes my trip more interesting. My four pound container of Jelly Belly’s with 49 flavors makes it more delicious to eat, even though a few flavors are not my favorites so I eat them with a flavor I like.

A few weeks ago I had a CT Scan to see what changes there are to my tumors and organs since the scan one year ago. There are many changes, and new things that were not there last year, and they are not for the better. I think that has me a bit upset if I think about it which I try not to do. It’s hard because of the symptoms I live with on a daily basis which are in part a result of the CT Scan findings. Most days now it’s more difficult for me to eat, the pain is getting quite a bit more intense. I often wake up with the pain and find that I don’t even want to get out of bed many days. The pain used to start in the early afternoon, now many days it’s in the mornings. Eating is not something I look forward to either and the amount of food I can eat at a time is about half a cup to a full cup of food. I am trying to be conscious of the amount of fluids I drink in a day because I don’t want to dehydrate. Some days it’s not easy to drink liquids. So, I take sips more often and do my best.

I am still planning on taking my trip to Texas and New Mexico, leaving in about 10 days. Last year I took a trip about the same as this one and it was about 4,500 miles round trip. I am going to have my camper van checked out the end of this week to make sure all is well. Something always seems to happen on the road, and thankfully, it’s where I am able to get it repaired. I hope and pray that this year all goes well, and if there are hiccups that they are minor and in a location they can be taken care of easily and quickly. I have no control over things that happen once I do my best preventive care.

This week I will begin packing for my trip. I have to be honest, even though I should be excited and enthusiastic about it, I am not. I remember feeling the same way last year. Once I left, I enjoyed my trip. It’s the getting packed and loading the camper that is the difficult part. I have to pack for several months, and different types of weather. It’s hot now, but, by October and November it will be cold so I have to pack heavy, warm clothes too. I have very limited space in the camper van which makes it a bit more challenging when I think about what I have to take. I have a small space heater for when it’s cold and I have electricity. Last year when it was in the 20’s and 30’s the space heater worked really hard to keep it at 60 degrees, so I bought another small electric heater. This will take up more precious space. So does taking 6 months of medical supplies. Then there are clothes, food, etc. I know it will work out, it always does.

So, I am guessing that this meltdown is a combination of my worsening health condition and pain, the additional findings in my CT Scan results, my friend walking through a serious cancer situation, another friend being upset with me and not speaking with me, having a splint on my finger again hoping the torn tendon will reattach, the uncertainty of life, not eating as well as I need to, my sleeping patterns being off, the upcoming trip, and probably other things I am not conscious of, all of these things are affecting me in different ways.

I guess it’s like an overloaded circuit breaker tripping a fuse. My tears and feelings  of being overwhelmed, and mildly depressed, are my body’s way of letting me know that I am experiencing a lot of things and that I need to just let things go and let them unfold the way they are supposed to. I have to accept, and maybe grieve, the possible loss of a friendship. I have to accept her decision if she no longer wants to be my friend and talk with me.  And I also have to leave the outcome of another friends cancer treatment in the hands of God and to ask in prayer that her doctors be given the knowledge and wisdom on how to best treat her cancer.

So, as I continue on this journey through life, I will do my best. Some days my best is better than other days. I have to remember that I am human and therefore not perfect. I make mistakes. I have to apologize, make amends, correct situations, or whatever is necessary, and forgive myself and others. And for those of you wondering if I have times that my life situation is too much for me to bear, you know I do. But hopefully only for short periods of time. My close friends help me navigate this journey with unconditional love, dignity, strength, friendship, support, sanity, faith, courage, and hope. Even laughter and joy. They are my lifeline.

It’s my choice how I decide to look at life and the events that happen. My choice is to look for the positive and for the many things I have to be grateful for. I know that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I know the reason, sometimes I don’t, or perhaps it’s revealed to me quite a while later. I have learned that sometimes what I have to go through, or should I say grow through, is not always about me. It might be about someone else and the experience that God wants them to have and I might just be a part of their story or experience.

Today I can walk, talk, breathe, see, hear, taste, smell, and so much more all at the same time. There may be a day that is not possible and if that happens, I will deal with it then. During this sometimes difficult and challenging time in my life, I am trying to remember to reach out and say I need help, or I need someone to talk with. It always helps me. I know that the path my life has taken over the course of my lifetime, and especially the past five years, is the one meant for me. It’s shaped me into who I am. If one thing was different, I would be different. How would I be different? I have no idea. I doubt it would be for the better. I like to think that the difficulties and health issues I have had are experiences that I learned from and shared with others to help them when they go through their life experiences. I remember once in the hospital when an IV medicine was burning as it went into my body that a nurse put cool compresses on my arm and it helped. Another time, I was in the hospital and a roommate was having her arm burn from a medicine, I was able to put a compress on her arm to ease her pain. Sometimes little things mean so much. I have a few friends that currently send me cards and emails to let me know they are thinking about me, it really touches my heart.

I know that by people sharing their life experiences with me, they give me hope when I don’t have any. They give me a new way to look at the situation and help me to not feel alone. They tell me that I can survive whatever it was that is or was happening to me because they did. People that had an Illeostomy helped me learn to deal with mine, people who had a spouse die got me through that when mine did, when I had cancer there were people there for me too. No matter what I go through, if I reach out there is someone who had the same or similar experience and they give me the strength and hope that I can too. It’s my responsibility to give it back as it was so freely given to me. We don’t have to know someone to help them. Sometimes someone I just met and I are talking and one of says something that either one of us needed to hear. Maybe they provided an answer to a prayer or question I was thinking about, or maybe I said something that they needed to hear or it answered one of their questions or prayers. We might never know the importance of our contact with another person, or the impact it might have in someones life.

One thing I know for sure is that without a strong belief in God, and many prayers, over the years I would not have been able to survive my journey through life and it’s blessings and challenges. Sometimes it’s difficult to handle good things happening. Yes, we deserve good things in our life. There have been and still are so many loving, caring, and supportive people in my life that continually help me and others. I know that if I didn’t have these special friends that I can tell anything to, no matter what it is, that I would be having a more difficult time handling not only what was in my past, but as importantly what I am going through now. The close friends I talk with don’t say don’t be upset, angry, cry, or whatever else I am feeling. They say they understand and that it’s okay for me to feel this way, that it will pass, that things will work out the way they are supposed to and the way God wants them too, even though it might not be the way I want it to. They tell me with all I am dealing with it’s normal to have these feelings. I can feel feelings, even though they might be uncomfortable. Thankfully, I don’t have to act on feelings or thoughts or let them take permanent residence in my brain.

I have lived with a medical time bomb in me for most of my life that I can remember. After my first bout with cancer when I was 21, I was told I had to be checked often because it will come back. The doctors did not say might come back, they said it will. I was checked closely over the years. Every time I went to the doctor when the doctor said “we need to do a biopsy” I felt like I was living Russian Roulette, one bullet in a gun chamber, when would the click of the trigger be the real bullet. The cancer returned 20 years later, when I was 41. So now with inoperable tumors growing in my body the past few years, I still have a time bomb in me. When will my last day be? I have no idea. I might even die by some other cause such as a car accident, heart attack, a fall, or any other cause. None of us know when it will be our last day or how it will happen. Live each day fully. Let people know how you feel about them, or how much they mean to you.

Friday night trying to get out of my meltdown before I called anyone, when I was reading a meditation book called Night Light, these words helped me: “There are things beyond our control. One of them is the outcome of any circumstance. We cannot expect that if we do all we can, all will be well. Even the most skilled surgeon loses patients. The surgeon knows the grace of God is with the patient, no matter what the outcome. The grace of God is in our lives and the lives of those around us. Though we strive to do our best and to make everything better, we need to remember the outcomes are not in our control. How we accept them, however, is in our control.”

Another book I read that night, The Simple Truths of Life, had words that were also meaningful, in part talked about that we will not receive an email with the subject PENDING DEMISE. “It is unlikely that we will know our “Expiration Date.” “…the days I am living now ARE my final words; not just the “words,” but everything I am currently doing and saying to, or for, others. These are the things that will be remembered by my friends and loved ones. The way in which I am living my life, my actions, my relationships with them on a regular, everyday basis ARE my final words, which epitomizes the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” I realize that is true. I never know when I talk with someone if I will be able to talk with them again. When I had a friend dying, I treated every conversation as if it would be our last one. I knew sometime it would be and I wanted to leave that person with the words of them knowing how much they meant to me.

As I travel on my trip, I will write stories when I get Internet service. I will also try to keep my Travel Map tab updated as to what part of the country I am in.

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Upcoming trip, making of a Jeep commercial, and health update

Not much has been happening since I wrote about my time at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in May. Mostly, I have been reading books and getting together with friends for lunch. I did buy a different laptop, it has Windows 8.1 so I am trying to learn how to use it. My 17″ Toshiba laptop with Windows 7 still works, but I find that sometimes it’s a bit large to take into places to update my website. I bought a 10″ tablet last October, but I find that I cannot update my website with it and there are other functions that I cannot do on it that can be done using a laptop. I found a great deal on a 12.5 inch Lenovo laptop with Windows 8, so I installed the updates and put my pictures and music on it and I am getting used to it. There are some features that I like, but it’s a lot different than Windows 7.  It has a keyboard and also a touch screen so I can use it as a laptop or tablet, and it’s a smaller size to take places which is more convenient. It also has a twist screen which is a nice feature.

GtbRI’m planning on taking another trip beginning sometime the week of July 6th. The itinerary is to make my first stop in Longview, Texas, at the Great Texas Balloon Race. I have not been to this event before, but it looks like it will be interesting and quite a bit smaller than the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I signed up to crew on a balloon at the Texas Balloon event and I was told that I would be assigned to a special shape balloon. I have no idea which one yet. I looked at the pictures of what special shape balloons will be there and I recognized them from seeing them at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. I have crewed on a regular shaped balloon numerous times, it will be a new experience to crew for a special shape balloon. There are two concerts during this balloon event, Cooder Graw and The Oak Ridge Boys.

After leaving east Texas, I will stop in Fort Worth and Waco and visit friends there for a few weeks before heading to Albuquerque where I plan on being for about a month. I will be there about two weeks or so before the Balloon Fiesta begins so I can visit with friends there and also do some volunteer work before the event begins. In past years in addition to crewing for Scott on his Big Blue Balloon, I volunteered at the Balloon Discovery Center where I got to talk with people from all over the world and could answer their questions about various aspects of hot air ballooning. I found that having been at this event for several years that every year I know a little bit more, and by crewing I learn till more and can answer questions much better because I have first hand experience.

aibf pinBecause I can be at the Balloon Fiesta before it officially begins, this year my primary area to volunteer in is Pilot Registration. Most of their work is done before the Fiesta begins which works out great since I love to crew on a balloon. This also provides me with time to still volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Center. One of the other things I have been working on while here at home is contacting businesses to try and get door prizes for the volunteer lunch held during the Balloon Fiesta. When I get to Albuquerque, I will continue that project. I like getting to Albuquerque a few weeks early so I can get together with friends I have made there over the past few years that I have been there, and there are several stores and restaurants I like to go to as well. During the Balloon Fiesta they have a Music Fiesta, this year the main entertainment is The Band Perry. I also love to watch the five nights of spectacular fireworks.

A friend of mine in Vancouver sent me interesting links about the making of a Jeep commercial. I thought it would be interesting to include in this post. The shoot took place from June 14 to June 18, 2014. The set was built and produced three days prior to the filming of the commercial, on 400 Granville Street in Vancouver. Materials included: 1,000,000 pounds of boulders, rocks, and sand to break up water flow and give surface disturbances. 250,000 gallons of water, recycled using a closed water system that pumped water from the end of the street back to the top. The water was eventually discharged into Vancouver Harbor. 400,000 pounds of snow – the snowbank was made of snow blanket and fish-ice. Logs, sticks, moss, and 80 fir/hemlock trees lined/covered the street. The trees were boxed and returned to the nursery and other materials were also repurposed. Two wolves were on set. The domesticated wolves were made available from the Animal Insight for Film and T.V.A. representative from the American Humane Association was on set. Observers were able to take pictures with the animals. Check out these two videos, one version and another version.

Passport America Carol's StoryPassport America is a RV Club that provides members with a 50% discount at more than 1,850 campgrounds all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico. I have been a member for several years, every year the savings pays for more than the annual membership cost. I was recently asked by a Passport America staff member to write a short story about me and my travels for their electronic newsletter. At first I wasn’t sure about doing it or even what I would write. So after some consideration, I decided to write a story and I let them decide what content to include. Click here to read the story.

Recently I had a CT Scan done. My doctor wanted to see the difference in the size of my tumors since my scan last June. I could tell that the largest tumor has grown and also shifted position. The CT Scan confirmed it. In addition, there are several additional new tumors, none significant in size at this time. So it looks like I will still be taking my trip. I know it won’t be easy. When I took the long trip last year I had the same challenges and I was able to make the trip successfully, I’m anticipating the same thing this time. I know there will be days that I will not be able to drive long distances, and I will make frequent rest stops, but it’s okay.

I only have a few dates I need to be somewhere and I will leave enough time so if there are days I can’t travel or I can only travel a short distance, I will still get where I need to on time. As I travel, if I have Internet service, I will update my 2015 Travel Map button with my approximate location. I also text a few friends when I stop for the day so they know where I am at that point in time. When I travel there are usually periods of time that I don’t have Internet service, so I will add stories when I can.  I generally use my phone to answer emails while I am traveling. I am looking forward to this trip, which if I make it all the way like last year, will be approximately 4,500 miles.

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Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

I just spent the past five days at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. I created a photo album with the pictures I took the past few days. Towards the bottom of the album are numerous videos I took of the animals, some are short and others are two or three minutes long.

Over the past several years I have visited here numerous times, I always write a story and post a photo album of my visit. Every time I visit I get to see different animals and also new habitats for some of them. The main things that I noticed this visit that was different from previous visits were a 3 year old Camel named Lulu and a new fenced in area is being built for her, an albino Wallaby named Sidney who happens to like peanut butter, two rare black and rust chickens that have a pom pom top on their head, a calf named JJ, 3 three week old Vietnamese Fishing Cat babies, and a two day old Ringtail Lemur. Both the Ringtail Lemur and the Vietnamese Fishing Cats are rare and endangered species. It was interesting watching the Ringtail Lemur baby change over the five days. He got more active and was climbing on his mom and trying to climb on the rope and cage and he also tried to eat the food his mom was eating. I also got some pictures when mom was resting, thinking most probably that she wished the little one would lay still for a few minutes at a time.

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Owner Sue Arnold and I have become good friends over the many years that I have been going there. I have posted several albums and written several stories about my previous visits there over the years, you can look at those photos on my photo album page. Every time I go there, in addition to the animals that are permanent residents there are always new animals that I get to see and sometimes I get to hold and pet them too. Sue’s goal is to rehabilitate and get the animals that are brought to them healthy so they can be released into their natural habitat. There are animals that can’t be released for various reasons so they become permanent residents. Angela and Freddy live on the premises and they help Sue take care of the animals and also help to feed them and do whatever else is needed at the Wildlife Center. Freddy is really handy and he can fabricate things needed from spare parts he collects. He also prepares the meat and chicken that are fed to the panthers and other wild cats and animals that need to eat protein. Among other things, Angela takes care of the animals in the hospital and nursery and she feeds and cleans cages for many of the animals. She really gets attached to the animals and helps to name them.

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If you are looking for a worthwhile charity to make donations to I would highly recommend Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. All of the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals, 100% of it is used for the animals. County, local, and state officials, and many other people bring animals to Sue that need medical help, food, shelter, or pets and animals that they can no longer keep for various reasons, etc., and none of these agencies or people provide funds for the animals upkeep or medical bills, so the care and feeding and also vet bills incurred all come out of Sue’s limited funds that she uses for the animals on premises. Currently, and most of the time, there are approximately 300 animals at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It’s important to save animals and especially the rare and endangered ones so that they will still be around for future generations to see in person, not just in a book. Sue does her best to breed the animals, most especially the rare and endangered species.

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My visit for the entire  5 days was spectacular. I had a great time. I had the privilege of feeding the animals treats and food. I gave them peanut butter and banana sandwiches, cereal, fruit, bread, and other types of foods. The Capuchin monkeys liked to drink water from the hose like people do. They would also put their hands in the spray and then wipe the water on their arms. It’s really interesting to watch the animals interact with each other and also to see the different personalities they have, and also how they decide to eat their food. Some of them just eat their food fast, others savor it and take their time enjoying it.

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IMG_8123Zeke the Capuchin monkey who is about 38 years old has no teeth because his first owner had them removed because they didn’t want Zeke to bite. So for his entire life he has had to eat soft foods. I find Zeke one of the animals that I love to watch the most and also I like to give him the most treats. I have to sort of trick Cricket his cagemate and give her food first so that I can give Zeke his food. Cricket thinks she should get it all. When Zeke gets his treat he takes it and usually sits and looks at it and then decides how he wants to eat it. Sometimes he tastes it first then sits and figures it out. Sometimes he just nibbles and eats it slowly, other times he takes his hands and separates the food item and then enjoys eating it. Like with an orange slice, he might at first suck some of the juice out of the slice, then he separates the membrane from the fruit and then eats it slowly. If it’s a lollypop he sucks on it slowly and I can tell he really enjoys it. Peanut butter sandwiches he eats the little piece whole sometimes, and other times he separates the two pieces of bread.

A year or two ago, a woman’s husband died and she couldn’t take care of Cricket, the female Capuchin monkey that her husband had, so she gave it away. Cricket wasn’t happy in her new home and somehow Sue was contacted and she said she would take Cricket. So Cricket was put into the same cage as Zeke and it was a great match. Over time, Zeke took over making sure that Cricket is happy and he takes their bedding and airs it out during the daytime and then shakes out the blankets and puts them back into the area where they sleep. He always lets her take the food she wants and doesn’t fight her for any of it. He does get his share too. Cricket loves to drink water from the hose when her cage is being cleaned. So whoever has the hose makes sure to put it on a slow stream for her and the other monkey who likes to drink from the hose. It’s really cute to watch.

Here are a few links to a few videos, there are many more videos in the photo album with Zeke eating an orange, the otters swimming, a mama hen and baby chicks, me feeding Lulu the Camel bread, the Kookaburra’s singing, the Lemurs and Capuchin monkeys climbing, and the albino Wallaby hopping.

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I want to thank Alexa Produce in Lighthouse Point for donating fruit and vegetables that I brought to Sue’s to feed the animals. I stopped by before I left home and told Alan the manager that I was going to a wildlife rehabilitation center and asked if he has any fruit and vegetables that he was going to discard or that he can’t sell, and he gave me two boxes of items.

At the Wildlife Center I’ve learned that nothing there goes to waste. Banana peels, scraps, etc. are fed to many of the animals, so if some animals cannot eat a particular type of food or parts of it, other animals can eat it. I even got to feed bread to Lulu the Camel. She took an entire loaf of Italian bread in her mouth and chewed and chewed until the entire loaf was eaten. I watched a very large tortoise try to eat a whole green pepper. That was interesting. Since the only thing the tortoise could use to eat is his mouth, he couldn’t hold the green pepper still and it has a smooth round surface. So for a minute or so every time he put his mouth on the pepper to eat it, it rolled a little. He would try again and again, and finally he was able to get a bite of it and then from that little hole he ate more and more. He didn’t seem to get frustrated and give up. The tomatoes were easier for him to eat.

IMG_8214The Fennec Foxes are really cute, they look like little dogs with big ears. They like to sleep quite a bit. They were a bit hesitant when I went to give them treats, but one got brave and the others watched and decided to get some too. After the first time, whenever they saw me with treats they came to the side of the cage so I would give them some too.

There are still many of the same animals there too that I saw in previous visits, such as Foxy Brown the rare and endangered Fox Squirrel who started a 5 acre grass fire a few years ago when she chewed an electrical wire, she also fried herself. I wrote her story in this post. There are also rare and endangered Indonesian Jade Peacocks, Cotton Top Tamarins, and the Vietnamese Fishing cats who recently had three babies, which had to be removed at birth so that the parents didn’t eat them. Yes, it’s sad, but they ate the babies in the first litter. Now the three babies are being handfed and cared for by Angela and Sue.

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IMG_8037The Kookaburra cage is next to the Ringtail Lemur cage and I spent quite a bit of time there because I liked watching the mama and baby Lemur. The dad was really attentive and he helped the mom groom the baby and he let the baby climb on him too. Last year there were only two Kookaburra’s now there are three. They have a very distinct call. It’s really loud, especially when the two black and while Lemurs in a cage near them make their really loud calls too. It sounds like someone is being harmed. Then in the big field near those cages are donkeys, llamas, deer, horses, and a few other types of animals. The animals calls then sometimes get the donkeys in the mood to bray and then there is a symphony of animals sounds and calls. There are a few new macaws and cockatoos and they are REALLY loud. They do talk and say various phrases which is okay, but at other times they just screetch loudly and also make sounds they heard in their previous home. One parrot makes the sound of a vehicle backing up. Another sound is like the old internet connection like when AOL connected the computer to the landline.

Did you know that peacocks roost in trees, yes, believe it or not, they can fly. They also like to be on rooftops. I saw some peacocks with beautiful plumes but no tail feathers. I asked Sue why and she said they are young male peacocks. They still are beautiful but they don’t have the long tail with the beautiful feathers to carry around yet. Peacocks are very loud and noisy. This is a video of the peacock displaying his feathers and cooling off.

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There is also an incredible Butterfly Garden. There are many species of butterflies here. At one of the entrances to the Butterfly Garden is a viewing platform where visitors can see the entire garden in a glance. When you are walking the path through the garden you cannot tell that it’s one big butterfly with the body, head, and antennae in the center. I wasn’t able to get the entire garden in one picture.

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If you or anyone you know wants to have a nice outing for a day, visit Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. There is a donation box as you enter the zoo area. It’s $10 for an adult and children under 12 are free. Believe it or not, there are people who walk through and do not make a donation, or maybe they give $1 for a group of several people. Maybe it’s all they had, we don’t know. All of the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals. Perhaps you know of an SUV or enclosed vehicle in good condition that can be donated here, I have a feeling it would be greatly appreciated as well. The vehicle used now to transport the animals is rather old and not in very good condition.

It’s expensive to buy the amount of food needed, pay vet bills, and pay the other related costs of operating this wildlife rehabilitation center and taking care of the animals. I saw how much food is used in one day to feed the animals. It’s astonishing. This is also a great place to donate your time. I got to see how much work it is to maintain the property, cages, feed and provide medical care for the animals. The baby animals need special attention as do the sick ones. I know any time you would like to volunteer here would be greatly appreciated. Whether you like to do physical work or not as physical, there are always things to do like cutting up fruit and vegetables for food, filling the animals water bowls, rinsing out cages with a hose, fixing fencing and cages, building pens, and so much more.

If you go to visit feel free to bring some food. I usually bring several boxes of frosted mini shredded wheat, jars of creamy peanut butter, small elbow pasta, American cheese, large cans of peaches, whole grain bread, and fruit. Even bags of dum-dum lolly pops are good. Aldi grocery store has the lowest price for the cereal, peanut butter, and pasta. When the animals get a treat it’s the time to look at them closely and make sure they are healthy and that there are no areas that need attention. Tell Sue that you read about the wildlife center from me.

To visit Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, if you are near I-95 the best way to go is to take either Blue Heron Blvd. if you are coming from the south, or Northlake Blvd. if you are coming from the north. Go west on either of those roads until it dead ends at 710, then go right on 710. From Blue Heron Blvd, go approximately 45 miles, and from Northlake about 41 miles, until you see a small street sign that says 128. Make a right on 128 then stay on that road for approximately 21 miles until you come to a blinking traffic light which is 441. Stay straight, go past the light, then go 2.5 miles and then you will see a sign to make a left on a street which goes directly to the wildlife center. A majority of the trip is spent on back roads with very little traffic. It’s a scenic and relaxing drive.

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