Staying busy at home, trying new recipes, Alexander Hamilton, Book Series The Walk, and Parakeet Katie

Since I have been back home I am trying to stay busy. Gradually I have been unpacking and putting things away and doing laundry, organizing my apartment, stocking up on groceries, adjusting to being back at home, etc.

While I was in Waco, and mostly because I was enjoying the time I spent helping in the bakery, that I decided once I got home I would bake my own breads and not buy them at the grocery store any longer. Home baked breads not only smell delicious, but they taste much better and using the fresh ground flour from the gristmill makes the bread more flavorful and healthy. It’s not processed and enriched. The flour still has the bran and nutrients in it. I brought home different flours for breads, cakes, cookies, etc. I learned that whole wheat pastry flour is great for cooking and baking items that don’t use yeast because that flour doesn’t have much gluten which is needed to make bread rise. So I brought home whole wheat flours for baking bread and also gluten to add if it’s needed. I have been having fun looking for different recipes on the Internet for breads, cakes, cookies, and appetizers to take to parties. I am mostly looking for recipes to use things I have at home without buying lots of new groceries. I tend to overstock my cabinets and refrigerator.

I went to a holiday party and brought some cakes and cookies which turned out really good, they were new recipes. I wanted to bring some appetizers too so I spent hours looking for some using cheese, carrots, and celery. I decided to make pimento cheese spread from scratch to use up some cream cheese and cheddar cheese, and I was able to fill my celery with it. I also found a recipe using grated carrots, cheddar cheese, garlic, and a little mayonnaise. It gets mixed together and spread on crackers or french bread, it can also be toasted. Both of these recipes turned out well and were a hit at the party. I gave the leftovers to people to take home. I had a little pimento cheese spread left at home and I added some flour to it and backed it into crackers which tasted pretty good too.

It’s been interesting making new recipes and baking different breads. I found a few really great cookie and cupcake recipes, a few are made with cocoa and are chocolate with cheesecake filling, even chocolate cookies had a cheesecake filling. I’ve been experimenting and adding different things to the baked goods such as pieces of butterfinger and snicker candy bars, mini chocolate chips, cranberries, etc.  Each cookie tastes a little different depending on what it has the most of in that spoonful of dough. I also freeze some of the things I bake and cook so I have them for dinner or dessert or a late night snack without having to make something.

A family I had dinner with one night in Waco made a really delicious chicken dish with rice the night I was invited for dinner. I liked it so much that I have made it twice since being home. I don’t know the proportions of the ingredients so I add some and keep adding different proportions until I like the taste. Ingredients are butter, honey, mustard, and curry powder. Cook in pan until you like the desired taste, add skinless chicken pieces and bake until chicken is cooked, serve over rice or noodles. It’s sort of like a sweet and sour dish. The curry powder gives it a really nice flavor. I bake extra and freeze some in portions.

In the past couple of weeks I have had some good news, one of my friends has been going through treatments for breast and lung cancer, she was a nurse and not a smoker. Her most recent PET scan shows no sign of cancer… YEAH!!! Prayers have been answered. Another long time friend was visiting his sister and he had a heart attack, while at the hospital they found out that he has stage 4 lung cancer, yes… he was a smoker. He lost his battle with cancer about six weeks after being diagnosed. He told me before he died that he hopes he walks his final days like I have been doing for the past several years. He told me that I have been an inspiration to him for how I live my life. He is now at peace and he will be missed.

Before I left on my trip in early July, I had seen excepts of the play Alexander Hamilton and I heard several of the sound tracks. I also liked the story that the play tells. So, I bought the soundtrack CDs and played them often on my trip. I drove for several hours a day so I got to listen to it alot. I also made time or even days in a row that I didn’t play the CDs and I had my private time with God. The more I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack, the more I understood the story and heard things I missed the last time I listened. When I got home and had television service again, I saw that PBS had a 2 hour special called Hamilton’s America about the writing and creating the play. I watched it 3 or 4 times and each time I saw and heard things I missed the other times I watched it. I got more interested in the story and by watching the documentary I got to see scenes from the play so I could visualize the scenes as I listened to the CD. They also explained history of the characters, and some of the scenes in the play that would not have come across in listening to the music. Such as a song that was telling Hamilton’s thoughts from the time Burr shot him until the bullet hit him. That’s just one example. I didn’t get the opportunity to see the play, I would love to but it’s a long way to New York City and tickets are hard to come by, not to mention very expensive from what I hear. So, for now, I am content to listen to the music, watch the special, and watch and listen to some YouTube videos.

Perhaps when I plan my trip for this spring and summer I will include stops at some of the founding fathers homesteads. In Hamilton’s America documentary they refer to several documents that Hamilton, Burr, and others wrote. I went online and found some of the articles by Hamilton and Burr. Several are in the National Archives, including the article Hamilton wrote in the late 1770’s after a hurricane destroyed the Caribbean island where he lived. I had no idea that Alexander Hamilton had such a huge impact on the creation of so many things that are a part of our life today, such as banking, where the Capitol of the United States is located, etc. Ron Chernow’s book Hamilton is what the play is based on. I went to the local library and they have a copy of this 700 page book. I want to borrow it sometime in the next few weeks and read at least a good part of it. PBS has a book that was created for their fundraiser telling the behind the scenes parts of Hamilton’s story, the PBS special, interviews, etc. I am not sure I will get that, but it does look interesting from what I could see of it.

A book series I recently read it really good. I got a book by this author on my trip. As I read this book I realized it’s the second book in a series of five books. The author is Richard Paul Evans and the book is a Journal on The Walk Series. The first book is entitled The Walk, second book is called Miles to Go. There are lots of great spiritual and life experience messages throughout all five books. I have told friends about this book series and the ones that have read it told me how much they enjoyed reading it. When I went to the library to get the four books in this series I saw a book by this author that I had read last year. I didn’t connect it was the same person until I saw the book on the shelf. It was called the Christmas List and it’s about a man who everyone thought had died, someone with his same name died and they saw the obituary. He read what people had written about him, none of it was favorable. He decided to change his life, made amends to people, and how by living differently he became a different person and how his life turned around. It’s a great book. I want to read other books by this author.

I have so many books and jigsaw puzzles on my bookshelf that it will take a long time, maybe years to get through all of them. I usually take a big tote bag of books on my trips, and also my Nook with lots of books on it. I tend to prefer reading a book because it’s easier to go back to reread a page or so, or skip ahead. But the Nook does take up less space and I bought a book light to clip on to the Nook to read it when it’s dark.

Katie my parakeet and I have been together almost a month now, it doesn’t seem that long. We are bonding better and she is getting used to her new environment and being held and handled, and is getting used to eating different foods like fruits and vegetables. I have been putting some treats in toys so that she has to work at getting them. I have been putting some millet seed which is her favorite treat on the fruits and veggies so that she will at least try to eat them. It seems to be working a little. After I hold her for a while and get her to do a task such as step on on my fingers from hand to hand, I give her millet as a treat. She just has to get used to being handled and have good foods to eat. I have no idea how old she is or how she was treated. From the looks of her beak and size I don’t think whoever had her took very good care of her. She was even turned in to the wildlife center in a small cage that was partly rusty and it had no perches, toys, etc. I think she will adjust and do just fine. I named her Katie and she seems okay with it. I go online and sometimes play parakeets chirping or talking for her, sometimes she listens to the radio, CDs, or the television. I have her cage where she can look out of the window. She is chirping sometimes, so maybe there is hope that she will talk one day. Katie likes to get her entire body into one of her food dishes to eat rather than reaching in for her food. She doesn’t like baths, but maybe one day she will. One of the tiny patches of black feathers on the underside of her neck is shaped like a heart. I have some pieces of an opened coconut husk with the soft fibers surrounding the hard coconut inside of it. I put some seed in the fibers so she can hunt through them for her seeds. I want her to learn to forage for food too so it will be more interesting hopefully than just taking the easy way and eating out of a dish.

I wish everyone a peaceful, healthy, joyful, blessed, and safe 2017 and many more days after that, one day at a time. I frequently write about cherishing every day, we never know how many more we have. This past month has been a reminder of living this way. Several actors and musicians have died unexpectedly. One playing ice hockey, another having a heart attack on an airplane, another from the grief of losing a daughter. We never know when it will be our last day. I only have this minute. I try to live it to the fullest. I don’t always jam things in. But doing things like taking a nap, talking and cuddling my parakeet Katie who was a rescue bird, baking cookies, watching tv, reading, walking, etc. are all okay things to be doing too.

Best wishes and love always, Carol

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Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

A friend of mine was on vacation in Florida the end of November into early December and we went to Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for a visit. It was his first time there, but he had seen the pictures and read the stories I wrote about my previous visits there. We stopped at the store and bought fruit and other food and supplies for Sue Arnold to feel the animals.

I didn’t take many photos this trip, if I did many would be the same as in previous albums. I did make a photo album with a few pictures and there is a fundraiser on February 4, 2017  in case you are in the area and want to attend or send a donation. If you want to see pictures from my previous trips here you can use the search feature on my website.

 

As we were walking around the animal cages Sue Arnold pointed out an iguana up in a tree near the lemur cage. It took me a while to see the iguana, it was the same exact green and gold brown color as the tree. It blended in so well.

After talking with Sue for a while, we decided to walk around and see the animals and give them some orange pieces and cheese slices as treats. Sue said they have to be careful and not give too many treats or sugared ones to the animals any more because of their health. Many of the animals she has had for a number of years and they are getting older.

We went to visit Zeke the capuchin monkey first since he is my favorite there. He loved the cheese and so did the other capuchins. They seemed to like the cheese much better than the oranges. It was funny to watch. When they finished their piece of cheese and I went to give them a slice of orange, they wouldn’t take the orange, they wanted more cheese. I saw that Zeke was alone in his cage, when I asked Sue about it she said that Cricket had died. So had a few other animals. Foxy Brown the rare and endangered fox squirrel had died earlier in the year. There used to be five fennet foxes and now there is only one. A few bobcats and panthers and llamas also died. Like people, they age or get sick and die too.

I got to see Annie the 5 month old pinto camel. She’s pretty cute. The otters were sleeping so we didn’t get to see them swim. When we were in the hospital area we saw two baby bobcat babies that were about a month or so old, there was a hawk with a broken wing, some baby chicks, and a squirrel. There was also a yellow and green parakeet in a cage by itself. After we walked around and had sandwiches for lunch as we were talking with Sue about the animals there and some other things we talked about the parakeet. She said I should take it home with me. She said it was turned in the day before and no one knows anything about it. I felt bad for the bird, she was in a small cage with rust, no perches, and her beak looked like it was too long and needed trimming. I told Sue that when I traveled I could not take the bird with me. We agreed that if I can’t find it a home when I leave that she would take it back. So, I now have a cute little rescue parakeet whom I have named Katie.

It seems she had scaly mites on her legs so I bought some mineral oil and treated her for a few days. She didn’t really like being held and twice she got away from me and flew around my apartment. It wasn’t easy to catch her but I finally did. The next weekend she had her wings trimmed and her beak trimmed so she could eat better. I took her to a friend who grooms birds. I got Katie a cage with room for several perches and toys, and she now has healthy food to eat. I don’t think she was talked to or handled much and I think she had minimum care from looking at her. I don’t think she is very young, but she is very petite and thin. I’m hoping as she eats the better food and is in a good environment that she will fill out and maybe even talk.  As I am writing this story and other stories on my website I have sound from YouTube of parakeets chirping and talking so she will hear the other birds sounds.

We had a nice visit with Sue and the animals at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It’s always nice to go there and see what different animals are there or what they were able to release back to the natural habitat. If you want a good place to make a donation, this is one of the best I know of. All of the donated funds go to the care and feeding of the animals.

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Back home in Florida

I arrived back home on Friday, November 18th. I left Waco, Texas, Monday and it took me five days to drive the approximately 1,450 miles home. As always, I had a nice visit with my friends in Waco at Homestead Heritage. I helped in the cheese shop, the bakery, and the gristmill. I shared my story about how once again God let me know I was in the right place. My van engine just happened to need repairs when I got to Waco… and the friends I stay with there just happen to be mechanics… coincidence… I think not!!!

I now have WiFi so I will try to write the stories and post pictures for the time I have been gone and didn’t have WiFi. It might take a while, but I will eventually get to it.

This week is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for, I am so very blessed. My friends I am extremely grateful for the love and friendship we share, even if we don’t talk often I know we think about each other and keep one another in our thoughts and prayers.

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Visiting friends at Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

I have been so busy enjoying life and helping with various projects here at Homestead Heritage that I realized I have not updated my stories in quite a while. Once again, God showed me clearly how He is taking care of me and keeping me safe. Here are photos of a spectacular sunrise I got to see as I was walking to the bakery early one morning, I am so glad I was awake and walking and saw this sunrise. The bright sun glowing behind the tree made it look like the tree was on fire. I don’t remember ever seeing a sunrise with the colors in layers and as distinct as these were and also I have seen bright sunrises but non having the sun rising where I see it behind a tree like this. All of us watching this extraordinary sunrise were in awe of what God can create. If God can create a different sunrise and sunset every day, I need to remember that God can take care of and handle whatever I am going through. I just need to turn it over to God and let God work in the situation and to be patient for an answer. Sometimes I know that God does respond quickly, other times it takes a while.

During the month I have been at Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, like my other many visits here I have been helping at the Cheese Shop, Gristmill, Bakery, and helping Rachel make soap and lotions. Working at all of these shops has not only been great fun, but I have been working with lots of wonderful people and getting to know them better, and also making new friends. Working at the bakery has been very inspirational and motivational for me. I love to bake, mostly I bake cakes and cookies. I decided to bring home lots of flour from the gristmill and when I get back home to bake all of my own bread and desserts.

When I left Albuquerque a few days after the Balloon Fiesta I thought about going to visit friends in Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia on my way back home to Florida. I checked the weather and saw how cold it was in Tennessee and decided I didn’t feel up to being in the cold and also to have to drive mountain roads on the route back home through those states. So, I made a decision to take my usual route home through Texas and stop in Waco to visit my friends at Homestead Heritage. I usually park in the front yard of my friends the Yarden family. Kim told me they were having company for a few days and asked that I not arrive until Monday morning which is when all of their company would be gone. I agreed to that.

I took my time driving the 700 or so miles to Waco, stopping at various places each night. I always pray that we all get where we are going safely. As it turns out I arrived in Waco on Sunday afternoon and I checked with the owner of the campground a few miles from the Homestead Heritage community and he had a space for me to stay in that night with electricity. I was very grateful for that. Monday morning I get up and put everything away and start the engine on my camper van to drive the few miles to the Yarden’s house. There was a loud squealing sound so I turned the engine off and started it again, and I heard the same noise. At first I thought perhaps a squirrel or small animal got up in the engine. I turned the engine off again, opened the hood and didn’t see anything that looked odd. I started the engine and it made the same noise again. I was afraid to drive it with that sound. I noticed that the belt and pulley were not moving properly and I decided that must be the problem. I didn’t want to do any damage to the engine, so I turned it off and walked next door to a mechanic and asked if they could come look at my engine and see if it’s safe to drive for a few miles. One of the mechanics came over and when he turned the air conditioner off the noise stopped. He said I should be able to drive it to where I was going.

When I got to Kim and Shahar’s house I parked in their front yard and I told Shahar about the noise in my engine. He said he would look at it either this week or next week. Guess what… Shahar is a mechanic, his mechanic shop is next to their house. Is it a coincidence that the engine problem happened when I got to Waco??? I think not!!!  Once again, this is God showing me that I am in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. Shahar checked my engine and found that the entire air conditioner assembly and belt needed to be replaced. If it doesn’t get fixed the belt and pulley could freeze up and then I wouldn’t be able to drive the van at all. While he was replacing the entire air conditioner assemble and related components, he noticed that a self adjusting part wasn’t self adjusting and he replaced that too. I also had an oil and filter change. I am so glad this happened when I got to Waco and not when I was in a rest area or in an area not close to a mechanic. It happened when I was in an area where I had a reputable mechanic that could make the repair.. I have found this to be the case the entire time I have had my camper. Whenever I needed something fixed, or something happened that I needed to get worked on I was where it could be done and I would be safe.

I am still having problems with the upper windows in my camper leaking and getting water inside. I have to say this has been the only problem that I have had difficulty getting resolved. I thought that when we gobbed lots of silicone on the windows when I was in Albuquerque and when water didn’t come in during heavy rains there that the problem was fixed, but evidently not. Water still came in when I was in Waco, perhaps driving loosened some silicone? I have no idea. Shahar put more silicone over the other silicone, but water still came in. Not as bad as before, but still it shouldn’t be happening. I have to find someone or somewhere to get it fixed again. I have written about this problem in previous stories.

Anyway, while I have been in Waco, I go to the choir and orchestra practices, spend time with friends, and continue to help out at the various places. It warms my heart how accepting everyone is of me and allowing me to help them. I feel like everyone here is my family and I think they feel the same about me. I stayed here about a month and knew that although I want to stay longer I need to get home to help my mom with something the first weekend in December. So, I stocked up on some bread and pastry, flour to bake with, and of course cheese. I took wedges of cheese, and also some jars of marinated feta cheese which is great to add to sandwiches, pasta, any type of food, or put on crackers for a snack.

It was sad saying goodbye to all my friends here and hopefully I will be back for a visit in 2017. I didn’t take any pictures this trip, but there are photos in other stories I have written about Homestead Heritage. You can also check the Homestead Heritage website and if you are in the area, stop by and visit, especially during Thanksgiving Friday and Saturday or on Labor Day.

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Waylon Jennings Museum, Littlefield, Texas

I stopped in Littlefield, Texas, which is between Muleshoe, Texas and Lubbock, Texas. This is where country singer Waylon Jennings was born. His brother James D and his wife Helen have a drive through package goods store in Littlefield and the back room is a museum, along with a store room, as you can tell by looking at the album of pictures.

There are lots of pictures, and other sorts of items, of Waylon, his family, and friends. It was really interesting listening to James and Helen telling stories they remember when showing me pictures, and also background on some of the stories and memories they shared with me. I didn’t realize that Waylon was good friends with Buddy Holly, and that he also went to Graceland to visit Elvis a few times.

James and Helen pointed out various items like the gold record that Waylon presented to his mother, Waylon’s first guitar, a record he and Buddy Holly recorded together, and many more stories were shared.

There were several family photos. In one of them Jessi was wearing a wedding dress. James told me the story about this picture. On Waylon’s and Jessi’s 25th wedding anniversary he wanted to surprise her with something special. He picked out a wedding dress, had all of the arrangements made himself, no one helped him it seems, and he surprised her with a wedding ceremony to renew their vows. She was totally surprised!!!

It was not easy to get pictures due to the glare of the overhead lights, and the cases of soda, etc sitting all around the room.

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It’s been an exciting and busy 10 days during which the Balloon Fiesta took place. I was busy every one of the 10 days. I got up about 4:15 a.m., yes that is correct, 4:15 a.m. That gave me enough time to get dressed, get down to the balloon field, eat breakfast, and meet my pilot Scott at the far northwest corner of the field. The field is the size of 84 football fields. I walked a lot of miles the past 10 days.

Here is a link to Album 1 of my Fiesta photos   Here is a link to Album 2 of my Fiesta photos.  I am only allowed to have 2,000 photos in a Google Photo Album, so there are two different albums.  When I get wifi and time permits, I will add photos to this story. It may be when I get back home. Until then, you can look at the pictures in these two albums.

I took about 2,200 pictures during the Fiesta. This year there were lots of balloons I didn’t see in previous years, and there were many new and different special shape balloons. There were a few days of questionable weather and the morning flights were either delayed or cancelled. A few of the afternoon glows were also cancelled due to the weather and high winds. Even if the balloon glow was cancelled, the fireworks still went off. They were really awesome. There were five nights of fireworks. Three nights I watched them from the top of the hill where my camper was parked. One night I was on the field and watched them from near the grid we just had the balloon glow in, and the other night I was on the field I watched them next to where the speakers were for the music and not very far from where the fireworks were set off. There was also a laser light show each night of the fireworks. Watching them close up and listening to the music was the best way to experience the firework show!!!

This is the fifth year that I have been at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and the first year that I really have taken time to experience the entire event. In the past years, I crewed on a balloon and then if I was needed I went on chase crew to retrieve the balloon and if I was not needed I worked shifts at the Balloon Discovery Center. The row just south of the row we launch from are all of the large ride balloons with larger than usual balloon envelopes. Once they go up it’s very difficult to see anything past them. Right after they launch, our balloon launches. So in past years I rarely got to see the other balloons, including the special shape ones. Unless I saw them flying.

This year since I had about 200 volunteer hours before Fiesta began, I didn’t need to work much if at all during Fiesta. Most of the days there was enough chase crew so I didn’t have to go out in the truck to retrieve the balloon and pilot. So, I stayed on the field and walked around the balloons that were inflated on the field, or taking off, and of course also the ones flying overhead. I got to walk close to the balloons and take lots of pictures of the special shape balloons that I have loved to see over the years, and also the new ones.

On Thursday morning I was walking around taking pictures and I stopped at the balloon called Norman who is a serpent on a balloon. My friends Mary and Denny crew for Debbie who owns this balloon and also one called No Worries. One of Debbie’s friends stopped by and wanted a picture with her, so I put my camera in my pocket, so I thought, and I went far back to get a picture of them with the balloon showing Norman, and then a closer picture. After I gave their camera back, I reached into my pocket to get my camera and it wasn’t there. I searched all of the pockets on my cargo pants, and the pockets on my sweatshirt jacket, my other jacket, and my vest. I couldn’t find my camera. I looked all around the area I was just in and no camera. I was not happy, this is a new Canon camera I bought, it’s just a point and shoot but still a good camera. If I had to lose something, it was better to lose a camera than my phone.

I was going to go to lost and found and report my missing camera. One of my new friends here is the deputy security person, and also a Fiesta Board Member. He happened to stop by where I was walking as I walked to lost and found. I got into his golf cart and as we were driving something fell to the floor of the golf cart. I looked down, and there was my camera. I have no idea where it fell out of, but I was very grateful and relieved that I had not lost my camera. I thanked God and the angels and Universe and was very grateful that I still had my camera. It must have been in the lining which I thought was a pocket? I have no idea. I couldn’t feel it when I searched for it and emptied my pockets looking for it.

Other than that it was a pretty uneventful Fiesta. Before it began, I had a leak in a fuel line between the gas tank on my camper van and the generator mounted underneath the chassis. I was parked in the officials lot and I saw a puddle under my camper near the rear tires. I bent down to see what is was and when I touched it I knew it was gasoline. I called a RV friend and told him what it was and that I found a hole in the hose. He came over to get me and we went to an auto parts store and bought what was necessary for him to splice the line and make the repair. I was very thankful that I noticed it before Fiesta and that it was a fairly easy repair.

I took lots of pictures once again for Scott, the pilot I crew for, so that he and his crew and their families could have these pictures of them together. Since everyone is busy inflating or packing the balloon they aren’t able to take many pictures. When we have enough crew I seem to be the official crew photographer and I give them a flash drive with all of the pictures I take every year so they can have them. This year we had a few days that were pretty windy, so some days we tried to inflate but didn’t stay up long. Or we just stood up for a while so the public could see a show of the balloons and a glow. Some of the balloons caught the wind and had to come down quickly.

Overall, it was a great event, even with the not always cooperative weather conditions. Some mornings the temperatures were in the low 40’s which the pilots like. They can fly their balloons at a cooler temperature which is better for the fabric of the balloon envelopes and they can fly longer. This year it seems due to the winds that most flights were short ones.

I got to go up one day and we flew about 10 or 15 minutes. We landed in a parking lot not far from the balloon field. Due to the winds, and the fact that our chase crew was not at our location when we landed, which was not their fault, we landed soon after we took off and they had to try to determine where we were going to land and then navigate the traffic to get there, we had a pretty hard landing. Thankfully, none of the three of us in the basket nor the balloon was damaged. When we hit the ground my knees hit the inside front of the wicker basket. Then I crouched down and turned so when we bounced again I would hit the padded propane tank. Paul the other passenger held on to the basket and tried not to fall on me, Scott the pilot was holding on and trying to keep me from falling out of the basket and not to fall on me.

We finally stopped and got out of the basket while it was still dragging a little bit from the wind blowing the envelope. Thankfully, none of us was hurt and I’m glad all of us were experienced and it wasn’t our first ride or rough landing. I took a picture of the track we made when the basket touched down and dragged. Paul said it was about 100 yards. Shortly after we landed another balloon came down near us and we caught their basket so they had a pretty smooth touchdown. It turns out it was the first time flight for the passengers in that balloon. A little while after we were down our chase crew arrived and helped us pack up the balloon. Then we drove back to the field.

Being at Fiesta is a wonderful experience. Every year I get to see friends from previous year and meet new people that I become friendly with. This year one of the tasks I worked on before Fiesta was calling people on a waiting list to tell them Gondola Club tickets opened up if they wanted to purchase them. During Fiesta I went to the Gondola Club for dinner and I sat at a table and talked with a man named Tex that was sitting there. He told me he was from California and that he won the trip to Fiesta, a balloon ride, tour of the balloon museum with Troy who flew a balloon over the Pacific Ocean last year with a man from Russia. Tex told me how excited he was to be at Fiesta and how he won the trip by donating to a charity. He said he really wanted to attend a Gondola Club session but they were sold out and he was on a waiting list for three months and a few weeks ago someone called him to say there were tickets available. I told him I was the person that called him and it was really great that I could see how much it meant to him that he could have this experience.

I will get a photo album posted sometime, hopefully soon, but I’m not sure when. I am using a computer in the Fiesta office to write this post, I don’t know if I can create an album from this computer and I don’t have wifi where I am parked in the RV lot. I will leave here in a couple of days and head back east. I think I will take my usual route through Texas and Waco and across I-10 back to Florida. I was going to take I-40 across and go through Tennessee, South Carolina, etc., but the weather is colder that way and I want to avoid cold weather if possible. It’s about 2,400 miles back home and I think it will be a challenge. My pain is getting more intense, especially in the morning which may impact my driving times. I will see how it goes as I travel back. When I need to stop I will.

I most probably will stop in Waco to visit my friends there for a week or so, then stop near Jacksonville, Florida, to see my friends there as I travel back home. I will add photos to this story as soon as I can. Since I can no longer use Picasa to create an album and I have to figure out Google Photos it may take a while to get it figured out. I think I was able to properly create two different photo albums of pictures I took during Fiesta.

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Busy in Albuquerque

I have been extremely busy helping at the Balloon Fiesta office. Mostly I am doing office work and getting packets ready for the volunteers. This year instead of getting a jacket and t-shirt we are also getting a vest and a hat. We also get passes to several parties and a gate pass. Getting all these items and many more irems for about 1,100 people is a lot of work. Sometimes it’s good when others help and sometimes it’s not, depending on how good and accurate the people are.

I’m so grateful I have electricity and dont have to run my generator to operate my lights and fridge. In a day or so I will be moving to a different parking area, I will still have electric but water will have to be brought in on a truck to fill my water tank. I like having a water hookup at my camper, I’ve been able to wash my clothes and my hair easily. It will be okay when I move, I did just fine last year getting my tank filled once or twice a week. I don’t use much water and it will only be for two weeks. It’s hard to believe next Saturday the Balloon Fiesta begins. So far I have about 150 volunteer hours.

Purple is one of my favorite colors and our jackets and shirts are purple this year. Also, it’s the 45th Balloon Fiesta which makes it extra special. There isn’t really anything to take pictures of yet. A few balloons have been flying in the morning but they are too far away to get a good picture. It’s rained the past two nights and it’s been really windy. My camper rocks and sways a bit in the wind. Both nights before dark the sun shines through the clouds and there has been a full arc rainbow over the Sandia mountain. It’s a beautiful sight. When I get wifi on my computer I will upload some sunset pictures. I a m using my tablet to write this post and I can’t upload photos from the tablet.

That’s about it for now. When I get wifi after the Balloon Fiesta begins and I get time, I will try to upload some pictures. I can no longer use Picasa because Google changed to Google Photos which is not as user friendly as Picasa do I will have to see how to create photo albums for the pictures I take.

 

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Arrived in Albuquerque… and leaking windows finally fixed!!!

After a change of plans due to my windows still leaking, I left Littlefield, Texas, Monday morning without getting to go to the Waylon Jennings museum. The gorilla tape that my neighbor and I put on the leaking windows, see previous post, did not keep the water out during the rainstorm Sunday night. I woke several times to be sure towels were still catching the water coming in, mostly over where I sleep.

Monday morning it was still raining hard and water was still leaking in. I decided it was more important to get the windows fixed than visit the museum. So I called a few places in Amarillo and finally found one that said they would look at it and they should be able to stop the leak. I had not planned to go through Amarillo on this trip but God had a different plan. I drove some back roads to get there which was good since it was raining hard and I didn’t have to drive the interstate.

It was still raining when I got to the RV place called Custom RV. Justin was really nice and got me connected with a repair person upon my arrival. Between the periods of rain they worked on my windows and when they got done the windows still leaked. They didn’t have an empty bay to put me in or the repair could have been done better and faster than waiting for the rain to stop. I ended up staying there overnight in hopes the sun would be out in the morning… no such luck. It looked like rain for several more days. I made several phone calls to other RV and glass places and found one called Bill’s Auto Glass that said they would try to fix my leak. They had a bay to put me in out of the rain to work on my windows. I was glad after making many calls to find someone willing to help me. All the RV places I called said they either didn’t work on windows or couldn’t get to me for over a week. Some glass places I called wouldn’t work on camper windows.

It turns out that the continuing leak is due to the extremely bad repair job done by Waits RV in West Palm Beach, Florida. Do Not use them for repairs. When Mike the Custom RV guy was assessing my windows to figure where it was leaking from, he noticed that the screws holding the window frame were not fully tightened, so he tightened them and putty came out around the frame. He scraped the excess putty and put silicone around the edge of the frame. Waits RV should have done this when they put the window back in and told me the leaks were fixed. Then Mike put more silicone around the window and gaps that were left from my bad repair job. It was still raining and water still was coming in, not a little, but quite a lot. When I left to go to the glass place, I asked Justin what I owed for the work they did the day before. He said there is no charge since they didn’t fix the problem. If you are in Amarillo, Texas, and need RV repairs go to Custom RV at exit 76 off Interstate 40.

Since Custom RV still could not work on my camper because of the rain, I drove to Bill’s Glass Repair which was only about 7 or 8 miles away. I explained the problem and the very kind and knowledgeable workers looked at the windows and discussed the best way to fix the leak and they put more sealant around parts that are missed from the previous places. I waited in their shop for the sealant to dry because it was still raining periodically. Delores the owner was really nice and she got involved asking her workers what they thought would fix the leak and she explained it to me. I was assured they think what they did should fix my problem and the windows should not leak now.

Delores and I had a nice talk while I waited and it turns out we gave some similar life situations and we were able to share our stories. I feel like I have a new friend. There are no accidents in God’s plan. I was lead to this repair shop. I kept praying for guidance to find a place to help me and I kept calling places when I called somewhere and they couldn’t help I asked if they could recommend any place that could. That’s how I found Bill’s, and Custom RV. If you are in Amarillo and need glass repairs go to Bill’s Auto Glass at 2403 E Amarillo Blvd.

After the rain stopped temporarily, and the sealant had time to set up, I thought about staying in Amarillo overnight in case I still had a leak, but it was still early afternoon and Delores and her workers felt confident they fixed the leaks, so I headed west so I could drive about 100 of the 300 miles I was away from Albuquerque. It rained periodically as I drove and I stopped after a while to see if there was water in the window tracks, praying there wouldn’t be which would mean the leaks were fixed. The passenger side was dry but there was a little water in the driver side track. I dryed it and thought it could be left from the earlier leak. When I stopped again there was more water. I dryed it again and stopped for the night in a city park in San Jon, NM.

I continued to travel west the next morning and when I got propane in Moriarty I asked if they knew of a glass place. There was one called East Mountain Glass in Edgewood, a town west of where we were which was on my route. I found the glass repair and explained my problem. Phil the owner looked at the window and agreed with me what a bad repair job was done on my windows. He got a strong sealant and put some where he thought the water was coming in and said that should fix the problem. I offered to pay him and he said there was no charge because it only took a few minutes and he didn’t know if it fixed the problem.

I continued on my way. I was only an hour or so from Albuquerque. I stopped at Hidden Valley RV Park in Tijeras, NM. I have stayed there before and they are very nice. I didn’t need to stay there this time since it was early in the day. I did want to exchange some paperback books of ones I read. This campground has a book exchange area, I’ve swapped books here before. I asked if I could use their shower since I hadn’t had one in a week and it’s been raining so I couldn’t wash my hair at campground faucets like I do often. I was told I could and they didn’t charge me. It felt good to take a nice warm shower. I think of a nice warm shower as a luxury, especially when I’m camping. When I was using my hair dryer to dry my hair, some hair blew into the end of the hair dryer and I smelled the burnt hair. The hair dryer got hot and stopped. I thought I need to buy another one. This happened last year too. I try to be careful but long hair blows and gets caught in things. I stopped at a few stores to get food and a new hair dryer and arrived at the Balloon Fiesta office late Wednesday afternoon and then went to the camper area and got plugged in to electricity.

As I was plugging my electric cord into the camper I noticed a burnt spot on the end of the connector. I showed one of the men and we agreement it should be replaced. One of the men was going to a RV store and said he would pick up the part. Another man put the new connector on the power cord and I watched and helped. I like to watch as any repair is made, I always learn something new. The RV guys here told me when I connect to power to be sure the breaker is off before connecting the power cords to the camper and outlet and to always plug the end to the camper first, then the other end to the electric box, then turn the breaker on. If the breaker is on it will cause an arc and it can blow out or damage electric items like the fridge, lights, electric outlets, etc. I know there have been several times I felt a zap of current when I connected the power cord to the camper, now I know why. That is what evidently what caused the end of my power cord plug to be burnt. So now it’s fixed and I know the proper way to connect. No one ever told me this important info. After having my camper for 10 years I am still learning.

The day after I arrived in Albuquerque we had some rain in the evening. I checked my window tracks on both sides and there was water in both trackswhich means that there is still a leak. A spot or spots have been missed with the sealant. Gene one of the other volunteers took me to Home Depot and I bought a silicone sealant that is flexible and says it has maximum flexibility for extreme joint movement. That sounded like what I needed. Gene put the silicone around all the edges of where the glass meets the frame and around the outer edge of the frame. It went over the other silicone so there is now a fairly thick strip of sealant around most of the windows. It doesn’t look very good, but if it works to keep the water out that’s what counts. I let the sealant dry overnight and in the morning let water pour over the windows and thankfully no water in the tracks. I think it’s finally fixed as far as the leak is concerned.

I miss having windows that open, especially on cooler days, but I’m managing okay without it. Thankfully I have electricity although I usually turn it off at night when I sleep.

Wednesday and worked in the Balloon Fiesta office Thursday and Friday, and will from now until Fiesta. I do all sorts of projects. One day I taped LED fairy lights in three dozen clear quart jars and then tied different colors of raffia around the rim. These will be used to light tables in a tent during Fiesta. They really looked festive and pretty. I was surprised how bright the fairy lights are.

I will add more to this story, and perhaps a few photos soon. Check back in about a week.

 

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Travelling to Albuquerque

Before leaving Waco I had the tire pressure and fluids change checked in my camper. All was okay. If not you have been reading my posts for the last few months you know about the issues I had with the upper windows leaking. I thought when I was told by the RV service place that the windows were sealed and would not leak that the problem was solved, even though I could not open those windows. We had several days of heavy rain in Waco and there was water in the inside window track which I did not think should happen if it was sealed. Before I left one of my friends put strips of gorilla tape along the bottom edge of the window where it was a few months ago while waiting to get the leak fixed. This time that did not do the trick. I drove through intermittent heavy rain on Saturday and when I stopped and checked the track there was water in it. I prayed to see what I should do. The sun was out today so I though I wouldn’t have to deal with it for a few days. Since it’s Sunday all of the RV dealers I passed were closed.

I stopped in Littlefield, Texas, today for the day, I drove almost 200 Mike’s and it was more than enough. Littlefield is the home of Waylon Jennings. I have driven by here many times without stopping. In one of my Texas camping books, in addition to a sign on the highway saying free campground, I decided to make this town my stopping point. PBS had a special on television in June with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. I watched it several times. I loved not only the music but also the interaction between the guys. Part of the special showed a museum in Littlefield run by Waylon’s relatives. That was why I decided to make Littlefield my stopping place on the way to Albuquerque since it was on my way. This is a nice little campground with some trees for shade. It’s on the main road through town and next to an Ace Hardware store that has lots more than the usual hardware store. I had fun exploring their items.

After I got settled in the campground and explored Ace Hardware I was in the camper and thought I heard thunder. I looked outside and sure enough there were really dark clouds. I didn’t want as any water in the track but I didn’t have anything to stand on to reach the high windows to tape the sides of the window, the bottom edge was taped yesterday. I saw a man sitting at the table near my campsite and went over to ask if he had something I could stand on. It turns out he does not speak English and my Spanish is very limited, I was able to ask his name and was told it’s Fred, when I said mine is Carol he said Carolina. We were able to communicate and he had a tall bucket in his truck, and he was much taller than me and he very kindly put tape on the sides of my window. I hope this works. I had some silicone gel in a tube I was going to use but the tape was a better option today. Maybe as I travel towards Albuquerque I can find a RV repair place that can fix my windows so I can open them again. It sure would be nice. At least in safe, dry, and have delicious food to eat.

Tomorrow morning the Waylon Jennings museum opens about 10:00 a.m. so I plan on going there and taking pictures. I saw an article on it on a website I found called Roadtrippers. That website has lots of great tips and travel routes.

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Still in Waco, Texas, at Homestead Heritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Friday, August 26th, the day before I left I worked at the bakery for about 7 hours. The people that work in the bakery have become my new friends. We spent many days and hours working together and getting to know each other. We had lots of fun in addition to working. It helped that I like to bake and I do it at home very often, I was able to be given a task and able to do it without instruction often. When we made croissants I asked if I could make some with the extra pieces of dough to take on my trip and they said yes. My creations were filled with either chocolate, almond paste, or plain. They tasted delicious and will be enjoyed as I travel. I also was given an apricot almond bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and pumpernickel bread for my trip.

I cooked some pasta to eat as I travel, I can hear it easily and put marinated feta cheese on it for a fast meal. I usually eat cold cut sandwiches with potato salad as I travel so this will be a nice change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Relaxing after balloon rallies and having time with friends in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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