Back home in south Florida

After the Native Rhythms Festival was over, I spent the night in Wickham Park and then Monday morning headed home. I started to unpack my camper van and knew it would take a few days. I made so many trips up and down the steps for two days, and that for a few days after that, I had trouble walking. Going up and down the steps was painful. For a few days, I had to limit my trips up and down the steps to two or three a day, I walked carefully in my apartment because my muscles hurt. I walked a lot of miles on my trip but going up and down stairs must use different muscles.

I took a week to adjust to being home, and then, started back to the gym and taking my yoga and cardio classes again. I am back up to taking between two and three classes a day.

Also, I am back in the groove of baking bread, and food from scratch. I am really enjoying using my new cookware that I bought earlier this year. Nothing sticks to it at all. If you want or need the best cookware ever, check out Curtis Stone cookware and his new bakeware. His cookware is sold on HSN.  Lots of recipes are on his website.

I have also made numerous flavors of ice cream. It’s fun experimenting with what flavors to make. It sure tastes better than store bought ice cream and I know what is in it.

That’s about it for now, I feel so blessed that I was able to take another trip. It was about 4 months long, and lots of fun. Also, thankfully, as in previous trips, every year something happens and needs to be fixed. This year the major repair was when my transmission stopped working, with no warning, while I was driving through rural Mississippi the end of July shortly after I left home. I was able to find somewhere to get it repaired fairly easily. I wrote about it in an earlier story.

Definitely the fun and joy and experiences made this trip well worth it. I am so grateful that I once again ventured out on another expedition. Live Life… Don’t put things off. You may not have tomorrow. All each of us has is today. I have written about that numerous times. Also, I have several posts of Inspirational Poems and Stories that have helped me out over the years.

This post catches up the past four months of my trip. I did pretty good keeping it up until the Balloon Fiesta began in early October. I had no WiFi from then until I got home. And after getting home I have been busy. At first it was unpacking and putting things away, then grocery shopping and cooking, and I am still crocheting baby blankets and donating them to a local hospital for their premature babies.

I have too much “stuff” so I am working on downsizing again. Once I use up all of my yarn, I will start reading books again and then that will give me more space. I have already donated two bags of clothes and other items. It’s amazing how things multiply. I was down to not many possessions a few years ago and now after about four years in my apartment I have more “stuff.”

I’ve decided I would like to continue to travel and to include much more volunteer work. That would mean I would be home less time and it doesn’t seem wise for me to continue to keep my apartment and pay rent to be gone most of the time. I don’t really want to get a storage unit because the cost of what I would put in it costs less than the storage fees would be. I have my cookware and some kitchen gadgets I like, and some clothes and Balloon Fiesta jackets I got for volunteering, and my ostomy supplies. I need to find somewhere I can have a room or small apartment somewhere more centrally located so if I want to switch out clothes or get more medical supplies I can do it fairly easily. Or have a place near someone I know so they can mail something to me. Right now, if I need something from home it’s a two or three day trip each way to get here. Florida is a long state. It takes me a long time to drive across Texas, but Florida does too.

Truly blessed is how I feel. Every now and then I look at my website, and I go to my photo albums and look at pictures I have taken from all over the country. I have about 165 photo albums and more posts than that. Not every story has a photo album. I have visited and explored numerous National Parks, gone up in the Goodyear Blimp twice, went to several hot air balloon events and went for a ride four times, fed animals at my friend’s wildlife rehabilitation center, and so much more. How lucky and fortunate am I…??? Very. So much to be grateful for. Yes, I have health issues, and a tumor that wreaks havoc with my body at times, but many people have much worse health issues than I do. An Attitude of Gratitude is mandatory for me.

I still have my 5.9 acres of land in Tennessee that I would like to sell. I created an album of pictures showing the land in the spring and late fall.

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Native Rhythms Festival, Melbourne, Florida

After leaving Falling Waters State Park I traveled east and stopped near Jacksonville to visit my friend Cindy for a few days before heading to the Native Rhythms Flute Festival which was almost halfway between where she lives and where I live. I have been to this event several times over the years and I love being there. I get to hear exceptional music and see my friends that are there as staff, or musicians, or vendors. The sad part was that it rained really hard on Saturday and Sunday. I feel bad for everyone there because the rain caused the crowd to be smaller than if the weather was good. The musicians and vendors came from all over the country for this event. And many of the performers have won awards for their music. Go to Native Rhythms Festival to read more about this event and the performers.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and found out that they had a camp feed for the vendors and performers. I helped with setting up the food and serving items. There was so much food and the bar-b-que and cookies were wonderful. There was a large variety of food and so much left over that we were able to take a large plate of leftovers.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with my friends there who I have not seen since last year when I was at the event. Listening to the performers was a challenge. I had a plastic poncho on, and held an umbrella over me. It was windy and cold and all of us that were brave and toughed out the weather were doing the same thing trying to stay warm and dry which was not easy. We did have some breaks in the rain periodically. Saturday morning started out being sunny, that changed about midday.

Here is the album of my photos from the flute festival. I took lots of pictures, as I always do. There are albums of my previous visits to this event. You can search on my website to see the stories and pictures.

Not only are these extraordinary musicians, but many of them are wonderful storytellers. I always love to see these performers. There are so many wonderful performers, I am only posting a few pictures of a few performers below. I was wondering if Arvel Bird has a new fiddle, but it’s the same one he has had for a few years. This fiddle is painted to reflect his Scottish and Native heritage. I am always mesmerized watching the hoop dancer, it takes such skill to perform a hoop dance. It must take a lot of concentration and time to learn how to do this intricate dance.

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Falling Waters State Park, Florida Panhandle

After I left Tom Merrill Recreation Area in Louisiana, I continued heading East. I took a secondary road from Interstate 20 towards Interstate 10. I spent a night in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in a Walmart parking lot. In the morning I continued driving east and I stopped in Alabama at a seafood restaurant for lunch. It was an interesting old building right on the water. The food was not as good as I was hoping for. The parking lot was packed and the restaurant was crowded. When my food came out it was not even close to what I ordered, but soon they brought the right dish. The service was excellent, but the food and was okay, but, I wouldn’t stop there again. It was near the Battleship Alabama, which I drive past almost every trip but never stopped at.

I continued driving east and stopped at the Florida Visitor Center to get a new State Park book. I asked the staff person there what state park has a campground not too far off the Interstate. I didn’t feel like driving 15 or 20 miles off the Interstate like I have for some state parks. She told me about a few of them and after reading the descriptions of a few I decided to stop at Falling Waters State Park which is about halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. It was only about 4 miles south of Interstate 10, and then about a mile further into the park from the entrance. Here is a link to Falling Waters State Park.

Here is an excerpt of what the State writes about this state park:  “Huge trees and fern-covered sinkholes line Sink Hole Trail, the boardwalk that leads visitors to Florida’s highest waterfall. Falling Waters Sink is a 100-foot deep, 20-foot wide cylindrical pit into which flows a small stream that drops 73 feet to the bottom of the sink. The water’s final destination remains unknown.”

This is one of the nicest and most interesting state parks I have been to, including those in other states. I had no idea when I picked this state park to stop in for the night that it was such an interesting park and that it had great trails to walk. Here is a link to the album of photos I took at Falling Waters State Park.

It only has about 22 camp sites, three of which are paved. The others are sand but look pretty level. Since the park was not filled to capacity, and the paved spots near the restroom were vacant, the park staff gave me one of those spots. The restrooms and shower houses are really nice and there are paved sidewalks to them. The shower rooms are large private rooms with toilets, sinks, showers, and mirrors. I really enjoyed taking a long, warm, shower after getting my campsite set up and eating dinner. I usually do not shower at night and when it’s dark but it was close to my camper and I felt it would feel good to be clean and have warm water wash over me. As I was walking on the sidewalk, I saw two pine cones which were about 8″ tall. I didn’t see any other ones that big.

I walked along the trail a while after getting to the campground, and it was starting to get dark and I was wearing sandals and the path was all sand and it was getting all over my feet. That’s part of why I felt a shower would be good at night.

Anyway, in the morning, I put on my sneakers and took my camera and walked the path which after a while took me to a lake with a sandy beach, grills, bathrooms, and a gazebo.

The sandy path then became a boardwalk that continued on through the park. It went to a waterfall, and past several sinkholes. Also, the park is harvesting the non native trees and reforesting the park with native long leaf pine trees. Some of the trees had long needles that were about 12″ long.

I was surprised when I came to a place along the boardwalk where there was a sludge pit and a sealed well head where there used to be an oil well from 1919.

I finally walked far enough and got to the waterfall. There were stairs that went from wood to metal walking down into the sinkhole near the waterfall. Walking down the stairs into the circle of the sinkhole, the further down I walked, the cooler the temperature got. There was lots of moss and plant life growing in this damp environment. The energy here felt really nice. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through this park. I would definitely love to come here again for several days. There are pictures in my photo album that would show clear print of the sign below, and there are signs I took of other points of interest along the trail.

   

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Camping on the way back to Florida, Childress, Texas, and Tyler, Texas, and Tom Merrill Recreation Area, Louisiana

I left Albuquerque on October 17th and I have stopped at several campgrounds along the way. These are places I have not been to before and I am enjoying my new experiences and meeting new people a few who I will probably stay in touch with. I had very limited WiFi using my phone as a hot spot to update my travel map and write short posts to let my friends who read my posts to see how I am doing and where I am at any given time.

I still have my tumor but it is not stopping me from traveling and enjoying life. I am so blessed and grateful. This year my health was better, I know it was in part due to working out at the gym for several months before leaving home and also by staying active and walking a lot while I was on my trip. I still have my tumors and health issues but I really do my best to ignore them and I don’t give them permission to be in my body. I am truly grateful that I was able to take another long trip and do things I enjoy. I am able to walk much further this year than in previous years. The past year or so, I have limited my driving to between 150 and 350 miles a day whereas in the first few years of my travels I would sometimes drive 400 or 500 miles in a day. I realize not only is that too many miles to drive in a day, but then I don’t stop along the way to experience new places and campgrounds.

On my way back east from Albuquerque, the first night I stopped near Amarilllo, Texas. I looked at maps to decide which route I wanted to take. Most years, I stop in Waco, Texas, and stay will friends for about a month and then go straight back home. This year, I decided to do something different. The Texas Visitor Center has a wonderful booklet called Texas Public Campgrounds. It lists state, city, Corps of Engineer and other government or local agency campgrounds. Several are free for a few days such as in Littlefield and Muleshoe. I stayed in these parks in previous years when I took the route through their towns in the Texas Panhandle. I took a different route through Texas on this return trip. I wanted to see different scenery and explore new places. It was cold out west so I decided to head east into warmer territory. But I found out that even though it was cold I stayed in places a few days because I had a good time there visiting with other campers.

Childress has a city park on a small pond and it was $10 a night with full hookups and it was a really nice campground. I stayed there for five nights and one day instead of unhooking and driving into town I walked one and a half miles each way to a pizza place. I thought I worked off the pizza I ate. There was a nice paved walkway around the lake and there were ducks, swans, and some other water birds I don’t recognize. The man in the camper next to me had a dog that would come over and say hi and want me to play catch with him. Here is a photo album I took at Childress City Park.

I drove down Highway 287 and took some other secondary roads. I drove through some really interesting small towns which looked like a nice place to live. One of the towns was a small German town and there was an old brewery that looked vacated, but the vats outside the building were painted with scenes of an old German village. Another small town near there had an old historic church. I liked driving through these towns rather than take highways.

My next overnight stop was Tyler State Park in east Texas. Walking outside around the campground I could smell the wonderful scent of pine from the pine trees. This was a really nice campground. I was able to take a nice, long, warm, shower, it was the first one I had in quite a while. Normally, while in Albuquerque, I wash my hair at a faucet with a hose and wash the rest of me with washcloths. I wash my laundry in a bucket and put it on a chair to dry. I only spent one night here and then continued east. Here is an album of photos I took at Tyler State Park.

While at Tyler State Park, I looked at my Passport America campground book and didn’t see any campgrounds I wanted to stay at on the route I was planning on driving. I looked at Camping with the Corps book which shows all of the Corps of Engineer Parks in the US. My version is from 2010, I have not bought a new one recently. I didn’t think there would be much difference in campgrounds or that there would be new campgrounds.

I decided to stop at a Corps of Engineer Park about half an hour east of Shreveport, Louisiana, and about 10 miles north of Interstate 20. The version of the book I have says that there are 20 campsites with a maximum length of 20′, and that is is not on a lake. I thought this would be a nice quiet campground and probably not very crowded since it was a Tuesday and I thought I would stay a few days. Big Surprise!!! I arrived at the campground and found that there were level, paved, campsites and that almost any length camper would fit on these concrete pads. There are large trees throughout this wooded campground, mostly pine trees. Here is an album of pictures I took at Tom Merrill Recreation Area.

There are restrooms and showers which are pretty nice, a bit primitive but they have running hot water and the showers are private rooms in a little building and the door locks which is nice. I like where I can take a shower and not be in a room with several shower stalls. It felt great to take a warm shower and wash my hair.  The campground hosts were really nice and I taught the wife how to crochet and she trimmed my hair, she was a beautician. We enjoyed our time together while we crocheted and she trimmed my hair. They had just spent a few months in Alaska and traveling around the country.

Evidently, this campground was upgraded a few years ago. It is in a wildlife management area and it turns out that a few days after I arrived that hunting season opened. By Friday all of the campsites were filled… with hunters. I like to walk around whatever campground I am at and sometimes I visit with other campers. In one of the campsites not far from me there were four brothers, two from Louisiana and two from Mississippi. They come to this campground a few times a year to hunt. We started talking and they invited me to eat a meal with them and sit by their campfire. I had a lot of fun visiting with them, they liked to laugh and tell stories. I also learned a lot about deer hunting, and requirements for hunting. Two of their buddies were in a campsite near them and they came to visit too.

While the guys were hunting during the morning, I would walk around the campground and as I walked I picked up sticks, logs, and pine cones for our campfire. In the afternoons, about 4 p.m. we started the campfire. It was cold during the time I was at this campground. Probably in the 40’s or 50’s. I drank a bit of hot cocoa that week. The campfire felt really good and putting pine cones or pine needles on the fire increased the heat instantly and it was pretty watching the pine cones burn when it was dark.

One night for dinner we roasted hot dogs and sausage on sticks in the fire, and another day they cooked pork ribs and baked beans in a crockpot, which was  a really delicious dinner one night. I got the recipe and made it at my friend Cindy’s a few days later when I got to her house, this dinner was a big hit!!! The two men who were friends of the brothers were cooking chicken on their grill on afternoon, it smelled so good. I had some chicken in my fridge and they were really nice and cooked my chicken on their grill for me. I ate it for a few days on my trip towards Florida.

One of the brothers killed two boars, one was a baby. I felt bad for the little critter, but it turns out that the park rangers want the boars killed because they have a lot of babies in a litter, and multiply quickly and they eat the acorns and other things that the deer eat and then the deer don’t have enough food. Because this is a wildlife and recreation management area, the first two days of hunting season the hunters have to take the deer they kill to the ranger station so they can be weighed and some of the deer have a part of their brain or something near that cut out so that they can be examined to be sure there are no diseases in the deer community.

This campground has a cleaning area for the deer and other animals where they can be hung on hooks to be skinned and/or cleaned. I didn’t think I could watch deer being processed, but I was able to. It was pretty interesting to watch how different hunters cut up their deer. No, we did not eat any of the venison, but I did have a good meal or two with the brothers at their campsite.

I spent a week at this campground and every day I walked several miles exploring various parts of the park. There is no lake at this campground, but there is a river nearby within driving or walking distance. There is a levy and water flows through the bottom of it. There is also a nice playground with a shredded rubber tire base under the playground equipment. It felt very strange to walk on.

I walked up the steep hill to the road, that was not easy, and another day I walked around to the other side and that’s where I found the river. There were lots of pine, oak, and cypress trees. Along the bank of the river there were lots of cypress trees and cypress knees. I love seeing cypress knees. If you don’t know what these are, they are parts of the root of the tree that comes up from the ground in the shape of a V which looks like a bent knee.

Anyway, I had a nice time at this campground, even though it was cold. I met nice people and felt very relaxed when I left. I would love to come to this campground again.

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The Balloon Fiesta began Saturday, October 7th and was over on Sunday, October 15. I left Albuquerque a day or so later.

I took about 3,000 during the Balloon Fiesta. I had to create two photo albums in order to get all of the pictures online. In a few months, I will delete most of them and leave about 400 or so pictures in each album, just like I have done in previous years since attending my first Balloon Fiesta in 2011. I leave all of my pictures online for a few months so that any pilots that would like to use my pictures can have time to look through the pictures and take what they want. I have taken about 3,000 every year that I have attended Fiesta.  Every year there are numerous different regular and special shape balloons and it’s interesting to see the new designs and special shaped balloons.

Photo Album of Days 1-4 of Balloon Fiesta.

Photo Album of Days 5-9 of Balloon Fiesta.

If you want to see pictures I took at previous Balloon Fiesta’s in the search block on this website type Balloon Fiesta and it will bring up the stories and links to the albums. Like I wrote above, I took about 2,000 to 3,000 pictures each year, but after a few months I reduce the number to a few hundred photos. I also have stories and pictures from the balloon rally in Longview, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

I remember the “olden days” when we had to buy rolls of film with either 12, 24, or 36 pictures and also needed flash cubes or flash bulbs to take pictures. I know that is really showing my age, but it’s okay. I really like the digital pictures better. At the end of the day when I download the pictures to my computer I am amazed to see that in a single day at Fiesta I can take between 200 and 500 pictures and not even be aware of it. And it’s great to be able to see the pictures soon after being taken rather than having to wait a few days or week until they get developed. It’s also a lot less expensive using digital images than film.

During the past six weeks that I have been in Albuquerque there have been amazing sunrises, sunsets, and stormy skies. It was interesting to see clouds at the bottom of the mountain. I have included these pictures in the photo album for Days 5-9. It was extremely windy the last day of Fiesta and the balloons did not inflate nor fly. The flags were flying straight out which shows how windy it was. I know everyone was disappointed, but it was better to be safe.

 

As in previous years, I really enjoyed my time in Albuquerque. I volunteered at the Balloon Fiesta office again for the month before Fiesta doing various projects and tasks every day depending on who needed help. It really makes it interesting to volunteer and help different people. Plus, I get to meet new people working with others on these projects. I also get to see people that I know from previous years. And it’s nice to give back to an event that brings so much joy to so many people.

This year, I was able to watch the gas balloons fill and launch. The past few years they have launched at times I wasn’t able to watch. This year I was determined to see the gas balloons, it was really fascinating and very different than the hot air balloons. Hydrogen that the balloons are filled with is flammable so only those helping with the balloons are able to be close to them. The process takes hours and it looks very complicated. Sand bags are used for ballast and unlike hot air balloons which fly for an hour or two, gas balloons fly for about three days or so and they fly hundreds of miles. The balloon that flies the farthest distance wins the event.

 

One day after looking at my photos, I noticed that a few of them were pretty amazing like one of the Wells Fargo stagecoach that looks like it landed on the roof of the museum, or the alligator that looks like it’s balancing on the fin of Nitro Fish, or the Bee’s playing around the Wonder Bread balloon, and several others. Looking at the clown with the blue chicken that looks like it’s sitting on the clown’s head it is amazing to realize those balloons are almost the same size, it’s just the distance that makes one look so much smaller. The astronaut looks through the fence at the visitors and balloons on the field. There are many more interesting photos, all my pictures are in the two albums that have links above in this story. The Wonder Bread balloon brings back childhood memories.

One of the balloon pilots I have made friends with the past several years gave me an entire bag of pins of their balloon for me to give away. I had so much fun doing that. It gave me the opportunity to talk with more people and when I found out it was their first time at Fiesta I gave them a pin, or if I saw a family with children I would go over and give them pins, seeing the surprise and smiles on the people’s faces touched my heart and I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to hand out so many pins. I also took many of the pins I collected over the years and gave them to visitors too.

During the event, I crewed for the same pilot again, it’s my sixth year crewing for Scott on his balloon Big Blue. I didn’t get to go up this year, but it’s okay, I still liked helping and taking pictures. I also was assigned to the Pilot Registration team which I really like. I get to not only meet the pilots, but also see some that I have seen and/or crewed for at other balloon events, or even from previous years at this one. This year, I helped with giving the special shape pilots their pilot packs which was really interesting. I met pilots from lots of different countries. I appreciate the fact that there are numerous female pilots, several from other countries.

Meeting the pilots and seeing what design or shape their balloons are makes it more fun and interesting for me during the event. I find that I take extra pictures of the balloons of the pilots I know. I also still take lots of pictures of Scott’s balloon Big Blue and since I am at the balloon, I get to take pictures of all stages of the balloon from unpacking to it launching and flying. Since Scott had lots of chase crew the entire week, I didn’t even go on chase crew this year which was okay since I volunteered to help set up for the various parties that Fiesta held for the volunteers and pilots. And by staying on the field I was able to walk up close to the balloons and take a lot of pictures. It is not easy for me to decide which pictures to put in my story, so I just choose a few at random.

The motorcycle balloon was new this year and it was really interesting to watch it inflate and fly. I think it was the largest balloon at Fiesta. This was one of the special shape balloon pilots that I helped during pilot registration which made it more interesting when I saw the balloon inflate. Another few of my favorite balloons is the Scarecrow, Owlbert, Astronaut, and Nitro Fish, and the Bumble Bees. There are many more that I like but these always make me smile.

Balloon Fiesta purchased 19 acres of land on the northwest side of the field and they made it into parking for the volunteers and also they created RV spaces with full hookups, and it’s pretty level which was great. I liked being on the hill overlooking the field even though there was only electric, but I didn’t like that I had to be on several boards to get level. I feel that this new area is an improvement and is close enough to walk to the places on the field I needed to get to. In addition, there were golf carts and trolleys to get the volunteers from place to place.

I am hoping to attend Balloon Fiesta again in 2018.

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Driving from Albuquerque to Gallup, NM

Several weeks ago another RV volunteer and I took a drive to Gallup, NM, which is about two and a half hours west of Albuquerque. I didn’t write a story then because I didn’t have wifi to post the story. We didn’t see anything we wanted to stop at so when we got there we turned around and drove back to Albuquerque. The scenery we passed on the drive was sometimes just flat and lots of dirt, and other times the mountains we drove through were amazing. We saw lots of trains, and most of them were over a mile long and in many parts of the trip there were double train tracks. I’m guessing that most of the freight is brought by rail.

It was nice being a passenger for part of the trip so I could take pictures. I was out this way in 2011 and I couldn’t take pictures since I was driving and by myself. This is the same road I drove when I went to Acoma Sky City in 2011.

 

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Albuquerque Sunsets, stormy skies, and 100,000 miles on camper

As I was going through eastern New Mexico my camper Molly reached 100,000 miles on her odometer. When I bought her in November 2005 she had 25,000 miles which wasn’t very many miles for her being seven years old. We have traveled a lot of miles together the past 11 years and hope to have many more miles to travel. There have been many adventures and experiences we have been through together, lots of up and down steep mountains, long stretches of road where we enjoyed the scenery and seldom saw any other vehicles or structures, and sometimes drove through heavy rainstorms. I have enjoyed the travels and it is something I have wanted to do since I was in my early 20’s. My dream became a reality, and the adventures continue.

Even when repairs were needed, I was in places where they could be fairly easily. It was not always convenient like my transmission went out in rural Mississippi in July and I had to be towed twice and wait a week for a new transmission. I was able to be plugged into electricity at the repair shop and at one of the two mechanics I was at there was a grocery store across the street. It all worked out well and I was in a safe place. Once again, God took excellent care of me.

Arriving in Albuquerque with about 100,290 miles, I am staying in one of the Fiesta RV parking areas and I am working in the Balloon Fiesta office during the day.

God has been creating amazing, spectacular, and unusual sunsets, and stormy skies. To the east is the Sandia mountain range. Sandia I was told means watermelon and when the sun shines on the mountain in the late afternoon, often the mountain turns to a light pink color like a watermelon. Other than the mountain in the east, the terrain is flat. So when it’s stormy and raining I can see the rain coming down from the clouds all around and I can see it moving towards me. Some days the afternoons bring heavy winds and all of our campers feel like being in a rocking chair. Even the people in the large motor homes feel the wind rocking their campers. In stories I have written while at Fiesta in previous years I included pictures of various shots of the mountains during sunset and the stormy skies. You can search Balloon Fiesta to see pictures and stories from the other five years I have been here.

Albuquerque has the most amazing sunsets and stormy skies. There have been several days recently that in the afternoon the sky gets stormy, the winds pick up, and there is rain all around us. A few days we got rain where we were. Some days the clouds are down over the top of the mountain range, this morning, there were clouds also at the bottom of the mountain. It was really cool to look at. The elevation here is about 5,200 feet.

Here are a few pictures I took of the sky during the different weather events this past week. God creates the most spectacular scenery, almost no two days are the same. The colors and designs of the clouds and sky are beyond spectacular and even beyond what I could imagine most days. Also, how the sky and clouds can change in a day, and sometimes in less than an hour. I added additional sunset and stormy sky pictures to the Balloon Fiesta album of days 5-9.

 

 

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Albuquerque and Hurricane Irma update

I am keeping busy in Albuquerque working at the Balloon Fiesta office and I also took a CPR and First Aid class the other day. I have some pictures to upload of balloons inflating and flying recently. I will try to get that done soon. I have limited time and wifi at this time which makes it a bit inconvenient to post stories and photos. I wanted to write this short post to let you know that I am doing well and that due to the hurricane going more west my apartment and most of the area where I live was okay other than power outages, wind, and rain. There were lots of trees and street signs that were damaged.

That’s about it for now, will try to post more soon.

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Hurricane Irma in Florida, I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico, update after Irma

I arrived safely in Albuquerque on August 25th.There’s a hurricane in South Florida which is looks like it’s going to hit where I live or where my apartment is I should say. In some respects I’m glad I’m not there, but, I wish I were in case something needs to be done in my apartment especially after the storm passes through.

I am extremely grateful to my friend Nona who went with her grandsons and put shutters up on my apartment and tried to secure it the best they could. They also took my important documents to keep them safe and moved my car to where we hope it will be safe as well. This is a very large and powerful hurricane. I was in Florida several years ago when we got the direct hit from Hurricane Wilma. It was very destructive and this storm is supposed to be more powerful and higher winds, etc.

I’m hoping and praying that my car does not get damaged in the rain and that everybody stays safe and there’s minimal property damage but from the size of the storm that may not be possible.

I will have to wait and find out after the storm passes what if any damage there is to my apartment and car, then decide if I need to try to get back to Florida or stay where I am. I am praying that things will be as we all left them and that the damage to everyone in Irma’s path is minimal. I know that there is a mandatory evacuation for the area where I live and I know some of my friends and neighbors have chosen to stay in their homes. I pray that they are safe.

In addition to sending prayers to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey we’re praying that Hurricane Irma doesn’t do much serious damage to Florida or anyone else in her path along the way.

Since my mom passed away a few months ago, I have been giving thought to whether or not I want to continue to live in south Florida or move elsewhere. I have been giving thought to buying a larger camper and living in it full time, doing more volunteer work around the country like other RVer’s I know have been doing. What should I give away or keep of my possessions, etc. I like having an apartment so I can cook, shower, have a regular size bed, etc. However, I have also learned how little I really need to live and be comfortable. A few months before I left I bought a new set of cookware that I really love to use.

I have been praying for God to let me know what I am to do, what God’s will is for me with regard to my future plans and what I should be doing. Perhaps this is God’s answer to me. I would like to believe that it would have been a more subtle and less dramatic answer, but sometimes I need to be made aware in a large way. Either way, I am currently safe, even though my heart is with my friends in Florida and the path of Irma, and my stomach has a bit of a knot in it for the unknown which none of us have control over other than prayer.

It could be that whatever I have with me is all that I have left of my “things.” I know it’s just “stuff” although some of the items can be replaced, other items cannot. Before I left home I had this thought that said to get apartment insurance. At first when I moved there I wasn’t expected to live much longer so I didn’t and then like others since we thankfully did not get any hurricanes for many years didn’t think about insurance again. But for some reason, maybe a premonition, I had a thought to get apartment renters insurance before I left so I did and the 30 day waiting period was over weeks ago thankfully.

The forms from the insurance company said to list everything and I knew I didn’t have time since I was getting ready for my trip. So, I decided to take pictures of everything in my apartment so when I got time, or if it was needed for any reason, I would have documentation by photos. I am so glad I took the pictures and put them on my computer.

Hopefully, the roof will stay on my building and there will be no damage. But seeing as the path of the storm is coming over the city where I live, and we are on the dirty side of this powerful storm, and knowing the damage the wind did from Wilma who was a lesser wind storm, I am not very hopeful at this time. I know prayer works well. I am trying to just stay in the now and not project what will happen. I will know more after the storm passes and Nona can get out after seeing how her home is after the storm, and when she will be able to get to my apartment to see how it did and she will let me know.

Please send all of the people in the path of the hurricane your thoughts and prayers. Thank you very much. Unless I go to the Balloon Fiesta office with my computer, I only have my phone for Internet, and it is very limited. I will try to update my website as I am able to.

Thankfully for the eastern coast of Florida, and sadly for other parts of Florida, the storm damage was not as bad as it could have been and not like the damage from Hurricane Wilma when she hit the southeastern coast. Thanks to my friend Nona and her grandson my apartment was secured. After her family cleaned up the storm damage on her property, she brought my car back to my apartment and she let me know that there was no damage to my apartment or car. There was loss of electric and still many are without power. I am grateful the storm wasn’t as bad for us and I am still praying for all those affected by the recent storms, fires around the country, and whereverit is needed.

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Albuquerque Balloon Museum

Once again I am in Albuquerque and on Sundays the Balloon Museum is open and there is no admission charge on Sunday’s from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Last year I could tell that the museum was changing exhibits and that there would be some new ones this year. If you want to see the stories and photos from my previous museum visits you can search on my website, I think there are two other stories I posted with pictures.

There are several new exhibits such as the Arctic and North Pole expeditions, weather information, and several other exhibits. I did miss seeing some that were removed to make room for the new exhibits. Many of the new exhibits have interactive computer games and informational screens that visitors can use to either play games or learn about the background of the exhibit.

I took lots of pictures of the storyboards in several exhibits, I hope you can read them. The Arctic and North Pole exhibits are really interesting. I can’t imagine flying and living in the conditions they did. And some of the people died and the bodies weren’t found for several decades. To see more pictures and read about this and other expeditions explore my photo album.

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Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

After saying goodbye to Sue and Mark on Saturday morning, I headed south to Waco to visit my friends in Homestead Heritage and to park in the Yarden’s front yard which is my usual place to stay when in Waco. I love this family and the people in this community. It’s like I am part of their family because I have known them for so many years.

I fill my time visiting with different families and like in previous years, I help out at the Cheese Shop, Gristmill, Bakery, and wherever else my assistance is needed. This year I also volunteered to crochet some baby blankets for them to sell at the Thanksgiving Fair. Sue in the Fibercraft Shop gave me the softest yarn to use. It is 70% baby Alpaca and 30% Bamboo. I really enjoyed crocheting with it. I don’t remember ever using yarn this soft. I know that whoever buys this blanket will wrap their child in the softest, most cuddly blanket. I have been blessed to be able to make several baby blankets using soft alpaca yarn.

In the mornings I walk to the Bakery, it’s about a mile, then in the afternoon I walk back to my camper so I get at least a 2 mile walk every day. Walking gives me the opportunity to observe nature and take pictures as I walk. I love looking at the Century plant. It puts up a very tall spike which reminds me of an asparagus spear, and I also get to look at the beautiful gardens surrounding the numerous buildings here.

I created an album of pictures I have taken on this trip, there are many new buildings and things to see here this year that are different from previous years. I also took pictures of the process we used for making the marinated feta cheese at the Cheese Shop.

Since my visit here last year, there have been several changes. The new Brazos Valley Cheese Shop is completed and they are working in it now. I got to work there last Wednesday, and I will do so again this Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Bakery is making some new items and I was able to sample these delicious breads and treats. The Aquaponics greenhouse is now finished and the fish that are in the tank are plentiful and seem happy swimming in their new home. There are lots of new gardens with plants that I can’t identify but I know they have a purpose and are used for food. The Grocery store has lots of interesting food products and fresh grown produce. The lady that does the writing for the various categories has beautiful handwriting.

The pears have been picked from the Yarden’s trees and I will peel and cut them and put them in the dehydrator. I also help harvest ripe vegetables from the garden and it’s early in the year so I don’t have pecans to collect yet, that happens in October and November.

After I leave Waco, I will head towards Albuquerque, I still have not decided which route to take. It might be the same one as last year, then again as I travel I might see another route to take so that I see different scenery. I pray that the remainder of my trip is incident free from repairs. While in Waco, the friends that I am staying at have a mechanic maintenance shop and they will change the oil in my camper van and check it over to make sure they do not see anything that needs attention. They always do that for me while I am here. I have learned over the years, and also on this trip, that even though everything checks out okay, that things happen, parts stop working, and things that worked fine suddenly don’t. Every year that I can remember since I retired in 2011, there is something that happens or needs to be repaired. Thankfully, I have always been in a location where it can be fixed, and most importantly, where I am safe while that happens.

I know that God is taking excellent care of me. I continue to pray and ask God for direction of what I am supposed to be doing with this extra time I have been given. Am I doing what God wants me to do, am I where I am supposed to be? Asking for direction and guidance is one thing, and the easier thing to do. What is more difficult is listening for the answer and taking that direction. Sometimes it is what I want and other times God has other plans for me and what I should be doing. For example, when my transmission went out in Mississippi a few weeks ago and I was in Mississippi for a week when my plan was to be in Longview, Texas, at a hot air balloon event. That still worked out well as you can read in the story about my transmission in a previous post.

 

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Crowley, Texas, Soldier Memorial at the Library

Most of the time I don’t have my camera with me when I am doing errands or going places with friends so I take pictures with my phone and email them from my phone to my computer, then I copy them into the picture folder on my computer. These photos fall into that category. I had no idea when we decided to go to the Crowley Library that they added this memorial garden since my last visit here a year or two ago.

At the Crowley Library there is a Soldier Memorial Park which I found to be very heart touching. I took pictures of the entire park and all of the granite slabs with the different branches of the military. I tried to get pictures where the wording on each slab shows. The words for each branch of the military and also the words near the center of the memorial really touched my heart. I hope you are able to read them. I think this is an important story to write and read and remember and thank the soldiers who have served our country so we could continue to have the freedom we cherish.

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Visiting friends in Fort Worth, Texas

I spent almost a week with my friend Sue and her husband Mark near Fort Worth. My friend Pat joined us for lunch a couple of times and it was great spending time with my long time friends and catching up on life and sharing stories of recent things we have been doing or have been happening in our lives.

Sue and I even made time to go to the gym three times and we were able to do some cardio exercises and even took two yoga classes which is great. My goal is to still do exercise while I am on my trip.

As we were leaving a restaurant where we had lunch we saw numerous fire trucks in the adjoining parking lot. We found out that Wendy’s restaurant had a grease fire and it spread to the roof of their restaurant. Thankfully, it looked like minimal damage and no one was injured. It was interesting watching the firefighters handle the scene and orchestrate the incident. We then went on our separate ways after giving each other hugs and saying we will miss each other but will continue to stay in touch.

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Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas

I arrived in Longview about noon on Friday, July 28th, and I found out the morning session was cancelled due to weather conditions, so I did not miss much by my delay getting to Longview. I was able to work the gate taking tickets for the evening session, and I met the Harold “Bubba” Cliver, the pilot I would be crewing for the rest of the weekend.

It was quite a bit windy Friday night but the balloons set up and glowed for the people the people that came to watch the balloons glow. Several branches of the military had planes and helicopters on display for people to look at and I saw lots of children climbing into the helicopters and airplanes. I saw from the expression on their faces how excited they were to have this wonderful experience. Personally, I would have loved a flight in them.

Saturday morning I met my pilot Bubba and his son Christopher who is also a pilot. Since Bubba had enough crew I helped Chris. Of course as is normal when finding the best location to launch from for competition a caravan of trucks with balloon baskets and envelopes drove to various locations and sent up pi ball balloons to check the wind direction and speeds.

It is a small world, one of Bubba`s crew members and I have a mutual friend in Bryan, Texas. Saturday morning when Chris finally was finally able to land the sky opened up and it was raining really hard, we all got soaked. The wind conditions were not the best which caused some issues where the balloon could land. When we arrived at the balloon field at the airport someone I spoke with said they only got a few drops of ra in at the airport, not the heavy downpour we got a few miles away.

Saturday evening we once again inflated the balloons, there were approximately 48 regular shape balloons and 8 special shaped ones. I got to see several pilots I knew an crewed for in previous years, and I also got to see people I met there the past few years. Saturday night the main performer was Travis Tritt. I am not a country music fan, however, I did enjoy the music.

Here is a link to the photo album of pictures I took during the Great Texas Balloon Race.

Sunday morning was the last day of the balloon competition and the weather cooperated. When the event was over I headed towards Fort Worth to stay at my friend Sue`s house.

 

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Traveling west, transmission problems, and GRATITUDE

Before I left home on July 13th I wrote a short post saying I am ready for a new adventure and expedition. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written it quite that way, although I have a few times in the past and I really meant it when I wrote it. I know that God always watches out for me and continues to do so even when I am on the trips in my camper. Every year when I am on the road in my camper van it seems something happens and a repair is needed, and so, including this time, I am in a location where it can be taken care of and I have always been in safe locations. Well, this time it happened again, and not very long into my trip.

Before I left home I had four new tires put on Molly my camper van, had everything checked by my mechanic the best they were able to check. Charlie a friend from the gym I go to helped me and he put silicone on all of the places we could find that were causing water leaks in my camper. There has been a lot of rain so far this trip, and thankfully, so far, no water leaks inside which is a HUGE BLESSING. I was always able to get it dry right away but still, it was not something I wanted to happen.

I stopped at my friend Cindy’s house near Jacksonville, Florida, for a few days, then I headed west towards my next destination Longview, Texas, to volunteer at the Great Texas Balloon Race, this would be my third year volunteering and crewing there. I was really looking forward to it.

Before leaving Cindy’s house, and the night I stopped near Pensacola, I looked at my maps trying to decide which route I wanted to take to get to Interstate 20 which would take me into Shreveport, Louisiana, then Longview, Texas. I try to take different roads each time so I see different sites and scenery. I pretty much decided to take highway 49 from near Mobile, Alabama. It seemed the shortest distance and not a route I had taken in previous years. I stopped at a rest area in the Florida panhandle and saw a truck that had a city in Florida near me and I went and asked him about the route that would be best. He was going back to Florida and said he just came down highway 49 from Texas. I also stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center and one of the volunteers there said that he takes highway 49 when he goes to Texas. That confirmed the route I should take.

So, I headed that way, I had to take a different road until I could get to highway 49. The scenery was really beautiful, rolling hills, green grass and lots of tall trees, and thankfully not much traffic. A few areas with construction which seems to be everywhere around the country.

I stopped for gas before before I left I-10, and after I had driven about 150 miles into Alabama and then into Mississippi on highway 49, I saw a gas stations with prices of $1.99 and 9/10s a gallon. I have no idea who came up with a fraction of a penny for gas. So, I decided to stop for gas even though I knew I had enough until I got to I-10.

Surprise!!! After filling the tank, I started the engine and it seemed to rev loudly, I stepped on the gas and it hesitated to go. It went a few yards until I came to a stop sign, then when I stepped on the gas to go again, the van would not move forward, I put it in reverse, and it would not go backward. Strange I thought, it was working fine this entire trip, including when I turned it off. I turned off the engine, put my flashers on, and started it again, same thing, it would not move. Finally, I was able to get to the traffic light. A truck was behind me and didn’t leave much space even though my flashers were on and he could see I was having vehicle problems. Anyway, when the light changed, I stepped on the gas and again, no movement. Finally, after another light change I was just barely able to get across the road into a parking lot and it just so happened there was an Auto Zone store there. I went in and asked if they had a machine to see if there was a code on the vehicles computer telling what the problem might be. There was not a code saying anything was wrong. I suspected the transmission. Once before in my 1972 Ford when it had a transmission problem it would not go into gear easily, not just stopping like this one did.

The Auto Zone worker called a few local mechanics to see if anyone would look at my van, and after several calls we found one that would. I had AAA tow me and the camper van a couple of miles to the mechanics shop. They agreed that it was the transmission and that it would take several days to get one. They wanted to put a transmission in that was from a salvaged van that is the same as mine. I called my friend in Texas that is a mechanic to get his input and he called me back saying not to put one in from a salvaged vehicle because there is no way to know what condition it is in and it could go out in a few hundred miles, or last years. He recommended to use a remanufactured one even though it would be a couple of thousand dollars more. I thought that sounded like a good idea, my camper has 98,888 miles and I had been thinking about trading it for a newer model that has more room in it and travel more months a year since mom died a few months ago and I don’t need to be home to help her any longer. After lots of thought and prayer, I decided to keep Molly, my camper, because I am used to her, I know what has been done mechanically and I take really good care of her. I am used to the way she drives, and she fits into a regular parking spot, and really has everything I need, other than floor space. I am used to sleeping on a bed only 25 inches wide and 6 feet long.

Walkers Inc the mechanic shop I was towed to had a level spot under a metal roof where they parked me and plugged me into electricity. I arrived on Thursday afternoon, and they were busy with other vehicles then and on Friday and said on Monday they would look at what to do with my transmission. I stayed in their lot all weekend and it was fine, I read books and relaxed. I called another one of my friends that is a mechanic in South Carolina and explained what happened and he agreed that I should only have a remanufactured transmission installed, not a salvage one. He said that he uses Jasper transmissions and has had good luck with them. Monday morning I told the manager at Walkers that I want a remanufactured one rather than a salvage one and the older man that owns the repair place refused to install anything other than a salvage one. I won’t go into all of that discussion, he was inflexible and not kind about it. Told me to get towed somewhere else in that case. His manager looked on the internet and found a mechanic that is a Jasper dealer about 40 miles south of where we were and he called him and told him my situation. To make another long story short, I got towed there and they found a spot next to their building to park me and plug me into electric. I paid extra to get the transmission there in three days rather than however long it would have taken otherwise.

Jasper transmissions has to build the transmission, then ship it to this mechanic which is B & B Automotive Services Inc, 1018 Highway 42, Sumrall, Mississippi, phone 601-758-4600. Brandy the owner of this repair shop and Ashley who works for him are both very nice and I am grateful that they let me stay here until the transmission comes. It saved me having to get somewhere and be towed again when the engine arrives. If you are in the area and need a good mechanic get in touch with B & B Auto.

Every trip something happens, sometimes mechanical and sometimes other things like the pump for water in my faucets, or the air conditioner, or the back step would not go up, etc. Always, I have been in a place where I am safe and could get the repairs made. Last October I wrote about when I got to Waco and my van was fine when I turned it off at night, and in the morning it made noise and was the engine air conditioner compressor. I was close to my friend that is a mechanic and got it fixed there. I always pray every day that we all get where we are going safely. I ask God that if something happens to let it be how He wants it to happen and I hope that when or if it does that I am on level ground not a steep incline so my refrigerator doesn’t get messed up, it needs to be level. That’s what happened this time. It didn’t break when I was on long stretches of road where there was nothing for many miles, or on the hills that I drove through, or when I was leaving a rest area in the middle of nowhere. It happened where I was able to find help and get to a repair shop fairly easily, even though it was raining the times I had to be hooked to a tow truck.

Across the street from B & B Automotive there is a grocery store, and also a beauty parlor, and a few other small stores. I am able to get food if I need any, I have plenty but I went and got a hot meal in their deli section. It’s not Publix, but it’s a nice store. I really need my hair washed, it’s been over a week since I washed it, so I am going to the beauty parlor for a wash today. Also, after three more days of rain, the sun is out today!!!

Another blessing, in 2012 when I was in Waco, my friend Shahar who is the mechanic said I should have my transmission fluid serviced and use BG fluid and conditioner, he said there is a warranty and if my transmission goes bad there would be a chance to get some money towards the repair if I get it changed according to their warranty terms. So, I had the fluids changed with approximately 68,000 miles, then last summer when I was there and there were 27,000 more miles on the transmission, I had it changed again because the warranty said it had to be changed under 30,000 miles. B&B and Shahar’s shop Homestead Maintenance worked with the BG representatives providing the necessary documents and I just found out that $1,000 will be paid by BG towards my repair. What a huge blessing, it was about $2,000 more to have a remanufactured transmission vs a salvage one. The Jasper transmission that is being installed has a 3 year 100,000 mile warranty. I doubt I will drive 100,000 miles in three years, more like 18,000 miles. I only go on a 5 month trip usually every year.

Well, due to this hiccup in my trip, where thankfully I am safe and able to get the repairs done properly, I did not get to Longview in time to help them prepare the pilot packets, or help with pilot registration, and I am going to miss the pilot party and first day of the balloon competition. I am about 400 miles away. Depending on what time the transmission comes on Thursday and when they can get it installed which should take about 5 or 6 hours, I may not be able to leave until Friday. Which means I would miss the entire event. I hope to at least be able to get there to help sometime on Saturday and Sunday morning. If not, oh well, it’s out of my control. God has a reason that I was not supposed to be there. My friend Jean used to tell me all the time, almost every day, no matter what the circumstance… “It couldn’t have happened any other way.”

At least I am safe, I have money to get the repairs made, and to have new tires put on before I left home, I have food to eat, a safe place to stay, etc. And wifi to update my website and let you know what’s been happening the past week or so since I left home.

My next stop after Longview, if I make it there, will be Fort Worth area to see a few friends and then on to Waco to see my friends there for a few weeks, then I plan to arrive in Albuquerque the end of August until the middle of October for Balloon Fiesta helping before and during the event. After that I have no plans, I will decide closer to that time.

I have been feeling well and have minimal pain, and some days almost none. That is a HUGE BLESSING too. Especially when I think back to previous years and even earlier this year when the pain was so intense. I know taking exercise classes and yoga classes really helped me and I am trying while I am away to at least to do some stretching and yoga positions when I can even though it’s not two hours a day like when I was home and went to the gym.

Well, that’s about it for now. I just typed this post and did not reread it, so please forgive spelling, etc. I also will try to keep my travel map updated.

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