Making progress on stories

I added a recent post last week, and today and for the past week I have been working on the stories I didn’t complete since October 1 when I was at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta through the middle of November.

All stories, except Granbury, Texas, and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta during the actual Fiesta, are completed with narrative and photos. I will work on the Granbury and Fiesta posts soon and will update a note here when they are completed. Thank you for your patience while I was behind my October and November posts.

Posted in 2016 Trip | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Alex Fuster IMG_1233 IMG_1236 neighbors houseIMG_1237 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2016 Trip | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

Native Rhythms Festival and holiday lights, Melbourne, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Traveling East

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

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Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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Granbury, Texas hot air balloon event and exploring Granbury

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

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

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Antique RV Museum, and Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas visiting with friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Visiting with Friends, meeting Eddie, and Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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