Fort Smith National Historic Site, clouds, and camping in Arkansas

I am using my phone as a hot spot, so I can’t upload my pictures until I get wifi in a few days. Until then, I thought I would add a quick story about my visit to the Historic site in Fort Smith. Check back in several days to see if I have been able to update this story and add an album. I only added a few photos so you can see where I am camping.

After I left Old Post Park, I headed west to Fort Smith, Arkansas. I stopped at the Fort Smith National Historic Site and saw Old Judge Parker’s courthouse, the Gallows, The Hell-on-the-Border Jail, Commissary Building, the Trail of Tears Overlook, and a replica of other jail cells, among other things. You can click on the active link for the Park.

I took lots of pictures throughout the site. I can’t even imagine being in that jail which I imagine would have been really cold in the wintertime. Also very uncomfortable with the slate floor and only a blanket to sleep on. Each of the jail cells held 50 prisoners. Judge Parker’s Courthouse was also very interesting, he seems to have had a sense of fairness about him, and he did his best to make the court system honest and to rehabilitate prisioners. The Trail of Tears is a heartbreaking story to me. I have many Native American friends and it’s sad how the Native Americans were treated and relocated. I know that throughout history many people in many countries were and still are mistreated and killed, it would be great if everyone learned to get along and respect cultural, religious, and other differences.

I’m glad I stopped here to tour this historic site before going to the Springhill Campground which is another Corps of Engineer Park, located on the outskirts of Fort Smith. On the way from the Historic Site to the campground, I saw a Braum’s. I LOVE Braum’s ice cream, they have the absolutely best ice cream and they serve really generous portions. There were several of them near where I lived in Fort Worth and I frequented them often when I lived there. It’s almost a standing saying when I am visiting my friends in Texas. As we get close to a Braum’s, I’m always asked if I want to stop. As I travel, I now see them mostly in Texas, Oklahoma, and west Arkansas.

Well, I arrived at the campground and noticed that another of my hubcaps is missing off of Molly. I check them every time I stop to be sure they look like they are on tight. This makes 2 hubcaps I have lost on this trip. I took another one off that looks like it’s not fitting tight. I guess when I get home from this trip, I will replace the set again. Last year, when I bought new tires we noticed that 2 of the rims were cracked. I was told that buying steel rims didn’t look as good, but that they would wear better in the long run. Safety is the first consideration for me. So, hubcaps are okay. I told Molly that she lost another sock. If that’s all that happens on this trip, I’m really okay with it.

While I was walking through the Fort Smith site, and also around the campground, I noticed the interesting the cloud formations. I don’t remember ever seeing them look so varied. I’m guessing by looking at the clouds that there must be really high winds at some of the different altitudes. In some places the clouds look like lots of cottonballs in the blue sky. Other places, it looks like feathers or paint brush strokes. I was in awe of what God can create looking at the sky. After I got my camper set up, and relaxed a while I ate dinner and read. I’m camped along the river. Then I heard what sounded like raindrops, and I felt some sprinkles dropping on me from the window open above my bed where I was reading. I closed the windows when the rain began to come down pretty heavy.

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Traveling West and camping update

4 Just a quick note to say I am okay and now in Arkansas. I drove a little over 300 miles a day for 3 days. I am most probably going to stop in a Corps of Engineer Park near Russellville. AR, for a few days before going to Oklahoma City since my travel plans are ahead of schedule.

I have been able to drive further each day than I planned. I drive as long as I can and stop for breaks or a nap when needed. I’ve been driving since 8 a.m. today, with several breaks along the way. It is 4 p.m. now and since there isn’t anywhere good for me to stop for another hour or so, I’m stopping in this AR state rest area for the night.

I know some of you are wondering how I am so I’m using my phone to do this update. Thankfully, pain has not been bad and other than heavy rain yesterday and a little fog and traffic this morning driving has been good.

1 Update: September 9th. I am at a Corps of Engineer Campground in Russellville, AR, which is near Dardenelle about an hour west of Little Rock. This campground is along the Arkansas River, and there is a lock and dam close to the campground which I can easily see. I took photos which I will post when I get Internet other than my phone. I saw four deer and a fawn last night. As I was walking through the camping area I saw a historical sign showing that this area is part of the Trail of Tears. The park host said there used to be a town on this site and many of the trees in this campground are over 150 years old and were planted when this was a town. I will be here several days and then I plan on going to another Corps campground near Fort Smith if they have camp sites available. Then by mid next week I plan on being in Oklahoma City visiting Albert, Tori, and Penny. I plan on being in Albuquerque by September 26th and then getting ready for the Balloon Fiesta which starts the 1st Saturday in October.


While I was camped at Old Post Park in Russellville, Arkansas, I met a group of 5 men who are from south Texas and are on their at least annual excursion together, they take trips periodically. They call themselves the Mild Hogs Arthritis Chapter. They even have t-shirts made for themselves. On Friday about noon they invited me over to share a meal with them. It was nice visiting with them and getting to share our stories. They camp at different locations and then take day trips on their motorcycles. Most of them are retired and I can tell they enjoy taking these trips together. Jack took a picture of me on his motorcycle, no, I didn’t ride with them. We had 2 days of rain. Before the rain the temperature was in the 90’s, after the rain it cooled down into the 60’s.


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Traveling west to Oklahoma, Albuquerque, and Texas, Choices and Decisions, and living One Day at a Time

This might be the last post for a while. On Saturday, September 6th, I plan on leaving south Florida for another road trip. I am hoping to be away for a few months. I have no control over the tumor that is growing, other than prayer. If I have to return earlier than expected I will… at least I am making the effort and anticipating that I will have an extraordinary time on this trip and I will get to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta once again, and also see my friends in Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, and Texas. I will write stories along the way as I am able to get Internet and if there is something to write about. I will update the Travel Map 2014 button on my website as often as I can so you will know approximately where I am at any given time. Today the pain is pretty intense, I’m hoping it’s less by tomorrow.

After much thought and prayer, and evaluating my health condition for the past few weeks, I decided to take another trip and drive out west. As I wrote in my previous post, I know there will be some days that are challenging, but that’s what life is about. Living each day fully and learning and growing through the challenges. Some days I feel hesitant to take the trip because I know my pain has been increasing the past few weeks which is probably caused in part because my tumor is growing, I can tell by feeling the size of it. I am also having increasing numbness in my left foot and leg so it must be putting more pressure on the nerves going into my leg. I’m also not able to eat as much at a time, so I try to eat smaller portions more often. I bought a walker with a seat and I’m bringing it on this trip in case it’s needed. I can’t walk or stand for as long a period of time, so the walker will come in handy as a chair when I need to sit, or if the numbness in my foot and leg gets worse.

I thought about the trip I took in May and June to Georgia and South Carolina and when I was thinking about taking that trip I had the same hesitation whether or not to go. If I had decided not to go on that trip I would have missed so much. Reading the stories I wrote and looking at the pictures reminds me of the great time I had and the time I got to spend with the firefighters and their families. I am so glad I didn’t miss those experiences. The good times definitely outweighed the pain and long distance I drove.

I remember when I took my 2011 and 2012 trips around the country where I drove approximately 12,000 and 10,000 miles respectively, there were many days I was in a lot of pain as a result of the 4 operations I had in 2010. There were many days I was in too much pain to drive so I stayed where I was a bit longer than planned, and many days I drove when I had pain. It wasn’t fun, but I accomplished my trip anyway. There were several times I thought about coming back early, but I felt that if I did “it” would win. It is cancer, the tumor, my health condition and complications as a result of my cancer and numerous operations, and the stinking thinking that wants to sabotage my journey. I guess this new trip will be the same. I feel like it will win if I don’t go, and I will not surrender to it easily or willingly. Some days it would be easy to sit back and let it win. I choose to not let self pity take hold in my life. If I find it is starting to, and I can’t change my thinking by myself or if I don’t want to do it by myself, I call my friends and we talk it through and get me back on the right track. I am so grateful to have people in my life that I can talk to about absolutely anything. There is a good possibility that I can make this entire trip and that I will have amazing, incredible, and extraordinary experiences along the way. I choose to think positive. I have not given cancer permission to invade my body, or take up residence, and it seems to not care. It comes back whenever it wants and I have to deal with it however I feel best at the time.

This trip will be about 4,500 miles round trip, versus the 1,800 mile trip in May and June. I will drive through the Florida panhandle up into Alabama, then through Memphis towards Oklahoma City where I will stop for a few days to visit my friend Albert Gray Eagle. After spending a few days with Albert and his family, I will drive to Albuquerque for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I am hoping to get to Albuquerque by September 26th, which is my 64th birthday. I can’t believe it!!! I never thought I would live to 30, much less 64. Last year when I celebrated my birthday, my doctor and I never thought I would still be alive for this one… Surprise!!! I’m still here. I’m guessing God still has a plan and purpose for my life and is evidently not ready for me to live in another dimension yet.

I talked with my friend Scott in Albuquerque and he said I can crew on his balloon again or just hang out with them, whatever I feel like doing. I bet I will crew, and perhaps be his official photographer again. The last 2 times I crewed on his balloon, I took about 1,000 photos each year, many of his balloon in various stages of inflating, flying, and packing, and also I got lots of him and his sons and the other crew members. I gave Scott a jump drive each year with all of the pictures I took which he appreciated since he is so busy with all the necessary tasks that he rarely gets pictures of his balloon and crew. In my Photo Gallery, there are several albums of Balloon Fiesta pictures for both 2011 and 2012, and you can go to the Archived stories for October 2011 and 2012 and read the stories I wrote during my time at the Balloon Fiesta.

I was not able to attend the 2013 Balloon Fiesta so I went on their website and watched some of the live webcam coverage. The special shape balloons are always a big hit. It’s always fun to watch for new balloons each year. Balloon pilots also have cards sort of like baseball cards, only these have a picture of the balloon on one side and where it’s from, and the back of the card has statistics, size, the pilots name, and other info. There is usually a line at each balloon to get a card, especially at the special shape balloons.

This morning, Wednesday, September 4th, I went to get my camper, named Molly, so I could pack it for the trip. As I was driving to my mom’s to get Molly at about 7:30 a.m., it rained a little, then the sun came out and there was a full arc rainbow across the sky. It was spectacular to see. I thanked God for the rainbow and I knew that this trip is the right thing for me to do. I will take my trip One Day at a Time. Some days I will be able to drive a longer distance than other days. If at some point I can’t continue on, I will modify my trip, or return home. The point is that I am going to start on this journey and see what happens. It will be an exploration, an expedition, an adventure, and I will have experiences however it turns out. It might even play out like I’m hoping, and it could be like other trips where it’s better than I even imagined. It’s the journey that counts, not the destination.


After I leave Albuquerque on October 12th or 13th, I will head to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit with my friends there for about a week, then on to Homestead Heritage in Waco to see other friends. I love being there, especially the month or so before the fair when everyone is busy with fair preparations. In 2011 and 2012, I worked at the Gristmill, the Cheese Shop, and also I have helped make spiced pecans, baked goods, jellies and candy, and much more. In my Photo Gallery, there are albums with pictures I took during my time there helping make cheese, and also of booths during the fair. I may stay there through Thanksgiving so I can be there for their annual Homestead Fair. I love going back home to Texas. It has changed quite a bit since I left there in 1998, but it’s still home to me.

When I travel, I usually don’t have Internet service unless I stop at a wifi place or library. I will probably have cell phone coverage most of the time, so I can check my email on my phone. I will try to update the Travel Map 2014 to reflect where I am within a day or so. Stories may not be posted as often. During the 2 weeks I am in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta, I can walk about 1/4 mile to the Balloon Fiesta office and use their wifi. If I am able to do that again this year I will. Otherwise, a story and photos will have to wait until I can find wifi.

If you have been reading my stories for a while, you will know how often I write about living each day to the fullest and that none of us know when our time will be up. I was on the Camping World and Good Sam Club websites looking up things for my trip and I saw this memorial. “In Memory Of… David Garvin, the founder of Camping World, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, August 30th as a result of an accidental fall.” I found another story which said he was working on the roof of his house and he slipped after getting too close to the edge. David was 71 years of age.

A friend I was talking with last week told me that his 12 year old daughter has brain cancer. She had the tumor removed and is currently going through radiation treatments. I know many people who have unexpected events and health challenges present themselves. We have to deal with them as they present themselves.

We found out the other day that my 28 year old niece has a very advanced stage of lymphoma. Her kidneys are working about about 50%. She has been married for a little over 4 years and they have a 10 month old son. Please pray for our family, especially my niece Amy. They will be deciding what treatment will be the best for her.

I was thinking about choices. We all have to make them. Over a period of about 45 years I have had over 15 major operations and over 150 surgical procedures and biopsies. After the 4 operations in 2010, I knew that if anything else happened in my abdomen or with my Illeostomy I would pretty much be inoperable. There is so much scar tissue and so many adhesions in my abdomen which would make any operation much more complicated. The risks of complications during surgery would be significant, and might even have an outcome of me having nerve or muscle damage because the 3″ tumor I have now is entangled with muscles, organs, tissues, nerves, scar tissue, etc.

When this new tumor was discovered in September 2012, I knew I did not want to be cut open any more due to the high risk of complications. Radiation would not be very successful. So, my choice and decision was to let it take it’s natural course and have a good quality of life for as long as I can. Rather than risk having surgery or treatment methods that would most probably not allow me to have the quality of life I have now. Of course, I’m guessing. I have no idea of the actual outcome that would have happened, but based on the knowledge and facts at that time, it was the best guess my doctor and I could make. I do not regret this decision. I know I made the best one for me.

This morning when praying for my niece and the choices and decisions they would have to make about her cancer, I thought about my choice and that it was the right one for me, but other people in my situation might have chosen differently. Perhaps they would have tried anything, no matter the risk, to give themselves more time. Even if their quality of life would be affected. The end of September I will be 64 years old. When I celebrated my 63rd birthday last year, I didn’t expect to see this one and yet, it is rapidly approaching. I don’t know God’s plan for any of us. We have to do the best we can and live the life we think God wants us to. Just for Today. That’s all we have. Cherish it, even if it brings opportunities for growth, change, and challenges. They are what make us stronger and reach out to others so that our lives continue to be enriched and fuller.

Once again, this reminds me to live for today. Don’t keep putting off things you want to do, or things you want to say to someone. Last October, I wrote a post called Seriously, Really, you would rather be an ostrich. It talks about the importance of having legal and medical documents prepared in case they are needed unexpectedly.

Living “One Day at a Time” is a slogan I try to live by. I heard someone say that if we worry about what will happen in the future, we will be suffering in advance because what we think may happen often doesn’t, or perhaps it doesn’t happen like I think it will. This slogan also helps me when planning for trips and living each day. In preparing for my trips, I do everything I can to be prepared. I get my vehicle checked, take what I think I need for the trip, and really I take more than I need of everything. I try to make sure I have canned food for when there are not grocery stores close by. However, things happen as I travel. I’ve learned I can stop at mechanics when needed, buy an item I forgot or realize I need, etc.

One of the many books I like to read for inspiration and guidance has a chapter about living One Day at a Time. I want to share some of what it says here. Perhaps, it might help you like it does me. “Many of us have tried tackling projects by peering into the future and trying to anticipate and resolve every glitch we think we might encounter, making decisions based upon information we do not really possess because the future has not yet happened… In most cases, we cannot anticipate every possible turn of events, so no matter how diligently we have prepared, we are eventually caught off guard. Meanwhile, we have expended so much time and energy trying to predict future events, soothe future hurts, and prevent future consequences, that we have missed out on today’s opportunities. And the magnitude of the task we have set for ourselves has left us drained, overwhelmed, and distraught.

A much more practical approach to our challenges and fears is to take them “One Day at a Time.” We can’t do anything about the future because the future is not within our grasp today. Worrying about it, trying to manipulate it, anticipating it, all these activities simply remove us from this moment. We can’t change the future, but by making the most of this day, we prepare ourselves to be able to handle whatever comes tomorrow… But wasting today worrying about tomorrow will not make us any better prepared for difficulties that may present themselves. If they do manifest, those painful problems will not hurt any less tomorrow, whether we have stewed about them or set them aside today. All of our preparation will not have spared us a single ounce of pain. In fact, it will have lengthened our suffering, since we’ll have added all that extra worrying time.

So if there is no advantage to trying to live in the future, it only makes sense to stay here in the present and make the very best of every precious moment we are given. Another advantage in living “One Day at a Time” is that we break huge, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more attainable goals. Worrying about going hungry tomorrow won’t put more food on the table, it will only make us forget to appreciate the food we have today. This day is ripe with opportunities for joy, for sorrow, for experiencing the full range of human emotion and experience. Isn’t it time we took advantage of it?”

So, in part, because of what I expressed above in this post, even though I know that I have increased pain, and that my condition feels like it’s getting worse, I am still going to make this trip out west. If I can get the entire way, great. If I have to turn back early, it will be okay too. Last year I had a longer trip planned,I started out from south Florida at the end of March, and in May when I got as far as Knoxville, Tennessee, I knew from my symptoms that I was getting worse. I called and spoke with my doctor and we decided that I needed to return and not complete my trip. When I went to see her when I got back, we didn’t think I would live to the end of September, definitely not the end of December. Here it is the following September and I’m still here and doing pretty well, all considered.

I don’t want to sit here in my apartment for another year or so just reading books and doing jigsaw puzzles waiting to die. Yes, I have made an impact the past year with my donations to volunteer fire departments and other charitable organizations, but I want to do more. I want to cram as much into life as I can. I feel so blessed that I have this opportunity. On the days I need to rest I will.   Other days I will have to make myself get up and move forward. The point is that I want to continue to live my life the best I can on any given day.

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Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department update MSA thermal imaging camera, trip update, Albert Gray Eagle, Emotional Mojo Interview, and new jigsaw puzzles

Fire Chief Ashley Dent from the Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department in Georgia just informed me that he was notified by MSA Safety Company that his department won the contest for the MSA thermal imaging camera. He received 9,434 votes which is more than 8,000 votes over the person who came in 2nd. Chief Dent said the MSA company representative told him that in all the years their company has held contests, no one has ever had that many votes. Thank you MSA for having contests and donating equipment to fire departments. Thanks everyone for voting, especially when the contest lasted several weeks. When there is another contest to win more gear or equipment, we will let you know. Feel free to check the Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department website. On their Donate page there are links to their Facebook and other social media sites. Chief Dent always lists his contests, current events, pictures, fire scenes and vehicle calls, etc. on his Facebook page.

On behalf of Chief Dent, the Madray Springs VFD, and myself… I want to thank everyone who voted and helped them win this much needed piece of equipment which sells for about $12,000. We all hope that it’s not needed, but it’s comforting to know that they will have in case it is. The thermal imaging camera will help the firefighters see people, objects, and details around flames even in the harshest environment like heavy smoke. It can help to save lives by locating people in a burning structure, and perhaps alert the firefighters in advance of a dangerous situation. It can also be used to find missing persons in wooded areas and/or high grass in daylight or at night, or perhaps missing children that may be hiding in structures or trees. There are many uses for this thermal imaging camera. The thermal camera detects heat sources, people included.

msa thermal imagerChief Dent said that the model of the thermal imaging camera they won in the contest is the basic model. Evidently, there are 3 different models. However, when he actually received the thermal imaging camera, the company sent him the upgraded plus model, that was really generous of them. Here is the picture Chief Dent sent me of the MSA thermal imaging camera and case.

Here is a picture of the entire department when they received training on how to use the thermal imaging camera.


murphy fire suitChief Dent and his wife Lindsay welcomed their 2nd son, Murphy, to the family in May. I got to meet Murphy when I was visiting them on the trip I took to Georgia and South Carolina this past May and June, I wrote stories about my visits with the various fire departments on my trip. I just received this new photo of Murphy at age 3 months. He is so cute.


Because I have new readers to my website that have not been following my story for the past few years, and because it’s now become more public about my donations to volunteer fire departments, I thought I would add the links here to my stories from July 2013 when I made the decision to go public with donating funds, and also about when the Georgia firefighters came to visit me.

I’m still planning on taking a trip in early September to Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. Based on my experience of my recent trip in May and June which was about 1,800 miles, I don’t expect this to be an easy trip physically, however, I’m hoping I’m wrong and it that it will be easy. I estimate this trip, if I make my entire route, will be about 4,500 miles. I used to be able to fairly easily drive 400 to 500 miles in a day, now about 200 miles is sometimes too much. I will take my time and as long as I arrive safely it will be fine. I am allowing myself about 15 -18 days to get to Albuquerque which is about 2,100 miles. I will stop and rest, or take a nap when I need to. I don’t like to drive when I am sleepy, or if it’s raining hard, it’s too dangerous. If the pain gets too bad, or my insides get too uncomfortable from sitting and driving, I will stop and take my medicine and rest for however long is needed. If there are days I’m not up to driving, I will stay where I am, or drive a short distance. I may stay on major roads this trip, rather than taking scenic back roads. There is a Travel Map 2014 tab on my website, I will try to keep it updated as I travel so you can see the route I’m taking and about where I am at any given time.

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I feel it will do my mind and spirit good to get away and take this trip. I’m a bit apprehensive about going, but I know once I start it will be fine. The pain around my tumor is getting a bit more intense every now and then. The numbness in my left foot and leg is also more noticeable, but it has not stopped me from any activities. I’m sure my camper, named Molly, is ready for another trip. She loves to be on the road taking me from place to place. In preparation for the trip, I had her washed and waxed, she looks so pretty, you can’t tell she is a 1998 model.  When I bought her in 2005 she had 25,000 miles, now she has 82,000 miles. We have had lots of fun experiences together over the years, and we hope to have many more. This weekend I will begin assembling what I need to bring on my trip like food, clothes, linens, kitchen items, etc. Packing and unpacking are not the fun parts of traveling. It was much easier to live in the camper full time and have everything I needed with me. I was amazed at how little I really need to live. I can usually get by with 1 pair of jeans and 3 t-shirts for a week.

I’m planning on being away for a few months if all goes well. When I was out west in 2011 and 2012, it was really cold. Temperatures were in the low 30s and got into the 60s on a good day when the sun was out. So I have to pack some warm blankets and jackets. I usually layer clothes so I can remove layers if the day warms up.

Once again, God is letting me know that I am being watched over. If you read my story last year when I began my 2013 trip, you may remember that when I had my tires checked they found that I had cracks in my wheels and I got new wheels, tires, etc. Yesterday, I took my camper to the mechanic to have the oil changed, and to have the tires and everything else checked. I mentioned that the tires might need to be rotated because I have 5,600 miles on them since I bought them. Good thing I mentioned it. After they took the tires off to rotate and balance them, and they were checking the brakes they noticed that a spring that holds the brakes together was broken. They were able to locate the replacement spring and now as far as we know, all is well mechanically for my trip. I’ve also learned that as prepared as I can be, things happen. I also know how important it is to make sure that my vehicles are mechanically maintained. There are many times on my trips when I drive for hours, often on back roads, where I don’t see another car or building. There is also not always cell phone service to call for help.

On my way west to Albuquerque, I plan on stopping in Oklahoma City to see my friend Albert Gray Eagle. I have written about Albert several times in my posts. He is such an inspiration to me in so many ways. He has such a huge heart. Despite the fact that he has been battling pancreatic cancer and other serious health issues for more than 4 years, he still gives so freely and generously of his time and talents, especially to children with cancer, and also veterans. Please keep Albert in your thoughts and prayers. Last Thanksgiving I was at the Chambers Farm Annual Pow Wow and I got to spend time with Albert and his niece Tori. Albert wrote a special song for me that he played on one of his Native American flutes, it really touched my heart. In the November story there is a link to the song he wrote and played for me. We also received the honor of a healing dance in the sacred circle where dances have been held for generations, surrounded by large trees that have also stood for generations.

IMG_5486 I talked with my friend Scott in Albuquerque and he said that I can crew for him at the Balloon Fiesta again this year. His hot air balloon is named Big Blue. I crewed for him in 2011 and 2012, it was such fun. What an incredible experience it was for me. I even got to live one of my dreams which was going up in a hot air balloon. I would love to do it again anytime the opportunity presents itself. However, even being on the crew is great fun and an interesting educational experience. You can read about my time at the Balloon Fiesta in the archived posts from  October 2011 and 2012. I also have several photo albums you can access in my photo gallery. I took this photo in 2011 when Scott was lifting off after we inflated the balloon and he was given permission to launch. It’s an extraordinary experience to watch all of the balloons inflating and seeing the colorful patchwork, especially from the sky.

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After leaving Albuquerque, I will travel to Texas, where I’m planning on spending about a month or so. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends in Texas. I lived in Fort Worth and the surrounding area for 19 years, before moving to Florida. I still consider myself a Texan. I love Texas. Other than Fort Worth, one of the places where I like to spend time and visit with my friends is near Waco, Texas. There is a community of people who I have come to know and love, and we consider each other friends and family. Visit Homestead Heritage to read about this amazing community of people. They grow their own crops, there is a gristmill to grind the organic grains they use and also that are sold to the public. Thanksgiving weekend there is a Homestead Fair which I have been to many times over the 16 or so years I have been going there when I can. In 2011 and 2012 I was there in October and November and I had so much fun helping get ready for the fair. I will write more about this in another post or add to this story later. In the meantime, you can go to my Archives and photo gallery albums in October and November 2011 and 2012, and March 2012 to read about my time in Texas.

I’m still alternating between reading books and working on jigsaw puzzles. Here is the latest one completed. There are lots of interesting items in the rooms which are entitled Jack’s Room and Jill’s Room according to the name plaques on their wall. There is a dog sleeping on the bed in Jack’s room, and a cat sleeping on Jill’s bed. The puzzle is entitled Memories and Dreams. Click on the photo to enlarge it so you can check out all of the interesting things in the room. Look closely at the objects on the night tables and on the floor too. These puzzles are two more of the ones that the artist Lori Schory sent me recently. For some reason, the pictures I took with my phone do not show the true colors, so I included the web photo of the puzzle.

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The puzzle I am currently working on is called Irish Charm. I sorted the pieces the other night. Very interesting puzzle pieces. Where the Memories and Dreams puzzle had puzzle pieces larger than a quarter and were mostly a common piece shape, most of the pieces in this puzzle are smaller than a quarter and they are really unusual shapes. And, there are many pieces that are shaped like objects like a guitar, horseshoe, hat, star, and many are really unusual shapes. This is going to be another challenging and fun puzzle. I saw a piece that has a tiny squirrel. I searched the cover for where this squirrel piece would go. I saw a different squirrel, and knew there was another one since this piece did not match the one I saw. It took a while, but I finally found it. This squirrel is sitting on top of a post near the haystack, under the wheelbarrow, and it’s almost the same color as the post.

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I have been really working on this puzzle, it’s been challenging and also very interesting. Many of the puzzle pieces are really unusual, and so is the way they are cut to fit together. Look closely at the edges of these pieces and see how they fit into each other. The horseshoe, semicircle and stick shape fit together into the part just next to the wheel. Most of this puzzle so far has been assembled in small clusters, and then it seems that I am able to fit several together to fill in sections.


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This morning Emotional Mojo and I did the video show which I was told will most probably air next week. It was about 4 minutes long. I wrote about them in a previous post. When I receive the link to the broadcast, I will post it in a story. It was a pretty fast paced interview, it will be interesting to see how it came out. All I saw was a blank Skype screen, I was told that there were images from my website being shown on a screen in their studio. I had the sound off on my computer, and I dialed into their production room. The sound was recorded as I talked into my telephone. Otherwise, I was told that the words in the video would not be in sync with the broadcast. I was told I should receive the link a few days after Labor Day. I will post the link here and in the previous story as well.

During 2011 and 2012, for the most part, not only did I get to do or see almost everything on my Bucket List, but I did more than I had on it. The stories I wrote and photo albums I posted for these years show my travels and experiences. I even got to go to interesting places that I was not aware of, but I’m glad I found out about such as Golden Spike National Monument, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Oregon Trail Interpretative Center, and Hot Lake Springs in Oregon, along with many other experiences and places. I find that talking with people in campgrounds or at local businesses provides the opportunity to share places and experiences so that we can all add to our list of places to see or experience. I like when I share with people who have been full time campers for years and I can tell them about somewhere I went that they never knew about. It’s great to be flexible when I travel so I can take detours and alternate routes. I don’t make reservations so I can be a free spirit.

The few things I did not get to do yet are to go to Italy and Greece, see the Northern Lights, go to Alaska (not the tourist destinations), and to see NCIS and NCIS LA being filmed. These are my favorite television shows. I saw the preview for NCIS New Orleans and I will most probably add it to my list of favorites. I know the new season will be starting in September, and I will most probably have to stop at locations with Internet/wifi service so I can watch the shows on my computer. I bought a 7 inch television, but unless I have an electrical hookup and am in an area where I can get any reception with bunny ears, I don’t often watch TV. I prefer to walk around the campgrounds or read books rather than watch TV.

As I travel, I usually do not have Internet service, so I update my website when I’m able to make time to stop for a few hours to write a story and upload photos.

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Emotional Mojo, videos of Inspirational people, and health update, and puzzle update

I was just contacted by Troy, the CEO of Emotional Mojo. I didn’t know about this website or the company until they contacted me yesterday. We may be working on a project/video together sometime in the next few months. As time goes on, I will let you know what’s happening… it may be a while. Update: I am being interviewed via Skype on August 20th. The video will be televised sometime after September 1st. I will post a new story with a link when I receive it from the company.

Troy and others in his company were searching the Internet for people who have inspirational messages to share and they came across my name and website. My journey through life is taking turns that I never could have imagined. I am truly blessed, and honored to be able to keep sharing the message I have been sharing for many years about living life fully, keeping an attitude of gratitude, and being grateful no matter what is happening in our lives. To make time to do the things you want to do now.

After looking at Emotional Mojo website and watching several of the videos they have posted, along with reading about the message they are sharing, I found it to be in line with the message I always try to share on my website… live each day with a good attitude and purpose. Live life to the fullest everyday. Be an inspiration to others, and inspire others on their life journey.

Please make time to explore the Emotional Mojo website and watch some of the videos. It will be well worth your time. Check out their Facebook page.

One of the men that has several videos on this website is Nick Vujicuc. This is a man without arms and legs, he has a powerful message… make time to watch it, then when you have time search the Internet and Utube for more of his inspirational video messages. Here are two of his videos on the Emotional Mojo website, feel like you can’t do it, and the importance of apologizing.

A friend sent the link to a 5 minute video of Jen Bricker who was born without legs, and it didn’t stop her. Can’t is not a word in Jen’s vocabulary. In high school she became the State of Illinois Tumbling Champion.

In July 2013, I met David Nicholson who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan, he is a true hero. I wrote about him in a story on my website. He’s helping a government agency do tests on his bionic legs so that Navy seals who lose limbs can go back into active service.

Yesterday, I went to my doctor to discuss my health condition to see if I will be able to make the trip out west in early September. She confirmed what I already knew was happening in my body since my last visit to her on June 20th. My tumor has increased in size and it’s shifted location a little as it’s growing because there isn’t much room in my abdomen. This is causing it to press harder on my organs and push them against each other and my bones more. The change in position and size of the tumor is also affecting the nerves in my left leg and foot causing more numbness and intermittent pains in my leg, foot, and also my abdomen. We discussed the distance I would be driving and the time it would take. We both feel I can make the trip as long as I am careful and listen to my body for when I need to rest and how many miles I can safely drive in a day. The trip I took in May and June is giving me insight on how to plan for the trip out west. At the end of August, I will see how I’m feeling and make the decision then on whether or not to go.

I’ve still been working on puzzles. Here is the completed Peacock Garden puzzle, and also the puzzle I started called Memories and Dreams.


Update: I updated the story I wrote on July 21st, regarding the puzzles I have been working on, and I added more narrative and also pictures of some puzzles that I may want to add to my list to work on next. I stopped by Prestigious Puzzles today (August 20th) and talked with Lacy the store owner. He has a really large selection of all types and brands of puzzles. His store is where I first saw the SunsOut brand of puzzles. I saw so many beautiful and unusual puzzles there today. Lacy just received a new shipment of puzzles. I saw many I like and want to put on my to do list, he said he can also special order the ones I want that are not in his stock. He carries numerous brands of puzzles, I saw one that has 33,600 pieces. I can’t even imagine trying to work on that size puzzle. Evidently that size puzzle comes in bags with a specific section of the puzzle in a bag so not all the pieces have to be sorted to work on the puzzle.

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Fires in Jesup and Madray Springs, Georgia, award for a firefighter, and Webbs Mills, NY area communication equipment for fire departments

Georgia Fire Chief Ashley Dent in Madray Springs, and Fire Chief Kevin Altman in Odum, let me know there was a fire in a strip shopping center in Jesup the other day. Thankfully, there were fire hydrants so they didn’t have to only rely on tanker trucks like at other fires, which many times are in rural areas. Chief Dent told me that the City of Jesup estimates that between 750,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water was used to put out this fire.

Chiefs Dent and Altman told me that departments from their entire county, plus several neighboring counties were called in to help fight this fire. This means there were paid and volunteer fire departments on scene.  I asked if there were any injuries, Chief Dent told me that three firefighters were sent to the emergency room, one broke a leg, and at least 2 others were treated for heat related emergencies. In addition to being the chief for the Madray Springs VFD, Chief Dent is a firefighter for Hinesville’s fire department. Hinesville is in a neighboring county, about 25 miles from Madray Springs and Jesup, and they were also called to help fight the fire. He sent me these photos of the fire, including the one on the right which was taken 100′ in the air from the Hinesville tower truck.

I searched the Internet and found several stories and videos about this fire. I recognized the street names at this intersection, I remember driving past this shopping area when I was in Jesup in May. From reading several articles, it seems there were approximately 150 firefighters, and that 16 fire departments from 9 counties sent equipment and firefighters to combat this fire. It took over 12 hours to extinguish the fire, sometimes flames shot 40 feet into the air, and the fire glow was visible 10 miles away. At least 6 businesses were totally destroyed, as was a storefront church. A total of 10 businesses were affected by the fire. One of the stores totally damaged was a pet store, thankfully, no animals were hurt.

This is a small town of approximately 10,300 people, where people know each other and help each other. It will take quite a while for the area to be cleaned from the remains of the fire, and then for these stores to be rebuilt and opened. How will those affected earn a living and support themselves and their families while they are waiting to rebuild, if they can? It will have a large impact on the store owners and the community. When I was reading the articles written about this fire, I saw quotes from two fire chiefs and a lieutenant. These are men I met and talked with on my recent visit in May. Also, knowing that many of the firefighters and fire chiefs I met when I was there for my recent visit were at this fire seems to make it more personal for me. I want to make sure that “my firefighters” as I have been referring to them, are safe. I want them to go home safely to their families, I met many of their families at the dinner they had for me, and the cookouts we had at the fire stations. I could tell that the children and spouses of the firefighters are proud of them.

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house fireA few weeks ago, Chief Dent sent this photo of a house fire. There were no fire hydrants near this house, so they had to use tanker trucks. The nearest fire hydrant was about 6 miles away, so the trucks had to drive that far to fill the trucks and then come back to the scene of the fire. I can tell you from watching the structure fire I watched being fought in May that it takes a lot of water to put out a fire, and it comes out of the hoses rapidly. The fire in May took almost 20,000 gallons of water and it wasn’t even close to the size of the shopping center fire. Where there are no fire hydrants, tanker trucks are used to replenish the water tanks on the fire trucks. The tanks on the fire trucks and tanker trucks range from 1,000 gallons to 5,000 gallons. Hoses are connected between the various fire trucks so that there is a constant stream of water at the flames.

Imagine the heat from these fires. Then imagine putting on about 70 pounds of fire gear the firefighters are wearing, and going close to or into the fire to extinguish it. Factor in the air temperature being 80 or 90 degrees. Imagine if there were no fire departments. Jesup has a paid staffed fire department, however due to the size of this fire, in addition to other paid fire departments, several volunteer fire departments came to help them. Extra manpower is important, especially with fires of this size and intensity. I saw the difference it made at the fire I was at in May when I was in Madray Springs.

I really admire the firefighters dedication and effort to keep communities safe. All across the country these men and women have extraordinary courage, and they risk their lives to keep others safe, most of the time it’s people they don’t even know. They do it because they love what they do, it’s a profession they chose.

Many places around the country only have volunteer fire departments. Fire departments receive limited funding, especially volunteer departments. They do several fundraisers a year so they can buy their equipment and pay for fuel for the trucks and other necessities. I hope that people, especially government officials, realize how important it is for fire departments to have the proper equipment and gear so they can have it handy for when it’s needed. I know from talking with many fire departments that they help neighboring cities when it’s needed. I also know that minutes make a difference in saving lives and property. Having the proper equipment can make the difference to save a life, or contain a fire so that it doesn’t spread, or save the life of firefighters so they can go home to their families uninjured. Stop by your local fire stations and ask if there is something you can do to help them, or maybe help them purchase gear or equipment. Support them when they have fundraisers. Let your elected officials know you want them to be sure the fire departments have the equipment they need. It might one day be your house or life that needs their services.


Chief Dent also sent me this photo of Gene Pritchett who retired recently with 31 years of service. He will remain a volunteer firefighter. I met Gene and his wife Patty in May when I was in Georgia visiting the fire departments.




The Webbs Mills volunteer fire department in New York state contacted me several months ago requesting my assistance with helping them purchase a repeater, antenna,  tower, and radio equipment so that they and several other rural volunteer fire departments can communicate with each other. They said if I purchase the tower and repeater that they would raise the funds for the radios. So we worked together for this joint project. I just received these photos of the equipment and antenna they purchased. They are thrilled that they can all communicate on the same channel now. I know it’s going to save them lots of time and most probably save lives and property now that they can communicate better. I feel blessed I can help them accomplish this goal.

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I just received an email from the Webbs Mill Volunteer Fire Department. Recently, they sent me a picture of the members of their department and also family members. Often, when we do something for others we don’t know the impact it has. I want to share the words in the email I received.


We need you to understand how much the members of the Webbs Mills Volunteer Fire Department and other area departments appreciate your help ending the communication problem we have had in our area for years. Generally speaking it will benefit seven departments on average, with others being able to use it as a backup system if their repeaters or the county system goes down. Once the new county radio system is up and running we may be able to move the antenna to their site at the highest area in Chemung County which is in our fire district and can be seen from our station.

As far as operations go, we were assigned three UHF frequencies by the FCC. This allows us a dedicated frequency for dispatch and two for operations. Even though the new county system will be digital, the analog system we have because of your generosity will afford area departments alternate frequencies to use for other operations such as traffic control, water supply, EMS, and for conversations that we won’t tie up the dispatch frequency with.

The fire commissioners are committed to purchasing more radios before the end of this fiscal year however, the membership has agreed to undertake a fund raising project so we can buy a portable radio for each of the contiguous fire districts to further improve the use of our new system at emergencies. We presently use the repeater and operations frequency at Reeses Ranch Rodeo for communications every third Saturday for the rodeo event we cover for EMS allowing members to become more familiar with it’s use before we encounter a major incident.

Thank you Carol for helping us end our communication problem and long into the future we will have a functional repeater that provide a safer environment on the fireground.”

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Health update, Inspirational sayings, and photos of artwork

The past few weeks I have not been doing much. My body is adapting to the increase in my pain medicine and I’m a bit more tired than I’m used to. I think it’s finally leveling out and that’s a good thing. It seems the pain is under control. Since I am no longer in pain, or else it’s not noticeable when I take my medicine, it’s easy to think that there’s nothing wrong, and periodically, I think I don’t need my medicine. I know that’s not accurate, I bet if I stop taking it I will soon know that I need to take it. However, I don’t like that it’s made me more tired. Naps are becoming more necessary, sometimes several in a day. My sleeping is off too, it’s a combination of taking naps and also reading until very early hours of the morning. If I’m almost finished with a book, I try to stay up and finish reading it, which sometimes means that I am reading until 2 a.m. or even 4 a.m. That really messes up my sleep pattern. I don’t know why I can’t put the book down if I have 50 or 75 pages, I guess I want to know the end of the story.

As for a health update, it seems that everything is about the same for the most part. I’m still having numbness in my left foot and up into my calf, and periodically I have intermittent sharp pains in my leg and abdomen. Some days it’s more apparent than other days. The same goes for the pain or soreness my abdomen and pelvic area that is affected by my tumor. I have an appointment with my doctor on August 11th. After she pokes and probes my tumor and midsection, we will discuss whether or not it’s okay for me to make the trip out west to Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. I’m guessing she is going to leave the decision up to me. We know it depends on what I’m able to do.

Some days I feel I can make this trip and other days I hesitate. I know it’s a lot of miles to drive, I think it will be about 4,300 miles round trip. There is no time restriction, so I can take my time driving as long as I’m in Albuquerque by September 27th. I know that I need to allow 3 or 4 weeks travel time to account for not being able to drive a long distance in one day, and also that there will be days I am unable to drive. It will be nice to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta again and see my friends in Texas and Oklahoma. I may not be able to keep up all of the activities I did the past few times at the balloon fiesta, but it’s nice to be there to watch it. I’m guessing I can also crew for the same pilot again, and maybe even get a ride in the hot air balloon… that’s really a fun thing to do.

One of my friends told me that I don’t seem to say much on my website about the days I’m not feeling well. It’s true, but mostly because I feel so blessed for so many things. As I’ve written many times, Lois, who is someone that mentored me years ago, taught me to always look for things to be grateful for, so I’ve done that. You can use the search feature on my website to find posts where I wrote Lois stories. Yes, I do have days that are painful, that I have more difficulty eating and sleeping than other days. Yes, I do have days that I don’t leave the apartment where I’m living because the pain is a bit more intense. For quite a while I made myself get out every day, even if it’s to go walk around the grocery store or some other store. Now, I don’t do that. I really don’t need anything and we have been having really hard rain storms for the past several weeks. It’s not fun being out driving in them. I’m trying not to be frustrated or depressed because I have more limitations and am more tired.

Some days I have to admit are not fun. I don’t like that I have this tumor and complications from numerous operations that are most likely cutting my life shorter and limiting what I can do easily like I used to, like driving and traveling long distances. But, it’s the life I’ve been given and I need to make the most of it. I have friends that stay in touch that are going through situations that I feel are much worse than mine. One close friend has been battling pancreatic cancer and other serious health issues for more than 4 years, a few other friends have really serious health issues with their husbands and other family members. This helps keep my life and health issues in perspective. Yes, I too have serious health issues, but at this time I am still able to take care of myself, cook, shower by myself, and get to the stores by myself. So, I have lots to be extremely grateful for, therefore, I don’t complain very often. Thankfully, I have a few people close to me that I do tell when I need to vent and share my feelings.

I’m realizing that I don’t always want to get out every day, it’s really hot and humid here. I have several jigsaw puzzles, and I have a lot of novels to read. I go on the county website and download some on my Nook when I want to fill in a series. I’ve decided that it’s not always a good thing to go grocery shopping when I don’t really need anything. Since I want to take a trip at the end of the month, I thought that it would be good to use up the food I have on hand. It might also involve creative cooking which is fine with me. So what do I do yesterday, I go to the store just to get out and walk around, not a good idea. I saw a new type of ice cream bars, so I bought several boxes of them, some with caramel and others with raspberry swirls. I’ve resisted buying half gallons of ice cream. I made a chocolate cake a week or so ago and it was dry, so I bought ice cream and made an ice cream cake. I still have some left to eat.

I was at a different section in the grocery store and they had a large selection of chicken with various stuffing fillings like baked potato, bread stuffing, lobster and scallop, broccoli and cheese, etc. So, I bought a few boxes of them for when I don’t want to cook. These just get put into the oven and they are ready half hour later. So much for eating what I already have in the freezer and cabinets. I have willpower… I need won’t power. I won’t buy things I really don’t need??? It’s okay, I’m sure the additional food will be put to a good use. I ate 2 of the chicken pieces last night for dinner and they were pretty good. I might put some in my tiny freezer for my trip if I take it.

It’s been quite a while since I wrote posts with inspirational quotes and poems. You can read some here and also here.  So, I thought it was time to add some more. I’ve been reading a series of books by Emily March called the Eternity Springs series. I’m really enjoying this series, there is a character named Celeste who seems to be a wise woman who inspires people and she says things to the characters to help them heal. She reminds me of my friend Lois who passed away in 1989. There are several things she has said throughout this series, I selected the ones that have touched my heart, thoughts, and spirit the most lately and I want to share them with you. These lines have given me lots to think about and helped me know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, experiencing exactly what I’m supposed to be experiencing.

“Change happens whether we like it or not. The trick is to accept it. To make it work for us as best we can.”

“Life is not meant to be an interstate highway. It’s a winding mountain road with hills and dips, stop signs and school zones. Let friends and family be the data for your GPS satellite feed, and never forget that sometimes and unexpected detour leads to a hidden miracle.”

“Peace is a process, not a shot clock with seconds ticking away and a buzzer at the finish. It’s the result of many decisions, not just one. Don’t expect otherwise, and don’t fail to recognize how far you’ve risen from the depths of your despair.”

“You can’t rush the journey, but you can lift your foot from the brake and goose the gas a little. Slow and steady wins the race.”

“Emotional healing doesn’t follow a straight line It’s often one stop forward, two steps back. A curved mountain road with switchbacks and curves.”

This quote is from a different author and book, I can’t remember which one, but I liked the saying and wrote it down.

“A man who worries about what will next be happening to him loses this moment in dread of the next, and poisons the next with pre-judgment.” “Do you indulge in pre-judgment too often?”


My friend Albert Gray Eagle and his niece Tori do a lot of volunteer work with children, and especially children with cancer. Albert is currently still in his battle with pancreatic cancer and other serious complications, and yet, he still does so much volunteer work with children and veterans. I’m so proud of him, and inspired by him. Over the years, I bought leather, beads, bead books, looms, etc. I didn’t use them very often. So at Thanksgiving when I saw Albert  and Tori at a pow wow, I gave them several large pieces of leather, and all my beads and bead books, etc. I knew that he and Tori would put it to good use. They have. Periodically, I receive pictures of what they made, or the children made. I also have pictures of the children with Albert. Here is some of the artwork the children at Camp Quality have created. I have to get permission from Albert before I post photos of the children.

artwork kids drawings


peacockHere is the latest picture of the peacock puzzle I’m working on. I guess that’s about it for now.

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Puzzles, reading books, miscellaneous items, and more

I have not been doing very much lately, mostly reading books and taking it easy. I’ve read about 16 books in the past 2 weeks. Some of the novels I’ve been reading are parts of a series and I’ve been using the Nook that two of my friends in Texas gave me for my birthday in 2011. They know I read alot, and that I have limited space when I travel, so they thought a Nook would be handy. At first I wasn’t sure how I would like it, but I really do. It’s giving me the ability to get ebooks to fill in the gaps in a series when I can’t get to a library, or if I can only find the book I’m looking for on the county library website. It’s also saving me several trips to the library, I’m finding that even if the local library has a book I want to read, that if they have the ebook it’s more convenient.

I also get used paperback books at the library and thrift stores. One of the ladies at the local library likes the same authors as I do and we frequently exchange books. Currently, I have about 40 paperback books to read, that is if I don’t keep trying to add the books missing from a series. I had 2 books in a series of 3, so I went online and got the missing book as an ebook. Then I found other books that are related to the series and that has several of the same characters. Well, that got me hooked and I wanted to read more about the various characters, most of them had a book written where they were a main character. That led me to read 9 more books by that author. Every now and then I start reading a book and after several chapters I think that I’ve read it before. By the time I realize I read it, and I’m involved in the story, I realize also that I don’t remember what happens so I finish the book. I probably read it several years ago, so it’s like reading the book for the first time.

SunsOut puzzles have the most unique and unusual and puzzles and puzzle pictures I have even come across. Many of their puzzles are special shapes like the parrots, hourglass, hummingbirds, etc. that I have been working on. They also have the traditional rectangle shaped puzzles as well. Check out SunsOut puzzles to see their wide selection of puzzles. I think you will discover like I have that their designs are amazing. They have many truly exceptional and creative artists creating their puzzle designs. I saw some beautiful puzzles in their New Designs – 2014 gallery, and I also saw great puzzles in the various categories listed on the left side of the page. I was looking at some of the puzzles to see which ones I want to work on after I finish the one I have started, and the 2 waiting to be done next, Irish Charm (shamrock), and A Delicate Balance (penguins and wolves). I saw a fire truck puzzle in the new puzzle section. This looks really challenging, I think it’s more than I would even attempt. I tend to like puzzles with more variety of colors. I bet some of my firefighter friends would love it.

Classic Fire Trucks/ A History of Fire trucks

The puzzles below may be some of the next ones I want to get to work on… there are so many to choose from it’s hard to decide. Being from Texas, the state of Texas one interests me. A few times when I was camping, I saw otters swimming in the waterways. It’s fun to watch them swim and play. There are several puzzles with hot air balloons. Having experienced attending the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta twice, which was a dream of mine that came true, I love hot air balloons. I saw a puzzle of hot air balloons flying around Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. When I was at Arches National Park in 2011, I didn’t see any hot air balloons flying by, it would have been really cool if it happened. However, Arches is an amazing place to explore. I really like the special shape balloon puzzle, it reminds me of when I was at the Balloon Fiesta.

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I have to tell you, that I really enjoy putting together the special shape puzzles. It’s more challenging because the shape of the puzzle and puzzle pieces are really unusual which also makes it more interesting than looking for regular shaped pieces. The traditional rectangle shaped puzzles are also fun, it’s nice to switch between the special and traditional shaped  The Puzzle Guide tab on the SunsOut website shows many of the puzzles, a few of which I have already done. Also, check out their other tabs to see their other puzzles. Other than receiving  a surprise package with 3 puzzles from the owner of this company a few months ago when she found out that I posted a story about locating these amazing puzzles at a local puzzle store, I do not receive anything from this company. I just like to share things, websites, places, and experiences that I enjoy, so that perhaps you can enjoy them too. People that read my website let me know that they enjoy working on puzzles too. If we are spending many hours working on puzzles, they should be ones we really love, it makes it more fun. I love seeing the picture come together as the puzzle gets completed. Then I keep it together for several weeks, before I take it apart and pass it on. I really like to look at it after it’s completed. There are pictures of puzzles in many of my previous posts. All of the puzzles shown below in this post are SunsOut puzzles.

You can buy SunsOut and other brands of great puzzles at Prestigious Puzzles in Deerfield Beach, Florida, they also do mail orders. In January 2014, I wrote a story about this puzzle store and wonderful, unusual puzzles they carry.

I finally finished the parrot puzzle that was started several months ago. It wasn’t worked on as often as previous puzzles so it took longer to complete. Several of the puzzles, like this parrot puzzle have hidden items to search for after the puzzle is completed. This parrot puzzle has hidden a parrot and several butterflies to look for. I started a new puzzle the other day, this one too should be very challenging. These puzzles are about 38 inches. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them in order to see them in more detail. The colors are more vivid than these photos show.


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It’s not often that a puzzle can be worked as two separate puzzles. However, this hourglass designed puzzle allowed me to work on it that way. It’s about 38 inches long, but by working it as 2 puzzles, I was able to use my smaller foamboards which made it easier to work on. I could even do it sitting on my bed at night. The bottom half with the butterflies and flowers I did in about 2 days. The top half with  the small birds and colored leaves is taking more time and is more difficult, but still fun. The top half I mostly had to put together by the shape of the pieces, rather than by object because the leaves were multicolored and they have random patterns, and the birds were very small. Also, as with other special shaped puzzles, I found that sometimes what I thought would be one piece to fit into a space, was really two smaller pieces. This is definitely keeping my mind occupied, and giving me something to do besides reading. It’s also easier on my eyes to work on the puzzle.

Update, July 27th: Last night I finished the hourglass shaped puzzle, so in the paragraph above I posted it for you to see. It’s really spectacular. Then, since I wasn’t really tired yet, I decided to begin another puzzle, and because I was excited to get the one with the peacocks, I thought I would work on that one next. It’s about 1,000 pieces and the size is 27 x 35 inches. The pieces of this puzzle are large shaped, and the shape of the pieces are pretty much regular shapes. I put a quarter next to some puzzle pieces so you can see their size. As I started sorting the puzzle pieces, I realized this is going to be a fun puzzle to assemble. The colors are so vivid and bright. I assemble a section of puzzle, then fit it into the frame. Working on smaller sections makes it easier to work on large size puzzles.

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SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG1IMG_3963Lori Schory, who designs the puzzles I enjoy doing, and I continue to stay in touch. You can read about how I connected with Lori in this story I wrote in January 2014. Periodically, she sends me a picture of the artwork she recently completed that will be made into puzzles. I don’t post them on my website because she sends them for me only as a preview. She did one a few months ago of peacocks in an oriental scene, it’s shown lower left in the photos below. I fell in love with the picture, and about a week or so ago she let me know it’s now officially a puzzle. She sent it to me with 3 other puzzles that she created, I received them two days ago. I can’t wait to do them… they are beautiful. I think the one with the penguins and wolves will be really challenging since there is a lot of black and white, but it’s going to be amazing to put together and see how beautiful it is as it’s worked on. It’s fun watching the puzzle evolve from hundreds of pieces into a beautiful scene.

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The plastic covering is still on the boxes, which makes the picture of the puzzle not very clear, the light seems to reflect off of the wrapper. I will try to get better pictures soon. By the way, Lori cut the plastic wrapper near her name on the box, and she personally signed each puzzle box for me with her name. Very cool, and extremely thoughtful. I never expected her to offer to send me some of her puzzles, and I wouldn’t have even thought about signing them. I wrote and told her how much I appreciate her kindness. As I work on the puzzles I have that she designed, I send her pictures of the progress I’m making on each puzzle. I think she enjoys seeing her work in various stages. I also let her know when I find them very challenging either because of the intricate design, limited colors of pieces, and like in the parrots… flowers that don’t really have a pattern to them so I have to assemble those sections by shape of pieces. Same with the leaves where there are so many the same.

hb2Usually, I leave a puzzle together for quite a while to admire the design. Sometimes it takes weeks to complete a puzzle, but it only takes a couple of minutes to break it apart. I still have the Hummingbird Reflections puzzle on a foamboard. Now, since these 4 new puzzles are about 35 inches at their longest measurement, I am going to have to take it apart to use that larger foamboard. I have lots of foamboard, which is what I use to spread out the puzzle pieces and do the puzzles on. Due to limited space, I only have 2 foamboards that are 40 inches across for large puzzles. Tough choice which puzzle to work on next.

The Sun’s Out puzzle brand has many special shaped puzzles. Having a border that is not square seems to make the puzzle more challenging and interesting to complete. Now that I have done several special shaped puzzles, I’m getting better at finding the edge pieces. I try to begin with the outside edge of any puzzle. Usually, I sit on my bed at night and separate the pieces while watching TV. It’s a lot different than finding the edges in a traditional puzzle with straight edges. In the story linked above with how I connected with Lori, I wrote about some tips I found helpful when doing puzzles.

The town of DeSoto, Kansas, had asked for assistance helping to fund a swingset for a park that they were creating on a piece of land that was in need of cleaning up and creating a park for children to use. I provided matching funds for the swingset. I received a thank you note and also these pictures of children using the playground equipment on July 4th.

swings kids 2 swings






My friend Betty in Texas sent me an email telling me of some adventures she has been doing lately. She said I’ve inspired her to take trips and try new things. A new experience for her was ziplining at Palo Duro Canyon, which is near Amarillo, Texas. I’ve camped at Palo Duro Canyon a few times, it’s absolutely beautiful there. Here is the story I wrote when I was there in 2011. I haven’t ever had a zipline experience. I’m proud of her for trying something new and exciting.

betty zipline view betty ziplining

I found an interesting website to explore, Take time to explore this site. Carl Warner makes pictures, tv ads, etc. using various foods. Look closely at the pictures. The About tab you can click on a photo and it will tell you the story about how it was made. The tv ads are really interesting, a river might be pineapple juice, or carrot juice. Trees in some of the pictures are broccoli, mountains might be loaves of bread. The ocean might be salmon filets or whole salmons… it’s very unique. There are also stories on his website for some of the foodscapes explaining how he created them.


IMG_3018Last week I received an email from a lady in Seattle, Washington. She is creating a book and publishing it for the Muckleshoot Tribe near Auburn, Washington. During the summer of 2011, I traveled to Washington State as part of my journey. Several of my Native American friends who are vendors do the pow wows in the Pacific Northwest during the summer months and I planned my trip to join them for several of the pow wows and the canoe journey. Evidently, one of the tribal members was searching the Internet for pictures and he found my website and the pictures I took at their pow wow and they asked my permission to use some of my pictures in their book. I felt so honored and gave them permission to use whatever pictures they wanted to include. There are going to be about 5,000 copies of the book printed, and I was told it will also be available online. If I get a link I will post it in a story. This is the primary photo they want to include. You can read the stories about my time at the northwestern pow wows and the canoe journey in my July and August 2011, and August 2012 posts.

Madray Springs Fire Chief Ashley Dent is still in first place to win the MSA thermal imager.The contest closes on August 22nd, so please remember to vote, preferably daily if you can. Here is the link to the story about him and the contest.

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Health Update – CT Scan results and thoughts

After I returned from my recent 6 week trip to Georgia and South Carolina, I went to visit my doctor because when I was away my pain was more intense and I was having more symptoms that the tumor is affecting my organs and nerves. The doctor and I talked and we decided to have a CT scan done of my abdominal and pelvic area to see the size of the tumor and what it’s affecting. When we received the results, it confirmed what my doctor and I already knew from feeling the tumor and my abdominal area and my symptoms.

The CT scan shows that in my left lower pelvic area I have abdominal wall masses, which includes a large tumor that is approximately 3 inches. Also, near the incision line up my abdomen I have another tumor, it’s small about half inch in size, located near my scar. We didn’t know about that one. It sure feels like the large tumor is bigger than 3 inches because when the doctor and I press near the tumor, the lump from the tumor and the surrounding area that’s hard is larger than 3 inches. The doctor says the other hard things we are feeling near my large tumor is probably my organs which are shifting because of the tumor. The CT scan also shows that I have a small hiatal hernia. We didn’t know about that either.

We can tell by feeling my abdomenal and pelvic areas that the tumor has shifted from moving to the right, and pushing organs to the right, to now it’s moving to the lower left. The tumor is close to the skin and it can be felt easily. It feels like it’s moved about an inch or so to the left in the past few months. We are guessing it’s because there is nowhere else it can go towards the right due to scar tissue, adhesions, other organs, my ostomy, etc. filling all of the space. The tumor is pressing on my bladder and other organs which is causing some minor issues and intermittent back pain. It’s also pressing firmly into my left pelvic bone which is causing some sharp stabbing pain in the tumor. The tumor, and/or organs that are moving, are now located close to the crease where my left leg meets my body which is causing more numbness, and intermittent sharp pains, in my left foot and leg. We are hoping that it doesn’t continue growing into the nerves and muscles which could cause more numbness in my leg and foot, and possibly eventually the loss of feeling in my left leg.

There are days when the pain is more intense than other days, so I take my medicine accordingly. As with when I was away on my trip, there are days I am not able to drive, due to the pain. I don’t drive when I take my liquid pain medicine for breakthrough pain. The time release pain medicine allows me to drive without being sleepy, but the liquid medicine makes me drowsy.

I am still not considering surgery or radiation. The odds are still stacked too far against success, and they are still high on the side of complications, due to numerous surgeries over the years. Quality of life is still more important to me and right now it’s still pretty good thankfully.

I didn’t ask the doctor what she thinks about my life span. We have no idea, it’s depending on how the growth of the tumor progresses and what impact it has on my organs. Since I am alive longer than we thought, I will just continue to enjoy each day. Evidently, God is not ready for me yet. I’m guessing there are still things for me to do here. Some of my friends tell me I’m here because I’m an inspiration to them. As with everyone, our life and time on Earth is up to God’s plan for our life.

Last summer, my doctor and I didn’t think I would survive until the end of 2013, now it’s July 2014 and I’m still here. When I watched the July 4th fireworks on TV last year, and in the distance from my apartment, I didn’t expect to be here to watch them again this year, and I am. If I knew I would be, I might have planned a trip to NY. For many years I have enjoyed watching the Macy’s fireworks on TV. It would be so cool to watch them in person. Except, now I’m not sure about taking a long airplane ride and sitting that long. However, I really did enjoy watching the Macy’s fireworks on television again this year. They always have an extraordinary fireworks show.

If I am able to, I am planning on taking another road trip. At the end of August or early September, I want to drive out west to Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico to see my friends. I’m hoping to be able to go to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta again this year. I made a reservation for a camp spot in the dirt field where the RVs park. I can always cancel if I can’t go. I know it will be a long trip, it’s about 2,100 miles one way. I will allow about 3 to 4 weeks travel time since I can’t drive as far as I used to in a day. About 200 miles is now a lot for me to drive and there will probably be days I won’t feel up to driving.

Thank you so very much for your continuing love, support, encouragement, friendship, kind words, and so much more. I couldn’t be going through this life journey, which has been difficult at times, without having so many people that care about me and pray for me. I’m so extremely blessed and grateful to have a core group of close friends that I can share my honest feelings with no matter what they are. They always know what’s happening with my health, pain, and limitations. I can also share honestly with them about my frustrations because of my health situation and the limitations it’s created. It’s allowed me to share my feelings, experiences, and challenges. For example, I can’t drive to my friend Sue Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to visit, spend a few hours there, and then drive home easily in the same day. It’s 100 miles each way. I used to be able to do it easily, now I can’t.

A few weeks ago I told my doctor and some close friends that I want to write a story on my website that says… Sometimes life sucks when you are dying slowly and know it, but I’m making the most of everyday I have and living it to the fullest. So, now that I wrote the line, I guess I will let this paragraph say my thought, and all of the stories, pictures, and posts on my website are the part where I am living life to the fullest and cherishing each day, even the difficult ones where the pain is intense and it’s not a fun day. I always remember that there are other people who are facing more health issues and life challenges than I am. I also remember, like Lois taught me, to keep an attitude of gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for, and I know I’m so blessed. I have a safe place to live, food to eat, medicine to control my pain, money to pay my bills, and so much more. I do a gratitude list daily, sometimes several times in a day. I also have so many friends and people who love me and who are here for me, no matter what. In addition, I have a God that loves me and guides me on my journey through life, and when time comes for the next journey God will guide me through that too.

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Postcards from Carol – A story the Lighthouse Point Magazine wrote about my travels and my journey through life

In April 2014, I attended the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, and I was honored to be the survivor speaker. I have been very involved with this Relay for about 9 years. During the survivor dinner, Lighthouse Point City Commissioner Sandy Johnson introduced me to Richard Rosser who is the Publisher of the Lighthouse Point Magazine. Richard said Sandy told him about me and he said that he would like to write a story about me sometime. I informed him that I would most probably be going on a trip a few weeks after the Relay. I also saw Richard at the Soroptimist award night.

I didn’t hear from Richard before I left on my trip, and I was hoping he forgot about writing a story about me. I’m still not comfortable having people write about me. I’m not doing what I am so that I will be written about, I’m doing it because it’s what my heart and spirit feel is right. I also understand, because numerous people have told me, that by sharing my story I am inspiring others in many ways. I’m also giving hope to people that no matter what their challenges, they can make the most out of life and live life to the fullest, however they can do it. I always try to let people know to enjoy every day, live it the best you can. Live each day as if it’s your last, one of these days you are going to be right.

I just returned from a 6 week trip to visit my firefighter friends in Georgia and South Carolina. I wrote several stories about my visits with them. You can read them in two of the posts a little below this one May 2014 and June 2014, and also in my July 2013 post when the Georgia firefighters came to visit me. While I was away, I received an email from Susan Rosser, the Lighthouse Point Magazine Creative Director, asking for permission to use some of my pictures for a story she is writing about me. I gave her permission to use any of my photographs and stories. A few weeks later, I received another email telling me that she wrote a story about me, that she thinks I will like it, and it will come out on June 25, 2014.

When I went to my mailbox on June 26th, the new issue of the Lighthouse Point Magazine was there. When I got into my apartment I opened the magazine and in Susan’s It’s the Journey story which is her editorial, she wrote that in this issue there are two stories about women on vastly different, unique journeys. The first woman is Donna Romanelli who traveled the country going to all of the GQ magazine’s 20 hamburger’s you must eat locations. The second woman was me. Susan wrote: “Carol Landau’s story seemed straightforward at first, but as we worked on the feature it became so much more to us. We didn’t know Carol’s struggle with cancer was so challenging for so long. Her zeal to live in the here and now is astounding, while her desire to help communities around the country is uplifting.” Further down she wrote: “And I hope many of you find joy and inspiration in Donna’s and Carol’s adventures.”

The way Susan wrote my story is extraordinary… and extremely creative. I love how she created the story using postcards. Very clever. In fact, during my 2011 travels, I did send postcards to several friends as I traveled.

I felt so proud of how my story was presented. By reading what Susan selected from the numerous posts on my website, I could tell she must have spent quite a bit of time reading my stories and looking at pictures in my albums. When you look at the pages in the link I am posting of the article, know that these were posted side by side in the magazine.

Here is the electronic file of the story that Susan sent me so I could post it for you to read. Postcards from Carol LHP Magazine 2014. I took the pictures below with my phone and and the text is unreadable. I posted the pictures so you can see what the magazine article looks like when you read the story using the above link.

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I’m glad there are not any closeup pictures of me in the article. It will still let me be pretty anonymous, other than those people around here who already know me.

One of the other stories in the magazine was written by Jack Noble, who I have personally known for many years. He has always been a source of courage and inspiration to me and many others. Instead of explaining about his article, I will let you  read the Jack Noble article for yourself.

What Jack wrote reminds me of my Lois who was a very important part of my life many years ago. Even though she died in 1989, her influence and words of wisdom still guide me daily. She used to tell me frequently that I have to take care of myself for God because if I don’t, then I can’t do what God wants me to do. I wrote a few stories about her and some of the things she told me. Here are a few of my posts about Lois which I wrote in April 2013, September 2013, and November 2013.

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Back Home in Florida – arrived safely

I arrived home safely on Thursday, June 19th. It was an amazing trip. I’m so thankful I took action on my dream to take another road trip. I was able to accomplish what I set out to do, which was to visit my friend Cindy, then go visit my firefighter friends in Georgia and South Carolina. I was also able to camp in a few campgrounds and have a campsite at a lake along the way.

A few months before I left, I began planning where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and to work towards getting the medicine and supplies I would need for a couple of months. I knew the decision whether or not I could go would be made a few days before I wanted to leave. However, I planned like it was going to happen, and it did. I didn’t know when I began the trip how my health was going to be, or how long I could be away. I planned on being away 2 or 3 months, it turned out to be 6 weeks. That’s still pretty great in my book, especially since I accomplished everything that was really important to me to do. If you have a dream, plan, work towards it… it might just come true. Step out in faith.

On my way home after I left visiting with the Georgia firefighters again, I stopped at my friend Cindy’s house in near Jacksonville, Florida, for a few days. I took almost 2 days driving home, it was too much to drive in one day. I am not able to drive the distances I did a few years ago. It’s too hard on my body to sit for long periods of time.

While I was on my 6 week trip, I wrote several stories, they are in several posts below this story. There were periods of rain, mostly in the afternoons. I also encountered pea size hail once while I was camping. If you read the stories about my time at the fire stations, you will know how much we enjoyed our time together, they welcomed me with open arms, hugs, and their hearts. I returned those same feelings back to them. I think of all of them as “my firefighters and their families.” We adopted each other. I have open invitations to come back anytime for a visit.

After I got home, I had to unpack the camper. That was a challenge. I know I could have asked for help, but that’s still not an easy thing for me to do. It was hot out while I was unloading the camper, and since I live on the 2nd floor, I had to make many trips up and down the stairs. I didn’t realize how much of a physical strain this put on my body until the next morning. Friday morning, I got out of bed and when I went to walk, my calf muscles were so stiff and sore. It was not easy to walk. Saturday was a little bit better, but still it’s hard to walk and go up and down the stairs.

As I was unloading the camper van, I saw the letters MSVFD on Molly’s back bumper. It’s her tattoo from Chief Dent. MSVFD stands for Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department. When I was at his department I saw the decals of these letters sitting on a table and noticed that they are on the departments air tanks and several pieces of equipment. I asked Chief Dent if he could put it on Molly and he said certainly. So before I left the station on my visit in May when I was heading north to South Carolina, he put it on her. I display it proudly. The first lettering was black, then he put a slightly smaller decal of royal blue letters over it. I don’t know if it shows in the pictures, but it’s royal blue lettering outlined in black. As I traveled, periodically I would be asked what MSVFD means and I would proudly tell about what I call ‘my firefighters,” the volunteer firefighters and the job they do and their needs.

msvfd 1 MSVFD bumper

Thursday night just before sundown we had a heavy rain. Then the sun came out and I saw a full arc rainbow above the building next to mine. I have seen several full arc rainbows over the years, but none quite like this one. Below the rainbow in the semicircle were colors in various shades of yellows and pinks. The rainbow was in the east and it must have been over the ocean since that is what is east of me.

rainbow left rainbow right

I know many of you are wondering how I did healthwise on this trip, periodically when I wrote a story I would give a brief update. During my trip, I did keep in touch with several friends and let them know in more detail. I also let several people know my location every day in case it was needed. Since the fire chiefs and a few others close to me were concerned for my health and safety they asked me to let them know anytime I left and got to a different location, so I did.

There were several days when the pain was pretty intense. If I had to travel that day I would not have been able to. Thankfully, I didn’t have anywhere I had to be on any certain date. So, if I had planned to leave that day to go elsewhere and I wasn’t up to it, I stayed where I was for another day or so until I could travel. No one was upset to have me an extra day or two. In fact, most of the time they welcomed me to stay longer, or come back anytime if I could. I know the tumor is growing and it’s shifting to the left side of my body. It’s affecting more nerves and pressing on my organs more. I’ve had to increase my medicine to manage the pain. I sent my doctors office an email letting them know I was back safely and that the pain is more intense, and they wrote back that the doctor wanted to see me the next day.

On Friday afternoon, I went to the doctor and she confirmed that my tumor is larger and she said harder. I told her I didn’t think that was possible, it’s been quite hard for a long time. She said she can tell that it is harder, larger, and more invasive. I told her that I’m planning on taking a few short camping trips in the next couple of months if I can, and that in September I want to drive out west to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Oklahoma City, and Fort Worth, if I’m able to. We will see… so until then, I will continue to pray and plan and see what happens.

If you read my story last year when I was camped at a lake in Georgia about my health and how my life would play out, God clearly gave me an important message about my life and the path it would take. When a few of my friends knew I was camping at lakes on this trip, they asked if I was talking with God and got any messages this year. I replied that I continually talk with God. I did continually, including while I was camping at these lakes as well as when I was driving. I didn’t get the same type of message this year. I did feel like God was still talking with me, however, it was more subtle and that it was more of a follow my heart and body and I would know how this trip was to evolve. I listened to my body and  that’s why I came back at this time. I knew things were changing and probably not for the better.

I am taking my time putting everything away from my trip. I am so happy I went away and had the experiences and time with friends that I did for the past 6 weeks. I think about what I would have missed if I didn’t take the risk to go. I would have missed so much if I had let fear and what if’s take over my thinking. I’m glad I stepped out in faith and went on the trip.

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Madray Springs, Georgia, Volunteer Fire Department needs our VOTES to win MSA thermal imager – and Update

My friend Fire Chief Ashley Dent in Madray Springs, Georgia, needs all of our VOTES to help to win a contest that runs through August 22, 2014.

Madray Springs is one of the volunteer fire departments that I am close to and donate funds to. This is one of the fire chiefs that drove down to visit me last year. In the past 6 weeks, I have spent several days at their department. You can read about my visit to their department and the structure fire I went to while I was there in the post below this one.

Chief Dent is trying to win a contest that will get the Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department a $12,000 MSA thermal imager to help the fire department find trapped occupants in thick smoke where they normally can only see a few feet.

After being at a structure fire last week and seeing how thick the smoke was coming out of the house, I can see how this piece of equipment can locate someone and hopefully save their life.

Knowing Ashley and his department, if they win, and other departments need to borrow this piece of equipment, they will lend it to other departments, or bring it to where it’s needed.

Here is the link where you can vote. Go to:

Then sign into Facebook and click on the Love It button.

You can vote once a day until August 22, 2014.

PLEASE: Pass this info on to all of your friends and contacts using email, Facebook, and whatever other methods you have.

Chief Ashley Dent

Chief, Ashley P. …

by: Ashley D

UPDATE: June 22nd. Chief Dent says they are currently in 1st Place. In order to keep them in 1st place, please continue to vote daily if you can. Also, please pass this info on to others. The contest is open until August 22nd.


Thank you very much for your help.


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Back in Georgia at Madray Springs Fire Department and at a Structure Fire of Historical House

mur 2I arrived at the Madray Springs fire department on Thursday afternoon. Randy, one of the firefighters, came over and helped me hook up my camper to their electricity, with Chief Dent’s permission of course. Late Friday morning Chief Dent’s wife Lindsay came to the fire station with her sons Renley who is almost 6, and Murphy who is now almost 3 weeks old. He was born the day I left here a couple of weeks ago. After Murphy was fed and ready for his nap, Lindsay asked if I would like to hold him. I said I would love to. I was sitting on the sofa and I held Murphy and laid him against my chest and cuddled him for a couple of hours while he slept. He’s so cute, cuddly, and soft and has that nice baby smell. Friday night we had a cookout at the fire station, and just after we finished eating and cleaning up from dinner, there was a call for a car fire and the guys left so us gals sat around talking and having a nice visit.

garySaturday afternoon, my long time friend Gary who I’ve known for about 45 years drove about 170 miles to come visit me here. We went into Jesup for the night and then Sunday morning we went to Darien which is an old historic town with Fort King George. From 1721 until 1736, Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America. After the fort was abandoned, General James Oglethorpe brought the Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. They named the settlement Darien, its the second oldest planned city in Georgia, it was settled in 1736. As we walked by the waterfront we saw the remains of original buildings. We drove some of the older streets and we saw this a historical church which had beautiful architecture. After we walked around town, we realized we were hungry and we found a nice local restaurant to eat in a few miles from the waterfront. After lunch, Gary took me back to the fire station and then started the 3 hour drive home. It was nice to see him again.

church signchurch front church side





Sunday night, June 8th, while I was staying in the Madray Springs fire station there was a call for the firefighters at midnight and the guys returned at 1:30 a.m. Five firefighters from this station went on the call. I know for a fact that Kevin Altman who is also the Odum fire chief gets up at 4:00 a.m. for his regular job, and also Chad gets up at that time for his job. Here it is 1:30 a.m. when they get back from the call. Then they have to drive home, shower to get clean after their call, then hopefully they get some sleep before they have to get up a couple of hours later and then work at their regular job. Other firefighters get off work and then the call for service comes in and they probably didn’t even get any sleep because they just got home from their regular job.

It’s about noon on Monday, June 9th, I just got back from being at a structure fire this morning. Richard, one of the Odum firefighters, brought me back to the Madray Springs fire station since the fire was basically extinguished and the fire departments on scene had to do cleanup. Richard just got off work this morning, when he heard the call that trucks with water tanks were needed at a fire that Madray Springs was called to. So he brought his departments tanker truck and drove at least 10 miles to the fire. Since he was not needed at the scene any longer, and he needed to get some sleep, he took me back to the fire station.

When I got back to the fire station I decided to download the pictures I took onto my computer. As the photos were downloading, I thought that since I had my computer on, even though I don’t have Internet here, I would start writing the story about my experience watching the house fire being extinguished. I was standing by the fire trucks or in the grass behind the house, and yet, I still smell like smoke. My hair and clothes have a strong smoke smell, so I can just imagine how the firefighters smell. It’s not a bad smell, it’s like being at a campsite when the wind blew the smoke at me, just a bit stronger. I thought I would stay this way as I write part of the story I want to share with you about my couple of hours at the fire today. (June 12th, now that I am at a friends house and have Internet, I am able to write the final story and post it, and I created a new photo album with all of the structure fire photos.)

Monday morning, July 9th, about 9:45 a.m. I heard the fire truck engine start. Chief Ashley Dent had gotten home from his regular job as a firefighter a couple of hours earlier. When I heard the engine, I went into the fire station bay and Ashley told me they just got a call for a structure fire. He was waiting for Randy to show up so they could leave. Randy arrived about a minute later, jumped out of his truck, got into his gear and within a minute the truck left the station. I listened to the radio at the station and heard the dispatcher putting calls out to other departments saying water trucks are needed for the structure fire. A while later I saw a couple of fire trucks passing the station on the way to the fire.

Chief Ashley Dent gave me the pictures he took when he arrived first on the scene. By the time I got there the flames were mostly extinguished. The man you see in bare feet in the pictures is Chief Dent. He realized when he went to put on his fire boots at the station that someone had taken his socks out of his locker, so he had to put the boots on without socks. After a short time at the scene, he was getting blisters on his feet from wearing the boots without socks, so he took the boots off. Later on he said that he is going to keep extra sets of socks in his locker and elsewhere so it doesn’t happen again. We think that someone used the socks on a previous call and didn’t put them back yet.

fire 10 fire 11fire 6 ashley barefootThe Odum tanker truck drove past and I waved since I know some of the firefighters in that department. A couple of minutes later that truck came back and pulled into the station and the driver who introduced himself as Richard asked if I would like to go to the fire. I said I would and he let me get my camera before we left.

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We arrived on scene and the area was surrounded in smoke. It seemed that most of the flames were extinguished but there was still lots of smoke and the firefighters were coming in and out of the building. When it was safe, Richard took me around the back of the house so I could see where most of the damage was and where they were still hosing down walls. I took the picture on the top left below when I first arrived at the scene, before I got out of the fire truck. We could smell the smoke very strongly from inside the fire truck before we even opened the door.


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When we came back to the front of the house someone yelled that there are flames starting again inside the house on the upstairs floor, and there were some just under the eve of metal roof. The firefighters geared up again and went into the house while firefighters on the outside were spraying streams of water on the visible flames on the outside under the edge of the roof. It was amazing watching the crews in action. They helped each other get into and out of the gear and gave them water to hydrate them. It felt like the outside temperature is at least 90 degrees, and yet, these firefighters put on all of their protective gear and air tanks, and then carried hoses into the fire. The gear and air tanks weigh about 70 pounds. That’s the weight they carry into the fire, in addition to their own body weight. They stay in the structure about 10 or 15 minutes then come out and let others go in.

The only shade I could find to stand in was against the side of the fire truck I arrived in, at the end of the row of trucks, I wanted to stay out of the way.  I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals and I was sweaty, sticky, and smoky. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be in the heavy fire gear, boots, and other items they have to wear. When they weren’t in the fire, most of the firefighters took off their fire jackets.

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When the firefighters come out of the structure, or even working on the outside of the structure, I could see how soaking wet their gear was and also so full of soot. As they took off their gear their faces showed the exhaustion and impact the weight of the gear and the heat has on them. I tried to capture this in photos so you can appreciate the sacrifice these men and women make to keep their communities safe. After they take a short break, they put on their wet, smoky, sooty gear and go back into the fire again. It really takes special people to be firefighters. If you look closely at the photos below you can see the wet gear, soot, and the exhaustion on the firefighters faces. The oxygen masks they wear make their mouths extremely dry and they are almost unable to talk until they get some water to drink. I was standing about 5 feet from these two firefighters for most of the fire, so I got to take good pictures of them gearing up and coming out of the fire taking off their gear. Remember, when they are called to go back into the fire, they have to put on this same wet, smelly, sooty gear.

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fire 1There are no fire hydrants in this area so all of the water to extinguish the fire came from the fire and tanker trucks. When they get back to their stations they will refill the tanks, unless they were able to fill the tanks on the trucks from the tanker trucks at the scene. I also learned that during the fire, several of the fire trucks had their water tanks refilled from the tanker trucks while they were fighting the fire. It seems that there are valves, hoses, and devices that allows water to flow between the trucks to ensure there is a constant water flow where it’s needed.


Eight departments responded to this fire, some came from about 35 miles away. There were 10 to 12 trucks on scene, including 2 tanker trucks that held 5,000 gallons of water in each truck. There were also several other tanker trucks with water. I saw several men fighting the fire that had the words Inmate Firefighter on the back of the shirt. I asked about them and I was told that there are inmates that have been trained to fight fires and that they are called out when needed and they are happy to help the fire departments. I think that’s really great that they do that. Chief Dent gave me a photo, shown above, that he took from the top of a fire truck.

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At the fire several men came up to me and introduced themselves and thanked me for what I did to help the departments get the necessary gear and equipment, Jesup Fire Chief Gene Lane was one of them. I’ve always known that these men and women work hard and sacrifice time with their families and friends, and many times leave their meals and homes to help others and fight fires. Seeing it up close today, and especially in this heat and with no hydrants handy, confirmed how important it is to make sure the firefighters have the gear and equipment necessary to protect them while they are protecting their communities and the surrounding areas. The departments that came from miles away to help their neighboring fire departments shows how close these departments are to each other. They watch out for each other and make sure they are safe.

Remember, in addition to the fire, there are chemicals from carpet, furniture, construction materials, cleaners, paint, and other materials in the house, garage, etc. Most of the time the firefighters don’t know what types of flammable and/or dangerous chemicals or gas might be in the house. They wear oxygen masks and protective gear, but remember they are in a dangerous situation every time they respond to a fire, any kind of fire, regardless of vehicle or structure. In a house, walls, floors, and roofs can collapse. These men and women continually train to keep their skills sharp and up-to-date, but the unknown and unexpected can always happen. I respect them and appreciate all they do to save lives and property in their community.

There was a man on a golf cart with two dogs. Someone told me that this house is one that the man’s grandfather lived in many years ago. I went and spoke with the man who is named Jim, and he gave me permission to take his picture. He said the house was about 94 years old, and that his grandfather Dr. Woodrow Yeomans who was a doctor, lived in it for many years before he died, and that when he was young man he lived in the house. I could see the sadness in his eyes while he watched as the firefighters sprayed water on the flames and knocked out windows so water could be sprayed. A few days after the fire, the Jesup newspaper came out and it had pictures of the fire on the front page with the headline Landmark home lost in Monday morning blaze.

When I returned to the station after the fire, I got a text message from Chief Altman saying he heard that I was at the fire. I told him I was and that I smelled like smoke. He wrote back that I’m a member of the department and I should smell like smoke like they do. It made me smile and feel like family once again. Later that afternoon, Chief Dent, Randy, and I were sitting at the station looking at pictures that they took and I took. We also discussed how many other departments came to the fire, it was 8 departments: Madray Springs, Jesup, Odum, Screven, O’Quinn, Wayne State, Anderson Drive, and Ludowici, who is in the neighboring county. I asked about how many gallons of water was used and we added up all of the tanker trucks and fire trucks and we estimated that about 20,000 gallons of water was used to put out the fire. Out of the 8 fire departments on scene, Jesup was the only paid fire department. They sent 3 firefighters with their truck. All of the other firefighters and departments are volunteer. Also, thankfully, the sheriff sent deputies to be stationed a short distance away from the fire because the fire was between two sharp curves in the road and it could have been dangerous without them there to stop traffic.

Chief Dent told me that I need to go back to Florida. He said they have had 2 structure fires this year and it happened to be both of the times when I was in town. He said he was only teasing me and that he didn’t really want me to leave. When I came through town a couple of weeks ago, I was in Ludowici for the night and Madray Springs had a structure fire. I wrote about it in a previous story. Then after I was in Madray Springs for a few days, they had this structure fire which was a large house and thankfully no one got hurt.

sunset 2A few times during the day Chief Dent went by the house to see if there were any hot spots, there were still a few areas smoking and he wanted to be sure another fire didn’t break out. Later that day, a few towns away, a lumber yard was on fire. It was a really large fire burning very hot. Many departments were called to fight that fire. Patty, Gene, Kevin, and Kathy took me to dinner in Odum that night and when we left the restaurant we noticed a really colorful sunset. They said it was also probably from the smoke from the fire that was still burning.

Tuesday night, Chief Dent, Randy, Chad, and their families came to the station and we had another cookout for dinner. Lindsay asked me if I wanted to hold Murphy again. Of course, I said I would. Several times during my stays at the fire station Chief Dent’s son Renley and Randy’s son Remington were there. They loved to play with the toy fire trucks, and water hoses. They loved being wet and playing outside with the water.

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Volunteer firefighters work so very hard, and they don’t get paid. I know that paid firefighters work very hard too, it’s the profession they chose and they get paid to do it. Many volunteer firefighters have other jobs, some are paid firefighters and others have jobs in fields other than firefighting. I feel that firefighting is in their blood, it’s their passion.

After getting to know the volunteer firefighters better from my time with them in both Georgia and South Carolina, I know how much it means to them to be a firefighter. I know from talking with other departments around the country that they feel the same.

When you see firefighters, please stop them and thank them for their service to their communities. I also stop soldiers and police officers and thank them as well. I know all of these men and women appreciate the fact that people care about them and what they do to make sure that all of us stay safe. If you can, talk with your local fire departments and ask if there is some way you can help them. Perhaps help with a fundraiser. Or, if you have a garage sale or bake sale, maybe donate the proceeds to the fire department and have a donation jar visible.

I bet most departments can use more fire hoses and nozzles. They usually come in 50 foot lengths. Look at all of the hoses used for this fire. Imagine how many feet of hose is needed to get from a  fire truck into a house, and upstairs in the house if it has an upstairs. Or to get to into the backyard. After the fire, the hoses need to get rinsed off to get the chemicals and dirt off the hose to give it a longer life. While the hose is drying, more hose is needed for the truck in case it gets a call before the other hose can be loaded onto the truck again. I got to help load the hose back onto the truck when it was dry.

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Almost all of the fire departments, especially the volunteer ones, rely on fundraisers to give them money to buy much needed gear and equipment. Perhaps find out what items the department needs, the costs vary for different items. Maybe you and some of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even local businesses can share the cost and purchase an item they need. Remember, it might be needed one day to save your life or the life of someone you know, or one of your homes.

Words alone cannot express how much it touches my heart when a firefighter comes up to me and says thank you and gives me a big hug and says I’m wearing one of the sets of bunker gear you bought for our department. Or they show me a piece of equipment like stabilizing bars, and I hear the stories of when they used it and how it helped get people out of the vehicle safely, and also the firefighters were not injured rescuing the victims of the crash.

To read the stories of my recent visit to Ludowici, Odum, and Madray Springs Fire Departments in Georgia, and my recent visit to the New Prospect Fire Department in South Carolina, click here.

I left Madray Springs on Wednesday, June 11th, and arrived in Yulee, Florida, that afternoon. I will be here visiting Cindy for a few days then head south towards home. I may camp at some of my favorite places on the way back. It will depend on the weather and how I feel.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments

Camping at Lake Hartwell and Dreher Lake State Park, South Carolina

Today is Thursday, June 5th. I am now in the Ludowici Library where I have Internet access, so I created a photo album with the pictures I have taken at the two parks I’ve camped at since leaving the New Prospect Fire Station, and below I have written the stories about my time camping.


Tuesday, May 27th: I arrived at Lake Hartwell, Twin Lakes Campground this afternoon. It is a Corps of Engineer Park near Clemson, South Carolina. I have a beautiful lakeside campsite until Friday, then I have to move to a different site until Monday. I will still be able to look at the lake.



Tuesday afternoon, after I arrived at my campsite and got set up, I ate a sandwich, relaxed, and read a book. I enjoyed looking at the lake which was calm and there was a slight breeze. A couple of hours later as it was starting to get dark a storm blew in. There were high winds, the lake had waves with whitecaps. I am parked under lots of very large trees and I prayed that the branches would stay on the trees. The rain came down very heavy, the winds got stronger, then I heard what sounded like hail. I looked out the window and saw pea size hail all over the ground. I’m glad it was only pea size and that it didn’t cause any damage. About half hour later the storm was over. I stopped at the grocery before I left the fire station Tuesday morning and bought a roast chicken. It lasted me several days, I ate chicken salad sandwiches, chicken and cheese burritos, etc.

IMG_3603Wednesday morning, I got up and tied my hammock between 2 trees in my campsite. Then I took a walk around the campground. It’s really beautiful here. At the moment it’s peaceful and quiet. I’m sure during the weekend when the campground fills up that will change. After walking for almost an hour, I came back and made something to eat, then laid in my hammock alternating between reading a book, looking at the water, watching the squirrels and bluejays, and talking with God. I really like this campground. Most of the campsites are on the water and those that aren’t many still have a view of the water.

hammockHere is a photo I took when I was laying in my hammock looking at the lake.

On Friday, I drove into town which is about a 10 minute drive so I could get some groceries and see if the thrift store had any good books. It turns out that this thriftstore is being remodeled and all of the books were tossed into a very large wire bin and I couldn’t even look through them. Since I have been not doing much except reading, I’ve read about a dozen books in the past couple of weeks. The other day the alarm went off at 9:30 a.m. I set it so I can get up to take my early dose of medicine. Then sometimes, and truthfully… often… if I don’t have to be anywhere, I go back to sleep for a while longer or just lay in bed talking with God and saying all the things I am grateful for. Anyway, Saturday morning when the alarm went off I didn’t even want to open my eyes, but I did. I took my medicine and went back to bed. Then I realized why I was so tired. I read until 4:00 a.m. At about 2:00 a.m. I only had about 75 pages left to read and I wanted to finish the book before I went to sleep. That was 4:00 a.m. So, if you look at me waking at 11:30 a.m. it wasn’t so bad, that was 7 ½ hours sleep.

The campsite I moved to on Friday, and that I would be at until I left on Monday morning, did not have any trees that I could tie my hammock to, so I sat in a chair and did my reading and relaxing. There were a few days when it rained and then I was inside the camper.

Monday morning, I got ready to leave the campground. I stopped to empty my water/waste tanks. This is my least favorite part about camping. The other is trying to get my camper level when the ground is really uneven. The dumpsite here is on a slight hill which is not the easiest, but it was okay. Emptying the tank went well, however, when I went to rinse the sewer hose the hose at the dump station sprayed and I got a bit wet. I’m glad that I always wear rubber gloves, socks, and a shirt and shoes that I change before I start driving. After I put my hoses away, I used those large saniwipes to wipe off the water and then I changed my clothes and shoes and put eye drops in my eyes just to make sure there was no contamination. Sometimes things work out great, other times there are hiccups. Sometimes the dump stations are not well placed or made easy to use.

I left Twin Lake Campground about 11:00 a.m. and headed southeast towards Columbia to Dreher Lake State Park, which is located in Prosperity, South Carolina. I don’t usually call ahead to see if campgrounds have open spaces, but I did in this case because if they didn’t I was going to stay where I was longer. Dreher Lake ranger station said they had campsites on the lake and I made reservation for a couple of days. I arrived about 2:30 p.m. It was about a 100 mile drive. I did stop at the grocery for some food to last me for a few days. I bought some ground beef, tortillas, refried beans, cheese, etc. I thought taco’s, burritos, sloppy joes, etc. would be good for a few meals. I also have LOTS of Jelly Belly’s to eat, and I bought some brownie mix so I could bake some brownies too.

I was really glad that on the drive today my check engine light did not come on again. It came on about 2 hours after I left the New Prospect fire station last Tuesday. David at Lake Bowen Auto had put some Techron fuel cleaner in my gas tank before I left hoping this would solve the check engine light that comes on occasionally. On Tuesday, after I got my campsite setup, I drove around the campground and the check engine light was not on. It went off on it’s own. Today, when I was driving, I was very thankful it didn’t come on again. David told me to let the gas tank get down to about ¼ before putting in another bottle of Techron and then fill with gas. I usually do not let the tank even get close to ½ empty before filling it. So it’s a bit scary for me to let it get this low. As of arriving at this campground, I am almost at ¼ tank. I think it is about 50 mile drive to where I will get gas, then I will put the Techron in the tank and fill it. I don’t even want to imagine the cost of filling my 40 gallon gas tank. I usually fill it every 150 or 200 miles which is a bit more than ¼ tank being used. That way it doesn’t seem so much even though that cost is around $45-$70, depending on the cost and number of gallons which averages about 15 gallons. Update, June 5th: When I finally got to the gas station, I added the Techron and then I filled the tank and it took 26 gallons of gas. I really lucked out, this Pilot gas station had the lowest price I have seen anywhere, it was $3.27 per gallon. I wish all the gas stations were this low a price. As I’ve traveled south, the average cost is now $3.60 or more a gallon. The check engine light came on again after a few hours of driving. Then when I started out again in the morning, it was not on. I am guessing and hoping that perhaps it’s a sensor error.

Anyway, yesterday when I called the campground I was given my campsite number. When I arrived at the campground there was no one at the entry gate, so I found my campsite and got set up. It’s right on the water at the edge of the lake. There are several other campers here. I saw a couple riding a golf cart and asked if they are the camp hosts. They said they aren’t and I told them I needed to check in. They told me the camp office is over the bridge at a different part of the lake. They said they would ride me over there and wait while I checked in and paid for an additional night. Their names are Pat and Robert and we had a nice talk on the ride there and back. They camp here often, and they told me about some baby ducklings that hatched a couple of days ago that are near one of the other campsites. I walked over and saw 3 baby ducks swimming, they are so cute.

IMG_3617 IMG_3620During the 2 days I was in the campground I watched the squirrels and baby and adult ducks. The squirrels sure were brave and full of spunk. They didn’t hesitate to get on top of my tires, underneath my camper, on the back step, and I even found one on the roof trying to get in my back door. When the baby ducklings and adult ducks were in the little cove area behind my campsite the squirrels didn’t hesitate to get within a few feet of them. I was about 5 feet from the ducklings when I took the photos. Mama duck didn’t seem to mind, mostly she was busy grooming herself in the water and chatting with the other 2 adult ducks who came to join them. I took lots of videos of the ducklings swimming and walking on the shore. The edge of the water is about 30 feet from the back door of my camper. It’s hard to tell, but in the bottom right photo, the baby ducks are at the edge of the water and the squirrel is towards the center. The videos are at the end of the photo album, here is one of the videos. MVI_3698

IMG_3635_1 IMG_3642 IMG_3662IMG_3668 IMG_3687 IMG_3689I cooked the ground beef, at lunch, and then set up my hammock between two trees where it would be shaded and I could look at the water. I took a shower and washed my hair, then I laid in the hammock and alternated between reading my book and looking at the water. It’s pretty peaceful here, except when the neighbors dog is barking. Later on in the evening I walked around and stopped by Pat and Robert’s campsite which is sort of across the road from mine. We had a nice chat and I told them about my website. Tuesday afternoon, Pat, Robert, and I took photos of each other next to my camper and also next to a tree that has really interesting knots and bark. Pat also took some pictures of me laying in my hammock reading and relaxing.

IMG_3705 IMG_3706 IMG_3709 IMG_3711Pat said that I should have a book with my stories. I told her that many people have suggested that to me. I even thought of doing it and having all the proceeds be donated to a charity such as rural libraries. I don’t really want to write a book. I like writing and posting it informally on my website. However, I know that many people don’t like to use computers and don’t access the Internet. Pat says she doesn’t and she would love a book. But, the book would always be out of date, as I have new experiences and adventures. There would probably have to be at least 2 volumes, current and then an update. Also, many of my photos were not taken in high resolution and would not do well to be enlarged.

I’m planning on being here until probably Wednesday, then heading east on Interstate 26 towards Georgia so I can connect with my long time friend Gary who lives about an hour or so outside of Atlanta. Then on to Savannah and stopping at Gore’s RV to have the knob installed on my air conditioner, I’m hoping it came in by now. It seems that the air conditioning unit is working. I don’t use it all the time, I still prefer the fresh air and hearing the sounds of nature when I’m in the camper rather than the sound of the air conditioner. When it’s on, I can’t hear anything outside. It’s nice hearing birds, insects, and the wind in the trees. Sometimes, if someone nearby has a campfire, I get the smell of the smoke or whatever they are cooking coming into my camper.

Wednesday afternoon, June 4th, I stopped at an RV Park off Interstate 95 in Waltersville, SC. I usually don’t stop early in the afternoon, but I decided to today. It was about 1:30 p.m. and time to take a break. This campground had showers so I took one and relaxed and read, after I ate lunch. The campground office has a section where books can be exchanged, so I swapped out 5 books I read for 5 I haven’t. I woke up about 8:00 a.m. and left the campground about 9:00 a.m. and got to Gore’s RV about 11:00 a.m. Their serviceman installed the new knobs on my air conditioner, and made sure it was working properly. Then I headed south towards Ludowici and Madray Springs, stopping for some groceries when I got here.

carol mollyI probably will not have Internet access again until I get to my friend Cindy’s house in north Florida, about June 12th or sometime around then. If I do, I will post a story or update. During the time I am here I will be relaxing and visiting with the firefighters and seeing Chief Dent and his wife Lindsay’s new baby Murphy who is now 2 weeks old.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 4 Comments

Visits with Firefighters in Georgia and South Carolina, and library staff in Georgia

I know many of you are waiting to read about what I’ve been doing for the last week and a half since I left Cindy’s. Until I got here in South Carolina, I didn’t have Internet access. Instead of writing two stories, one for each state, I decided to combine them into one story even though it’s long. When I travel, even though I might not have Internet service, if possible from my phone if I can get wifi, I try to at least update the Travel Map tab with my location.

I posted a photo album with all of the pictures I have taken in Georgia and South Carolina.There are lots of pictures of the fire departments and their equipment.

I have spent many hours writing this story and inserting photos. There was a time during writing this story when I had a computer hiccup, really operator error when I went back a screen and some info and photos were not updated and it all disappeared before I could save what I posted. I lost about 30 minutes of writing and photos in this story so I had to try and remember what I wrote. I hope you can tell from reading the story how much I have thoroughly enjoyed my trip so far and my time with all of the fire departments. Their hospitality is more than I could have ever imagined or expected. I know they are sincere in their appreciation and gratitude. They make me feel very loved and special.

flowersThursday morning, May 15th, I went to leave Cindy’s house, and the battery in my camper was dead, which was strange since the battery is only a year old. Cindy’s boyfriend Byron used his battery charger and I started my way north towards Georgia. I haven’t had any battery problems since then, thankfully. I looked at the map and decided to take the back roads rather than the Interstate. It was about 100 miles and a pretty direct route on Highway 301 straight into Jesup, Georgia. It took a couple of hours, and as I drove there were beautiful wildflowers growing in the medians and grassy areas on the side of the road.

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Chief Wright and Carol

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Carol and Chief Sloan

When I arrived in Jesup, I called Madray Springs Fire Chief Ashley Dent and let him know that I arrived safely. He gave me directions to the Wayne County Fire Chief’s office so I could stop and meet Chief Keith Wright who I have spoken with many times on the phone during the past year. I donated to his department and several others in his county. It was nice to finally meet Chief Wright. While I visited with him, Chief Sloan who I also had not met, but I donated to his department too, stopped by to meet me, as did Chief Duncan and his wife Joy who came to visit me last year when they came to get some equipment I helped them purchase. It was great to visit with all of them and they thanked me again for helping them purchase much needed equipment. They made me feel very welcome and said for me to stop by for a visit whenever I could.

quilt After visiting with them for a few hours, I headed east to see my friends in Ludowici which is about 11 or so miles away. When I arrived in Ludowici I went directly to the Long County Library to meet Cathy who  works at the Library. I donated money to this library, as well as the Ludowici Fire and Police Departments. I had called Cathy to make sure she was at the library before I started to drive there. When she saw my camper she came out to meet me. It was nice to put a face and name together. Cathy and her quilting club made a beautiful quilt for me last year in thanks for the donation to the library. I’ve used that quilt many times in the past year, it’s great when I take naps and I also have it in my camper on this trip. They named the quilt Always Thankful. Cathy showed me the children’s corner of the library which was created with some of the funds I donated. There was a man and his son using the computer and books and it touched my heart to see them having fun and learning together. We talked about the authors we love and Debbie Macomber is at the top of the list for many of us. In addition to being a wonderful author, I know from personal experience that she is an extremely kind and caring person as well.

While at the library, I called Fire Chief Truman to let him know I was in town. He and Aaron who was one of the firefighters who came down to meet me last year came to the library to say hi. Chief Truman called Police Chief Steiner and asked him to come meet me too. I had donated to the fire and police departments but had not met the police chief. When they arrived I got the warmest welcome and hugs. I also got to meet one of the newer police officers named Avery who was wearing one of the bulletproof vests and radios that I purchased for their department. Avery gave me a big hug and said thank you. I have to tell you it really touches my heart to see the impact a donation in any amount can make to these departments where the funding in their budgets is so limited. I also met several of the board members for the library.

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We were all standing around talking about things and events, etc. and I mentioned that I attended the local Relay For Life event where I live. Cathy told me that the Long County/Ludowici Relay For Life event was that night and I got invited to participate. I told them I would gladly walk as a survivor. I said that Chief Wright had found a place for me to park my camper about 10 miles from Ludowici, but I might not be able to drive back later that night for the event. They all said that someone could come get me, then Chief Steiner said that I could park next to the police station, they would plug in my camper to their building and Avery would drive me to the high school for the event. That sounded great to me. I was made to feel so welcome. So, Avery drove me to the Relay and I signed up and walked around before the event and then walked the survivor lap. I saw several firefighters and also the city clerk Tina was there and she greeted me and introduced me to others.


Filling Luminaria Bags

IMG_3430This Relay does something different than I have seen at other Relays. They have something called a Thunder Lap. Motorcycle club members pay a fee which is an event fundraiser.  The motorcycles get to ride three laps around the track with their lights on while participants line the track cheering. Tina introduced me to her father Leland, and he invited me to ride on the back of his Harley during the Thunder Lap. It was so very cool and I really enjoyed it. Tina took some pictures which was a challenge since it was dark and we were moving when we passed her.

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IMG_3444I stayed at the Relay for several hours and then when it was time for me to leave, I was offered a ride on the fire truck to get me back to the police department.Believe it or not, this was my first ever ride on a fire truck. I’ve ridden in patrol cars many times, when I lived in Texas I used to ride patrol frequently with the police department. I loved it and I also learned quite a bit from the officers such as what to watch out for, how to spot suspicious situations, etc. But riding on a fire truck… this was a first. I spent the night in my camper at the police station, and the next morning said goodbye to everyone and met up with Fire Chief Ashley Dent.

I followed Chief Dent to his station in Madray Springs and my camper was parked behind his fire station where I camped for the next 3 days. Odum Fire Chief Kevin Altman who is also a member of the Madray Springs Fire Department was there. I met both of these chiefs, and Chief Truman, last year when they came to visit me. Several other firefighters came by the station and I was introduced to them. Everyone made me feel so welcome and they were glad I came to visit. They told me stories about some of the recent calls they had. One really touched my heart and I felt so sad for this lady. She had bought a mobile home and spent over a year having it fixed up. She had just finished the repairs, made her last payment on Thursday, and on Friday there was an electrical fire and the house burned beyond repair. She had no insurance. Very sad.

Chief Dent told me that in the past few weeks the department that I bought the diving masks for used them to search for people in lakes, unfortunately the people drowned and did not survive. But the rescue workers were able to communicate with the command center because of these new dive masks which permitted conversations between the rescue workers and command post. Both Chiefs Dent and Altman gave me tours of their fire stations.

As I got a tour of the Madray Springs and Odum fire stations and fire trucks, the chiefs showed me the items they purchased with the funds I donated and let me know how much it means to them. One of the firefighters told me later on that hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t mention my name and that they are glad they have this piece of equipment or bunker gear. It really touches my heart. I didn’t donate funds to get recognition, I wanted these departments to have the equipment they need to protect themselves and to help others when they are on calls. They also showed me what they made themselves to save money, and the great deals they got buying equipment on various sites such as Ebay. I can tell how much pride these departments have for their departments and it shows in many ways.

One of the items they purchased is a foam compression unit so they can put out fires when there are no fire hydrants. Instead of spending money on a dummy to use for training, they taped old hoses together to make one.

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A few hours after I arrived on Saturday, Chief Dent’s wife Lindsay and others cooked a late lunch, I offered to help but they wouldn’t let me. We had a delicious meal of fajitas and mexican rice. Lindsay was due to have a baby boy who would be named Murphy any day, we kept expecting it to happen at any moment.

The training room at the fire station has a kitchen and area with tables to eat. They also have a television and sofas. Chief Dent said to make myself at home and said instead of me sleeping in the camper that I could stay in their day/training room. So, I made myself at home and slept inside. This room has no windows, it’s very quiet and pretty dark. I don’t remember ever sleeping somewhere so quiet, not even in my apartment.

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Sunday morning, Chief Altman and his wife Kathy, Chief Dent and his wife Lindsay, Randy a firefighter and his wife, and several other firefighters came and cooked breakfast and we all ate together and talked. We shared stories and lots of laughs, it was a great time. Afterwards, they left and I took a shower and read. Later that day, Chief Dent came by to visit, we kept waiting for a call from Lindsay that Murphy was ready to come into the world, but it didn’t happen. Chief Dent (Ashley) told me that later that evening they are having a cookout and that several firefighters and their family are coming over to meet me. Again, they would not let me help with anything. I enjoyed talking with everyone and getting to hear stories and making new friends with the firefighters and their families.

On Sunday night, I got to finally meet Patty Pritchett. She is the lady in the We Need Boots video who is pretending her cat is in a tree. I have talked with Patty on the phone, and she sent me a very funny video of her filling in at a relatives wedding recently. Patty and her husband Gene catch alligators and relocate them when they are creating problems in certain areas. She recently got some year old baby gators and she brought one to the station so we could hold it and have the experience of a baby gator. At first I was hesitant to touch it, but I decided to do it. There was a rubberband keeping it’s mouth closed so it wouldn’t bite. It felt really cool to the touch, no body heat. It was soft and smooth and really interesting to hold. Even the children were able to touch and hold it. The baby gator is about 12 inches long. We all had a really nice evening together and there were leftovers for us to have for another meal.

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Ashley said that on Monday night they are having a dinner for me at a restaurant named Sybil’s in Jesup and that he invited the departments that I donated to so they could come meet me in person. I also invited the owner of Safe Hollow Animal Sanctuary and the Long County Library that I donated to so they could join us. We knew that not everyone would be able to attend but those who could would do so. We were now hoping that Murphy would not make his arrival into the world until Tuesday and that there would not be any fire calls during the dinner. Some of the departments drove their fire trucks to dinner just in case they got a call.

Sybil’s has a buffet at dinner so everyone was able to eat what they wanted. We had a good time and I got to meet so many new people and I felt so much pride and joy when I heard how much it means to them that someone cares about them and what they do. That someone cares and someone that didn’t even know them bought them equipment. I thanked them all for their kind words and I thanked them for their service to their communities, and for making me feel like I am a part of their firefighting family. I know the sacrifices they make to their family and friends because of their dedication to the fire department and I let them know it. There are pictures of everyone at this dinner in my photo album. Here is a photo of all of the firefighters with me.

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hbffOne of the Madray Springs firefighters I met is named Richard. He is definitely a miracle and inspiration to everyone he meets. He gave me one of his special t-shirts. It has the fire department logo and it has a Mr. Potato Head in the center. He said it’s the first toy he remembers as a child. The number 62 is the original number he was assigned as a firefighter. The shirts says HB Firefighter. It stands for Half Blind firefighter. Richard had a brain tumor and had extensive brain surgery which resulted in the loss of his left eye. I think it was the county fire department that wanted to not let him be a firefighter due to the loss of his left eye. However, the state and department allowed him to keep his certification and he is a valued and important member of the Madray Springs fire department. I feel very special because he had two t-shirts made for me in my size. I will cherish these shirts and wear them proudly like I do all of my fire department t-shirts.

IMG_3510 IMG_3519Monday evening while we were all sitting in the fire station Chief Dent showed me a poster they had made of me standing next to their fire truck, he said they are going to frame it and hang it on the wall. I had no idea when we took pictures the day I arrived that one would become a poster. I told him if he let me know I would have combed my hair and tried to look better. The bulletin boards in Madray Springs and Odum fire departments had the newspaper articles posted from when they came to visit me last year. I couldn’t believe a year later they still had them on the bulletin boards. It really touched my heart.

When I was at the Madray Springs fire department I saw the decals of the letters MSVFD sitting on a table and noticed that they are on the departments air tanks and several pieces of equipment. I asked Chief Dent if he could put it on Molly and he said certainly. So before I left the station on my visit in May when I was heading north to South Carolina, he put it on her. I display it proudly. The first lettering was black, then he put a slightly smaller decal of royal blue letters over it. I don’t know if it shows in the pictures, but it’s royal blue lettering outlined in black. As I traveled, periodically I would be asked what MSVFD means and I would proudly tell about what I call ‘my firefighters,” the volunteer firefighters and the job they do and their needs. It’s Molly’s tattoo from Chief Dent. MSVFD stands for Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department.

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MurphyOn Tuesday morning, Ashley took Lindsay to the hospital because sometime that day Murphy was going to make his entrance into the world. His almost 7 year old brother Renley was excited to be a big brother and he had a shirt with a firefighter that says Big Brother Renley on it. A few of the firefighters have children and there are lots of toy firetrucks at the fire department which were constantly being played with by the boys. The fire department seems a great place for them to learn and play. Murphy was born late afternoon, he weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces. This photo was taken just after he was born.

I left on Tuesday morning and headed north towards New Prospect Fire Department in Inman, South Carolina, to see Chief Caruso, his wife Pam, the firefighters there, and also David the owner of Lake Bowen Auto. I looked at the map and was deciding whether to take back roads for the 300 mile trip to South Carolina, or if I should take the Interstates which would not be as scenic but would be an easier drive for me and probably take less time than going through all the small towns on back roads where speed limits change frequently.

I also knew that since I got to Cindy’s that my rooftop air conditioner unit didn’t seem to be cooling my camper like it did last year. It’s only about 18 months old, but I haven’t used it for a year. I knew that if I took the Interstate that there would be RV repair places and I wanted to have it checked. I also knew that if I took the Interstate I would not have to be using my abdominal muscles as much by braking and steering. I stopped a few miles before Savannah at Gore’s RV and they were able to fit me in to check my air conditioner. After testing it for 4 hours, it was determined that the problem was most likely the thermostat was not working properly. So, they called Dometic to order a new thermostat. Dometic said it would take 2 or 3 days for us to get the part. I asked to speak to the representative and I explained that this unit is 18 months old, that when it was 3 months old it had to be replaced because the freon leaked out. I also told them I was passing through and didn’t plan on coming back this way and that it’s 90 degrees out and I have health issues. I asked her to check with her supervisor to see if they would make an exception and send it overnight. It took a while but she came back on the phone and said they would make an exception this one time for me. So, I left the RV place and drove down the street and stayed overnight in the parking lot at a Love’s gas station and truckstop.

I got up Wednesday morning and went back to the RV dealer and they plugged in my camper while we waited for the part to arrive. I was hurting a bit, so at 9:30 a.m. I took some medicine and laid down on my sofa and took a nap. About 11:00 a.m. there was a knock on my door that the part arrived. So the technician installed it, checked to make sure it was working, and then as he was putting the parts and knobs back together, one of the knobs broke. He had to find another one and he tried to screw it in and it broke again. There were no others to be found. They had to call Dometic and have one sent and it would be about a week before it arrived. Thankfully, the technician was able to find a way to fit the part together so it would work and I said I would be back in a few weeks to have the new part installed. So far, so good. The air conditioning is working and the knob is still in one piece which is a great thing.

So, about 1:00 p.m. I called Chief Caruso in South Carolina and told him I’m headed his way. I think I had about 265 miles to drive. I was feeling pretty good. I think the medicine and extra rest and nap worked wonders. I was able to drive the entire way, I stopped for gas or breaks periodically.

When I was about 45 minutes away, I called Chief Caruso for directions and I started the last leg of my journey. I was glad I was able to drive the entire distance in one day. The last 50 or so miles was a bit more challenging, but I wanted to do it. Just after I pulled out of the rest area to start the last hour’s drive, my check engine light came on again. I’m guessing Molly knew we were getting close to David’s mechanic shop which is near the New Prospect Fire Station. This is where we got the engine checked last year, he checked and everything showed the engine was working okay and David reset the error code. During the past year the check engine light comes on once in a while, it’s always the same message and we don’t know why since it drives okay.

I arrived at the New Prospect Fire Station on Wednesday, May 21st, about 6:00 p.m. and was warmly greeted by Chief Caruso. After we got my camper plugged in behind the fire station and made sure the air conditioner and everything was working, we went out for pizza. It tasted great, the only thing I had eaten that day was left over chicken and potato salad from the cookout Sunday night. After dinner, Chief Caruso went home since it was late and we both had long days. I relaxed in the camper and read a book until I fell asleep.

Thursday I got up and came into the station to say hi to the Chief and he introduced me to more of the firefighters. We went to see David at Lake Bowen Auto and left the camper there for him to check it out to see why the check engine light came on again just to be sure nothing was wrong. We agreed to meet him at lunchtime and we all went to Applebee’s for lunch. David said without replacing the plug and wire he couldn’t tell if that was the problem or if it was something else. Since all the wires and plugs were changed about 16 months and 15,000 miles ago we didn’t know if that was the problem, he thought it could also be a fuel injector that was going bad. He said that he could add some type of cleaner to see if it would clean the fuel injectors and maybe it would solve the problem. So, we agreed that we would try that first and if it didn’t solve the problem, I could have it checked later on if necessary. It seems the error message is always for the same thing, something to the effect cylinder 8 is misfiring. However, it still runs smoothly. I like to get things checked out in hopes of preventing me having problems later on.

Chief Caruso took me on a drive through his service area, some of which is very rural, and like the departments in Georgia has areas that do not have fire hydrants so their tanker trucks are extremely important. The North Carolina border is near the border of his service area and we drove a few miles through North Carolina and then came back into South Carolina. Chief Caruso also pointed out several dangerous intersections, where despite having the largest stop signs I have ever seen, people do not stop. They go straight through the intersections causing fatal accidents. He said they have used the rescue struts they bought with the funds I donated several times to stabilize a car so they could get the people out of it without injuring firefighters or the passengers.

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We came back to the fire station and I relaxed and read a book in the camper while Chief Caruso worked in his office. I was made to feel so very welcome here too. Chief Caruso told me to make myself at home. I could use the kitchen, washers and dryers, shower, whatever I needed. Thursday night they had a cookout at the fire station in my honor. It was great, hamburgers and hotdogs, baked beans, coleslaw, etc. Many of the firefighters and their families came and we got to visit. I also got to meet the Chief’s wife Pam who I have spoken with many times on the phone. We were glad to finally meet in person. She gives great hugs and has really kind eyes. It seemed that everyone had a great time visiting and eating.


Chief Caruso, Carol, Chief Worthy

Chief Worthy from the Pacolet Fire Department came to meet me and thank me for the donation to his department. His service area has a section of a river that was opened to the public for kayaking, and the county did not give his department funding to prepare them in case they had to do water rescues. The money I donated to his department allowed them to get a small boat, two kayaks, and to have their department members trained in water rescue. He told me that it has come in handy and that they appreciate what I did for them. I told him it was my pleasure. Again, it touched my heart that I was able to help his department and that he made time to drive about 30 miles to meet me and let me know.

IMG_3554After we ate dinner and were thoroughly full from the great cookout and ice cream for dessert, Chief Caruso stood in front of the room and asked me to come stand next to him. He introduced me to everyone in case there was someone I hadn’t met yet. He thanked me for the donations to his department and he presented me with another department t-shirt, a department patch, and one of their metal official firefighter badges with an eagle on top. Oh my goodness, what a surprise! I feel so honored and proud to have these items. I thanked everyone for the wonderful gathering and making me feel like a part of their department, and for their service to the community. I put the patch and badge on the wall inside my camper with other items I proudly display and see when I’m in my camper.


Friday morning was time to relax. Chief Caruso was busy in the early morning, so I washed the throw rugs in my camper that were clean until the RV repair men tracked dirt all over them going in and out of the camper. Chief Caruso and his wife Pam took the day off of work and we went out for lunch and had nachos, and then they drove to Spartanburg so I could go to Costco and buy some Jelly Belly’s in the large containers. It was really kind of them to drive all the way down there for me. I was going to go on my way south when I left, but this saved me a stop and I really appreciated it. I really don’t need to eat so many Jelly Belly’s but they are great to snack on when I’m reading or need to get rid of the taste of my medicine. I got started eating them when I got a sample at Costco before Easter.

Chief and Pam dropped me at the camper and went home to take care of some things they needed to do. I read, took medicine, and a short nap. They came to get me later on and we went out to dinner at a local restaurant that was really nice and had great food. While we were there, it started to rain. It looked like out one side of the building it was raining hard, and in the front of the building it didn’t look like it was raining. Also, the sun was out during this rain shower.

Saturday morning, May 24th, I woke up at 8:00 a.m. when the alarm went off and I decided to go back to sleep since I have nothing planned. I got up about 10:00 a.m. and washed my sheets and read my book. About noon, I decided to write the stories about my visits with the library and firefighters, that’s what I wrote in this story.

Sunday, May 25th, The firefighters on duty this morning cooked breakfast and invited me to join them.  I have quite a bit of abdominal pain this morning for some reason, so I took my medicine and rested until about noon when my friends Barbara and Iris got here. They live in Monroe, North Carolina, and drove down to visit me, it was about a 2 hour drive for them. We had lunch together and had a nice time catching up on life. They kindly stopped at the grocery store so I could buy some food to get me through the next few days. I will stop at the grocery when I leave here so I can stock up on food to keep me fed for the week or so I am at the campground.

Chief Caruso and his wife Pam brought me to their house for dinner before I left and we had a really nice visit. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with the Chief, Pam, and all of the firefighters. Their hospitality was warm and friendly and sincere, and it touched my heart deeply.

By the way, the plastic latch on the back door of my camper cracked while I was here and a year or so ago I bought another one to have in case anything ever happened to the latch. I like to keep a few spare parts around in case they are needed. I know that plastic parts deteriorate over time and since Molly is a 1998 camper parts become brittle and break. Thankfully, I had the replacement part, and one of the firefighters on duty today named Paul said he could replace the part for me even though one part was rivets, not screws like on the other part that it connects to. Paul has an auto body shop and said he would gladly replace the latches for me. Another blessing and sign that God is taking care of me and my travels. In thanks to Chief Caruso and all of the firefighters, I made 3 double batches of my brownies for the. I know they all enjoyed eating them.

It’s hard to believe that I have been away for about two and a half weeks already. At first it seemed that it was a long time, but it was only a week. Now, it’s over 2 weeks. I keep getting asked where I am going next and I didn’t really have anything planned. I decided that I don’t want to go further north, that even though I want to go farther away, like Texas and to be in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta in early October, that I probably should stay in the southeast.

I looked at the map last night and I saw some Corps of Engineer parks about 75 miles southwest of here and I decided to go there to camp for several days or a week. I’m hoping that they have some campsites that are not reserved. If not, there are lots of state parks in South Carolina and maybe they have available sites. I really like staying in Corps of Engineer parks, they are almost always on lakes.

Then when I move on, I will go back east through South Carolina into Georgia again and find places to camp there. Chiefs Dent and Altman and the firefighters want me to come back and visit with them again and I said I would as long as my health permits. I also have to stop at the RV place and get the part replaced and it’s about an hour or so from their departments. I also want to visit with Ashley and Lindsay and meet Murphy who will be a few weeks old by then and I’m guessing they will let me hold him.

Well, that’s about it for now. I don’t know when I will write more or when I will have Internet again. Where the Corps of Engineer Parks are located seems to be in a pretty remote area so I may not even have phone service. When I was in Madray Springs, my Sprint phone service was roaming the entire time. It seems to be working here in South Carolina.

It’s been great visiting with everyone and meeting new friends at these fire departments. They have been making sure that I am well fed and that I have everything I need. Healthwise, I’m doing very well. My appetite has been good, better than it was when I was home. I’m resting and taking my medicine when I need to. I’m about 800 miles from home right now and so far so good. Yes, there are days that are more painful and challenging. I just stay put, take my medicine, and relax. There are other days where I have good energy and hardly any pain. I’m no different than anyone else with health issues. I try to stay positive and make the best of every day.

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