Balloon Fiesta

It’s that time of the year for Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I miss being there this year. I was there every year since 2011 except for 2013. And I know there’s a reason I wasn’t there God has revealed it to me and I’m okay with it but I still miss being there and seeing my friends and the balloons.

Thankfully Balloon Fiesta website has a live video available to watch on their website and I’ve been watching it periodically and taking pictures of the screen. There’s some lot of new special shape balloons and I’ve taken pictures of some of the ones they’ve shown and hopefully soon I’ll post those pictures that I’ve taken using my camera on the computer screen.

I’m using my phone to type this message and I don’t have the ability to edit what I’ve typed for some reason so please forgive the typos and punctuation. Whenever I post the pictures and log into my computer to post them all update the website and fix this story.

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Relay For Life

I will write my story for Relay and post my photos soon.

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Home Again

After being away helping at the farm for two months I am back home. Will write more and add photos from the farm not posted yet. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time away.

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Update on my stay at Hurricane Creek Pig Farm

I am still helping Lorri and her parents at the farm. Lots has been happening here. We still go to Tallahassee several times a week to get mash and bread that we feed to all of the animals.  I have been making various meals, desserts, and bread for us all to enjoy. Last night I made pizza from scratch and everyone seemed to enjoy it. A few nights ago I baked 4 batches of cookies, 2 different recipes, two batches of each. We froze most of the cookies so we would not eat them all at once.

Lorri asked me to inform my readers about the types of pigs and dogs here. I didn’t write much about it in my previous story because I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to, but she gave me permission to include it. You can read about the dogs which are Kangals which are bred as livestock guardian dogs and are from Turkey and bred to protect animals. They patrol at night and do their best to keep predators off the property. Many nights I can hear them barking probably to keep hawks, coyotes, etc. away from the animals. I hear coyotes howling in the distance and then the dogs mimic them.

When I first arrived the dogs barked at me and stayed close to me because they didn’t know me. When I went into Lorri’s house I had to talk loudly and let them know it was me and that it was okay for me to be there. Lorri or her dad was with me at first to let the dogs know I was okay to be there. Now, after several weeks there they seldom even get up when I go in the house. If we are outside, sometimes they walk with me from the house to my camper, and other times they ignore me. There are nine dogs, and most of them weigh almost as much as I do. I think Smokey weighs more than me as do the adult pigs. The black dog Tread is a pit bull and very loving and gentle to Lorri, her parents, and now me. He adores Lorri and wants to be near her. When we go into Tallahassee to get the mash or bread he comes with us and he waits patiently, mostly resting and keeping aware of his surroundings while we take the bread out of cases and throw it into the trailer. I wrote about the bread and showed photos in the previous story about the farm.

However, Lorri informed me that it’s only because she told all of the dogs that it’s okay for me to be here and she was with me several times when she told them that I am safe with them. Otherwise, if she doesn’t tell or show them a person is okay the dogs won’t be this way with a person. This breed is known as protectors of the night. In Turkey this breed was developed over centuries to become this protective dog. They are sweet to a baby but they will kill any threat that comes into their territory. In fact one of the dogs is named Nyx which means protector of the night.

I took lots of pictures of the newest babies and added them to the photo album from the previous story. The little ones are so cute to watch. They usually run in a pack, even at a day or two old. They sleep on top of each other too. I guess this makes a larger target and keeps them safer. They don’t always stay by their mama. One of the new mamas was interested in something she smelled along the fence and she used her nose to move logs. I tried to take some pictures with a larger pig, or my glove or something else in the photo so you can see the size of the babies. Several photos I took within a day of the baby pigs being born. I don’t know if the newest photos are towards the end of the album, I hope they are. The yellow glove in the pictures below are my work gloves, and I have a pretty small hand so you can tell the size of this newborn piglet.

Most of the pigs are American Guinea Pigs which were endangered several years ago and are now called critical. There are also Red Waddle pigs and a few cross breed varieties. You can search the Internet to read about these breeds and the Kangal dogs. The American Guinea Pig was almost extinct about 15 years ago. There were only about 12 left in the wallow. With a log of work there are over 7,000 registered now. This breed datess back to the original “yard” pig. They are slow growing with a “gourmet” type quality to their meat. They are small like a pot belly pig, very docile and live in a large family unit. The dads (boars) will even babysit occasionally.

Two weeks ago three baby pigs were born and we couldn’t tell who the mama was, so Lorri and I taught them how to eat formula, I wrote about that in the previous story. Two weeks later and the “little monsters” as we lovingly refer to them are growing rapidly and are developing personalities. After a week in Lorri’s shower and bathroom they were moved outside to a pen on the porch so they could get fresh air and not be such a mess in the Lorri’s bathroom where they were for the first week of their life so they could be watched, fed, and be safe.You can see by the pictures in the paragraph below this one how they have grown in a week. The pictures in the shower are when they are only a day or two old.

They are so much fun to watch, especially when they are eating. We put their food in a metal 9 x 13 inch pan and they put their entire bodies into the pan and climb over each other eating. All three of them can fit into the 9 x 13 inch pan. They get so messy. Every time they see Lorri or me they come over and think they are going to get food. We feed them every three hours, but you would think by seeing them that they are always starving. They are really growing quickly, there are two females and one male. He has two white front feet and seems to be the smallest. Today they were let out of the pen and given free roaming privileges on the property and they had a great time and then came back automatically to their spot on the porch when they were done exploring.

Today when I was with the babies aka “little monsters” one of the huge mama pigs was laying in water in a 5′ round plastic pool on the porch near them that we keep for the dogs and other animals to drink from. I didn’t have my phone or camera with me or I would have taken a photo.

Sadly, in the past several days we lost three baby piglets. One was a few days old and it just disappeared, we think maybe a hawk got it but we don’t really know. Another one got sick or something happened to it because it just died. Than most sadly, there was piglet probably a month old I’m guessing, we don’t really know. It could have been a few weeks old. Another little approximately two or three week old female about 5 or 6 days ago was not doing well, we have no idea what was wrong but it looked thin and lethargic, so Lorri put it in her bathroom and hand fed her and then a few days later I helped feeding her. We gave her formula in a syringe because she couldn’t stand up or eat like the other babies. Yesterday, I gave her a little formula at 10 a.m., then at 2 p.m. she wasn’t doing well but ate a little formula, when I went at 4 p.m. to feed again she was dead. It was very sad. But, that’s life. And the other babies both in pens in the pasture and on the porch are all doing well. As an after note, Lorri read my story and told me that this little pig that died was the baby of the pig that moved the logs along the fence.  I saw this baby right after it was born and here it is couple weeks later and sadly it’s an angel.

When we are out in the penned area feeding the pigs we look for the babies and mamas to make sure all is well. The pigs love their feed time and run towards us for the food. I get to hold the babies every now and then but they don’t really like to be held and we have to be careful some mamas are okay with their babies being away from them and some aren’t. The babies in this story are mostly a day or up to three days old. They are born with their eyes open and able to walk immediately.

It’s amazing to me how fast these piglets can run with their small bodies and short legs. I have a hard time trying to catch them. They do recognize me and know I give them food and they follow me. Yesterday I was sitting in my camper and I felt it moving which should not have happened since a few days ago I put some wide boards under my front tires to get level on a wider surface because the pigs kept digging and trying to get up against and under my camper. So, I got wider boards to be more secure under the tires and I put wood pallets along the sides of the camper. Now, mostly ducks and small pigs get under the camper. However, yesterday, I felt a huge move in the camper and when I went out to see what it was I saw the large bull against the front fender. It seems he and one of the horses took down a large, heavy, long metal gate that is probably 20 feet long and four or five feet high that I can’t move easily by myself. I went to get Lorri’s father Brian and he and I got the bull and horse back in the pen with the other cows and horses and we got the gate secured again. You can see the metal gate in the photos below.

Horse that escaped from his pen walked across the yard and went to the garage area where we keep the bread and he knocked the metal lid off of a 50 gallon drum of bread and was eating from the drum when we found him. To get him back to his penned area I took a loaf of bread and he followed me the entire way back, as did several other animals. I have to be careful around the horses, bulls, and cows because they are really strong and much larger than I am.

About a week ago I noticed that one of the ducks had 14 baby ducklings with her so we got them in a chicken coop so that the pigs and other animals would not hurt or eat them. They are growing and adorable. Out of one hatch the ducklings are a variety of colors and they stay close to their mama.

In my previous story I wrote about one of the mama pigs that took hay several hundred yards from a bale of hay to a spot where she wanted to have her babies. A few days after that when we went to check on her we saw the entire round bale of hay was spread out over a big area. It seems the cows and horses scattered that entire round bale rather than leave it whole. I also went to the pond and watched some of the pigs wallowing in the mud to cool off.

It’s still funny to watch them stampede towards the penned area where they are fed. All the animals, pigs, goats, ducks, geese, and dogs come running from everywhere. The four geese seem to all stay in a group. The ducks now seem to like laying under my camper since I raised it up a bit on wider boards.

Last week we drove about 90 miles into Georgia and brought 6 pigs to be slaughtered into different products. A week later we went and picked up the butchered meat and by products. Everything is used either by being made into sausage, brats, pork chops, and lard. All other parts including the heads, bones, etc. are brought back and given to the dogs and other animals over a period of time. I think there are about 5 or 6 large freezers here that handles all of the frozen meat, etc. We have eaten some sausages, brats, and pork chops and they are really good and of course all natural. We know what they eat since we raise them here.

That’s about it for now.

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New Adventure for me, Volunteering on Hurricane Creek Farm in north Florida, Blue Springs Recreational Area, Marianna, Florida

It seems that it is official that I will not be going to Albuquerque to volunteer at the Balloon Fiesta this year. There is a new lady in charge of the volunteers and the RV area and since she cannot guarantee an electric connection for me, I decided not to go out there. I don’t want to dry camp for 6 weeks. This also means that I most probably will not  be going to Texas either.

I went online to Workamper and various volunteer job websites and after several phone calls, I think I found the perfect place for me to volunteer this year. In Havana, Florida, which is about 15 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida, a lady named Lorri has a farm and due to health issues she needs help on her farm which is called Hurricane Creek Farms, it is not the same as the one in North Carolina. This is named for a nearby creek. It seems like the perfect place for me to help out this year.

On my way to north Florida to the farm, I stopped for a few days to visit my friend Cindy in Yulee near Jacksonville. It was nice to see her again and catch up on life.

I arrived safely at the farm. Lots of animals here. It’s a pig farm with more than 100 pigs from cute little babies to full grown adults including a 400 pound male named Porkchop. Here is an album of photos I have taken so far since I have been here.

Update:August 26th, I wrote a new story about my time here, it’s above this one and I added new pictures since I first wrote this story, they are at the end of the album.

The breed of dog here is called a Kangal, it’s a breed from Turkey that is breed for the purpose of being a guardian of livestock animals and protecting animals and also people from predators. Feel free to explore the Internet to read up about this interesting and special breed of dog. The breed of pig is called the American Guinea Pig which was an endangered breed and is now on the critical list. It doesn’t get as large as the pink pigs which are what is breed for meat at the grocery store. There are also Red Waddle breed pigs here and some cross breed pigs. You can search the Internet to read more about these breeds.

We have not done any fence work yet, only had to fix a spot or two where the animals could get out of their fenced area. I am quite impressed with part of a fence where pallets are used as a fence. Very clever how they were attached to create a sturdy fence.

There are 9 very large protective Kangal dogs that guard the property and us, 2 horses, several cows, goats, ducks, geese, and chickens. These dogs are great watchdogs and very large. The pigs that roam free like to lay in the dirt next to my camper. The adults lay against the sides of my camper and the little ones crawl under my camper. Sometimes when I am in the camper I feel it moving which means an adult pig is getting settled into the dirt against my camper van. We put some pallets around the camper so the pigs can’t lay against it. The bottom edges have red dirt along the sides from the pigs wedging up under the van as close as they can get.

I’m parked in the shade under a large live oak tree. I have electric hookup using an extension cord. There is a water connection near where I’m parked. There is a large pond on the property which the animals love, I think especially the pigs. They like to go in and cool off in the early evening after they are fed. The other animals also go there as well. Lorri told me that the pigs don’t have sweat glands so the mud and water keeps their body temperature cool. We have had LOTS of rain, almost every day, so there is lots of mud. There is not any grass here, it’s all pretty much sand and dirt.

I got to hold some baby pigglets from a day old to 6 weeks old. They don’t really like being held and they voice their opinion loudly. Eventually, a few of them quieted down and enjoyed being cuddled and they fell asleep in my arms.The newly born pigs are soft like a puppy and they have floppy ears. They are also the size of a newborn puppy and are born with their eyes open and with teeth. Several of the new babies have white feet like their daddy.

Even though the babies have short legs and are small they can keep up with the larger and older 6 month old piglets and even the adults. They run so fast I can’t catch them. The hair and skin on the older pigs is stiff and not soft at all, even at a couple of months they have bristles. I remember years ago buying boar bristle hair brushes. Now I know why the bristles on the brush were so stiff and hard.

One mama pig had 7 babies recently. I see them running after her frequently, all in a pack usually. One day I saw them sleeping and they were laying on each other in a pyramid, it was so cute. I didn’t have my camera with me so I couldn’t get a photo. Sometimes the mama is laying on her belly and the babies want to eat so they keep nudging her until she rolls over on her side.

Since I have been here several pigs have had litters, one was a new mom and she evidently either didn’t feel well or didn’t know how to take care of her 3 babies, so Lorri brought them into the house and she gave them to me to hold for a while, they were so soft and probably only a few hours old, a day at the most. They were about 4 inches high and about 8 to 10 inches long. Lorri made some milk type formula and she and I took the babies and put formula on our finger and put it in the babies mouth letting them figure out how to suck or lick the formula off of our finger. After numerous attempts and our persistence, they finally learned and then we put formula in bowls and the little ones figured out how to drink the formula. They are now in Lorri’s bathroom and we feed them every 3 hours like a puppy. They make a mess walking through the formula and after they are fed they curl up together and go to sleep.

One of the more experienced moms had babies the other day, we only saw two and don’t know if she had more and something happened to them, or if she only had two. I learned that the moms go into a trance during the birthing process and for a while after. One of the new moms took hay from a bale several hundred yards away and carried it by mouthfuls to a spot where she made her nest to have her babies. I couldn’t believe all the time and effort that must have taken her looking at the distance she had to take hay and how many trips she must have made. The photo in the middle shows the pig, her nest, and in the background the round bale of hay in the distance. The pictures below are two different mamas who had babies a day or two apart. One made her nest on a tarp, the other on a bed of hay, both had two babies one of each litter had white feet.

There are several large round bales of hay in the yard near the house and last night I saw a large mama pig laying down eating hay from the bale and one of her babies that is several months old standing and eating. It’s really something to watch the pigs when it’s feeding time. They come running like a stampede from all over the yard following the tractor with the bread. They also like to stay near the carport where the bread is stored hoping they get some extra during the day, and of course they do. I give them some when I am working on the bread, now they also follow me when I am walking around the property thinking I have more food for them.

At least once a week, sometimes more, we go to Tallahassee to a small beer brewery and get a large tub of mash leftover from the brewing process and it gets fed to the animals. We also go to a bread outlet in Tallahassee about once a week and get a large trailer of outdated bread. The bread is in trays and we have to physically throw each loaf of bread into Lorri’s trailer and we usually fill it. I think it’s about 4 feet wide by 5 feet high by 12 feet long. Then my job is to take the bread out of each bag and put it into five 50 gallon drums every day so it can get fed to the animals. It takes me about 2 hours to fill those containers. It’s not really hard, but it gets really hot and I get soaked, and I try to keep a portable fan blowing on me while I am working which cools the temperature down from 90 degrees. I also try to do it later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning so it’s not the heat of the day, and I am in a covered carport while working on the bread.

It’s really sad to see how much bread is wasted and not used by the expiration dates. I think of all of the people in our country and around the world that could use this bread. However, the bread company says they can’t give it out to people for their food. Some of the bread is getting moldy and I am sure they don’t want to take chances of people getting sick. To discourage the sale or use of this bread, they slash the plastic wrapper which is helpful to me when I am taking the bread out of the bags. If the bags are not cut, I cut them open with a knife. I found out after the first time or two that it works better if I wear my work gloves when doing the bread, and I also wear a headband/bandana to keep my hair and sweat out of my eyes.

Lorri and her parents are very nice to me, I eat meals with them and I brought my own pots and baking pans and I have cooked several meals and numerous desserts. Like me, they all have a sweet tooth!!! And I get to take a shower in the guest bathroom, and I use their washer and dryer for my clothes. This is an improvement for me. When I am in Albuquerque I wash my hair and my body using a hose at the faucet next to my camper and I wash my clothes in a bucket. I could have driven to a laundromat but it wasn’t always convenient. It was easier to wash them by hand every few days. Although, I didn’t get as dirty and sweaty there as I am working on the farm here.

One day recently, we took a day off and drove to Marianna, Florida, about an hour away and went to Blue Springs Recreation Area, where I took lots of pictures. It’s a county park with a spring fed lake that also has a cave and crystal clear cold water. It was a really nice park. I didn’t go in the water, I was told that it is very cold. I sat under a tree and read a book while Lorri and her friend went wading in the lake every now and then to cool off. I was going to go in a bit later in the afternoon, but that didn’t happen due to an unexpected thunderstorm.

Due to the heat, I make sure that I drink plenty of water, and some coconut water, to keep hydrated. I also take naps during the day as I need them. And I make sure to eat during the day including dinner. Most of the time my pain is not too bad, I still have some days that are more challenging than other days, so I take it easy when necessary.

 

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June 2018 Happenings, Sticky Bun great place to eat, ID on ME Medical Alert Bracelet, New Trip

Not much has been happening the past couple of months. I still make my best effort to go to the gym every day and do cardio exercises and/or yoga and chair yoga. It really makes me feel better to do these exercises and stretches. I find as I am getting older that it is more necessary now than when I was younger to stay fit and active.

I can’t remember when I wrote my last health update so I will give a brief one here. In January I had another CT Scan. It showed my tumor is about the same size which is a good sign that it didn’t grow in the past year. I think it shifts position every now and then because my insides hurt a bit more, my ribs occasionally feel bruised which means organs are shifting and putting pressure on my lungs, liver, or whatever other organs it presses on. The scan also showed that I have degenerative arthritis in my lumbar spine. This had not been identified in any previous scans. I guess this accounts for the extra pain in my lower back. Also, I am having increased pain and numbness in my left leg and three toes on my left foot.

When I am doing yoga or cardio exercises there are some that feel like they strain parts of my body, especially my internal organs, so I modify the exercise or do fewer repetitions than everyone else does. The main thing is that I still try to do them. Some mornings I feel like staying in bed and not moving because I hurt, but like I have written in several posts over the years… I know this tumor, and it’s side effects of putting pressure on my organs, will win and take my life, unless something else happens to do that, but I will do my best to fight it and not let it win easily.

To stay busy besides working out at the gym, I have been crocheting baby blankets and hats for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital. So far, I have made and donated about 60 hats and 350 blankets since last April. I bought lots of yarn and have enough still to make another approximately 100 or more blankets. I did so many so fast the past few months that I strained muscles and tendons in my arms, hands, and neck so I have had to take periodic breaks for a week or two then when I feel the pain has gone away I start again. But then, what do I do??? I crochet too many in a short time again and aggravate my tendons and muscles. I don’t do well just sitting and not doing anything. I need to start reading books again. I find when I watch television, which is not all that often, that I like to crochet and stay busy rather than just sitting and not accomplishing anything productive. The nurses at the hospital tell me that the mothers really like and appreciate the blankets they get to take home for their baby. I use different colors that are usually bright and cheerful and I used a multicolored yarn with a solid so the blanket can be used for either a boy or girl.

I am still baking bread from scratch, and baking cookies, making caramel candy, and trying new recipes for meals. I have found many new foods that I like to cook and I make extra and freeze some so I can just thaw something out to eat and I also share some with friends and neighbors.

Using my Curtis Stone cookware and bakeware has made it so much more fun to cook. I have no hesitation to cook anything because nothing sticks to these pans, not even caramel candy or syrup. Even if food burns or bakes on the pan it is very easy to clean with a sponge and water. No cooking spray has to be used for baking cookies on their cookie sheets, it seems that the cookies bake better and have a nicer crunch on the bottom of the cookie since there is no grease or spray between the batter and pan. Since no cooking sprays or oils need to be used on the pans the food tastes better and there is only the flavor of the ingredients used in the recipe. If you want great pans to use go to HSN and check out Curtis Stone products. My cookware is a little over a year old and still looks brand new.

If you are in or near Deerfield Beach, Florida, and want a great place to eat, go to The Sticky Bun in the Cove Shopping Center on Hillsboro Blvd, just west of the Intracoastal Waterway. Mike and Pauline are the owners and they are both amazing cooks and bakers. Mike smokes the meat they use in their meals, and the food you order is made when your order is taken and served immediately when it’s ready. Mike smokes his own bacon, turkey, pulled pork and beef, etc. They make the best Cuban sandwich and Turkey sandwich I have ever eaten, I have them add bacon to their turkey sandwich. It’s a small privately owned business and they are closed on Mondays. I cannot ever finish my sandwich it’s so large and so I get to take half home to enjoy for another meal. I proudly wear a t-shirt a friend bought me for the Sticky Bun and when I wear it either to the gym or around town it always brings comments of people who love eating there too or who have heard about it but not eaten there yet. The Sticky Bun has a great reputation and is busy every time I go there. Their decor is beautiful, and they are dog friendly.

One of the major things I have done is to make sure that I wear my medic alert bracelet so I have information regarding my health condition and contact information in the event that something unexpectedly happens to me. Often when I go walking I don’t carry identification on me. If something were to happen I would be a Jane Doe. I didn’t want an engraved ID bracelet. Besides not liking the way they look, they don’t have much space for information. I kept searching and then last year, I came across an ID bracelet I liked. It comes in several colors, and I can write my information and it’s enclosed in a case on the bracelet. I was able to put my name, what state my drivers license is issued from, my doctors name and phone number, my medicines, allergies, people to contact if something happens to me, and my funeral information. I also added that there is an emergency contact card in my wallet.

Check out www.idonme.com to see the selection of identification options ID ON ME offers. They also have ID bracelets, key chain charms, etc. that are not medical alert bracelets, and also various options for children, pets, and other areas of notification that may be of interest to you. This is an important item for people to wear especially if they have health issues. I see people at the gym working out and straining themselves and pushing themselves to extreme limits. I bet none of them has any contact info with them in case something unforeseen happens to them.

One of my elderly friends recently told me that she doesn’t know what happened to her a few weeks ago, she must have unexpectedly passed out and not realized it. She was in a room at her clubhouse and the next thing she knew she woke up in the emergency room. She didn’t have any info on her and she has several medical conditions. I gave her one of these ID on ME bracelets and filled out the form for her with the same types of info on my bracelet form. She didn’t even know the contact info for her funeral arrangements so with her help we found the info and added it to her form.

I like this company and their products. With the ID bracelet they include four pieces of their special non-tear paper so if life situations and health conditions change a new paper can be written and inserted in the bracelet compartment which happens to be water resistant. After my mom died last year I changed the paper insert in my medic bracelet, so I am glad they give extra papers in their package. I also bought several extra bracelets which I give to friends when I find out they have medical conditions and don’t have a medic alert bracelet.  Be a friend and give this as a gift to your family and friends. Even children should wear some identification info on them, as should really everyone. These items can be worn or used and look nice since they come in different colors and styles. They can even be worn on sneaker laces or put on key rings.

I am starting to get ready and am in the process of planning another trip. I am not exactly sure of my departure date or route yet. I may not be going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year. There is a new volunteer coordinator and she is also in charge of the RV areas. I spoke with her and she said there are more people and officials this year than in the past and it looks like no Navigators (which is what us volunteers are called) will have RV spots with electric and water connections. I don’t want to drive about 2,000 miles there and volunteer and camp for the usual six weeks I am there. I need about 125 volunteer hours in order to have electric and water hookups. That is why the past few years I got to Albuquerque in late August. I worked at the office before Fiesta and volunteered during the event and I had more hours than was needed.

My first three years at Fiesta I arrived five days before Fiesta and only volunteered during the event. I dry camped during those three years, then I found out I could volunteer before Fiesta and work enough hours to have electric. I have done the dry camping route enough to know that I don’t want to do it again for any more than a few days at a time unless there is no alternative. Since I cannot be guaranteed hookups this year, I most probably will not go to Fiesta, it would have been my seventh year there. I guess it’s time for me to do something different and take a different route on this trip.

I am seriously considering driving to south Georgia and northwest South Carolina to visit the firefighters that I still stay in touch with and haven’t seen in several years. Going to South Carolina means driving in the mountains which will be a pretty drive. It is a bit harder on my body and my van, but it will be okay. I don’t have any specific time to be anywhere. If I go north, then I will most probably not attend and volunteer at the hot air balloon event in Longview, Texas. I really enjoy that event which is held the end of July but it is not even close to where I will be and it’s too far to go there and come all the way back east to go north. However, plans change. I write them in sand and will see how I feel and what my energy level is close to when I leave. I have not even started packing or putting things together for my trip.

I did buy a new Garmin GPS recently. My other one still works and is only about two years old. This new one has voice commands which should come in handy on trips. I tried saying a few places and some it found and others it wasn’t even close even with multiple attempts at saying the place or city. When I am driving sometimes I want to know where a campground, rest area, or gas station is and it’s dangerous to try and type it in the GPS when I am driving. Usually there is not anywhere to pull over to do a GPS search other than the shoulder of the road which is not a safe place to stop other than an emergency. I am hopeful this newer GPS with the voice command will be beneficial.

My Camping with the Corps of Engineers book is from 2011 and on this past trip I realized that it’s really out of date. The Tom Merrill Recreation Area campground I went to east of Shreveport listed the campground as primitive with spots only 20 feet long. I was really surprised when I got there to find paved spots that could take long RV’s. I was telling one of my friends that I was getting ready for my trip and looking at routes and that I needed to get a couple of new campground books and she said she wanted to buy them for me as an early birthday present. I said I would buy them myself but she insisted. I thanked her but I have to be honest, it is a lot easier for me to be the giver than the receiver. My friend Lois who was an important part of my life when she was alive once asked me what it felt like to do for others and to give to others. I said it feels good. She then told me if I don’t let others do for me or give to me then I am depriving them of that feeling. It really made me think, but it is still difficult for me to be on the receiving side. In case you use the Camping with the Corps of Engineer book, a new one was just published on May 1, 2018. The format of information is a bit different, but the information is now up-to-date.

In December, I finally gave in and bought a new android phone. My other one was five years old and the charging port no longer worked and it was not convenient to continually change the battery out for recharged ones that I had to manually charge. So, I went to Sprint and bought a new android phone. It’s not the fanciest or most expensive one, in fact it’s one of the least costly ones. It still does about all the same things as the expensive ones. Some features on the new phone I really like, others I miss. My older phone had a slide out keyboard which was nice to have, but the technology was so old that applications were not able to be updated or added. This new phone allows me to add applications and I added two games. Sadly, one of the games on my old phone is no longer available so I don’t have it on my new phone or tablet.

Enjoy life, have fun, try new things and experience new places and adventures. Life is short. I read the other day about Bode Miller’s 19 month old daughter drowning in a swimming pool. Her life was cut short, very sad. So enjoy life while you can.  I once read something that said… Live each day as if it’s your last, one of these days you are going to be right. A billboard I once saw said… Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.

Life is short and passes quickly. Search my website for a story called… Seriously, you would rather be an Ostrich? Also, you can search for inspirational poems and stories, and the word Lois so you can read some wisdom she shared with me during her lifetime. Also, search for Dr. Seuss Oh The Places You’ll Go and read it out loud in funny voices, it will brighten your day and put your life in perspective, at least it does that for me. I read it often and give the book as gifts to friends. There is lots of wisdom in the words in this book. I have a link in a previous story for this book and also for the Real Story of the Three Little Pigs. Search my website for the links to these books, or you can do your own search.

 

 

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Historic Butler House, Deerfield Beach, Florida

Today there was a fundraiser for the Deerfield Beach/Lighthouse Point, Pompano Beach/Hillsboro Beach Relay for Life event which will be held at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach on Saturday, September 22nd, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on September 23rd. The name is being changed to the Northeast Broward Relay. Everyone is welcome to attend. Please come out and support the cancer survivors and caregivers and everyone who works hard to put on this event. There are several positions available if you or anyone you know may be interested. Teams are also needed, so go to relayforlife.org and enter your zip code to find a Relay event near you. There are stories on my website for the Deerfield Beach Relay held in previous years when I participated as a committee member, survivor, and team member.

I have been to the Butler House for other fundraisers, however, I always like to go inside the Butler House to look at the antique furniture and the unique items in the gift shop. Also, there is a Banyan tree in the yard that is over 100 years old. It was on the property already when the house was built in 1923. The Butler House is open to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2:o0 p.m. there is no charge to tour the house. The last Saturday of the month there are various activities like concerts and garage sales. Here are some links for information regarding the Butler House.  Broward County National Register for the Butler House and Deerfield Beach Historical Society Butler House.

Here is a photo album with pictures I took today, which includes pictures of many of the informational signs on the furniture. In April 2016, I was the Butler House for another Relay for Life fundraiser, here is a link to that story and photo album.

A few pictures of the house are shown below, for more pictures please check out the photo album. It’s nice that some things have improved like washing machines. Back in the early 1900’s the washing machines were ringer machines and I remember when I was young seeing my great grandmother feeding her clothes and linens through the ringers to squeeze the water out of the clothes.

 

Surprise, on rare occasions I can post a story and pictures the same day as I took them and was at an event. It doesn’t happen often because usually I don’t have WiFi access, but today I am able to.

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Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

I have been back home since the end of November and I haven’t taken any trips, not even locally. So I decided since I haven’t been to see my friend Sue Arnold who runs Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, in Okeechobee, Florida, in about a year, I went there March 23rd through 25th. I drove my camper there so I could stay there for a few days. Thankfully, the weather was nice and it didn’t rain.

It’s always a great adventure to go there and to see not only the animals that I have seen over the many years I have gone there, but also to see what new animals have taken up residency or are being rehabilitated so they can be released. As always, there are several new animals, and sadly several have died some due to age, some to predators that somehow find a way into the cages of some animals.

This visit I got to pet a camel, lemurs, Capuchin monkeys, kangaroos, an albino wallaby, and several other animals. There are also several new types of chickens which always make me smile seeing the various types of feathers they have. Some look like pompoms, others have feathers sticking out in all directions, others have beautiful feathers. One of the days a large crane somehow flew out of the enclosure and several of us had to circle it and herd it into the fenced in area where it belongs. A few male peacocks were trying to impress the female peacocks and kept spreading their feathers and dancing around showing them off. It was pretty interesting to watch.

One of the ringtail lemurs had twin babies a few days before my visit. I was feeding grapes to the animals. When I was feeding the ringtail lemurs I noticed that one of them had two babies clinging to her chest.

A few years ago when I was at Arnold’s one of the ringtail lemurs had a baby that was two days old when I got there and I was there for five days and saw it begin to crawl and explore it’s surroundings.

I have posted a photo album with pictures I took during my three day stay. There are too many pictures to include in this story. Sue and her volunteers work so hard and such long hours every day caring for the numerous animals, feeding them and cleaning their dishes and cages several times a day. There are no restaurants nearby and the drive into town which normally would take about 20 minutes now takes a couple of hours due to construction and only one lane of traffic being open. Thankfully, I know the back road way to get there so I don’t get caught in the traffic. So, I always bring food with me to eat for us and the animals.

When I was about 20 minutes from the wildlife center I was driving past the garbage mound dump station and what did I see in the road… a five foot alligator. This is a back road with not much traffic, so I stopped my vehicle to see what the alligator would do. I wasn’t sure if it would continue crossing the street. I waited and the gator looked around and decided to turn around and go back into the ditch. When I saw it and stopped, it was halfway across the two lane road. I wasn’t able to get a picture, but it really was cool to see an alligator crossing the street.

Upon arriving at the wildlife center and saying hi to Sue and her volunteers and giving them the fruit and food I brought for the animals, I started to walk around the grounds. I saw some new animals which included pigs, sheep, and several new horses. The little pond was empty. It seems it lost power during the hurricane last year and the fish died. Eventually the pond will be filled and restocked. After the chance of a frost is past the butterfly garden will be worked on. This is a beautiful and wonderful area of the grounds that is shaped like a butterflies body and wings and it was created in memory on one of Sue’s daughters who died several years ago from Cancer.

To read about my previous visits to Arnold’s Wildlife do a search on my website and it will show links to my previous stories and photo albums. If you are looking for a great place to make a donation, or leave money in your will, I highly recommend Arnold’s. All of the donations go to taking care of the animals and buying a good quality food for them. Sue says that since she buys human quality food at Publix and a private meat source the animals are healthier and the vet bills are less. She doesn’t feed them Walmart food products any longer, and hasn’t for several years and the animals are healthier.

I continued walking around and I was able to feed fruit to several animals including my favorites the monkeys. They love fruit and will take it out of my hand and let me pet them through the cage and also will usually let me hold their fingers which is a most wonderful feeling. Their fingers are almost like ours, they have finger nails and their hands are so soft. The Lemurs fur feels like a really soft stuffed animal that would be great to cuddle with.

As I was walking past the racoon cage in the morning, I saw one of the raccoons curled up sleeping in a net hung from a branch. I stood there and watched for a while amazed that it was curled up in a tight ball. Gradually the raccoon woke up and got out of the net.

The day I arrived, the mama camel Lulu came over to me and let me pet her, her two year old daughter Annie didn’t come close this time, but I got to watch her drink water out of a pipe that was at the height of her head. There is a new three year old kangaroo, some new foxes, and a few other animals. It seems people buy these animals and then either they die, move, or are unable to take care of them so they find a great home with Sue at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Sometimes state officials find or confiscate animals and bring them to her also. I doubt the person giving up their animal provides funding for it’s care and upkeep, but I would like to hope they do. Every time I am there, Sue gets numerous calls a day saying they found an animal sometimes injured or orphaned, and want to bring it to her. She seldom refuses any animal and when necessary takes it to a vet or has the vet come to her.

I tend to be a bit upset sometimes when I see that people walking around don’t put money in the donation box. Sue charges $10 per adult, and children under 12 are free. All the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals and this costs about $1,500 a month just for food. That doesn’t include vet bills, medical treatment, cages, utilities, etc .

There are two new baby otters and Sue said that humans have to get in the water with them and teach them how to swim. Usually the otters mother does that but these are orphans and they have to be taught by surrogate mothers, humans. There are also some baby possums and squirrels that are being hand fed and kept warm on heating pads. Also a loon found it’s way to Florida and it can only move in water or fly. It’s legs are behind them and they don’t walk like regular birds.

While I was there Sue’s nutritionist who lives in Iowa and comes to visit I think monthly to check the animals and their diet to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition was there and they were taking about tainted pet food that killed about 15,000 animals. I hadn’t heard about this and asked them what happened. They told me that many pet food companies used euthanized animals in the pet food, both dry and wet food for dogs and cats. I couldn’t believe pet food companies would do that, but they did. It seems it helps to reduce the cost of the food and it helped to get rid of dead animals. Using euthanized animals in the food is not good. The chemicals that they give the animals to euthanize them, and probably to get them sick ones healthy so they can euthanize them in some cases, is still in the dead animal and it is then in the processed pet food.

This is not only lower cost pet foods, but also in many name brands including many that advertise they sell healthy pet food and also advertise on television. If you are interested in knowing more, do a Internet search for tainted pet food. Don’t only read the first page, read down several pages. You will be amazed. This isn’t only a past problem, it happened this year.

At Arnold’s Wildlife the vegetarian animals get fresh fruit and vegetables, and the meat eaters get chicken and chicken necks, beef, and other fresh or frozen human grade meat products, and some get fresh or frozen fish if that is their natural diet.

If you go, feel free to pack a picnic lunch, or bring snacks because there is not anywhere close or convenient to get a meal.

If you want to visit Arnold’s Wildlife, here are the best directions I found for the shortest distance, at least from south Florida and Broward or Palm Beach County. Take I-95 to the Blue Heron exit which is north of Palm Beach. Go west on Blue Heron and a few miles up is the VA hospital on the right and just after that Blue Heron turns into 710. Make a right on 710 going west/north. Drive about 43 miles, you will go through Indiantown and other than that town it’s all country roads.

About 3 or 4 miles before you will make a right turn on SE 128th, off of 710, you will see Martin Road on the right, I think it’s on the right and you will go over a railroad track across 710. You will also pass the junction of CR 714, go 1 mile and turn right on SE 128. About two miles before CR 714 you will cross over a railroad track, three miles (3 miles) past the railroad track is SE 128th, there is a sign a little before the turn. Make a right on SE 128. Go straight about 8 miles and you will come to a stop sign with a restaurant on the right. That is the intersection with Hwy. 70. Go straight at that intersection, Do Not Turn on Hwy 70.  I think SE 128th becomes a different road at that intersection.

Drive about 12 miles past Hwy 70 and you will pass a landfill, and then a while later you will come to a flashing traffic light which is Hwy 441. Do Not Turn on 441, go straight across it. Drive about 3 miles more down this country road and then turn left on NW 30th Terrace and Arnold’s Wildlife is at the end of that street.

To return back to I-95, leave Sue’s, make a right at the stop sign then go straight. When you get to the blinking light at 441, go straight. Keep straight and drive about 12 miles  and you will come to a stop sign and you will cross over Hwy 70 where the restaurant and gas station is located. Go about 8 miles and the road ends at 710. Make a left and drive about 43 miles. You will see several signs and roads that say I-95. You will go under an overpass or walkway type structure, and will pass the sign for Northlake Blvd. Watch for the VA hospital on your left and turn on 708E which is Blue Heron. Go a few miles and then you will see signs for I-95. Make a right to go south back to Broward or Palm Beach counties.

If you want to, feel free to bring fresh fruit and vegetables, or cans of slice peaches for the animals. Even overripe fruit and vegetables are okay, not spoiled, but overripe is okay. If I make banana bread I save the peels and bring them. If you want a personal tour through the wildlife center that is often available at no extra cost. Tell Sue you are a friend of mine, or read about the wildlife center on my website.

If you have any sturdy children’s toys or plastic furniture please donate it to Arnold’s for the animals. Many of them love toys, especially the monkeys. They like swings, chairs, hand toys, etc. You can see it in many of the pictures I took.

When I watch television, I see many repeats of the ASPCA asking for money. I did an Internet search and found out that they spend 35% of donations on overhead. It says that 38 cents of every dollar goes for expenses. In 2012, the ASPCA spent $52 million dollars on fundraising. Sue Arnold spends 100% of the donations she receives on taking care of the animals in her care.

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Keepers Days, Lighthouse Point, Florida

Keepers Day weekend was held again in Lighthouse Point and one of the Keepers that was recognized is police officer Paul McCormick. Paul is an amazing man and police officer. He has a great smile and laugh and is always concerned about residents, especially those in need. He goes above and beyond to help our residents. I have known Paul for many years and I think very highly of him.

Saturday morning was the parade and also there was an antique car show, and the new soldier and hero memorial shrine was completed and is located in a corner of McDonough Park. There are many pavers around the memorial engraved with the names and branches of service of Lighthouse Point residents both current and those who have passed. Also, there are benches located in the memorial park and each bench has an engraved plaque with a different branch of the military as well as recognizing the LHP police and fire departments.

A Photo album has been posted including pictures I took of the parade, car show, and the hero memorial. This year was the first year of the 5K run held in conjunction with Keepers Day so we weren’t sure about the parking that would be available. One of my friends and I got there early and were able to easily get a parking space and a good shady spot to watch the parade. I love listening to and watching the bagpipe players. Their music really touches my heart.

It was nice to get some fresh air and one again attend this event.

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Back home in Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Native Rhythms Festival, Melbourne, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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Falling Waters State Park, Florida Panhandle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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

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

Photo Album of Days 1-4 of Balloon Fiesta.

Photo Album of Days 5-9 of Balloon Fiesta.

If you want to see pictures I took at previous Balloon Fiesta’s, in the search block on this website type Balloon Fiesta and it will bring up the stories and links to the albums. Searching for hot air balloons will bring up additional hot air balloon events and pictures.

Like I wrote above, I took about 2,000 to 3,000 pictures each year, but after a few months I reduce the number to a few hundred photos. I also have stories and pictures from the balloon rally in Longview, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

I didn’t realize that some of the pictures, like the ones mentioned above, came out so interesting. At first, I didn’t plan on taking a picture of a balloon like the mariachi man waving to the baby. I noticed it after looking at my pictures the end of the day. After seeing those types of pictures for a few days, I realized if I waited a minute or so when a balloon was going up that I might be able to get pictures like the clown with the blue chicken looking like it was sitting on the clown’s head, or the alligator balancing on the fin of the red fish. As I saw the top of the blue chicken balloon behind the clown, I waited a few seconds until the chicken’s body rose enough to see the bottom of the balloon without the basket. As I saw the astronaut landing, I waited until the basket was below the hill behind the fence to take the picture so the basket would not show in the picture. It made picture taking and looking at the pictures more fun than just taking pictures of balloons.

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

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

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

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

A few years ago while talking with Scott, the pilot I crew for, we were talking about various balloons and especially which special shaped ones we liked. Scott told me that the baby bee is piloted by the first paraplegic balloon pilot. I was fascinated. If my tumor continues pressing on the nerves in my leg it’s possible I may be in a wheelchair. So, when I see people in wheelchairs, or with artificial limbs, it touches my heart how they embrace life and continue to do what they love to do. In many instances I try to talk with them and let them know that they inspire me and it also puts my life in perspective. With their permission, I have written a few stories about people with challenges. Here are two of them: a story about David Nicholson, a story about another double amputee Eddie.

A few years ago, I briefly spoke with Michael Glen who is the hot air balloon pilot for Joelly, the baby bee. I told him and the other bee pilots that they could use the photos I took of their balloons. This year, while I was working at the special shape pilot registration table, I was the person working when Michael and the other two bee pilots came for their pilot packets. During Fiesta, I took pictures of the bees and was really happy when they were flying near my friends Wonder Bread balloon. I took several pictures where it looks like the bees were playing around that balloon, and also the Uncle Sam balloon.

One evening during the balloon glow I was near the bee balloons and I took numerous pictures of them inflating, including quite a few of Michael inflating his balloon and I was fascinated and impressed how agile and skilled he is maneuvering to get his balloon in position to inflate and stand up. I had heard that Michael has a special type of bench that allows him to fly his hot air balloon but I had not before tonight been able to see what it looks like or how he manages this task. From crewing many times, I know how much work it is for those of us without challenges to get a balloon from packed in its bag to inflated and standing upright. I couldn’t imagine what it would involve for someone in a wheelchair or without the use of his legs.

With Michael’s permission, I am posting some pictures of him positioning himself into his special bench seat to get his balloon upright. Here is a link to Michael’s website. I also found this story about Michael Glen telling a part of his story, here is another story.

Meeting Michael and seeing his smile and experiencing his wonderful, friendly personality, and knowing that he lives his life in a wheelchair, inspires me and gives me hope. Many times over the years when I have had operations and faced life changing health situations I wondered if it was more serious would I have the courage and whatever else it would take to have a good attitude and overcome my challenges. Seeing Michael and others with physical challenges gives me so much hope that I would be able to adjust to whatever happens. One day I was at my doctor’s office and I met a young man that has no arms, not even stubs of arms. He wrote by putting a pen in his mouth, and he used his phone by moving the screen with his nose. Once again, I am inspired and in awe.

If you want to read my posts on inspirational poems and stories, you can do a search for that phrase as well. A few years ago I wrote a story called Seriously, Really, you would rather be an ostrich. It’s a post about the importance of having legal documents prepared. I also have stories about my mentor Lois who died in 1989, her influence on my life has helped me on a daily basis.

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

Several times during my time in Albuquerque I went to the Balloon Museum and I posted stories and pictures of my visits. You can use the search feature on my website to locate these stories and also other places I visited in Albuquerque and New Mexico. Search for museum or Albuquerque.

I am hoping to attend Balloon Fiesta again in 2018. Feel free to explore my website, I retired in June 2011 and I have traveled around the country and visited numerous National Parks and other places of interest. I have a travel map button for every year of my travels.

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Driving from Albuquerque to Gallup, NM

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

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

 

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