Sauder Village

Sunrise

Sunrise

As every full timer knows, travel plans are written in jello. Originally our intention upon leaving Sterling State Park was to find a halfway stopping point between southeastern Michigan and south central Indiana where we could vegetate for a week before moving on. We have a little known two lane route we like to take along the Maumee River when passing through Ohio from one state to the other so I focused on RV parks in that area. That’s how I discovered a gem of a campground in Archbold.

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View of village from pond walking path

Sauder Village is a historic village nestled in among family farms and cornfields for as far as the eye can see. I’ve always had a fondness for the Midwest countryside so the setting’s perfect as far as I’m concerned. Located on the grounds is the Barn Restaurant housed in an authentic hand hewn 1861 barn and serving up delicious home style comfort food. There’s also a bakery, retail shops, Founder’s Hall for hosting weddings, exhibitions, and such, an inn, campground, and a living history museum. The museum and village is centered upon the years 1803 to 1928. There are costumed guides and craftsmen, farm animals and a trolley train to get around on.

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The view from our patio

We chose not to tour the village simply because we didn’t feel it could offer us any new experiences or sights than we’d already gleaned from our many, many visits to Greenfield Village and Conner Prairie. Instead we focused on relaxing and enjoying what the campground had to offer.

Set apart from the rest of the facility, the park is surrounded by fields of corn on three sides and a large inviting pond on the last one. Very clean, very quiet, and very dark at night, wonderful for star gazing. There is a walking path around the pond with park benches and stone slabs for sitting. The second walking path cuts through the towering cornfields and runs about a mile in length. It too is quiet and well maintained with several little oases along the pathway, each with a sheltered sitting area. All three of us made use of the trails regularly. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the campground does have one flaw, if the wind is blowing from the right wrong direction, there’s a pig farm near by.

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Walking path thru the cornfield

Perhaps what we liked the most was how spacious the sites were. They are definitely the largest we’ve ever seen in a private park. Beau loved rolling around in the thick lush grass. No rugs are permitted here so as not to damage the lawns. I also liked how things were still run on the honor system. There’s plenty of ice and firewood available just leave your purchase money in the box provided.

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Our spacious campsite

Back to the jello I spoke of earlier. Instead of spending the full eight nights we had available, we only stayed four. Don decided after spending three miserable weather days inside the Suite Pea while at the state park that air tv was not going to work well for us. He contacted Winegard about a conversion kit and Dish for a Hopper so our next stop will be Elkhart, Indiana to pick up and install the equipment.

Back in the RV Capitol of the U.S.

Sunday upon our arrival to Elkhart Campground Don noticed a sign on the office fence on RV detailing and suggested I inquire about it when I checked us in. We make an effort to have the Suite Pea’s exterior spruced up once a year and she was due. On Monday the cleaning crew came out and had Pea all clean and shiny again in no time. At $10 a foot, we’ve found its best to have this task done anywhere north of the Florida state line. South of it the asking price goes up considerably.

Tuesday morning Don was busy with switching over our Winegard system from Direct TV to Dish. We’re both looking forward to having The Weather Channel back again but hate having to relearn the tv channels and recording setup.

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We’re going to have a busy schedule for the next week and a half when we return “home” so on our final morning I thought it would be a good idea to get my grocery shopping done beforehand. Also, with Elkhart being close to Wakarusa and Nappanee we treated ourselves to a little outing. Wakarusa Dime Store is the home of the jumbo jellybean and other confectionary delights. With Halloween just around the corner I wanted to pick up a few goodies for the grandchildren and Don can’t resist the malt balls made here. Rocket Science Ice Cream is in Nappanee. I love ice cream! I’d rather have ice cream over any other sweet treat imaginable BUT it has to be good ice cream, not likely found in stores, and my all time favorite ice cream shop is…you guessed it, Rocket Science Ice Cream! At Rocket Science everything is made to order then flash frozen via liquid nitrogen. Here’s the thing though, this Amish owned business uses all fresh ingredients, never frozen or processed. I believe this combination makes all the difference in taste and texture. After having satisfied our sweet toothes it was back to the Suite Pea to prepare for an early departure tomorrow morning.

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Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Short Stops

We left northern Michigan in a driving rain. If it wasn’t for needing to be at the RV repair shop bright and early the following morning we would’ve waited out the weather. But as anyone with an RV needing work done will tell you, you take whatever appointment you can get, too many RVs, not enough RV technicians. As it turned out we went from being cold and wet to scorching hot in northern Indiana.

This was our first time using Twin Lakes RV Repair in Lagrange. Thor / DRV recommended them to Don as they do all of their non warranty work on DRVs. Interstate, the last repair company that DRV recommended to us was a bitter disappointment. The owner-technician at Interstate clearly didn’t want to be bothered doing some of the repairs we requested that would’ve taken a little effort on his part to accomplish. Also, his customer service was poor. Obviously we weren’t sure what to expect this time. I will say it was pleasant doing business with them. They got us in promptly upon our arrival and immediately focused on our rig until the job was completed. The work was done in a timely manner and the owner, Jay, was wonderful with keeping us updated on the work as it progressed. We are extremely pleased.

After we returned to our campsite, Don contacted AT&T / Direct TV to have them send a satellite signal to our new location as we had severe thunderstorm warnings for our area. Our tv had been sitting dormant for the 2 plus months we were on the family property. AT&T blatantly told him that they were no longer serving the RVing community. WOW! 18 years of loyalty with Direct TV meant nothing not to mention the money invested in our Winegard traveler installed on Suite Pea’s roof. WOW AGAIN! Don investigated switching over to the DISH network but we decided to just go with air tv for the time being. We can always switch later.

Tomorrow we’ll be back on the road. We’re returning to Michigan only this time we’ll be in the southeastern portion right on the shores of Lake Erie. We will be visiting family. Our daughter Leslie, her new husband, and our granddaughter live nearby.

Sterling State Park

We arrived late in the afternoon to gray skies and gusting wind off the lake. The next couple of days went downhill from there which was really too bad because Sterling State Park is truly  awesome for biking and walking. We were unable to do as much of that as we would’ve liked thanks to the remnants of tropical storm Gordon. The last day of our 4 day stay turned out to be a pleasant sunny one with mild temps. We felt it would be the perfect time for a cookout and campfire with the kids before we left.

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Ava, Joe’s daughter Tory, Leslie & Joe

One other thing I ALWAYS must do whenever I’m within 50 miles of it is stop in to my all time favorite restaurant to feast upon my all time favorite food, a Botana from The Matador. Knowing I’d be in the doghouse with my mom and daughters back home for teasing them with photos of our meal, I did purchase Margaret’s homemade hot sauce to give each of them when we return to southern Indiana. It’s my peace offering.

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Manna from heaven ❤️

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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If You Seek a Pleasant Peninsula,

look about you. This is Michigan’s state motto. Obviously everyone knows that Michigan consists of two separate peninsulas, the Upper and the Lower. But, unless one has lived in Michigan or has vacationed here, you may not know that even the peninsulas have peninsulas. There’s the beautifully primitive Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper (U.P.), then you have the Thumb region and the scenic Leelanau Peninsula of the Lower. And, there are Michiganders that don’t even realize that there exists yet a third promontory in the Lower, its Old Mission Peninsula.

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Leelanau Peninsula 

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Fish Town, Leelanau Peninsula

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore just south of Leelanau Peninsula

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Warning sign at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Those are people down below

The view down to Lake Michigan shoreline from on top the Sleeping Bear. Notice the people below, I’ve circled them in red.

Old Mission is a favorite haunt of ours and we make it a point to revisit it every time we are in northern Michigan. Since we will be getting back on the road again soon, we made Old Mission our last hurrah. We did have a specific place in mind when the three of us headed out but we chose to take a circuitous meandering route as the scenery and breathtaking water vistas along the way are just as inviting as our  destination.

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Cherry trees in bloom on Old Mission Peninsula. West Grand Traverse Bay in background. 

Schooner spotted on Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, MI

Schooner on Grand Traverse Bay

The peninsula is a narrow finger of land that juts out into Grand Traverse Bay, dividing it into the East Bay and the West Bay. This strip of land is only about a mile wide but extends 22 miles into the surrounding water. In our youth the peninsula was mainly family farms, cherry orchards, and forests. It’s changed plenty over the years. The orchards are still there, after all this is the Cherry Capitol of the World, but the farmland has given way to a multitude of vineyards and hops growing operations and one lone lavender farm. We traversed the entire stretch of land to where the road dead ends at Lighthouse Park, our stopping place.

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Old Mission Point Lighthouse

Old Mission Lighhouse

When the water level is down in Lake Michigan, Old Mission Point Beach looks like this. Normally this is underwater all the way up to the lighhouse steps.

Lighthouse Park is a good starting point to learn a bit of the peninsula’s history. For starters there’s the historic Hessler Log Cabin, originally built in the 1850’s. It offers a view of what pioneer life was like back when the area was first being settled. Just across from the cabin sits Old Mission Lighthouse. Erected in 1870 after a ship hit a shallow reef and sank off the point where the lighthouse now sits. It was used to guide Mariners through West Grand Traverse Bay until it was decommissioned in 1933. It sat empty until 1948 when the few peninsula residents took up a collection in order to purchase and care for the historic light. Today it is open to the public for self guided tours. For a small fee, you can climb the tower that once housed a 5th Order Fresnal Lens. Another interesting fact about this lighthouse is that it sits at the 45th Parallel, exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. One other bonus is the wide dog friendly beach with its shallow Caribbean blue tinted water. A favorite of Beau’s. We’re not sure if it’s swimming in the cool refreshing water or the attention from all the children that he likes best here.

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Other points of interest on the peninsula are The Log Church, a replica of the original Mission that was used to school the local Chippewa children, from whence  the peninsula took its name. The Old Mission General Store is another favorite of ours. It’s one of Michigan’s oldest general stores dating back to the mid 1800’s. One look inside and you find it hasn’t changed much over the years. There’s also nine wineries and one micro brewery open for tours and tasting. We stopped at one before departing, Black Star Farms, for a couple of bottles of their award winning cherry wine.

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Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse at the base of the Mackinac Bridge

Point Betsie

Often photographed Point Betsie on Lake Michigan

Top left is St. Joseph Lighthouse, beneath is Round Island Light in the Straits of Mackinac, on right is Grand Island East Channel Light, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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South Haven Lighhouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse, Copper Harbor, MI

Copper Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior, Keweenaw Peninsula

Big Red

Big Red

Miners Castle, Picture Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, MI

Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Since I’m on the subject of lighthouses, here’s a few fascinating facts. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state except Alaska. Just how many? The information available is conflicting depending on how many were built, how many are still in use, the condition of the lighthouse, etc. but suffice it say the number is still over 100 existing beacons dotted around both Upper and Lower Michigan today.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls in Autumn

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Lower Tahquamenon Falls

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Sunrise on an Upper Michigan lake

Mackinac Island waterfront

Mackinac Island Harbor as viewed from Fort Mackinac

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The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island. Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour was filmed here.

I also thought this post would be a good one to add photos of a few other natural and man made Michigan attractions for any of my followers who may be inclined to visit our state of birth in the future. Many of these pics will include water, hard to get away from it when four of the five Great Lakes abut Michigan. When no matter where you are within the state, you are never more than six miles from a body of water AND never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. And I’m sure y’all have heard that Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, well Michigan has it beat with more than 11,000. One of which is Torch Lake, named the world’s third most beautiful lake by National Geographic. Michigan has 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and for all of you waterfall aficionados, nearly 200 waterfalls, most of which are located in the Upper.

Frankenmuth in central Lower Michigan is a must see. A great place to take a stroll or horse drawn carriage ride. Take in the architecture, dine at Zehnder’s & do a little shopping at Bronner’s.

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Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains is breathtaking in the Fall

Jordan River Valley

East Jordan River Valley Overlook in Autumn

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Overlooking the town of Copper Harbor, Lake Fanny Hoe & Lake Superior from on top Brockway Mountain, Keweenaw Peninsula

I hope today’s post inspires you to come and explore America’s 26th state. Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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SR 612 Crawford County

Sunrise over Lake Erie

Lake Superior sunset

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Fun and Excitement

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AuSable River in downtown Grayling

Every year since 1947 the AuSable River Canoe Marathon is held in Grayling, Michigan. The marathon is a non-stop race that departs from Grayling and ends 120 miles away on the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, Michigan. Contestants must navigate the winding AuSable avoiding obstacles such as tree stumps in total darkness. The race is very competitive and canoeists come from all over to compete and complete the course in the time allotted. It’s very grueling.

Grayling hosts the AuSable River Festival during the week prior to, culminating with the marathon. Some of the activities included are Arts & Crafts vendors, a parade, entertainment, beer tents, and the like. One of the sponsored events is the HUP (Hurry Up & Paddle) Race, a spoof on the AuSable Canoe Marathon. The goal is to build a canoe which will stay afloat through the entire HUP Race course. Each registered team is supplied the same items from which to assemble their “canoe” with, plywood, a few boards, a handful of nails, and a roll of duct tape. Each entrants  goal is to stay afloat while completing the course in the least amount of time. The competitors race two at a time. Dad, Don and I went into Grayling to watch and to cheer on the Kalkaska Eagles against the Grayling Eagles. The two Fraternal Orders have been competing against each other in this race for the past 10 years and Kalkaska has lost in every one of those years.

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We arrived early to get a good vantage point and to look over all of the “canoes.” It was a lot of fun to watch, and always hilarious to witness a “canoe”  and it’s paddler sinking into the crystal clear water. I’m pleased to announce that although the Kalkaska Eagles didn’t win the race over all, they did FINALLY beat out their nemesis, the Grayling Eagles.

Don spends much of each day practicing or writing music and at least once a week he has a gig to do, so to break it up a bit we decided to set aside one day each week to go on an outing together. We decided on the Leelanau Peninsula for our first outing. Originally we thought of going to Fishtown for the day but the traffic became heavier the closer we got to town so we switched course and visited a couple of our favorite wineries instead.

The area’s climate is perfect for growing grapes and hops, making Traverse City with its Old Mission Peninsula, and the Leelanau Peninsula internationally known for its wineries and micro breweries. One can even book a tour package if so inclined or pick up a tour map and visit on one’s own. Over the years we have done wine tastings at several, nowadays we just stop at a couple to purchase our preferred wines. One last stop at the Dockside on Grand Traverse Bay to purchase some of the best smoked jerky around then off to one of the many public parks along the water’s edge to wade, relax, and take pictures.

Downtown Traverse City

Downtown Traverse City

Another outing was to do a little shopping in Traverse City’s historic downtown. A very vibrant, eclectic, thriving part of TC with many upscale and unique shops and restaurants, food trucks, a walkway along the Boardman River, and a restored 1916 movie theater. While I shopped for zippered hoodies for our two youngest granddaughters, Don looked around for yet another hat (I’ve lost count of how many he now has.) Of course no shopping trip to Traverse City would be complete without a stop at Cherry Republic, after all, this is the Cherry Capitol of the World. We sampled many of the goodies then made our purchases. Don later paid the price of over sampling the hot cherry and ghost pepper salsa. Later we dined at Tally’s,  a favorite burger joint.

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Lucky

Our little up north neck of the woods is teeming with wildlife. It’s not unusual to spot a deer, squirrel, or turkey daily. Raccoons, porcupine, Bald and Golden Eagles have been spotted and the pond off of the back two track has beaver and otter. But in all the 40 years I’ve been coming up here I’ve never seen a fox….until this week. Apparently Steve, the young man down the lane,  has been adopted by an orphaned gray fox kit. The fox has taken up residence under Steve’s front porch. The two have become so accustomed to one another that the kit will come to Steve when called, he named him Lucky, and will even race down the driveway to greet Steve when he hears his car pull in. Steve intends to apply for a special permit from the DNR so that he can keep and raise Lucky as a pet. I do hope it’s granted.

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Did I mention we also have the occasional black bear sighting as well? A bear sighting is always very exciting and last Wednesday evening really got our pulse rates up. Don and I were up to my father’s watching Yellowstone on the tv with him when shortly after the show started we heard a loud thump on the back deck. We all went to window to look out and here was this big black bear with the knocked over can of sunflower seed my father keeps to feed the birds. He had knocked it off the deck, popping the lid off and now was enjoying his newfound treat. The men tried to scare him off by yelling and banging things but to no avail. Even Beau and Max’s barking had no effect. The bear completely ignored their efforts. It took dad firing two shots off from his Smith and Wesson to finally make the bear retreat. Even so, he returned again later that night. We’re more than a little baffled by this bear’s behavior since the berries are in season and there’s an abundance of them this summer. I guess hiking the back trail is going to be off limits for awhile.

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Sorry this pic isn’t clear. It was taken thru a window screen with a cell phone.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Catching Up

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Bear Lane, the road leading to the property.

It’s been brought to my attention by more than one person that I have been remiss in giving an update about our truck and Suite Pea’s awning. Alright. I admit it. I’m a slacker. So here it is in a nutshell.

After spending 4 days in the service department at Ford’s AND being driven back and forth to work by the service department manager, the truck’s turbo never acted up once. Nothing showed up on the diagnostics they ran either. In a way we are grateful but we know the truck has it in for us and is just biding it’s time, laying in wait for when we least expect it.

As for the new awning, we are still in limbo. It took our RV insurance company (Progressive), 11 days after the fact before an insurance adjuster came out. We gave them an estimate by the only reputable RV repairman in the area. Progressive sent us a check for considerably less than was needed. By the time this was accomplished it was too late to order the replacement awning, let alone install it, before we departed Indiana. Fortunately we know another reputable RV repairman in Grayling, Michigan who has done work for us before. Don gave him a call, explained our situation and an awning was ordered right away. Don submitted the new estimate to Progressive. We were told another check is in the mail. We are still awaiting the second check. The awning is in and we expect installation next Wednesday. YEA! We’ve REALLY missed our awning on rainy days and hot days.

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The property before being logged.

It’s been 18 days since we first arrived at the family property. We’ve had a lot of family up especially over the 4th of July holiday week. Our oldest drove up for a visit with 4 of our grandchildren in tow as well as our oldest granddaughter’s boyfriend. All of us, along with a handful of cousins, attended the local firework display. Always fun for me since I’m big on fireworks. Kristi and I took one day to take her 2 little ones on an outing to Leland and Suttons Bay. We had a beautiful day for it.

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Fishtown

Don has been keeping quite busy either doing trail work or performing. Last year while we were up visiting my father, (he had open heart surgery last Summer), a lumber company came through and logged some timber off the land. They not only left behind a huge mess, they also obliterated the trail that ran the back end of the property. Don has taken it upon himself to clear a new trail which unlike the previous one, will only be on the family acreage and not on the adjoining property. Although that has never been an issue since the adjoining property is owned by my cousins, should they ever decide to sell it could become a point of contention. The new path now runs along the perimeter of our land.

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The new trail is taking shape. Notice the downed trees to the right, thats how most of the property looked after the loggers came through.

Don has been playing at the local Eagle aerie weekly and also has 2 house concerts on tap while we are here. It’s given him an opportunity to try out his new tunes on a live audience so he can gauge their reaction.

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milkweed field

Milkweed

 

And what have I been doing? Mostly battling allergies. The milkweed is in bloom and much to my chagrin, it grows profusely up and down the road. It and I do not cohabitate well.  The butterflies love it though and the place is teeming with them. Since I do enjoy watching them flit around and I do admire their delicate beauty, I guess I’ll just accept the sneezing, runny nose and sinus headache.

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Last but not least is Beau. He loves it on the property. He gets to chase rabbits in the morning, go swimming during the day, go for golf cart rides in the evening, and best of all, visit his human grandpa who’s sure to have a handful of treats waiting for him. Can you say spoiled?

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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Beau & I spotted these turkeys while on his evening ride.

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Running Full Bore

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Our site at Hickory Hills

Whew, I can’t believe how fast the past four weeks have flown by! We’ve had something happening most every day and on the few days nothing was going on, we played catch up around the Suite Pea. Let’s see, we’ve had overnight guests on several occasions, hosted campfires and a Memorial Day pitch-in with the family. We watched our 3 year old granddaughter learn to swim at the local YMCA and listened to our 10 year old granddaughter sing during church service. We celebrated yet another May birthday, that of our oldest granddaughter Maddy.  We had appointments scheduled with our doctors, dentist, and optometrist. We checked out the local farmers market and attended Ellettsville’s first food truck Wednesday. Don helped our youngest put in her first garden patch, and the biggest, most time consuming project was building a wheelchair ramp for my mother.

Bobbi took measurements of the existing front deck and distance to the driveway for me. With dimensions in hand and a little Internet research I was able to draw up plans for a ramp and walkway which I gave to mom so she could apply for a building permit. Once she received the approval, my father drove down from northern Michigan to assist Don in building the ramp. Don was grateful for dad’s help as it was a pretty big project. They removed the deck steps and a large lilac bush, then added a 15′ ramp with handrails. Wouldn’t you know it, the temperatures hovered in the 90’s the entire week and mom’s yard offers no shade, but they persevered. Even with taking several water and rest breaks, by the third day it was obvious the heat was taking a toll on pop and with him having undergone open heart surgery just last summer, we all felt it was best when he left early to return home. He reported it was 30 to 40 degrees cooler back in the north woods. Much more to his liking. Don was able to finish the project on his own. While he was at it he also replaced several boards on both the front and back decks. Next was the 17′ of walkway he laid from the ramp end to the driveway. He discussed a couple of different options with my mother before deciding on the most economical one. Fortunately Bobbi was able to help him with laying the pavers. I know Don’s pleased to have passed the city’s inspection and have this project behind him. And mom is thrilled to have easier access to the outside again.

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With my mom’s “honey-do” list completed, Don moved on to redoing all of the seams on Suite Pea’s roof. Apparently this past winter in Florida had taken its toll upon it.  Speaking of taking a toll, our pocketbook took another unexpected hit when we noticed one of the truck’s back wheels was flat. It was the same wheel that had gone flat in Memphis last Spring. We hadn’t planned on replacing the truck tires until next year but closer inspection made us decide to have it done while we are “home.” This way we know who we’re dealing with.  While I’m on the subject of the truck, we had the old girl in the shop last week and she’ll be going back again tomorrow. We’ve had 3 incidences now where she’s lost power while navigating these hilly back roads. Don thinks it’s the turbo. Last week at the Ford service department a diagnostic test was run but nothing showed up. Tomorrow we’ll leave the truck with Ford for a few days to let the techs drive her around the countryside and run her hard on the Interstate. We’ll see if she acts up for them. This leads us (partly) to the reason we’re still in southern Indiana since we were supposed to pull out on May 31st.

Now for the other reason, Suite Pea went up against strong wind gusts last Thursday and lost her awning in the process. Yesiree, the fabric ripped free and the arms were completely mangled. It happened so suddenly the best we could do was hang on to the roller to keep it from blowing up onto the roof and possibly cutting it. Once the wind subsided Don removed most of the awning, it was blocking our door. We are currently waiting on an insurance rep to come out. While watching the news that evening we learned the wind gusts had been 60 to 70 mph and there had been 49 reports of wind damage. Spencer lost power and I later learned that my family over in Ellettsville had lost power also.

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The extended stay will hopefully give a chance to get together with at least some of our Indiana friends. Thus far we’ve only managed to meet up with Don’s old boss Greg and his wife Ginger. We wanted to join in celebrating Greg’s retirement since we’re uncertain when we’ll see them again. They’ve already sold their cabin and are packing to move to Florida. We couldn’t be any happier for them! As so often happens when folks move, they also downsize. Greg and Ginger aren’t any different in that respect, so what was once Don’s, then became Ginger’s, is now Don’s again. What am I talking about? His Ovation guitar. So yep, we are now traveling with 3 guitars in our little home on wheels.

On a high note, Don’s song Paradise which was released earlier this month has been getting lots of air play nationwide on Internet Trop Rock stations and a handful of FM radio stations. It’s made the Trop Rock Top 40 three weeks in a row. It’s kind of surreal hearing his voice coming out over the air waves, but Don’s having the time of his life with this. What little free time he’s had he’s been busy with his music. Writing lyrics, practicing, communicating with DJ’s, and getting his songs copyrighted. There are times when this has been quite frustrating due to our poor Verizon reception. Oh yes,  and having artwork done. We recently learned that when a song is released its required to have an accompanying cover.  It’s Don’s good fortunate to have once worked with a very talented artist named Tim Havron. Don got in touch with Tim, gave him a general idea of what he was looking for, then let Tim’s imagination run wild. Don’s thrilled with the result. As am I. What do y’all think?

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If you look closely you can find Beau Bear over by the Tiki hut. By the way, Tim’s the one who designed our As Time Goes….Bye logo for us.

Lastly, and this hasn’t anything to do with our busy month, we discovered we have uninvited camper guests. Apparently the little fellow who hung around our doorstep all winter long decided to come along for the ride north. He’s been spotted on our steps a time or two this past week. Yesterday, much to our amazement, he introduced us to his wife and kids. I only hope they continue to hang with us until we get back south. Northern winters can be harsh on common house lizards.

 

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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No Grass Growing Under Our Feet

We’re back in our home state of Indiana!

After an uneventful 6 hour drive we were ready to park it, settle in, then explore this new to us RV park. BUT the camping gods weren’t having it. Don pulled into the requisite slot by the office while I checked us in. With that taken care of, Don was told to follow Vickie, one of the park owners, to our site. When Vickie made her first turn, I knew we were in trouble. The turn was too tight for a rig our size and a tree was situated too near the turn. Too late! The branches scraped the top half of Suite Pea on  her door side leaving some nasty marks. (I sure hope Don can buff those out.) On Vickie’s next turn, I could see right away we wouldn’t be able to make it and shouted at Don to stop. Too many obstacles were in the way. I called for Don to park the truck, get out, and to come see what I seeing. At this point Vickie confessed to us that she and her brother were still on a learning curve when it came to operating the park. She suggested to Don that he cut across the backend of a campsite to reach the gravel lane she wanted us on. Don was leery. This region had seen a lot of rain lately. He was concerned the ground was too boggy. He should have listened to his gut. Instead he took Vickie’s and another camper’s word for it that the ground was firm enough and our truck, having 4W drive, could handle it. You see where this is headed don’t you?

One hour and one front end loader full of rocks later, Suite Pea was freed from the muck. Don proceeded to follow Vickie to our designated spot, a pull-thru site wedged  between two trees. Don just shook his head. We ended up parked two sites further up. Vickie told me afterwards she could see she still had some work to do to accommodate bigger rigs.

On a side note, we noticed the following day that a new gravelled turn lane had been put in where we had bogged down the previous day.

The following day wasn’t any less hectic . We touched bases with my mom, our daughters and grandchildren, Don saw the eye doctor, I grocery shopped,  and we picked up a wooden swing set our youngest had ordered for her daughter’s upcoming birthday. Needless to say, Don and Bobbi-Leigh spent the next two and a half days assembling the gazillion pieces into a recognizable play set.

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The finished product

That first Saturday was also prom weekend. Our granddaughter Maddy and her boyfriend Nolan stopped by so my mom could see them dressed in their finery, giving me an opportunity to take photos too. Then they were headed off to the park where Maddy’s aunt Shawnie took professional photos of them. I’m sharing some of each.

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May 1st, our granddaughter’s 3rd birthday. After running a couple of errands, Don and I swung by our granddaughter’s daycare, picked her up and took her out for a birthday dinner while her mommy got things set up for the party. She obviously knew where she was because right away she started asking if she could “ride the pony.” Which of course she did.  She was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention she received.

Later, back at her house, Kendra celebrated her birthday with family and the elderly couple from across the street that she “adopted.” She loved her swing set present best. So did her cousins.

The following day was a big one for Don. Lyle and Sonya Wilson invited us to dine out with them. Lyle’s a DJ with Radio A1A out of Key West where he headlines the Weekdays with Wilson Show. We found him and his lovely wife Sonya very easy to talk to and very down to earth.  In fact, Lyle is the man who started this whole ball rolling when he requested Don send him a song he’d heard him perform. So it was fitting to be dining out with them on the eve that Don’s first single was released.

Thursday found us celebrating yet another birthday, that of our only great grandchild’s. It was Mia’s 2nd birthday and both family and friends turned out to help her celebrate. One particular present captured her attention totally and that was the end of opening any of her other gifts. Too funny.

Don’s single “Paradise” made its debut Friday morning over Radio A1A’s airwaves. It was an emotional moment for both of us as we listened to him croon the tune he penned come out of our Bluetooth radio. He was kept mighty busy for most of the morning responding to congratulatory messages. Later that afternoon we heard it being played on Apalachicola’s Oyster Radio. I don’t know who is more excited, Don? Or our three daughters?

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This completes our first week back “home” and the pace won’t be letting up anytime soon. Now, about the new to us campground.

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We have struggled finding a place suitable to us that’s also close to our daughters. In the past we have stayed in one of the local state parks which is fine for a short stay but our plans typically have us visiting longer than two weeks, which is the longest you’re permitted to camp in a state park. Now there are a handful of state parks in this vicinity but again, we would have to rotate between them every two weeks and who wants to do that? Other choices have been Lake Monroe Village, which is way over priced for a park that actually has no lake access, and charges an astronomical fee for each guest, each time they visit your camp. This is whether they use the park’s facilities or not. Way too expensive for us folks. The other option, and the one we used most often, is Jellystone Park at Lake Monroe. Again, the name is misleading, it also has no access to the lake. And, it too is pricey but it offered so much to entertain our grandchildren with at no extra cost. Compared to our other options we felt it was our best fit even though the excessive noise, and cramped campsites drove us nuts at times.

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Majority of sites are seasonal but all sites are spacious

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Hickory Hills has 2 lakes. Many of the lakeside sites have decks on the water

Bobbi heard about Hickory Hills when she switched jobs. She and my mother checked it out then told us about it. Thus far we’ve been pleased with the place. It’s not a destination park as there is absolutely nothing to draw you to this area except farmland. Neither is it an overnight stop between destinations as its miles from the Interstate and quite a ways off any state routes. Fact is, you’ll need to drive a good 1.5 miles down a narrow road just to reach a second narrow road, this one gravel. It’s another mile of dust flying before you reach the campground. It’s so remote, it’s quiet, and it suits us just fine. It’s the kind of haven you need after a busy snowbird season in Florida. The amenities and the park’s appearance are even better than we anticipated. I think we’re going to like it here. Now and in the future. Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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A Favorite Stopover

It’s been soggy in Nashville. Nine of our fourteen day stay has been damp, chilly, and rainy, which has been very disappointing considering we’ve had the perfect campsite. This is the first time since we’ve been coming here that we’ve been able to score a lakeside site. It’s also the worst weather conditions we’ve ever had while here. What luck, eh! Still, the view from our rear window has been incredible. We’ve watched the rain come across the lake toward us, and the loons submerging themselves into the water only to reappear a few feet further away. We witnessed a seaplane land on the surface and taxi over to the dock. We’ve watched a Bald Eagle soar over the SuitePea and a Blue Heron that fishes the shoreline behind us each morning, and once, Don was lucky enough to see an Osprey swoop done and catch a fish in its talons. We’ll take life’s little pleasures where we can find them.

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We did manage a few outings when the weather was cooperative. Knowing Beau needed to get out and stretch his legs after spending 3 rainy days in a row inside, we took him to Centennial Park near downtown. The 132 acre park was once farmland but was turned into the state fairgrounds after the Civil War. In 1897, it was the site of Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, which earned the park it’s name.

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After the expo ended, many of the buildings and exhibits were dismantled except for the bandshell, an exact replica of  The Parthenon in Athens, Greece,  which is the park’s main feature, and the landscaping with its beautiful sunken gardens. Other features have since been added, such as a cultural arts center, a sports complex, sculptures, picnic area, and more. One of its features is a huge off leash dog park. I felt it would be the ideal place for Beau to burn off some energy. Upon arrival though, we discovered that much of the play area was muddy so we nixed that idea. However, the rest of park was the perfect setting for a dog friendly stroll. The walking paths are all paved and will take you in numerous directions. We chose the paths that took us around the lake and to The Parthenon. Beau made many new friends of both the two legged and four legged variety.

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Parthenon

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Another outing was to Antique Archaeology Nashville. It is one of two shops affiliated with the American Pickers Show on the History Channel. Anticipating a crowd we made certain to arrive prior to opening. Good planning on our part.  It didn’t take very long at all to go through as it was much smaller than we’d expected. There’s some pretty unique stuff on display but overall it, like our weather, proved disappointing. Don felt too much of the space was dedicated to the sale of tee shirts.

 

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This time through we finally got around to eating at the infamous Loveless Cafe, a Nashville landmark since 1951. Situated on Highway 100 which is part of the Natchez Trail, the restaurant was opened to serve travelers passing through town. A 14 room motel was soon added. Noted for its down home Southern style chicken and biscuits, the cafe has been written about in USA Today, Southern Living, and The Tennessean, just to name a few. It’s also been televised on popular talk and news shows. We went for breakfast and to sample the much sought after buttered biscuits.  The biscuits were good, as was the rest of our food, and the place is kinda kitschy and neat, especially the iconic neon sign out front, but unless we are staying nearby, we wouldn’t go out of our way to return.

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Other than these short ventures into town and one longer one across the state to visit friends in Crossville, we pretty much just hung out in camp. The bad weather did afford Don time to practice and for me to give Suite Pea a good cleaning. I guess we really can’t complain, it’s been a nice relaxing reprieve.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Sunset on J. Percy Priest Lake

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A New Direction?

Never in a million years could Don imagine that he would take this path in his life, and yet, here he is. It began innocently enough.

When we were preparing to embark on this full time lifestyle, one of the things we had to do was downsize our possessions. That was easy enough but we also had to consider how our hobbies would play into this. I was into scrapbooking. Don coached girls softball and dabbled in golf, fishing, and music, more specifically, he played guitar and sang, mainly for his own enjoyment.

It was obvious from the very beginning that I would cease my scrapbooking when we moved into the Suite Pea. After all, where would I store a roomful of albums, stickers, photos, and all of the other supplies that made my hobby possible. In its place I took over this travel blog that Don had started a few years back.

Don retired from his coaching, sold his guitar, downsized his fishing gear, and loaded what remained of it and his golf clubs into the pass-thru. It didn’t take long into our traveling for him to realize that he seldom used his clubs nor rods and tackle. Thus all they were doing was taking up valuable storage space. So what to do to alleviate boredom on the road? He could only spend just so much time napping and reading. This was when he decided to pick up a guitar again and as fate would have it, we just happened to be parked in a little COE outside of Nashville. What better place to shop for a new guitar.

Over the ensuing few years Don honed his picking and strumming. Don’t get me wrong, he’d always played the guitar well, ever since he was a little boy. As a young man he played gigs in bars and special events both solo or with a band, but with a job transfer to another state and a growing family, those days were put behind him. Now, being retired and having time on his hands, he was back at it again. Then, just for fun he started writing his own tunes and lyrics. At some point, he put them on YouTube and somewhere along the way a radio disc jockey from A1A radio heard one and contacted Don. This started the ball rollin”.

He started playing more gigs. He made a few connections. The next thing we knew, he had a recording session scheduled with Pirates Cove Studio. Which brings us up to the present.

We originally had made plans to meander around central Florida for a while before making our annual pilgrimage north to see family. Instead, we found ourselves on the Eastern Shore in Lower Alabama, an area we’re both familiar and comfortable with.

On the day of our arrival we met with friends Kenny and Connie, who were also passing through, at Lambert’s Cafe for dinner. Lambert’s is known far and wide for its delicious southern-style cuisine and “throwed rolls”. A visit to this region wouldn’t be complete without at least one meal eaten here. Don spent the next two days practicing his music, as he was due in the studio at 9 AM sharp Friday morning.

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Come Friday, Don was up before the roosters crowed. He swore he wasn’t the least bit nervous because he felt he was well prepared, but he was excited. As was I for him. When Don arrived at the studio, Danny Taddei, the owner, operator, and fellow TropRocker, made Don feel very comfortable. He gave Don the grand tour and explained the process to him. It was a long day for the two of them, Don didn’t return home until almost six that night, and they still had more work to accomplish.

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With the weekend off, the three of us took a road trip. Since we were only 1.5 hour’s drive away from Biloxi, MS, we took the opportunity to check out an RV park we were considering as a future wintering spot. We’re glad we did! Although the ratings and reviews were high for this particular park, it really wasn’t our cup of tea. We felt the sites were way to close together for anything other than a short stay. Besides that, the park wasn’t a good dog walking park and the surrounding area appeared seedy, if you know what I mean. The trip wasn’t a total loss though, the world renowned Shed BBQ restaurant was a mere 19 miles away.

This was our first time eating at The Shed and I’m glad we were forewarned about what to expect. The place is…how should I put this, …a dump. But OMG the Que was by far the best we’ve ever had! If you don’t know by now from reading this blog, Don and I are foodies and we love good barbecue. We’ve tried some of the best BBQ joints in Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, and the Carolinas and let me tell you hands down, The Shed has them all beat.

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Don’t let The Shed’s appearance scare you off. This bbq joint has won the GRAND WORLD BBQ CHAMPIONSHIP, their sauces & rubs have also won numerous awards. They’ve been featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, & Best in Smoke, as well as Live with Regis & Kelly & the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food. Numerous magazine articles have also featured The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint. So, with this portfolio, how can you go wrong?

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On Monday Don & Danny were back at it. It was another long day in the studio. I on the other hand had my own issue to deal with. The furnace thermostat wouldn’t kick in automatically and once it was manually started, it wouldn’t shut off. Fortunately we are in one of our club parks where we are on a first name basis with the resident RV repairman. Pat Buie’s honest and does good work. He came out right away and took care of the matter for us. Thankfully it was just a little corrosion and Pat got it cleaned up and back operating efficiently.

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Tuesday, our last day in LA, Don’s back in the studio. Hopefully his recordings can be completed up to the point where Don’s vocals and strumming will no longer be needed. In the meantime I will prep the Suite Pea for her morning move.

So what is the next phase for Don? We really don’t know. It may not lead anywhere at all but one never knows unless one takes a chance. He doesn’t have any illusions about this, he just thought it’d be nice to be sitting on a beach somewhere and hear one of his songs played on a local TropRock station. Now that would be awesome!

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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It’s A Wrap

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In just a matter of days, we will be wrapping up our time spent wintering in Punta Gorda. We’ve greatly enjoyed the time we’ve spent here, and the new friends we’ve made but the past two months have been pretty hectic and I think we are both ready for a break. I don’t believe we’ve moved at this pace since we both retired from working. 😆

So what have we been up to? Lots! Besides activities here in the park, Don has played a few gigs in area campgrounds and at a local restaurant/music venue. He’s also spent some time tweaking a couple of his songs and writing a new one. His rendition of Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone that he performed for chapel was enthusiastically praised as was the music he did for the fundraiser revue sponsored by the park’s choir.

 

 

We celebrated two birthdays, mine, and Beau Bear’s 2nd, and Don and I observed our Valentines Day wedding anniversary by attending a dinner dance. Then followed it up a few days later by going with longtime friends Brenda and Bogie on a sunset cruise.

 

 

 

 

We dined out (a lot), with old friends, with new friends, with Beau, or occasionally just the two of us.

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New friends, Judy & Ron, & Connie & Kenny with us at Blue Tequila. The margaritas here will kick your butt.

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Old friends, Carla & Mardy, & Janet & Dennis with us at Hurricane Charly’s.

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It’s strawberry season in Florida! I’ve made several of these for pitch-ins lately & they are always a big hit.

The beach called out to us a few times and we answered. Once to the beautiful aqua colored water of Boca Grande but more often to Sanibel Island’s shell strewn dog friendly beaches. Beau loves his beach time as much as we do.

 

 

During the short period when we experienced cooler weather, we visited the waterfront park near the power plant to count how many manatees we could see. I never tire of watching these amazing creatures.

 

 

Twice we met up with family to attend Detroit Tigers Spring training games. My uncle Lloyd has a Winter home in Haines City, not too far from Lakeland where the Tigers play. While my cousin Karla and her husband Larry were in town visiting him, we drove up to join them for a game. They also came down our way to see the Tigers play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rays Sports Park. It was nice spending time with family. I have to say this one thing though, I believe it’s going to be a very loooong season for Tiger fans. 😫

 

 

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Big guy on the left is cousin Larry, then Don, me, uncle Lloyd, & my cousin Karla

And we found some time last Monday to finally get around to visiting Myakka River State Park. The canopy walkway had been on my must do list for a time. The walkway is suspended 25′ above the ground and extends 100′ through the hammock treetops. At the end of the suspension bridge is a tower that rises 74′ into the air. The view from the top is spectacular.

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Myakka River (notice the gators sunning themselves on both sides of the river banks)

 

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Hammock at Myakka River state park

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The suspension walkway

 

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74′ tall tower on the suspension bridge

 

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View from the top

It’s always fun to view alligators in their natural habitat and the Myakka River was very accommodating during our visit. Gators were lined up on both sides of river bank basking in the warm sunshine.

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One other delight on this day was the sighting of a pair of Sandhill Cranes with their offspring. 😍

 

 

 

In between all our outings this past week, we’ve also been preparing the Suite Pea for her usual Spring travels north. Don has cleaned and treated her roof, and given her a good washing. He’s still in the process of sanitizing her fresh water tank and reorganizing her pass-thru. I had the Pea’s carpet professionally cleaned, defrosted the freezer, cleaned the screens and AC vents, and did some minor rearranging of the interior cabinets. Our plans are to roll out the Monday morning following Easter. Hopefully most of the Snowbirds will have left the day before.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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An unusual looking sunset

 

 

 

 

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