Friday, December 15, 2017

Where Have We Been This Year? Pt. 1

Hello, everyone! I am the most terrible blogger out there! I tried doing a different format blog, wordpress, but really didn't like it. It seemed really hard to get photos into and stuff.... I know it isn't but without any real training, I just couldn't get it. Plus, it costs $$ to maintain! This one is free, and pretty easy to do, so I will stick with it for now.

What have we been up to? So much has happened since we began this full time RV adventure back in January! As you probably know, we bought our 05 Alfa See Ya 40 diesel pusher in December of last year, and sold our home (yes, our beautiful Robson Ranch retirement home!) in January. That was when we hit the road, "homeless", and loving it.

We have also begun to do some reno to the RV. As you might imagine, being over 10 years old, there were some things... like the original carpet! Yuck! We also removed the hard RV sofa and got some really comfy lounge chairs.

We have also added some cabinetry to give us some more storage space, and a place for the coffee pot. We actually had this work done in Mexico for a fraction of the cost! You can also see the flooring we chose, an Armstrong laminate, along with the darker carpet in the slide area. As we are working on some other projects, stay tuned for more!

We've been a number of places since January. The first stop was Arizona, where we were able to winter near Jeff's dad in Chandler. At the RV park we chose in Casa Grande, we met some other Alfa owners. Who knew that there was such a community of people! We have had so much fun getting to know the other owners, hanging out with them at rallies, and events. There are a number that winter in southern Arizona, many in the Casa Grande area. One of the best benefits? Many of them know so much about this wonderful coach called Alfa! We have enjoyed getting to know them. And, after visiting with a number of Alfa owners at Quartzite and again at the 2018 alfa rally, that number is growing! Yes, I miss my friends from our neighborhood, and my friends from the fire department, and my friends from the running community! But it is nice to know that a lifestyle change like this allows for keeping up with all of those folks, AND making new friends!

Once it began to get hot in AZ, we put our attention to other places. I consider Norwex to be a totally wonderful boon to RVer's, as it has helped us save on space, and weight. So, I decided to share with other RV owners at a couple of very large rallies. The biggest was the FMCA, which was about 2,700 coaches! This was a lot of fun, but frankly, I didn't do as well as hoped. And since we have been on the road, my business has suffered a bit, as I just have so much time! Shame on me for letting such a great product go unsung everywhere I've been! Anyway, we had the opportunity to share at the Alfa Owners rally in April 2017. There, I was able to give a presentation. During the presentation, one of the ladies asked me about some water stains she had in her ceiling, that she had not been able to get out after a number of tries. I took my stuff over to her coach later that afternoon, and in 15 minutes, removed those stains with just water and a bit of Norwex laundry soap! I just love finding new ways to fall in love with Norwex!

From there, we headed to Bend, Oregon for the summer. Jeff's beautiful sister Lisa had been battling cancer for many years, and we wanted to spend some quality time with her. I know that the weeks we spent there meant a lot to Jeff, as they were very close. It was also nice to be able to spend some time with our brother in law, Steve. Having a wife battling cancer for 7 years can really be hard on a person! We were able to take a bit of a load off him, and spend some time with him, as well. Usually, after sitting with Lisa all day, the three of us would go somewhere for dinner. Bend has some really fine restaurants!

One of Jeff's favorite restaurants, which was in the front of an exclusive gym facility, has a light fixture made of bicycle chains! Very original!

We were lucky to have hooked up with a fellow Escapee (another social group for RVer's!), who had an RV hookup on his property. He allowed us to stay there for several weeks. It turns out that Bend is very crowded, and very expensive, during the summer! Sadly, Lisa lost her battle with that horrible disease in late June. The memorial service was held in late July in order to accommodate some family and church needs. It was great seeing so many family members!

One of the reasons that Bend is so busy and crowded during the summer, is the absolute plethora of outdoorsy things to do in the area. It is a beautiful state, with plenty of hiking, kayaking, etc. Jeff and I visited a number of great spots there. One of my favorites was Smith Rock. I wish I was more able to hike to his level, but we still had some fun. It was hazy from smoke the day we went, but it is really a cool place. It is also a great rock climbing place! And not too remote, but there were stokes baskets and stuff placed on the trail periodically. Pretty interesting!

With so many places to hike in the area, which is surrounded by mountains, we made a number of day trips.

This is a portion of the Deschutes River, which was adjacent to the property we stayed on. It was an easy walk down to the river. Jeff took the dogs down almost every morning!

Obviously, the dogs were not too sure about the water!

I could coax them into the water, but they didn't really like it. Zada preferred sitting on the edge!

This was a bridge over a very large gorge there in central Oregon. The bridge is part of the original Blue Star Highway. It is now a bungee jumping place. We watched...

Although they had a short wall at the cliff edge, it was still pretty dangerous!

After the memorial service, we headed for the Oregon coast. This was our first stop, Pacific City, at the 1000 Trails park there. We purchased a 1000 Trails camping pass for just a few hundred bucks. However, we have yet to really be impressed AT ALL with their parks! None we have stayed in had working sewer connections, the sites are very small and narrow, and overgrown. The interesting thing about Pacific City was the bunnies! The place was overrun! And it was just a very short trail down to the beach. We let the girls off leash a few times, and they really had a great time running around.

The trail down to the beach.

The Oregon coast is very pretty! 

There were a BUNCH of bunnies! This one took spinach out of my hand!

Stay tuned for part 2 of Where Have We Been This Year?! My plan is to catch this up to NOW (May 2018) and then post a much smaller version weekly, where we've been and what interesting things we've seen! There is still a lot to talk about to get to that point, though. Don't despair! :)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Farewell to a Gracious Lady

It is pretty interesting that I can write these amazing blogs while driving the car, but never be able to remember them enough to write them down once I get home to the computer! Funny how that works.

Last week, Jeff's aunt Janiece passed away. She was 92, and she was the most amazing lady! Always so gracious, and always wore lipstick, sparkly earrings, and great shoes. We had hoped to drive out to Hemet to visit her once we got settled here. Sadly, we didn't see her again. We drove out on Friday night for the Saturday funeral, and of course, took the dogs. Her brother, Jeff's dad, rode all the way out there for the service with Jeff's sister Sharon. It was very nice. Janiece would have been honored to see the turn out! The little chapel was nearly full of friends and relatives. Like her pastor noted, not many people usually attend the service for someone over 90. They just outlive everyone!

It really was great to see some of the relatives, although I would hope to see them under happier circumstances next time. The whole Venable and Hardy clan are fun to be around, and I love listening to the old stories. For instance, my father in law Cal started flying at the age of 12. He wanted to be a crop duster, and so he was. He went on to fly in 3 wars for the U.S. Air Force (in the early days it was the Army Air Corps). And the stories about Janiece and her husband, Hardy, were pretty funny. He was a Navy man, but once he left service, they settled in Hemet where Janiece was born. Bought a store there, and also had a sanitation business. Hardy built outhouses. They raised their kids in the same town she grew up in, which hardly ever seems to happen any more! There were more stories, of course. Not the least of which is the one that revolves around the genealogy of the Venable name. My father in law, being a good military guy from WWII, has always refused to use anything French. His wife, Mary, was of Italian descent, with Gramma Rosio coming from a small town in the Italian Alps. Great story! Anyway, one of the Venables that I don't really know has been working on the family tree on the Venable side. Turns out that there is a town in France called Venables, and they have found ties to that family which dates back to Gilbert Venables in the first century BC! So, as it turns out, there is a good chance that Cal Venable is himself of French descent. I got a good giggle out of that one!

You gotta love California, too. Roses are in bloom, and the bougainvillea as well.  It was cool there, too, but not as cool at night as here in Phoenix. And the orange trees along the main street in town were heavy with ripe fruit! Of course, all the low hanging fruit was gone! We couldn't reach any....

Can you see the snow caps off in the distance?
On our way back, we decided to take the southern route through the mountains down to Interstate 8.
The road out of Hemet was so pretty! I don't know, I just like driving through foot hills! But this area was like something out of the Hobbit! There were big, huge boulders tossed everywhere on the hillsides. Down in the valleys where they would farm, no boulders! I wondered how difficult it was to clear that flat land. But the boulders might not have been in the flat areas. We wound around through there for miles and miles! I was in heaven, driving through there. We cruised through some countryside that I have never seen before. So beautiful! Just before a little town called Alguanga, we were just tooling along, and suddenly there was a big field with all of these metal sculptures! Of course I pulled in to get some photos.



Kept driving through the foothills, following the google GPS. There was a place called the Stagecoach Inn, which was on a historic stagecoach route. We kept seeing signs for historic places related to that stagecoach route. I think it was called the Butterfield stagecoach. We passed in and out of the boulder strewn hills, through areas with the biggest, gnarliest Live oak trees you have ever seen! Then, we passed through some really desolate country. I can't imagine anyone living there, much less settling there 200 years ago! However, we were faithfully following the stagecoach route! Then we passed into the Cayamaca Rancho State Park. Talk about some beautiful mountain desert! This place had it all! Saguaro, ocotillo, some barrel looking cactus, and some fuzzy cactus! The road was a bit windy and had no place to pull off through that section, or I would have a pic of it. I love that type of terrain! Not to live in but to look at. There was not much traffic there, either. Pretty amazing, seeing as how we were in San Diego county! Once we passed out of the park, we found a huge wind farm. I was able to pull off and get that pic as the sun was going down. You could see the dark sort of creeping up behind the wind mills.

Finally, we found the interstate. There is nothing on that highway.... it is just a road to San Diego! By the time we reached the interstate, it was getting dark. Probably a good thing, as it clearly was pretty flat and featureless. I noticed the smell of wet earth and water, and now and again, we could smell the chemicals that were being fed to the fields. Not sure whether I was smelling fertilizer or pesticide, but it was hard to miss!

I'm pretty sure Zilly and Zada were just happy to be along for the ride! They would rather be with us wherever we are than stuck at home by themselves!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Settling In

Well, actually, we have been here at the Casa Grande RV Park for about 2 weeks. It has been bitter cold, and windy, and rainy! Finally, the last couple of days it actually got above 60. Should be looking at shorts weather by next week!

We are still setting up. Been too cold to put out any patio stuff yet! Next week!

I had a miserable cold for the whole drive out here. Once that cleared up, last week there was a local car show and street fair here in Casa Grande. It was really fun! Not so much the cars, as cars don't mean much to me other than transportation, but the street vendor part was really cool. We talked to a young man who did the most amazing art with heat on copper sheets. He has perfected his craft well, and had some really amazing things! Since we don't have any walls to speak of, we didn't buy anything. But we wanted to! We walked up and down the street talking to people. As we were leaving, having grabbed a sandwich at one of the vendors, we were passing a food truck where the lady was just so full of life and really, really wanted us to try her fried fish. It was a soul food truck, called Whitty's Chicken and Fish. A real family affair, too! Since we had just eaten, we said not now, but she was determined that we would love her fish. So, she brought us out a piece to sample. It was amazing! Going to have to track her truck down again soon! We were going to show up on Sunday and eat there, but Jeff woke up with the stomach flu. Which I woke up with the next day.... will have to track them down soon! They were from Surprise, AZ. Should be easy to find.

We had to take the coach into Phoenix for something (that the dealership didn't get done... still waiting on that part!). When we got back and backed it in, it just seemed to me like the outside tire on the drivers side was low. Looked low... Right?

I worried. A guy brought over his compressor and checked the air. Said it was great, like 113 psi. Hmmm.... I worried some more. The next morning, I decided we would be taking her in to get the tires checked. Worried all the way to a local tire shop. Wasn't flat. Just not right! So, the guy spent 30-45 minutes checking the tires, finding half of the 6 low, and 2 with loose valve stems! The one I worried about was about 70 pounds! I guess there was good reason to worry. The tires were new. The shop replaced 2 valve stems, aired up all tires, and didn't charge us a thing! They were great. So if you ever need any tires or automotive work done in Casa Grande, Arizona, give Ed Whiteman's Tire Shop a call. They also told me that for a nominal fee, they would have brought the tire truck to me and checked everything at our site. Who knew? We are taking the car into them for an oil change. I just love finding places that have knowledgeable people and are customer oriented!

The RV park reminds me of Robson Ranch in many ways. The people are super friendly, and there are things going on all the time. Pickle ball, water volleyball, water zumba, they serve free waffles and coffee in the clubhouse every morning. There are a couple of meals in the clubhouse each week, also. Pot luck and pay, and there is a mahjong group that meets weekly. And, card games and pool tables, and lots of stuff. We have been meeting people from all over. Not many license plates here from Arizona!

Even at 60 there are people in the pool! Brrr....

We have been looking for some fairly local places to go hiking. Apparently, we are between a rock and a hard place.... nothing really within 20 miles of here! So we are still working on that angle. It is at least no longer bitter cold and windy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Drove This in 17 Hours in the Car!

If you saw my Facebook Live broadcast today, you would know that we finally got into Arizona! It is amazing to me how many times we have driven this route in the car, and got there the same day! Let me recap the last few days for you.

Monday morning we left Livingston, heading south for I 10. Luckily, we missed traffic going through both Houston and San Antonio! I never realized how pretty that part of the state was. Once we got past the sauna that Houston was, it was pretty nice. Drove through a bit of rain here and there, but nothing overwhelming. Had a wonderful dinner at Buccee's between Houston and San Antonio. Who knew they had great salads? And they have pretty good sandwiches, and even hot stuff made fresh. I totally have gotten on the Buccee's bandwagon! While there, we talked to a family that was bringing their 5th wheel back from a weekend camping trip. They were really nice to talk to. Great kids, too, who even as teens, loved traveling with their parents and camping. I thought that was so cool. No pic of them.... not sure why! Big oversight. We must get better at this! Jeff did get this pic of a cute sign in the grass at Buccee's....

Tuesday, we drove through some of my favorite countryside in Texas! Anywhere in the Hill Country! But we started out by stopping at an HEB grocery. That parking lot was a bit difficult, and the store was not that much like a Central Market. We were looking for breakfast. Only found donuts. My tummy did not like me much for that!

Once we were on the highway again, just northwest of San Antonio, it was so pretty! Passing by Comfort (hey, Mags!), Kerrville, etc. So pretty! I had never been on 10 past Kerrville before, and thought it was amazing country. We both could see "settling" in that area down the road...

Look closely and you will see the Llano River! Just beautiful!

Tuesday night, which was last night, was spent at a roadside rest area in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Past Junction, but not to the I 10-20 merge, there was no cell coverage out there! Bummer. Got up this morning to foggy areas. No real rain, though. We have left the rain behind.

While in New Mexico traveling on I 10, there is a Petro Truck Stop that is fairly new, and has a Starbuck's. We decided to stop, let the dogs out (they have a real grass doggy area!), and get a brew. There is always an old fire truck parked there, I guess it is their mascot or something. I was challenged as usual finding a place to park the rig and toad. The issue there is that the tow dolly cannot be backed due to the brake assist function. So, I struggle to park even at a truck stop! They are all quite adept at backing those rigs into tight spots. Anyway, I circled around and parked next to the old fire truck. I was really surprised to see how much BIGGER we were than a FIRE TRUCK! Lol...

A short while later, we finally found our home state for the next couple of months! We will finally arrive in the Phoenix area tomorrow. Luckily, I was able to find a parking spot at the TA Travel Center in Wilcox AZ.... we now had a bit of internet. I'm surprised, though, that with full LTE bars on the phone, we aren't both able to do much. This could be a major kick in our plans! Right now, we have boosted to 25 gigs per month to run our hot spot. And our streaming tv system. Hope it works. Wifi at RV parks is notoriously bad!

 On a happy note, the girls seem to be getting past their depression. Zada is bringing us toys again when we come "home" to the coach, and they are both sitting in Jeff's lap while I'm driving.

Yes, all 3 asleep!
Playing nice together in their bed.

So while driving, and there is no one to talk to, I can talk to my beautiful hummingbird friends that are clipped to the fan in front of me. This will always take me back to the Ranch, with my wonderful friends that I miss so much! You can't see them very well but one is bright red, and the other green.

And now I will leave you for today with an Arizona sunset at the truck stop!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Did I Mention Murphy?

My last blog left off with the wonderful surprise going away party. After that, Jeff took me to the Hotel Intercontinental in Addison, where the 2017 Norwex Leadership Conference was being held. And I have to say, it was an AMAZING weekend! I learned so much from top leaders, and heard some awesome testimony to what a great company this is. So I will say, if I haven't yet gotten you started with Norwex, message me and let's talk! This company offers so much freedom! Freedom from chemicals in your cleaning and personal care products, and financial freedom, freedom to stay home with kids while doing your homebased business during hours that work for you! Not using this blog as a tool for that, but you really should check it out!
Lots of room for growth, especially in the south and west!

Of course, this was the weekend of the Blizzard of 2017! All the consultants from the north kept apologizing for bringing the weather down! Lol... it was pretty fun to watch, and to know I didn't need to get out in it! There was only really a dusting, but it did get super cold.

And while I was hanging out in a posh hotel, Jeff was stationed at the Hickory Creek Park on Lake Lewisville. This is a corps park, and very, very nice! There were many camp sites with water views, and in fact, ours was right next to the water! Jeff didn't really care much about that, but it was pretty. The dogs loved it, too. He was out there on the coldest weekend, too! Thank goodness we had gotten the furnace fixed.

Jeff's First Meal
He left the water dripping... pipes were good!

See the lake? This is the view!

Of course we had to toast to "our" first night in the new home! Thanks to Barb and Gary for sending us off with a great bottle!

Came from Walmart! Some of the best Prosecco we have had!

On Monday, we checked out and headed to the Colony for a Norwex team meeting. It was a great meeting! While there, I had a bit of trouble navigating the parking lot at the meeting, and we had to remove the car from the trailer and back up a bit. I guess I was getting over-confident! After getting out of that tight spot, we headed towards a Walmart parking lot in Plano. We never arrived. I discovered that the only way to know there is a flat tire on that trailer is to hear the sound of the steel ramp scraping on the ground! It was almost 10, and being on a dark road, Spring Creek, I limped into the Kohl's parking lot at Preston. We called AAA, and a guy came right out, after some discussion with the person on the phone. They couldn't seem to understand our issue, so I just told them to send a flat bed wrecker. The guy was great! He pulled that trailer up onto his flatbed, and it was just a tad wide! He balanced the flat side on the rail, and off we went to park at a Discount Tire Store. There was a Sam's/Walmart right next door, and as a bonus, Central Market was across the street! The next morning, bought a new tire. Asked them what had made it flat, but they apparently couldn't figure it out because the tire was too damaged.  Off we went! Heading towards Shreveport.

As we crossed 75 on LBJ, a trucker pulled beside me, motioning towards the car. Not sure what the problem was, I headed for the exit at Skillman. Before getting there, we heard that sound of scraping again! Not another flat! Crap. Pulled around the corner next to the Denny's, and this time called another roadside assistance. Didn't want to wear AAA out. However, it took these people over 4 hours to come. Numerous phone calls later, we finally got a guy who was a real wheeler-dealer! He wanted to tow the dolly to "his shop" instead of the trailer location we had decided on just 3 miles away. Why a trailer shop, you ask? Because the issue was with the trailer! It was making our tires flat. We figure the wider trailer would have been better, but the shop that sold it to us, assured us it would work. We will be visiting them when we get back to Mesa!

Anyway, we went to the Garland Truck and Trailer place anyway. I had already talked to them and they were expecting us. When we arrived, much later than expected, a big guy with a great voice and South African accent met us out front. He had the best laugh! His name was Hardwick, and he may have fixed our issue. Actually one of his guys worked on it. There was a large bolt inside the wheel well that was rubbing the tire. It got so hot that it melted a big bubble in the wheel well, about 1" in diameter. Anyway, a few washers and some bending around of the frame, and it seems to be working. Took until the next morning to get a tire, though. We spent the night at another Walmart.

Hardwick was also able to do a Texas State Inspection on the rig while we were there, too, so that will help when we gather the rest of the crap Texas wants to register the coach. But that is another story!

We made it to Shreveport without further incident. Had a great time visiting with nephew Scott, his wife Mary, and the kids, Calvin and Catherine. Went and watched Catherine's first marshal arts lesson. She did great! And we got to watch Calvin practice with bows and arrows. In school. Elementary school...

Catherine is the one on the left! So cute!

After leaving, we decided to swing through Livingston which is our new mailing address. There is a really nice RV park here, along with the offices for Escapees mail, etc. It was confidence building to drive on the Texas side roads and farm to market roads that we had to take to get here. After all that flat tire stuff, and the parking lot at the meeting, I had lost some confidence driving.

And yes, that is rain!

It is very pretty here, but I doubt we will stay long. We have not had any luck with the errands we were hoping to accomplish here. Registering our rig, and changing the address on the Lincoln. Sadly, we were given bad information in Denton county. It would have worked to get the Lincoln done, though, had Jeff not lost the paper part of his new driver's license. We will now have to wait until the card comes in.

The best thing about our spot is the huge oak tree that shades us! And the sunsets here are amazing, too!



Buh-bye, Murphy!