Thursday, November 10, 2011

We're Still Alive!!!

Well - Where to begin?  How about a Wyoming wrap-up?

We spent our last couple weeks in Wyoming getting used to our camper.  It was quite a challenge to get accustomed to living in something 10 feet long and 7 feet wide. (not including the bed area over the truck cab).

It has not been as difficult as we thought.  The camper is very well designed.  I think the floor plan is as well developed as it could be.

As with all used vehicles, there were some issues to address.  We spent a few days replacing the holding tank valves.  The originals were broken but the valve manufacturer assured me the new versions are lots better in quality.  I ordered all the parts and began a multi-day odyssey through the darkest recesses of RV holding tanks.  I'll stop here and leave those images to your imaginations.

One weekend we did go to a local campground not too far from the east entrance to Yellowstone.  My sister, Demity, and her husband, John, took their camper and shared some of their knowledge and experiences with us.

We are now dyed in the wool campers!

Our last weekend took us into Yellowstone where we spent a couple days seeing parts of the park we had not seen before.  We took two great hikes.  Got to see some wolves.  Hiked through the woods scared to death we would see a grizzly while also being  afraid we would not get to see one.  We did not see one on these outings - Rats!

We did hike a couple miles to a back-country geyser named "Lone Star".  The hike and ensuing 2 hour wait were well worth the effort.  The eruption was fantastic and lasted for almost 45 minutes.  Way longer and impressive than Old Faithful, which we visited earlier in the day.

I neglected to get pictures but here is a link that contains great information and pictures.


Leaving Wyoming - East Bound and Down

Our time in Wyoming came to an end on September 27th.  We headed out at a fast clip with our destination being Madison, South Dakota, where we maintain our legal domicile.  We needed to get our new license plates for the truck and trailer.

We had planned to leave on the 26th but there was a complication with a mail package we were waiting for so we delayed for a day.  Literally, not 30 minutes after we left we got a phone call from the post office in Cody, Wyoming.  The caller had our package in hand.  Turning around would have added 75 miles round trip and at least and hour or so.  We continued on our way.

We anticipated a beautiful drive through the Big Horn mountains but we were not prepared for what we saw.

We routed ourselves through the little town of Ten Sleep.  Wow!  It lies in one of the most beautiful mountain settings either of us have seen.  Had we not been in such a hurry we probably would have stayed a couple days to explore.  The area begged for pictures but alas, we had to press on.

I have to say that the new truck is a blast to drive.  It rides incredibly smooth and the big Cummins diesel loves to pull.  Hills and mountains don't phase it a bit.  I kept getting deja-vus of days past when Robin and I were a truck-driving team.  We spent many hours cruising with the diesel humming, the radio on and the miles slipping by...

We took care of business in South Dakota.  Next stop - Elkhart, Indiana to visit our motorhome and retrieve a few things to use in the camper.

We're happy with our choice of storage place to keep the motorhome until next May.  It is an enclosed, climate-controlled facility.  We do not have to be concerned with any weather related issues short of a tornado.  Our home is secure.

After Elkhart, we ran down to Indianapolis to visit our daughter, Jessica, for a couple days.  We had a ball with her.  We have not had an opportunity to spend a couple days alone with her in quite a while.  She is a neat gal and a lot of fun.  We are proud of her.

After visiting Jess we went north to see Robin's aunt and uncle, Glenna and Louis.  It is amazing to think that they are in their mid-90's!   They are in spectacular shape.  We can only hope to mimic their longevity and vitality.  Our visit was too short.  We will rectify that the next time we are in Indiana.

From there it was a short jaunt to Winchester, Indiana to see our daughter, Michelle, and our two grand kids, Shelby and Kaytlynn (Katie).

Shelby and her husband Curtis, have two kids: Jeremiah and Brettley (Yup - we are Great-Grandparents!).

Our time there was also too short but we had an appointment in Ohio.  We pressed onward.

Robin's step-mother, Martha, and step-sister, Lucinda, live in western Ohio.  We always try to see them when we are in that part of the country.  We really enjoy their company.  Lucinda's kids, Daniel and Christine, are a lot of fun.  She has done a great job with them.

Next stop - Columbus, Ohio to see an old friend and co-worker.  But wait - the National Museum of the US Air Force is in Dayton.  I had to stop.

One of the great things about the camper is that wherever we are, we are at home.  Robin was not interested in the museum, so she puttered around the house while I spent a day traversing the entire history of the Air Force.  Incredible.

I have often thought that had I not chosen to be a Marine I would have been and Airman.  I love airplanes.

This museum is a must-stop if you are ever in the Dayton, Ohio vicinity.  It is amazing and best of all, it is FREE!!!

Every model of Air Force plane I am aware of is there.  I stood next to a P51 Mustang:

A Sopwith Camel a la Snoopy, a full scale recreation of Orville and Wilbur Wrights plane.

I stood underneath the bomb bay of a B-52 - Sorry no pic of the actual bomb bay:

under the wing of a B2 stealth bomber (that thing is HUGE):

next to an SR-71 (sorry for the shakey pic - too excited I guess :) )

AND, I got to climb all over one of my favorites - an A-10 Warthog:

Those of you who know John O'Connell, this is what he used to fly.  Way to go John!!

These images barely scratch the surface of what all is there.  Again, if you are ever near Dayton, Ohio, do yourself a favor and tour this museum.  You won't be disappointed.

From Dayton to Columbus was a short hop.

We had a pleasant meal with an old friend and co-worker, Dan Samson, his wife Stacey and two sons, Nicholas and Reid.

It is always fun to see how Nicholas is growing up.  I look at him and remember it like it was yesterday when Dan would come to work and update us on Stacey's pregnancy and pending delivery.  Nick is now 13 YEARS OLD!!!!  Reid is doing well too.  It is amazing to me to think that these two boys are becoming young men.  Sheesh!

We're in North Carolina!

Our visiting done, we pointed the rig directly south.  The winds were incredible.  We literally blew into North Carolina on October 6th, a full day earlier than we had planned.  We are comfortably ensconced at Robin's parents' home in Weaverville, about 20 miles north of Asheville.

Besides being Robin's parents, Richard and Norma are some of the best friends we have ever had.  We love visiting with them.  Most of the time we forget that they are parents.  That is one of the best things about our relationship.  They do not parent any more.  They did a great job raising Robin and then letting her be her own woman.  Now we concentrate on being friends.

The Weaverville/Asheville area is in the Great Smokey Mountains, which is a subset of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all are a part of the Appalachians.

This fall was especially spectacular as the trees changed.  I don't recall ever seeing anything like it.  We were fortunate to arrive just prior to the peak Fall colors.  I've seen pictures of the Northeast in the Fall. It is hard to conceive anything better than what we have seen here!

Again, I have been a bit remiss in photos.  Here are some I hijacked from other sites on the Internet.  These photographers are better than me anyway.






Since we arrived, we have done a LOT of visiting with Richard and Norma and Robin's aunt, Margaret, who co-owns the property.  We've just about solved all the problems of the world!

We've done our share of eating out and sightseeing.  Robin and I are trying to curb our carbohydrate ingestion.  We could gain a BUNCH of weight if we don't watch out.

The weather has been terrific.  I get up every morning and sit in the porch swing with a cup of coffee and greet the day.  There are some cows in the field next to the houses.  I get a kick out of watching them start their days too.

Last week Robin and I drove north about 20 miles to Hot Springs, NC.  This is a major way point on the Appalachian Trail.  We have talked and day-dreamed about hiking the AT over the years.  We have known a few people who have done the entire 2200 mile trek.  We've read a number of stories too.  Probably the most famous chronicle is the book "A Walk In the Woods" by Bill Bryson.

It was kind of surreal to finally be walking on a portion of the same trail we have vicariously traveled in the past.  We hope to spend more time on it before we leave.  Alas, I do not see us ever doing a though-hike, but you never know...

We also took a day trip to Knoxville, TN to visit friends Phil and Dixie Bopp.  Phil has been a friend of Richard and Norma's since before neither Robin nor I existed.  They met while serving in the Air Force in the early 50's.

Phil and Dixie recently bought a new home.  This was our first opportunity to see it.  They also have a new bundle of energy.  I think it is a dog but it was always moving so fast I could not get a good look.  It may have been a meteorite!

Buddy is a cute Silky Terrier.  He sure does have a LOT of energy.  He keeps them on their toes.

Phil is also quite the wood carver.  Talking to him revived my carving interest. It will be a while before I am even close to as good as he is.

They treated us to lunch where I proceeded to make a pig of myself with Dixie's banana pudding.  She has a great way of preparing it that I want to share.

She makes the pudding and adds sour cream.  She does NOT add the bananas or Vanilla Wafers until she is ready to serve it.  That way the bananas do not get old in the fridge and the VWs don't get soggy.  What a simple yet great idea.

I could have eaten more but I was aware of the five pairs of eyes watching and growing wider with each mouthful.  What?  What?  OK... I'm finished.

One afternoon we took our bicycles into Weaverville to tour the town.  Did I mention that we are in the Great Smokey Mountains?  I bet I forgot to to emphasize "MOUNTAINS".  This is unbelievably hilly country.  The hilly terrain mandates that the roads be very narrow.  Combine that with a lot of traffic and it is not a fun place to ride bicycles.  We will concentrate on the multitude of hiking trails instead.

The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through here.  The scenery is fantastic.  If you have ever seen the movie "The Last of the Mohicans", this is where they filmed the magnificent scenery.  Everywhere you turn there is something splendid to see.  This area is much different from the rugged Rocky Mountains, but equally as spectacular in its own right.

We've been here for nigh on five weeks.  We plan to stay until after Thanksgiving.  Jessica is going to come up and spend the holiday.

That pretty well brings us up to date.

Stay tuned as we continue "Chasin' our Dreams!"