Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

I was positively giddy, Dawn and Mike, from Random Bits of Trial and Error were due to arrive for a week of much needed socialization and relaxation. After accidentally meeting them in person on the road in Arizona last year (read my version here and Dawn’s version here) we have become lifelong friends, the kind you go out of your way to get to spend time with.

We have had the opportunity to get together several times over the last year and every time I have come away with memories I will always cherish. On our way back from Alaska last year, it worked out we could meet them for dinner in Texas and earlier this spring, we met up several times in our mutual “state of residence”, Florida. Dawn handmade me a card after our Florida adventures and it makes me smile every time I look at it!

But, this time, we would be in the same campground, parked next to each other for a week. I had been planning our adventures, oh the things we would do and see! Since Mike still works full-time, Dawn’s days are free and I planned to spend every minute I could with her. I had saved up some time off from my job at Lost Falls Campground and was able to take 4 days off in a row.

Despite all my planning, we found what worked best was to just hop in the Jeep and go. Dawn tells Mike, we are heading off in the “Cool Vehicle” today! With no particular destination in mind, I headed for Hwy 108, a twisty, windy road to the west of us. I’ve driven it many times and I love the scenery and curves. Near the town of West Salem is a set of buildings surrounded by a fence. The lawn is cared for, but they appear vacant. There are interesting shapes and I’m always drawn to it…

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I’ve never seen a car or truck there, but these two appear in the window every time I drive by…

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We decided to head down a road I hadn’t been on before and were gob-smacked when we found Mindoro Cut. When we crested the hill, on a blind corner, our next sight was this…

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We stopped at a pull off and went to check it out. A commemorative plaque informed us we had just driven through Mindoro Cut, the second largest hand-hewn cut in America and the last one still being used…

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As we walked along, we were in awe of the work required to build it. The limestone walls were filled with carvings…

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I remarked to Dawn, I wonder if Andy and Chelsea are still together and her answer made me laugh. “It is easier to be immortalized in stone than it is to survive a relationship.”

Dawn and I both love plants and flowers, so we spent some time with bygone dandelions…

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Dawn wrote an excellent post about our next find, an ages old barn, nestled in the weeds and tree threatening to overtake it. When I looked at the barn, I saw nature overtaking man made, but Dawn saw something else, she saw all the hard work of the American farmer, something most of us never pay any mind to…

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Across the street were the remains of what might have been a chicken coop. While this shot may look like it was taken from the inside, it wasn’t…

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We stopped at the tavern in North Bend for lunch and were introduced to fried cheese curds, oh my! My new favorite appetizer!! The day had gone by much to quickly and soon it was time to head back to the campground, but not without stopping on the side of the road to get a shot of someone’s creativity…

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When we weren’t out driving around in the “cool vehicle”, there were shared dinners, boxes of Moscato and campfires. And days filled with Dawn’s newest favorite outdoor activity, kayaking!

I introduced Dawn to the sport when we were in Florida and she loved it. We made 3 trips down the Black River, each one a little different  in terms of scenery and mileage, but what remained constant was the smile on her face…

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It’s hard to explain the joy I got from watching her evolve from a shaky first-timer to a much more confident paddler. On one stretch of the river, we just floated along in comfortable silence, each taking in the beauty and serenity of the river in our own way. Later, she thanked me for being the type of friend where silence doesn’t have to be filled with constant chatter, I knew exactly what she meant!

As it turned out, Mike and Dawn were able to stay longer than a week, but that’s a story for another day.

Do you have a “Mike & Dawn” in your life? If not, I highly recommend finding them, they are priceless!

 

 

Kayaking the Black River

I had big plans for Thursday and was pretty exited when I awoke to beautiful, sunny skies. This was the day I would take the 14.5 mile solo kayak trip from Black River Falls back to Lost Falls Campground. 

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Lost Falls Campground rents canoes, kayaks, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboards) and tubes (doubles, singles and cooler). We shuttle guests to one of 3 different landings and everyone arrives back at the campground, hopefully, having enjoyed their day on the Black River.

Steve outfitted my kayak with a phone mount, now I can take pictures and videos, hands free…

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We’ve had A LOT of rain this spring and the river was moving pretty briskly as I set off. It didn’t take long before all I could hear was the sounds of nature, the river churning and a chorus of birds. The evidence of high water was all around me. Some of the smaller trees were barely above the waterline…

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You can see the wet line on the trees, overnight, the river had gone down at least 18″. Usually there are lots of sandbars to stop at…

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But most were still underwater. It was a lazy paddle for me. I let the river current do most of the work while I steered occasionally and just enjoyed being on the river. I hadn’t seen another sole in hours and was surprised as I came around the bend to see these 2 “people” watching from the bank…

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I chuckled to myself as I floated by, a good reminder, someone is always watching.

The Black River State Forest borders a large stretch of river and offers campsites for paddlers…

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After passing Mason’s landing I came across a tall limestone bluff…

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I could hear the sounds of rushing water so I set off to investigate. I had heard there was a gorge with a waterfall near here so I was hoping I had found it. I was a bit disappointed with the “waterfall”…

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But decided to get out and stretch. As I walked along the banks of the creek, I found lots of white trillium thriving in the shadows…

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The cool water felt good on my feet as I walked along as sun dappled tree stood sentinel over me…

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Back on the river, I saw a slough and decided to check it out. There were lots of turtles sunning themselves on the fallen logs…

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When I reached Hansen’s Landing, I knew I only had 2.5 miles to go…

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I had spent the first 12 miles being lazy, but wanted to make a time lapse video of the trip from Hansen’s Landing, so now it was time to paddle! It took me 28 minutes to reach the shore of Lost Falls Campgound, so the video is only 28 seconds, whew, what a workout…

It was a peaceful, relaxing way to spend the day. I can’t wait to do it again!

Where is your favorite place to kayak?

The Devil Is In The Details

Finally, a day off with no chores. No groceries to shop for, no laundry to do. Just a day to go out and have some fun. The weather could have been better, the forecast called for on and off showers and cloudy skies, but that wasn’t going to deter us! After visiting one of our favorite websites, Atlas Obscura, we knew we had to take the 30 minute drive to Sparta, Wisconsin and visit FAST Corporation. FAST stands for Fiberglass Animals, Shapes and Trademarks.

We’ve all seen larger than life advertising or roadside attractions, you know, that 20′ tall strawberry at the fruit stand or the giant cow standing in front of the farm. If you are like me, you’ve probably never given a second thought to where did it come from or who made it? But, chances are, it came from FAST Corp.

When we pulled into the parking lot, I didn’t know where to look first. Acres of fiberglass molds and finished products beckoned me. As we walked around, familiar characters stared back at us under dreary skies…

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Some items where purely decorative, while others were more functional.  It’s easy to picture this hippo water fountain at the zoo, just across from the lion bench where tired parents watch as the kiddos get a drink…

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In my mind, I can hear the squeals of delight as the kiddies come down the water slide…

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As we walked passed the cows…

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The familiar shape Hard Rock Cafe guitars caught our attention…

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FAST Corporation has kept every fiberglass mold they have ever created. After being used, they are taken out back and put in the “graveyard”. Acres and acres of molds await the day they may be called for again. Who knows when someone might need a giant bear…Fast Corporation-2410

Or an elephant…

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How about an ice cream cone…

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What if Chevy needs another boulder?

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Here are some of the other neat molds we saw…

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The mold for the lion bench

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Behind one of the shops, there was a sculpture of 2 boys rough housing, I think this will be used to create the mold. It looked like it was carved out of some type of dense foam…

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There were also finished products, waiting to be shipped…

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If you are ever in Sparta, Wisconsin and find yourself on County Road Q, stop in and visit FAST Corporation! It’s a pretty neat place!

Up next, my first kayak trip on the Black River…

My World Is Upside Down

Back in December, I was stalking checking on my Facebook friends when I saw a really neat picture. It was the Eiffel Tower, but it was upside down and appeared to be inside a glass sphere. What is this devilry? I immediately reached out to my best friend Google and, in no time, learned this sorcery comes from a contraption brand named Lensball. Now, we all know, I’m not much for brand names. Come to find out, lots of companies produce crystal glass spheres for photography (or meditation or sorcery). I had to have one!! I mentioned it to Steve, in passing, asking his thoughts. “Wouldn’t it be fun to play with?”

A few days went by and I couldn’t stand it any longer, I HAD to have one! So, I ordered one off of Amazon. Little did I know, my most thoughtful husband also ordered me one. Well, now they’ve arrived. What can I do with them?

First, I took it into the back yard at my dad’s house, looked around and thought, “Gee, what can I take a picture of?” Oh, I know…daddy’s neighbor’s house…

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Or, maybe just the landscape…

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These pictures were “ok” but nothing like the ones I’d seen on the internet. It must just take practice. So…I’ve been practicing!

First I drove to a local beach at sunrise to try and capture the moment…

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I edited this, rotating the sphere image, so both appear right side up

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Shameless brand awareness

 

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I rotated the entire image 180 degrees

 

Then, I took it with us on a long weekend. We went to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse…

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I took it to the park with my friend Dawn from Random Bits of Trial and Error

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Then, back to the beach…

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I certainly haven’t mastered it yet, but it sure is fun playing with it!

TheWanderingRver is an Amazon affiliate. Anything you purchase through our link earns us a small percentage and costs you nothing additional. Please consider using our link for all your Amazon purchases.

What do you think? Should I keep experimenting? Do you prefer when I rotate the sphere image or leave it upside down? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Out With The Old

Almost all of the bloggers I know do a special post to mark the end of the year. I always enjoy reading them. Inevitably, it makes me reflect on our own travels, trials and triumphs.

2018 held lots of promise for us as we began our first full year of RV living and working. We knew we’d be starting in Florida, but had no way of knowing for sure December 2018 would find us back there. Hell, there were times when we were broken down, I didn’t think we’d ever make it back to Florida. But we did. We met so many wonderful people along the way. People who changed our lives, possibly without ever knowing so.

I count us a dang lucky…our adventures have been many and our trials have been relatively few, given our lifestyle.

I thought long and hard about how I was going to commemorate 2018. Usually I end up trying to pick a favorite picture from each month – a top 12, if you will. 12? Who was I kidding? We took pictures in at least 13 states, visited 15 national parks/monuments/preserves and drove through western Canada. I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to 12!

My solution was a collage made from every state we spent any real time in (and Canada will just  have to forgive my exclusion of them in this post). The following collages are in alphabetical order, not the order we visited. So without further ado, here is 2018 in review…

Arizona

Alaska Collage

California

Florida

idaho

Louisiana

Nevada

New Mexica

Texas

Washington

Wyoming

I don’t know for sure what is in store for us for the next year. We have some tentative plans and lots of hopes.

I sincerely hope 2019 brings health and happiness to you and yours! Thank you for wandering along with us.

Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree

My last post had us leaving Midland, Tx heading for Florida. We made it in near record time and rested at Daddy’s house for about a 10 days before we were off to Parkland, Florida for our next job. I have to admit, I did have a few doubts about selling Christmas trees. What in the world were we getting ourselves into? We had no experience with managing a Christmas tree lot.

We arrived in Parkland on Nov. 16th and met Jeremy (owner of Hayes Farms Christmas Trees) for the first time. We liked him immediately and knew we had made the right choice. Jeremy led us to our “home” for the next 30-45 days, a beautiful spot behind Mary of Help Christians Church. Despite the certainty of several of my long time friends, I did not spontaneously combust upon reaching church grounds!

img_6983  The main tent was already up, but the trees hadn’t arrived yet…

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Our first sale was made even before the trees were setup in the tent. I was so excited. The guy must have thought I was daft when I asked if I could take a picture of the tree on his car. Note his hat, he is a New England Patriots fan. I took that as a sign all would be well.

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We spent the next couple days getting the trees and sales area just the way we wanted it.

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Jeremy stopped by to give us a crash course in Christmas tree selling. His most obvious suggestion was to be nice and have fun. He did warn us we would encounter a jerk or two, it just comes with any type of sales. Looking back over the last 30 days, I think we were dang lucky to only have one customer who was a problem (enough so, I turned it over to Jeremy). It turned out fine in the end, but I’m grateful we didn’t have more customers like him! Jeremy’s other warning wouldn’t truly sink in until 2 1/2 weeks later. “The hours were going to be long and fatigue WILL get to you. The lot is open Mon-Thurs, 9am to 9pm and Fri-Sun, 7:30am to 10pm.” The early hours didn’t concern me since I’m usually always up by 4:30am or so, but the late nights scared me, to be honest. I’m usually in bed and asleep by 8pm. With the help of an extra B complex vitamin, I survived.

At this point, I felt pretty confident we had a handle on it. And we did! The only part of our job we found to be challenging, was the hiring and retaining of lot workers. Most of them were high schoolers with a want for some cash in their pockets. They are the folks who drag your perfect tree out of the tent, wrap it up and tie it to your car for tips. Steve and I couldn’t do our jobs without them. I often felt frustrated by their lack of a strong work ethic but we got by. One of our lot workers was a superstar. If we had two more of him, we wouldn’t have needed anyone else. The other saving grace was on weekends we knew it was going to be non-stop, Jeremy would “loan” us a couple of workers from his other business. Despite the language barrier, these guys worked like there was no tomorrow!

Enough of the challenges, on to the fun!

Here are 2 of my favorite customers…

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Soooo, there were some ways I could make money, other than wages and tips. One of those was was tree flocking. Yes, I said flocking.

 

 

Flocking is a way of making the tree look snow covered. By the end of our time here, I had nearly become a pro…See for yourself…

One family drove all the way up from Miami for me to flock their tree.

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The review they gave us on Facebook made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

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When I wasn’t “flocking around”, I made wreaths from the tree trimmings. As you might have guessed, I learned how to do time lapse videos with my phone…

Oh ya, I flocked them too…

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One of our best sellers, were these reindeer and snowmen made out of tree cut-offs. They came in 3 sizes. I called them Babies (small), Teenagers(medium) and Adults (large). I couldn’t keep them in stock. Every time I had a herd of them ready, they would sell out by the end of the day…

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Some people were really attached to them…

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We were about 2 1/2 weeks into it and were running out of trees. Jeremy made the decision to have more brought down from North Carolina. I got to film/supervise the unloading of the truck…

Finally, more trees! That was just a week and a half ago and they are all gone. With 9 days until Christmas, we are sold out, with the exception of a few table top trees. For the last 2 days, I’ve had to tell countless families there were no more trees coming. And by the way, we open the weekend before Thanksgiving, come earlier next year. Since I’ve had time on my hands, I painted some of the things laying around…

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Rudolph, the red nosed palm boot

 

 

 

 

 

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And the farm logo on a cut-off from one of our 13′ trees

We’ve never had the desire to return to a location for work before. Part of the draw of this lifestyle is the constant change in scenery. With that being said, we are already making plans to come back next year. Yes, the hours are long and yes, we were exhausted, but it has been worth it. One of my favorite things about this job was Jeremy’s hands-off approach. This was our tree lot to manage. He was always available to answer questions or offer advice if I asked but he trusted us to make it work. I guess we did pretty darn well, because we made his top tier bonus for beating last years sales by more than 10%. Actually, we were closer to 20%. My organizational and craft skills, along with Steve’s “Let’s get to work” attitude, really made us ‘Rock around the Christmas tree!’

We are going to take a few weeks off to recuperate before heading to our next job. May the joy of the season be with you!

 

A Bit of Winter in July

It’s not every day you can combine two amazing adventures in one. Well, not completely true. In 2013, the owners of Turning Heads Kennel bought Seward Helicopter Tours and began flying folks like Steve and me up to Godwin Glacier for a bit of dog sledding. These aren’t just any old sled dogs. They are canine athletes! They’ve competed in races like the Tustumena 200, the Willow 300 and the Iditarod. Like all athletes, training is important. But how do you train sled dogs when there isn’t any snow? Well, you set up a base camp on a glacier! Then you fly people up there to share the experience.

We began our trip at the Seward Airport. Where we donned over-boots to keep our feet dry and warm parkas which were provided for us because, well, we were flying up to a glacier! Then we waited for our turn to board the helicopter…

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It takes about 15 minutes to reach the basecamp on Godwin Glacier and the scenery was incredible…

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After landing on the glacier, the mushers introduced us to the future stars of sledding – the puppies!

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After getting our fill of puppy kisses, our musher talked with us about what life is like for a sled dog. He said educating people about dog sledding is an important part of the experience. Someone in our group asked, “What makes a sled dog want to pull and run?” And I loved the answer – “What makes a retriever chase a tennis ball or jump in the lake? It’s what they do, what makes them happy.” And the chorus of barking dogs told me these were some happy pups!

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Our team was already hitched up and we got settled onto the sleds to begin our ride…

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The dogs’ excitement was contagious as we started across the glacier. There were two sleds hitched together, our musher stood on the back of the first sled and we all got a turn at standing on the back of the second sled…

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Blue skies and breathtaking scenery helped complete the picture perfect day…

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While Steve was taking his turn on the back, I took a video from the front seat…

And soon, we pulling back into basecamp…

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When our ride was over, we had plenty of time to meet our team and the other dogs who call Godwin Glacier home. I noticed several of the lighter colored dogs had dark circles around their eyes. Our musher explained it is eye makeup and it helps them not get snow-blinded…

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We also got to witness the obvious love the mushers have for their dogs…

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All too soon, our return helicopter landed to whisk us back to the airport…

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It doesn’t get any more exciting than this! Helicopters, glaciers, dog sledding and puppies!