Oh Waldo – You’re SO Hot!

Unfortunately, it isn’t near as sexy as it sounds. If you’ve following our travels, you know we have had a long time problem with Waldo overheating. There were travels days we spent more time on the side of the road than motoring. This has led to some very frustrating days, tears and more than my fair share of unlady-like fits of screaming.

I’ve tried to keep my posts happy and full of America’s breathtaking scenery,  but I’ve decided that isn’t really a fair way to describe our lifestyle. Yes, for almost a year now, we’ve been exploring new areas of the country and having the time of our life. But – it isn’t all beauty and magic.

When we arrived in Beatty, it was in a fit of overheating. We are extremely fortunate Steve is a mechanic by trade. He has been working on cars, trucks and motorcycles for 40+ years. RV maintenance comes easy to him. Changing the oil and filters doesn’t require a trip to a shop. This has saved us countless dollars. But, this nagging overheat issue obviously wasn’t going away. He had already changed the thermostats, checked hoses and replaced the overflow tank, all to no avail. He came to the conclusion Waldo needed a new radiator. UGH! To make matters worse, we had taken Waldo to an oversized carwash to clean away some of the grease and grime which has accumulated around the giant CAT motor. Using the high pressure hose, he began spraying away, only to watch as parts of the fan blades fall to the ground. Great, now not only do we need a radiator, but we also need a new fan. Thanks Steve. But, to be fair to him, the blasted thing is 18 years old and has 190,000 miles on it.

We had only planned on staying in Beatty for 6 nights, but ended up staying for 9 nights. The 3rd day there, Steve called around for parts. We could get a new fan from Freightliner in Las Vegas, a mere 2 1/2 hours away. They could get us a new radiator as well, for the low cost of $2200. When he gasped at the price, the parts guy suggested he call a radiator shop, not far from Freightliner. The woman who answered the phone was beyond helpful! She was pretty sure she could get us a replacement for about half the cost. The catch was, she needed Steve to bring her the defunct radiator so she could check some measurements.  So, with the limited tools Steve brought with him, he set out to dismantle Waldo’s cooling system. The camp host loaned us two 5 gallon buckets to drain the antifreeze. We were lucky the park let us work on Waldo there. Lots of places wouldn’t have. Once the radiator (and all the other miscellaneous crap was removed), Steve set off for Las Vegas. I was feeling more than a bit cranky and was content to let him make the trip alone. By the time he returned, a little before 10pm, I had calmed down – some. Both the fan and the radiator had to be ordered and wouldn’t be in for several days. We spent those days exploring Death Valley.

Wednesday finally rolled around and we headed back to Las Vegas. We picked up the fan and 15 gallons of antifreeze from Freightliner and called the radiator shop to check on the arrival status. It wasn’t in yet, but was on its way – another hour or so. Since we had time to kill, we went to WalMart and did some resupplying. As we were coming out of WalMart, I was nearly deafened by the sound of F-16s flying overhead. It was the Thunderbirds from nearby Nellis AFB. How cool is that?!?!? Since I hadn’t brought my camera, a crappy cellphone pic will have to do…

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With the excitement over, we headed to the radiator shop. They were just taking it off the truck when we arrived. Perfect timing. With the Jeep loaded to capacity with parts and supplies, we headed back to Beatty. We had just dropped over $1500 in Las Vegas and never set foot inside a casino.

Thursday, Steve got right to work putting Waldo back together. New fan…check…

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New radiator…check…

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It took a little longer to put things back together then it did to take it apart. It always amazes me when Steve can take a pile of bolts and know which one goes where. I mean seriously, when he took it apart, he threw all of the bolts into a bucket. When I take things apart, I label everything and take pictures so I can put it back together, maybe that’s why I’m not the mechanic! Soon enough, Steve was ready to start the motor. I have to admit, I might have been holding my breath. But when the “Wait To Start” light went off, Waldo fired right up. We let it run for a while, satisfied everything was good. The real test wouldn’t come until we drove down the road. We have since traveled to Alaska and Waldo hasn’t overheated once, thanks to my wonderful mechanic, husband and best friend. His ability to handle the mechanical problems has saved us thousands of dollars. It is a comfort knowing he can do these things, but it doesn’t help my anxiety in the moment things fail. I’m working on handling things better, but for now, if you hear a scream of panic, it still might be me!

It’s OK – It’s a Dry Heat – Part 2

If you missed part 1 , you can catch up here. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the United States, at 282 feet below sea level. The walk to the actual spot (about 1 1/2 miles from the marker sign) is along a salt packed trail. The shallow pools of water will evaporate over the summer leaving crusty salt mounds as far as you can see…

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Since there was still so much we wanted to see, we didn’t walk all the way to the actual spot. We still had a couple hikes we wanted to do and with the temps pushing 90 degrees at 10 am we decided to move on. Our next stop was the natural bridge. It’s a fairly easy walk, despite being uphill. I can’t imagine the force of the water needed to carve such a bridge…

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See the 2 hikers in the shadow of the bridge?

The National Park system did a great job of designing the scenic drives through the park. Most of them are one way and loop back to the main road. One such route is called Artists Drive. It is a 9 mile loop through some of the most colorful formations in the park. The narrow road winds through multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills…

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At the first pullout, we walked to the top of a fairly steep hill to get a better view of the landscape…

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A great location to snap some memories
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Steve – finding his focus

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Back on the road, I looked over and Steve was grinning, ear to ear. The twisting road had him itching to test the laws of gravity…

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The next pullout is at a spot appropriately named Artist’s Palette. The colors were amazing. It’s like Mother Nature filled her paint brush with reds, browns, tans and greens, then spattered the colors much like a child fingerpaints…

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As we were exiting the drive, the scenery changed yet again…

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We were running out of time at Death Valley, but there was on more place I HAD to see – Racetrack Playa! (Read more about the interesting history and geology here) A playa is a dried lake bed and the Racetrack is nearly 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. Scientists estimate the dried beige mud is at least 1000 feet thick. The surface is so flat, it only varies 1 1/2 inches from end to end. We first attempted to reach the Racetrack via Scotty’s Castle Road. We were hoping the road closure signs meant the road was closed somewhere beyond the turn off to the Racetrack. A freak flood event happened in 2015 and destroyed the road and caused severe damage to Scotty’s Castle. (See pictures here). Of course, the road was closed prior to the turn off, so we had to settle on seeing more abandon buildings (I know, poor us, huh?)

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You know I had to go inside and look around
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How long do you think these nails took to fuse together like this?

We had one more day and I was determined to get to the Racetrack. We checked the map and found an alternate route. One that comes with a warning…

Caution: Rough and Remote Road
The road to the Racetrack is rough, and good tires, 4×4 and high clearance are usually required. Standard rental vehicles are not recommended, and often get flat tires. Use extreme caution on this road in the summer heat. There is no cell phone coverage in the area. Drive time from Furnace Creek is at least 3.5 hours each way. Other access roads make for even longer and more remote adventures. Driving offroad is strictly prohibited.”

OK…let’s go! When we left the pavement, the adventure began. I was finding it incredibly difficult to make any time. I kept having Steve stop the Jeep so I could take pictures…

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There is only one sign along the 26 mile route and I found it rather bizzare…

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Legend says early travelers to the area put the first teakettles there to let others know there was water nearby. I don’t know if it is true or not, I never saw any water.

We were still 6 miles from the Racetrack, so off we went. As we rounded one curve in the road, we got our first view of Racetrack…

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The outcropping of rocks in the middle is called the Grandstand…

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What is so fascinating about Racetrack is the mysterious moving rocks. Although the mystery of how/why the rocks move was solved in 2014 (Read about it here), it still boggles my mind…

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See the tracks left by the moving rocks?

Two NPS Rangers were at Racetrack replacing a sign and we talked to them for quite a while. One of them said they have seen the playa completely under water and a day later, not a sign of water could be seen. He also said if people walk on it when it is wet, the footprints can stay there for years. The Jeep was just over half a tank of gas and we wondered if going back the same way we came was the best route. The ranger told us Hunter Mountain Pass was a drive we shouldn’t miss and we wouldn’t have a problem with 1/2 a tank of fuel. OK – Hunter Mountain it is! We drove back to Teakettle Junction and headed into the wild. As I mentioned before, there aren’t any road signs in the back country. Our GPS said we were on Hunter Mountain Road and I figured as long as it said that, we would be fine. Hmmm. When we came to the first split in the road, we went the werong way. That was ok, because it quickly dead ended  at an abandon mine…

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End of the line

We got back on what we hoped was the right road and continued on. I could see the road off in the distance as it began to climb Hunter Mountain…

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We passed a large area full of Joshua Trees…

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And began the climb. The road was barely wide enough for the Jeep and was a continuous set of switchbacks. The summit of Hunter Mountain is 7168 feet and the view is stunning…

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I was beginning to worry we were on the wrong road and were bound to run out of gas. I had no interest in being stranded, with no cell service, miles from anywhere! Finally, we passed another vehicle. The folks assured us we were on the right road, but it was still 30 miles to Panamint Springs. We got a bit of a surprise as we rounded a corner – free range cattle in the middle of the road…

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When we made it back to the pavement, we made a beeline for Panamint Springs and fuel. When we saw fuel there was $4.99 a gallon, we made the call to continue to Stovepipe Wells -another 28 miles. We made it just after the idiot light came on. But, I have to say, I was beginning to hold my breath a bit! Fuel was still $4.17 a gallon, so we only put in enough to get back to Beatty.

Our time was up in Death Valley. We had only seen about half of it, but we had a time-table to keep. We still had 3344 miles to go to get to Moose Pass, AK. I hope to go back and explore more some day!

Thanks for coming along, I hope you enjoyed our take on Death Valley!

Stepping Back in Time

The post title is about the museum, not that I am 3 weeks (or more) late in writing about it. I promise, I am trying to catch up.

When we left Palo Duro Canyon, we stopped in Amarillo at Jack Sismore’s RV Museum. It is free (one of my favorite prices). We drove by and it looked a little tight to get Waldo towing the Jeep in, so we disconnected at Walmart and drove back. I have to say, it was definitely worth the hassle of disconnecting!

We asked the lady at the front desk where the museum was and she happily pointed us to the back door – no really, the museum is in a building out back. We were instructed to stay between the red painted lines and take our time and enjoy ourselves.

Jack Sisemore owned a Chevron station…

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He started renting motorhomes, barely a year later, he had 6 rentals and started Jack Sisemore Traveland.

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The oldest “RV” is a 1921 Ford Lamsteed Kampkar…

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I can’t imagine bouncing around the roads of rural America in this beauty.

He started collecting and restoring unusual vintage RVs over 25 years ago and has quite the collection.  See for yourself…

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1946 Tear Drop Kit

One of the neatest RVs he has is the 1948 Flxible which was used in the Robin Williams movie RV…

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He also has the very first Itasca ever built, serial number 1…

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And the world’s oldest Airsteam, a 1935 Torpedo…

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Not his only Airstream…

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He bought this 1953 Fleetwood from an 84 year old lady who had decided it was time to quit life on the road…

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Also pretty neat is the 1976 FMC coach which was owned by Max Factor Jr (1904-1996)…

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Other cool RVs…

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1976 Argosy
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1973 Starcraft
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1970 Avion

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Not restored

To complete the throw-back feeling there is an old A&W drive up restaurant…

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And other vintage items, like this cigarette vending machine.  When’s the last time you saw one of these?

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Not only are the RVs lovingly restored, but there is a ton of period material to make the experience more real…

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Overall, I am glad we stopped in. It really was neat to see these old RVs and to think of how far we’ve come in the world of RV living.

If you are ever in Amarillo, I highly recommend stopping in!

Next post…Unplanned Happiness!

 

 

 

Doing It Florida Style

So here we are in Florida. After the “adventure” of our trip down here, I was definitely ready for some down time. I knew we had to get Waldo over to the repair shop for an estimate on the roof, but first we had to unload the belongings staying in Florida. I’m sure Waldo was quite happy to shed a few pounds!

On Thursday, we brought Waldo to Nature Coast RV, handed over the keys and hoped for the best. It would be a few days before we got the estimate so we set our sights on some relaxation time.

It had been quite a long time since Steve had enough spare time to get out in the kayak. While water sports aren’t his favorite activity, he does enjoy kayaking on calm waters. My first thought was to head down to the Gulf of Mexico (only about 10 minutes from my dad’s house). We made a quick stop at the store to pick up some sunscreen. Steve has two colors of summer – Casper white or lobster red. Not wanting him to spend his first week in sunburned pain, we opted for spf50! I thought better of the gulf because the waters can be choppy and there is no shade. I decide a trip on the Rainbow River would be better. The Rainbow River is a busy river with boaters, tubers, kayakers and paddle boarders. Since it was father’s day weekend, the river was crowded, but not so much to make it unenjoyable. Steve seemed to have a good time…

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We promised my dad a trip to his favorite restaurant for father’s day. I dislike eating out on holidays due to the crowds, so we waited until later in the week. Peck’s Old Port Cove serves steamed blue crabs. Daddy and I split 1 1/2 dozen crabs while Steve had their fried fisherman’s platter…

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A great meal – as always!

Before we left New Hampshire, I had been looking for a place to workamp. Work Camping is when you work at a campground in exchange for your RV site. Sometimes there is an opportunity for extra hours for pay, but not always. We had committed to a park in Texas, but didn’t leave NH in time to make it when they needed us. I was very happy when the manager of  Wind Point Park in Lone Oak, Texas emailed me and said we were still welcome to come work for the summer! Their website shows a beautiful park and conjures visions of lovely sunsets and quiet evenings by the campfire. I can’t wait to get there and settle into our new life as workampers!

We had received the estimate for Waldo’s roof…gasp! Between $7000 and $9000! Double what it cost to put a roof on the stick and brick house in NH! But, it has to be done! Steve checked in on their progress this week and it’s getting there…

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They are hoping to have it done by the 30th so we can be on our way.

While Steve was checking on the roof, I decided to take my kayak out to the gulf. I drove to the end of Ozella Trail. There is a great park there with a  boat launch. A few other kayakers were out. I parked next to them, unloaded and hit the waters. As I suspected, the water was choppy, but it was a gorgeous summer day and I made my way around the mangrove islands and headed back. I hadn’t checked the tide report before I went out and I won’t do that again! When I got back to Trouble, the tide had come in enough I could paddle right up to it…

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It was still over an hour before high tide, so I’m glad I headed in when I did.

Hoping my next post is about an uneventful 14 hour trip to Texas and our arrival at Wind Point Park!!!!

 

Looking Through the Windshield

Happiness in the rear view mirror didn’t last as long as I planned! We had barely made it out of New Hampshire when the problems started. In a motor home, you can have 2 completely different sets of problems, either of which can leave you on the side of the road. On one hand, you have the mechanical components, the engine, transmission and so on. On the other hand, you have all the same problems you have in your house, the roof, the windows, the plumbing, electrical systems, yada yada yada…

If you saw the last post, you know we are already aware of the fact we need a new roof. We had already taken care of a plumbing issue (the cap on the faucet in the kitchen had to be replaced). Steve fixed a starting issue with our generator. SO, when we left, we were pretty confident we were on our way. Not so fast…literally! Not long after we hit the highway in Vermont, we started noticing a steep decline in speed every time we started up a hill. Since Vermont is nothing but hills/mountains, this quickly became a major problem! At first, I thought it was because we were loaded to the brim and overwieght. Every available inch of space had something in it, so I sat quietly in my seat calculating how long it would take to get to Florida, 1300 miles, at 30mph. After a while, we were climbing hills at 18mph and getting up to 30mph on the downhill side of the hills. Not good! Finally, five hours later, somewhere in the southern part of Connecticut, Steve pulled off on the side of Interstate 95 and changed the fuel filters. It made me glad to have mechanic for a husband, I wouldn’t have thought of it!  Problem solved! Woohoo – 65mph. Since it was getting late, we pulled into a rest area and got a couple hours sleep.

Our first full day on the road started early. With the fuel issue solved, I had high hopes of making good time the rest of the trip….not so fast…literally! Not that again!! Nope, new problem.  Ugh.  Now, Waldo was overheating. We had had this problem before, but we thought it was fixed. Obviously not. We babied Waldo as best we could and finally made it to the outskirts of Roanoke, VA. I have a cool app on my phone called Overnight RV Parking It uses your location to show where verified free overnight parking is available. Or you can search an area using the map. I found a place we could stop for the night and give Waldo a break. Right off the highway was a Gander Mountain that allowed parking. We settled in for the night. There was another family parked near by. They had a dog too! Diesel got to spend some off-leash time playing ball after the store closed. Happy dogs!

We set off in the coolness of the early morning, knowing it would be slow going as long as the engine kept overheating. Most of the day was uneventful. We pulled into every rest area, letting Waldo cool down. The only one happy with this was Diesel because he got to get out and investigate the area. Ok…maybe I didn’t mind too much…

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We’d been pretty lucky with the weather, once out of New England, we were out of the rain. The temps were rising and a cold one was just what I wanted.

Knowing we wouldn’t make it to my dad’s house without stopping again, I began to look for a place to spend the night. I figured how many miles I thought we could make and chose A Big Wheel RV Park in Saint Mary’s, Georgia. A small, quiet park sounded like the perfect place to spend the night. Lucky for us, this is the off season and they had a pull-thru site available. We used our Passport America membership and our spot only cost us $19.

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After getting setup, I cooked our first meal on the road…

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We took Diesel for a nice long walk, ending up near the fishing pond. There was another family there with their bicycles and I was going to let Diesel get a drink until they pointed out the baby alligators. Across the pond was a sign which read “BEWARE Alligators Poisonous Snakes Red Ants” I tried to get a picture of it – not my best shot…

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We debated staying another day, but when we awoke the next morning, the skies opened up and drenched us. Knowing Waldo’s roof didn’t need the ‘bath’, we headed south…

Stay tuned for our Florida adventure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness in the rear view mirror

I know it has been quite a while since I’ve written a post and I’m sorry. An awful lot has happened in the last nine weeks! It has been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. In April, we put the house on the market. But it seemed every time I turned around, there was still some unfinished little project that needed to be done. Touch up the paint here, wash that cabinet, clean out that room. It was almost never ending and it really took a mental and physical toll on me. In May, we liquidated the contents of our business and our home. We auctioned off all the business assets. There was quite a crowd but the bidding was low and we came away with a lot less than we had hoped. But it was done! Next came our moving sale. Steve and I spent every spare moment moving items from the house to the garage. I organized and tagged while he did the heavy lifting. How in the world did we ever end up with so much stuff!?!?! The sale lasted 3 days – 3 long days! In the end, we did pretty well and a lot of “stuff” was gone. But what to do with the rest of our possessions? As I looked around at the leftovers, I made mental lists of what could be donated (and to whom), what should be thrown in the dumpster and what should be brought to Our Town Co Op, my favorite consignment store. It took several weeks to go from…

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To…

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In the midst of all of this, there was a family get together. For the first time ever, we had all three of our kids and all three of our grandchildren together.

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Plus there were lots of friends to say goodbye to. Breakfast with Bill and Sue, dinner with Jeff, lunch with Keith, dinner with Lindsay and Leo, beverages on the patio with Rick and Carol, lunch with Martha. It seemed every day we squeezed in one more goodbye. Unfortunately, it was taking away time I needed for wrapping everything up. Don’t get me wrong, I love our friends dearly, but I was feeling the stress of finishing my to-do list. Last week, I checked one of those things off my list – mowing the lawn for the last time…

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Finally it came down to packing Waldo. Our first destination is my dad’s house in Florida. There are just some things we don’t want to part with, but do not need on the road. Leaving them in Florida just makes the most sense, plus we need to have a new roof put on Waldo before we hit the road for good and staying at my dad’s sure beats nights in a motel! Finally, Waldo was loaded to the brim, every available inch of space was stuffed with something. It’s time!!!

 

We did stop at the end of our driveway to say one last goodbye…

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Happiness in the rear view mirror….

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Florida – Here we come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joke’s On Me

With hopes of making progress, on March 26th, we moved Waldo from its concrete pad near the garage to our driveway. There are still several Waldo projects we need to complete (replacing the microwave/convection oven for one). With Waldo in the driveway, we can plug into shore power (aka the house). Now, I can use power tools without needing a 100′ extension cord. Great! Let the projects begin…

Not so fast!!!! On the 28th, some snowbird friends called and asked if they could park their rig in our driveway for a few days. They are returning from work camping at Ocala National Forest for the winter and the campground they are heading to won’t be ready for them until April 1st. “No problem!” I said, thinking we could just put Waldo back on the concrete until they leave. Ut oh, dead batteries. Waldo isn’t going anywhere! Our friends arrived and were able to back down our long driveway and park next to Waldo. This wasn’t ideal, but we could work with it…

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We spent the evening catching up on their adventures and sharing our own work camping plans. Then Mother Nature decided Old Man Winter had not wreaked enough havoc on us this year! The forecast was calling for a FOOT of snow! Are you kidding me?!?!?!? This has to be an April Fool’s joke right?!?!?!? Nope – no joke…

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By the time it stopped snowing, we had close to a foot of wet, heavy snow! And, for the icing on the cake – our snowblower crapped out and our plow driver broke down before he could plow our driveway! I promise, I am not making this up!

Sunday dawned with bright blue skies and promises of temperatures reaching into the 50’s. Armed with shovels, snow brooms and the neighbor’s snowblower we began to dig out…

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We finally got the driveway cleared enough for them to get on their way and I’d be willing to bet, they won’t ever come back to New England quite so early.

Instead of getting to work on Waldo, I decided to take in some sun…

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Yes, that is a weight bench and Yes I know I’m laying on it wrong!

Maybe my next post can be full of the progress we are making!