Lake Superior’s North Shore

For our anniversary in August, Steve and I took a couple days off work and headed to Minnesota. Our plan was to use Duluth as a “home base” to explore the north shore of Lake Superior. We wanted to make the most of the time we had and it was difficult to decide what was a “must see” or “must do”. Knowing my love of waterfalls and lighthouses, Steve came up with a plan. We would drive up highway 61 and see as much as we possibly could.

Pallisades Head

Our first stop was Pallisades Head. With little more than a small highway marker to signal our arrival, we drove up the narrow road to the parking area. My jaw dropped as I stared out at the scenery…

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Several people have died falling from these cliffs. With no safety rails, Steve wasn’t taking any chances as he photographed the landscape…

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Walking back to the Jeep, I stopped to examine the sap covered pine cones…

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We could have spent much more time there, but then we would have had to miss out on something else.

Tettegouche State Park

The furthest north we drove was Tettegouch State Park. After paying for our day pass (which turned out to be valid at all the state parks we visited that day), we got directions for the trailhead to High Falls. It would be a 3+ mile round trip hike, but the ranger assured us it would be worth it. The trail started out rather steep and I was thinking how sore I would be the next day. Eventually the gravel trail turned into boardwalk and the hiking became a bit easier…

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We debated whether or not to climb down the 135 stairs to get the best view of the waterfall because, after all, you have to climb back up! In the end, I’m SO glad we did…

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With a little patience and wading into the river, you can get a picture of the falls without crowds of people. But then, we had to climb those 135 stairs…ugh…

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Again, we could have spent days exploring the trails and waterfalls!

Split Rock Lighthouse

Next we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. There is an extra fee to visit the lighthouse, but we were determined to see it all. Luckily, it sits on a high cliff so there were only a few stair to climb to get to the top…

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But the best view of the lighthouse is further down the road at a scenic overlook…

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Moving on, we stopped at one of the places everyone said was a “must”

Gooseberry Falls State Park

After finally finding a parking space we headed down the trail to see Gooseberry Falls. It is actually a series of falls. Again, with patience, we were able to come away with uncrowded pictures…

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The afternoon was quickly slipping away from us as we headed to our next stop.

Two Harbors Lighthouse

We barely made it to Two Harbors Lighthouse before they closed for the day. It is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore. It has been converted into the Lighthouse B&B, but you can still tour the grounds and climb the tower…

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We walked down by the jetty to get a view of the lake…

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The waters were calm and the setting was so incredibly peaceful. I didn’t want to leave, but we still had an anniversary dinner ahead of us!

We were exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel room! We managed to stay awake long enough to drink a bottle of champagne we had brought with us before drifting off to sleep. The next morning, we checked out and tried to decide how much we could see of Duluth before starting the 5 hour drive back to the campground. One thing Steve really wanted to see was the Peterbuilt Boat…

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Yes, you are seeing that right. It’s a pontoon boat, how cool is that!?!?! What I wanted a better look at was the Duluth Ariel Bridge. The bridge spans the Duluth ship canal and is flanked by three lighthouses…

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We were lucky enough to have time to visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. Here we checked out the shipping schedule and were delighted to learn we’d get to watch the Duluth Ariel Bridge in action…

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At nearly 740′ long and 78′ wide, the cargo ship Whitefish Bay sailed under the bridge, through the canal and out into Lake Superior with its load of iron ore in under 15 minutes. In less than 3 minutes, the bridge was back in the down position and cars were driving over it!

After a quick bite to eat, it was time to head back to Waldo 😦 We absolutely loved the north shore!!! While we managed to cram a lot into our 3 days, we barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer. That just means we’ll have to plan to find work up there one of these summers so we can see it all!!!

Have you ever visited the north shore of Lake Superior? What was your favorite thing to do there?

5 Truths About Our Life on the Road

When we first decided to live full time in Waldo, I had a very different idea of what our life would be like. In some ways, it has far exceeded my hopes and in other ways, it has fallen drastically short. Here are 5 things I have learned about myself and our lifestyle:

1. We are NOT on vacation.

While most of my posts deal with all of the cool places we visit, the truth is we have to work. Neither of us are old enough to collect social security, nor do we have any type of retirement. Our only source of income is from the workamping we do. I had visions of living in Waldo the way my parents did, never staying anywhere for more than a week or two before moving on, sooner if the weather turned cold or rainy. But the fact is, we usually end up being somewhere for several months, after all, we made a commitment when we took the job. Quite often I find several months to be too long. I either get bored with a place once we’ve explored the area or the job isn’t really to my liking, but again, we made a commitment. For me, selling Christmas trees in Florida was nearly the perfect job. It was short term, it was warm and the money was great. If there was a “downside”, it was we didn’t have any time to explore the area.

 

2. Two people in 400 sq/ft can be a challenge

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We had been married for 14 years when we made the leap to full-timing. I thought I knew everything I could possibly need to know about us – nope! The biggest difference between living in an RV and living in a house is if you find you need some “space”, there isn’t any. I had a home office in our house, now my office is in the same room as the kitchen, living room and steering wheel. Steve had a garage to go putter around in, now he doesn’t. We don’t generally get on each others nerves, but it happens. We don’t generally have disagreements, but they happen. The difference is we can’t go to our separate space. Living in the confines of 400 sq/ft has taught me that I need my space more than I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve with all my heart.  I would never want to live this life without him, but sometimes I just need my space.

3. We’ll never get to see it all

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Thanks to my grammar school teachers, I know there are 50 states. If we spent 3 months per state, we could only see 4 a year – that’s 12 1/2 years (assuming we could drive to Hawaii). While we could probably hit the highlights in each state in 3 months, we’d never have time to seek out the out-of-the-way places we both enjoy so much. Oh yea, back to #1, we aren’t on vacation. By the way, I’ve added travel maps to the blog. You can check out where we went by year. I hope to keep it up-to-date from now on.

4. We are 6 wheels away from homeless

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I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far off the mark. There isn’t much worse than seeing everything you own put on the back of a tow truck. I mean nobody ever towed off our stick and brick when it needed repairs. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate, nearly every time we’ve needed repairs, we’ve been able to stay in Waldo while the work was being done. The only time we couldn’t was when the roof was done. That wasn’t an issue because we were staying at my dad’s house. Every now and then, I get a little panicky when I think about what “could” happen. I know, no sense borrowing trouble. I just can’t help it.

5. We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

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When I compare our stick and brick life to our RV life, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our life. We have met some of the most wonderful people, in person and online, because of the way we live. We have seen places lots of people only talk about seeing. We visited 15 National Parks in 2018 plus countless state parks. And we are doing it together! I doubt it really gets any better.

 

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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.

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!!!!