Eagles and More

Neil got up early today and headed down for some eagle pics while Connie started looking for campsites on our way north…they figured a division of duties would help get both things done. We had done some basic route planning and figured out more or less where our stops were going to be as I discussed in the last post on 2015 plans…but with generic destinations like near Charleston SC, Wilmington NC, and Virginia Beach VA she had to look around at the various campground choices and pick out some nice ones to stay at.

As it turned out; we’ll be staying at 3 military base fam camps on the way north after Jacksonville (well, actually 4 if you count Jacksonville)…Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, and Dam Neck Annex VA before our arrival in Fairfax. All 3 have nice fam camps with Camp Lejeune’s being on the ocean so hopefully we’ll be able to get reservations at all of them.

When he got there a little after 0800 there was one other fella hanging around and Neil found out that one of the eaglets had died so there was only one remaining baby being brought up. Ozzie had gone off to the south about a half hour before he got there looking for food so we just hung around and watched the nest waiting on something to happen. Over the next half hour Harriet did take a brief flight and brought a branch back to the nest which she spent the next hour or so working into the structure.

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Once she was back on the nest Neil noticed a Red Headed Woodpecker over on another tree and got a couple of shots of it.

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As well as one of the group of horses in the field below the eagles nest.

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Ozzie came bake from his hunt over near the river…and as you can see from his empty talons was unsuccessful…

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so after a brief conversation with the Misses he headed off again this time to the west…guess he decided to go hunt some mammal instead of a fish. Sure enough…a half hour or so later he got back and this time was toting something for the baby to eat…although we couldn’t really decide what it is.

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He delivered it to the baby who started eating it down in the nest and shortly afterwards Harriet left to hunt for herself I guess.

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Neil thought she would be gone for awhile so got one last shot of one of the horses…this one is actually a stack of two different photos blended together so that all portions of it are in focus.

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As he was headed back to the car…Harriet returned and Ozzie then left flying almost directly over his head about 30 feet up but he wasn’t quick enough on the draw to get a shot of either of them. Oh well got one of her on the nest after he flew off. He got a couple that you can just barely see the top of the eaglet’s head but they weren’t decent enough to post…have to wait on it to grow up a bit I guess.

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With that he headed home and they spent another hour or two looking at campgrounds and made some decisions…Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, and Dam Neck VA will be their three stops (assuming we can get reservations) on the way north. All three are fam camps on military bases (2 Marine and 1 Navy) with attractive prices so we’ll look forward to all 3 of them. Once we leave Dam Neck in early May we’re set for campground through to early June so she’s working on our stops in Minneapolis MN and Medora ND for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park stop.

We’re off to dinner at the Elks tonight…went there for taco salads and beer last night and will be there for fried fish today…then tomorrow we’ve invited Connie’s friend Jeff up to have some venison with us…he provided us with 2 big packages of venison steaks so the least we can do is feed him one of them. We’ll have a campfire after dinner probably.

Cyas.

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2015 Plans

Well, we have our travel plans for this year pretty much set so I thought I would pass them along to ya’ll…that way you’ll have some idea ahead of time of what kind of pictures you will likely see.

We’ve moved our departure date from Seminole from April 1 to April 6…this will let Connie sing with the choir at Mass on Easter Sunday before we leave. We leave here on Monday for Jacksonville where we’ll stay a week at the Pelican Roost Campground on the Naval Station where we stayed last year…but we lucked into a pull through site with a view instead of the back in with a lesser view. After Jacksonville we’ll head north with 3 stops before we get to Fairfax VA in early May for Connie to meet with her students and boss and to get dental and financial appointments done. These 3 stops are somewhat in flux as Connie hasn’t picked the exact area yet…but will be in the vicinity of Savannah GA, Wilmington NC, and Virginia Beach VA for a week each.

After a week in Fairfax we’ll head south again to visit the human kids in Midlothian, drop off some stuff we don’t need for the summer, and leave our Mazda behind with the kids when we leave. Leaving Midlothian we’ll head to Marion NC for a week for the RV Dreams Reunion Rally…this is almost exclusively a social rally with no seminars scheduled. We’ll meet up with our friends Howard and Linda, Bill and Linda, Bill and Nancy, Gin and Syl and many others for a week of fun, hiking, campfires, and general merriment.

From Marion we’ll head north to Elkhart IN to get the brakes and bearings on the house checked at the MorRYDE facility there then head west for a week in Minneapolis MN then another week at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the third national park established) and the Little Missouri National Grassland near Medora ND. We’re looking forward to that one as our long time travel buddy Gary Arndt believes it to be an undiscovered gem and one of the best national parks in the NPS system. 

Heading north after Medora we’ll enter Saskatchewan CA with brief stops in Regina and Saskatoon before turning westward to Edmonton AB for a few days where we’ll meet up with Bill and Linda then on to Dawson Creek BC where we’ll arrive in late June for our 60 day Alaska caravan which starts on June 29 with RV Adventure Treks along with our friends Bill and Linda.

From Dawson Creek we’ll spend the next 60 days towing 4800 miles through BC Canada, Northwest Territories Canada and Alaska…along with probably another 1500 miles of non towing fun stuff. We’ll be moving about 30 days out of the 60 but most of the moves are short so as to allow plenty of time to see stuff. We have side trips scheduled on the caravan up to Anaktuvuk Pass and the Gateway to the Arctic National Park as well as (Neil only, Connie ain’t interested in bears) down to Katmai National Park for bear viewing. We’ll also hit up Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna, Juneau, Fairbanks, Haines, Chicken, Valdez and Seward in Alaska and the towns and cities in the Northwest Territories including Dawson City where we’ll participate in the tradition of the Sour Toe Cocktail.

We end up the caravan in Prince George BC northwest of Jasper National Park the end of August and after a weekend to rest we’ll head east to Jasper National Park for a week stop. The highlights of that stop will be the mountain top finish of one of the stages of the Tour of Alberta bike race, some more hiking in Jasper where there were a lot of closed trails due to elk calving season when we were there last, and most surely some fall colors as by early September the leaves there will be changing rapidly.

From Jasper we’ll head down the Icefields Parkway…one of the great drives we have ever been on for more views of glaciers, rivers, and fall colors…proceeding through Banff and Calgary AB then down to Great Falls and Billings MT and on over to Devils Tower WY…Devils Tower is the monolith that was the scene of most of the action in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We’ll boondock there within sight of the monolith and will have some views like this (pictures by our friends Bill and Linda).

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From Devils Tower we’ll head east to Indianapolis or 4 days then back to Midlothian where we’ll stay (again) in Pocahontas State Park campground. We’ll attend the 2015 World Bike Racing Championships, pick up the Mazda, see Alex and the kids and reload the stuff we dropped off before from our storage bin.

From Midlothian we’ll head to southwest Virginia somewhere for a few days then over to Knoxville TN to see Neil’s sister MJ. We’ll then visit Smokey Mountains National Park where we should get some more fall color as it will be early October by then then head southwest to Tuscaloosa AL…the home of the Crimson Tide. We were originally going to get tickets to the Arkansas game…but found out they’re almost 500 bucks so we’ll just hang out on campus, go to the various tailgates, eat some barbecue and maybe pickup some tickets from a scalper if they are cheap enough to be worth it. We’ll then head south for a stop in Coffeeville AL which is right near the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company property in Sunflower AL. Connie’s never seen the property and Neil hasn’t been there since high school. We’ll then head further south for a stop at either the Escapees Campground in Summerdale AL or Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores for a few days. We’ll then head east to the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key FL for a rest and recuperation week then arrive back in North Fort Myers on November 1 for our winter stay.

Sounds like a pretty full travel season to me…we’ll be hitting 14,000 miles towing plus another 1,500 or so for sightseeing on the Canada/Alaska portion of the trip…about 50% more than our previous high mileage year and a lot more travel days than we’re used to due to the caravan and the two relatively quick cross country trips to get to British Columbia and back. We’re looking forward to it though and will be having some great pictures, stories, and adventures to tell ya’ll about.

Speaking of adventures…we wandered down to the beach here in Seminole Campground yesterday and got a couple of shots of the sunset. The first one is what it looked like straight out of the camera, the second and third are after Neil’s photo magic with the computer, and the last is an Osprey that was flying around looking for dinner. We also heard but did not see the frogs in the lake and saw one of the gators way across the way but he was just a shadow like a log on the surface and it was too dark (and we didn’t have the long lens) to get a picture of it. We wanted to give ya’ll a taste of what you’re missing by staying in the cold, frozen hinterlands during the winter…it’s soooo much nicer down here. We were in shorts and flip flops walking over there.

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Afterwards we came home and had a great dinner…well, we actually had great dinners two nights in a row. Connie suggested panic coated fried chicken breasts the day before and we had some of them on a bed of lettuce the first day…then had the leftovers with lemon garlic spaghetti last night. Both were really great. We also had a dessert pot luck Friday night…60 or so people there and a whole table filled with nothing but desserts. The Key Lime pie our friend Diane made and the Blondies were the hit of the evening, along with a performance by a magician who gave us an adult magic show.

Our current long range plans for 2016 are another caravan with the same company but this time up to the Canadian Maritime provinces. We’ll stop by Midlothian (since all roads now lead to Midlothian rather than Junction City) and meander up to Boston for another week stay before heading up to Maine and New Brunswick for a 39 day trek. After that we’ll probably head back south through upstate New York again although at this pint the only thing we have any confidence in is the Canadian trip and stopping by Boston.

That’s about it. Connie’s working today and Neil did laundry…he’ll probably go on a bike ride later but ya never know.

Cyas.

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Tampa RV Show Road Trip

I gotta tell ya…for not doing much it’s been a pretty busy week. We had a nice pot luck on Friday night and lazed around for the weekend. Monday Connie was hard at work getting her students scheduled and that continued over into Tuesday. After Bingo and hot dogs Tuesday night we were up at the crack of dawn on Wednesday for a trip up to the Tampa RV Show about 2 hours north of here. We picked up Connie’s friend Jeff at 0800 and after some serious traffic the last couple of miles getting into the Florida State Fairgrounds got parked and met up with our friends Bill and Linda who we’re going to Alaska with in the summer. First order of business was lunch then we started wandering around the show checking things out. We toured a couple of medium size class A RVs (class A is the bus type) and decided that if we were to get one of those we would get one with a mid entry door instead of having it up at the front…that way the living room is separate from the kitchen a bit and the driving area isn’t  part of the normal in/out of the rig. After that we stopped and looked at a class C (that’s the one built on a truck frame with an almost separate driving compartment and a separate entry door besides the normal truck doors. This one was about 35 feet long with a full length slide on the drivers side and designed to sleep 8 with both a full and a half bath. Bill and Neil quickly figured out that if one were to redesign the interior a bit…remove the half bath, shift it to only sleep 2 and replace the bench seat/couches with a couple of recliners it would actually be a pretty decent RV for part time full timing. Like Neil and Connie…Bill and Linda are also thinking about their next RV…it’s not gonna be any time soon of course for either of us but eventually we’ll decide to have a home base somewhere warm and travel for a couple of months at a time a couple times a year…returning to our home base when it’s time to rest and recharge. Sort of like what we do now with our winter stays here in Fort Myers but with something more fixed to live in while we do it. Probably won’t be a house but a condo or townhouse with no yard work/snow shoveling/leaf raking and a nice view of the ocean will do us nicely.

About the time we got out of there we started running into even more friends. Our friends Ed and Lynn (formerly of New Jersey) who also have a New Horizons, Bill and Diane from the RV-Dreams forum, and also Ann and Roy who are also New Horizons owners and will be running the next NHOG rally in spring of 2016 somewhere in the southeast. We stopped by the New Horizons show model and drifted into various discussions of technical stuff (the guys) and wimmin stuff (the wimmin of course). About 1500 we all met up again to decide what to do. Bill and Linda were staying at a hotel in Tampa but all of the rest of us had 2+ hour drives home so we decided to get an early dinner and then head out. We spent another hour or so wandering through the show looking at gadgets then headed off to Olive Garden for dinner as it was close, easy to get into and out of, and had a big enough table for us. Neil suggested pizza but Ann (who’s a New Yorker through and through) said no pizza…she also said that there wasn’t any good Italian food outside of New York (we don’t agree)…but then she was the one that picked Olive Garden which doesn’t meet the definition of good Italian food either so mebbe her statement just might be a lil’ suspect. Olive Garden isn’t bad…but then it’s not really Italian food either.

Neil did pick out one gadget we are getting…as soon as he orders it…it’s this kingpin noggin protector to keep us from smashing ourselves again.

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Anyways…we had some wine, some beers, a whole lot of cheesy food with multiple sauces…along with some great talk and all got out of there about 1745 or so to head our separate ways. With a quick round of “until next time” in the parking lot…you never say goodbye to RVing friends, it’s always just an “until we meet down the road somewhere”. We’ll be seeing all of the group either this summer or next spring (Ann and Roy at the NHOG rally) and there’s always email for keeping in touch. With that we were all off and we got home to the rig about 2030 or so. We were exhausted so after an hour (maybe) of TV it was off to bed and out like a light for both of us.

Thursday morning we were again up early…Connie was working and Neil headed off to the office to see if some of our packages had come in. Well…there were so many he had to borrow a golf cart to get them all back to the site. We got a waterproof storage bin for our generator, a bin for our BBQ grill that Bill picked up for us, a new outside table to replace the one that Bill broke when he sat on it thinking it would support his weight, some light bulbs. a USB drive thing for our server, a 4G/LTE amplifier for our MiFi Internet device, and various other stuff we needed. While he was spending time getting everything unpacked and put away the guys (Dan and Derek) from Stanley Steemer showed up to clean our carpet. It was pretty dirty after almost 3 years of living mostly in the woods and while it doesn’t look new now it certainly looks a lot better. The only drawback is that all of our living room stuff is not on the living room slide any more since it was wet afterwards…which meant it was all stacked in the rest of the rig so we had to pick our way amongst all of that stuff overnight.

After the carpet was done we hit up Walmart for groceries…note to self, don’t go to Walmart on Thursday afternoon as it’s packed…we’ll try early in the morning next time I guess. After that it was bingo in the park for Connie  and TV for Neil until bedtime.

Today I guess it will be more work for Connie…and probably a bike ride for Neil. Then tonight we’re having chicken for dinner followed by a dessert potluck. We’ve never been to one of those…but hey, it’s dessert so how bad can it be.

Jen sent us some more baby pics of course…here are a few for you. The Alabama hat Neil’s sister MJ gave them and she wanted a shot of him with it. All I can say is “Roll Tide, kid.”

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Here’s another couple of funny pics we ran across as well.

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That’s about it…we have some more packages coming in the next few days but other than that don’t have too many plans.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 3 Comments

Doing’ a Lot of Nuttin’

 

The title says it all folks…we have not done anything interesting this entire year so far. Went to bingo and Mass, went down to the campfire Monday and the pot-luck yesterday, did a major clean of the entire house top to bottom yesterday and that’s about it.

Neil did make some decisions on various stuff we need for the house and has them all on his Amazon wish list for ordering later this week and he did get in a couple of rides but other than that…nuttin’.

We have been noticing all that white S word stuff and temperatures that either have a minus sign in front of them or are single digits…and I gotta say we’re glad to be down here where it’s at least relatively warm…although the lows the past 2 nights have been about 50 so for SW FL it’s pretty chilly.

We haven’t even made any gourmet meals…although we did take one of the venison backstrap tenderloins that Bryan gave us and after quickly pan searing it made up a mushroom cream sauce and had it with rice…it tasted great! Other than that even dinnertime hasn’t been all that exciting.

Alex continues to grow…he’s eating pretty good now and from the pics Jen sends us he’s changing almost daily. Picking his head up and rolling over already and you can tell from the photos that he’s starting to get some personality and be aware of the world around him. Jen said the second one was him telling her he was hungry…so clearly the expression on his face is baby-ese for “bring me my boobie, I’m hungry”.

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Our friends Bill and Linda Napier that we’re going up to Alaska with next summer are coming down today from Melbourne FL for a visit. They have been wintering there for many years as Bill’ mother went there in her Airstream for the winter. She’s in her 90s now I believe and has had to stop that so Bill and Linda don’t have anything to really go there for any longer and hence are looking for a new wintering location. They’re checking out a resort up in Cedar Key and since we like Seminole they are also coming down here to check it out. We’ll have lunch with them afterwards and then see them on Wednesday up at the Tampa RV Show…gotta go and check out the latest gadgets ya know…you can never predict what you might find. We’re also cleaning the carpet in our living room slide this week…it’s pretty dirty so we’ll do it Tuesday morning and since all the furniture will be piled in the kitchen while the carpet is drying we will eat out at Bingo per our usual on Tuesday night and leave the windows open and fans on while we’re gone on Wednesday. It’s supposed to be in the 80s so that should make sure the carpet is dry and we can put the living room back together when we get home Wednesday night or more likely Thursday morning.

Connie’s friend Jeff who is here until Feb 9 has never been to Shark Valley…so we’ll probably head over there later on this week or next. Jeff has a class C and didn’t bring a car so he pretty much bikes everywhere he needs to go. We’ll toss all our bikes into the back of BAT and head over there early for the 14 mile trip around the loop seeing birds and gators and taking photos. He thinks that a visit to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary would also be great but the water won’t be low enough for much wading bird presence before he leaves.

We also discovered that Seminole put in a nice beach over on the west side of the park; it butts up against a lake but no swimming is allowed due to gators. It’s got a nice view to the west so sunset photos should be grand though. I’ll have Neil take some today or tomorrow and put them up for ya to look at.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

2014 Year in Review

Well, another year is in the books.

After finishing out our winter stay in North Fort Myers FL we headed out on Mar 15 with scheduled stops in Jacksonville FL and Charleston SC before arriving in Fairfax VA in early May. After dental and financial appointments we headed south to Midlothian VA to visit the human kids and found out that Jen was pregnant with a due date of late December. From there we headed down to Sevierville TN for the RV Dreams Spring rally then hopscotched across Kentucky, southern Illinois and Missouri before arriving at Camp Horizons in Junction City KS in mid June. The rig needed some warranty work as our warranty was expiring in July and we wanted to get a couple things added/changed so we left the rig there and drove to Kansas City where we caught a flight to Dublin Ireland for the next 3.5 weeks. After spending a weekend in Dublin seeing the sights we picked pour rental car and spent 3 weeks driving a pretty much clockwise path around Ireland and Northern Ireland. Driving over there was a bit of a challenge but not in the manner that we thought. Sure; they drive on the left (wrong) side of the road but Neil had driven under those conditions before and that part of it didn’t really bother us much…we just kept our eyes open at roundabouts for the first couple of days until the backwardness of it became normal. What did present a problem (well, more of one than the left lane driving) was being on the wrong side of the car. Since they drive on the left over there the driver sits on the right…and that completely discombobulates your 40something years of driving experience as the change in perspective and point of view makes it really, really hard to stay in your lane.

We did notice a few oddities from our time in Ireland though…the biggest thing was the roads…or lack thereof. Sure; they’ve got roads and they’re paved (mostly) and everything…but they don’t grade them smooth and straighten out the curves like we do in the US. The roads over there grew up being first foot paths then cart paths and pretty much follow the contours of the land. When they were paved and turned into motorways for cars they just paved them. The net result is that the roads are really narrow and have lots of curves on them. Almost all of them are just 2 lanes but despite this the speed limit was usually 100 kph or about 62 miles an hour…and a great deal of the time it would be impossible to stay on the road if you were going the speed limit. Add in that a lot of the roads aren’t actually 2 lanes wide but only about 1 and a quarter…which means when you meet up with another car somebody has to either pull over or back up. In the states…this would result in a lot of posturing and road rage…but in Ireland it just means that whoever has the easiest place to squeeze over into a drive entrance or back up 10 feet to get to a wider spot on the shoulder just does it. No muss, no fuss, no arguments…we found the people over there to be very polite and this carried forward into their driving and general courteous behavior as well.

The second biggest thing we noticed was that a lot of the famous places/tourist attractions/things to see are at the end of skinny little roads and on private property which may or may not have sheep grazing on it…but that nobody minds if you open the gate and continue along to whatever it is you’re going to see as long as you close the gate behind you so the livestock doesn’t wander off.

The third thing we noticed was that most of the famous places/tourist attractions/things to see would not be allowed to be open at all in the US as the OSHA safety people wouldn’t allow it. For instance…everybody’s heard of the Blarney Stone which is up at the top of Blarney Castle (well, it’s more of a fortified manor house than what we would perceive as a castle but I digress). Anyway; along the top of the castle there’s a little wall around the parapet with some drain holes periodically in it…the Blarney Stone is underneath one of these drain holes and you have to lay on your back, grab a couple of bars, and lean down into the hole to kiss the stone. Add in the 3 foot total diameter circular staircase with absolutely no handholds you have to climb 120 feet or so up to get to the roof and the equally steep stairs to get back down…and well, this place just would not be open to the public in the US. It wasn’t just the Blarney Castle either…almost every place we went was like this.

The fourth thing we noticed (well, it was actually the second but again I digress) was that the most popular beer in Ireland is (naturally) Guinness…but the second most popular beer is Bud Lite. After noticing multiple Bud Lite taps in the first 3 or 4 pubs we visited we asked the pub man about it and he said that it’s what the 20somethings drink…because “it’s the imported stuff” he said. He then told us that it’s actually brewed at the Guinness brewery in Dublin using Bud’s recipe and while we agreed that it did taste a whole better than US Bud Lite it was still Bud Lite and why anybody would drink it when they had Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, and Magners available was simply beyond understanding.

After our 3 week trip we arrived back in Dublin and flew home…then back to Junction City to get the rig. Naturally…despite the fact that we had been gone 3+ weeks…none of our items were completed so after our arrival about noon Monday we finally headed out on Friday. Our goal for the rest of the summer was to go north into the upper midwest since we had never been there. We traveled through MO, IA, the Dakotas, MN, WI and the upper peninsula of MI then back down through the Cleveland OH area, IN, OH, PA, and MD back Fairfax where we again spent a week. After that we headed south for another stop in Midlothian VA to see the human kids again then over to Knoxville to see Neil’s sister MJ. From there we went straight south to Santa Rosa Beach FL on the Gulf Coast for a week then after another week in Cedar Key FL arrived back in North Fort Myers on Nov 1.

We stayed here a week then headed back up to Mayo in northern FL to get solar panels installed on our roof and an aux diesel tank installed in BAT so we can go farther without refueling. After that we arrived back in Fort Myers and thought we were fixed until after the holidays. Jen’s baby Alex had other ideas however…and arrived on Dec 12…so naturally after he and Jen came home on the 15th we drove the 1000 miles up there to visit for a couple days then drove back to Fort Myers. What with the holidays and getting ready for them we stayed pretty busy through the end of the year. Here are a couple shots of the little munchkin.

Minutes old…still has wrinkled skin from being wet for 9 months

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Still in the hospital…shot from their photographer

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Lifting his head up at 2 weeks old

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Dressed up for his first Christmas

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Trying to capture the whole traveling season in photos would make this post very, very long…but here are a few just to stimulate your interest. There are many more posted in our blog archives and much more detail on things and places in there as well.  These are mostly chronological.

Osprey in Jacksonville

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Hike in Charleston

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Union Lines at the Cold Harbor Battlefield

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Train bridge in KY

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Starting our Ireland trip…we had many pints of this Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale a few weeks back in Kentucky…but this was in the first pub we went into in Dublin on our arrival.

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First Ireland Brew (or maybe second…can’t remember which).

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Ireland

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A mini Stone Henge

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Red Deer

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Here we are on the Loch

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One of the local fauna

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See what I mean with the roads?

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Cliffs of Moher

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Another great road…can ya believe the speed limit is 62 miles an hour?

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This was a convent believe it or not

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On the way out to the eastern end of the first trans Atlantic telegraph transmission

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and along this goat path; the antennas were setup near the rock formation at the far right distance

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Puffins on Skellig Michael Island…about 8 miles off the coast and the site of a monastery up until about 1200 AD or so

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Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

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The site of the Ojibway village in Minnesota where Neil’s ancestor was the translator for the first treaty between the US government and the Michigan Indians. English call them Chippewa but Ojibway is what they called themselves.

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Another Osprey; back in Cedar Key FL

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Our plans for the 2015 travel season are to leave here on Apr 5. After another week in Jacksonville we’ll head up the east coast with 2 more stops at yet to be determined places to arrive in Fairfax in early May. After dental and financial appointments we’ll stop back by Midlothian and drop the car off with the kids for pickup later in September. We’ve got another RV Dreams Rally scheduled for late May in Marion NC. Once that’s over we head to Elkhart IN to get the rig brakes and bearings checked before making a quick dash across the country (2,100 miles in about 3 weeks) to arrive in Dawson Creek BC in late June.

The major portion of our summer will be spent on a 60 day caravan from Dawson Creek up to Alaska, BC and the Yukon with the trip finishing up in Prince George BC about 300 miles north of Vancouver the end of August. The caravan will be about 4,800 miles plus miles we drive for seeing stuff while camped. We’re really looking forward to the trip which will include a trip up to Gates of the Arctic National Park at Anaktuvuk Pass AK and one to Katmai National Park in King Salmon AK for bear viewing (although Connie isn’t going on the latter one…she’s seen enough bears).

From Prince George we will have just a bit over 3 weeks to get back to Midlothian VA where the 2015 World Bike Racing Championships are taking place…another 4,100 miles in 24 days…seems like we’re doing a lot of relatively high speed traveling next summer. Once the bike racing championships are over we have a leisurely trip back to Cedar Keys…only 1100 miles or so and almost 4 whole weeks to get there. After another 10 days in Cedar Key we’ll again arrive in Fort Myers on Nov 1, 2015 for the winter.

 

Statistics:

  • Countries visited: 4 (US, Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland)
  • States visited: 24
  • BAT Miles: 8,755
  • RV Miles: 8,235
  • Car Miles: 19,808
  • Campgrounds stayed in: 37 (27 taking away the two extended stops at Seminole, the time in New Horizons parking lot and the 7 overnight only stops)
  • Average stay length:  7.1 days (not counting the periods in the bullet above)
  • Average stay length (all campgrounds):  9.9 days
  • Number of RV travel days: 38 (not counting the Ireland trip where traveled pretty much every day)
  • Average travel day miles: 216 (maximum of 310 and minimum of 88)
  • Highest altitude reached: no idea; we weren’t really in any mountains this year but probably about 1,200 feet
  • Lowest altitude reached: sea level 
  • Northernmost and southernmost points reached: Giants Causeway UK 55.2406ºN and North Fort Myers FL 26.7189ºN
  • Easternmost and Westernmost points reached: Belfast, UK 5.9041ºW and Junction City KS 96.8736ºW
  • Photographs taken: 6.818 frames for 154 GB
  • Photographs published: 1,127
  • Blog posts published: 104
  • Blog views: 4,800, busiest day was Sep 29 with 118 views. Most popular post that day was More Fun Stuff©
  • Countries that visited our blog: 87; top visiting countries were the US, Brazil, and the UK
  • Most viewed blog posts: Gillette Castle, Chapman Falls and Rocky Neck State Park and Beach from Aug 2012, Travel Day to Dale Hollow State Resort Park, Burkesville KY from May 2014, and Day Trip to Red River Scenic Gorge from May 2014 
  • Top referring web sites were Twitter.com, Facebook.com, and everything-everywhere.com
  • Most popular blogging day was Wednesday
  • Longest daily posting streak was 13 days from June 23 to July 5…while we were on our trip to Ireland
  • Most commented on post was Day T rip to Red River Scenic Gorge from May 14 with 8 comments
  • Blog Champion Commenter: Neil’s sister MJ Trainor with 55 (again) followed by Neil’s brother Ron and Connie’s sister Cindy
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Post Christmas Catchup

Well; Neil’s cold has continued to bother him this week…lots of sniffling, aches, tired and just feeling overall lousy. Despite that…we still did what we needed to do; finished wrapping presents, attended the special version of Midnight Mass at 4PM on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas morning as the choir sang at both of those, went to the Christmas potluck here at the park and just tired to rest in between.

I did want to catch up a few photos from the past couple of weeks and post some more Alex images to our smug mug page though.

A couple days before we headed up to see Alex we went over to the Pine Island Wildlife Refuge for a hike…it wasn’t much of a hike as the water was still too high to get to most of the loop trail so we’ll have to try again in a month or so. We did spot a hawk way away across the marsh…but this was as close to it as we could get. Looks like a Red Shouldered but it’s hard to be sure and we forgot the binoculars in the car.

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Sunday afternoon before we went up to see Alex the park put on a boat tour up to Punta Gorda to see the lights along the canals…we passed one house that is 16,000 square feet with only a couple living in it…talk about having too much place. Here’s a couple shots from the ride.

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Finally; a few more shots of baby Alex; I’ve uploaded a whole bunch more than this to our photo site on smug mug at http://laubenthal.smugmug.com/Grandkid/Neil30/ but here a few of what we thought were the better ones.

First one is right after he was born…the hospital photographer took this one.

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Betty, meet Alex. After he was off the glow worm light and more awake he watches their beagle Betty a lot.

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On mom’s bed in the hospital.

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And a shot of him dressed up for the holidays.

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I think this is the best shot of him so far…awake, dressed for the holidays, and sitting on mom’s lap. He’s a cute lil’ guy all right. Like the Stongbow Apple Cider commercial with the slow motion horse says…this is the best-est.

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Neil went out this AM and regenerated our water softener. It lasts about 6 weeks or so and gets rid of all the minerals in the water down here that make the water hard. To regenerate it you dump in 2 boxes of regular old table salt and then slowly flush it with water for a half hour. This removes the minerals from the resin particles in it and we’re good for another 6 weeks or so. Soft water makes your soap work a lot better and also helps keep the grease/mineral gunk off the sides of the gray water tank which helps keep the tank level indicators working correctly.

He’s also been doing a lot of our maintenance items the past few weeks…he’s about 1/3 the way done with the list and has another list of stuff we need to buy before heading off for our Alaska trip in the summer. We’re going to leave the car with the human kids while we’re gone and also leave a lot of stuff we know we won’t use like our kayak and Christmas decorations in the storage unit…no need to haul all that stuff we aren’t going to use with us. We’ll carry some stuff in the back seat of BAT but will put it in bins so that we can easily toss it in the bed or under the front of the rig when we need the back seat for carrying friends…a lot of the sights you have to drive to from the campgrounds and we’ll split the driving duties with our friends Bill and Linda as well as all of our other friends that we haven’t met yet who will be on the caravan with us.

Cyas.

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Grand Baby News

Well…it’s been a tough week for us. Sunday we went off on a boat ride to see the Christmas Lights over in Punta Gorda…we got lots of great photos that Neil will post once he processes them. Today’s post has a smaller number to process and is more important news anyway so I’m going to do the posts out of chronological order.

Monday morning we got up at zero dark hundred and headed off on our 925 mile drive up to Midlothian to see the grand baby. Our original idea was to stop over night in NC somewhere and get there Tuesday morning rather than getting there late in the evening but we got a call from Bryan that if we could press on and get there Monday evening that would actually be better as he was coming down with a cold and Jen would appreciate the help. So we kept going…stopped and got a couple of Taco Bell burritos that we ate going down the road and pulled into their driveway about 2100 or so. We met the baby and spent the next 2 days getting quality grand parent time, running errands for them and cooking dinners. 

Tuesday morning Neil drove Jen and Alex over to the pediatrician for his first appointment; he carried Alex around and went back with Jen as she isn’t allowed to carry anything heavy and when picking the carrier up the off center weight made her stitches hurt. Alex looked a bit yellow (jaundiced) the doctor thought so they sampled his bilirubin. He was asleep throughout the exam and didn’t move a muscle when the nurse stuck his heel for the sample. Talk about a heavy sleeper.

Later on that afternoon the doctor called with his bilirubin and it was up around 15 which is the cause of the jaundice. Birth is traumatic for the baby (who knew!) and makes a lot of red blood cells die off which raises his bilirubin and makes him jaundiced; more die than normally on one day so the liver has trouble keeping up. So the home health service came by and dropped off a blue LED light vest that helps to eliminate the bilirubin. He wears it all the time until the levels have a downward trend towards normal. In the hospital they put the babies under a big bank of overhead UV lights but for home use they bring you this little vest thing. Makes him look like a little glow worm…doesn’t he.

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Neil started coming down with Bryan’s cold Wednesday afternoon so that was the end of quality grand parent time for him:-( but it just meant more for Connie.

Thursday morning we headed off about 0700. We stopped by the Kroger to buy some dry ice…one of Jen’s relatives had left us a couple pounds of venison roasts and we needed to keep them frozen for the trip…gotta handle the important stuff ya know…and unbelievably at 0700 on a weekday morning the deli/coffee shop in the store had no coffee or pastries for breakfast. So we popped over to the Panera on the way out of the parking lot and handled those important needs and then hit the road. We stopped for gas and lunch and potty breaks as needed…we can’t remember the last time we filled up the tank in the Mazda for under $35; we paid 2.25 to 2.39 for the whole trip…gotta love those temporarily low prices. Connie played Radio Reader and read a couple of Kindle books on the way home. For those of you who don’t know what Radio Reader is…back in the 60s and 70s there was a show on the NPR radio stations where they would read books aloud a chapter once a week with dramatic reading. Sort of like Audible Books is today. Anyway…Connie usually reads a book to us on long car trips as it makes the time go faster.

We did stop for dinner at a Chik-fil-A for a half hour since we were pushing on to home Thursday night…and Neil got Connie to drive a couple of hours in the late afternoon…he didn’t do that on the way up and got really tired. Once we left dinner at Orlando we were on 2 land dark country highways and neither Neil or Connie trusted her to drive on those with her lack of depth perception so Neil drove the rest of the way home…but with his cold he was really, really glad when we got back. We unloaded the car and piled everything in the house to unpack the next day and slept like the dead. Neil got up about 0300 or so and slept in the recliner.

Yesterday he just laid around and took drugs and felt bad…and is feeling better but not good today…so hopefully he’ll be back to normal by Monday.

Neil’s going to continue to get photos of the baby from Jen and has a whole bunch more than is in this post to process…once he’s done I’ll put them up on our Smugmug site at http://laubenthal.smugmug.com/Grandkid. We’ll put a note in whichever blog post is next when the gallery is updated and Connie will also announce it on her twitter @conniedl and on the blog account @guntherkara when the gallery is updated. In the meantime here are just a couple more for you. The first one he’s on mama’s lap in his Alabama onsie and the second one is right after he came out of his bath. Bryan saw his hair sticking up and wanted to know who stuck his finger in a plug.

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Yesterday his bilirubin was down and today it continued down so he’s off the light. He goes in for his next checkup on Tuesday so they’ll probably do another test then and make sure that it’s continuing to trend downward. He’s staying awake a lot more and extra sleeping is one of the symptoms of the problem; and he looks a lot more pinky rather than peachy yellowey than he did earlier in the week.

That’s about it for today…Cyas.

 

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