Getting Into the Winter Routine and Connie Joins the Elks

Well, another week down and not much to report. Neil went on a couple of bike rides and we continued checking stuff off of our “Arrival in Fort Myers” list. We had our dental cleaning and each of us has a cavity that needs filling…Neil’s is under a crown so that will need replacing while Connie’s is in a tooth that will require a crown to go along with the filling.

We’ve mostly been eating in…haven’t cooked a bad meal since we got here…now that we’re in winter home mode we tend to eat out less and between the two adults we’ve really been dishing up some tasty grub.

Connie joined our local Elks Lodge…she’s been getting in on her spouse card and is a member of the Ladies of Elks auxiliary…but decided it was time to become a full fledged member. Neil thinks she really just wanted to know the secret handshake…which she now does.

Along the way this week…Neil hung up the Tiki Bar sign that our friend Maureen from the Low Key Hideaway bought us…Neil admired theirs and threatened to steal it (just teasing!) so she got us one.

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He hung it out and plugged it into the timer we have that normally runs our Christmas lighting…it’s set to be on from sunset until 4 hours later. 

Connie continues to not be a winner at Bingo…hopefully her luck will change and she’ll make enough to break even on the cost. Today we got roped into selling the hotdogs and nachos at the Quarter Auction…Connie was going to go anyway but Neil would have stayed at home until Frank called and asked if we would sell as Frank and Gail (the normal sellers) have to head an hour north to the Deep Creek Lodge for some sort of District Deputy visitation thing…another reason not to become a lodge officer as you end up not only spending more nights at your own lodge than normal but also you are expected to participate in visitations, initiations, and other social/lodge business events at other lodges close by.

Little Red continues to impress us…her engine is really quiet and several times we’ve either tried to start it when it was already running or started to leave the car without turning it off. We’re really liking having a car again…it will make travel days a little harder on Connie as she will drive separately and slightly harder on Neil as well as he won’t have any people in Big Red with him to handle tasks like refilling his drink, checking the navigation or googling for some bit of information we need…all that will have to happen at rest stops instead.

The college football season is getting down to the serious portion…last week 4 top 10 teams including Georgia, TCU, Notre Dame and Washington all lost. Alabama was tied to behind most of the game but as is the norm for a Saban coached team they won the fourth quarter convincingly and scored with about a minute to play to give themselves a 31-24 win. They’ve got a cupcake this week in Mercer but next week it’s the Iron Bowl against Auburn (who beat Georgia soundly last week when the Dogs were ranked #1) then the SEC Championship Game against Georgia once we beat Auburn then it will be off the the playoffs. Nothing certain at this point…and while the Tide is looking pretty good they have to continue to show up, follow the process, and have every player do their job.

On to interesting stuff found on the net.

Good question…


Another good question.


Another pano gone wrong.


Story about an old pilot.


That must have been one bad fall.


This just in…



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Transit to North Fort Myers FL and New Family Member

OK, last post of the travel season…obviously I’ll keep posting during the winter but as we’re not doing nearly as much Fun Stuff© a lot of it will just be daily life.

Wednesday Nov 1 we came to the end of our 11 day stay at the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key. I need to give a shout to Steve from northern GA who we met there…he gave us 4 bottles of wine he made and brought another 2 over the last night before he left to go along with the steak and taters that Neil cooked…well, actually he brought the steak too as it was already thawed out and needed to get eaten and Neil was going to make hash for dinner as we had spent way too long hanging out at the Tiki Bar drinking brews. Anyways…he was there with his Sheltie Collie Cooper who was about the most laid back dog ya ever seen. Just laid there and watched the world go by.

We made our reservations for the last 10 days of October next year at the LKH…then hitched up and hit the road about 0830 or so for the 280 mile trip down to Fort Myers. We arrived and pulled into Seminole Campground right about 1330. We had 7 packages of various sorts waiting for us…new grill, new zero gravity recliners as ours were falling apart, and various other things we needed to get and pretty quickly got pulled into our site 101 for the 6th consecutive winter season. Neil spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the next morning doing outside setup while Connie did inside setup.

Other than that…we ain’t done much. Had dinner at the Elks a couple times, went to Bingo, went to Mass on Sunday, Neil had a few bike rides, and that’s been about it.

Here’s a shot of our setup…amazingly enough it looks almost the same as last year’s setup.

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We do have all new gravel in our site…all the sites on this side of the park got sort of washed out by the water from the creek during Hurricane Irma…and the tree that used to sit just near where our flagpole is came down during the storm as well. We’ve also got new sod along the side of our site and patio .

Connie made us a nice little Thanksgiving decoration for the picnic table.

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Our friend Jeff is here…but he’s got a friend from TN here with him for a couple weeks so we haven’t seen him too much to catch up…Doug is leaving tomorrow or Monday so we’ll see him at Bingo and such now. Connie put in her application to become a real Elk in addition to being a member of Ladies of Elks…Neil sponsored her and she found a couple other members to recommend her as well.

That’s about it I guess…oh yeah, about that new family member thing. As you recall when we were up in IN in May 16 to pick up Big Red Connie had a detached retina that needed surgery…long story short is that she was better by the time we left Fort Myers this past spring but had basically not been able to drive for most of the year from May 2016 to May 2017. Luckily…our 11 year old 176,000 mile Mazda 6 needed some expensive repairs that just weren’t worth it the week after her eye problem…so we donated it to the Catholic Charities up in IN and have been using Big Red as our daily driver the past year in addition to pulling the rig around. After being single vehicle RVers for a year…while it works just fine…there are some drawbacks. Low mileage even when not towing…let’s face it Big Red ain’t an economy vehicle…along with the pain of parking way away from everything convinced us it was time to get another vehicle again for our daily driver. So with no further ado…let me introduce you to the newest member of our traveling menagerie…Little Red.

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Little Red…we’re pretty sure that it’s a she…is a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring…she drives pretty similarly to the Mazda 6 we donated. We researched and test drove it last along with a Ford Escape and a Toyota RAV4…all 3 look almost identical as we were looking for a 4 door lift back with enough storage so that we could keep the hiking bin and the cooler in the car without blocking the back seat. We eliminated the RAV4 pretty quickly…it was the most expensive of the 3 and had the most uncomfortable seats we’ve sat in for quite awhile. The Mazda has better fit and finish inside than the Escape did…has more features…and was cheaper besides. We did all our testing in one day, bought the next day, and picked up on Monday.

Ok, on to interesting things found on the net.

Only in New Zealand.


Only in Canuckistan.


RV auxiliary holding tank.


When you lie on your resume but get the job anyway.


So close.


Why is there a man on the toilet on my phone?



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Cedar Key FL

Saturday Oct 21 was our scheduled departure day from Foley for the 401 mile transit to Cedar Key FL for a 10 day visit at the Low Key Hideaway…one of our favorite 3 or 4 parks. Cedar Key is a really laid back place…there’s not really much to do…and you either get it and like…or you don’t.

After an early alarm Connie made coffee and we pulled out on schedule right about 0630. One quick stop at the Krispy Kreme to pick up breakfast…hey, the Hot light was on and that means fresh, still warm from the fryer glazed donuts…we got 6 (4 for breakfast and another 2 to have warmed up with ice cream on top later) and we hit the Foley Beach Expressway, then the Baldwin Beach Expressway. Both of those are 4 lane at grade highways but miss all the traffic on AL-59 which is the old way into Foley and Gulf Shores.

After 30 miles or so we exited onto I-10 east and headed east. After 250 miles or so we exited onto US-19 then US-98 then FL-24…everything past the freeway was now 4 lane at grade highway except the last 20 miles or so on 24…but that’s a straight and wide 2 lane road much better than taking 345 through Chiefland.

We arrived and Neil parked in front of the joint while Connie ran into the Tiki Bar to find us some traffic blockers. Mo (Maureen the owner) and Shannon the bartender came out and blocked the traffic for us while Connie got on her radio and did her usual mombacker job and we got parked lickity split…once we were in our site 3 he had to pull forward across the road once to get centered.

What…ya don’t know what a mombacker is? He’s the guy that stands out behind the garbage truck down in the south and directs the driver…what they say is ‘mom back, ‘mom back until the truck is in the correct place.

We had half filled out black and gray tanks with water and the normal vinegar and Dawn liquid combo to scrub them clean on the way down with the sloshing around…so after getting power and water on he dumped and flushed the tanks then we settled in to watch the ‘Bama Tennessee game…as expected the Tide won 45-10. Tennessee’s only touchdown was on a long interception return by the backup freshman quarterback…he’s still a bit inexperienced and while the receiver he was throwing to was wide open on a crossing route in the back of the end zone he forgot about the middle linebacker in zone coverage…who happened to get the ball thrown right to him for a pick six. Oh well…he’ll learn to read the defense better with some more reps. Bama’s off this week and LSU comes to town on Nov 4.

The only things we’ve got planned for the 10 day stop here are the annual end of the travel season fall cleaning…we’ll spread that over a couple of mornings and get the whole inside of the rig cleaned up for the winter season…and the nightly happy hour at the Tiki Bar. They’ve got a bunch of great brews here…Maduro, John Boat Beach Ale, Vanilla Porter…not to mention they’ve got Goslings Rum and Ginger Beer so Neil can have a Dark and Stormy or 10. Other than that…we’ll eat pizza at the Tiki Bar, grill, Neil will ride the bike some, and there’s even a Catholic Church in Cedar Key now so we don’t have to schlep up to Chiefland for Mass. It’s just a mission from the parish up in Chiefland…the parish bought (or had donated, don’t know which) a house which has been refurbished into a chapel and it’s just a half mile south of where we are sitting.

Here are a couple of shots from google of where we are staying…

Cedar Key itself…

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And a closeup of the Low Key Hideaway…3 RV sites, 5 hotel rooms, and the Tiki Bar. We’re in site 3, the most southern of the sites and the occupied one in the photo below…the Tiki Bar is the metal roofed building right at the land end of the wharf. Mo and Frank are putting in another 6 sites south of the current site 3…but most of them would be too short for our rig as the DoT folks are making them put in a pullout road between the sites and 24. The stated reason for requiring the road is to let RVs back in without blocking traffic…but they’ll still have to block it for everything but really short travel trailers. We have stayed in site 1 and 2 would also work but we’ve been in 3 most of our stays here.

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So…what’s it like around here?

We spent two mornings cleaning the house top to bottom inside but other than that it’s just a series of days that go “wake up late, lounge around in the sun, go to the Tiki Bar”. Here’s a few photos from around the joint.

Taken out our window looking northwest towards the Tiki Bar from site 3.

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Part of the local fauna…an Osprey that spends at least 4 hours every day perched on this stick 30 or so yards offshore.

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Little Blue Heron…there’s also a Great Blue Heron and Great Egret along with some Ibis but I didn’t get a shot of them.

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Sunset…these sunset shots are all iPhone photos as it’s just easier than hauling the tripod and real camera over to the bar.

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View looking out from inside the Tiki Bar.

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These two taken from the performer deck on the other side of the Tiki Bar from the RV sites. The former owners Pat and Cindy Bonish made the walls out of empty beer bottles.

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Roseate Spoonbill…we keep seeing the same 3 of these out in the water when the tide is low.

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Interesting Stuff From the Net.

I just don’t know what to say about this.



This is why I don’t trust people.


Meanwhile…in Texas.


I knew it.


How to prevent workplace violence.


Wait for it…


Royal babysitting technique.



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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

OK, time for a catch up post with photos from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta…we thought it was the Festival until we got there and found out that it’s a Fiesta instead.

We arrived on Friday morning to take part in an Escapees HOP…basically a mini rally centered around something…the Fiesta in this case. For our participation fee…we got a catered breakfast every morning and dinner most evenings, plus parking spaces and 4 tickets to the launch field…as I’ll discuss in a bit we only used two of the four we had available since mostly the balloons came to us.

The schedule was pretty much the same almost every day. Depending on the winds…the first balloons up were what’s called the Dawn Patrol…experienced pilots who go aloft to check the wind and for the existence of what’s known as the Albuquerque Box. Basically…with the box a balloon goes up and goes either south or north depending on the direction of the box today and after awhile goes higher and catches a wind going the other direction so they end up back at the launch field for landing. This makes it a lot easier for the ground crew to get to the balloon to help deflate and stow it away. 

Once the wind is verified…and mostly it needs to be 8 knots or less to safely launch…the Mass Ascension starts…this is a launch period of an hour or so when literally hundreds of balloons launch…Neil took an estimated count one morning and the total number he could see airborne was more than 300.

After the Mass Ascension…things sort of die down until the evening when there’s another display called the Sunset Glow…the balloons here don’t actually launch but are tethered to a vehicle on the ground and just inflate the envelope with what is called the glow burners…they have a lot more orange flame than the normal burners which are hotter, blue, and almost not visible.

A short description of a hot air balloon is probably necessary. There’s the envelope which is the bag or shape that holds the hot air. The envelope is connected to a basket…yes, an actual wicker basket…that holds the pilot and passengers along with 20 gallons of propane which gives them about 2 hours of air time. Mounted to the top of the basket is the burner assembly which consists of 4 burners in total. Two are rated at 1.5 million BTUs each and are the normal burners. When they light those suckers off you can feel the heat on your face 50 feet away. There are also 2 glow burners which burn with a less aerated mixture and make a more visible orange flame. The glow burners are only about 1 million BTUs each.

The envelope is nylon and is only about as thick as the stuff they make a parachute or day pack out of. It’s thin enough so that even the largest envelopes like the sheriff or Wells Fargo stage coach below would easily fit into the trunk of a car.

To inflate…and this entire process can be done from in the truck to airborne in 15 minutes if they want to…the envelope is pulled out of it’s storage bag and laid out on the ground on top of an old envelope that protects it while it’s inflating. The basket is attached with it’s burners and laid over on it’s side on the ground. The basket is tethered to a truck or car and a long rope is attached to the top to hold it still while it’s inflating.

Next…a large gasoline powered fan about 3 feet in diameter is started and aimed into the opening at the bottom of the envelope to do what is called “cold packing” of the envelope…essentially make it look like a balloon laying over on it’s side on the ground.

Next…the burners are fired up to heat the air in the envelope and it goes from laying on the ground to vertical in 30 or 45 seconds…it happens really fast.

Finally…the pilot and passengers hop in the basket, the tether is released and the pilot lights the burners to get aloft.

Saturday morning…we used two of our tickets to head over to the launch field and watch the setup and launch up close and personal as one would say. The Fiesta allows spectators right out onto the launch field and as each balloon is ready to go these guys in referee shirts blow their whistles, clear the bystanders from immediately downwind from the balloon and allow the takeoff.

This first set of photos is all from the first morning…we ate breakfast at 0500 and were at the launch field by 0540.

First launch.

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Even with a huge launch field…the balloons are inflated pretty close to each other.

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The group testing their burners at the official 0600 Grand Opening. Loud and hot.

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Getting ready for the Mass Ascension.

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Sometimes they pass directly overhead…about 50 feet up at this point.

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Cold packing…you can see the fan in front of the guy with the blue watch cap and the ground crew holding the envelope open for him. In the foreground are the main burners for the next one in line.

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Main burner right before liftoff…still a bit orange in the flame as the pilot doesn’t have it adjusted properly yet.

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The shapes were out as well.

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Attack of the killer spiders I guess.

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Keystone Cop.

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Darth made an appearance of course.

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As did Yoda.

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And the prisoner.

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Only you can prevent forest fires.

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The armadillo sheriff was our second favorite.

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Mexican lass.

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We never did see this one fly…got this as we boarded the bus back to the RV at 0745 or so.

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Evening Glow got weathered out…too windy. So the next morning after breakfast we just watched the Dawn Patrol and Mass Ascension from right outside our meal tent.

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Tall Steve the Penguin from New Zealand was our favorite…grand baby Alex liked him too.

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Did I mention there were a few balloons there?

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The Wells Fargo stage coach had a problem the first day and was deflated…they got it fixed by Sunday morning though.

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Yeah…a few airborne. About 100 in this shot and there were another two hundred at least. 

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Angry Birds.

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Pancho and his guitar and the Mexican girl got to know each other a little better.

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This one landed right in front of us to swap passengers. Neil went over and helped hold it and load the little old ladies out of and into the basket.

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Passing just in front of the sun.

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More than one landed right in the RV park.

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Except Darth who just flew down the row…he would have hit the rigs if he was any to the left or right.

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One day there was a bombing competition…the balloons had to take off at least a mile from the center of the field and then fly to a rowboat sitting in the middle of it and drop a marker. Closest to the mark wins. Several launched from the RV park…including this one right behind our rig. You can see it with the bike racks on it on the right side of the photo. They’re in the middle of cold packing.

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And on go the 3 million BTUs of heat.

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And up she goes.

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Yup…we wuz there.

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And we have liftoff.

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This one had taken off from the field I guess…but did a touch and go behind our rig…this was taken through the back window.

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And Tall Steve remained our fave.

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Commemorating the POW and MIA soldiers.

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Another one passing the sun…stopped and picked up passengers right behind our rig as well.

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And rinse and repeat…we did this for 5 days total.

A few thoughts on the Fiesta.

We had a lot better time than we thought we would…originally we were just going to visit and travel with Bill and Linda but the Fiesta was a lot better than we thought.

We are glad we went…but not being real balloon enthusiasts only staying the first half of the Fiesta was about right…we could actually have left a couple days early as each day was mostly a repeat of the day before.

Escapees HOPs are pretty disorganized overall…but then they’re run by volunteers. We almost parked in the wrong spot on arrival and meals weren’t as organized as they should be…but we parked, had fun, and got fed so overall it was just fine…albeit not as tightly run as we would have liked.

This is already photo intensive…so no interesting stuff this week…but I do have some nice shots from the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key that I’ll put up tomorrow.



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Transit to Foley AL

As advertised in my last post…early in the morning of Oct 11 we left Albuquerque, the Balloon Fiesta, and Bill and Linda (actually…they left us rather than the other way around as they had to pull out first in our close quarters parking spot at the Fiesta) and headed east. South on I-25 for 10 miles or so then on to I-40 east…where we stayed for almost 3 full days.

Overnight stops in Amarillo TX at Amarillo Ranch RV, Choctaw OK at Oklahoma East KOA, North Little Rock AR at Little Rock North KOA, and then Canton MS with 2 nights at Movietown RV. We stopped to (a) rest a day and (b) visit the battlefield at Vicksburg MS where one of the last major battles in the western Confederacy was fought in 1862. Unfortunately…Neil had come down with a cold…not Connie’s as it was too long after hers but something he picked up somewhere along the way…and feeling poorly we just did about half of the driving tour after Mass on Sunday before he faded and we went home. We didn’t even unhitch Big Red any of the first 3 transit days…and only hooked up water the first night so Connie could wash her hair and he could dump the tanks after our boondocking in Albuquerque. After that…we just put the front jacks down, hooked up power, put the slides out, and used the remaining water in our fresh water tank…good thing as with his cold he wasn’t up to much else.

Monday Oct 16 we pushed on another 250 miles and arrived at Foley AL and stopped at Anchors Aweigh RV about 3 blocks from the Elks Lodge here for a 5 night stay. By the time we got here he is starting to improve so we ate dinner at a local wing place before heading back to the rig. We don’t have much planned for this week…gotta run over to Pensacola Naval Air Station to go to the commissary and such but other than that we just have a couple places we want to eat and we’ll catch up on some homebody stuff…between visiting with Bill and Linda, the Balloon Fiesta, and traveling we need some down time to catch up on rest and such.

On to the photos…these are from Vicksburg as he hasn’t gotten around to working on the balloon ones yet.

Vicksburg was a vitally important outpost for both sides during the Civil War…it’s fortifications tower 300 feet over the Mississippi and essentially denied Union forces free passage of the river. Once it was taken…the Union controlled the entire length of the river and essentially split the Confederacy into two pieces that could be separately engaged.

General Grant tried numerous times to take the city by force…all failed miserably with lopsided losses on the Union side…so he shifted to a siege of the city with daily artillery bombardment…the city’ garrison was low on food so they surrendered the city and were paroled.

The White House as it’s known…owned by a Union sympathizer that owned slaves…go figger on that one…that was located right in the middle of the siege line and the defensive line on the north side of the city.

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Looking the other direction from in front of the White House…the Union siege lines are on the left and the defensive lines are to the right…despite numerous attempts to storm these lines before and during the siege all of them held until the city was surrendered due to lack of supplies.

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A couple of shots of the Union ironclad USS Cairo…it was sunk by a torpedo as they called mines back in those days early in the campaign and laid untouched on the bottom for a hundred years before it was salvaged and put on display. It actually sunk twice before that but was raised, salvaged and put back into service the first two times. It carried 13 guns. As you can see…the timbers didn’t fare well in the river mud and a lot of the upper structure has been reconstructed over the original parts of the hull.

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Looking westward to the Mississippi from the overlook that controlled river traffic. Downstream is to the left and upstream to the right…the river forms an oxbow bend right under these bluffs. The course of the river that you can see today is not what it was during the war…the original channel was just in front of the road that is visible at the bottom of the bluff…during a river flood in 1873 the river cut a new channel further to the west where it is located now. The old channel was known as the Yazoo River but it was eventually filled in after it silted up for construction of the road you see now. From this point…guns on the bluff completely controlled traffic on the river.

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Interesting stuff found on the net.

Flu shots…I get a couple every year.


West Virginia indoor hot water.


Et tu Brute.


There’s a glitch in the matrix.


Seems like a perfectly normal response to me.



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Transit to Albuquerque NM

We departed Colorado Springs in convoy with Bill and Linda on the morning of Oct 5 for the 316 mile transit to Santa Fe NM where we pulled in and quickly got setup for the night in site W2 at Santa Fe Skies RV. We needed to be at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque on Friday Oct 6 at 1000…so we stopped 45 miles short of the Fiesta grounds. While there…we dumped and flushed our tanks and filled our fresh water tank to it’s 100 gallon capacity…there are no hookups at the Fiesta (well, no hookups unless you pay well over 100 bucks a night) and we would be boondocking the next 5 nights. We had a nice dinner out with Bill and Linda at a local BBQ place…it was OK but not great.

Next morning…we pulled out about 0835 with a scheduled arrival time at the Fiesta of 0930…we figured the traffic checking in would take the rest of the time until 1000. We were wrong and basically pulled right in to attend the Escapees HOP…this is sort of a mini rally. Our fee for the 5 days of about $1000 included parking, tickets to the Fiesta, 4 dinners, and breakfast every day.

The routine at the Fiesta was dictated by the weather…basically we started with breakfast every day at 0500 so that we could be at the field a mile away for the Morning Glow where the first balloons go off at 0600 to check the winds aloft…these use a special burner that lights up the envelope with a nice orange glow. Following that…there was a mass ascension scheduled every day for 0700 and by 0930 or so the day’s activities were pretty much over until the evening. There were some chainsaw carving demonstrations and some balloon competitions that we didn’t go over to watch. Evening activities were an Evening Glow which is like the Morning Glow except the balloons are tethered since they can’t really fly at night…followed by a fireworks display. We watched these from the campground about a mile south of the launch field.

Due to the early mornings…evenings socializing with Bill and Linda…and a severe lack of internet connectivity…not to mention the almost 2,000 photos Neil has to process…then add in that Connie was sick with a cold the first 3 days and Neil had it the last day…well, I just ain’t got round tuit on processing those photos. I’ll put them up in a few days once I get caught up and he is feeling better.

Here’s a sample to wet your appetites though. This balloon came in from the launch field a mile to the left, almost touched down right behind our rig, and then took off again. It was participating in the competition where you try to drop a streamer in a rowboat on the ground at the launch field and had to start a mile away…I guess he figured that if he came down to ground level a mile away that counted. That’s the window frame of our rear windows around the sides of the shot.

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We spent 4 or so hours every morning recharging our batteries to about the 85% level with our portable Honda 2000 watt generator then let our solar panels top us off the remainder of the day. Temps were in the mid 30s to mid 40s over night with daily highs from 60 to about 75. No clouds, no rain, and abundant sunshine which makes your solar controller happy.

After 5 days though…we had enough and were all ballooned out…so we set out early on Wed Oct 11 to start our travels eastward. We have 4 transit days from 290 to 360 miles scheduled with stops in Amarillo TX, Choctaw OK, and North Little Rock AR before arriving in Jackson MS where we’ll spend 2 nights so that we can go visit the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg MS. Then we’ll do about a week in Gulf Shores AL and another 10 days in Cedar Key FL before arriving back at North Fort Myers on Nov 1 for the winter.

Interesting Stuff from the Net.

Good Point.


The winning dad.


Taken at the Olympic Bathroom Competition venue.



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Colorado Springs Fun Stuff

Following our final day at Loveland CO and Rocky Mountain NP…we set out the next morning for the 129 mile drive down to Colorado Springs…basically back onto I-25 and straight through the middle of Denver to Colorado Springs then south of the city we exited and headed a few miles up to Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Since it was a short travel day…and since it was possible that our sites would have been occupied on Fri/Sat nights…we made sure that we wouldn’t arrive until after the 1200 checkout time. 

On arrival…we paid our entry fees to the state park…they charge you those in CO in addition to the camping fees…at the entry gate then had to U-turn and go back down to the visitor center to check into the campground as the work-kamper up at the campground had departed Saturday before we arrived. 

We quickly got setup in site 9 for Bill and Linda and 3 for us…we’ve got a great view of the valley containing Colorado Springs on one side and of Cheyenne Mountain on the other.

It’s a nice full hookup pull through site with a concrete pad and a huge patio area that we won’t be able to make much use of due to the fairly low temps and pretty high winds. Colorado Springs is at about 6,000 feet and our campground is another 500 feet above that so we’re pretty much up in the wind coming over the mountains from the west.

Here are a couple of iPhone pano shots of the campground.

This one is a 180˚ view from our entry door…the apparent curvature in the far side of the patio is an optical illusion due to the short distance to it in the pano…The mountain in the background is Cheyenne Mountain which is where the NORAD and Strategic Air Command bunker is located…you can see the entrance to it in the movie War Games. 

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Another 180˚view from just behind the rig sitting in our site…again the road is actually straight but is too close for the phone to stitch the pano together properly…that’s our rig’s driver side on then far right and Bill and Linda’s rig across the street from us. Colorado Springs and the valley are beyond the road in the middle distance. 

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Here’s a shot of site 3 from across the road next to Bill and Linda.

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With 3 full days scheduled for here in Colorado Springs…we had plans for all of them. Monday we took Bill and Linda up to the Air Force Academy located just north of Colorado Springs to tour around and see what there is to see. We figured it might be a bit difficult to get them onto the grounds as it’s a military installation and they don’t have any military ID…but it was actually pretty easy…way easier than getting onto Fort Carson across the highway from the state park to get beer Sunday afternoon. That required a cavity search of Big Red…for the 3rd time in our last 5 visits with the big truck to a military installation we were “randomly selected for additional screening”…which means that instead of just showing them a Defense Department ID you have to give them license/registration/insurance on the vehicle and then open every compartment including the hood and glove compartment so that they can look inside.

The academy is pretty huge…18,000 acres or about 28 square miles with elevations on the base from 6,000 to a bit over 9.000 feet. It includes it’s own airport and at one of the overlooks we watched a continual stream of small aircraft both doing takeoff and landing drills as well as dragging sailplanes up…there were 2 runways in use averaging about 1 takeoff or landing a minute. All USAFA students take flying lessons and most of them get at least their single engine private pilots license…they have over 17,000 sailplane sorties per year with 90% of the instruction being accomplished by students and not professional flight instructors.

They have a few static aircraft displays…but not nearly as many as one would imagine. Everything from a B-52 strategic bomber to the A-10 Warthog close air support platform are included in the dozen or so aircraft on display.

Looking southwest from the north gate overlook over the sports complex at the academy. The chapel and Polaris Hall are in the distance just in front of the shadows on the mountains…better photos of them below.

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The spire on Polaris Hall. It points towards Polaris…better known as the North Star. Neil wanted to know what they did when six months went by and Polaris wandered just a bit…it moves about 2˚during the year…and finally decided that it pointed towards Polaris for broad definitions of towards. He also thinks it’s a bad design…from an architectural standpoint it looks a lot like an airplane tail and points towards Polaris…but from an engineering standpoint it’s made almost entirely of glass and is just a terrible waste of heating capacity and cooling capacity depending on the season.

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The chapel…which actually has 4 chapels in it. The main floor is given over to the Protestant chapel with the Catholic one underneath and both a Jewish and Buddhist one located adjacent to the Catholic one.

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Protestant chapel…it was really bluish inside due to all the stained glass…with a nice organ in the rear. 

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The altar in the Catholic chapel…might be not in the best floor position…which is probably understandable based on the percentages of the various religions in the student body…but definitely just as nice. Really great mosaic and carvings behind the altar.

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One of the Stations of the Cross in the Catholic chapel…carved by a local artist as was the Saint Mark one below.

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The Jewish synagogue. Small…but again it was based on the percentage representation in the student body.

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T-28 trainer display…this is the second aircraft that Air Force pilots learn to fly. They start with a prop driven trainer and those selected for jets than transition into this type.

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A-10 Warthog…basically a flying tank.It has hard points for missiles and bombs under the wings but it’s main armament is the 30mm 4,200 rounds per minute cannon. You can see the end of the barrel sticking out under the nose and basically everything from the leading edge of the wing forward is the gun. The barrels stick forward just underneath the armored bathtub that the pilot sits in. The pilot actually has to correct the course of the plane as the gun fires since the barrels are mounted off center and the torque of the firing affects the flight path. The shells are 11 inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds each firing a 30mm diameter projectile that weighs 14 ounces…this thing packs quite a wallop. The engines are mounted high for three reasons…protection from anti-aircraft fire, increase ability to operate from non-improved (i.e., dirt or gravel) runways, and to keep the exhaust gases from the main armament from flaming out the engine due to lack of oxygen. Despite this…the engines do have a tendency to flame out (i.e., stop running) in certain flight situations…so the trigger on the gun also triggers the igniters in the engines to keep them running.

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I cribbed this one from the wikipedia page…this is the GAU-8 Avenger gun from the A-10 next to a VW Beetle. When the gun needs to be removed from the fuselage for maintenance…the mechanics must first put a jack underneath the tail so it won’t hit the ground when the weight of the gun is removed from the plane.

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On Tuesday our scheduled activity was a visit to first the Cave of the Winds and then to Helen Hunt Falls on the way back home. Cave of the Winds was discovered by two brothers in 1880 or thereabouts and developed as a tourist attraction. This included blowing larger holes via dynamite to allow better access, carting the rubble to less attractive portions of the cave, and installing concrete floors and hand rails and stairs everywhere. In short…they ruined the natural condition of the cave in an attempt to make it more accessible. Nowadays…conservationists would not really allow that to happen but back in the 1880s the various park and conservation organizations had slightly different agendas than they do now…very similar to how fighting wildfires has changed from “put them all out” to “only put out non-natural fires unless necessary to preserve infrastructure or structures”. 

Looking down the canyon that contains Cave of the Winds from just outside the visitor center…the bridge just right of center in the distance is the highway west from Colorado Springs.

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A couple of cave shots…yeah, they don’t do much for me either…but we’re not really cave people.

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The sinkholes that led the brothers to originally find the cave. They were up in the canyon on a windy day and heard a strange moaning sound and went exploring and found the cave entrance. We didn’t hear any noises while we were there…but given the amount of dynamiting to increase the entrance and passageway sizes…that’s not surprising.

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On to Helen Hunt Falls. They are located on Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park just outside of Colorado Springs and comprise a single drop of 35 feet…they’re named after Helen Maria Hunt Jackson who was an American poet and Indian rights activist in the late 1800s…she is buried in Colorado Springs. Neil thinks this is one of the better waterfalls we’ve seen this summer…it’s got a lot of character and provides great photos of not only the main falls as seen in the first and last photos but also a bunch of small falls and cascades just above the main falls and beyond the bridge just above the main falls. This waterfall has a lot of character.

These are also the first shots he’s done with his new HDR program…he’s been using Photomatix Pro for years but switched over to Aurora HDR 2018 just this past week. It’s got all the same bells and whistles that Photomatix does…but the user interface is better and the sliders used for adjusting parameters are much more descriptively named hence it’s a lot easier to use. As noted…first and last shots are of the main falls and the ones in the middle are of the various babbling stuff above. The last one is looking down over the main falls from the bridge.

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Connie got this great shot of a Scrub Jay while Neil was wandering around getting the waterfall shots…we could have stayed here longer as there were many other babbling brook things above the bridge he wanted to shoot…but everybody in the party was getting hungry for lunch as it was about 1300 by this time…so we headed off to eat.

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Wednesday we headed of early for the Peterson Air and Space Museum at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs…we had a great docent that had spent 30 years in the AF and he spent about 90 minutes or so giving us a tour of the aircraft on display as well as a tour in the hanger where some spacecraft were displayed as well as a Peacekeeper Missile (those are the ICBMs spread around the west from MT to SD to ND to NE).

Lockheed Constellation (known as a Connie) aircraft…one of the few military aircraft that actually started as a civilian one…it was an airliner before the Air Force bought them…this was the first iteration of what we know now as an AWACS or Air Warning and Control System aircraft…those are the airliner looking things with the big dish radome on the top. The C-69 as it was called by the AF had two radars…the one below the fuselage is the bearing and range radar while the one above is a height finding radar.

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Connie standing next to the aircraft decal.

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A closeup crop of the Connie decal in case ya can’t read it in the one above.

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The main radar screen.

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An early jet fighter aircraft.

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Two stage early long range/high altitude anti-aircraft missile…it had a rocket booster for launch and two ramjets under the fuselage. Speed about 2,000 knots and 80,000 or so feet ceiling.

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The business end of an AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missile…the infrared sensor for homing on the heat from the target’s engines is behind the glass.

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Our docent Glys explaining one of the early Distant Early Warning System (DEWS) control panels…DEWS was the predecessor of the current day DSP (Defense Support Program) satellites which watch for nuclear tests around the globe as well as both strategic and commercial rocket launches.

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The first US photo reconnaissance satellite…known as “The Bucket”. It was launched and contained hundreds of feet of 70mm black and white photo film. Once the photos had been taken the retro rockets fired and it re-entered to be caught by a C-130 aircraft that snagged the parachute shrouds as it drifted down.

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Nose art on a P-47 prop driven fighter aircraft…this was a stop gap between the end of WWII and the deployment of the first jet powered fighters in the late 1940s. Nose art is no longer used on AF aircraft. 

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Interesting stuff from the net this week.

Some headlines just write themselves.


Only in Maine.


Hidden Lake in Montana…amazing how clear this water is.


I never would have guessed.


Dogs vs cats.



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