Sunday, May 30, 2010

Family Picnic

About as soon as I pressed the “publish” button for yesterday’s blog entry, the weather took a nasty turn!  I’ve complained about the wind, and yesterday evening that ugly wind brought some pretty chilly temperatures back into our lives.  No rain, but today was much cooler, still windy!

We had a great time with Pat and John last night at dinner, thanks again for treating us, Pat.  They are hoping to sell their two homes in the area, buy a Phaeton motor home, and become fulltimers.  They had a lot of questions for us, and again, I have to say that our experience is just one story – there are many, many more stories to share.  This is a lifestyle we love, most of the time.  But it’s not for everyone, that is for sure.  There are many things to consider when making a decision as monumental as selling a home, buying an RV and hitting the road.  We have no regrets, and if we had it to do over, we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Jim decided to do the laundry this morning, so he got everything sorted and took off for the local coin laundry after we had our coffee.  Sometimes we use campground laundromats, but more often, he prefers to find a local laundry, usually they have more and larger machines.  Sometimes in a campground, there will be a limited number of machines, and they will also sometimes ask you to use only 2 or 3 machines at a time.  That just doesn’t work for us.  We like it when we can put everything in at once and get 5 to 7 loads done in about an hour and a half.  Yes, we are still glad that we do not have a washer/dryer in our motor home.  The storage space we have instead really works for us.

My sister, Ann and her husband, Bob, hosted a family gathering at her house this afternoon.  At 2:00 or so, we all started gathering there.  My niece (Ann’s daughter), Tami, her husband, Tyrone, their 2 daughters Sharitta and Catrina, along with my nephew Rick (Ann’s son), his wife Marilia and daughter Tashiana, and Marilia’s grandson Matthew, all arrived while Bob grilled the brats and burgers.  We all dug into a delicious treat of baked beans, salads, burgers and brats.  Later on we had berries with whipped topping and angel food cake.  It was all wonderful, but the best part was getting to spend time with the family.  Most of us joined in a rousing card game called Jubilinski, which is an old family favorite.

Here’s a sampling of the day’s activities.  Bob has the grill going:

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Tyrone, Jim and Matthew enjoying their meals:

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Sharitta & Catrina relaxing:ellie 010

  Ann, Marilia and Rick watching the action:

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Tami in the new kitchen:

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Ann shows off the new “great room”.  The light just above her head is actually a “sun tube”, not an electric light.

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This remodeling project has been a long journey for Ann and Bob, but it is coming together now.  They hope to be pretty well finished by Thanksgiving this year.

As we get ready to observe Memorial Day tomorrow, Jim and I would like to thank all of our veterans and current soldiers for your service and sacrifice for our country.  I’ve been watching the History Channel series, “America The Story of Us” recently, and have gained a whole new perspective of the importance of  the role all of our veterans, past, present and future, play in our country’s strength and survival.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another Week Has Flown By

The days zoom along and we are now only 2 weeks away from rolling the Castle on down the road.  This past week has been a little difficult for me, but also very gratifying.  We had the opportunity on Wednesday to make a trip to Denver for another ceremony, this time to send twin grandsons, Calib and Cameron, from middle school to high school.  Cameron received 2 awards, a Citizenship Award and a President’s Academic Excellence Award.  Congratulations, Cameron!  Calib was recognized with a President’s Award for Academic Achievement in Math.  Way to go, Calib!  Granddaughters Elyse and Kellie also did very well – both had 4.0 GPA’s, and Kellie received several awards too!  We are so proud of all of you!

Elyse, Kellie, Calib and Cameron:

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The difficult part of the week was last Sunday and Monday.  I was scheduled for a colonoscopy on Monday, but the doctor was not able to do the procedure because the prep did not work well enough.  It’s bad enough to get sick from a bug or bad food, but to actually make oneself ill for naught seems just wrong!  It has taken most of the rest of the week for me to get to feeling close to “normal” with my whole system out of whack.  I’m certainly not looking forward to putting myself through that ordeal again any time soon.

Another high point to the week was getting to entertain Jim’s former supervisor Ken, and his wife, Anne, at our place for dinner last night.  Jim had to show off his new toy by making a peach cobbler in his Dutch oven.  We spent hours during the evening discussing this nomadic lifestyle of ours, with Ken and Anne periodically sighing about the years they still have to work before they are able to do the kind of traveling they would like to do.  Hang in there, guys, the time will pass faster than you think!

I’ve also been able to spend some time with my sister, Ann.  She is living in the midst of a major home remodeling project and needed to have some time away from the construction, so we made time to run around and do some errands and shopping this week.  She took me out for a late birthday celebration and we got to enjoy our favorite Chinese restaurant.

This morning, Jim and I made a run up to the cabin to see Robin and Jacob:

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Jim 001They are spending the weekend at the cabin, which is located off Highway 24 between Manitou Springs and Woodland Park.  The cabin is a wonderful little retreat from the hustle and bustle of life.  It is located on Pike National Forest land, and is leased on a recreational permit.  My grandmother purchased the cabin and took over the lease back in the early 1940’s.  She would spend several weeks there during the summer, and all of my cousins would take turns spending a week or so at a time there with her.  There was no running water or electricity.  The “facilities” consisted of an outhouse.  Water was obtained by walking a few tenths of a mile to the spring and filling jugs with the fresh water, then carrying said jugs back up the hill.  Cooking was accomplished on a wood-burning cook stove, and dishes were washed in metal dishpans placed on the stove, one for washing and one for rinsing.  Then we’d wash our faces and hands with the rinse water.

Now, more than sixty years later, we’ve passed the ownership of the cabin on to our children.  There is still no electricity or running water, and there’s still an outhouse, although now it’s been updated to include a water-tight concrete vault that requires periodic pumping out.  Cooking is still done on a wood-burning cook stove, although it’s not the same stove that I grew up around.  That one was stolen during a break-in many years ago.  The “new” stove is much fancier, but still takes a bunch of wood to cook a meal.  The spring is no longer running, so water is brought from home now.

I’m sure my summers with Grandmother at the cabin had a big influence on my love for the outdoors, as those times taught me so much about self-reliance and adventure!  Not to mention it was really my introduction to boondocking. 

This evening we are meeting another former co-worker for dinner and discussion of our lifestyle.  Pat is getting closer to retirement, and she and her husband are hoping to sell their home and hit the road.  We’re looking forward to this visit, too.

The weather has finally turned warm, now if the wind would just die down…am I never satisfied with the weather?? No matter, we are still enjoying and treasuring each day!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Checking In

Like many of our friends who spend weeks to months in one spot, I feel it’s hard to write a daily blog when our days are not filled with exciting adventures.  That is, unless you find dental and doctor visits exciting and entertaining!  So, I’ll just recap the past week for you.

Jim’s been to the doctor and the dentist, and all reports are positive.  He is getting excited to have his dental work in the final phase, he will have the last major appointment soon, and will only need to see the dentist for minor adjustments after that.

I got one more test snuck in this past week, a nerve test to see if I have carpal tunnel.  I still have 3 more tests to go before I am done, and they are all scheduled.

We have had wonderful visits with family and friends, more of that is scheduled too.

Exercise is going well, too.  I’ve been making good use of my gym membership.  In between visits to the gym, we’ve been walking the campground loop.  Jim usually walks one loop with me (about 3/4 mile) and I keep going for a total of 4 loops which is just over 3 miles.

I’ve been cleaning out and rearranging drawers, cabinets and files in my spare time.  We’ve given away a big stack of books, and I’ve shredded a few pounds worth of paper we no longer need to carry around.

Plans for summer travel are happening as well.  We’re starting to get a case of hitch-itch, seems we’ve been here long enough and we’re ready to go.  The first two stops involve Oklahoma, Texas, a family reunion and a high school reunion.  Just a few more weeks now…

For sure, one of the best events of the week was last night.  Grandson, Jacob, graduated 6th grade, complete with a wonderful ceremony and party at the junior high school where he’ll begin the next phase of his educational career.  Congratulations, Jacob!  We wish you much success in your education.  And Robin (Jacob’s mom), we wish you the best of luck as Jacob turns into a teenager!

Today’s picture is recycled from last October - a view of the Pacific Coast from Cascade Head, just north of Lincoln City, Oregon.  I thought of the coast last night as I listened to the train’s horn and the traffic on the interstate.  I told Jim the train’s horn could be a foghorn, and the sound of the traffic could be the surf!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just a Whirlwind of Activity

It always seems to happen this way.  Usually, we live life in the slow lane.  But almost as soon as we hit the Colorado state line, it begins.  Much of what we do here is the “necessary” stuff, like the doctor and dentist appointments.  More of what we do here is fun – reconnecting with our family members and friends who live here.  Then there is the usual “stuff” we do, housekeeping, shopping, and all the other items on the “to do” list that happen wherever we are.  It all adds up to a life in the much faster lane during our time here!

As I reported yesterday, I was able to get an almost instant appointment with my doctor this morning.  I was up and out the door, sans coffee (*big sigh*) and headed across town to have my blood drawn and a consult with the doc about what dreaded tests are on my list for this year.  Her office is nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and when I got to the neighborhood, I was early enough to scout around to see if there was a Starbucks near the office.  Yay!  Just a few blocks from the office I found a beautiful, shiny new Starbucks.  As I was driving around, I had to stop and wait for a small herd of deer, probably about 12 or 15 of them, to cross the road.  What a lovely surprise.  However, it occurred to me it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.  This is an area that, when I was growing up not far away, this was wilderness, it was the home of those deer for a long, long time before those fancy houses and Starbucks appeared.  Then I felt a bit sad that our human progress has caused these creatures to be forced into sharing their space!

On to the doctor…I was still a bit early, but the office was open and I got right in.  Blood drawn – check.  Blood pressure – check.  Test referrals – check.  I was kind of hoping she would overlook the date on my last colonoscopy, but she had a sharp eye, and with that eye trained right on me, she noted that it has been 7 years since my last one, time to get that done.  (Another *big sigh*).  So, I’m in the scheduling process for my mammogram, bone density, and the colonoscopy tests to be done before we get out of town.  It’s all good, though, I know these tests are important and I’m grateful that I can get them done.  Oh, and when I came out of the doctor’s office – it was snowing!  Good grief.

Now for the really fun part of the day: lunch!  We’ve been in contact with Donna (aka Froggi Donna) and her hubby, Stu (2 Taking a 5th).  They are also in the area visiting family.  I first met Donna shortly after she began fulltiming as a solo.  Since then, we’ve followed each other through our blogs, and have managed a couple of “in person” get togethers, most recently in the Arizona desert a few months ago where we met Stu for the first time:

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We got together with them today at Rosie’s Diner in Monument, not far from where they are camped.  It seems they are already “regulars” at the diner, thanks to “buy one, get one” coupons printed in their campground’s map. We spent at least a couple of hours there, just talking and of course, enjoying our diner meals.  We really hope it won’t be too long before we can catch up with them again, but we so enjoyed the visit and wish them safe and happy travels!

We made a quick stop to pick up a few groceries on the way home and now we are back in our Castle for the evening.  Gotta rest up for tomorrow's adventure!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zum-What? and Other Musings

Several months ago, I think we were in Lincoln City, Oregon at the time, I heard about an exercise/dance class called “Zumba”.  The woman described it as a very fast paced dance/aerobic class.  I again heard about it recently when one of my friends here in Colorado Springs talked about going to Zumba class.  So,  yesterday afternoon, I went with her.  Oh my… as if I wasn’t suffering enough from sore muscles from the previous day’s exercise classes!  Zumba is indeed a fast paced dance activity.  It reminded me a little of Jazzercise on steroids.  A little jazz, salsa, samba, belly dance, aerobic steps – constant (fast) movement for 60 minutes.  Luckily, the club has a whirlpool, because that’s exactly where I headed immediately after class.  Ahhh, now that felt good!

Yesterday morning, Jim had his first dental appointment here with the new dentist who will be completing the work he started in Santee.  No, he’s not all finished, he still has the final steps to complete.  He was favorably impressed with the dentist and the office staff.  This dentist belongs to the same business group as the one he went to in Santee, the records and his account just got transferred here – very easily, as all x-rays, notes and so forth were all digital.  He was relieved to be told that the implants have taken well and everything is healing as it should.  He will be going back next week for the next appointment.

This morning, we had an appointment with our car mechanic, Dave, the owner of Highland Automotive.  We’ve been going to Dave for many years with a whole parade of vehicles we’ve owned or leased since 1985.  We just wanted to be sure all systems on our little Saturn are in good shape, and we trusted Dave to be thorough and honest.  So, once again, we set the alarm (getting to be a habit!) at dark-thirty, and were at the garage before 8 A.M.  They got us right in and spent over an hour going through every system on the car.  Once done, Dave pronounced us good to go – nothing needed.  That peace of mind check-up only cost us $50.  If you’re ever in the area and need service on your car, check out Highland Automotive on Pecan Ave.

I called my doc’s office this afternoon, to request orders for me to get my routine blood work and annual mammogram.  I also wanted to have my records checked for any other tests I might need this year.  To my great surprise, I was asked if I could come in for my blood work and a doctor visit first thing tomorrow morning!  So, once again, we’ll be setting that alarm clock for dark-thirty in the morning and it will be my turn for the check-up.  Hope I don’t need a tune-up!

There is sad news in our community today, though.  Our friends, Mike and Pat McFall received word yesterday that Mike’s son, Mikel, passed away in his sleep. Mike lost another son just two years ago.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they face this sudden loss.  We are so grateful that Rollie and Gina are with them now.  As Mike sometimes ends his blogs, “Remember, tell your Kids and  Family that you love them.  They will not be around forever.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Springtime In The Rockies

Early this morning, I was watching a local Colorado Springs TV station, and the weatherman said something about this being the time of year when we get a lot of variety in the weather.  Yesterday went from very chilly in the morning to hot and windy in the afternoon.  Today has been so-so, with moderate temperature and – wind.  Tomorrow and the next day, well, we just need to make sure our winter clothes are handy, that’s all.  Oh, and yes, the forecast calls for – wind.  Jim remarked that he doesn’t remember it being so windy when we lived here.  Oh well, who needs to have their awning out, right?

I had a lovely Mother’s Day yesterday with son Josh and daughter Robin with her son Jacob and Robin’s friend, Paul.  They all came over to enjoy a meal of grilled burgers and dogs with macaroni salad (yes, it was a Weight Watchers version) and one of Jim’s famous cherry pie-cakes (sort of semi-Weight Watchers friendly).  We all had a good time getting caught up with each other’s news, playing Wii games and just enjoying the day.

Jim scheduled a visit with his friends today, which involved getting up at before dark-thirty for one of his friends to pick him up and drive to Pueblo, where they visited with Steve on the ranch.  That left me with the car and plans to join my friend for a couple exercise classes at 24-Hour Fitness.  I got the dogs out for their walk and measured the distance around this RV park  - it’s about 3/4 of a mile all the way around.  I’m trying to work up to a 5k challenge on June 6, so I will need to get in at least 4 complete loops to make my 3.1 miles.  I probably walk at least 4 loops over the course of a whole day here, but I need to be able to do the loops all at once, so I’ll definitely be working on that.

I arrived at the gym in plenty of time to talk to them about their membership or visitor opportunities.  After looking the place over and reviewing the options, I’ve chosen to join with a monthly plan that doesn’t involve any contracts, and is not exorbitantly expensive, about $29 a month.  I can cancel it anytime.  This plan is good at any facility, and there are over 450 gyms nationwide, although they do tend to be located in larger cities.  Even if I don’t keep the membership, it was the best option since I can cancel it with no penalties.  This facility has a huge workout area with machines, treadmills, free weights, a pool, hot tub, sauna, and exercise classes.  I took note of the cleanliness of the place, and the type of people working out.  There were a mix of all different sorts of people – young, old, male, female, good shape, not-so-good shape, etc.  The staff I saw did not strike me as the “hot bod” type, they didn’t show off and strut around like they know it all, they seemed to be doing their jobs – helping people get/stay more fit.

Once the business of signing up and paying my initial fees was completed, my friend Karen had arrived and we got set up for the class - “Boot Camp” – that gives you a pretty good clue about the nature of the class.  It’s a combination step-aerobics, calisthenics, strength training (complete with the ever-popular abdominal segment), and stretching/cool-down.   After that class, it was time for the next class – Yoga.  Can you hear my groaning and moaning?  Ok, so 2 grueling hours later, I hobbled out to my car and headed home for sustenance.  I was starving!  I probably will have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, but I still plan to go back tomorrow evening for another class – Zumba!  That ought to prove interesting…

Jim got home about an hour or so after I did and we’ve spent a nice afternoon relaxing.  I haven’t been taking any pictures around here yet, this one is to remind me of the quiet of the desert as I sit here and listen to the traffic on I-25 just behind our current home:

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nope, This Is Not Phoenix!

Jim 038 We already miss our desert and the blooming cactus plants…especially since the last two mornings we’ve awakened to temperatures in the low 30’s.  Ok, I hear you, Janna, I know you’ve had 18 degrees up in Montana!  I shouldn’t complain, I know!

This morning we had the alarm set (yes we do have clocks, although I often forget to look at them) for dark-thirty (translation: 4:50 A.M), so we could be ready to head north on I-25  and Academy Blvd. across Colorado Springs to my Weight Watchers meeting.  Weigh-in is at 7:00.  My good friend, Karen, and I used to walk to these meetings every Saturday morning, when we lived in the neighborhood.  Now, I attend my “home” meeting when we’re in town.  It was fun to see the mix of new people, and people who were attending when Karen and I went every week.  The leader is the same, and she remembers me. It was a good meeting about eating out – something we do frequently!  One of the receptionists working that meeting was a great inspiration to me, she once told me she’s been tracking her food every day for well over 10 years!  I remember that statement every time I’m tempted to put my own food journal aside, that would spell trouble for me for sure!

After the meeting we went – where else – out to breakfast – with Karen and her husband Chris.  That’s also a tradition with us.  Shopping at our favorite mall was next on our agenda and I found a few Mother’s Day gifts for myself of some new jeans and a new shirt.  This mall has been somewhat of an institution in Colorado Springs for many years.  We noticed today that there are a lot of stores, including a large Macy’s, that have closed up – sad to see!

This afternoon Jim was kind enough to brave the grocery store crowds on the Saturday before Mother’s Day to pick up the food for tomorrow’s gathering of our children here.  I made good use of that time by getting out the Wii and practicing some dance moves on “Just Dance”, along with a few songs on Guitar Hero, just in case one of the kids or grandkids issues me a challenge!

We are expecting a warmer day tomorrow!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Away We Go!

I was gently reminded today that people can’t keep up with our travels and adventures if I neglect the blog writing. So, I will catch you all up on the last week or so and what’s happening now.

First, one of the reasons I haven’t posted is because I was hoping to get a response from a reader who e-mailed me after my last post, regarding my mini-rant about the park employees at Tuzigoot National Monument. If you remember, I mentioned the employees were less than welcoming or helpful to us that day. This reader is a National Park Employee in the area. She sent me an e-mail to tell me that knows the supervisor of Tuzigoot, who happens to be the supervisor at Montezuma’s Castle in the same area. She wanted to know if I minded if she mentioned my concerns to the supervisor. I replied to her, telling her that I didn’t mind, and also telling her that our experience at both Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma Well was the total opposite. The employees and rangers were all very welcoming, friendly and helpful at those locations. I wanted her to also pass along that information as well. I also asked her if she minded if I posted about her e-mail and asking if she minded if I used her name. I think, however, that my reply to her may have gotten caught in the NPS’s spam filter, because I never heard back from this reader. To respect her privacy, until I hear from her giving me permission to use her name, I won’t, but I’d like her to know I appreciate her e-mail and hope she got my response.

Speaking of e-mails, I want to mention again how I handle comments that include your e-mail address. I intentionally do not put our e-mail address on this blog page, but if you want to hear back from me, feel free to include your e-mail address in a comment. I won’t publish that comment, but I will respond to you.

Now, back to our regular content…

After our visit to Tuzigoot, we also wanted to see Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma Well, both additional Indian ruin locations not far from Cottonwood. On Tuesday, we went to see both of these fascinating ruins.

Our first stop was Montezuma’s Castle. It is misnamed under the assumption that it was constructed in anticipation of the arrival of Montezuma, but that wasn’t true. The dwellings were constructed by the Sinagua people along Beaver Creek. near Camp Verde, Arizona. The structure itself is no longer open to the public, although it was from the 1930’s until 1951, when the number of visitors had increased so dramatically as to endanger the monument:

Ellie 014 A closer view:

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You can find specific information about the monument at the NPS’ Montezuma Castle Website.

The next stop was Montezuma Well, another really fascinating location. The Well is fed by an underground spring with water temperature of 71 degrees year ‘around. In the cliff walls above the well are more cliff dwellings:

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A closer look at some of the dwellings, which are located around the cliff walls:

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At the outlet of the well is a beautiful, cool oasis in the hot desert:

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All of these ruins, Tuzigoot, Montezuma Castle and Well, are very special treasures in our history. The Sinagua People lived, worked, farmed and carried on life in their own way for several hundred years before mysteriously disappearing. I wonder what happened to them?

We had a great opportunity to meet another family of the RV-Dreams community on Wednesday night. Beth (Cowgirl Creations), contacted me when she saw that we were in Cottonwood, her town. She and her husband, Chris and son Caleb, met us for a delicious dinner in Clarkdale at the Main Street Cafe on Wednesday evening. We had a fun time getting to know each other, trading RV stories. I’m so glad we got together with them, and hope we can get together again down the road.

Two things came together to help us take a very special trip on Friday. We got a comment from Al (Travel With the Bayfield Bunch) about a train ride in that area. At dinner on Wed., we asked Beth and Chris about it, and they assured us it was a great trip, but to be sure to get a seat in the First Class section if we went. And we did! What a fun day, a beautiful ride, complete with a champagne toast and snacks along the way:

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Jim, checking out the drink menu:

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This was looking forward from the open observation car:

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What a great trip! Thanks very much to Al, Beth and Chris for the tips about the Verde Canyon Railroad!

Our “Jell-O” plans called for us to leave Cottonwood on Friday. But, the weather forecast called for high wind and storms through the weekend, so we decided to lay low and delay our departure a few days. We spent the weekend relaxing and slowly getting our pre-trip lists completed. Bright and early Monday morning, we rolled the Castle down the road again for a quick journey across New Mexico. and into Colorado. The weather was still a bit “iffy”, but we had no trouble scooting up I-17, taking a right turn and heading east on I-40 across Arizona and New Mexico. We picked up I-25 in Albuquerque and sailed along towards our destination of Fountain, Colorado. For much of this trip, we had the ever-elusive tail wind, and for part of the trip, we actually got over 11 mpg! Once we started through the New Mexico mountains, of course that average dropped, and we ended up with an estimated 8.7 mpg for the whole journey. Uncharacteristic of us, but we made the entire 900 mile trip in 3 days and got in a couple of days early.

Since we arrived here on Wednesday, we’ve had a good visit with family and friends, with much more to come! Along with the visiting, Jim has the (hopefully) final segment of his dental work to be completed, and we both have our usual medical matters to address. Now, if the weather will just warm up a bit – we definitely notice we’re not in Phoenix any more!