Thursday, July 29, 2010

Camp Red Bay, Re-Visited

Yesterday we decided to take a quick run to Tunica and have lunch at Paula Deen’s Buffet in Harrah’s Casino.  We left a little after 10, stopped by Bridget & John’s to tell them “See Ya Down the Road”, then drove to Tunica.  We got to Harrah’s before we were really hungry so we decided to play a few penny slots before going up to the buffet.  We each won a little, so we paid for our lunches!  After lunch we went on back to the RV Park for a quiet last afternoon watching the river.

I know we missed visiting a lot of interesting and historically significant places in Memphis.  Clearly, we will need to go back.  I have more river watching to do, too.  But, we wanted to make sure we have enough time to get in and out of the Tiffin service facility in plenty of time to get to Indiana by the end of August, so Memphis will have to wait.

We were on the road at 8:30 this morning and pulled in to Camp Red Bay (AKA Tiffin Campground) around 11:30 or so.  We got a full hook-up site on the pavement this time, so we’re happy about that.  About half the sites here are in the dirt and gravel, so it’s a mess when it rains.   But, even those sites are better than getting here and finding a full campground.  After we got settled in, we stopped by to see Karen and Donny for a few minutes.  We first met them about a year and a half ago when we were in Rockport, Texas.  They recently bought a Phaeton and needed to have a few service items taken care of.  We’ll see them again in August and September for the Gypsy Journal Rally and the Escapade right after that.

This evening we met with a local fellow, Chris Berry, who does a lot of custom woodworking projects for Tiffin owners.  Chris is a former Tiffin employee but has his own business now.  He’s done several projects for us and we like his work, so we’ve asked him to put in a cabinet under our bedroom TV and some half-shelves in the front cabinets over the couch.

We miss this view tonight:

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Knock, Knock – Who’s There?

That’s how it started.  Monday evening, not long after the latest edition of “Justravelin” hit the internet, there was a knock on our door.  There, right outside, stood John and Bridget (Travels  of John and Bridget)!  The last time we’d seen them was at the 2008 RV Dreams Rally in Branson, so we had some catching up to do.  It was a fun evening, with the end result being they decided to stay an extra day and run around Memphis with us.

So, yesterday morning, they made arrangements to stay an extra night and we all headed across the bridge to downtown Memphis.  We got the car parked and set out on foot for the day’s adventure:

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First up was a stop at the Peabody Hotel to check out the ducks who live there.  Every day, the ducks ride the elevator from their penthouse to the lobby, where they run across a red carpet and jump in the fountain to swim for the afternoon.  Then they make the return trip back across the red carpet and up to the penthouse for the night.  We arrived at the hotel to join the waiting crowd.  Here’s the “Duckmaster” in front of the fountain where the ducks will spend their afternoon:

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When the elevator doors open, the ducks are very quick to run out.  It’s a challenge to get a picture, but John was ready!  Thanks, John, for sharing your picture with us:

Peabody ducks

Next stop was to see about taking a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory.  Some (ok, many) years ago, Jim was a guitarist in a rock band and has always maintained his interest in guitars.  We headed down 3rd street a few blocks and found the factory and store:

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We all got signed up for an afternoon tour and decided to find our lunch spot.  I guess all that walking (must have been 8 blocks by this time!) got Jim and John’s appetites' working.

Back up 2nd street a few more blocks to The Rendezvous, another well-known and highly recommended Memphis BBQ restaurant:

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This was a slight challenge to find, being as it’s located down this alley:

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But, it seems it was worth the search:

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The only thing on the menu at lunch is ribs – the full restaurant doesn’t open until 4:30.  So we all had ribs!

After lunch, our next stop was at the Hard Rock Cafe to help Jim add to the shot glass collection:

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More exploring downtown Beale Street in the increasing heat led to an ice cream craving, and we finally settled on BB King’s Blues Club for a cool respite:

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Then it was time to make our way back to the guitar factory for our tour.

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The tour was very interesting, but they don’t allow any pictures, and we all signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t give you any details!

We were all ready to get back to the river bank after all that touristing, so we headed back to Tom Sawyer’s for Happy Hour in our yard under the shade tree:

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Bridget and John joined us and we followed the shade around:

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Until sunset:

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When the bugs took over the yard and we came inside to continue our visit. 

Bridget and John are heading out this morning, but what a wonderful surprise and a fun visit!  One of the best features of this lifestyle is getting to meet up with such great people, whether it’s planned or totally unexpected!  We wish them continued safe travel, and hope to see them again very soon!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Slow Sunday and Another Travel Day

Yesterday turned out to be a good day to laze around and not do much.  We’d talked about taking a day trip to Hot Springs National Park, but after neither of us slept all that well Saturday night, we decided to not drive the 140 mile round trip after all.  Instead, we opted to have breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel and pick up a few groceries at Walmart.  When we got home, we basically just hung out and read.  Later in the afternoon we grilled chicken and had broccoli slaw and potato salad with it.

Just as I was falling asleep last night, the lightning and thunder began, followed by a nice rain shower.  That got us some humidity to wake up to – it was 75 degrees with 91% humidity when we got up.  Ah, summer.

We were ready to go by 8:30 this morning and made our 215 mile trip on I-40 to West Memphis, Arkansas in 4 hours, averaging 8.9 mpg.  We arrived at Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park and got set up with our 50-amp, full hook-up site.  Both air conditioners got turned on  as soon as our surge protector checked everything out and let the power through.  We have an end site on the first row facing the river:

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Next up on the agenda – Memphis Bar-B-Que.  After talking to the woman in the office and doing some research on the internet, we decided today we would try Central Bar-B-Que. 

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Good choice!

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Jim tasted the “hot” sauce with his beef plate and used that as an excuse to find some ice cream after lunch.

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We got home in time for me to settle in and watch the river…you’ll find me either outside in my chair watching the river, walking the dogs and watching the river, or sitting by a window staring at the river, watching the barges go by…well, someone has to do this!

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Exploring the Russellville Area

We decided the best way to stay cool today was to pile everyone in the car and turn the air conditioner on high.  Since we were sitting in the car with the engine running to keep the air conditioner cool, we thought we might as well drive around some and see what we could see.

We had a couple of questions and comments from folks familiar with this area, so had some ideas what to see.  First up was checking out the Dardanelle Lock and Dam, located right by the Old Post Road Park:

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This lock is the tallest on the Arkansas River, which is the longest tributary of the Mississippi River.  From the website, “The Encyclopedia of Arkansas”, I learned, “At 1,460 miles long, the Arkansas River is the longest tributary in the Mississippi-Missouri River system. From its source near Leadville, Colorado, the river drops 10,000 feet in 125 miles, travels through Kansas, then through northeastern Oklahoma. There, it is joined by the Canadian, Cimarron, Neosho-Grand, and Verdigris rivers. It then crosses Arkansas, emptying into the Mississippi River 600 miles north of New Orleans, Louisiana.”  Facts and figures aside, from my growing up years in Colorado, I remember the Arkansas river as a raging, but small, stream in the spring, or a tiny creek in the summer when we made day trips up around Leadville and Buena Vista.  Years later I remember visiting my Dad when he lived in Kansas.  There, the river was nearly dry.  To see how big it is in this part of the country is always amazing to me.

We found our way to Lake Dardanelle State Park just outside Russellville:

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Where it was a good day to fish:

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Or go boating:

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And, yes, Janna, we did see the cooling tower of Arkansas’ only nuclear power plant, located along Lake Dardanelle near Russellville:

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We continued our exploration by heading south on Highway 7 across the river and through the town of Dardanelle.  Eventually we found our way through farm country

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and winding roads

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to find Arkansas’ first state park, Petit Jean:

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With it’s beautiful vista:

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and handsome tourists:

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We took this beautifully constructed boardwalk

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to the Cedar Falls Overlook:

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However, the falls are not very spectacular right now, more of a trickle:

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But still, it is a beautiful park!

With all of this exploring, we realized we’d missed lunch.  We decided to take the dogs back to the Castle and give them their lunch and leave them to take a nap while we went back into Russellville to find our own lunch, at – where else, a local Mexican restaurant.

Now we’re back home, relaxing and resting up for tomorrow’s adventures!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Arrival in Arkansas

Let me just say this first, to all of our friends who were aghast at our decision to “stay South” this summer because we were cold most of last summer:  “It’s HOT here!”  Yes, I’m finally warm.  But like I’ve always said, I can get cooled off a lot easier than I can warm up, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m just fine.  Jim and the dogs might have a slightly different opinion, though.

Our decision was to get up way before dark-thirty this morning to get on the road and beat heat as well as the rush hour through Oklahoma City.  So, there we were, just a little after 4:00 A.M. (just want to make sure you understand it was in the morning!) and we were both awake 30 minutes before the alarm was set.  We got our morning routines completed and pulled out of the Lucky Star Casino parking lot right at 5:45 A.M.

We sailed through Oklahoma City before sunrise with absolutely no problem:

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and onward to Arkansas:

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We ran the dash air conditioner and had 2 ceiling vents open and the fans running for most of the  trip today.  That kept the interior of the Castle cool enough for all of us.  Yes, Janna and Karon, we’ve said, “Hello” to your home state for both of you.  We stopped 3 times, once for fuel and twice for walking the dogs.  Today we averaged 8.9 mpg and traveled about 300 miles on I-40 East.  We were surprised to find that Oklahoma has actually been doing some road work, and most of the way was on reasonably smooth roads.  There were a few miles, however, where the road is still begging for attention!

Not far after crossing the state line, we saw there are mountains in Arkansas!

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We pulled in to the Old Post Road Park at Russellville, Arkansas just before noon.  The camp hosts here let us leave the Castle at the gate while we checked out our reserved site to be sure it would work for us.  As it turned out, the site we reserved would not work, so they let us change sites to the one next to it so we could get our satellite signal.  We were really impressed by that, most parks won’t allow you to change sites once you have a reservation.  I guess they are more customer and less rule oriented here!

We got set up in our 30-amp site and tried both air conditioners.  No go.  Bummer, so we are making do with one air conditioner and a fan.  We’ll leave the front AC on during the day and switch over to the back one at night.  It’s not a big deal for 3 nights, but I probably wouldn’t want to stay much longer without 50 amp service this time of year.  I’m sure in the spring and fall, it’s a different story, but the heat index is somewhere around 106* today!

The Castle, nestled in among the trees:

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The Arkansas River runs behind us, and just a few hundred yards upstream is the Dardanelle Dam and Lake.  We hope to do some sightseeing while we’re here, and a lot of resting!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On The Move Again

Ellie 003_1 “…Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” 

Well, that one is, but there will be more down the road, that’s for sure.  The picture above is east of Amarillo as we made our way along I-40 early this morning.  What a GREAT time we had!  We’ll miss the gang there, but already have plans in the making for the next time through.

Tuesday night we had dinner at Shirley & Mike’s house (Jim’s cousins).  Mike grilled the best steaks!  Shirley made salad and baked potatoes.  It was all so good but we really enjoyed the company best.  Shirley and Mike, thank you for the great times, can’t wait to see you guys again.

Wednesday night the group of friends from Jim’s class once again graced the patio at Ruby Tequila's for live music, good food, happy hour adult beverages, and fun company.   We laughed and enjoyed the last gathering of the 40th reunion crowd.  We called it a night pretty early, though, because we wanted to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for an early departure this morning.

We pulled out of the Amarillo Ranch RV Park right at 7:30 this morning and were soon rolling along I-40 with a tailwind.  It was nice and cool when we left, good traveling weather.  Soon we came to Groom, Texas where this 19 story tall cross stands on the south side of the highway:

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And not far from the cross (reportedly the 2nd largest in the Northern Hemisphere), stands this leaning water tower that was supposedly constructed this way on purpose to catch the attention of travelers so they would stop in Groom:

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The miles rolled by, and the scenery became a little more mundane:

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After about 4 hours of uneventful traveling, we made it to our stop for the night – the Lucky Star Casino at Concho, Oklahoma (a few miles north of El Reno):

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We got settled in to our free site at the “RV Park”:

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Then went to the casino to check in with the security desk and get a bite of lunch.  After lunch we just had to try out a couple of penny slot machines.  I came out about $20 ahead after paying for lunch, but Jim lost $40, so I guess we’ve paid for our “free” site!  It’s a great place for an overnight stop, off the main highway, with full hook-ups.  There are about 10 sites here and they are very close together, but that’s ok since it’s free.

With a good tailwind most of the day, our gas mileage, even with the air conditioner running, averaged 9 mpg.  Tomorrow we’re off to Russellville, Arkansas until Monday.  We’re staying at a COE park on the Arkansas River.  Stay tuned for more Justravelin adventures

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Reunion and The Angels

Caprock Reunion 029 Just about everything we’ve been doing the last few weeks led up to yesterday – Saturday, July 17th.  Caprock High School’s 40th reunion dinner dance was held at River Breaks Ranch located just outside Amarillo.  We’ve been to “planning” meetings that doubled as parties, helped the committee by donating funds and items for the silent auction, helped decorate, set up, clean up, and just had a good time getting reacquainted or acquainted for the first time with lots of classmates and their spouses.  I’ve had a lot of fun, and I know Jim has really, really enjoyed reconnecting with all of these friends. 

At lunch on Friday we met one of Jim’s very best friends from those days, Mike, his wife, Rhonda, Mike’s brother, Gene and his wife, Connie for lunch at a local burger place.  Jim and Mike, along with several others, shared many “adventures” in their high school days.  Mike and Rhonda now live in Spring, Texas and they drove up here on Thursday.  It was great fun to see them.

Rhonda was getting ready to take a picture of Jim and Mike Friday evening when I got this one:

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Friday evening was the “Meet and Greet” event, and I watched Jim’s face light up over and over as he shared memories with many of the classmates who’d arrived to attend the 2-night events. When the crowd cleared out, we helped get the clubhouse cleaned up and un-decorated.  Yesterday morning we went out to the ranch and helped get the room all set for the dinner.  We spent the afternoon napping and relaxing, trying to catch up on a little of that lost sleep from the past few nights so we’d be fresh and energetic for the night’s festivities.

Late yesterday afternoon, about an hour before time to leave, I took the dogs out for a walk before I started getting ready to go.  Just as I was walking back to the Castle, I heard some popping noises.  At first I thought someone nearby was slamming compartment doors.  But when I got back inside, I kept hearing the noises and looked out a window to see if I could tell what was going on.  My “something’s up” radar was alerted.  Suddenly I saw a man running towards our coach, and then he was knocking on our door.  When I opened the door, he yelled that we needed to turn off our electric because the pole behind us was popping and fire was coming out!  I yelled for Jim to come out and went outside to investigate.  Before I went out, I glanced at our electrical control panel and saw that our inverter was on.

Of course, a crowd was gathering around this junction pole behind our coach.  I made sure someone had notified the office, then started asking what people had seen.  The pole in question has our electric meter  and what looks like a junction box on it, but our electric cord is plugged into a separate box on the other side of the coach and didn’t appear to have been affected.  Apparently, the junction box on the back of the pole was the source of the popping and fire.  Jim was outside by this time and checking our surge protector and saw that our electric meter was still turning and that we had our power back on.  Evidently, when the equipment in the junction box started arcing, we had a momentary power loss, which was at the time I looked at our panel and saw the inverter on.

The park manager (may be owner, I’m not sure) arrived and started looking things over.  We were trying to figure out what to do about our own situation when a fellow from the next rig over showed up with a screwdriver and started to pry the junction box open – not a good idea!  The popping and flare was immediate! I guess he didn’t think the situation was safe (well, duh!) so he decided to pack up and leave.  He’d just gotten there, so there wasn’t much to pack up.  Just as well, we didn’t need him trying to “fix” anything!  The manager made some calls to get someone out to make repairs.  Meanwhile, our power was on, although I think there were a few rigs that still didn’t have power.  He offered to move us to another site, but we explained we were leaving shortly for this reunion and didn’t have time to pack up and move right then, we wanted to wait and see if the problem could be corrected.

We went back inside to discuss what we should do, when another neighbor from a couple of sites over knocked on our door.  He asked if we’re Escapees, and said that they are too.  He talked with us for a few minutes, explaining that he he’s a retired electrician.  We told him the timing of this was really bad, since we were about to attend this reunion dinner.  He offered to watch our coach and take care of the dogs for us so we could still go.  We were hesitant, but finally decided to take them up on the offer.  At this point, our power was still on and everything was working fine.  We hoped that repairs could be made without affecting our power, so the dogs would be ok, and that Doug and Judy wouldn’t need to do anything.

We left a key and our cell phone numbers with them and went on to the reunion, asking them to call us if anything happened.  Sure enough, Doug called and told us the electrical contractor had come and turned our power off to fix the bad equipment.  They didn’t have all the necessary parts to make the repairs, so our power would be off until Monday.  Everyone else’s power was restored, just our site was without it.    We offered to come on back home, but Doug said no, it’s a special night, you just stay and have a good time. They went in and got the dogs then, took them over to their rig and took care of them until we got home.

Ok, so at this point, we are thinking, where did these Angels come from?  What wonderful people!  We had not met Doug and Judy Plummer before this happened, and here they are, offering to take care of our furkids so we could enjoy a special night.  They are the perfect example of the spirit of Escapees and we can’t begin to thank them enough!  We did leave the party a little early and got home around 10:15.  Doug was waiting for us, and the dogs were happy!  We got them home to our hot Castle and opened all the windows and vents to cool the place down.  Luckily, Amarillo cools off at night!

This morning, we both had the same idea – let’s not move to a different site if we can get an extension cord to plug in to the site next door.  We figured the coach that eventually got parked there was leaving this morning since they hadn’t unhooked their car.   We were correct, those folks pulled out right after 7:00  A.M.   We went over to the office and spoke with the managers.  By the way, these people are the exact opposite those at our previous park here in Amarillo.  These people are making sure this situation is handled and that we’re happy.  We explained our idea and that seemed to be fine with them, so they provided us with a 30-amp extension cord to plug in next door.  They placed a cone over the cord so no one will drive over it and blocked that site from being rented out tonight.  They also promised they will be on top of the contractor and power company first thing tomorrow morning to make sure the repairs get made so we can be back on our 50-amp service.

I took these pictures this morning.  The box on the lower left side of the pole is where our electric meter was. The box on the opposite side is the one that had the faulty equipment in it:

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This is a close-up of the burned box.  The burn marks on the side are where the “helpful” neighbor stuck his screwdriver (he’s the one who packed up and left, thank goodness):

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Our temporary power cable:

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So today, we are sung and cool with one air conditioner running on a 30-amp service.  We had some opportunities to  better understand the workings of our electrical system as we adjusted to the reduced amperage.  We’ve really been “all or nothing” with this coach since we purchased it in 2008, this is the first time we’ve run with 30 amps.  This morning before we had electric, we still had all the windows and vents open.  When the sun came up, we turned on the vent fans to create a nice breeze.  This was working great with our solar panels easily keeping up with the load.  However, when we plugged in to the 30-amp service, our batteries started losing their charge right away. We turned off the 30-amp breaker and the batteries recharged from the solar. Jim turned the 30-amp breaker back on and we watched the battery charge go down again.  We finally figured out that the fans run on DC power, and the 30-amp service is not enough to keep the batteries charging with that load.  When we turned the fans off and started the air conditioner, the batteries went back to a full charge and all is well.  So now we understand that on solar, we can’t run our air conditioners, and on 30-amp power, we can’t run the vent fans.  Good things to know!

Pictures from the reunion -

River Breaks Ranch entrance:

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Ellie and Vickie:

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One of the entertainment opportunities at the ranch is “horse racing” , where play money is handed out and you can “bet” on the horses. The crowd is getting ready and the horses run:

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Vail, one of the classmates who graduated with Jim, is a designer now.  She made this quilt from old t-shirts from Caprock High and the Amarillo area:

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Another classmate, Donny Hickmott, (Walking Horse Gallery) is an accomplished artist who painted this picture of a Longhorn:

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The quilt and the painting were donated for people to buy an “opportunity to win” with proceeds donated to Caprock High School for a scholarship.






Browsing the table full of silent auction goodies, another money-making project for the scholarship fund:

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Mixing and mingling:

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What a special night, filled with Adventure, Friends, and Angels!