Sunday, December 4, 2011

Three Million Lights…

…in 950 displays….that is the Bellingrath Gardens Magic Christmas in Lights show.  Located Southwest of Mobile, Alabama, the home and gardens of the late Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath are open to the public year round.  But at Christmas, they really put on a show.

Here are pictures of a few thousand of the 3 million lights:

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Many of the displays were set either on or around a lake, so we were able to capture reflections:

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Some were designed to give us the feeling we were actually in or under the water!

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We even saw “fireworks” in the Japanese garden:

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And of course, there must be angels:

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Our friend, Carol, who lives in a community just south of Birmingham, made a get-away this weekend to come see us, and we toured the Bellingrath home and Christmas display last night. What a great tour.  We couldn’t take pictures inside the house, but it is a large and beautifully maintained home from the early 1930’s and 1940’s when the Bellingraths lived there.

We even got there early enough to see some of the beautiful flowers in the garden:

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Carol and Jim are trying to figure out

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what these are – anybody know?

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In other news, we’ve put up our own little Christmas display here at the Plantation:


We are settled into somewhat of a routine, I’m still going to line dancing and getting caught up with some home projects such as sorting through clothes, organizing and cleaning, you know, all the exciting stuff! 

Thanksgiving day was pretty quiet for us.  We opted to skip the big community dinner and do our own thing here.  We counted our many blessings and gave thanks for all our family, friends and the amazing life we’ve been blessed with.  Oh, yeah, and I think there was some football on TV!

Terry and Randy came over for a quick dinner one evening, Randy was scheduled for a rehearsal that evening, so he ate and ran, but we had a good visit with Terry.  We’re looking forward to attending some concerts in which they’re participating next week.

Another little project we’ve been assigned is a financial planning tool our planner suggested to us.  It was a bit like being back in business accounting class, but between us we managed to ferret out most of the mundane details I don’t tend to think about on a daily basis.  Hey, when I retired, I tried to give up that detail stuff!  But, it’s good to have a plan and map, so we’ll see where that leads.  We know the day will come when we’ll have to “hang up the keys”, and we probably should have some sort of idea what we’d like to do then, and the means with which to accomplish it.

We haven’t heard back from the vet on Mr. Bo Jangles’ biopsy yet, I think we’ll find out this next week.  Meanwhile, both he and Jasmine are happy and energetic.  They thoroughly enjoy their multiple outings every day around the Plantation.

Today, I left Jim in charge of watching the important football games (Go Broncos!), and I spent the day with Carol.  We walked for about an hour on the beach and then rewarded ourselves for that exercise by going out for shrimp for lunch, followed by a nice long drive out to the Fort Morgan area where we watched boats and birds for awhile.

And that’s Life at The Plantation this holiday season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Busy Week At The Plantation

I don’t know about all full-timers, but we tend to wait until we know we’re going to be stable for a month or more before we make a bunch of appointments like dentist, eye, exams, dogs’ teeth cleaning, etc.  This was especially true for us this year as we were busy and traveling more than usual over the summer and early fall.

As a result, I’ve been getting things scheduled left and right, and this week has been THE week to get many  of these items accomplished.

I made appointments for myself at a local dentist and hearing specialist this week.  The dentist was good news, even though it’s been almost 2 years since I had my teeth cleaned, I’m doing fine and my teeth are O.K.  The hearing test was a different story.  I thought people were really starting to mumble and speak softer these days, but Jim finally convinced me to get a hearing consult.  As it turned out, I really need some hearing assistance.  I’m now getting used to wearing digital hearing aids.  Big adjustment!  I’ll go back and see the technician every week for awhile to have programming adjustments made as I get used to these things.  My only previous experience or knowledge of hearing aids was my grandmother.  She had a big, clunky-looking device with a big wire that hung from her ear to the battery piece which disappeared somewhere down the bodice of her dress.  I remember it making a horrible squealing noise sometimes, and I’m not sure it helped her hear any better.

Times sure have changed! My devices are tiny little things that sit behind my ears, out of sight. There are itty-bitty pieces that sit in my ears with small, clear wires to connect them to the behind-the-ear piece.  They are not noticeable at all, unless you really look hard for them. 

The other major event for this week was getting Mr. BoJangles checked out to be sure he could be put under anesthesia for teeth cleaning and to get that scheduled for both dogs.  Darrell & Judy recommended a local veterinarian, Julie Cleverdon.  I took Mr. BJ to her for a good check-up and she was very thorough.  I was very impressed by her attitude and attention.  The old boy checked out fine and we made the appointment for the teeth cleaning today.  When we picked them up, she came out and talked to us about her findings.  All went well with Jasmine, but Mr. BJ had some tumors in his mouth.  She asked if we wanted her to send them in for biopsy, which we did.  We’ll get the results from that in a few weeks.  We were very pleased with the whole experience with Julie and her office staff.  One interesting resident in her office is a very small fawn she rescued recently.  It wanders around the office like one of the cats or dogs that are also part of the scene there.  I asked what will happen with she grows up, and found that she’ll be released near the Cleverdon farm which is just down the road from the plantation.

I still need to have my regular blood tests done, and my eyes checked, which I have scheduled for the first part of December.

Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying my regular activities this week, line dancing and water aerobics, and a few walks around the Plantation.  I went to Weight Watchers last Saturday morning over in Daphne, not sure if I want to make that drive every week.

This afternoon we took a drive while we waited for the dogs to be ready, and ended up, where else, the shore:

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There are a lot of Great Blue Herons to be found in this area:Jim 035

And we got to enjoy a fly-over by the Navy (we think these are the Blue Angels)

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In the technology department of our household, we’ve been experiencing more and more trouble with our Cradlepoint router and Verizon air card.  The speed and reliability of our connection has been unpredictable at best and non-existent at worst.  Finally, I called the 3gstore people but didn’t make any decision about getting a new router.  We stopped in at the local Verizon store one day and  I finally gave in and got a MiFi 4G router.  This caused us to give up our unlimited data plan with Verizon, but since we’ve never gone over 5 gigs usage in our entire history of having an air card, I agreed to try it.  What a difference it’s made!  We have great speed and reliability now.  I check our usage frequently, and so far, so good, we are right in line with our usual amount of data use.  Oh, and our bill has gone down $10 a month with this plan. 

Life is great!  (And yes, I can hear you now!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

It’s About Time!!

“Whatever happened to your blog?”….  “Where are you?”…..  “Our friends used to write a blog”…. “sure miss your blog”….  “This would make a good blog picture, if you still had a blog” – those are actual quotes I’ve heard recently and repeatedly, so I guess it’s about time to climb back up on that blogging wagon I slap fell off of, and update my good friends and faithful readers!

We’ve recovered (at least physically, financially, well, that’s another story for another day) from the wedding and have moved on down the road, several of them, actually.

The quick synopsis includes a visit to Amarillo where we once again parked in Vickie & Don’s back yard.  We then took a slight detour down to the Cleburne area where we got to spend some great time with Carolyn and her husband Earl.  While we were there, several other of Jim’s high school friends gathered for a rousing party at a local Cleburne watering hole.

A quick visit to Aunt Ruth and Uncle Wayne in Oklahoma was our next stop.  There we got to meet many of their friends and celebrate Ruth’s birthday.

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Sheridan, Arkansas was the next stop, where we spent a few days catching up with Karon and Dan.  They’ve moved back into their “sticks ‘n bricks” home  in Sheridan, and Karon is now a Weight Watchers leader.  I got to attend her meeting, what a great treat that was!  She also invited me to attend a very special concert in Little Rock, presented by the River City Men’s Chorus, of which her cousin is a charter member.  The concert was the program they are presenting at The Vatican in Rome this month, and was absolutely awesome! 

We stopped in West Memphis, Arkansas for a few days to revisit one of our all-time favorite RV parks – Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park.  A few days of relaxing and watching that mighty river roll by did a lot of good for our souls.

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That quiet time also got us ready for the next leg of our journey….

Red Bay.  This was to be a “quick stop” just to have 2 windows replaced and a small adjustment to one mirror.  Ha, ha, joke’s on us.  What happened instead….the slide floor that was replaced last summer had to be redone!  Since they had put it in just over a year ago, they were very quick to get it done again, and this time they accomplished it in one day.  That made our stay just about a week.  While we were there, we had the good fortune to be able to spend a little time with good friends Dortha & Mark; Molly & Bob; and Sylvia & Glenn.  And we got to meet Pam and Randy and see their new residential refrigerator.  We also found that our former HR Director from Colorado Springs Utilities, Steve, and his wife, Shirley, were making their first visit to Red Bay with their new 2011 Phaeton. 

Below is our “happy” little group:  from the lower left corner working around: Mark, Dortha, Molly, Bob, Randy, (not really visible except for her hands is Pam), Shirley, Steve, and me.

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But…we also found that our coach was one of many that needed to have the wet bay floor replaced, along with the top rails.  We were way down on the list for those items, so rather than hang out in Red Bay for several weeks, we opted to go to the Birmingham area where Jim could stay while I went to my Weight Watchers camp in October.  Dortha told us about an RV park in Hoover that she’d discovered, so we tried that one, we like it a lot!  It’s a city park located next to a local baseball stadium.  There are no special amenities, it’s just a basic parking lot with hook-ups, but that works for us, and the price is right.

I went to “Camp Taz” in Mississippi, and got all re-energized with my Weight Watcher friends.  We kayaked, visited a national wildlife refuge, took lots of walks, and visited for a week.  New recipes were tried and we all came back with a new commitment to the program.

Here’s the 10K Posse: Carol, me, Taz, Ann, Jules, Karon, and Elaine:

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One night we made Chicken Picatta, No-Noodle Lasagna and salad:

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This big ol’ alligator was enjoying just layin’ around, half-in, half-out of the water at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge:

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As soon as camp was over, we headed right back to Red Bay with our still-open service number and were lucky enough to get right into the bays.  We got both the wet bay floor done and the top rails done in a week and were once again cleared for take-off from the runway. 

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On the way out of town, we made a stop to see Brannon at Custom RV to have the “Air Force One” supplemental brake system installed for the Equinox.  This replaces the  Even Brake box that sat on the floor of the car with a gizmo attached to the brake pedal.  We were never sure how well that was working, and was a pain to install every time we towed the car.

This new system is connected directly to the motor home’s hydraulic system through a quick-connect, so when the motor home brake is applied, the car brake is also applied.  The gizmo that’s attached to the car’s brake is always there, but out of sight and out of the way so we don’t ever have to do anything with it directly.  There is one cable that hooks up the indicator lights that gets plugged in, plus the quick-connect to the hydraulic system, and that’s it, easy, easy to get ready to tow.

We stopped for one night back at the Hoover RV Park on our way to our current location – Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama!  Once again, pulling in and settling in to our site in the campground gave us the comfortable feeling of coming home.  We’ll be here  until at least Christmas, and who knows…maybe we’ll hang around a little longer.

It didn’t take long to find our way to the beach:

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We got here in time to see Judy and Darrell before they had to run off and temporarily rejoin the W*rking World.  We fixed up a nice pork tenderloin on the grill and paired it with acorn squash and salad for a late lunch last Saturday.

Then on Sunday, Terry and Randy arrived and have taken up residence just down the row from us.  We got together last night for a dinner out at a local Mexican eatery and really enjoyed getting caught up with them.

We’ve joined the local Foley YMCA and I’m going to water aerobics classes there and will probably start either a Yoga class or work with the weight machines next week.  I’m also going to the line dancing group which meets 3 mornings a week.  I’ll try a couple of different Weight Watchers meetings and decide which one I like best.

Last year when we were here, we decided to add our names to the waiting list for one of the ERPU lease sites.  At the time, our name was #42.  I just checked it again, and we’ve moved up to #26.  We haven’t actually decided if we’ll take the plunge when our name moves up to the top, and it looks like we will probably have about a year to continue thinking about it.  To refresh, the 5-year lease costs $14,500 and is renewable for $1.00.  There is an annual maintenance fee of $750.  We can have a storage building on the site, most of them already have one that we would purchase from the current leaseholder.  If we get a site and then want to release it, we would get our $14,500 back.  It’s not a great investment as far as a return on our money, but it’s also not a loss.

That was the whirlwind-catch-up with us.  We’ll be hanging around the Plantation, till next time…

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Wedding–August 20, 2011

Jim’s daughter, Robin Meacham, and Paul Crabb joined their lives and families in a beautiful ceremony at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs at 3:00 on a warm Saturday afternoon.

When they were both in elementary school, Paul was my son Josh’s best friend. Robin spent every other weekend with us and that’s when she got to know Paul. They’ve been friends for a long time! We are proud and happy to welcome Paul as an “official” member of the family!

In the days leading up to the wedding…

Robin’s personal shower was given by my sister Ann at her house. Below are Marilia (my niece), Robin, Tashi (Marilia’s daughter) and Berta (my cousin).

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My sister, Ann, and I got out our sewing machines a few days before the wedding and made some table decorations for the reception:

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Jim, Robin and Maid-of-Honor Lynette at the rehearsal dinner:

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Groomsman Todd, Best Man Josh, and Groom Paul arrived at the church less than 30 minutes before the ceremony! Hurry, guys!


Meanwhile, Robin was putting the final touches on her jewelry, while her new step-daughter, Arianna, talked to the Photographer, Karen.

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Proud Dad and beautiful daughter:


The Wedding Party – back row is Todd, Paul, Robin and Josh. Front row is Lynette, Arianna and Manda

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Our family – back row are sons Josh and Zach, front row is Robin, me, Jim and Paul


Me, with Josh and Zach at the reception:


Robin and her son Jacob dancing:


The Bride and her Dad dancing:


It was indeed a Very Special Day – congratulations to the new family! We hope you will be as happy together as your dad and I.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Friend Doug


Doug Dubrouillet is no longer in pain.  I’m pretty sure on his way to wherever our spirits go when we leave this earthly plane, he flew around and touched some of his friends on the shoulder to say, “See ya later, I’m out of here.  Catch you on the other side.” At least that’s what I believe, since this morning I had both Doug and JoAnn strongly on my mind and couldn’t shake the feeling I needed to contact them.  I sent an e-mail, then went to Facebook where I saw JoAnn’s post that Doug is gone.  A little while ago Laurie Brown posted to JoAnn’s wall that Odel dreamed of Doug’s passing last night.

We first met Doug and JoAnn at Doc Justin’s Diamond J RV Park in Tucson, AZ on January 18, 2008.  It was a travel day for us and they invited us to dinner at their place.  JoAnn made a big pot of Linda Payne’s famous Taco Soup.

Over the next few months we got to know them better, especially when we traveled with them and the Wishnies to Mexico.  When we came back from Mexico, Doug and JoAnn helped us move into our new motor home, once again sharing a big pot of that Taco Soup.

We kept up with each other over the next 3 and a half years, meeting once in a while along the way, but mostly through our blogs and on Facebook.  When we did get together, it was like we’d been friends forever.  Doug had an incredible sense of humor and wisdom and was a great inspiration to me, especially when I made the decision to join Weight Watchers.  He was a member of AA and was always on the lookout for a meeting – even in the small towns we visited in Mexico.  I figured that if he could be on the road and make a commitment to attend AA meetings, I could certainly do the same thing with Weight Watchers.  Thanks, Doug!

The last time we saw Doug and JoAnn was this past Spring, again in Arizona.  While we were boondocking, they came and spent some time in the same area.  One day while they were there, some of us decided to hike up to Palm Canyon.  In spite of his pain, Doug went along and hiked with us.  He didn’t make it all the way up to the palms, but he didn’t stop until he really couldn’t go further.

They went on to Benson and we joined them there at the Saguaro Escapees Park for a couple of weeks.  Jim and I will always be grateful for that time we spent together.  We have some great memories to carry with us.

Our hearts are with JoAnn now, as she steps out on a new path.  JoAnn, we love you and wish you strength and peace in the days ahead.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On to Cherry Creek!

On our way across Wyoming, we saw lots of:

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There wasn’t much to do but take pictures!

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There were several of these signs:

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Followed by these signs:

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And in case you missed your signs, there are gates that close when the weather is bad enough to close the interstate!

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But after 2 days across Wyoming, we crossed the state line:Ellie 034

Uh-oh, this doesn’t look as calm as our spot along the Boulder River!

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But around noon yesterday we escaped the traffic of Denver into the wonderful Cherry Creek State Park campground located close to the home of some of our very favorite people!

Here they are with me: Calib, Elyse, Kellie and Cameron – our 4 grandchildren who live here in Aurora. 

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I picked them up at their house and brought them to our place for a pizza dinner followed by a walk on the nearby swim beach,

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then back here for a rousing game of Mexican Train.  We didn’t finish the game, but when we called it a night, Calib was trouncing the rest of us!

We have a couple more days here to enjoy some fun with the kids before continuing our journey to Colorado Springs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rolling Along

After our brief but fun time in Utah, it was necessary to move along.  I had a call from my Amarillo doctor’s office requesting a follow-up on one of my medical tests.  We decided to extend our planned visit to my nephew Bill and wife Rhonda in Idaho Falls, Idaho and get the follow-up done there. 

We made it a 2-day journey with an overnight stop in Springville, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. 

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Scenery along I-15:

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Once we arrived in Idaho Falls, we spent the first few days in town at the Snake River RV Park where we’d stayed before.  This year the Snake River was much more impressive with the amount of water flowing over the falls. 

The picture below was taken when we were here in early August of 2009:

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And this picture was taken this month, near the same spot as the one above:

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While we were there we had the opportunity to have lunch with one of Jim’s high school classmates, Sherri, who lives in Idaho Falls.  It was a treat to see them reconnect after 41 years!


We relocated to Bill and Rhonda’s huge back yard after a few days and spent about 10 days parked behind their barn:

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Activities included getting that test done (good news from that), playing in the backyard with the dogs, planning meals and catching up with Bill and Rhonda and their friends.

Jim bought himself an important new piece of equipment:

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And while Bill looked on, he tested it:

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By making one of his famous Shrimp Boils – success!

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One afternoon Bill navigated and we drove over to the Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Rhonda had her two adorable grandsons with her so she elected to stay home with them while we went on our tour.  Bill provided us with lots of interesting information about the area as we passed through the high desert area of Idaho.

An Idaho fixer-upper:

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These 2 young buck elk were having a bite to eat along side the road:

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This is a campground in the National Monument, the motorhome is nestled in a tiny spot surrounded by lava:

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A large lava field:

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Another day found us fishing on Ririe Reservoir near Idaho Falls.  That was a fun day until Bill’s boat nearly caught fire from some improperly installed wiring!  Good thing Bill is a firefighter/paramedic and kept a cool head as smoke was pouring out of the engine compartment!  A couple of other boating groups stopped by to ask if we needed help, but Bill was able to use his small trolling motor to get us back to the dock with no fire actually breaking out.

A visit to Jackson, Wyoming took another day of our visit.  The 4 of us went in our car and we had a fun day poking around town.  Rhonda and Bill enjoying their lunch at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village:

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Our time in Idaho Falls was great, we so enjoyed getting to spend time with Bill and Rhonda! Thanks for your hospitality!

Next stop was on the way to visit Janna & Mike in Montana.  We learned that Gerri and Larry Gustafson, previous owners of Broken Arrow Campground in Custer, SD, were in the area.  We made arrangements to stay overnight at the same park they were at – Ennis RV Village in Ennis, MT.  Also with them were their good friends Donlyn and Jim Vickers, whom we first met at Broken Arrow.  The ladies had prepared a wonderful crockpot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables to share for dinner, what a fun evening!  Wish we could have spent more time with them, but we are on a timeline here!

Larry, Gerri, Donlyn, and Jim:

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Some interesting scenery on the way to Big Timber – I’m not sure what these boards are called – maybe paddle boards?  But these two brave folks were paddling along  the very high Madison River barely clothed, much less wearing life vests!

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Another view along the Madison River:

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We arrived at Spring Creek Campground in Big Timber on Tuesday for a 4-night stay.  We called Janna to let her know when we got settled and she said she’d stop by after an appointment in town. 

When we arrived at the campground I went in to the office to check in and pay.  I found out that our reservation hadn’t gotten written down, so they didn’t have the full hook-up site we’d requested.  Instead, they had to put us in this riverside site with water and electric:

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Just at the right edge of the picture below, you can see our chairs set up behind the motorhome, just right for sitting and watching the Boulder River flow by!

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When Janna arrived, we got our hugs and then followed her up the Boulder to their house.  She prepared a fabulous chicken dinner with corn on the cob and melon salad.  Hey, this getting fed along the way as we travel is pretty darn nice!

Here’s their house, located about 20 miles from the middle of the wilderness!

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After dinner, we took a drive up the road to the Natural Bridge State Park to check out the falls.  The last time we were here, there was no water flowing over the top:

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On the drive back to their house, this deer crossed the road in front of us:

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And we were reminded to watch out on the way back to our place.  We saw six more deer on the way home!

Janna & Mike had appointments in Billings on Wednesday and we knew they wouldn’t be back until late, so we just took that day to hang out.  On Thursday, they had one more appointment in Billings and then a Costco run, so they asked if we’d like to go along.  Of course we did, they picked us up at 8:00 and away we went in their truck.  While they were at the appointment we shopped.  They took us to lunch at Jakes, which was very good!

After our stop at Costco, it was back on the road and home for the evening.  Then yesterday Mike had more hay to cut, so Janna came and picked us up for some shopping and errands around Big Timber and Livingston.  We found a few items to purchase, we always try to do our part for the local economy!

Last night Janna & Mike joined us at our place for dinner.  Jim fixed a pork roast in the crockpot and we added beans and salad.  It was a fun visit, but way too short!

Somehow neither one of us managed to take a good picture of Janna or Mike this visit, so here they are when we climbed the mountain behind our desert hideaway last winter:

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We left our beautiful river spot a little reluctantly this morning and headed for tonight’s destination,

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An easy travel day, an easy in-easy-out RV park, a great late lunch at the Rib & Chop House in Sheridan, Wyoming and we’re settled in, ready for a restful night before another Wyoming travel day.

We’re rolling along towards the Denver area where we’ll spend a few days with the grandkids.  Then it’s on to Colorado Springs and final preparations for Robin’s wedding in August.