North Dakota and Minnesota
Leaving Montana was a sad thing for us because we just loved Glacier National Park, Great Falls and Fort Peck. The beautiful scenery we had become accustomed to had given way to prairie as we headed east to North Dakota. Time seems to stand still when you are traveling in an area where the scenery changes very little. That drive from Fort Peck to Bismarck seemed to be forever and man, were we grateful when we finally arrived.
We stayed in an absolutely fantastic state park called Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. It was right on the Missouri River, just far enough away from the city that it was quiet, but close enough to Bismarck that we didn't have to spend all day in the car to do sightseeing. This park, by the way, is located where General George Armstrong Custer's cavalry was stationed prior to their march toward Montana and the Battle of Little Big Horn. The park rangers don period dress and take you on a tour of the place and discuss things that happened here using only terms that existed in the 1870's. If you asked a question that involved something beyond the scope of what existed in the 1870's, you were given a response that included a lot of confusion on the part of the tour guide. That was kinda fun.
While in Bismarck, we also visited one of the best state history museums in the country: The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum. I highly recommend a visit there if you are in the Bismarck area. The museum breaks down North Dakota's history into categories that include geologic times, early peoples, and then "yesterday and today" which discusses farming history and other industries that are important to North Dakota's growth. We could have spent way more time there and wish we would have discovered it on our first day in town.
One of the other things we did while in North Dakota was visit the "On-a-Slant Mandan Village" which is located in the state park. We learned about the Mandan/Hidatsu/Arikara Indian tribes and how they were actually very wealthy farmers. We toured through one of their mud housing structures and learned about the family unit and typical daily life of these Native American tribes. One of the more interesting things was spending some time with two of the park rangers who live in the Standing Rock area (the place where the big pipeline protest took place last year) and learned from them that things happened there quite differently than were reported in the news. No surprise there!!!
We only had a couple of days in North Dakota and headed further east to the 48th and last state of our journey - - Minnesota. Let me tell you, this state is not called "Land of 10,000 Lakes" for no reason! There's water everywhere in the northern and central part of this state. We stayed in a little town called Ashby which has two very sizable lakes around it. We took a couple of drives and visited Battle Lake and Fergus Falls, but our favorite was a little town called Alexandria. What an adorable town and if it didn't have winter, I think Steve and I would happily move there.
Our first stop was visiting the Legacy of the Lakes Museum. This facility housed some of the most beautiful pre-war wooden boats that I have ever seen. Our modern-day boats are all fiberglass and, in my opinion, have very little style compared to the old Chris-Craft and Garwood boats of earlier days. We read stories about the entrepreneurs who developed this region of Minnesota as a tourist destination and enjoyed watching videos of an old speed boat competitions that Gar Wood had won. There was also a temporary exhibit featuring nature photography by National Geographic photographer, Jim Brandenburg.
Next we stopped at the Runestone Museum next door and were pleasantly surprised. What we thought was just a small museum about the history of this part of Minnesota, was actually the story of the Kensington Runestone. What a gem of a museum. The Kensington Runestone was discovered on the farm of Olaf Ohman in 1898. It contains a message written in symbols he didn't understand but spent his life trying to decipher. Scientists and historians got involved to authenticate the stone and it's message which basically indicates that Christopher Columbus was not the first to discover America - - it was the Norseman who arrived in the region we now call Minnesota in 1362. Google it for more of the back story, but wow was that fascinating. We thoroughly enjoyed touring this museum, Fort Alexandria that stands directly behind it, and Big Ole - - a 28-foot viking that serves as the town's mascot.
From Ashby we headed south to Pipestone (pronounced "pippa stone" by our GPS). Again, small town America's charm can be found all over this place. It also is the home to Pipestone National Monument. This beautiful red stone has been mined here by all tribes of Indians for centuries. It is the base stone from which they make their peace pipes and holds very significant religious value to Native Americans. We spoke with a woman named Dancing Flower who was carving turtles out of the stone for sale in the gift shop. She was telling us that the Native Americans have to apply for a permit to quarry the stone and that her niece and nephew were busy quarrying stone that very morning. It is a very labor-intensive job as the stone is buried beneath first layers of prairie grass and dirt, then about 10 feet of limestone. It is a sacred thing for them to quarry and most find the struggle to be a religious experience they would not pass up.
While in the area, we also took in a rodeo at the Pipestone County Fair. What a hoot! We have been to rodeos before where we saw bull riding, calf roping and barrel races. We have never experienced team herding before and it was rather interesting. It goes something like this: there are 9 head of cattle all numbered 1 to 9, stationed at one end of the arena. The goal is for the four cowboys on horses to sort out the cattle one by one, and in numerical order, from one end of the arena to the other. Cows are stubborn animals, as we learned, and seemed to enjoy messing with the cowboys. We had a great time!
We took some time to visit Sioux Falls South Dakota since it was right across the state line from us. Boy did we fall in love with that city. The town, itself, has gone through several different lifetimes and is enjoying a bit of a boom right now. The architecture in the downtown area is absolutely spectacular and we enjoyed taking a trolley ride around town to get some of the history. We also visited the Cathedral of St. Joseph which was absolutely breathtaking. It was built between 1915 and 1918 and is quite a showpiece as the spires of the church literally tower over the city of Sioux Falls. I wish we could have attended services there as I am sure it would have been very special. From there we headed to the Falls Park, which is in the heart of the downtown area. First of all, it was unbelievably beautiful. Rushing water flowing over the pink quartzite boulders - - enjoyable for not only the eyes but the ears as well. What was also unbelievable is that these rocks are not considered a restricted area to visitors of the park. People were crawling all over them getting very close to the falls, etc. without hinderance. If I were about 30 years younger, I would have joined them. Steve and I took a trip up the observation tower to get a better view of the park and the city and absolutely loved it. If you are ever in the area of Sioux Falls, stop in and visit this park. You will find it absolutely delightful.
Our last stop was to one of the most interesting, off-the-beaten path places we have ever been: the United States Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Sciences Center (EROS). This is the location that manages all of the USGS and NASA satellites. The purpose of these satellites is to record and analyze changes in our planet - - from the growth of civilization around major cities to the forest fires that are occurring all over our nation. It records the effects of drought and flood damage and a whole host of other things I cannot even remember. It was really interesting and a little surprise find.
Well, that's it for our travels. From Minnesota we headed east, first through Iowa and then through Indiana to arrive at our Monroe, Michigan home where we will be until September 15. Steve and I hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventure and seeing our beautiful pictures and also hope that we have maybe inspired you to make a visit to one of these places yourself. This country is so big and so beautiful and has so much rich heritage that it is worth taking the time to explore it.
Until next time, take care everyone!
Big Sky Country (Montana)
Glacier National Park - This national park was the main tourist attraction for our journey this past year and trust me, it did not disappoint. We spent an entire week exploring this place and could have done a few more days of hiking. For sure, this is definitely one place to which we will return. We met someone who told us that the glaciers will be gone in less than 50 years so if you are thinking about visiting this park, now is the time. In the meantime, Steve took a ton of pictures that try to capture the awesomeness of this park, so please enjoy them.
Our first adventure was to drive the "Going to the Sun" road which takes you from the western part of the park to the very eastern section. Since we have driven Pikes Peak a couple of times and hated that, Steve watched a YouTube video to see if he could get a feel for whether or not the BAT would survive the trip, and thank God that he did. There are sections of this road that are very narrow for a two-lane highway (actually it was more like a lane and one-half) and considering the BAT takes up all available space in the lane as it is, we decided to rent a vehicle for one day just to make this drive.
We had heard that the parking lots fill up pretty early so we arrived at the park at 6:30 am. The park at morning light is breathtaking. The sounds of nature are at their peak and it was blissful to drive the roads and just "be" there. Our goal was to hike to Hidden Lake so we drove to Logan Pass Visitor Center to embark on our journey. As we were pulling up to the parking lot, a bellbottom goat crossed the street right in front of us and stopped and posed for Steve. What a hoot and what a major gift that was for me as the bellbottom goat (aka mountain goat) is the one animal that I haven't seen in the wild and have longed to see since we went to Yellowstone some 15 years ago with Bev and Larry Miller.
Anyway, we arrived at the parking lot at 8:00 am and it was just about full already - maybe 5 spots left for parking. We thanked God that we did our homework and beat the crowds and then headed up the mountain to Hidden Lake. This is a 3-mile hike up some 700 feet, so a good bit of exercise on a good day. Unfortunately for us, about half of the route was snow-covered making for slow going and slippery steps. What should have taken about an hour to hike took more like 3, but it was totally worth it. About 3/4 of the way up there is a flat spot that was cleared of snow and there we saw rock sheep (aka big horn sheep) and more bellbottom goats. COOLNESS!!!! Both were losing their winter coats so not the most beautiful site, but it was awesome nonetheless. When we arrived at the first overlook, we were informed that the additional 4-mile hike down to the lake was closed because of bear sightings in the area. Regardless, the view from the top of the mountain to the lake below was spectacular. After lunch and viewing many waterfalls, we continued eastward to St. Mary’s Visitor Center to complete the "Going to the Sun" drive.
In addition to that hike, we also took the trail that led us out to Avalanche Lake. That was another wonderful hike of about 6 miles roundtrip. Again, it had about a gain of 700 feet in elevation but most of that was in a shady forested area, so the heat (it was close to 100 degrees every day) wasn't really an issue. Anyway, we had no idea what to expect but were told that this was the most beautiful place in the park, and it was not over-sold at all. When we arrived at the lake, it was a beautiful site for sure. But what took our breath way was the mountains that lined the lake had 7 waterfalls coming down them and running into that lake. WOW! How cool was that? Three of them were major falls whose water was rushing so hard you could clearly hear it. We sat and had our lunch and just took in God's awesomeness. What a great day!
We did some other shorter hikes throughout the park, visited other park locations like Many Glacier and Polebridge, and just enjoyed ourselves immensely. We didn't hesitate to avail ourselves of the local delicacies made from huckleberry - - world famous huckleberry bear claws from the Polebridge market, and a huckleberry shake from a local hamburger joint (no hamburgers, however, as we are still vegetarians). Our last trip was to visit the Hungry Horse Dam and lake. We kept passing the sign for this facility every time we went to the park so we decided to check it out and WOW, what a surprise. It's so well-hidden and back off the road that we had no idea of the size of the dam or the lake at all. Both were fairly sizable and it was a nice surprise to see. For some reason we have developed an interest in hydro power because we continue to visit these dam locations. HA HA!!!
From Glacier we ventured southeast to Great Falls. What an adorable little town. We spent time exploring the Missouri River here for various reasons - - 1) because of our new found interest in hydro power and the fact that there are 5 dams within a 20 mile stretch along this river; and 2) because we are both intrigued by Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery journey and Great Falls happens to be a critical location along their path. In 1805, Merriweather Lewis went ahead of the rest of the Corp to scout out the route for the team to take when he happened upon the 80-foot waterfall from which Great Falls gets its name. He ventured further down the river to find four more waterfalls and determined that the best way for the Corps of Discovery to move forward was to portage on land passed all of these waterfalls - - some 18 miles. If you think that it's a simple "pick up your canoe and walk" kind of journey, this picture of portaging should dispel that notion. I know that I have mentioned this book in the past, but I urge you to pick up "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose. It's a great story.
Since the weather was so hot, we decided to take a little boat trip down the Missouri and see the "Gates of the Mountains" pass that Merriweather Lewis wrote about in his journal. On our ride, we were blessed with the opportunity to see many bald eagles and osprey and even saw an osprey taunting an eagle over a nesting location. The limestone walls of this canyon are about 1000 feet high and were very imposing but lent themselves to cool rock formations that made the journey downriver interesting. We also learned about a significant wildfire that happened back in 1949 called the Mann Gulch Fire. Interesting, but sad, story.
A couple of other things we did in Great Falls was visiting the Buffalo Jump National Monument where we learned just how important the buffalo was to the native Americans. When we arrived in Great Falls, we noticed a considerable haze over the whole city and learned from the park ranger here that it was smoke from all the wildfires in the area. She told us that Great Falls is actually a beautiful place to live because it is surrounded by mountains, but because of the haze, we could not see any of those mountains. The biggest of the wildfires was caused by a lightning strike that hit about 30 miles south of where we were and was still not completely contained when we left a week later.
Additionally, we visited Fort Benton which is about 40 miles north of Great Falls. What an absolutely adorable little town that was built in the late 1880's and was the first settlement in Montana. We visited two great museums there that tell about life along the Upper Missouri River - - Museum of the Upper Missouri and the Museum of the Northern Great Plains. After lunch, we did some geocaching and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Later that day, we stopped to see the Great Spring State Park. This was such a beautiful little park along the Missouri that was accidentally stumbled upon by Captain William Clark as they Corps of Discovery was portaging upriver. The water was absolutely crystal clear but very cold.
The last exciting thing we did in Great Falls was to go to the Air Show at the local "international" airport (which probably means they fly into Canada from there because the airport was not huge). Anyway, the AIr Force Thunderbirds were flying that day and since we had never seen them perform, we thought we would brave the 95 degree heat and go to the show. Despite the fact that the show managers had no idea how to manage traffic flow, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Thunderbirds were awesome and the sound of those roaring enginFort Peckes was the coolest.
From Great Falls, we ventured east to a little place called Fort Peck. We decided to stop here because of the huge lake but were pleasantly surprised by the unique, art-deco dam (yes, once again we visited a dam). We toured the dam and met a lovely young lady named Katie who has lived in the area her entire life. When we asked her what there was to do in the area, she told us "you don't have to go far from here to be in the middle of nowhere" which meant, enjoy the lake and be happy with that!!!! We went into the town of Fort Peck and what a shocker that was. We drove around the entire town and saw not a single person - - I mean neighborhoods and downtown area were completely dead. It was like an episode of The Walking Dead and I was waiting for the zombies to appear at any moment. Cute town with a great theater, but apparently the people go into their homes and stay there. I saw some evidence of life because a sprinkler was running, but outside of that, nothing.
Well, that's it for Montana. We loved it and will definitely be back. It's a rather diverse state with the beauty of the mountains and lush forests at one end, high desert in some areas and then miles and miles of prairie in the east. All through it, though, the small-town charm of the people came through. I highly recommend a visit to experience "Big Sky" country. You can see for miles and miles and the night sky is breathtaking.
Alrighty then, folks. Our next blog will encompass North Dakota and Minnesota and our journey through Iowa and Indiana to get back to Michigan/Ohio where our families (with the exception of two of our children) reside. Until then, God bless each of you and stay cool!!!!
Love, Lauren and Steve
Continuing on from Portland, where I last left you, Steve and I ventured into Washington. Our first stop was an adorable town called Hoquiam where we camped so that we could visit Olympic National Park. As I mentioned in our last blog, the trees in this part of the country are just absolutely huge - - not just in height but in girth! There are trees here that are 40-50 feet in circumference. Unbelievable. We were told by the locals that the trees get to these massive sizes because of the constant, year-round rainfall. That is also why the roses are so beautiful in this part of the country as well.
While visiting Olympic National Park, we saw two very special trees: the largest and oldest cedar tree and the largest Sitka Spruce in North America. Wow were they impressive. We visited Ruby Beach in yet another attempt for me to find a tidal pool. I was unsuccessful, but Steve and I had fun wandering around all of the driftwood laying on the beach. The Pacific Coast, especially in the northwest, is so beautiful. We wanted to take in as much of it as we could on Ruby Beach because that would be the last of it we would see, probably for the rest of our lives.
After Olympic National Park we visited the home of an old logging executive named Polson. The house was absolutely beautiful and held some really interesting artifacts about the logging industry. Trees are not just beautiful to look at in this part of the country. They are the life blood for all the small communities in the Pacific Northwest. A good portion of the logging enterprise that existed in the early to mid-20th century is now gone. There are still a few companies (such as Weyerhauser) who continue to do business in the Pacific Northwest, but the economic boom of the timber industry has long since left the region. These small towns (like Hoquiam) have felt the impact but because they are so small, the people band together to keep their communities surviving, if not thriving.
From Hoquiam, we took the first steps on our long journey east and headed to the Seattle area. What a great time we had here!!! We visited downtown Seattle and did two of my favorite things - - rode the train into town from our campground in Puyallup, and visited the Dale Chihully Glass Museum. I was in heaven. As you may or may not know, I absolutely love glass art and Dale Chihully is the master of it. His pieces are breathtaking, not just because of their size (which is difficult to do with glass) but because of the brilliant colors he uses in his displays. Steve took some awesome pictures but you truly have to be there to appreciate the genius of his art. We, of course, went to the top of the Space Needle to take in the views and then ventured down to the waterfront - - mostly in search of the Elliot Bay Towers where Frasier Crane lives but, alas, they were not to be found (no surprise there)!
No visit to this area would be complete without a stop at Mt. Rainier National Park. Let me tell you folks, this is no average mountain. It looms over the cities of Tacoma and Seattle like you cannot believe. The thing is just huge. It's about 60 minutes from Puyallup or 90 minutes from Seattle but you would think it was just a couple of blocks away! Anyway, the park is breathtaking and we enjoyed some great hiking and awesome views. Once again, Photographer Steve did a great job trying to capture the grandeur that is Mt. Rainier but like Dale Chihully's art, you have to see it to believe it.
We did a couple of little side trips to the Puget Sound area and enjoyed the waterfront. We visited the Washington State History Museum which had a display on loan from the NFL Hall of Fame. There were several items on display from former Browns players. Steve was of course thrilled about this. A stop at Snoqualmie Falls was interesting. And finally, we visited the LeMay Family Collection of cars in Tacoma. That was unbelievable. The collection, itself, is some 3,000 vehicles strong and took us hours to go through about 25% of it. What makes this collection interesting is that most of the cars are nothing special. They are cars ones your parents may have owned. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
After a week in the Seattle/Tacoma area, we headed east to Spokane for a few days. The terrain on this journey changes dramatically from giant trees and lush green, to flat and brown farmland. I was surprised by that. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that. Anyway, while in Spokane we visited the Grand Coulee Dam which was an impressive structure. We also ventured just across the Idaho border into Couer D'Alene and had a very relaxing boat ride on the lake. Unbeknownst to us, a celebrity wedding was taking place there the very next day (Julianne Hough). Lastly, we took in the downtown area of Spokane which, unfortunately, was undergoing major reconstruction. There are beautiful falls in the middle of the city that were mostly blocked and the island in the middle of the river that holds Riverfront Park was closed. The skyride was dismantled and, well, let's just say it was like a ghost town. We did cruise through Gonzaga University, though. Nice little campus.
Well, that's it from Washington. Our next blog will give you our adventures through Glacier National Park, Great Falls, Fort Peck and Bismarck, North Dakota!
Until then, take care and may God bless you all.
Lauen And Steve
We ended the month of May in Boise, Idaho which is a very cool little city. It's home to the Boise State University, which boasts a blue turf in its football stadium. That was kind of hard to look at, to be completely honest, as the blue hurts your eyes in bright sunlight. I guess you get used to it...eventually.
Boise, being a college town, has just a ton to do. Lots of hustle and bustle in the downtown area, but what we found most appealing were the little neighborhoods that surround the college campus. We had lunch in a very eclectic neighborhood that reminded me of Ann Arbor, Michigan. People in this city are outdoors a lot and make use of the incredible number of parks and trails for biking and hiking.
In addition to visiting Boise, Steve and I took in a couple of interesting museums. First was the Four Rivers Cultural Center, which was just over the Oregon border in Ontario. What an impressive museum for such a small town! The focal point of the displays are how five very different cultures blended together to live in harmony here. First, of course, are the Paiute Indians who are indigenous to this part of the country. Next, there are the Hispanics who migrated up from Mexico. During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were sent here from California as part of the internment camp project. There are people here from the Basque region of Spain who came to this country in the latter part of the 1800's to farm. Now that seems like a simple thing, but let me tell you this land is rugged. The sage that covers the land had to be uprooted and irrigation was a bit of an issue as well. Getting the water from the four rivers that converge in this area of the country (Malheur, Snake, Owyhee, and Payette) to these new farmlands was a bit of an issue due to the undulation and elevation of the land. Lastly, there were EuroAmericans (Germans and Scotts) who came over the work cattle and drive them north from Texas and other areas south. All of these cultures converged in this area and learned to not only live together but thrive as a community. This museum is very impressive and worth a visit. Finish off your time there with some meditation in the beautiful Japanese garden that surrounds the back of the building.
Another museum that we visited was the War Hawk Museum. Steve and I both love old planes, especially WWII planes, but what made this museum special were the personal stories of the soldiers and airmen who flew the planes that were displayed. We have never visited a facility like this that focused as much on the people as the planes, and it was delightful. I got the chills as I read the correspondence one woman received from the US Government about her husband who was a POW. I was saddened to see a picture of a platoon of men as they left for Vietnam, almost all of which were killed within two or three days of each other only mere months after the picture was taken. To see those smiling faces in the picture and then to know the fate that awaited them really gave me pause. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in the Boise area. Well worth the time.
One day, Steve and I traveled south to the Snake River and the Swan Falls Dam. This hydroelectric facility was built in 1901 and still provides electric power today. In its prime and at its peak performance, there was a whole city of people who lived down in the canyon where this dam resides which included a school and movie theater. Now, it's a beautiful park and is part of the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. We saw a ton of ravens, but also so a good number of osprey and golden eagle while we were there. The area is somewhat desolate but the canyon will take your breath away.
We said goodbye to Idaho and headed to Oregon where we would spend the next three weeks. The drive to Bend was gorgeous as the landscape changes dramatically and becomes more mountainous. Bend, itself, is a very cosmopolitan town that was very appealing to Steve and me. The downtown area has really no tall buildings at all and the Deschutes River runs right down the middle of it. As a matter of fact, there were kayakers and paddle boarders cruising the river and, at one point where there are rapids, people were "surfing". The streets don’t really follow the Roman grid system - - meaning, trying to get around without a GPS would be crazy! They also love them some roundabouts!!!!! Anyway, while in that region of Oregon, we visited a lavender farm which was fun. We also climbed to the top of a 500-foot lava butte at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument where we could see views of Mt. Washington (which was nearby) and Mt. Hood (which was 170 miles away).
Because we love to visit the bodies of water nearby, we stopped at Tumalo Falls and hiked up to the top. Such a beautiful view from there and the sound of the roar of the water going over the edge was incredible. We also stopped at a place called The Cove Palisades State Park. WOW! This place was beautiful. It's actually a reservoir from the Round Butte Dam where the Deschutes, Crooked and Metolius Rivers come together. It has several marinas and campgrounds and would have been a lovely place to stay but there would be no way our 40' fifth wheel would make the turns into the park. Oh well. Nice place to visit though! On the way back from the reservoir, we stopped at the Peter Skene Ogden State Park which houses the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge. Peter Ogden was part of the Hudson Bay Company's trapping team that ventured into the area in 1825. Interestingly, Ogden Utah is also named after him (hmmm). Rex Barber was a WWII military pilot in the Pacific theater and is famous for being the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in 1943.
The last thing we did in this part of Oregon was a hike through Smith Rock State Park. Words cannot describe how beautiful this park was and how majestic the rock formations were. It wasn't just the size of the rocks, but the colors they held as well. The hike we took had a rather steep climb to it, but was well worth the journey. There were a ton of climbers there and families who were hiking to the top of the rocks themselves. I wish we could have spent more time there and attempted the hike to the top as well.
After our time in Bend, we headed south to Grants Pass, Oregon. We had two missions while in this area: Crater Lake National Park and Redwood National Park. Both were amazing. Crater Lake was spectacular. The cobalt blue color of the lake cannot really be captured with a camera but it was very close to this color. Anyway, it was rather chilly up on top of that mountain, or what used to be Mt. Mazama before it collapsed to form this body of water. The lake itself is now a 2,100+ feet deep caldera that is 6-miles wide and 6,200 feet above sea level (hence the ton of snow). Most of the park was still closed because of the snow so we couldn't do the drive around the entire lake. What we were able to view, however, was breathtaking. Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed being there.
On the way home from there, we stopped at the Rogue Gorge, which was fantastic. It's a small canyon that the Rogue River travels through with such a force – well, you have to see it to believe it. There are places along the trail where water goes underground through old lava tubes then re-joins the main flow further downstream. Stopping at this gorge was a very pleasant surprise and we enjoyed that very much.
Our last touristy thing to do while we stayed in Grants Pass was to visit the Giant Redwoods in California. I have seen these magnificent trees before but Steve has never experienced them, so we had to make the trip. The road we took through the forest was not the best for the BAT, but so well worth it. First of all, these trees grow only along the Pacific Coast and mostly in Northern California, although some do pop up in southern Oregon. Redwoods can grow to heights of 380 feet and up to 22 feet in diameter. Some of these trees are 2,000 years old. What's really amazing is the seed that produces this tree is about the size of a tomato seed!!! I hope that the pictures Steve took give you a feel for just how huge these trees are. Enjoy!!
From Grants Pass, we took Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast to our first stop - Humbug Mountain State Park. Steve and I live near the Gulf of Mexico, so being on the shore of a very large body of water is something we are familiar with and appreciate. We have also traveled to the Atlantic Coast many times and love that shoreline as well. But let me just say, the Oregon Coast blows both the Gulf and the Atlantic shoreline away. Check out these pictures that Steve took of our drive along Highway 101.
Now before I go much further, let me just point out a few of the idiosyncrasies about this part of the country. First, the sun comes up very early in the morning - - I’m talking it’s very bright at 4:30 a.m. Secondly, while we in Florida are used to seeing “hurricane” evacuation routes, this part of the country enjoys two different kinds of emergency routing - - one for tsunamis and one for volcanoes! Next, they have companies who specialize in cleaning or removing from your roof from the mold and moss that grow on them. Yuk! One of the particularly delightful things that we found was the abundance of wild roses. Apparently, the moist air from the coastline provide the perfect environment for growing roses as they were everywhere - - in fields, along the highways, and even along the sides of the interstates in downtown Portland. This same moist air is the reason why trees that grow in this region (which are abundant in a way that I cannot describe) are HUGE. I mean, enormous. Some of the bases of these trees were 30 to 40 feet in diameter. And the density of the forest of these trees would blow your mind. Lumber is still very much the industry to be in along the coast as a result. With all the beauty, we did come across some negatives, however. The unfortunate thing we discovered, at least in the Portland area, is that roadside trash is not as much of a priority here as it is in other places. The amount of garbage on the side of the road really detracts from the area’s natural beauty. Sad!!!
Ok, on to the fun stuff. Humbug Mountain is a great park and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It has its own private beach which Steve and I enjoyed more than once both for a sunset and during the day. This park is near a very charming little town called Port Orford which used to be a strategic Coast Guard station. It also has a lovely lighthouse in Cape Blanco State Park which is on the land that used to be owned by the Hughes family (no relation to Howard). The family donated the entire estate to the State of Oregon and both the lighthouse and the mansion are museums, which we enjoyed touring. We also visited a cute town called Coos Bay which was about an hour up the coast from Humbug Mountain. While there, we visited a couple of their major shoreline hotspots and got to see sea lions and some seals perched on a large rock formation off the coast. Another stop was in Cape Meares that has an adorable little lighthouse and wonderful views.
From Humbug Mountain we ventured north along the coast to Nehalem Bay and the town of Manzanita. Another lovely spot to camp and we were able to do some geocaching as well. From Nehalem, we drove north to Astoria and absolutely fell in love with that town. Our first stop while there was to visit the Maritime Museum, which was absolutely awesome. It was here that we got an education in the role of the Coast Guard along our nation’s shorelines and major waterways. The museum has many displays about the various duties of the Coast Guard and we got to see some footage of rescues and hear stories about the perils of being in that profession. We also toured the Lightship Columbia which is a floating lighthouse. Interesting! Our second stop was to the Astoria Column. We climbed the 164 steps to the top to get amazing view of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean inlet. What a beautiful part of the country the people of Astoria get to enjoy.
Next, we traveled over to the Lewis and Clark Trail Museum. I have been fascinated by the journey Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, along with their crew - - the Corps of Discovery - - took to journey from the heartland of the United States to the Pacific Coast. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up the book “Undaunted Courage” to learn more about this adventure taken on behalf of President Thomas Jefferson. You will thoroughly enjoy it. Our last stop was to see the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which has been lying on shore for more than 100 years.
To close out our time in Oregon, we spent the weekend in Portland. I had read about the skyride that you can take that will give you great views of the city and of Mt. Hood, which I might add literally hovers over the city. Sadly, this skyride is not along the riverfront or anything cool like that. It merely takes you from one part of a large hospital to another part that resides at the top of the hill, about 1000 feet up. The ride lasted all of 90 seconds, but it did provide a nice view of Mt. Hood. While in the Portland area, there were two things we wanted to accomplish while in town. First, we visited with Steve’s cousin Butch (Walter) and his wife. Steve had not seen his cousin in 50 years and it was a delight to have breakfast with them and hear stories of when Steve was a little boy. We also got a great tip from Butch about going to see the Howard Hughes' wooden cargo plane he named the H-4 Hercules, (you may have heard it called the Spruce Goose), which is housed in a museum about 75 minutes south of Portland.
So the next day, we drove down there to see it first-hand. We entered the museum and were excited to see the Hercules but couldn’t spot the thing. You would think a plane of that size and grandeur would be somewhat noticeable, but no. The reason for that is because it was everywhere. I mean to tell you it encompassed the entire interior space of that museum - - so much so that you didn’t even know it was right above you. The thing is just huge, I cannot really even explain. I have flown in many different planes all over the world and have never seen anything quite like this plane. Steve was in heaven! We took a tour of the inside of this magnificent beast and Steve got to sit in the cockpit. You should have seen the look on his face – like a kid in a candy store. Anyway, this was the largest plane ever built, and is made almost entirely of real wood. This is because it was designed and manufactured during WWII, when aluminum was scarce and not available for anything other than military use. It was designed to be a vehicle transport and could hold 4 or 5 tanks. Designed and built by Howard Hughes and the same Henry Kaiser that owned the Jeep factory in Toledo, it was never put into service by the military and actually only flew once, which was a completely unplanned flight. Howard Hughes (the pilot as well as designer) took the plane out into the bay in Long Beach, California (the plane was designed to land on water) to test the engines only. Howard, on the other hand, had a different idea. He took off and flew the plane about 80 feet above water for more than a mile. No one thought the plane would fly because of its sheer size, but Howard proved them wrong. After that history-making day, the plane never saw any more action and was merely put into storage by Howard Hughes. The Disney Company bought it from the Hughes estate and later sold it to the Evergreen Museum, where it now stands. The Evergreen Museum also houses other WWII planes and has an entire building dedicated to the history of space exploration, which I absolutely loved although most of the hands-on displays were not working. L Here’s a link to some information about this amazing plane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_H-4_Hercules
Our last stop in Portland was spending the day along the Columbia River Gorge. The first place we visited along the river was a town called Cascade Locks so that we could see the lock that was used to get water traffic up and down the Columbia River. This part of the river is extremely rocky and even gave Lewis & Clark so much trouble that they decided to take their boats out of the water and portage on foot downstream. While there, we were given an opportunity to tour through a Mountain Man Jamboree. Every year these people get together and recreate life as it was during the fur trading times of the area back in the early 1800’s. They live in tents and cook the same kind of food that would have been eaten by the fur traders back in those days. NOT FOR ME, but interesting nonetheless. From there, we stopped at the Bonneville Lock and Dam. The Army Corps of Engineers built this facility back in 1937 to provide electric power to the surrounding area as well as provide safe transit for water traffic up and down river. It also provided the required electric power to many of the shipbuilding and aircraft facilities for WWII needs. Once the war was finished, this dam supplied power to some 500,000 homes and still does. We toured this dam, watched fish climb the fish ladder and visited the 11-foot sturgeon that they house in the fish hatchery. Yowza, that thing was a beast!!!! We went from there along the scenic route to see some beautiful waterfalls, but alas, were unable to do so. As you know, we travel in the BAT and this part of the country is not BAT friendly, to say the least. Plus it was the weekend and all the Portlanders had the same waterfall idea in mind as we did. So, the combination of tight roads and lack of parking prevented us from seeing Multnomah Falls and some of the other smaller falls along our journey back to Portland. We did, however, stop at the Vista House for a seriously spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge area.
So, that’s it for our time in Oregon. Next stop is Hoquiam, Washington and a trip through Olympic National Park. From there, we head to the Seattle area and then on to Spokane. Until then,
Lauren and Steve
From Cheyenne to Yellowstone
So the month of May went flying by . . . did it for you as well? It seems the older I get, the faster time goes. I cannot believe we are heading into June already!!
Well, much has happened since we last updated our website. When we last left you, we were in Colorado Springs visiting our youngest and his family. Our newest grandchild, Tytus Landry, was an absolute hoot to hang out with!
From there, we headed north to Cheyenne, Wyoming and a four-day stay at Curt Gowdy State Park (yes, that Curt Gowdy). What a beautiful state park! It's a reservoir that is surrounded by beautiful mountains. We have a lovely campsite right near the water. In the evenings, we had great campfires (thanks to wood provided by our new friends Curt and Chris who lived just over the mountain). We also did some stargazing, played Mexican Train, and just generally enjoyed nature. During the day, we would make visits to Cheyenne and Laramie - - two completely different kinds of cities. Cheyenne is the state capitol and is "all business" with a cute little twist of having large, brightly painted cowboy boots on just about every corner. These boots represented something about the city and were fun to find and read about. One of the cool things about this city is that it is the home of the Cheyenne Frontier Days which take place every year at the end of July. At that time, about 1,000,000 people descend on this community of 200,000 to celebrate all things cowboy. We learned a lot about the wagon trains that came through Cheyenne and how important the city was to the expansion of the railroad through the western part of the United States. While visiting a railroad museum, we got to see a model railroad that took up the entire second floor of the museum. The railroad is modeled after Cheyenne of about 100 years ago and is spectacular. It took the artist 35 years to complete.
Laramie, on the other hand, reminded me of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is a college town (home to the University of Wyoming) and had the coolest, laid-back atmosphere. Lots of cool little shops and an absolutely fabulous vegetarian restaurant. While visiting Laramie we stopped at the Geological Museum of the University and learned about The Bearded Lady Project. Check out the website: http://thebeardedladyproject.com/ to learn more about it. In a nutshell, female paleontologists were out in the field doing their research while donning beards and mustaches, in order to bring attention to the fact that their contributions to science were being diminished just because they are women. (Imagine that!!!) In addition to dinosaur discoveries, we discovered a cool old prison (the Wyoming Territorial Prison) which operated from 1872 to 1903. Two things about this prison that made it an interesting stop: 1) This is where Butch Cassidy lived for 18 months when he was incarcerated for buying a stolen horse; and 2) this prison housed both men and women. Interesting!
From the Cheyenne area, we traveled north to the Black Hills of South Dakota - - and just fell in love with it. I cannot even begin to describe what a pleasant surprise this was for us. The scenery was enchanting and the wildlife was everywhere. We especially liked the Deadwood/Lead area and would very much consider buying a property in that area to spend our summers. We stayed in the Black Hills for 10 days and didn't even make a dent in the thing that there are to do. If you are looking for a vacation spot for your family, consider the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are things for everyone to do - - museums, historical towns, hiking, fishing, boating, national monuments, etc. and I would highly recommend getting a National Parks pass to save yourself tons of money! Here are the things that we did while in the area:
1) Devil's Tower National Monument - this was a beautiful one-hour drive west into Wyoming from Sturgis, South Dakota where we camped. You will remember this landmark from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in the late 70's or early 80's. Let me just say that this is an impressive structure. We hiked around the base of the monument and watched three sets of two climbers each make their way to the top (no thank you!). At the base of the structure and all around the roads that lead up to it are prarie dog towns. It was fun watching them scamper around.
2) Badlands National Park - this was about 90 miles to the east of Sturgis. There are no words to describe the starkness of the landscape in this park so please check out the pictures. We did see buffalo and some big horn sheep and many more prairie dog towns.
3) Jewel Cave National Monument - If you like to explore caves, the Black Hills area has two outstanding sites for you to see: Jewel Cave and Wind Cave. We chose Jewel cave because I am claustrophobic and Wind Cave has much more narrow tunnels than Jewel Cave. Either way, it's fun to explore deep underground and both of these locations will give you an excellent tour.
4) In an effort to check out some of our military strength, we visited two sites which were very interesting. The first was the Minuteman Missile Historic Site. Here we saw a missile and learned more about the cold war and our efforts to get the upper hand in the nuclear arms race. It was surprising to know that there were some 100+ Minuteman Missiles just in South Dakota alone. You can tour a launch control room while there as well. Secondly, we stopped at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum which is located at Ellsworth Air Force Base. There are some incredibly impressive planes housed there, the coolest of which were the B-1B Lancer, the B-29 Superfortress, and the B-52 Stratofortress.
5) We visited "Chapel in the Hills" which is a very interesting, Norwegian-designed, fully-operating chapel. On the grounds along with the chapel was a log cabin that was owned by a Norwegian prospector and a gift shop which was housed in a "stabbur" (a grass-roofed, two-story building that is a common architectural style in Norway). Apparently, there were a huge number of people of Scandinavian descent (mostly Norwegian) that came to this area while the Black Hills were in their heyday. You can still see some of that cultural influence in and around the Rapid City area.
6) For those of you who are animal lovers, a trip to Bear Country U.S.A. is a must-do. This is a drive-through park that houses specimens of the wildlife that abounds in the area. We saw black and grizzly bears, elk, mule deer, big horn sheep, reindeer, wolves, pronghorn and mountain goats. Very fun! Right next door to this attraction is a shop called "A Taste of Scandinavia" where Steve and I found some delightful ginger cookies! (Can't go too long without a treat, you know!) Also, the Custer State Park wildlife loop is a must-do! You take a 16-mile drive through a beautiful valley and will see buffalo, elk, pronghorn, wild donkeys and horses, and the occasional prarie dog town. If you are into windy roads, take 16A north into Mt. Rushmore. You will go through 3 tunnels on the way there which frame the monument nicely.
7) Deadwood and Lead - if you are in the Black Hills area, a visit to Deadwood and Lead are absolute musts. There is a ton of history in both towns - - gold related of course - - Deadwood being the more colorful of the two stories. If you ever watched the HBO series "Deadwood", the first season of that show will explain exactly what Deadwood was all about. Historical characters such as Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, and George Hearst were prominent names in that town. Lead (pronounced "leed") was also important for gold mining but took a more business-like approach than its neighbor Deadwood. There is an old gold mine that you can tour in this town that is now being used for experiments on neutrinos and dark matter. I cannot explain any of that as my brain is not big enough to comprehend it, so here's an article that will help explain it all: http://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/Mining-for-dark-matter-in-Lead-South-Dakota.
8) No visit to this area would be complete without seeing both the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore National Monument. One is a monument to the American Indian and the other honors 4 great American presidents. Both are awesome to see and I highly recommend taking the time to visit them. I cannot do justice to either, so please do some Google searches to learn more. It was interesting to note that the artist behind the Crazy Horse monument worked for the artist that did Mount Rushmore. While Mount Rushmore is complete, Crazy Horse is far from finished and won’t be in my lifetime. It’s still very interesting to see. One cool thing to mention - - we visited Mount Rushmore in the evening while it was raining and the water completely changes the faces. You don't get quite the same amount of detail during the day as you do at night, and especially when the faces are wet from the rain. Another surprise about Mount Rushmore was the trail you can take to see the backside of the monument... who knew??
As I said at the beginning of the South Dakota description, we didn't even scratch the surface of things to do in this area and can't wait to come back again. Alas, we had to venture north to North Dakota to do an RV roof job in the thriving metropolis of Scranton, North Dakota. That job took longer than anticipated, so we were not able to sight-see as much as we would have liked. We did get to venture up to Medora and tour through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This park is considered the "badlands" of North Dakota but, unlike the starkness we found in the South Dakota version, these hills were alive with life and color. Teddy Roosevelt had a ranch in these hills for many years and loved coming to this area, and I can see why.
Finally, we closed out the month of May with a trip into Idaho and a visit to Yellowstone National Park. What a wonderful three days we spent here. Our first day, we ventured over to Old Faithful and were blessed to see it erupt 10 minutes after we arrived (it goes off every 90 minutes or so). Our second day was spent wildlife viewing and again, blessed. We saw buffalo, elk, moose, coyote, sand hill cranes, black bears, grizzly bears, fox, pronghorn and even spotted a nest of ravens. Our last day in the park was focused on the landscape so we took in the "paint pots", geysers, waterfalls, Artist's Point in the Canyon region, marveled at the beauty of the mountains reflecting on Yellowstone Lake, and were intrigued with the oddity of Mammoth Hot Springs. So much has changed since we were here last (about 15 years ago). The town of West Yellowstone has become so congested with tourist traps that it lost all of its charm. The crowds were also an issue for us - - we drive a big one-ton dually so parking at some of the most important attractions was not to be had. I guess that's what we get for going on a holiday weekend. Notwithstanding, if you have never been to Yellowstone, it is something everyone should see. The majestic beauty of this park cannot be described in words. One must absorb it with their eyes and their heart!
The last thing we did before we left that part of Idaho was to take the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. What a beautiful drive! We saw the Upper and Lower Falls, which were beautiful but the most spectacular was the view of the Grand Tetons. Where we were in Idaho was not super close to that part of Wyoming, yet we could see the mountains like they were just a few miles away. I guess that speaks to the size and grandeur of that mountain range. Really quite something to see that off in the distance.
The month of May was a great time for us. We are now in the Boise, Idaho area for a week of catching up on “business” and relaxing a bit. We haven’t had good internet service since we left Colorado so we are trying to get some things done. From here we will be headed to Oregon for a few weeks. Looking forward to what I have been told is the most beautiful state in the lower 48.
Take care and may God bless you all!
Lauren and Steve
A visit Home
If you aren't familiar with our children and grandchildren you can see them here.We had a wonderful, and very busy visit, with family in recent weeks. On April 13, we left a relatively mild Denver International (about 55 degrees) and flew to Detroit for a four-day visit with my side of the family. We went to breakfast with my dad at his favorite location - - El George's Coney Island - - and then I headed out to visit with my friends from Visteon. When I arrived home from that visit, Steve was waiting for me with some bad news.
Apparently, that morning his sister Bev took his mother to the hospital because she was experiencing severe pain in her hip/back and couldn't walk. After she arrived, things went from bad to worse and she ended up staying in the hospital/rehab facility for two weeks. Thankfully, she is home now but it was a little scary for a while there.
On the Saturday before Easter, my family (all my sisters, nieces and nephews, and brothers-in-law) went to Hamtramck to do a little "fowling". Let me just say that this was a total blast. If you know nothing about this sport, it is a combo football and bowling. You have an alley, and a team at either end of the alley. The object of the game is to throw the football to the other side of the alley and knock down 10 standard bowling pins. This, my friends, is harder than you think it would be. What complicates matters is that there are alleys on either side of you whose errant balls may knock over your pins. I am probably not explaining it very well so here is a Youtube video that will help you understand it. Anyway, we had a great time and topped it off with a trip to a great Polish restaurant for an early dinner. Those of you in the Detroit area who are reading this, find a bunch of people and head down to Hamtramck to check it out. The remainder of our time with my dad and my side of the family was spent enjoying Easter at my sister Julie's house. She has a lovely house and always puts on a great party. Very relaxing day.
The following morning, we headed to Asheville, North Carolina to visit with our son Terry and his wife Jill and daughter Sofia. Steve and I were wondering if she would remember us from our last visit there in September/October of 2016 and boy were we pleasantly surprised. She instantly knew who we were and it was exciting to see how happy she was to see us. She turned 2 just a couple of weeks ago so she has been adding to her vocabulary and lately has decided to call Steve "Pa" and she calls me "Debbie" (a 2-year-old's version of "Grammy"). We had a great visit and got to spend a lot of play time with her and visit with Terry and Jill.
From North Carolina, we headed south to Port Charlotte, Florida. We needed to make some decisions about our house and the work that needs to be done to it. Additionally, we made the determination to sell our house when the tenant's lease is up. Our desire is to become snowbirds for 6 months and then travel to our children for 6 months, so we decided that having a condo was a better housing option for us. We went to see the production of "Moses" in Wauchula with our dear friends, Paul and Annette Neumann, stopped by First Alliance and said "hi" to some of the staff, and were able to see our friend Cindy Salvanorich as well, but that was about all we could do with the short amount of time we were in town.
From there we flew back to North Carolina, had dinner with Terry, Jill and Sofia, and then drove up to Toledo to see our daughter, Jill, her fiance Paul, and our grandchildren. We watched the NFL draft at their house and left scratching our heads on the Cleveland Browns, but hey, why should this year be any different than previous years? We also had the opportunity to see our granddaughter, Kendra, play softball. She's quite the good catcher and we even got to see her slide into home plate for a run! Lastly, we were able to celebrate Connie's 84th birthday and see all of Steve's siblings.
Finally, our visit came to an end and we headed back to Denver to spend some time with our son Steve and his wife Aime and son Tytus. When we arrived, Denver was in the throws of a very terrible snow storm. It was so cold and windy and we were not prepared for that weather at all. That didn't deter us from having a great time with our newest grandchild who is just adorable.
If you aren't familiar with our children and grandchildren you can see them here.
It's always great to spend time with family and sad to leave them behind. When we return from our trip, we begin our Pacific Northwest tour with a stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming and then up north to South Dakota, over to Montana, west to Idaho, then on to Oregon, Washington, and then heading back east through Glacier National Park, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and then through the UP of Michigan and finally, back to visiting family in Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina. We will be flying to Colorado for Tytus' first birthday in September as well. Last stop, Port Charlotte and the search for a new condo.
It's going to be a busy year!!!!!
Lauren (and Steve too)
Back on the road... (again)
Well, it’s time for us to update our blog. We’ve been silent during our months as workampers so now I will take a moment to let you know what we’ve been up to since you last heard from us.
We have been workamping in an RV Resort called Pueblo El Mirage in El Mirage, Arizona. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place with beautiful landscaping and facilities. To be a workamper means that you work a certain number of hours per week (28 for us in this case) in exchange for a free campsite. Steve and I were on the Activities team at Pueblo El Mirage, which didn’t turn out to be anything like what we expected. We were thinking that we’d be dishing up ice cream at socials and calling Bingo. Oh no, not even close. I worked in the kitchen helping to prepare and serve the two meals/week we served to 250+ people, and Steve worked in the “set-up” phase – meaning he put up tables and chairs and then took them down multiple times each week. He also served at the meals. Additionally, we acted as ushers at the various concerts and the weekly dances, and occasionally dished up ice cream. I also worked on the resort’s newspaper which was a 36-page, newspaper-sized publication. It was a lot more work than we expected which didn’t leave us much time to explore the desert environment in which we were stationed.
Nonetheless, we did get to do some cool things. Here is a list of the things we were able to do/accomplish:
There were many things that surprised me about the desert and the Phoenix area. One is that there is a great deal of agriculture in the desert valley. Surrounding us in El Mirage were fields and fields of rose bushes, cauliflower, and other veggies. The farmers get their water from the Colorado River (40%) and the other 60% comes from underground aquifers. The other thing that surprised me was just how dry that environment is. I had no idea just how much my skin would be affected by the dryness. I don’t know how those people stay lubed up!!! The nicest surprise for me was the effort the State of Arizona puts into decorating their roads and bridges. There are millions of people who live in Phoenix so you can imagine the number of highways it takes to move those people around the city. But because these highways and byways are decorated with various birds and animals and mosaics, it made every journey we took similar to visiting an art museum. Loved that!!!
We had a wonderful visit from our friends, Paul and Annette Neumann, in January. We were supposed to visit the Grand Canyon but the weekend they were there it snowed four feet up there. We had a nice time hiking and visiting Indian ruins in the Phoenix area and just hung out. In April, my sister Carolyn and her friend Ken visited us and we gave them the whirlwind tour of the area. In the two days that we had to do things, we did all of the following:
Once Steve and I left Arizona, we headed to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. Santa Fe is a cool little town with some great architecture and a ton of art galleries and hand-made jewelry stores. The coolest part of this visit was walking the length of the Palace of the Governors where the Native Americans sell their wares. It was interesting to hear them speaking their native language. I don’t often get an opportunity to hear that and I loved it. The drive up to Taos was lovely but the city itself was a disappointment. It was a mishmash of touristy stores jammed into a very small area. Nothing special really, which surprised me. We didn’t even get to see Julia Roberts. The one thing we did in this area which was cool was walk across the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge. I got a bit of vertigo so I hot-footed it across. Steve, however, hung out and took pictures. He was even lucky enough to see some Big Horn sheep grazing along the bottom.
We are now in Colorado Springs visiting with our son, Steve, and his wife Aime, but especially our newest grandchild – Tytus. Gosh that boy is just adorable as can be and it’s such a blessing to be able to spend time with him. The last time we saw him he was only 3 weeks old. Now he’s sitting up on his own and grabbing things and “talking” up a storm.
In a couple of days we will be flying to Detroit to visit with my family for Easter. From there we will be driving to Asheville, North Carolina to visit with our son Terry, his wife Jill, and our granddaughter Sofia who just turned two on April 8. From Asheville we will be flying to Punta Gorda to take care of some business with our house (new roof and some other things) and to make a decision about whether or not to sell, buy a condo, live in the trailer full-time, or keep the house and be snowbirds. Because our three children live in three different parts of the country, we know we will be traveling at least 6 months out of the year to visit them. The question is - - what do we do the other 6 months??????? We are praying for guidance on this issue so stay tuned. After Punta Gorda, we head to Toledo to visit with Steve’s family and then fly back to Colorado. From there, we will be heading to Cheyenne, Wyoming and the official start of our Pacific Northwest journey.
Ok, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed our update and the pictures that Steve has taken of our travels and adventures. The next time you hear from us, I will bring you family pictures and an update of our plans with the house.
Take care guys,
Lauren and Steve
"No, wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself."
Hello again! Well we have arrived in El Mirage, Arizona in one piece and without further incident. Thank you God!! We were a little nervous leaving Colorado Springs after having had yet another mechanical issue, but the BAT hung in there and took us safely to our destination.
Between Colorado Springs and El Mirage, we had a layover in New Mexico to break up the 12 hours of driving. I chose the above quote because while in New Mexico, we had a chance to visit a state park called "El Malpais" (which means "bad lands" in Spanish). What an unexpected delight! This park is basically is a combination of beautifully carved sandstone and lava fields. I know that sounds bizarre but it was gorgeous. We took a hike along the lava fields and witnessed cinder cones, lava sink holes, and lava "waterfalls". I would never have guessed something as destructive as lava could make such an interesting landscape. These lava flows go on for miles and miles and the highway (I-40 West) is cut right through some of them. Cool!
There are sandstone mesas all over the park and in some places nature has carved some interesting shapes out of them. In some places, there were "towers" that reminded me of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. In another place, there was the most beautiful natural arch. Steve and I arrived just as the sun was hitting this arch in such a way that it made the interior space glow like there was a huge candle inside. Our last stop in this park was to catch the overlook at The Bluffs. This is where we could see the extent of the range of the lava flow, which was unbelievably huge. I can only imagine how hot that lava must have been if it made the several mile trek from the volcano it emerged from to this park without cooling and hardening. Steve and I stood there and just took in the beauty that we were witnessing. Nature is just so magnificent and should be appreciated every chance we get. It does something so positive for the soul.
I would highly recommend, if you are ever in northwest New Mexico, that you make a stop at El Malpais. There are a ton of other beautiful places to visit in the area that we had the pleasure of seeing the last time we were in New Mexico (check out the New Mexico tab in our gallery). Albuquerque is a great town to visit too and there is just so much to do there that will entertain. Lots of history, beautiful places to hike and explore, and great food.
Speaking of food, Steve and I met up with a very dear friend who I haven't laid eyes on in some 20 years. Cynthia Ranke and I met at Family Camp back in 1983. Through the almost 20 years that Terry and I attended that camp, Cynthia was one of my cohorts in crime, along with Dave and Lorraine Keller. Gosh, the memories that I have of those lovely people just really warm my heart. Anyway, we met Cynthia for dinner and from the first moment that we were together, it was like no time had passed at all. She is still the same bubbly bundle of energy that she always was and such a delight. It was great to reconnect with her and hope to again when she is in Phoenix this winter.
So that takes us to Arizona, where we will be until April. As I mentioned in the past, we are work camping in a 55+ golf resort for the winter. Steve and I work 14 hours each week for the Activities Director and in exchange, we get a free campsite, our electric paid, and get to eat for free at the events we are working. So far, we have worked two events, both of which had wonderful bands. We are ticket takers and help to serve food so nothing too strenuous. There will be some 3,000 people here when the season is in full swing (January through March) so I am sure we will be hopping in the future, but so far so good. The resort has a wide assortment of things to do every day so boredom will not enter the picture this winter.
Ok, that's it for now. Take care everyone.
Lauren (and Steve too)
"Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It's a journey of discovery - there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair."
- Rick Warren
Good morning everyone,
Well, we are in the great Southwest! What absolutely gorgeous country this is. This fine country we are blessed to live in (despite what I am sure is a very high frustration level with the current state of our politics) has some seriously breathtaking scenery. Since we have had the privilege of traveling through 80% of this country, we can attest to the richness of our mountains, oceans, deserts, great plains, palm trees, cactus and the like. Heck, in just the last two months we have experienced just about all of it.
Just for grins, get out a map and see where our 6,000 miles of travel have taken us since we left Port Charlotte on August 16. Here's the route (mostly intentional but some unplanned):
Port Charlotte, FL - to St. Mary's, Georgia - to Asheville, NC - to Covington, KY - to Topeka, IN - to Detroit, MI - back to Topeka, IN - to Oregon, OH - to Detroit, MI - to Columbus, OH - to Topeka, IN - to Goshen, IN - back to Oregon, OH - to Detroit, MI - to Goshen, IN - to Davenport, IA - through Des Moines, IA to Kansas City, KS - through Kansas to Colorado Springs, CO - down I-25 through Albuquerque, NM to Casa Blanca, NM.
What do you think? Our last journey will be from Casa Blanca, NM to El Mirage, AZ where we will be until April 15. Whew!!! Both the truck and the trailer will be happy to sit still for a while, I am sure.
Ok, so let me update you on what we've done since you least heard from us. As mentioned above, we headed south to Kansas City. What a nice town!!! Lots to do. We only stayed for two days so we couldn't do everything, but we took in a couple of really interesting museums.
First, we visited the World War I Museum which was absolutely awesome. The quality of this museum would rival anything you'd see in Washington D.C. We gained so much knowledge about that war and the state of politics in the world at that time and were especially fascinated to learn that the war went from the shooting of the Arch Duke Ferdinand into a world war in one week's time. We also learned that the countries involved in this war were led by individuals who were related in some way (all tied to Queen Victoria of England). Can you imagine????? One of the most interesting things that we learned was the origin of the red poppies that are handed out on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a fundraiser for disabled vets. The story is that the very first battle of this war was fought in Flanders, Belgium in a field where poppies grow every year. This field is the subject of a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who fought in the Canadian army in this conflict. The poem is quite poignant and is as follows:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In addition to the great displays and short films they presented, there is an opportunity to climb to the top of the 217-foot tower that serves as the landmark for this museum. It was a rainy, overcast morning so we couldn't get quite the vista we would have otherwise, but the view from up top was impressive nonetheless.
We visited two other museums while in town. The first was a car museum which housed some cool classic cars. There was nothing really remarkable about this museum but Steve and I like to amble passed old, restored vehicles any chance that we get. The last place we visited was the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, MO (you will recall that Kansas City lies on the border of Missouri and Kansas so you get a two-for-one when you visit this city). Independence acted as the launch point for settlers headed to points west back in the 1800s. Three trails headed out from this point: The Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail. Lewis & Clark also used this city as the location from which to begin their Corps of Discovery Expedition which took them to the Pacific Ocean via the rivers of the west. As a side note, I recommend a book called "Undaunted Courage" if you are interested in learning more about Lewis & Clark and their contribution to our country's history.
Kansas City is really a cool town and we would have loved to have had the time to explore it further. Hopefully we will pass through this way again in the future. Sadly, however, we left Kansas City and headed west to Colorado Springs. I say "sadly" because, let me tell you, the journey across Kansas is brutal. It's miles and miles of miles and miles. The scenery really doesn't change much and there's a whole lotta nuttin to see. I hope that I am not offending any Kansians out there but hey, it's true. The speed limit on I-70 is 75 mph, but when you are pulling 16,000 pounds of trailer, high speeds are not an option. To pass the time, Steve and I would play a game trying to guess how far away some landmark ahead on the highway would be from where we were. Yes, it was that sad!!!
Anyway, we arrived in Colorado and spent 9 days with our youngest son, Steve Jr., our daughter-in-law, Aime and our newest grandchild - - TYTUS! What a gorgeous little boy he is. We had a great time with them and enjoyed every minute of it. We visited some cool places in Colorado Springs, where I would highly recommend you visit for a summer vacation. There is a TON of stuff to do in this town. Lots of history museums and outdoor activities for every member of the family to enjoy. For my Florida friends, flights from Orlando are $69 on Frontier Airlines.
One of the main things that everyone does when they visit Colorado Springs is to travel to the top of Pikes Peak. This mountain is 14,115 feet tall and will literally take your breath away. The air is quite thin up there but the view is amazing. Driving up, however, is not for the faint of heart. The road is narrow and for the most part offers no shoulder, so riding up in the BAT (Steve's Big A_ _ Truck) was an adventure that I don't care to recreate - EVER (insert swear words here). What's amazing to the two of us is that there is a road race up this mountain every year. We visited the Penrose Heritage Museum to learn about this incredible feat. The drivers who race up this mountain do so at speeds over 100 mph. Let me tell you, this is amazing. There are parts of the road going up Pikes Peak where the grade is so steep, you cannot see the end of the road. All you see is sky (no kidding). Luckily, if you are too nervous to make the drive, there is a cog railway that will take you to the top. Once there, however, don't move too quickly. You will get light-headed and most likely nauseous. Thankfully, there are EMTs present to give you some oxygen if you feel like you will pass out. Despite all the downsides of the journey, however, I highly recommend making the trek to the top.
We also hiked through Garden of the Gods, visited a ghost town, learned about the history of Colorado Springs and had yet another mechanical breakdown. Mostly, we just enjoyed time with our family. Sadly, the only pictures that survived the glitch on Steve's transfer from phone to computer were the pics he took at the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. This is one seriously-uniquely designed building and quite beautiful on the inside. It houses many different chapels - - Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist. Services are conducted for each of these religions every week. Check out the pictures Steve took while we visited.
What a nice time we had with this part of our family. Little Tytus is gorgeous (no bias, trust me) and Stevie and Aime have a lovely home. We will be back in April for another visit when Steve and I head north to conquer the Pacific Northwest in 2017. Can't wait to see how much our little guy has changed!
Well, that's it for now. Our next update will cover New Mexico and our arrival into Arizona. Take care guys and know that Steve and I miss you more than you can know.
Break downs, Births and Gratitude
I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too - - your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful - - I can't take it all in!
- - Psalm 139:5-6 (MSG)
Well folks, sorry for the long delay in updating our blog, but I have very good reasons for this. Before I get to the wonderful things we have done since you last heard from us, let me tell you our tale of woe and why the above Scripture is my selected "thought for the week".
Our story begins in late September when we have to take our RV in to the Redwood factory for some repairs that were needed due to a structural issue. Redwood is located in the thriving metropolis of Topeka, Indiana - - right in the middle of Amish farm country. While bucolic in it's appearance, traveling to and from this location had its challenges. First, there are no direct routes anywhere. Every road in that area of the country is just about 1 1/2 lanes wide and very winding. Secondly, there are little "bombs" all along the way, left behind from the Amish buggies that traverse these roadways. So, as you can imagine, hauling a 16,000 pound, 8-foot wide trailer through this part of the country was challenging and messy. Nonetheless, we dropped the trailer at Redwood on a Friday afternoon and headed to my dad's for the weekend. We traveled from Detroit back to Topeka on Sunday night so that we could meet with the warranty rep from both Redwood and Lippert (the frame manufacturer) on Monday morning. So that's one trip into and out of Topeka and then back to Topeka in one weekend. Trailer scheduled to be completed, and our trailer could be picked up, the following Monday.
After the meeting, we headed to Toledo and stayed with Steve's sister and brother-in-law, Bev and Larry Miller, who are such gracious hosts (you will find out why in a minute). On the way there, we stopped to take Steve's mom to lunch and visit with her for a bit. On our way back from lunch, Steve's truck completely lost power to the throttle. The truck would start and go into gear, but we could not get any power to the engine. Thankfully we were a mere mile away from Connie's house so we idled all the way back there to call a tow truck. What a hassle - - we were moving so slowly that we were passed by a squirrel! After we arrived at Connie's, for some odd reason, the truck "fixed itself" but we were not willing to trust this instant repair, so we took it to the local Dodge dealer for repairs. Thanks to Bev and Larry, we had a free car for the time the truck was in the shop, which was good because we had a ton of friends and family to visit while we were in town. Later in the week, after we picked up the truck, we headed to my dad's to visit with my side of the family and some of my friends from Visteon. My dad is such a sweet guy and always willing to house us vagabonds when we are in town.
On Sunday night we drove down to Columbus so that we could be present for the birth of our latest grandchild - - Tytus Landry! We had dinner with our youngest son, Stevie, and his wife AIme that evening in anticipation of his birth in the morning. Aime was going to be induced so we were pretty sure October 3 was going to be his birthday. While at dinner, Aime described how she was feeling and I instantly knew that she was already in labor. Later that evening/early in the a.m. her water broke and she went into full blown contractions. Unfortunately for her, what started out as a speedy path to giving birth, stalled later in the morning. In the meantime, all hell was breaking loose in the waiting room. Sadly, there was a young woman who was brought into the hospital as a result of an overdose. She was still "alive" but technically brain dead. As the family was deciding what to do, a fight breaks out - - it started with a lot of yelling and swearing and escalated into pushing and shoving which required security to call the Sheriff. During all this, Aime is struggling to get the baby to deliver and was hearing all this ruckus. This went on for hours! Finally, everything calmed down on both fronts and Tytus was born at 4:39 in the afternoon. He's gorgeous and we were all excited. The nurses were especially happy about the baby because they, being ICU nurses, very rarely get to deal with happy situations. Some of them were even crying when he was born. How precious.
So, okay, with the baby's birth behind us, Steve and I head back to Topeka, Indiana (this is the third time that we will be in Indiana at this point), and pick up our trailer. Redwood did a fantastic job and we were very pleased. Unfortunately, we traveled a mere 8 miles from the plant before we had another issue - - the left rear wheel had started to smoke. Now remember, we are in the middle of Amish country so our options are limited. Steve calls the warranty guy from Redwood who comes out to check the rig and he discovers that the entire wheel assembly has an issue. He then calls Lippert (the manufacturer of the axle assembly) and they drive over to make the necessary repairs. Thankfully we found a parking lot to pull the rig into because at this point, we were on the side of a two lane highway with vehicles and heavy trucks passing us at 60-65 mph. Anyway, Lippert discovers that the entire axle needs to be replaced so he makes the necessary repairs that will get us and our rig to their factory which is 30 miles west of the Redwood facility we just left. So, here is our fourth stop in Indiana!!! We get to the facility and decide that rather than simply replacing the damaged axle, we would upgrade both axles to a heavier version and to replace all the bushings as well. We are going to be out west next year and Steve felt, for safety reasons, this was the right thing to do. Repairs will take yet another week and were expected to cost around $5,000. Major UGH!!!
As has become our pattern lately, we head to Bev and Larry's and my dad's for another visit while we waited for the trailer to be fixed. It was nice to be able to see both off our parents and spend more time with them because we will not be back in town for about a year. While at my dad's, we received a call from Lippert and what was originally going to be $5,000 in repair costs was reduced to $1,700 - - they were willing to not only discount the axles we purchased, but they didn't charge us for the parts or labor for the time that was spent by their service department while we were on the side of the road when the issue first arose. Steve and I were marveling at how God had us in His hands throughout this whole ordeal. First, the issue with the axle was going to happen no matter what (as things in life generally do) but it happened in a location where we could get immediate assistance from the manufacturer. We could have been on the side of the road in Denver or Portland and then what would we have done? Secondly, Steve was prompted to check his mirror and saw the smoke so he stopped immediately. He had no real reason to check his mirror other than a little prompting from the back of his mind. Thirdly, there was a parking lot available to us about 100 yards from where we broke down. Other than that parking lot, there was nothing on either side of the road but farms and driveways for several miles in either direction. Had we driven that trailer much further, the wheel would have fallen completely off the axle and into oncoming traffic which could have seriously hurt someone. Additionally, the situation took place near family that could provide us housing and a vehicle for nearly 3 weeks. Lastly, the issues were handled by a company that was very responsive in terms of customer service as well as generous with the discounts they provided. Steve and I are so grateful for the blessings that He provides us. Not only did we just welcome a perfect and beautiful baby grandson into the world, but throughout this whole trailer and truck ordeal, He kept us safe. If all of us would just take a moment, every day, and look for God's hand in our lives, we would see Him everywhere! Thank you Lord!
Ok, so now on to the good stuff. As mentioned above, Tytus was born and we are headed to Colorado Springs to spend some time with him before we land in Arizona for the winter. Check out these pictures of our precious boy! He was 19 3/4 inches long and 6 pounds 15 ounces at birth. Mom, baby and dad are all doing well and adjusting to their new lives, although Tytus has his days and nights mixed up a bit.
We did some cool stuff since we last wrote to you. First, we stopped in Kentucky to see the Creation Museum (www.creationmuseum.com) and The Ark Encounter (www.arkencounter.com). Both are the owned by Ken Hamm who is the founder of Answers in Genesis and provide an excellent explanation for the Creation story in the Bible as well as the story of Noah's Ark and how that could have realistically occurred. (PICTURES HERE) The displays and artwork in both locations were so well done and really bring both stories to life. I cannot do either location justice with this blog so I recommend making a road trip to Kentucky and visiting both for yourselves. This would make a great Youth, Children's or Adult ministry outing as these two museums are about 45 minutes from each other. The Creation Museum also offers a few lectures on specific topics and has a great planetarium show. The Ark Encounter just opened in July, but over the next couple of years this location is going to expand into a Bible-based theme park to include the walled city of Jerusalem, an area that will teach about the 10 plagues of Exodus, the Tower of Babel, and other unique experiences that will help to bring other Bible stories to life.
So after our fifth trip to Indiana to pick up our trailer after the axle repairs, we headed west for our first stop in Iowa (the home of Cindy Salvanorich and Melinda Means). We stayed in Davenport, which is a cute little town. We took a drive over to LeClaire where the "Antique Archeology" shop is located - - this is the store where the guys from "American Pickers" sell the items they find in various garages and barns around the country. If you haven't seen that show, check it out. It's on the History Channel and is very interesting. From Iowa, we headed to Kansas City (home of Don DeWeese) and then will go directly west into Colorado Springs where our new grandbaby lives. We will be visiting with them for a week and then head into Arizona.
So, that's it. As you can see we had quite the ordeal since you last heard from us. We lacked the comforts of WiFi for most of that time which prevented us from updating the website as well. I cannot believe how dependent on the internet Steve and I have become. It’s kind of sad, actually.
Until next time, take care and count your blessings. Take a moment or two and look for God's working in your lives - - whether it is through acknowledging a blessing He has bestowed upon you or by recognizing that He is there with you through a difficulty you are facing. We serve an awesome God!
Love you muchly guys,
Lauren (and Steve too)
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."
- Job 8:21 (NIV)
Well, it's time to share with you the incredible weekend we had with family and friends celebrating the vow renewal of our son Terry and his wife Jill (They have been married since January of 2015 but this was the first opportunity they've had to have a wedding celebration). It was a full weekend of activities and was a total blast. We had a lot of our family join us in Asheville which made the event even sweeter. In attendance were: my sister Lois, her daughter Andrea and Andrea's daughter Avery, and Lo's son Trevor. My sister Carolyn brought her boyfriend Ken and my dad (who hasn't traveled since before my mom died in 2006). Last but not least, our daughter Jill and her two daughters, Paige and Kendra, and our daughter-in-law Aime (who is about to give birth, but was a total trooper).
The fun began on Thursday night at Jill and Terry's house. This was a very informal "meet and greet" for those who arrived early. It was a riot watching Sofia and Avery get to know each other. I think Sofia was a bit surprised that she wasn't the smallest person in the room. The two were playing together and Sofia kept patting Avery on the head - - I guess to say to herself "Hey, you're shorter than me!" Terry, Jill and their friends stayed out until 3:00 a.m. having a great time, which they paid for the next morning.
Friday morning we went on a group hike at the Frying Pan Mountain lookout tower. This is a 2.12 mile round trip hike, the first part of the journey being straight up. As you can see from the pictures, it was quite a gain in elevation even before we got to the tower. Once up top, however, the effort of the journey gave us a great reward. The views are incredible from here - - just looking out over the vastness of the mountainscape was breathtaking. God creates some really incredible things for us to enjoy and it should be cherished and appreciated every day. What was especially fun for me was hanging with some of Terry's friends again. Some of them I haven't seen since he did his undergrad at the University of Michigan (which has been nearly 20 years ago). Others were people Steve and I met when Terry first hiked the Appalachian Trail back in 2007. So much fun to reconnect with them. Later in the evening, about 60-70 people met for a little party at the Burial Brewery in downtown Asheville. This is a craft beer house that is owned by Terry and Jill's friends. That was a great party and one which our little Sofia was the star of the show.
The next day was the wedding itself. The venue for this event was Jill's parent's house in Asheville which is quite lovely. They have 3.5 acres of flat land with beautiful landscaping and a nice little gazebo which acted as the stage for the vow renewal. There were around 100 people there for the ceremony and Jill and Terry had lawn games for people to play and a volleyball net as well. People were all over the place enjoying the incredible setting. Then came the ceremony. The officiant was Terry and Jill's friend Brian who they met on the trail in 2012 (along with Brian's wife, Kelly). He talked about Terry's love of life and his ability to find joy in all things. He spoke about Jill's support of Terry and her loyalty and the beauty of her character and her spirit. I guess that's why I chose the Scripture above - - it really describes these two so well. Kelly read a poem by e.e. cummings called "i carry your heart with me". I am sharing it with you because it is just so fitting for Jill and Terry and may be for you and your beloved as well:
i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Our darling Sofia was part of the ceremony and watched as her parents shared their vows. They wrote their own vows which spoke of love, of course, but also mentioned how important it was that they were able to "ask each other for help when they needed it" and their promises to always support each other's dreams. The whole thing was just so beautiful and it made not only me cry, but my dad got very emotional as well. So sweet! After the ceremony came dinner which was all vegetarian fare and delicious. Everyone partied into the night and then Terry, Jill and their friends headed downtown to continue partying well into the morning hours.
On Sunday, Steve and I took my dad on a drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was so much fun to spend this time with him and share with him the beauty of God's creation. He was taken aback at the awesomeness of the views we were seeing. We stopped at the Pisgah Inn for lunch which is a restaurant that sits on a cliff overlooking the mountains. He was blown away by it. We then parked ourselves on some rockers outside the restaurant and just chilled. Later that day we had dinner with Jill and Terry and my sister Carolyn and her friend Ken. My dad got to spend some time with Sofia as well as check out Terry's awesome garden.
Whew! It was a whirlwind but an incredible time. Steve and I have so many wonderful memories to keep from this weekend. It will be hard to leave Asheville after being here almost 5 weeks. Next week's blog will be about our hikes and the fun things we've done in addition to the wedding.
Talk to ya later guys!!
Lauren (and Steve too)
"I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today."
- William Allen White
Good morning everyone. Sorry I have been remiss in updating the blog - - Geez, three weeks into our journey and I am already a week behind! I have an excuse - - we've been busy. Check out our last couple of weeks:
Let me begin by saying that Steve and I have become vegetarians. After spending 6 weeks on a strict diet that rid us of our carbohydrate and processed sugar addictions, we wanted to embrace total health by incorporating exercise into our day (6 out of 7 days) and eating a whole-food, plant based diet. I did a ton of research on animal vs. plant protein, soluble vs. insoluble fiber, the importance of polyphenols, catechins, and Omega 3s (vs. Omega 6s), etc. Additionally, we watched a video called "Forks Over Knives" (available at the public library) and learned how the foods that we eat affect not only our bodies but also our environment. Together we came to the conclusion that we wanted to embark on the lifestyle that would be best for us (physically and mentally) at this time in our lives. In order to make this happen, however, we spent a good portion of our first week in Asheville learning how to shop for the right foods (thanks to our son Terry who is a nutrition expert), cleaning out our pantry, and poring over books for new recipes to try that don't include meat. I am happy to report that we are doing great and feel so much better physically and are continuing to lose weight. Our goal is to get Steve off his cholesterol meds and for me to run a 5K by March 2017.
Ok, now on to the fun. As mentioned above, Steve and I have taken to exercising regularly and, being in the mountains, what better way to exercise than to climb something, right???? Near us in North Carolina is a place called Chimney Rock State Park and it looked pretty interesting, so we headed over. There are a number of great hikes in this park but we decided to tackle the tough one first - - the climb to the top of Chimney Rock. According to my Fitbit, this climb was equal to 72 flights of stairs and challenged Steve and I quite a bit. We had to stop and rest periodically to catch our breath (this is what living at 12 feet above sea level will do for you) but we made it to the top. We were high-fiving each other and feeling pretty good about ourselves. Then we turned around and saw an elderly woman who clearly just had a hip or knee replacement coming up behind us. Oh well. So much for being proud of our accomplishment! Nonetheless, we soldiered on and undertook the hike to the waterfall and then had lunch just enjoying the view and the sounds of nature. Awesome day.
We also spent some time traveling around on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is such a beautiful drive with so many overlooks that provide vistas that will take your breath away. One day we decided to hike through Craggy Gardens, so we headed over to the Visitor Center (the location of the trailhead) and hiked up the mountain. We got to the top but we (along with about 20 other people) could not find the trail that would take us to the "stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Parkway". So, we headed down the trail that we were told would take us back to the Visitor Center (and the BAT). As we traveled down the mountain, however, we didn't recognize much of the scenery but were certain we were on the right path and would end up where we started. WRONG! We went all the way down the opposite side of the mountain and ended up in the picnic area which is a 10-minute DRIVE (not walk or hike) from our truck. Holy Cow! Lucky me was suffering from a right calf strain from the climb at Chimney Rock so the thought of going back up and over that mountain was not the least bit appealing. As we stood there trying to figure out if we take the road (and the 5 mile walk) or attempt to go over the mountain, the Lord sent us a lifeline. We met a very nice couple (Steve and Marcie from Minneapolis) who were looking for an overlook and were lost. Thankfully, their desired location was up the road just past where our truck was parked so they gave us a lift and we avoided what most assuredly would be a long walk filled with expletives that my First Alliance friends would be shocked to hear come out of my mouth.
Earlier this week we visited Maggie Valley and a museum that has been featured on the History Channel - Wheels Through Time. This museum houses the best collection of motorcycles (1900-present day) along with a ton of great posters and artwork from WWI, WWII, and various other historic periods in our country's history. Steve was really enjoying himself, took numerous pictures. I was impressed to learn how much he knew about motorcycles and their manufacturers. He engaged in in-depth conversations with the museum staff which they both enjoyed very much. When we left the museum we had a most enjoyable brunch at an off-the-beaten-path restaurant that made the best blueberry pancakes that I have ever had!
The rest of the time was spent with Terry, Jill, and Sofia and Jill's parents. Both Jill and her dad celebrated birthdays in this past couple of weeks so we had birthday parties for both. We also helped Jill and Terry with some house projects in preparation for receiving guests this coming week for their wedding.
We also got to spend a fair amount of time with our granddaughter so we could get up to speed on babysitting and her routine. Terry and Jill will be going on a honeymoon soon and leaving us and Jill's parents with the responsibility of Sofia for a few days, so it was important to get our parental hats back on, if you know what I mean. Part of her daily routine is to get out to various locations around the city every morning. Terry, Sofia and I went to two libraries where they have story and play time for kids her age and slightly older. What a blast watching her socialize with the other kids! She's too cute.
Some of the other places we visited were the WNC Nature Center and the Arboretum with Sofia and Terry and had a great time at both places. The Nature Center has been instrumental in re-establishing the red wolf population in this part of the country and houses so many animals that it's like a small zoo. The Arboretum was probably the best I have ever been to and we've visited many all over this country. Sofia enjoyed a sprinkler and some of the Lego sculptures they had. I can do neither location justice in this blog post so I have included their websites so you can check out their coolness for yourselves.
Lastly, we had the pleasure of joining other Cleveland Browns fans at the local Browns Backers hangout to watch the Browns perform in the third preseason game where the starters would play at least the first half of the game. As is the case every preseason, the typical Browns fan starts with anxious anticipation of the new team (because, quite frankly, the team is pretty much new every year - - or at least the quarterback is) and the coming season. They exchange comments about the new coach, RG3 being the starter and his future in the organization, the new receivers and the upcoming draft picks for next year. All so upbeat and merry until the game starts and the team performs with its usual aplomb (meant facetiously) - - Ahhh, there's always next year because, hey, we have a ton of draft picks!!!!
Steve's prediction is they'll go 2-14 which means they'll probably win the first pick in next years draft... alas
OK that's it for now. Next week's post will involve lots of wedding pictures and pictures of our family and children as they are all coming into town for the big shindig. Got a "Mother of the Groom" dress that is a full size smaller than I have been in quite some time. TOTALLY LOVING THAT!!!!
Love you guys muchly,
Lauren (and Steve too)
Back on the road
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.
- Jim Rohn
Well, Steve and I are officially the "Travelin' Andersons" again. We took off from Port Charlotte on August 16 and headed north in our attempt to not postpone our happiness for the future. Both of us are so comfortable living in this RV and traveling from place to place and truly delight in the beautiful vistas and interesting experiences we have along the way. Plus we have friends and family all over this country that we intend to spend time with over the next couple of years.
Our first stop was in St. Mary's, Georgia. If you have never visited this little slice of heaven, I highly recommend it. The town is just over the Florida border on I-95 and has been our pit stop many times as we trekked north and south along the east coast. St. Mary's is the launching spot for the ferry to Cumberland Island, is a mere 20 minutes drive to St. Simon's Island, Jekyll Island, and is very close to one of my favorite places: the Folkston Funnel! Seriously, if you are looking for a unique place to take a vacation, check out St. Mary's.
When we arrived, Steve and I headed to the Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Our son, Terry, turned us on to this place when we had a family vacation on St. Simon's Island last September. This beach is covered with skeletons of trees that have died due to the erosion on the northern side of the island. As the erosion sets in and the trees get uprooted, they travel down the coast and the bark and leaves and smaller branches get removed. What's left is a "driftwood" version of their previous selves which gets deposited on the southern end of the island. This beach is quite long and is littered with driftwood that you can climb on to your heart's content. The erosion that's taking place is a difficult situation, but the resulting art formed from on the beach from the displaced trees is truly a sight to see.
The next day, Steve and I met one of the best Bible teachers I have ever had. For a few years now, I have been taking on-line classes through Precept Ministries from a woman named Kari Dent. Every time that Steve and I were in St. Mary's in the past, we could not seem to meet up with her, but this time we were successful. We met at a wonderful seafood restaurant and I got to meet her husband Ian as well. I am so happy to have finally met Kari and if you are interested in checking her out, her website is: http://www.preceptcamden.com./ Kari and Ian shared with us that there was a tall ship parked in the St. Mary's harbor, so we checked it out. It's called "The Peacemaker" and is owned by a group called The Twelve Tribes (www.peacemakermarine.com). We weren't able to tour it but Steve was able to capture a beautiful full moon keeping watch over the ship in the harbor.
Our last stop was to visit Fort King George which is the oldest English fort on Georgia's coast. As I mentioned, there is a lot of history in this area and this fort is an excellent example of that. Basically it was built to protect the Altamaha River (which flows up to Atlanta) from invading indians or the French. I thought it was in a pretty cool spot on the water, but apparently the soldiers stationed there didn't agree. They were so desperate to get out of duty at Fort King George that they burned down their own barracks!! Here's the website about this fort if you are interested in learning more: Fort King George
On the 18th, we arrived in Asheville which will be our home base until September 20. We are here to celebrate the renewal of wedding vows for our son, Terry, and his wife, Jill. They are the parents of our most recent grandchild (Sofia) and we are excited to enjoy this special event with them. We have family coming in from all over for this so that weekend will be a hoot. Can't wait. We've spent time catching up with Jill's parents who live in Asheville as well. Today, we were treated to a baseball game featuring the Asheville Tourists (the Colorado Rockies' version of the Stone Crabs or the Toledo Mud Hens). It was a blast and we have additional adventures planned with Jill's parents which you will hear about in the near future.
Ok, that's it for this week. Keep the quote at the top of this blog entry in mind this week. What happiness are you putting off that you can you design into your present?
Love you guys,
Lauren and Steve
Farewell Port Charlotte
After two wonderful years here in Port Charlotte, Steve and I are, once again, heading out to travel around the country in our RV.
We will be leaving Port Charlotte on August 16 and head to Asheville, North Carolina where we will be until mid-September. Our oldest son, his wife and daughter live there and we are excited to be celebrating a renewal of their wedding vows. They've been married for almost two years, but didn't have a reception. So, family and friends from all over the country will be converging on Asheville to have a great party and a weekend of hiking in the mountains. Plus we get to spend some quality time with little granddaughter who really only knows us as faces on a computer screen. It's interesting to know that her generation will think seeing people on the computer will be perfectly normal . . . ah, technology and the pace of change.
Anyway, from there, Steve and I will have a brief stop in Covington, Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum and the new Ark Encounter (https://arkencounter.com/) built by Ken Hamm (Answers in Genesis). I cannot wait as I have heard marvelous things about both venues. The ark is "life-size" so how cool is that going to be?????
Next, we are off to Toledo/Michigan to visit with our daughter, and our other grandchildren. We have missed them so much this past couple of years and look forward to them visiting us while we are on the road this next year or two.
Additionally, we will be spending time with our parents and our siblings. Lastly, but certainly not least, we are especially excited that we will be present for the birth of grandchild #5 - a boy whose name will be Tytus Landry Anderson on or about October 2nd. His parents are our youngest son, Steve Jr. and his wife Aime who live in Colorado Springs. Due to Stevie's need to be in training the month of September (he's a special agent for the Air Force), Aime elected to go home to Ohio and have the baby where her mother and our daughter Jill live. We will be in Toledo/Michigan from mid-September until Mid-October and then travel to Colorado Springs to stay with Stevie and Aime and the new baby for a week or so before we land in El Mirage, Arizona for the winter.
Next spring, we plan to head to the Pacific Northwest to explore God's creation in that area of our country.
Finally, let me just say from the bottom of Steve's and my heart,.. thank you so, so much to all our dear friends in Port Charlotte. We have loved getting to know you and spending the past two years playing, praying and worshiping with you. I cannot believe what a loving group of people you have been to both of us and we will miss you all so very much. Please come back to this website often and check up on us. You can even get in contact with us through the website if you would like. We are also thinking of creating a Facebook page so keep an eye out for that.
May God bless you all. We love you!!!
Steve and Lauren