Monday, December 8, 2014

Heading West Once Again

Location: Artesia, United States

Time to get caught up with our adventures since my last post over a month ago. Once again I'm posting from my Android smart phone & BlogAway app, using a USB mini keyboard, with digital camera photos uploaded to my phone. Sure is a change from my laptop using Live Writer.

After leaving Branson Nov 4 in the rain, we spent the next three weeks hanging around AR waiting to have my annual mamogram. Everything is fine (breath again), but we still haven't been successful in scheduling & completing our various VA medical appointments to be able to leave the area when we want.

We stayed at Maumelle Campground, a Corps of Engineer campground right along the Arkansas River, northwest of Little Rock. We had forgotten how large the campsites at COE parks are. But after 10 days, we needed to leave there for our appointment at Little House Custom for a few upgrades.

We discovered a nice, quiet city park along Monticello Lake, southwest of Mt Pleasant TX (which is on I-30) to get from Little Rock to LHC. It's only $7/night for electric (& water during warm weather), but TX charges an additional $2/person/day. Hmm, same $11/night at a COE - but it's within an hour of LHC.

We arrived at LHC at 9am, & between Larry & his new helper Ken, we got an electric jack & 2" lifts installed. We (me mostly) wanted the new shocks also, but the supply of them is exhausted for a bit. We were done & gone by 11am. Whew - that was fast.

We then traveled a couple of hours over local roads back to Texarkana to the Wright Patman COE, Rocky Point Campground. We got a site on the north side of the Lake, right along the shore. Short of having a covered shelter, this was real close to a perfect campsite.And the sunsets there were reminiscent of those glorious winter sunsets in the desert!

So then it was back to Maumelle Campground in Little Rock for my mamogram before we could FINALLY exit the area to start our SW winter. We stopped once again at Monticello Lake for a night, & then traveled to Tres Rios (three rivers) RV Resort near Glen Rose TX the day before Thanksgiving. This campground is owned by Ocean Canyon, the owners also of Compton Ridge in Branson, a Coast to Coast park, & located along the Brazos River. We stayed for a week with FHU, waiting on the arrival of mail. For Thanksgiving, we went to a local restaurant, Riverhouse Grill located in a large, handsome old house. The traditional turkey dinner of 3 courses was expensive, but it was sort of a celebration. As much as we cherish all the Thanksgivings spent with my parents thru the decades, this was a very special day this year also.

Along the Cross Branch on the south side of Glen Rose is Big Rocks Park, a unique rocky outcropping, most warn smooth by many floods but some grotesquely erroded. For non-red rocks, I found them awesome.

There was also this unique abandoned rock house designed in the same archectural style of other houses in the area.

Although this area southwest of Ft Worth is known for numerous fossils & dinosaur tracks, we stopped by for a free look at the Chisolm Trail Museum. Since it was Sunday tho, no voluntary docents were around to explain the various displays.

Another Casita pulled in our last day, Chris & Kay from Dallas, headed to the Matagorda Madness rally. Hope to see them again when we return to this campground.

After doing some laundry & getting our mail, we headed west again. We spent a quiet FREE night at the little but neat city park in Lemesa TX. Visitors & tourists can stay up to four nights for free with electric & water. As Jeff has follow-up checkups at the VA in Little Rock every six months, we will most likely take this same route & stops back in the Spring. Or not - love these jello plans.

So finally we've made it to New Mexico to check out another State Park. This time it's Brantley Lake SP, north of Carlsbad. We're camped on a hill overlooking the Lake & the surrounding area to the north, with a nice covered shelter on a concrete pad & rock windscreen wall. The wind has been strong from the south & then from the north, sometimes changing within a few hours. We had some rain one night, & one morning of fog, but never below freezing. It even got warm enough yesterday to take my water squirt bottle & a microfiber cloth to actually wipe down the trailer. Boy it was filthy but cleaned up amazingly easy. Two other Casitas have arrived at the Park while we were here too. We had a great visit with Camala & Charley from El Paso. We've really enjoyed our time here at this SP & plan to return (probably during our easterly Spring migration).

We plan to once again visit Oliver Lee SP, south of Alamagordo, tomorrow. Then up to Truth or Consequences for either Percha Dam and/or Caballo Lake Riverside Campground. And to visit again with Emily. Then up to Santa Fe's Hyde Park Memorial SP. Jeff is curious about the Christmas lights & decorations in town, & I want to investigate Taos again. Since it's higher elevation in northern New Mexico, & it's December, we won't be staying too long, especially if there's SNOW. We have until the end of March 2015 to continue using the $10/night discount from the $225 NM State Parks pass we got last March 1st. It paid for itself last year, so the $4/night for electric & water sites this winter is NICE. We plan to return from AZ for March, & will probably get another NM Pass next winter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gettysburg & Falling Water

We only had a week to rest up from our September trip to Wisconsin before it was time to head toward Virginia to visit Jeff’s mother in early October. Previously, we’ve not been able to visit her until November, but by traveling during October, we hoped to see some Fall foliage instead of bare trees like before.

We continued to hop from one Coast to Coast campground to another as much as possible. It worked very well except for one night in Western Virginia when we stayed at a convenient State Park right along I-81, called Starved Mother, because no Coast to Coast campgrounds were near. It as a beautiful park. . .except for the exorbitant cost of $36+ for one night with just electric & water only on a gravel pad. Walmart’s parking lot would have been just fine & more reasonable.

Since it was sort of on our way eastward though, we decided to take the opportunity to swing by the Oliver Travel Trailer office & manufacturing plant in Hohenwald TN. We were pleased to meet up with Robert Partee again, one of the company’s salespeople, for a great tour & Q&A regarding their 22’ double axle trailer. As much as we love our Liberty Casita, there are occasions when an extra 2-4’ is very desirable & we seem to continue to get stuck in frigid weather. The Oliver is truly a four-season trailer with enclosed, heated holding tanks & dump valves, double-pane windows, & numerous very-nice-to-have features like built-in stabilizers, tank & battery monitors,  & room for multiple batteries. However, they only have one layout — an extended Spirit version with the king bed backend, & because even the inside fiberglass shell is all one molded piece, nothing can be rearranged even during the build. Even IF we were OK giving up the galley across from the frig as in the Liberty, we want the seating next to the bed since one of us is likely to lay on the bed while the other sits at the dinette while both are watching television. I’ve never wanted to look out the driver-side window at a neighbor’s campsite either. Guess we’ll just have to wait for Oliver to come out with a Liberty version some year. I’m also not crazy about any of the blah (beiges or black) decorating options that don’t counter that sense of living inside a refrigerator. But — we definitely like & want all the advanced built-in systems & conveniences.

Anyway, we had a very nice, quiet visit with Jeff’s mother, plus a visit also from his youngest brother & wife. We also finally replaced our original converter which died back in August as the weather was perfect for finally turning off all power. The new 3-stage converter did a great job of fully charging our batteries. . .for a week. Jeff found a breaker that had worked loose on our way back to Branson, but that didn’t fix it. So, we’re back to using a battery tender plugged in to keep the frig & lights running until we can get it looked at.

Unfortunately, our visit east was a bit early for good Fall foliage. Nevertheless, the weather was perfect for revisiting Gettysburg National Battlefield. We were there 10 years ago in July with very high temps & humidity, so outside viewing anything was very uncomfortable. My favorite place this visit was Devil’s Den which we skipped last time due to the heat. I really enjoyed looking all around the jumble of BIG rocks (one of my passions).


Next, I finally got to visit Falling Water, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve tried for four years to get near southwestern Pittsburg PA to see this house, but we either didn’t have time at all or it was a Wednesday, the day they’re closed. The walking tour is 2 hours long, up & down stairs to look all around both inside & outside, & Jeff did a very admirable job accompanying me, in spite of his issues walking. I believe the foliage was at least a week away from optimum color, but it was still an amazing place!


I have new photo folders in Picasa but because it’s been taken over by Google+, I can’t get photos from Picasa to Live Writer that makes these images linkable to the on-line albums in Live Writer. However, I’ve attempted to insert a link to the albums in the above photos that might work to see the rest of the albums.

We stayed at two more Coast to Coast campgrounds on our way home from PA, but after twelve nights on the road, we were anxious to get back to Branson & relax. This packing & hooking up every day or two wears out not only us, but the critters too. Although we spent 12½ hours on the road that last day, it was a perfect weather with a tailwind & gas prices all the way down to $2.73 southwest of St Louis.

After another week of relaxing though, it was time to make our last trip to family & friends from Kansas City to Branson for a final holiday gathering.  I also had a chance to help my 92 yo father pick out & learn to use a smartphone, a Samsung S4. He’s doing amazingly well getting comfortable with it — & can even make phone calls with it too. He now has an email address & was shocked to learn he could actually get on the internet with just a cell phone. We’ve had fun sending emails, photos, videos, & text messages.

Finally by early November, it was time to start our winter escape, via a stop at the VA Hospital in Little Rock for a couple of medical appointments.  We stayed at the Maumelle Campground COE right on the Arkansas River. We’d forgotten how spacious COE campgrounds are.


Little Rock is a much hillier town than I realized — just a gorgeous city. We even made it to Applebee’s on Veteran’s Day for a fantastic free lunch. Seems we’ve been traveling the last two years on this day, so this opportunity was even more appreciated. Unfortunately, the early artic plunge caught us before getting out of it’s way. Thankfully, our egg is very easy to heat & keep deliciously warm. And, AND, AND by mid-November, we can finally head west to the Sonoran Desert for the winter after getting some improvements done along the way at Little House Custom east of Dallas.!!! I know I’ll miss all the trees around Branson as I bask in the warmth of the SW this winter, but I have to remember those gorgeous trees to the East are very bare & unprotective during the winter. They will welcome us back in the Spring (when I can once again worry about tornadoes).

I’ve learned that by using a special cable with a regular USB on one end & a mini-USB on the other end I can download photos from my Sony & Canon cameras directly to my cell phone, which then gets backed up to Google+. And I can use this cable also to hook up an external keyboard to my cell phone to actually type up a blog post (& insert photos) more comfortably without having to fire up my laptop. Don’cha just luv technology!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Escaping the heat in Wisconsin

This post is very late being posted, but this is documentation of our travels. Just as we were heading north in September, a cold front came thru Missouri & cooled of all of the state plus NW Arkansas. Oh well, it was still great to be on the road again to somewhere — anywhere new instead of waiting on VA appointments.

First we stopped in Kansas City to visit Jeff’s daughter & grandson while parking the trailer in a girlfriend’s driveway. Had a great visit at both places. I discovered G2 Gatorade, Mixed Berry flavor. I’ve been trying to find something to replace Dr. Pepper for a year, & the G2 works good for me.

As we are now Coast to Coast campground members, we planned our route to north central Wisconsin according to the C2C campgrounds we could stay at along the way for free. So the first night was outside of Waterloo IA at Lakes Shores RV Resort. Not bad, but glad we weren’t staying more than one night.

The second stop was about an hour from our destination, but when we got there shortly before 5pm, the office was closed. Thankfully a park resident let us through the gate into the campground to settle up the next day. But without anyone around to discuss campsites, we briefly wandered through the heavily forested area with campsites chiseled out of the woods, looking for a clear view to the south for our TV satellite. No idea & felt somewhat lost — so we left & headed to Jeff’s uncle’s house (on his dad’s side).

I learned a few good lessons from the experience: 1) Always call our night’s destination campground to confirm our reservation, 2) give them an ETA, & 3) ask about campsites with a clear southern view.

We made it Jeff’s uncle on White Potato Lake the 2nd day, west of Pound WI. They have a little park model right on the lake’s shore, & we parked on gorgeous, thick green grass (no grit & gravel tracked in by us or critters). His uncle & wife stay there during the summer (near where they both grew up), but spend winter at another lake house west of New Braunfels TX, traveling between the two in a Class A motorhome. Unfortunately, it rained or at least was cloudy every day there except the day we left. We spent one day visiting with his cousin & her husband (on his mom’s side), & got to meet several of his other cousins in town. And of course, we got some fresh WI cheese from a fantastic local cheese place. Also, got some fresh local brats (one batch of beer brats & one with Swiss cheese & mushrooms). It was SO green & lush everywhere in addition to the cool, non-humid weather, with only a few trees displaying Fall colors. Wish we could have stayed longer!


After four days of non-stop visiting, we headed south to Wisconsin Dells to Christmas Mountain RV Resort. Jeff had never been to the town before, & I’ve always heard cool things about the town. The Wisconsin River has cut thru the area, leaving beautiful tall cliffs all along the river. It’s a pretty touristy place though, much like Branson actually. We drove around one day (in the rain) just to get a feel for the lay of the land, & viewed lots of lakeside & riverside houses, condos, & recreation facilities.

Our last day there was clear, sunny, & perfect weather finally so we stopped for lunch at The Brat House where Jeff had a regular brat with sauerkraut & I had a brat with Swiss cheese & mushrooms both inside & on top. They also made their own chips, sprinkled with parmesan along with a homemade dip. Boy was it all good! I even splurged by having a beer — Red’s Apple Ale. Pretty darn good. . .probably cause it didn’t really taste like beer.


So we waddled out of the place to go for a carriage ride thru Lost Canyon (just down the road). As this area was sculpted by running water, a very narrow canyon was cut thru the cliff (Lost Canyon), & a small wagon pulled by two huge roan-colored Belgium horses that shinnied thru a couple of slits in the rocks. A trickle of a stream ran along the base of one side beside our trail. Pretty amazing. . .since I love big rock formations.


We next camped at Lake Haven Resort near Sublett IL so we could visit Starved Rock State Park, about an hour away. This huge lakeside community had hundreds of cabins, park models, & fairly permanent RVs snuggled around the 10 or so ponds/lakes, accessible by a plethora of twisty, curvy roads. Even with a map, we barely made our way out after looking around.

When Jeff lived outside of Chicago as a kid, his family visited Starved Rock several times. The story is that back in the 1600s, Chief Pontiac was killed by some Illini tribesmen, so the Chief’s tribe chased & trapped the killers on top of one of the towering columns of rock along the Illinois River. They couldn’t get down off the rock without being killed, but ended up starving to death instead.

We slowly walked up first a broad uphill sidewalk & then four different flights of steps to finally stroll around the board deck on top of Starved Rock. Great views of the Illinois River, including a dam with a single lock. Jeff managed this uphill walk pretty well in spite of his back problems, but we were both pretty well tuckered out by the time we got back to the truck.


Next we headed west to Missouri (toward “home”) & made it to Tivoli Hills RV Resort, just south of Louisiana MO which is along the Mississippi River, to a small, quiet, flat, shaded RV park just for the night. Pretty, quiet, great shower, & good southern view. We traveled all the next day across MO on US Highway 54 which goes thru Jefferson City (state capital) & across Bagnell Dam (Lake of the Ozarks at Osage Beach). I hadn’t been there for probably 50 years. Some areas even looked familiar but a lot of road improvements & changes have been made thru the years.


We finally made it to my girlfriend’s driveway in Springfield MO to rest up from our travels. Although we didn’t do all that much, we spent some very long days traveling between stops & were both worn out. Thankfully another cool front came thru the area the next day after I had dug out a pair of shorts to wear due to the heat. We returned to Compton Ridge in Branson after being gone for three weeks & have started planning our trip next week to Virginia to visit Jeff’s mom, with a couple of interesting side trips along the way to Gettysburg & Falling Water (a Frank Lloyd Wright house I’ve tried to visit for several years).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Dog Days of Summer 2014

August 2014

Interesting description — dog days — something about this time of summer being able to see a constellation in the sky that looks like a dog. Personally, it means it’s too blooming hot for even my dog to be outside of air conditioned spaces! We had some uncomfortably warm temps in Mountain View AR DSC02477over the 4th of July,











& again at Bear’s Den near Grove OK during the first part of August.


— but not nearly as bad as the 100+° days later in Branson (& most of the rest of the Plains states). Geez Louise, sure have been wishin’ for some mountain campsite anywhere on the Colorado Plateau instead of this lovely forested sauna!


At least I have my laptop keyboard working again. I found a fantastic YouTube video for replacing the keyboard on my specific 3 yo laptop, & then found a $10 (including shipping) replacement keyboard on e-Bay. I tend to break out in a cold sweat whenever I approach a computer with a screwdriver, but this keyboard replacement really was such a piece of cake. As you can see, I’ve finally been able to type up this post & download all my various photos taken since April to insert them in this post with Live Writer.


So. . . I guess I’m just bored with the summer. . .& sort of feeling like a prisoner. When it’s raining and/or cold outside, the trailer is cozy. But when I can’t get comfortable outside in any way due to the humidity (& heat), the trailer seems very restrictive. And this summer has just been one hurry-up & wait event after another poking along with Jeff’s VA appointments for some relief from his bulging disc.


The good news tho is Jeff completed his physical therapy on a portable traction unit at the VA that is relieving some of his pain/discomfort. The VA gave him his own unit so he can unkink his back. Additionally he is doing some slow, gentle stretching exercises that have been helpful, & he also got a TENS unit to wear when walking around. All this is pain management, & surgery is not really an option, at least for now. We’ve talked with several people who’ve had wonderful results from laser micro surgery that just shaves off the bulging part of a disc. We’ll just have to see how he gets along, or not.


I’m also glad we were able to quickly return to my hometown to help my parents after my dad fell really bad on his left knee. He could barely move around even using a walker. Thankfully, he’s a pretty tough (91 year) old bird tho & has really healed quickly.


We’ve been enjoying spending most of our time around Branson tho since it feels amazingly like home now. We’re particularly fond of stopping by Andy’s Frozen Custard — me for a chocolate malt & Jeff for various different ice cream dishes. Anyone besides me remember the days of putting nutmeg in a fountain malt at the local drug store? I carry some in our glove compartment all the time. In another lifetime when I actually used to cook {gasp}, I made homemade ice cream with a cooked egg [basically, a custard] base. That’s exactly what frozen custard ice cream is. . .& finding it sort of ruins any other kind for us.

We finally made a trip out of the area to WI to visit some of Jeff’s family that will be covered in my next post. Then in October, we’re going to visit his mom in VI. As soon as we get all our VA appointments done by sometime in November, we’ll be heading to the southwest. Funny how this hot, humid weather has me missing winter in the Sonoran Desert.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Campground Etiquette

Location: Branson, United States
We spent 3 weeks in two campgrounds in AR & have happily returned to Compton Ridge in Branson.  For the past three years, we've worked at campgrounds during the summer,  so this was our first time just 'camping' over 4th of July. And since it was on a Friday this year, it was a big holiday weekend for families & groups.

Well, the quiet, peaceful campground under the trees along a beautiful flowing creek turned into a fiasco.  Lots of family gatherings, including tents for sleeping & eating everywhere, clothes lines strung between trees for wet swim wear & towels, & lots of extra cars from guests. Kids were running all over the place playing (& touching our satellite dish), & a few dogs were running loose. I believe people were also burning trash & dirty paper plates with leftover food in their camp fires from the icky smell of a few. The most annoying part of the holiday were the people (both adults & children) walking from the creek to their campsites on the other side of us - right thru our site. One woman & her kid could have touched our trailer she was so close. And Jeff was sitting outside right on front of her. If these people would have at least LOOKED at us, & even said "Hi, how ya doing", or some acknowledgement they knew they were intruding, it wouldn't have been quite so irritating.  They ALL just ignored us like we weren't there watching them!

And then there was the half - grown stray female pup no one could catch. After a week & a half of hanging around us & Kira (she walked with us too), I finally caught her & took her to the office - but she returned the next morning!  Seems the guy taking her to the local shelter opened BOTH doors on his pickup & she just bounced out the other door & ran. He needs a sign for that stunt! Someone finally caught the poor thing just before we left.

So. . .I'm wondering about the intelligence of some of these campers, out in nature unsupervised without a clue. Were they just ignorant of camp etiquette or so arrogant as to not care if they were offensive? It sure was a pretty sight tho to see the tents fold & the RVs pulling out. If we'd had any incling we'd feel like we were parked in the middle of a carnival, we'd have left before it started.

I read a great article the other day tho about the pros & a few cons of living fulltime in an RV here . Made lots of sense, & even after the weekend was a zoo, we wouldn't change a thing about this lifestyle.
The hot spot on Kira's tail looks much better but is still swollen. She sure hates that shaved butt tho. She holds her tail to one side & walks with her backhalf twisted to the side. Poor baby.

I've FINALLY figured out how to do some serious exercising in the comfort & privacy of my little trailer. I dug out the elastic bands I used to work with for strength training & modified the routines to fit my small space. I can even do most of them in the bathroom. It takes surprisingly little room to work up a sweat & breath heavy (alone).

We're waiting for a call for Jeff to start physical therapy for his back pain. Oh, and it's STILL hot & humid, with loud thunderstorms occasionally. Welcome to July in the heartland. Wish we were doing something more exciting than having banana Belgium waffles at IHOP (yum), but this being retired isn't so bad.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hot in Arkansas

Location: Mountain View, United States

We've been checking out a couple of Arkansas Coast to Coast campgrounds during Jeff ' s VA visit in Little Rock.  First we stayed a week at Golden Pond near Shirley,  AR, which is an hour & a half from the VA. Then we moved northeast an hour to Anglers campground for 2 weeks to get beyond 4th of July before returning to Branson.

This is a shaded campground along a small (for now) tributary to the White River - the river starting east of Fayetteville, wiggling up thru MO before returning to AR, with four dams to control the significant amount of water flowing off these Ozark Mountains.

It’s been fairly peaceful until this holiday weekend.  OMG, this place is packed with RVs, tents for sleeping & gathering, & lots of cars. At least a little cool spell has helped with outside comfort, 'cause early last week was miserably hot & HUMID!

In fact, fuzzy-wuzzy Kira even asked to come inside to the A/C two days in a row. Apparently it wasn't soon enough tho as Thursday we noticed a quickly worsening spot on the top of her tail which turned out to be her first-ever HOT SPOT that required a quick trip to a local vet. He had to shave hair off her hips & legs to check for any other areas, but we caught it soon enough to not spread anywhere else. Boy, she sure misses her hair back there. In fact I've been calling her "possum butt". She's getting along fine other than the missing hair.

I've always typed my blog posts on my laptop using Live Writer,  but suddenly the 'e, t, i, o, & u" keys have stopped working. GEEZ, I didn't realize how often those letters are used in words. I discovered a virtual keyboard on screen to use my cursor to fill in words,  but that was a hassle.  So. . .I'm experimenting with an Android app called Blogaway to compose a post off-line. . .using one-finger typing. Not really all that horrible actually for this touch typist. It won’t publish tho with even the smallest photos included tho. So I've inserted a couple of fon photos I Blogger but can't pick where the display.

The wi-fi here is pretty good most of the time, so I had an idea of using my old Motorola Droid fon with the broken screen as a remote backup camera to hitch up the trailer or back in to a tight campsite. I tried one application but the fons wouldn't stay connected via Bluetooth,  so I tried another app. Remote Camera (free, of course) works pretty well. Now I need to figure out a way to secure it when in use. Fun times!

We're occasionally asked if we miss anything about living in a regular house, & occasionally I do miss having an oven. So I've been researching recipes for using a Crockpot.  Lots more options than I expected.  Found one to make biscuits,  & one for banana nut bread I want to try. We have a toaster oven back in our storage unit, but it's rather bulky to haul around, so we'll see how the crockpot works out. Lots of things can be 'baked' in a microwave too. Hmmm, now I'm getting hungry.

We've explored the area a little,  eating fried catfish at a neat restaurant right beside the White River, & frequented Walmart often. Also got some fresh tomatoes,  peaches, & a canalope from a local stand. Haven't found anywhere for ice cream except McDonald's tho.

We still haven't gotten much done to help Jeff's back pain except meds, so guess we'll be in the heat & humidity most of the summer - instead of Colorado or some place cool & dry.

Maybe I'll post even the boring portions of our small, mobile lifestyle more now with this app. Afterall, my cell fon is never out of reach!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

This & That – in Missouri

I haven’t posted anything new to this blog (initially created to document of our travels) in nearly two months simply because we haven’t been anywhere special or done any sight seeing since getting back to southwestern Missouri in early April. After enjoying a comfortable winter in the Southwest desert, we sure loved getting back to lush, green grass & trees, a plethora of Spring-blooming plants, & clean, fresh blue-water lakes. There IS the humidity & tornado risks tho! The sense of coming home was surprisingly intense. In fact, we actually started thinking about trying to find a little parcel of land where we could create a landing dock just so we had somewhere to hang out between our travels without living in someone’s driveway or paying for a campground site. Free BLM camping has us spoiled, but there’s not many options for boondocking or free camping in Missouri. And the few free campgrounds in AR & KS aren’t really doable when the summer heat & humidity soars. Electricity is a necessity if we want to be able to sleep. I get grumpy when the air is thick enough to wear!


Anyway, we have some health issues to address this summer, & friends & family to get caught up with. We first landed at Cape Fair Corps of Engineer campground, west of Branson MO, to park right along a little cove of Table Rock Lake for five nights. Jeff could throw a couple of lines in the water right from the bank next to our campsite. AND, he even caught a 2# bass. Then he saw his Primary Care doctor at the Branson VA to start figuring out what’s going on with his back pain that has become severe over the winter. I also had to visit a chiropractor — twice actually. It seems that the fall on my left knee Christmas afternoon when Kira’s leash wrapped around my right ankle really jammed something in my low back & right hip causing sharp hip, leg, & knee pains. We were a pretty sad couple gimping around with only two good legs between the two of us.


Back when we had a S&B house, we had a Sleep Number bed that we loved. I know some people definitely don’t like them, but have no idea what their issues are with the bed. When we first got the trailer, we slept on a queen-sized air mattress, without any cushions underneath. After about two years tho, during our return trip from Arizona, the air mattress sprang a leak while camped in Santa Fe NM, & thankfully we only had two nights of difficult sleeping. We used the cushions ever since then. Considering the back/hip problems Jeff & I were both having now tho, we got a couple of 26” Coleman Slender air mattresses, placed on top of the Casita cushions this time, & all stuffed inside a couple of sleeping bags (gotta protect the mattresses from any possible contact with cat claws.) I’m thrilled to report the air mattresses have worked out fantastic & made for very comfortable sleeping (& simply sitting or reclining) on the bed even with our back problems.

Headed north, we stopped in Springfield for a few days to visit a friend & get our pickup serviced. Then we finally made it back to my hometown to see my elderly parents. Even tho I talk with them daily, the long, frigid winter seems to have taken a toll on both of them, creating more aches & pains & causing less energy & alertness. They’re both pretty tough though, so they just keep hanging in there.

Next we landed in Kansas City at another friend’s driveway & caught up with Jeff’s daughter & family. Grandson JT is nearly six, but his first school year has been marred by a 10-year old bully on the school bus. Consequently, he has been taking MMA & martial arts classes, & WILL be able to defend himself soon. We visited one of his classes, & each of those little kids made multiple movements during the class that hurt Jeff & I both just watching.


While in the area, we also returned to our previous veterinarian to get Kira’s 3-year rabies shot renewed & a heart worm test. I also visited my previous chiropractor to find out my Christmas-day fall had actually jammed my sacroiliac! I thought that was just something in old-folks jokes. It really does exist. The spine has the sacro bumping out to connect the pelvic bone with it’s iliac bump. . .and it’s supposed to BEND. Since mine wasn’t moving correctly, I’ve  pulled or strained various muscles & ligaments leading down to my leg during my various walks & hikes around the desert this winter. Being a soft tissue injury, it’s going to take some weeks (or maybe months) to be able to walk (or simply move my right leg) again without pain. BUT. . .finding out what exactly happened from that fall is definitely progress. And then I put a heel pad in my left shoe ‘cause my left leg seems to be shorter than my right leg. Weird!! Now I have no excuse for not exercising, or at least walking more.

We also had a chance to spend a couple of hours visiting Cathy & Paul of It’s a Smallwood blog. We met them in 2013 at the fiberglass gathering in Quartzsite, but elderly parents have kept them in the KC area all winter with their Casita tucked safety in one of KC’s caves. Great idea. . .& an option I was wishing for during one tornado-threatening afternoon.

We headed south again & spent a week at a small campground near my hometown so I could visit with my parents every day. My cousin brought them some fresh morel mushrooms that were SOOOOO good. We also visited with a few of my high school friends while in the area.


We had a week before Jeff was scheduled for a CT scan at the VA in Fayetteville AR for his back but weren’t real sure where we were going until that appointment. The morning we were heading south tho, serendipity stepped in with a phone call from Compton Ridge Campground in Branson (where we had worked two summers ago).  The new owners are offering a free 4-day, 3-night visit to check out the changes, & since we loved that campground anyway, it seemed to be just what we needed.

Now with most free things, there’s a catch (like camping free on BLM land means no facilities or services & lots of sand/dust). The catch with this campground was sitting through a presentation for Coast to Coast campground membership. Well, it turned out to actually be something we were needing without realizing it. We had talked about going to OR & WA this summer, maybe even getting to New England for Fall. BUT, as with most plans, we were going to be in the Branson area for awhile getting Jeff’s back issues figured out. And, I just don’t want to get that far away from my parents for too long. We’d already decided not to work anywhere this summer so we can travel when & where we want/need instead of being committed to staying in one place. Although the Coast to Coast membership is pricier than we’d usually consider, we like that we can camp free with full hook-ups for 21 days at Coast to Coast campgrounds, then either pay for the next seven days at the same campground or move somewhere else for a week (or 3). There are Coast to Coast campgrounds scattered across the US where we will be able to camp for free to relax & recover from whatever traveling & sight seeing we’ve been doing. Without working at a campground or driveway docking, this membership will pay for itself in a couple of years. Plus, when we compared the cost of buying a small plot of land, erecting or maintaining any kind of structure, yard maintenance, taxes, & insurance while being gone more months in a year than present, it seemed easier & overall cheaper to just go with a campground membership & enjoy someone else doing all the work & paying the bills while we have a comfortable, safe place to park all around the country (instead of only ONE spot if we bought some land).

We managed to make a solar lamp post to hold hummingbird feeders, flag, & a sign we got in Branson.


For Jeff’s VA appointment, we camped for two nights at War Eagle COE campground, east of Fayetteville, & then returned to Compton Ridge to start our 21-day stay. When we worked here before, there wasn’t any way to get a satellite signal thru all the trees in the loop where we were parked, but this time we discovered a campsite in a different loop with enough southern clearance for a good signal. Yeah, FHU, satellite TV, free wifi, & 4G cell signal along a fairly level stretch of pavement.

Unfortunately, my beloved Motorola Droid cell phone fell out of my pocket onto a cement floor there & THE SCREEN CRACKED – a lot more than the previous fall onto the only rock in the sand had caused. Although it technically still worked, when I ignored the many spider cracks on the screen, the touch sensor just wasn’t working very well. I had to push really hard & even then it took forever for the screen to change. Crap!! I hate changing phones (or computers), but the sluggishness was intolerable. After a check at a Verizon store, I walked away giddy with my new Samsung Galaxy S5 cell fon. Oh — the ecstasy of new, fast electronic gear!!

Another visit to Fayetteville for an MRI, then a trip to Little Rock VA, & we’ve been in AR for several weeks now. . .in the heat & humidity with the A/C humming. Until last Monday morning at 5am. Thump, thump, thump, the spindle on the squirrel cage broke. Three L O N G afternoons in the heat waiting for a replacement part sucked. But Jeff got it replaced before I melted.

So, our summer plans are mainly just hanging around for health reasons. . .& I can see my parents more frequently. If anyone wants a free weekend of FHU for 4 days & 3 nights at Compton Ridge Campground in Branson, let me know. I think they’re giving $50 also for sitting thru their presentation.