Thursday, March 30, 2017

Watsonville, CA

We’re having a wonderful time on the California coast, visiting Don’s sis-in-law and family. Susan retired from being an RN at a nearby hospital, and became Nanny for her two granddaughters, Carolina (4) and Olivia (11 months).

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Both girls are full of energy and laughs. I don’t know how Susan keeps up with them, as we’re about the same age and I got tired after only a few hours!

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Their Mom Lisa manages well, too.

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Gigi and Brandy are getting along well, and Gig likes being in the back yard and off leash. She’s been very good around the little girls, too – we didn’t know how she would act because we’ve never had her around children before.

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Yesterday, Don and I baby-sat the girls while Susan took a neighbor to the doctor. They love their Uncle Don!

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And they also like sitting in my lap, sharing one of their many books, and playing games together.

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Later, Don and I drove to San Jose airport to pick up Susan’s daughter (and Lisa’s sis) Laura, who flew out from her home in Massachusetts.

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Late afternoon, Susan’s sister Jane and her daughter Katy came from San Jose for a visit.

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Lisa’s husband Sergio joined us later and we ordered a huge Chinese dinner delivery. We’ll be snacking on the leftovers for days!

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What a great family, huh?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blogging Catch Up

Now that Don and I are traveling again – Hurray! – I plan to publish more frequent posts to my blog. It’s hard to actually catch up, despite the title of this post, as so much time has passed. But here are some recent highlights.

Getting ready for our return to life on the road started quite a while ago. When Don finally started feeling better sometime in January, his excitement for traveling again fueled a level of energy I hadn’t seen for a long time. He created his own “Honey Do” list and, one by one, marked off each task. (I helped with a few of them.)

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We put Carrie (the Honda CR-V) to sleep for several (maybe 6-7) months and changed the insurance to storage status.

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We arrived at the Pima County Fairgrounds a couple of days early, and got a site fairly close to the buildings where meetings and activities were to be held. Hard to see in this picture, but our truck is perpendicular to our motorhome behind it (with the patterned windshield cover). Meeting rooms are to the left and behind me.

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Don had fun shopping with Jan and Bill in the marketplace!

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One of the best parts of Escapade is reconnecting with friends. ZoAnn Macon and Donna Swanson are both great friends with us and each other.

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Zoe’s hubby John Macon is equally huggable. (We stood up for Zoe and John when they got married, so it’s always fun to see them enjoying life with enthusiasm!) And Donna has been a great friend of both mine and Don’s for many years.

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Happy hours were held every day all around the fairgrounds, with more than 2,000 attendees.

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We enjoyed dinner at Mama Louisa’s Italian Restaurant (on Houghton) with long-time friends who have been active in the Escapees RV Club for many years and are responsible for many of the club traditions that we still follow. Seated: Jan Tenpenny, Beth Roberts, Wayne Roberts, with Joe Tenpenny standing with me and Don.

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Anyone would be happy to receive this beautiful quilt, with many Escapade banners from previous rallies. Wayne Roberts held out one end of the quilt…

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…while Molly Pinner, Beth Roberts and Brenda Neil held the other end.

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Gloria & Frank King handled the CARE booth along with Judy LaCorte and her hubby (not pictured), also named Frank.

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And Bill Mains modeled a very stylish hat in the Lost & Found stash.

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The final event of the rally was a dance party and celebration of Kay Peterson’s 90th birthday. This wonderful woman is co-founder of the Escapees RV Club, along with her late husband Joe Peterson. She has published several books, and has inspired so many RVers to live a fun-filled and rewarding life on the road. Happy Birthday, Miss Kay!

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It’s great to see the younger generation picking up the reins to lead the organization. Travis and Melanie Carr, shown here with their sons Gabriel and Decklin, are focusing the direction of the company towards young traveling families, much as Travis’s grandparents, Kay and Joe, did when they started the club.

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You might also be interested in reading Jan Mains' most recent blog post about Escapade, as she included a few pictures of us and more of the activities of the week.

Tonight we are in Needles, CA at the Elks Lodge. (Finally out of Arizona after 2 years!) Our trip today covered 373 miles, so we were a little tired when arriving, and it’s warmer here than we are used to. But we have a pretty view of the valley and distant mountains, and there was a very nice sunset tonight.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Delightful Evening

We had a wonderful visit with Jim and Nancy Tidball this evening. What a treat to be able to visit without the distractions of an RV rally or other gathering of lots of folks. And I think Gigi has made more long-term friends of both.

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She charmed both Jim and Nancy, and went for a ride in the golf cart with me and Nancy.

Earlier, we enjoyed the last part of a sunny day on our patio while catching up with each others’ travels.

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Don grilled salmon and steamed asparagus, I made crash hot potatoes and Nancy made a yummy salad. Our conversations went on for several hours, and we made tentative plans to meet up sometime on the road again.

It’s so great to be reconnecting with our traveling friends!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

More From Casa Grande

Don and I have been pretty busy for the past 2 days in Casa Grande while the weather was warm and sunny. Tomorrow we’re expecting rain and I hope it moves through the area and clears by the time we leave Monday morning.

As happens with many couples we know, Don and I have different ways of shopping. He usually goes to Walmart or Safeway, only 3-4 miles from our place in Benson, begins shopping at the farthest point in the store for which we have an item on our list, and works his way toward the front of the store to check out. When I go by myself, I wander and look at things I might someday want, or to see if there’s any new yarn I like, or pick up things in the grocery section of WM along my way to the back of the store. Sometimes I even return to an aisle I’ve been through because I forgot something I wanted there.

He surprised me yesterday. He drove about 30 miles north to the Phoenix outlet mall (located in Chandler), then we went to several stores shopping for the kind of quick-dry pullover shirts and cargo shorts he like to wear. This time he was buying them a few sizes smaller. We had lunch at the food court in the mall and continued shopping. We finally returned to the truck about 3 pm and only one of the many shopping bags we toted contained something I bought for myself. And today, we went to 3 more stores in Casa Grande!

If you haven’t seen Don lately, here are before/after pictures showing how dramatic his weight loss has been.

Before – chatting with his brother Jim in the Boston area October 2014.

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After – about a month ago in our ‘casita’ with Gigi.

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And here we are tonight at the Hong Kong Kitchen, with the Mains (Jan & Bill) and the Kelpes (Jan & Paul).

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Besides clothes, shoes and other things, Don found one of his favorite treats is now available in a sugar-free version!

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And we stopped by Jan & Bill’s long enough to drop off a couple of things for them, as well as see the new light fixtures she bought for their house. They will replace the one you see behind her at the entry, as well as on both sides of the garage.

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It’s been a nice chance to do some serious shopping in a bigger town than Benson, and we’re winding down on our buying, but we still need to pick up a couple more things before we leave the area. Our trip to Lake Havasu City will start early Monday morning, with plans to meet other friends for lunch at the Blue Water Casino in Parker, AZ. Stay tuned for more adventures, and follow Jan’s blog as well.

Friday, February 10, 2017

On the Road Again!

Yes, Don got to sing his version of our favorite Willie Nelson song yesterday!

We’re so happy that his health has improved to the point that we’re able to get back to our favorite lifestyle – RV travel. Here’s a sight we haven’t seen for awhile, Picacho Peak. Click the link to learn about the Civil War battle fought here and re-enacted every year in March. Don climbed this peak before we met, so it’s a familiar place that brings back good memories for him, and we together visited the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch at the base of the mountain several years ago, giving us shared memories.

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Yesterday our departure from our lot in Cochise Terrace Resort was delayed by about 1.5 hours because of a problem we didn’t see coming. We were both worried that we might have problems with the jacks or the slides or the satellite dish, all of which needed to be stowed for travel. Even things inside the coach can shift and cause rattles or breakage, and it’s hard to remember what all needs to be put away when we’ve been stationary for so long. The motorhome was parked in the same position since Feb 29, 2016 – a year minus 20 days. Everything worked fine and we were ready to roll about 9 a.m.

Don went outside to move the Honda CR-V “Carrie” and the battery was dead. And guess where it was parked – right in front of the motorhome. Our battery-powered emergency start device was also dead. And we couldn’t find our jumper cables. Neighbors on both sides of us were gone. Finally Don found a neighbor several sites away who was home and had jumper cables to loan us. We started the car, jumped from the new batteries we just bought for the golf cart, and we were at last ready to depart. Thankfully, there were no other problems and we on our way!

After stopping for service at Speedco along the way, we arrived at Sundance RV Resort around 3 pm. Jan & Bill Mains had invited us for dinner at their beautiful home and we agreed to pick up another couple, Jan & Paul Kelpe. I remembered them from the Montana Owners Club (MOC) that I was active with when I owned a Montana 5th wheel. They have been here for a few weeks in their beautiful Montana Big Sky 5th wheel.

The dinner was delicious (Jan can no longer claim she can’t cook), and conversation and hugs abounded. Before we knew it we needed to call it a night so we could go home and feed and walk Gigi. I didn’t get any pictures but Jan sent the ones she took. However, our wifi signal is so weak I couldn’t down load them. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Taking a Turn for the Good

My last blog post was almost 5 months ago. During that time I’ve thought about writing but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s always my intent when writing for a wide audience (not just close friends and family) to put a positive spin on the piece. Whenever I sat in front of my computer and started to write, I found it impossible to be positive and truthful at the same time.

As many of you know, Don’s health struggles have been quite challenging for us both, with associated depression, to say nothing of not being able to live the RV traveling lifestyle that gave us such joy in the past. In spite of my optimism in August when I last published, Don has suffered with recurring if not constant, severe belly pain that remains undiagnosed. He has also been hospitalized for congestive heart failure and fluid retention, both of which put stress on his kidneys.

Fortunately, his kidney function remains below the level of requiring dialysis, and we are continually grateful for that positive turn in his health picture. He is now on a weekly regimen of lab tests to monitor his health. And we have re-furnished the shed to change it from a home dialysis lab into a home theater with a new electric loveseat recliner that we love! Gigi likes it too.

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So, it’s with a cautiously positive outlook that I can now report that he took an almost dramatic turn toward better health almost 2 weeks ago. After several more doctor visits and a few more trips to ERs and hospitals in both Benson and Tucson during the past few months, Don can finally say he’s having less pain (to a tolerable level, still using powerful pain meds) and enjoying more good days than bad ones! We are optimistic about being able to start traveling again after a few more doctor appointments.

Don’s total weight loss since May 2015 now stands at 110 lbs, some of it due to removal of excess fluid with proper kidney function (and diuretics), some due to loss of appetite, and some due to loss of muscle while so fatigued that he was almost bedridden. My weight loss during the same period has been 31 lbs. Don commented that mine was harder to lose, but he doesn’t recommend his diet. I still have to lose more to reach a healthy BMI, but I’m doing it slowly and sometimes I regain then re-lose before achieving an actual loss. Don’s working with rehab techs to rebuild muscle and regain flexibility. Our rescue dog Gigi keeps us both walking around the neighborhood several times a day, and she loves constant attention.

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In the meantime, it was wonderful to spend time in October and November with our good friends and newest neighbors in Cochise Terrace RV Resort, Gloria & Frank King.

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They bought a beautiful lot just a short walk away, with a shady patio area and nice shed.

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It was such a treat to spend time with them and to share my 70th birthday on an outing to the Tucson Celtic Festival. And we got to know Gloria’s brother and sister-in-law Gary & Jan Pool during their visit, first at the Kings’ site…

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…then at our place. (Notice whose lap Gigi prefers?)

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Besides the many calls, emails and text messages asking about Don, several family and friends have been concerned about my health. I recently was diagnosed with bursitis in both hips and received a cortisone shot in each, which helped immensely. I’m also seeing a neurosurgeon about my back pain and have received one steroid injection in the L4-L5 left region. Both these procedures have made walking much easier for me, with less numbness in my feet and almost no pain in my hips and back. The ability to walk without pain and minimal numbness has been a big factor in my somewhat successful weight loss efforts.

During the past year we have remained optimistic about being able to travel again. Our expectations were pitched a little high, and consequently we’ve had to cancel several plans, in some cases losing deposits or full payments. Don finally resigned his position as President of the Escapees RV Club Chapter 21, our local Arizona chapter, and left it in the hands of the very capable Stu Dutcher, VP, with whom he served for the past few years.

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Don also gave heartfelt thanks to Ann Meilicke and Betty Dawson, who served as Treasurer and Secretary, respectively, during his presidency.

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We enjoyed sharing Thanksgiving 2016 with our good friends Jan & Bill Mains, who came from Casa Grande for a few days, after a little verbal ‘arm twisting’ on my part.

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Don’s smoked turkey was delicious and we had lots of yummy side dishes to go with it, as well as weather warm enough to dine outside.

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More good friends have visited during the past several months, including Sandy & Ed Kruty, Brenda & Dave Neil, Judy & Luke Rinehimer, Nancy & Geoff Justiss, Marty & Peggy McCauley, Dennis & Carol Hill, and Jane & Russ Darrow. Plus, we have appreciated our Cochise Terrace neighbors who have been ready and willing to help whenever needed. Below are a few pictures – sorry I didn’t take pics of all our visitors.

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Unfortunately we had to bid farewell to our good friend Ken Watson when he passed away in late October. It was bittersweet to share our grief with his widow Maryanne, but we hope to again share good times with her during our future RV travels. And we will never forget the man who built our custom desk, helped with our shed remodel, and played a beautiful guitar with encouragement for me to sing some of our favorite songs. Memories of our many fun times together in locations across the U.S. with Ken & Maryanne are rich and everlasting.

Ken’s death reminds us that we need to make the most of every day that we have. To paraphrase a famous quote, “Yesterday is gone, Today’s almost over, and Tomorrow is not promised.”

Given that, Don and I both want to let our family and friends know how much you all mean to us, and we send our love. We hope to visit more of you soon, as we are starting to make travel plans for the next 2 years.