Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Looks Good

The economy may be bad, but 2009 is looking good, as far as we are concerned. We have arranged two volunteer positions, one here in Colorado and one in Montana. We are excited about both of them.

From May 1 through July 15 we will be doing maintenance and operating the camp store at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, Colorado. We decided to spend time in Colorado this summer. Since we began spending long periods in our Montana trailer, we have seldom camped in Colorado. We wanted to enjoy our home state. Lathrop is a park we have stayed in often, especially early and late when we are leaving Colorado or returning home. We love it, and in addition it is near the area where my great grandparents homesteaded and we can do some genealogy research when we are off duty.

When we leave Lathrop we will go to Montana. We had posted our resume on the Workamper Awesome Applicants site and Saturday received a call from one of the owners of 7th Ranch RV Camp in Garryowen, asking if we could come work for them. We agreed on a time and responsibilities and will work there from July 20 till about October 15. The RV park is near the Big Horn Battlefield National Park—where Custer made his last stand. Last summer we volunteered in ranch and farm country in eastern Oregon. We enjoyed that location and think we will enjoy exploring southeastern Montana.

In addition to all this good news, we have decided to rent our house and RV fulltime for at least a year or two. Our son will manage the rental, but we have to arrange to box and store everything we want to keep. We have lived in this house for 16 and one-half years and filled every nook and cranny. Sorting, deciding what to give away and what to sell and what to store, is keeping us very busy. We hope to rent the house beginning February 1 and we have to keep on task to be ready, should we find someone to lease it beginning then.

We arrived back at the house November 4 and we are already getting hitch itch. We can't wait to get on the road again and we are excited to be able to do that full-time.

On another note, on Christmas Eve in the afternoon I looked out the back window at our patio and found this hawk sitting on our fence. We live in the middle of a suburban housing development, certainly not in the country. We have seen hawks in the sky and on light posts, but never in our yard. What a treat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa's Helpers

This week we were among Santa's helpers at one of the Salvation Army Christmas food and toy distribution centers in the Denver area. The New Heights Church is a Salvation Army facility not far from our house. We had gone on-line to find some place to volunteer over the Christmas season. We were routed to Volunteer Match and found this opportunity. We signed up to work from 8 am to 1 pm.

After things got organized, I was assigned to work with bags of Christmas gifts. That means I joined about 15-20 other women who gathered in an upper room filled with black trash bags full of gifts. Earlier in the week other volunteers had wrapped gifts collected through giving trees and put them in bags for each family. Some families received on bag, some two. You can see that some of the bags were quite large, and let me tell you, they were sometimes heavy, too. And often very awkward to pick up.

Downstairs, families lined up--20 families were assigned arrival times every 10 minutes. One worker would check with the family to find out their name, locate that name on a list, and radio a worker in the gift area with the family's number. She would call out the number and one of us would go find the bag or bags for that family. When we started, there were bags for 300 families arranged in order in this room.

We walked down three flights of stairs, then stood in line while the proper family showed their ID and signed for their food and gifts. Then we followed the individual or group that had come to pick up the Christmas gifts as they showed us to their cars. Many families were given two food boxes to help them over the holiday week. It was cold in Denver this week and all of us were bundled up for the trips outdoors. When we wished each family "Merry Christmas", we were given heartfelt "thank you"s.

Here is John, carrying only one box of food this time.

Many of the families had children who wanted bikes for Christmas. This is the supply of bikes before we started working.

Western Union allows its employees to spend one working day a year doing some sort of volunteer service. This group of voluteers all came from a local Western Union office.

I always wear a pedometer, making sure I walk at least 10,000 steps (5 miles) almost every day of the week. It helps me keep my weight under control. I walked 13,000 steps this day--most of it up and down stairs. I was glad for the exercise, but even more for the opportunity to help others have a better Christmas. We are so blessed by God in our lives and we want to help spread His blessings to others.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Train

One weekend each December the Colorado Railroad Museum welcomes Mr. and Mrs. Claus and gives children (and their parents and grandparents, of course) rides on a steam train. Sometimes the weather is very cold--we are in Colorado, after all, and it will soon be winter. As we have done for several years, on Saturday we met our son and daughter-in-law and their children at the museum. After we spent some time watching the trains in the garden railroad, we lined up to ride the steam train.

Here I am with our oldest granddaughter, Kylie, and our daughter-in-law, Liz.

After taking our picture, the conductor turned the camera toward John, grandson John and our son, Eric.

Our next stop was the hot dog stand. We ate lunch about 10:30 in the morning. Then we spent some time watching the HO model railroad in the basement of the museum. Kylie always wants to go look at that layout. There are so many details to take in. They have a machine where you can put in a quarter and the train runs for a few minutes. None of could find a quarter in our pockets or purses. But we were delighted to find that one of the members of the railroad club was there, operating the trains. It was so fun to watch them.

After checking out some of the full-size trains at the museum, we joined the line to talk to Santa. Grandson John first said he didn't want to talk to Santa, since he had seen him the night before at a party. But when we reached the caboose where Santa was talking to children, he was eager to tell Santa about the dinosaurs he wanted for Christmas. Kylie also told the Man in Red what she wanted--but I couldn't hear what she said.

We all gathered on the cow catcher of a steam train for a family portrait. No snow in sight, it was a beautiful day to spend time together outside.

John is three and Kylie is nine years old. He is always following her and trying to do the same things she does. He isn't tall enough to make this move, however.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Two Grandchildren Come to Visit

Friday night Kylie and John II came to spend the night with their Nana and Papa. We all had such a great time! While I got dinner on the table, John I and the two children played with the garden train that runs around our Christmas tree.

After dinner John and grandson John read Thomas the Tank books.

Then they started wrestling in the chair. In a few minutes, John II said, “Come on Papa, let’s wrestle on the floor.” The whole point is for one person to pin the other, then the one on the bottom has to say “uncle” to get free. But first I would hear “brother,” “sister,” or “dad” before the loser finally said “uncle.” John II is always saying, “I’m a son of a gun.” The response from John I is, “and I’m the father of the gun.”

While all this noise was going on, Kylie and I went to the basement to my sewing room. Two weeks ago we took Kylie to Joann’s Fabrics to pick out the material for a pair of pajamas. We bought an easy-to-sew pattern, then Kylie selected the fabric—pink with pictures of Tweetie Pie. The plan was for me to teach her how to sew on the sewing machine and she would make a pair of pajama bottoms. Then I agreed to make the top. The sleeves on the top are a contrasting color and she chose blue fabric with pictures of Winnie the Poo. That day we came home and she pinned the pattern on the fabric and cut out the pieces.

Kylie learned so fast how to sew on the machine! I was really impressed. Within about 1½ hours the bottoms were put together, the waist casing sewn and the elastic inserted. She started to sew on the lace that adorns the hem when the machine stopped working. After watching me try to fix it for maybe 10 minutes, she asked if she could go upstairs. I sent her up to join the wrestling while I kept working on the repair.

Saturday morning I finally got the machine working again and before her mother came at 10 am to pick the children, Kylie had finished the PJs and was able to model them for us.

John and I have two sons. So I have not been able, until now, to pass on my love of sewing. I am so glad Kylie wanted to learn how. She was so excited about what she learned this weekend. We will definitely make something else in the future.

The time we have with our children and grandchildren is the most positive part of the time we spend in Colorado. We also get to touch base with friends that we don’t see during the months we spend traveling.

This week we also received a call from our older son, a master sergeant in the Marines. He told us he has put in his paperwork to retire next year. Boy does that make us feel old!
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Friday, November 28, 2008


What a great Thanksgiving we had! In the morning we helped prepare meals for residents of subsidized housing throughout the Denver area. Several weeks ago we searched online for "Thanksgiving volunteers" and found a program that needed help cooking from 9 to 12, so we signed up.

When we arrived at the Polish Club in west Denver, we found probably 25 volunteers there already, some busy stirring in pots in the kitchen. Others were opening cans of fruit and green beans and pouring them into large aluminum pans. By 9 am 50-75 more people had arrived. Joe and Barb have been coordinating this Thanksgiving dinner for eight years in memory of Barb's dad. Local housing authorities give them the names of residents who would appreciate a hot meal for their family on Thanksgiving. This year the plan was to deliver meals to 3500 people.

We were assigned to one of three serving lanes. I poured gravy over turkey (1200 pounds had been cooked on Tuesday), mashed potatoes and stuffing. John dished out fruit. Other volunteers carried two take-out boxes from server to server. This went on for nearly three hours, until all 3500 boxes were filled with Thanksgiving dinner. As each box was filled, another volunteer covered the fruit and beans with plastic wrap so the gravy didn't run into those sections of the box. Then the box and a cookie were tied in a plastic bag and stacked for the drivers, who arrived at 11 am. When we left at 12 almost all the meals were on their way to hungry people and the clean-up crew was hard at work.

Volunteers ranged in age from pre-teens to senior citizens, with a large number of 20- and 30-somethings. The project is a family tradition for a number of the volunteers. This is only one of many Thanksgiving feeding programs in our community this year, one of thousands or tens of thousands across the country. Especially in tough times like we are facing right now in the US, it is encouraging to see so many people giving part of their holiday to share with others.

When our volunteer work was done, we went home to rest for a short while, and then we joined our family for turkey. Each year our son, Eric, and his wife, Liz, host the family Thanksgiving dinner. This year four of Liz's six brothers and sisters were there with their families—many of the children are in college or beyond. Liz's dad and wife were there as well. I think our group numbered over 30. We ate our fill and caught up on each other's lives since last Thanksgiving. What a blessing to be surrounded by family.

Today we will cook our own turkey—how else can we have leftovers?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Planning for Next Summer

We're looking for volunteer assignments for next year. Since we have decided it would be nice to spend more time in Colorado for a change, we have applied to the Colorado State Parks. On our way north from Arizona and New Mexico we talked with the volunteer coordinator at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg. It is our favorite park on the Front Range and they have two slots for maintenance volunteers, as well as campground host positions. We aren't interested in serving as campground hosts, but we do enjoy maintenance. One of the slots includes staffing the Camp Store at Lathrop, as well as doing maintenance. We think we have a good chance of getting that position from May through mid-July. We certainly hope so.

We also applied on-line for three other state park positions and this week Barr Lake State Park, located on the northeast edge of the Denver Metro area, called. It is a day use park with a hike/bike trail, wildlife reserve, nature center and fishing. We had never been to the park, but said we would like to come. Since we couldn't arrive till mid-July, they have to see if someone can cover the early part of the summer. Yesterday we drove to Barr Lake and fell in love with it. We watched two large flocks of Canadian Geese land on the lake and saw hundreds of other birds. Beyond the birds, it is very quite. We would really enjoy being there and hope it works out.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In the morning we will volunteer as cooks for a charity serving holiday meals to residents of low-income housing. When we finish at noon we will come home, clean up, and go to our son Eric's house for Thanksgiving dinner with him, his wife and her large family and our two grandchildren that live here. It will be a full day, and we will be continually reminded of all we have to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life is Different Here

We've been back at the house for just over two weeks. Life is certainly different here.

We go to the Goodson Recreation Center to do our workouts and to run on the track. We lived most of the seven plus months we were on the road at low altitudes—sea level to maybe 2000 feet. About a month before we came back to the house we started taking iron supplements which allow our blood to carry more oxygen. Each time we go up 1000 feet or more, I have a tough time the first run or two. So I expected to have trouble when we ran the first time at the gym. I was delighted when I ran the entire three miles without having to slow down to a walk. It probably helped that we had run once while we were at Chatfield. That run I only made it a little over two miles.

One sign of our new way of life is when I change purses. When we are in the RV I always use my fanny pack. It holds all the things I need and frees both hands for whatever I want to do. If we do go somewhere that I want to look a little more sophisticated, I leave the fanny pack in the RV or the truck and John has to carry what I need. But when we are living in a house in a city I feel I have to be just a little more formal. So, on our first Saturday back I moved things into a small purse. I don't like the purse—it is too small. But I hate to buy another for only a few months. I just have to suffer a little while we are here.

When we return to the house there are always many tasks waiting—we sweep out the cobwebs, trim the trees and bushes, clean the rain gutters, wash the windows. For several years the brickwork around our concrete patio has been deteriorating. This year we were determined to repair it. We have had lots of experience with landscaping projects this summer and knew we could get the job done.

After a trip to Home Depot for pressure treated boards (boy are they heavy), we tore out the old wood and removed the bricks. We measured, cut and installed the new wood framework. Would you believe, we bought just the right amount of wood! We didn't have to make a second trip. At least not for wood. We had two tubes of sand in our garage that we used to place in the bed of the pickup for traction during the winter. Since we now leave the RV hitch in the bed, we don't need the sand. So we emptied the tubes into our construction project to seat the bricks. The next day, we went to the Big Tool Box, our local hardware, for five more tubes of sand. We returned later for six more, and yet again for another six. We didn't figure the sand as well as the wood.

Here is the project—after the framework was in but before we put in the bricks, and now all complete. Yea! We are so glad we tackled it right away. And we got it done while the weather was nice. Today the temperature never got above the low 30s.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cost of Our Travels

        Today diesel is selling for $2.76 a gallon in our part of town.  During our travels this year, we paid as much as $5.60 a gallon one time in a resort service station.  The standard for quite a while was $4.19 a gallon.  So today's price looks really good.


        We have been asked how (or why) we can travel with fuel prices so high and the economy in such a state.  One part of the answer is we aren't getting any younger and how do we know it won't be worse next year or the year after that?


        But the expense of our type of travel isn't much.  From March 24 to November 4, we drove 10,700 miles and only about 7,000 miles were driven towing our trailer.  Many people drive at least 15,000 miles a year just going to and from work and driving around town.  We went from Colorado to New Mexico, then Arizona, then California, on to Oregon, back down to California, then Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, before returning to Colorado. 


        We were on the road for 228 days.  Four months—119 days—we were volunteering and didn't pay anything for our RV site.  In addition, we had four free nights at Pilot Knob in Yuma, AZ, in return for a sales presentation, and three free nights at Alpine RV in Morgan Hill, CA, while we waited for some work on our new RV.   We were also reimbursed for a week-long stay in California while our truck was being repaired  The total cost of our RV sites for the seven plus months was $ 2759, averaging $11.59 a night. 


        When we are away from our house for that period of time, we spend much less on gas and electricity at the stick house.  We do budget billing with Public Service for these expenses.  Before we began our extensive RV travels, we paid over $200 a month for these utilities.  Today we pay $98 per month.  That offsets part of our travel expenses.


        When we add up RV sites, fuel while towing the trailer, propane, and RV maintenance, our travels cost $5,185.  That doesn't include food, but we have to eat wherever we are and almost all our meals are prepared in the RV kitchen.  It also doesn't include the driving we do in the truck where we aren't towing.  We spent a total of $3300 on fuel during the months we were on the road for all our driving. We spent more for one week of luxury cruising in the Caribbean in 2000 than we spent for seven months of travel this year.  We prefer this type of travel.


        Obviously, I haven't included the cost to purchase our RV in these calculations.  But if we choose to own an RV, why not travel when we can do it this inexpensively?


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

On Tuesday we winterized the 5th wheel trailer, and then put it into storage. For those who don't understand winterizing, that means draining all the water from the plumbing system in the trailer and replacing it with non-toxic antifreeze. We have done this ourselves for several years, but with the new trailer there were new procedures. So it took some study, some thinking, and some nervous work. But the job is done.

Then we drove to the house and finished (we thought) unloading everything that we need in the house. (That evening John went back to the trailer to get one load of things we forgot. Today we made another trip.) Then we drove to the storage lot and parked the trailer. The final step is to remove the batteries. But that was easier said than done. They are in an insulated storage box with a very tight fit. Six-volt golf cart batteries are very heavy. We could not find any way to lift them straight up with our arms extended straight out. We are still wrestling with how to solve that problem

The good about being back here in the Denver area is easy to see. We had a marvelous sunrise Tuesday morning before we left Chatfield State Park.

We have already seen our son who lives here three times, his wife and our two grandchildren twice.

Kylie, our oldest granddaughter


John, our only grandson

The bad includes the dust all over the house, the leaves and debris in the gutters and yard, the "stuff" we need to put away. It also includes all the "stuff" we have in the house that we don't need during the seven or eight months of the year we are on the road. When we return, it almost makes me feel laustrophobic. And then there is all the space. In a 36-foot trailer we are never far apart. Wednesday morning John went to the basement to ride his exercise bicycle. I went to the second floor to work on the computer. I got lost in what I was doing, and because I couldn't hear John, I only went to the basement 10 or 15 minutes after he began working out on weights. Since we share the same weights, we must coordinate our workouts. And I hadn't started at the right time.

The ugly includes the piles of papers and other items on most surfaces around the house—things we need to file or put away. Then there is the bag of small spice containers I use in the trailer that need to be combined with those in the house or be thrown away. And the neglected house plants that need repotting and the outside shrubbery that needs trimming and the windows that need washing.

We love our life on the road. We love being in the house where we are close to family and friends and all that is familiar. But the transition from one to the other leaves a lot to be desired.

Monday, November 03, 2008

We're in Colorado

We are back in Colorado and this is our last night out in the RV for 2008. If cold and possibly snow weren't coming in the next 2-3 days, neither of us would be ready to move back into the house. It isn't a matter of coming "home." Our home is where we are at the moment—the RV for 7 to 8 months of the year, the house the rest of the time.

Here in the Denver area we have family and a lifetime of living, friends, history and most of all, family. When we are on the road we have adventure, new experiences, the opportunity to make new memories and new friends.

We are spending two nights at Chatfield State Park, about 12 miles from our house. We started out here in March. We are finally getting smart—it is easier to learn what we have forgotten to pack and easier to pack up and not forget to take something back to the house when we spend a couple of days doing all that. In past years we have had to ask our son to overnight the cord and charger to the computer; we have called home and said "please removed the lettuce I left in the refrigerator. It won't be any good when we return in several months." We also have returned to the trailer storage area to retrieve the forgotten bag of potatoes (wouldn't that have smelled great the next spring?)

The last four days of our 2008 travels have been spent here in Colorado, first in Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, and now in Chatfield in Littleton. These sites have allowed us to really enjoy the large front window in our new RV. These two photos show our view of the Sangre de Cristo Range from Lathrop and of this morning's sunrise over the Denver metro area. These are really good memories as we end our travels.

Tomorrow we will winterize the trailer, take the last items back to the house and put the RV in storage for a few months. These tasks are always bittersweet.

Check the blog over the winter as we plan next year's travels.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to Colorado

Wednesday we left Benson headed east. On our way to Deming, NM, we crossed the Continental Divide at 4,585 feet above sea level. That makes me want to laugh. In Colorado, the divide is at 11,000 to 12,000 feet. We often cross it on a high mountain pass, like Berthoud or Vail or Loveland Pass. There was nothing high about the divide near the US-Mexican border. It was marked only by a sign along the highway and a gas station and store that hyped the Continental Divide with billboards for several miles.
We drove to Deming, NM, a town we have stayed in at least twice before. This trip we stayed at the Dream Catcher RV Park, another Escapees park. This park isn't restricted to Escapees members only, but many of the RVs there had the Escapees logo. We paid only $12 plus electricity ($2.09) and tax for the night.

Today we headed north, the direction we will be going till Saturday when we reach the Denver area where we own a home. This is the third time in just over one year that we have stayed in the Isleta Casino RV Park on the south edge of Albuquerque. The park has large sites, good restrooms, good hookups, inexpensive gas and several lakes where the locals fish. Today we enjoyed walking around the lakes twice, putting in just over three miles. That is good exercise for us on a travel day.

Since we have been in the southern US recently, we have missed most of the fall colors. As we traveled north out of Deming this morning we began to see some colorful trees along the Rio Grand River Valley. I had to take photos of the trees here surrounding the Isleta Lakes.

Two photos of the fall color at Isleta Lakes

On our way, we drove through Hatch, NM, the home of the most famous chili peppers in the US—or at least in the western US. We stopped for a few minutes and bought a ristra—a string of peppers. I chose one that had red, green and yellow peppers.