Category Archives: Adventures

Wintering in an Active Adult Community – 2020 version

Last year, I wrote about staying at Recreation Plantation for the winter. RP is an active RV community with mostly seasonal residents. With a full-time activity office and variety of recreational facilities, the place is hopping! There are any number of activities and social events to plug yourself into. If you are bored — it’s your own fault! I made some great friends, learned new skills, kept super-busy, and just loved it.

When we decided to winter in Arizona this year, we looked at a variety of RV parks and zeroed in on Rincon Country West, in Tucson. At over 1100 sites, the park has beautiful facilities and offers a wide variety of activities for residents. We arrived in mid-November and settled in for a four month stay.

The facilities are quite extensive. The main recreation center is equipped with a large auditorium, meeting hall with kitchen facilities, swimming pool, indoor hot tub, lending library, fitness studio, and a dozen classrooms equipped for specific activities: cards, sewing, lapidary/silversmith, pottery/ceramics, stained glass, general crafts, digital photography, ham radio, billiards, and a large wood shop. An enormous outdoor model train facility sits just outside the rec center and is regularly maintained and run by the Garden Railroad Club. Other outdoor facilities include shuffleboard, tennis, pickleball, basketball, horse shoes, putting green, and bocce ball. There’s even a beauty shop right on site! The Loop paved bike trail is just outside the back gate, and mountain biking trails are a short riding distance away. Jeff can literally hop on his bicycle and ride out to his trails. The facility hosts more than 100 activity clubs including musical ensembles, arts and crafts, and sports. This place looked to be right up our alley!!

But ….. Covid.

For the 2020 season, most of the activities simply aren’t safe to hold. So there goes my exercise classes, card games, choral group, theater group, and arts/crafts lessons. Although the park is still hosting reduced-occupancy Bingo and concerts, I’m not comfortable attending indoor events, not with COVID spiking the way it is. Frankly, it really got me down — staring down at an entire season of boredom and isolation. On the other hand, Jeff found a mountain biking buddy literally the first day we were here. All of the months we’ve traveled, he’s had to bike by himself. But here, he’s found other kids to play with! Johnny is even more hard core than Jeff when it comes to biking (if you can imagine that).

Johnny is also into craft beer and is the ringleader for a “12 days of beer” event. The premise is that 12 folks meet on 12 consecutive evenings. Each evening, one person brings a new craft beer for the group to try – and usually brings a light snack as well. The event is held outside at Johnny’s site (bring your own chair) to facilitate social distancing. Jeff signed us up!

Joining that group has probably been the best thing I could have done. It has given us a chance to meet and bond with some really nice folks here. I showed off my latest Swedish Weaving project, and the ladies want me to teach them how to do it. So, we’ve planned a class for after the first of the year. It gives me something to prepare for and look forward to. Being able to regularly interact with real, live people has definitely given me a psychological boost.

It’s not the season I wanted ….. but it’s a start.

Las Cruces, Take Two

As we continued winding our way toward our winter-over spot in Tucson, we stopped at one of our favorite little cities — Las Cruces, NM. We stayed a couple of weeks here when we made our original swing out west, and we couldn’t wait to visit here again.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, and first thing Saturday morning we headed out to the Las Cruces Farmers Market. For a relatively small town, they offer a fantastic Farmer’s market with lots of vendors and variety. We had hoped against hope that our favorite vendor was here …. and he was! This guy makes the best kettle corn in the world. No, seriously. We’ve eaten kettle corn all over the country and this guys’ is the very best. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the ratio of popcorn to sugar, or maybe it’s the Love. In any case, it’s just the best. We bought two enormous bags; one regular and one cinnamon-sugar. YUM! The market also has the best price on honey I’ve found anywhere at only $15/quart. (Going price is typically $20/quart or more). We perused a variety of local goods, including strung locally-grown red and green chilis. I could have picked up a burlap bag full of fresh-picked chili peppers — if only I knew what to do with them! I love this market.

Another day we headed out to White Sands, previously a National Monument and now a National Park. I had to get my updated Passport stamp! We drove through the park and walked over the dunes — such an unusual place.

We dined again at the historic La Posta de Mesilla restaurant to enjoy some fantastic New Mexico cuisine in the 1850s-era building. Wandering through the historic village of Mesilla, the dearth of visitors was apparent. I wonder how many of the little shops and restaurants just won’t make it through the next year.

We also headed back to Heart of the Desert pistachio farm to pick up a supply. I don’t think they are doing their farm tours right now, but we stocked up on flavors you just don’t see elsewhere such as red chili, and garlic/green chili. We attempted to find the Dos Viejos winery that we liked so much on our last visit, but alas, it seems that it is now entirely defunct. We also tried to find the winery that stocked the Monks Reserve dessert wine that we liked, but that one had changed ownership and none of that wine was left. Too bad.

Unfortunately, during this stay, there several things things that we just couldn’t do, thanks to COVID. All of the museums were closed, including the Farm Museum and Art Museum. We had hoped to catch the Museum of Space History in Alamagordo this trip, but no luck. We also looked at going back to the hot springs in Truth or Consequences, but access was extremely limited due to COVID, so we decided it wasn’t worth it right now.

Despite the limitations, Las Cruces remains a little town that we like to visit. After Las Cruces, onward to Tucson and our winter-season spot!

Aliens and mountains

No visit to the Carlsbad area is complete without a visit to Roswell, home of the most famous UFO crash site. So one fine day, we mounted the motorcycle and rode north to see the aliens! It was election day, so somehow that seemed appropriate …..

Roswell is also home to the international UFO museum. The museum described the events of the 1947 incident in great detail through first person accounts and affidavits. Allegedly, all of the physical evidence was taken by the military (soon after, Area 51 was formed) and eyewitnesses were threatened to stay silent about what they had witnessed. The eyewitnesses seemed pretty credible to me! The truth is out there …..

The museum isn’t very large — essentially just one big room. It only took us about an hour to peruse the exhibits and take a few alien pics. After fortifying ourselves with a hot beverage and snack at the local Stellar Coffee, we continued on our motorcycle loop.

Our ride took us from desert floor upward into the nearby mountains. As we increased elevation, we entered pine forests and passed small lakes. We even saw snow, melting along the hillsides. We soon arrived at the town of Ruidoso, home to several casinos. We popped into one, just for fun. I tossed $20 into a couple of slot machines and won a quick $1.50. Woo-hoo, winner winner chicken dinner!! However, on the whole, casinos just aren’t that much fun in these COVID days. With many restrictions and social distancing, it just isn’t the same experience.

Back on the bike, we headed down the mountain almost reaching the town of Alamagordo, then turned left, back up the mountain to the tiny hamlet of Cloudcroft. Perched at 8700 feet, it was 20 degrees cooler here than at the desert valley floor. We stopped at a small local pub and tucked into a tasty burger and beer, while perusing the unusual wallpaper. (The pub’s TV channel was tuned to early election results — couldn’t get entirely away from it!)

After our late lunch, we climbed aboard for the nearly 2 hour ride back to our campground, arriving just as the sun set. It was quite an epic ride for us, about 270 miles. But it was an absolutely beautiful journey through desert, mountains, forest …. and aliens!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park has been on our bucket list right from the beginning of our RV adventure. We wanted to hit it on our first loop West, but it was just too far out of our way. So, we routed specifically there as we head out West for the second time.

Carlsbad Caverns did not disappoint. We visited Mammoth Cave National Park last year, and loved it. But, Carlsbad was even more impressive. Mammoth Cave is a huge interconnected network of enormous caverns, with a limited area of cave formations. Carlsbad offers the largest underground chamber in North America, and it is literally covered with formations — stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, soda straws, popcorn, etc.

In this COVID time, there were no guided ranger tours offered, but we were able to do a self-guided tour. We waited a bit at the entrance — groups were spaced to allow for better social distancing. After hearing the customary ranger talk (no touching the formations, etc), we walked down and down through a dozen switchbacks into the gaping mouth of the natural cave entrance.

The paved path led us steadily downward as the light from the entrance slowly dwindled to blackness. Our eyes soon adjusted to the dim artificial lighting. After about a mile or so of walking (mostly down), we entered the famed Big Room. Photos really cannot do justice to the scale and beauty of the formations therein. The path snaked around the perimeter of the enormous chamber as we walked, agape. Our minds constructed fairy villages, huge chandeliers, and frozen waterfalls from the crystal-rock. We saw what appeared to be bottomless pits, one with an old abandoned ladder snaking down it. No, thank you! I wouldn’t make a good spelunker, the dark crevices are way too creepy!

We estimated that we walked over 3 miles in the cavern. Finally, the one-way path led us to the elevator that would take us back up to the Visitor’s center at the surface. We had descended 750 feet from the surface!

In non-COVID times, the elevator area also hosted a gift shop and snack bar. All closed. It would have been really cool to hang out down there, while enjoying lunch. But, back up we went, to the surface and reality. We didn’t hike here, but we did do the Walnut Canyon Desert drive. The one-way, single lane gravel drive was a bit rough in spots, but very scenic. I’m just sorry that we couldn’t take a ranger led tour. Our Mammoth Cave experience was greatly enriched by our ranger tours and I’m sure it would have been the same here. Perhaps on a future visit …..

So, Carlsbad Caverns has now made it to my (personal, biased) list of top 5 favorite National Parks. (OK, I know you’ll ask. In no particular order: Great Smokies NP, Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Sequoia NP, and now Carlsbad Caverns NP)

I’m so glad we finally got here.

It’s always good to have a backup plan ….

After our cold and wet stay in Hot Springs, we were ready to high-tail it south to warmer weather! Our next planned campground was near Carlsbad, NM — about 800 miles away. Since we try never to exceed 400 miles travel distance in any one day, this required an overnight stopover on the road. As mentioned previously, our preferred option is overnight parking at a rest area, because of the convenience factor.

Our I-30 route across Texas didn’t offer many rest stop options. Most are older/smaller rest stops, with few truck parking spaces. Where there is truck parking, most are the “parallel” parking type, which can be problematic for us. We spied one new rest stop, with ample parking, about half way along our route. Perfect! We headed that way, only to find it blocked by road construction. Oops! The remaining rest stops along our way weren’t really a good option. It was too late (after 5 pm) to book a campground for the night. We had already traveled over 400 miles and were tired. We hadn’t really planned an alternative — but we needed to come up with one in fairly short order!

Allstays app to the rescue! Using the app, I spotted a Walmart about 12 miles up, just off the highway. Those of you that are RV-ers know that Walmart overnight parking is a Thing. Walmart typically allows overnight RV parking, unless specifically prohibited by local ordinance. We’ve stayed at Walmarts before, but have found them to be difficult to maneuver due to crowded parking lots, abrupt pavement transitions (scraping bottom of bus) and low-hanging tree branches (scraping top of bus). So, Walmart isn’t typically on our radar for overnight parking. Still, needs must, so we gave it a shot.

Although the parking lot wasn’t especially large, we found a good spot on the edge. We asked, and received, permission to stay — so it was a go! Our stay gave us an opportunity to pick up a few things, to boot.

The next morning, Jeff discovered he had left an attachment to his Viair portable air compressor back at the last campsite. Major bummer. Normally, he checks the air pressure in all of our tires at the beginning of every travel day. But, no problem, we were at a Walmart! He was able to find something that worked and readied our tires for travel.

So it all worked out. We found a quiet and safe place to stay. We ended needing some things — and Walmart had them. We may just have to put Walmart back on our list of potential parking spots!

Hot Springs

Hot Springs National Park is one of the most unusual National Parks that we’ve visited so far. Instead of a remote setting, this park is located smack-dab in the city downtown area! The reason for the park is, of course, the natural hot springs.

In this area, water bubbles up from the depths of the earth, emerging at a temperature of around 143 degrees Fahrenheit. The springs produce over a million gallons of hot water per day! For centuries, the Native Americans used the mineral-laden water for medicinal purposes. The first bath houses built to take advantage of this hot water supply were essentially huts or log cabins built over rough excavations in the rocks. Over time, however, much more elaborate structures were constructed, some which are still in use today. Andrew Jackson designated this area the first Federal Reservation in 1832, 40 years before Yellowstone became the first National Park. When Congress established the National Park Service, Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park in 1921.

The highlight of the Park is Bathhouse Row, a street lined with Golden Age era structures. Many have been converted to other purposes (dining, shopping, lodging), but two still operate as bathhouses. The Buckstaff provides a private traditional bathhouse experience (bath/massage) while the Quapaw (named after the local Native American tribe) offers a public mineral pools experience along with traditional spa services.

We elected to visit the Quapaw to experience the mineral pools for the nominal fee of $20 per person. The pools are available on a first-come-first-serve basis only, no reservations taken. Due to COVID, occupancy of the pools area is limited to 30 people, to allow for social distancing. We queued up on a busy Saturday morning and were #10 and #11 on the waiting list. Before entering, we were health checked with a questionnaire and temperature screen. We had to stay on property, but passed the time easily in the onsite cafe, enjoying hot beverages and a light snack during our wait. After an hour or so, we were called to the front, were given locker keys and escorted to the dressing rooms. Masks were required at all times, unless actually in the pools area.

There are four pools to choose from, at temperatures of 95, 98, 102 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The room was beautiful too, with a gorgeous barrel-vaulted ceiling and tiled pools. Everything was immaculately clean. Pool attendants provided an unlimited supply of iced mineral water and towels, as needed. The room was large enough that we never felt crowded, and had no trouble maintaining adequate distancing. The changing room had showers, lockers, and a swimsuit spinner that centrifuged my bathing suit almost dry! It was a great way to spend a few hours on a cold October day.

We soaked ourselves limp, then exited to explore the shops along the street. The National Park visitor center building was closed, but park literature and the passport stamp station was available just outside. Along the row, there are several public hot springs fountain dispensers where anyone can take home their own supply of water — just bring containers!

Unlike Missouri, Arkansas does impose COVID controls, so we felt much more comfortable exploring the area. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. It rained (and was COLD) during virtually all of our stay which restricted our usual outdoor activities. Jeff did manage to slip out between rain showers to mountain bike once. Still, we managed to explore the Park a bit, dined out a couple of times, and definitely enjoyed our hot springs soak.

We continue to head south and west, next stop — Carlsbad, NM!

Throwback Thursday Post: Overnighting at Rest Stops

Here’s a Throwback Thursday post, first published in January 2018. Now that we’re making tracks out west, the distance between campgrounds is lengthening, necessitating overnight stops on the road.

We still find that rest areas provide the easiest and most convenient overnight stopover. We’ve stayed now at rest areas all over the country and have never been hassled OR felt unsafe. Enjoy this Throwback post!

5-tips-rest-stop-1When I was a kid, I remember stopping at rest areas while on road trips with my parents. The rest stops were equipped with clean restrooms and picnic tables. We’d have a bite of lunch and would be encouraged to run around to “get the wiggles out”  before settling into another long stint in the station wagon.

Until we bought the RV, I hadn’t stopped at a rest area in years. We took plenty of road trips, but our modus operandi was to do everything we needed in one service station stop: gas, potty, and food to go. With two kids, we could be in and out of a gas station in under 15 minutes and not stop again until the car was on E. Rest stops weren’t even on our radar.

That all changed when we bought the bus. Driving the rig can be intense and tiring. We seldom drive for more than a couple of hours without taking a break, and rest stops provide a perfect facility for that. They are right off the road, easy on/off, and offer segregated truck parking fully long enough for our bus plus toad. After all, we can’t just pull into your typical gas station! Truck stops are fine for fueling and a quick restroom break, but few have pull-through parking spaces (and we can’t back up), so there is no place for us to park for a longer stay. Rest stops are perfect. And not only are they good for a short rest break, some states even allow overnight parking.

So why would we want to park  overnight at a rest stop, when we could stop at a perfectly nice campground? The main reasons are cost and convenience.

The hardest part of moving the rig from one place to another isn’t the driving, it’s the packing and unpacking. It takes at least two hours to completely load everything, prepare the bus, hook up the toad, and get ready to move. At the destination, it takes another couple of hours to do the reverse. Because of this, we don’t want to go through all of that effort until we are somewhere that we want to stay a while. Also, since we don’t like to drive more than 300 or so miles in any day, it may take more than one “traveling day” to get to our next destination. In that case, we need to find someplace for an overnight stop.

We can (and have) gone to a campground for just one night. There are lots of options located conveniently near interstate highways. But pulling into one often requires unhooking the tow vehicle (due to lack of maneuvering room) and then, since we are paying for it, we’ll connect the hookups and put the slides out. In the morning we have to prep for the road again. But … wait … do we REALLY need hook ups for just one night? Nope. That’s the beauty of being fully self contained! We have a generator, we have fresh water, we have holding tanks – why pay $30-50 just to park somewhere?

So …enter the rest stop option. Rest stops have a safe parking area, sometimes with overnight security. We can pull in, rest, and just pull out in the morning. Rest stops have clean bathrooms. They are free. Sold! The only downside is that not all States allow overnight parking at rest stops. A summary of State rest stop policies is here.  For example, our home State, Florida, does not allow overnight parking and in fact has a 3 hour stay limit. We did stay at Florida rest stops overnight several times during our Hurricane Irene evacuation trip, but that was an unusual circumstance. I’d rather not push it. But quite a few States DO allow overnight parking, including Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. If you do plan to stay at a rest stop overnight in your RV, here are a few tips:

  • Plan ahead and pull out needed items from cabinets that are inaccessible with your rig’s slides in. You’ll have a parking spot, not a camp site – not a place to put out slides, awnings and hibachi!
  • Fill your fresh water tanks and dump your waste holding tanks before leaving the campground. Make sure you have plenty of fuel for your generator and heating/cooling systems.
  • Check the State’s rest area regulations at the link above or that State’s rest area website. When you pull into the rest area, check the signage to make sure overnight parking is not expressly prohibited.
  • Arrive at the rest stop by early evening. Later on, truckers tend to fill up all available spaces and even overflow spaces. If you arrive too late, there may not be a spot for you!
  • Be courteous and quiet.
  • Enjoy your rest!

In the states where overnight parking at rest areas is not allowed, there are parking lot options such as at a Wal-Mart. But that’s another post!

Branson …… bust.

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It was sad for me to leave my hometown after such a great visit. Being able to spend time with my family made me feel, well, normal, after so many months of isolation. Our next stop was Branson, Missouri — well known for its variety of shows and attractions. Unlike Pigeon Forge, Branson doesn’t have a defined “strip”, instead includes a fairly large rambling area dotted with strip malls, restaurants and numerous theaters.

Under normal circumstances, I’d have been in show hog-heaven. I could have seen live entertainment literally every day — comedy, variety, band tribute shows — you name it. But …. COVID. It’s ironic that early this year, we couldn’t see and do a lot of tourist activities because States weren’t open. Now, some areas are TOO open!

Quite a few shows in the Branson area are open and actively performing. But, the State of Missouri has no mandated COVID controls, as far as we can tell. The city of Branson has enacted a mask mandate, but it seems to be inconsistently followed and/or enforced. Shows have no capacity restrictions, which means they can sell tickets to all the seats, if they want – no social distancing. And although masks might be required going into the theater, they are not required while seated, presumably so that you can enjoy your purchased concessions. The idea of sitting in a packed (indoor!) theater, for 2-plus hours, with essentially no COVID precautions, just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Restaurants don’t have any mandated capacity or social distancing requirements either. We stopped at a small diner while out motorcycling our first day here, and the tables were stacked like usual. We were able to socially-distance, because we went at an off-peak time, but the waitress and other workers (and other patrons) did not wear masks at all. Folks in this region are mostly living like this pandemic doesn’t exist.

The area also has the Silver Dollar City theme park, but after our somewhat disastrous pandemic-time visit to Cedar Point, I’m not sure Silver Dollar City will offer a much better experience.

I’m not going into the politics of the pandemic, or getting into an argument about whether masks are effective or not. But, as responsible adults, we have to make decisions about the health risks we are willing to accept. Considering the uptick in COVID cases throughout the country, we’ve decided that, for this visit, we would forgo shows, restaurants, and attractions. We focused on motorcycling, outdoor activities, and maybe some shopping during off-peak times.

Since it rained more than half our stay, even outdoor activities were constrained. During the couple of nice days we had, we rode the countryside. This area is really beautiful with rolling hills, lakes, and valleys. One of our rides involved taking a free ferry across a lake. That was pretty cool!

All in all though, Branson has been sort of a bust.

I look forward to coming back some day when we can actually participate in all the attractions this area offers.

Pandemic Perspective — 2020 as a Full-timer

What a weird year this has been.

2020 started off so auspiciously too. We had a wonderful winter at Recreation Plantation, full of activities and meeting new friends. We even experienced a wonderful cruise in the Caribbean with my sister, never dreaming that cruising would be entirely shut down a month later. We had fully booked an exciting Northeast RV loop. Then just a couple of weeks before we were set to go — COVID.

Like everyone these days, we’ve had to be flexible. We typically do our trip planning a year or more in advance, primarily so we can be assured of getting our campground and site preference. But this year, we’ve had to make adjustments on the fly.

Some campground closed completely, for a time. Others opened up in a limited fashion, or for limited populations. Some States imposed quarantine requirements. We’ve had to recheck reservations as we traveled, to see whether we would be able to go there — or not.

So far, no campground actually cancelled on us, although we ended up cancelling several stops early in the nationwide COVID closure period, in order to hunker down at our Gatlinburg cabin. Once we started traveling again, we encountered a variety of situations. Some campgrounds didn’t allow anyone in the office at all, everything was done over the phone. Some campgrounds closed all amenities, including bath houses. Others opened limited amenities, such as outdoor facilities. We just never knew, one place to the next, what we would get. We were never in a situation that required us to quarantine, as much of the year we were traveling from and/or through areas with low COVID case rates.

So, for the most part, we were able to keep to our travel plan. But of course, the areas we visited were shut down to varying degrees. In the early days, almost nothing was open. We spent a lot of time walking around looking at the outside of closed buildings and shops! Eventually, gradually, States started to reopen and we rediscovered the joy of actually being served at a restaurant and shopping INSIDE real stores! It’s amazing how one’s perspective shifts when the things you used to do without a thought, are forbidden for a time.

Now, seven months into this pandemic, most areas have reopened to a significant degree. I no longer worry about campground cancellations or quarantine requirements. Many tourist attractions are open, albeit at a reduced capacity and with COVID precautions. Now, it’s a matter of assessing and managing our own personal risk as we travel about. Do we go to that stage show? Are we comfortable eating inside that restaurant? We look at the COVID prevalence in the area, the precautions they are taking, and decide accordingly.

So, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from this year so far.

The Bad: About half of the things that we USUALLY do on our travels were simply unavailable. Historical sites and museums closed, no theater, no concerts or festivals. No campground social mixers or planned activities. No night life. Limited shopping and dining. Limited social contact of any kind. That sucked.

The Good: At least we had a regular change of scenery! Most folks stuck at home didn’t have that luxury. And COVID didn’t close the outdoors, so we had hiking, biking, motorcycling options available. We were still able to see a new area of the country, and we can always go back and do the things we missed on another trip.

The Ugly: Politics and the upcoming presidential election … but I’m not going there!

We are eagerly awaiting the time when life will return to normal as we once knew it. When I don’t have to get a negative COVID test in order to feel comfortable visiting my aging parents. When we can go to a show, or a concert, or a wedding without worry.

In the meantime ….. we’ll need to be flexible.

Hangin’ in the Hometown, Take 2

And so, dear reader, you are caught up to date! After completing our Entegra Factory Service, we headed due south toward Anderson Indiana, my home town, for a two week visit. We were last in town with the bus about 18 months ago. We’ve experienced some briskly cool weather, and the leaves are turning bright hues of crimson, yellow and orange. It’s been years since I experienced an Indiana Fall. It evokes memories of Back-to-School elementary days, jumping in leaf piles, and changing classes at the Anderson University Campus. The bright clear blue skies of Indian Summer in Indiana are just beautiful.

Our main reason for being here is to spend quality time with family — and we certainly are doing that! We’ve been doing what we can in these COVID-tainted times — walking the lovely Mounds State Park, hitting balls at TopGolf, dining together, playing games, working puzzles, and just generally spending time together.

Considering our travels (and our recent visit to Cedar Point amusement park), I opted for a COVID test when I arrived here. It was a relatively painless experience, really. I booked an appointment online with a local CVS, provided the sample at the pharmacy drive-up window, and had my online results back within 48 hours. It was negative, as I expected, but it was reassuring nonetheless to have that status confirmed. I feel much more comfortable visiting my 89 year old parents knowing that I won’t risk carrying the disease to them. I am so very blessed to be able to visit my parents, living independently and well in their own home. I never forget for a minute how special that is.

Especially this year. So many have lost loved ones in the past months. My brother-in-law lost his (younger) brother very unexpectedly in late December. And Jeff’s Dad died in August. Long time readers of this blog may recall that we had to scramble to make arrangements for his Dad right before we left on this RV adventure, three years ago. He did well in his assisted living situation, but recurrent infections coupled with late stage dementia finally wore him down. He spent his last days at his daughter’s home and passed peacefully. A tough year, indeed.

So, we enjoy every moment we can manage to spend with our loved ones. And, on a lighter note, I am temporarily cat-sitting for my sister who is away at a wedding this weekend. We have gregarious Sophie, who cheerfully purr-rowss when I arrive and loves neck scritches. And then we have retiring Curie who wants to be around people, but only tolerates touching by Her Person (which is not me). Guess, if you will, who is who from the photos below.

We have a few more days here to enjoy family time, and then we’ll be heading on south and west, to Branson!