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Full-time RVers- Full-time Friends (Married over 20 years, TO EACH OTHER!)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Good With the Bad

Dean, the husband
Shalane, the wife

When you’re on vacation, is it worth it to get up early to go have breakfast with friends?  6 a.m. is sleeping in during the school year, but, for summer break, it’s insanity!   This was the question that we had to ask ourselves yesterday morning.  The answer was a resounding YES!   

We met our friends, Bill and Tammy, at their house at 7 a.m. and we all drove together to a little “mom and pop” diner near the Silver Dollar City area of Branson, MO.  It appears as if the owners of the establishment bought an old gas station and converted it into a little country restaurant.  It’s so adorable, and I had always wanted to eat there, so I was super excited to find out that that‘s where we were going.   At first glance, one would think that it was a little over priced.   DEAN would think it was over priced.  After all, a mini-stack of ONE pancake costs $3.95!   Bill assured me that it would be a good sized pancake, and when they brought it out, I quickly changed my mind.  It was easily the biggest pancake I have ever seen and well worth the price!  To top it off, it tasted as good as it looked!  Billy Gail’s CafĂ© is definitely, a place to stop if you are in the area.   Get there early though.  The place was packed by 8 a.m.!  

It was truly wonderful to be able to spend time with friends that we haven’t seen in so long.  They even took us on a nice tour of the area.  It was great to get caught up on their ten children and to catch them up on ours.  They are a truly blessed family, and we are better for knowing them.    Dean’s right.  We all have friends that, though we may not see or talk to them often, somehow make us better people.  There’s a list of people in all of our lives, that we just feel blessed and honored to know, and we give thanks for those timeless relationships.

We did have a chance to get over to the IMAX theater one more time before we left.   We saw, “Born to Be Wild.”  It was a show about baby elephants and orangutans and the woman who have dedicated their lives to their rescue and survival. I LOVED it! It was SO CUTE! Dean was disappointed that it didn't have more video of the scenery and almost fell asleep.    Also, my wife was able to get her slice of blackberry cobbler that she had been wanting since we got to the Ozarks.   I got it at McFarland’s in the IMAX complex.  IT WAS AMAZING!  Truthfully, it was so good, I had to sit on my hands to keep myself from clapping out loud!  :o)  (Now that would have been a sight.  My wife trying to eat that cobbler while sitting on her hands!)

With a pocket full of happy memories, a tummy full of all that’s good,  and an empty wallet to prove it, it was time to head back to Oswego. On our way, we went through Joplin, MO, the town of 40,000 that had an F5 tornado roll through in late May of this year.  For tomorrow’s blog  I will write about what we saw and experienced there.  We were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the damage by some more good friends of ours that live just north of Joplin.  The husband is a firefighter for the city of Joplin and spent many hours assisting in the search and rescue, so the tour was very informative.   Until tomorrow, Happy Trails!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When the going gets tough, the tough....

Well, the last full day in Branson turned out to be a very eventful one.  We got the day started a little later than we wanted.  In fact, we ended up having 'breakfast' at around noon.  We wanted to spend the rest of the day at Whitewater (a water amusement park).  However, that is were our plans changed.
Why are you posting a random butterfly picture? I don't know, I've just noticed that there are alot of butterflies in Branson!

We made our way to Whitewater at a little after one o'clock.  (Thanks again to the same friends that got us into Silver Dollar City for free on Thursday, we did the same thing with Whitewater yesterday.) Free always seems to work into the budget quite well.  :)  Anyhow, Whitewater has a relaxing ride there called the lazy river.  I love that 'ride,' because there are no lines and you do is float around on an inner tube.  We then decided to try out a couple water slides and the wave pool.  That is when the day changed.  After a while my wife became ill. I had let my blood sugar get too low and that, combined with the intense heat, did me in. We spent a good portion of the rest of the afternoon in the first aid station.  They were really kind and treated me very well.  When she started feeling a little better, we went back to the campground where I hooked up the air conditioner and let her take a long nap.  He's always so good to me. We were pretty hungry when she woke up, so we enjoyed a great buffet at the Golden Corral, I highly recommend it if you are ever in Branson.
Again, with the random picture! Hey, it's not random! They make great funnel cakes at White Water, and I'm certainly not going to post a picture of me in my bathing suit laying around in the first aid station!

Although the day did not turn out as planned, we still enjoyed ourselves.  It's one of the best things about being on vacation with no structured schedule,.  Happy Trails!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Staying Cool at Silver Dollar City

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :o)

How can anyone enjoy a hot and humid day in southern Missouri at a outdoor amusement park?   This is a question that I asked myself as we headed to Silver Dollar City yesterday.  However, we had a great time and always seemed to be able to find a way to cool off whenever we needed too, thanks to a deep cave and some fun water rides. 
There have been a few changes since we were last at the park more than five years.  One of the best new rides was a floating boat armed with water guns called Riverblast.  It is not a wild ride where you get flipped over.  It is merely a way to get drenched in cold water.  The lines were always short, which also won big points in my book.  Best of all, we didn’t even have to get on the ride to get soaked.  All along the path of the river are places where you can man water cannons to spray the boats coming through.  As you are dialing in on the sailors on the boat, they are unleashing there full armament at you.  It didn’t take long to get completely covered in water.  A welcomed event on a day where the temperature soared into the 100’s and the humidity was very high.  It's funny how certain things can turn us all into kids again.  I have never seen so many grown men laughing and playing like children.  Dean was running around with the energy of a ten year old firing squirt guns!  I enjoyed it as well, but my favorite part was watching my husband having the time of his life.

In the  hottest part of the day we spent about two hours in a cave at about 60 degrees.  As you first enter the park there is an area where people leave to go on an impressive hour long tour of some of the most unbelievable caverns I have ever seen.  As soon as you go into the main chamber of the cave the temperature drops 40 degrees.  This is a good thing, because there are a number of steps. Over 600! Fortunately, most of them go down, as there is a tram that takes everyone back up to the top at the end of the tour.  Now some of you may notice that I mentioned it was an hour long tour, but I said that we had spent two hours in there.  It seems that someone in the tour ahead of us got injured somehow.  All tours in the cave were suspended right where they were until the person could be removed by EMT’s.  Trust me when I say that an extra hour in the cool temperatures was a blessing.  We had no complaints.  Because of the delay, the guide was able to share with us a lot of extra interesting facts about the cave that we wouldn’t have been able to hear on the “normal” tour.  We highly recommend that you enjoy the Marvel Cave tour, especially on a hot day!
At the conclusion of the day was a great country music show in a wonderful amphitheater.  The singers were all great as soloist, but when they sang together, it sounded almost angelic. The harmonies were incredible.  It was a fantastic way to close out the day. They did a fantastic "old country" medley, but my favorite part was the gospel music.  I LOVE country gospel!  I listen to it almost every Sunday as I get ready for church.  The singers did a fabulous job sharing their love of the Savior with the audience!  :o)

Today, as I crawled out of bed, I realized once again that I am not as young as I used to be.  We had so much fun yesterday that we thought about going back to Silver Dollar City again today.  However, I think that we will stick to our original plan of Whitewater.  They have a lazy river.  I can’t wait to lay back on my inner-tube and just float for the entire day! Until tomorrow, Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Entertainment in Branson, Missouri

Dean (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :o)

Today we arrived in Branson, Missouri.  We had originally planned to go to an amusement park called Silver Dollar City last night.  If you go after 3pm, you still pay full price, but you get to come back the next day on the same ticket.  Happily, we decided to change our plans after our friends that live here in town gave us free tickets to Silver Dollar City and Whitewater.  We decided that today will be our Silver Dollar City day and tomorrow we will follow it up with a day at Whitewater.  Last night we decided to enjoy a down home meal at a wonderful restaurant and finish the night watching a movie on the big IMAX screen.  It was a great night!

The restaurant was called Fall Creek Steak and Catfish house.  It's big claim to fame is that they bring out hot, homemade rolls and throw them across the room to you.  The rolls are delicious and the BBQ brisket platter that we ordered was excellent.  My wife loves to eat at places that are authentic to the area in which we are traveling. I personally would be just as happy eating off the value menu at McDonald’s, but I am grateful that my wife gets me to try new cuisine every once in a while.  He usually goes kicking and screaming, but last night he was surprisingly cooperative.

Just outside the restaurant.
 The movie we viewed on the IMAX was quite fitting since we are currently in the Midwest.  We saw  "Tornado Alley."  It featured a scene where a guy in an armored vehicle drove into the path of a powerful tornado so that he could show footage of the event from the inside.  It was AMAZING!   If I didn’t enjoy teaching so much, I think that is what I would want to do for a living.  Traveling all over the United States chasing down severe storms sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  I think so!

Missouri is a beautiful state.  It has forests of lush, green trees covering every mountain.  We are staying at Table Rock Lake State Park, which is located just outside of Branson.  The lake is large and very beautiful. The campground is clean and the sites, spacious.  There are trees everywhere!  It's fun coming back to a place that I had been so many times in my childhood.  I have a lot of happy memories in Missouri state parks.

Finally, we are happy to report that the air conditioner we installed worked perfectly.  It was 87 degrees F when we went to bed last night with about 70 percent humidity.  Inside the shell of the pickup is was pleasantly cool all night long.  Today will be our first full day in Branson, and I think will prove to be outstanding.  More pictures will follow, so keep on checking in with us.   Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Fun Trip to the Past

Now that we have a working A/C unit for the shell of the truck, we are headed off again for a look into the 1800's.  Today, we will be off to one of Shalane and I's favorite amusement/theme parks called Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. 

We installed the 5000 BTU window unit air conditioner into our 'living quarters' in the back of the pickup this morning.  I even had a chance to crawl in the back with the unit operating.  It worked to perfection!  I promise we will post some pictures of it, so you can get a better idea of how we put it all together. 

When my wife and I decided to spend a lot of the summer in the midwestern part of the United States, we knew we would have to visit Silver Dollar City.  When we used to live in Kansas we would go there at least a couple of times each year.  After visiting with some friends in Branson, we should be there this afternoon.  Good times await so we will keep the post short today.  More pictures will follow, after all, my wife will be by my side with camera in hand!  Happy Trails!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Consider Full-Time RV Living Now!

My wife was talking the other day to someone about being a parent.  She mentioned that she finally thinks that she is starting to understand the best way to raise children.  Sadly, our children are already adults, and we will get no 'redos'.   This raises the question of 'when'.  When would have been the best time to start our family.  Obviously, there is no correct answer.  Had we waited until our 40's we probably would have been too old to truly enjoy a lot of things that we did with our children when they were small.

I think the same thing can be said of full-time RVing.  If we had decided to wait until both of us had retired, I would have been in my 70's and what we would have done while traveling certainly would have changed.  I remember when I was 29, I got out of teaching for a year and became a ski bum.  I purchased a season ski pass.  I recall often going to the top of Keystone Mountain with some friends. We would  slide as fast as we could all the way down the steep, icy terrain without stopping.  At age 29, I could feel my legs burning at the bottom of the slope.  It didn't seem to bother me too much though, because we immediately went right back up to the top to do the same thing almost everyday.   If I would have waited to retire to adopt this lifestyle, I'm reasonably sure that going as fast as I can just once down the mountain would have been enough per week (or month)!

I am reminded of an old TV show from my youth.  It was a comedy called. "Mork and Mindy."  The main character played by Robin Williams was an alien.  On his world, people were hatched from an egg as an elderly person.   Over the course of their lifetime, the became younger and younger.  As they got older their stamina actually increased until their final years as a baby infant.  I can only imagine what the retirement communities would look like on that planet.  Signs on condo complexes would read, "Restricted Age Community, no gray haired people need apply."  An interesting world, huh???

Now I consider myself to be physically fit man for being in his fifties.   However, with each passing year, I wake up more and more saying, "Wow that sure hurts, I never felt soreness there before."   It has been said living in our youth would be  the perfect situation if it would only happen a little later in life.  However, life does not work that way.  I hope that everyone who is considering a move to this lifestyle will keep this in mind.  You don't have to rush off and do something crazy today.   However, you can start taking steps today in that direction instead of saying that you will give it some thought when you retire in a few years.  Start imagining yourself living the dream now!  It will amaze you what unexpected things will transpire to assist in getting you there.  Happy Trails!

By the way, we will be putting together an eBook of sorts on making the transition to full-time living and living green.  We hope to have it out toward the end of this summer.  We will keep you posted.  :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is It Possible to Take One Picture For Each Mile Traveled?

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :o)
Sunglasses on a table.   Hey! That's art!
It has been said, “everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have the film.”  I do have the good fortune of having a photographic memory.   However, I will never ever have to worry about not having enough “film” for our vacations as long as my wife is  around.  Oh, here we go! There are none that can compare with her when it comes to taking enough pictures of our adventures.  I think he's poking fun at me again, but I'm just going to take it as a compliment.  "You're welcome, Babe!"
A cow.  Well, we don't usually see stuff like this in Vegas!
A perfect example is our recent trip to Kansas from Utah.  Day 1 stats look like this:  193 miles of total driving and 193 total pictures.  Yes, that means that she takes an average of 1 photo for every mile of driving.  Wow! I had no idea I was that thorough. ;o) Personally, I average about one picture taken for every three days of travel.  I don't know, perhaps it is because I am older. That's an understatement!  I am still stuck in the mind frame that each picture taken must be sent to Wal-mart photography for processing. Dang!  You are old.  If that were still the case, the estimated cost of all the pictures we (she) took for the 5 days that it took to drive here would approach $500. Thank goodness for digital cameras!!!  After all, we still have to drive back!  Yup! And my trigger finger is all rested up and ready for the challenge!
An old van.  OLD?! This van was born the same year as you, and I love taking picures of antiques!
All joking aside, I am very happy that I have a wife that loves photography.  As you can tell from our previous blogs she is very good at snapping the perfect shot.  As I get older, it would probably be a good idea to stop relying so much on my memory.  As I get older, it would probably be a good idea….wait a minute, didn’t I already say that. I think you see what I mean.  HA! Good one, Babe!
A picture of feet in water.  Okay, he got me on that one.  This is just a picture of feet in the water.

I hope everyone invests in a good camera.  I know that we really enjoy looking at all the pictures and reminiscing about the good times that we've had on our trips.  Happy Trails and keep a finger on that shutter!  Can you say 2 pictures a mile….?  I can!

Hey!  You wanna see my food pictures?!

Great fudge! A must have on any vacation to the Midwest.
My mom and I decorated this together at the candy store!
Oatmeal and hot chocolate for breakfasst.
Ice cream for lunch!
$15 hamburger!
Rudy's in Norman, OK.  Deliciou!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camping VS Motels

Dave Barry, a noted American writer and humorist best known for his weekly newspaper column, once said,   “Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business.”   I take it from the quote, that Mr. Barry has not had a lot of positive experiences camping in the great outdoors.  If only he could see through our eyes the wonders of this Earth, I’m sure this would have never crossed his mind.

My wife and I have been happily full-timing for over a year now.  I have never regretted it for even a second.  Often we talk about our "poor" friends living in their nice big homes with no wheels attached.  We worry that they will rarely get the opportunity to explore all that this world has to offer.  In a way, I can’t blame them, after all, who will look after the house while they are gone?  Then there is all the packing and unpacking if they want to stay away for any length of time at.  For us, the task is easy.  No one has to watch our house while we are away, because our house is towed behind us.  We don’t have to worry about the packing part because it is always already done.

Perhaps the nicest thing of all is that if we have a change in jobs, we don’t have to worry about selling the house (especially in this market) and buying another.  I know that not everyone owns a house, but even those that rent usually have to sign a long term lease. Therefore, they have to time their moves “just right,” or worry about forfeiting their deposit. 

For us, live is fun!  We love to travel and explore as much territory as we can.   I can’t help but think of all the sights that we enjoyed in the first two days of travel from Nevada to the Midwest.  I suspect that we saw more beautiful scenery than most people see in a decade of vacations.  I sincerely hope that everyone will have the opportunity, sometime in their lives, to do what we are doing.  I think that the opening quote should say, "Camping is nature’s way of promoting beauty in its purest sense."  Happy Trails!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

(Funny) Have You Ever Felt Like You Aren’t Being Heard?

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

I think most of you have had to call and get help from technical support before.  The majority of you that have had the chance to have such an opportunity will really appreciate my experience yesterday with our satellite dish provider.  If  you haven’t, I'm sure at some point you will.  Be afraid….Be very afraid! 

We brought our DVR from our Satellite Dish Provider all the way from Nevada to Kansas so my sister-in-law could watch all 16 episodes of  the TV show Survivor.  When we got here, we realized that we had forgotten the remote.  Without it, there is no way to access the DVR recordings.  Fortunately, my sister-in-law uses “The Bowl Network,” so she had an extra remote.  We will call the company “The Bowl Network”  to protect the innocent.  He's nice.  I would be more likely to reveal the company's name to expose the ignorant.  I decided that all I needed to do was call the company and ask them how to program her remote to my DVR. With my TV set and DVR already on, and after I had pushed "4" for technical support and explained to her what I wanted to do with the remote, the conversation went as follows:

The young lady said, “Do you have your TV plugged in right now?”

I said, “Yes.”

“Will you please push the power button on your TV?”

“Okay.  Done.”

“Did the TV shut off?”


“Push the power button on your DVR, please.”

“Okay.  Done.”

"Did the DVR shut off?”


“Please push the power button on the TV again.”

“Okay. Done.”

“Did the TV come back on?”


I will spare you the rest of the 20 minute conversation, because it went much the same way.  It did include having me pull the plug from the wall to check if the device was now off.  I AM NOT LYING ABOUT THIS!!!  It is the honest truth!  During the conversation, I stressed to her several times that I just wanted to program my remote to my sister-in-law's DVR.  Finally, she said, “Oh, then let me transfer you to technical support.”  I THOUGHT I WAS TALKING WITH TECHNICAL SUPPORT!!! 

I do want you to know that after another 40 minutes, I did get Lisa's remote set up with my DVR.  Even as I write this, my wife and sister-in-law are enjoying their ‘Survivor” marathon.   I am thankful that the Good Lord has blessed me with patience.  I have a feeling that if my wife would have made this call, it would not have been pretty.  There would be little pieces of cell phone and remote scattered on the floor and imbedded into the wall.  Hey!  That's not nice!  Okay, it's true that, though I'm basically a pretty patient person, I have little tolerance for technical "support."  They should call it technical "torture."  And, though I'm not one to throw things, my poor husband would have had to listen to me rant for the next couple of hours about the lack of common sense and the abundance of stupidity in the world today.  Yup, it's probably best that he made the call and not me.  :o)

Again, I am providing this blog today as a public service announcement.  Consider yourself warned!  Have a great day and HAPPY TRAILS TO ALL!  (Even those of you working for the “Bowl Network”!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 Things You Should Not Do While Traveling Across the Country

 Dean (the husband)
Shalane (the wife)

It’s so easy for all of us to pat ourselves on the back when we have done something right.  What is really hard for a lot of people is reflecting back on what we could have done better.  We feel it’s time to talk about some of the problems that we have found during our past month of travel.   After all, we haven’t yet blogged about some of the things that have not worked out while we have been roaming around the country.

Here is our top 5:

1)  Don't think it will be easy to eat healthy.  Sticking to a normal eating routine is much harder than we had anticipated.  It’s not harder than I anticipated!  I love to eat, and when I’m traveling, I purposely try to find fun, interesting and unique places and things to eat.  Don’t even think about talking to me about my fat intake!  Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, baby!  Great food is part of a great vacation!  :O)  When we are traveling down the road, it is so much easier to stop in at a diner or fast-food restaurant than it is to have a picnic in a park somewhere.  I really try my best to eat right and drink the right amount of water each day.  I am finding that it is so difficult to do.  Even when we are staying with family, it is hard to avoid going out to eat at their favorite spots.  In a small way, I can’t wait to get back to a more normal routine when we get back to Nevada next month.  ((Getting back to “normal” eating always does feel good, but tonight I’m going to enjoy a fried Twinkie!  :o)
2)  Diesel trucks do not like to run at high altitudes.  Once we climbed to  9000+ ft (3000+ m for our readers around the globe)  above sea level, the engine did not respond with the same amount of power.  I remember talking to a tow truck operator who worked near the main pass on Interstate 70 in the highest mountains of Colorado.  He said that everyday he tows diesel trucks up to the top of the pass.  He indicated that, for the most part, it’s how he makes his living.  Evidently, very few people who rent diesel powered moving vans are ever told that they will not have enough power to make it over the summit.  (( He didn’t tell you the reason he talked to the tow truck operator.  It was because he, and our son, age 9 at the time, were visiting with him in the cab of his truck while he was towing our moving van across the mountains.  Ah, memories.  :O)
3) Don't get too caught up in the details of the trip. Mapping out where you would like to stay is okay, but be ready to change your plans quickly if needed.  Before we got started, we sat down and mapped out a route for our trip.  We had a boondocking site set up for each night.  In fact, the first night out we had planned to stop at a recreation area just outside of Escanlante, Utah.  The only requirement was to stop in at the visitor’s center to pick up a free ‘pass’ to camp at various dispersed campsites.  We had so many wonderful photo opportunities that day as we traveled down the road that by the time, we had reached the visitor’s center it was 5:38 pm.   I think he just made fun of how many pictures I take again.  That’s okay.  I can take it.  He’ll thank me someday.  ;o)  The center closed at 5:30 pm.  Plan B was to drive to a state park and camp at a primitive campground.  It cost us $7.  That was the only camping fee that we had to pay from Nevada to Oklahoma.  Anyway, remember that unexpected things happen, so plan accordingly.   I loved that cheap little campground.  It was surrounded by mountains, had a clear water stream and nice, clean sites.

4)  Free Wifi is everywhere? Finding free wifi for internet access is not always as easy as we had hoped it might be in rural America.  We were able to find a place everyday, but it was not always easy.  It helped that I had an app that found  free wifi hotspots on my cell phone and a mini-satellite dish that plugs into the USB port of my laptop to extend the range of the device.   Dean’s a faithful blogger and, to say the least, doesn’t like to miss a single day.  :o)

5)  It will be nice there this time of year. Never assume average temperatures will be the actual temperature where you’re going to be visiting.  We have been in the Midwest for over a week now.  There has not been even one day that wasn’t at least 8 to 10 degrees above the normal temperatures.  Hence, the reason why we are scrambling to find a way to get A/C in our truck as I have been mentioning on the previous blogs.  Had the temperatures been a little closer to normal, I am not sure that I would be so concerned.   What he’s trying to say is, WE’RE MELTING!  How did we grow up out here?  People say Vegas is hot, but they got nothin’ on the hot, humid states of the Midwest and South.
I wonder why my wife kept asking me to take one more step back?

I sincerely hope that this will help someone ‘down the road’.   Don’t get me wrong, we are loving our adventure, but I hope that by sharing some of the bad with the good, we can make it easier for someone else.  We have included some of our better pictures that we have taken that have not made it to our blog yet.  We do this, simply to emphasize that there are way too many positives to let the few negatives get in the way of having a great time.  Only a health nut like my athletic husband would call vacation eating a bad thing.  Maybe he’s trying to hint at the fact that he’s starting to notice the couple of pounds I’ve put on the last couple weeks.  Don’t worry, Babe, it’s temporary.  By the way, if any of you know of a good BBQ place in Memphis, let me know so we can hit it up next week.   :O)  Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Random Thoughts...

Every now and then, it is a good idea to get back to your roots.  We have spent the last 5 years living in Las Vegas.  Something it seems is always happening there.  Most of the talent shows on television today give their contestants a trip to “Sin City” if there are deemed good enough at their opening auditions.   However, what they fail to mention is the traffic, police sirens, graffiti, etc., that is also found there.  Trying to live a more laid back, simple life is hard to do in a city like that.

Last night, we took the time to do a little fishing at a community lake near Altamont, Kansas.  We went with my sister-in-law and a couple of her kids.  I got the impression that most of the evening we were the only ones there.  The wind was calm and it was hot and humid even at 9 pm.  Still it was a peaceful twilight, filled with the sounds of bullfrogs, crickets, and kids playing.  It helped me to remember my younger days growing up in southeast Kansas.  No fish were caught, but it didn’t matter.  It was the ‘feeling’ that was most cherished. 

I did have a chance this morning to work on my air conditioning venture.  I have figured out how it will all fit together now.  As soon as the project is finished, I will provide further information, complete with pictures.  Related to this,  I discovered  a little bit of unexpected good news this morning.  I was looking at the side of the little 5000 BTU air conditioner that we had bought for this project.  It shows that it requires 515 watts and 4.6 amps to operate.  I believe these two values are within the range of operation for our solar generator.    Now, I do not think that the solar generator’s battery pack will last long at these levels, but in a pinch it could help to cool down the shell of the truck enough to get a nice start on a good night’s sleep.  My guess is that the generator would last only an hour on a full charge.  However, if  the solar panel was setup and producing electricity while the sun was still out, that time could be extended. 

We are still staying in my sister-in-laws house, (in fact, my wife is out with her today) so we will have to  wait until our next trip to try out our air conditioner.  In about 7 days though, we do plan to take the truck to the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri for a mini-vacation.  At that time, I will be able to better assess the success (or failure) of the A/C undertaking.  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Better Late than Never

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

As you know from our previous blog, we are currently staying at my sister-in-laws house.  It used to be our house, but we are owner financing it to my sister, so it's kinda fun to come back and visit.  The house has a lot of people in it right now. My sister-in-law has three of her own children. The oldest of the three has two children of her own. When you add in the boyfriends and children of the the boyfriends, it can seem like a lot, especially when my wife and I are use to living in a small RV together with no one else around.   He's right!  I have mad love for all these people, but it's crazy around here!  :O)

The point that I want to make today involves a conversation that my niece had with my wife last night. My niece, Shandi, is the oldest daughter of my sister-in-law and is the one that has two kids of her own. One year she decided to stay with us. I believe it was for her entire freshman year of high school. I gather from the little chat that she had with Shalane, that she is going to do a lot of the same things that she saw my wife do as a mother. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. She also shared a paper that she had written about three years ago. In the essay, she mentioned how much she admired my wife for the things that she had accomplished in her life and was hoping that she could grow up to emulate her.  I really don't feel as great as her paper made me sound, but I am happy with what I have made of my life and am flattered that a young person would want to strive to be her best based on my example.

As with just about all teenagers, Shandi did some things that she may now regret. However, at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I know when I was a teenager I thought I was the brightest person in the world. Life has a way of helping you realize that you aren’t as smart as you thought you were in your teens.  In fact, they might have told you how much smarter you've become or started asking for your advice on one thing or another. I know that I eventually did that to my parents as I made my way through my 20’s.  

For those of you that have children that are teenagers, I am pulling for you.  It is not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. I agree.  I love teenagers.  They're awesome, and so many of them are using their powers for good.  :O)  In the immortal words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never give up!” As a high school teacher, I would like to add that they have an internal instinct to be able to express just how unfair all rules are that apply to them. Again, I fall back to Sir Churchill on this one, "Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never- in nothing, great or small, large or petty- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.:  Words to live by, indeed.  Happy Trails!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How much can it change anyhow?

Five years is really not that long of a time to be away from a town is it? We have made it back to Oswego, Kansas now in the very house in which we used to live. My sister-in-law is ‘renting to own it’ and it was nice to finally see some of the changes that she had been telling us that she had made to the home. The rest of the town of about 2000 people is pretty much the same but there are a few differences. Also, it seems that all the people that I used to know when I lived here are all older looking, especially the children. However, except for the heat and humidity, it is nice to be back.

Getting access to the internet has proven to be a little interesting. However, if I go to an upstairs bedroom, open the window completely, and point my internet signal finder dish toward the south sky between two trees I can get just enough of a signal to surf the web. One big problem is that that bedroom has no air conditioner. Currently in the room it is about 110 degrees with the humidity around 90%. Sadly, I am exaggerating only a little bit on those numbers!

Since so much of the day was spent driving, I really haven’t had a chance to start my air conditioning project that I mentioned in the last blog entry. Still, I was able to purchase the supplies that I will need to successfully finish that task. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get it done, but I just don’t know as it will depend on how much time I have in the morning before it gets too hot. Happy Trails to all! I hope those of you that find yourself in this heat wave can find a way to stay cool!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Stay Cool on the Hot Summer Plains?

As we drove out of the cool dry mountains a couple of days ago, one of the first things that we noticed was IT WAS HOT!!!  We truly had been spoiled by our time in the mountains.  We want to continue our boondocking ways but it has proven to be a more formidable task than I had anticipated.  In fact, the title of this blog is more of a question than a statement.   I would love to hear comments from people that live without an air conditioner in hot humid places, and what they do to stay cool.    However, I will share with you a plan that I have to solve this dilemma. I actually got the idea online from looking at how tent campers stay cool using an air conditioner. 

First of all, I must say that I will not be able to boondock using this strategy.  It will require that I be hooked into at least a 15 amp socket.  The reason is that I have purchased a 5000 BTU air conditioner that I plan to set up in the back of my truck.  This will require a lot more wattage than my solar generator can produced.  However, by looking at my favorite low cost campground finder (www.freecampgrounds.com), I hope to be able to find a spot to set up camp.  The real question for me was how to set up the A/C unit so it will cool down the area in the back of the truck. The answer I think will involve a tarp, Velcro, and maybe, a little duct tape.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Kansas to spend some time with my sister-in-law.  I hope to be able to work on this project as soon as possible.  There are so many beautiful places in the area to visit, especially in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  I will keep you posted on how my plan is coming together.  It should prove interesting.  Until then, Happy Trails!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Take the Time to be a Tourist! - (The One-Day Vacation Challenge)

Sweet lady that was excited for us to buy and taste her home-made fruit cake.
Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

Jingle and Jangle Candy Shop in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma.
As all of our followers know, Dean and I are on vacation, traveling from Nevada back to the mid-west to visit with family and friends.  Friday night, we arrived here in Noble, Oklahoma to visit with my mom.  (Go Sooners!)  Right away, mom and I started figuring out what we wanted to do the next day and how we were going to make every minute count.  Saturday morning we were ready!  We started by hitting up the Stratford Peach Festival, where we enjoyed a live band, bought homemade fruit
Mom and I decorating a gingerbread house.
cake, had a brunch of smoked brisket and freshly-squeezed lemonade and purchased a beautiful, hand-crafted cedar chest.  Next, without thinking too much about it, we headed to the chocolate factory.  We GLADLY accepted and enjoyed some free samples, then purchased some chocolate covered potato chips and mint melt-aways.  Now, mind you, we planned on spending the entire day out and about, and the temperature 
outside was about 100*.  Inside the car, where the chocolate would sit, while mom and I went in and out a various places, it was about 115*.  Yup, we weren't really being thinkers on that one.  Letting our sweet tooth lead the way, we continued on to the Jingle and Jangle Candy Shop.  Here, you can choose a cookie or ginger- bread house and spend as much time as you like decorating it.  They supply several different kinds of candies and various colors of icing.  Mom and I didn't realize we would have this opportunity, but it sounded like something fun and unique, so we 
The entire activity only cost us $15, and the employees we fun and friendly.
You gotta try the pie!
chose a small gingerbread house and let the creative juices fly.  (That was messy.)  As I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, the venture took us nearly two hours.  It was fun though, and mom and I made a great memory together.  (Of course, in the midst of making this memory, we were forgetting that we had expensive chocolates turning into soup out in the car.  :O)  Now, looking at the pictures, you would think that the only thing we did yesterday was eat.  And, truth be known, we did eat WAY too much, but, we did other things as well.  After finishing our little house, we drove down to the lake.  We didn't 
My favorite!
really do anything when we were there except enjoy the drive, as we were mostly just soaking up the scenery from the nicely air conditioned car.  :O)  We were headed to Turner Falls, when we came across Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies.  I couldn't resist such a "touristy" treat.  They were DELICIOUS!  The freshly fried, warm coconut was my favorite!  If you ever have the chance, you should really give these a try!  With full tummies, we made out way down to Turner Falls.  Unfortunately, because of the drought, there wasn't much to see, but the drive was enjoyable anyway, and it was good to spend some time with mom.  Now, believe it or not, by the time we drove all the way back to Noble, we were ready for dinner.  Since we were playing tourist all day, we didn't want fast food.  We wanted something a little more unique, so we went to Cracker Barrel.  The food was good, and we loved the cute little shop, BUT we were EXHAUSTED and ready to head home.  Mom and I had a wonderful day, but what I know is that all of the thousands of people living in this area, that could've had the same kind of day that we had, didn't.  Why, because they weren't on "vacation."  Dean and I have had a few people respond to our blogs, indicating that they can't do all of the wonderful things that we do because they don't have summers off.  But, think about it, anyone can take a day and "play tourist."  I remember one day when my youngest daughter and I went out, bought a disposable camera and went down to the strip in Vegas and played tourist.  We went to places that are most common for tourists, took tourist type pictures and purposely acted excited and amazed by all the lights and entertainment.  It turned out to be one of the funnest days that we have ever had.  Point being, everyone can take a day and be on vacation, even when they're not on vacation!  :O)  So, here's your challenge, this Saturday, take a friend or family member, and make a plan.  Pretend that you're a tourist in your area.  Think about what you would do and where you would go if you had a friend coming in from out of town, and do those things.  Those of you that take the challenge, we would love to hear about your experiences and to share them on our blog.  So what if you don't have any vacation days, don't worry about it!  This weekend, if only for one day, GO ON VACATION!!!  Happy Trails!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When You Have Lost Everything, How Do You Press Forward? Day 5

May 4, 2007, started out like any other day in the Kansas prairie town of Greensburg.  Flowers were in bloom, kids were playing, and it all seemed like a typical spring day for its 1400 residents.  However, by 10 pm that night, there would be nothing "typical" about it.  The town of Greensburg, famous for having the largest hand dug well in the world, would now be known as the town that was completely destroyed by a F5 tornado. 

No, we didn't get hit by a tornado. This is just an impressive dustdevil in Oklahoma.
As we traveled through that town yesterday, we were shocked by the complete destruction of the entire town. (The best hour long documentary of it that I have found online is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=08PM3YEqBcE&feature=watch-now-button&wide=1 .   Five minutes into it will show you the first video of the aftermath & 10 minutes will show the first sights of it the next morning. )  Four years later, there are few original trees left.  Slabs of concrete are all that remained in many parts of the little town where houses and buildings once stood.  We drove to the site of the hand dug well, only to see the remnants of what used to be a building which I suspect was used to give tours.  A steel flagpole (shown to the right) was twisted in the midst of the ruins next to the site.  As one might imagine the population of Greensburg has declined substantially since that infamous day.

Inside the Grean Bean Coffee Shop/Deli
Now for the good news, Greensburg is making a comeback.  In order to prepare for this new century, they decided to pick a "Green" theme to draw people into their town.  It only seems right that Greensburg would chose to go green.  As we drove around the town there were solar panels, wind turbines, and various other "green" technology in place.  Across from the site of hand-dug well was a interesting visitor center showcasing the new technology being used.  A sweet lady inside took us on a tour of the new things being used in town.  (I even had the opportunity to get inside of an egg shaped storm shelter that should be able to survive any tornado.)  Sadly, many people had no choice but to leave their town to seek employment elsewhere, as there were no businesses left.  However, there were some that were fortunate enough to be able to stay in their hometown.  I hope that they will one day be able to see the rich rewards of their vision.  (At 53 minutes into the above mentioned youtube documentary you will see their 'green' vision for the future.)  If you ever find yourself in Greensburg, I recommend the "Green Bean" coffee shop/deli/ice cream parlor!  It even has free wifi for those needing to connect to the internet. 
Solar powered art studio in Greensburg

This sink is located on top of the toilet.  As you wash your hands it refills the tank for the next flush.
On a side note, I was able to see my native state of Kansas for the first time in over 5 years.  I know that there are many people out there that think it is a boring state.  Both my wife and I love to find the beauty of all things.  It is not hard to find if you will just take the time to look.  I'm really looking forward to our return to southeastern Kansas in a few days.  After seeing first hand what can happen to a town in the blink of an eye, I know that I will more truly appreciate the time I spend in my hometown when we make a short visit there.  Happy Trails everyone! As I mentioned yesterday, my wife is with her mom for a couple of days.  She will be back soon!