All posts by Kathe Simons

A Delicious “Field Trip”

Our kids and their spouses got really creative this Christmas and gifted us with some unique experiences in the Yuma valley, about 80 miles south of where we are wintering in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Beth and Jon gave us a Field to Feast experience and what a fabulous time we had this past week! We had to be at the Yuma Visitor Center by 7:45 AM so we left our campsite just after 6 AM. It was that time when the dark of night yields to the first trace of dawn; the stars and a few planets were still visible as the eastern sky was just giving way to a hint of light.

We arrived in Yuma and were surprised to see a very large, luxurious tour bus waiting for us in the lot. We signed in and hopped onto the bus just as the sun rose in front of us for another gorgeous desert sunrise.

Mark, our tour guide, explained our itinerary for the day—our first stop would be the University of Arizona Agricultural Center where we would meet with a master gardener and a research scientist before harvesting some vegetables for the local food bank.

When we arrived at the Ag Center, the speakers hopped onto the bus one at a time and explained the gardens.  Martha first told us about the variety of crops and how they’re planted in a rotation so that there is always something to harvest. The huge garden includes brussel sprouts, several varieties of lettuce including romaine, broccoli, several kinds of beets, cauliflower, radishes, carrots (including purple ones!), and lots more.

Dr. Paula Rivadeneira then hopped on board and explained that she has her Ph.D. in poop! She is an associate professor who specializes in food safety and wildlife as a cooperative extension specialist.  Her main goal is to assist fresh produce growers in excluding wild and domestic animals from their fields and gardens to prevent potential fecal pathogen contamination of fresh produce crops.

Most of us on the bus were aware that the Yuma Valley was the source of the romaine lettuce recalled in the recent e. coli scare.  Paula explained the precautions that are taken regularly by all the farmers in the area; food safety is the farmers’ number one priority! All farm workers are required to take safety training which is updated and reviewed regularly.

She is quite certain that the e. coli was introduced farther along the production line (the offending romaine was found in bagged salad sourced from multiple farms) when it was  processed  in a plant on a variety of machines and handled by a number of people.

Arizona growers can participate in a “Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement” (LGMA), which sets practices and standards for food safety. Participation is not mandatory, but nearly all growers do—competitiveness in the market demands it.  If a grower participates, then the LGMA’s requirements become mandatory for the grower. The LGMA received a major update after last year’s e. coli outbreak.

Prior to harvesting, SIXTY soil samples are taken from EACH acre of the crop. Each sample is analyzed  for fecal matter and other contaminants in a microbiology lab.

If any animal poop is discovered in a section of the garden, there is a five foot buffer zone established around that section; nothing can be harvested there. Scientifically, it’s proven that five feet is a sufficient buffer but many buyers opt for a 100 or even 200 foot buffer zone! She said that she wishes the buyers would understand the science and not unnecessarily waste so much food.

She pointed out that when driving by the fields, some people will stop and notice a section that the “farmer must have forgotten to harvest!” In fact, the passerby will sometime stop and grab (i.e., steal) some fresh veggies. NOPE. Farmers don’t forget to harvest an area of the garden;  it’s money out of their pocket!  These unharvested areas are where a fecal sample or some other problem was discovered and a buffer zone (don’t harvest!) section is designated.

Dr. Paula (as she likes to be called) talked about consumer food safety in great detail. EVERYTHING should be washed as soon as you get home from the market—yup, even that ‘triple-washed’ stuff (lettuce, spinach, etc.). She said to fill a CLEAN sink with cold water, a couple of glugs of white vinegar and a squirt or two of lemon juice. Soak everything for two minutes; run it through your salad spinner and you’re good to go! She also recommended that we clean our refrigerator shelves AND crisper drawers with the same solution.

The recommendation that we often hear to ‘wait to wash your fruits and veggies until you’re ready to eat them’ is WRONG.  Wash it all as soon as you get home.

And, yes, even wash those bananas, melons, avocados, and pineapples. Whatever lurks on the skin, just travels through the fruit as we cut and slice. Interesting fact: cantelopes in the U.S. are the ONLY cantelopes in the world that do NOT have a smooth skin. The webbed skin can make it easy for ‘things’ to lurk there that you really don’t want on your food. Yuck!

Dr. Paula explained in great detail the variety of ways in which birds are kept out of the huge gardens. A range of acoustic deterrents are used including sound cannons, screamers,  and shooters. Falcons and owls are used to deter small rodents; Paula is particularly excited about the falconry program! Counters (people) are used to stand on the edge of a large garden tract to keep track of bird activity and monitor the effectiveness of the deterrents.

It was time to help with the harvest! We had been told ahead of time to wear closed-toe shoes. Once off the bus, we had to wash our hands and put on hairnets and gloves. We were each handed two plastic bags and a knife–we were to write our last name on one bag and the other bag would be filled and placed into large crates for the food pantry. Yup! The bag with our name on it was for us to FILL AND TAKE HOME! And we had TWO!! What a treat!

The rows in the garden were clearly marked — we could choose whatever we wanted. We first went for brussel sprouts (we love to roast them!) and learned that they can be quite difficult to pick. We were warned to not cut off a stalk but to go for individual sprouts.  If the stalk is taken the plant will not produce any more sprouts; if only the sprouts are taken it will continue to produce.

Then we found a stupendous head of butter lettuce with large leaves, just perfect for the veggie wraps we’ve been enjoying this winter. We dug up two large golden beets  and a gigantic head of cauliflower!

One of the master gardeners handed us some purple carrots. We ended up with two HUGE bags full of fresh veggies that were stored in the luggage compartment under the bus along with the other visitors’ bags; what fun!

Just before we left the U of A site, a local farmer (he calls himself a “grower”) came on board to talk to us as we traveled to one of his farms; he farms more than 4500 acres and that’s considered a small farm.  This is a HUGE agricultural metropolis! In fact, nearly 90% of all domestically-grown vegetables found in U.S. supermarkets this time of year come from from the Yuma Valley region.

While en route, we learned more about the irrigation systems and the effects of the petulant weather on the crops in the valley. All of the irrigation is supplied by a canal system sourced by the Colorado River. This particular grower said that fields need to be irrigated the first few days after a new crop is planted so that seed germination can take place. He doesn’t have a particular sensor system to tell him when to water as the crops grow; he goes out into the fields to check on the dryness of the soil.

The soil types in this area vary greatly.  This grower’s fields have a large component of clay; it holds the water quite well resulting in less frequent waterings.  We visited another (research) farm where the soil was much sandier; they have to irrigate every few days.

Too much water can be as much of a problem as too little. If there happens to be a heavy rain across a couple of days (which happened recently) and lots of wind, entire crops can be lost. Crops that haven’t made it, as well as areas that have been buffered due to fecal contamination, are just tilled back into the ground. Everything breaks down and helps to build up the soil for the next crop.

Crops are grown to order (rather than on speculation).  The reason these people refer to themselves as “growers” is that they simply grow the crops; the purchaser is responsible for all of the other steps—harvesting, processing, packaging, shipping, etc.

It was fascinating to learn that broccoli is shipped by boat to Japan on the same day it is harvested.   Due to a poor growing season in Europe this year, romaine lettuce from the Yuma Valley is in great demand and shipped by air to Europe.

As with all other parts of our lives, technology has radically changed farming.  Tractors and other large equipment are self driving, guided by enhanced GPS (apparently the farmer still has to turn them around at the end of the rows). The irrigation systems used to bring the Colorado river’s water are gravity fed.  To make this efficient, all the fields are leveled by laser as the last step in field preparation before each planting.

We arrived at one of the grower’s fields just over the Colorado River in California where romaine lettuce hearts were being harvested.  This is an amazing process with the people actually picking the hearts and the people bagging and boxing them working only a few feet apart.

From the time the lettuce leaves the ground to the time it is bagged and in a box ready to be shipped to the supermarket appeared to be well under a minute!

Our guide, Mark, told us that he has been leading this tour at least once a week for three years, and he had never before been as close to the harvesting operation as we were able to get!  Score!

After thanking the grower and saying goodbye, we went to Arizona Western College, for a lunch prepared by their culinary department using food from the UofA Ag Center’s garden.  Delicious!

A culinary delight!

Finally, the tour went to AWC’s agricultural center. The college offers an associate degree in agriculture.  Their focus is twofold: hands-on learning in the soil to complement the book/classroom learning, and doing research studies in conjunction with industry.  Many of their graduates go on to complete a bachelor’s degree with a double major in agriculture and business at the University of Arizona.  We were able to talk with AWC students at various stages of progress through the program, as well as one graduate of the program (and of UofA) now employed in the industry and performing research on the college’s fields.

After a very full day, we headed back home (the camper is home!) and washed all our new vegetables as instructed by Dr. Paula.  Now… how to fit it all in our refrigerator???

There’s No Place Like Home

Happy New Year! We’ve been back on the desert for just over a week having spent Christmas in New York with our son, daughter-in-law, and four of our grandkids.

We had a terrific visit — we attended Christmas Eve Candlelight worship (and rang our bells!), marveled at Santa’s generosity, learned some new games, enjoyed some local cuisine, watched some favorite movies, visited the Corning Museum of Glass, and took the kids bowling.

Bowling — we ALL could have used the bumpers. We had our own cameraman.
Mira bowls a strike!

I even taught our 5-year old granddaughter to knit–she’s a natural!

Brynn chose the yarn and needles herself.
After the demonstration given to hundreds, Graham and Dean had a special opportunity to get up close and personal with a glassblower and his furnace!

We also visited with our daughter and her family on Facetime and look forward to our upcoming time with them in Vancouver, B.C. this spring. In the meantime, we’ve ordered our own copy of a fabulous new game that our daughter had gifted to our son’s family—5 Minute Dungeon! We’ll certainly learn about many other games when we visit B.C.—board games have become a staple in all branches of our family. Such fun.

While in New York, we found ourselves making a huge shift in our thinking; we started referring to home and ‘going home‘ —To. The.  Camper.

It’s hard to believe that I was feeling so isolated early last month. In the last six weeks, we’ve been swept up into the desert lifestyle and this wonderful community. We’ve been busy and it’s hard to decide which things to do!

A friend has asked me a couple of times—what do you do there? There’s nothing. It looks so desolate.

Well, yes, the desert itself is sparsely vegetated but there is a LOT going on here — we just needed to investigate!

We found a LOCAL church (just a couple of miles away) and it’s been so nice to get to meet and worship with some great folks. They have a charity quilting group that meets weekly and I attend.

Lots of snowbirds attend this church.

We have a couple of favorite restaurants in town. A lovely little diner for breakfast and a Mexican restaurant with fabulous fish tacos! We don’t eat out a lot but it’s nice to take a break once a week or so.

There’s a new coffee shop in town that boasts an entire room of fresh produce. It’s terrific and not only do they have fresh fruits and vegetables but dozens of recipes on display each week for the taking. We had a scrumptious vegetable soup and a squash soup, too. It’s a treat to visit the shop each week and see what they’ve stocked.

I joined the local Quartzsite Quilting Guild and it’s great fun to gather at the Sr. Center each Tuesday (we’re not all seniors but most are) for six hours of quilting—lots of chatting and collaborating and a guaranteed show-and-tell each week. Tomorrow, the owner of a quilt shop in Yuma is coming with fabric, threads, etc. for sale. It’s much more fun sewing with a group and making lots of new friends than it is to sew alone.

And, oh, the SHOWS!! We had heard the Quartzsite, AZ boasts about being the Rock Capital of the World.  (I’m pretty sure many other places do, too.) It’s a huge destination for rock hounds as there are many places to search and find amazing stones. However, we had NO idea that this was also the destination for so many kinds of shows during the Jan/Feb time frame. Just this week, a huge Rock and Gem Show started at the local “fairgrounds” with more than 2 miles of storefront across hundreds of booths. We had a ball with our cameras taking dozens of shots of gorgeous rocks and gems — a total blast! We’ll go back for sure.

Click on a picture for a full-size slide show.

But beyond that, there are three huge quilt shows, a big Embroidery show in Phoenix, another rock/arts/crafts show here in Q, a bluegrass festival, a hot air balloon festival, etc., etc. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up and to decide which ones we’ll visit in a given week!

This is also a HUGE mecca for ‘tribute bands,’ e.g., groups that perform hits made famous by everyone from The Eagles to Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles to Ricky Nelson, and the Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys! I guess they know they’ve got a captive audience with so many snowbirds of a ‘mature’ age.

A Peter, Paul, and Mary tribute band will perform in Quartzsite this month.

AND, we’ve made the decision to get back into ham radio. We purchased an HF radio so that I can get back on the air and talk to people all over the world. We also got two handheld radios for local communication. We’re both licensed but haven’t been active in amateur radio for well over a decade. It’s a very active hobby here; we attended our first local radio club breakfast here this past week. So many friendly and fascinating people, many of whom have been involved in the hobby for upwards of 50 years! Fortunately, this group is also dedicated to bringing young people into the hobby and is working hard to make that happen.  Al has already volunteered to help with some repeater maintenance. And yup…there are TWO huge ham radio events coming up this month. We’ll be there.

This afternoon we’ll move our camper a couple of miles down the road for a few days to another stretch of BLM land so that we can participate in another Grand Design RV Rally–much like the rallies we attended in IN and DE, there will be workshops, seminars, and lots of camaraderie.

This morning, the desert smells like spring. We actually had some rain over the weekend and there has been a pollen alert for a couple of weeks. The moisture in the air is apparently working its magic on the desert flora and it’s glorious to enjoy a preview of the spring desert bloom.  Our cameras will get a real workout this March and April.

So, that’s how we’re spending our time here in our new home on the desert. We’re learning about new opportunities every day! No rest for the retired (although we are enjoying sleeping in frequently).

When we don’t sleep in, it isn’t hard to start each day when you can see this…

Sunrise on the desert!

It’s Gettin’ Real – and We LOVE it!

Boondocking. It was a new word for me. Just over a year ago.

We had already purchased our RV — let the planning begin!

While we were dreaming about what might be ahead for us as we neared Al’s retirement,  he mentioned (with great excitement) the possibility of boondocking. It sounded like something out of a 60’s sitcom, but I soon learned what it meant.

No hook-ups. What?!?!

So, when you camp with an RV, you can camp in a campground or state park that might have hook-ups, i.e., a spigot that you can attach (with a hose) to your camper, a pedestal with electric power (30 or 50 amps) that you can connect with an electric cord to your camper, and a septic hook-up—you got it! You hook up your sewer hose to the hole in the ground. You get the idea.

In some of the campgrounds we have visited en route to Arizona, we stayed *very* close to our neighbors.  It’s not unusual, if the campground is near a tourism hot spot (a National Park, a popular city), to be lined up very close together.

Another name for boondocking is DRY camping.  It can also be called dispersed camping—as you are outside of a campground. You bring your own water, provide your own electricity (if you choose to), and have to dispose of your own waste—both black (septic) and grey (shower, kitchen sink) tanks. It’s just you and your “campsite.” And lots of room.

We knew we wanted to be in the Southwest for the winter. We’d visited Arizona several times and loved it. Less than a year ago on our last trip to Arizona (before we took delivery on the RV), we drove around to check out some boondocking sites.  I remember my stomach doing a little flip as we drove through some fairly desolate areas. I couldn’t help wondering…will I feel safe? Will I feel isolated and lonely? What if we run out of water? And on and on.

Al assured me it’s something he’s sure I could handle but there was absolutely no pressure. We took delivery of Rhett (our fifth-wheel coach) in April and had lots of fun dreaming about where we’d take him. Occasionally, Al would mention the boondocking “thing” and soon he started investigating solar power for the RV.

For those of you who know Al, you will understand when I say that he researches everything VERY comprehensively. He’s been a regular on the Grand Design Owners’ Forum  online for over a year — and has learned SO much from SO many.  As he learned more about solar and helped me to understand what it would allow us to do, we soon decided to get a recommendation for an installer.

Al already told you all about that install in an earlier post.

So, here we are now. On the desert. So what’s it like? Here are the good points:

It’s dry, dry, dry.  (NO snow!)

There is lots of sunshine, but it never gets too hot. We’ve been averaging in the mid-to-high 60’s and sitting out in the sun is a pleasure. The nights are cool and we sleep with a bedroom window open. Love it.

We have been able to run everything from our eight solar panels, and haven’t run the generators yet. It’s going to be quite overcast for the next couple of days (it’s actually raining right now) so we may end up turning on the generators to keep our batteries topped off.

We have plenty of water and if we need to refill, we either drive the RV just 2/10 of a mile to fill up OR Al puts the large water bladder into the truck bed and takes it to fill.

We have a good deal of space to ourselves;  Here, we’ve got several acres of desert to ourselves. It’s nice! And, as you can see, Al can fly the drone here—he’s quite happy about that.

The sunrises and sunsets have been absolutely glorious! (If you follow me on FB, you’ve probably seen my photos — it’s so hard not to share them!)

    A magnificent sunrise—I took this pic from bed!
Sunset on the desert.

There is lots of space to ride our bikes (although some of it is a bit, um…challenging! More about that below).

The surrounding scenery is magnificent. There is so much to explore—a number of huge wildlife refuges included—yeah!

I’m sewing again—and I seem to have my cooking mojo back, too.

Sewing again!

Black bean enchiladas with Hatch chiles. Yum!

And the not-so-good stuff:

Wi-fi has been spotty at best when camping. Luckily, my Messenger and Words with Friends games don’t use much data so I’ve been able to keep up with folks. I’ve even been able to still participate in my Maine church’s Bible Study via Facebook video. And email works, too, but on its own schedule.  But forget it if you want to use the Internet—downloading or even just following a link is impossible 90% of the time. (I know—first world problem!). We’re in the public library right now because they are hard-wired for the Internet—it’s like buttah! (And this is a pretty amazing library for such a small town—we need to find out about library cards for snowbirds.)

DUST…DUST…and you guessed it, MORE DUST! I know—we choose the desert.

Biking off-road on the desert can be a bit tricky.  I took another spill off my bike this week. When you’re trying to cross the desert (think: bushwacking), you never know when you’re going to hit a patch of deep sand or rocks, and those desert washes can be a challenge!

Off we go! Pretty innocuous.  We’re actually on a four-wheeler track here. It’s all fun and games until you decide to  cross the wash (it’s where the water collects when there’s rain—and therefore, it’s quite thick with bushes and undergrowth—and steep gulleys). Like this…

I’ve been kinda lonely.   Don’t get me wrong; Al is great company! But I am missing my family and friends and this week, the desert grey-brown got to me.  It didn’t feel like Advent at all. And being together 24/7…well, we all need some independent time occasionally. So Al encouraged me to take the truck and go off for the day. It was *just* what I needed! I drove 80 miles south to Yuma (just shy of the Mexican border) and it was wonderful. Flowers, large trees, lush green fields of all kinds of crops, beautiful mountains, and a huge shopping area that went on forever. It was great to see lots of Christmas decorations and it really put me more in the mood.  And it was simply nice to be around lots of people. It’s a balance.

So, it’s official. We are BOONDOCKERS. And SNOWBIRDS. We’re learning how to live on the desert — and for the most part, it’s awesome!

A Difficult, Humbling Day

I admit it. I’ve been thinking about this post for several weeks and needed time to let it percolate.

Truthfully, I’ve been procrastinating. I’m not sure I can do this experience the justice it deserves but I’ll try.

While exploring what to see in Memphis, we learned that it is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum is actually on the site of the the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This destination jumped to the top of our list for our Memphis stay.

We had no idea.

The balcony where MLK was murdered. Notice the small kiosk on the right; there were a half dozen of these spread out on the plaza — you could lean into one and learn important details about the time and place.  The shape of the kiosk kept the sound enclosed so as not to disturb others’ experience while taking it all in.

The NCRM has two large buildings— the Lorraine Building  (the motel) and the Legacy Building across the street, which was the boarding house from where the assassin James Early Ray took aim.  The path of the bullet is depicted in the pavement that runs between the two buildings.

Notice the path of the bullet, the dark stripe in the sidewalk.

From the moment we stepped inside the museum, it was very clear that it had been designed with incredible precision and purpose.

The museum was incredibly text rich—it took us several hours to read our way through the museum and I’m sure we didn’t read all that was posted.  (It did make me wonder how someone who isn’t able to read English well would experience the museum.)

The expanse of coverage was overwhelming both in size and scope—the museum’s floor-to-high-ceiling exhibits span the Civil Rights Movement in the United States beginning in the 1700s  with resistance to slavery and continuing into the current day with worldwide events that not only conjure inequality but also call us to work for equality—for all.

We were overwhelmed by the impact the exhibits had on us.  I felt a combination of breathlessness, anxiety, regret, and anger.  There was so much to take in. So much to learn.

This stunning two-sided bronze sculpture, Movement to Overcome (Michael Pavlovsky, sculptor), stands 14 ft high, 21 ft wide, and 6 ft deep.  It depicts the slow, uphill struggle for Civil Rights.

The powerful introductory movie concluded with shadows of people marching across the screen. As the theater was dimly relighted, we were asked to exit by climbing a few stairs onto the stage and exiting behind the screen.  We became part of the march. Chills.

It was difficult to witness some of the bone-chilling exhibits.  In a large room focused on slavery, an alcove depicted the innards of a slave ship where life-sized bronze statues wrapped in chains were crowded together on the floor.  Their agonizing screams and groans played on a continuous loop.  It felt disrespectful to even consider taking a photograph. We were there to learn. And we were humbled.

As we tried to take it all in, the displays continued to draw us into each scene as if we were present.  The story of school desegregation was displayed in a courtroom and a classroom.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s experience in the Birmingham Jail was told in a jail cell.

We agreed that our own public education had been tremendously lacking in U.S. history past the Civil War.  The school curriculum in Stamford, CT in the 1960’s did not include anything past the beginning of the Reconstruction era. Current events were glossed over and never put into an historical context.

I felt ashamed as I realized how little I knew.  We should all know this history.  Why weren’t we taught this?

I won’t presume to be the one to teach others this history that is so new to me; hopefully you already know much of it yourself.

The Rise of Jim Crow began in the late 1800’s and continued well into the 20th century.  The 15th amendment and legislation were passed to guarantee rights to African Americans and were then destroyed by a series of new laws and Supreme Court decisions that made “Separate but Equal” the law of the land. Segregated schools. Separate water fountains. Separate. Separate. But never Equal.

The Jim Crow era led to. . .

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Student Sit-ins
A lunch counter sit-in.
The Freedom Riders of 1961
A burned out bus used by the Freedom Riders
Incarcerated Freedom Riders in the early ’60s.
The Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis

Civil Rights Marches

In the afternoon we visited the three-story Legacy Building across the street.  On the 3rd floor, a timeline tells the story of the American Civil Right Movement up to the time of MLK’s assassination.  The entire second floor is dedicated to the investigation of the crime:  the conspiracy theories,  extensive evidence ,  and the actual spot where James Earl Ray took aim.

I felt unsettled. Is this where the museum leaves us? I was glad when the tour ended on the first floor.  Here we learned more about how the Civil Rights Movement here in the US has impacted human rights and civil rights throughout the world. We were left with the voices of many who have been called into action and who are making huge impacts globally to work toward equality for all.  In the dimly lit room, a mural of silhouetted men, women, and children led us out; again, we became part of the story.

Ol’ Man River

When we were looking for a campground near Memphis, several folks suggested the Tom Sawyer RV Park (actually in W. Memphis, Arkansas). We learned that it is RIGHT on the banks of the Mississippi and this totally intrigued us. The park’s website includes information about the importance of monitoring the Mississippi River as your camping time approaches; they’re closed when the river overflows its banks. Yikes! We checked and it looked like we’d be just fine; it takes a couple of weeks for rain far north to really affect the height of the river. We knew we didn’t want to approach when THIS was happening!

Here’s our site where it would be during a flood!

High water! Camping on the flood plain.

During our first hour at the campground, we were drawn to the river (actually only about 50 yards from our site) as a huge collection of barges (all attached, 7 barges long, and 3 across) was pushed along by ONE boat (that looked quite a bit like an oversized tugboat).

Can you count all the barges?  Most of the loads were three barges across and anywhere from three to ten barges long!

One of the best parts of moving around the country is how much we love being so close to different forms of transportation. In Indiana, we camped very close to a very active train track — it ran all day and night (never kept us awake) and reminded us of how much our nation’s commerce depends on different modes of transport. Then, of course, there are the thousands and thousands of tractor trailers (some pulling two or even THREE trailers!) that we share the road with as we move along the nation’s interstates. And while on the Mississippi for several days, a low rumble accompanied us much of the time — we could look out the bedroom window and watch the barges moving through as we fell asleep—and then again, when we woke up the next morning.  Sometimes we could tell what they were hauling, and other times, hmmm… They were mesmerizing. It’s fun to watch our nation’s commerce on the go!

So, why Memphis? Graceland, of course! We’ve learned to take others’ recommendations, whether positive or negative, with a grain of salt. We like to experience what we can and draw our own conclusions—sometimes a place that someone else told us to not waste our time with, is a favorite of ours!

So we drove to Graceland our first morning there—and spent hours poring over building after building of memorabilia not just about Elvis but also about many other musicians. We started with a tour of the mansion—and were quite impressed by all that we were able to see. I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

The Presley’s home — treasured and beautifully maintained.
The living room and music room beyond — the 12 foot couch was specially ordered
The dining room
The heart of the home
Elvis’ jungle room–his favorite
Elvis designed this pool room himself — nearly EVERY surface was covered with fabric — the walls (pleated), much of the furniture, and yup–the ceiling!
Elvis’ media room hurt our eyes!
Family graves in the memorial garden on the grounds of the mansion

But Graceland comprises much more than the house! There were a number of buildings that featured everything from Elvis’ car and motorcycle collections, gold records, a gallery featuring dozens of musicians who were/are influenced by Elvis, a huge archive of all things Elvis including items related to his military service, and, oh yes, an incredible array of bedazzled jumpsuits!

It took us at least a couple of hours to get through all of the extra buildings. We were pretty impressed and Elvis’ music serenaded us throughout the entire complex.  Not having ever been huge Elvis fans, we had a lot of fun and found ourselves humming Elvis tunes for several days!

Caverns, Caves, and Bats, Oh, My!

I remember a small cave in the woods out behind my Nanny and Pop-pop’s house when I was a little girl. My brother told me about it; I decided to take his word for it.

Two weeks ago, while in the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia), we visited Luray Caverns. Luray is a commercial attraction and not part of Shenandoah National Park. We signed up for a tour and were led down a long, fairly steep staircase to an amazing underground world. I remember seeing stalactites and stalagmites in Howe Caverns in New York State as a youngster. But these…

Stalactites hang ‘tight’ to the ceiling.
Stalagmites (bottom left) ‘might’ reach the ceiling some day.

The young man who toured us thru the caverns seemed to be in training for some kind of footrace; we wanted to take lots of photographs but he kept insisting that we stay together and keep up with him. It was frustrating and we finally decided we’d take our time and take the photos we wanted to—we had paid dearly for the tour and wanted our money’s worth.

Sometimes the stalactites reach up to join the stalagmites to form pillars or columns.

The stalactites are formed by water coming down through the roof of the cavern carrying dissolved limestone. The limestone is left behind when the water evaporates.  Stalagmites are formed when those drips of water drop off and hit the ground; as the water evaporates, the stalagmites grow upward. Many experts claim that the stalactites and stalagmites grow as slowly as 10cm every 1000 years. They are precious.

We were fascinated to learn that until the 1920s, tourists were allowed to snap off the end of a stalactite as a souvenir. Once the tip is broken off, the stalactite will cease to grow. It was sad to see so many broken, flat ends as we worked our way through the passages.

The old expression “A picture just doesn’t do it justice!” came to mind when we downloaded our pictures of the reflecting pool. It was pure magic; footsteps ceased and all you could hear was the intake of air as each tourist rounded the passage and gasped as they faced the pool head-on.

Can you find the waterline? See the perfect other-worldly reflection?

On our way to Luray, we passed dozens of billboards (and I mean dozens!) advertising the caverns. Many of them called attention to ‘The Great Stalacpipe Organ’—what could that be?

Sure enough as we were nearing the end of our tour, we came into a huge room within the cave that had an organ console up on a landing. Apparently you can make arrangements to get MARRIED in this room, complete with a pipe organ accompaniment. (It’s a bargain at $1900 for just 12 guests!)

The famous stalacpipe organ in Luray Caverns.

The organ is actually an electrically actuated lithophone that produces tapping of a large number of pipes (stalactites)  throughout 3-1/2 acres of the cave. You can see the wires along the walls, weaving in and out of the limestone appendages. The tour guide pushed a button and we were regaled with the limestone version of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”—you could almost make out the tune! Because of the enclosed space of the cavern itself, the song can apparently be heard throughout the entire cavern.

One of the most magnificent features in Luray Caverns are the ‘curtains’— they are beautifully translucent stalactite formations that drape down from the ceiling —almost like long sheets of beautiful linen. Glorious!

Stalactite curtains

During our stop in the Shenandoah Valley, we had the solar panels installed which required Al to be at the campsite all day. He encouraged me to go out into Shenandoah National Park by myself.  The first day I went out, I missed a sign and ended up driving across the width of the park into the next town before I realized what I’d done (without my trusty navigator with me). So I turned around (I’m getting really good at those twisty-turny mountainside roads) and found the turn I’d missed.

When I finally got through the gate, I drove up to the first viewpoint. It actually involved a 4 mile loop hike and it was not something I was up for. So I stopped into the ladies’ room—The woman at the sink reminded me of someone from back home. “Wait! I know you!” I exclaimed. It was Dot—I’ve known her for a couple of decades — we attended the same rughooking retreat for many, many years back in Maine. What were the chances? We had a great time catching up for a few minutes. Back to the park . . .

Shenandoah NP boasts its centerpiece Skyline Drive as one of the VERY BEST places to see beautiful fall foliage (don’t worry, Mainers —I don’t believe anything can top autumn in Maine); it runs the entire length of the park. Unfortunately, there was not a smidgen of fall color. There were, however, some beautiful overlooks with views that reminded me of the Great Smokies—I stopped a number of times and made a stop at the Visitor’s Center just as a few spritzes of rain appeared on my windshield.

From Skyline Drive in Shenandoah NP–no fall foliage in sight

By the time I got back to the truck, the clouds and fog had really socked in—and it was raining more steadily. Yeah, doing twisty roads—steep and downhill—and not being able to see past a very few feet in front of my bumper was NOT FUN.

I went back to the national park on the second day of the solar install and was able to spot just a few more leaves giving way to a touch of dark yellow. Many leaves appeared just brown and shriveled. Disappointing. We’ll go back another year— and for Al, it will be his first time IN the park.

Fast forward five days — poof! We’re in Cave City, Kentucky, the home of Mammoth Cave National Park.

Imagine a series underground caves and tunnels that layer, twist, and intersect for more than 400 miles! We stopped at the stunning visitors’ center and learned quite a bit about the cave system. O.K., I knew about the bats but not about the cave crickets and cave rats!

The descent into the Historic Entrance

We had pre-purchased tour tickets online for the Grand Avenue Tour for the next day so this first day in the park, we decided to venture into the self-guided “Historic Entrance.” It comprises two huge rooms with numerous placards with all kinds of information; you can read your way right through. There were lights — just enough so you could see your way around and read the signage (kind of). There were three rangers on duty. Al’s great about asking questions and learning as much as he can from the rangers. Interestingly, one of the rangers told us that since those placards have gone up, it’s rare for anyone to talk to the rangers anymore. How sad! She explained that they have so much knowledge to share but if no one approaches them . . .

During the revolutionary war, much saltpeter was mined from the cave to make gunpowder.

We stopped to speak to another ranger on the way out. I asked about the bats. They’ve lost about 90% of the bat population due to the White Nose Syndrome; it’s a fungus that has killed millions of bats across the U.S. It came from Europe and Howe Caverns was where it was first detected here. The ranger said he’d only spotted two bats today and he pointed his flashlight to a tiny black spot high up on the cavern wall. So small.

The next day’s Grand Avenue Tour comprised four miles of strenuous walking and climbing—-all at 260+ feet underground!
Two rangers accompanied us —one at the front who flipped light switches ahead of us and who taught us so much along the way. The second ranger brought up the rear and switched lights off as we moved on.

It was magnificent—see for yourself!

Notice no stalactites or stalagmites! A sandstone layer above the cave’s limestone prevents water infiltration through most of the cave.

Gypsum (calcium sulfate) “flowers” grow throughout the cave.

The gypsum takes on many different appearances but yes, it’s the same gypsum that is in the wallboard of our homes.
Sometimes the passages are wide and low; other times tall and (very) narrow.
They reminded us of the slot canyons we saw in Arizona.
The cave was a commercial attraction in the 1800s. People were encouraged to put their names on the cave ceiling, using candle soot!

At one point during the tour, the rangers had us sit at on benches along the sides of the path. They wanted us to experience TOTAL DARKNESS and turned off all the lights and just listen. It was amazing.

Can you see my hand? Neither could I!
There were side passages everywhere!

As we neared the end of our Grand Avenue Tour, I asked the lead ranger what the difference is between a cave and a cavern; having visited both, I was curious. He gave me a very simple answer: “RN!”

Toward the end of the tour we reached a section without the sandstone cap, resulting in some stalactites. Places that are moist are lit with amber light to cut down on algae growth.

As we approached the exit, the ranger stopped us and shined his light on the ceiling so we could see a large group of cave crickets. They hang out there and only leave the cave every 7-14 days to eat. Cute little critters, eh? I told the ranger I was glad to see the crickets and was REALLY glad I HADN’T seen any cave rats. “Don’t look over to your right then,” he told me. “I can’t guarantee they’re aren’t some over there.” Aaaaaand, I made a very quick exit!

The cave crickets are about 1.5 to 2 inches across.

Water, water, everywhere! It’s what carved the magnificent cave system. The Green River and its tributaries did most of the work and it still runs several layers below the tunnels that we traveled.

We hiked a trail near the historic entrance, and found river height / flood gauges…
Don’t want to be anywhere near here when there is a 56 foot flood!

Finally starting to see some color!

The cave systems we visited were magnificent and very different from each other; Luray was commercialized with a very quick, pricey tour while Mammoth Caves had a huge range of tours and with our Senior Park Pass, it was a steal! We’re so glad that we got to experience both of these amazing places. And, yes, we’re still on the prowl for some fall foliage!

Fire, Friends, and Dolphins

Another rally – yay! This time we were at the Massey’s Landing RV Resort in Millsboro, Delaware.  Set on the Rehoboth Bay, this gem of a campground was a perfect spot for the Grand Design Northeast Owner’s Rally (can you say white sand, lagoons, pool bar, and ice cream sundaes?).  There were approximately 200 rigs and about 500 attendees; we broke a record for an owner’s rally (a rally not sponsored by the manufacturer, but organized by a community of owners).

A record-breaking owner’s rally

Once again, a number of workshops were offered. We didn’t attend too many this time since they were ones we’d already attended at the Hershey RV Show last fall or at the recent Indiana rally. However, there was a really important session on RV fire safety which was sobering.  A husband/wife team both of whom are firefighters shared the story of a recent RV trip they took. Upon arrival at their campsite, they discovered a drawer in their kitchen that was completely charred as were the two drawers above it! This was the results of loose batteries in the drawer that had sparked a fire while they were bouncing around while underway—yikes! You can bet that every one of us went right back to our RV to tape the ends of every battery that wasn’t in its original package — I know I did!

The best part of this rally was the new friends we made! THIS is the best part of traveling the country — meeting wonderful, interesting people who share a sense of wanderlust. We spent plenty of time sitting around the campfire or picnic table sharing ideas about modifications we’ve made to our RV,  making suggestions about where to camp, and just getting to know each other. Here are some of the folks we met …

Patti and Steve

Patti and Steve have recently ordered a new Grand Design RV (their second!) and were trying to decide on what brand of truck to purchase; this is a common quandary. And RV owners are often eager to shareopinionated, pushy, overbearing, obnoxious, enthusiastic about which brand of truck to purchase. Patti had lots of questions and took lots of notes. She was looking for as many ideas, suggestions, and tips as she could. It was great fun to show her a few of the modifications we’ve already made.  Steve has a wicked sense of humor and we had a great time visiting and laughing with them both!

Paula and Chuck

Here are Paula and Chuck. We got to know them when we went on an evening cruise up the Broadkill River. We really *clicked* and enjoyed our time together throughout the weekend. It turns out that Paula had actually discovered us on the Grand Design Owner’s Forum online—Al’s been very active on the forum for a year and  lists our address as Bass Harbor, ME. She was searching for us at the rally because they’ve vacationed in Maine, in fact in BAR HARBOR for many, many years. We had fun comparing notes (and we couldn’t help but mention that we may have a home for sale there next year!).

We went out for breakfast together and on our last evening at the rally, Paula and Chuck invited us over to their RV to watch a beautiful slide show of their walk on the Camino. They encouraged us to think about it.  Paula and I have so much in common (separated at birth?) and have already texted each other a couple dozen times since we left Delaware. Such fun to make new friends!

Cruisin’

As we travel to new places, we try to take advantage of as many new activities as we can—who knows if we’ll ever be back this way?  There were several offerings at the rally (shopping trip, casino visit, and boat trips) and we signed up for two evening cruises — the first was on the Broadkill River and the second was on the Delaware Bay.

A flock of ibis overhead

We were thoroughly entertained by some dancing dolphins!

Breakwater birds serenade us
Sunset at Delaware Breakwater East End Light

Making new friends as we travel — it’s like finding a lighthouse out on the bay. It’s a beacon that reassures us that we’re on the right course. Full speed ahead!

Meeting the Amish

Last week, while at the Grand Design Owners’ Rally in Goshen, Indiana, I took an Amish Brown Bag Tour.  We would visit a number of different Amish businesses in Elkhart County, mostly in the Middlebury/Shipshewana area. It included a “Thresher’s Dinner”
so I was a bit confused as to why I’d need a brown bag lunch, too. Hmmm. . .

The large group traveled on two large, luxury buses with VERY efficient air-conditioning. Our tour guide, Carlene, is the founder and owner of the tour company and she REALLY knows her stuff! She narrated along the way as we motored through stunning farmland and past home after home with meticulously maintained grass and gardens (they’d never let us live here!).

We passed miles and miles of farmland.

We passed several “quilt gardens” (too quickly to get a picture but you can see some samples here) and learned that they are a special tradition here. Each garden replicates a different quilt block that is made with annuals — it takes lots of planning and long-lived dedication. To be included on the Quilt Garden Tour, you need to submit your plan for approval in October and then the annuals are ordered. Your garden must be maintained throughout the entire season to remain on the tour.

Our first stop was the Rise ‘n Roll Bakery.  Carlene had prepared us well, telling us that their donuts are considered “Amish crack.”  She was SO right! As we entered the store, we were greeted by a young woman who handed each of us a piece of freshly baked donut. OH. MY. GOODNESS. It was amazing. We had about 25 minutes or so to shop — all kinds of pastries, cookies, breads, jellies and jams, and crunchy candy (think brittle) made with a variety of nuts, some with a chocolate dip. I chose a package of 6 chocolate chip cookies (my favorite), a double-chocolate muffin (do you sense a theme here?), a package of 3 monster cookies, and a box of donut holes — the same flavor as the sample we got at the door. Yeah, we like sugar.

The Rise ‘n Roll Bakery – it was busy!
An amazing Rise ‘n Roll muffin (it’s still in our RV freezer).

Well, I soon learned that the “brown bag” was a huge brown shopping bag that Carlene handed us as we approached the bus. AND SHE GAVE EACH OF US A HUGE PIECE OF CAKE from a large rack that had been rolled out to the bus. Uh oh. I wish I’d known what we were getting — I wouldn’t have bought so much inside. Yeah, riiiiight.

My large brown paper bag was already quite full and that was only stop #1. Uh oh.

Here’s the evidence that Al and I have been enjoying these treats!

Along the way to stop #2, we passed several Amish schools. Carlene shared some interesting facts with us, some of them surprising:

  • Amish children don’t start school until they’re 7 years old.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch is a language derived from German and is spoken by the Amish in their homes. Children begin to learn to read Pennsylvania Dutch in the third grade; the focus is on reading, NOT writing.
  • Children finish school at the end of their 8th grade year (age 15).
  • Sometimes a youngster might want to go on to HS at which point they’d attend an “English” school but it’s not common.  If an Amish student is particularly athletic, they might be recruited to attend a local English high school.
  • Each school has two baseball diamonds; softball is played at every recess including during their hour-long lunch break. One field is used by the younger children, the other for the older kids. ALL the kids play and they love it!
  • The teacher is also Amish; the only requirement to teach is that they finished the 8th grade in good standing. There is no teacher training.
  • Some children use their pony carts to get to school. Others come by bicycle. We didn’t see any pony carts; I would assume they have a shed for the ponies and carts just like we saw at Walmart.
School’s in session.

Stop #2 was Teaberry Wood Products and it was probably my favorite stop on the whole tour. We were greeted by Lavern; he hopped onto the bus, a beautiful family portrait in hand, and gave us some background about the family business. The long and short of it is that he works for his wife! Rachel is the primary designer of their baskets and puzzles.

They are best known for their beautifully-crafted, wooden, woven baskets—each one is made from a single piece of wood! The pattern is such that a scroll saw cuts the base of the basket and all the  ‘weavers.’ The stakes are the upright sticks that are woven in and out of the weavers to hold it all together.

Rachel showed us how a basket is cut from one piece of wood. Beautiful!
The weavers are stacked (offset) and then held together by the staves.

They also make many others items including beautiful cutting boards, handsome pens, amazing puzzles (that can be stood up and will stay altogether), stunning nativities, and wooden seam rippers.

Lavern told us the story of how the seam rippers came to be a part of their business —– they found that men were interested in the pens  but when they wanted to come up with something for the “women”  in an area where quilting is common, the idea for the seam ripper emerged. They can’t keep them in stock.  Lavern told us that since men don’t make mistakes, they don’t NEED seam rippers! No stains are used on any of their products, but each item is dipped into a large vat of oil which brings out all the grain of the wood. They use exotic woods to create the color dimension.

My gorgeous seam ripper (because I DO make mistakes!).
I’ll always remember Rachel when I use this basket — a perfect size for our RV.

Back on the bus and after a quick stop at a small quilt shop that was going out of business — we were on our way to lunch. My “brown bag” (not my lunch!) now had a bag of “Horse and Buggy” pretzels and a jar of Amish jam — I’m going to need more storage in my kitchen!

We were treated to a hearty Thresher’s Dinner at a large dining hall built and run by a lovely young Amish family. (A Thresher’s Dinner is a family style Amish dinner; it’s similar to a harvest meal.) Seth (in his early 30’s) welcomed us and shepherded us to the pie table before we entered the dining room. FINALLY! Someone ELSE who agrees that you have to know what’s for dessert before you have dinner. I chose a piece of fresh peach pie and took it to my table.

The hall is also used for quilting bees — we were surrounded by colorful quilts.

We got to our tables and were served a scrumptious feast of baked chicken, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, amazing “slaw,” and bread — lots and lots of bread. The bread is served with two spreads — a “peanut butter spread” and apple butter. We tried to figure out what made the peanut butter spread so airy — it was almost like it’d been whipped with a little marshmallow fluff. The slaw was actually a cauliflower/broccoli salad, very finely chopped, crunchy, and delicious.

What a meal!

A second wave of serving plates and bowls came around the table — most all of us were too full for seconds! And we still had dessert. Just as we were finishing our pie, Seth announced that homemade vanilla ice cream was coming out in a moment with caramel sauce. Wow!

More handmade quilts to admire.
Such fine stitches – wow!

After lunch, Seth answered lots and lots of questions from our group (both buses – about 120 people in all) — interestingly enough, most of the questions were from the men and nearly all of them were about marriage and church traditions. Seth told us all about how once they’ve completed 8th grade, young people travel quite frequently to other Amish communities (even in other states) and that’s sometimes how they meet their future spouse. He also told us about his young family (a wife and two young children) and how he hadn’t had any schooling beyond 8th grade. Several people on the tour asked questions about whether an Amish person is shunned by their family and/or community if they marry outside of the Amish faith. Seth explained that they could still visit (and would be welcomed by) their family and community but that they just couldn’t attend worship. He doesn’t like the word shunned and thinks that it makes it sound too harsh.

Seth told us that his mother had been a teacher (she was standing right behind him at that moment and chuckled!) and that he was always careful to speak as correctly as possible. Sure enough, she had finished 8th grade in good standing and decided she wanted to teach when it was time for her own kids to attend school.

We were quite struck when Seth explained that in the Amish community, no one has insurance — neither health nor homeowners. They consider buying insurance a form of gambling (and I guess it is). The community IS the insurance — if a family loses their home or barn in a fire, by that evening, community members have plans in place and the new structure is completed within a week! Seth also told us that families in the church communities (usually about 1 mile wide by 2 miles long) each contribute to help each other out. For instance, if a family has a huge medical expense, the community will provide money to cover the expenses.  What incredible generosity and commitment!

As we boarded the bus to leave, we saw a large trailer packed tightly with benches (and songbooks were in there, too). Seth’s family was due to host this week’s worship service. The trailer of benches is moved from home to home. They only have church every other Sunday and always meet in homes.

Note: At our next stop, one of our group realized that she’d dropped $20 at the dining hall when she pulled her cellphone from her back pocket. She let our tour guide know. At about the same time, the tour guide received a phone call from Seth that someone had dropped $20 on the floor at lunchtime.  Seth told us that he’d ride his bicycle out to the road and meet us as we came by on the bus— and surely he did.

We visited a buggy shop in the afternoon — here’s the show lot. 🙂

We visited a buggy shop in the afternoon — it was impressive! The owner, Maynard, runs a one-man shop; he builds and repairs Amish buggies. His craftsmanship is in such demand that he has an 18-month waiting list for new buggies. It takes him about two weeks to complete one.

One of several tool benches in the buggy shop.

All kinds of special options can be ordered– everything from LED headlights to blinkers, from hand-operated windshield wipers to extra spacious carrying room for groceries, etc. The interiors are stitched on his heavy-duty sewing machine (one of his favorite parts of the process).  They were amazing!

A buggy being built in Maynard’s workshop.
Wheels and more wheels.

Maynard explained that well-built and well-maintained buggies can last forty years or more and are often passed on from one generation to the next. They can sell for about $12,000 new.

And, of course, we were each given a bag of Horse and Buggy Pretzels as we reboarded the bus. My brown bag was heavy!

Can you see the horse and buggy shape of each pretzel?

This incredible journey into the world of the Amish community was my favorite part of our trip to Indiana.  It’s a treat to learn so much about an area we’re traveling through. I’m so glad that I am able to share some part of the experience with you.

Where in the World is the (fill-in-the-blank)??

One of the challenges in full-time RV’ing is storage.

Once we pared down what we’d be bringing, and then pared down again, it was time to play Tetris! How and where would we store the chosen items? How can we use our space most efficiently (and find things later)??

Some items that had NEVER co-habitated in our sticks-and-bricks home  had to make new friends — and hopefully, play well together! Knives that always had their own apartment at home now had to share their digs with the small whisk,—big brother couldn’t come—the apple slicer, a single pie server, and others.

Items in the kitchen cabinets are packed in tightly (never the same way twice it seems!) to use up every last morsel of available space.  Glass banging against glass? Put unbreakable items between those that could break.  Some food staples in bags? Think walnuts or flour. Transfer the contents into plastic containers that stack.  Cereal boxes too tall to wrestle into the top shelf easily? Cut them down so they will fit easily in a cabinet. And it’s plastic ‘glassware’ for the win!

And…probably the most helpful tool of all — the TENSION ROD.

The power of the magic tension rod!

They’re ubiquitous. They hold things in place while we travel in just about every cabinet we have.  We wedge them tightly either top to bottom or across to keep things in their place. Well, they’re supposed to . . .

Sometimes you also need to think out of the box—see what I did there? Look at this great place to store toilet paper and the huge ziploc bag of laundry detergent! (Yes, we have a washer/dryer.)

Don’t worry — this is the dryer.

All of this said, it can make it a challenge to find something you know (or think) you brought along. We’re still having to empty most of an entire shelf to find that one thing we are pretty sure is in there…at the back, of course. Hiding.

Yoo-hoo! I know you’re back there, Cinnamon!

Many experienced RV’ers told us that towing your rig down the road is equivalent to an earthquake. We plan for that and wedge things so that they won’t tip over. I even got creative with some leftover rubbery shelf liner strips to protect the Corelle. Score!

Interlacing the shelf liner keeps the dishes from moving around.

And then, before we depart for the next campground on our itinerary, there are a few things we need to do. We try to remember to check that:

  • All cabinet doors are securely closed;
  • Waste baskets are emptied and placed in bedroom closet;
  • Bedroom closet doors are latched;
  • Shower head and shower doors are tightly velcro-ed in place;
  • Electric toothbrush is unplugged and stowed;
  • Counters are clear — silverware tote and the teapot are in the sink, etc.;
  • The microwave glass is wrapped up in dish drain pad and secured;
  • TV has been lowered into its cabinet;
  • Bathroom door is snapped open with its handy traveling strap;
  • No loose items are on the floor except under the dinette in a plastic tub; and
  • Both rugs are rolled, each secured in a bungie cord, and placed next to the dinette.
All of that “Destination Imagination” velcro is being put to good use!
This cool lock keeps the closet shut while we’re pulling Rhett down the road.

Be careful when opening overhead compartments as contents may have shifted during flight.” Yup.

Even with the precautions we’ve taken, we’re still getting an occasional surprise when we open Rhett up after a long drive. We can be pretty sure that, if we were traveling on an interstate in really rough condition (thank you, Indiana!), we’ll find at least one cabinet open. With a few escapees who wanted a better view traveling down the road.

Looks like it might be time to install those really cool magnetic cabinet closures that we bought a few months ago.  You lock them with a ‘key’ — and they’re guaranteed to keep the cabinets closed.

But I wonder where they are.