Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve
St Michael, ND

Wow! June is almost done. We've been here at Sullys Hill for 4 weeks now and time is flying by. We are having a blast! We'll be here thru the end of August, then headed towards Middlebury, Indiana where we'll be attending Entegra University, a 4-day in-depth training class on our Anthem motorhome. We'll also be meeting up with Jim & Deb in Michigan where they are workamping this summer; and were hoping to change out our couch and dining table while we're in Indiana.

We're getting lots of sunshine and outdoor work this summer.....

Staining the exterior of the visitor center......

.....lots of mowing, weed wacking and landscaping.....

....and repainting signs.

We got our ATV/UTV certifications in February.....

                                                          .....then added Ag Tractor......
Check out the video

...and Skid Steer last week!

The wildlife and scenery here is spectacular...

We visited a couple of local Points of Interest.....

Turtle Mountain Reservation

and Rugby, ND. The geographic
center of North America

While driving into town we spotted an unusual boat approaching one of the numerous boat ramps on Devils Lake.....

It's an M30 Bridge Builder.being tested after delivery to the Arny Engineering Regiment near  Camp Grafton at Devils Lake. The M30 is repacing the MK11 which has been in use by the Army for nearly 30 years.

Here's a link about the M30 if your interested....

M30 Bridge Builder

Here's what happens when the wind and weather conditions line up on Devils Lake......

These folks were catching white bass as fast as they could throw out a line. Shoulder to shoulder, catching on consecutive casts. Almost everyone of these folks caught 3-4 fish in the 5 minutes we pulled over to watch.

Shout out to Joan's Dad, Tommy....just turned 86 on Sunday....

....the same day Joan and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.

Well, that's about it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Elk and Bison and Deer.....Oh My!

Sullys Hill National Wildlife Preserve
Devils Lake, ND

Memorial Day finds us at our summer volunteer location, a bison and elk preserve managed by Fish & Wildlife. Sullys Hill started as a National Park in 1904 and was later transferred to USFWS. Today the preserve maintains a small herd of about 20 bison (currently there are an additional 4 red dogs/babies) and just over a dozen elk. Sullys Hill is 1 of only 4 national bison preserves. There is also a prairie dog 'town' and a few white tail deer.

Our campsite is inside the preserve in the maintenance area. We're asked to work 3 days a week performing some mowing and landscaping, visitor center, trash pickup and infrastructure maintenance such as sign painting, etc. There is an 'auto tour' route through the preserve so visitors can get up close to the bison from the comfort and safety of their cars. Joan and I have access to a UTV and have been driving the auto route and/or fence-line every day (including our days off) checking the fence and picking up litter. Really cool when your just just 20 - 30 yards from the bison as they move throughout the preserve.

The UTV allows us to get close to the elk as well...

We'll be here through the end of August, so if you find yourself traveling through North Dakota, be sure to stop by!

We've been in our new-to-us coach since December and we're really happy with our decision to upgrade. And even though the coach is 9 years newer than our previous coach there are still items that need a little TLC. While in Lake Mead we had the Aqua Hot system repaired as we had 2 bad pumps and a bad thermostat. We also had a chip in the windshield repaired.....small tirade here...40 years driving in Florida and the southeastern US = '0' chipped or cracked windshields. 6 years full-timing out west = 4 RV windshield chips & 9 jeep windshield chips/cracks!...tirade over...

Pocket Door on the floor
We left Lake Mead the end of April with 3 weeks to travel before we needed to report to Sully Hill. At our 1st stop near St George, Utah I noticed our pocket door sagging a little. The culprit was a missing screw in one of the hanging brackets so I pulled the door to replace the screw.
Also replaced a 12V water pump that went bad. I had changed out the Direct TV rooftop antennae to a Dish antennae but just couldn't seem to get all the channels I was supposed to. Finally after working with Dish and Entegra tech support we figured out the Direct TV inline power module and coax splitter were still connected and disrupting the Dish signal. I removed both of these items and Bingo...everything works as promised.

Our Entegra coach is quite a step up technologically from the Monaco we owned for 7 years. So Joan and I signed up for Entegra University in October. We'll be traveling to Middlebury, Indiana to attend a 4-day class along with 6 other couples where we'll be educated on all the various systems and maintenance of our personal motorhomes.

L_R Joan, Vicky, Harry, Jim, Brenda & me

We made stops in several areas on our way to Devils Lake to meet up with friends and family. In Ft Collins, CO we met up with my cousin Tim for a quick reunion and dinner.... in Custer, SD we met up with Vicky and Harry who are workamping at a to meet new friends Jim & Brenda and Larry & Sue...

.....went golfing with Phil, Jim & Harry.....and even got in a little motorcycling with Phil & Rudee.

Joan's cousin Robert and his wife Michelle stopped in as well and once he saw the elk in Custer State Park we couldn't keep him in the car!

It's a Boy!

Shout out to my youngest son Chris and Lindsey.....who have informed us we are to be grandparents for the 3rd time (their 1st) near the end of August-first of September.

Well that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goodbye Sharky

Jimmy Dale Crowe, a healthy baby boy was born on or about October 21, 1933 near Sikeston, Missouri to RW (Reuben) & Lois Crowe. There is some doubt about that date as all births and deaths were recorded whenever the traveling magistrate happened to pass through town. It seemed unusual that records reflected all local births and deaths appeared to have occurred the same day of that particular week. Oh yeah......another irregularity......the birth certificate indicated that Jimmy Dale Crowe was female. Jim always argued that point, but his family still enjoyed teasing him about that.

He grew up in Missouri with a younger brother Jerry and even younger sister Janice. Summers saw him riding with his father, a long distance truck driver. They made wagers as to how long it would take them to drive to their destinations; the winner choosing what they would eat for their next meal.....his father was good at this game and as a result Jim learned to love scrambled eggs with ketchup. The family moved to central Florida when Jim was a senior in high school. His brother hated Florida and ended up returning to Missouri as soon as he graduated high school. Jim kinda' liked Florida. He met and married a young lady named Wyonda Sue George....and soon after Charles Stephen Crowe arrived on the scene....followed 18 months later by Vickie Allyn Crowe.

Jim was athletic.....he had played football and baseball in high school and even tried out for the St Louis Cardinals as a pitcher. I've seen numerous pictures of Jim doing handstands and walking on his hands. He had hurt his knee playing football and eventually it hurt him so bad he had to have surgery to repair the damage years of 'living with it' had caused. After the surgery the discomfort was better, but the flexibility in his knee was restricted. He still enjoyed outdoor, shooting, golf. He was always fishing; offshore, coastal, freshwater; it didn't matter to him. I remember going shooting with him; he had an old lever action .22 rifle and he could throw a bottle cap in the air and shoot it before it hit the ground.

For years after his knee surgery he continued to enjoy bowling; and he was good at it. He had worked at a bowling alley, gave lessons and even bowled 2 perfect 300 games, bowling 12 strikes in a row in league play on 2 different occasions. Eventually his knees got so bad he had to give up bowling. And 40 years later his knees forced him to give up golf as well, but not before he scored 2 Hole in One's! He absolutely loved golf. He golfed every Wednesday....going into work several hours early so he could get off to play golf in the afternoon. And if he could talk Sue into it, he would golf every weekend at least once, maybe twice; both Saturday and Sunday. He loved going on trips to the mountains with some of his buddies for golf marathons, 2 or 3 rounds a day for several days in a row. He even played an entire round of golf without a knee. An infection following knee replacement surgery resulted in having to remove the infected prosthesis and leave him without a knee joint for several weeks while treating the remaining infection in his body. He decided that with his knee securely wrapped he could probably hit a golf ball. And he was right. He played 18 holes. My golfing buddies called him 'Sharky'.  20 years older than most of us, bad knees, both hips replaced, tri-focal glasses, he was still hard to beat on the golf course. Everybody wanted him on their team when a bet or bragging rights were on the line. Jim would tell them he had never lost a golfing bet....."If I lost the game, I just refused to pay" he would joke. He was fearless on the putting green. He would crush putts that would have rolled 30' past the hole if he missed.....but they always seemed to hit the center of the cup.

Over the years Jim worked at Holler Chevrolet in Orlando, FL, Glenn Joiner and Sons in Winter Garden and Winter Garden Lanes before he began working at the Post Office. He delivered mail, worked behind the counter and eventually was promoted to Assistant Post Master, Winter Garden. After that he was chosen as Officer in Charge in Ocoee, FL before being selected as Postmaster in Winter Garden where he continued to work until he retired after 30+ years with the postal system.

When he was 45 he and Sue bought 2 acres on a lake and acting as his own General Contractor proceeded to build a house with views of the lake from every room. Once the slab was poured and block walls were up, he along with family and friends installed the rafters, roof decking, shingles and windows; he framed the walls, hung drywall and paneling; did all the masonry to install Florida field stone on the interior and exterior of the fire place; before painting the house inside and out. This was his home for the next 38 years.

A few years before he retired, while on vacation in North Carolina he and Sue bought several lots on a mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway as an investment or possibly a future vacation home. When he got home the realtor called to inform him that 1 of the 6 lots was already sold and offered to refund his money for the 1 lot or trade him another lot in the same area. He took the trade. The next trip there he discovered the replacement lot sat just above a natural crevice in the mountain giving him a dramatic view into the valley below and sunrises every morning. He decided this was the lot for a vacation cabin. The next year on another vacation trip he started talking to contractors about building a cabin, showing them sketches of a cabin he had drawn from pictures he'd seen. About 6 months later the contractor called telling Jim that he needed a 'draw' in order to continue work. "Continue work on what?"  Jim asked. The contractor told him they'd already dynamited the excess stone to make room for a basement, built the foundation and constructed exterior walls and roof rafters....they had about 1/2 the cabin completed.....all with no contract, formal plans or approvals from Jim. The contractor had assumed Jim's sketches and preliminary discussions about future construction were enough to proceed with building the cabin. The cabin turned out great, even if it was unexpected. Once he retired he and Sue started spending 6 months on the lake in Florida and 6 months at the cabin in the mountains.

Jim's other interests including painting and woodworking before moving into stained glass. Jim started making stained glass pieces of art; lampshades, window inserts, bowls, sun catchers and many others. First it was for fun, then people started requesting special custom pieces. He would create these pieces for the cost of the materials, no labor; he would even barter stained glass pieces for such things as tree removal and jobs too big for him to do personally.

Easter 2014 Jim was sitting at home watching TV when he suffered a stroke. The stroke left him without the use of his right arm or leg; a vocabulary of about 14 words; and the inability to effectively communicate. On Monday, March 18, 2018 Jim Crowe passed away in his sleep. Married for 65 years to his high school sweetheart, Sue; 2 children, Steve and Vickie; 2 grandchildren, Doug and Chris; and 2 great grandchildren, Tristyn and Greyson, and a 3rd great grandchild on the way.

These are just a few of the things I remember about Jim. He was my 'Go To' guy when I needed help. Someone I could go to lunch with when I was having a bad day and just needed a little pick me up. A sounding board to discuss ideas. The person I trusted when I needed advice.  I will miss Sharky.

My friends called him Sharky. I called him Dad.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The 7 Year Hitch

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope your Christmas is fun, relaxing and safe. And that your New Year is healthy and happy.

Joan and I find ourselves back in Boulder City, NV this holiday season, volunteering at Lake Mead NRA until March 2018. We have volunteered here 5 times; the 1st time in 2013 doing maintenance at Echo Bay marina and the other 4 as Road Monitors out of Boulder Beach. If you haven't figured it out by now, we kinda' like it here in the winter. The volunteer campground has 19 sites; this year with 8 returning couples. It's kind of like 'coming home' and seeing our family when we're here. Every once in a while, a couple misses a season (like we did last year), but there is a core group that has been coming as long as we have; Liz and Bob - originally from this area with family here and in new England; Barb and Bill - from Wisconsin wintering here in between family in Montana and California; Daryl and Barb - staying warm waiting for the snow to melt in Colorado; Ginny and Don - our role models, well into their social security years physically but still teenagers at heart, in their 11th RV over the years, planning a 25 day Mediterranean cruise in 2018 and Alaska in 2019. Energizer Rabbits, both of them; Leslie and Chris - with 2 RV's, 5th wheel for living, truck camper for short trips. New couples Bob & Dawn, Malcolm & Sheree and Glen & Gina just finding out what winters in Lake Mead are all about; Temps range between the 30's and low 70's, sunshine and no clouds for weeks at a time; and a great location to explore Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Vegas.

The 7 year Hitch.......yes, we're now into our 7th year living full time in our RV. We moved full-time into our 2005 Monaco Knight in October of 2011, and after 6 months we left Florida in March of 2012 headed to our 1st workamping gig in Mt Hood National Forest, Oregon. Since then we've worked in Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and New Hampshire. We've visited dozens of National Parks, Monuments, Recreation areas and State Parks. We've met hundreds of new people, many of which that have become close friends. We continue to be amazed about the 'connections' and coincidences encountered as we travel; example -  fellow full-timer friends that called to tell us about meeting a couple at an overlook in California and while visiting with them at their campsite later that night and sharing stories about the RV lifestyle discovered that their daughters had worked with us mapping BLM roads the summer of 2015....small world!

Our 'Train' as Joan likes to call it
Things are changing for us in Year 7. We sold our 2005 Monaco and bought a 2014 Entergra Anthem 42DEQ; Joan is no longer following me in the car while I pull a 12' motorcycle trailer with the RV; rather she's riding up front with me (and driving at times) while we pull a 24' trailer carrying our jeep and motorcycle; we're also volunteering year-round giving us more flexibility in where we work and how long we work at each location. In 2018 we will be working at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake, North Dakota; our first time volunteering with the Fish & Wildlife service. We're working on our plans for 2019 with a tentative nod to work at a fish hatchery in Washington or possibly a National Forest in Idaho. We spoke to a Forest ranger about working in Coconino National Forest in Arizona in future years and we've still got thousands of locations in the midwest and north central US to consider in the future.

Joan and I had no idea what this lifestyle would be like when we started in 2012. Some things worked like we thought; others, not so much. We have been continually surprised and excited about the things we see and do; the people and friends we meet and share our life with; and the adventures we find ourselves engaged in unexpectedly. People have asked us where or when we'll settle down. We don't know. Neither of us can imagine a life where we are static; in one place. We intend to travel more, explore more and to learn more. We intend to seek out more adventure and new friends. And to share our life via the blog more often.

We enjoy unexpected surprises, phone calls and knocks on our door. We encourage phone calls from family, friends and acquaintances to catch up on what's going on; emails or calls from folks curious about a place we've visited or a job opportunity we've experienced. And we enjoy sharing our adventures with friends. Don't hesitate to call or stop by anytime. Or 'Friend' us on Facebook and enjoy the 100's of photos Joan has posted. Enjoy the New Year.

That's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Color, Sox, Football, Chief, Secretary and Moose.....What's Next?

Kancamagus Highway, NH

The color is really starting to show as we make our way through the White Mountain National Forest here in New Hampshire. The locals are telling us the color appears to be early this year, maybe peaking within the next 7-10 days. Joan posted that the color was becoming a job hazard as she was having a hard time focusing on the job at hand; rather she was looking around and snapping pictures as if there was no tomorrow.

With only a few weeks left in our volunteer position we're trying to take in as many sites as possible. 2 weeks ago we drove east into Maine and spent the day driving along the coast. Lots of small inlets and bays; checked out LL Bean (Joan picked up some hiking boots); and a colorful sunset.

On the way home the next day I told Joan I was taking her somewhere she had always wanted to go.......Norway!
Along the same route we visited......



.....and Paris!
I even managed to take her through Russia! An international trip right here in the good ole' USA. Might get Hubby of the Year points for this trip.

Last week was really busy with a trip into Boston. We managed to swing tickets for a Red Sox game...

The 'Sox' won 6-1 over the Blue Jays
. Wahoo!

The next day we took a trolley and harbor tour of the city.....

...including a walk thru of Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution.

After a quick 2 days in Boston we headed west (yes, west) to New York. Joan's nephew Colby plays football for the University of  Richmond Spiders. They were playing Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

#92, Colby normally plays Tackle, but for this game they changed things up and had him as Defensive Center. He played Tackle the previous week in Houston and won 'Defensive Player of Game', so this week Golgate usually had him double-teamed. He played almost every defensive play and the Spiders ended up winning 20-17.

Forest Chief Tooke
and Smokey
I've said it before, and it's still just never know who or what you're going to run into in this lifestyle. A few years ago in Wyoming, while mapping roads for BLM we were asked by one of the local ranch owners to show him where we would be crossing his land to complete some GPS points. We met him for coffee and after a little show and tell, he gave us permission to cross his ranch. As we were leaving the coffee shop we noticed how popular he seemed to be with our waitress, so we asked why he was so popular. "Mark is the State Treasurer for Wyoming" was the answer we got. Well it happened again. The Forest Supervisor for White Mountain NF retired this summer. We were invited to attend the Induction Ceremony for the new Supervisor (or so we thought). We show up for the event only to realize it wasn't the Supervisor who was being inducted, rather it was the Chief of Forest, Tony Tooke who is responsible for all the National Forests.

Then to top it off, we met the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who was in attendance to swear him into office. I guess my mom was right when she said to always wear clean underwear and be on your best manners! Joan's BFF Terri who lives in Seattle once worked for Sonny, so we took a pic and sent it on to her.

And then there's the wildlife......we managed to snap this shot as we were working one day.

Well that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Monday, August 28, 2017

How the H#%* Do We Get Up There?

Lincoln, NH
L-R Joan, Don, Steve, Ginny, Deb B, Jim, Deb D and Dale
Things are really starting to pick up in this area as the pleasant summer months are winding down. Lots of folks from all over New England are visiting to hike, camp and enjoy the spectacular scenery offered in and around Lincoln. To the left is a pic of our volunteer team of Roving Caretakers. Only 6 more weeks and we'll complete the season here in White Mountain National Forest.

The daughters Daniel & Jessica
You just never know who you're going to meet in this lifestyle. A few weeks ago we received a call from fellow RVer's Pat & Diana Brown. We met them in South Dakota 3 years ago. They called to share a little 'small world' story. The were traveling through California and stopped at a scenic overlook near the campground where they were staying. While enjoying the vista, they struck up a conversation with another couple nearby. They discovered they were staying in the same campground and made a plan to stop by their site later on to discuss their RV experiences. Later that evening while sharing stories the other couple told them about their daughters who were spending the summer living in a small RV while working for a company that was mapping and inventorying BLM roads. When they described their daughter's job of driving their 4x4 jeep throughout the back country roads of Idaho and Utah while GPSing the roads, Diana commented that it sounded a lot like the job their friends Steve & Joan (yes, that's us) had the year before. As soon as they mentioned our names the other couple knew exactly who we were as their daughters had worked with us in 2015. Yup, it's a small world!

Diana also mentioned that her nephew Michael was hiking the Appalachian Trail and would be in our area in a few days. Joan got all the pertinent information and we made a plan to meet him. Sure enough, a few days later we got a call from Michael telling us he would be camping overnight just a few miles from where we're camped. At the appointed date & time we drove to the trail crossing on Hwy 302 near Crawford Notch and met up with him. We drove to a nearby diner and spent a couple of hours listening to some of Michael's stories about his trek. He's been hiking for a little over 4 months so far and has about 3 1/2 weeks left to complete the entire 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in mid September. Quite an accomplishment as only a little over 12,000 hikers (only 10-15% who make the attempt) have completed the entire trail since it was built in 1937.

Lake Champlain Ferry
Fort Ticonderoga Ferry
Over the last few weeks we've also spent some time being tourists. We drove west through NH andVermont into New York to see the Adirondack Mountains. That trip included 2 ferry crossings of Lake Champlain; 1 of those on the oldest cable ferry in operation in the US, the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry established in 1759.

L-R Johnny, Denise, Jim, Deb, Joan & I

We drove over to Portland, ME with Jim & Deb to visit with long time friend Johnny North and his bride Denise.

We made a trip into the Boston area to see Joan's oldest friend, Florence, who turned 95 in July. She's still living on her own and drinks 1 beer a day, which she claims is the secret to her longevity.

Last week Joan & I hosted the First Ever Russell Pond Volunteer Putt Putt Challenge. Almost every Tuesday evening since June, our volunteer group has gotten together to go out and eat. We changed that up a little and set up a putt putt outing.

Awards were handed out for 1st Place.......

1st Hole in One.........

 and Highest SPD (strokes per dollar....or in other words, Last Place). Everyone had a blast and we're thinking we might do it again before our season ends.

The abandoned radar tower
The other day Joan & I took a ride about 40 miles north towards Concord, Vermont. We were exploring some of the forest roads through Victory National Forest when we pulled over to check out a structure set back into the treeline. About that time a truck pulled up beside us to make sure we weren't broken down. Once they knew we were OK, they asked if we were "going up". Not knowing what "going up" meant, they went on to explain they were headed up on top of East Mountain to an abandoned military radar installation. They stated that the sunset views from that vantage point were 'Wicked'. So we followed them up Radar Rd until we saw this........and how the heck do we get up there?

We climb up the ladders......

A little scary...but well worth the effort. The views were absolutely wicked.....

Our radar adventure guides Jake, Lindsay & Ethan
Thanks guys. 

Shout out to my oldest son, Happy Birthday Doug!

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.