Fire and Water

You know when you smell something stinky, but you can’t figure out where it is coming from??  Yeah, so do we.  There has been a growing sour smell in the RV for a while.  Yes, we have two dogs, but they both said they “didn’t do it”.  We thought it was the heat because it is in the 90s here in Nevada and our rig is sitting in the sun.  We thought that it was heating up the pipes and holding tanks and causing the sour smell and we noticed it most when running water… Hmmm, our first clue.  We bought new chemicals for the tanks, emptied them,  added chemicals, filled with water, and thought the smell had dissipated.  It did not.  We thought it was food particles stuck in the drains, or food particles coating the grey water tank and fermenting in the heat.  We dumped and refilled the tanks multiple times.  The smell continued; it got worse.  It was like sour milk and old feet – absolutely awful.  Sean is amazing about doing research and looking up solutions for the problems we encounter (if you have kept up with our blog, you know that we have encountered several issues – like clogged loos and slide out issues).  He saw an article about how hot weather can cause the water in holding tanks and hot water heater tanks to sour and start to smell.  This made sense to us because the worst times of the smell were when we did dishes in the kitchen sink with hot water and when we took showers.  We also realized that we had used our hot water very infrequently over the last month as the tap water on cold was fairly warm, and we even used it that way in the shower.  The smell was not coming UP from drains, but OUT through the taps.  It was the water itself that was stinky.  Even though we drained the water, the tank and lines still had bacteria in them and the smell was coating the water as it passed through and also as it sat in the hot water tank and our fresh water tank.  The solution was to turn off the water heater, drain all tanks, and put a mix of fresh water and bleach into the fresh water holding tank.  After adding the fresh water and bleach, we were to turn on the pumps and run hot water (with the heater turned OFF) through the lines until the water coming out of the faucet started smelling bleachy (bleachy is a highly technical term).  We did all those things and had bleach water coming through the lines.  We probably used more bleach than necessary because the bleach smell was overwhelming, but we felt that at least it was sanitizing the lines.  We left the faucets on one by one to allow for a lot of bleach water to pass through the lines, especially the hot water lines.  Let sit for 24 hours then completely flush the system with fresh water.  We did this process two days ago, and for now the sour smell is completely gone.  The bleach sanitizing method seems like it has worked!  The joys of owning a home on wheels.  Lol.  OH, as a side note, we had ready mixed sanitizer coming out of the faucet to clean floors, counters, etc.

Now, about the FIRE….

No, we didn’t have a fire in the RV.  We visited the Nevada State Park, Valley of Firelow res-2896It was wonderful!  We wrote earlier about Zion and how beautiful it was, but how packed it was with tourists and how hard it was to get in.  We’ve realized we much prefer the parks and areas that are less popular.  Valley of Fire was pleasantly unoccupied.  There were tourists, but very few on the trails, and we had ample parking opportunities at each hiking location.  Interestingly, the Valley of Fire is apparently a popular location for many movie sets.  Sean was especially excited to see that Capt. James T. Kirk of the Star Trek Enterprise had his death scene somewhere in the park.  (Side note: Sean is a geek.)  He may have also mentioned 1 or a thousand times how the landscape looked so ‘alien’.  low res-2909

We really did love this park.  It had canyons, red rock, variations in rock colors, animals, and great trails.  The park was still primitive which is something we really enjoy.  The trails weren’t paved and we could choose from several paths on each hike.  Don’t get us wrong, we enjoy when trails are paved because we love that all people can have access to nature and beauty that way, but we personally enjoy unpaved, primitive hiking trails with more options to explore.  The Valley of Fire state park was that kind of park.

We hiked through canyons with ancient petroglyphs and sandstones of many colors.

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Take plenty of water – don’t let the heat get to you!

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Some sort of desert sheep…

It was a wonderful (but HOT) day in the desert.  We would recommend getting there in the morning if the forecast calls for a hot day.  There isn’t much shade, and it can get sweltering quickly in the red sand.  We drank two bottles of water each, one bottle of Gatorade each, and Sean had a can of soda.  We were only there for about 4 hours.  Moral of the story:  take lots and lots of fluids!  We still felt dehydrated for the rest of the day.  The dry air and sand sucked out any moisture.  The park has two visitor centers, one at each entrance.  They have small gift shops with some food and drinks, and they have displays that explain how the valley was created and creatures in glass tanks to look at before you go out into the park itself.  We didn’t see any scaled, slimy, or slitering critters, but we did see a horned sheep while driving through the main road.  We were able to stop and snap a quick pic.  The park brochure did not list the sheep on the park animal list, so we’re not sure what they really are or how they came to be in the park.

Red sand from our hikes.  Sean had a bunch in both shoes.

Red sand from our hikes. Sean had a bunch in both shoes.

All in all, it was a lovely park and we were glad were heard of it!  If you’re in Vegas for any reason, take a trip less than an hour east and visit the park – it is well worth it!

If you would like to see MANY more pics, visit the gallery of photos on our website:

Valley of Fire Photo Gallery

Zion – Part Duex

We began our planning for a return trip to Zion on our drive back from the first trip (for reference, see a couple of posts back where we went and it was so packed we couldn’t get a parking space). So, the night before our return trip we had packed backpacks, chilled plenty of water and Gatorade and packed several Cliff Bars.  By the way, the Pumpkin Spice Cliff bars are out and quite yummy!  The day of our return to Zion we got up early, walked the pups, ate a good breakfast, and were out the door in the hope of a good parking space.

The drive to Zion wasn’t too long, but we did lose an hour crossing a time zone.  Sherry was frustrated because she has a watch that has decided it won’t always let her set the time when she tries.  It likes to choose whether or not it is going to work.  It did not work this time, so she was stuck looking at a watch that was an hour behind the actual time in Zion.  Annoying, but what can you do with a finicky watch?  When we got to the entrance, we were stuck in a long line of cars waiting to pass through the gates.  No worries, we had planned for this.  If we couldn’t park at the visitor’s center, we would head back a few miles to town and catch the excellent shuttle bus into the park.  The shuttle service at Zion is really very good and consists of two loops.  One circles into the nearby town of Springdale and the many areas for public parking.  The other loops from the visitor’s center along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.  That road is essentially closed to all traffic but shuttle buses.  Fortunately, we got one of the last spots at the visitor’s center and were able to catch the Canyon Loop Shuttle to our first destination: the Temple of Sinawava which is where the trailhead for the Riverside Walk and The Narrows begin.  The ride is about 40 minutes long with stops along the way at various trailheads and scenic views.low res-2380

One of our ‘must do’ hikes on this trip was an area called The Narrows.  We had heard from several fellow RV’rs about how unique this hike was and we were looking forward to it.  The ride on the shuttle was enjoyable. The park service has a good audio presentation that hits some of the highlights along the route.  Our driver was also kind enough to point out several deer as we drove past.

The hike to the narrows begins on the Riverside trail.  This is a paved and moderate trail with one early side excursion off to see the river.

See mom, the flood warning was “not expected” that day. 🙂

Before the trailhead there is a warning sign regarding the dangers of flash flooding.  Tragically, just a day before we arrived in the area in September several hikers were killed in the narrows when they were caught in a flash flood.

It had rained the two days prior to our hike, but we checked the forecast that day and double checked the warning signs at the park and were good to go.  The Riverside section of the trail is lovely. It is easy to forget one is going through a desert.  There is even a small swamp along the trail!

The cliff face overhung the trail in several areas.

The cliff face overhung the trail in several areas.

In several areas ground water is forced through permeable layers of the cliff sides creating ‘weeping’ walls and hanging gardens.

Heading into the narrows.

Heading into the narrows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Riverside Trail abruptly ends where the Virgin River cuts through the Narrows.  The Narrows is a steep sided gorge cut by the river; cliffs rise hundreds of feet on both sides.  The day we arrived was warm, but with the sun blocked by the cliffs and the cold river water running through the gorge, there was a definite chill to the air.

Sherry hiking through the Narrows.

Sherry hiking through the Narrows.

It only got colder when we stepped into the river to begin hiking up the narrows.  BRRRR.  We knew this was coming and had planned on how best to approach our shoe situation.  Many people along the trail had rented water shoes, some went barefoot, others in sandals….  We decided to stick to our Keen hiking shoes.  They had great traction, even in wet conditions and were waterproof (although with water getting knee deep in some areas that didn’t matter).  Sherry also brought along a pair of hiking sandles for after and several pairs of socks (Sean would later borrow a pair of dry socks).  The water was frigid, and we couldn’t imagine how some people had open shoes or no shoes at all!  Too cold!

In the Narrows.

In the Narrows.

The hike was beautiful and surreal.  We were amazed to see so many other hikers with us on the ‘trail’.  Stopping every so often, we would gaze up at the sky overhead, framed by the rock walls.  Small falls occurred in several areas along the trail and always, the constant sound of water over rocks.

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The photos cannot capture the scale of this place.

We were glad to be able to add this very different hike to one of our adventures.  If you visit the park, this hike is a must see.  The total hike is 10 miles round trip and is estimated to take 8 hours.  We only hiked into the first mile of the watery trail, but Sherry keeps saying that we should go back and do the whole thing just to say that we did it.  Who knows, we might write another blog in the next week sharing that we traversed the whole thing.  We wouldn’t bring the good camera this time, and we might rent some water boots and poles this time.  We were not aware ahead of time how deep the water actually got in some spots.  This may have been because of the rain two days earlier though.  In any case, we are still thinking we have several days in the area.  We wouldn’t want to “shoulda, coulda, woulda” the opportunity.  There’s also a hike called Angel’s Landing that is supposed to be spectacular.  It was closed for repair while we were there, but it is supposed to reopen this week.  We may have some items to put back on our list.  Lol.

Zion is a wonderful national park with many sites to see.  We have several other places in this area that we want to see before we move on, so stay tuned for more adventure!

If you would like to see a full gallery of the photos from Zion, click the link below:

Zion National Park Photo Gallery.

Being flexible, Snow Canyon and 4 Months on the Road

Moon Rise from our 'backyard'.

Moon Rise from our ‘backyard’.

One of the very fun things about our adventure is that neither one of us has a problem changing plans on the fly.  True, it can be a little frustrating when things don’t work out the way we plan.   Fortunately, we both approach life with the attitude that it is more about the journey than the destination.  A good case in point would be our recent trip to Zion NTL Park.

We had heard that it was important to arrive early in order to get good parking, so we got up, fed and walked the pups and then hit the road.  From where we are staying, in Mesquite, NV it wasn’t a bad drive of only 60 miles.  Some of this was backtracking on HWY 15 but we enjoy that section, especially going through the Virgin River Gorge.  A note for any future travelers; It is a very steep and winding section of HWY with several warning signs about high crosswinds.  There is also construction that narrows the lanes considerable.  Nothing that slow and careful can’t overcome.  🙂

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A few miles from the Zion Entrance.

The road leading into Zion passes through several small towns and has a number of places that would be worth pulling off to take photos of the mountains.  We arrived at the park entrance around 10 AM and were greeted with a relatively long line of cars and a sign that told visitors the park lots were usually full from 10 AM to 3 PM.  We’d already noted many cars parking in town and along the road leading to the park.  Oh well, we decided to drive on and at least scope out the park and, if needed, make plans to visit another time.  The short version is, what we could see from the road was amazing but there was absolutely no parking.  Our adjusted plans now have us returning, parking outside of the park and then riding the shuttle bus in to our hiking destination.  Like many others, we plan on seeing the narrows, a strenuous but beautiful hike.

So, after leaving the park, we started discussing our other options.  Sherry had heard of a great state park in St. George, UT called Snow Canyon and since it was on the way we decided to make a stop.  Our truck was also ready for an oil change so on the way Sean called a Chevy dealership in St. George, Steven Wade Chevy, to see if we could get in for oil, tire rotation and a brake check.  Lucky for us, the service rep said they were slow that day and could get us right in!  This is probably a good area for another side note.  We are both adamant about preventative maintenance.  One of the reasons we got our particular tow vehicle was the great extended warranty and reliability.   We’ve stuck to the recommended service schedule and pay particular attention to the biggies like tires and brakes.  After all, it would really suck to go down some of these big inclines and realize you can’t slow down.  YIKES!!  🙂  Anyway, we were able to get in and out within 30 minutes.  All was great with the truck.

Snow Canyon was a short drive from the dealership.  We paid a small fee of $6 to enter that park and drove on to the first trail, Jenny’s Canyon.  The park itself is very small but there was a great deal to see in that small area.  The Jenny’s Canyon trail is relatively short, under a mile and leads through some scrub brush and cactus to the canyon.  The trail does branch off, go right and take a steep climb to the canyon overlook, or go left and enter the narrow canyon.  For a short hike, there was a lot to see and we enjoyed exploring the narrow canyon.

Driving on, we stopped to take several pictures before arriving at the petrified dunes and Butterfly Trail.  This is a longer trail that leads over and along the dunes and into the ancient lava flow.  A very fun hike and not too strenuous.  Even the inclines were made easier by nature’s staircase along the petrified dunes.  Sean was very excited to walk on the lava flow.

As we were leaving the park we did see the camping area and thought it looked very nice.  They do have sites with water and electricity as well as a dump station.

We have just passed our 4 month on the road anniversary and as is our custom, we thought we would wrap up with a few thoughts.  Some we mentioned above, such as the maintenance needs.  It is easy to get in a vacation mindset and ignore some of the basics like vehicle maintenance.  Don’t let that happen!  This month we have been on the road more than the last two and we truly enjoy it.

Whether we are out taking a hike and exploring or staying close to ‘home’ there is always something to see if you look around.  Even if it is just watching the Gambels Quail walk up and down the stucco fence near our RV or seeing Maggie scamper after salamanders on one of her walks.  Watching the moon rise over the mountains or sitting amazed at the sight of thundershowers in the desert.  It is about the journey.

Well, enough rambling on for now.  We are waiting for weather to clear and the danger of flash flooding to subside before we make our trip back to Zion.  Hope you are all enjoying where you are and what you are doing!

For more photos, click the link below:

Snow Canyon and Assorted Nature Photo Gallery

Back to Salt Lake City

We feel as if we have been running up and down HWY 15 forever.  LOL.  While in Vegas Sean’s best friend, Craig, contacted him and said he would be in Salt Lake City for a few days on business – did we want to come for a visit?  Well, we hadn’t seen Craig in months AND he was using points to get us into a nice hotel so we said, sure.

However, before we traveled to Salt Lake City, we wanted to do some exploring and clean the rig.  We had contacted an RV wash company to come and clean the exterior and wax the nose.  We were hoping to keep the bugs off when we hit the road again.  Well, best laid plans…  The heat in Nevada has been near or above record highs and our fridge was not able to keep up with the load.  The temps have been well into the 100’s where we are staying and our kitchen slide is in the sun most of the day.  After a little research, we learned that the fridges in most RVs will have issues when the temperatures rise into the 90’s.  Sean was fascinated by the science of the fridge – no compressor or moving parts.  Anyway, we saw that one solution was to get a fan mounted behind the fridge to help circulate air around the condenser coils.  We had a small desk fan that Sean was able to place under the coils inside the exterior vent.  He was able to get that in place the day before we left.  If it worked, we were going to stop at the Camping World store in St. George to get a ‘real’ fridge fan.  Well, it worked like a charm!  We noticed a huge difference the next morning.  We were also fortunate on our Camping World stop as they only had one fan in stock and it was the one Sean wanted.  It can be wired into the system and has a heat sensor, so it will automatically run when needed.  We also had to purchase a new vent for the stove as the interior flapper thingy (technical term) had broken.  Ahhh, life on the road.

FridgeCool Vent Fan

Our drive to SLC was uneventful.  A nice drive with our pups sleeping the whole way.  While in the city we explored a bit.  low res-2259Both of us have been curious about LDS (Mormon Church) since hitting the HWY 15 corridor.  As a former history teacher, Sean was fascinated by the church and people.  Craig had suggested we tour the LDS Temple Square while he was working, so we took him up on it and walked from our hotel.  Sherry has been doing research on her family tree for years and also wanted to visit the genealogy center across from the square.  We actually did that first as there was a large funeral taking place and the square was shut down  (one of the 12 Apostles had passed away and the funeral service was a large event with state and local police escorts).  As a consequence, we ended up spending a long time in the genealogy center.  It was fascinating to plug in the name of a relative and see birth and census records from nearly a century past.  We each traced back several generations before leaving to see if we could wander the square.  We could, but the crowds and our growing hunger kept us to a short walk through the square then out to find some food.  The day was fun and interesting… Of course, Sean never mentioned the possibility of converting and finding ‘sister wives’ once.

Walking the city, we both enjoyed the unique architecture and art to be found.  low res-2252 low res-2253Sean especially loved the geeky space based art work.  Sherry, being a tree hugger, loved the public access bikes scattered throughout the city and the bike lanes being built into the existing roadways.

We had dinner that evening with Craig at a local brewery, Red Rock Brewing and made plans for the next day to go into the mountains and see if we could catch some autumn colors and see some of the ski resorts and where the 2012 Olympics took place and now where winter Olympic hopefuls train.

low res-2266The next day found the three of us heading up a narrow road through a canyon and into the Wasatch National Forest to Brighton.  The views were spectacular and we were able to capture some amazing pictures of trees in their fall best.  We continued our drive over the mountains and to Park City.  The high point of the drive was about 9,000′.  Park City is a beautiful former mining town that is now devoted to skiing.  Starting as a mining town, it burned nearly to the ground in the late 1800’s.  Sean read some of the historical papers framed in the restaurant where we had lunch, the Blue Iguana (delicious).  It was interesting to learn that as mining was dying out, some of the companies decided to take advantage of the ‘white gold’ and built ski resorts to cater to the growing number of skiers in the mid 1900’s.

Modeling what Sherry calls the "guy smile" at the Blue Iguana.

Modeling what Sherry calls the “guy smile” at the Blue Iguana.

We wandered through the streets looking at the shops with the goal of ending up at High West Distillery.

 

On arrival, we had a flight of whiskeys and bourbons and found most to be very enjoyable.  Sherry liked several, but not the ‘burny’ ones.  Her favorite was the High West SILVER Whiskey.  Very mellow with fruity undertones. 🙂  Sean enjoyed several but one of his favorites was the American Prairie Whiskey.

The flight

The flight

Sampling whiskey

Sampling whiskey

On a side note, we may need to have several friends visit sometime soon to help us clear out our, now well stocked, liquor cabinet.  😉  Especially if we continue the bucket list item of visiting local watering establishments whenever possible.  After lunch we made a quick stop at the local ski resort but found nothing running but the Alpine Slide. There were already getting ready for the switch from summer fun to winter snows.

 

 

Leaving Park City, we hit HWY 80 and stopped at the Alf Engen ski museum.  Despite the fact that neither of us are snow and winter people, the museum was very interesting with several interactive exhibits.  In one, we learned how the fall and winter weather patterns work to create lake effect snow from the Great Salt Lake.  All the factors combine to create an amazing powder, excellent for skiing and those other cold activities.  This is about the only moisture this desert receives.  The museum sits on the site of many of the 2012 winter Olympic sports fields.  Many of the Olympic sites have been converted into training facilities for future Olympians.  We were lucky to be there on a day when the aerial freestyle ski jumpers (or whatever they’re called…lol) were practicing.  They ski down a special ramp into a pool of bubbly water.  It was very fascinating (and scary) to watch.

We ended our evening by taking Craig to the Salt Lake airport.  We stayed one additional night in the hotel since we didn’t want to tack on a 5 hour drive to our already packed day.  The drive back was as uneventful as the drive there.  We planned to stay in this area to see Zion National Park and other beautiful views, but we seem to keep traveling away while our RV stays put.  We will let you know when we get into to see some sights.  We did make it to a local state park called Snow Canyon….more about that in the next post.  🙂

If you would like to see more photos from our Salt Lake trip, click the link below:

Salt Lake City Photo Gallery

 

Vegas and Sean’s Birthday!

We have been very busy the past few weeks. After we left the Yellowstone area, we travelled to Provo, UT for a couple of days.  They have a really nice Paleontology museum on the campus of BYU and a gorgeous trail to Bridal Veil Falls.  We took the opportunity to visit both of these spots while we were in the area.  The RV park, Lakeside RV, was nice with a dog park and walking trails.  It was also close to the Provo State Park and lake.

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50?!? That can’t be right!

We headed out on September 15, the day before Sean’s BIG birthday – the BIG 5-0!  We made our way to the Arizona/Nevada border and set up at a nice RV resort with a pool and LOTS of luxury amenities.  We spent the day of his birthday lounging by the pool and eating whatever he wanted.  (NORMALLY we eat vegetarian meals, but Sean wanted bacon for breakfast, so bacon we ate!)  Sherry made a cake (if by made you mean bought); Sean’s favorite is German Chocolate.  Sherry also made a favorite for dinner – tofu stuffed pasta shells and asparagus.  Nom Nom!

 

On September 21 we headed to Vegas to celebrate even more!low res-2224  We boarded our furbabies at the Animal Inn in Vegas and we stayed at New York New York.  Sherry had never been to Vegas and Sean had not been there since he was a teenager with his grandparents.  Our room was great and the atmosphere at New York New York was fun.  We joked that for the last several months we have been in quiet, forested, park areas, Vegas was a shock to our senses.  The lights, noise, and sea of humanity was overwhelming at times.  We enjoyed spending time touring the inside of New York New York.  low res-2627They have “streets” indoors that are similar to those in NYC (Greenwich, Times Square, Broadway, etc).  Vegas has the feel of a theme park like Disney – it is designed to be visually appealing and make you spend money.  lol.  This whole trip has been about decompressing and decluttering our lives, so maybe Vegas was not the obvious choice for a getaway.  We felt the whole place was a little anti-climactic.  Sherry wanted to see the Gondolas at the Venetian, but was disappointed that they weren’t as grand as they were on TV and photographs.  We both enjoyed the fountain show at the Bellagio – they played “All That Jazz” from Chicago, one of Sherry’s favorites.    Sean wanted to see some of the old hotels that were there when his grandparents took him there, so we trekked down to Circus Circus (on the monorail that Sherry thought would be a good idea – it wasn’t…) and it was not the fun, bright hotel of yesteryear.  It was a little “house of horror” looking.  It looked run down and tired.  We think the appeal of Las Vegas that is shown on TV did not come across while we visited.  Maybe we just aren’t Vegas people…

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An “old school” selfie – taken with our good camera propped up on the ironing board in the room.

However, the big excitement was the show that we booked!  We saw Zumanity, a Cirque Du Soleil show at the New York New York.  It was a sensual, funny, heart-stopping type of show.  There was a little person who did a stunning aerial silk act that we couldn’t believe!  It is only for 18+ though, so don’t think about going with kiddos – or if you tend to be offended by sexuality and language.  We had a great time.  😉  Sherry was disappointed, however, that people didn’t seem to dress up as much as she thought they would in Vegas.  Being involved in theater, she always follows the rule that you dress for a show.  Sherry wore a nice dress and heels and Sean wore a suit.  low res-2659The ticket person at the door commented that he loved to see attractive people dressed up for the show, and no offense to Sherry, but he prefers a nice looking man in a suit (wink wink).  Sherry felt pretty lucky to have such attractive arm candy.  It was odd to see many people show up in what they probably wore all day – shorts, tees, and athletic shoes.  Maybe a different show or hotel draws a different crowd.  It was also disappointing to see not many people dressing to go out at all.  low res-2652We spent two nights visiting the dueling piano bar in the hotel and other restaurants around town, and people were dressed casual or less than casual.  Sherry assumed Vegas would have more pizazz and stylish people roaming around in the evenings – it understandable during the day because of the heat and amount of walking, but at night it’s supposed to be glamorous and sexy time! Lol.  We guessed we just weren’t visiting the right places.  We sure didn’t want to spend the money for that kind of style either.  We did have a little luxury by the pool one day when we rented two cabana chairs.  They came with cushions, iced drinks, and a pool raft.  Even though we weren’t gambling at the tables or shopping at overpriced stores, we still had fun eating, drinking, and people watching.  Sherry thought the food was the best part of the whole Vegas experience.  We didn’t have one bad meal!  We also visited the aquarium at Mandalay Bay.  We realized as we were visiting hotels that many of them have selfie booths that take your picture and send it to you through email.  Sherry decided that it was a mission to find as many as possible and get a picture.  These are from all the ones we could find (minus the one from Linq because their machine had a window directly behind us that whited out the picture…):

All in all, Sean had a fun birthday and we added another experience to our adventure.  We still think that we prefer what mother nature has to offer over the man made stuff.  We are still considering going back to Vegas one more time before we leave the area to see another show.  We would both really like to see Book of Mormon while it is there.

Many (but not ALL) of our pictures from this trip were taken with our phones.  We really didn’t want to lug the good camera around while we trekked the streets of Vegas, so if you would like to see what we got, visit the gallery on our website:

Las Vegas and Sean’s Birthday Photo Gallery

 

Tetons: Grand, Brewed and Distilled

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The rig with our guard moose ‘Wally’.

Our original plans had us staying for an extended period near Yellowstone then the Tetons.  Over the last few months, we made several adjustments to those plans, so we could accommodate other stays which meant we only had a week to explore this area.  We decided to stick to our idea of stopping in one location, setting up house, and driving a little longer to get to some of the sites.  So, we found a nice spot in Rexburg, Idaho (Wakeside RV) and planned our drives into Yellowstone and the Tetons.  The RV park had nice wide and level spots for our rig with room to park the truck.

Rexburg is a small college town and we joked it often had a 1950’s feel to it.  In fact, they even had a drive in theater.  Sherry had never been to a drive in (There is only 1 in the St. Louis area), so we decided to take an evening and go see a movie.  We enjoyed the movie -Jurassic World/Park… 10?  🙂

Sean loved the old projector they had in the concession stand.

Sean loved the old projector they had in the concession stand.

Sherry Movie

We arrived early for a good spot. It was neat to see all the families that later came to enjoy the weather and movie.

Both of us have had minor sinus issues lately (we blame the heavy smoke the last three weeks we were in Glacier) and decided to forgo any major hiking until we felt better.  Therefore, we started our stay by visiting some local sites.  Teton Brewery and Teton Distillery seemed to be great places to visit and also medicinal.

Grand Teton Brewery is in a little town called Victor, with a great view of the Tetons.  On our drive to the brewery, we passed through several small towns and loved this sight of a horse tied up on the sidewalk.

Notice the horse is 'parked' at the Old Livery.

Notice the horse is ‘parked’ at the Old Livery.

It definitely harkened back to the distant past.  The brewery has a small tasting room as well as outside seating.  We sampled several brews. They do flights by providing you with a small cup of whatever they have on tap.

You can see some of the wares at the Brewery behind Sherry.

You can see some of the wares at the Brewery behind Sherry.

They have a good selection and it was very relaxing to sip, sit back and enjoy the time together.  Sean enjoyed the Imperial Stout and bought a bottle for later. 🙂  Sherry really like a brew called ‘Snarling Badger’ – a citrusy pale ale.

We had also researched and knew there was a distillery in the region, but from the website, it looked like they didn’t have a tasting room or tours.  We actually passed the distillery on the way to the brewery and decided that we would stop and see if the website steered us wrong.  To our delight, the Teton Distillery has a small tasting room and small tours.

Our Distillery tour guide.

Our Distillery tour guide.

Since Sherry was our designated driver she limited her intake to a few sips at each stop.  We truly enjoyed the distillery.  Again, a small tasting room but very congenial hostesses.  Before sampling, they offered to take a small group on a tour of their facility.  Afterwards, we did try a few of their wares.  Sherry loved the spicy, sweet taste of their Spiced Apple Moonshine enough that we bought a bottle… Again, for medicinal reasons, mainly.  Sean felt the Bourbon was a much more effective cure for his sinus ailments.

While at the distillery we had great conversation with the hostesses and a local about the region and best ways to see the Grand Tetons.

Early Christmas decorations and a great view of the Tetons.

Early Christmas decorations and a great view of the Tetons.

Following their recommendations, we decided to go to the Targhee Ski Resort and use the chairlift to ‘climb’ 9000′ up Mt. Fred for a great view of the western face of the Tetons.

low res-1904When we arrived, there were very few people at the resort and the lift tickets were quite reasonable.  The view from the top of Mt. Fred was amazing and yes, we did hike a little to get to the summit for an even better view.

low res-7792low res-7806Hiking the Tetons is something we hope to do, but it will have to wait until our next circuit around the country.

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Taken with an ND4 filter.

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This little guy was taking in the view at the summit as well.

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We are loving our travels, still and despite a few mechanical glitches here and there.  The more we see, the more we realize there is to see.  As we left Rexburg, we commented to each other about how much the scenery will change as we move from the mountains to the southwest.  We can’t wait.

 

We are so grateful….

We are so grateful for beaver.  Beaver, Utah that is…get your minds out of the gutter people!  We just couldn’t resist the innuendo!  At least we still have our sense of humor!  We are actually behind at least three posts since our Yellowstone and had intended on starting to catch up today.  Unfortunately, what we expected to be a short day of driving turned into much more.IMG_2523

In an earlier post we had mentioned how nerve wracking driving in the wind was for us.  Sean had noticed a great deal of sway as he was driving.  He even commented that he was surprised he didn’t notice that issue in storms we drove through in Missouri and South Dakota.  Sherry had also commented about a month ago that the kitchen side of the RV seemed lower.  She noticed that when we were getting ready to pull out of one of the parks.  Sean agreed it seemed lower, but after crawling under the RV he couldn’t find anything visually amiss.

On our drive Tuesday the wind was pretty strong and Sean said he could definitely feel the RV sway and the handling was off.  Again, we chalked it up to the wind and drove on.  While we stopped for fuel in Beaver, UT at the Flying J, we had a young man come up and tell us he noticed the RV was really sagging on the driver side.  He was a service station worker from the trucker repair shop.  Sherry was skeptical that he was just trying to drum up business.  However, he got down on the ground and under the R.V. to show Sean where he thought there was a problem.  Sure enough, after we looked harder at the driver-side wheel wells, we realized the tilt was even more noticeable than before.  While underneath the RV, Sean was able to see that one of the suspension brackets had snapped off and the spring was resting on the frame.

Brackets from the driver side front spring. We saw this hanging free when we crawled under the RV.

Brackets from the driver side front spring. We saw this hanging free when we crawled under the RV.

Fortunately, this was just enough to keep the tires from rubbing and locking up on us while driving.  That would have been a real mess.  YIKES.

If that young man hadn’t called our attention to the worsening situation, our repairs could have been much more than they were – a possible stranded us on the side of the highway!

We were able to pull in front of their shop and he and the owner changed out all four springs and all fittings on both sides of the RV in under two hours.  IMG_2509Sean watched with them as they did the work and showed him the ‘beefier’ springs and fittings that were being installed.  The owner told us that they were constantly getting called out to the highway to repair broken RV suspensions, so not an uncommon issue.  He said it is easy to not notice an issue until there is a catastrophic failure.  We were glad he said this because we were beginning to feel silly and ashamed for not noticing such a huge problem underneath our rig.  We were so lucky we didn’t have to call in our Good Sam Roadside assistance from the side of HWY 15. 🙂

Here is a little we learned about our suspension while talking to the mechanics:

We have a Mor/Ryde system, which the mechanics said gave a great ride and they generally liked it.  Their criticism with it was many RV companies tend to not use as heavy a suspension on their rigs as they probably should and some of the parts are light weight.  During the repair, we saw several examples of relatively ‘fragile’ parts coming off the RV.  Especially compared to the replacement bolts, bushings and springs.  In fact, the new springs are 5 instead of 4 leaf.

After leaving Beaver, we had another two hours to our destination.  The ride was great!  We can’t believe how much different it felt while hauling down the road.  THANK YOU again to the service mechanics working at the Flying J at the “Goober’s Service” repair shop in Beaver, Utah.  Someone was definitely looking out for us that day!

And, after all the trouble, it is nice to show up to a destination and new site like this one.  It helps us to remember what this adventure is all about.

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A nice corner lot. The view is spectacular!

 

Yellowstone STINKS….

… if you are standing downwind from some of the Sulphur smelling geysers, fumaroles, mudpots or hot springs that is.  🙂  Gotcha.

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Yellowstone is one of the world’s largest ‘Super Volcanos’ and according to park literature, one of the more violent and active.  The bulk of the park is actually inside the volcanic caldera.  It is mind-blowing to look at a park map and realize how huge the ‘volcano’ truly is.  It is even more impressive to drive the miles and miles of the loop seeing evidence of how seismically active this region is in the form of the geysers, fumaroles and hot springs scattered through the park.  Sean loves the science behind Yellowstone and was eager to see as much of the activity as possible.  He would also be the first to admit that despite reading and seeing several specials about Yellowstone’s super volcano, he was unprepared for the reality.

Elevations were as high or higher than most places in Glacier but seemed much more accessible due to the excellent system of roads and trails through the park.  Craig Pass is at an elevation of 8262 ft, about 2000 ft higher than Logan Pass in Glacier, but if you miss the sign, you might never know you had reached that height.  In fact, one of the biggest differences we noted was how easy it was to see some of the highlights of the park from the car or just a short hike.   Another thing that struck us, as we entered the region, was how different it looked from Glacier.  Where Glacier was jagged and raw, Yellowstone was ’roundier’: a word Sherry coined to describe the lay of the land.  : )low res-1486

We only took two days to see as much as possible, and two days was just barely enough to scratch the surface.  There are multiple entrances to the park, but because of where we are staying, we chose the West entrance for convenience and access to the grand loop which would allow us to see most of the notable sites in the park.  Despite the fact that we were visiting ‘off season’, we were still impressed by the numbers of park visitors.  We would later learn that this was a record breaking year for tourists in the park.  We once described Glacier as a theme park, and we think that Yellowstone might have even more of that large tourist attraction feel.  It was hard to get parking spots at some of the more popular attractions.  We’re sure if we had longer we would have tried more of the ‘off the beaten path’ attractions, but we followed all the other sheep to the easy to access sights.  The park is set up really well to allow for easy access to beautiful scenery.  The difference in Glacier is that most of the best views are a 1/2 day – whole day hike away.  The most we travelled on foot in Yellowstone was a mile or less at one time.  We probably missed many amazing locations, but we didn’t book as much time here as we did Glacier, so we did what we could in the time we had.

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This guy was one of the first things we saw after entering the park. He was meandering down the road right next to the cars.

Entering the park on our first day, we drove just under 15 miles to Madison along the Madison River.  This is a gorgeous drive with the river running parallel to the road, in many places opening up to flat grasslands where we almost immediately sited Elk and Bison.  We had decided to see Old Faithful, but also wanted to stop at some sites along the way.  After turning south at Madison, it wasn’t long before we saw steam off to our right as we approached the Lower Geyser Basin.  We had been guilty, as many other visitors, of not really considering that Old Faithful was just one of the signs of seismic activity in the park.  Sean acted like a kid on Christmas morning, so of course we stopped.

The trails through this area are well maintained boardwalks.  As the signs at the entrance indicate, walking on the bare ground wasn’t healthy for many reasons, including melted shoes.  LOL  The various hot springs along the walk were quite beautiful, varying in color… but not smell.  Yes, this is one of the stinky parts of Yellowstone.  low res-1522Several times we walked through steamy clouds of sulfurous… yuck.  Again, well worth it for the views.low res-1513  After low res-1548leaving the lower basin, we continued our drive, stopping frequently to photograph wildlife and various geysers and hot springs.  When we arrived at Old Faithful we were impressed by the excellent parking opportunities as well as the visitors center.  There are several museums and education centers in the park.  This and the one at Canyon Village were the two we were able to see and were well worth the time.

Anyway, we arrive with 45 minutes to spare to see the eruption, so after a quick run through the visitor center and a walk along the trail circling Old Faithful, and stops at several small springs, we went to the benches surrounding the geyser and waited.  Sean was eager to take shots of the eruption and played with camera settings as we waited.  He wanted to have the shutter and focus set so that some shots would ‘stop action’ the eruption, others he wanted to give more of a blurred effect while capturing the sky and background.   The biggest issue with this was the changing light conditions.  When we sat down we had nearly cloudless blue skies.  That quickly transitioned to a mostly cloudy sky.  The eruption was all it was cracked up to be.  Very impressive and worth the wait.  It was funny to hear the applause from the crowd that had gathered.

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After seeing Old Faithful we decided to continue our drive to West Thumb, which is on Yellowstone Lake.  This was another area with steampots.  At that point, we called it the end of a long day and drove back to our RV.

Day 2:  Once again, we entered the park from the West entrance, but this time we turned North at Madison.  We had decided to take the Northern part of the loop and complete the circle, seeing Old Faithful one more time.  This meant missing some areas of the park such as Mammoth.  The northern route took us through forested regions and into vast rolling grassy plains.  On this drive Sean saw a wolf, no photos as he or she had moved on before we could take any shots.   We also saw many bison and elk and other wildlife in the plains and along the rivers.  The drive also had a number of interesting stops such as the Artists Paintpots, Sean’s favorite – the Mud Volcano, and Sherry’s favorite – the Dragon’s Mouth.

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Bates, obviously entranced with Old Faithful… not.

We had our dogs with us on the second day because, after visiting the first day, we realized that we weren’t going to venture out into the backcountry, so they could travel in the truck with us to see the sights.  They are allowed on some of the developed areas, so we were able to get out and walk with them.  low res-1990Bates really enjoyed the area around Old Faithful.  Maggie is anxious and doesn’t enjoy crowds, so we left her to snooze in the truck while we walked up with Bates to the area around Old Faithful. (Don’t worry, it was in the 50s that day and the truck was nice and cool while we were gone.  We do not take them unless we know conditions are going to be good for them.  We love our furbabies and would never do anything to injure them).  Dogs are allowed around the grounds except close to the geysers.  There are signs indicating where you can and cannot walk.  There are MANY people who apparently do not pay attention to any signs.  A ranger had to go out and make an announcement to “all people with dogs” that they had to stay back from the geyser viewing area.  We were already in the designated area, so Bates felt smarter than all the other dogs there.  Lol.  He received tons of attention while we were there too.  He is a very good boy to take into large crowds.  His training has definitely paid off, and he is very obedient.

We are glad we had the chance to see Yellowstone, if we have any regrets, it is that we didn’t get to hike into the backcountry.  We are sure there are many more things to see than those to which you can drive, but we are happy with what we were able to see in such a short amount of time.

We have many more stunning photos of Yellowstone.  Just click the link below to go to our Travel Photography page and click the Yellowstone and Old Faithful gallery.

http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography

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Three Months on the Road

Since starting our journey, we have done a monthly update on the things we have learned about living in an RV.  We are a little late on our third month installment, but better late than never, right?

Our summer workamping kept us jacks down for two months, but we did a lot of planning and preparation before leaving and then a few things since hitting the road again.  Here are a few of those things:

  1. Hitch Height.IMG_23582 Ideally, you want your rig to have an even ride.  That is, it should be level when hitched up to your tow vehicle.  Sean had noticed that our RV had a decidedly nose down appearance when hitched up.  There are two ways to adjust how the 5th wheel will ride when hitched.  On our rig, we can take out four bolts on the kingpin and raise or lower it OR take out four bolts on the hitch to raise or lower that setting.  Sean removed the bolts from the hitch and raised it one setting (about an inch or so).  That gave us a level look and ride (we checked with our levels).  Since the adjustment we have gone about 600 miles and all seems great.  Sean thinks it tows easier but….
  2. Cleaning the RV:  7992AF34-9025-4709-9F52-F11A82DD76C1We have gotten in the habit of doing a weekly deep clean inside the RV.  We do daily maintenance but once a week we scrub down the inside.  This probably isn’t ‘big news’ to anyone but it is an important point.  We both hate clutter and in a large house it is easy for even a small amount of clutter to spread out and not be noticeable.  In an RV, even a small amount is quickly noticeable.   The only issue with the weekly cleans is Sherry has to work to keep Sean from shoving everything into the ‘shit’ drawer or cabinet.  You know, the place where all the little odds and ends go that don’t have a permanent home.  Sean swears the cabinet makes a perfect ‘new’ home. 🙂  We also took the opportunity to scrub down the outside of the RV and apply wax to the front.  We had collected a bug lovers dream on the front of the Big Horn and had to spend a few days scrubbing and applying bug and tar remover.  Sean felt a layer of wax would at least help after our next encounter with the bugs.  We will let you know.
  3. Staying fit and healthy:  Despite all the hiking, we quickly realized that we were using some muscles and not others.  At home we stuck to a fairly regular routine of running, yoga and some weight training.  We didn’t want to bring weights with us in the RV so we got a set of weight bands instead.  This last month we have been especially conscious of doing some cardio work as well as stretching and Yoga.  We have a set of workout DVD’s we like to use for workouts -P90X.  Good stuff, especially the 30 minute workouts.  Sticking to a routine has been the toughest, but we have balanced ‘cardio’ hike days with yoga days.  Sherry has also done more healthy cooking.  The first two months of our trip we fell off the vegan and healthy food wagon (many times).   Since getting back into a healthier routine, we have both noticed a difference in how we feel.  OH, but there is always room for Huckleberry Pie!  (If you’re interested in any recipes, let us know and Sherry will give you details!)
  4. General RV maintenance:  We are very conscious of little things around the RV that could go wrong.  Sean will periodically walk the RV inside and out to check for loose fittings or other potential problems.  It is amazing the number of bolts and screws that loosen up after a day or two on the road.  Before leaving Montana, Sherry went through and checked caulk around seams, it had been months since we had the seams caulked and some areas were showing minor splits.
  5. IMG_23592Heating the RV and Propane use:  Amazing how fast we have gone from summer weather to mid fall… Well, we are also usually in areas 5,000 feet or higher now too.  Anyway, we thought about ways to conserve our propane long before we started traveling.  Both of us enjoy sleeping in a cool to cold room but it isn’t fun typing while trying to wear gloves.  To warm the inside we brought along a radiator we have had for several years.  It is a Honeywell electric/oil radiator.  Relatively economical to run and what we used at home to keep our bedroom at a comfortable temperature.  We have used it several times when the temps have dropped into the low 40’s and upper 30’s and have found it does a nice job maintaining a comfortable temp in both rooms of the RV.  We did fill our propane tanks up once, about a month ago, but that is the first time we have done that since October of last year.  Admittedly, we only had the RV out a few times before starting our adventure.  For the last two months we have used our shower (hot water) and have done a lot of cooking and some baking.  That said, it does seem like we have done well in propane use.  Any comments from fellow RV’rs?  What is normal propane use?
  6. Driving in windy conditions: A few months ago we did drive through some crazy storms in Western Missouri and again in South Dakota.  Maybe we didn’t notice the wind as much because of the rain and other issues.  We did notice it a lot when we hit Idaho and were driving down HWY 15.  Steady winds at 20 MPH and gusting over 30 MPH.  Question for everyone: When do you decide the winds are too high and call it a day?  In these conditions, we noticed very minor trailer sway.  Sean could see (in the rear view mirror) the bubble on the trailer level move from side to side.  We just kept our speed down and drove through.  Sean did say it was a bit unnerving from time to time. 🙂

IMG_2357In a previous post we had mentioned our slideout ‘preventative’ repair work.  So far all has been great.  We completed adding the fiberglass panels to the slides and after multiple uses everything is looking good.  Since that post, we have met one couple working through similar issues with their RV slideouts.  They stopped by our site a few weeks ago to compare notes and look at what we had done.  Their RV slideouts use small sleds and they were noticing wear on the wood the sleds slid on.  Their plan for a fix was to place a thin sheet of metal on the area the sled would use to help distribute the weight.  Since then, we have heard from several others with similar problems.  Which brings us to the next topic, the RV community.

Over the summer we met many full-time RV couples or those who were on the verge of going full time. In our last week at Timber Wolf, we also met several full-time RV families.  We have truly enjoyed sharing experiences with the people we have met.  One family (three children) shared several RV groups with us and were the encouragement we need to jump onto Instagram with our blog and photos.  Our screen name is Sean_and_Sherry

Final thought – Have fun:  Not a lesson we needed to learn but one to share.  We continue to love our time together as a family and the opportunity to explore together.  Now that we are back on the road, we are re-energized, if that is even possible, and excited to see the next stop. 🙂

In our next post – Yellowstone!!

Workamping and Moving On

What’s Workamping, you say? We didn’t know what it was either until we started this whole adventure.  Workamping is really popular for full time travelers to be able to offset some of the costs of traveling.  We first talked to some people about this when we were in Florida.  We met two very nice couples who were working at the state park.  They told us about their experience, basically a few hours a day greeting people, spreading bug killer (for fire ants) and cleaning the restrooms.  For a few hours a day 5 days a week and in return they had a full hook up site.  Many campgrounds offer workamping jobs to long-term travelers.  The campers agree to work a certain amount of hours for the compensation of a free stay at the campground (they usually offer a FHU site and some have restrictions on what type of rig you can bring to their property).  They want to be sure if something is parked long term that it doesn’t look bad.  Some places even offer hourly wages as well as FHU sites.  You must be willing to stay somewhere for a lengthy amount of time because the minimum for most jobs is two months.  We found the site http://workampingjobs.com/ really helpful to look for campgrounds who were hiring.  After our trip back from Florida we decided to put in our resumes on the site and see what happened.  We had an option of targeting specific regions of the country.  So, we talked about areas of the country we would like to spend a few months exploring and came up with four regions.  If we had a request from one of those regions, we would jump at the opportunity.

Shortly after putting in our information, we received an e-mail from an RV site in Montana near Glacier NTL Park.  This was Sherry’s top region to visit!!

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Our ‘work’ vehicle. The campground is large, so we were grateful to have this baby to get us around!

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Sherry putting out the ‘closed’ sign – even though most people just ignored it and walked on in!

Timber Wolf Resort (http://www.timberwolfresort.com) is a really nice campground with RV sites, tent camping, and cabins.  FTer exchanging e-mails with the owners and a few phone calls we decided this was too perfect an opportunity for us to pass up.  Our ‘duties’ as workampers were to clean and restock bathrooms, housekeeping cabins, and watering flowers.  It was not difficult work, and we enjoyed getting out and having a job to do each day.  The days where the campground was busy and there were a lot of beds to make were not the most fun days, but like we said, the work was never hard or strenuous. IMG_2340 We also had some interesting ‘finds’ in some of the cabins…  Gave us pause to think why people would leave certain things…  We were occasionally thankful for rubber gloves.

The work gave us a chance to be out and about meeting people in the campground and getting a little exercise while we were at it.  But don’t get us wrong, we weren’t hauling stuff around on our backs.  The owners had some sweet toys that allowed us to maneuver around the campground easily.

OH, we also met a bear while on our duties.  At the end of August we saw a black bear moving through the woods near some of the campsites.  We CAREFULLY watched the bear from the doorway of the camp comfort station.  LOL  Wouldn’t you know, we didn’t have our cameras!!

The best part really is having the opportunity to explore an area and to take our time.  Most days, after we finished working, we would run out and hit one of the near trails (we were only 9 miles from West Glacier).  If we didn’t hike, we went in and looked at the sights in Whitefish, Columbia Falls or Kalispell.  It didn’t take us long to fall in love with this area.  We met some wonderful people and enjoyed the genuine friendliness of most of the locals.  If you are in the area, don’t forget to visit the Huckleberry Patch for some pie or other yummy treats.

After being at the campground for 2 1/2 months, it was hard to think about leaving.  It was long enough to feel like we were getting settled into a new home.  Christine and Phil, the owners of Timber Wolf, are really wonderful and treated us very well while we worked for them.  For our first experience in Workamping, we feel that we got really lucky to be able to work for them.  We would highly recommend Timber Wolf to anyone visiting the area.  The RV sites are shaded, and the park itself is very picturesque.

Now it is onward to the next adventure!  See you soon!

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The worst part of the job was putting the linen on the top bunk! Sherry always ended up with bruised knuckles and head!

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Watering the flowers! It was SO dry this season.

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Cleaning up a cabin…you never know what might be lurking under the covers! Beware of the left-behind undies!

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Sherry stripping a bed.

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Breaks are always good!

 

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These pretty babies are also on the property. NO, we did NOT have to clean up after them!