8/15/15 Las Vegas, NV

Itinerary:
8/15-8/16 On the road back to California
8/16-9/3 Valencia Travel Village, CA
9/3-9/8 Thousand Trails, Acton, CA
9/8- ??? Valencia Travel Village, CA

I have not been able to blog for two solid weeks due medical issues. The days run together and I will be as succinct as possible. When you are done here, the dates from 7/25-7/31 follow and you will be completely up to date.

8/1 We drove to the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn, Montana. We walked around for five hours plus listened to a ranger talk. Chris found his great grandfather’s cousin’s name on a group grave site.

8/2 I woke up with an intense headache and nausea which lasted all day, but we went back to the battle site to take a bus tour, then we drove all over to hike other trails. Both days I wore a wide brim hat, drank a bottle of water for each hour out, had sunglasses and sunblock on, and walked with my staff.

8/3 Intense headache, delirious, high temperature, skin blistering hot yet I was freezing cold, can’t keep food down. Chris took me to the emergency hospital in Harding, Montana. I have heat stroke. Senior heat stroke because I am 60 years old. They gave me a ringer of lactate, morphine, more morphine, an anti-nausea pill, and sent me on my way with a blood pressure of 69/27.

8/3-8/8 Continued to have all of the above symptoms until Chris listened to my breathing and determined that crackling lungs was a bad thing and now to the emergency hospital in Missoula, Montana. Square dancing in Lolo, Montana, is out.

8/8 I am given a hospital bed and from here on things are fuzzy. I am given a head CT (nothing wrong there), a lung x-ray, a chest CT (bad things are found). I am hooked permanently to a shunt and antibiotics for pneumonia and ringers of fluid are pumped non-stop. One type of scan leads to another as now pneumonia takes a back stage to a cancerous mass in my right lung (and so I then had a lung biopsy), a 5 cm mass on my remaining left kidney (right kidney was removed due to clear cell renal cell carcinoma 20 years ago), and several spots on my liver. We must wait in the hospital until the lung biopsy tells us if it is RCC or a different kind of cancer.

8/8-8/13 We are pretty much shell shocked, and go through the tale with each change-over nurse, aide, doctor (I saw four different ones over 6 days), the church guy, several social workers, two PTs and one OT. The heat stroke left me wobbly and the PTs and OT wanted to make sure I was ambulatory; I was given a cane for a few days. Each doctor repeated what we knew with something a bit extra, such as the lymph nodes were swollen (bad), the metastases word was used (very bad), palliative care (not a cure), and that I was at stage 4 (bad). I went looney every time we had to do a blood draw or move the shunt to another spot (total three). I had family and friends calling, messaging, and Facebooking all the time which made life both easier and harder. Everyone is now in shock, Chris is not handling it well, and it’s a waiting game to find out about the biopsy. I was completely dressed and ready to leave on Wednesday only to find out they were trying another stain and we wouldn’t know until Thursday. On Thursday I dressed with shoes on. By the afternoon we were told they didn’t take enough of the mass and their tests were inconclusive. We took the CD of the scans, the paperwork, and checked out.

8/14 We drove the first of three legs back to California. We called everyone that we had dates with to cancel and started the 1230 mile journey to see my own Facey medical doctors. I have Monday with my GP who will order an emergency lung biopsy referral; Monday to drop off the CD and paperwork with the urologist; Thursday with the urologist; and the end of the month with my oncologist when he is back from his vacation. We have a date with a teacher girlfriend turned realtor to view condos in Friendly Valley in case I have to have chemo. I contacted Bloch Cancer Foundation (of which I am a volunteer) and told them my new situation and got great advice (The Second Chance is a free service that will retest and affirm or disaffirm your diagnosis), plus they emailed me up-to-date info on kidney cancer treatment. My friends from, literally, around the world are cheering me on as well as family. I have a wonderful support system in place, and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.

8/15 We are camping tonight in Las Vegas and should be in CA by early afternoon tomorrow. Two long days of driving and Chris is wiped out. Going to a Hawaiian Buffet for dinner tonight so no cooking or clean up required.

I am sending this out today. If I do continue blogging, it will be to cover my cancer progress. The rest of this blog is from our trip before the bad stuff happened.

Saturday (7/25) was the perfect day to get our to-dooley list done, and we almost made it to the end. Last night’s rain did wash all of the thick red dirt and dust off of the car, so no need for a car wash. Grocery shopping had us buy a melon from each type so I could make fruit compote. When we got back from running around Chris did laundry while I spent over two hours melon balling two cantaloupes, watermelon, honeydew, casaba, canary, and crenshaw, plus five bananas and a large box of strawberries were sliced (Chris took out four bags of trash from the rinds alone). All fruits were mixed together and it fit into three of our largest Tupperware containers (these containers were stored in the basement as we wanted to get rid of them, but not throw them away). They all fit in the fridge—glad we switched to a residential style. The only things we did not get to do were vacuuming and washing the floors, and they really need to be done. Last week I cut into a fresh pineapple and we never got around to eating the last two spears, so they were given to Lucky (Lucky eats everything). So now the floor is sticky with pineapple juice as well as the normal grime that happens upon walking in and out and around.

Sunday (7/26) we took a drive to Deadwood. The turn of the 20th century buildings were wonderful to walk around. On just about every corner was a photo of how that view looked in the 1800s. One sign gave the history of the Jewish merchants and mayors of Deadwood. The stores all sold the same type of items (Chris is good for hats and t-shirts so we saved money), but the antique shops were like walking through a museum (everything tagged with the owner’s history!) with a price tag (ouch!). We declined the $5 ($8 with a beer—9:00 in the morning?) tour of where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. We walked through the train depot and read about Deadwood’s transportation from horseback to the automobile. We ended the morning at the cemetery. A tour was given a talk at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite, so we hung around to listen in, saw where Calamity Jane was buried, walked to the Jewish section, to the mass graves, potter’s field, and where the infants were buried. After a nap it was time to walk the dogs again, and on our circuit of the RV park we got talking to a couple (Joyce and Corky) that just pulled in. After five minutes we discovered they were also square dancers. We pulled up their extra chairs and ended up talking for over two hours. We agreed to get back together after dinner for a game of King’s Cribbage. Never played it before, like a cross between Cribbage and Scrabble. When we got back to their rig they had another couple in there (Cathy and Dave). After talking in a big group the guys went outside and now us girls were talking, and it turns out that all three of us worked with Special Needs. Cathy still works (8 years until retirement) with high school English (like my last 7 years at West Ranch), Joyce as a paraprofessional with adult students. We all had the same experiences with all of our kidlings. Cathy and Dave will be joining us this coming week to do some touring of the area, and they leave on Friday as we do. Joyce and Corky leave tomorrow (we may see them in Lolo and/or Riverside for a square dance weekend). The four of us (Joyce, Corky, Chris, me) had a game of King’s Cribbage ($35 if I can find it in a store), and it really is mind blowing. Everyone helped everyone figure out their points as your point lines could go in a multitude of ways—but not diagonal—plus you get extra points if the tiles are all one color, you use up all five tiles in one go, or you go out first. We got back at 11:00 to walk the dogs one more time.

Monday (7/27) we had a repair guy come out to our RV park and check on the bedroom slide awning. It seems like three screws had come undone and it was hanging by the remaining one. He fixed everything and we are ready to travel more. We never had a chance to get back together with Cathy and Dave, so we all did our own touring. We took a drive to the Black Hills Gold Factory and took their tour. Our guide took us through all of the steps and stages. The original artist liked the grape vineyards from Europe and so created the leaves and grape clusters in his jewelry. So, every piece of jewelry had this incorportated into them, which was not pleasing to me so I didn’t buy anything. Also, there hasn’t been any gold mined from the Black Hills in 100 years so they import it from back east. To make the different tones, silver or silver and copper is put into the mix. We also drove to the Sioux Indian Pottery Factory. There were only two Native Americans working today. This was a self tour, so we looked at green (unkilned pottery), first baked, glazed, etc, and then watched two people paint on the pottery. Once again, did not buy anything as it could easily break in the RV.

Tuesday (7/28) we drove the Badlands National Park loop. It took much longer than the hour that everyone told us about. I guess they didn’t stop at just about every overlook, read every sign, walked just about every path and trail, and took pictures. Prairie Dog Town was delightful. These critters, four times the size of a huge guinea pig, were sunning themselves outside of their homes, then would race to another mound displacing the prairie dog there who goes running to the next mound. Hard to take pictures because of the distance from us to them. Along the lines of, in the middle of the picture is a prairie dog. Big horn sheep herds were on both sides of the road. To the right of us were fields of green, to the left in a canyon were dry, steep cliffs. I guess they felt safe in the cliffs, but the food was elsewhere. Once again, in the middle of the digital picture, if you blow it up, you can see the sheep. We discovered all that purple thistle was imported from Europe to make the original homesteaders less homesick, The people nowadays think of it as a blight and are importing bugs that feed on it to eradicate them. The Badlands were sold to people in 150 acre plots at $1.50 an acre. Turns out the majority couldn’t farm the land and moved on. Those that stayed were paid $4 an acre by the government who finally realized that people were dying out there. Starvation Acres. On our way back we drove again through Wall Drug and stopped at the National Grasslands Visitor Center and spent time learning about this area as well. We then drove straight to Spearfish for a square dance with Jerry Junck. We will be dancing with him again when we get to Lolo, Montana, plus there were several dancers there that we will see again in Lolo and/or Riverside, California.

Wednesday (7/29) we dropped the dogs in a local kennel for an overnighter. We got to Mt. Rushmore by 10:00 and spent six and a half hours walking the paths and taking pictures from every viewpoint there was, going into every building, watching all of the films… A fun picture was taken from inside a cave looking up through a crack at George Washington. I got another of George framed in the branches of a pine tree. Chris bought a $5 t-shirt and he found the Geological Survey hat tacks that I collect. I also took photos of the ones in the ground. We left to walk the streets of Keystone (one way all down hill; good thing the sun went down as we walked the uphill back). We had dinner in a Mexican restaurant overlooking all of the bikes coming in to town. I guess I need to mention here that Sturgis is having it’s 75th Biker Rally, and one million bikers were expected to flood this town. And so everywhere we went, the parking lots and streets were filled with bikes and bikers. Leaving Mt. Rushmore one bike went down, and four more plowed into it. So we had to wait for the ambulances to take away the injured and the flat truck to cart away the bikes that had spewn across the roads. We got back to Mt. Rushmore after dinner to watch the light show. It started with patriotic music, a long speech about each of the presidents portrayed (initially she had a bad mike and nobody could hear for five minutes), a movie, and then the lights blazed at the mountain. This was not supposed to be as spectacular as the night show at Crazy Horse, but we just couldn’t see everything in one day. At the end the veterans and current in the military were called down to the stage. Each in turn had the mike to state their rank and name and branch of the military, and they were applauded. We will need to come back to South Dakota to see Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, and many other places as we were running out of time.

Thursday (7/30) we picked up two very happy dogs and brought them back to the RV. It was too hot for our plans that day. We walked the two by seven street grid of Rapid City’s Presidential Walk. A number of artists made bronze life size statues of every president, and these were placed on the street corners. With a map with short stories, this self guided tour took over two hours. We recognized most of the presidents as we approached them and felt sorry for a few. Imagine being sworn in on a rainy day and dying of pneumonia a month later (William Henry Harrison), or two of three kids died very young, and on the way to your inauguration your remaining son died on his way to see this (Franklin Pierce), or that you were known for absolutely nothing of record (several). While on the walk we went into a vinegar and oil shop and taste tested several. We ended up buying a blackberry balsamic and an 18 year old balsamic. The shop held our bottles until we finished the walk as no one wanted to think of the bottles clanking against each other the whole way. As it was, we were juggling drink bottles, our phone cameras, and the booklet of stories, of which I was expected to read aloud from. We picked up the dogs and drove Highway 16-A. This twisty turning highway was also being driven by thousands of bikers. If we went in the opposite direction (as mostly everyone else who was in the know was doing), we would have seen Mt. Rushmore framed in the one way tunnels and on the turns of the road. We stopped at an overlook and saw them, but so far away it was better to just look than try to photo them. There were t-shirts for sale in stores listing how many pig tails, switch backs, curves ahead signs, etc for this road. Didn’t buy one. At the halfway point was Custer State Part, but it was late and we wouldn’t give it the time it needed. We have seen buffalo/bison close up in Yellowstone so it was easy to pass on this.

Friday (7/31) we woke up early to make the four plus hour drive to 7th Ranch RV Camp in Garryowen, Montana. There are grasshoppers like crazy outside, and if you don’t worry about them, they try and stay at least one hop out of your way. Even at six o’clock in the evening it is bright and very hot outside. Chris is trying to keep the inside of the RV cold so that he and the dogs won’t suffer. Me, I wear a sweater, shawl, and have added another quilt on my side of the bed.

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7/24/2015 Black Hawk, SD

Itinerary:
7/24-7/31 Black Hawk, SD
7/31-8/4 Garryowen, MT
8/4-8/10 Lolo, MT (on a waiting list for a campground—if not there, then boon docking somewhere)
8/10-8/13 On the road to Willamina, OR
8/13-8/17 Willamina, OR (Bob and MaryJane’s wedding anniversary party)
8/17-8/24 Neskowin, OR
8/24-8/27 Chehalis, WA
8/27-8/31 Circle 8 Ranch, WA (Advance and Challenge square Dancing)
8/31-9/8 Blaine, WA
9/8-9/20 Seattle, WA, to see our many friends
9/20-9/22 Dallas, OR (Bob and Lavonne)
9/22-9/24 On the road to Yuba City, CA
9/24-9/27 Yuba City, CA (Harvest Hoedown)
9/27-10/1 Oregon House, CA
10/1-10/7 Bay Area, CA (PACE NorCal, Square Dance Convention)
10/8-10/12 Porterville, CA (Joey’s wedding)
10/12-10/15 Paso Robles, CA

Future Knowns:
10/19 Santa Clarita, CA
11/8-11/15 Indio, CA RIVCO (Caller school and square dance festival)
11/24-11/27 Paso Robles, CA Thanksgiving with Don and Mary
11/27-11/29 Oxnard, CA PACE Extravaganza (square dancing)

Thursday (7/9) is our last day of touring around and sightseeing. We knew we could possibly be away longer than 4-5 hours so the dogs came with us. It was over 1 ½ hours to get to Upper Tahquamenon Falls. We had to pay for a yearly park pass as it was either $9 per day or $31 a calendar year, and since we will be in this state at least four more days, it was worth it. The calendar year ends in December, so we can’t use it next spring or early summer if we are in this state again. The Upper Falls were not quite as advertised: The largest falls next to Niagara Falls. Not even close. But the colors of the water were interesting—browns, yellows and golds. It seems that the water flows over tannic materials (old vegetation) which flushes through the waters and over the falls. The dogs walked the trails with us, and most people wanted to stop and pet them. We even met another beagle on the path. We also visited Lower Falls, and then drove onto Whitefish Point, which is on Lake Superior. We decided not to pay for a tour of the buildings, being content to stroll the grounds and visit the gift shops (we bought a pint of black raspberry jam). The trip back took two hours, and not even a complaint from the dogs.

Friday (7/10) we drove from St. Ignace to Munising. The campground was full and couldn’t take us in, but the Indian casino had 50 amp spots, totally free (as long as we came in to gamble), so that saved us $40 per night. We got Player’s Cards with a complementary $5 loaded as long as it was played on a machine with a green sticker. In the whole casino there were only four poker machines, none with green stickers, so Chris got to play with my money. Between the two of us, we walked away with $6 (last of the big time spenders). We drove over and hiked (short hike—1/8 mile) to a blast furnace. A volunteer was giving a talk on sled dogs (he owns 18). Kids were attached to a sled and pulled it around the perimeter of the furnace. Very interesting that although he has all of the equipment, the dogs, and goes through the training with them, but he nor the dogs have ever participated in a race. This is just a hobby. A very expensive hobby. We drove around the town and decided that the casino fish fry sounded best. It wasn’t. They had 14 trays of different kinds of fish, mussels, shrimp, clams, and scallops, and all but one fish was equally coated with the same material and deep fried. Absolutely everything tasted the same. Deep fried crust. Chris found room for the dessert, a cold apple crisp with the crisp made from oatmeal. We pass signs for all sorts of places (Elks, Moose, Lions, churches) having Friday fish fries, and now I know to avoid them.

Saturday (7/11) we hiked to see several waterfalls and where blast furnaces had been in the past. We seemed to be on the same itinerary as a bunch of families as I recognized their dogs or kids, and their kids would call out to our dogs by name. We climbed to the overlook of Miner’s Castle and took pictures of emerald green but clean water of the cove. We hiked to another platform behind the rock but it wasn’t as impressive. Then hiked on to Miner’s Falls. We also hiked to Munising Falls, which was nice, but not as impressive. That evening we took a tour boat ride (2 hour and 40 minutes) along Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. There were so many people on this 6:30 evening tour that two boats went out. We went on the smaller boat as the bigger boat’s top seating filled up quickly. And so did our boat, so we sat down stairs with about 10 others. The better part was we could slide from one side of the boat to the other and take pictures of whatever without anyone in our way. Upstairs they were crammed 6 to a side and everyone except those on the rail had someone in the way. A party of nine from France had to sit below with us and one girl was not happy. She complained loudly, then sulked and played with her phone, not looking at the sights at all. Almost the whole trip. The rocks cliffs are stained with blue, green (coppers), red, orange, yellow, gold (iron), white (potassium), black (manganese), and purple (didn’t catch that one). The water percolates through the soil and comes out through the walls of the rocks and cliffs; we could actually see it dribbling down the cliff face and fall into to water like it was raining. We passed Grand Island, an island without power, internet, telephone, running water… Twenty-five permanent homes, most with outhouses. When they want something from the mainland (mail, food) they take their motorboats and go across.

Sunday (7/12) we drove from Munising to Copper Harbor, which is on a point in Lake Superior. We walked to the fort and were given a volunteer talk by a PhD candidate in archeology on the Astor House and range lighthouse. He didn’t seem very comfortable with talking with a PowerPoint, so he took us across the street to show us the dig, sites, and remaining buildings. Now he was more in his element, and was wonderful when answering questions. The range lighthouses are actually two beacons about 100 yards from each other on land. Boats coming into the harbor are to line up the two lights to look like one, and then sail in on that beacon. The Astor (ship) had crashed right on the point because there used to be only one light house, but no way of knowing exactly where the point was. We planned to go back on Monday to walk through the fort. Dressed in garments from the fort’s time period are interpreters who are there everyday in the summer from 10-5.

Monday (7/13) it’s raining and we will put off walking the fort and other touring. We have no phone, internet, WiFi. We have books and my sewing, but Chris thinks the rain will let up so no sewing. It’s raining at a pretty good clip. In the afternoon the rain let up a bit so we walked through most of the fort. There were three costumed living history players and we talked to two of them. The family man (private) knew the most and so asked him loads of questions about his life at the fort, his wife and child, how the child was to get an education, and so on. That evening we went to learn about agates. Before you know it we are on the beach in pouring rain looking for agates. Mostly we found chert, but a little boy in a blue slicker and a girl in green found a bunch of them. We came away with six pieces which I put in a snack size Ziploc and will hang next to my pieces of petrified wood.

Tuesday (7/14) we drove a path from the beginning of Highway 41 down to Copper Harbor to Eagle Harbor, Eagle River, Mohawk, Gay, through Betsy, Point Isabel, Lac LaBelle, and then back to Copper Harbor. We stopped at a waterfall in Lac LaBelle and read a sign that told about the town’s growth and abandonment within 40 years. Some of the other mining towns had a lifespan of less than 10 years. Sites of the ore crushing (stamp mills) were completely removed as all of the parts, from the ironworks to the bricks and lumber, were used elsewhere. As we drove we went in and out of WiFi service. Our cell phones would chirp or hiss as email and FaceBook tried to down load stuff before we went out of the area. That evening we went to the bat lecture and found out that bats only have one offspring per year, and that the bat population is being decimated through a white fungus. This means billions of more bugs flying around not getting to be eaten by the brown bats. Every family got to build a bat house to hang, Since we don’t have a house to hang a bat house, we gave ours to a family that came late to the lecture.

Wednesday (7/15) without cell phones or WiFi/internet, every time I wake up at night I manage to go back to sleep. Last night I only woke once, actually getting about 7 hours of sleep. Today we drove to the Delaware Copper Mine. It started out with a video that took you through the whole tour so you would not have any surprises, and because every shaft below our first drift was flooded, then a second video took us through the flooded area as well. Donning yellow construction/mining hard hats we went down the hundred wet, moldering, splintered steps to the first drift. Once down it wasn’t claustrophobic at all. We had allowed one family with three little kids to go down way before us. Turns out you could not hear anyone if they were around a corner. The rock blocked all of the sound. In the concession area were chunks of copper, heavily lacquered to keep them bright and shiny. They also had copper chains like the two I had bought a year ago only to find mine turned black as soon as the lacquer wore off. Someone told me that true copper is not attracted to a magnet, and I tested it on my ring and earrings (true) and my blackened chain (attraction). In the gift shop I took a magnet to their chains (no attraction), but now I don’t know if the lacquer is stopping them from showing attraction. I really don’t want to spend another $20 to find out. Outside we walked the grounds and over to the prehistoric copper mine, over 5000 years old. We drove through a ghost town of Central (it lasted 40 years) and saw their version of a visitor center (really a museum) and walked through a well preserved miner’s house. There were a total of ten houses left in the area, but we didn’t have the time to walk the trails to see all of them. We now had a choice of visiting an old town called Calumet or heading back as we only had an hour of time left. On our way back we saw a sign for a maritime museum, so for $5 each we toured through four buildings, one being the lighthouse. In the first one we got snagged by a volunteer who must have been exceedingly lonesome because he wanted to chat about everything—but nothing about the museum. I can’t read while anyone is trying to engage me in conversation so I gave up and moved on to the next building. We almost had the same thing there (different guy), but by this time more and more couples (especially with many kids under the age of five) were coming through and the man had plenty of people to talk to. Tonight Chris will go alone to the ranger talk as it is about Civil War guns and ammunition, something that will bore me to death.

Thursday (7/16) we drove to Duluth, a seven hour drive. Chris kept hearing a grinding noise so he made an appointment to take the RV to a Cummins factory service center on Friday. We pulled into a KOA without reservations only to find we could stay only that night. It was completely booked for the weekend, and so were all of the other campgrounds in the area. We took care of laundry and cleaning up the RV. That evening we were invited to dinner and a square dance, but had to forgo the dinner as we were running late. The dance was Jerry Story’s ABC dance. Doug Setterstrom had taken over from two callers who retired. He got all of their equipment and records and stepped up to being a caller practically overnight. With us he had just over two squares. Most of the dancers had some lessons years ago, some were brand new, all wanted to sit and socialize! He ran it somewhat in the way I envision to be calling, keeping to the basic list, lots of repetition, making it fun. Doug invited us to the Reggae and World Music Festival that he and his daughter were volunteering at on Saturday, and we said we would try and get there.

Friday (7/17) we drove over to Cummins and spent the day wandering around Duluth, having meals, etc. until we got an answer. It was the turbo charger that had gone bad. Bad news: they had to order one and it won’t come in until Monday, maybe Tuesday. Bad news: the RV should not drive anywhere as the old turbo charger could go out any minute and we would be stock still where ever we were. Good news: we could boon dock on their side yard until fixed (saving camping and electricity charges for three days). Bad news: this is a very expensive fix. We kept messaging Tim Aho about the equipment he was trying to sell and ended up going out to dinner with him, then to his house to see it. I was also looking for Andrea, someone who went through caller school with me, so I was taking photos of things she might be interested in. I ended up buying a Hilton speaker, a Hilton 75B turntable/amp, and Tim threw in several hard to find “bullet” needles, an Omni directional mic, cords… I am now equipped to call. I just need to get my CallerLab membership so that I am licensed to use the music. Plus I need to practice more. I didn’t bring my checkbook, so we agreed on a time to get together again on Saturday.

Saturday (7/18) we paid Tim for my goodies and took him out to lunch. We got a message from Doug that two complementary tickets were waiting for us at the Will Call window for the Reggae Festival, so after off loading the equipment and walking the dogs, we drove to the festival. Hot day, glad I wore a hat! We found shade right at the front of the stage (just to the left of the speakers) and sat there for four hours. Most of the music was fun, but the group that was playing when we had to leave was more of a cross between rap and reggae—not so great. The girl that won on The Voice was there—and yes, she has a great voice!

Sunday (7/19) we got a call from the vet asking about Lucky. For three weeks now he’s been crated unless taking short walks for potty breaks (with Chris carrying him in and out of the RV) or meals, and medicated for pain, inflammation, and anti-anxiety as he cries when he is crated (loneliness mostly). It was determined that his leg has healed as much as it will be, and unless he tears his knee completely, surgery is not an option. So he’s going to be allowed to be a dog, and not crated unless we leave for the day or are driving the RV. We will continue to give him meds if he is in pain or uncomfortable. After determining that no quilt stores were going to be open on Sunday (actually one was, but didn’t have the 1930s reproduction fabric I need to look at), we decided to go to the Depot Museums. Four floors of really neat stuff. We never knew that Duluth was a Mecca for immigrants. Turns out from Ellis Island to New York to Chicago, the next stop was Duluth. Chris really loved the inside/outside train exhibits where we climbed into and walked through many. The various snow plows were huge, as were the ones that pulled coal. They used about as much coal as they hauled! On the top floor were paintings (water colors, oils, pastels) of scenic views around Duluth. Last weekend artists were given 90 minutes to produce a picture featuring Duluth (and it was raining that day!). Many chose to paint a picture of a person painting a picture. All had a price tag from $50 to $1000 (that was an honorable mention). I didn’t think much of second place, and never did see first place. Also upstairs were comic book pages (very much enlarged) by local comic artists. Those were REALLY good. The museum had many areas just for the under eight year olds, but it was fun to walk through those areas too. Walking through several passenger trains they had all of the different china and menus from the different years. For 60 cents you could get a complete meal! Tomorrow we hope the RV gets fixed. We need to be up, dressed and out by 8 AM.

Monday (7/20) we threw on clothes and put the dogs in the car for a road trip to Grand Marais, which is on the north shore of Lake Superior. We drove through and around Duluth. Some of the house were built on a very grand scale, with two and three stories, turrets, widow walks, wrought iron, and so on. We followed the shore (on North Shore Drive) and the water was as smooth as glass. As we drove we kept on the lookout for quilt shops. The nav unit sent us on a wild goose chase down a dirt road that ended at an old brewery. We found one in Two Harbors and I bought nine fat quarters of reproduction 1930s fabric for a ladies 12. This means I make 12 x 12 ½ inch quilt blocks and send them out by February to 11 ladies, who (each in turn) send me one of theirs, and voila—I have 12 x 12 ½ inch sampler blocks to put into a lap quilt. Yes, each lady will be using different fabrics, but the unifying thing is that they will all be 1930s repro AND the background color will be Kona (brand name) Snow, an off whitish/ivory color. We had lunch at The Angry Trout. Both of us had the fish (Lake Superior whitefish) and chips. Not quite enough fish and way, way too many cross cut chips. When we returned we found that there was still more to do on the RV. They had replaced the turbo charger and a filter, but now they found leaks in the exhaust manifold gasket, of which they will work on Tuesday.

Tuesday (7/21) Since we took showers the night before, it was just a matter of throwing clothes on again, putting the dogs in the car and taking off. This time our target was Hibbing, where there was a JoAnns Fabric store which had the Kona Snow fabric I needed. The clerk pointed out they had a one day 50% off on-line coupon, so we brought it up on my phone. I got two yards for $8. We then drove to the Hull-Rust-Mahoning open iron ore pit. This is the largest iron ore pit in the United States, and it is still being mined. I was given three pieces of iron to add to my collectables literally hanging in little ziplock bags from a lampshade in the RV. We dropped the dogs off and went back into Duluth to eat at The Picwick, a restaurant that has been doing business in the same building for over 100 years. We ate outside where we could watch the ships come in, but afterwards toured the building, looked at the old photos on the walls and read the old newspaper clippings and menus from the past. Before we left town we also walked through Fitger’s Brewery, which is now a hotel, many restaurants and little shops, and has signs everywhere giving the history of the area. One huge museum. Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, then moved to Hibbing, so we got his history as well. The work on the RV was completed, but Chris was too tired to travel so we’re spending the night and will take off early tomorrow.

Wednesday (7/22) Chris woke up at 5:45 so we got moving. The 400 mile trip took until early afternoon. We are camped at the fairground. Chris looked at our finances. Spending from Friday until Wednesday camped for free outside the bay at the Cummins service center certainly saved us a bunch of money. We took the dogs over to Sioux Falls Park and saw the most beautiful park so far. Many historical buildings dotted the area, as well as the remnants of flumes, weirs, and other contraptions to divert the water through the turbines of the day to produce electricity and grind flour. Jasper, the name for Sioux quartzite, was mined for all of the buildings, but since it is second in hardness to diamond, that soon stopped. Jasper looks like Disney rock!

Thursday (7/23) was our last day in Sioux Falls, SD. In the morning we drove over to the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), which collects earth data the world over through the use of a satellite. Upon entry onto the site our car was completely screened for weapons, bombs (that mirror under the vehicle), and alcohol. We had to show our IDs, open every door and dash of the car… Once inside the building we went through a scanner and had to sign in (and out later). We were there 20 minutes early for the tour so we walked through the main area (no opening doors or going through open doors) and read all of the info. The tour took us through the same area (no taking us behind the scene here) but got additional information. The most impressive part were photos (taken by the satellite) showing the exact same spots on earth anywhere from a year to several years later showing how lakes and rivers have dried up or changed course, how forest fires, hurricanes, lava flows, earthquakes, tsunamis, people moving to cities have changed the face of the earth. This place really believes in the force of climate change. After lunch we drove into the old part of the city, expecting to take a lot of time going through the Museum of Visual Materials. Because it said it was closed today (a wedding in the back area) and yet a church group of kids were given permission to walk through, we just tagged along with them. The museum is set up like a nursery/preschool with lots of areas for different projects—a chef’s kitchen, several art studios (water colors, ceramics, three-dimensional), a very large doll house, and more. The only thing missing was a Lego area. Because no area was being utilized for day camp, it took us about 15 minutes to walk through. We then walked the streets admiring the old early 1800s style buildings, then went into the Old Courthouse Museum. Three floors of wonderful stuff. The third floor had coins from around the world (farthings, half pennies, etc.) and it was neat recognizing them. There were exhibits about the art of Native Americans, the fort, the different pioneer trails that crossed across North America in search of minerals and land, the wonderful architectural buildings of Sioux Falls, and astronomy.

Friday (7/24) Left early to drive to Black Hawk, South Dakota. About an hour’s drive before our final landing we came upon Wall Drug, an interesting town that grew up around a store in 1932. The store takes up a whole block, but is split into many little shops that sold rocks, posters, leather goods, trinkets, clothing, and more. Chris found an embroidered hat but did not buy it. Instead he opted for an embroidered t-shirt. I bought a lacing for the copper wire bound rose quartz that I made several years ago (49 cents!). Twice I bought copper necklaces and twice they turned black, and I wasn’t going to spend another $20 on copper (I suspect the necklaces were only copper coated as they attract a magnet). I also found two itty bitty tops made out of crinkled fabric that stretches when you put it on. We went into a store that had taxidermy animals including polar and grizzly bears. We had a hard time with the antelopes and zebras as they wouldn’t hurt anyone. I found a leather halter top for $10 that was marked down from $43! Now I have something to wear if I ever go to a leather dance (my square dance friends may know what I’m talking about). We made it to our campground which is right off the freeway. I was given a You Tube link to square dancing in the 1940-1950s and I am intrigued by the videos. With relatively few calls the whole room was up and dancing immediately. This is the way I want to call. At this moment we are under a severe thunder, lightning and rainstorm, which may last another 30 minutes or so. The thick dust on our tow car will turn to mud. It probably won’t be washed off, so tomorrow when we go grocery shopping we may need to find a car wash. Tomorrow will be an easy day—wake up late, find a grocery store, do laundry after changing sheets, wash the floor.

7/8/2015 St. Ignace, MI

Itinerary:
To 7/10 St. Ignace, MI
7/10-713 Marquette, MI
7/13-7/16 Copper Harbor, MI
7/16-7/19 Deluth, MN
7/19-7/24 On the road to Rapid City, SD
7/24-7/31 Black Hawk, SD
7/31-8/6 On the road to Lolo, MT
8/6-8/10 Lolo, MT
8/10-8/13 On the road to Willamina, OR
8/13-8/17 Willamina, OR (Bob and MaryJane’s wedding anniversary party)
8/17-8/24 Neskowin, OR
8/24-8/27 Chahalis, WA
8/27-8/31 Circle 8 Ranch, WA (Advance and Challenge square Dancing)
8/31-9/8 Blaine, WA
9/8-9/20 Seattle, WA, to see our many friends
9/20-9/22 Dallas, OR (Bob and Lavonne)
9/22-9/24 On the road to Yuba City, CA
9/24-10/1 Yuba City, CA (Harvest Hoedown)
10/1-10/5 Bay Area, CA (PACE NorCal, Square Dance Convention)

Future Knowns:
10/8-10/12 Porterville, CA (Joey’s wedding)
10/12-10/15 Paso Robles, CA
10/19 Santa Clarita, CA
10/21-10/26 Harvest Hoedown, Yuba City, CA (Square dance festival)
11/8-11/15 Indio, CA RIVCO (Caller school and square dance festival)
11/24-11/27 Paso Robles, CA Thanksgiving with Don and Mary
11/27-11/29 Oxnard, CA PACE Extravaganza (square dancing)

What can I say about Michigan? Definitely the buggiest area we’ve been in for a long while. It rains so much that the ground is saturated, leaving large pools of water to navigate with the dogs while walking. These pools become mosquito breeding areas. We keep a fan blowing out the door so the mosquitoes don’t come in when we go through. The Thousand Trails campground is in a pretty dense wood area, so black and deer flies are everywhere. The dogs have tick medication, so I’m not so worried about them. Chris and I have been bit up our legs and arms, plus ears and eyebrows, and one big itchy spot on my cheek. When we pulled in we chose a spot near no one. We walked the dogs to come back to rigs on both sides of us. We took a drive, and the trailer to our passenger side now has a second camper on it and a tent. The tent is so close to our door that we are afraid we will step on it! We needed to go out again and stopped by the ranger station for them to look into how many people can be on one site. When we returned we found the second camper (the trailer’s workshop—no one is actually camped in it) moved over and the tent actually behind their trailer. Breathing room!

Lucky is not getting a break! He started limping on our walks so it was back to the vet for a checkup and x-rays. He’s got severe arthritis built up in his left knee, and a partial tear in his ACL in his right knee. Since it is not a complete tear, the advice is to keep him confined to his kennel unless walked—and then for only five minutes at a time. He’s on anti-inflammatories and pain relief meds, but he cries to be let out 24/7. Poor guy. We take him back in one week to see if he is improving. Rita, on the other hand, is acting really strange on our walks. Since Lucky is being carried in and out of the rig and only getting a short potty walk, Rita gets 15-30 minutes of alone time walking with me. Some walks are joyful – she’s pulling and dragging me everywhere, splashing through mud and water puddles (see above—there are a lot!) then jumping on me to say, I’m wet! Other walks she’s an old woman, gingerly taking three steps then stopping. She has to be encouraged to keep going! And then some starts out slow and ends up at top speed. We’re so gentle with her now as her heart is at risk. The vet says if she lays down while walking to carry her back, not to make her walk. On the other hand, she has taken to nipping at everything—Lucky’s ears, our fingers, the leash, the pickup poop bags (full or empty). Nothing really hurts, it’s just annoying.

Sunday (6/28) we drove to Port Huron and saw homes built in the early to mid 1800s, still lived in. We took a tour of the lighthouse grounds and Chris climbed to the top of the lighthouse. While walking the boardwalk we saw a train and so we toured the Thomas A. Edison Train Depot Museum. Because it was the last hour before it closed, everyone got in free. Very interesting on the life of Edison.

Monday (6/29) we drove back to Port Huron and had lunch at Freighters. Chris had walleye (a very light white fish) and me the pulled pork, Michigan style. The lobby had historical photos and background on the area, lighthouse, boat disasters… We then went to the Huron Lightship. This was built to warn boats like a lighthouse would, but was a boat itself. The tour took three hours—and would have been longer if we kept asking questions!

Tuesday (6/30) we tried to drive parallel to Lake Huron and the St. Clair River to St. Clair. Sometimes we went in complete circles due to one way roads and wanting to view really old architecture. We brought along a clock that needed a special kind of battery. Chris found a jewelry store that has been in the same building since it was built in 1835. Mosher. And $8, thanks for asking. We ended the day driving about an hour to an Advanced workshop in Gibralter. With us they just made two squares. One lady, Mary, was enchanted by our George Monighan Black Sheep swingers. Turns out she, like me, collects sheep things. She made me an origami sheep out of a dollar bill to add to my collection. I promised to email her a photo of my collection, which I did that night. Her email address starts off as Mary3ewe… Haven’t heard back from her as yet. Hope she knows how to open attachments. The club caller, Ray Wiles, gave us info on an Advance to C1 workshop and dance happening on Wednesday in Flushing, Michigan, and he also emailed us the particulars.

Wednesday (7/1) we drove over 90 minutes to Flushing, which is beyond Flint. Since we took the freeway all the way down, there was nothing in particular to see—just green everywhere. I drove down so that Chris could drive back. We got to the Senior Center with 10 minutes to spare, so the dogs got a walk. We were told that the dancers should be there any minute. At one minute to the hour we called the caller to find out he cancelled the event as everyone was coming back from Nationals and would be too tired… So we got back in the car and drove back. The wood that we got from our neighbor was finally dry enough to make a campfire, over which Chris cooked our steak. Coupled with corn on the cob and spinach salad, we ate pretty well.

If we go dancing Thursday, it will be with Ray’s A’s again, but this group is just learning A1. He told us that they may not dance as not everyone has gotten back to him about going. We’ll see. We also got a call from Kim, and we will be getting together with her and her family for lunch tomorrow.

Thursday (7/2) we found out that Ray’s A’s will not be dancing, but I was emailed by Mary (the sheep collector) that Jumping Jim Dandies will be dancing on Friday, and that she is bringing two sheep mugs and other sheep goodies for me. On today’s trip out I bought some sheep fabric and will be making her a quilted candy/goodie box. I will be posting a picture of it on Facebook. I also bought twice as much fabric and will be making myself one—or giving it to another friend who is a triple sheep (Aries, born in the Chinese year of the sheep—1955—and has a last name that means shearer of the sheep). So today we drove to Vasa Country Club which was established by Swedes in the late 1800’s as an enclave to keep Swedish traditions alive. Kim’s brother Kevin is finishing up a second house as he did his first house there with beautiful woods and tile. When we settle down again I want his imput –he and his wife, Cathy, have great taste!.

Friday (7/3) it was decided we have run out of underwear and need to do laundry. For the first time in ages, Chris sat in the laundry room and I got the freedom to quilt. I made three goodie boxes—two with the sheep on the outside and one inside, then used the scraps to make two eyeglass cases. That evening we went to the Jumpin’ Jim Dandies and met up with all of the people who also danced to Ray’s A’s on Tuesday. I gave Mary her box and eyeglass case, and she gave me a ten pound bag. Mind you, everything is either decorated with sheep or is a sheep itself, but inside were two mugs, hundreds of broaches and magnets, a dishrag and towel, statues (ceramic, wood, brass, pottery, basketry), toys, napkin rings… She had at least two of everything at home and so gave me half of those, then she broke up sets of four and six to give me pairs of my own. Please realize she and I were strangers until Tuesday. She is 89, square dances at least twice a week, has all of her facilities, and just loved the fact that I also shared a love for collecting sheep items. She loved my two items that I signed for her. I’m glad I took the time to make her a hand craft. As we drove home we oohed and aahed at the fireworks going off. Yes, in Michigan they seem to celebrate the fourth on the third as well.

Saturday (7/4)(still can’t believe we’re still without internet) we woke at six to Lucky’s rustling. Took them for a walk and went back to bed. Woke at eleven and walked them again. Everyone had a meal, washed dishes and vacuumed the floors. Because of the rain, we had trekked in mud and dirt, not to mention the dog hair all over everything. Took another nap and here we are. Not much to say. Not really celebrating the 4th. The park has not one open spot, kids, families, dogs everywhere. There was a decorated golf cart parade (missed it), kiddy t-shirt tie dye event (missed), band (missed), and chicken dinner event (we’re making steaks and spinach salad). We got a fairly early night, but between the fireworks and my insomnia, I didn’t knock off until 2:30 in the morning. I would wake up every 20-30 minutes and stay awake the same amount of time.

Sunday (7/5) it seems that not all of the fireworks were exploded as we kept hearing more booms and bangs. We ran errands until 2:00, then took Lucky back to the vet for a recheck. He is getting better, but it was recommended that he have kennel rest for at least another two weeks, only walking to eat and poop/piddle. We got more pain killers for him as well as an anti-anxiety med to stop him from wanting to be out of the kennel. Tomorrow we head to the upper peninsula!

Monday (7/6) no showers as we hurried on our way to the UP. We had to go over a five mile toll bridge to get to St. Ignace. Built in the mid 1950’s, it is the third largest suspension bridge in the word, and absolutely dwarfs the Golden Gate Bridge in California. When there is a stiff wind, the bridge can sway out 35 feet. I doubt that vehicles are allowed on the bridge then. It cost $14 for our two axile RV and the tow car. We had lunch at The Galley. Chris had white fish and I the walleye, both northern fish and greatly promoted. As we walked the streets, Chris bought a t-shirt and a hat, then we bought 2 ½ pounds of Michigan fudge. It was buy three half-pound slices and get two more free. Came out to $5 a pound. We drove down the road and saw Castle Rock, and so for a dollar each we got the privilege of climbing 170 steps to the top of a rock and photograph the view. With only two rest stops, that was a climb we weren’t used to. The views of the bay, harbor, ferries taking people to Macinaw Island, the seagulls, and the expanse of water beyond the bay were incredible.

Tuesday (7/7) we decided to walk the boardwalk and see the museums at each end. We learned about the Ojibwa Native Americans and their trials at the hands of the Iroquois, then the French, English, and finally the Americans. Walking the boardwalk and reading every point of interest signs we learned that in the 1800-present day white man had ruined the forests, plant life, water, and animal life in the quest to ravage everything the land in this area had to offer. They over hunted the beaver, over commercial fished, chopped down the timber and did not replant until the 1930’s. We got more information at Fort De Buade, equally dismal. We walked back along the commercial side of the street. I bought a sweat top with a more “girly” color than the navy/black/gray I have acquired. I also bought granulated honey. Never heard of it before and had to try it. It’s rather good, and need to tell Janet (my beekeeping sister) about it.

Wednesday (7/8) Lucky woke us far earlier than normal with incessant whining to be walked. After their walk Rita (again) refused to eat breakfast. This is becoming a pattern with her several times a week. She will eat dinner (but not a larger dinner) with gusto. It doesn’t matter what we add to her morning meal, including real hamburger. She’s just not a morning eater. Since we were up, we took the early morning ferry across the strait to Mackinac Island. We paid extra for the carriage tour, which turned out to be a fairly large group of people pulled by two draft horses. The tour guide was very informative, and also told us that she moved to the island because her boyfriend was born here and got her this job. We walked around the tour stops, including a free tour of the Governor’s Summer House, only open Wednesday mornings. Three docents gave us information about the furnishings, the style of building, but the best info was from the lady in front of us. In her late 80s, she was the one who petitioned for the house to be open to the public years ago. She greeted each docent personally (she knew two of the three) and introduced her grandson to them. She was one of the first docents, had meals there with the governor, and sat on the veranda having afternoon tea. Yes, we bought more goodies, this time peanut brittle. Every second shop sold fudge and you could watch them make it through the windows. Other stores sold the same t-shirts and sweat tops or were restaurants. For lunch we shared our two meals, one being a crab, spinach and artichoke quesadilla which was excellent. I didn’t get sick coming or going on the ferry as the water was as smooth as glass.

6/21/2015 Indianapolis, IN

Itinerary:
6/21-6/25 Indianapolis, IN
6/25-7/6 St. Clare, MI
7/6-8/13 Whereabouts TBA. Traveling through the upper peninsula of Michigan to Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, to Willamina, Oregon.

Future knowns:
8/13-8/17 Willimina, OR (Bob and MaryJane’s wedding anniversary party)
8/17-8/24 Thousand Trails Pacific Beach, OR
8/27-8/31 Circle 8 Ranch, WA (Advance and Challenge square Dancing)
9/8-9/24 Seattle, WA, to see our many friends
9/24-9/28 Dallas, OR (Bob and Lavonne, Bob and MaryJane)
10/2-10/4 PACE NorCal, CA (Square Dance Convention)
10/8-10/12 Porterville, CA (Joey’s wedding)
10/12-10/15 Paso Robles, CA
10/19 Santa Clarita, CA
10/21-10/26 Harvest Hoedown, Yuba City, CA (Square dance festival)
11/8-11/15 Indio, CA RIVCO (Caller school and square dance festival)
11/24-11/27 Paso Robles, CA Thanksgiving with Don and Mary
11/27-11/29 Oxnard, CA PACE Extravaganza (square dancing)

On our drive to Indianapolis we square danced three times in Illinois—and basically the same people each time, so that by the third dance people were chatting with us as if we had joined their club years ago. The first night was mainstream, second was plus, and the Sunday afternoon was with Jerry Story, whom we have danced to many times in California as well on our trek last year across the states. He greeted us with “How’s the travelers doing?” and commented about bad pennies always showing up.

We stayed in a campground on the Illinois River. We were concerned because we heard that the river was rising, it poured with rain each day, and the ground was so saturated that there were deep pools of water everywhere. Each day that we walked the dogs there were less pathways to take because they were under water. That Sunday night Chris had prepped the coach to go and we left at first daylight, didn’t even have breakfast. Two rigs in the park were completely surrounded by water—don’t know how the travelers got in or out without being knee high in muck. Several days later we found out the whole park was flooded by five feet.

I tried the rhubard wine that we bought at the Rhubard Festival, and (when cold) is actually very good. Chris won’t touch anything with certain words in it, and rhubard is one of them, so the whole bottle is mine. At two ounces each time (my maximum—I’m really not into drinking), this bottle will last a long time.

We arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana, without a hitch and stayed at Lake Haven RV Campground. Fourteen other square dancers also stayed here and most of us went to dinner each day together. The best of the restaurants was Shapiros Deli—homemade rye bread piled high with deli meat. The most interesting was Greek Island, which was next to Shapiros Deli. We were split into two tables of seven each, and Chris and I sat at different tables but still managed to share an appetizer. At the end we were given a belly dance show.

We were in Indianapolis for the AACE (Academy of Advanced and Challenge Enthusiasts) convention. Vic Ceder, Barry Clasper, Bronc Wise, Todd Fellegy, Anne Ubelacker, Sandy Bryant, Ross Howell and Ben Rubright were the callers, either switching rooms (Advanced to C4) each half or full hour. There were three squares worth of Trailblazers (our California club) there and on the last night had a group picture taken for the Trailblazer on-line newsletter. Chris and I stayed in the C2 hall all of the time. I did not have a permanent partner for C3A, and I did not want to go back and forth as it would not be fair for either Chris or the partner he secured. It was fun, we were run off our feet, exhausted by the time we went to bed each night. The humidity in this state is at 86% and the air conditioning in the dance halls were not effective.

The dogs were put in a PetSmart Pet Motel, as we would not have been able to leave the square dance to regularly give then potty breaks while dancing. For each dog I had to fill out a sheaf of papers—almost like buying a house. We pick them up today after they are given a bath.

We need to do a laundry before we leave this state and replenish some of our food supplies. They don’t have Sprouts here, but we passed a Fresh Gardens that, from the outside, looks just like one, so we’ll give it a try for bulk foods.

And, to keep track of health issues, here we go. During the second evening of dancing I noticed a film creeping over my left eye. I kept wiping or washing out gunk, but could not see the cause, like an eyelash or piece of grit. I woke up the next morning and my eye could barely open. I went into First Care (they charged $50—of which insurance will pay back $35) to get a prescription for medicated eyedrops, 4-6 times a day. I’m also to press a warm washcloth over the eye for 15 minutes, change washcloths and pillow cases daily, and go back if not better. The drops tend to sting my eye (I was told it has no antihistamine properties in it), the gunk is gone but the eye now itches a bit. Anyway, we’ll see how I am in another six days. Tomorrow I get to call all of my doctors to make future appointments that will be tied into returning to the Santa Clarita Valley between November and April.

6/11/15 Winnebago, Iowa

Itinerary:
6/11-6/12 Forest City, IA (Winnebago Factory repairs and tour)
6/12-6/15 Driving to Indianapolis, IN
6/15-6/21 Indianapolis, IN (AACE Convention)
6/21-6/28 Somewhere between Indianapolis, IN, and St. Clare, MI
6/28-7/6 St. Clare, MI
7/6-8/13 Whereabouts TBA. Traveling through the upper peninsula of Michigan to Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, to Willamina, Oregon.

Future knowns:
9/8-9/22 Washington state to see our many friends.
10/8-10/11 Porterville, CA for our nephew Joey’s wedding
10/12-10/15 Paso Robles, CA
10/19 Santa Clarita, CA
11/8-11/15 Indio, CA RIVCO (Caller school and square dance festival)
11/24-11/27 Paso Robles, CA Thanksgiving with Don and Mary
11/27-11/29 Oxnard, CA PACE Extravaganza (square dancing)

Swing Me In St. Louis is over and I will always have the memories—and the two coffee mugs, the dangles and pins.

With an expired metro pass we decided to sightsee using the car. We found a sushi restaurant that was $10 all you can eat, and buy one get the second person half off as long as you buy two drinks. It was very slow service but they didn’t mind how long we sat there. It also had a hot bar and a salad bar—more food than we should have eaten. We then drove to the Budweiser brewery and took a tour. We saw three of the famous Clydesdale horses, the tack room, the plant itself. They gave free beers along two stops. I gave my first sample to Chris, but I got to keep my wooden token for the half pint as Chris was too full after his to drink mine. We then drove to Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, a chocolate store tour, but we got there after the last tour. We put our names down for an 11:00 tour for the next day. We also bought a bag of seconds—chocolate covered caramels with sea salt that looked (not tasted) different and therefore not quality enough to put on the shelves of stores.

So we went to Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate and took the tour. It is the only factory they have, with forty worker bees creating handmade, hand decorated, and hand packaged goodies along three conveyor belts (dark, milk and white chocolate). We were given a sample, then bought chocolate covered toffee and truffles. We saw that they had chocolate soap and ended up taking a hand made soap tour (we were the only ones on it). This one guy in the back of this one shop making all of the handmade soap and sending it to specialty stores across the US. We bought a package of seconds, plus were given samples and two soap dishes. The soap store is located on The Hill, a little Italy area filled with stores and restaurants that cater to Italians. We went into Di Gregorio’s and bought two bottles of flavored vinegars (we have friends in California with that last name), walked around the town (all of the fire plugs are painted like the Italian flag), and had lunch in a very crowded sandwich shop. We tried to drive all surface streets back to the RV and ended up in very edgy neighborhoods, one being Furgesson, so we hussled back as fast as we could.

On Sunday we were told that the casino, which the RV park is attached to, was having a brunch, so we ate there. That was the beginning of my weeklong not-love-affair with a cold that just got worse as the week progressed. Chris now has it (kept telling him NOT to kiss me, but he won’t listen!), but he calls it and is treating it as an allergy. Either way, it has laid me up for two days of not doing anything but sleeping and taking meds, and now he’s doing the same.

On Wednesday we drove to Waterloo, Iowa. The area is just one farm after another of corn. We danced that night with Buckles and Bows to Gary Smith. Three squares of Mainstream, maybe two that could do Plus, all really nice people. Then it was announced that this club was going to fold at the end of this season! It’s a shame to find yet another club folding. We were invited to the Thursday workshop (didn’t make it as Chris is now in bed sick), then their Saturday events.

Thursday and Friday Chris took it easy and tried to bedrest his allergy (cold!). On Saturday we dressed up and joined the square dancers at Baum Park for their Rhubarb Festival. We had two squares and it was fun for the hour we danced. We had clipped the dogs to a stadium bench, and had to unwind Rita at the end of every tip as she only knows clockwise around the posts. We walked around the park and bought rhubarb jam and wine. Chris won’t touch anything with the word rhubarb in it, so it’s for me. There was a prize for the largest rhubarb leaf (60 inches across!) and heaviest stalk. I tried rhubarb ice cream (actually very good) and got a close up of the bugs at the insect hut (who knew that a millipede is wider than your thumb and longer than the length of your hand?). That afternoon we danced at a retirement home (two squares, but this time only one square at a time) for an hour. The demo and home were all singing calls—no free patter. I was afraid Gary was going to run out of songs! We left there and sat around a recreation hall until dinner, then all met at Pizza Ranch. We got the question that since we got along with everyone so well, why don’t we move to this area? I really enjoy the fact that we can so easily make friends with people along our travels! We went back to the recreation hall for the last evening of square dancing. Unfortunately Chris was feeling the effects of a full day out and we had to cut it short after an hour.

We drove two hours to Forest City, Iowa, home of Winnebago Industries. In fact this county is also called Winnebago. We were friended by others camped in the parking lot who also were to have their rigs worked on. We were given a lay of the land, such as when they take our rig for the day to put out chairs and a table in our spot to hold the spot (they had been here since last Friday holding their spot). We have 50 amp hook up only and we need that to stay cool at night. We were also told where to get breakfast out and we’ll probably join everyone at the ribs and chicken place for dinner. One wife, Deeter, also quilts and we shared our quilts and ideas. She gave me four magazines to read and toss (all we have on board are RV related mags) and I emailed her photos so that she could try making a quilted box. I took the dogs for a long walk, which was great because now it’s raining and only looks like it’s going to get worse.

The service office opened at 7:00 Monday morning and there was a line, but not a problem as everyone was given a service tech to go over their issues. We had the day until 3:00 so we started by going to the local quilt shop. They agreed to rush order the long-arm quilting on the 40” x 40” Quilt of Valor I put together a while back. We went to breakfast at Billy’s Family Store (was not impressed), then took the two hour Winnebago tour. I could watch people work for hours! The impressive part of the tour is that anyone, even with no prior experience doing anything (including getting an education) could get a job there and have on the job training. Seems that in the 50s and 60s Iowa was losing its youth to the big cities of Wisconsin as there was no industry outside of farming. By opening the RV industry here, thousands of jobs were created, keeping people here.

Hanging out and waiting until 3:00 is a trip as well. The sun was hot enough to give me a mild burn, which turned into a nice tan, Everyone is friendly and their dogs as well, so we talked of embroidery, games, quilting, our rigs and travel. When we got our RV back the door was fixed, the back compartment now locks, air conditioner rewrapped, and the back tires were balanced. They could not put in grab bars by the emergency window so I could get out easier. So we will now need to look into a roll up rope ladder to help me out.

Day two here we took a drive to Clear Lake and took pictures of the Surf Ball Room, the last venue that Ritchie Valance, Big Bopper, Dion and the Belmonts, and Buddy Holly played in together. We drove two sides of this big, beautiful lake – many lakefront homes up for sale – before heading back. The dogs get a lot of walks because there is not much more to do here. The service department finished with us early, but we needed to hang another day because we agreed to picking up the quilt Thursday morning.

Day three we went to the quilt store to see if it could be picked up this day instead of Thursday, but no go. It wasn’t even started yet. We drove around doing odds and ends, Chris got a hair cut and beard trim, vacuumed and washed the floors, then sat outside working on the tan.

Day four and picked up the quilt – very nicely done. I now need to put on the binding and it is complete. Chris looked at the forecast and whereas there is rain here, there are tornado warnings in the direction we need to go. So we will leave Friday morning.

5/27/2015 East St. Louis, Illinois

Itinerary:
5/27-6/1 St. Louis, MO (Swing Me In St. Louis Convention)
6/1-6/7 Driving to Forest City, IA
6/7-6/13 Forest City, IA (Winnebago Factory repairs and tour)
6/13-6/16 Driving to Indianapolis, IN
6/16-6/21 Indianapolis, IN (AACE Convention)
6/21-6/28 Heading toward St. Claire, MI
6/28-7/5 St. Claire, MI

The drive to St. Louis was eventful, at least by our standards. We stayed two nights in Colorado as the weather was stormy. About 9 PM it got eerily quiet, and when we looked out the window it was snowing. We woke up to five inches of snow on the ground, so we weren’t going to drive anywhere. During the day we could hear sounds like someone throwing snowballs at our coach. Turned out to be clumps of snow falling from the branches of the tree by us. We moved on to Kansas City, Missouri, and landed in an RV park attached to a roller coaster park. There was a tornado sighting one evening, right after I had taken a sleeping pill. So everyone in the park was rousted out of their coaches with sirens and security car horns blaring and security pounding on every door until we were all in a brick shower house. Kids, dogs, cats… After 45 minutes of standing about, the tornado was getting closer so they moved us all into the basement of a roller coaster. Mind you, we are already drenched to the bone from the first hike. By the time we made it into the new shelter everyone is soaked from head to foot. But, everyone is exceedingly calm. The kids pet the dogs, the dogs went nose to nose with the other dogs, the cats stayed in their carriers or owners’ arms. Everytime the door opened to let in a new person, water flowed down the steps like a water fall. We were given a small paper towel each to dry off, but it wasn’t even close to being enough. After another 45 minutes the tornado decided to touch down twice about 15-20 miles north of us and they let us go back. The rain was still coming down like buckets, but it was a safe rain. My shoes took a week to dry out. After several days of hanging you could still wring water out of my sweat top and legs.

We square danced with three groups while in Kansas. One group was called by Dana Schirmer, who turns out to be the Executive Director of Callerlab! We were invited to the Callerlab office and checked it out. For a donation I picked up a multitude of 45s (all date back to the 70s and early 80s) as well as a Hilton record case. I was shown a wall of thousands of 45s, and tables filled plus still unboxed mail deliveries, all donated by callers either now deceased or because the callers went digital. I was also given dibs on different turntables/amps in case the ones I’m going to see in Minnisota doesn’t pan out. We also danced one night to Bill Reynolds and another to Lynn Nelson. We had dinner with Lynn, who had been conversing with me through Facebook and different caller sites, and when she saw we were passing right through her area, personally invited us to attend. She’s been calling 19 years and was surprised that I wasn’t actually a caller. At all three of these dances, callers that attend are invited up to call half a tip (which is a wonderful way to attract dancers and get more experience). I told them I was an aspiring caller–not yet ready for prime time!

We finally pulled into East St. Louis without any more weather related hassles. Yes this area is constantly on tornado watch, but not warning for the time we are here. We bought a seven day metro pass which was great. From the RV we take a Casino Queen shuttle van to the metro. Five stops later we are right outside the beautiful 1880s hotel where our events will take place. Reverse to get back to the RV. The dogs were put into a kennel/doggy camp for the week–and well worth not having to go back to the rig every 4-5 hours.

Tuesday was my first of three days of caller school with GCA (Gay Caller Association), Betsy Gotta the teacher and Ken Sale the TA. Eleven students, of which this was the first time for four of us, of which this was the first time using/singing into a microphone for three of us. From 9 AM until just past 9:30 PM (with breaks for lunch and dinner, plus bio-breaks –bathroom) each day, we had lectures alternated with mic time. Our spouses/partners/other dancers/we were the pawns that we moved around the floor. I had absolutely no idea what to expect the first day and was overwhelmed with the amount and wealth of information given out. Most of the time I remembered to turn on the voice recorder on my phone, plus I kept detailed notes. But if I was being used as a pawn I couldn’t write notes, so one day I will play back and add to my notes. The second day was easier, plus I wrote patter for a song which I sang! My mother thought all of her kids had terrible singing voices (I learned to play the violin–you can’t sing at the same time–instead of the guitar), but I was told my voice works fine. By the third day I and everyone agreed I had found my niche with singing calls. Right now I am keeping them to parodies. On the Friday of the convention we were given 1 1/2 hours to each do a patter or singing call to the dancers who came early. I was number four up and sang/called Dead Dog Rover (I’m looking over my dead dog Rover who I hit with the power mower…) to eight squares. I personally knew the front three squares and felt great to be supported until many came up to hug me and wish me the best. Each one raised my heart beat higher until my palms were sweating. Up until that point I had no butterflies, nothing but feeling calm and collected. I called to the back of the hall and didn’t even look at my buddies until it was over. Found out later that a few were thinking of “playing around” which meant switching partners or even squares. It wouldn’t matter as I was calling a set song, and not a loose patter trying to get them home. I received my official GCA caller badge which I wore with pride the rest of the weekend.

The rest of the convention is a bit of a blur as we were already exhausted from three days of caller school then the preformance. We danced in the C3A and C2 hall (same room as my caller school) on carpet (I danced barefoot the whole time), with C1 when the forementioned hall changed to C3B, in the Plus or Mainstream Halls when they were the only halls being danced in. At the top of each hour regular GCA callers called 10-15 minutes until the featured caller changed rooms and got there. I was asked many times when I was calling and where. I need at least a couple of years (probably in Palm Springs, 2017) before I feel good enough to do this. Not one day out of caller school. On Saturday we held a special remembrance service for Joe Weigal who passed away the weekend before from cancer. His Trailblazers’ pin was put on the memory quilt. There were so many pins from over the years! There was a leather dance (I danced but was not in leather–and was called on it. I will know for next time), an underpants dance (I was prepared with blue bra and panties but stayed in the C2 hall as I was having a good time), and a moonsine dance (would not attend). I also missed the ladies only dance (meh!) and the after hours country western dance (way too tired). Each day our legs and backs felt the strain, but put us on the dance floor and it all went away. There was a wonderful dinner with just about everyone there, a wonderful buffet breakfast, and by the last day (Monday) we had only six more hours to dance. We knew about 100 dancers and organizers there, made new friends, found that Karla will now also be at the Indio caller school with me, and felt really sad to have to say goodbye to some we won’t see until November, some not until summer 2016, some not until July 2017.

Tuesday was a total nothing day except to pick up the dogs from the kennel. Both clean and soft from their bath, they remembered us (it had been a week), the car, and our routine. They slept with us as we lazy dazed the rest away. Today we did the Walmart shopping list and walked dogs on and off. Chris is still sore from all of the dancing so another easy day. While he slept I alphabetized all my 45s (this took several hours–yes, I got a lot) and started typing up the song sheets on my laptop. I’m working on making them all the same font, the speaking words highlighted vs the singing words, and then cutting and pasting the patter part in a separate section to use in my parodies (as opposed to redesigning the wheel, which I was apt to do).

5/10/2015 Strasburg, CO

Itinerary:
5/10-5/11 Denver, CO
5/11-5/18 Driving to St. Louis, MO
5/18-6/1 St. Louis, MO (Swing Me In St. Louis Convention)
6/1-6/7 Driving to Forest City, IA
6/7-6/13 Forest City, IA (Winnebago Factory repairs and tour)
6/13-6/16 Driving to Indianapolis, IN
6/16-6/21 Indianapolis, IN (AACE Convention)

5/1 As I sit here in Raton Pass and Camp and Café (the café wasn’t open!) RV campground, in New Mexico (near its border with Colorado), weather storms are coming in. There are pockets of snow on the ground (Chris: Let’s have a snowball fight! Me: Let’s not and say we did.), thoroughly black clouds, and our weather report promised ½ inch sized hail in nine minutes. We are all well, although Lucky sits in his kennel with an E-collar to stop him from scratching at his stitches. We are all out here, and he’s whining away, that annoying whistling sound that only he can make. More on him later.

While we were still in California we had the RV lubed, oiled and generator service done. The dogs got an exceptionally long walk, then down time as we waited several hours getting this done.

Mary turned 90 and we took her out to Yanagi (Japanese restaurant) for the sushi boat. At the end they put a crown on her head, googly eye glasses on her face, played music and sang while the rest of the patrons clapped along with the music. She took it like a good sport.

While in Paso Robles I had my hair professionally straightened and styled. I was told not to wash or even wet it for 48 hours, of which I waited an extra day, then only washed it in diluted vinegar. I was going to try this “no-poo” concept where you only wash your hair in diluted vinegar (1 TB apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water) every third or fourth day. The natural oils in your hair take over and in a month or so you will have glossy hair. I lasted four days. I couldn’t stand the greasy, oily feeling, and just washing with the solution didn’t cut it. I tried allowing my hair to air dry and it curled into ringlets from the ears down. So now I blow it out while brushing and it comes out great. And I use shampoo, conditioner, then use the vinegar to rinse out any residue. My hair is really getting long now.

It took three days to drive to Albuquerque. We landed in the same park we used before, walking distance to the Camping World. Enchanted Trails has really old cars and trailers dotting the park, of which people can rent (trailers only). Pink flamingoes and aqua blue outdoor seating made it look great. Lots of rabbits in the area, making it difficult to walk the dogs. We danced each day we were here that they had dances/workshops, from mainstream to C2. Everyone remembered us from before and made us feel welcome. Delbert (Friday night’s caller) leant me his caller manual (dated 1979!), of which I have until we pass through Albuquerque again (next year this time). 22 members of the Wild Bunch club will be at Swing Me In St. Louis, so we will dance with them there. Chris ate chiles rellenos three times this trip. I had enchiladas, a taco grande, and tamales, each time thinking the food would not be as spicy as the last choice. Wrong. Everything is cooked with and laced with green chiles.

Although we ran around a lot doing errands, I did have two partial days to sew. One day I pieced together a 3’6” by 4’10” Quilt of Valor using all red, white/cream, and blue fabrics. I have red with cream stars for a backing fabric and will bind it all with a blue with red, cream and lighter blue stars. I want to get it professionally long-armed quilted, which may cost up to $80, but we need to wait until we are someplace for a longer period of time. On my second day I made quilted boxes. I gave one to Kris Jensen for being so hospitable to us. This was our third trip through Albuquerque and she and her club were very kind to us, wanting us to move here.

We spent four hours checking out the new Del Webb 55+ gated community. I liked the smallest home (so much less to clean, great room with a very large kitchen, two bedrooms and two baths) which was 1500 sq ft. Chris liked the 1800 sq ft home that had a den so that one spare room could become my sewing/craft room leaving the den to become a library/study. None of the homes were big on wall space, preferring windows everywhere. We kept in storage three very large piece of art, so that is a consideration as well.

Lucky was still scratching his fur off, this after changing his food back to Avoderm, bathing him every two to three days in oatmeal shampoo, adding fish oil and a Benadryl to his food, and applying anti-itch cream. We took him back to Banfield Vet who suggested he get a skin biopsy to find out if it is allergies, an allergic reaction to his old food, or something worse (like hookworms or lupus). We brought him back at 7:00 the next morning and while he was there they knocked him out and did a teeth cleaning (no charge), an ear flush, toenail grinding, and not one but two skin punch biopsies. Not a happy camper, he now needs to wear an E-collar (big plastic bell that stops him from scratching out the stitches in his neck) and stay in his kennel (stops him from scratching the rest of his body). We will find out in 3-5 working days the results. Stitches come out in two weeks, and he gets a booster Lyme disease shot in three weeks.

Chris just came in after walking Rita to Colorado and back. I’m guessing it wasn’t that far away.

5/9 Wasn’t able to get on to internet to send this blog out, so now adding to it. As we took the dogs for their walks we noticed deer prints everywhere, and then mountain lion prints following them. Our camera phone photos look like pictures of brown dirt.

Drove into the “city” of Raton. The street layouts are so unusual for that time period. Laid out in the late 1800’s, the streets are 5-6 lanes wide, enough to drive a wagon down the street with a team of horses and do a u-turn. We had lunch in a delightful restaurant that has been there all that time, then went to the local park for their Cinqo de Mayo celebration. We were directed to also check out the local history museum by their Chamber of Commerce president, but we found that it was closed due to everyone being at the park. Instead we walked into a pawn shop and saw wonderful historical artifacts displayed everywhere. The gal working the counter used to be an aide in a special needs class (ED and AUT elementary) so we had a great chat. We walked several other streets admiring the old architecture that people still lived in or had stores in. I was given an offer at a consignment store to make quilted goodies, paying 70/30% if I brought them in or 80/20% if I worked the counter part time. I don’t know how often we’d actually hit Raton, even in passing through, but if we do, I’ll keep her number and email address.

Drove on to Denver and square danced with Bronc Wise in Carol’s basement. We have never met Carol, even on our visit in 2013. So we’ve danced at total of eight times in the basement of a stranger. I made Bronc and Fia a quilted basket and Fia will be using it in her house to display napkins. We also danced with Bear Miller and then surprised Mike Sikorsky at a dance in Wiggins. He was really happy to see us. After telling him I was attending caller school at the Missouri convention he talked himself into running a caller school at RIVCO (Riverside, CA, November 2015) if I would join it, which I said yes. I just finished help promoting it online.

We also contacted and had lunch with Jake (my sister Jill’s youngest) who is a junior at University of Colorado at Boulder. We walked up and down Pearl Street, which had wonderful buildings and store fronts, ate at an Italian restaurant, and I bought a pin: I thought growing old would take longer. We took a drive up the Flat Iron Mountains which turns out to be a major highway (all of two lanes). When we got to a scenic point way up high, the view was blotted out by fog and mist. A fox walked up to us to about five feet before we even noticed him, then the dogs (in the back of the car) went ballistic. The fox ran away while we tried to get pictures (again, boulders and trees—fox too small to see). We drove Jake back to his apartment (the bottom floor of a regular three story house) and met his two roommates and Fatcat, a cat with a normal tiny head and a huge body. Jake showed us his final computerized project and a video he and two friends put together. Really neat stuff. I don’t know how to run my tablet never mind understand how he does what. He’s talking about going home for the summer before returning for his last semester.

On RVillage, a website for RVers to check in and find out if other friends of this lifestyle are in your park, another couple recognized us by the description of our beagles. They left the same day we did and drove to the KOA in Strasburg as well. They are parked behind us. It’s been raining (thunderstorms, lightning) for the most part so we haven’t done much more than say hi. It is supposed to have thundersnow, yes snow with thunder and lightning, all night tonight, with snow on the ground, 8-12 inches, tomorrow. We are meant to leave here on Monday, so we’ll see. Everyone’s Mother’s Day plans are going down because of traveling in this weather or where their activity is at. This park was going to have an outdoor free pancake breakfast but it was torrential downpour until 2:00.

We got the result of Lucky’s biopsy: nothing. He does not have allergies (to food, dust, environment), no hookworm, fleas or mites of any sort, Lupus or other diseases. Since we’ve been in a cold, rainy area his itching has somewhat abated, so now we are thinking it’s just dry skin. We are now trying to keep him from scratching at his stitches (two each in his neck and left shoulder where they took the punch biopsies) and his right foreleg where an IV went in. The stitches come out in another five days, but the hair growing in is itchy.

The internet is currently off in the park. We should have sent this out when we arrived and it was working. Oh well.