Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 11, 2014

I just wanted to add a little plug for my awesome grandchildren.  Brittany and Nick are hard at work opening a new Crossfit Gym in Middleburg on Blanding Blvd. with the help of their amazing cousins.  I encourage any of you who have ever wondered about Crossfit to stop in and see them.  Nick is an accomplished coach who will work with you individually to find the best workout for you.  Also check out their website at   The gym is located at 1623 Blanding Blvd. , Middleburg, FL 32068.   Phone (210)842-6281.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Home again. October 4-10, 2014

October 4, 2014

We recycle.  
We left Cortez this morning and traveled across the Rocky Mountains before spending the night in Las Vegas, NM at a KOA.  The people there were very nice, but the park was not up to the usual KOA standards.  However, the owners run a small restaurant (Cafe del Guapo)  on the property where we ate very good hamburgers and visited with other campers.  Somehow we lost our tailpipe on the way here, but Steve was able to install a makeshift one using an empty bean can provided by the guy from the Cafe.   Way to go, Steve!

October 5, 2014

Today we made it to Amarillo, TX and stopped at the Overnite RV Park.  We met some Floridians from Bradenton and enjoyed happy hour with them before going to The Big Texan for dinner.  The food there is good, and we were serenaded by 3 cowboys at our table. We also got to watch 2 guys each attempt to eat a 72 oz. steak, 3 shrimp, baked potato, salad, rolls and dessert in 1 hour or less.   One definitely did not make it, and we left before the other one was done but he looked as if he just might be able to eat it all.
At thee Big Texan.

He is NOT going to be able to eat all this.  

Being serenaded with Bradenton RVers.  

Groom, TX beside I-40.
Nineteen stories tall.

October 6, 2014

Corky enjoying Lake Eufaula. 
After leaving Amarillo, we made it to Checotah, OK where we stayed at another (much nicer) KOA.   It is located an the shores of Lake Eufaula, and Corky had a lovely time splashing in the water and chasing the ball.  Precious, in the meantime ran around wildly and then rolled over and over in the mud requiring a bath before she could come back into the RV.  This KOA also had a small, family run restaurant, but we had enjoyed a big lunch on the road and decided on having a light supper in the rigs.
Who are you and what have you done with my Precious???

October 7, 2014

We traveled from Checotah to Pine Bluff, AR today, and found very few campgrounds in the area.  We finally settled on Deam's RV Park just south of Pine Bluff.  This is a very small park that was built mostly to house workers from nearby industry.  It is on the property of Wayne Deam, who proved to be a very nice and accommodating host.   He met us at the site (we were in the only pull through), made sure the sites were groomed, and helped with hook-ups.  The cost for the night for each of our rigs was $20.    We cooked dinner in our rig (Larry did a pork roast) and just as we were  finishing, Wayne dropped by.  Of course we asked him to share our dinner and we enjoyed conversing with him and learning more about the area. He is such a nice guy, and we recommend his  place to anyone who needs a campsite in that area.

October 8, 2014

We left bright and early this morning for the trip from Pine Bluff to Hattisburg, MS, where we are staying at the Okatoma River RVResort for $13 (Passport America).  The road coming in was a bit of a hassle, but the price is right and the park is very nice.  We ate dinner at Rayner's Seafood which has very little ambiance, but the food (fried everything) was very good.  It is good to be east of the Mississippi River for a change.
The od and new Mississippi River Bridges in Vicksburg, MS

October 9, 2014

We were sad to say goodbye  to our excellent travel companions, Larry and Bonnie, this morning.  They are heading for Pensacola to visit their daughter and to drop off some things at SMART headquarters.  Steve's homing instinct is very strong now, so we will drive as far as possible today so that we will have a short trip home tomorrow.  

The Shields and Colts have covered about 6000 miles  together on this two month long journey, and we have shared some awesome experiences.  We have weathered a broken air conditioner, a warm refrigerator, a bad satellite, a lost tail pipe, a bum electronic control valve,  a dead IPhone, and a check engine light, but all is well now as we travel the last leg of our adventure.  We have laughed and cried, felt patriotic, hiked, climbed, floated, and learned much we didn't know about this great land of ours.   I have crossed 3 huge items off my bucket list (R & R Hall of Fame, live TV show, and Mesa Verde).  We have made new friends across the country and visited with some old friends (Annarumas, Pinettes, Dianne, Fred and Joel) and attended a SMART National Muster.  We mourned the loss of our dear friend, Barb Hunter and my cousin, Sonny.  We have gambled and lost, gambled and won, enjoyed many happy hours and boxes of wine, played numerous games of dominos and back alley bridge, and eaten our way across country.  Every day we saw something beautiful and unusual and made wonderful memories.  It was an honor and a pleasure to share our travels with these wonderful friends.    Love you Bonnie and Larry and miss you already.

        <This is how we roll!>

October 10, 2014

We left the KOA in Monticello, FL  about 9 this morning and should be home around noon.   I want to thank all of you who have shared this adventure with us by reading and commenting on this blog.
See you next trip!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

To Mesa Verde October 1-3, 2014

October 1, 2014

Waitress at Black Bart's.  
This was a relatively easy travel day with lots of beautiful and diverse scenery along the way from  Las Vegas to Flagstaff, AZ.  We stayed at Black Bart's RV Park which boasts its own restaurant and musical review.   The music is provided by the wait staff who are all musical theater students from U. AZ.   They sing mostly Broadway musical numbers, and all of them were very good, especially the piano player.  The food was pretty good too!

October 2, 2014

Another easy travel day with more beautiful scenery from Flagstaff to Cortez, CO.
 On the way, we stopped at Four Corners where the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet.  For some reason I thought it was a National Monument, but it is owned by the Navajo Indians who charge an admission.  The actual site is surrounded by stalls where the Native Americans sell their crafts.  It's one of those things I am glad I saw, but would not do again.

Sarah in Colorado and Utah-Steve in Arizona and New Mexico.  
We camped at the Sundance RV Park in Cortez, only 9 miles from the entrance to (#1 on my bucket list) Mesa Verde.  We had a quiet evening with the Shields after the guys went to Wal-Mart and brought back a roast chicken for dinner.

October 3, 2014

As I have said before, any day when you can cross something off your bucket list is a good day, and when you can cross #1 off, it is a GREAT day.

We set out for Mesa Verde bright and early, arriving at the park about nine o'clock in gorgeous weather with snow capped mountains in the distance.
The Mancos Valley and Rocky Mountains.   
We toured the Visitor Center and bought our tickets for the Cliff Palace Tour (all 4 of us) and for the Balcony House Tour (just me).  Steve was going to join me on the Balcony House Tour until he saw a replica of the tunnel you have to crawl through  there.  He decided then to wait for me with Larry and Bonnie.

The 20 mile drive up the mesa to Spruce Tree Terrace had jaw-dropping views at every turn.
 The museum there gave an outstanding overview of the geology, architecture, and people who built this marvelous place.  Dioramas throughout the museum showed life as it may have been when the early people lived in Mesa Verde between 550 AD and 1330 AD, and many artifacts found here were displayed.
Diorama in the museum.  
The the builders of the more than 600 cliff dwellings here were once called the Anasazi, but now they are referred to as the Ancestral Pueblo People because the modern pueblo peoples of the Hopi villages in northern Arizona and  Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, and  Rio Grande pueblos of New Mexico and Texas are their descendants.  They were truly an amazing society that lived and farmed in this area for about 800 years before moving away and abandoning these marvelous architectural treasures.

Soon it was time to meet our park ranger for the tour of Cliff Palace.  We met our excellent guide, Sharon,  at the top of a long flight of stairs, and she gave us an overview of the tour before we descended.  Cliff Palace, an architectural masterpiece by any standard, is the largest cliff dwelling in North America.  The collection of rooms, plazas, and towers fits perfectly into the sandstone overhang that has protected it since the 13th century.  There are about 150 rooms, 75 constructed open spaces, and 21 kivas (large, circular, partly subterranean rooms probably used for ceremonies, living space, or social gatherings).  It is estimated that Cliff Palace housed 100 to 120 people.  The skills of these ancient people at building and farming is astounding.
Looking down into Cliff Palace from the Mesa.  
Going down.   
Going up.  
To reach Cliff Palace we had to go down about 100 stairs, walk on very uneven ground, and climb 4 ladders.  I am happy to report that all 4 of us were able to do whatever was required to see this marvelous place.

Bonnie and Sharon.  

We survived!
Steve, Larry and Bonnie dropped me off where I was to meet the ranger for the tour of Balcony House and they headed back to the museum area (6 miles away) to wait for me.   Imagine my chagrin when, just as they drove out of sight, I remembered that my ticket for the tour was in my wallet which I had left in the car!  Of course there was no cell service in this remote place, so I had to throw myself on the mercy of the ranger who allowed me to go on the tour without my ticket.   Thank you Ranger Kevin.

After receiving an overview and safety instructions, we began what the brochure calls "the Most Adventurous Cliff Dwelling Tour".   It required climbing a 32 foot ladder, crawling through an 18 inch wide and 12 foot long tunnel (with a huge boulder in the middle),  climbing up a 60 foot open cliff face with stone steps, and finally climbing 2 ten foot ladders to exit.   What was I thinking!!!!
Climbing up to Balcony House-32 ft. ladder.     

Entering a crevice by climbing up footholds.  

Entering the tunnel  (this is NOT me).

One of the 10 ft. exit ladders at Balcony House.  

Balcony House is one of the best preserved sites in the park and has a stunning view down into Soda Canyon.  It displays some intriguing architectural features such as balconies, a long retaining wall, and a tunnel.  Much smaller than Cliff Palace, Balcony House has 38 rooms and 2 kivas divided among 3 plazas and housed 35-45 people.  Significant planning and engineering skills were required to build the two kivas side by side in the center of the site.  Although it was very challenging to get into and out of this dwelling, I would not have traded the experience for anything.

Balcony House.  

Kiva at Balcony House

Soda Valley seen from Balcony House
After I rejoined my companions, we drove the Mesa Top Loop Drive to see Cliff Palace from an different angle.  
Cliff Palace seen from Mesa Top Loop Road
We also saw many more of the hundreds of dwellings that comprised this once vibrant community.   Along the mesa top we also saw mule deer and  wild horses, and the mule deer cost us a lot of money.  Steve stopped the car so we could take pictures of them, and a very diligent park policeman gave him a $100 ticket! Really??  No warning Officer Mitchell??

Wild horse on the Mesa.  

Officer Mitchell at work.  
The $100.00 picture.  

Not the best ending to the day.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Red Rock Canyon

September 30, 2014

Gold and Silver Pawn--smaller than it looks on TV
Steve and I got an early start this morning hoping to beat the crowds to Gold and Silver Pawn (Pawn Stars) as I had brought several items that I hoped to sell to them.   We were fortunate to get in to  see an agent in a short time, and while we were having our items evaluated both Rick and the Old Man wandered by.    Unfortunately, we were in a "no photos please" area!  Dave, our agent looked at several things we had brought from Steve's mom:  a letter signed by J. Edgar Hoover, a 48 star flag, and framed 5 cent Philippine stamps signed by the ambassador in 1957.  He was not interested in any of them.   However, my framed 1881 letter and photo of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for which I was asking $400 sold for $300.   I was very pleased since the last time I was here he only offered me $125.  It was a fun and profitable experience.  

Desert turtles. 
Our previous visits to Vegas have centered around The Strip, Fremont Street, and Hoover Dam, so we wanted to do something different this time.   After lunch we set out with Bonnie and Larry for Red Rock Canyon where we were awed by the rock formations of many colors.   Southern Nevada was once at the bottom of an ocean basin that emerged from the sea about 250 million years ago--the Mesozoic Era of geological time, the Triassic Age of Reptiles, and the Jurassic Age of Dinosaurs, and this area is a virtual museum of those times.    There is an excellent visitor center that provided wonderful outdoor exhibits and fabulous views.   The sandstone escarpment, the desert tortoise at the visitor center, and the thickets of Joshua trees make this national conservation area a must see here in the southern Mojave Desert.

SMART folks.  Larry feeling tall!

In hopes of spotting some wild horses or burros (we didn't see any), we traveled a bit further down the highway through the canyon and came upon Bonnie Springs.   We decided to investigate our Bonnie's namesake, which turned out to be a touristy area with an old western town (closed the day we were there), a petting zoo (also closed), a pond with lots of ducks and turtles,  peacocks roaming around, and a restaurant and bar (open).   Since it was happy hour, Bonnie and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the bar which had signed dollar bills hanging everywhere.
Bonnie Springs

Back on the road, we returned to the Red Rock Casino for dinner in the food court (Steve had a Fatburger--delicious) and a bit of gambling.   This time we left with less money than we came in with, but Bonnie and Larry both came out winners.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Family Again

September 26-29, 2014

Happy 6th anniversary to my wonderful granddaughter and her wonderful husband!

Steve drove me to San Diego, about a 2 hour trip, and when we were almost to the airport I received a text from Southwest Airlines saying that my flight through Chicago to Charlotte had been canceled.  I was determined to get to North Carolina somehow, so I got into a humongous long line at Southwest in the terminal where I discovered that there was a problem with someone trying to burn down the air traffic control tower in Chicago and ALL flights to or from there were canceled.  After a 2 hour wait in line, I was told that the earliest flight I could get from Southwest would be Sunday afternoon--that was, of course, unacceptable, so I got a refund.

Fortunately, I had brought my laptop with me, so I sat down in the terminal and started looking for other flights.  I got lucky and got on a Delta flight through Atlanta that got me to Charlotte about the same time I would have arrived on the Southwest flight...12:02 A.M..   Sweet Debbie Bowen picked me up, took me to her house, and put me to bed.   The next morning she drove me to Rockingham and into the loving arms of my family.  She is an angel!

It was a difficult couple of days.  We all miss Sonny so much, but we cried together, comforted each other and helped each other through the things that had to be done.  The visitation was Saturday evening, the funeral and burial were Sunday afternoon. Sonny's wife, Melba,  his sister, Becky, and his children and grandchildren were awesome and impressed all of us with their strength and faith.    Through it all I felt so blessed to be a part of this wonderful, loving, Southern family.  The ritual of saying goodbye to our loved one is so healing when it is shared with others who loved him and who also love me.

My dear cousins Kelly and Warren loaned me a car while I was there and provided bed, breakfast, and Grey Goose martinis for me.  Asa III drove me back to the Charlotte airport in rush hour traffic.  Neighbors and Sonny's church fed us royally.  Mark and Faith provided us with an evening of music, and the third generation of kids made us smile and made us proud.  I repeat....I am blessed to be a part of this family.  
The most loving and in-love couple I have ever known. Sonny and Melba Lassiter

Melba and her children and Becky Lassiter Welch.  
While I was in NC, Steve, Bonnie & Larry moved the RV's to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV.   They picked me up at the airport and while the Shields' had happy hour with friends Steve and I went to the Red Rock Casino (recommended by cousins Asa & Teri), ate at the buffet and left with more money than we came in with.   It was good to get back to the RV and the dogs.

SMART National Muster, Hemet CA, Sept. 20-25, 2014

 September 20, 2014
After getting an early start, we finally arrived at the Golden Village RV Resort in Hemet, CA.  The resort is beautiful, with a great pool and clubhouse, but our site is all gravel and asphalt.  The dogs are looking for grass in vain.    We had a nice happy hour with other SE Regionals, the Pinettes and the Shields, before heading out to Marie Callendar's for a great dinner.
The pool at Golden Village
September 21, 2014
Day 1 of the SMART National Muster.   I spent time at the beautiful pool while Steve had the RV washed and waxed.  The opening ceremonies took place at 4:30, followed by happy hour and dinner.  The evening's entertainment was a hypnotist, James Kellogg, who was very good and very funny.  Steve and I got lucky at the door prize drawings, winning 2 prizes...both containing wine!
Great door prizes.

September 22, 2014
Day 2 of the SMART National Muster, but for Steve and me it was DANCING WITH THE STARS DAY!  We left about 11 o'clock for the 102 mile drive into Hollywood because our tickets said we had to be there by 3 p.m. and we wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time to get there.  We arrived and found the parking garage ($19)  by 1 PM, and wanted to check out the location before eating lunch.  Imagine our surprise when we rounded the corner and saw the long line of people stretching from the gate to the studio for at least a  block.   Steve got in line while I went to check out the situation, and I found that this was indeed the line for DWTS.  Naturally, our lunch plans fell by the wayside, and we stayed in line.

A little way down the line there was a stand that rented lawn chairs ($10 each) and would order food for you.   I ordered a burger for Steve and a quesadilla for me ($21) and a diet coke ($3) because no food would be allowed in the studio.  Unfortunately, neither of us did well with the food, and most of it went into the trash.  So, we stood in line until almost 4 PM, with a couple of exciting moments when our tickets were checked and a number written on them.  We did meet some interesting people in line;  one lady had flown in that morning from Omaha, NE and would fly back home the next morning at 6:45!  The people watching was also very good, but the standing was tiring.

Finally they let us into the studio gate and sent us through security where we were searched and scanned.  Those who had brought cell phones and cameras had to check them in (we had left ours in the car).  Then we waited almost another hour outside the studio.

When we finally entered the studio, we climbed some steep steps up to the second balcony where we watched the show from along the rail.  Steve found a place between 2 spotlights where we had an excellent view of the stage.  We were behind the judges and opposite the band.  There were chairs for us to sit in, but you could not see the stage from them, so we stood for almost the whole two hours.
Great tickets!
Once the show got started, there was non-stop excitement and entertainment.  It was wonderful to see the dancers without having to rely on the camera angles, and the judges were entertaining all the time.
The set changes were just amazing!!  What those guys could do in 3 minutes or less was beyond belief!  Seeing this show was absolutely awesome.   I could almost have forgotten all the hassle of standing  in line so long if my foot had not hurt so bad.  Steve said the wait proved how lucky he was to have two new knees.  Anyway, I would not have traded seeing this show for anything.  However, I doubt that Steve would say the same.

Leaving the studio, we were glad that we had not brought our cell phones as we did not have to wait in the LONG lines to retrieve them before our two hour ride back to the campground.

September 23, 2014
Day 3 of the SMART National Muster.  After breakfast and visiting the various vendors, we caught up on some chores around the RV.     Then the girls attended the Ladies Luncheon and fashion show, and the guys went to the men's Hot Dog and Beer Lunch, followed by a short shopping trip in Hemet.  After dinner, and "The Love & Marriage Game" the Pinettes won a jug of maple  syrup as a door prize.  It seems that people from Vermont do not eat maple syrup from Michigan so they gave it to me since I am less discriminating.   Later we visited with friends back at the rig.
The Michigan syrup give-a-way.  
September 24, 2014
Day 4 of the SMART National Muster.  After breakfast, I attended a craft class where I enjoyed learning to make a card holder.  We attended a meeting, then joined friends for lunch at Long John Silver's in town.   Steve went to another meeting in the afternoon, while Bonnie, Larry, and I sorted and boxed up a very impressive amount of school supplies that will be donated to two schools at Camp Pendleton, and some lap robes for wounded warriors  at the Camp Pendleton hospital.   Later we had  a pleasant evening and dinner with friends.  Please notice that Frank Pinette broke a front tooth on his way to California and has taken no end of teasing about his snaggletoothed smile with good humor.
"Festus"  and Becky with Larry photobombing.  
September 25, 2014

I woke up this morning to the sorrow of learning that my much loved  cousin, Asa Lassiter, Jr. (Sonny) has passed away in North Carolina.  I feel so helpless to be so far from my family at this sad time, and I need to be with them for my own peace and comfort, so I will fly there from San Diego sometime tomorrow.

Representing the SE Region.  
After the general membership meeting this morning, Becky, Bonnie, and I treated ourselves to lunch at Los Vaquero's Mexican Grill while the guys revisited Long John Silver's.
East Coast girls in California.

Installation of officers for 2015
Closing ceremonies were followed by some fun entertainment by The Bakers, an older couple (he is 89) who certainly know how to get the audience involved!


The Southwest Region can be very proud of hosting such an excellent muster.   Good food, good entertainment, good vendors, great people, and lots of fun!   Now let's get ready for the 2015 National Muster in Perry, GA, --Steve Colt, Muster Master.