Happy 4th of July

The ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are definitely here in Florida and in many other places around the U.S. this July. With all the heat and the loud noises that come with the July 4th holiday, I thought it would be a good time to remind our RVing companions that we dogs see the Fourth a bit differently than they do. Please read the following

courtesy of camping.com

and to all my fellow RVing dogs, stay cool out there and enjoy the holiday.

Until next time, Happy Tails!

A Patriotic Shadow Puppy 2011

“Because many dogs are terrified by the sound of fireworks, it’s best to limit your doggie activities to the daylight hours. Be sure to give your pet plenty of water and, if the day is warm, seek out shady spots where your pup can cool down.

Before night falls, take a minute to plan the evening from your dog’s perspective. Every dog responds differently to fireworks, so it’s important to know how your own dog is likely to react. Some high-strung dogs are so badly frightened by the booming sounds that they’re better off taking a tranquilizer before the fireworks start. Consult your veterinarian – or a local vet if you’re traveling – for advice. The vet may suggest that you create a snug hiding place for your dog or park your RV as far away from the fireworks as possible.

No matter what you have planned for this July 4th, your dog would certainly like to be involved. Whether it’s a hike, a lake-side picnic, a family reunion, or a parade, plan a way for your dog to come along and make it a happy holiday for everyone. Even dogs like to celebrate the Grand Old Fourth!”

Cheap(er) Gas This Summer at Walmart

Walmart 10-cent gas discount

Walmart 10-cent gas discount June 29 to September 30, 2011

Today, Walmart announced a 90-day Rollback at the pump to give customers a savings of 10-cents a gallon on all fuel, gas and diesel, at participating Murphy USA and Walmart gas stations from June 29 through September 30, 2011. Great news, right?

Before you drive to your nearest Walmart to fill-up, just make sure you understand the following:

1. The discount applies to gas purchases made ONLY when using a reloadable Walmart Gift Card, Walmart MoneyCard® or Walmart credit card.

2. If you are in FLORIDA, Walmart Credit Card users will receive a 10-cent statement rebate when you use your Walmart credit card at a participating station. If you use a Walmart Gift Card or Walmart MoneyCard®, you will receive a 5-cent discount at the pump.

3. In ALABAMA, only Walmart Credit Card users will receive a 10-cent statement rebate when you use your Walmart credit card at a participating station.

4. If you are in OKLAHOMA, or MINNESOTA, you’re completely out of luck as the offer is NOT valid in those states.

(Complete Rollback Details)

I wonder why Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Minnesota residents and travelers are treated differently. Any ideas? Still, this is a good deal and every little bit helps these days, especially for us RVers.

Chuck Donates 10 Gallons of Blood

Today Chuck was honored with a plaque by LifeSouth Community Blood Centers in Citrus County, Florida to celebrate his having donated TEN gallons of blood, one pint at a time.

Chuck with his 10 Galloneer Plaque

Chuck with his 10 Galloneer Plaque

As you can see by the picture, Chuck is pretty proud of his achievement and says he is looking forward to donating his next gallon. Considering that it takes 8 pints to equal 1 gallon, and that each pint of blood can save up to 3 lives, that means Chuck has saved up to 240 lives with his 10 gallons. He should be proud!

Chuck first became a blood donor while on active duty in the Marine Corps. After Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida in 1992, he began donating again on a more frequent basis. While on the road in our RV, we both continue to donate blood whenever we are eligible (every 56 days). In addition to being regular donors in Florida, we have also donated blood in New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, California, Washington, and South Africa. Chuck says his goal is to eventually donate blood in all 50 states. I’d say he’s on his way.

Congrats on becoming a 10 Galloneer, Chuck. What an awesome accomplishment.

How I Spent My Birthday

As you can see by the pics, it is nice weather again here if FL. I had to take my new bike (one of Cheryl’s presents to me for my 72nd) for a short 20 mile ride. The bike rides like a dream – super light. We also took in a movie (Little Fockers) and had Chinese afterwards, can’t beat that for an old man!

We don’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve because it’s just not us. We watch the Ball drop on TV and just like to be together with our kid, Shadow. I think Shadow’s hearing is going down because she didn’t seem to hear a lot of the fireworks going off near the house.

Cheryl is still organizing and cleaning and I’m trying to help a little. Having a house is just not much fun :-( !!!

To those of you up north this winter – Stay warm. 22 degrees scares me :-o !

Birthday Cake

Cheryl made my favorite cake: chocolate with white icing. Shadow helped me blow out the candles.

Eze with lights

Cheryl decorated my Eze with lights!

My new Trek!

My new Trek!

On Top of Crazy Horse Mountain

Tom Wilson, Shadow, and Chuck on the arm of Crazy Horse

Today we stood on the arm of Crazy Horse Mountain in Custer, SD. Our guide was Tom Wilson who works at the Crazy Horse Memorial. He was a joy to talk and spend time with, as is everyone we’ve ever met while visiting the site of the largest mountain carving in the world, begun by Korczak Ziolkowski 60 years ago and now continued by his wife, Ruth, and 7 of their 10 children and now including 6 grandchildren and 1 great grand-daughter!

It’s been two years since we last stood here – on a cold and drizzly Sunday morning as we attended a Sunshine Service (ironic, huh?) led by Fred Tully, former Director of Development and long time friend of the Memorial and the Ziolkowski family. That day we felt a special connection to the mountain, as Chuck described in his blog post that day. Today was just as powerful. Tom was part of the reason, as we bonded over our mutual feelings about the Crazy Horse project, the Ziolkowski family, Native American experiences, and our own personal connections to it all. And the mountain did the rest. Korzcak said many times he felt Crazy Horse was on the mountain with him. And many say about Korcazk himself, “He still walks here.” Both are true. It’s a powerful feeling that you’re not alone when you’re on this mountain.

It was a beautiful, clear, and warm day today – perfect for a trip up the mountain – and Tom gave us a really great tour, with lots of information on what is currently happening on the mountain. Since we were last here, the progress has been amazing. The arm has been cleaned of a lot of rock blasting debris, flattened, and a layer of gravel laid out on top. The safety fencing lining the outreached ‘arm’ has been moved in a bit, and it isn’t as easy to touch the face of Crazy Horse as it was before. When we looked out over the front of the mountain, facing the visitors’ center, we could see the different ‘benches’ much more distinctly than we could before. Tom explained that 9 of the 11 benches have been cut.

Tom pointing out the progress on the mountain to Cheryl and Shadow

While we were on the mountain we watched the crew drilling into the lowest bench, preparing for the next blast to take place on October 11th (Columbus Day to most of the U.S., but Native American Day for us Indians, the Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota, and all those who empathize with the Native American viewpoint regarding Columbus and his ‘discovery’ of America).

We would have loved to stay on the mountain all day, but eventually we made our way down after taking a few pictures and videos, picking up a few ‘blast fragment’ rocks to keep, and stowing our hard hats. As we drove out, we were passed by a bulldozer driven by Casimir, who has been working on the mountain right beside his dad, Korzcak, ever since he was a little boy. What a nice way to cap off a very special day.

Casimir Ziolkowski on Crazy Horse Mountain (Photo Credit: Seth A. McConnell / Rapid City Journal)

Watching TV On The Road

Recently I read a blog post at Gypsy Journal discussing which was better – Dish or Direct TV – for watching television while traveling as a full-time RVer. It got me thinking about what we do, and why, so I decided to blog about it here.

For our television viewing on the road, we use the Winegard antenna that came with our 5th wheel. Actually, it’s not the original antenna, but a replacement. Back in 2008, I managed to do what almost all RVers manage to do at least once: leave the antenna up while we were traveling (“antenna down?” is now on our breaking camp check-list) and it was mangled beyond recognition when we parked in front of a friend’s house near Chicago (darn those tree-lined streets!). Anyway, when we replaced the original antenna, we went ahead and upgraded to the Digital HDTV version and added the Wingman – a little attachable antenna that is supposed to boost reception.

Winegard Sensar RV Digital HDTV Antenna with Wingman

Winegard Sensar RV Digital HDTV Antenna with Wingman

The Winegard antenna receives any over-the-air signals being broadcast near us. With the recent requirement for broadcast stations to change-over to digital, digital stations are about all we get anymore as analog is found in only the most remote locations, and usually that remoteness means no signal at all. Our television and antenna can also receive HD (High Definition) signals when broadcast, which is nice. This is more common in areas in the range of larger metropolitan areas.

What does all this mean for television reception and our viewing habits? It means that if we get a channel, then great. If we don’t, we have DVDs, and better yet – books! Redbox ($1 video rentals) is another option and is nice on occasion for recently released movies, if there is a Redbox location in the area. Also, if there is good Internet reception (either our Verizon air card or local WiFi) we might watch a favorite TV show via the computer through direct streaming (this can eat our meager data limits fast (5 Gb month), so we’re frugal or wait for free WiFi).

We like to think we can actually do without much TV. Back in 2003, we went four months without any television at all while on an extended RV trip from Florida to the Pacific Northwest and back. We didn’t miss it until we came home and had cable television again. Then we realized how much time we were wasting sitting in front of the TV mindlessly changing channels and decided to start recording select programs we enjoyed and just watch them and the news. We generally continue doing this today. It’s so much nicer to watch a program and be able to fast-forward through commercials. Not only is it more enjoyable, but saves time too! Did you know the average 30-minute sit-com is only about 19 minutes long minus the commercials? I wonder how many years of our lives we save by skipping commercials? Plenty, I’m sure.

Now that we’re full-timers, television is something we don’t really want to be completely without (local and national news and weather comes in handy), but we just can’t see the expense of satellite TV and the seeming headache we’ve read about with dealing with DirectTV or Dish Network. And from what we’ve seen of the reception at campgrounds that use satellite for their ‘cable’ TV, it’s not that great and very dependent upon weather. In some cases, we’ve actually unplugged the campground provided cable because our antenna got more channels and/or better reception!

We know we’re in the minority as far as full-time RVers go, but a simple over-the-air antenna works fine for us right now. How about you?

Chuck Thinks Back On Two Years As A Full-Time RVer

When we left Florida in August 2008 our first destination was Crazy Horse Memorial, SD. Our Full-Time RVing experience had begun. After camping in 26 states and traveling over 37,000 miles we have come almost full circle. We are back at Crazy Horse.

We are now in our third year on the road Full-Timing. There are too many highlights to put all of them down now, but here are some of mine. Meeting Ruth Ziolkowski has to be right at the top. Walking on the arm of Crazy Horse with Cheryl, Shadow and the ashes of Chiisai was next. After Crazy Horse we headed east to New Jersey and my 50th high school re-union. From there we went south to Washington, D.C. and Cheryl ran her first marathon (the Marine Corps Marathon). Cheryl ran for Team Running Strong.

We met Billy Mills who runs Team Running Strong.

While in D.C. we also met an Iwo Jima surviver at the Iwo Jima Memorial. He was very impressed with Shadow’s Marine Corps Dress Blues.

From D.C. we headed for Truth or Consequences, NM where we did our first work camping. We skinny-dipped under the stars in hot springs when it was only 19 degrees. We celebrated our 25th anniversary where we got married on the HRMS Queen Mary. Shadow won Best-Dressed Pet at the Las Vegas Santa Run (over 8,700 Santas did the run). We have biked, hiked and visited more National Parks than I can list. We have also met a lot of nice people along the way. Most recently, it was kind of strange we were camping on an Air Force Base and found out R. Lee Ermey (The Gunny) was going to be at the BX for photos and autographs. Hard to believe hundreds of Air Force men and women stood in line to see a U.S. Marine Corps Gunny. We stood in line too and got a picture of the Gunny holding Shadow in her Dress Blues.

I am making a list of biggest, shortest, tallest, deepest, etc. places we have seen.

Full-Timing has been everything I expected and then some.

I’m 105 Years Old!

Shadow's 15th Birthday Ice Cream Cake

Can you believe it?! I turned 15 years old today! I’ve been told that’s equivalent to 105 ‘dog years’. I don’t know who came up with that, because I certainly don’t feel 105 years old. And as far as looks go, whenever I’m out and about with my mom and dad, and someone asks them how old I am and they tell them, the response is almost always, “No way! She still looks like a puppy!” Ahh, just what every female wants to hear — that she looks younger than she is. :-)

I have it on good authority that I still act like a puppy sometimes too. Oh, I try and fool everyone by being so cool and calm and well-mannered when in public, as well as napping while we’re driving, so that they think this poor little senior dog is all tuckered out, but get me home after all that good behavior and I’ll run back and forth in our camper and throw toys at Dad’s feet until he gets on the floor to play with me. I’ve still got it.

All in all it was a good birthday this year. Nothing special, but that’s okay. With being full-time RVers, we get to do something special almost all the time, so it’s nice to just relax a bit. Today I got a chance to play a little with my toys, and was treated to some ice cream after dinner. I love ice cream, so that was awesome! I got lots of hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad, and wishes for many more happy birthdays. The way I’m going, I’ll be around for another 100 – in dog years, that is!

Happy Tails!  

Two Year Anniversary

Wow, how time flies! Another year has come and gone for us as Fulltime RVers and today we celebrated our SECOND year on the road in Paradise. You don’t believe us? Just check out the photo below:

Paradise Visitor Center in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park

Paradise Visitor Center in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park

In this case, Paradise is located at an altitude of 5,420 feet in Mount Rainier National Park just below massive Mount Rainier, but it couldn’t have been a more appropriate place for us to mark the beginning of a third year of fulltime RV living. In fact, it was so perfect, you’d think we planned it, but we didn’t. It wasn’t until we were driving along and checking the map that we noticed the name Paradise just a stone’s throw from where we planned to camp tonight. Good omen for the future? We hope so!

Gorgeous views of the glacier-dominated mountain can seen from the Visitors Center at Paradise and we took the opportunity to just sit and gaze for a while from the steps leading to the many trails through its sub-alpine meadows, now covered with late-summer wildflowers. Then we took some pictures. Note the quote from the famous conservationist, John Muir (boy, he sure did get around), in this one:

Truly "Paradise"

We started the day by leaving what seemed like our summer ‘home’ at the SKP Evergreen Coho RV park in Chimacum, Washington and driving about three hours southeast to get to Mount Rainier National Park. We had a great time these past three and a half months on the Olympic Peninsula (except for that first VERY rainy month and a half!) but this RV has wheels and thus is meant to move, so it was high time we scratched our ‘hitch itch’ and hit the road for more adventures. So far it looks like we couldn’t have picked a better time to go, as the weather is sunny and warm, perfect for some dry-camping and hiking in the mountains.

Along the way, we drove over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, better known for its predecessor, “Galloping Gertie,” the third largest suspension bridge in the world in 1940, which famously collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7th, 1940 when it twisted and vibrated violently in 40 mph winds.

Last year when we were staying at McChord AFB in Tacoma, we read that somewhere near the Narrows bridge there is a monument to Tubby, a black cocker spaniel who was sadly, but amazingly, the only fatality the day the bridge collapsed. We spent half a day trying to find its location then, without any luck. We hoped we’d finally find it today, but unfortunately Shadow and we were again disappointed that we couldn’t find it to pay our respects. We’re really beginning to believe it doesn’t exist.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge 2010

Upon crossing the bridge, we did see our destination – Mount Rainier – in the distance. It’s amazing just how far away one can see this mountain. Of course, it is 14,411 feet high and the highest peak in the Cascade range, but it’s still impressive how it dominates the skyline in the Seattle area.

We took Highway 7 through Elbe and Ashford into the southwest entrance to the park. Passing through Elbe, we found a beautiful little historical church, and a group of railroad cars that looked to have been converted to restaurants and shops. Elbe really looked like a neat place to stop, but the area was packed with tourists and there was no place to park an RV, so we just took some snapshots as we drove by and decided we would have to come back later in the week.

Elbe Trains

Elbe Church

There was a lot of tourist activity in nearby Ashford as well, but again it was too busy and we didn’t see any place to safely park an RV. But with signs advertising Blueberry Pancakes and Homemade Huckleberry Pie, we will definitely go back to check it out after the RV is safely parked at our campsite!

Finally we arrived at the entrance to the park about noon and found out that this weekend is part of the U.S. National Park Service Free Entrance Days so now we knew why the roads were even busier than we expected them to be, even considering it’s the weekend and how close Mt. Rainier National Park is to large cities and populations like Tacoma and Seattle, not to mention the glorious weather. We were warned at the gate that the parking lots up at the Paradise area visitors center were full. We tried to park at Longmire (the original park headquarters), only to find that parking lot full as well, and it didn’t help any that the cars were using up all the “RV Only” parking spaces.

"RV / Bus Parking Only" - Doesn't look like RVs to us!

We were beginning to seriously worry that all the campgrounds would be full too, but we were lucky to find our chosen campground, Cougar Rock, to have many sites available, though most were not big enough to accomodate an RV our size (about 30 feet). We managed to find a site just barely big enough, then paid for it and left some chairs to mark it as taken, and headed back to the dump station to fill our freshwater tank for the duration as we will be dry-camping (no water, sewer, or electric hookups) for our visit, which is usually the norm for National Park campgrounds. This was interesting as well, as the dump station seemed an even tighter fit for our RV than the site! Chuck did a fantastic job maneuving though, and we got our water without scraping any trees or our camper, thankfully. Back to our site and he did and even better job the second time fitting the RV in our spot.

So here we are tonight, sitting outside enjoying the night air and the earthy scents of the beautiful Western Red Cedars, Douglas Firs, and Hemlocks that surround our camper, listening to the soothing sounds of nature – in this case the crying baby next door. Seriously. 173 sites and we somehow managed to find the one next to a young family with a crying infant! What are the odds? But you have to laugh – what else can you do? That’s life on the road.

To another year of adventures!

What a view! What a life!

Happy Father’s Day