Last hurrah of the 2017 season

Today was our last real day camping in 2017. We head home tomorrow. Even though we will spend one night on the road, I don’t really consider that “camping,” so today was it.

We went back to the Mohave to visit the Goff Schoolhouse Museum on the southern edge of the Reserve. This place is totally misnamed! It should be called the Goff Railroad, Mining, Ranching, and SchoolhouseMuseum since there are more exhibits in the first three categories than the last. Here is the namesake Schoolhouse.

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It is prettier than this picture shows. The big porch provided a cool place to sit on an unreasonably hot day. It also has a number of palo verde trees surrounding it, but they are just outside the frame. The museum is free though we dropped $10 in the pot. It would have been well worth twic that amount. Here is just a sample of the neat sites.

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These three pictures are of a two stamp mill mill that was disassembled, brought to the site, and lovingly restored by volunteers.

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This is a ten stamp mill, also brought back to life by volunteers. I guess my pictures sow I was particularly impressed by the mining exhibits.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Lake Havasu City. We also went to see the Christmas lights on the canal next to London Bridge, quite nice. We filled the truck with fuel, and we are back cleaning up for tomorrow’s drive to Cedar City. We will stop at the KOA there are get everything ship shape to put the trailer to bed for a month and a half until our trip to California and Arizona in mid January. I always take this chance to wash everything I can in the trailer, both inside and out. We pull the rugs, quilts, sheets, bedspreads, towels, etc. These things get washed as needed on trips, but this is the time of year they all get put back completely clean. Kevin has decided to winterize the trailer back home since the weather is still so warm.

Next at home is a lot of sewing and quilting. I am making myself finish quilting a bedspread for our queen sized guest bed. I also need to finish a couple of Quilts for Kids kits. We will see how much I get done our the quilt for our king sized bed. It should keep me busy!

Catching up: Moving into Arizona

We are now at Route 66 Golden Shores RV Park at Topock, AZ. It is a quiet, older park and has the nicest people! We had Thanksgiving dinner with the other residents, a potluck with lots of food. My contributions were smashed red potatoes, made in the Instant Pot, and my new favorite dessert – Upside Down Apple Bread Pudding. I found it at https://recipeforperfection.com/upside-down-apple-bread-pudding/. Take a look:

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Isn’t it gorgeous? For the potatoes I cut up 5 pounds of red potatoes into 1-2 inch pieces, added 1 c. water, then pressure cooked for 8 minutes. I drained the potatoes, smashed them some, added sour cream, butter, some milk, garlic flakes, and salt. It was so easy!

Other than Thanksgiving, we visited Oatman on Route 66 to see the donkeys.

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The donkeys are definitely part of the experience. They stay in the middle of the road and beg. A number of the businesses sell donkey food so they are spoiled rotten. I particularly like the picture of the baby nursing.

My birthday was on Monday, but I gave Kevin my nasty cold so we just stayed home. On Tuesday we decided we felt well enough to get dinner so we went to Lake Havasu to do some sightseeing, eat, and get groceries. The lake has a bunch of miniature light houses, so I took a picture next to the miniature Split Rock lighthouse. The original is  along Lake Michigan.

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I apologize for my wind blown hair!

We also went to the marina to look at the boats. While there we found a huge flock of quail, probably 75 or more. They were obviously after some bugs that were hanging around the parking lot. A few pigeons were in the mix too.

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The first picture is pretty bad because we didn’t want to disturb the birds. The second is much better at showing the quail plus a friendly rabbit.

We went to dinner at Cha’Bones, and it was wonderful. I had prime rib, a baked potato, and mixed roasted vegetables. Kevin had a T-bone with the same sides. It was some of the best food we have had in quite a while. The service was good, and the bottle of Malbec we shared made it even better.

Today we went to the Mohave National Preserve which was ok though not as nice as Death Valley. Here are some scenes.

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Kelso Dunes. I can’t walk far on sand (bad Achilles’ tendon), but they are big quite tall – 600 feet.

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This is the old depot/Harvey House at the railroad town of Kelso. It was renovated by the Park Service, and is now the Visitor Center and Park Headquarters. Seriously cool.B0A1056D-B512-47AF-8B4F-9D80D3FF75DC

It turns out there are a lot of Joshua Trees in the Mohave Preserve. These are shorter but have more arms than others, and they are actually a separate subspecies from the ones in Joshua Tree National Park.

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The last two are of the Hole in the Wall area. We got to it from the north on a bone rattling dirt road, but the road from the south is paved. Lesson learned.

i am officially caught up.

Catching up: More about the Sierras and Bishop

We continued taking gorgeous pictures of the eastern side of the Sierras as the light and weather changed.

23201E8A-1E01-463A-AD97-F4DE68840CFAThere are some lovely alpine lakes in the area.

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See the white on the upper left of the peak? That is actually snow blowing off the mountain. The Alabama Hills are in the foreground.

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Yet another mountain lake.

We also too, a trip to Bishop, CA to see the Laws Railroad Museum there. The name is of the old railroad station, and is much more than a train museum. It is basically a recreation of an old train town using both original buildings and other old buildings from the same period that were moved to the area. I still felt dreadful with my sinus cold, but it was worth the pain.

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I highly recommend it. We also had dinner in Bishop at Holy Smoke BBQ. This is one I do NOT recommend. My ribs were way over cooked and very dry. Kevin’s brisket wasn’t bad, but wasn’t exceptional either.

We left Boulder Creek campground on Sunday, 19 November. As I left, I noticed their cable had two channels of Fox News but no CNN or PBS. I wish I had asked them why, but take it as a hint of their politics.

I like the desert, but the desert doesn’t like me

We are now in Lone Pine, CA, about 100 miles west of Death Valley at the Boulder Creek RV Resort. It is a nice place though the road noise is more than I like. They even have a fenced dog park for Lexi! We will stay here until Sunday when we head to Topock, AZ.

Anyone who reads this knows I like deserts. I like the rocks, the mountains, the tough plants, the hardy animals. I like the history, the settlements, the mines. However I think I can say the desert doesn’t like me! As we left Death Valley I wasn’t feeling great. I thought I had a bit of a cold, but that was all. Nope, another full case of sinusitis. I couldn’t breath through my nose, sounded like I was coughing my lungs out, super sore throat, felt like a truck hit me – all the good stuff. I had the same thing happen to me last year, and I let it get too far along before I treated it correctly. This time I started with the decongestant, generic Mucinex, and cough medicine right away. I did some Dr. Google work and discovered dry environments contribute to sinusitis. I convinced sweet Kevin to drive the hour and a half to Ridgecrest, CA because they had a solution – basically a personal humidifier. It is actually called a “Personal Steam Inhaler”, and I have one at home too. I started using it on the drive home since it is a very low draw electrical item. I then used it every couple of hours, and the nastiness is much better! I used it once in the middle of the night, and as soon as I got up this morning. I may survive! Here is an advertising picture.

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Silly looking thing, but I am going to start using it 3 – 4 times a day on our desert trips.

I was able to see a few things before retreating to a recliner. We took the Mt. Whitney Portal Road on Monday after we got here. I had never seen the Sierra Nevadas east side, and it was stunning!

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Waterfall at the Whitney Portal. Lots of ice showing.
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The mountains are just sharp granite peaks.
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Saw this buck and his harem on the way up.

Yesterday we went to Bishop and took the Movie Road in the Alabama Hills. The rocks were amazing! The photos aren’t very good since it was late in the day.

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Much better than Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs!

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It is a seriously tortured landscape. The signs said the torturing had been chemical rather than weather. The rocks pop up in a wide, multi-mile long stretch. Seriously cool.

Today we went to the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine. I didn’t have very high expectations for a museum in such a small town, but it was outstanding. This is a serious, world class place. It turns out literally hundreds of movies, mostly westerns, have been filmed in the area. An interesting thing I learned: the jawas in some Star Wars shots were first graders from Death Valley Elementary School, and the scenes were shot in the area. How did I learn this? One of the women tending the register was the first grade teacher who set things up when she hear of the need for a cast of extras that were 42 inches tall. They had some cute pictures of the kids.

As we drove home from the museum I took this nice shot of the Sierras just touched with snow. Lovely.

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Now to catch up on all the not so fun things

We had a week and a half between coming back from our Midwest trip and heading to Death Valley. Lots of things needed to be done.

Kevin discovered the shackles and bushings on an axle we’re broken, so he did get that fixed the day before we left again. State Trailer Supply in Salt Lake City did a fine job. They replaced all the shackles and bushings on both axles, fixed some marker lights we didn’t know we had broken, and adjusted the brakes. It was something we would have had checked before the big trip to Alaska next year, but I am glad Kevin found the problem before heading up and down the mountains like we have been doing.

We also ordered a cover to put over the bicycles on the trailer back. It also arrived just in time and covers both of them. Sadly it also covers part of the tail light and the license plate! Kevin tried to move the lights, but couldn’t figure out where to run the wires. This task will take a bit more thought. We still used the cover and hope we don’t get caught.

For my stuff, I got all the pieces cut out for the king sized quilt I am making for our bed. I even started the piecing. I brought the fabric and my sewing machine with me, but I haven’t pulled them out yet. There were just too many nice things to do in Death Valley!

One other thing in DV was that Kevin discovered one of the tires was completely bald on the inside edge. These are relatively new tires, and we were worried about brakes or alignment problems. He changed it at the campground just before we left. Just as we pulled out of the campground he realized it was almost certainly caused by the shackles issue putting a twist on the axle. Thank goodness! Oh, and we discovered our 3 year old batteries weren’t charging fully. Further checking identified that one cell was really bad, so we are going to replace them when we get home. Since we are staying in campgrounds with electricity the rest of this trip we don’t need to rush. We are pretty sure the damage was done by the OEM cheap power converter that Kevin replaced last year. They just don’t charge well, and that puts stress on the batter. Batteries plus a new tire plus a new tire and wheel (an extra spare for the Alaska trip) will put some pain in the budget.

Luckily all of these things are not frequent costs. For us the trailer means we travel pretty much any time we want and where we want. Still worth it.

Ten days at Death Valley National Park

Warning: this will be long. I have a week and a half to cover. I couldn’t post in segments because the data service was too poor.

I love Death Valley. That may sound odd to those of you who think only soft landscapes with trees are beautiful, but I really do love the place. At Death Valley (and many other desert parks) you can see the real bones of the land unobscured by soil and vegetation. The colors are amazing – everything from the crystal white of the salt pan to creams, yellows, golds, reds, browns, and the blacks of the lava.

We went to the Death Valley 49ers Encampment again, 3 – 13 November. The 49ers emphasize history, western music, and fun, and the Encampment is their big meeting of the year. This year was challenging. Xanterra, the owner of the Furnace Creek resort where Encampment is held, is remodeling the entire resort. It was a disaster of a construction zone requiring all kinds of adjusting of dates and locations. Luckily the NPS crew worked extraordinary hard to accommodate us. The National HR crew of NPS identified issues with the process for hiring seasonal custodial staff, and there were no custodians for the period of the Encampment! The big campground, Sunset, was closed because there was no one to clean the bathrooms and pick up trash, something rather important  for 350-400 RVers. The park rearranged staff assignments, worked a bunch of overtime, and allowed the campground to open specifically for the Encampment. There was administrative office staff cleaning toilets! I can’t say enough about how great they were.

We arrived on Friday at 12:30 after the campground opened at 12:00. As we came in we saw some mountai sheep right off the road, moving away from Furnace Creek.

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As usual, I only got the back end of the sheep!

There were already probably 100 units setting up when we got to the campground. We got a prime spot at the end of a row, looking east. Most of the campers there during the week were 49ers and stayed for the duration, but there were some regular vacationers who were probably quite surprised at the crowds.

Monday we were able to take a four wheel drive trip to Lippincot Mine off the Saline Valley road. We found a wonderful forest of Joshua Trees.

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These were among the best Joshua Trees I have ever seen. We then continued to the Lippincot Mine over a Grade 3 road, meaning a moderate 4×4 road requiring careful driving and a locking 4 low. I called it a goat track! Scary. It was more challenging for us because we had a big 3/4 ton quad cab pickup truck, not a skinny jeep. We ended up with only some minor dents in the running boards, so it was ok.

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Lots of lava and wide open views across the Saline Valley.

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It really was a goat track! And this was before it got really bad.

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The mine is actually in good shape. You could walk in a short way though I didn’t. Lots of other artifacts around too.

On the way back we drove by The Racetrack, home of the famous moving rocks. I didn’t take any pictures. We did stop at Ubehebe Crater, the remnant of a volcanic eruption only a few hundred years ago. Water got to a hot spot and resulted in a massive explosion. It was late in the day so the shadows were extensive, but you can get the idea.

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The next day we did Titus Canyon, a relatively mild road the needed high clearance vehicles and a good 4 low. We saw some burros just before the road officially began, but they were too far away for a good picture.

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This is a good example of some of the colors in the mountains. You can see the Titus Canyon road in the first picture.

The 49ers do a historical costume contest. Here are the contestants.

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There was also a wagon train that came in after driving the 100 miles from Pahrump to Furnace Creek by way of Shoshone. They have been doing this for 51years, which I think is amazing. It is a big deal with the Highway Patorl blocking traffic as they come down the road. I have videos, but they won’t upload for some reason. There were 7or 8 wagons with everyone in period dress. They really live out of the wagons during the trip, some pulled by horses and some pulled by miles. There was also a cute little gig pulled by miniature horses! There is also a man who comes every year with wagons and Belgian draft horses. He gives free rides around the camping area. If you want to leave “carrot money” you can do so, but it isn’t required. Here is one of the wagons and two of the horses on the last day.

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Another 49er standard is the historical character reenactor. This year the character was Arnold Johnson, the man who built Scotty’s Castle in the park. It was fascinating.

There are lots of other things to do in Death Valley. We spent time at the music offerings in the evenings, drove some of the wonderful gravel and dirt roads in the park, and generally enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

On Sunday morning we got up early to head to Zabriskie Point, one of the classic photo spots. Sadly it was overcast and the pictures aren’t sharp. You can get at least a little feel for the striations and colors in the mountains though.

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Oh, and do you want to know why they call the campground “Sunset”? Here is a good reason:

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Summary: We had a wonderful time, saw gorgeous scenery and lots of animals (burros, wild horses, mountain sheep). I highly recommend the trip, at least in the fall and winter. We are now in a private campground in Lone Pine, CA in the Owens Valley for the next week – water, electricity, sewer, and WiFi! The Sierra Nevadas are immediately west of us, so expect a post about this area soon.

 

Iowa to Colorado to Utah

After Mark Twain Lake we headed back to Iowa to visit family. We got to have dinner with all the Iowa kids and grandkids and spent some time just wandering around the area. We even went to see a couple of condo/town houses to see what the market point looks like. Eventually we intend on moving back there so the kids can watch our house/condo while we are gone for months at a time LOL!

Leaving Iowa we spent the first night at a Walmart parking lot in Grand Island, NE. I really don’t like staying in parking lots, but I also don’t like spending $30 or more for a few hours sleep. We then headed to Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland, CO. We had hoped for stay 3 nights, visiting Rocky Mountain National Park too. It is a nice campground, but the gate attendant put us in a site only available for two nights. Rather than moving to another spot in the campground, we decided to go on our way. We had a great trip to Rocky, though for only one day. The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny. Trail Ridge road opened up to Rainbow Curve, and we drove up it as far as we could.

2855A5D9-D8B3-4B43-B646-21006FD08B1BThe scenery is always gorgeous.

429D7253-5CA7-4045-A84A-773DE39B8349I particularly liked this rock at the Bear Lake Trailhead.

07B1900F-37DF-4900-AE80-67CFEC285C65A Gray Jay came by to see if I was sloppy with snacks (I wasn’t). I walked a little of the Bear Lake trail then went to enjoy the sunshine while Kevin walked around the lake.

D5D96B7C-CB19-4A39-8B83-B24F0F51F193Looking across Horseshoe Park is always lovely.

14ACA446-0C08-447E-B933-A714B43715B4There was certainly snow in the high country.

After leaving Loveland we headed south on the Peak to Peak Highway. It was slow and lovely, well worth the extra time. We eventually got to I-70 and headed west. We spent Tuesday night at Colorado River State Park in western Colorado. It was lovely and mostly empty this time of year, though I think it would be almost unbearably hot in the summer. The park ranger seemed lonely and was happy to see us! He said the park has sites open all year and even has water in the winter available at the entry office. We will definitely remember this place for spring and fall trips.

23B1E647-5881-4A9E-876B-2E32E432F31EI love the cliffs.

24DD15C9-9520-4384-B3B8-DBD47A3A36EEThe cottonwoods were a brilliant gold.

6E9F2108-9669-4ACF-B3E6-B72535A8ACB0There was a nice path along the the river. We road our bikes around and around the campground and along the river.

We finally got home on Wednesday (yesterday). I love travel, but it sure is nice to be home. Kevin got a bad surprise this morning though. As he was getting the propane tank off the trailer he noticed two shackles were broken on an axle! The RV place couldn’t get us in time, so he found an axle specialist who says it can be done in time for our next trip in a week. I hope!

The Current River and follow on activities

We left Mark Twain Lake and headed south to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the Current River. I just love this area of the Ozarks! We camped at Pulltite campground, a NPS site along the Current River. We had reserved our favorite site (#28) months ago, and it was plenty big for the travel trailer and truck. We even had some decent sun for the solar system, a luxury in these deeply forested hills. The weather was all over the place: rain on Tuesday, cool on Wednesday, warm on Thursday, warmer on Friday, and damned hot on Saturday. It just isn’t right to have temperatures of 90 degrees in mid October in south central Missouri!

On Tuesday we did boring housekeeping tasks like laundry. On Wednesday we did the Cedar Grove to Akers run on the Current. Thursday we did Pulltite to Round Spring, and on Friday we did Akers Ferry to Pulltite. Lots of nice paddling with a really fun crew. By Saturday we were really tired and a little sore so we went to The Haunting of the Hills put on by the OSNR at Alley Mill. There were lots of historic activities demonstrated by costumed interpreters, plus the mill itself is really lovely. It was so hot we were really worried about keeping the trailer comfortable enough for the cats, but the vent fans on all day plus leaving the windows open on the north side of the trailer kept is under 85 inside. Love the solar! We would have been challenged to run all the fans without turning on the generator before Kevin installed the system.

Forecasts showed rain on Saturday night, so we packed up a lot of outdoor gear before going to bed. We also decided to start our gradual trek back to Iowa by heading to Mark Twain Lake again for a couple of nights. This time I remembered to take pictures!

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At Mark Twain Lake
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Pulltite Campsite
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Canoeing on the Current? Note the gorgeous color of the water.

RVForum.com Rally in Lanesboro, MN

We met up with friends from the RVForum on Wednesday for a mini-rally at Eagle Cliff Campground just outside of Lanesboro, MN. What fun! The first night was good weather and we had a campfire. We got to meet a number of new folks, and that is always fun. Thursday wasn’t too bad with just some light rain/mist. We did some sightseeing and had lunch at a nice little place in town. Then it started raining in earnest! It rained all Thursday night, all day and night on Friday, and most of the day on Saturday. I really should hire myself out as a rain maker since it always seems to rain when I go to Minnesota!

We did get to spend time with friends Heather and Marshall on Thursday after they arrived, and we spent a lot of time with Greg, Lisa, and their three girls after they arrived on Friday. Also on Friday  we had the traditional rally potluck, and we also had the traditional too much food! Luckily the campground had an enclosed pavilion since it rained so hard. I got to do a little singing too, always a fun thing.

By Saturday around 7:00 pm the rain finally stopped. We had a great group campfire at Eric and Max’s campsite, the rally organizers. Sunday morning saw us saying goodbye and heading south. We had hoped to do some biking and canoeing, but the weather just didn’t cooperate.

We are making our way to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and we drove quite a bit of the trip today. We are now camped at Indian Creek campground (Corps of Engineers) at Mark Twain Lake in Missouri. What a gorgeous place! Since it is a federal campground our senior pass meant we paid only $9 for a water and electric site. The campsite isn’t too level, but it is very large and heavily wooded. If they are open when we come back through in a week, we are thinking of staying here a few days on the way back to Iowa.

I remembered just as I started to write this post that I took exactly zero pictures at the rally. Sorry!

Running from snow, Central time, and a closed campground

We had a great time with friends from the Wasatch Mountain Club this weekend at Antelope Island State Park. I led a paddling activity with 3 tandem canoes, two inflatable kayaks, and a white water kayak. The 9 of us had a good time. A few pictures taken by someone else:

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Obviously the day was a bit rainy, but the significant rainfall held off until we were all safely back at camp. We even ended up with a gorgeous double rainbow!

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This also was taken by someone else using a panorama mode on their camera. Impressive!

We left on Sunday morning to head to Iowa. As we got farther into Wyoming there were warnings about a winter snowstorm headed our way. Instead of stopping for our normal night in Laramie, we decided to run ahead of the storm. We ended up in Sydney, NE at the Cabela’s parking lot. Nice place and free. We set our clocks to Central time and decided to just stay on that for the next few weeks.

We were up and out early, planning to overnight at Adventure Land park in Des Moines where we stayed last year in mid October. We got there, and they had closed the campground to prepare for some Halloween activity! Even though it was after 6:00 pm we decided to drive the remaining 125 miles to the town our daughter lives in. We are now comfortably established in at Squaw Creek county park in Marion where we will stay until Wednesday. One of the cats doesn’t seem well so we are taking her to the vet too. Sigh. It is a laundry day too. We get to see our daughter, her husband, and our grandson tonight too, a real win.