Sunday, October 4, 2015

From the Cascades to the Rockies

The day we left Eugene for eastern Oregon, the skies were filled with smoke from multiple raging fires and the temperatures were soaring. We had been moseying around familiar territory for so long, neither of us remembered to check the mountain directory. We had driven to Bend only once before, years ago, so it was not at all familiar to us. It just dawned on me as I waited for Steven to fill Scoopy with diesel that I might ought to take a look at the grades along our chosen route. Boy, it's a good thing, too. The mountain guide simply said, "Don't do it.", so we re-routed on the fly. 

Although our stay in Bend was brief, Steven found a nearby lake to photograph and spent one morning capturing the dramatic fog.

Not smoke, this is morning fog at Sparks Lake near Bend.

Another view of Sparks Lake at sunrise.

We stayed in Bend long enough to get some shopping done then headed for Crystal Crane Hot Springs for a couple of days of relaxation. Every day we soaked and it was glorious. Because of the smoke, the sunrises and sunsets at the hot springs were gorgeous. 

I double noodled it so my face wouldn't get wet.


Scoopy and Toadie bathe in the last rays of the sunset.

When we arrived in Winnemucca, NV after a long, hot slog, smoke wafting in from the California fires was thick enough to obscure the sun and surrounding mountains. We didn't venture outside much during our three day stay, but we were both perfectly happy just puttering around inside Scoopy. 

If you look close enough you can barely make out the shape of the mountains on the horizon.

By the time we left, the skies had cleared somewhat. We departed just before sunrise, as there were five passes to cross before reaching our next overnight stop, the Elks Lodge in Provo, UT. It was the first time I have ever used Scoopy's headlights to drive. I don't like to drive in the dark, but it was worth getting up early considering the climbs we had ahead of us. We stopped for lunch at the rest stop at the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats. We would have loved to explore, but it was just too hot. 

Toadie wanted to drive onto the Bonneville Salt Flats for a selfie. :)

Epic roads as we dipped in and out of Utah on our way to Colorado.

It was a very long travel day, but we made it over the passes just fine. Our stay in Provo was just for one night, as we were on a mission to reach Colorado where we would find friends to hang out with and cooler temperatures to enjoy. We made one more stop in Green River, UT for three days before arriving at the Uncompahgre RV Park in Olathe, CO where we were warmly greeted with a few ears of the famous Olathe sweet corn just harvested. What a cute little park! Our friends Philip and Valinda were staying here for the summer and recommended it. It was a lovely and unexpected oasis, and there was tons of great sightseeing and day trips to take. 

The first signs of fall when we arrived at Uncompahgre RV Park.

At the top of the list was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and the cute town of Ouray. We drove the Million Dollar Highway into Silverton, which was beautiful. I decided if I had to drive Scoopy over this road, I could, but I'd do everything possible to avoid it. :) Steven and Valinda took multiple photography trips and captured some amazing shots. 

Sunrise at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Dramatic moon at Black Canyon.

Sunset at Black Canyon.

We enjoyed our stay in Olathe, and after a week we headed up into the mountains to Gunnison, elevation 7700 ft. Here we found cooler temps, good friends Paul and Mary, and a group of Facebook friends we had yet to meet in person. We arrived just as the leaves began to turn, but were there just a tad too soon to see the fall colors in all their glory. I managed a few 10,000 step days including an early morning hike with the Witwer's to the Dillion Pinnacles, as well as a couple of day trips to nearby places. Gunnison turned out to be a very relaxing stop. We would have loved to stay longer than just a week, but Scoopy had an appointment in Grand Junction to take care of a few minor repairs, so we had to go. 

On the trail to Dillon Pinnacles with Mary and Paul.

Mary contemplates the beautiful view near Dillon Pinnacles.

Every evening in Gunnison would bring a new thunderstorm!

Mary and I encountered these sheep on one of our walks. Cute!

Epic selfie with the Jello gang at over 12,000 feet on our way to Tin Cup.

Our trip to Tin Cup was fit only for a Jeep!

It was a beautiful day for our drive on the Million Dollar Highway.

This memorial is reason enough not to drive Scoopy on Red Mountain Pass. 

Below us is Ouray, a cute little mountain town.

Breathtaking views at Taylor Reservoir.

The People's Fair at Crested Butte.

Another selfie of the Jello Gang!
(back: Larry, Paul - middle: Dave, Mary, Kim, Christi - front: Nancy, Kathy, Linda and Steven)

One of the weirder aspects of our lifestyle is getting repairs done. Not only do we have to find a competent repair person or facility (kind of a crapshoot) we literally become homeless as soon as Scoopy is in their hands. That means we have to find something to do. In cooler temps, a hike or sightseeing of some sort is usually a good option, but in triple digits, it's not. We decided it was time for a few new clothing items, so off we went. We ended up spending a couple of hours at Starbucks, where we started talking about our immediate travel plans.  Following the repairs were to heading to Bryce National Park in Utah, but as it turns out, neither one of us were excited about it. Once we were out of the mountains, the temperatures had soared and the elevation at Bryce offered little comfort. It took us about two minutes to change our minds and decide to return to the mountains to boondock and play with our solar at a campground on the Blue Mesa Reservoir about 12 miles outside Gunnison. This plan was so brilliant, we were giddy with excitement. 

Our special accommodations outside the gate.

Humphrey RV has a very unique waiting area!

We spent the night outside the gates of Humphrey RV so that they could finish up a couple of items on our list the following morning. I have read of many people spending the night at a repair facility, but usually it's inside the gates, and they lock you in. Humphrey's puts you out next to the road and locks you out. :)  Frankly, we didn't care. We were so flippin' happy about our plans, we just celebrated, and we had a very enjoyable evening. By 11:00 a.m. the next morning, we were on our way.

Up next: Solar power and our huge learning curve!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Solar System

It never dawned on me before we started our fulltiming life that I would actually enjoy camping anywhere other than a manicured, 50 amp, full hook-up site. I mean, even when we camped in Alfred Hitchpop, if it was available, we reserved FHU sites though we didn't use anything other than the electric. (Long story)

I paid lip service to the idea of boondocking, out in the middle of nowhere, without hookups, completely self-contained. "That'd be fun," I said out loud, knowing it would probably rarely happen. But once we started traveling, almost immediately, those manicured, 50 amp FHU sites became less and less appealing, and the off-the-grid, wide-open spaces seemed more and more magnificent. (Goosenecks State Park in Utah, anyone?)

Scoopy is a self-contained RV. We can go a full week and more without hookups, but because we have a residential refrigerator and not the RV kind that runs on both electric and propane, we must have a constant source of electrical power to keep our fridge running. For us, that means running our generator several hours each day. There is nothing like the constant roar of a diesel-coughing generator to ruin the peacefulness of a great boondocking spot.   

By the time we attended the Escapades Rally in Tucson last March, we knew we wanted to invest in solar power. There are a few respected companies that specialize in RV solar installations, but none more so than AM Solar in Eugene, Oregon. Since we were going to be in the Pacific Northwest in June, that's who we called. Their first available appointment was August 10th. We took it. 

We arrived right on schedule and headed to the waiting room. The installers first did a check of all Scoopy's systems to make sure everything was working as it should, then pulled her into the shop to configure the layout of panels on the roof using cardboard cutouts.We currently have 4 AGM batteries and had hoped to add more, but the weight of the extra batteries would have required a very spendy modification to one of our storage bays and ultimately, we just couldn't justify the cost. It was kind of a relief anyway, as we didn't want to give up our precious cargo space. In the end, we stuck with our 4 existing AGMs and went with a total of 840 watts of solar panels on the roof (3 x 100s and 4 x 135s) and everything was tied into our Magnum 2800w charger/inverter.

A drone's-eye view of our new solar panel system.

How do we like it so far? We have no idea. Seriously, when we left Eugene for Bend and beyond, temperatures were nearing 100 degrees. I may have come around to the idea of boondocking, but I'm not willing to suffer and go without aircons when they are clearly warranted. In late November we will be returning to Live Oak Ranch, and as luck would have it, we'll be positioned perfectly to tilt our panels to maximize the sun's rays. There is a big learning curve, as solar is all new to us. The great thing is we will have hook-ups when needed and will use this time to learn and experiment with our system. Pretty exciting stuff, actually. 

Scoopy waits patiently at sunrise for her solar bling.
Showing us a mock-up of the panel layout using cardboard cutouts.
Mitch, our tech lead, talks Steven through the basics of tilting the panels.
Steven gets the lowdown on how all the settings work.

If you're interested in having solar installed on your RV, here's a few things to consider:

1.  As with any work you have done on your RV, communication with the vendor is key. Solar systems come at considerable cost - take responsibility for making sure you have all the information you need to make decisions that are right for you. We relied on the advice of the AM Solar sales guy (thanks, Roger!) to make our final decisions on our installation, but we had to request that meeting as we were sitting in the waiting room. 

2.  Make sure you understand how the installation will be completed on the inside of your RV.  Our installer, Mitch, walked us through the optimal installation, which included drilling holes in our closet and possibly in our clothes cabinet. We okay'd either one, and Mitch called us to confirm before he started drilling. He did a fantastic job! You'd be hard-pressed to find the equipment in Scoopy. 

3.  If your installation is significant, be prepared to move out of your rig. Since we fulltime, this meant moving out of our home. We were told that we should plan on two nights away, so we made hotel reservations accordingly. They completed the job a day early. 

4.  The AM Solar shop in Eugene is tiny, and they are booked out for months. We made our August appointment in March. Of course, this is high season, but while we were there, they were already setting appointments for December. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to go to Eugene. AM Solar works with installers in other parts of the country and can likely hook you up with an installer closer to you (and perhaps with more availability.) Alternately, if you're handy, you can buy your system directly from AM Solar and install it yourself! (We are not at all handy. )

5.  Talk with your tax adviser. At the time of our installation, there is a significant tax credit available for solar energy in your home, which for us is Scoopy. YAY!

We're excited to go boondocking!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Catching Up

Our return to the Pacific Northwest this summer was planned before we ever hit the road. Our daughter Zoe was graduating from Western Washington University in Bellingham and that was our main destination in June. Afterward, we thought we might head east, but those plans never even got off the ground. After attending the Escapades Rally in Tucson last March, we made the decision to have solar installed on Scoopy's roof. We decided on AM Solar in Eugene, OR, even though their first available appointment wasn't until August 10th.

That meant we would meander in the Pacific Northwest until mid-August, re-visiting our favorite places as we did last year on our maiden voyage. We had a great summer overall, but we were soooo ready to move on. Our solar install was a great success, which I will document in another blog, and we are finally on the move. Currently, we are happily ensconced in the New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca, NV. It's a great place to write an epic blog post - a looooong overdue "Catch Up" entry. When last we left you, we were about to depart for Bakers Hole Campground in West Yellowstone, MT, and that was a while ago. So, grab a cup of coffee, or a refreshing beverage - this is gonna take a while.

West Yellowstone, Montana

Bakers Hole is a first-come, first-served campground about three miles outside of West Yellowstone and its primo location to the park makes it a popular place. We snagged a great space and stayed a week while visiting Yellowstone several times. On the morning of our scheduled departure day, Steven opened the shades and found a sea of white. Unbeknownst to us, it had snowed overnight. We decided to stay put and make another trip into the park. It was a beautiful drive.

Our site at Bakers Hole was secluded and peaceful

What we woke up to on our (rescheduled) departure day

The snow totally transformed Yellowstone National Park

This raven in the snow was looking for a happy meal of his own

Twin Falls, Idaho

We really enjoyed our campsite at Rock Creek, a place overrun by cute little marmots. We also had a lovely day of sightseeing in Twin Falls, but ultimately we spent most of our time trying to reestablish our banking cards. Oddly, both our credit and debit cards were flagged for suspicious activity, then closed and new cards sent out.

We went into Wells Fargo to get a temporary debit card replacement and some cash. I rarely carry cash, but for some reason I decided I needed some, so Steven gave me $200 of the $300 he had just pulled out. About an hour later, while shopping at the mall, my purse was stolen! Goodbye $200 and new debit card. Goodbye favorite (unregistered) Seahawks Starbucks card with $50 on it and favorite shade of red lipstick. Goodbye wads of old receipts and gum wrappers. All in all, the thief walked away with $250 and no working credit cards. I learned a long time ago never to put keys in my purse, so they were in my pocket! Off we went back to Wells Fargo to start the process all over again!

The actual falls in Twin Falls were really impressive

Our site at Rock Creek

Marmots were everywhere!

Joseph, Oregon

We had originally planned to spend a month roaming around eastern Oregon, but that changed significantly when we decided to stay longer in the Teton Valley. The one destination we kept on the itinerary was Joseph, and we are so glad we did. Our campsite was located right in town, walking distance from the restaurants, grocery stores and shops. The scenery was stunning. Snow-covered mountains, lush green fields, grazing livestock, rushing streams and eye-popping red barns. One of the best ways to see it was "riding the rails" on a unique cycling contraption built for use on decommissioned railroad tracks. What a blast! Needless to say, Steven was in photographic heaven, and of course put together a beautiful piece of his favorite sights in the area. Be sure and click the Adobe Slate link below to see his gorgeous photos and get his take on this amazing area.

Nearby Lake Willowa in Joseph

One of Steven's favorite places to visit near our campground

Having a blast on our cycling contraption thingy!

You can see more of Steven's photographs of Joseph by clicking on the image below

Wenatchee, Washington

See that cute little pop up? That's Alfred Hitchpop, our beloved tent trailer in which we traveled far and wide before adopting Scoopy. He now belongs to our friends Rich and Emma who, along with their kids Jonny and Holly, are enjoying their own adventures with Alfred. It was great to catch up with them in Wenatchee at the Confluence State Park.

Alfred Hitchpop and Scoopy finally together!

Camping with the Smith family in Wenatchee

Issaquah, Washington

Steven and I were not terribly excited about returning to our old stompin' grounds on the eastside of Seattle. We felt like we had just left, and it was too soon to return. Also, we were there for annual medical and dental appointments, and there's nothing exciting about that! As it turns out, we had a great time connecting with our friends and visiting favorite places. Though we were only there eight days, we got to see tons of people we love, and we are very grateful for the time we spent together. You guys are all awesome. :)

It's always good to see my posse!

Posse Potluck at Blue Sky RV Park

Carillon Point in Kirkland with friends Amy and Patrick

Drinks, food and good company with Amy and Patrick

Fun at the Ballard Farmers Market with Ken and Lisa

Visiting Theron and Tracey at their Bellevue condo

Catching up with Jennie

A visit with our friends (and Rico C. Suave!) at All Critters

Bellingham, Washington

This is the momentous occasion that brought us back to the Pacific Northwest just 10 months after we hit the road, our daughter Zoe's graduation from Western Washington University. Our entire family, including Zoe's dad Ron and her boyfriend Dan (who also graduated from WWU!) were on hand to celebrate. It was a glorious celebration and we are extremely proud of Zoe!

Congratulations, Zoe!

Celebrating Zoe's graduation with all the family

Anacortes, WA

 and San Juan Island

Fidalgo Bay RV Park in Anacortes has long been one of my favorite campgrounds. It's freakishly expensive, but for a splurge every now and again, it's worth it. There's just something about being right on the water that is so enjoyable. It's fairly close to our friends Dan and Sherrie who live part time in their home on Whidbey Island, and close enough to Bellingham for Zac to join us on his day off. There are also cute park models for rent, so our friends Kris and Glenn drove up from Portland for a couple of days.

The seven of us planned a trip to San Juan Island for a day of mopeding around and it was nearly a complete disaster. Zac left his drivers license at the campground (necessary for renting a moped!), so he had to zoom back to get it before our 9:00 am ferry departed. He arrived back at the port just in time to see us pull away from the dock. Next ferry: 11:00 am.

When we got to "Susie's Mopeds" in Friday Harbor, for various reasons, Sherrie, Steven and Kris did not pass the test required for renting an individual moped. Dan, Glenn and I were good to go. Steven and Kris shared a two person "Scoot Coupe", and Sherrie found a great place in town to read a book and drink wine. (She is such a good sport, I love her so much.) Finally, off we went on our excursion.

We had about an hour and a half before we needed to be back to meet Zac's ferry and get him hooked up with his moped. Naturally, we took a wrong turn, got seriously delayed in a road construction area and missed his arrival. When we finally returned to Friday Harbor and found Zac, he had passed his moped test and was raring to go.

Although the day was a complete cluster in the morning, by the afternoon, we were picnicking at Lime Kiln park and zooming all around the island. It really was loads of fun!

Also, you'll notice in the photo below that Scoopy has finally gotten her own flags. Now she and Toadie can both show their Seahawks Spirit together!  

We loved the water views at Fidalgo Bay!

Proudly flying our Seahawks flags even in the off season!

A fabulous day with Kris & Glenn at Dan & Sherrie's home on Whidbey Island.

Picknicking at Lime Kiln on San Juan Island

Steven and Kris are stylin' in their Scoot Coupe

Waiting for the return ferry at Friday Harbor after a great day

Salt Creek Recreation Area (Joyce, WA)

As we have documented on numerous occasions, Salt Creek is one of our all-time favorite places to stay. Our visits are usually on the heels of having caught up with tasks we needed to accomplish and some pretty heavy socializing. For this reason, we look at it as a time to recharge our batteries. For me, that's hanging out in Scoopy and the park, enjoying the wonderful views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. For Steven, it means grabbing his camera and going exploring. His favorite places this time 'round, aside from Salt Creek itself, were Lake Crescent and the Hoh Rain Forest. 

One of the many gorgeous sunsets at Salt Creek

The beach at Tongue Point near Salt Creek

Beautiful reflections on Crescent Lake

Creepy ancient trees at the Hoh Rain Forest

More creepiness at the Hoh Rain Forest

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria was a last minute addition to the itinerary. We had originally planned to boondock at a casino in Washington, but frankly, it was hotter than we expected and camping without aircons was not my idea of fun. So we scrambled and got reservations at the Lewis and Clarke Golf & RV Park. This was especially surprising considering our reservations included the Fourth of July holiday.

We've been to Astoria a few times before, but mostly it was just driving through to get to Cannon Beach or further south. We've never stayed here before. Each time, we'd pass by the Columbia River Maritime Museum with the amazing U.S. Coast Guard display (photo below) and vowed to visit. What an amazing place with loads of displays and informative videos. It deserves a return visit in the future, because as usual, it is dense with more information that we could take in. Very enjoyable!

One of the fantastic displays at the Columbia River Maritime Museum

The wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park

Cape Disappointment, Washington

We re-entered Washington to spend two days at Cape Disappointment, another favorite campground. Friends Gordon & Juanita and Bill & Diane were also in the area, and we all got together for a walk on the beach and a lovely dinner in town. As always, it's good to meet up with friends on the road.

Tidal pools on Benson Beach in Cape Disappointment

A visit to Long Beach, WA to see friends Gordon, Juanita, Bill and Diane

Steven enjoys the sunset on Benson Beach

Puyallup, Washington

The best part about killing time waiting on an appointment is the spontaneous meet ups with friends who also happen to be in the area. So it was with Rod & Deb Kendall, and we happily made our way to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup to see them. Coincidentally, we arrived on the first anniversary of Scoopy's final liberation from her Puyallup storage facility as we moved in and prepared to launch on our fulltiming journey. In a million years I would have never guessed we'd be back in Puyallup on this day, but we've learned that the best laid plans are written in Jell-o.

At the local farmers market with Deb and Rod

Taidnapam State Park 

and Mount Rainier, Washington

Although it took us several days to figure out how to pronounce Taidnapam and despite the fact that we were just barely able to eek out a tiny cell signal from our Wilson booster, this campground was a great place to completely unwind. We chose it because of its close proximity to Mount Rainier National Park. On our first full day there, I decided to take a well-earned break from reality while Steven spent the day at Rainier NP.

It's always a crap shoot whether or not Rainier will be visible. In fact, it's an on-going joke among Seattleites that it's usually a big event when "the mountain is out". On this day, however, Steven returned with his head hung low and a sad tale to tell. Overcast skies kept even a fleeting glimpse of Rainier at bay. To compound matters, the visitor center was having power issues and most of the interactive displays were off. Even the gift store was operating under a few generator-operated light bulbs.

The next day, Steven and I decided to go together and take another stab at seeing the illusive rock. The gods were smiling on us this time and, although she was only visible for a short while, we did get to see Rainier's peak and grab some photos. Even the visitor's center was back up and running. What a difference a day makes!

While at our campsite, we had a daily visitor. The bird in the photo below basically hung out on our windshield wiper and mirrors and sang all day. That was all well and good but we did not appreciate the fact that he also did his business all over the front of our rig. It got so bad, we had to put plastic bags around the side mirrors to discourage that kind of behavior. Who knew such a little bird could make such a mess??

Beautiful sunset just outside Taidnapam State Park

Amazing mountain views at Mount Rainier National Park

The mountain is out!

Our little friend was full of (berry-colored) sh*t

Sherwood, Oregon

When we hit the road last year, we had three kids in college. It was a given that at some point one of them would need us, and we were always prepared to park and fly at a moment's notice. And so it was with Tara (See San Diego entry below). We cancelled reservations we had made in two Oregon state parks and started looking for a place where I could hunker down while Steven flew to San Diego for nearly three weeks. At the time, we were set up at the Elks Lodge in Kelso, WA, but I wanted to move closer to our friends in Portland, just in case. 

As is typical in the PWN, every commercial campground was booked solid, other than a day or two here and there. Not wanting to move Scoopy to another campground by myself (something I had never done before!) we finally decided to take a ride and go see the Elks Lodge in Sherwood. Since they are first-come, first-served, we wanted to talk to the host and make sure there was room for me. 

There was, so we settled in for a couple of days before Steven flew to San Diego. Once on my own, I met my neighbors and really began to feel comfortable at the Sherwood Elks. Then came the heat wave, and OMG. Our Progressive electrical management system shut down power to the rig the second the voltage dropped below a safe level, which was pretty much all day. It was 104 degrees outside and all around me aircons were blowing and going. I decided to bypass the EMS and plug in directly (yes, I know). I ran inside to see the voltage sitting at 96 volts, barely registering on the meter. Holy crap! I flew back outside to unplug and that's the way it was for the next eleven days. I kept all my shades down and front curtain drawn and lived in the dark. For a few hours when the heat became unbearable, I ran the generator and both aircons. Ahhhhhh.

I must give full props to Lynda, the camphost, and to the Lodge powers that be. They had an electrician come out to see if there was anything that could be done to increase the voltage. There wasn't, so I decided I would have to move on my own after all. Another heatwave was on the way and I was concerned for Scoopy's safety and my comfort. I moved to Pheasant Ridge RV Park in Wilsonville, just a few miles away. And yes, I hooked everything up all by myself!! (Except Toadie and the Direct TV dish. Glenn helped me bring those over to the new campground. Thanks Glenn!)

In spite of all this, the Sherwood Elks remains my favorite Lodge to date. I had a great view, but mostly I had great neighbors who took it upon themselves to help me when needed and check in on me throughout my stay. If I had to be on my own, I could not have found a better place. I was also quite fortunate to be just a few miles from our friends Kris & Glenn, who's company I enjoyed on several occasions. 

This little 12v fan saved me when things really heated up.

My view from behind Scoopy at the Elks Lodge. Beautiful.

San Diego, California

Tara moved to San Diego last summer and it was the first time she ventured out by herself. Living in a new state and starting college, not to mention all of the responsibilities of adult life, got to be a little overwhelming for our fledgling. While I babysat Scoopy in Sherwood, Steven flew to California to help her out. It was a nice mixture of productivity and quality dad/daughter time.

Sharing a coke with Tara in San Diego

See Steven's Adobe Slate story about San Diego by clicking the image below:

Coburg, Oregon

After Steven's return from California, we began our trek to Eugene with a stop in Coburg. We returned to Armitage Park, the go-to place for many whose rigs are scheduled for annual maintenance at Cummins Northwest. Scoopy's odometer was about to hit 140,000 so this was the time the techs had to go through our closet to reach part of the engine. Since everything had to come out, we figured this was as good a time as any to clean and purge. And we didn't stop there, we also cleared out the bays. Once again, the folks at Cummins gave Scoopy a clean bill of health. One issue the techs did find was that the engine hatch door was dangling by a thread. If we had taken off down the highway, it would have likely broken loose and bounced off Toadie. We had no idea and kind of dodged a bullet on that one.

Laying it all out at Armitage Park. It was good to purge!

And Finally... Steven pulled together his favorite shots from our visit to Washington and collected them in yet another Slate story that you can see by clicking on the image below:

Congratulations, you have reached the end of our story in a big fat nutshell :) It was a huge catchup for us and we are vowing to keep up on our blogging from here on out.

As always, we enjoy reading your comments. Operators are standing by!