Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wrapping up 2016 & Happy New Year!

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I didn't intend to stop blogging at the end of our Amazon stint and over the holidays, but it sure turned out that way. Let's catch up!

On Friday, December 2nd at the end of our 10-hour shift, we were gathering our things from our locker and noticed folks looking at their phones checking their Email and gathering to chat. Before we even got out the front door, we found out that HR had sent an Email to CamperForce folks asking if any of us would be interested in Early Release. Leaving early typically results in the loss of our bonus ($1 per hour worked) at the end of the season. But this time, HR was making it known that those who chose Early Release would receive the bonus. It seems they over-hired this year. It took us all of about a nano-second to say OH, HELL YES!

The final Fitbit stats totaling all our steps during our Amazon experience.

By 10:45 am on Sunday, we were done, along with about 70 others. While we were excited to get on the road, we had a couple of things pending (like packages we were expecting and a doctor's appointment for me) before we could leave. We also wanted to say a proper goodbye to the people we met and spent time with. On Wednesday, December 7th, we left Campbellsville and drove all the way to Tom Sawyer Campground in West Memphis, AR, on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi.

Scoopy at Tom Sawyer RV Park on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River.

We caught up with Jodee & Bill Gravel and while the boys headed into Memphis to catch a movie, Jodee and I went on the hunt for a 6" springform pan. We have both recently purchased an Instant Pot, and for Steven's upcoming birthday, we were going to make him a cheesecake. We also cooked a few other dishes, and had both pots cooking away. We named them Thelma and Louise. :) 

Jodee drinking Irish Whiskey and directing me in the making of the cheesecake.

Tipanic and Tessa get acquainted!

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Thelma and Louise looking spiffy along the banks of the Mississippi River.

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Delicious birthday cheesecake made with the incredible Instant Pot!

We had mostly gorgeous weather and it was a great place to relax and unwind from our long days at Amazon.

While Jodee and Bill (with Tessa & Louise) took off for New Orleans, Steven and I headed to Maumelle, just outside Little Rock. We spent another few days along the river, relaxing, before finally heading to Live Oak Ranch.

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Spectacular sunrise at Maumelle Park in Arkansas.

It was great to be back to the ranch with my family. Steven and I had managed to shop for and wrap the majority of our gifts before we got there, so we jumped right in and got the tree and decorations up in the great room in anticipation of Zac and Tara's arrival. Zoe, as always, was unable to join us as she works in retail and was unable to take time off.

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Lots of fun time with family at the Ranch in Texas!

We had a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner, but after that, things went downhill fast as nearly everyone got sick. And by sick, I mean really, really sick. On the afternoon of New Year's Eve, I took both of my parents to the Emergency Room, where my Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia and my Mom with bronchitis. Dad was hospitalized for two days before being send home to recuperate. I stayed in town to be with them, but also to recover myself, as Steven seemed to have escaped infection and he wanted to keep it that way.

Recovery is ongoing, but the bulk of it all took up the first two or three weeks of the New Year with doctor's appointments and lots of rest. Fortunately, we are all on the mend. Dad is regaining his energy and Mom and I are still getting rid of our annoying coughs.

Linda and her Mom in Abilene making a delicious halibut meal.

After a few days on antibiotics, Steven allowed me to return to Scoopy. We got busy and did the big purge that we do every year to get rid of things we don't need. This year, the Vita-Mix got put in storage, as did a few pots and dishes. Somehow, I keep buying these things and end up storing them.

In the middle of our yearly purge!

Now, Scoopy has been winterized, I think for the first time ever. The slides are in, her fridge is empty and all power has been turned off. For the next month, Steven and I will be traveling in Europe. As I type these words, I'm sitting in the Starbucks near Steven's childhood home outside of Dublin, soaking up the free Wifi in order to bring you this blog. It is my intention to keep up with posts and share our travels with you, so thanks for following along! 

We are in Dublin! This is the closest we’ve come to fish and chips (haven’t eaten them yet).

NEXT UP: Our adventures in the Emerald Isle.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Devils Tower


One of my favorite movies as a kid was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An odd-shaped mountain in northeastern Wyoming was featured heavily in the story and it stayed with me throughout my adulthood. I’m not sure if it would have been as mysterious had it not been for the movie but for me as a photographer, it was high on my bucket list of things to shoot.

After our spectacular visit to Alaska this year, Linda and I thought that anything in the Lower 48 would pale in comparison. Aside from an extended stay at our our property in Idaho, our main mission was to get to Campbellsville in Kentucky for our seasonal job at Amazon. So, with that in mind, I had kind of resigned myself to a fairly mundane few months of just getting to that destination.

Linda is the planner extraordinaire and her specialty is fitting a square peg in a round hole. What I mean by that is she will look at a short period of time and figure out an epic trip inside those restraints. One day she blurted out, “I figured out our trip!” When I hear those words, I always get excited. Her genius surfaced again this time when she showed me how we could fit a trip to Devils Tower into our itinerary! I couldn’t wait.

Devils Tower really lends itself to black and white for extra drama!

Here’s a little information: Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument and stands 867 feet from base to summit. It is sacred to local Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The mountain has had various names given by these tribes over the years including Bear’s House, Bear’s Lair and Home of Bears.

Longhorns posed for us and then came around with a tin cup looking for tips.

In 1875 an explorer named Col. Richard Irving Dodge asked his obviously inept interpreter what the local name was and he mistranslated it as Bad God’s Tower. This eventually morphed to Devil’s Tower and, when it was designated a National Monument, the apostrophe was dropped. So now you know.

This was one of the nicest campsites we have been to and the views were amazing!

The campground where we stayed lies just inside the main entrance. Fall had taken hold in all its beauty and we found a campsite with a great view of the mountain. Because we were at the edge of the season (the park closes in mid-October), there were few campers about and it was a wonderfully restful time for us.

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Fall colors were everywhere and our deer friends were out enjoying it all!

There is a loop around the base of DT that’s an easy walk with plenty of views of the mountain itself and the surrounding landscape. DT’s shape changes drastically according to wherever you happen to be on that loop, making it a really interesting walk. The first day we attempted to get to the base, we found ourselves on a somewhat strenuous ascent that left us completely out of breath! When we finally got up to the trail, it spit us right out at the Visitors Center! The next day, with newly-acquired wisdom, we drove up and walked the flat and paved loop trail which was a heck of a lot easier!

We found the trail less traveled the first day. The fog and rain added a nice touch!

Almost to the base, I promise!

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The views of the surrounding landscape made this strenuous hike worth it.

There are many trails in the area, including one that goes right through Prairie Dog Town. These little critters are fascinating to watch. They are so named because of their bark-like sounds when sounding danger and, believe me, they always seem to be in danger! The barking and screeching never stops. They have created an elaborate network of interconnecting tunnels and every few seconds, they are either ducking inside or heads are popping up.

Prairie Dog cuteness.

We had a really great time here and, although it was a brief visit, it made a lasting impression. Our list of “must return” places is growing and this is one of our favorites.