Saturday, September 14, 2013

Day 140--September 14, 2013

          Well folks, we are less than 100 miles from home.  Once we get there we have a million things to take care of to get our lives back to normal.  So, I wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed sharing our adventures (good, bad or border partrol) with you.  I looked forward to seeing your LIKES and comments.  They made me feel a little less disconnected from the world I'd left behind.  I thank you for that.
           Our final stop was in Biloxi, Mississippi. We didn't do bad, but didn't do great either.  Richard said we need to just send them a check twice a year and save money on fuel and campgrounds.  He might be right.
Part of the 26 mile beach stretching from
Biloxi to Gulfport, Mississippi

The Beau Rivage where I left most of my money. 


       Final statistics:
     Trip started April 28 and ended September 14.    
     Approximately 14,500 miles.  BTW that was for the bus only.  That didn't count any mileage we added to the tow vehicle.
      Approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel.
      Average 7.4 miles per gallon.
      10, 675 views on this blog.
      I give thanks to God for being with us and watching over us.  With us, He had his hands full.  Bless his heart.
      I took a ton of pictures, and I tried to post as many as I could to try to show all of you some of the beauty of Alaska.  However, none of the pictures I took moved me the way the following one did.

  For all intents and purposes, I'm home.

Oh, yeah and another way I know we are home--sheets of driving rain hurling itself into our windshield.  Lightning illuminating the dark sky for miles around.  Some cars pulled off the side of the road.  Hazard lights flashng everywhere.  It couldn't have been a more perfect display to welcome me home.  Yes, I'm home.

Until next time,


Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 138--September 12, 2013

Confessions of Things That Go On in
Our Bedroom in the Middle of the Night 

          For the first twenty-eight years, Richard and I slept on a queen-size mattress.  As with many couples, we are complete opposites.  I am hot natured, and he is always cold.  He likes a hard mattress.  I want it to be soft.  He wants the heater on.   I want the a/c on.
          He is a lark.  I am an owl. As I said, we are complete opposites.
          During those twenty-eight years, Richard would turn over in bed about every three hours.  Nothing really wrong with that except, he always turns the same direction.  And with each roll, he would take the sheet and thin blanket with him until he was wrapped like a dead body in a rug.  If I had a dollar for every time I was faced with this situation, I could be sitting pretty (or in this case, laying pretty).
          Many, many nights I would get out of bed, walk to Richard’s side, grab the edge of the blanket, put my foot on the side of the bed, and pull with all my might.  I’d unroll him like a Venetian blind.  Funny thing is, he seldom ever woke up.  Believe me, he would have awaken quickly if he had known how appealing that dead body in a rug sounded to me.
          Somewhere around the twenty-ninth year of our wedded bliss, I developed back trouble (probably from having to unroll him), so we had to do something different with the mattress.  We tried a couple different ones, but we were like Goldilock’s bears.  This one was too hard.  This one was too soft.
          Our solution came in the form of twin beds put together inside a king-size frame.  I have a Craftmatic adjustable bed, and Richard’s is one of those thick foam jobbies.  He got his from F. Flintstone Rock Quarry and Mattress Sales.
          During this whole trip to Alaska, Richard’s side of the bed has been made up with a fitted sheet, top sheet, twin-size heating blanket (heated almost every night) and a lightweight coverlet.  Me?  Bottom sheet, top sheet.  Good to go.
          When we get out of bed in the morning, the room looks like a war zone.  My top sheet is tucked in the crevice between our tight-fitting mattresses.  The heating blanket and the coverlet are twisted into a ball and are lying on the floor at the foot of Richard’s side of the bed.
          We have the same conversation EVERY morning.
Richard:  What do you do during the night to cause this mess?
Me:  I don’t do that.  Remember I never have covers.  That’s why I sleep in long flannel nightgowns at all time.
Richard:  Well, I’m always cold.  I wouldn’t kick off my blanket.  It has to be you.
Me:  They are on your side of the bed.  It has to be you.
          We really are puzzled by this.  Well, the other night, I’d gone to the bathroom about 3:00am, I was just making my way around the foot of the bed, when Richard sat straight up, literally rolled the heating blanket and coverlet into a ball and pitched it to the floor, missing me by inches.  He lay back down.  He was sound asleep.
          I was so excited you would have thought I’d discovered the secrets of the Pyramids.  Of course, Richard didn’t believe me.  That’s okay because I saw it with my own eyes and even I didn’t believe it.  LOL
          Oh, and by the way, he quit rolling inside the covers when he started using a breathing apparatus for sleep apnea.  It’s like a tether that bulks at that rolling thing. 
Until next time,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 137--September 11, 2013

          I was at work at the body shop.  Ryan was stationed in NewPort News, Virginia.  He called me and asked if I had the television on in the office.  When I told him no, he told me about the first plane going into the first tower.  Everyone in the office gathered around the television.  I remember how eerily quiet they all were as they watched the horrific events unfold.  I went home, turned on the television, and I don't think I left that spot for about four days. 
          There are several events in our history that I, along with many others, will never forget where they were when so many people's lives changed forever.
          I had an earache and had stayed home from school and was watching the old Jeopardy with Art Fleming when the announcement came that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  A few days later, I was sitting in a purple recliner in our living room after having watched the news for the past two days when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
          I was painting our bedroom on Easy Street, when the Columbine shooting took place.  Richard's sister was in a nursing home, and I was the one who made sure she was taken care of in her last weeks of brain cancer.  While the news coverage was showing the students running from the building with their hands on their heads, the nurse called to say Helen was having some problems and really needed me there.  I remember feeling like I wasn't sure I could put one foot in front of the other, let alone drive twenty miles to the nursing home.  I did, and being there comforting Helen helped ease some of the shock of what was going on hundreds of miles away.
           There are so many other times we all will remember where we were: 
The day Elvis died.
The Oklahoma Bombing
The Challenger explosion
I will never forget.

Let me ask the same question Alan Jackson asked--Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Until next time,

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day 133--September 7, 2013

Terry Bison Ranch Part #2
          Richard and I have made about 5-6 stops at the ranch.  By now, we have seen most of it.  One time when we were there, before the train was built, we loaded onto an old school bus with the folding doors.  In the middle of the pasture, surrounded by bison, the driver got out, left the door open, and fed the animals some kind of pellets.  While he was doing this, a giant bison came to the door.  He very much wanted to join us, but his head was waaayyy too big to fit through the door.  Since that was the only door, and the windows only come down a little at the top, there was no way I could 1.) climb out the window  2.) find the courage to bail out into the rest of the herd 3.) nor would fit through the window.  So, I sat patiently like the other wide-eyed people to see what would happen next.
          Finally, after pushing against the bus and rocking it a little, the bull decided he didn’t like the way we smelled.  He snorted one good time and walked back to the guy with the pellets.  I think some of his snort got on me.  That was fun.
          A few years later, we did get to ride the train, and the only thing I remember about that was the cowboy guide who looked like he just stepped off a Harlequin cover.  Holy cow was he a cutie.  I have children older than him, but I kept wondering how inappropriate would it be to ask him to remove his shirt.  I didn’t though.
          They have a great restaurant there.  It is named the Senator’s Steak House.  It’s huge and all done in log cabin/western motif.  They serve the finest bison I’ve ever eaten.  I had prime rib one time and I never forgot it.  This time I had bison short ribs, loaded baked potato, and yummy grilled veggies.
          One of the first times we ate there, they had Rocky Mountain Oysters on the menu.  I had an idea of what they were, but I didn’t want to miss out on it being something different and maybe discover a great new recipe.  I asked the young lady what they were, and she excused herself and went to the kitchen, I assume to ask.  She came back and with the straightest face ever she said, “They are buffalo balls.”  At which point I must have made a bad face because she became very defensive and informed me, “Well, they come with horseradish sauce.”  I tried so hard not to laugh at her.  Tried, but didn’t succeed.
          Do you know what advice a cow gives?  Turn the udder cheek and mooove on.
          Do you know why they fired the bowlegged cowboy?   He couldn’t keep his calves together.  Just a little cowboy humor.  Very little, I know.
          When I decided to write a sweet Southern romance, I immediately wanted it to take place on a dude/working ranch, but really wanted it to have more of a Southern feel.  So, I placed Katy and Tyler’s story on a guest ranch in Georgia.  In the process of developing the Brass Rooster Guest Ranch, I’ve pulled from some of the things I’d learned about Terry Bison Ranch.  I have incorporated a few of the activities into the first book, and I hope to expand on them if I sell more books in the series. 
          Dixie Cowboy is scheduled for release by Bell Bridge Books in October, 2013.
In the meantime, here’s a blurb—
          A dude ranch in the Peach State? A pretty loan officer who ditches her job rather than foreclose on the family that’s run that ranch for generations? A handsome southern he-man who needs an office assistant? How can a city girl resist a Dixie cowboy? Katlyn Mays gets more than she bargained for when her rebellion leads not only to a wonderful new home but also into the arms of Tyler Davis. He doesn’t suspect that her father is the banker who intends to take everything he loves, including her.
Until next time,

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 132--September 6, 2013

          Last night, we stayed at a place I’ve always enjoyed visiting.  The first time I came here was in 1997.  We were on our way to Alaska with Howard and Mary Jane.  They had been here before and thought we’d enjoy it.  They were so right.
          It is the Terry Bison Ranch in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  It’s a place where you can get up close and personal with Bison, camels, and llamas.  Ron Thiel originally bought the ranch, and it is now owned by his son, Don.
          During the building process which started in 1992 and ran until the ranch’s official opening, they served chuck wagon dinners on Friday and Saturday nights, and the staff was made up of volunteers with the exception of the cook, but only during summer months.  In May of 1994, the ranch opened full time.
Old chuck wagon

Corrals for the animals.  There is a
catwalk that goes by some of the animal enclosures
so you can get close to them.

I'll tell you the truth.  Roy Rogers doesn't
have a thing on my cowboy.
          The ranch is one of the largest Bison ranches in North America.  They have 2,500 bison roaming on 27,500 acres.  Only 40 bison are where guests can see them.  On the Terry Rail Express guests can travel to the middle of the show herd.  The track is made from Union Pacific railroad ties and is 2.4 miles long.  Ron Thiel built the train using different scraps and pieces from old army trucks and other machinery.
          There is so much to tell about this place, that I’m having a hard time keeping this blog short enough not to bore anyone, but here a few things I want you to know:
          Buffalo and bison are not the same thing.  They look alike, but the main difference is where they are located.  Bison roam the land in North and South America.  Buffalo are located in Africa and South Asia.  Who knew?!?!?
          The second thing is that bison meat is some of the best tasting meat I’ve ever eaten.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, other than rattlesnake, I’ve eaten almost every meat available.  Yes, even a bug.  Granted it was 1967, and I was on a motorcycle and had my mouth open.  But I digress.
          Back at the bison—did you know that one pound of ground beef (90% lean, 10% fat) has 798 calories and 90.7g of protein?  Ground bison has 494 calories and 96.7 protein.  There are 45.4g of fat in one pound of ground beef and only 9.5g in one pound of ground bison.
          Something I have noticed on the many times I’ve eaten bison meat is that it doesn’t double in size the more you chew like beef does.  It almost feels like it is dissolving in your mouth.
          History of the ranch prior to Ron Thiel buying it.
          F. E. Warren was the first Territorial Governor of Wyoming.  He purchased the ranch from Charles Terry in 1885.  The ranch was the southern headquarters of the Warren Livestock Company.  They ran sheep and cattle and also bred and raised Sheepdogs, which were nationally acclaimed.
          The story goes that F. E. Warren came to Wyoming when he was 23 (1868).  It is said he had 50 cents and no job.  He took several jobs like picking up nails for A.R. Converse.  Later, when he ran for Senate, he was jokingly referred to as the “Great American Nail Picker.”
          Later, he and Converse became partners in the mercantile business.  Warren Mercantile Company became the largest supplier of furniture, hardware and carpet in Wyoming.  Warren Livestock owed 3,000 cattle and 60,000 sheep by 1888.  By 1890, Warren was the richest person in Wyoming.
          He was elected as Governor in October 1890, but resigned in November to serve as one of the first Senators from Wyoming, where he served for 35 years.  President Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the Terry Ranch as a guest of the Warren’s in 1903 and 1910.
          Another famous visitor to the Terry Ranch was General John “Blackjack” Pershing.  When Warren first met Pershing, he was a lowly captain.  Pershing fell in love with Warren’s daughter, but he was determined that his daughter should marry nothing less than a General.  Pershing made Brigadier General almost immediately.
          Pershing and Warren’s daughter married and had four children.  Mrs. Pershing and three of their children died in a fire at the Presidio military base in San Francisco.  Their only surviving son worked at Terry Ranch on his summer vacations from Harvard.
          Well, enough for the history lesson.  I have some fun stuff to tell you, but I’ll save it for tomorrow night.  This ranch has been in my heart for many years.  It only stands to reason that it is an inspiration for my next book, Dixie Cowboy being released by Bell Bridge Book in October.
Until next time,

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 131--September 5, 2013

          Today our travels took us from Evanston, Wyoming to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We passed a monument for Abraham Lincoln in a rest area at the highest point of the Lincoln Highway.  There are very few places we've traveled that haven't left an impression on me, but this area of the West is special.
          At the risk of being thought crazy (I am fully aware that ship has sailed) but I love looking at the rock formations and pick out things that look like other things. I'm positive I saw Granny Clampett carved in the side of one of the rock formations.  I also love watching cloud formations.  So, today I had a great time looking at very differently shaped clouds.  Here are some of the sights we saw today.  Please keep in mind all but Abe himself was taken by me out the side window of the bus at 75 mph.  I don't think they turned out to bad.
Abe at the highest summit of Lincoln Highway

Clouds and rock formations along the way.

The field below these windswept clouds is filled with sagebrush bushes

Some have yellow flowers on them

Tomorrow night I'll tell you about the place where we are camping tonight.  It is very dear to my heart.
Until next time,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 130--September 4, 2013

       The past two days have been travel days.  The weather's been really nice.  No rain.  Lots of sunshine.  We've been through Washington, Idaho, Utah and now we are in Wyoming.  The scenery was beautiful.
Somewhere in Utah

Taken from bus window at 75 MPH in Utah.

          We came into Wyoming on I-80 and then changed to the business route of that road to get to our campground.  It turns out that this part of the interstate is part of the Lincoln Highway.       Okay, I admit it—I never heard of the Lincoln Highway.  So, I owe this blog to my friend Marian Sutton.  She and her husband, Bobby/George just spent some time here in the same campground.  She told me that there was a celebration going on for the Lincoln Highway.  Of course, I had to look it up.  I found it pretty interesting.

          The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental improved highway for automobiles to cross the US.  It was thought of in 1912 and formerly dedicated in 1913.  At the time of the original dedication, the highway went from Time Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  The first officially recorded length of the entire route in 1913 was 3,389 miles.

The Lincoln Highway was our first national memorial to President Lincoln.  The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. wasn’t dedicated until 1922.  The highway brought prosperity to the cities and towns it passed through.  It became known as “The Main Street Across America.”

     The Lincoln Highway Association, which was originally established in 1913 to plan, promote, and sign the highway, was re-formed in 1992 and is now dedicated to promoting and preserving the road.  The Lincoln Highway is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Richard and I spent a few minutes looking at the photos of old automobiles on the highway.  That was fun. 

Until next time,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 128--September 2, 2013

          Through the years of traveling in a motorhome, we have met many people and have even continued to be friends with some of them.  Bette and Gordon Sprague, Bob and Sandy Thomas, and Arlene and Ken Caspersen to name a few.
          When you are traveling through Alaska, since there are only a few roads, it is not unusual to run into the same people several times along the way.  In 2008, we met Arlene and Ken Caspersen along with a few more couples traveling with them.  They were so friendly, and we got to know them.  They invited us to stop by their place in Arlington, Washington on our way out of Alaska.  We spent several days with them and had a really good time.
          This year, we gave them a call the day before we left Canada.  They invited us to stop by.  When we got there, we were very surprised to find several motorhomes, campers and a lot of people.  As it turns out, every year there are a group of people Arlene and Ken have met while camping, just like they met us and they get together.
          It was dark when we arrived, but they had a big campfire going and everyone was so welcoming.  They’ve been meeting once a year for many years.  One of the many fun parts for me was most of the ladies had read my books.  They were so complimentary and really liked Bertie.
          Saturday morning the men fixed a huge breakfast of bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, home fries, fried and scrambled eggs.  Everything was so good.
          Saturday evening, Judd Wilson (Mayor of Concrete, Washington) headed up a shrimp boil and served excellent brisket he had smoked.  Side dishes were added and what a feast we had.  After eating, the campfire was lit and we all sat around talking and laughing more than I have in a while.

Shrimp boil
          This morning, before we left, Arlene fixed breakfast casseroles and a few of the ladies had made sticky buns which were soooo good.
You cannot imagine how hard we laughed at
Christie (the mayor's wife) as she blew up the
water feature of the Slip and Slide
          There’s a picture of the ones we were able to round up.
Most of the gang at Arlene and Ken's
Great fun people

 It was such a fluke that we happened to be in the area at the time.  It was a Labor Day celebration Richard and I won’t forget any time soon.
          We left shortly after breakfast.  Our next stop was to visit friends who moved from Jacksonville a couple of years ago to Puget Sound.  Then tomorrow we were scheduled to go to Roseburg, Oregon to visit with Richard’s half-brother’s wife, Virginia.  She lives in an assisted living facility.  I talked to her last week to let her know we would be there this week.  Before we got to the turn off to go to Denise and David’s house, Virginia’s daughter Diane called to let us know her mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep.
          Over the last few years, we have had the privilege of spending time with Virginia (Ginger) and her family.  She was such an interesting and energetic lady.  Before she slowed down, she would dress up as a clown and visit hospitals and nursing homes.  At home, I have several pictures of her in her costume.  For her 70th birthday, her family flew her to Jacksonville to spend time with us.  We had a great time learning about Richard’s long lost family.  She was truly a funny and remarkable lady.  I’m so happy I got to talk to her shortly before she passed.
          Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Diane and her brothers and the families as they go through this difficult time.
Until next time,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 126--August 31, 2013

          As we started out today, I knew that when I went to sleep tonight, I would be back in the lower 48 states and truly going home.  The whole day was perfect.  The roads were great (curvy, steep sides, but great).  The sun was bright and only a few puffy clouds hung in the blue skies.

          Suddenly, (uh oh, one of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, in his list of helpful things writers should know, said never use the word suddenly, but since I can’t think of another word to use, I’ll stick with it).  Suddenly, I was struck with a case of melancholy.  Yes, I missed my kids, my grandkids, my friends, my house, being able to dial a phone without having to spin around in a circle three times, spit through a V in my fingers, and then climb to the rooftop of the bus to get to hear someone on the other end of the phone say Wher . . . you . . . home . . . while I chanted the familiar saying “Can you hear me now?”

          Yes, I am ready to go home, but it was kind of sad leaving behind the Last Frontier.  Alaska is a special place.  Its beauty takes my breath away.  The down-to-earth, back-to-nature lifestyle Alaskan’s live amazes me.  One of their mottos is The Land That God Forgot, but I don’t think he forgot it.  I think he just got it perfect the first time.  (Forgive me if I’ve already said that in a previous blog.)

          I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend almost 4 months in the Northwestern part of North America.  The neatest part is that as we went into the area, the last snowfall had only been about 2 weeks before we arrived.  The rivers and streams were swollen with rushing water from the winter thaw.  The sun didn’t sleep much during the first couple of months. 

          Along the roadways and up the mountainsides nature put on a beautiful show.  They were alive with wild roses, yarrow, and the fireweed had started blooming at the bottom of its stalk.  I was in Alaska long enough to watch the blooms climb the stalks, becoming more beautiful every day until it reached the top.  With the signal that summer was over, it was time for us to leave. 

          All the way out of the interior of our 49th state, I felt like I was leaving home and had to do a check list.

          Rivers and streams empty of rushing water except for thin rivulets flowing through the rocky beds and dead trees that at one time had been totally covered by the water.  CHECK!
          Fireweed and yarrow dead and brown.  CHECK! 

          Nights no longer dusky, but truly dark for anywhere from 8-10 hours.  CHECK! 

          Bears feeding on salmon had come to a complete stop.  They are full and ready for a long winter’s nap. CHECK! 

          Call Bob at Motel 8 and ask him to leave the light on just in case we are fortunate enough to go back someday.  CHECK!
          I’m not sure how well my pictures have shown you the beauty of this area, but as we got closer to the border to come into Washington State, it dawned on me that the lower section of British Columbia and Washington are no slouch in the amazing scenery department.  Here are a few of the pictures I took from the side bus window at about 60 mph or about 90 km hanging on a mountainside on a winding road.  Hope it give you at least some idea of what it looks like.
River bed with rocks and dead trees which were
totally covered with water at the beginning of

British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia, Canada

Train that followed the river and went in and out of small
tunnels for many miles.

Until next time,