Monday, January 20, 2014

Year Three Retrospective - 2011

Hi all, Dianne here.  

I still haven't figured out how to move the left panel off the map, so to view what's hidden underneath, you can slide the map to the right out from under the panel.

a - coach house taped off a - coach house dry wall boxes in mh for ch
Year three began with the interior construction of our little coach house at Retama Village.  After stepping around boxes of faucets, sinks and other items in our motor home, we were thrilled when the coach house was finally complete.  It was an exciting day when our POD arrived from Indiana and all our furnishings could be put into place.
     a - pod arrival        a - meeting bob and linda
We also finally met Bob and Linda, whose blog I’d been reading for years (their blog "Because We Can" gave me the idea to sell everything and start fulltiming).  Now they are not only good friends, but next-door neighbors here at Retama!
        a - baby bandido     a - bandido puppy
The loss of our beloved Jasper (click on link to read our tribute to him) in January left a gaping wound in our hearts.  It was healed only by one of the best decisions we ever made, when we adopted Bandido from Cinderella Pet Rescue.  He lightened our hearts and has made us laugh at least once every day since then!

Kaia and Amanda at the San Antonio Riverwalk
Our daughters and granddaughter visited us in Texas that spring.  Our time together was short, so we flew them to San Antonio and spent our time in the Texas Hill Country, showing them our favorite spots.

Robyn on the longhorn steer at Luckenbach

      a - chuck and cindy bikes      agility bandido and sophie
Our Indiana camping buddies Chuck and Cindy and their dog Sophie (the luckiest dog in Fishers, Indiana) made the l-o-n-g drive to Texas for a visit.  Just a reminder, I’m using smaller photos for these retrospective blogs, but you can click on the small photos for an enlarged view. 

Ancient Pictographs

In May it was getting hot in Mission, so it was time to begin our summer travel adventure.  We headed to Big Bend National Park with a quick stop at Seminole Canyon State Park in West Texas to view ancient pictographs along the way.

       a - hike santa elena canyon      a - painted buntings
We sure didn’t beat the heat, as it was mighty hot at Big Bend.  What we didn’t miss was the spring bird migration.  We saw whole flocks of indigo buntings and, as soon as they left, whole flocks of painted buntings (a bird I’d always wanted to see).

Davis Mountain State Park was our next stop.  The spring bird migration continued, and I saw more new and different birds there than ever before.  We attended a special dinner program at the nearby McDonald Observatory, saw the eerie Marfa lights one evening, and also toured Fort Davis, home of the famous buffalo soldiers.

      a - fire palo duro      a - extreme wildfire danger sign
This was the spring of terrible wildfires in Texas, and it seemed everywhere we went that spring there were fires burning or charred remains.  We were even evacuated from Palo Duro State Park as a fire began there just as we finished setting up camp for an expected 10-day stay.  To review that blog entry, click here:  Texas Burning

      a - scotts bluff hike 2   a - scotts bluff hike 
         a - oregon trail a - nebraska campground
We made our way north with a stop at Scott’s Bluff National Monument in the hills of western Nebraska.  What a pleasant and beautiful surprise!
     a - bison a - bandido at pinnacles a - donkey
One of our main stops this summer was Custer State Park in western South Dakota.  To see more of our adventures there, click on the keyword “Custer State Park” on the left panel of this blog to bring up those entries.  Our drive on the wildlife loop was a day we’ll always remember!

     a - campsite devil's tower      a - hike devil's tower
We made a quick jog west to Wyoming to visit Devil’s Tower National Monument, another beautiful and favorite spot.  Spring was a great time to visit both Custer State Park and Devil’s tower, for we got to see baby bison and baby prairie dogs.
                                        a - baby prairie dogs

Time to head east.  We had visited Custer, Devil’s Tower, and Badlands National Park in a pop-up camper when our girls were little.  We had always wanted to go back, so this was the summer to retrace that trip.
           a - badlands 2      a - badlands
The badlands were even more beautiful than we’d remembered.  We hadn’t been able to hike there with small children, but this time we took some awesome hikes and saw parts of the park we’d missed before.

Once we made it to eastern South Dakota, we headed straight north.  Our plan was to spend some time in the lake region of Minnesota, another spot we’d only heard of.  Well, we didn’t see much of it; it rained the whole time we were there, and when it wasn’t raining we had to literally cover ourselves head-to-foot and run the dogs outside to do their business because of the worst mosquitos we’d ever experienced.  We really did wear this mosquito net on our heads the few times we ventured outside!  (gloves, too).
                                      a - mosquito net minnesota
I’m sure it’s a lovely area and we just timed it wrong.  We might give it another try if we’re in that region again. 

       a - dianne at museum duluth      a - r d b & c lake superior
One of the best surprises of that trip was our time in Duluth, Minnesota.  We were parked at a boat marina right near the famous lift bridge.  Huge cargo ships went past day and night, and the lights of Duluth sparkled on the hillside out our front windows at night.  Our new friends Jim and Sue (who had just purchased a home at Retama) spend their summers there.  We met up, and they graciously showed us the highlights, helped us avoid road construction, and even took us out on their boat in Lake Superior.
a - campsite duluth
Our camp site at the marina
                       a - dogs on boat duluth a - lola b jim and sue

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was our spot over the Fourth of July holiday.  Munising, Michigan goes all out for the Fourth, including parades with floats and a pet parade
                         a - munising pet parade
Waiting with the locals for the parade floats
We sampled pasties and became “Yoopers” for just a little while.  A highlight of our time there was the boat tour of Pictured Rocks National Park.
a - pictured rocks a - pictured rocks 2 a - pictured rocks 3 a - bandido posing on rocks

Another pleasant surprise was Aune-Osborne RV park in Saulte Ste. Marie, Michigan.  Once again, we were able to watch the huge cargo ships as they headed to and from the famous locks, right from our RV.
a - ship at campsite saulte ste marie a - ship at campsite ssm 2 a - saulte ste marie lock We also took an interesting guided boat tour through the Saulte Ste. Marie locks.

                 a - box wine test
Straits State Park in St. Ignace, Michigan was our next stop, and our home base to visit Mackinac Island.  Our new neighbors Bob and Linda were at Straits SP, and we met up for a memorable happy hour where we did a wine tasting using different boxed wines, just because we can (pun intended).

     a - bike ride mackinac      a - mackinac island

Roger and I took our bicycles on the ferry to Mackinac Island, and spent a gorgeous day circling the island on our bikes.

     a - gemmers patterns norrises mi      a - gemmers patterns michigan
          a - gemmers patterns wineries mi      a - gemmers patterns dogs campground 

This was the summer of meeting up with friends.  From St. Ignace we headed to Wild Cherry RV Resort near Sutton’s Bay, Michigan to meet our Indiana camping group, Chuck, Cindy, Pat, and Audrey.  We toured wineries, enjoyed meals and happy hours, and took in the sights in the Leelanau Peninsula, just outside Traverse City.

Central Indiana was our next stop, including our annual kayak trip at Turkey Run State Park, Prophetstown State Park, and home base at Glo-Wood campground so that Roger could fulfill his summer work obligation.  While there we signed up for two weeks at the awesome dog park in Fishers, Indiana.  Bandido learned to swim in the pond…
                                a - bandido swimming dog park

...met up with his new friend, Sophie (the luckiest dog in Fishers, Indiana)...

C'mon in, Sophie!   Let's play!!

And Chaplin maintained his reputation as a chick magnet.

            a - chaplin chick magnet 2          a - chaplin chick magnet 3

We decided to pay Roger’s brother a visit in Mansfield, Ohio before we left the midwest.  On the way there, we spent a few days at beautiful Ouabache State Park near Bluffton, Indiana.
a - bluffton camp site 

Ouabache State Park has its own herd of bison, and miles and miles of awesome bike trails next to the river.

  Even before Jasper was diagnosed with cancer in January, we knew that Chaplin had a rare type of skin cancer that affected his blood vessels called subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma.  We always knew that someday he’d have a bleeding lesion that would not be operable.  On September 11, during our brief stop back in Central Indiana after our Ohio visit, Chaplin had a bleeding episode with a lesion in a nonoperable place.  We had been dreading this day for a couple of years, but that did not make it any easier to put our dear boy down.
Our farewell blog to Chaplin

Losing both whippets the same year (after having had them for 9 and 11 years) was very difficult.  We were no longer really “traveling with whippets,” but since that’s how everyone knew us, we decided to keep the name in memory of our dear boys.

a - arkansas campground hike a - diamond crater sp a - hot springs steam baths
With heavy hearts we headed west toward home.  After a stop at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois, we spent a few days at a beautiful state park in Arkansas, Lake Catherine State Park outside Hot Springs.  While there, we made a day trip with Bandido to Crater of Diamonds State Park to dig for treasure.  No treasure found, but it was a fun day. 

We also toured an interesting old spa in Hot Springs.

We stopped at Shiner in East Central Texas to tour our favorite brewery.  We managed to drop some big bucks in their gift store.

Our last stop of the 2011 road trip was a few days near the gulf at Port Lavaca, Texas. 

We were back at Retama in October, and once again enjoyed our laid-back lifestyle there.  Bandido was especially happy to be back at his beloved doggie park.
Throw the ball, Auntie Sue!

I'm now a spoiled only child

He loves it so much, that he let us know in no uncertain terms what he wanted.  Here's a short funny video we took of Bandido telling us it's time to go to the doggie park:

We spent our first Christmas at Retama Village in 2011.  From now on, our Christmases will most likely be spent here.  That first Christmas it was especially fun to dig out the decorations that had been in storage for three years, and to decorate our tiny little coach house and pergola.

This brings us to the end of Year Three. 

 The pet photos of the year show both joy and sadness; our new baby Bandido and saying good-bye to our gentle soul, Chaplin.
a - bandido and chaplin  a - bandido kissing roger a - bandido sleeping wkaia a - chaplin on pillow
a - chaplin Chaplin with cattle

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