Thursday, October 27, 2016

Home Again, Home Again

After Houston (see the post before last for how we got that far, we passed out of Texas, through Louisiana, and into Alabama. Our stop there was near Mobile and way after dark. No satellite available because of extensive tree cover, but we put up the TV antenna and watch some local TV. From there, we had 590 miles to home. Too much for one day, or so we thought. We had done a long push home before but it got us in really late (actually early) and we had to wait until the next morning to get settled. However, another night on the road was not something we were looking forward to.

Fortunately, the way was clear and we were able to get in by 10:30 PM EDT. Even with a quick stop in Crestview, Florida to pick up the last of our forwarded mail and top off on fuel. We parked the RV in a site near our home unit and we were there. However, since it was late, the TV was still in the RV, and the bed in the house was covered with Ellyn’s materials from the lanai, we slept one last night in the RV.

We then had a couple of days to get things we needed out of the RV and into the house. Then, our original plan had been scraped, and we moved the RV into storage, and we headed out yet again. This time we took the car and an, ugh, suitcase and went off to Disney World for three days with our friends from New York. Jordy stayed behind with our friends Dave and Myra, who were also the couple we traveled to Yellowstone with, and who now own a house down here near Sarasota.

And now we are back for another 6 months (at least) in our house here in Sun-N-Fun RV Resort. We will enjoy it, getting back together with all our friends and enjoying the season’s activities. Geoff has already been throwing horseshoes and Ellyn is looking forward to her sewing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Where It All Began

Geoff is feeling nostalgic. He is visiting a place where one of the biggest adventures began 46 years ago that set him on a path that would determine the rest of his life. This place is out on the end of Point Loma in San Diego, California. The submarine base there Third Class ETwas where Geoff was sent by the US Navy after he completed his initial training. He was a third class Electronics Technician and was sent to the head quarters of ComSubDevPac (Commander Submarine Development Pacific) for eight months before nuclear power school would start. Little did he know, but he has come to realize many years later, that this was a test. He and the other six young men who were sent here were being evaluated to see if they would be right for undergoing the year of training to come. The short story is…he passed, and went on to that year of training and then three years as a reactor operator on the USS Snook (SSN 592) also stationed out of that same port in California.

After arriving in San Diego, it became apparent that the job these men were sent here to do was somewhat menial. Essentially, they were janitors in the command building high up on the hill overlooking the base. Unbeknownst to Geoff and his mates there was a secret underwater vessel also attached to this command, which was manned by a small crew on a floating drydock ship. After about a week of somewhat depressing mopping and sweeping, the bunch of them were called into a meeting and were told about the other crew. Turns out they had heard there were seven third class petty officers up on the hill and, this crew, which consisted of second class and above, wanted to share in the bounty of pee-ons. They wanted two volunteers to come work on the ship instead of in the command building.

Geoff and one of the other guys jumped at the chance. At least that is how he remembers it. There may have been a bit of a hesitation. This was passing up a pretty easy shore billet and converting to ship life, which could contain a lot of unknowns. But, as he looks back he thinks, this was what he had joined the Navy for. Not to sweep floors in a building but to, probably, sweep floors on a Naval vessel. It became much more than that, and the entire story is one for another post.

It turns out, it was the best decision of his life. The secret vessel, the Trieste, has been long ago declassified and retired to Bainbridge Island in Washington State and the Point Loma sub base has changed a lot since 1968, but that decision affected the rest of Geoff’s life. He put in the year of nuclear power training, three years of duty on a submarine in the South Pacific, and then was able to get into a BSEE program in a top level university (Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI). He is pretty sure that his Navy service gave him an edge as his high school grades were not very good.

He excelled in college thanks to his training in the Navy. He had learned how to learn in the total 20 months of school he had attended in the Navy. His service and his good grades helped him get an excellent job in his career field. There he met his wife, which led to two wonderful sons and three even more wonderful Grandkids. It has been a wonderful life and the turning point occurred right here, on hallowed ground.

So this place calls Geoff back at times and, although he cannot get as close as he would like, it is nice to see again.

Bathyscaphe TriestePoint Loma 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

And Away We Go!

The reason for staying in the Northwest beyond the Birthday of our Grandson, was for the Wedding of our Niece, Sarah, in Tacoma, Washington. That happened on October 9th and our entire immediate family was there, meaning our two Sons and their families, including our three Grand kids. It was amazing. A picture was taken by the wedding photographer and we can’t wait to see it.

Jason and Sarah

Oliver and Simone

We stayed on one additional day to see our Grand Daughter one last time before heading out. Now we are on a marathon run back to Florida to meet up with our friends, Marie and Dave, in Walt Disney World on October 23rd. Our first stop is in San Diego to see Geoff’s Brother, Wes and his wife and our Niece, Angela and her husband. We were going to take three days getting there and just stay over night, but, after one 400+ mile day, we decided to split the rest of the distance into two 400 mile distances and get in a day early, so we can have a whole day to visit before heading East.

Day one was easier than expected. After a cold start, the sun came out and it was a nice, warm drive. Both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood made appearances in the distance and we stopped off in Portland near the first RV Park we stayed in to have lunch. We knew the layout there and knew it was easy in, easy out with the RV. With only one more rest stop we made it in about 5:00 PM.

I will try to make updates to this as we go over the next two weeks.

Day 2 and 3 passed without incident and took us all the way to San Diego, a day ahead of schedule, so we decided to stay the whole next day and do a little sight seeing before joining with Geoff’s Brother, Wes, and his family. We went out to Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument. It is a great day of checking out the tide pools in the Pacific Ocean and then overlooking the Point Loma Submarine Base (a special place for Geoff. See the next post for more about that) and a great view of San Diego.

Point Loma


Now begins the week long marathon to Florida. Days 1 and 2 of that journey have gone uneventful. The first was a bit shorter than our target because we wanted to stop before sunset. The next day, we started earlier and made a longer than expected trip. Now we are one day from San Antonio, where we hope to see our Niece, Karen and her family, and then drive on to Houston to see Ellyn’s Cousins. A whirl-wind journey. To be continued after the next post.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Summer’s End

Our summer has been an eventful one, even though we have spent nearly all of it in Portland, Oregon. We arrived here in late June to begin waiting for the arrival of our second Grandson, Martin. We didn’t have a long wait. He was born on July 9th. The real highlight of being here though has been getting to know our other Grandson, Oliver. When last we saw him in person, he had just turned two, and was not yet calling us “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. He started doing that while our only communication with him was on the computer via video chat. (Google Hangouts). Now we were able to get real hugs and kisses from him and read to him and play with games and toys with him. It has been great!

We took off for about ten days to visit with friends and family in California and see a some sites in Oregon on the way back. Once back in Portland, our jobs have been two-fold: to occupy Oliver when his parent’s needed a break, and to sit with Martin when Katherine had a doctor appointment or just needed to get some well deserved rest. Both have been less than jobs however. We have been picking Oliver up at his day-care school and taking him to dinner on Fridays and the two months since Martin was born we have seen him change a lot. He is getting noticeably bigger and is smiling and cooing at us a lot more than being fussy. If he does fuss, it usually because he has a wet diaper or it is time to go back to Mom. We have had a couple of opportunities to give him a bottle too, when Mom was not around. We also got to celebrate Oliver’s 3rd birthday while we were here. It was great fun!

Now it is Autumn. We still have another month before we get back to Florida, but only about 10 more days here in Portland. Then we go up to Washington for more family and the wedding of our Niece. Then we will travel to southern California to visit with even more family before heading East. Hopefully we will return to our winter cocoon in Florida before any seriously cold weather sets in. We will have friends waiting for us there in Disney World and even more in our “happy place”, Sun-N-Fun RV Resort in Sarasota.

Meanwhile, we will be keeping close tabs on the Boston Red Sox as the continue their dominance on the American League East and see how far they can get into the post-season. All the way to the World Series would be cool.

RV Driver Grandma's Phone Dinner Out A New Car
Grandma and Martin Grandpa and Martin Sleeping With Big Brother
Big Truck Day Big Truck Day Big Truck Day Big Truck Day
Oliver's Birthday Fun Oliver's Birthday Fun Oliver's Birthday Fun Oliver's Birthday Fun

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Whales and Craters

We spent a week on the Pacific Coast in Pacifica, CA. Ellyn’s Sister, Laura, lives just a couple of blocks from the ocean and from the closest RV Park to San Francisco. The RV park is slowly disappearing as the cliff erodes away with each passing storm. The weather there matches with Mark Twain’s statement that “The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco”. It was mostly in the 60’s with lows in the 40’s while we were there. Also, the fog was prevalent while we were there and except for two afternoons of the week we were there, it was overcast. We did venture “over the hill” into the sun a few times and then it was much warmer.

One of the great things about spending some time on the coast this time was that there were whales feeding right off the shore. Just about any time you went down to the edge of the cliff and looked out to sea, you would see whales. Geoff just had to go out there with his camera and tripod and he got some of what Laura said were the best whale pictures she had seen taken there. They were ok.

Feeding 2 Feeding 1 Feeding 3

Ellyn’s Father and his wife also live nearby. Geoff went out with Jerry for lunch one day and Jerry showed him some of his latest tech ideas. Jerry has not been able to really retire but his brain is definitely still right in the game with ideas for increasing computer security. We also went out for a couple of meals with Jerry and Liz and had a very nice time. Geoff and Laura’s Husband, Jay, took in a few games of bowling one afternoon. Ellyn’s Brother, Howard, and his wife, Giants BaseballLiz, came down from Gig Harbor, Washington for a few days to see their favorite baseball team, the Washington Nationals (from Washington DC, near where they used to live, not from Washington State) play at the San Francisco Giants. We went with them to two of the games. The first one was in the evening and it was not warm. Yipes! We have not been that warmly dressed in July since we went to Alaska and wore our winter coats on the Fourth. The second one was better, being in the afternoon, with the sun shining down. Geoff was almost able to wear shorts.

Stately PinesOn the way back to Portland, Oregon to see our Grandkids, we decided to do a little extra sight-seeing. One popular stop, that we never visited before, is Crater Lake National Park. What a treat. The surrounding lands are covered with old-growth forests of beautiful pines. We climbed hundreds of feet up theBlue Water sides of the crater caldera (in our car) to the rim. The view of the water is amazing. It was a clear, sunny day and the water reflected the blue sky at an amazing hue. The water in the lake is fed exclusively by snow and rain with no water flowing in from streams or runoff so the water is pure and clear. The only damper on the day was the forest fire that was raging to the west of the park and growing closer. This caused a haze across the sky for some of the pictures and, at the end of our day there, fire had made its way into the caldera of the crater.



Three SistersThe final stop before landing back in the Portland area was near Sisters, Oregon, in view of the Three Sisters mountains, Mount Bachelor and Mount Jefferson. Ellyn really wanted to come here to visit a quilting store that she had visited 5 years before when we were here for an FMCA Rally. The town of Sisters is really nice and obviously geared for tourists. It was a lot of fun just walking around and stopping into the stores. They also have a lot of really good food.

Leaving Crater Lake, we had some engine trouble with the RV. It is a reoccurring problem of the engine stalling shortly after initial start that happened last in Connecticut. We thought the problem had gone away but it looks like it is back so we will have to get some work done in Portland. We had it stall out after leaving the RV Park and it took a while to get going again, then it stalled again going onto a major highway on the ramp. Geoff got it off the road but we called for roadside assistance. The person who arrived checked out the fuel filter and the fuel supply to the injectors and it all seemed good. We got it restarted and it seemed to be OK after that. At our next stop, Ellyn suggested we give it another dose of Howes Lubrication, something we have added at fuel stops in the past, that seemed to alleviate similar problems, and that Geoff had been adding regularly. So we did that and things seemed OK to the next fuel stop, where he added the rest of it. The rest of our trip to Portland seemed to be OK. Between this and the generator problems we’ve had, we will have a lot of work for Cummins.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

California Dreaming

OK, no dream, we headed off to the Golden State from Oregon for some friend and family time, although we had to leave the Grandkids behind for a while. The ultimate destination was the San Francisco Bay area where Ellyn’s Sister, Laura, her husband, Jay, and Ellyn’s Father and his wife live. But our first stop was in the wine country East of Salinas at a house we rented for the weekend with a bunch of Ellyn’s friends, all of whom are celebrating their 65th birthdays this year. This was the fourth time since their mutual 50th birthdays that they have gotten together. We spent the time hanging out around the pool, eating, drinking wine, and reminiscing over the past umpteen years since they were all kids. We jokingly called it the “Medicare Summit”.

Wine Country The Kids Medicare Summit

Our chef, Nina Grayson, did a great job keeping us in fine cuisine, although we wish she could have taken more time to enjoy the weekend, We tried to pitch in but she was “in the zone” and working some real magic in that kitchen, although it could have used some air conditioning. Actually, the whole house could have. It was a very hot weekend up there in the desert. Fortunately, the evenings cooled off a bit and the nights were comfortable enough for sleeping.

Driving the RV up there was an adventure, as much of the road was one lane and very windy. The last mile of it was dirt and the RV and the car showed it when we finally arrived. We had a bit of trouble with the generator, which has been giving us trouble off and on for a while. Well, it was on now because we needed it. We had to leave the engine running during the hot parts of the day so that the dash air conditioning, which has been working lately, could keep the RV cool for Jordy, who could not come into the house.

Geoff found some photographic subjects in the humming birds that gathered around one of the flowering trees on the property. He was patient and snapped some very nice pictures of one of them getting a drink.

Dive Hover and Sip Pull Up Off to the Next

But all good things must come to an end. The group had to head off in their own directions. We headed north and west to Pacifica, where we parked at the San Francisco RV Resort within walking distance of Ellyn’s sister’s house. Here we will spend the next week, visiting with friends and family, and then we will head back to Portland to spend a couple more months with our Grandkids and waiting on other life-cycle events in the family.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Great Family Expansion of 2016

We have been perched in the Portland Oregon area now for nearly three weeks. We came here to help out with our son Brian and his family while they added a new member. With a due date of July 12th looming, we set up camp in L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park west of the city on June 27th and started the first of many visits to their newest home in Beaverton. Our main job would be to look after Oliver, the soon-to-be older Brother, while Mom and Dad got on with the chore of ushering little Brother into the world.

Visiting with them was a new experience for us since, when we last saw Oliver on his second Birthday, he was not yet calling us “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. Now this was flowing right off his lips, along with just about everything else he hears. His vocabulary is remarkable for someone not even three yet, at least, as we remember our kids. Of course, this is exactly the time we have to be careful what we say around him, because he parrots just about everything.

Lunch with OliverSo we got to do some sitting with him and got schooled on his routines, like the daycare drop-off and pick-up routines, his weekend routines, including nap times, gymnastics, and other play activities. At first it seemed it could be a daunting task for us, as he is an extremely active guy and can sometimes be hard to get under even a little control. But as time went on, it seemed he got used to us being around and things got a little easier for everyone. We took him out to lunch and had some fun play times in his back yard. We put his car seat into our car and got to ride around listening to him giggle over things the GPS would say. He made up his own joke when the GPS said to turn onto Walker Road. He said “Walker Road? You can’t walk on the road”. This still cracks me up.

Putting shoes on

Finally, on a Thursday night, after we had been at their house in the afternoon and then had come back to our RV, now parked in Wilsonville, a little closer to their house, we got first a call to be ready, as things may be proceeding, followed closely by a call to perhaps come over and spend the night, as they might have to head out at any moment. We had already prepared what we would need and did just that. About 2:00 AM, they left for the hospital and we were on our own.

The next morning we handled the day care drop-off and then had the rest of the day off until pick-up. Surprisingly, Oliver only asked about where his parents were a couple of times and seemed satisfied that they were at the doctor’s helping get his Brother out of Mommy. Early the next morning, Martin Davis was born. Brian came home on Saturday morning to give Oliver the news about Martin’s birth and to take Oliver to his gymnastics class, so as to disrupt his schedule as little as possible. Then, after gymnastics, we all went to the hospital to get our first look at the newest family member.

Oliver, Grandpa, and Martin

Grandma and Martin

Oliver did really well with the fact that he could not snuggle with Mommy and he left with a promise that Mommy and Martin would be coming home soon. The next couple of days we slept at the house while Brian was at the hospital with Katherine and then he came home to help get Oliver off the school. The next time we visited in the hospital, Oliver had a little separation anxiety from Mommy and was quite upset all the way to the car with us. However, after Grandpa let him unlock the car with the remote, he seemed to forget his troubles and things went smoothly after that.

Pool fun!Finally, Katherine and Martin were able to come home and things were able to get back to some semblance of normal around their house, or at least as normal as can be with a two-year old and a new baby. We still went back to help out. We brought dinner a couple of times and had a few more play dates with Oliver. Oliver and Brian came to our RV Park on the next weekend to swim in the park pool. So, things were now clear for us to move on to our next great adventure. From here we head down to California for a couple of weeks for a reunion with some of Ellyn’s friends and to see her Sister, Father, and Step-Mother. We will miss the Portland excitement but we will be back at the beginning of August to spend another two months here through Oliver’s third Birthday and to wait until we head up to Washington State for even more life-cycle events in the Family.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Yellowstone is Youuuuge!

Wow, we have put almost 300 miles on the car and have only seen about a third of Yellowstone National Park. We have back-tracked over some areas that we already saw and some parts where we drove but did not stop because it was late in the day, but still, this place is huge!

On our third venture into the park Ellyn and I took Myra with us. Dave had some business to take care of. We thought we might meet up with him later but that did not work out. We drove up to the GeyserNorris Geyser Basin and walked on of the shorter paths through the basin. It was quite something. The varying colors in the pools are remarkable, mainly because they are all different temperatures and so have different organisms living in them. There are also steam vents that just constantly hiss and periodic geysers, one of which Ellyn predicted would erupt while we were near by. It had started bubbling and Geoff just had enough time to point his camera at it before it started going. It only lasted a few seconds.

Norris Basin Steam Vent Varying Temperatures Pool Overflow

Along the way we came upon a herd of female Bison with their youngsters. This was, of course, at the end of a long backup of cars.

Bison 1 Bison 2 Bison 3 Bison 4

FaithfulOur next stop was back to Old Faithful to see another eruption. This one actually went off +10 minutes after the predicted time, and was preceded by 4 false starts before it finally went but the eruption lasted nearly twice as long as the first one we saw. Geoff got video and Ellyn took stills on her phone. It was great.

Pool OverflowWe then visited the Midway Geyser Basin (Old Faithful is in the Lower Basin) and tried to see some of the largest of the hot pools but the sun was in the wrong place and the wind was blowing the steam right into our faces, so good pictures were at a premium. However, Geoff did get some nice ones of the water overflow from the pools pouring into the river.

This marked the end of our stay in West Yellowstone and we moved to the Northern Entrance into the park from Gardiner, Montana. To get there, we drove through the park. The first part was fine and we had traveled those roads before so we knew they would be OK. When we went past Norris Junction, we discovered construction going on to widen the road. We agree this is necessary because the road was very narrow after this and Geoff and Dave had some white-knuckle times keeping the rigs between the lines and off the sharp drop off on the shoulder and out of the oncoming traffic. Then, when we passed Mammoth Hot Springs, the road dropped sharply into the valley where Gardiner is, with some sharp turns as well. We did see some nice views though.

Close Pass! Canyon Rocks Sharp Turn Coming

Roosevelt Gate to YellowstoneUnlike West Yellowstone, which is quite commercialized, Gardiner is more Old West. Sure, they have some souvenir stores and several companies that take rafting trips down the Yellowstone River (which our friends Dave and Myra are doing the day we leave), but a lot of it is locals and little businesses and old buildings. And it is right Elk at Handon the border of the park. There is a great gate marking the entrance into the park called “Roosevelt Gate”. It is also more desert-like here than the West Entrance. There is lots of sage brush, and the Elk are coming right into town looking for the green grass they force to grow here.

So the nearest part interesting part of Yellowstone NP is Mammoth Hot Springs. Our first evening in Gardiner, Dave, Myra and I went back into the park and up through Mammoth near sunset to see if we could spot some wildlife. We were able to find a Coyote climbing on the hot spring terraces and we also saw a Red Fox running across the road in front of us. We also saw lots of Elk, both in Mammoth and in fields outside of town.

The next day, we drove toward Tower Junction and Roosevelt Lodge where we were scheduled to go on Cowboy Cookout. Ellyn and I rode a wagon to the cookout, but Dave and Myra opted to take the one hour horse ride. Ellyn and I had gone on a horse ride when we first came to Yellowstone 39 years ago, so we had learned our lesson. As it was, everyone had a wonderful time. But before the cookout, we went to the Lamar Valley, where there are many of the big Bison herds in Yellowstone, perhaps in the world.

Lamar Valley 1 Lamar Valley 2

We got to see some new wildlife too. There were some Red Tailed Hawks circling over a field and riding the crazy winds we have been getting in Northern Yellowstone. Also, when we stopped once to take in a beautiful cliff structure we spotted Prong Horned Sheep on some pretty steep cliffs.

Red Tailed Hawk Prong Horned Sheep Palisades Mule Deer

The Cowboy Cookout was fun and the food was good but the wait for that food was a little long. They should have more than just two lines for 200 people. But there was cowboy music, stories around the campfire, and wildlife to see both coming and going.

Dave and Myra Heading out Ranglers Campfire Music

Our last day in Yellowstone (sob) was a short one. We basically just toured Mammoth Hot Springs. The springs are not our favorite part of the geologic features of Yellowstone because they are pretty static (although they do actually change a lot over a relatively short period), and they are not as colorful as other features around the caldera area. However, we got out and Geoff took a slew of pictures. Afterwards we had lunch and then went back for a relaxing afternoon in the campground.

Last Day Into Yellowstone The 45th Latitude Mammoth 1 Mammoth 2
Mammoth 3 Mammoth 4 Mammoth 5 Mammoth 6
Liberty Cap Mammoth 7 Mammoth 8 Mammoth 9

Our last dinner together was great and we will be getting up tomorrow to head out for Portland Oregon and a whole new adventure and Dave and Myra will be staying here for a day and then heading back East on their own adventure. We will see each other again in the Fall in Florida.