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September 2011 - December 2011:


August 2011:                          August has been a quiet month with nothing truly significant happening. We have spent our time on a variety of projects. Besides normal living activities like grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, laundry, and cleaning Julie has been doing different stitching projects including significant research at the local library on "Black Work" which is a specific form of stitching. She has also been working on sewing new clothes for her slimmer self, reading, and taking Tai Chi classes. My time has been spent doing leather projects, reading many books, chopping fire wood, and doing minor maintenance and repairs on the trailer.


Actually, we share the shopping and cooking adventures and have been learning new ways of doing both. Of course, Julie has been working with her Bariatric diet since her surgery in March of 2010 but lately I have thrown a twist in the mix. My doctor wants me on a no sugar, gluten-free diet. Put those two diets together (hers and mine) and it makes for interesting adventures in cooking, especially when gluten-free substitue foods for bread products cost four to five times what regular products cost and have a lousy shelf life to boot.


We did have a special day in the middle of the month. Monica and her family traveled to the area and all of my children and grandchildren were together in one spot for the day. They had gotten together once before, but Julie and I were iin the South. It was really nice to have time together with them all and watch the interaction of the grandchildren who have only seen each other a couple of times. It was like they had lived next door to each other their whole lives.


September 12, 2011:             One of the nicest advantages of this life are things you see and learn from your neighbors, who are constantly changing as you move from place to place. We frequently only know first names (too hard to recall all the names of all the people) and sometimes never learn a name, but it is all part of the experience.



Steve, neighbor to the West, is from Virginia. He works refacing and installing cabinets and his company moved him up here to the Rochester area for awhile. He has two cats, which JoJo occasionally chooses to chase. One day I caught this photo of the gray tiger asleep on the roof of his trailer. We could not at first figure out how the cat got up there, but then, a few days later, we saw it rapidly scale the tree to the right of the trailer as it ran away from JoJo



Penny and Don, our neighbors to the East, are local to the area and are seasonal campers here this year. People refer to Penny as the bird whisperer because of her interest in and knowledge of birds. One of her hobbies is to find and preserve bird nests. The picture is a hummingbird's nest that she pointed out to me. It is located just to the West of their campsite and she frequently has hummingbirds visiting her feeders. Sometimes they even come over and visit us. This year I have even seen a hummingbird sitting on a branch, something you almost never see.


September 21-28, 2011:                    [Odometer 251699]    On the road to Plattsburgh, NY for a family reunion with Julie's greater (Ryan) family. I made the mistake of buying gas at the closest station before we left and did not have the power to take a 3% grade at speed. On steeper grades I sometimes went all the way down to 25 mph. Worst of all, we only got 6.3 miles per gallon. When we got to Watertown, I filled up with 89 octane from Mobil and that helped some, but I think it is definitely time for a tune-up.


Near Chateaugay, NY we started seeing several fields of windmills. One of Julie's brothers-in-law worked on constructing some of these. There are always those who believe in the NIMBY syndrome (Not In My Back Yard) and I personally believe that they do not belong in the middle of Lake Ontario, which is one of the proposals they are looking at, but I think it is great that people are going to wind power and I really do not feel they are unattractive. The big plus is that there is definitely plenty of renewable energy wind to be used.


One of the fields of windmills. It is much larger than was captured in the photo.


Other windmills. Compare the height of the windmills to the trees in the foreground to get a concept of just how tall these structures are.


After the rain on Saturday, we saw this beautiful rainbow across Lake Champlain on the Vermont side.


Telephoto shot of the rainbow.


Julie and I helped her mother and aunt prepare food for the reunion on Thursday and Friday. Actually, other than peeling and slicing onions and potatoes with her Aunt Judy, I helped most by staying out of the way. I did make supper Friday night (sweet chili) that I cooked at the trailer so they could keep on with their preparations. The family reunion was Saturday and I met many of her relatives, although only a few names stuck. It turned out to be a decent day and most folks sayed outside except for the intrepid card players who played "31" for several hours after they ate. Several of the family stayed over Saturday night and we had a big breakfast on Sunday morning followed by more cards. I sat out all of the card games, not wanting to show my superiority at cards and take all of their money (each game cost four quarters).


We stayed on through Wednesday morning. Because of the problems we were having with the Suburban, we decided to take the Northway (I87) and Thruway (I90) home. It was a little over 400 miles by that route versus the 320 miles it took us to come up I81 and across Route 11 on the way up but there was an extra lane for people to pass us and no stop lights. I filled up with Mobil 87 before we left and did a little better, but the Adirondacks took their toll and I could watch the gas gauge drop. In Glens Falls, I filled up with Sunoco 87 and had the same problems I had with the cheap gas (noise, rattling, back fires, no power, etc.).


On the Thruway, my only choice was again Sunoco, but I put in 89 octane and things seemed to clear up by the time we got to Rochester, although the problems were still there intermittently. Actually our worst problem was torrential rain that hit us as we were traveling though a construction area on the last ten miles of our trip. At times I was totally blind and there were concrete barriers right next to us. We did make it back before dark, although we did not bother to unhook until the next morning because it was still raining. I am definitely getting a tune-up before we head South. There is no way we can afford six miles to the gallon, especially if we need to pay for 89 octane.


On Monday, the weather was calm and the dogs got to investigate all the neat smells left by the lake when it washed over the rocks on the shore.


The dogs thought about chasing some geese found resting from their flight, but I discouraged them. Besides, those geese could hurt the dogs. A couple of the geese thought they were flamingos and were standing on one leg.



We also took time to take a couple naps in one of the recliners. Barb's recliners are not as large as the one I used to have, but the girls made due. Note the placement of JoJo's front legs. Laying together in my recliner while I watched television or napped was one of their favorite things. They have not had occasion to do it for the last year since there are no recliners in the trailer.


September 29, 2011:             When we set up the camper on Thursday, we noted that someone had liberated all of our firewood that I had worked so hard to split. They obviously figured it was fair game since we were gone and the wood was still there. I mentioned this to the owner of the park and he took the trouble to locate and return most of the wood to me. The people who had taken it were not around and he intends to say nothing to them just to see what they say, if anything.


We also wound up with a leak in the underground water line right near where the wood had been. Because of the stone sub-surface, most of the water lines are buried very shallowly. From the location of the leak, I speculated that the people who took the wood had backed over it with their pickup truck when they took the wood. The owner got it fixed fairly quickly. He had all the materials on hand as this is not an unknown problem.


October 12, 2011:                  [Odometer 253000]    I took the Suburban into the shop today to see if they could resolve my power problem. I did not opt for a complete tuneup because it would have cost over $500. They identified problems with corrosion in the distributor cap and rotor and replaced those items. I hope that takes care of the problem. I do know I am also going to be careful about what kind of fuel I put into the Suburban when we are towing the camper as the problems only seem to occur when the engine is under load.


October 13, 2011:                  Today we went shopping prior to getting ready to hit the road on Saturday picking up needed supplies, dog food, and our last fresh-from-the-farm New York cider for the 2011 season.. We will be heading more or less straight to Mississippi instead of our intended westerly route because the truck is so loaded. This will probably not be our most comfortable trip, but trading the imprinting presses and inventory will buy us some camping time plus get all those boxes out of the storage unit. It will just be a pain while we get it there.



One of the farmers near our camp ground raises Belted Galloway (or "Beltie") cattle. On our way home we noticed that there were two newborn calves in the field. One was lying in the tall grass and was just barely visible, but the other was standing near its mother. (Find out more about these cattle under the "Did You Know?" heading.)


The site is almost ready for departure. We covered the remaining firewood with a tarp and then put the picnic table on top of it so we will (hopefully) have our remaining wood available for next summer.


View from partially up the hill across the road. We will definitely be spraying leaves for awhile when we leave.


October 15, 2011:                  [Odometer 253155, 10:44 AM]          The trailer is inspected and Camping World adjusted my hitch so everything travels more evenly and we are on the road. It is raining today and there are very high winds. There is a lot of pretty scenery, foliage in the Southern Tier is about peak color, but is is a miserable rainy day and there will be no photos this year unless we get lucky further South.


October 16, 2011                   [Odometer 253405]    We made 250 miles yesterday despite the wind and rain and spent the night in a Flying J truck stop about 50 miles East of Cleveland Ohio. We started out this morning with no wind and were doing much better on gas mileage, but then Murphy's Law kicked in. I swear it is all uphill from Cleveland to Columbus. I know that isn't true, but it sure seemed like we were constantly going uphill. And then, Just when you thought you were about to crest that steep slope, you find out it's just a change to a lesser slope but still uphill. On top of that, the fierce head wind picked up again so there we were with the engine whining at 3500 RPM and the gas gauge going down faster than the truck was going up. At least the sun came out as we got further South.


About early evening, we stopped for a rest and reassessed our finances considering all the gas we were burning and decided to go straight on down the expressways to Bay Saint Louis. We got back on the road and drove till almost Midnight (Central Time - We crossed the line), then spent the night at a Lowe's truck stop in Alabama.


All total, we did 742 miles today. We traveled across three states from North to South with a slightly East to West slant, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and a few miles into Alabama.


We did not get any photographs today, but did see a few interesting things on the road. We saw two very long trucks like they use to haul giant beams where one end is on one piece of truck and the back end is on a separate carriage. These two were hauling individual blades for a wind turbine. I could tell they were large when we saw the windmills, but you don't really get an idea of the scale of these blades until you see them on the truck like this. We never did see a third truck so we figured it had passed before we saw those two which were separated by some distance.


We passed a small water wheel, about 18 inches wide and 15-18 feet in diameter. It did not appear to be generating power for anything, just turning in its raceway.


We also saw something new for me, an 18-wheeler with only 17 tires. I couldn't really call it a 17-wheeler because the empty outer rear wheel was there going round and round attached to it's inner wheel. It just did not have tire on it. I speculate , but don't really know, that the trailer was empty and the driver was, therefore, not worried about the load rating with a tire missing. Based on how many tire carcasses there are along the expressways, I'm sure this happens from time to time, but I have never seen it before.


A note for Ardyce. Shortly after we crossed the Alabama line, we passed a town called "Ardmore." I just thought, if you ever need a new User ID, this would be a good one for you.


October 17, 2011                   [Odometer 254147-254578]   Third day on the road. We made it to Bay Hide Away a little after 4:30 in the afternoon. Tomorrow we will finalize setting up the camp except for the awing which will wait for Thursday due to high wind warnings for the next two days.


October 18, 2011                   To celebrate being back down here, we drove down to the beach today and then had lunch at the Silver Slipper Casino (Tuesday Senior 1/2 price buffet).


Julie caught a picture of this pelican when we came out from lunch.


October 20, 2011                   When we came back from supper last night we noticed this "little" bubble on the side of the tire. I called AAA today and they came and changed it. I have no idea when it started, but I am guessing it was sometime on the trip down here. Yes, I know we were just darned lucky. I'm just glad we didn't know about it while we were still traveling or I would have had to unload the Suburban and get it changed. I would certainly not have driven on it any further.


I see two new tires in our future. Right now we are traveling with no spare, but there are no long trips in our immediate future.


November 24, 2011               HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It's been over a month since I updated this blog due to circumstances beyond my control. The last part of October was very quiet with us just getting back into the groove of life down here and meeting up with old friends as they arrived. Then, in the early morning hours of November 3rd I landed in the hospital with severe abdominal pains. By Friday, after X-rays and ultrasonic testing, they were operating to remove my gall bladder. The surgery took an extra long time because my liver had grown around the gall bladder and some other problems relating to my size, but it was successful. The surgeon (Dr. Anthony) left a drain tube in my abdomen and sent me home the following day with a follow up appointment for the following Thursday and instructions for Julie to monitor my fluid intake and discharge, the drain discharge, and my daily weight.


Everything looked good until Wednesday the 9th when the daily drainage amount started increasing and the color turned gray. We found out on Thursday that meant bile from the liver was leaking past the clamp they had put on the tube to the former gall bladder and leaking into the abdomen, a potentially poisonous situation. He gave us specific instructions of what to watch for and said we would make a decision on Monday as to which way to proceed. If the situation did not correct itself, it would be necessary for them to go in through my nose (???) and install a stint in the tube from the liver to the intestines to make sure the bile went in the correct direction. As it turned out, by Monday, the situation had corrected itself so he waited another three days until Thursday to make sure everything was okay, then took the drain out. I am now on my way to recovery, but it will be a few more weeks before I am totally there.


Dr. Anthony was totally impressed with Julie's record keeping. We got to be on real good terms with him and he became comfortable enough with us to joke around. Of course, I was a lousy patient when he pulled the drain tube out, but I had forewarned him I would be. It felt like he pulled the drain all the way from my back through my abdomen and I guess there was actually over 12 inches of tubing inside me. He told me afterwards that I was only a little worse than the 3 year old he had removed stitches from that morning. After we got done with removing the tube, we had a nice (?!? yuck ?!?) discussion about the use of leeches for surgical repair. He has used them a number of times, usually for gunshot wound repair. I have one more follow up appointment in December 1st and then I will, hopefully, be good to go.


After surgery, I did my usual surgical weight loss plan and lost 18 pounds. I know it won't stay off not that I am starting to eat again, but it's always nice to imagine. If I could have kept off all the weight I have lost after all my surgeries and hospital stays these last few years, I would be down to under 200 by now.


Our end of the campground has been officially designated as the "Recovery Ward." There are two of us recovering from surgery, two who are getting ready to start chemo treatments, one woman who was just in the hospital for irregular heartbeat and her husband who is getting ready for a colostomy reversal, although he will be traveling back to his home in Colorado for the surgery and they will just be leaving their motor home here.


There probably won't be much activity on the blog for the next few weeks either as I continue to recover because will will not be doing much traveling, but I will add things as they come up.



The first two weeks after surgery I spen a lot of time in my own recovery ward while my two little nurses kept guard. It may look like they are sleeping, but they hear everything outside. And yes, they really do understand that something is not right with me and they are there to take care of me. We have seen it over and over again with these dogs.



One of the most beautiful motor coaches I have ever seen is this one owned by Larry and Elizabeth from Canandaigua, New York which came in a couple of weeks ago just after I had surgery. It is a classic coach made in 1982 by the Bluebird Bus company, the same company that makes school buses and city buses. With the exception of a few inside lights Larry has added, everything is original including the carpets. The awning is made of cloth, not vinyl.


December 7, 2011:                2011 was the 75th anniversary for Woodall's which is a company and a publication that has much to do with the campground industry. As part of their anniversay year, they ran a competition where people were asked to vote for their favorite campground in North America. Each person could vote as often as they wished, but it was automatically limited by the software to one entry per person per day. There are approximately 8000 campgrounds in North America of which approximately 6000 campgrounds had entries submitted. The owners of Bay Hide Away, our wintering campground last year and this year, were asked to come to the awards dinner which was held Saturday night is Savanna, Georgia. At first they were told they were in the top 100, then, when they still had not registered to go, they were told they were in the top 10, so they went just for the dinner. Lo and behold, this little campground of only 43 sites was the grand prize winner, beating out giant parks including Disney!


A very interesting sidebar was their discussions with other owners at the dinner. This campground is a true mom and pop operation with no help other than one camper who helps out in return for reduced camping fees, but he was not here yet for the winter, so they left the campground under the auspices of their "snowbirds" This amazed the other owners to think they would leave control of the park to the campers while they were gone. Those of us here, however, know it is the people, owners and campers both, who made this the number one park in North America.


We made this welcome home sign for Joe and Michelle (the owners) to see when they returned Sunday night. Fortunately they got to actually see it before the rain wiped it out. From left to right are Sharon and John from Iowa and their close friend Betty from Missouri who were my co-conspirators in making and erecting the sign.


Julie baked this cake for our weekly get together on Wednesday night to celebrate the award. This is a very big honor for the campground and Joe and Michelle also won a Hawaiian vacation. They are probably going to go in March so they can leave the campground in the hands of their snowbirds before the birds head back North for the summer.


December 22, 2011:              This has been another quiet month for us. With me still recovering from surgery, we did not make many plans and have really had no travels at all except one trip to Slidell, Louisiana last week for dog food and groceries. Many of the campers have decorated for Christmas, but we do not have any decorations with us since we have very little storage space and weight is always a problem. However, it really would not matter anyway. With temperatures in the 70's and no snow anywhere, it does not feel like Christmas no matter what the calendar says or how many decorations there are. However, I can live with that. I'd much rather be wearing shorts than a snowsuit.


I have filled my time reading and doing some leather work. This is a collar I made for "Country," an "all-American" dog who was living next door, but is no longer in the park.


This is a pair of suspenders I made for John. They were patterned after some suspenders another camper had bought at a flea market. I am now working on another tote bag which I will probably try to sell.


Julie has been doing quite a bit of sewing. Here she is helping Jamie by putting the seams on some dog kerchiefs Jamie is making with the New Orleans Saints logo on them.


Julie's craft items tend to take over all avaiable space including part of the dogs' bed. However, JoJo was having none of that nonsense. This is her bed and she intends to sleep in it no matter what.


We have a large lot next to outr trailer which consists of three grass covered sites that are not used in the winter. Our dogs and several others like to use this area to chase balls. It is very hard to get pictures because they are moving so fast but I did catch a glimpse of "Precious" in the left center of the photo. For a very small dog, she is extremely fast.


The park's "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree as decorated by Jeanne and David from Wisconsin


The park's real tree at the pavilion. It is decorated with wreaths and picture snow flakes made by the ladies during thier Thursday craft sessions. "I remember when I was a kid and we used to ...."


Julie and my photo snowflake on the tree. All of the snowbirds who are here now are represented. More will be coming after Christmas or New Year's Day.


"Chef Jeaux" (Joe the owner) cooks for the campers the third Saturday of each month. For This month some of the ladies got together and made Christmas Mice as party favors. Do my children remember seeing these before?


Last night for our Wednesday night get together, Julie hosted a cookie exchange. She has been stitching door prizes and baking for more than a week. Everyone had a good time and a lot of leftovers are headed for nursing homes, hospitals, and family reunions so the goodies will continue to bring pleasure this weekend.


We are now done with sweets for awhile. We will be making Yakatoris for Christmas dinner this year (Japanese teriyaki marinated shish kabob).


This will probably be the last entry for the year, so have a safe and happy holiday. I'll be adding more next year.